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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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!

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.

Celebrating…

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Each Saturday Ruth Ayres hosts a link-up party for bloggers to share their weekly celebrations, both large and small. This week I add my first. The link is here.

I’ll start small. I’m simply celebrating the fact that I’m finally putting together a blog that I’ve been thinking about for years. I’ve been a school librarian for nearly 15 years, and an educator even longer. It is so easy to get stuck inside the small bubble of school that we live in, and for the past several years I’ve been an avid lurker in the blogosphere, on Twitter and various other places where librarians gather virtually. Time to step out of lurkdom and participate, even if that means that no one is looking. So I celebrate the effort to reach out to the wider community of readers, librarians, educators, writers, and whoever else may be interested and say hi.

Hi. If you’re reading this, you’ve taken the time to follow a link and see what’s what. At this point, not much is here, but I’m hoping to change that over the next weeks and months. I hope you come back and see.

I can be found on Twitter and GoodReads, feel free to find me. Links are to the right.

Cheers, Jody