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Preview: A Year of Reading

A Year of Reading

Two PUBLIC SCHOOL teachers who read. A lot.

Updated: 2018-02-25T07:43:43.852-05:00


Found Poem


Unsplash photo by Andy MaiThese Days (a found poem) These days, far too many whom we have admired have proven to be bad.We are all complicated individuals... If I were to dismiss every piece of art because of something in the artist's life that is/was inexcusable, then,I fear, art would not be something I could partake in. If I don't know the inexcusable now, I may find out about it later. I think this discussion needs to be continued. It has my head spinning.We are all complicated individuals... Yes, we can mourn and miss the good that coexists with badinside a complicated person.I think it is important to acknowledge and recognize both even though it is hard to do.We are all complicated individuals... Quite often, is it not the case, the real art comes from the troubled places in us? And sometimes from the troubled among us, who are blown about by unseemly urges, who feel so out of the ordinary stream that they lose sight of the channeling banks? We need not excuse the wrong-doing to be touched by the art.We are all complicated individuals... I don't know that to do with the bad and good, except love people for who they are. Help them achieve better than they did before. We can't cut people out of the herd and consider our jobs done. If trees fall, we make furniture. When a forest burns, new seeds take root. When our idols fall, perhaps they will rise again as mere people.©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018This is a poem I found in the comments on last week's Poetry Friday post. I created it in appreciation for your thoughtful responses to my lament about the loss of the Writer's Almanac. They were just to good to leave in the comment boxes!(Thanks, also, for all of the writing encouragement!)Liz has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Elizabeth Steinglass.[...]

Poetry Friday -- Robert Frost


Unsplash photo by Andy Mai

On a Tree Fallen Across the Road
(To hear us talk)

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not bar
Our passage to our journey's end for good,
But just to ask us who we think we are

Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an ax.

And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space.

by Robert Frost

This is a poem for those times when you can not write an epitaph to save your life. (Ditty Challenge will have to wait.) When the three drafts you wrote for Laura Shovan's February challenge this week  aren't fit for public view. And when all of the good poems you've bookmarked over the years are from the Writer's Almanac, which is gone, and which you miss. Dearly. An accessible poem every morning. A bit of history. Garrison Keillor's voice, if you had time to listen. (Is it wrong to mourn the good done by a person who has been found to have been bad?)

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check it Out.

Poetry Friday: Earth Verse


Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up
by Sally M. Walker
illustrated by William Grill
Candlewick Press, 2018

In the author's blurb on the back jacket flap, we learn that Sally M. Walker majored in geology in college. How fun is it to show students that academic knowledge can be translated into poetry! This will be a go-to mentor text in my classroom for students who are having fun with nonfiction by writing in different formats.

The book features poems about Earth, minerals, rocks, fossils, earthquakes, volcanoes, atmospheric and surface water, glaciers, and groundwater. I didn't notice them at first, but there is a tiny icon at the bottom of the pages with poems that signals the topic and helps the reader see the connections between several pages of poems.

Here are a few favorites:

hotheaded mountain
loses its cool, spews ash cloud --
igneous tantrum

(volcano section)

a flat stone, skipping,
casts circles across the lake,
lassoing the fish

(atmospheric and surface water section)

hold fast, stalactite,
everlasting icicle,
stone bed for a bat

(groundwater section)

In keeping with the SALLY theme, this week's Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Sally Murphy!

Strong Girls Rock the World


Franki recently shared her love for Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood. (Olivia of @Livbits loves it, too. If you haven't watched her video, take a couple of minutes to do so. I'd add her to the list as the 15th young woman who's changing the world!)

I have two more Strong Girl books to add to your TBR stack and to your library.

Marley Dias Gets It DONE: And So Can You!
Scholastic Press, 2018

Marley Dias, founder of the #1000BlackGirlsBooks movement has written a book that is part memoir and autobiography and a whole lot Girl Power. This full-color book is jam packed with advice, inspiration, and action steps for young social activists. My favorite chapter is "Be The Change You Want to See in the World: Get Woke." She identifies three levels of Wokeness: Awareness, Consciousness, and Wokeness, then illustrates the levels using Disney Princesses. Cinderella is aware, Jasmine is conscious, but Mulan and Belle are full-on woke. It wouldn't be Marley Dias if she didn't have several sections on books and reading (her section on How To Read is fabulous!), plus an extensive booklist of books that feature black girls as the protagonist.

What Would She Do?: 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women
by Kay Woodward
Scholastic Press, February 27, 2018

This book features the stories of 25 women from all times in history and from all over the globe. For each woman, there is a short blurb, full-color illustrations, a single-page highly readable biography,  a quote...and a question that a modern girl might ask with an answer based on that woman's life and legacy. Because of all of these features, this book will be accessible to a wide range of readers, and will likely be one they go back to over and over again to dig more deeply into the lives of  these inspirational women.

Guest Post: The Impact of Read Aloud by Jaclyn Friedlander


Jaclyn Friedlander of Friends with Fins was a 4th grade student in my class several years ago. Recently, Jaclyn messaged me reminding me about a few of the books she remembers from 4th grade. It's always great to hear from a past student-even greater to hear about a book they remember. As a teacher, I see read aloud as one of the happiest and most important times of every day in the classroom. So happy to see that Jaclyn agrees! Enjoy!The current cover along with the cover of the book that  we read aloud in class.One of my favorite memories from elementary school was read-aloud time when we would sit on the floor and listen to our teacher read books to the whole class. Independent reading time was great but there was something magical about sitting as a group and imagining the story for ourselves while we listened to the teacher’s voice.I can vividly remember some of the stories that have inspired adventures in my life. One teacher read Loch by Paul Zindel. The book we were reading together often sat on the ledge of the chalkboard and the cover of that particular book terrified me, but the story was so fascinating that I did research and reports on the Loch Ness Monster throughout the rest of my formal education. Then when I had the opportunity to go to England as an adult, I added a few days to my itinerary and made a special trip to Scotland on a hunt to see Nessie. I went on a tour boat and heard about the legend, its origin and how it has evolved, as well as scientific theory behind what the Loch Ness Monster is. Another book that had a particular impact on me was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi. I remember as a 4th grader in Franki Sibberson’s class, LOVING that book and coming to school every day excited to hear the next chapter. My favorite part was when Charlotte chopped off all of her hair because she wants to fit in with the sailors, or so that’s how my mind remembered that moment. I recently re-read the book and she does chop her hair but for slightly different reasons. In the back of my mind I always thought it would be amazing to be like Charlotte Doyle and have an incredible adventure at sea. Between hearing that book read to us and being passionate about the ocean, learning to sail has been in the back of mind as something I would like to do.  I have explored the sea as a scuba diver and I now have the opportunity to learn how to sail. I will be learning to sail tall ships with 85 lines and 13 sails, just like the one Charlotte Doyle was on! I’m excited to learn a new skill and see where this adventure takes me! One of the ships that Jaclyn is learning to sail.There is something inspiring about sharing stories aloud and you never know what great adventures, life experiences, undertakings, or professions the stories will lead to in the future! Jaclyn Friedlander is the author of the Friends with Fins Children’s Picture book series and the host of educational marine science videos that can be found here:[...]

My January Reading


My reading goal this year (although a number on Goodreads because that is helpful too) is a bit more of a balance in my reading life.  So I looked at January to see how I did. I read 21 books in January (this picture includes one book from February).  I read:
  • 5 middle grade fiction novels
  • 7 fiction picture books
  • 1 YA fiction novel
  • 7 nonfiction picture books
  • 1 nonfiction poetry
I am missing adult fiction but I read a YA book so feel good about that.  I think looking at this list in this visual form that Goodreads allows each month will be helpful as I think about balance overall.  For February I'd like to fit in at least one Adult or YA novel.  I know I had more time to read in January than I will in February but I am hoping to continue meeting the goals for the year.

A Basket of Picture Books to Invite Exploration of Refugee and Immigrant Experiences


We are reading aloud Refugee by Alan Gratz in our classroom right now. There is so much about this book that makes it an incredible read aloud for 5th graders.  For some students this is the first historical fiction book they've read. And many are unfamiliar with some of the time historical periods and issues in the book. There has been lots of great conversation with lots of questions as the stories in the book unfold. This week I put together a basket of books for students who wanted to read more or think more about refugee and immigrant experiences. I believe that it takes both fiction and nonfiction when trying to understand an issue so this basket is a combination of both. I also think that there are some books that are about many things but that help us think about these real-world issues. The basket will grow-and we'll include video and digital resources as well-- as the year goes on but these are the first books we've included.Stormy Seas by Mary Beth LeatherdaleTwo White Rabbits by Jairo BuitragoTheir Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice and Hope in a New Land by John CoyHer Right Foot by Dave EggersWhere Will I Live by Rosemary McCarneyThe Arrival by Shaun TanThe Keeping Quilt by Patricia PolaccoMy Two Blankets by Irene KobaldI'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'BrienGrandfather's Journey by Alan sayShelter by Celine ClaireA Refugee's Journey from Syria (and a few others from this series)[...]

Poetry Friday -- Charlotte Zolotow


Last week, I wrote about the closing of Acorn Bookshop, and one of the treasures I purchased. (Sorry I didn't make it around the roundup. Life happened last week. Big time.)In close second place to the first edition Joyce Kilmer is this AUTOGRAPHED book by the one, the only, THE Charlotte Zolotow!Besides being a poet and prolific picture book author, Charlotte Zolotow was a children's book editor for 38 years. The award bearing her name is given to the best picture book (writing, rather than the Caldecott's illustrating) of the year.Here's a favorite from the book:So Will IMy grandfather remembers long agothe white Queen Anne's lace that grew wild.He remembers the buttercups and goldenrodfrom when he was a child.He remembers long agothe white snow falling falling.He remembers the bluebird and thrushat twilightcalling calling.He remembers long agothe new moon in the summer sky.He remembers the wind in the treesand its long, rising sigh.And so will I                    so will I.Love the illustrations, too!Carol has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink.[...]

The Just Ten Challenge


Unsplash photo by Krissia CruzThis morning, Franki texted me a link to Aliza Werner's post on the Classroom Communities blog, "Halfway Here: The Just Ten Challenge" with the message, "We should do this on the blog."Aliza got this time of year SO right. So. Very. Right.I'm down, I'm swamped, I'm behind, I'm frustrated. But all it took was Aliza's reminder that the good in a day isn't so hard to find if you just look for it. Here is my Ten:1.  It started with one, but by the time we got finished, Sam* had been nominated six times for student of the month. Six friends honored him for his sense of humor, for being a partner, for improving from the beginning of the year. Beaming bright enough to light the room, he accepted our nomination.Sam is not the kind of student I would ever nominate to be student of the month. Through the teacher lens, he doesn't look like student of the month material -- off task, negative, talking when he's supposed to be quiet, rarely giving strong effort. That's the student. What I'd failed to look at, what my students taught me, was to see the person.2.  Fred, my student who is a complicated puzzle I haven't yet begun to try to figure out, had a better day today. If only I could figure out how to replicate and amplify that...3.  A dozen students who wanted to improve their math test scores (some from good to great, others from the dumper into the passing zone) stayed in from only the second outdoor recess we've had in recent memory.  A few of those who most needed to improve made stunning gains.4.  We are studying the motions of the earth in science -- rotation for night/day and orbit for year/seasons. Learning about the way the observable world around them works has awakened their curiosity. So fun.5.  Today's job in writing workshop was BIC, no talking, write an introduction to your informational piece that signals the reader what structure you've chosen. And they ALL knocked it out of the ballpark!6.  Indoor recess creations with wooden blocks and MarbleWorks.Two story school house.7.  One of our middle schools created 700 (!!!) cute take-out-box snowmen with positive messages, bookmarks and mints inside. One for EVERY student in our building. Wow.8.  Seeing my students begin to really stretch themselves as readers.9.  The cheery "Good Morning!" EVERY morning from Donte.10. The picture of "Ms. Hahn Super Teacher" on the back of Michelle's word study quiz.What's your ten? Post on your blog or in the comments. Drop your link in our comments AND over on Aliza's post.*All names have been changed.[...]

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood


I love Susan Hood and am a huge fan of her book Ada's Violin.  When I heard about the book Shaking Things Up and noticed that Susan Hood was the author, I could not wait to get a copy.  Well I finally got a copy and LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this book! Every detail is perfect. One of my new favorite books for sure.There is so much about this book to love that I need to make a list!The Cover- is amazing. I can't stop looking at it.  Illustrator Oge Mora created a purely brilliant and beautiful cover.The Women--The 14 women profiled in this book are definitely extraordinary.  What I loved about the selection of women included was the variety. There were some women I knew and some whose impact I did not know. There were women who made an impact at different ages (as children and as adults) and they made a difference in a variety of ways. The Illustrations--The fact that 13 women illustrators created this book together with Susan Hood made me happy. Some of my already favorite illustrators (Melissa Sweet, Sophie Blackall, LeUyen Pham) along with some new-to-me illustrators whose art captivated me (Oge Mora, Julie Morstad)The Table of Contents--The introduction to this book starting with,  "Women and girls have been shaking thins up for a Lon time, resisting those would would box them in..." was perfection. This fabulous introductory paragraph is followed by a beautiful Table of Contents. You don't often find a TOC that is this beautifully designed.The Timeline--Following the Table of Contents, the author gives us a timeline (another beautiful piece of this book) that gives us information about the women in the book.  A timeline that shows women have been chasing the world since the early 1780s!The Poetry--Susan Hood has written an original poem about each on of the women. She uses a variety of forms and I am amazed at how much we learn about each woman from these poems. The poems are followed by a short blurb with some incredible info about the woman.Quotes--Each illustration includes a quote by or about the woman illustrated. These are fabulous extras details.Author's Note-- I loved this peek into the Susan Hood's thinking.Sources--At the end of the book, Susan Hood gives us a list of resources for readers.  She gives us some fabulous books and websites for each of the women she wrote about.  It is a fabulous list (and it is also beautiful).The Cover Under the Jacket--You'll have to get your own copy to look at this!This book is truly incredible. It is a must-read, must-have, must-revisit kind of book.  It is perfection!(Shaking Things Up was one of the books that Olivia of @Livbits recommended for our blog booklist in December. You can hear more about why she loves this book in her new video!) allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="569" mozallowfullscreen="" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="320">Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood Will Give You Heartbeeps ❤️ from TheLivBits on Vimeo.[...]

Poetry Friday -- Sorrow and Joy


After 25 years of business, our favorite local independent (secondhand and antiquarian) bookstore, Acorn Bookshop, is succumbing to the pressures of bookstore chains and Amazon. To give you a sense of the loss that many in the community are feeling, here's a poem (not by me) that George shared on the Acorn Facebook page:The following poem was written by one of the Acorn family of friends/customers.NOT AN ACORN FALLETHNot an acorn falleth, but our God doth know, Even when e-commerce lays a bookstore low; Seeds are scattered ‘round the earth, bookstore-ies are set free. What once was just a mortal nut is now immortal tree. Far more precious surely than the books that fly Off the shelves are people who all came in to buy, Or chat with George or Christine or other Acorn kind ‘Bout every sort of history or author on their mind. Then off they’d go to browse around; such treasures to behold. A myst’ry why there’s any left; so many you have sold! Remember all your book fans as you turn the page; for memories grow more precious as they come of age. Though pages now are numbered; dust each off and see, How many hearts you’ve gladdened; The acorn’s now a tree.An Acornista(with apologies to Louisa May Alcott)Last summer when I did a fairly massive clean-and-purge, I sold a bunch of books to Acorn and so we had a sizable amount of store credit. I was looking forward to working with George and Jack to build my collection of signed editions by U.S. Poets Laureate. When they announced the closing, they didn't have any such editions on their shelves, but I bought four gems I'll be sharing in the next couple of weeks. First up, a 1914 first edition of Joyce Kilmer, containing his (yes, HIS!) most famous poem, "Trees."There aren't many other poems in the book that I particularly care for, except this one:Lots of folks in this snow-covered coldcoldcold land are looking forward to spring!The page after this Easter poem contained the biggest surprise in the book: evidence of the previous reader/owner, who marked up a poem with directions for reading it aloud! AND...tucked in at that spot was a magazine clipping with poems by Aline Kilmer, who, come to find out, was Joyce Kilmer's wife!As I was poking around learning about the Kilmers, I discovered that the University of Delaware has a collection of 50+ letters that Sara Teasdale wrote to the two of them. Fascinating. I'd love to poke through that collection some day!My students are astonished by my lack of knowledge about current popular culture -- movies, video games, sports, YouTubers, etc. Who has time for all that when you can get lost in literary rabbit holes?!?Kay has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at A Journey Through the Pages.[...]

Ban This Book


Ban This Book
by Alan Gratz
Starscape, 2017

"...for all the amazing things books can do, they can't make you into a bad person." p.232

Nope. They open our minds, make us think, introduce us to new worlds and different ways of living and being, entertain us, and call us to action. But they don't make us into bad people, or good people, or any kind of people at all. It's up to us to take action and be the person we want to be.

And that's precisely what Amy Anne learns in this book. She has always been the quiet mouse of a reader, chewing on the ends of her braids, having conversations in her head but not standing up for herself out loud...until her favorite book in the world is banned from the school library. The book is not banned through the formal board-approved process of review. Rather, it is banned because one powerful mother goes straight to the board, bypassing all the rules, and gets what she wants.

Not only does Amy Anne learn to say what's on her mind, she also learns the importance of empathy. It's not until she looks at the situation from the point of view of the book-banning mom is she able to provide the school board with the argument that wins her case -- you can't ban books because a single reader finds fault with them. If you did that, you might as well ban all the books in the library.

Hooray for the teachers in this book and their study of the Bill of Rights. Hooray for Amy Anne's friend Rebecca who wants to become a lawyer and who knows all about Robert's Rules of Order (and wears a suit and carries a briefcase to the school board meeting at the end of the book). Hooray for Alan Gratz for giving book-loving kids a book where the reader is the hero, and a story where the misuse of power is defeated by democracy.

I'm going to add Mrs. Jones to our list of 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature even though she's a librarian. She gets fired because of Amy Anne's BBLL (Banned Books Locker Library), but she doesn't hold it agains Amy Anne. She tells her, "Well-behaved women seldom make history. Consider this your first taste of behaving badly in the name of what's right." p.223

I'll end with this: "All the book challenges, the real ones, were because one person saw a book in a very different way than somebody else. Which was fine. Everbody had the right to interpret any book any way they wanted to. What they couldn't do then was tell everybody else their interpretation was the only interpretation." p.195.


It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


One of my 2019 goals is to balance my reading life a bit. This week felt balance and I read some great books.  Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting this weekly event!I know Mary Lee already wrote about LOVE here on the blog but if you have not read this book, buy it now--and buy one for everyone you know. This is an amazing book. I keep picking it up and reading it, seeing new things in the incredible illustrations. Matt de la Pena and Loren Long--WOW!I am so happy I am making some time for more young adult reading in my life. I heard about Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu from Pernille Ripp and Donalyn Miller and I am so glad I read this one. What a great book--so many great characters and teen girls starting a feminist revolution, questioning things the way they've always been done in their high school.Don't Forget Dexter by Lindsay Ward is a fun picture book for young readers. Dexter is a fun new character that loses his friend in the doctor's office. This is a fun story of Dexter looking for Jack. This book is filled with talking bubbles and humor and of course has a happy ending. I think Dexter is a new character that we'll be seeing more of. A great book for primary kids and I am keeping this one in mind for baby/toddler gifts too.I am so glad to have received a copy of Festival of Colors by Surishtha Sehgal. This is a great addition to any classroom library.  This book is a celebration of Holi, the Indian festival of colors. It is simple story but the gorgeous illustrations and Author's Note make it a great one for any age. A Refugee's Journey from Syria is another I read this week.  I learned about this series from Aliza Werner. So glad to know about it. This is the first book in the series that I read.  A few of my students have read it already too.  This is an incredible series that is well-written for middle grade students--packed with information and stories of refugees. I purchased a few more from the series for my classroom this week.I also read two newish picture books about Malala. I am always looking for books that share important topics and issues with middle grade students.  These are two very different book about the important work of Malala and I am happy to add both of them to our classroom library.  Malala's Pencil and Malala: Activist for Girls' Education[...]

Poetry Friday -- Love


Unsplash photo by Myur Gala

by e.e. cummings

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds

If you haven't seen Love by Matt de la Pena (illustrated by Loren Long), grab a copy (and a hanky) as soon as possible. This is an example of true picture book magic -- the words and the pictures are perfectly paired.

Before you watch the trailer, you might want to read Matt's article in TIME, "Why We Shouldn't Shield Children From Darkness."

And then read Kate Di Camillo's response, "Why Children's Books Should Be a Little Sad." (another hanky alert for this one)

allow="autoplay; encrypted-media" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="275" src="" width="350">

Another new picture book you should not miss is Be A King by Carole Boston Weatherford.

For this week's not-to-miss poetry, Jan has the Poetry Friday roundup at Book Seed Studio.

Be A King


Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream and You
by Carole Boston Weatherford
illustrated by James E. Ransome
Bloomsbury, 2018

Next Monday, the nation will pause to remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This new book by Carole Boston Weatherford encourages us not to simply remember Dr. King, but to live every day in a way that honors his life and work. We can each "be a King" by standing up to bullies, admitting we're wrong and apologizing, finding ways to include everyone, and by breaking "the chains of ignorance. Learn  as much as you can."

James Ransome's illustrations complement the simple text by telling the story of the children on the cover who are creating a Wall of Justice, and with historical allusions to King's life (Morehouse College, the Edmund Pettus Bridge from the March to Montgomery, a bus like the one on which Ruby Bridges refused to give up her seat.)

The epigraph says it best,
"Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity  to serve. You don't have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Fairy Tales and Princesses


I read two great books this week. There are several fairy tale readers in our class this year and I think there are probably lots of fairy tale readers in all middle grade classrooms who will love these two books.

I was lucky enough to get an arc of Liesl Shurtliff's newest fairy tale at NCTE. Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I love this series and so many students love it. I finally got ahold of this book after it being passed around the classroom since I brought it back from NCTE! Everyone loved it and many said it was their favorite in the series.

This is a great retelling of Snow White. Really I don't know how Leisl Shurtliff does this over and over again--reimagining these fairy tales in ways that can't help us think about them in new ways.  I love this series and really enjoyed this newest book.  Grump is a great character as is Snow White.  I love the humor and the few surprise nods to other fairy tales woven into the story. This was a fun read and a great addition to the series. I can't wait to see which one comes next.
I also read and loved  Who Wants To Be a Princess? by Bridget Heos. With all the princess craze this is a fun informational book that straightens up a few misconceptions about princesses. I think princess fans as well as fans of all the middle grade fractured fairy tales will enjoy this book. The book is nonfiction and takes a look at the things we THINK about princesses based on fairy tale movies/books and compares those things to the REAL things about princesses.  For example, a real castle didn't look quite like the one we know as Cinderella's castle.  Each two page spread takes on an idea about princess and tells the truer thing. This is a simple book and a quick read but does take away some of the ways our students may be thinking about princesses in general.  I imagine all of the students in my class who love Leisl Shurtliff's books will also like this picture book. A fun informational compare/contrast book.

Poetry Friday -- #optimism


I dwell in Possibility – (466)
by Emily Dickinson

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

This year, I covered all my bases. I chose One Little Word: CREATIVITY. I wrote a 6 word story for the new year: More of this, less of that. My hashtag for the year is #optimism (thus the poem by Emily Dickinson, and while we're on the subject, may I just say how very much I miss the view from the window of my former see it in every season in that set of photos...sigh...). Finally, my learn-something-new goal is to create an app. (Insert #optimism here, because I have exactly NO idea how to go about creating an app. However, today I'm beginning work with a group of students who are learning to code at, so I feel like I'll be on the right path to figure it out.)

Catherine has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core.

2017 Recommendations from Some Amazing People


I love getting book recommendations from people and I have learned that for me as a reader and learner, I am lucky to have so many people whose reading lives I learn from. It is easy to get stuck in one kind of book or to read books that one group of friends is reading But I find that the more friends I talk to about their reading, the richer my own reading (and my life) becomes.I am lucky to talk to and learn with so many people about the things we read. Each one of these people is a unique reader. I am in a school filled with teachers who read. I have students who read. I am in a district with colleagues who read. I have family members and friends who read. I am connected to NCTE friends and Nerdy Book Club friends and Literacy Connection friends and Choice Literacy friends and so many others. And then there are social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Goodreads. I am thankful that so many people share their reading lives on social media.This week I asked some people I learn from to share a book that they recommend. 2017 was not the best reading year for me and I don't want to miss the must-reads that others believe are important. I had no idea I'd get so many amazing responses. I loved so many things about the responses. First of all, I got very few duplicates which is so interesting to me. What was more interesting was that when I did get duplicates the reasons for recommendations the same book were different. I also love all of the different ways people wrote to me about the books they loved. So many ways to recommend books that work! I love my friends and my TBR stack is set for years! I am sharing this list as a way to get the word out about books you may have missed. But I also hope you find a book from someone new, someone you might connect with and who might become part of your learning circle. Connecting through books is a pretty fabulous way to connect. Enjoy!From Stella Villalba, @stellavillalba I'm Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez I know this is a book that many Latinx wished they had when they were growing up. Julia, is messy, loving, rebellious and in a constant battle between cultural expectations and her family upbringing. There are more questions than answers for Julia and amidst of all these chaos, she's trying to figure out who she is as a second generation member in her family. Julia wants a big life for herself. She finds comfort in words, in writing which is a concept her parents have a hard time understanding. A beautiful written book about identity, hard truths, anxiety, culture and changing times.From Chris Lehman @iChrisLehmanLove, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed Beautifully and powerfully handles teenage experience, love, and identity. Follows a Muslim young woman as she navigates tradition, change and perception. Perfect for High School and beyond.From Jennifer Serravallo  @JSerravallo I read this weird and shocking and awesome adult book that I got on rec from one of the NPR Fresh Air book reviewers. Short Sci Fi stories. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado.Another that I loved and I had to write! Trevor Noah's Born a Crime. Less funny than I thought it would be, but so much more interesting.  From Cornelius Minor you know, I'm the kind of reader where the book that I am currently reading is always my favorite... I was so moved by Claudia Rankine's Citizen that I've been reading all of her literary friends, associates and influences. This led me to a deep dive into Eve Ewing, Ben Passmore, Roxane Gay, Samantha Irby & Remi Kan[...]

Balancing My Reading Life


So 2017 was not my best reading year. I set my Goodreads Reading Challenge at 200--same as last year but a a low number for me. I knew the year would be busy and I knew that 200 seemed doable. And I did it (although December required a big stack of books..). But when I look at the reading most of the books I read were picture books. Don't get me wrong I LOVE picture books and they are always a huge part of my reading life but they don't always make up the bulk of my reading year. I read fewer middle grade novels, fewer adult fiction titles, fewer nonfiction books and almost no professional books. Even though I met my Goodreads Reading Challenge, I don't feel great about my 2017 reading.As I've been thinking about this, I read Katherine Sokolowski blog post,  Lessons from Romance Novels and Kristen Ashley. She talks about her recent reading life and her binge reading of 47 romance books.  She says, "Overall, my five month reading binge of forty-seven of Ashely's books (many over 500 pages) have reminded me of the lesson from the flight attendants when you get on the airplanes - we need to put on our oxygen masks first. For at least the past seven years my reading life has been completely geared toward my beautiful students."  Mary Lee and I started this blog 12 years ago today. (Happy Birthday Us!).  allowfullscreen="" class="giphy-embed" frameborder="0" height="360" src="" style="font-family: inherit;" width="480">via GIPHYWe started it as a way to share with each other the books we were reading as we predicted Newbery titles. But we also read other books. Since we started the blog, I read so much more--connecting with other readers has totally enriched and expanded my reading life. But this year felt different. I am not sure when I started to feel like every book I read was an assignment and I am not sure when I started reading middle grade fiction almost exclusively but I know that I have lost any type of balance in my reading life in the last few years and that I miss the balance and the joy that comes with reading lots of things--not only things that my 5th graders might like, not only books that may win the Newbery, but just books.So 2018, I am going to give myself permission to balance my reading life--to choose some books just because I want to read them. Like Katherine, I love keeping up with books that my students might enjoy and I think middle grade novels are the best books out there-I enjoy them as a reader. I also know it makes me a better teacher. But I can do that and also read other things across a year I think. My friend, Kristen Turner wrote this great piece  on her blog, Twin Life: Having It All --It is called Handling It All and it reminded me that I have learned to let go of things in my life because other things are more important. I can certainly let go of some imaginary reading requirements I have for myself to make room for a more balanced reading life.So in 2018, I'll set my Goodreads Reading Challenge because I like the way it tracks my year of reading. But my real goal will be rediscovering a balance in my reading life by giving myself permission to do that.  Hopefully in 2018 my Goodreads list will include more adult fiction, more professional books, more YA and more nonfiction.  Or maybe I'll go on a binge like Katherine and stick with one genre that I totally fall in love with for a bit.  Who knows! Just hoping to read and enjoy a lot of great books in 2018.Ha[...]

Some Books that Changed My Heart and Mind in 2017


I just went to see Wonder, the movie. So good. I read the book as an ARC years ago and loved it immediately. We just finished reading it aloud in our classroom two weeks ago. The conversations changed our community, I think. Needless to say I was TOTALLY unprepared to see RJ Palacio just sitting in the audience of Auggie's graduation scene near the end of the movie. Like totally unprepared. I got so teary (okay crying) --I was so happy to see her sitting there being part of this next phase of Auggie's journey-so thankful to her for this story. And then I realized how lucky we are to be part of this community of teachers, authors, publishers, children. RJ in that final scene reminded me of the impact one story can have on a world and how lucky we are to be people who share stories like this with children, not knowing how they will change their lives.  That scene with RJ reminded me how much books and stories can change lives. I was lucky to be part of the NCTE Charlotte Huck Committee for 3 years. During that time I read with a specific lens based on the award criteria. The Charlotte Huck Award "recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder."  So as I read for this award I was always looking for books that had the potential to transform a child's life in some way.  I am no longer on the Charlotte Huck Award Committee but that lens seems to be a part of the way I sometimes reflect on my reading.  Seeing Wonder today and thinking about the power of a single story in a life,  made me think a bit about my 2017 reading and those books in my reading life that really changed me in some way. I believe almost every book changes the reader in some way, but some books stand out a bit.So seeing Wonder and being so thankful for authors like RJ Palacio, I went back through my reading life this year and found so many books that changed my heart or mind. Here are those that stood out to me--some books that transformed my heart or mind in some way in 2017. Elinor Oliphant is Completely FineLoveTowers FallingLittle Fox in the ForestLong Way DownWindowsWhen We Were AloneHer Right FootRuth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of R.B.G vs. InequalityRefugeeForever or a Long Long TimeJoy WriteThe Hate U Give Orphan Island[...]

Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz


I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Elly Swartz's upcoming book, Smart Cookie. First of all, it is almost never that I get to read a book with a female protagonist named Frankie so that was a real treat.  But even without that added perk, I LOVED this book.

There are some authors who write realistic fiction perfectly for middle graders.  It is not an easy thing to write for this age. The combination of depth and humor, big life issues and daily struggles is tricky and Elly Swartz seems to have this age of reader totally figured out.  I am always amazed when authors get writing for this age so perfectly.

Smart Cookie has lots for readers to think about which is really important. These things are embedded in things of daily life. They are very real. And the book deals with several things at once, just as in life. Grief, family, secrets and friendship are things many middle grade students deal with day in and day out.  This book captures all of this. This book also made me laugh out loud and cry a little. And then there is a little bit of a mystery that is perfectly woven into the story.

The characters are fabulous.  I loved Frankie (I mean, how could I not?). But I loved Frankie's dad, her grandmother, her friends and her town.   I wanted to live there or at least visit while I was reading Frankie's story.

This book seems perfect for grades 4-5. And I can imagine a few of my 3rd graders (from last year) reading it later in the year when they were ready for more realistic fiction with real life stuff.  I have not read her other book Finding Perfect, but have heard great things and will move it up on my stack. I am so glad to have discovered Elly Swartz!

So thankful I got to read this book early and I can't wait to share it with my students next week!

Poetry Friday -- Nerdy Poetry and Novel in Verse Winners


I wrote the post, but I didn't pick the winners...READERS did! Congratulations to all of the winners, and the rest of you -- hold onto your credit card because you will want every single one of these for your classroom, school, or home library!

Heidi has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at my juicy little universe.

Happy Reading!! Happy Poetry!! Happy Poetry Friday!! Happy New Year!!

Oh Yes I Did


Because what good are you as a teacher of reading if you don't occasionally read the books your students are most excited about?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway
by Jeff Kinney
Harry N. Abrams, 2017

A humorous look at everything that could possibly go wrong on ditch-the-holidays family vacation, with a little bit of arachnophobia thrown in for good measure.

Dog Man and Cat Kid
by Dav Pilkey
Graphix, 2017

You can just about hear Dav Pilkey laughing out loud to himself as he writes these. I mean, really. Allusions to Faulkner? A robot named 80-HD? (say it out loud so you, too, can get the joke)

And in case you think Dog Man is all light fluff with no redeeming qualities, consider how Cat Kid reprograms his robot 80-HD (I can't even type that without cracking up) so that it has free will. "From now on, you can choose your own path." He tells it, "Thou mayest," so that it can choose whether or not to be loyal to Cat Kid. (It does.)

And then there's the part where Cat Kid admits he hasn't been perfect and, in a direct quote from Faulkner, the Italian actress tells him, " that you don't have to be can be good."

Sure, there's Flip-O-Rama, but there's deep stuff, too.

Poetry Friday -- Winter Solstice


solstice sunset --
skeletal sycamore
backlit by autumn

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Happy Solstice! Welcome back, Kachinas, who come bearing gifts.

We're at the end of a dark, dark year, but we need to remember that it is the darkness that helps us appreciate the light.

Buffy has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week, and I'm happy to announce that the January-June 2018 Poetry Friday Roundup Schedule is complete!

Two New Seymour Simon Books


Horses (Updated Edition)
by Seymour Simon
HarperCollins, 2017

by Seymour Simon
HarperCollins, 2017

"Simon may have done more than any other living author to help us understand and appreciate the beauty of our planet and our universe." -- Kirkus Reviews

Not only that, but he can teach our students to write with clarity and organization. Look no further than one of Seymour Simon's books and you'll find great introductions and conclusions, and paragraphs that contain ideas all on one topic.