Thursday, January 11, 2018

Life Updates & Job News

I don't even know where to begin, yet I realized today that I never "officially" announced some major career changes! I feel as if I've been majorly slacking on the blogging front for the past year, and especially the last six months. I even feel like my reading has taken a hit, but that's what happens when other things have to fill the plate.
If you didn't already know, I'm back in grade school (again!) for another Master's degree. My first was in reading, but I am no longer in the classroom. The exciting thing, though, is that I am back with kids again in the school library! So I'm pursuing an MLIS degree while also working in a new job this school year at aK-5 elementary school as a library media specialist. So, yeah, the blogging and reading volume declined as I was figuring out a new job in a new district and having a large amount of reading and writing to do for grad classes. The good thing about it, though, is that I LOVE being in the library and I LOVE being at an elementary school. Even with the pressure that comes with a new job and the workload of grad school, there have been numerous times over the last six months when I've thought to myself that I feel like I'm finally in the right home for me. It's not that I didn't love teaching ELA in middle school, and I still miss bigger kids sometimes, but my heart and spirit feel at home.

I'm still getting to work with teachers through BALB Literacy Consulting, and I'll still be presenting at conferences (I'm in the midst of finalizing some NCTE proposals right now!), and I'm still Chairing the Wisconsin State Reading Association Children's Literature Committee, and it's all with a bit of a happier heart. So there may still be lengthy pauses between blog posts, but you can follow my reading through my goodreads page. And if you want more "real-time" updates on what I'm up to, twitter and Instagram are the places to go.

Even though I haven't yet, I am still hopeful I'll get a post up of some of my favorite 2017 reads, even though I'm well into 2018 reading now! I didn't do it in December because the end of the grad school semester was crazy and then I spent the holidays at Christmas Markets in Germany with my husband, and we got to ring in the new year in London with my parents! It was wonderful, and a good reason for not blogging. :) We had an incredible view of the New Year's fireworks to kick off a great 2018!
Happy New Year & Happy Reading!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gratitude for NCTE & ALAN 2017

I am utterly exhausted, but feeling utterly blessed after this year's trip to NCTE & ALAN. So much learning, so much laughter, so many amazing conversations, leaving me with so much to go home and think about. I feel as if NCTE is my yearly call to action to center me in the work of doing best by kids. And I am left feeling so very grateful.
To my educator friends: Whether a quick hug & hello, a brief chat, a shared meal, someone to sit next to, a deep conversation, or scheming for future plans...THANK YOU for supporting me, pushing me, cheering for me, challenging me, and keeping me centered on doing the work for the kids whose faces we see and love every day.

To my new friends: Whether stopping me to introduce yourself, commenting on our social media exchanges, or letting me know something that has impacted you...THANK YOU for reminding me why we work so hard to share the work we do to support each other in this profession in the interest of doing what is best for kids.

To my publisher friends: Whether a hug and a smile, a booktalk recommendation, a question about how my new job is going, books to take home, or dinner and drinks...THANK YOU for always making me feel welcomed, encouraging me, and helping make it a little easier for me to do the hard work for our kids.

To my author friends: Whether a passing hug, being part of my sessions, chatting at a dinner, signing a book, or speaking to a large group...THANK YOU for giving of your time, your energy, your passion, and yourself to help inspire us to do what we know is best and right in loving the kids we see in our schools every day and doing the internal work we need to so we can do right by them. You are human, and you are exhausted, but you do so much to make a difference for the present and the future. I see you, and I thank you.
If you've never been to NCTE or ALAN, make plans now to meet us
in Houston in 2018 for some of the best literacy PD out there!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Guest Post: Dev Petty - There's Nothing to Do

I adore Dev Petty's Frog books and kids' giggling reactions when they read these stories of a complaining frog whose highly entertaining reasoning for his opinions cracks me up. Add in Mike Boldt's bright, enthusiastic illustrations that jump off the page, and it's a pairing made for read aloud heaven.

I was lucky enough to meet Dev in person at nErDcampMI this summer, and am honored to host her on the blog today to celebrate the newest Frog book, that I think will be a hit with all kids who have ever claimed to be bored, THERE'S NOTHING TO DO!
Frog can’t find ANYTHING to do—even when his animal friends make good suggestions, like sleep all day, lick between your toes, or hop around and then stare off into space. Will he find a fun and exciting way to spend his day? Featuring the beloved Frog, this new story is sure to bring a smile to every kid (and adult) who has ever felt like there was nothing to do. This is another surefire crowd pleaser that lets every kid know that being bored . . . doesn’t always have to be boring.
And don't miss the first two books in the series:
I DON'T WANT TO BE A FROG & I DON'T WANT TO BE BIG
Small Books Can Help Kids Ask Big Questions

Being an actual, real, live parent is a different beast entirely than the parent I thought I would be before I had kids.  I began this adventure waiting for the moments when I could answer fun life questions with total parental sureness (and hopefully having also prepared an Instagram-worthy meal with colors and multiple food groups, and wearing mascara).  Having had a strange childhood, I expected the best times would come when I felt really confident in my answers.  And it's true, when it's about friendships or school, or math, I usually have a pretty solid reply.  But my FAVORITE moments as a parent?  When I am stumped.  I love when my kids ask me things I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA HOW TO ANSWER.  Examples:  “Why are we here?”  “Why am I me?”  “Why do I have to get a job?” “Why do you have to work?”

So I guess as a parent and a picture book author, I've found a huge draw to writing books which ask questions that are open-ended.  The kind of questions kids ask their parents in the middle of dinner and find their mom, with a crumpled face, standing in the kitchen ten minutes later, trying still to figure out an answer worth giving.  I love it when my kids ask me questions and I begin with “I JUST DON'T KNOW...”  It forces me to think about my own life and to think about how to write books that speak to that unsureness.  We all share a lot of knowledge, but perhaps- more interestingly- we share a lot of NOT knowledge...that space in the in between where we're just figuring things out.  Parents, kids, grandparents, siblings, friends.  We're all just muddling through, wondering a lot of the same things.  The fun is that we share the not-knowing and find ourselves in the wild variety of what we figure out.

I hope that kids take away from my books that it's okay to ask questions and to be uncomfortable.  It's in those moments of wondering, waiting, wishing, sometimes being angry or not knowing where to put your hands (why I wear pockets!) that we learn things.  Kids can sometimes feel bad when they don't know the answers, so I hope my books remind them of the joy of not knowing.  In my latest, THERE'S NOTHING TO DO!, my little somewhat-sarcastic, oft-complaining Frog character wrestles with an empty day and the deep desire to do something fantastic with that day, something really, really super, but he doesn't know what.  This story is a direct result of my life with my kids who are not lazy (seriously, never, they always want to be doing something or other), but they often don't know what to do.  They have expectations, hopes, big dreams of what a lazy Sunday may hold for them and no real idea of how to find that special thing to do.  

Most of my books, in fact, center around those subtle questions that speak to our inner desires as kids...to accomplish, to create, to not be too idle for too long.  I have two daughters and I sometimes can't comprehend the complexity of the world in which they find themselves.  It is surely more complicated than my 1970s childhood, if only because it predated call-waiting and even answering machines.  I went out looking for my pals if they weren't home and had long swaths of time to be alone, sometimes adrift, sometimes unsure.  Things were, for lack of a better way of phrasing it, less specific.  I see how my daughters now have specific skills, favorite authors, apps they're hooked on, friends they always do or don't hang out with.  They are much more sure than I ever was, and maybe more sure than I am now.

I love helping kids discover that they share concerns, wonders, questions, fears, and a whole lot more not-knowing than knowing.  That not-knowing creates friendships, fun, and thankfully (at least for ME) picture book ideas!

Dev Petty is a Berkeley native who writes picture books that, hopefully, make you laugh a little and think a little.  She used to be in visual effects, working on The Matrix trilogy and many other film projects and loves making picture books because they're sort of like little, paper movies.  Her debut book, I DON'T WANT TO BE A FROG, has been published in eight languages and sparked two follow-ups including her latest, THERE'S NOTHING TO DO!. She is also the author of CLAYMATES and more stories to come.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

My #TheEdCollabGathering Session: I'm White, So Now What?

I was honored to again participate in The Ed Collab Gathering this weekend. If you aren't already aware of it, it's one of the best, FREE, PD opportunities out there. Free, streamed online into the comfort of your own couch, and quality sessions that you'll want to listen in on.

And, the better part (if anything can be better than PD in your PJs!)? You aren't left with FOMO from your session choices because all the sessions are streamed live via Google Hangout, and then are available immediately afterwards as video playback!
I presented a session with my friend Teresa Bunner, one of my edu-mentors, around race and equity and our responsibilities to our students as white educators. Here's the link if you'd like to listen in and do some thinking around your journey related to bias, privilege, and equity: I'm White, So Now What? Making a Place for Conversations Around Race in Schools. We no longer have the luxury to not bring these conversations into our classrooms, and that work starts with us as teachers.

Videos from this Fall Gathering will be up until the Spring Gathering in April. So take some time to look at the session topics, and see if there are any that appeal to your needs for support or growth. It's well-worth 45 minutes.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Books You'll Want to Preorder for Fall

Just in time for back-to-school, these are books I read and loved...
and predict you'll be wanting to read and share with your students this fall. 
Go ahead and preorder them now!

Picture Books


Where Oliver Fits by Cale Atkinson - Sept 5
Come With Me by Holly M. McGhee, illus by Pascal Lemaitre - Sept 5
Sarabella's Thinking Cap by Judy Schachner - Sept 5
Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas - Sept 12
Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, illlus by Selina Alko & Sean Qualls - Sept 12
There's Nothing to Do! by Dev Petty, illus by Mike Boldt - Sept 19
It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk, illus by Edwardian Taylor - Sept 19
Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin - Oct 1
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat - Oct 3
That Is My Dream! by Langston Hughes, illus by Daniel Miyares - Oct 3
La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo, illus by Jaime Kim - Oct 3
Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi - Oct 10 (wordless)
Blue vs. Yellow by Tom Sullivan - Oct 10
A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider by Barbara Herkert, illus by Lauren Castillo - Oct 24
Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illus by Bryan Collier - Nov 14

Early Readers

King & Kayla and the Case of the Mysterious Mouse
by Dori Hillestad Butler, illus by Nancy Meyers - Sept 1
The Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate 
by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illus by LeUyen Pham - Sept 5
Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes - Sept 19
That's My Book! and Other Stories by Salina Yoon - Sept 19
Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy by Laurel Snyder, illus by Emily Hughes - Oct 3
Elephant & Piggie Like Reading: It's Shoe Time! by Bryan Collier - Oct 24

Middle Grades

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez - Aug 22
Patina (Track, book 2) by Jason Reynolds - Aug 29
All's Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson - Sept 5
Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm, illus by Matthew Holm - Sept 12
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate- Sept 26
And a bonus middle grade (since I apparently only read advanced copies of books with girl main characters) that is already out, but I only just read it: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya

Young Adult

Warcross by Marie Lu - Sept 12
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds - Oct 17
Dear Martin by Nic Stone - Oct 17

*When possible, please support independent bookstores or your local library.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 #pb10for10 (Picture Book 10 for 10)

I always love participating in Cathy & Mandy's #pb10for10 event to celebrate picture books that are must haves for my classroom to share with students and seeing what picture books everyone else shares. These would all be fabulous #classroombookaday choices also! I inevitably end up with a longer wish list and shopping cart and a maxed out hold list at my library. So get ready, and then go check out other educators lists today! 

The thing is, I have such a hard time limiting things to just 10, so as you know if you've seen my posts before, I always get a bit creative with my numbering. And this year is even more special because I have a new job!
I'm transitioning from being out of the classroom as a literacy consultant into a new role as a K-5 school library media specialist.
I am beyond excited, especially to be back sharing books with kids again, and I approached this year's list a bit differently because I've been thinking so much about the picture books I'm eager to share with students once we get back to school, but I also know the books I might choose to read with my K-2 kids might be different from what I choose for my 3-5 kids.
So with all of that in mind, I'm sharing my 10 books for K-2 AND my 10 books for K-5, PLUS my 5 I'll for sure share with both grade level groups, so there's another 10 when shared twice (I told you it was creative counting this year!). I know Cathy will call me out on this (I know, I know, I make it my own, but I love the concept!), but that's ok, because it's more love for picture books, which is always a good thing! :)

You can see my previous year's #pb10for10 lists by clicking on the year:
  2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Podcast Interview About #classroombookaday

I was honored to be invited to participate in a Books Between podcast by Corrina Allen last week. It was a great conversation on the start of #classroombookday, why it was so successful, and includes MANY book recommendations! I wasn't expecting the final version to be an hour, but it is, so make sure you have time if you're sitting down to listen.

You can find the podcast & a typed list of all of the book recommendations right here.
*Corrina also asked me about some non-picture books I've been reading and loving lately (and that starts around 55:00 on the recording).

Happy (listening &) reading!

 
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