Book Review: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Wishtree has been around for over 200 years, and in that time she has seen many changes in the lives of the animals and the humans who surround her. Every May Day (May 1st) people come from all around to tie pieces of cloth with written wishes on the tree. It’s a tradition that Wishtree enjoys, until one day, a young male comes and changes the tree’s life, and the lives of all who live nearby. Wishtree decides that maybe wishes should come true — she’s an optimist, you see; but the animals who live in her hollows disagree. With the help of her best friend, a crow named Bongo, and 2 school children, Wishtree provides more to the neighborhood than even she realized she could. This is a beautiful story of hope, friendship, and acceptance, told by a tree. And what a story it is!

 

Wishtree book cover picture by Goodreads.

Welcome!

Passion Small BW Photo campfire from Ashley

Welcome to ReadingTeacherWrites.org. This is my professional site where I share information about literacy learning, my own research-based reflections, and lessons I’ve learned while teaching. Now that I am a school librarian, I will post much more on titles and authors for classrooms and schools.

You can also use this page to contact me regarding your reading and writing classroom needs. “Collaboration is key.” I would love to collaborate with you on your next literacy-based project or professional development event.

Lucy Calkins, the Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, said, “Passion is powerful.” I am passionate about teaching and learning; I want to share my passion with you.

I am currently working on:

  • “Picture Books are Powerful” in the Middle School Classroom
  • Research on Independent Reading
  • “SOLO” Launch Team for Solo, by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess (until August 1, 2017)

 

 

Happy Book Birthday, Solo!

SOLObookcoverpic2017.jpgSolo is Kwame Alexander’s latest release (from Blink YA Books) and features Mary Rand Hess. These amazing authors expertly weave the story of Blade, a teen who would rather not be associated with his famous father, Rutherford Morrison, a washed-up rock star. Blade’s girlfriend, Chapel, is the light in his life of darkness, but her parents forbid her to see Blade amid continued family drama. Blade finds that his life is not as it seems – is it worse? The one connection that the family shares is music – much music. “But not even the songs that flow through Blade’s soul are enough when he’s faced with two unimaginable realities…”

The music that connects Blade, his father, and the other intriguing characters in the book are the web that Alexander and Hess create to lead the reader (and Blade) from Hollywood to West Africa in search of life’s answers. Tracks from Lenny Kravitz, Metallica, U2 ,Van Halen, Aretha Franklin, and more all bring memories to carry the reader (and Blade) into the future. The story is a true hero’s journey through music and time. (Suggestion: Get the audio version!)

What I loved most about Solo is that it is written in Kwame’s famous novel-in-verse style, and adding Mary’s poetic contributions made my heart sing. The book features nostalgic hits and original music by Randy Preston, Alexander’s talented musical friend. The twists, turns, and surprises throughout the book made this a quick read, yet I revisited pages again and again. I downloaded the music to listen to as I traveled with Blade through my third read! I highly recommend Solo for any teen trying to find him/herself in the world, anyone who loves music, or anyone who loves a fantastic story line. (That means “Go Get This Title Now!”) “When the heart gets lost, let the music find you.”

IMWAYR: Disrupted Thinking

BOOKCLUB_DisruptingThinking_2017Today I opened Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, and my thinking has been disrupted! In all my years of teaching, I’ve never had it so good — I’m past the “trying to impress the administration” stage of my early years, and I am able to focus on the authentic purposes of teaching reading (to enjoy the stories, to think, to learn…) and forget about the nay-sayers and their agendas. In the introduction to this fabulous, eye-opening professional read, Bob confirms that “our students won’t learn to read these difficult texts by taking quizzes or preparing for them, or by collecting points and prizes…” (see below, page 9)

The nay-sayers don’t bother me anymore. I already know what page 9 states:

My thinking has been disrupted. Kylene and Bob hope that we teachers “jot notes…join us at workshops, or connect with us via social media.” Check. Check. Check. I love Kylene and Bob because they really do want us teachers to be successful, but they want our students to be successful even more. They are helping us, guiding us, and cheering us on! Thank you!

I hope that you are lucky enough to grab this book (as soon as possible!), read it, and have your thinking disrupted this summer. Happy Reading!

 

Book Review: 7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar

I just love using picture books for my middle school classroom! This book will help both math and reading teachers spread the book love. This is 7 Ate 9: The Untold Story, by Tara Lazar, and illustrated by Ross MacDonald, and it is comic genius in picture book form. 

Private I tells the story of his newest case: 6 banged on the detective’s door, scared that 7 is coming to get him. Private I took the odd case and started looking for the root of the problem. But 7 cannot be found for questioning. There are a number of suspects, and quite a few witnesses to interview, too. Private I’s work seems to multiply as the case moves forward. Can he solve the case in time, or will the numbers be subtracted, one by one?

If you’re looking for a twisted mystery, Tara Lazar provides the narrative. If you’re looking for some math vocabulary to add to your lesson plans, this book is a positive addition to your library. If you want to read a beautifully-illustrated picture book during your child’s bedtime routine, Ross MacDonald serves up the cake — I mean, pi.

Have fun reading 7 Ate 9 soon!

March: Book One — Read Now!

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March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, Nate Powell

In elementary school I learned about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I read about his calm demeanor, listened to his moving speeches, and learned about a dark time in my American history. However, I felt like I was hearing only parts of a bigger story; there was something missing. From the time I was in middle school, I acknowledged that civil rights was (and is) a hard-fought battle of minds and bodies, but it still seemed all too easy. One week there was segregation, and then one week there wasn’t anymore? A little colored girl finally got to go to a white school? A lady refused to move from her seat on a bus? I knew I wasn’t hearing everything. I read newspaper articles and archives, and watched movies about history and they way the world used to be before my time. I’m so happy to have found that our current generation of young readers have more answers than I did when I was their age. I’ve been inspired by the work of John Lewis and many other non-violent leaders of our country’s history. Now I will spread the news to others through Mr. Lewis’ books, the March trilogy. I read March: Book One today for the first time.

Riveting! Please read it. Then pick up the other two books, as well. (If you bought the set, you’re on your way!) John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell tell the gripping true stories of life in America, as they happened.

Bonus! March: Book Three won FOUR book awards today. What a fabulous day to be a reader!

Book Review: The Storyteller

Have you ever skipped a meal so you can read a book? I have, but if you haven’t yet, you might find yourself immersed in THE STORYTELLER — and you’d be okay with whatever else you missed. The Storyteller, by Evan Turk,  is many tales weaved into one great story.

While I was reviewing book lists online to prepare myself for the upcoming Caldecott Medal awards on January 23, I came across a picture of The Storyteller. When I researched further, I found this Goodreads description of the book, and I had to read it: “Long, long ago, like a pearl around a grain of sand, the Kingdom of Morocco formed at the edge of the great, dry Sahara. It had fountains of cool, refreshing water to quench the thirst of the desert, and storytellers to bring the people together.”

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I always loved the art of storytelling: live performances in the city, reading of tales, such as The Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesop’s Fables, Readers’ Theater in school, all gave me the storytelling “bug.” I enjoyed a different kind of art — a dying art, it seems. I believe that The Storyteller will bring a renewed fascination to the art here in 2017. I certainly hope so!

Spreading culture through storytelling is a lost art, and this book brings hope that will overfill your cups and your soul.

Happy New Year!

The year 2016 was a whopper! Each day I read the news and comments on social media, and each day I think to myself, “It couldn’t have been that bad.” No, it wasn’t that bad at all.

1. My close family relatives are alive. This is a big deal to me. Hardships with disease and sickness have become standard in our family, but this year we are all still kicking!
2. My work situation improved and I still have exciting options for the year ahead. My classes of students are the best, my work team is awesome, and I love being a teacher AND PD teacher leader/facilitator. I added School Librarian to my teaching credentials, which I hope to use in the next year, as well.
3. My writing life and professional PLN is fantastic! I attended NeRdCampMI this summer and met so many more authors and illustrators, and now I’m “real” friends (instead of virtual friends) with amazing people. I wrote for the Nerdy Book Club and this blog, which makes me feel like I’m finally a writer. I followed my favorite authors, researchers, and educational speakers around the country again, ending up at NCTE’s Annual Conference with so many friends I didn’t even get to spend time with them all! (Seriously, I need longer than 3 days at NCTE — most amazing conference ever!) And last but certainly not least, I had an amazing journey with my wonderful friends/colleagues at #G2Great (Twitter) — My Good-to-Great team is my teaching hope for the future, focusing on KIDS and LITERACY and LEARNING! All my favorite things!

 
So as I wrap up 2016, I wish you and yours HAPPY HOLIDAYS and HAPPY NEW YEAR! I will see you in 2017, strong as ever!

Nerd Camp MI Lives Up to the Hype!

NerdCampMI Logo smallLast week I traveled to Parma, Michigan for my first Nerd Camp. Nerd Camp (#nErDcampMI) is an event sponsored by Colby Sharp and his amazing wife, Alaina, with the help of the Nerdy Book Club members. The two-day un-conference featuring authors, illustrators, and expert educators was awesome, and I’m still on Cloud 9! The main reason I signed up for Nerd Camp MI was to finally meet Josh Funk, author of Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast (and the upcoming Pirasaurs! and Dear Dragon). I used this wonderful picture book in my 6th grade classroom last year, and some of my students got to know Josh through email. The kids were thrilled that an author would actually write back to them, and in May he even joined our class for a Google hangout, which was the major talk of the sixth grade class! Thank you, Josh!

My Twitter friend, Kelly Vorhis, knew of a place to eat dinner the night before camp, but she didn’t tell me that the Olive Garden would be the meeting place for tons of Twitter friends I’ve followed for so long! I met Lesley Burnap face-to-face and she even gave me a handmade book necklace — she’s so talented. Thank you, Lesley! As I sat there, talking to author Jess Keating and her husband Justin, I started to feel like I was living in a fiction book. How could a teacher from Indiana sit with all of these famous people and feel so comfortable? I’m a book nerd. I fit in here. This was my “tribe.” I’m so glad they all let me in.

Nerd Camp itself was full of surprises. I had no idea that I lived just a few miles away from Kathy Burnette, librarian-extraordinaire! She was an inspiring keynote speaker and all-around beautiful soul. I am so lucky to now call her “friend.” Other speakers included Raina Telgemeier, Donalyn Miller, Teri Lesesne, and Pernille Ripp, who also told inspiring stories (and made me cry!). Then…surprise! Kate DiCamillo came to speak to us! What a wonderful opening! I don’t know how Mr. Sharp pulled that one off. I’m still reeling!

I met Debbie Ridpath Ohi, author of Where Are My Books? — she was so nice to me! She offered me Mitzi Tulane cookies and conversation, which I loved. (The cookies were delicious, and the book is the cutest!) I spent time with some of my favorite lit-world friends, Donalyn, Katherine Sokolowski, and many others. I ate lunch with Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin, authors of books about 9/11 that I will definitely use in my classroom this year. The fun did not end there! I saw Cardboard Schu in the lobby with the real John Schumacher (@mrschureads). I just had to get a picture.

On Day 2, after adult learning sessions ended, the children came to Nerd Camp Jr. The evening was filled with mini-classes in writing for students of all ages. I signed up to help an author in a classroom, and I met Aimee Carter. Wow — She’s so cool! She told the kids about her book, Simon Thorn and the Wolf’s Den, and how she develops characters and plot in her series. Thank you for spending time with me, Aimee!

Nerd Camp is over, but I still have so many ideas to mull over and books to read. My summer is going to fly by now, thanks to my nerdy friends. I will attend this event again — #nErDcampMI definitely lives up to the hype!

Slice of Life — Check it out!

“Slice of Life” writing is sponsored by Two Writing Teachers blog each Tuesday and every day each March during the Slice of Life Story Challenge. I love that I get to write weekly for my blog. It keeps me going, and I also get to read many great stories from my blogging buddies, too.

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Thank you, Betsy, Beth, Dana, Deb, Kathleen, Lisa, Melanie, and Stacey. You are inspirational women who keep the writing alive, not just on Tuesdays, but all year ’round!

Check out my Slice of Life stories on Tuesdays at http://www.readingteacherwrites.com.