Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Higher Power of Hard Pan

While reading Susan Patron and Matt Phelan's "The Higher Power of Lucky", I came upon a phrase I wanted to capture. Too long for one tweet.

"The sky arched up forever, nothing but a sheet of blue, hiding zillions of stars and planets and galaxies that were up there all the time, even when you couldn't see them. It was kind of peaceful and so gigantic it made your brain feel rested. It made you feel like you could become anything you wanted, like you were filled up with nothing but hope."

Makes you want to visit Hard Pan. Pop. 43.

Our Teacher Nook Book Club is reading "The Higher Power of Lucky" and we will be skyping with illustrator, Matt Phelan, who is also the author an illustrator of PA Young Readers Choice nominee, "Around the World."

Monday, April 23, 2012

Bring on the Booktalk: Glory Be (Bookfair Preview Edition)

Our book fair begins next Monday.  Just a week away - this year has been flying by!  I've been watching the preview video with students and each time we get to the part of the video where they preview the book, "Glory Be" by Augusta Scattergood, I pause.  I had the opportunity to read this book as I saw it would be a part of the bookfair and a good cover gets me every time.  I couldn't put it down.  The best, relatable description I can give is to "The Help."  This book is "The Help" for kids.  Set in the deep south, during a time of great racial tension with the freedom riders in to make some waves (didn't realize the pun 'til I wrote that), the community pool is closed.  Because it is facing desegregation and that scared the pants off the people in that town.  It took the courage of the main character, Glory (who didn't seem to realize she was being courageous at all), to write a letter to the editor about how the pool closure made her feel, which was especially ticked off because her birthday was coming up, and it was July, and it was hot.  But the letter gets to the heart of the matter too, with the innocence and understanding of a child.  I don't like to make predictions as...well, I'm often wrong.  But I think this book could be a contendah!  I spelled that wrong on purpose.  For what, I'm not sure.  I'd love to say Newbery, but the cover is so similar to "The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate," that I'm not sure they'll let that happen.  Actually, according to the book fair preview video, even though this book was JUST published, it seems there is a new cover already.  Here are both:

If you would like to check out more preview videos for books coming to our Scholastic Book Fair next week, check out the "Featured Books Videos" on our Student Preview Section.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Student Nook Book Club: Dead End in Norvelt

Student Nook Book Club met yesterday to discuss our most recent read, "Dead End in Norvelt" by Jack Gantos. What a great book! When I first started reading and got to the description of Norvelt, I recalled that this was based on Gantos' real childhood. When Miss Volker first mentioned Eleanor Roosevelt, i had an inkling as to the town's name and I looked up the town of Norvelt online. I love reading historical fiction and learning at the same time. With Miss Volker's "This Day in History" column, her obituaries, and Jack's fondness of reading history made for a diverse, educational, entertaining, and "real" read.

Beyond that, Nook Book Club broke into the world of Edmodo today. While I encourage discussion, there's something to be said for the online format in that everyone's voice can be heard. Ideas can be shared and a common space is found. I am hoping to incorporate Edmodo into summer reading this year and look at a more complete roll out next year for our older grades. Teacher Nook Book Club will also have an Edmodo group to discuss our next read.

Hunger Games

I'm a little late to the party. I recently finished reading "The Hunger Games.". I had won a copy from a blog hop contest last summer, but I was aware it wasn't considered appropriate for my elementary students and therefore wouldn't be getting added to our elementary collection. Also, when I own a book it gets moved to the bottom of my to-read list since there is less urgency than a library copy. So there was that. With the movie coming out and students asking me every other day for it, I decided I should really read it. They were reading it whether I got it for them or not, so I figured I should really be able to converse with parents and teachers about why I wasn't getting it for them.

My understanding prior to reading the first book was that it was too violent. Now, I consider myself a connoisseur of children's literature and I have some bad news. It didn't strike me as being disturbingly violent. Take a moment to remove yourself from HG and take a step back in time to my friend HP, Harry Potter. Does anyone remember how his parents were killed and then his parent's killer was hunting him down?

I digress. Back to HG. Is it violent. Yes. Are kids pitted against each other. Yes. Here's the biggie. Is it right for elementary kids? No.

This book has a lot going on. A lot that will go right over their heads. The themes here relate to so much food for thought:
Democracy vs/ Dictatorship
Free Will and Defiance
Following Orders
Romeo and Juliet
Julius Caesar
Reality Television
Perspective and the Audience Experience
Teams and Entourages needed to prep "celebrity"
PACs and Super PACs and the ability of your sponsor to fundraise on your behalf based on your actions as they are perceived by the people

What it boils down to. Are they going to "get it?". Or are they going to read a big thick book that all the older kids are reading? I think it's a great book...for high school and above. I think reading it prematurely won't serve a greater purpose. And, like the Twilight series, the older the characters get, the more mature the themes. I am halfway through the second book, "Catching Fire." And it is excellent. But (so far) there is mention of a corrupt town official behaving in a corrupt way that should not be understood by a 3-5 grader.

Like any forbidden fruit, like..poison berries, our kids are going to want to read it. And that part is exciting. I want them to read. But I wouldn't give them books marked YA or Adult, so why The Hunger Games? Most parents realize Twilight isn't appropriate for elementary kids, but Hunger Games seems to be balancing some fine line in the upper middle grades. Part of my concern now is that kids have been asking if HG will be at our book fair. And I'm not sure. We get a wide variety of books and I'd be surprised if it's not in a cart. I am planning to create a permission slip that explains the grade levels this book is recommended for and students would need to provide that if they are planning to purchase the book. If it is a part of our fair. Time will tell and I hope this book sticks around for the long haul so that my students can enjoy it in late middle/high school and, moreover, understand it as well.

Bring on the Book Talk: Darth Paper Strikes Back

So, I don't recall if I blogged about "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda" by Tom Angleberger after I read it last summer or not. I'm sure I could look back at previous posts and figure that out but I'm now on a mobile app version of blogger and that's a bit, ahem, cumbersome. I'm just happy to be squeezing in blogging at all. So I made it to this point in the year with both O.Y. (short for "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda" and how I will refer to it from here on out, as I noted #Nerdbery tweeter, Colby Sharp, does as well) and D.P. Being constantly checked out and even wait-listed. As spring break was approaching, I noted that both were on the shelve and decided that problem must be rectified. I did successfully book talk them both out of the library, but I held on to a copy of D.P. to read myself...since it was available. Awesome read! I really enjoyed the clever response from Dwight when asked for a "straight answer," he responded: "yardstick.". Perhaps even more exciting is that while reuniting with the twitter-verse, I noted that Tom Angleberger's new profile pic was a new book: "The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee", coming out in late August. I cannot wait and I know the readers of Pine Road Library can't wait either. Like its predecessors, Wookiee will be a hit. And base on the cover design, I think there's definitely a market for specially designed origami paper to create fortune tellers. Looks even easier than O.Y. and D.P., so, Tom, if you're reading this, I'm certain I have some kids here who would be happy to fold away on said paper.

And, if you haven't seen these books yet, by all means begin at the beginning. They are funny, original, and entertaining. I haven't met a kid yet who walked away from an O.Y. book. Enjoy!

Philosophical Toaster Pastry

This quote was found on the bottom of a box of toaster pastries (fancy name for organic pop tarts) in our house:

"A tree is known by its fruit;
a man by his deeds.
A good deed is never lost;
he who sows courtesy reaps friendship,
and he who plants kindness gathers love."
~St. Basil (329-379)

Now, I realize that in St. Basil's time there was awfully little gender equality, so I'll let that issue go. Besides that, I LOVE this quote and the wisdom of its words. I also love finding nuggets of inspiration around my home in hidden corners, like the pantry. April is National Poetry Month. And National School Library Month as well. Celebrate both. Visit your library and find inspiration all around you.

Cross posted at http://ellenzschunke.blogspot.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Read Across America

Our school celebrated RAA on Friday, March 2nd. We had an all school assembly (split among our two large group rooms) with a special Seuss edition of PRTV complete with all sorts of features:
• Seuss Pledge of Allegiance
• Video from last year's LOC RAA celebration with first lady, Michelle Obama, as well as other read aloud celebs
• Lorax trailer
• Appearance from Dr. S, straight from the third grade wax museum
• Special Cat in the Hat version of "Mrs. Blakeman's Bookmarks"
• All school rendition of "Happy Birthday"

We were also joined by guest readers from Murray Avenue during the assembly. Following the assembly, partner classes went to classrooms to read with cross grade level buddies and later in the day, the whole school dropped everything to read. Overall, the day was a successful collaboration exhibiting the efforts of many to make a great day for all!

Here I am dressed as Dr. Seuss character, Daisy Head Mayzie in front of our library door. Our door is decorated for dual purposes. Our author visit was with "I Survived" author, Lauren Tarshis. Our door states "I Survived Read Across America". The door itself looks like the Cat in the Hat's hat and the stripes were created by students decorating index cards with favorite book covers.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spring Break

Spring break has sprung! I'll be reading and blogging and reading some more this week. Stay tuned!