Hey, Kiddo


Hey, Kiddo (paperback)

by Jarrett J. Krosoczka


Hey, Kiddo is a memoir written about the author’s childhood.  He was born to a heroin-addicted mother, and his grandparents quickly gained custody of him.  Although he was born healthy, his mother quickly spiraled and was in and out of his life (and jail).  His grandparents, although stable, both had problems with alcohol and his grandmother, although she adored him, was very cold and verbally abusive to others at times.  Jarrett survived by creating comics and drawings, staying in touch with his mother’s siblings, and doing his best to live the best he could, drug free.

What I liked about this book was that it tells a true story of a boy who had a lot against him, but he persevered and came out on top.  I know many of my students have people in their homes who drink or do drugs.  How do I know?  They’ve told me.  I hear about their parents passing out on the couch, drinking too much beer, taking pills and sleeping all day, etc.  This story gives hope to the ones who do not have a stable home life, but have perseverance to come out on top.  Also, I liked the 90’s references.  🙂

What I didn’t like about this book was the way the grandmother Shirl spoke to Jarrett.  I know she had her own issues and they had a loving relationship, but it broke my heart to hear her tell him to get out of the way of the tv and dismiss him.

Book 75 of 2018


Vincent and Theo


Vincent and Theo (audiobook)

by Deborah Heiligman


This wonderful piece of nonfiction tells the story of Vincent van Gogh and his brother Theo van Gogh.  I have always been a huge fan of van Gogh.  When I first started getting into art, I studied him, did research papers on his life and work, cried when I saw a traveling show in LA featuring his work, and visited the van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam about 14 years ago.  I thought I was a pretty big fan that I knew basically everything about him.  Well I was totally wrong.  After reading this book, I realized that I knew the basics and a lot of that was just blended together a sugar coated for kids.  For example, I knew he cut off his ear when he got into a fight with Gauguin.  I didn’t know that Gauguin was a fencer and there is still disagreement about whether van Gogh cut off his own ear, or Gauguin did it with his fencing sword.  This book also gave me insight into his childhood, various careers, relationships, and mental illness.  I learned he was starting to gain attention before he died, and many painters attended his funeral.  The biggest thing for me was Theo’s wife’s influence on Vincent’s career.  I guess I thought his paintings were just there and were then discovered for their awesomeness, but it was Johanna who propelled his career forward, despite Vincent and Theo being deceased.  I loved loved loved that I now know Theo and not just Vincent, because the two were equally impactful on Vincent’s work.

What I liked about this book was that while I am not a big nonfiction fan unless it is professional development or something, I fell in LOVE with this book.  I might need to own it instead of just borrow it from the library.  I can’t stop thinking about it!  I knew a lot about van Gogh already, so I thought it was going to be like a text book about an artist I really love. I had no idea it was a love story between two brothers.  The author told equal parts Vincent and Theo, and we can see both had troubled lives, but they were the most important person in each other’s lives.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it took me awhile to get into it.  I think that’s because I am not normally a nonfiction reader, so it took a few chapters for me to realize it was a story with characters, only those characters were real people who once walked our Earth.  Once I got into it, I couldn’t stop listening.

Book 54 of 40

(Book 20 of 2018)

The Book Whisperer


The Book Whisperer (paperback)

by Donalyn Miller

No AR Level – Professional Development Book!


I picked up The Book Whisperer after finishing The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell.  I first heard about this book after doing research on how to get kids to become readers.  I regret that this took me so long to finish, but I got caught up with some fiction books, and wasn’t in my professional development mode!


Here are my Top 5 “Ahas” from The Book Whisperer:

1. The 40 Book Challenge.  I have read tons about this, I’ve downloaded free things from Teachers Pay Teachers, and then I’ve read the blogs where people complain about how the 40 Book Challenge is done all wrong, is distorted, and isn’t the author’s intentions.  So, I decided I needed to read this book to find out what her intentions really were when she created it.  So she created the 40 book requirement so students would see they would not be getting away with 2 books for the whole year, and so they would get the chance to read around the genres.  You can’t develop a love of reading in just a few books!

2. The Types of Readers.  There are 3:  Developing (aka struggling), Dormant (the ones who can but don’t), and Underground (the gifted, avid readers).  The dormant readers make up the biggest group in the class, and this is usually my focus, because I believe they just need to be shown that reading isn’t a chore.  They haven’t found the right book, genre, author, etc. to engage them.  I believe I converted a few dormant readers into underground readers in the past, and it is my goal to continue to do that as a teacher!  I think if I can identify the type of reader, I can better meet the needs of the reader.

3. The Need for Role Models.  ANYONE who has spent time in a classroom knows that there are kids who feel they are good at math, but bad at reading, or they just don’t like to read.  I could name at least 10 of those kids from each class for my past 14 years of teaching.  I would be the teacher who handed out reading logs and read class novels and required students to take AR tests, and then wondered why they didn’t like reading.  I made it too academic.  What made a HUGE change in my classroom was making a drastic change in my own reading habits.  I started the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge (for myself) and started falling in love with reading all over again.  If I could talk about the books with my students, they would see that I was living the reading life, as well.  Students need to see that reading isn’t something just done in school, but something that is done throughout their lives.  “You cannot inspire others to do what you are not inspired to do yourself.” (p. 118).

4. Traditional Practices vs. Alternatives.  Miller talks about many traditional practices that teachers do because they are what we have always done and what others do, as well.  Some of these practices include whole-class novels, comprehension tests, book reports, reading logs, round-robin or popcorn reading, and incentive programs.  Now, I agree with most of the negatives that were brought up, but I don’t think they’re all terrible as a whole.  I do use incentive programs, I use comprehension tests (like AR), and I have a very modified reading log.  But she gives great alternatives for the traditional practices that are worth looking into.

5. Reader’s Notebooks.  I have been researching and considering how I will implement a Reader’s Workshop in class.  We have already been doing Writer’s Workshop, so Reading shouldn’t be too big of a stretch.  With my school’s student population, I know that will also need to include direct and explicit instruction to some, if not all, of my students.  We’ve used a notebook, but it often gets ignored mid-year.  However, the use of the Reader’s Notebook is clearer to me than other descriptions have been in the past.  Her notebooks include 4 sections: 1) Tally List (basically the number of books they’ve read from each genre), 2) Reading List (the books by genre), 3) Books-To-Read List (for future reading, based on recommendations), and 4) Response Entries (letters to and from the teacher).  I personally would add a fifth section for mini-lessons based on standards or needs of my students.

Next up on my Professional Development Reading list… Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, or In the Middle by Nancie Atwell.  We will see.  🙂

Book 6 of 10 (summer goal)

I Am Malala (Young Readers Edition)


I Am Malala (hardcover)

by Malala Yousafzai

AR Level 5.9, 7 points

My 52nd book in 52 weeks!  It was a good one, too.  It is also my first non-fiction book in this challenge.  This is the story of Malala, the young Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban.  I remember hearing about her in the news, but I did not pay much attention, other than she was shot in the head in a bus, and it was education-related.  After reading this book, I can see why she won the Nobel Peace Prize.  She is so young, only 18, and she is a brave, intelligent role model for young women all over the world.  With all of the negativity about Muslims and Islam, I am happy to read about a practicing Muslim and what they believe.  If the entire world just heard about the nutty Christians in America, I’d want to get my message out there, too.  But that’s not what Malala was trying to say through this autobiography… She was pushing a message of education for all boys and girls, and I hope that students see the value and the privilege of their education.

What I liked about this book was, of course, the main message: education is a right.  I picked this book up, because it is another mandatory read for my husband’s school.  That means every high school student at his school is expected to read this book and discuss it throughout the year, relating it to all of their subject areas.  I can’t help him out by connecting it to math, but certainly the message of education is there, regardless of what subject he teaches!

What I didn’t like about this book was that it didn’t give as much of a background on the war that some of our younger students may need.  Most of my students were born in about 2003, so they may not be familiar with the war.  A little background may be helpful.  However, there is a detailed timeline in the back.  I didn’t really dislike anything.  🙂

Book 52 of 52!!!  Woo hoo!

For my next challenge, I will lower my expectation to only 40 books.  I want to be sure to enjoy what I’m reading and not worry about reading short books to up my count, or bypass good books due to time.  My goal was to fall in love with reading all over again, and I have definitely accomplished that.  I already have a great list of books to get started on.  Thank you for reading!