Archive | October, 2018

This week’s book talks 10/15-19

19 Oct

The Scholastic book fair happened during conferences. I bought two books and students donated two to the classroom library.

Monday

The Grand Escape by Neal Bascomb

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Tuesday

The Plot to Kill Hitler by Patricia McCormick

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Wednesday

The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix…I had an ARC of this one at home and decided to bring it in as a compare/contrast to Tuesday’s book.

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Thursday

Grenade By Alan Gratz

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Friday

The Fever Code by James Dashner…to break the red & black cover cycle.

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Inside & outside

17 Oct

We started book clubs this week. In booktalking their options, I realized there was a lot about world history my students didn’t know. As time marches forward, things that were recent history to me, might seem like ancient history to them. It makes it all the more important to encourage them to read historical fiction – it is the gateway to non-fiction and knowledge about world events and their connection to the present.

Despite my history degree and a passable knowledge about the internment of people of Japanese and German ancestry during WWII, I learned something new while reading Monica Hesse’s  The War Outside. 

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I hadn’t realized that people of Japanese and German ancestry had been in camps together or that families who hadn’t been interned, could voluntarily join family members who had been. Or that there was a program to repatriate some.  In The War Outside we see how world events impact the lives of some of those people.

Publisher’s Summary: It’s 1944, and World War II is raging across Europe and the Pacific. The war seemed far away from Margot in Iowa and Haruko in Colorado–until they were uprooted to dusty Texas, all because of the places their parents once called home: Germany and Japan.

Haruko and Margot meet at the high school in Crystal City, a “family internment camp” for those accused of colluding with the enemy. The teens discover that they are polar opposites in so many ways, except for one that seems to override all the others: the camp is changing them, day by day and piece by piece. Haruko finds herself consumed by fear for her soldier brother and distrust of her father, who she knows is keeping something from her. And Margot is doing everything she can to keep her family whole as her mother’s health deteriorates and her rational, patriotic father becomes a man who distrusts America and fraternizes with Nazis.

With everything around them falling apart, Margot and Haruko find solace in their growing, secret friendship. But in a prison the government has deemed full of spies, can they trust anyone–even each other?

Handwriting

16 Oct

In the 24 conferences I had last week, several parents brought up their child’s handwriting. A few asked, “Do you teach cursive?”

I gave them our standard 6th grade answer: Yes, their work should be neat. No, we don’t teach cursive – we ask that they use whichever form of writing is neatest.

During one conference I had a sudden realization. The papers each of the three Core teachers had prepared perfectly illustrated my point. The Math teacher printed his comments by hand, in red pen. The Science teacher wrote hers on the computer, in Apple Chancery, a friendly font. My comments were written in cursive, green ink on green paper. They perfectly illustrated the point I was trying to make.

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A Different Kind of Monster

15 Oct

I so loved Kiersten White’s three book retelling of the Dracula story (Conqueror’s Saga) that as soon as I heard she was writing a Frankenstein book from the point of view of Elizabeth Lavenza Frankenstein, I put it on hold at the library at the earliest possible moment.

It begins in the present and has frequent flashbacks to fill in the back story. It starts off a bit slowly, but it is worth persevering because the ending is perfect. Much better than the original ending.

In her author’s note, White states that she wanted to write from the point of view of the minor (i.e. female characters) and what a brilliant decision. Whether you;ve read the original or not, you know enough to understand what Victor is up to. He is the one who comes off as the real monster.

 

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Publisher’s Summary: Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend.

Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable.

But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness.

Middle school readers might enjoy this as much as YA readers. There’s nothing age-inappropriate and it is not scary at all.

 

Conference week booktalks 10/8-12

12 Oct

Because of conferences, I only had Kids three days this week.

Monday

Running on the Roof of the World  by Jess Butterworth

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Tuesday

Those Who Run in the Sky by Akiaq Johnston

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Wednesday

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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Carry on, Plumdog

11 Oct

Emma Chichester Clark has a new Plumdog book out. It was a delight to sit down and year how Plumdog’s year went. She has such a wonderful perspective on the world and the events around her.

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Publisher’s Summary: In 2014 Cape published Plumdog, a year’s worth of entries from Emma Chichester Clark’s blog of the same name which records the daily life of Plum, her dog, in Plum’s own words and Emma’s delightful illustrations. It was seized on by dog lovers everywhere and became the bestselling book written by a dog of that year … indeed quite possibly since records began.

Another Year of Plumdog is exactly what it says: another year of leaping, catching balls, diving into rivers, puddles, the North Sea, and hanging out with friends.

Yes, it is a dog diary but there is social commentary to. Each entry is a delight to read for dog lovers of all ages. The borders edging every page add to this wonderful book, making it a delight to spend time with.

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I read it snuggled next to Lucy, who has never had as many exciting adventures as Plumdog. Fortunately, she didn’t seem to mind.

 

Driving like a 6th grader

9 Oct

The move from elementary to middle school can be confusing. One of the things I love most about teaching 6th grade is showing the students how to navigate a new way of going to school. In the first week, many students are confused and have that “deer in the headlights” glazed look. Little by little, that look fades and is replaced by each students’ normal mien.

My new car has me feeling like a sixth grader in the first week of school.

The last car I bought was a 2005 Toyota Corolla. I now own a 2019 Subaru Crosstrek.  Boy, have cars changed since! It’s not just the high-tech things that have given me that “deer in the headlights” glazed look. I reach my hand out to adjust my mirrors and find open air. I had to pull over two minutes from home yesterday to read the manual and learn how to defog the windshield.

The Subaru  dealership has an interesting way to help out. When I took possession of the car, I got a quick lesson in how to sync my phone and work a few buttons. I was shown the slimmest of the four (!!!) manuals and encouraged to read it. And, I was told that, in about a week, after I’d had a chance to figure things out on my own, I’d get an appointment with a new car specialist who will help me figure out the aspects of my new car that I haven’t yet. He sent me an email yesterday telling me I should keep a journal to jot down any questions I have.

I think I made a good decision!

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