The Secret is Out: Maxi is Outstanding!

After returning today from a week’s vacation on the Schoodic peninsula in Acadia National Park, I’m a day late for an “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” post.  However, I’m just in time to wish a Happy Book Birthday to Lynn Plourde for her new book, Maxi’s Secrets (Or, What You Can Learn From a Dog).   I was so excited to read Lynn’s first middle grade novel after enjoying her many picture books over the years and Maxi’s Secrets did not disappoint!

It’s the story of a boy, Timminy Harris, whose family moves from the city of Portland to a more rural town in Maine, where his dad has taken a job as the new assistant principal at Timminy’s middle school.  The fifth grader’s small stature and wisecracking, yet self-deprecating attitude make him a magnet for bullies, but when his parents try to ease the impact of the move on him by getting a new puppy, Timminy’s world gets turned upside down.  You see, the Great Pyrenees pup, Maxi, is deaf.  Timminy tries to teach Maxi everything he can to keep her safe, but in the end, it’s Maxi who teaches Timminy important lessons about life, friendship, and bravery.

Normally, I’d insert a “spoiler alert” here, but Lynn puts it out there for the reader in the first two sentences of the book- Maxi dies.  And truthfully, I wasn’t sure how I would proceed after reading that, knowing what was ultimately going to happen, but the story pulled me in.  I found myself connecting with the Maine elements sprinkled throughout the text, and even more importantly, I connected with the characters and how their own issues, dreams, and storylines were woven into Maxi’s tale.  There’s Abby, the Harris’ blind neighbor who is too young for a guide dog, but yearns for more independence, Rory, another neighbor, a.k.a, The Big Jerk, who is seemingly Timminy’s worst nightmare of a bully, and a cadre of other Maine middle schoolers who want to be liked and accepted- just like any tween.

Lynn’s experience in the school setting as an educator herself, along with the tons of encounters she has with kids during her author visits have given her the perfect voice to write this story.  I laughed at the middle school humor and yes, cried when Maxi passed.  This book transported me back to my own middle school days, and carried me back through times when I’ve had to say goodbye to beloved family pets. But perhaps it is the way Lynn confronts these issues head-on that I most appreciate.  Kids want truth and honesty from life and books and Maxi’s Secrets offers just that.

I’ll be heading to one of Lynn’s launch signings tomorrow afternoon at Books ‘n Things in Norway.  I hope to see you there!  For more information on where you can find all things Maxi, as well as information on Lynn’s newest upcoming picture book, Bella’s Fall Coat, check out her website at www.lynnplourde.com . You can also find her author page on Facebook.

Happy Book Birthday, Maxi! 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

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IMWAYR? posts originated at www.teachmentortexts.com and have taken off from there! It’s a great way to collaborate with colleagues, near and far, about what texts folks are currently reading.

Please be sure to check out the Teach.Mentor.Text and Unleashing Readers blogs by Jen & Kellee, the creators of this meme, for other bloggers participating in “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”

This week has been all about picture books for me!

One of my new favorites is A Squiggly Story, written by Andrew Larsen and illustrated by Mike Lowery.  It’s the tale of a very young boy who wants to write a story, but is hesitant because he doesn’t know many words.  His big sister, whom he strives to emulate, reassures him that a story can start with just one letter.  So he picks up his pencil and writes an “easy letter,” the letter I.

And so his story begins…

His sister prompts him when he gets stuck and encourages him to keep going.  The boy is so delighted with his creation that he takes it to school and shares with his class what he has written so far.  His classmates, in turn, offer suggestions for how he could end his story.

One of the most beautiful parts in the book occurs when the boy comes home and tells his sister he is still undecided about his conclusion and his sister reminds him that he can do whatever he wants, for HE is the author.

This book is sure to be a “kinder-crowd-pleaser!”  For all those times when early writers feel stuck or self-conscious about their writing abilities, this is a book that you will want to have handy!  What I also appreciated about this book was that the illustrations capture what early attempts at writing can tend to look like and celebrates them.

Coming this September, A Squiggly Story is sure to be a favorite for our littlest authors, as well as their parents and teachers!

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“It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”

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Please be sure to check out the Teach.Mentor.Text and Unleashing Readers blogs by Jen & Kellee, the creators of this meme, for other bloggers participating in “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”

This Monday I’ve been reading an ARC for my #bookaday challenge that I got from Simon & Schuster at the recent ILA Conference in Boston.  Frances O’Roark Dowell, author of the Phineas L. MacGuire series and many other titles, has written a charming, heartwarming tale about a boy with a plan. In Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan, Sam Graham is a seven-year-old in search of employment.  Both his parents and his older sister, Annabelle have jobs, and when their  neighbor, Mrs. Kerner, needs someone to watch her chickens while she’s away, Sam sees his opportunity.  Admittedly, I was drawn to this book because of my love-hate relationship with our own chickens.  Slowly, they’re helping me overcome my small phobia of winged creatures, so I found myself empathizing with Sam as he strived to become an expert, in order to do his best as chicken caretaker.

We also meet several other people in Sam’s community, including Sam’s teacher, Mr. Pell, his classmates, and Sam’s bus driver, Miss Louise.  But it’s Sam’s other neighbor, Judy, and her cranky old dad, Mr. Stockfish, who help teach Sam that true happiness doesn’t cost a thing.

Dowell has created a funny, curious main character that readers will root for from beginning to end.  Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan arrives in bookstores next month and the follow-up text in the series, Sam the Man & the Rutabaga Plan is scheduled for release next winter.

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“It’s Monday! What Are YOU Reading?”

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Please be sure to check out the Teach.Mentor.Text and Unleashing Readers blogs by Jen & Kelly, the creators of this meme, for other bloggers participating in “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”

Ok, admit it- who among us tweens back in 1986 (before ‘tweens’ was even a word!) didn’t want to start their own babysitting club, thanks to Ann M. Martin’s popular series?! Being the founder of a failed neighborhood girl band (we all wanted to be the lead singer because none of us could play guitar), I began to set my sights on other business ventures. I remember trying in vain to rally my friends in an effort to combine our talents in the area of below minimum wage childcare.  It wasn’t so much the budding entrepreneur in me, as it was the desire to take part in something a bit bigger than just the occasional afternoon playdate or sleepover.

I was elated when, based on my prior purchases of Smile, Drama, and Sisters by Raina Telgemeier, my friendly online bookseller recommended her graphic novel version of Martin’s, “The Baby-Sitters Club: The Truth About Stacey.”  And last week, my pre-order arrived!

Instantly, I was transported back twenty-nine years to the first time I cracked open a BSC book and got lost inside the seemingly everyday lives of Kristy, Stacey, Claudia, and Mary Anne all over again. Lives that were both believable and inspiring- important qualities to this consummate consumer of realistic fiction.  This graphic rendition is sure to attract a whole fan base of BSC readers. The full color illustrations, coupled with Telgemeier’s embedded wit, will appeal to tweens in your life and the plot line of Stacey dealing with being a newly diagnosed diabetic will resonate with a growing number of kids dealing with similar health issues.

Thanks, Ann and Raina, for giving this reader a chance to revisit one of my childhood favorites from a new perspective. And for giving a whole new generation a chance to experience it for the first time.

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Happy Monday and Happy Reading!

Jenn

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“It’s Monday! What Are YOU Reading?”

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Please be sure to check out the Teach.Mentor.Text and Unleashing Readers blogs by Jen & Kelly, the creators of this meme, for other bloggers participating in “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?”

When I replied to a Facebook post by Cynthia Lord, about a book vine, I was so excited to get her latest Shelter Pet Squad ARC (Advance Reader Copy) into the hands of a lucky reader! A book vine is when readers share a book via the mail, kind of like a wonderful literary chain letter. The first person reads it, sends it along to the next person, that person does the same, and so on until it gets sent back to the original person who sent it out, in this case, the author.  I had participated in Cynthia’s book vine with an ARC of her latest middle grade novel, “A Handful of Stars,” which I loved and reviewed on my blog.

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, this time around the days on the calendar ran out before those who I’d planned to share it with were able to finish it and I had to send it along to the next lucky reader.  The afternoon before I was due to pop it in the mail, I had to drive my husband to a doctor’s appointment, so I jumped at the opportunity to read it for myself in the waiting room before sending it on its way.

The second book in this fun, engaging series for those beginning their journey into the world of chapter books does not disappoint. “Shelter Pet Squad: Merlin” is the story of a mischievous ferret who arrives at the shelter where Jada, Matt, Allie, Levi, and Suzannah, the narrator, volunteer.  Merlin is a very different kind of pet than the Maplewood Animal Shelter usually encounters and it’s going to take a very special person to adopt him and provide the patience, love, and understanding that he needs.

I’ll be honest. I’m a little freaked out by ferrets.  I would definitely not be the right fit for Merlin. However, I can certainly appreciate the fact that all pets deserve a caring home.  And I did learn a LOT about ferrets from reading “Merlin.”  That’s something I absolutely love about this series; it is informational and, at the same time, inspires readers to participate in their community and worthy causes. The “Take Action!” section at the back of the book shares different ideas about helping out at your local shelter and the directions for all the Shelter Pet Squad activities are included as well.

Through her desire to help Merlin find a home, Suzannah comes to terms with being the youngest member of the Squad and also learns that it’s ok to ask for help when she needs it.  Like lots of kids, she wants to prove herself when the Squad does research on caring for ferrets, by being the one to carry the biggest, heaviest, most sophisticated nonfiction book in the bunch.  However, not admitting that she is unable to read it could ultimately put Merlin at risk.

Young chapter book readers and animal lovers everywhere will delight in Merlin’s tale. And who knows how many pets may find their forever homes as a result of Cynthia Lord’s Shelter Pet Squad series!

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It’s Monday! What Are YOU Reading?

Happy “New Year” to all my colleagues heading back to school this week! I am excited to share my summer reads list with colleagues and students and I can’t wait to hear all about theirs!

Here’s a snapshot of how I’ve spent my reading week…

I’ve recently picked up a text again that I bought last spring, the second edition of “Apprenticeship in Literacy: Transitions Across Reading and Writing, K-4” by Dorn & Jones.

I was a fan of the first edition and it was a foundational text in my coaching training six years ago. I’m happy to report that I’m an even BIGGER fan of the new edition! Dorn and Jones have expanded their work to include middle grade learning through grade four. This is fantastic news for those of us looking to bridge their great work in the first edition if AIL and Dorn & Soffos’ text, Teaching For Deep Comprehension, which is aimed at older students’ literacy development.
AIL’s new edition is so much more comprehensive in its scope and sequence and I was delighted to see the importance they placed on instructional language.

 

I’m also reading “Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein.

This is going to be a great addition to libraries everywhere! The main character, Kyle Keeley is a 12-year-old who’d rather spend his time playing games (board, video, and otherwise!) than reading. But after getting grounded, Kyle figures winning the essay contest to spend a night in his town’s new high-tech library could be just the ticket to getting some of his screen time back.

The literary references abound in this fantastic tale of mystery and whimsy, as Kyle must work with the other kids in the library to solve puzzles and clues in order to get OUT of the library.  I’m only 11 chapters in, but so far it feels to me like a cross between Jester’s “The Phantom Tollbooth” and Dahl’s “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.”  Secretly, I would love to create some events/activities for upper elementary readers around this book… (library sleepover, anyone?!)

I can’t wait to see how it ends!!!

Happy Reading, Everyone!

 

Picture Books Galore!

Have I mentioned what a great source of professional development Twitter is?!? This is my latest proof…

As I was reading through recent tweets from folks I follow and I found an interesting hashtag: #PB10for10.

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The premise: Choose the 10 top picture books you just can’t live (or teach) without and post them online on August 10! Mandy Robek and Cathy Mere are the creators of this fun event and, had I not been on the road at the end of a two-week vacation, I would have posted my choices on Saturday instead of today… but alas, I-81 does not have wifi 🙂

Here are my can’t-live-without picture book choices for this year… (in no particular order)

“PETE THE CAT”

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ANY Pete The Cat book is sure to delight kids and will leave catchy songs stuck in your head for days!  My third graders’ two favorites are Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.

“RALPH TELLS A STORY”

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Teachers or parents, do you have a reluctant writer on your hands? This book is for you! Author Abby Hanlon writes this humorous narrative about Ralph, a writer who can’t find a good idea about which to write a story.  It seems, to Ralph, that everyone else can write great stories about anything, but he thinks all his ideas won’t make good stories at all.  Ultimately, Ralph overcomes his writer’s block in a most amusing way!

“THIS IS NOT MY HAT”

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Jon Klassen has followed up his hit, “I Want My Hat Back” with this year’s Caldecott winner, “This Is Not My Hat.” When I first shared this with my students during the week that the Caldecott Award was to be decided, I read it to them without showing them the illustrations.  One student’s response captured my purpose perfectly.  She said, “I really hope there are some awesome pictures in this book because the words don’t paint a very good picture in my head!”  Enter reading #2 –with pictures!  I can’t accurately describe the level of emotion that was created as students took an underwater journey with a smll fish and a stolen hat… If you’re looking for a great example of how illustrations can carry a strong message in a book, this is it!

“WILMA UNLIMITED”

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As picture book biographies go, this one is a must!  The true story of Wilma Rudolph and her life before she became the fastest woman in the world is sure to engage readers of all ages.  This is a book that I have used in the classroom for several years and students continue to be amazed at her tenacity, perseverance, and courage.  I would recommend sharing this as a read aloud in two separate periods with younger readers, due to the length of the text.

“THE QUIET BOOK”

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I discovered this book by recommendation of my friend, Jessika Sheldrick, an amazing  2nd grade teacher in our district.  Teachers know just how important swift and efficient transitions are to the structure and seamlessness of the school day.  Jessika expertly uses this book to her benefit when it comes to transitions.  This text, which shows many different types of quiet, can be used to facilitate transitions very effectively. For example, imagine asking your students to go back to their seats with “lollipop” quiet or “pretending you’re invisible” quiet, or even “right before you yell surprise” quiet!  So fun!  A word to the wise, however- the follow-up to this one is The Loud Book! 😉

“THANK YOU, MR. FALKER”

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I have always been a fan of Patricia Polacco and “Thank You, Mr. Falker” is one of my absolute favorites! A modern classic, this book tells the true story of young Tricia and her struggle as a student.  If you’ve ever had that ONE teacher who made a difference in your life, you’ll love this heartwarming story! CAUTION: I can never get all the way through it without my voice cracking! 😉

“THE DOT”

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A new favorite that I introduced to my class last year and will continue to recommend is Peter Reynold’s “The Dot.” I can totally relate to this book because my artistic ability is well, less than stellar.  The main character, Vashti, feels the same way until her teacher encourages her and a small dot leads to great inspiration!  A great gift for the art teachers in your life, too!  NOTE: International Dot Day is September 15th!

My last 3 picks for my PB10for10 this year are all by the same author, Lester Laminack.

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Two words: Read them!
You won’t regret it! I’ve had the privilege to hear him speak several times. Lester’s ability to tell a story is amazing! I would also recommend any and all of his professional development books for teachers.

So that’s it for this year’s PB10for10! I look forward to your comments and perhaps hearing what YOUR picks would be if you had to narrow it down to just ten!

My Reading Week… So Far

It’s not Monday, but boy, have I been reading!  Here’s a snapshot from my bookshelf this week…

Thanks to a great recommendation by my friend (@literacydocent), I was lucky enough to find several copies of series books by Jake Maddox during my recent trip to Bull Moose Music (which, by the way, is the BEST kept secret in children’s books! Wait- did I just shoot myself in the foot?!)  Anyway, the Jake Maddox series is a great entry into early chapter books. They are high-interest sports-based books that boys and girls alike are devouring!  I’ve test-driven them during my summer reading transition program where I’m working this summer and all the kiddos agree- Jake’s books are a hit! Lots of white space, decodable text, and relatable storylines! A great series to introduce to reluctant or dormant readers!

ImageMy next greatest discovery, which has been on my TBR (To Be Read) List for awhile now, was “Bluebird” by Bob Staake. This wordless book literally moved me to tears. A testament to friendship, loyalty, and hope, this text would make a great pairing with so many wonderful texts on the topic of bullying and true friendship, in particular. I can’t wait to share this book with kiddos this year.  It has the potential to spark some powerful conversations for readers of all ages.

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I have been so excited and inspired by my newest professional book, “Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator” by Dave Burgess! Educators, if you are looking for a great text to fire you up for the upcoming school year, you definitely need to check out this title!  There is so much talk about this book out there in the “twittersphere,” that there are multiple weekly TLAP chats for English, Science, and Humanities teachers, along with a general TLAP chat, in which I take part each week. I’m jazzed to begin my virtual book group, as well as perhaps facilitating a book group in my school communities with this text as soon as possible!

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That’s my reading week so far… What does yours look like?

It’s Monday! What Are YOU Reading?

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What I Read Last Week:

Last week was a busy reading week for me, but today I’ll be sharing two of the texts I read…
I think my favorite book of the week was Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s, One For the Murphys. This book was recommended to me by a dear teacher friend and what a great recommendation it was! The main character, Carly Connors, is a 12-year-old girl who unexpectedly finds herself placed in a foster home when her mother is unable to take care of her. The Murphys are the quintessential all-American family, which makes Carly resent being with them even more. This heartwarming story of trust, honesty, and love is sure to bring more than a tear or two to readers. One For the Murphys is somewhat reminiscent for me of Cynthia Lord’s Touch Blue, however where Lord’s story is told from the perspective of one of the siblings in the foster family, Lynda Mullaly Hunt tells the story through the voice of the foster child herself. These two texts paired together would work well for a study on point of view with intermediate students.

While browsing in one of my favorite Indie bookstores last week, I stumbled across an AUTOGRAPHED copy of the Caldecott Honor book, Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds. I was pleasantly surprised at this fun and humorous picture book about Jasper Rabbit who loves to eat carrots from Crackenhopper Field. He eats them morning, noon, and night until one day things take a turn for the “very creepy!” Peter Brown’s black and white illustrations, with a bright pop of orange, add to the tone of the text. Can’t wait to share this one with my first-third grade friends!