Spring Break Reading

Reading is one of my favorite Spring Break activities (though I also took lots of walks in the gorgeous weather, tanned by the pool, went to a baseball game, and saw a couple movies). I decided to challenge myself this week and only read books for 4th-6th grade readers, an age group that I neglect the most in my reading. I love picture books, I can fly through some early chapter books, and I adore young adult fiction, but when it comes to books for kids in the middle, I just don't read as many. This week, I read 5! We have a couple in the King School Library, and the others I will be ordering shortly.

Eight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur --- Does that author look familiar to you? Well, it should because it's the same author who wrote Love, Aubrey - an instant girl favorite here at the King Library. In Eight Keys, Elise is just starting middle school and feeling a little different about the activities she and her best friend Franklin do. Playing pretend isn't "cool" in middle school, and Elise thinks she wants to fit in. She lives with her aunt and uncle - her mother died when she was born, and her dad died when she was very young - and she loves them like parents. But one day, when Elise is feeling ready to grow up and out of her childish ways, she discovers a key hanging in the barn, a key that has her name on it. When Elise finds the door that matches that key, she's thrown into a puzzle created by her father especially for her - one that will help her remember her past, take note of her present, and believe in her future. One key down, seven to go!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio --- Wonder is one of those books that all the librarians think will win the Newbery Award in January. I'm not one of them. Not because it's not a good book! It's a great book. But it didn't hook me like it did the others. It's about a boy named August who has never been to a real school because of his severe facial deformities. He's had loads of operations and surgeries in his 10 year-old life, and he just hasn't had the time to go to regular school... until now. August is starting 5th grade at a private middle school, and for good reason, he is terrified. What if the kids make fun of him? What if he can't make friends? What if his teachers stare at him? What if the homework is too hard? Starting middle school is hard enough for a normal kid, but how hard will it be for someone who looks so different from everyone else? 

The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis --- Mmm, did I love this book! Miss Deza Malone has just finished the school year as the top student in her class, and she is flying high. She's living in 1930s Gary, Indiana, where times are tough for most folks, but all she can think about is how her teacher wants to personally tutor her next year and how she just got the most beautiful blue gingham dress as a gift. Her family is fantastic, with an alliterating father who affectionately calls her the Mighty Miss Malone because of her smarts and sassiness, a mother who always tries to do the right thing, and a brother who will always defend her honor. But it's the 1930s, and the Great Depression is making it hard for families to earn a living and stay together. So the story goes for the Malones too when Deza's father moves to Flint, Michigan to find a job, and the family later follows in hopes of reuniting with him. 

The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier --- Minerva (Minnie) and Keira King are twin sisters, but you couldn't tell by looking at them. Minnie takes after their father, with her pale skin, freckles, and red hair, while Keira looks more like their mother, dark-skinned and dark-haired. Their differences don't mean much to the girls - at least not to Minnie, our narrator. When their maternal grandmother invites them to North Carolina for ten days during the summer to compete in the Miss Black Pearl Preteen pageant (I mean, program), Keira is thrilled because it means performing and prancing (all things a diva like her enjoys) and getting in touch with their African-American roots. Minnie, on the other hand, is less than thrilled - not because she doesn't want to learn more about her black history, which she desperately does, but because she's so shy and timid. This is most definitely a book about identity - finding out who you are and who you want to be. 

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver --- I wanted to read this book because I've read two other books by this author that I really enjoyed, and I had to have more. I'm not quite done with it yet, but I hope to finish the book in bed tonight. So far, the story is about a little girl named Liesl who has been locked up in an attic by her stepmother (stop thinking Cinderella - it's not). Her father has recently died, and Liesl is just heartbroken. Then, she meets Po, a ghost who appears in the attic and who can communicate with her father. The two set off on an adventure to spread her father's ashes in the place he loved the most, a willow tree by their old house. I love how magical this book is, and how it can make a very sad time have hope and possibly a happy ending. 

What did YOU read over Spring Break?


School Library blogs I like

Every now and then it's nice to share what inspires us... When I'm feeling like a tired librarian (not sleepy tired, but boring tired - yikes!), I look to my colleagues for a little bit of pep and innovation. And I always find something unique and interesting to use in my own library. Here are a few of the elementary school library blogs I follow: 

100 Scope Notes
"Travis Jonker, an elementary school librarian, started 100 Scope Notes in the golden days of 2007. Travis also reviews for School Library Journal and is a member of the American Library Association."
Travis introduced me to book spine poems, and while I haven't tried using them with students yet, I hope to someday!

The Lemme Library (blog renamed to The Book Butcher)
Kelly Butcher is the teacher-librarian at the Lemme School in Iowa City. I love her use of graphics and videos in her blog - inspires me to share more techie things with my students.

Barrow Media Center
Andy Plemmons is the librarian at the Barrow Elementary Media Center in Athens, GA - though I had to dig through their Facebook page to find that out! Andy also shares lots of videos, especially of student work, which I think is pretty cool.

Highland Elementary
Michelle Holt is the media specialist at Highland Elementary in Waterloo, IA, and I like to think we're blogging buddies. :) We both have reading blogs outside of our school library blogs, so it's nice to catch up on life stuff too. What I love about Michelle's library blog are the oodles and oodles of links on her sidebars - all kinds of kid-friendly websites for specific research topics along with author and character websites and much more.

Watch. Connect. Read.
Mr. Schu is a fellow Illinois school librarian, and his blog focuses on connecting students with book trailers. I love this idea! He often puts up trailers for upcoming book releases, so I always know when a new book that my students will enjoy is coming out. Like today I found out that there's a new Lunch Lady graphic novel due out at the end of this month!

Those are just a few of the hundreds of blogs I follow - got any favorites of your own to share?


The Lorax

Oh, what can I say about The Lorax by Dr. Seuss? It's hard to live in our society and not be concerned about the environment, and this story provides a great example of why that is.

If you haven't read it but plan on seeing the movie, do yourself a favor and get the book first. Our second grade classes have been doing Seuss-themed activities for the past week or so and will be taking a field trip to the movie theater to see it on the big screen! I'll be reading it to fourth grade this week too.

I've put together a few Lorax-related links for your viewing pleasure below. These are just a few of the multitudes of resources out there...

The Lorax Movie's Official Website

The Lorax e-book App from the iTunes App Store

Scholastic Lorax Lessons and Resources

The Lorax Project from Seussville

Energy Star Kids & Lorax

and this one's my personal favorite... FREE for a limited time, download the Lorax Garden app and grow your own Truffula trees. :)

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