Review: The Iron Trial


The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

7 word summary: Will Cal’s untapped magical powers cause chaos?

Fantasy.  First in the Magisterium series.  Share with ages 10-16. ©2014.

Most kids would want to attend a school to learn to harness magical powers.  Not Callum Hunt.  His dad’s expressly forbidden magic – and Cal agrees: it’s magic, after all, that killed his mom, magic that’s caused his leg to be mangled beyond medical repair.  But at the test for entry into the Magisterium, Cal fails to fail and is placed with the top students for his first year – The Iron Year – of training. Can Cal cause enough trouble to be kicked out of the Magisterium…and is that what he really wants? Fast-paced with an unimaginable twist of an ending, bestselling authors Black and Clare are at the top of their game in this seamlessly written fantasy.

Review: Half a World Away


Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata

7 word summary: Jaden’s adopted…why’re his parents adopting again?

Realistic fiction.  Stand-alone novel.  Share with ages 9-13.

Newbery medalist and National Book Award winning author Kadohata serves up a realistic story that hasn’t been told before.  Jaden, a handful at best, is travelling with his adoptive parents to Kazakhstan to adopt another child, a baby.  Thinking it’s because they don’t love him due to his difficult behaviors – which include setting stuffed animals on fire and repeated lying – he’s convinced they will abandon him and love the baby more.  Halfway around the world, the adoption hits a major snag, and it’s at the orphanage that Jaden connects with another human on a deeply profound level for the first time in his life.  An honest portrayal of the challenges of adoption from both a child and adult perspective with an almost too-neat ending.

Babymouse: Diorama Star!

Last week, J-girl had a school project: create a diorama…about anything.  Sigh.  Because anyone who knows a 2nd grader knows that “anything” means too many options – which means no work gets done.  Ideas were suggested: restaurant, bookshop, kitchen, bedroom, spooky house.  None were eagerly received…until we hit on Babymouse.  babymouse-4

J-girl LOVES the Babymouse graphic novels.  Throw in some Rock Star – because Techie Rocker has a guitar (or two or six) around the house and music makes our world go ’round –  and her diorama idea was cemented.  One supply run, along with in the stash of scrapbook and craft supplies in our house, and she was off.  Final result: rock-star awesome!WP_20141020_001-edit

Seeing how proud J-girl was of her effort made this project totally worthwhile.  And while we still don’t know the purpose of the diorama(!!!), tying it to a book and character that she loves will certainly make her first shoe box project one to remember.

BIG thanks to Babymouse (and Jenni & Matt Holm) for writing great books and being an awesome project inspiration!

Review: Lulu’s Mysterious Mission


Lulu’s Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst

7 word review: Lulu’s met her match: the new babysitter.

Realistic fantasy.  Third in a series (reads well as a stand-alone).  Share with ages 5-10.

Lulu, that difficult, impossible, pain in the b-u-t-t- little girl is back.  Her parents are off on a trip and – horrors! – are leaving her behind with a babysitter.  Lulu is not at all pleased, and decides to be as naughty as possible to force her parents to come home early.  That’s until she meets Sonia Sofia Solinsky, the terrifying adult chosen to look after Lulu.  Each of Lulu’s disaster-filled plans are foiled by Ms. S’s, who reveals that she is a super-spy and will teach Lulu the tricks of the trade in return for complete obedience.  Spying is what Lulu wants to learn most…but can she quell her fit-throwing episodes?  Quirky illustrations, lush white space, and large font keep the pages turning in this gem from Viorst.  Recommended.


Read-Aloud Tuesday: Oct 21, 2014

Welcome to Read-Aloud Tuesday!  It’s my third year of reading aloud in my son’s Montessori classroom (ages 3-6), and the second year of blogging about the books we share together.


Today is Read for the Record, where thousands of kids across the country are reading the same book!  We read three titles before the 2014 #readfortherecord book, Rosemary Wells’s Bunny Cakes.


Today is Monday by Eric Carle

A picture book?  A song?  Either way, Carle’s iconic illustrations bring joy and life to a sing-along story that highlights the days of the week.  By the end of the story, almost every child was chiming in.  Share with ages 2-7.


Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton

Gizmo, Sprinkles and Wild love to build and create.  But watch out – Rex loves to wreck their creative works!  How can the three friends tackle their problem?  Perfectly paced and illustrated for the younger crowd, this energetic story of including others and teamwork was a huge hit.  Rex, we’d love to see you again!  Share with ages 3-7.


Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson

A favorite from last year.  With fall settling in and the leaves changing, this interactive story looks at one tree’s changes throughout the seasons as the audience taps, pats, blows, and claps to bring about growth and transformation.  A beautiful book to spark discussion of seasons and evergreen vs deciduous trees.  Share with ages 2+.


Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells

It’s Grandma’s birthday, and older sister Ruby is making a cake with raspberry fluff frosting.  Max wants to help, going to the store to get Ruby’s list of ingredients.  There’s just one thing: Max wants to add red-hot marshmallow squirters to his birthday offering, an earthworm cake…but the grocer can’t read his scribble-writing.  What’s a bunny to do?  Creative and engaging, Max and Ruby’s tales never go out of style.  The solution to Max’s problem – drawing the red-hot marshmallow squirters – was reasoned by clever students during the story.  Share with ages 2-6.

Next week, the students get to find out how many other kids listened to this same story!  Big thanks to Issuu for the free online copy of Bunny Cakes, only available 10-21-14.

Lessons: Oct 13-17, 2014 – author study, WCCPBA and claim evidence reasoning, NW Coastal unit

Week 7.  



No white board, as I was out for 2 of the 3 lessons.  We continued our Arthur Howard study with Bubba and Beau, Best Friends.  This week’s thinking question again involved vocabulary: keen and distain.  Using text/visual clues, we work together to define the words, then answer the following question: What are you KEEN about?  What do you DISTAIN?  Any chance for the K’s to talk about themselves is always welcomed, and I love that it incorporates literacy skills!

2nd grade:  

Washington Children’s Choice Nominee!  Memoirs of a Hamster by Devin Scillion.  Another thinking / claim-evidence reasoning question:  At the end of the story, do you agree with Seymour the hamster when he says, “Who’s the luckiest hamster in the world?  Answer: ME!”.  Back up your claim with evidence from the story.  

This was a GREAT question that got students thinking and talking and referencing the text.

4th grade:

Week 1 of a four-week unit with Cornell note-taking and Native Americans using Kids Discover magazines on Northwest Coast Peoples.

Using the doc camera, I activated interest in the magazine by showing the cover and having students read captions.  Flat-headed babies and fish candles got them talking and fired up to look through the magazine!  Working in pairs, students browsed a copy of the magazine looking for any information that was interesting and /or new.  (I have class set.)  As they browsed, I walked among the groups and took notes on which sections each pair was most interested in.  These sections will be highlighted – literally – in next week’s lesson as we delve into taking notes via the Cornell method.


Kids interested in flat-headed babies found Family Life very informative!


Spirits & Ceremonies was another high-interest section!

Why are we doing this mini-unit?  Our 4th grade Social Studies will soon focus on NW Coast Peoples, and our district uses Cornell notes in many of its courses.  Combine the two together, and a useful mini-unit is born.  Big thanks to my colleague Mrs. L for piloting and writing the mini-unit last year!

Here is more info on the Kids Discover magazine, including free page scans!


Review: Nightmares

jason-segel-kirsten-miller-nightmaresNightmares by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

7 word summary: Sleepless, exhausted, Charlie’s living his worst nightmare…literally.

Fantasy.  First in a series.  Share with ages 9-13.  ©2014.

A perfect pre-Halloween story.  Shivery but not super-scary, this creepy tale of a nightmare that gets progressively worse is brilliantly served by comedian Segel and writing partner Miller.  Add in a witchy stepmom and a trio of the best BFF’s a kid could ever have to make this a fly-off-the-shelf pick.