Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (2/23/15)

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
I finished listening to Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. It's completely lovely and wholeheartedly recommended. I spent a lot of time rereading newspaper articles for my picture book research and then have been doodling away with The Doodle Revolution by Sunni Brown. I didn't get as much reading done as I had hoped and I didn't get my reviews up last week but I was productive in other ways and that at least feels great. 

Reviewed Last Week:
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm still waiting for my audiobook to come in at the library so I might have to go pick something else while I wait...but I have no idea what that will be! I'm planning to continue reading The Doodle Revolution and to spend more time with X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon. I also have some more research to do and it's really fun! It's awesome to be researching something I'm super excited about.

By the time next Monday rolls around, it will be March! I'm planning to participate in the Slice of Challenge with Two Writing Teachers where I post a Slice of Life post e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y. We'll see how I do. I've joined in once before and it was definitely a challenge but I remember being proud that I did it and knowing that I learned about myself in general but also about myself as a writer. I'll probably share less book reviews in March but I do have a couple blog tours I'm part of and I'll always and forever do the IMWAYR posts to share what I'm reading. Anyone else doing the SOL challenge?

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Let's Celebrate Warm Weather and nErDamp Friends!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating warm weather and nerdy friends!

*throws confetti*

This week both Peanut and I had cold weather days in our district but this weekend it warmed up and got into the 20's. I can feel the warm weather coming! I think we still have some winter to deal with but next weekend is March and I can feel that warm weather coming our way...even if it takes until June to get here.
But whatever the weather, June will come and then July and nErDCamp! I'm excited to join the Nerdy crew again this year in Michigan. I can't believe it's year three already! If you're wondering more about it be sure to visit the blog and the website. And if you haven't signed up yet, you can do that here

Need a little convincing? Enjoy some of my favorite nErDcamp memories from last year! 
   
 
C'mon, you know you want to join us!

What are you celebrating this week?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2/16/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Jen Says: I finished listening to Yes Please! by Amy Poehler and it was great. I may actually go back and read parts of it again. Then I listened to Fat Boy Vs. The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach and even started listening to Rain Reign by Ann Martin. Both highly recommended! I also finished reading In Defense of Read Aloud by Steven Layne and We Can Work It Out by Elizabeth Eulberg. 

Reviewed Last Week:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: I'm going to keep listening to Rain Reign this week and if I finish I might take time to soak up some NPR before diving into a new audiobook...it'll all depend on whether my next audiobook comes in at the library - I'm waiting for Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You the Sun! Over the weekend we spent some time at an art studio painting and being creative and it reminded me that I have The Doodle Revolution to read. I also have X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon I would like to read.

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

We Can Work It Out

Title: We Can Work It Out 
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg 
Publisher: Point 
Publication Date: January 27th, 2015  
Genre/Format: Contemporary Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: When Penny Lane started The Lonely Hearts Club, the goal was simple: to show that girls didn’t need to define themselves by how guys look at them, and didn’t have to value boyfriends over everything else. Penny thought she’d be an outcast for life…but then the club became far more popular than she ever imagined it would be.

But what happens when the girl who never thought she’d date a good guy suddenly finds herself dating a great one? She doesn’t need a boyfriend… but she wants it to work out with this particular boyfriend. And he wants it to work out with her.

Only, things keep getting in the way. Feelings keep getting hurt. Words keep getting misunderstood.
Penny Lane worked hard to declare her independence. Now she needs to figure out what to do with it — and how to balance what she wants with what everyone else wants. In We Can Work It Out, Elizabeth Eulberg returns to the world of her first novel, The Lonely Hearts Club, and gets to the heart of how hard relationships can be… and why they are sometimes worth all the drama and comedy they create.   
What I Think: Elizabeth Eulberg packs some important lessons into We Can Work it Out while weaving a great story and not seeming didactic at all. It's easy to see how Penny Lane gets caught up in wanting to spend time with her friends and the club and at the same time with her boyfriend, Ryan. It is so not easy to balance everything - at any age. As I go through revisions, I've found that I peel back new layers of each of my characters with every pass. Getting to the core of a character and to the real raw stakes of a story isn't easy. Elizabeth does this and it's worth paying attention to and pointing out to students.
     As a mentor text, Elizabeth captures her characters and their dialogue in such a natural way. I would encourage students to look at how dialogue is placed between thoughts and actions so that readers feel as though they are in the moment with the characters. If students get caught up with telling, it's easy to teach strategies for showing instead of telling. But if you have too much showing, then you need to balance that with dialogue, in my opinion. It's possible to show but be telling at the same time if you don't put the reader in the moment and add in some dialogue. Dialogue easily brings a scene to life and helps the reader understand how the characters are interacting with each other. Getting dialogue just right isn't easy, you have to capture your characters in their words, adjusting for their personality in the words they speak.   
Read Together: Grades 8 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 8 - 12 
Read With: The Lonely Hearts Club and other books by Elizabeth Eulberg, The Moon and More and others by Sarah Dessen, To All the boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, Isla and the Happily Ever After and others by Stephanie Perkins 
Snatch of Text: 
"It was amazing how quickly things could change." (p. 1)
"My head was still cloudy by the time I reached my locker at lunchtime. I was so lost in my mind that I was ignoring the one person I was trying to be more thoughtful of." (p. 56) 
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you had to be honest with someone about something that was hard to tell them about. 
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Love, Relationships, Balance, Honesty
I *heart* It:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Let's Celebrate 2014 Cybils and Saying Good-Bye!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating Cybils and Saying Good-Bye!

*throws confetti*

It was great to be part of the 2014 Cybils Awards again! I've learned a lot about book apps from participating as a judge the last two years. We had a great shortlist this year and I'm happy that the winner is a very interactive app that readers will enjoy, Kalley's Machine Plus Cats
You can see all of the 2014 Cybils winners here and check out all the Books Apps that were shortlisted here.

The Cybils announcements are kind of bittersweet for me. It's exciting to see what the 2nd round judges picked but it reminds me of being chosen as a 1st round judge, seeing all the apps nominated, redeeming codes, reading the book apps with my kids, and discussing with the other judges. It's fascinating how time moves. I can look forward to something for so long, and then it comes and it's awesome, and then it's gone. I know that's life but sometimes it makes me sad. I tell myself to live in and soak up the moment and then to be happy for all the awesomeness I've experienced in my life. But there have seriously been times when I feel physically sick when something great ends. 

Friday night we went to have dinner at my parents. We picked up Mexican food along the way from a new restaurant a friend recommended. As we ate, we talked about all sorts of things but also plans for the weekend. When it came time to leave, we packed the kids into the car, my husband backed out of the driveway, and I quickly jabbed at the overhead light so my mom would see us wave good-bye. There she was, standing in the front door, holding her dog, waving to us.   


I'm not sure when that tradition started, maybe once I got my driver's license and was leaving home on my own? I know my friend Laura's family used to do it, too. I've always felt like they loved us just that extra tiny bit by waiting to see us off. 

Leaving isn't saying good-bye and closing the door, it's someone waving as you turn out of the driveway and start to make your way down the street. It's someone giving you a hug as you get in the car and then waiting to wave again before you drive out of sight. It's waving as you each get in your cars and then one more time before you turn different directions. It's turning back one more time to smile and wave. 

Time spent together means a lot to me so saying good-bye is hard. This is my little farewell, my attempt to bid adieu to, to wave wholeheartedly at my Cybils family. Somehow that last wave good-bye makes me less sad, makes me believe just a little more that fun and friends and family will come again. 

I'm not really celebrating saying good-bye but instead pointing out how a certain kind of good-bye is worth celebrating. Just remember, if I ever give too many hugs, get teary when it's time to say good-bye, text you one more time...it's only because I love you lots and cherish the time we have together.

What are you celebrating this week?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Dear Mr. Washington


Title: Dear Mr. Washington 
Author: Lynn Cullen 
Illustrator: Nancy  Carpenter 
Publisher: Dial Books 
Publication Date: January 8th, 2015 
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Based on the true story behind Gilbert Stuart's famous portraits of Washington, this funny historical read will leave rascals, ruffians, and troublemakers of all ages laughing.

Charlotte, James, and baby John have promised to be on their very best behavior for when George Washington comes to have his portrait painted by their father, Gilbert Stuart. But, it seems like every time George Washington comes to visit, Charlotte has to write another apology letter, even when they try to follow George Washington’s Rules of Good Behavior. If these whippersnappers want any dessert, they are going to have to learn some manners—and fast! What results is a hilarious chain of events, a giant mess…and a painting that will be remembered for centuries to come. 
What I Think: I adore how Nancy Carpenter brings Lynn Cullen's imagined history to life. I happened to visit a photography class this week where the teacher was talking about early photography and how people had to sit sit for a few minute. She shared how this made many people look very stiff and almost unnatural in photographs. I recently saw something about this on Twitter and it was so interesting to me. It's a similar case with George Washington having to sit for the artist Gilbert Stuart. So much of what we capture in history are big moments but the behind-the-scenes stories seem to add so much personality and I find that they help us better understand the reality of life. Lynn Cullen only imagined what might have happened as George Washington posed for Gilbert Stuart but it's a wonderful opportunity to discuss etiquette and spur some imagination.
     As a mentor text, I would ask students to think about a big(ish) even in their lives - maybe the first day of school, their favorite birthday, a visit to a special place. If they have a picture of the event, they can bring it in or they can draw a picture of it as a reference. Then ask students to tell the story of that day or leading up to that day. Instantly, what comes to mind for me is my wedding day. We have all sorts of beautiful pictures of my wedding day but what those pictures don't show are that my dad cut his finger badly and had to the emergency room to see if he needed stitches hours before we had to leave for the airport (we had a destination wedding), that my dad (in his haste) accidentally ran over my carry on as he was backing out of the driveway, that my cousin (who was a Maid of Honor) locked herself out of her hotel room minutes before she was supposed to leave for the ceremony and had to convince a hotel worker to let her back in so she could get changed into her dress. There are other stories I can tell about that weekend and all of these details that I know and remember make my wedding so much more special. This is an opportunity to help students see how they might expand upon an event. Students might even interview a family member or another adult about an experience they remember and ask him or her to tell about all the little moments leading up to that big event.
     Within this story, Washington sends the children some rules to follow to practice good behavior. Of course, Nancy Carpenter illustrates this perfectly - having Washington act out some silly things. What if students were asked to write some rules of good behavior for adults? Students are observant and can be super intuitive. I think it would be great to discuss some rules they might want to share with adults or possibly some rules that seem logical but that are important to point out. This might be an opportunity to take pictures of non-examples and examples and put them into a presentation or video. I would suggest doing them Nancy-Carpenter-style and not taking this too seriously - add a little imagination, have a little fun!
Read Together: Grades 2 - 6  
Read Alone: Grades 3 - 5 
Read With: M is for Mischief by Linda Ashman and Nancy Carpenter, 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis 
Snatch of Text:  
"RULES OF GOOD BEHAVIOR FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
1. Do not be a Peacock, looking to see how nicely your Shoes
and Stockings fit and how Handsome you are.
2. Do not run in the Streets no go too
slowly with your Mouth open.
...nor Shake your Arms nor kick the earth
no go upon your Toes in a Dancing fashion."
Writing Prompts: Write your own rules of good behavior - but instead of writing them for boys and girls - write them for adults in your life. How might you keep them simple but send a clear message at the same time. Choose an event or moment in your life that stands out to you - take some time to share the little stories that make that moment memorable to you and bring it to life for your reader.
Topics Covered: Family, Etiquette, Imagination, Integration - Art, Integration - Social Studies 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The One Where Tossing a Salad Isn't Baking Muffins #sol15


Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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One tall yellow box of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread and Muffin Mix was still tucked away in my pantry. (I always buy a few extra boxes in the fall because I love it so much...and we had one box left.) On Sunday, I pulled that box out, heated up the oven, mixed all the ingredients, and filled the cupcake tin but it wasn't until they were in the oven and the smell of warm cinnamon spread throughout the house that my family came to see what I was up to. 

I didn't bake them from scratch but the aroma that filled the house was still amazing. I can guarantee you that if I had tossed some veggies in a bowl with dressing, they wouldn't have come running. Don't get me wrong, I love a good salad but tossing a salad just isn't baking muffins.

And writing a poem, a song, a story, an essay, isn't just tossing words down onto a page. It is about putting words together but I've come to realize how much time and love goes into combining words, layering in character traits, and folding in depth, description and determination. 

When I went vegan, I experimented with adding veggies and spices to stir fry or to salads. Suddenly cooking was fun in a way I had never experienced before. I actually felt like I was in charge of deciding how much I needed of one thing or another. But baking is still foreign to me. Baking is still following a recipe and putting things together and into the oven so that you come up with something completely different. It's almost magical. 

Writing is more like baking for me. The more I write, the more I realize how complex it is. My first draft feels more like a salad, throwing out ideas, getting words down but the real magic happens in revision. In looking at the words closely, in seeing all the parts and not just making them work together but creating something new entirely. Revision isn't as easy as adding a dash of this or sprinkling in some of that. Revision feels like cleaning the bowl and assembling all the ingredients again and trying again. 

Don't get me wrong, I've never thought that writing was easy but I'm finding a new depth in my appreciation for revision and the writing process and that a polished piece has so many working ingredients that contribute to the whole-ness of a final product.
Writing is baking muffins, it's not tossing a salad. Maybe my metaphor is a bit of a stretch but it seems to capture the essence of writing, the process, the idea that all the elements contribute to the final product, and that it takes the talented connoisseur to recognize all the ingredients. And maybe that there's some magic, some of the author's heart baked in. 

If you could create your own metaphor for writing, what might you compare it to?