The Infinite Moment of Us by Lauren Myracle

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The Infinite Moment of Us
Author: Lauren Myracle
Expected Publication: August 20th, 2013 by Amulet Books (an imprint of ABRAMS books)

Summary: Wren Gray has always been perfect. As high school graduation approaches, she realizes that she doesn’t want to go to Emory, the college she was accepted into (early decision, of course), and she wants to do charity work in Guatemala through a program called Project Unity. Wren hasn’t told her parents this plan, and she knows they will be heart-broken. She has never dated a boy, but when Wren meets Charlie Parker, she wants to know more about him. Charlie is a hard-working student who spends most of his time helping his foster father in their family-owned cabinet shop. With a troubled past, Charlie is battling demons that constantly tell him he isn’t good enough. It isn’t until Wren waves back to him in the parking lot that he has the guts to pursue the girl of his dreams. This is a beautiful story of what happens when two souls collide—it explores love, a powerful force that is much deeper than just two physical bodies interacting with one another.

Review: Told from alternating perspectives, this novel seamlessly transitions between Wren’s and Charlie’s thoughts. As always, Myracle’s work embodies the culture of the environment she writes about. The language and details of the setting took me straight to Atlanta. As I am a Northerner and have never lived outside of Connecticut, I always love getting lost in Myracle’s settings. The characters are wonderfully complex. They have quirks and elements of their personalities that make them feel quite real. As an aside, I also found the names to be interesting. I don’t suspect it is intentional, but Wren Gray is best friends with Tessa. Tessa Gray is the main character in the Clockwork Angel Series. It made me think of many other characters in literature with the last name Gray. Overall, I loved this book. I am still madly in love with Myracle’s Shine, but I like how she can step inside the perceived boxes of many genres, as her focus here was a more romantic novel. The philosophical conversations between Wren and Charlie were my favorite part of The Infinite Moment of Us.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: A warning of sorts—Lauren Myracle begins the novel with a note to readers. She says, “This book has sex in it. It’s not about sex, not exclusively, and I’m more interested in the mingling of Charlie’s and Wren’s souls than in the ways their bodies come together.” The sexual detail is certainly graphic, so I recommend this for mature readers. I have a special signature form for certain books in my classroom, and I find that this often inspires more kids to sign them out. I completely agree with Lauren Myracle after reading this book. It is about the way these two souls come together, and the sex is not a focal point.

Teachers could have students closely analyze the passages of dialogue between Wren and Charlie, where they philosophically debate life (see the sections I flagged below for a start). Additionally, the setting adds richness to this novel, and it would be great for students to analyze how these details add to the story. Many of the characters in this book act and respond in different ways (Wren, Charlie, Starrla, Tessa), and I think students would enjoy investigating the ways Myracle develops each of her characters.

Discussion Questions: What happens when two souls collide?; Is there a such thing as true love?; How does family influence a person’s actions?; Should our significant other be placed in a higher position than our friends and family?; What is home to us? Is it just a place?

We Flagged: “Sometimes the things we hide—aren’t they the parts of us that matter most?” (Chapter 1).

“‘I guess I think the world is more connected than people realize,” […] ‘I think…sometimes…that scientists…some scientists…want to package things up into neat little boxes. Explain, explain, explain, until there aren’t any mysteries left'” (Chapter 7).

“‘I’m just not sure a person’s home is determined by where he or she lives. I think home is more than that'” (Chapter 10).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. Chapter numbers are included instead of page numbers because the e-reader did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles, Sarah Dessen’s books, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Recommended For:

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

I would use a parent signature form for this one due to strong sexual content, but this is a definite must-have in the classroom library.

How much do we love Lauren Myracle? Have you read this one or pre-ordered it?

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**Thank you to NetGalley and ABRAMS books for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy for review!**

 

Real Justice: Convicted for Being Mi’kmaq: The Story of Donald Marshall Jr. by Bill Swan

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Nonfiction Picture Book 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!

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Real Justice: Convicted for being Mi’kmaq: The Story of Donald Marshall Jr.
Author: Bill Swan
Expected Publication: September 1st, 2013 by James Lorimer & Company

Summary: This book is part of the Real Justice series by James Lorimer & Company that shed light on young people who are wrongfully convicted of crimes. Donald Marshall Jr. spent eleven years in prison for a crime he never committed. He was the eldest son of the Grand Chief of the Mi’kmaw Nation, and racism certainly played a role in his conviction. It was a late night in Wentworth Park when Sandy Seale, a black teen, and Donald Marshall Jr. are waved over by two drunk men wanting cigarettes. One of the men stabs Sandy Seale in the side, and Donald Marshall Jr. runs for help. What he doesn’t know is that the police won’t believe his story, and they will do anything they can to convict him of the Seale’s death.

Review: I enjoyed the journalistic format of this book. Swan does an excellent job researching and depicting the facts of the case. He goes into depth when in his description of each witness’s story, and the reader gets a comprehensive background of the crime scene, investigation, and trial. As a Micmac Indian (the American version of this tribe), I was very interested in this story. Admittedly, I was a bit disappointed that aside from the comments about racism and a brief note toward the end of the book, there wasn’t much information about the Mi’kmaq Indians. I completely understand this, as the author chose to focus more on the investigation and trial, but I was secretly craving more information about Donald Marshall Jr.’s life background and customs. This text would make for a great nonfiction text to use in the classroom.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I love teaching nonfiction units because there is so much variety. Teachers can offer myriad choices of memoirs and informational nonfiction for students to do research. After reading this story, students might research more about the case (if any other information is available) or they could compare and contrast this case with another example of injustice, particularly one that was impacted by racism. I have a feeling that students, like me, will want to research more about Marshall’s culture or the racial imbalance that existed at the time of the crime. I could also see this being paired with Black and White by Paul Volponi, an example of realistic fiction that also deals with injustice due to racism.

Discussion Questions: Does racism still exist today? In what ways did it impact the crime, investigation, and trial? What injustices did you see?; Do you think Marshall should have been compensated more for his eleven years in jail?; How does Marshall show incredible strength throughout his ordeal?

We Flagged: “‘Know what I think?’ MacIntyre added, as though on cue. ‘I think Marshall’s description of some old guy is a crock. The whole thing likely happened when that Indian, fueled up with fire water, got in an argument with the black kid'” (Chapter 5).

“When the reality hit [Donald Marshall Jr.], he cried the tears of childhood” (Chapter 15).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. Chapter numbers are included instead of page numbers because the e-reader did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Hole in my Life by Jack Gantos, Black and White by Paul Volponi, other books in the Real Justice series, other books about Law and Order

Recommended For:

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

RickiSig

When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12 by Kylene Beers

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When Kids Can’t Read: What Teachers Can Do: A Guide for Teachers 6-12
Author: Kylene Beers
Published: October 22, 2002 by Heinemann Educational Books

Summary: When Kylene Beers entered the classroom in the 1970s, she had dreams of teaching AP classes, filled with students who were passionate, high-level readers. She was shocked when she was confronted by classes of students who not only couldn’t read but didn’t want to read. While she wanted a job teaching seniors in high school, she took the only available position as a seventh grade teacher. George was a boy in her classroom. He couldn’t read. In a conference, his parents asked Beers how she planned to help George, and she didn’t have the answers. After a few years with students like George, Beers set out to find more effective ways to teach students like him.

Review: This practical handbook will prove to be an invaluable guide for both beginning and experienced middle and high school English teachers. I was told by more than one professor that this is the “best book to teach struggling readers.” I expected to learn a few strategies from the book, but I was shocked by just how much I learned. There are so many new ideas, practical tips, and classroom activities that I wish I’d discovered this book much earlier. The book helps teachers diagnose struggling readers’ issues and offers practical solutions.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The book is divided into major sections of: Comprehension, Vocabulary, Fluency, Word Recognition, and Motivation. I don’t believe it is intended to be read cover-to-cover (although I read it that way because I found it to be so fascinating), and teachers can use it as more of a guidebook for diagnosing and addressing concerns with particular students. The inside cover directs teachers to the chapter they might be looking for.

I can’t share all of the awesome details of the book, so I will hone in on one chapter. I’ve always considered myself to be an excellent planner and implementer of pre-reading strategies. I use KWL charts, have students walk around the room to discover concepts, and just adore student debates that stem from anticipation guides. Beers’ book put me to shame. She introduced the idea of a KWGL chart (the G standing for where the students plan to GO for the information). Why didn’t I think of that? Additionally, she presented ideas called the “Probable Passage” and the “Tea Party,” two strategies I had never heard of. In the next chapter about “Constructing Meaning,” she describes ELEVEN (yes, I said eleven) different strategies to engage readers with constructing meaning. I liked the strategies a lot because many of them seemed very fun. I can imagine my students would be extremely engaged in their reading, had I used these strategies. She also provides blank worksheets of the strategies in the appendices (and we love this, don’t we?).

I have read many professional development books. This is certainly one of my favorites because it is practical, easy-to-employ, and extremely useful. I am jealous that I haven’t thought of all of the great strategies, activities, and pointers that Beers has used in her classroom. If I employed more of these ideas, I would feel like the Wonder Woman of the School.

Discussion Questions: What do we do when a student comes tell us they ‘just don’t get it’? What is a struggling reader? Once we’ve discovered that a student can’t read, what can we do about it? How do we create independent readers out of dependent readers? What is the best way to teach vocabulary? How do we help students with fluency and automaticity? Are phonics important? How do we create confidence in our readers?

We Flagged: “I think back to any one of the many days that I encouraged George to ‘just reread it’ and acknowledge that there’s wisdom in that comment, but more important[ly], I recognize the assumption that guided me for a long time: if they read it (the text), it (the meaning) will come. ‘Did you read it?’ I asked. ‘Well, go read it again. You can get it.’ Meaning was obviously something in the text that George could surely grasp if he just read it often enough” (p. 8).

Read This If You Loved: In the Middle by Nancie Atwell, The English Teacher’s Companion by Jim Burke, Readicide by Kelly Gallagher, Deeper Reading by Kelly Gallagher, I Read it but I Don’t Get It by Cris Tovani

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What is your favorite book for professional development? Have you read this one? What did you think? Share your thoughts!

 

20 Moments I Will Miss With My Readers

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This summer is bittersweet. I will be leaving my position as a high school English teacher to pursue a doctoral degree in Secondary English Education at UConn. I feel sad to be leaving my colleagues and readers but excited for this new adventure. I’ve been thinking about some of the moments I will miss most with my readers, and a few (okay, twenty…I got carried away) are listed below. I dedicate this list to all of the reading teachers out there. Being a teacher is the most rewarding experience in the world.

20 Moments

  1. The look on students’ faces when they return a book and we tell them there is a sequel.
  2. The clawing, reaching, and grabbing of books. All’s fair in books and war.
  3. When the bell rings and three students are still reading at their desks.
  4. When a student walks into a classroom in tears and thrusts a book at us.
  5. Making the boys cry. Thanks, John Green.
  6. When students whine that their to-read lists are too long.
  7. Waitlists for books. Not fun to keep organized…but fun to watch them check where their names are on the lists every day.
  8. When students ask, “Can you get me other books by this author?” We point to two on the shelf, and they look at us like we gave them free kittens.
  9. When an author tweets/emails our students back. Thanks, authors. You don’t even understand how excited they get. The squeals can be ear-piercing.
  10. When students battle over which book is better. This will never get old, will it?
  11. Searching for our names on Twitter and seeing kids posting about books/YAL. #guilty
  12. When students call our classrooms the free bookstore. Our hearts swell with pride every time.
  13. Changing a self-proclaimed “non-reader” into a reader. Because after all, everyone is a reader—some of us just don’t know it yet.
  14. When a teacher complains that a student was reading one of “our books” in his/her class, and we have to feign disappointment in the student.
  15. Listening to students’ book talks for books we haven’t read yet. And having to add our names to the waitlists for those books.
  16. When another English teacher compliments us on the writing of one of our readers. Thanks for being great models, authors.
  17. Telling students that we met [insert author here]. They gaze at us as if we are celebrities. Nope, we were giddy schoolgirls (or schoolboys) when we met them. It wasn’t pretty.
  18. We can’t relive a book for the first time, but it is almost as fun watching a student experience it for the first time.
  19. Getting a new book and knowing our students will be just as excited about it as we are.
  20. Receiving emails from students (who graduated over five years ago), asking for book recommendations. Here’s to hoping they keep in touch!

What are your favorite moments with your readers? Share a few!

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Junket is Nice by Dorothy Kunhardt

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Junket is Nice
Author: Dorothy Kunhardt
Published: June 25th, 2013 by NYR Children’s Collection
(First published: 1933)

Summary: An old man with a red beard and red slippers eats junket out of a big, red bowl. All of the people arrive and want to know what he thinks about while he eats his junket. The old man tells them the three things he is NOT thinking about, and the people try to guess what he is thinking. Only the little boy, who arrived last, truly knows what the old man is thinking while he is eating his junket.

Ricki’s Review: Kids will love the crowd’s nonsensical guesses of what the old man is thinking about while he eats his junket–from “a kangaroo jumping over a glass of orange juice so as not to spill it” to “a bear climbing a ladder because his toenails are too long for walking on the ground”–I can imagine a whole class giggling as the people make their guesses.

Dorothy Kunhardt has a very creative imagination that kids are sure to enjoy. The drawings are very humorous, and I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read this picture book–the idea of a “daddy-long-legs holding up his foot for the sun to warm it” is just very silly! Junket is Nice would allow for a lot of great, creative thinking in the classroom. Readers of Pat the Bunny are sure to enjoy this classic.

Kellee’s Review: This book is so full of imagination. The clever, funny animals that the crowd comes up with while trying to guess what the old man is thinking will definitely, like Ricki says, make a whole class giggle. It also will be the most discussed part of the book, I’m sure.  You can tell that Dorothy Kunhardt was full of imagination and wanted to make this book as fun as possible.  Her son remembers her being curious and appreciating the way young people viewed the book, and you can tell by Junket is Nice that she embraced this curiosity and put as much of it into her books as possible.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book and have students create their own riddles like Kunhardt’s–“What is the old man thinking while he eats his junket?” They could even create their own picture books for their riddles. Alternatively, a teacher might read all the way up to the section of the book that gives the answer to the riddle. Then, each student in the classroom might draw their own creative guess about what the old man is thinking. This would allow students to make predictions, based on the other guesses within the book.

Discussion Questions: What might the old man be thinking about when he eats his junket?; Why might the little boy be the only one who knows what the old man is thinking about?; Was the ending satisfying, or did you wish the old man was thinking about something else?

We Flagged: “‘People why don’t you try and guess what I am thinking about all the time I am eating my junket and if you guess right I will give you something nice'” (p. 16).

Read This If You Loved: Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, The Napping House by Audrey Wood, That is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems, other picture book classics like Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton 

Recommended For:

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below so you can win your own copy of Junket is Nice!

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**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing copies for us to review**

More Than This by Patrick Ness

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More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Expected Publication September 10th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Readers are thrown into the action right from the beginning of this book. Seth is drowning–he is dying. When he wakes up, he is naked, alone, and unfamiliar with his surroundings. Seth knows he has died, but he isn’t sure where he is. In his distant memories, he remembers the English town that he is in, but he moved away after an enormous tragedy in his childhood, so why has he returned? The town looks very different from the way he remembers it–as if no one has lived there in over a decade. Seth sets out to try to discover where he is. He hopes he isn’t alone, the world hasn’t ended, and he hasn’t arrived in his personal Hell.

Review: At the beginning of my reading, I felt the same feelings as I felt with The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I was bewildered, confused, and very curious about where the book was headed. Patrick Ness phenomenally reveals details so slowly that it makes it very difficult to put this one down. It is highly unpredictable and extremely engaging. This book evades the typical features that would lock it into one genre–it is a thriller, an adventure, and a, frankly, an incredibly thoughtful work of science fiction. More Than This teaches readers about loyalty, resilience, hope, and bravery, amongst other messages that I can’t express without revealing details of the plot. Dive into this one–it will send you to a world that will make you ponder elements of life you may not have ever considered before.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This is one of the best books that I’ve read that can be used for helping students make predictions. Teachers can use the whole book or excerpts of the text, and students would love predicting plot details, grounded in the evidence the plot provides. Like all of Ness’s writing, this book experiments with language and sentence structure, and students could examine how Ness uses language to advance the plot and overall meaning of the book. 

Discussion Questions: How does Ness reveal plot details as a way to engage his audience? Is he effective?; Where is Seth? What might Ness be telling us about the world we live in?; In the beginning of the book, Seth wonders if he has woken up in his personal Hell. Where would your personal Hell be?; What memories shape who you are as a person? Have you learned from them? How?

We Flagged: “There’s an unreality under all the dust, all the weeds. Ground that seems solid but that might give way any moment” (p. 51).

“A book, he thinks at one point, rubbing his eyes, tired from so much focused reading. It’s a world all on its own, too. […] A world made of words, Seth thinks, where you live for a while” (p. 143).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. They may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Maze Runner by James Dashner, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Recommended For:

litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

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Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Any Patrick Ness fans out there? Have you read this one or pre-ordered it?

What are your favorite science fiction books?

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

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And the Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Published May 21st, 2013 by Riverhead Books

Summary: Told from various points of view, this novel is a collection of powerful stories, woven with the rich history of Afghanistan. All of the characters are linked in some way, showing the profound impact that seemingly small decisions can have on others in the world. After finishing this story, the character’s voices still speak in my head: Three-year-old Pari and ten-year-old Abdullah, villagers in rural Afghanistan…Nabi, an elderly Afghan who is devoted to the care of the wealthy Mr. Wahdati…Nila, a tortured soul, who is lost in her poetry and past…Idris, a man visiting his homeland of Afghanistan, who recognizes and is embarrassed by his privileged life in America…Markos, a plastic surgeon living in Afghanistan, who works to fix the deformities caused by the war…Adel, a young Afghan boy living in a mansion with bodyguards…these characters and a few others are richly realized and will tug the heartstrings of readers.

Review: Spanning five decades and multiple generations, the stories cross paths in unbelievable ways. Readers might, at the beginning of each section, feel a bit uncomfortable with the shifts in narration, locations, and time periods, but Hosseini makes the connections clear, and the story’s structure is essential to the central messages of loyalty, family, and the devastating effects of war.  I experienced many similar emotions as when I read Hosseini’s other books, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Sons, such as grief and anger, and when this book ended, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of catharsis. Emotions aside, this book is quite different. The writing felt more lyrical and complex (if that is even possible) than Hosseini’s other works. I couldn’t help but put the book down at several times because I was in awe of the craftsmanship of the text’s structure and connectedness.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Kite Runner has always been a literature circle choice in my classroom. This novel is much more complex and would need a lot of teacher support, but it would be a fantastic literature circle choice for advanced, high school readers. If used as a whole-class text, teachers might have students diagram the relationships between characters, write journal entries from the perspectives of different characters, or write letters from one character to another. Many of the characters don’t interact at any point, but it would be enlightening to consider what messages they might have for each other. It would be helpful if teachers gave background knowledge of the political situation in Afghanistan to support the reading of this text. This is a great text to teach structure and narration, but additionally, it is a great model of voice. Ranging in age, race, and personality, these characters all have varying insights of the world, and these are reflected in their words and actions. Students would have to think critically to analyze their voices.

Discussion Questions: How might our decisions affect others indirectly connected to us?; What responsibility does a child have to his/her parent?; Am I privileged? How are my life experiences different from those around me?; What will we remember most as we age?

We Flagged: “They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind” (p. 127).

“‘J’aurais dû être plus gentille–I should have been more kind. That is something a person will never regret. You will never say to yourself when you are old, Ah, I wish I was not good to that person. You will never think that'” (p. 382-283).

Read This If You Loved: Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Sons by Khaled Hosseini, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Recommended For:

litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

What do you think about using contemporary adult bestsellers in the classroom? I try to mix classics, YAL, and other bestsellers, while still allowing students the choice to select the texts they read. Do you agree with this philosophy?

Oh, and have you read this one? I would love to hear your thoughts because the characters are still interrupting my daily thoughts. 🙂

RickiSig