Monday, September 16, 2013

It's Monday! What Are YOU Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.
Be sure to also visit Jen at  Teach.Mentor.Text  and Kellee at  Unleashing Readers for blogs participating in the Picture Book to YA addition of It's Monday! What Are You Reading!

September appeared on the calendar much too quickly for my taste this year! With the beginning of a new school year comes lots of "firsts". The first day, the first read aloud, the first fire drill, the first...well, you get the idea! I do enjoy the fresh start September brings but unfortunately, that fresh start often sidetracks my reading time.  This year I'm making a conscious effort to maintain some sense of balance by making sure I carve out time for my own reading every single day. So far, so good! Here's a small peek of what my reading life has included, which are great considerations for middle grade teachers and readers.

The Blessing Cup 
Written & illustrated by Patricia Polacco 
Recommended: Grades 4 and up

This companion (actually it would be considered a prequel) to The Keeping Quilt is another moving tribute to Polacco's heritage. Anna is a young Russian Jewish girl growing up during a time of great uncertainty and turmoil, which she really doesn't understand. When her family is forced to leave their home and most of their possessions behind, the family tea set, a wedding gift to Anna's parents, is one of the very few things they are able to save. The tea set came with a wish that "anyone who drinks from this will have blessings from God. They will never know a day of hunger. Their lives will always have flavor. They will know love and joy and will never be poor". The tea set...and later just one cup, the blessing cup, become a symbol of love and family for generations to come.  This moving story of strength, courage, family, and perseverance is one that will invite rich discussions and many re-reads of yet another beautiful piece of writing from Patricia Polacco. 

You can visit Patricia Polacco's website here

by Andrea Chang

I discovered this beautifully written novel in verse through my friend, Natalie Dias Lorenzi's blog, BiblioLinks. I'm so glad she shared this book and that I sought it out! This historical fiction novel tells what might have been Dave's story. I say *might* because so little is really known about him. But that's what makes it fiction after all! Told from various points of view, Andrea Chang has thoughtfully put together a story with well crafted word choice that creates an authentic tone for the uncertainty of that time period. Geared toward middle grade and young adult readers, the story is especially accessible to those striving readers in our classrooms. As many others have suggested, pairing this novel with Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, brings two formats, the novel in verse and the picture book, together in a powerful way. And just as an aside, because I adore her book SO much, if you haven't read Flying the Dragon by Natalie, please add it to your must read list! It was one of my top five 2012 titles last year!

You can visit Andrea Chang's website here.
You can visit Natalie Dias Lorenzi's website here.

by Franki Sibberson

This little book packs a lot of fantastic thinking between it's covers as Franki makes her planning process visible for all of us. She reinforces that importance of not only knowing our curriculum and the learning  standards we are being held accountable for, but more importantly, knowing our students as readers and writers. We can not loose sight of the fact that our lessons should be designed to be taught by us, the teachers, not by a corporation. We must remember that our job is to teach the reader, not the book! She includes ideas for exploring characters, learning about themes, and navigating non-fiction. Each chapter includes possible anchor charts, how you *might* teach it, questions you might ask, and possible follow-up. Written in a very reader friendly tone, it often felt as I was reading like Frank was sitting with me, having a conversation with me. I really appreciated her stance on this book, that it wasn't written to become another set of lessons, but rather an impetus to deeper, more thoughtful thinking about our planning. 

You can visit Franki's blog (co-written with Mary Lee Hahn) here.
So there you have it...a small peek into my reading life for this week! MRA members/readers would love to know what you’ve been reading! Leave us a comment and share your “must” read titles! 

Susan Dee has taught pre-k through 5th grade. In addition to working with young readers, she also teaches graduate courses for the University of Southern Maine’s Language, Literacy, and Culture Department.  She presents workshops on a variety of topics related to literacy learning for districts, as well as at state, regional, and national conferences.  Susan is co-founder and co-host of #MELit, Maine’s monthly Literacy Twitter Chat, Chairperson of #nErDcampNNE  and currently serves on the Executive Board of the Maine Reading Association. You can follow her on Twitter: @literacydocent.


  1. I agree Susan. Sibberson's little book has a lot in it. Great choices!

  2. There is another version to the story of Dave entitled Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill and Bryan Collier - a riveting read as well.