It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's #IMWAYRCheck out TeachMentorTexts and Unleashing Readers to find out about more fabulous books!

I thought I would be getting lots of fiction reading done since we are on strike, but that isn't how it is turning out. 

First I had to type up all the summer reading recommendations from my school community and post them. It was a huge job! You can read about it and see the lists here. We ended up with 195 book suggestions. I'll do my best to read as many of them as I can....

While I have managed to get some fiction reading in this past week, I have primarily been reading news articles, political blogs, facebook posts, and twitter feeds. I've been consumed with reading anything to do with the teacher strike I am presently in the middle of here in British Columbia.

I'm impressed with anything Tom Kertes writes. His blog is Reflections on Liberation Learning

I've been inspired by all the positive support I've been reading from the facebook page BC voters supporting BC teachers and public education

I so proud to be part of such an amazing group of determined, dedicated, compassionate and principled professionals. There's nothing like adversity to get creativity exploding, and I am seeing and reading it regularly in the twitter feeds. Most recent are the responses to an ad posted in a recent paper claiming teacher wage demands were out of the affordability zone. (It really isn't about wages anyway) Teachers have reframed it in numerous ways, but my favourite remains the one where a teacher explains how you correctly add percentages. 

As it turns out, it was created by the aunt of one of my colleagues at work.

I admit that after a while I couldn't stomach anymore of that ilk and went back to reading fiction.  

I finished reading Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd. It was as delicious a read as stoneberry ice-cream must be to taste.  Clicking here will take you to my blog post yesterday about it.   

I was 23rds of the way into Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood when my digital copy from the VPL expired. It was one of those ARG! experiences since it will take me months to get it again. A kind soul loaned me a copy so I hope to get that finished this week.  

I started I Have a Bad Feeling About This by Jeff Strand, but since I learned my lesson from losing Oryx and Crake, realized I had other library books due that I better get on to first. 

I started and finished Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis. My review of it will be posted by tomorrow I hope. 

I've started listening to Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, the second in the Code Name Verity series. I wasn't sure at first, but have become hooked. I'm listening as I drive around with coffee and doughnuts to the picket sites in the morning. It's a strange thing to be reading about war when you are in the middle of your own battle... 

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Oh My, Oh My, Oh My. Natalie Lloyd has written a spindiddly first book! 

Our heroine is Felicity Juniper Pickle. Her power is seeing and collecting words from places and people, words that blink, words that hum, words that burst into colours and shapes, words with legs and wings, words she writes down in her blue notebook or on her shoes and arms. There are never-before words like ardwolf, "a hyena that stays up all night and eats termites," and spindiddly "amazing."   
When Felicity is with friends and loved ones, she can turn these words into poems and stories. Unfortunately, if she is around more than one person at a time, words "melt on her tongue like snowflakes... and disappear right off the edge of (her) lips." Her throat freezes up, and her words come out all jumbled when she tries to talk in front of strangers. 

Because her mother is a wanderer who travels from place to place painting, Felicity claims to be "from here and there and all across the world.Felicity has lived in six different states. It isn't easy starting school in a new place and making new friends. Words like: 
engulf her when she starts 6th grade at Stoneberry school in Midnight Gulch, her mother's home town. 

Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, "used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers." Now it has barely a snicker left. The town and inhabitants have been cursed, a curse that chased the magic away and won't let Mama find peace wherever she goes. 

In Midnight Gulch, Felicity makes her first best friend, Jonah Pickett, (The Beedle) a young boy whose goal is to make everyone happier. As the story unfolds, Felicity and Jonah search for a way to lift the curse so that Felicity can remain in Midnight Gulch to grow up and stay as long as she wants. 

There is so much to love about this book:

I loved the made up words:
"A factalactus is a truth that hurts a little bit, that prickles and stings, like you tried to shake hands with a cactus flower. But just because it hurts doesn't make it less true. 

And factobaulous "a truth that feels so good, it's like you hugged the summer sunshine."

I loved the writing. There are 
simple lines like:

"part of me wanted to crawl off like a spider word and under the chairs" 
And whole paragraphs of pleasure:
“The way he said her name made my heart cramp. In all my years of word collecting, I've learned this to be a tried and true fact: I can very often tell how much a person loves another person by the way they say their name. I think that's one of the best feelings in the world, when you know your name is safe in another person's mouth. When you know they'll never shout it out like a cuss word, but say it or whisper it like a once-upon-a-time.”

I loved the motley collection of characters:

Jonah Pickett, whose goal in life is to secretly make people happy, just happens to use a wheelchair

Florentine, the poet, 
Star root 
mentors Felicity so she is prepared for 'the duel.'

Cleo, the feisty aunt, who quilts who takes them in is surrounded by: 
"Patch it 
Mend it 
Stitch it back together" 

MIdnight Gulch itself: 
" a poem tangled up inside a rush of the midnight song the crickets were whistling.
At Last,
Forever, and now,
Here you are."

Here is some wisdom I'll take with me from this book:
"Your words matter more than you know


195 Summer Reading Recommendations From Dickens School Community

A few weeks before the end of school at a Monday morning assembly, instead of doing my usual book talks, I explained that I was hoping to read a book a day over the summer. I held up a piece of chart paper and asked our school community, (students, parents, and staff) to write down their recommendations for what I, and others, should read during our vacation. After the assembly, I hung the paper on a wall outside of the library. By Tuesday morning, that sheet was full, so I put up another. By Wednesday morning, that sheet was full, so I put up another. On the Thursday, I put up another sheet. That sheet stayed up until we left. 

It's taken me a while but here is the list in digital form. I've added some titles of my own that I plan to read. If you click on a book title it will take you to a Goodreads link so you can read what others think of it. Information on reading grade levels and interest grade levels comes from Perma-Bound. Occasionally I couldn't find this information. 

If you have more suggestions or the title you recorded isn't here, it might mean I overlooked it or I couldn't figure out what the book was, please repost the title and author's name here.

This link below should take you to a google doc. If you click on the link you will be able to see it and make comments. 

Dickens' Summer Reading Recommendations

Here's another way to access the list as an excel file for your own use.

Happy Summer everyone! I can't wait to get back in September to talk about the books you are reading!

Red Cedar Club Party 2014

Well, it's been an interesting end to an even more interesting week. I realized earlier on that there was no way in heck I was going to get the library under control by the end of today, and even if we are back at work by Wednesday, it still isn't gonna be enough time. Sometimes, you just have to live with chaos. 

Instead of fretting, today after lunch I had a dessert party with my Red Cedar Book Club members. They've been reading and blogging about the books since last fall. You can read their blogs here. They deserved a celebration! I had a few kids helping with the set up between recess and lunch and a few darlings helping with the clean up later. In the middle was a sugar frenzy and jeopardy game based on the books - me against the kids. They won. I should have taken before and after pictures but forgot. We had so many different kinds of sugar there was a lot left over - even extra chocolate mousse!

In theory school shouldn't be over for another couple of weeks, but because everything is so unsettled due to the strike here in British Columbia, there were all kinds of goodbyes. Darn it all, I hate to say good bye at the best of times, and saying teary farewells just in case, but remaining hopeful we will be back before the end of next week, and then knowing we'll do it all over again, just sucks. 

In spite of all this, I feel blessed. I've now got a house filled with bouquets of flowers (hang the allergies) many loving cards and hugs galore to remind me I'm fortunate to be a teacher librarian, doing a job I love, in a fabulous school. 

It also reaffirms my reasons for why we're walking a picket line this coming week. 

Yetsa's Sweater by Sylvia Olsen & Joan Larson

It's #nfpb2014 Wednesday. Thanks to Alison Beecher at for getting it all started. Check out the links to discover many more irresistible information books.

Cowichan Sweaters are an historical icon of West Coast Canadian life. In this picture book we get a behind the scenes look at how they are created. 

Yetsa and her mother spend Saturdays in May helping Grandma prepare the wool before it is ready to knit. They begin by cleaning the hay, prickles, twigs and even sheep poop out of the new fleece. The fleece is then boiled and washed in soap and water before it is rinsed and hung to dry. The next week the wool is teased, carded and spinning begins. By the following week, Grandma is finished spinning and has started a new sweater for Yetsa: a sweater with images that represent Yetsa's life. 

The end of the book has two pages of additional information on the history of Cowichan sweaters. We learn that Yetsa, the author's granddaughter, is the sixth generation in a family of Coast Salish Knitters. 

I love that this book shows First Nation children and families in an authentic and healthy perspective. 

All the children I've read this book to this week (and their teachers) have been fascinated by this look into the process of how these sweaters were created. 

I had a lot of fun Tuesday with a family grouping of kindergarten, grade one's and two's. I discovered that even a veteran teacher librarian like myself still has lots to learn. I brought in some samples of raw fleece, spun yarn and a finished sweater. The kids were vociferously disgusted by the smell of sheep in the raw fleece. Thankfully they were impressed by the finished sweater: although we all agreed it was itchy. Next time, I'll read the book and then share the materials, or show them and then read the book. I've promised them bread and blackberry jam next time I see them. That will be less disruptive I am certain. Well I hope so anyway. 

It's Monday. Here's What I've Been Reading

It's #IMWAYR. Check out TeachMentorTexts and Unleashing Readers to find out about more fabulous books!

There is always an upside to everything, and for me, this job action we're in the middle of here in British Columbia, translates into more reading time. I read during our recess and and lunch time lockouts, and continue while on strike picket duty.


I finished Countdown by Deborah Wiles. All I can say about this book is WOW! I loved and was blown away by it. I loved the integration of biography, pamphlets, news headlines and fiction. I loved that Wiles provided background knowledge to ensure a deeper understanding for this whopping great read.

I read Fake ID by Lamar Giles. I like this book about a teenager in the witness protection program because of his father's criminal activity. Nick Pearson and his family end up in Stepton, Virginia. It's their last chance because his father has screwed up twice already while in the program. On his first day at his new school he meets a girl, Reya; gets beaten up; and is saved by Eli Cruz, the school journalist and Reya's brother. Soon Nick discovers that someone in Stepton is hiding a dirty secret and is prepared to murder to keep it. When Eli ends up dead, Nick and Reya set out to figure out what is going on. This is a fast paced mystery and action novel. I can think of a number of upper intermediate boys and girls who will love it. However, I do have some reservations about this title. Without giving too much away, I'm not happy with Nick and his father's solution for changing their lives.

I also finished The Day Joanie Frankenhauser Became A Boy by Francess Lin Lantz. It's a tale of a tomboy who gets the chance to live life as a boy. At first she is delighted, but gradually discovers that being a boy is not as wonderful as she thought it must be. One of the things I love about this book is that it provides a great segue into an analysis of gender roles.. I think it will make a fabulous lit circle for students in grade 3 and up if I can only find some paperbacks in print. 

I've started reading A Snicker of Magic by Natalie LLoyd. Magical realism is my fabourite genre so it's easy to say that at this point, I'm in love with a book.   

I've read too many picture books to keep track of. The one that has stood out I'll blog about for Non-fiction Wednesdays.

I'm still listening to, and enjoying Terrior by Tamora Pierce.

Up next is Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. 

It's Monday, What are You Reading.

It's  #IMWAYR. I'm so thankful to: TeachMentorTexts and Unleashing Readers for starting it all off. 

My world has been very busy so my reading life has been a bit sparse this past week. 

I finished reading Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. It's not at all appropriate for my elementary school readers, but for older readers looking for something fresh and new (and want insight into what goes on inside a teen age boy's mind) I highly recommend it. Here is my Goodreads review:

Excrementum sanctum!
That was some book!
It's a read you climb into and then hang on for dear life as you are spun in and out of spaces (at least for me) I never thought I wanted to go.
It's set in Ealing, Iowa, a dying town since the local manufacturing plant moved its business overseas. It's a town steeped in religious fundamentalism and rife with homophobia.
Austen, our 17 year old hero is all tangled up in his love and desire for his two best friends, Shann, a girl, and Robby, a boy.
To make matters worse, local hoodlums stole a glowing curiosity from the second hand shop.
It was not a good idea.
They dropped it, unleashing spores of flesh eating preying mantises, and started the end of the world.
My words can not do justice to this book. It's part science fiction, part horror, and part social commentary. It's dark, twisted, hilarious, intense and sweet.
Comparisons to Andrew Smith's writing have been made to Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson. I see both of them here.
My only wish for this book is that Austen's friends' were more equally developed. Shann is essentially a stereotype, while Robby is a richly developed character.

I also finished reading Escape From Mr Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein. It started out pretty slow but once I got into it, I was hooked. I anticipated it would be full of more action, but I came to appreciate the thoughtful integration of book title clues into what turns out to be a literary detective novel. 

I also finished two high interest, low vocabulary books from the Dark Hunter Series by Benjamin Holme-Cross. I think if you click on the book title it will take you to my good reads review. 
I've sent them off to a grade 5/6/7 classroom to be tested by real readers. 

I've started reading Countdown by Deborah Wiles. I'm going to confess that I am old enough to remember living the times this historical novel is set in. I'm not sure why I resisted this title, since I have loved all of Wiles' work since first reading Each Little Bird that Sings. (I just replaced our copies of it and Love, Ruby Lavender.) So far, I am loving this title and plan to get the entire series for the library by next September. If you have read and liked this one, you might enjoy Rex Zero: The Great Pretender by Tim Wynne Jones, a book that details the Canadian experience of this era. 

I've also started listening to Terrier by Tamora Pierce. What can I say? Pierce is one of my guilty pleasures. I love her strong female characters. So do all the girls I introduce her work to.