Sunday, December 31, 2017

Some Books that Changed My Heart and Mind in 2017

I just went to see Wonder, the movie. So good. I read the book as an ARC years ago and loved it immediately. We just finished reading it aloud in our classroom two weeks ago. The conversations changed our community, I think. Needless to say I was TOTALLY unprepared to see RJ Palacio just sitting in the audience of Auggie's graduation scene near the end of the movie. Like totally unprepared. I got so teary (okay crying) --I was so happy to see her sitting there being part of this next phase of Auggie's journey-so thankful to her for this story. And then I realized how lucky we are to be part of this community of teachers, authors, publishers, children. RJ in that final scene reminded me of the impact one story can have on a world and how lucky we are to be people who share stories like this with children, not knowing how they will change their lives.  

That scene with RJ reminded me how much books and stories can change lives. I was lucky to be part of the NCTE Charlotte Huck Committee for 3 years. During that time I read with a specific lens based on the award criteria. The Charlotte Huck Award "recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder."  So as I read for this award I was always looking for books that had the potential to transform a child's life in some way.  I am no longer on the Charlotte Huck Award Committee but that lens seems to be a part of the way I sometimes reflect on my reading.  Seeing Wonder today and thinking about the power of a single story in a life,  made me think a bit about my 2017 reading and those books in my reading life that really changed me in some way. I believe almost every book changes the reader in some way, but some books stand out a bit.

So seeing Wonder and being so thankful for authors like RJ Palacio, I went back through my reading life this year and found so many books that changed my heart or mind. Here are those that stood out to me--some books that transformed my heart or mind in some way in 2017. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of Elly Swartz's upcoming book, Smart Cookie. First of all, it is almost never that I get to read a book with a female protagonist named Frankie so that was a real treat.  But even without that added perk, I LOVED this book.

There are some authors who write realistic fiction perfectly for middle graders.  It is not an easy thing to write for this age. The combination of depth and humor, big life issues and daily struggles is tricky and Elly Swartz seems to have this age of reader totally figured out.  I am always amazed when authors get writing for this age so perfectly.

Smart Cookie has lots for readers to think about which is really important. These things are embedded in things of daily life. They are very real. And the book deals with several things at once, just as in life. Grief, family, secrets and friendship are things many middle grade students deal with day in and day out.  This book captures all of this. This book also made me laugh out loud and cry a little. And then there is a little bit of a mystery that is perfectly woven into the story.

The characters are fabulous.  I loved Frankie (I mean, how could I not?). But I loved Frankie's dad, her grandmother, her friends and her town.   I wanted to live there or at least visit while I was reading Frankie's story.

This book seems perfect for grades 4-5. And I can imagine a few of my 3rd graders (from last year) reading it later in the year when they were ready for more realistic fiction with real life stuff.  I have not read her other book Finding Perfect, but have heard great things and will move it up on my stack. I am so glad to have discovered Elly Swartz!

So thankful I got to read this book early and I can't wait to share it with my students next week!

Poetry Friday -- Nerdy Poetry and Novel in Verse Winners

I wrote the post, but I didn't pick the winners...READERS did! Congratulations to all of the winners, and the rest of you -- hold onto your credit card because you will want every single one of these for your classroom, school, or home library!

Heidi has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at my juicy little universe.

Happy Reading!! Happy Poetry!! Happy Poetry Friday!! Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Oh Yes I Did

Because what good are you as a teacher of reading if you don't occasionally read the books your students are most excited about?

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway
by Jeff Kinney
Harry N. Abrams, 2017

A humorous look at everything that could possibly go wrong on ditch-the-holidays family vacation, with a little bit of arachnophobia thrown in for good measure.

Dog Man and Cat Kid
by Dav Pilkey
Graphix, 2017

You can just about hear Dav Pilkey laughing out loud to himself as he writes these. I mean, really. Allusions to Faulkner? A robot named 80-HD? (say it out loud so you, too, can get the joke)

And in case you think Dog Man is all light fluff with no redeeming qualities, consider how Cat Kid reprograms his robot 80-HD (I can't even type that without cracking up) so that it has free will. "From now on, you can choose your own path." He tells it, "Thou mayest," so that it can choose whether or not to be loyal to Cat Kid. (It does.)

And then there's the part where Cat Kid admits he hasn't been perfect and, in a direct quote from Faulkner, the Italian actress tells him, " that you don't have to be can be good."

Sure, there's Flip-O-Rama, but there's deep stuff, too.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Winter Solstice

solstice sunset --
skeletal sycamore
backlit by autumn

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Happy Solstice! Welcome back, Kachinas, who come bearing gifts.

We're at the end of a dark, dark year, but we need to remember that it is the darkness that helps us appreciate the light.

Buffy has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week, and I'm happy to announce that the January-June 2018 Poetry Friday Roundup Schedule is complete!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Two New Seymour Simon Books

Horses (Updated Edition)
by Seymour Simon
HarperCollins, 2017

by Seymour Simon
HarperCollins, 2017

"Simon may have done more than any other living author to help us understand and appreciate the beauty of our planet and our universe." -- Kirkus Reviews

Not only that, but he can teach our students to write with clarity and organization. Look no further than one of Seymour Simon's books and you'll find great introductions and conclusions, and paragraphs that contain ideas all on one topic.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Dream Big Dreams

Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama's Inspiring and Historic Presidency
by Pete Souza
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017

Inspirational is the best word for this book.

The introduction explains the job of Official White House Photographer. The table of contents say as much as the photos and their captions about our 44th President:
Be Kind and Respectful
Work Hard
Make Time for Family
Show Compassion
Have Fun
Dream Big Dreams
Would that we all lived lives that could be outlined with those topics.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Poetry Friday -- My Heart Is So Full

Unsplash photo by Tim Marshall

My heart is so full. This Poetry Friday community is a wonder of the modern world. We've been at this (some of us) since 2006. That's more than 120 roundups, countless comments, and, recently, an upwelling of friendly challenges and exchanges.

Which brings me to the Winter Poem Swap, offered and organized by Tabatha (The Opposite of Indifference).

My heart is so full. There was much joy in digging into another's blog for inspiration, then creating a poem/gift combo that was just right for her.

And then I got my gift from Linda Mitchell (A Word Edgewise), and my heart ran over. Linda wrote not one, but FOUR poems all stemming from my November Poetry Friday post in which I "poemized" the words of Seth Godin. She took the theme of "maps" and ran with it, writing a response to that Seth Godin post, a found haiku from Ted Kooser's "Map of the World" (which was shared that same week by Little Willow), a ditty written at an AASL workshop, and, my favorite, an echo to Jane Yolen's "Always A Poem." Accompanying the poems was a hand-decorated map-themed clipboard that is going to school with me to remind me to keep the compass of my heart set to the True North of friendship, creativity, thoughtfulness, and joy that Linda's gift exemplifies.

An Always Poem

Again winter follows fall,
stick arms of trees wave
furiously, turning our clocks.

Again a freeze follows fall,
crystals bloom in weak light
leaving a mess of our map.

Again stillness follows fall,
we seek direction,
home at every compass point.

Again dark follows fall.
A chair, a fire, story warms
despite a season that strips bare.

Again follows
fall, a winter.

by Linda Mitchell, ©2017

Diane has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Random Noodling.

May 18 is still available on the Jan-June 2018 Roundup Schedule. Thanks to all who have taken a slot!

I'm only halfway through commenting on last week's roundup, but I vow to complete that round before beginning this week's! While we're on the subject of not keeping up, I am on track with #haikuforhealing on Twitter, but I still need to fancy up a week's worth over at Poetrepository.

On the subject of commenting: I've tried to figure out what's causing your comments to disappear. The best I can tell is that for some reason, our blog continues to load long after you arrive at the page and even though everything appears to have loaded. If you stop the loading, I think that will prevent the comment drops. I think. Those of you who have re-commented multiple times, thanks for persevering.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Pomegranates

This is one of my favorite #haikuforhealing for the week, and I thought it would make a perfect visual for our Tumblr Roundup Host, Lisa at Steps and Staircases. Don't be afraid to submit your link. It's really easy! Click on "SUBMIT" at the top of the post and you'll get what looks like a comment form. Give it a title, put in your name and email. Drop your link in the box. It's moderated, so Lisa will harvest out your link and add you to the roundup. You can't mess up! Go for it!

The Roundup Schedule for January - June 2018 is nearly complete. Would you like to snag THE LAST slot? May 18 is still available!!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Call for Roundup Hosts

It's that time again. Six months have passed since last we queued up to host the Poetry Friday roundups.

If you'd like to host a roundup between January and June 2018, leave your choice(s) of date(s) in the comments. I'll update regularly to make it easier to see which dates have been claimed.

What is the Poetry Friday roundup? A gathering of links to posts featuring original or shared poems, or reviews of poetry books. A carnival of poetry posts. Here is an explanation that Rene LaTulippe shared on her blog, No Water River, and here is an article Susan Thomsen wrote for the Poetry Foundation.

Who can do the Poetry Friday roundup? Anyone who is willing to gather the links in some way, shape or form (Mr. Linky, "old school" in the comments-->annotated in the post, or ???) on the Friday of your choice. If you are new to the Poetry Friday community, jump right in, but perhaps choose a date later on so that we can spend some time getting to know each other.

How do you do a Poetry Friday roundup? If you're not sure, stick around for a couple of weeks and watch...and learn! One thing we're finding out is that folks who schedule their posts, or who live in a different time zone than you, appreciate it when the roundup post goes live sometime on Thursday.

How do I get the code for the PF Roundup Schedule for the sidebar of my blog? You can grab the list from the sidebar here at A Year of Reading, or I'd be happy to send it to you if you leave me your email address. You can always find the schedule on the Kidlitosphere Central webpage.

Why would I do a Poetry Friday Roundup? Community, community, community. It's like hosting a poetry party on your blog!

And now for the where and when:

5    Catherine at Reading to the Core
12  Jan at Bookseedstudio
26  Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

2    Donna at Mainely Write
9    Sally at
16  Jone at Check it Out

2    Renee at No Water River
9    Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
16  Linda at TeacherDance

6    Amy at The Poem Farm
27  Irene at Live Your Poem

4    Linda at Write Time
11  Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup
18  Rebecca at Sloth Reads
25  Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

1    Buffy at Buffy's Blog
8    Kiesha at Whispers from the Ridge
15  Karen at Karen Edmisten*
22  Michelle at Michelle Kogan
29  Carol at Carol's Corner

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Poetry Friday -- The Roundup is Here!

Flickr Creative Commons Photo

boiling water
tea leaves understand

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Welcome to the Poetry Friday Roundup! Have a cup of tea and relax. Leave the madness of the world behind for a few minutes while you peruse the offerings in the roundup. My poem today is a pre December-Haiku-a-Day #haikuforhealing from this past week.

A note about next week's roundup. Lisa at Steps and Staircases will be hosting the roundup. Her blogging platform is Tumblr. She shares this information: 
"Hello poetry friends! The topic/prompt I want to suggest for the December 8 Poetry Friday Roundup is either/and: Respond to "When Life Gives You Lemons..." or write a poem using an object/making a drawing, as Amy Krouse Rosenthal did with a lemon drop. (picture below) If your poem can be expressed visually through a picture or drawing -- like Amy Krouse Rosenthal's "When Life Gives You Lemon Drops"-- I would love to post everyone's visuals. No matter what/how you choose to express yourself, I wanted to share Amy's Lemon Drop poem and her Instagram Project 1,2,3. This is only a suggestion. I look forward to reading all of your submissions!"

When participants go to Lisa's Tumblr space, they should click the "SUBMIT" button at the top of the page to leave their link or their visual. Thanks for being flexible with a different kind of roundup next week.

Also, watch for the Call for Roundup Hosts post, which goes live tomorrow, 12/2. It's time to gather hosts for January - July 2018!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Charlotte Huck Award

The winner of the 2017 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award® is

by Dan Santat
Roaring Brook Press, 2017

The NCTE Charlotte Huck Award® for Outstanding Fiction for Children was established in 2014 to promote and recognize excellence in the writing of fiction for children. This award recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder.

This picture book will resonate with all ages. On the back of the book, we are reminded that "Life begins when you get back up." Santat's epilogue of the rather unsatisfying nursery rhyme about an egg that falls down and gets patched up is all kinds of brilliant. My 5th graders gasped aloud at the ending. They were like, "Wait. WHAT?!?!" This book will change your thinking about Humpty Dumpty and it will remind everyone that we shouldn't let our setbacks keep us down.

I am currently serving on the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award Committee. In our deliberations at NCTE this year, narrowing our list of 45 books down to one winner, five honor books, and eight recommended books, we kept coming back to the award criteria as we deliberated over each book. "The potential to transform children's lives" was a phrase we used over and over again when we spoke about this book. Don't miss it. It's an amazing book.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Poetry Friday

Unsplash photo by Autumn Mott

early morning walk
constant chatter of leaf-fall
first hard frost

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

I'm gearing up for another Haiku-a-Day in December. I'll be tweeting my haiku using last year's #haikuforhealing if you'd like to join in. 

Although #haikuforhealing was born as a reaction to last year's current events, this year's iteration, at least for me, will be an acknowledgement of the absolute necessity of a creative life and a reclaiming of the discipline found in daily writing. I'm hoping #haikuforhealing helps me focus on moments and slows me down to a more livable pace.

Carol at Carol's Corner has the Poetry Friday roundup this week.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Rock, Paper, Scissors

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors
by Drew Daywalt
illustrated by Adam Rex
Balzer + Bray, 2017

First of all, this is the most fun read aloud ever. (Fun for both reader and audience.)

Second, in the aftermath of reading it aloud, this happened: Pearl, Shark, Bomb. (Pearl beats Shark by choking him when swallowed, Shark defuses Bomb under water, and Bomb blows up Pearl.)

And last, I give you this episode of The Big Bang Theory:

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Blog Break -- NCTE

Both of us will be just a tad busy this coming week at NCTE, so we won't be blogging. We hope to connect with many blog readers, Poetry Friday Peeps, and Twitter followers at NCTE!

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Poetry Friday -- If Truth Be Told

Unsplash photo by Charles Deluvio

I'm the type
who'd rather have dumplings
than blossoms

Issa, 1814

Unsplash photo by nabil boukala

I'm the type
who'd rather have breakfast
than cocktails

Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

I'm the type
who'd rather have sunflowers
than roses

Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

I'm the type
who'd rather have bikeways
than freeways

Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

I couldn't resist using Issa's haiku as a mentor text. It's so unlike any other Issa haiku that I've received in my email inbox via Daily Issa. 

What type are you? What can you learn about yourself through your "rather haves?"

And how perfect is it that Jama, author of DUMPLING SOUP, is our Poetry Friday hostess today? Head over to Jama's Alphabet Soup and check out the drool-worthy doughnuts and accompanying poem.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Slices of Life

SLICES OF LIFE, by Grant Snider

...for the rest of this visual poem, click here.

Wouldn't it be fun to give students the verbs Snider uses, have them create a visual poem, and then compare their creations to his?

Maybe we need to try it first...

Monday, November 06, 2017

You WILL Like These Two Books!

I (Don't) Like Snakes
by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Luciano Lozano
Candlewick Press, 2015

The little girl doesn't like snakes, and her family tries valiantly to convince her otherwise.

Give Bees a Chance
by Bethany Barton
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017

The narrator and his (?) friend Edgar like all the same things...except for bees. The narrator convinces Edgar (and readers) of the importance of bees.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Maps and Compasses

The Thing About Maps
words by Seth Godinpoemizing by Mary Lee Hahn

Sometimes, when we're lost, 
we refuse a map, 
even when offered.

Because the map reminds us that we made a mistake. 
That we were wrong.

But without a map, 
we're not just wrong, 
we're also still lost.

A map doesn't automatically get you home, 
but it will probably make you less lost.

When dealing with the unknown, 
it's difficult to admit that there might not be a map. 
In those cases, 
a compass is essential, 
a way to remind yourself of your 
true north.

by Hugh MacLeod

I love it when the Universe chats with me.

We began our geography work in social studies recently. When this bit by Seth Godin showed up in my inbox, I knew I wanted to share it with my students. The fun thing (ONE of the fun things) about 5th graders is that they are beginning to be able to think abstractly and symbolically. Lots of them got the symbolism and message in The Thing About Maps. Then, a day later, the Gaping Void cartoon landed in my inbox. I have a couple of strong girls who are negotiating the tricky line between bossy and assertive. The cartoon was a good reminder of the qualities of a positive leader. We talked about our personal compasses, our very own "true north"s. 

Hopefully, you will find your way to TeacherDance, where Linda has the Poetry Friday roundup for today!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Great Dads

Two books with great dads who both understand and validate the fears of their children.

Lily's Cat Mask
by Julie Fortenberry
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017

Dad and the Dinosaur
by Gennifer Choldenko
illustrated by Dan Santat
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, 2017

Monday, October 30, 2017


One of my students was on a picture book reading binge. She brought me The Pencil, by Allan Ahlberg and suggested it for #classroombookaday. In the story (which another student thought had the feel of a religious creation story) nothing exists but a pencil. Then the pencil draws the world into existence. Things start getting out of hand, so the pencil draws an eraser. Even that doesn't work, so the pencil draws another eraser and they annihilate each other (Noah's Ark, anyone?). The pencil starts over. Carefully.

While we were on the subject of erasers, I had to read my favorite eraser book, The Eraserheads by Kate Banks. These erasers come to life and have adventures. Are the eraserheads alive for real, or just in the imagination of the boy? You decide.

I had just read The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken, and it seemed like the perfect next read. In it, the creator, in the course of drawing, makes mistakes and then makes the mistakes into something wanted. Total surprise ending in this one. It will blow your mind.

The fourth book in this set is one I put out for students to pore over and ponder on their own because it's wordless -- Lines by Suzy Lee. In this book, the lines are made by the blades of an ice skater's skates.

Then, surprise of surprises, this weekend I read Sam & Eva by Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Two children (are they drawing on the walls?!?!) can't agree on what to draw. Then, their drawings pick up on the escalating disagreement and things really start to get out of hand. Literally. The two children draw an escape and start over -- each offering an olive branch to the other.

There's something quite magical about the connections between books!