Thursday, August 11, 2011

Classroom Library Genre Stickers

Here are the labels I use on the books in my classroom library.  The formatting is altered in the Google Docs view, but I believe if you download them, they will show up correctly in Word. Enjoy!!

Sports:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1nH5dXhtirYo3Bx01iix0XfwX-mVlQ5nAYiuarrHWj84/edit?hl=en_US

Realistic Fiction:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ev-J7btRqbjvqi8PdW5k-VfLUQeUQAcm5IUXCTXRJRU/edit?hl=en_US

Suspense:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TZkcvL_paEQ5SO7xMumC4BSaxhigCuqhJVEzCqNf-bk/edit?hl=en_US

Science Fiction:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1PvwvkAYuzqnzlnAmOcSVWlALXDyIDERbrxVrHqtqO0Y/edit?hl=en_US

Short Stories:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1wzMlJXz-zWNWXVhQZTFPuJeisl0lA73pvVJ-p-E59SY/edit?hl=en_US

Fantasy:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1D4BMbAO_VHbSeHg0NVUyifZYTC-3myxdIZaGYsizS2c/edit?hl=en_US

Biography/Autobiography:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_8l9RQEc11m7egEiWPLru0cUghCEhQ2v8wZRM2aIuoA/edit?hl=en_US

Mystery:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/150AaryFZjtuvY5D2pNBnoQHXq6r3b1NubaADCYuG-NY/edit?hl=en_US

Action/Adventure:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UwWVbVS-wyIY_U_aiY5z47xBIYJfimdWf3zNvAFU57I/edit?hl=en_US

Historical Fiction:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Id1fMd8v1w61aHc4swW1SceoMabqlIlDCdJSkDur15c/edit?hl=en_US

Humorous Fiction
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1BReROT-Y6RInYONMEID6YECcxos7I7iK-62RD8XwLSA/edit?hl=en_US

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer of Books!

My LA partner and I wanted to get books in our kids' hands one last time before Summer Break! Our kids love hearing book talks, and we love giving them, so we created a PowerPoint with recent releases, summer releases, and favorite authors coming into town.  We also included book trailers we found online (which do not show up in the presentation below, but were awesome!), as well as information about summer reading programs through our library and the community.  It was a great way to end the school year and welcome in a Summer of Reading!

Summer of Books

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beach Book Bash 2011

What a great way to kick off summer! My teammates and I planned this on a whim, thinking it would be a great way to wrap up a great year in books! We brought our beach towels, asked for parent support with snacks and prizes, and crossed our fingers for great weather! It was a great day!

2011 Beach Book Bash

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Slice #25 - Gardening, Step One


This is going to be one of those posts where the writer likens teaching to gardening. 

Though we didn't yield much from our seeds last year, we are going to try it again.  When I took this photo on Day One, I wasn't sure we would be successful.  Did I put the seed in too deep? Too shallow? Will they get enough sunlight? Did I put too many seeds in? Self doubt was creeping in and I started to wonder why I thought this was a good idea. Eventually, I decided to stop worrying and just try not to overdo it. Last year, my first year trying to grow anything from seeds, I think I "overworked" the situation.  This year, I tried to be nonchalant about the seeds. 

Look at them go!

Here comes the comparison: Sometimes, I have to remind myself to TRUST my teaching.  That's not saying that I need to be lazy in my teaching the way I was lazily dropping seeds in the dirt, but that I need to stop the self-doubt and let the good stuff get out there for the kids to latch on to.  I know I can't be perfect every da, but I also know that my methods and philosophy are strong and deep-seeded in the way I teach, every day. Though the comparison is weak right now, the growth of the seeds still gives me inspiration in my teaching, and that's all that matters! Grow, seeds, grow!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Slice #24 - The Sound of a New Book

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

I've been in a debate with myself for weeks over the decision to purchase an e-Reader.  I thought I could never enjoy the book experience digitally, but recently I have been branching out with my reading.  Not branching out through the genre I'm reading, but through the mode.  I just started my first audiobook (The Help by Kathryn Stockett)! I've read samples of books I might want to buy print copies of on the Kindle app on my iPhone (The New Sweet Valley Twins Confidential by Pascal and Unbroken by Hillenbrand)!

Now, I don't see my new obsession with these many modes of reading to be turning my back on the book.  On the contrary! I get to experience MORE books than ever before! I read while driving (audiobook). I read before bed (print book). I read wherever and whenever I have down time (iPhone). It's a bibliophile's dream! (daydream?)

Now, with all my gushing about my new multimodal reading habits, I have to share my favorite recent entcounter: the crack.

Yes, the crack.  It is one of my favorite sounds in the world.  It's a sound that can't be imitated by anything else.  (Wait, what is the sound of a black hole opening?)  Yes, it's the sound of opening a new book.  No matter how excited I get about my new reading experiences, this sound will always bring me back.  The print book will never go away, because I know that I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Slice #23 - Vivian Maier, a Talent Hidden

Vivian Maier's work at Chicago Cultural Center Exhibit

I secretly wish I could have a secret talent that went undiscovered.  A secret genius.  Like Vivian Maier.  I was first exposed to Maier's work in a TimeOut Chicago article about her April exhibit at the Chicago Cultural Center.  It was the picture below that caught my attention.

I don't know anything about photography, so I'll probably sound ridiculous using any terminology, but, even to a lay person like me, this photo had life, texture, and grit.  I couldn't take my eyes off of it.  I had to see this exhibit.

What's more, the article revealed that Vivian Maier was no publicizer of her work.  In fact, she wouldn't let anyone see it.  She never even had the tens of thousands of negatives that were found after her death developed. She comes across as a recluse and (in my diagnosis) a candidate for Hoarders. Could it get any more intriguing!? I pound my fist and say, no, it can't.

Spring break came around, and when M asked me what I wanted to do, (while I was reading another TimeOut issue) I happened to be looking at the museum section, and saw the listing for the exhibit again.  "This."  His response was a sigh, but because he loves me, we went.  Hey, we were going to see a comedy show later that night anyway.  Fun for all. 

The exhibit was wow.  It was a party for my eyes.  It made me want to learn how to take photos like that.  It made me say, "How does she DO that?" 

I think there's a book and a documentary in the works.  I can't wait to get my hands and eyes on those, too. 

See her discoverer's blog for more party for your eyes: http://vivianmaier.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool


Synopsis from B&N:
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.


Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.


My Thoughts:
Clare Vanderpool was inspired to write Moon Over Manifest because of a book she saw about stolen maps that started with the quote from Moby Dick, "It is not down in any map; true places never are."


This book, for me, created a very true place.  It created a very true place for many readers; that is a hometown.  A town where everyone has a story, and everyone knows your story-- and knows, perhaps, more than you.  There is something intriguing about what came before you.  What happened before you came into the world.  Stories that our parents, aunts, uncles, neighbors know that we don't. Histories. I thought that Vanderpool weaved this story so well, and revealed it through Miss Sadie's stories so that you discovered the story just as Abilene did. 

The main character, Abilene, was such a paradox.  She felt like an outsider in this place where her past and her connection to Manifest was deep, though she didn't know it.  Readers who have never found their roots in one place can respond to Abilene's feelings of displacement.  That feeling of, where do I belong?  On the other hand, readers who are from a small town and find themselves irrevocably connected to that life can appreciate the claustrophobic-like connection of the people of Manifest.


"Miss Sadie breathed in again. 'He comes to America on a boat, yes.  But to Manifest, he comes by train.  A train for orphans.  He stays with the Sisters for a time.  Sister Redempta cares for him.  But he is a little boy, five years old, of undetermined nationality, so he belongs to all the people.  Of course, it is Hadley Gillen, the widower hardware store owner, who adopts him as his own.  But the town grows to love the boy and imagine that his future can be theirs as well.' "

******

"It also bothered me that I didn't have a story. 'Telling a story ain't hard,' Lettie had said. 'All you need is a beginning, middle, and end.'

But that was the problem. I was all middle.  I'd always been between the last place and the next.  How was I supposed to come up with a story for Sister Redempta or even a 'Remember when...' to reminisce on with somebody else? But then, I wouldn't be here when school started anyway, I reminded myself."


In the Classroom:
This book is appropriate for middle grade readers who can stick with a story.  It is not action-packed or very suspenseful, but a reader who can follow multiple story lines and can handle a story with a lot of flashbacks will really enjoy this beautiful book.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Slice #22 - Behind the Scenes



I love hearing about authors writing.  Where they write. What inspires them. Life happens to them, too! What could have been a Slice of Life for Lois Lowry turned into a book! It's like being able to sit on the stage and peak behind the curtains.  It reminds me how important it is to make my own writing process visible for my student writers.  It may not fascinate them the way I'm fascinated by my favorite authors, but it's worth a shot!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Slice #21 - The One Where I Meet Lois Lowry













I love our local independent bookstore.  Anderson's always brings in the best authors.  Tonight, I got to hear Lois Lowry speak about her new book, Bless this Mouse. Sometimes visiting authors just sign their books.  Tonight was a treat! Forty-five minutes of Lois sharing stories! The quote of the evening, "I started writing children's books because I realized that I could end up writing something that a 12-year-old reads that could change their life.  You can't do that with a 55-year-old."  I love this quote.  It reminds me of why I got into teaching.  Very powerful. 

P.S. - Lois shared that she is currently writing the 4th book in The Giver set (another companion book) about the character Gabriel!  Also, she is meeting with Sean Astin next week to discuss the Number the Stars movie progress! Exciting!!

Slice #20 - Monthly Breakfast













Every last Sunday of every month, my family gets together for breakfast.  Aunts, cousins, uncles. We all get together at a preselected restaurant and catch-up, laugh, share stories, and eat.  Some restaurants are better than others.  Some, more crowded than others.  Some, we overtake with our laughter. Others, we are but a fraction of the racket.  Regardless of who could make it, what I ordered, what was shared, I love these last Sundays.  What a treasure.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Slice #19 - Eat your hearts out.



There's something to be said for the classic hot dog and fries combo.  For the greasy, crispy regular fry.  For the juicy hotdog topped, Chicago-style.  Dill pickle, onions, relish, ketchup, peppers, and pepper on a poppy seed bun.  Forget diets.  Forget vegan.  Forget whole foods.  Every once in a while, we shouldn't feel guilty for the All-American hot dog and fries combo.  With a coke.  Thank goodness for Portillo's.  The red-and-white-striped styrofoam cup starts glands salivating for miles around.  Eat your heart out, friends! 





Slice #18 - Sorry I'm late, all these books got in the way.













They call my  name and jockey for position.  They tap their feet and lay their heads on their arms, waiting, hoping.  They rehearse their lines and prepare for the day their pages will get a breath of fresh air.  A resting place on the nighstand doesn't ensure your position in line.  They have to be ready on a whim.  Does she want nonfiction next? Is it poetry that will soothe her soul? Will she call up an old classic and dust off its pages? What if the hold at the library finally becomes available -- where does that leave us? I have no answers.  All I can say to them is: Summer is just around the corner!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Slice #17 - March Madness



In the middle of the madness that is March, I find that priorities change, and new goals surface.  Struggling to find a balance between work and life (and the new changes in life), I have had to revise some habits.  I have had to adjust what I do with my time at school so that I can spend more quality time during my non-school hours with those closest to me, doing the things that build a rich life.  I never "got" how veteran teachers with families did it.  Now that I look closer, I see that they are "doing it" by being smarter with their time.  Really prioritizing what they do.  Saying "no" when they need to. Making their picks.

So, lately, I've been making some picks of my own.  I choose to sit on the couch with my love's hand in my hand, rather than a grading pen touched to a rubric.  I choose to get up earlier, instead, to get that grading done in the quiet of my classroom well before students arrive.  I choose to make a nice meal for dinner, rather than staying late, organizing the stacks on my desk. I choose to organize immediately - everything in its place, right away - instead. I choose a life that is rich with material for my slices!  There will be upsets, cinderella stories, smiles, and tears.  The changes are slowly but surely coming around, and I can't wait to see how it all turns out!


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Slice #16 - Stuck in the Middle With You













Slices in the middle of the month are like middle children. Those that came before got all the attention.  They got the most praise for the tiniest thing. This time around, the attention is waning. 

Slices in the middle of the month are like the eye of a tornado.  All around you swirls the pieces of your life. Here and there some tangible something catches your eye, but mostly things are just flying by. 

Slices in the middle of the month are like the the line at Six Flags.  You jumped on even though you knew the time commitment.  You know the ride is going to be worth it in the end, but it's getting hot and putting one foot in front of the other is getting harder and harder.

Slices in the middle of the month are like the buffet at Old Country Buffet, minus the guilt or bellyache.  You feel comfortable trying a little bit of this or a little bit of that. 

Slices in the middle of the month is where we're at, and I'm happy to be here with you!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Slice #15

I am composing this Slice from my iPhone.
I can't figure out how to add an image from my album.
I even tried copy and paste.

Here's what that got me:
https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/-B6lUGwB3Z10/TX7Y8xsa2DI/AAAAAAAAAwA/oEjPGynhMQQ/s1600/sols_2011challenge.jpg

My iPhone can do many things, but nothing beats hammering out a Slice on the good ole laptop.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Slice #14 - Simmer













On Sunday, I bought the ingredients for lasagna.  That afternoon, I chopped the basil and parsley, browned the italian sausage and beef, sauteed it with the onions and garlic.  I slowly added the crushed tomatoes, sauces, and pastes.  I stirred in the sugar, salt, and pepper.  Then I let it simmer for an hour and a half. Then came the layering. Noodles, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan, the sauce.  Fifty minutes in the oven.  Bubbly and golden cheese on top when the time dinged.

Did we enjoy the lasagna Sunday evening? No.  We shared a spicy tuna roll.  The lasagna? We saved it for tonight.  For that hour we have to spend together.  Sandwiched between afterschool meetings and evening pilates. 

This reminds me of the writing process.  Slowly adding in the ingredients.  Saving bits and pieces for that right moment when you might need it.  Letting it simmer.  Then, pulling it out at just the right time to savor it.

The sauce after simmering for 90 minutes

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Slice #13 - You Came In With the Breeze, On Sunday Morning



This was my Sunday Morning.  I let all other responsibilities go and succumbed to relaxation and went wherever the breeze took me.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Slice #12 - These shoes were made for..













Shoes.

They say a lot about a person.  Of the four, you can probably detect which ones belong to my fiance, and which three are mine!

The pair on the right are the sneakers I wore to school on Friday (the day of the week staff members usually wear jeans and school gear).

The heels I slid into on my way to a cover band Friday night (embracing my non-teacher self).  At the end of the night, my feet literally sighed with relief as I slid out of them and the heels of my feet came back down to earth.

And the boots my feet snuggled into while running errands into what turned out to be a cold, windy Saturday.  My toes were grateful for the sweater-like wrappings on this blustery day.

Soon, I look forward to the freedom of flip-flops, my feet learning to exist for a few months without the boundary of shoes.

Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos



Synopsis from B&N.com:Jaya, Maria, and Lola are just like the other eighth-grade girls in the wealthy suburb of Meadowbrook, New Jersey. They want to go to the spring dance, they love spending time with their best friends after school, sharing frappÉs and complaining about the other kids. But there’s one big difference: all three are daughters of maids and nannies. And they go to school with the very same kids whose families their mothers work for.

That difference grows even bigger—and more painful—when Jaya’s mother is accused of theft and Jaya’s small, fragile world collapses.

When tensions about immigrants start to erupt, fracturing this perfect, serene suburb, all three girls are tested, as outsiders—and as friends. Each of them must learn to find a place for themselves in a town that barely notices they exist.
Marina Budhos gives us a heartbreaking and eye-opening story of friendship, belonging, and finding the way home.

My Thoughts:
Overall, I enjoyed the novel Tell Us We're Home.  I appreciated that Budhos included the stories of three girls from different minority backgrounds.  Maria from Mexico, Jaya from Trinidad, and Lola from Slovakia.  She didn't rely on stereotypes for the background stories of the girls.  They had unique families who I think are shown struggling with issues that many American families face.  Depression, money issues, unemployment.

As a minority who grew up in a mostly middle-upper class, mostly-white community, I was able to emphathize with the characters of Jaya, Maria, and Lola.  The only difference for me was that I felt untied to any culture in particular, and struggled to figure out how I fit into my environment at school and with friends.  I had to learn a lot from observing others in how to act, talk, and develop.  I think I still struggle with issues of culture, even as an adult, living in the same area I grew up, but teaching students who come from a more culturally rich background and maybe expect me to share their history - which I (in some ways, unfortunately) don't.


She touched on one nerve that really hit home for me and spoke truths that I didn't realize I held. This scene describes Maria at the home of a sympathetic, well-off boy who she is tutoring in Spanish.  This is her first visit to his home:

"She noticed, hanging on one wall, large framed black-and-white photographs of a little boy - Tash, she realized. They weren't the usual snapshots or posed pictures her own family took at the photography studio in Union City, all the cousins in frilly dresses and suits, gathered stiffly before a frosted blue backdrop.  These were like glamorous Ralph Lauren advertisements.  Tash at the beach pushing his toes into the sand; close-up Tash laughing on a swimg; moody shirtless teenage Tash reading on a screened-in porch.  All together they made a silent film story of Tash, its plotline clear: This boy's life is marvelous and picturesque.  It gave Maria a tiny sore pain, realizing how this was another way to be rich.  His parents gave him back his own self, strung from these beautiful images, and crafted into a story.  It's as if they were saying, This is who you are to the world.  Everything about you matters."

Beautiful.

In the Classroom:
This book is appropriate for middle school girls.  There are one or two instances of questionable language, but other than that, the situations and dialogue are appropriate for middle grades. I would put it on my classroom shelf.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Slice #11 - All Caught Up













I've been behind since week one, so I might be breaking the rules, but I had to do another Slice today so that my slice number matched up with the date again!!

I'm all caught up with my slices and
I'm all caught up in the planning of a marriage!

We will soon send out what was sent to us in this box.  Our family and friends will soon share in the love we've been all caught up with since we met each other.

I love being all caught up!  Ah.

Slice #10 - Pedicures were invented for teachers













I swear, pedicures were invented with teachers in mind.  The massage chairs, the foot soak, the pampering.  How do they know just what a teacher needs on a Friday afternoon??

If Pedicure was a greek goddess, she would be my favorite myth story.  Easing the pain of educators from atop Mount Olympus.  Bringing comfort to man and woman alike.  Transforming woman's foot with a touch.  I would worship her and spread the news of her powers far and wide.  Then, after all that walking, I'd head back to Olympus for another Pedi.

Me and two colleagues for a Friday afternoon treat!
Happy St. Patty's Day!

Slice #9 - Flat Stanley is Here













There's nothing like a flat man to put some perspective on things! Flat Stanley is a world-traveler.  He'll visit places I've never even heard of!  He's an inspiration for all in how to live life to the fullest!  Flat Stanley is the ultimate SLICE OF LIFE! 

I hope I can show him a good time!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Slice #8 - It's Time!













4:49 a.m. - silence, rest, breaths, dreams

4:50 a.m. - alarming, singing, snoozing, snoozing

5:20 a.m. - rise, stretch, shine, shower

6:40 a.m. - gather, pack, load, exit

7:52 a.m. - click, clack, stack, prep

7:53 a.m. - loudly, dramatically, energetically, playfully

8:00 a.m. - ponder, reflect, comprehend, share

11:23 a.m. - ravenously, thunderously, wildly, hungrily

2:16 p.m. - artsy, harmonious, skillful, creative

3:00 p.m. - bump, run, slam, dash

3:05 p.m. - click, clack, stack, prep

4:30 p.m. - gather, pack, load, exit

11:00 p.m. - silence, rest, breath, dreams

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Slice #7 - Happy International Women's Day! Still I Rise...

In honor of International Women's Day and inspired by Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise"

Does my radio station surprise you?
Turn it up and hear,
It's tuned to NPR, it's true.
But, see, US Weekly's nearby, too.

Judge me, stereotype me,
But those who know me
know it's true.
I stretch, I reach, I open my mind to all world views.

Does my book queue exhaust you?
Take a look and see,
I've got Gruen, Horowitz, Lupica,
but more than just those three.

I carry the weight of being
the first to graduate, be wise.
Challenge me, push me, question me,
still, like dreams, I rise.

Does my ethnicity perplex you?
Dark hair, tan skin, those eyes.
My last name gives no hint,
still, like queens, I rise.

I fit no mold or pattern,
my future is my own,
I'm no angel, but neither are you,
remember that before you cast your stones.

From the love of mi familia,
I rise.
Out of the shadow of poverty,
I rise.
On the shoulders of my sisters,
I rise.
From my womb, my children, my dreams, my love will someday
Rise.
Rise.
Rise.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Slice #6 - Of Pilates and Personal Time

Stretching, flexing, breathing, tightening, relaxing.  If you've ever done Pilates, you know what a full-body workout it is.  In order to get the most out of movements, you need to engage your entire body.  Sometimes, when one of us tries to close our eyes and imagine the pain away, our instructor says, "Open your eyes! BE in the room!" Experiencing the physicality of Pilates is part of the deal.  Experiencing what is happening to your body with each movement is purposeful.  The strain of your muscles, the presence of the work is meaningful. 

Though it's hard to devote an hour (plus travel time, 20 minutes round trip) twice during the school week and again on Saturday mornings, when I have a to-do list from here to Cancun (which is part of the reason for Pilates), I can't imagine a better gift for myself than this time.  To BE in the room.  Exercise energizes me, connects me to my body, lets me reflect on the day, and helps me feel motivated to keep doing the other work that is meaningful....loving, teaching, living.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Slice #5 Is there an App for this?













I admit it.  I'm an addict.

I am addicted to downloading apps for my iPhone.  There's one app in particular that gets my blood pumping.

It's called Awesome Note.

It's Awesome.  It organizes my life and gives me the satisfaction of "checking off" my to-dos.  For a mega-procrastinating, disorganized, do-it-all like me, this has been the best download. It keeps my busy life organized all in one spot.  No, Awesome Note is not paying me for this Slice.  But for those of you who have a lot on your plate (who doesn't!), you can't go wrong with this!

I even have a reminder to do my Slices of Life!  Lots more to do tonight!

Time to cross another "to-do" off my list!!

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer has been named:
2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winner
2011 Newbery Honor Book
2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction
2010 National Book Award Finalist
Junior Library Guild Selection
Texas Library Association Best Book for 2010
From the Jacket Knack blog:
We LOVE the cover. You should see it in real life because the image here doesn't capture the colors right -- the reds are so saturated in real life; heat practically radiates off of the jacket. I recently asked the cover artist, the talented Sally Wern Comport, to tell us about what went into creating the cover art. What follows is her thoughtful reply, which pulls back the curtain on what-all goes on when an artist approaches a cover project.





Summary from B&N.com:
Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, one crazy summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls in search of the mother who abandoned them-an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia.



My Review:
Just as Jacket Knack says, not only does the cover radiate heat, but the entire novel radiates a warmth missing from a lot of books lately.  Thankfully, I picked up this book just as we are experiencing some extended winter weather in Chicago.  Williams-Garcia's descriptions of the girls' summer in Oakland/San Francisco bring me back to a warmer time.

The characters are dynamic, realistic, and funny.  Anyone with sisters (particularly if you are an older sister) can relate to the nuances of inter-sibling politics.  And anyone who has ever had to be the caretaker for younger siblings can share in Delphine's struggles.

This is a great read for a chilly weekend if you're looking for a clean, simple, and warm story.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

XVI by Julia Karr


Title: XVI
Author: Julia Karr
Pages: 325
Debut Month: January
Completed: March 5, 2011
For my January pick, I read XVI by Julia Karr.  This book piqued my interest because Karr is a Chicago author.  Better yet, the setting is a futuristic Chicago! And I love SciFi!

Summary from Karr's website:
"In the year 2150, being a girl isn’t necessarily a good thing, especially when your sixteenth (read sex-teenth) birthday is fast approaching. That in itself would be enough to make anyone more than a little nuts, what with the tattoo and all – but Nina Oberon’s life has taken a definite turn for the worse. Her mother is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Before dying, she entrusts a secret book to Nina, telling her to deliver it to Nina's father. But, first Nina has to find him; since for fifteen years he's been officially dead. Complications arise when she rescues Sal, a mysterious, and ultra hot guy. He seems to like Nina, but also seems to know more about her father than he’s letting on. Then there’s that murderous ex-government agent who’s stalking her, and just happens to be her little sister’s dad."


Review:
Very early on in the story, I felt bombarded by futuristic versions of common terms ('letes for athletes, verts for advertisements, trannies for cars/transportation).  Either I became numb to the terms or they were coming at the reader less frequently as the story went on; but luckily, I somehow got passed the neo-vocab to get to the story.

Most of the characters were flat, though I'm not sure that was the intention.  The end of the novel left so many questions unanswered and so many storylines hanging that we were never able to see the characters fully develop or change. 
Fortunately, the sequel Truth is in progress, and maybe our questions will be answered! (I have a hunch about Wei's tattoo and this "thorn" image). I can't wait to find out what happens with Nina and her father, and how Wei and Sal fit in to all this, but I feel like the readers deserved more than they got! After keeping track of all of this new vocabulary and  keeping up with the circumstances of futuristic Chicago and colonies on the Moon, I was left with a need to connect more with the characters than this SciFiChi world offered.

I will definitely read Truth to find out some answers!

Slice #4 - Lit Nightclub


When most people drive by this bar, they may not see what I see. 

I'm a reader. 

When I drive by this bar, I see the place that houses Neil Gaiman's favorite place to go for happy hour.
When I drive by this bar, I see Judy Blume sipping Shirley Temples with Beverly Cleary.

I'm a reader.

When I drive by this bar, I see Sarah Dessen clinking margarita glasses with Cassandra Clare.
When I drive by this bar, I see Suzanne Collins playing Golden Tee with Neal Shusterman.

I'm a reader.

When I drive by this bar, I see JK Rowling buying a round.
When I drive by this bar, I see Lauren Oliver playing pool with Jay Asher.

I'm a reader.

And when I drive by this bar, I just hope they let me in! "I'm a reader!"

Who do you see?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Slice #3 You can have your Kart and Read It, too.

I find myself in the midst of many challenges. Figuratively and literally!

The writer in me is participating in the Slice of Life challenge hosted by the Two Writing Teachers. The reader in me is participating in the Debut Author Challenge hosted by the Story Siren. The fiance in me is looking to spend more time with my soon-to-be husband. How do I get it all done?

A couch, the wii, and my ability to read while tuning out the beeps and honks from the video game! And then writing a Slice about it!

Back to my multitasking quality time!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Slice #2

Standardized Test Day #2: A(n Attempted) Poem
"You may begin."

Flip! Bodies bent over booklets,
brains buzzing with a bombardment of prepubescent preoccupations.

I hope they remember the strategies.
Zip! A #2 underlines an important idea or word.
Yes!

Fifty-five minutes left.
Slowly, silently, scan the students.
Take a lap up and down the aisles.
Any apparent bubble artists out there?


"Achoo!" A case of the sniffles couldn't keep
these kiddos away on the big test day.

I should've...
I could've...


Fifty-four minutes left....


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Slice #1


Irony. The unexpected. 
I arrived home after a day at school that involved state testing, miscommunications, new perspectives, and good literary discussions with my students.  I arrived home to my fiance's son, who I haven't seen in several days.  How tall he seemed to have gotten.  Or was it the new pants causing the illusion? My fiance noted the growth first, and so I asked C, two (and a half) years old, "How tall are you?"

His response? "Taller and taller."

What an unexpected, but accurate answer! I joined my fiance and our new philospher on the floor, where a parking lot of toy cars was being assembled. 

After sharing the stressful parts of my day with my fiance, I was able to sit back and observe the peaceful play of a two-year-old carefully arranging his cars on the floor.  I laid my head down on the carpet and looked at things from his perspective.  How large everything around our apartment loomed.  Tall dining table, large lamp hanging from the ceiling, patio doors that seem to soar up to the sky.  But he wasn't overwhelmed by these surroundings, he was focused on the task at hand.  The simple joy of moving his cars to just the right spot.  He didn't have to worry about the fact that he can't reach the table top just yet, nor can he come close to reaching the lightbulb dangling from the lamp if it needed changing.  These issues, much like the ones that were stressors from my day, don't seem so looming when you get down to "it", whatever "it" may be for you at the moment. 

Why wasn't he worried? Because he is getting taller and taller and he'll get there one day. We all will.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Late Slice (with Blueberries!)

As I read through everyone's slices, coming to the conclusion that I have not a slice about which to write, I look up to see that my fiance is watching Mike Rowe learning how to bake a blueberry pie from two older pie ladies.  On Mike's head is a homemade, blueberry-shaped SLICE of pie! It must be a sign.  The time to write my first Slice is now!

"Dirty Jobs."

Teaching is a Dirty Job.  Sometimes we have to look silly (Mike has a PIE on his head).  Sometimes we have to act silly (Mike just said, "Get your PIEorities straight!"). 

Pies and cheesy jokes and antics aside, teaching requires getting our hands a little dirty sometimes.

Today, I had what Oprah calls an "ah-ha" moment.  My students begin our Language Arts block by writing in our Writer's Notebooks.  Sometimes their warm-up is freewriting, sometimes it's word play challenges,  sometimes it's a quote related to our current read aloud, sometimes we read a poem and write our reflections.  When I picked today's warm-up (I set them up the weekend before), I had no idea that it was just what we needed today. I used a poem called "Watermelon Days" from 100 Quickwrites by Linda Rief that ended with the line "Watch as the watermelon day passes you by. / And love life while you have it." As we reflected on this poem, students shared their writings and thoughts on how this line connects to the main character of our read aloud Life As We Knew It as well as their favorite memories of warm August days from their childhood. Though no one said it, I know we were also thinking about students, students' family members, and even teachers we have lost this past year.  No one needed to say it.  The moment hung in the air, so tangible, we could taste it like the sweet watermelons of summer or the tart blueberries in Mike Rowe's pies.

All of the dirty little aspects of teaching also make up this life that we have, and I wouldn't trade one dirty little moment for another day with my kiddos.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Books of 2011

1. Maze Runner by James Dashner
2. Scorch Trials by James Dashner
3. Hold Still by Nina Lacour
4. Columbine by Dave Cullen
5. Everlost by Neal Shusterman
6. Everwild by Neal Shusterman
7. XVI by Julia Karr
8. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
9. Tell Us We're Home by Marina Budhos
10. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
11. Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz
12.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Thank you, Darren Shan.

Another one BITES the dust.

Darren Shan has saved another struggling reader with his Cirque du Freak vampire series.  I had the awesome pleasure of hearing a student who receives practically every reading intervention in our building tell me about the plot of Book 3 in the series! It started with A Living Nightmare (Book 1) when this student read for the Battle of the Books.  Now, two books later, I got to sit next to this previously self-proclaimed non-reader and hear him spout off Cirque terms and vocab that only someone deeply into the series would know! Once again, I am so glad that we have this book on our Battle list to introduce as a series to stick with!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Columbine by Dave Cullen


Because of our snow day today, I was able to finish the book that some fellow teachers and I decided to read as a book club pick. Columbine by Dave Cullen. One teacher had recommended it because it revealed the truth behind what happened surrounding that tragedy.  The media portrayed a lot of myths and inflated a lot of errors.  The Cassie Bernall martyrdom was proven false.  This was a fascinating read.  Cullen was a reporter from day one (April 20, 1999), and stuck with the case for 10 years gathering research for what would become Columbine. The victims' stories were fascinating.  I couldn't stop reading and usually read past when I should have been going to sleep.  It cast light on an event that cast darkness on many people's (including my own) high school memories.  It forever changed how schools operate, and still has effects on my life today - in how I handle students and am required to perform as a job duty (practicing lockdown drills).  Sad.  The ultimate sadness that reading this book left with me is that the killers got what they wanted.  Not just victims' lives.  But to change the world.  They did.  I'm not usually a consumer of non-fiction literature, but because this subject hits so close to home (I can even recall exactly where I was when I heard about the shooting - in my own school cafeteria, getting ready for musical rehearsal) that I was deeply entrenched in the story.  I look forward to more non-fiction in the future!

2011 Debut Author Challenge!

I just came across the Story Siren blog (which I've heard about before, but finally got to today) and decided to participate in the challenge! 12 YA books from debut authors.  I read a ton of YA books every year, but mostly I try to keep up with the recommendations from my 7th graders or other teachers.  Why not try the newest stuff?!  I will be updating this list, but here are my options for January and February titles:
January:
Julia Karr XVI 1/6/2011 Speak YA

February:
Chris Rylander The Fourth Stall 2/8/2011 Walden Pond Press

March:
Laurenn DeStefano Wither 3/22/11
Kirsten Hubbard Like Mandarin 3/8/11
Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Grey 3/22/11
Ryan G. Van Cleave, Unlocked, 3/1/11
Angela Cerrito, The End of the Line, 3/11/11

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Holidays 2010



I love this picture of Colin "in action"! Especially with the name of the toy in the shot: Colin in "The Party Surprise". Super cute.