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.



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee from Unleashing Readers host a weekly linkup party with a kidlit bent called It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? Go check them both out! 

I am definitely not good at the weekly, or even semi-regular posting thing. There just always seems to be a million things to get done, and writing blog posts slips down the priority list. The silver lining of that particular procrastination means that I have more books to talk about for IMWAYR.

Without further ado….

23309730Ruby on the Outside
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
For ages 9 and up

I love most of Nora’s stuff. Our fifth graders read Anything But Typical, which they love, and she has come several years to our school to work with them on creative writing and to talk about her books. This new one is a great middle grade read.
Ruby’s mom is in prison for 20-25 years for being an accessory to a murder when Ruby was only 4 years-old. Ruby lives with her aunt who tries her best to be a good parent, but it’s not always easy. Ruby is eleven and finally starting to realize that she harbors a good deal of anger towards her mother, and she has a lot of questions about what really happened and why her mom was there, and part of the crime. Ruby also struggles with friendships, as she is reluctant to let anyone get too close so they won’t find out about her mom. But in the summer before middle school Ruby meets Margalit whose friendship might mean enough to her to actually share her deepest, darkest secret.
I loved Ruby’s conflicted feelings about her; the desire to be loyal butts up against her very real anger that her mom is not in her life because of bad decisions. I’ve already book talked this one a few times and kids have been clamoring for it every time. It’s right around 200 pages, which I love, makes it completely accessible to so many kids.

23281891Lost in the Sun
by Lisa Graff
Ages 10 and up

Trent is still carrying around an enormous amount of guilt because a hockey puck that he hit into a fellow hockey player with an undiagnosed heart condition, died. Trent’s method of coping is to make sure that everyone around him hates him as much as he thinks they should, and so he checks out of school, antagonizes his father, and basically makes a complete ass of himself. I liked this one a lot, but Trent is a hard kid to like, and it takes most of the book to come around to finding some sympathy, at least for me that’s how it went. Graff’s books are always reliable, accessible realistic fictions, and I love sharing them with students.

20483085Poisoned Apples
by Christine Heppermann
Greenwillow Books, 2014
Ages: 14 and up

This slim volume of poems packs quite a punch. It got a lot of talk and great reviews when it came out last year, but I resisted buying it for my library because of the recommended age level, my school only goes through the 8th grade. Just recently I saw it mentioned somewhere and decided to go ahead and get a copy and I’m glad I did. These fairy tale poems cover a lot of ground about beauty, bodies, eating disorders, girls and love. Together they are quite powerful, I read the lot in only two short sittings, but even taken separately there are some really important poems here that are worth sharing with teens. With titles like “Mannequins Make Me Feel Like a Failure” and “The First Anorexic” readers are immediately drawn in. I can easily see teachers and advisors at my school wanting to share some of these with the older students, girls and boys alike, to spark discussion about some the issues that are prevalent throughout middle and high schools.
Highly recommended.

23310697Rhythm Ride
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
for ages 12 and up

In this one, Pinkney writes much like she presents. I had the pleasure of seeing her speak at a conference this summer and she was mesmerizing, and completely compelling. It was like a spoken poem. This history of Motown Records is told in the narrative voice of “the groove” and the words just bounce to their own funky rhythm. I loved reading it, and loved finding out more about the artists that made some of my most favorite music. The motown sound was running through my head throughout the book. I can’t recommend this one enough and can’t wait to share it with my 7th and 8th graders, even if they don’t know Motown music. They will!


Pieces of Why
by K.L. Going

This one I reviewed separately on my blog here.

Phew. It was some good reading these past few weeks, I’m glad to be back into the routine of school, which helps me find the time to read more consciously.

Can’t wait to see what everyone else has been tackling this week!


Pieces of Why by K.L. Going

piecesofwhyPieces of Why
by K. L. Going
Penguin September 8, 2015
Ages: 10 and up

E-ARC provided by NetGalley

I do love me some K.L. Going; been a fan of her writing since I first The Liberation of Gabriel King and this new title does not disappoint.

The Sum: Tia is a little girl with a big voice! She sings in a local childrens gospel choir with her best friend Keisha, lives with her mother in a less-than-stellar neighborhood of New Orleans, and has a lot of questions about her father who is in prison and she hasn’t seen since she was four years old. Everyone around Tia seems to know more about her father’s history than she does, but when a shooting breaks the calm outside choir practice one evening, killing a baby in the crossfire, Tia decides it’s time to find out what her mother is keeping from her and the whole truth about her father’s violent past. The shooting has shattered Tia’s faith in humanity, leaving her unable to sing and unable to voice her emotions about everything that is going on around her.

The Good: Well-written, compelling characterizations, timely issues all come together to make for a wonderful middle grade read. Tia is full of life, full of questions, full of thoughts that are hard to put into words, and for a long time singing was her only outlet. Vivid, sensual descriptions of a post-Katrina New Orleans are rich with detail, and I love that the storm is only a sidenote to this story, but the imagery of the neighborhoods is real and visceral. The relationship between Tia, who is white, and Keisha, who is black, transcends race, and yet it is everywhere, woven throughout the story, rippling the surface of many of the interactions between characters.

The Less-Good: Not much to say here on my one and only reading of the story, but I did feel like the eventual meeting of the father in the prison visiting room felt a little too pat, and a little too happy endingish, but really it was a minor moment in a story about Tia’s growth and the development of her relationship with her mother.

The Overall: I really liked this one, it’ll find a wide audience at my school. It’s the second book this month that I’ve read about a youngster with a parent in prison, the other being Nora Baskin’s Ruby On the Outside, and that one took only one booktalk to make it a hot commodity around these parts. I can’t wait to share this one with students and teachers.

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 Monday! What Are You Reading?

Here we are, nearly at Monday, again. My first full week of real work begins tomorrow, though I’ve been going in to the library for half days for a bit now. Meetings all this week and then kids start back right after Labor Day. Mourning the short summer, but looking forward to school, the routine, and sharing some great new stuff with a whole school full of enthusiastic readers.

IMWAYRAs always, a shoutout to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for offering the opportunity to share and connect with other book lovers.



My week has been consumed with finishing a longish nonfiction work that will eventually be reviewed in SLJ, but I can’t share that one now. Suffice it to say, I liked it.

But, I did get the chance to read two E-ARC picture books from NetGalley, both of which I really enjoyed, so all in all its been a good reading week.

bookitchcoverThe Book Itch: Freedom, Truth and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Audience: 8-12 yr olds
Lerner Publications
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015
E-ARC via NetGalley

This beautiful picture book in the form of a fictionalized biography chronicles the work of Lewis Micheaux and the famous bookstore he created in Harlem which he called “The House of Common Sense and the Home of Proper Propaganda”, and was otherwise known as the African National Memorial Bookstore. It was founded in 1932, and was dedicated to bringing intellectual thought and information to the African American community. It became a hub during the civil rights movement and a meeting place for individuals like Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and others.  The story here is told from the viewpoint of Micheaux’s son, who was a child during the peak of the bookstore’s popularity. This book will pair nicely with Nelson’s other book on the same topic, No Crystal Stair, for an older audience. The artwork is full of color and movement, reflecting the tone of the narrative as it winds through the years. In sum, I can’t wait to share this one with the teachers at my school, especially those who use No Crystal Stair in their classroom. It’s a great addition to any collection.

A couple of screenshots of my favorite pages…

bookitch2 bookitch1





The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins
by Sandra Markle
Audience: 8-12 year olds
Pub. Date October 1, 2015
E-ARC via NetGalley

I’ll pretty much read anything by Sandra Markle, her animal books are top-notch and always popular at my library. This title does not disappoint. It reads like a suspense story; Golden Lion Tamarins are disappearing due to habitat loss in the eastern Amazon rainforest, and scientists and citizens from all over work together to try and boost their reproductive rates, introduce zoo-bred tamarins to the wild, and work against deforestation. This title chronicles a number of strides and disappointments throughout the process, but ultimately ends on a hopeful note. The photographs of these small creatures are gorgeous, the writing is informative and accessible, and I can see myself sharing this one with a number of different groups and individuals. For me, a definite purchase.

An example of the photography…





Happy reading to you all, and those of you heading back to school, Good Luck, Have a great year!

Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

11516221The Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow
Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: September 22, 2015
E-ARC made available via NetGalley

The Sum: A future unlike any I’ve seen in a long while. 400 hundred years in the future war is contained, and peace preserved, by the holding of hostages. Young hostages. Children of royal families, or ruling dynasties, must submit a child to be held until the age of 18. If at anytime during that tenure a nation goes to war, that hostage, that child, is put to death. It is meant to be a deterrent, and sometimes it is, but there are times when it is not. Her Royal Highness Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy has been a Child of Peace since she was five years old, always living with the knowledge that her world could end any time, if her country, her family, goes to war. These Children of Peace are held by a tyrannical artificial intelligence known as Talis, and it is he that keeps the world’s wars to a minimum; that was the mission given to him 400 years previously when humankind was on the brink of complete annihilation from nuclear war and environmental degradation.  Greta and her agemates have spent years together, building bonds that are all threatened when a new Child of Peace arrives in the form of Elian, a teenager not schooled in the ways of Children of Peace, reluctant participant and general rabble rouser, upsetting the status quo and forcing others to think about their own membership in this dubious club.

The Ins: The characters run deep here, there is much to explore in terms of motivation, intent and relationships. It is a complex and rich world that Bow has created, allowing the details to come naturally through the storytelling, giving just enough to tantalize and maintain interest, without dumping too much information. It was one of those books that I had so many questions as I read, that eventually got answered or explained. It’s a different kind of dystopia that I’ll be sharing with my older readers for sure.

The Outs: Not much, actually. I’m still in the phase of loving it so much, that I have a hard time pinpointing things that may not have worked, or that left me wondering. Even a few weeks after finishing, I’m still thinking about it, and talking about it to my reader friends.

The Overall: Great read. Thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining. Though my library only goes up to 8th grade, and this is probably for the YA audience I’ll still be getting it despite some of the language and sexual references, which are oblique enough to not offend.

A pretty good week, my reading life via IMWAYR

Hey! It’s another Monday, that means I get to share what I’ve been reading the past week. Thanks to Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting this weekly gathering of readers sharing what they love most, books. Head on over there and check out what everyone else is reading, I always get some good ideas.

elephantmanElephant Man
Written by Marianegla di Fiore
Illus. by Hilde Hodnefjeld
Annick Press
August 18, 2015
E-ARC from NetGalley

This somewhat fictionalized biography describes the difficult, painful life of Joseph Merrick, also known as The Elephant Man, famously portrayed in movies and on stage. Merrick suffered from a rare and unknown condition that caused bony growths, abnormal skin development and all sorts of other problems that made it hard for Merrick to function, to work, to live any kind of normal life. This title effectively and poignantly details his life, from his childhood with a stepmother that would not abide his presence in the house to his eventual participation in a sideshow and eventually, his happiest years living in a hospital, where he was treated with some dignity. Written for children, the author does a great job of balancing the unimaginable cruelty and hardship that he faced with some of the people that he eventually encountered who offered him friendship and dignity. The artwork is unusual and interesting, a collaged mix of photographs, line drawings, and washes of color that have a smattering of Edward Gorey, Lauren Child and something completely unique. An excellent accompaniment to the wholly original story that is a mix of fact and fiction, despair and happiness, mundane and exciting. Young readers will be inspired to search out more about Merrick’s life.

citizenscientistsCitizen Scientists
Written by Loree Griffin Burns
Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
Square Fish 2012

I just recently added this one to our school library since we are planning on hosting Loree Burns at our school this fall and I wanted to be sure we had all of her books on hand. I read Beetle Busters (part of the excellent Scientists in the Field series) last summer and loved it. I was particularly intrigued by that one since it deals with the Asian Longhorn Beetle infestation in central Massachusetts, which is my home. We’ve shared Tracking Trash with our students and teachers for years at our school, a fascinating read about the flotsam that travels the ocean and the damage it is doing. Citizen Scientists is a really fun, interesting read offering specific ways that young people who are interested in science can get involved and do something right from their own neighborhoods, even their backyards. Each season offers an opportunity to get out, do some exploration and help collect information for larger projects. For fall, kids can monitor and tag Monarch butterflies before they get ready for their migration south. Detailed instructions about how to identify, capture and tag the butterflies before releasing them safely back into the environment are provided, along with a brief description of what it is like for one young enthusiast to participate in this sort of activity. Winter is for birding; learning to identify various species, both by call and appearance, marking down numbers on specific days and in specific places that help organizations track numbers throughout the country and the world. This one is a great group activity. Spring finds youngsters able to count frogs in their areas. By learning to identify frogs by their calls and going out at night to listen for, and count what they hear, students can help conservationists all over the country. And finally, summer is great for counting ladybugs. There are about 70 different species of ladybug in North America, mostly identifiable by their differing colors and spot numbers and patterns. A great activity for even some of the youngest children.  Plenty of information, websites and further are provided, making this an excellent resource both for schools and at home. I can’t wait to share it with our science teachers and put it on our summer recommended lists.

20821284Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Penguin 2014

I’m a little late to the party on this one. I’m sure everyone here has read it already, or at least read about it, so I won’t say too much other than I enjoyed it as much as the rest of the world, found it to be both compelling and enriching. Novels in verse have a very specific audience in library, I think some students have a hard time finding the narrative in them, and thus label them “boring”. Others, definitely like the brevity, the language, etc… and seek them out. Anyway, I’m glad to have read it, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with a wider audience.

whereitendsThis Is Where It Ends
by Marieke Nijkamp
Sourcebooks Fire
Pub date: January 5, 2016
E-ARC via NetGalley

Brilliant. Intriguing. Suspenseful. This tightly written novel spans only an hour, but feels like a lifetime. A teenager locks a school full of students in an auditorium at the end of an assembly and begins shooting. Told from the perspectives of four different students, all with a connection to the shooter, each providing pieces of the current drama unfolding, as well as the backstory that leads to the tragedy that will be. It is at once heartbreaking, and all too realistic. Loyalty, love, fear, prejudice, and abuse all play a part in this wild ride of a story.

Those are the finished titles. I’m currently working on a few more. Reading an E-ARC of Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow and loving that one, but I don’t want to write about it until I’ve finished it.

COCO and the Little Black Dress

cococoverCOCO and the Little Black Dress
by Annemarie van Haeringen
NorthSouth Books
Publish date:  October 1, 2015
E-ARC made available courtesy of NetGalley


The Sum: This picture book biography details the life of Coco Chanel, one of the world’s most famous fashion designers, primarily for her “little black dress”.  She grew up in France, impoverished and living in an orphanage when her father could no longer afford to raise her. It was there she was taught to sew, to knit, to embroider, to mend clothing and made to work very, very hard. Young Coco had big dreams of life beyond the orphanage, of living among the wealthy, and wanting to be famous. And, she did, with a lot of hard work, creativity and even more determination. The skills she was forced to learn as a child enabled her to make a life for herself, designing and creating clothing for the wealthiest of women.


The Ins: One of the things I love about this story is the focus on Chanel’s free-spiritedness; rejecting the corset that was de-rigueur at the time and creating clothes that were elegant and comfortable for women to wear. Her independence gave her a freedom that was enviable to many women, and she became someone to emulate. The artwork complements the story so beautifully, it has a very “French” feel to them, with a dash of whimsy. The strong black line drawings with sometimes minimal color remind me vaguely of the Madeline books, another French classic.


The Outs: No author notes, bibliography or any kind of backmatter make it difficult to determine if this is actually a biography or a fictionalized account of Coco Chanel, but the brief details included in the book jive with much of what is known about Chanel, sticking to the creative, more positive aspects of her life while leaving out some of the more salacious information.
The All-Around: Similar in tone and content to Different Like Coco by Elizabeth Matthews (Candlewick, 2007), this will make a fun read-aloud. Young clothes-horses will also find much here to admire. I’ll be adding it to my collection.

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Steadgoodbyestranger
Published by Wendy Lamb Books
Pub. Date: August 4, 2015

E-Galley made available from NetGalley

The Sum: I have to say I loved this book, but it definitely took me awhile to fully understand and invest in characters. The bulk of the book is told from Bridge’s point of view, who is currently in 7th grade and struggling with school and friendships and “being herself” when she’s not quite sure what that means or who she is. She was hit by a car when she was 8, nearly died, spent A LOT of time in the hospital and missed all/most of 3rd grade, which left her changed and different.  There are two other voices in this story, one from a boy, Sherm, who is also in 7th grade and slowly becoming friends with Bridge. He tells his story in a series of unsent letters to his grandfather who has recently moved out of the house, leaving the rest of the family stunned and confused. The third, and most mysterious, narrator is an unnamed high school student who is taking a “mental health” day from school, who provides some bigger picture context, ties the story together, as her story is only one day, the final day of the book. It’s a bit confusing to keep up with, but Stead does a good job of bringing it all together.

The Ins: What I loved about this one is the relationships between friends, between siblings and between frenemies. It all felt very true to middle school, with some growing up quickly, others wanting to stay young, having crushes, not having crushes, and kooky teachers. The parents here are definitely side characters, as seems fitting for middle schoolers, who mostly want them out of the picture where they can’t embarrass anyone. The writing is a little bit lyrical, a little bit practical, very contemporary and completely engaging. I wanted to know what was going on with these guys, I wanted to know that the mysterious high schooler was going to be okay, that Em was not going to become a cliché, and I definitely wanted to know how Bridge, Tab and Em were going to stick to their “no fighting” rule. That’s a tough one.

The Outs: Not much, but the three voices, two timelines thing is going to difficult for some readers, resulting in protests of “boring” which actually equals “I couldn’t understand it”, but kids who stick with it, are going to dig it.

The All-Around: I have many fans of When You Reach Me, and this one will be an easy sell.


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?


Ok, time to be done. Be well.