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Monthly Archives: February 2013

ALA Midwinter 2013 Part 2: The Books


I was not really prepared for the swag at ALA Midwinter. I mean, I would have spent some time lifting weights or something. My arms were sore. So sore!

I had never been to a conference like ALA. On the advice of some #nerdybookclub friends, I just got myself an exhibit hall pass, mostly hoping to find some people I knew. Before heading down, I made a quick list, using Mr. Schu’s book release calendar, of books I was hoping to find. There were maybe 10 books on that list.

I came home with 75.

DCIM100SPORTThe exhibit hall was ridiculous. I confined myself to the book publishers’ area (as interested as I am in electronic library catalogs). And they were just handing books away. I spent the entire day there on Sunday. I would just loop around and around and around. Every time I came by a booth, they had different books out. I had to make a drop at my car three times.

I also picked up stickers, posters (for my classroom and for my kids), pencils, bookmarks, and other assorted paraphernalia. It was endless! It’s a good thing I don’t read grown-up books, or many YA. I wouldn’t have had room in my car! I confined myself to middle grade books.

When I got home, I was presented with a bit of a problem. Here I had 75 unreleased books. Usually, I only put books on my classroom shelves if I have read them, if I know the author, or if #nerdybookclub friends have “endorsed” them. Of the books in the pile, maybe 12 fit that category. Now what? It would take me months to read 60 middle grade novels.

On the advice of Donalyn Miller, I spread all these ARCs out on the desks in my classroom. I gave my 5th graders 10 minutes to browse and make note of the titles that interested them most. Then, by random draw, they selected books to read. The rest went on a “To Review” shelf. The only requirement for reading these advance copies was to give the book a 50-page chance, inform me of anything inappropriate, and write a review if they finish the book. A book with two “acceptable” reviews could move from the “To Review” shelf to the classroom library.

My students really took to this. Everyone found a book they’d like to try out. A few have finished books and are working on reviews. Others are choosing not to read these, because they don’t want to have to review them (they’ll wait until the books gain their two-review approval). Everyone is having fun. That’s what reading is about.


It’s Monday, [February 25]! What are you reading?

Every Most Mondays, I send out a #booksaroundtheroom via Twitter, so my students can share what they’re reading with the world. “It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme co-hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts. Just like #booksaroundtheroom, it is a way to share books you’ve been reading, reviewing, and loving during the last week. I read a lot, both on my own and with my two kids, Corbchops (4.68) and The Iza (2.62). I’m excited to hear what you’ve been reading.

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

I got behind last week. We were on an annual multi-family ski trip for the long weekend. So, I planned an “It’s Monday, [yesterday]!” post. Then an “It’s Monday, [two days ago]!” post. And then it just got away from me. So this week you get a double.

I have multiple blog posts backed up in my brain. This is the problem when you like to read more than you like to blog. But my house is quiet at the moment, so maybe I will try to crank some out. I have so much fun to share with you!

Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during these last fourteen days:

Middle Grade:

I finished three middle grade novels and three informational books in the last two weeks.

Picture Books:

I read 18 picture books and/or early readers in the last two weeks. My favorite six were:


On the TMCE Guys Read blog, I reviewed The Dead Boys, by Royce Buckingham.


Right now When I finish this blog post, I’m reading:

The Fourth Stall, Part III, by Chris Rylander.


What are you reading?

It’s Monday, [February 11]! What are you reading?

Every Most Mondays, I send out a #booksaroundtheroom via Twitter, so my students can share what they’re reading with the world. “It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme co-hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts. Just like #booksaroundtheroom, it is a way to share books you’ve been reading, reviewing, and loving during the last week. I read a lot, both on my own and with my two kids, Corbchops (4.65) and The Iza (2.58). I’m excited to hear what you’ve been reading.

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

My son was sick last week. Which is always unpleasant, and for more than just the fact that he is miserable. First, his sister will probably get sick, too is sick too, now. Second, it takes me out of my classroom. If you’ve been following along with these Monday posts, you’ll know that I’ve been out of the classroom with meetings and things a lot lately. Last week would have been a break from sub plans, but no such luck. This week, I’ve got two meetings that take me out of class. My son and I did a little sick-on-the-couch reading, though.

In my class, we finished reading a wide selection of picture books and voted on which four we would read to classes and donate to the library for World Read Aloud Day. Here’s how I chose the books: All picture books on the Schu-Jonker Top 20. All 2013 Caldecott Medal and Honor books. Plus Kel Gilligan. We voted, and our selections are: Kel Gilligan, Creepy CarrotsThis Is Not My Hat, and Bear Has a Story to Tell.

Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during these last seven days:

Middle Grade:

I finished three middle grade novels and two informational books last week.

  • Bobby vs Girls (Accidentally) and Bobby the Brave (Sometimes), by Lisa Yee. I picked these books up kid of randomly. I haven’t read any other Lisa Yee books, though they are on my list. But I do love me some Dan Santat! They were great books for the second-fifth grade set.
  • The Tombs of Anak, by Frank Peretti. My in-class SSR books are always student recommendations. A girl recommended this book, the third in the series. It was an exciting Indiana Jones-style adventure mystery, with a clear Christian slant. I liked it.
  • Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure, by Martin W. Sandler. This was a bit dense for me (well, not for me, but I think for middle graders), the bane of nonfiction writing. The story was interesting and incredible, though. If you have students that loved the fantastic Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World, then they would probably love it.
  • Butterflies and Moths, by Nic Bishop. More great informational writing and photography from Nic Bishop. I thought this one was a little less…something…than Frogs and Snakes. Still great, though.

Graphic Novels:

I read one graphic novel last week. I love graphic novels.

  • Belly Flop!, by Stephen McCranie. I finally got around to reading the third volume in the Mal and Chad series. It was good, but I’m ready for Stephen to either start something new, or inject some new life into the series. It started to feel very…familiar.

Picture Books:

I read 8 picture books last week. My favorite three were:

  • Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors, by Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski. I really liked these poems about colors and seasons and change.
  • Sleep Like a Tiger, by Mary Logue and Pamela Zagarenski. This was the only book recognized by the Caldecott committee that I hadn’t read before. I thought it was wonderful. Though now I wonder if Pamela Zagarenski puts crowns on all her characters.
  • Look! Another Book!, by Bob Staake. Corbchops and The Iza love Bob Staake’s first Look! A Book! It is so fun to pore over and discover new things. This one is more of the same. In this case, the same is good.


On the TMCE Guys Read blog, I reviewed Bobby vs. Girls (Accidentally), by Lisa Yee.


Right now, I’m reading:

The Seven Tales of Trinket, by Shelley Moore Thomas.


What are you reading?

ALA Midwinter 2013 Part 1: People

I had a pretty amazing weekend at the end of January. It really felt like a culmination, a welcoming, a final initiation into a community that has truly changed my teaching and my life.

I don’t have a lot of extra cash for going to conferences and workshops. My district is usually quite willing to pay for admission to such events, but very rarely do they pay for things like hotel, airfare, etc. And I just can’t swing it. Maybe once the kids are out of daycare/preschool and into public school. Maybe. So, every time a conference comes around, NCTE, ALA, IRA, ETC, I get a severe case of Twitter jealousy. So much fun going on, so many great people hanging out, so many good books being shared (that’s the next post). It’s very hard for me.

You can imagine my excitement, then, to find that the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting was coming to my state, to Seattle, just an 80 minute drive down I-5. Finally, I could spread the jealousy myself.

I heard a quote a while back. I don’t remember where. It went “Twitter makes you like strangers. Facebook makes you hate your friends.” I don’t know about that second part (I’m not on Facebook), but I certainly agree with the first. I have a lot of people I consider friends, whose ideas and expertise I admire and value, whom I have never met face-to-face. Until now.

Finding #nerdybookclub just over a year ago was a life-changing experience for me. I fell right into a community of like-minded, and more importantly, like-motivated people. I found the professional learning community I’ve never had at my school. Perhaps I can still build my own local PLC, but until then, my appetite for passion and enthusiasm is well-sated with all my Twitter friends. And now, with ALA just down the road, I had a chance to actually meet some of them.

Since ALA Midwinter is mostly committee meetings and business, I purchased an “Exhibits Only” pass for a mere $35. It might be the best $35 I’ve ever spent.

I arrived at the exhibit hall on Saturday evening. I headed straight for the exhibit hall, hoping to meet up with some #nerdybookclub folk wandering the booths. I found some.

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And we found Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s new book, Platypus Police Squad!

The first #nerdybookclub friends I ever met in person were Shannon, Lorna, and Cheryl. They are Washingtonians, too. Does that count, then? It does.

I am not a very social person. I take a long time to warm up, and I’m not much of a talker. So it was sort of amazing to be able to just slip right into comfortable conversation with people I’d never met. It was a new experience for me. Of course, we’ve had many conversations before. Just not in person. Of course Shannon might be the most outgoing person I’ve ever met, so maybe that helped, too.

Shannon was also the point person for a #nerdybookclub meet-up that night. I was looking forward to this so much. So many people who I admire and respect, finally in person. To talk and laugh and share and…eat.

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Here you can see Aly, Sylvie, Cynthia obscured by her husband :^), Travis, many others, and my bald head waaay in the back.

Alyson Beecher was one of the first #nerdybookclub members I followed on Twitter. Cynthia Alaniz was one of the first #nerdybookclub members I spent much time conversing with on Twitter. Sylvie has the same last name as me (but pronounces it differently)! Getting to shake their hands, or give them a hug, was kind of mind-blowing.

I’ve met a few authors, but I’ve never had a chance to sit down to dinner with one. But I did that night, with Kim Baker, author of Pickle, and Kristen Kittscher, of the upcoming Wig in the Window. Sitting and talking with authors. Crazy. It was sort of like a dream.

But eventually, I had to go to bed. But it’s OK! I went back the next day!

On Sunday, I got up early and spent all day in the exhibit hall, picking up free books and finding friends. I found Mr. Schu (the first educator I followed on Twitter). I found Julie Hembree. I found Tom Angleberger! Actually, I didn’t just meet Tom Angleberger. We walked around the exhibits together for 20 minutes, talking Guys Read, books, and oh-my-gosh-Tom-Angleberger-oh-my-gosh. He was so nice.

P1080480Tom Angleberger! Total rockets!

My arms hurt a lot on Sunday. I dropped books and posters at my car three times. Lorna and Julie and I sat and rested for a while with a slice of free cake. The day was capped with an event put on by Walden Pond Press. Kellie Celia was nice enough to invite me and much of the #nerdybookclub. I’m am glad to call her my friend (next time we’ll get to talk more). It was great. Author Kevin Emerson was in attendance, but…I didn’t actually talk to him. I took the opportunity to sit and talk with all the #nerdybookclub folks who were at the other end of the table the night before. Sitting and just chatting with Cynthia, Aly, and Sylvie, Shannon, Julie, and Lorna, was amazing. We had a conversation I wish I could have with my colleagues at school. For now, I am content to continue these conversations virtually. I will work on my colleagues down the hall.


Thank you to everyone who made my weekend a great one! I still think about it every day. Thank you for being a part of my life.

Shannon, John, Lorna, Julie, Tom Kim, Kristen, Cheryl, Beth, Sylvie, Cynthia, Aly, Kellie, Valerie, Cathy, D, and probably more I don’t remember.

Coming next week: Part 2: Books.

It’s Monday, [February 4]! What are you reading?

Every Monday, I send out a #booksaroundtheroom via Twitter, so my students can share what they’re reading with the world. “It’s Monday! What are you Reading?” is a meme co-hosted by Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts. Just like #booksaroundtheroom, it is a way to share books you’ve been reading, reviewing, and loving during the last week. I read a lot, both on my own and with my two kids, Corbchops (4.63) and The Iza (2.56). I’m excited to hear what you’ve been reading.

Mon Reading Button PB to YA

I feel like I’ve kind of gotten back on track with my reading this week. My January meetings petered out, along with the month itself, and now I just have February meetings to look forward to. Despite its pleasant length, and the welcome inclusion of a four day weekend which we always use for a cross-country ski trip, February might be my least favorite teaching month. I always feel overwhelmed, overworked, and a little burnt during February. So I always look forward to the WWU Children’s Literature Conference, a perfectly timed day of rejuvenation if there ever was one. But that’s not for a few weeks.

Here’s what I’ve enjoyed during these last seven days:

Middle Grade:

I finished two middle grade novels and two informational books last week.

  • Pickle, by Kim Baker. I finished reading this book aloud to my class on Friday. We really enjoyed it, and my students have been loving the swag Kim sent us! I was able to meet Kim during ALA Midwinter–she is great. Also, happy to report that no pranks have started at my school.
  • The Dead Boys, by Royce Buckingham. This is the second Royce Buckingham book I’ve read recently, as I prepare for the annual Young Authors conference. I thought this one was a better fit for middle graders than Demonkeeper.
  • Citizen Scientists: Be Part of Scientific Discovery from Your Own Backyard, by Loree Griffin Burns. I really enjoyed this book about real scientific contributions people (including kids!) can make in their own backyards, neighborhoods, and communities. It is perfect for all ages.
  • How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, by Georgia Bragg. I reread this fantastic book for my Guys Read book club. We had a great meeting, grossing out ourselves, and our parents, with our favorite deaths. Things got kind of nasty, but we didn’t lose our appetite for brownies.

Graphic Novels:

I read three graphic novels last week. I love graphic novels.

  • Hilda and the Midnight Giant, by Luke Pearson. This was the only book on the Schu-Jonker Top 20 that I hadn’t read when it came out. I loved it! Really creative and clever. Can’t wait for the next volume.
  • Chickenhare, by Chris Grine. This one popped up in NetGalley and then in the Scholastic book order. Is there anything more appealing to a middle grader than a wise-cracking half hare/half chicken hero? I think not. A sure hit.
  • Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists, by a whole bunch of folks. I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time, and I finally picked it up from the public library. It is wonderful. There are some familiar creators in there, like kids-comics heavyweights Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman, early reader favorite Nick Bruel, and adult comic creator Mike Mignola. Really great collection.

Picture Books:

I read 12 picture books last week, and nearly all of them were fantastic. My favorite three were:

  • Princess in Training, by Tammi Sauer and Joe Berger. The Iza and the Corbchops loved this story of a quirky, energetic princess.
  • Crankenstein, by Samantha Berger and Dan Santat. I love everything Dan Santat is involved in, and this was another gem. I was lucky to be able to read an F&G at ALA Midwinter. Actually, I think I must have read this two weeks ago. Hmm…Goodreads user input error.
  • Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson. Yet another gorgeous nonfiction picture book by Kadir Nelson. He is a master artist.


I didn’t review any books this week, but I will be back with another next week. Especially if I’m going to keep my three-reviews-per-month goal.


Right now, I’m reading:

Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure, by Martin W. Sandler.


What are you reading?