fuzzy mud

reading, Uncategorized

fuzzymud

I really liked Louis Sachar’s book Fuzzy Mud.  It is about a couple of kids who cut through the woods near their school in an effort to avoid a bully.  They find something that is way more trouble than a fight with a kid at school.  What I took from this book was that the problems that you think you have now could be much much worse.  And when you are faced with something catastrophic, the daily things that bother you fall away.  Rivalries that you have with people, fears you might have about your friends liking you or not, don’t mean anything when your community is truly threatened.  Some heavy stuff!  But Sachar’s books are always approachable and enjoyable for readers.

 

 

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noras

reading, Uncategorized

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I like to collect Nora Roberts novels whenever I am at library book sales or used book stores.  I completed a couple of series thanks to a book stall in a market in New Orleans, and actually read a series while road tripping all summer.

Nora’s Bride Quartet has been a favorite of mine since their publication in 2009 (missing in the picture above is Vision in White, the first in the series).  It is a modern series following life long friends who go into business together planning weddings.  I think I love it so much because it reminds me of a grown up baby sitters club, even taking the time to describe what all of the characters is wearing.

This series is peak romance, and perfect for long road trips.  But only if you are into sugary-sweet romance!

grown woman reads: spring

reading, Uncategorized

I read so many books for kids and teens during the school year, so summer is my go to time to catch up on fiction for adults.  Here are my most recent favorites:

alice

What Alice Forgot is by Australian author Liane Moriarty and was a pick for my book club this Spring.  We wanted something lighter after reading a book about suicide and depression. Many of us had seen HBO’s mini series Big Little Lies and wanted more from Moriarty so we went with this one.  It is about a woman who is about to turn 40 and falls off her bike in spin class, hitting her head. She wakes up thinking that she is 29, happily married, and about to have her first child.  In reality she is divorcing, has three kids, and looks a lot like the suburban moms that she vowed to never become.

It is a great premise and made me think about how much a person’s life changes in a decade.  Not just your appearance but your attitude, friendships and desires.   There is an feeling that it is a negative thing for a person to grow and change and what I liked about this book is that while it spent a lot of time being dismissive towards Alice’s growth, we get a satisfying part (for me at least) when you are able to explore how life changes over the course of 10 years.  The book gives you a chance to see all of the sides of the story and you learn that there really is no “good guy” or “bad guy.” In normal life, that usually doesn’t happen, does it?  No one sets out to be a monster, problems occur when you decide that the other person has become one.   Sounds a bit heavy, but don’t worry, it is a great beach read!

 

homegowing

I had Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi on my list to read for MONTHS but couldn’t get it at the library (too many holds) so I finally broke down and bought it on Amazon.  I know! I never buy books, but this was worth it.

Homegoing is a beautiful debut book that follows a family though many generations, starting in the late 18th century in the Gold Coast (now Ghana).   The first two chapters follow half sisters that have never met.  Effia marries James Collins, a British governor at Cape Coast Castle, her sister Esi is captures and sold into slavery in America.  The following chapters follow the children in the generations that follow.

I saw this book more as a collection of short stories, at the start of each chapter you find yourself dropped into a new world and just as you get your bearings the story stops and you move on to the next person.  You don’t have time to mourn the end of one story because you are immediately wrapped up in the next experience.   I found that I had to stop at two stories at a time.  First because the book is so beautifully written that I didn’t want it to end.  And second because it moves so fast that I needed to pause to take in what I was reading.

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When I was in high school, my Spanish teacher bought me a copy of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.  This was after I told her how much I liked the film version.  She shook her head and said, as soon as you read the book you’ll hate the movie.  A few days later there was a copy on my desk.  That book was a life changer, so whenever I see a new book by Allende, I read it.  Its never as good as House of the Spirits (and my teacher was right, I hate the movie now.  I mean, for the whitewashing alone! You want to tell me that Jeremy Irons is the best person you could find to play Esteban Trueba???) but it is always enjoyable.

The Japanese Lover is the story of two women.  Alma, a Polish Jewish girl, is sent to live with her distant relatives in San Francisco at the dawn of World War Two. She eventually falls in love with Ichimei, the son of her family’s Japanese gardener.  The two are torn apart during the war, Ichimei and his family are sent to an internment camp in Utah.  Throughout their lives, they reunite many times but can never stay together.  Irina is a young Moldovan immigrant who works in the nursing home that Alma now resides. They form a close bond and with the help of Alma’s grandson, Seth, she starts to uncover Alma’s past, while trying to hide from her own.

There are a lot of twists in this book and unfolds slowly, bringing you to a very satisfying ending.  What I love about Isabel Allende is how much she loves her characters, each person gets a deep dive so that you feel like you really know them.  This holds true in Japanese Lover.  I think this book got mixed reviews for having  too much going on in the story (Japanese internment, the birth of Israel, human trafficking, AIDS) and because of this, the settings feel unbelievable and rushed.  To me it shows were Allende’s loyalty lies, with the people.  I ended up caring for them even if the world they live in feels a bit incomplete.

Reading Challenge

Libraries, Uncategorized

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I started a reading challenge at school where students get a prize and entry into an “exclusive club” when they read a fiction series with three or more books.  I thought this accomplishment (easy for some, way harder for others) was worthy of a special prize so I made a logo for the club (Journeyperson Challenge Champions!) using Makr app (7 bucks for a cool logo that you can use anywhere) and made buttons with the help of my coworker/friend/maker space guru, Emily!  So fun!  This picture has two of my favorite non-Hunger Games-esque series: Chasing Vermeer is the first in Blue Balliett’s mystery series that mixes heists, math, art and friendship and Chains is the first in Laurie Halse Anderson’s historical fiction series about sisters who are sold into slavery to a family in New York City at the dawn of the Revolutionary War and become spies for the patriots.

So far I have 5 students who have finished a series and more that are working on it!  I am reading the Harry Potter series for the first time.  Kids are both surprised that I never read it and  jealous that I get to read it for the first time!

BKLIST: Back to School

Uncategorized

Here are some of the books I am reading this week!  It is the first week of school so I’ve pulled some great back to school books:

  1. Mouse’s First Day of School by Lauren Thompson.  A great boardbook that I think will be a hit with my preschool classes.  There are a few words on each page and bright colorful pictures of all of the fun things kids get to do at school!
  2. If You Take a Mouse to School by Laura Numeroff.  A classic!  Kids in my JK and K classes may have already read it but they will be excited to hear it again, or they may just recognize the same mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie!
  3. First Grade, Here I Come!  by Tony Johnston. There are so many “first day of Kindergarten” books out there so I am always on the lookout for similar books for different grades.  This is a rhyming book with great pictures that could be used for a lot of back to school discussions!
  4. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex. 2nd and 3rd graders will hear the story of a brand new school that is nervous about the kids that are going to coming for the first time the next day.  This is one of my favorites. I love the story, the fact that the school in the book is Frederick Douglass Elementary School and the illustrations!  Christian Robinson is one of my favorite illustrators and has the greatest projects!

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A Little Life

reading, Uncategorized

littlelife

Just finished A Little Life and I’m not sure what to say about it. First, my face looked the the man on the cover’s face while reading most of this book.  It was HEAVY.  If you are a squeamish this book may not be for you, there were more than a few times where I would suck in my breath and start speed reading to get to the next page.  It was HEARTBREAKING.  So many times it looked like things were on the upswing and then Yanagihara would bluntly bring you back down which something that we just terrible.  But it was also BREATHTAKING.  I mean, I am not a person that usually reads 820 paged books, but I couldn’t put this one down.  There were times that I would read a sentence so striking that I would sit dumbly, staring out of a coffee shop window, thinking about what I just read.  I would definitely put this on a short list of my favorite books of all time, right up there with House of the Spirits and True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, but I don’t know if I would ever read it again like I have with the others.  I mean, this book made me cry in a coffee shop!  I am not explaining this well, here is what it says on the jacket:

When four classmates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they’re broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their center of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he’ll not only be unable to overcome—but that will define his life forever. 

I was drawn to it because I love a good epic story.  I love it when authors go deep into not only the characters’ lives but the lives of the people around them.  It’s one of the reasons why I love Allende so much!  This book is just so beautiful and sad and inspiring and depressing at the same time.  Ugh.  I don’t know what else to say, I just finished it yesterday so maybe I will write more when I am done processing but I just wanted to tell you to read it as soon as I had a copy to loan out!  Let me know if you want it!

Hot Books-Cosmopolitan Magazine

Uncategorized

Here’s what the Cosmo woman is reading:

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You Will Know Me looks good (Not at the library yet)!  Just in time for the summer Olympics!

Speaking of Cosmo, there a write up about Helen Gurley Brown that looks pretty juicy in Vanity Fair.  That’s on deck for some weekend reading!

Oh!  And have you listened to The Lit Up Show?  Great podcast from an editor at Cosmopolitan!   They talk about books, culture, politics and other classy things.  I see you Cosmo! Not just for 17 year old girls who know too much anymore, huh?

Booksmart Booklist: Pride

reading, Uncategorized

june2

It is Pride month friends!  When I worked in the public library, I loved to put up book displays in June for Pride.  Lucky for me, there are more and more great books for children and teens that want to read about LGBTQ characters.  Here are some that I like:

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz has won a lot of well deserved hardware.  The Pura Belpre Award for best book featuring Latino characters, the Stonewall book award for books with LGBTQ characters and it was a Printz Honor book that same year (best books for Teens).  Clearly librarians loved this book (all of these prizes are given by the American Library Association).   It is a beautiful story about an unlikely friendship that grows into love.  It made me cry, but in a good way.  Bonus!  The audiobook features the author and Lin-Manuel Miranda, my hero.

george

George was a hot book this year, it was actually a book request from one of my middle school students that heard about it on NPR on the way to school.  It is for lower grades, but I have given it to a wide range of ages.  When people see George, they see a boy but George knows that she is a girl.  Her biggest wish is to play Charlotte in Charlotte’s web but that part is only for girls.  George is young, in 4th or 5th grade so the book is appropriate for younger readers.  I also give it to my middle school readers because it touches on transgender issues with a very light hand.  Which is good because I brought up Kate Bornstein once during a 7th grade class and some of the kids were like, “wait….what?!?!?” Sometimes I forget to ease into things! Ahh, the role of a school librarian is like being a human “The more you know” ad!

know

Last but not least:

june3

This day in June is a GREAT picture book for kids.  I read it during a lesson I have about parades (there are a lot of parade books out there) since I don’t have the kids in the library in June for actual Pride. The illustrations are beautiful and very inclusive.

For more book ideas for all ages, check out the booklists at the New York Public Library some of my favorites are:

LGBTQ books for our youngest readers.

LGBTQ books for teens!   (My pick: Hold me Closer which features my favorite character in Will Grayson, Will Grayson)

Books about Transgender Issues for Teens (complied and beautifully written by Anne Rouyer, Queen of YA Lit!)

 

 

Booksmart Booklist: Novels in Verse

reading, Uncategorized

We wrapped up poetry month at the the library last week and ended on my favorite way to read poetry, novels in verse.

When I was working at the public library, Ellen Hopkins was all the rage.  Her thick, compact books covered topics like drug use, prostitution, and teen pregnancy.  You know, all of the things that kids love to read about!  I knew that my readers here would love novels in verse as much as I do, but I wasn’t ready to introduce Hopkins to my middle school students.  Lucky for me, novels in verse are blowing up in every kind of genre.

Here are some that I love that work for middle school as well as high school:

A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatramandance

 

I recommended this book to the 6th grade language arts teachers when they were looking for books that take place in India, and they ended up making it assigned reading!  It is the story of a young girl who’s dream of becoming a bharatanatyam dancer is shattered when she looses her leg in an automobile accident.  She has to humble herself and start over if she wants to continue to dance.  The story is beautifully told and is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

 

 

 

crossoverThe Crossover by Kwame Alexander 

Alexander’s 2015 Newbery Award winning novel is like a book sent from the heavens for all librarians and teachers that are desperate for a well written book for their most reluctant readers.  I have kids fighting for this book.  Like, really arguing!  Which I have to admit I love to see.  It is the story of twin brothers (Josh and Jordan) star basketball players in their junior high who have been coached by their father, a retired basketball player.  For the first time, they start to drift apart when Jordan begins dating a new girl in school and Josh has to deal with the feeling of being abandoned and alone.  Alexander has just released his second novel in verse, Booked.  And it is already as popular as his first.

 

 

allthebrokenAll the Broken Pieces by Anne E. Burg 

When kids are finished reading The Crossover, I usually give them this book by Anne Burg.  The story takes place right after the Vietnam War, Matt Pin was born in Vietnam, the son of an American solider who abandoned him and a Vietnamese mother who gave him away in hopes that he would have a better life in America.  He is adopted by a loving family but has to face classmates that see him as an enemy and memories of his past.

 

 

 

 

locomotionLocomotion by Jacqueline Woodson 

Woodson received well deserved accolades for her latest novel in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, but I want to highlight an often overlooked masterpiece, Locomotion.  Its the heartbreaking story of Lonnie, who lost his parents in a fire when he was seven.  He was separated from his younger sister when she was adopted and he was sent to foster care.  Now he is in a stable foster home and has a teacher who encourages him to express himself through poetry.

 

 

Other novels in verse that I love: 

House Arrest by K. A. Holt

Sold by Patricia McCormick

The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist by Margarita Engle

Booksmart Booklist: Kevin Henkes

Libraries, reading

waiting

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!”

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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:

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Waiting

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.

 

 

 

garden

 

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)!

 

 

owen

 

Owen

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!