Celebration: Writing

If anyone asks me what my winter holiday plans involve, the first thing on my list is always reading. During this break, I treasure time to read, time to peruse book lists for the next year and time to blog about my favourites from my year of reading. So when I sat down to celebrate this morning, my fist thought was to celebrate something to do with my relationship to books.

But then I decided to be a little braver and celebrate what has been new for me this year – writing. Writing to make sense of everything. In the last few years, I have used writing to communicate, to unravel and to guide. But I held the word “writer” far away from me, afraid to connect it in anyway to my identity.

This year, I joined a writing community by participating in the Slice of Life challenge through March and wrote and published a post every day. I continued writing regular Celebration posts. The Slice of Life Community hosted by Two Writing Teachers and the #celebratelu community hosted by Ruth Ayres give me support, comfort and inspiration. And lots of permission. Permission to just write. To write for myself.

Slowly, I have realized that writing is becoming a part of who I am. Necessary. Something I turn to when I am most lost. Writing settles me. It steadies my step. It shines a light and slows the muddling about in the dark. It lets me breathe.

And so today I celebrate some of the writing I have done in this past year that has been the most meaningful for me. This year was full of challenges and change. Ironically, I have not been able to share openly all that this means. Yet, somehow, through my words, I have shared more than the actual details. The most important aspects of the truth make themselves known.

I don’t expect any readers to follow all of these links back through my year. This celebration is about my personal journey – acknowledgement of how my own writing helped me through. This is about honouring. About journey. About all of my words. About what they meant to me.

The Kid on the Piano reminds me of all that I learned working for 21 years in the deep inner city.

Celebration: Writing

A Mom theme tells the story of how sometimes it was just so very hard to do the work I did.

In Hey Little One I attempted to process what it is to stand beside a child who is deeply grieving. Some children leave a forever mark.

Celebration: Writing

Letting Go was all about making sense of the truth I wasn’t supposed to tell.

Celebration: Writing

I wrote This Writing Thing at the end of a month of daily writing to try to make sense of my relationship to/with/around writing. I wrote:

Writing is ridiculous faith.

Writing brings clarity. Highlights confusion. Writing releases. Reaches out. Closes up. Pulls the world apart. Some pieces are written to be released. Imagine them floating away. Give them your blessing. Others are gathered close and protected. There is so much fragility. It doesn’t feel safe to relinquish them and imagine them unraveling before an unknown reader’s eyes.

Celebration: Writing

In Not Enough Feet, I celebrated the unknown ahead.

Celebration: Writing

I celebrated my survival strategy of being in the moment in Going with It The secret? Have faith in the end point and enjoy the small moments in between.

Celebration: Writing

In Standing in the Middle I celebrated that I was finally ready to begin imagining goodbye.I wrote:

I celebrate that I am loved. I celebrate that I love this whole school right back and then some. I celebrate that even though I stand in the middle of my long history here and somewhere new and unknown, I can now get on with saying goodbye. I can be, in the moment, sad and sentimental or happy and full of hope. I can enjoy these next five to six weeks with my students with all of us being a little extra gentle with each other because this is it for us and it means something.

It is time for big hugs. Bright smiles. Lots of gratitude and lots of care. It is time to celebrate what we have and how much we treasure it. Teaching is about relationships. These relationships have deep roots, strong branches and glowing leaves. Our metaphorical tree is especially beautiful.

Celebration: Writing

In Giving Away the Guilt I began to truly say goodbye.

Celebration: Writing

In Knowing and Not Knowing I admitted my vulnerability in starting at a new school. This piece helped me soften the fear and let in the possibility.

Celebration: Writing

I am now beginning to feel like I have a new home – a new here – I shared it here. I know that my future words will help me place roots, look behind and imagine ahead.

I have much gratitude to everyone who reads this blog and offers me so much – encouragement, perspective and care.

Happy New Year to all of you!

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.


Year End Update: #MustReadin2016

In January, I had 30 titles on my #MustReadin2016 list and the best of reading intentions. Learning from other years, I also had a healthy realistic attitude. I knew that life and distractions would get in the way of reading some of these books.


Making a list like this is about being enthused about a year of reading ahead. It is also about building community. 28 other bloggers joined me in making #MustReadin2016 lists of their own. Many people remained connected all year, posting (purely optional always) updates. Of course, in reading other lists and other reading philosophies, our own lists grew. Not a bad problem to have!


My plan was to try and read at least 20, maybe even 25 titles on this list and be proud to have read most of a list I remain excited about. And . . . I did it! 25 books read! And more importantly, enjoyed!

I have posted updates all year so will include just a few words about the last books on this list that I finished.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Every time I talk about this book I wonder the same thing: How can a story about a robot be so tender? Peter Brown includes frequent illustrations which only helps to engage more readers. I want my own copy to include in my class collection. If I teach a younger grade in the future, I would read this aloud in a heart beat.


The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

I was thrilled to see this in January’s Scholastic flyer because as soon as I read this book I knew it HAD to go into my collection. A must have in any middle grade classroom.


Red: The true story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff

I love spending time in Liesl Shurtliff‘s fairy tale world! Was excited to finally read Red’s story.


The Odds of Getting Even  by Sheila Turnage

I just keep getting more attached to these characters! Tupelo Landing seems like a great place to be – lots of drama and mystery but also good friends, tasty and creative diner food and lots to laugh about.

The Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

Oh, the drama, the mystery, the magic. This is a book that truly does pull you in which considering the subject matter, becomes quite creepy. I read the final pages in a public place just to feel safer and connected to reality.

The Raven King

As I did last year, I want to highlight some favourite characters I met during this year of reading.

But first to honour some characters I was thrilled to meet again in sequels: Blue and Gansey in The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, Ryan Dean West in Standoff by Andrew Smith, Mo and Dale from The Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage and Red from Red: The true story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff.

If you haven’t read the following titles, I highly recommend each of them so that you can meet . . .

Perry T. Cook from All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor. Perry is a noble guy. His quest to learn about himself and to uncover the stories of the people in his “family” is not to be missed.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor

Timothy from House Arrest by K.A. Holt is one of the most vulnerable, honest and brave characters I have ever read.

House Arrest by K.A. Holt

Every character in Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. This book has not let me go.

Salt to the sea

Want to know more about #MustReadin2016? Read here This post also includes links to all of the bloggers who wrote Must Read in 2016 lists.

Thinking about joining us for 2017? Please do! Make a list and read some, none or all of the titles on it. Reading is amazing but reading plans are pretty wonderful too! Just reading all of the lists is a great reason to pour a big cup of coffee and do some book dreaming!

We will be sharing lists beginning January 5th 2017! Please join in using the twitter hashtag #mustreadin2017 or by leaving me a comment on this blog and I will add your list.

Here is the image URL code for #Mustreadin2017: (image below) https://thereisabookforthat.files.wordpress.com/2016/12/mustreadin2017.jpg


Happy reading! Happy planning. Happy celebrating.


Nonfiction favourites from 2016

While I haven’t read my usual numbers of nonfiction titles this year, I have read enough to have some clear favourites. Here are my top ten of 2016 (published in 2016)

Looking for some incredible nonfiction? I highly recommend all of these. In fact I own all but two of these titles and plan to remedy that soon. All of these books are titles I can see multiple reasons to use over and over in a classroom. A real reason to celebrate them here.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

An incredible title with layer upon layer of stories and illustrations about a beloved author for so many. This is a longer picture book biography (176 pages) perfect for both adults and students.

some Writer!

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Simply beautiful. I featured this book here

Cloth Lullaby

Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Gérard DuBois

I look forward to sharing this fantastic biography of photographer Dorothea Lange with my students later in the year. I plan also to share these photos she took in a Japanese Internment camp.

Dorothea's Eyes

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

The art in this book is beyond, beyond. Absolutely stunning. An incredible biography made accessible to children. I particularly appreciated the back matter here. Information on Motifs and symbolism in Basquiat’s work is something I will certainly share with students when we explore this book. Steptoe’s author’s note is very important too.


Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

There are so many reasons to share this story with children. It is a story of hope, of change, of perseverance, of the power of music and the beauty of community. A story of transformation.


Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers written by Sara Levine and illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth

“What kind of animal would you be if your teeth were long enough to stick out of your mouth, even when it was closed?” This is one of many questions posed in this informative and engaging book. Students love to guess and check and this title allows for a lot of that. I highlighted this book here

Tooth by Tooth 1

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

The ideal blend of mesmerizing art and story that informs and prompts more questions. I plan to use this title with other books on polar bears and videos about the shrinking ice in the Arctic seas.


Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand

I featured this book here (lots of ideas for how to use in the classroom). This book has been a huge hit in my classroom and we have gone on to become fans of Animals for Smart People videos. You will never think the same about pink again.


Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre

The photographs, the lyrical language . . . absolutely captivating.


Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

As always – such interesting information. All communicated via infographics? Perfect.


Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2016. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!


Monday December 26th, 2016

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. This week I got a little carried away 🙂

Here is a photo of Reading Workshop taken in the last week of school. Nothing makes e happier than readers reading.

Monday December 26th, 2016 There's a Book for That

One day last week I snuck into school to label some new to my class books ready to be book talked in January. Here’s to thieving from our family bookshelves and some great new purchases!

Monday December 26th, 2016 There's a Book for That

Christmas gift bookstack (my children’s haul)

Monday December 26th, 2016 There's a Book for That

And for Elisabeth Ellington, one more student self-portrait

Monday December 26th, 2016 There's a Book for That

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


On the blog:

Favourites of 2016 – No more than 16 words about 16 favourite books


Books I enjoyed:

The Snurtch written by Sean Ferrell and illustrated by Charles Santoso

Well, if we all have a Snurtch – and I suppose we do – I would hope that mine is this cute. A charming story that reminds us of all the emotions and moods inside of us.


Blue Penguin by Petr Horáček

This is beautifully illustrated! My librarian friend and I went for coffee the other day but we started our visit at the bookshelf where we stood in the picture book section and helped strangers choose gifts for children and grandchildren. Something for a 3 year old? We both reached for Petr Horáček. And penguins?! Can’t go wrong.


The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

To say that I am more than happy that Desmond is going to create a series of books on endangered animals is an understatement. Each is a treasure. This one was my holiday gift to myself. A must own title.


The Journey by Francesca Sanna

The art. The sentiments. The story. This is a collage of a collection of stories of people migrating from one home in search of another. A beautiful, important book.


The Bear Who Wasn’t There by LeUyen Pham

Go looking for a bear and you just might not find him. But lots of giggles are on every page as you meet a cast of cheeky characters.

 The Bear who Wasn't There

Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley

Many endearing characters. Gertie, of course and her Aunt Rae. The only thing holding me back from 5 stars for this title is that Gertie’s personality didn’t quite match her age. She seemed younger and it distracted me. Still, looking forward to more from Kate Beasley.


A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Binder

This was a real find! Can’t wait to include this series in my classroom collection. I loved the friendship between Rip and Red. So much loyalty, faith and understanding between these characters.


LumberJanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson

A little too wacky, colourful and busy for my tastes but I know this graphic series is throughly enjoyed by middle grade readers.


Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass

Looking for more mystery titles for my students and realized I hadn’t read this one by Mass. Really enjoyed the friendship here and Jeremy’s search for all kinds of answers.


The Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage

A think a perfect summer would be to rent a little house in Tupelo Landing so that I could spy on Mo and Dale and get a closer look at their adventures. Love these books! (And yes, I know this is a fictional world but after three titles, it all seems so real)

The Odds of Getting Even  by Sheila Turnage

Reading Progress updates:

2016 Chapter Book Challenge: 68/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 348/400 books read

Progress on challenge: 45 books behind! Under 50 books to go . . .

#MustReadin2016: 24/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 47/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 49/50 books read

Up next? I am working on The Raven King – likely my last #mustreadin2016 I will manage to get to! I started this book in the summer but had to put it down when school got busy – it needs uninterrupted reading time.

Favourites of 2016

Which books stand out from a year of reading? It’s a difficult list to make. The turmoil is sweet though as I get to revisit favourite books and the memories I have attached to them. I made this list quickly this year. No second guessing. Quick and determined. These books are especially wonderful from the list of many that I loved this year.

The 16 books that made the final cut? They showcased beautiful words and imagery. I got lost in the sounds, in the text, in the beauty of the language and in the wonder of the illustrations. These titles also spoke to my heart. All of the emotions are here. Especially hope. Hope feels particularly important this year.

16 books and no more than 16 words of raving. This was my challenge last year with my Favourites of 2015 (15 books, 15 words) In 2014, it was Favourites of 2014 (14 books, 14 words) In 2013, it was Favourites of 2013 (13 books, 13 words) and in 2012 (12 books, 12 words) with my 2012 Favourites. Each year, I get one more book and one more word to play with!

 Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

This year I chose 8 picture books and 8 novels. (Nonfiction favourites will be in another post)

First the picture books!

Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies 

A sweet, colourful adventure that allows us to talk about loss in a gentle, imaginative way.

Grandad's Island Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Ida, Always written by Caron Levis and illustrated by Charles Santoso

Full of love. This book honours relationships and reveals all of the emotions in letting go.

Ida, Always  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell with illustrations by Rafael López

Art can change a neighbourhood and pull together community in some beautiful ways.

Maybe Something Beautiful  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Daniel Finds a Poem by Micha Archer

What is poetry? Open your eyes to the world and you will find it.

Daniel Finds a Poem  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and illustrated by Mike Curato

Love is love. Love is love. Love is love.

Worm Loves Worm  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

When Green Becomes Tomatoes Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Julie Morstad

Poetry that lets us meander across the page picking words and images to celebrate. Perfection.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

The Sound of Silence written by Katrina Goldsaito and illustrated by Julia Kuo

The search for silence. Be in awe of the calm and simplicity.

The Sound of Silence  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

 Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith

Follow a little penguin through a largely pessimistic day. Then some perspective happens (mostly) . . .

 A Penguin Problem  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

These novels completely absorbed me.

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar

A lone bee buzzing in your ear. A story wrapped up in history and magic. Believe.

hour of the Bees  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor

A title that celebrates family, community, resilience and strength of character. And one very amazing boy.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook by Leslie Connor  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Captivating. Root for a kid that has much against him and can run like the wind.

ghost  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin

Hope wins. An emotional story of a family coping with cancer treatment and holding it together.

Counting Thyme  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

A 9/11 story. In the midst of loss, shock and pain is connection, hope and love.

 The Memory of Things  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

When Friendship Followed me Home by Paul Griffin

There will be tears. Sadness. Bits of your heart will break. Worth it. So worth it.

when-friendship-followed-me-home  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Full of adventure, wartime atrocities, human kindness and connection. Incredible historical fiction.

Salt to the sea  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Beautiful, emotional and raw. I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.

Pax  Favourites of 2016 There's a Book for That

Please share your own favourites of the year . . .

Wishing everyone a 2017 full of new favourites and lots of reading!

Monday December 19th, 2016

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. This week I have two! Since I will be without students for a bit, I thought I should share an extra one.

This photo was taken about 20 minutes before school began on the last day before the break. Story time led by a Grade 6 student from next door. This scene brings me a lot of joy.

Monday December 19th, 2016

Could this face be any more serious? Which is wonderfully ironic as he had just told me:

“Oh I am just so happy. I finally learned how to speak Cave Man.”

Seriously, this kid! Made my whole day.

Monday December 19th, 2016

And one more self-portrait as I still haven’t recovered from how talented my students happen to be.

Monday December 19th, 2016

We have continued to explore themes for our #classroombookaday titles. This week we read some of my favourite holiday/winter themed books.

Monday December 19th, 2016

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.


On the blog:

I shared the twenty 2016 titles I think a Grade 4 & 5 library must have here

Twenty 2016 titles your Grade 4 and 5 classroom library must have! There's a Book for That

Celebration: A special morning read aloud It’s taken a term and my new school is feeling like home!

Books I enjoyed:

 Penguin Problems by Jory John and Lane Smith

A quietly comical tale of pessimism and getting back on track. Well at least mostly . . .


The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel

We all just need to find our thing. Charming.


The Bossier Baby by Marla Frazee

What happens when baby number two comes on the scene? This. Exactly this.


How This Book was Made written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Adam Rex

Incredibly clever and thoroughly informative. Learn all about book publishing while being completely entertained.


The Artist and Me written by Shane Peacock and illustrated by Sophie Casson

A serious story of how Van Gogh was perceived and treated in a small French town. This book just made me so sad. Would need to be unpacked with kids.


Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre

I am so happy I read this on a very snowy day – it made it all the more magical. And magical it is!


Cleopatra in Space:Target Practice by Mike Maihack

I know this series is going to be very popular in my classroom when I introduce it in the new year. A graphic tale full of adventure, action and Cleopatra!


Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff

Full of delicious magic, sweet honey, the complications of friendship and the stories that weave all around us, this is part adventure, part fairy tale and part testament to the connections we have to each other over a lifetime. A special story, Ms. Shurtliff!


Reading Progress updates:

2016 Chapter Book Challenge: 63/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 334/400 books read

Progress on challenge: 51 books behind! Still can’t break that 50 mark!

#MustReadin2016: 23/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 45/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 47/50 books read

Up next? Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley


Celebration: A special morning read aloud

Yesterday was our last day of school before winter break. It was pyjama day. We had a winter concert in the afternoon. My class brought in some treats to share and we watched part of a Shackleton documentary to celebrate that we finished an in depth read of Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill and spent time studying all things Antarctica and Antarctic exploration.

Students left at the end of the day with candy canes, forgotten lunch containers and their first term report cards. They bustled about in the main hallways tucking PJ pants into snow boots and off they went into the afternoon cold to begin their winter holiday.

But my celebration is not about the end of the day that signified my much needed break. It is about the beginning of my day and what happened in the thirty minutes before our day had even started.

Many students arrived early and leaped about delivering their party treats and admiring each others’ pyjamas. And then the lure of books and reading time happened as it often does.

Maybe it was the coziness of being at school in flannel pants and robes. Maybe it was the excitement of the holidays. Maybe it was just the magic of the early light in the room. Yesterday morning, a student from the classroom next door visited. He planted himself on my stool and read aloud Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins (a title I had shared with the class the day before). He read with beautiful drama and wonderfully hilarious voices.

Celebration: A special morning read aloud

As more students arrived, they joined in with the read aloud experience. Cozy. Quiet. Engrossed.

Celebration: A special morning read aloud

I stood back and just smiled. These moments well before the first bell were a gift. They represented what I have been waiting for. Community. A place for readers. That I belong.

It has been a long journey for me. Searching for “home” after leaving my community of 21 years. I have written about it endlessly in the past eight months. Here and here and here and here and here. I write to process. I write to feel. I write to know.

In those early morning moments yesterday I felt it. I have a new here. This school is now my school. I celebrate this peace. Peace and calm. A room full of books. A room full of students. A room full of reading. A community that is mine.

Happy holidays to all!

Thank you to Ruth Ayres and the #celebratelu community!

Being part of a community that regularly shares gratitude and celebrations truly transforms my weeks.