My #alayma Predictions!

When You Reach Me won the 2010 Newbery Medal.

At 11am EST/8am PST the ALA Youth Media Awards will begin. I will be hunkered down in my classroom with a few students (hopefully!), watching the awards as they unfold over our lunch. Every year I set a goal for myself- read the Newbery, and now the Printz, Award winner and honor books before they are announced. So here goes again…..my predictions for this year. These are in no particular order and I don’t pretend to know what will take home the gold as opposed to an honor. These are just the books I expect/hope to see honored later today!

Newbery:
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles

Printz:
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Boy21 by Matthew Quick
The Storyteller by Antonia Michaelis
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

 

Can’t wait to see if I get any of them right! What are you predicting will take home a sticker?

The Next Harry Potter?

Those of you who have been wallowing in children’s lit purgatory since the publication of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, the last Harry Potter book, can now rest easy. On Tuesday morning, Scholastic is expected to officially announce the publishing of their newest series, which they hope will become the next Harry Potter. “The 39 Clues” will be a multi-author series spanning 10 books. There will also be web, video game, trading cards, and other merchandising tie-ins. The series is aimed at the same middle grade age group that embraced Harry Potter a decade ago. The mysteries will tell the story of the Cahill’s, a centuries-old family who are also the world’s most powerful family. Famous historical figures, including Ben Franklin and Mozart, will be labeled as members of the Cahill family tree, with the plots centering on two young protagonists, Amy (14) and Dan (11). Amy and Dan will race against other branches of their family tree to be the first to find 39 clues that will lead to ultimate power. The first book will be penned Rick Riordan, author of the best-selling Percy Jackson series (which I love). Riordan has also outlined the story arc for the remaining 9 novels, which will be penned by authors such as Gordon Korman, Jude Watson, and Peter Lerangis.

This is quite a coup for Scholastic, as they will retain all rights to this series, unlike Harry Potter- JK Rowling retained the rights to Harry Potter, allowing her to search out and control her own movie and licensing deals. Scholastic is crossing their fingers that this series will be the next Harry Potter while also lining their pockets even more than Harry Potter did.

I am not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I do love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, and Gordon Korman is also popular with my students (I am not familiar with the other two authors mentioned). On the other hand, and I am leaning more towards this one, I have never been a fan of multi-author series. I find that it is hard to keep story elements consistent when you have a different author penning each volume of the series. Or the books become too simplified, like The Babysitters Club. A series like this feels too manufactured for my tastes. I will say that I am a bit intrigued by the plot summary. It sounds like a middle grade version of “The Da Vinci Code”/National Treasure. But I can easily see it moving into the boring, preachy, historical fiction that my students can’t stand. I will probably read the first volume and make a decision from there. But I will be interested in seeing the final product when it is released in September.

Do I think this will be the next Harry Potter? No, I don’t. I don’t think you can predict that kind of success. Kids know what they love, and it can be almost impossible to predict what that is from day to day. Also, Harry Potter built up an incredible YA and adult fan base, who grew up with the books. With these books being published multiple times a year, Scholastic will lose that very important aspect of the fan base- fans won’t have time to grow with the series. Yet, there is something to be said for instant gratification, and most kids these days are used to that instant result when they ask for something. Plus, the online and gaming tie-ins will add a new twist to the marketing scheme, one that Harry Potter had to do without when the first few books were published.

What do you think? Is Scholastic trying too hard here? Will “The 39 Clues” be a success? More importantly, will you read the series?

Tuck Everlasting….continued

In class, we have been doing a close reading of “Tuck Everlasting” for the last few days.  We re-read the Prologue and Chapter 1, annotating when necessary.  It is so amazing to hear my students say, “Wow!  I didn’t even realize that circle had meaning the first time I read it!”  I think they are starting to understand the need to sometimes re-read parts of a book, especially when you want to clarify certain points or respond to the book in writing.  This is a skill they will need to hone as they move through the middle school and high school and one they aren’t explicitly taught at any grade level.  I am having so much fun with it! 

Today, we read an excerpt from “Circling Tuck: An Interview with Natalie Babbitt” from Horn Book in 2000.  The interview is wonderful and Babbitt shares a lot of great information with the readers.  My students loved that fact that Babbitt admits that Man in the Yellow Suit only wears a yellow suit because she needed a two syllable word and “nobody wears purple”.  Throughout the book, my students could not figure out why Babbitt has the man wear a yellow suit when yellow usually symbolizes happiness or sunshine.  Needless to say, they think it is hysterical that there is such a practical reason for the color of his suit.

They also loved the fact that Babbitt chose the last name Tuck because in the past, tuck meant life.  This information gave a whole new perspective to the book and the themes that run through it.  Most students noted that this was their favorite fact in the interview.   They had no idea that words sometimes gain and lose meanings as time goes on, and tuck is a word they were previously familiar with. Hearing that an author put that much time and effort into choosing a character’s last name really fascinated them.

It was great sharing Babbitt’s interview with my class.  I could see their knowledge growing and they admitted that even though the book started slowly, they are so glad they gave it a chance because, “It really is an awesome book, Miss M.”!  YES!!!

Reflections on Writing about Reading

For the past two days, my 6th graders have been focusing on writing about their reading. Before this week, they have been using stickies for the past few weeks and then using those to help them with their book conversations. This week, we graduated to writing off post-its and growing our ideas.

Yesterday, I started by modeling off one of my post-its from Tuck Everlasting. I decided to use a stickie that discussed a quote where Babbitt compares life to a wheel, always turning. With the class watching, I grew my post-it into a 6 sentence paragraph about my thinking. We reviewed some of Nancie Atwell’s sentence openers for letter-essays and then I set them off. I had the students choose one of their Tuck stickies, place it at the top of their desk, and then grow that thinking into a paragraph in their notebook. I was so impressed with the results! There was a lot of deep thinking and some great connections made!

Today, I wrote off of a personal thinking stickie, from Ch. 10 in Tuck. Again, I modeled for the class but this time I wrote 9 sentences (a typical paragraph that I expect from my students). Like the day before, I set them off to choose a stickie of their own and write at least 9 sentences about it in their letter-essays section of their reading binder. I thought they might struggle a bit more today, due to the length, but boy was I wrong! Most of my students (in both classes) wrote well over 9 sentences. In fact, a few wrote an entire page! They were all dying to share their thinking and we listened to everyone read their thoughts aloud. Again, I was impressed! The thinking had gotten even deeper, and they were writing about things they noticed regarding author’s style, literary elements, symbols, motifs, and predictions they had for the remainder of the book! I was so proud!!!

We will continue to work our way forward with our writing about reading, working our way up to 3+ paragraph letter-essays that they will write to me on a monthly basis. :)

Oh, and my students are LOVING “Tuck Everlasting”. I can’t get them to stop reading! Actually, their enthusiasm must be contagious, because I was never a huge fan of the novel before this year. However, I decided to do a close reading of the book, seeing as it is “the greatest children’s novel”. I was inspired by Monica over at Educating Alice, who was inspired when she read “Charlotte’s Web” critically for a children’s lit course. I went over the entire novel, writing in my book and responding in my own reader’s notebook. I also read every article, interview, and review of “Tuck Everlasting” that I could find through Ebscohost. I have a brand new appreciation for the novel and I absolutely love it!

Like Monica, I plan to spend the weeks after we finish “Tuck Everlasting” going back over the text with the entire class, looking with a critical eye, annotating and digging even deeper. From the response I am getting from my class so far, I know this will be a success. I will be sure to keep you all updated!

Novels vs. Movie Adaptations

Today I got a hold of Disney’s “Tuck Everlasting” movie, the 2002 adaptation of the Natalie Babbitt novel. Oddly enough, before tonight I had only seen the much older adaptation of the novel. I wanted to preview the movie before we watch it as a class next week, and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. However, I had to set aside my thoughts about the novel and view the film as a separate entity.

It should be very interesting watching the movie with my students. We have been analyzing the novel for two weeks now and will have completed our initial reading before we view the film. My students are very adept at picking up on Babbitt’s symbolism, and will notice when anything is changed in the film. Within the first 5 minutes I had already picked out 3 important changes from the novel (and I know they will immediately notice them, too).

The screenwriter has changed the timimg of the story from August to the beginning of summer. This upset me, as the metaphor about the Ferris wheel hanging at the top like August hangs at the top of the year no longer works! Also, Winnie is aged by about 6 years, making her closer to 16 than 10. Finally, her parents play a much more prominent role than they do in the book. While this is a departure from the novel, I didn’t mind that as much. Her parents are characterized as bossy, overprotective, and downright mean! It does make it more obvious why Winnie runs away- in the novel we only hear her grandmother and mother in the background, so to speak. Here they are much more in the forefront of the tale. Most importantly, the ever-present and symbolic toad is barely mentioned in the film. It does appear in a few scenes, but is never explained or pointed out.

Apparently, Natalie Babbitt gave her approval of the film and even participates in the audio commentary and extra features. If Babbitt approves of the film, I certainly do, too! However, I will look at it as a separate entity from the amazing novel. I do wish more people had seen the movie, though. It might have turned them on to the perfection of Babbitt’s novel!

Great Moments in the Classroom

Today my students met with their reading partners for their first “Tuck Everlasting” book meetings. We have been doing a lot of minilessons on thick vs. thin questions, partnership talk, and focusing on a central idea in the text. I walked around, eavesdropping, as they were talking and I was so impressed! While their conversations were not perfect by any means, they were heads and tails above what I expected to hear! Most of the groups were completely focused on their thick questions and I even heard a few debates breaking out!

After listening in today, I have a good idea where we will be taking the unit next. My eventual goal is for the students to be able to respond to their literature both conversationally and in a written letter-essay (a la Nancie Atwell). This week, we will be working on focusing on a central idea from the text and writing about it. We will write about personal connections and text-to-text connections, in single paragraphs. I think we will use the idea of everlasting life as our central idea when we work together: Should we have the option of living forever? The kids seem to connect with the idea immediately and hopefully we can have fun writing off our class stickie note!

I’m under the gun here, because I need to finish Tuck Everlasting before Thanksgiving! However, after the Thanksgiving break I plan to go back through Tuck doing some annotations with the class. :)

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