IMWAYR – Challenge Week 7

ItsMondayGraphicThis week I have been reading more books on my Challenge list!  To learn more about my challenge, and to view my list of books, head over to the 100 Children’s Book tab at the top of the page!

I cannot believe we have been reading challenge books for 7 weeks now!  I felt like I was making a dent in my Amazon’s 100 Greatest Children’s Books challenge, but now I’m not so sure.

I only read 2 books this week, but they were both new to me.  I haven’t been great about estimating how much time a novel will take me to read, so even though I only read 1 picture book and 1 novel, I count this week as a success since I read more than 4 hours.

Now without further ado….

Olivia the Pig, by Ian Falconer, was a cute story of…you guessed it….Olivia the pig!  Fun illustrations added to this picture book’s introduction to Miss Olivia.  This is a book I will happily buy for all my nieces and nephews!


My novel this week was A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle, was also a new one for me.  This is the story of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace.  They are carried through a time wrinkle by Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which.  They travel to the planet Camazotz to save Meg’s father from IT – a disembodied brain who controls the inhabitants of his world. 

Honestly, I thought the book was going to be about time travel on Earth.  However, the integration of science, theory of matter, time travel, alternate worlds, was something I wasn’t expecting.  There were parts of this novel that dragged for me – namely the time they are traveling through the wrinkles to Camazotz.

Madeline L’Engle’s Newbery winner certainly has a complicated plot.  But the characters are what makes the story for me.  Meg is a frustrated, angry, compassionate, scared, and mainly REAL girl.  I can totally relate to her.  And, she gets to be the hero!  She is the one who saves everyone!  It is her “flaws” that are the qualities needed to save her family.

All of that is worth a 3 star rating to me.  However, then I read the afterward section.  It started with a biography of Madeline L’Engle written by her granddaughter.  She talked about how the author wrote the book for herself, struggled to find a publisher, read extensively in scientific literature, and was a generally fun grandma!  Then this 50th Anniversary Edition had a copy of the last interview that L’Engle gave before her death.  Her frank answers, and surprising comments, showed her personality to me.  Finally, as with many Newbery books, it included her Newbery acceptance speech.  Once again, I was amazed at the strength and forward thinking of this amazing author.  My connection to the author through these extras edged the book into the 4 star zone!

So, there you have it.  A cute picture book with illustrations.  A Newbery that is made by the stories of the author.  Next week….a picture book that I’ve had on hold FOREVER is finally in at the library!  Also, a re-read novel from my childhood.  Will it hold up?

Have you read these two books?  Have ideas for my next reads?  Let’s talk below….


Harry Potter Thursday #11


Harry Potter Moment of the Week hosted by Uncorked Thoughts!  Check out the blog-hop and other cool stuff over there!

The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object, quote etc. from the books/ films/ J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related!

Today’s Potter Question:  If you could change one thing in Book 2, what would it be?

This is certainly a timely question given that I just finished Book 2 for my reading this past week!  If I could change one thing, it would have to be to focus the plot a bit more.  It was deceptively long.  Measuring in at 341 pages, there were a lot of plot tangents that we could have cut out.

In my edited world, it would include….

-No Death Day Party:  What did that do to further the plot?  We had a fun time making fun of Nearly Headless Nick.  Harry hears the “voice”.

-Aragog:  We didn’t need this chapter.  Harry and Ron go to the woods, encounter GIANT spiders (yuck!), and learn Hagrid didn’t open the Chamber of Secrets.  Already knew all of that!

-Quiddich:  I know this won’t be popular with many Potter fans, but the scenes with quiddich just seem superfluous.  Book or movie, I say it does not need that much time!

I’m sure I wrote this with a different perspective (let’s edit the book rather than changing things with the plot), but I want to know what you think.  Do we need quiddich, giant spiders, and ghost parties?  Or could we trim some of those pages out?  Let’s talk below!

Wishlist Wednesday #11

Wishlist Wednesday

Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted over at Pen to Paper. This meme is where you showcase one book that is on your wishlist and that you can’t wait to get off your wishlist and into your hands.

Welcome to an awesome weekly meme:  Wishlist Wednesday!  This is a blog hop to share something that I am very excited to read…but haven’t read yet!

This week’s book has another KidLit Connection!  In my travels through the KidLit-o-sphere I have come across some pretty amazing people to follow.  One is Pernille Ripp.  She created something called the Global Read Aloud.

“What is the Global Read Aloud?”  Well, let me tell you!

The premise is simple; we pick a book to read aloud to our students during a set 6-week period and during that time we try to make as many global connections as possible. Each teacher decides how much time they would like to dedicate and how involved they would like to be. Some people choose to connect with just one class, while others go for as many as possible. The scope and depth of the project is up to you. In the past we have used Twitter, Skype, Edmodo, our wiki, email, regular mail, Kidblog, Tackk, and any other tools we can think of to make these connections. Teachers get a community of other educators to do a global project with, hopefully inspiring them to continue these connections through the year.


So I missed this year’s reading, but I’ve seen so many fun things about the book that I have added it to my ever-growing wishlist.

It’s the story of Ally, a student who has cleverly deceived teachers at each new school.  She is hiding the fact that she cannot read.  Then she meets Mr. Daniels who sees her bright, intelligent personality.

Follow the link and join the blog hop!


Read Alouds – Sharing books with students

This week our school is participating in a Stop. Drop. Read. challenge. For 10 minutes on Friday morning, we will stop what we are doing and read. We have the option of reading silently or reading something together. I’ve decided to do a Read Aloud with one of my favorite new pictures books: Beekle

Why are we doing this?
      1. We have been invited by another school to join them.  They want to set a record for the most people reading at the same time.
      2. It is fun to break up a Friday routine with a different activity.       Also, I’ll have 6th graders, and what 6th grader isn’t up for a quick story time?
      3. Read Aloud time is essential. It is important. It should happen in all grade levels in all schools across the country.
Thoughts about Read Alouds

This week we read two articles on Read Alouds. They present some interesting ideas.

Katherine Sokolowski stressed the importance of reading out loud to people of all ages – from birth to graduation.   She continues by saying that there are many purposes to a Read Aloud. She uses them to get to know students, to build character, to create a fun environment, and to teach them something. Read Alouds are essential in her 5th grade class.

We also read a piece from Franki Sibberson, a 3rd grade teacher.   She shared with us some of her favorite Read Aloud books – ones that she uses to fulfill a purpose. Her class has Read Aloud time to begin working on conversation about books, to model a reader’s notebook, and to practice using audio books. She is very careful with her Read Aloud choices.   She believes that our Read Aloud choices are seen as the types or difficulty of books that we, as teachers, value from our students reading. Choosing books from a wide variety of genres, ability levels, and on a wide array of topics is essential for building a Read Aloud routine.

Back in my class….

I think classroom Read Alouds are vital. I’ve seen them modeled in the middle grades classroom – with a teacher reading and modeling notetaking, by reading along with an audiobook, by using a combination of styles including partner reads. I’ve learned a few things along the way too. I learned that even 8th grade students can get into a children’s book – they are not too cool for it. I’ve learned that if I am excited about a book, students will be excited. I’ve also learned that when we do Read Alouds, students then share what they are reading with each other and with me. Each time I do a Read Aloud, I end up with a giant homework list of their favorite books. I love it.

Read Alouds with a Purpose

I’ve gone through the list of the books that I have read so far this semester to come up with a Top 10 list of books I’d use in my middle grades classroom. As I thought about what books to choose, I thought about why I would choose it and what lesson it would demonstrate. So, without further ado, here is my……

Top 10 Read Alouds (in no particular order)

To practice our oral reading fluency

To see how illustrations can add to the storyBeekle

To discuss how word choice conveys emotionIvan

To practice putting a twist on a classic tale 3-ninja-pigs-BuckarooBook

To laugh and realize that humor is essential MyButt

To talk about how we are not that different from one another

To introduce reflective writing

To practice a book/film comparison

To use historical fiction to spark additional learning ISurvivedShark

To see that all informational texts are not dry and “boring” SoYouWantToBePresident

My Read Aloud Lessons

I’ve learned that Read Aloud times are an important time for bonding, character building, learning, practicing reading and listening, and for fun. I’ve learned that we can read children’s books and picture books to students of all ages. I’ve learned that I need to continue to build my Read Aloud list.

And with that, my typical “end of post plea”…..

What books do you think are great for Read Alouds? Are there special considerations when choosing a Read Aloud for middle grades? What is your favorite Read Aloud?

As always, let’s talk below…..

IMWAYR – Challenge Week 6

ItsMondayGraphicThis week I have been reading more of my challenge books.  Check out my full list at the 100 Children’s Books tab.  In the meantime, here is what I read this week….

I had another “took 2 weeks to finish it” book that I read.  While technically not on the challenge list, I took a bit of a liberty.  This week’s first book is….

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling.  This might be the first time I have actually read the second book.  I bought the box set last spring.  I love the films and this book was great too!  This week’s Harry Potter Thursday is about book 2, so that worked out great too.

I had read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone this past summer.  So, I took a liberty and read the next book in the series as my challenge book!

I loved the book.. Come back Thursday to see my critiques of it.

My second book was a new-to-me picture book.  The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by William Joyce, was amazing.  The book has a wonderful story – Mr. Lessmore spends his life writing his book, until his pages fly away in a storm.  He then finds a space with the most amazing books.  He reads them all, takes care of them, and shares them with others.  One day he finishes writing his book and retires, and the books read to him in his old age.

But the story doesn’t end. You see, another young girlMorris Lessmore encounters the flying book.  And the story begins again…..


Gorgeous illustrations and a lesson to learn to boot makes this an excellent story.  Everyone should read it!

Finally, my third book this week is Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli.  This is another Newbery Medal book.  It tells the story of Jeffrey “Maniac” Magee – a kid without a home, who finds his home in a variety of places along the way.

It is interesting that I chose this book during the week we read and wrote about diversity.  You see, Maniac is a white orphan who ends up living among people from the black part of town, with an elderly baseball player, and with the unsupervised family of bullies.  Spinelli does an excellent job of tackling the issue of race in a tactful, thought provoking manner.  He uses Maniac’s internal dialogue to explore race in a childlike way.  Maniac wasn’t even sure he was white for a while.  He saw all different shades of browns in people – but he didn’t see a black person.  The lessons he teaches Grayson are just as essential today as they were a number of years ago.  This is an excellent example of the “Where am I?” books we should read to our students.

Well, that’s it for now!  Have you read these books before?  What did you think?

What did you read last week?  Do you have suggestions for my next read?  Let’s talk below….

Where am I?

Think about your favorite book.  Got it?

Now, envision the main (or your favorite) character in that book.  See them?

Does that main character look like you in your mind’s eye?  Is that character even human?  What has influenced how you envision the character?  Movies? Cover art? Illustrations?

This week I read a couple of articles on diversity in children’s literature that have me thinking.  To be honest, the issue of (non)diversity in children’s books has not really crossed my mind too much.  It isn’t for the reasons you probably think though.

I grew up as an Army brat.  We moved 3 times (in my memory) – always to a different city with a different character.  My parents’ final move to Colorado Springs was when I was 9.  I spent my middle grades and high school years in the most diverse district in Colorado (at the time).  My best friends were of all genders, races, ethnicities, cultures, and personalities.  My brother’s friends were also of the same mixture of people.

As a kid, I didn’t know anything different from this.  The fact that some people grew up and encountered only people who looked like them was a concept I didn’t learn until I was in COLLEGE.  In my mind’s eye, all my favorite characters were like me, yet they lived in a world that also mirrored my world.  A world filled with characters of all shapes and sizes – maybe even a Cowardly Lion or a Cat in a Hat or a Sam-I-Am (whatever he is!).

The Facts

I learned a lot from the articles I read this week.  I was surprised to learn that in the first half of 2013 only 124 (of 1,183 books about humans) featured a person of color.  This is 2013 we are talking about!  Only 10% of books featured someone who looked like my best friend, rather than someone who looked like me.  That doesn’t seem fair that my best friend cannot live out the adventures of a main character who could be them.  My limited experience has told me that the world is filled with people who are all different from one another.  Yet, the children’s publishing world of 2013 did not reflect this.

I asked myself…..why? It seems that one of the biggest influences in which books publishers select is the big box book store market.  Currently, the largest purchasers of books is these big book stores.  The publishing industry is a business, and they will naturally publish books that their buyers will buy.

But even more shocking, is that these big book stores even influence cover art in the books they purchase!  I thought that cover art, type-setting, and all the aesthetic decisions were left up to the authors/illustrators/editors.  Apparently that isn’t the case though!

What can I do?

Enough facts.  Let’s focus on a plan.  How should we, as educators and librarians, approach the issue of diversity with our young readers?  As teachers and librarians we need to read all the books – even the ones we do not personally like – so that we can make honest recommendations to our students.

We should recommend books to students based on interests and themes, rather than on how we envision the main characters.  Everyone should be encouraged to read across the genres.  We can also further this  by choosing a wide variety of books for read-alouds and book talks.

During our book talks, we should do what Brian Pinkney has suggested.  We should “Make It Personal”.  We need to ask our students how they saw themselves in the characters, situations, and adventures they have read.  How are they the same as the main character?  How are they different?  I don’t eat Green Eggs and Ham, but I want my friends to try my favorite food.  I have a dog who seems to get into everything – but she is not a giant red dog!

Final Thoughts

The reading that we do, and the books we share with students, should reflect the wider world.  We should talk honestly with students.  We should ask them how they see the world.  We should ask them what they want the world to be.  Then, we should encourage them to explore the literary world.

Harry Potter Thursday #10


Harry Potter Moment of the Week hosted by Uncorked Thoughts!  Check out the blog-hop and other cool stuff over there!

The aim of this meme is to share with fellow bloggers a character, spell, chapter, object, quote etc. from the books/ films/ J. K. Rowling herself or anything Potter related!

Today’s Potter Question:  What is your favorite chapter title from the books?

I’m going to have to say my favorite title is from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Dobby’s Reward

Dobby is such a lovable, crazy character.  I love that he gets what he needs (freedom from a certain wizarding family) from Harry’s subterfuge!

What’s your favorite chapter title?  Do you like Dobby?  Or, is he just an annoying house elf to you?  Let’s talk below…