Monday, July 16, 2018

Book Tour and Netflix Show! Who Was Pablo Picasso and Who Were the Wright Brothers

What do you get when you cross The Electric Company, Zoom, and Schoolhouse Rock? Oh that’s easy, you get Netflix’s new show “The Who Was? Show.  First, I’ll start with a little background.  Random House Penguin has a fantastic series of biographies on famous people called Who Was…  My student’s love them.  The books are filled with interesting facts and illustrations.  They are age appropriate, but they don’t shy away from serious details. 

Luckily for us Netflix decided to highlight these books with a hilarious show. Two famous (actually three this time) people are show cased in each episode. I got to spend a little time with Pablo Picasso and The Wright Brothers.  The difference between the books and the Netflix show is enough that a student can’t watch the show and learn everything in the book.  The show is almost a teaser for the book.  “Hey kids wanna learn about a famous person?  Here is a bit of information.”  Hey kids want to learn more? Great! Here is a book that will teach you so much more!”
Thank you Penguin for the Books! 
In the episode I watched one of the Wright brothers is annoyed that they each didn’t get the same amount of time as Picasso.  I, also, don’t think it is true that the Wright brothers tried to invent clothes for cats.  But, you never know!   

Earlier, I commented that the books don’t shy away from serious details.  For example, in the Who Was Pablo Picasso
book it talks about the death of his sister and best friend and how this loss dramatically impacted his art.

Combining the humor and seriousness of life is what makes for an interesting watch and read.  I look forward to continuing to share the books with my students, and now I can share this wonderfully delightful show.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Summer Reading List 2018

It is hard to believe that it is May!!!  Every year I compile a summer reading list for families.  By no means is this a perfect list.  I did notice that there are more books for older middle grade and middle school.  My wish is that I could have a lot of these so the kids could select a couple to take home for the summer.  However, finding funding for this is very difficult.  

If you want to suggest books as well I know families will love that.  Have a fantastic summer of reading.

The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea 
The Wild Robot Escapes byPeter Brown(Author / Illustrator)
The Losers Club by Andrew Clement
As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
***Miles Morales Spiderman by Jason Reynolds 
 ***AnythingWritten by Jason Reynolds 
***Crossover and Rebound by Kwame Alexander
The Creativity Project by Colby Sharp (this book everyone should read and try!!!
***Greetings From Witness Protection by Jake Burt
Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
by Liesl Shurtliff (the other ones are hilarious as well)
Refugee by Alan Gratz
Flying Lesson & Other Stories by Ellen Oh
Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Caraya
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Nate Expectations by Tim Federle (this is the third of a trilogy. I’d start with Better Nate Than Ever.
***How I Resist: Activism and Hope for a New Generationby Maureen Johnson
***Ghost Boysby Jewell Parker Phodes
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
***Well That was Awkward by Rachel Vail
***The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz ZafÓn (SCARY!!! his other YA books are wonderful too.)
The Julian Chapters and other short storiesby R.J. Palacio (These are only available on Amazon, but they are $1.99)The author has a group of books that tie into Wonder which are wonderful
***Brown Girl Dreaming Jacqueline Woodson
Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne (His others are wonderful as well!)
The Penderwicks (series) by Jeanne Birdsall
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
The  Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman 
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
(Neil Gaiman was inspired by The Jungle Book when he wrote The Graveyard Book.  Read both and compare them!)
Harry Potter by JK Rowling
***Older reader!

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Creativity Project edited by Colby Sharp

When I read books I wonder how can I use it in class.  Most of the time I think about whether the book will be a good read aloud, a book to use in guided group reading, a certain student will love the book, or will it be good for the Guys Read Book Club.   Along comes The Creativity Project edited by Colby Sharpand all I think about is “How can I use this book to improve writing in my writer’s workshop?”.  Books from Mark Overmeyer, Ralph Fletcher, Lucky Caulkins or Georgia Heard help me be a better writing teacher, but I am taking about how using The Creativity Projectcan alter how students see themselves as writers.

Colby Sharp is a fifth grade teacher in Michigan, and has a wonderful blog called Sharpread.  So, a little about the book.  Colby Sharp contacted 44 children book advocates, and asked them to contribute two different prompts.  The prompts could be written, a photograph, or an illustration.  Once the prompts were returned he compiled them and sent every contributor two prompts from someone else.  Each person was asked to respond to just one of the prompts.  The Creativity Project is the finished product.  In the first part of the book are the responses, and the second half are the rest of the prompts. 

As I read the responses so many of them I wanted to share right away with my kids.  I laughed at so many. Kirby Larson’s response made me stop and reread the ending, and laugh out lout. I cried with many as well. John Schu’s story reminds us about the power of books.   Jewell Parker Rhodes’ response is so powerful and sad, but at the same time has so much hope that I reread it a few times.  I got VERY frustrated with Dav Pilkey’s response because I didn’t want it to end.  I want to know more.  When I finished reading the prompts I was excited and in awe of the creativity that exists in children’s literature.  These advocated of literacy make my classroom joyful.

So what is next?  Right now we are in testing mode.  When that is done I will introduce The Creativity Project to my class.  I will start small, but small steps become giant strides. Giant strides become The Creativity Project.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Baby Monkey, Private Eye

Thank you Scholastic for the copies
In walks an opera diva, a pizza chef, a clown, and an astronaut.  It sounds like a beginning of a joke, but it is anything but a joke.  These are new clients for a very special private eye.  No, the detective is not Cormoran Strike, but Baby Monkey.  Brian Selznick and David Serlin’s newest character. 

A couple weekends ago, was a literacy filled.  Thursday and Friday was the CCIRA annual conference.  The conference was wonderful, and just what I needed to rejuvenate me. It continued to get better because Denver was host city to the ALA Midwinter Conference.  On Saturday I attended the exhibit hall where I was able to pick up an advance reader copy of Baby Monkey Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin. (I’ll be honest I picked up two copies.) I was so excited to get my hands on this joyful book.  Back up a little bit.  It is not longer in my possession.  The students in my class got a hold of it and created a wait list to be fair.  The amount of laughter is amazing!

I love this book.  As usual Brian Selznick illustrations are breathtaking. The text the two created is engagingly funny to high third grade readers.  Looking at the changing details during each new chapter is fun.  I mean really Maria Callas and the first footstep on the money.  The creativity to come up with this is just…WOW!

Finally, anyone that has watched a toddler try to put on pants will love watching Baby Monkey try to put on his pants.  Again, the laughter of third graders reading this part is priceless.  This book reminds us that if we only allow kids to read books at “their level” most kids will miss out on the joy of a masterpiece.   

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Greetings From Witness Protection by Jake Burt

I normally blog about books that have a male protagonist, but I loved Greetings From Witness Protection b
y Jake Burt so much that I am writing about it because I know boys will really enjoy it.

I am going to cheat a little with the summary and edit what is on the book cover. 

The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a family on the run from a Mafia family.  The bad guys are looking for a mom, dad and a son.  Not a family of four.  Nicki is living in a group home when she is selected to help protect this family.  She has to move from New York City to North Carolina to go into witness protection. 

First off, WOW!  This is Jake Burt’s first novel.  Way to get a following.  On the surface the reason I enjoyed this book so much is that it is fun, and suspenseful.  Nicki is a funny character.  She is determined to do the right thing.  I, also, like that it is totally believable, but not really. I mean I hope the US Marshalls don’t put kids in this type of danger.  The suspense and humor is where I know I can easily get boys to read this book.

What really sets this book apart is the way Mr. Burt deals with trauma.  Nicki’s parents have abandoned her, and the only caregiver she has really known, Grandma, has died.  This is how she ends up in and out of foster care.  The hope of all the kids is that they will “STICK”.  This is where the foster kids get to stay with the family.  A FOREVER FAMILY. 

The friendship Nicki makes in her new school is special and shows how special she is.  Nicki, also, works really hard to form a loving bond with her “new” family.  Without giving away the ending there is a scene towards the end where Nicki actions make her “family” question her loyalty, but it is the scene that shows that Nicki has found her FOREVER FAMILY.  That she has stuck.

Friday, January 19, 2018

New Book Club and a Symphony of Armpit Farts

The discussion of Dog Man by Dav Pilkey was fun.  The boys spent more time than usual pointing out the merits of the graphic novel.    They were polite to each other, and when they disagreed with someone they would say, “I disagree with you because..”  I thought, “wow what a new civilized group”.  Well when 12 boys get together after school with food and beverages the civility doesn’t last long.  All it takes is one, third grade, boy to change the tune of the meeting.  As the last boy finished the symphony of armpit farts began.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the boys tried to play a song with their armpits.  I knew if I didn’t intervene it was down hill, and no way to get back.  “Hey what did you guys read over break?” I asked.  Luckily for everyone involved they quickly moved on to answering the questions.

A little background about this Guys Read Book Club:  I currently teach at a Title 1 school with a magnificent view of downtown Denver.  We can walk to the a few museums and Denver Public Library’s main branch.  We are, also, a school in which 60% of our students have been either homeless, or in some type of foster care.  It is a tough school.  Our achievement on the state’s test shows that we lag behind students from middle class schools.  There are about 14 boys this year that come to the monthly meeting.  Of the 14, 11 come from homes where English is not the primary language, and at least one parent is a new immigrant.  Four of the boys read significantly below grade level.  All 14 boys are your typical goofy boys.

After 10 years of doing a book club it is exciting and rewarding to see a group of boys come together and participate in a book club.  It is just like any “fun” book club.  We eat, drink, laugh, talk a little bit about the book, talk, laugh, eat… I am very fortunate that I get a grant to buy the books.  Each month the boys get to keep their books.  For some families these are some of the only books that are in the house.

January 2018
I have worked in Title 1 urban schools and in most of them there is a belief that “these kids won’t do that” or “these kids can’t do that”.  I know that if we don’t provide opportunities for kids in Title 1 schools we will never break the cycle.  Is it challenging? YES.  Is it worth it? Look at the picture.  The saying goes “A picture tells a thousand words.”  In the case of these guys the picture tells a million words!