Friday, December 11, 2015

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye Stranger is in the running for a Newberry medal and I certainly can see why.  Classified as a middle grade novel, the story unfolds from three points of view.  Bridge and Sherm, both students in junior high, take turns revealing their story in alternating chapters.  However, every now and then a third person adds to the story, but we are not told who the the speaker is. Bridge survived being hit by a car at a younger age and when she was in hospital a nurse said to her that she had survived for a reason.  Bridge is perplexed as to what that reason might be. Her two best friends, Tab and Emily, play an important role in the story and readers will relate to the situations each of the girls experience as they make their way through the seventh grade.
So much happens in this book. Really! Em is a talented athlete and singer who is interested in an older (8th grade) boy. Em and her friend Patrick share selfies with each other, but as you can guess, suddenly Em’s selfie is shared far and wide. Tab is enamored with her feminist teacher Ms. Berman who becomes known as The Berperson. Sherm’s grandfather leaves his grandmother after a very long marriage and Sherm has difficulty with the family dynamics.  Our unknown author skips school and hides out a coffee shop owned by Bridge’s Dad. Bridge’s brother Jamie is constantly in some challenge or dare with his friend Alex. Bridge connects many of the characters in the story (good choice for her name) and is relied on by her friends. Bridge seems like a very typical middle school girl, except she wears a cat ears headband to school every day.
Oh . . . and the three girls have pledged to never fight.  Middle school girls . . . who cannot have fights . . . even when they are really annoyed with each other.
The title is intriguing as well. Sherm asks, “Is the new you the stranger? Or is the stranger the person you leave behind?”
I really enjoyed this book! The author had me thinking as to who the third voice was and how it connected to the rest of the story.  I liked the characters and could connect with them and their experiences. As I often do, I then went to Goodreads to read other reviews.  I recommend that you do so also, but read the book first.
One reviewer stated that this was really a book written for adults masquerading as a middle school novel. 
I read as much, if not more, young adult and MY literature than adult literature. I like it. I like making recommendations.  The reviewer has made me think. I rate this book very high, but would middle schoolers do the same? The publisher rates it for ages 10 and up and I do think it appeals to an older audience not 10-year olds.  Young readers may miss much of what is happening in the story and the back story.  The book has the potential for a great book club discussion.  It certainly has diversity, but it is not front and centre.  Bridge talks about her Armenien family; Tabitha’s family is Hindu, and Sherm’s Italian family live together as several generations. Will student readers recognize the family expectations that have shaped the young characters?  The selfie sharing certainly provides opportunity for discussion on internet safety. The many ups and downs in the relationships among the characters also provide much for discussion purposes. I think young readers will simply enjoy the story as it unfolds.
So is Goodbye Stranger written for adults or youth? Does it matter?
I am off to find a middle schooler who has read the book so we can have a discussion. I will let you know what kind of feedback I receive.

If you are looking for a book trailer for Goodbye Stranger, I recommend this one.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

"How to Foster 
a Love of Reading"

with Faye Brownlie

(and anyone else who works with children!) 
You are invited to attend this FREE session.

February 17, 2016 7:00 p.m.
Maple Leaf School
225-12th Street Morden, MB


This session will look at the following ideas:
• Why one should read with their child daily
• How to support this life-long skill in our ever-changing world
• How to create a literacy-filled environment
• Read now for their future!

Sponsored by: The Pembina Escarpment Reading Council (PERC), a group of teachers, librarians and literacy specialists who value and encourage the love of literacy for both youth and adults.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Writing Workshop with Kate Messner

How can you help your students become better writers?  Encourage them to read! You can also connect them to other writers and authors. In October, I watched Kate Messner’s live webinar sponsored by WeAreTeachers. The Google Hangout is archived here. In a 38 minute video, Messner shares her writing process with younger students and describes her experience writing Rescue on the Oregon Trail (Ranger in Time #1). Students from several classrooms ask her questions about writing, researching, revising and publishing. She prefers to write her first draft from start to finish and to save editing for after the first draft is complete. She mentions that revising takes much longer than the original writing!

Image result for Kate Messner image
Author Kate Messner

The webinar was a Google Hangout, a great way to connect with others. You can be an actual live participant (Google Hangout on Air) or you can send comments and questions by typed message. It is a similar or alternate application to SKYPE. Many authors also provide FREE 15-20 minute SKYPE conversations with classes, too.  I found Kate Messner’s website to be very useful in providing a list of authors who do so.  Check it out here to find more information and be sure to let me know your feedback on the experience. I will be researching to determine if there is a similar list for Canadian authors (although some authors/illustrators on Kate’s list are Canadian).

Fish In A Tree by Linda Mullally Hunt

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid. Albert Einstein

If you do not have this book in your classroom or library, get a copy right now! I have already bought two copies and passed them on. The wait list will be huge once your students hear about and read this book.  Ally Nickerson will do anything to keep her secret.  She hates words and hates reading. A grade six student, she has moved from school to school as her military family moved. In grade six, her regular teacher goes on a maternity leave and Mr. Daniels enters her life. Mr. Daniels is completing work for his Masters degree and has ideas about Ally's difficulty with reading. Ally helps him while he helps Ally. Ally discovers that great minds don’t think alike.

FIAT will appeal to many readers as Hunt forms strong characters that students will relate to and know. The theme is uplifting, but not unrealistic. You will find the bullies, the mean girls, the popular clique, the brainiac, and more in this story. Ally's insecurities and struggles should resonate with young readers and every teacher. 

Now is a great time to read this book as it is one of the featured books in the Global Read Aloud.  You can find a book trailer for the novel and several videos of Hunt reading chapters from the book on her website.  If you follow the Goodreads Choice Awards, you can vote for it as one of the best Middle Grade and Children’s books of 2015. I have already cast my vote in the first round.

Fish in a TreeImage result for great minds don't think alike

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Promote Reading All Year

Manitoba Reading Association just announced the theme for I Love to Read month in February. It is Critical Literacy: Empowering Children & Youth to Change the World. More info and ideas will be forthcoming at their website. You will also notice that the Book Whisperer Donalyn Miller is coming to SAGE in Winnipeg On October 23, 2015.  Our friends at the Reading Council of Greater Winnipeg are sponsoring her visit.  If you haven’t heard her inspiring talks (and even if you have), register early to ensure a spot.  Donalyn was one of the featured speakers at the 3rd Adolescent Literacy Summit in Winnipeg in April and she will be bringing a different address to this conference.  Her session is entitled Creating a Classroom Where Readers Flourish. Follow her on Twitter @donalynbooks and follow MRA @mra_mb

We are bombarded with reading material and have a limited time to read! Two blog posts I encountered recently were very useful if you are trying to encourage a school culture of reading.  One of my favourite bloggers Pernille Ripp posted What Administrators Can Do to Promote a Reading Culture. Read it here and I strongly recommend signing up for her blog in your email.  Many of her suggestions are already happening in your schools, but you may find some that could be implemented.  Perhaps a great way to share this article with your administrator would be to attach it to a book you present to your principal to start or add to his/her collection of books available for students. You may want to offer some advice for great books for his/her collection!

The second blog post I want to share with you is Ten Reasons to Read Children’s Books Instead of “Grown-up” Books on The Nerdy Book Club blog. Author of the post, Isabelle Sudron, states, “Kids  books are blunt!” as one of her reasons.  I especially like #8 “You can do voices.” When I read How to Read a Story to the grade two class in Miami last week, they had me go back and reread Step 6 where I could match my voice to the character talking. I think it was their favourite part of the book! I know it was my favourite. For anybody who has been attending our PERC workshops, you know I love kids books and tend to buy many of them.  Keep coming back to hear about more of them and feel free to share your favourites with us, too.

Friday, September 18, 2015

The Pembina Escarpment Reading Council

The Pembina Escarpment Reading Council (PERC) consists of educators, support staff, librarians, literacy leaders and other professionals who are passionate about literacy.

Benefits of joining PERC:

-networking with local professionals
-staying up-to-date on local literary developments and happening
-discuss professional resources and other books
-stay informed on Manitoba Reading Association (MRA) events

Looking for A Great Read Aloud? Try How To Read A Story by Kate Messner

How to Read a Story by Kate Messner, Illustrated by Mark Siegel ©2015

I love picture books! Picture books are not just for young children or young readers—they are for everybody.  Who doesn’t like to listen to a story?

Picture books often take us back to an earlier time in our life and remind us of a younger self.  Picture books also help us see more clearly many of the interpretations needed for English Language Arts in middle and senior grades. They serve as excellent mentor texts.

Kate Messner, author of the Marty McGuire chapter book series, provides ten essential steps for reading a story while Mark Siegel provides charming illustrations.  You will need your reading voice to share this book with students or your own children and it will be so much fun that you may have to “go right back to the beginning and start all over again.”

How to Read a Story would be a great first book to read aloud for teachers and librarians.

If you want to know more about using picture books in middle years and senior years check out this link: 

- by Barb Lepp who really likes picture books and sharing them with friends