Bing! Round 2! And a distraction…

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Ah, round two of the #cyberpd summer read. Chapters 5 and 6 are where Vinton dives into the practical aspects of teaching for deeper meaning and creating opportunities for problem-solving. This is my comfort zone when it comes to reading and thinking about educational practices; I’m a details person, a concrete thinker much of the time who needs to hear about the mechanics of how something works before I can really think about it with a wider lens.

Chapter 5 spoke to me in so many ways. Whether they are reading for pleasure or for class, kids have such a hard time with “figuring out the basics”. Chapters with alternating voices, books with flashbacks and time switches, too many pronouns, elements that I think make a book more interesting often make it confusing to students. They bring it back unread, telling me it was ‘boring’. Boring = “I didn’t get it, and I couldn’t figure it out”. Much of the time, but not always.  So many kids read just for plot, they can’t recall the title of the book, characters’ names or details about the setting, but they can give me a play-by-play of the action. They miss the humor, the wordplay, the patterns, the world-building in a good fantasy or sci-fi; so much is lost in the whirlwind of reading quickly to see how it ends.

The core practices that are shared in both chapters have helped me to think about how I can adapt them to my work in the library to help students dig a little deeper in their reading, to appreciate a book for more than just the plot points. Or to just mark it as “read” on their mental lists of things they have accomplished. 

-Can I use sophisticated picture books with 5th graders to demonstrate how to think deeply about a text in a 40-minute class period? Will they find ways to transfer that learning to their own reading? Some will, some won’t.  

-Can I create some open-ended questions for kids to think about in their independent reading that isn’t text dependent so everyone can answer it within the context of their individual books? I’d like to think so.

-Could they do “Turn and Talks” about their independent reading answering three specific questions with their partner? Maybe.

It feels piecemeal, but maybe something is better than nothing. Or maybe, I can try things out with students, talk to teachers as I go, and find ways to collaborate more often throughout the school year.

I’m curious. As people read these chapters and reflect on their own teaching will you be completely overhauling what you do, or will you be trying bits and pieces to see how it goes? Do you have the flexibility in your workplaces to make big changes? I’ll definitely be reading people’s responses to these more practical chapters with that in mind. What about collaboration with other teachers in your school? Can you reach out to the science teachers to think about how kids read and respond to nonfiction texts? Or working with librarians to find new and different texts that might meet your needs?

As always, so much to think about.

And, here’s a pretty picture of blueberries that are just ripening in my backyard, making focus on work things difficult.  What’s your distraction this summer? 

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A Year Seems Like Forever

 

So, I’m participating in the #cyberpd community for the first time evah! The opportunity to read, reflect and share with a group of like-minded, or maybe not-so-like-minded educators is an exciting one, and forces me out of my summer bubble. I get the chance to do some professional development from the comfort of my front porch. For anyone reading this blog post who is not part of the #cyberpd community, you can find more information here. Come join us, it’s probably not too late.

So, away we go….

There is much to explore in this book. So many ideas that make me want to shout “Amen!” and throw my fist in the air. And there are some that have less meaning, or power, for me because of the position I’m in, or maybe the kind of school I work at. As a K-8 school librarian, my focus is always on getting the right book into the hands of the right kid.  To encourage them to read widely; to graze on all kinds of books and then to dig deep into the ones that speak to them. Mostly, I want them to love to read. I am not a reading teacher, or literacy specialist, but I work closely with my colleagues who are, to try and help them find new and interesting, or new and exciting, or new and literary books into their hands, as well. I am constantly encouraging teachers to read children’s literature, to read what the kids are reading and to find ways to incorporate those books into their curriculum.

When I hear students groan about how much they hated reading Tuck Everlasting in class, my heart breaks a little. When they roll their eyes at In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson, I cringe. I always wonder how they would respond if they had to read and answer text questions for The Lightning Thief or Harry Potter. Would they still love it? Would it be a chore? Would it be forever ruined for them? Maybe.

And that’s the part of Dynamic Teaching that makes my heart sing; the notion of not scaffolding the reading of a novel in such a way as to suck the joy out of the book. Certainly, Natalie Babbitt didn’t write Tuck Everlasting so that every child could understand the power of figurative language. She wrote a story that was in her heart, that needed to be told, and she just happened to do it quite beautifully. Wouldn’t it be great if kids could experience that kind of storytelling without it being broken down into tiny little bits? To have every nuance shared as a discussion point or a text question? I love that Vinton, and evidence, suggests that students learn quite well from their peers and the free-form discussions they might have, if given the opportunity.

Something that really resonated with me was this diagram:

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Vinton talked about how many classrooms have the writing process posted somewhere in the classroom for students to use as a guide, and how there isn’t an equivalent for reading. It reminded me that in several of the classrooms in our school, I’ve seen teachers post a list of things that good readers do, or strong readers, or some other adjective that I’m forgetting at the moment. Anyway, it included things like ” A good reader visualizes the story as they read” or ” A good reader sometimes re-reads sections to better understand” etc… I think the lists are sometimes generated by the students and sometimes by the teachers. As a librarian, it’s the kind of discussion with students I would love to have been part of the in the classroom, not just have it in the library, but coordinated with the teacher. A united front of encouraging good reading habits.

I don’t want this response to be overlong, and boring. So, my big takeaway from the first section is really about letting kids find their way to asking the big questions in the books they are reading, to hearing the big ideas that their peers are thinking. But, I don’t want to just reflect on the reading, I want to have an action plan for the coming school year, some things I can do, both big and small, from the library that will help teachers and students. I’m going to challenge myself to find ways to get into the classrooms, to offer help with book groups, or literature circles, or whatever, and help teachers plan their lessons around reading.

To that end, I ask this community of educators how can the school librarian be more helpful to you in your quest to get kids thinking more deeply about their reading? How can we collaborate with you to encourage problem-solving?

 

Summah!

It’s summahtime and the reading is easy, sort of. Not really, but it sounds good. I had plans to set aside time every day in the summer to read. I have articles due that require reading, I have pleasure reading to accomplish, I have review journals to scour, I have oodles of books and articles that need reading, and yet I find myself … struggling. Perhaps I’m overwhelmed by the sheer amount of it, so then I do none of it. Does that happen to you? I’ve made myself a schedule to read. I never used to have to do that, it just happened naturally. Mostly, though, I think it’s because I’m on summer vacation, have lost my regular schedule entirely and thus think I have endless amounts of time to get it done. Weird, but true.

But, since it’s been two whole months since I last posted I do actually have books to talk about today. Over at Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts the meme It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is happening and Shannon Messenger at Ramblings of A Wannabe Scribe is hosting Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, and so here I sit on a Sunday afternoon/evening, typing up a blog post and drinking a pink beer. (For anyone out there who might be a craft beer enthusiast, it’s PYNK from Yards). Here’s a pretty picture.

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Phew, that’s a lot of linkage in one paragraph.

Let’s talk books, that’s the fun part.

redqueenThe Red Queen
by Victoria Aveyard
HarperTeen
2015

I know that I’m waaaayyy behind on this one, I believe the third installment is about to come out, or has just recently published. It was highly recommended by a colleague, and I needed to lose myself in another world. It was a fast-paced, tightly plotted novel that really kept me engaged.

Sixteen-year-old Mare has red blood, which denotes her commoner status in this world divided by the haves, who have silver blood, and the have-nots, with their oh-so-prosaic red blood. Given a job as a servant to the royal family, Mare is thrust into a dangerous political game when it is discovered, quite by accident, that while she may have red blood, she has a power that should only belong to a silver. Her role navigating between the two worlds is perilous and loyalties are tested and broken numerous times. It was a fun, engrossing fantasy. Fairly tame, content-wise, but still some romance and complex relationships. I’ll be recommending this one to my 7th and 8th graders.

losersLosers Take All
by David Klass
FSG
2015

Another older title, but we put this one on our recommended summer list, so it seemed appropriate for this post. Strong realistic fiction for junior high crowd. This one actually made me laugh out loud a few times, which makes it a keeper in my book.
Jack Logan is a senior in high school and has been raised in a family of superb athletes, in a town that reveres high school sports. He couldn’t feel more like an alien if he tried. But then, he does try. Sort of. His hopes of flying under the radar for his senior year are dashed when the news breaks that all seniors must participate in a team sport. Jack, and his many non-athletic friends decide that making a co-ed, 3rd string soccer team is for them, and their one goal for the year is to not win a single game. Easy enough to accomplish, but when their sports-crazed principal is recorded during an insult-laden rant against the team, their efforts go viral and they discover a whole world of people out there supporting them.

topprospectTop Prospect
by Paul Volponi
Carolrhoda
Sept. 1, 2016
E-ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher

I think this is Volponi’s first real foray into middle grade fiction, as his other contemporary sports novels have featured high school and college-age athletes.
Travis is just starting high school, when the dream of a lifetime for any student athlete comes along. His older brother Carter is a freshman on the Florida Gators football team, and the head coach takes a special interest in Travis, who is an outstanding quarterback. He is “offered” a scholarship to the university when he comes of age, and Travis is elated at the opportunity, and loving the status that kind of notoriety gains him. Eventually, Travis feels the pressure to perform, to maintain his skills at any cost, which may cost him is future.
This novel features authentic relationships, both between family members and friends. Travis and Carter are both navigating new and difficult terrain, and they are both forced to make grown-up decisions before they are ready, and both carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. The lengthy football game descriptions got a little tiresome for me, so I skimmed those, but I don’t think I’m the intended audience here anyway. Kids who read/love Mike Lupica and Tim Green books are going to eat this one up, I’ll definitely be nudging them to try it.

applesauceApplesauce Weather
by Helen Frost
Candlewick
August 9, 2016
E-ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher

A poignant, beautiful book of verse about family, grieving, traditions and storytelling. Frost’s poetic form is strong, her imagery is lovely and this one has rhythm that left me wanting more.
Uncle Arthur is grieving the loss of his wife, but the family is hoping he’ll appear on the farm on the day the first apple falls off the tree, just as he and Lucy did every year. When he does finally come, Faith and Peter, the two children anxiously awaiting his arrival, try to find ways to engage with him, to help him remember, to keep traditions alive and well and basically connect with a favorite uncle. It’s an ode to fall and to families that is not to be missed.

That’s it for now, but I’m looking forward to reading your posts tomorrow, and reconnecting with the blogging world. Hope to see you out there somewhere.

 

 

 

Some Reading and a new social media to explore…

Ah, Mondays.  I have a love/hate thing with Mondays. I really look forward to reading other people’s blog posts about what they’ve been reading, I’ve learned about so many amazing books through these connections. But, it also means getting up at 5:00 am, which can be hard on any given Monday, though now that we are in the middle of May, a new Monday means a new week closer to the end of the school year. Is it okay to be really psyched about that? I think so. I’m not going to feel too guilty about that.

Anyway, if you are here reading this you probably found me through the weekly meme, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. It’s pretty much the only reason I blog anymore. I need to change that. Maybe in the summer.

Take note, the books I’m talking about this week all publish in the summer. I got my advanced copies through NetGalley, which has been awesome about sharing books with me. I highly recommend them!

26240679Inspector Flytrap
By Tom Angleberger
Illus. By Cece Bell
Amulet Books
Publish Date August 2, 2016
E-ARC made available via NetGalley and the publisher

Wackiness abounds in this easy-to-read mystery chapter book. Our sleuth is a Venus Flytrap stuck in his pot who loves solving BIG DEAL mysteries. His sidekick/assistant is Nina the Goat; she eats everything in sight, pushes Inspector Flytrap around on a skateboard and responds to most things with a shrug and a “big deal”. The mysteries come into the office in a fast and furious pace, from missing pickle paperweights to unidentifiable yellow blobs on expensive paintings. The writing is pretty straightforward and the general quirkiness of everyone and everything will appeal to most young readers. Angleberger’s fast-paced dialogue paired with Bell’s familiar illustrations make for a winning combination here. The 2nd graders at my school will appreciate the humor and find it all right at their level.

29002386Saved by the Boats
By Julie Gassman
Illus. By Steve Moors
Capstone Young Readers
Publish Date July 1, 2016
E-ARC made available via NetGalley and the publisher

Inspired by her own experience of trying to leave Manhattan on 9/11 and get back to her home in New Jersey, Gassman writes a beautiful and moving tribute to the many boats of all shapes and sizes that responded to a call to action to help evacuate the city on that fateful day. She describes how boat captains of all sorts mobilized their crews and sailed into a city under attack in order to help those trying to escape the destruction that was unfolding. Just as powerful, the artwork beautifully complements the spare story, with nearly monochromatic digital illustrations that often feature one bright color as a counterpoint. Often, that color is the bright blue of the sky, harkening back to the crystal clear day, but sometimes it is the red of a life ring or the black smoke oozing from the towers. Truly, a gorgeous and creative work with an intriguing focus about a terrible day.

27206512Gemini
By Sonya Mukherjee
Simon & Schuster
Publish Date July 2016
E-ARC made available via NetGalley and the publisher

The voices of conjoined twins Clara and Hailey alternate in this new teen novel filled with all the angst, joy, and frustration that goes with being teenagers. The girls are soon to graduate high school, forcing them to think about their future and the possibility of leaving their insulated small town in California that has protected them from some of the harsher realities of being conjoined. Outgoing, artistic Hailey wants to go to art school and see the world, or at least some of it, but Clara, who’s passion is astronomy, wants only to stay safely anonymous, keeping close to home where everyone knows them and there are no prying eyes. But, as is often the case, a new boy in town opens Clara’s eyes to what could be, and for the first time allows herself to dream about being a normal teen and some of the things that entails, such as falling in love or traveling to San Francisco. For the first time, they really think about what life could be if they separated, an idea that both horrifies and intrigues them. This is an authentic story, and their emotions and responses are spot on. The girls have to find compromises in order to both get what they want, which feels about right for any teenager.  The writing was very compelling here and I couldn’t put the story down until I had finished, which I haven’t done in quite some time. I’ll be recommending this one to my older students who love a good realistic fiction with a side of romance thrown in. The ones who love Sarah Dessen and John Green will not be disappointed.

On to the social media…

I’m on Litsy. Anyone heard of it? I think it’s pretty damn new. I heard about it through a blog post from BookRiot and I’ve linked it here, she does a much better job of explaining it than I ever could. Her nutshell is that it is a combination of Instagram and GoodReads, or if they had a baby, or something like that. The premise intrigued me, so I joined. It’s only on Apple devices so far, I can’t even log in through the website, so purely mobile right now. But, if you, too, are intrigued and end up signing up, find me. My username is Runawaylibrarian. If it entices you more, my litfluence score is a whopping 42. It was 24 just for signing up. I need more friends. If you have already joined, comment here with your username and I will find you.

Have a happy Reading Week!

Never too late?

Its always fun to participate in the “It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?” meme. Thank you to Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting us all.

 

5612052The Rock and the River
By Kekla Magoon
Aladdin, 2009
Gr. 7 and up
I picked this one up because I had heard such good things about it, and because I am searching for a book to recommend to our 6th grade team as a new class read. I know, I know. My rating above states Gr. 7 and up, and as an independent read I think that’s still pretty accurate, but as a classroom read, with teacher-led discussions and context to the time period, I think 6th graders, in the latter half of the school year, could handle this one pretty well. There’s a lot going on here and the book is pretty intense. It is 1968 Chicago, the civil rights movement is in full-swing and young Sam Childs is right in the thick of everything. His father is a noted civil rights activist who works closely with Martin Luther King, Jr., and his older brother, Stick, is being drawn to the work of the Black Panther party. Sam is in the middle, torn between the love and respect that he has for his father and the absolute worship of his brother who can do no wrong. As events bubble up and sometimes boil over, Sam doesn’t always know which way to turn, isn’t sure who is right in every situation and doesn’t always see the big picture. What I love about this book is that Sam is a flawed protagonist; he’s young and inexperienced, but has a good heart and wants to do the right thing. I also love that the Black Panther party is shown here as a very nuanced organization, that did a lot of good things in their communities, including building free health clinics, providing breakfast for children and offering up education classes. Magoon does not shy away from showing the violence and injustices of the time, and I found myself time and again, reflecting on how the incidents she describes from 1968 are eerily, and sadly unsurprisingly, occurring now, nearly 50 years later. It is a great read; thought-provoking and full of insight about family dynamics and relationships as well as illuminating a very difficult period of history. I’m definitely recommending that the 6th grade teachers at my school read it, and in the meantime, I’ll be adding it to some summer reading lists.

 

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The Seventh Wish
By Kate Messner
Gr. 4 and up
Bloomsbury
Publish Date June 7, 2016
E-ARC made available via NetGalley and the publisher

Thinking of wishes is easy for Charlie, it’s the consequences of those wishes that sometimes aren’t so easy. While ice fishing out on Lake Champlain Charlie accidentally uncovers a wish-granting source; an undersized fish with glowing green eyes that promises granted wishes if she releases him back into the lake. And this small piece of magic allows her to make wishes for family and friends alike. She wishes a new job for her mom, excellent basketball tryouts for her ice fishing buddy, Drew, a passing grade on a test for Irish dancing companion Dasha, and so on. All come true, all have unanticipated ripples that helps Charlie understand that not all troubles need wishing. One big problem that doesn’t seem to have a wishable fix is her big sister Abby, who’s first year in college has left her with a drug problem that lands her in a residential rehab facility. Charlie is  angry, embarrassed and worried for her formerly athletic, bouncy sister who could do no wrong. Messner weaves an endearing tale as Charlie navigates problems big and small, at home and at school and manages to find a way to deal with all that is going on without relying on a fish in a lake. This new book reminds me quite a bit of All the Answers, which had a similar tone and small dose of magic that will resonate with plenty of young middle graders. I’ll be putting this on our summer reading list!

 

25937866Raymie Nightingale
By Kate DiCamillo
Gr. 4-7
Candlewick Press, April 2016
This one is my new favorite DiCamillo book since Because of Winn-Dixie, and its no wonder since this one has a similar feel. The not-so-glamorous side of  Florida locale, quirky characters both large and small, and an absent parent that leaves the young protagonist confused and sad. Raymie Clarke is bound and determined to win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire pageant, convinced that her father, who has run with a young dental hygienist, will see her in the newspaper and come back home. In order to win the competition, she needs a talent, and in 1975 Florida the only talent worth having is baton-twirling, and do a few good deeds. Baton-twirling classes leads to an unlikely alliance with two of her competitors, one faints fairly frequently and the other is tough-as-nails and determined to sabotage the entire pageant. At turns funny, poignant, and occasionally outlandish, the young trio manages to form a bond, do some good deeds and do their best in the pageant. And Raymie never does learn how to twirl a baton.
Highly recommended.

IMWAYR–Redux

What I’ve been reading recently. Sharing via IMWAYR. Thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for hosting this really fun weekly meme.

So, I tried to post this last week for IMWAYR, but my link was broken, so I’m trying again and have added one or two things.

badluckBad Luck (Bad #2)
by Pseudonymous Bosch
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E-ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher
Recommended for grades 4 and up

I read this having never read any of Bosch’s books previously, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I know that my students love the Secret series, and I feel pretty certain they are going to love this one, too, so I’ll be ordering this series. I certainly didn’t feel lost having not read the first in the series; characters were explained, the setting was built nicely and I was completely drawn into the story. Clay is a camper at a special summer camp for kids with special powers called Earth Ranch, where they are trained to use and hone their gifts. Brett is the son of a very wealthy man who owns a cruise ship company, but doesn’t like his son all that much. Their worlds collide when Brett is pushed off the cruise ship when he uncovers a secret and washes ashore on the island where Earth Ranch is located. Clay hides Brett in a nearby cave and begins to work with him to figure out the mystery of the cruise ship and how that is connected to the island and some of the members of Earth Ranch. Plenty of adventure, quirky characters, excellent gadgets and cool dragon lore make their way into the story.

whereyoullfindmeWhere You’ll Find Me
by Natasha Friend
FSG
E-ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher
Recommended for grades 6 through 9

Being an 8th grader is hard enough. Add in your best friend throwing you over for the popular crowd, your mom attempting suicide and now living with your distant father and his young wife and their new baby, and life goes from difficult to nearly unbearable. Anna Collette is dealing with all of these things. Her mother’s suicide attempt has thrown everyone’s life into a tailspin and Anna isn’t sure what to think. She’s mad at her mom, at her dad, and especially at her former best friend, Dani. She mostly retreats into her own head, but a quirky acquaintance from school begins to draw her out and an unexpected weekend away with her stepmom show Anna that other people genuinely care about her. This was an engaging and entertaining read. Anna’s reactions and emotions felt very real, and her inability to see other people reaching out also felt real, her middle-school self-involvement also felt very true to life. She really shows some growth over the course of the year, and her future looks a bit brighter by the end of the story. A worthy selection for any middle-school library.

underdogsThe Underdogs
by Sara Hammel
Releases May 31, 2016
Published by FSG
E-ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher
Recommended for grades  5 and up

The plot of this one is a murder-mystery, and a pretty good one at that, but the heart of this story is the friendship between our narrator, Chelsea, and her best friend, Evie. Chelsea describes how Annabel Harper was found murdered pool-side at an exclusive tennis club in Rhode Island and the investigation that follows, as well as the rippling effects the murder had on everyone who was part of the club community. Alternating chapters titled either Before or After describe the events that led up to the murder and the ensuing events as the detective narrows in on his suspect. Chelsea and Evie are determined to find the culprit and they follow the detective everywhere he goes, eavesdropping and speculating along the way. Chelsea also describes the difficult relationship between Evie and her father, a tennis pro at the club, who either ignores her or patronizes her. Chelsea truly becomes Evie only support over the course of the summer, and their friendship is something special. It wouldn’t be a good mystery if there weren’t some twists and turns and surprises, and this one packs a couple doozies. A poignant, engaging read. I’ll be getting this one for my middle schoolers.

oneOne
by Sarah Crossan
Published by Greenwillow Books
Recommended for Grades 8 and up

A novel written in free verse, the story of conjoined twins Grace and Tippi. Grace is our guide here, telling her side of the story, sharing her innermost thoughts, the ones she doesn’t share with anyone, not her therapist, and not her twin. For the first time in their lives, the girls are going to have to give up homeschooling and go to school. They are both terrified and resigned to what that means: stares, averted eyes, gossip, speculation. Everything that goes with being who they are. Life at home also has it challenges. Their dad has been unemployed for months, (years maybe?) and has taken to drinking the days away, mom works hard and worries even harder. Their younger sister shows promise as a ballerina and has essentially become anorexic in pursuit of her dreams. School turns out to be both better and worse than they thought, finding friends for the first time is pure joy for both of them. But just when things start getting “okay” in one realm, they completely fall apart in another. A beautiful read.

giftedGifted
by H. A. Swain
Releases in June 2016 by Feiwel and Friends
Recommended for Grades 8 and up
E-ARC provided by NetGalley and the publisher

Orpheus Chanson is a “plute” and lives in the world of the one-percenters, where genius talents are provided through surgery, and the only important thing is how much “buzz” can be created and gathered. His father’s company developed the prodigy-making surgeries, aka “ASAs”, and own all creative products of such surgery. Zimri Robinson lives among the rest of the world, known as “plebes” where she spends her days in an Amazon-esque warehouse, running the aisles, gathering stuff that will be shipped off to the plutes. She spends her nights making and sharing her music in underground “speakeasy” type places since she has not had the surgery, and thus is considered off the grid and basically illegal. Their worlds collide when Orpheus growns disaffected with his life, nearly runs down Zimri’s grandmother on the side of the road and stops to help. This dystopian novel doesn’t stray very far from many of the genre tropes, was fairly predictable in plot, but still managed to hold my attention. The writing was fairly crisp, the characters were engaging and I can see plenty of kids enjoying it very much.

What I’m reading now….

22692740Symptoms of Being Human
by Jeff Garvin

 

A gender-fluid teen starts a blog as a way of self-expression, but finds as the blog grows more popular so does the risk of exposure. I’ve only just begun, but I’m intrigued.

IMWAYR!

Welcome to 2016! My first post of the year and sadly in about two months. Ah, distractions, they come in so many forms. Those distractions have also affected my reading habits. I’m off my game and I don’t like it. I’ve had two weeks off from school and I’ve only read in the last few days, not quite sure what I was doing at the beginning of the vacation, but not the things I planned on doing, and certainly not anything I should be doing.

Anyway, I hope to see/read/connect with many of you over the next year. A resolution! I will attempt to post more, maybe not reviews, but things that might encourage dialogue, and going along with that, I will try to comment/dialogue more on other people’s blogs. I want to reach out and connect. I can also be found on Twitter (@runawayreads) find me there!

IMWAYR 2015 This really fun meme is hosted by Kellee @ Unleashing Readers and Jen @ Teach Mentor Texts. I have found so many wonderful kidlit folks and so many amazing books through this weekly adventure.

 

 

And, so, on to some of my recent reading. Much good, some mediocre.

26452754Build, Beaver Build!
by Sandra Markle
Illus. by Deborah Hocking
Gr. 1-4 (younger if reading aloud)
E-galley available via NetGalley
Publish date: March 2016

Markle hits out of the park (again!) with this stunningly beautiful and informative picture book about beavers. The narrative follows a young beaver kit, just 3 months old, as he explores and learns about his environment; mimicking his parents behaviors as they forage for food and repair their dam. The young kit grows, learning to identify and escape from danger, play with his siblings and become a more productive member of his family. Markle’s writing is lively and engaging, creating drama and suspense amidst the details of life at a beaver dam. Hocking’s illustrations are lush and detailed, vibrant with color, and worth lingering over. The paintings that depict scenes above and below water at once are of particular distinction. I’ll definitely be getting this for our school library and sharing it with my elementary students and teachers.

25810642The Girl in the Well is Me
by Karen Rivers
Gr. 4-7
E-ARC available via NetGalley
Publish date March 2016

Breathless and gasping! The first chapters of The Girl in the Well is Me leave the reader suspended in the well with Kammie. Our young protagonist is stuck in a well, arms pinned to her sides, feet dangling, dark all around her with only a circle of light overhead. How she got there is only part of the story, and how she endures her time becomes the bulk of the narrative. Eleven-year-old Kammie is new to “Nowheresville” Texas, having moved there with her mother and brother, after her father is sent to prison for embezzlement. Her initiation into the popular clique has been interrupted by her abrupt fall into the well, and the question of whether or not the other girls will come back with help is at the forefront of Kammie’s mind. What follows is Kammie’s internal dialogue as she deals with fright, thirst, hunger, loneliness and decreasing amounts of oxygen that render her incoherent and hallucinating. Zombie goats and a French-speaking coyote are interspersed with memories of life with Dad before prison and her thoughts about friendship and fitting in. This is a tense read, the first-person narration brings an immediacy to the story that any other perspective wouldn’t, and readers will picture themselves in the well with Kammie regretting every decision that lead up to this moment right along with her.

25332026Terror at Bottle Creek
by Watt Key
Gr. 5 and up
E-ARC available via NetGalley
Publish Date: January  2016

Watt Key (Alabama Moon, Four Mile) is a master of suspense-filled survival fiction, and this newest one is no exception. 13-year-old Cort lives with his dad on a houseboat on the Gulf coast of Florida helping out with their fishing guide business, while trying to maintain some semblance of normal after his mom moved out. A hurricane is bearing down on them, and preparations begin which include boarding up windows, gassing up generators and the like. When the storm finally hits, Cort is holing up in a neighbor’s house with their two daughters while his dad and their mother check on Cort’s mother who lives some distance away. As the storm begins to rage, the youngest daughter, Francie, gets swept away on the water with the family dog and Cort and Liza, the other sister, go after her. What follows is a harrowing adventure as the three of them search for high ground, fight off snakes and wild boars, and simply try to stay alive in the face of ever-increasing danger. Key builds the tension very slowly, but with methodical detail, and thus the reader feels as if they are right there in Florida wilderness, living and breathing the storm. Cort’s a very capable and ingenious teenager, and his anger at his father for leaving them alone is palpable and realistic, but he’s been taught well and his common sense manages to keep everyone alive. Give this one to fans of Gary Paulsen or Will Hobbs, there’s plenty to chew on.

 

21525995In Real Life
by Jessica Love
Gr. 9 and up
E-ARC available via NetGalley
Publish date: March 2016

Hannah and Nick have been best friends for years despite never having met in real life. Introduced in 8th grade by their siblings who flirted for a nanosecond, Hannah and Nick have maintained a purely virtual relationship via texting, emailing, phone calls, etc…When Hannah decides that maybe her feelings for Nick are more than just friendly she uses the opportunity of her parents’ weekend away to go on a road trip with her older sister and best friend to go finally meet Nick in person and see where things lead. What follows is a pretty predictable set of misadventures, what with Nick having a real life girlfriend, and maybe not being fully truthful about a number of other things. As they miscommunicate, misunderstand and generally act like lovesick teenagers the two eventually find a way to make their relationship more than just virtual. The story relies so heavily on pop culture references, current gadgets and social media, that it is hard to see how it will not feel dated in 5-10 years. The characters mostly feel one-dimensional or fairly stereotypical, and none of them were ones I could relate to or sympathize with. There’s a tad too much sex and drinking for my 7th and 8th grade students, but older kids looking for a light, fluffy read will find it fun and easy.

Looking forward to getting to know you all more in the coming months.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

IMWAYR 2015As happens every Monday, Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers host a meme that is focused on children’s literature. A place to share what we’ve been reading over the course of the week. It’s a great way for me to think about and share what I’ve been reading, and an even better way to see what other people are reading and connect with them over books. My favorite activity, connecting with people about books.

Per usual, I can never really seem to get my act together every week to write a post, so I join in every few weeks. C’est la vie. I’ve decided to stop feeling guilty about that. I do what I can.

In no particular order:

sunnysideupSunny Side Up
by Jennifer and Matt Holm
Published by GRAPHIX, August 2015

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was talking about this one long before it hit the shelves. I listened to The Yarn podcasts about it, I read the blog posts, etc….and I was psyched to order a couple of copies for my library. Our students devour realistic graphic novels like Smile, Drama and El Deafo, and this one is a no-brainer. It lived up to the hype. I loved it. Found it funny, and sad, and real, and it takes place in Pennsylvania and Florida in the mid-70’s, as did my own childhood, so it spoke to me.

watchtheskyWatch the Sky
by Kirsten Hubbard
Published by Disney-Hyperion April, 2015

The description of this one reminded me vaguely of The Compound by S.A. Bodeen, and I loved that one, so I decided to try this one out and see how my students might like it. Jory lives with his mother, stepfather, a younger “sister” and a baby half-brother in central California. Jory’s stepfather Caleb is a military veteran and a strong believer in ‘signs’ that portend something awful is coming their way, and thus begins a harrowing few weeks as the family prepares for impending disaster by tunneling a bunker in the canyon behind their house that will be stocked with supplies, enough to last 3-6 months. Jory has always supported his stepfather, but things are getting more dangerous and Jory just isn’t sure about what’s right and what’s wrong. The tension builds over the course of the book, as Jory is forced to keep more secrets, to separate his school life from his family life and to watch his mother’s health slowly deteriorate. Kids will like this one, though it definitely has some darker themes, I’m saving it for the 5th grade and up crowd. Fans of The Compound, or Watt Key’s Alabama Moon will probably like this one as well.

princessxI Am Princess X
by Cherie Priest
Published Arthur A . Levine Books, May 2015

This one I started reading solely because a coworker recommended it so strongly. I liked it quite a bit, but didn’t love it the way she did. I actually put this one down about a third through and didn’t think I’d finish it, but I did pick it back up. May is 16-years-old and still grieving the loss of her best friend, Libby, 3 years earlier in a car accident. She’s staying with her Dad in Seattle when she starts to see stickers and graffiti around town depicting a character that she and Libby had created years ago, but that had been lost when Libby died and her father got rid of all her stuff. May is confused and a little bit frightened, but determined to find out how this long-lost character can possibly be resurrected and who is behind it. It takes a while for the story to start, and I can’t say I was particularly surprised by the outcome, but the writing is strong and the characters are interesting. I can see the 6th-8th graders really enjoying it.

doryDory Fantasmagory
by Abby Hanlon
Published by Dial, October, 2014

This is a cute, short chapter book about young Dory who is getting ready to start school, but her older siblings are not convinced she’s ready for school since she still acts so “babyish” by throwing temper tantrums and still playing with her imaginary friend. Dory has an outsized imagination that keeps her entertained until her older siblings are willing to actually play with them. Rollicking humor, lots of drawings, sure to engage those who are ready for a step-up from the early readers.

courtfivesAnd, finally, I’m currently reading Court of Fives by Kate Elliott, but I’ll save a description for next time.

Can’t wait to see what everyone else has been reading lately.

Cheers!

Top Ten Tuesday–Kidlit style

My second attempt at a Top Ten Tuesday post, and I’m not sure I have ten to share, but we’ll see if I get there.

A shoutout, and a link back, goes to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting and managing such a huge blogworld meme.

The topic this week is  Ten Characters You Just Didn’t Click With. I can think of one or two off the top of my head, a few more if I scan my Goodreads list to remind myself what I’ve read, and I still doubt I’ll end up at 10, but whatever.

In no particular order, other than my memory.

1) Gansey from The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I know, I KNOW, I should love him. Everyone does. But wealthy, prep school kids who talk like adults annoy me, maybe because I work at a prep-ish school. Anyway, that leads me directly to my next victim.

2) Frankie from The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart. Similar reasons. I liked the book, thought the writing was fantastic, but she bugged me. Just a little too clever, a little too….I don’t know what.

3) Ben from Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel. A lot of people loved this book, and I liked it, and I usually love Oppel’s stuff. I can read me some Airborn all the livelong day, but this character put me off. To me, it felt like there was a lot of gratuituos discussion of girl’s bodies, and it made me uncomfortable. Realistic for a teenage boy? I’m sure. But I got an ick factor off this kid that I couldn’t shake.

4) Grace from Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (don’t hate me, Maggie). I couldn’t even finish this novel. Grace’s obsession drove me to ditch this one. It felt like fan fiction.

I just want to take a moment here to tell you all that I LOVED Scorpio Races. Loved the characters, loved the mythology, loved the story. All of it. Just sayin’.

5) Hermione. WHAT? you say. I actually love  Hermione now, but when I first read Sorcerer’s Stone, she bugged me. A young know-it-all at private school. I guess there’s a theme. But she definitely grew on me, and by the time I finished Prisoner of Azkaban, I was a big fan of hers. (BTW, I love that I could just put her name without the title of the book and you all would know)

6) Ok, that’s all I could come up with, and in order to actually post this on a Tuesday I need to call it a day. Oh well. Consider them doubly annoying and I’ve got 10! 

Happy almost Hump Day! 

 

It’s summer! Let’s Go to a Conference…

Summertime for me means a lot of hanging out here… porch   or poking around in the dirt here… gardenbeds  or a trip to the Brimfield Antiques Fairbrimfield But mostly, I read and think about the looming coming school year. I think about what kinds of books to share with the students, think about the balance between wanting to just read the amazing books that I’ve encountered recently, and not so recently, with the need to work on library skills, research skills, and all the other things I should be covering in a school year. The students would be thrilled if I just read to them during every library period. Frankly, so would I. However, at the last minute I heard about a series of one day conferences being held around the country sponsored by Scholastic. These conferences called “Reading Summits” are “designed to inspire educators with a fresh view of independent reading strategies for their school communities.” Color me intriguedAnd, I was in the midst of an early summer slump, not feeling particularly motivated or inspired, so I signed up on an impulse. I’m glad I did. On the whole it felt much like many other conferences, one day or otherwise, with a few keynote speakers, some breakout sessions and then a final keynote at the end. Of course, what makes it more than your average conference are the people involved; it’s always about the people. Speakers included Donalyn Miller talking about inspiring reading in her classroom of 4th, 5th or 6th graders. And that inspiration looks like many things, but mostly it’s about giving kids choice when it comes to their reading, about letting, nay encouraging, kids to talk about their choices, and about giving them time in the day to do that reading. She was inspirational, and enormously practical when it came to tips about independent reading in school. So, while I’m not a classroom teachers, there are many at my school who ask for guidance or express frustration when it comes to making independent reading effective, and fun. I have some more ideas to share with them. Specific tips about book conferences, response letters to their reading, and others, but perhaps those ideas are better for another, more in-depth post about IR. At the end of the day, two powerful women spoke about reading and literacy. Dr. Kim Parker, an English teacher in Cambridge spoke so eloquently about her work with young men of color, helping them to find themselves as readers, and helping them make a lifelong habit of it. Andrea Davis Pinkney was the final speaker of the day. A powerful voice, with a lot to say. She has created some wonderful books, both picture books and not. I read The Red Pencil last summer and loved it; couldn’t wait to share it with the 6th grade teachers at my school who teach about Africa all year long and are always on the lookout for great literature to accompany their work. This one fit the bill, for sure. Andrea’s reading from it gave me chills. The room was mesmerized. I know my students would be, too. Hmmm. Yikes, this post is long. If anyone is still reading at this point, I’m sorry. Mostly its for me, so I can remember what was what. And it’s good practice for me to write. I don’t do it all that often. The two breakout sessions I attended were also good. The first one was Booktalk Basics and Beyond , something I do a lot, but there’s always room for improvement, and new ideas. Alice Ozma led this one. She works for Scholastic, but also wrote a book about her childhood reading experiences with her dad. The book looks good, I’ll be getting a copy for the library, and recommending it to parents. The second one was called Troubleshooting Independent Reading Challenges Through Conferring, and presented by Donalyn Miller, who was one of the morning keynotes. It was an extension of her morning presentation, with more specificity and the opportunity to ask questions. Again, very helpful with my work with teachers, but less direct application in the library, which is a-ok with me.

Oh, and there was some swag! What would a conference be without it?

swag

Ok, time to be done. Be well.