Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8-22-16

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

This Friday my district has our first inservice day. Next week is my first full week back to work since having my second son. So many emotions! I love teaching. I love the people I work with, and my building is full of energy. Work is a good place to be for me. It energizes me and gives me creative outlets. But boy will I miss my kids! I've taken these long summer days for granted, as we do so many things. I sure am one lucky lady.

Books I Read this Week:

Be Light Like a Bird
by Monika Schroder
Capstone, 2016
Realistic Fiction
240 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

Last week I posted briefly about this book because I knew there was more on the way. Monika Schroder was kind enough to write a guest post for my blog earlier this week, and she is giving away a copy of the book to one lucky reader! You can read her post and enter to win the book here.

Applesauce Weather
by Helen Frost, illustrated by Amy June Bates
Candlewick Press, 2016
Poetic Narrative/Realistic Fiction
112 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

Helen Frost writes some of my students' favorite poetic narratives. Salt is an historical fiction novel they can enter without feeling overwhelmed with length. Hidden is a book that I am lucky to end the year still owning. Once I book talk that book it barely has a chance to hang out with the other novels in verse. And now we have Applesauce Weather. I can't say that it tops either of the previously mentioned titles, it's gentler and slower, with an old timey feel. I am suspecting that the cover will be a hard sell. I will share this story of an elderly uncle visiting family and spinning his tales for their entertainment, but I am just not sure my students will be as fond of it as an adult reader might be. But the good news is that I will only have to wonder so long, I can put this one to the test in a few short weeks.

The Case of the Starry Night
by Yvonne Jones
LHC Publishing, 2016
Mystery/Science Fiction
36 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

Wen Amser is back in action, this time to use his amulet to travel back in time to save van Gogh's Starry Night from a group of bandits. There is a bit of information about Starry Night and van Gogh, though most of the story is centered around Wen. The book is short, and felt rushed to me. To appeal to younger readers (that may be better suited for the brevity of this story) I would have expected the text sizing and white space to be more substantial. 

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo
by Drew Weing
First Second, 2016
Graphic Novel/Fantasy
128 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

By far, the star of my reading week! This book is cool and funny, a winning combination! 
When Charles' parents move to Echo City to fix up an old hotel, Charles is less than impressed. And things go from boringly bad to excitingly dangerous when Charles discovers an actual monster in his closet. Turns out there is only one person fit for the job of keeping kids safe from monsters, Margo Maloo. Lucky for Charles, she eventually lets him tag along on her missions, making Charles' move to Echo City far from boring!

I love the drawings, the story is fresh, and the main characters are excellently developed. My grandmother would have called Margo "One Hot Ticket." And she would have been exactly right! And Charles cracked me up on many occasions. Kids are going to love this one!

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Be Light Like a Bird Guest Post & Giveaway!

I am delighted to feature a special new middle grade novel on the blog today, and even more excited about one of you winning a copy!!

Available September 1, 2016

Thank you, Nicole, for inviting me to write a short piece about Be Light Like a Bird for your blog.
When people ask me, "What is your new book about?" I often retell the plot. But I think Be Light Like a Bird is also about forgiveness and relates to a fundamental question most people, young and old, have to deal with at some point in their life: How do we forgive those who hurt us? Wren is devastated and hurt after the loss of her father. Her mother's distant and cold behaviour adds to her pain and out of her desperation she even wants to lash out against her mother. It takes a long time for Wren to finally learn what causes her mother to act the way she does. Her mother had kept a secret from her and the truth had to come out for Wren to be able to forgive.
Finally, knowing the truth enables Wren to see her mother with more empathy and be less judgmental. It may not be possible for a 12-year old to see past her own emotions when judging a parent but I hope that reading about Wren and her mother helps young readers to realize that adults have their own struggles to deal with, and these may cause them to act in ways children might find inexplicable.
~Monika Schroder 

Good luck!

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8-15-16

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

I've been busy setting up my delightful new classroom space. I am so excited about all the storage (not clutter out and about) and the greenhouse off the corner! This makes a beautiful little work space and will of course home many plants, both things will bring joy to my students!
As with every year, the hardest thing about setting up my classroom is setting up the perfect classroom library. I want the books arranged in a way that is easy for students to access, makes sense in order, and looks nice. I have too many books. I have been making decisions on what to remove year after year, and it never gets easier. This year I was finally able to part with the Animorphs series. I read some of these books as a kid, but since I have been teaching (10 years) only one student has read them. He was in third or fourth grade, my first group of looping students, and he just graduated from high school. Nate, I'm talking about you. I held on to those books for so long just in case another student wanted to read them. I mean, Nate liked them, so someone else might want to read them! And so it goes. I, and many of us, can vividly picture that certain student that read that certain book, and though no one else has loved it since, we don't want to part with it. This is our curse and our blessing. We love books and kids. You're my people.

Books I've Recently Read:

by Randy Cecil
Candlewick Press, 2016
Realistic Fiction
144 pages
Recommended for grades 1+

Told in short sections of text with a sweet illustration on each page, we follow a father, a girl and a lost dog. They each want something, and we follow to watch them find it.

Be Light Like a Bird
by Monika Schroder
Capstone, 2016
Realistic Fiction
240 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

More to come on this later. But for now, this story will be welcomed by readers that want to explore feelings of loss from the safety of a book.

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, August 1, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8-1-16

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

It's August, which means teachers everywhere are feeling a mix of

Blogging has been harder than ever this summer with a toddler and a new baby, plus the general summer days of no schedule (sigh). And though the reviews have been slower to come, the reading is still happening. And when I do get a chance to type, at lease I have cute company...

And at least my older distraction is irresistible...
A mom can't complain!

Books I've Recently Read:

The Journey trilogy! Check out my post this past week to see some thoughts and enter to win the first two books!! 
All three books are gorgeous and thoughtful. I love them!

Just Like Me
By Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2016
Realistic Fiction
256 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

A story about an adopted Chinese girl trying to identify with who she is while not giving in to pressure from others to be "more Chinese."
The writing is so easy to read, it's just natural. I can truly picture a cabin of young teen girls acting this way. Aside from the heavy themes of adoption (two other main characters are also adopted from China) and feeling different from peers, there are strong messages about conflict resolution. I know, you didn't expect there to be conflicts among a group of teen girls... 
I loved it, and highly recommend it!

Hour of the Bees
By Lindsay Eager
Candlewick Press, 2016
Realistic Fiction/Fantasy
368 pages
Recommended for grades 5+

I brought this book with me to the hospital when I had my son. This book was company when I needed to sleep and couldn't, the characters became close friends of mine over the days I was stuck in a small quiet room. Let's face it, I loved being still and calm when home is rarely that!
I say the book is realistic and also fantasy. There are two storylines here that meld in the end. You decide the genre for yourself, it doesn't really matter, it's beautiful no matter what we call it.
Give this book to readers that need hope in the face of dementia taking a loved one. Give it to readers that believe strongly in magic. And read it yourself, you'll be glad you did.

Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans!
By Gary Northfield
Candlewick Press, 2016
288 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

Look at the cover. You know this book is going to be a little bit weird, and you have high hopes that it's also a little bit smart and a big bit funny. I'd say it must have hit the mark because I read it fairly quickly, which isn't the case when I'm dying of boredom! 
I'm thinking my fourth graders will get a kick out of this character. Were there many, many things that made me scratch my head? Yes. Like, how does a fake mustache make the zebra unrecognizable by others? Suspend reality for this one!!

By Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen
Balzer + Bray, 2016
288 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

My son's namesake.
This book is not new to us, if you're reading children's lit blogs, you are more than familiar with Pax
And it lived up to all the hype for me.

The only problem is that I'm running out of days in the school year to fit all the novels I want to read aloud.

Curse of the Were-Hyena
By Bruce Hale
Disney-Hyperion, 2016
224 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

Two best friends notice that their favorite teacher is acting rather strange all of a sudden. 
There are monsters in the night and a strange new museum exhibit in town. 
When the kids seek help from the owner of the comic book store, she has lots of insight into what might be happening to their teacher. 
Things were a bit too convenient for my liking, and the illustrations were too cartoony for me.
I'm sure I can find some eager hands to put it in to in September though!

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Return to the Journey

photo courtesy of

This fall Aaron Becker and Candlewick Press will deliver the conclusion to the gorgeous Journey trilogy.

Remember Journey? It begins with a young girl sitting outside a house with rooms full of people: a sister playing with a tablet, a multitasking mother on the phone and cooking dinner, and a father at work in his office. Though family is home, the girl feels alone.
Can I have a bite?
What are you working on?
Can I have a turn?
Alone in her room, when even her cat abandons her, she discovers a red crayon. And draws a door. An escape. Thus begins the journey.

When we meet the girl again she has with her the friends she made on her journey. In Quest the friends set out to collect the crayons needed to free a captive king. He provides them with a map and clues, the rest is up to the friends' imaginations.
Color, action, danger and quick thinking! Gratitude, magic, perseverance and wonder.

Return opens with the same busy father, and the same girl. This time when she returns to her magic world, her father follows! Readers with a sharp eye will enjoy spotting connections to the first two installments.

Books with no words can say so much to us. Perhaps they can say more than books full of words.
What I perceive and what you notice can be wonderfully different.
Beyond enjoying this book alone, consider delving in with one or many children. Writing teachers will see worlds of possibility between the pages. I know I do.

Pre-order Return, or order any of Becker's other books-signed(!) here.
And be sure to enter below for a chance to win the first two books in the trilogy, Journey and Quest!
Thank you to Candlewick press!
Contest closes Tuesday, August 2nd.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Ms. Bixby's Last Day

It has been about a month since I read Ms. Bixby's Last Day. Since then I have welcomed my second baby boy into our family. Before Baby #2 I was asked to take part in this blog tour, and I naively agreed. With two boys under two I am...tired. And the wonderful coordinator of this blog tour assured me that if I felt like this was too much once the day arrived, that I could opt out. No pressure. And opting out is tempting the night before the post goes up, when drowsiness is setting in. But then I heard myself reminding my toddler of some family truths. We don't bite. We don't kick. We don't grab the baby. And this one trickled in: We don't back out of our commitments. I don't want to let down Walden Pond Press. I want to honor a commitment to John David Anderson's kick off to his latest work. But mostly, I truly love this book, and I want to show up for that.

When I was getting the details for this post it was suggested that I write about my own Ms. Bixby, the teacher that inspired me, touched me, made me explore the world and myself, etc., etc., etc. It got me thinking about my teachers. And you know what, my Ms. Bixby came to me later in life as a colleague. My Ms. Bixby is my former teammate/teaching partner/friend, Mrs. Hartley.

Mrs. Hartley taught me to slow down. To breathe deeply. To appreciate nature and poetry and music. She let me be myself, let loose, joke, laugh, question, push boundaries and sometimes buttons. She worked so, so hard on little things, things that no one would notice she worked so hard on. But she did it anyway, because it's the little things that matter. 

And while I thought about my own Ms. Bixby, I also thought about kids. There cannot be a Ms. Bixby that makes an impact without students that are open to what a teacher has to offer. So, while this story is a tribute to the gift of an amazing teacher, it is also a tribute to the kinds of kids that have open eyes. I feel so lucky to have cultivated relationships with some amazing students over the years. It's the right kind of students that energize a teacher, keep her seeking out new books to share, driving her to continue thinking up new projects and writing assignments, and that make her lose sleep over which read aloud to share next because that time is so precious and there are only so many books we can get through in a year.

So that's what this book is to me. It's a tribute to wonderful teachers. It's a tribute to students that have open eyes and large hearts. It's also a tribute to friendship. 

I loved this story, and I hope you do too!

Want to own copy? Enter at the bottom of this post. Contest closes July 5th.

Want to see what all the hype is about? Read this 48 page excerpt!

Tour Stops:

6/2/2016 Nerdy Book Club
6/3/2016 Next Best Book
6/6/2016 Walden Media Tumblr (that’s us!)
6/10/2016 Flashlight Reader
6/13/2016 Julie Falatko
6/15/2016 About to Mock
6/16/2016 Kid Lit Frenzy
6/16/2016 The Hiding Spot
6/17/2016 Unleashing Readers
6/23/2016 Novel Novice
6/28/2016 Educate.Empower.Inspire…Teach
7/1/2016 All the Wonders

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 23, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5-23-16

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

I'm writing this in bed tonight, stretching far around my belly to reach the keys. In a few hours baby #2's due date will arrive. I am going to fall asleep tonight with positive vibes focused around his arrival tomorrow! There have been a few "signs" that the time is upon us. Like a car at my husband's work today with the baby's name on the license plate (that's a pretty solid one), my almost 2 year old giving the "baby" three kisses before bed (does NOT happen every night) and finally, my best friend, and delivery room champion, texting me just now to say her work schedule miraculously cleared up for tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

And, if no such luck, at least I'm in the middle of a good book.

Books I Read this Week:

Ms. Bixby's Last Day
by John David Anderson
Walden Pond Press, 2016
Realistic Fiction
320 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

I am delighted to be a part of this book's blog tour next month. I will save my thoughts until then, but I will say this much: If you have a special educator in your life, send this book to them as a thank you. 
More to come on this one!

Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe
by Tricia Springstubb
illustrated by Eliza Wheeler (She illustrated one of the best books ever: Dollbones!)
Candlewick Press, 2016
Realistic Fiction
144 pages
Recommended for grades 2-4

I missed out on the first book, Cody and the Fountain of Happiness, so thank goodness this one came my way! I doubt you could read this book and not fall in love with Cody. She is loyal, thoughtful, blundering and real. I would highly recommend this new series to grades 2-4. I am always on the lookout for books that will interest my striving fourth grade readers. The short length, interesting story, supporting illustrations, and great white space on the pages will make this book appealing to readers. I will be adding this (and the first) to my classroom library!

 I'm Currently Reading (and loving):

Thanks for stopping by!