Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Back in April I was lucky enough to have coffee with Kathi Appelt, who was in the area for a school visit.  We had a great time talking about books, writing, and blogging.  Before parting ways, Kathi told me she had a book I absolutely must read.  She said she knew I would love Bella & Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich.  I wrote down the title and promised to look for it.  Of course, I promptly forgot about all of this in the chaos that is the end of the school year.

Last week I was at a district meeting and was thrilled when the supervisor pulled out Bella & Bean for a read-aloud!  Of course, I immediately remembered Kathi’s recommendation (and then felt bad for forgetting!).  After listening to the story, I was hooked.  Kathi was 100% right- I loved it!  I can not wait to share this book with my students this year.  

Bella and Bean are best friends.  Bella is a writer- a poet- always playing with words and concentrating on her writing.  She begins each day ready to sit at her window-side desk, writing about the beauty around her.  her best friend Bean is outgoing, fun, and hands-on.  She’s always trying to get Bella to put her writing aside to come and play by the pond.  All day long Bean pokes her head through the window of Bella’s house and tries to get her attention.  She shows Bella her new hat, shows off her “cute toes”, and tries to convince Bella to think of the word “Bean” if she is concentrating on words.  Bean is adorable and I wanted to run off with her!  The illustrations by Aileen Leijten are precious and you just want to dive into the book with Bean.


But Bella will not be distracted.  She even gets grumpy with Bean!

 

I don’t have time for hats, Bean,’ said Bella. ‘I’m writing new poems…I can’t think about rivers and moons when you are talking about hats,’ said Bella.”

Bella perseveres through the distractions and is rewarded- her poems are stunning!    

But what about Bean?  And their friendship?  I won’t spoil the ending for you because it is absolutely perfect.  I admit I couldn’t wait to find out what happened while we were being read to!  I will just tell you to get this book ASAP.

I can not wait to use this picture book in my 6th grade classroom this upcoming year.  There are so many ways I foresee using it.  Of course, it will be wonderful during our poetry unit.  Bella’s poems are not only wonderful but her methods and wordplay will inspire many students.  It will be a great mentor text for my 6th graders.  One of my favorite lines says, 

“The sky poured stars like sugar…”

How gorgeous is that?  I love it!  I can already see Bella inspiring many of my writers.  She certainly inspired me.

Bella & Bean is also a window into the writing process.  I think I will start our writing workshop this year with this book.  What a wonderful way to introduce my students to the workshop we will be a part of during the year.  

But the story is not just about writing.  It’s beautiful on so many levels.  It’s also about friendship and tolerance.  It’s about taking time to live life, not just watch it go by.  It’s about being disciplined but also having fun.  It’s about opposites attracting. Due to the multi-layered text, this book is perfect for kids of all ages, from preschool to high school.  In fact, the adults at my meeting all fell in love with it!  There is no age limit on this one.  And anyone who aspires to be a writer can’t help but be inspired by  Bella & Bean.  Be sure to pick this up for your classroom library!  And maybe even for your teacher library. ;)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 4!

Big news! Tomorrow, Abrams Books will reveal the cover, color, and title of the newest Diary of a Wimpy Kid book!  Be sure to visit www.wimpykid.com to view a special presentation by Jeff Kinney tomorrow.

 

I know my students and my youngest sister have been making bets for months about the color of the cover.  Anyone want to throw out a guess?

“You HAVE to Read This!”

As one of the final activities on our final day of school, I had my students fill out “Recommend a Book” postcards for next year’s 6th graders.  I reminded them that on the first day of school they thought I was out of mind when I said they would read between 20-40 books over the course of the year and that they would enjoy it.  We talked about how they discovered the joys of reading books they liked, recommending books to each other, and learning about new books from their classmates.  

Each student chose one book that they feel all 6th graders must read.  Next year, I will make a bulletin board out of the postcards and share these recommendations with my new classes.  Sometimes, they don’t want to listen to me but will gladly hear recommendations from each other. :)

The books my students recommended:

  • Cirque du Freak: A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan because it is one of the best series ever. This book has spine-crunching twists and turns, a touch of action, and thrills.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins because it is action-packed and keeps you at the edge of your seat.
  • Fire Within by Chris D’lacey because it has action, adventure, mystery, and fantasy.
  • The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan because this books is really cool. It is interesting and makes you love mythology!
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer because it was the first book I read this year and after I read it I couldn’t stop reading!
  • Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher because it’s a really funny book and you can relate to it.
  • A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass because it has such a great story and will change the way you look at the world.
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt because it’s a good book. If you love mysteries you should read this!
  • Evermore (The Immortals) by Alyson Noel because it is an awesome romance. I give it 9 out of 10 stars.
  • Windcatcher by Avi because it is a great book. It has hidden treasure and a mystery.
  • The Diamonds by Ted Michael because it is a great book for all girls! It is a page-turner and full of gossip! An amazing book!
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney because it is really funny and makes me and other kids laugh out loud.
  • Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs. If you like Greek mythology, you’ll love this book! It has romance, comedy, and mythology. It’s a keeper!
  • Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman. If you like creepy, this is beyond creepy. It is suspenseful and there are videos in-between. You watch the videos after reading a few pages.
  • Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita because this series tells you what it’s like to be a part of Hollywood. The books make you feel like you are in it!
  • Gone by Michael Grant. It’s a good cliffhanger book. If you like the dystopian genre it’s really good. The atmosphere makes you feel like you are right there in the book.
  • The Clique by Lisi Harrison because it is full of drama!
  • Flush by Carl Hiaasen because it is a great book and very interesting.
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling. You should read this books because it’s action-packed and a great read!
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I think you should read this books because you feel like you’re there and it is very suspenseful I like books like that. I hope you do, too.
  • In the Serpent’s Coils (Hallowmere) by Tiffany Trent. It’s scary and it’s unexpected at times. It always makes you want to read more.
  • Found (The Missing, Book 1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix because it is suspenseful and ends on a great cliffhanger.
  • The Angel Experiment (Maximum Ride, Book 1) by James Patterson. It was my favorite book this year and the entire series is great!
  • Akiko on the Planet Smoo by Mark Crilly because it is a very funny book!
  • The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O’Roark Dowell. This book is good. There is a lot of drama and it is about two best friends going through hard times in middle school.
  • I,Q by Roland Smith. It’s full of action and adventure.
  • Boy Who Dared by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. This book was a really good Holocaust book. It is about a boy who was a Nazi then he betrayed the Nazis and ends up in jail.
  • Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell. It was so funny! It is realistic and easy to relate to. It’s one of the best books I ever read!

There were a few repeats, which I left out.  But that’s quite a variety!

Cover Art Curiosity

I am a nosy little bugger who loves getting the “inside scoop”.  That’s why I loved YA author Melissa Walker’s series this week, Cover Stories.  Every day she interviewed a different author about the story behind their book’s cover.  Every story is different and each one is fascinating.  I had no idea that some cover models are used on more than one book!  Or that the models themselves don’t always know when their likeness has been used.

Melissa Walker interviews Sarah Dessen about the cover for Along for the Ride, Siobhan Vivian about Same Difference, Beth Kephart about Nothing but Ghosts, Jenny Han about the cover of The Summer I Turned Pretty, and Sara Zarr about Story of a Girl and Sweethearts. So cool! Plus, you can enter a contest each day to win a copy of the author’s book. And don’t forget to check out Melissa Walker’s newest book, Lovestruck Summer.

What I am Reading This Week

Envy: A Luxe Novel by Ann Godbersen- My favorite guilty pleasure books! This is my relaxing and fun read for the week,

Spaces & Places: Designing Classrooms for Literacy by Debbie Diller- I will be moving classrooms next year (and moving from a 2 hr block of Language Arts to 1 hr) so I am starting to think about how I want to arrange my space.

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman- An interesting new concept for reluctant readers and mystery-lovers, this middle grade mystery combines online videos with a creepy mystery. I am intrigued!

What are you reading this week?

Books I am Looking Forward to Reading in 2009

I’ve been so caught up in the awards bonanza of late that I realized we are almost out of January and I haven’t posted the books I am looking forward to reading this year.  This is by no means a complete list, but just a few that caught my eye from publisher’s previews, blog reading, and reviews!

  • A Butterfly Fable (Adios Oscar!) by Peter Elwell- A monarch butterfly book? Count me in!
  • Being Nikki (Airhead) by Meg Cabot- I loved AIRHEAD so I am really looking forward to this sequel!
  • Yes, I Know the Monkey Man by Dori Hillestad Butler- I saw this at a publisher’s preview and it sounded like a great mystery. A daughter who believes her mother and twin sister are dead when they really are not? Sounds awesome!
  • Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci- As a self-professed and proud geek, I can not wait to get my hands on this collection of geeky stories from some of the greatest in YA writing!
  • The Enemy by Davide Cali- The sample F&G I saw of this book was so powerful that I wanted to take it home and share it with my class immediately. This fable is about two lonely soldiers facing each other across a barren battlefield. What each discovers, as the story unfolds, is that the enemy is not a faceless beast, but rather a real person with family, friends, and dreams.
  • The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts- This is the Delacorte Press MG Fiction contest winner. It’s the story of a small town girl raising steers for the county fair. When she becomes attached to them, despite their eventual fate of being sold to the slaughterhouse, problems arise.
  • The Anatomy of Wings by Karen Foxlee- This Australian import was compared to THE LOVELY BONES and VIRGIN SUICIDES.
  • The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan- We all know how much I love my apocalyptic survival stories.
  • Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner- Another apocalyptic tale. This one blurbed by Jane Yolen!
  • My Life in Pink & Green by Lisa Greenwald- A Class of 2k9 debut that really caught my eye.
  • A Mirror to Nature: Poems About Reflection by Jane Yolen and Jason Stemple- Yolen’s poetry is some of my favorite writing. I can’t wait to read this!
  • Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis- Emma-Jean was my favorite character from 2007. I had no idea Tarshis was writing a follow-up until I saw a preview in the publisher’s catalog! I can’t wait to get my hands on this!
  • Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson- You could tell me that Anderson was rewriting the phone book and I would read it. Can’t wait to read her latest YA!
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins- Not due out until September, I am dying to scoop up an ARC at BEA this spring. I have been waiting to find out what happened to Katniss since the end of The Hunger Games!
  • Soul Enchilada by David Macinnis Gill- Ever since traveling to Mexico I have been fascinated by the Dia de los Muertos.
  • Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Book 5: The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians) by Rick Riordan- I love Percy and am excited to see the conclusion of this hysterical series.
  • Shades of Grey: A Novel by Jasper Fforde- I don’t remember who first mentioned this on their blog, but it immediately went on my Amazon wishlist. The summary reminds me a bit of THE GIVER, so I am looking forward to reading it.
  • Falling Down the Page: A Book of List Poems by Georgia Heard- My inspiration when it comes to poetry, Georgia Heard really connects with kids.

 

This is just a sampling of some of the books I want to read this year, and mostly for the next season. What are you looking forward to reading in 2009?

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.  :)

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