Monday Reading

I read a lot of wonderful books this week.  I wish I could walk through the classroom door and hand them to you and tell you exactly why I think you’d love them.  I hope you’ll go to the library to find some, or you stop by the classroom next year  on your way upstairs to borrow some.  I’ll review a couple favorites today, and a couple tomorrow.  There are pictures of some of the other books I’ve read and recommend in the sidebar.  I hope you’ve found some great books this summer.  Let me know what you are reading in the comments below.

I discovered a new mystery series from England this week.  Fabio is the world’s greatest flamingo detective, who along with his friend and associate, Gilbert Giraffe, are known around Lake Laloozee as the go to pair when an emergency arises.  Business is not going well at the Hotel Royale – the best place around for refreshing pink lemonade – and so one of the owners is thinking of trying something new.  They are going to host a talent show.  They hope this will boost business.  Fabio and Gilbert listen to the plans while sipping their lemonade, but something seems amiss.  The dive of a hippo splashes the customers completely. The rhinoceros dramatically claims illness and backs out as talent show judge, begging Fabio to replace her.  He reluctantly agrees, but doesn’t see how he fits in with the other two judges – a used car salesman and a dance instructor.  The show must go on.  Some acts are bad, others are atrocious and yet. all seem to make it through to the next round.  At last there is one act that actually seems to have some talent.  The power flashes out and the act disappears.  Read Fabio The World’s Greatest Flamingo Detective in The Case of the Missing Hippo to find out what happens.  You’ll find some funny antics, silly adventure and perhaps you’ll locate some clues before Fabio does and solve the case early.

A Friendship for Today takes place in Missouri in 1954 through 1955.  It is a fictionalize story of the author’s, Patricia McKissack’s life.  The book begins on the last day of school, Report Card Day, when Rosemary, J.J. and the rest of their friends are saying good-bye to each other on their last day at Attucks, a segregated school.  Over the summer they prepare for their 6th grade year in new integrated schools.  As the year begins, Rosemary find herself the only African-American child in 6th grade – on top of that, J.J. her best friend in the world is struggling miles away with paralysis caused by polio and Grace Hamilton, one of the few white girls in her neighborhood, is assigned to sit beside Rosemary.  Friendless, and seated beside one of her worst enemies, Rosemary has to figure out how to deal with prejudice and find it in her heart to learn what it means treat everyone with kindness and generosity.  There is so much more in the book.  Read it and let me know what speaks most loudly to you.

Here’s one of my favorite parts.  I like Mr. Bob, the owner of the corner store.  He wise and he shares this with gentle loving-kindness.

School lets out at 12:30 – not a moment too soon. I kick off my shoes and dash home.  I’m anxious to tell Mama I want to transfer and to hear how J.J. is doing.  But first, I stop off at Mr. Bob’s to buy myself a treat.  I deserve one.

“There’s a storm brewing in your face,” he says.  “Was the first day that bad?”

“Mr. Bob, it was awful.  Way, way awful.”

” A lot of name-calling?”

“Some.  But it could have been worse.  The hardest part is not having any of my friends there with me, especially J.J.

“My wife and I heard about J.J. and we’re sick at heart.  The whole community is praying for him,” says Mr. Bob.  “Hang in there,” Mr. Bob adds.  “Your a pioneer in the real sense of the word, Rosemary.  Whenever you are the first, you’re going to have it hard.  I was in the Army-Air Force during World War II.  They said colored men couldn’t fly airplanes, especially in combat.  but we Tuskegee pilots proved ourselves repeatedly.  So, I say this to you so you’ll maybe gather strength from my words.  Be the best you can be, and that’s all any can ask.”

“Thank you, Mr. Bob,” I say and hurry home.

It will help your understanding grow beyond Freedom Summer, Uncle Jeb’s Barbershop, The Other Side and Let the Children March.

Monday Reading

Here are some book suggestions you might want to explore.

Hummingbirds by Nicola Davies begins: ” Ruby-throated hummingbirds are tiny- they weigh less than a nickel – but every spring they fly up to 2,000 miles from Mexico and Central America to spend the summer in the United States and Canada, where they build their nests and have their babies.  In the fall, they fly all the way back again to spend the winter where it’s warm.”  A story begins in a granny’s garden in Central America where she and her visiting granddaughter are enjoying the beauty and wonder of the hummingbirds all around.  The girl flies home to New York and the hummingbirds follow – though they take much longer.  Readers learn all about the hummingbird migration until the reach the girl New York city where they raise their young and are ready to travel back again to granny’s garden.  There are lots of interesting facts tucked into the story.  Did you know hummingbird nests are made with thistledown, lichen and spider silk so they are stretchy enough to expand as the fledging grow?  Did you know scientist have been able to band some hummingbirds and have learned they can live nine years?  There’s lots to discover in the gorgeous book.  Enjoy!

Who Built That? Bridges by Didier Cornille introduces ten important bridges and their designers. Starting in 1779 with the first cast iron bridge built by Thomas Farnolls Pritchard in the United Kingdom  and ending with the Mucen Footbridge built in 2013 by Rudy Ricciotti in France readers learn about the design challenges architects and tackled to create stronger, longer lasting and more beautiful structures through time.  It is interesting to learn about the structural, design factors designers and builders need to consider and how much present bridge makers rely on the work of those before them to guide their choices and help them consider options when issues arise.  It’s fun to imagine what the future will bring.

It’s still early in Frankie Sparks’ 3rd grade year, but it seems as though it’s going to be a good one. She likes her teacher, Ms. Cupid and her best friend is in her class this year too.  Frankie is looking forward to sharing her weekend trip to visit her aunt who is a rodentologist at a nearby university.  The story of her visit connects perfectly with the next thing the teacher has to share with the class.  Ms. Cupid unveils an empty aquarium and says they have a week to research  and create a convincing presentation about what their class pet should be.  Frankie knows immediately that the class should get a rat and she begins to convince others, knowing her best friend will certainly agree – except she doesn’t.  Frankie has some decisions to make – and they’re not easy.  I think you’ll like reading all about it in, Frankie Sparks and the Class Pet by Megan Frazer Blakemore.  

Eric Harper misses his grandmother – misses knowing she’s right down the path in her farm house. She’s in a nursing home and her farm has been sold to a veterinarian with a daughter who is bossy and rude. Eric figured this out when they met – she was posting a “No Trespassing – No Hunting” sign in his treehouse tree on his family’s property, Harper Woods. That same day Eric discovered that the famed white deer of the woods did exist, but it was not a deer. Eric knew that no deer shimmered like that and that no deer had an ivory colored horn on its forehead. Eric discovered the “deer” was a unicorn and that it was hurt and needed care.  After following the unicorn to the barn, Eric is hired to help. One of his jobs is to care for the unicorn and that’s just the beginning of the adventure. Eric has much more to learn about his family history, his destiny and the secrets of Harper Woods.  Read The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline K. Ogburn.  You’ll be glad you did.

If you’ve got some books to recommend, please leave a comment.  What have you been reading this summer?

Monday Reading

Happy July!

I thought I’d share some picture books this week.  I hope you’ll check them out.  They are funny, interesting and make great mentors to model your writing on.

The first is The Panda Problem (Ella, this is one for you to read for sure) by Deborah Underwood.  It begins, “Once upon a time, there was a panda who lived in a beautiful bamboo grove.  But the panda had a BIG problem.”  The panda disagrees – “Nope.” The narrator replies, “Excuse me?”  Panda and the narrator continue to have a conversation.  Panda says, “I don’t have any problems.  Lovely view, lots of bamboo to eat, sunny day – what could be better?”

“Psssst … this is a story!  I’m the narrator.  And YOU are the main character.”

“The main character?  That sounds important!”

“It is!  But you need a problem.”


“So you can solve the problem.  That’s how the stories work.”

That is how stories work so the narrator and Panda have their work cut out for them.  They work through issues with  jellybeans, burping, aliens and some penguins, and finally find a problem, and then a solution, that satisfies everyone by the time the book is over.

Bethany Barton has written two other books using a similar format that I really like, I’m Trying to Love Spiders and Give Bees a Chance.  When I read about I’m Trying to Love Math, I thought I should get it right away.  Here’s the OFFICIAL Math Test from the flap of the book.  “What do you do when your teacher gives you a pop quiz with a problem like this?



  • a.  Whip out your pencil and shout, “Alakazam!”
  • b. Say you need to use the bathroom… for the rest of the class.
  • c. Run over to your teacher and give them a big ol’ hug.
  • d. Cross your eyes, fall to the floor and played dead.

If you chose a or c, you will LOVE this book.  It’s full of fascinating ways that math is used from gold records in space to golden ratios in nature.

If you chose b or d, you NEED this book.  It shows you that math is much more lovable when you understand that it’s in lots o things you already love – like cookies and pizza and music!”

Math really is about exploring and creating and understanding. I bet we can all agree we can’t live without it.  I don’t know if reading this book will totally change your mind when it comes to answering the opening question… but maybe?! Who knows.

Our Flag Was Still There – the True Story of Mary Pickersgill and The Star Spangled Banner tells the story of the flag that inspired our national anthem.  Thirty years after the Revolutionary War, the United States went to war with Britain again.  Major George Armistead, ready to lead the troops to defend Baltimore’s Fort McHenry wanted to send a message to the British.  He wanted them to know that this land was America.  He asked Mary Pickersgill, the owner of a flag making shop, if she could do the job, and fast.  She said yes, and so in just a few weeks six women (sewing all by hand) created a flag that was 42 feet long and 30 feet tall to fly over the fort. The Battle of Fort McHenry happened on a stormy night.  It was difficult to tell who was winning until the sun came up to show the American flag. Francis Scott Key, was on a ship in the harbor while the battle raged.  He wrote a poem about what he saw.  That poem was put to music and in 1931 became our national anthem.  And the Star Spangled Banner… you can see it in the Smithsonian Museum – the flag is still there.

Monday Reading

I am Sonia Sotomayor is the newest book in the Ordinary People Change the World series by Brad Meltzer.  You won’t be disappointed as you read about this Supreme Court Justice’s life.  I think you’ll be inspired.  I was.  The truth that “with opportunity comes justice” is clearly demonstrated through this biography.  I hope we all learn to take advantage of every opportunity we have.  I appreciate the two questions Justice Sotomayor asks at the end of each day.  They seem to be good ones to keep track of.  I’m going to give it a try.  “What did I learn today?”  and “What act of giving did I do today?”  If she can’t answer the first question, she reads.  If she can’t answer the second, she sends a message of appreciation to someone she cares about.  Read I am Sonia Sotomayor to find out the rest of her story.

The Important Thing About Margaret Wise Brown is a new picture book biography about the author of The Important Book.  The order came on Sunday and I read it right away.  The book is 42 pages long; one page for every year of her life.  In it MacBarnett has tried to capture the important things about the author of over 100 books for children.  When I finished reading, I wanted to know more about this unusual author and I wondered what you would think.  Would you like this book, or not.  I hope you’ll find it and read it and tell me what you think.  I’m not sure what I think.  I’ll have to read it again and again…

A few years ago Elias gave me a book written by his second cousin, Esta Spalding, Look Out for the Fitzgerald-Trouts.  I read it over that summer and completely enjoyed the ingenuity of children who are left to fend for themselves because they have the absolute worst parents in the world.  I got the second book right away, but it sat in the TBR pile for over a year.  Mrs. Wyman wrote about reading the Fitzgerald-Trout books aloud to her 5th graders, so I pulled Knock About with the Fitzgerald-Trouts to the top.  I wish I’d done that sooner, but I’ll recommend it to you now.  There are five Fitzgerald-Trouts:  Kim, Kimo (both 11), Pippa, Toby and baby, Penny.  They’ve been left to live on the island in a small green car.  Really they’re better off that way because their parents are self-centered, greedy brutes involved in unsavory and shallow pursuits.  The children are far more responsible than the adults.  The children are searching for a home – someplace larger than a car – so they can live more comfortably.  They need space and security, but something strange is going on.  The brizzill bugs are worse then ever, the rumble and shake of periodic “knock-abouts” are becoming alarmingly frequent and dormant Mount Muldoon – is not anymore.  Combine those concerns with a carnival and a boat, Johnny Trout and his pig, carnivorous plants, floods, lava flows and appearance of the island goddess, Maha, and you’ve got a great mystery adventure that you won’t put down until you reach the end. The best thing is, there’s a third Fitzgerald-Trout adventure to read as soon as you’re ready.

Monday Reading

One of my goals for the last few summers has been to read a book a day.  A reading teacher from Texas began this challenge to help teachers read more and find ways to bring more books into classrooms.  I think this has worked for us.  I have piles of books EVERYWHERE around and on my desk at home.  My goal this summer was to buy nothing new until there was nothing unread… we’ll see how long that will last.

I started with Ruby on the Outside. It will make you think.  Ruby is 11.  Summer vacation is just beginning and she is realizing she has no true friends.  Ruby’s mom is in prison, but she doesn’t want anyone to know that.  It is a secret she has kept for six years.  Then Margalit moves in and they hit it off right away – but what if events in their past are connected?  What if secrets must be told?

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raliegh Baskin will make you think about choices and consequences, life and love, family and friends.  I think it’s a quietly, important book.

And just for fun – pictures from the first day of school and the last!  Happy Summer 3E!

It’s Monday – here are some books you might enjoy

I know, it’s Tuesday today.  I am losing track of days – but I guess that is what summer is about.  I’ve spent lots of time with my family and Maggie.  We’ve been walking everywhere and I’ve been collecting lots of feathers on those walks.

Some of the feathers are flight feathers, fallen from wings and tails.  Others are smaller feathers from breasts and bellies.  I think they are beautiful. Some are speckled and some are striped.  Some are iridescent and others appear to be different colors depending on the angle you see it from.  Most have white shafts, but some shafts are tan or even bright yellow.  Even the black feathers, that I’m guessing have been molted by crows, shimmer  midnight blue in the sunlight.  Melissa Stewart’s book Feathers: Not Just for Flying tells of how different feathers serve birds in different ways.  The book blurb says:

Feathers aren’t just for flying. They can also protect a bird’s skin like sunscreen, attract attention like fancy jewelry, or even distract a predator like a bullfighter’s cape. Feathers: Not Just for Flying introduces young readers to sixteen birds, from the sleek emperor penguin to the fluffed-up blue jay and describes just how positively practical feathers can be.

It is interesting to think of all the things feathers do.  Birds have made some many different adaptations that allow them to survive in so many different environments and habitats.

Another thing I’ve been noticing on my walks with Maggie are the mushrooms.  They are everywhere in the woods and along the dirt roads where we walk.  Elise Gravel has written a new book about hunting for and gathering mushrooms with her two daughters.  It’s called The Mushroom Fan Club.  In it you can begin to learn about how and where mushrooms grow.  Scientists who study mushrooms are called mycologists.  The author teaches us about a few different kinds of mushrooms – some that are edible and some that are poisonous – and ends with a collections of mushroom facts.  She writes: “In case I still haven’t convinced you that mushrooms are cool… There are about thirty species of mushrooms that glow in the dark!  The super mushroom from Mario is a poisonous fly agaric.  Mushrooms grow better where lightning has recently struck…”  Mushrooms are pretty interesting and the more you know about them, the more interesting they become.

The world is an amazingly wonderful place.  What have you been wondering about? What have you been noticing this summer?  What kinds of memories or things are you collecting during your summer days?

It’s Monday – here are some books you might like to read

Last week after I read through many books of poetry, I started reading articles about the books that had won special awards last year.  One of the award winners was a book of poetry I hadn’t read yet, called Out of Wonder.  I went to a favorite book store in Concord the next day to find a copy.  It is gorgeous.  There is a poem for everyone. The one I most want to share with you is Majestic by Kwame Alexander, written as a tribute to Maya Angelou.  She is one of my all time favorite authors.  The last stanza is an important message especially to you:  “Shine on, honey!  Know you are phenomenal.”

Many of you looked through books one and two of The Next Best Junior Chef series by Charise Mericle Harper.  The last book in the trilogy was published a few weeks ago.  You’ll be able to discover who reaches the end of the contest when you read The Winner Is…  It’s a pretty exciting and intense competition with lots of surprising twists and turns.  The food lovers and chefs from our class are sure to be inspired by the choices these junior chefs make and the challenges they overcome.  I’d sure love to try their food creations (and I’d like to know how to cook like that too!). How would you design your own food truck if you won?

And finally I think you’ll like the picture book, Drawn Together.  It’ll be a great one to share with your whole family.  A boy, about your age, is dropped off at his Grandfather’s house.  He’s going to spend the day.  The problem is, they don’t speak the same language.  They try to find things to do together, but nothing seems to work – not talking, not lunch, not TV.  Finally the boy takes out his markers and sketch pad.  He begins to draw and that’s how their adventure together begins.  His grandfather draws too.  All day they create an action packed story full of daring do.  Without speaking many words they have found a way to come together.  I can only imagine what their next day together will be like.  I bet you can too!

It’s Monday – here are some books you might enjoy

I’ve been reading books of poetry looking for new poems to share in our classroom.  Last year, I don’t think we changed our poems as often as we could.  I wanted some new chart ideas.

National Geographic’s Book of Animal Poetry is as much fun to look at, as it is to read.  The photographs are breath-taking.  They feature animals great and small – can you imagine being the photographer who was able to capture each exact moment.  The poetry is stunning as well because of the different varieties and the flow and rhythm of the language.  Here are  some examples:











At the end of the book, there is an invitation to be inspired and write your own.  I hope you will.  Check out the collection in National Geographic’s Book of Nature Poetry too.  Our world is a wonderful, indeed. Find something beautiful, take a photograph and write poem sharing what you see.

It’s Monday – here are some books you might like

I’ve been sharing Humphrey books with classes for about 10 year.  Five years ago, this up-coming 8th grade, really liked Humphrey.  We read School Days According to Humphrey and Secrets According to Humphrey.  We had several different Humphrey book clubs run by 8th graders at the time – past 3E Humphrey fans.  That year Kaylee really hoped there would be an Og series.  She wrote to Betty Birney sharing her suggestion and her ideas.

Fast forward to the week school got out and what do you think I found, Life According to Og the Frog.  I couldn’t believe it and I could wait to read it.  It’s a lot of fun.  At the start of the book Og has just joined Room 26 .  Originally he was captured and brought into Miss Loomis’ classroom, but the bullfrog already there didn’t like it.  He was a real bullying made so much noise the class couldn’t learn.  Now in Room26, is trying to figure out how he belongs.  He remembers the lessons he learned in the swamp.  He watches and listens to all that happens in the classroom.  Being in a classroom is overwhelming at first – and the little furry guy on the table next to him is confusing.  Whenever Humphrey talks all Og hears is “SQUEAK, SQUEAK, SQUEAK.”  Over time with the help of Mr. Brisbane, Aldo and some of his classmates, Og discovers the importance of being a classroom pet.  He discovers the music and poetry of the classroom. Og finds ways to enjoy his classroom home and to appreciate the new opportunities there.

Home Again is the fourth and final book in the Heartwood Hotel quartet.  It’s summer and the hotel is full.  There is a wedding to celebrate and new families to welcome.  There is also a drought and a heatwave.  Lightening sparks a forest fire that threatens Fernwood Forest where the great oak hotel sits.  Mr. Heartwood sends everyone away to safety while staying behind.  He hopes to save his beloved home.  Mona realizes what Mr. Heartwood has done and rushes back to convince him to move to safety as well.  Will she return in time?  Will she still have a home, now that she has finally found one?  Friends…family…home…

Two summers ago a learned about Joseph Cornell and his Dream Boxes in a picture book by Jeanette Winters.  This summer I read more about him in Candace Fleming & Gerard Dubois’ The Amazing Collection of Joey Cornell.  It begins:  Joey Cornell collected – everything…anything… that sparked his imagination or delighted his eye.  “If I like it, I keep it,” Joey always said.  At first he stowed his collection in his bedroom.  But it grew… and grew… and grew, until…”  Joseph collected things his whole life and put them together in unusual ways to create images full of whimsy and story.  He created his museum displays just for children and it sounds like the children loved the dreams of Joseph Cornell.  What do you collect?  How would you arrange them in a box to show your dreams?  I’m saving the things I find this vacation.  I’m going to try to arrange them in a dream box sharing my memories of this summer.  Want to join me?

It’s Monday – here are some books you might like to read

Since school’s been out and the classroom packed away I’ve been settling into my reading routine.  I’ve caught up with some short, fun series books and I’ve read some stand alone realistic fiction.  It’s fun to fill up with new stories and new ideas.  Here are some books I think you might like to read.  Enjoy!

I’ve read the 4th and 5th book from the Zoey and Sassafras series.  In one, Caterflies and Ice, Zoey saves the eggs of the “caterflies” when a late spring snow threatens to freeze them.  In the other, The Pod and the Bog, Zoey has to discover the proper habitat for a rare luminous plant before the seeds disintegrate into purple dust.  Zoey approaches each problem with a scientist’s process – question, observe record, problem solve and begin again if necessary.  Her mom, a laboratory scientist,  is there for back-up when Zoey has questions she can’t solve, or when there are consequences she hadn’t realized might occur.  It’s fun to consider a world where science and magic meet.

Battle of the Bots is the seventh and final adventure in the Key Hunters series.  Cleo and Evan end their quest in a science fiction thriller.  They have to defeat the Sky Brain to save civilization from the loss of all choice and free will, while also on the lookout for the remaining Jeweled Greats.  They have to deal with the evil librarian, Locke, but they  have the help of Mrs. Hilliard.  Check out the whole series to discover the rewards of an adventure through books in a magical library.  (Maybe, you’ll discover your library’s magic too!)

You’ll breeze through the series books and while you’re at it you might like The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Broken Road and The No. 1 Car Spotter Goes to School.  You’ll read more about life in rural Nigeria for No.1, Coca-Cola and Sissy.

If you want to settle into a story that will make you wonder about the power of friends – both good and bad, read You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly.  Charlotte lives in Pennsylvania, near the city of Philadelphia.  She loves rocks and wants to be geologist.  She’s not popular, but she’s got a friend she does everything with.  Life is good.  Ben lives in a small town, Lancaster, Louisiana.  He’s small and he’s smart.  He knows how he fits in.  Though they’re thousands of miles apart, they connect through Scrabble.  They play online here and there.  Things are okay at the start of the school year.  And then, they are NOT!

Fortunately they have each other, because as we all know, everything is better with a friend.  Read You Go First to find out how friends can throw out a lifeline of kindness and support, even from so far a way.  You’ll be glad you did.  A friend can make all the difference!

What are you reading?  What do you recommend?  Leave a comment to let us know.

And, as always, happy reading!