Teachers Write Sunday Check-In 7/7/13

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Teachers Write

Teachers Write! is an online virtual summer writing camp for teachers and librarians who understand how important it is for people teaching writing to walk the walk.

My plans for Teachers Write: 

This summer, my friend Jennifer Fountain and I are working on writing a proposal for a education professional book about teaching struggling readers which is our passion. Our goal this summer is to finish the cover letter, the expanded outline, and a couple of sample chapters so that by the end of the summer we can present our proposal.

My summer writing recap so far: 

So far so good! However, does anyone else find that the summer is going so quickly! This is also my first summer trying to have a reading and writing goal and it is so hard to keep up with both of them. Also, when your reading is research, it goes much slower than reading for pleasure or even for review or a committee. Also, launching a new blog really eats into both!

Writing a proposal is a lot more work than I even imagined. The biggest challenge for us has been putting onto paper what we already understand in our brains. When writing the proposal, you have to remember that the editor or publisher reading it may not know certain things about education and you have to explain it. You can’t just say book pass or other terms; you have to explain them.

I’ve also found out that I really like the idea of co-authoring. I am truly enjoying working with Jenn. It is so nice to have someone to talk to about decisions, have someone to read your work, and someone to bounce ideas off of.  I also think that she keeps me on track which means I should be writing right now…

 

How is writing going for all of my Teachers Writes friends? Do you find it hard to keep up with writing and reading? How do you balance the two?

Happy writing!

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Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Eleanor and Park (Eleanor & Park)
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published February 26th, 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Summary: Eleanor and Park have read Romeo and Juliet. They know that young love fades and is unachievable, but yet they still can’t resist each other. Park is a quiet Asian boy who is trying to disappear to avoid the drama of high school. When Eleanor, a large, red-headed girl, steps onto his schoolbus, he is embarrassed for her and wonders why she wouldn’t just dress “normally.” Eleanor has nowhere to sit and as the kids make fun of her and she looks beaten down and broken, Park, disgustedly, angrily tells her to just sit down in his seat. What he doesn’t realize then is that Eleanor will change his life.

Kellee’s Review: I love how slowly this book happens. It is like a pot of boiling water. It started out cold and then got warmer before it began boiling. This book is not a Twilight romance of love at first site; it is a true romance about getting to know each other and realizing that first impressions aren’t always correct.

Told in Eleanor and Park’s point of views, you get a 360 degree picture of the intensity of feelings that are happening. It is also through both of these point of views that you get to know both characters quite well and not just one side of the romance. The only negative is that I felt that both sides were only partially explored because of the two points of view. I wanted to know more about Eleanor’s past and I wanted to understand more why Park’s dad was disappointed in him. However, I know that if the story was only told by one of them, the whole story would not have been told.

My only issue is the end. It is what kept me from gushing about the book like others. I cannot talk about it here as it is spoiler, but I wish it had slowed down and matched the pace and tone of the rest of the book. I know there are many that disagree with me. After finishing I had a couple discussions on Twitter with tweeps who had finished the book and they all disagreed with me. But, as @katsok pointed out to me, “Books belong to the reader”, so I am sticking with how I feel. I would, though, LOVE to talk to Rainbow about the ending because I am so intrigued to learn about her decision making.

Ricki’s Review: I loved the subtle nuances of this book. While some readers might find this book to be a bit cheesy, Rowell intentionally uses languages to show the minute details of life. The imagery is stunning–readers are easily able to imagine themselves in each of the scenes. Eleanor and Park are realistic teenagers. Eleanor doesn’t have long, flowy blond hair, and Park isn’t clad with giant biceps and shaggy hair that sweeps across his brow. Teens will see themselves in the insecurities and feelings of these two beautiful people.

I know some readers have discussed they are dissatisfied with the end of the book (like Kellee), but I found it to be perfect. It makes the reader think, and I love books that make me think critically. I loved how the story didn’t just focus on the romance between Eleanor and Park. Their families were powerful influences on all of their emotions and actions. Both Eleanor and Park have qualities that make them unlikeable, and the English teacher in me kept screaming, “YES! These are truly round characters! I have to show my students sample passages to prove that characters can be just like people.”

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The language and sentence structure would make this a a fantastic choice for close analysis. The stylistic choices would make for rich class discussions. Teachers might consider assigning different pages for groups of students to analyze and then jigsawing to discuss Rowell’s language and style. Teachers might consider asking students to compare and contrast this book with other romances. They might discover that this is a more realistic love story, while other romances are a bit more idealistic. A good discussion could be had by looking at how Eleanor and Park dealt/felt about a situation since you have both points of view. It would also be a lot of fun to take a scene from the book and have the students rewrite it as if it took place in the 21st century.

Discussion Questions: How does this text differ from other contemporary romances?; Will a romantic teen relationship inevitably fail? Are Eleanor and Park doomed?; How do the characters’ home lives affect who they are as people?; How does Rowell effectively use language to convey the story?; How might the story be different if it was set twenty years later, in the current time period?; What do you think the 3 words are?

We Flagged: “Holding Eleanor’s hand was like holding a butterfly. Or a heartbeat. Like holding something complete, and completely alive. As soon as he touched her, he wondered how he’d gone this long without doing it.” (p. 71)

“‘I don’t think I even breathe when we’re not together,’ she whispered. ‘Which means, when I see you on Monday morning, it’s been like sixty hours since I’ve taken a breath.'” (p. 111)

“Eleanor was right: She never looked nice. She looked like art and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel like something. Eleanor sitting next to him on the couch made Park feel like someone had opened a window in the middle of the room. Like someone had replaced all the air in the room with brand-new, improved air (now with twice the freshness). Eleanor made him feel like something was happening. Even when they were just sitting on the couch.” (p. 165)

Read This If You Loved: The Fault in our Stars  by John Green, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Recommended For:

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We both loved this one. What did you think?

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Tom T’s Hat Rack by Michele Spry

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Tom T’s Hat Rack
Author: Michele Spry
Illustrator: Peggy A. Guest
Published January 2, 2013 by Spry Publishing

Summary: After Mr. T’s bout of cancer, he has decided that he wants to help make other people’s journeys during their chemo and radiation a bit easier. To do this, he asks his young friend Shelby to help him make a special project. Shelby Summers is one of those young people who understands the golden rule- she is good to all around her because she knows that is the right thing to do. This book shares with us the story of Mr. T and Shelby building their gift for others and what it is like to pay it forward.

My Review: This book’s purpose is more than just a narrative. The author, in her letter to me that came with the book, shared how she hopes the book would inspire others to pay it forward. “This simple act of kindness towards others is so simple to do and encourage others to do.” Too many children are growing up without thinking about this important aspect of humanity. Tom T’s Hat Rack is a great platform for starting that conversation.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the back of the book, the author has laid out ways for students to pay it forward just like Mr. T and Shelby. First, there is a brainstorming page to consider how the reader could help his or her community. Then the author’s page shares with the reader the story behind the book (Michele’s inspiration was a friend of hers that was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was still positive and upbeat during his treatment). Finally, the hat rack plans are included so that the readers could make a hat rack for their community just like Mr. T and Shelby. I think that this is an important book because of what it teaches and the conversations that it’ll start. It’ll be perfect for a read aloud or book club in middle elementary grades. You could even combine it with the amazing picture books I’ll list below to make a kindness unit.

Discussion Questions: What can you do to help others in your community? List some ways you can help – big or small – it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing something positive to help others. (p. 91)

We Flagged: “Tonight, Mr. T talked about how he wanted to have Shelby help him with a little project. After going through these tough health issues with his cancer, he decided to do something positive to benefit others. He knew with Shelby’s caring heart, and vision to help people, he and Shelby would be able to accomplish this idea over summer break.” (p. 22)

Read this if you loved: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein

Recommended for: 

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**Thank you to Michele Spry for providing a copy for review**

The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey

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The 5th Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Published May 7th, 2013 by Putnam Juvenile

Summary: Aliens (and not the green, one-eyed ones we see in movies) invade Earth in waves. When the novel begins, the fourth wave has happened, and only the unlucky remain. If they wish to survive, they can trust no one. Cassie is alone, and she believes she is destined to be alone forever until she encounters Evan Walker. He turns her world upside down, defying all beliefs she holds about the world since the fourth wave. Now, she isn’t sure what she believes anymore.

Review: If you buy one book for your classroom this summer, this is the one to buy. I foresee it becoming as popular as The Hunger Games series. It is extremely engaging and very well-written. There are many plot twists that caused me to gasp and look around the room to see if anyone else was just as shocked. (My husband was sleeping.) The plot twists make it very difficult to review this book without giving much away. This is one of those books that teachers can put in their classrooms and expect the students to do the work, recommending it to others.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The themes of this book are complex, which would make for fantastic conversations in the classroom. This is not an empty science fiction–adolescents will learn about trust, loyalty, and integrity. It would be a great novel to teach students about what it means to be human. Teachers might ask students what Yancey’s purpose for writing this novel might be. Is he trying to teach what it means to be human or might he be offering an opinion about other-worldly threats? It would be an excellent model to teach shifting narration, as the book often shifts points-of-view, allowing readers to see a different glimpse of Yancey’s world. Each point-of-view is complex with rich characterization, and what I liked most was that the chapters didn’t alternate. Rick Yancey was a bit unconventional, in that he seemed to switch points of views when it best served his purpose. Each character didn’t get an even number of pages or chapters–the story took precedent over the structure.

Discussion Questions: Are we, as humans, innately selfish?; Should we trust others if it might be a risk to ourselves?; Are there limits to the lengths you would go to in order to survive?; How does this book differ from other literature in its depiction of aliens?; What does it mean to be human?; What was Yancey’s purpose in writing this novel?

We Flagged: “But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.”

“How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.”

Read This If You Loved: The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, Divergent series by Veronica Roth, The Monstrumologist series by Ricky Yancey, The Host by Stephanie Meyer, Legend by Marie Lu

Recommended For:

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Happy 4th of July, everyone! This text is sure to set off fireworks in your classroom (insert cheesy grin here).

Have you read it yet? Please, please share your thoughts!

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Price of Freedom by Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin

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NF PB 2013

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!

price

The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery
Authors: Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Published January 8, 2013 by Walkers Children

Summary: In 1856, John Price, his cousin, and a friend risked their lives to cross the Ohio River in hopes of finding freedom on the other side. As slaves, leaving Kentucky and making their way into Ohio was the only way to even hope for freedom. However, the real goal was to get to Canada since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 stated that slaves could still be returned to their owners if caught in a free state. On his way to trying to get to Canada, John was lucky enough to come across the town of Oberlin, Ohio. A town that did not believe in slavery and even embraced runaway slaves as one of their own. But what would happen when slave hunters came to town looking for John? What is the town willing to do to save their own?

My Review: I love how this book was put together. The best way to teach nonfiction, in my opinion, is to make it into a narrative that catches readers’ attention and makes them want to learn more. The narrative in The Price of Freedom was put together very well- a perfect plot arc- yet leaves you wanting more. It starts out with just enough prior knowledge (not too teachy yet makes sure that it teaches enough that the reader will understand) and takes us through what happens to John Price as a story and finally the end is a bit of a cliffhanger that makes you want to research more. My favorite type of nonfiction. And to add to this the watercolor illustrations bring the story to life and are so very well done adding even more depth to the picture book. This book puts the reader straight into a tense situation and invites them to take part of a historical situation that does not appear in history textbooks. While I’d been taught about the Fugitive Slave Act and realized that there were oppositions to the act, but I had never read a narrative like this one.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the classroom, I think this nonfiction picture book is important to start conversations about the two sides of the civil war. It would also be a great jumping off point to start talking about people who stood up against laws, the Underground Railroad, and the transition into the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, etc. The authors even gave websites that are perfect to use as an extension.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think that the people of Oberlin and other Underground Railroad risked their lives to help escaped slaves?; What do you think happened to John Price? Do some research and see if your hypothesis was correct.

We Flagged: “Oberlin student William Lincoln was in his room when some classmates pounded on his door. He was the man to rescue John Price, they told him, offering him a gun. Lincoln hated slavery, but he also hated violence. Unsure what to do, he knelt on the floor with his Bible and asking himself: “if it were your own brother, what would you do?”

His answer? “Rescue him or die!” Lincoln grabbed the gun and raced to Wellington.” p. 23

Read This If You Loved: Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Roodie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead, Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix, Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea David Pinkney, Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for providing a copy for review**

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Intimidating Books

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish is particularly fond of lists (as am I!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

Today’s Topic: Top Ten Most Intimidating Books (might be intimated by size, content, that everyone else loves it but you are sure you won’t, etc.)

For me this one isn’t a very hard one as I find many of the lengthy classics very intimidating. I know many readers hate that they had to read them in school, but I wish I had so that I’d have them under my belt. The most intimidating books for me are:

clarissa1. Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson- I learned about Clarissa in my Gothic Literature class when I was on a gothic lit reading kick. This one fascinated me because it not only sounded interesting, but I found out that it was one of the longest books in the English language. Since then, I have tried to start it numerous times, but it is a majorly tough one and at 1534 pages it is hard to push yourself past the “slow start”.

kavalier2. Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon- This is another book on the list that I’ve begun. I started reading this book because my sister, dad, brother, and everyone else in the world (including the Pulitzer Prize committee) loved it and I really enjoyed Wonder Boys; however, I just could not get through Kavalier and Clay. Since abandoning it, it sits on my shelf and taunts me. One day, I want to reread and finish.

moby dick3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville- Not only is this book big, it just doesn’t interest me, yet it is one of the first books that people assume I’ve read since I have an English literature degree. I then explain that my focus was on 20th century literature and it is like my degree isn’t as fancy as “regular” English lit degree holders. Since then, Moby Dickalong with most of the books on this list (#4, 5, 6, 7, 10), are books that people assume I’ve read and I wish I had, but I haven’t.

atlas4. Atlas Shrugged and other books by Ayn Rand- Another huge book, 1168 pages, and one that I “should have read in school.” Also, the whole idea of the book just is intimidating in general for me.

les5. Les Miserables and other books by Victor Hugo- I love this musical and after reading Phantom of the Opera when I was in middle school, I wanted to read Les Miserables as well, but MAN it was torture. I promised myself I’d try it later and I did. 5 times. But I never made it through. Watching Ricki struggle through it makes it even more intimidating to me. I always wanted to read the book behind the musical, but who knows if I’ll ever face this fear.

absalom6. Absalom, Absalom! and other books by William Faulkner (except The Sound and the Fury which I have read)- Reading William Faulkner is one of the toughest experiences I’ve ever had. I actually really enjoyed it when I read it, but that was in a sort of lit circle where we discussed and had help. I cannot imagine reading his books alone. If you haven’t read Faulkner, I recommend reading at least one of his novels, but I also recommend doing it in a book club (and don’t be afraid to google for help!).

ulysses7. Ulysses and other books by James Joyce- Doesn’t Ulysses intimidate everyone?!

war8. War and Peace & Anna Karenina and other books by Leo Tolstoy- I have read one Tolstoy book, The Death of Ivan Illych, and really enjoyed it (actually one of my favorites from my Death and Dying class), but I’ve always avoided everything else of his. I’m not sure why, but between the synopsis and length, they’ve always intimidated me.

gravity9. Gravity’s Rainbow and other books by Thomas Pynchon- This one intimidates me because I worry that I just won’t get it. Does that make sense? And it is so big as well!

house10. House of Leaves and other books by Mark Z. Danielewski- This title is another case of “all of your loved ones like it, you should too, right?!”. Is it bad that I have no interest? Should I? Everyone says I should…

What book intimidates you? 

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/1/13

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
From Picture Books to YA!

 It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

 

Announcements!

Last week we had giveaways every week and we are excited to announce the winners today! We’ll be contacting each of you via email today to get some info from you.

Day One: Andrea P. and Megan A.

Day Two: Jennifer F.

Day Three: Holly M.

Day Four: Linda B.

Day Five: Julee M.

Day Six: Katherine N.

Day Seven: Melissa M.

Congratulations!!!

 

Last Week’s Posts

LaunchWeek2

Day One: IMWAYR     Day Two: Meet Kellee     Day Three: Meet Ricki

Day Four: How to Navigate     Day Five: Our Favorites

Day Six: Favorites Blog Hop    Day Seven: Recap

 

Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: Finished my rereads this week! I am so excited! Though the books are amazing it is nice to be moving on to other things. This week, in between rereading I did fit in some other reading. First, I finished Eleanor and Park which Ricki and I will be reviewing later this week. I also read Jeffrey Brown’s beloved Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess which were so funny (though I think I would get them more if I was a bigger “Star Wars” fan). Finally, I read a couple of picture books that are on some mock Newbery lists- Stardines Swim High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky (illustrated by Carin Berger) and Building our House by Jonathan Bean- and I cannot wait to review both of these for you as well. 

 

Ricki: Unlike Kellee, I still have two more books to reread for our book award. Then, I am free until the next round of rereading! I also finished Eleanor and Park, which I adored. I can’t wait to review this one with Kellee. In case anyone is keeping track, I also finished Les Miserables. I didn’t enjoy it very much, but now I can officially watch the movie without guilt. Lastly, I read Teen Boat, a graphic novel about a teenage boy named Teen Boat who has the ability to turn into a boat. It was very peculiar, but I found it to be quite funny. I’d recommend it to upper middle school teachers.

 

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: Unfortunately Margaret Cho was bounced because I received the newest David Sedaris book in audiobook, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, from the library and I bumped everything down to listen to it. I love David Sedaris and so far am really liking this one as well. I’ll also be reading The Price of Freedom and Tom T’s Hat Rack for the reviews later this week. Finally, I began Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gerwirtz today and so far am enjoying it. Looking forward to sharing my review of this one as well.

 

Ricki: For starters, I will reread two more books for the book award to get ready for our next round in the process. Also, I started Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher last week and absolutely love it. I am teaching a college course next semester, and this book came recommended for my syllabus, so I thought I would give it a try. It definitely lives up to the hype and is extremely interesting. Lastly, I finally got my hands on a copy of The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, so I will definitely be enjoying that one this week.

 

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday price  fifth wave

tom t  eleanor  Teachers Write

 

So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading.

Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs.

If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

 

Happy reading!

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