Sunday, March 31, 2013

People of the Book (with apologies to Geraldine Brooks)

Sometimes we need to stop and celebrate.  Appreciate what we've accomplished instead of lamenting how far we still need to go. So, celebration time.

1. One Book, One Discovery - This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel - 2013
This was our third, and most ambitious, One Book, One School.  We took most of the month of March with daily trivia questions, a weekly 2 round game show, (mostly) book themed Minute to Win It games, a book battle, and an author visit!!! As students aren't required to read the book, we aren't sure what our numbers were. We had 84 people participate in our book battle which is pretty good. The winners included 2 students from last year's Hunger Games book battle! They each have younger siblings coming next year and are hoping for a three-peat to end their middle school careers!

Kenneth Oppel was amazing.  His talks were just the right length and just the right amount of humor without appearing to try too hard! Plus, he gave away books and bookmarks!! He was easy to talk to and was a joy to have around for two days!! He even helped host our book battle! I highly recommend him!!0

I can hardly wait to get started finding next year's book.

2. Booky Things
I've been playing around with Riffle (lists I'm working on Book Clubs, Narrative Nonfiction, Graphic Novels), trying to be more active on Goodreads, and getting back into #bookaday on Twitter. I feel renewed about sharing booky things.

3.  Slice of Life - March Madness
I didn't slice every day but each post I made seemed to lift something from my shoulders. I'm re-discovering the joy in reading and writing about all things book related. I've removed the pressure from myself. I'm dusting off my voice. You may wish I hadn't done this slicing thing...

What are you celebrating this month?

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013 (does this count as staying until the end? I say yes!)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monster by Walter Dean Myers - Nerdprintz

For some odd reason, I kept putting off reading this one. Even though I started the Nerdprintz Challenge, I wasn't doing the reading. Basically because the older books looked so boring. And, with the exception of Sunrise over Fallujah, I'm really not a WDM fan.This year though I got a request to do some specific book talks and this was one of several books the teacher wanted me to talk about.  I reluctantly took it home and was pleasantly surprised.

We open with a few pages from Steve Harmon's notebook. He's in jail awaiting trial on robbery and murder charges.  He talks about how scary jail is and how he's going to document his time by writing a screenplay - something he did in classes he took in high school. The book then alternates between Steve's journal and this movie of the trial. 

Monster is interesting because Steve is an unreliable narrator. His journal entries don't quite line up with the flashbacks that he put in the movie. In the end, you are unsure of what should happen to him.

It's a good book for students who don't like to read because the format makes it easy to read. The subject matter is also interesting as you get sort of an inside look at a trial as well as an idea of life on the streets.

I'd recommend it to 8th grade students, boys and girls, but especially those who aren't particularly fond of reading.

Breaking Out

Unboring. Several blogging/reading/teaching colleagues have made Un-boring lists for 2013: Here, here, and here. Things they want to do or read or places they want to go to enrich their lives.

As a student of adhd - I crave routines. But that doesn't mean I have to be routine! So, what can I do to become more unboring this year?

My (mostly) Bookish Un-boring List:

1. Read more mysteries.
I find that I'm pretty much reading the same books over and over. Books I think kids will like, sure, but they are more tried and true premises than anything new.  So, I'm on the lookout for some great middle grade mysteries.

2. Cook something different twice a month. One meal and one dessert.
We pretty much eat the same things week in and week out. I just started getting the Eating Well magazine and vow to try at least one meal per month! I also get the Martha Stewart magazine and I'll try one of her dessert recipes.

3. Read a recommendation from a friend.
I'm always recommending books but when someone recommends one to me, I say I don't have time because I have books to read for work. Now, on occasion, I do read student recommendations, but I'm going to expand that.  I'm going to actively seek monthly recommendations from friends, in person and online, and read them.

4. Diversify
I need to read, blog about, and talk about diversify. I need to stop shying away from the topic. If I want students to read beyond the usual fare I need to guide them to it! So I will start focusing a little more on the Pura Belpre award winners, the Coretta Scott King award winners, some Lee and Low books, follow along with Do Girls Of Color Survive Dystopia?.

Ok, that all pretty much still sounds boring. I'm bored with this now. Will think of "funner" things to do later!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Sunday Salon Author Spotlight - Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen
Are you looking for a contemporary romance with cute boys and great storytelling? Look no further than Sarah Dessen. Ms. Dessen has published 10 books, 9 of which I've read, and her 11th book,
, will be published June 2013.

Here are a few of my favorites featuring the all new covers:

Keeping the Moon
(Speak (Penguin), 1999. 228. $9.99. 9780142401767) Book excerpt

Someone Like You
(Speak (Penguin), 1998. 281. $9.99. 9780142401774) Book excerpt

Along for the Ride
(Speak (Penguin), 2009. 432. $9.99. 9780142415566) Book excerpt

(I listed original pub dates with updated imprint buying information also I didn't include How to Deal since that's a movie tie-in which was based on two previous books)


Blog - Sarah Dessen - here you can find a newsletter signup and book excerpts  and read the story behind each book.

Twitter - Sarah Dessen - she loves Good Morning America and you know, other stuff

Sarah Dessen Book Signing at Anderson's - blogger photo

Happy reading!

Monday, March 18, 2013

To Be Continued

Students seem to like series so we have a lot of them in the library. Or students read series because the library has a lot of them. Hm. 

Here are five series I loved but didn't finish:

  • The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness - read and loved books 1 and 2. Was afraid to read Monsters of Men because I heard it was really sad.
  • The New Policeman by Kate Thompson - finally got the books in the library but again, too far apart from first.
  • Eon by Alison Goodman - LOVED and highly recommend Eon. I think one day, maybe this summer, I will track down and read Eona. I hope.
  • Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson - discovered some other Sanderson books and switched to them, even though this was very funny.
  • The Icemark Chronicles by Stuart Hill - strong, female lead. Great, epic fantasy - not sure why I didn't finish this series.

There are also some series I wish I had not continued but I'll talk about them some other time.  Time. It has a way of getting past you. It's hard to go back and read older books, but I need to do that to model for students and for myself.

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

It's Monday - What Are You Reading? March 18, 2013

Inspired by the wonderful ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts who get together each week to share the books they've found. Head over to their blog to find more books for the TBR pile or to chat with someone about that awesome book you just finished! 

These are some of the book I carved out some time to read these past two weeks.

In the Past
I finished two series, continued two (one that I probably won't finish), and started a new one.  I also read a classic and a graphic novel.

In the Present
I'm working on two audiobooks and one nonfiction title. The Titanic by Deborah Hopkinson is on the SLJ BoB list. I'm enjoying it!

In the Future
I hope to finish both The Peculiars by Stefan Bachmann as well as Titanic.  A friend, who doesn't like to read, recommended Breaking Night by Liz Murray so I'm going to try and fit that in this week, too.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A Raisin in the Sun (with apologies to Langston Hughes)

On Monday, the Two Writing Teachers had this quote:

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
— Harriet Tubman

Once upon a time, I had a dream. And every now and again, I still have it. Wouldn't it be cool to own a bookstore?

 I know the world of books is changing. I've heard the battle of paper vs e-ink, of Amazon vs everyone, of closing locations and "no one reads".  But. I still have this dream.

When I first had it, I was pregnant with my now 17-year-old daughter. I was gonna call it Books and Beans. Because you can't have a bookstore without a coffee shop. But, I wasn't being practical. It was just a dream.

Many years later, it came back. This time, the opportunity came in the form of moving from the elementary classroom into the middle school library. From 2nd grade reading, writing, and arithmetic to books. The only thing I knew at that time was it had to be similar to running a bookstore. I could get the basics: budgeting, ordering, displaying, "selling".  And in the meantime, I could learn about opening a bookstore. 

So, I got that book: Opening a Bookstore. And Bookselling for Dummies. And I got on the ABA mailing list and, at first, even joined GLIBA, the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. I visited children's bookstores in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois to get ideas. I worked at Starbucks for 6 months to learn about coffee. I corresponded with a bookstore owner. I did a marketing plan. I was on all the publisher's mailing lists, I got Shelf Awareness (before it came out with a reader's edition), and Bookselling This Week. I put it in writing. I prayed about it. I had all these plans: a blue box for book rentals (you know, like RedBox?), a teacher's book club complete with lesson plans and huge discounts, a frequent buyer's card that you didn't have to pay for, an audiobook sample station like they used to have for music, a fantastic e-commerce site to rival Amazon's, a bookmobile, readers as sales people. I would be like the Shop Around The Corner on steroids (if you haven't seen You've Got Mail, I'm not sure what to say to you.). 

One day I was going to do this. After the daughter reached this age, or finished that grade, or something else. 

I kept deferring.

Then, I just stopped dreaming. 

Could this be where my flux capacitor went?

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Be A Dear

Drop Everything and Read.

DEAR Time.

When I taught elementary (should that be capitalized?) school, every day after lunch we would come in and read for about 15 minutes. Most days I would read to them, but they also read to each other or just  quietly looked at books. Every day. It was part of what we did. I loved it.

Up until 2 years ago, every day I would spend time at work reading. Every day. In different spots in the library or walking around the school, but every day. Teachers would tease me about it. But I think they secretly liked it. Things got crazy, we instituted new programs, I had finally won more teachers trust so was in the classroom or planning more, whatever. I stopped reading at work, unless it was my lunch break. Recently the principal said she missed seeing me walk around the school reading.

I wonder if kids miss it too? Was I setting an example? Reading is important to me, this is not just talk. I can talk to kids about a variety of books because normally I read a variety of books. This year, I've only finished 22 books. And it's already mid-March. I usually read 14 or 15 books a month but this month, I've only finished 3. When students would ask how I had time to read so much - I would say because it's my choice. I choose to not do  this or this or this so that I can read. Now what do I say? I'm too busy to read? What message am I sending?

What message do I want to send? What choices have I made? What's DEAR to me?

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Only One Remains

There are many different types of book battles, surprisingly!

Our local library hosts an annual Battle of the Books for the 5th graders around our area.  The students form teams and read and study the selected books. One night all the teams gather at the local high school to compete over all the books.

Our school will host our third annual Battle of the Book to end our One Book, One School celebration.  Teams compete to see who knows the most about the book.  Even teachers get in on the fun!

But, today starts my favorite Battle, the one School Library Journal (SLJ) puts on each year! The 16-book list is handed out after the ALA Youth Media Awards.  Starting mid- to late March, an author will judge two books and decide which moves to the second round.  This goes on each weekday until we get to the Big Kahuna.  The book Kahuna judges the final two books plus a book that rises from the dead! Each year, SLJ adds a new twist to the contest.  This year - students writing as books! Check out Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4.  Such a great idea! I must figure out a way to incorporate it!

I didn't have time to read all the contenders this year but here are my picks anyway!
Round 1
  • Bomb
  • Code Name Verity
  • Endangered
  • Fault in Our Stars
  • Jepp
  • Splendors
  • Seraphina
  • The One and Only Ivan
If you haven't already, check out the SLJ Battle of the Books. Great books, great judges, great reading!

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

Reading Is Award Enough?

Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting with 12 other bookish people: school librarians, public librarians, and classroom teachers.  

We are the 2014 - 2015 Young Hoosier Book Awards Middle Grades Committee. We meet the second Saturday of March and then again the second Saturday of September. In the middle we read, rate, and evaluate books! This year we have a list of 74 titles! Most released in the past 2 years and a couple actually released in 2013! We must get the nominated list down to 20 titles, then we (and other Indiana school personnel) encourage children to read and vote on the best of that shortened list. The author is then invited to come speak at our annual librarian conference.

I love that we involve the kids in reading and picking the best.  Students also design the annual T-shirt!  It would be so cool if we could somehow have them also hear the winning author speak. A nice way to celebrate their hard work.

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A Few of My Favorite Things

Happy Birthday to me!

Today was my birthday and I spent it on all my favorites!

I went to brunch with my favorite daughter at my favorite breakfast place.

I had chocolate cake!

I had a Mallo Cup, my favorite candy!

And I did some reading!! Yeah

It was fantastic.  The rest of the day will be spent doing more reading.  And a little grading. But mostly reading. Oh, and one more of my faves - doing my nails! I love OPI!

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Putting It Together

Busy day at the office. Got to work with 6th grade on genre.  Our main goal is to get them to differentiate between historical fiction and historical nonfiction.

We looked at a page from Fever, 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson right next to a page from American Plague by Jim Murphy.  I chose pages that talked about the same topic and had similar features.  They were about the people fleeing Philadephia and the constant tolling of the church bell. They both featured a quote at the top of the page and a date.

I wish I had the printouts so that you can see them.  We looked at word choice, sentence length, imagery, quotations, dialogue, and point of view.  We worked backwards from there to come up with defining characteristics.  It was difficult. Why? Because you can't teach genre in one day. They have to read more historical fiction, more nonfiction, more fantasy, more contemporary realistic fiction, more biographies, etc. The more you read and look and study the variety of writing, the more you will know.

Though even then it depends on your schema, what background you bring to the table. And what you learned in your children's literature class. And what textbook you had. It's good to know genres can be fluid. We looked at our all school read and we talked about its genre (historical) and why I chose to place it somewhere else in the library (scary).  We could have talked even more about those choices I made to put books in certain places.

I worked with 2 classroom teachers and we had to come to an agreement on the genres and terminology to use.  I had the opportunity to chat with them in between classes and I almost missed being in the classroom. Almost.

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Big Idea

Today is World Read Aloud Day! We couldn't read aloud at school today because it's ISTEP week! Boo!

This got me thinking about when I taught elementary and some of my favorite read-alouds. As I searched around the house trying to see if I had kept any, other favorites popped into my head.

My favorite alphabet book - Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.

My favorite to teach that numbers have value (using unit blocks) - Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

My favorite introduction to poetry - Silver Seeds by Paul Paolilli

My favorite Halloween read aloud - Big Pumpkin by Erica Silverman

My favorite Friday activities - doing the Tooty Ta, giving high fives, playing Peanut Butter Jelly Time

Ah, we had so much fun!

One thing that has always stuck with me was reading Frindle by Andrew Clements. When it clicks for Nick what Mrs. Granger means when she says we make the words. I think about how that gave him an idea that not only changed him, but the school and Mrs. Granger too. And even though I know it's a story - I want it to be true. I want to know that I said something once to a student and it changed their lives and those they touch. Inspiration. I want to be it.

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Hound Dog True (with apologies to Linda Urban)

I have adult ADD/ADHD.

My ADD/ADHD is like a gift.

I'm gifted at making connections. Between people and people, people and books, people and ideas. Among things.  I was born to work in the library. I store things away and then, voila, these two things go together!

I'm gifted at solving problems. Because I can focus on what's happening and see the connections.  This isn't working because of this. Have you tried this thing or that thing or this other thing? Give me a minute or two.

I'm gifted at research.  Again, my ability to focus comes into play. You need all the books, websites, movies, poems, short stories on this topic?  Just hang a sec, I'm going to do it now!

But, my ADD/ADHD can also be a hindrance.

I have a hard time listening without interrupting. My brain is busy making it's connections and it just wants to tell you everything right NOW! So I practice writing things on paper while I'm listening. And if I know you very well, I tell you when I'm losing focus. And hope you don't give up on me. Just make it shorter, please.

I have a hard time working on boring things  (like paperwork) long term. I've learned to do things in 15 or 20 minutes bursts. I switch to something else then come back and every hour - I MUST take a break!! I also must have a schedule. What to do on Mondays, or Tuesdays, or Wednesdays. Or bills don't get paid and groceries don't get bought.

Ultimately, I must take my medications - which I do like clockwork - but I also have to have plans in place. I try not to be embarrassed because of the reminders that pop up on my phone and computer. I try to stick to my schedule even on the weekends. And I try to connect with students and let them know I understand what they are going through. I really - oh shiny!

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end. #slice2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Flux Capacitor

At this moment, I am stuck. I have been trying for the past couple of years to get unstuck, but nothing seems to work.

 I've worked through the Unstuck app.

I've moved outside my comfort zone by co-presenting at a conference.

I UNDO weekly.

Read less.

Got out more.

And still. I'm right here. And I don't know how to get over there. Wherever that is.

Where is my flux capacitor? I could use a boost.

I'm joining the Slice of Life March Challenge hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I'm late to the game but I'm staying until the end.#slice2013

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Talking About Books - Classic?

Last week, right before the 4-day weekend, I got a request from the 8th grade ELA teachers to do some book talks for their Standard (non high ability) classes. I immediately said yes, cuz that's how I roll. Then, after my 6th period class, which is conveniently located downstairs next to said teachers, I went in for clarification. What types of books would they like to talk about?

"We'll be doing a Classic Lit unit."
Oh. Hm.

But, then they went on to explain that students would read books pubbed in the last 13 or 14 years and debate if the books were on their way to becoming classics.


Each teacher gave me some titles they wanted me to talk about, and some they wanted me to avoid, based on units they'd done earlier in the year.  Of course, these books were totally different for each class! Also, they wanted to cover a variety of genre. Variety of genres? Whichever works.

I started walking around the library and looking at Printz titles, Newbery wins, a few YA National Book Award winners, books that I've read and re-read, and some of the classics. Is there a young adult version of the classic vampire book, Dracula? Could we have contemporary edition of Around the World in 80 days? Is there a book that still addresses our need for love and friendship or how we may destroy ourselves if we don't make a change in our lives? And on the other hand, what books are fun and fluffy but will be weeded next year?

What makes a book a classic?


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