Snow by Cynthia Rylant

I don’t review a lot of picture books, despite using many in my reading and writing mini-lessons. However, when I received a review copy of Cynthia Rylant’s new book, Snow, I was thrilled. Rylant is one of my favorite authors and her books are both gorgeous as stand-alones plus they serve as wonderful mentor and touchstone texts.

Snow is no different. The illustrations, by Lauren Stringer, are wonderful and evoke a feeling of home and warm nights spent by the fire. And Rylant’s poetry/prose is wonderful. I have a hard time putting into words how I feel while reading her books, so I will leave you with a few quotes:

The best snow is the snow that comes softly in the night, like a shy friend afraid to knock…

p. 1

Some snows fall only lightly, just enough to ake you notice the delicate limbs of trees, the light falling from the lamppost, a sparrow’s small feet.


Gorgeous, isn’t it? Rylant is a gifted writer and Snow is a welcome addition to my classroom library. I can already foresee using it in my poetry unit, in my non-fiction unit (focusing on one topic and writing beautifully about it), and in small-moment stories.


Oprah’s Book List for Kids

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical when Oprah announced that she would be publishing a list of books she recommends for kids. While I certainly enjoy many of her adult book club picks, I wasn’t sure how a kids book list would turn out. However, I felt a little bit better when I heard that she had contacted the ALA for help.

Well, I finally got a chance to look at the list. Can I just tell you how THRILLED I am?!

Here is the press release from PW Children’s Weekly:

As of tomorrow, the Book Club section of Oprah Winfrey’s Web site will offer a list of recommended children’s titles, courtesy of the American Library Association’s Quick Lists Consulting Committee. According to Diane Foote, executive director at the ALA’s Association for Library Service to Children, the organization was contacted by Winfrey’s staff in the spring about putting together such a list. “We were gratified they came to librarians to do so,” Foote says.

The ALA compiled a list of 100 titles (including both recent and “classic” titles) in five age categories: infant to two, three to five, six to nine, 10 to 12 and 12 and up. The ALA’s Quick Lists Consulting Committee has prepared recommended reading lists for numerous organizations in the past, including the PBS Kids Web site, Toon Disney and the National Endowment for the Humanities Bookshelf Grant Program.

The list is divided by age. The 10-12 year old recommendations list includes the following titles (these are just my favorites):

New Releases- Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, , The Willoughbys, and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree. YES YES YES! DIARY notwithstanding, these books all need to find more readers. EMMA JEAN is a personal favorite of mine and I would love to see this little book take off. And CRACKER was a huge hit with my readers this year.

Classics- Anne of Green Gables and Bridge to Terabithia.

Again, YES YES YES! These are the classics middle schoolers should be reading. Take note summer reading list makers!

And the 12+ list looks just as good!

New Releases- The Patron Saint of Butterflies, Paper Towns (which I haven’t read but I already know it is amazing), Found (Missing), The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, Trouble, and The Wednesday Wars.

And I love all the classics!

Kudos, ALA and Oprah! Kudos! Hopefully, some of these books will now become more mainstream and make their way into the classroom. I would love to see Oprah put out an updated list every few months. Maybe schools and teachers (who aren’t aware of the vibrant kidlitosphere) will use the lists as a jumping off point for getting new books into our schools!

Colored Moleskines!

A few months ago (February?), I saw that Moleskine would be producing their softcover oilskin notebook with colorful covers. You could choose from 2 different shades of blue, green, and pink and I was thrilled. Moleskines are my notebook of choice for writing, and I am a sucker for a cool cover. In fact, I won’t write in notebooks without cool covers. Unfortunately, this was also true in college so I was forced to buy all kinds of pretty notebooks in order to encourage myself to take notes!

But back to Moleskines. The colored versions became available for preorder back in June and I immediately ordered the Moleskine Volant Notebook Ruled, Green Large: Set of 2. And a blue one.  In the smallest size.

I have been waiting patie……Heck, forget that. I am so impatiently waiting for them to be shipped! Apparently I have to wait until August 26th. But I check the order status EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I want my moleskines! I want to use one as my new writer’s notebook for the school year!

Patience, Sarah, Patience.*

*Hmm, that looks like a list of names from a Puritan family.

Amazon Prime Free Trial

Just a note for all those teachers who are frantically ordering supplies, books, shoes, what-have-you from Amazon-

Amazon Prime Free 2-month Trial!

Amazon is currently offering free trials of their Amazon Prime service, which provides free 2-day shipping (no minimum purchase!) for a set yearly fee. However, the trial is completely free. When you sign up, just be sure to immediately sign into your options and uncheck the “bill automatically” button.

I love Amazon Prime because it lets me order one or two things without having to add up $25 worth of goods to earn free shipping. And there are just some things I can get on Amazon and can’t get here at home. It’s a great service, and even better when it is free! The downside is that I suddenly justify making lots of small purchases, a book here or resource there, and my bank account becomes very unhappy. 😦

Boy in the Striped Pajamas Trailer

This book has been on my TBR pile for ages and I haven’t yet been in the right mindset to read it when it reaches the top. But I have to say, the movie does look powerful.

Violet on the Runway by Melissa Walker

Violet Greenfield wants nothing more than to be able to fade into the background of high school. Unfortunately, her height makes that almost impossible. To compensate for her long legs and ever-growing body, she tries to dress inconspicuously and avoids drawing any attention to herself. Even her job, at the small hometown movie theater is designed to keep her hidden- anyone in their right mind (even Violet) goes to the megaplex across town to see a movie.

In Violet on the Runway , Violet’s life is forever changed the day she meets the woman in Chanel glasses at the movie theater. In the midst of complaining about her movie-going experience, the woman is stunned by Violet and hands over a card for Tryst modeling, asking if Violet is “signed anywhere”. Violet accepts the card, but laughs it off. However, over the next few days the card burns a hole in her pocket. Is this woman, Angela, right? Could she possibly be model material? She eventually decides to take the plunge, which takes her and her mother to New York for go-sees, appointments with designers. When four designers choose Violet to walk their Fashion Week runways, she is suddenly thrust into a whole new world.

Is modeling all that it’s cracked up to be? Can Violet survive being a runway model, the next “It” girl, and a high school senior? Can her life back home and her relationships with friends and family stay intact? Most importantly, can Violet survive, intact?

I really enjoyed this book! It was a great look at the world of modeling and glamour, but with a likable heroine. Violet is genuine and real, you feel like you know her. She struggles and makes mistakes, but you don’t blame her. She just wants to be something more than P-L-A-I-N. And really, isn’t that what we all want in middle school and high school?

I plan to recommend this to students who enjoy THE CLIQUE novels and Meg Cabot’s AIRHEAD. And I am thrilled that it is perfectly acceptable for 6th graders. I often have a hard time finding acceptable readalikes for these books, and Violet on the Runway fits the bill. Even better? It’s a series (be sure to check out Violet by Design and Violet In Private )! I already sent a recommendation to a few of my former students who I know will enjoy Walker’s books.

This month, Melissa Walker’s Violet books are the pick of the month at readergirlz. And there’s more! I was excited to see an opportunity to win a signed copy of the book on Hope’s Bookshelf. And the author, Melissa Walker, is having a release month party on her blog where she is giving away a book she has read and loved every day. The grand prize is going to be signed copies of the Violet trio.

Deep Down Popular by Phoebe Stone

A few of my girls read Deep Down Popular by Phoebe Stone earlier in the school year and recommended that I read it. It was in the Scholastic book clubs all year and usually got an order or two because the cover is intriguing (and fun). Who doesn’t love crazy socks? I finally got around to reading this over the weekend, and I have to admit I abandoned it. In fact, I abandoned it about 25 pages from the end. I just did not love it.

The book is well-written and the plot it cute. My first problem was that for the first 10 pages I had no idea if I was reading a historical or realistic fiction novel. The story is set in a small town in Virginia, and maybe it’s just that I have no experience with that. But I really had no idea if the story was taking place 50 years ago or yesterday. I think that will turn a lot of kids off.

Second, the book seemed very unrealistic. If it was historical fiction I might have cut it some slack. However, it is supposed to be taking place in the recent past/now and too many things made me say, “Huh?!” For example, at one point the main character decides to leave school at lunch. Now, there are plenty of smaller schools around here that do allow elementary students to go home at lunch, as long as they have a permission slip on file. However, Jessie Lou just up and goes home without telling anyone! Then, she gets back late after lunch and no one notices! In this day and age, I don’t care how small the town is- schools are responsible for students and Jessie would get quite a talking to when she got back to class. But not in the book. Incidents like that kept bothering me throughout the book.

The story is cute, but that’s really all I can say about it. I wasn’t dying to know what happened at the end and couldn’t even force myself to finish it. It just seemed very “blah” to me. I wouldn’t tell my students not to read it, as it is well-written. I just don’t see myself booktalking or recommending it to them.