Saturday, August 17, 2019

Best Book List: Fantasy Favorites #BestBooks #iLoveMG

At the end of the year, I asked my fifth grade students to create their own Best Book List, themed however they wished. Click our Best Book tag for more lists or #iLoveMG for individual books recommended by my fifth graders. (Please note that my fifth graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for fifth graders.) Check out #3rdfor3rd for kid recommendations from when I taught third grade.

My Favorite Book List

Recommended by ER


  • Ready Player One is a futuristic book where everyone lives most of their lives in vr. There is a giant competition in the vr game and the whole world tries to win. This game makes a lot of troubles for the main character. (YA)
  • Amulet 1 through 8 are a great series of books. The main character finds an amulet that brings to many adventures. These books are very exciting and will take you many places.
  • Percy Jackson is a great low fantasy series where the main character is half god. Being half god is very hard for a young teenager. He and many of his friends go on many treacherous adventures.
  • Artemis Fowl is a good book if you like mystery. Artemis Fowl may seem like a good guy but he is not. He is an 11 year old criminal that never gets caught. In this book he finds out a lot about other species and uncovers secrets.
  • Savvy is a very good low fantasy book where one family has special powers. They might seem odd but really they’re just a regular family. The kids go on an adventure to see their dad in the hospital this book has many secrets.

Student-designed cover for Savvy

Click here for all of our Best Books posts or here for more great middle grade recommendations. What are your favorite fantasy books?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

New Graphic Novel Alert: The Okay Witch


The Okay Witch is a new graphic novel by Emma Steinkellner debuting on September 3rd, 2019. (I received access to a digital ARC via Netgalley. All thoughts are my own.)

13-year old Moth has always felt like the odd one out in her small New England town, so finding out that she's actually a witch, descended from the hunted witches of the 1700s, is almost more of a relief than a worry. But unraveling the truth about her parentage and why her mother has been keeping her witch powers secret will take a little more digging.

Moth is an immediately engaging character to root for, and I love how the book wraps this story in the imagined history of a sleepy New England town and its connections to its darker history. There is a lot to be discovered here about how we understand our past, what lessons we choose to learn from it, and what divisions we continue to sow, as the angle of "witches" makes it easy for the reader to make connections to real-world racism, hatred, and discrimination.

Graphic novels continue to be among the hottest books in my classroom library, and I am sure this is another that I will likely never see on my shelf again, as it makes its way from reader to reader to reader!

Looking for more graphic novels?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

#pb10for10: Inclusive Picture Books for the First Weeks of School


Hooray! Today is August 10th, which means it is time for the annual Picture Books 10 for 10 event (#pb10for10). Teachers and educators are challenged to choose and share their 10 favorite picture books, thanks to Cathy of Reflect and Refine and Mandy of Enjoy and Embrace Learning.


Previous #pb10for10



10 Inclusive Picture Books for the First Weeks of School


I am not a strict #classroombookaday teacher (I only teach Reading four periods a week, plus we do several novel read alouds too), but I do love beginning the school year with picture books. This is my current round up for how we will be starting off fifth grade together, but these books would work for many ages!


I used Jabari Jumps last year as our first day of school book. (Thank you to Jess for this idea and fabulous post: How am I supposed to confront racism and white supremacy on the first day of school? Please, please read and deeply digest this post if you haven't.) The story of Jabari and the various ways he wrestles with his fear of the high dive serves as a great extended metaphor about facing your own fears and be willing to try new things. We also used the character of Jabari to discuss issues of identity and make a model "identity web" (below, inspired by Sara Ahmed's Being the Change). Students then used Jabari's web as a jumping off point for making their own personal webs. Below you can see last year's brainstormed list about characteristics of our own identities.



The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson is another great one for new beginnings (like the start of the school year). It touches on many overlapping elements with these other books - new schools, feeling like you don't belong, etc. - but also addresses the reader directly, which makes it more personal.


One Family (2015) by George Shannon and Blanca Gómez. This charming counting book is so much more. One is not just one, when it is a pair of shoes or a hand of cards. And one can be any number when it comes to "one family." This picture book is a celebration of families, in all their quirky uniqueness. The illustrated families include grandparents, mixed race couples, twins, single parents, young boys in Sikh turbans, gay couples, and so much more. This is great mentor text for a getting-to-know you activity, where each child could illustrate a page representing whatever number describes their "one family."


I'm New Here tells the story of the beginning of a new school year through the eyes of three children who are all recent immigrants to the US. It's a great book to get kids thinking about what it might be like to be new to a whole country and not just a new school. I also recommend reading the companion book, Someone New which revists the story from the perspective of the three kids already at the school who each reach out to welcome the new immigrant students. We had some great conversations last year around the ways that each character has to choose to take action and the impact it has.


In Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (a Caldecott honor), the titular Alma is frustrated by the length of her name, but her father patiently explains to her where each name came from and how each is connected to her family and her history. This one has a structure that would be easy for younger students to emulate when writing about their own names. My fifth graders will be researching and writing etymologies of their own names, so this book is a great inspiration.


Imagine
 by former US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Lauren Castillo is fantastic! The entire book is an invitation to the reader to imagine themselves through the life of the author and eventually to what they could accomplish in their own lives. With both my classes it took about halfway through the story before they suddenly started to realize that the author was sharing about himself. This realization made them especially excited and engaged for the rest of the read aloud. This is also a powerful immigration story. (Yuyi Morales' Dreamers would, of course, work well here, but I feel like Imagine is less well-known.)


Stella Brings the Family (2015) by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown. Stella faces a dilemma: who can she invite to her school's Mother's Day outing when she doesn't have a mother? Papa, Daddy, and her classmates help her realize what really matters in a family and how to celebrate all the types of families there are.


Benny enjoys a lot of things, but Benny Doesn't Like to be Hugged. This gentle, rhyming story by Zetta Elliott is told from the perspective of Benny's friend and gives readers insights in to how to better understand and appreciate kids with autism. My students and I had an incredible conversation last year about neurodiversity after reading this book, and it really helped them ask thoughtful questions.


When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita is a timely story about family, love, and support. The story centers on Aidan, a biracial transgender boy, and his concerns about how best to welcome and support his soon-to-arrive baby sibling. Drawing on his own experiences feeling boxed in by his assigned gender at birth, Aidan wants to make sure the new baby feels accepted and appreciated right away. As a new parent, this book made me smile so much, as I have struggled to find clothes and toys for my 17-month old that aren't exclusively pink or blue. What a breath of fresh air!


Can I Touch Your Hair: poems of race, mistakes, and friendship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Last year we spent two days unpacking this one, as the poems make for a longer read than most picture books. It also has some heavy content that required some schema-building with my fifth graders: about police shootings, about Trayvon, about the N-word, and continuing our conversations about identity, prejudice, and stereotypes. So much growth and so many conversations were started with this book.

What are your favorite inclusive books for the first weeks of school? Please share in the comments below! (Looking for more #pb10for10? Check out #pb10for10 on Twitter or click the #pb10for10 tag to see my previous years' posts.)



Saturday, August 3, 2019

Best Book List: Personal Favorites #BestBooks #iLoveMG

At the end of the year, I asked my fifth grade students to create their own Best Book List, themed however they wished. Click our Best Book tag for more lists or #iLoveMG for individual books recommended by my fifth graders. (Please note that my fifth graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for fifth graders.) Check out #3rdfor3rd for kid recommendations from when I taught third grade.

Probably Every Book I Read in Fifth Grade that You Should Read!

Recommended by MT


Personal favorites:

  • The 12 Dares of Christa by Marissa Burt (Has sort of a Romantic genre, don’t read it if you don’t like Romance!)
  • Better Than Nate Ever by Tim Federle (Was my assigned book club book, however was slightly weird.)
  • Lemons by Melissa Savage (Katie has this in her library! SO GOOD!!!)
  • Rules of the Ruff by Heidi Lang (Super good for dog lovers!🐶)
  • The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz (Good book, and I’m pretty sure it’s in the school library)
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord (About an older girl, who’s brother has autism. Good book, in Katie’s library)
  • Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar (A book club book, my favorite of them. In Katie’s library. READ IT!!!)
  • Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (The first in the Vanderbeeker’s series. Amazing! In Katie’s library)
  • Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser (Second in the Vanderbeeker’s series, also AMAZING)
  • The Truth about Martians by Melissa Savage (Another by Melissa Savage, really good. You should read it.)
  • The Sky at our Feet by Nadia Hashimi (Very touching, also saddish. If you haven’t read it, go do it. I think it’s in the school library)
  • Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelley (About a girl who is deaf, and sets out on a journey of a lifetime.)
  • Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages (About baseball and women’s rights. In school library)
  • The Amazing Magicians of Elephant County by Adam Perry
  • LION by Saroo Brierley
  • George by Alex Gino (About a transgender girl who still hasn’t told their mom how they feel)

Student-designed cover for Better Nate Than Ever

More good books:

  • Max Einstein by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
  • We are Party People by Leslie Margolis
  • Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  • The Simple Art of Flying by Cory Leonardo
  • The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Into the Lion’s Den by Linda Fairstein
  • The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
  • Story Thieves by James Riley
  • Bloomability by Sharon Creech
  • The Wanderer by Sharon Creech


Click here for all of our Best Books posts or here for more great middle grade recommendations. What are your favorite fantasy books?

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Book Recommendation: Dragon Slippers #iLoveMG

Welcome to #iLoveMG where I share middle grade books that my fifth graders recommend. (Please note that my fifth graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for fifth graders.) Or check out #3rdfor3rd for recommendations from when I taught third grade.

Dragon Slippers

Recommended by IH


Do you like dragons? Do you like fantasy? Do you like embroidery? Do you like adventure? Do you like kingdoms? Do you like betrayal? Do you like cliffhangers? Do you like slippers?

If you answered “Yes” to all of these, then the book Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George is right for you! ( ... due to this book being about dragons, fantasy, embroidery, adventure, kingdoms, betrayal, cliffhangers, and slippers.)

In this book, a girl named Creel gets sacrificed to a dragon by her aunt, who was hoping that a handsome noble would rescue her, slay the dragon, and pull the family out of poverty. That was the opposite of what happened, however.

The dragon ate her.

Just kidding! That would have made the book too short. Creel made friends with him, and in exchange for not ratting him out got to choose any pair of shoes from his collection. Instead of choosing the sandals or the brogues, she chose some exquisite light blue ones and set off for the capital of Feravel: The King’s Seat. Little did she know that choosing the exquisite light blue ones instead of the sandals or the brogues, also set off one of the biggest disasters in Feravelean history…

This book is great because it reveals what one of the biggest disasters in Feravelean history was. However, this book also uses cliffhangers, is quite funny in some parts, and has a wide variety of characters that almost anybody could relate to. I like how Jessica Day George got right to the point in some chapters, but also hid in a lot of description and really built up the plot. Due to all of this, I would give the book a 4.8 out of 5!

So go and read it!

Click here for all of our #iLoveMG posts. What are your favorite middle grade books?

Saturday, July 20, 2019

5 Books that were Disappointing

At the end of the year, I asked my fifth grade students to create their own Book List, themed however they wished. Click our Best Book tag for more lists or #iLoveMG for individual books recommended by my fifth graders. (Please note that my fifth graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for fifth graders.) Check out #3rdfor3rd for kid recommendations from when I taught third grade.

5 Books that were Disappointing

List by SN


Hatchet
Heart of a Samurai
Sign of the Beaver
Island of Blue Dolphins
Stone Fox

* Note: This list generated quite the discussion among the class - with both agreements and vehement disagreements! (All of these were books assigned by teachers in third through fifth grade - Hatchet was from me.)

Click here for all of our Best Books posts or here for more great middle grade recommendations. What are your favorite fantasy books?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Book Recommendation: We're Not From Here #iLoveMG

Welcome to #iLoveMG where I share middle grade books that my fifth graders recommend. (Please note that my fifth graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for fifth graders.) Or check out #3rdfor3rd for recommendations from when I taught third grade.

We're Not From Here

Recommended by CG


Hi, this is We're Not From Here by Geoff Rodkey. This is a dystopia book. This book is about how humans destroy earth so now they're living on Mars. Then everything starts going wrong so then they have to go to Choom. The Choom government says they can come.

Twenty years later the humans arrive at Choom but now the Choom government does not like them all of a sudden. Read the book to find out what happens next.

This book is very good because it is humorous and it is always interesting. If you liked Ready Player One or Armada you will love this book. This is very good that you will love.

Click here for all of our #iLoveMG posts. What are your favorite middle grade books?