Thursday, February 16, 2017


We know Kwame will return to CES some day so that's why we never threw this sign away!



However you say it, Kwame Alexander has done it again. He has written a book that kids got so excited about celebrating that when I threw a party for it this afternoon, not only did they come (~50) and purchase books, they knew their Kwame facts and were happy to sing "Happy Book Birthday" (even the middle schoolers!). AND the only critique I heard was that the books weren't distributed early enough.  Wait, what?! Were you planning to read DURING the party?!  I guess....

The Playbook is motivating.  It might become your go-to book now to give when someone is "moving on" or "moving up." It's filled with quotes and stories from famous people and personal anecdotes and poems by Kwame. You can read it all in one sitting or pick it up every once in awhile and read one quarter at a time.  Wonder has its precepts and now The Crossover and Booked have rules.

For more about my thoughts on The Playbook, check out my blog post here.

Today was not just about The Playbook.

It was about Kwame and the kids of Castleton.  In our halls you chant "Kwame" to just about any student and they repeat back "Alexander."  Kwame. Alexander. Kwame. Alexander.

It's about memories. In 2015 the fourth graders were in second grade when he visited.  Eager and excited to attend today's party because they still remember that chilly spring day, shivering outside fanning the red carpet when Kwame finally pulled up and poked his head out of the window of the SUV.

And it's just about Kwame + CES = 💗.  As the kids move on to Middle School (some already) and High School, they will always know that when they read the acknowledgements inside The Playbook and see, "Castleton Elementary School", they know that means them.

6th graders from the MS

In 2015, 5th grader Liam, produced "The Kwame Project", a documentary on our journey with Kwame to the Newbery

One 5th grader sandwiched in between two 6th graders.

So we had a party.
Cupcakes.  Cheese doodle "basketballs".
Courtside Nachos and cheese.  Basketball cookies.
Punch and the required "Rattner Popcorn."

A double dribble birthday for Sean--The Playbook AND his 11th birthday!

Just when everyone was seated with their food, the phone rang. The Common Area of chatty tweens and teens all of a sudden got quiet and the guy on the other end had our complete attention.  After singing "Happy Book Birthday" the kids got quizzed on Kwame trivia with the guest of honor himself answering with perfect dramatic pauses after each. Finally, we learned that we should "be a star" from The Playbook trailer, bid our goodbyes to Kwame, took a few photos and the late bus was called. A very short but extremely sweet (all puns intended) party!

Just a small group of the kids I could grab before the late bus was called!

Many thanks to everyone who made this possible, including Mrs. Warland, Mrs. Squier, Mrs. Fowler, Nana Sober, Mrs. Kelliher, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Reischer (who is singled out alongside CES in the acknowledgements with the correct spelling of his name!). Thanks to Mr. Chevrier for all that help in cleaning up!

Mrs. Squier, Mrs. Warland and Nana Sober--Thank you!

"You may not be 
A Starter
But always
Be a star
In your mind
Ready to shine
At any time."
-Kwame Alexander

Trust me, you will be whistling this song all day.  

There's always gotta be a leap!

And in case you just want more circa May 2015:

Liam's "Kwame Project"

Mrs. Kelliher's 5th graders in "It's a Basketball Life"

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Happy Book Birthday to "A PIg, A Fox, And Stinky Socks"!

That sneaky fox is up to no good again!  Remember the 2016 Geisel Honor winning book, A Pig, A Fox, and a Box by Jonathan Fenske?  That's the book I can never read aloud without laughing?  Well, those two fellows are back and again, we have to watch out for Fox!

You won't be able to look down at your stinky socks the same way after reading this book.  My little brother used to put his stinky socks under my pillow.  Ewww.  Fox, in the same mindset, thinks he can trick Pig by putting his socks in a box as a "gift" for Pig.  A box?  Yes, fans of the first book will recognize it, all taped up but still usable.  Will Fox learn his lesson that he can't fool Pig?  You will be laughing and shouting, "Oh NO!  If he throws those socks in the laundry basket, he will....!!!!"

Today all the first and second graders got to wish Jonathan a happy book birthday via Skype and then enjoy some green "slop."  Jonathan had given me a heads up about the slop.  What stinky thing could Fox sneak into Pig's food?  Fortunately for our students, the "surprise" was just green food coloring.

Technology hasn't been working perfectly for me lately, but we still managed to listen and watch Jonathan read the book aloud, ask a few questions and then sing "Happy Book Birthday!"  He even "called" us back to show us the picture of the stinky socks he drew!  He promises to visit us in Castleton soon.  In the meantime, we'll start saving our boxes and thinking of tricks.  Thanks, Jonathan, for a great virtual visit!

Jonathan has to visit us! We sold over 50 books and we didn't even meet him face to face.  What would that be like if we had the opportunity to get signed copies of his books?!  Even our custodian bought one! Book your flight today, Jonathan!  Just sayin'...

Monday, February 6, 2017

Post Superbowl LI

My husband and son are huge football fans.  Today they impatiently wait for late August to arrive because that only means one thing--Football is back! Me?  I could take it or leave it. Although, I do have dreams of going from one college football game to another from Michigan to Ohio to Alabama to Tennessee to Georgia to Penn State to....Yeah, when you graduate from SUNY-Binghamton in the early 90s and they have no football team or even a D1 anything team, you begin craving tailgate parties and college camaraderie at middle aged.

For all of you in post-football/Superbowl withdraw, here are some books to help tide you over until the fall.

Don't Throw it to Mo by David Adler and illustrated by Sam Ricks (2015) E ADL

This book won the 2016 Geisel Award. Mo loves football, even sleeps with his football, but he isn't the star player. So when they put "butterfingers" Mo in the game, it's all you can do to keep your fingers and toes crossed that he can catch the ball.  Perfect for your emerging readers.  Well, it did win the Geisel award!

Sweet Feet: Samantha Gordon's Winning Season by Samantha Gordon with Ari Bruening (2013) 921 GOR

Have you ever heard of Samantha Gordon?  She's just a young girl from Salt Lake City who's a great football player!  This book came out when she was ten and it will inspire anyone, especially young female athletes.  When Sam's dad posted her highlight video on youtube, it went viral and Sam's life changed forever.  She met celebrities, went to New York, was on TV, etc.  I can't wait to see where she ends up!

The Day Roy Riegels Ran the Wrong Way by Dan Gutman and illustrated by Kerry Talbott (2011) E GUT

This fun picture book is based on the true story of Roy Riegels, a center for the University of California Golden Bears, who picked up a fumble in the 1929 Rose Bowl and ran all the way to the Georgia Tech one yard line with the ball.  Chalk that up to another unforgettable game that went in the history books (sort of like last night's game?). A perfect lesson to learn that mistakes happen and just move on when they do.

Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber by Sue Macy and illustrated by C.F. Payne (2016) 921 GAR

Even though this book isn't entirely about football, it can inspire us all to follow our dreams and not let any obstacles get in our way. Mary had always loved sports since she was little.  She loved playing, watching and reading about them.  Mary's big break came during World War II when the men were overseas and the newspaper needed a sports reporter.  Not always an easy job, Mary worked way past her retirement, until she was 86 years old.  May we all have the energy and confidence to make it in this world and fight for what we want and believe is right.

Tom Brady by Jason Glaser (2012) 921 BRA

This book is a little outdated, worn and well loved but that doesn't stop it from being circulated.  Yes, most of our students are Giants fans but as you can see we do have some Patriots fans.  Mrs. Kelliher is probably one of the biggest ones!  Thanks for an exciting Superbowl, Tom Brady and the Patriots. See you in the fall!

We had some happy fans at school today!

He went to bed at halftime.  Boy did the outcome of the game change while he was sleeping!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Chester and Gus

Over Thanksgiving my twin then rising 11 year old nieces were visiting from Northern Virginia.  I love those girls although sometimes I think my crazy leaping, screaming and excitement scares them off a bit.  There is no doubt that they come from my husband's quieter side of the family.

I don't even know how it got started but one tweet lead to another and before we knew it, Cammie McGovern offered to pass along an arc of her latest book, Chester and Gus, due out in April. Charlotte and I leaped for joy while Alison smiled to the side.  Life was good.

Now life is even better because I will be sending this arc on to them for their unbiased fifth grade review.  Charlotte will love it because it is filled with heart and sweetness but I hypothesize that Ali will love it even more.  Where both girls are animal fans, especially dogs, Ali rises to the top in that arena.  I know Charlotte and her parents love Sammy but it's Ali who thinks about him all the time. Asks about him when she's away and wishes for an opportunity to FaceTime with the kennel when they are spending time with their "Crazy Aunt Stacey" in upstate New York.

After being trained by Penny to be a service dog, Chester can't wait to find "his person."  But he fails the certification test so Marc and Sara adopt him into his family to be a "therapy dog" for their autistic son, Gus. At first the two don't really connect.  This does not stop Chester from trying.  He observes Gus's likes and dislikes.  When they first meet, Gus spends a lot of time looking outside.  "I don't know what he thinks about when he stares out the window, but that's when he smells the happiest."

Chester isn't sure what Gus likes about school.  "I think about all the things I love: chew toys, mostly.  Balls. Food. Penny, who I love and still miss.  I know Gus well enough now to know balls aren't his passion. Though I've seen him chew the collar of his shirt, I don't think chew toys would be a good bet.  This gives me something to work on at school, though.  Maybe I can help him find something he loves."  And he does.  Mama in the cafeteria for one.  Amelia.  Sparkly pens. And for some reason Chester can't figure out, Ed.

When one teacher challenges Chester being allowed in school, even after he rushed to save Gus, he begins hearing words he hasn't heard before (lawyer) and being exposed to things he hadn't (TV). Paws crossed this is all just temporary.

As a parent and adult, I could feel Sara and Marc's pain and wanting what's best for their child.  As a 10 year old, I know my nieces (and my students) will fall immediately for chocolate lab, Chester, as he discovers the meaning of love and family. "Love is when you get to know each other well enough to not be scared anymore."

"When you spend your day looking out the window, the stories are a little slower and less exciting.  But they're there."
This is one story worth taking a break from looking out the window to read.

Charlotte and I leaping when we found out we could read an arc of this book way before the pub date!

Couldn't find a picture of Ali with Sammy but here she is with her souvenir dog t-shirt from vacation!