Friday, August 18, 2017

Things That Surprise You




Thank you to Blue Slip Media
for sending me a copy of this book to review 
and for providing an awesome prize pack
for me to giveaway! (Details below!)


Title: Things That Surprise You 
Author: Jennifer Maschari  
Publisher: Balzer + Bray 
Publication Date: August 22, 2017 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart. 

What I Think: I've been excited to tell students all about Things That Surprise You because it is such a real book about having friends, keeping friends, and making friends that I imagine many middle schoolers will relate to. It's a book I would recommend to readers who like Rebecca Stead's Good Bye Stranger and Ann Brashares' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. 
     As a mentor text, I love how Jennifer takes a moment and describes it so that we can feel what the characters are feeling. I pulled out two snatches of text that include similes that I love. They demonstrate how we have to be intentional about the similes we include. The imagery she creates with this similes definitely match the mood of the character and the scene.
     I also like how Emily, the main character, has her own character arc but her sister Mina has one as well. Too often writers focus on the main character and how he or she changes but we also have to look at how our supporting characters change and how our main characters might even impact the change our supporting characters go through. It's real life, right? But being able to do it in our writing as well is important and Things That Surprise You is a perfect mentor text for looking at how the main character isn't the only one who is going to grow as the story progresses.
Snatch of Text: 
"Walking in here is like stepping into a pair of the fuzziest socks. It feels cozy and right." (p. 11)

"All the good feelings I had built up whoosh out of me like air from a flattened bike tire." (p. 97)
Writing Prompt: Write about what you look for in a good friend. Use examples from Things That Surprise You and Emily's experiences with friends in the book and connect to your own experiences as well. 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU (U.S. addresses).

PLUS!
One grand prize winner will receive a Crafty Unicorn Kit!  The prize includes a fun craft kit, a copy of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, unicorn stickers, and puzzle cards! 
Enter here.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 08/14/2017

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 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 really really enjoyed reading Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari last week. I'll be review it this week. I started listening to I Will Always Write Back and was reading The Evaporation of Sofi Snow when we made one last visit to the pool this weekend! My kids officially go back to school this week! Here we go!!!

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

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'll be reading The Evaporation of Sofi Snow and listening to I Will Always Write Back...and trying to make it through an entire week of school with my 2nd and 5th graders!

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!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

August 2017 Picture Book 10 for 10

Today was our first day back to school for the teachers in my district! I'm excited to be started my third year working in our amazing schools. I was excited my first year, happy to be back my second year, and overjoyed and inspired to see what this third year will bring. 

We started our school year with five literacy-focused Ted-talk-type speeches. I got to share why it's important to nurture our students as writers. I shared how I don't worry so much that my sons can spell bicycle or spot a dependent clause in a sentence but I really do worry about them growing up to be passionate learners who care about people and work to make the world a better place.

Then, after the rest of an amazing and fulfilling first day back at school...I came home to see all the amazing PB 10 for 10 posts and knew I had to share my favorite books for having discussions about empathy and compassion and giving kids the opportunity to think about how they might make the world a better place. It's always hard to pick only ten...I could add sooooo many more. But here's a start!



Can We Save The Tiger
by Martin Jenkins, illustrations by Vicky White

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners
by Laurie Keller

This Is How We Do It:
One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World
by Matt Lamothe

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
by Patty Lovell, illustrations by David Catrow

Each Kindness
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrations by E.B. Lewis

Red: A Crayon’s Story
by Michael Hall

Nerdy Birdy
by Aaron Reynolds, illustrations by Matt Davies

Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt De La Peña, illustrations by Christian Robinson

A Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Philip and Erin Stead

Mango, Abuela, and Me
by Meg Medina, illustrations with Angela Dominguez

I'd love to hear any others you'd add to my list!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 08/07/2017

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 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 Jenny Han's Always and Forever, Lara Jean and it was bittersweet for me. I absolutely love this series and recommend it to any teen fan of contemporary YA and love stories. I'm always happy to finish a series and get to hang out with favorite characters but I hate when it's over. I balled at the end of this book. I love Lara Jean and Peter.

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

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I go back to school this week! Ah! I'm planning to read Things That Surprise You by Jen Maschari and also The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber...but we'll see how it goes!

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!

Teachers Write 2017 - The End

Oh, my Teachers Write friends! It's here. The end is here. It's been a great four weeks but I'm still always sad to say goodbye to the end of Teachers Write. 

The good thing is that we get to keep writing with students when school starts again! And that's what Teachers Write is all about. We come together as a supportive community to learn from amazing people in the industry and work on our own craft. But the real magic of Teachers Write is that we get to take our experiences and share them with students.

My Teachers Write posts this summer were about sharing Tales From The Classroom and I hope they gave you some ideas for how you might keep Teachers Write with you all year. Here's a recap of my Teachers Write Tales From The Classroom posts. 

Tales From The Classroom #1
Tales From The Classroom #2

I hope you keep writing. I hope you invite your students to write with you. I hope you share some of the exercises or the quick writes with them. But more than anything, I hope you remember the love shared in this community. 

Writing is a process. And so much of the process is encouragement from others, positive feedback from others, cheerleading from others (someone to say Go! Go! Go!), solidarity from others, a gentle nudge from others, celebration with others. 

The community is what it's all about. Community comes first and it keeps us going.

Thank you for stopping in for Sunday Check-Ins! A big, giant hug from me to you. I'm so glad you are here. Knowing you are out there, writing along with me, spending your summer to work on your craft, inspires me. 

Now I have some awesome news to share! I hit 50,000 words! At the beginning of Teachers Write, I set out to draft a YA novel. My plan was to take our four weeks together and crank out as many words as possible but I had 50,000 words in mind. Last week, I was at 31,000 words and I thought there was no way I was going to make it to 50,000 but I did. If I had free time, I was writing and I stayed up late a few nights. But I'm excited to say I did it. I still have a few more scenes to write and then I'll have my first draft. I already know it's going to need lots of revision but it's great to know I have a first draft done. 

Here's my Pacemaker chart. This motivated me soooo much. It was awesome to be able to type in my word count and see how much progress I had made (and how far I still had to go!). 
In 2012, I drafted my very first young adult novel ever and now I've written my third. I have never ever written so fast. I'm not sure I like it, my brain has been on writing overdrive and I'm happy to put this draft away and to come back to it in six weeks. But overall, I'm thrilled that I got as much writing done as I did. Thank you so much for being here to cheer me on along the way! It means a lot!

This is it!
I hope you take a few minutes to reflect on these last four weeks.
However you made Teachers Write your own, 
be proud of yourself for being here. 
Let's celebrate! 


via GIPHY


Today, in the comments:
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the not-so-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-totally-fun part?)
How was your overall Teachers Write experience?
What are you looking forward to and planning for 

as you get ready for another school year?

A reminder of my rules for Teachers Write Sunday Check-Ins:
1. We respect each other and the type of writing we do.
2. We only offer constructive criticism.
3. We are positive and encourage each other at all times.
4. We recognize and maintain this as a safe environment.


P. S. Thank you for replying to each other's comments! 
While I read them all and do my best to reply and 
reply as soon as possible it doesn't always happen.
I so appreciate you cheering each other on through Teachers Write! You r-o-c-k!

Psst! Yes, you! One more thing...
Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter here!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Let's Celebrate Amy Krouse Rosenthal: A Beauty Salon

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. 

*                  *                   *

This week I'm celebrating Amy Krouse Rosenthal.

Like the rest of the kidlit community, I was devastated to hear that Amy Krouse Rosenthal passed away this spring. I don't even know where to begin in terms of all that she accomplished in her life. If you aren't familiar with her work or would like to explore all she did with her time here, you can visit her website or do a search and just keep clicking. 

She was utterly amazing. 

I'm lucky to live north of Chicago so I was able to drive downtown and visit AKR: A Beauty Salon at Carrie Secrist Gallery, an exhibit to celebrate Amy's life.

It was an absolutely beautiful, serene space. There were two other women there exploring when I got there but shortly after, they left and it was just me. 

But as quiet as it was, there was so much love. 

I took pictures as I moved through the exhibit so I could share them here and spread the love. 

I didn't really make a grand entrance, but I did pause to prepare myself. 
I wasn't sure what to expect but I knew I would be emotional.

To the left of the door was this display of Amy's books. 
There was also a dish of pennies and 
a fishbowl full of water with a layer of pennies on the bottom. 
It said:
"Take a penny on your way in, then make a wish on your way out. 
But not one of your own." 
With directions to make a friend and then to make a wish for them. 

In this case was a collection of Amy's notebooks and Brain Lint.  
Do you have a notebook for your random thoughts?

I love Moleskine Volant journals. They come in packs of two and I use one as a bullet journal and the other as a writer's notebook. 

Next to this super cute space to sit was a table 
where you could make yourself a cup of coffee. 
On the wall with the coffee station, was a draft of Little Pea, 
each page tacked to the wall with yellow pushpins.

Under Amy's words,
"I was here, you see. I was."
People shared messages, drew pictures, signed their names. 

In the center of the space was this picnic table with swing seats. 
(I saved this for last.)

The writing on the wall reminded me a bit of Charlie Brown.
And when I think of Charlie Brown, 
I remember being in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown
when I was in fifth grade. I've always loved the Happiness Is... song. 

Being here was happiness for me. 
I mean, I was sad to be there and know Amy is gone
but I was happy to know she gave us so much.  

A writing prompt for the wall: 
"Think about what ATM stands for in your mind, 
grab one of these pens, and write it." 
 To Amy, ATM stood for Always Trust Magic. 

Here's a little bit of magic:
Amy and I went to the same high school. 
(I just found out!)
One of my HS English teachers was named Amy. 
(She's a big part of why I'm a writer now.)

 You bet I did:
What would you write on the wall?

I took this pano while sitting on one of the beanbags in this corner of the room.  
I wrote a few pages in my (luckily? magically?) yellow notebook. 

I wrote about being 37 and loving life.
I wrote about my sons who are 7 and 10. 
I wrote about hoping I can show them how much I love them everyday.
I wrote about wanting the world for them. 
I wrote about wanting them to make the world a better place. 

On a pillar:

And finally, I went back to sit on a swing. 
I sat in front of a word search puzzle. 
Written along the side it said, "Finish what I've started..."
Who wrote those words?
I have no idea.
Who else sat in this same spot and found a word?
I have no idea.
Who is going to find the next word?
I have no idea.
But I felt connected. 
I felt part of this puzzle called life.

I didn't look at the words, I just scanned the word search. 
The first word I found was rainbow
So what did I do? 
I drew a rainbow. 
First on the paper.
And then on me.
All day, I've found myself looking down at the colors on my arm.
As I type these words, I know they are there. 
I haven't drawn or written on my hands in a really long time
...maybe since high school. 
I can't even remember the last time. 

But today I did. 
Because of Amy.  
I'm inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. 
I know many others are too. 


Because of Amy 
Today I
went through a new door
wrote on a wall
drew a rainbow on my arm
cried my eyes out
drove down a different street
emailed a friend I haven't talked to in a while
thanked a teacher
believed in my own magic a little bit more


Have you been inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal?
Please share in the comments what you have done Because of Amy. 

Also, if you'd like, 
you can make a donation to the AKR Yellow Umbrella Foundation


Thanks for coming to celebrate with me this week!
I love you.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Renew: Become a Better and More Authentic Writing Teacher

A couple of weeks ago I shared my excitement for a book that is getting a lot of buzz this summer, Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. It's deservedly getting a lot of attention because it has a lot of thought-provoking, non-nonsense ideas about how we need to pay attention to how we read. 

Well, today I'm so excited to share Renew! Become a Better and More Authentic Writing Teacher by Shawna Coppola. If you've read Disrupting Thinking, now it's time to read Renew! They compliment each other well but in Renew! Shawna focuses on writing and she tells it like it is. I found myself emphatically reading, cheering, and marking this book up because she her voice and passion comes through so clearly but also because her message needs to be heard!



If you aren't excited yet...maybe this will help...


In all seriousness, I adore Shawna and the messages she shares in this book. Here are a few of my favorite quotes that I'm keeping with me as I go into the school year.

"...it is crucial to routinely examine our practices in light of the children we have in front of us and adjust as needed." (p. 4)

"Oftentimes, when things aren't working, we are quick to place blame on students: they're 'unmotivated,' 'lazy,' or 'reluctant.' Rarely are we willing to turn the lens on ourselves to rethink - and if necessary, revise - the practices that have become, over time, our 'default' practices." (p. 4)

"I believe with every fiber of my being that it is essential for educators to do everything we can to avoid becoming complacent in our work." (p. 9)

"...if we are truly willing to honor the individuality of our students writers, the uniqueness of each community of learners, and the ever-changing nature of our global landscape, we must continually rethink, revise, renew our practice." (p. 10)

Um...I honestly want to quote all of chapter two but I can't so you seriously need to buy this book! In chapter two, Shawna points out that the writing process isn't as simple and clean as the posters we hang up in our rooms and she is soooooo write. She explains that we have to "acknowledge the dynamic nature and the fluidity of writing process." (p. 27)

She also talks about how we need to reexamine what it means to "write" in the 21st century, what tools we use with our student writers and how we assess and evaluate writing. And to top it all off, she shares how we need to look closely at our role as teachers of writers. I've been part of Teachers Write since in started in 2012 and it has completely changed how I view teaching writers. When we write ourselves, we have a deeper understanding of what writing is all about. In this chapter Shawna shares tons of resources for teachers to take the leap into being writers themselves.

I just had to throw one more round of applause in there. Shawna says so many things I believe and know to be true. I found myself nodding along and marking up the margins and I'm sure you will too!