Wednesday, June 30, 2010


DogkuTitle: Dogku    
Author: Andrew Clements  
Illustrator: Tim Bowers
Publication Date: 2007  
Genre/Format: Poetry-Fiction/Picture Book  
Summary: Clements tells the story of a stray dog that shows up at a family's back door one night.  Written in verse - haikus actually - we read about the family taking care of the dog until they have to decide if he goes to the pound or becomes a member of their family.  
What I Think: I read this book with one of my students this year and we both loved reading about having a dog - since neither of us do!  The haikus were fun and using this book was an easy way to introduce haikus. 
Read Together: Pre-K - 8 
Read Alone: 2 - 8  
Read With: Sometimes I Wonder If Poodles Like Noodles by Laura Numeroff; non-fiction about pets   
Snatch of Text: 
"There on the back steps,
the eyes of a hungry dog
Will she shut the door?"
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Predictions, Making Connections  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Poetry, Word Choice   
Writing Prompts: Write about your first pet or a pet you wish you could have.  Write a persuasive letter to you parents convincing them to get you the pet of your dreams.  Write your own haiku about your favorite pet.   
Topics Covered: Family, Animals, Love, Thoughtfulness
Translated to Spanish: No

Monday, June 28, 2010

Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don't)

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don't)
Author: Barbara Bottner  
Illustrator: Michael Emberly 
Publication Date: 2010
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Picture Book  
Summary: Poor Missy just doesn't like books and can't get excited about books despite her librarian's efforts.  Miss Brooks doesn't give up until she finds a book that's just what Missy is looking for!  
What I Think: Am I the only one who didn't know "Shrek" the movie was based off of Shrek! the book by William Steig?  I hadn't a clue!  I just added it to my list of books to get this week!  Back to Miss Brooks Loves Books...this is such a fun book that I could completely relate to after years of working with students and encouraging them to read.  Sometimes it's hard to find books kids will get into and other times it is!  Missy is such a great character, the text and the illustrations work together amazingly to bring her to life.  I love that Miss Brooks never gives up and finally does find a book that Missy wants to read and gets excited about reading.  I think this would be great for starting a discussion about choosing books AND I have a feeling kids would all want to read Shrek! the book if they read this book! 
Read Together: 1 - 5
Read Alone:  3 - 5
Read With: Shrek! by William Steig; Wild About Books by Judy Sierra;    
Snatch of Text: "Then in May, Miss Brooks tells us about something truly terrifying: Book Week!
   'You each need to pick a favorite story to share with the class.  I want you to waer a costume and tell us all about it.  Really show us why you love it!' she says.
   'I'll never love a book the way you do,' I tell Miss Brooks.
   'Don't be so sure,' she says.
   When I get home, I ask my mother if we can move to a new town.  My mother says there's a librarian in every town.
   I ask if she wants to do my assignment for me.
   'I've already been in the first grade,' says my mother."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Choosing Just-Right Books, Making Connections
Writing Strategies to Practice: Characterization, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you were not looking forward to something, but then it turned out to be a good experience.  Write about a person who got you interested in books.  Write an article persuading someone to read your favorite genre of books.    
Topics Covered: Reading, Genres, Creating an Environment for Reading  
Translated to Spanish: No

Friday, June 25, 2010

Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln

Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham LincolnTitle: Abe's Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln
Author: Doreen Rappaport  
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson 
Publication Date: 2008  
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction - Biography/Picture Book Summary: This book depicts Abraham Lincoln's life starting from when he was a young man, through his assassination.  The story of his life is told with striking illustrations and incorporation of Lincoln's actual words.  
What I Think: One of my favorite biographies is Martin's Big Words, so when I saw this book, which has a very similar cover, I was excited to read it because I knew how great the other one was.  This book has only an image of Lincoln on the cover, the title and other book information is found on the back cover.  It makes for an astounding effect if you ask me.  Peanut and I actually read this book, I wasn't sure how interested he would be, but the illustrations are amazing and with their help I was able to read the story to him.  There were times when I had to tell my own version of the story, especially because he has no idea what slavery is (he is only three...).  The emotions on the people's faces easily portray how sad they were to be enslaved, and I pointed out that a long time ago people had to wear chains and work hard.  Peanut felt so badly for the people.  Even at 3, he was interested and asked me if I ever had to be in chains.  I truly think it speaks for the book that he was able to understand such complex ideas at such a young age.  Each page also includes Lincoln's own words to match what is being told about at that time in his life.  I love it. 
Read Together: K - 8  
Read Alone: 4 - 8  
Read With: Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. By Doreen Rappaport; other biographies - about Lincoln or others; other text about the Civil War or slavery
Snatch of Text: 
"He had just a mite of schooling, 
yet he loved words the way his papa,
a master storyteller did.
He stuffed books inside his shirt.
In between splitting wood and plowing,
he stood in the field and read.
He read some books so many times,
he knew whole parts by heart.
The things I want to know are in books;
my best friend is the man who'll git ma book I ain't read."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Characterization, Biography/Autobiography  
Writing Prompts: What kind of person do you believe Lincoln was?  Support your answer using examples from the text.  Find an inspirational quote (from Lincoln or another famous person), and write about how that quote applies to your life.    
Topics Covered: Ambition, Challenges, Change, Courage, Empathy, Slavery, Civil War, Presidency  
Translated to Spanish: No

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Can Be Anything

I Can Be Anything!Title: I Can Be Anything!    
Author: Jerry Spinelli  
Illustrator: Jimmy Liao
Publication Date: 2010  
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book  
Summary: A fun story about a little boy imagining all the possibilities available to him in his future.   
What I Think: First of all, I have to say I love Jerry Spinelli so I was excited to see this new picture book from him!  There's a little orange circle on the cover of the book that says, "Perfect for Graduation".  I remember getting Oh, The Places You'll Go! By Dr. Seuss for my high school graduation.  There's something fun about dreaming of all the possibilities.  This book is a fun spin on all the great things to take part in in life.  I am a strong believer in celebrating life, and this book takes a close look at the little things that make life worth living!   
Read Together: Pre-K - 8
Read Alone: 3 - 8
Read With: Oh, The Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss; Don't Touch My Hat by James Rumford
Snatch of Text: "When I grow up, what shall I be?  Of all the many, many jobs, which one will be the best for me?  Pumpkin grower, dandelion blower, paper-plane folder, puppy-dog holder..."  
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Word Analysis
Writing Strategies to Practice: Rhyme, Compound Adjectives, Descriptive Writing, Characterization    
Writing Prompts: Write a poem using the first two lines of the book as a start - then write your own compound adjectives to describe what you would like to be.  Describe someone in your life using compound adjectives.       
Topics Covered: Hopes and Dreams, Perspective    
Translated to Spanish: No


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Versatile Blogger Award!

Okay, I just went back to check when I officially started blogging for Teach Mentor Texts, and it was less than two months ago.  My first post was on May 10th.  I have had so much fun getting to meet lots of other book bloggers.  It is a great community of people.  I love talking about books and I feel so connected with all these other people who are talking about books, too.  I'm looking forward to going back to school to share my blog with the teachers I work with.  I'm so proud of what this blog has become in such a short time.  

Thanks to Isalys and Vanessa from Book Soulmates for giving me The Versatile Blogger award.  It's fun to meet new people and I am so happy to accept this award from the Book Soulmates.  Definitely check out their blog, they are a ton of fun!  I'm considering the whole vlogging thing because of them....but so far just considering...maybe after the baby comes!

The rules for the award are:
1. Thank the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (in no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about the award.

Seven Things About Myself:
1. My favorite color is pink!
2. I'm horrible at gauging/estimating anything like distance, time, cost...
(I never know how long to put things in the microwave, for example!)
3. I am a planner - I love getting organized for things like birthday parties or other events.  I make list upon list to keep track of everything.
4. I have celebrity crushes on Ashton Kutcher and Shai Labeouf.
5. One of my favorite things to do is go to Starbucks and read in one of their comfy chairs with a frappuccino - soy double chocolatey chip with a shot of peppermint and whip - any size.
6. I was on the badminton team in high school.
7. I'm missing being able to run...I can't wait to get back out there!!!  

I nominate the following blogs for this award:

(These are the newest blogs I'm following - I believe that less is more!)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cultivating Readers and Writers

I started this blog to share mentor texts that can be used with children to promote literacy.  As I have been welcomed into the book blogging community, I have realized just how many readers and writers there are out there!  I could talk about books all day and my husband teases me for making friends with workers at Barnes and Noble.  As a teacher I'm all about encouraging my students to read and helping them find just-right books.  As a parent, I read to my son everyday and he sees me reading all the time (as I type this he's sitting on the couch looking through a Disney story collection book, it's the most adorable thing ever!).  I'm super curious about readers and writers and what their lives are all about - mainly because I want to find the secret to helping my students become lifelong readers - but also because it's just interesting to me to get a glimpse into the lives of readers and writers.  

Cultivating Readers and Writers will be a new series where I talk about myself as a reader and a writer and interview other readers and writers.

To start off, I want to talk about reading as a social experience.  One of my clearest memories from my childhood is reading with my mom.  I distinctly remember waiting with her in the doctor's office when she was pregnant with my sister.  I had to have been about 5 years old.  We read Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! by Dr. Seuss.  I'm sure I asked her to read it more than once and together we chanted "Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go now????"  One of my most recent memories is of Peanut asking me to read a book last night.  He brought a book over and snuggled up super close next to me, at one point, he put his little hand on my arm.  I love being able to be close to him and to share reading with him (especially since he's 3 now and he's on the go most of the time...).  

Both of these memories make me think that the idea of reading with someone else and bonding with someone else while reading supports reading in general.  Babies and children who are read to come to associate reading with comfort and enjoyment.  Of course, children who are read to are exposed to the complexities and rhythm of language which will help them in school and with reading later in life, but the act of reading with a child, snuggling up close, and sharing the experience - talking about the stories - is a contributing factor to cultivating a lifelong reader.

Readers, do you have a memory like one of mine?  Of someone reading to you as a child or reading to a child?  Do you agree that the act of reading with someone is as important as reading in general in cultivating young readers?  Please, share!  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Gaff Giveaway Winner!

Using the, I generated a winner for the Gaff giveaway!  The winner is:


Courtney from Stiletto Storytime

Congratulations to Courtney! I will be e-mailing you!

Thank you again to Peachtree Publishers who provided this book for review and giveaway and connected me with Shan Correa for the interview!  They have been great to work with, I suggest you visit their blog and/or check them out on Twitter at @PeachtreePub

Friday, June 18, 2010

Never Slow Dance with a Zombie

Author: E. Van Lowe  
Publication Date: 2009  
Genre/Format: Science Fiction/Novel  
Summary: Margot Jean Johnson wants to have a great high school career: she wants to be popular, she wants a boyfriend, she wants to have fun.  She gets what she wishes for when the student body are turned into zombies except for Margot and her best friend, Sybil.  The two rule the school until they realize figuring out how to turn the students back into real, living students is more important than being popular.  
What I Think: I've seen lots of zombie fiction lately and this is the first one I have read.  I have to say Margot was pretty shallow and not a very good friend at the beginning and even throughout much of this book.  With that said, there are lots of teens who maybe aren't the best of friends until their friendship.  I can definitely see how a teen might relate to this book.  I think it's funny that zombies are walking around the school and some of the situations Margot gets herself into.  And, of course, the school faculty is no help in the ordeal...
Read Together: 6 -8 
Read Alone: 6 - 8
Read With: Twilight (series) by Stephenie Meyer; Other zombie/vampire fiction  
Snatch of Text: "Mrs. Mars was the gym teacher from hell, an ancient leftover from the seventies when breaking rocks with sledgehammers was considered exercise.  She dressed in long pleated skirts and industrial-strength tennis shoes as if she were teaching gym class in Bulgaria.  Her hair was cinched back into a tight bun, and around her neck she wore a hideous blue scarf.  While she may have thought of it as a fashion statement, I was certain the scarf was there to hide the chicken skin that rippled along her throat." p. 21
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Inferences, Making Predictions, Making Connections
Writing Strategies to Practice: Characterization
Writing Prompts: Write about a time when you did something even though it went against the norm.  Write about a character that would defy stereotypes.    
Topics Covered: Friendship, Loyalty, Challenges, Stereotypes 
Translated to Spanish: No

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Gaff's Shan Correa Interview and Giveaway!

During Book Expo America week, I interviewed another book blogger.  This week, I get to participate in Peachtree Publisher's Blog Tour and interview an author - Shan Correa!  I recently posted my review of Gaff by Shan Correa.  Now, I am excited to be able to interview Shan Correa and giveaway a copy of Gaff!  This is Teach Mentor Text's first author interview.  Don't forget to register for the giveaway at the bottom of this post!
Why would you recommend Gaff for a young adult reader?
I don’t think I would, as I feel that Gaff is a solidly middle-grade (MG) and not a young-adult (YA) book.  Unlike many of the YA’s (ages 14-21) I’ve read, Gaff has no vampires, eroticism, or a main character with spitefully unpleasant or destructive “attitudes.”   Of course I’m stereotyping YA books, but I’m afraid that YA readers might demand their money back if they ordered Gaff by mistake!

What is the strongest message you hope they take away from reading Gaff?
You picked out some excellent themes, but the one I felt was absolutely central to this novel was the question of bravery.  What does true bravery mean, especially to boys who are forming ideas about bravery and cowardice as they grow up?   I love the quote that my editor pulled out for Gaff’s page in the publisher’s catalog:  “ . . . he (Paul) learns that being a man has nothing to do with wielding the power to hurt people and animals.”  I hope I didn’t belabor this point, as I didn’t want to make the book a lecture against war or animal cruelty, but I’d be pleased if its readers might by affected by this message.

Many authors contend that to be a great author you have to be a reader.  Do you agree or disagree?  And, why or why not?
There may be some rare cases where reading is not a prerequisite for writing great literature, but wow!—How would the author know how to write?  How to convey thoughts and emotions effectively in written form?  How to discern what readers love to read, and need to read?  Writing in a vacuum is good as an exercise sometimes, but a great author just about has to be an avid reader to develop, and then to share, his craft.  This is a long way of saying—I agree!

If you could choose any author from children's through YA books to visit for a day, who would you want to visit and what would you do with him/her, what questions might you ask him or her?
I’ve decided to visit Arnold Lobel.  Years ago (and three years before he died), he keynoted a Children’s Literature Hawaii conference and fell into step with me while we crossed the University of Hawaii’s campus.  Or, more likely, I fell into step with him, as I’d promised my son Brandon I’d deliver a sealed letter to his favorite author.  Lobel pocketed it after many thanks, and after several months, a letter arrived for Brandon, written in the author’s large, swirly, hand.  Inside were drawings of Toad and Frog, and a letter that confirmed my suspicions that this tremendously busy man cared deeply for children—even ones he’d never met.  I might not even ask him questions.  I’d just sit with him on a comfortable sofa while he read to me and showed me his own favorite drawings.  

To whom or what would you accredit your desire to become a writer?
The “what” was probably a writing contest where kids described why “My Pops is Tops.”  My little essay won first place and a pair of shoes for my dad—a big deal, as money was very tight for us when I was young.  Teachers encouraged me, too, but the realization that my own words could bring about positive things may have started with a pair of shoes for my dad!

Can you describe your ideal writing environment?
I’m sitting in it as I try to answer your questions.  I’m blessed to be here in my small office which has warm-looking koa-paneled walls and a view of palms, a stephanotis vine with fragrant white blossoms, crotons, and my thriving herb garden visible through a bay window that looks out onto our sunny back yard. I’ve a good computer here, a beautiful painting I can look at when I glance up from the screen, and a wall of books behind me.  I couldn’t ask for much more.

Do you set goals for yourself as a writer - for example, to finish so many pages in a day, to write for so many minutes/hours a day?
I have friends who do this, but I have to admit that I’m not always that disciplined.  I tell myself that writers to have lives if they’re to have something to write about!  But after a career of newspaper and magazine deadlines,  I set (and keep) goals best when under pressure from editors and now, from myself.

I love how you infused Hawaiian culture into Gaff!  I am ready to go and visit - to eat fresh pineapple and mango bread!  You live in Hawaii, is that why you chose to set Gaff in Hawaii?  (And do you have a recipe for mango bread?)
You‘ve paid me a real compliment, and I wish I could say I deliberately set Gaff in Hawaii and chose each detail to make Hawaii’s cultures become real for the readers, but Gaff wouldn’t have existed without these cultures.  I say “cultures,” plural, because the longer I live here, the more I appreciate what Hawaii’s all about—differences in race, history, arts, languages, attitudes, religions and yes, diet, all are here to savor.  Cultures affect stories effortlessly when you live in the Islands, another blessing of living and writing here.  As for the mango bread, I don’t have a favorite recipe.  As a newspaper food writer, I wrote about many foods, but just realized that I never wrote about mangoes.  I’ll be glad to find one for you, though, if you have an over-abundance of mangoes available where you live and want to use them up!

Rachel, an 8th grader at one of the middle schools I work at, read your book (in one weekend...I might add).  I asked her if she wanted me to tell you anything about what she thought and she said, "Just that I loved her book!"  She does have a question for you:"How does she make her characters so complex?"  Rachel feels that when she is writing she has a hard time developing her characters like you do in Gaff.  Any advice about how you develop characters?
First, “mahalo” to you, Rachel, for loving Gaff.  You are one of the first non-adults to have read it, so I especially treasure your brief  “review.”

About developing complex characters, I can tell you what I’ve been told to do, and what I actually do.  Many writers make pages of lists about their characters, even the minor ones.  “Does he like or hate his name?”  “What’s in the back of her closet?” “Her favorite snack?”  “Her first memory?”  “What makes him jealous?”  Even though they might use only a bit of this information, it helps them view their characters better as real, complex, people.

As for me, I just begin writing.  If I’m lucky, I start hearing the characters’ voices and after a while I trust them to guide me (or don’t trust them, which can also be interesting!).  This works better with first-person narrators such as Paul, but all of  your “viewpoint” characters must see, smell, taste, touch and hear things for you. It can be magical when you start wondering, “Where on earth did that come from?”  Or, for me, “How did Raymond and Grampa Silva get in here?”  They not only weren’t planned for, they also weren’t very welcome at first.  But they could only have come from my memories and experiences, and somehow my imagination snagged them while I was writing.

These are just two ways to make your characters richer— listing things about them as if they were real people, or writing and trusting your instincts. If one doesn’t help you, your teachers or books on writing can suggest others.     

How would you finish the sentence: “Writing is... easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.”  I stole that from Gene Fowler because it always makes me smile.  It’s only fair.  You make things hard for your heroes, so why should writing be easy for you?

Thank you so much for answering our questions!  I loved reading Gaff and being able to get a sneak peek into your life as a writer!  Aloha!

This book was provided for review and giveaway courtesy of Peachtree Publishers. Thank you!  They have been great to work with, I suggest you visit their blog and/or check them out on Twitter at @PeachtreePub!  And now for the giveaway!  The giveaway is now closed.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 08/28/2023

  It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!   It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kelle...