Tuesday, September 22, 2020

It's Tuesday Again!

No wonder I looked forward to Tuesdays so much during lockdown.  There was ALWAYS cake.  And off key-off sync singing. Smiling faces attached to faces I wished were in 3D.  And just before the end of every party there was me, the annoying mom screaming to my teenagers to come "pick a name RIGHT NOW" for the winners of my weekly raffles.  Never a fan of Tuesdays, but last spring's weekly parties definitely took the edge off my least favorite day.

Do I actually miss that time?  Dare I say maybe a tiny bit?  The parties are on hold for now. Instead it is cart racing to the elevator.  The music teacher. The art teacher. Me.  How many of us can fit in it at once? Reading aloud and giving directions behind a mask to small children spread all over the room = Challenging.  Hooking up my computer to a dozen different adaptors and SmartBoards. Hard. Shannon McClintock Miller's "BookHub" order forms. "Books you love. Delivered." Disappointing kids because they wanted a wolf book and got one about baby mammals. Who knew wolves were so popular? BUT Tuesdays are still Tuesdays and books will always have book birthdays. Today let's pull the party hats out for:

Ben Bee and the Teacher Griefer by K.A. Holt

When I read this book I couldn't wait for it to come out.  Today is the day! Happy Book Birthday! I love each and every one of the characters and think it will appeal to so many different kids. In another time, this would be my middle grade celebration of the day.

Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness and Community from the Born This Way Foundation and Lady Gaga

I heard about this book at a new book webinar and stuck its birthday on my calendar.  It's a beautiful collection of inspiring stories from young people. Share one each day with middle or high schoolers and come up with ways to "channel" kindness in your community.  Yes, it's cliche but does that really matter? Check out the website.  I'm impressed with how up to date it is.

The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom by Colleen AF Venable and Lian Cho

Fun fact about me: I played oboe from 7th grade concert band through my senior year in the college orchestra. Mahler 1 is still one of my favorite pieces of all time.

I'm excited for this book!  It sounds (all puns intended) interactive and a great book to use for a music/library collaboration.  For grades K/1 this year, my music teacher and I each get 20 minutes of the special time.  Fortunately, there are a bunch of highly rated new music picture books and this one is no exception.  Bonus--it already comes with an Educator Guide.

Happy Belated to...

Millionaires for a Month by Stacy McAnulty and Three Keys by Kelly Yang

I attended a Crowdcast event from Bookmarks a few weeks ago with both of these amazing authors. Their books arrived yesterday and I cannot wait to read them! Steve and I had Stacy on our #AuthorFanFaceOff and we are looking forward to stumping Kelly in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Happy Tuesday to all! 🎂

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Cupcakes Under My Mask

I am going to be sneaking a lot of cupcakes under my mask today. It is a BIG book birthday day.  

In any other year, planning a party for the 4th day of school would not have phased me.  I don't want my new fixed schedule to dictate what I can and cannot do.  It just may take me a little while to figure out what I can do.

Until then, you and I can raise our glasses and savor the frosting for the following books (my cupcakes are in my lunch box):

I am One: A Book of Action by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds

I am totally just going to download this book today and share with everyone.  Two years ago Susan Verde was our gala visitor and our theme for the whole school year was "I am Me."  I can't wait to read this book. Period. Happy book birthday, Susan and Peter. (And Happy International Dot Day, too!)  Susan--I hope you will be celebrating your birthday mark with roasted cauliflower and broccoli!

PS: If you are remote or get home early, here's an event for you (personally, I will be teaching a second grade class at this time still)



No Place for Monsters by Kory Merritt

I admit, I don't know much about this book except that it was blurbed by Jeff Kinney, Brian Selznick and Max Brailler.  It must have triggered interest during some Fall books webinar this summer as I put its birthday on my calendar.   It's a highly illustrated middle grade novel that I'm sure we will all find fans for quickly and easily.

Nothing in Common by Kate Hoefler and Corinna Luyken

This book was mentioned at at least two fall book previews.  I have loved Corinna's illustrations since her debut, The Book of Mistakes came out in 2017.  This one looks beautiful as well with a great message.  If I was having an in person book birthday party, I would print out these pages for the "goodie bags" and maybe eat doughnuts (any excuse for doughnuts). You know--doughnut binoculars of course!

Three Keys by Kelly Yang

Is there anyone who didn't love Front Desk a couple of years ago? Kids and adults.  We all did.  The sequel comes out today! I can pretty much guarantee that it will be on my Newbery 21 list and I haven't even read it yet!  Check out this offer from Kelly:

The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found #4 by Karina Yan Glaser

It seems like just yesterday that we were reading Karina's debut Vanderbeeker novel and now there are four! Happiest of book birthdays to the newest addition to this fun loving family series.  Are you new to the Vanderbeeker world or just need a refresher? This one's for you:

 I'm sure there are many more birthdays today but my stomach can only handle five cupcakes and two doughnuts (with a side of a Samoa during the I am One event). Happiest of book birthdays to all! 🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Candles Galore!

Today is a premium book birthday day! AND my first day back in the building! May I request chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting with a side of a whole bunch of candles?

Here's what I've been waiting to celebrate today. Some I've read. Some I haven't. All are worth adding to your TBR list and your next book order.

Before the Ever After

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

I read this back in June and I am still thinking about it and not just because I listen to football podcasts with my son. In my mind, Jacqueline Woodson's verse can do no wrong and this book is no exception. It's 1999-2000 and ZJs dad, a tight end for an unnamed football team (I think the Giants) is not his hero but his "every single thing."When his dad's head is just "not right anymore" ZJ's world as he knows it comes to an end. I really haven't read a book like this before. The topic is unique and so important. It's easily accessible and will spark many conversations among the young and not so young.  My husband always says that football will not look the same in our 14 year old Giants fan lifetime.  This book will  get us all talking while Earth, Wind and Fire's "September" plays in the background and Sugar Hill Gang is queued up next.

I Am Every Good Thing

I am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James

LOVE.  Period.
You'll fall in love with this book like I did.


Flamer by Mike Curato

I have been waiting for this book for months! I would check back on Netgalley and Edelweiss impatiently refreshing hoping the arc would be loaded up in the time I hit the curved arrow but alas it never happened. Today is my day!  I look forward to cozying up and escaping into this graphic young adult novel memoir asap. 

Millionaires for the Month

Millionaires for a Month by Stacy McAnulty

Even though Stacy lives in North Carolina now, I still consider her a local girl having grown up in a zip code only a few miles from Castleton.  She likes her numbers and writing about math.  I'm excited for this one and to attend this crowdcast event this evening.  Stacy has already agreed to be a part of our #AuthorFanFaceOff on her book, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl. Yay!

Punching the Air

Punching the Air by Ibi Zboi and Yusef Salaam

This book almost makes me want to teach high school.  The discussions we could have. The documentaries we could watch. The poems we could write. The artwork and artists we could analyze. The difference we could make.  Read. Share. Talk. Check out Salaam's website. Ken Burns's documentary.  Ava Duvernay's miniseries. (Check out my friend Alicia's blog post about the book here.) As an aside, it was definitely cool to read about Picasso's Guernica after just seeing it in person while I was in Madrid.

Plus a new one by David Wiesner (Robobaby) and one I'm excited to share with my music teacher, Wild Symphony by Dan Brown. 

So, yeah, worth getting the candles out for sure. I'll be having my cake (and cake and cake) and eating (and eating and eating) it, too.  It's a book birthday bonanza! 🎂

Monday, August 31, 2020

#AuthorFanFaceOff 1

A few weeks ago one of my favorite nonfiction writers and friend, Steve Sheinkin, reached out to me about a new video series idea he had.  I was intrigued...An author and a young fan battle it out on questions about a favorite book written by said author. A leap worthy concept and am thrilled to be part of the team!

Check out our pilot featuring fifth grader, Ace and author, Chris Grabenstein, as they go head to head answering questions about Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Go. Pause game. Play along. End game. How well will you do? 

We have many more episodes in the works. Stay tuned! And please, if you've got a pair to share, we're open to all suggestions!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A Two Brush Night

I can't tell you my favorite ice cream flavor (coffee chunk?) or pizza topping (garlic?) but I can most confidently tell you my favorite candy--The traditional Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (with Reese's with Reese's Pieces and Outrageous closing out the podium). The weeks leading up to Halloween I begin my campaign of peanut butter cups from my students.  November 1 one year it actually worked and a fourth grader handed me a ziploc bag of all her Reeses. Needless to say, she got an A in library JK. 

This commercial, though.  It doesn't just nail my love for the peanut butter beautifully snuggled in chocolate, but also for the times we are living in right now.  Flexibility is the "F" word of the year. You just brushed? So what? Who says you can't brush again?  No one. Be in charge of you.  Take it from someone who has had many two brush nights.

Our classrooms and libraries will not look the same.  Our teaching will be different. Carts will be the norm.  Instead of lunch bins we will have quarantine book bins.  Canvas, Flipgrid, SeeSaw, Screencastify, Nearpod, Google Classroom, Schoology, Bitmoji, Pear Deck, Wakelet...a sea of terms we had to become familiar with nearly overnight, or at least over a spring and summer. Always did something the same way year after year? It may not work in 2020. Time for the "F" word. Remember the Reese's and make it a two brush year. We all got this! I'll see you on the flip side with a batch of orange wrapped chocolate all ready to share. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Letters from Cuba

Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar

Happiest of book birthdays today to Ruth Behar's Letters from Cuba.

My Fountains of Silence trip to Madrid was still on the forefront of my mind when I read this book back in early, pre-Covid March. I was all set to plan my next international trip. Little did I know how much the world would change in a matter of days.

And here we are 5 1/2 months later celebrating the book birthday of the story of Esther, a Polish immigrant in Cuba.  It's 1938 and Esther joins her Papa in Cuba, leaving behind her sister, Malka, three brothers, her mother and Bubbe.  Together Esther and Papa work hard to save money to bring them all to Cuba. This is their story as Esther's letters to Malka.

I loved this book.  Thought it was even better than Ruth's Pura Belpre winner Lucky Broken Girl, which says a ton coming from another Briarwood PS 117 girl. It teachers us so much about hope, perseverance, acceptance, diversity, coping with prejudice. Read it with Emma Otheguy and Beatriz Vidal's Marti's Song for Freedom, Margarita Engle and Mike Curato's All the Way to Havana and another new middle grade novel about immigrants and food, A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan. Yes, I love when food shows up prominently in my books and this one is no exception. To begin with you will be yearning for challah, sour cherry tea, latkes and bananas.

Need to take a trip without getting on a plane or even in a car? This book is perfect then. Find Letters from Cuba today, cozy up in your favorite reading spot and bon voyage.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

For the WIN

I slept better last night but today my heart is racing. Is it because the reopening plans are due Friday and local ones are already going public? Is it the fact that every day in July is a day closer to August? It's time to remind myself of a couple of wins I had recently. These are what keep me going...


Late last week a former student emailed me. This rising freshman was going on vacation and wanted some book recommendations and thought I would be the perfect person to ask. I was honored and flattered.  She just finished Pride and Prejudice and The Great Gatsby ("classics of course so I had to read them"). It shouldn't surprise anyone that Darcy was one of my first crushes. Oh, and Ponyboy. And (I hate to admit this), Holden. And from there the list goes on and on and on...But I digress.

She could "literally read any genre."  I don't read that much YA, but quickly scoured a few of my recent book journals (you know I am not a Goodreads gal) and came up with this list. Please don't judge my continuous use of the word "good" and simplified five word reviews.  I was 14 again in this email and back to my Darcy loving days.

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Septys (Historical fiction that takes place in Madrid. So good!)
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas (Have you read this one yet?  If not, it's very relevant and then you can watch the movie)
The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (Takes place on Election Day--a little romance)
Dry by Neal Schusterman (fantasy/science fiction that feels very much like realistic fiction.)
Anything by Julie Murphy= fun!
Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan (fun! realistic fiction)
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (I have not read this one but anyone who does loves it so much.  Fantasy.)
The Downstairs Girl by Stacey Lee (historical fiction.  Haven't read it but it got great reviews and my friends all loved it)
Stamped by Jason Reynolds (History of racism in our country. So good and so important.  Nonfiction) Actually, anything by Jason Reynolds is so great.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (so good! It's verse from two points of view of two girls whose father was in an airplane crash) She has also written The Poet X which is really good.
If you like thrillers, I love Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson (If you do read this you must talk to me afterward)
Another great thriller is Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus (I think this is a series)

I wanted to make this list all on my own lol (i.e. no help from my HS library/Youth Services friends) to see if I could do it. I probably missed many but, as you already can guess, it ended up being a win after all. 

"I went through and looked up all the books and reviewed them all," she wrote.  
She chose these three to start:

"The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas - It seems very informational and reviews said it was very good.
Hot Dog Girl - I like the teen romance in it and reviews said it was very fresh and funny. Seems like a good read.
Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson - Looks very fun and mysterious. I love the crime solving aspect. I’ll definitely get back to you on this one when I finish reading!"

Kudos to her! I feel like she picked a well rounded trifecta! And I didn't even tell her that I'm convinced that the setting of Hot Dog Girl is an old, local amusement park here (Hoffman's Playland). Plus, I can't wait for her to get back to me about Allegedly. If you already read it, you know what I mean!


The summer school teacher emailed me for recommendations for a read aloud. Our special ed teacher recommended she reach out to me and see if I had any Newbery 2021 books that would give the rising fifth graders a leg up.  The first line of my email was: 

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly. So, so good! It takes place in January 1986.  Three siblings in 7th grade and dysfunctional parents.  The Challenger is about to be launched. Just so good.

And that's the one she chose. Solid choice.

Tuesday, her TA, one of our 4th grade teachers, sent me this text:

The next thing he typed, "I’m going to “assign” it to all 4th grade parents this year to read before Thanksgiving." He likes it that much, huh?  I patted myself on the back.  Another win.

And the OT: WIN 3

Finally, earlier today a friend and colleague and I were out walking.  We passed a large front yard with the house set pretty far from the road.  On the porch, exponentially socially distant away, was a rising 6th grader who shouted our names with her arm waving through the wind. She got our attention for sure and we smiled. We agreed that she is a great kid and both had a little boost in our steps as we continued the miles. She made us so happy.

What wins have you had recently?  Jot them down. Commit them to memory. They could come in handy later this year...When you're feeling down or defeated, check back into your WIN folder for a little pick me up (with maybe a side of ice cream--something I could use right about now...)