Saturday, October 21, 2017

#Classroombookaday Read This... Then That!

Our #Classroombookday is going strong this year. We read a picture book every day Monday through Thursday. If you want to learn more about #Classroombookaday check out the hashtag on Twitter or the Nerdy Book Club post by Jillian Heise.


Today, I thought we'd match up some great picture books and novels! I know many of my students are making thematic connections between picture books and novels so why not pair up some picture books and novels! Plus, you could easily read one of these picture books Monday - Thursday and then share a novel counterpart for a #FirstChapterFriday!

If students love the humor and fractured fairy tale genre of It's Not Jack in Beanstalk by Josh Funk then they will love any of Liesel Shurtliff's fairy tale retellings including Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk. Both of these "remakes" of classic fairy tales add lots of humor and dynamic characters to the mix. Imaginative and creative, both these stories have students reimagining these famous tales while laughing along the way! Both stories also make for an excellent read aloud as each "Jack" has such a strong voice and personality. I can't recommend both of these titles enough. If they are not currently in your classroom library, you'll want to order them ASAP!

I'm in love with After the Fall. After meeting Dan Santat two weeks ago and hearing him read After the Fall, I hope a shiny sticker will be on his cover come February. I was surprised and amazed by his new creation - if you haven't read this story yet, put a copy on hold at the library NOW. Do it. You'll thank me. As I was thinking back to novels with a similiar theme, I instantly thought of Garvey's Choice. Written in verse, Nikki Grime's story centers around a main character that is also trying to face his fears (and his father) while finding his place in the world. Both stories teach students about perseverance and having the courage to be who you were always meant to be. Although both characters often doubt themselves or are fearful at times, they eventually have the courage to let their true selves shine.

Both We're All Wonders and Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, teach us that differences don't define us but instead make us "wonders." In some ways we are all wonders and that's what makes the world such a special place. Both Auggie and Aven have physical disabilities yet they don't let those differences stop them from living their lives. While both experience stares and sometimes glares, they both stand proud are not afraid to be themselves. Aven's voice will be one you won't soon forget and I'm hoping the Schneider Award Committee notices this middle grade gem!

If you're looking for some great reads about taking risks, then you'll want to pick up Jubari Jumps and Amina's Voice. Both Jubari and Amina are facing some scary challenges from climbing up the highest diving board to a Quran reading competition. At first, both characters are afraid to try something new and face their fears. With a little help from their families (and friends), both characters face their fears with more confidence. Both stories are great for teaching growth mindset and the power of "yet." 


Nerdy Birdy and Real Friends are two stories that are a must own for any elementary classroom library. Nerdy Birdy has a problem, he doesn't fit in with some of the other birds like the eagle and hawk. He finally finds birds that are just like him - nerdy! But he soon learns his fellow nerdy birdies may not be the true friends he's been looking for. Similarly, Shannon in Real Friends realizes she may not really fit into her group of "friends." Both Nerdy Birdy and Shannon, must seek out true friends that will appreciate them for who they are. Students will identify with both main characters as many middle grade readers also struggle to find those "real" best friends. Filled with themes of friendship and kindness, these books are for creating meaningful discussions around what it means to be a true friend.

What are your favorite picture book and novel mash-ups?
Happy Reading, 
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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Mock Newbery Write Around

It feels like it's been ages since I've sat down and blogged. Truthfully, I'm a little sad because I absolutely love the time I spend blogging. I have a few new Read This & Then Read That posts planned out and hope to complete a few more Mock Newbery related posts as well. So, check back in soon!

Today, I thought I'd share a little about how Mock Newbery is going so far in my classroom and share a few resources that were really helpful to me and my students!

Since we only had 30 minutes for our first meeting, we tried to keep it simple. We read The Last Stop on Market Street and then discussed how that text was distinguished. This launched us into creating an anchor chart of what we can notice about a text and how different stories can be distinguished.


These notes were taken inside manila folders next to their calendar of dates and some "teacher" reminders. To see our notes you can check out our handout {here}.

For our second meeting, we reviewed what it meant to be distinguished and then set kids off to talk about distinguished elements they've been noticing in their books. Last year, we had created a poster for each Mock Newbery Book. This year with more titles and a group of about 42 students, that just was not feasible. We focused our posters on story elements this year and students choose books that they felt had excelled in those areas.

Here are our results:




If you would like a copy for your classroom, you can grab the Editable PowerPoint version {here} or the Non-editable PDF version {here}. Looking back, if I had to create these again, I'd use Last Stop on Market Street as that was a previous winner and a touchstone for all my book club students. However, in the moment, I used Wish by Barbara O'Connor because it is our current read aloud and a book all students are very familiar with.

Hope everyone else is enjoying these great books of 2017! 
Look for a new Read This & Then That post soon! 
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mock Newbery Thoughts... So Far.

I was incredibly lucky to to be able to present to local teachers about Mock Book Clubs at our Mason Learning Series this past week. I'm so thankful for the teachers that attended my session and excited that they wanted to empower their readers through a Mock Book Club.

As the start school of approaches, I'm beyond excited to meet my new readers and hopefully new book clubbers! I thought I'd do a quick post today with a few front runners (in my opinion) for the Newbery award!


Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams Garcia



This book is dare I say my new favorite Rita Williams Garcia novel! The relationship between Clayton and Big Papa Byrd is unmatched. Their bond is one that will stick with me for a long time. It reminded me a lot of The Hour of the Bees which was my favorite and front runner last Newbery season. Rita Williams Garcia does a great mastering Clayton's voice and showcasing that although Clayton is a "good kid" - he can still make mistakes. It also highlights the notion that we can't know what we all carry with us as we go to school or about our day. Sometimes, we carry burdens of grief or sorrow that we hide away from others. Relationships run deep and we can't always assume how kids are feeling. I could hear the sorrowful melodies of Clayton playing his blues harp right beside Big Papa. I'm currently envisioning this story with a shiny sticker on its cover. The audiobook of this text was superb! An accessible and short text which is great for all middle grade readers. Grades 4+.

The Ethan I was Before by Ali Standish



I read this book last year and it's still a story I'm carrying with me. The craft of this story and the way subplots and plots weave together truly mesmerized me. I thought I knew how things may come together but I was taken on quite the ride as a reader! This book does a great job of address post traumatic stress disorder and how it can affect children. There is also a great deal of work in the development of  Ethan "before" and "after" the incident. Perfect novel to address character change and theme. This book perhaps however is also a favorite because this book teaches that hope helps us cope with change, loss, and moving on. This book is a longer for some readers that may not have stamina or ability to connect all the stories however it's worth downloading the audiobook to support readers that may need it. Grades 4+.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate



This book is timely. It is a story that needs to be shared with students TODAY. It is a story that all students and adults will instantly be able to connect with as it deals with fitting in and finding a true friend. Katherine Applegate manages to balance humor, wisdom, and heartache so artfully you'll be laughing and crying within pages. Red has a distant voice that you'll hear whispering as you walk past trees in your own neighborhood. Focused on the harassment of a Middle Eastern American, this story teaches empathy, compassion and the power of community. Short chapters are also ideal for reading this story aloud. I can't wait to see what the illustrations add to this text as well!  Grades 3+ with support.

Refugee by Alan Gratz



Could there be an more relevant book released in 2017? Refugee centers around three very different characters in three (seemingly) very different time periods. I'll admit I haven't finished this one yet but already, I know this is going to be a very powerful and profound story. You'll want to make sure you have this one your list and available to kids. It was not on my initial list but plan on having two copies to matriculate to interested readers. This title will also be at fall Scholastic Book Fairs and in the TAB Flyer for September if you need additional copies. For this book due to the context and some knowledge of history - I'd say Grades 5/6+.

Do you have a current favorite? 
Share your front runners below in the comments!

Happy Reading,
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Sunday, July 9, 2017

#MockNewbery 2018 - My List

On Nerd Camp eve, it seems only appropriate to share my list for Mock Newbery 2018. Although, I've not read all the books yet on my list, I've read most and I can say, I'm really excited about sharing these 18 titles with my new fifth graders!



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Monday, July 3, 2017

#IMWAYR June Wrap-Up



I haven't joined in the #IMWAYR  in a while, so I thought this would be a great way to wrap up some amazing reads that I finished in June! A big focus this month has been on Mock Newbery contenders. I try to read as many of the books as possible so I can be a better book talker to my students (and of course be able to make my own predictions.) I'm also throwing myself into as many picture books as possible so that I can hit the ground running with #classroombookaday next year. You can see all my picture book reads and reviews on goodreads. I'll focus on middle grade books for this post!


This diverse collection of short stories is a must for any middle grade classroom! I enjoyed listening to this book as a audio because each story was read by a different narrator. It kept the book moving forward and made the stories come to life. Kwame Alexander and Matt de la Pena had two of my favorite stories along with author Grace Lin. Many of the stories tackle issues that kids can relate too including stereotypes, fitting in, and finding your own way. You won't be disappointed in this collection and it'd be a perfect fit for the Reading Without Walls Challenge. Grades 5+.


This story and the cast of unforgettable characters captured my heart! Carter Higgins has created a fantastic read that will have you craving sweet potato fries and hot dogs. Everything is better at the ballpark and this story is no exception! Students will instantly connect with Derby and her love of all things food, family, and fun! From helping out a friend in need to training turtles this book has it all. Lots of great discussion to be had about losing a loved one and how friends and family can help you move on. On my #MockNewbery list for 2018. Grades 4+.


I have so many mixed feelings about this novel. I had heard some great things and read stellar reviews on goodreads, so I knew I had to pick up a copy. I'm glad I've read this book and was able to journey with Rydr as she comes to grips with loss, love, and life as she makes her way to an uncle she's never met. The writing is fantastic! However, I think School Library Journal and the author are a little out of touch with middle grade literature. This is NOT a middle grade novel in my opinion. From the Ginsberg references to the drug/relationship inferences - I'm not sure any 5th or 6th grade will fully comprehend the author's intent. I also was left without much hope for Rydr because her future was so uncertain. While I'm not saying the ending should be perfect - most MG books leave the reading feeling a sense of hopefulness for the future. I didn't get that feeling. I see this more of a YA book for 7th and 8th grade students. I believe that more books need to confront the drug problem we're facing in today's world but I'm not sure this is the book for younger students. Grades 7+.


Jen Maschari's newest book Things That Surprise You does not disappoint! I fell instantly in love wiht Emily Murphy and connected with her struggle to navigate the difficult world of middle school, divorce, and feeling like you matter. Emily's story is a must read for any middle schooler and Jen's own personal connections to the story make the story shine. It's realistic and true and students will appreciate some "messy" truths about life as a young adult. I read this book in just under 24 hours because the writing and story were so well crafted. You'll want to preorder this August release for your classroom or Mock Newbery book club. This title is definitely on my #MockNewbery 2018 list. Grades 4+.


Izzy Kline has butterflies about starting fifth grade and auditioning for the school play. She's also worried about friends and fitting in. Told in verse and through "small moments" in Izzy's life, this story is a fast read that students will love! Izzy's life is heart-warming and easily relatable to any one that's tried to set outside their comfort zone. Grades 4+.


Is it too early to say this is a Newbery contender? This story instantly took me back to my first time reading The Giver in 6th grade. The world that Laurel Synder has built is magical and realistic -- so much so you'll never want to leave Orphan Island. The characters and setting make for a wonderful tale of nine children thriving on an island. This story captured my attention from the first sentence to the last period. I read this book in 2 days trying to savor the ending. I've seen some mixed reviews about pacing online - but I felt the story flowed as you witness first hand the blurred lines between childhood and young adulthood. Jinny's story is one that many students will want to read again as they try and put together the puzzle that is Orphan Island. So many questions and metaphors, this book kept me thinking even after the last page. A must have for middle grade dystopian and fantasy lovers! On my Mock Newbery for 2018. Grades 4+.

Currently, I'm reading Hello, Universe & listening to the audiobook for See You in the Cosmos
What's your list for July?
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