Monday, December 17, 2012

January book presentation for 5th grade: recommended by Ms. Simeon!

For January, students will be reading a book recommended by their librarian! There is a shelf of fiction and nonfiction books that I love - but that haven't circulated as much as I think they deserve to. Students are welcome to stop by anytime to select one. I hope some of these overlooked books will find appreciative readers.

Winter break 2012 reading list

Can you believe winter break is right around the corner? Neither can I! I hope you all enjoy some of these titles as much as I did. Please also view my profile on GoodReads for more book recommendations. Happy holidays!

Picture books for all ages

Belle, the Last Mule at Gee’s Bend by Calvin Alexander Ramsey – An inspiring story based on actual events, about a small and courageous Alabama community – and their two mules! – who came to play a surprising role in history. It offers a unique glimpse into Martin Luther King, Jr.’s impact on ordinary people.

The Boy Who Cried Ninja by Alex Latimer – A clever and hilarious book, sort of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” in reverse. Our young hero comes up with a clever way to prove to everyone that he really was telling the truth!

The Mangrove Tree: Planting Trees to Feed Families by Susan L. Roth – Incredible mixed-media collage illustrations bring to life the story of one man who turned his personal experience of suffering into something positive for hundreds of people halfway around the world.

A New Year’s Reunion by Yu Li-Qiong – A bittersweet tale of a happy but all-too-brief family reunion as Maomao’s Papa joins the many migrant workers in China who spend most of the year far from their loved ones. A charming, beautifully illustrated story of family love.

Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal – A fun book that may inspire hours of creative word and number play! And may also look familiar to anyone who’s done a bit of texting. Here’s an example: “Are you usually prompt, or do you 10d 2 be l8 and keep others w8ing?”

Elementary & Middle School Chapter Book Fiction

Almost Zero by Nikki Grimes – A short, illustrated chapter book about a lively young heroine. Unlike many chapter books for younger readers, this one also provides great material for discussions about needs vs. wants, how important (or not) it is to have what “everyone else” has, etc.

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai – Inspired by the author’s childhood experiences as a Vietnamese refugee in the US, this story in verse follows Hà as she and her family attempt to build a new life in Alabama.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead – From the Newbery-winning author of When You Reach Me, has produced another wonderfully complex and quietly engrossing novel, one that explores issues of family, friendship, honesty and deception.

The White Giraffe by Lauren St. John – Set on a South African game reserve, this is a suspenseful animal story with a touch of magic… Great sense of place and an intriguing plot!

Wild Wings by Gill Lewis – A deeply moving story by a Scottish veterinarian about a small group of friends determined to save an endangered bird. In the process they forge online friendships across thousands of miles and help to heal ties in their own little community.

Middle & High School Chapter Book Fiction

The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk – Starting over at a new school can be hard – and it’s even harder for Will, who decides to leave his school for the deaf and try out a regular public school. He survives the mean kids, makes a new friend, and together the two take on the mystery of a classmate’s death while on a field trip in this original book with many surprising touches of humor.

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr – A story of love and loss, and what makes a family… everyone reacts to a death in the family differently, and Jill is not at all happy when, in the aftermath of her father’s death, her mother decides to adopt a new baby.

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans – Page turners don’t get much more exciting than this! Michael has special powers that no one at school can know about – in fact he and his mom have had to move many times already to keep his secret. So what’s going to happen now the cat is out of the bag…?

Pink by Lili Wilkinson – How do you rebel when your parents are already “out there”? In this Australian teen title, Ava leaves behind her alternative school – and wardrobe - for a complete change that leaves her family and friends baffled. How long until she figures out who she really is and where she really belongs?

Re-gifters by Mike Carey – In this graphic novel we meet Dixie, a Korean American teenager in Los Angeles, who is dedicated to the martial art hapkido. She’s determined to emerge victorious at the upcoming championship, but her crush on a boy leads her to make a series of poor choices… can she recover in time to win?


Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone (grades 1 and up) – A great introductory biography that brings this remarkable woman vividly to life. It also does a great job of showing readers how much of what we take for granted as normal today was actually the result of hard won battles in the not-too-distant past.

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky (grades 3 and up) – A highly accessible and engaging biography of an important scientific figure. This book makes the complicated cultural context in which Darwin worked accessible to the young reader.

Red Scarf Girl: A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution by Ji-li Jiang (grades 5 and up) – This is a memoir that really brings history to life in a vivid way since the author describes the events of Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution as she experienced them beginning as a 12 year old.

She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer by Sally Alexander Hobart (grades 3 and up) – Helen Keller is a familiar figure, but Bridgman, who lived half a century earlier, was every bit as remarkable, having lost her senses of hearing, sight and smell. The author of this wonderfully written book is blind as well. A truly inspirational story.

We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March by Cynthia Levinson (grades 6 and up) – A compelling and suspenseful title that sheds light on the remarkable actions of the many young people who dared to take risks that helped change this country forever.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Excellence in education

I recently was able to attend a conference at the University of Washington called Excellence in K-12 Education: Lessons from Finland and Washington. It was a most inspirational and informative day, filled with a variety of stimulating speakers, but I was particularly intrigued by Vivien Stewart, Vice President of the Asia Society and author of A World Class Education, who discussed the common features of school systems around the world who consistently produce exceptional students. These systems exist all over the globe and vary considerably in some ways - after all, they are all products of the cultures they inhabit. Yet they all have a few commonalities, a significant one being the professionalism of their teachers.

In these highly successful school systems, teachers are given ample time and support both to pursue professional development off campus and to observe and collaborate with one another - to learn from the expertise already available on campus. This is something we do at OWS for which I am most grateful! In addition to being able to regularly attend conferences and training that help us remain current in our fields, we also engage in observations of our colleagues. Last week I saw a wonderful 4th grade lesson taught by our Drama Specialist, Ms. Edwards, in which students creatively re-enacted poems, complete with props.

Today I watched a 5th grade Humanities lesson by Ms. Russell about transmogrification in which students took familiar nursery rhymes and cleverly rephrased them, injecting them with vocabulary that had more pizzazz. They practiced creative writing for sure - but also respectful listening, public speaking and the offering of constructive feedback as they took turns volunteering to share their work.

Here is just one example produced by a young man without the aid of dictionary or thesaurus. See if you can guess which classic nursery rhyme he transmogrified! (Click on the link to see if you were right!)

Females and males, come out to perform recreational activities / The lunar cosmic debris pulled together by gravity orbiting the earth is reflecting sunlight of many lumens / Abandon your potential energy in the form of calories served in the evening / Abandon your state of mind in which your consciousness is dormant while your unconscious organizes information / And come with your peers into the pathway on which automobiles roam.

Don't you love it?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Multicultural chapter books

Check out Books to Match Diverse Young Readers in yesterday's New York Times! I was very happy to note that two of their recommended titles - The Great Wall of Lucy Wu and How Tia Lola Came to Stay - are past selections from our Global Studies Book Club (held annually in the library during lunch recess for select grade levels).

This year in book club, 2nd grade will be reading The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng and 3rd and 4th grades will be reading Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez.

For more reading recommendations, stay tuned for my Winter Break 2012 Book List!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Best books of 2012!

How do you start with the approximately 37,000 new books published in 2012 for kids and teens and winnow them down to a list of the 65 best titles? With much care and effort, that's how! Fortunately School Library Journal has just released their Best Books 2012 list and it's here for all of us to enjoy - just in time for our winter break, less than 3 weeks away!
If you have older students at home, check out their Best Adult Books 4 Teens list as well!