Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Watch that Ends the Night

The Watch That Ends the Night: Voices from the TitanicTitle: The Watch that Ends the Night
Author: Allan Wolf
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: October 2011
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel in Verse
Summary: Told from 24 different perspectives in multiple genres as letters, undertaker's notes, telegrams, forms and booklets but primarily in verse, this harrowing tale takes the reader through the journey that different people took on the Titanic. The points of view range from workers like lookouts and stokers, 3rd class passengers like an immigrant and refugee, 2nd class passengers like a tailor, 1st class passengers like a millionaire and socialite as well as the captain, ship builder, the business man, the ship rat and the iceberg. The story begins on April 1st, 1912 with preparing to sail and ends with the survivors aboard the Carpathia on April 18, 1912.
What I Think: This novel obviously takes the reader through the complete tragedy of the RMS Titanic and the amount of research that Allan Wolf must of done makes this novel not only a wonderful piece of writing, but an essential part of Titanic-lore from now on. I specifically liked how after the story was completed, an afterword was added with Titanic information and a clarification of the fact vs. fiction within the novel specifically when it came to the characters. This novel will be used in classes learning about the Titanic for years to come because of the historical accuracy and the interesting and in-depth way the story is told. It is also a perfect addition to any English Language Arts classroom because it has perfect examples of different types of poetry (each character has their own style), using dialogue in poetry, historical fiction, figurative language and other literary devices and using multiple-genres. I feel that this book is a great way to teach these elements because the Titanic is such a well known topic which would lend well to students connecting with and understanding the text. This book truly makes history come alive.
Read Together: Grades 8 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 9 - 12
Read With: Titanic series by Gordon Korman, I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, 1912 by Lauren Tarshis, Voyage on the Great Titanic: The Diary of Margaret Ann Brady, RMS Titanic, 1912 by Ellen Emerson White, Exploring the Titanic by Robert Ballard, Any nonfiction book about the Titanic
Snatch of Text: "dash-dash dash-dash-dit dash-dit dash-dash
Looking upward, I imagined the invisible words filling the room.
I watched them swirl about, then fly up and out
through the skylight, past the masts and rigging,
on their way to heaven, I guess-
a kitten's small mewl swallowed up by cold, empty space." (Harold Bride- The Spark p. 42)

"A shadow, cast by my prodigious bulk,
becomes a phantom finger stretching out
to mark the route Titanic's bow needs trace
across the sea's gray-rippled endless face.
The pinnacle of these humans' ingenuity
means nothing to the Iceberg's cold enormity;" (The Iceberg p. 121)

"Reggie Lee and me, nesting like two old married pelicans.
Two hours on and four hours off.
If I was more of a thinkin' man,
this lookout business might drive me batty." (Frederick Fleet- The Lookout p. 129)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Foreshadowing, Making connections, Visualizing, Cause/Effect, Compare/Contrast (primarily the classes), Vocabulary
Writing Strategies to Practice: Figurative language (specifically similes and metaphors), Personification, Onomatopoeia, Imagery
Writing Prompts: What could have been done to avoid the sinking of the RMS Titanic?; Write a poem using the style of one of the characters in the novel.
Topics Covered: Integration- History, Titanic, Classes, Telegrams, Death, Loss, Differences, Family, Immigrant experience
Translated to Spanish: No

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons WhyTitle: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: October, 2007
Genre/Format: Fiction/Novel
Summary: Hannah Baker committed suicide two weeks ago, so why did Clay Jenkins receive a box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah? Because he is one of 13 reasons why Hannah Baker committed suicide and she is going to tell each of them how they contributed to her death.
What Kellee Thinks: When a book really means something to me, really touches my soul, I have a really hard time writing the review. This book is one of those. I didn't want to stop reading to write down notes or mark favorite parts- I just wanted to keep reading.

This is an important book. One of those books that will be around for a long time. It deals with themes that are constant- bullying, depression, suicide, love. I feel that anyone who reads this book will relate to something. To Hannah's hurt or Clay's love or one of the other characters- in good ways and bad. This book really makes you consider how your actions are truly affecting those around you. Some of Hannah's reasons were not because the person was a bad person. It was because they didn't care or made a bad choice. Little things in our own life may be very large things in other lives. As Hannah says, "No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes we have no clue." So true.

Now, I had heard that some people find Hannah whiny or nit-picking, but I think what happens to her is one of the most realistic translations of isolation in high school that exists in young adult literature. Although one of the 13 reasons may not stand alone as a devastating event (though some do), it is the snowball effect of all of the reasons combining over a short period of time. It is their sum that kills the mean. Those that do not understand are either thinking too much like an adult or had a very easy time in high school, because the experiences that Hannah has are what makes her feel obsolete so they are devastating to her.

Random thoughts-
*I felt bad for Clay. He is such a sweetheart and really didn't deserve to be on the tapes- he is one of the few that tried. But maybe he didn't try hard enough.
*I will NEVER view the phrase "Relax" in the same way after this novel. It creeps me out just thinking about it.
*I think this book would be awesome to listen to as an audio book! I hope they do the dual narratives justice.
What Jen Thinks: Oh, how I love this book! This is a book that is still very vivid in my memory today and that I cannot help raving about whenever anyone talks to me about it. I have to preface my review by saying that I don't know anyone who has attempted or committed suicide personally so I feel like it's hard for me to truly judge the book having never experienced losing anyone to suicide. Nonetheless, I have heard and read stories of suicide and I feel like this book gives a very raw look at how a person might be thinking and feeling when he or she decides to end his or her life. That's not to say that every person would think or feel this way.
For me, this book gave me perspective into how little interactions or non-interactions with people can add up and slowly start to take a toll on a person. Hannah's thirteen reasons weren't the only reasons for committing suicide, but they were big reasons. Can she blame only others? Could she have possibly changed how she was being treated in some of the situations? I think a lot of things could have gone differently for Hannah and I also believe that a person has to have some kind of imbalance biologically or chemically to feel so intensely that suicide is an option and then to go through with it. I think that's what makes this book such a strong book because it does chronicle only one girl's life. There are so many what if's and buts that can be thrown at it but it doesn't matter because true life is true life and most of the time stories of true life don't always make sense.

It was heartbreaking for me to read this book already knowing the outcome of the story. There were times when I was hoping for her get help or for someone to intervene...but in the back of my head I knew it could never happen. By the end, I definitely was thinking about my daily interactions with others but especially my students. It's important already to treat others with respect and kindness but I think it's easy to forget that one little incident might seem trivial to you but could seem monumental to someone else. The long-lasting impact this book has had on me is a testament to the strength of its message.
Read Together: Grades 7 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 7 - 12
Read With: The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, Hate List by Jennifer Brown, Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser, Paper Towns by John Green, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Snatch of Text: "Or maybe I will. I'm not actually sure how this whole dead thing works. Who knows, maybe I'm standing behind you right now.
I lean forward, propping my elbows on the workbench. I let my face fall into my hands and I slide my fingers back into unexpectedly damp hair.

I'm sorry. That wasn't fair." (pg. 12)

"The cold air isn't the only reason I'm shivering anymore. With every side of every tape, an old memory gets turned upside down. A reputation twists into someone I don't recognize." (p. 133)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Making connections, Cause/effect, Asking questions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Poetry, Reflection, Characterization, Dual narratives, Perspective
Writing Prompts: Write about a time when someone did something that hurt you, but they didn't know it.
Topics Covered: Integration- Guidance, Death, Suicide, Bullies, Loneliness, Blame, Rumors
Translated to Spanish: No

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Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Teach a Slug to Read

How to Teach a Slug to ReadTitle: How to Teach a Slug to Read     
Author: Susan Pearson   
Illustrator: David Slonim  
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children  
Publication Date: 2011   
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book   
Summary: A little boy explains to his Mama slug friend how she can teach her little slug to read.  He gives step by step slug-friendly instructions!  
What I Think: The beginning of the school year for me is all about discussions of reading: what we're reading, where we read, how we read, how we choose books to read. I spend a lot of time getting to know my students and what they are into reading. Some of my students I have had in previous years but I still talk to them about what they want to read because their interest change from year to year.
I love the idea of getting kids thinking about their reading and reading habits so they are more aware of what good readers do and how they are examples of good readers. This book is so cute because it gives ideas for how to learn to read that I think students might not realize they will do or have done. Pearson does a great job of applying information all to slugs and their slug life. It reminded me of Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin. Before reading this book I might brainstorm what students know about slugs and have them list everything the know about slugs to help them make connections with the suggestions the boy gives the slugs in the book.
This book can be used as a great discussion starter for what helps students read or what makes a great read aloud. I'm going to ask students to tell me if they agree with the suggestions the boy gives in the book and if they have any other suggestions that make being read to great. This year, one of my main focuses is continuing to encourage parents to read to and with their children at home at any age. My students will make their top ten list of what they suggest their parents do when reading aloud to them. They'll illustrate and take them home to share with their parents. I'm excited to hear what they come up with! Maybe I'll get some read aloud ideas!
Read Together: Pre-K - 5
Read Alone: K - 3 
Read With: Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don't) by Barbara Bottner, Wild About Books by Judy Sierra,  How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills, The Read-Aloud Handbook: Sixth Edition by Jim Trelease, Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox,  Diary of a Worm and others in the Diary series by Doreen Cronin, Hey, Little Ant by Phillip and Hannah Hoose, How to Potty Train Your Monster by Kelly Dipucchio
Snatch of Text: 
"9. Read your slug's favorite poems with him as many times as he wants. Read him other books too!
The Poky Little Slug
Slug for President
Slug and Snail Are Friends
The Snail in the Hat
Go Slug, Go!
...to where the wild slugs are." 
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Predictions 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write your own list of suggestions to your parents for when they read to you or help you learn to read. Write about your favorite memory of reading with an adult or when you first learned to read.
Topics Covered: Reading, Family 
Translated to Spanish: No

 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Don't Apologize for Reading!

This week was back to school for me.  I guess I should say back to schools because I provide hearing itinerant services to students in seven different schools within my large district.  It was exciting and nerve-wracking to be working at a high school this year. I got to attend my very first English/Language Arts divisional meeting. I was glad to see a few friendly faces in the room of teachers I had worked with in different buildings at some point in my career.

You can imagine how excited I was when the divisional asked us to do a booktalk on the book that we enjoyed the most over the summer. (I booktalked Divergent even though I haven't finished it yet because I'm loving it!) As I listened to others share, I realized more and more people were apologizing for the "fluff" reading they did over the summer. It surprised me the first time but then others reiterated the fact that they read lots of "fluff" reading or "brain candy" and then got to the best book they had read...which I guess didn't count as "fluff".

I started contemplating the message we send when one book counts as an official read and another just counts as fluff. Does it even count at all if it's "fluff"? There were people who obviously enjoyed those "fluff" books or they wouldn't have read them. I get that some books are definitely more challenging to read or maybe more thought-provoking but I guarantee you that I get something out of every book I read that is a picture book, middle grade, or YA even though I am an adult. I might not be challenging myself as far as the sentence complexity or vocabulary goes (although, sometimes, I am!) but I am definitely learning more about books, and stories, and people, and writing, and authors. I am definitely gaining something from reading no matter what kind of books it is.

Being a model of a lifelong reader to is imperative to me as a teacher and a mom. I'm going to pay attention to any message I might be sending out about "fluff" books. I love all the books I read and most of the time I read them for fun because I want to. I don't think I've ever apologized for reading a book that I wanted to read...and I don't plan to start now!

 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Bit of Me(Me) 8/27/11

Thank you There's a Book for hosting and go check out the site because there is big news today and Teach Mentor Texts is involved!

As for this week's question....

What has been the best part about participating in this meme?

Now, I've only been blogging here on Mentor Texts for a month now, but every aspect of blogging has been so wonderful! From making new friends, knowing that I am helping teachers, and getting to know how the blog world works. This meme has been part of the later. To be completely honest, when I joined Jen I didn't even know what a meme was. When blogs that I followed did them, I assumed they were something not for me, but now I understand that memes are one of the best parts of being a blogger!

Now, fellow bloggers, because I am newer to the blogging world- in your comment, please let me know your favorite meme and who hosts it :)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Invasion (C.H.A.O.S. #1)

Invasion (C.H.A.O.S., #1)Title: Invasion (A C.H.A.O.S. Novel)
Author: Jon S. Lewis
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: December 2010
Genre/Format: Sci-Fi/Novel
Summary: Everything changes for Colt after his parents tragically die in a freak car accident, but not everything is adding up. What if the accident wasn't one, but murder. After being forced to move to Arizona to live with his grandfather, Colt begins to uncover secrets that he thought only existed in comic books.
What I Think: Invasion is a mixture of tragedy, romance, adventure, and sci fi. Though I did have trouble at the beginning of the novel- I felt like the idea of Invasion was so cool (Men in Black + Alex Rider!), but it started off with such little pizzazz; however, do not worry! the rest of the novel makes up for it. After the initial exposition where we learn about CHAOS (a government organization that protects us from aliens) and Colt being considered as an agent, conflicts and action start with the freaky accidental death of Colt's parents and is nonstop until the end.

On top of the main plot, Jon S. Lewis has built a comic book world that seems so thought out and real that I had to google it to make sure I hadn't missed out on reading about an awesome Captain America-esque comic book hero.

AND the technology that was available to the CHAOS agents and Colt in the novel were spectacular! I wish that some of it was real (and afraid that some of it will be one day).

I was surprised at how easily the protagonists bought into all of the weird stuff going on. If a friend of mine told me that aliens I read about in a comic book was real, I don't know if I'd believe him right away. But I guess if you are being chased by lizard men, you start to believe a lot.

Worth reading and looking forward to the next book.
Oh and beware of a major CLIFFHANGER!!
(Alienation is due out January, 2012)
Read Together: 6 - 9
Read Alone: 7 - 10
Read With: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, Lightning Thief series by Rick Riordan, Spy High by A.J. Butcher, Independence Hall (I, Q #1) by Roland Smith, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey
Snatch of Text: "War is a terrible thing. All those books... all the movies they've made. And now video games? They've tried to make it glamorous, but it's not. We weren't heroes, Colt. The boys who died over in Europe and the Pacific? They were the heroes. We were just lucky enough to survive. No, if you ask me, there are no winners when it comes to war, and there's no glory in taking another life." (Ch. 57 *read on my Kindle, so am not sure of the exact page number*)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Cause/Effect, Visualization, Making connections, Predicting
Writing Strategies to Practice: Comics, Narrative, Plot development
Writing Prompts: Who's more guilty- those who make the weapon or those who use it?; If we sink down to the level of the bad guy to stop him, are we any better than him?
Topics Covered: Adventure, Death, Family, War, Heroes
Translated to Spanish: No

Thank you to Thomas Nelson & netGalley for allowing me to review Invasion.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One Crazy Summer

One Crazy SummerTitle: One Crazy Summer
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Publisher: Amistad
Publication Date: January 2010
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel
Summary: Delphine was forced to grow up quicker than an eleven year old should. Her mother left her and her 2 sisters 7 years ago and since then, Delphine has been in charge. This doesn't change when the girls finally get to see their mother in Oakland, CA Cecile for a month during the summer of 1968- she wants nothing to do with them and Delphine, once again, has to take care of her sisters. The only guidance Cecile gives the girls is where the Chinese take-out restaurant is and how to get to the Black Panthers's summer camp where they have to spend most of their time. This summer makes Delphine and her sisters grow up even more.
What Kellee Thinks: Rita Williams-Garcia is a genius when it comes to characterization. The two books I've read by her have been VERY different, but the strength of the writing of characters was a constant in both stories. Each character is uniquely written, holds up in dialogue and are completely immersed in the story that Williams-Garcia has put them in. It is a beautiful thing and translates into fluid and poetic narrative. While reading and searching for snatches of text to share, I marked at least 17 different passages that I wanted to share. All in a novel that has a great story and history lesson rolled into one. You want to know what is going to happen to Delphine. You want to learn more about the Black Panthers. You have to keep reading because you want to know more.
What Jen Thinks: I agree that the writing was great in this book. I have to say this is a book that is historical fiction and portrays a time in history but it was hard for me to relate to not knowing much about the topic. It reminded me of The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party by M. T. Anderson because I felt somewhat disconnected from both of them because it was really hard for me to relate to them. I wonder if a student who reads either of these books might need to gather up some background knowledge before reading them? Or at least have an adult to talk to about the historical aspects of the books.
From a mother's standpoint it was hard for me to read One Crazy Summer knowing how the mother treated Delphine and her sisters. I do like the story of sisters, though.
Read Together: 3-8
Read Alone: 5-8
Read With: Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan, The Gold Cadillac by Mildred D. Taylor, Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kahohata, The Watsons Go To Birmingham- 1963 by Paul Christopher Curtis, Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
Snatch of Text: "Mother is a statement of fact. Cecile Johnson gave birth to us. We came out of Cecile Johnson. In the animal kingdom that makes her our mother. Every mammal has a mother, dead or alive. Ran off or stay put. Cecile Johnson- mammal birth giver, alive, an abandoner- is our mother. A statement of fact... Never Mommy, Mom, Mama, or Ma. Mommy gets up to give you a glass of water in the middle of the night. Mom invites your friends inside when it's raining. Mama burns your ears with the hot comb to make your hair look pretty for class picture day. Ma is sore and worm from writing your wet clothes and hanign them to dry; ma needs peace and quiet at the end of the day. We don't have one of those. We have a statement of face." (p. 14)

"Even the seagulls were seagullier than the ones that flew and squawked around Coney Island. These wide-winged birds seemed bigger and majestic, both close-up and far away. Or maybe it was that we could see and smell the ocean and the tar, salt and wood from the wharf. I breathed in deep to get it all. Too bad there was no way to capture the wharf sell in a jar to take with me." (p. 164)

"At night I talked to myself to stay awake. I said the poems of Homer and Langston Hughes. I liked the words. They comforted me. Their rhymes. Their beats. They made a place for me. They kept me strong." (p. 208)

Fabulous examples of similes in the text on pages 1, 2, 85, 161, 163, 174, 190, 191
Some beautiful pieces of poetry on pages 148-149, 196-197
Reading Strategies to Practice: Characterization, Making connections, Poetry
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Dialogue, Figurative language, Sensory details
Writing Prompts: The Black Panthers were trying to change something about society they thought was an injustice. If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be?
Topics Covered: Integration- Social Studies, Civil Rights, Black Panthers, Poetry, Family, Prejudice, Tolerance
Translated to Spanish: No
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