Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Extraordinary Birds


I was thrilled to be asked to an early reader, among many other amazing folks, of Extraordinary Birds by debut author, Sandy Stark-McGinnis.  Once you get your hands on it, you are in for a treat. Now that the arcs are out, I can finally share my thoughts with you:

If you know anything about Extraordinary Birds you would agree that Eleanor Rigby should be playing in my head 24/7.  Instead it’s that Lynyrd Skynyrd classic. Go figure.

11 year old December has a scar on the back of her neck. She believes that, one day, wings will pop out from that scar and feathers from each goosebump, making her a “freebird” (my words, not hers). That said, her diet is bird like, made mostly of sunflower seeds. She also sneaks out nearly every night to climb a tree to practice flying.  Unsuccessful up to this point, December claims its only because her wings have not fully developed yet.

In and out of foster care since she was eight, December’s most recent placement is with “bird whisperer” and taxidermist hobbyist, Eleanor.  Birds make their way to her when they are hurt and December is no exception. This book is one third Ada and Susan from Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War that Saved My Life (hesitant to trust the one person who really loves you), one third magical realism, but not, Nikki Loftin’s Nightingale’s Nest (is December really a bird?) and one third a mashup of Wavie from Hope in the Holler by Lisa Lewis Tyre and the feel-goods of all works by Barbara O’ConnorAll those parts make for one slurpie sweet treat.

“Every living thing should have the freedom to be who and what they are.” Amen.  This not only goes for December, who is lucky to have Eleanor care for her and nurse her back to reality, but for December’s new friend, Cheryllynn. Cheryllynn, whose given name is Charlie, loves all pink and wearing dresses. Cheryllynn’s struggles with who she is addressed so appropriately for our younger middle grade readers in this novel and will open doors for further discussions. Even though the word “transgender” is never used, it is implied and understood.  My only wish was that Charlie’s name was something more “masculine” to make her transition clearer for our younger readers. Several hints throughout the book strengthen the this theme of who we are is not necessarily a matter of choice. When Eleanor tries to climb the tree to be with December, she stops midway.  “Just like it’s not a matter of choice whether the kiwi flies, it’s not my choice to be afraid of heights.” We do have a choice in what books to read. Next Spring, choose Extraordinary Birds.


As a reader of Extraordinary Birds, be prepared to hold your breath. Don’t get frustrated. Will December see Eleanor as someone to trust, love and be the keeper of her forever home? Please trust me and don’t give up. I promise you, there is hope for the freebird.


Friday, November 16, 2018

Newbery 19 is ON!



A snow day on November 16?  Yep.  That's what we've got.  How great is it that we kicked off our 2019 Newbery project yesterday?! Fifth graders went home with two Newbery contenders; one they could begin today under their cozy covers while the world is blanketed in white. (Ahhhh...now that's what I call heaven. ) The other, you ask?  Save that for Monday when book groups begin. Of course, I can't guarantee that a student who left with Bob or Harbor Me or The Night Diary or ____ will be able to let it be for three days but only time will tell.



The class began with screams and applause.  It ended with popcorn and cookies. Don't let anyone tell you that my library is quiet or clean.  This is just how we roll with celebrations.


It's our SEVENTH year of Newbery.  These fifth graders weren't even in kindergarten when we started. And the tradition lives on.

What is the Newbery? Where and when is it announced?  What do we have to do? How much do we have to read? How do you pronounce An-i-mo-to? And what is that? How do I get on the Consensus Club? All these questions filled the excited room.

And I must have said it a dozen times, but start your prayers now that January 28 will NOT be a snow day (as opposed to February 2, 2015).

We talked Kwame.  Squirrels and gorillas and witches. Adam Gidwitz and Matt de la Pena.  That was then.  This is now.  On to make our own 2019 history. Stay tuned.  It's the most wonderful time of the year.








Want to join us in our Newbery 2019 journey?  Here's our list.  What do you think is a winner?


Monday, November 5, 2018

Dear Neighbor Please Vote



It's Election Day eve.

Former Mayor Keegan
For over a month, I have been collaborating with the 4th grade Social Studies teacher on a voting project.  Through project based learning, we had a goal to increase the percentage of people from our town who vote in the midterm elections. We learned about the amendments, the history of voting and even why the first Tuesday in November. Guest speakers shared their experiences as elected officials with us and we got inspired.  Former Mayor Joe Keegan of Castleton really drove the message home. "First I was down by three votes, then two, then one...I see people on the street and they say, 'Sorry Joe I forgot to vote.'"  If only they had voted...The only woman on the Schodack Town Board, Tracey Rex, spoke to us about women in politics. Assemblyman Jake Ashby and School Board member Mike Tuttle also spoke to our students.



Schodack Town Board Member Tracey Rex


Our ultimate goal is to increase the number of people who vote in tomorrow's election from the last midterm election. Given that people are supposed to go out in record numbers tomorrow to vote, we may or may not have an impact.  But we'd like to think we did.

4th graders designed postcards to be distributed to every student at CES and a few made a video. Feel free to share the video.  Listen to the kids. Exercise your right to vote.  Don't count on your neighbors to make decisions for you.

Finally, dear Neighbor. Watch and be inspired by these young people. Then set your alarm as a reminder. See you at the polls.
We thank you.



Monday, October 15, 2018

POTATO PANTS


She said I was the best dressed there.  A bit of an exaggeration but I still shared that with my friend who was with me when I bought the dress. Because of that, I stared at my wardrobe for a long time.  "How would the 'best dressed' dress to school?"  In the end, I chose a new dress that said friend from above picked out, leggings, a scarf and denim jacket.  Oh yeah, and my signature red high top chucks.

Today was our Skype visit with Laurie Keller.  LAURIE KELLER! She's HUGE! I was nervous and excited!

Every third grader was asked to bring in a potato to draw some pants on it. FUN!

We've been talking so much about author purpose, it was refreshing to ask that question and have them all say in unison, "make us laugh." Exactly.  And laugh we all did.

First I read the book aloud and then we called Laurie.

Some fun facts we learned about Laurie:


  • Laurie loves drawing with markers.  In fact, on her favorite page of the book she used markers to draw all the potatoes running into the store.  I think she's the first illustrator we've met who uses markers.  

  • French fries, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes...She loves them all but fries are her favorite way, hands down.  Steak or shoestring? We forgot to ask!
  • Red has always been Laurie's favorite color but now she is entering an orange phase. What could that mean?
  • I had read in Book Page that Laurie did not know how to fold a fitted sheet.  Mrs. Warland to the rescue! This morning, she gave Laurie (and all of us) a step by step lesson at the conclusion of our Skype.
  • There is no plan for a sequel but Mrs. Warland had a great idea if there is one--Potato needs glasses because he has EYES! That Mrs. Warland is a clever one! 
Last night I pulled out our Scrambled States of America game to bring to school.  I love that game!  And right there in the small print, "based on the book by Laurie Keller."  How cool is that? 

Well, I'd say we are well on our way to gathering some good information about Laurie for when she visits Castleton ;-)We even have a head start on our meal for "dinner at Doe's."

Thanks, Laurie, for a great Skype.  We laughed. We drew pants on potatoes and we even threw in some home economics skills.  I just hope I didn't disappoint in the fashion area,

PS-Thank you Lucy and the crew at Macmillan for seating me in between Laurie and her editor, Christy Ottaviano, at the Caldecott-Newbery banquet.  If that had never happened, today wouldn't have happened.

Laurie showing us her favorite page











Our Leap!




#WhalesForACause



Dear Vineyard Vines, Simon and Schuster and First Book,
     Last week my 6th grade Reading Ambassadors worked hard on designing these #WhalesForACause. I especially like Evan's (see above), who chose to include the titles of many of his most recent favorite books written by authors he loves.  And Izzy's creation who went above and beyond to glue a horn on her whale.  Her favorite author is Adam Gidwitz.  Is it a coincidence that his new series is called The Unicorn Rescue Society?
     Thank you for donating books to kids in need. If you ever need recommendations, now you know who you could turn to.
Sincerely,
Stacey Rattner, Leaping Librarian and her Reading Ambassadors
Castleton Elementary School
Castleton, New York




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This is Zach's.  Can you tell he's a dairy farmer?




 


Books and authors in Evan's whale: Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King, The Vanderbeekers of 141 St by Karina Yan Glaser, Slider by Peter Haut, The Someday Birds by Sally J Pal and Booked, The Crossover and Rebound all by Kwame Alexander.