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Two teachers think about and write about their lives as readers -- readers of children's books, professional books, and adult fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Yes, we still want to try to have read the Newbery, but our reading lives are much bigger than just that.
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1. Some of My Favorite Online Reading from the Week

I've not had time to dig into many books this week. But I've been reading lots online and found these things worth sharing! 

From John Green:

My husband and I watched "The Martian" on Netflix last week.  I later found this fascinating story about the author of the book and how he wrote the story online. Love that people corrected the science as he went. The online possibilities for writing int his story fascinated me.

I revisited an article by Peter Johnston from a 2012 Stenhouse Blogstitute called "Reducing Instruction, Increasing Engagement". Peter Johnston is someone whose work I reread often as it is so important. So much to learn from him.

I loved this short reminder called "Why You Should Care About LEGO and Creativity"

And this important article (thanks to Katharine Hale for sharing) about Smart Tech Use for Equity.

And the brilliant Kristin Ziemke wrote "Beyond Text: reThinking Literacy" which is a must-read.

I was student teaching 3rd grade when the Challenger exploded. I remember the day vividly.  I was interested in this article about one of the engineers that still blames himself for the disaster.

And I always learn a lot from education writer Valerie Strauss. Her recent piece "The Testing Opt-Out Movement is Growing" is an informative one.

And I've always been fascinated to read about Barbie so I was interested in all things Barbie this week as Mattel launched Barbie's three new body types.

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2. Cry, Heart, But Never Break

Cry, Heart, But Never Break
by Glenn Ringtved
illustrated by Charlotte Pardi
translated from the Danish by Robert Moulthrop
Enchanted Lion Press, March 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

When Death comes for the children's beloved grandmother, they try to keep him from his task by serving him enough coffee to distract him until dawn, when he would have to leave without their grandmother.

It doesn't work.

Though "Some people say Death's heart is as dead and black as a piece of coal...that is not true. Beneath his inky cloak, Death's heart is as red as the most beautiful sunset and beats with a great love of life."

So Death tells the children a story about two brothers, Sorrow and Grief, who wind up marrying two sisters, Joy and Delight. After a long life together, all four died on the very same day, because they couldn't live without each other. Death uses this fable to show children that life needs both light and darkness. And his last advice, after the Grandmother dies, is the title of the book: "Cry, heart, but never break. Let your tears of grief and sadness help begin new life."

It's never easy to have conversations about death in our classrooms, but I think this gentle and sweet book would reassure students.

Depending on the group, I might pair it with

Grandy Thaxter's Helper
by Douglas Rees
illustrated by S.D. Schindler
Atheneum Books, 2004

This book gives readers a more irreverent version of Death, but also a strong character who resists him. Grandy Thaxter enlists Death's help with her work on successive days -- the cleaning (including the windows), the laundry (including the making of lye soap), making dinner (including grinding the corn for mush), the dishes after dinner, and, the straw that breaks Death's back, the making of linen (of the piles of bundles of wet reeds, he learns "We're going to brake it and swingle the reeds to get the flax"... "We're going to hackle it and spin it"... "So I can weave it into cloth."). Death can't take any more, saying, "I will come back some time when you are not so busy."

Gotta love a woman who is just too busy to die!

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3. Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating

When I preordered Jess Keating's new book, Pink is for Blobfish, I accidentally ordered 2 copies. Lucky thing because the book became immediately popular in the classroom!  Take a look at the book trailer:

I shared the book with my 3rd graders this week.  We have been learning about informational writing and this one invited great conversation about the way Jess Keating chose the animals for the book, titled the book and organized the information. The book is packed with information about pink animals and the photos and layout make the book perfect for middle grade readers. From the cover, it looks like this might be part of a new series--if so, I am extra excited!  This is a fabulous informational book and will hook so many young readers.  You'll definitely want this book for your classroom or library. Not only is it a great book for kids' independent reading, there is so much to share with kids about good informational writing.

I love that Jess Keating is a zoologist turned author.  If you know her fiction series (My Life is a Zoo) you know what a fun writer she is.  Her middle grade series is engaging and accessible for middle grade and early middle school readers.  In both her fiction and nonfiction books, Jess Keating packs in lots of things to think about while giving us a humor break and some new ways to think about things throughout.

Jess Keating recently introduced a Youtube channel called "Animals for Smart People".  It is a great series of informational videos. I am going to share the channel with my students this week and we are going to study this particular video as we think about the choices Jess Keating made about the visuals she included.  These are great sources of information for everyone. And they are perfect mentor texts for our middle grade kids as they learn to write informational text and create informational movies.

On a sidenote, Jess Keating and I are both original members of the #nerdrun team, #TeamSaunter.  I am thinking that Pink is for Blobfish might inspire some great costumes for the 2016 #nerdrun.....

The 2014 #TeamSaunter at #nerdrun! (Jess Keating dressed as Beetle:-)

You can (and should) follow Jess Keating on Twitter (@Jess_Keating) and make sure to visit her website. It is packed with lots of great stuff!

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4. Poetry Friday -- Found Object Poem Project

Yes, it feels a little nutso to be writing a poem a day again after only a month off since a haiku a day in December, but in the same way I've learned that if I don't go out and walk in the early morning I will never meet the deer and hear the owls ("Must Be Present to Win"), I know that for every day I don't write, those poems are lost forever.

Laura Shovan cooked up this Found Object Poem project. Here's a description, along with other February poetry projects she's done. Here is a post with links to all the poems the whole crew has written so far, and here's a link to all of my poems.

My favorite poem I've written so far is for this picture of moth eggs on a car window. Laura didn't reveal that's what they were until after we submitted our poems, but I was pretty sure I knew. Not sure enough to write a moth egg poem...although I alluded to a butterfly wing as a nod to my guess! I just left them as a mystery.

photo by Laura Shovan


The mysteries of the world are myriad.
Sometimes they look like little balls of butter.
Sometimes they clump together in the shape of South America.

The mysteries of the world puzzle us.
They make us take our glasses off and look so close
we dust our noses with them.

The mysteries of the world hold hidden ripeness.
Each might contain a new life,
or the possibility to change the weather patterns of the entire world.

The mysteries of the world cast shadows.
Hovering above, they block the sun
and send a chill through us as they pass over.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

Tricia has today's Poetry Friday roundup at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

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5. Pig in a Wig

What This Story Needs is a Hush and a Shush
by Emma J. Virján
Harper, 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

My wish came true! Another Pig in a Wig book! (My review of the first book here.)

This time, Pig in a Wig is trying to get ready for bed and fall asleep, but all of the farm animals pile noisily into bed with her (making their entrance through the window to cue young readers with a visual for the animal's sound). And the farm animals can not settle down, so Pig delivers the signatuer (title) line, and all the animals take their animal noises and go snuggle in a pile in the barn.

That's not quite the end of it, but this book is as perfect as the first in adding a twist.

Fun times for the youngest readers!

Next up later in 2016 -- What This Book Needs is a Munch and a Crunch. YAY! A picnic lunch!

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6. Digital Writing Workshop: Writers Create Plans

In our 3rd grade classroom, we've been working on Information Writing. We haven't been working long but we have done lots of Edcamps and blog posts, etc. so kids have been creating informational pieces all year. In order to help them better craft their writing, we've been learning how important it is for writers to plan.   So I've shared my own planning and how sometimes my planning comes after a first draft.  Planning is an important piece of revision, I think.

One lesson included sharing a blog post I wrote about a recent hockey game I attended.  I shared 3 different drafts of the blog post, explaining how I reflected and planned between drafts to make the piece better.

We've also been looking at mentor texts thinking about what decisions the writer made when creating the piece.(Katharine Hale shared some great student blogs that we used as mentors on her blog.) Whether it is a book, a video, a slide show or a blog post, we have learned that authors of informational writing have lots of planning to do.

These are the questions we've been asking as we look at our own writing and at mentors.
What is your plan for making your writing better?

What kind of research will you do next?
How will you keep notes in your research? 
How will you share/publish your informational piece?
What tools will you use to create a finished piece?
What visuals will you use or create to help your readers? Why?
Which nonfiction text features will you use to help your readers? Why?

How will you organize your writing to help your readers? 
What will your subheadings be? 
Will there be any sound or hyperlinks that will help readers understand?  

I can't tell you how happy I was when I received this tweet from one of our amazing Technology Support Teachers, Rhonda Luetje (@RhondaLuetje).

Rhonda had visited our classroom earlier to share the basics of Book Creator. I wanted my kids to have some experience playing with Book Creator before we created informational pieces. I knew some of my kids would want to use Book Creator for some of their informational pieces and Rhonda knows the tool well.

When she visited earlier this year, she shared a book she was creating about the Columbus Zoo. She shared the book which was really just a simple Book Creator demo. It had a few pages and a few features.

But in this tweet, I saw that Rhonda had really revised her book (Hurray! It's a Zoo Day!) and had made lots of decisions as a writer that we'd been talking about. So we studied her new draft and I asked her to come back and visit the classroom.

Rhonda created a piece that she thought could help students see all of the things that were possible in Book Creator. I also saw it as a piece that my 3rd graders could study as writers as they thought about the decisions she made when crafting the piece.

The way that we embedded the talk around the tool inside the conversation about decisions writers make was authentic and helpful to students.  The way that Rhonda worked to support writers in writing workshop has been critical.  Not all of my students will use Book Creator and that's okay. The conversations we are having are about the writing and the decision-making of writers. Book Creator just happens to be the tool we are using in this case and the tool gives the writer different options and decisions.

If you want to read more about Rhonda's process and her thinking from a technology standpoint, she has a post up about it on her blog today!

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7. Every Child a Super Reader

I received the book Every Child a Super Reader from Scholastic a few weeks ago. I haven't had time to read it cover to cover yet but have spent lots of time flipping through it. Ernest Morrell and Pam Allyn are so smart about literacy and children. They are committed to making sure ALL children are super readers and have the experiences they need for this to happen.

I was able to listen to the Podcast, "Every Child a Super Reader" that they did a while ago and their commitment to children and their beliefs about what all children deserve when it comes to literacy were so powerful.

I am anxious to dig into more of the book. We, as a country, have become so focused on skills and test scores and reading levels, that we have somehow lost sight of things that are really most important in helping kids live their lives as readers. Ernest and Pam talk about agency and choice and the limits of levels. They say, "Learning to read is typically defined as learning to control a specific set of skills. And while it's certainly true that children must learn to orchestrate a complex set of strategic actions that enable comprehension and decoding, it's equally true that learning to read is a social-cultural event.  In other words, learning to read is more than simple skill building."  They share the "7 Strengths Model" as important as children build their reader identities through childhood.

There is a lot of fresh thinking as we would expect from these authors. They move us beyond our thinking about what it means to become a reader and layers all that we know into ideas that help us see what is possible for every reader.  They take a look at access, schools, families, assessment and more.

It seems like this is another piece of Scholastic's commitment that started with Open a World of Possible.

This year, Pam and Ernest will be part of many of the Scholastic Reading Summits.  I went to one last year and it was an incredible and inspiring day.  I am hoping to get a chance to make it to one of the summits again this year. I am looking forward to spending more time with their book and hearing their message in person at one of the summits.

I am definitely looking forward to spending more time with this book and thinking about the ideas that Pam Allyn and Ernest Morrell share.

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8. Poetry Friday and Deconstructing a Standard

RL.5.6. Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

That's the 5th grade reading (literature) standard we're just beginning to work on in my class. So that my students can better understand what's expected of them, we deconstructed the standard, brainstorming around these words: describe, narrator, speaker, point of view, view, and influence. Next, we rewrote the standard in our words. Then, I gave them this poem and a series of scaffolded questions that would lead them to describing how the speaker's point of view influences how events are described.

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Robbphotos1


Outside my apartment
is a small patch of grass
and a parking lot.
Beyond that is a ditch
full of dirty snow and trash.

But across the road
are power lines
where a hawk often perches
long enough for me to sketch.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

Lo and behold, it worked! Not all, but some, realized that the point of view of the speaker is that of an artist, and "they see everything that is ugly but they can make it beautiful." The speaker will "make things better in the picture." And "An artist can see in detail, and they can make art out of whatever they see." Not bad for a first try.

Catherine has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core.

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9. The Conversation Around A Birthday Cake for George Washington

Recently, I wrote about the controversy over the book A Fine Dessert. There was a lot to think about if you followed the conversation, and as teachers and librarians, I think it is imperative that we are not only readers of children's literature.  I feel like it's also important that we are aware of the books we are reading and the issues surrounding them.

This month, Scholastic published a book called A Birthday Cake for George Washington.  Shortly after it was published, Scholastic released a statement stating that it was decided that they would be pulling it from distribution.

This was a pretty unprecedented move, but the controversy surrounding A Birthday Cake for George Washington, regardless of Scholastic's decision to pull the book, addresses the important issues about the way slavery is portrayed in children's books as well as important issues that deal with diversity in children's books.

Below are the posts I found to be worthwhile reads over the past few weeks.

January 4
Smiling Slaves in a post Fine Dessert World, Kirkus

January 6
Andrea Pinkney wrote about the book before it was released in the post, A Proud Slice of History.

January 6
And Debbie Reese addressed the issues in the book before it's release in her post, What Will They Say?

On January 15 Scholastic responded to the feedback it was getting about the book.

On the same day, January 15 Teaching for Change posted a review, Not Recommended: A Birthday Cake for George Washington

On January 16, Children's Book Causes a Stir for Inaccurate Depiction of Slavery.

And on January 17 the issue was discussed on ABC News.

January 17

January 18
Amid Controversy Scholastic Pulls Book About Washington's Slave.

January 18
Smiling Slaves at Storytime

January 18
Hornbook: A Bumpy Ride (This one is an interesting read and the comments are also worth the read, whether you agree with them or not.)

January 19
Megan at Reading While White: No Text is Sacred

On January 20, award-winning author,  Kimberly Brubaker Bradley weighed in on the discussion.

On January 22, the National Coalition Against Censorship issued a statement about Scholastic's decision.

On January 23, Daniel Jose Older tweeted his response to the statements made relating to censorship. These are collected in a Storify: On Censorship and Slavery.

This has all given me a great deal to think about.  Two other pieces that I have revisited but that are not directly related to the Birthday Cake for George Washington issue are:

This amazing TED talk, The Danger of a Single Story

And this response to the reaction to the  diversity in this year's award books. January 17, Not Mutually Exclusive

Lots to think about and lots of change that needs to happen.  

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10. Poetry Friday -- Double or Nothing

via Unsplash

Because temperatures were in the single digits,
I threw on the old red barn coat
I used to wear for winter dog walks.

I saw you looking at the frayed cuffs,
the faded canvas,
the corduroy collar.

I've owned this coat longer than you've been alive.
What do you own now that will last that long?
Probably nothing.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

labeled for reuse -- Google Images
I began my day
with thoughts about 
racial and economic 

and I read the news
of the Afghan woman
whose nose was cut off
by her husband.

Then I spent
twenty minutes
drawing the opening
amaryllis buds

and the only thing
in my mind was this
everyday miracle.
Nothing else.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

I wrote these poems in response to the Ditty of the Month Challenge that Douglas Florian offered up at Michelle's Today's Little Ditty.

Tara has the Poetry Friday roundup today at A Teaching Life.

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11. World Read Aloud Day -- Friendship Week

How does reading help us connect and make the world friendlier?

It gives us something to talk about -- BOOKS! What a blessing to belong to communities of readers, where the currency for a good conversation is as cheap and easy as "What are you reading now?"

And how does read aloud do the same thing? By giving a classroom full of diverse readers lots of books in common to use as reference points and compass points and discussion points.

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12. Be A Friend by Salina Yoon

I so love Salina Yoon's new book Be a Friend.  I am a big fan of Salina Yoon--I love her Penguin books.  I love anything I've ever seen that she's written and illustrated. I am excited about her upcoming Duck, Duck Porcupine book that is coming out this spring. What a great new series for young readers.

But my favorite Salina Yoon book is her new picture book called BE A FRIEND.  The book seems absolutely perfect to me. It is a simple book with a powerful message. There is so much to think and talk about. I read the book to my 3rd graders early this week and we could have talked for hours. It is a book that has already been revisited several times as readers notice new details in the text and have new thoughts about what it means to be kind, to be a friend.  It is the first MUST-OWN of 2016, I think:-)

The book trailer was premiered on Mr. Schu's blog along with a letter from Salina Yoon.

And Salina Yoon wrote a post on The Nerdy Book Club blog last week titled What It Means to Be a Friend.

I followed lots of posts and photos of some of the book release parties and celebrations for this book and love every image I saw. The book makes me feel lots of joy.  And there are some great prints and things over at Salina Yoon's blog. I am thinking I may need one as a treat when I finally clean up my office.

Just love this book!

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13. Poetry Friday -- On Collaboration

via Unsplash

by Robert Frost

I went to turn the grass once after one
Who mowed it in the dew before the sun.

The dew was gone that made his blade so keen
Before I came to view the levelled scene.

I looked for him behind an isle of trees;
I listened for his whetstone on the breeze.

But he had gone his way, the grass all mown,
And I must be, as he had been,—alone,

As all must be,' I said within my heart,
Whether they work together or apart.'

But as I said it, swift there passed me by
On noiseless wing a 'wildered butterfly,

Seeking with memories grown dim o'er night
Some resting flower of yesterday's delight.

And once I marked his flight go round and round,
As where some flower lay withering on the ground.

And then he flew as far as eye could see,
And then on tremulous wing came back to me.

I thought of questions that have no reply,
And would have turned to toss the grass to dry;

But he turned first, and led my eye to look
At a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook,

A leaping tongue of bloom the scythe had spared
Beside a reedy brook the scythe had bared.

I left my place to know them by their name,
Finding them butterfly weed when I came.

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,
By leaving them to flourish, not for us,

Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him.
But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

The butterfly and I had lit upon,
Nevertheless, a message from the dawn,

That made me hear the wakening birds around,
And hear his long scythe whispering to the ground,

And feel a spirit kindred to my own;
So that henceforth I worked no more alone;

But glad with him, I worked as with his aid,
And weary, sought at noon with him the shade;

And dreaming, as it were, held brotherly speech
With one whose thought I had not hoped to reach.

Men work together,' I told him from the heart,
Whether they work together or apart.'

This poem goes out to Heidi Mordhorst, with appreciation for her burst of submit-a-proposal-for-NCTE16 energy and the lingering joy of drafting and editing together on a Google Doc until the words (and word count!) (and presenters!) slipped into place like the proverbial hand in glove (with two hours to spare on Wednesday night!). Fingers crossed that our session is accepted!

Keri has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Keri Recommends.

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14. World Read Aloud Day -- Curiosity Week

We're getting ready to begin a new read aloud in my classroom, and this is definitely a time that fits with the World Read Aloud Day theme of CURIOSITY. My students can't wait to find out what I've chosen, and I'm wondering how they'll react to and interact with the book.

I've chosen The Lion Who Stole My Arm by Nicola Davies. I think it will be interesting to compare the "journey" of Pedru as he works toward revenge on the lion who attacked him, to the journeys of Mark and Joseph in Dan Gemeinhart's two books.

Our next read aloud after this short (under 100 pages) but intense read will be Pax, by Sara Pennypacker, which is set to come out February 2. I've never chosen read alouds around the same theme all year long, but we got started with these powerful, heart-wrenching journey stories, and I'm CURIOUS to see what it will be like to continue with books on the same theme throughout the year!

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15. Youth Media Awards

The winners of the ALA Youth Media Awards were announced yesterday morning. (Complete list of winners here.)

I'm still scratching my head a bit at the Newbery winner -- the picture book Last Stop On Market Street. I'll withhold judgement until I've had a chance to read it.

But which of the winners DID I read this year?

All three Newbery Honor books -- The War That Saved My Life (my pick for winner), Echo, and Roller Girl

Caldecott Winner -- Finding Winnie

Sibert Honor book -- Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans

Stonewall winner -- George

Both middle grade Schneider winners -- Fish in a Tree and The War That Saved My Life

I'm currently reading one of the Coretta Scott King Honor books -- All American Boys

Pura Belpré Author Award -- Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

All in all, it was a good reading year for me!

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16. This Week's Online Reading

(Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for the  It's Monday! What Are You Reading? roundup!)

I have a lot of writing deadlines in January so I have not read much fiction. I am trying not to start a book because I know that it is hard to write when I am wondering about characters I love. So I have been reading a lot of online pieces and I have found so many worth sharing. So for today's "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" I thought I'd share some of the powerful things I've read this week. Once I started the list, I realized I should give credit to the people who shared these with me through email or social media but I wasn't that organized. So thanks to everyone who shares great reading, especially the pieces below.

To the White Parents of my Black Son's Friends by Maralee Bradley

Is the Drive for Success Making Our Children Sick? by Vicki Abeles

Mom: What do I expect from my children's elementary school? Certainly not this. by Valerie Strauss

Let's Debate: Homework! by Kristi Mraz

10 Things Highly Creative People Do Differently by Andrew Tate

Beyond Working Hard: What Growth Mindset Teaches Us About Our Brains by Katrina Schwartz

Growing Pains by Jen Schwanke

 Reading Right Now Recommendations from Kristin Ziemke

Ann Patchett on the Return of Bookstores

Assessments as Hope by Cassandra Erkens

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17. Poetry Friday -- Haiku Gifts

When I saw these little 2"x2"x.5" canvases at Michaels Arts and Crafts, I couldn't resist them, even though I had no idea what I'd do with them.

During my Haiku-a-Day in December, one of my brainstorming pages had these rich 5-syllable opposites: eventually/in the nick of time and truth abandons them/we discover truth. I added two different concrete 7-syllable lines, and realized that by mixing and matching, my 9 phrases could make multiple haikus.

I got out my water color colored pencils and made up this set for my brother for Christmas. He had sent me Jane Reichhold's WRITING AND ENJOYING HAIKU: A HANDS-ON GUIDE for my birthday, so it seemed like an appropriate gift. (I'm not all the way through Reichhold's book yet, but I'm loving it!)

Here's to the joy of creating art with words and visuals!

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at The Opposite of Indifference.

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18. World Read Aloud Day -- Seven Strengths Countdown

LitWorld is counting down the weeks until World Read Aloud Day by highlighting a different strength of read aloud each week.

This week is BELONGING WEEK ("When has reading helped you feel like you belong to a community?")

In my classroom, the books I read aloud bring the class together as a community -- a truth this year in particular.

We started the year with Dan Gemeinhart's THE HONEST TRUTH (I reviewed it last year here.) When we finished, I suggested to the class that we share a "lighter" book next. They were vehemently against it -- they begged me for another book with hard issues that they would feel in their hearts. Another book that would make them gasp with fear, and cry with relief. Another book that would put them in the shoes of a character  who is dealing with hard problems.

We had a chance to Skype with Dan Gemeinhart, and he showed us the arc of his next book, SOME KIND OF COURAGE (available January 26). In a stroke of good luck, the arc arrived the next day in a box full of arcs from Scholastic.

SOME KIND OF COURAGE was our second read aloud of the year, and it was all kinds of magic. The book can be compared to THE HONEST TRUTH in its theme, characters, and story arc. Both are stories of quests, but SOME KIND OF COURAGE is historic fiction, rather than realistic fiction. Gemeinhart has the ability to write memorable scenes, and his mixture of sad or nerve-wracking scenes with humorous scenes is masterful. We are Skyping again this Friday, and we feel privileged to be one of the first classes to give him feedback on this book. I don't think I'm giving anything away when I say that we'll be giving him two thumbs up!

Because of a change of schedule, four of my students were going to be missing read aloud two out of the four days we have it. I was completely flummoxed about what I should do. There was just no other time in the schedule when I have them that I could work it in, and I didn't want to deny all the rest of the kids just for those four. I was stuck. Then their teacher came to me and shared that they are feeling the same way. Missing read aloud was a non-negotiable for them. So we worked it out so that my four can stay for read aloud and not miss anything in their other class. WHEW!

If that's not a testament to the strength of our classroom community around our read aloud, I'm not sure what is!

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19. Celebrating 10 Years of A Year of Reading: Our 8th Birthday

It seems hard to believe, but we are coming to the end of our 10th year of blogging! To celebrate, we will look back on our blog birthday posts through the years.  Join us as we revisit our birthday posts. Today is Day 8 of our 10 Day Birthday Celebration!

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20. Poetry Friday -- The Roundup is HERE!!

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Brett Bolkowy

Have you read LITTLE TREE by Loren Long? Franki reviewed it here. (Go ahead and click over. I'll wait. Make sure you watch the 1.5 minute video by Loren Long at the end of her post. )

My poem for today is the late 1800's version of LITTLE TREE. Both Long and Thomas remind us that change is hard, but necessary.

It might be time for you to let go of some leaves. Have faith that some sort of spring will come. Believe that you can (you will!) continue to grow.

Have a happy new year. And a brave one.

Winter Leafage
by Edith Matilda Thomas (1854-1925)

Each year I mark one lone outstanding tree,
Clad in its robings of the summer past,
Dry, wan, and shivering in the wintry blast.
It will not pay the season’s rightful fee,—
It will not set its frost-burnt leafage free;
But like some palsied miser all aghast,
Who hoards his sordid treasure to the last,
It sighs, it moans, it sings in eldritch glee.
A foolish tree, to dote on summers gone;
A faithless tree, that never feels how spring
Creeps up the world to make a leafy dawn,
And recompense for all despoilment bring!
Oh, let me not, heyday and youth withdrawn,
With failing hands to their vain semblance cling!

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21. Celebrating 10 Years of A Year of Reading: Our 9th Birthday

It seems hard to believe, but we are coming to the end of our 10th year of blogging! To celebrate, we will look back on our blog birthday posts through the years.  Join us as we revisit our birthday posts. Today is Day 9 of our 10 Day Birthday Celebration!


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22. Celebrating 10 Years of A Year of Reading: Happy 10th Birthday to Us!


Happy 10th Birthday to A Year of Reading! 

Our blog began as a place to have conversations about books and make predictions about the Newbery winners. Here are all of the winners for the lifetime of our blog:

2006 Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins

2007 The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

2008 Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz

2009 The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

2010 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

2011 Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

2012 Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

2013 The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

2014 Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo

2015 The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Our blog has been a place to share book reviews of children’s and profession books, classroom stories, Poetry Friday and Poetry Month, It’s Monday What Are You Reading, Math Monday, #Nerdlutions, One Little Words, #GNCelebration, #PB10for10, #cyberPD…and more in more than 3000 posts, which means we’ve averaged about 300 posts per year! WHEW!

The blog isn’t the only place we’ve shared our reading – we’re both on Goodreads, and have listed over 3000 books there. Between the two of us, we’ve tweeted over 30,000 tweets (probably not all about books and reading)!

The blog isn’t the only place we’ve been writing these past 10 years. Both of us write for Choice Literacy. Franki has published and/or co-published four books, and Mary Lee has poems in six anthologies.

It’s been a fun and productive 10 years both on and off the blog. We’re delighted that we share the Kidlitosphere with you, and look forward to what the next 10 years will bring!

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23. #Nerdlution 2016!

A few years ago, several of us participated in #Nerdlution.  If you missed it the first round, you can read about it here. And here. And here.

I wasn't so successful with #nerdlution and hadn't thought much about it, but a few days  Niki Barnes tweeted out:

I figured it was a good time to revisit some goals and think about what I wanted to focus on in the next few months. Our original #nerdlution was 50 days so we set the 2016 #nerdlution to run from January 4 (tomorrow!) until February 22.  I don't remember why we settled on 50 but that seemed like a good timeframe again.

My first instinct was to set the goal "Pull myself together". But Colby Sharp is serious about goals and he reminded me that it needed to be more specific with this:

And then I read Chris Lehman’s post about his hopes for the year. 

So I thought hard about what I meant when I said I needed to "pull myself together". How would that be measurable? Niki Barnes suggested a Before and After picture but that seemed a little stressful!  What was keeping me from feeling "pulled together" on a daily basis.  It's taken me a few days of thinking but here is what I've figured out.

I plan too much for a day or a weekend or a chunk of time. My to-do list is always impossible and I like it that way.  I like the work I do and I like to be busy. But because my to-do list is never-ending by choice, I have gotten into the habit of trying to get finished with my to-do list even though it isn't mean to be finished. So I end up feeling a big overwhelmed by all that I have to do. (even if I don't have to do it for weeks).  I end up rushing in the morning and rushing in the evening and then living a bit chaotically because of it.  Because I am trying to check things off my list, I don't make time for things that help me to feel organized. Whether I am put together or not, I don't feel like it because I have started to feel frazzled in the morning and in the evenings.

So to help with this goal, I have a few things I am going to try to change in the next 50 days. These are things I will do no matter how long my to-do list is (because it is always long, by choice remember:-)

-I will take the time to wash my face and use moisturizer every morning and night.  (This is something that I often skip because I try to check things off my to-do list and work "for just one more minute" until I am so tired that all I can do is fall into bed.)

-I will pack healthy lunches and have healthy breakfasts on most days (which means I will have to take a few minutes to plan and prepare these.)

-I will exercise 5 days a week.  Anything for 25+ minutes will count. (My to-do list will no longer be an excuse).

-As a family, we will spend 10 minutes every night picking up stuff in our family room and kitchen.  We tend to put things on the tables and the island as we go about our business each day. This become a bit overwhelming after a few days so we are committing to doing this each night before we go to bed.

None of these things are very hard and none of these take a long time but I think they will help me feel like I am more put together and less frantic about things.  I think this list will also give me permission to put my to-do list aside for a chunk of time each day.  Dropping daily routines has become a bad habit and I use my to-do list as an excuse too often.  Building these habits back into life   seems doable and very worthwhile. I am actually looking forward to it.  I may not look any different at the end of #nerdlution (which is why I did not take Nikki's advice to measure my #Nerdlution with a before and after picture:-)  but I am hoping that I feel more put together, more balanced and less obsessed with my never-ending to-do list (did I mention that I love everything on my to-do list!).

We hope you will join us!  If you have some new thing you are trying to commit to, join us with the #nerdlution hashtag on Twitter and on our Nerdlution Facebook Page!

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24. It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I always love winter break reading. I either catch up on the last of the year's books or I read ahead to the upcoming books of the next year. Some years I do a combination of both but it is always one of my favorite reading times of the year.

This year I read some amazing books that are due out in 2016.  All are MUST READS for sure! I feel lucky to have started my 2016 with these books. They all tugged at my heart in very different ways and all are perfect for middle grade readers.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker
Due to be released February 2, 2016
This book, illustrated by Jon Klassen is one that I could not put down.  It is the story of a boy and his pet fox. It is a dog story and the story of a boy's journey and a story of loss and friendship.  It is the best of all of these things.

Due to be released February 23,  2016
This book was sent to me by the author (who lives in Ohio--lucky us!). What an amazing story of grief and healing.  Told in a story that reminded me a bit of Coraline, meeting Charlie and his sister Imogen as they work through their grief is an incredible read. The way the author puts the issues into a fantasy world is incredible and is perfect for middle grade readers.

When Mischief Came to Town by Katrina Nannestad
Due to be released January 5, 2016
Inge Maria is a character who will stay with me for a very long time.  She has recently lost her mother and moves in with her grandmother who she does not know well. She moves into a rather dull town but brings life to the town and brightens the lives of so many.  A great story with a great feisty character.

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

I also read a 2015 book that I have been hearing a lot about. I am so glad that this was my first read of 2016. I am sorry I waited so long to read it.  I have already told so many people about it as I think it is a must-read.   This book is about two teenage boys dealing with issues of police brutality, racism, family and what it worth standing up for. The book is written by two authors and is brilliant. I would put this one next on your list of must reads and I plan to read more by these authors for sure.

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25. One Little Word 2016

image from Unsplash

I couldn't put it off any longer. My students chose their One Little Words yesterday, and I was still procrastinating.

I almost settled on BALANCE, but this word is one I am constantly working towards already. (Constantly, in fact.)

Then I went on a brainstorming spree: bellicose (too negative), cheer (hmm...possibility), levitate, float, informed. Then I got grumpy: hibernate, eschew, shirk. I tried chickadee, puzzle, curious, inquire, ask, design (hmm...possibility), stretch, change, barter.

Suddenly, my word found me:


Bend. It tells me to be flexible, reminds me not to break. It shows me a curving road with an unknowable ending, a journey, and it beckons me forward. If it is my teaching, I think of it as to mold or shape. If it is my poetry, photography, and art, I bend my efforts toward the creative. A bend is a kind of knot that connects two ropes, so I can feel a tightening of connections with this word. Last of all, it's a warning to me not to go in too deep -- divers get the bends, you know!

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