Cool New Blog

Today I stumbled on a cool new blog and wanted to pass it on.  Ink Splot 26 is put together by sixteen Scholastic staffers and is full of daily information on new books, new movies (based on books!), and interviews with celebrities and authors.  According to their info:

nk Splot 26 is your daily blog for info on the hottest titles, authors, and industry events around. Get the latest on books before they hit the big screen, and hear from celebs about their favorite reads! Soak up exclusives, gasp at spoilers, test your trivia, stream some video, and surf our Top Five Listings. And if you’ve got an opinion — we wanna hear it!

I’ve added them to my Google reader and love the information they post!  Keep an eye on them.  :)

Newbery Predictions 2009

When I first began blogging I was inspired by Franki and Mary over at A Year of Reading.  Like them, I wanted to be able to read the Newbery before it was announced.  Little did I know that this endeavor would lead me to the kidlitosphere and a broader blogging spectrum of reviews, middle school language arts, and teaching.  But deep down, I still compete with myself, trying to predict the Newbery winner.  So here is my annual list, my picks for 2009!

(In no particular order, as I feel these are all distinguished and could take home the medal or an honor).

Newbery 2009 Predictions:

  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- Distinguished? Check. Gorgeous? Check. Phenomenal writing? Check. Appelt’s book absolutely stunned me when I first read it. With an unassuming cover, I figured it was nothing more than another animal story. I could not have been more wrong. The Underneath was my first read-aloud of the year and my 6th graders were totally engrossed in the story. Check out my review here.


  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson-  Historical fiction that kids actually want to read?  What more could a teacher ask for!  When I first read Anderson’s latest middle grade novel, I knew I wanted to share it with my students.  We just finished reading it together a few days ago and they loved it.  Living in NJ, they had tons of connections to the battles mentioned and the Revolutionary War in general, so they loved the setting.  And Anderson’s meticulous research makes this novel even better.  Check out my review here.  


  • Diamond Willow by Helen Frost- If distinguished writing and a unique style are what the committee is looking for, then Diamond Willow is the Newbery winner for 2009. A phenomenal story and a style that I haven’t seen anywhere else! Another one that my students loved (and the one that seemed the most accessible to all levels of readers). Check out my review here.


  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman- For some reason, I never got around to this one. Then a few weeks ago I saw it at the library and decided to give it a try. Wow, am I glad I did! A creepy story that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Check out my review here!


  • Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume- I know this is a title that hasn’t been mentioned on many prediction lists, but I am trying to be its personal champion! Tennyson is a lyrical, poetic story that is dark and gothic. I read it back in May and it’s still on my mind. I would be thrilled to see it take home a medal on Monday, because I think it so deserves one! Check out my review here.


I know where I will be on Monday morning.  My class and I will be listening to the announcements over the web, with my cell phone nearby (t0 receive the Tweets in case we have any technical problems!)  Regardless of who wins, there are a few authors across the country who will receive a life-changing call on Monday morning.  I can’t wait to find out who those authors are!


(And I still have more reading to do before Monday!  On my pile? Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Almost True Stories of Growing up Scieszka, The Porcupine Year, and Bird Lake Moon.

Diamond Willow Read-aloud

On Friday, both classes finished reading Diamond Willow . They loved it! When we came to the twist about Willow’s past, they literally gasped out loud. Below are a few of their final thoughts on the book:


“More books should do the bold words thing.  It’s so cool!  They tell you what the character is thinking deep down.”

“It must have been really hard to write a whole book using the right diamond shapes and making sure you had all the words for the bold parts.”

“This was my favorite book that we read all year.”

“This was an awesome book!  


There was more, but I was trying to jot down their thoughts while they were all very excited and talking about the end of the story.  Needless to day, we are now extremely excited for the awards announcement on Monday!  We even moved our assembly schedule around so that we can all head down to the library and listen live.  My afternoon class can’t be there for the live announcement, so we have sworn the morning class to secrecy and will replay the recording for the afternoon class (trying to preserve some of the excitement)!  I will be sure to post our reactions on Monday!

10th Anniversary of Speak/ Poetry Friday

This March, the 10th anniversary of Speak (10th Anniversary Edition) by Laurie Halse Anderson will be released.  I can’t believe it has been ten years since it was first published.  I remember reading Speak back in high school, when it was first published!  I keep meaning to reread it, but it never seems to make it to the top of my pile.  But this weekend I promise to get to it!  What has moved me to grab it once again?  Reading this poem, by Laurie Halse Anderson.  

Laurie wrote the first and last stanzas, but the rest of the poem is composed of lines from letters and emails that she has received from readers over the years.  It is extremely powerful.

Wikipedia as a Credible Source

I just laughed out loud while watching 30 Rock.  I wish I could show this episode to my students, who don’t understand why Wikipedia is not a cite-worthy source!  In the scene, Jenna (Jane Krakowski) announces that she is going to be playing Janis Joplin in a movie and will be employing the “method method of acting”, so she will only respond to Janis or Miss Joplin.  So the writers tell her to study Wikipedia, as “people are always discovering new things about Janis Joplin”.

As soon as Jenna leaves the room, they pull up Wikipedia, click edit page, and begin adding insane “facts” about Joplin.  Ordinary things like, Janis Joplin speedwalks everywhere and was afraid of toilets.

And that, my students, is why you should never cite Wikipedia as a source!  :)

CHAINS is the winner of the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

Congratulations, Laurie!  


“Laurie Halse Anderson has won the 2009 Scott O’Dell Award for Chains (S&S, October 2008), narrated by teenaged Isabel Finch during the Revolutionary War. Although Isabel and her enslaved five-year-old sister were to be freed upon the death of their mistress, the woman’s heir sells the siblings to a new owner in New York City–that is the first of the betrayals that lie ahead, but also the beginning of Isabel’s fight for freedom. The award, established by O’Dell (best known as the author of The Island of the Blue Dolphins), is given annually to a meritorious work of historical fiction and includes a $5,000 prize.Chains was also a National Book Award Finalist, just like Anderson’s debut novel, Speak(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999).”

I can’t wait to tell my kids this tomorrow.  They are going to be thrilled!  (Maybe this will tide them over until Forge comes out? )

Readicide by Kelly Gallagher

When I first sat down to read Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher, I was afraid I would have a hard time getting through it. Not because of the content, but because the book is currently availabe online for review and I hate reading longer works on the computer.  (I may gravitate toward 21st century literacies, but reading on the computer is where I usually draw the line!)  Well, I had nothing to worry about- once I began reading I could not stop.  Kelly Gallagher has written a book that EVERY teacher, administrator, and parent MUST read.  I have seen firsthand how schools are killing reading, and Kelly presents situations I see everyday with the studies and research to back it all up!

Kelly Gallagher defines readicide as “the systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.” He outlines four current educations practices that are primarily responsible for this:
  • schools value a student’s ability to take the test more than a student’s development of a lifetime love of reading

Sad, but true.  NCLB has forced schools and teachers to focus on the all-important standardized test.  With so much riding on those scores, from funding to the teacher’s job, we need a book like this to remind teachers and administrators how important that lifetime love of reading is.  Is it more important to pass a test or to be able to read novels, non-fiction, newspapers, and more?  

  • schools limit authentic reading experiences

This is my life’s goal, to surround my students with a reading flood, as Gallagher puts it.  I have seen the effects that a classroom library has on students, and Gallagher has reconfirmed that for me.  More teachers need to have classroom libraries, surrounding their students with a veritable “flood” of reading material to choose from.  

  • teachers are overteaching books

When Gallagher shares a novel unit from LAUSD, you can’t help but cringe.  Despite our best intentions, many teachers overteach the books they read with their students.  The pressure to get so much in in so little time force too many teachers to chop up novels, teaching every skill with one book.  The result?  It takes 10 weeks to read a novel that students end up hating!  We need to help our students appreciate, if not enjoy, academic reading.

  • teachers are underteaching books

We need to be introspective here.  Where do we draw the line between overteaching a novel and underteaching it?  Many students need scaffolding for more difficult books but we have to make sure we aren’t going beyond scaffolding.  This fourth point was the one that made me think the most.  


WOW.  This book is absolutely phenomenal.  As I was reading I just kept saying, “Yes! Yes!  Someone actually gets it!”  We need to get this book in the hands of as many people as possible.  Can someone send this to our new President?  If you are a teacher or an administrator, place your pre-order now so that you can read it ASAP.  I’ve already ordered my copy and I can’t wait to annotate it, flag it, and then share it!

Don’t forget-  Kelly started his blog tour today!  He will be stopping here on 1/26, answering your questions!  Leave a comment with your questions and look for the answers on 1/26.  In the meantime, be sure to follow the rest of his tour:

Kelly’s Blog Tour Schedule
1/26 - Here!  THE READING ZONE

Memoir Monday- Looking Back and Looking Forward

JamesonOne of the errands I had to run today was stopping off at the Douglass Co-op to make an exchange.  As I was driving around campus, I began to get choked up- there was Passion Puddle, my old dorm, the student center.  All of them full of memories.

As I wandered around the co-op, waiting to make my exchange, I watched as Rutgers students stood in line to purchase textbooks for the new semester.  I couldn’t help but think back on all the semesters I stood in that same line, all the textbooks I purchased, all the books I sold back, and the fun we always had at the campus co-op.  It felt so bizarre to be there, as an adult!  

Even stranger was the feeling of being so old.  I made my exchange (a new Douglass sweatshirt) and a quick purchase.  Where once I was buying shot glasses and Rutgers parapheneila  , I made a different type of purchase today- baby booties and teddy bear for the new baby in our lives.

As I walked out of the store and stood on the corner of Nichol, waiting to cross the street, I watched the snow falling on the Jameson dorms.  I was awed by the beauty of the scene and the memories that flood back anytime I am on campus.  I took out my camera and tried to capture the moment.  

I then walked to my car, careful not to slip in the icy slush, and got ready to drive to my next destination- visiting Audrey’s baby, the newest Douglass girl.  It’s amazing how it all comes full-circle in a few short years.


I just finished putting together a packet for my students to work on during the inauguration tomorrow.  We will be having normal classes in the morning, and then watching the inauguration from 11:30 on.  I wanted to have a packet for the students to work on in the event that they get bored or just need something else to focus on for a few minutes.

I am thrilled that we will be watching the inauguration activities live, because it is such a historic event!  I know I would be watching it all day if I were at home.  I just hope my students are interested, too!

Love Story (Amiri And Odette) by Walter Dean Myers

While browsing in Barnes and Noble today, I happened upon a display of Love Story (Amiri And Odette) by Walter Dean Myers in the Teen section of the store. The gorgeous cover drew me in, and I was curious to see what a picture book aimed at teens would be like, so I picked it up and began to page through it.  Before I knew it, I was completely enwrapped in the story and could not put it down.

This is a gorgeous book.  The illustrations by Javaka Steptoe are in mixed media and the contrast of colors in each page is just stunning.  And the poem, the love story of Amiri and Odette (based on Swan Lake) is breathtaking.  In the poem, a boy searches for his love among the Swan Lake projects, only to find that she belongs to an evil street lord who means her harm. It is only through perseverance and undying love that the girl is returned to the safety of her one true love. It is a gorgeous book and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of my students.

I think this will appeal to some of my “cool” readers, those who live and breathe New York and hip-hop.  What a fantastic way to infuse poetry into the lives of students who don’t always think of poetry as the coolest type of writing.  I’ll be sure to share their reactions to the book when we get back to school!


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