Eve Bunting


Eve Bunting might be my favorite picture book author of all time. Check that, Eve Bunting is my favorite.  This week I read my four favorite Eve Bunting books aloud to my fourth graders.  Each book rocked their world.

We read about racism and rioting in Smoky Night, poverty in Fly Away Home, illiteracy in The Wednesday Surprise, and honor in The Wall.  I fought back tears in each book, failing in two of them.

I look forward to going back to these books throughout the year as we continue to grow as readers and writers.  Eve’s books are often the stories that kids refer to again and again when they are talking books. Her books stay in a reader’s heart.

I am a better person today because I’ve read Eve Bunting’s books.

#titletalk Read Alouds


Today I spent my lunch thinking about read alouds.  Here are a few interesting things I found.

Tommy dePaola talks about being read aloud to by his mom.


“Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.”

— Marilyn Jager Adams

Continue reading

Blackout-A Perfect Read Aloud


Most of my reading lessons are centered around a picture book.  In my 4+ years of teaching fourth grade I have read hundreds of picture books to fourth graders.  Last week, my class experienced the greatest read aloud experience of my teaching career.

Let’s rewind a bit.  Last week my students had been taking the Michigan standardized test.  It hasd been a long week filled with number 2 pencils, and desks in rows instead of groups.  On Thursday, we took the writing portion of the test.  It was a long day.  Kids are not aloud to do anything, once they finish their test, until everyone is done.  They sit in their seat and wait.  Some kids finish sections of the test in 20 minutes, and have to wait 50 minutes until the rest of the class is done.  It is very painful to watch. Not the test part, the kids work real hard on the test.  The waiting is hard.

We finished with about one hour left in the day.  Kids had recess breaks and lunch, but pretty much it was a day filled with writing assessments.  I took them out for a long recess to celebrate where we played a super fun game of kickball (I am really good at kickball).

After recess the class gathered on the carpet for a read aloud. I wasn’t expecting this to go the greatest, with how tired the class was, but I did want to try and get some curriculum across. We had been studying setting and I had chosen Blackout by John Rocco as our classroom read aloud of the day.

From the first page of the book the class was hooked.  They had watched the trailer earlier in the week and with the pages layed out much like graphic novel panels my class was immediatly lost in the story.

As the story unfolded we discussed our teaching point: how does the author use setting to create mood.  The discussion went great, and I was excited that we had been able to have such a rich discussion after such a taxing day.

When I finished the story a kid asked if I would read the story again.  Usually, we don’t have time to reread a picture book after a lesson, but I could tell that they needed to be read to again.  They pleaded with me, and once they made the suggestion that we turn off the lights when the power goes out in the story I was sold.

I began reading again.  The class was no longer spread out across the carpet,  they were all hudled close to me.  Our class of 25 students was only using half the amount of space we usually cover during read alouds. Twenty-four students in the palm of my hands on the carpet, and one student maning the light switch.  When the power went out in Blackout, a quick flip of the light switch in our classroom and we were all no longer in Battle Creek, MI but on rooftops of New York City experiencing the blackout for ourselves.  Lots of “oohs and aahs” as I read the story.  The same student that flipped the switch off, without coaching, flipped it back on when the lights came back on in the story.  He even managed to turn off the lights again when the main character in Blackout decides life was better with the lights off.

After I read the last page of Blackout, the class applauded like we had just won a big football game.  Being able to have this shared reading experience with them, is one that I am sure we will all cherish, and we will come back to throughout the year.

10 Things I learned this Weekend on Twitter


1. @mentortexts-Likes the good guy to win. Jen-was left heartbroken in both I Want My Hat Back and The Little Good Wolf, becuase they have less than storybook endings.

2. @paulwhankins-Twitter is a better place with Paul. After a brief pause from Twitter, Paul was back and better than ever this weekend. Loved following his thoughts about poetry Sunday morning.

3. @kelleemoye-Knows her books. Gotta love a girl that can hold her own in a Gary Paulsen conversation.

4. @cppotter-Is the nonfiction belle of the ball. After my great Paulsen conversation with Kellee, Cathy jumped in a reminded us of Mr. Paulsen’s talent as a nonfiction writer.

5. @mrschureads-John really is a celebrity. Talk of his SLJ cover came up in many a tweets this weekend with people lining up at the computer for an autographed copy.

6. @michaelascotto-I love that I am reading the same book as Michael (The Book Theif), and that Twitter gave me a chance to chat about it.

7. @frankisibberson-Loves the outdoors…wait I learned that she hates the outdoors. Not really book related, but kind of funny.

8. @jeremybballer-Is a name to remember in Michigan literacy. I picture Jeremy and myself traveling Michigan like the Blues Brothers helping one school at a time getting kids excited about reading and writing.

9. @cbethm-Is a saint for keeping #titletalk archives. Can’t imagine not having this valuable resource to look back on.

10. @donalynbooks-I believe that what is said in a DM should stay in a DM, but this is my one exception. Donalyn tweeted to me that she was “just a teacher”. She did say that being a teacher includes a lot…but come on Doanlyn. You are so much more than a teacher. You are a rock star! I still can’t believe I talked with her on the phone last week. She is so nice (unless you give her daughter a mindless worksheet to complete).

I learned a lot. I wish that I could include tweets and pics, but my computer battery only has a couple of minutes left, and my charger in at school:(

I hope everyone else learned as much on Twitter as I did.

FYI-no proofreading has gone into the publication of this post. NO TIME!


Michael Scotto-Author Visit


Success! Big thanks to Michael Scotto for stopping my elementary school today for a rocking author visit.

Big thanks to Mr. Schu for helping us put on the visit.  We couldn’t have done it without him.

Minges students got to see the world premiere of Michael’s Latasha trailer.

We were very proud of our welcome sign.


Welcome sign #2


Lots of copies of Latasha waiting to get into the hands of young readers.

Michael did a great job inspiring young writers.


Michael read chapter one of Latasha.


The boys in the back planned on being last in the signing line.  They told me that they would get to talk with Michael more if they were last (they were right).

Latasha hits stores November 15th.

My First Author Visit-Michael Scotto


On Friday October 14, my elementary school will host Michael A. Scotto for an author visit. We have had author visits in my 4 years as a teacher, but this will be the first visit that I have played a role in the execution of the visit.  I am nervous.

When Michael agreed to come to Battle Creek for a visit, while he is in Michigan for the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association Trade Show, I was super pumped.  A couple of days later, I realized that I would be in charge of putting this shindig on. I freaked.  The only author visits I had ever been to, pretty much involved the author showing up presenting, and then going home.

Over the last several months I have been reading about author visits on Mr. Schu’s blog Watch.Connect.Read.  His visits are nothing like what I have ever experienced.

Mr. Schu’s Author Visits:

A Morning With Peter Brown

Eric Wight and Frankie Pickle

Luckily, Mr. Schu set up a Google Doc where he answered all of my questions, and gave me amazing advice on how to make this vistit special, both for my students as well as Michael.

Michael has a couple of surprises up his sleeves for the third and fourth graders at my school, and we have a couple of surprises for him.

We can’t wait.

Any last minutes words of advice?

Jeremy Bender vs. The Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper


Sometimes you have no other options.  The only way that you can be saved, is to do what no middle school boy should ever have to do.  You must…dress up like a girl.  In the book Jeremy Bender Vs. The Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper, Jeremy’s only option is to become a Cupcake Cadet.  He has totally trashed the engine to his father’s boat, and the only way he can get the money to repair it before dad finds out is to become a Cupcake Cadet. Once a cadet, he must win the annual model sailboat race.

You can probably guess what happens, and you might think that his book is going to be super predictable. However, having a pretty good idea how it will end, didn’t stop me from enjoying getting there one bit.  This book could be super popular with middle grade readers.

Boys dressing up like girls+a bully+a crush+a few twist and turns= A great middle grade read.

Well done, Mr. Luper.

Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman


At times all kids struggle with feeling comfortable with who they are. It is hard at any age to not worry about what other people think of you. Books can be a great place for kids to go, to see how to deal with these struggles.  Recently, my fourth graders and I discussed times in our lives where we were worried more about what others thought about something, then what we thought about it.  That great discussion came from our reading of Dotty by Erica Perl.

Nerd Camp by Elissa Weissman is a MG novel of a boy that struggles with being a nerd. Ten-year-old Gabe is a nerd.  100% dweeb.  Gabe even likes being a nerd, until he meets his super cool soon to be step brother, Zach. Gabe has always wanted a brother, and now he feels like he needs to be more like Zach and less like Gabe.

Right after meeting Zach, Gabe spends 6 weeks at a summer camp for gifted kids. This camp is everything you would expect from a nerd camp: math, writing, science.  Gabe, absolutely loves camp, but is contently struggling with what to tell his soon to be step-brother about his experiences.

This would be a nice read for any young reader trying to figure out how to be different, and an even better book for “punks” giving kids are hard time for being different.

Junonia by: Kevin Henkes


Usually, I’m a character guy.  I fall in love with characters in books, and let the setting and plot come along for the ride.  Today, I finished Junonia by Kevin Henkes, and for the first time in a long time the setting is what I fell in love with.

Junonia takes place in February at a beach cottage, named Scallop, on the Gulf of Mexico.  The Florida setting grabbed me on page 2: The sun was blazing. The water-beneath and beyond them-glinted wildly. Seconds earlier, Alice had been thinking that the surface of the water was like glossy, peaked blue-green icing sprinkled with truckloads of sugar. 

The story isn’t super excited, and it doesn’t build to a super heart pounding climax.  The story just kind of calmly flows like the gulf waves on a cool morning (corny? or does it work?).

Another thing that I really enjoyed was the relationship between Alice and her parents.  I come from a family of 7 children, so I have no idea what life as an only child would be like.  This family does it so well. They are so close, but the parents still give Alice her space.  It almost made me want to trade in my two youngest kids. Just kidding.

Junonia is beautifully written.  Not sure how my fourth graders would do reading this book on their own, but I think it would make a great read aloud.

The Trouble With May Ameila by: Jennifer Holm


We all have reasons why we fall in love with certain books.  It might be the beautiful language used by the author, or it could be an excited plot where the reader is dying to know what happens next.  Sometimes we fall for books because of the world created by the reader, and sometimes we love books because the story is about something that is interesting to us.

For me The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer Holm was all those thing, but I don’t love books for those elements.  I am a character guy through and through, and May Amelia is a character that I will never forget.  For me May Amelia is what we hope our daughters grow up to become: tough, independent, willing to pound boys, and hard working. May Ameila doesn’t wear pretty dresses and cute bonnets, she wears overalls like her older brothers. She is also a little nuts.  May Amelia does thigns that even the craziest boys wouldn’t think of doing.

I think that The Trouble with May Ameila does what not many books can do: contain a girl main character that boys will relate to and want to read about.

The Trouble with May Amelia contains no quotations marks.  I asked Jennifer Hold her thinking: I was just trying to do it very stream-of-consciousness – the way a kid thinks (or, um, maybe *I* think–clearly I don’t use quotation marks in my head).

A beautifully written book about a character that you will never forget.

(Just noticed that this post is a little all over the place.  That is kind of how I roll.)