Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 8/25/13

My summer vacation is rapidly drawing to a close, and so is my #bookaday challenge.  It's getting harder to find time to read in between planning and getting things ready for my kiddos, but I'm going to do my best to get to a couple more titles on my reading list with the few reading days left before my new friends join me in Room 11.  I'm linking up with Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts today to share this week's reading. 

I do not like chickens.  Not even a little.  The very few times in my life when I have been sent on an egg retrieval mission have not been good experiences.  So when a book makes me think that owning chickens might not be the worse thing in the world, you know the author has done a good job.  I enjoyed Prairie Evers and her story, but I still don't think I'll be adding livestock to our backyard anytime soon. 

Lulu and the Brontosaurus is one of my favorite books to read aloud.  The song always gets stuck in my head and the kids sing it all day long.  I had high expectations for the sequel, and Lulu Walks the Dogs did not disappoint.  I'm excited for the third Lulu book, Lulu's Mysterious Mission, to come out this spring.  

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library is such a cool book.  I loved all of the references to the books that were scattered throughout, and I really had a hard time putting it down as they got closer and closer to solving the clues.   If I taught fourth or fifth grade, this would absolutely be an early read aloud for me.

A Sick Day for Amos McGee is one of my favorites, so I couldn't believe I had missed A Home For Bird by Philip Stead.  Vernon is very determined to help Bird find his home, but Bird offers no support or clues.  I think my students will enjoy this one as well, and it will give them opportunities to do some good reading work too.


Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3 by Jessica Shumway was a terrific professional read.  I can't recommend it highly enough for anyone who teaches math in the primary grades.  I had been thinking about revamping my calendar time and the beginning of my math workshop, and this book really helped me see how that would work.  I'm excited to use these routines with my students.  I really think it's going to make a big difference in math this year.

This week, I'm hoping to sneak in a few more titles.  I finally have Eleanor and Park after waiting on the hold list for it all summer, and I'm excited to pick up On a Beam of Light from the library as well.  What are you reading this week?

Monday, August 19, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 8/19/13

Once again, I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  Thanks to both of you for hosting!

My reading is down a little this week now that I'm spending some time getting my classroom ready.  Of course, this involves a great deal of staring at things and trying to figure out where to put stuff.  I think I moved a set of dictionaries three times this week.  It's starting to take shape, but I'm really glad that I still have a week and a half to work on it before we officially start back.  Here are a few favorites from this week.

I picked up several nonfiction titles at the library this week that I had put on my TBR list after reading Carrie Gelson's blog post about Wonder-Inducing Nonfiction Titles.

Island: A Story of the Galapagos by Jason Chin is an amazing nonfiction title.  It tells the story of an island from its birth until it disappears back below the surface of the ocean. (I didn't even know that could happen.  There was a lot of new learning for me in this one.) The book tells how the animals and plants came to the island, as well as the changes throughout its lifetime.  It was a really cool book.

The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audobon by Jacqueline Davies and Melissa Sweet was terrific picture book biography.  I love Melissa Sweet's illustrations--there is always so much to look at.  I like that the book focuses on Audobon as a young man.  I think that some of our students will be able to relate to certain parts of the book.

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda by Alicia Potter and illustrated (again) by Melissa Sweet is one of the nonfiction titles on this year's Maine Chickadee Award list. I thought the book was very well done, but I had such a hard time getting past the concept of going to China and taking a baby panda out of the wild that I can't say that I really enjoyed it.  I think it would be a great title to read with intermediate students to provoke discussion.  There is an author's note that gives further information about the issue, including some of the good things that happened as a result of Mrs. Harkness's panda-snatching. I'm guessing that students would have some strong opinions.

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean is such a cool book.  It is based on the true story of how his parents built their own timber-frame house from the ground up as homesteaders.  It would be interesting to read this book along with Construction Zone  by Cheryl Willis Hudson and Barn by Debby Atwell to compare and contrast the methods and materials used for building.  I think my students are really going to like this one.

Last spring, I listened to the first two books in Ally Condie's trilogy Matched and Crossed on audiobook.  I enjoyed them both, but my library didn't have the audio for the third book.  I finally got my hands of a copy of Reached this week.  I liked this one, although I was a little disappointed in the ending.  I felt like after three novels, there should have been more to it, more of a sense of closure.  That being said, I would recommend the trilogy if you're a fan of dystopian fiction and you are one of the few people that hasn't read it yet.

One of the interesting things about reading books that are recommended on Twitter is that you don't often get more than a title to go on.  Sometimes you can get a sense of genre, but not always.  Kathi Appelt's The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is one of those titles that I think would be nearly impossible to describe in 140 characters, which explains why I knew pretty much nothing about it when I started.  When the first sentence referred to the characters' "paws," I knew I had to revise my thinking.  This was a great, funny book.  I guess I would characterize it as a tall tale, although there were elements of animal fantasy and realistic fiction as well.  I am amazed at the characterization in the book, from our hero, Chap, to Bingo and J'miah, our favorite raccoon scouts (and the owners of the paws).  This would make a great read aloud.  I really want to get my hands on the audiobook, which is apparently read by Lyle Lovett.

Next up on my list is Number Sense Routines  by Jessica Shumway.  I'm revamping the calendar/morning meeting part of my day, and I'm hoping that this will give me some insights.  I'm also hoping to make a dent in the stack of books that I still want to read before school starts, but I think it's probably unrealistic to think I'll finish.  Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Reading Life

This past week, my husband and I took our 20-month-old daughter on a short trip to Boston.  She loves animals, so we were very excited to take her to the zoo and the aquarium.  As I was packing for our trip, I only put in one book for myself, knowing that I wouldn't have much time to read.  (As it turns out, I should have gotten something to read on my iPad in the dark while she was sleeping.  Sharing a hotel room with a toddler has some unique issues.)  Even though I didn't actually spend much time reading, I was struck by how much of our vacation was influenced by books.

We were waiting at the gates when the Franklin Park Zoo opened.  As soon as we went in, we went straight to the Tropical Forest exhibit where the gorillas are.  My daughter was amazed by the gorillas (as were her parents, though we'd seen them before), and I think she would have been happy to sit and watch them all day.  We watched them quietly for quite a while before we were joined by a rowdy group of students that were part of a summer camp.  Several of them were egging each other on to bang on the glass and get a reaction from the largest and closest gorilla.  All I could think of was Ivan, the gentle but fiercely protective silverback.  I wished in that moment for a copy of The One and Only Ivan to pull out of my backpack so that I could gather these kids in front of the window for a read aloud.  I know I'll never look at a gorilla the same way again after reading it.
Gorilla at the Franklin Park Zoo

As we continued around the zoo, we pointed out some of the animals that were familiar to our daughter.  Most of them she knew from reading either her animal book or from our daily readings of Goodnight, Gorilla.  We always pointed out when there was an animal that was "just like in your book!"
When we passed by the farm exhibit, we noticed a rather familiar looking tractor.  Even our daughter recognized it and shouted, "Otis!" Loren Long's lovable tractor has been a favorite in our house this summer as well, and she knew what this tractor looked like.  Only a Nerdy Book Club family could go to the zoo and find Otis the tractor. 

We left the zoo for the day and headed into Boston to see some of the sights.  We went to Boston Common and the Public Garden on a mission.  There was no way that I was going to visit Boston without seeing this:

 Make Way for Ducklings has been one of my favorites for a long time, and even if we had to make a couple of laps around the Public Garden, it was worth it to find these ducks.

Looking back on how much our vacation was influenced by our reading, I am reflecting on how much reading connects to our lives outside our books.  I wonder how many of our students have the opportunities for similar experiences.  As the school year gets ready to begin, I'm thinking about how I can model not only a love for reading, but a reading life outside of my books as well.

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 8/12/13

I'm linking up with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers today. 

We had a fun family vacation week, so there was not a whole lot of reading this week.  Here are a few favorites:
Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great by Bob Shea is a 2013 title that I will be adding to my beginning of the year list.  Goat thought he was pretty great, but he's no match for Unicorn's ability to make it rain cupcakes or other mystical, magical things like that.  This book is a fun read because of Goat's voice, and it teaches a great lesson about valuing our own unique talents.
Wild About Books  by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Marc Brown is a title that was recommended several times on Twitter to use at the beginning of the year.  I picked this one up from the library, but I really think I need to own a copy.  I think my kids will really enjoy this story about the Zoobrary! I always use A Sick Day for Amos McGee when we talk about routines, and I think this one will go nicely with that and Pssst! in my beginning of the year zoo collection.
Anne Ursu's new title, The Real Boy, has been getting huge buzz on Twitter.  Unfortunately, it still won't be released for another month and a half, but I hadn't read Breadcrumbs  yet either.  I really enjoyed this modern fairy tale.  It was so beautifully written and wove together seamlessly the realities of a middle grade realistic fiction with the fantasy elements of a fairy tale.   I would highly recommend this one, if you haven't read it yet (especially if you're as impatient as I am for The Real Boy!). 
This is the fourth John Green title that I've read, and what strikes me is just how smart he is. I already had a sense of this from following him on Twitter and watching his Mental Floss videos, but wow.  I think An Abundance of Katherines is the nerdiest of John Green's books (you can probably tell from the cover), which is maybe one of the reasons I really liked it.  It's full of trivia, facts, and math.  Like his other books, there were great characters and a great storyline.  I listened to Will Grayson, Will Grayson and Looking for Alaska on audio, and I read this one and The Fault in Our Stars on paperI think I want to go back and listen to the audio for the two that I read, just because the audio was so well done on the others.

I am currently reading Teaching Reading in Small Groups (still...this is not a vacation title, so it stayed home this week).  I'm also hoping to start The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp.  What are you reading this week?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

2013 Picture Book 10 for 10

I'm joining up with Cathy Mere, Mandy Robek, and lots of other people today to participate 4th annual Picture Book 10 for 10 (#pb10for10).  Here's the thing:  I sat down to make a list of my 10 favorite books and very quickly made a list of four or five favorites.  Then I got stuck.  The problem wasn't that I didn't have five more favorites to fill the list.  The problem was that I had about 35 more favorites to fill the list.  After chatting with a colleague (thank you, @KristiCharette!), I decided to go with more of a theme.  So here are, in no particular order, my 10 favorite* first grade picture book characters.

*Disclaimer: If you ask me to make a list tomorrow of my 10 favorites, I cannot guarantee that you will get the same results.

1. Bear (I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen) Apparently, there's some sort of debate around this book as to whether or not the bear is actually the protagonist.  I do not understand this.  The bear loses his hat, looks for his hat, and, um, *cough* gets his hat back.  Perhaps it is in an unconventional way (for a picture book anyway), but you can't prove anything.  #Teambear all the way, people.

2. Pete the Cat (series by Eric Litwin) I want to be Pete when I grow up.  Nothing fazes this cat.  Whether he's stepping in really big piles of fruit, rocking out at school, or dealing with wardrobe malfunctions, he somehow manages to keep his cool.  (In his newest book, Pete moonlights as a school bus driver and still maintains his very peaceful disposition.  Seriously.) Pete is the perfect model of how to just "keep walking along and singing your song, because it's all good."

3. Scaredy Squirrel (series by Melanie Watt) Scaredy Squirrel could probably use a visit from Pete.  He's a little, well, worked up.  This is a squirrel with a backup plan for his backup plan.  And yet, even though his plan never goes quite the way he imagined, it always works out in the end.

4. Gracie (The Great Gracie Chase by Cynthia Rylant) Gracie is such a good little dog, enjoying her quiet afternoons in her quiet house, hanging out with the big dog and listening to the fish go "ploop, ploop."  When her routine and her peace are rudely interrupted, this poor little dog is driven to desperation.  I love her facial expressions throughout the book (thank you, Mark Teague!).

5. Boy and Bot (Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman) I'm cheating.  This is two characters.  These two friends step up when to help when the other is in need.  While each is not too sure about what help would be appropriate for his friend, their hearts are in the right place.  Is this a great book to check out? Affirmative!

6. Mouse & friends (The Doghouse, A Birthday For Cow, & others by Jan Thomas) Yes, I'm cheating again.  Plus "friend" might be a strong word to describe Mouse who happily volunteers Cow, Duck, and Pig to go after the lost ball in [insert scary music here] The DOGHOUSE.  I love reading this one aloud.

7. Mercy Watson (series by Kate DiCamillo) Everyone's favorite porcine wonder has some pretty funny adventures.  While Eugenia may not be a fan, how can you not love a heroine who's always in search of hot buttered toast?

8. Wombat (Diary of a Wombat by Jackie French) Anyone who has ever had a pet, especially one who likes things done a certain way, will appreciate Wombat's efforts to "train" her new human neighbors.  The fact that this story is based on the antics of an actual wombat named Mothball makes it even better.

9. Katie (Katie Loves the Kittens by John Himmelman) Katie wants so very badly to be quiet and gentle and still so the kittens will not be afraid of her but she just. can't. do. it.  She's a well-meaning, loving bundle of energy who is trying so very hard to keep herself in check.  Sound like anyone you know, K-2 teachers?

10. Elephant and Piggie (series by Mo Willems) With apologies to the Pigeon, who is probably indignant about being left off this list, Elephant and Piggie are my favorite Mo Willems characters.  Their dialogue sharp and funny for children and adults, and their comical adventures keep everyone coming back for more.

Monday, August 5, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 8/5/13

I'm linking up today with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  Check them out for more great IMWAYR posts!

Just a quick post today to share a few of the books I enjoyed this week.
What Readers Really Do: Teaching the Process of Meaning Making by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton was a great professional read.  It really made me think about the way that I teach comprehension and understanding, even at the first grade level.  This was not an easy read, but I'm really glad I read it.
I loved Pssst! by Adam Rex.  This is a really funny book about zoo animals with lots of interesting requests for one of their visitors.  I think my students will really get a kick out of it, especially since they love anything with speech bubbles!I'll probably pair it with A Sick Day for Amos McGee.
The Incredible Book Eating Boy by Oliver Jeffers was recommended as a good beginning of the year read aloud in a recent Twitter conversation, so I grabbed it from the library to check it out.  If you haven't read this one yet, add it to your list.  Both the illustrations and the writing are very funny, and it's certainly not your typical "I love books" book.  I'm excited to share this one with my kiddos.
 Another book that was recommended on Twitter was Oliver and His Alligator by Paul Schmid.  This one is definitely making my first day read aloud list.  If you are looking for another lovely by schmaltzy first day book to address first day nerves like The Kissing Hand, this is definitely not it.  Oliver takes a very different (more proactive?) approach to dealing with his first day nerves.  He does, however, learn a valuable lesson about school in the end.  If you are a fan of Jon Klassen's hat books and anything by Mo Willems, check this one out.

This week, I'm hoping to finish Teaching Reading in Small Groups by Jennifer Serravallo, as well as some of the other books in my stack.  I'm starting to get a little concerned that my remaining stack is bigger than my remaining vacation.  Have a great week of reading!