Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer 2011 Gratitudes

1. Allrecipes.com
2. the chance to create a Magical Learning Planet for second graders
3. Summer Vacation
4. our house and yard and garden
5. red rock slot canyons near Moab
6. the proximity of the Wasatch Mountains
7. Lisa and David and Tina and Lydia coming to UT soon
8. Amanda and her soon-to-be-born baby's good health
9. colors
10. music
11. Zumba
12. Centerville 4th of July 5 K
13. both of my house plants are still alive
14. the cookbook mom gave me last month
15. Mikey's love
16. Elephants
17. picture books
18. Great Harvest bread
19. the loving life force of the universe, aka blue panda
20. puppies
21. my dragon form
22. summer sunshine
23. my kitchen and central air and a washer and dryer
24. jeans and tank tops
25. a calm and peaceful heart

Friday, June 17, 2011

Blue Panda Holy Writings, Chapter 2

1. Sing and pray in gratitude often and also petition the universe for more self awareness and for a strong and peaceful heart.

2. Here is one of the most powerful prayers humans have ever uttered:

Dear Blue Panda (or God, or Universe, or whatever),
Grant me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

3. There is a Blue Panda addition to this golden prayer of serenity and change: Dear Blue Panda, Please also grant me the humor to laugh at the things that I hate but cannot change and the creativity and imagination to see all the things I can change, especially my own beliefs and thoughts.


Sunday, June 05, 2011

Book Club Picks

Dear Steve, Margie, and Elizabeth,

Here is a list of books that I would recommend you guys consider for book clubs and possibly for whole class read aloud sets:

Shooting the Moon, by Frances O'Roark Dowell.
This book got a lot of buzz but I didn't read it for a while after it came out cuz it didn't look that fabulous. It's about a girl who gets pictures in the mail from her brother who is fighting in Vietnam. It's about her relationships with some soldiers and her father, The Colnel. Pretty short book and easy text, but quite rich---lots of inferring and some background knowledge required. Content is fine for fifth graders or sixth graders. I really enjoyed it and think it would be a great pick for book clubs.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie, by Jordan Sonnenblick
This is a story told in first person, rather like a diary, of an eighth-grade boy with a kindergarten little brother who gets diagnosed with leukemia. Funny, sad, honest. I read this out loud this year and my sixth grade class LOVED it. It's more sixth-grade-ish, cuz the main character talks about the "hot" girl he likes looking at and there's some serious adolescent angst with his parents. But at the heart of the whole thing is his love for his little brother and there is nothing inappropriate for any kid to read. If you don't get this for a whole class book, at least get a guided reading set for sixth graders.

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper
Melody, the main character and narrator of this book, has a photographic memory and is super smart, but she also has cerebral palsy and cannot speak. She has spent most of her schooling in a self-contained special ed class, but she gets a speech computer, like Stephen Hawking has, and starts interacting with some of the "normal" kids at her school. There are a few cruel girls, which kept the book very real, but Melody is STRONG, and sometimes very funny. I read this out loud to my class this year and many kids listed it as their favorite book of the whole year. Melody is such an incredible and believable character and there are excellent themes about understanding disabilities and not judging people and having the courage to get to know people who look and act "weird". The paperback for this doesn't come out until January of 2012, but I'd say it's definitely worth saving some money for.

Diamond Willow, Helen Frost
A novel told in poems, a lot like Out of the Dust, although a little bit easier. The main character and narrator is a twelve-year-old girl who loves being around her sled dogs more than her peers. Her dad is Anglo and her mom is American Indian. The setting is contemporary, in a remote part of Alaska. When one of her dogs is seriously injured and she doesn't think her parents will save him, she takes her one best friend and sets out on a perilous trip to her grandparents' home. There is also an interesting mystery about her own birth. This would be excellent for fifth or sixth graders and the dogs and survival stuff would probably get the boys drawn into the story as well.

Elvis and Olive, by Stephanie Watson
Perfect for fifth grade girls--about two girls who become friends and have a secret hide-out and who go around spying on people. In the end their friendship is tested by their own reckless choices, but they learn to respect people's privacy and to mend their friendship. Really true to the girls' ages and it reminded me (in good ways) of Harriet the Spy.

The Outlandish Adventures of Liberty Aimes, by Kelly Easton
I blogged about this one here. Super fun, great for fifth or sixth graders, and it just came out in paperback.

Touch Blue, by Cynthia Lord
Here is what I wrote about this one, by the same author as Rules. Similar level and complexity, but it isn't out in paperback yet.

Have fun spending your money and make sure to read as many of the books as you can before assigning your students to read them. :) And please let me know your favorite picture and early chapter book choices!