The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson: A Book Review

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Thank you to Scholastic Books for providing me with an advanced-readers copy of THE PARKER INHERITANCE for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

Twelve-year-old Candice moved from Georgia to her Grandmothers house. Her grandmother passed away two years ago. Candice had no desire to be in Lambert, North Carolina for the summer. Leaving her friends behind was not fun. After Candice finds a letter addressed to her grandmother in the attic, she follows clues which send her on an adventure of a lifetime. Candice and her new friend Brandon, follow the clues and find out there is an unjust history in the town of Lambert and a fortune waiting to be found.
Author, Varian Johnson, weaves the present and past of Lambert masterfully. This is a book you will want to read in one sitting. It’s a perfect book for those who love deciphering clues as adventure awaits. The reader will not be disappointed. This book lends itself as an excellent read aloud, leading to deep discussions in the classroom. I definitely┬áplan on using it for in my fifth-grade classroom. Perfect for grades four and up. THE PARKER INHERITANCE will be released March 27th. Pre-order it now!

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Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart: A Book Review

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*I requested and received an advanced-readers copy from Scholastic. All opinions are my own.

Told from the perspective of Brodie, a dog that just passed on. This is a touching tale about a dog who cannot move on in the after-life until he knows his boy, Aiden, is safe. Brodie returns to the “alive” world with his friend, Tuck. Together they encounter many trials and tribulations as they search for Aiden. Will Brody make it to Aiden before his soul is gone forever?

Wow. Author Dan Gemeinhart does it again. Dog-lovers will devour this gripping, heart-wrenching story. Brodie is a dog who sacrifices EVERYTHING for his boy. Even when Brodie encounters dogs that are just plain evil, he stops at nothing to save his boy Aiden. Beautifully written, Brodies’ love for Aiden will stay with you long after you finish the book. This is my ten-year-olds second favorite book of all time. I recommend it for grades three and up. GOOD DOG will be released on March 27th.

The Snitch, The Witch, and The One Who Was Rich by Joe Spraga: Book Review

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*I received a copy of this book from the author for review purposes.

Author Joe Spraga writes an engaging rhyming tale teaching a wonderful lesson about how we choose to spend our time on this earth. Children will appreciate the simplicity of the tale and the lesson it teaches.

I read this book to my two daughters ages seven and ten. My seven-year-old adored the book and loved how the characters changed for good because of Father Time. The illustrations are bright and bold. This book would be great for primary classroom teachers who want to introduce to their students the concept of character change. It would be easy for young students to grasp with this story because it is presented in such a simplistic and straight-forward way. I recommend this book for elementary-aged children and classroom/school libraries.

The Ethan I Was Before by Ali Standish: Book Review

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Ethan’s best friend Kasey was in a tragic accident and it was all Ethan’s fault. In that moment, Ethan was changed forever. Can Ethan move on? Can Ethan ever get his care-free life back?

Wow. Words cannot describe how much I enjoyed this book. I could not put it down. The characters were real, flawed, and struggling to deal with their own demons. When Ethan meets the many colorful characters in his new town, I love how Ethan learns from them and learns how to forgive himself. This is a must-read book for grades four and up. Do not let this one sit on your TBR pile for long!

It All Comes Down To This by Karen English

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*Thanks to the @kidlitexchange for a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

It is 1965 in Los Angeles California. Twelve-year-old Sophie has never been good at making friends. Instead, she’s always kept to herself. Ever since her family moved into a new neighborhood, Sophie has had to deal with change. First off, they are the first black family to live in the neighborhood. Her new housekeeper doesn’t seem to like Sophie very much. And even though her neighbor, Jennifer, seems to be a promising friend, others in the neighborhood refuse to accept Sophie. And this is only the beginning.

Wow, this book blew me away. Not at all what I was expecting (even though I do not know what I was expecting). It is the kind of book that wraps around you and will not let you go until you finish. Only to wish it wasn’t done. I picked it up and finished it in one sitting despite its 300+ pages. I appreciated the honest, raw take on family life. No fairy tale, perfect family here! Viewing life through Sophie’s eyes was vivid and real. She will stay with me. Thank you, Karen English! I recommend this book for grades five and up.

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel: A Middle- Grade Book Review

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Thank you to the @kidlitexchange for providing a copy for review purposes.

Caleb is a twelve-year-old boy who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Caleb’s mom tends to be a “helicopter mom” hovering over her fragile boy. When Caleb meets Kit, a girl his age, in the forest by his house, Caleb finally has something all to himself. He decides to keep his friendship a secret. But secrets can cause you to do things you otherwise might not do.

I absolutely adored this story. Caleb and Kits friendship was magical, needed, and heartwarming. Beth Vrabel wrote a feel-good story worthy of reading. This must be included in every classroom and school library. If you loved WONDER, you will adore Caleb and Kit.

Questioning, I Need Your Help

  

 How do we go from toddlers and preschoolers asking questions about everything around them, to school-agers who hardly ask questions at all? What is the message being sent to students in the way we view and deliver teaching and learning in the standard classroom?

Our staff is reading articles about questioning and student engagement. When is a child truly engaged? What is our definition of student engagement?

With these question running through my head during Winter Break, I feel torn by what is expected of me as a teacher, and what I believe is best for the whole child in my classroom. Where is the balance? What is best for one child is not necessarily best for another. How do we get children to be engaged for true learning instead of pleasing the teacher and finding the right answer. 

Some of the things I have implemented this year is the focus on effort vs. getting the right answer. The focus on learning vs. the right answer. The focus on effort vs. correct spelling. I have to say this again and again in my classroom. I find students slowly taking more risks and less fix-mindset, negative thinking. But I cannot do this alone. 

How do we change the culture of school? How do we change a classroom into a learning/wonder/investigation studio? 

I do not have the answers. I cannot begin to pretend to know how to make this change. But I know what I believe in my heart, and I am torn. 

I am turning to my PLN, Twitter community to help me begin to find the answers to these questions. Please help me start the conversation. Please help me find the courage to move forward.