Friday, December 30, 2016

Shy

Title: Shy 
Author: Deborah Freedman 
Illustrator: Deborah Freedman 
Publisher: Viking 
Publication Date: September 27th, 2016
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book
GoodReads Summary: Shy loves birds. He'd love to watch them fly and hear them sing, but he's only ever read about them in books. . .until a real bird comes along. He's dying to meet her, but there's just one problem: Shy is, well, shy--so shy, in fact, that he's afraid to leave the gutter of the book. Can Shy overcome his fears and venture out onto the page? 

This sweetly relatable picture book from the acclaimed Deborah Freedman speaks to every child who's ever felt like hiding instead of facing the daunting world. 
What I Think: I've had the lovely pleasure of meeting Deborah Freedman and it's so obvious after meeting her that her personality comes across in her illustrations. Her work is beautiful and gentle, calm and soothing. Shy especially is quiet and lovely. I love how Deborah so intricately weaves the text and the illustrations together. This book is a perfect mentor text for looking at how the text leaves space for the illustrations to do their work.
     As a mentor text, this book is perfect for looking at how the illustrations support the text. It's also an opportunity to look at how to show and not tell in the sense that it's the author's job to give enough information to the reader that he or she can fill in the blanks. This is super super hard to do. It's easier to give lots of information and outline everything for a reader...but knowing when to pull back and what specific details to show is harder. This would be an interesting mini-lesson in how to pull back on a personal narrative. I know there are times when I struggle to not tell too much. But there's a power in recognizing the need to pull back and going through to cut words. I written before about Lisa Graff and how she writes a manuscript and then she revises by going through and cutting her words in half. It's amazing what message shines through when you take out all the extra unnecessary words!
Snatch of Text: 
"Shy was happiest between the pages of a book."
Writing Prompt: Reread something you've written. Now try to take out 10 words, 15 words, 25 words. Does your writing sound stronger as you tighten up the words? Don't give up the meaning or the core of your message, but see if it makes your message stronger.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

READ: I Am Here Now


I find power in others telling their stories and 
I hope you do too!
Check out It's Monday! What Are You Reading? at Book Date
For the kidlit version, visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

Wandering Urban Outfitters a few weeks ago, I found myself amused by the book collection they had. I wrote down a few books I'd love to buy someday but there was one I definitely couldn't pass up in the moment. It's called I am here now and is "A creative mindfulness guide and journal" from The Mindfulness Project. See how I couldn't pass it up? It just seemed so perfect.


I haven't worked through all of the exercises yet but I've enjoyed many of them for sure. I was already in love after the first page. I had to fill in information about myself and draw a self-portrait.
But my favorite part was that underneath the box were these words:

"It is what it is."

Sometime in the fall I stayed home with our six-year-old because he wasn't feeling well. He had recently begged us for a Twitter account so he could follow the Twitter account his class has at school and I warned him that he wasn't supposed to tweet since he was sick. 

So of course, what did he do? He secretly tweeted his class, telling them he was home sick and "It is what it is." 

Which made me laugh but also wonder where he came up with that...until I heard myself saying it. Suddenly, every time I uttered these words, they stood out to me and I realized he got these words from me. Sometimes I have moments like this when I realize just how much I influence my kids but it also lets me learn about myself. I can see myself in them. 

Then I saw these words on the first page of this notebook: "It is what it is." I underlined them right away. Yes. These are my words. It is what it is. And when we are faced with what is, we need to take a deep breath and decide how to proceed. But if I've learned anything about being mindful, it's that we have to accept every moment for what it is and decide how to move forward. Dwelling on the past isn't helpful and looking too far into the future isn't always helpful either. Focus on the here and now and do what you can with what you have. Whether it's about enjoying it or accepting it, doing something about it or moving on, first we have to open our eyes and see what it is. 

As 2016 comes to an end, I'm especially thinking about the words, "It is what it is." I'm taking a breath and realizing there are some things that as much as I wish they weren't true and that as much as I wish I could wake up and find that it's all been a dream, I just can't. So I have to remind myself, it is what it is, and now I have to decide what to do next. 2017 is a new year and I'm feeling more ready, excited, and anxious as ever to make the world a better place. Being mindful helps me feel centered but also helps me be in a better place to make an impact on more than just myself.

It's surprising how little time we take to focus on ourselves but how important it is. If you're looking for a book to get started in exploring mindfulness, this is definitely a great book for you to explore!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/26/2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 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:
It's hard to believe that this is the last IMWAYR post of 2016!!! Even though it's winter break, I'm still working on: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rising Strong, Fat Angie, and A Boy Called Bat. But I did devour The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily. Loved it! 

Reviewed Last Week:
Over at Story Exploratory, I celebrated the Anderson's Young Adult Literature Conference!
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'll be reading: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rising Strong, Fat Angie, and A Boy Called Bat...and maybe something else. We'll see how the week goes!

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!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

JOIN: Anderson's Young Adult Literature Conference 2016


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


In October, I attended the Anderson's Bookshop Young Adult Literature Conference for the second time but I totally forgot to share my pictures! 

Anderson's also hosts a Children's Literature Breakfast that I have attended a few times but the YA version is still new-ish to me. As a writer, I look for opportunities to connect with other writers. This conference is definitely one of those opportunities. The whole day is all about meeting and hearing from amazing authors. There are four keynotes and then three sessions to attend panels and listen to the authors and ask questions. And then at the end, you can get books signed. They also have a fan frenzy day on Sunday but I haven't been able to join in on that fun...yet.

As a writer, I can't stress enough how important it is to be surrounded by other writers. Thank goodness for technology because it makes it much easier to connect with other writers...but finding experiences like the Anderson's Bookshop Young Adult Literature Conference is great because you get to connect in person. I definitely recommend seeking out opportunities like this if you can!

So that weekend, I chatted with a bunch of authors but a few stood out, and each for different reasons. 

Jordan Sonnenblick sat at our table with us for the breakfast and lunch...and that's all I really need to say. Jordan Sonnenblick. I've read all of his books and it was awesome to tell him in person how amazing it is that he manages to make me cry on one page and then laugh on the next. He's so good at capturing life in his books. The more I write, the more I think about life and it's interesting how even when life is crappy, there's room for love and laughter and joy. That's what Jordan does, his characters deal with real-life crap but they still get to experience love and laughter and joy. I bought two copies of Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie for him to sign for my boys when they get to sixth grade. So cool.

Me and Jordan Sonnenblick
Over the past five years, I've participated in Teachers Write, a virtual summer writing camp for educators. It's been such a wonderful experience in that it connected me to so many people who are also writing. Being part of a community of writers has really helped me write more and become a better writer. One of the authors I've met through Teachers Write is Geoff Herbach. Gae Polisner hosted him on her blog as a guest for Friday Feedback and I've enjoyed his books every since. Geoff is a remarkable writer of boy characters. I had recently read his book Anything You Want which came out in May and I got to tell him how I loved watching the character grow from the beginning to the end. 
Me and Geoff Herbach
Getting to meet Traci Chee was the biggest treat for me. Her book The Reader is fantastic but she's also a writing friend from a contest I did in 2014. I met her for the first time in real life and she's great.  I'm so thankful to be connected with Traci and other writers thanks to the contest. Many of us are in a Facebook group together where we get to talk about the publishing journey and the ups and downs along the way. 
Traci Chee and me
Next week, will be my last post of 2016. I'll talk about my one little word: revel and think back on all the great things that happened this year...and maybe a little about the uncertainty of what 2017 will be. This event was definitely a highlight of my year so I'm glad I'm celebrating it!

Have you attended events to connect with other writers? 
Even meeting up to write with a friend is a great experience.
I'd love to hear how you connect with other writers!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/19/2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 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:
Here's what I read last week: Comic Squad: Lunch, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rising Strong, Fat Angie, A Boy Called Bat and Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry. The only two I finished were Comic Squad: Lunch and Syllabus though! I'll keep on reading the others this week! 

Reviewed Last Week:
Here at Teach Mentor Texts I celebrated Mo Willems style art!
Over at Story Exploratory I celebrated the last week of school in 2016 and the start of winter break!
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
Here's what I'll be reading more of this week: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rising Strong, Fat Angie, and A Boy Called Bat. And hopefully 12 Days of Dash and Lily too! 

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!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

JOIN: Celebrating Winter Break 2016


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


This is my 15th year in education...and it's been a fun year so far! We have a lot of exciting opportunities for kids and since I'm in my 2nd year at my school district, I've developed closer relationships with staff and have been part of some great discussions and planning. Overall, it's been exciting but the week before winter break is still exhausting. Me and my co-worker support technology integration at our three buildings. We spent most of the week in classes doing Hour of Code with our kindergarten, first, and second graders. We introduce them to coding and set them up to spend some time coding with Kodable. Kodable is a a website and also an app where students can get an introduction to coding. It's all visual so it's perfect for pre-readers. It was awesome but exhasusting!

That's why when the principal walked in with a Starbucks drink for me on Thursday...well, I might have jumped up and down and screamed a high-pitch sort of scream. It was awesome. Here's me with my wonderful caramel macchiato. 
And here's a picture of the hallway at the end of the day. I was late leaving and went to check my mailbox one more time before going to pick up my 6 year old from the after school program. I love the magic of an empty building. The quiet stillness is beautiful. I love the energy, the vibrant excitement and whir of busy-ness when it's filled with kids too. But when the students are gone it's like that memory of their enthusiasm still floats in the air and it's beautiful too. 

Today I'm celebrating the start of winter break. After fifteen years of winter break...I know it's going to be great to be home and to spend time with family and that I'll come back to school ready for the rest of the year.

What are you celebrating this weekend?

Mo Willems Kid Art Fun

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. 

*                  *                   *

This week I'm celebrating Mo Willems kid art fun!

*throws confetti*
 
We are Mo Willems fans! We own all the Knuffle Bunny books and many of the Elephant and Piggie books. We've had friends over to act out Elephant and Piggie's stories and we've made our own art using the style Mo Willems uses for his illustrations in Knuffle Bunny
This year for holiday gifts for teachers at schools, the kids created more Knuffle Bunny style art. In the thank you cards we got from the teachers, it sounds like the handmade art was a hit. Here's how we created our Mo Willems style art!

We found images of their schools online that we printed out in black and white. Then I cut little rectangles out of pieces of paper and asked the kids to draw their teachers. This was super important because I knew they needed to draw their teachers really small so they would fit on the pictures. I needed to also make sure they didn't draw stick figures because that would be really hard to cut out so I showed them this drawing from cartoonist Ivan Brunetti for the New Yorker. He's known for using simple shapes in his drawings. 
I showed the kids the circles for heads, the rectangles for bodies, arms, and legs, and the triangles for noses and they were off. We started by drawing the outline first in pencil, then we went over the lines with a black flair pen, and finally, they colored it all in with crayons. After they were done with their drawings, I carefully cut them out and we glued them into place on the black and white photo. Then we decided on shout outs for each teacher (or principal) and we decorated those too. The last step was to get them into the frames so they were ready to go. The kids had a lot of fun drawing their teachers. My oldest was really cute, he was trying out colors and deciding which one was a best match for skin tone and hair color. So fun. 
It's always hard to figure out gifts for teachers. I love giving gift cards for a restaurant so they can have a nice meal out on us. But I also love to give something kid-created that hopefully is a bit more meaningful. I'm pretty sure we'll be giving this type of gift every winter now! It was fun for the kids and for me and such a neat way to capture our appreciation for all the hard work the teachers do. I'm already brainstorming different backgrounds for next year...it would be fun to have a picture of their classroom and to put them standing there...lots of options!

In the end, it's about celebrating the teachers who put so much time, energy, and love into helping our kids learn and grow. I hope teachers everywhere feel appreciated. Thank you for all that you do!

Have you ever tried picture book-inspired art?
Or do you have favorite teacher gifts you've given or received?
I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

WATCH: The Human Family by Maya Angelou

As 2016 comes to a close, I'd like to share this beautiful, simple yet profound, poem by Maya Angelou titled Human Family. I watch it over and over again, listening to her voice reminding me that we are all unique and yet we are all so similar. And there's room enough here for each of us.



Human FamilyBy Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones
can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple,
tan and blue and white.

I've sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I've seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I've not seen any two
who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different
although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts
while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China,
we weep on England's moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea,
and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,
are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ,
in major we're the same.

I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.


Watch and think about the variety of images. Do you see the similarities? The smiles, the love, the connection between people. Take a few minutes to write about how you feel connected and to whom you feel connected. Write down three cultures or people you might like to learn more about. And then go do some research, find some people to follow on Facebook, maybe read this article on how to break out of your "filter bubble", ask if you can interview a stranger. Through writing, we can explore our boundaries, it's a safe place to examine our bias. Through listening, sharing, inviting, we can discover more connections.

Thanks for watching. 
Do you have any thoughts to share?
Her words are quite like a hug aren't they?
I could stay wrapped up in them forever.

"We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike."

How This Book Was Made

Title: How This Book Was Made 
Author: Mac Barnett 
Illustrator: Adam Rex
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion 
Publication Date: September 6th, 2016 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: You may think you know how this book was made, but you don't. Sure, the author wrote many drafts, and the illustrator took a long time creating the art, but then what? How'd it get into your hands? Well, open the cover and read through these pages to find out. Just beware of the pirates and angry tiger.

New York Times best-selling creators Mac Barnett and Adam Rex reveal the nitty gritty process of making a book . . . with a few unexpected twists along the way! Budding writers and artists will laugh at the mix of reality and the absurd as the story makes its way to a shelf, and a reader.

What I Think: How a book becomes a book is not an easy process to explain! Mac's description along with Adam's illustrations make this a fun and entertaining way to get a glimpse to the behind-the-scenes side of publishing a book. I especially love this for kids who most likely will only see the pretty, polished up book sitting on the shelf of a bookstore, library or at home. The more I write, the more I understand about the writing process (not that it's all clear to me...but I learn a little more every time I sit down to write) and it's important for kids to see that they go through the writing process just like published authors do.
     I've done a PB 10 X 10 post on books to get started with writing workshop before and I would definitely add this and Maggie Tokuda-Hall's Also An Octopus to the list. Students could create a list of what they do with a writing piece to take it through publication and then think about what Mac and Adam share in How This Book Was Made. It could even go into a venn diagram and you could compare and contrast what's similar and what's different. I really like that they make mention of how an editor is kind of like a teacher. Here's the line, "She is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper and is always eating fancy lunches." So funny! Which leads me to my next point...
     This is also an incredibly perfect book for looking at voice and hyperbole and silliness in writing. You could actually type up this whole book and present it to older students as a piece of writing and then read them the picture book with the illustrations. Students of any age are sure to love this book and hopefully they'll find some solace in the pages...that writing doesn't just come easily to anyone.  
Snatch of Text:  
"The first draft of this book was not so good.

Neither was the second draft.
Or the third.
Or the twelfth.

But writing lots of drafts is a useful part of the writing process. 
For instance, when the tiger came back for revenge because I beat him 
in arm wrestling, I burned these drafts and scared him away."
Writing Prompt: Describe a situation that you were recently part of and add in some hyperbole to add some voice and silliness to it. Start with a personal narrative idea and see where stretching the truth a bit takes you. 

Sunday, December 11, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/12/2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. 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:
Little Bean and I finished up Comic Squad: Recess and are now reading Comic Squad: Lunch which is so fun. Peanut and I finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone! Hooray! Now we're five chapters into Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I'm still reading Rising Strong and also started Fat Angie by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo and A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold.


Reviewed Last Week:
This week I'm celebrating signing with an agent (!)
and a bit about what I've learned about writing at Story Exploratory.
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm excited to continue all the books I've got going right now: Comic Squad: Lunch, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Rising Strong, Fat Angie, and A Boy Called Bat. This is going to be a full week so we'll see how it goes! Not to mention I discovered that David Levithan and Rachel Cohen's The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily is out!!!! I didn't realize and have it ordered so I'm definitely going to want to read that too!

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!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

JOIN: Celebrating Literary Agents and Writing Lessons Learned


Every Saturday, join me as I CELEBRATE This Week 
with Ruth Ayres from Discover. Play. Build.


This week I have very big news to share! It's super exciting...I have a literary agent! I queried for about two years, which means I sent samples of my novel in a letter to agents who might be interested in representing me. And then Danielle Smith from Lupine Grove Creative offered to represent me. After notifying other agents who had my work and waiting to hear back from them, I accepted Danielle's offer. Hooray!



This is the first time I've ever had an agent and it's so fun. A few people have asked me what this means exactly...which was good because I forgot that not everyone knows what it means to have an agent in the book world. Basically, now that I'm working with Danielle, she'll pitch my manuscripts to publishers and editors who'll decide if they want to make any of them into books. I've written young adult novels and picture books, but no, I don't illustrate my own work. A publisher would choose an illustrator to create the artwork to go along with my text. And of course, all this will probably take a long time...but I'll let you know when I have more news to share! For now, check out the Lupine Grove website and see if you can find me on the Authors page. (Yay!)

I'm completely overjoyed. This is a big step but also one little step on my journey towards being published. So while I'm celebrating having signed with an agent, I'm also celebrating all the work it's taken to get here. I've written and revised, shared and considered feedback, revised and revised again. And all along the way, through the rejections and doubt, I surrounded myself with supportive friends and family, and I learned that I can keep going - sure, it might mean a good cry at Starbucks and taking a few days to muster up the courage to face revisions - but I know more about myself as a writer today then I did when I started seriously writing over five years ago. 

Thinking about your life as a writer, 
what can you celebrate in terms of what 
you've learned about yourself from actively writing? 
I'm excited to celebrate with you! 

Thanks for stopping in to celebrate with me!



It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 09/09/2019

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!   It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme ho...