Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A couple of days of Sarah Weeks!

I am embarrassed to say that I had not read Sarah Weeks's  So B. It until yesterday.  But you know what, I'm ok with that.  I was in the right place (my cozy bed) and I just sunk into my pillows and soaked it all in.  Now I cannot wait till the movie! "Save me a seat" now! (all puns intended of course!)

Sarah has an incredible way of developing her characters.  I love them all.  One of my all time favorite kids is her Oggie Cooder and So B. It's Heidi, Mama and Bernie are no exception to people you just want to invite over for dinner. So B. It, a book about family, home, love and even friends who share devil dogs.  Why do we always have that need, longing or at least strong desire to find out where we came from, so much so that it may take us thousands of miles from home to try and find out?

Before you see Hollywood's take on this book, make sure you read it first to form your own visions of Heidi, the adjoining apartment with Bernie, Mama's tea, the cross country Greyhound trip, Roy and Ruby's home, Elliot and Hilltop.  My big question of the day--Will Liberty, NY look like Liberty, NY?  I will know since that's where my father was born and raised.  I'm tasting those 1970s Katz's brownies right now...Yum. They'd tasty especially delicious with a side of 1527 jelly beans.

Today my son and I drove to New Jersey to meet his best friend from sleep away camp.  We downloaded Jumping the Scratch, a perfect book for us to listen to on our 4-hour round trip road trip. Very Sarah Weeks--intense, mysterious and great characters.  There was even a part where I was on the edge of my seat, hanging onto the steering wheel where my heart was beating faster than ever.  After reading this book, I won't look at a can of cherries or a gravy boat the same again.  Next Sarah Weeks book on my list: As Simple as it Seems.

And did you know, you will soon be able to get a copy of Oggie Cooder again?  I'm so excited by this because I don't actually own a copy!  I believe it will be released in January, Oggie Cooder and Oggie Cooder Party Animal together in one book called, Cheese.  Yay!  Upper elementary kids will be breaking out the American cheese again to start working on their charving skills.  I love it!

Sunday, December 27, 2015


What did you do last night?  I had a date that I have been putting off for a few weeks and am glad it finally happened.  Kwame Alexander's Booked (release date April 2016) and I finally got together and it felt like I scored a homerun, well at least a goal or simply blackjack with a side of a red velvet cupcake.

Once I started to put sticky notes on poems that really spoke to me I realized I would run out of them quickly and had to dog ear some pages (shh! please don't tell my students!).  Note to self: When Kwame writes a book, make sure you have a brand new pack of sticky notes closeby.  He has done it again. Now I wonder what countries (or states or towns) I will be leaping in with a copy of the book in my hand and completely embarrassing my daughter (or son) to take pictures of me with it. (see my post about Europe and The Crossover).

Limerence.  The secret special word that I now know the definition of (and how to spell) and you will, too, once you have your date.  That was an "aha" "finally" moment for sure.  Note to you: That page got a starred sticky note. Other favorite poems that got an extra star on their sticky note for you to hunt for:  Dear Skip, Books You Find on Google and What happens to a dream destroyed?

Back to limerence, I fell for Nick immediately and so will you.  Not only did I fall for Nick, but all of them: his best friend, Coby, his crush, April, Mom and Dad (sort of), his English teacher, Ms. Hartwick and of course, the super cool librarian, Mac.

Thank you, Kwame, for writing another winner filled with more favorite poems (too many to count), characters I love and ones I aspire to be more like (Even though I already wear Chuck Taylors, I have to work on my bowling game and I do need to get some more dragonfly "stuff" for my library.)

Once you get your hands on this book make a plan to kick off your cleats, escape to a Dragonfly Cafe equipped with a rappin' librarian and enjoy this next winner from Kwame.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bet you didn't know that first graders could DEBATE!

Every year for our Newbery project we conclude with debates.  Since the first year this has been a highlight. The kids get really into it and enjoy the arguing for their book and against their opponent's book.  So it just felt natural to think that we would conclude our Geisel project with debates as well. One of the fifth grade teachers said to me the other day, "Debates with first graders?!" So I lost a little confidence but not too much and boy am I glad about that!  The debates happened today and they were AWESOME!

Round 1: That's (Not) Mine vs. Ballet Cat

Things were going so well we invited a fifth grade class to join us.  It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop!

The final round!  What this Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig vs. I Yam a Donkey

Our 2016 Geisel Winners via Debates:

2016 Winner
I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell

2016 Honor
What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig 
by Emma Virjan

 The completed brackets


A wonderful, successful activity!  So excited for January 11 to find out what the other Committee decides on!

We've Come to a Newbery Consensus

This afternoon from 2:30-4:30, 15 students and 3 adults sat in a circle attempting to come to a consensus about which book should win the 2016 Newbery Award and which, if any, should get honors. We had never done this before and had no idea how it was all going to turn out.  Would we be twiddling our thumbs by 3:00?  Would we need more time? Who knew? We probably could have used another half hour or so.  We did, however, manage to come to a consensus.  The "Starbucks" helped along with the pile of sweets.  Isn't that what they will have the weekend of January 8-10 in Boston this year?  Now we are totally DYING to know what they decide!

Private meeting.  No one disturbed us for 2 hours.
Cupcake in the ice cream cone

 Does this look like the real committee or what?  I went to Starbucks yesterday and asked for the red cups.
I brought in hot cocoa mix and voila! We are the authentic committee!
 Check out the SmartBoard.  We used images of the covers of the book to guide us.  Once a book was eliminated we deleted the image.  We started off with 30 books.  This is pretty early on since there are still 22 books up there.
 Busy at work discussing good books!

 Could we have any more snacks?!

Hot cocoa with a glimpse of someone's list.  

At the "midnight hour" this is what we came up with:

2016 Newbery Gold
The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

2016 Newbery Honors
Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan
The Marvels by Brian Selznick

The Two Hold Outs
Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff*
Winne: The True Story of the Real Bear that Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally Walker**

*This is where we got a glimpse of how challenging it must be to come to a consensus.  One boy really felt strongly about Lost in the Sun.  He was not going to budge.  We could see him getting emotional.  He was attached to that book, and that was perfectly ok, except that we ran out of time.  So, we kept it on the table.  

**Another student said "Winnie is such a sweet story" and it deserved to win.  No budging there, as much as we tried and again, we had to leave.  My prediction?  Maybe we would have been swayed to include Lost in the Sun as another honor but I don't think Winnie would have made the cut.  Perhaps it will get a Sibert and we will all be happy.

I'm pleased!  A great experience with a great outcome!  Looking forward to our debates beginning on January 4, and of course, the true reveal on January 11.  Happy Reading!