Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2018

So excited for this session at #psla2018!

Fun @nearpodofficial lesson with @mrennix learning about setting. Students will use the information to create a serial mystery podcast. #manheimcentralsd

Wow, it’s been awhile since I read something that I stayed up all night to finish. Full review soon, but this book was intense.

EdCamp Lancaster - 4/21/18

I love EdCamp! On Saturday I got to experience my fourth EdCamp, and this time I was on the organizing committee. If you've never attended, check out the EdCamp website. Basically, EdCamps are free, fluid, teacher-led PD opportunities where you hang out with other teachers and talk about topics that interest you.

The day started with an awesome Panera breakfast, and then teachers sat around and wrote their topics of interest or questions on Post-it notes. These were organized on a large grid and then were moved over to create our working schedule.

The large grid was then converted into a digital schedule that was embedded into the EdCamp Weebly.

Then it was time to make our choices and move to our sessions! The great thing about EdCamp is the "Rule of Two Feet". If a session doesn't work for you, you are totally free to get up and move to another session. Since no one prepared anything in advance, you aren't hurting anyone's feelings. It's all about you …

Review: Refugee

Refugee by Alan Gratz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Refugee is the story of three children caught up in completely separate events in totally different time periods that force them to flee their homes and become refugees in search of safety. Josef and his family flee the Nazis in 1930. Isabel flees Castro in Cuba in 1994. Mahmoud flees war in Syria in 2015. All three children face terrible dangers, including the loss of family and friends. This is an important book that has so many teachable moments. Gratz himself stated that his purpose in writing Refugee was to teach empathy. He calls it the seeing of the unseen and caring for others.

I almost never give five stars. Gratz hit a home run with this one. It's truly an amazing book.

Grades 6+ (thematic elements, some violence)

View all my reviews

Review: The Living

The Living by Matt de la Pena
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reader's Annotation:
A teen joins the crew of a cruise ship hoping to make some money over the summer, but experiences more than he bargained for when a tsunami sinks his ship and he has to survive shark-infested waters. He makes it to an island, but instead of safety, he is confronted with secrets and dangers that could potentially wipe out the world's population.

My Thoughts:
This is a fun, fast read. It started a little slow, and I had a hard time connecting with the main characters. But the action picks up a few chapters in and then I was hooked. The themes in the book are survival, friendship, and overcoming adversity.

My Recommendation:
4.5/5 stars
Grades 9+ (this is a tricky one, because my middle school students would love this story. There is some language and some romantic situations (not too graphic), but I was more concerned with the intensity of the violence with the shark attacks and the violent deaths …

Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reader's Annotation:
A virus ends the world as we know it, killing 99% of the population within 48 hours. A small group of seemingly unconnected characters forges through the following 20 years, trying to make their way and find meaning in the new world.

My Thoughts:
A colleague referred to this as a "quiet dystopian novel", and I completely agree. I am a huge fan of dystopia, but the zombie apocalypse has been done and redone so many times. I found this novel to be a refreshing change. The focus really wasn't on the end itself, but rather the rising of the survivors. It emphasized relationships that connected those survivors and how we lean on each other in times of hardship. I can't say that I understood all of Mandel's devices or plot lines, though. I was confused by the interjections of the comic book plot. I know that somehow the comic book tied everything together, but that was a bit over m…

Review: Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Talk:
Refugees fleeing the advancing Russians meet and become fast friends. They travel together to a port city to escape on one of the boats, part of Operation Hannibal. The friends board the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff, hoping to find safety and new lives at the end of their journey.

My Thoughts:
I read Between Shades of Grey first, and I'm so glad I did. I love that the characters are connected, but also completely separate. This book is not as haunting (at least until the last few chapters) as the other, but I still liked it a lot. I was intrigued by the story of the Wilhelm Gustloff, something I never even heard of before this book.

My Recommendation:
Grades 8+ (intensity, veiled reference to rape, multiple accounts of deaths); 4.5 stars

View all my reviews

Review: When Light Left Us

When Light Left Us by Leah Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Talk: The Vasquez siblings' dad leaves them unexpectedly, leaving a hole in their lives that they feel can never be filled. That is until they meet a shining figure named Luz in the canyon behind their house. Luz begins to fill all the spaces in their lives...Hank's hands, Ana's eyes, and Milo's ears. But when Luz leaves them, the siblings have no idea how to move on in a world where everything has changed.

My thoughts: Without trying to give anything away, this is a weird little book. In fact, the author self-describes it as such in her acknowledgments. It took me a good 3 or 4 chapters to really get into the storyline, but it was worth the patience. The constantly changing perspective takes some time to get used to, until you figure out what is meant by Ears, Hands, etc. Overall I liked this one because it is so different from anything else I have ever read.

My recommendation: 4/5 stars (langua…

Review: Soldier Boy

Soldier Boy by Keely Hutton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Talk:
How would you feel if you were ripped from your family at gunpoint, and forced to watch your parents and siblings be killed? Ricky was 11 when the LRA abducted him and his brothers and friends from their village. He and tens of thousands of other children were recruited into the LRA, a guerilla force in the Ugandan Civil War. Ricky and his brother Patrick stayed in contact during their years in the LRA trying to find a way back home.

My Thoughts:
Both beautiful and horrifying, Soldier Boy takes us behind the scenes of child warfare in Africa. This is a very heavy book that leaves very little to the imagination. Lots of violence and brutality, but it it done in a way that really forces the reader to think about injustice and powerlessness. I give this one 5 stars for its depth and importance.

My Recommendation
5/5 stars
Grades 8+ (heavy violence, veiled references to rape)

View all my reviews

Review: Solo

Solo by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Thanks to @kidlitexchange for the advanced review copy of this book. Opinions are my own.** 4/5 stars
Grades 7+
Book Talk
Blade Morrison is NOT your typical 17-year old boy. He is the son of rock star parents, and is incredibly talented in his own right. He's got a gorgeous girlfriend and is on the cover of the tabloids. But after his mom dies, Blade's dad spirals into a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol that leaves Blade and his sister Storm pretty much on their own. Then Blade discovers that his dad isn't really his dad at all. Blade was adopted as a baby.

Blade begins the journey of a lifetime to Ghana, to meet his birth mother. Unfortunately, he does not go alone. His rock star dad decides to make the trip a family experience, including a giant tour bus and a reality television film crew.

Will Blade find his mother? Can the relationship between he and his father ever be repaired?

My Thoughts
I am generally not a big …