Sunday, June 29, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/30/14

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...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Jen Says: I'm writing this post from Atlanta where I am for the ISTE conference. This conference is completely huge! There are so many people here and I've been doing lost of learning. Last week, I was at the Choice Literacy retreat for contributors. It was so great to be surrounded by other writers and I received a few books that I'm excited to read. Right away, I read Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. It's amazing and I'm so excited to talk more about it. I've had a blog idea rolling around in my head since reading it...I'm sure I'll share it soon! I also received A More Beautiful Question which I have also been reading. I felt like I took a complete detour with my reading compared to where I was going last week in my IMWAYR post, but that seems to be how my life is lately. I'm just going with the flow! We did visit Little Shop of Stories with the wonderfully, kind Laurel Snyder while we were in town and I bought and read Some Bugs by Angela DeTerlizzi. It's super cute and I can't wait to get home and read it with my kiddos!

Reviewed Last Week:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: My goal is to finish A More Beautiful Question before I get home on Tuesday. We'll see how I do! I picked up The Red Rubber Ball at Work by Kevin Carroll which looks like a lot of fun so maybe I can squeeze that in, too. There are so many people to connect with here at ISTE that I'm struggling to find reading time but you never know! I do know that I pre-ordered My Teacher Is a Monster! (No I Am Not.) by Peter Brown from my local Indie so I'm going to be reading that this week with my kids. I can't wait to hear what they think, especially Peanut who loves to make paper airplanes!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

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 comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Just One Day

Title: Just One Day
 Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: August 20, 2013 
 Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction
 GoodReads Summary: Allyson Healey's life is exactly like her suitcase—packed, planned, ordered. Then on the last day of her three-week post-graduation European tour, she meets Willem. A free-spirited, roving actor, Willem is everything she’s not, and when he invites her to abandon her plans and come to Paris with him, Allyson says yes. This uncharacteristic decision leads to a day of risk and romance, liberation and intimacy: 24 hours that will transform Allyson’s life.

A book about love, heartbreak, travel, identity, and the “accidents” of fate, Just One Day shows us how sometimes in order to get found, you first have to get lost. . . and how often the people we are seeking are much closer than we know.

The first in a sweepingly romantic duet of novels. Willem’s story—Just One Year—is coming soon! 

What I Think: When I was a sophomore in high school, I toured Italy with the orchestra. It was an amazing trip that I will never forget. It's the only and only time I have ever been to Europe. While I would love to go back I'm not sure how likely it is that I'll visit again any time soon. A guided tour sets the stage for Allyson's story. I love the bit of adventure - although somewhat reckless - that encompasses this story. As I work with teachers and students on digital citizenship, there is definitely this element of discussing choices that students make on and off technology. While Allyson makes a choice to abandon her plans, her friend and the safety of the guided tour/trip that she's on, it's definitely a choice I might discuss with students. I'm certain students would be able to see how dangerous it might have been for Allyson and this seems like it could be the start of a great conversation about the decisions we - adults, teens, people - make everyday and how those decisions impact us. Some decisions are clearly more trivial than others, but all make an impact whether big small. 
      As a mentor text, this book has a great opening line and first paragraph to follow. In one sense, it offers a question that challenges a well-known literary figure and that makes a reader stop and wonder, curious to read on, wondering if the author just might be on to something no one has had the audacity to suggest. Could Shakespeare be wrong? Surely not...but maybe?
     More than that though, Gayle Forman suggests her "What if...?" thinking with readers so we can see what she's thinking here. As I write more and more, I notice myself looking at the world around me and wondering "What if...?" all the time. I look at a person, a place, a thing...and I wonder what story belong to that person, place or thing and then I wonder, "What if...?" I write fiction and non-fiction but what I truly love about fiction is that a writer can look at something and imagine a story around it and then have dinner, watch a show or go for a run and then come back and imagine a totally different story around it all over again. It's fun. It's a great feeling of possibility and creativity. I love the opening of this book as a mentor text because it reminds writers to take something solid, well-known, established, and to slither in and find a "What if...?" This would make a great mentor text to use in terms of generating ideas and/or in looking at catchy first lines.  
Read Together: Grades 8 - 12
Read Alone: Grades 9 - 12 
Read With: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot, Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
Snatch of Text: 
     "What if Shakespeare had it wrong?
     To be or not to be: that is the question. That's from Hamlet's - maybe Shakespeare's - most famous soliloquy. I had to memorize the whole speech for sophomore English, and I can still remember every word. I didn't give it much thought back then. I just wanted to get all the words right and collect my A. But what if Shakespeare - and Hamlet - were asking the wrong question? What if the real question is not whether to be, but how to be?"
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you wondered about life. It might be when you questioned someone or something or when you realized things weren't as you might have thought all along.
Topics Covered: Courage, Friendship, Love, Relationships, Trust, Curiosity, Perseverance, Honesty
 I *heart* It:

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Let's Celebrate The Beach!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating the beach!

*throws confetti*

Last weekend, I went for my second stand up paddleboard yoga class with my friend, Lauren. She was adventurous to consider going with me. I bought a Groupon last year and we had to get in five classes so I enlisted her to come with me. The first time we went we both fell in love so she was ready to come with me the second time around. 

The class we took was with Royal Pigeon Yoga at 31st Street Harbor in Chicago. This harbor is just south of McCormick place and it is beautiful. I grew up north of Chicago in the suburb of Lake Forest. We had a beach, free to Lake Forest residents, so we were always there. Because of that, I've never been to a Chicago beach. I was so impressed with 31st Street Harbor and I told my husband he had to come down with the kids the next time I went for a class. 

Not only did my husband and the kids come down to the beach, my mom came, too. She's usually up for adventures, too...and because she was with us, she offered to stay with the kids when my husband decided he would join in on the yoga class with us. 

I'll share the paddleboard yoga pictures in another Celebration post because today I really wanted to celebrate the beach and how much fun my kids had there. I have so many fond memories of spending time at the beach but we haven't taken our kids much. I can count the number of times we have been on my fingers actually. 

I'm so glad we brought them down to the beach and I'm planning to take them again because they had a great time. They played in the water even though it was freezing, they built sandcastles and decorated them with sticks and feathers they found, they buried each other in the sand. It was an overcast day and the fog made it hard to see the city skyline but there weren't many people at the beach and it was a perfect morning to spend there. Here are a few pictures to celebrate our beach fun!



When was the last time you visited the beach?
Do you have a favorite beach?
What do you love the most - or dislike, maybe? - about the beach?

What are you celebrating this week?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Poetry Friday - Closer to Fine

 Today Poetry Friday is at Buffy's Blog! Be sure to visit and check out all the great poetry posts!

On Sunday, I drove to Indiana for a Choice Literacy retreat for contributors hosted by Brenda Power, the founder of Choice Literacy. Last year, the Choice Literacy retreat was such an awesome experience for me and I was excited to return. This year was equally as amazing. Being surrounded by writers for two days, writing, sharing, discussing, reflecting on habits is deeply moving. This year, Brenda brought in bits and pieces of inspiration text for us to read and discuss. 
At one point, she handout copies of A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger. We were asked to read a short section to discuss. So far, this book is making me really think hard about life and what I want to contribute to the world. I'm excited to read more and work on my own beautiful question. I already know I'll be writing more about this topic as I've been thinking about it a lot since the retreat. It's led to some pretty deep thinking which reminded me of the song Closer to Fine by the Indigo Girls.
My senior year in high school I took a semester long Composition class with a phenomenal teacher, Ms. Urkovich. I consider myself super lucky to have attended a school where reading and writing workshop was valued. Honestly, I owe a lot of my positive feelings about writing and my understanding of writing as a process to my workshop experiences in high school. Ms. Urkovich completely challenged me as a writer. In class, we analyzed the lyrics of Closer to Fine before she asked us to choose a song to analyze and write about on our own. Whenever I hear this song, I instantly think of Ms. Urkovich leading our class discussion as we discussed the meaning of the lyrics. Throughout high school, we spent a lot of time digging deep into texts and contemplating the meaning of life. I love how this song honors how natural it is for us to think about our purpose here on Earth but then at the same time, it points out that we might be better off just relaxing and enjoying life.

I definitely think we need a balance of both. There is so much to enjoy about life and being able to let go and live in the moment is magical. Similarly, it's important to think about life and what we can offer in the time that we are here so that we can feel okay about letting go and living in the moment. I would love to hear what insight you might have when you listen to or read these lyrics. 

"Closer To Fine"
I'm trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you've ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it's only life after all
Well darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
And lightness has a call that's hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I'm crawling on your shore.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

I went to see the doctor of philosophy
With a poster of Rasputin and a beard down to his knee
He never did marry or see a B-grade movie
He graded my performance, he said he could see through me
I spent four years prostrate to the higher mind, got my paper
And I was free.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

I stopped by the bar at 3 a.m.
To seek solace in a bottle or possibly a friend
I woke up with a headache like my head against a board
Twice as cloudy as I'd been the night before
I went in seeking clarity.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine.

We go to the bible, we go through the workout
We read up on revival and we stand up for the lookout
There's more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in a crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine
The closer I am to fine

I hope today finds you closer to fine than yesterday! 
Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The One With a Curious Little Bean #slice2014


Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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Next week, Little Bean will turn four! It seems like it's been a long time that I've been telling people he's "almost four" because he's such a big kid. Now he's finally going to be four. He's asked me for a Batman cake and we'll be celebrating his birthday with family at the spray park near our house.
Little Bean is only one of his nicknames. Sometimes he's my Doodle Bug or simply D but most of the time he's my little jumping bean because he has so much energy. It seems like he's been on the go ever since he was born. He was only eleven days old when he flipped over from his stomach to has back...which is crazy but he did it at least a dozen times. 

This kid is the very definition of curious. I've been at a writing retreat for Choice Literacy contributors and we received the book A More Beautiful Question by Warren Berger. The book starts with this quote from e.e. cummings:

"Always the beautiful answer
Who asks a more beautiful question."

I've only read the first twenty pages but I love how it celebrates curiosity and wonders how the world might be different if we truly encouraged questioning instead of stifling it. On page twelve it says, "mischievous What if I take this apart? childhood stories are common among questioners" and reading this made me instantly think of my Little Bean and all the stories I can about him testing out his curiosity. The boy cannot resist jumping in a puddle, pushing any button he comes upon, and arguing, "But I want to". As a parent, it's not always easy to be patient and sometimes my frustration shows. I'm so glad to read more of this book and to think closely on how I might encourage Little Bean's curiosity while still making sure he stays safe and doesn't demolish my house. 

Who are the curious people in your life? What are some ways they challenge the status quo? How might we learn from these constant questioners?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (6/23/14)


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...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Jen Says: I finished listening to Chomp and actually thought it was really fun. I'm reading The Writing Thief by Ruth Culham and already love the feel of this book already. I stopped in at the Lake Forest Bookstore over the weekend and read Ninja by Arree Chung and some other picture books that were great. 

Reviewed Last Week:

Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: I'm going to continue reading The Writing Thief and I also have The Right to Write which I'm hoping to read as well. I started listening a tiny bit to Finally by Wendy Mass but I think it's going to expire before I can finish it so I may download a different audiobook for the week. 

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

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 comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

The Battle of Darcy Lane

Title:  The Battle of Darcy Lane
Author:  Tara Altebrando   
Publisher:  Running Press Kids
Publication Date:  April 22nd, 2014
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel
GoodReads Summary: It is summertime, and twelve-year-old Julia Richards cannot stand the anticipation. Everyone on Darcy Lane seems to be holding their breath waiting for the cicadas to emerge, but what Julia and her best friend, Taylor, want is some real excitement. Which arrives in the form of a new neighbor named Alyssa, who introduces a ball game called Russia . . . and an unwelcome level of BFF rivalry.

Suddenly nothing stands unchallenged—not Julia's friendships, her crush, or her independence. But while Julia realizes that she cannot control all the changes in her life, she hangs onto the hope that everything will go in her favor if she can just win one magnificent showdown. 
Acclaimed author Tara Altebrando's middle-grade debut features a voice that is true to the adolescent experience, where everything is felt acutely in a whirlwind of all-or-nothing emotion. 
What I Think: Growing in and out of friends is such a part of growing up and Tara Altebrando gets this push and pull of friendship just right as she tells Julia's story. Bringing the characters to life with great dialogue and relationships that are so true to real life.
     I especially love the characters in this book and how the main character has people in her life to support her even when she is facing others who make her question their friendship and who she is as a person. As a mentor text, this book is great for looking at how to capture personal stories on paper, inviting students to read about the everyday experiences that Julia has, to relate them to their own lives, and then to write stories of their own lives.
Read Together: Grades 5 - 7 
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 8 
Read With: Audition & Subtraction by Amy Fellner Dominy, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. and Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, Smile by Raina Telgemeier 
Snatch of Text: 
     "The new girl had long dark brown hair with the sides pulled up to the top of her head in a butterfly clip, and her top lip looked like it had been pinched and gotten stuck in a permanent pucker.
     'What are you doing?' she asked.
     Taylor said, 'We're just hanging out,' before I had a chance to explain that we were pretending to be millionaires. 'I'm Taylor and this is Julie.'
     The new girl studied us. 'Are you sisters?'
     Taylor pointed. 'No. I live two houses down.'
     'Yeah, didn't think so.'
     It was true that Taylor and I looked nothing alike but for some reason it sounded like an insult." (p. 12)
      "I felt a pain in my gut as we pulled off the block, a fear of missing something or everything." (p. 32)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Alliteration, Dialogue 
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when a friend wasn't acting like a good friend.  
Topics Covered: Friendship, Family, Relationships, Honesty, Loyalty, Kindness, Courage 
I *heart* It:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Let's Celebrate Life!

It's time to CELEBRATE This Week with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.  Every week Ruth invites us to share our celebrations from the week and link up at her blog. What a fun way to reflect on everything there is to be thankful for. 

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This week I'm celebrating life!

*throws confetti*


Yesterday I shared my trip to the Forest Hills Cemetery in Boston with Jennifer Reed. It really was so beautiful to be there. It wasn't sad to me at all, it was relaxing. Obviously, I'm happy to be alive and hope to live for a long time still, but it's nice to know that someday when I do die, I might be in such a quiet and serene place such as Forest Hills. 

Today we packed up the kids and headed about twenty minutes east to Lake Forest where I grew up. We were headed to the Wildlife Discovery Center where we love to visit the animals and play at the park except both kids fell asleep. I suggested we take the long way into town and then circle back to the discovery center. We ended up down near the lake and zig zagged around to the elementary school I attended and then I remembered the Lake Forest Cemetery. It has a wonderful archway as the entrance and remembering my trip last weekend, I turned to head in. I'm not sure when I had last visited if ever but it was as lovely as Forest Hills although definitely not as expansive. I stopped to hop out and take a picture and the kids stirred. As they woke up, I explained where we were and pointed out some of the more unique grave markers. I saw a large stone that read "Hughes" and asked my husband to look up and see if it was John Hughes the director of movies like Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It was so when we pulled back around, I stopped to take a picture as well. By this time my husband was ready to go, commenting that it was freaking him out to be there. This took me by surprise. 

I know death is sad but it's part of life and it's comforting to me to know that there are places like cemeteries where people can go and visit and celebrate life. Here are a few pictures. The first one is looking out onto Lake Michigan. It's hard to see the water because it was overcast and a bit foggy but the waves gently crashing were relaxing.
 
And then we did make our way to the Wildlife Discover Center where I held a chameleon and a box turtle and celebrated a whole different kind of life.  
 

What do you think of cemeteries? And what do you think about reptiles?

What are you celebrating this week?