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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer Reads #9: The Thing About Jellyfish



Alright, guys, I'm going all in again this week with a hard-hitting book. Why is it that so many middle/high school books are so sad? I will tell you now that next week's book is a more upbeat, fun book, though!

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The Thing About Jellyfish is another middle school Virginia Reader's Choice book for this year, and I loved it! It's a book following a girl, Suzy, who is dealing with the loss of her recently estranged friend. Franny was one of the best swimmers that Suzy knew, so surely she didn't just drown. Suzy is convinced that she was stung by a jellyfish and will not stop until she has proven it to be true.

Oh, and Suzy is a bit of a social outcast.
And she feels like it is her fault that Franny died.
And she is refusing to talk.

This is a very deep book, but it's great for students who feel alone and misunderstood. Suzy is very scientifically minded and misses many social cues, so it does have some lighthearted, funny moments, but your heart really does bleed for Suzy.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Summer Reads #8: The Crossover

Wow! Summer is flying by WAY too fast! I have two more weeks before I report back, so we are nearing the end of the "Summer Reads" series. I do, however, have plans to continue sharing books, just maybe on a biweekly schedule instead. It all depends on how crazy the beginning of school is. I'll start biweekly and then go from there.

Also be on the lookout because I want to actually start posting about other things. Like what activities I'm doing in the classroom and actual teachery things. ::GASP:: Don't count on it yet, though. This is year two at my new school, so I should have a better grasp at life and be able to manage more. Plus my boys are getting old enough that they can play on their own and let me lay on the couch and be a lazy bum work mostly in peace!

Anyway, that's not why you're here. Just giving you a heads up that hopefully I'm legitimately getting back on track as far as blogging goes. And who knows, maybe I'll even start making new products again one day!

Oh, PS. I kind of got carried away on the Kwame train, so this is a little more than a single book review. You might call it more of an author review. Enjoy!


I am SO excited to share today's book today because Kwame Alexander has quickly become one of my favorite authors! Like, for real. I stalk him on Instagram and Facebook (and he follows me back on Instagram, so basically I'm amazing!), and I was even given a chance to read his latest book that came out last week (more on that in a minute). He's a Virginia author, which is part of why I love him, but his poetic structures are POWER. If you have kids that claim they hate poetry, get his books in their hands. I swear most of them will change their mind at least a little!

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The Crossover was the 2015 Newbery Medal winner. It's narrative poetry, without feeling forced, following twin brothers that have mad basketball skills as well as a respect for family and education. With a former basketball star for a father and an assistant principal for a mother, these boys are as well rounded as they come. This book has it all: humor, vocabulary (the word "pulchritudinous" shows up, for Pete's sake), love, family drama, and even some tears. Seriously, after talking about it, I want to read it again.

Then, as if it couldn't get better, he has another book, Booked, along the same lines but about soccer that is on the Virginia Reader's Choice list for middle school this year (Crossover was on it last year).

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AND if you're a high school or higher middle school teacher, he just came out with a brand new book last week that I was able to score an advanced copy of. It's called Solo, and it's about a guy graduating from high school whose father is a rock star that is in and out of rehab, ruining his entire life. He even crashes Blade's graduation IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS SPEECH! Blade decides to take a trip to Ghana to find himself. It's an amazing book, although the content makes it more appropriate for older students. I'd say if you teach middle grades, preview it and just know your students.

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AND because, like I said, he has quickly become of my favorite authors, there is apparently going to be a PREQUEL to The Crossover, and of course I'm not stalking his pages to see when that's coming out. That would be too much...

So moral of this post is BUY ALL THE THINGS. Kwame is amazing!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Summer Reads #7: Maniac Magee

Can anyone else believe it's August already? I know for some of you that means you are starting school already. Here in my part Virginia, we have most of this month before teacher work week begins, but I will be heading back to my classroom to get it set up soon. I will continue with these book talks at least through the month, and then I may go to every few weeks unless I can keep up with material. So time to stop gabbing and get on with this week's review!



Okay, I realize I am about 25 years behind on reading this book, but I added it to my small group collection after seeing a good deal on Scholastic in the fall, and I am SO glad I did!


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For anyone else who just never got around to reading this book, it's about a boy (Jeffrey) who lives with his aunt and uncle who hate each other until he can't stand it anymore and runs to Two Mills, a racially divided town. It doesn't even take a day for Jeffrey to become a legend and earn the name Maniac as he tears through town leaving everyone in his path confused and awe-struck. Maniac, a white boy, bounces from the East End to the West End, never completely fitting in on either side, but he ends up changing lives wherever he goes.

I just loved this book, and so did my students! At first, one of the kids complained that most of my book club books were old, but I think this book helped him realize that that was okay. A good story will NEVER go out of style.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Summer Reads #6: Among the Hidden


Today I am introducing the first of a series that was once again recommended by my students. I ended up buying the entire series with Scholastic points at the end of the year, and I will eventually read the rest. This one was captivating!


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Among the Hidden is the first book in the Shadow Children series. Luke is a shadow child, meaning he isn't supposed to exist. Out of fear that they would run out of food, the government established a law that families could only have two children. Luke is the third. No one other than his immediate family knows about him, and he has never been away from home. When a neighborhood is built nearby, Luke cannot go outside anymore and, worse, has to spend all of his time in the attic.

But then he discovers there is another shadow child nearby. And he takes a risk to meet her.

Guys, I did this one as a book club, and I had a hard time stopping each week for the discussions. My first interaction with this book was the hook, and it is one of my favorites ever. I was completely into this all the way through and can't wait to read the rest!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Summer Reads #5: Ungifted



It's week five already, and I am fulfilling my promise with a fun, lighthearted book! This is the perfect one for that, and I hope you enjoy it as much as my students and I did.

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Ungifted is about a boy named Donovan who is a bit of a prankster and is always causing problems. Well, it's all fun and games until he accidentally rolls the globe right off an Atlas statue, through a full parking lot, and into the gym where his middle school team is playing a game. And then, to add to his luck, he is spotted by none other than the school's superintendent. Donovan is certain that his life is officially over, but through a crazy turn of events, his name is accidentally passed on for a school for gifted students.

Gifted he is not, but he figures it will be the perfect place to hide out until the whole mess blows over. Plus, his parents are proud of him for once. While there, he learns to accept and befriend the eclectic bunch of students in his class, and he's even able to help them out. Maybe he is gifted after all? You'll have to read and find out!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Summer Reads #4: The War That Saved My Life



Hey guys! I hope you're having as much fun with these as I am! The book I'm sharing with you today is the first one that I read after school let out, and I could have easily read it in one sitting (and almost did) if my family hadn't complained that they wanted to spend time with me. Oops!


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This book was on the Virginia Reader's Choice list for middle school, which I am slowly working my way through. I'm also reading from the elementary list, but not necessarily every book. Once again, I had a few students read this first and tell me it was amazing. I trust their judgement now and hope that my next set of kids have equally amazing taste. But I will stop bragging now...

You will want a tissue and/or to throw things when you read this book because Ada, the main character, really has a crappy life. She was born with a clubfoot that was never treated. Instead, her mother is ashamed of her and will not allow her to leave the house at all. She teaches herself to walk in secret and ends up running away with her younger brother when children are being evacuated from London at the beginning of World War II. They arrive in the countryside and are taken in by a single woman who doesn't really want them. However, she takes care of them well and gives them opportunities that they did not have.

The book is an emotional roller coaster, but I can't say much more without giving it away. Ada's hurt reaches far deeper than her foot, and it takes a lot for her to overcome it.

Next week, I'm going to choose a more upbeat book!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Summer Reads #3: Out of My Mind



Week three is here! Woohoo! I want to just show you what I mean when I say I have a lot to read this summer.


It's a little crazy. And that actually doesn't account for all the books because I didn't have some and am checking them out on my kindle. Let me know if there's one you especially want to hear about, and I'll move it up further on my list. Or, of course, if you have any suggestions of books to add to my list. I currently finished The War that Saved My Life, Wolf Hollow, Space Case, Solo, and Fuzzy Mud. Reading The Thing About Jellyfish and have and A Night Divided on deck. So many books!


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This book was another recommendation from a student. She told me it was on of the best books ever and then bought it for me. I quickly added it to my ever-growing list and worked to move it up quickly so I could read it. Once again, it did not disappoint. My kids really do have impeccable taste in books! 

Out of my Mind is about a girl named Melody who is wheelchair bound and cannot speak or write. But she is brilliant! She just doesn't have any way of showing it (think Stephen Hawking). Her babysitter believes that she is smart, so she works tirelessly with Melody to add pictures and letters to her wheelchair so that Melody can "communicate" by pointing. By fifth grade, she finally has a teacher who decides Melody should spend some time working in the regular education rooms with a one-on-one aide. Like her babysitter, this aide knows what Melody is capable of and works to help her show it. The problem is that it's very difficult for her new classmates and teachers to accept it as well, and Melody struggles to find her place.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Reads #2: Because of Mr. Terupt



So welcome to week two of my Summer Reads series! For those who don't know, I'm kind of piggy-backing off an idea one of my amazing friends, Andrea at This Literacy Life, does with her Book Talk Thursdays. I have SO many books that I have read this year and many many more that I brought home to read this summer, so I shouldn't run out of material for a while. The question will be can I keep up with blogging about them! My boys are getting a little older and more independent, so I should be able to manage as long as I remember. Let's see if I can revive this old blog!


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Today's book is the first in a trio, but the first is definitely the best. I had to check this book out for myself after quite a few of my students recommended it. Mr. Terupt is a brand new 5th grade teacher, and his students love him. His methods may be a little unconventional, but there is no doubt that the kids are learning and growing. Then something happens that changes everything mid-year, and the class has to learn how to lean on one another to get through it.

I really like how these books are told from multiple students' perspectives. The second book, in my opinion, is a little more on the cheesy side, and then the third book follows the students to middle school, which is fun to see them grow. You should at least read this book! It has some great humor thrown in along with the tension and uncertainty through the last half of the book.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Summer Reads: The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Hello, blogging world! It's been quite some time. Since I last wrote, I have moved schools (and school districts) and just completed my first year teaching 5th grade Gifted Language Arts. It's been busy, and I've felt like a brand new teacher since almost all of my previous experience has been with struggling readers, but I'm loving it! 



Anyway, I have been busily reading some of the latest YA novels to catch up with my avid readers this year, and I decided that the perfect way to get back into the groove of writing is to talk about a different book each week! I'm going to call this my "Summer Reads" series, and then I hope to also continue it into the school year, just maybe less frequent.


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The very first book I want to discuss is this year's Newbery medal winner, The Girl Who Drank the Moon. When I saw this one, I immediately purchased it, especially since it is fantasy, which I have realized my classroom library is lacking.

I would actually classify this book as a mix between Dystopian and fantasy. The premise is that there is a village who "sacrifices" a baby every year to a witch so that they may remain safe. This baby is put outside the gates of the village and left for dead, and then the witch supposedly comes along to eat it. However, the truth is that the witch knows nothing of their "sacrifice" and actually rescues the baby every year from what she believes is a village of cruel and heartless people. These babies are fed starlight on the journey to different villages (earning them the name Star Children) where one lucky family is selected to care for them.

One year, Xan (the witch) accidentally feeds the baby moonlight, which enmagics the young child. She ends up caring for the girl herself, and there comes a time when she will come to know the village she came from once again.

I loved this story! It paints a beautiful picture of love and hope, and it also shows how things aren't always what they seem. I actually went back and ordered a small group set to do with a group of students, and this was one of their favorites.