Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester



Thanks to Joellen McCarthy (@imalwayslearning), I now know about this fabulous book Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester.  Joellen is one of those people that mentions one great book every time I see her. And it is always a FABULOUS book that I have never heard of.

Sophie Scott Goes South is a book about a girl who gets to travel to Antarctica with her father, who is  the captain of the ship that takes a group there.  The book is about a fictitious character (Sophie Scott) but is based on Alison Lester's journey to the Antarctic.

The book reads like Sophie's journal.  It is filled with her writing and drawings. And since  this is based on the author's trip, there are lots of real photos throughout the book that show what Sophie is doing and seeing. The photos are incredible as the reader actually gets to see the real Antarctica.

I don't know much about Antarctica. I actually didn't even know I was interested in it. But some of the facts and information in this book are fascinating!  One of the most fascinating things I learned was that scientists leave underwater microphones in the ocean for years so they can analyze whales sounds. Who knew? I had lots of WOW moments and lots of wonderings when I read this book. I imagine kids will too.

This book has so many possibilities. It is a longer picture book, maybe one that would take longer than one sitting to read. It would make a great read aloud and I am always looking for great informational texts to read aloud.  The visuals really add to the text so that is one thing to study.  The text can definitely be used as a mentor text in writing. It is perfect for middle grade kids.

So happy to know about this book!  Fabulous!



Monday, July 21, 2014

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied


I read How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied (My Life Is a Zoo) by Jess Keating before #nerdcampmi (one of my favorite days of the year-have I mentioned that?).  I had heard about the book on Twitter and thought it sounded like a great middle grade novel. Then I saw that Jess would be at #nerdcampmi so I definitely wanted to read it before #nerdcampmi in case I had a chance to meet her.

The book is fabulous! It is about a girl named Ana who is dealing with typical middle school problems.  She deals with cute boys, mean girls, school struggles and parents who are sometimes embarrassing.  This is the story of a preteen/teen girl who is beginning to figure out who she is.

Her story is unique in that her parents are zoologists so she lives at the zoo while her mom works on a research project. It is perfect because the story is both funny and serious.  There were lots of laugh-out-loud parts, but there were also real issues of middle grade and middle school kids. It seems to be the perfect combination.

Ana is a character you care about quickly and I was glad to see that this was the first book in a series. She is likable and vulnerable. She is trying to figure out how to fit in and how to be herself.  She is dealing with lots of different relationships and juggling lots of things as middle schoolers do.

And this book happens in the zoo. I found this part fascinating. I am not a zoo person. I go, but it is not my favorite place. However, we do live right near the Columbus Zoo, one of the best zoos in the world from what I can tell. The amazing Jack Hanna lives in our town. And I am a big fan of Jack Hanna. So it was fascinating to me to read some behind-the-scenes zoo stuff. I want to pay closer attention-next time I am at the zoo-to the work going on and those buildings that seem to be empty.  The fun of this book is that author Jess Keating used to be a zoologist. So that part of her story made the zoo part of this far more interesting. Love how she took that and brought it to her life as a writer! I love that she is a zoologist/children's author. (Her website has a great feature called #KeatingCreature which shares some great creature info and is lots of fun!)

I don't see this as a book I'd put in a 3rd grade classroom --it seems more perfect for 5th and 6th grade. Maybe even the end of 4th. I had several kids in mind when I read this book--kids who were ready for a tiny bit of romance, kids who like to read about real kids in real life, without the sadness that goes along with some middle grade fiction.  I had kids in mind who liked to laugh a little bit when they read but they like humor embedded in real life stories of great characters.

This is really a perfect middle grade novel for upper middle grades. I sometimes worry that our kids are reading all things sad. (And I love a good, sad book.) My youngest daughter is also a fan of sad books. But I know she has said to me more than once during middle school--I want to read a good book, but not one where someone dies or that I'll cry. Our middle grade kids want stories about kids like them, going through every day preteen stuff, figuring out the world around them. This is that book.

I can't wait til the next in this series comes out (January 2015) and I am definitely holding onto this one for a few 5th graders I know this fall.



Our #TeamShortcut photo. See, we aren't even tired at the end!  Jess is on the left, dressed as Beekle!)

(On a side note, I did meet Jess Keating at #nerdcampmi.  We decided early on that for the #nerdrun, we would be part of #TeamSaunter. We had no desire to win, but thought we would support camp by taking part and celebrating some book characters. So a group of us did just that. Well, it was great to walk with Jess and to turn #TeamSaunter into #TeamShortcut. It was great to have some time to chat and to make some new friends.   Jess is a great author --one that I am happy to have had the chance to meet! Can't wait to read more of her books! And to maybe Hack that #nerdrun map again:-)



Thursday, July 17, 2014

Poetry Friday -- War Some of the Time


Found on the website Indexed



War Some of the Time
by Charles Bukowski


when you write a poem it
needn't be intense
it
can be nice and
easy
and you shouldn't necessarily
be
concerned only with things like anger or
love or need;
at any moment the
greatest accomplishment might be to simply
get
up and tap the handle
on that leaking toilet;
I've
done that twice now while typing
this
and now the toilet is
quiet.
to
solve simple problems: that's
the most
satisfying thing, it
gives you a chance and it
gives everything else a chance
too.

we were made to accomplish the easy
things
and made to live through the things
hard.



Now that Franki got me (and apparently most of the rest of her social network) started with the daily news digest theSkimm, I finally feel like I know a bit about what's going on in the world. Unfortunately, most of what's going on in the world seems to be war, now that the World Cup is over. Depressing. I'm with Bukowski. Wiggling the toilet handle or making the perfectly browned piece of toast -- the little things in life -- are keeping me grounded and positive.

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at The Opposite of Indifference.


A Book for All Writers



The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier
Harry N. Abrams, 2014
review copy from the public library, but I will want this one for my classroom library


This is a creepy Victorian tale of two orphans who find themselves working in an English manor house that is overrun by an ominous tree and visited at night by a mysterious spirit-man.

At the heart of the book, however, and what makes it a "book for all writers" is STORY and storytelling. Molly holds her brother Kip's world together with storytelling. Stories give them hope and help them deal with the uncertainties of life. Molly uses stories as currency, keys, and salve.
"I think I figured it out." She sniffed, looking up at the stars. "Hester asked me what the difference between a story and a lie was. At the time, I told her that a story helps folks. 'Helps 'em do what?' she asked. Well I think I know the answer. A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens 'em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide." 
Here's to more good stories, like this one. Here's to the writing that will bring them to life.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Book for All Readers



I Kill the Mockingbird
by Paul Acampora
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
review copy from the public library, but I'll be buying a copy so I can transfer all my dog-eared pages



We rarely review YA books, but exceptions can be made.

This is a book for book lovers.

Three good friends on the brink of high school hatch a fake conspiracy to ensure that everyone will actually read their summer reading assignment -- To Kill a Mockingbird.

There's a romance subplot, a cancer subplot, and a poke-mild-fun-at-Catholics subplot. There are literary allusions to children's literature right and left (the three good friends are, and have always been Readers).

Oh, and there's a teaching subplot. Mr. Nowak, Fat Bob, has these words of wisdom before he dies of a massive coronary:
"It's not enough to know what all the words mean," he continued. "A good reader starts to see what an enritre book is trying to say. And then a good reader will have something to say in return. If you're reading well," he told us, "you're having a conversation." 
I raised my hand. "A conversation with who?"
"With the characters in the book," said Mr. Nowak. "With the author. With friends and fellow readers. A book connects you to the universe like a cell phone connects you to the Internet."
Mr. Nowak's the one who inspires the three culprits who hatch the I Kill the Mockingbird plan. And in the end,
"All the teachers are talking about it...If you're a teacher, you dream about having students who will try to change the world someday because of something you do or say in the classroom."
Indeed.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

So Many Things to Love About Comic Squad: Recess!



The world has been very excited about Comics Squad: Recess!  for a very long time!  And it was worth the wait! What a great book. I am sure I am going to need several for the classroom this year. Kid are going to go crazy with this one!




If you haven't read Jarrett Krosoczka's Nerdy Book Club post about the book, it is a fabulous story of the book and how it came to be.  


Here are 10 of the things I love about this book!

1. It is a great size!

2. It has 8 different stories!  So great for read aloud or independent reading. So many possibilities!

3. Babymouse and Lunch Lady intro the book together! What could be better?

4.  It is VERY funny!

5.  There is a lot of orange inside!

6.  It seems to be good for ALL ages--like 0-99, I think!

7.  It is a collection of stories from some of the best graphic novel writers around. This is a great way to introduce kids to new authors OR if they already love these author, they get something new!

8.  There is an ugly sweater in the book. Any book with an ugly sweater is a real treat!

9.  You can learn to draw Betty in 12 easy steps (maybe)...!

10.  There will be a Comics Squad #2!

Thank you authors for an incredible new book! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff


Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.  is a MUST READ in 2014. It is so good that you should rearrange your TBR stack and put this one on top. I actually think it is so good, that you should read it even if you don't read much middle grade fiction.  I can't think of anyone I know who shouldn't put it at the top of their stack.

I am a HUGE Lisa Graff fan.  I think her books are PERFECT middle grade novels. There are not many authors who can write for that age with enough depth to actually change the readers who read the books, and also in a way that it is accessible to 9-11 year olds. Lisa Graff is one of those authors.
I loved The Thing About Georgie when it came out years ago and I have loved everyone one of Graff's books, especially Umbrella Summer and The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower .

Absolutely Almost may be Lisa Graff's best book yet (even though her others are amazing!). The book is about a 5th grader named Albie who is not so good at anything. He struggles with lots of things, pretty much everything, including learning.  Albie is a character you love from the very start.  He is a great kid, someone you'd love to hang out with.  He has so many strengths and his new babysitter sees all of them. Albie comes to learn lots about himself in this book. I checked around on the web and pretty much everyone loves this book. If I haven't convinced you to read it, here are some other reviews:

Review by Betsy Bird

Carol's Corner

Barbara O'Connor

Two Reflective Teachers

Debbie Alvarez

And read all of the Lisa Graff books that you haven't read while you are at it. I love them all!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Chicory




CHICORY
by John Updike


Show me a piece of land that God forgot—
a strip between an unused sidewalk, say,
and a bulldozed lot, rich in broken glass—
and there, July on, will be chicory,

its leggy hollow stems staggering skyward,
its leaves rough-hairy and lanceolate,
like pointed shoes too cheap for elves to wear,
its button-blooms the tenderest mauve-blue.

How good of it to risk the roadside fumes,
the oil-soaked heat reflected from asphalt,
and wretched earth dun-colored like cement,
too packed for any other seed to probe.

It sends a deep taproot (delicious, boiled),
is relished by all livestock, lends its leaves
to salads and cooked greens, but will not thrive
in cultivated soil: it must be free.


I love chicory. Mostly for its blueness, but also for its love of freedom. Maybe that's why I picked it for my poetry website, which I killed and brought back to life again here. It is a work in progress.

I just realized about an hour ago that today is Friday. Summer and travel will do that to you.

Linda has the Poetry Friday roundup at Write Time.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Take Away the A



Take Away the A
by Michaƫl Escoffier (author of Brief Thief, Me First! and The Day I Lost My Superpowers)
illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Enchanted Lion Books, due out September 12, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher


You will want this book. I guarantee it.

Best. Alphabet Book. Ever.

This is the kind of mentor text that makes you want to try writing this way...right NOW.

Here's a taste:

"Without the A
the BEAST is BEST.

Without the B
the BRIDE goes for a RIDE.

Without the C
the CHAIR has HAIR."

See what I mean?

I wish you could actually see the book, because the other part of the fun is finding the duck, the mice, the octopus, the monkey, and the cats in spreads other than their own throughout the book.

Need a quote for a slide in your word study/vocabulary presentation? From the press release:
"Since we are really only able to think about the world, ourselves, and the nature of life itself (along with everything else) within the vocabulary that is available to us, the richer and more nuanced our language is, the richer our possibilities for thinking and understanding become. From this point of view, the ethical, political, cultural and intellectual imperatives for deepening a child's sense of language and its possibilities are profound. Giving them the idea that language is a vital material with which they can make and build and shape their world is so clearly of vital importance."

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Blogging Live from nErDcampmi! 2014!


Today, we are blogging live from Day 2 of nErDcampmi! This is the 2nd annual event and it is one of our favorite days of the year!  Colby Sharp and his wife Alaina Sharp and The Nerdy Book Club gang invented this camp--an edcamp focused on Literacy. Brilliant.  You may have read about how awesome it was on our blog last year!  All day, we'll be adding photos and thoughts to this blog post, live, as they happen!  You can also follow nerdcampmi on Twitter today #nerdcampmi.

8:31 a.m. We are getting ready for the Opening of Day 2 #nerdcampmi.

Hugh MacLeod Gapingvoid.com
The link to the live idea planning board

8:48 am
Babymouse and Arnie the Doughnut join us at Nerdcamp!



9:30 Session 1:
We are both in the session on Genius Hour!  Lesley Burnap (@auntierez) and Ann King (@kingandkids) are facilitating the conversation.


People and Hashtags to follow if you are interested in Genius Hour:  
  • @angelamaiers 
  • @thenerdyteacher 
  • @joykirr 
  • @paulsolarz 
  • #geniushour
  • #choose2matter
  • #20time
  • #passiontime
Some highlights from the Genius Hour Session (the group notes are here)

• Letting kids follow their passions. A little time each week pays off big.
• RULE: You may not do something that is easily google-able.
• The point is to make something that’s not already there. CREATE. Not just nonfiction research.
• Every student is a genius. Give time to share.
• Some kids want to be told what to learn; don’t want to have to think. #geniushour needs brainstorming and support.
• Builds lifelong learners.
• Genius Hour is a bad term -- we should be doing this kind of inquiry all of the time
• Creativity, inquiry, passion, collaboration, community are what’s needed
• PBL is a kind of Genius Hour 
• Genius Hour SHOULD BE A PHILOSOPHY, not a mandate 
• Genius Hour is not a program
• It’s all about the question. (Thank you, Brenda for A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas )

BREAK:  BEST BOOKS OF 2014
Even though we did not go to the session on Best Books of 2014, Katie Muhtaris created a great padlet for all of us compiling great books discussed!  You can access it here!  Get ready to spend some money on books once you click:-)

10:45 Session on Authentic Technology in the Literacy Workshop




If you are interested in this topic, follow:
@literacyspark (Katie Muhtaris)

Some big messages from this session:
"Empowerment is Better than Engagement. Ownership is better than Buy-In."

"A huge growth point for kids is when audience shifts from teacher-only to peers."

12:50 PM Getting ready to build the afternoon IDEA BOARD!

Mary Lee, Josie and Karen get ready for the PM Idea Board creation!


1:15 Session: Nerdy Math Club (F) with and @katiestrawser and @brianwyzlic

1:15 Session: Google Drive in the Elementary (ML)
@techieteacher10session notes are here

Wow. I still have so much to learn before we start with Google Apps in Ed this fall. My big take-aways were all the tools that are available when you open a doc -- research (Google, quotes, images...), ways to share, commenting and suggesting, activity log that means no document is ever completely lost.

2:30  Math Workshop with @darcyJobe and @smithand1015



Math Workshop schedule  in Darcy and Andrew's Classroom:
  • Number Routine
  • Minilesson
  • Work sites/Problem Solving Opportunities
  • Reflection/Exit Slip


2:30 Session Connecting Globally (ML)


Top resources: