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New Roads


So.... I took a bit of time off from this little book blog. I didn't intend for it to be so long, but what with a never-ending mountain of doctoral  reading/writing and a year working as a library media specialist, time just slipped away. This morning I start a new journey, one that I hope will offer me more time for a love of books: elementary reading specialist. Ironic that being a library media specialist left me no time for books. 

       Like all change, it's scary. I haven't stepped an instructional toe inside an elementary school since 2005; and the change happens just as I begin my doctoral research, confusing my research angle. But... I am also exceptionally excited about the new school year as I walk away from a disastrous one. 

       When I earned the media specialist certification in 1999, I dreamed of one day working as a 'librarian.' I have always held the utmost respect for the job and can now, having done a year in the modern 'media specialist' gig, truly say that it is a very big job caught in a socially morphing world. I wish my year had gone differently, but schools, like all human-inhabited spaces, are political and I was not a member of the ruling party. In truth, I cannot yet ascertain whether it was the job of library media specialist or the environment. I do know that I missed instructional coaching and I missed being a reading specialist. 

     My new position embraces both of those titles and understands that they are different roles. A reading coach is different from a reading specialist. An instructional coach supports mostly teachers, instructional practices, and curricular programs whereas a reading specialist holds a masters degree in reading and diagnoses/remediates student reading disabilities. A reading endorsement entitles one to teach reading, but it is far from the diagnostic aimed work required for a masters degree in reading (especially from a International Reading Association - now ILA - accredited school). Unfortunately, many educators do not understand and/or care about the difference. 

But, I digress... I wanted to come here to thank the publishers who have kept sending me books and the authors who have reached out to me. Thank you. Your stacks of wonder line my home office and I have not forgotten the joy of books and reading. I choose happiness and positivity and I will get your wonders posted out to the internets real soon, promise. 



-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2016 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

The reality of being a reading specialist in Florida

In September of 2013, I wrote an honest post lamenting my disillusion with the state of reading education in Florida. In 2014, I wrote a paper for one of my doctoral classes titled, "Leaving FCAT Behind: A chance to end harmful impacts in remedial reading classrooms" and it was my great hope as we transitioned to FSA from FCAT (Florida terms for standardized tests) that the politicians would be swayed to abandon the reading mandates in light of a new and untested assessment. In 2015, I was excited to see the mandate dissolve (at least while we awaited calibration of the new assessment)!

A full two years from my original heartfelt posting on being a reading specialist in the state of Florida, I have resigned my position as a reading specialist. My district and school's choosing to continue the segregationist marginalization of minority populations was too much for me to bear. Blaming the politicians in Tallahassee was one thing, being unable to affect change in my own realm of influence was another.

I am now working as a library media specialist. So far, it's just not the same. Don't get me wrong, it has been kind of fun playing with books and technology, planning exciting literary events for the students, but I am having a hard time keeping my mouth shut. Most of what I have contributed in my new role has been either clerical or manual labor. I long to tell the uniformed parents to get their kids out, that there is no mandate, that their child can have music or art classes, that they can learn Spanish or be a part of our awesome STEM classes.

People like to throw research at all sorts of ideas in education and there is enough reading research to fill our remaining days in contradictory contemplation. You can find research backing glorious programs (most sanctioned by the publishers of said programs) and heralded researchers of reading arguing the merits of fluency versus comprehension, phonics versus whole language, and all sorts of ideas on struggling adolescents. Bottom line? It's all lost in the experience of being a student, of making decisions based upon individuals and not simply numbers on a page.

I have posted my original paper as a Google document HERE. It's filled with research citations, reads sort of like a literature review, but it tells the story of a passionate lifelong reading educator who thought there was still a chance to end the insanity.


© 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson

Thank you to @christiemath @GreenwillowBook for my review copy

My two cents: Touch the Brightest Star is a lovely picture book for both pre-readers and beginning readers. Told in flowing cadence and rhyme, it tells the story of day's end turning to night and then ends with the closing of eyes to darkness, only to open again to morning. This is a great vehicle for foreshadowing and inference (what happened while the eyes were closed?). Because the vocabulary is limited, and there are numerous spelling repetitions due to the rhyme scheme, it also makes a good book for beginning readers (though the topic might be a bit young, the idea that they can actually read the words usually supersedes that!). Information on various creatures and objects of the night is given on the last page, making for further discussion and future investigations.

The most unique thing about this book, aside from the great writing, is the use of terminology usually reserved for digital reading. The author invites young readers to "swipe" and "tap" various scenes of serene watercolor-like mixed-media illustrations on big bold pages of blue and darkening sky. The change in the shadowing of the apple tree lends further discussion opportunities. I think this one is definitely a Caldecott contender!

This is a truly stellar learning tool and should be purchased for all pre-school and kindergarten libraries.

Publisher's Synopsis: "A companion to the popular and acclaimed Tap the Magic Tree! In this interactive bedtime story, touch, tap, blink, whisper, and more to make magic happen in the nighttime sky, from sunset to sunrise.
What happens while you're sleeping? With lush, beautiful watercolors and cut-paper collage, Christie Matheson reveals the magic of the nighttime sky, using the same kinds of toddler-perfect interactive elements as her acclaimed Tap the Magic Tree. Wave good-bye to the sun, gently press the firefly, make a wish on a star, rub the owls on their heads, and . . . shhhh. No two readings of this book will be the same. That along with the gentle, soothing rhythm, makesTouch the Brightest Star a bedtime winner—no matter how many times you and your child read it."

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Genre: Picture Book
Age: 4-8 years
Pages: 40
Themes: Day turning to night turning to day, creatures & objects of the night
Thank You to publisher: Greenwillow Books
Date: May 2015
ISBN: 978-0062274472
BUY Touch the Brightest Star HERE

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Edgar and the Treehouse of Usher by Jennifer Adams

(Thank you to @ericsmithrocks & @GibbsSmithBooks) for my first BabyLit copy!


My two cents: I had heard of the BabyLit series, but had not held one in my hands. They sure sounded great, but I am a middle school reading specialist so they were honestly kind of low on the TBR stack. When I got an email to take a look at Edgar and the Tree House of Usher, I thought that I would probably like it. I mean, any bibliophile has to at least like the idea of putting classical readings in children's hands as young as possible, right? And who doesn't love Poe? I mean, c'mon now!

So... if I said that I liked it, no one would really be surprised. 

BUT... if you look over at my "highest recommendation" tag, you will see that I am very sparing with that tag. Most of the books in that category have won big prizes or accolades. I stake my reading reputation on that tag.  

Edgar and the Tree House of Usher is marvelous! It follows the general plot of The Fall of the House of Usher, with name dropping and illustration references galore. But, when this house falls, the outcome is less bleak and has a little lesson on equality and fairness thrown in (without a hint of moralizing). How wonderful that children can have some background knowledge of our beloved classics. I want all of the BabyLit now (well, I'd really like to have a grandchild to go along with it, but that's for the personal blog)! 

Teachers and librarians: if you haven't been purchasing this series yet (and especially the Edgar ones!), I suggest you get your hands on them quick. 

Although I would like to thank the folks (up top there) that sent me this review copy, I would also like to tell them that I know their game! I am headed over to Amazon to start my collection with
 
and 






















Publisher's Synopsis: ""It was a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year ... " when the mischievous raven Edgar heads to his friend Roderick's house to work on their tree house. Edgar dashes his sister Lenore's hopes with the ever-popular phrase "sisters are not allowed," until a storm starts to brew and the two boys realize that sometimes the best things happen when you decide to stick together. The third picture book in the popular Edgar series is sure to warm the hearts of kids and parents alike.


JENNIFER ADAMS is the author of more than two dozen books, including titles in the Baby lit series, which introduces children to the world of classic literature. She lives in Salt Lake City. Visit her website at jennifer-adams.com.
RON STUCKI is a graphic designer and illustrator of Edgar Gets Ready for Bed and Edgar and the TattleTale Heart. Ron lives in Utah and Idaho. Visit him at rstuckidesign.com."

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Max the Brave by Ed Vere

(Thank you @Sourcebooks) 

My two cents: A spunky cat has to figure out what a mouse looks like so that he can chase it. Children and adults alike will gasp when Max finally encounters the "mouse." This is a sweet and funny tale that should not be missed. The funny and surprising ending make this title a must buy for preschool and kindergarten classrooms. 

Publisher's Synopsis: "Max is a fearless kitten. Max is a brave kitten. Max is a kitten who chases mice. There's only one problem-Max doesn't know what a mouse looks like! With a little bit of bad advice, Max finds himself facing a much bigger challenge. Maybe Max doesn't have to be Max the Brave all the time...

Join this adventurous black cat as he very politely asks a variety of animals for help in finding a mouse. Young readers will delight in Max's mistakes, while adults will love the subtle, tongue-in-cheek humor of this new children's classic."


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Genre: Picture Book
Age: 3-6
Pages: 32
Themes: Unique & spunky character, Tenacity and curiousness, Little white lie = comedy
Thank You to publisher Sourcebooks for my copy!
Available in hardback in the USA on September 8, 2015, but you can preorder Max the Brave HERE

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Fun Vocabulary-Building Books for the Earliest Readers

(Thank you @ChronicleKids)

I am always excited to find  beginner books from @ChronicleKids because as a reading specialist (and soon to be school media specialist), I really understand just how important it is for parents to read good, exciting and fun books to their babies and toddlers. There is much research backing what those of us who have been in the struggling reader trenches know by living it.

I absolutely love Who Done It? by Olivier Tallec! Perfect for mastering the skill of using clues to make inferences, the reader must look at the illustrations to answer a question on each page. This one isn't out until October, 2015, but new and/or expecting parents or grandparents need to pre-order!

Because I am a middle school teacher, I typically give all my beginning books away to a local preschool or friends with young ones, but I am keeping this one! Funny, cute watercolor illustrations, and skill-building: this one is a keeper.

You can pre-order  Who Done It? HERE


Good for practicing beginning vocabulary and directions, All Shook Up! by Alain Crozon is an interactive book with bright, bold illustrations that ask you to shake up the various critters by moving their ears, noses, wings, etc...

Available August 18, 2015 HERE



Who's There? is also by Alain Crozon and sports the same bright, silly illustrations. This time, the interaction comes in the form of onomatopoeia. Young children learn sound words for some common and also not so common objects.

 Again available August 18, 2015 HERE




Finally, for the very young, is a couple board books that help babies learn about happy and sad as the little driver makes various trucks go and various makes friends smile. These will be available September 15, 2015, but you can preorder them HERE


Thank you to Chronicle Kids for the copies of some great new books for parents, grandparents & teachers this fall!

----------------- That's all folks! -----------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Nest by Esther Ehrlich

 (Thank you @randomhousekids)

Publisher's Synopsis: "A heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.
   Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.
   Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you."
 


My two cents: I am not certain what else to say about Nest. Everyone loves it; there are glowing reviews all over the internet. The atmospheric prose is lovely and well-written, and means the title was probably lingering on Newbery award lips this past season. 

But, I also thought it was awfully heavy for a general read. I was especially concerned for the protagonist's friend who appears to be suffering from child abuse. The fact that his story is never developed doesn't end my concern. It is certainly a title to give to students who are having difficult family issues with death, suicide and mental illness of family members, but handing this one over to just any middle grade reader is tricky. The publisher lists 10 and up and I would certainly stay true to that designation as 10 seems awfully young to bear the worries of child abuse, suicide, and mental illness. 
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Genre: Realistic Fiction
Age: 10+  /  Lexile 830L
Pages: 337
Themes: Family, Depression/Mental Illness, Suicide, Friendship, Nature
Plot Engagement: Meandering, not a fast adventure type
Originality: More topical than original
Believability: Sadly so
Thank You: NetGalley
Publisher:  Random House Kids
Date: Sept 2014
ISBN 978-0385386074
Click here to buy: Nest
Read the first chapter here:


New York Times review: HERE
Author website: HERE

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Author Spotlight: Lynda Mullaly Hunt of One for the Murphys and Fish in a Tree



Today I had the great fortune of meeting Lynda Mullaly Hunt as she so kindly had breakfast with our Sunshine State Young Readers Book Club. Her upcoming book looks wonderful (and especially appropriate for my struggling readers!).  It is called Fish in a Tree. I will discuss it first and then add a small review of her first book, One for the Murphys.

Here is the publisher's synopsis: "The author of the beloved One for the Murphys gives readers an emotionally-charged, uplifting novel that will speak to anyone who’s ever thought there was something wrong with them because they didn’t fit in.

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.”

Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions.  She is afraid to ask for help; after all, how can you cure dumb? However, her newest teacher Mr. Daniels sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally learns not to be so hard on herself and that dyslexia is nothing to be ashamed of. As her confidence grows, Ally feels free to be herself and the world starts opening up with possibilities. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike."

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Grades: Middle Grades
Pages: 288
Lexile: 550
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books - ISBN 13:78-0399162596
Date: February 10, 2015

Look at this trailer! It looks really good:

Read chapter one HERE.

OR

Grab a button:

I am anxious to dig into this one; it is already generating some excellent buzz!



One for the Murphys was a lovely book. I read it with our book club last year when it was chosen as a Sunshine State Middle Grades title. I wish I had reviewed it, but by the time it got in my hands it was already well on the radar of excellence (234 reviews on Amazon & a perfect 5 stars or the 7,751 ratings at a 4.3 on Goodreads should give you a hint).
Here is the publisher's synopsis: "A moving debut novel about a foster child learning to open her heart to a family's love Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child, and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed, and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong--until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future."
From Scholastic: "Carley uses humor and street smarts to keep her emotional walls high and thick. But the day she becomes a foster child and moves in with the Murphys, she's blindsided. This loving, bustling family shows Carley the stable family life she never thought existed and she feels like an alien in their cookie-cutter-perfect household. Despite her resistance, the Murphys eventually show her what it feels like to belong, until her mother wants her back and Carley has to decide where and how to live. She's not really a Murphy, but the gifts they've given her have opened up a new future."

Here are some educator resources for One for the Murphys:

Genre: Realistic Fiction
Grades: Middle Grades
Pages: 256
Lexile: 520
Themes: Coming of age, Friendship, Nontraditional Families, Foster Care, Pride
Character Development: Amazing! One of those books where you will remember the characters long after you close the last page.
Plot Engagement: Character driven tale, not action-adventure driven. Great for investigating character traits and author's purpose.
Originality: Although there are lots of books on adoption and foster care, this one stands out because of all of the characters and especially the protagonist, Carley.
Believability: Though Lynda Mullaly Hunt mentioned students being 'put off' by the ending during our breakfast chat (and my kids agreed), I found the ending very satisfying. It's a book about a girl coming into her own, opening up and taking her own path. I hate "Disney" endings so I was a happy reader!
Thank You: Ms. Hunt! What a wonderful experience for our students!!!
Publisher: Puffin - ISBN 13: 978-0142426524
Date: May 16, 2013
Trailer:


Read chapter 1 and get Teacher's Guides: HERE and HERE and HERE.

Here is the author's BLOG and her WEBSITE and her Pinterest Page and her Amazon Page.

She also has a great guest post on the creative process over on Watch. Connect. Read.

-------------------- That's all folks! -------------------- 
© 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for Reading Rumpus!

2014 CYBILS Announced

I am a little out of sorts because I did not get to participate in the CYBILS this year. But, here is a nice link to them, with a wish that I can have more time next year!




-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Bigfoot is Missing by J. Patrick Lewis and Kenn Nesbitt with illustrations by Minalima

Bigfoot is Missing! is an interesting poetry addition all about Cryptozoology… Bet you don’t know what that means!

The poems are short and sweet, in some instances not like poetry at all (in a good way!). The illustrations are big and colorful advertisement-style graphics that seem to be looking for eighteen mythical beasts of yore. The brevity of word and gargantuan color makes for a nice balance. The end pages are short definitions of each mythical beast that will leave young readers headed to research more about them.

Writers Lewis and Nesbitt have both been Children’s Poet Laureates and illustrators Mina and Eduardo Lima are heavily involved in the Harry Potter film designs so this book comes with a stellar group of people attached. This is a good poetry book to add to both library and classroom collections. Out just in time for April's Poetry Month!



Genre: Poetry Picture Book
Age: Elementary & Middle
Pages: 40




Thank You to Publisher Chronicle Books for my advanced copy
Release Date: March 31, 2015
ISBN: 978-1452118956

You can read more about the authors on Chronicle's webpage: HERE.

-------------------- That's all folks! --------------------
 © 2007-2015 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com
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