Mock Newbery Club

For the third year, TJ Connor fifth graders have been invited to participate in the Mock Newbery Club.  This club has quite a task:

  1. Read five books published this year
  2. Discuss the books online using Edmodo and Kidblog,
  3. Vote for the best book using the ALA Newbery Criteria
  4. Celebrate with the other two schools where the winner chosen by the students and by the ALA Newbery Committee are revealed.

We are working again this year with Fred Hill Elementary in Brockport, NY and Terry Taylor Elementary in Spencerport, NY.  The other two librarians, Cathy Manga and Linda Paul, and myself met several times during the year to review books with Newbery potential.  The list was challenging.  We finally narrowed it down to the following five titles:

  1. All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
  2. Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
  3. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
  4. Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban
  5. The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

The students are excited and have started reading their first books.  Some are already to read book 2.  Check back with us in late January to find out which book our students chose and if our book was also the ALA Newbery winner!


Mock Newbery Club

Mock Newbery ClubI have started a Mock Newbery Club for fifth graders this year.  The Newbery Medal is “awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children by the American Library Association”.  We are working with the fifth grade students at Fred Hill Elementary in Brockport, NY.  The students are very excited judging by the activity on Edmodo!  Cathy Mangan, the librarian at Hill Elementary and I selected five titles published this year.  The titles we selected are The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L.  Holm, The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, El DEafo by Cece Bell, Beyond the Laughing Sky by Michelle Cuevas, and Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin.  Students will read all five books over the next 2 months, post their thoughts on the books in Edmodo, and vote (using the same criteria that ALA uses) during the last week in January.  We will gather together in early February to reveal which book we voted for and which book was officially award the Newbery Medal in February.





goldnightel deafo






laughing skyRain Reign by Ann Martin



Get Caught Reading Is Back!

In the past, I have run a Get Caught Reading Campaign to get students motivated and excited to read over the summer.  This year, I decided to get them excited about our upcoming Scholastic Book Fair (and to keep them excited about reading!).  Coincidentally, the Get Caught Reading starts the same day as Red Ribbon Week.  I enjoyed working with our Assistant Principal Elizabeth Ashton to have our themes coincide.

Each time a student is caught reading, they get ticketed.  The tickets are collected, and at the end of the three weeks, winners will be drawn at random to win a book available at the book fair. In addition to the get caught reading program, we also have announcements in the morning over the PA system about reading.  Each day for 12 days leading up to our fair, students will read a book review from a book featured at the fair.

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Book Review: Pink and Green Is the New Black

20702015Pink and Green is the New Black is the third book in the Pink and Green series by Lisa Greenwald. Lucy is in eighth grade now, and having a busy year! She struggles with many commitments and a relationship with Yamir. The big event of eighth grade is the Masquerade Dance, and Lucy is asked to help plan the event, which makes her already busy life even busier. Things with Yamir are getting strange and a new boy, Travis, has started at school, likes Lucy, and complicates Lucy’s relationship with Yamir. Her best friend, Sunny, is by her side, though, to help her see both sides of her problems.


Lucy is one of my favorite characters. She is ambitious in her goals to improve her school and community. She is often overstressed (mostly brought on by her own worries) and she is kind and loving. She truly cares about her family, friends, and boyfriend. The story is rich with common teenage concerns (no date for the dance, best friend woes, mean girls, etc.) which are handled beautifully- just the right blend of emotion and practicality. A must read series for any girl who loves a good girl story.

The Fourteenth Goldfish – Summer Book Review

goldThe Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm is a celebration of science. I loved the opening chapter where Ellie remembers the day her  goldfish died (the one she received back when she was in preschool and was to teach her about the cycle of  life). Okay, so maybe that sounds bad, but it was quite a funny chapter.  The goldfish ties into the the whole story, but you have to get to the end of the book to know how.

Next, readers are introduced to Mom, who is late coming home because she had to get Ellie’s grandfather from the police.  Apparently he was found trespassing on private property; it turns out he was trespassing at the laboratory where he works.  Grandpa has discovered how to prevent aging, or in other words, the fountain on youth… and he tried out his experiment on himself, so now he looks like a fourteen year old.  But he can’t get his research and specimens from the lab because he doesn’t look like his older, much older self.  And then his key card stops working, and his email account has been deactivated.  Grandpa needs to get his data so he can be published and remembered forever for this major scientific discovery. So he enlists some help- from Ellie and a classmate of theirs.  Yes, theirs, because Grandpa, as a 14-year-old, has to attend middle school with Ellie.

There are several things that make this story work so well:

  • The animosity between Ellie’s mom and her father, Ellie grandfather; many people can relate
  • Melvin’s (aka Granpda) adjustment to looking young yet having the mind of an older adult who takes for granted things he used to do- like drive a car, putout the trash
  • And, Melvin’s love and passion for science that Melvin plants in Ellie, then waters and watches grow

There is plenty of science to enjoy in the book with references to Louis Pasteur, Robert Oppenheimer, Marie Curie, and Jonas Salk; all of whom had major contributions in science, but not all were arguably for the greater good.  Which leads to the moral question about the fountain of youth:  Should their be one?  This would be a great read aloud book with plenty to offer every listener.

Summer Book Review: Always Abigail

abigailAbigail is about to begin sixth grade and cannot wait to be a pom-pom girl.  She and her two BFFs, Alli and Cami, have wanted to be pom-pom girls since they saw them in third grade.  But sixth grade doesn’t start out all that great; Alli and Cami (aka AlliCam) are in a homeroom class together, but Abigail is in a different homeroom with the meanest teacher in sixth grade, Mrs. Hendrick (aka The Hawk). In case Alli and Cami having a nickname for the two of them (that excludes Abigail) is not enough of a clue, things only get worse from there.  Abigail’s language arts teacher (also The Hawk) has the class write a friendly letter to another person in class (assigned by the teacher, of course) for the entire school year, and Abigail is assigned to the biggest loser in school, Flabby Gabby.  AlliCam share all these inside jokes from being in classes all day together, and Abigail begins to feel left out.  To make matters worse, AlliCam are pom-pom girls, too.  Abigail struggles to fit in with her old friends while tentatively developing a friendship with someone new.  How can Abigail be a kind person and a pom-pom girl?  She begins to learn that she doesn’t always like her choices in life.

There are several things I liked about this book.  There are no chapters, but each new section begins with a title of sorts in a bubble cloud.  Abigail loves to create lists, and there are many throughout the book.  This keeps her organized and helps her understand things better.  I especially enjoyed the character, Gabby; despite all the difficulties she experiences in her life, she remains positive- something that Abigail begins to learn herself (the hard way, of course!)  Tough issues of bullies and bystanders appear throughout the book and are honestly portrayed.  Told through lists, notes, and friendly letters, with cute doodles on every page, this is a book that all tween girls will enjoy reading!

Thank you to Sourcebooks for an advance reading copy of Always Abigail!

Summer Book review: Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

image“Not every body can be the rock at the top of the pile.  There have to be some rocks at the bottom to support those at the top.”  That is what Albie’s grandfather tells Albie’s mother one night, and that that is how Absolutely Almost begins. Those few words set the mood for the entire story.  Albie never quite seems to measure up, yet he continues to move forward.  He sees a lot, but he somehow doesn’t see  everything.  He doesn’t see that  when kids at school are being nice to him it’s because they want something.  He doesn’t see how being famous isn’t cool.  But he does begin to see how being cool isn’t everything he thought it would be.  Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff is absolutely the best.  Her writing is heartbreakingly simple, sweet, and full of emotions.  She manages to convey so much with so few words.  The short chapters with simple titles offer insight into what goes on in Albie’s mind, seen through his eyes in soft-spoken eloquent writing.