Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Life as a Cartoonist Blog Tour!

Welcome to the final stop on the My Life as a Cartoonist Blog Tour!


Boy, age 8
Q:  In the scene where Umberto and Derek first meet, were you thinking that Umberto was just being mean to Derek, or were you imagining that Umberto was embarrassed by Derek's question, and he just didn't want to share about why he was in his wheelchair?

I think Umberto was embarrassed because if I was in a wheelchair and somebody came up to me and asked me why I was in my wheelchair it would be embarrassing!  ~Aly, age 8

Janet: I think Umberto's gotten into the bad habit of being aggressive as a way to deal with feelings of uncertainty, especially since he just transferred to a new school.  He's nervous and wants to do well and make friends, but he's not sure how to do it.  Unfortunately for Derek, he's the one Umberto zeroes in on to act out all his fears.

Ashton, age 9
     In the scene where Umberto is yelling at Derek about nicknames, Derek said he felt like a verbal punching bag.  The same thing happened to me at recess today, and I said it felt like I was being punched in the face with words.

     I thought it was weird for Umberto to give himself a nickname that is his enemy's name.  Derek was so embarrassed when that happened.  It made me wonder...  

Q:  Have you or Jake ever experienced an embarrassing moment?  (Matt, age 9 & Katy, age 8)

Janet: I have had lots of embarrassing moments! But here’s one involving Jake.   We were at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, which is full of beautiful antiquities.  Jake was four, looking at a large marble statue that was 5000 years old.  As I bent down to read the description of the statue, I suddenly heard people screaming and running through the hall.  People were shouting; I thought there was some kind of medical emergency.  Then I looked up to find Jake happily sitting in the lap of the marble Egyptian King, as if it were Santa Claus.  I got him down immediately but the guards were NOT happy.

Jake: My embarrassing moments always involve my mother trying to kiss me in front of my friends.  Beyond embarrassing. 

Grant, age 9
Q:  When writing the scene where Carly starts dating Crash, did it remind you, or Jake, of a time when it felt like your best friend ditched you for somebody else?  ~Zoe, age 9

Janet: Sometimes when I’m working, my friends will go out without me and it does feel a little like I got ditched.  But you have to have faith that your friends are still your friends – even when they do things without you. 

Jake: It kind of reminds me of the time when I wanted to hang out with a smart, funny, and nice girl at my school but she always had better things to do – or so she said.  I was crushed.  It was TERRIBLE.  But you know how hard preschool can be.

Emma, age 9
     When I get older I want to run an art after school club. 

Q:  Have Janet or Jake ever run an after school club?  What was it and how did it go?  ~Dee, age 9

Janet: Jake and his friends in middle school were obsessed with funny movies so I started a comedy club after school so he and his friends could watch and talk about movies. We had a blast; they loved it.

Jake: My mother was totally embarrassing. She picked these totally sappy movies and snorted when she laughed.  It was awful.

Aly, age 8
Q:  Jake, did you ever get in a fight at school?  ~Madelyn, age 8

Jake: I’ve never been in a fight at school  - unless you count the time I got jumped by the bus driver trying to steal my lunch money.  I had to clobber him with my Simpsons lunch box; then my dad saw us and jumped on top of the bus driver and started shoving my tunafish sandwich in his mouth.  Kids were screaming and freaking out.  Oh wait…I think that’s a scene from a book we’re working on...  

Zoe, age 9
     Derek has to sit and be lectured by his parents and he has to go to detention with Umberto.  

Q:  Have you ever gotten caught doing something wrong that was someone else's idea, and then took the blame for it?  ~Emma, age 9 & Jaelyn, age 8

Janet:  I’ve done plenty of things that were stupid or wrong.   Unfortunately they were always my own ideas!

Jake: Yes.  My friend Sam suggested I draw a picture on the wall of our third grade classroom.  I drew all these stick figures, like a giant cave painting.  I got in trouble; Sam didn’t.  But now I draw stick figures as my job – thanks, Sam!
Dee, age 9
Zoe, age 9

Joey, age 9
Enter to win the My Life as a series: A paperback copy of My Life as a Book, a paper-over-board copy of My Life as a Stuntboy, and a paper-over-board copy of My Life as a Cartoonist.  US/Canada only, please.  Books mailed directly from the publisher.

Contest will run through May 4th at midnight.  Good Luck!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-29-13

Hosted by the dynamic duo, Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts.
Stop by their blog to find links to many more blogs connecting for this meme.

Last week I was visiting with friends out of town.  One of our stops was the wonderful Devaney Doak & Garrett Booksellers.  What an impressive collection of titles in this small shop.  The books weren't the only gems in the building, the staff was engaging and knowledgable too!  I spend most of my time reading MG and YA titles for review, but I am a huge lover and promotor of picture books!  While at DD&G's I furiously scribbled down all sorts of titles that intrigued me.  Many of the titles I jotted were picture books, and I took this past week to read and enjoy many of those titles.

Books I Read this Week:

Fenway Fever by John H. Ritter
Philomel, 2012
Sports/Realistic Fiction
224 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

This is one of the titles on the 2013-14 Maine Student Book Award list, so I figured I should read it...even if it is a sports book.  Ok, given sports or any other genre to choose from, I would choose any other genre.  However, that goes to show that you just never know what you will find between the pages of a book.  I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  I listened to it, which can always have an impact one way or another.  There is a reviewer on the MSBA committee that is a huge fan of the game of baseball.  She travels around to major ballparks as a yearly tradition with her father, but the Red Sox are her main team.  Having that passionate Sox fan and passionate reader recommending this book certainly helped assure me that I wouldn't be wasting my time.  You won't find play-by-play scenes flooding the book, instead you will find the story of family and faith, hard work and loss, and of course, a good helping of Red Sox love!

Frog Song by Brenda Z. Guiberson, illustrated by Gennady Spirin
Henry Holt & Company, 2013
36 pages
Recommended for all!

The stunning artwork is what drew me to this book.  Inside you find information about frogs around the world, especially relating to songs and young.  Filled with onomatopoeia it will be a treat to read with younger children.  Older readers will be able to take away the extra information in the back of the book that tells stats and facts about the featured frogs. 

Grumpy Goat by Brett Helquist
Harper, 2013
40 pages
Recommended for grades k-2

Brett Helquist is an artist that I hold in great admiration.  If he illustrates it, I buy it.  This story about a grumpy goat that comes around in the end wasn't one that wowed me.  I am going to test it out on my class to see genuine kid reactions.  They might very well love it!  And who knows, I might love it once I've shared it with them.

As the Crow Flies by Sheila Keenan, illustrated by Kevin Duggn
Feiwel & Friends, 2012
40 pages
Recommended for grades k-2

If you like birds, and I know you do, then you will enjoy sharing this with a young reader!  Nice crisp illustrations, with a story from a crow's perspective.  Might just change the way you feel the next time you spot a crow!

Boot & Shoe by Marla Frazee
Beach Lane Books, 2012
40 pages
Recommended for k-4

What's to say, it's a Marla Frazee book!  I know I'm behind the eight ball on this title, but hey, I've been busy!  As an owner of two identical dogs, this already had my heart before I opened it.  It's sweet, it's funny, it's meant to be shared!  I was all geared up to read the story to my class during snack time when they reminded me that we were planning to finish Odd Duck during snack.  I wanted to stomp and say "Oh man!"  But I resisted the urge.  After all, there is always later today!

Nightsong by Ari Berk, illustrated by Loren Long
Simon & Schuster, 2012
48 pages
Recommended for grades k-3

I was again drawn to a book based on the cover art.  How can you resist this cover?  The story of a little bat being sent out alone for the first time isn't as amazing as the illustrations.  If you're looking for a book on bats (good information on echolocation) or on the theme of facing the unknown, this would fit the bill.

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel Books, 2012
32 pages
Recommended for grades 1-3

Odd, a bit odd.  When Wilfred tried to own a moose he learned that maybe a moose isn't for owning.  Or maybe he didn't quite learn that.

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And meet me here tomorrow for...
Complete with Janet & Jake answering some student generated questions and a chance to win the entire My Life as a series!  See you tomorrow!  Trust me, you don't want to miss the art work!

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-22-13

Hosted by the fabulous Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts.
Check out their blog for the full line-up of great Monday posts!

Vacation is officially over as I look at the clock and see that I am past my bedtime for a school night!  I can't say it was the most restful of vacations, and I can't say I read as much as I had planned to.  But that's ok!  Tomorrow when I get to school it will be the final stretch of the school year.  It is amazing that the conclusion of another school year is upon us.  

Books I Read this Week:

Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Katherine Tegen Books, 2013
Realistic Fiction
352 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Emily Elizabeth Davis is named after poet great Emily Dickinson.  This story opens in a used bookstore the day before Emily is born.  Her mother, Isabella, is inspired by a first edition of The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, and decides to name her daughter Emily.  She then pens an inscription to her unborn daughter in the front of the book.  I know, gasp!  In the front of a first edition Emily Dickinson!  
Isabella is a big believer in a person's destiny being something that we don't trifle with, it just happens to us.  But Emily isn't so sure.  Emily has always wondered who and where her father is, but her mother won't tell her.  Isabella claims that when their paths are meant to cross, they will.  It isn't until Emily's book of poems is mistakenly sent to Goodwill that her mother admits to writing Emily's father's name somewhere in the book.  Emily must set out to find her book, and her father by rewriting her own destiny.  Some mom, huh? ;)

The Misadventures of Edgar & Allen Poe: The Tell-Tale Start by Gordon McAlpine
Viking, 2013
224 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

I'm going to be brief here.  I was very excited about this little story.  I've been a big Poe fan since middle school.  This however, is a bit odd.  The twins, Edgar and Allen Poe, are interchangeable twin boys.  They are identical on the outside, but what's truly odd about them is that what one sees and experiences the other does as well.  Thus, making them interchangeable.  The real Poe is the boys' great, great, great, great granduncle, and is serving time in an afterlife where he writes menial pieces and is overseen by a man that greatly annoys him, William Shakespeare.  I don't know what to make of this part of the book.  At first I was amused, but I didn't find it particularly entertaining enough to want to revisit it throughout the book at later points.  
So what is this book about...well, the boys lose their cat and their aunt and uncle take them to recover the feline thousands of miles away.  The boys don't know it, but they are being targeted for scientific research.  Someone wants to know if one Poe boy is killed, if the other will be able to communicate with him in the afterlife.  Not a homerun for me.

Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron by Mary Losure, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
Candlewick, 2013
Narrative Nonfiction
170 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

We are taken back to France, 1800 when a boy is found to be living alone in the wilderness.  A huge curiosity to people, the savage boy is taken in to be studied.  He is passed around a few times, eventually finding a home, though never learning to speak or read as many had hoped.  
The book has a nice layout with plenty of whitespace.  The illustrations are fitting, wild and emotional and raw.  I was struck by the notions of treatment of people deemed insane, or ill in ways not yet understood, as it was mentioned several times how Victor (as the wild boy came to be called) just barely escaped a fate of an institutionalized young person.  
Because of the time the story took place there were large gaps in Victor's life story.  To work around this Losure often offers a "perhaps."  Perhaps Victor did this, or perhaps Victor did that.  I would have liked more fact and detail to sink my teeth into, and found I didn't enjoy the large amount of unknowns.    I look forward to seeing students' reactions to this book!

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen & Faith Erin Hicks
First Second, 2013
Graphic Novel, Realistic Fiction
282 pages
Recommended for grades 9+

On the surface:  a group of high school robotics members pitted against a group of cheerleaders.  The robotics team needs money to get to a robotics competition, and the cheerleaders need money for new uniforms.  The principal has announced that the class president will decide how to spend the money.  pitted against each other for presidency, both sides go down.  Forced to work together a plan is devised that can get both groups what they want.  Stuck in the middle is a jock dealing with the effects of divorce.  I loved the friendships between the kids in this story, as they were developed there was much to be appreciated.  This book is certainly for the high schoolers though, as there is a LOT of "language" throughout.

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Light in the World

On Monday I will return from April vacation to 18 sweet third graders.  They will be bursting to tell me and each other about what they did during our time off from school.  And then someone will bring up the bombing of the streets of Boston. 

As a teacher it is my cause to help my students understand, question and contribute to the wide world around them.  I do this by guiding them in different ways of thinking, and they often guide me in new ways of thinking.  There will be students that will be excited to talk about this latest tragedy because that is how we deal with things, by talking about them.  I will not discourage that talk, but I will help to moderate it.  And I worry that these young children are seeing far too many scary events this year, scary events that make them wonder, am I safe?  When I spoke to the tearstained faces of my students in December about the shooting in Newtown my students were crying for lives lost, but also for their lives.  This shocked some children to the core.  And now a city that Maine children frequent often with families and on school trips becomes a location of yet another loss of lives due to reasons we cannot understand.  I will sit in school Monday morning and this will probably come up in our Morning Meeting time.  I will sit there not knowing all the perfect things to say, but I will sit there and begin to unpack the feelings my students carry with them to school, as well as begin unloading my own. 

And after we have shared and pondered I will then turn my students minds to the good around them.  We can't shy away from scary topics, but we can't dwell there either.  

On Monday morning my students will use yet another of Peter Reynold's inspiring messages to move us forward.   I will ask my students to respond to this message how they choose to, through art or writing, and we will share them around our school building.

How do you deal with difficult conversations in your classrooms?

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-15-13

Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts.

You know those special books you come across that are so good you almost want to stop reading them, to prolong your time together?  That is how I feel about the first book I am reviewing.  I read this book before bed each night, and instead of zipping through it, I would read a chapter or two, put my bookmark in, and think. 

Books I Read this Week:

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore
Walker Books for Young Readers, 2013
Mystery/Science Fiction
344 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7
A lovely review in The New York Times: Sunday Book Review gives a thorough summary of the story, capturing well the mysterious tone of this novel.  

After reading the above review it would be redundant to delve into my own similar thoughts.  Instead, a sprinkling of what stands out to me:

Open the book, the first illustration you see is an antique wooden door with cast iron embellishments that is surrounded by vines of ivy.  It beckons your onward.  

Main characters, Ephraim, Mallory and Will all want different things, things that the water might bring to fruition for them, if they can in fact find the Fountain of Youth water.  Will wants to accomplish scientific feats, to do good with his knowledge.   Mallory wants to leave behind small town Crystal Springs, and Ephraim is determined to make his father well again.  As we read about Ephraim's self-doubt through the story his quest for "fixing" his father is better understood when Ephraim reveals that his father was the one person that really gets him.  Ephraim is in the shadow of a strong and athletic older brother, and an intelligent younger sister.

Read the book, enjoy the mystery and the journey of looking for the magic water.  Then reach the end and decide for yourself what fills the holes.

"There's no such thing as a silly story.  Every story serves its purpose." pg. 73

Contest Closed

Contest will run through Wednesday, April 17th at midnight!

My Life as a Cartoonist by Janet Tashjian, illustrated by Jake Tashjian
Christy Octaviano Books, 2013
Realistic Fiction
259 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

Want to hear my thoughts on My Life as a Cartoonist?  Are you sure?  Well then, stop back on April 30th when Bluestocking Thinking will be serving as the final stop on the Book Blog Tour for My Life as a Cartoonist!  And to help lure you back, there will be not one, not two, but THREE books in the My Life as a series up for grabs!  (Courtesy of the publisher.)

Books I'm Currently Reading:

I'm Currently Listening To:

On Deck:

(I am so so so so so excited to start this book.  I loved The Fairy Ring!  After thinking another fairy book might make me gag, I was sure in for a surprise with that one!  And to add to Wild Boy's awesomeness, Timothy Basil Ering is the illustrator!)

Thanks for stopping by!  As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments!