It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

This past week I read:

Drama by Raina Telgemeier - I read this on NetGalley, it’s amazing. I’m going to write another blog post about it this week so I can go into depth.  For now, mark your calendar for September 1, 2012 so you can run to your local independent bookstore to pick it up!

Wideness & Wonder: The Life and Art of Georgia O’Keefe by Susan Goldman Rubin - Georgia O’Keefe has been a favorite artist ever since I saw and exhibit of her work in London 20 years ago. This biography spans her entire life and includes photographs, O’Keefe’s own artwork, and artwork of others. A very readable and thorough example of the biography genre.

Hugs From Pearl by Paul Schmid - I read this at my local library when I took my girls this weekend. It is a lovely story with illustrations that made me want to hug Pearl, even though she is a porcupine.

Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip C. Stead – Another book I read at the library. The illustrations for this cumulative story really made me love it and want to reread it. I’ll be adding this one to my own library soon!

Stink: The Incredible Shrinking Kid by Megan McDonald – I spent some time in my daughter’s 2nd grade classroom this week, her (amazing) teacher recommended this to me. I’d heard of Stink and new of the books (I live with 2 Judy Moody fans) but had never read them. Great story, am planning on reading the one about the stinky shoes soon.

Marty McGuire Digs Worms by Kate Messner – I love Marty! She is a fabulous character with a voice all her own. I wanted to read this before the #martymcguire twitter book club this week with @MrSchuReads & @Colby Sharp on Wednesday, May 23 at 8pm EST.  Author Kate Messner (@katemessner) will also be there for the fun! (Full disclosure:  Marty reminds me very much of my youngest daughter who loves to dig for worms and is going into the third grade.)

Up Next:

Graceling by Kristin Cashore – I’m 10 pages in and don’t want to stop reading. Can’t believe I haven’t discovered this one sooner!

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner – For the first time, I recieved an envelope in the mail addressed me & my blog. I was doubly thrilled to find this book inside because I love Kate’s writing!

There will be more read, I’m just not sure what yet!

Teaching Pre-Service Teachers: a letter to my students

This past semester I taught an Elementary Language Arts Methods class to seniors in Michigan State University’s #1 ranked Teacher Preparation Program. The young women in my class pushed me to think new ways about myself and what it means to be a teacher educator. Teaching them was daunting at times – mostly because I felt a great weight and responsibility of preparing them to enter the teaching profession. Also because I know that no matter what a program is ranked, how many classes you take, or how much time you have spent with children – part of becoming a teacher is about realizing how complicated this profession really is. That can be scary. Scary to learn and scary to try and teach. As I am putting away my things from the semester, I’ve been thinking about my students and wanted to say a few more things to them. 

Dear TE402, Section 8, Spring 2012 -

Throughout the semester, I attempted to convey to you all the dance that is both conveying the importance of foundational knowledge while also modeling that a teacher doesn’t always know everything. I tried to be honest while not completely terrifying you. When a teacher realizes that they need to ask for help, look up information, or learn alongside their students. Many of us had schooling experiences with teachers who acted like the knew everything, this sometimes leads those who want to be teachers into believing that act is part of being a teacher.

Don’t get me wrong; you need to know your stuff. You need to be able to explain phonological awareness to parents, to understand the difference between homophones and homonyms so that you can explain them to your students. But you also need to be able to say, “I don’t know what platypus only live in Australia, let’s find out together.” You knew when your teachers were faking it, your own students will too.

There will be days when you don’t feel prepared to be a teacher, when you think if you had only had one more class, you could figure out this problem. But you can do it. You have the ability to problem-solve using knowledge and research, asking colleagues and accessing professional learning communities. You have the disposition of a professional educator. Believe in that disposition.

Teaching is amazing.
It is exhausting and exhilarating.
It is frustrating and fueling.
It is what forces me out of bed in the morning,
and causes me to collapse in bed in the evening.

It is hard, hard, hard work.
It is intellectual and emotional.
It is challenging in more ways
than even the best teacher ed program in the country can prepare you for.

It is political, even when you don’t want it to be.

Your identity will be questioned and pushed and stretched.
Then it will be reaffirmed by your students.

Thank you all for reaffirming why I chose to teach in a college of education. I look forward to hearing from you as you continue your journey as a fellow professional educators.

- Kristin

I’m Back – It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?

I took a few weeks off recently to wrap up Spring Semester 2012. I’m officially finished with coursework for my Ph.D. and now have a whole lot of writing to do (more on that in future posts). I’ve enjoyed taking time in the past week to connect with my reader self.

Last week I read:

After Eli by  Rebecca Rupp was recommended by Paul Hankins on either Twitter, GoodReads, or Facebook (likely all three)! This did not disappoint. Daniel is trying to make sense of his brother’s death and growing up. His voice is thoughtful and honest, and brought me to tears a few times. This is the first complete book I’ve read on my new iP*d through NetGalley. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about reading on an e-device, but the story was so fantastic I barely noticed. Release date: Aug. 14, 2012

Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin - I’ve been on the waitlist at my local East Lansing Public Library for a while; and am glad that it finally came in! I remember distinctly sitting at dinner at ALA Midwinter reading Roger Sutton’s editorial mentioning this book, it was the first I’d heard of it. Less than 2 days later it was announced as a Newbery Medal Honor book. It’s one that I want to read a few more times and am thinking of pairing with the beautiful picturebook The Wall by Peter Sis. Lots to think about in the best possible ways.

See You At Harry’s by Jo Knowles – this one is getting it’s own review, check back tomorrow!

A Greyhound of a Girl by Roddy Doyle - This was on the “new books” shelf at my library and I thought I’d read something about it (can’t remember were). The dialogue is distinctly Irish, making me think of my father-in-law (born outside of Belfast), and my own Kelly & O’Malley relatives. Mary’s characters is multi-dimensional and the plot intriguing. Another book I want to reread.

This coming week I’m reading:

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinnaire by Mrs. Bunny translated from the Rabbit by Polly Horvath - My 2nd grade daughter and I are reading this adventure story together. She is quite enchanted with both Madeline (the main human character) and Mr. & Mrs. Bunny. We are looking forward to finishing it this week.

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper – This is was recommended to me by a librarian friend who knows that I like historical fiction and am also looking for books to read by Australian authors in preparation for my first visit down under in a few months.

How to Write A Lot by Paul Silvia - A fabulous little book about academic writing. I’m rereading it for the third time as I return to the final leg of writing my practicum and begin to work on my dissertation proposal. This, along with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird are my two favorite books about writing.

There will be more… but I’m not sure exactly what yet! I’ve been trying to hold off reading Insurgent thinking it would be good for the airplane trip to Australia, but I honestly don’t think I can wait that long. I’ve also got the 6th and final book in the Nicholas Flamel series waiting for me on NetGalley and am hoping to get Rebecca Stead and Sharon Creech’s newest titles soon as well.

See You At Harry’s

This past saturday I read See you At Harry’s by Jo Knowles. I noticed some buzz about this book over on twitter and requested to review it on NetGalley. I was not disappointed. I started Saturday morning and finished it this evening. Before dinner.

12-year-old Fern narrates this coming-of-age, contemporary realistic fiction story. She tells readers of her adventures, misadventures, growing pains and life growing up in a family who owns a restaurant. For me, it’s her voice makes this story. Fern often feels as if she isn’t heard, that she doesn’t always have a voice (though she surprises herself a few times). What Knowles has done so masterfully is to write Fern’s voice in an honest, believable way. To me, this is a fine line (I’m sure this is due in part to the fact that I currently live with a middle school girl).

Fern’s tales of trying to navigate life with family and friends transcends age, family structure and even birth order. She is often a parent to her youngest brother Charlie, is the friend and confidant of older brother Holden, and sometimes feels like she has two mothers when her oldest sister Sara tries to “help”. Fern’s friends Ran and Cassie are the kinds of friends I long for my own children to have; loyal, supportive, and caring. When unexpected tragedy strikes, Fern and her family struggle together to make sense of life. Suddenly Ran’s mantra, “all will be well”, that has always calmed Fern is in jeopardy.

I’m not going to say a whole lot more about the plot because it is impossible to do so without spoilers. However, there are phrases that will make you laugh, others times you will hold your breath, and plot turns that will surprise you – tears will be involved, so be sure to have kleenex.

My two favorite parts of this book:

  1. All of the children in Fern’s family are named for characters from books.
  2. The opening line of the book, “The very best day of my life, I threw up four times and had a fever of 103 degrees.”

Check out the following links for more information: