Tuesday, September 25, 2018


Every single word on the 300+ pages of SWEEP are well worth every minute of reading.  Jonathan Auxier fills these pages with quotable quotes and characters to love. He stirs up feelings from the gut and places you in settings so vivid you question whether you have actually been there or not. Lucky for all of us, today, Nan, Charlie, Toby, Newt, Miss Bloom and that wicked Crudd arrived on bookshelves everywhere ready for you and the students in your lives to experience late 19th century London from the eyes of young chimney sweeps.

When Nan was six years old, her Sweep disappeared.  The only thing he left for her was a clump of soot that she kept safely in her pocket. Now 11 and after spending years working for the evil Crudd, Nan gets stuck in a chimney fire.  She should have died from the "Devil's Nudge" except that her ember "creature" saved her.

Named after char, Charlie, is a what?  "I have met monsters before and you are not one of them," Nan tells Charlie. Not a monster but a golem. In search of learning more about golems, Nan turns to Miss Bloom, the Jewish teacher at a nearby school.  "Once a golem has fulfilled its purpose, it must die."

What is Charlie's purpose?  Is he there to teach love? Friendship? Courage? Fear? All of the above?  It was interesting to chat briefly with Jonathan about the book and compare it to The Night Gardener. He said he was thinking of writing a trilogy with each book capturing a different feeling: Night Gardener would be fear; Sweep grief and the third love.  I actually thought there was a lot of love in this book, along with fear, too. "If you're not afraid, you're not doing it right." Take my word for it, Jonathan you're doing it just right.

I read this book in two days.  I had to finish it before I met up with Jonathan at the Princeton Book Festival on Saturday and of course, before its book birthday today.  I'm glad closed the book on time because then I got to talk to Jonathan about a few of my observations including what I think is the recurring theme of a tree growing in a house.

One thing I love about the book are the thoughtful and quotables quotes.  I can even picture some of them in a yearbook*:

On defining a year: "A year is a little lifetime..." this couldn't be truer and as my daughter navigates 11th grade, I want this lifetime and the next to go VERY slowly.

"We are saved by saving others."

"In some ways, accidents feel even worse than if you'd done them on purpose."

"The world is full of wonders that I can scarcely imagine....Like everyday was a miracle."

"Courage is feeling fear and facing it head-on." (Graduation speech material?)

I picked up a copy of The Night Gardener for my son on Saturday.  He started reading it this afternoon and later said in a surprising voice, "It's good, Mom."  Would I really steer him astray?

Trust me, that's Jonathan!

Happy Book Birthday, Sweep!
Hope it was a good one!


I still share this Night Gardener Animoto with students as an example of a good one.  After that lesson, students flock to the A section. What do you think?

Monday, September 24, 2018

What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?

By the time you read this it will probably be the book birthday of Chris Barton's latest, What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of Extraordinary Congresswoman Barbara Jordan.  An extraordinary woman deserves an extraordinary book, and she got it.  Chris's poetic text paired with Ekua Holmes's profound illustrations make this one a book you will want to read over and over again. And every time you do, you will find a new detail in an illustration or a new idea emerge from the text.

Chris knows that not only am I a big fan of his, but of Texas and Barbara Jordan, so when the F&Gs arrived at his home in Austin, he direct messaged me asking where I would like him to send me a copy.  I gave him the address of wherever I knew it would arrive the quickest. And I've been drooling over it ever since.

Virtual Chris Barton on the screen with me IRL with his book

I decided to share Barbara Jordan with my third graders during our "Book of the Week" time this morning.  I reached out to Chris, requesting a book birthday Skype shout out.  Busy with school visits all week, he offered to record himself on a personal video to Castleton Elementary School.  It was perfect. Then I got nervous.  I was just a little unsure of how eight year olds would take it all in but when I used my confident voice and shared Barbara's story, they got it.  They embraced the message and took it way farther than I would have ever imagined.  They had wonderful ideas that give me so much hope for our future.  When we were sharing at the end, all hands were raised.  I was sorry we ran out of time because one kept getting better than the next, if that was even possible.  I plan to hang the finished papers outside the library for parents to see later this week during our Parent Night, so they, too can be hopeful and get those good little feelings inside.

And then of course, we had to sing Happy Book Birthday.  I'll try and find a piece of cake to celebrate tomorrow.  Or at least channel Barbara Jordan and use my voice.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Year #4 of Princeton Book Festival

It's hard to believe that for the past four years, my son and I have made the trek to attend the annual Princeton Book Festival #PPLBookFest, but we have and it continues to be worth it.  It doesn't hurt that my grandmother lives a half hour away so it becomes a weekend of books and Bubby.

We were very late leaving Castleton.  Why?  Because at ALA I was given an ARC of SWEEP by Jonathan Auxier and had not read it yet.  I began it Thursday and it had to be finished before I saw him at the festival.  Well, I stayed up late, woke up early and closed the book (after reading all the excellent back matter, too) at 9:00 am.  We were on the road an hour ish later. It was so good and I promise to blog about it before the big book birthday on Tuesday! So, yes, I was able to chat with Jonathan about it (Are you Jewish? No but...Trees in houses seem to be running themes in your books. This was not scary like The Night Gardener but crushed my heart in other ways.)

Jonathan is a tall guy and his leap is "off the page!"

I was THRILLED to see old friends:
Lauren Castillo with her newest book that got an amazing review in the NYT recently!

Anna Kang and Chris Weyant who will come to Castleton ONE OF THESE DAYS!

I met Ellen Potter at ALA in NOLA and now she is a New Yorker in the Syracuse area and a friend!  

Ame Dyckman ran out of Misunderstood Shark before I got there but we still got to take a leap!

The photo dedicated to Matt Cordell: Bob, Not Bob! authors Audrey Vernick and  TEXAN, Liz Garton Scanlon.
The incomparable Sophie Blackall who WILL be at CES someday soon, maybe even this year?
Looks like I'm squeezing her hand for dear life!

HAPPY to finally meet IRL some new friends:

Stella Diaz will be on my Newbery list!

I promised Abby Hanlon she will never forget this leap!

I love Shaking Things Up and Susan Hood's newest (and first middle grade) Lifeboat 12.
Plus, she's a Matt Cordell author, too!

Torrey Maldonado seemed to always have a crowd when I walked by. 
But I got lucky he was right behind me on the checkout line.
Tight will be on my Newbery list, too!

I've met Greg Pizzoli before but never really chatted.  He's the illustrator of Crunch, which I read to first graders on the first day of school.  "Did they sing 'Happy Birthday'?" he asked.  "They did!"
Who's mouth is open wider???

I'M STILL IN AWE when I chat with some folks who I wish were my friends:

Another Newbery list book.  Two years ago at the same festival I bought a copy of Liar and Spy (my favorite).
Then I came home only to find out I already owned a copy.  At least I remembered this year so as not to buy a third!

The only time I really saw my son smile yesterday was when he told Wendy Mass that The Candymakers is his favorite book.

Every time I see David Wiesner I tell him about our Surf City, Long Beach Island connection.
This time we talked about mini golf.  It didn't hurt that my son was wearing his Flamingo Golf t-shirt.

Susan Verde (also a Matt Cordell author) is our Gala author this year and our theme is "I am...ME!" piggybacking her "I Am" books with Peter H. Reynolds. We finally met IRL but of course, I never got a photo :-(.  I did get one with John Parra who illustrated Susan's latest book, Hey, Wall, that we will be featuring at our October Monthly Morning Assembly.

Shhh...Don't tell anyone (except me because I'd love to know that you read to the end of this post) but Mrs. Kelliher and I are going to dress up as the "I Am Peace" character for Halloween this year. I discreetly asked Susan if she had any of the hats and she told me that a woman made three of them and told her that she would never make any again. Hmph?! I guess they were really hard to sew or crochet?  Well, I put a query out on Etsy tonight to a woman who loves to crochet.  Stay tuned.

Check out this stack of books for my library:

All in all a wonderful day to be a librarian.

I am taking up a collection though.  Send all donations to the Princeton Police Department:

Dear Princeton Municipal Court, 
Please pardon my negligence in feeding the meter.  I was too caught up in leaping with a slew of superstars that I became irresponsible in my parking payment duties.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What I'm Loving RIGHT now

Three books I recently read that I 💗 right now.  Highly recommend for TBR, to share and/or to read over and over again:

Over the weekend I finished Front Desk by Kelly Yang.  I really didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.  Did you catch my very succinct tweet review on the book?  “Mia is MY HERO.” After immigrating from China to California, Mia’s family discovers the reality that living in America may not be the land of wonderfulness that they had dreamed about. "We're immigrants.  Our lives are never fair." Our heroine cannot accept that fate and perseveres in all areas of her life to make life fair--the motel she and her parents live and work at, school and her friendships.  The ending is as satisfying as diving into a crystal clear pool in the middle of July and then coming out and sharing pizza with good friends.

A couple of weeks ago I read a book that also takes place in Southern California, Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger.  I'm sorry to say that you will have to wait until February to read it but it will be well worth it. Mark your calendar now for a trip to your favorite indie book store and extra time to read.  Then take out your plan book because this is one you are going to want to share with your students.  Did you love Because of Mr. Terupt?  What about Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary School?   It's almost like Operation Frog Effect completes the trilogy (with Mrs. Bixby's Last Day as an add on). Diverse fifth graders each sharing their own point of view.  There's even a poet and screenwriter.  A classroom teacher we love who pushes the envelope. Kids standing up for what they believe in. But don't think that this has been done before.  Buyea gives his fifth graders one voice.  Shovan's book in verse has another and Scheerger's a third.  Like three kids from the same family.  Similar features but very different.  "The world feels too dark for my candle to make much of a difference." Yet, these ten year old superheroes, with Kermit by their side, figure out how to get their voices heard. With the simple power of the pen, inspired by Harold's purple crayon, you will be rooting for them all till the end. This book is "frogtastic", "frogerful" and "frog-alicious." One good thing about having to wait till February? Gives you enough time to collect journals for all your students.

Of course, I loved finding this in the book!

I really cannot get enough of The Day You Begin written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael Lopez.  I can't count how many classes I have read it to but yesterday was the ultimate feel good experience.  All 80 of our third graders joined me in the Common Area outside of the library.  Each had a clipboard, a pencil and paper folded in quarters.  Their task was to listen to the book once without seeing the illustrations and draw what they heard. Everyone was silent.  Then we read through it a second time and compared our illustrations with those of Rafael's.  I was nervous they might get restless hearing it again.  But like me, it appeared they could read it over and over. Their understanding of the theme went way beyond what I would have imagined, especially since we were discussing it in such a large group. It was for sure a #daymaker and #weekmaker.  Could this be another Caldecott-Newbery sticker year?  I wouldn't mind.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Twas the night before the night before

If I only looked at the mercury, I would not believe that it was time to go back to school in upstate New York.  My son just informed me it was going to be 89 tomorrow.  This is not a typical September. But what is typical is that kids will be back in my library on Thursday.  I can hardly contain my excitement!

Today was our first official day back.  I knocked on doors to collaborate.  I got philosophical. "Kids need to be given choices in what they read." And I already cried. "Why aren't things going the way I hoped they would go?"  All in all it was a good day and I can't wait to take a million leaps on Thursday.

I made it onto our faculty meeting agenda tomorrow.  It says, "School Year Theme--Stacey Rattner" but really I have more in store than the theme.  And, for the first time I am giving everyone a little goody bag with the following:

  • Fun Pen--So they can "Make Their Mark" for Dot Day to be celebrated for the first time school wide on September 14.
  • Chocolate--Self explanatory but also a reminder that I have a chocolate dish in my library always full for those days you need to reap the benefits of cocoa.
  • A K-Cup (Donut shop brand)--Because some days you need a pick me up and I love all things donuts.
  • Tea--Sweet Dreams flavor.  Some of us are not coffee drinkers (what?!) and prefer tea.  Or, maybe a nice cup at home is just what the doctor ordered after a long day at school. And mindfulness is a big push this year so what better flavor than "sweet dreams."
  • Free Prep Pass-I found this idea on Future Ready Librarians Facebook page and when I mentioned it to my friend, she thought it was the greatest idea ever.  She was already ready to redeem hers! With an expiration date of June 26, 2019 (yes, could our last day of school BE any later?), teachers can redeem this coupon for a free 30 minutes.  It's really a win-win.  I get to be with the kids and they can take a break.  I'm so fortunate to have a flexible schedule that allows me the ability to offer this opportunity to my colleagues.
I also made up postcards using Canva (also thanks to Future Ready Librarians and Shannon Miller)  that have my extension (it's seven digits long), the link for the library webpage and the link for Overdrive.  I put the database logins and passwords on the back.  Unfortunately, they haven't arrived yet from Overnightprints (the name is deceiving) so I will have to hand those out at a later date.  Ha! Maybe mail them! I already have my daughter on call that if they are delivered in the morning, she needs to rush them over to me at school. 

TA Bag
The teaching assistants are getting bags, too, minus the prep pass.  I couldn't leave them out and I wanted to make sure they knew that I appreciated them. There's a QR code on their card that links them directly to Overdrive.  I want to take away as many obstacles to finding books as possible.

"Come for Chocolate. Stay to Collaborate." Honestly, I fill my calendar without the bribery.  I just wanted to remind them all that I couldn't do any of this or be successful without them. 

And now to go set my alarm and have some "sweet dreams."