Thursday, August 7, 2014

Your New BFF... Class Dojo!

Class management is something that every teacher struggles with. Some don't like to admit it, but it is okay... we all struggle and that's okay! I am going into my 11th year teaching (when did THAT happen) and I can honestly say that classroom management is the weakest link in my chain, therefore it is the one that I have to constantly strengthen to ensure that my chain doesn't break. 

Last year, I was at wits end. My classes weren't bad. They just were on the cusp of being a little too big for their britches. Anyone else have a class like that? Okay... put your hands down now. Luckily I have many amazing teacher pals and when I was talking to one of these ladies one afternoon she asked if I had ever tried Class Dojo. At this point, I had heard about Class Dojo but hadn't really looked into it. 

I went home that night, and I fell in love and knew that this was just what I was looking for!

Class Dojo is an easy, FREE way for you to monitor and boost student engagement in your classroom with just the click of a button! Students can create their own avatars, monitor their behaviors on their phones or devices, and parents can even log in daily to check on how their child was that day! How great is that?! 

The best way I learn is to get in there and play, but before you do that here is a cheat sheet of information for you about Class Dojo. (If you click on the picture it will link you to this sheet so that you can print it.)

So now it is time to create an account and go play! Make up your "fun" class and then play around until you get the hang of it. There are videos on the site as well as forums where other teachers have given their ideas and input for using it in the classroom. Our best resource is each other... so go to your colleagues and see what they are doing! 

Here are some great resources to help you get started with Class Dojo in your classroom, and the best thing is... they are FREE too!! 

          Class Dojo Weekly Behavior Tracker by Jed Dearybury

        Class Dojo Resource Pacy by Mrs. Possum's Classroom 

There are many different ways to incorporate Class Dojo into your classroom so don't feel like you have to do it like everyone else! Be creative and make it work for you! Have fun and let the pinging begin!! 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown

Hardcover, 80 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers
A speck of dust is a tiny thing. In fact, five of them could fit into the period at the end of this sentence.

On a clear, warm Sunday, April 14, 1935, a wild wind whipped up millions upon millions of these specks of dust to form a duster—a savage storm—on America's high southern plains.

The sky turned black, sand-filled winds scoured the paint off houses and cars, trains derailed, and electricity coursed through the air. Sand and dirt fell like snow—people got lost in the gloom and suffocated . . . and that was just the beginning.

Don Brown brings the Dirty Thirties to life with kinetic, highly saturated, and lively artwork in this graphic novel of one of America's most catastrophic natural events: the Dust Bowl.
What an amazing graphic novel!!!  Not only were the illustrations fantastic, but the information was presented in such a way that you learned so much without even realizing it. I love learning new things, and this book left me wanting to research more about the Dust Bowl and the impact it had on our country. Definitely a great addition to my classroom library!

Teaching Ideas:

For Science:
This book is a great way to discuss plate tectonics, the environmental impact of the Dust Bowl, and the recent Dust Bowl impact from 2012 and other droughts. Students will be able to learn about the environmental impact from the Dust Bowl on daily life of both humans and animals alike and could do further research on what implications a Dust Bowl of that size could have on today's society.  

For Social Studies:
This is a great book to discuss life during the Great Depression and what impact the Dust Bowl had in the lives of Americans. This would be a great book to begin a research project on the life during the Depression for the different parts of the United States as well. 

Possible research questions:
Did the Dust Bowl impact all of America? 
What are the major differences between those areas impacted by the Dust Bowl and those who weren't impacted?

For ELA:

This book would be a fantastic introduction before teaching Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. The background knowledge the students will gain will allow them visualize the events of the novel which is a fantastic novel! 

Happy reading!!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Speed Fishin' Review Game

I have been blessed through reading Kim Bearden's amazing book Crash Course: The Life Lessons My Students Taught Me. Currently on my second read through in a few days, I am continuing to find

inspiration for my life and my classroom. There will be a post about it very soon... I am still processing!

One of the many ideas that I have gained from Kim's lessons was one that she used in her classroom- SPEED FISHING! She used it to reach one of her students who was reluctant to participate (read the book... I don't do the story justice!). As I read about this lesson, I thought- "I can totally do that with my Summer School kiddos!" Soooo... I did!

We are learning about the parts of a sentence- subject and predicate- so I adjusted what Kim did for what we were doing. Here's how it works:


  • Wooden Dowels (as many as you want teams)
  • String or yarn
  • Magnets (for your fishing poles)
  • 100 Washers (or however many you want)
  • Colored paper (for your fish... I would suggest cardstock)
  • An "ocean" (you can use a plastic swimming pool or do like me and use a plastic table cloth)

Lesson Set Up:

1. Cut out enough fish for the number of sentences, problems, etc. you will have for your game.
             * I also laminated them so that I could reuse them.

2. Write, tape, glue or otherwise attach your sentences, problems, etc. to your fish. I taped my strips to the fish so that I could easily get them off for the next game!

3. Attach a washer to the back of each fish. Again, I laminated mine so if you want to do the same that will be your next step!

4. Tie string to the dowels and attach the magnet to the end of the string.
           * I tied it at first, but as the game went on... the magnets went flying! So I ended up temporarily taping the magnets on. I am going to go back and hot glue them later!

5. Put your answers on paper plates. You will need a set for each team that you have.

6. Set up your ocean in the middle of your classroom or a designated area. Place your paper plates on opposing ends of your classroom and if you have multiple teams you can set them up in opposite corners. (If you are lucky enough to have a big hallway or gym at your disposal, you can use that as well. If the weather is nice- GO OUTSIDE!!!)

Lesson Plan: I am going to use what I did for my review game... but change it up for your lesson!

1. When your students come into the classroom, have them break into the correct number of groups and disperse in your classroom.
          * My paper plates were labeled Simple Subject, Complete Subject, Compound Subject, Simple Predicate, Complete Predicate, and Compound Predicate

2. Explain the game to your students!
On each of the fish in our ocean are examples of Simple Subjects, Complete Subjects, Compound Subjects, Simple Predicates, Complete Predicates, and Compound Predicates. Your team can only sent one fisherman at a time out to the pond to catch a fish- otherwise all the fish will scare off and you won’t catch any. After your fisherman comes back with their fish, as a team you must decide on which plate it goes. Make sure you are careful because some can be tricky. If your fish has what looks like a complete predicate but just one word is highlighted, it will be a simple predicate. Same goes for the subjects. Look also to see how many subjects and predicates there are. After you place the fish on the correct plate, your next fisherman can go fishing. Remember…. You have to FISH, not drag! Each correct fish placement is worth one point. The team with the most points wins a prize! Any questions? When you hear our fishin’ music start, you may begin!

3. Play music and let the fun begin! Watch the teams and offer guidance at first, but allow them to work as a team to determine the correct answer. You may want to only allow a certain amount of time and add a timer. I didn’t with my first group at first, but when I added the stress of a timer after seeing that time was dwindling down, that created more intensity! So the next group got a timer and a few rounds so that we could review in between.

Here are some pictures of our fun!

Let me know how you would change it around and how you would use it in your classroom! I can't wait to hear your ideas!!


Fly Away by Patricia MacLachlan

Hardcover, 108 pages
Published April 8th 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

From the Newbery Award–winning author of Sarah, Plain and Tall comes a story about one brave girl who saves her family from losing everything.

Everyone in Lucy’s family sings. Opera. Rap. Lullabies. Everyone, except Lucy. Lucy can’t sing; her voice just won’t come out.

Just like singing, helping Aunt Frankie prepare for flooding season is a family tradition—even if Frankie doesn’t want the help. And this year, when the flood arrives, danger finds its way into the heart of Lucy’s family, and Lucy will need to find her voice to save her brother.

 From the author of one of my favorite books, Sarah, Plain and Tall, comes another heart melting book. This book is one of those books that I will definitely be a go to book when it comes to dealing with the feelings of not finding your place. Lucy feels like she can't really relate to her family because she doesn't feel as talented as her family members. When the time comes, however, her talents are what she least expects them to be. This is a fantastic book that I can't wait to share with my students!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Among the Hidden (Shadow Children #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Paperback, 153 pages
Published June 1st 2006 by Aladdin Paperbacks

 SHADOW CHILDREN Luke has never been to school. He's never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend's house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend.

Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He's lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family's farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside.

Then, one day Luke sees a girl's face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he's met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows -- does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford "not" to?

I have to admit that my student have been begging me to read this series for quite a while now, and I have no clue why I haven't. Set in a time when the government is in ultra control of everyone's life, this novel was almost scary to me because I could totally see something like that happening in some countries. Reading this with a group of students was great because I was able to discuss so much with them and how they would react if the government took such control. The main character Luke finds that he is not alone after thinking that he was the only one in hiding which totally changes his view on how his life is. When Jen shows Luke that his life could be different, he decides to take a chance. This is a great series and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series!!

Teaching Ideas:
This book would be a great to pair with articles, videos, and other resources about the population laws in China. Erin at I'm Lovin Lit has a great resource at Teachers Pay Teachers for just that! Check it out here! If you are a language arts teacher and haven't checked out her blog, you NEED to. She is amazing!!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Hardcover, 272 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by HarperCollins 
Inside Out and Back Again is a New York Times bestseller, a Newbery Honor Book, and a winner of the National Book Award! 
Inspired by the author's childhood experience of fleeing Vietnam after the Fall of Saigon and immigrating to Alabama, this coming-of-age debut novel told in verse has been celebrated for its touching child's-eye view of family and immigration.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing received four starred reviews, including one from Kirkus which proclaimed it "enlightening, poignant, and unexpectedly funny." An author's note explains how and why Thanhha Lai translated her personal experiences into Hà's story.

This book is simply amazing. The story of a young girl's life as she goes through a major change during such a tumultuous time in history is beautifully written and allows readers to see what it was like from a different perspective. Since this was based on the author's life, there is an authenticity on these pages that allows readers to experience the grief, change, fear, and so much more. It was amazing to me how we tend to think that we experience things that are particular to us, but this novel shows how so many things we experience are universal. Simply stated, I loved this book. 

Teaching Ideas: 
This book is one that Social Studies teachers should have in their classrooms. When teaching about the Vietnam War, there are many books that teachers can use to discuss the American side of it. This book, however, shows another perspective of the Vietnam War and allows readers to experience that through the eyes of someone who experienced it first hand. This book would be a great mentor text to give to a group of students to read or even as a great read aloud. 

Happy reading!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Table Top Twitter

I have had the opportunity to see Bob Probst and Kylene Beers in action a few times and each time has been amazing. Using the Notice and Note Strategies in my classroom with my students has been amazing this year and I have seen great things come from using them. One of the things that Bob introduced me to this year was Table Top Twitter (he called it the Poster Activity, but I like TTT better... haha). This is such an easy thing to do and something that my students BEGGED me to do after they did it the first time. 

This activity allows the students to interact with each other without talking- it all has to be done in writing. They are able to voice their thoughts and opinions (and even get into heated arguments) all while completely silent. The key to this activity is the selection you choose. You can choose a short article, a selection from the textbook, an excerpt from a novel, a poem or any other text to do this activity. The text that you choose must evoke emotion or require your students to think so that the motivation is there for them to write about what they are reading.

Materials Needed: 
- Chart paper (or butcher paper)
- Markers
- Text 
- Time

Here's how it works: 
1. Glue the text selection in the center of a large piece of paper. You can use chart paper or butcher paper, but you must be able to write on it (poster board isn't always ideal for that with pencils). I typically use markers so that it is colorful, but you can choose what works best for your classroom.

2. When the students come in, have them seperate into small groups (I had no more than 6 in a group and no less than 3). 

3. Explain that they will read the article that is pasted on the poster and respond to it. They can draw arrows to sections, underline, or mark on the text as well. As they are reading, they will respond to what they have read with their thoughts and opinions or even questions that come to mind. Students will also respond to each others comments and questions after they have read the text selection. 

4. Set a timer and remind students that there is no talking- only moving around to read the text and what their peers have written so that they can respond. I usually gave mine about 7 minutes depending on the size of the text. If they were still reading and responding, we kept going. While the students are reading, writing, and responding- YOU ARE TOO. Jump from group to group to see what your students are thinking, redirect if needed, and add your own thoughts. My students would race over after I had left to see what I had to say (like mine was soooooo profound).

5. When time is up, have a class discussion about what was read. If you have a large class, you may want to limit this to one comment per student. Have them pick out their favorite (either their own or a peers). Most of the "discussion" has already been had, but there may be some comments that need to be expanded on or explained. 

* Have different pieces of text about the same topic at each TTT and when the timer goes off, have the groups silently switch to the new table and complete the activity. You could also allow them to movie around from piece to piece if you don't mind a bit of movement! 

* This could be an easy way to review what you have taught in math to assess their learning. Put one problem on the table and have the students work out the problem together without talking. 

* Instead of a piece of text, you could have one statement that students must respond to using the knowledge of what you have been covering in a unit of study. ("The war of independence waged by the American colonies against Britain influenced political ideas and revolutions around the globe, as a fledgling, largely disconnected nation won its freedom from the greatest military force of its time." - from

There are a great many ways that this can be adapted to fit your needs, so have fun with it! Let me know what you do in your classroom because I am always looking for new ideas! Here are some of our finished products! 

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

Hardcover, 298 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Putnam Juvenile 

Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958

Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn't have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear - speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family.

But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn't matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are willing to take on integration and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

This is one of the best books that I have read... in a long time. Marlee finds a friend in the most unlikely of place with someone who she is not supposed to have anything to do with. The way Kristin Levine tells the story of these girls brings to light what life was life for the children who experienced racism in the 1950's and 60's. Sadly, we live in a world where that still exists. I loved both Marlee and Liz and their ability to see past what others can't. Their friendship means enough that they take the risks to keep their friendship alive and deal with the ignorance of those who don't want them to be friends. I can't wait to share this book with my students and history teachers. This book will definitely be well loved by all who read it. 

Teaching Ideas:
This book is a great read aloud for history teachers as you are teaching the 50's and 60's and the racism and segregation that our country dealt with. There are many questions that are raised from this novel that would make incredible character building lessons during your read aloud as well. 

Happy reading!! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Reached by Ally Condie

Hardcover, Dutton, 512 pages
Published November 13th 2012 by Penguin 

After leaving Society to desperately seek The Rising, and each other, Cassia and Ky have found what they were looking for, but at the cost of losing each other yet again. Cassia is assigned undercover in Central city, Ky outside the borders, an airship pilot with Indie. Xander is a medic, with a secret. All too soon, everything shifts again.

I loved this series! It was definitely a breath of fresh air for me and I couldn't get enough. I liked the first and second books, but I LOVED this one. Sometimes the third book in a series is rushed, but not this one. We finally get to hear Xander's point of view in this brilliant novel, which doesn't disappoint! So many questions were answered and even more were brought up... so now I want more!!! This novel is full of mystery, romance, action, betrayal, and so much more! It will leave you on the edge of your seat. Perfect way to end this trilogy!!! 

Happy reading!


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Birthday America! by Mary Pope Osborne

Paperback, 32 pages
Published June 1st 2005 by Roaring Brook Press

Mary Pope Osborne celebrates July 4th, the most American of holidays, with a warm family story. Three generations enjoy parades, popcorn, "Yankee Doodle," and at the end of the day, lightning bugs and fireworks. "Then I blow out the stars, as if they were candles on a giant birthday cake"--a glorious image in Peter Catalanotto's glowing and buoyant watercolors.

This is one of my favorite picture books that shows how one family celebrates the holiday which celebrates our country and our freedom. July 4th is always one of my favorite times to reflect on what amazing things we have been given thanks to all of those who have fought for our freedoms. This great book allows us to reflect on how we spend the holiday. 

Don't forget to thank all of those who served so that we can celebrate this day!! 


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Paperback, 233 pages
Published September 1st 2012 by GRAPHIX 

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

I have challenged myself to read more Graphic Novels so that I can recommend them to my students. I have to admit that they are not my first choice, but they are growing on me. This book sums up what middle school drama is all about. I loved the humorous, charming story that dealt with much more than a drama club. The main character Callie is in 7th grade and is trying to sort through life- especially that of boys and how to fit in. There is so much I can say about this book, but I love that Raina has introduced us to characters who are trying to find out who they are in a way that is unbiased. Great book that will definitely be well read in my classroom!!

Happy reading!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Jaxon's Picks- Week 1

One of our favorite things to do during the summer is to visit the library. My four year old son, Jaxon loves to read and begged that he get to have some fun with the blog this summer. So, of course, I agreed! Here are his first weeks picks and his reviews. 

 by Ellen Lawrence

This was about how cars go and I love cars so it was great.

Following Papa's Song
 by Gianna Marino

We are going on a cruise and we might see whales. You should listen to your parents.

by Sallie Wolf

I liked this book. It was about a truck that got stuck under a bridge and nobody could get it out. It was funny.

Dinosaur Thunder
 by Marion Dane Bauer

I really liked this book. I don't like storms that much, but now I know that it is just a dinosaur playing.

 by Cornelia Funke

This book was one of my favorite book. It was funny!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Arrow Finds It's Mark: A Book of Found Poems

Hardcover, 48 pages
Published March 27th 2012 by Roaring Brook Press 
Twitter feeds, school notes, advertisements, street signs--find poetry in the unlikely places with thirty contemporary poets.
Imagine picking up a scrap of paper off the floor or reading a sign at a gas station or looking at graffiti on the subway and finding poetry in these words. The literary equivalent of a collage, found poems take existing text, reorder and refashion it, and present it as a poem. Youthful, urban, and ironic, this energetic and surprising poetic form demonstrates the beauty of everyday words and will inspire young poets to find their own poetry.
 I love it when my students and I create found poems. They are so much fun and can be hilarious, serious, heart breaking, and so much more. I collect student examples to use every year, but now I have another resource to show some great examples. This book is a wonderful collection of Found Poems that are quick, easy reads.

Teaching Ideas:
This is a great mentor text to use when teaching Found Poetry. Each poem has the original source documented so that teachers can find it or give students an idea as to where it came from and how they can create their own. 

Creativity is key with Found Poetry. Students can type or write their poems and find or create illustrations to go with them. Allow students to be creative with their poetry both in its format and what you are going to have them do with it.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

What do you mean by Flipped Classroom?

By definition a Flipped Classroom is when your students complete the traditional lecture that would be done during class at home the night before for homework. They view a video lesson the teacher has created or found outside of the classroom prior to the day's lesson. The video is no longer than 15 minutes. Class time is then spent on inquiry-based learning which is what would typically be viewed as "homework." This is the application part. Which, if you think about it, is where we ensure that our students are demonstrating that they comprehend what was taught. 

If we teach it then have our students work on a generated worksheet, read a quick passage, complete few problems, or whatever else in the last 10-15 minutes of class, are we truly ensuring that they comprehend the lesson taught enough to complete extended practice at home when we can't help them?

Sometimes our students get it. But more often than not, they don't. When they bring their homework back the next day I will have some who have completed the work (usually only a handful), some who have given it a go and done fairly well, some who just wrote down answers thinking that I wouldn't really look, some that gave up after a few (maybe even one) problems in, and then the group who just didn't start it because they never understood it to begin with. This is where the Flipped Classroom can help.

I have used the flipped classroom and love it! Technology can be an issue because some students won't have access to a device to watch a video the night before. At my school, we have computer labs that are open in the morning prior to school so that students who don't have access can come and view the lesson. I have also used a modified version of this in my classroom where my students watch the video at the beginning of class and then complete the work after. 

Teachers, what are your thoughts? Have you used the Flipped method? 

Can't wait to hear from you!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Theory of Everything by JJ Johnson

Hardcover, 334 pages
Published October 1st 2012 by Peachtree Publishers 
Just because everyone else thinks you should be over it doesn't mean you are.

Last year, Sarah's best friend Jamie died in a freak accident. Back then, everyone was sad; now they're just ready for Sarah to get over it and move on.

But Sarah's not ready to move on. She can't stop reliving what happened, struggling with guilt, questioning the meaning of life, and missing her best friend. Her grades are plummeting, her relationships are falling apart, and her normal voice seems to have been replaced with a snark box. Life just seems random: no pattern, no meaning, no rules - and no reason to bother.

In a last-ditch effort to pull it together, Sarah befriends Jamie's twin brother Emmett, who may be the only other person who understands what she's lost. And when she gets a job working for the local eccentric who owns a Christmas tree farm, she finally begins to understand the threads that connect us all, the benefit of giving people a chance, and the power of love.

Sometimes authors have a hard time writing authentically when it comes to how they react and deal in certain situations and that drives me crazy. Maybe it is because I teach that age group and I know how they think and if it is so far off, I typically have to struggle to read the entire book (if I even finish it). This book, however, was a completely refreshing novel because I could totally hear Sarah in my students... and me too. Her sarcasm was hilarious and so real. I couldn't put it down. 
There were so many things that I loved about this book. The drawings and journal-like introductions to each chapter allow the reader to see another side of Sarah and how she is dealing with the chaos that has erupted in her life. This is a fantastic book that shows the inter workings of how to deal with life when it doesn't go according to plan. Great conversations will come from this book I am sure as I shop it out to my students. There are so many life lessons that come from this along with the hilarity and reality of Sarah! I can't wait to hand this one to a few of my kids!
Visit JJ here and see more about what she writes, what she does and who she is! 

Happy reading!

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Summer Sacrifice by Holly Hinton Release Week Teaser Tour & Giveaway

summerrelease (1)

Upper middle grade fantasy THE SUMMER SACRIFICE will be available to buy from major online retailers as of June 21st 2014. Available in ebook and paperback form. (Audiobook to follow.)
Click here to read Chapter One of The Summer Sacrifice.Click here to listen to the first chapter of The Summer Sacrifice's audiobook. Click here to watch Holly visiting Dancing Ledge: the birthplace of The Summer Sacrifice.

Praise for The Summer Sacrifice

"The present world is often terrifying to a sensible adult. Hinton reflects its effect on youngsters in a powerfully imagined world that hums with poetry. In its pages, in the words of Yeats, a terrible beauty is born. Herein lies empathy, barreling adventure and an iconic heroine, Jamie Tuff."

Charles Bane Jr., award winning author of The Chapbook, and Love Poems; creator of The Meaning Of Poetry series for The Gutenberg Project, and nominee as Poet Laureate of Florida. 

Welcome to the Island

Map designed by Joel Sams.

No Place Only the Island survived the Great Storm. It's quite small and just a quarter of it is inhabited. That quarter is called No Place.   The Establishment The Establishment rule No Place. Here is what they have to say: “We in the Establishment save lives through the boundaries we create. Our boundaries are your protectors. And trespassers will be punished.”   Pity Me Pity Me is No Place's largest settlement and its capital.   The Perfects The Pity Me Perfects are students selected by the Establishment to help them rule, both in school and out. Officially, they are selected for their objectivity and fairness. Really, they are selected from the ranks of the wealthy. The Perfects do not live up to their name. The Tombland Gang The Tombland Gang are Pity Me School's resident thugs. As the Gang’s ranks have swollen, the number of orphans plummeting to their deaths has also grown. The Gang do live up to their name. Funnella Fitzgerald “I am the Headmistress of Pity Me School and the Head of the Establishment. But you probably all know that. At least, you ought to. . . ” Phosphor-Jones, Head of History “Dreaming is of little use, and not to be cultivated.”   Miss Humfreeze, Head of English The English teacher's eyes look like they could tell a thousand tales, and her wide mouth often tells them. The manshu and juvenites love her for this, lapping up her words like they are delicious drops of non- fermented Honeydew. No Place's Chief Doctor “What a wonderful specimen you are! You’ll look perfect sweating out your life in my Laboratory!”    


About the Author:

Holly grew up in a small, sleepy village in Suffolk. The acting bug hit her at age nine, when she was asked to play Baboushka in the school nativity. That same year she played the lead role of a naughty black poodle in a pet parlour themed ballet, and she thought she had made it. Years passed, but the acting bug didn’t. She went to Goldsmiths, University of London to study Drama, after which she completed her actor training at Arts Ed.
Writing a book was never part of the plan. But life’s full of swerves and surprises and ideas dropping into people’s heads. Holly had an idea drop into hers, and that idea became The Summer Sacrifice, and The Summer Sacrifice became the first book of the Master Game Series.
For more information please visit:


Holly Hinton is giving away one signed copy of The Summer Sacrifice (Paperback), and a bookmark illustrated by David Revoy. Open Worldwide!
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Bluebird by Bob Staake

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published April 9th 2013 by Schwartz & Wade 

In his most beautiful and moving work to date, Bob Staake explores the universal themes of loneliness, bullying, and the importance of friendship. In this emotional picture book, readers will be captivated as they follow the journey of a bluebird as he develops a friendship with a young boy and ultimately risks his life to save the boy from harm. Both simple and evocative, this timeless and profound story will resonate with readers young and old.

Bob Staake has been working on this book for 10 years, and he believes it is the story he was born to write.

This book is one of the ones that I hadn't read from the list of 2013 Nerdy Book Clubs winner list, so I was excited to find it at the library. There are no words to describe this book... literally, there are no words in it at all. The story is all in the pictures. It is utterly beautiful (and so well deserving of the award!). Telling the most beautiful story in the simplest way, I couldn't help but pull my kids over (and maybe some others... I cannot confirm or deny this though) and we read it and talked about it. It was the greatest conversation with a few kids aged eight and under. Fantastic book!!

Teaching Ideas: 
This is a fantastic book to teach the concept of reading pictures. It lends itself to being a prime mentor text for this with the beautiful story told throughout the novel with only pictures. You can't really call this a "Read Aloud" since there are no words, but it would make a great book to look at and analyze. This one will definitely be used with my middle schoolers because after the picture analysis, the discussions that will be had will be amazing! 

Happy reading!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Night of the Moon by Hena Khan

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Chronicle Books

Yasmeen, a seven-year-old Pakistani-American girl, celebrates the Muslim holidays of Ramadan, "The Night of the Moon" (Chaand Raat), and Eid. With lush illustrations that evoke Islamic art, this beautiful story offers a window into modern Muslim culture—and into the ancient roots from within its traditions have grown.

This book was beautifully written and illustrated. Over the past year, I have read more and more about the Muslim community. It is utterly fascinating. This beautiful story does just what the review says... opens a window into modern Muslim culture while weaving in the traditional roots. My daughter enjoyed learning about Ramadan from Yasmeen (my daughter is 8, so it was completely relate-able to her). Simply beautiful! 

Teaching Ideas:
This is a great text to pair in a Social Studies class when you are discussing modern cultures. It could also be paired when discussing the events of September 11 while discussing the differences in the Taliban and the Muslim community (which many assume are related). This text would also be a good read aloud for younger students when discussing different holidays or cultures as well.

Here are links to some of the other books that I have read about the Muslim community and the Middle East:

Happy reading!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Paperback, 447 pages
Published February 6th 2012 by Egmont Press 
Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When "Verity" is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called "a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel" in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other.

I posted earlier about the free audiobooks from and if you haven't taken advantage, you need to! This was one of the downloads from last week and all I can say is WOW! This book is a fantastic read, but it was so much better with the audio! The book is told in two parts and each part represents a character's point of view of the story. The narrators are FANTASTIC! The accents (Scottish, British, German, English) are all what really made the story for me. I can read with an idea of what the accents should be, but to have an authentic reading... totally made the story! I highly recommend this novel!!

Teaching Ideas:
This is a great mentor text for WWII for Social Studies teachers. Elizabeth Wein does a phenomenal job at the end of the audiobook explaining how she found the pieces which inspired the story. She also explains how she took liberties with pieces. This would be great for ELA teachers to allow students to see how a writer goes through the writing process, their inspiration, and how they research. 

Find out more about Elizabeth here and see what her upcoming projects, more about her books, and much more!

Happy reading!

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