Sunday, November 23, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

I had some head-down-in-a-book time over the weekend, as I was traveling to Washington DC for the NCTE conference. (If you ever get a chance to go, take it! More to come...) At the conference, I was also introduced to some books that I didn't know,'s what I've been reading!

I was honored to get to spend time with Margaret Simon who many of you might know from her blog, She gave me a copy of her book, Blessen, which I read cover to cover on the way home. Blessen, the main character has a voice that reminds me of Summer in Missing May. With clear, insightful, and honest reflections, Blessen pulled me right down into the back yard of her Louisiana FEMA trailer and into the middle of her story. So much importance happens in this short text that it offers opportunities to talk not only about plot, but also of guilt, responsibility, truth, lies, decision-making, and love. Additionally, students will be inspired to learn about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, as well as racial and cultural tensions that exist in our country.

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord is a beautiful story for upper elementary students about transitions, insecurities, kindness, perseverance, doing the wrong thing for the right reasons (is that the wrong thing, then?), teamwork... Oh, and did I mention the passages of inspirational writing? Cynthia Lord gives a powerful lesson on bringing readers into the world of the story with passages like this:  "Ansel's nose twitched at the unfamiliar lake smell: weedy and a tiny bit fishy. Out in the middle, the water was sparkling-pretty, like someone had spilled a whole bottle of glitter out there. But up close, an icky border of bright yellow pollen floated along the lake's edge. Beyond the pollen, a school of tiny minnows swam along, shifting directions quickly. This way! No, that way! Who's in charge here?" Can you imagine the possibilities for teaching the weaving of action, description, dialogue, and inner thinking in this passage? And this is only a small sampling.

When I got home, I had to finish The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin. People had blogged about it over the summer and it had been on my TBR stack for a while. While this is NOT a book for elementary students--there are a couple of intimate moments along the lines of A Fault in Our Stars-- I would want my high school daughters to read it and I would want them to not only enjoy the plot and the close reading that some clever twists require, but also the literary references that run rampant throughout the book. What a great book for a study group or a book talk!

I loved hearing about innovative ways to integrate poetry into our reading and writing workshops.  Pucks, Clubs, and Baseball Gloves by Catherine Ipcizade is a book of sports poems with lots of nonfiction text features. There are several different types of poems, many with strong small moments, super show-not-tell descriptions, and lists of verbs. Read the poems, teach the skills, inspire the athletes or even the imaginative players. So fun!

Happy reading!


  1. I have read Margaret's book too, very good. Still have, not read, Half A Chance, & loved AJ Fikry, a special, special book! Thanks for the poetry recommendation too-looks great. Happy you had a good time at NCTE-sorry I missed it, maybe next year! Happy Thanksgiving, Melanie!

  2. These all sound like good books! Which one should I add to my stack first?

    1. Ha! That depends! AJ requires some more serious reading than the others and isn't so much for student use. It's just a wonderful book to read as an adult.

  3. Loved meeting you at NCTE, Melanie! I loved Cynthia Lord's novel. Many of my pre-service teachers read Rules and love it, so I'm excited about handing them Half a Chance when they finish. I have read so many good reviews of Gabrielle Zevin's book. I am planning to get it for my mom for Xmas--and then I can borrow and read too!!

  4. So great to meet you at NCTE, Melanie - a highlight, for sure. I thought I had read Margaret's book, but sadly have not - it's something I mean to fix right away! Loved Half a Chance, too, just as much as my students seem to!

  5. Wow! Melanie, to be be reviewed next to Cynthia Lord is such an honor. I loved Half a Chance. Visiting the lake and watching loons with her as well as experiencing the insightfulness of the photo contest, this book is so rich. Loved meeting you. Sending hugs across the miles for your sweetness.

  6. I loved Half a Chance, especially this quote "Oh people will think what they think!" Grandma Lilah said. "Don't ever choose the people who don't matter over the ones who do."
    You've convinced me that I must read The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry.

  7. We didn't know that Margaret wrote Blessin. We are ordering a copy right now. It was so much fun to meet you at NCTE

  8. Absolutely enjoyed AJ Fikry - two of my book clubs in Singapore are reading/have read this book. :)