NaNoWriMo Winner!

It’s been a very long month, and scheduling has been a nightmare.  I gave up hours of sleep some nights, worked while the dog barked at me, and put off a lot of reading.  But I did it!

I love NaNoWriMo because I work much better under deadlines and pressure.  The 30-day challenge to complete a novel is exactly the motivation I need.  Now my plan is to let the novel sit for a while and pull out last year’s NaNoWriMo novel and start revising…

Congratulations to everyone else who participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo, even if you did not win.  🙂

Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood by Jame Richards

This marking period my seniors are focusing on environmental and engineering disasters.  We just read Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People and our next book is David McCullough’s The Johnstown Flood. When I received a review copy of Jame Richards’ Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood over the summer, I knew I would want to read it closer to when we were focusing on the Johnstown Flood disaster.  Over the holiday weekend I finished the book and I can not wait to share it with my seniors.  I plan to make it our read-aloud this marking period because it will be such a great companion piece for McCullough’s book, especially as Richards was inspired by McCullough’s book to write Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood.

Told in verse, from five different perspectives, Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood does not overly focus on the disaster itself.  Instead, it takes the history and helps the reader imagine what life was like for the people who experienced the dam burst and subsequent flood.  For the most part, the reader follows Celestia, an upper-class girl who falls in love with a local boy, Peter.  Maura is a young mother struggling to raise four children while her husband, Joseph, works on the railroad. Her struggle to escape the deluge with her children is awe-inspiring and tear-inducing. I really liked Kate, a tough nurse (who has lost her childhood love to drowin),  who meets up with all the other characters at some point and even saves their lives.  The verse captures each characters emotions perfectly and the varied perspectives allow the reader to see the disaster from different viewpoints.

The Johnstown flood killed 2200 people, but I have never read any YA historical fiction about this horrible engineering disaster.  However, I also think this historical fiction novel will appeal to readers who shy away from historical fiction, because it is light on facts and heavy on story.  The events of the flood are woven into the fabric of the characters’ lives and you never feel like you are reading a historical account.  Instead, you feel like you know each character and are just hearing their story.  Teens and MG readers will readily point out the similarities to Hurricane Katrina (unidentified bodies, sickness spreading, the flood itself, the upper-class reaction) and Three Rivers Rising would be a fabulous read aloud or literature circle book.  I imagine that the conversations that would stem from this book would be stellar.  I plan to find out when I begin reading it with my seniors tomorrow!

*review copy courtesy of publisher

Sold by Patricia McCormick

Patricia McCormick’s Sold has been on my TBR pile for a very long time. It never quite made it to the top because I knew I most likely would not put it in my classroom library so I did not want to disappoint myself by loving a book I could not share. However, now that I am in ninth and twelfth grade, I pulled it out.

If you teach high school (or even upper middle school, depending on your class) this book must be in your classroom library. The heartbreaking story of 13-year-old Lakshmi opens on her ordinary life in Nepal. However, her stepfather is a gambler sells her into prostitution in India in order to pay off a gambling debt. Refusing to be with men, Lakshmi is beaten and starved, eventually drugged and raped. Written in free verse, Lakshmi’s story is difficult to read, but sadly is real life for too many girls in Nepal. McCormick interviewed girls in India and Nepal before writing this book and I am so happy she decided to tell their stories. I know that we focus on speaking loudly in our own communities, but these girls need us to SpeakLoudly, too.

McCormick handles difficult subject matter with sensitivity and dexterity.  Lakshmi’s story is never sensationalized, but will leave you in tears.  The subject matter is difficult, but it is something that teens should be aware of.  This is daily life for some children and their stories need to be shared.  Highly, highly recommended.

*copy purchased by me

Shakespeare Set Free

How on earth did I know know about Teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and Macbeth before this month?! I know, I know….I did not teach Shakespeare in sixth grade. But still, I try to stay up-to-date on the newest and best resources. Thanks to Dana Huff

Looking for Book Recommendations?

Just in time for the holidays, Donalyn Miller and Paul Hankins are holding another round of #TitleTalk this Sunday at 8pm.  To participate in this amazing chat, hop on Twitter and follow the #TitleTalk hashtag! #Titletalk is a fabulous conversation between teachers, bloggers, bookstores, authors, and many others.  (#ARCsFloatOn was born out of last month’s chat).  You should definitely stop by, as I am sure I will be adding heaps of books to my towering must-read pile of books.

*I like to follow Twitter chats on Tweetgrid.  It makes it easier to follow the conversation.  Just a helpful hint!


Hope to see you there!


I just want to take a moment and thank all of the awesome teachers who tweeted from NCTE 2010 this weekend.  I was able to follow many sessions and presentations via the great Twitter updates.  If you did not get a chance to follow, check out the hashtag #NCTE10 for the latest updates.  Sounds like it was an amazing conference and I am so sad I could not go this year- I am already planning for NCTE ’11 in Chicago.  (Formulating some presentation ideas right now…..proposals are due in January!)

I do have one complaint about the NCTE Convention, though.  Last year I presented and a lot of the presenters (myself included!) uploaded resources, Powerpoints, etc to the NCTE Ning.  I looked forward to the same thing happening this year.  While it is not the same as being at the presentations, obviously, it’s phenomenal to get resources from other teachers and to be introduced to new people through those resources.  This year I was dismayed to find out that NCTE had the presenters upload to their Connected Community.  I find the new Community to be frustratingly impossible to navigate as it leans towards Web 1.0 instead of 2.0.  The threads are all over the place, the division between topics is hard to distinguish, and the navigation is bizarre. But I was willing to work through the bumps in the road for the Convention materials.

Well, boy was I miffed when I clicked on the community entitled “2010 NCTE Annual Convention”  and got the following message:

Sorry you are not eligible to view the Digest

What?  Weird, I thought.  My membership was up for renewal on November 30th, so I assumed it was related to that.  Off I went to re-up my membership (and change my journal subscription from Voices in the Middle to English Journal!) Done and done, I tried the Connected Community again.  Still no go.  So I turned to my PLN on Twitter.  Apparently I was not the only one having this problem and we soon realized NCTE controls what every member sees on the community.  Apparently, only registered conference attendees have access to the convention digest on the community.  What?!  What happened to open access?  Think that maybe they are going in the opposite direction that teachers are steering their students in?

Thankfully, some presenters were upset by this, too- they posted their presentation materials on Slideshare, blogs, and even the old Ning.  But come on, NCTE!  Why are you segregating members based on the money they were able to spend in this economy?  I would love to have gone to NCTE but lost my job when I should have been planning the trip.  It just wasn’t a possibility.  Will I be there next year?  I sure hope so!  But you are alienating your members with your new “community”.  I have no plans to participate in the Connected Community thanks to this experience.  I get so much more out of the English Companion Ning and I will stick with that!

NaNo, Grading, Cybils, Oh My!

Snowed under right now…..I am frantically wrapping up first marking period grades, trying to keep up with my NaNoWriMo novel, and reading for the Cybils.  Needless to say, I am more than a little busy. I have reviews to write and promise to get some of them up this week,


Oh!  But tomorrow morning the mailman is picking up the first two ARCsFloatOn packages!  I have three more boxes that will be ready to go out on Tuesday.  Tomorrow I have to stop at the post office and get more flat rate boxes.  So far, ARCsFloatOn is a huge success!


Finally, I am very sad that I will not be at NCTE this coming week.  😦  I am hoping to attend vicariously through people’s tweets, so please tweet if you are there!  The hashtag is #NCTE10.