Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Digital Student Portfolios - Ch. 1 Reflection

As part of my summer professional development, I am joining Matt Renwick of Reading by Example along with many others in a month-long book club study of his Digital Student Portfolios ebook. (Read his overview intro post here.) We will be sharing and discussing the book as part of a Google+ Community. I hope you'll join us!

Digital Student Portfolios, Chapter 1

Chapter 1 details the "Purposes for Portfolios." I liked the concept of the portfolio as the answer to those who would choose to rely on a standardized test score to "judge" a student. Portfolios can bridge the gap towards celebrating student achievement in many areas and across a wide span of time.

In the discussion of "Education 3.0," I found the infographic about the concentric circles helpful to visualize the differences: 1,0 being access to the Internet and content, 2.0 being creation of that content for a purpose, and 3.0 being the relational and collaborative piece as audiences develop around your created content. I appreciated this quote,

Without an audience, the meaning of their work in school is diminished.

I am sure there are many bloggers out there who would loudly disagree or claim that they create their content solely for their own learning or edification, but how many of those same people thrill at the sight of each new comment or social media ping? We all love an audience.

The five steps for implementation were a helpful way of thinking about how to start any technology process, and I appreciated the emphasis on how change actual works and the importance of training and support. As a classroom teacher looking to effect change just in my own classroom to start, it does simplify the matter of planning quite a bit.

Chapter 1 Personal Reflection

While the above constitutes my notes and thoughts about the chapter, I also wanted to include a section of personal reflection and application. I thought I would use the categories from the included PDF, Technology Benchmarks of Quality, as a guide to my reflection.


I am fortunate that I have a full class set of (admittedly ancient) Mac Book computers in my classroom. They might be on their last legs this year, but I am hopeful they will still hold up for word processing, Kid Blog, and potential portfolio creation.

Purpose and Audience

This past year I debuted Kid Blog with my third graders (read We are Bloggers for more details), as part of our connections through the Global Read Aloud. We were able to connect with a few other schools in Spain, India, Canada, and Australia. My main goal was to give my students an authentic audience (each other, other students, and their parents) and to encourage cross-cultural conversations and exchange.

(I will admit that I had hoped for a higher level of self-assessment and improvement, as typos continued to abound as students seemed more excited to share their thoughts than to proof-read them, despite their ready willingness to nitpick the proofreading of others.)

Overall, I would like to add more authentic opportunities for cross-cultural activities with our partner schools. Our posting was not frequent enough to build any firm foundations, and I think it will also help make it more meaningful if students were engaging in interactions in smaller groups rather than as a whole class to a whole class.

Portfolios and Self-Assessment

In previous years, I have had students complete paper self-assessments at the end of major units and projects. These assessments asked students to reflect on the quality of their work and contributions and were sent home to parents accompanied by my feedback in the form of a rubric and written comments.

Finished pieces of student writing were saved in a file folder portfolio, and these were turned into finished, published "books" at the end of the school year. Students used these portfolios to write a final writing reflection and to choose their favorite piece of writing from the year for inclusion in a school-wide literary magazine.

Students also set and self-assessed quarterly reading goals. These goals were written in their reading folders each quarter but often not referred back to. (I think seeing their goals at the end of the quarter often came as a surprise to many students who had forgotten them by then!) I am really anxious to learn, as we get into the application sections of the book, how digital portfolios can help with student goal-setting, self-reflection, and self-assessment.

What have you learned about digital student portfolios? What do you still wonder?

Monday, June 29, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/29/15

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Last Week's Posts

  • Read Around the World: Central Asia. I shared a favorite book from Central Asia as part of the Read Around the World summer series on Multicultural Kids Blogs. Bonus links to some fun felt-related craft projects too!

    Picture Books


    Papa and Me (2008) and Mama and Me (2011) by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez. These two picture books celebrate the special relationships between a parent and a child. In each, the two go off on some special adventure and share a mix of Spanish and English in their dialog. Both books are a great way to add diverse families to your bookshelf.

    How to Read a Story (2015) by Kate Messner and illustrated by Mark Siegel. It is impossible to read this book and not want to immediately grab a huge pile of picture books, a reading buddy, and snuggle up for some amazing read alouds! I cannot wait to share this book with my third graders this fall as they prepare to be reading buddies with the kindergarten class. So fun!

    When Turtle Grew Feathers: a folktale from the Choctaw Nation (2007) by Tim Tingle and illustrated by Stacey Schuett. This entertaining variant of the Tortoise and the Hare explains both how turtle ended up with a "cracked" shell and why rabbits no longer challenge turtles.

    What Forest Knows (2014) by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by August Hall. If you ever need a mentor text to study the power of an economy of language, study the books of George Ella Lyon. This sparse, lyrical text is further enhanced by the soft style and color palette of the illustrations. Superb. (H/T Elisabeth at The Dirigible Plum.)

    Middle Grade

    The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate (coming July 7th, 2015) by Jacqueline Kelly. I was delighted to discover that there was finally a sequel to The Invention of Calpurnia Tate. In this story, Callie continues her scientific explorations with her grandfather, while also trying to keep a damper on younger brother Travis and his new "pets." This is a lovely historical fiction piece, and I love how the author weaves in details about gender relations and Callie's frustration with her limited role in her early 1900s world. (Digital ARC provided via Net Galley in return for an honest review.)

    Young Adult

    Trickster: Native American tales, a graphic collection (2010) assembled by Matt Dembicki. This "graphic novel" collection brings together 21 stories by Native American storytellers from across the US paired with illustrators. This is a great collection of tales, and the graphic novel or comic format makes this an especially appealing book for reluctant readers. Though labelled as Young Adult by my public library, the stories do not contain graphic or mature content (other than what you would expect from a traditional tale).

    Read Between the Lines (2015) by Jo Knowles. I had heard some really positive buzz around this book, even though I do not often read Young Adult fiction. When I realized that Jo Knowles was also one of the amazing instructors for the upcoming Teachers Write, I moved this book to the top of my TBR pile.  (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

    This is an incredibly interesting and nuanced portrayal of one day in the life of a community. The story is told through several different perspectives all on this single day. I really appreciated how this format served to underscore the extreme self-centeredness of teen life, especially as the characters struggled to look beyond themselves and to express empathy for others. A powerful story.

    Challenges and Summer Plans

    This summer I am again joining in the amazing community and discussion of #cyberPD. This summer's book is Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8. Click here to read more about #cyberPD or click here to join the Google+ discussion group!

    #Bookaday Challenge update: days read a book 25/28, books read 42/90

    Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 12 books, 2 dedicated posts

    Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 135 books, 30 dedicated posts (this week: Read Around the World: Central Asia and Featured Illustrator Meilo 2: part 2)

    Happy Reading!

    Saturday, June 27, 2015

    3rd Grader Book Recommendation: Sideways Stories from Wayside School

    I've started a new series #3rdfor3rd where I am sharing books that my third graders recommend for other third graders. (Please note that my third 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 third graders.) Read more about this book recommendation series and format here.

    Sideways Stories from Wayside School

    Book recommendation by Geoffrey.

    I recommend the book, as I said in the title, Sideways Stories from WAYSIDE SCHOOL. It is the first in the Wayside School series.

    This story is a story about a school that was supposed to be 1 story tall with 30 classrooms in a row, but it is actually 30 stories tall with 1 classroom on each level. They like going there because they get an extra big playground (Lucky!).

    This story is about 30 stories. 3 are about teachers & 27 are about kids.Most of the stories are about things that happen on the thirtieth story, expect for Miss Zarves', hers is on the nineteenth floor.

    This book has a lot of creativity, weird people, & the plot's wacky! My favorite quotable quote is "Louis, I don't know what to do with my toes."-Lesie

    I recommend this book to anyone who likes weird & wacky stories.

    I give this book 5 out of 5 stars!

    Click here or the #3rdfor3rd tag for more great book recommendations!

    Friday, June 26, 2015

    Digital Student Portfolios Book Club - Introductions (plus poem!)

    As part of my summer professional development, I am joining Matt Renwick of Reading by Example along with many others in a month-long book club study of his Digital Student Portfolios ebook. (Read his overview intro post here.) We will be sharing and discussing the book as part of a Google+ Community. I hope you'll join us!


    To begin the book club discussions, Matt asked us to answer the following question: "How has technology impacted your instruction and student learning?" We were given the choice to answer in either a written, visual, or oral way, so here is my visual response plus six word story.

    Six Word Story: Technology is a challenge worth overcoming.

    In brief, this is an image of the Smart Board in my classroom with the end of a poetry-memoir written by a student of mine Photoshopped onto the board. (You can read another student poem, using PowerPoint transitions to add visual impact here: The Power of Poetry Friday.)

    The SmartBoard is the most commonly-used piece of technology in my third grade classroom, but for the past two years we have had an in-class set of hand-me-down Mac book computers as well. The computers are used during the drafting, editing, and publishing stages of writing time and are available as a choice during Poetry Friday time.

    I love seeing how kids take technology and make it their own. I am looking forward to expanding my technology repertoire and seeing how digital portfolios can add to and enhance what is already happening in my classroom.

    Here is the entirety of Ben's poem:


    A pit
    In your

    Strange are
    To come out


    What we have to


    The pit
    That we must
    When we do
    Something scary,
    Or don’t do it
    At all


    Was what I had
    To overcome
    To take a
    Scary slide
    With a
    Scary name


    That moment
    Walking up
    The many
    I was
    Push us
    She did
    A ninety
    And I loved it.


    Almost held me
    But it was what
    I had to
    And I’m
    Glad I did.

    Carol has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Carol's Corner.

    Featured Illustrator: Meilo So, part 2: traditional tales

    Part 1 of this series featuring illustrator Meilo So introduced her modern stories and parables. This post covers the bulk of her books - traditional tales and stories from cultures around the world.

    Want to learn more about Meilo So?

    Traditional Tales: Asia

    Gobble, Gobble, Slip, Slop: a tale of a very greedy cat (2004) by Meilo So. This story is a retelling of an Indian folktale recorded in 1905. The greedy cat finds that nothing can sate his appetite, and both the cat and the story continue to grow as he eats more and more. Only once he has eaten a pair of crabs does a solution present itself.

    Brush of the Gods (2013) by Lenore Look and illustrated by Meilo So. This reconstructed biography details the early life and inspirations of Wu Daozi (689-759) a Chinese fresco and mural painter. Constrained by the limitations of calligraphy, Wu Daozi begins an exploration of figurative and imaginative art. As his final act, legend says that Daozi walked into his final painting … and disappeared. This delightful and enigmatic story will lead to many questions and great discussions about the power of art.

    You can read a brief interview with Meilo So about the particular challenges of illustrating this book, specifically how to integrate her artistic style with that of Wu Daozi. Click here to read it.

    Moonbeams, Dumplings, and Dragon Boats: a treasury of Chinese holiday tales, activities, and recipes (2002) by Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz, and The Children's Museum, Boston and illustrated by Meilo So. This book highlights stories, recipes, and activities to accompany five Chinese holidays: Chinese New Year, the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming and the Cold Foods Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. Every page is enhanced by Meilo So's illustrations and how-to drawings. This is a great resource for parents and teachers interested in learning more about these holidays.

    The Cat's Tale: why the years are named for animals (2008) by Doris Orgel and illustrated by Meilo So. This final take on the race story gives a different point-of-view, as the story-within-the-story is the cat relating her version of the race event. The frame story is also an important one about family and misunderstandings.

    Tasty Baby Belly Buttons (1999) retold by Judy Sierra and illustrated by Meilo So. This Japanese folktale features Uriko-hime, the melon princess, born from inside a watermelon. She is the only one fearless enough to take on the terrible Oni when they kidnap the children of the town in order to devour their tasty baby belly buttons. The whole premise of the story keeps kids engaged, as do her rather creative solutions.

    Noodle Magic (2014) by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Meilo So. This story, in the style of a Chinese folktale, features young Mei who learns, with her Grandpa Tu's encouragement, that true magic really does come from within. Meilo So's expression-filled style really shines in the noodle-centric illustrations, especially when Mei and Grandpa Tu are working together to slap, kneed, stretch, and pull the dough.

    Traditional Tales: Europe

    Brother Juniper (2006) by Diane Gibfried and illustrated by Meilo So. This story is based on traditional tales of Brother Juniper, a friar and friend of St. Francis of Assisi in the 1200s. The story highlights the importance (and rarity) of true generosity and its impact on others, but the ecclesiastical nature (and the fact that Brother Juniper gives everything away – including his robes) makes me unsure about the intended audience for this book.

    The Ugly Duckling (2001) by Hans Christian Anderson, retold by Kevin Crossley-Holland and illustrated by Meilo So. This classic tale gets an elegant retelling in this picture book version, and Meilo So's watercolors are an excellent addition. She captures wonderfully the many expressions of disgust and disdain from the other animals, as well as the hopelessness of the poor, ugly duckling.

    Part 1 provides an overview of modern stories and parables illustrated by Meilo So. Click here or the featured illustrator tag to see all the posts in the featured illustrator series.

    Wednesday, June 24, 2015

    Read Around the World: Central Asia

    I am very excited today to be featured as part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs' Read Around the World Summer Reading Series! You can see the whole calendar of upcoming posts and blogs here. Mondays are for ages 5 and under, Wednesdays for children ages 6-11, and Fridays for ages 12-young adults. Great choices for all ages!

    Tales Told in Tents: stories from Central Asia

    I am sharing one of my favorite read aloud picture books, Tales Told in Tents: stories from Central Asia (2004) retold by Sally Pomme Clayton and illustrated by Sophie Herxheimer. This book gathers a wealth of stories, poems, and riddles from Central Asia, which includes Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

    One reason I love this book is because it features an area of the world that is often unfamiliar to western readers. Many people in the US know of Afghanistan, of course, because of our long history of involvement there, but many would be hard-pressed to spell, much less find on a map, the rest of the countries of Central Asia!

    Another reason I love this book is the detailed background information that the author includes. The book opens with an introduction about the importance of storytelling as well as the author's personal experiences listening to and sharing stories in Central Asia. The back of the book includes attributions and bibliographic details about the stories too, as well as a map and a glossary. These features really help the reader to better connect to these incredible people and cultures.

    The final reason I love this book is because it features many great stories and characters that kids enjoy. Just to highlight a few favorites ...

    • The Bag of Trickness. This story from Kazakhstan stars the beloved Central Asia trickster Aldar-Kose. Kids will be in stitches listening with disbelief as Aldar-Kose tricks a rich man again and again and again!
    • Riddle Bazaar. This collection of riddles from Uzbekistan includes some stumpers, but clever readers will also scour the illustrations for clues.
    • The Secret of Felt. This origin story of the invention of felt involves two brothers, their sheep, and an unfortunate incident with a stubbed toe! Kids are fascinated by the way that wool becomes felt, and this is a great story to read in conjunction with a felt or felting craft project.

    Felt and Felt-Making Project Ideas

    Making felt is a fun and engaging project for kids too! There are two methods for making your own felt, needle-felting and wet felting. (Here is a great post, Beginning Needle Felting with Kids, using foam board and cookie cutters to keep hands safe.) Needle-felting is best with older children, as it involved a sharp needle, but kids of all ages can help out with wet felting. I am definitely going to talk to our art teacher next year about doing one of both of these adorable projects below!

    Painting with Wool:
    Wet Felting

    Wet Felted
    Easter Eggs

    Not sure you want to make your own felt? You can also use store-bought felt for a wide variety of fun crafts and activities. Here are just a few that caught my eye:

    Make Your Own
    Felt Board Tutorial

    Matryoshka Dolls

    Felt Owl

    What tales do you have to tell?

    Monday, June 22, 2015

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/22/15

    It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

    Last Week's Posts

    Picture Books

    Isla (1995) by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Elisa Kleven. This sequel to Abuela (reviewed as part of my series on modern immigration stories) follows the young girl and her grandmother on another imagined trip, this time to see the Isla where her Abuela lived and to visit with her aunt, uncle, and cousin who still live there. This is a great story celebrating US-Caribbean connections, as well as the power of family.

    Blue Frog: the Legend of Chocolate (2011) by Dianne de Las Casas and illustrated by Holly Stone-Barker. This story comes from an Aztec legend about the origins of chocolate (although no bibliographic information is given). Overall, I thought this was a cute story to share with kids - and one to get them pondering the mystery of a world without chocolate!

    The only thing that threw me was the middle of the book, when the story exactly repeats itself for two, two-page spreads. (The kids hear the song, they go to the village to get their mothers, the kids and mothers hear the song, they all go back to the village, the kids and mothers hear the song again.) Odd.

    This is Sadie (2015) by Sara O'Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad. This charming little tale invites us into a day in the life of Sadie and her wild imagination, with a focus on the power of books and stories. Kids will certainly connect with her inventiveness and voice. My only tiny criticism was that the literary references were pitched above the heads of the likely readers. (How many kids today even have heard of The Jungle Book and few little kids actually read any Lewis Carroll, even if they have seen the movies? Why not pick books that are better known as books and not as Disney movies?) (H/T Earl at The Chronicles of a Children's Book Writer.)

    Gordon Parks: how the photographer captured black and white America (2015) by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jamey Christoph. I am embarrassed to admit that I had not heard of Gordon Parks before learning about his biography. He was a powerful photographer of Jim Crow and Civil Rights era America, and the first black photographer at Life magazine. This picture book biography details his childhood as well as his career and its impact. Read more about Parks and see links to his archives over at my photography blog. (H/T The Horn Book Magazine.)

    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 would be a great mentor text for a getting-to-know you activity, where each child could illustrate a page representing whatever number describes their "one family." (H/T The Horn Book Magazine.)

    Middle Grade

    Jack: the true story of Jack and the beanstalk (2015) by Liesl Shurtliff. Following the success of her first fractured-fairy-tale novel, Rump, Liesl Shurtliff is back with her version of the story of Jack and that beanstalk. You do not need to have read Rump to understand Jack, but you will miss out on some of the ways their stories interact. This is another clever and entertaining read. Though it took me a little while longer to get into the story this time, it was overall enjoyable.

    Echo (2015) by Pam Muñoz Ryan. This lovely, lyrical novel weaves together three individual stories into its powerful conclusion. I have had this one sitting on my TBR stack, eagerly awaiting the end of the school year. I will admit to quickly skimming past the reviews of others recently, as I didn't want anything to spoil my reading of this book! So I will leave my review at this ... it was well worth the wait!

    Challenges and Summer Plans

    This summer I am again joining in the amazing community and discussion of #cyberPD. This summer's book is Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8. Click here to read more about #cyberPD or click here to join the Google+ discussion group!

    #Bookaday Challenge update: days read a book 18/21, books read 24/90

    Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 12 books, 2 dedicated posts

    Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 130 books, 28 dedicated posts (this week: Review of Mysteries of the Golden Temple)

    Happy Reading!

    Friday, June 19, 2015

    Book recommendation: Mystery of the Golden Temple

    Mystery of the Golden Temple: a Pack-n-Go Girls Adventure (2014) by Lisa Travis and illustrated by Adam Turner. (I received a free copy of this book via Multicultural Kid Blogs in exchange for my honest review. All opinions shared are my own.)

    Mystery of the Golden Temple follows Jess Johnson, an nine-year old African-American girl traveling with her mother and brother to Thailand. Jess is paired up with Nong May, the Thai daughter of her mom's colleague, and the story follows their early mishaps and adventures.

    This was a delightful book and a quick read. At right around 100 pages and 10 chapters, it is a great fit for the emerging reader looking to move up from young fiction or easy readers into longer middle grade fiction. There's an illustration every chapter to help with comprehension too.

    I really appreciated the diversity-focus of the book. The story does a great job of including culturally-specific details about Thailand and the Thais language in a way that is engaging and relevant to the story. There is a pronunciation guide and glossary in the back, and the character often provide pronunciation tips to each other in context as well.

    This story is the first in the Thailand-based mini-series of books by Pack-n-Go Girls. Other mini-series star different characters and take place in Austria and Mexico. Pack-n-Go Girls is currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds for the next series of Pack-no-Go Girls books, slated to be set in Brazil. You can read more or donate to the Kickstarter campaign here.

    This is a great series to get girls interested in travel and exploring other countries. I will definitely be picking up more of these for my classroom!

    Wednesday, June 17, 2015

    3rd Grader Book Recommendation: True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

    I've started a new series #3rdfor3rd where I am sharing books that my third graders recommend for other third graders. (Please note that my third 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 third graders.) Read more about this book recommendation series and format here.

    True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp

    Book recommendation by Mira.

    The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is a really funny book.The author of it is Kathi Appelt. The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp is a story of two silly raccoons who are trying to save Sugar Man Swamp from a pack of hogs, and also about a boy named Chap, and a very strange lady who is trying to cut down Sugar Man Swamp to build a gator wrestling arena and theme park.

    I would recommend this book to people who like adventure and comedy. Here is my favorite quote from the book.

    "Since raccoons aren't that great at counting, we'll just say they had their collective paws on more than four fried pies but fewer than a dozen. And let us also say that carrying those fried pies under neath their noses was sort of a delicous tourture. Bingo looked at the pies scttered across the front seat.. "I think we took more than we needed." he said. J'miah nodded. Then he said exactly what Bingo was thinking. "Since we have so many, I think we could taste at least one of these, don't you?" Since they were both in agreement, they each picked up a Paradise Pie and-sit down, brothers and sisters-they did not think they had ever tasted so rapturous in their entire lives." This is part of my favorite part. Just fast forward a little and........"The pies that him and J'miah had gobbled up. Those pies. They were gone. Almost. There, by it's little lonesome, was the last fried pie. One. Fried. Pie. All. Alone. On. The. Front. Seat."

    I like this part because it is funny.

    I would give this book * * * * * stars.

    Click here or the #3rdfor3rd tag for more great book recommendations!

    Kid Lit Blog Hop plus Facebook Linky

    Welcome to the 62nd Kid Lit Blog Hop where we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children's books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!

    This week, we are excited to be including a Facebook Linky Party to be held in conjunction with the Kid Lit Blog Hop. These linky parties are designed to give you the opportunity to connect with and grow your network of fellow kid lit bloggers, authors, and parents through your various social media platforms.

    *** Please note that we will only be hosting 1 Kid Lit Blog Hop during the months of July and August. These will take place on the 3rd Wednesday of each month (July 15 and August 19). See you then! ***


    Mother Daughter Book Reviews

    Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger

    Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger

    Stacking Books


    Pragmatic Mom

    Reading Authors

    The Logonauts

    A Book Long Enough

    Spark and Pook

    Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

    Kid Lit Blog Hop

    Kid Lit Blog Hop & Linky Party Rules *Please Read*

    1. LINKY PARTY: Add the link to your Facebook fan page in the Facebook Linky Party list below. Be sure to visit at least the two links directly before yours as well as your hosts' Facebook pages. Be sure to follow some folks with similar interests and like & share posts that catch your eye. If you do not have a Facebook profile, you are welcome to link up a different social media profile (Pinterest, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, etc.).

    2. KID LIT BLOG HOP: Link up any Kid Lit related post in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.

    * Don't link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*
    * For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *
    * Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*
    * Feel free to link more than one post.*

    3. KID LIT BLOG HOP: Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS from the Kid Lit Blog Hop directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you!

    4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you're linking up. If you'd prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links!

    5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

    Happy Hopping!


    (***Please do not link a blog post here - see below for the Kid Lit Blog Hop***)


    Tuesday, June 16, 2015

    New Book Alert: Bubbles: Big Stink in Frog Pond

    Title: Bubbles: Big Stink in Frog Pond  | Author: Ben Woodard | Illustrator: Fran Riddell | Publication Date: June 15, 2015 | Publisher: Miller-Martin Press | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 3 to 7

    Summary: As your delighted child may guess from the books title, Bubbles has a problem ... of the bubble-creating variety. When his odorific bubbles prove to be too much for the rest of the frogs, Bubbles is banished to a far area of the pond. Only in their time of need do his friends discover that his 'talent' has its uses.

    Review: Young children will find delight in the 'naughty' aspect of this story (farts that bubble!), and there is an effort to deliver a lesson with the ending. In general, I felt that the story was a bit too straight-forward and predictable, even as it is geared towards younger kids. Other than the novelty of finding a story about the saving power of farts, I am not sure that kids will be drawn in as a story worth rereading.

    I also had a bit of confusion with the artwork. As is common in picture books, the compositions varied between one-page and two-page spreads, but in some places it was difficult to tell which was which. Some two-page illustrations also lost important details in the gutter (in the print edition).

    Overall, I would say that this was a cute and humorous story, but it could have been more. I would recommend this book for younger kids, in the 3-5 year-old range. Older kids will likely find the farts funny but get nothing more out of it.

    (ARC provided by the author via Mother Daughter Book Reviews. All thoughts are my own.)

    Monday, June 15, 2015

    It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/15/15

    It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

    Last Week's Posts

    • Student-Led Book Recommendations. During the school year, my kids wrote their own book recommendations for each other. This post shares my template and mentor recommendation. During the summer I'll be posting highlights from the kids' own recommendations. 

    Picture Books


    Over and Under the Snow (2011) and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (2015) by Kate Messner and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Ever hear about a concept for a book and immediately wish that you had thought of it? I absolutely love the idea and structure behind these two books, but I must admit that I ended up wanting more.

    Over and Under the Snow reminded me too much of Owl Moon and made me miss the amazing and detailed illustrations of John Schoenherr. Something about the two-dimensionality of Christopher Silas Neal's illustrations just didn't work with what my brain wanted for this book. Overall, I think that these are lovely books and will answer/raise a lot of questions for readers about the secret lives of animals, but I felt like they were not quite up to their potential.

    Little Roja Riding Hood (2014) by Susan Middleton Elya and illustrated by Susan Guevara. (Winner of the 2015 Pura Belpré Honor Award for Illustration.) This update of Little Red Riding Hood features a bilingual Roja and liberally sprinkles Spanish into the rhyming text. This is a fun, empowering update with Roja in the lead, rescuing her Abuela.

    Interstellar Cinderella (2015) by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Meg Hunt. I will be adding this one to my collection of fractured Cinderella stories. In this futuristic take, Cinderella dreams of repairing spaceships, along with the assistance of her robotic mouse companion. While I liked the ideas behind this story (including an ethnic-looking Prince and eschewing the marriage offer), I could not get past the rhyme. With Little Roja, I felt like the rhyme worked, but here I found it distracted from the story.

    17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore (2007) by Jenny Offill and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter. Another quirky story from Jenny Offill. In this one, the narrator walks us through many different things she is not allowed to do anymore, from walking backwards to school, to adding beavers to a report on George Washington, and more.

    My students got a kick out of this story (especially the boys, who had been writing an epic haiku about flying beavers). I found the ending deeply unsatisfying and a little disturbing (my students were universally convinced that she is not repentant and is lying to her parents). (H/T to Elisabeth at The Dirigible Plum, who also pointed out that this would be a fun mentor texts for students to invent their own wild ideas.)

    Never Say a Mean Word Again: a tale from Medieval Spain (2014) by Jacqueline Jules and illustrated by Durga yael Bernhard. This story is inspired by a medieval tale about a Jewish poet who was the vizier in Grenada, a Muslim city of the time, in Spain. Here, the story is reimagined between two boys, the Jewish son of the grand vizier and the Muslim tax collector's son, who must learn how get along. This story reminds me a lot of Enemy Pie, which is a favorite read aloud of mine for the beginning of the year and dealing with friendship issues.

    Middle Grade

    Ranger in Time: Rescue on the Oregon Trail (2015) by Kate Messner. I am really looking forward to this summer's edition of Teachers Write, hosted by Kate Messner. Kate mentioned in her launching post that she will sharing insights, details, and previous drafts from her two Ranger in Time books, so I went ahead and jumped in to the first one.

    Rescue on the Oregon Trail has a wonderful conceit for a historical fantasy book: main character and golden retriever, Ranger, is transported back in time after unearthing a first aid kit in the backyard. I love the perspective of Ranger's point-of-view, especially as he tries to puzzle out what has happened to him and why he doesn't find himself back at home after he has done a "Good job!" This series will be very appealing to kids, especially those looking for a bit more challenge than The Magic Tree House books or a more animal-centered telling than the I Survived series.

    Young Adult


    A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) by Ursula K. Le Guin. (H/T to Mr. Schu for linking to Kate DiCamillo's Suggestions for Summer Reading over at TFK.) I have always loved fantasy, including both high fantasy and science fiction, but I never had good reading mentors or recommenders as a kid, so I only read what I stumbled upon. This has left me with many gaping holes, so I was glad to fill in one after seeing Katie DiCamillo's recommendation of where to start with Ursula K. Le Guin.

    This was a gripping and tightly-constructed story of the origins of the boy Ged, known as Sparrowhawk, introduced from the beginning as a someday-to-be great hero and wizard. So much is packed into these scant 220 pages that it feels like a lifetime spent with these characters and this world. (A lack of overt violence / sexual overtones also makes this a book accessible for strong younger readers.)

    A Wizard of Earthsea reminded me greatly of its contemporary, The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, and of its 1980s predecessor, The Belgariad by David Eddings, All three of these series exemplify an economy of words accompanied by strong visual imagery that often seems missing in more recent fantasy series. While I enjoyed the recently-published Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen or The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner, they seem to focus more time on endless dialogue and teenage antics than these "classic" series. I am curious as to whether you agree or disagree?

    Challenges and Summer Plans

    This summer I am again joining in the amazing community and discussion of #cyberPD. This summer's book is Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8. Click here to read more about #cyberPD or click here to join the Google+ discussion group!

    #Bookaday Challenge update: days read a book 11/14, books read 12/90

    Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 12 books, 2 dedicated posts

    Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 127 books, 27 dedicated posts (this week: )

    Happy Reading!