August 1, 2016

On the first Monday of every month, I will share some of the great titles I have read over the previous month.   Here are some books I loved that I read over this summer.   To see all of my #IMWAYR posts, you can click here.  

Children’s Lit


Kate DiCamillo has always been a favorite author of mine, and Raymie Nightingale is another example of why!   It is a sad story in that each of the characters has her own set of family troubles.   But the way that Kate DiCamillo tells the stories of these girls leaves you feeling hopeful,  and the escapades of these three friends leave you laughing out loud!

One of the themes in this book is the importance of friendship.  Raymie’s mother is devastated that her husband left the family and so she isn’t much support for Raymie, who is also feeling the stress of her father leaving.  Raymie decides to take things into her own hands and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest, thinking that the publicity will bring her father back.  But she needs a skill in order to enter the contest, so she decides to learn to twirl a baton.  It is at these lessons, that she meets her two new friends, Louisiana and Beverly.  There are low points in this new friendship, where Raymie learns about the struggles of her friends and continues to deal with her own struggles.  In these times, she describes her soul as “shriveling up.”  But there are other times, when the loyalty, bravery and optimism of her new friends cause her soul to “expand and fill her up.”  She ends up realizing that winning the contest isn’t so important anymore – it’s her friends that matter.

This is a great book for upper elementary and middle school students.  They will fall in love with these three girls and learn valuable lessons in the process!

Professional Read

Whos Doing the Work

Did you ever leave work at the end of day exhausted, but notice the kids at dismissal time are revved up and ready to go?  If you have, then this book is for you!

“Whoever is doing the work is doing the learning.”  That is the premise of this book.  Good intentions often leave teachers trying to help or scaffold too much.  Students learn they can sit back and wait for the answer to be given by another student, or even the teacher.  Who’s Doing the Work, gives practical advice on how to give the work back to the students so that they can be doing the learning!  The authors give teachers prompts to use with students for every piece of reading workshop:  Read Aloud, Shared Reading, Independent Reading and Guided Reading, The chapter that spoke to me personally was the chapter on Guided Reading.  In my past guided reading lessons, I took all of the challenge out of the instructional read by scaffolding every problem kids might encounter.  Authors Burkins and Yaris suggest gentle prompting to get the students to think about what they already know that will help them navigate through the text independently.  Click here for more about that.

This is a book that I will return to.  It was definitely worth the read.

Fun Read


Earlier this year, I read Ruth Ware’s first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood.  I loved it and was so excited to hear that she had this book coming out in July.  The Woman in Cabin 10 did not disappoint me!

I love thrillers and mysteries so this book was right up my alley.  It is about Lo Blacklock, a travel writer, who gets to go on a luxury cruise in the North Sea.  While on this cruise, she sees someone being thrown overboard and is convinced that her neighbor in Cabin 10 has gone missing.  But no one was booked to stay in Cabin 10 and all guests are accounted for.  

This book started a little slow but quickly picked up when the cruise started.  I could not put it down wondering what exactly Lo saw.  Was there someone in Cabin 10?  Did Lo really see someone thrown overboard?  Would anyone ever believe her?  If you like mysteries, I would definitely check this book out!

Join Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to share the reading you have done. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read – it’s a great way to discover what to read next!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading?
July 18, 2016

Go to http://www.teachmentortexts or for the Its Monday! What are you Reading? Roundup!

One of the reasons I love summertime is because I equate it with time for reading!! The school year gets so busy, and while I do find time to read, it isn’t in the large, uninterrupted chunks of time that summer gives. My summer reading goal is to read personal, professional and children’s books. So here is my take on a book from each of those categories!

Children’s Lit


This wonderful book is about middle school student, Charlie Brennan, who starts to ice fish to earn money for the Irish dance costume of her dreams. As she stands on the ice, she catches a magic fish who grants her a wish for releasing him back into the water. Charlie returns to this ice hole throughout the book to help solve her and her friends problems, but finds that those solutions cause some more trouble! Charlie’s college bound sister, Abby, has some problems of her own as she heads off to the University of Vermont. She becomes addicted to heroin and that throws her family into chaos as they learn to deal with Abby’s addiction and struggle to find ways to help her overcome it.

This book is a powerful read for middle school students – I even gave it to my college bound daughter to read! It’s a great example of how looking outside of yourself for the answers to your problems isn’t the best way to solve them. And that good friends and a loving family are the only things that matter.



This book hooked me during the introduction when she stated that her definition of essay was quite different from the “mechanized literacy” of the 5 paragraph essay, designed to satisfy computer scorers! That kind of writing, says Bomer, fails to allow students to discover they can love writing and that writing can engage readers. Instead, she thinks of essay as “a non-fiction prose piece whose author unveils a central idea, and invites readers to watch him or her think about that idea for a few pages.” It is much more open-ended, thinking while you are writing, kind of work.

The whole book is centered around real essay writers and how those essays are constructed. She talks about how to read those essays, and how to begin to write in that way. It does seem to have more of a middle school / high school focus than elementary, although she did have special guests compose essays for upper elementary to study! Special guests included her husband, Ray Bomer, Katie Wood Ray, Vicki Vinton Georgia Heard and others!

This was a great book worth the read. I will be returning to this one throughout the year!



This book is about a dysfunctional New York family who struggle when Leo, the oldest sibling and arguably the most dysfunctional, blows most of the family’s trust fund to cover up a scandal. Each of the other Plumb siblings have had troubles of their own and were counting on “the nest” to help them out of their predicaments. The family comes together for the first time in years to try and get the money back from Leo, and in the end, become closer for it.

It was an entertaining read, but you never really get to like any of the characters. Overall, they are a sad family who have made a series of bad decisions and have to look within themselves to find a way out. It was a quick, entertaining read, but not anything I’d probably ever pick up again.