Category Archives: Book-A-Day

Catching Up On My Reading

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The last three weeks I really haven’t been able to read and blog like I wanted to.  Between a couple of trips and an intense work schedule, finding time to even read a picture book has been a struggle.  But, I’ve had my stack of books and have been getting back to what I love.  I can’t respond to all of them, but I thought I would tell you about some of my favorites

A Little Book of SlothA Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke

The pictures in this book will make you want to get a sloth for a pet.  Really great photography and wonderful look at the Avarios Sloth Sanctuary in Costa Rica.  You meet several of the residents of the world’s largest sloth orphanage and get a glimpse of what life is like for these rescued animals.  A good piece of non-fiction most kids will enjoy.

Papa's Mechanical Fish

Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Candace Fleming

While not entirely true, Papa’s Mechanical Fish is based on the life of real-life inventor Lodner Phillips.  It chronicles his journey to invent an underwater fish that is made for humans.  Although he meets with several obstacles, Papa never gives up and finds inspiration in the little things his daughter says.  The factual part of the book is fantastic, but what I really loved was the message of persistence,

Bake SaleBake Sale by Sara Varon

Bake Sale just might be my favorite graphic novel yet.  The pictures and the text are clever and simple.  All of the characters are various foods; the two main characters being a cupcake and an eggplant.  Sounds completely random, but they are the best of friends.  If you haven’t delved into graphic novels yet, this is a great place to start.  Plus, there are recipes of some of Cupcake’s creations in the back of the book. Win-win!

how to

How To by Julie Morstad

I hadn’t seen this book on any of the blogs I follow, but I hope they discover it.  How To is really about how to live life and be happy.  The text is incredibly simple, including statements like how to see the wind, how to make new friends, and how to be far away.  Each statement gets its own page (sometimes it’s a two-page layout) with gorgeous illustrations full of detail.  It’s a book that will make you smile and a book that should be shared with every kid.  While it is a great read aloud or read by myself kind of book, I can also see a few instructional uses for this book.

Some of the other books I’ve recently read include:

Open This Little Book Freedom Summer Redwoods Beginners Guide to Running Away Brush of the Gods Kira-KiraFlying the Dragon

Currently listening to:

Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I haven’t started any novels yet.  I’d kind of like to catch up on picture books and professional reading first.  Then we’ll see what’s up next!  Happy reading!

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Oh, Sweet Clementine!

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ClementineIf you haven’t yet met Clementine, you really should. She’s a fabulous 3rd grader full of vim & vigor. I think a lot of people would read Clementine and think, “Oh, that kids needs some meds.” She can’t focus, she’s always in trouble, and she doesn’t always think things through. But, I don’t think it’s ADHD, I think it’s a part of her giftedness. And it’s an element of giftedness that a lot of kids (and adults) struggle with, especially because so few people understand them.

I appreciated what the author, Sara Pennypacker, did with the ever popular command, “Pay attention!” As Clementine explains, she is paying attention. She’s just paying attention to totally different things, things which interest her and are relevant to her. That is so common with gifted learners. As educators, we expect students to hang on to our every word, to want to learn what we are teaching. But the reality is, for gifted kids, that’s not always the case. So many times a gifted learner already knows what we are “teaching” them. And in the case of Clementine, she has so many other thoughts and ideas running through her brain, she doesn’t see the relevance of what someone else thinks is important.

Clementine definitely has creative problem solving skills. Whether she’s trying to fix a hairy situation with her best friend or getting the pigeons on her apartment building to roost elsewhere, Clementine takes the initiative and discovers unconventional solutions for her problems.

This third grader also has a unique sense of perspective. She’s a little upset with her parents. After all, she is named after a fruit, while her little brother has a normal, non-food name. I don’t think we ever learn the brother’s name because every time she references him, she calls him by a vegetable. (I think my favorite name was rutabaga.)  Another interesting example of her sense of perspective is how she views herself in comparison to her baby brother. He’s the “easy one” and she’s the “hard one.” And when she overhears her parents having a conversation about how one is enough, she just knows they’ve decided to get rid of the “hard one.” What an great reminder for us that perspective is powerful.

I’m so glad to see that there is more than one Clementine book. I listened to the audio version and it made for a fabulous commute to work for a couple of days. I’ll definitely be picking up the others from my public library on my next visit. I hope you’ll give Clementine a chance, too. She will definitely bring a smile to your day.

Click here to see a book trailer.

I Love Amy Krouse Rosenthal!

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Encyclopedia of an Ordinary LifeI first learned about Amy Krouse Rosenthal when I picked up Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life about four years ago.  I needed something for a family vacation to Florida and I somehow, thankfully, ended up with that book.  I have very exact memories of reading it while laying out at the pool.  While I don’t remember all the details of that book, I do remember feeling very connected to the stories and everyday life happenings that Rosenthal wrote about.  An fabulous and well-written book, I still have it.  It doesn’t ever come close to making the “Take to Half-Price Books Pile.” And it is one that I will reread, and probably more than once.

Than a couple of years later I came across Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons. I think I saw it at Barnes & Noble and realized it would make the perfect gift for one of my best friends.  I hadn’t made the author connection at this point.  Shortly after that, a colleague introduced me to Spoon, which I immediately feel in love with.  This time I decided to take note of the author and then it hit me! I was already a fan of the author; I just hadn’t connected all the dots.  Because all of the books I had read to this point were pretty different, including who the intended audience was.  And since I’ve made that discovery, with every new book I read by Rosenthal, I become a bigger and bigger fan.  Last week I read Chopsticks and it was at that point that I knew I had to espouse my love and admiration for Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Chopsticks, which is similar to Spoon, is the ultimate example of personification and great word play.  The premise is about two chopsticks who have always been inseparable, doing everything together and just having a great time.  With any good story, conflict soon arises  and one of the chopsticks is injured and needs time to heal.  Of course, there is sadness and even nervousness, as the two friends become a little less inseparable and learn to venture out on their own.  They do reunite at the end, both bringing a new and more worldly perspective to their friendship.  A wonderful, heartfelt message to the reader, but done with such a sense of humor and wonderful word play, In fact, Rosenthal’s writing is so masterful and entertaining, that you might  not even realize there was a message until you get to the end of the book.  To me, that’s a sign of a well-written and engaging book; enjoying the book on multiple levels, during and after reading.

If you’ve never read anything by  Amy Krouse Rosenthal, please go to your public library or local bookstore today and find one of these books.  I promise, you won’t regret it!

Yes Day Wumbers Spoon  Exclamation Mark Duck! Rabbit! Chopsticks

Life's Little Equations

Jefferson’s Sons

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Jefferson's SonsJefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is an incredible piece of historical fiction that will leave readers with unanswered questions.  Based on the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave, Sally Hemings, readers are brought into the world of slavery at Monticello during the first quarter of the nineteenth century.  Sally Hemings had four children with Jefferson, three boys and 1 girl; three of those children were light-skinned enough to one day pass for white.  The story occurs over the course of about twenty-one years with the two oldest sons (Beverly and Madison) as well as a third boy close to the family, taking turns serving as the central figure throughout the story.  Even though everyone knows who their father is, the children are taught that it should never be brought up as to any tension it may create.  Especially since Jefferson’s daughter, Martha Jefferson Randolph, and her children live at Monticello, and they are constantly receiving guests.  The family does receive special considerations; violin lessons for the boys, Madison learns to read, apprenticeships, new shoes, yet the children struggle with knowing who their father is and not being able to have that kind of relationship with him.

I listened to the audiobook and I can ‘t help but think that this would make wonderful (but lengthy) read aloud.  There are so many times in which a character asks why?  Such great natural stopping points for kids to have some amazing discussions about right and wrong and the contradictions we find in life.  As a reader, I constantly found myself asking why.  And of course, the age-old question of Jefferson’s character comes up.  How can the man who penned the Declaration of Independence, the man who helped to create a new country, upon his death have 130 slaves at Monticello?  Five of those slaves were set free upon his death, two of whom were his youngest children.  But the wife and children of one of those freed slaves were sold at auction, being dispersed across Virginia.

I found this book in an elementary library.  I’m not sure if that is the best place for it.  Only because the reader really should have a good understanding of slavery in the early 1800s and some of the content could be considered fairly intense.  That being said, I can think of some former 5th grade students who would have devoured this book.  It would probably make better sense in a middle school or high school library.  There would be several jumping off points into different aspects of American History – the life of Thomas Jefferson after his presidency, Monticello, slavery, freed slaves living in the North, just to name a few.  Jefferson’s Sons would be a wonderful addition to any U.S. History class.

I don’t know that I’ve done this book justice.  It’s one of those books that is so amazing it really doesn’t matter what I write.  I can’t find enough words to tell you that this is a must read and it will stay with you long after you’ve read it.

 

 

A Couple of Bluebonnets

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Walls with WallsWalls within Walls by Maureen Sherry is on the Texas Bluebonnet list for 2013-2014.  It’s the story of a family who has moved from Brooklyn to the Upper East Side of Manhattan because of dad’s new job.  The Smithfork kids have trouble adjusting to their new life, but soon find themselves knee-deep in a decades old mystery.  The mystery stems from the wishes of previous building owner.  A wealthy businessman from the 1930s, Mr. Post was a lover of poetry and puzzles.  His will was never found when he died in 1937, and his vast fortune remained hidden until Brid, CJ, and Patrick move in and begin to piece clues together.

If you’ve read the Chasing Vermeer series from Blue Balliet or the The Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart,  I think you’ll like Walls within Walls.  The story is about a group of kids, in this case siblings, finding themselves in a situation and taking the initiative to find answers.  And like the Chasing Vermeer booksthe author did a great job of weaving poetry, history, and architecture into the story line.  I can definitely see where some kids would read this book and become highly interested in any of the details Sherry used to build the plot.  And while the action focuses on solving the mystery, the subplot is about a family adjusting to a recent move to a new neighborhood.

 

Looking at LincolnAnother Bluebonnet I read this week is Looking at Lincoln by Maira Kalman.  This biography of Lincoln is told from the perspective of a young girl who comes to the realization that Lincoln’s likeness is all around us.  One she realizes this, she progresses through a simple timeline of his life.  Obviously, Kalman focuses on the major milestones, but she also interjects fun facts such as Lincoln’s love of apples and vanilla cake.  One feature I really liked about this book is the author’s use of fonts.  The biography, which is told in third person, is written with a typical typewriter font.  But when the young girl starts to share her thoughts and ask questions,  the font changes to one that resembles a handwritten font.  The illustrations were fabulous as well. I’m always intrigued by artwork that shows so much detail, yet at first glance seems really broad and general.  I’m not really sure if my words make sense, but take a peek at the book and I think you’ll see what I mean.

 

 

38 Great Academic Language BuildersJefferson's SonsIt’s not a Bluebonnet, but currently I’m listening to Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  I just started it, but I’m pretty hooked already.  The audiobook is about 10 hours long, so hopefully in another week or so I’ll be able to share my thoughts with you.

I also just started 38 Great Academic Language Builders by John Seidlitz and Kathleen Kenfield. I have about 10 professional books I want to read this summer and I thought this was a good one to start with.  I’m hoping to find great strategies I can incorporate into my professional development sessions I’m offering over the next couple of months.

 

 

 

A Tangle of Knots

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A Tanglle of KnotsA Tangle of Knots was a fun, easy whimsical read. The premise is that everyone has a Talent. Some people find their Talent early in life and others discover their Talent far into adulthood. And a few, the Fair, never discover their Talent. This is one of those books where there are a few stories going on and from the beginning I was constantly wondering how the different stories were related. To me, this is really a great example of why it’s so important to get kids to be engaged in their reading. If you read A Tangle of Knots without truly engaging in the different stories, it’s just a random collection of stories and it’s not nearly as enjoyable. That being said, this book isn’t for everyone. It will require attention and commitment.

This book is about family and fitting in.  A Tangle of Knots is also about finding your way in the world.  It’s adventure and fantasy with a touch of mystery.  I think it would appeal to both boys and girls.  Even though the main character is a girl, there are so many unique characters that most kids will find someone to connect with.  It would definitely make a fun read aloud and I think could make for some really interesting class discussions.  I would be interested in hearing from teachers of gifted learners about what their students think of this novel.

As someone whose career is based on the needs of gifted and talented students, I had to really think about this premise. There is always the debate about why gifted programs aren’t even necessary; after all, doesn’t everyone have a gift or a talent? And of course, to many, gifted education is considered elitist. Both of these are actually highly perpetuated myths. Gifted learners, like second language learners and students with disabilities, require a special set of learning circumstances because of who they are and how they learn. In some places, I would say that gifted education is elitist because of how students are identified and served. Done correctly, though, gifted identification and services should cut across all cultures, languages, and economic levels, thus removing that label.  I don’t think the author is using the term Talent to mean the same thing as when we say Gifted and Talented. When we talk about a student who needs Gifted and Talented services, we’re talking about someone who learns in a different way. They can typically look at something from multiple perspectives, they may learn more quickly, and can think more abstractly and complexly. I think Lisa Graff’s perspective is that everyone has a skill that they embrace and are particularly good at. In some cases, they may be quite passionate about it. And sometimes those talents are obvious, but sometimes it is our circumstances which lead us to our passions.

The Great Unexpected

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The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech

The Great UnexpectedI was first drawn to this book by the cover.  It’s just so beautifully done.  And then when I saw the author’s name,  Sharon Creech, I knew it was a must read.  But, to tell you the truth, I’m still struggling to determine how I feel about this novel.  The writing was absolutely beautiful.  The characters intriguing.  The two best friends were unique in their own ways and they were so different from each other that it was easy to enjoy them.  Case in point, Lizzie is the talker who never really stops.  And she is full of questions.  But, when she needs to refocus and calm down, she goes to the moon.

“Lizzie said that if you imagined you were standing on the moon, looking down on the earth, you wouldn’t be able to see the itty-bitty people racing around worrying; you wouldn’t see the barn falling in . . . You would see the most beautiful blue oceans and green lands, and the whole earth would look like a giant blue-and-green marble floating in the sky.  Your worries would seem so small, maybe invisible.”

Wow!  That is so powerful!  The writing is beautiful and honest and it seems to flow straight from the heart.  But maybe even more importantly, what Lizzie says is so essential to know when dealing with the ups and downs of everyday life.  So many people don’t know how to cope when life throws a curveball and Lizzie’s way of standing on the moon to change your perspective is a strategy I think most people could really use.    So this would be an example of something I really loved about the book.  Creech’s writing and her character’s honest, heartfelt emotions.

I’m not sure how to say what I didn’t care for.  I think it just took me awhile to get into the book because the breaks were abrupt.  The story is being told from two different perspectives on different sides of the world.  That’s not the part that got me.  It just seemed like the flow between chapters was sometimes choppy and rough.  But once I found a rhythm, the story picked up and it was more enjoyable for me.  And that made it easier for me to start to put the pieces of the puzzle together, although I did find myself stopping occasionally to think about things that had already taken place.

if you’ve read The Great Unexpected or you read it in the future, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Some of My Summer Reading So Far…

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A review won’t happen everyday.  But I thought since it was the weekend and I’ve started off with a bang, I would share some thoughts.

Red Bird Sings The Story of Zitkala-SaRed Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Sa, Native American Author, Musician, and Activist adapted by Gina Capaldi and Q. L. Pearce

Red Bird Sings is an absolute gem. Capaldi and Pearce have done an excellent job of introducing the reader to not just an outstanding and accomplished human being, but this individual is also a Native American.  And for so long, Native Americans haven’t been given the recognition and respect they deserve.  Born Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, Red Bird grew up to become an accomplished artist and political activist; quite the feat considering most Native Americans were being denied the most basic of educational services in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  At this time, the “lucky” Native American children where often sent away to boarding schools back East, where they would be educated and stripped of their cultural background.  I think that is a part of American History we tend to skip in our classrooms, even today.  So I’m glad this book is out there.  It will provide a stepping stone into this part of American History and it will most definitely cause some children to ask why?  And at the same time, I think it provides a great example of what you can do, no matter what obstacles are set before you.

Sky ColorSky Color by Peter H. Reynolds

Do I really need to say anything?  It’s Peter H. Reynolds.  With his trademark storytelling and illustrations, Reynolds again has given us a small, yet powerful book.  In this case, Marisol is so excited when her teacher says the class is going to paint a mural. Marisol immediately volunteers to paint the sky.  But she can’t find the right color.  But by paying attention to the sky and it’s constant changing, she creates a beautiful sky for the mural.  The message I walked away with is the importance of paying attention to our everyday, natural surroundings.  When  asked what color the sky is, the go-to answer is blue.  But really, it’s so much more.  Next time you’re outside, look at the sky and then answer that question.

Stephen and the BeetleStephen and the Beetle by Jorge Lujan

Honestly, the only reason I picked up this book was because it was sitting in the new books section of my library.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  But by the end, I appreciated the author’s message.  In the beginning Stephen is ready to kill the beetle…a common occurrence for many of us.  In his moment of  hesitation, the beetle walks away unscathed.  While I’m definitely not a fan of insects, it does cause you to have a moment of reflection about all living creatures.  Around the same time, I read Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds.  And these two books are more alike than you might think.  The message I got from both books is reminding me to slow down and notice what’s around me.  Whether living or nonliving, everything is made with such love and detail.  And so often we’re so focused on getting to the next place or earning the next promotion, that we don’t realize what we do have and its beauty.

Brief ThiefBrief Thief by Michaël Escoffier

This is a laugh out loud kind of book.  A lizard find himself without toilet paper (I know, sounds funny already), so he grabs a pair of briefs hanging nearby.  Suddenly, he hears a voice chastising him for taking the briefs with such disregard.  The formatting makes the reader think that it’s the lizard’s conscience, but we soon find out that the speaker is a rabbit and he has a very personal reason why.  Might be fun to pair this with I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.

Other fun and interesting books I’ve read for my Book A Day Challenge:

Abe Lincoln's Dream It's a Pain to be a Princess The Princess of 8th Street Robomop Octopus Alone

I just finished The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech.  Still thinking about.  I think I might have some thoughts for you in the next couple of days…

The Great Unexpected

One Came Home

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One of my favorite genres is historical fiction.  Always has been, ever since I discovered Little House on the Prairie as a kid.  Obviously, it’s helpful if you can sort through actual historical facts and the liberties an author may have taken in telling the story.  Or, at the very least, know how to do some research so you can separate fact from fiction.  But I think historical fiction gives us a glimpse into days gone by.  And for children, historical fiction can be the gateway to understanding, appreciating, and hopefully, even enjoying history.  So I think it’s really wonderful when an author finds an obscure historical event or figure to use as the focus of his or her novel.  That is exactly what Amy Timberlake did in One Came Home.

One Came HomeOne Came Home  is set in 1871 in Placid, Wisconsin.  The main character, Georgie Burkhardt, is an honest, feisty, 13-year old tomboy who loves her big sister dearly. Agatha runs off one day with a ragtag group of “pigeoners” without a word to her family.  Days later, the sheriff is called away and returns to Placid with an unidentifiable body that is presumed to be Agatha.  Georgie refuses to believe that her sister is dead and sets off to find her.  Her journey doesn’t quite go as planned, including the addition of Agatha’s old beau who decides to tag along to keep on eye on Georgie.  It’s a suspenseful adventure with a bit of mystery along the way.  Timberlake does a wonderful job planting just enough clues along the way for the reader to form the story in his or head, while also creating enough suspense so that you won’t want to put the book down.

The bit of history that Timberlake uses as her backdrop is the great passenger pigeon migration that occurred in Wisconsin in the late 1800s.  Apparently great flocks would migrate through the region and people would follow them trying to capitalize on pigeon meat and/or feathers.  This wasn’t a topic I had ever heard of and I’m pretty fascinated by it.  I can see how this would be a good hook for some kids.  Some of the content might be pretty intense.  I think some of my gifted 5th graders would have enjoyed the book and could have handled it.  Not sure that I would go much younger.  Overall, a great book.  One I would definitely recommend and I wll read other novels by Amy Timberlake.

 

If you’re on pinterest, you should check out Amy Timberlake’s board on passenger pigeons – http://pinterest.com/amytimberlikes/imagining-passenger-pigeons/

Book-A-Day Challenge

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This summer marks the 4th annual BookA-Day Challenge.  This will be the first year I’ve participated and I’m hoping for the best.  I found out about this challenge by following Donalyn Miller on Twitter @donalynbooks and reading her blog, The Book Whisperer.  If you don’t know Donalyn, you need to.  Be sure to check her out when you’re done here.

So, the 4th annual BookA-Day Challenge encourages educators to read a book a day during summer break.  I think it’s aimed primarily at classroom teachers to “give us an opportunity to recommit to reading, explore new books for our students, or dive into the books that pile up around our houses during the year.”  But as a reader and a coordinator, I think it’s important to model reading for those I can influence, whether it’s other educators, former students, or my nephews.  Therefore, I’m ready to dive in and do my best to meet this challenge.  The books can be picture books, novels (children’s, YA, and adult), graphic novels, non-fiction, professional reading, and even poetry anthologies.  Because I work through most of the summer, my time frame starts June 1st and ends on the first day of school, August 25.  Including weekends, because those really are my days off, my magic number is 38.  I’m sure quite a few of those will be picture books, but I don’t want to really on those and pad my numbers.  And I really want to have a variety of books.  I’ve been so focused on children’s lit lately, I’ve neglected adult fiction and professional reading.  I hope to make those a good part of my summer reading.

Here are pics of most of the books I hope to read between now and August 25.  Most of my professional books are either at work or on my iPad, so I’ll have to refine that list later.  And as you can see, my adult books definitely need to be added to.  There are plenty on my Goodreads; just have to figure out what I want to accomplish this summer.  And some books I’ll read on my Nook, mainly when I’m in a plane or a car for an extended period of time.  I’ll continue to listen to audiobooks.  In fact, I just raided the library at one of our elementary schools.  Not sure if I’ll count those or not.

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