Sunday, April 13, 2014

It's Monday, What are You Reading April 14, 2014

 It's Monday! What are you Reading is a meme began by Sheila at Book Journeys as a way to share what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and what is in store for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading. I first learned about it from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki of Unleashing Readers and have become a regular linked up blog. Thanks #PLN

What a fantastic week this has been, almost 8,000 librarians descended upon the city of San Antonio for the Texas Librarian Association Conference. I drove up with friends and experienced four days of fun, learning, and connecting with fellow librarians. What a wonderful time we all had. 

Here are a few books that I have read this week. Some of them I received at TLA.

The closing speaker at TLA was Henry Winkler. He gave a wonderful presentation and shared a lot of insight into the world of a dyslexic. I received A Short Story about a Long Dog by Henry Winkler as a freebie and could have kicked myself because I didn't realize it was in the bag at my feet when my friends were lining up to have him autograph their purchased copies. 
This is a humorous story about a boy struggling with dyslexia and with trying to convince his parents to let him have a dog. The wonderful thing about reading this book is that the font has been specifically designed for dyslexic readers. The letters are heavy on the bottom and space further apart than the typical font to keep the letters from floating off the page.

I am sure everyone is reading The Pigeon Needs a Bath and it certainly does not disappoint. I can hardly wait to share it with my Pre-Kinder classes. Chengdu is very sweet book about a panda who is having a little trouble sleeping. The illustrations are what caught my eye as I was wandering around the exhibit hall. I did a lot of stop and reads. What a great way to spend the day.

Author/Illustrator Jeff Mack treated us to a reading of his perfectly adorable  It's an Orange Aardvark. This is a book I will definitely be purchasing very soon for my library. I will be able to tie this little beauty into so many different topics-carpenter ants, rainbows, colors, imagination and more. I gained so much insight from Jeff Mack's explanations of word economy, image balance, and how less is more. I gave his presentation an A+.
When you are walking around the exhibit hall you are always on the look out for freebies and ARC give-a-ways. I actually did a double take when I saw this copy in my hand. Get Happy by Mary Amato. I have always liked everything Mary Amato has written. My kids love Please Write in This Book and boy and girls alike enjoy Guitar Notes, no, scratch that, LOVE Guitar Notes. I started reading it the minute I got to my room that first night. Wonderful story.

I am reading so many different stories this week that they are starting to blend together. I better get Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein straight though because our #virtualbookclub is just around the corner. Check out the Virtual Book Club website 
I was fortunate enough to be sitting with Chris during the Nerdy Book Club session at TLA and I asked him if he would be joining us during the chat. He said he is going to give it a try. I hope he does. 
Talk about an inspiring session. I bumped into Kirby Larson at the door so we headed out to the bathroom together chatting about her book Duke and we bumped into Colby Sharpe. We were hoping to use the men's bathroom but Colby assured us it was quite busy already. Cynthia Alaniz did a great job introducing the nerdy panel and from the moment it began it was top notch. Tom Angelberger was such a hoot. I have never seen anyone talk so quickly and excitedly in my life. I had a brief librarian panic moment when Linda Urban folded the cover of her book back to read from it. Book Ouch! 
Here are some of the goodies I picked up the first day at TLA. I tried not to take too many books because I already have too many to catalog back at home. It was hard not to take books because everyone kept offering them to us. I picked up about three bags. I plan to keep some for our library and offer the rest to librarians who were not able to make it to TLA this year. 

Well, here is a picture of me on the last day of TLA.  I was tired but very happy I went. Seems like I lost a bit of weight from all that walking. Happy Reading!


Sunday, April 6, 2014

TLA Here I Come! and I read some books this week. #IMWAYR

It's Monday! What are you Reading is a meme began by Sheila at Book Journeys as a way to share what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and what is in store for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading. I first learned about it from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki of Unleashing Readers and have become a regular linked up blog. Thanks #PLN

I have been administering the TELPAS test and cataloging books this week like a maniac. 
I was determined to make sure my students all had plenty of challenging books to keep them busy next week while I am attending the Texas Library Association Conference. 

The Texas Library Association conference committees have created so many enticing sessions. I am so excited and really looking forward trying to make it to as many sessions as humanly possible. Of course the number one session that I plan to attend is the Nerdy Book Club session on Thursday.

Wondering  what you need to bring to TLA or need some questions answered? Librarian Jen Bigheart shares some TLA helpful hints here. Plus there is a YA/Kidlit meetup.

Several Coastal Bend librarians will be brainstorming at the President's Party as we share updates about our first Teen Book Fest by the Bay that is in the planning phase. 

Member of the Nerdy Book ClubIn gearing up for the Nerdy Book Club session, I have been reading Duke by Kirby Larson, one of the Nerdy Book Club session presenters. Kirby spent a long time researching background information on war dogs and every day details that made up the WWII era.

Eleven year old Hobie's father is a soldier away fighting for his country. Hobie knows with a heavy heart that there is something more that he can do for his country beyond buying war stamps. He has a trained and highly intelligent German Shepard named Duke. The war department needs smart dogs to help the war effort but is Hobie able to let go of a friend so dear to him? Visit Kirby's Lane to learn more about this heart tugging historical fiction.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library is the next book in line for our #virtualbookclub chat coming up on April 21st at 8:00 EST. Snag a copy of the book and join us. We guarantee a great chat with fellow teachers, librarians, and book lovers.

Here is the book I am most excited to read soon. I recently finished The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau. It was a very exciting and interesting read in the same vein as Hunger Games, Divergent, and Battle Royal. Well, maybe not as violent as Battle Royal. That book was unnerving and I had to keep a cheat sheet to track all the fatalities in Battle Royal.

Have a wonderful reading week.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bright Sky Press Book Reviews

Recently, Bright Sky Press kindly sent three books for my perusal. I was impressed by the overall physical quality of the books. They were sturdy and well constructed. They were large enough to present well for read alouds to groups, and filled with colorful illustrations from various illustrators. Below are my impressions after reading them. I admire writers and illustrators and respect the months of heart and soul that they pour into the stories that they generously share. My Goodreads ratings are only a reflection of how I personally feel the books would match my students as readers.

River Royals: Master the Mississippi
River Royals: Master the Mississippi by Sarah Wynne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elizabeth Jane Bookman is a day dreamer with big dreams to shine in school. Unfortunately, paying attention in the classroom is not her best talent. Fortunately, she does possess a talent for a vivid imagination. As her teacher, Miss Fletcher, launches into a lesson about the mighty Mississippi River and the ten states it flows through, Elizabeth Jane slides down in her seat to to draw mermaids. When Miss Fletcher mentions the word crowns, Elizabeth Jane's ears perk up and she is suddenly imagining herself floating down the Mississippi River with her little brother, Henry in tow discovering the marvels each state has to offer them.

The Word BurglarThe Word Burglar by Chris Cander

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Word Burglar would be a wonderful book to share with older students as part of a language lesson. I don't feel that younger students would be able to navigate the vocabulary enough to enjoy the storyline. Still, I might incorporate it into one of my library lessons on the importance of books and reading.

Some important points I understood from this story were:

Children are able to recognize that letters and words have meaning and once they crack the reading code, they will be in possession of this power.

Not being able to read can make a child feel small and insignificant. We can't let this happen.

Danielle and the Strawberry FairiesDanielle and the Strawberry Fairies by Rini Ziegler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Danielle wakes her mother one morning with the question "Why are strawberries red?" Her mother decides to take Danielle and her little dog, Oscar to visit Mr. McDerwood's Strawberry Farm where a fantastical encounter with fairy princess, Merriberry awaits her. With a dash of golden fairy dust, Danielle and Oscar shrink down to fairy size and begin their quest to discover how strawberries become red.

What I liked about this book was the large and colorful illustrations, in particular, the page filled with lovely wild flowers. I also liked the humorous page when Danielle went to lift up her basket and found it a bit heavy and filled with little Oscar. The illustrations give strength to the story.

Have a lovely reading life.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I began this year by adding 32 books to my #MustReadin2014 shelf on Goodreads. Well, that is a fib. I added some later and continue to add more. I like to maintain a list because it is too easy to forget a book you really have your heart on reading but then forget about when the release date rolls around. So far, I have read 17 titles on my #MustReadin2014 list. Here are some of my favorites so far in 2014.  


#MustReadin2014 Favorite Picture Books so far in 2014

Buddy and the Bunnies In Don't Play with Your FoodBuddy and the Bunnies In Don't Play with Your Food by Bob Shea

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My favorite book read in 2014 so far. My students are going to love this story and I plan to pair it with a re-read of Creepy Carrots as my Spring Bunny stories. Also, it has the stamp of approval from both my grand-kids.

The Most Magnificent ThingThe Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a terrific picture book! Our heroine of the story and her trusted assistant (dog) set out to create the most magnificent thing. This is no easy task and effort after effort yields lack luster results. When faced with failure, the girl throws her hands up and declares she quits. She takes a walk and after calming down she approaches her inventions to discover that although she may not think her inventions are magnificent, others find they are just what they have been needing. With a new perspective, she once again sets out to make one more invention and it is the most magnificent thing.

#MustReadin2014 Favorite Poetry Books so far in 2014

Firefly July and Other Very Short PoemsFirefly July and Other Very Short Poems by Paul B. Janeczko

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even before I read the short poems, I was entranced by the bright beautiful colors of the book's cover. Illustrator Melissa Sweet wisely choose to create images that appeal to children as well as adults. It is so gorgeous that I created a special Spring display just for Firefly July.

In particular, I loved the poem In Passing by Gerald Jonas about a junk truck full of floor fans spinning like pinwheels on one last fresh breeze before they are off to wherever.

The Red Wheelbarrow reminded me of Sharon Creech's book Love That Dog and how a little boy at first didn't understand the poem until he sorted out his feelings about the recent death of his beloved dog, Sky.

As a teacher, I see so many possibilities for inclusion in my lessons. Firefly July is a wonderful poetry collection.

#MustReadin2014 My Favorite MG Fiction so far in 2014

 Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated AdventuresFlora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flora, a natural born cynic rescues a squirrel from the suction power of a souped up vacuum cleaner by performing CPR on him. The squirrel is named Ulysses after the vacuum cleaner that almost killed and partially skinned him. After his near death experience, Flora discovers that Ulysses has gained super powers and together they take on some illuminated adventures which include a wildly quirky collection of characters who are all unique and quite endearing. It is a wonderfully fun book filled with challenging vocabulary that becomes fun to sort out and understand. 2015 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee and 2014 Newbery Medal award book.

A Snicker of MagicA Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A sweet,charming story about a girl named Felicity Pickle and her destiny to lay down roots in the town where her mother grew up. A wonderful story of friendship and the importance of family. Read it and feel renewed by life.

#MustReadin2014 My Favorite Series that I fell in love with. 

In the Urwald, you don't step off the path. Trolls, werewolves, and butter churn–riding witches lurk amid the clawing branches, eager to swoop up the unwary. Jinx has always feared leaving the path—then he meets the wizard Simon Magus.
Jinx knows that wizards are evil. But Simon's kitchen is cozy, and he seems cranky rather than wicked. Staying with him appears to be Jinx's safest, and perhaps only, option. As Jinx's curiosity about magic grows, he learns to listen to the trees as closely as he does to Simon's unusual visitors. The more Jinx discovers, the more determined he becomes to explore beyond the security of well-trodden paths. But in the Urwald, a little healthy fear is never out of place, for magic—and magicians—can be as dangerous as the forest. And soon Jinx must decide which is the greater threat.

 Jinx website with printable activities

#MustReadin2014 My favorite YA FICTION so far in 2014

The Testing (The Testing, #1)The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading this book over the weekend. I would stop mid-chore and sneak away to read a few minutes. I even stopped cooking dinner to sneak in a few pages. This book has invaded my mind. I kept thinking about how I would handle each situation that arose. The Testing made me tense, suspicious, and at times, I could feel my pulse speeding up. Sometimes the tension became so great that I found myself reading faster and faster and I would have to force myself to slow down and think the story through so I wouldn't miss any details. This is the sign of a great novel. I am looking forward to reading Independent Study. It's is my MUST READ NOW book.

I do wish the author had described each "test" in a way that would include the reader a bit more so we could also sort out a solution but overall,it was a very enjoyable novel.

The Coldest Girl in ColdtownThe Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holly Black holds nothing back from chapter one until the last line of the novel. Tana is a girl with depth-intelligent, loyal, and fierce. She is a damsel in distress that manages to save herself but also saves many others along the way in her quest to regain her humanity. I was captivated by page 7 learning that the city I lived in was a Coldtown. I have always suspected as much.

#MustReadin2014 Favorite Non-Fiction

Parrots Over Puerto RicoParrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Colorful, informative, interesting, and terribly sad. Parrots Over Puerto Rico is a wonderful book for students to read and gain some insight into the destruction effect humans can have on a previously successful species and about the attempts to right a wrong in the world of nature.

View all my reviews

Here are some titles that will be read over the next few months. In April, it's Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library. Join us for a fun book chat.

Here is a collage of some of my #MustReadin2014 titles. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Will You Survive the Testing? No, not that testing #IMWAYR March 31, 2014

It's Monday! What are you Reading is a meme began by Sheila at Book Journeys as a way to share what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and what is in store for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading. I first learned about it from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki of Unleashing Readers and have become a regular linked up blog. Thanks #PLN

For some time now, I have been so incredibly busy that any time I tried to sit down to read, I would fall asleep due to sheer exhaustion. This week, I have  been cataloging and processing new library books like a maniac. I have readied over a hundred and fifty new books for my students and several books on my TBR pile. Below are some titles I enjoyed this week and then there were two I really found read worthy.

Let me start with the most exciting book I have read this year. The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau. I rate this book highly because it does what I like goods novel to do. They unnerve me and possess me. In the midst of a pleasant dinner, snippets of dialog echo in my mind pulling me away from friends and family dinner chatter. My dreams are invaded with desperate scenarios where I am a participant in the testing. While I work in the garden or clean my house, I stop mid task and run grab my book just for a few minutes to fall back into the story. My family is wise to me and I hear them laughing about it. 

I also finished The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, a book that intrigued and disturbed me with its violence. I liked Tana, a strong female character that when faced with the massacre of many of her friends by vampires, chooses to rescue not only her bitten and infected ex-boyfriend but also a ruby red eye vampire in chains. She drives them both to Coldtown fearing that she too may be infected due to a fang scratch on her leg. In this story, vampires are rockstars that draw young people to coldtowns hoping to be "turned". This novel is not for those who are afraid of the dark.  

These books were a bit milder and fun to read. 


I read 2 more Texas Bluebonnet titles this week. Pickle (still reading) and Lester's Dreadful Sweaters.

Sparky was pretty darn cute and my grandson loved the idea of a pet sloth. My mom would have let me have a sloth for a pet too. I have raised cats, turtles, fish, frogs, a rat, dogs, ducks, bunnies, and a billy goat named Blanco Diablo who lived up to his name. I was also the custodian of two rescue animals a badger and a javelina, both who eventually were released back into the wild.
Don't you just love the sea turtle painting my sister Jypsy made for my birthday. Our school mascot is the sea turtle so I have long wanted a painting for my library. 

Mr. Bones approved of the books I chose for Spring lessons. We both love bears and Kevin Henkes and Karma Wilson have created some wonderful bear books. 

I am so excited because in just a few days it will be time to depart for the Texas Library Association conference. It is considered the ultimate of state library conferences. I will be traveling up with some librarian buddies and have made plans to meet up with some of my Twitter PLN. If you are headed to TLA, please let me know. I would love to met you in person. 

Have a lovely reading week.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Monday, What are You Reading? #IMWAYR March 24, 2014

It's Monday! What are you Reading is a meme began by Sheila at Book Journeys as a way to share what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and what is in store for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading. I first learned about it from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki of Unleashing Readers and have become a regular linked up blog. Thanks #PLN

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown 
or according to my grandson "BB's creepy book"

What a surprise I had as I began reading Coldtown. On page 7, I learned that I lived in a coldtown. This was a little unsettling. I know it's fiction but still....there are some pretty mysterious things that take place in our fair city. 

Coldtown does indeed start out with a shocking beginning as Tana wakes up in a bathtub, a bit damp from a dripping faucet. after a night partying with friends at a sundown party. Apparently you lock yourselves inside and get wasted but at least you are safe from vampire attacks...that is unless some knucklehead forgets to shut a window. As Tana stumbles out of the bathroom she begins to smell something metallic and sweet and discovers something horrific. But wait, there's more! Her ex-boyfriend is found alive and tied up to a bed but who is that also tied up on the floor next to him? You will have to delve into this very unusual adventure if you dare to read more.

What we are reading in the library:

We began our first Bluebonnet Book Club book this week. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt.  I asked Drew what message he wanted kids to take away from his story. My students liked what he had to share. It's important that kids understand that what they say and do matters and that they can make a difference in the world.
Students read The Day the Crayons Quit aloud in small groups. I encouraged them to take a good look at the pictures before deciding how they would portray their assigned crayons. I heard some pretty funny little voices. Everyone loved Peach crayon's letter best. After reading, the kids wanted to explore art with their favorite color of crayons. I also showed a couple of videos. One was How Crayons Are Made. Next week, we will begin writing letters from a crayon's point of view and sharing them with each other. 

If you would like some resources or ideas to use for this book. check our "under construction" 2014-15 Bluebonnet Book Club wiki

I continue to listen to Fire while driving. It's a bit long and my commute is short. I find myself sitting in the car slowly gathering up my purse and whatnots just so I can hear a bit more before heading inside the house.
I also read a series of books about Spring to the little kiddos. Books like City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems and Lois Ehlert's Pie in the Sky. The little three year olds loved both books. They gave them both a hip hip horray and cheered even louder for The Day the Crayons Quit.

What's up next on my TBR pile? Minion by John David Anderson. I recently received an ARC in the mail and look forward to seeing what our little superheroes are up to in this latest installment of John David Andersons' Sidekicked series. My students will come up to me asking for Sidekicked by asking "where is that book where the kids go into a secret room by using a vending machine to buy pork rinds?" Love it.
A few months ago, my librarian friend Kim and I lead a PD session on motivating readers through visual displays that pop with color, style, and unique looks. I shared how I am the queen of boxes. I can take a look at a discarded box and see a multitude of clever uses for it. My favorite is a large box that a IMac computer arrived in. It is almost pyramid in shape and I have turned it into a two sided display with handles. I also found four over-sized computer boxes that I covered in green paper and spelled out R E A D. Sometimes I switch them around to read D E A R. They are perfect for my library.

This week, I visited librarian Mary Ester. She grabbed my hand and pulled me around her library showing off all her amazing and creative displays she and her assistant had made out of boxes and thanked me for our PD session. I love what they did with some really cool shaped boxes. My favorite is her use of Ipad packing material. She painted them and inverted them and thus creating a book stand. These remind me of little cell phone stands.

Happy Reading!