Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A rainy day in upstate NY=Great day for FLOAT by Daniel Miyares

I'm moving into Caldecott territory.  I never really did that before.  Anyone who knows me, knows I'm pretty much all Newbery all the time.  But I just can't let this one go.

Last night I sat at my computer very late at night and was distracted by the sound of the rain.  I woke up this morning as more rain fell.  It was the first day of the 2015-16 school year that we had indoor recess (wish I could say it was the last).  There are puddles everywhere. Needless to say, it's wet outside in Castleton.

Early this morning my eyes caught Float by Daniel Miyares on display in the library. A perfect book to share with students on this rainy day.  Actually, a perfect book to share with anyone anytime.  I haven't met another wordless book that touched me so much since I read my Surf City, New Jersey love, Flotsam by David Wiesner many years ago.

The use of the grays and black, shadows, reflection, the yellow rain suit, the details, the plot, all of it is wrapped up into beautiful wonderfulness.  The two page spread of the pouring rain is so perfect that you can actually HEAR the rain coming down.  No joke.  And it wasn't just me--students agreed and so did other adults.

My K-2 students got it, too.  The noticed the details (ie, marshmallows in the drink=hot cocoa).  They could predict what came next and they understood the feelings of the colors.  We talked about how confident the illustrator must be when he can include a page of one solid color, in this case, black. Hmmm...David Wiesner happened to do that too, in The Three Little Pigs.

I also love the end papers.  Directions on how to make a paper boat in the front and paper airplane in the back.  That's the ribbon on this lovely gift of a book.  I guess I'll be keeping my eye on Mock Caldecott predictions from here on out.

ps-Another winner from my Junior Library Guild book box!

Ms. Malone's Kindergarten class

Mrs. Pryde's first graders PRE JUMP

Leapin Librarian with Mrs. Pryde's leaping first graders!

Mrs. Puccio and Mrs. Seres's second graders

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Leapin' into a new week with Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins

My daughter's Bat Mitzvah is in less than two weeks.  I'm shocked that I have even a moment to read, let alone then blog about it! I did manage to finish Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins. My friend, Susan Polos, recommended it to me since she was considering putting it on her Mock Newbery list and I was not disappointed.

This is a perfect read for anyone who likes adventure, suspense, animals or learning about another culture.  A tiger cub is loose near Neel's island village in the Sunderbans, on the border of Bangladesh and India.  Not only do the villagers want to find her, they need to keep her away from Mr. Gupta.  Mr. Gupta, the rich man and poacher and has come to the island to catch tigers so he can sell their body parts. He wants this cub so badly that he is paying a lot of money to some of the natives to search the island for the cub.

But Neel knows the nooks and crannies of the land better than anyone so he is determined, with his sister, to find the cub and return her to the preserve.  Will Neel and Rupa find the cub first before Mr. Gupta?  Will she be safe?  Finding the answers to those questions and more, will keep young readers glued to the text.

And not only is the story about finding the hidden cub, but also about Neel's possible opportunity at a scholarship to take him off the island to study.  Although Neel doesn't want to leave his home and is not motivated to get a tutor to help him study for the exam, his perseverance in searching for the cub and his will to save the tigers from poachers, might be just what he needs to think seriously about getting into the new school.

The back of the book holds a glossary (that I found myself flipping to a few times) and a list of websites if you want more information about Bengal Tigers and organizations working to improve life in the Sunderbans.  I hope my students will want to know more and turn to these resources.

Last week, I told one of our Reading Specialists about this book.  He took a brief look at it and thinks it is perfect for his reading group of fifth grade boys.  He will read it together with them during our Newbery unit. Yes!

In other news, yesterday was our Castleton Elementary School Community Fair.  I volunteered an hour in the "dunking booth" which is really a bucket filled with ICE COLD water that empties over your head if the player hits the target.  All for a good cause, right?  And today, in the WARM sun, my whole family ran the Dunkin Run in Albany.  It was a "dunkin" sort of weekend.  And yes, we took some jumping pictures:

Check out my leapin' family!

I'm excited to LEAP into a new week and on Thursday, a new month!

Friday, September 25, 2015

For the love of audio books

I wanted to write a post about my favorite audio books.  You know, the ones that stick with you way after you have listened to them.  The ones that you can still remember exactly what you were doing while you were listening.  When you pull into the driveway and can't turn it off.  Or you take the long way home just so you can keep listening. Those ones.

First, Rules by Cynthia Lord.  I remember my kitchen floor was never that clean before I had the CD rolling and has never been that clean since. This was back before we redid our kitchen when we had one of those hangover CD players under our cabinets.  It was many years ago but I still remember hugging the mop with tears streaming down my face.  I hated when that book ended.*

And then there was An Abundance of Katherines.  I was taking a YA literature course and just getting introduced to John Green.  This was way before TFIOS.  That time my driveway never got shoveled as perfectly as it did that afternoon.  I was grateful for the snowstorm, plugged in my iPod (before iPhones) and happily shoveled the driveway.

I cannot forget Revolution by Deborah Wiles.  Hours and hours but worth every second.  This is a performance and reading all wrapped together. Listen to the Beatles.  Imagine the poems.  The actors bring 1964 to life through the fiction and nonfiction text.  I found myself driving extra slow so my time for turning off the audio would be lengthened.

Do you like spooky?  Try listening to The Thickety by JA White, especially on a long and winding DARK road.  And then plan to have a deer run in front of your car.  My heart was pounding.  Read by a woman with an Irish accent, this fantasy story feels even more real than ever.

My newest addition to the list is Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.  You can read my review of the book in my previous post.  The audio is just perfect.  With all the musical references, the book was meant to be an audio book.  From Brahams Lullaby, to Tchaikovsky, to Rodgers and Hammerstein, it is completely lovely and soothing.

And of course, there is Harry Potter.  Every. Single. One.  Don't tell him, but I have a huge crush on Jim Dale.  How many different voices has he had to do for all seven books?  I could listen to him read for days on end.

*I just saw that Jessica Almasy, the reader of Rules, also is the reader for Under the Egg, by Laura Marx Fitzgerald.  I loved that book.  Now I need to listen to the audio!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Some enchanted ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan

This afternoon while staring at the beautiful piercing blue sky, my 9 year old son and I finished up listening to the last hour of the audio version of ECHO.  We listened with all our heart in amazement.  I am still speechless.  I wiped the tears off my cheek, not just from the emotional written words spoken so perfectly but also at the finality of a book we loved so much and were committed to listening to for over nine hours was finished.  I craved more.  I kept the CD playing through all the credits and stared at the CD player hoping bonus tracks would begin magically, or at least one more song.

A boy in Germany.  Brothers in Philly.  A girl in California.  All brought together by music played from the heart from one magical harmonica.  It is truly enchanting.  Each of the three stories is intense in its own special way and leaves you hanging till the very end.  And then it is wrapped up and tied together like the perfect birthday present, except this one you want to wrap right back up and untie those bows ever so slowly again, knowing how good the gift underneath will be.

It was great to be able to explain the historical settings and stories behind each character to my son.  The book gave me the opportunity to discuss Nazi Germany, adoption, the internment camps, Pearl Harbor and more in such a way that was appropriate for my son and only enough to make the book make sense to his formidable mind.

I have been a fan of Pam Munoz Ryan's for a long time.  When I read THE DREAMER, I immediately got 10 copies donated to my library so I could use it for a book group that year.  Since then I have used it with many other groups of students and am still amazed by the beauty of the writing and poetry in that book.  I have never looked at poetry or Pablo Neruda the same.  THE DREAMER is still one of my favorite book group books to use with high level third graders and fourth graders.

ECHO is going to be one of those books that I believe should be on the short list for the Newbery this year.  Just getting my fifth graders to read it will be a challenge only because of the length.  I will promote the Overdrive version (and CD version) heavily and tell them they will not be disappointed.  Maybe it will be one of our Newbery book groups.  If that's the case, I will definitely volunteer to facilitate for I would welcome the opportunity to reread it with all my heart and share this enchanted piece of literature with my students.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Flexible schedule, ISO of Geisel and what's up for the weekend!

I'm completely exhausted.  I should really be in bed right now.

It felt like a long week.  Not bad just non-stop and here's why.  I am one of the fortunate librarians with amazing administrative support so I can run a completely flexible schedule.  This is how I can run a 10 week Newbery unit with fifth graders and how I can start a Mock Geisel project with first graders (more on that later!).  And do month long author studies with kindergarteners.  But it doesn't come without a slight price and that's happening right now with what I call, "Library Boot Camp." For about 10 sessions per grade, I run library orientation.  It builds each year for each grade it is very different.  In kindergarten, we spend time familiarizing ourselves with the library, the rules, taking care of books and the computers.  By second grade, we are learning how to navigate the online catalog.  In third we explore all the databases we have and by fourth and fifth we are really sharpening our research skills so we can dive right in when the projects begin.  Needless to say, it's a crazy time of year, but it's so worth it.

I also don't do the same thing every year.  I take our author, or a theme (last year in first grade it was "Scaredy Squirrel" and this year we are all about Sarah Weeks) and base the boot camp activities on that theme.  Fourth grade boot camp was all about PIE.  For example, look up "pie" in World Book.  Fifth grade was all about HONEY.  Look up "honey" in Grolier.  And since we are all about collaboration this year, the kids are spending a lot of time working together, already in the first two weeks of school.
First graders exploring Pebble Go in Boot Camp.

5th graders reading Sarah Weeks's "Glamourpuss" to answer a boot camp question on theme.

More 5th graders reading a picture book by Sarah Weeks

And MORE fifth graders with a Sarah Weeks book

All of the fifth grade teachers read HONEY as a read aloud this week.  Everyone finished yesterday!  Mrs. Harris loved it!

If you have a flexibly scheduled library and cover your library skills a different way, I would love to hear about it.  As for now, I will keep my boot camps going and one day look forward to a nice long nap.

So, an exciting thing happened to me this week.  I got published as a "Guest Blogger" on the ALSC blog.  And in honor of that, I wore my ALSC bracelets today to school.  I'm searching far and wide for some collaborators, a book list, anything related to the Geisel award.  I've gotten a few bites, but I was really hoping for more.  Maybe more people will read the blog over the weekend.

Here's the link to my post:

No rest for the weary--My 9 year old son, Zack, and I are headed to the Princeton Library's Children's Book Festival tomorrow ( We're going to meet his friend from sleepaway camp and hang out with a lot of our friends.  Zack is especially excited to introduce his friend to Jarrett Krosoczka, who will we travel miles to see.  Zack even has a big "Lunch Lady" poster that Jarrett sketched for him framed and hanging in his room.

Sarah is supposed to be there so I hope to see her and have time to tell her how pumped the school is about her May visit.  Jerry White (The Thickety) will be there as well as many others.  My kind of slice (all puns intended) of heaven right there. But I should really get some sleep so I can be up and ready to go tomorrow!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Whatever you do on Tuesday, it must include getting a copy of THE MARVELS by Brian Selznick

I cannot believe I did not take the time this summer to read The Marvels.  While at ALA, I actually got to the Scholastic booth early so I'd be guaranteed a copy of it and a chance to meet the extraordinarily talented, Brian Selznick.  Not only did I get a signed copy, a couple of candids with him, but when I came back to booth later, I was able to convince him to jump with me!

I made it to the booth!

 If only I wasn't blinking :-(

 Check out the photo bomb by Dan Santat!

I thought I knew it 2x already after reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck that Brian is pure genius.
It was just confirmed a third time with The Marvels
If that isn't reason to LEAP, I don't know what is!

"You either see it or you don't" and I totally see this as a pure work of genius.  Brian Selznick's visual art alongside his written words is just incomparable to any other work of art.  The 600+ page book begins with almost 400 pages of artwork telling a mesmerizing story from 1766.  Take the time to look at the illustrations and understand the plot.  Let it all soak in.  Figure out the Marvel family history.  Make a genealogy chart in your head.  Go back and taste it again before you move on.  It is that delicious.

There are two blank pages in between the artwork and the text.  This is not just a delineation of the visual art and the text.  Those pages actually tie the whole book together.  The text begins in 1990 with runaway Joseph, landing in the unusual home of his uncle, Albert, whom he has never met.  It is not a good pairing at the beginning and Joseph feels uneasy in a home that appears to have lively ghosts and other unexplainable objects and photos.

As Joseph explored his uncle's home alone, my heart was pounding.  Reading it on a dark, rainy night, I caught myself making my room a bit brighter.  Joseph was searching to uncover the mysteries of the past in this unfamiliar home and I was alongside him.

I do not want to give away any spoilers. This is a must-read. Do you like Shakespeare? He's splattered throughout.  Enjoy the poetry of Yeats?  It's there.  Other literary references?  Check.  Love a good mystery with a twist?  This one is for you.

Albert's friend, Florent, teaches Joseph that "broken things can be fixed." A wise man telling a young boy to be delicate around his uncle so he, too, may be fixed.  Well said.  However, when things are not broken we should leave them right alone, just as we should the work of art in The Marvels.  Nothing to fix here.

I got out of bed at 5 this morning and enjoyed watching the day wake up as I finished my book in silence.  I savored the time and absorbed every word and brush stroke.  It was worth every minute.  I only wished the time lasted till 11:16.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

GOOGLE Classroom, HONEY, JLG and more = Full first day!

I really cannot remember being this excited about the first day of school!  That's not to say that I didn't have a "wake-me-up" nightmare last night that was only about Kwame Alexander coming to our school and the students being totally unprepared and NOT treating him like the super star rock start that he deserves to be treated like.  And, to top it all off, a sudden snow storm appeared out of nowhere, making it very unsafe for anyone to leave. Agh!  Needless to say, I woke up in a sweat.

I skipped and jumped around all the hallways today.  It was fun to meet the new kindergarteners and get reacquainted with everyone else.  I'm always amazed at how everyone's names pretty come back to me as quickly as they do.

The day started and ended with 5th grade Boot Camp.  We started to read HONEY by Sarah Weeks aloud and I think I transitioned them well from their "detective work" last year to their "Committee work" coming up.  I even wore pink! And, yes, we got a jumping picture with the whole grade!

A little blurry, but we are all jumping!  Leaping into a great year together! Can you tell we are holding up copies of HONEY?

My only break of the week occurred in the mid morning.  I opened up a box from Junior Library Guild and smiled.  I always love getting those books!

In between the 5th graders, I saw a first grade class and a third grade class.  Always a good time.

Doing something new this year with Boot Camp with 4th and 5th--Google Classroom.  I created an assignment in Google Drive and shared it on Google Classroom. The students log in, share the document with me and I am able to see their progress on the tasks almost immediately.  Today the fifth graders only logged in, renamed the document and shared the document.  Everyone was successful.  Tomorrow will be the real test as we pair Boot Camp tasks with Google Classroom/Drive.  I have faith it will all work smoothly.

Logging into Google Classroom for the first time this year!

A safe space under my desk.

Everyone is in teams to work together on their Boot Camp tasks. "Teamwork makes the dream work," right?

A very full but exciting day ahead of me tomorrow. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

The summer that will be remembered...

What a SUMMER!  It started hours after school ended on June 25 as I boarded a plane to ALA in San Francisco to Barcelona, France, mountains of North Carolina, two Broadway shows, a 15k, Jersey Shore, Virginia and more...This pictures are so *random* but capture a little taste of my unforgettable summer. 

FIRST day of SUMMER VACATION!  On my way to ALA!

Bill Konigsburg (no relation to E.L.) I picked up this book for my daughter and then she read it for her summer reading homework!

I forgot!  The music teacher, Mrs. Gibney, and I saw Trombone Shorty live.  He was AMAZING!

If you ever have a chance to see him, GO! And pick up his book today!  It's illustrated by our friend, Bryan Collier.
Getting as many cousins and more to jump with me on the Jersey shore.

La Familia Sagrada in Barcelona--pretty incredible.

A leap with my cousin in Barcelona

I took that Crossover book everywhere with me.  This gentleman must have thought I was crazy when I asked him to pose with it!

Relaxing at my aunt's house in Lagleygeolle, France.

Leaping during our night bike tour of Paris.

It didn't matter how heavy my backpack was, that book was coming with me for the day!
A final leap in Paris. We WILL be back!

And I read a little, too.  I always wish I could read more.  In no particular order, I read Crenshaw (comes out in a couple of weeks), George, Sunny Side Up, Roller Girl, Book Scavenger, Circus Mirandus, Lost in the Sun, Unusual Chickens, The War that Saved My Life, Enchanted Air, Stella by Starlight, Hilo and just today I started listening to Echo in the car. Ah, man.  I really wish I had read more.  Everything I read I enjoyed and I absolutely LOVED, LOVED, LOVED having my FIVE book groups over the summer.  I will definitely be doing that again next year.

Tomorrow is our first day of school.  I'm super excited.  We are going to have a Sarah Weeks year with a sprinkling of Chris Grabenstein and who else?  Last year Kwame Alexander was our big surprise.  Right now I'm humming all songs I can think of with the words "honey" and/or "pie" in it for my introduction to Sarah tomorrow.  I want to get those kids crazed for her and I know I will!

Today I got up early and drove to Albany to shop at Trader Joes.  I stuck the first CD of Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan in the CD player and was instantly mesmerized.  I'm hooked.  Only that I walk to school and don't have much time in the car alone to listen.  Winter time is my book listening time because I can just throw my ear phones on and shovel to my little heart's content. Fortunately, there is no snow yet but unfortunately, I'm looking for a long road trip to come my way.

I have never felt so excited about a first day in a long time (of course, I have no plan for what to wear, but do have my lunch made).  I'm excited about Sarah and Chris and the collaborations that will take place over the course of the year.  October and November are going to be super busy with my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, NYLA and AASL but it's all good.  By Thanksgiving I will need to stay under my covers for a while and not come out for a few days.  Great time to catch up on my reading that I never had a chance to do while I was "summering" all summer.

May you all have a wonderful start of school and splindiferous year ahead of you!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The War that Saved My Life--WOW!

I could not move out of bed this morning until I finished this incredible 5* book by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.  This one is going to stay with me for a long time.

[DISCLOSURE:  I am still new at figuring out how to write coherent book reviews...please forgive...Also, please forgive because I realized that my blog is so simple looking and I need some help jazzing it up but have run out of time.  I'm glad that I at least have a blog.]

10 year old Ada and her 6 year old brother, Jamie, live in London with their mother, Mam.  Mam is so ashamed of Ada's clubfoot that she keeps her inside all day, every day.  She is not even allowed to crawl to the shared hallway bathroom.  She sits in a chair looking outside to a place that she can never appreciate. When she crosses Mam, she is sent to the reeking tiny cabinet where all the roaches roam. Ada's speech and vocabulary are limited because of her seclusion from the outside world.

Then World War II hits England and children are sent out to the country to be safe and are called "evacuees."  When Jamie goes to the train, Ada sneaks out with him.  When no one chooses them, they are taken to live with Miss Susan Smith, a single woman, who ends up benefiting as much from their placement as they do with her.  And so begins a long, hard journey of trust, friendship, love, perseverance, heroism and ultimate joy during the War that saved more than one life.

I cannot wait to share this book with my students beginning on Tuesday, our first day of school!  I will be meeting with the whole class of fifth graders not once, but twice!  I can see myself holding this book in my hands and telling them it will be at the top of my Newbery list.  I will stumble with my words because I will be almost too excited to describe it coherently.  My only regret is that I didn't pick it up when it first came out in this past winter so I could have shared it with last year's students.  And it will definitely be a fifth grade book group selection!  If you have students reading it, please let me know and maybe we can chat about it virtually together!  It's a winner! It will bring anyone who reads it hope and JOY!

The book paired perfectly with my cup of joe yesterday morning.

PS-Look! Another Junior Library Guild selection! If there is one vendor I feel most strongly about promoting, it is definitely them!  Save on collection development time, great customer service and excellent book selections!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Filling in a couple of other book club pictures...Book Scavenger, Unusual Chickens and Roller Girl

I realized that I just posted about tonight's book group without sharing anything about the other three. The summer has gotten away from me.  Remember my blog from this morning?  I wanted to cross BLOG off my list.  That sharpie is out to put that big, black line through the word, "BLOG." But right now I am just procrastinating doing anything else.  At least this is a productive way to procrastinate.

Some of my students had this to say about, Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones:

4 1/2 * I like that she writes letters as the text.  
I also like that she finds more chickens as the book goes on.

4* It's funny, sad and an interesting writing form.

4* Funny book and sometimes sad and mysterious

4* Funny, sad and weird.

5* This book was great! 
It was mysterious, interesting, funny and sad.

We had a great time at Starbucks in East Greenbush (except for the fact that I spilled some hot chocolate!)

Can you believe this is a summer book club?  These kids are awesome!

Look how serious they are!

And the obligatory LEAP!

A week later we met at 16 Handles for our Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson book club meeting.
We talked about what our roller derby names might be.  Here are a few the students came up with:







I love these!  The kids loved the book. They thought it was funny and sad. One said she "liked the book and would read it a lot." Most of the ratings were 5*!

Frozen yogurt with a side of Roller Girl. Yum!

The rain stopped so we could jump!

I can't seem to find the reviews for Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman but know that the kids loved that book, too!  They loved the mystery!

What a summer filled with great reading!  I am looking forward to a fall filled with just as many good books!