Monday, August 10, 2015

2015 #pb10for10 (Picture Book 10 for 10)

For the past couple of years, I've been participating in Cathy & Mandy's #pb10for10 event to celebrate picture books that are must haves for my classroom to share with students. Plus, I love seeing what books everyone else has on their lists-I always find new books to check out. 

This past school year, inspired by Donalyn Miller's #bookaday for teachers during breaks, I decided to start a #classroombookaday daily picture book read aloud with my 7th & 8th graders. I introduced it on my teaching blog, and then presented on it at #nErDcampMI. I'm super excited that so many teachers are joining in committing to reading aloud a picture book to their students each day of the school year! 
My #pb10for10 list this year is ten of 
my new favorite picture books that I am most excited to share 
with my classes when we get back to school in September.

BEYOND THE POND by Joseph Kuefler
I finished reading the F&G of this at ALA at actually wished I was still in school to read to kids.

MARILYN'S MONSTER by Michelle Knudsen, ill. Matt Phelan
Thank you, Franki, for introducing this book to me! Another one I was wishing I had middle schoolers around to read it to right away. Pair with Beekle.

WILD ABOUT US by Karen Beaumont, ill. Janet Stevens
I think this one will be my first day of school read aloud this year to talk about being ourselves and being accepting of others' differences and why it makes them special.

If they don't understand unreliable narrator after this...

FLOAT by Daniel Miyares
Loved PARDON ME last year, & Miyares' new wordless book is oh, so lovely!

THIS IS SADIE by Sara O'Leary
Some students might need this story.

A great example of fun voice in informational writing + it's hilarious!

THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME by Drew Daywalt, ill. Oliver Jeffers
My students love the crayons, and I so loved this new one!

NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson
Last year's NINJA! by Aree Chung made my students' top 10, so this will be a hit.

I adore the look of this book & am eager to discuss the grass isn't always greener theme with my students.

And a bonus book..
because I already read it to my students last year, but it's a new favorite (for my students and me), so I want to make sure people know about it!
TO THE SEA by Cale Atkinson

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Most Popular Books in My Classroom 2014-2015

I can't believe how little blogging I've done this spring, but sometimes life gets in the way. Even with busy plans for summer, I'm hoping to get back to it more in the next couple of months, especially since I have lots of books to talk about.
Because the end of the school year is at hand this week, I've been working on inventory and weeding of my classroom library. As I was working on that, I was looking over the checkout reports and noticing that some books were checked out much more often than others, which is always a good thing to note. I always find it interesting to see how each year's class can have such a different personality when it comes to the most popular books each year. This is especially evident in the impact of author visits - last year's class had a visit from Lisa McMann and the Visions series, along with her standalone titles, were very popular with the whole group. This year's class had a visit from Jason Reynolds and a writer-in-residence three day writing workshop with Kevin Emerson, and they each got to choose one of his books, hence the extra popularity of three of his books. Visiting in person makes a difference in getting students excited about reading their books.
So, here it is, 
the most popular books with my 7th graders this school year 
(in random order):

ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth

THE TESTING & INDEPENDENT STUDY (series) by Joelle Charbonneau

THE NATURALS & KILLER INSTINCT (series) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

LEGEND (series) by Marie Lu

THE MAZE RUNNER & THE DEATH CURE (series) by James Dashner 
(perhaps the movie release had something to do with this also)

THE PROGRAM, THE TREATMENT (series) by Suzanne Young


THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander

HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon

PIVOT POINT by Kasie West


WINGER by Andrew Smith

THE FOURTH STALL by Chris Rylander

BREAKOUT by Kevin Emerson

EXILE by Kevin Emerson

THE LOST CODE by Kevin Emerson

I AM NUMBER FOUR by Pittacus Lore

SIDEKICKS by Dan Santat

SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier

Thursday, March 26, 2015

BREAKOUT by Kevin Emerson

Author: Kevin Emerson
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 24, 2014
Number of Pages: 304
Source of Book: ARC from author in exchange for honest opinion
        When Anthony's angst-ridden rock 'n' roll lyrics go viral, he's unwittingly cast as the school rebel. The truth is, he's not trying to be anyone's hero. 
        Anthony Castillo needs a new life. His teachers are clueless autocrats except for Mr. Darren, who’s in charge of the rock band program. The girls at school are either shallow cutebots or out of his league. And his parents mean well, but they just make things worse. It’s as if Anthony is stuck on the bottom level of his favorite video game, Liberation Force 4.5. Except there is no secret escape tunnel and definitely no cheat code. 
        Fed up, pissed off, and feeling trapped, Anthony writes his first song for his rock band, the Rusty Soles. His only problem: Arts Night. If he exercises his right to free speech and sings his original lyrics—where his own bombs will drop—he and his band will be through. 
       The clock is ticking. Time for Anthony to pick his battles and decide what’s really worth fighting for.
There is something about this book that struck a chord with me as a middle school teacher. Anthony reminded me of students I have currently and had in the past who feel misunderstood by their teachers...and seeing events from his perspective makes me want to do better by them. For this reason, I think Breakout is a book that teachers should read (especially Emerson's author's note about the inspiration for this character).

Breakout will appeal to the boys in my classroom, but also some of the girls who want to get into the head of the boys and figure out what they're really thinking. But the best audience for this book will be the musicians or kids who feel misunderstood. They will relate to the main character and root for him as they go along on this twelve day journey with Anthony, to Arts Night when his band will play for the school, to figure out how to stand up for what he believes and be true to himself.

At it's heart, this is a book about perspectives and words and choices and wanting to be heard and being true to our feelings. That f-bomb word is a major factor in this book (although the actual word is never written out), but it's about so much more than just one polarizing word and a choice about whether to use it during a performance or not. The power of one word comes more from the intent behind it and the purpose for using it - it's about the emotion that caused that word to come out, as Anthony figures out and defends.

All of that being said, there were some specific references to things woven throughout that at times felt a little overused to me, but they did all end up connecting together at the end in a way that made sense. This could be more because I do not play video games, and so these references throughout would connect more with the intended teen audience who have more familiarity with them.

Kevin Emerson has again written a novel that is an ode to the music-loving teen, a call to action for teachers to understand their students, a story with universal themes of acceptance and finding one's own strength and figuring out what's right that will resonate with many readers, and rocking good writing that teens will relate to and devour. 

Although Breakout is a different tone (and gender of main character) from Emerson'Exile, it is one to hand to students who enjoyed his writing and the music-centric elements.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

New Author on My Favorites List - Emery Lord

image from Emery's website
I adored Emery Lord's debut novel, Open Road Summer, and was thrilled to hear she had a second book coming. I was even more thrilled when I was asked for my address to have an early copy of The Start of Me and You sent to me. I adored Emery's second book also, and even though it's very different in feel, it maintains that same lyrical beauty to the writing that I was enamored with in her first book. And I love the gorgeousness of her books covers. Emery Lord is, without a doubt, a new author on my favorites list. If you haven't read her books yet, what are you waiting for? You can read the synopsis and my thoughts for each of them below.

Release Date: April 15, 2014
Number of Pages: 352
Source of Book: ARC from Publisher (Thanks Bloomsbury!)
After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

Love this book so, so much! Read it in one day because I couldn't stop until I knew how it ended. It's a special book...well-written, honest characters, sass, romance, music, and heart.

Release Date: March 31, 2015
Number of Pages:
Source of Book: ARC from Publisher (Thanks Bloomsbury!)
Following her pitch-perfect debut Open Road Summer, Emery Lord pens another gorgeous story of best friends, new love & second chances.
       It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for a year, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?
       Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.
I am so in love with Emery Lord's books! Her writing is beautiful, her stories are quietly powerful, and they are so full of honesty and truth and hope that they make me want to be better. Hope for relationships, hope for the future, hope for teens just starting to figure themselves out. I adored Open Road Summer and immediately knew that I had found a new author to add to my favorites/must-buy list, and although The Start of Me and You is very different, it solidified for me that I was right on that first assessment of Emery Lord's potential as an author of contemporary realistic stories with sweet romances and the importance of friendships and family. Here stories are character-driven, and the characters are done so well. The Start of You and Me has elements to character that are so deftly layered in Lord's hands that I felt as if these characters were my own friends. There is such a realness to her character building that the issues and circumstances of her characters resonate with the reader. The Start of Me and You resonates with elements of grief, divorce, siblings, family suffering with Alzheimers, friendships, crushes, dreams for the future, going for what you want, not seeing the person right in front of you, and pushing yourself to be the best you. What I adore about Emery Lord's stories is that they aren't just about the boy-the boy is there, but it's about the girl figuring herself out first before being ready for a boy. And it's about a great, nice boy-the kind that you would want the girls you care about to end up with. Beyond the nice guys, Emery Lord writes wonderful girl friendships in a way that makes me want to buy her books for my best friends, and hand them to my students to see what supportive girl friendships are really all about. I can't wait to see what Lord will write next, but in the meantime, I'll be recommending this book (and her last one) over and over again!

And I absolutely can't wait for Emery Lord's next book, When We Collided, coming from Bloomsbury in 2016. She is for sure a new author on my favorites list which makes her an automatic must-buy for any new books she writes.
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