Title twins: Epic Fails and Brilliant Falls

19 Jun

Sometimes the title of one book makes me think of another.

I just checked out The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. It reminded me of Kate Messner’s The  Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.

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Both are solid middle grade novels that tackle issues of family. Both have strong grandmother characters, of which I am a little jealous, never having really known mine well. Both would make excellent summer reads for kids if late elementary, early middle school age.

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Publisher’s Summary: Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

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Publisher’s Summary: Gianna Z has less than one week to collect, identify, and creatively display 25 leaves for her science project-or else she won’t be able to compete in the upcoming cross-country sectionals race. As the deadline for her leaf project draws near, life keeps getting in the way. Some things are within Gee’s control, like her own procrastination, but others aren’t, like Biana Rinaldi’s attempts at sabotage and Nonna’s declining health. If it weren’t for her best friend Zig, Gee wouldn’t have a chance at finishing. His knowledge of trees and leaves in their rural Vermont town comes in very handy- as does his loyalty to Gee. But when Nonna disappears one afternoon, things like leaves and cross-country meets suddenly seem less important.

My Classroom Library’s Top 10 Graphic Novels

18 Jun

The highest checkout numbers in my classroom library went to graphic novels.  This is certainly due to their popularity. I think it might also be due to the fact that they can be read quickly. That said, I know students who would check one out and read it multiple times.

Here, in ascending order are the most popular graphic novels in my classroom library.

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#10 – El Deafo by Cece Bell

 

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#9 – Brain Camp  by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks

 

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#8 – Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks

 

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#7 – This One Summer  by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

 

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#6 –  Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

 

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#5 –  Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

 

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#4 – Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

 

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#3- Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

 

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#2 – The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley

 

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#1 – Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Top 10 Novels in my Library

16 Jun

The classroom library inventory is complete. Books are still missing, but they continue to trickle in. With no more checking out going on, I’ve taken some time to look over what was checked out. Graphic novels led the way, and my next post will be about the top 10 graphic novels. Today I will announce the top 10 novels in ascending order.

 

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#10 Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin

 

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#9 Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart

 

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#8  Half Brother  by Kenneth Oppel

 

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#7  The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

 

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#6 Wonder by R. J. Palacio

 

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#5 Restart by Gordon Korman

 

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#4 I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

 

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#3 The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

 

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#2  Zero Tolerance by Claudia Mills

 

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#1 Cinder by Marissa Meyer

 

 

 

 

 

Mini Mentors

14 Jun

Are you a cat person or a dog person?

Either way, these two picture books are sure to touch your heart.

In Elisha Cooper’s Big Cat, Little Cat an older cat mentors another.

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Goodreads Summary:There was a cat
who lived alone.
Until the day
a new cat came . . .

And so a story of friendship begins, following two cats through their days, months, and years until one day, the older cat has to go. And he doesn’t come back.

This is a poignant story, told in measured text and bold black-and-white illustrations about life and the act of moving on.

I really like the simple black and white illustrations. These , plus the simple text, give lots of room for bed time discussions.

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The second book, I Got a New Friend,  is by local author/illustrator Karl Newsom Edwards

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Goodreads Summary: When a little girl gets a new puppy, they have a lot to learn about each other. The new friends can be shy, messy, and sometimes get into trouble. They get lost, but they always get found. Their friendship may be a lot of work–but at the end of the day, they love each other!

Young readers will probably assume the little girl is the narrator, but they are in for a surprise at the end.

This is a great book for anyone who is shy or afraid of tackling new experiences or situations.

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And the expressions on the faces of this lovely pair touched my heart.

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I was that kid. I was very shy around strangers and in new situations. I think that is why I love this book so much. Like me, they learn confidence as their trust for each other blossoms. And it is a beautiful thing.

 

My Summer Writing Plans

13 Jun

I’m worried about summer slide. MY summer slide.

Oh, I have no concerns that I won’t read over summer. And I will do as much math as it takes to get through life.

No, it’s my writing.

It is such a huge portion of my life during the school year and I don’t want to give it up. I don;t want to keep using the same mentor texts I’ve written, even though they are good ones. I want to keep writing, and so, I signed up for Kate Messner’s Teachers Write 2017!

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Along with three other authors (Gae Polisner, Jen Vincent, and Jo Knowles), Kate will take anyone who signs up on a month-long adventure in writing.

Here is what it entails:

Mini-Lesson Mondays: Mondays feature mini-lessons on writing craft or logistics. We’ll share a workshop-style lesson with ideas, tips, and examples, and then there will be something to work on during the week. Jo also gets our writing juices flowing with Monday Morning Warm-Ups on her blog.

Tuesday Quick-Write: Tuesdays will feature a writing prompt that can be used to brainstorm new ideas or deepen your thinking on the project you’re working on now.

Wednesday Q and A: Ever wished you could just pick an author’s brain about how they do it?  Each Wednesday, we’ll have a post where anyone can ask questions about writing .  Our guest authors will answer!

Thursday Quick-Write: Like Tuesdays, Thursdays will feature a writing prompt that can be used to brainstorm new ideas or deepen your thinking on the project you’re working on now.

Revision Friday and Feedback Friday: Fridays will feature a guest author’s thoughts on revision, along with virtual lemonade.  Author Gae Polisner will also host Feedback Friday on her blog, where you can share your work, get ideas, and offer feedback to others.

Weekend reflections & Sunday check-in – Weekends are for recharging, spending time with family and friends…and that includes online writing friends, too!  Teacher-writer Jen Vincent hosts a Sunday check-in on her blog, Teach Mentor Texts.

The month-long class is free, but they ask that you purchase one book by each of the authors. I am always happy to add to my classroom library.

I stumbled on this last year, after it had started, and decided there and then that I would undertake it this year. I am keeping my vow.

Maybe I will see you there.

 

This week’s book talks 6/5-9

11 Jun

For a number of reasons, I have no 5 day weeks left, even though this week and next are 5 day weeks. Darn for me! It will be 4 books next week, and probably 3 the last week, The last day of school schedule is out and it will be a whirlwind.

Monday

This classic hasn’t been checked out all year, even though I know a number of students would love it. Best reason for a book talk!

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Publisher’s Summary: “I can’t speak for all dogs.
Not all dogs are alike.
And most certainly, not all dogs
have the same experiences. . . .”

Squirrel is not like most dogs. Born a stray, she must make her own way in the world, facing busy highways, changing seasons, and humans both gentle and brutal. Her life story, in her own words, is marked by loss, but also by an inspiring instinct to survive. And when it seems she will roam the woods and country roads alone forever, Squirrel makes two friends who, in very different ways, define her fate.
At once heartrending and hopeful, Ann Martin’s exquisite story of a dog’s life is told with her trademark grace and insight.

Tuesday

I got a round of applause from Core 1 for my Scottish brogue inflected read aloud from Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce Coville.

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Publisher’s Summary: In the first hilarious Enchanted Files, Angus is a brownie. No, not the kind you eat! He’s a tiny magical creature that loves to do chores. Angus has just “inherited” a new human girl, Alex. To say that Alex is messy would be an understatement. She’s a total hurricane-like disaster—and she likes it that way, thank you very much! Living with each other isn’t easy but Angus and Alex soon learn there is a curse that binds them. What’s worse, it threatens Alex’s family! Working together, Angus and Alex will set out to break the curse . . . without killing each other first . . . hopefully.

 

 

Wednesday

Driving home from work on Tuesday, I heard an interview with Alex Honnold, who was talking about his solo rope-free ascent of El Capitan. I told the kids about this event as I began talking about Peak by Roland Smith.

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Goodreads Summary: After fourteen-year-old Peak Marcello is arrested for scaling a New York City skyscraper, he’s left with two choices: wither away in Juvenile Detention or go live with his long-lost father, who runs a climbing company in Thailand. But Peak quickly learns that his father’s renewed interest in him has strings attached. Big strings. As owner of Peak Expeditions, he wants his son to be the youngest person to reach the Everest summit–and his motives are selfish at best. Even so, for a climbing addict like Peak, tackling Everest is the challenge of a lifetime. But it’s also one that could cost him his life.

Roland Smith has created an action-packed adventure about friendship, sacrifice, family, and the drive to take on Everest, despite the incredible risk. The story of Peak’s dangerous ascent—told in his own words—is suspenseful, immediate, and impossible to put down.

 

Friday

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1st, so it seemed appropriate to read about the consequences of an earthquake. When I talked about this book, one of my students shared her cousin’s experience in Hurricane Katrina.

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From the Authors website: Thirteen year-old Cort Delacroix lives on a houseboat at the edge of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in lower Alabama. His father, Tom, is a renowned river guide and local expert on hunting and swamp lore. He’s been teaching Cort everything he knows since the boy was a child.

Cort used to have a hard time imagining a future more ideal than being a river guide, but since his mother walked out on them he’s having second thoughts. His father isn’t his normal attentive, good-natured self.  Tom’s constantly preoccupied with trying to get his wife to come home, while Cort knows she never will. Now lonely and frustrated, Cort see’s just how empty the swamp is without his father around. He wonders if it’s all worth missing out on the life of a normal teenager.

All of Cort’s fears are realized when Tom abandons him in the midst of a category three hurricane. For the first time in his life he is truly alone against the swamp. A series of catastrophic events soon lead to Cort and two young girls stranded in miles of storm-thrashed wetlands. After struggling to high ground on an ancient Indian mound, they cling for their lives in a tree. The hurricane rages as a crazed wild hog stalks them from below and they stave off snakes and numerous other swamp creatures climbing to safety. Throughout this nightmarish ordeal they form an unlikely bond with a black bear hugging the tree next to them. But in the end it’s every animal for itself. And they’ll all do whatever it takes to survive.

It’s up to Cort to use everything he’s ever learned to keep himself and the two girls alive. And they may just have to rely on a bear to help save them.

Bottle Creek is the story of a young boy who must come from beneath his father’s shadow and take charge of his life if he is to survive a horrifying battle against nature. And even, perhaps, in order to become a man.

More riveting than Rosie

8 Jun

I stayed up a little later than I should have last night. I just had to finish Silver Stars by Michael Grant, the second in his Front Lines  series.

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Goodreads Summary: The summer of 1943, World War II. The Germans have been bloodied, but Germany is very far from beaten. The North African campaign was only the beginning of the long journey for Frangie, Rainy, Rio, and the millions of other Allies.

Now the American army is moving on to their next target: the Italian island of Sicily. Frangie, Rainy, and Rio now know firsthand what each of them is willing to do to save herself—and the consequences. With their heavy memories of combat, they will find this operation to be even tougher.

Frangie, Rainy, and Rio also know what is at stake. The women are not heroes for fighting alongside their brothers—they are soldiers. But the millions of brave females fighting for their country have become a symbol in the fight for equality. In this war, endless blood has been spilled and millions of lives have been lost, but there could be so much more to gain.

The women won’t conquer Italy alone. But they will brave terrible conditions in an endless siege; they will fight to find themselves on the front lines of World War II; and they will come face-to-face with the brutality of war until they win or die.

I wrote about the first book, Front Linesback in May. I was riveted to the stories of these women, fighting in WW2.  Michael Grant manages to maintain the momentum of the story and my interest in the story of these three women. Sometimes the second book in a series can seem repetitive, or drag, but this one doesn’t. And, Grant’s characters are so well written, you can;t help but fall in love with them, warts and all.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until January 30, 2018 for book three, Purple Hearts, to find out how the war ends for Frangie, Rio and Rainy. Fortunately, Grant has written two digital novellas that accompany the series. Alas, my library doesn’t seem to have them…yet.

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