Friday, March 29, 2013

Dance Friday - Flash Mob!

Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to check something off my list of 60 things I have never done before...Flash Mob!  Our school had an 80s Prom fundraiser (remember?) and I was a part of a group of teachers who practiced behind the scenes for a couple of weeks.  For today's Dance Friday, here is my debut!  You can see me in the black prom dress in the middle.

 I am also checking off another list today, a list of items I need to pack for a 7 day trip to Scotland.  Knitting, books, warm clothes (34 degrees?!?!), favorite new boots, videos!  I won't be here to post next week's Dance Friday video so these two flash mob videos will have to do.  The second video is a Scottish dancing flash mob in the Glasgow airport.  I certainly hope this is how we are greeted when we land in Aberdeen!

Have a great week y'all!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

April Events

Tomorrow I am heading out of the country so you are getting your April events just a bit early.  I'm cranking out all the posts I can before I am disconnected from the internet and cell phones for a full 7 days.  Yes, I will be missing a whole lot of basketball and opening day for baseball...but I think I will be ok. 

Three big events are happening this month.  First, the LA Times Festival of Books is back with a killer line-up.  Second, a new movie, 42, about Jackie Robinson breaking color lines to become the first African American player in Major League Baseball, comes out on April 12.  Last year, when my kiddos and I adopted the Dodgers as our team, we became obsessed.  A bunch of kids read Jackie & Me.  A co-worker and I will be taking our 5th graders to go see the movie.  Not really book related but if you have a child who loves the baseball books by Dan Gutman, you may want to go see this movie!

Finally, for those of you who were lucky enough to get in on World Book Night, April 21st is the day!  Be on the lookout for folks handing out books!  If you snap some photos, or are a donor, let me know how it went!  

And now, the other events....

Los Angeles

April 16
* Hilary Duff, yes THE Hilary Duff, will be signing her new book True at Mrs. Nelson's, 7 pm
April 20 - 21

April 17
* Suzanne Selfors and Dan Santat, author/illustrator team of the new book The Sasquatch Escape will present at Mrs. Nelson's,  5 pm

April 18
* Jennifer Fosberry, author of My Name is Not Alexander, will present her latest book at the Ontario Library, 5:30 pm

April 19
* Mike Wolfe, of the History Channel's American Pickers, will present his new book, Kid Pickers: How to turn junk into treasure, at Mrs. Nelson's, 6 pm
* Tom Lichtenheld, illustrator of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, will present his new book, Steam Train, Dream Train, Children's Bookworld, 1:00 p.m.

* LA Times Festival of Books.  The line up is ridiculous folks.  We're talking dream come true. Jon Klassen, Lemony Snicket, Oliver Jeffers, Roald Dahl's daughter, Loren Long, Tom Angleberger, Annie Barrows, Mark Teague, Kadir Nelson, Jose-Luis Orozco, Chris Raschka, Antoinette Portis, Katherine Applegate and Pseudonymous Bosch.  This is not a lie.  Check out the full schedule here

April 22
* Emily Gravett, illustrator of Wolves and Orange Pear Apple Bear, will be hosting a book signing and pajama pizza party at Once Upon a Time Books, 6 pm 
 * Blue Balliett presents her new book Hold Fast at a school site.  Individuals and classes may attend.  Contact Children's Bookworld for more information. 

April 3
* Tom Angleberger, of Origami Yoda fame, does it again!  He will be signing copies of Art2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling.  For those of you with Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans, this is a must see!  Brookline Public Library, 3 pm

April 6
* Tom Angleberger, will be signing copies of Art2-D2's Guide to Folding and Doodling.  Brookline Booksmith, 10 am
* If you miss Tom at Brookline Booksmith, he will be at Wellesley Books at 4 pm! 

April 10
* Hervé Tullet will read and sign his new book, I am Blop! You may know Tullet from his other fantastic pre-school books, such as Press Here.  Brookline Public Library, 3:30 pm

April 14
* Kate Hosford presents her book Infinity and Me (on my wish list!) at the Eric Carle Musuem, 2 pm

April 15
* British cartoonist Simon Tofield will be joined by Jef Czekaj in conversation about his books Simon's Cat in Kitten Chaos, Brookline Booksmith, 7 pm

April 17
* Children's literature guru Anita Silvey will present her book, Children's Book-A-Day Almanac at the Cambridge Central Library - Main Library Lecture Hall, 6 pm

April 21
* John Seven and Jana Christy present their book A Rule is to Break: A child's guide to anarchy (it is freakin' awesome) at the Eric Carle Museum, 2 pm
April 27
* Mo lucky Bostonians!  He is back and ready to read!  Join Mo at Wellesely Books, 3 pm.  For those who have not been to see Mo, it is usually packed and he has lots of rules.  Check out the deal here.  

Washington, DC

April 9
* Susan Verde presents her book The Museum (illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds), at Politics and Prose, 10:30 am

April 12
* Robin LaFevers presents her YA book Dark Triumph at Politics and Prose, 7 pm

April 13
* Fred Hiatt presents his book Nine Days, suggested for ages 12 and up, at Politics and Prose, 11 am

April 22
* J. Patrick Lewis presents his book of poems, photographs, and drawings, Face Bug, at Politics and Prose, 10:30 am

April 25 
* Nathan Hale presents Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy (for real, that is what the site lists as the author) at Politics and Prose, 10 am
* Michael Cavna moderates a graphic novel panel at Politics and Prose, 7 pm.  Featured panelists include: Eleanor Davis, Nathan Hale, Andres Vera Martinez, and Mark Siegel
* Mo Willems, he is everywhere these days, will speak at the Avalon Theater, 7 pm.  For a list of his rules and ticket info, click here

April 30
* As a part of Screen Free Week, Politics and Prose will host Tad Hills, Chris Raschka, Bob Staake, and Dan Yaccarino, 10:30 am

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

Reading the right book at the right time
is like finding your soul mate.  The best
part, is this can happen over and over
and over again!
Young Adult books are all the rage these days.  I'm not sure if Hollywood is to blame (hello Hunger Games and Twilight) but everyone seems to want to get their hands on these books.  The trouble is, there is a group of books not getting the spotlight they deserve.  Yep, the unfortunate middle child of the children's book world, "Middle Grade" books seem to get no love. (Check out this article on the subject.) Don't get me wrong, I love reading YA lit.  The problem is, it just doesn't fit every reader.

I teach 4th and 5th grade students and when they hear about YA books they want to jump in and read them right away.  I know 3rd graders in our school who are dying to get their hands on The Hunger Games.  When I hear this I cringe.  Many of you know that I struggle with the notion of letting anxious readers pick up any book they want to read.  Instilling a love of reading is more my priority than matching an appropriate reading level.  However, matching a young person to a book that fits them is where it is really at.

To overuse the metaphor, "If the shoe fits,"  I actually have a shoe story.  I recently purchased a pair of boots for an upcoming trip.  I never splurge on things like quality boots but with the help of my fashionista sister, I was able to pick a pair that were moderately priced and that I liked.  (It helped that they were named poet boots.)  I waited anxiously for them to be delivered, opened the box as soon as they arrived, threw those suckers on, and wore them to school the next day...despite the 80 degree weather.

Man, were they gorgeous boots!  I got multiple compliments and felt like I was finally fitting in to this city of haves and have nots.  However, a problem soon arose.  The boots were too big!  I didn't want to admit it at first but my feet were wiggling all around in there, bumping the sides, struggling to take steps.  Yep, they looked good but they sure didn't feel good.  By the end of the day I was ready to walk barefoot through the streets of Hollywood.

I went home only to discover that I could not return them because they were worn down from my struggle to move all day.  Rats!  Now I had no boots to wear and no idea what to do with these fabulous and uncomfortable pair.  The rest of the story goes like this.  I hopped online, found another pair that were smaller in size (the last pair! oh miracle of miracles!), and had them rushed to me.  I gave the other pair to a friend who was pining over their beauty.  Now I have a pair of shoes that not only look good, but they feel good too.

So what is the moral of this story?  Yes, there are some YA books that are gorgeous, sexy little things on the shelves at your local bookstore.  Yes, lots of people wear read them. However, that doesn't mean they are the right book for your middle grade student.  Those kiddos might get some enjoyment out of them, just like it felt so good to be wearing beautiful boots.  However, they probably won't get the full enjoyment out of those books.  They won't notice the subtleties that were crafted for more sophisticated minds.  I say, let them try them on for awhile.  Then, help your 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders find a book that fits better.  They will dance around, just like I did in my just right boots, when they finally find a book that makes them feel as good as they imagined it could be.

Need some help finding good Middle Grade books?  I have read two in my two days of Spring Break so far.  Check out these great books!

I just finished reading this book that was suggested by one of my students.  She was right, it was sooooo good.  I have found that by 5th grade, my students start getting really concerned about what others think about them, who likes who, what happened over the phone/email/Mindcraft game.  This books tells what it is like when it all happens at once.  I love Raina's honest struggle with fitting in and how she gets the courage to make life work for her, even if it takes a few bumps along the way.

This book, by Carl Hiaasen, follows his trend of writing about kids who can make a huge impact on the world around them.  Just like Hoot, Flush tells the story of a kid in Florida who seeks to make a difference.  My students and I will read this book when we return from Spring Break.  It is a part of our ecoliteracy study we started this year.  In this book, two kids get involved in catching a big wig in Key West as he dumps, every night, tons of human waste into water.  When Noah and Abbey's dad is thrown in jail for attempting to stop the flushing, they decide they need to take things into their own hands.

Other favorite middle grade books?  Here are some of mine!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Coraline and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo (and anything else this woman writes!)

Happy Middle Grade hunting!  Don't let these amazing books get lost in the glitz and glamour of YA Lit!

Good books, like good boots, go with anything...
including pjs and breakfast.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

C is for Choreographer

The past two days I have been watching a different kind of dance, the Big Dance.  The first two days of March Madness are an exciting series of games.  My students and I celebrate March Madness by studying probability and filling out our own brackets.  It is a great week of community building and academics!

For Dance Friday, if you are watching the Big Dance, I just want you to know...I picked Harvard.  Yep.  I win.

For those of you who have no idea what I am talking is a regular ol' Dance Friday video for you.  This week, Melissa McCarthy, of Bridesmaids fame, appeared on Sesame Street to learn all about the word choreographer. It was totes adorbs.

Happy Dance Friday y'all!

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Foreign" Correspondent - Sofya

Photo courtesy of Toni Jackson
Last Tuesday, Victoria Homes, one of the authors of the Warriors series, visited Cambridge, MA.  I couldn't be there but some of my former students were able to attend.  Now, when I say former students, you must know that when I taught them they were 5 years old.  Now they are in 5th grade. I love that I was their teacher when they were first stringing letters into words and words into sentences...and now they are reading whole books, meeting the authors, and writing about it!!

One of these students, Sofya, volunteered to report on the event.  She is my very own Boston/Cambridge correspondent!  If any of you attend author events and want me to post about it, just let me know!

P.S.  Thanks to Toni and Michelle, two moms, for the pictures!

Tuesday was really fun!

                  It was a really great experience for Warriors fans! We got to know a lot of the background info about Victoria Homes, the main writer. She writes the plot, the characters, and other things like that. We met her! Then she sends them to the fellow “Erin Hunters”, and they write it up and send it back to Victoria for editing.

FUN FACTS                 

It turns out that Victoria actually dislikes cats! She loves dogs but was not part of writing the survivor series.
She came out with a new warriors series. It’s called Code Of The Clans. Its first book is called Suntrail.
Victoria’s favorite character is Cinderpelt
This experience was really fun! It taught me a lot about the future and writers of Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!

- Sofya

Photo courtesy of Toni Jackson

Sofya, our correspondent, getting her book signed
Photo courtesy of Michelle Miller Gurel

Photo Courtesy of Toni Jackson


I had it Bad...see what I did there??
an original Meg piece of art
Happy Dance Friday folks!!!  I'm working on getting you a special author event review...should be up very shortly!  In the meantime, here is the music to get you movin'!

Tomorrow night my school is hosting an 80s Prom fundraiser.  I am soooo excited!  I scoured many dance videos from the 80s to post here and had such a difficult time picking the right one.  Then I thought, well, what was my favorite?  Hands down, it was Michael Jackson.  Just like about 8 ba-jillion people I was madly in love.  I had his picture on everything, drew pictures of us getting married, and danced to his music videos over and over and over again.  For my friend Shandra's birthday I got us matching earrings of the spray painted word, "bad."

Once, when MJ came to Buffalo we couldn't get to the concert. My mom drove me to Rich Stadium, home of the Buffalo Bills, and we listened from our car just outside the stadium. Isn't she the best ever!!??

Today I am sending you one of my favorite videos, one that I danced to probably more than the others.  Rewatching it, I am still mesmerized by this man's moves.  Man, they can dance!  Did you know MJ also had an 18 minute short film made to go with this song?  It was directed by Martin Scorcese and a young Wesley Snipes can be seen it it!!  No joke!

What was your inspiration in the 80s?  Which video would you have picked?  Dance scene from The Breakfast Club?  Dirty Dancing?  A Madonna video?  Whatever it was, let me know.

And now...bust out your best Molly Ringwald or Kevin Bacon and dance!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

When Life Hands You...A Messed Up Grill?

As a teacher one of my greatest joys is passing on good books to students.  I know we have hit a groove in our class when we all start passing books on to each other.  Kids are making their own book clubs outside of school, they are all a-twitter on our class twitter board, books are swapped like baseball cards, and they even start recommending books to me. And yet, despite my efforts to make them all love books, there are still some every year who reluctantly step up to the plate.  Sure, they are happy to discuss the books we are reading in class and really love those, but they just haven't found that book to convince them reading is a-ma-zing, with emphasis on the ZING!

I have had a few students this year who I know want to be bookish but it has been difficult for them.  One of these, who has really tried to love books but hasn't had any success, rushed into school this week and thrust a book in my face.  "Meg!  I found a book I love!  I got it after the orthodontist (or was it at the orthodontist?) and I read the whole thing this weekend!  You need to read it!"

Any book recommended to me from a child who finally found "the one" for them, well, that is a book I will read.  I had the book sitting on my computer table at school and another teacher came by and said, "Ooh!  That is a great book!" Then she started to tell me her own personal connection with the book.

So what is this magical book?  It is called Smile by Reina Telgemeier.  Written as a graphic novel, it tells the story of a sixth grade girl who gets braces...and then falls and knocks her two front teeth out.  As if pre-teen years aren't bad enough!  I have only just started reading but here is a bit taken from the back of the book...

Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth.  What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached(!).

First the braces...

Then the fall...and it keeps coming

What were your first favorite books?  Mine was Beauty by Robin McKinley.  I actually own two copies because my original is so worn down at this point. I still read it every so often.  *sigh

So, maybe you have a young reader in your life who is still searching for their one and only first favorite book.  If so, Smile comes highly recommended!  

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dance Friday: The Evolution of the Jitterbug

I feel bad that I didn't post a single book recommendation this week and it is once again time for Dance Friday.  I know this is a blog about kid's books, don't worry. This week I was all wrapped up in writing progress reports.  I will post a book recommendation as soon as I am done with this.  I am also waiting for some special correspondents on the east coast to send me an update on their author stay tuned!

As I left work, my co-worker Jill and I stopped to get gas.  We carpool twice a week because gas prices are so outrageous here.  East Coast friends, take your snow...our gas is $4.50 a gallon!  Anyway, back to the story.  I kid you not, the radio at the gas station was playing Jitterbug (also known as Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go).  For those of you who aren't familiar with the serendipity of this moment, there is a fabulous scene in the movie Zoolander featuring a gas station and the song by Wham!

I already had a few videos in the queue for tonight's dance Friday but this was too good to pass up.  After a yummy dinner at Currywurst, I hopped on the YouTubes and looked up the Jitterbug.

Folks, what I have for you tonight is PURE GOLD!  Of course I started by watching Wham!'s (seriously, does the exclamation come before or after the apostrophe?? Bronlea, a little help?!?!)  Next week I will be attending an 80s Prom Night fundraiser for my school so this got me in the mood.

And then, THEN, I found an old jitterbug instructional video produced by MGM in 1944.  This is the real deal folks, the for real jitterbug dance.  The narrator and dancers are hysterical.  He describes the moves, they are done on screen, and then he adds, "You'll now forget them completely!"  This is quickly followed by advice to, "Swing the wing and flip the hip" with suggestions on good facial expressions to use while dancing. Then I discovered Cab Calloway's Jitterbug Party. It got me thinking. I wonder if the jitterbuggers (new word... the word jitterbug actually should be the word to refer to the person) of the olden days feel about Wham! and Zoolander how I feel about the new Harlem Shake?  Now that is some Dance Friday deep thinkin' for ya!

So, shake off your rusty dusty and hit that jive!  (P.S. I am also giving you Wham! and Zoolander so you can see the full evolution.)


Friday, March 1, 2013

Dance Friday!

I'm rushing out the door but felt so bad about missing last week's Dance Friday that I didn't want to leave you all hanging.  I love, love, love this song.  Whenever I am feeling like I need a boost of energy, or some extra love, this one does the trick.  Usually I just listen to it and provide the dancing myself but the video will get you groovin' too.

I know the East Coast is well into their Friday night but things are just starting to get cooking over here.  Happy weekend!

March Events

Happy Dr. Seuss Day!  Today we celebrated by dressing up, reading lots of Dr. Seuss books, and being a little more silly than usual. It is hard to believe it is March!  Then again, I am counting down the days until Spring break when I get to see my family again on one of the biggest Howe adventures yet...a trip to Scotland!  More on that later.  In the meantime, here are some events in March!

Los Angeles

March 8
* Robin Benway discusses her YA book Also Known As, 7:30, Vroman's

March 12
* Author Rachel Renee Russell presents her series Dork Diaries, Mrs. Nelson's, 5 pm

March 13
* Author Rachel Renee Russell presents her series Dork Diaries, Once Upon a Time Books, 7 pm

March 17
* MY 4th and 5th Grade Storytellers perform oral storytelling at Skylight Books, 4 pm

March 19
* Brandon Mull, author of Fablehaven, visits Mrs. Nelsons, 5 pm

March 23
* Ann Redisch Stampler author of new book, The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street, reads and signs at Children's Book World, 10:30 am


March 2
* Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple celebrate history's Bad Girls at Wellesley Books, 2 pm

March 5
* Erin Hunter, author of the Warrior series (books my kids are seriously obsessed over) will be at the Cambridge Public Library, 6 pm

March 9
* Jammin’ with Jarrett and Jef, Jarrett J. Krosoczka and Jef Czekaj, two amazing author/illustrators, team up for a rockin' event at the Eric Carle Museum, 1:00 pm

March 10
* Linda Marshall, local author of The Passover Lamb, Brookline Booksmith, 2 pm

March 21
* Illustrator Scott Nash visits Wellesley Books for a drawing demonstration, perfect for all your budding artists! 4 pm

March 23
* Jacqueline Davies reads from her latest YA book, Candy Smash, at Wellesley Books, 3:30 pm

March 24
* Melissa Sweet, author and illustrator of some of my most favorite books including A River of Words and Balloons Over Broadway, will be at the Eric Carle Museum, 2 pm