Sunday, August 31, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/1/14

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. 

Little Elliot, Big City Giveaway Announcement!



Congratulations to:
Patricia from Washington DC 
who won the Little Elliot, Big City giveaway!


Thanks to MacMillan Kids for the great prize pack giveaway. It was so fun to be part of the blog tour! Be sure to visit all of the stops on the tour to learn more about Mike Curato, his process, and our friend, Little Elliot!

Last Week's Book Adventures:
Jen Says: I finished listening to Daring Greatly by Brene Brown and already shared ideas with friends. A very smart book that would pair well with Mindset by Caro Dweck. I'm still reading Hope is a Ferris Wheel and I'm curious to find out how things work out for this main character! 

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

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: I'm hoping to finish up Hope is a Ferris Wheel early this week and then I still have Isla and the Happy Ever After. I totally forgot that I have Kate Messner's Manhunt and hopefully I'll get to that sooner rather than later. So many great books out now! I need to make more time for reading! The back-to-school season is always a busy and exhausting time. Hopefully we'll be more in the groove sooner rather than later! 

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!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Snicker of Magic

Title: A Snicker of Magic
Author: Natalie Lloyd
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Genre/Format: Mild Fantasy/Middle Grade Novel
GoodReads Summary: Introducing an extraordinary new voice---a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.
What I Think: This book is full of such lovely words. It's not surprise the the main character, Felicity is a word collector because I'm sure the author, Natalie Lloyd is a word collector herself. And if she isn't a word collector, she sure is a word weaver. She knows how to wind words together to make them read like ribbons of caramel in a scoop of ice cream, sweet and smooth. The writing in this book is the kind you want to wrap around you like a blanket. 
     As a mentor text, this book would be an amazing example of descriptive writing. I'm sure you can find every kind of literary element here and great examples of imagery. In the examples that I pulled out, you'll notice a lot of alliteration and simile. Most of all Natalie's writing is a great mentor text for show, don't tell and word choice. I love talking to kids about $100 words and you can see how tight her writing is because she chooses the best words for what she wants to say. It isn't easy to make every word count but she definitely knows how to do this!
Read Together: Grades 4 - 5
Read Alone: Grades 4 - 8 (I think I would use examples of her descriptive writing all the way through high school, although I would probably not read the whole book in upper grades)
Read With: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Bigger Than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. by Kate Messner, Savvy by Ingrid Law, A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass, A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Snatch of Text:
     "Her eyes used to be as bright blue as a summer sky, but now they looked like jeans faded from too many tumbles through a washing machine." (p. 7)

     "'Everybody has a talent." Jonah gave me a searching look.
     I shook my head. 'There's not much I'm talented at. Except climbing trees. And I can drink a milk shake real fast and not get brain freeze.'' (p. 37)

     "I thought of standing on stage with shaky hands and tingling ears and sweaty lips. I thought of how my words came out twisted when I tried to say them in front of all those people. My words were a mess to everybody but my family." (p. 71)

     "That night I propped me elbows on the windowsill and stared up at the star-patched sky. If I looked down, I could see the rusty roof of the Pickled Jalapeno parked crooked in the lot. If I looked straight ahead, I could see lights scattered through the dark mountains. They were porch lights, probably. But I imagined they were sleeping stars. I made a wish on every single one of them. Jonah'd be thrilled about me dueling. But I couldn't summon up even a teaspoonful of happiness. In fact, I had a strange, sinking feeling that I'd just made everything worse." (p. 100)
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you were nervous or terrified to do something. Did you do it? How did you get over your fear and get the courage to do it?
Topics Covered: Family, Love, Hope, Determination, Courage, Adversity, Friendship
I *heart* It:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Little Elliot, Big City Blog Tour and Giveaway!








I'm thrilled to be part of the Little Elliot, Big City blog tour today! We love this sweet book at my house but I learned so much from Mike Curato's guest post (below) about the importance of research even in fiction writing. It made me think differently about how this book might be used as a mentor text. I hope you enjoy Mike's guest post as much as I did and that you'll visit the other stops on the blog tour and enter my giveaway!

Title: Little Elliot, Big City
Author: Mike Curato
Illustrator: Mike Curato
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: August 26, 2014
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
GoodReads Summary: Amid the hustle and bustle of the big city, the big crowds and bigger buildings, Little Elliot leads a quiet life. In spite of the challenges he faces, Elliot finds many wonderful things to enjoy—like cupcakes! And when his problems seem insurmountable, Elliot discovers something even sweeter—a friend.
What I Think: It's hard not to love a sweet little elephant with polka-dots, especially when he loves cupcakes. Right? I love imagining an elephant feeling small on the streets of New York...let alone in his apartment. Despite challenges that Elliot faces, he also recognizes great things in his life. This sentiment is such a great message for kids. Life isn't perfect. Some things make life hard and some things make life amazing. Friends make the hard things more tolerable and the amazing things even better.
     After reading Mike's guest post about the research he did for the book, it made me really think about how much research goes into a fiction book. Just because his characters are fiction, he still spent a lot of time getting the setting right. It seems like his initial Google Image search led to more research, different resources, places to visit. This is such a great example of passion driven research that should be shared with students. I wish more teachers would ignite students' passion for research by showing them what true passion driven research looks like in real life and  encouraging them to learn more about what seems exciting to them. 
     I would venture to say that anyone can draw a building and anyone can draw a car but being true to the time period and making sure to get subtle details right shows an attention to the essence of the book. What a wonderful message to share the care that goes into bringing a book to life. As a mentor text, I believe reading Mike's guest post would be a nice way to start a discussion about what research and/or resources students might do or access in preparation for or as they write. This would be great to share with students who have trouble getting started with their writing. Maybe building their background knowledge and immersing themselves into reading about their topic, setting, time period would help them feel more confident in their writing.
Read Together: Grades K - 2
Read Alone: Grades K - 3
Read With: The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman, The Adventures of Beekle by Dan Santat, Love Monster by Rachel Bright, Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown, The Lion and The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney, Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick
Snatch of Text: 
"Little Elliot loved living in a big city,
but sometimes it was hard being so
small in such a huge place."
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when having a friend with you helped you to believe in yourself.
Topics Covered: Friendship, Courage, Adversity, Determination
I *heart* It:
 

Little Elliot, Big City Blog Tour
Tuesday, August 26 Librarian in Cute Shoes @utalaniz
Wednesday, August 27 Teach Mentor Texts @mentortexts
Thursday, August 28 Read. Write. Reflect. @katsok 
Friday, August 29 Kit Lit Frenzy @alybee930
Saturday, August 30 Daddy Mojo @daddymojo
Sunday, August 31 Sharp Reads @colbysharp 
Watch. Connect. Read. @mrschureads
Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
Monday, September 1 Miss Print @miss_print

A warm welcome to Mike Curato, author and illustrator of Little Elliot, Big City, who shares insight into the research he did for Little Elliot, Big City!
In my new book, Little Elliot, Big City, a small polka-dotted elephant navigates a bustling New York City set in the late 1930s/early 1940s. I chose this period because I love the aesthetic of the day, and because I have a nostalgia for a time before cell phones and apps and internet. There’s a romance around the idea that people wrote each other hand-written letters and had milk delivered to their home.

In order to create an accurate depiction of the period, thorough research was essential, especially since I was not alive back then to witness everything first hand. There were many questions to answer. What did New York City look like then? What would Elliot’s apartment likely contain? What kind of refrigerator would he store his treats in? Throughout the book, I try to tuck in some visual clues to take us back in time.

I used several different resources in my research. Google Images was my first stop. There are some obvious limitations to this. Sometimes one isn’t even sure what keywords to search for. Other times, there just isn’t anything available specific to the period. There are some websites that specialize in history and ephemera that I used as well. One of my favorite sites is Forgotten New York, which specializes in cataloguing different areas and aspects of New York that are gone or are quickly changing, as well as sharing a bit of history. The New York Public Library also boasts a huge digital collection of photographs from various time periods throughout the city’s lifetime.

Though the internet can seem endless, sometimes you just can’t find what you’re looking for. That’s usually when I move on to books. I made a trip to the New York City Library, which naturally houses many books about New York. For the second book, Little Elliot, Big Family, I actually spent several hours in there just trying to find out what the fence along the water’s edge of Battery Park used to look like.

Even then, more in depth research is needed. I took another trip to the MTA Museum and Archives, where I was able to photograph older models of subway cars in person. In the archives, I was able to search through tons of vintage photographs that showed how each subway stop used to look. There were also photo essays that offered a glimpse into the time period. It was by far my favorite research moment!

One limitation of working from someone else’s photographs is that sometimes it’s not taken at the precise angle or perspective that I need for my composition. So, I also trekked all over Manhattan and Brooklyn, taking reference of various buildings and street details.

Once I have all of my reference gathered, I can start working on the finished drawings. Sometimes, when a spread is particularly complex, I’ll create a mockup of my references, almost like a patchwork quilt, to help me map out the piece. Here’s an example of before and after:
before&after.png

All of that combined to help me create Elliot’s world! Though the story has themes about friendship and perspective, the moral behind my research is: always do your homework!

Thank you for sharing this part of your process, Mike! 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The One With Rad Book Recommendations



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

*          *          *

Yesterday was a fun bookish day. Now that teachers and students are back in school, I have more opportunities to recommend books. What's really cool is that family members ask me for book recommendations, too. I love that.
Last week, I shared Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett with illustrations by Jon Klassen with the Coordinator of Elementary ELA in my district. She was sharing with me that she's looking for more books in Spanish and I just happened to grab Extra Yarn in Spanish as the library - Hilo Sin Fin. The Spanish translation is amazing and I was excited to be able to bring both copies for her to look over. Today, when I got back from a school visit, I found both books on my desk with a sticky note thanking me for sharing them with her. She loved them.
My sister came over tonight to watch the kids. My husband had to leave for a meeting before I was home so she stayed with them for a couple hours. After I got home, she stayed for a bit and we talked about the kids and work and my writing when i spotted El Deafo by CeCe Bell in a stack of books. I gasped, grabbed it and handed it to my sister. "You have to read this," I told her. That's all, nothing else. She looked at it, frowned at it, but then she opened it and started reading. I got up and walked into the kitchen, made myself busy, let her read. When it was time for me to get the kids to bed and she packed up to leave, she asked, "I can take this with me, right?" Of course, grinning, I told her, "Of course." I can't wait to hear what she thinks.
And to top it all of (ha!) a friend texted me today to share that her kindergarten daughter gets to bring a book to share with her friends on her birthday instead of cupcakes. How fun is that?!? She wanted to know which book I would recommend. I immediately thought of Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won. I love this sweet fun story and think she'll love it, too. I also think Pete the Cat (the original) by Eric Litwin, Please Bring Balloons by Lindsay Ward, and Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idlo would be great, too.

It's pretty fun being known as the bookish friend. I'm always happy to share books I love and finding a book that matches someone I care about is quite possibly one of the best feelings in the world ever.

What's your favorite, or most recent, book recommendation story?! Please share!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/25/14

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: This week I finished listening to Just One Year by Gayle Forman...but now I found out that there's another book/short story, Just One Night, so I'll have to read that next. I'm now listening to Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I'm a few chapters into Hope is a Ferris Wheel and I'm already invested in the characters.

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

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Jen Says: I'm going to continue listening to Daring Greatly and reading Hope is a Ferris Wheel. I also have Isla and the Happy Ever After and I'm super excited to read it...hopefully I can find time! Happy reading everyone!

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!