Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stievfater

Title: The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publication: September, 2013

Source: NetGalley

Goodreads Summary: 

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

My Thoughts:

Maggie Stiefvater is a master storyteller.  It never ceases to amaze me how creative her stories are.  What I love about all of her books is that the fantasy elements blend so seamlessly into the realistic components so that I never have a problem suspending my disbelief.  That is pretty amazing.  
The Dream Thieves is yet another thrilling book from Steifvater.  In this book the characters are all troubled and struggling to come to terms with their own troubles.  The story that results is a magic and compelling story that will make it hard for you to put the book down.

I love the character development in this book.  The author proves the point that no one is all good or all bad and I love seeing this.  It is so hard to talk about the book without giving spoilers so you will have to deal with my cryptic notes for now.  All I know is that I cannot wait to find out what happens to everyone in the next one!

If you have not read The Raven Boys yet, you must go out and read it immediately.  You are going to want to get your hands on a copy of The Dream Thieves as soon as they are available.  You will not regret reading these fabulous books!

I give this book 5 stars out of 5 

Starting a New Year

Today was my first official day back to school.  I have been working in my classroom for about a week and had learning team meetings last week to write the School Improvement Plan, but now I have to get back to the routine.  The beginning of the school year always makes me think of New Years Day and resolutions.  I think I make more resolutions each time school starts than I do at New Years.  This year, thanks to some great professional reading, my biggest resolution is just to BRING IT in the classroom.

I also am super excited because someone in the district office finally listened to us and the super strict mandates for curriculum and instruction have been lightened this year.  I will be able to teach with Reading and Writing Workshop models and not have to figure out how to connect it to the mandated structure.  I have the most coherent and connected plans for instruction that I have had in the last few years.  Of course, there are still millions of things on my to-do list that need to be done before next Tuesday when students start school.

I am so excited to be setting up our reading community.  Here are a few pictures from the work-in-progress.

The book sorting process. It is much more organized than it has been in the last few years. I love the genre classification stickers from Demco!
I am so excited about this reading door!

My reading door display is much bigger this year.  I had a small display last year and it really started conversations.  This year, I have it up before the staff meeting that will be in my room tomorrow and before Open House.  I can’t wait to see what kind of buzz I can create with this display.

For now, I need to take things a step at a time and get ready for the best year ever!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/26

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? –From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme started by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take.  Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole host of titles to add to your to-read lists.

This week was a whirlwind.  I was able to get into my classroom for the first time last Monday.  I don’t have a ton to set-up because my classroom is a computer lab and I can’t move furniture around. However, I do have my extensive class library to sort and display.  I worked a few hours early in the week on this.  On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I met with my school’s learning team to write our School Improvement Plan  (so even though we are not officially back to school until this Tuesday, I was working this week).

On Tuesday evening, my husband received an e-mail from his professor.  He was originally supposed to do student teaching this semester and had his placement lined up and was excited about that.  The e-mail was a forwarded message from the principal at a small charter high school in town.  She was in a bind because her Spanish teacher resigned the day before their teacher training started and she needed to hire someone.  My husband’s professor offered this as an opportunity for him to do student teaching on the job.  He was hired Wednesday night and started working on Thursday.  This is a great opportunity for him, but gives me a lot more work to do with supporting his beginning teaching.  He is jumping in with both feet without having a student teaching experience and my role changed from supporting-wife-who-will-give-some-advice-but-let-the-cooperating-teacher-really-be-his-safety-net to the-person-who-needs-to-give-him-the-advice-a-cooperating-teacher-would-give. Needless to say, my reading suffered a bit this week.  We are both excited for this school year and thankful for the great opportunity!

Books I Finished This Week:

Adult books

I am really enjoying this mystery series.  It is fun to read the books with my sister and send some texts back and forth discussing the characters.  It will be fun to share this experience with her.  
I need to do something about being more healthy.  I thought this book did a good job of convincing me that my eating habits need to change.  I have read numerous other diet and nutrition books that talked about the same types of health concerns, but this one really highlighted the dangers of what he calls diabesity.  I am planning to start a really rigid eating plan this week.  Wish me luck with the caffeine withdrawal!

Young Adult/Middle Grade books

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde is a fun book.  The author has a very witty sense of humor in this book.  I am excited to share this one with my students and the staff at my school!  I am even more excited for the author visit from Mr. Fforde in September after reading this fun book!

Books I am Currently Reading:

I started listening to Once by Morris Gleitzman.  This was one of the Sync audiobook titles that was offered free this summer.  I am liking the book so far.  I enjoy the music that is played between chapters also.  I am just cringing at the way it is starting.  This boy is so naive and ignorant of what is happening in Nazi-occupied Poland and I just know it will end up badly for him.  I have really just started this book so I am not sure where it will go, but it makes me nervous.  I also am reading Killer (Pretty Little Liars).  This will be a good one to read during the hectic first week back to school.  

What’s Next?

I am finally on schedule for the Gallagher Girls readathon, so I will be reading Only the Good Spy Young this week.  I also would like to read the galley I have of The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde.  I will probably also start D is for Deadbeat this week and I have another mystery book from the library that is another author we will see in Key West.  
What are you reading?  Any recommendations for books I should read?  Please leave a note in the comments.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/19

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? –From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme started by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take.  Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole host of titles to add to your to-read lists.

This week was another great reading week for me.  I also started to think more about plans for the school year, which is approaching too quickly.  A lot of my time this week was spent re-reading snippets from my favorite professional books and reading blog posts to get good ideas.  I anticipate a good amount of my time will be spent on technology in the next week as I get my class website and some other tech tools ready for the year.  

Books I Finished This Week:

Adult Books

B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton is the second book in the Kinsey Millhone series.  I have enjoyed rereading the first two books in this series and look forward to getting as far as possible before January.  

Middle Grade/Young Adult

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick up Seedfolks by Paul Fleischmann.  I have heard a lot of good things about it and it definitely lived up to all the praise.  I think this would be an excellent read aloud and would really foster good discussion about understanding things from all different perspectives.  
Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer was one of the titles in the set of literature circle sets I received as part of a grant.  I had not heard of the book before, but then started to notice that people talked about it on blogs.  I loved this book.  It is a book that really does the what-if scenario well.  A lot of books out there are post-apocalyptic with many different ideas of how the apocalypse happened.  I loved that this one started a few days before the major event happened and then chronicled what was going on as the disasters struck and the world changed.  It was a haunting book because it really felt like the author nailed what people would be like in these types of situations.  I will highly recommend this book to my students and cannot wait to hear the discussions that come out of the literature circle using this title. 
I really enjoyed rereading Don’t Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter.  I love the fun characters in this series and am enjoying reading it.  I am participating in the Gallagher Girls readathon, but was a little ahead of schedule with this one because my digital hold came through last week.  I can’t wait to continue reading about Cammie.  I want to see what happens with Zach! 
I finished listening to Shadow and Bone this week too.  I LOVED this book and will have to immediately go out to find the second one.  I really enjoyed the audio of this one as well.   

Picture Books

I picked up a stack of picture books at the library after reading through the picture book 10 for 10 posts the other day.  Some of these are books I was looking for and others are books I ran across.  I was looking for some mentor texts and for some read alouds so I ended up with a big variety.
All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan would be a great book to use for a mentor text when talking about place narratives. 
I love most of Neil Gaiman’s work, but The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish was a little weird. I guess I would have to see how kids react to this one before making a final judgement.  
I have read multiple references to using Tough Boris in reading and writing workshops.  I need to go back to see how those authors suggested it be used.  The book was okay, but I am not sure how I would use it for a mentor text.  Maybe with younger students I could see a better connection.  
Patrol by Walter Dean Myers will be a good picture book to read aloud in class.  I think middle school students will really be able to discuss the moral dilemmas that people face during times of war.  
Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems is cute and was a fun book to read.  It would be a good one for a quick read aloud and a discussion of the artwork.  
Both Salt in His Shoes and Dream Big are about Michael Jordan.  I am planning to do a short unit about mindsets and how people get good at things.  Michael Jordan is a great example of someone who worked hard and practiced a lot in order to pursue his dreams.  Both of these picture books would be great to use in conjunction with the lessons about growth mindset.  Both are also great examples of narratives that stem from every day things.  

Professional Books

Opening Minds by Peter Johnston is another excellent professional resource.  I liked the reminders in here about how the language we use can put students into certain mindsets.  I certainly will be even more careful about the way I give feedback this year after reading this book.  This is a short book that should be required reading for every educator along with Choice Words.

Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing Students for Success in the Digital Age by Alan November offered some great food for thought about the way technology can be used in the classroom.  I had already started to think about some of these ideas so was glad to see such interesting examples of how teachers are using technology to enhance learning.  I like the idea of a digital learning farm and the roles for students.  I need to spend a little bit of time with these ideas in order to figure out exactly which ideas to implement.  

Books I am Currently Reading:

I started reading Moby Dick this week because my husband decided to read it and I wanted to read it with him.  Both of us are struggling with it and not enjoying it so I may have to abandon it soon.  I also am reading The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde.  We are going to have him visit our school in September so I want to read this book and the ARC for the second one before then.  I am reading Spilling Ink as well.  The last book I am reading is The Blood Sugar Solution.  

What’s Next?

I read a few pages of Jellicoe Road and of Paranormalcy.  I liked both and just got sidetracked this week so will probably go back to both books.  I will continue the Sue Grafton series this week as well. Since I can get into my classroom this week and have meetings all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, I will get considerably less reading done.  
What is on your reading agenda this week?  Have any recommendations for me?  Please share in the comments.

Read Alouds in My Class

It’s that time of year again.  I have had the first of many teacher dreams that I will have before the school year starts.  My mind wheels have started to turn.  I have started to panic over all the summer goals that are not completed yet.

In the last couple of weeks I have started to really think about how I want the year to go and what I can plan for in both reading and writing this year.  One of the biggest and most important tasks I have in setting up our classroom community is to find the books that I believe will be fun to share with the new batch of students.

As I have been letting my mind wander over the possibilities, I have read some great articles and blog posts.  Inspired by this article by Franki Sibberson and this blog post by Katherine Sokolowski, I have begun thinking deeply about my selections for read-aloud this year.

Add to this the fact that I read Teach Like a Pirate and Opening Minds in the last week, and the selection for read aloud becomes that much more important to me.  You see, I used to be very passionate about creating a very tight classroom community and teaching empathy.  I worked my butt off to make sure that my classroom would be that safe place for all students, and succeeded at this with my 4th and 5th graders.  And then, I moved to middle school and the school culture and the teenage attitudes kicked my *** and I have been giving up a little bit of this purpose each year of teaching middle school.  Reading these books made me really think again about what I believe to be the most important thing to do in the classroom and that is to teach kids how to see the world from other perspectives and develop empathy.  I think it is crucial to meet my students emotional needs in the classroom and in order to do that, I need to make it a completely accepting place in which all students belong.  My professional reading reminded me that this was once my most important goal and that it is worth fighting for.  After a few years with middle school, I know I will have the skills to help them develop empathy and learn to be kind to each other.  As a reader, I can think of no better way to help them learn to take other perspectives than to read amazing literature that will make them understand what it is like to be like the characters in the book.

There are some books that have become favorites in the years that I have been teaching middle school and others that I have recently read and think would make excellent read alouds.  These books are all books I will consider reading aloud this year at some point, and that I hope will help students to think deeper about the world around them and learn empathy.

I have never had a group of students that did not like Freak the Mighty.  It is a great book for helping students to understand the points of view of some kids they might normally consider to be losers or freaks.  The story is exciting and touching and adolescents can relate to the action in the story.

I read Wonder as my first read aloud last year with 8th graders.  I love the book and most of my students learned to love it too as we read it.  I think I will read this one later in the year this year after my read aloud is established.  Students who are not used to read alouds did not get into this one and I would rather wait until I know all students will appreciate the beautiful story before reading this one.

I have never used Endangered by Eliot Shrefer as a read aloud, but I think it would be a great one.  There is so much adventure in the book as well as issues to consider.  I think it would be a wonderful book for really getting middle school students to think about how people live in other parts of the world and to get them thinking about the way animals are treated.  I am considering using this one as my first read aloud.

This is another book that would be great for getting students to consider world issues and get involved with thinking about animal rights.  It might be a good idea to read both Endangered and Hurt Go Happy to really get students thinking about a global issue and possibly thinking about what they can do to help.

Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen is a book I have used every year of teaching middle school. I love this book for read alouds because it is short but really packs a punch.  This book really brings out good discussions about power and why education is important.  It also is my opportunity to help educate students about the conditions of slaves and the way people really viewed slaves as property and not humans.  It is another great discussion about race and the way racism has evolved.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is a seriously disturbing book about a world where teenagers are really not safe because their parents might choose to “unwind” them and donate all their parts.  There are a lot of issues that could be very rich discussions.  The book would appeal to all students and is full of action.  It could bring up some discussion of scientific advances and medical ethics also.

The themes in this book of giving up play to be more grown-up would really feel familiar for a lot of middle school students.  This book is creepy without being really scary so I think it would really appeal to a lot of kids.  I am considering this one along with some other ideas using the short film Alma and The Friendship Doll and having students write from the perspective of a doll.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick is a book that would help students think about the problems that people have that we might not know about.  It is a great story about coping with a very serious issue and I think there would be some students who might really relate to the narrator.

I just read Seedfolks this week.  I don’t know why it took me so long to get to this book.  It is one that I really think would be almost perfect for read aloud because each person’s narration is so short.  This is a great book for thinking about multiple perspectives and the diversity around us.

These are currently the books that I am considering for that all important first read aloud.  One of the problems of reading so many books is that I come across so many amazing ones that I want to share with my whole class.  I believe any of these books would help me to get my year started out on the right note and help build community.

What are your favorite read alouds for helping middle school students develop empathy?  Is there a book I just have to read?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Top 10 Favorite Books set in Africa

I am joining in on this weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week there is a different top ten list topic and a bunch of bloggers weighing in.  Head on over there to see more of the great blogs participating.
Today’s topic was really interesting because we got to choose the setting we wanted to talk about.  I thought right away of four books that are set in Africa so decided to go with this one. I had a lot of fun coming up with this list and may come back to this topic on my own to include different settings.  I know it would be easy to put together a list of books with futuristic settings or fantasy kingdoms and that is why I chose this topic instead.  I also think it might be fun to think up a list of books that are set on an island.  Hmmm, future blog posts?  
For now, we will travel to Africa for a list of great books.  
I love Barbara Kingsolver’s writing and this is one of my all-time favorite books.  Since it is written from the point of view of a missionary family, it really shows Africa from the perspective that many of us would take if we were transplanted there.  If you haven’t read this one, you need to remedy that!
I am cheating a little bit with this one.  Copper Sun by Sharon Draper is not set the whole time in Africa.  Rather, it starts there in a small village when white men come to destroy the village and take the healthy villagers to be slaves.  This is a powerful story and it is important that it starts in Africa because it shows how awful slavers were and is a great discussion starter.  
The Animal Healer series by Lauren St. John is a series of magical realism books.  I am not a huge fan of magical realism but I really love these books.  The White Giraffe is a beautiful book about grief and change and family.  It is set, for the most part, on a wildlife sanctuary in South Africa.  I loved reading about this breathtaking setting as much as I enjoyed the story.  
Endangered by Eliot Schrefer is a must-read book.  It starts out being about a Bonobo sanctuary in Africa and quickly changes to a book about surviving in a region of civil unrest.  The story of the Bonobos is intertwined with a story of survival and is one of the best books I read last year.  
I read July’s People in high school and it stuck with me for a long time.  The book helped me to learn about the inequalities that exist in the world and opened my eyes to other cultures.
If you haven’t read this memoir, you need to go find it immediately.  It is about a woman who was in the closest circles to the Moroccan royal family until her father was arrested and executed for an assassination attempt.  She and her family were immediately put in prison.  
This book is the third book in a young adult series by Isabel Allende.  The first book in the series, The City of the Beasts, is set in the South American jungles.  All three books are magical realism books that weave legend into the story. This one is set in Kenya and is full of adventure.  
I love that the protagonist of this series is a woman.  A detective living in Africa would be interesting on its own, but it is even more interesting because of this character.  If you like mysteries you will like this series.  
Another must-read book for young people.  It gives another perspective in the story of South Africa and injustice.  
How could I not talk about this book?  Have I mentioned that when I was younger I read everything  Agatha Christie wrote?  In this book Hercules Poirot is on the case when a murder occurs during his holiday in Egypt.  
This is a list of books that I want to read that are set in Africa: Things Fall Apart, Cutting For Stone, Zulu, A Long Walk to Water

Did I miss a book that you would include on this list?  Any suggestions for other books set in Africa? Please make a comment below.  

Being a Pirate and Finding Inspiration

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

In the last week, I have read two professional books that gave me endless inspiration for the coming school year.  Both books ignited a fire in me and made me look at some hard truths about myself and my school.  
First, I read Write Beside Them by Penny Kittle. I had read Book Love earlier this year so I knew I would love Penny’s writing.  What I got out of the book was exactly what I had hoped to find.  The very clear explanations of how she structures her classroom and what units she chooses to teach gave me some direction that I badly needed.  I have been doing Writer’s Workshop for more than ten years now.  I started in first grade and moved to fourth and fifth grade and then up to middle school grades.  I have never felt like I got a handle on middle school writer’s workshop.  I know we probably do better than I give myself credit for, but I know I can do much better.  
My first a-ha came in the section of the book where Ms. Kittle describes the idea of choice in workshop.  She tells of an interview that Tom Newkirk did with Don Graves in which Don said, “Unlimited choice is no choice at all.”  
She goes on to say:
 “I had missed that part. Choice has to be taught: I needed to learn how to help students discover their topics. Students of any age will get discouraged if they just sit and think, trying to find an idea that feels big enough to write about.”  
I love when I read about teachers who have had the same struggles as I have had and have found a solution.  I love the way that Kittle balances quick-writes with mini-lessons and now I have a good plan for the daily routine in my classroom.  
The other quote from this book that really jumped out at me was this one:
“I don’t have a lot of patience for teachers who stand behind their twenty-year-old lesson plans with the admonition that, ‘I’m giving them good teaching but they don’t take advantage of it and learn, that’s not my problem.’ Teachers have to adjust their work to meet the needs of kids. If the kids aren’t learning, the first place to look is at the teacher and the curriculum. All kids can write well; I just don’t accept anything else to be true. I will work every day (weekends, too) to make it happen for whoever walks through that door. That’s professionalism. That’s responsibility. I won’t pretend this work is about anything less.” 
I really appreciate the candor in this. I agree whole-heartedly and I am glad to see that there are teachers who are willing to take their stand in a published work.  This gives me a swift kick in the pants to consider my own professionalism and what I can do differently to help students become good writers.  I am not saying that I haven’t already been doing some of this and thinking this way, just that I have room for improvement and I will make it a priority to improve.  
The second book that I read this week that really hit home is Teach like a PIRATE: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator by Dave Burgess.  This was a truly motivational and inspirational book.  It just made me really think hard about what I give students in my classroom.  I thought through my passions and really evaluated my own teaching as I read through his ideas.  One thing has been really bugging me for years.  This idea of professional jealousy that exists in our worlds. Maybe you are lucky and work in a place in which everyone is completely supportive of one another…that is very lucky.  In this book, Dave Burgess discusses the awkward moment that happens in his seminars when he asks the question, “Do you want to be great?” He says:
“I’m sure a certain portion of my audiences want to say ‘yes’ to the greatness question. Unfortunately, the snide comments and eye rolling of their peers keeps them from admitting what they really want. People who are comfortable and accustomed to traveling with the pack, always riding in the peloton, often resent those trying to escape in search of something more…Believe me, plenty of people will try to drag you back. That’s why you must have a goal worth fighting for.”
This section hit home.  In 2006, I was fortunate enough to be given a Milken Educator Award. Each year, there are two Milken Educators named in Wisconsin (as well as about 100 educators nationwide) and I was lucky enough to be recognized in this way.  The award comes with a $25,000 prize.  The state superintendent and a whole bunch of other dignitaries showed up at my school for an assembly.  Part of the deal with the Milken award is that the assembly is a complete surprise.  We knew we were having a bunch of important people come to our school but not what it was about.  When my name was called after all the build-up and explanation about the award,  I remember two things.  First, I remember the cheers and screams of the kids in the auditorium.  I have a fabulous picture from the local newspaper of two of my students jumping up and down as if they had won the award themselves.  Second, I remember the scowls on the faces of two of my colleagues.  I was at the microphone, completely shocked and awed that I had been recognized in this way and I faltered in what I would say because I saw these two people glaring back at me.  How awful is that?  I got this completely unsolicited recognition and they could not be happy for me.  My pleasure and celebration that day was tainted by the rumors that I knew would be flying all day. 
This section of Think Like a Pirate brought me back to that day.  I was able to shake off the negativity and continue to strive for greatness, but I really shied away from any opportunity to share what I was doing in my classroom because I let that criticism get in.  I will not let the negativity of others keep me back anymore. There are many ideas I really like in this book, but the best thing that I got from the book was a new motivation to continue to seek greatness in my classroom and a great resource of guidance to help me do it.  
It was the perfect blend of professional books for me to read this week.  I love this time of the year when I start to dream about the possibilities for the new school year.  This year I will go into the school with a renewed spirit and commitment to professionalism and greatness.

I hope all the other teachers out there are finding their inspiration to go start a great school year.  How are you finding your inspiration?  Are you going to be like a pirate too?  Please share in the comments.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/12

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? –From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme startted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take.  Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole host of titles to add to your to-read lists.

I had a fabulous reading week full of inspirational reads that put me in school year planning mode.  I also spent the day earlier this week following along with the #edmodcon sessions.  I got some spectacular ideas about how to amp up my use of Edmodo this year.  I am really excited to participate in Global Read Aloud this year, but I am trying to figure out whether I will read Out of My Mind or Stupid Fast with my 8th graders.  I am leaning more towards using Stupid Fast. 

Books I Finished This Week:

Adult Books

Dexter in The Dark by Jeff Lindsay is the third book in the series about Dexter.  I absolutely love this television show so when I saw that it was based on books I looked for them.  The book is written in the same kind of tone as the narration on the show and I really enjoyed reading it.  I will be looking for more books from this series in the future.  This is one I would only recommend to adults, but if you are a fan of mysteries it is one to check out.  
Sue Grafton will be at the literary seminar in January and my sister and I are going to try to get through as much of the alphabet as we can before then.  I really enjoyed reading the first book in this series.  If you love mysteries, you will like these.  

Graphic Novels

The Baby-Sitters Club: The Truth About Stacey (Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels, #2) was a really fun read.  I love BSC and I was so excited when I found the first graphic novel last year.  I finally decided to just order more of them this summer.  My students are going to love these books.  

The Baby-Sitters Club: Mary Anne Saves the Day (Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels, #3) Another excellent graphic novel and fun read for me.  

The Dodgeball Chronicles (Knights of the Lunch Table, #1) by Frank Cammuso is a really cute graphic novel.  My students will really like it.  I love the play on the words of the names in the book and the nod to Aurthurian legend.  I will definitely look for the other books in this series to add to my class library.  
I have been thoroughly intrigued by all the discussions of this graphic novel on Twitter. When I saw the book at Half Price Books I just had to snatch it up.  I read this one basically in one sitting.  Richard Feynman was an incredibly amazing man and I was so fascinated by his story.  I will be looking for other books about this great physicist soon.  I highly recommend the graphic novel to teens and adults.  

Middle Grade/Young Adult

We Are Not Eaten By Yaks by C. Alexander London is a cute book for middle grade readers. I would recommend this one to fans of The Series of Unfortunate Events.  The adventure and narration are similar and would definitely appeal to that audience.  I enjoyed this cute story and definitely think upper elementary students would enjoy it.  
I was really excited when I found Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby in the clearance section at Half Price Books.  I know that this book is a favorite book of Kellee Moye and I was really looking forward to reading it.  Oh. My. God. This book is AMAZING! I read it in one sitting on a morning when I was not planning to read for so long.  And I cried the whole time.  This is a touching and beautiful story and will definitely inspire young people to think about their world in a new way.  I completely understand why it is one of Kellee’s favorites and it has now become one of my favorites too.  

Professional Books:

Penny Kittle is a genius.  She has great professionalism and her books inspire me to be the best I can be too.  Write Beside Me helped me think about the structures I have in place in my classroom and plan for what I will change this year.  I am so glad I picked this one up.  
This book is so inspirational!  I will definitely be going back to it again and again for ideas while lesson planning.  
I cannot express how much inspiration these two books gave me this week.  I will be posting a blog post later this week about the ideas that came from reading these books.  

Books I am Currently Reading:

I started reading Opening Minds by Peter Johnston.  I am planning to do a small unit about mindsets at the beginning of the year and I knew that this book would have some inspiration about this idea.  I also started reading Spilling Ink and Jellicoe Road.  I am still listening to Shadow and Bone.  

What’s Next?

I will be reading the third Gallagher Girls book this week because I have a digital library loan that came through.  It is ahead of the schedule for the Gallagher Girls readathon, but I am reading them as I get them.  I will also probably read the next Sue Grafton book.  After that, I will look at what I have on the shelves and on the Kindle.  I made a decision that I would only read books off my shelf for now.  I am going to try to resist buying books or going to the library for a little while because I have so many books to read that I already own.  
What did you read this week?  Do you have any recommendations?  Please share in the comments. 

10 Picture Books I Use In My Middle School Classroom

Thank you to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for hosting this Picture Book 10 for 10 event.  Head over to their blogs to link up and learn about picture books galore.

Math Books:


I love using the whole Sir Cumference series to teach geometry concepts in math.  The character names are clever word play and the students have a wacky story to think about when they need to remember a word.  Each book explores a concept that middle school students should be exploring.  It is fun to read these books in math class!


This is another book I use in math class.  The Pythagorean theorem is an important concept in 8th grade math.  This picture book introduces multiple contexts where the theorem might be used as well as providing a visual proof.  It is a fun way to introduce the theorem to students.


In this fun fairy tale spin-off, Rumpelstiltskin has a wand that can multiply anything. He wreaks havoc in the town by multiplying nuisances.  In order to fix things, the town has to get that wand.  They end up figuring out that if they multiply by a fraction they will actually be able to restore things.  I like this book because it helps students to see that multiplying does not always give you more of something.

Social Studies Books:


Pink and Say is one of my favorite books for talking about the Civil War and the devastation caused by the war.  It also always brings up the questions about race relations at that time in history and is great for discussions.  (Anything by Patricia Polacco is wonderful for discussions in the middle school classroom)


The amazing story of how a slave mailed himself to freedom is always a great discussion starter.  I love the pictures in this book and the simplicity of this complicated story.  
When I teach about WWII and Hitler, I teach students about the political Dr. Seuss.  We read Yertle the Turtle after talking about Nazi propaganda.  It is interesting to have the discussions about power that result from this read aloud.  It is always a good eye-opener for students about author’s purpose as well.  

Books Used in Reading/Writing Lessons:


One of my favorite things to do during our unit on persuasive/argument writing is to explore conspiracy theories with this book.  The book is written as a series of case studies about the real reasons adults say certain things to kids.  It is laugh-out-loud funny and I love hearing the wacky conspiracies that kids come up with after we read this book.


I love this fractured fairy tale.  In this one, the wolf proclaims his innocence and tells the real story.  It is a great book for discussing point of view and narrators.  It is a wonderful mentor text for experimenting with our own fractured fairy tales by taking the point of view of a different character in a classic tale. Anything by Jon Sciezka is sure to be a crowd pleaser!


All of Chris Van Allsberg’s books are great for comprehension lessons.  This one in particular is amazing for inferencing.  There really isn’t an explanation of what exactly is going on so kids have to present their theories and back them up with evidence from the book.  It is a great example of fantasy writing and is intriguing enough to hook all your readers.


I used this book for the first time this year.  It is a great book for practicing with inferences as well.  It served to remind students about what it means when we make an inference.  Many of my students had audible reactions to the end of the book.  They may not all love the book, but they will certainly remember it!  I liked that I was able to read it quickly but have a big impact in solidifying their understanding of making inferences.

These are 10 books I use in my classroom.  My goal this year is to read picture books at least two days a week so I can increase the amount of great literature that comes into my 8th grade classroom.

Do you love these books too?  Did I miss a great one?  Please share in the comments.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 8/5

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? –From Picture Books to YA is a weekly meme startted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.  This is a chance for bloggers to recap their week of reading and share their plans for the next reading adventures they will take.  Visit the host blogs for a list of great blogs participating in this meme and a whole host of titles to add to your to-read lists.

How can it already be August? It is interesting how certain things mark the time passing for you.  Last Wednesday was my birthday.  I had a lovely time celebrating on multiple days with different family members and having some fun treats.

This was my favorite treat:

Every summer at about this time I start to think about back-to-school and my mind starts to gear up for school again.  It starts with the teacher dreams and then I know it is time to start letting my mind wander over the possibilities for the coming year.  My reading week was a great reading week, but I am beginning to feel a little more scattered with my reading and somewhat desperate realizing that I will not make nearly the dent in my piles that I hoped to make.  Oh well, life goes on and I know I have some excellent new books to share this year.  I also have been making a big effort to balance out some of the adult books I want to read with the young adult and middle grade titles on my TBR list.

Books Finished This Week:

Adult Books

Judgment Calls by Alafair Burke is a compelling mystery which is the first in her Samantha Kincaid series.  This author is one that will be speaking at the literary seminar I will attend in January so I will be reading more of her books before then.  This one was a good start and I will enjoy getting to know this protagonist more in the next mysteries.

Graphic Novels

I enjoyed reading the first volume of Sandman by Neil Gaiman.  My husband has gotten quite into reading graphic novels and comics and I was curious about this series.  I have only read Coraline and The Graveyard Book by this author and wanted to read something else.  I think this graphic novel is really well done, but it wasn’t my taste.  It was a little too dark and creepy for me.  I am interested in reading other novels by Neil Gaiman and will probably do this soon since my husband is voraciously reading through his entire bibliography.  

Young Adult/Middle Grade

I really enjoyed the audiobook of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  I thought the two narrators did an excellent job reading and I liked that I had two distinct voices in my head.  I really like the way this narrative unfolds and I love the messages in the book.  I think this one is more of a high school book but I will probably end up recommending it to a few of my 8th grade students this year.  I would absolutely recommend it to high school students and adults.  
I enjoyed reading Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging and definitely snorted with laughter a few times while reading.  This was a quick and fun read and I am sure many teens will love it and identify with some of Georgia’s antics.  I read this one for the NerdPrintz challenge and you can read my review of it here.
I really enjoyed Doll Bones by Holly Black.  I was ecstatic to see that this book, which has been really raved about on multiple blogs, was one of the August Kindle deals.  The e-book is just $1.99 right now.  Go snag the deal if you haven’t read it yet!  I really had my teacher brain on the whole time I was reading this one.  I think this would be a great read aloud and I have a few other ideas for connections in my longer review here.
Love this one!  I will post a longer review closer to the publication date.  LOVE IT! You must pre-order this book immediately and read The Raven Boys if you haven’t yet.  Maggie Steifvater is an author that I truly admire for her ability to write fantasy that feels so realistic.

Books I am Currently Reading:

This list is definitely a sign of how scattered I have been lately.  I have been really indecisive about what I want to read and then I end up with a huge pile of books.  First, I am listening to Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1).  I love this story so far and will definitely be finding excuses to put on my headphones and listen.  Cleaning my house becomes much less of a chore when I have a good audiobook!  I have also started reading 3 different professional books: Teach Like a Pirate, Write Beside Them, and Mechanically Inclined.  Can you feel the teacher momentum picking up?  The other books I have going right now are We are Not Eaten by Yaks, Dexter in the Dark, and Spilling Ink.  

What’s Up Next?

Well, since I have so many books going right now, I will probably not start too many others this week.  If I can finish all of these books I will be in pretty good shape.  I still have a couple library books to get to as well so I might actually set one of the other ones to the side until I get through those.  I also have a few projects around the house that I want to get to before going back to school in a few weeks so I may not have as much reading time.  We shall see.  
What are you reading this week?  Did you read any great books that I must add to my list?  Please share in the comments.  
Have a great reading week!