Category Archives: Books

Follow up: Virtual Summer Reading Club

Standard
Summer reading

Photo by M. E. Shenefiel

Earlier this summer I blogged about an inspired idea, a virtual summer reading club.  We are nearing then end of our second book, with one more book to go in August.  This was a new venture for me, and I was initially nervous about how it was going to turn out, but it has been very rewarding!  Most of the active participant are  going into grades 4 and 5, and I have a few colleagues actively participating as well.  I’m just as excited as the students to get on Edmodo and see the latest questions and comments.  I love how the kids interact with each other and the other teachers without even knowing one another.

Today I received this message from a parent who’s child is participating in the club:

“I wanted to take a minute to let you know that I believe the summer reading program is a huge success. I always have my children read over the summer but the interactive book club has taken it to a whole new level. My son is excited to read, excited to come up with questions for the group and excited to answer questions. And not because he receives anything just because it is fun. I think it is a great way to engage the students over the summer. He is diving deeper into the meaning of the stories not just reading on the surface. He gets so excited to check Edmodo every day. I think that this is a safe and effective way to have these students peak into the world of social media. With social media being the way of the future I do think its important for students to learn about it and this gives them a chance to use it in a safe secure way.
I am so grateful for this program and hope that it is something you keep for future years.”

Classroom teachers probably get this type of email all the time, but for me it’s a huge deal. Needless to say the virtual book club will continue, possibly even throughout the school year!  For those of you who are considering offering this type of opportunity for your students I highly recommend it!

(By the way, the June book was The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland. Our July book is The Secret Box by Whitaker Ringwald.  The August book, which hasn’t been revealed to the club yet, will probably be Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.)

Inspired Idea: Graphic Novel Book Trailer

Standard

After several intense days #notatISTE, and participating in #ISTELive, I’m finally able to go back and catch up on the annual ALA convention (#alaac15) which was also held this week in San Francisco.  (I tried keeping up with both for a while but I just couldn’t do it!)

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

One story that caught my attention was “Crying Emoji: ALA Annual Recap (Part III)” by Travis Jonker from 100Scopenotes.  The very first picture shows several authors performing readers theater, acting out a scene from Jennifer L. Holm’s and Matthew Holm’s graphic novel Sunny Side Up.  I had seen this done before, I can’t remember where, but I think it was Raina Telgemeier performing one of her graphic novels as reader’s theater.  Somewhere along the line (maybe that was the whole purpose of these presentations) I realized that the graphic novel format probably lends itself to reader’s theater.  I’ll bet that many, if not all, graphic novels could be performed in this way.

Then I started thinking about my students, and my library, and I’ll admit that I don’t do enough to promote graphic novels at my school.  My graphic novels circulate well, but mainly because of the students who already love them.  Most of the teacher’s have a hard time appreciating the complexity and value of graphic novels.  (When it comes time to do book projects, graphic novels are often vetoed as choices.)

So here’s my idea…  I think the students could collaborate to create book trailers reenacting short scenes from the graphic novels as reader’s theater, with accompanying images from the text (no more than one or two pages.)  Of course, I’m a little concerned about copyright, but I do feel like this would constitute Fair Use.  The students could then add music, sound effects and other images to create a finished book trailer to promote our graphic novels.  We are very privileged to have our own television channel and the trailers could be broadcast throughout the day.

Creating reader’s theater style book trailers offers so many opportunities for students to creatively express their love of graphic novels and also helps showcase their value to other students and the teachers.

Inspired Idea: Virtual Summer Reading Club

Standard

In the midst of my end of the school year rituals, I received an email from a parent.  Her daughter, a voracious reader, was having surgery and would be bedridden for a lot of the summer.  This mother wanted to know if I knew of any opportunities for children’s virtual book clubs.  I told her that off hand I didn’t but I would check into it.  The idea began spinning around in my head and I realized that I could provide this opportunity.  With just enough school year left for some publicity, I launched my 2015 Virtual Summer Reading Club.  (I know… not a very original club name, but hey, I was proud of myself for just getting it off the ground!)

I created a group in Edmodo and posted a link for the club on our library website.

Here’s how our reading club works…

This summer we will read three books, one each in June, July and August.  All of the titles are nominees for the 2015-2016 Pennsylvania Young Readers Choice Awards. Our virtual book club will meet on Edmodo and discussion questions and replies will be posted at least once a week. Club members could simply read what others have to say, but are encouraged to take an active part in the conversation!  (See the directions below.)  Students can earn Edmodo badges for participation.  Using Edmodo has been a bit of a learning curve for all involved, but I think that the participants are starting to catch on.

The Menagerie

The Menagerie, by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland. Image from Harper Collins Children’s.

To date there are 47 members of the club (teachers and students) with new members joining every few days.  We have about 10 really active participants but (disappointingly) many members who have only logged on once.  Our first book is The Menagerie by Tui T. Sutherland and Kari H. Sutherland.  All of the active participants seem to really be enjoying the book and the discussion has been very impressive!

From Owen B. : “When i was reading the book before bed, i was only going to read a chapter but i read two chapters. Mrs Shenefiel was right, i can’t put it down!!!”

From Mrs. H.: “I just started the book today, so I’m late, and my first thought when I saw the book, was this wasn’t my kind of book, BUT I’m really enjoying it!”

As we move through the final chapters of the Menagerie, I’m hoping that the club members will be just as excited about the second title (which will remain a mystery until we’re ready to start!) Look for an update later in the summer.

FYI…here are the directions/reminders that I posted: 

Directions:

  1. As you read, make tracks or keep notes, and notice details about the characters, setting, plot, and writing style.
  2. After you have finished reading the section please post at least one discussion question related to the character, setting, plot, or writing style. (You are welcome to post more than one question.)
  3. Finally… after you have posted your discussion question, please reply to at least one other question posted by another club member. The whole point of this club is to spark an online conversation, so post and reply as much as you wish.

Reminders:

  • Discussion questions are open-ended and may not have a right or wrong answer. Good discussion questions may allow for different opinions supported with evidence from the text.
  • If you choose to read ahead, please do not post spoilers (or questions that might be spoilers.) Spoilers are when you give away something about the plot that should be a surprise to the reader.
  • Be respectful in your posts. We may have different opinions about what happens in this story and that’s OKI We don’t always have to agree with everyone. We do have to respect those differences though. I reserve the right to make your membership “read-only,” if your posts or conversations becomes disrespectful.

Summer Reading: A Long Walk to Water

Standard

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park


Genre: Realistic Fiction

Recommended for: grades 5 and up

Based on actual events, the story of two children into different time periods, facing life-threatening struggles in the country of Sudan.

Topics/Themes: drinking water, Sudan, family, Sudanese Civil War, The Lost Boys of Sudan, global issues, helping others, survival

My Two Cents: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️  Each chapter in this book intertwines the stories of two children trying to survive in circumstances that the average American child can barely imagine.  Nya’s twice daily trek to fetch drinking water for her family seems like such an antiquated prospect to us, and yet this event is a reality for many children today. Salva’s story begins with the bombing of his school by Sudanese rebels and his subsequent escape from his village.  Separated from his family he will travel on foot for hundreds of miles over several years through the deserts of southern Sudan, then Ethiopia, on to Kenya and finally to the U.S.

A Long Walk to Water is an inspirational story of struggle, survival, and giving back.  (I’m thinking One Book, One School!) It is also a story that begs us to get involved, take action, and make a difference in our world.  Salva Dut founded the non-profit orgaization Water for South Sudan to help the people of South Sudan drill for clean drinking water in their villages.  On this website you can find more information about A Long Walk for Water and other resources related to the book.

Watch this moving video about how Water for South Sudan is changing the lives of the people of South Sudan:

Water for South Sudan from Water for South Sudan on Vimeo.

For a more in-depth look at this book, check out Linda Sue Park interviewing Salva Dut. (Also from the Water for South Sudan website.):

Pair with: 

Hoping for Peace in Sudan : Divided by Conflict, Wishing for Peace by Jim Pipe.

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams.

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

A Thirst for Home: A Story of Water across the World by Christine Ieronimo

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

Ryan and Jimmy: And the Well in Africa That Brought Them Together

Summer Reading: The Mighty Miss Malone 

Standard

After a very, very long hiatus, summer reading is finally back! Check back periodically to read my book reviews as I read away the hazy hot and humid days of summer!


The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis

http://www.nobodybutcurtis.com



Genre
: historical fiction

Recommended for: grades 4 and up

Deza Malone and her family struggle to return to normalcy after a tragic accident involving her father forces them to leave their home in Gary Indiana.

Topics/themes: families, African-Americans, the great depression, Joe Lewis (boxer), resilience, poverty, character development, alliteration, words

My two cents:⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ I’m happy to finally have had the opportunity to have read this book. It was recommended to me by a colleague shortly after it came out and I’m just getting around to it now.

As I’ve seen in many of Curtis’ books his characters rely on the strong relationships with family and friends. Deza and her family are smart and caring and were it not for the fact they are African-American and living during the Great Depression their story might be completely different. In his afterwards, Curtis talks about poverty in America today.  This book could be a great springboard for conversations about education, and children, and the impact that poverty has on their lives.

Pair with:

Children of the Great Depression by Russell Freedman

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Bird in the Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Lucky Beans by Becky Birtha

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

A Round of Applause: One Book One School

Standard

Mr. Schu (@MrSchuReads) has been traveling around the country giving away copies of The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (@kaaauthor).  Today he posted this video created by students and staff at Harvard Elementary School who are reading The One and Only for their One Book, One School campaign.

A big round of applause for the students and staff of Harvard Elementary!  The excitement in this video is contagious, and if you haven’t already read this book, this video will make you want to run out and read it immediately.  What strikes me is how everyone got involved in the video, and how, clearly, this book and the making of this video brought everyone in the school together.  The planning must have been extensive, but it is so worth it!  I hope that Harvard Elementary inspires a series of spin-off videos from other elementary schools… I would LOVE to see Eden Hall be one of those schools…

Summer Reading: The Great Unexpected

Standard

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech. Realistic Fiction/Mystery/Folklore.

Naomi and Lizzie find their friendship tested when a body falling out of a tree turns out to be Finn, a boy who captures hearts.  Meanwhile, across the ocean, Mrs. Kavanaugh and Miss Pilpenny discuss murder and plot revenge.

Themes/Content: Friendship, family, orphans, tragedy, death, revenge, relationships, forgiveness, Ireland, Irish folklore, Finn McCoul, symbolism, setting, reality, fear, coping, connectedness, crows (rooks)

Recommended for: Grades 5 and up, discussing symbolism, discussing author’s craft and word choice, readers who like a bit of sadness, but not sobbing tear-jerkers, readers who like a mystery, readers who are able to trust a story, discussing characterization, discussing parallelism

My Two Cents:  It was very hard to assign a genre to this book.  In some respects it felt like a mystery… Who (or what) is Finn?  What kind of devious revenge are the spinsters planning? In some respects this felt like folklore/fantasy… Is Finn a ghost?  What’s with all of the crows (rooks)?  Is there really fairy gold?  I think though that this is mostly a story about relationships, which I think makes it fall best under realistic fiction.  Reading the themes and content above you may get the impression that this is a dark depressing book, but in fact it is not.

For the many Sharon Creech fans out there, the writing won’t disappoint.  She just has such a unique style that on every page I was delighted with her little gems of word choice.  This was also a book I had a hard time putting down, for several reasons.  Of course her word choice is incentive enough to keep reading, but I really loved Naomi, Lizzie, and all of the characters in the book.  Naomi is down to earth and a little sarcastic (which I can always appreciate.) Lizzie is a little more needy and formal, and a chatterbox!  They make an unusual pair, but when their friendship is tested you find yourself hoping that they will overcome the challenge.  Finn is a charmer, and a mystery and the source of friction between the girls.  The odd thing is that even after finishing the book he is still a mystery to me.  The secondary characters in both Blackbird tree and “Across the Ocean” are just as interesting, each one with a unique quirk or personality.

This book could be challenging for some readers.  It is the kind of book in which you have to have a little blind faith that the confusion at the beginning of the story will work itself out by the time you reach the end.  That confusion was part of what kept me glued to this book.  I kept reading because wanted to make sense of the story.  Creech is masterful in the way that she reveals essential plot points little by little along the way.  This could work as a read aloud, but might be difficult because of the way the dialog is written (at times,) and the Irish brogue.

Here is a short video in which Sharon Creech discusses The Great Unexpected:

Similar/Paired Books from EHUE Library:

  • Blashfield, Jean F. Ireland. New York: Children’s Press, 2002. Print.
  • Burns, Batt. The King with Horse’s Ears and Other Irish Folktales. New York: Sterling, 2009. Print.
  • De Valera, Sinéad. The Magic Gifts. Dublin, Ireland: Wolfhound Press, 2000. Print.
  • Doyle, Roddy. A Greyhound of a Girl. New York: Amulet Books, 2012. Print.
  • Krull, Kathleen. A Pot o’ Gold : a Treasury of Irish Stories, Poetry, Folklore, and (of course) Blarney. New York: Hyperion Books, 2009. Print.
  • Spilsbury, Richard, and Louise Spilsbury. A Murder of Crows. Chicago: Heinemann Library, 2003. Print.
  • White, Ruth. Way Down Deep. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007. Print.

Favorite Quote: (There were so many it was hard to choose!)

“Her companion, Miss Pilpenny, recapped the pen. ‘Yes, Sybil, a fine and clever revenge.’

‘Shall we have a murder tonight?’

‘Indeed Sybil, splendid notion.’

‘And then perhaps a little jam and bread.'”

(Creech, Sharon. The Great Unexpected. New York: Joanna Cotler Books, 2012. 10. Print.)

The Final Word(s): Beautiful writing! Stick with it! 😀