Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I recently started receiving galleys from NetGalley. A fun and interesting way to get advance reader copies. There is a list and I pick what looks interesting. I click a button to request a copy and wait for a response. If they say yes I down load it to my iPad. There is a wide range of books to choose from. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I say a listing for The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I quickly clicked the button and patiently waited (not really I couldn’t stand the wait!). Once the email came I was on my way to reading another fantastically scary book.

I don’t normally do scary. I am what is commonly referred to as a chicken. Covered eyes and all, so it is interesting that I am so taken by Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s young adult books. I guess it is easy to figure out why. His books they are engrossing and beautifully written. This new book is no different. The book was written in 1994, but because of legal issues (Carlos Ruiz Zafón mentions this on his site.) was not translated until this year. It was worth the wait.

The Midnight Palace takes place in Calcutta in 1932. The beginning of the book starts with a first person narrative of events that happened that year. The Midnight Palace is a place where a group of orphans from the orphanage have secret meetings to discuss wonderful dreams and goals. One of the orphans is Ben. When the orphans turn 16 they must leave the orphanage. The story opens on the eve of the departures. It is that night that Ben discovers he has a twin named Sheere. They have been hidden from evil reincarnated their entire lives. Evil goes by the name Jawahal. He is driven to destroy these two teenagers no matter who or what gets in his way. Jawahal is the name of the orphan’s father spelled backwards, Lahawaj. Ben and Sheere’s father was an architect that built a fabulous train station in Calcutta, but a horrific event happens that kills hundreds of children and destroys the station. Once the twins turn 16 Jawahal want to … I can’t tell you because there is NO WAY THERE WILL BE SPOILER here!

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a master of prose. After finishing The Midnight Palace I wish there was another I could read today. Alas, I will have to wait.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

CCIRA Conference and The Boy Reader Session

Last week I presented at the CCIRA Conference. Yes, I presented at the same conference with people like Regie Routman, Katie Wood Ray and Patrick Allen. The proposal CCIRA accepted was: Kyle will share his newest thoughts on motivating boys. He will discuss the importance of humor, talking during “independent” reading, graphic novels and book clubs. He will provide a wide range of new book titles boys love to read.

The morning of my session I found out that I would present in the amphitheatre. I was nervous at first. Like I said in my last post I don’t have a front to my classroom. Anyhow I quickly got into the presentation and shared many titles. Further down will be that list. It was cool  Katie Wood Ray and I both shared City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems and Jon J Muth.
The part of my presentation that stood out for me was the part on “dependent reading”. I have been observing the boys in my class during independent reading time. Often they are sitting next to another boy. Here are a couple of observations I have made:

  1. They are looking at the same book and are taking turn reading and discussing what they just read.
  2. Reading different books, but stop often to share what they have just read.
  3. Constantly borrowing each other’s book to reread a favorite part, and discussing the book.
The difficulty teachers face is that this behavior can be disruptive to others, so we tell them to stop talking and get back to work. What would happen if we just let them do these behaviors? Would their fluency increase? Will they have a deeper understanding of what they read? Will they be more engaged in the reading process? I argue YES! YES! YES!

What are your thoughts?



 Here are the books I shared:
Picture Books


  1.  Bear in Underwear by Todd H. Doodle
  2. city dog, country frog by Mo Willems pictures by Jon J Muth
  3. It’s a Book by Lane Smith
  4.  A Couple of Boys have the Best Week Ever by Marla Fazee
  5.  Let’s do Nothing by Tony Fucile
  6.  A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
  7. Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton & Tom Lichtenheld



  1. My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian cartoons by Jake Tashjian
  2. because of mr. terupt by Rob Buyea
  3. Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
  4. Wildfire Run by Dee Garretson
  5. NERD 2 M is for Mama’s Boy by Michael Buckley
  6. Boom! by Mark Haddon
  7. Crunch by Leslie Connor
  8. Milo Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg
  9. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger
  10. The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter
Graphic Novels

 Lunch Lady by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

 Hardy Boys by Scott Lobdell

 Frankenstein The Graphic Novel by Mary Shelly




 City I Love by Lee Bennett Hopkins

 Guyku a year of Haiku for Boys by Bob Raczka & Peter H. Reynolds




 Horrid Henry’s Joke Book by Francesca Simon

 Guys Read Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka

 We Are in a Book! By Mo Willems








Saturday, February 5, 2011

2011 CCIRA Conference Part One

What a wonderful three days. The CCIRA conference ended today with two sessions by Katie Ray Wood and luncheon entertainment by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, but more about them later. Back up to Thursday morning. I barely slept that night because of excitement for the conference. Thursday was a busy day. First, I was to spend the day hosting Wendy Maas, but weather put an end to that. I do miss the fact that I didn’t get to spend the day with her. Next, I did a session on boys and reading. (My classroom doesn’t have a front. The tables are on the perimeter. The Third Teacher and my principal helped me design my layout) I found out I was speaking in the amphitheatre. I was nervous at first, but quickly got into my groove. I will blog more about my presentation later. Lastly, I received the Kay Mervar Outstanding Reading Educator Award at one of the luncheons. It was a wonderful day!

Friday turned out to be outstanding as well. Two sessions by Regie Routman! Her second one focused on optimal learning. We are in the process of finding a new leader for our school. Regie Routman said “It takes seven years for self-sustaining a school and one year to fall apart!” I will do everything in my power to make sure this doesn’t happen. The luncheon was Patricia Polacco. Unfortunately the weather was so bad in Chicago her train was delayed. Modern technology made it possible for her to SKYPE into the luncheon. At the end there wasn’t a dry eye in the room and the serving staff was back against the wall mesmerized. Thank you Patricia Polacco.

Today it was Katie Ray Wood. Wow. Wow. Wow. All I can really say is I can’t wait for Monday to confer with my writers!

My head is full and I hope I can put into practice what I heard and saw.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My thoughts on Read Alouds

I went to six different elementary schools and I don’t ever remember my teacher reading a novel to us. I am sure it must have happened, but it did not have an impact on me. Maybe this is why I was determined when I started teaching that I was going to read aloud to my class. It is by far my favorite time of the day. There are teachers in my building that DO NOT do a daily read aloud. Their reasons for not doing it are baffling. I mean really spending 10-15 minutes a day WILL NOT hurt their chances of success on the CSAP. The reality is that 10-15 minutes will help their chances of success in LIFE! (Enough of my soap box) Carol and Mary Lee have written wonderful observations about read alouds. Mary Lee has a link to a new blog by Rick Walton Why Read Aloud? that has some interesting comments. I want to add my thoughts to theirs.

Over my years of teaching I have taught first through fourth grade. There have been kids from families barely able to get their kids to school, English Language Learners and kids that belong to country clubs. Each and every one needs to be read to. Carol used to start our faculty meeting with a read aloud. It was the best part. So, even we need them! Back to kids.

I got into the blog world because of read alouds. When I went up to third grade (I mean started teaching third grade) I wanted to find something that looked good to me and my students. I asked around the school and teachers suggested Roald Dahl (most teachers read him, but not my cup of tea) Little House on the Prairie (sorry having a root canal sounded better!) The Littles and on and on. You get the picture fine books but I wanted WOW! With just a little research outside my school and the help of Carol I started finding some fantastic books to read aloud to kids.

Read aloud is a special time. It is right after lunch. It gives the kids a chance to relax and at the same time prepare for the afternoon. I rarely read the same book twice. There are a few exceptions. I read Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone years ago and re-read it this year. Most of the class had never heard or read the book. The day after I finished the book one boy came up to me, “Mr. Kimmal can I borrow Harry Potter to read?” I looked at him and said “D, we just finished it.” “I know but I think I can read it by myself.” He took the book from the shelf looked at me with a huge smile and said “Wow, I can’t wait.” He is still reading the book and doesn’t read his joke book everyday.

Another book I read aloud often is Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy. It is a narrative of Ms. Roy’s aunt. Her aunt was one the few surviving children of the Lodz Ghetto. It is told in a dairy form and introduces children to the Holocaust. It is a powerful book that leads to many interesting discussions. It is a book that prompts kids to look deeper into our history. A couple of years ago a Jewish student in class was greatly touched by the books and spent a couple of years researching the Holocaust. His fifth grade independent project on the Lodz Ghetto was incredible.

The other book that I have read more then once is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I had no intention of reading it twice, even thought it is a GREAT READ ALOUD! Last year I taught a 3/4 split. Most of the 10 of the 12 fourth graders had been in my third grade class. They talked about so much that the class begged, pleaded, promised extra good behavior if I would read it. Little did they know that the begging would have been enough. Here are a few of the things that happened during this read aloud. First, kids loved it so much you could hear a pin drop on the carpet. The book is filled with great stopping points. At one stopping points the class was so upset that I stopped that another teacher entered my room because she thought something bad had happened. “Mr. Kimmal is everything alright?” “Yes, they are just mad because read aloud is over.” It is hard to describe the look on her face. I’m sure she was thinking are they really that upset about a read aloud being over. Next, my building is old and I have two doors into my room. One day one of the doors was closed and when I got to an eerie part of the book the closed door creaked open just a little causing nervous laughter. Soon after my principal walked through the other door and the kids screamed. She was startled and said “I’m not scary!” Finally, I find the ending of The Graveyard Book very touching. “Mr. Kimmal What’s wrong with your voice? Why does it sound funny?” I replied that I was fine and luckily did not cry.

As I said at the beginning read aloud is my favorite time of the day. It is a non-negotiable. Patrick Allen just Twitted “Remember when children quoted authors? Now they talk about their reading levels.” I don’t want my students growing up just thinking about reading levels or CSAP scores. In 40 years I want them to remember their favorite read aloud.