Non-Fiction in January

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Well, 2014 is off to a good start. Apparently I read more non-fiction than I realized.  The five books I’ve read this year have all been stellar, too.

I loved Army Camels: Texas Ships of the Desert.  It’s such a small piece of random Texas history  that so few people know about.  What a neat book to have in a 4th or 7th grade social studies class.  It could be that spark that gets a kid interested in Texas history.

Texas Camels

To Dare Mighty Things: The Life of Theodore Roosevelt is a wonderful biography of Teddy Roosevelt.  I thought the author did a great job of hitting the highlights of such an accomplished public figure.  There are so many things Roosevelt is known for and this book, with it’s colorful, active pictures does a nice job of introducing Roosevelt’s many facets.  I could see using it as a springboard into students researching different aspects of his life.  It’s also a great model for students on how to pick those really key, most important topics that you want to write about.  Have you read The Camping Trip That Changed America by Barb Rosenstock?  It pairs nicely with To Dare Mighty Things.

Teddy Roosevelt

After spending a week with the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham a few years ago, I naturally gravitate towards books like We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March and Birmingham, 1963.  I love how both of them focused on the role of children in Birmingham’s fight for equality.  Birmingham, 1963 is a bit harder to read; it’s about the four victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing.  But you’ll absolutely want to include it in any study of the era.  And We’ve Got a Job is a detailed look at the events of 1963 through the eyes of four children who participated in different ways.  Both great resources that will heighten interest in this era.

Birmingham 1963     We've Got a Job

Locomotive had been on my to read list for so long and I’m so glad I finally got to it.  Gorgeous, detailed illustrations that give the reader a deep understanding of the Transcontinental Railroad. Another great resource to include in an American History class; much more enjoyable than reading the textbook I’m sure.  And congratulations to Brian Floca.  Just last week it was announced that Locomotive won the 2014 Caldecott.  Definitely well deserved!

Locomotive

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2014! Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction titles.  My goal is to read 25 nonfiction picture books for 2014. Progress: 5/25 complete!

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Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge

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Non-fiction isn’t really my genre, but last I year I made it a priority and began checking out more non-fiction books from my libraries.  This year, I’m going to be more intentional about it and set a firm goal.  Thankfully, my public library has a great new non-fiction shelf that can help me accomplish my goal and Kit Lit Frenzy is always a great resource for must-reads!

Goal:25 Non-fiction Picture Books in 2014!

Happy 2014!

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Wow!  Where have I been?  I’ve definitely been reading, just haven’t found the time to blog about my reading.  But, as I think about my reading goals for 2014, I realized it would be a good time to return to this blog and put my goals out there for all to see.

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In 2013, I met my goal of reading 300 books and then some.  For 2014, I want to keep that goal at 300 books.  While I plan on continuing to read a plethora of picture books, because let’s face it, they’re fabulous, I want to increase the number of professional and adult books that I read.  And I really want to read a wide variety of plots, characters, themes, etc.  I do have some love authors and genres, but I don’t want to pigeonhole myself and not get to experience other worlds.  I’ve never considered myself to be a sci fi or high fantasy kind of girl, but as I’ve delved into series like Divergent and Hunger Games, and authors like Kate Messner, I’ve realized I’m more interested than I knew.  As I look to the reading blogs I follow, I’m finding different challenges to give myself.

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The first is the Book Gap Challenge first proposed by Donalyn Miller at Nerdy Book Club in December 2012.  I don’t know exactly which classics I’m going to read yet this year, but I would like to read five of the classics that have stood the test of time.  I’m gathering input and looking at lists, so I’ll have to get back to you on the specifics.

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Over at Teach Mentor Texts, I learned about Latinos in Kid Lit and the challenge to explore books that feature latino/a characters.  I’m totally doing this one; my goal is six for this challenge. The district I work in has a majority of Hispanic students. In fact, tomorrow we welcome our first Hispanic superintendent to work.  I really look forward to not just meeting this challenge, but in sharing what I discover with my colleagues.

To many this will sound strange, but I’ve not read the Harry Potter books (see disclaimer in first paragraph).  I did read the first one back in the day when all my students read them, but for some reason, I just couldn’t get into it.  With the passing of time though, I think it’s time to give Harry and his friends another chance.  Wish me luck!

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Finally, the other specific challenge I’m going to work on is graphic novels.  Last year I read a few and really enjoyed them.  I also attended a session at a conference about the power of graphic novels in the classroom which left quite an impression on me. I’d like to read one a month, as well as read Adventures in Graphica.  I’ll be recording my titles at http://graphicnovelschallenge.blogspot.com/.

graphic novel challenge

Of course, I will continue to grow my to-read list by following blogs like Nerdy Book Club, Teacher Mentor Texts, Kid Lit Frenzy, and Watch.Connect.Read and relying on recommendations from my friends.

Happy 2014!

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!

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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!

Wonder

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WonderUse this prompt as the beginning of your response after watching the Wonder book trailer on YouTube.  Click here to view the trailer again.  Respond by posting a comment to this post.  Share this post and its comments through Twitter, Facebook, Google +, email, or LinkedIn.

After watching the Wonder trailer . . .

Once you’ve posted your comments below, take this poll.

8 Great Grips of Gifted Kids

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This Quick Write is all about the 8 great gripes.  You can write about one particular gripe, or a combination of gripes.  You may have a personal connection, whether it’s with yourself, a family member, or a student.  Remember, the goal of a Quick Write is not to worry about spelling and grammar (although it should be readable).  Rather the goal is to write your initial honest reactions to the prompt.  When the timer goes off, you will have one minute to wrap up your thoughts.

Now that you’ve watched the four movies (Great Gripes Movie #1Great Gripes Movie #2Great Gripes Movie #3Great Gripes Movie #4) that highlight the 8 greatest gripes of gifted kids, it’s time to reflect on those challenges and respond.  Here are the 8 great gripes:

  1.  No one explains what being gifted is all about – it’s kept a big secret
  2. School is too easy and too boring.
  3. Parents, teachers, and friends expect us to be perfect all the time.
  4. Friends who really understand us are few and far between.
  5. Kids often tease us about being smart.
  6. We feel overwhelmed by the number of things we can do in life.
  7. We feel different and alienated.
  8. We worry about world problems and feel helpless to do anything about them.

Challenges from Within

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Each person will summarize the last 2 components (Social & Emotional Issues and Profiles of the Gifted) of today’s training in three sentences or less.  Each person will need to share their summary with the rest of the group.  It’s okay to refine your summary after getting input from others.  Now that everyone at the table has shared, synthesize everyone’s thinking to come up with one 3-sentence summary.  Add a fourth sentence, “This is important because . . .”  Blog Splash the group summary in the comment section of this post.

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