Sunday, November 22, 2020

Take a Hike

My son Zack, the Z in the YouTube channel, RTWJAZ, and his best friend, John (the "J") decided in the late summer that they wanted to attempt the 46 Adirondack high peaks and document each hike through their videos. I was thrilled with the idea because since they will need adult accompaniment I happily volunteered to join the challenge as well.

As of late September, we got two down. Woohoo! Only 44 to go. I'm not afraid of the road more or less travelled and excited for this new adventure ahead of us. Video #1 below 👇

Warning: This video will get you singing Imagine Dragons and craving to be on top of the world, too.


In the very early days of lockdown, I heard about this new book, Hike by Pete Oswald. His book birthday was approaching (March 17) so, I sent him an email and asked if we could virtually celebrate together.  He graciously declined since he was very busy (remote teaching, deadlines, etc) but appreciated the support. So here we are nearly eight months later and I'm still celebrating and thinking about this gorgeous, wordless picture book.  It would be the perfect gift for anyone looking to embrace a walk in the woods, not necessarily the high peaks, with someone special.

Check out this interview with Pete:

46 Leaps

Zack, John and I each have a scratch off map of the high peaks.  It was satisfying to take that penny and scratch off Cascade and Porter.  Here are the photos from my leap log.  Goal: 46 leaps on 46 peaks.  #46leaps46peaks

Cascade Mountain: Peak Leap 1 of 46

Porter Mountain: Peak Leap 2 of 46

Notice the sneakers and old backpack. Yes, I'm still a novice.  Any guesses on what's on my Chanukah list? 

See you on the other side of March.  We've decided that as much as the boys might think they could hike now, it's probably not too smart to make #3 a winter hike.  But if we get a bunch scratched off by this time next year. Maybe?


Do you follow Kate Messner on Twitter or Instagram? She posts so many beautiful Adirondack photos. She was also a recent guest on the new video show Steve Sheinkin and I host, Author Fan Face-Off, answering questions on Breakout, a book that is set in those awesome mountains.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Get Out the Vote

I have never been prouder of my mom.  Every day and when I say every day, I mean EVERY SINGLE DAY (what weekends?) she has been making calls all over the country for her party and candidates. And if you know my mom, she's not like me leaping all over the globe, and yet she feels so passionate about this election and her causes, that as much as talking to strangers is out of her comfort zone, she is still doing it.

My daughter's 18th birthday is today. Boy is she glad to have made it to 18 in time. We recently got the text that her absentee ballot was mailed with two stamps on the envelope.#proudparents

The early voting lines have been crazy. Honestly though, when we waited last night I really didn't mind.  No civil unrest as people patiently waited over an hour to participate in their civil duty. I was the 2000th voter in our polling place.  Wouldn't it have been cool to be two people behind and get Tari's birth year?

I've been sprinkling some Election Day talk into my lessons with K/1.  One of my very favorite voting books is Vote for Me by Ben Clanton. A donkey and elephant are vying for your vote and it even gets a bit nasty. When I was in kindergarten I'm sure I couldn't tell you who was president. But these kids are in the know.  "We're voting for president and it's Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden," exclaimed one little girl.  "Vote for Joe Biden because he tells you to wear a mask," exclaimed another.  Ohhh-kay, I nodded and quickly moved the conversation back to being nonpartisan.

Today a first grader asked me who I voted for. "That's very private. You don't have to share that information with anyone." I said.  We read Vote for Our Future by Magaret McNamara and illustrated by Micah Player.  I had just enough time to hand out, fold and color these thank you cards.

But wait there's more: This summer the YA romcom, The Voting Booth, by Brandy Colbert was released.  I rushed listened to it in one day in preparation for a Crowdcast event she was in. Waiting in line to vote and hearing my mom's stories about how she asks people about their plans to vote, I can't help to think back to July when I read this book.  It's my kind of romance mixed up with advocacy.  Thinking about it now makes me realize I miss my YA character crushes.  Who you got for me, Alicia?

A blast into the past: Two years ago, the 4th grade Social Studies teacher and I worked for weeks on an Election Day/Voting  project.  We researched the Constitution, met elected officials, handed out postcards and made a short video encouraging our community to vote.  I found the video and still love it today:

Let your voice be heard. Vote on or before Tuesday.  Oh, and if you happen to get a call from a lovely woman asking you for your voting plan, please tell my mom I said hello and I love her. Thanks 😉

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Global Read Aloud 2020: Swashby Edition

We've started to put our heat on.  They are predicting significant snow on Friday.  We "fall back" on Saturday night.  Covid numbers are rising.  I could really use a pick me up. And I got one.

Thank you Global Read Aloud 2020 and the uber amazing Pernille Ripp for showcasing my friend and talented, Caldecott Honor winning illustrator, Juana Martinez-Neal.  By doing so, this week I get to visit the sea twice a day by sharing Beth Ferry's Swashby and the Sea with the gorgeous illustrations by Juana. Ahhh...short of actually having the waves fiddle with my toes and hearing them crash, this is really the next best thing.

I love the story of Swashby, el recluso. As much as he wants to resist the energetic, fun, oatmeal cookie giving neighbor, with a little help from the sea, he just can't.  

Today, day one for this book, felt like the old days when I did a "Book of the Week" with the entire third grade.  One story. One crazy activity for 75 kids ( ie, author Skype, oreo moons, literally potato pants...) Except this time around, I planned it all on my own (well, not without running it by Mrs. Pryde to get the ok that it wasn't too wild an idea) and lead it on my own. I miss the collaboration but forgot about it for a second when I heard all the oohs and ahhhs. I was pleasantly surprised that it all worked. "This is really fun," exclaimed several kids. Yay! 

Rather than mimicking the sea altogether, we just "painted" kind words in the sand with glue and whole wheat flour.  Not too messy. Fortunately, with my second class we actually went outside so clean up was a breeze.  Ahhhh....all puns intended of course.

In a few weeks we hope to connect with friends in Manitoba as part of the GRA.  So far we have seen their names written out creatively, read about their favorite family foods and shared our "La Princesa and the Pea" mattresses piled high on a pea (lentil) through our joint padlet. We can't wait to meet them IRL, sort of.

I love the idea of the Global Read Aloud so much and even though this is its final year, I hope we can continue to connect with folks all over the world in our own ways next year and beyond.


Just a few other photos from our projects with Fry Bread and La Princesa and the Pea.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Oscar's American Dream

Setting: Early 1900s, Bobrinets. 

My great great grandmother sent five of her nine children in the middle of the night to the US knowing full well, she would never see them again. She believed the gift of a better life for them was worth more than anything else.  

I cannot even imagine.  Sending my daughter to college in August was painful enough. I am barely surviving with frequent FaceTime calls and daily texts. Yet without my immigrant family working hard for their American dream, Croine's dream for them, we wouldn't all be here today. My admiration for her strength and forethought is overflowing.

Happy Book Birthday to Oscar's American Dream

By Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell

Oscar's American Dream follows one storefront over a century of time. In 1899, Oscar sets foot o Ellis Island from Poland ready to make a dream come true.  I wonder, did his mother do the same thing my great great grandmother? He opens a barbershop on the corner of Front and Second and never looks back. Throughout the years, the story follows the property, not the family (with a twist and lemon drop at the end) as the barbershop becomes a clothing store, a soup kitchen, an army recruitment office, a bodega and more. Oh, what stories those walls could tell.

This book has a special place in my heart right at this moment. My mom just finished a wiki type website dedicated to our family history.  So cool! I love reading in print how I am connected to all of my cousins (who, yes, I know and love the dozens and dozens of my first, second, third cousins removed and all). Oscar's American Dream is a story of immigrants finding their way in a new land.  Like Oscar and the others, my family sought the American dream. They, too, worked hard in their own way as merchants, watchmakers, jewelers and more. (no barbers though).

This week we filmed Ruth Behar against an amazing challenger from Virginia on Ruth's book, Lucky Broken Girl for our Author Fan Face Off. It was great to see Ruth again (remember we have that PS 117/Briarwood, Queens connection).  Her latest book, Letters to Cuba, is another immigrant story, which could be paired well with Oscar's American Dream.

You will be inspired to pull out your history books, seek primary documents, explore maps, and dig out old family photos with this one.  Think about your own family, home or town. How it has changed over the years? How has it stayed the same?  What were your grandparents' or great grandparents' dreams? What are yours? Grab some lemon drops, read Oscar's American Dream and let it take you the next level, whatever that may be. And don't forget, "Immigrants. They get the job done." 🎵 My family, this book, and most likely your family, too, is proof.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Doughnuts and Bunheads

Today's post is dedicated to two amazing artists: Laurie Keller and Misty Copeland. Hmmm....competitive me wonders, could I have been the first one to put those two talented women in the same sentence? 🤞

Hello, Arnie!: An Arnie the Doughnut Story by Laurie Keller

It was almost like it was MY birthday last week when this mysterious package arrived.  It was Laurie's new book AND a current leaping doughnut of me! Current because I'm in braids. (so yeah, when I rode my bike to Windy Hill Orchards on Sunday to pick up some apple cider doughnuts I made sure to get out my hair tiess. A bunch of my former students work there and I don't think any of them recognized me behind my mask and braids.)

After greeting all his sweet friends, "Hi, Plain!", "Top of the morning, Jelly!" Arnie is confused because there is a new pastry in the bakery.  This would be a good time to note, that I have to give Laurie Keller all the credit for naming my morning book club, "Pastries and Prose."  What could be this new big pastry, who doesn't even know which try to sit on? Not to worry, though! Our dearly beloved, every-single-if-I-remember-correctly-36-sprinkled chocolate frosted doughnut to the rescue! 

I can't wait to share with my students this week! We're going to have fun with it! How long will it take them to figure out who this new delicacy is? Message me later with your guesses! The closest one wins a doughnut!

Meanwhile, I still love this reading of the original Arnie: 

Bunheads by Misty Copeland and illustrated by Setor Fiadzigbey

I never imagined I would miss driving to dance every day. But boy do I.  The time in the car to catch up, laugh, listen to music. Inevitably, with only a few minutes to spare would my daughter take out her bobby pins to start her bun. Why didn't she ever start it sooner? Sigh.  Maybe I don't miss that part?

The upside is I'm still a dance mom.  Yes! Our daughter is a dance major and happy! We look forward to post-Covid times when we can watch her perform again.  Missing her last recital was just as hard for me as it was for her.

But I digress. I'm excited for the book birthday of Bunheads today! It's already received two starred reviews. Woohoo! A beautiful, inspiring story of a young Misty auditioning for the ballet Coppelia.  I'm not usually a picture book audio book listener, but Misty Copeland is the narrator of this one and I was already hooked from the 30 second clip I heard.

Will you join me at Politics and Prose Friday night for this event with Misty? The tickets are free with an option to add on a book.  Of course, I got one.  Do you think my bunhead would like it for her 18th birthday?  Maybe if it came with ticket to Coppelia.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

It's Tuesday Again!

No wonder I looked forward to Tuesdays so much during lockdown.  There was ALWAYS cake.  And off key-off sync singing. Smiling faces attached to faces I wished were in 3D.  And just before the end of every party there was me, the annoying mom screaming to my teenagers to come "pick a name RIGHT NOW" for the winners of my weekly raffles.  Never a fan of Tuesdays, but last spring's weekly parties definitely took the edge off my least favorite day.

Do I actually miss that time?  Dare I say maybe a tiny bit?  The parties are on hold for now. Instead it is cart racing to the elevator.  The music teacher. The art teacher. Me.  How many of us can fit in it at once? Reading aloud and giving directions behind a mask to small children spread all over the room = Challenging.  Hooking up my computer to a dozen different adaptors and SmartBoards. Hard. Shannon McClintock Miller's "BookHub" order forms. "Books you love. Delivered." Disappointing kids because they wanted a wolf book and got one about baby mammals. Who knew wolves were so popular? BUT Tuesdays are still Tuesdays and books will always have book birthdays. Today let's pull the party hats out for:

Ben Bee and the Teacher Griefer by K.A. Holt

When I read this book I couldn't wait for it to come out.  Today is the day! Happy Book Birthday! I love each and every one of the characters and think it will appeal to so many different kids. In another time, this would be my middle grade celebration of the day.

Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness and Community from the Born This Way Foundation and Lady Gaga

I heard about this book at a new book webinar and stuck its birthday on my calendar.  It's a beautiful collection of inspiring stories from young people. Share one each day with middle or high schoolers and come up with ways to "channel" kindness in your community.  Yes, it's cliche but does that really matter? Check out the website.  I'm impressed with how up to date it is.

The Oboe Goes Boom Boom Boom by Colleen AF Venable and Lian Cho

Fun fact about me: I played oboe from 7th grade concert band through my senior year in the college orchestra. Mahler 1 is still one of my favorite pieces of all time.

I'm excited for this book!  It sounds (all puns intended) interactive and a great book to use for a music/library collaboration.  For grades K/1 this year, my music teacher and I each get 20 minutes of the special time.  Fortunately, there are a bunch of highly rated new music picture books and this one is no exception.  Bonus--it already comes with an Educator Guide.

Happy Belated to...

Millionaires for a Month by Stacy McAnulty and Three Keys by Kelly Yang

I attended a Crowdcast event from Bookmarks a few weeks ago with both of these amazing authors. Their books arrived yesterday and I cannot wait to read them! Steve and I had Stacy on our #AuthorFanFaceOff and we are looking forward to stumping Kelly in a few weeks. Stay tuned!

Happy Tuesday to all! 🎂

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Cupcakes Under My Mask

I am going to be sneaking a lot of cupcakes under my mask today. It is a BIG book birthday day.  

In any other year, planning a party for the 4th day of school would not have phased me.  I don't want my new fixed schedule to dictate what I can and cannot do.  It just may take me a little while to figure out what I can do.

Until then, you and I can raise our glasses and savor the frosting for the following books (my cupcakes are in my lunch box):

I am One: A Book of Action by Susan Verde and Peter H. Reynolds

I am totally just going to download this book today and share with everyone.  Two years ago Susan Verde was our gala visitor and our theme for the whole school year was "I am Me."  I can't wait to read this book. Period. Happy book birthday, Susan and Peter. (And Happy International Dot Day, too!)  Susan--I hope you will be celebrating your birthday mark with roasted cauliflower and broccoli!

PS: If you are remote or get home early, here's an event for you (personally, I will be teaching a second grade class at this time still)



No Place for Monsters by Kory Merritt

I admit, I don't know much about this book except that it was blurbed by Jeff Kinney, Brian Selznick and Max Brailler.  It must have triggered interest during some Fall books webinar this summer as I put its birthday on my calendar.   It's a highly illustrated middle grade novel that I'm sure we will all find fans for quickly and easily.

Nothing in Common by Kate Hoefler and Corinna Luyken

This book was mentioned at at least two fall book previews.  I have loved Corinna's illustrations since her debut, The Book of Mistakes came out in 2017.  This one looks beautiful as well with a great message.  If I was having an in person book birthday party, I would print out these pages for the "goodie bags" and maybe eat doughnuts (any excuse for doughnuts). You know--doughnut binoculars of course!

Three Keys by Kelly Yang

Is there anyone who didn't love Front Desk a couple of years ago? Kids and adults.  We all did.  The sequel comes out today! I can pretty much guarantee that it will be on my Newbery 21 list and I haven't even read it yet!  Check out this offer from Kelly:

The Vanderbeekers Lost and Found #4 by Karina Yan Glaser

It seems like just yesterday that we were reading Karina's debut Vanderbeeker novel and now there are four! Happiest of book birthdays to the newest addition to this fun loving family series.  Are you new to the Vanderbeeker world or just need a refresher? This one's for you:

 I'm sure there are many more birthdays today but my stomach can only handle five cupcakes and two doughnuts (with a side of a Samoa during the I am One event). Happiest of book birthdays to all! 🎂🎂🎂🎂🎂