Marty Mcguire

Yesterday marked the (fun!) end of a blogging book group with two students from my school and eight from four other schools in our region.  We all read Kate Messner’s book Marty Mcguire and used a blog for students to answer and ask questions and reflect on their reading.  (Each Sunday night, one of the librarians posted the prompts for the week.  We shared the work!) A great discussion guide for the book is available from Scholastic  if you want to introduce some students to this spunky character!

Because they were second and third graders there was a bit of a learning curve with the features of the blog and the mechanics of posting comments, but they learned quickly.  I dare say my students improved their keyboarding skills somewhat just from the twice weekly practice for this project.

To make the project’s culmination more special we agreed to meet face-to-face at one of our schools to Skype with the author and enjoy a celebratory lunch (complete with frog cookies!).  Kate Messner was a wonderful author to Skype with.  She was enthusiastic, pleasant, and “real.”  She wove great comments into her chat about writing and how students might think about their own creative process.

Both boys and girls enjoyed the book and are now excited to read Marty Mcguire Digs Worms, the sequel which came out a few weeks ago.  Kate Messner has posted links (think compost and worms) to accompany the second book on Pinterest.

Thanks to LibraryStew for planting the original idea in my head!

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A Dickens of a List

Another recent acquisition from Junior Library Guild, and the timing is perfect.  This is the time of year that I love to share biographies (and other books that feature famous people) with students.  Things get rolling with Martin Luther King Day, and by February we’re highlighting presidents and famous black Americans and then it’s on to the women in March!   Here’s a list (in no particular order) of twenty-one of my favorite biographies and not-exactly-biographies about people of note.  Click here for more suggestions and activities in my article at TeachersFirst.

Gerstein, Sparrow Jack

Klise,  Stand Straight, Ella Kate

Adler, Wilma Unlimited, Lou Gehrig: the Luckiest Man, America’s Champion Swimmer

Hopkinson, Fanny in the Kitchen, Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, A Boy Called Dickens

Winter, Biblioburro, The Watcher:  Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps

Burleigh, Tiger of the Snows  (Tenzing Norgay)

Lindbergh, Nobody Owns the Sky (Bessie Coleman)

Stauffacher, Tillie the Terrible Swede

Ryan, When Marian Sang

Brown, Uncommon Traveler, Dolley Madison Saves George Washington

Martin,  Snowflake Bentley

McCarthy,   Strong Man: the story of Charles Atlas

Chandra,  George Washington’s Teeth

Winters,  Abe Lincoln:  the boy who Loved Books

Yolen,  All Star:  Honus Wagner and the most Famous Baseball Card Ever

I’d love to hear about some of your favorites for elementary readers.  Please leave a comment!

Tempe Wick: a colonial gal with spunk!

As I mentioned last time, I’m going to blog occasionally about a book that I’ve rediscovered in my travels through my shelflist.  The idea is to reacquaint myself (and you, my readers!) with some gems which sometimes get forgotten in all the excitement around the new books and the hype around the “hot” authors in any given year.

This Time,TempeWick? by Patricia Lee Gauch is such a book.  Based on the real-life figure of Temperance Wick, it is the story of a young girl and her responsibilities during the Revolutionary War. Tempe is no ordinary girl.  Patricia Gauch refers to her as “surprising” and “clever.” Why?  Lots of reasons, not the least of which is that she’s able to hide her horse Bonny in her bedroom for several days right under the noses of colonial soldiers engaged in a mutiny (and desperate for horses to go to Philadelphia!).

Gauch does a wonderful job showing the reader what makes Tempe so surprising and clever.  For this reason it is a perfect book to use when working on character traits, as so many teachers do.  You can read it in one sitting during library time, then either that same day or next time you can revisit the story and build an essay or Better Answer Sandwich about Tempe’s character.

My third graders have responded well to this book in the past.  Depending on your curriculum, you might have to do a little work providing some context about the time period and the war, and kids will appreciate the author’s note about how much of the story is “true” at the end of the book.  A great read, and still in print!