Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons

Title: Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons 
Author: Eric Litwin  
Illustrator: James Dean 
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers 
Publication Date: May 2012 
Genre/Format: Fantasy/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Pete the Cat is wearing his favorite shirt--the one with the four totally groovy buttons. But when one falls off, does Pete cry? Goodness, no He just keeps on singing his song--after all, what could be groovier than three groovy buttons? Count down with Pete in this rocking new story from the creators of the bestselling Pete the Cat books. 
What I Think: I think Eric Litwin is a completely genius when it comes to writing for kids. I already was in love with Pete the Cat and His White Shoes and Pete the Cat And his School Shoes, so, of course, I was going to be as equally in love with Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons...and I am. In this Pete the Cat book, Pete loves his four groovy buttons - but they keep popping off, one by one! But you know, "buttons come and buttons go" so it's really all okay. I'm sure you can guess where the story goes as each button pops off after the previous...but I was surprised by the ending. This Pete book is so much fun because we get to be extra silly at the end. Seriously, Mr. Eric and Pete can do no wrong in our house or with my students.

I was super excited when I found out that Eric Litwin and James Dean would be at Anderson's Bookshop in Downers Grove to sign their books. I bought tickets right away and my mom and Peanut went to meet Mr. Eric and Mr. James. It was perfect. James painted a Pete the Cat painting while Eric led the kids in silly songs and read aloud to them. Peanut was super excited to be able to ask James a question in cat - which he, of course, answered in cat - meow! These books are all interactive and get kids thinking and predicting what is going to happen next. I especially love how this book has a math theme - specifically subtracting.

One of the most exciting things about all of these Pete the Cat books is that you can download the songs from the books online. This really brings the books to life for kids and makes it so much fun!
Peanut, Me and Pete!
Eric Litwin 
James Dean painting as Eric sings songs
Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons
Peanut was excited to meet Mr. Eric and tell him how much he loves his books!
We splurged and got all the Pete the Cat books to get signed
Mr. Eric and Peanut on the eve of his 5th birthday
James Dean, Peanut, Me, and Eric Litwin
Peanut with the Pete the Cat painting - it was still wet!
Peanut and his groooooovy blue button!
Read Together: Grades Pre-K - 4
Read Alone: Grades Pre-K - 4 
Read With: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes and Pete the Cat: Rocking In His School Shoes by Eric Litwin,  Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, Cats' Night Out by Caroline Stutson, This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman, Let's Count Goats by Mem Fox, Bed Hogs by Kelly DiPucchio,
Snatch of Text:  

Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Predictions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative 
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when something didn't go your way - a button popped off of your shirt, your zipper broke on your jacket, your tripped and skinned your knee - how did you feel and what did you do? 
Topics Covered: Self Help - Getting Dressed/Clothes, Integration - Math, Attitude, Feelings, Integration - Music 
Jen *hearts* It:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

This Dark Endeavor

This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor FrankensteinTitle: This Dark Endeavor (The Dark Endeavor Chronicles #1)
Author: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August, 2011
Genre/Format: Fantasy-Horror/Novel
GoodReads Summary: Bravery, danger, and intense passion. How does obsession begin? Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real. They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only peaks Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not be satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula. Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad's life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.

What I Think: I read the book Frankenstein during my lit degree and found that it is one of the classics I truly enjoyed. If you've read it, you know that the star of the book is not the monster, but Victor Frankenstein. Mary Shelley gives us quite a bit of back story about Victor showing his interest in the sciences as well as the loss that ultimately pushes him to try to recreate life; however, Kenneth Oppel has taken Shelley's story and added more depth to it while still paying homage and being true to the styling and story that Shelley wrote. 

From the beginning I was engrossed in Oppel's story of a teenage Victor Frankenstein as well as his twin brother Konrad, their cousin Elizabeth and friend Henry. I really enjoyed that Oppel stuck primarily with characters found in the original novel, but threw in a twin brother to add some conflict within the story. The story arc was perfectly paced and it held my attention the whole time. The main characters were well developed and you instantly liked the four-some. 

I will definitely need to look back through this book, though, because Kenneth Oppel not only tells a great adventure story, he writes beautifully as well and I, unfortunately, did not jot down all of the snatches of text that I enjoyed while reading. 

This book will be an asset to any classroom that is teaching Frankenstein as it is a great companion to the classic which may reel in more readers than reading the classic alone. 

Read Together: Grades 7 to 12
Read Alone: Grades 8 to 12
Read With: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey, Montmorency by Eleanor Updale
Snatch of Text: "When she'd first arrived, she was like a feral cat. She hid. Konrad and I, seven years old, were forever trying to find her. To us it was a wonderful game of hide-and-seek. But it was no amusement to her; she just wanted to be left alone. If we found her, she became very angry. She hissed and snarled and hit. Sometimes she bit." p. 10

"I felt oddly incomplete, moving about the chateau without my twin. Not that we were always side by side, but I felt his absences more intensely now. Once, when we were six, and Mother was unwell during her pregnancy with Ernest, Father made us each stay with different relations for a fortnight. 

It was one of the most miserable times of my life. 

But this was worse. Why wasn't Konrad getting better?" p. 45

Mentor Text for: Making Connections, Predicting, Suspense
Writing Prompts: After reading This Dark Endeavor, what clues do you see throughout Oppel's novel that foreshadows the man Victor will become in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein?; How are Elizabeth and Victor's relationship similar/different in This Dark Endeavor than their relationship in Frankenstein
Topics Covered: Alchemy, Love, Twins, Science
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Capture the Flag

Title: Capture the Flag
Author: Kate Messner
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. 
Publication Date: July 1, 2012 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction-Mystery/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: Three kids get caught up in an adventure of historic proportions!

Anna, José, and Henry are complete strangers with more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington D.C. airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have announced that the famous flag that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner" has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in too, recruits Henry and José to help catch the thieves and bring them to justice.

But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there's more than justice at stake. As the snow starts clearing, Anna, José, and Henry find themselves in a race against time (and the weather!) to prevent the loss of an American treasure. 
What I Think: I have loved everything I have ever read by Kate Messner - and at this point that's almost everything she has published minus her book on writing, Real Revisions because it's in my summer reading pile and her two early historical fiction books (because I didn't know they existed until I just checked GoodReads). Capture the Flag is another great addition to the Kate Messner writing empire. It's fun to have seen how Kate's writing has evolved since I read The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. I loved the scientific dystopian side to Eye of the Storm and now Capture the Flag has a mystery feel to a book that involves history even though it's set in the present. 

In the Capture the Flag, the characters themselves comment that their adventure is like the movie National Treasure. I love how the kids are in D.C. and find themselves in a place where they can help solve the mystery of who committed the crime of stealing the actual flag that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner". The only time I have been to Washington, D.C. was to chaperone an 8th grade trip. I loved the experience and was able to visualize so much of what was happening in this book after having been to D.C. Not everyone has been to D.C., but lots of people have or are at least familiar with it. How awesome is this book that it will have kids wanting to go to D.C. to see where this all takes place?

The three main characters in this book are very unique, but they all ending up thinking quickly to be able to help each other and to help the flag. As a proud fan of girl-power characters, I was excited to see Kate do it again with Anna. Anna is really the one who gets the other kids motivated to save the flag. She is pretty awesome. 

Any teacher is going to want to recommend this to students because of the intelligent characters who take charge even though they are kids. It's an exciting book while at the same time getting kids interested some history of our country. And, it's also funny! Kate has really captured the flag with this book!
Read Together: Grades 4 - 6 
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 8 
Read With: Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger, We Are Not Eaten By Yaks (Accidental Adventure series) C Alexander London, Genius Files (series) by Dan Gutman, A Whole Nother Story by Cuthbert Soup, A Series of Unfortunate Events (series) by Lemony Snicket 
Snatch of Text:  
"'My dad's on a cruise with his new wife.' Henry said the word wife the way most people said toe jam or boogers." p. 36

"Anna threw her hands in the air. 'You are such boys! What is wrong with you? You spend your whole lives looking for excitement in video games and movies and books, and then when something big finally happens, you're too busy reading and poking at some SuperGameThingy to do the real, live, exciting thing right there in front of you!'
'Tuna melt?' The waitress held it over the table floating from person to person.
'That's me,' Anna said." p. 44
Mentor Text For: Background Knowledge, Asking Questions, Making Inferences, Making Connections, Characterization, Dialogue
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you had to take control of a situation, when you needed to depend on yourself to make something happen. 
Topics Covered: Family, Friends, Creativity, Mystery, Crime, Integration - History, Courage, Not Giving Up
Jen *hearts* It:


Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 05/28/12

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…who knows, you might discover that next “must read” book!
After doing the meme for a couple of weeks, we realized this would be a fun meme to start up with a kidlit focus - anyone reading and reviewing books in children's literature - it can be picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, you name it in the world of kidlit and it's in! We have loved being a part of this meme and we hope you do too!  We encourage everyone participating to go and visit the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and to comment on as many posts as you can. We love talking books and believe in sharing and discussing what we're reading. We hope you join us!

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Jen Says: I didn't really stick to my reading plans from last week except for finishing Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow. It was an interesting read and definitely inspirational. He is such a hard worker. The quote that I loved the most was: "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." He is adamant about how hard he works at everything he does and it was remarkable to hear about.

Colby had recommended Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher as we were reading See You At Harry's so I read that and then one of my students returned the ARC of Kate Messner's Capture the Flag so I jumped into that. It is so much fun! Another super great book from Kate. It actually reminded me a little of Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger. 

Kellee Says: This week was a pretty productive week. First, I finished a few novels Luminous by Dawn Metcalf, Burnout by Adrienne Maria Vrettos and Bronxwood by Coe Booth- 3 very different novels. Luminous is a beautifully written book, but I was just confused through most of it, Burnout is about a young girl who awakens on a subway and cannot remember how she got there, and Bronxwood is about a young man living in the Bronx. I also read The Griff a "grown-up" graphic novel by Christopher Moore- an... interesting apocalyptic story.

Then, this weekend, I realized that many of my downloaded e-galleys from NetGalley were going to expire, so I decided to sit down and read many of them. I stayed up pretty late on Saturday and finished Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, The Bremen Town Musicians by Brian Wildsmith, 50 Climate Questions by Peter Christie, Seeing Red by Tanya Lloyd Kyi, Play Ball by Nunzio DeFilippis, Tall: Great American Folktales by Donald Lemke, Victory (Resistance #3) by Carla Jablonski, and Time Voyage: Return to the Titanic by Steve Brezenoff. Phew! It was a fun readathon! I really enjoyed most of them and I will probably buy them all for my classroom because I know student readers who will like each and every one of them. 

Reviewed Last Week:
Blood Red Road (Dust Lands, #1)Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word
Just click on any picture above to go read the review

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: I am going to venture into reading Froi of the Exiles which is the second in the Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta. I love Finnikin of the Rock and am excited to see what this next book holds in store for the people of Lumatere. It's a long book that I don't even anticipate finishing this week...and I do want to read The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate so I'm sure I'll alternate between these two.

On audio I am kind of undecided about what I'm going to listen to...but I am leaning towards Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King or The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill. Since there is no school on Monday, I'll probably start it on my drive to work on Tuesday. I'm really looking forward to having more time to read over the summer!

Kellee Says: I have 3 more NetGalley e-galleys that I hope to finish tonight: Crogan's Loyalty by Chris Schweizer, Scarlett Dedd by Cathy Brett and Broxo by Zack Giallongo- three very different graphic novels. I am also going to start I'll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan and hopefully get to The Survival Kit by Donna Freitas. I'm also going to continue listening to The Night Circus, which I should finish, and then I'll start listening to Hound Dog True by Linda Urban.  It is going to be a great reading week! 

Everyone enjoy your Monday off! :) 

This Week's Reviews:
This Dark Endeavor
The Berlin Boxing Club 
Check back throughout the week to hear about these books. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Please link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!


Reading Along on I-94 - See You At Harry's - Part 4

Before we get to this lovely final installment of our discussion of See You At Harry's, I wanted to say that since we reviewed the book, I have thought of a few more books that would ladder well with Harry's: Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine. Also, Colby's suggestion to read Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher is another great read to match with this book! 

You can catch up on our previous discussions here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

JEN: This is our last discussion of See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles, but maybe the most exciting because Jo herself is joining us! Welcome, Jo!

COLBY: Hi, Jo! Thank you for See You At Harry’s.

JO: Hi Jen and Colby! Thanks for including me in your final chat. It’s been a lot of fun reading your thoughts about the book, and also about life in general.

JEN: The whole second half of the book is about how Fern and her family deals with Charlie’s death. It is always hard to read about the death of a character, but I think part of the brilliance of this story is that so much time is spent reading about how they work through their grief.

COLBY: I’ve been very blessed to not have to deal much death in my life (knocks on wood). It’s hard for me to relate to how characters would feel and grieve. For me, one reason, children’s literature is so important because it helps me understand how kids feel in these difficult times. I need to be able to have some idea of what it is that kids are feeling, because my readers in my classroom are dealing with all sorts of difficult things. Reading helps me help my students.

JO: Thanks, Jen. I rewrote this section so many times, trying to balance their grief with the inevitable tug of life moving on around them. Colby, I love how aware you are of your students’ home lives and what they might be dealing with outside the classroom. Your description is a perfect example of how books make us more compassionate, whether intentional or not.

JEN: I had a super scary experience last week with my almost-two-year-old. (He will be two in July.) He fell and his hit head really hard in our driveway but got up and was acting fine. Then, we were running up and down a hill in our backyard and he plopped down on his butt...and then he stood up and starting crying. I scooped him up and watched as his eyes rolled back into his head and he lost consciousness. It was the scariest thing I have ever seen. I immediately yelled  for my husband to call 911. An ambulance trip, an ER visit, a CT scan, and hours later, we were so relieved that everything was okay. The neurologist thinks he had some kind of post-traumatic seizure from the fall in the driveway. It was such a huge weight off of my shoulders to know he was okay.

COLBY: Seriously, I can’t imagine experiencing what you experienced. Especially after reading See You At Harry’s. I’m so glad your little guy is okay. I would have totally been freaking out.

JO: Oh no, Jen! That is terrifying. I’m so relieved that he’s OK! And that you had him checked out.

JEN: I know! I have to say I was so much hyper-aware of how important it was that we have him checked out after reading See You At Harry’s!!!

Now, I can think about how I reacted at the time and other times my kids have been hurt. I’m the kind of person who becomes completely calm in a crazy situation - it’s like the emotional part of my mind just turns itself off. I know I have to be focused and clutch in the moment. It never crossed my mind that I was holding my dear sweet bean in my arms and that he might not be okay. All I could think was what I needed to do: what I needed to tell my husband to tell the dispatcher, what I need to tell my older son to make sure he wasn’t scared, where I needed to go to meet the ambulance, that I needed my wallet. And I stay that way until things are settled down...and then I fall apart. Hours later, when my son was finally sleeping and we knew he was fine and things were going to be okay, I could feel the gravity of the situation and cry for how grateful I am that things turned out alright.

COLBY: You have mad mom skills. It’s amazing how our body’s take over when we would think that our minds would fail us. You were everything your family needed at that time. Bravo, friend!

JO: Yes! Good job! I remember when my son was about two years old, he was sitting in his high chair eating apple pieces. It was Christmas Eve. All of a sudden he started to choke. I stood up, got my arms in position, and performed the Heimlich as if I had done it a thousand times (actual times=0). In a twist of fate, just that week I had been working on a first aid booklet for the company I wrote for. So it all clicked in. But I was so calm and mechanical and the apple just popped right out. Later though, after we’d had him checked and he was fine, I fell apart.

JEN: It’s amazing how we can just go change modes like that. It’s a good thing, too!

For me, reading about Fern and how she handles Charlie’s death reminded me of myself. At first, she seems just shocked and numb to his death but then it starts to really sink in. As she goes through the motions of her life after he dies, she realizes times when she really misses him. I respond to things after the fact, it’s the days afterwards when I think about how things could have gone differently or how I miss someone who was in my life that are the hardest for me. For me, this book spoke to me because I could recognize how I grieve in Fern’s response to Charlie’s death.

COLBY: For me, reading See You at Harry’s made me think so much about Ralph Fletcher’s Fig Pudding. I feel that See You at Harry’s is taking what Ralph did to the next level of readers. I’m so glad Jo wrote this book.

JO: I really need to read this book! Thank you for the recommendation. When my own brother died, my family was in total shock. None of us knew how to react or respond. It was like all the noise around us was sucked out and we were moving around in this numb silence. It took a long time before the outside noise could filter in again, and when it did, it felt like everyone around me was speaking a different language. My whole perspective on life flipped, and it took a really long time for me to learn how to function in a world that didn’t stop for anyone else, as it had for us. It was so hard to accept that life goes on because we were in such pain and anguish, it felt like it shouldn’t. Or couldn’t. But... it does somehow. Mette Ivie Harrison wrote a blog entry comparing her grief to the grief depicted in the book. It’s a really powerful and insightful reflection:  

JEN: I requested Fig Pudding from my library because you asked me to read it and I agree that there are definitely connections to be made with See You At Harry’s. My favorite quote is when they talk about how people cope with death: “‘Everybody reacts different to something like this - some people cry buckets, other folks store it up inside. When someone you love dies, you get a big bowl of sadness put down in front of you, steaming hot. You can start eating now, or you can let it cool and eat it bit by bit later on. Either way, you end up eating the whole thing. There’s really no way around it.’” p. 107

I also completely agree about being thankful that Jo has written this book. She really takes the big family dynamics to another level and really looks so closely and thoroughly at grief. I am a more sympathetic person because of this book but I also was able to think about how I am in times of crisis or with dealing with grief. Sometimes it’s hard to recognize that we don’t all react in the same way but it’s an important lesson.

Thank you, Jo, for writing this book!

JO: Thanks you two, for having me! It’s been such a treat to listen to you discuss the book. I am so glad, as I’m sure your readers are, that the two of you are out there sharing books with kids. Your students are incredibly lucky to have such thoughtful, caring and sensitive teachers! Thanks for doing what you do!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lions of Little Rock

Title: Lions of Little Rock     
Author: Kristin Levine  
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile 
Publication Date: January 2012 
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958

Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn't have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear - speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn't matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families. 
What I Think: I first read Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Beals after I found it while wandering the shelves of my university bookstore. One summer, I wanted a good read and thought I would look and see what lit classes had as required reading. It is an amazing book and so interesting. I love non-fiction accounts because sometimes it is so crazy to believe that things that happened but they really did happen. I knew that because I loved Warriors Don't Cry, written by one of the nine African-American students to integrate in Little Rock, I would probably love this book. Lions of Little Rock did not disappoint.

I love how the writing is so descriptive in this book and really draws readers into Marlee's story. Even though the book takes place in 1958, the year after the Little Rock Nine integrated Central High, it feels like Marlee could be a 12-year-old student today. Her family dynamics and friend dynamics come to life feel just as relevant today as then. (I mean, the issues she deasl with are still very relevant today...but they feel so similar and not fifty years apart.)

Readers will love how Marlee is afraid of taking risks but how she learns to be strong and take maybe the biggest risks when she believes it's what is right and needs to be done. It's more than a book about integration, it's about being true to yourself and standing up for what you believe in even if it's scary. A really beautiful book.
Read Together: Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, Through My Eyes: Ruby Bridges by Ruby Bridges, Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Phillip M. Hoose, Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Beals, The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Read Alone: Grades 6 - 9 
Read With: Grades 4 - 9 
Snatch of Text: “It was a beautiful day in September and I was standing on top of a diving board. The blue sky was reflected in the water below, the white board felt scratchy under my feet, and the smell of hot dogs wafted up from the snack stand. It was a perfect summer day  - the kind you see in the movies – and I was positive I was going to throw up.

You see, it wasn’t just any high dive. Oh, no. It was the super-huge, five-meter-high platform diving board, the tallest at Fair Park Swimming Pool, probably the highest in all of Little Rock. It might have even been the highest in all of Arkansas. Which wouldn’t have been a problem if I hadn’t been afraid of heights. But I was.” p. 1

“Miss Winthrop was a glass of seltzer that had been pumped full of too many bubbles. Even if you skinned your knee or something, she’d say, “Oh, darling, there’s no need to cry!” with a huge grin on her face, as if she enjoyed seeing you bleed. “I’ve got a Band-Aid right here in my purse. Isn’t that fabulous luck!” p. 99

“’I think a friend is someone who helps you change for the better. And whether you see them once a day or once a year, if it’s a true friend, it doesn’t matter.’”
 p. 289
Mentor Text For: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions, Characterization, Descriptive, Personal Narrative, Metaphor, Visualizing
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you disagreed with something an adult believed in and how you responded. Write a metaphor to describe someone you know by comparing him or her to a drink. 
Topics Covered: Family, Siblings, Friendship, Shyness, Values, Segregation/Integration, Little Rock Nine
Jen *hearts* It:

Friday, May 25, 2012

Emma Dilemma

Title: Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems
Author: Kristine O'Connell George 
Illustrator: Nancy Carpenter 
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 
Publication Date:  February 2011
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Poetry
GoodReads Summary: Emma is Jess's little sister...and her dilemma. How can one small girl be sweet, funny, imaginative, playful, and affectionate as well as a clinging vine, brat, tattletale, and nuisance all at the same time? Why is Jess supposed to be a good big sister while Emma doesn't have to be a good little sister? The highlights and low points of this sibling relationship are insightfully evoked in short and simple poems, some funny, some touching, and all resonant with emotional truth. Every child with a younger sibling will recognize Jess's dilemma and the combination of ambivalence and deep loyalty that is built into the sibling relationship. Nancy Carpenter's graceful illustrations perceptively complement Kristine O'Connell George's agile poems.
What I Think: I have been reading and discussing See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles this month and then I read this collection of poems that tell a story about two sisters and I fell in love. Emma Dilemma is full of sisterly poems. I have a younger sister who reminds me of Emma in a way. We definitely acted like sisters growing up - the kind of sisters who just struggle to get along. Kristine O'Connell George truly gets sibling relationships right in these story. As much as Jessica (the bigger sister) is annoyed by her little sister (Emma), she really loves her and they will always be sisters.

Any child who has a sibling can relate to at least one of the poems in this book, I'm sure. And for anyone who doesn't have a sibling, I think this gives some great insight into what it's like to have a little sibling. 
Nancy Carpenter's illustrations fascinate me. I love them. Every time I see one of her books, I snatch it up. I could tell this was her work right away even though this book doesn't include any of the collage-style artwork that I have seen in M Is For Mischief or 11 Experiments That Failed (which are both fun in their own way - they actually could be books about Emma!)

This book is wonderful for talking about siblings and sibling relationships - or even relationships in general, how there are some people who can really get on our nerves but we also love those people sometimes. I love the idea of exploring personal narratives through poetry. Writing about your life and what you know is the important, and it would be a good topic to use when working on poetry. I also love how this book could get kids into the mode of thinking about families and family relationships before reading See You At Harry's or Fig Pudding as a read aloud. 
Read Together: Grades 1 - 5 
Read Alone: Grades 1 - 5  
Read With: Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly by Alan Madison, Dogku by Andrew Clements, Oh, Theodore! by Susan Katz, Take Two! by Fig Pudding by Ralph Fletcher, See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles, Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Gilbreth, The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine 
Snatch of Text:  
Emma's Hand

Emma's hand is
                   just the right size
to fit
           inside mine.

Emma's hand is 


Picture Books

             When I read
                    my picture books
          to Emma,
   I feel
 as if
           I'm visiting 
           old friends.

Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Predictions, Making Inferences 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Poetry, Anaphora (Trespass, p. 31)  
Writing Prompts: Write about your relationship with a sibling or if you are an only child, write about your relationship with your parents or another family member who is close to you.  
Topics Covered: Love, Family, Sisters, Parents, Role Model, Maturity, Growing Up, Jealousy, Annoyance, Anger, Guilt

Jen *hearts* It:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

From What I Remember...

Title: From What I Remember... 
Author: Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas  
Publisher: Hyperion 
Publication Date: May 15th, 2012 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: KYLIE: Tijuana WHAT? I should be putting the finishing touches on my valedictorian speech. Graduation is TODAY, and is this a wedding band on my finger.

MAX: It all started with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen electronics Okay, it was kind of hot, the way she broke us out like some chick in an action movie. But now we're stranded in Tijuana. WIth less than twenty-four hours before graduation. Awesome. 

WILL: Saving Kylie Flores from herself is kind of a full-time occupation. Luckily, I, Will Bixby, was born for the job. And when I found out she was stuck in Mexico with dreamy Max Langston, sure, I agreed to bring thier passports across the border--but there's no reason to rush back home right away. This party is just getting started. 
LILY: I just walked in on my boyfriend, Max Langston, canoodling with Kylie Flores, freak of the century. Still, I can't completely hold it against him. He NEEDS me. It's even clearer now. And I'm not giving him up without a fight. 
What I Think: I stumbled across this book on NetGalley and when I started to read it, I became completely consumed with the story. I love all the characters and I love all the craziness! There are so many different stories going on but making sense at the same time. We get to see so many different perspectives. Once I started reading, I could not put it down...well, I had to, but with every free milli-second, I grabbed it again until I devoured the entire book. 

If ever there was a book that reads like a wild, non-stop movie, this would be it. I love how the authors even mention how events that happen in the book are just like out of a movie...but at the same time unique to the story in the book. I'm glad this book is a book rather than a movie. Anyone who loves the movie The Breakfast Club or other John Hughes' movies will enjoy this book. The fact that chapters switch perspectives helps readers really see into what the characters are thinking and feeling. It's interesting to read about how the characters perceive each other and then to be in the characters' heads and to read what they are thinking and feeling on the inside and how that compares to the front the present to others.

The scenes between Max and Kylie are electric. In the end, the whole book is about going after your dreams and not letting life pass you by. I love it! I remember telling Kellee that she absolutely must get this book because it is awesome. And so should you!

As a teacher, I do have to add a disclaimer that there is possibly some non-parent-teacher-sanctioned teenage behavior in this book so I would read it first and be aware of that before recommending it to students. BUT, I think high school students will love the energy in this book while still getting an intense look at who the characters are and what motivates them.

Enough already! JUST GO READ THIS BOOK! It's the perfect book to kick of your summer reading!
Read Together: Grades 9 -12  
Read Alone: Grades 9 -12 
Read With: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John  
Snatch of Text: 
     "How could I explain that my stories helped me escape the dreary sameness of my life - the same old TV shows, the same old questions from my parents, the same old mostaccioli on Thursdays and lasagna on Sundays? How could I tell her that for those few moments when I was telling the story, I slipped into a shinier world and lived the life I really wanted?
     I just shrugged."  -Max (taken from NetGalley - so I don't have page numbers)

     "A bunch of people laugh. Ha-ha. So witty. He may be perfect on the outside but inside it's a different story. If he had a thought in his head, it would perish of loneliness. Max, as always, basks in the attention. He tips back in his chair and tosses his shaggy, sandy locks, like a preening bird.
     Like everyone at Freiburg, Max is a spoiled rich kid, floating in a vapid sea of privilege, completely and blissfully ignorant of how the rest of the world lives. Everyone that is, except for Will. Thank God for Will. God knows, I wouldn't have survived without him." - Kylie  (taken from NetGalley - so I don't have page numbers)
Mentor Text For: Characterization, Voice, Stereotypes, Mood, Visualization, Making Connections
Writing Prompts: After people watching, choose one person to write about - how might what you see on the outside be different from this person's story on the inside?
Topics Covered: Friendship, Adversity, Love, Adventure, Determination, Family, Honesty, Taking Risks, Stereotypes, Identity, Dreams, Being True to Yourself

Jen *hearts* It:

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

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