Sunday, October 22, 2017

Reflections on my week

It's Sunday night and I'm reflecting on the past week.  A lot happened.  "Good stuff," as my principal likes to say at faculty meetings, and just one disappointment.

I almost finalized my Newbery list for my fifth graders.

We start on November 13.  There are so many good ones out there. I hope I have included them all! What are your favorites?

I got published in an Australian journal.

This was super cool.  An AUSTRALIAN journal! For school librarians!  The publications editor of the Western Australia School Library Association read one of my blog posts and asked me to make it publishable and I did! I received my digital copy earlier this week.  I'm still smiling about this!

We made lemonade in the library.

Mrs. Kosinski and I have been planning this lemonade "event" for weeks.  I just never realized how much fun it would be! I read My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon to her first graders.  In the book, Little Duck, Big Duck and Porcupine build a lemonade stand.  No stand needed in our library--we just rolled, squeezed, added water, ice, poured and toasted to each other. Delicious!

Mrs. Kosinski made this montage of our activity from start to finish.

I did not get accepted into the Bill Morris Seminar.

Remember my post on procrastination?  Maybe leaving things to the last minute was not in my best interest this time. Of course, I was disappointed. This just wasn't my year.  Could 2020 be the one? I want to get more involved in ALSC, even though I already have so much already going on at the local and state levels.

I collaborated with a third grade teacher and our education technologist.

Watching the Ada Lovelace video on Brainpop
I love the triple collaboration threat--I read Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley and illustrated by Jessie Hartland to Mrs. Yager's class.  Then Mr. Ryan showed us all how to create accounts on Brainpop. Students watched the Ada Lovelace video, took the quiz and created a map based on the video. Mrs. Yager also reinforced the message back in the classroom, too. Look! We're doing STEAM!

I collaborated with Special Areas so our Grades 3-5 students can participate in a PE poster contest.

All students worked on posters on Thursday and Friday during PE/Music to be entered in the  NYS AHPERD poster contest: Physical Activity=Happy and Healthy Students.  We will choose the top five from each grade to send on to the contest.  Good luck, friends!

I observed (and participated with) Mr. Reischer reading Her Right Foot to every fifth grader. 

If you haven't seen this book yet, get it.  It is gorgeous with a great message.  It's sparked some great discussions on immigration and our own family stories.  So pertinent for our times. Plus, I believe it could get a nod for Caldecott, Newbery and Sibert.

We made graphs in kindergarten.

For the past three weeks, I have been with Mrs. Cook's kindergartners  every day.  We read and compared several different fairy tales and in our last week together.  Then, we voted and graphed our favorites. I kept telling them we were doing math together! It was great getting to know the kids.  I'm already thinking about what our next collaboration could be. Oh, curious what the winning favorite book was?  Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale and illustrated by Howard Fine.

I know I did more but these were my highlights. I'm looking forward to starting another exciting week in the library.  Who knows what we'll do or who will leap?

What I read this week and beyond

Last week I finished three VERY different books. 

With book birthdays and surprises out of the way, I had some time to do one of things I really love. Read.

Better Off UnDead

James Preller's newest middle grade novel, Better Off UnDead will be released to the world appropriately on Halloween. Right before 7th grade, Adrian was in an accident that, by some miracle, brings him back to life as a zombie. He and his group of friends ("We were an unusual group of misfits but it felt ok. We didn't belong anywhere except with each other.") end up fighting the Bork twins (hmm...sounds a little like some other brothers we know. Koch, perhaps?) who are out to get Adrian's secret to living. One part environmental message, one part "big brother is watching you" and a whole lot of figuring out middle school ("It was like there was a new book for kids my age, but no one had a copy of it.  We all had to make it up as we limped along.").  Fans of mystery, zombie humor, and just middle school friendships and relationships will all love this book. I can't wait to share it with my students!


At the same time I listened to Patina, Track 2 in Jason Reynolds's middle grade series about runners. Ghost left us off at a race and Patina picked up right after that. How could anyone not love Patty? This is her story racing to the finish line. She has a lot to run through but she is strong.  Along the way she realizes who she is, what family means, what it's like to fit in and not fit in and what identity means. Just as Ghost left us hanging at the end, so does Patina...Blah! But it's so good and I am already looking forward to Track 3.

BTW--Make sure you check out the October 30 issue of People Magazine!  Jason Reynolds is in it!

Dear Martin

I switched my whole workout routine for Dear Martin, the important debut YA novel by Nic Stone. This book just came out on Tuesday.  I had a netgalley copy and then I purchased the hardcover on Wednesday.  I can't read and run on the treadmill at the same time so there I was, two nights in a row, on the stationary bike. I worked up a sweat but I don't think as much as if I had been running.  But it was worth it.  A car with the windows down with music blaring pulled up to me at a light this afternoon and I couldn't help but think of Justyce and Manny.  There is some heavy duty stuff in this book but it is another "must read" that ties in Martin Luther King, Jr. with today.  What would Martin think of everything that is going on the world today? What would he say? Could he help us cope?

ps-Local folks:  Nic is coming to Albany on December 7 through the Writer's Institute. I'll be there for sure!

What am I reading this week?

Finally, after weeks and weeks--All exaggerations aside, I put this book on hold in July--I finally hit #1 on the audiobook for Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson. Woah.

When an infant is killed back while in the care of 9 year old Mary and her mother, Mary is convicted of the crime. Allegedly. This is her story now as a teenager. My heart is racing just thinking about the book and I'm only on Chapter 3.  I imagine this will be one of those weeks that my runs will be long, my bathroom will sparkle, my kitchen floors will shine, my laundry will be folded very precisely and, as just happened right now, I will drive under the speed limit and not pass at the broken line because I can't concentrate on anything else but Mary's words.

I am also planning on reading and finishing The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez.  I'm attending the Bank Street Book Fest on Saturday (can't wait!) and will be participating in a small group discussion, "Noisy Roosters and Hungry Chupacabras: What’s New in Latinx Kid Lit" in which this book is one of them.

Here's a great interview from last month on NPR:

So now I am off to do my chores.  Please don't bother me, I'm listening...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Surprise for 400+

Last Tuesday we threw a surprise party for way over 400 people! If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know I love surprises more than anything and the idea of surprising this many was such a thrill.

Chris Grabenstein wanted to come to Castleton on the book birthday of Mr. Lemoncello's Great Library Race.  Not only that, the movie was premiering the night before on Nickelodeon and Chris wanted to be here to watch it with some kids.

Hmmm...So Chris has been to Castleton a few times already.  How do we make this visit special and memorable? I know! We surprise EVERYONE! Not just the students, but the faculty, too! AND...we try and raise enough money from the community so that EVERY student could get a signed copy of the book. 

And that we did!

A shocked Connor!

How were we going to figure out the movie part? Well, we held a video contest that we opened up to the whole district, K-12. Contestants ended up being from grades 3-7.  Winners were chosen by Chris and invited to a special surprise dinner hosted by him at Dlish restaurant. If that isn't an awesome prize for a fan, I don't know what is!
Speaking of movie--Chris with "Mr. Lemoncello!"
All contestants were invited to a viewing party back at school. They thought they were just coming to watch the movie with friends.  They had no idea that Chris would show up!

Chris during a commercial break with his fans!

We all cheered when we saw this!

Chris snuck out right after the movie ended to "catch the next train back to NYC".  Little did anyone know that the last train to NYC had left a couple of hours before!  He went back to his hotel only to tiptoe into our gym, coffee in hand, at 7:25 the next morning.

Then we started the assembly.  Business went as usual. We announced the boxtops winners of the month. We watched the winning videos.  We sang "Happy Book Birthday" to the book on Chris's voice mail. Mr. Reischer's class put on a skit about Chris and the birthday, and still no one knew Chris would show up! And then he did...AND everyone got a book!

Check out Chris's Lemoncello shoes! 
Oops! We learned this red carpet should have been orange for Nickelodeon!

Thanks for everything, Chris, even the leaps!

ps-A few people were in on the secret (truly, not many).  None of this could have happened without the extraordinary, Brenda Kelliher, fifth grade math teacher.  Her creativity, dedication, seeing the big picture and attention to details are all amazing.  She rocks!

Photos compliments of Jason McCord, Mrs. Kosinski, Mrs. Yager and my daughter, Tari.
See more from Mr. McCord here.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

So B. It or Bust!

Two years ago I had a small fifth grade So B. It (by Sarah Weeks) book group in preparation for Sarah's visit to our school.  We were reading the end aloud together and Landon and I started crying. I clearly remember asking the kid sitting next to me to switch seats with Landon so we could have our emotional moment side by side.  The movie would be coming out eventually and Landon and I promised each other that we would see it together.  I had no idea that moment would be last night in New York City.

Castleton is a small town just outside of Albany. We have less than 900 students in our entire school district. But a small school does not equate anything when it comes to our fan love for Sarah Weeks.  So there we were six dedicated fans--along with Landon and I came Mrs. Kelliher, her son, Colin, Mrs. Warland and granddaughter and former student of mine, Emma-- piled into my van to drive the 150 miles to the premiere on 34th Street. We are SERIOUS fans:  audio book playing in the car, copies of the book in our bags AND a So B. It tied around Landon's neck and his brother's Honey (another Sarah novel) tie around Colin's.

I won't go into details how I thought the theatre was on the east side and we had to literally RUN across town to make it on time (we did), even with a couple of minutes to spare to leap with Sarah before the movie. Or how Mrs. Warland, speed walking through Times Square, nearly knocked a woman down and didn't make her too happy 😟 And then how we couldn't find the parking garage and if we had just listened to the kids we wouldn't have had a "Groundhog Day" moment at Grand Central Station. It was all good and added to our memorable evening.

Usually not a fan of movies made from books, but I loved this one.  I'm sure part of the reason, and we found out from the panel afterward, was that Sarah collaborated with screenwriter, Garry Williams on the script every step of the way and it was such a wonderful experience for all.  I believe it was Garry who said last night that he kept waiting to wake up from his dream and after a few weeks realized he actually was awake.
The Castleton kids with Sarah, her son, Nat, and star, Dash Mihok

The young actress, Talitha Bateman, gave a stunning performance in the film.  She was believable as Heidi and got us all weeping at the end.  Since Sarah got the most applause when introduced on the panel, my guess is most of the audience had read the book at least once and yet we were all sniffling.

It was wonderful to sit with Landon and whisper "I remember that from the book" or "That wasn't in the book."  Whatever was changed or deleted to make Sarah's six hour book become an hour and 40 minute film worked for all of us.

Landon's tie was a huge hit of the evening! Everyone needs one of those, right?

The Castleton crew at the NYC premiere!

I pulled into my garage at 3:00 am.  It was worth every minute and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Read the book, find the movie (fingers crossed it's closer to you than it was for us and if it's not, try and get it closer) and then hang tight because Sarah's sequel to the book is coming out next Fall! #SOOF

Our souvenir of the evening (besides our fond memories), a SOOF bracelet

PS--Here's the movie trailer:

Monday, October 2, 2017

The War I Finally Won

I literally cried myself to sleep last night.  Not just a weep, an all out bawl. You know, the kind you can't breathe, you almost can't move. My husband woke up.  He tried to console me. I don't even want to know what time it was--way after midnight.

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley has done it again.  Another masterpiece.  If you thought she deserved gold in 2016, that's totally ok now because this book, if you can imagine, is even better. She was distinguished then; she is a complete 100% master now.

I wanted to just soak this book in and that I did.  By doing so meant that I didn't take notes and I didn't have a pile of sticky notes by my side.  You must believe me when I tell you this, the words are beautiful, the plot is strong, and the themes play out even more this time around.

As the War played a role in the first book, this time it becomes another character. The book takes place right after the first book ends.  With no place to live, Susan, Ada and Jamie move into the Thorntons' gamekeeper's cottage.  Then, because of reasons related to the war, Lady Thornton must move in with them, along with Ruth, a German Jew. As challenging as all this sounds, Bradley makes this not only a story of what is lost in war but what can be gained. So much: Love, family, friendship, courage, forgiveness.

Of course, the question is, "Can it stand alone?"  Definitely.  But it would be read so much more deeply if you had the background knowledge of how horrible Mam was, what it was like to live imprisoned in Mam's world, how Ada and Jamie got to the country and met Susan, Ada's life with her clubfoot, Ada's relationship with her horse, Butter...and yet, if you haven't read the first book and want to dive right into this one, you can.  Bradley does such a phenomenal job picking the reader up from where she left off and filling in the blanks if it is read as a stand alone.  In fact, my friend who gave me the arc didn't even know it was a sequel until during or after she read it and still thoroughly enjoyed it.

The War that Saved My Life has been one of my go-to books for recommendations. My mom read it. My mom's friends. My adult cousins.  Mrs. Warland's book group. Grandma Dottie. My 10 year old niece. They all loved it and wouldn't stop talking about it.  I cannot wait to pass The War I Finally Won on to them all and then some. I cannot wait to read it with my students. I cannot wait for you to read it as well.

Yesterday I went to a Newbery-Caldecott prize prediction party. Since this book isn't released yet (comes out tomorrow, October 3), it hadn't received much buzz.  Please, if you were there and are reading this, The War I Finally Won is at the top of my list.  Fortunately for Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, I don't take off points for lost sleep and wailing that wakes my family.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Forever Banned

Today marks the beginning of banned book week.  Do you remember the first banned book you read? Where you read it? I do.

Well, I take that back.  I remember the first book I was banned from and where I subsequently ended up reading it.

It's the early 80s and I was a huge Judy Blume fan. Everything she wrote about I could relate to--divorce, being Jewish, the friendships, the families, intermarriage, coming of age...everything really except the suburbia and boy did I want to live in the suburbs back then. Having gotten through all her early middle grade/upper elementary books, I thought I was ready for Forever.
Mom disagreed.  I just had to read it.  So where did I go? If Mom wasn't going to easily put it in my hands as she did every other book then the library was the next logical stop.

Enter the Briarwood branch of the Queens Public Library.  I can still see it so vividly.  Walk in the doors and go straight back to the Children's Section. Since we had a set of Encyclopedia Britannica at home circa 1967, I fell in love with the World Book Encyclopedia at the library.  It was so much more accessible!

Walk in and turn immediately to your right. And there it was--one tall bookcase of Young Adult literature screaming my name.  I remember taking Forever off the shelf (a very beat up paperback), sliding my back down the wall slowly for effect, ending in "criss cross applesause" (we called it something different back then) and diving in head first.

I didn't finish the book the first day so I memorized my page and came back to it the next time I could get to the library. I was meeting up with a "friend" and it felt sinfully good. I never told my Mom and I could see why she wanted me to wait to read it. But we all know. Once you tell a kid they can't do something, they are surely going to find a way to do it. And that I did.

I cannot tell you if the book was banned or censored in my public school. At the time it was just banned from my eyes.  But there it was at the library calling my name.  I was free to read it--just off the Van Wyck Expressway--to escape once again to the suburbs and young teenage love. Thank you, Queens Public Library and thank you, Judy Blume.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A-S-D-F Tap-Tap-Tap

Here's an odd question:  Do future ready libraries loan out typewriters? Should we?

Last night, the whole family, including my 11 year old who wasn't thrilled about it, went to see the new documentary, California Typewriter.

California Typewriter Trailer from American Buffalo on Vimeo.

Oh how I wish I could be typing this on a typewriter right now.  It feels weirdly strange to be "blogging on a computer" and writing about typewriters. It's been awhile since we've been to a movie that had us engaged in conversation and reflection the whole car ride home and then some.  We were still talking about it today.  See, right there I just deleted some words or letters because I changed my thoughts and yet, I wouldn't be able to do that on a typewriter.  There.  I did it again.  Those thoughts are gone permanently.  Yet, on the typewriter I could xxx them out but you would still see my mistakes.  It's a fascinating concept.  John Mayer was great at expressing that whole idea in his segment of the film.

Do you remember your first typewriter?  I don't necessarily remember my first but I do remember my Mom telling me that once I passed my typing class in high school, I would be allowed to use her electric typewriter.  That was a huge deal. Until then, it was all manual.  And right at this moment, I wish I could go back to the tap-tapping of that first typewriter.

My step-dad has a bunch of typewriters in his basement.  I'm going to make it my mission to check them out.  How fun would it be to have one in the library? Put aside the technology for a bit. So what if the Internet goes out?  If I could find a couple of rotary phones, too, and we'd be in business. (No joke--we got a new phone system at school this summer and it is connected to our computers so when the Internet goes out, we have no phones.)

Then there is Jeremy Mayer.  He is an artist that "destroys typewriters" and uses their parts to create sculptures. Talk about a Makerspace idea...

"I love typewriters, even though I love them inside out."-Jeremy Mayer

We may think of future ready as moving forward into the 21st century.  But maybe we need to look at it from a different angle. What objects from the classic "Carousel of Progress" GE ride at Disney World can we reunite with, revisit or even repurpose? The typewriter, says Jeremy Mayer in his TedTalk "reminds us of our past and maybe something we should retain for our future and it shows us who we've been and what we are now." What other objects out there can make us future ready while preserving the past?


I just had to get my hands on a typewritten letter today so I took a voyage into my attic.  The first box of treasures I came to was from college.  It didn't take me long to find a couple of typewritten letters, one from a friend and one from my Mom.  Only after watching the film do I realize how special these are.  I tried to highlight where both authors mentioned typing pretty early on in their prose.

 I love how my mom thinks she has a "great advertisement for a computer/word processor"!

Here Chris mentions how people "have expressed dissatisfaction with my typewritten letters."  Yet, in the film Tom Hanks expresses how if someone thanks him with an email it is automatically deleted. If they send him a typewritten note, it is so much more meaningful.  Future ready library, do you have a typewriter for me to borrow so I can write a personal letter to Tom?

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Procrastination is my game

A long time ago a friend of mine gave me a card.  The quote on it is my daily motto (so much so that I mentioned it in my speech to my daughter at her Bat Mitzvah).  It defines me in every sense of the way:

If you leave things to the last minute, they only take a minute to do.

Even when I swear I am "not going to procrastinate THIS time" I still manage to do it.  In fact, as I type, I should be showering and getting ready for school.  I should be eating breakfast.  I should be AT school.  But, alas I am not. It will all get done, just in a quicker fashion. Sometimes I am "fashionably late" but, honestly, never to school.

Last night (the night before the due date, mind you) I submitted my application for the Bill Morris Seminar.  The funny thing is that I knew I was going to apply months ago and the woman who wrote a reference on my behalf sent it to me hours after I asked her.  I didn't do it all summer long, even though I could.
I even wrote on all my notes and lists that it was due September 1 (really September 14) but I thought I could psych myself out to get it completed ahead of the night before.  But alas, I still waited to get it done two weeks past "my deadline", yet on time.

Fast Forward to this evening...

Now it is 5:49 pm.  There's dinner to make.  A book to read.  Emails to respond to.  Laundry to fold. Bills to pay. Classes to plan. The Sunday NYT to finish.  And yet I am sitting here re-listening to the Ted Radio Hour.  Tim Urban seems so comfortable with his procrastination.  It slows him down.  It sounds healthy.  For me, I just do all these other things instead and then get more stressed out. And yet, I never change. But maybe I can try and look at things differently.  Being in control of my procrastination could actually have a positive effect on my health.

"Be in control and to know that it is smart to slow down and to do that 
in a controlled, intentional way."-Tim Urban.

Adam Grant's excerpt also fascinated me. How creative are pre-crastinators, procrastinators and chronic procrastinators? Since I actually thought about the Bill Morris Seminar application all summer long, I'd like to think I'm not a chronic procrastinator (one who truly leaves things to the very last minute) and have a little bit more of that extra creativity in my blood than those pre-crastinators.

My list keeps getting longer and longer.  I've got lots of new exciting projects on the fire that I need to dedicate some serious time to.  Will I?  Eventually.  Will the projects be awesome?  You bet.  I promise not to chronically leave things to the last minute but will wait enough time (not really by choice) to spark that creativity for the benefit of all my students.

Fast forward again to late evening...

Some of my best projects have been planned the day before.  The teacher and I will sit down and within the short amount of time we have, a lightbulb will go off and we got it.  This happened a couple of times just this week and countless times over the years, including the original idea for our annual gala. Just think of all the hours we saved--
If you leave things to the last minute, they only take a minute to do. 

Now go procrastinate, take advantage of all that extra time you have and then CREATE!

ps-My glasses are Warby Parker.  Coincidence? Doubtful.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

BreakoutEDU? The Reviews are POSITIVE!

Yesterday was a great day.  So great that I couldn't sleep last night (hence the pre-5:00 AM get-out-of-bed) thinking about what today might bring.

In between raindrops, I took a leap outside with a first grade class in front of the tree
that was planted by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation in 2013 in honor of my daughter winning a statewide poster contest.  Every 6th of the month this class and I will go outside and leap. It will be great to see the changes on the ground, on the tree and the faces of these adorable students.

But I think what I really wanted to share was how me, this inexperienced #BreakoutEDU librarian, managed to pull off a successful (I'm not making that up--ask the kids) "mystery bag" activity in the library with 62 fifth graders.

We began whole group in our Common Area outside the library.

I asked the kids if any of them have ever done the Mystery Room before at the mall.  Many have wanted to, but never did, because "it was too expensive."  "Well, guess what, " I said. "You can do it here with me and it's FREE!"  I know they didn't expect it to be as fun as it was and would be rating it a "10" at the end and yet they did!

One advantage of knowing the kids is that I was able to pre-assign groups without a problem.  I had 13 teams of 4-5 kids.  They had 30 minutes to answer four clues and break into their double locked bags.  The clues were fairly straight forward--go onto Destiny Quest and use keywords from my clues to get a call number for a book.

Find the book on the shelf and move on to the next clue.  Kids forgot where chapter books were located.  They didn't write down full call numbers for the Dewey books.  It was a good review of the library. Finally, with a little addition or subtraction, the call number on the Dewey Section book would give the combination.  With only seconds to spare, every group "broke out."

Feedback when we got together as whole group? "That was fun!" "It was awesome!"  Most of the ratings were a 10, with nothing lower than a 7. They liked finding the clues and working as a team. Oh yeah, and they did like the candy in the bags, too. :-) I couldn't have said it better, though--AND the teachers thought it went well, too! One teacher even said it would be "Lemoncello Approved!" I'd say success!

What's up with the Popcorn Bags?

This is my attempt this year to save some books from being damaged in the backpacks by either water or just shoving books inside in between one another. Every student in my building is going to get one and I'm instructing them to keep the bag INSIDE the backpack and just take library books inside and out of the bags. We'll see how it goes.  I've had too many water bottle, sunscreen, yogurt incidences over the years that I thought I would try something.

Examples of some of my clues:

So I'm definitely not an expert, but I have to say if you are considering doing something like this--take the leap and do it! It is worth it! And if I can do it, you can do it!  I bought all the supplies myself at the Dollar Store and used Aldi bags so it cost me less than $30.  The bags worked great! I'm going to try it again with fourth graders tomorrow! Stay tuned!