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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. Poetry Friday: The Bright Side

Photo via Unsplash


by Ronald Wallace

Some days I find myself
putting my foot in
the same stream twice;
leading a horse to water
and making him drink.
I have a clue.
I can see the forest
for the trees.

All around me people
are making silk purses
out of sows’ ears,
getting blood from turnips,
building Rome in a day.
There’s a business
like show business.
There’s something new
under the sun.

Some days misery
no longer loves company;
it puts itself out of its.
There’s rest for the weary.
There’s turning back.
There are guarantees.
I can be serious.
I can mean that.
You can quite
put your finger on it.

Some days I know
I am long for this world.
I can go home again.
And when I go
I can
take it with me.

This poem, shared a few weeks ago on The Writer's Almanac, cracks me up. Ronald Wallace turns all of these common sayings upside down and inside out, changing them from negative to positive.

It's all in how you look at the world, isn't it? Change your lens, change the world.

Now do me a favor and go back to the title and the first line. Do you know which saying he flipped? I'm thinking "occur" was originally "happens." And are you thinking what I'm thinking about the word he changed into "blessings?"

Cracks. Me. Up. Every time.

Carol V. has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink. Join Carol in her spring garden to celebrate the vibrancy of poetry.

There are  just a few slots left in the July-December Poetry Friday Roundup Host schedule. Check it out here if you want to host the weekly poetry party!

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2. We Write For You

A must watch video.

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3. Interview With A Rick Riordan Reader

When I received these two books as review copies, there was no question in my mind about what I would do next -- I handed them first to B. and then to M., both huge fans of everything Rick Riordan has written.

I had a lunch date with M. last week, and we chatted about how her reading life has developed this year, and about these two books.  Previously, I have watched series books launch a reading life, but I have never seen an avid reader tear through series after series the way M. has in the past few months. 

Me: How did you become such and avid a Rick Riordan reader?

M: First I watched all the Percy Jackson movies. Then I saw T. reading The Lost Hero (in the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan) and she recommended it.

Me: What are some topics and themes in these books that keep you coming back for more?

M: I like the action, the cliffhangers, the things that surprise you. There's a little romance, but not too much.

Me: So, Percy is Greek mythology, and the Kane series is Egyptian mythology, right? What's Demigods and Magicians about and who would you recommend it to?

M: I'd recommend it to people who read all of the Rick Riordan series. It switches between the Kane stories and the Percy Jackson stories and connects them at the end.

Me: Do you learn lots about mythology from reading these books?

M: You learn a little mythology, but mostly they are good stories. There should be Kane movies.

Me: What will you read next?

M: Next up is The Magnus Chase -- it connects to one of the books -- it's Greek mythology for sure, but there are new characters.

Me: Tell me a little about your reading habits. How do you plow through these long books so steadily?

M: I read for a long time whenever I read. On the weekends I read. I read before dinner, and I read after dinner. I watch a little TV with dinner, but I'd rather read than watch TV.

Me: Have you always been a series reader?

M: No, this is new. The closest has been when I read Rump, Jack, and Red.

This amazing reader will eventually come to the end of the Rick Riordan series (maybe...he's incredibly prolific!!) and will need to find other books to fill the gap left in her reading life. She has great resources that will serve her well: her family uses the public library, and she has friends who are readers who will recommend books to her. What would I recommend? The Inkheart series by Cornelia Funke, or The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart.

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4. The Newly Elected NCTE Vice President

Three cheers for Franki! 

One cheer for a currently practicing elementary school teacher 
leading the National Council of Teachers of English!

Another cheer for an advocate for children's literature leading NCTE!

And a final cheer for an extraordinarily passionate professional 
who has a seemingly boundless amount of energy. 
When she's not fine-tuning her own craft as an educator, 
she's working with others to share her passion and vision.

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5. Poetry Friday -- That Moment

That Moment When Summer Arrives, 
Whether or not the Solstice Has Occurred

The peonies are blown.
Rain knocked the petals off
the last poppy
and laid the daisies down on the lawn.
The first fireflies
sparkle the humid night.
You can smell
the grass growing.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check it Out.

The call for roundup hosts July-December went up yesterday. You can find it here.

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6. Poetry Friday -- Call for Roundup Hosts

It's that time again. Six months have passed since last we queued up to host the Poetry Friday roundups.

If you'd like to host a roundup between June and December 2016, leave your choice(s) of date(s) in the comments. I'll update regularly to make it easier to see which dates have been claimed.

What is the Poetry Friday roundup? A gathering of links to posts featuring original or shared poems, or reviews of poetry books. A carnival of poetry posts. Here is an explanation that Rene LaTulippe shared on her blog, No Water River, and here is an article Susan Thomsen wrote for the Poetry Foundation.

Who can do the Poetry Friday roundup? Anyone who is willing to gather the links in some way, shape or form (Mr. Linky, "old school" in the comments-->annotated in the post, or ???) on the Friday of your choice. If you are new to the Poetry Friday community, jump right in, but perhaps choose a date later on so that we can spend some time getting to know each other.

How do you do a Poetry Friday roundup? If you're not sure, stick around for a couple of weeks and watch...and learn! One thing we're finding out is that folks who schedule their posts, or who live in a different time zone than you, appreciate it when the roundup post goes live sometime on Thursday.

How do I get the code for the PF Roundup Schedule for the sidebar of my blog? I'll post it in the files on the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group, and I'd be happy to send it to you if you leave me your email address. You can always find the schedule on the Kidlitosphere Central webpage.

Why would I do a Poetry Friday Roundup? Community, community, community. It's like hosting a poetry party on your blog!

And now for the where and when:



9 Amy at The Poem Farm
30 Karen at Karen Edmisten




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7. Next Year's Readers: Sharing My New Nonfiction Passion

I'm starting to fall in love with nonfiction. It started years back with a book that looked at history through the lens of the oak tree.

Then there were books by Bill Bryson, a favorite author. One looks at history through the lens of our homes, and another focuses on a single amazing year in history.

Just recently, I finished listening to a history traced by what we've been drinking.

In my Audible wish list are now histories focused on salt and cod, seeds, potatoes, food, and innovations. Suddenly, I can't get enough of this way of thinking about history! One of most prolific writers of this kind of history, Mark Kurlansky, has adapted two of his most popular books for adults into picture books. Next year, I intend to read more nonfiction aloud to my fifth graders. I'll start with these two!

by Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2006

by Mark Kurlansky, illustrated by S.D. Schindler
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2011

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8. Next Year's Readers: TBR Focus on Diverse Characters

I always thought I was doing an adequate job building a diverse classroom library. Then A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington happened. Franki and I started having conversations with each other and with teachers around our district about the importance of building more diverse classroom libraries -- libraries with books that can serve as mirrors where students can see themselves, and libraries with books that can serve as windows, giving students an accurate look at others' lives. As I browsed through the chapter books in my classroom library in preparation for a PD I was co-leading in my building on this topic, I was dismayed by the lack of diversity. To quote Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better." 

Next week I'm going to lead my class in audit of my classroom library, both for gender bias and for racial bias. I was inspired by this post. I think the conversations will be incredibly powerful.

In the meantime, here is one book that's sitting at the top of my #summerbookaday TBR pile and two others that I have pre-odered on Amazon. 

Save Me a Seat
by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Scholastic, May 2016

"Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL. 

Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. 

Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. 

Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week."

by Grace Lin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (October 4, 2016)

"Pinmei's gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller.

Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei's grandmother--before it's too late.

A fast-paced adventure that is extraordinarily written and beautifully illustrated, When the Sea Turned to Silver is a masterpiece companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky."

by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Atheneum Books for Young Readers (June 28, 2016)

"From the critically acclaimed author of Anything But Typical comes a touching look at the days leading up to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and how that day impacted the lives of four middle schoolers.

Ask anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center.

But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Naheed has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Aimee is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business.

These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined. Award-winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin weaves together their stories into an unforgettable novel about that seemingly perfect September day—the day our world changed forever."

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9. Poetry Friday: To Stay Alive

I mentioned in Wednesday's post (about my next-in-the-graphic-novel-series TBR pile) that I love Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales, and this one in particular. From my Goodreads review: "The Donner Party story is filled with idiots who make stupid decisions for all the reasons stupid decisions get made: pride, greed, stubbornness...Here's some history we FOR SURE don't want to repeat!!"

by Nathan Hale
Harry N. Abrams, 2014

by Skila Brown
Candlewick, October 2016

Even though I knew the train-wreck of a story line, I was excited to read this novel in verse about the Donners, and excited for another book from Skila Brown, author of Caminar. The story is told from the point of view of 19 year-old survivor Mary Ann Graves. Each poem has its own unique structure, which gives the book a satisfying breadth and depth, and which contributes to the pacing of the story. Because of the first person point of view and the emotional quality of the poems, this is a most human telling of this story -- yes, they were stupid; yes, mistakes were made. But in the end, they were humans who did what they needed to do to survive.

Julie has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at The Drift Record.

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10. Next Year's Readers: Three Next-In-The-Series

I believe in the power of series books.

I believe in the power of graphic novels.

Here are three next-in-the-series graphic novels that are on my TBR pile for the first week of June:

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
by Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 2016

It was fun to sit and listen to a group of girls talk about the merits of this series last week. They are good readers and detail-oriented, so the amount of smaller-font text doesn't put them off. They each have a different favorite in the series, but none of them has read Donner Dinner Party yet (my personal favorite). They talked about how this is the kind of series where it's important to read the first one first so that you understand why Nathan Hale (the historic character) is telling all these stories (to delay his hanging). After that, you can read them in any order.

Thank you, Nathan Hale (the author) for making history fun and accessible!

by Judd Winick
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016

This is book two. The first book in this series ended on such (SUCH) a cliffhanger that I can't believe I'm not reading this book right now. (And as I typed that, I just guilted myself into taking this copy to school for the last 8 days so that every child who groaned audibly upon finishing it will be able to read book two before going on to middle school.)

HiLo is my new favorite superhero. Read this series; he'll be your favorite, too!

by Mike Maihack
Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2016

I love graphic novels with strong female characters who are cast as adventurers and sheroes. Bring on Cleopatra, Emily (in Amulet), Claudette (Giants Beware and Dragons Beware), and Zita (Spacegirl).

Don't get me wrong. There's a place for Babysitters' Club. I'm just loving these strong, capable girl sheroes.

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11. Next Year's Readers: Three Middle Grade Novels

Now that students are bringing back all the books they've had checked out the past few months, I am faced with the reality that my bookshelves are officially At Capacity, and so is my classroom when it comes to the number of bookshelves in the room. In order for there to be space for all my books, some weeding is going to have to take place. This also means that in order for me to add new books, I will have to make room by removing the books no one has been reading. (Which is SO hard, because for each and every book I remove, I can imagine a possible future reader who will love that book!) 

That said, here are three new/newer middle grade novels that are ensured a place on the shelves in my classroom.

Counting Thyme
by Melanie Conklin
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2016

Thyme and her family move from California to New York City in order for her little brother to take part in a cancer drug clinical trial. All Thyme wants is to do enough chores to earn the time she needs to go back and spend her shared birthday with her best friend Shani.

Thyme gradually adjusts to life in the city (including a small apartment rather than a house with a yard), her new school and friends, the housekeeper, Mrs. Ravelli, and the quirky neighbor, Mr. Lipinski, and is able to look beyond her own life to realize the complexity of others' lives.

It's been a long time since characters and a story grabbed me like this and wouldn't let me go until I finished the book!

by Shelley Pearsall
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015

This is another book that grabbed me at the first page and wouldn't let me go until I finished it! Karen Terlecky's review on GoodReads sums up the plot: "This was a cross between Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life and Touching Spirit Bear." The author's notes at the end gave an interesting view of her process -- where she got the idea for the story and how much of the story is truth vs. imagination. It's been since The Hired Girl and The Thing About Jellyfish that I copied so many great quotes into my notebook.

by Sharon Draper
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015

Woven through this unflinching look at racial discrimination in the Jim Crow south during the Depression, is the story of the awakening of a young writer to her craft.

From the KKK, to separate and definitely unequal schools, to blatant voting discrimination, Sharon Draper tells it like it was. Through it all, Stella, her family, and her community remain positive and hopeful, working for a fair and just future which today remains elusive but just as worth fighting for now as it was then. This is an important book for read aloud and discussion, either in racially diverse or in racially similar classrooms. 

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12. Poetry Friday -- Hidden Miracles

Jack in the Pulpit:
unrecognized miracle
pokes up amongst ferns

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

How many miracles do we walk by every day, not acknowledging them or perhaps not even recognizing them?

May you go through your day today with wide open eyes. What miracles might you witness?

Margaret has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Reflections on the Teche.

And if you're curious, here's what the Jack in the Pulpit will look like in a couple of days (photo from last year):

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13. This Week's Online Reading

My favorite online reading this week included:

I've been reading a great deal on Early Childhood Education. Being back in 3rd grade for a few years and realizing how much has changed since last time I taught this age, I am trying to read as much as I can about the early years in education and how to get back to what we know about how young children learn. This article from the Washington Post was an interesting read.

Another article, The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten had similar messages.

And this article The Privatization of Childhood Play shares an interesting theory about play dates.

And I always find something fabulous on Glennon's blog. This week, shared a post she wrote a while ago that is so important for parents and teachers--It's Just as Simple and As Hard as This

I love Sheryl Sandberg and have learned so much from her. Her recent commencement speech has been shared online this week and it is one I plan to reread several times.  Lots to learn from it.

I also love what Seth Godin has to say. I loved his recent post The Toddler Strategy

And I feel like I need to reread What Young Men of Color Can Teach Us About the Achievement Gap several times as there is so much to think about and learn from this article.

There was also a great piece called Seven Things I'm Learning about Transgender People that is very informative.

I've been reading a great deal on homework and it seems to be on a lot of people's minds.  This week I read 5 Steps to Rebranding Homework.

If you don't read the NCTE blog, it always has thoughtful posts.   Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline in and out of the English Classroom by Nicole Mirra is an important read.  A Legacy of Pride for May by Jocelyn Chadwick is also a must-read on the blog.

I think I am going to share this article, 10 Tips for Summer Reading, with parents before summer break.

I am not surprised by this article, "Books Are Back. Only the Technodazzled Thought They Would Go Away".

BEA 2016 Children's Breakfast Speakers Agree: Books Change Lives

And this, Worst End-of-the-School-Year Mom Ever, reminded me that it isn't only teachers who are almost out of energy at this time of year. It is also moms!

Unhelpful Punishment is a must read that addresses the harmful ways schools discipline students from low-income homes.

The PARCC Test Exposed from an anonymous public school teacher.

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14. Books for Fairy Tale Lovers

I have several 3rd graders who are hooked on fairy tale novels. I think most of them were hooked with the Whatever After series early in the year, and they've moved on from there (even though they devour the new ones as they are released). Many books I have in the classroom. Others, they've discovered on their own and shared with other readers who have similar tastes.  There are so many series out there that fit exactly what these kids are looking for---fairy tales or something connected in some way to the fairy tales they know and love.  These are some of the favorites in the classroom right now.  They are all great for grades 3-5ish.

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer.  You can visit the Land of Stories webpage here.

The Fairy Dust Trilogy by Gail Carson Levine

The Grace Lin trilogy (3rd one due out this year) is a great series for kids who enjoy other fantasy/fairy tales.  Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is the first in this trilogy. 

We are currently reading aloud Rump by Liesl Shurtliff. My kids love this one and are anxious to read the other two in this series,  Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk and Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood.


The Kingdom Keepers series isn't quite a fairy tale but there are lots of familiar characters and storylines as it takes place in Disney World!  There is a Kingdom Keepers website that you can visit here.

The Sisters Grimm( Fairy Detectives is the first in the series) is another great fairy tale series by Michael Buckley.

A new favorite is the Hamster Princess series by Ursula Vernon (author of the Dragonbreath series).  I read this one last summer and could not believe how much I loved this princess and the humor in these stories. There are only 2 out in the series but we hope there are lots more coming soon!

And we love the Tuesdays at the Castle series at our school. Last year we were lucky enough to host Jessica Day George for an author visit and it's been fun to see kids continue to be excited about the new books in the series too!  

This is one of my favorite kinds of books so it has been fun to watch a group of 3rd graders discover the fun in these this year!

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15. Baseball: Then to Wow!

I always love to find a new nonfiction sports book to add to our sports basket, so I bought this one when I saw it.  Sports Illustrated for Kids seems to publish stuff that is really interesting for kids. I figured (just by the cover) that kids would like Baseball: Then to Wow! but when I opened it I realized how packed it was with single-page spreads that I could use for mini lessons and small group instruction too.

The visuals in this book are BRILLIANT.  Every page focuses on a different topic and then shows how things have changed over the years.  Some pages, show a timeline--for example the page on Catcher's Masks starts in the 1870s and goes decade by decade showing what they looked like and some facts about them over the years.  Another page, The Five-Tool Player compares two players in a Then and Now table. Mickey Mantle and Mike Trout.

I don't know a lot about baseball but this book is engaging as a reader because of the amount of information and the way it is displayed.  There is a lot for kids in this book. First of all, I think they will just enjoy it for the book that it is. It is a great read packed with fascinating info. As readers, they can learn a lot about how to read visuals--there is such a variety of visual information that I can see using several pages in lessons as we learn to navigate nonfiction. I also think as writers, they'll want to try some things out.  I have lots of kids who write about sports and start out in pretty traditional ways. This gives them new ways to think about how they might best share information with readers.

This book is packed with information as well as real photos, artifacts, maps and more.  It is definitely going to be one of my go-to nonfiction texts next year.  (If you go to the book on Amazon, you can "Look Inside" and see some of the visuals.)

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16. Poetry Friday -- Mary Oliver


My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

~ Mary Oliver, born in 1935, American poet

When what I typically call my work becomes just a bit overwhelming, it's good to remember what my work really is (or should be).

Violet has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Violet Nesdoly | Poems.

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17. Some Professional Books I Am Looking Forward to Reading This Summer

My stack of professional books continues to grow as there are so many things to learn and so many smart people writing!  There are a few books that I am especially excited to dig into this summer. They are:

DIY Literacy by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts. Well, I've already read this book once. I wrote the foreword and it was such an honor to do so. One big perk of writing a foreword is that you get to be an early reader of the book! So I was able to read this book when it was in production and I fell in love with it.  The authors are brilliant and they give us so much to think about.  I want to revisit it this summer now that I have the actual book. Summer is a good time for me to revisit books that make a big impact on me so I can think about how best to implement my new learning.   If you have not seen Kate and Maggie's videos that go along with the release of the book, they are fabulous.

Who's Doing the Work by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris is a book I can't wait to read!  I love the work of these authors and can't wait to read this new one over the summer when I really have time to really stop and think about all they have to say. They have a way of regrounding me and reminding me what is right for our classrooms.  I love the focus on student identity and agency in all of their work.  I love these words on the Stenhouse website that describe the book: " Who's Doing the Work? suggests ways to make small but powerful adjustments to instruction that hold student accountable for their own learning.  It offers a vision for adjusting reading instruction to better align with the goal of creating independent, proficient, and joyful readers." 

The Big Book of Details by Rozlyn Linder is a book I have spent a bit of time with but one I want to spend more time with this summer. I did a lot of work rethinking Writing Workshop this year and want to continue to rethink over the summer.  This book is packed with lessons but in a way that helps you think through intention and how the lesson fits into the bigger picture. You can see a video of Rozlyn talking about the book on the Heinemann site.

Another book that will help me as a writing teacher is a new one I just saw on Stenhouse's site. Craft Moves:  Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts by Stacey Shubitz.  You probably know Stacey from Two Writing Teachers blog. After reading the book's description, I knew it was a book I would need to buy!

Purposeful Play: A Teacher's Guide to Igniting Deep and Joyful Learning Across the Day by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli and Cheryl Tyler is a book I am most excited to read. I am a huge Kristine Mraz fan and have been learning so much from her over the past few years.  I have been thinking a great deal about joy and play and how to get back to what we know is right for young children in the classroom. I hope to dig into this one with friends who will also be reading it.

And I am excited about the K-2 version of Well-Played: Building Mathematical Thinking Through Number Games and Puzzles by Linda Dacey, Karen Gartland and Jayne Bamford Lynch. I so loved the 3-5 book and learned so much about games from these authors.   Being a 3rd grade teacher I know the K-2 book will  help me better support some students who need support with various concepts. Looking forward to it!

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18. 2 New Nonfiction Picture Books

I read about the book Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood on a blog and knew I had to have it. I loved the story but hadn't ever heard anything about this amazing orchestra. Then a friend sent me this video clip.  

And this TEDx talk by Favio Chavez at TEDxAmsterdam

Ada's Violin tells the story of Ada and this orchestra.  The story is an inspiring one and the illustrations are brilliant. The author's note and photos at the end give readers more information. I can't wait to share this one with my students!

The other book I have been anticipating is Whoosh!  Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton. I am a huge Chris Barton fan. (The Day-Glo Brothers hooked me years ago.) Chris Barton always finds these amazing stories of people and this one about Lonnie Johnson is a god one!  Lonnie Johnson is the inventor of the Super Soaker water gun. But he is also the inventor of so many things. This is a great story about someone who works hard at something he is passionate about. In the author's note, Barton says, "What was most appealing about Lonnie Johnson's story was the fact that it is still unfolding.  He didn't just take his Super Soaker money and retire young. Instead, he directed it toward hands-on efforts to solve one of the world's most important engineering puzzles of our day. His mission? To efficiently harness heat energy--from the sun and other sources--in order to generate the electricity we need without polluting the planet."  I love so much about this book. I love that it expands the scientists our children know. I love how it ties into the maker movement with all that Lonnie Johnson has created.  And I love that we can continue to follow his work.  Below is an interview with Lonnie Johnson from several years ago.

Chris Barton has written another amazing book about another amazing person. I am excited to add this to our picture book biography collection. 

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19. Jackie


Mommy? Grandma?
Why are you crying?
Did I do something wrong?

No, Jackie. No, Punkin'.
It's not you.
We're crying for the bygones.

We're remembering Uncle Jack.
Grandpa's trumpet 
was one of the things from home that he took along

with him into the war.
The trumpet didn't come back, and neither did he.
But you're here, so Uncle Jack will live on.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

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20. Do You Know Emily Arrow?

I recently discovered Emily Arrow! It was one of my best recent discoveries for sure!  Maybe you have too. It seems that I have come across her work a few times over the last few weeks and I have become a huge fan! I remember watching her Water is Water video during our Mock Caldecott study. I had a small group of girls who learned the hand motions and had a blast with the book and song. But I didn't pay much attention except that I loved the song and was amazed that someone could create something like this around a book! Then I discovered her Be a Friend video and then researched to see what else she had out there!

If you didn't discover her work during Caldecott season, maybe you discovered it when you saw her new amazing Louise Loves Art video on Mr. Schu's blog this week!  As Colby Sharp said on Facebook:

Or maybe you discovered her because you celebrated Poem in Your Pocket Day last week and there is nothing better than her song to celebrate the day.   (We like the one with the Motions Guide--it has become a class favorite in the last few days!)

Before I introduced her songs to my class this week, I created an Emily Arrow Padlet for my students so they could easily get to each one of the videos. I knew they would want to know how to find all of her videos as I knew they would fall in love with her work just as I did. They are mesmerized and inspired by every single video. We started off with Be a Friend. I hadn't been sure which video to show first , but when one of my students came unknowingly dressed perfectly for Be a Friend,  how could we not start by watching Emily Arrow's Be a Friend video first?  Then, of course, they wanted to watch every one of her videos!

 I love Emily Arrow's work for so many reasons. First of all, it is pure joy.  The songs are happy and joyful.  This week, Emily Arrow brought so much joy to our classroom.  We are in testing season and we needed a few pick-me-ups after a few tiring mornings. I shared the Emily Arrow videos I discovered and could not believe the happiness in every face as they watched and played along. Just as I did, they became instant Emily Arrow Fans!

But the songs are not merely fun and happy (although that alone would be enough!) But the books Emily chooses to interpret in song are books that have powerful messages for readers.  They give our young readers another way to look at a book.  I love that my kids can think differently about a book because of Emily's songs.

I also think that these inspire a kind of creativity that I hadn't thought of. love that kids are already thinking about creating their own songs. Some are thinking about the videos and how she creates those.  We have a few Makerspaces at our school and no one had thought about making a song. Emily Arrow inspired a few that making a song is something they might like to try. Emily Arrow has brought huge possibilities to our classroom.

I purchased her new album (Emily Arrow Storytime Singalong) on iTunes and added it to our classroom playlist.  We have cleaned our classroom this week while singing along to The Dot Song (we are partial to the version with the motion guide!), Poem in Your Pocket and Max the Brave.  These songs are perfect for all ages.

So, my recommendation, if you are looking for more joy in your life...if you want your students to see things that are possible with books, music, video, play... if you don't want to miss anything new that Emily Arrow creates, you should :

Follow her on Facebook
Follow her on Twitter (@hellowemilyarrow)
Visit her blog.
Subscribe to her Youtube Channel.

If you don't know Emily Arrow, go get to know her now!

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21. Animal Bites: A Nonfiction Series from Animal Planet

I am always looking for good new nonfiction series that are accessible to my 3rd graders. I recently received a copy of OCEAN ANIMALS from the newish Animal Bites series from Animal Planet.  It looks like it will be a perfect fit for 3rd and 4th graders.

The book is filled with amazing photos so it will definitely attract readers--it is one they will pick up on their own. And there seems to be just the right amount of text on each page. Each page contains more than a few facts but not so much text that the book becomes overwhelming for young readers.

The book's text features are color-coded so readers are directed to a key on the Table of Contents page.  There are several categories covered in the book and the colored tabs alert the reader to which umbrella topic is being discussed on a page.  Topics like "Where They Live", "How They Live" and "Big Data" are some of the categories. There are also some pages that focus on one type of animal to get more information.

The book has a good progression so can easily be read from cover to cover over a few days. But the pages also stand alone so each page can be read alone and there are lots of mini lesson possibilities form the stand-alone pages.  This is a good series to use to share various ways to read nonfiction and the ways the various nonfiction text features are used to help share information.

There are a few other books in this series and I am anxious to see if my kids like them as much as i think they will. I definitely have plenty of series about animals but many of  my 3rd graders could read about animals every day and still want to read more! They are a sturdy paperback book so they seem like they will hold up well in a classroom.

The other books in the series include Polar Animals, Farm Animals and Wild Animals.

I'm excited to discover this new series!

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22. Animal Groups from National Geographic Kids

One of my students checked out Animal Groupsby Jill Esbaum from the library a few weeks ago. When I flipped through it, I knew it was a book I'd want for the classroom. There was just enough text on a page for my students to move beyond merely reading facts.  Plus I loved the umbrella that pulled this book together--the things we call groups of different animals.

When I spent a bit more time with the book, I realized that this would also be a great mentor text for informational writing. I am always struck by the quality of the writing in many of the NG Kids books.  The writing in this book can definitely be used to study the craft of nonfiction and each page is a short enough piece to be used on its own in a mini lesson for this study.

The word choice is what stood out to me at first.  The vets the author chooses are great for helping kids choose specific verbs in their writing. Lines like "parents dive for dinner" and "Flitting through sunshine" are on each and every page. Are there are also phrases that will give kids options for nonfiction writing beyond just writing facts. The page on sea otters starts out "The ocean is a perfect playground for sea otters...." and "They hang upside down, wings folded, awaiting the warmth of the morning sun."

As readers, the book is organized in a way to support readers--good headings, Did You Know? boxes with extra information, a map at the end of the book, and a list of animal groups not included in the main text.

This book is filled with interesting information and great nonfiction writing. I think kids will love it as readers and also as growing writers.   So glad to have a copy for the classroom!  It looks like Jill Esbaum has several other nonfiction books and I am definitely going to check them out as I think her writing is great for middle graders to study and learn from!

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23. Some of My Favorite Online Reading in April

I've read lots of great things online in the last several weeks. Here are some of the more important things I read--pieces that gave me lots to think about.

I love all things Kristine Mraz as she always reminds me what is important for our children. Her March article, Building Ecosystems of Joyful Growth is a must read. There are so many things mandated in schools these days but Kristine Mraz and Christine Hertz remind us that there are still many things that we control and it is the choices we make that determine the kind of experiences our children have.

I also loved this article by Bobby Dodd, How to Tell If You Love What You Do.  Loving what you do doesn't mean loving every day or that the work will be easy.  These insights are definitely worth thinking about --very smart way to think about our life's work.

I enjoyed this article as a blogger--On Reviewing Bad Books When You're Part of the Literary Community by Sarah Knight at Book Riot. Being thoughtful and kind and honest to readers is important to me as a blogger and Sarah brings up some important things to think about.

I found Hard Truths: Examining How Students Spend Their Time in Our Classrooms to be a great source for reflecting on my teaching and my classroom--what matches and what doesn't. The author says "When I reflect on whether my actions line up with my beliefs, I just take a close look at the past day, week, or month in my classroom."

My Worst Nightmare--What if I Accidentally Raise the Bully? is a must-read also, in my opinion. It gave me a lot to think about in the classroom-nothing new but really thinking about giving kids opportunities to get to know each other and to really go beyond the things that happened so easily in this story when it comes to bullying and kindness.

And just another reminder that yes, independent reading is worthwhile in NEA's recent article.

Ana Menendez Mourns Her Four-Year-Old's Childhood is an important read if you are a teacher of young children.

I loved the article Visualizing 21st-Century Classroom Design. I am a little obsessed with classroom design theories after reading The Third Teacher and The Language of School Design.

If you have not had a chance to listen to Donalyn Miller's podcast interview at Book Love, it is fabulous!

And this--On the Heartbreaking Difficulty of Getting Rid of Books. If you have read Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but can't seem to make it work for your books, then this article is a must-read!

I love this article about understanding the types of mistakes. Fascinating!

And if you are a teacher who is feeling tired at the end of the year. Dear Teacher on the Tired Days is something you may want to put someplace where you can read it often during these last few weeks of the school year.

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24. Poetry Friday -- Pigs

I visited four first grade classes (two visits -- two classes per visit) this week as the "visiting poet." One of the groups used the above picture as a prompt to start writing nonfiction poems. In my mailbox today, I found this:

And in this envelope was a whole packet of piggy poems! 
Here are a few:

The Pig

I am pink.
My nam is pig.

I am skrd you will
eat me.

I liv in a farm.
And I slep in

oink oink

(Stanzas!! And how about those pig balloons!!)

Baby Pigs

the pig are pink
they roll in mud
togther as a team
baby pig are piglets 
snort oink snort oink

(I like how this writer improved on the "oink oink" ending!)

Pigs Day

Pigs go
to the
mud to
dres up
in mud

(never mind Cinco de Mayo...let's celebrate PIGS DAY!)

Little Pig

I am a pig I play in
mud and I have 2 broths
We play and play all day
but dowte get coos to me!
are I will get you dirty.

(please note the interesting contrast between 
the illustrations and the poem!)

Sylvia has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Poetry For Children.

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

Thanks to Kellee (Unleashing Readers) and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) for hosting It's Monday! What Are you Reading! Check out their blogs for the round up!

2016 is such a great year for books!  I've read so many great books. Her are some of my favorite recent reads:

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart is an important read for everyone. This is a great story about two teenagers.  Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl.  Duncan Dorfman is dealing with bipolar disorder and other issues in his life.  This is a great story about friendship, kindness, understanding and change.  As a teacher this was an important book for me as it not only helped me understand what transgender teenagers might be experiencing, but it also helped me understand the challenges that parents face too. This book seems perfect for middle schoolers-I'd consider it a young YA book.  

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner is another must read.  Kate Messner is one of those authors who can write about hard issues in a way that is perfect for middle grade and middle grade students. In this book we get to know Charlie who catches a magical fish who will grant her wishes.   As the story progresses, we learn that Charlie's college-age sister is dealing with heroin addiction.  Charlie wants desperately to make a wish that will make things better for her family.  Kate Messner does a great job of dealing with not only the issue of drug abuse but the effect it has on families.  

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown was worth the wait! I am a huge Peter Brown fan and love all of his work. When I heard he was writing a middle grade novel I was thrilled.  I got a copy of the book the day it was released and read it in a few sittings.  Roz, a robot, lands on an island and builds a life for herself there with the animals. I can't name exactly when I fell in love with Roz but I did and I was totally drawn into her story.  This book is one that has such powerful messages and is one that begs to be reread.  Totally brilliant book and very unique. I can't think of another book that does what this one does.

The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore is my favorite kind of book--a dystopian fantasy. Most of these that I read are YA but this one is perfect for middle school. Mori and her friends live in Old Harmonie, a perfect world that is protected from pretty much everything.  A new girl, Ilana, moves into the neighborhood and things start to change. This is a book that engaged me throughout and I think it will be hugely popular in 5th and 6th grade classrooms. I am hoping there is a sequel coming to this one. (It was a coincidence that I read it soon after I finished The Wild Robot but some good discussions could happen for kids who read both of these novels!)

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