Saturday, June 29, 2013

Unleashing Readers Launch Week June 29, 2013

It's Launch Week!
Welcome Unleashing Readers readers (that sounds a bit off) I am very happy to take part in helping to launch Unleashing Readers. Please read on (and on and on...) to see the great books I am book talking today.

I have about one hundred, no make that two hundred, favorite read aloud books and since I am a librarian, that is no exaggeration. Mo Willems is my hero for the PK set, Karma Wilson's bear books are great teaching devices for everything from how to fight germs to learning about friendship. Helen Ketteman  and Eric Kimmel are my "Go To" folks when I need a Texas Twisted fairy tale.

Oh heck, I am going to give you a special link right now because I am such a nice librarian:  Eric Kimmel Books read aloud by Eric Kimmel, awesome author.

Jangles: a BIG fish story by David Shannon

  • Adventure
  • Animal Stories
  • Comedy and Humor
  • Legends and Myths
Interest level: LG (K-3) BUT...I read this to my entire school ages 3 years to twelve years. Everyone loved it for one reason or another. We live in a coastal community so many children had some exposure to fishing to some extent. We see shrimp boats outside our school windows overlooking the bay each morning. This book was a good fit for my school.

Jangles is a humorous story with a good character message. Treat others how you want to be treated and do the right thing. It is also a good mentor text to use for introducing genre: Legends/Tall Tales.

Jangles is a good source for text to self, text to text connections. Kids quickly recognize the bizarre looking characters as representative of David Shannon's work as an illustrator. I do not mean bizarre in a rude way, that's just the way his characters look. If you don't believe me, look at the page where Jangles rescues a baby. The baby creeps out many kids and me too. In every class, a kid would say "That looks like No David" or "That's like that Pirate book about diapers. (Pirates Don't Change Diapers by Melinda Long, Illustrated by David Shannon).

My Jangles website with discussion questions and activities.

 Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Interest level: MG (4-8)

Everybody uses words to express themselves.  Except me.  And I bet most people don’t realize the real power of words.  But I do. Thoughts need words.  Words need a voice.

 This title was nominated for the Texas Bluebonnet Award so I incorporated it into my library lessons. Out of My Mind has been capturing student interest since the day I introduced it in my library in 2010. It is one of the most highly recommended books by students to other students. When I hear a student recommending it, the advice is not a simple "it's a good book". Students go into great detail to explain why this book touches them. It is a pretty powerful tool when one student recommends a favorite book to another. 

Out of My Mind offers many opportunities for in depth discussions on social issues and how all people should be treated. It also contains  opportunities for problem solving: Melody, the main character, has to search for a way for her voice to be heard.

 Listen HERE to Sharon Draper describing her book, explaining why she felt it was important to speak for kids who cannot speak, and hear a short excerpt from the book.

See how I used Out of My Mind with my 2011 Bluebonnet Book Club

Simon & Schuster's Reading Group Guide for Out of My Mind

Elijah of Buxton by master storyteller Christopher Paul Curtis has everything you need for looking for close reading. Rich characters, plot lines, sub stories, humor, recalling memories, and historical relevance. This is such a great book that it should be read and then listened to again on audio.

Bone series by Jeff Smith

Hear author Jeff Smith tell about the Bone series
3 lost cousins find themselves in a mysterious valley among dragons, princesses, and monsters.  See? Something for boys and girls.

I think all classroom libraries should start with forms of graphic novels. This is because some many readers of all ages struggle and graphic novels are useful stepping stones to understanding literature. Readers are given the story in small chunks. It is clear who the speakers are because of the word bubbles. The illustrations help to guide the story. These parts all together are very helpful to a student's journey into comprehension. There are many forms of graphic novels: fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, classics, science topics, war stories, etc. Lots of high quality material is available now days.

Favorite Book
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
Genre: Historical Fiction/-Survival Stories

Left alone on a beautiful but isolated island off the coast of California, a young Indian girl spends eighteen years, not only merely surviving through her enormous courage and self-reliance, but also finding a measure of happiness in her solitary life.

I read this book in the sixth grade and it really got to me. My eleven year old self liked that the girl in the book had a secret name- Karana. So my friends and I made up our own secret names. we thought we were so cool.

I have read this lovely book numerous times and still love it. I have always preferred biographies and historical fiction because they are real things that really happened to real people. Some one experienced these events. That gets to me. When I was young and my family would go camping, I would go off and sit by the river and pretend I was Karana and I would force my dog to be Rontu, the wild dog. She preferred to be scratched behind the ears. Last year, I had an Epiphany of sorts. I love the television reality show Survivor and have watched it since year one. As I was book talking Island of the Blue Dolphins, I froze as it dawned on me why I love that tv show. It was because of this book. Wow-eye opener. This gives so much truth to "books become a part of who we are".

Here is a recent news article that reignited my passion for this wonderful story.

It's your turn! Please let me know what books you think would best fit these categories. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Teachers Write: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday updates

Teachers Write began this week and I had to dust off my old Facebook page in order to catch all the updates. I'm just not a Facebook person. I signed up years ago when it was  available to university students but since the arrival of Twitter in my life, I have all but abandoned Facebook. It makes me feel really weird when my mother asks me if I have checked my Facebook to see a picture that one of my sisters has uploaded. The woman needs to be on it herself, she has always been far ahead of her time.

On Monday, we wrote about keeping a writer's notebook. I have several stuffed into hidey holes at work, in my rolling teacher's cart, in my car, and on my bedside table at home. I like to use the primary journals  the type usually used by first graders. Each page provides a large blank space for drawing a picture with red and blue lines for positioning letters on a baseline. I need all the help I can get with my handwriting. I call my journal My Sanity Book.

Tuesday Quick Write Assignment

It was very quiet in my library this afternoon and I caught myself staring into space remembering conversations, events, and wonderful times spent in the school library that I have very carefully and reverently built up over the past five years. When I read the Teachers Write Quick Write topic for Tuesday, I immediately begin to write without stopping to plan. It felt great to write down what I had been remembering. There are so many memories that I can replay in my mind's eye as I look out over the now quiet tables.

Tuesday Quick Write:  Begin with "Sometimes, ..

Sometimes, when the school day is over and I am alone in my library, I like to run my fingers across the book spines occasionally stopping to pull one out and flip to a favorite tear stained section. I smile as I remember the laughter of two friends speaking over each other as they try to share their favorite part of a story, the strained voice of a boy trying his best to eerily describe a ghost scene. These are beautiful echoes in my memory as I walk the shelves. Books are like coming home to a warm memory or revisiting a friend from long ago. Books are beautiful things. They are always there for you when you need them to lift your mood or to offer guidance. I believe books become part of who we are, because as I look around the library, that I have spent years carefully building book by precious book, I see myself. 

My library is a very happy place filled with great books and fun props. 

Teachers Write Wednesday Q and A 

Guest authors Laurel Snyder and Joanne Levy field questions about writing and writers and are joined by Kate Messner and Gae Polisner

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Good bye Earth! Hello Nebulon!


Galaxy Zack: Hello Nebulon
(Book #1 of Galaxy Zack)
Author: Ray O'Ryan
Illustrated by  Colin Jack
For Ages: 5 - 7

The Year is 2120, and Zack Nelson and his family are making the big move from Earth to the planet Nebulon. Zack is already nervous about starting school and making new friends, but it only gets worse when he dreams that his classmates are slimy aliens with tentacles, pizza comes covered in gross bugs, and he can never communicate with his Earth friends again! When Zack arrives at Sprockets Academy for his first day of school, he meets and befriends Drake Tucker, a Nebulite boy who also loves to explore and learn about the planets. All of the differences between Earth and Nebulon begin to pile up and make Zack miss his home in Dubbsville, Texas, even more. But things start to look up when he receives a mysterious surprise. What could it possibly be?

Why will kids like this book?
  • It has aliens!
  • Kids will think the alternating black text on white pages, then white text on black pages, and then slanted text is cool. 
  • Zack's new house is equipped with an Indoor Robotic Assistant, better known as IRA, who takes care of your every need. Thirsty? Pow! Try a glass of frosty, bubbling, spudsy melonade,
  • Zack's massive bedroom is equipped with the coolest technology- a huge desk with a built in computer touch pad and an entire wall that is the computer screen. It's like going to the movies. You can even search the stars and galaxies. 
  • Zack's bed retracts up into the ceiling when not in use.Wicked!
  • IRA eill prepare your favorite meals. While your parents dine on grilled salmon, and your sisters spaghetti, you can have delicious cheesy pepperoni pizza! 

Why Ms. Murphy thinks this is a great book for kids:
  • It has aliens!  
  • It reaches early chapter book readers through an engaging format using larger print and ample graphics to guide the story.  
  • It introduces early chapter book readers to Science Fiction genre in a light, upbeat way. 
  • It is a story about friendship, family, and adjusting to new situations with a positive attitude.  
  • The book sums up most kids' day dreams of a super cool room, never having to clean up after yourself, and delicious food prepared and instantly delivered via a sliding panel door (Come to think of it, I dream about this too).
Ms. Murphy also appreciates that Simon and Schuster has provided great promotional materials for the Galaxy Zack series which makes my job as a librarian much easier to book talk it (book trailer, book excerpts, and downloadable resources). When kids see a book trailer, that book is guaranteed to be put on a long hold list.

Visit the Galaxy Zack website

Galaxy Zack downloadable resources can be found here

Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Monday, What are You Reading? June 24, 2013


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 at Teach Mentor Texts. 

Professional Development:
Notice and Note by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst

Well, the Notice and Note book club has finished and what a terrific three weeks of reading strategy learning it was. I was beginning to see signposts in everything I read and even as I watched Disney's Lion King.

Modeling a Reader's Conference

This week one of the university professors held a readers camp in my school library. Her reading diagnostic teacher's education students each were assigned a student with ages ranging from 1st grade to middle school. They are doing a great job with basic reading skills but it soon became apparent to me that they do not read typically children's books. When it came time to let a student select a book to take home for the weekend, they froze up and cast me desperate looks. I ambled over and modeled a reader's conference by asking each kid a little about their interests and the name of a book they had recently read. I always tried to get a little laugh out of them before launching into a book talk. I love how kids open up to grown ups when they can tell you are truly interested in and respect what they have to say. Reader's conferences are the best way I find to connect kids to book they will love.

What I read this week
 Science Fiction/Fantasy

Audio Books

I just finished my summer re-listen of Divergent by Veronica Roth. These are the books I will be listening to while I work this week. I am very excited to hear Navigating Early after my recent experience with Moon Over Manifest. Clare Vanderpool appears to be an author with endless talent.

Science Topic books I re-read this week:

A Storm Called Katrina
by Myron Uhlberg (2011)   Illustrated by Colin Bootman
Peachtree Publishers
When flood waters submerge their New Orleans neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a young cornet player and his parents evacuate their home and struggle to survive and stay together
Teaching Guide:A Storm Called Katrina

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 
by Brian Floca (2009)

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

The story of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon -a story of leaving and returning

during the summer of 1969, and a story of home, seen whole, from far away by steady

astronauts in their great machines.

Discussion Guide: Moonshot

How to Clean a Hippopotamus
A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships
by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children (2010)

Watch the book trailer: How to Clean a Hippopotamus

Book on Deck: 
(if I can get the book loan from the nearby high school library)

I moved Keeping the Castle to the top of my #MustRead pile after hearing Nancy Pearl review it on NPR this past week. She also talked about the wonderfully delightful MG novel A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. Listen to NPR: Nancy Pearl Scours The Shelves For Books You Might Have Missed

Keeping the Castle: a tale of romance, riches, and real estate
author: Patrice Kindl
YA Fiction
Book appeal: fans of Jane Austen literature and Downtown Abbey fans.

Summary: In order to support her family and maintain their ancient castle in Lesser Hoo, seventeen-year-old Althea bears the burden of finding a wealthy suitor who can remedy their financial problems.

I am also looking forward to my first experience participating in Teachers Write beginning tomorrow. My primary goal is to improve my writing skills and learn to use more concise, meaningful language in my writing.


I am always looking for new and exciting books to introduce my students to and welcome suggestions. Let me hear you book talk the best book you have read recently. I am all ears!