Saturday, December 30, 2017

My Favorite Latino Book People of 2017

I was driving around the other day and got excited when this came on NPR:

I completely agree that "2017 was a great year for Latino culture and the arts." I'm just disappointed that not one reference to poetry or prose by Latino writers or illustrators was mentioned. So here's my own personal addendum to the story.  

Picture Books 

I love anything that Carmen Agra Deedy writes and says.  If you ever have the opportunity to hear her speak, drop everything and go.  She will make you laugh and cry and laugh again.  Then you will cry because it's over.  I was fortunate enough to see her twice in 2017--once at the TLA conference in San Antonio in April and then in October at the Bank Street Book Festival in NYC.  Both times wonderful.  I love The Rooster Who Wouldn't be Quiet.  It has a great message and is a fun read aloud.  Mrs. Yager's third graders even performed it at our November assembly.

My fifth grade Reading Ambassadors loved The Chupacabra Ate the Candlelebra written by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Ana Aranda.  A fun story with vibrant illustrations that light up the page.  We all love the funny and unpredictable ending.  

Everyone is talking (including me) about Margarita Engle's poetry anthology, Bravo! Poems about Amazing Hispanics, beautifully illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  I referenced the book and shared the poem on Pura Belpre when teaching about the award named after her.

I was introduced to author poet Emma Otheguy at the Bank Street Book Festival when I attended her Latinx literature book group.  Her gorgeous English and Spanish biography in verse on Jose Marti, Marti's Song for Freedom, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal, is a must for all collections in all buildings.  

One of my second graders in my Mock Caldecott class pretty strongly shared that All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Mike Curato is his top pick for Caldecott so far.  Enough said.

Middle Grade

Mr. Reischer and his book group
I absolutely LOVE The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez.  Malu is full of the spunk that I wish I had when I was 12 and she is way cooler than I ever will be.  I'm going to recommend this book to everyone beginning from strong readers in third grade through middle school. If it's up to me we'll all be singing Ramones alongside Lola Beltran.

There hasn't been much buzz around My Brigadista Year, Katherine Paterson's latest, but I enjoyed it. It's the 1960s and brave young Lora leaves her family in Havana for a year to teach folks in the country how to read.  Seems simple, but Lora learns so much from her year away from home.

If you read my blog, you already know that I love Ruth Behar and her middle grade debut, Lucky Broken Girl.

Grab your apron and your poetry pen before you begin reading The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya. Right after I read it I wrote in my notes, "Pick up this epically awesome MG novel about family, love and the courage to speak your mind."

Young Adult

In September I read Benjamin Alire Saenz's The Inexplicable Logic of My Life and fell hard for the characters and Saenz.  I literally could not put it down.  Brushed my teeth with it, listened to the audio everywhere, and read past midnight many nights. It's not a short book but I got it finished in only a few days and that's with being swamped at work.

One of the last books I read this year was I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez.  The first line has you hooked, "What surprised me most about seeing my sister dead is the lingering smirk on her face." It made me cry, laugh ("You think you're all grow up.  You're only fifteen.  You don't even know how to make a tortilla...", smile (boyfriend Connor), hold my breath...I don't know if it was because I am a parent of a fifteen year old myself, Jewish (there are so many similarities in cultures), a good story with a strong heroine or a combination but this was an all around winner in my book. 

I also really loved Adam Silvera's They Both Die in the End. I kept hoping throughout the whole book that for once Death-Cast would be wrong.  "Life isn't meant to be lived alone.  Neither are End Days."

May your loved ones, friends, colleagues, students and beloved characters keep you from being alone in 2018.  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 22, 2017

I Love You Like a...AND PIZZA!

Sometimes I feel like this could be a first grade musings blog but then I turn around and write extensively about a project with fifth, third, second, it really is all encompassing.  Yet today it is all about the six year olds.

I Love You Like a Pig

Last week I read I Love You Like a Pig with words by Mac Barnett and art by Greg Pizzoli.  Then we attempted to write similes with first graders.  A bit of a challenge but we did it.  The classroom teacher and I already have a list going of things to change should we do it again next year.  We made our own book and dedicated it to a friend who moved to another school last Friday.  Check out our book here:

Read more publications on Calaméo

Ninja in the Kitchen

This week we donned our aprons and chef hats and made the trek into the bowels of our building to the old faculty room.  There we rolled out pizza dough, spread the sauce, added pepperoni and cheese and watched our creations bake in the ancient oven.  The smell wafted through our building and once again, success! Thanks to Luke Flowers and his Moby for the inspiration. The kids also read Michael Garland's Pizza Mouse to themselves while we waited for the pizza to bake.  Hiyah! It was a delicious batch of fun!

ps-Do you spy one of the students wearing my Lunch Lady apron?!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The week BEFORE the last week of school

A new school week is about to begin.
Antsy kids (and teachers) ready for break to begin.

As far as the week that just passed, I want to share three highlights with you:

Phone a Friend

If you read no further, please check this out. OMG! Kwame Alexander called me for his finale of his Facebook show, #Bookish! I was SO NERVOUS!  I don't even think I sounded coherent or intelligent.  Let's just say thank goodness for the editor!  Kwame wanted me to recommend one book for lower elementary.  One book?!  The pressure to pick just ONE book.  Well, I picked Debbi Michiko Florence's Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen*.  I think this is a great chapter book for beginner readers.  I read it aloud to the first graders and we were on the edge of our seats at the end of every chapter.

Then, Friday Kwame was on NPR.  You, too, can get in on the poetry...

Oh, for the love of reading

We are nearing the end of our Newbery book groups.  What a success! We had 16 groups lead by many different people including a recess monitor, principal, assistant superintendent, PE teacher, library volunteer and a secretary. End of book parties began happening including my own with cream puffs, homemade salsa and guacamole with my Lucky Broken Girl kids.

Then Mrs. Kelliher, our fifth grade math teacher, started a group with Someday Birds.  We showed the trailer (included at the end of the blog) and kids put their name in a hat to be picked for this Tuesday/Thursday lunch group.  Only six got in, but one bought the book with his own money so he could join, too.

I got this email at about 8pm one night from our Special Ed teacher:

So I approached her about leading a group after school.  Again we showed the book trailer (also at the end of this post) and this time so many kids wanted to sign up that we ended up writing down the kids who didn't. Kids were asking when they were going to find out and you would have thought we were announcing the lottery winners when we told them who got in. Oh, for the love of reading and the power of the Newbery project.

I Love You Like a Pig

Mrs. Kosinski's first graders are coming up about once a week now to read a book and then do an activity related to the book.  We're calling it #ReadItMakeItTakeIt. It's been great--we've tied shoe laces, sewed buttons, made mochi (*see above under "Phone a Friend) and on Friday we made a special book for a friend that is moving to another district.  We read Mac Barnett and Greg Pizzoli's I Love You Like a Pig and then wrote our own similes for people we love. Tomorrow I will upload them into Calameo and everyone will be sent the digital copy.  The book will be dedicated to Eva. We are so sorry she is moving.  We love her like a juicy strawberry in June.

Mr. Slim Goodbody

I almost forgot we had an assembly on Friday that I highly recommend. Mr. Slim Goodbody kept students from K-5 AND adults entertained for over an hour!  I'm not sure who else could do that.  Kwame, maybe?  We were all laughing, attentive, was great.  Kudos to the PE Department (my mentee included!) and the PTO for inviting him to CES. Here's the link to the website for the information on the assemblies.  Of course, I took a leap with him.

Now on to this week.  I can only dream about what's in store...

Book Trailers

Friday, December 8, 2017

My own personal twin day

This day started out pretty darn good and I couldn't stop smiling ALL. DAY. LONG.  Thank you, Alexis.

If I didn't know already (even though I think I kind of did) after today, I am pretty sure I was meant to teach in an elementary school.  How did I come to this conclusion?  If I, a woman in her late 40s, owns the same leggings as a five year old adorable kindergartener, then I was meant to be her librarian!

A couple of weeks ago I was in Alexis's class and noticed her leggings. "OMG! I have the same ones!" I dropped everything and emailed her mom.

Today was THE DAY!  It finally came! I couldn't sleep for 10 days!  Perhaps I will sleep tonight.

Anyway, when Alexis entered the library and they could hear me screaming down the hall (and I have soundproof walls).   Oops!  Thankfully, I don't think it travelled downstairs to the principal's office. 

So I twinned with this shy, sweet, always smiling girl today.  A huge reason to celebrate and leap! What was your reason to leap today?

We had to pose with a couple of my favorite books!

And of course, the leap!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Martina and Chrissie

 I had all intentions of writing about something else tonight but then Chris Evert, THE CHRIS EVERT, commented on one of my tweets from earlier today. What?!  That's just too cool! And of course, it all began with a book.

Every Monday, Mrs. Yager's third graders eagerly enter the library for our "book of the week."  Many of the books have been nonfiction narratives about people the students would never normally meet: Ada Lovelace, James Van der Zee, Sophie Blanchard, Muddy Waters, Eugen Sandow...And today it was Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.


After I introduce our book of the week in the library, Mrs. Yager revisits it in the classroom and continues to work with it throughout the week.  All of these books increase our background knowledge and expose our students to other worlds and life stories.  The kids are going to know so much by the end of the year! We did coding in honor of Ada, hot air balloon facts and an experiment in the library for Sophie, photography for James, a fitness log for Sandow, etc.

Today's book was Martina and Chrissie (written by Phil Bildner and illustrated by Brett Helquist)

We talked tennis, rivalry, competition, perseverance, fitness, concentration and more. We watched the above trailer and some of the 1978 Wimbledon match (see below). The kids were fascinated by the tennis and fortunately, Mrs. Yager's husband plays so she knew the rules.  I'm not much of a tennis player and you definitely don't want me to keep score.

To me, the discussion on healthy rivalries was even more interesting since I just finished watching the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary on the Lakers and Celtics. (Yes, now I am a full fledged Lakers/Magic Johnson fan). There IS a 30 for 30 on these two amazing women (I would have been surprised if there wasn't).  I must get my hands on it. Pronto.  In the meantime, you really should read this book.  The writing is well done, almost poetic and the illustrations are impressive.  You could hear the "oohs and ahhhs" when I shared a full page spread or the close up of Martina.  The back matter includes a timeline and further sources. The book makes you want to know more about tennis and these amazing athletes. I look forward to sharing it with more classes, especially in January during our 4th grade Sibert Smackdown.

And I just have to say this: "The love we have for this book is infinitely farther from the love in the game of tennis." So true!

PS-Thanks for the tweet, Chris!  Made my day!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How to Be an Elephant

As Picture Book Month wraps up, I wanted to share another guest blog post by Leah and Izzy. If you have not seen or read this new book by Katherine Roy, you really need to.  It very well could medal Sibert and Caldecott.  It's gorgeous.  But enough from me, here is their review:

Have you ever wondered what elephants need to know to survive in the wild? In How To Be An Elephant: Growing up to be an Elephant in the African Wild by Katherine Roy, you learn everything you ever wanted to know about elephants from what an elephant needs to learn, to facts about the elephant family to how much space an elephant needs to live.

The illustrations are SPECTACULAR and detailed. Our favorite is the last page. All the illustrations are the best we have seen in our life. They all look realistic.  

“Every time I see an elephant on this page and all the pages, I just think about how elephants are my favorite animal.  I always liked them a lot but it kind of taught me more than I already knew.”-Leah

Reading the book makes learning about elephants fun. It teaches everyone about elephants. There are so many facts in the book that we didn’t know about elephants! Did you know herds only have female elephants (besides the young male elephants)? Also, did you know that young elephants use their trunks to smell things to figure out what they are because they don't have very good vision?

Want to learn more about elephants? If so then How To Be An Elephant is the perfect book for you!

Leah and Izzy chose to read this book to Mrs. Golden's first graders in honor of Picture Book Month. Here are a few extra facts they shared:
  1. Elephants need food to live. They eat many things. Their six sets of of molars help them chew food.
  2. The sound an elephant makes goes really far--2 - 6 miles!
  3. Elephants keep at the right temperature all the time. They use their ears to cool off and heat up.
  4. Elephants help change the land. They grow plants, strip bark and dig places for water.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Another step to being Future Ready? Collaborate with PE...

I dedicate this post to Dr. Jen Cannell, for without her nudge I never would have considered attending a PE conference be beneficial.

This year I am mentoring a PE teacher.  Seemed odd at first and honestly, I wasn't sure I was the best fit.  Library and PE?  How and what could I ever do to mentor him?  And yet, 10 weeks down, I think we make a pretty good pair.

Jen Cannell, my partner in our fondness of Texas, is now the School Library System Director for Capital Region BOCES.  Talking with her this summer, she told me that she was going to charge the librarians in her new region to attend a conference outside of the library world.  Even though she is no longer my system director, I took that to heart .  What could Eric and I do as a mentor/mentee team?  Of course! Attend the NYS AHPERD (Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) together! And last Thursday we did! If that isn't outside my discipline, I don't know what is!

The morning began with Dave Burgess, "Teach Like a Pirate."  Although he spoke faster than a leaping cheetah, I did get a few good ideas from him.

I walked in a tad late to my first workshop and nearly fainted.  One small group was talking about how they incorporate The Crossover in the health curriculum. Kwame is everywhere! But even though I have read that book many times, I never considered how it could be used outside of the library and ELA world.  Now my idea wheels are spinning almost as fast as Dave Burgess speaks!

The most beneficial workshop for me still has me thinking and brainstorming days afterwards.  It was called, "Research Partnerships in Physical Education: The Dos and Don'ts."  Although it was more about the research process, it got my gears going.  The presenters shared a study they conducted on integrating Common Core ELA Standards into a Middle School PE class. This is something teachers consider doing?! Although the results weren't earth shattering, the conversation is something we should all be thinking about as we move forward.  When Physical Education teachers integrate literacy in their class physical activity rates are impacted negatively.  I'm wasn't surprised so I spoke up.

"Hi! I'm a librarian." You could hear the gasps in the room.  Then I continued, "We don't want you to decrease your levels of physical activity at all.  I love that you want to integrate literacy with PE but it doesn't have to happen in the gym.  Have a conversation with your ELA teachers and librarians. Let's ALL collaborate!  If we read a book in the library and then you incorporate skills and themes from that book in your class, it's a win-win..." I went on and they agreed wholeheartedly. The next step is to make it happen!

Besides the aforementioned The Crossover, what else?  Ghost and Patina* by Jason Reynolds. Laura Shovan has a new book coming out in June called, Takedown, about wrestling. What about James Preller's Six Innings about a little league game? Last year, I loved Soar by Joan Bauer. Or any of the Matt Christopher, Tim Green and Dan Gutman books? Others?

Here's the question for "Future Ready Librarians"-- How do we convince our colleagues in Physical Education to collaborate?  And if you already are doing it, what's your secret to success?  Or if you are like me and on the cusp, let's support each other!  This could be the beginning of an incredibly worthwhile student-centered partnership.

*Without even knowing it, we're already in our infant stages of collaboration.  I asked my mentee, Eric, if he would be willing to lead one of our Mock Newbery book groups.  How could he say no to his mentor ;-)  so I gave him the perfect book. Patina.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Another week in review...

Of course, I wish I was in Phoenix right now at the AASL conference with all my national school librarian peeps. The exhibit hall just opened and I can almost feel the excitement all the way across the country.

However, I am home in Castleton reflecting on my week and thinking about the next couple of days that I will spend at the NYLA conference in Saratoga Springs:

I reunited with The Wild Robot.

Today I started a book group with five third graders.  I've done this for many years with this particular teacher but never with this book.  So far they love it and honestly so do I.  There is nothing more satisfying to me than seeing kids excited about reading. Bonus--the sequel comes out SOON!

My Mock Caldecott has begun!

Our second grade "Committee" has met a few times already to discuss the award and examine books that have already won but on Tuesday we read our first contender, Dan Santat's After the Fall. They loved it.  We will evaluate it next week and then dive into all the other beautiful contenders out there.  

I attended my first official unofficial NYLA Council meeting.

In the spring I was elected to be a Councilor-at-Large for the New York Library Association (NYLA). All new Council members were invited to the meeting on Wednesday even though we don't become official until tomorrow night.  It feels good to be a voice of the school librarians in New York.  I asked everyone around the table to hug and embrace any school librarian they see at the conference this week.

Strong as Sandow: How Eugen Sandow Became the Strongest Man on Earth

This was our "book of the week" with Mrs. Yager's third graders.  Sandow's story definitely fits with our school wide theme of "reach for the stars."  Don Tate has some great resources on his website to go along with this book.  We even had time to watch this video:

And did you know that Don is a Texan?  All the more reason to be a fan!

We honored our local veterans and I exercised my right to vote.

Mr. Reischer is now calling this day his "favorite of the year." What a powerful presentation.  This year five local vets from four different foreign wars shared stories, feelings, knowledge and experiences on what it's like to be overseas, return home, 9/11, patriotism, taking a knee and more.

Happy Picture Book Month!

My fifth grade Reading Ambassadors have signed up for different time slots throughout the month to read to younger kids in honor of Picture Book Month.  So far Olivia and Sophia read The Chupacabra Ate the Candleabra to Mrs. Cook's kindergarteners and Zach and Olivia read Crown to Mrs. Longobardi's second graders.  We have many more classes to cover before the end of the month!

Pirates, Lemmings, Mochi and More!

Mrs. Kosinski's first graders and I were busy the first half of this week! We read Salina Yoon's newest Duck, Duck, Porcupine book has a chapter about "Dress-Like-A-Pirate" day. So we made pirate patches, "arrrrggghhhh" away and had fun!  Jasmine ToguchiWe're almost finished so next week we will make mochi!

The next day we celebrated the book birthday of Read the Book Lemmings.  After lunch we continued with our read aloud of

Tune in soon.

Last week Washington Post reporter, Jacob Bogage, video chatted with the fifth graders to give them interview tips.  This week students got their assignment:  interview a family member on the history of coming to this country OR an adult on what it means to be an American.  Wednesday is our "podcast party" as we begin listening to the interviews.  If they are going to be anything like last year's, we're all in for a treat.

The balloons didn't pop.

In fact, they did the exact opposite! Last week Mrs. Yager's book of the week was Lighter Than Air: Sophie Blanchard, the First Woman Pilot. This totally became a cross curricular event lasting over a week.  On Thursday we conducted a science experiment and observed how adding baking soda to white vinegar in a two liter bottle can blow up balloons. The kids did math (measurement), science, spelling, predicting and database research. Pinch me for this project was what you want all collaborations to look like.

Looking ahead.

Newbery Kickoff is Monday with a special video chat hangout in the afternoon.  Yes! We are going to meet fifth graders from Fort Worth who have already begun their Mock Newbery project and can share what books they really love.  I have a feeling this will be awesome! Book groups start on Friday!

I'm stepping out of my comfort zone and into the world of Physical Education next week when my mentee, Coach Biehler, and I attend the Association for Physical Education Recreation and Dance conference.  I hear there's a lot going on between literacy and physical education. I look forward to wearing my yoga pants, meeting new people and learning A LOT!

Looking behind.

I've been busy.  A couple of Saturdays ago I went to the Bank Street Book Festival.  Well worth the drive from Albany to meet a listen to an incredible slate of fabulous authors and illustrators. Bonus: I had a bonding moment with Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann over Giant Squid and stories of my students.

Halloween was a blast dressing up as Stephen Savage's "Little Plane" and "READ Cloud" with Mrs. Kelliher.

I finished Allegedly.  It was one of those books I couldn't stop reading but was kind of fuming about the ending.  I'd love to chat with you about it.  I also finished Orphan Island. Can we talk about that one, too?  I have a ton of questions.

This post has gone on for too long. Sorry! I just like knowing that someone might read it and get ideas.  Please email or comment if you ever want clarification or more details.  Perhaps mochi or balloons are in your future...

Monday, November 6, 2017


Today my blog was taken over by fifth grade Reading Ambassadors, Macy and Brianna, to review the beautiful new picture book by Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale in honor of Picture Book Month.  This gorgeous book is definitely a Caldecott contender! And they didn't mention it, but there's a surprise under the case that you don't want to miss!

Windows by Julia Denos

Illustrated by E.B. Goodale

If you like creative, colorful and fun books this book is for you!  This book title is ‘Windows’. It has beautiful illustrations and color.  This book is great for people who like picture books and not a lot of words, but the words explain a lot.  I think it is a book for everyone.  There aren’t a lot of hard words so younger kids can read it.  This book is about a boy who looks out his window and notices people doing chores or learning how to do something. This book is Great!

-Macy L. and Brianna E.

Personally, the little details on every page are remarkable: the dog's leash, the screen door, the clothes on the line, a light switch, a bellybutton, a sewing machine, a grocery cart.  A story about a warm walk through the neighborhood and a final cozy cuddle comes alive with completely breathtaking illustrations .
-Ms. Rattner

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Chupacabra Ate The Candelabra

In celebration of Picture Book Month, I'm giving up my blog to my fifth grade Reading Ambassadors to review new picture books.  Here's the first one:

We read The Chupacabra Ate The Candelabra. The book was really funny because three goats named Jayna, Bumsie, and Pep feared they would run into a Chupacabra and it would eat them. The three goats went on a mission to find the Chupacabra before it found them.

We also enjoyed the illustrations by Ana Aranda. She made the illustrations come alive. Our favorite illustration was the house because it was so colorful we saw bright yellows, light blues, and dark greens. The sun was peeking out from behind a mountain. We also loved the pink clouds.

The book is really surprising because it led us through all the chupacabra's favorite foods. The lesson of the book is don't judge anyone by what they look like or act like. Read this amazing book to find out what his favorite food is and what happens. 

-Sophia G. and Olivia E.

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.