Friday, November 30, 2012

Good times at Carrie Harris's Bad Hair Day launch party

Carrie reads from Bad Hair Day
On Thursday I had the pleasure of attending the launch party for Carrie Harris's second book, Bad Hair Day, which is the sequel to Bad Taste in Boys (read my review of Bad Hair Day and Bad Taste in Boys) at my favorite indie bookstore in Ann Arbor, Nicola's Books.

Carrie is so personable and funny, and if you've read her books, you immediately realize that hanging out with her in person is like hanging out in one of her books (but without the zombies and werewolves). And because she is so awesome, she's even visited my classroom twice, the most recent time being a month ago.

Since she recently visited my classroom, I had a rather large pile of books for her to sign for my students. For that reason, I made sure to hang out at the back of the signing line so I didn't have to listen to grumbling fans complain about me holding up the line. :) I didn't mind waiting until the end though. That just meant I had more time to hang out with and talk to awesome bookish people. I was able to talk to Aimee Carter (author of The Goddess Test), Courtney Allison Moulton (author of Angelfire), and Laura Zielin (author of The Waiting Sky). What's better than getting to rub elbows with YA authors for the evening? :)

I do particularly love how Carrie signed the copy of Bad Hair Day I purchased for my class:

If you want to know the inside story behind this inscription's epicness, read the following posts:
Laini Taylor event at Nicola's
Carrie Harris classroom visit take 1

Overall, this launch party was full of fun and laughs, but I would expect nothing less from Carrie. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Nudging and Nurturing: A Lesson in Patience

I don't know if anyone's noticed from the lack of activity on my blog as of late, but this has been an especially tiring year for me. I don't know if it's the seven year itch or if I'm just losing stamina, but there are many days I question how long I can do this job. Sometimes I wonder if I have it in me to make this a lifelong career. But then a moment comes along that reminds me why it is I do what I do.

Last year I had a student, we'll call her Angela, who was a reluctant yet compliant reader. She always read dutifully in class, but admitted to me in reading conferences that she didn't really read at home because she didn't like it. Throughout the year I continued to talk to her to try to nudge her along and get her to like reading more. Then during fourth quarter, I assigned her the book Princess Academy by Shannon Hale for a literature circle group. That was finally the moment when she came alive and showed a never-before-seen enthusiasm for reading. Her discussion was insightful and you could see the fire in her eyes when she talked about the story. I've never seen such a transformation in a student before. This was definitely a "home run" book for her.

But this all unfortunately happened at the end of the year. I knew I still had more work to do with Angela but I could only do so much in the time I had. In September, I made sure to continue to talk to her when I saw her in the halls and even tried putting other books in her hands, but the last book I gave her she had for a month and admitted to me she had yet to pick it up, often stating, "I haven't had time." (Student code for, "This doesn't interest me.")

Me with Shannon Hale
But then I met Shannon Hale at NCTE last week and she was signing copies of Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy. I immediately thought of Angela back home and knew what I had to do.

Upon my return to school yesterday, I summoned for Angela right before dismissal, which ironically was the moment she chose to hand me back the book she's had for the past month and said, "Yeah, I'm not going to read this." But when I handed her the brand new hardcover of Palace of Stone signed to her by the author, her eyes lit up. I said, "I remembered how much you loved Princess Academy and I want you to have this but you have to read it."

She stumbled away, speechless and I prayed that it would be enough to get her to take the leap and read it on her own.

This morning she saw me in the hall on her way to class and I noticed a small, shimmery red hardcover at the top of her awkward, teetering pile of books. She picked it up, showed it to me and said, "Look Mrs. Shaum! I'm reading it."

And suddenly I've been renewed again and reminded why it is I do what I do. This is by no means, however, the end of the story. No, it's really only the beginning. We're going to continue looking for that time she can't seem to find for reading.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Bookish Teachers Invaded Las Vegas for NCTE

Disclaimer: I have to immediately apologize for my lack of articulateness and overuse of superlatives like amazing, awesome, and inspiring throughout this post. For the past week I have been avoiding writing this recap because the sheer wonder of all that I encountered during my five days attending this amazing conference overwhelmed me. But alas, I go back to work tomorrow and I know if I don't do it now, I will continue to procrastinate and it will be Christmas before I can actually sit down to write a proper reflection. Also pardon my narcissism at the sheer number of photos of myself I posted in this recap. :)

Last year I attended the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) convention for the first time because it was in Chicago, a mere 4 hour drive from where I live. But since last year was such an amazing, inspiring experience, I knew that Chicago would not be my last NCTE experience and lobbied to make sure I could attend again in 2012. In fact, I was also lucky enough to attend the 2-day ALAN (Assembly for the Literature of Adolescents of the NCTE) workshop after the main convention as well.

This year the convention was held in Las Vegas and for some this might mean skipping sessions to hit the casinos, but I assure that I am not one of those people. In fact, I am proud to say that I did not gamble once during my entire stay in Vegas. Nerdy, bookish people and the vices of Vegas just don't mix.

That by no means implies that I had no fun; quite the contrary. I had so much fun and so many amazing experiences that I am often brought to tears remembering and reliving the time I spent hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones.

The festivities got underway on Thursday evening with a few pre-convention sessions to choose from. I chose to attend the Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, and Jim Burke session with some Nerdy Book Club friends. Listening to these three inspiring teachers talk of their passion for teaching and what really consists of best practices helped to reaffirm that what I'm doing in the classroom really matters.

I continued to attend some wonderful sessions throughout the course of the conference, but the Thursday night pre-session is really the one I will take the most from.

The most memorable part of my time in Vegas, however, was getting to hang out with all of my Nerdy Book Club friends, some old, some new. Friday night was one I will never forget because Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp hosted a party for all NCTE attendants who were also Nerdy Book Club blog posters. Normally I am shy, awkward, and stand-offish at parties, but this was no ordinary party. I was in a room full of 60 people, all of whom were book-lovers. There wasn't a conversation I could join where I didn't feel like I belonged.

There were so many highlights from the Nerdy party, but here are some of the best:

Getting to hang out and talk with beloved Nerdy author Jenni Holm:

Meeting author RJ Palacio, who wrote one of my favorite books of 2012, and of all time, Wonder:

Watching author Jonathan Auxier give the best book talk/yo-yo demonstration ever (see the video here):

Hanging with my Nerdy friends from Michigan:
Brian Wyzlic, Niki Barnes, Colby Sharp and me

Finally meeting people in person I've tweeted with for the past two years:
Me with Katherine Sokolowski, Cindy Minnich, Paul Hankins, and Lea Kelley

Getting hugs from and talking with my teaching idol, mentor, and friend, Donalyn Miller:

In addition to meeting new Nerdy friends and hanging out with old ones, another wonderful part of the NCTE/ALAN experience is meeting and talking with authors and publishers.

I can't thank the publishers enough for being so generous with their time and showing their passion and excitement for their books. I am especially grateful to Kellie Celia from Walden Pond Press who spent time with me over dinner talking about books and teaching. Her enthusiasm for the books in her imprint was so infectious that I told her she must book talk with my class via Skype so my kids can hear another voice of an enthusiastic book lover.

Speaking of book talks and enthusiastic book lovers, I'll never forget standing in line for a Libba Bray signing with Danielle from Mercurial Musings. We spent our time waiting talking about books and I couldn't help but be completely swept away by the way she drew me into the book she was talking about. Even though she teaches high school, I think I need to some how find a way to get her to talk to my students about books. 

And then there were the authors. I cannot tell you overall what wonderful people YA and middle grade authors are. Some of my most vivid memories of NCTE and ALAN will be from the authors I met and conversed with.

I loved talking to Gabrielle Zevin, author of All These Things I've Done, about how even though people are calling the series a dystopia, it is so NOT. Gabrielle completely agreed with me and then went on to say that it's really a character story and she wrote it thinking it was more of a Dickensian family saga but that sort of label doesn't exactly sell books these days the way "dystopia" does. Because we bonded over the dystopia thing, Sherry Gick and Niki Barnes and I got her to secretly (shhhh...) tell us the title of the third book in the series but it's top secret so I can't tell any one. ;)
Gabrielle Zevin and I bonding over our mutual disagreement over genres :)
Proof that our conversation existed
More bonding at the ALAN author reception. :)

I'll also remember meeting Ruta Sepetys, author of one of the most important books of the decade, Between Shades of Gray. I introduced myself to Ruta at her Penguin signing and mentioned that I was the teacher of the kids of one of her dear friends from college. As soon as I told her who I was, she got up from the signing table, came around and gave me a big hug. We were able to connect again that evening at the ALAN reception where Brian Wyzlic and I made a case for why her publisher needs to send her back to Michigan when her newest book, Out of the Easy, comes out in February.
Me with Ruta Sepetys
Ruta's speech the next day at the ALAN workshop was so moving that it brought me to tears - the kind of tears you can't easily hide and spend the next 10 minutes trying to pull it together as you wipe them from your eyes. If you want an inkling of how inspiring it was, watch this video.

More NCTE/ALAN memories:
With Sherry Gick and Niki Barnes

With my girls Jen Vincent and Alyson Beecher

Jen and Gregory DFTBAing it up :)

With another one of my teaching mentors: Kelly Gallagher

With literary rock star, Sherman Alexie
With Shannon Hale

With Libba Bray

With Chris Crutcher

With the adorable Jo Knowles
Middle grade authors: Blue Balliett, Rebecca Stead, Jo Knowles, Kate Messner and Jody Feldman
Graphic novelists extraordinaire Raina Telgemeier and Dave Roman

And of course, I can't forget about the books. I filled 2 carry-on suitcases and shipped a 43 lb box of books home. I can't wait to share this bounty with my students! Once again, thank you so much to the authors and publishers for being generous with their time and books, and as always thank you so much to my Tiwtter PLN, particularly the Nerdy Book Club, for making me a better teacher and person.

I know I have failed to mention a large number of people in this recap and for that I apologize. Even if I didn't mention your name, know that there are way more people that inspired me than were mentioned in this recap.

I can't wait to see you all again in Boston and meet more new friends!

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading? 11-12-12

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

This is a very exciting week because on Thursday I leave for Las Vegas for the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) convention and ALAN workshop (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE). I am so excited to see old friends and meet new ones.

Last week I finished reading:
Jay-Z: Hip Hop Icon by Jessica Gunderson
Cecil the Pet Glacier by Matthea Harvey

Last week I finished listening:
Guys Read: The Sports Pages edited by Jon Scieszka

Currently reading:
Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers by Penny Kittle
I am savoring every word of this book. Every teacher needs to read this. Period. I had the pleasure of seeing Penny talk about the ideas presented in this book at the Michigan Reading Association conference back in March and by the end, her presentation had moved everyone to tears. This book is like an extension of that presentation and I am soaking in all of her wisdom. I have to restrain myself from highlighting every single word because it is just THAT good.

Currently listening:

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

Last week I reviewed:

Eric by Shaun Tan

Current Giveaways:
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (ends 11/13)
My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald & Princess in Waiting by Meg Cabot (ends 11/18)

You may have noticed my posts on the blog lately have been rather few and far between. We are currently in the throes of the school year and things aren't slowing down any time soon. I'm hoping by January I might be back in my groove, but who knows given that I'll be starting up my master's classes again by then.  At the moment I'm just finding the demands of this year to be incredibly trying and difficult to keep up with. Teaching is hard y'all. I will shut down anyone who tries to tell me any different.

Clear Your Shelf giveaway hop: Books by Meg Cabot and Lisa Greenwald

For my portion of this giveaway hop, I am giving away a copy of the following books:

Princess in Waiting (Princess Diaries #4) by Meg Cabot
My Life in Pink and Green by Lisa Greenwald

Terms and Conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter
a Rafflecopter giveaway Don't forget to visit the other blogs in the hop:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Eric by Shaun Tan

When a family hosts a foreign "exchange student" in their home, some of the unusual things he does, like sleep in the pantry, are chalked up to just being a "cultural thing", but when he slips away one day with little more than a goodbye, the family is left wondering about the curious way he departed and what he left behind.

I'll be the first to admit, I know that Shaun Tan is brilliant, but I've just never "got" his work before. The book Eric may be diminutive in size (in addition to being its own book, it also appears in the collection Tales from Outer Suburbia), but it is packed with meaning and wonder, while being much more accessible and easier to follow than some of his other works. In fact, I think I may say that it is quite delightful. I highly recommend that Eric be a gateway into the works of Shaun Tan. It isn't quite as avante garde as his other stories and is therefore a good starting point to ease into some of his more unusual and head scratching works. For those of you who live in the U.S. like me however, you're going to have to order it from The Book Depository though because it is a U.K. title, or you could just order or check out a copy of Tales from Outer Suburbia where Eric also resides as one of the 15 illustrated short stories.

Eric by Shaun Tan
Published: April 1, 2010
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 48
Genre: Picture book
Audience: ??? I'm not sure there's a defined audience for Shaun Tan. YA maybe?
Disclosure: Ordered from The Book Depository

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Thankful for Books giveaway hop: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

For my portion of the giveaway hop, I am giving away a copy of:

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Published: August 1, 2009
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: hardcover
Pages: 392
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Young Adult

Goodreads Summary:
For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf--her wolf--is a chilling presence she can't seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It's her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human--or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

Terms and conditions:
You must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
Use the Rafflecopter widget to enter
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Don't forget to visit all the other blogs participating in this blog hop:

Monday, November 5, 2012

It's Monday! What are you Reading? 11-5-12

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen and Kellee  over at Teach Mentor Texts also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Picture books I read last week:
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs and Let's Go for a Drive! by Mo Willems

The Christmas Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska
I didn't think it was possible for me to love quiet any more than I already do but Deborah Underwood manages to do just that. And then there's Renata Liwska whose heart-warming illustrations manage to make me want to cuddle with a porcupine and an iguana at the same time. For lovers of The Quiet Book, this is a must-read!

Novel I finished last week:
The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm
Jenni Holm has a huge talent for writing engaging historical fiction novels. Turtle in Paradise is one of my favorite middle grade novels of all time. I liked The Trouble with May Amelia, but I found the lack of quotation marks in the dialogue to be incredibly distracting and difficult to plod through. And since I listened to the audiobook of Our One and Only May Amelia, I never realized this was an issue until the sequel. My writing teacher instinct wanted to go in with a red pen and add the quotation marks. If I had read this book before meeting Jenni Holm, I would've loved to ask her the reason for this intentional omission. She is a many-time Newbery Honor so I'm sure she had a great reason, I just found this lack of convention difficult to read in my own mind. I imagine the same would be true for kids.

Graphic novel I finished last week:
Drama by Raina Telgemeier 
This is one of those books that could be a life changer for the right kid. Raina Telgemeier somehow always knows how to pull at just the right heartstrings. 

Audiobooks I finished last week:
Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick  

Currently reading:
You Tell Your Dog First by Alison Pace

Currently listening:
Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
Guys Read: The Sports Pages, edited by Jon Szieszka 

Check out my current giveaway: 
I'm giving away 2 copies of the audiobook Because It Is My Blood by Gabrielle Zevin