Timely & powerful

9 Oct

Thanks to everyone who helped me complete the second grant for books for my Mock Newbery Club. This second grant will help me get titles that were published recently. One of those is Alan Gratz’s Refugee.

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It intertwines the stories of three refugees children.

From the author’s website:

Josef is a Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany. With the threat of concentration camps looming, he and his family board a ship bound for the other side of the world…

Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994. With riots and unrest plaguing her country, she and her family set out on a raft, hoping to find safety and freedom in America…

Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015. With his homeland torn apart by violence and destruction, he and his family begin a long trek toward Europe…

All three young people will go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. All will face unimaginable dangers–from drownings to bombings to betrayals. But for each of them, there is always the hope of tomorrow. And although Josef, Isabel, and Mahmoud are separated by continents and decades, surprising connections will tie their stories together in the end.

This one will give middle grade readers insight into the refugee crisis they see in the news today, and how that connects to refugee crises of the past. We talk a lot about how reading creates empathy. This novel will soften the hearts of anyone interested in reading about global issues.

Chapters alternate between the three stories, and Gratz is a master of knowing just where to stop to keep you reading.

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This week’s booktalks 10/2-6

6 Oct

It was series week in my classroom. All my booktalks were about the first book in a series I thought my students might enjoy.

MONDAY I talked about Spy School by Stuart Gibbs. In addition to talking about that series, I also shared some of his other series.

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TUESDAY, I went a little more serious with Silverwing  by Kenneth Oppel.

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WEDNESDAY, I went for spooky with Jonathan Stroud’s first Lockwood & Co. book – The Screaming Staircase.

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THURSDAY,  I veered into the history of World War I and talked about Steampunk by talking about Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.

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And, finally, on FRIDAY, I booktalked L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack,  the first book in a series I hold very dear.

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Retelling Beowulf

5 Oct

Yesterday, on bus duty, I spoke with a parent who surprised me by telling me she was a member of SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and was writing a book base on Hindu mythology. There  are many books that incorporate various mythologies or retell epics in a modern setting. Not all of them manage to include the humor as effectively as Grendel’s Guide to Love and War.

 

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Publisher’s Summary: Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it’s not that simple.

One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister’s Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother’s death . . . and the question isn’t so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he’ll survive intact.

 

 

Bus drama

3 Oct

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I looked at the other teacher sitting with me on the bus, my eyes sending her a telepathic message,  Did she just say that?

It was our annual  bus evacuation drill and we were on the bus with a driver who had just told our 6th graders that if they didn’t listen and follow the rules they would die.

The driver certainly had our attention.

She had presence, a well-projected voice and a flair for the dramatic.

I learned about the double hull construction of a school bus . Who knew?

I learned that a bus will fill with smoke in two minutes.

And I learned that this driver would drag the “lifeless body” of a child who choked on a piece of gum off the bus and begin first aid as soon as she could.

As we exited the bus, reeling a little, one of my students simply said, “She talked a lot about dying.”

Definitely the most dramatic bus evacuation drill I have ever experienced.

 

Some graphic novels

2 Oct

There is always an audible gasp when I tell my class that my least favorite genre is graphic novels.

I explain that I am not a visual learner; I am a verbal learner. We are rare. I learn from the words I see and hear. It is not that I don’t need or enjoy pictures – I just prefer the words.

Once, during independent reading time, I watched they eyes of a student as he read a graphic novel. He spent much longer on the page than I would have and his eyes roamed back and forth all over the page, taking in the details I would probably miss. It was enlightening and helped me understand what makes graphic novels so appealing to kids.

Recently, I came across two graphic novels my kids might enjoy.

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Publisher’s Summary: Every night, tiny lights appear out of the darkness in Sandy’s bedroom. She catches them and creates wonderful creatures to play with until she falls asleep, and in the morning she brings them back to life in her whimsical drawings. When a mysterious new girl appears at school, Sandy’s drawings are noticed for the first time… but Morfie’s fascination with Sandy’s talent soon turns into something far more sinister.

Blending the reality of a strict Catholic school with a young girl’s boundless imagination, Nightlights is a beautiful story about fear, insecurity, and creativity, from the enchanting mind of Lorena Alvarez.

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From the Series Website: Meet Rickety Stitch…a walking, talking, singing skeleton bard.

He’s the one skeleton in the dungeon who seems to have retained his soul, and he has no idea why.

Rickety’s only clue to his former identity, is a song he hears in his dreams, an epic bard’s tale about the Road to Epoli and the land of Eem.

This week’s booktalks 9/25-9/28

29 Sep

It is banned Books Week, so I booktalked some books in my library that have been challenged over the years, in various places.

MONDAY,  I presented This One Summer.

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It was a popular check out last year and has already been checked out a couple of times. I was worried it wouldn’t be on the shelf for me this week.

TUESDAY, I shared The Seventh Wish.

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WEDNESDAY, I talked about The Golden Compass.  There is a new book in the series, La Belle Sauvage, coming October 19th. It seems an opportune time to introduce students to the series.

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I am at a conference Friday & Saturday, so my last booktalk was THURSDAY. I saved Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for the end of the week.

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It is the only book in the HP series in my classroom library. I haven’t read it and don’t plan on reading this book. I like to leave Harry at the end of the Deathly Hallows. I live the life of a middle-aged person. I don;t need to see him as one.

Frog Log Dog

27 Sep

As you might know, I am a sucker for anything basset hound related. So, when I saw the newest book, Dog on a Frog,  by Kes and Clair gray and Jim Field, I was hooked even before I cracked the cover.

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Amazon Summary: “You know the rules,” said cat. “Cats sit on mats, frogs sit on logs, and dogs sit on FROGS!”

“Well, I’m changing the rules,” said the frog.

In this hilarious sequel to Frog on a Log?, frog decides that he does not want to sit on a log, and he definitely does not want a dog to sit on a frog! So he changes the rules. Now, dogs sit on logs, and cats sit on gnats! But what will frog decide to sit on now?

 

Originally published in Britain, the US cover has been translated from the original British.

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It is a sequel, of sorts, to Frog on a Log,  in which the eponymous frog wants to shake up the animal world and sit where he wants. Animal rhymes ensue.

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Amazon Summary: A read-aloud story that will have kids rhyming around the house!

“It’s very simple, really. Cats sit on mats, hares sit on chairs, mules sit on stools, gophers sit on sofas, and frogs sit on logs.”

Each animal’s designated seat rhymes with that animal’s name. “It’s not about being comfortable,” explains the cat. “It’s about doing the right thing.”

The frog does not want to sit on a log. Doing his best to find an alternative place to sit, the frog asks the cat a litany of questions. For every answer the cat has, the frog has another question–until the frog finds out what dogs sit on!

Peppered with catchy rhymes, FROG ON A LOG? shows young readers that every animal has a special place to sit. With rhymes that are reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’s beginner books, FROG ON A LOG? is a fun, educational read-aloud story that helps teach phonics!

 

 

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