Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12/31

Every week I participate in this meme hosted by the lovely ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts.  Jen and Kellee had the brilliant idea to adapt this meme to talk about the great young adult and children's literature that we are reading.  Head over to their blog for more great reads and a plethora of recommendations of great kidlit.

Books I Read This Week:

I enjoyed the high fantasy book Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.  Elisa is married off to the King of a nearby land in a hurried deal.  She has always been the younger princess who does not get involved with court issues.  She likes to eat and is self-conscious because of her weight.  She does not understand why she is being sent off so young.  The only thing she knows that she has going for her is the fact that she carries a godstone.  This means that she has been chosen by God but she does not know when she will have to act or what she will
                have to do.  Throughout the book, Elisa evolves and turns into a very strong female      

Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach is definitely a boy book.  I can see teenage boys really identifying with Felton and understanding his angst.  I was a little tickled with the references to landmarks I know well since the story is set in a small Wisconsin town.  This book is a about a kid who figures out that he has athletic talent and begins to be more accepted by his peers because of it, but it is also about complex psychological issues.  Felton feels like everything outside of his home is coming together so nicely, but meanwhile his family is
                falling apart.  This book is more geared toward high school boys, but I have a student in mind
                that I think will really like it so I will be recommending it to an 8th grader.

Brain Camp by Susan Kim is a fun sci-fi graphic novel.  The story is about a summer camp and two kids that go there after the summer has begun.  Something is not quite right at camp and these two are determined to figure out what is happening.  What they find out is almost more than they can handle.  I really enjoyed this book and I know that my students will love it.  However, there is one sequence in the book where the young teen has a dream about the
                girl he likes and wakes up suddenly.  The next frame shows him in the bathroom rinsing out
                his underwear.  Although I recognize that this is something that happens to young teenage
                boys, I dread the way my 8th graders will deal with this scene.  Maybe I am wrong about the
                way they might react, but I don't see the necessity for this sequence and wish it were not in
                the book.

I was super fortunate this year with Christmas gifts.  My sister gave me a writing themed gift with three books I have been wanting to read about writing.  I already had this book, but I was thrilled to get another copy of it.  I especially was excited to read this one during our flight home.  It was a great insight into the writing process of Walter Dean Myers and I am excited to share it with students.  I definitely will either read the whole book aloud or excerpts of it before doing NaNoWriMo next year.  I like that Myers has a process for
                planning his books and I think I might be able to use some of his advice in my own writing as

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn has been on my to-read list for quite a while.  I enjoy mysteries and this one sounded like it would be right up my alley.  I did enjoy this book, but found it to be less of a mystery and more of a book about psychology and relationships.  The author did manage to surprise me throughout the story and I think the premise is fantastic.  I really enjoyed the complexity of the characters and the situation they all were in.  I would recommend this book to other adults, but I did not love it like I thought I would.

The Always War By Margaret Peterson Haddix is another high-interest, low-readability book that I know my struggling readers will love.  I enjoyed the post-apocalyptic tale which included high amounts of adventure and three very likeable protagonists.  I will recommend this one to all students but especially those that need a good book with less challenge.

I have been wanting to read this one for quite a while.  It was another Christmas gift from my awesome sister.  In Delerium by Lauren Oliver, Lena lives in a society that has been saved from an awful disease.  Love has been cured and this makes their lives safe and secure.  Every person receives the cure for this awful disease when he or she is 18 years old.  Until then, teenagers must be kept separate lest they get infected with the disease.  Lena is a good girl who follows all the rules because she has always lived under a cloud because her mother
                was never cured and committed suicide.  She is a normal 18 year old who is looking forward
                 to her match and her cure.  Once these things happen, she will be able to go to college and
                then get married when she is done with school.  She is excited for all of this until she meets
                Alex.  He changes everything for her and she starts to realize that maybe love isn't this awful
                disease after all.  I really liked this book although the ending almost ruined it for me.
                Hopefully the rest of the series will make up for that.  I am glad I have Pandemonium here in
                the house and will be able to read it this week.  I will recommend this book to students who
                enjoy dystopian fiction.

What I will read this week:

I will start 47 by Walter Mosley today.  I have wanted to read this book for years.  I will also get to Pandemonium soon.  I have a box of books in my trunk from the warehouse sale and don't remember all of the books that are in there but I will probably pull a book or two from that box this week.  I also have the graphic novels Resistance and The Walking Dead (volume 1) that I will read.

What are you reading?

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12/24

Every week I participate in this meme hosted by the lovely ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts.  Jen and Kellee had the brilliant idea to adapt this meme to talk about the great young adult and children's literature that we are reading.  Head over to their blog for more great reads and a plethora of recommendations of great kidlit.

Books I Finished This Week:

The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch is the second book in the Hangman's Daughter series.  It is a murder mystery set in medieval Germany.  I love the interesting characters in this series.  It is fun to read about a historical period that I do not know much about and I am intrigued by the idea of the hangman as a healer.  These are good mysteries and make for very interesting reading.

I really enjoyed Legend by Marie Lu.  It is truly a dystopian book in that the protagonist truly does not know that her world is not the way that she has always believed it to be.  I love the way that Day and June find kindred spirits in one another.  I am looking forward to reading the sequel.  The other thing I loved was the alternating points of view.

The book Endangered by Eliot Schrefer is one that I would not have picked up if I hadn't seen the gushing tweets of Jillian Heise.  I did not realize that this was such a powerful story and I am so glad I paid attention to her recommendation!  I bought this one through the Scholastic book catalog for a very reasonable price and will be looking for more copies to add multiples to my class library.  The story takes place in Congo and as you can imagine it is a powerful story of survival in a war-torn country.  It is also a very informative book about bonobos and their habits.  I love learning about animals in books!  I consider this a must-read and will be trying to put it in the hands of all of the readers in my classroom.

Rebecca Stead has such a fun style in her writing.  I really loved the characters in this book and sympathized with Georges throughout the story.  Liar and Spy is a great mystery and fun to read.  I would recommend it for middle grade readers.

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles is a sappy romance book with which I can see many students relating.  I think the two protagonists are complex characters with a lot of layers and it is fun to see them learn to recognize a kindred spirit in each other.  I was interested in how their story would go and enjoyed the book.  It is definitely young adult with a few things wrapping up a little too perfectly...maybe more of a fairly tale that could happen but most likely wouldn't happen.  I, however, am an adult with a little more cynical view of the world and I know the girls in my classroom will love this one!

Books I am currently reading:

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.  This one grabbed me right away and is quite different from what I was expecting.  So far, I really like the story.

Books on the Horizon:

I will probably get to a lot of books that are stored on my Kindle.  Since I am travelling, I will prefer to read those books than have a bulky suitcase.  Some books that I might get to while traveling: Stupid Fast, Cold Kiss, Eve, IQ84, or The Night Circus.  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Out of the Easy Review

Title:  Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys

Publishing date: February 13, 2013

Source:  Netgalley ARC

My Summary: Josie Moraine is yearning for more in her life.  The daughter of a prostitute, she has had a tough life in the New Orleans Quarter.  Even though she is a smart girl and did well in school, she has not gone on to study in college.  This is mostly due to the fact that she does not want to be known as the prostitute's daughter anymore.  Josie wants to live her life on her own without having to feel that people are judging her.  So Jo plugs along working at the book store and cleaning the brothel in the mornings to save up for the day when she will be able to leave New Orleans.  

What I Thought:  This book was a beautifully written novel.  I enjoyed the depth of the characters and fell in love with all of them.  I loved how the author wrote about characters that society would usually think of as people on the margin.  It really made me rethink the quick judgements I might be inclined to make when thinking about prostitutes and madams.  I also liked the way the author surprised me on a number of occasions throughout the story and kept me on my toes as a reader.  There are some true scoundrels in this narrative, but also some true gems who I would love to know and count as friends.  I was rooting for Josie throughout the book and worried about her almost as much as Willie did.  If you are anything like me, this is a book that you will not be able to put down.

This was another gem of a book from Ruta Sepetys.  I will certainly continue to look for more from this author in the future.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

End of Year Book Survey

Inspired by the annual book survey of Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner, this is a survey of my own reading from this year. To see more amazing bloggers and their answers to these questions, visit Jamie's blog here.

1. Best Book You Read In 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer and The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin were my favorite series this year and I can't wait for the conclusion to the trilogy.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater was my favorite book overall.

2. Book You Were Excited About and Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Steven Chobsky was a good book but it just didn't really pull me in. I was really annoyed by the narrator and had a hard time seeing what everyone else sees in that book. A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz is one that I know my students will love, but I did not like it as much as I thought I might.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012? 

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys was a book I stumbled upon this year. I hadn't heard anything about it but it seemed interesting. I was blown away by the story and by the beautiful storytelling in this book.
4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

The Chaos Walking trilogy, Babymouse

6. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2012?

Michelle Hodkin, Kirby Larson, Gayle Forman, Gae Polisner, Jo Knowles, Libba Bray, Veronica Roth, Patrick Ness

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan 
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

9. Book You Read In 2012 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year:

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner, See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2012?

11. Most memorable character in 2012?

Noah Shaw and Mara Dyer
Jack from Blood Red Road
Perry from Under the Never Sky

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, The Diviners by Libba Bray

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles touched me in a profound way. She did such a great job of describing the grief that Fern feels. It brought me back to when I was fourteen and lost my father. I think this book is the most moving book I read this year.

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson, Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings
15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2012?

I didn't really keep track of this in 2012.  I will make it a goal to keep a journal of good quotes/snippets so I can answer this question next year.  
16.Shortest and Longest Book You Read In 2012?

Longest book: Eona by Alison Goodman 637 pages
Shortest book: I Want my Hat Back

17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The scene on the bridge in Where She Went.
The end of both Mara Dyer books.
The Knife of Never Letting Go--Manchee
Multiple scenes in Blood Red Road and Under the Never Sky

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Mara Dyer and Noah Shaw, Aria and Perry in Under the Never Sky, Lennie and Joe in The Sky is Everywhere

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2012 From An Author You Read Previously

John Green- The Fault in Our Stars

20. Best Book You Read That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Chaos Walking series

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12/17

Every week I participate in this meme hosted by the lovely ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts.  Jen and Kellee had the brilliant idea to adapt this meme to talk about the great young adult and children's literature that we are reading.  Head over to their blog for more great reads and a plethora of recommendations of great kidlit.

This week was a really tough one for me.  I thought I would be able to get through a lot of books, and was looking forward to a successful week at school and a good reading week at home.  Then, I got a phone call at noon on Monday that changed everything.  My step-brother Jeff passed away very suddenly on Monday.  Although I was home from work most of the week, I was unable to focus enough to get much reading done and I was also busy with the funeral and visitation.  My sister and her husband came to stay with us too.  I am hoping this week will be a little better for me, but I am not sure my focus will be much better.

Books I Finished this week:

The picture book Just Behave, Pablo Picasso by Jonah Winter is a quick read.  It is a simplified biography of Pablo Picasso and might be one to read to younger students.  However, I found it really too simple for using with students in middle school.  I think Picasso had a complex life and his art periods are fascinating so this book just didn't do it for me.  

I picked up The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson for another quick read.  I love how the author mixes some historical fiction with this touching story about how people interact with one another.  I loved the stories of all of the little girls who were touched by the doll and will certainly recommend this book to students.  

I got a Netgalley copy of this book to read.  I was so excited to read it because I really loved Between Shades of Gray.  Although not as intense as that book, Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys is a touching book with endearing characters and fast action.  I really enjoyed this book and will be writing a more in-depth review on the blog soon.  I highly recommend this book for grades 8 and up.  

The Giant and How he Humbugged America by Jim Murphy is a book about an elaborate hoax in the history of the United States.  It was a really interesting story about how a group of men swindled the public.  I was really fascinated by this story.  Jim Murphy wrote another great nonfiction book.  

Books I am currently reading:

I am still reading The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch which is a great historical mystery and part of the Hangman's Daughter series.  I started reading Legend by Marie Lu which I bought at the warehouse sale on Friday.

Books on the horizon:

I have literally hundreds of books in my to read pile.  I was excited to get some of them at the warehouse sale last week...I had no business buying any books there, but there I was.  I also have a Scholastic book club box waiting for me at school.  I tried to be careful this time with my purchases but there are a few gems there too.  I definitely want to read Liar and Spy and The Girl of Fire and Thorns this week.  I still also want to read Perfect Chemistry and The Always War.  After that, we'll see what happens.   

Have a good reading week!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Hattie Ever After

Title: Hattie Ever After
Author: Kirby Larson
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press for Young Readers (Random House Children's Books)

Source: Netgalley Advanced Reader Copy.

Goodreads Summary: After leaving Uncle Chester's homestead claim, orphan Hattie Brooks throws a lasso around a new dream, even bigger than the Montana sky. She wants to be a reporter, knowing full well that a few pieces published in the Arlington News will not suffice. Real reporters must go to Grand Places, and do Grand Things, like Hattie's hero Nellie Bly. Another girl might be stymied by this, but Hattie has faced down a hungry wolf and stood up to a mob of angry men. Nothing can squash her desire to write for a big city newspaper. A letter and love token from Uncle Chester's old flame in San Francisco fuels that desire and Hattie jumps at the opportunity to get there by working as a seamstress for a traveling acting troupe. This could be her chance to solve the mystery of her "scoundrel" uncle and, in the process, help her learn more about herself. But Hattie must first tell Charlie that she will not join him in Seattle. Even though her heart approves of Charlie's plan for their marriage, her mind fears that saying yes to him would be saying no to herself. Hattie holds her own in the big city, literally pitching her way to a byline, and a career that could be even bigger than Nellie Bly's. But can making headlines compensate for the pain of betrayal and lost love? Hattie must dig deep to find her own true place in the world. Kirby Larson once again creates a lovingly written novel about the remarkable and resilient young orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks.

What I Thought: I absolutely fell in love with Hattie in Hattie Big Sky and was so excited to see that there would be another book with this amazing character. I loved the way this book really stayed true to the character and her independent spirit. One of the best things about this book is its portrayal of life for a woman in this era in the history of the United States. Hattie struggles to work up the ladder to become a reporter and has to endure through betrayal and deceit of those around her. This story was an absolute joy to read and had me enthralled throughout. I absolutely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a great story and learn a little bit about history. I will be buying Hattie Ever After as soon as its available for my classroom library and I can't wait to put it in the hands of young readers!

If you haven't read Hattie Big Sky yet, there is still time before this sequel hits the shelves. What are you waiting for? Get out there and read it. Both books about Hattie are must reads!

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12/10

Every week I participate in this meme hosted by the lovely ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts.  Jen and Kellee had the brilliant idea to adapt this meme to talk about the great young adult and children's literature that we are reading.  Head over to their blog for more great reads and a plethora of recommendations of great kidlit.

Books I Finished This Week:

I really liked how Ally Condie wrapped up this trilogy.  I enjoyed this book and would recommend the Matched series to teens and adults alike.

I recently signed up for Netgalley and requested this title.  I loved Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson and was so excited to read more about Hattie.  Hattie Ever After is amazing.  I enjoyed hearing Hattie's voice again and it was interesting to think about what it was like for women in that era.  I will be reviewing this one here soon.  Reading this book reminded me that I need to get my students reading Hattie Big Sky and falling in love with Hattie.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is a beautiful story of loss and grief.  The protagonist, Lennie, is trying to continue her life after her sister died suddenly.  She finds comfort in spending time with her sister's boyfriend which complicates things for her.  This is a story about navigating the time after you have lost someone and learning how to go on without them.  The author captured the guilty feelings of living when someone you love isn't living.  I would definitely recommend reading this book.

In Where She Went by Gayle Forman, it has been three years since tragedy ripped apart Mia's life.  In the time that followed her recovery, Mia moved to New York and cut Adam out of her life.  This book is told from Adam's point of view.  He has become a big rock star and is supremely unhappy.  Then in his ramblings through the city he stumbles upon Carnegie Hall and discovers that Mia is giving a concert.  They spend time together afterwards in an awkward attempt to forgive the past.  I loved hearing Adam's voice in this novel.  This is another one about how life is lived after a loss.  If you liked If I Stay you will love Where She Went!

 After the emotional reads above, I needed a light and fun read.  I found it in The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman by Meg Wolitzer.  This is a story of three kids who are working to get ready for the national Scrabble tournament.  It is a fun look into the world of competitive Scrabble and the reader learns about the game and the tips and tricks that serious Scrabble players use.  It is a fun read, especially for those who might be interested in the game.

Books I am Currently Reading:

  Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility by Douglas Fisher is a book that is helping me to rethink the way that I plan reading instruction.  I started reading this one so I could help my husband with an assignment for his education class, but kept reading for me.  I use this teaching structure all the time, but do not include collaborative practice in the model most of the time.  Fisher's insights about this are making me rethink much of what I am planning.

I just started The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson.  It seems like an interesting premise.

I enjoyed the first Hangman's Daughter book.  This one is similar and I am really enjoying the story so far.  I am a sucker for a good murder mystery and these come with a dose of history as well.

Books on the Horizon:

I will probably read The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix and Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles this week.  I will also maybe pick up Rebel Angels by Libba Bray but may need to revisit A Great and Terrible Beauty before doing so.  I also have Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys on my Kindle from Netgalley that I want to read and review.  I can't wait until winter break to do some catching up!

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? 12/3

Every week I participate in this meme hosted by the lovely ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts.  Jen and Kellee had the brilliant idea to adapt this meme to talk about the great young adult and children's literature that we are reading.  Head over to their blog for more great reads and a plethora of recommendations of great kidlit.

This was a REALLY slow reading week for me.  Report cards were due Friday and I was behind in my grading so that is what I spent all of my extra time doing.  Oh, and it was the last week for NaNoWriMo.  I was nowhere near winning this year, but I did get some ideas started.  I was busy reading through the drafts of many of my students this week also.

Books I Finished This Week:

I am feeling a bit sheepish to admit that I only finished two books this week...and one was the audiobook that I had already heard 3/4 through before this week.

I read A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz this week.  This was one of the books I got in my Scholastic box and I was really excited to read it.  It started really strong...I love the narrator warning at the beginning about how fairy tales are actually really bloody and grim.  I am sure that students will enjoy this.  Part of what made it a slow reading week this week was how little this book grabbed me.  The story was interesting but for me it was nothing special.  I think it has to do with the way the narrator interrupts the story throughout the book.  I don't like that.  It reminded me of A Series of Unfortunate Events and that is another series that I have never really gotten into.  I will definitely recommend this book to my students and I know that some of them will love it, but I just wasn't feeling it.

I finished listening to the audiobook of A Mutiny in Time (Infinity Ring #1) this week.  This is a fun adventure and I know that some of my students will enjoy it.  I will definitely recommend this series for fans of 39 clues.

Books I am Currently Reading:

The first chapter of Better Learning Through Structured Teaching: A Framework for the Gradual Release of Responsibility by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey really grabbed my attention.  I am reading it so that I can help my husband with an assignment in his Reading in the Content Areas class.  This model is one that I have read about in multiple sources and I use it in my instruction all the time.  However, I am guilty of not really putting in the collaborative learning stage.  Reading the beginning of this book helped me understand better the research base for the current mandated model in reading instruction in my district.  I do not know if the powers that be were thinking about this model, but this book has given me the way to bridge the gap between the workshop approach that I want to use and the structure that I am supposed to be using.  I am excited to read more in the coming week.

I am loving Reached by Ally Condie so far.  I really liked Matched and was interested in the story of Crossed and I am excited to see how things work out for Ky, Xander, and Cassia.  The world of these novels is so intriguing!

The Joy of Planning by Franki Sibberson is written for teachers of grades 3-6.  I teach 8th grade, but her simple words about what teachers need to do to plan for cycles in reading workshop are really speaking to me.  I love being able to get into her head to see how she thinks about putting together units of reading.  It is giving me a lot of ideas about how I can go about being more intentional in my planning.

What I will read next:

I still have Where She Went and The Sky is Everywhere from the library so I will try to get to those books this week.  I also will probably read Bobby Vs Girls because I have a student who was raving about it and is eager for me to read it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? 11/26

   Every week I participate in this meme hosted by the lovely ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts.  Jen and Kellee had the brilliant idea to adapt this meme to talk about the great young adult and children's literature that we are reading.  Head over to their blog for more great reads and a plethora of recommendations of great kidlit.

Books I Finished this Week:

I ordered a huge bunch of books from Scholastic a couple weeks ago and the huge box arrived last week.  One of the books I was most excited about was Capture the Flag by Kate Messner.  I enjoyed Teachers Write this summer so much and Kate is so amazing!  This was a fun adventure and mystery that I know my students will love reading.  I can't wait to read the other books in this series when they come out.

Another book I was excited to get in the Scholastic box was Turtle in Paradise by Jenni Holm.  In the last four years or so, I have gone to Key West with my mother for the Key West Literary Seminar every January.  I love being there and every time I'm there I imagine what it might be like to live there.  I love how this book really celebrates the place as well as telling a great story.  The fact that it is historical fiction and depicts the depression era well makes it a must-read book.  I really loved Turtle and commiserated with her plight.  I will definitely recommend this book to all my students.

I can see what all the people that tweet it are talking about.  THE ENDING!!!!  I hope Sarah Rees Brennan hurries up with the sequel to Unspoken because I have to know what happens next.  I really liked the premise of this book.  What would it be like to have another person's thoughts and feelings in your head?  I think the author did an excellent job of really making the reader consider how it would feel to have that happening and how intimate your relationship would feel.  The world in the book is a very interesting world and I am curious to see where the next book leads us.

I absolutely loved How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg.  This is an excellent example of how informational text does not have to be boring.  I learned so much from this book about some very famous people.  Each section is a mini-biography of a famous person mixed in with how they died.  The author does an excellent job of explaining the medical procedures in each era.  I will definitely recommend this one to all my students as well.

Having participated in drama productions throughout middle school and high school, I was very appreciative of the story line in Drama by Raina Telgemeier.  I love the graphic novel format and I think the story is a perfect fit for middle school students.  Putting on a play is a complicated process and Raina Telgemeier really captures that as well as the awkwardness of middle school relationships.

I had a student read this book and give it to me to read.  I am so glad that I read Skinny by Donna Cooner. It is an important book and it gives voice to an important subject.  I could relate to Ever throughout the book.  Although I have never been as obese as she is at the start of the novel, I have had weight struggles my whole life.  The existence of Skinny, the voice that talks to Ever in a negative way, really rings true.  We all have that awful voice inside of us that brings down our self-esteem and nags at us.  I love the way Ever evolved in this book and I think it is an important lesson that students could gain.

Books I am Currently Reading:

On the way to and from Madison, my husband and I listened to Infinity Ring by James Dashner.  I am about halfway through the audiobook and am enjoying the story.  It is definitely more of a middle grades story, but it is a fun book to listen to.

I don't know what I will read this week.  I have a few books from the library and a bunch of books from my Scholastic order.  I also have report cards due on Friday and the last week of NaNoWriMo looming over my head.  I guess I will play it by ear this week.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Feeling Thankful

First of all, I can't believe it is already Thanksgiving break.  My, how time flies!  This Thanksgiving, I am feeling especially thankful for my life and my profession.  Here are a few reasons why:

Thankful Reason #1: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger...but I am glad it is over.  

    At this time last year I was feeling down in the dumps.  I had a nearly impossible teaching situation and students who were cruel to me and ruined every opportunity for fun in the classroom.  I felt awful for the other students who had to put up with this situation and I felt awful for myself.  In my K-8 school, we had been devastated by budget cuts and we lost 10 teachers from our building.  When all was said and done, we just couldn't keep the two classes that were coming into 8th grade separate as smaller classes so we had one HUGE 8th grade class.  I was the teacher for this class and I thought I was up to the task of looping with the students to teach them 8th grade.  My class list had 38 students.  We crammed ourselves into a classroom that was built for elementary school grades and we got down to the business of learning...kind of.  I did my best to use engaging strategies and involve my students in their learning, but let's face it, this was a daunting task.  Add on top of this the fact that I was the only teacher at that grade level and the one responsible for teaching ALL subjects (reading, language arts, math, science, social studies, art, spanish, technology and health) and the task became impossible.  I am so thankful that I survived that school year relatively unscathed.  I actually have had multiple students come to visit this year so it seems that not all of them have negative feelings about their experience and I am thankful that they know I care about them.

Thankful Reason #2: These are a few of my favorite things...

     This year is so different from last year.  I have a great group of students who recognize the merits of treating people respectfully.  The school year got off to a great vibe and at this point I am so happy about the way things are going.  Reading workshop is humming along and all of my students have finished multiple books at this point.  All of my students also reported that they have started to like reading (if they didn't already) thankful for that.  The best present of all for me this year is that this is the first year since I moved up to middle school grades that I have heard students talking about enjoying my class.  I am so happy to hear this again.  That is the thing I had missed the most from working with fourth and fifth graders and I am so thankful to have it back.  I am not sure what is different except for the fact that this is the first year that students didn't have me as their teacher already in fourth or fifth grade.  My students that I have for Language Arts say that I am their favorite teacher.  I know it shouldn't matter and that middle school students are fickle, but it is nice to hear that.  I am excited about what we will be able to accomplish with this much positive momentum.

Thankful Reason #3: Connections 

     Whatever impetus made me decide to pay more attention to my Twitter account was a godsend.  Without it, I would not have seen the information about TeachersWrite this summer.  Without that group, I would not have connected with so many passionate educators on Twitter.  I am so thankful for my PLN--they keep me energized and enthusiastic about teaching.  I have spent thirteen years teaching without finding other teachers who have the same passion for reading and spreading the reading love.  When I found the Nerdy Book Club blog, I was so excited.  Finally, I am able to talk to other people who are just as book obsessed as I am (and maybe more so in some cases).  This has truly been an inspirational change in my life and I am truly thankful for the great people I talk to on Twitter and the amazing authors that I have met as a result.

Thankful Reason #4: NaNoWriMo--Are we crazy?

     Although I may not be winning because I am so far behind my goal, many of my students will be meeting their goals for the month of November.  It is amazing to be able to see the whole classroom of students diligently typing away during my ELA classes.  These students are so very creative.  They have excellent plot ideas and I have been impressed by what I have seen so far.  The best thing that came out of this experience was summed up by one student who said that she was figuring out that the more she wrote the easier it became and the faster her ideas flowed.  I know that will not always be the case, but from students who were asking at the beginning of the year how many paragraphs their writing pieces had to be--and gasping if I said they should probably have at least a page--this flow of writing is awesome.

Thankful Reason #5: Sunshine and Snow Write

     I am also thankful for collaboration.  Mrs. Jennifer Fountain and I have started an Edmodo group with our 8th grade students so that they can collaborate.  What is awesome about this is that my classes are in Wisconsin and her classes are in Texas.  It is so fun to bring common lessons to the students and to ask them to interact with each other online in this way.  So far, the students have enjoyed figuring out that they are very similar and have similar tastes.  We will be doing more collaboration throughout the year and I am so thankful that I can provide my students with this cool opportunity.

There are many more reasons for feeling thankful in my life.  I hope to meet more of the people I have talked to on Twitter in the future.  I am looking forward to the Wisconsin State Reading Association conference in February where I hope to be able to connect with a few authors and fellow educators.  I also am thankful for my husband who is so patient with me.  I am so happy that he is studying to become a teacher because I know he will be an excellent one.

Happy Thanksgiving!  What are you thankful for?  Please share in the comments :)

Monday, November 19, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? 11/19

Every week I participate in this meme hosted by the lovely ladies over at Teach Mentor Texts.  Jen and Kellee had the brilliant idea to adapt this meme to talk about the great young adult and children's literature that we are reading.  Head over to their blog for more great reads and a plethora of recommendations of great kidlit.

This was a pretty good reading week for me.  I went to the library on Saturday and got a book stack of picture books that I have been meaning to read and I stuck to some shorter books this week since I have been reading longer ones lately.

Books I Finished This Week:

I finally finished the audiobook of Blood Red Road by Moira Young.  I loved this one!  I like how Saba really grows up and learns to accept help and be more patient with her sister.  I loved the love story in this book too, although I was quite frustrated by how idiotic Saba acted toward Jack throughout the book.  I am really excited for the sequel.  The narration on this audiobook was really good.  I loved the voice of the narrator.

I acquired Shelter by Harlan Coben at a library sale earlier this fall.  I love his adult books and was sure I would love this one.  I did really like the book.  It was a good mystery and I think that the author did a good job of getting in the head of his teenage protagonist.  The story behind the mystery was an interesting one as well.  I would recommend this one to high school students.

Zitface by Emily Howse was a quick read.  It is one I would recommend for younger middle school readers, but I didn't really enjoy it all that much.  The protagonist is a girl who does commercials and enjoys it, but one day she starts to develop acne and it really gets in her way.  The story is well done, because I could really feel the pain of this young girl as she tries to go about her normal life, but she is young and naive and that annoyed me a little.

I LOVED Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.  The whole premise of the book is amazing.  A girl who can kill people by touching them?  Wow!  I think the author did an excellent job of really delving into what kind of psychological scars a person would have if they were unable to touch anyone their whole life.  The guilt that Juliette feels over this power is awful.  I absolutely fell in love with Adam in this book.  I love that they both silently admired each other from afar and that he sought her and found her.  This was an adventure from the first page to the last.  The dystopian world they live in is a disaster and there is not much hope for their future under this regime.  I cannot wait to read the rest of the series.  I would highly recommend this one for grades 8 and up.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher was another book I loved.  There are so many twists and turns and he deals with so many hot button issues in this book.  I love the character of Ms. Lemry.  There are great teachers out there who care about their students the way she does and it was good to see one in this book.   I can see why this book was controversial, but I loved it and I think my students will too.

Picture books I read this week:

All of the picture books I read were very good.  I love Island because of the nonfiction information that it gave in such a beautiful package.

I can see why so many people are raving about this one.  It is really funny and would be a good book to use for inferences.

The Obstinate Pen was really fun to read.  I can see younger students really laughing about the funny insults the pen writes to the people that try to write with it.

This one was very cute and I can see how younger students would enjoy it.  

I am slowly but surely making my way through the Amulet series.  This was another great installment.  

What I am Currently Reading:

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and How They Croaked 

On The Horizon:

I will start to listen to The Infinity Ring this week.  I will also read Skinny for sure because a student wants me to read it.  I got Where She Went and The Sky is Everywhere at the library so I think I will delve into those over next weekend.  Otherwise, I will see where my mood takes me this week.