February Carnival of Children’s Literature

Be sure to set aside some time to check out the February Carnival of Children’s Literature this weekend.  Chock-full of great posts, you don’t want to miss this one!


In other news, I am sick. Again.  I have been sick for almost a month straight now.  Whatever is going around right now is awful.  Hoping I feel better tomorrow!


Virtual Author Visits

I have been researching the possibility of virtual author visits lately.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it is a possibility due to our school network configurations.  However, I love hearing about how authors and teachers are approaching this new medium.  Author and middle school English teacher Kate Messner recently collaborated with author extraordinaire Laurie Halse Anderson.  

The visit sounds like it was amazing.  Check out Kate Messner’s review from a teacher’s point of view here.  Laurie’s point-of-view can be found on her blog, here.  I have to admit, I am very jealous.  The virtual visit sounds amazing.  And Kate’s students got to hear a bit from Forge, the sequel to Chains. Lucky ducks!

What do you think? Are virtual author visits the wave of the future? And can your district work with programs like Skype?

Teammates by Peter Golenbock

Today I used Peter Golenbock’s Teammates for a lesson on inferencing themes with my 6th graders. I had never read Teammates before this week and I had no idea I was missing out on such a great book!

Teammates is the story of baseball player Jackie Robinson’s friendship with PeeWee Reese, a teammate who risked his career (and possibly his life) to stand up for Jackie when he joined the Dodgers.  Golenbock looks at a single moment in American history and turns it into a gorgeous narrative.  The story is illustrated in paintings and photographs.  The story is powerful and timely- one that every student should hear.

The subject of baseball, Jackie Robinson, and segregation is one that appeals to all of my students, and especially the boys.  They were thrilled that we were reading such a “cool” picture book.  And it lent itself so well to the lesson I had planned on inferring themes!  I highly recommend this one for all ages.

Share a Story – Shape a Future, A Blog Tour for Literacy

Share a Story – Shape a Future, A Blog Tour for Literacy



There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.
~ Jacqueline Kennedy ~

Stories encourage dreams – reading helps kids make their dreams come true. That singular idea – that we can help kids realize their dream – is the foundation of Share a Story – Shape a Future.    

Share a Story – Shape a Future is a blog event for literacy. Throughout the week, blogging librarians, teachers, parents, authors, illustrators and people passionate about literacy will offer ideas on ways to promote reading and books. You won’t find statistics, academic analysis, or judgments that tell you why you should read. Instead, we are using the power of the web to share ideas about ways to engage kids as readers.

Each day, bloggers will talk about different aspects of literacy and reading. Themes include raising readers, selecting suitable material, tips for reading aloud, using audiobooks, and how to use the library as an ally. The organizers have several giveaways planned, and will offer free, downloadable content.

Share a Story – Shape a Future is an opportunity to share ideas, encourage each other, and spread the word about children’s literacy. Share a Story- Shape a Future aims to build a community of readers. Please join us and share your story.

The 2009 Share a Story event will take place March 9 to 13, 2009

 This is an ensemble effort not only to celebrate reading among those of us who already love books, but to encourage each other to reach beyond ourselves and do it in a way that we are neither judging nor instructing others. This is a venue for communicating practical, useable, everyday ideas.

The event begins March 9, 2009 and lasts one week. Each day we will have a group of bloggers sharing ideas around a specific theme. There are a number of book giveaways and free downloads that will be announced by the various hosts as we get closer to the kickoff. Here is the tour schedule.

Day 1: Raising Readers
hosted by Terry Doherty at Scrub-a-Dub-Tub, the Reading Tub blog

Day 2: Selecting Reading Material
hosted by Sarah Mulhern at The Reading Zone

Day 3: Reading Aloud – It’s Fun, It’s Easy
hosted by Susan Stephenson at the Book Chook blog

Day 4: A Visit to the Library
hosted by Eva Mitnick at Eva’s Book Addiction blog  


Day 5: Technology and Reading – What the Future Holds
is hosted by Elizabeth O. Dulemba at Dulemba.com

Through Share a Story – Shape a Future we hope to build a community of readers, by sharing ideas and encouraging each other. When the event opens on Monday, March 9, 2009, there will be plenty of opportunities for you to join us and share your ideas.

In the meantime, we’d love for you to start spreading the word.

Huge thank yous to Elizabeth O. Dulemba and Susan Stephenson for creating images we can use to promote Share a Story – Shape a Future!

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

When 13-year old Kyra is told that she must marry her 60-year old uncle, because God has said so, she is horrified.  Kyra, her three mothers, twenty siblings, and her father live in the Compound where the Prophet controls their lives through “visions” from God.  Members of a polygamous group, they live in the desert 50 miles from the nearest town.  In the past, the people were permitted to visit the town any time they wished.  But since the new prophet has come into power, the group has become more and more sequestered from the rest of the world; Satan’s world.  Violence and a distorted religious world view rule the world of the polygamists.  Books have been banned and burned.  Young adults who break the rules are severely punished and put on display as examples.  Women have no rights, other than to marry the men chosen for them and bear children.  

For a long time, Kyra has been clandestinely sneaking off the compound, meeting the local bookmobile.  Through the magic of the books that are banned on the Compound, she has entered new worlds and opened up her own.  When she falls in love with a boy on the Compound, her world is turned upside-down.  Which world is right?  The one in her books or the one on the Compound?  Can she marry her uncle to save her father and the rest of her family from ruin and punishment? When she makes her decision, the repercussions may be fatal.  For Kyra, her family, and those who want to help her.  

This is a compelling, powerful, chilling, and unforgettable book.  Carol Lynch Williams pulls you into Kyra’s world, as frightening and tragic as it is.  The climax will have you turning the pages as fast as you can while at the same time wanting to throw the book across the room.  Like a car wreck that you can’t turn away from, this book will enthrall you and horrify you at once.  Kyra is a strong girl fighting against the tides of religion, faith, love, and hatred.  Her strength of spirit is inspiring.

This is a book that will inspire conversations.  Some of them may be uncomfortable, but encourage them.  This is a book that will make its readers think.  Think about faith. About love.  About truth.  About life.  I know this book will fly off the shelves.  Its mix of romance, action, and even what some would call realistic horror (unfortunately), will grip students.  Available in May, I can not recommend Carol Lynch Williams’ The Chosen One enough. If you can get your hands on an ARC, do it! This one is not to be missed.  The only aspect of the book I was unhappy with was the ending.  Why?  Because it ended!  I wanted to continue reading about Kyra and her resiliency.  So Ms. Williams?  Keep writing!

Memoir Mondays

My classes began revising their memoirs today while I did my best to conference with each of them. As I read memoir after memoir, I was stunned by the way my students were baring their souls in their pieces. I read about blankies that taught them about growing up, sons who watched their fathers recover from illnesses all the time growing closer to them, and granddaughters who are afraid of of losing their grandfathers to cancer. It took all I had to fight back tears as I read them.

This is the first year I have taught memoir, because I never really felt comfortable with it. It’s not as “scripted” as personal narrative or personal essay. That tends to intimidate my kids, who have never had workshop before.  I usually have to do a lot of hand-holding and memoir doesn’t lend itself to that.  It’s a lot more free-form and requires the writer to open up and expose themselves more that a personal narrative does.  But the rewards have been wonderful and we are only in the revision stage!

Over the next week we will finish our memoirs.  We will mount them on scrapbook paper, organize them, and bind them together into a book.  The book will be shared with their parents during conferences in the middle of March.  I can’t wait to share these awesome, soul-searching pieces with the parents.

Slice of Life Classroom Challenge

Are you looking for a cool way to integrate more writing into your classroom this coming month?  If so, be sure to check out Two Writing Teachers!  Stacey just posted a short guide on how to get ready to host a Slice of Life Challenge in your classroom.  I hosted a challenge with my class last year and it was a ton of fun.  I am looking forward to doing so again.

This week I plan to come up with an easier tracking system, because I was overwhelmed with my 50 students last year.  Whatever I decide to use, I will blow up on the poster machine.  And I need to figure out what I will give out as a reward to those who complete the challenge.


I am so excited about Operation Teen Book Drop 09!  Readergirlz just put up details about this years event.  What exactly is Operation TBD?  Operation Teen Book Drop is an amazing project that brings donations of thousands of fantastic YA titles to hospitalized teens all over the country.

We are delighted to be teaming up with GuysLitWire and YALSA for the second Operation Teen Book Drop! In honor of Support Teen Literature Day, April 16th, 2009, readergirlz, GuysLitWire, YALSA, and publishers are working together to donate YA books to hospitalized teens across the country.

Readergirlz is a teen online book community where members are challenged to read, reflect, and reach out. GuysLitWire  is a top book-review source for literature appealing to teen guys. YALSA is the world leader in selecting books, videos, and audiobooks for teens.

I think I want to get my classes involved in TBD this year.  It would be a great follow-up to our Valentine’s Day Hope Chests.  You should get involved, too!


Walden Media Plans New Movies

Am I the only one who didn’t know about the movies Walden Media has put into motion?  According to Publisher’s Weekly,  they begin filming Beezus and Ramona next month!  How awesome is that?  And Disney star Selena Gomez has been cast as Beezus, which I think sounds great.

In the development stages are another Narnia movie and Ingrid Law’s Savvy!

Scat by Carl Hiaasen

Scat is Carl Hiaasen’s latest book for middle grade/YA readers. Nick Waters and some of his friends are pulled into an eco-avenger’s plot to save endangered Florida panthers and put a halt to illegal drilling going on in the Everglades. When Nick’s strict (and sort of crazy) biology teacher goes missing during a wildfire that breaks out on a class trip, no one is sure whether to be worried or elated. Even weirder, though, is that one of their more “infamous” classmates, Smoke, isn’t with the class when the fire breaks out. And he doesn’t show up for school. And he had threatened Mrs. Starch the day before. Did he set the fire to get rid of Mrs. Starch?!

Scat deals with a serious ecology topic (similar to Hiaasen’s other novels), but it’s also a very funny book. One of my favorite characters is a substitute teacher who follows very specific guidelines. For example, he always teaches page 263 on Fridays. No matter the subject. Without fail. Every Friday. And he wears a tuxedo and bow tie to class. As a teacher, this had me in stitches. I can only imagine how I would feel as a student reading it!

Unlike Hiaasen’s other books, this one has a bit more mystery. Readers are kept in suspense- I couldn’t put the book down. It is also very contemporary. Nick’s dad is a National Guardsman on tour in Iraq and Nick struggles with his feelings about the war. There are also passing references to Facebook and Myspace.

My favorite aspect of the book is the Florida Panther. This gorgeous animal is one of the most endangered in the world, with between 60 and 100 left in the wild. No one who reads this book can walk away without gaining a love for these majestic animals. And I think that is exactly what Hiaasen is aiming for.

This is a great book that I can’t wait to recommend to my students. I think it will appeal to boys and girls alike, and those who love mysteries and funny books. This is another slam dunk for Carl Hiaasen!