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Madly reading through the last weeks of summer

14 Aug

I’ve had this pile of books sitting around. Maybe I have more than one pile.

Here are two truths about my book piles:

  1. They are not stagnant. Books come and books go.
  2. They are shrinking.

I’ve been blitzing through my piles, trying to get as many books read before I have to go back to school.

While at ALA, I got arcs of two graphic novels, aimed at two different demographics, but both are the first in a series.

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The Sand Warrior is geared to a middle school audience and my arc will end up in my classroom library,

Publisher’s Summary: The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .

• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.

• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.

• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?

When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!

 

As with most of his books, Scott Westerfeld’s The Spill Zone is geared to an older audience. There is some language and activity in the book that will keep me from putting it in my 6th grade classroom library, but I can imagine teens connecting with the main characters.

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Publisher’s Summary: Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

Revisiting old friends

13 Aug

Although I got the book over a year ago, I finally read Stars Above by Marissa Meyer.

Stars Above

This was a great way to revisit my old friends from the Lunar Chronicles series, without rereading the whole series. A collection of nine short stories, we learn a little more about the characters and their backgrounds.

CONTENTS

The Keeper: A prequel to the Lunar Chronicles, showing a young Scarlet and how Princess Selene came into the care of Michelle Benoit.

Glitches: In this prequel to Cinder, we see the results of the plague play out, and the emotional toll it takes on Cinder. Something that may, or may not, be a glitch….

The Queen’s Army: In this prequel to Scarlet, we’re introduced to the army Queen Levana is building, and one soldier in particular who will do anything to keep from becoming the monster they want him to be.

Carswell’s Guide to Being Lucky: Thirteen-year-old Carswell Thorne has big plans involving a Rampion spaceship and a no-return trip out of Los Angeles.

After Sunshine Passes By: In this prequel to Cress, we see how a nine-year-old Cress ended up alone on a satellite, spying on Earth for Luna.

The Princess and the Guard: In this prequel to Winter, we see a young Winter and Jacin playing a game called the Princess and the Guard…

The Little Android: A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid,” set in the world of The Lunar Chronicles.

The Mechanic: In this prequel to Cinder, we see Kai and Cinder’s first meeting from Kai’s perspective.

Something Old, Something New: In this epilogue to Winter, friends gather for the wedding of the century.

 

 

What is it with Narwhals?

10 Aug

I feel like a salty sailor when I say narwhal. Try it. Can you say narwhal and NOT want to sound like a pirate? Maybe we should write narghwhal instead. A little narwhal humor for you.

It seems as though narwhals are everywhere! It started last year with Ben Canton’s Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea.

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Publisher’s Summary: Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together.
A wonderfully silly early graphic novel series featuring three stories. In the first, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever — even though it doesn’t have any words…or pictures!
Ben Clanton showcases the joys of friendship, the benefits of working together and the power of imagination in the delightful Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea.

This year already has two narwhal books, a sequel to Narwhal, Unicorn of the Sea  entitled Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt , and a poignant picture book by Jessica Sima called Not Quite Narwhal.

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Happy-go-lucky Narwhal and no-nonsense Jelly find their inner superheroes in three new under-the-sea adventures. In the first story, Narwhal reveals his superhero alter-ego and enlists Jelly to help him figure out what his superpower is. Next, Narwhal uses his superpower to help a friend find his way back home. In the third story, Jelly is feeling blue and Narwhal comes to the rescue. Ben Clanton showcases the joys of friendship and the power of believing in yourself and others through this irresistible duo.

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Publisher’s Summary: Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed that he was a narwhal like the rest of his family. Sure, he’s always been a little bit different—his tusk isn’t as long, he’s not as good of a swimmer, and he really doesn’t enjoy the cuisine. Then one night, an extra strong current sweeps Kelp to the surface, where he spots a mysterious creature that looks just like him! Kelp discovers that he and the creature are actually unicorns. The revelation leaves him torn: is he a land narwhal or a sea unicorn? But perhaps, if Kelp is clever, he may find a way to have the best of both worlds.

Told with heartwarming illustrations and spare, sweet text, Jessie Sima’s debut picture book is about fitting in, standing out, and the all-encompassing love of family.

It is hard to say why two authors are suddenly thinking narwhal thoughts, but it doesn’t matter; the books are fantastic.

Fans of Narwhal and Jelly can look forward to a third book in April 2018.

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A shameless plea for your help

9 Aug

Dear Readers,

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I want to run a Mock Newbery Club at my school this year. I have a great list of books for the students to read and discuss.

 

I want to make sure my students have the materials they need to succeed, so I just created a DonorsChoose.org classroom request:

A Middle School Mock Newbery Club

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Give to my classroom by August 16, 2017 and your donation will be doubled thanks to DonorsChoose.org. Just enter the code LIFTOFF during checkout and you’ll be matched dollar for dollar (up to $50).

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I m also running a fundraiser through a district based organization, the Beaverton Education Foundation. These donations are tax-deductible. You can donate to my project at this link: Stoller Middle School Mock Newbery Club 2017

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In return, you’ll get awesome photos of your gift in action and our heartfelt thanks.

Thank you so much,
Adrienne

P.S. If you know anyone who may want to help my students, please pass this along!

First read aloud of 2017-18

27 Jul

I found my first read aloud for the new school year.

It’s an important choice to make because it sets a tone for the entire school year.

That is why Posted by John David Anderson is perfect.

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Anderson knows how to build great characters – and he creates realistic middle school boys. He did so in Mrs. Bixby’s Last day and he does so here.

He gets middle schoolers in general. All the stereotypes are there, but hey, they are in the middles school I teach at. In the characters he fleshes out more fully, he shows that people aren’t just they stereotype you think they are.

He is not afraid to tackle tough topics. In Mrs. Bixby,  he tackled death. In Posted,  he tackles bullying. We became a one-to-one school last year, but before that we let kids use devices for educational purposes. Despite our best efforts, things still happen. I think reading Posted aloud will give us one more way to tackle tough issues and safe examples to use.

He knows how to balance serious topics with humor. There are enough goofy middle schooly bits peppered in the conversations among the main characters that there will be laughs. It is good to have some balance. Although I don’t think it will win the Newbery, I have this one on my Mock Newbery list because I tink it is one kids will really gravitate towards.

Publisher’s Summary:

From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids.

In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

 

My Day With Donalyn Miller

9 Mar

As soon as I heard that all middle school Humanities teachers would get to hear Donalyn Miller present on “Creating An Engaging Reading Culture” I was giddy with excitement. I had read The Book Whisperer  and  bought my own copy. I’d borrowed Reading in the Wild from the library and found it inspiring, too. But to see her in person…that was taking things to a whole new level.

I won’t transcribe my notes for you, just let me say, I was not disappointed. She was really funny – teaching middle school tends to give you a great sense of humor – and very practical. Every thing she talked about was eminently doable. She also provided some talking points for a difficult decision I made recently.

We are a one-to-one school. Every student has been issued a Chromebook. This was more an issue of physical space than access to technology. We are bursting at the seams and gave up our computer labs this year to add more classrooms. To compensate for this loss, the school district made us a one-to -one school. It has been a blessing in many ways, but it presents dilemmas as well.

Right from the start of the year, I have let students read on their Chromebooks. For the most part, there have been no problems. Yes, a few kids play games, or do homework when they are supposed to be reading, but at this point in the year, I know those who are most likely to do so and keep a close eye on them. My biggest concern has been the amount of screen time students are getting. I’ve stewed about this and last week I announced my plan to the kids: when we return from Spring Break, all independent reading will require a print book. Surprisingly, few kids complained.

In my gut, I knew this to be a good decision, but I lacked the research to back it up. Today, I got it. According to Donalyn Miller, multiple studies has shown that students in one to one programs read less. YIKES! There is a flow to reading a print text that does not happen when reading on a laptop –  people read differently online, skimming and scanning, rather than reading for deeper understanding.

That information alone would have  been enough to make the day great, and it came in the first part of the morning and more good stuff was yet to come. I am going back to school this morning energized and excited to tell my students about the great day I had and begin applying some of what I learned.

 

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True Confessions of a Non-Monogamous Reader

28 Feb

I am a non-monogamous reader.

Yes, I have book passions and author crushes, some lasting many years, but I read polygamously on a daily basis.

Of course, I have a book on the go at home. I have giant piles  of TBRs to choose from. The truth is though, that sometimes, while I am reading my chapter book, I will take a break and dip into a picture book. Or poetry.

I also have a book that I read at school while the kids have their silent reading period. This is a different chapter book and usually one that I’d like to put in my classroom library. I will also confess that I sometimes let our silent reading go on a little longer than planned because I want to keep reading.

I always have audiobook in the car. I mostly drive alone so this is an ideal place to enjoy an audiobook. Like singing in the shower, listening to an audiobook benefits from the confined space.

I usually also have an audiobook on the go at home, too. Since my two great passions, knitting and reading, are hard to do at the same time, audiobooks solve the problem.

People who know my predilection often ask me how I keep all the plots straight. I simply reply by asking them how they keep track of all the TV shows they watch. I also explain that I usually try to have very different sorts of books on the go at the same time.

In spite of all that reading, my TBR pile never seems to get any smaller, but I am very OK with that.

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