Our Mock Newbery Results!

On Friday my four Language Arts classes voted for their mock Newbery awards.  Each class voted for the book (chosen from our 4 read alouds this year) that they think most deserves the Newbery Medal.  I added up each classes votes and determined the Medal winner and one Honor book for each class (the top two vote-getters).  Then, I added up each book’s total votes from the day and determined a team winner and honor book (from my four classes).  Without further ado……

Mock Newbery Results

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Overall Newbery Medal- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Honor- All The Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

Period 1:

Newbery Medal-  All The Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

Honor- When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Period 3:

Newbery Medal-  When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Honor- All The Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

Period 7:

Newbery Medal-  Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Honor- All The Broken Pieces by Ann Burg

Period 8:

Newbery Medal- Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Honor-When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Some comments from my students as they cast their vote….

“I think When You Reach Me should win because it was a great book….it shows what it feels like to have a best friend and have them leave you.  This book is showing that you might feel bad about someone and in the end you might not know exactly what they put on you and how you changed.”

“I think When You Reach Me should win because it’s an amazing, mind-boggling book that you need to listen carefully to and it’s just an enjoyable book.  I could even see what was going on in my head as it was being read to me.”

Anything But Typical- I think this should win because it gives life lessons and explains what kids with autism are going though.”

All The Broken Pieces should win the Newbery Medal because it was very descriptive and it made me want to keep reading.”

All The Broken Pieces should win because I felt like I was there with the characters and experiencing the events with them.”

There were also write-in votes for Being Nikki (Airhead, Book 2) by Meg Cabot, Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino, Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins, Also Known As Harper by Ann Haywood Leal.

Teachable Moments Mean Dropping Plans

This morning I decided to toss my plans for the day to the side and completely revamp our day.  Instead of spending the day working on persuasive entries in our writer’s notebooks and how to take notes from nonfiction, I printed out two news articles about the earthquake in Haiti, pulled up this slideshow from the NY Times on the smartBoard, and printed out the one-pager from the NY Times.

As a class, we located Haiti on Google maps, read the article together, and discussed what the students had been hearing/seeing on the news and in the papers.  The whole lesson was eye-opening for them, and they were stunned by the photos of the devastation.  They asked what we could do to help and are spending the weekend brainstorming ideas as part of their Article of the Week activities.  Next Friday we will come together again and settle on a way for our team and school to hopefully make a difference.

Were my lesson plans important?  Of course.  Was it more important to seize upon the devastation happening and Haiti and open my students’s eyes to the tragedy?  Absolutely,  As teachers, we need to be ready to change our plans at the lsat minute.  We need to grab teachable moments and broaden our students’s world views.  We need to teach them to be global citizens.

Lauren Kate Guest Blog and Blog Tour

Two authors, two days!  Today we welcome Lauren Kate, the author of Fallen. I’m about halfway through reading the book right now and I can’t put it down. I have all of these pesky essays to grade and I find myself wishing I could just sit back and finish Fallen! Not to mention, I have a pack of girls haunting me to finish the book and pass it on to them. A few girls picked it up from my desk, read the flap copy, and demanded I finish it immediately so they could read it.  You can look forward to a review in the near future.

But for today, please welcome Lauren Kate!

****The Unroyal We****

I was in the midst of some long overdue holiday shopping when I got one of the most exciting text messages of my life: Fallen was debuting at number five on the New York Times Bestseller List. I dropped the overpriced tin of mint chocolate-covered marshmallows I was considering buying for my brother and bolted out of Williams Sonoma. I had to tell everyone I knew. Immediately!

I called my husband, my parents, my mother-in-law, my best friend—and every time I relayed the good news, I found myself saying the same thing. We made the list. We’re number five. Not “I,” not even “Fallen,” always “we.” I didn’t feel right saying anything else.

It has always baffled and half-charmed me the way Queen Victoria referred to herself as a plural entity: “We are not amused.” “We thought it best to arrest him.” Mark Twain once said “only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we.’”

I’m no king and I don’t have a tapeworm, but I feel the need to add myself—or at least my writer self—to this list. Because the day I got that message from my agent, it became clear to me that any celebratory feelings related to the book must include every single person who had a hand in getting Fallen onto the shelves.

People have asked me recently how it feels to publish a book, and what the most surprising thing about the experience has been. And I can navigate away from saying how humbling the experience has been. I never imagined that half the things that have happened surrounding Fallen would have happened—and sometimes I feel like I had very little to do with it. I mean that in the best sense possible. I mean, all I did was write the thing.

But I have a brilliant editor-agent team who helps me rein some things in and tease other things out. And a design department at Random House and the artist who created the breathtakingly gorgeous jacket—which made all the difference in the world. I have a family that supports me, a husband who eggs me on and makes me laugh. I have endlessly resourceful publicists who put me places where I get to interact with readers. That’s the best part. Real-live readers at the end of the tunnel. Every one of these people make up my Unroyal We.

Writing is such a solitary act—and to me that’s the hardest part about it. Working steadily for months and months on a draft of a book leaves me brain-numb and socially inept. I have a hard time forming sentences with my mouth after a day of writing them with my computer. My favorite, favorite part of writing is finishing a manuscript, coming out of the cocoon, and re-entering the world.

There are three more books in the Fallen series left to write (and hopefully many more books after that), and before “we” go back into the tunnel to write the next book, Torment, it’s great to have glimpsed what’s waiting—for us all—on the other side.


Be sure to follow Lauren Kate on the rest of her blog tour.  Tomorrow she will be making a stop at The Children’s Book Review.

Blog Tour for Wish by Alexandra Bullen

Please welcome Alexandra Bullen, author of Wish, to the blog!  Alexandra is in the midst of a blog tour to promote her debut novel, which I loved.  (Check out my review).  Alexandra has held a lot of jobs and I immediately noticed the list in her author bio on the back flap.  I asked her to share with us how those many (and varied!) jobs have influenced her writing.  I know that my students tend to think that authors sit down, write a book, get it published, become famous, and never work a regular job.  They think you have to “do something big” to get inspiration for writing.  Bullen proves that wrong in today’s post!

(Be sure to stay tuned at the end of the post for a chance to win a signed copy of Wish, courtesy of Scholastic!)


**********Alexandra Bullen, author of Wish**********

Part time jobs are a writer’s best friend. At least, this writer thinks so. Over the years I’ve done all kinds of different things, none more or less exciting than the jobs that everybody works in college, or over the summer, or when they’re trying to figure out what to do with their lives. I’ve worked in restaurants and bakeries, I’ve sold furniture,clothes and antiques, I’ve taught yoga, I’ve reviewed film scripts and answered phones.

Some days, I was good at it. Most days, I was a nightmare. But every day, I was a writer.  Even during the months when I was working two or three jobs at a time—gardening during the day, waitressing at night, teaching yoga on the weekends—and not ever writing a word. I was learning things that I could never learn in front of my computer, or in a writing workshop.

Some of the things I’ve learned have helped me to be a better writer. Now, when I’m writing a story that takes place in the spring and I’m trying to set the scene, I know which flowers are blooming, which plants are seasonal and how they smell. I know what the earth feels like in April, how the leaves are buried under layers of frozen dirt and sometimes pieces of recycled trash, hidden in the compost.

Some of the things I’ve learned have helped me to be a better and more functional human being. As a waitress, I learned math. I’m not kidding. It was the first time in my life that I ever really needed it. I learned to multi-task, and prioritize—things that come in handy now when I’m trying to do things like pay my bills or organize my day. I also learned how not to be a jerk to your waitress; probably the most important life lesson of them all.

But the most valuable lesson I’ve learned working countless part-time jobs is the fact that not once did I ever wish any of them turned into something more. I never wanted to “move up.” I was always perfectly content knowing that even if I was burning my hand on the espresso machine six hours every day, I was a writer, too.  And as long as I had something to go home to, some project to work on, some imagined deadline to meet, it didn’t matter how anybody else defined me.

Writer, human, mediocre waitress.

(I guess something’s always gotta give…)


Interested in reading Wish?  Scholastic has generously donated a SIGNED copy of the book for one lucky winner!  Leave a comment by Friday at midnight to be entered in the giveaway.  The winner will be chosen at random and you will need to submit your address to me, to pass on to Scholastic.  (All entrants must be older than 13!)

Check out Alex’s next stop on her blog tour  at Luxury Reading on January 14, where she’ll be doing a guest post about San Francisco (where Wish takes place).


Wish by Alexandra Bullen

I am very excited to be the second stop on Alexandra Bullen’s blog tour for her debut novel, Wish!  Tomorrow, Alexandra will be sharing a guest post about her numerous jobs and how they have influenced her writing.   (Be sure to check out her first stop at Pop Culture Junkie today!)

I loved Wish and can’t wait to pass it on to my students.  It’s being marketed as YA but I didn’t find anything in it that would prevent me from handing it to my older middle grade readers.  It’s got romance, family, drama, some tearjerking scenes, and a great “live life to the fullest” theme.

Olivia Larsen is the new girl in San Francisco.  Her mother is spending 23 hours a day at work and her father is completely focused on renovating the large house they inherited.  The three pass each other like ships in the night, never acknowledging the huge hole in their family.  You see, before the sudden move to the West Coast, Olivia’s twin sister drowned.  Olivia relied on Violet her entire life, for her friends, her social life, and the stability she provided.  Without Violet, Olivia feels invisible in her new school.

When her mother announces that the whole family absolutely must attend a welcome party in her honor at work, Olivia decides to wear Violet’s favorite dress.  She finds a small seamstress’s shop down the block and drops off the dress.  A few days later, a garment bag is delivered to the house, but when she opens it Violet finds a completely gorgeous gown.  A completely gorgeous gown that is definitely not her sister’s.

And then it turns out that the dress doesn’t just make her look ethereal and other-worldly…..it is other-worldy.  When Olivia makes an offhand comment wishing that her sister was back, a small monarch butterfly emerges from the folds of the dress, flitting off into the night.  (As a huge monarch enthusiast, you can imagine my excitement when I got to that part!)  Suddenly, Olivia has been given her dream come true and Violet is by her side again.

Together, the sisters discover that Olivia has two more wishes left.  What would you wish for if you were given the opportunity to make all of your dreams come true?

At the same time, there is the cute boy at school who just happens to be dating the most popular and gorgeous girl in school- the same sweet girl who has taken Olivia under her wing.  Does Olivia throw away her chance at true friendship for a guy?  And what about the “nice guy” who is too shy to make his feelings known?

What I loved about this book is that it is a low fantasy- Olivia gets her three wishes.  But she learns that magic can’t make everything better.  She has to learn to love, laugh, and LIVE.  And that can be harder than just fading into the background.

I really loved this book.  I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t expect much from it.  I loved the cover and figured it would be a cute romance.  But Alexandra Bullen really surprised me!  She weaves a fantastic story that is grounded in realistic fiction but has just enough fantasy to make a romantic’s heart flutter.  I think I will have a long waiting list for this one in our classroom library!

Wish book trailer:

Be sure to check in tomorrow when Alexandra Bullen will be posting a guest blog and Scholastic has generously donated a signed copy of Wish to give away with her post!

Passing on the Love (of Books!) Challenge

I’ve decided to set a goal for myself this year.  I love reading new children’s and YA lit, but I also want to pass on my love of older books.  You know, those books I read as a child and then reread, over and over.  It’s time for me to reread some of those classic favorites and

pass them on to my students.  So my goal for 2010  is to read at least 5 of those favorites and then share them with my students.  As long as their awesomeness stands the test of time, I will booktalk them to my classes after completing them.

The 5 books I plan to read are:

  1. Anne of Green Gables
  2. Where the Red Fern Grows
  3. Emily of New Moon (Emily Novels)
  4. A Ring of Endless Light: The Austin Family Chronicles, Book 4
  5. Lyddie

Care to join me in the challenge?  Post your own list and link to it in the comments!

Spreading the (Reading) Love

The latest issue of Choice Literacy has a great article about schoolwide literacy activities that is a must-read.  My personal favorite is the story of the middle school where students broadcast their current reads on their lockers.  I’ve spent a lot of time today trying to figure a simple way to do something similar with my own students.  I love the idea, but I know it would be very difficult to keep up with the covers that would need to be printed for the idea described in the article.  I’ve come up with a few ideas and will be experimenting tomorrow.

The idea I think will work best is laminating a sign for each student that will read “I am reading _____________” and they will fill in the title of their current book.  Most of my students have whiteboard inside their lockers so we will try to use Expo markers.  Needless to say, I will be playing around with the idea a lot tomorrow.

In the event this doesn’t work, does anyone else have any suggestions?  We have tall lockers that line both sides of the hallway.  Due to privacy/theft concerns, I am hesitant to have students place their names on the signs.  Also, we have a serious lack of printers (especially color printers!) so printing the book covers probably isn’t an option.  Any ideas?

Eighth Grade Superzero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

On the first day of  eighth grade, Reggie lived every student’s worst nightmare- he puked.  On stage.  Practically on the principal.  In front of everyone.  Now, his classmates only refer to him as Pukey.  Along with his out-of-work father, his annoying older sister (and her drama), and his issues at school, Reggie has a lot on his plate.  In other words, he is your typical young teen.  His greatest escape is his greatest creation- Nightman.  With his best friend, Joe C., drawing the illustrations and Reggie writing the story, his comic allows him to be the superhero he wishes he really was.

When his youth group gets involved at the local homeless shelter, Reggie’s eyes are opened to some of the problems in his own neighborhood.  His best friend, Ruthie, always looking globally and acting locally, is thrilled at the prospect of him taking on more of the world’s issues.  His other best friend, Joe C., is a little more uncomfortable with the whole thing.  Then Reggies learns that his “Little Buddy”, kindergartner Charlie, is a resident at the shelter.  But no one is more surprised than Reggie when he suddenly leaps on a table during lunch and declares his candidacy for 8th grade class president.

Really?  Can a kid everyone calls “Pukey” really become president?  And can anyone win a middle school election by talking about real issues, instead of running on a platform of popularity?

I was thrilled with this debut novel.  Longer than a typical middle grade novel, it fits that older-middle-grade niche perfectly.  I have a lot of 6th graders who are too old for many middle grade books but not really ready for YA.  Reggie is an eighth grader dealing with the day-to-day problems of being in middle school.  There are girl issues, family issues, popularity issues, faith issues,  and even global issues.  While it may sound like a kid volunteering at a homeless shelter is a little preachy (or unrealistic), Rhuday-Perkovich writes it perfectly.  Reggie is uncomfortable and unsure of himself for the first few visits, but he grows and develops as a person with each subsequent visit to the shelter.

Make no assumptions- Reggie isn’t perfect.  He isn’t a goody-two-shoes or unbelievable as a teen.  He struggles with making decisions and he doesn’t always make the right ones.  In fact, he makes the wrong decisions an awful lot.  Just like a real kid.

This is a don’t midd debut from an author I expect to hear great things from.  It wouldn’t surprise me to hear about Eighth-Grade Superzero come next year’s award season. This is a superbly written book about growing up in today’s world.

Poetry Friday

My new favorite poem is from Ellen Hopkins, written for Banned Book Week.

Manifesto by Ellen Hopkins


You say you’re afraid for children,

innocents ripe for corruption

by perversion or sorcery on the page.

But sticks and stones do break

bones, and ignorance is no armor.

You do not speak for me,

and will not deny my kids magic

in favor of miracles.

Read the rest here.

It’s Almost Newbery Time!

You can look forward to my Newbery predictions next week, but first a quick reminder:  you can watch the announcement live on the web!  I’m disappointed that we won’t be in school for the announcement (it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day), but I know I will be up bright and early to watch!  It will be a little lonely, seeing as I won’t be surrounded by 40 students shouting, hooting, hollering, clapping, and generally being on the edge of their seat.

If you are like me and you are not attending ALA Midwinter next week but you still want to watch the winners announced live you can go to the live webcast of the Newbery and other awards on 1/18 at 7:45 a.m. EST (the link can be found in the press release) .  I’ll be tweeting my reactions live, barring an unforeseen exhaustion, aka oversleeping.

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