It’s Monday! Been a busy few weeks!

IMWAYR 2015It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s always fun to link up and share what I’m reading. You can join the fun by bopping over to Teach Mentor Texts written by Jen or Unleashing Readers by Kellee and see what so many others are reading. Go ahead.

It’s been a busy few weeks around these parts. Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to the Keene State College Children’s Literature Festival  and hear a number of authors/illustrators talk about their work. Sharon Creech, Matt Phelan, Tad Hills, Bruce Degen and Peter Brown all presented. For me, Matt and Tad were the most memorable and engaging. I love Matt’s artwork and his process, and listening to him talk about how he goes about putting a graphic novel together was fascinating. He also has an article about this in the current issue of The Horn Book if you want to see what I’m talking about. Tad Hills was just pure entertainment; funny, smart and totally humble. People were especially taken with the Halloween costumes that he has made for his kids over the years, check out his website to take a look at them. They are very impressive!

The day before that conference I attended Candlewick’s Librarian Preview for Spring 2016. Some really great things to look forward to coming from them next year.

A few that are worth putting on your radar:

crossingniagaraCrossing Niagara: The Death-Defying Tightrope Adventures of the Great Blondin
by Matt Tavares
Coming in April 2016

I’m a sucker for great picture book biographies, and this one has all the hallmarks. Lovely artwork, a little-known subject and a bit of suspense. Bring it on. I’m thinking if you liked The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, this one is going to be a winner for you.

raymienightingaleRaymie Nightingale
by Kate DiCamillo
Coming in April 2016

New middle-grade fiction from Kate? Bring it on! Hard to go wrong on this front. Because Of Winn-Dixie will always be one of my favorites.

hourofthebeesHour of the Bees
by Lindsay Eagar
Coming March 2016

This is the unknown of the bunch, the one that the people at Candlewick were really excited to present. It’s getting a lot of love from early readers. Middle-grade fiction, magical realism.

Here’s the description from Goodreads:

Things are only impossible if you stop to think about them. . . .

While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.

Look for an ARC if you can. Maybe at ALA midwinter?

Ok, on to things I have actually read in the past few weeks.

babayagasassistantBaba Yaga’s Assistant
by Marika McCoola
Candlewick 2015
Gr. 4-8

This graphic novels is getting lots of attention for lots of reasons. I picked it up because I love Baba Yaga stories, they are so quirky and so different from many of the folktales we share with kids. This one is fairly creepy, hews pretty close to some of the traditional elements of a Baba Yaga story, and yet offers up a fairly original tale. The artwork is really well-done, and kids are going to be drawn to this one, whether they are familiar with the original stories or not. Works on many levels.

by Katherine Applegate
Feiwel & Friends, 2015
Gr. 4 and up

Another story that is getting lots of love from many quarters. It is the story of young Jackson, whose family is on the brink of homelessness (again!) and they are selling their possessions in order to make rent money, but Jackson can see that this strategy might not be a long-term solution, and now that he’s older and wiser, he’s worrying more about what that all means for his future. Enter Crenshaw, a very large talking cat who was Jackson’s imaginary friend many years ago, coincidentally (or not so coincidentally) when the family was living out of their minivan for 14 weeks when he was about 5 years old. Crenshaw helps Jackson navigate his anxiety and his family. This is an incredibly moving story, really poignant and multi-layered. I can see it being a great book for a class or reading group, so much to talk about. I immediately shared it with our 4th and 5th grade teachers to float that possibility. I highly recommend this one for most elementary libraries. If you liked Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan, I think you’ll find a lot to love about this one.

by Melanie Crowder
Philomel, 2015
Gr. 7 and up

LOVED IT!  It’s a fictionalized biography, written  in verse about Clara Lemlich, who was very active in the early labor rights movement in NYC in the early 1900’s, especially for women. She worked in several sweatshops after fleeing Russia and the pogroms that were happening there, and quickly realized how poorly treated the women who worked in the sweatshops were and how they had no real voice to make changes. She loudly advocated unionizing, and was often beaten and ignored for her efforts. This book was just so affecting, and I really haven’t stopped thinking about it. Beautifully written, this one doesn’t feel like some of the novels in verse, which are really more just lines of prose broken up to look like poems. Each page reads like an individual poem, and many can be read out of the context of the story and stand alone wonderfully. I feel like I’m doing this one justice. Go read it! Give this author some love.

drownedcityDrowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
by Don Brown
HMH Books, 2015
Gr. 4 and up

Beautiful. Haunting. Thoughtful. Don Brown really hit it out of the park with this graphic novel. The narrative begins with the building of the storm as it raged across the Gulf of Mexico, and then tells the tale of the city as it tried to cope during and after the storm. Brown incorporates some science into the tale, explaining how the storm grew, and why the aftermath was so bad with the broken levees, etc… There’s so much here in this slim novel, and so worth sharing right alongside the novels that describe the storm. I will say there are some really difficult images in parts of the book; floating bodies, people drowning, etc… so I would tend to recommend it for older elementary and middle school students. Very powerful.

Phew. It’s been a busy few weeks, and that feels good. All very book oriented. I like that.

Off to read what others have reading, have a great week!


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.