Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

And I’m Back…..New School Year, new position August 31, 2015

I am very excited to have the opportunity to focus on curriculum and academic achievement for a new school district during the 2015-2016 school year. While I loved my position of the previous two years, doing curriculum AND special education did not leave much, if any, time for reading, much less reviewing or posting.

I am fired up for A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating Our Way to Better Schools by Carmen Farina and Laura Kotch. Hence the desire to start blogging again!

 

School Leader's guideThis updated edition from 2014 takes a proactive look at how school leaders must work to involve the stakeholders they “lead” if there is to be any positive change. In an era of teaching under attack and decisions, often appearing random and not well thought out by the state legislatures, governors, and department of education, this book is a breathe of fresh air. The power of relationships and consistency is emphasized again and again throughout this professional resource. One of the highlights of my first several years in curriculum was when I got to be the “book fairy” and delivered books with a short book talk to elementary classrooms each month. Farina & Kotch have their own version of “book fairy” for their staff. Each month with a book and an inspiring letter explaining how the book ties into the ongoing work their team is involved in. A great read for a Literacy Coach, principal, superintendent, or other administrator who supports teaching and learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher presents December 10, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,books,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:55 am
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My son and I had fun picking out books for his teacher. He likes everything about his teacher (his direct words) and enjoys spending “quality time with his teacher”.  My daughter preferred that I recommend and she approve.  If you are one of their teachers, stop reading or you will ruin the surprise. 🙂

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

by Brian Floca

Atheneum, 2009

48 pages

New York Times named it one of the ten best illustrated books for 2009.

Simon and Schuster’s website says this:

“Simply told, grandly shown, here is the flight of Apollo 11. Here for a new generation of readers and explorers are the steady astronauts, clicking themselves into gloves and helmets, strapping themselves into sideways seats. Here are their great machines in all their detail and monumentality, the ROAR of rockets, and the silence of the Moon. Here is a story of adventure and discovery — a story of leaving and returning during the summer of 1969, and a story of home, seen whole, from far away.”

My son loves the detailed illustrations, as well as the story of Apollo 11.

Little Red Riding Hood

by Jerry Pinkney

Little Brown Books, 2007

40 pages

My son’s second grade class has a unit of study in writing on fairy tales coming up after winter break. I love Pinkney’s work and my son loves this tale.

While this Little Red Riding Hood is true to the original and does have the wolf eats the grandmother and Little Red. The woodsman does kill the wolf with his ax and use grandmother’s sewing scissors to cut open the wolf, it’s not gory and shows no sign of the violence that is taking place.  Jerry Pinkney’s beautiful illustrations help set off this fairy tale classic. Here’s hoping this will help some of his fellow students realize that Disney did not invent all the fairy tales, as several of his classmates believe.

Fuse #8’s review

Chester’s Back

by Melanie Watt

Kids Can Press, 2008

32 pages

“A long time ago, in a faraway land, lived a cat named Chester.” This is how the new Chester book starts out. A fun addition to a writing unit on fairy tales or another book by a favorite author. Either way, kids and adults love Chester.

Greg Mortenson’s newest Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan for my daughter’s language arts/science teacher

Sea Clocks by Louise Borden for her math teacher.

National Geographic’s Book Ain’t Nothin’ But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Nelson and Marc Aronson for her social studies teacher. They did a great presentation at NCTE about their book. Loved them!

 

New Picture Book by Lois Lowry September 26, 2009

Filed under: blogs,books,narrative writing,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:04 pm
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I was so excited to see a picture book by Lois Lowry this evening.  crow callCrow Calls is a beautiful story illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline and tell’s Lowry’s own story from her childhood.

Crow Calls takes place when Lois was a young girl, a big outing with her father has just returned from a long absence away during World War II is heart-warming. The illustrations are perfect for the mood and tone of the book, as well as the hunting season.  A photo of Lois Lowry as a child in the plaid, hunting shirt highlights Ibatoulline’s artistic talent.

I can hardly wait to share this book with my colleagues and their students next week. A perfect complement to our personal narrative work we’ve been doing!

If you check out Lois Lowry’s blog you can see everyday life for her, along with beautiful photographs.

 

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson June 26, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:31 pm
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hairzoeThe Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School is a great new picture book by wonderful author, Laurie Halse Adnerson. Poor Zoe has wild, out-of-control hair that has a mind of it’s own. Not only does it have a mind of it’s own, but it can perform tasks  such as setting the table or cleaning. Now it wasn’t always poor zoe-her parents loved her hair. She loved her hair. Her kindergarten teacher loved her hair. But come first grade, Zoe became poor Zoe with a teacher that believes in RULES and order. The hair is attempted to be controlled, but it fights back. Hats-nope. Eventually scrunchies, barrettes, clips, headbands, rubber bands, bobby pins and duct tape-all at the same time are able to keep the hair under control.  

The story reminds me a little of Plantzilla by Jerdine Nolen and Brian Kielher and illustrated by one of favorite illustrators-David Catrow. In Plantzilla the plant, not the hair, has a life of its own and is able to perform some amazing feats. It would be fun to read the books back-to-back and look for similarities or differences.

I think kids (especially kindergartners and first graders) will find The Hair of Zoe very funny. It would be a good first week of school book when some students are apprehensive about their teacher. They, like Zoe, will find common ground with their new teacher and have a very good year.

 

Can’t beat time in a bookstore with friends June 5, 2009

One of the last events I managed before becoming a house-selling fanatic, was a trip to my favorite book store Cover to Cover with two of my fourth grade colleagues.  Neither had been there before ( I love taking newbies!) and both had some end of the year money to spend on their classroom libraries (Can there be any better type of money to spend?). A combination that can’t be beat in my mind, especially when followed by lunch at Northstar Cafe.  

One of our goals was to find poetry books to boost their classroom library (there are two of the teachers I wrote about in the poetry unit). We picked up:

  • Georgia Heard’s vertical book Falling Down the Page
  • Oh Brother by Nikki Grimes
  • Been to Yesterdays– by Lee Bennett Hopkins
  • Wonderful Words: Poems about Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking by Lee Bennett Hopkins Falling down the page
  • City I Love by Lee Bennett Hopkins
  • A Kick in the Head-An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms by Paul Janeczko
  • The World’s Greatest Poems by J. Patrick Lewis 
  • Dinothesaurus by Douglas Florian 

Another was to find picture books to supplement their science and social studies topics. I have to say we successfully did both after many fun hours looking through books and exclaiming over finds to each other.  

I also had the privilege of selecting books that will be given to teachers as part of our August Writing Institute.  I’ll include a list of titles I picked up within the next week. 

I’m sitting in my beautiful backyard writing this post, enjoying the things I love most about it back here-dogs sleeping on cool bricks at my feet, luscious red strawberries growing in raised beds, kids swinging high enough to touch the clouds, a breeze blows the leaves of the surrounding trees and woods, music from the televsision show Grey’s Anatomy plays in the background, and a cold beverage drips a ring on the table.   I realize that I have missed the reflective component of blogging over the last couple weeks. It forces me to slow down and think about how the day, week, book, etc. and I haven’t slowed down enough to read or blog since entering house mania. Now that the main preparation sprint is winding down, I hope to be back to blogging almost every day.

Next week holds a curriculum mapping week of planning using Primary Units of Study by Lucy Calkins, Talking, Drawing and Writing by Horn and Giacobbe, and Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller to plan out next year. Should be pretty fun stuff! Then a couple weeks off before heading to Teachers College (TCRWP) Reading Institute July 6th-10th.

 

The Vowel Family April 25, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,books,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 2:02 pm
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The Vowel Familyvowel-family:  A Tale of Lost Letters by Sally M. Walker (2008) is a funny picture book that highlights the importance of vowels in words.  I’ve included a few excerpts below to highlight the fun.  

 

What words can you make when you add vowels to the letters below?

wndr pnch tm bk frm lghtr mrvls rmbl fr

 

Whn Pm Smth mrrd Sm Vwl, sh sd, “Lf s wndrful!”

“xcpt whn w tlk,” Sm sd. “Tlkng s vr hrd.”

 

Ftr Alan and Ellen, the twns, were brn, ther parents gggld wth glee. Alan and Ellen’s clear speech made sense.

Lfe was better. Bt t wasn’t perfect.

 

Tried adopting pets, but it wasn’t until the birth of Iris and Otto joined the family that things made sense.

 

Thank goodness Ursula chose just that moment to be born!”

But, Otto gets lost and Aunt Cyndy, the police officer needs to help them find the missing boy. They find him in the library attending story hour.

 

It’s funny/interesting that you can read and understand the story, even without the vowels. I wonder if that is due to years of interpretting students’ misspellings, or if everyone can read it easily. 

I think students of all ages would love this book for different reasons. Check it out. 

 

Earth Day books and read-alouds April 20, 2009

Looking for an Earth Day read-aloud? Here are a couple of my favorites!

h_earthday_oAll ages: Read alouds

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (How can you go wrong with Dr. Seuss???) There is even an old video of the book, but you should read the book!

Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle by51ju4huwnl_sl160_aa115_ David Elliott (a great chapter book that is a blast to read aloud and has a wonderful environmental theme. My students begged for this book every day-probably grades 3-6)

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry (classic!)

10things10 Things I Can Do To Help My World by Melanie Walsh (great for everyone-kids of all ages love the flaps! Adults of all ages will love the message!)

Old Turtle by Douglas Wood (beautiful fable, but definitely religious overtones)

The Earth and I by Frank Asch (Moonbear author-beautiful illustrations-good message for younger kids)

 

Our Big Home by Linda Glaser

Children of the Earth by Schim Schimmel

Our Big Home: A Poem by Linda Glaser

 

There is also a great little short story book just released in March called Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children’s Authors Tell You How to Go Green Edited by Dan Gutman. Each story is one to three pages. My fourth grader and first grader  love it! recycle-this-book

 

New Books April 6, 2009

Filed under: audiobook,book reviews,books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,picture books,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:36 am
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The goals: spend less than $75 on new books Saturday, find new release books I hadn’t read yet, try to include one each for my son and daughter to get excited about. Here’s how it ended up

Word Builder by Ann Whitford Paul (beautiful new picture book with a construction crew taking letters and eventually turning them into a book) 

The Pet Sitter: Tiger Taming by Julie Sykes (a series from England starring a young pet-loving boy. Will be good for my son as he is not ready for Magic Tree House, but insists on chapter books that look “grown-up”)

Smoke by Mavis Jukes (I’m not sure what gravitated me towards this book. The cover has a cat in profile, the title is the same as one the characters in the book Scat I just finished, I need a new read aloud for my son and thought this would be a nice change from Wimpy Kid, thought he would love the cowboy connection. I’ll let you know.)

Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children’s Book Authors Tell You How to Go Green Edited by Dan Gutman (Good short stories are sometimes hard to come by and 100 by authors such as Ralph Fletcher and Gail Gibbons can’t be beat!)

Change Has Come with illustrations by Kadir Nelson (Kadir Nelson’s drawings, Barack Obama’s words-need I say more?)

The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths by Cynthia Rylant (Love Cynthia Rylant. Love that this myths are retold at a level that I can use to introduce them to my children and students)

Total Damage $71.96

I’m pretty excited about my haul!

 

New Books to blast me out of the blahs February 16, 2009

Filed under: books,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:36 am
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Ron’s Big Mission by Rosa Blue and Corinne J. Naden

Illustrated by Dan Tate 

 

ronsbig-mission

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers

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Bye-Bye Crib by Alison McGhee, Illlustrated by Ross MacDonald

51vvojye1l_sl160_aa115_

 

Black History Month: 2 books by Ntozake Shange & Kadir Nelson February 14, 2009

51ky7yyyanl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_February is Black History Month. During the editing phase for publishing this post, I decided to confirm that fact and instead ended up going down a whole different path of thinking and reflecting. My first Google hit was for a news article from the Chicago Sun Times.  The article was written in response to a debate of which I was unaware. From my understanding, the debate is  regarding whether Black History Month even needs to be observed anymore now that we have an African American president.  

A little more poking around and I found out that Black History month was originally called “Negro History Week” and started being recognized in 1926.  We owe the celebration to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African American scholar from Harvard. It was he who proposed the second week of February because it marked the birthdays of Fredrick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, two men who had a remarkable impact on the  African American people.  

Coretta Scott is a poem by Ntozake Shange with paintings by Kadir Nelson. It is a beautiful book. When I first saw a review copy at NCTE, I was excited there was a picture book about the woman that has an award named after her that honors children’s books. The ALA website explains the award is,  “Given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream.

The award is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood.”

Shange’s poem begins…

some southern mornings
the moon
sits like an orange
sliver by the treetops

What imagery! Shange’s words are so beautiful, yet Nelson’s paintings add a whole other layer of beauty.  

The book’s powerful images continue throughout…

but fervor for the coming vote
and equality
pushed Coretta to a peace and wonderment
of the Lord
“ain’t goona let nobody turn me around
turn me round”

A look at the author then led me to another book by the pair, Ellington Was Not a Street. It won the Corretta Scott King award in 2004. The partnership of poetry and painting is again a thing of beauty.  

41t9kwgyrzl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_it hasnt always been this way
ellington was not a street
robeson no mere memory
du bois walked up my father’s stairs
hummed some tune over me
sleeping in the company of men 
who changed the world 

The poem flows over the pages with paintings from the view of a small girl observing the many comings and goings in her family home and ends with a mini-biography of each person that is within the poem.  

I went to share the books with my children.  Instead of quietly admiring the poems and pictures, it inspired 1000 questions!

“Why are they walking to school?” ,

“What is that black disc she’s holding?”,

“Why weren’t they allowed to vote?”,

“How could that bus driver be so mean and just drive by?”,

“Who is Jim Crow?”

“What is a boycott or a sit-in?” 

Now I realize that the age of my children has not allowed them enough time to be exposed to a depth of history .  It also makes me very aware that while they take different skin color for granted (something not really to be noticed) they still need to know about all parts of American history, not just what is emphasized in textbooks (majority still have an overabundance of white men). It is is up to us, their parents, to make sure that happens. If it takes Black History Month to bring this realization to the front of my mind, a well-educated educator, I believe that the need for Black History Month is still very much needed to help remind all Americans that there are groups of people, whether they are African American, women, Jewish, Pacific-American that are an important part of not just now, but the past as well. The role they had in bringing us all to the point in our shared American history where we finally can have an African American or a woman as president is one that should not be taken for granted.