Saturday, March 17, 2018

Are you lucky?

Today is the day of the "luck of the Irish." Green is everywhere and I'm feeling lucky.

If you have the good fortune, like I do, to have a friend who recommends books that are so perfect for you that they are unputdownable, make you cry, smile, laugh, scream and leap,  then, you too, are lucky.

Oh, Alicia.  Sometimes I just wish I didn't listen to her. Why does she know me so well?  Her book recommendations get in my way! They make everything I do come to a complete halt. And they make me do what I thought was the impossible.  Like today. (And skip ahead if this is too much TMI) I brought my wireless speaker into the bathroom so I could continue listening to my book while I was in the shower?! What?! My 11 year old does that with the audio from TV shows but me?! And for a book?!

The book that I am currently obsessed with is Dumplin' by Julie Murphy.  It's TEXAS people! How could I not love this book.  Everything is big in Texas and this book has taken over my heart in a BIG way.  Honestly, I can't believe I stopped listening to write this? Huh?! To be fair, I'm supposed to be working on something else, so this is a distraction.

My daughter is on her way to the city right now.  Tomorrow she will come back via Metro North, which means my husband or I have to drive an hour and a half to pick her up.  I'm eagerly going to volunteer because there's not enough water in our system to get me through to the final chapter.

So yeah.  Alicia knows me so well and I am lucky.  Move over green beer and shamrocks.  I've got my own personal "Reader's Advisor" and that's all the luck I need. ☘☘☘☘☘

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Lockdown Drill

I can't go to sleep without a reflection.

We had our first lockdown drill after the shooting in Parkland.  Happened first thing in the morning.

My fourth grade Dewey Duty helpers were just figuring out their job assignments.  Who was picking up books?  Who was checking in the books? Who was going to pick up all our reading minutes that we are doing for the Ronald McDonald House?  I know it's March, but don't forget that Mrs. Ciampoli's books need to be checked in right away because her class will be up by 8:20. Oh yeah, and Kiley? Are you finishing up that welcome poster for James Preller?  The paint was a mess yesterday. Please use markers today. Thanks.

And then we heard the lockdown announcement.

I'll be right there.  Lock door #1. Where's Andrew?  There he is being swept into another classroom.  I hope my other book collectors on the first floor are ok.  Lock door #2.  Sprint to door #3 and lock it.  Then join the others.

Is this what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month? Sniffle. Sniffle.

I started to weep.  Not so much that I think the girls noticed but I began to sniffle and my eyes were watering. I just wanted to protect them.  I wanted to keep these giggly, innocent 9 year olds safe and innocent forever. I wondered what was going through their heads.  How much did they know?  How much did it affect them.  Sniffle. Sniffle.

Ten, maybe fifteen, minutes later the drill was over.  We all stood up, about to get back to what we were doing.  Sniffle. Sniffle.

Wait. Stop.

I need a hug. We embraced.  A perfect group hug that would make anyone feel better.  We stood together long enough for their innocence, their youth, their love to break through my skin and wipe away my sadness. Thank you girls for giving me the strength to get through the day and move forward.

Now get back to work.

Sniffle. Sniffle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

All in a day's work...

From sunrise to sunset and beyond, this was a full day if I ever had one.

World Feast

Mrs. Yager's third graders have been working for weeks in preparation for our World Feast on Tuesday night.  They have researched and taken notes on a country using Culturegrams, Britannica, World Book and print books.  This week I am interviewing them as an 8 year old from that country in the library and in the classroom they are designing displays with information and pictures.  At home they are working with their parents in finding a food to share from their country.  I love this project!

Gala Kickoff

In less than two months, Caldecott medalist Matthew Cordell, will be walking through our Castleton Elementary hallways. What?!  I still can't believe it's happening!  It is very unlike me to do the same project two years in a row but we are.  It's our #PictureAPoem Gala collaboration between fifth grade ELA, art and library.  Today we kicked it off by talking about how illustrators and authors don't usually get together to discuss the book and how our students will be illustrating someone else's poem for our gala in May.  I collected poems without names on them. Tomorrow they will "shop" for a poem that speaks to them written by a student from a different class.  It will be glued into their sketchbook and the rest of the work will be completed in art. Mark your calendars--May 9 will be here before you know it! I can only hope we don't have to worry about the threat of snow then.

Pi Day

I love this day, 3.14...probably because it's an excuse to throw a party in the library, a place of many numbers.  And boy did we party.  Between PI cookies, pie, cookies and more, it was quite the dessert feast.  We did watch the Brainpop video on "Pi" and started a 3.14 scavenger hunt.  One thing I learned today:  I want to visit Garden City, Georgia.  They are home to the PI zip code.

Book Exchanges

Sadly, I don't have a library assistant and haven't for many years.  But I more than manage with my three grandmother volunteers.  Until one of them goes on vacation or calls in sick.  That's what happened today.  Fortunately, teachers are flexible and classes came in when I was able to help them. I do love book exchange.  I love when kids find books by people we love.

Note: Both of these books are illustrated by Matt Cordell!

The Wild Robot Escapes

My third grade book WILD ROBOT group is chomping at the bit to begin a part II book group with the sequel.  Arletta and I preordered the book so we are READY!  Of course, I already have three books going on right now and adding a fourth might send me a little over the edge...

ReadOver/SleepOver Prep

Second and third graders were invited to sleep over at school Friday night.  FUN!  I got involved in this PTO event a few years ago and now invite an author or illustrator to be a part of it. No, they don't (and neither do I) have to sleep over.  This year we are doing a Jigsaw Jones mystery themed evening starring our own local author, James Preller.  Dewey Duty and Reading Ambassadors began working on welcome signs for Jimmy this morning.  

Here's Mrs. Charsky checking out a Jigsaw Jones book to read aloud to her class.

NYLA Conference Call

Wait? What?  This was a fun sight to see.  I promise I was listening, just multitasking.  I carried my phone around with me in the library as I picked up to get ready to go and listened in on our Continuing Education Committee meeting call.  Don't worry! It was on mute when the custodian asked me if there was any pie left.

Music in Our Schools

This is a national month celebration, right?  Anyway, our whole community comes out for an evening of performances by students from the elementary school, middle school and high school.  We had second graders singing, middle schoolers rockin' out and high schoolers jammin'.  It really was awesome.  Yes, I had two performers in it but I did say more than once, you'll see me there in 2025 when I don't anymore.  But that's getting just a little ahead of myself...

When the day was happening, I didn't think I would ever get horizontal tonight.  But finally I see the light (or the dark if you want to be literal).  All in all, a great day with so much going on. This isn't even all of it!  Looking forward to see what tomorrow brings...

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Girl Power

Love These Girls

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

P.S. I Miss You by Jen Petro-Roy

Evie and Ivy.  Ivy and Evie. In a perfect literary world I would have them meet, hang out and fall for each other.  But for now, Evie has June and Ivy has...June! Seriously! They both have crushes on girls named, "June" and I have a crush on all of them!

Each 12 year old protagonist experiences a tragic event in their lives:  Ivy's family's home is destroyed by a tornado; Evie, growing up in a strict Catholic family, is dealing with her teenage sister sent away due to pregnancy.  On top of that, each realizes they are crushing on the new girl.  

Letters also play a role in each novel.  When Ivy leaves her sketch book at the shelter, it is discovered by someone who returns her drawings, a snapshot into her feelings, with notes inside Ivy's locker.  Thus begins a back and forth communication and Ivy's quest to find the mysterious letter writer.  In P.S. I Miss You, Evie writes letters to her sister while she is away in search of someone to listen and understand her.

Being in seventh grade is hard enough and feeling that you might not fit in with the norm makes it even tougher.  Then mix in challenges with family, losing a home, missing your sister and life gets exponentially harder.  Even Evie says, "I wish I could go back to when worrying about what [the other girls] thought was my biggest problem. Even to when worrying about what Mom and Dad thought was my biggest problem." Yet each of these characters comes out stronger in the end.

I passed on my advanced copy of Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World to one of my fifth graders and she loved it.  Here's what she wrote on her review form:

In which I would reply, "Where can I find that book?"

Monday, March 5, 2018

Hope in the Holler


Plea, pen, plan, rope, pine, peer, help, hint, rot, PO (post office--does that count?)...I've never been good at word games. I hate to admit this but my fifteen year old daughter has beaten me the past three nights in Scrabble. That said, I'm sure you can find many more words in the title.  But...are yours all relatable to the story?  At least I can say mine are. And there's one more four letter word that I will keep to myself, but know that it describes exactly what life is like with Samantha Rose as your unofficial guardian.

When 12 year old Wavie's mom dies of cancer, she ends up with her mom's only living relative, Samantha Rose. It is strange, though, because her mom never mentioned she had a sister.  With a court date looming that will assign Samantha Rose guardianship, Wavie and her friends try to stall all plans to keep this from happening because life in Conley "Convict" Hollow is just plain awful.  Imagine Cinderella in Appalachia, but worse.  No ball in Wavie's future as long as Samantha Rose is in charge. 

Or is there?  With her gifted and talented neighbors and friends, Gilbert and Camille by her side, a dash of perseverance, hope, courage and a positive attitude, maybe there is light at the end of Convict Hollow.

A combination of the play on words and the southern setting, had me thinking of Natalie Lloyd immediately.  Then I couldn't get Wish by Barbara O'Connor out of my head either.  The characters are lovable, diverse (ethnically and socioeconomically) and relatable. The story is so full of heart and hope and as sweet as the tea in Kentucky.  Get your copy today!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines

I've been a fan of Adam Gidwitz for a while, even after a fifth grader (she's now in 9th) abandoned A Tale Dark and Grim because it was keeping her up at night. Oops.  But last year was when we clinched our fandom for him.

There was a small, but strong, Inquisitor's Tale Newbery book group.  We even scored a Skype with Adam before he was crowned with the Newbery honor.  We could say "we knew him when."  Incidentally, during that Skype he mentioned the new series he was working on about some unicorn society something or other....

Well, wait no more!  Finally, it's here and I can actually tell you the correct title:  The Unicorn Rescue Society: The Creature of the Pines. Yay!  So...Grab your gooey almond bars (no raisins, please) and a mason jar of sassafras tea and get ready for a fun, laugh out loud adventure with the new kid, Elliot, his friend, Uchenna and the weird teacher, Professor Fauna.

The first chapter had me hooked and will definitely get the attention of any middle grade reader.  Farting and nose picking?  Perfect. I'd bet Las Vegas that none of my students returning it before it's finished.

It's Elliot's first day at his new school, a few weeks into the new year.  Poor guy. Who starts a new school after the first day?  And to top it all off, they are going on a field trip to the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. The Pine Barrens, home to exotic animals, and truthfully an unusual landscape.  I know from experience, as I camped out at "Scrubby Pines" (outside of Manahawkin) a few times when we couldn't afford a place on Long Beach Island.

After being warned NOT to leave the group, Uchenna does (and Elliot follows).  They end up getting pretty close to this blue creature (part deer, part bird with claws and hooves) later aptly named "The Jersey Devil."

"Danger is the greatest teacher." (Professor Fauna)  If this is the case, Elliot and Uchenna are armed to learn a lot! Not only do they need to keep their new found creature safe but they also have to fight off the Schmoke (which conveniently seems to rhyme with Koch???) brothers who are hoping to make the Jersey Devil the latest addition to their exotic collection.

This is a winner.  A winner for your Inquisitor's Tale fans.  A winner for your Tale, Dark and Grim fans (Oh! I've currently got one of those at school, who happens to wear a unicorn hoodie all the time!).  A winner for your Magic Tree House adventure fans. Even a winner for anyone (what?!) who hasn't heard of Adam Gidwitz. YET. And bonus? It's illustrated by the illuminator from Inquisitor's, Hatem Aly.

Just one question, well maybe, two: When's Book 2 coming out?  Book 3? And, where do I find a recipe for the almond bars? Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye.

The Castleton Elementary Tribute to Adam Gidwitz

I hope I get to meet Adam again! This is from ALA 2015.  He's going to be at TLA! I hope I see him there!

That's Mr. Chevrier, my former principal, now our Superintendent, 
with his small but strong book group!

Skyping with Adam last January before he won!

Right after The Inquisitor's Tale won the 2017 Newbery honor!

Monday, February 19, 2018


It's what we've all been waiting for! The prequel to The Crossover! Some spoiler alerts--Beware (especially, if you haven't read The Crossover)! No matter what, you will want to get your hands on this book ASAP--Comes out April 2!

To prep for the REBOUND ride:

Turn up your Michael Jackson (PYT, Man in the Mirror), LL Cool J, Miles Davis, Luther Vandross and of course, Horace Silver on your record player,
Search your local convenient store for a pack of Now and Laters (it wasn't too hard),
Grab yourself some KFC (or better yet, Grandma's fried chicken),
Slip into your Jordache,
Lace up your skates,
Indulge in a winning Krispy Kreme (and chocolate milk if your stomach can handle it),
Take a sip of sweet tea or grape soda,
Practice your free throws,
Root for the Washington Bullets (they don't exist anymore but pretend you are when you cheer for the Wizards)
And put aside a good few hours to read this champion of a book.

Jordan and Josh Bell of The Crossover fame are back but this time as their ancestors.  Yessir. We find out who each one was named after (Jordan, his great uncle and Josh, his grandfather) and even some other relations who I will opt not to mention at this time.  The visual learner in me had to sketch a family tree so I could get the whole Bell family straight.

Here is the story of Charlie "Chuck" Bell, Josh and JB's dad, as he is coming of age in 1988. Before.  Before basketball was his life. Before marriage. Before kids. Before it all.

March 9, 1988 Charlie's dad dies and he cannot shake the grief.  He had yet to learn to "own the sadness...[and not] let it own [him]." That summer, Mom decides to send him to stay with his grandparents in D.C. (pair this with Jason Reynolds's As Brave As You). At first this seems like an awful idea but when his basketball star cousin, Roxie, pulls him into a game, he hardly turns back. Basketball becomes his thing again. Then just as life is looking up, his game is on, he's gotta go back home.  With an ending that had my mascara running as I pulled tissue after tissue from the box, and had the need to get "all hugged up" REBOUND is a high ranking winner on the hardwood.

P.S. It's hard to believe that Kwame's still got game. I'm not sure how he does it with everything else going on but lucky for all of us and our students, he scored another one with REBOUND.  Book birthday is April 2. We are on vacation then so will be celebrating in Castleton a week later with all the aforementioned foods, basketball decorations and more.

PPS. There are even some comics in it, too!

PPSS. Oh, how I LOVE the orange cover!  You know there's a REBOUND bus, right?