Book Birthday Party!

Our party was a giant success, and like most wonderful moments in my life, I didn’t take enough pictures.

Chocolate cake for Bread Box and Pink Lemonade for Babymouse!

The party started with the class eating and drinking, while watching book trailers for some of the books that we were celebrating.  Half way through the Babymouse video the phone rang.  Answering the phone is a student job, so a boy got up and answered the phone.  The class didn’t think anything of it.  “Mr. Sharp’s class student speaking,” he said into the phone.  Instantly his face turned as white as a ghost.

“Mr. Sharp, look at him.  What is wrong?” another student said.  The boy on the phone stared at the class as he listened to the person talking on the other end.  His arms started to shake.  He was trying to talk, but nothing was coming out.

“Who is it?” I asked.

He tried to respond, but nothing came out.  He got whiter, and his arm started to really shake. He mouthed, “It’s Jenni Holm.”

“Who?” I replied with a smile.

Still unable to speak he whispered, “The author of Babymouse, Jenni Holm is on the phone.” The class erupted! They were beside themselves.  We put Jenni on speaker phone and had a lovely minute or so conversation ending with the class singing “Happy Book Birthday” to both Babymouse and Squish.  Thank you, Jenni Holm for giving that boy and my class a moment that we will never forget.

From the phone call with Jenni we finished our cake and lemonade, and quickly got ready for our Skype visit with Laurel Snyder. Let me just say, if you get a chance to Skype with Laurel you must do it.  She said more intelligent things about literacy in 20 minutes then I say in a year.  A very smart head on those shoulders.

I wish I knew how to take a good Skype photo.

When Laurel talked about how reading is different from all other forms of entertainment, the class really seemed like they understood what she was saying.  I loved when she talked about how with books, every reader can go somewhere else, but in video games, there are only so many places you can go.

During the Skype she kept having to talk with her kids.  My class loved that.  Her son even had on a Batman shirt. Totally awesome!  Seeing Laurel as a mom I think really helped my students understand that authors are “real people”.   That was powerful.

The party ended with middle school former students standing at the door at the end of the day with jealous looks on their faces, missing when they were the kids connecting with authors:)

Thank you Jenni Holm and Laurel Snyder, and Happy Book Birthday!


Banned Book Week-Boo to Lexile and AR!

In honor of Banned Book Week I’ve decided to post a couple of videos from last year’s students.  Controlling what kids read in the classroom is a form of censorship that can kill a student’s love for reading.  Enjoy!

This boy moved to our class mid-year.  His old school used Lexile to determine student reading.

This video shows how teaching students how to pick books is must more powerful then assigning them books:

Real Men Read/Wear Babymouse

Two day until my book birthday celebration! We will be celebrating the release of: Squish 2, Babymouse Christmas, I Want My Hat Back, and Bigger Than a Bread Box.  Check out the awesome shirt Jenni and Matt Holm created for me.  They are the best team in kid lit!



During the celebration we will be watching book  trailers for the new books, signing happy book birthday to Laurel Snyder, drinking pink lemonade for Babymouse, and eating chocolate cake.

The video that started it all:




Bigger Than a Bread Box:




I Want my Hat Back:


My Student, My Hero

My parents have been married pretty happily for the past 31 years.  Divorce was never on my mind.  I am the oldest of 7 kids and we are a pretty tight group.  It is a little weird being 30 and having 2 brothers in the third grade, but I would never complain.  I am truly blessed to have the life that I have.

When Laurel Snyder asked for posts I divorce, I said sure, of course (I would pretty much do anything she asked me to do).  When I sat down to write my post  that night, I couldn’t think of anything to write about on the topic.

Laurel’s Request

I started thinking about the purpose of these divorce blogs, and I decided that maybe they are to show how children’s litterature and writing can help kids of all ages deal with the tragedy, that is divorce.

As a teacher I deal with divorce every single year.  I see how it effects kids. If it were not for childen’s litteratue I wouldn’t have a way into the minds of a  child dealing with this issue.  I don’t pretent to know what it is like, but I do have a small understanding of some of the things these kids are going through.

The book that dealt with divorce that I fell in love with as a child was Hatchet.  If you are reading this post you have probably read Hatchet.  If not, read it next. A fourth grade boy in my classroom a couple of years ago had gone through a divorce.  He was a well adjusted and amazing young man.  After reading Hatchet he decided, on his own, that he would write about divorce.  I have inserted his story below.  If you are familiar with Hatchet you it may be obvious to you that he read that book before writing HIS story.

“Where’s Dad going?” I asked as I put my head on the headrest.

“Daddy’s going to live somewhere else,” she said, keeping her
eyes locked on the road.

Why is Daddy living somewhere else? I thought, but before I
could say it aloud I knew the answer: Divorce. The most hatted word on earth.
Now I knew why we were moving away. That hated, word was the answer. I never
thought this would happen to me. I always thought it would be us four, but now
that hated word divorce entered our family, it split is up, divided us.
Separated us. Now I knew all the answers. I lunged toward the window, watching
my dad’s truck turn away.

“He’s gone,” I said quietly to myself as I sat back in my

“He’s gone, my mom said, sounding like she didn’t care.  I wiped the tears off my face as I feel asleep.

I awoke to the sound of the car coming to a stop, hoping that
the divorce was all a dream, but it wasn’t. Then I heard my mom call, “John,
 John,” so I slowly lifted my head up, lazily unbuckled my seatbelt, walked out
of the car thinking welcome to my new home, welcome to my new life.

After he read the story the class sat in stunned silence.  After the longest 10 seconds I have ever experienced, the class stood and clapped for that strong young man.

Everything will be Okay

I teach fourth grade in a K-4 building.  Usually, when my students leave me in June they are pretty on fire as readers.  I always worry about them in middle school: will their teacher foster that love or will it be crushed.

One reader I had last year was even more on fire than the rest.  She was nuts about reading.  Her love of reading allowed her to develop a relationship over email with Tom Anlgeberger.  A wiki created by her was a class favorite for book talks. She was the go to girl for book recs.  I wasn’t worried about her at all.   She would be fine in the middle school.

Fast forward to the third day of school this year.  I got an email from a distraught young lady.  Unsure what Lexile was, and why did it mean that she had to read “baby books”.  Her mom called devastated, frustrated, and concerned.  I talked with her, coached her, and helped her see that she could still be the reader that I cried to see go in June.

Fast forward to today.  This was waiting for me in my inbox (names are changed):

Today I walked around the halls with Yoda on my finger!!! I gave Joe, Bob, and Jim and a couple more people random advice!   It was fun buy I wasn’t as good as Dwight!!!      

Not sure why, but the email told me that everything will be alright.

If we value our readers, not just value reading, everything will be okay.

Bear with Me by Max Kornell

Some surprises are good and some surprises are bad.  Owen’s life is awesome, until the surprise: his parents bring home a bear.  Boom! According to Mom and Dad the family is now complete.  Owen on the other hand is not happy. His life as an only child has just been rocked by a giant bear.  The bear: takes all his parents attention, plays with his toys, and keeps him up at night.

Love this book.  The first time I read it, I was like WHAT?  This book is crazy.  Then I read it again, and realized that it is crazy, and I Iove crazy.  I’m assuming the bear is a metaphor for parents bringing home another child.  We all have to deal with surprises both good and bad and this book shows a young boy trying to figure that out.

The art is great, the story is nuts, and that works in this book.  Cannot imagine an elementary kid not like this book.  My fourth graders would go nuts over it, and they are 10.  Check it out!

I’m a Shark by Bob Shea

I loved Bob Shea’s illustrations in the book Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet by Kelly DiPucchio, so when I saw I’m a Shark I had to pick it up.  From the very fist line: I’m a shark! Aren’t I Awesome? I was hooked.  This book is fun.

Sometimes we forget that kids are brand new to the world.  As soon as they get to school we often pull the “fun rug” right out from under their feet.  They are seen as test scores, and $$$.  Often teachers worry more about what a book teaches them, then if the book teaches them to love reading.  At times teachers worry more about the text level of the book than the quality. I’m a Shark is fun, and it will make kids want to read more.  Isn’t that the point?

Let’s be honest.  Kids love sharks.  Sharks are cool. They are tough.  Heck, they even have a week dedicated to them on television.  In comes a shark that claims that he is cool and tough, when really he is just a guber that is afraid of spiders.

I love that at the end of this book Shark is still scared to death of spiders.  Often it seems like books feel that they need to solve all the characters problems.  Nope, we all got problems, and they don’t always get solved right away, but you know what.  It is okay.  If a shark is afraid of spiders, it is okay that I have issues my self (I’m scared to death of mice).

You don’t have to read I’m a Shark for the message.  The message is there if you want it, and that is what makes it so great.

The Qwikpick Adventure Society by Tom Angleberger

Are you a fan of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda?  Were you super geeked when Darth Paper Strikes Back hit bookshelves last month?  Did you love the writing in Horton Halfpott?  Tom Angleberger is taking kid lit by storm.  Darth Paper is a New York Times bestseller.  Who would have thought that a book about middle schoolers, origami finger puppets, and Mr. Super Clean Fun would take the country by storm?

Well, I did.  Tom Angleberger gets early middle schoolers and late elementary kids as well as anybody.  His writing is fun and lively.  His characters funny and corky.  His stories, silly, but at the same time they deal with the themes and issues that middle schoolers deal with. He writes about things that these kids want to read.  Not what their teachers necessarily want them to read, but more importantly, what they want to read.

The Qwikpick Adventure Society is the story  of 3 middle school friends and their quest to do something fun on Christmas Day.  They decide to try and see the poop fountain in their town before it forever becomes a thing of the past.  Yes, I did say poop fountain.  You will have to read the book to find out more.

This book doesn’t deal with crazy intense issues like: divorce, abuse, death, or betrayel.  It’s about friendship.  This is a story about how kids from different backgrounds, and social class can be the best of friends.  This book is about read life.  Qwikpick is a book that any middle scholer can pick up and instantly relate.

Often in the world that we live in, people that live in trailer parks are refered to as, “trailer trash”. It is an awful stereotype that has somehow become very prominent in our culture and vocabulary.  In my opinion, what makes Qwikpick such an important book, is that it takes kids that live in a trailer park and it shows them as real people.  Awesome poeple! People with hard working parents.  People that are super cool! People that are not. This book shows that “trailer park kids” are just as unnormal as any other kid.

Qwikpik is a rockin’ good time, and I can’t wait to hear what you think about it!  I’ll send you off with what Mr. Angleberger said to me before I read it, “I hope you enjoy this stinky book!!”

Hottest Week 1 Books

A couple of weeks ago Mr. Schu posted the 8 most requested books during his first week of school click here.  I really enjoyed seeing what was hot in his library, so I figured I steal his idea.

I’m pretty sure that most of my students haven’t seen a graphic novel other than Diary of a Wimpy Kid before they get to my class, so you are going to see a lot of graphic novels on my list.

1. Babymouse Series-Jenni and Matthew Holm

This is my first year carrying Babymouse in the classroom, and I have been blown away by how popular the series had been. Currently, I have 5 different books in the series, and at least three students have managed to read all 5 the first week of school.

I need to find a good deal on a Babymouse Box Set.

2. Amulet- Kazu Kibuishi

We only have two copies of book 1 in our classroom library. I try like crazy to get my students to read this series in order, but they are just keep their hands off any copy that happens to make it to the library.

3. Sidekicks-Dan Santat

Kids flipped out when they saw this one in the Scholastic Book Order today.  This is an early favorite for a class book award at the end of the year.

4. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda/Darth Paper Strikes Back-Tom Angleberger

Most of my students attended my Darth Paper Party a couple of weeks ago, and have been very excited about reading both Origami Yoda and Darth Paper.  I am pretty much in love with everything Tom Angleberger, so I flipped out earlier this week when I saw it online.

5. Lunch Lady-Jarrett Krosoczka

The most exciting thing about Lunch Lady being a hit, is that I haven’t had a chance to talk up the series.  Students have discovered this one on their own.

Books I want to promote next week:

1. When Life gives you OJ-Erica Pearl

2. Frankie Pickle Series-Eric Wight

All my Frankie books, as well as OJ, spent the week with former students at the middle school.  Hopefully, I can get them back early next week.  I have a student reading Shiloh that I think would flip over When Life Gives you OJ?

Happy Reading!

I Love Reading

Today, was the first day of school and it was awesome! The first time I talk about reading, I tend to get a little excited.  Today was no diferent.

My students from last year asked me to tape the lesson so they could see it again this year. I figured I’d share it with everyone.