making me happy

making me happy

Here are some things that are making me happy lately:

Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Bar Soap


My apartment is crazy hot lately. I have a sinking feeling that my downstairs neighbor blasted the heat and then left for the weekend.  The only thing that has been saving me is cold showers with this peppermint soap.  And fans…lots and lots of fans.

Janelle Monae


Her style, her albums, her voice.  And most recently, her song Yoga, which is my current “get to work” song.



The 12 episode season just wrapped on Showtime and I was excited to hear it was picked up for another season.  This show was just what I needed to fill the hole that House of Cards left.  Come for the Giamatti screams, stay for Maggie Siff who is amazing in everything.

The Atlantic’s article: The Obama Doctrine


I don’t know if I would say that it is making me happy, but I was engrossed in this comprehensive look at President Obama’s history in foreign policy.  The man truly plays chess not checkers and I am really going to miss him next year!




If you are not following me on instagram, please do!  I have started to put mini book reviews up with the hashtag #booksmartreads

I have been able to get a lot of reading done this year thanks to two major changes in my routine.  First I have carved out a half hour of reading time in the morning and use a timer to keep me on task.  So every morning at school, you’ll find me in the reading corner from 8 to 8:30 (unless I keep on hitting the snooze button and get to school at 8:15).   Second, I always have a stack of at least four books at school that I want to read, usually they are a mix of Non-Fiction (YA or Children’s), and Children’s and YA Fiction.  At home I have one or two books that I am reading, usually for adults and a stack of articles from the New York Times to read during breakfast.  Some people like to read one thing at a time, but I like having lots of options!


The Nerdbery Challenge

The Nerdbery Challenge


Librarians are always trying to think of new ways to promote book awards like the Caldecott and the Newbery.  I was inspired by the book Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller (author of The Book Whisperer) to do a reading challenge called Nerdbery with my middle school students.  Many people attempt to do the Nerdbery challenge, which is essentially reading all of the Newbery winners in a set period of time.  The Newbery award, given by the American Library Association to the best book of the year for children, started in the 1920s so there’s a lot of reading to do!  I gave my school a set time, mid-December to the end of January, and only the books going back to 1965 in honor of my school’s 50th anniversary.  Here is how it worked:

Students picked out a book (or two, or three) that they wanted to read.  It had to be a Newbery winning book (sorry, honor books) and it also had to be a book that they have never read before.  We went with the honor system for this event. When they finished the book,  they would fill out a sheet with their name, the title and author, and a “six word memoir” about the book.


Prizes for finishing a book were a Nerdbery sticker, a membership card (bookmark), and entry for the prize drawing at the end of the month.  Students would also get their picture taken with their book and the picture would be placed on the “Wall of Champions”

Some notes:

  • I had the stickers and bookmarks printed by a great app Makr.  It was very easy to use and my friend used to work there so I got a sweet discount.  In the future, I would keep the year off the stickers so that I can use the leftover materials in the years to come!
  • Some of the prizes were posters that I got from the Scholastic Book Fair, we get one of each poster to keep for giveaways.  I also collect things like, McDonalds Happy Meal prizes, random sticker books, and giveaways that I get from book vendors and keep them in a basket in the library so that I always have prizes on hand.  I also raid Target’s $1 section from time to time.
  • This was a voluntary event.  Kids signed up for it just because they thought it would be fun, or because they wanted a sticker!  We didn’t get all of the books read but more than half of the kids grade 5-8 participated and some faculty and staff did as well.
  • Having the Wall of Champions was a great motivator.  I finally took it down in the beginning of March and some of the kids were sad to see it go, that is, until I let them keep their pictures!

I will keep this tradition going!  It was so great to see the kids excited to try a different genre or something that they never thought to read before!

Booksmart Booklist: Kevin Henkes

Booksmart Booklist: Kevin Henkes


The school year blazes by after we get back from spring break.  During this time I take stock of what I’ve done this year (which is sure to be a blog post in the future) and then, my favorite part, I start daydreaming about the things that I want to do next year.

One of those things is to have more formal author spotlights, especially for the 1st grade.  They already study Eric Carle for Language Arts and I did a small unit on Cynthia Rylant but I want to add more next year.  This month I did an author study by accident when I picked three different books by the same author in a row.  I thought, “oh man, I must really love Kevin Henkes!”


And what’s not to love?? Sweet stories with beautiful and simple illustrations!  I haven’t been disappointed yet!  Here are some of the books we’ve read in the library by Kevin Henkes:




I read this book to a bunch of different classes and it worked especially well with my youngest students.  Toy animals sit on a windowsill waiting for different things like snow, rain, wind, and the moon.  There are a lot of opportunities for kids to talk about what they see on the pages (fireworks! icicles!) and to participate in call and response.






My Garden

A great book, especially for Spring!  A young girl helps her mother in their garden and daydreams about what she would grow in a garden of her own (think jellybeans instead of perennials).  I loved this book and the great discussion that had after the story about what we would grow in our dream gardens (Pokemon came up a lot)!






We have a copy of this book but I actually showed the video version from Scholastic to my preschool class. They are starting to think about going to Kindergarten and Owen, the story of a young mouse who resists the idea that Kindergarten mice need to let go of some of their playthings, struck home for a lot of them.




billyThe Year of Billy Miller

I don’t know how many chapter books Henkes has written but I hope he writes many more!  I loved this book!  A simple story about a young boy during the year that he is in the second grade.  The book is split into four parts (teacher, father, sister, mother) and looks at his relationships with these four characters.  I haven’t found any students who love it as much as I do, its a little hard for most 2nd graders to read on their own and older kids think it is too young because it is about a 2nd grader.  But it might be a good book for a read-aloud!



There are tons of other great Keven Henkes books.  I mean, I didn’t even talk about the Penny or Lily books!  He will definitely be an author spotlight next year!