Monday, October 31, 2011

Which Witch is Which?

Title: Which Witch Is Which?    
Author: Judi Barrett
Illustrator: Sharleen Collicott
Publisher: Atheneum
Publication Date: September 2001   
Genre/Format: Fiction/Search and Find/Picture Book   
Summary: Page by page, readers are asked to listen and look for witches doing silly things! Can you find which witch is which? 
What I Think: I'm excited to share this book with you on Halloween! I've been saving this review for a while now but Halloween is finally here. I get excited to read this book with kids because it's fun. I get into such a rhythm with all the rhymes.
  This is the perfect book for teaching homophones. You can easily introduce "which" and "witch". It's also a way to talk about the question word, "which". With some younger readers, you will definitely have to help them find the witches that are options based on the clues and then help them decide which one is the right answer.
  Each page is also full of rhymes. Kids have to think about the different descriptions of the witches on the page and then search for the specific witch they are looking for. I love how much thinking goes into searching for the witches. The vocabulary is great and really forces kids to think. Every time I have read this book with a student, there are always words to be taught and having the illustrations right there  helps them visualize the meaning of the word. There is a lot of thinking that goes into identifying which witch is which!
Read Together: Pre-K - 6 
Read Alone: 3 - 6 
Read With: Where's Waldo? by Martin Handford, I Spy by Jean Marzollo, Look! A Book! A Zany Seek-and-Find Adventure by Bob Staake 
Snatch of Text: 
"Which witch has an awful itch:
Is it the one doing a jitterbug?
Is it the one lying on the rug?
Is it the one looking very smug?
Or is it the one playing with a pug?" 
Reading Strategies to Practice: Asking Questions, Vocabulary, Stop and Think
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Narrative
Writing Prompts: Take a picture or draw a picture and then write your own "Which?" questions. Use one of the scenes from the book to write a story from one of the witches' perspectives.  
Topics Covered: $100 Words, Search-and-Find, Witches, Rhyme, Homophones, Whimsical 
Translated to Spanish: No

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bit of Me(me) - 10/29/2011

We all leave our “footprint” on the world, in one way or another. In our daily lives, we each do something or are someone that makes the world a little better simply by being ourselves. Danielle from There's a Book  created this wonderful, weekly meme to learn a bit more about bloggers in this blogging community we all have come to love. The idea is to share our lives outside of books. Each week a question will be posted. Your job is to answer in the following week’s “A Bit of Me(Me)”. You can link up here with your post that answers Danielle's question from last week.

We understand that some of you are skeptical about putting yourself out there on the internet and completely respect that. If ever a questions is posed through this meme that you feel is too personal for your liking, feel free to post something else. We don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable with what they share and promise the kids will always be “kid-friendly”. Really, this is a primarily children’s and young adult site, you know?

So, let’s get started!

Describe your perfect winter day.

Seriously, that is really this week's question. Really. I'm not sure if you are like me, but I'm enjoying my cool but sunny fall weather and not really excited about winter rolling around. I heard this year is supposed to be an exceptionally brutal winter in Chicago. I'm going to stay positive though. I can handle it, I've lived here all my life. I just don't really look forward to bundling kiddos up in winter coats and hats and mitten (that I can never find the matches to...) and then trying to squish them into car seats. And defrosting the car windows before we leave. And shoveling the walk and driveway. Wait. Positive, I said, right?

Okay, my perfect winter day would be spent as such, ahem:

Waking up in my nice, cozy bed. 
Sun shining outside. 
New snow glistening on treetops outside my window.
Peppermint hot chocolate warming my fingers wrapped around the mug.
Pancakes drowning in melted butter and pure maple syrup.
Watching movies, playing cards, crafting sticky, gluey projects.
Snuggling on the couch while reading our pile of books.
Tucking sleeping kiddos into bed.
Reading my own book.
Reflecting on my relaxing day before drifting to sleep in my nice, cozy bed.

The poetic side of me took over! Wintry days seem to beg for poems. Now I'm kind of looking forward to winter. At least, winter break, notice my poem avoided going out in the snow? I like to look at it out my window, thank you very much. 

Next week’s A Bit of Me(Me) will be hosted by Crystal at I Totally Paused! where she will provide the link-up and the next question for the following week. Thanks everyone! See you next week!

Now, your turn! Link up below and tell everyone “A Bit of You!” 

Next Week’s Question (link-up with your answer at Crystal’s site): How do you eat your cereal? Do you like it crispy or soggy? Do you like it with milk or without milk? Do you like lots of milk or just a smidge?

Have a question to add? We love suggestions! Just leave them in the comments and I’ll share them with Danielle so we can think about adding them in as we go! Also, feel free to grab either of the buttons for your own “A Bit of Me(Me)” post (or create your own), but make sure to link back to There’s A Book(You can also resize these down to a smaller size if you’d like.)


Friday, October 28, 2011

My Love-Hate (Book) Relationship

If you follow me on Twitter you know that I've been ranting and raving about Jon Klassen's recently released book I Want My Hat Back. If you haven't read the book, I suggest you beg, borrow, or steal buy it from where ever you procure books.

If you follow me on Twitter, you might be surprised that I'm recommending this book, but thanks to my Twitter support group (mainly Colby Sharp - Hi Colby! *waves*), I have come to appreciate the brilliance that is I Want My Hat Back but not without discovering a few revelations along the way.

Rereading is a super power.
After all the buzz I had heard about this book, I was eager to finally get my hands on it. The first time I read it was in my own head and I got to the very unpredictable ending and thought, "Nuh-uh," as I shook my head and wrinkled my brow. Fail.

The second time I read it was that same night to my four-year-old. I got to the end of the book and Peanut didn't get it so there I was trying to explain what had happened and trying to gauge what he thought...but it was like trying to explain the punch line of a joke when you haven't even told the joke right in the first was just a mess. I still wasn't a fan - I felt like there wasn't a positive message I could discuss with Peanut. Fail #2.

This is when I turned to Twitter and went back and forth discussing how I just couldn't come to grips with the ending. **See below: The Power of Peers**

The next time I read it I actually got to listen to my husband read it aloud to Peanut (that is, after I shoved it into his hands and demanded that he read it because I needed his perspective). This is where I got a glimpse of it's potential as an awesome book. He was cracking me up as he read the different voices for the different character's that the bear meets throughout the book. All of a sudden I was excited to see his reaction when he got to the end. When he realized what happened at the end he turned to Peanut and the looked at each other with faces of, "Ah!" before they cracked up. I think because Peanut knew what was coming, he was able to react in a different way himself.

I still wasn't quite convinced yet so I read it aloud with one of my fourth grade students on Monday. We have been practicing making inferences and I Want My Hat Back is an excellent book for looking closely at making inferences (besides also being great for predicting and examining dialogue). When we came to the climax of the book, the suspense in the room was awesome. And then we read the end and my student's eyes lit up when he realized what had happened. And that's when I realized it was a fun book. Because this student was older, I was able to read it without having to explain it and I wasn't caught up with worrying what it was teaching my little four-year-old babe - it was just about the silliness of the story.

If I had read the book once and never read it again (and again), I would not have realized how much fun this book is. It just goes to show you how our perspective can change from rereading. Rereading is truly a super power!

The Power of Peers
One of the things I have realized and read about is how social reading really is. Outside of school, we read to ourselves snuggled under blankets or curled up in armchairs. The act of reading seems to mainly occur in isolation. BUT, if you are a reader, I'm guessing you know the thrill of sharing your newest read with a friend, family member, or perfect stranger. You've most likely experienced the instant kindredship when you can gush over a favorite book with someone else.

Beyond sharing favorite books, I notice that talking to others about their interpretations or opinions about books helps me to grow as a reader. While I read a book and apply my own background knowledge and ideas to the book, I learn so much from how other's digest the same book.

Since reading I Want My Hat Back, I have talked to so many different people about what they think of the book. Most people can see my initial dislike of the book but pretty much everyone who has read it also cracked up before seeing my perspective.

This is where I have to thank Colby for listening to my reasons for not wholeheartedly embracing this book the first time I read it. Seriously, it has been Twitter therapy as we have gone back and forth discussing how I was probably the only person to ever read the book and have qualms about it.  **See below: Background Knowledge Works In Mysterious Ways** 

If I had read the book and not talked to anyone about it, had never shared my own feelings, and then listened to what others had to say, I would never have realized I was the only one worried about the ending (Anyone else out there on my side? Bueller?). It's amazing how peers can help us expand our thinking as we hold their perspectives up to ours.

Background Knowledge Works In Mysterious Ways
I'm sure you'll be hard-pressed to find one of my reviews where I don't recommend activating background knowledge before reading or where it doesn't behoove the reader to activate his or her background knowledge. Any good reader is going to read a book and figure out how it fits in to his or her schema but it's interesting to think of how truly powerful background knowledge really is.

Why didn't I initially love I Want My Hat Back? I have a few ideas. Remember how it has an unpredictable ending? I really mean unpredictable. I'm used to stories wrapped up in purty, little packages where the protagonist learns from dealing with the antagonist and everything is resolved, happily ever after. The end. This book doesn't fit into my schema. It does not match what my brain expects a book to be! My background knowledge got in the way of me "getting" this book.

Furthermore, I'm used to reading books and discussing them with my kiddo. When it came time to try and talk to him about this book I was kind of stumped. Initially, I just couldn't even process how this book expected me to be able to talk about conflict management when it just defied every idea I have about dealing with problems. Again, my background knowledge just didn't match up!

And finally, and possibly most influential, is the fact that I'm a vegan. It sounds silly but I've read so much about animals and the food industry and have totally redefined my eating habits because of it that I think all that background knowledge factored in when I read I Want My Hat Back. It goes back to my initial reaction of, "Nuh-uh." I was totally shocked by the end of the book and who I am as a person snuck in and told me I couldn't stand for this book. Background knowledge can be a sneaky little booger, but that's why we have our friends to help us expand our interpretation of a book and rereading to help us go back and work to make a book fit into our schema.

Craziness, right? I know. I realize it's hard to believe all the discussion that has stemmed from one book! The good thing is that, after all of this, I actually really enjoy this book! It took me a while and I do think we can have discussions about the rabbit's and the bear's actions with kiddos but in the end I can read the book and laugh at how it all plays out.

If you follow me on Twitter, I'm sorry for the craziness of my tweets surrounding this book! But wasn't it worth it? I hope getting to see my perspective has helped you reassess the book. Haven't we all learned a lot about readers and reading and rabbits and bears this week?

P.S. - Check back next week for a review of I Want My Hat Back and ideas for using it in the classroom.

This post is dedicated to my Twitter therapist, Colby Sharp 
and all the misunderstood rabbits of the world.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Emerald Atlas

The Emerald Atlas (The Books of Beginning #1)Title: Book of Beginnings #1: The Emerald Atlas (Audiobook)
Author: John Stephens
Narrator: Jim Dale
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April, 2011
Genre/Format: Adventure/Novel
Summary: Kate, Michael and Emma have been alone for 10 years. Kate's last memory of her mother is as the 3 of them were being taken away; her mother told her to take care of her siblings and that has been the center of Kate's existence since then. And she has done the best she could as the three of them have been shuffled from orphanage to orphanage never really finding home and always wondering why their parents abandoned them. But their newest orphanage is different- there are no other kids, it is run by a mysterious man named Dr. Pym, odd things are happening and it's in a town that seems more dead than alive. And the odd becomes odder when they discover a book, place a picture in it, and travel back 15 years in the past to a time where conflict is at the center of the town. 
What I Think: First, I am biased because I listened to the audio book and I love Jim Dale. Anything Jim Dale reads automatically is good. As a friend of mine said on Twitter, I could listen to him read the phone booth. But... back to the book- this book is EPIC! I can't think of much to compare it to, but the adventure is at the same level as Harry Potter, Lightning Thief, Peter & The Starcatchers, Kingdom Keepers, etc. Although a similar adventure-type book, it is a very much unique and stand alone novel. 

The character building and development in this novel was phenomenal. I really enjoyed the three siblings, they were all very unique, but complete and likable as well. Kate is the responsible one who follows the rules, tries to keep the peace and overall does what she promised her mother. Michael is the scholar and dreamer. He loves dwarves and constantly is writing in his journal. Emma is our rebel, always picking fights and saying exactly what is on her mind. There were also some supporting characters who really made the book come alive such as Gabriel, a man from a nearby village who Emma befriends, and Robbie the dwarf king, who Michael is in awe of. The only character I never felt connected to was the villain, so that may not be a bad thing.

The plot development was also pretty flawless and in a book that has time travel, magic, changing pasts and three protagonists, it would have been very easy to become lost, but John Stephens mapped out his plot perfectly and it all comes together (including the end which was just enough conclusion to have closure, but just enough cliff hanger that you must read the sequel).

Another plus of this series, is that I believe that it will be loved as a middle grade and a young adult novel. It could easily be classified as both because it is just a pure fantasy adventure that will grip any reader. 
Read Together: Grade 4 to 8
Read Alone: Grade 6 to 10
Read With: Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan, Peter and the Starcatchers series by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson, Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson, Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie, The Extraordinary Adventure of Alfred Kropp series by Rick Yancey
Snatch of Text: "The tall man had moved into the glow of a streetlamp and was clearly visible for the first time. To a casual passerby, his appearance would not have inspired much confidence. His overcoat was patched in spots and frayed at the cuffs, he wore an old tweed suit that was missing a button, his white shirt was stained with ink and tobacco, and his tie - this was perhaps the strangest of all - was knotted not once but twice, as if he'd forgotten whether he's tied it and, rather than glancing down to check, had simply tied it again for good measure. His white hair poked out from beneath his hat, and his eyebrows rose from his forehead like great snowy horns, curling over a pair of bent and patched tortoiseshell glasses. All in all, he looked like someone who had gotten dressed int he midst of a whirlwind and, thinking he still looked too presentable, had thrown himself down a flight of stairs." (p. 3-4)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Visualizing, Making predictions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Imagery, Foreshadowing, Plot Development
Writing Prompts: Throughout the novel, Kate puts herself in danger to save her sister and brother, have you ever been in a situation where you did something you didn't want to because you knew it would make a loved one happy?; Michael loves dwarves and reads everything he can about them.  What is a topic you love and enjoy doing research about?
Topics Covered: Adventure, Choices, Family, Bravery, Trust, Responsibility
Translated to Spanish: Yes

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Call of the Wild Giveaway Winner!

We are happy to announce the winner of our giveaway of
  Jack London's Call of the Wild as adapted by Ryan Jacobson!!

The number of entries was entered into and the winner is:
#3 - Colby Sharp of Sharpread: One Book at a Time

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway, to Ryan Jacobson for the author interview, 
and Adventure Publications for providing a copy of the book for review and giveaway.


Under the Mesquite

Under the Mesquite Title: Under the Mesquite
Author: Guadalupe Garcia McCall
Publisher: Lee and Low Books
Publication Date: October, 2011
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction (Multicultural)/Novel in Verse
Summary: Lupita's family came to Texas to follow the American dream when she was a child. Her father is always working and her mother's only job is to be a mother. Lupita had a life that she adored- She is the oldest of 8 siblings and has always had a set role in her family: a mini-mom helping her mother raise her siblings. She couldn't ask for anything else. But then Lupita notices her mother acting depressed and crying by the mesquite tree in the rose garden. Then Lupita eavesdrops and learns that her mother has cancer. Now, everything that was predictable and normal about her life are no longer her focus. Will her life ever return to normal again? 
What I Think: This book is a beautiful book in verse that not only has a touching narrative, but has exquisite verse. The narrative deals with a topic that many readers will have some sort of connection with, cancer, as well has coming of age in a household where the disease has struck. But what makes this book different than other stories about the effects of cancer is that it also tells the story of growing up as a Mexican-American here in America.
Read Together: Grades 6 to 12
Read Alone: Grades 7 to 12
Read With: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, La Linea by Ann Jaramillo, The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
Snatch of Text: These are just three of almost a hundred amazing snatches of text that would be great mentor texts for different poetic elements. 

"and the moon in this place
is wearing a pale, thin dress
as it seems to jump from behind
one cloud to another, hiding
its exquisite face from us." (p. 144)

"For my sisters, senorita means
having someone to worship:
it is the wonder of
seeing their oldest sister
looking like Cinderella
on her way to the ball." (p. 76)

"The other girls follow them,
a convoy of high-heeled hyenas
in mass migration." (p. 81) 
Reading Strategies to Practice: Making connections, Visualizing, Characterization
Writing Strategies to Practice: Any type of figurative language/poetic elements- personification, symbolism, simile, and metaphor.
Writing Prompts: At the center of Lupita's life you find her family, write a poem about your family using multiple poetic elements.
Topics Covered: Cancer, Immigration, Family, Identity, Happiness
Translated to Spanish: No, although the book has Spanish sprinkled throughout.

Monday, October 24, 2011

All the Broken Pieces

Title: All the Broken Pieces
Author: Ann E. Burg  
Publisher: Scholastic Press 
Publication Date: April 2009   
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel in Verse   
Summary: Two years after being air-lifted out of Saigon, a young boy shares his story of adjusting to his new life while missing and remembering the life he left behind. He not only tells his own story but the story of others dealing with how they have been impacted by the war. 
What I Think: This book was close to home for me because my own dad was a soldier in the Vietnam War. He didn’t talk about his experiences much while I was growing up but when I was in college he finally got help from the VA and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He had been dealing with it on his own ever since coming back from Vietnam but had never been diagnosed. I will never forget when I took a psychology class in high school and read the few paragraphs explaining PTSD in my textbook. I instantly thought of my dad and knew he had PTSD. Because he didn’t talk to us about Vietnam, I didn’t bring up my revelation in psychology class. It wasn’t until a few years later when he sought help himself that I was able to write a letter to explain my experiences with my dad growing up and how I knew he had PTSD. 

While I wasn’t there to experience the war or what life was like in the U.S. during and after the war, I think Burg does a wonderful job of describing how people might have been feeling and how a Vietnamese boy might have been treated here in the United States. I’m glad to see more and more books set during or around the time of the Vietnam War. It is bringing awareness to life during that time period and what people were experiencing from different perspectives. 
Read Together: 6 - 12 
Read Alone: 6 - 12 
Read With: Shooting the Moon by Francis O'Roark Dowell, When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt, Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Inside Out and Back Again By Thanhha Lai 
Snatch of Text:  
"My fingers stumble
through the scales
and through 
'The Gypsy Camp.'

They crowd the keys, 
landing in two spots
at the same time.
They slip, clank, and clash
into sounds
that aren't music.

Watch, Jess says calmly
when my fingers freeze
in frustration.

Jeff's fingers are
bigger than mine, 
but they know how 
to touch each key,
one at a time.
They unlock each sound

Jeff doesn't make mistakes.

His fingers brush 
across the piano keys
like branches
of the tamarind
swaying in the wind.
How can such big hands
make such quiet music?' 
p. 40-41
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Personal Narrative 
Writing Prompts: Write about poem that describes a time in your life when you were learning something new. How did you learn? How did you feel? Write about a time in your life when you did something for the first time or went somewhere for the first time. 
Topics Covered: Family, Friends, War, Loyalty, Emotions, Feelings, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,  
Translated to Spanish: No


Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Bit of Me(me) 10/22/11

I'm excited about this week's question! I love being part of this meme. It makes me think about myself but also share it with others! I'm not going to think about next week's question mean, I have to try and look forward to winter? No, let's focus on the question at hand today, please!

If you could pick one TV show, one movie, one song and one book to limit yourself to for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

I'm not sure why, but these actually seem easy today! Here goes:

TV Show:
I could so watch Friends over and over again. I miss when we used to have it on everyday before dinner to watch the reruns. Thursday nights, when a new episode was one, I would sit with my roommates and watch together. After college, I used to go visit college friends on Thursday nights and we would still watch together. I rarely watch TV any more, and if I do, it's after my kiddos go to bed. I miss watching Friends. When my sister got married a few weeks ago, all I could think was, "He's her lobster!"

Star Wars
Is it cheating to pick Star Wars? There are six of those movies! Peanut and I have been watching a lot of Star Wars lately. I learn something new every time I watch them and I love all the storylines going on. It's not just a simple movie and it's so much more than "Luke, I am your father." I love it and can't get enough. I hope Peanut stays in his Star Wars phase for a while!


If You Ain't Here to Party
This song is so much fun to me right now! I don't feel like I could ever get tired of hearing. (Thankfully, I figured out what song it was that I had stuck in my head!)

Time Traveler's Wife By Audrey Niffenegger
I adore this book. I love it so much. I love that the timeline is crazy and jumps back and forth and as a reader you have to work to figure it out. I love the idea that Henry can time travel - even if it doesn't always happen at the most opportune times. I love that Claire is such a strong woman despite being in love with someone unpredictable and unreliable. I love how their stories intertwine. I love how they are so much a part of each other and each other's lives. I love how I have already read it four times and it makes me cry multiple times every time. 
I love it. 

Thanks for the question, Kellee!!! To read others' posts and link up, visit Danielle's blog at There's a Book!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Call of the Wild: A Choose Your Path Book AND GIVEAWAY!

Kellee and I are so excited to be part of the blog tour for Jack London's Call of the Wild adapted by Ryan Jacobson into a Can Your Survive? Choose Your Path book! Today at Teach Mentor Texts we have an interview with the author, our review, and then a giveaway of the book!

We welcome Ryan to Teach Mentor Texts! We were curious about what it's like to actually a write a Choose Your Path book and we got our answers!

TMT: I loved R.A. Montgomery’s Choose Your Own Adventure series when I was younger. I’m so excited to see more of these kinds of books. As a writer, what helps you recognize a story that you believe you can adapt into a Choose Your Path book?

RJ: It’s funny you should ask. I’m reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and feeling like it probably won’t work as a Choose Your Path book. You can perhaps call it pacing, but what I look for are moments in which the main character makes a decision that has a lasting impact on the story—points where you can stop and ask yourself, “What if?” Every story has at least a few; the ones that work as Choose Your Path adaptations have them often and at fairly regular intervals.

Of course, there are plenty of other considerations. With Frankenstein, the ending is not exactly happy. Therefore, the “correct” decisions are actually the wrong decisions—which isn’t great for this format. And with Sherlock Holmes (due out in a few weeks), I almost made the mistake of casting the readers as Dr. Watson. He is more of an observer and recorder, while the readers’ character should be a decision-maker.

TMT: Is it easier to write your own Choose Your Path book and to write the different endings, or easier to adapt a book or story that has already been written into a Choose Your Path book?

RJ: Adapting an already-written story is easier. And harder. It’s actually difficult to compare because each method requires a different way of thinking. Writing my own story is all about creating. I put together my own outline; I control the story’s pace; I make sure important choices happen every few pages. In contrast, adapting a story is more about problem-solving. I have someone else’s story, and I need to bend, stretch and squish it into the Choose Your Path format. The really hard part is keeping the original storyline intact while shrinking it to a manageable length. After that, there’s a lot of creative editing and rearranging to ensure that a “choice” occurs every few pages. I also have to adapt my writing style so that my scenes read like those of the original author. Yes, there is definitely a “puzzle” feel to the whole process—and I love it!

TMT: How do you keep all the twists and endings straight? Do you have to map it out somehow? (I’m envisioning a wall full of sticky notes with arrows pointing here and there!)

RJ: Ha! You’re exactly right, sort of. That’s how it looked when I did my first Choose Your Path book, Lost in the Wild. But I’ve gotten older and wiser. Now, I keep things straight by keeping my files organized. Every time there’s a jump in the book, that’s a different Word document for me. The prologue file is named 00_prologue, and the choices that follow are 01A_choice and 01B_choice. In my files, A is always the right choice while B (and C and D) is the wrong choice. 01A will eventually lead to a new choice, so the next documents will be 02A_choice and 02B_choice. And so on. I have no idea if this makes sense to you, but trust me: it works.
And as for the wall full of sticky notes and arrows? That’s the editor’s desk.
TMT: It does make sense to me...but it doesn't seem easy!  It sounds like you have to be very organized! What is your ideal time and/or place for writing?

How about a beach on Kauai at sunset? Of course, that doesn’t happen too often. As strange as it sounds, I love lying on my bedroom floor, typing on my keyboard while a fan blows against me. With two young boys and a day job, I’m not fussy about “when.” I write any chance I get.

TMT: A beach on Kauai sounds amazing! (If only teleportation was available and free...) And finally, we love to end an interview at Teach Mentor Texts by asking how you would finish this statement: “Reading is..."

RJ: …learning. It’s impossible to read without learning, which is why so many of the smart, successful people I know are readers.

Thank you so much to Ryan for answering our questions! We love getting a glimpse into a writer's process and life as a writer! Next, we have our review of Ryan's adaptation of Jack London's Call of the Wild: A Choose Your Path Book! After the review you will find the form to fill out for the giveaway! 

Title: Jack London’s Call of the Wild: A Choose Your Path Book
Author: Written originally by Jack London, Adapted by Ryan Jacobson    
Publisher: Lake 7 Creative
Publication Date: October 2011 
Genre/Format: Adventure/Survival – Choose Your Path Book/Novel 
Summary: Jacobson has taken Jack London’s Call of the Wild and adapted it into a Choose Your Path book. You are a dog trying to survive in the Alaskan wilderness –will the choices you make help you survive…or not? 
What I Think: The only Jack London work I have read is the short story To Build a Fire. The writing style of this book definitely reminded me of that story. Making Call of the Wild seems to me like it would encourage students to read this book because it makes it more accessible. When I read To Build a Fire, it was definitely a story that seems to go on and on and on and it seems like Call of the Wild has a similar narrative style. For students who might not stick with a book written in this style, I really think this book would be a great way to introduce them to Jack London’s writing or even to teach students about the genre of adventure/survival.

While I was reading this book, I was thinking about how intense some of the situations are for the dogs.  Some of the situations the dogs deal with are raw and harsh. There are a few scenarios where the decision you make leads to your death. I kept thinking about the Iditarod race and how severe conditions can be for the dogs and how much care and attention is paid to them. Pairing this book with informational text about the Iditarod would really add to a student’s understanding of dog sledding. I was struck by how true to life this story was and how getting into a fight with a pack of dogs or making a wrong move with the right human would lead to a dog’s death. This book makes the harshness of the sport and life in the wild come to life.

There is definitely a lot to learn about dog sledding and this is a great book to pair with non-fiction text so kids can learn about dog sledding and then to ask them to write persuasive essays concerning the humaneness of the Iditarod race or other dog sled races.  This is a perfect topic to use when teaching ethos, pathos, and logos in persuasive writing because there are many different types of arguments that students can make to support or oppose dog sledding. 

One very unique quality of this book is that it is written in second person. It is rare to find a book written in second person. Sometimes when I teach the different points of view a writer can take on students will ask about second person. When I was a student, I was totally the one who was curious about what second person was all about. (Why do first and third get all the attention???) This book is a great example of a text written in second person.
Read Together:  5 – 12
Read Alone: 6 - 12 
Read With: "To Build a Fire" By Jack London, Runt By Marion Dane Bauer, Nonfiction text about dog sledding and the Iditarod
Snatch of Text: "This is the ultimate test of your skill; you will not pass it up. You leap forward and bark, announcing your presence. Back and forth the bull tosses his great antlers, branching to 14 points and seven feet part. His small eyes burn with a bitter light, and he roars with a fury at sight of you.
     You cut the bull out from the herd. You bark and dance in front of the bull. You remain just out of reach of the great antlers and terrible hoofs, which could stamp your life out with a single blow. Unable to turn his back on you, the bull is driven into moments of rage. At such moments he charges, and you retreat, luring him on.
     As twilight falls, the old bull stands with lowered head, watching his herd as they shamble away through the fading light. He cannot follow, for you are a merciless fanged terror that will not let him go. More than half a ton he weighs; he has lived a long, strong life, full of fight and struggle. Yet at the end, he faces death at the teeth of a creature whose head does not reach beyond his knees." (page number uncertain because it was taken from the ARC.)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Persuasive
Writing Prompts: Write a persuasive essay about whether you support or oppose dog sled races such as the Iditarod.
Topics Covered: Family, Loyalty, Survival, Making Choices, Taking Risks
Translated to Spanish: No

The giveaway is now closed.

Thank you to Ryan and Adventure Publications for providing a copy of the book for review and giveaway! We are happy to be part of this blog tour!

If you want to check out the review at the previous stop on this book tour, visit Book Dads.
The blog tour continues! Check Danielle's blog, There's a Book, for her review on Monday, October 24th! 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011


ShineTitle: Shine
Author: Lauren Myracle
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: May, 2011
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
Summary: Cat and Patrick were best friends. Soul mates. But have grown apart over the past 3 years. However, when Cat hears about the horrible hate crime which has put Patrick in a coma, she knows that is up to her to truly get to the bottom of the story. Shine follows Cat as she finds out the truth to determine who is the one who hurt her friend. 
What I Think: This is a book about more than just finding a criminal. This is a book about overcoming past injustices and obstacles and ultimately finding out the truth. The truth not only about the hate crime at hand, but also Cat finding out the truth about herself and others in her town. It is also about the thin line between good and bad. It is always not clear which side of the line someone falls. And sides change easily. This is an important book to have around and ranks up there with books like Speak as a book that is just so tough to read, but so important to share. 

I loved how the plot was put together as well. As you read, you become one with Cat. You feel her pain, her frustration and her joys. You cry with her and you laugh with her. You truly love her by the end of the book. And as you follow her, the book unfolds like a road map with more and more of the information being given to you each day that Cat investigates Patrick's attack. Then at the end of the book, all the information fits perfectly together and the puzzle becomes clear to all.

I have heard nothing but good things about this book from the minute ARCs were given out at ALAN 2010. However, I was still worried about the integrity of the book since it was dealing not only with a very touchy subject, but also could easily offend a whole region of people. But Lauren Myracle wrote this book with polished purity.

Read Together: Grades 9 to 12
Read Alone: Grades 9 to 12
Read With: I'll be honest- this book is so very unique that I can't even think of any books to ladder with it. I thought about listing some great LBGT books, but Shine was more than that.  Then I thought about mysteries, but I have never read a mystery like this one.  The only mystery that I could think of is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher because they both are mysteries in an uncommon sense and deals with injustices.  
Snatch of Text (some of many that I could have chosen from): "I felt blurry around my edges, like smoke, or the soft ssssss of a snuffed candle." (Ch. 1) 

"Her wisdom applied to more than butterflies and roly-polies, because life was fragile. Things happened. Things changed. A girl full of light could get that light snuffed out, and when everything around her was dark, she could roll up into a ball and ignore the whole world, starting with her best friend." (Ch. 1)

"I told myself it wasn't a big deal. Patrick liking boys was part of who he was, but it was hardly the whole picture." (Ch. 2)

"My humiliation turned to rage, and that was good. But it would take longer still for it to shift into something I could control. Something I could fight back with..." (Ch. 9)

"She said God had blessed me with an abundance of spirit, and not to ever squash it down. She said there was goodness in everything and everyone, and it was our job to let that goodness shine...
'God loves you even on your blackest days, and He will always, always be there to guide you home. All you have to do is look for the light of his love. As long as you remember that one thing, why, then you can cast off the darkness and shine again, can't you?'"(Ch. 9) 
Reading Strategies to Practice: Making connections, Predicting, Asking questions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Articles, Characterization, Plot Development, Dialogue
Writing Prompts: Anti-bullying has become a focus in schools around the nation; do you think that bullying is an issue that needs to addressed at schools?
Topics Covered: Hate crime, Homosexuality, Friendship, Alcoholism, Abuse, Prejudice, Bullies, Taking Risks, Gossip, Individuality
Translated to Spanish: No

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Monster at the End of This Book

Title: The Monster at the End of This Book     
Author: Jon Stone   
Illustrator: Michael Smollin  
Publisher: Golden Books  
Publication Date: 1971  
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
Summary: Grover spends the whole book trying to keep you (the reader) from turning the pages because he is so scared of the monster at the end of the book. Are you afraid of monsters or are you brave enough to see what's waiting at the end of the book? 
What I Think: I hadn't heard of this book (ever) until we participated in the 10 for 10 Picture Book fun in August. There were a few people who had this book on their top ten list and then I ran into it at a bookstore when I was visiting Boston and had to buy it. I had almost forgotten about it until I saw that Starbucks had the code to download the app for this book.

I brought home the book this weekend and Peanut and I read it and cracked up and had to read it again right away. Since we have downloaded the app, he has read the book on his own and with various family members that we saw this weekend. Everyone loved it. The app is so worth it. It's great when Grover is brought to life.

This book is a wonderful book for discussing the reading strategy of making predictions. While we know there is going to be a monster at the end of the book, we don't get any clues about what the monster is going to look like. Kids can take turns imagining what the monster is going to look like or adding more and more details as they go. Then they can draw and write about what they thought the monster was going to look like!

If you're looking for a book about monsters before Halloween rolls around...but one that's not actually scary, then you'll love this book! 
Read Together: Pre-K - 3 
Read Alone: Pre-K - 3 
Read With: Another Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets by Kathleen Krull, the iPod and iPad app of this book is great! 
Snatch of Text:  
"SHHHH Listen, I have an idea. 
If you do not turn any 
pages, we will never get 
to the end of this book. 

And that is good, because 
there is a Monster at 
the end of this book.

So please do not turn the page."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Predictions 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative 
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you were afraid! What did you do to deal with your fear? Draw a picture of the monster that you thought was going to be at the end of the book then write a paragraph to explain what you thought the monster was going to look like!
Topics Covered: Monsters, Fear, Courage
Translated to Spanish: I think it was published in Spanish but I cannot find where you would buy it or get a hold of it. Sorry!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets

Title: Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played With Puppets
Author: Kathleen Krull
Illustrator: Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher 
Publisher: Random House 
Publication Date: August 2011 
Genre/Format: Biography/Picture Book 
Summary: A look at how Jim Henson made his dreams come true and brought our favorite Muppets to life. 
What I Think: First of all, I'm a huge Sesame Street and Muppets fan. I've loved them since I was a kid and now get to watch them with my own kiddos. Peanut loved Elmo when he was younger and Little Bean has just gotten been introduced to Elmo and now we hear Elmo all day - except he says, "Melmo!" He loves him. There is something so endearing about that little guy. (On a random note, have you ever seen Kevin Clash who performs Elmo? You have to Google/YouTube him because it's crazy to see who is the voice and personality behind that lovable monster.)

Now for the book! I have read Krull's biography of Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel) that has a very similar feel to it. I love how it tells about each man's life but it reads very much like a story. They might not be the perfect books to use if you're writing a book report but I have used them to talk about biography and to point out that they are about a real person's life written by another person. This book is a great way to introduce students to biography that reads similar to fiction and might be more appealing to some students. Peanut and I read this book together and he was so interested to read about the man who created the Muppets.

Over the summer I bought The Monster At The End of This Book and just recently downloaded the app on the iPad. I haven't read either version with students yet but Peanut has had so much fun cracking up with Grover through the story. If you are or aren't afraid of monsters I definitely recommend it. After reading that book, you can read this book and teach students who was the imagination behind our favorite Muppets or Sesame Street characters. Depending on their age you could show a clip of a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street. Kids of any age could benefit of hearing about a job as a puppeteer.
Read Together: Pre - K - 6  
Read Alone: 3 - 6 
Read With: The Monster at the End of This Book and Another Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, A Boy Named FDR, The Boy on Fairfield Street, and The Boy Who Invented TV by Kathleen Krull, other non-fiction about Jim Henson. 
Snatch of Text: "Kermit the frog was ready to go on. Soon came a crabby creature who lived in a garbage can - Oscar the Grouch. Then two quite different friends named Bert and Ernie. A hungry guy named Cookie Monster. A really big bird named Big Bird. And many more.
     Jim worked hard, sketching each new Muppet in the brightest of colors, then guiding its creation. He was the spark behind each Muppet's personality and voice, which made learning - letters, numbers, all sorts of concepts - weirdly appealing.
     Working with all the other creative people, he spoke so softly that they had to lean in to hear him. He would burst out laughing at their clever ideas or say "Hmm" if he saw room for improvement. "Lovely!" was his highest compliment. Or else he'd murmur, "I think it could be funnier."  p. 26
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository  
Writing Prompts: Design your own Muppet character and then write an expository essay to explain physical and personality traits. 
Topics Covered: Childhood, Growing Up, Recent Past, Friendship, Family, Careers, Imagination, Dreams, Puppetry, TV, Movies 
Translated to Spanish: No


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...