Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ms. Bixby's Last Day - Teacher Appreciation Blog Tour

Ms. Bixby's Last Day is about an unforgettable teacher. The kind of teacher who inspires, excites, and enthralls. So when the publisher asked me to join the blog tour and said that our focus will be on celebrating OUR "Ms. Bixby", I knew I had to join in. More information about the book and author are below!

(I also love this author, and participated in the blog tour for The Dungeoneers, did a quick Q&A with questions from my son when he used Anderson as his author study author, participated in the blog tour and reviewed Sidekicked, and joined the Minion blog tour.) 

My school career was filled with enough loving, memorable, inspiring teachers that I had trouble choosing just one. Even this set of names doesn't include the many, many teachers who kept me learning and helped me mature and grow.

Younger Years:
Mr. Bateman - Fifth Grade
My reading choices in elementary school were a bit less than traditional. We had to read and do book reports on a regular basis, and Mr. Bateman was always flexible and encouraging. Maybe the other kids weren't super interested in hearing my presentations on C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, but he never minded. When I decided it was time to read Moby Dick - and it took me significantly longer to get through the book than our book report schedule required - he gave me the extensions I needed to reach my goal.

Believe it or not - this energetic man is still teaching elementary school. He's been there since 1980! I recently saw photos of him on the extended beach trip with his current 5th grade class. That's serious dedication.

(I started at this elementary school in second grade. I'd like to also give huge thanks to my other teachers - Mr. MacDonald who managed to handle a very emotionally intense 2nd grader without losing his mind, Miss Sink who helped me learn about butterflies, and Miss Wressler who doodled fun creatures on all of our purple mimeographed worksheets and invited her whole fourth grade class to her wedding.)

Upper Grades:
"Doc Rock" - Dr. Roberts
A man of science and a man of faith. Dr. Roberts taught earth science, physics, and several theology classes. He could read and write Hebrew, Greek, and several other languages. One of my major regrets of my high school years is that I never was able to make the time to learn Greek with him. Doc took us on geology field trips that were amazing. I still have a large bin of rocks, minerals, and fossils I found on those trips.

Here's my favorite set of memories of Doc Rock. I first met him when I was touring the school before second grade. I was convinced this wasn't the school for me before I even arrived, but I was also a pretty big rock hound. When I walked into his classroom in the high school, I was enthralled. Then he pulled me aside and handed me a special treasure - a fluorite octahedron. Sold. This was the school for me. Time went by, and I lost my crystal (but never my love of rocks!). In ninth grade, I told him how much that day meant to me, and how it helped me decide that this would be the right school for me. He reached into his stash of minerals and handed me another fluorite octahedron.

Mr. Leach
Jamie Leach was a fairly new teacher when our class descended upon him. (I think it was his second year at the school). His enthusiasm for chemistry AND for us was contagious. He was also a dedicated youth leader who never minded setting time aside to talk to his students about life. His class was where I met my husband, who was a year older and helped run our chemistry labs. Jamie's daughter ended up walking down the aisle as my flower girl.

Fraulein McDonald (now Dr. MacDonald)
It may be telling that I chose "Gabrielle" as my German name when I started in her class because I thought the nickname "Gabby" would be appropriate. That never mattered to this amazing teacher.

Dr. MacDonald was a wonderful language teacher (and still is working at my alma mater - she started in 1981). More importantly, she felt that exposure to other cultures was a vital part of our education. She orchestrated an exchange program, and I had a German "sister" come live with me for six weeks before I went and lived at her house for another six. She also took 10th and 11th graders to tour Germany and Austria each summer. We were good kids, but I'm sure we tried her patience on more than a few occasions. While I no longer speak German, her willingness to help me spread my wings and take those risks had a huge impact on my life.


ISBN: 9780062338174

(Book summary from publisher) 

John David Anderson, author of Sidekicked and The Dungeoneers, returns with a funny, heartwarming, and heartbreaking contemporary story about three boys, one teacher, and a day none of them will ever forget.

Everyone knows there are different kinds of teachers. The boring ones, the mean ones, the ones who try too hard, the ones who stopped trying long ago. The ones you’ll never remember, and the ones you want to forget. Ms. Bixby is none of these. She’s the sort of teacher who makes you feel like school is somehow worthwhile. Who recognizes something in you that sometimes you don’t even see in yourself. Who you never want to disappoint. What Ms. Bixby is, is one of a kind.

Topher, Brand, and Steve know this better than anyone. And so when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she won’t be able to finish the school year, they come up with a risky plan—more of a quest, really—to give Ms. Bixby the last day she deserves. Through the three very different stories they tell, we begin to understand what Ms. Bixby means to each of them—and what the three of them mean to each other.

John David Anderson


Author Bio:
John David Anderson is the author of many books for young readers, including Sidekicked and The
Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.

6/2/2016     Nerdy Book Club
6/3/2016     Next Best Book
6/6/2016     Walden Media Tumblr
6/7/2016     Teach Mentor Texts
6/8/2016     This Kid Reviews Books
6/9/2016     Read, Write, Reflect
6/10/2016   Flashlight Reader
6/13/2016   Julie Falatko
6/15/2016   About to Mock
6/16/2016   Kid Lit Frenzy
6/16/2016   The Hiding Spot
6/17/2016   Unleashing Readers
6/20/2016   Ms. Yingling Reads         Novel Novice
6/21/2016   Maria's Melange              Novel Novice         All the Wonders
6/22/2016   Lit Coach Lou                  Novel Novice
6/23/2016   Novel Novice
6/27/2016   Librarian's Quest
6/29/2016   Bluestocking Thinking
6/30/2016   Mindjacked
7/1/2016     All the Wonders

(I received an advance copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Mechanical Mind of John Coggin Blog Tour

Illustrations by Ben Whitehouse.

Welcome, my bookish friends! Today I have a real treat for you. This title looks like so much fun - and I'll be diving into it myself shortly. It disappeared from my stack and I just rediscovered it in my son's pile. Read on for a description of the book and then a fabulous Q&A with the title character - written by Elinor Teele.

For even more excitement - head to the bottom of the post to learn how you could win a signed copy (generously sent to you by the publisher).

The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin

by Elinor Teele
Hardcover, 352 pages
Pub Date: April 12th 2016 by Walden Pond Press
ISBN 0062345109 (ISBN13: 9780062345103)

Book Description:
Roald Dahl meets The Penderwicks in this quirky, humorous, whimsical, and heartwarming middle grade debut about two siblings who run away from home to escape working in the family coffin business.

John Coggin is no ordinary boy. He is devising an invention that nobody has ever seen before, something that just might change the world, or at least make life a little bit better for him and his little sister, Page. But that’s only when he can sneak a break from his loathsome job—building coffins for the family business under the beady gaze of his cruel Great-Aunt Beauregard.

When Great-Aunt Beauregard informs John that she’s going to make him a permanent partner in Coggin Family Coffins—and train Page to be an undertaker—John and Page hit the road. Before long, they’ve fallen in with a host of colorful characters, all of whom, like John and Page, are in search of a place they can call home. But home isn’t something you find so much as something you fight for, and John soon realizes that he and Page are in for the fight of their lives.

An Interview with John Coggin

John Coggin is an 11-year-old boy, somewhat undersized, with a grave and quiet demeanor. Although John spent much of his youth working for “Coggin Family Coffins,” in recent months he has started to explore the world beyond. I spoke to him while he was working on a strange vehicle that he said was based – and this is an exact quote – on an Autopsy. 

Q. That’s an interesting project you’ve got there. 

A. It’s steam-powered. 

Q. What’s wrong with it? 

A. It runs okay at the moment, but I think the boiler metal is too thin – I don’t want it to explode in the middle of the street. And I’m having trouble with the flow of steam into the cylinder with the pistons. I may have a small leak in a feedpipe join.

Q. You sound like you know what you’re doing. Did you learn about engineering in school? 

A. No, I didn’t go to school – I was making coffins. But I did a lot of reading when I could. Most of the time I figure things out by trial and error.   

Q. Tell me about making coffins. 

A. It’s awful. 

Q. Is that all you want to say about it? 

A. I guess it taught me discipline. It would be really hard to make mechanical monsters if I didn’t know how to drill a hole or measure twice and cut once. But I never got to use my imagination. Kids should be able to use their imaginations.  

Q. What else – besides imagination and discipline – does an engineer need to have? 

A. Excuse me, but if you stand where you’re standing you’re going to get blasted in the face with boiling hot steam. 

Q. Oh, I see. Yes. I’ll move. So what else…?  

A. Patience, because you’re going to screw stuff up – a lot. I think I rebuilt that engine four times before I got it to run. And being stubborn and brave. You’ve got to be brave because most people are going to tell you’re nuts. And help. You’ll always need help. 

Q. What do you mean by help? 

A. Like my little sister Page. She’s always ready to hold the soldering iron. And Colonel Joe. He’s the one who gave me the loan to buy the parts for the steam engine. And Miss Doyle. She taught me about coming at a problem sideways. You can’t build anything in this world without a family and friends. 

Q. What about your redheaded friend, Boz? How does he help?  

A. Boz tends to blow things up.

Q. Yes, but when he’s not blowing things up? 

A. Um, I guess… I think… maybe Boz is a catalyst!  

Q. I’m not sure if I… 

A. That’s it! I knew there was a scientific word for him. A catalyst causes and accelerates reactions. That’s what Boz does – he gets me excited about a project.

Q. Isn’t a catalyst dangerous? 

Sure. He uses gasoline when he shouldn’t and steals fire trucks to take them for joy rides and complains about dog hair and sewage, but he’s Boz. At least he’s not boring.     

Q. I heard he was cursed with the gift of gab. 

A. Maybe?

Q. I meant he uses strange words and talks too much.  

A. That’s true. Nobody understands what Boz is saying. 

Q. Doesn’t that bother you? 

A. Not really. I like having him around.

Q. Well, thank you for your time, John. I’d leave you to work on your project. 

A. Come back in a few months. I’m thinking about making it fly.  

Find Elinor Teele at her website.

There's even an Educational Activity Kit based on the book for use in the classroom or library!

Check out all the stops on the blog tour...

April 11 - Bluestocking Thinking
April 12 - Novel Novice
April 13 – This Kid Reviews Books
April 14 - Maria's Melange
April 15 - Unleashing Readers
April 18 - Next Best Book
April 19 - Foodie Bibliophile
April 20 - For Those About to Mock
April 21 - Walden Media Tumblr
April 22 - Charlotte's Library
April 25 – Flashlight Reader
April 26 - Teach Mentor Texts
April 27 - Librarian's Quest
April 28 - Kid Lit Frenzy
April 29 - Novel Novice

Disclaimers: Content provided by the publisher. I received a review copy of the novel. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

Battle of the Books - 2016

The third annual Battle of the Books has begun! I forgot to put up the full list of 32 books earlier this year. (I know, I've been an awful blogger). Here is the entire list, split into four divisions.

Just after winter break, we had our students nominate up to 5 favorite books. I took that list and whittled it down to what you see below. Any surprises?

The students have already voted in the first set of brackets, and we are down to 16 books. More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Must Read in 2016 - The List

It's time to choose the list for this year! Below (in no particular order) are the books I plan to prioritize. There are 32 this year (I had 39 last year). I'm hoping a bunch of them will fit into this year's Pop Sugar Challenge as well. 
To add to your own list, be sure to visit the home of the Must Read Challenge - There's a Book for That. Go ahead and join us - there's no set of "rules" to follow. We all hope to read a good chunk of our must read lists... but we understand about needing some wiggle room. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge Update 2015

Pop Sugar Reading Challenge - 2015

So what did I read? 

more than 500 pagesFeedMira GrantI could NOT put this book down. Only sad that I lost my favorite character.... definitely want to read the rest of this series.
Classic romanceRebeccaDaphne du Maurieraudiobook -- It's so funny what you remember as you reread a book after a few *cough* decades. I remember adoring this book in high school. I still adored it. As I listened, though, I felt way more anxiety for the main character than I did when I read it in high school. I KNEW what was coming... though sometimes it took until the events were almost upon her before I really knew what was about to happen. I also have an older perspective. She's in her early 20s. As a late teen, I didn't really SEE how immature she was. Now I kept thinking, "oh, you poor little lamb".
Became movieThe MartianAndy WeirThere's a TON of science in this book. I'm glad I read it before I saw it (though I do think the movie did an excellent job. Let's science the SHIT out of this!
Published this yearWinterMarissa MeyerOh how I love this series! Taking fairy tales into space? That rocks.
With number in titlePeriod.8Chris CrutcherI'm not a huge sports person, but this story had enough other storylines that I was able to enjoy it. There was even some cool mystery! (This book was also on my Book Gap 2013 list and Must Read 2014 list. Glad I got to it.)
By someone under 30ViciousV.E. Schwabaudiobook EOs.... those with extraordinary talents. What make some heroes and some villains? Didn't really love the narrator but I did LOVE the book.
With nonhuman charactersStone in the SkyCecil CastellucciScience fiction with aliens counts as "non human", right? This was the second in the Tin Star series. (Cecil also wrote my favorite of the "Journey to the Force Awakens" series - Moving Target about Leia!)
Funny bookBetter Nate than EverTim Federleaudiobook - I'm so glad the author narrated this one. He was great!
By female authorMy Final Tally: Women: 24 Men: 11 Mixed: 3
Mystery or ThrillerJackabyWilliam RitterDescribed as "Doctor Who meets Sherlock" - this was a creepy paranormal mystery read (YA)
Book with one word titleMidwinterbloodMarcus SedgwickQuirky, VERY odd..... thought provoking. There were so many threads that wove through this tale. (Printz winner)

Book of short storiesDiverse Energies (mixed)mixed authorsUsually a book of short stories ends up having some real "bleh" tales. I enjoyed them all - and some were really great!
Book set in another countryRose Under FireElizabeth Weinaudiobook - I liked this one even more than Code Name Verity)
Nonfiction bookStrange Fruit (GN)Joel Christian GillI know a lot of people REALLY liked this one... but I only thought it was okay.
A popular author's first bookSoullessGail CarrigerSteam punk romance (a bit steamier than most YA tends to be). I definitely enjoyed this one and picked up the others in the series.
Book from an author you love that you haven't read yetI didn't really have one to put here. I had a TON of books I read by authors I love... but nothing I had really "missed" along the way.
Book a friend recommendedHandbook for Dragon Slayers (AlyB)Merrie HaskellI LOVED this story! It won a Schneider (for positive portrayal of disability) and it was a fabulous fantasy tale.
Pulitzer Prize Winning BookMausArt SpiegelmanWhoa. This was a seriously dark and painful read.
Book based on true storyCourage Has No ColorTanya Lee StoneMaybe it's cheating a bit - since this is NF and not really "Based on a True Story"
Book at the bottom of TBR listNever gonna happen. My TBR pile isn't really that organized.
Book your mom lovesJonathan Strange and Mr. NorrellSusanna ClarkeStarted (but haven't yet finished - the audiobook is really long!)
Book that scares youLockwood & Co Whispering SkullJonathan StroudI love this series. SO CREEPY! And this one ended on a serious cliff hanger
Book more than 100 years oldPride and PrejudiceJane AustenWell. I read this one because everyone said I should. I actually enjoyed it after I viewed the miniseries version (so I could picture everyone). I also read this so I will enjoy the ZOMBIE version more. That's on my 2016 list.

Book based on coverCure for DreamingCat WintersSO GOOD! I loved all the suffrage movement historical pieces. I'm also now fascinated by the history of hypnotism.
Book you were supposed to read in school but didn'tYeah.... nothing in here. I honestly read everything I was told to. I do still want to read a few I wasn't instructed to read (like The Bell Jar)
MemoirWishful DrinkingCarrie Fisheraudiobook (read by the author) I adore Carrie Fisher. I am a HUGE Star Wars fan. I knew she'd had major struggles with mental illness, but she was so honest and open in this memoir. The non-Star Wars portions weren't as interesting to me as the Star Wars parts were, though.
Book you finished in a dayTuck Everlasting Natalie BabbittI've read this one before (a few times)... but gave it a re-read. I read it first as an adult, and didn't like it that much. On repeated readings, though, I found the imagery and ideas much more appealing.
Book with antonyms in titleGlory O'Brien's History of the FutureA.S. Kingaudiobook - This is the first book I read by this author - but it certainly won't be the last.
Book set somewhere you want to visitThe Name of the Star -- LondonMaureen JohnsonA bit of a slow start - but then I really enjoyed it.
Book from birth year (1972)Didn't get to this one.
Book with bad reviewsHeck - don't ALL books get some bad reviews?
TrilogyBirthmarked Prized PromisedCaragh M. O'BrienI got to listen to this author while I was at a conference in CT in 2014. She is so fascinating! I plan to read her new series in 2016 (Vault of Dreamers is the first book and the second comes out in 2016)
Love trianglePrizedCaragh M. O'BrienNot a huge fan of the love triangle - but I did like the trilogy (though the first book is my favorite)
Set in futureAlienatedMelissa LandersCool premise but the romance line started to overpower the science and aliens by about midway through. Some may love that, but it slowed the pace of the story for me.
Set in high schoolAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseBenjamin Alire Sáenzaudiobook - beautiful and heartbreaking.
Color in titleBeyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak OutSusan KuklinInteresting for me - since I have almost no knowledge or experience with this topic. Many reviewers pointed out the glaring lack of diversity within these tales, though.

Made you cryI'll Give You The SunJandy Nelsonaudiobook - beautiful and heartbreaking. I found the narrative style intriguing as well. The story is told in two voices - by twins. One twin tells the pieces of the story that are in the past, and the other tells the current parts. We alternate between the two as we start to piece things together.
With magicThe Witch's BoyKelly Barnhillaudiobook - I definitely liked this, though parts dragged a bit.
Graphic NovelIn Real LifeCory Doctorow, Jen Wang (Illustrations)One of my favorite graphic novels of the year. I love this look at gaming (and especially women in gaming!)
By author you've never readFinding SerendipityAngelica Banks LOVED IT! I loved that Tuesday's mom is an author and she has to follow her into the world of writerly creations. I loved how this book encourages creativity and imagination.
You own but haven't readTenGretchen McNeilIt would be interesting to hear what those with no Agatha Christie background think on this book. I had some inklings/clues about what was happening because I know Ten Little Indians. I purchased this ebook when it was on sale. I'm glad I got to it!
Takes place in hometownNope. Never did.
Originally in another languageAnother one I didn't get to.
Set during ChristmasA Shiloh Christmasby Phyllis Reynolds NaylorSweet story - a wonderful 4th book in this series.
Author has my initials (MS)Blue Lily, Lily Blue Maggie StiefvaterMaggie rocks. I love so many of her books, and I love to follow her posts online as well. She's an author, a car racer, and an artist (and I'm sure a lot more!) Anyway - I adore this series and I have the last book (The Raven King) on my list for 2016
A PlayNope
A Banned BookMiseducation of Cameron PostEmily M. DanforthBeautiful but painful read about acceptance. Beautiful because Danforth is nuanced and gentle, even when describing those who made horrific choices that damaged Cam. I loved that she was able to show that flawed humans aren't inherently evil. So often we forget that people need to LEARN better before they can make better, more generous choices.
Based on or turned into TV showPhoenix IslandJohn DixonLocal author - Lots of action! I promptly handed the book off to my 13 YO son. His response was, "This looks like my kind of book!"
Book started but not finished beforeHouse of HadesRick RiordanRead this with my son. He adores this series. I love the characters, the mythological tie-ins, and the action.

Did you take the challenge? I'm definitely doing this again for 2016!


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