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I am very lucky. I have had the best students in the world. One of those students, Logan LeDuc, is particularly special to me. As a senior in high school, she approached me and asked if she could do an independent study in Advanced Young Adult Literature. I knew Logan very well at that point, and it was an easy yes. She published book reviews in the town newspaper and easily read over a hundred books that year. She continues to read with passion, and I assure you that I did not have a role in this. Logan devoured books long before she met me, and her reviews of literature and critical eye were extraordinary before our connection. I was simply happy to work with her and learn from her that year. Logan has gone on to establish The Book Elves, an Instagram account with over 30K followers. Obviously, I am one of many folks who admires her.

Logan is the curator of the young adult literature box for Once Upon a Book ClubAs many of you know, we have pretty strict advertising rules on this blog. We don’t advertise. We don’t accept money. We are here for teachers. Teachers, I think you will love this idea so much that I am sharing this very cool interactive reading experience. It’s a subscription service that allows users to receive a box every month (or in longer intervals, if that is preferred). Logan sent me this box for my own enjoyment. She didn’t know that I would be posting about it on the blog, but I just couldn’t stop myself.

Below is a picture of the May young adult book club box for Once Upon a Book Club. I also captured a side angle photo because it’s quite thick. I was pretty excited when it arrived at my doorstep.

The box included a reminder that I am not supposed to open any of my gifts yet.

And here is the box. The picture doesn’t capture how beautiful it is:

Each gift is neatly wrapped with a page number sticker. This sticker includes the page number of which I should open the gift. And in case I get lost in the book (Between Two Skies), the pages have sticky notes to remind me to stop to open my gifts. This allows me to read freely without thinking about whether I missed a gift!

Get ready, teachers. This next part will make you swoon. They include read along dates for unboxing/discussion. At the noted times, readers can log into Instagram or Facebook to discuss the book together! And there are discussion questions, too!


How fun would it be to unbox and unwrap the books as a class read-aloud? I know I would have been the kid who logged in to join the discussions on the set evenings.

I’ll report back after I’ve read the book and unwrapped the gifts. I also plan to go online for the live unboxing videos. Woot! I am off to read!

 

Seventy Favorite Books From Ten of Kellee’s 2016-17 Middle School Students


From Lucas B., 7th Grade

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver is one of the best books I have read because of the character Jonas and how he handles his problems. This book definitely tops my list.

2. Legend series by Marie Lu

The Legend series was one of my favorites series because of the action that takes place in the book

3. The Compound by S.A. Bodeen

The Compound is one not to forget! The mystery of what happened to the characters and what they had to experience being locked up for years and not being able to get out.

4. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

This book was one of my favorites though it was a sad book. But it was victorious in the end!

5. Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt

It shows that anybody can be anything. The main character has dyslexia, so she thinks she can’t do anything but a teacher influences her to do great things and she does!

6. The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe

This is book is an exciting book that I will never forget. This book made me feel emotional because of the things that they were going through.

7. Trapped by Michael Northrop

This book is amazing with the pressure of just a few people turned them all upside down and they have to try to figure a way to get out of the mess they’re in.

8. Nine, Ten by Nora Raskin Baleigh

This book is a favorite because it put my heart in an emotional state, and it really hit home for me.

9. Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher

This is one of my favorite books because the genre is mystery, and the book is just action-packed and filled with adventures.

10. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby

I loved reading this book in class. It was very emotional and made me think a lot.

From Jayden R., 6th grade

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth

There is a weird society that has lots of action in this dystopian world.

2. Scorch Trials by James Dashner

There is a lot of action and a little bit of mystery.

3. The Lightning Thief by Percy Jackson

The first Riordan book I read that made me want to read all of his books.

4. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

A huge mystery is in this book and it has a cool ending.

5. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby

This is a sad and emotional book.

6. Legend by Marie Lu

There is action, a mystery, and some sad parts.

7. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

This book is very sad and interesting.

8. Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan

I like this book because it is different from Riordan’s other books because it is in the POV of a god.

9. Lost Heroes by Rick Riordan

Lots of action, and there are some plot twists.

10. The Hunger Game series by Suzanne Collins

So much action!

From Ethan F. (1-5) & Omar B. (6-10), 6th Grade

1. The Living by Matt de la Peña

This book is my all-time favorite with so many twists and turns! It’s great!

2. Framed by James Ponti

This is a great crime book. It leads you one way and takes you the other way.

3. Turn Left at the Cow by Lisa Bullard

I am a big crime fan, and this is another good one.

4. 23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde

This book is another crime book, and it messes with you.

5. Masterminds by Gordon Korman

This book is amazing, and it also messes with your mind.

6. The Terrible Two by Jory John & Mac Barnett

I like this book because it was funny, and it showed how anyone can be friends.

7. Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent

I like this book because it was really dramatic.

8. Wonder by RJ Palacio

I liked this book because it is about a kid working to to make friends.

9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

I like this book because it is funny how Greg does things.

10. Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier

I like this book because it was funny.

From Varun J. (1-5) & Yassine M. (6-10), 6th Grade

1. Legend by Marie Lu

It is an action-packed adventure.

2. Warcross by Marie Lu

This book reveals something really unexpected.

3. The Young Elites by Marie Lu 

This series messes with your mind.

4. Variant by Robison Wells

Very intense book.

5. Masterminds by Gordon Korman

This series is a shocking piece of mystery writing.

6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

It is a humorous piece of writing.

7. Kimchi and Calamari by Rose Kent

A very intense story.

8. Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

So funny and well-thought out.

9. Poptropica by Jack Chabert

This story is a really funny adventure.

10. Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick 

A really intense book!

From Celina R., 6th Grade

1. Wonder by RJ Palacio

This is my favorite book because it touches on an important lesson about a boy in the world where looks do matter for people, so Augie, the boy, has to overcome the whispers when he enters for the first time into school.

2. Stones on a Grave by Kathy Kacer

This is one of my favorite books because it talks about a girl, Sara, who is an orphan and tries to go to Germany to find information about her father and mother, only to find out something devastating.

3. Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt

This talks about Ally, a girl who has a hard time in school who meets a new teacher that discovers her way of learning may just be different from other kids, and he helps her through the ups and downs of kids in her school.

4. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby

This book is on my list since it is an encouraging book that teaches people to over come obstacles. Joey, the main character, meets a chimp and her owner, and together they try to be free of Joey’s mom’s strict rules.

5. Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg

This book is one of my favorites since it talks about a girl going through poverty and a family, who along the way, teaches Serafina to have a heart of gold no matter what.

6. Augie and Me by RJ Palacio

This book is a sequel to Wonder, and it talks about the kids and their viewpoints on Augie. This book explains why and how they act the way they do towards Augie.

7. nine, ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin

This book talks about four kids and their story about the day before and right after 9/11. It talks about how the day looked and how their parents were close to a horrible tragedy.

8. Juniper Berry by MP Kozlowsky

This book talks about a girl and how her parents became instantly famous and how she finds a boy who she instantly becomes friends with, and they try to figure out the mystery on why her parents stop paying attention to them.

9. Death of a Kleptomaniac by Kristen Tracy

This book is about a girl who had everything but gave it up after she was caught stealing.

10. Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

This book talks about a girl who’s father won’t let her listen when the teacher talks about 9/11 because of a secret he is hiding from them.

From Bryson P., 8th Grade

1. Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

Lots of action and Greek mythology.

2. Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman

Full of action and mysterious.

3. Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Overall a well written and good book.

4. Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper 

Very well written and addicting.

5. Wonder by RJ Palacio

A very good book! Similar to Out of My Mind.

6. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Interesting and is hard to put down.

7. Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi

Great graphic novel series that is well written and illustrated.

8. The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry

Fun to read and is funny.

9. Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Good overall series; well put together.

10. Endangered by Eliot Schrefer 

Great book about apes, and is hard to put down!

From Cristhel G. & Seif A., 8th Grade

1. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

It is a stunning and heartbreaking story.

2. The Sweet Evil series by Wendy Higgins

It is an amazing and eye-opening series.

3. The Breathing series by Rebecca Donovan

It will make you cry from page 1!

4. The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan

A wonderful series full of adventure.

5. The Fault in our Stars by John Green

A sad love story that will make you cry.

6. The Hush Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick

A magical, beautiful story.

7. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

A heart-wrenching story that will be guaranteed to make you cry.

8. Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper

An unexpected story about a girl just trying to be normal.

9. April Henry books

Amazing, suspenseful, and mysterious books.

10. All Fall Down series by Ally Carter

Adventurous yet sad and amazing with cliffhangers.

Thank you Lucas, Jayden, Ethan, Omar, Varun, Yassine, Celina, Bryson, Cristhel, and Seif! 

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Yearly, starting with 2012-2013 (and excluding 2013-2014), I have shared the most popular books in my classroom library:
2012-2013
2014-2015
2015-2016

From 2011-2013, I taught an intensive reading class with students who had not been successful on the state reading test; however, since 2014, I switched to teaching advanced reading, an elective that students choose to be in (and I still get to work with my striving readers through being reading coach–a win/win!). In the past, I shared the top books from all students who checked out from my classroom library which included my class as well as students from the three intensive reading teachers; however, I really wanted to see what the top books my students checked out this year, so I pulled a report showing just that. I currently have 3,428 titles in my classroom library, and 623 of them were checked out this year. Today, I am happy to share with you…

The most checked out books of 2016-2017 from my 6th-8th grade classroom library
**My Mock Newbery/Lunch Book Club did not check out through the same system. To see what they read, check out their posts:
Mock Newbery | Lunch Book Club**
**My students also didn’t check out from my library for their  in-class book clubs at the end of the year. They books they chose to read were:
The Maze RunnerSave Me a Seat, Stormbreaker, Point Blank, Locomotion, Trino’s Choice, Dark Life, Wolf Hollow, Jeremy Fink an the Meaning of Life, Kimchi & Calamari, City of Ember, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, Touching Spirit Bear, and Wig in the Window**

15. The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

14. nine, ten by Nora Raleigh Baskins

13. The Tapper Twins go to War by Geoff Rodkey

12. The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi

11. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm

10. Old School by Jeff Kinney

9. HiLo: The Great Big Boom by Judd Winick

8. HiLo: Saving the Whole Wide World by Judd Winick

7. All Fall Down by Ally Carter

6. The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

5. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

4. HiLo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth by Judd Winick

3. Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

2. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

1. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

I’d also like to share the #16-27 titles because they were all tied!

16-27.
Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi

Double Down by Jeff Kinney
Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape by Greg Gunberg
Prince of Elves by Kazu Kibuishi
Teen Boat!: The Race for Boatlantis by Dave Roman
The Wig in the Window by Kristen Kittscher
The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
Bot Wars by J.V. Kade
Legend by Marie Lu
See How They Run by Ally Carter
Wonder by R.J. Palacios
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

What an interesting mix this year! I always love pulling the stats because even though I do status of the class consistently, I can never guess all of the top checked out books. I knew the Amulet series, HiLo series, Dog Man, and The Honest Truth would be on here though–they were passed around! Numbers 13, 7, 5, and 1 were also on our state list (SSYRA), so it was not a surprise to see them.

I also love seeing graphic novels on the list. Graphic novels are very popular with ALL of my readers. I think it is a myth that only nonreaders or struggling readers read them. So many of my students adore reading them (as do I!). I think there are many reasons why graphic novels are favorites: helps students visualize, fun to read as many of these students have only found reading to be a horrible chore, and colorful! Graphic novels are something I truly believe will help students love reading more and become better readers, and if you look at how much these students are reading and increasing in their reading ability, I think they back me up. (To see more research about the importance of graphic novels, check out my graphic novel teaching guide with Abrams.)

What books/series do you find to be most popular with your middle school readers?
Have you found success with the books I listed above?
Have you read any of the books I’ve listed? Did you enjoy them?

I hope this list of books helps point you in the direction of some texts that your readers will truly love!

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A lunch book club meeting in the library one day

After we finished our Mock Newbery experience, my lunch book club needed a new direction. My students said they definitely wanted to continue the book club.

  • I liked having lunch book club because we all read the same book. We could support each other through the sad parts, and share the happy memories when something good happened. -Maria
  • I liked book club very much because I got to talk to other kids in the school who were reading the same book as I am. -Ashley
  • My favorite part of lunch book club is being able to talk with other people who have already read a book or are currently reading it. You get to talk with people and discuss it, which makes me understand the book even more. -Emily

We discussed three options to continue:

  1. Everyone just reads whatever and we talk about books in general.
  2. HARRY POTTER! There are so many students in the group that are reading his books for the first time.
  3. Author Skype Visits

After much discussion, we decided on #3 (though some students did choose to only continue reading Harry Potter).
We then looked through Kate Messner’s so helpful list of authors that are kind enough to do free school Skype visits. From this list, we chose four authors we were really interested in reading more of and chatting with:

  • Dan Gemeinhart because The Honest Truth was on our state list for 2016-2017 and Some Kind of Courage had been on our Mock Newbery list, so most of the kids in the club have already read his books, but there was also his newest, Scar Island, we could read.
  • August Scattergood because one student adored Glory Be that she read in elementary school and shared with the group how much she liked it. I also pushed for them to pick a historical fiction author to get all of the genres covered in the four visits.
  • John David Anderson because Ms. Bixby’s Last Day had been on our Mock Newbery list and had been a favorite, and I am a huge fan of his other books which I book talked, and they were interested in them.
  • Kristen Kittscher because The Wig in the Window had been a HUGE hit in my classroom last year and many of them had read it in my class last year, and they shared it with the students who hadn’t read it, and they definitely had to know how the mystery ended.

And we were so lucky that ALL OF THEM were available at some point before the end of the year, and it even worked out to one per month February through May. I then went about purchasing all of the books using a grant I received for middle school book clubs, and we began reading one author a month.

If you have ever been part of an author Skype visit, it is so amazing to see what wonderful questions the students come up with and equally fascinating to hear how the authors answer them. Some examples: With Dan Gemeinhart, we discussed “the parent problem” in middle grade and young adult literature as well as how he crafted his chapters in The Honest Truth; with Augusta Scattergood, we discussed the inclusion of diverse characters as well as her choice to add quirky exclamations in Making Friends with Billy Wong; with John David Anderson, we discussed the hero’s journey including Star Wars and Harry Potter and how he’s written so many different genres; and with Kristen Kittscher, we discussed her planning (or lack thereof) and her characterization.

Each Skype visit was different and after each one the students raved about the opportunity, and I want to second their excitement: We are so lucky to be able to spend any amount of time, much less almost an hour, with each of these authors!

  • My favorite part of Skype visits is that we got our burning questions answered. Many readers have questions and they can only speculate, but we love reading so much that we get to talk with them. I feel as if we have become friends with the authors. -Emily
  • I enjoyed Skyping with the different authors and learning how each of them wrote and planned a story. I loved reading the books and seeing the difference between the types of styles and genres each author wrote in. -Sarah

 

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Papertoy Glowbots: 46 Glowing Robots You Can Make Yourself!
Author: Brian Castleforte
Published August 23rd, 2016 by Workman Publishing Company

When I first looked through the book Papertoy Glowbots, after Brian Castleforte wrote an author guest post for Unleashing Readers, I knew that I wanted to utilize these fun robots in my classroom some how! First, let me tell you about the book. It has 46 different robots inside. Each robot has a name, a model name, description, ability, assembly instructions, and a narrative about the robot. In the back of the book, there is a template to remove that matches the assembly instructions and then glow-in-the-dark stickers to add on when done with the robot.

I loved not only the creative aspect of the robots, but the real-life aspect (following directions), and the narrative elements. However, I knew that I had to make sure that the activity I did with the robots was standards-based and fit within one of my units, so when I was building my argumentative writing and debate unit, I felt it fit perfectly (along with the Who Wins? activity I shared also)! My unit learning goal was “Students will be able to present claims and findings with relevant evidence, valid reasoning, and well-chosen details about a particular subject,” and one of my learning targets was “Students will be able to create an argumentative paragraph supporting their claim.” And I got it! Why not have students create an argumentative paragraph stating why their robot is THE BEST robot if the robots were all going to take part in Robot Wars (like Big Hero 6).

With my target set up, the students got to work! They were allowed to add any abilities to their robot; however, they could not change anything that was already stated in the Glowbots book. For example, if their robot didn’t have legs, they couldn’t add them, but they could make their eyes have lasers. Here is an example of Lightning Bee’s paragraph (you can see his information from the book above). Students first wrote up a profile for their robot then turned it into an argumentative paragraph:

My students had to try to think of any scenario and try to put something in their paragraph that proves that their robot would win in the scenario. For example, one of the robots is a submarine–what happens if the other robot is on land? Or vice versa?

After the students wrote their robot profile and creative argumentative paragraph, they were able to build their robot:

 

When everyone’s robot was built (which was harder than you’d think! It was a real lesson in following instructions and colloborating!), we started our ROBOT BATTLES leading up to the final ROBOT WAR! I used brackets and random.org to set up our battles, and we got started! These battles were a battle of words though, so students came to the front to present their robots and face off using their argumentative paragraphs. (Some got into it more than others!)

The rest of the class then decided based on the paragraphs which robot would be the champion of the battle. If I do this lesson again, I would allow the groups to debate more to help persuade the audience, but I stuck with them reading the paragraphs. Using a double elimination bracket, we determined which two robots in each class would go to the final ROBOT WAR!

My students loved this activity, and we used each robot battle as an opportunity to discuss argumentative and persuasive techniques and why one robot was a winner over the other. And on top of this, I felt that it was a great activity for learning to follow directions, work together, and think futuristically & creatively.

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nfpb2017

Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

And don’t forget to celebrate EARTH DAY on the 22nd!

Animal Ark
Created by and Photographer: Joel Sartore
Poet: Kwame Alexander
Published February 14th, 2017 by National Geographic Society

About the Book: National Geographic Kids proudly announces the release of Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures, a picture book for children ages 4-8 written by Newbery Medal-winning author Kwame Alexander and featuring photographs by acclaimed National Geographic Fellow and photographer Joel Sartore. Animal Ark pairs Alexander’s uplifting poetry and prose with more than 100 of Sartore’s most compelling images of the world’s species to create a book for children that highlights the importance of conservation and the beauty of the animal kingdom.

Animal Ark is inspired by the National Geographic Photo Ark, a multiyear effort with Sartore and the National Geographic Society to document every species in captivity—inspiring people not just to care, but also to help protect these animals for future generations. To date, Sartore has completed portraits of more than 6,000 species, photographed on either a plain black or white background. No matter its size, each animal is treated with the same amount of affection and respect. The results are portraits that are not just stunningly beautiful, but also intimate and moving.

The companion adult book, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals (National Geographic Books)—with a foreword by Harrison Ford—also showcases Sartore’s animal portraits: from tiny to mammoth, from the Florida grasshopper sparrow to the greater one-horned rhinoceros. In 2017, National Geographic Photo Ark exhibitions are opening at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, the Dallas Zoo, and the Cincinnati Zoo. Learn more at NatGeoPhotoArk.org and join the conversation on social media with #SaveTogether.

About Joel Sartore: Joel Sartore is a photographer, speaker, author, teacher, conservationist, National Geographic fellow, regular contributor to National Geographic magazine and founder of the National Geographic Photo Ark.  In addition to the work he has done for National Geographic, Sartore has contributed to Audubon magazine, Time, Life, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, the Smithsonian magazine and numerous book projects.  His next book for adults, National Geographic The Photo Ark: One Man’s Quest to Document the World’s Animals  will be released in March 2017.

About Kwame Alexander: Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received the 2015 John Newbery Medal for the Most Distinguished Contribution to American Literature for Children. His other recent works include Booked, Surf’s Up, and He Said, She Said. He is the founder of Book-in-a-Day, a student-run publishing program that has created more than 3,000 student authors in 75 schools; and LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy project that builds libraries, trains teachers, and empowers children through literature. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education’s first writer-in-residence.

Book Trailer: 

My Review: I am in love with all of these animals! Do you see how cute they are?!?! And I love the message that Joel Sartore, National Geographic Kids, and Kwame Alexander are spreading with this text: “At its heart, the Photo Ark was born out of necessity… I  started to see that people weren’t paying much attention to the fate of all the others species we share this planet with. Without action, and soon, I worried that many animals could go extinct. The Photo Ark is my answer to this. By introducing the entire world to thoughts of photographs of [animals], I hope we can get everyone following, liking, tweeting, and even talking about this wondrous world of ours.” -Joel Sartore. I care deeply for all living things, and I have the same fear that Sartore has–that too many people are so caught up in their own little worlds that they aren’t focusing on the big world around us. The continual denial of climate change, the recent possible elimination of many of the EPA’s environmental protections, and so many other things makes the possibilities of us ruining our Earth even closer to reality 🙁

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Animal Ark has writing and science opportunities for the classroom. First, the theme of the book works beautifully within a science unit about endangered animals. Mix the text with the website What is Missing? by Maya Lin, and there are so many opportunities to discuss conservation and sustainability. Kwame Alexander’s poetry also gives an opportunity for poetry writing. In the Author’s Note, National Geographic shares information about haiku. Although all of Kwame’s poetry does not fit the traditional haiku format and we wouldn’t recommend it for a haiku mentor text, it shows how poets can take a traditional format and embrace yet manipulate it for their purpose.

Discussion Questions: Which animal would you like to learn more about?; What can humans do to help save these animals?; What is the theme of Animal Ark? What is the author/photographer trying to teach us?

Flagged Passages: 

Photography Outtakes!

Read This If You Love: National Geographic texts about animals, Poetry anthologies about nature including Water is Water by Miranda Paul, Books about making a difference like Dare to Dream…Change the World by Jill Corcoran & Be a Changemaker by Laurie Ann Thomson

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall 

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**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing copes for review!**

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nfpb2017

Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

HAPPY NATIONAL POETRY MONTH!

Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book
Authors: Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong
Illustrator: Franzi Paetzold
Published January 11th, 2017 by Pomelo Books

Summary: Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book is a story in poems and a writing journal designed to help kids think about social change. It contains 12 PowerPack sets featuring Ameera, David, Jack, and Jenna, a diverse group of kids working together to make an impact in their community. Sylvia Vardell’s inventive PowerPlay activities make it easy for writers to get inspired, while her Power2You writing prompts extend learning. Vardell also created extensive back matter resources for young readers, writers, and activists.

Praise: “This interactive book and the abundance of resources provided will motivate students to take action through words and ideas to make their world a better place—a must have for today’s classrooms.” —Lynne Dorfman and Rose Cappelli, Authors of Mentor Texts

“I absolutely love this book! The invitations are inspiring and offer opportunities to think about the world and respond both personally and critically.” —Mary Napoli, Associate Professor of Reading, Penn State Harrisburg

“This book will allow all sorts of emotions and thoughts to bubble forth, including difficult and painful ones . . . and that will be a source of healing.” —Ed Spicer, Educator and literacy expert

“Really glad and excited that this book will be in the hands of young people.” —Jeana Hrepich, Core Faculty, Antioch University Seattle

This book is a Children’s Book Council “Hot Off the Press” selection for January 2017 and the second Poetry Friday Power Book. The first book in that series, You Just Wait: A Poetry Friday Power Book, is a 2017 NCTE Poetry Notable.

About the Authors: Here We Go: A Poetry Friday Power Book features the work of the dynamic team of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, plus 12 poets: Ibtisam Barakat, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes, Robyn Hood Black, David Bowles, Joseph Bruchac, Kate Coombs, David L. Harrison, Renée M. LaTulippe, Naomi Shihab Nye, Margaret Simon, Eileen Spinelli, and Carole Boston Weatherford. Illustrations by Franzi Paetzold.

Sylvia M. Vardell is Professor at Texas Woman’s University and teaches courses in children’s and young adult literature. She has published five books on literature, as well as over 25 book chapters and 100 journal articles. Her current work focuses on poetry for young people, including a regular blog, PoetryforChildren.blogspot.com, since 2006.

Janet Wong is a graduate of Yale Law School and a former lawyer who became a children’s poet. Her work has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other shows. She is the author of 30 books for children and teens on chess, creative recycling, yoga, superstitions, driving, and more.

Together, Vardell and Wong are the creative forces behind The Poetry Friday Anthology series.

About the Book (from the authors): Why is this a “Poetry Friday Power Book”? Because we believe in the power of poetry to express our deepest feelings, and our most powerful experiences, and to inspire us to use our words to create change in teh world. Plus, we want you to discover the power of poetry in your own thinking and writing with the PowerPlay prewriting and Power2You writing prompts that pull you into poetry and inspire you to get your own ideas on paper–creatively, whimsically, powerfully, and immediately–right now in this book…

This book offers you several choices for reading, thinking, writing, and responding. Overall, it’s a story in poems, but all of this is also organized in PowerPack groups that help you get a “behind the scenes” look at how poems work and how poets write and think. In each of these PowerPack groups, you’ll find five things:

-PowerPlay activity
-Anchor poem (from an outside source)
-Response poem
-Mentor poem
-Power2You writing prompt

Have fun reading and thinking about poetry and learning about how poetry uses just a few words but says so much and can inspire us to take action. Ready? Let’s “power up” and get started!

Review: I have an interesting relationship with poetry. I overall love it. I love writing it, and I love reading it, but I really have trouble with the analyzing aspect. It is in this very serious analyzing step that kids get afraid of poetry, but I think books like Here We Go help students learn to love poetry instead of being afraid of it while still teaching about the beauty and importance of poetry.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Here We Go is a book that is made for classroom use! There are 12 PowerPacks, each with a different anchor poem and focus. Some PowerPacks work on rhyming, some work on format, and others focus on inspiration. There are so many different ways these PowerPacks could be organized to be used in the classroom! They can be daily during a poetry unit or weekly for half of the school year–whatever works best in your classroom, but this book is begging to be in children’s hands as an inspiration for our future poets.

Discussion Questions: What inspires you to write?; What is your favorite season? Why?; What are your favorite rhyming words?; How can you use your daily life to inspire you as a poet?

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Read This If You Love: Writing poetry; Any poetry anthology including Out of Wonders by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth and When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano

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