Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4-29-13

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?

I actually finished some novel-length books last week! It's been so long since I've done that, I was starting to think I'd never finish a book again.

Last week I finished:

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt
See Me After Class:  Advice for Teachers, by Teachers by Roxanna Elden

Picture books I read and enjoyed last week:

Trout! Trout! Tout! (A Fish Chant) by April Pulley Sayre, illustrated by Trip Park
Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure by Wynton Marsalis, illustrated by Paul Rogers

Bluebird by Bob Staake
Martin de Porres: The Rose in the Desert by Gary D. Schmidt, illustrated by David Diaz

Currently Reading:

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
I'm only a few pages in and I already get why everyone loves this book. One conversation between Ari and his mom in the kitchen and I already love them both. I think this book is going to get me out of my reading funk. I have high hopes.\

Last week I reviewed:

Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Since this is the third and final book of the Delirium trilogy, I sort of feel like I can't write a proper summary of the story without giving too much away from the previous two books. But I doubt anyone is going to run out and read Requiem without having read Delirium and Pandemonium (at least I hope not!) so I guess I can give a little bit away.

Starting right where Pandemonium left off, Lena is still living in the Wilds with the other Invalids when it is soon discovered that Regulators from the other side of the fence are infiltrating areas around the borders to try to vanquish the rebellion. Regulators have never breached into the Wilds before because they have never wanted to acknowledge the existence of the Invalids, but as the Resistance movement continues to grow stronger, both Regulators and Invalids can no longer deny what they know is true: Resistance will soon build to Revolution.

In this last installment of the trilogy, Lauren Oliver has added a new element to her story-telling: a second narrator. In the first two books Lena was the sole narrator, but now Oliver has included the voice of Lena's former best friend Hana to the mix. This addition brings an interesting dichotomy to the narrative by hearing from someone who is "infected" with amor deliria nervosa and also someone who has been "cured." This dichotomy builds to a fever pitch by the climax and leaves the reader/listener feeling both angry and satisfied at the same time. And while I didn't love this book or the second book nearly as much as the first one, I felt the ending was both satisfying and disappointing at the same time. But I think that's what happens when you get emotionally invested in characters and a storyline; I don't know if any end will entirely satisfy you.

I know many people who have been waiting to read Requiem are wondering what will play out with the whole love triangle aspect that left us hanging in Pandemonium, and I have to say that I was pleased that Oliver chose not to spend a great deal of energy focusing on that element of the story. Instead, more time was spent focusing on the differing perspectives between Hana and Lena's voices, which I have to say quite pleased me since I think the love triangle trope is tired and way overdone.

Sarah Drew returns as the audiobook narrator in this final installment and she is still the perfect fit to tell this story. When I reviewed the first book, I mentioned how the listener really gets a sense that Drew feels everything the characters are feeling in her performance. And yet, in this book, while her performance during dramatic moments felt real and heartfelt, those "in between" moments of the story had a tendency to feel overacted. So while I thought her performance during the moments of heightened emotion were spot on (especially the climax I was referring to above), it was the emotionally neutral moments that I felt needed to be toned down a bit. Still, that is a rather nit-picky criticism because Drew is one of my favorite female audiobook narrators. I hope to hear more from her in the future.

Read my reviews of the previous books in the series:

My favorite review of Requiem:
Brian Wyzlic at Wyz Reads

Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Audiobook narrator: Sarah Drew
Series: Delirium #3
Published: March 5, 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins/HarperAudio
Pages: 391
Audiobook Length: 10 hours, 13 minutes
Genre: Dystopia
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: Received for review from publisher

Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4-22-13

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 week I feel like I'm starting to get some of my reading mojo back. For the first time in what seems like months, I actually listened to an audiobook while cooking dinner and putting laundry away. For a while now I've only been listening to audiobooks in the car.

I still haven't finished reading an entire novel in what seems like many weeks, but at least  I've climbed the audiobook hurdle. Maybe now I can climb the novel hurdle too.

Last week I finished listening:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
This book is impossible to review without giving too much away. All I can say is that it will mess with your mind until the very last page. 

Currently reading:
Mistik Lake by Martha Brooks
See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers by Roxanna Elden 

Currently listening:
Requiem by Lauren Oliver 
Sarah Drew is an amazing narrator. She feels every emotion in this novel. I adore her.

Also posted last week:
More (somewhat) bacony goodness
RIP E.L. Konigsburg

Saturday, April 20, 2013

RIP E.L. Konigsburg

A tweet from John Green earlier this morning was the first news I heard of E.L. Konigsburg's passing.

This is incredibly sad news for me because E.L. Konigsburg is the author responsible for resurrecting my reading life.

On March 5th of last year I wrote a blog post on the Nerdy Book Club blog entitled "Returning Home to the Bookshelf." In that post I talk about how, as a child, I used to be a voracious reader but then high school ruined my love of reading by forcing me to read boring classics that bared little influence on my life or the life of my classmates.

From my Nerdy Book Club post:
But then one day when my husband and I were living in Germany, I found myself bored and tired of mindlessly surfing the Internet while my husband was at work, so I went over to the bookshelf, and picked up a book. I enjoyed that one so much, that I picked up another one a few weeks later. 

That first book I picked up was The View from Saturday. I still vividly remember finishing that book while delayed three hours in some random train station in Germany on our way back from a weekend trip to Prague. The name of the city where we were delayed escapes me, but sitting in that train station, book in hand, I was no longer in some Podunk train station in Germany; I was in Epiphany, New York with Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian as they taught me a beautiful lesson about friendship. I am not ashamed to admit that this middle grade novel was, and still is, one of the most profound books I have ever read.

So thank you Elaine Lobl Konigsburg. Thank you for From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Silent to the Bone, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, and The View from Saturday. Your memory lives on in the the children's (and adults') lives you have touched and will continue to touch through your stories.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

More (somewhat) bacony goodness

It is well documented on my blog and in my classroom how much I love bacon.  I have had students bring me bacon mints (which were gross and tasted like band-aids), chocolate covered bacon (delicious!) and a maple bacon cupcake (also delicious).

At the beginning of second hour yesterday, one of my students came up to me and said, "Mrs. Shaum, I brought you a piece of maple bacon saltwater taffy." I looked dubiously at the pink and brown piece of candy in its translucent wrapping. My students, in turn, looked at me expectantly. So I opened the wrapper, popped it in my mouth and ate it right in front of them. As I chewed, and chewed.... and chewed, thinking while I was chewing, the room was completely silent as they patiently waited for my assessment. I noted the maple taste right away but couldn't really note much bacon flavor. Instead, it tasted more like salty maple saltwater taffy, which was pretty darn good. As I declared to the class that I liked it, they all erupted in cheers.

Now I think I need to go online and find some maple bacon saltwater taffy so they can experience the joy too. :)

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4-15-13

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?

Last week I debuted a new blog, but no worries. I'm still blogging here -- for the time being.

I also finally finished and posted the video I've been pestering everyone about for the past month, thus the reason for the new blog. Oh yeah, and because I am also blogging over at Use Your Outside Voice too, I decided it was time to retire @FoodieBooklvr as my Twitter handle. So now you can find me tweeting via @BethShaum. It's the same account, just a different name.

Since I've been crazy busy with working on my project for this class that I created the video for, my pleasure reading has been on the back burner.

These are a couple books I managed to read and enjoy this week:

Tito Puente, Mambo King/Tito Puente, Rey del Mambo by Monica Brown, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Told in both English and Spanish, this gorgeous picture book biography will lure in young children with its vibrant, lively illustrations. Now I want to go look up some Tito Puente recordings... 

Monsters Love Colors by Mike Austin 
A delightful mess of monsters and colors. :)

Still reading and listening:

Twerp by Mark Goldblatt

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 

Last week I reviewed:

Some Kind of Love: A Family Reunion in Poems by Traci Dant, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Other posts from last week:
More joy
So much depends upon...
This is what I've been pestering everyone about for the past few weeks
Don't be afraid to get subversive with your bolognese

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Some Kind of Love: A Family Reuinion in Poems by Traci Dant, illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Traci Dant's collection of poems all revolve around one family reunion and the joy that pours forth from such an encounter. Every poem in this book begins with "Must be some kind of love" and runs the gamut of topics from where everyone sleeps at grandma's house, to fishing, to cousins eating fried chicken together.

The wheels are already turning for using this book with students to write their own family poems that begin with "Must be some kind of love." So many great details in these poems to share and emulate.

One of my favorites from the book:

Family Photograph

Must be some kind of love
'cause daddy says, We don't
ever want to forget any member

of our loud-laughing,
hat-wearing, pearl-necked, knee-
stockinged, shoe-shined family.

So we all stand on the green shore
of Grandma's lawn and smile wide
when the photographer says, Cheese.

Some Kind of Love: A Family Reunion in Poems by Traci Dant, illustrated by Eric Velasquez
Published: April 1, 2010
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Children's Books
Pages: 32
Genre: Poetry/Picture Book
Audience: Middle Grade/Primary
Disclosure: Library Copy

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Don't be afriad to get subversive with your bolognese

I remember the first time I watched Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell. She made pasta bolognese on that first episode and the reason I remember it so vividly is because even though Anne started her first show with a very simple recipe, her manifesto on that show and every show from that day forward was "brown food tastes good," imploring over and over again the need to brown your food for ultimate flavor.

For bolognese, Anne says she was doing it wrong until she went to Italy and they told her that her vegetables weren't cooked enough. She thought they were cooked plenty, but they hadn't achieved that brown "gunk" at the bottom of the pan that is the base of all flavorings for sauce.

So from then on, her mantra became "brown food tastes good" and she advises her viewers to brown the veggies in your bolognese almost to the brink of disaster.

I don't follow her recipe to the letter anymore the way I used to, but I always make sure to follow that sound piece of advice. I haven't made a bad bolognese yet.

I'd say this is close to the brink of disaster. Time to deglaze. 

Another thing I learned from Anne is that a bolognese is not a sauce and it shouldn't have a lot of liquid, so this will need to reduce down.

Mmmm... now I'm hungry. Glad I have some leftover in the freezer.

Check out Anne Burrell's pasta bolognese recipe and always remember that "brown food tastes good." :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

This what I've been pestering everyone about on Twitter for the past weeks.

If you're a teacher, I hope you'll watch.
If you're a parent, I hope you'll watch.
If you're an administrator, I hope you'll watch.
If you're a politician, I hope you'll watch.
If you're a concerned citizen, I hope you'll watch.

And then come join the conversation over at my new blog, Use Your Outside Voice.

(I'm still blogging here for now, so no need to change your subscriptions)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

So much depends upon...

Every year during poetry month I have my students create idea webs of all their thoughts about poetry, even the negative ones; especially the negative ones because by the end of the month, my hope is that their feelings will grow and evolve, just like Jack in Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, our current read aloud in sixth grade.

So here are some of the Jacks in my classroom:
It's such a shame when students hold back their true feelings. ;)

I'm the poetry monster!

This just made me laugh because I read this book quite a few months ago.

Someone has some strong feelings about red wheelbarrows.

I can't wait to see if I'm able to change the mind of all these students by the first of May.  :)

Oh, and in case you've never seen it before, this is why many of my students, not just the one above, have some strong feelings about red wheelbarrows.

The Red Wheelbarrow
by William Carlos Williams

So much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More joy

In my quest to find joy in the little things, I bring to you this story:

Yesterday my students voted as a class for who they wanted to be Mr. Schu's road trip mascot. They loved watching all the book trailers and even asked if I could play a few of them a second time.

So my favorite moment from today was when we were on our way back to school from a field trip to the DIA and the whole bus started in on a rousing chorus of "My buttons, my buttons, my four groovy buttons" from the Pete the Cat song. Yes, middle schoolers can be pretty awesome on occasion. :)

Previous joyous posts:
Post #1
Post #2

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4-8-13

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?

Books I read and enjoyed last week:

The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers
What happens when trees mysteriously begin disappearing in the forest? The animals begin an investigation. It may or may not have to do with a bear and a paper airplane. Loved this quirky story with Jeffers's unmistakable illustrations. 

Odd Velvet by Mary Burg Whitcomb, illustrated by Tara Calhan King
Lovely story of an odd child and the kids in her class learning to accept her. A good book to pair with Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson to explore different outcomes to similar situations.

Iceland by Barbara A. Somervill 
Yes, I totally just read this kid book to research my summer trip to Iceland. :)

My husband and I decided that since flights to Iceland were significantly cheaper than to mainland Europe, we will be going there for our 10 year anniversary trip. We are immersing ourselves in all things Iceland these days in preparation for our trip. 

Last week I finished listening:

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford

Fans of John Green will really dig this book I think. Or maybe I'm just saying that because Kate Rudd was the audiobook narrator and I had Hazel Grace Lancaster stuck in my head. Standiford's main character of Bea does remind you a bit of Hazel (even without the fact that she's narrated by the same actress) if she hadn't had cancer. Bea's relationship with Jonah "Ghost Boy" is unique and endearing and has very much that whole "us against the world" kind of vibe. I must admit I was disappointed with the ending but I can't tell you why because that would be revealing too much. 

Currently (still) reading:
Twerp by Mark Goldblatt

Currently listening:

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn 
Currently on disc 2 and I am already hooked. I've heard such polarizing things about this book so I just had to find out for myself what all the hype was about.

 Last week I reviewed:
A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff 

Last week I also posted:
Let's explore and discover poetry instead of dissecting it
A benign text message reminds me that we're nearing the end 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Let's explore and discover poetry instead of dissecting it

My library card got a major workout today.
It must be poetry month.

After reading a blog post from Cindy Minnich this morning, I was reminded again why poetry month is my favorite time of the year to be an English teacher. I take it upon myself as a personal challenge to make all my students lovers (or at least appreciaters) of poetry before the first of May.

How do I do that?
By giving them time.

Time to read.
Time to savor.
Time to wiggle around inside the lines and stanzas of a poem.

I think the knee-jerk reaction of English teachers everywhere is when a poem is thrust in front of us, we must dissect every word, line, and stanza until all the "hidden" meanings have been exhausted.

But just like with books, we also need to give kids the opportunity to explore poetry for its own sake, not just to find meaning. There is merit in just savoring a beautiful turn of phrase without having to interpret some sage wisdom or enlightenment. Sometimes the enlightenment is just listening to the words fall off your lips.

And while I certainly do my fair share of poetry interpreting during this month, I also make sure that I give my students time to live inside the pages of that big pile of books and let them just enjoy a poem for its own sake. Instead of tying poems to a chair and beating them with a hose, I choose to celebrate the magic and impact poetry can have on students' lives if I give them time to do their own discovering.

I encourage you to do the same.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff

In a world that straddles the border of fantasy and magical realism, people are graced with a Talent (yes, that is with a capital T) that determines their fate in life. Cady is a young orphan girl who has an amazing Talent for cake baking. In an attempt to find Cady's forever family, Miss Mallory, the proprietress of Miss Mallory's Home for Lost Girls, and whose own Talent involves finding the perfect family for all her girls, sends Cady off to live with Toby, a man who works and lives above the Lost Luggage Emporium, to see if they're a perfect fit.

As Cady gets to know Toby along with all the other residents that live above the Lost Luggage Emporium, it slowly becomes clear that something ties everyone together, even the devious owner of the emporium who has an obsession with finding powder blue suitcases.

The untangling of the knots in this story is what kept me turning the pages. It's definitely a book that you can pick up and before you know it you're already halfway done with it.

After reading many other reviews of A Tangle of Knots, what initially sold me on it was the backstory of the main character Cady and her Talent at cake baking. I thought this would make for quite the delectable read, but I found that not much was done with that in terms of the descriptions of the cakes she bakes. There are places in the story where her cake recipes are strategically placed and I liked Graff's idea of having Cady know just the perfect cake for every person she bakes for, but other than reading the recipes placed throughout the story, I didn't really get a good handle on Cady's Talent. With the exception of a couple instances, I didn't quite understand why everyone's perfect cake was perfect for them. Not to mention the fact that I didn't quite hear the vernacular and language of a baker in Cady's Talent. There were a lot of  "didn't quite" moments throughout reading this book. However, what did quite work for me was what I saw in Cady, which was a kind, tender-hearted child who was easy to root for.

Due to all the dropping of clues and the "knots" readers must untangle to unfurl the plot, when I first started reading this book I was immediately put in mind of When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, though I have to say that I think Stead was much more successful at giving her readers that "Aha!" moment when all those puzzle pieces finally came together. I'm still scratching my head about a few puzzle pieces that I felt didn't quite fit together, which made the ending feel unresolved but I suppose in the end, it really was. It just didn't feel that way.

Still, I enjoyed reading it a great deal and would highly recommend A Tangle of Knots to any readers who like mysteries or are trying to ease their way into fantasy. As someone who is not always a fan of fantasy, I can say I appreciated the fact that the world and setting would have been realistic (Poughkeepsie New York is about as un-fantastical as it gets*) had it not been for the small difference of everyone's Talent with a capital T. 

Cover Comments: This book probably wins the most beautiful cover award for books published in 2013, and while it's beautiful to look at on a computer screen, it's even more gorgeous in person as it has an iridescent shimmer to it. If the cover doesn't get kids to pick this book up, I don't know what will, so please Philomel, please do not change the cover in a year when the paperback comes out. Keep it just as it is. 

Other reviews of A Tangle of Knots:
Good Books and Good Wine
Nerdy Book Club

*That comment was not meant as a slam on Poughkeepsie BTW, so you if interpreted it as such, that was not my intention. I would say that about my own city if it were the setting of this novel, and I love my hometown.  

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
Published: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Philomel
Pages: 233
Genre: Fantasy/Magical Realism
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Purchased Copy

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A benign text message reminds me that we're nearing the end

As I'm sitting at home today enjoying some much-needed time off in the form of my school's spring break, I received a text message from my sixth grade teaching partner:

I am at school right now and I found my extra plastic sleeves!!!!! It is a joyous day!!

For teachers it really is the little things that matter. For Carrie it's being able to organize her teaching materials in binders with plastic sleeves.

That text message immediately made me smile, but it was soon accompanied by a lump in my throat as I realized I won't be getting texts like this from her for much longer. Once spring break is over, the school year will be in its home stretch, and it will be soon time for me to pack up my classroom, a place that has been my second home for the past seven years. And while having the chance to say a proper goodbye is good for closure, it's also bad because you know it's coming and you have time to think about all the things that you'll miss about that place.

Carrie has been such a wonderful person to work with for the past seven years. She has stayed sane when I have flipped out. She has helped me laugh when some situations would have probably called for crying. Oh, and most important of all, she has, on quite a few occasions, helped save me from my kryptonite, which is puking children (well, puking adults too, but there's far fewer of them to contend with in a school). I won't tell you what her kryptonite is, lest you use it against her. ;)
Carrie and me in my classroom before the start of the school year in 2010, our 1st year as 6th grade partners

In the end though, I'm glad I have this time to reflect on what an impact my school and the people in it have had on my career and my life in general. I have a feeling now that we're nearing the end, I'm going to start tearing up over the littlest things.

It's time for the memory-making and reminscing to begin.

Monday, April 1, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-1-13

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?

I prefer to just completely ignore the fact that today is April Fool's Day. I'm just grateful we're off for Spring Break and I don't have to deal with students pranking me all day long!

Last week I received a great response for my teacher project request, but if you still haven't sent me anything and you've been thinking about doing it, you can still send me something. I really do want to hear from you, but I need it ASAP!

This week I am reading:

A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff
Twerp by Mark Goldblatt

Currently (still) listening:

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
I am loving this book more and more as I continue with Bea and Jonah's journey. It's very much a book you could say, "If you like John Green, try Natalie Standiford..." which is a pretty bold statement to make, but Natalie's writing is sharp, intellectual, and biting just like John Green's. I am thoroughly enjoying this listening experience.

Last week I read and enjoyed:

Babymouse for President and Extreme Babymouse by Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm

Jon Stewart by Randy Scherer
Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad by Henry Cole
Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Mark Litchtenheld

Heart on Fire: Susan B. Anthony Votes for President by Ann Malaspina, illustrated by Steve James
A Woman for President: The Story of Victoria Woodhull by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Jane Dyer

And finally, Frank decided to pose with my very first #bookaday of spring break, for obvious reasons I think:

Pug and Other Animal Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Last week I also posted about:
Reflecting on #TheWonderOfWonder