Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

Creepy!  This word best describes the feeling I had while reading The Real Boy by Anne Ursu.  I don’t mean creepy in a bad way, but in the way that sends chills down your spin with your mouth hanging open.

Oscar is a small boy that works for the most powerful magician in the land.  Years ago the wizards disappeared, but their magic is still around.  The city and forest are filled with sinister magic. (Sinister is used on the book jacket because it best describes what is happening!)  Oscar is the hand of the magician Caleb, and Wolf is the apprentice who hates Oscar.  I found out that the hand does the grunt work for the apprentice.  Soon after the book begins something horrific happens to Wolf, and Caleb leaves to find “answers”.  This leaves Oscar and his Callie to deal with the evil that is happening to the children of the city.  If I write more it really does get into the whole spoiler alert realm.  I’m not doing that!

While I was reading this at home I was reading Noah Barleywater Runs Away to my class.  At one point in that book the old man says, “I should have never become a real boy.”  This line stuck in my mind, so I kept wondering if the same was true of Oscar.  Well, it’s not.  I had trouble putting The Real Boy down.  It is an engaging story where twists and turns kept me reading.  There were many times where I just wanted to take Oscar in my arms and hug him and tell him everything will be alright.  Of course that’s not possible with a character in a fantasy book.  I like the perseverance of both Callie and Oscar, and their true understanding of what is good versus evil.  I’m not quite sure on this for third graders, but definitely for 4th grade and above.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Magic of Jennifer A. Nielsen

Truth be told I usually only read the first book in a series.  It isnt that I dont want to it is that I have enough trouble just getting through my TBR stack. This changed over the weekend.  Over the past few months there has been a lot of press and chatter about The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. 
My friend Carol blogged about it and encouraged me to read it.  She told me about the time Ms. Nielsen visited her school, and how delightful she was with the kids.  I, so much, loved reading The False Prince last week that when I was at The Bookies last Friday I bought The Runaway King, and devoured it over the weekend.  Only difference between the boys and me in the class is that I didnt beg my mom to get it.

Flash back to the middle of December.  The boys in Guys Read had picked The False Prince as their next book. The boys started the book and within two days a couple of boys stopped by my room to tell me they loved the book, had already finished, and got their mom to take them to Tattered Cover to buy The Runaway King (the next one in the series). 
Throughout the next week the discussion of The False Prince spread through my room.  It started with what happens in chapter 3.  The boys I think were in shock that a scene like that would be in a story they were reading.  I would watch boys walking over to other kids and say, Here, listen to this part.

The girls in the class were also talking about the book even though none had read it yet.  Given some of the girls in my class Im sure many read it over break.

Every morning I could hear boys asking each other:

·       What chapter are you on?
·       How far did you read last night? 
·       Wasnt it cool when.

Im sure when we meet next week the boys will have nothing to talk about in book club because it is all they have talked about in class.

Daily I watch kids read books.  The share books, borrow books, and discard books very quickly.  It is that special writer like Ms. Nielsen that gets kids out of their chairs to share the her words.  Over the years I have watched boys read the books for book club.  Sometimes they are totally engaged, and sometimes they arent that interested in the book. The only other book with this much magic was The Lightening Thief. 

Thank you Ms. Nielsen for taking the joy of reading to an even higher level.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

I started in the blog world it was to find ideas for new read aloud books.  I was getting ready to teach second grade.  The plan was to loop with the cohort to third grade.  There are fabulous books out there to read to both second and third grade classes, but I wanted something new.  Fast-forward a lot of years, and I read the perfect read aloud for a first and second grade class.  Luckily, I got to enjoy The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes at home and share it with my nephew’s first grade teacher.  First and second graders are really cute, and I love seeing them in the hallways; and thank goodness I will have them later.

Billy Miller is a second grader that has a rough end of the summer.  He is very excited to be a second grader.  Billy is a kind kid that works hard to do the right thing.  His mother is a high school teacher, and his dad is a stay at home parent that happens to be an artist.  Billy’s little sister is very creative and expressive.   As the year progresses Billy finds that growing up is not always easy.  At times even sleeping through the night can be challenging.

I was excited to find a book that had no talking animals, dead dogs, runaway parents, etc.  After reading this book I want Billy in my third grade class.  Mr. Henkes wrote a realistic book about growing up without being preachy or filled with sad events.  This is a great read aloud for younger grades.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

School Year Celebration

Carol, Franki, and Mary Lee have been Celebrating their weeks.   Given that I haven’t written anything in a while I’m going to celebrate that I finally have a new post.  I am teaching at a different school this year.  It is very different.  It is the first non Title-1 school I have taught at.  As the year has unfolded I have many things I want to celebrate about my new teaching/learning environment. 
My classroom is on the second floor.
  1. I am learning new curriculum.  After 15 years of teaching Everyday Mathematics I am learning how to teach Singapore Math.  There are days were my confusion is probably not the best thing to celebrate, but I love the challenge.
  2. 25 boys showed up for Guys Read Book Club.  My first year at Montclair I only had eight.  I received an A to Z Grant to buy books for the book club.
  3. I am learning how to infuse the IB mindset throughout the day.
  4. We are creating new social studies and science units based on Common Core.  It is so hard to fit it all into the IB model, but SO cool to have the lines of inquiry and formulate a summative assessment.
  5. I spent the day in Los Angles with Lucy Calkins learning about her new writing units.
  6. I get to see my niece and nephew everyday.  Hannah is in third grade across the hall and Levi is downstairs rocking first grade.
  7. I got to sit next to my parents and sister at the third grade concert last Thursday.
  8. I get to see my old students that attend the middle school in the same building.
  9. On Friday as I walk up the stairs dreading the fact that I had to go to the gym before libations an old student was waiting for me at the my classroom door.  He was early picking up his brother, so he stopped by to tell me a funny story.  (What is funny to an 8th grade is always that funny!)  We talked about school and he peppered me with questions about books he had read.  Ciaran left my ARC of Jon Scieszka’s new Guys Read Other Worlds.
  10. Finally, I want to celebrate that I get to spend my day with 26 talkative kids that are excited to learn.

So, I know it is kind of lame that I just did a Top Ten list, but the truth is that I could go on.  It has been very challenging being in a new environment, and starting the year with no social studies unit, but I know that if I’m not challenged I do not teach well.  My kids deserve the best, even if that means that at times I have no idea what I’m doing on the Promethean Board, and W has to help me.