Friday, November 30, 2012

Series Introduction: Seven the Series

       

Title: Seven the Series
Author: Various
Publisher: Orca Books
Publication Date: October, 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction-Adventure-Mystery/Fiction
Publisher's Summary: Seven grandsons. Seven journeys. Seven authors. One amazing series. 
     When David McLean, beloved grandfather and avid adventurer, dies at the age of 92, he leaves a very unusual will outlining seven tasks he has set for his seven grandsons. 
     In Seven (the series), Eric Walters and six other well-known Canadian authors - John Wilson, Ted Staunton, Richard Scrimger, Norah McClintock, Sigmund Brouwer and Shane Peacock - bring their signature styles to a series of seven adventures that take readers from the top of Kilimanjaro to the bottom of the Mediterranean.
What I Think: I, personally, have only read two of the seven novels, but I really enjoyed the stories of the two I read and the premise of the series won me over so I wanted to share the books with you. I really like that the books are appropriate for a wide age range and that the novels can be read in any order. Also, I think that these books will be great for reluctant and struggling readers because I think they will connect with at least one of the protagonists. I look forward to sharing these books with my students and reading more of the series. 
Read Together: Grades 6 to 10
Read Alone: Grades 5 to 12
Mentor Text for: Making connections, Plot development, Characterization
 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Star Challengers: Moonbase Crisis Review and Interview


Title: Star Challengers: Moonbase Crisis
Author: Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
Publication Date: October, 2010
Genre/Format: Sci-Fi/Novel
Goodreads Summary: After an exhilarating space simulation field trip at the local Challenger Center, a group of students are hand-picked by the mysterious Commander Zota for a special adventure: to travel to the future and a real moonbase in trouble, where they will learn skills to save the human race.
What I Think: Since I live in Florida, I am right in the middle of the NASA debate. Some feel that the science behind NASA and space exploration is not worth the money where others completely disagree. There are others who are somewhere in the middle, not knowing. To me, losing the space program is terrifying and the authors of this book take the same stance as me. 
     Moonbase Crisis is a book written by Rebecca Moesta and Kevin J. Anderson but it is presented by June Scobee Rodgers, the widow of a commander on the Challenger, and endorsed by many NASA legends such as Buzz Aldrin, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride. It is also a direct endorsement for Challenger Centers which are centers across the US that teach kids about space and hope to inspire them by letting them experience simulated space missions. That is where this book begins. 
     JJ and Dylan Wren are invited to a special space simulation after going on a field trip to the Challenger Center. When they arrive the find out that they are 2 of 4 young people chosen to be part of this mission. They are taught how to use actual communication devices and even put on real space suits. Then Commander Zota, the man who invited them, asks them to step into a room and next thing they know they find themselves on a Moonbase. In the future. 
     Throughout this book, science is definitely a main topic. It is sprinkled throughout discussing astronomy, botanical sciences, chemistry, and more I am sure. Though the book is science fiction, the science within in pure fact. The book shows a future where science and space exploration are not priorities and hopes to promote science by showing how important it is. 
     Then on top of all of this, it is a pretty good story with some major suspense. I look forward to the 2nd book as this was obviously an exposition for more to come. 
*     *     *
     My father gave me this book as a gift and was kind enough to connect me with Ms. June Scobee Rodgers who helped make this book happen. Ms. Scobee Rodgers is the widow of Challenger Space Shuttle Commander Dick Scobee and has spent her life making sure his legacy and NASA continue for years to come. I was lucky enough to be given an opportunity to interview her about the Star Challengers series and the Challenger Center programs: 
Teach Mentor Text: After the Challenger tragedy, yourself and other family members of lost Challenger astronauts opened the Challenger Center to honor them. Why was it decided to use their memory to focus on the education of children?
Ms. Scobee Rodgers: The Challenger 51-L mission soon became the "Teacher in Space" mission. The teacher Christa McAuliffe and I had a great deal in common as teachers. My husband Dick Scobee the Commander had always been mission oriented.  So after we lost the "mission" the other family members of the shuttle crew joined with me to create an opportunity to reach the students and teachers around the globe still waiting for their lessons from the beloved school teacher who died along with my husband.
TMT: What is your goal when it comes to the Challenger Centers?
JSR: Our board of directors and staff as well as all the Challenger Learning Centers all want to continue to reach students to inspire them with the importance of STEM education and the pursuit of careers with a tremendous shortage in those fields.
TMT: How did the Star Challengers books come about?
JSR: Introduced through a mutual friend to famous author Kevin Anderson and his wife Rebecca, we explored opportunities to tell the Challenger story and STEM education with real science fiction that would both entertain and teach as well as inspire our youth across the country.
TMT: As an educator and advocate for children’s education, what do you say to those who don't believe that NASA and space exploration is beneficial for the future?
JSR: The largest concerns facing us as citizens right now are jobs and the economy. Job and economy growth is the direct outcome of new businesses, products and processes which since the end of World War II were created from our focus and investments in technology, engineering, research and science. And that can only happen when you have a citizenry and workforce with the talent to perform this vital role. Since 50% of all potential future scientists, engineers, technicians and similar key workforce tend to decide by the early age of 10-13 years that they either cannot do it or do not want to, we need to continue to expand our efforts to inspire and engage all of them. Even if they choose not to enter those fields. We need a STEM literate citizenry to ensure we hold the correct values for our society. 
TMT: What do you hope comes from the publication of the Star Challenger books?
JSR: I hope to inspire a whole new generation of "Star Challengers" - young people like our main characters who want to make a difference for our planet and who will reach for the stars no matter their circumstances. 
TMT: How do you hope they are used in the classroom? With children?
JSR: Students are now creating book reports and reading the books for pleasure. It would be terrific if the books could be made available in classroom sets to allow for classroom discussion.
TMT: I loved Moon Base Crisis and cannot wait to read the second one- how many books are planned in the series?
JSR: The second book is titled Space Station Crisis, and the third is Asteroid Crisis. We need students to write the follow on books.  For example, Mars City Crisis is waiting to be written by an enterprising young person.
**Thank you so much to Ms. Scobee Rodgers for taking part in this interview!**
Links to information about the Challenger Centers and NASA For Educators: 
Challenger Center logo 
Read Together: Grades 5 to 8
Read Alone: Grades 5 to 10
Read With: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, The Softwire by PJ Haarsma, C.H.A.O.S. by Jon S. Lewis
Snatch of Text: "Also," the commander pointed out, "the Moon is near a quarter of a million miles from Earth, while the speed of our signal - the speed of light - is a mere 186,282 miles per second. Therefore it takes 1.3 seconds for a message to travel from Earth to the Moon, which will produce a noticeable lag when you talk to anyone at Moonbase Magellan." (p. 26) 

"Zota continued as if he hadn't heard. "Because of the Moon's lack of atmosphere, walking on its surface will be like stepping out into a hard vacuum  Your spacesuit maintains your body's integrity. If your suit fails, your tissues explode and freeze. We wouldn't want that now, would we?" The cadets shook their heads." (p. 37)
Mentor Text for: Prediction, Foreshadowing, Allusion, Making connections, Visualizing, Acronyms vs. Abbreviations (p. 36)
Writing Prompts: Currently, there is a search for a young writer to write Mars City Crisis for the Star Challengers series- what would you make the book about? 
Topics Covered: NASA, Space Travel, Moon, Astrology, Education, Time Travel
I *heart* It:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Place for Bats

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Here at Teach Mentor Texts we are always looking for more ways to support teachers! We've found that teachers seem to be constantly on the lookout for great nonfiction. We know we are! To help with this undying quest for outstanding non-fiction, we are excited to participate in Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives. Every Wednesday, you'll find a non-fiction review here - although it may not always be a picture book review. Please visit Kid Lit Frenzy and The Nonfiction Detectives to see what non-fiction others have to share, too.


Title: A Place for Bats 
Author: Melissa Stewart 
Illustrator: Higgins Bonds 
Publisher: Peachtree Pub 
Publication Date: 2012 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction-Expository/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: In simple yet informative language, A Place for Bats introduces young readers to ways human action or inaction can affect bat populations and opens kids minds to a wide range of environmental issues. Describing various examples, the text provides an intriguing look at bats, at the ecosystems that support their survival, and at the efforts of some people to save them. At the end of the book, the author offers readers a list of things they can do to help protect these special creatures in their own communities. Artist Higgins Bonds glorious full-color illustrations vividly and accurately depict the bats and their surroundings.  
What I Think: At the beginning of this school year, a coworker sent me a picture of a furry little bat sleeping next to my stapler on my desk. I was so happy I wasn't there to see that and he assured me that he disinfected my stapler but it still had me a little creeped out. Fine, a lot creeped out. After reading this book, I feel a lot more comfortable with bats though!
    I'm sure most people would say the dislike bats...I'm totally guessing this, but in my mind, bats don't seem to get as much love as say, kitties, on Pinterest or YouTube. I'm just saying...
     After reading this book, I have a totally different perspective on bats. There is a lot to be said for the food chain and for how animals keep things in check because of this food chain. Well, bats play a large role in the food chain as well. It was interesting to read about all the things that bats do and how we kind of need them around. At the end of the book, the author even talks about how we can have bat houses or shelters on our trees to make sure bats have a place to hang out. (A pun! I crack myself up.)
     On GoodReads, a friend asked me if the pictures in this book were different from other bat books. I have to say I haven't read that many bat books but I thought this one seemed unique. There weren't photographs in the book, instead the artwork is done in a way that the illustrations seem almost lifelike. The book also had text that narrated the information about bats simply but then there were also boxes on each layout that shared a more anecdotal note that supported the text on the page.
Read Together: Grades K - 6 
Read Alone: Grades 3 - 6 
Read With: Extreme Animals: Vampire Bats by Seymour Simon, other expository text about bats 
Snatch of Text: 
"Bats make our world a better place. But sometimes people do things that make it hard for them to live and grow.
If we work together to help these winged creatures of the night, there will always be a place for bats."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Asking Questions, Making Connections, Author's Purpose 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Persuasive, Personal Narrative   
Writing Prompts: After reading A Place for Bats, write a persuasive essay to a person you know who might not like bats - you might want to persuade this person to change his or her mind about bats or you might want to persuade this person to read this book to learn more about bats. Write about a time in your life when you changed your opinion about something: What did you think before? What made you change your mind?  
Topics Covered: Bats, Life, Integration - Science
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Audition & Subtraction


Title: Audition & Subtraction
Author: Amy Fellner Dominy
Publisher: Walker & Company
Publication Date: September, 2012
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
Goodreads Summary: For as long as Tatum can remember it’s been:
                               Tatum + Lori = Best friends
They do everything together, including a yearly clarinet/flute duet for District Honor Band auditions. But when a new boy transfers to their middle school and their band, the equation suddenly changes to:
                   Lori + Michael – Tatum = One happy couple
With her best friend slipping away and her parents recently separated, Tatum’s life has turned upside down. Plus her good friend Aaron thinks that they are secretly boyfriend and girlfriend, all because of one little lie Tatum told. Accepting change isn’t easy for Tatum, but just how much is she willing to give up to hold on to her friendship with Lori and life as she knows it? For Tatum, the best way to move forward may require a whole new formula . . .
What Jen Thinks: This is exactly the kind of book my middle school self would have eaten up...I mean, my 32-year-old self devoured it. I loved it! Navigating middle school and high school and trying to figure out friendships and boy-friendships is truly an ordeal if you ask me. Amy does an amazing job of capturing the uncertainty a girl might experience about friends, boys, school, her parents while at the same time giving us a female character who learns to believe in herself and stand up for herself when she needs to. 
     As I went back to reread the beginning, I noticed how well I had gotten to know the characters. It was fun to look back at the beginning and reread how they were interacting with each other at the beginning. Amy does a good job at incorporating dialogue and showing the reader what the characters are doing so readers can visualize what is happening in the text. I'm sure young readers will identify with Tatum. As I was reading about her, I was reminded of some of my favorite movies that give me that stomach-flippy feeling. Clueless kept coming to mind...oh, how I adore that movie. This book is definitely a stomach-flippy book and the kind of book I would want to give to any middle school girl.
     Can I also say that I played the violin in the orchestra from fourth grade all the way through high school and I loved it! I'm excited to see the musical world get some love!
What Kellee Thinks: Can math equations change or does every problem only have 1 answer? Tatum believes that Tatum + Lori = Best Friends is an equation that will never change; however, she cannot predict variables that may change the problem as she knows it. 
     Amy Fellner Dominy is such a realistic voice in the world of middle grade novels. Her humor, story and emotions are spot on to the middle school experience. I also love that overall the book is such a positive look at life even though it does deal with a lot of what is complicated at that age. It is so pleasant to have this type of novel available for middle grade students. The protagonist also represents a population of middle schoolers that are not usually found in literature- a smart, math & music "nerd" thus making it so another group of girls will see themselves reflected in a book.
     Like Jen, I was in orchestra for many years (I played the cello)- I love seeing a girl that reminds me of me in middle school be a protagonist of a book. I would not hesitate giving this to any middle school girl either. Although the book did not remind me of Clueless as I read it, I can totally see it now that Jen has pointed it out - it is like a middle school Clueless with less ditzy girls!
Read Together: Grades 6 to 8
Read Alone: Grades 6 to 10
Read With: Prom & Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg, Mackenzie Blue by Tina Wells, A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban, Drama by Raina Telgemeier, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. and Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner, 
Snatch of Text: 
"'If you're worried,' Aaron said. 'you should do a solo.'
I fake shivered. 'I'd rather eat out of a litter box.'
'You score higher with a solo,' he pointed out.
'Not if you pass out in the middle of it.'"(p. 20)
Mentor Text for: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Visualizing, Personal Narrative, Dialogue
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when a friendship changed - maybe a close friendship wasn't as close or maybe an acquaintance became a close friend. 
Topics Covered: Friendship, Family, Love, Courage, Integration - Music/Band, Auditions, Trust, Honesty, Communication
Jen *hearts* It:
Kellee *hearts* It: 
and 
**Thank you to Amy Fellner Dominy and her publisher for providing copies to us for review**

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/26/12




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: It's amazing how we spent last week surrounded by books at NCTE and ALAN and yet I barely read a word. I did take time to go through Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac. It was fun to hold it as a real book after reading so much of it on her blog. I did read Brain Camp which Faith Erin Hicks illustrated. It was creepy but fun. I also finished Audition and Subtraction which we'll be reviewing on Tuesday! I'm looking forward to a much more normal week and to getting back to reading!

Kellee Says: I was hoping that the flight home would mean extra reading time, but I guess I was completely exhausted from NCTE and ALAN because I was asleep before the plane even took off. Since I've gotten home, though, I have had some time to read, but I have been trying to spend some time with my husband and his family as well. Since I've been home, I've read a couple of novels and a stack of picture books. 
     The two novels I read were both really good- For What It's Worth by Janet Tashjian, a wonderful historical fiction novel that deals with 70s rock and roll and the Vietnam war, and All These Lives, a tough novel about dealing with a sister with cancer. And I really enjoyed all of the picture books I read:
     -Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds, the finale in his creativology series
     -Silent Star by Bill Wise, a biography of a MLB deaf star
     -Penny and he Song by Kevin Henkes, another star from Kevin Henkes
     -Alex the Parrot by Stephanie Spinner, a non-fiction PB about Alex a tremendously intelligent parrot

     -John, Paul, George and Ben by Lane Smith, a tall tale about our founding fathers
     -Abe Lincoln's Dream by Lane Smith, a look at Lincoln's legacy

     -Oh No! by Candace Fleming, a book I cannot wait to read aloud to young kids
     -Dog in Charge by K.L. Going, a fun, unique look at friendship
     -Oh No! by Mac Barnett, the PB I am definitely using as a sci-fi example next year
     -Oh No! Not Again! by Mac Barnett
     -The Secret Life of Walter Kitty by Barbara Jean Hicks, your cat may not be what s/he seems!
          *Last four illustrated by Dan Santat
     -When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio, a bio of a young Bob Dylan and his journey to meet his hero
     -Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems, funny retelling of Golilocks
     -Big Wig by Kathleen Krull, a history of hair

Just click on any picture above to go read the review

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: This week I will finish What Came From the Stars because I still didn't get to it. I have Splendors and Glooms and Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes to listen to on audio. We have a pile of picture books from the library to get to as well. I brought home Endangered in my suitcase from NCTE because I really really want to read it so hopefully I'll find time for that, too!

Kellee Says: I know I am going to read Lulu Walks the Dog by Judith Viorst and Linnea in Monet's Garden by Christina Bjork, but past that I am not sure. With going back to school after a week off and missing the last three days before break (and missing 4/5 days of the first week of December) I know I will have a lot of school work to do so I am not sure how much reading I will get done... We'll see! 

This Week's Reviews:
   Audition & Subtraction
 Star Challengers Moonbase Crisis Jump Cut Close to the Heel
Check back throughout the week to hear about these books. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you please try to comment on at least the three blogs that posted before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

 and

Jen's NCTE/ALAN 12 Recap!

I'm still recovering from the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention that was in Las Vegas this year. Last year I went Friday night and Saturday because it was in Chicago. This year, I flew in on Thursday morning and stayed through NCTE and for the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents post conference. That means I didn't get home until super late on Tuesday night. It was a great trip...but it was long. I was excited to be home and to catch up on much needed sleep. In the pictures, I look more and more tired as the days go by! I made sure to take lots of pictures so I could share all the NCTE/ALAN fun!
Thursday, we made it over to the MGM Grand to see the first breakout session with Donalyn Miller, Terri Lesesne, Franki Sibberson, and Sarah Kajder. They talked about building reading communities online and offline. I was excited to hear their ideas because this has been a main focus for me this year.

Friday, Sir Ken Robinson started off truly making me rethink education in general and educational reform. I attended a breakout session about using Pecha Kuchas. I was so excited for this breakout and it did not disappoint. I love going to sessions and instantly having a million ideas to put to use. It gets me so excited to get back to school and share my ideas. I was excited to go to Kellee's presentation about helping struggling readers with Katherine, JennAnn, Beck, and Lynne (and a high school teacher, I didn't know). Their stories were very inspiring!

Saturday morning, we started early at a presentation that included Anita Silvey, Kate Messner and Lindsey Leavitt. They shared great insight into writing and about how important it is for teachers to actively write. Kate even shared Teachers Write!
I saw Ralph Fletcher speak about encouraging boys to read and RJ Palacio and two other authors talk about characters with special needs in their books. I also attended an Ignite session where speakers shared their ideas in regards to collaboration and inquiry. 

On Sunday, we were up early again to attend Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts' breakout on research and note-taking in a classroom. I loved their ideas and it made me think about how fostering a reading and writing community lends itself to fostering a community of readers and writers who research and share their findings. 
I was also able to attend the Scholastic brunch on Sunday and to hear about lots of great books coming soon from Scholastic. There were so many I am excited about! 

Overall, the breakout sessions were great and I found great authors in the exhibit hall and then at ALAN, but the company and networking was amazing. It feels like spending time with family to be with my Nerdy Book Club friends. Even people I had never met before but have talked with on Twitter are like family. It's amazing the connections we can make online and how that transfers to in person. 
I learned about the idea of a back channel and using Today's Meet as a back channel. I chatted with one of the co-founders of EdCamp and am excited to plan one now! I talked with Meenoo about supporting new teachers and asked Chris about Teachers College and how they support teachers. I am eager to change the idea of professional development as sit and get. It was a treat to meet Heather Radar from Choice Literacy and to get to know more about her work. The learning and ideas that this conference has sparked is awesome. The best part is that I can continue conversations and friendships thanks to Twitter and e-mail. I love it! It's great to know that I am part of such an awesome community that continues to learn and share with each other. 

Speaking of community, it's pretty crazy to think that I could convince 30 people to put on a ridiculous, red, pointy hat and say, "This is not my hat," but I did because these people are part of this amazing community that celebrates books and reading. I'm so glad to know everyone in this video and look forward to hopefully seeing them again at next year's NCTE - but on Twitter or over at Nerdy Book Club before that!

If you haven't read Jon Klassen's I Want My Hat Back or This Is Not My Hat,
I suggest you head to your favorite bookish establishment and read these books!