Happy Birthday Mr. Schu



We live in a time where discussions around education tend to focus on: teacher salary, labor negotiations, budget cuts, No Child Left Behind, layoffs, test scores, and the mysterious 10% of teachers that are bad.  In this time of negativity what we should be discussing are people like teacher-librarian John Schumacher. John dignifies what so many of us feel education should be about: the kids.

If you are reading this blog I am guessing that you know John as Mr. Schu or on twitter as @mrschureads.  John goes above and beyond to not only meet the needs of his readers, but readers throughout the world.  Fourth graders in my school probably think Mr. Schu is our remote librarian.

I have never spoken to John, but I consider him a friend.  We met on Twitter, and a day does not go by where John does not help me become a better teachers.  It may be through a book trailer on his blog (http://mrschureads.blogspot.com/), a book recommendation, a great idea for a book display, or words of encouragement.  When I start school this year I will be a better teacher because of John Schumacher.

I am looking forward to meeting John in November at the perfect location, his favorite independent bookstore. I CAN’T WAIT!

Yesterday I took a copy of Darth Paper Strikes Back to my public library where I live in Albion, MI.  I handed it to the librarian and said, “I would like to donate this book in honor of Mr. Schu.” She was so happy.  The question of Who is Mr. Schu didn’t have to come up. Plenty of times she has heard me talk about his work.

It felt good to give a book to a struggling library. Knowing that because of Mr. Schu, a young reader will get a chance to read a book that may change their life, is what we should be talking about when we discuss education.

Review: Peter Nimble by Jonathan Auxier


After reading Peter Nimble and his Fantasic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier one word came to mind, “epic”. I decided to google the word to figure out if it truly fit the feelings that I was having towards the book.  After sifting through countless definitions on many websites I decided that this book is in fact epic.  The definition that best matched my feelings was: heroic and impressive in quality.  I feel that Peter truly was heroic and the writing was extremely impressive in quality.

I generally don’t read book that are  close to 400 pages.  Most of my fourth graders tend to not be ready or interested in books of that size, and the students that are ready tend to have their own titles in mind.  After recieving an ARC in the mail I decided to give Peter a chance.

I am in love with this epic quest.  Peter is a blind orphan that was found floating in the ocean eyeless.  His eyes pecked out by a raven.  He spends his life working as a thief for a man that treats him like dirt. One day he  steals a box containing three pairs of eyes from a mysterious traveler.  His curiosity gets the better of him and he slips one pair into his empty sockets.  Instantly he is transported to an unknown island. That is where his quest begins. I’m not going to go any more into the plot.  I went into this book knowing very little, and I feel that you would benefit from uncovering his quest as you read.

Being a reader of shorter middle grade books at times I struggle to stay focused on longer text,  but this book felt like a 400 page sprint.  The action was often and exciting while at the same time developing beautiful characters and an awesome new world.  Throw in a few twist and turns and you have yourself a tale that will hook readers of both middle grade and young adult.

For more information on Jonathon visit his website: http://www.thescop.com/








The party was a success.  Big thanks to everyone that gave book recommendations to the kids.  They loved it!

Twenty-five students showed up eager to talk about reading and celebrate Darth Paper Strikes Back.

The loot

You gotta love summer transportaion



Speaker phone chat with Mr. Angleberger

Mr. Angleberger tried to Skype with us, but his computer was not cooperating.  We were, however, able to chat with him on the phone.  As always he was super cool.  The kids totally dug it.  They were really excited when he announced that their will in fact be a third book, due out next August.


Everyone made a Yoda (including me) with help from fifth grader Super-Folder Anna. She is the biggest Tom Angleberger fan I know.

The party was a great way for me to say goodbye to last year’s class and say hello to a new group of readers.  I was really nervous, but things came together great.

It looks like a few students are already planning a road trip to Anderson Bookshop in Naperville, IL to meet Tom in person in November.

May the force be with you!

Giveaway winners will be announced after I speak with them.

Book with a Hole by: Herve Tullet


Book with a Hole by: Herve Tullet

If you liked Press Here you will love A Book with a Hole!

My review in pictures and captions.  With help from my son Breslin (Yes, I did name him after the Michigan State basketball arena).

Breslin's Arm Scraper

Tracing a line

Inventing a board game

Shooting baskets

Discovering far away lands

We are in touch with our manliness!

I have never had more fun reading a picture book with my kids.  Enjoy!

Darth Paper Strikes Back GIVEAWAY


Hello friends! I am giving away two copies of Tom Angleberger’s new book Darth Paper Strikes Back. Mr. Angleberger did so much for my class last year, that I was hoping to do something small to try and repay his generosity.

If you do not know about my Origami Yoda obsession please check my Origami Yoda Post.

On Tuesday August 23rd (official release date of Darth Paper) I am throwing a release party for the book with my class from last year, and my incoming class this year (first day of school September 6th).

To enter please leave a comment on the blog recommending a book for my students to read this fall.  Remember these are fourth and fifth grade students.  We will read all the recommendations at the party, and then I will have students draw the winners.  I will mail the books to the winners after the party.

Leave a comment on the blog recommending a great book to a fourth or fifth grader.

Post must be made by 11:59 EST August 22.

Check out this Darth Paper giveaway at The Non Reluctant Reader

Our Origami Yoda spring break video:

I can’t wait to see these readers!

Prudence Wants a Pet


Prudence Wants a Pet

By: Cathleen Daly

I have read lots of, for lack of a better term, “I want a pet books” this summer while participating in #bookaday.

It all started with ” When Life Give you OJ” by Erica Perl then moved to “Melvin and the Boy” by Lauren Castillo. This week I have read a few more “I want a pet” books: “Me and My Dragron” by David Biedrzycki, “Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet” by Kelly DePucchio, “A Pet for Petunia” by Paul Schmid, and Prudence Wants a Pet” by Cathleen Daly.  I HAVE LOVED ALL THESE BOOKS!

All these IWAP (I want a pet books) have had a super cool main character, but I think my favorite is Prudence.  She is so creative, funny, and independent.  When her parents tell her “no” when she ask for a pet, she doesn’t sulk.  Prudence goes out and gets an ordinary branch and treats it like a pet.  What happens when she loses her pet twig in the washing machine?  Does she throw a fit? Does she forget about it (it is a stick after all)? No, she puts up a LOST PET sign in the laundry room. BRILLIANT!

Prudence’s journey through ordinary items that she treats as pets captured me. It made me so happy to see a young girl content with what she had, that at times I found myself, like Prudence, thinking an worn out shoe and old tire really were “real” pets.

Lets be honest. Kids love pets.  If they have a pet-they want another, and if they don’t-they are always thinking about how they can get one.  I would recommend that you give all these IWAP books a read, but it you had to pick just one I would recommend “Prudence Wants a Pet”.

Latasha and the Little Red Tornado by: Michael Scotto


Nancy Atwell said it best, “The job of adults who care about KIDS is to move heaven and earth to put that book into a child’s hands.” Up until last week I had no clue who Michael Scotto was, but after reading his book “Latasha and the LIttle Red Tornado” I can say that his book deserves to be in the hands of young readers.

Their is no doubt in my mind that Latasha has a chance to become a huge hit in my classroom. The protagonist in this story is an black third grade girl living in Pittsburgh.  Students will immediately fall in love with Latasha in the first few pages as they are introduced to her spunk.  Latasha is a character full of live, thoughts, hopes and dreams.  She jumps off the page and into your heart.

I think that this book deals with so many issues that make it relatable to young readers.  Here are a few:

1. Single parent home

2. Wanting to feel grown up

3. Having to have to spend a lot of time at a babysitters

4. Making friends

5. Being honest

6. Problems juggling responsibilities

Many more, you get the point.

Oh yeah, this book will throw you for a loop that you never see coming! We all love that right?

In my opinion we do not have enough middle grade books where the main character is a black female, and in many of the books that do have a black female main character, the book often focuses on racism and civil rights.  I know that racism is still a huge issue in the world that we live in, but at the same time young black females need to know that their is more to them then just the color of their skin.  I hope that this doesn’t sound wrong coming from a “white dude”, but I know that readers at times want to read books with characters that look like them, and deal with things they deal with, and I do not feel like the young female black population has enough characters like Latasha.

(If I was off base at all in the previous paragraph please leave a comment.  I would love to become more educated in this area.)

If you are looking for a great read with a strong theme and unforgettable characters please give author Michael Scotto’s book a chance.  You will not regret it. That is a promise.

Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run


Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run

By: Michael Hemphill and Sam Riddleberger (former pen name of Tom Angleberger)

I am pretty sure you have heard of the book The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and Horton Halfpott by Tom Anglebeger.  You may not have heard of Stonewall Hinkleman and the Battle of Bull Run.  Well it is your lucky day. I will tell you all about this wonderful middle grade novel. HOORAY!

Stonewall Hinkleman is named after the Civil War General Stonewall Jackson.  His parents are both crazy into Civil War reenactment, so Stonewall has to follow them around to pretty much all summer to these reenactments.  He was cool with that until he gets a little older.  By the time he is 12 these reenactments are torture, and to make matters worse he has to be the bugle boy.  How are you going to pick up chicks when you have to spend every weekend as a bugle boy?  Ladies, would you want to date a bugle boy?  Not likely.


Things change for Stonewall when he forgets his bugle one weekend.  He is forced to purchase a new one from a shady individual at the reenactment.  When he blows into the bugle he is no longer in a reenactment, he finds himself in the actual Battle of Bull Run.  Unfortunately, he is not the only person that ends up going back in time.  A crazy guy from the reenactments also travels back in time, but crazy guy has a plan to change the Battle of Bull Run to make the history of the war to change forever.  Can Stonewall stop crazy dude, or will history be changed to help the Confederates win the Civil War?

I know you are ready to order this book from your local Indie bookstore, but wait it gets better.  Middle readers will love this book.  They are constantly embarrassed by their parents, and Stonewall has the ultimate nerdy parents.  Kids will also relate to the early interest in love, with a character that has no idea how to talk to the opposite sex.  I wonder if Tom Angleberger is an adult trapped in a middle grade body, because his characters jump off the page and it feels like they are students in my  classroom.

Sorry Tom, but this picture was too good to pass up!

I like to keep my post under 400 words, so I won’t go on and on anymore about how wonderful this book is. PLEASE read it, and let me know what you think.

Happy Reading!

(darn 416 words)

Social Media Newbie


In March of this year I joined Twitter.  I had been against all social media up until that point.  At first, I was just behind in getting into it, but later I felt like it was “cool” to not be on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter.  After attending the Michigan Reading Conference in Grand Rapids I attended a session by Troy Hicks where it became apparent that I was missing out, so I joined Twitter and Goodreads.

This decision to get involved with social learning was made a gigantic change in my professional growth.  I have always been a reader, but I have to admit that I did not know enough about what was going on in kid lit.  Very quickly I started to realize how amazing Twitter can be. I started following “The Book Whisperer” Donalyn Miller and any other author of professional books I could find.  From there I just paid attention to who they were following and talking with.  For the first month or so I tweeted zero times.  I just sat back and tried to figure out this Twitter thing.  It was amazing to see all of the learning that was going on in 140 characters.

Being a teacher I know that the best learning doesn’t come from sit and get, so I decided to start trying to tweet. One of my first tweets was to Donalyn Miller: I asked her if she could recommend any great graphic novels to me.  I am new to the medium (learned that it is a medium and not a genre from author Terry Thompson-also on Twitter). She, so very nicely sent me about 4 tweets recommending titles for me to try.  Seriously? Did a hero of mine just send me a message helping me get better as a teacher?  YES!  That would be like 10-year-old Colby trying to get better at lay-ups and Michael Jordan sending him a note.  From that moment on I was hooked.

In the past  few weeks I have really started to get into Twitter even more.  Participating in #titletalk last Sunday night was amazing. I got so many great ideas about books that will help turn my students discover a love for reading.  Through title and other Twitter conversations I have started to build a relationship with John -@mrschureads. That dude knows just about everything there is to know about kid lit.  He introduced me to the series Frankie Pickle which is going to rock the socks of some of my fourth grade readers.  I feel like I am way late on the Frankie Pickle series, but without Twitter I wouldn’t even have a clue.  This summer I have read close to 50 books John recommended for me through direct message or through stalking his tweets.

This week in the mail I received an ARC of the book Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu.  This book has been quite the buzz on Twitter for weeks now, and I was looking forward to reading it when it came out at the end of September.  But because of Twitter I don’t have to wait for the book,  Kellee Moye -@kelleemoye sent me the book by way of Donalyn Miller-@donalynbooks.  Reading a book that has touched the hands of an amazing teacher from Florida and an amazing teacher from Texas blows my mind. Why do no other teachers in my district use twitter?

When I started this post I was writing a  review of the book Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace, but I guess that I just needed to write a post thanking my friends on Twitter for making a better teacher.

P.S. I still don’t have a Facebook account.

P.S.S. But I did hear about this new thing called google+…