Monday, August 27, 2012

It's Monday, What are you Reading? 8/27

Jen and Kellee host this meme over on their blog Teach Mentor Texts to talk about the books we are reading each week, especially focused on kidlit and YA titles.  Go on over to their blog to read about more awesome books.

Books I Finished This Week:

Enclave by Ann Aguirre--I loved this one!  I can't wait to read the next one in the series.  Duece lives in a world that is regulated by rules and in which people are named and given jobs if they live to be 15.  She has just earned her name and is given the job of huntress which is what she always wanted to be.  Then she is paired with Fade and she starts to question the way that things have always been.  This is dystopian fiction at its best.  I love how Duece becomes such a strong female lead.  I will definitely recommend this one.  

A Coming Evil by Vivian Vande Velde--When Lisette is sent to live with her aunt during World War II, she is really upset with her parents for sending her there.  She has to deal with her annoying cousin, and now, she is helping take care of jewish children who must hide if anyone approaches the house.  There is also a ghost involved in this story.  I appreciated the chance to read another historical fiction book about World War II and the conditions for people living in occupied France.  I was glad that this one was not as heartwrenching as these books can sometimes be.  It is a good book for students grade 4 and up to learn about the war without too much emotional investment.  

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher had me nodding my head in agreement throughout the whole book.  I blasted through this one almost in one sitting.  I like the way he talks about making sure we still teach the classics but in a way that is supporting students.  The big chunk/little chunk approach is a great way to make sure that we give students opportunities for close reading as is called for in the common core.  

Kin (The Good Neighbors #1)  by Holly Black is a graphic novel.  Rue's mother disappeared one day and she and her father are very concerned about it.  When her father is arrested for the suspected murder of her mother, it is up to Rue to figure out what is going on.  She finds out she is part fairy and the plot thickens from there.  This was entertaining and I will look for the other books in the series.  

The Amulet of Samarkand graphic novel is really well done.  I like the way the point of view switches and there are visual cues to help the reader know who is speaking.  I read this novel a few years back and really didn't like it that much.  I like the graphic novel much better.  I think it was easier to keep track of the story line this way.  

La Sombra de La Sirena by Camilla Lackberg is the 6th book in her mystery series set in Fjallbacka.  Unfortunately for most people in the United States, you can only get the first 3 books in the series here.  I started reading this series a few years back because it is wildly popular in Spain.  Now that there are ebooks, I can actually buy the books when they are released in Spain and so have been able to keep going in the series.  This one left a serious cliffhanger so I will be waiting on pins and needles for those translators to finish with the next one!  If you like mysteries you should look for The Ice Princess which is the first book. 

Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy--This is an excellent nonfiction book to add to my class library.  It does a great job of describing the conditions of life in this era as well as telling about the tragedy at the Triangle factory.  

Books I am Currently Reading:

 I am LOVING this book.

Still listening to this one.  I have been sick so not working out as much which cuts down on my listening time.  Still really liking the story too.

This one is taking me forever because there are so many great ideas.  I have to slow down and flag the ideas for future use.  I will really buckle down this week and get through this one.

I start school on Wednesday so I have been dedicating time to going into my classroom and getting things set up.  Students don't start until next Tuesday so I will still have a little time to read this week, but I will be planning and mostly reading professional titles I think.  Where did the summer go?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's Monday! What are you Reading? 8/20

Every week Jen and Kellee host this meme on their blog Teach Mentor Texts for people to write about the books they are reading.  This meme focuses mostly on Kidlit and YA literature.  Head on over to their blog to see some great posts about great reads.

This week I did not get as much reading in as I thought I would.  I had inservices on Monday and Tuesday mornings.  Then my mother came to town on Wednesday and I spent the afternoon and night with her before we left for a women's retreat at camp which lasted until Sunday afternoon.  Since I was so busy, I had less time for reading but still got through some great books.

Books I Finished This Week:

I don't know why it took me so long to read this book.  Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor is an excellent book.  I am so glad that I have multiple copies of this book and will be able to have students learn about race issues in the South from this perspective.  

Postcards From No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers is a beautiful book which alternates narration between a teenager in 1995 in Amsterdam and a young woman living in Holland during World War II.  This book is a great piece of literature and I really lost myself in this amazing writing.  The issues that all of the characters are dealing with are complex and a certain maturity level is needed to appreciate the issues.  I am not sure I will take this book to my 8th grade classroom but it is a must-have for high school classrooms.  

Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde is a fascinating fantasy story.  In this book, Giannine gets stuck in a virtual reality game and her life is dependent on winning.  She has to survive to be crowned the king and not be killed in the three days until her coronation.  This is an interesting science fiction story that is entertaining and fun.  I am looking forward to reading more by this author in the future.

Guts by Gary Paulsen is a great memoir which tells some of the real life adventure stories that inspired his Brian stories.  I will definitely read some excerpts from this book as mentor texts when we talk about memoir writing.

Books I am Currently Reading:

10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know--There are so many great ideas in this book that it is taking me longer to read because I am spending time marking it up and taking notes.  

Daughter of Smoke and Bone--I am listening to this one and really only get to it when I am working out.  It is a great motivator to get my butt on the spin bike so I can read more of this book.  

What I Will Read Next:

I still want to get to Readicide and Opening Minds.  I also want to read Tantalize, Beauty Queens, Enclave, and The Dark and Hollow Places along with anything else that I decide to grab off the shelf.  

I am trying to finish the summer strong and have a great number to post on my classroom door to let students know about my challenge.  I am planning to make a door display like Donalyn Miller does.  Her picture of her door was amazing and I can't wait to print out the images of book covers that I finished this summer to do a similar display.  I want to have a big number of books finished so that I can show kids that it is not impossible to get through 40 books in a school year.  I am currently at 85 books and would love to get to at least 90 before the summer is over.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/13

Every Monday Jen and Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host this weekly meme to discuss the books we're reading, especially kidlit and YA titles.  Head on over to their blog to get some great ideas of good books to read. 

I am getting to the point in the summer when I start to get a little depressed about how quickly the summer has gone.  I still have a couple weeks until school starts, but I am seeing the days dwindle down and start to feel stressed out about the size of the tbr pile that I didn't get to yet.  I am now prioritizing which books to read before school starts and will start to have less time for reading because I will be planning. 

This week I feel like I read less than usual.  I have been distracted by the Olympics and some time has been spent working on curriculum maps for the coming year. 

Books I Finished this week:

The Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson.  This is the second book in the Rebecka Martinsson series.  It is a murder mystery series set in Sweden.  I have yet to find a Swedish crime writer that I did not like.  This book was a great mystery and I highly recommend it to mystery buffs everywhere.

Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos is a candid tale about a big mistake Gantos made as a teenager.  I was riveted by this account and really enjoyed the way the author brought me into his head and let me see what he was thinking throughout this experience.  I love the fact that it is a memoir and will be easy to use as a good mentor text.  I think that my students will enjoy reading this book and will hopefully learn something from the author's experiences.  This one had some mature content so I would only recommend it for older students, 8th grade possibly, but mostly high school.

 Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Research in Grades 3-8 by Stephanie Harvey is a great resource for thinking about incorporating more nonfiction materials in the classroom.  The book was written in 1998 so the chapter about internet resources gave me a few chuckles.  Mostly, this book gives some great ideas about how to go about incorporating more inquiry into the classroom.  What I will use most is the bibliography lists in the appendices of well-written nonfiction books to find. 

This book is the second in a mystery series starring Flavia de Luce.  The books are set in the early 1900's in a countryside village.  Flavia is a twelve year old who is interested in chemistry and is lucky enough to have her very own chemistry lab which she inherited from an uncle.  She is fascinated with poison and keeps a scrapbook of all the most interesting poisoning cases.  In The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag by Alan Bradley, a puppet master who is passing through her village is suddenly dead in what looks like a horrible accident.  Leave it to Flavia to discover that this was no accident.  I love this series.  Flavia is such a complex and fun character!  I would highly recommend this as a murder mystery series that students in grades 8 and up would really enjoy. 

A couple of weeks ago I read the first book in this series The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  I immediately sought out this book to continue reading the series.  In The Dead-Tossed Waves, the author Carrie Ryan captivated me again with a harrowing and gripping account of this post-apocalyptic world.  This book is realistic and grim but manages to remain hopeful as well.  I will absolutely be seeking out copies of this series for my classroom library and highlighting the first book in booktalks at the beginning of the year. 

Since I don't often read nonfiction, I expected this book to take me a while to get through.  I had started another book and expected to read a chapter or two a day until I was finished with this book.  I couldn't have been more wrong about what was awaiting me.  I was fascinated and hooked from page 1.  Charles and Emma: The Darwin's Leap of Faith kept me riveted and I finished the book in 2 days.  The author did an excellent job of highlighting Darwin's doubts about religion and his worry that his scientific theory about natural selection would upset his wife.  The book is a biography and tells of the life that this couple lived and the lives of their ten children.  The author uses abundant primary sources to really help the reader to hear the voices of the Darwins as the reader learns about their lives.  I highly recommend this book. 

Books I am Currently Reading:

Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Jeff Anderson

Daughter of Smoke and Bone (audiobook) by Laini Taylor---gotta love the free downloads on Sync 

Books I am planning to read:

The copy I was waiting for of Readicide by Kelly Gallagher finally came in so I will dig into that one.  I still would like to get to Opening Minds before school starts also.  Other than that it will be whatever floats my boat :)

Summer Bookaday Progress:  I am happy to report that I have surpassed my goal for books this summer.  I now have a total of 81 books.  When I go back to school at the end of August I will have had 76 days of summer vacation.  I can't wait to see what the grand total is at the end of the summer!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

National Book Lovers' Day-- Most Influential Books of my Childhood

Happy National Book Lovers' Day!

I have recently been doing a lot of reflecting over what books have been most influential in my life.  Naturally, for someone who has a book addiction, this is quite a difficult task.

Recently as NPR held their survey for readers to vote on their top ten young adult books of all time, I found myself overwhelmed by the choices and went back to the list multiple times before voting.  NPR narrowed the list down to the top 100 teen books of all time.  Find the results of that vote here.

Although I am planning to use that list in my classroom, and I agree about many of the books on there, many of the books are recent releases that did not exist as I was growing up.

The following books and authors, in no particular order, are the books that were most influential for me as I grew up:

1. Anne of Green Gables (and the other books in the series) by L.M. Montgomery.  This series was perhaps the series that I read most frequently throughout my teenage years.  My grandmother and I read these books together and fell in love with the PBS mini-series that starred Megan Follows as this incorrigible young Anne.  We spent countless hours in the company of Anne, Marilla, and Matthew, reveling in the beauty of Prince Edward Island.  This experience was so special to me that when I had a chance many years later to choose any place in the world to visit with my mother, I chose this island.  My mother and I meandered through the forest behind the house with green gables that inspired the author.  We laughed together thinking of the adventures of Anne and cried together remembering my grandmother.  Anne Shirley is quite possibly the character that has influenced me the most throughout my life.

2. Adventures of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide.  This is not a well-known book, but it is one that my grandmother and I read over and over again throughout my childhood.  The story I loved best was "The Shrinking of Treehorn" in which Treehorn starts playing a board game that he received in the mail.  He is interrupted in the middle of the game and realizes that having moved backward on the game board has actually made him shrink.  He then goes through his day trying to get through tasks that have now become difficult for him, but very few people notice that he is now smaller.  I felt so bad for poor Treehorn and the trouble that he got into that wasn't his fault.  This book is influential not because of the content in the book, but because of the ritual that it had in my life.  This became the book that we always read together every time I went to Grandma's house.  I now have the book with an inscription from my grandmother in a special spot on my shelves.

3. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  I read this book in school.  I don't remember what kind of activities we did with it, but I do know that my teachers must have provided some supports for the complex concepts presented in this book.  I was lucky enough to go to an elementary school that was quite progressive for its time.  My teachers had lofts in their classrooms, they read aloud to us every day, and I had ample time for silent reading.  This book ignited my interest in fantasy and science fiction and helped me to feel good about being a girl that liked mathematics.  I went on to devour every book that Madeleine L'Engle wrote, fascinated by the characters and ideas about science that were infused throughout the books.

4. Little House on the Prairie (series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I was fascinated by the adventures of this family moving through the entire country to find a good place to live.  They lived in so many different types of houses in so many different settings.  Since I am from Wisconsin, I remember feeling fascinated while reading Little House in the Big Woods that this family had been here and that their life then was so different from mine.

5. Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden.  These two girl sleuths jump-started a life-long love of mystery.  I eagerly hunted down copies of these books in used book stores and library sales.  Both girls came from families that were well-off and had things that I could never imagine having.  Yet, I wanted to be each of these sassy girls.  Trixie especially started a fascination with horses that continues to today.

6. Are you There God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume.  I got this book when I was 9 years old.  I waited 2 hours in a line for the book to be signed.  Trembling with anticipation, I gave the book to Ms. Blume to be signed and she said, "Does your mom know you are getting this book? You are a little young to be reading it."  I remember this clearly because I felt so infuriated.  Of course it was okay with my mom.  She was here with me in line, wasn't she?  I don't remember what I said, but the point must have gotten across because I left with an autographed copy of this book.  I then went on to read it over and over and over again in the next few years.  I might have been younger than what the authors idea was of her readers, but I was ready for this book.  Being an early bloomer, I was happy to read about other girls going through some of the same things I was experiencing.  I still have this book in an honored spot on the shelf.

7. Agatha Christie.  My grandmother loved murder mysteries.  When I was old enough and ready for some great mysteries, she introduced me to Dame Agatha Christie.  I then proceeded to systematically read through her entire bibliography.  I fell in love with Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple as I read about murders all over the world.  This reading ignited my obsession with murder mysteries.

8.  Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  This is the first book that made me sob.  I mean slobbering, gasping, uncontrollable crying.  It was the first book that I put down and thought about how  unfair life is.  Scarlett captured my heart and frustrated me and made me appreciate a truly complex character who really didn't know what she had and what she wanted.

9. Babysitter's Club books by Ann M. Martin.  I owned every single one of these books, including the special adventures.  I eagerly awaited the release of the new book and collected them and devoured them.  I loved reading about the adventures of these girls.  The idea that a group of girls could get together and make a business like this was inspiring.  Their relationships with each other, with the families they baby-sat for, and with their own families provided plenty of material for entertainment.  My love of this series taught me about being a reader with plans and watching the calendar for book releases.

10. Love Comes Softly (series) by Janette Oke.  This is a christian series about a family that moves west in the times of wagon trains.  These stories were uplifting and sweet.  This era in our history was a fascination for me and I loved reading about the struggles and triumphs of pioneer families.

11.Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.  My copy of this book was beat up, bent, tattered, and spilled on.  I went back to the silly poems again and again for laughs when I needed them.  I go back to the poems in this book now as a teacher as well when I need to infuse humor into my classroom.

12. The Diary of Anne Frank.  What better way to learn about the awful tragedy that was the Holocaust than to read this real-life diary.  I laughed, cringed, and cried with this book and walked around with a heavy heart for quite some time after putting this one down.

Watch in the coming days for a list of my all-time favorite books to include all the books that have stood out for me as an adult and as a teacher.  What are your most influential books?  Did some of them make the NPR list?

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/6

Jen and Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host this weekly meme to write about the books we are reading each week, especially kidlit and YA.  Head on over to their blog to connect and find out about many great titles.

Books I finished this week:

Professional Books

Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook by Aimee Buckner is a book that I found out about last week and had to go out to find it right away.  I am working on trying to figure out what I will do with notebooks this year and this is another great resource with food for thought about the requirements I will have for my students.

Inspired by the Teachers Write group this summer, I had to read this book by Kate Messner.  I actually bought both an e-book and a paper copy of this book.  Since I will have a Smart board next year, I knew that I would be able to use the author pages with my class in an electronic way, but I also wanted to be able to have the book available for individual students for good revising advice.  I love the ideas in this book and it really made me think about how I will work to help middle school students understand that the revision is where the good writing comes from.  It is a resource that ALL writing teachers should have.

I bought Clock Watchers: Six Steps to Motivating and Engaging Disengaged Students Across Content Areas by Stephanie Quate and John McDermott while sitting in the session that they were presenting at the Learning Forward conference I recently attended.  These authors are not writing about anything that I didn't already know about motivation and engagement, but I love the way they have of putting it all together in an easy to understand way.  I like the way the authors bring together these critical elements in one succinct model. The Six C's woven together can create that motivation and engagement that is so important for our students. Lots of food for thought here and some phenomenal ideas for collaborative activities to challenge young people's minds.

Printz Books

A Step From Heaven by An Na is a powerful story. I like the way the author really gives readers a glimpse of the Korean culture through the first person narration. Definitely a book I will recommend to my students.

My Heartbeat by Garret Freymann-Weyr is a wonderful book about trying to find your identity in teenage years. It is a book about love and the perceptions of others. I like the way the author dealt with this subject in a straightforward way and left the reader with some feeling of hope. I will recommend this one to my students in 8th grade and up.

Other YA

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson is amazing. I am impressed by how real the voice of the narrator felt for me. I have been fortunate in my life to not have to deal with an eating disorder, but this is what I would imagine might be happening in the mind of a girl who is suffering from this disorder. I have loved every book I read by this author. This is another book that I will recommend to students.

I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness "with my ears." The rediscovery of audiobooks has helped me to get back on track with workouts and I love that! I really liked the narrator's voice on this audiobook. The story of Conor and his monster tells the story of living through the struggle that so many people go through with Cancer. This is a sad, but uplifting story and I am so happy that it was available in the digital library. Time to look for a copy for the class library!

Mystery-- I have been so focused on YA this summer which has been nice, but I was starting to miss murder mysteries so I decided to spend some time with this genre this week. 

A Good Day to Pie was an easy read.  The protagonist was really immature and I was a little annoyed by her inability to think about things using common sense.  I will not look for more of this series. 

The Savage Altar by Asa Larsson is a murder mystery by a great Swedish crime writer.  I really like the character development in this series and will look forward to reading the rest of the series.  

Books I am Reading: 

Nonfiction Matters: Reading, Writing, and Research in Grades 3-8 by Stephanie Harvey
The Blood Spilt by Asa Larsson
The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

Books I will read this week:

I am planning to read Hole in My Life by Jack Gantos and Postcards from No Man's Land by Aidan Chambers.  I will also read Opening Minds by Peter Johnston and 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know by Jeff Anderson.