Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Big Break

Time for another book review!
This one by fifth grade Reading Ambassador, Will.

The Big Break by Mark Tatulli
Due out March 2020

Last year my cousins and I went camping. We left the adults at the campsite by the fire and went exploring. First we crossed a tilted bridge. Then we took a grown in path into the woods. We saw some geckos and salamanders.  After we finished the path, we popped out into the other end of our campground. It was an adventure.
Russ and Andrew, the two main characters of The Big Break, also like adventures. In this graphic novel, they like to go monster hunting after school. They are searching for the Jersey Devil. But as the hunt goes on and they can't find it, Russ gets angry at Andrew. Russ starts to think monsters aren't real and this whole thing is stupid. Will the boys find the monster and become friends again?
I thought this was a great book because in real life it's normal to get angry at your friends. It's worth it to work through the aggravation of disagreements.  I read this book in two days and it was hard to put down. I would read it every morning and night. I would rate this book five stars!  

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

A review of NORMAL:

One Kids's Extraordinary Journey

By Magdalena & Nathaniel Newman

Review by Emma

Fifth grade Reading Ambassador, Emma, came in this morning to give me this review of NORMAL.  It comes out in January. Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Kids, we received an advanced copy and Emma was the first one to read it.  Here are her thoughts in her words.  Looks like we should all purchase it for our libraries.
This is a true story.
Nathaniel wasn't what you called "normal." He was born with Treacher Collins, a deformity where bones aren't where they should be and where they should be but aren't there. The surgeries he had to have were so expensive that his family almost had no money for groceries. Before the age of 16, he had 67 surgeries.
Nathaniel had a passion for swimming but he couldn't swim because he had a tracheostomy, a whole in his throat, so if he got water in him, he would choke. He couldn't breathe through his mouth because he a bone behind his nose and his jaw was too small. He tongue would take up his whole entire mouth. 
Technically, Nathaniel was deaf. He had no ear on the outside of his face. This hurt his mom, Magdalena because she was a pianist. 
In kindergarten, Nathaniel's dad wrote a note to his class and the community saying that Nathaniel was different but the same.  His dad wrote that Nathaniel is still a kindergartener and has dreams to go after just like everyone else. Even though his dad did this ahead of time, Nathaniel still got bullied and asked why he looked so scary.  
Fast forward to when Nathaniel was 12. He had to have screws in his head to help get his skull form the proper way. This took four months. His mouth and eyes were sewn shut during this time. 
Now Nathaniel is 16 and during the filming of the movie, Wonder, the crew of 20/20 followed him around. Word got out to Christina Aguilera. Nathaniel visited her at her mansion and she sang, "Beautiful" to him.  The message they hoped others would receive is "No one is facially alike, but they are all beautiful."
Nathaniel and his mom were inspired to share their story--anything is possible even if you have a disorder.
I like how Nathaniel kept persevering.  He taught me to persevere because even though he was always sick he fought through the pain. He taught me to be thankful for the small things because not everyone is gifted with things like hearing and breathing. He also taught me that things don't always work out the way you want but keep pushing to achieve your goals and follow your dreams. 
I give this book 4 and half stars. I really couldn't put it down. I stayed up for like 2-3 hours reading the last hundred pages. I just wanted to know how Nathaniel dealt with the pain, the bullying and life. I would love to meet Nathaniel now. He seems like a really cool guy and he's a role model to me.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

For Your Listening Pleasure...

Do you have a half hour where you will be driving, folding laundry, cooking dinner, running?  Then, I've got something to fill your ears:

A few Sundays ago I ran a couple of miles (and, yes, I was listening to a book at the time) to be interviewed by Katie for her new podcast called, "Career Roulette." Cool.  How hard could it be?! Just talk about what I do, right?

Well! I was nervous!  I hope I sound coherent.  I hope I make you proud NYLA, AASL, ALA.  It's the least I can do for all you do for me. I hope you get what I do.

Lots of shout outs to folks I love and adore: my kids (of course!), Val who gave me the idea to become a librarian, Alicia my forever book recommender, my mom who taught me to love reading and who prefers eBooks over print any day, my teacher collaborators who I do everything with side by side, and a few of just some of the many authors and illustrators who have visited our school.

Maybe this podcast will convince someone to go back to grad school. Maybe? It's pretty awesome...

I love my job and am very thankful that my Career Roulette spinner landed on "school librarian."

Thanks, Katie for this fun opportunity to talk about all I do at CES!

Friday, October 25, 2019

BLOOD MOUNTAIN by James Preller

5th grade, Reading Ambassador, Tyler,just finished reading Blood Mountain by James Preller. The book came out a few weeks ago.  After reading Tyler's review, you're going to want to add it to your TBR and to order pile.
Have you ever been lost?  Blood Mountain is about two kids, Grace and Carter, who go on a day hike with their dad. You know how that can be...slow, steady, boring.  So, the kids run ahead. They follow a deer trail for too long and too far out to find their way back. Now, they're lost.
For many days they are out on their own, surviving only on five energy bars and their dog as their companion. The first night they spend under a log. They seek out other creative places to sleep.
While out in the wild, Grace falls, cracks her ribs and ankle. Carter sets out to find help. He meets a man named, John, who lives in the woods.  John experienced war and Carter reminds him of a kid who he witnessed being killed. John doesn't speak much.  Carter gives him new hope.
How can Grace have enough food if she can't go hunting with Carter? Will Carter and Grace ever be found by the rangers who are looking for them? 
I liked how this book was like Hatchet. I liked how the characters work to survive, written in their different points of view. There are even two chapters from the dog's point of view=cool.
I wanted to keep reading it because I wanted to know if Carter and Grace would get saved.  I wanted to know more about John.  He was such a mysterious figure. 
Four and a half stars for this book! I will recommend it to anyone that does not get grossed out by stuff and wants to read a great adventure story that you won't be able to put down. I finished it in two days! 
Bonus--This book made me want to go hiking.  I may run ahead, but not too far!
Thanks for the review, Tyler!

Saturday, October 19, 2019

On the RIVER with Elisha Cooper

photo credit: Jason McCord

The first time I remember suffering from post-party sadness was pickup day (and the days that followed) at sleep away camp.  The ups and downs of eight weeks at Camp Ramah had ended and adjusting to being home was not easy.

That was when I was 13.  I continued to leave home every summer after that. As hard as it was to come home, it was always worth it.

At 24 I threw myself a huge multi-day party. The last person who left was my best friend from camp. We recapped it all and I cried. How could it already be over?

My wedding. Daughter's Bat Mitzvah.
Son's Bar Mitzvah was this Labor Day weekend. My severe case of post-Bar Mitzvah blues began the first day of school.  Not easy.

I don't do well with endings and goodbyes.  

June 2018: I meet an illustrator at an event in NOLA. He tells me he is working on a book about a woman who canoes down the Hudson River.  I tell him I live and work in Castleton-on-Hudson.  Then and there I decide that he will celebrate that book with us ON the Hudson.  Sixteen months later, Elisha Cooper is reading RIVER aloud with the banks of the Hudson behind him.

That was Thursday.
You can only imagine the fog I was in yesterday walking the halls now with only the memories of his visit alive.

Elisha sat in a canoe in the middle of the gymnasium while first graders sang and fifth graders book talked all of his books. Reading teacher, Mrs. Reed hired a banjo player and our tuba-playing-band-teacher to accompany our fifth graders while they sang a Pete Seeger song about the river. Elisha rowed his boat ashore. The rain poured down outside.

We pulled out the red carpet for him when he spoke at a special K-2 assembly.

Then we donned our raincoats, boarded the buses and headed to the river. Elisha insisted we squeeze into the smaller pavilion on the river and I am glad we did. The kids complained. They were cranky. It was cold. Some were not dressed properly. The rain was steady. A boat sailed by. It was amazing. We will always remember.

The day was half way over and I was already beginning to feel sad. I don't do well with even thinking about endings and goodbyes.

We returned to our warm school and sketched with Elisha in the art room and wrote poems in the library.

The finale was sitting in the common area observing Elisha paint.  Mrs. Reed returned with her guitar and we sang. For some that was their favorite part of the day.  For others it was the park.  And some loved being taught tips from an award winning illustrator. For me? The whole package.

How did the woman canoeist feel when she began her journey? During? When her adventure was over? Sixteen months ago our journey was imagined. Thursday it happened. Now it is an incredible, unforgettable memory.  "Don't be sad." Elisha comforted me as I walked him to his car. I'm trying not to but I just don't do well with endings and goodbyes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


We don't wait very long to celebrate here at Castleton Elementary School.
14 days into the new school year and we had our first author visit on his book birthday.
Welcome back to CES, Steve Sheinkin!

Since the first day of school, we have been preparing for Steve's visit.  Between our "Born to Fly" Selfie Scavenger Hunt with Grades 4-6 to sharing and reading books from the Time Twisters series to "building" paper airplanes to writing and illustrating a Steve Sheinkin A-Z book to daily announcements, we were ready to take off when he arrived!

The visit flew by (yes, all puns intended). Steve signed books, entered the gym on our red carpet, shared stories and then enjoyed some pie and ice cream with my 6th grade Dewey Duty kids. And even though the visit is behind us now that doesn't mean we are going to stop reading Born to Fly. I'll see you at 2, Mr. Morse's class.

The rock star enters our Old Gym

We heard that Steve loves pie and cherry vanilla ice cream so that's what we had at our party.  Then the kids (thank you, Mrs. Warland for the awesome idea) wrote down ideas for names of pie that ties in airplanes, flying or pilots. Some of our favorites:

Pilot's Pie
Airpple Pie
Women's Air Derby Pumpkin Pie
Flypple Pie
Amelia's Apple Pie
Propeller Pie
 Airplane Pielots

Thanks Mrs. Fowler (7th Grade English) and Mrs. Squier (JR/SR HS Librarian) for stopping by!

You can't leave Castleton before you leap

PS: Want to know more about Steve's life? Check out this book we made in third grade:


Thursday, September 19, 2019

At the Mountain's Base

The beauty of a completely flexible schedule is that you can be, well, flexible.

This morning I received an urgent email from a first great teacher with the subject line, "HELP!"
She thought today was the day we were celebrating a big book birthday. Parents sent in homemade cookies, grapes and other snacks for the party.  But, our planned party is actually next week.  What to do?  "Can you come down at any time today to celebrate something?" 12:45 it was.

Fortunately, it didn't take me long to look through my F&Gs to find a book that celebrated its birthday yesterday. The gorgeous, poetic and thought-provoking-for-any-grade, At the Mountain's Base it was. And celebrate we did. Happy belated, Traci Sorell and Weshoyot Alvitre.  And check out the book's well deserved STARRED REVIEW from SLJ.

We read the book and talked about peace, family and Native Americans.  We sang "This Land is Your Land" (they knew the lyrics way better than I did!).  I brought down some yarn since it is "weaved" throughout the story and we glued a piece onto card stock in the shape of a square or circle.  Tomorrow they will draw their families inside the yarn frame.

"Don't forget we have to sing 'Happy Birthday!'" many of them reminded me.  Of course!

I love my job. And I especially love that my schedule allows me to squeeze in a book birthday at the last minute in between meeting first graders to critique Geisel contenders, helping 6th graders navigate through the overdrive app, Sora, read aloud to 5th graders daily at 2pm, introduce kinders to book exchange, plan book birthdays, author visits and... yeah, that was just today. Makes me so happy that I'm leaping...