Tuesday, June 29, 2010

'Nuff Said

In the two spare minutes I've had to check out my Google Reader to catch up on my fave blogs (And can I just say that getting even THAT accomplished took amazing amounts of multi-tasking, the likes of which I never imagined myself capable of...serioulsy, this is UNREAL.  Fabulous, but unreal.)  (Picture me balancing a child in one arm, eating a turkey sandwich with the other while scrolling through the bajillion blog posts that have built up in my reader...all while balancing dishes on my head and editing my dissertation with my toes.) (Okay, I made up that last part, but it's not that far from the truth.)

Well, the whole charade almost came to a screeching halt when I read this bit (which I'm also copying and pasting in it's entirety below because it is so fabulous).  You see, I suddenly was moved to scream out, "AMEN SISTER!" and may have also cried out "Hell yeah" and possibly fist pumped a bit.  Alone.  Well, Mini Mimi was there, but I think she was just caught off guard and less moved by the whole genius of this letter. 

You see, this teacher, this genius and articulate teacher, this woman who is unafraid to SPEAK HER MIND wrote the following about the release of the Common Core Standards and I think we all need to high-five, drink a cocktail in honor of, jump up and down for this individual.  I wish I could track her down and send her her very own Super Colleague cape, because girlfriend deserves one.
By Cindy Lutenbacher
Amid great fanfare in our state earlier this month, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced the release of the “Common Core Standards.”
So, I have a few questions for those who back the standards — including our own governor, Sonny Perdue, who co-chaired the Governors Association effort. In the general celebration over the release of these new standards, it seems very few people are asking what Common  Core Standards will actually mean for our children. And that is a mistake because the Common Core Standards are simply the forerunner to even more (and likely worse) standardized testing.
Why are so few investigating the origin of Common Core, which is largely a creation of Achieve Inc., an outfit that is driven by a dozen or so governors and CEOs of major U.S. corporations?
What do these people know about educating our children? Why would we trust them? Why do we simply accept the claims of “research- and evidence-based” support for the creation of Common Core Standards? Why are we not doing as we were admonished to do during Watergate … that is, to follow the money? Where is this independent research, unattached to corporate monies?
In creating these standards, Achieve, the governors and the school officials ignored the vast body of truly independent research that shows such “standards” and their inextricably linked standardized testing are worse than folly and are sending our children in the exact opposite direction of what they need.
This group of very rich people ignored this body of research that shows that the single most powerful factor in education gaps is poverty and not standardized testing.
Did they forget that the United States has the second highest rate of children in poverty of any industrialized country in the world? In fact, these purveyors of Common Core disregarded everything that at least every great teacher I have ever known believes, says and lives in his/her classroom. What we should be doing in Georgia and the rest of the country is focusing on filling our classrooms with great teachers, rather than with thousands of new standards.
We should be supporting our great teachers, rather than driving them from our schools, as will certainly be the outcome of an even greater emphasis on testing. Why does anyone cite the “A Nation at Risk” report in pushing for national standards even though it’s been so thoroughly discredited? Where is the hue and cry over the million dollars that the Gates Foundation gave to the National PTA in order to promote Common Core?
Who appointed Bill Gates Emperor of Education?
Is money being spent, to borrow a Bushism, to “catapult the propaganda”? Or is that last question simply rhetorical?
The architects of these Common Core Standards did not seem to consider all the research that amply demonstrates that having access to a variety of reading materials and having the time and safe space with which to read are the factors that help children become readers.
Instead, the standards rely on the absurd drilling tactics advocated by the politicians and corporations happily taking our tax dollars for their testing and related materials.
Who is really getting the money from turning our schools into Common Core drill-and-kill testing factories? Will Perdue be willing to read the list of literary texts listed in the 183-page Appendix for English Language Arts and allow me to test him on them? Will Perdue even take the 12th-grade exit exams and allow his scores to be made public? Can Perdue explain to me how “Tartuffe,” Euclid’s “Elements,” Paine’s concept of “ground-rent,” and a bivariate polynomial have helped him in governing our state?
And in related news, we learn that Perdue has vetoed the excellent bill that would have saved millions of dollars for our state and, more importantly, released our first- and second-graders from the hideous spectacle of useless standardized testing. Will he be willing to sit in a desk with 30 other governors, who, like hapless 6-year-olds, will be forbidden to speak to one another and must suffer silently as they are endlessly drilled in preparation for the CRCT?
Furthermore, when will Georgia get a state schools superintendent who actually understands children and how they learn, rather than, for example, one who understands politicians and chambers of commerce?
Will the new superintendent be willing to sit obediently through first-grade test prep for Common Core Standards? Is there anyone, anyone, who actually believes that Common Core Standards and its murderous standardized testing will not lead to even more fanatical requirements that cause teachers to have to teach to the test? There’s no evidence that these “standards” will help my children be lifelong learners.
When will we as a state and we as a nation wake up to the destruction of our children that is being carried out under the sanctimonious and specious names of accountability and reform?
And most important of all, for the sake of our kids, when will we revolt?"

Aaaaannnnnnd scene.

I mean, fabulous, right?

Soooooo....how are we going to revolt?  How are we going to be heard?  And how can Mrs. Mimi rally the troops?  I'm thinking something more professional than throwing eggs and/or TPing houses may be in order.  

Oh, sidenote, I have since formed an opinion about these standards and (in a nutshell...or really, before Mini Mimi starts crying and I have to go) I think that they are a slippery slope into even more hideous amounts of testing, more control over how teachers do their jobs and more business folks feeling as if they can swing their power ties around a smack us teachers where the sun don't shine.

P.S. Pardon the type-os if there are any...typing with one's toes is not easy.  

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books #66- #62

Welcome to the eighth week of Rocking It Out Picture Book Style with Mrs. Mimi!  I am loving this list of Top 100 Picture Books...probably a little too much, but whatevs. I think most of you get it.

Okay. Starting us off today at #66 is Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman. Clearly, I have seen this book before.  It was even in my school supplied library.  But (I'm going to admit something big here...we would be holding hands if we could) I've never read it.  GASP!  I know, there were actually books in my library that I hadn't gone through...It was like I had a pile of omni-present paperwork to get through or something...

Oh, and it's totally a Caldecott book...like salt in the wound.  

Officer Buckle & Gloria (Caldecott Medal Book)  (Click on the images if you want links to where you can indulge in these fabulous titles...just do it!)

Officer Buckle loves to share his safety tips with everyone, especially school children, but no one seems to be listening.  (Um, if I was the teacher in THAT assembly, you can bet your last dime that my friends would be IN LINE, but I digress...)  One day, he is given a police dog, Gloria, who goes with him to all his presentations.  While Officer Buckle delivers his tips, Gloria strikes all kinds of hilarious poses (all behind the Officer's back so he never notices), grabbing the everyone's attention.  Soon there are no more accidents and Officer Buckle in huge demand.  But then, one day his presentation is taped and Officer Buckle realizes what has been going on the whole time...saddened, he doesn't take any more presentation dates.  Gloria is forced to go alone with another officer but she falls asleep and so does the audience.  As a result, there is a huge accident (banana pudding related) and everyone wants the dynamic duo reunited.  Officer Buckle is happy to oblige and delivers his newest safety tip:
"Always stick with your buddy!"

Hearting this one and wishing I had discovered it/read it earlier!!!  I feel very late for the party.  (I thought about writing Tardy for the Party in honor of my love of bad television....get it?)  Super cute to integrate into a safety unit, a unit on friendship or to just read and enjoy.  Those Caldecott people never let me down...how do I get that job?

#65 is a book that I questioned at first, but once I read it, I loved it.  It's Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner.

Skippyjon Jones

First off, I have a thing for kitties.  And this kitty may be the most adorable and hilarious cat ever.  EVER.  Skippyjon Jones loves to play with the birds in the morning, but his mother scolds him, reminds him that he is a Siamese cat, not a bird and sends him to his room.  While being punished, Skippyjon Jones imagines this amazing adventure in which he is a chihuahua who must save the other chihuahuas from the Bandito who has been stealing their beans.  (Yes, you read correctly.) Filled with a few Spanish words here and there, this part of the story is hilarious.  In the end, Skippyjon Jones' mother comes in to discover the insane mess he's made, but she loves him anyway.

Skippyjon is quite the character.  Your friends will laugh out loud - I guarantee it.  Especially if you read the story with a little flair - I'm thinking some accents and maybe a few bold hand gestures here and there.  Totally hot.  This is a fun read aloud, plain and simple, to be shared on a day when you all need a laugh or a jump start in imagination.  I say, save this for those rainy days (where you ALL want to poke yourselves in the eye). 

#64 was another tough one to track down.  You know, if these books are so fabulous that they made this list, then I feel like they should be readily available in each library.  But that's just me...I'm a little beat down from using all my detective skills to hunt down these books.  (I know, cry me a river.)  Although I AM noticing that most of the harder-to-track down books are older so maybe libraries are just age-ist.  Who knows?  Even Amazon is making this harder than it needs to be by providing a link that has no image.  Boo. So, #64 is "I Can't," Said the Ant: A Second Book of Nonsense by Polly Cameron.

 Hopefully I will be able to track it down and get you an update asap.  Apologies all around. 

Annnnnddddd, at #63 we've got another new book for Mrs. Mimi. I am officially afraid of my upcoming bill from Barnsey.  It's Traction Man is Here! by Mini Grey.  All I can picture is some dude in traction in the hospital...I have a feeling that image couldn't be farther from this book...at least I HOPE it is.

Traction Man is Here

We follow a little boy through his day and to his grandmother's house.  Even though he's just eating breakfast or taking a bath, this story is filled with HIS imaginative stories about his action figure, Traction Man.  From tackling the dishes together to a long car ride, everything seems to be a great adventure with Traction Man!

This book is adorable, funny and super imaginative.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and again and again...), I love a book long on imagination and short on video games.  I think friends in kindergarten through early second grade would love this one.  I also think it might help your more-reluctant-writer-friends see the possibility for story in their everyday lives.  If that is indeed the case, then this book might as well be worth it's weight in gold, am I right?

Finally, coming in at #62 is The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack.  I totally had this book on record when I was a kid.  (I can practically hear my friends exclaiming, "You had it on what?  Huh?")

The Story about Ping (Reading Railroad Books)

Ping has a crazy huge family that lives on a boat on the Yangtze river.  Every day they go ashore to hunt for snails and things to eat, heading home when the Master of the boat calls.  The last duck on the boat gets a spank on the bottom.  One day, Ping realizes he is going to end up being last and instead of facing his spank, he hides in the grass and doesn't get on the boat.  The next morning, Ping's family's boat is nowhere to be found.  He tries to dive for food as the other birds do and ends up getting caught by an evil looking little boy who fell into the water.  The people on the boat put Ping under a basket and are planning on eating him for dinner.  (Bet that spank doesn't look so bad now, does it?)  The boy, who isn't as evil as he looks, let Ping free before he can be eaten just in time to see his family on a far away shore.  Ping swims like crazy to catch up and ends up being last on the boat.  He doesn't mind the spank one bit.

Quite the adventure for a little duck.  I think this book is a total classic and makes a great read aloud for your friends in first or second grade.  I used to like to stop in several precarious places (when Ping gets left behind, when he got captured on the other boat) and ask my friends to make and revise predictions about the ending.  The story was able to hold their attention across a few days and has a happy ending, which is always nice. 

Well, we've made it to the end of June.  (Although I'm furiously writing this in early June in the last few remaining days before Mini Mimi's debut.)  So in my book, that means each and every one of you should (finally) be on summer vacation.

(collective sigh of relief here)

Enjoy my friends.  You deserve it.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Novel #93

I feel as if I have done the impossible.  I mean, I love to toot my own horn don't want to toot my own horn or continue to bore you with stories of my own personal feats of New Mommydom, but for the foreseeable future, you're going to have to pardon me. 

Friends, I read a chapter book this week. 

Say wha???

That's right.  I read a chapter book this week.  Granted, it was a child's chapter book but STILL, pretty amazing, yes? 

How did I possibly manage this what with, you know, the new baby and all?  Well...I am ALL ABOUT reading to Mini Mimi on a daily basis.  And get this - girlfriend digs being read to.  (Of course she does.)  She digs it so much that we end up flying through those board books.  It's never enough.  SOOOOOOO....since we're not yet ready to turn and talk or make inferences, I've decided that it doesn't really matter WHAT we read to her, as long as she gets used to being read to. 


(There's that New Mom confidence, eh?)

Mr. Mimi has taken to reading to her from his business/entrepreneur magazines.  (Can you say "snooz-a-palooza"?)  (Okay.  To be fair, Mini Mimi loves it when he reads to her and it is pretty freaking cute.) 

Can you see where I'm going with this?  This week, I read Caddie Woodlawn to my newest little friend and I totally think she loved it!

Dude.  Apologies.  That introduction got pretty long there.  My mind is all wander-y these days so there ya go.

Novel number 93 is the Newberry Medal award winning Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.  And talk about classic, strong, and fabulous female characters!

Caddie Woodlawn (Feel free to click on the image for a link to children's book online shopping paradise.)

Written about a family living in rural Wisconsin in the 1860s, this book focuses on the adventures of the young children in the Woodlawn family, the delicate relationships between white men and Native Americans and touches on issues of gender equity.  Sounds deep, no? 

At first, I was all, "I am so not a person who loves historical fiction."  However, I really enjoyed this novel.  (Mini Mimi did too.)  The language is accessible but still provides opportunities for some fabulous vocabulary work and the story line is intriguing.  In a nutshell, Caddie's father decides to raise Caddie with her brothers in order to improve her health (she was a sickly baby evidently) rather than push her to stay indoors and learn how to be a lady.  Caddie has tons of adventures with her little brothers - including crossing the river on a raft, horse back riding and playing tricks on a snooty snoots a lot cousin from Boston.  Yet there's more to this book.  It gives you a glimpse of pioneer life (Hello opportunity to compare then and now...) including some contentious issues such as prejudice against Native Americans (Caddie is pretty amazing and has a Native American buddy) and gender stereotypes.

I am TOTALLY feeling Caddie.  Girlfriend is pretty hot to trot.  She is easily frustrated by the inequities between girls and boys.  Throughout the book she goes through quite the journey of growing up which I think a lot of young girls could totes relate to.  Initially refusing to sew, cook and be genteel, Caddie prefers to run wild with her brothers.  Yet, she comes to the realization that there don't have to be such distinct lines and becomes comfortable with her constant evolution as an individual.  (My words, not hers.)

Here are some of her words from the very end.  I thought they were pretty inspirational:

"How far I've come!  I'm the same girl and yet not the same.  I wonder if it's always like that?  Folks keep growing from one person into another all their lives, and life is just a lot of everyday adventures.  Well, whatever life is, I like it."

Even today, this sentiment holds true, right?  Caddie may be something like 12 or whatever, but I feel as if her words hold true for me as I evolve into a mom and incorporate this new identity into who I already am. 

Or maybe I've just been cooped up in the house for too long...

Either way, I say totally grab this one for your classroom and share it with your friends. A guided level R, I would say this book would work as a read aloud or private reading text (when appropriate) in grades 3-5. 

Let's see if I can do it again next week...#92 is Ella Enchanted which I thought was just a McDreamy movie. 

Enjoy your weekends fellow book lovahs!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer, Summer, Summer Time....

(It may not be the coolest thing to admit, but on the first few days of summer, I find it ridiculously refreshing to drive around with my windows down blasting a little Fresh Prince.)  (Anyone else?)  (Bueller?)

As we inch toward summer time for all of us (even though SOME of us are already there, complete with fruity cocktail...), and we shed that not-so-fresh feeling that comes along with the end of the school year, we begin to feel (yet again) as if we could take on the world.

AAAAANNNNNNDDDDD.....Cue the never-ending To Do List.

Seriously.  It's like our incredible super power (the ability to multi-task the PANTS off anyone) which is used only for good between the months of September and June, turns to evil as soon as it hits July.  We get all, "Of COURSE I'm going to clean out all my closets, volunteer at the animal shelter, organize that pile of pictures into gorgeous albums AND have time left over for pleasure reading before I tackle writing that new social studies unit and tweaking those math lessons for next year.

Um, really?

What about resting?  Relaxing?  Recharging?  Are those on your list?

I feel as if I am an expert on the topic of over-committing myself when I have a moment of free time. I have suffered from Over Commitment Syndrome (or OCS) for many, many agonizing years now.

An example. I just had a baby, right?  I should be resting every moment I possibly can, right?  I should be lounging as I recover from my labor, right?


Instead, every time Mini Mimi lays her gorgeous head down for a snooze, I turn into a whirlwind of activity.

Dishwasher emptied?  Check!
Latest chapter book for the Reading Extravaganza read?  Check!
Ten ho-jillionth thank you note written?  Check!
Fresh load of baby related laundry in the wash?  Check!
Cat fed? Check!
Emails answered? Check!

Me rested?  (What's the opposite of check?  Un-check?)  Well, then, UN-CHECK!

Am I happy?  I think that is the most sick part of OCS.  It makes me happy.  I am at my happiest when I have a full list to tackle and approximately one more task than I can comfortably handle on my plate.  (That is until the very delicate balance tips and I find myself in a puddle....of tears.)  (Mr. Mimi loves that about me.) (Not.)

So take these last couple of days worth of posts...take them and learn from them. Think about them.  Do not replicate them.  Find a way to enjoy your summer.  Don't over commit and keep those To Do Lists (as glorious as they are) in CHECK!

(Two posts in a row!  Take THAT!)

Monday, June 21, 2010

We Can Be Our Own Worst Enemies

I know that many of you have already reached the end of the road and may be reading this whilst sipping on a delicious cocktail.  (What I wouldn't GIVE for a key lime martini!  *wipes away drool*  Man, that sounds good.)  However, there are others of you out there who are manning up and plowing through those last few days...those long, hard, hot few days that lie between you and a well needed and deserved break. (Any haters who are thinking something along the lines of, "Geez, teachers are such fiends for their precious time off" or anything that smacks of "must be nice", please feel free to click elsewhere now or I may be forced to punch you in the neck.  I'm just sayin'.  Do us all a solid and keep it to yourself this time, capice?) 

Regardless of where you are in the whole school year time line, I know you are ALL either suffering from or recovering from end of the year burnout!

Can I get a "preach on!"?

Maybe a slow clap?

('Cuz I know I'm right.)

And you know what?  You know what sad realization I came to today as I chatted with some of my teacher friends and Super Colleagues?  We do a lot of it to ourselves.


I know!  Shut the front door! 

Now you know that Mrs. Mimi hates to admit guilt/fault/anything negative but here, I think I must.  I have to. I NEED to.  Because, friends, we need to recognize the error of our ways.

The end of everyone's school year is filled...and by filled, I mean PACKED...and by PACKED, I mean FREAKING RIDICULOUSLY OVERLOADED with paperwork, data collection and dissemination, report card writing/bubbling, organizing of the files, putting away of the classroom, mandatory meetings, planning for next year...poking yourself in the eye.    You know, to name one or two things that may or may not be on all of our plates. 

None of this is our fault. 

HOWEVER, then there are ALL THE OTHER THINGS that we TAKE ON OURSELVES because we are essentially YES PEOPLE who advocate fearlessly for the well-being of our little friends but for some reason - some INSANE REASON- we are unable to SAY NO to all the bullshit that is flung at us at the end.

The bitter end.

The bitter end when we are too burnt to say no and therefore end up in an overwhelmed hell of our own making. 

This is totes an uplifting post, eh?

Although I think it might be nice to know that if you're feeling this sense of oh-my-God-when-will-it-all-just-stop-just-please-make-it-stop, you are not alone. 
You are not crazy. 
You are not a complainer.
You, my friend, are a teacher. 

Thank goodness we have our friends to help us remember the need to celebrate all of our victories from the long year, the need to relax and enjoy each others' company before the last goodbye.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Novel #94

I had high hopes for this book.  High.  Hopes.  As in me lounging in the hospital between feedings enjoying novel #94 as my newborn Mini Mimi slept peaceful.

Um, can you say "reality check"?

Yes, I had a wonderful few days in the hospital - it was this wonderful little bubble of time filled with Mini Mimi, Mr. Mimi and some fabulous nurses.  HOWEVER...my image of me reading?  Lounging in bed?  Leisurely filling up the days?  Uh, no.  No, that did not happen.

Basically I learned that when you have a new baby, all you want to do is stare at her.  Stare, cry a little about how lucky you are and then stare some more.

And although I was warned by a lovely reader to just "stick it out until they get to the island" I hate to report that I didn't make it to the island.  I made it pretty darn close to the island...they were on the boat...but I just couldn't get there.

For those of you who are thoroughly confused and now completely convinced that new motherhood has totally turned my brains to mush, you are correct let me clue you in.  I'm talking about novel #94 which is Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

The Big Six: A Novel (Swallows and Amazons Series)

This is actually an image from the entire series, not just this particular novel.  There wasn't a link-able image to just the novel, which may have been my first clue that this novel would be a smidge difficult to get through.  (My apologies to those of you who heart this one...)

My first inkling that this book may be "troublesome" is that one of the main characters is named Titty.

I'll pause for a moment and let you drink that in.


Seriously, imagine yourself saying the word "Titty" repeatedly in your class.  Or remembering to change it for "Thomas" or "Tito" or ANYTHING BUT TITTY over and over and over again.  

Now, maybe I'm just not mature enough, however I feel as if a main character named after a "private part" may not be the best choice.  I'm already picturing my friends stifling their laughter to the point that their eyes are bulging, perhaps snot is running down their face and maybe they've even peed a little.

I'm just saying.

The novel, which is written in what I would consider to be more proper English, is about a group of siblings who are totally into sailing and want to have an adventure on an island that they can see from their evidently very large yard.  With the green light for their parents, the whole first part of the book is about them packing for and discussing their trip.  As a non-sailor (I KNOW!  I consider myself an East Coaster and don't sail...it's a crime.), I found these sections to be long and difficult to get through.  Without the proper background knowledge, I think your friends might agree.

Again, I'm so sorry if you think this book rocks the casbah, but Titty + detailed sailing lingo x me at the end of my pregnancy and anticipating a new baby = not going to happen.

My apologies.

Next week, however, I am going to do my damn-dest to read novel #93 which is Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink.  It may take the harnessing of every super multi-tasking I possess, but we all know that teachers are rockstars and I have no intention of turning in my cape yet. 

Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books #s 76- 72

I know many of you only have a few weeks to go until school is officially O-V-E-R.  Just know, YOU CAN DO IT!!  I hope these lists make the time go by a little faster...and maybe psych you up to do it all again next year?  Yes?  No?

Regardless, do you have your coffee?  (Or cocktail if it's afternoon where you are.)
Got your list?
Your favorite Sharpie?

Then let's go!

At #76 this morning is Zoom at Sea by Tim Wynne-Jones.  A warning - this book was a you-know-what to find at the public library.  I mean, it's like hunting for buried treasure. So I hope a) it was worth it and b) it's easier for you to find.  Anyone have something to share with us about this title? Hopefully I'll have an update sometime soon. 

Zoom at Sea

Okay, my loyal readers.  At #75 we have one of my FAVORITE.  STORIES.  EVER.  It's Horton Hatches the Egg by the master of rhyme himself, Dr. Seuss.  (insert moment of reverence here)  So far, my boy Dr. S is the only author to grace this list THREE TIMES.  That's right, I said THREE TIMES and we're only on number 75.

Horton Hatches the Egg (Dr. Seuss Classics)

First of all, I think I must warn you that Mayzie, one of the main characters in the book, totally infuriates me.  I mean, girlfriend is the epitome of all things self-centered.  And, reading this book while pregnant, does not make me feel any more sympathetic.

So, if you haven't read this one before RUN OUT YOUR DOOR AND GET IT NOW.  It is totally worth it.  Basically, Mayzie is a lazy piece of crap bird who is sick of sitting on her egg.  Horton, who is fabulous, volunteers to watch it for her while she runs out for a minute.  Except...Mayzie never comes back.  And Horton, who is the most faithful and wonderful creature EVER, stays on her egg through all kinds of heinous weather.  (Mr. Mimi, my southern Californian, is somewhere just twitching thinking about sitting outside in all that snow.)  Plus, all the other animals make fun of him, but Horton, who shows great inner-strength, stays on the egg.  (I mean, how much does he charge an hour?) Then, as if it couldn't get any worse, some hunters come and take Horton (with the eggs) away to put him in a circus!  Cue Mayzie who flies in to visit the circus and discovers Horton with her egg that is hatching!  And, because she has balls the size of North Dakota, Mayzie yells at Horton to give her back her egg and accuses him of stealing.  (deep breaths)  Out pops an elephant bird which Horton promptly takes home.

I know. Long summary.  But I get all excited when I think about this book that you HAVE to read with your first and/or second grade friends.  (And as a Fountas and Pinnell Level P book, great for third grade just right independent reading.)  I mean, we've got opportunities to study some rhyme, a fabulous story to discuss, a lesson about being true to your word and even the potential for a debate between children who are wrong side with Mayzie and those who side with Horton.   I say, slam dunk, Dr. Seuss, slam dunk.

I'll try to keep this next one shorter.  (You're welcome.) Number 74 is Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown.  If you are pregnant, or thinking about becoming pregnant, you will receive roughly six copies of this in board book form.  Consider yourself warned.

The Runaway Bunny

A little bunny continues to threaten to run away.  (If Mini Mimi ever pulls this, I may not handle it as well as the Mother Bunny in this book.)   For example, when the little bunny says he is going to become a rock on a mountain high above her, the mother replies that she will become a mountain climber.  In the end, the little bunny realizes that his mother will always be with him and decides to stay home and be her little bunny.

Maybe it's because I'm pregnant and haven't had a drink in MONTHS, but...when I read the book this time, I could only think to myself that the little bunny sounded like a little shit.  I have a feeling that most see this as a very sweet story between mother and son, however and perhaps, with fewer hormones, I will again too.  Either way, I think this is more of a bedtime story than it is a read aloud for your friends at school. 

I already know that I love this next story!!  It's The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant by Jean de Brunhoff at number 73.  I was obsessed with elephants as a child, still think they are adorable today and even sneaked a few into Mini Mimi's uber-cute nursery.

The Story of Babar (Babar Books (Random House))

So the beginning is a little rough.  Babar's mother is killed by some poachers.  Babar runs away and meets a rich Old Lady (seriously, that's her name in the story) in the city who gives him some money for clothes and takes him in.  (Can't blame a guy for trying to fit in, right?)  Babar goes to school and totally lives the good life but still misses his mother.  (Think E! True Hollywood Story all the way.) One day, Babar's two cousins come to find him, although their mother and father are worried.  Babar misses his family and decides to pay a visit to the forest but on that day, the king of the elephants gets sick and dies.  They make Babar the King of the Elephants.  Celeste is his Queen (and also his cousin...creepy?)

Okay.  I may have blocked the part about Celeste being his cousin.  I don't think my childhood self made that connection.  Methinks I'm going to continue to ignore it for now as well.  This is a fun read aloud for first and second graders...just fun.  And, as I've said before, sometimes it's nice to just enjoy a book together.  Maybe one to keep on hand for emergency sub plans and/or those random extra ten minutes you sometimes end up with at the end of the day.

And, at the end of our list for today is The Little Brute Family by Russell Hoban.  This book originally came out in 1966 and as I'm finding out, the older books are usually a b*tch to find in the public library, even if they are considered classic. 

The Little Brute Family

All right my fellow book nerds, that's it for this week. Stay tuned for numbers 71-67 next weekend.  A sneak peak at the list tells me that my boy Robert Munsch is about to make an appearance...


Friday, June 11, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Novel #95

I distinctly remember decorating a pumpkin to look like Pippi Longstocking when I was little.  It was a pretty rockin' pumpkin - complete with orange braids sticking out on the sides thanks to a little copper wire.  However, I don't really remember ever reading the book...but I can't imagine Big Mama Mimi letting me get away with anything so scandalous as claiming to have read a book I had actually never read before.  (She ran a tight ship.) 

Either way, I enjoyed novel #95 (from the list of Top 100 Children's Novels)- Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren.  Talk about a classic, right?

Pippi Longstocking (Puffin Modern Classics)

The version I read even had large print text, so pretty easy on the eyes when reading to the old class (especially after having a lunch that was a little too ambitious and has made you sleepy post-recess), right? 

Without a larger arc across the entire book, each chapter made a nice little story in and of itself and therefore, would be a nice starting place for a chapter book read aloud...I'm thinking perhaps at the start of the year with third graders (although older children would enjoy this too).  However, it would also make a nice transition into longer chapter book read alouds for second grade friends at the end of the year.  Plenty of places to have convos regarding Pippi's behavior...especially when girlfriend tries to go to school.  Also, Pippi would make for a pretty rad class character study - lots of work to be done trying to uncover why this chick does what she does. 

Now, most of you already know about my love for strong female characters, and I think Pippi really takes the cake.   Raising herself (her father, a sea captain, died as did her mother...although she has a much more positive spin on things than my Cynical Self), Pippi definitely marches to her own drummer - and with super human strength!  She takes on robbers, makes a splash at the circus and turns ordinary afternoons into great adventures for her neighbors and BFFs Tommy and Annika.  And because she has spent so many traveling with the world with her father and in her own little bubble, Pippi reminds me a little bit of an Amelia Bedelia in terms of totally misunderstanding typical social cues and normal, everyday activities. The only part that kind of bugged was when she went to school, but maybe that's because I have a huge chip on my shoulder when it comes to representations of teachers in various sources of media I'm sensitive.  Pippi shows up and granted, is insanely disruptive, but the teacher then attempts to evaluate her academic knowledge by grilling her in front of the whole class.  We're talking, "Pippi, can you tell me what five plus twelve equals?"  Not a hard question, no, but can you imagine the pressure?  Then the teacher just kind of agrees that maybe school isn't the place for Pippi...maybe the laws are different in Sweden, but I didn't know we could do that.

Coming in at a level O (according to this leveled book list that uses Fountas and Pinnell's method of leveling books), this book could also be totally perf for friends in fourth grade....or super smarties in third grade even.  You know your kiddos better than I do after all. 

For those of you who are joining me in all the reading fun, next up is #94 which is Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome.

Swallows and Amazons (Godine Storyteller)

Another new title for Mrs. Mimi...look boys and girls, I'm learning!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Children's Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Picture Books # 81-77

Man, we are just chugging away with these picture books and I have to say, I am so not sick of reading them yet!  No one can believe me when they see the towering pile of picture books stacked precariously on my dining room table, but I really?  I feel sorry for those people.  They just don't get the fabulousness that is a good picture book.

Today we are going to check out numbers 81-77 on the list of Top 100 Children's Picture Books.  If you missed any of the other installments, have no fear...just click here.

(I know. I thought the rhyming was a bit much too, but I just went for it.)

Okay.  At #81 today is Possum Magic by the fabulous Mem Fox.  Can I get a "what what" for Mem Fox who also made an appearance at #97 with Where Is the Green Sheep?  Work it, Ms. Fox!

Possum Magic (Voyager Books)(Reminder - click on the image for linky-poos.)

This book takes place in the Australian bush.  Hush lives with his Grandma who does all sorts of bush magic with other animals.  She turned wombats blue and kookaburras pink aaannnnddd could make Hush be invisible.  Hush had all sorts of adventures while she was invisible - she slid down the tails of kangaroos and was safe from snakes.  But one day, Hush wanted to be visible again and asked his Grandma.  She looked and looked for the magic but couldn't find it anywhere.  Then Grandma remembers the magic has something to do with people food so she and Hush leave the bush to figure it out.  Finally, after much searching all over Australia, they find a Vegemite sandwich, some pavlova, lamington and it worked!  Hush never wanted to be invisible again and, once a year on her birthday, they ate all the magic ingredients again just to make sure she would stay visible.

I heart it.  Just heart it.  Not only is this story filled with references to the unique animals, places and foods of Australia, it has gorgeous illustrations to boot.  I think the storyline is amazing and love the adventure that Hush and her Grandmother go on.  If you are studying other continents, foods from around the world or animals, this book would make a nice little tie in.  Or whip out a map and look for places in Australia that are mentioned in the book.  A perfect read aloud in grades K-2. 

At #80 is The Jolly Postman: Or Other People's Letters by Janet Ahlberg.  This one...not so easy to find at one's public library.  Or at least it wasn't for me. Anyone have anything to add about this one?  I promise to post an update if I manage to track it down....

The Jolly Postman: Or Other People's Letters

Another tough one to find was #79, which is a bummer because it's another one I have never read before.  It's Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen.Our Animal Friends At Maple Hill Farm

We have another repeat offender at number 78 - it's Dr. Seuss and How The Grinch Stole Christmas!!  The Lorax already made the list at #83.  This is one of my most favorite books to read aloud!  I love it and read it with much relish and drama.  Honestly, I do one mean Grinch.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Do I even need to summarize this one? I don't think so.  I mean, it's one of the best books ever, is on TV and was made into a movie.  I think we all get the gist, yes?  So, I will simply wax poetic about it here.  The illustrations are wonderful, the rhymes are wonderful, the story is wonderful and the message is wonderful.  In a nutshell?  Wonderful.  I can't wait to read this one to Mini Mimi.  *sigh*

To round out our weekend review is The Library by Sarah Stewart at number 77.  Ms. Stewart has already made the list with The Gardener so she is officially hot to trot.

The Library

Written in rhyme (Can you say Word Study opportunity??)  Elizabeth Brown grows up loving books.  In all honesty, she's kind of a super nerd and doesn't seem to have many friends other than her books.  She collects so many books that there isn't room anywhere in her house anymore.  (It's a little a la that show Hoarders on TLC...) Then one day, Elizabeth Brown walks into town and donates all her books to the town for free.  They turn her house into a library and Elizabeth Brown moves in with a friend and continues to read, read, read. (So evidently she did get out enough to meet a few people.)

I read this book at the beginning of the year every year with my first grade friends. (It makes a super first or second grade read aloud.)  I mean, I totally get Elizabeth Brown and her love of all things book.  We would totally nerd out together in real life.  Can't you picture it?  The rhyming pattern provides a great opportunity for some Word Study as well and you know how I love that.

Another great round up of books in my opinion!  Mini Mimi better watch out - her mom has been waiting YEARS to share all her favorite books with her and the list just keeps on growing.  Barnsey, here I come!!

Enjoy your weekends fellow book lovers (or should I say crack heads?)!


Friday, June 4, 2010

Childrens Book Reading Extravaganza 2010: Novel #96

Happy June my friends!  We made it!!  YOU are in the final month of the school year and I *gasp* have been waiting for June for nine long months myself.  (Different reasons, of course, but don't worry, I will always feel that end-of-the-year-how-long-until-June feeling with you.)

And novel #96 is one of my childhood faves, despite people saying that it is controversial.  I guess it's the whole witch thing that puts people off.  I thought it was FANTASTIC back in 1980-something when I read it for the first time and I still think it's FANTASTIC now.  In fact, I read it over a cup of coffee in one sitting.  (Clearly, this was pre-Mini Mimi...I wanted to get ahead of the game so I didn't leave you sans post for the entire month of June.  I know.  I'm amazing.)

Anyhow, #96 is The Witches by Roald Dahl.

The Witches

A young boy (our narrator) is sent to live with his cigar-smoking grandmother after his parents die.  His grandmother is a witch expert and tells her grandson all she knows about witches.  They go on a summer holiday to a hotel, and by accident, the boy finds himself locked in the Ballroom while the annual convention of the witches of England is taking place!  He overhears the witches' plan to kill all the children of England by sneaking a potion (which will turn them into mice) into chocolates.  The boy manages to hide for the entire meeting, observing everything, until the very end when one witch smells his child-stink and the Grand Witch turns HIM into a mouse!  Oddly enough, he is totally cool with being a mouse (so is his grandmother...a lesson in loving someone no matter what or just creepy?)  and together they steal the magic potion, manage to feed it to all the witches at the hotel and turn them all into mice! 

Crazy, right?  I mean, this book is funny and has chapters that are a manageable length so that you could squeeze on in easily each day. PLUS, the Grand Witch has this FABULOUS accent (I think she must be Eastern European??) which would make reading this out loud to your friends ridiculously fun.  Clearly, with my flair for the dramatic, I turned simply reading a chapter book out loud for pleasure into a one woman show.  I have even been known to incorporate basic props.  (You think I'm kidding.)  (I'm not. )  I wish I had been able to read it with my small fries, but I always thought it was a bit advanced.  However, it would totally hold the interest of your third through fifth grade friends.

According to this lovely leveled book list (How handy is this thing?), The Witches clocks in at a just right level R, so probably perf for some of your independent readers at the end of fourth grade or the beginning of fifth. 

AND (it gets even better) think about the possibilities for a Roald Dahl author study!  I mean, the man is hilarious and has some fabulous books out there.  You could even incorporate the movie versions and turn the whole thing into an exciting multi-media study perfect for end of the year fun. 

Here are some other Roald Dahl titles that I totally dig:

George's Marvelous Medicine
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Twits
Danny the Champion of the World
James and the Giant Peach
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
The BFG (My Roald Dahl)

Maybe, just maybe, I'll take it upon myself to re-read all of these someday and create an author study for us to have fun with when my AMAZING website is up and ready for you to rock.  Just a thought...

All right lovers, that's it for today.  Feel free to share YOUR opinions of this title or get geared up to join in all the reading fun with novel #95...Pippi Longstocking.  We are totes like our own little book club.  So grab a glass of wine and get reading!


Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Announcement

To My Lovely and Loyal Readers,

The big day has finally arrived.  This morning, Mini Mimi was born.  Mr. Mimi and I could not be happier.

While I promise not to turn this into a blog which details my daily comings and goings (including fascinating stories about my cat....wait for it....napping!), I will follow this post up with a few more details.  These last few days have been an absolute roller coaster of emotions punctuated with a lot of frantic advanced blogging and pre-scheduled publishing.  HOWEVER, I did not get as much done as I would have liked to and, as a result, posting may be a bit spotty for the next few weeks as I get my you-know-what together.  I know you'll understand.  (Or I really hope you do.)

Throughout this pregnancy and, in fact, this crazy journey I have been on since starting this blog, you all have been incredibly supportive and encouraging and I can't thank you enough.  Your well wishes have meant the world to me and my family.  I can't promise I'll be exactly the same, but I can promise you that I will be back and still just as sassy (read: full of jokes about pee and ready to slap the douche label on anyone who DARES to speak ill of teachers).

So, for those of you who are already done with your school year...I hope you are soaking up the sun and fruity cocktails.  For those of you who are almost done - you can do it!!!  For all of you out there who rocked it in their classrooms this year - congratulations on another year under your belt.  It may not have felt like you were a rock star each and every day but I KNOW that you touched a lot of little minds and what can be better than that?

Virtual hugs and high fives all around, my friends.  I'll see you soon.  Sleep for me!!


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

CBRE 2010: Multicultural Books - For Friends Ages 7-9 Part One

Whew!  Had to shorten up that title....I mean, talk about getting a little out of control!!  I also decided to break up this next group of books so that a) the post doesn't become something that you click off of instantly while thinking, "Is she freaking insane?"  need 45 minutes to read and b) it doesn't take ME a billion years to finish it because frankly, some of the books are getting longer and Mrs. Mimi is not a skimmer.

(Did that last bit sound dirty to anybody else?)

Also, apologies all around - this SHOULD HAVE been posted on Sunday but that would have meant I didn't get to finish the draft of my ENTIRE DISSERTATION (insert high fiving here) last week and/or I would have had to walk away from the grilled meats this weekend.  

Must.  Eat.  Grilled.  Meats.

Anyhoooowwww... back to the CCBC's list of 50 Multicultural Books Every Child Should Know. So, this first (belated) edition (a.k.a. Part One) is all picture book related.  I'll save the chapter-ish books for next time.  I like to think this draws out our relationship a bit longer...wish is just what you were hoping for, right?

Anyhow, here we go in no particular order.

The first book recommended is Show Way  by Jacqueline Woodson, the genius who brought us The Other Side.  A book I totally heart by the way.  I have not, however, checked out this Newberry Honored gem. 

Show Way (Newbery Honor Book) (Click on the image for links my friends...links and endless shopping possibilities.)

Can I just say, "Holy crap, I love this book?"  I mean, I LOVE THIS BOOK.  It starts off with Soonie's great grandmother being sold as a slave when she was only seven years old.  The only things she took from her family before she left were some muslin, two needles and thread.  She made beautiful quilts - a skill she passed down to her daughter who was also sold into slavery.  The story continues across generations of the brave women in this family and we watch them get sold as slaves, find freedom, go to school, march for civil rights, go to college.  Each generation achieves more than the last and each generation knows how to quilt their history and beauty.  In the end, we are left with a new generation, full of advantages those before her didn't have and a history laid out in beautiful quilts. 

You.  Must.  Get.  This.  Book.  The story is inspiring, the language is beautiful, the illustrations are to die for. I can imagine using this book in so many ways - as part of a unit on slavery, family history, life long ago, quilting or during Black History Month....you name it!  Plus, the opportunities to have juicy discussions with your little friends along the way are endless. This book:fabulous as Jacqueline Woodson:gifted writer.

Next up is another Must Have title for every classroom - Tar Beach  by Faith Ringgold. 

Tar Beach

I know a lot of us out there have read this one, so I'll keep the summary brief.  A little girl loves to spend time on the roof of her building (hence the name Tar Beach) in New York City (And no, she's not tanning like Mrs. Mimi in her post college days.) imagining herself flying over the buildings....especially the George Washington Bridge.  She imagines a better life for her family although she is quite happy where she is for now. 

A classic story and absolutely fan-freaking-tastic illustrations makes this book a no brainer for your classroom.  Read it as part of a family story telling unit, as part of a series of lessons on city life...whatever.  Just read it.  This read aloud works with a wide range of friends too.  I'm thinking second grade through at least fourth. 

Moving right along, we have another new title for me.  It's From the Bellybutton of the Moon and Other Summer Poems by Francisco X. Alarcon.

From the Bellybutton of the Moon: And Other Summer Poems / Del Ombligo de la Luna: Y Otros Poemas de Verano (The Magical Cycle of the Seasons Series)

Talk about some fabulous poems I could've used during my Poetry Study!  Shoulda, woulda, coulda, right?  Anyhow, these poems are all about summer, family and Hispanic American culture.  With short poems about an aunt making eggs for breakfast and longer poems where elder family members share their wisdom, this book has a lot to add to your classroom.  Written side-by-side in both English and Spanish, these poems are also accompanied by some super colorful illustrations.  While some of the poems ARE shorter and about simple topics (rainbows, the rain, etc.), I really think this book would work best with friends ages 7-10 since some of them ARE a bit meatier.  All in all...hot.

The next book I found from this list is John Henry by Julius Lester. 

John Henry (Picture Puffins)

The story of John Henry is certainly an interesting one- very tall tale-esque.  As soon as John Henry was born, he was different.  He leapt out of his mother's arms, grew six feet in one day, could talk to the sun and the moon and had super human strength.  He lived his life helping other people (think turning bullies into kind people, moving boulders that dynamite couldn't move, and digging tunnels for trains in the matter of days... you know, usual stuff like that.)  He died one day while helping people and although everyone was sad, they swear they heard the rainbow whisper, "Everybody dies.  It's how you live your life that matters." 

Talk about killer life lesson to share with your friends, right?  I really enjoyed this one, although I think it would work best with older friends who could a) appreciate the lesson and b) have the stamina to sit through a fairly long read aloud with long pages of text.  Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, the pictures are lovely to look at too. 

There are a bunch of books on this list that are not available of any of my local libraries.  I have holds out for all of them, so hopefully I'll have an update for you soon soony soon.  Here they are, just for ha has:

Indian ShoesThe People Shall ContinueShinchi's Canoe

Coming soon (meaning hopefully next Sunday but by then Mini Mimi will be here so I'm not making any promises....hope you understand) is the next installment...chapter books for ages 7-9! 

Party on!

Who's Peeking?