Thursday, April 30, 2015

Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mendel
Publisher: Aflred A. Knopf, 2014
Source: bought and read on Nook
Rating: 5/5 stars

We enter Station Eleven on the verge of an epidemic so great it will wipe out most of civilization within a few weeks. Watching Jeevan, an EMT, jump up from the audience and climb up onstage in the middle of King Lear to save an actor, we already know it has begun. On stage with Arthur Leander, the dead actor, and Jeevan is a little girl playing one of Lear’s daughters, Kirsten, who watches it all in horror.  Jeevan leaves the theater on the eve of the epidemic and decides to barricade himself in his brother’s apartment.  Then we jump fifteen years later to follow the little girl Jeevan met on stage.  Kirsten has somehow survived and travels through the north with The Symphony, performing Shakespeare in different settlements throughout the area.  In addition, we also see Arthur Leander’s life well before the world breaks down, following his life up to his demise.  Despite these different characters on different timelines and stories, our characters paths not only twist and turn through each other’s lives, but eventually merge together into the same story.  
It took awhile for the connections to sink in and become apparent.  At first they seemed like surface connections, just characters who happened to all be in the same place at one important time.  This was frustrating for me during the first half of the book or so, but it was so beautifully written that I didn’t want or need to stop.  All but one character pull together by the end and it seems like it should have been obvious from the start, if only I had paid more attention.  
In a post-apocalyptic world, the characters of Station Eleven drift, looking for meaning, for a life that blends the old world they once knew with this new, starkly different world of danger and survival.  Told from not only different points of view,  but also different time periods, Emily St. John Mendel weaves together a beautiful new world that is also terrifying.  This new world is compared often to vague memories of the past, pieced together from mementos, books, and tokens of the past.  There are so many beautifully muddled and unclear moments for our characters where they lose themselves in the unremembered, but find themselves in the images they can hear and picture, like the sound of ice clinking on glass, but not a mother’s face.  Or the feel of a conversation, but not the content.  Or the knowledge that something happened, but accepting that you’d never remember--not really.  
Station Eleven is a novel worth delving into.  It’s worth immersing yourself in these character’s lives and hoping for their survival in a world where that doesn’t come easily.  

TBR: April 30, 2015

Well since my husband has been out of town, I've had ten million things to grade, and I got sick, I am writing this post on my phone, from my sickbed, bored and exhausted. Excuses, right? 

For that same reason I will be sharing with you a picture of the pile of books I bought at a bazaar for only $12!!! They're all for my classroom, so not exactly my TBR, but my students were excited to see these! 

In addition, I did buy a book for myself. It's The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. I've never read anything by her and thought I'd give it a try. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Teaching Moment: Cootie Catchers

A few weeks ago we had our state testing.  So for a week our schedules were messed up and I would see some of my kids for an hour and half, some for an extra 20 minutes, some for the regular amount of time, and some not at all. And it changed from day to day.  In my search for something fun, but still educational, to fill some of those extra minutes, I came across this great activity from Runde’s Room at TPT.  

I chose to copy only three different ones, focusing on inferring and the two mixed comprehensions.  I made enough copies for my students, plus extras.  I had my kids bring their crayons and markers (always a sign that something fun is going to happen in Literature today!) and they were instructed to color their papers however they wished, as long as long as you could still read the words.  

We were able to color (in a very relaxed and unrushed manner), cut, fold, and use these within 30 minutes.  Plus, they’re easy enough so that my quicker students made extras for friends who might lose theirs or for new students.  

At this point we’re using them about once a week.  After they’re finished with their 15 minutes of reading, I give them another 3-5 minutes to share with a partner using the fortune teller/cootie catcher (my students informed me that they already called these fortune tellers, so I went with it even though they're not technically telling any fortune).  My kids love it.  As I walk around I hear them sharing things from their books and asking questions.  I also hear them saying things like “I can't really answer that unless you've already read the book--I don’t want to give away a good part.”  My students are having short and focused discussions with their peers, and it’s great!  I love their interactions with one another and with sharing their books, through these HOT questions.

I asked my classes the other day if they thought it was a fun activity.  They did.  They asked why they hadn't gotten to do this from the beginning of the year--something I will change for next year!  They’re learning and talking about their books and what they’re reading with their peers instead of keeping it all to themselves.  And boy do they LOVE to talk--about anything!  

As a teacher, I highly recommend using it get students thinking about their books and talking about them.  You could use this product in different ways--possibly as a center, or working with a small group.  The templates have nice, clean lines that are easy to fold along, making it much easier to create your cootie catcher.  Plus, you don’t have to write anything on it except a name!

This resource comes with 9 different cootie catchers that cover each of the following reading strategies: asking questions, inferring, determining importance, making connections, summarizing, synthesizing, and visualizing, plus two mixed comprehension.  In addition, there are step-by-step instructions on how to fold your cootie catcher and also a blank template to create your own questions. Check out the product here.

Runde’s Room also has different packs of cootie catchers that will give you an even wider array of tools and engaging activities to pull from. I highly recommend them, because even my sixth graders, who are starting to get to that stage where they're too cool for everything, enjoy them.

Make sure you check out Runde's Room website and TPT store!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Top Ten Board Books

My daughter will be two in a week and a half.  I can't believe that it's already time to celebrate her birthday.  So today I'll be counting down some of our favorite board books.  I've only included the board books that we own and that she asks to be read to her again and again.  There are others that I really like as well, but my daughter isn't as interested in those.

In no particular order:

1) Hello Ninja by ND Wilson  Illustrated by Forest Dickinson

This is a cute story about a ninja going to bed.  I enjoy reading it to my daughter in different voices and she likes to laugh at those voices.

2 and 3) Belly Button Book and Barnyard Stomp by Sandra Boynton

We love some Sandra Boynton here.  These are two of our favorites.  I'm not quite as much of a fan of the Belly Button Book, but my daughter laughs and points to her "bee-bo" when we read it.  I do like Barnyard Dance because it's great for learning animals and different movements like stomp and turn and slide.

4) Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney   Illustrated by Anita Jeram

This is such a sweet little book.  It's also a classic that I'm sure many people know of.  My daughter likes the bunnies.

5) Dancing Feet by Lindsey Craig and Marc Brown

Lots of moving here!  The different animals have different movements and sounds from their moves.  I read each animal in a different voice as well, trying to imitate what I think it would sound like with my voice.  My daughter loves it!

 6) Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees

This is the first book I read my daughter where she actually reacted to it.  We were reading to her from day one, but this is the first book where she started to smile at the pictures.  Plus, I loved this story of a giraffe who is tall and awkward and thinks he can't dance until he finds out that he just needs to find his own music.

7) That's Not My Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

My daughter loves interacting with this book.  Although at this point, I think she's a bit board with this book, you can tell by the binding that it was a favorite for quite awhile.

 8) Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle and Jill McElmurry

Not only are there lots of sounds for little ones to emulate and help while reading, there is a great a story about being kind and helping others.

 9) Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

A great story for any time of the year.  A witch and the friends she picks up on her night who help out when she needs it most.

10) Five Little Monkeys Jumpin on the Bed by Eileen Christelow

My daughter likes to tell the monkeys "No jump bed! It's fun and cute.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Moving Words: It's almost here.

After the past week and weekend, this is all I have to say.  I may need to say the same thing next week too.

20 days...20 days...20 days...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday Status: This is What Happy Looks Like

Sunday Status is a look at my current read.  I share one line from the page I'm currently reading an what I'm thinking about the book so far.

Book:  This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, 2013
Source: borrowed from school library

"But now--now it was the lack of recognition that made his heart thump in his chest, that small thrill of anonymity, which had become such a rare thing these days (67)."

Last fall, I picked up Jennifer E. Smith's The Geography of You and Me.  It was a sweet YA romance.  It reminded me of the giddiness I used to feel when I would read these in middle school.  I enjoyed it.  I decided to give This is What Happy Looks Like a try.  So far, it has a very similar vibe to it.  So much so, that I'm really hoping things change so that I'm not essentially reading the same story, but with different characters and a different setting.  It's early on in the story.  There's hope.

So far Ellie and Graham have accidentally met via a stray email and have continued to email one another from across the country for three months.  They do not know one another's names, just their emails (this really makes me anxious, by the way--shouldn't she be terrified that he's a creepy old man? And just because he says he isn't, doesn't mean that it's true!!). Well Graham, who is actually a famous teen actor has figured out where she lives and gotten his newest movie located to her town.  So now he's in her town and has asked her friend out, thinking it's Ellie, and Ellie is helping her friend get ready for the date because she has no idea Graham is her secret online pen pal.

I have no doubt that This is What Happy Looks Like will be another sweet romance, but can it be more?  Will Jennifer E. Smith pull me and keep me interested?  I sure hope so!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Review: And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three
by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Illustrated by Henry Cole
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Children 
Source: borrowed from our local library 
Rating: 5/5

A beautiful story of two penguins who want their own family. Roy and Silo are both boy penguins who love one another and want to be like the other penguin couples and have a baby. Tango is that chance.

This true story of two penguins at the Central Park Zoo is told so simply. The idea that families are made up of people who love one another is woven seamlessly into the story. The illustrations are beautiful and compliment the story perfectly. My two year old daughter enjoyed the pictures of penguins building their nest, swimming together, and cuddled together as a family. 

What makes a family? Love. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Week In Review

It's been a week!  And not a great one for reading.  I've been a bit over run with grading and planning this week and have only managed to read about 150 pages!  Not good.

So here's what I'm reading right now:

Station Eleven is what I've been spending the most time reading.  It's on my nook, though, so I can't read it until my daughter is asleep (which means family reading time needs another book).  So far it's interesting and I'm intrigued by the different points of view.  However, I'm really waiting for some kind of meaning and reason behind all of these different connections between the many characters.  I'm afraid that it won't happen, though.  Fingers crossed.  The writing is very beautiful, though, so even if there isn't some kind of meaning or reasoning that's reveals, I won't be completely disappointed.

Eleanor & Park is the book I've been reading at school.  I always have a hard copy book at school because we aren't one-to-one and students aren't allowed to being electronic devices, including ereaders.  If they can't have them, I don't bring mine.  I've only gotten to read it about a total of 10 minutes this week, so I don't have much to say about it, yet.  When I finish Station Eleven, I won't begin a new book until Eleanor & Park is also finished.

In order to grow, we must have goals to work towards.  Without those goals, we just flounder.

  • Post M-F throughout April. (3/4 weeks)
  • Post a total of 5 reviews in April (4/5)

I have come to realize that I have to pull back a little on the number of posts.  It's only been three weeks, but keeping up with it all has been a bit stressful.  I think that after April is over, I will be cutting back to three days a week.  I'm hoping to have more quality posts that I've had more time to actually think about and spend more time with before posting.  

In the summer I might have more time to devote to writing.  

How did you do this week?  What do you want to accomplish for next week?   

Thursday, April 23, 2015

TBR Thursday

I've only added two books to my To Be Read this week, but I've also been a bit busy.  I've got an overload of grading this week and next.  I'm definitely looking forward to some uninterrupted time reading this summer!

Our Endless Numbered DaysGirl's father takes her into the woods to live.  Something happens and she arrives back in civilization.  this sounds like a good mystery.

Denton Little's DeathdateDenton knows the day he's going to die and it's tomorrow.  He's going to have as many firsts as possible.

I'm hoping that things calm down on the teaching front soon (unless something comes up they should) and it'll give me more time to write and to read.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Character Spotlight--Gilbert Blythe

As many of you know, Jonathan Crombie, who played Gilbert Blythe in the Anne of Green Gables miniseries died last week on April 15th.  I thought a character spotlight on Gilbert Blythe was appropriate, despite the fact that I just posted one on Anne a few weeks ago.

I was 4 when the first movie came out, but was probably around 9 or 10 when I first saw it.  I was in love.  As soon as Gilbert Blythe tugged on Anne’s braids and gave her that look, I was in love.  The movie led me to the books, and I remember being so angry at Anne for being uppity with Gilbert.  She still didn’t see how great he was and how much he tried to better for her.  

I also liked how Gilbert challenged Anne.  He wanted her to like him, but he also never just let her get away with silliness.  Although I remember being so angry with him when he would criticize her, I also loved that he felt that he could do it.  He was confident enough to say something that he knew was true and needed to be said.  Gilbert was always a little over confident, edging on cocky, but I never minded.  In fact, that’s what made me like him more.  When he tugged on her braids and called her carrots, he expected her to like him, and to laugh along with him.  He apologizes, and although Anne won’t even hear it, I believe he truly means it.  I think he always means it. He is and always will be my first celebrity crush.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Seven Reason I'm Glad It Finally Feels Like Spring!!

I know it's been springtime for awhile, but now it's starting to feel that way!  In no particular order, here are my top seven reason I'm glad it finally feels like spring!

  1. Warm weather-- Walking out of school at 4:00pm and it’s bright out with a cool breeze and the warm glow of the sun-- I can’t think of anything better.
  2. Reading outside--I love sitting outside and reading.  I’ll sit on a blanket or a chair.  I don’t care, but get me out there!
  3. Picnics--Let’s eat outside!  I don’t care about the bugs, just let me eat outside!!
  4. My Daughter’s birthday--She was born in the spring and although she’s only two, I love celebrating her birth and how wonderful she is!!
  5. It’s Warm--I know I said this already, but I need to emphasize the importance of this!
  6. We have months before it starts getting cold again--MONTHS!!! I don’t even have to worry about.
  7. Sun--This goes with #1 and #5.  Although my skin does not like it and I have to slather myself body with 75SPF, I still love the feel of the sun on my skin!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Moving Words--A bit of earth

Ahhh, The Secret Garden.  I remember reading this growing up.  I always disliked Mary--even later on in the book.  She never settled with me.  I did feel sorry for her, losing her parents and having to live in this horrible place, but I still couldn't get past how bratty she was in the beginning.

However, I like this quote.  I like this reminder that all you need is a bit of earth to start something new.  Just give someone a bit of space and what will they do with it?  I think of my students when I read this quote. How can I give them just a little bit of earth?  I don't want to give them the flower, already grown and beautiful.  Instead, they need the space, the permission, the support to do what they can and what they want with their bit of earth.

I've decided this spring to start a little gardening, even though I know little about it.  Just a little bit of earth is all I need.  What will I achieve?

What do you think of when you read this quote?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Sunday Quote: Station Eleven

Sunday Quote is a look at my current read.  I share one line from the page I'm currently reading and what I'm thinking about the book so far.

Book:  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2014
Source: bought on Nook app

"She is actually beautiful, but it's a subtle kind of beauty that takes some time to make itself apparent (80)."

Station Eleven places us at the very beginning of a flu epidemic with Jeeven who jumps on stage during a performance trying to save an actor who has collapse.  Then it jumps 15 years later, when everything has collapsed and we're following Kirsten, who remembers very little from her life, except that she was eight when things went crazy.  In the section I am at now, we've jumped back to well before the epidemic and are following the life of an actor who Kirsten remembers working with as a child (the one Jeevan jumped on stage to save).

So far, although the characters are loosely connected, they don't seem to have a important connections.  In fact, I'm wondering if we'll hear from Jeevan again, or Kirsten.  I'm wondering if things will be filled in at all, or if all these people are just ships passing in the night.  I'm only 80 pages in and I believe I won't be disappointed, even if there aren't stronger connections.

So far the writing is beautiful and I've already highlighted sentences that I've gone back and read again because I love the way they sound.

Check out the link to the Goodreads page.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Week in Review and What's to Come

This second week of blogging is proving to be slightly more difficult.  This week I’ve had a lot of grading, and balancing that life in general is tough, but now that I’m adding another thing, it’s a little rough.  In the next few weeks I may have to scale back a bit more, but I’m determined to try and keep up the posts M-F throughout April.

This week



Coming Up

Reviews next week:
I just started this book and a review should be coming soon--as long as I can get on top of my grading a little bit this weekend!

Next Up:

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith
Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park


In order to grow, we must have goals to work towards.  Without those goals, we just flounder.

  • Post M-F throughout April. (2/4 weeks)
  • Post a total of 5 reviews in April (4/5)

How did you do this week?  What do you want to accomplish for next week?  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Review: I Am Malala--Young Reader's Edition

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World,  Young Reader's Edition
by Malala Yousafzai
Little Brown and Company
Source: purchased
Rating: ****

“One child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world.”

Reading Malala Yousafzai’s memoir reminded me of how lucky I truly am.  Sometimes I forget everything that I have because, even as an adult, I’m focused on what I don’t have.  Then I read something like this and it hits me--how much I have in this world.  All the freedoms and abilities and love.  I want to gather everyone I love up and squeeze them tight, thanking them for all that I have.

Malala reminds me of the strength and perseverance young people have and the greatness that our kids can accomplish, if given the chance.  Malala’s father gave her the chance and tools to do everything she could and wanted to do.  Her mother stepped back and allowed her daughter, her precious daughter, to do what she needed to do because “Falsehood has to die.”  She knew her daughter could make a difference in this world.  I loved how Malala focused so much on her family and how they were dealing the threats and the terror, just as she focused on herself.  She looked at her younger brother and saw how they were affected by the fighting and terrorism of the Taliban.

I knew Malala’s story before I read this, but I was still moved by it, crying at parts because it was just so sad, and at other parts where it was just so beautiful, everything she had accomplished.  I do wish I had also purchased the regular edition, but my intention is to share it with my sixth graders and let them see how much they can do to change this world and make into a better place.  Still, I would have loved to read to the full scope of her writing.  

Things I want my students to take away from this when they read it:
  • Stand up and fight for what you believe in, but fight with your words.
  • Value your education because that’s the most valuable gift you can have.
  • Never give up.

I definitely recommend this, especially if you have a child in 5th-8th grades.  There are so many ideas that you can discuss with them if you read it together.  It would be a great book for a book study or book club for middle school students as well.  Definitely a book that should be in your TBR list, if you haven’t already read it!

TBR: I need to stop!


I added 9 books to my list this week!  What was I thinking?  And I bought two of them already.  I know, I have a problem.

It's 1922 in London and a woman and her spinster daughter take in tenants. Apparently they change their lives forever.

Yes, I realize that I am a married woman, 33 years old, and I should not be so keen to delve into books about high school romances.  But so what!  I need to keep up with the books my students may be reading....or may not be reading because I teach 6th grade....

This is also one of the books I bought last weekend, and I've already started reading it!

After reading Gone Girl, I'm definitely going to read some more Gillian Flynn.  In this book a young reporter is sent back to her home town where she hasn't been in years.  She's supposed to be covering the murder of two girls, but based on the synopsis, she's probably going to learn a bit more!

This is the other book I bought last weekend!

She is the daughter of Dr. Moreau, as in The Island of Dr. Moreau...

Tiger Lily, Peter Pan, and their doomed love.  What more could you ask for?

Again with the YA romances.  I can't help myself!

It's the story Shahrzad from A Thousand and One Nights, only this looks like it's going to turn into a mystery.  It has potential.

Fred Rogers, or as I remember him, Mr. Rogers, captivated a generation of children.  I remember watching him growing up and looking forward to his show. Looking forward to learning more about him.
This is all it says on Goodreads:
Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen.
Complete strangers since this morning.
He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.
That's enough for me!