An Author Visit in Pictures: Liesl Shurtliff


I have so many wonderful things that I’d like to say about yesterday’s author visit with Liesl Shurtliff, but I’m not quite ready to put those thoughts into words, so for now, I’ll share a photo recap of the event.

















A big thanks to Liesl Shurtliff for spending the morning with my young readers and writers. It is a day that we will never forget.

Happy Book Birthday: Squish 5: Game On!


Disclaimer: I am very biased when it comes to books written by Jennifer L. Holm. I think that she is one of the nicest people in the world, and I believe that she is one of greatest writers of middle grade fiction that has ever lived. 

In Squish 5: Game On! our friend Squish is faced with the same issue that so many young readers are faced with each day when they get home from school. Video games.

As a kid I struggled with video games in the same way that Squish struggles in Game On! I sort of became obsessed.  Games like Zelda, Mario Brothers, and California Games took over my life for hours at a time.

We don’t have video games at my house, but my son plays them when he hangs out at his grandmother’s house, and it terrifies me when I see how quickly he can become wrapped up in the world of Donkey Kong or Mario Brothers.

My hope is that Game On! will help some kids see the importance of balance in their life. Video games are not evil, but addiction to video games can be a very scary thing. I’m excited to hear the conversations that Game On! will start in classrooms and households across the country. The books sure has caused my young readers to think about the amount of time they are spending playing Minecraft and Call of Duty.

Happy Book Birthday to the entire Squish 5 team. Game On! is Babymousetastic.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. 

Newbery Challenge: The View From Saturday


Filming this video was sort of odd. Mr. Schu and I were suppose to film it at IRA, but we couldn’t find the time. I think part of the reason we were unable to find the time is because IRA is when we both found out about E.L. Konigsburg’s passing:(

Please head over to Mr. Schu’s blog and see what he has to say about this 5 star book: Watch.Connect.Read.

10 Minute Review: This Journal Belongs to Ratchet


This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

I am in love with the book This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy Cavanaugh for many reasons: the nifty cover, the cool format, the connection I made to Ratchet (I could go on and on). Bottom line: I cannot imagine a middle grade classroom or library where this book wouldn’t be popular.

I read This Journal Belongs to Ratchet on the plane to IRA. Sitting next to an elderly man with a cowboy hat, I cried, and cried, and cried my way through Ms. Cavanaugh’s book. In some ways I was Ratchet as a kid. No, my mom didn’t die, and I wasn’t home-schooled,  but my father was a lot like Ratchet’s father. You see, my dad was different. He didn’t go to work each day in a fancy suit, he didn’t drive an SUV, and he surely didn’t feel the need to be politically correct. My dad spend most weekdays of my childhood driving across the country as a truck driver. He drove an old beat up motorcycle, and he was always looking to start a good debate.

Reading about Ratchet’s dad took me back to my childhood. Unlike Ratchet, I never worried about my dad being different from the other dads. I worshiped him, I still do.

I think that what I was routing for throughout the whole book was for Ratchet to see in her father what I see in mine.

I’m thinking that there might be a few middle grade readers in your life that need to see that their parents might be a little more awesome than they give them credit for.

Yikes! My 10 minutes is up…

Happy #SharpSchu Book Club Day!


I am very excited about tonight’s #SharpSchu Twitter book club. If you have a few minutes tonight please join Mr. Schu and me as we chat about Another Brother, hello!,hello!, and Giants Beware!.

*8:00-8:15 EDT: We will discuss Giants Beware!

*8:15-8:30 EDT: Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre will answer your questions.

*8:30-8:45 EDT: We will discuss hello! hello! and Another Brother.

*8:45-9:00 EDT: Matthew Cordell will answer your questions.


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/20/2013



Miles Last Week: 22

Total Miles: 385

Books Last Week: 30

Total Books: 397

Be sure to visit Mentor Texts to learn more about It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures
By: Kate DiCamillo

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Crankee Doodle

By: Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell

Crankee Doodle

Paul Thurlby’s Wildlife

By: Paul Thurlby

Paul Thurlby's Wildlife

The Real Boy

The Real Boy

By: Anne Ursu


Building Our To-Read Lists: Book Speed Dating


My fourth graders are spending some time these last few weeks of school building their to-read lists. I’m hoping that when they leave me in early June that they have lots of strategies to build their to-read lists, and a pile of books that they can read during the summer.


I have heard about book speed dating from multiple people on Twitter the last two years. I’m sure that I do it a little differently than other people. As long as kids are getting the opportunity to preview and talk about lots of different titles, book speed dating serves its purpose.


How we roll:

1. I place a giant stack of books at each table group.

When selecting books for book speed dating I try to find titles that:

  • Are in a series that not many students know about

  • New titles

  • Books that I am surprised not many students have found during the year

  • Favorite authors that my kids are not reading (Blume, Dahl, Cleary, etc.)

  • Lots and lots of nonfiction

  • Old favorites-books that kids loved at the start of the year

  • Old read alouds-I love including the books that my students teachers read aloud to them in third grade


2. Tell students my reasons for selecting the books (above)


wpid-IMG_20130516_093014_020.jpg3. Explain purpose of book speed dating

  • Add to our to read list
  • Explore books that we might not usually explore
  • Revisit old friends


4. Set the timer


5. Rotate

After the time goes off students rotate to the next station.


6. Share

After students have visited each station, I give students an opportunity to share with one book that they enjoyed previewing.