Read for the Record 2015

Each year, Jumpstart  sponsors a day for readers all around the globe to join their voices in reading the same book. A different book is chosen each year, and this day has become a day that we love to connect with other schools to read the book together.  This year the featured book was Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett and illustrated by Noah Z. Jones.  Jumpstart puts the book online during Read for the Record so that readers can easily access the book to read aloud.  I love having a large full screen version of the book for students to look at while we read alone and with our Skype partners.

Ms. Sandifer’s Kindergarten class started our day by reading the book with me on our projection screen.

I loved hearing the students make noticings about the images that weren’t included in the words.  We also had fun making predictions before we turned the pages such as when a tree branch is making a noise outside but we got to guess before we found out.  One student thought it would be a zombie!

Next, Ms. Kelly’s Kindergarten class (my daughter’s class) came and connected with Jennifer Reed and her 3rd graders in Newton, MA.  We had fun looking at a map before the call and learning that we were connecting with students over 1,000 miles away. Our students also got to introduce themselves to one another.

Jennifer’s students did choral readings of pages, while I read most of our pages with Kindergarten students joining in for words they recognized.  Students were amazed that Jennifer Reed and I know each other in real life and will get to see one another at the AASL conference in Columbus this November.

Finally, Ms. Choate’s Kindergarten class came to the library to enjoy a live Google Hangout with Kelly Bennett reading Not Norman and sharing the answers to several questions about being an author and getting ideas for writing.

This was a great addition to the event to allow many classes to enjoy hearing the author.  We wish there had been more interaction between students and the author, but it was fun listening in to her voice and ideas.

There’s still time to participate in Read for the Record.  You can read the book for free online today and count you and your family in the numbers toward the record.

Little Elliot Big Family: A Visit with Mike Curato

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We have been excited since the very beginning of this year about author/illustrator Mike Curato visiting our school.  Thanks to Henry Holt, a division of Macmillan, and Avid Bookshop, our local independent bookshop, Mike visited all of our Prek-2nd grade classes.  We all read Little Elliot, Big City during library orientation this year, so we were super excited to meet the person who created it.

On field day, students created a massive window display of Little Elliot and cupcakes.  They worked for 30 minutes designing their own special cupcake.  They also added dots to a collaborate Little Elliot.  Many volunteers worked to get all of the cupcakes and elephants onto our windows to celebrate the author visit.

The display has been so much fun to look at and watch students searching for their dots and cupcakes.

It was a busy time at our school during the visit because it is also our fall book fair.  Instead of having our visit in the library, we moved everything to the cafeteria stage.

Students enjoyed a reading of Mike Curato’s new book Little Elliot, Big Family.

Mike had the book’s pages displayed on the large screen so that students could easily see what he was reading from the book.  They were mesmerized by the story and were such careful listeners.

After his story, Mike shared some slides and stories about how he works as an author and illustrator.  Students saw sketches beside finished artwork as well as a time lapse of a drawing being created.  He also showed students pictures of how Little Elliot has changed through the years.  He has been drawing him for several years, and he has gone through some changes along the way.  We also saw sketches of some of Mike’s early artwork, which was a wonderful connection for our young learners to see how work they are doing right now could inspire a future career or hobby.

Students even got to see the cover of next year’s Elliot book Little Elliot, Big Fun.

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Next, Mike worked with the entire room to create 3 pages of a new story.  He wrote a sentence to start the story: “Elliot went to school”.  Then, he drew Elliot on the page and let the students take it from there.  They suggested things to add to the picture and Mike added them in.  For the next 2 pages, Mike took suggestions from the audience about what Elliot should do.  Students decided he would read a book and go to lunch.  Once again, Mike added details to the drawing that were suggestions straight from the audience.  The best part was that we got to keep the 3 drawings to enjoy in our library!

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Finally, students got to ask questions.  Mike jumped right out into the audience with the students to take their questions and give thoughtful answers.  The kids were so attentive during the whole process.

Before Mike left, he took time to sign all of the books purchased by students.  Our incredible PTA bought a copy of each book for every PreK-2nd grade classroom, so he signed those as well.

He also took time to look at the big window display and marvel at the students’ creativity.  If you ever get the chance to have Mike Curato at your school, don’t hesitate.  He was wonderful and the kids and teachers have talked about it all day.  Be sure to check out both of his Elliot books, add them to your home and school collections, and enjoy the many positive messages that your sure to take after reading the books with kids.

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Thank you Mike Curato and Avid Bookshop for a wonderful day!  We can’t wait to reconnect once the Polka Dot Express arrives at our school soon!

Our Wonderful, Marvelous, Miraculous Visit with Cassie Beasley & Circus Mirandus


The magical day finally arrived.  After 3 weeks of school, lots of circus photo booth pictures, invented tickets to Circus Mirandus, and many pages read, Cassie Beasley came to our school!  The students have been buzzing with energy all week long.  They’ve repeatedly asked, “Is today the day that she’s coming?”


Thanks to our PTA every 3rd-5th grade classroom got a copy of Circus Mirandus and 20 additional copies were given away to students who added their name to our raffle by taking a picture or making a Circus Mirandus ticket.  I announced all of the winners on our morning broadcast.

Hannah and Will from Avid Bookshop arrived early and helped setup all of the books for autographing.  We worked together to place post its in all of the books to make the signing smooth.

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When Cassie arrived, it was so much fun walking her down the halls of our school through our Circus Mirandus tent and looking at our display of photo booth pictures.

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We also took time to look at all of the tickets that students submitted and admired the student choices and how long each ticket was valid.  We smiled at the crown of Artemis and how the student thought it should be good forever because it was a goddess crown.

Today was Cassie’s very first school visit, but you would not have known it without her saying it.  She engaged the energetic students with a timeline of her life to show how she was a real person who first thought writers looked like people like Gandalf.  Students connected with her as she told the story of how she was so engaged in reading while in school that she completely missed a fire drill.

She shared with students how it took 2 1/2 years to write Circus Mirandus, even though the first draft was written in a week.  They saw pictures of her overflow bucket of revisions and heard about her filing cabinet which stored all of the drafts and notes.  Cassie even showed notes from her sister that were being scribbled onto her manuscript up until the final stages of the book and how she continued to see things she had missed and added them in.

Students saw that even though Cassie has a book in print that is getting tons of buzz she is still working hard.  She gave them some insight into the projects she is currently working on and how she covers her tables at home with notecards, ideas, and manuscripts.  She wants to think about each character and spends time getting to know each one on a notecard.

Cassie showed students lots of evidence of how her life makes its way into her writing.  We saw a picture of her black tea that is just the way Aunt Gertrudis likes it and her parrot which was the inspiration for Chintzy.

There were just so many nuggets of information that Cassie shared with the students to inspire both their reading and their writing lives.  I can’t wait t see how this early author visit inspires student work throughout the year.

Cassie left plenty of time for questions, and wow…..students had some profound questions.  One student asked about what Cassie does to make herself keep going with her writing.  The student explained how she often starts writing but never finishes it.  Cassie shared how it is sometimes hard to keep going, but you just have to make yourself sit down and write.  She reminded about how she can change what goes onto the paper, but she makes herself get something down.

Our students gave her a thunderous applause, and students who won a book or purchased a book stayed behind to get books signed.  These students continued to talk with Cassie.  I just love how authors have a celebrity status in the eyes of readers.  So many students just wanted her to sign something for them, and Cassie was wonderfully pleasant the whole time.

Before Cassie left, we had a bit of fun in our circus photo booth.

I have to send a huge thank you to Cassie for taking time to visit our school.  Thank you Avid Bookshop for working diligently to make this connection happen and for helping the book selling and autographing process go so smoothly. Thank you Dial Books for Young Readers, a Division of Penguin Young Readers Group for supporting Cassie’s visit to our town. Thank you PTA for being such a supporter of our library programming and believing in our students and teachers.  We believed in this author visit, and we certainly saw a bit of magic today.



Creating Hype for an Author Visit: Circus Mirandus


We are over the moon with excitement that Cassie Beasley is coming to our school on September 3 thanks to her, her publisher Penguin Random House, and Avid Bookshop.  Sometimes author visits happen at the last minute, but this one has been in the works since the summer.  I read the book and fell in love with the story.  Even before I was done, I was talking with Avid Bookshop about the possibility of Cassie coming to our school.  We created a proposal together, and many emails and conversations later the visit was scheduled.

As a part of my proposal, I suggested that our PTA would buy a copy of the book for all 3rd-5th grade homerooms.  The book would be available to students to read or the teacher could even read it aloud.  I’m excited to say that our entire 3rd grade is reading the book aloud and many of the 5th grade classes are starting it. During our library orientation, I read aloud the beginning chapter of the book as well as the beginning of the chapter starting on p. 65 which details how Ephraim first made it into Circus Mirandus.  We learn that you can’t pay to get into the circus but must instead offer something of your own to the ticket taker.  For Ephraim, it’s a fish from his boot which results in a week-long pass to the circus.

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Reading from the book is enough to create hype because it’s just that good.  However, a circus theme as well as the contents of the book lend to some other fun opportunities for students to engage with the book ahead of the author visit.  Our wonderful PTA also bought 20 additional copies of the book to be given out at our discretion.  I’ve decided to give 10 of these away to students who participate in 2 opportunities in the library.


The first opportunity is to think about what your ticket into Circus Mirandus would be.  I’m encouraging students to either make, bring in, or even take a picture of the object they would offer as their ticket.  I made a short ticket template for them to fill out with their name, ticket description, and how long they think the ticket would be good for at the circus.

We are displaying these on the tops of the library shelves.  When they turn in their “ticket”, I give them a ticket to put their name on and drop into our fish bowl.

The second opportunity is a photo booth.  I made a backdrop of red with quotes from the book.  I covered a table and cushion with a gold tablecloth and filled an empty Mariah Carey perfume container with fuzzy pom poms to look like gum balls.  Then, I ordered a set of circus photo booth props from Oriental Trading.  I put all of this together and included the wearable books from Capstone which contain beards, hats, masks, and teeth.  If students take their picture in the photo booth, then they earn another ticket into the drawing for a book.  I plan to print out the photographs and display them on the library windows.

Before the author visit, I will draw out 10 names and announce the winners so that Cassie can autograph the book for them.

Along the way, I’m tweeting about our fun and tagging Avid Bookshop, Cassie Beasley, and the publisher so that they can all follow along in the fun.

I have some other special decorations in the works, which I plan to complete this week.  I’ll keep those under wraps for now.

I’ve been emailing with Cassie and planning the visit.  I know that it is truly going to be a magical experience for us all when she comes.

Expecting the Miraculous with Cassie Beasley & Circus Mirandus

I’m drawn to powerful words and stories, and over the summer, my eye was caught by the cover of Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley.  I had seen the book getting considerable buzz, but even without the buzz, the cover, with its cutout top hat and hidden world beneath the tent, caught my eye.

The back cover slogan, “You have to BELIEVE IT to see it”, spoke to me.  In fact, it spoke directly to our motto in the Barrow Media Center to expect the miraculous every day.  In our library, we believe in everything that we attempt.  We don’t always know what is going to happen, but we know that if we believe that we can do something, then miraculous things will happen even if they aren’t exactly what we thought would happen in the first place.

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This summer I visited our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop, and picked up my copy.

I only had to read a few words to know that I was holding magic in my hands.  Circus Mirandus is about a magical circus that only is visible to the people who believe in it.  In fact,  you can’t even get into the circus with a regular ticket.  Entry is different for each person who comes because each person has a different purpose for being there.  Micah Tuttle’s grandfather tells him fantastical tales of the Circus Mirandus and Micah first thinks these are only stories.  Granpa Ephraim becomes very sick and says that the magical Lightbender from the circus has promised him a miracle and he is doing his best to make sure the miracle is granted.  Micah realizes the circus is more than stories and makes it his mission to find the circus and bring the Lightbender to his grandfather to grant his miracle.  This book has the magic of Peter Pan, Wizard of Oz, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, and more.

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When I read, quotes stand out to me.  Sometimes there is a single quote from an entire book that resonates with me.  I often tweet it out.  It happened this time, too.  One quote stayed with me:

I won’t give away how this quote fits into the plot of the story, but for me, it reminded me of how every day in our library we expect the miraculous.  It reminded me that often times there are very small magical things that happen even though I may pulling my hair out, dwelling on all the things I haven’t accomplished, and thinking about all of the things that went wrong.  However, it’s those small, magical moments that stand out.  It’s those small magical moments that are the most important and remind me why I press on.  It’s those moments that remind me the importance of empowering the voices of our students.

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Even Cassie’s dedication in the book reminds me of the importance of empower our students to believe that they can do anything they set their minds to.  She writes in her dedication:

“For Daddy and Mama.  When I was little, you told me I could do anything.  I’m not so little now, but you keep saying it.  I’m starting to think you really believe it.  I love you for that.”

I didn’t even have to finish Circus Mirandus to know that I wanted my students to experience the book and that I wanted Cassie Beasley to visit our school, but when I did finish, I knew that she had to.  When I read that she lives in “rural Georgia”, I immediately emailed Rachel Watkins at Avid Bookshop to learn more.  Between me, Rachel, and Janet Geddis, we began a conversation about what an author visit would look like and started talks with the publisher and author.  It took some time, but in my heart, I really believed that Cassie Beasley would come to our school at some point this year.

Just a few days ago, we got the confirmation that Cassie will visit our 3rd-5th grade on September 3 at 1:00.  She will also do an in-store visit at Avid Bookshop.  As part of my proposal, I said that I would introduce the book to all 3rd-5th graders and would also get a copy for every 3rd-5th grade classroom to use as a read aloud.  I love Avid Bookshop, because they got us our 10 copies for the classrooms just in time for school to begin.

Students will have an opportunity to pre-order her book for signing.  We are also purchasing additional copies of the book to give to classrooms thanks to our wonderful PTA.  You are probably wishing that you could also get your signed copy.

If you are in the Athens area, visit Avid Bookshop on September 3 from 4:30-5:30PM.  If you can’t make it to Athens, you can still get your autographed copy.  Just visit Avid’s website to order a copy.  Make a note that you would like to get your book signed, and they will ship your book to wherever you are!

We look forward to meeting Cassie Beasley in our school on September 3.  Expect to see lots of tweets and pictures during the event and a full post afterward.  I highly encourage you to read Circus Mirandus.  Your life will be rewarded!

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Kicking Off Summer Reading with a Visit from Author Sarah Weeks

A few weeks ago our local independent bookshop, Avid Bookshop, emailed me with an opportunity.  Sarah Weeks, author of Pie and many other great books, was coming to Athens, and they wanted her to visit our school.  Hooray!  I try to jump at every author visit I can get.  For the visit, I needed to presale some books, which I always do, but this time we wanted to try something new and crazy. I’ve always wanted to do a school wide read, but I have never gotten the idea off the ground.  I saw this as a perfect chance to try it with a smaller number of students rather than the whole school. This author visit focused on upper grades. Our 5th graders would be gone to Skidaway on a field trip, so 3rd and 4th grade would be the classes coming to the visit. Rather than asking every student to buy a copy of the book, I decided to try a GoFundMe campaign to raise enough money to give every 3rd and 4th grader a copy of Pie as well as buy a few copies of Honey to give away to a few students.

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In just under 1 month, 28 donors funded our project.  These donors included community members, grandparents, families, and friends from around the country.  Thank you to each one of these donors who made this crazy idea a reality.

When Sarah Weeks came to visit our school, I got to make the exciting announcement and tell them about the 28 people who took time to donate money to the project.  I also told them that the deal from me is that I want each one of them to read Pie.  I want them to share it with families and spend time talking about it.  I also want them to make things together like family recipes or even pies.  My hope is that they will document this over the summer on a Padlet.

Sarah Weeks was phenomenal in her visit and I highly recommend her to any schools looking for a great author visit. She built so many frequently asked questions into her talk such as “What was your first book?”, “What is your current book?”, “Do you get writer’s block?”, etc.  Each question was answered with slides filled with great photographs, personal stories, and lots of funny moments.  The students laughed so much at Sarah’s stories about boys painting their fingernails, kids doing puppets shows through the shirts, and dogs joining.

She talked about a story arc and had students moving their hands to show the flow of a story through beginning, middle, and end.  She also told them a story about a cowboy on a horse in the airport and paused along the way to point out what part of the arc she was in during the story. What a great connection to what they are learning in writing class!

She showed them the many revisions that her work goes through and how important it is to listen to her editor. She connected this to all of the notes that students see on their writing papers and stressed how they needed to listen to their teachers’ comments because it helps make the writing better.

Sarah has so many books that she couldn’t talk about them all.  She started with books like the Oggie Cooder books and how he charves cheese into the shapes of states.

We had one student who knew every state she showed a picture of!

Sarah’s two new books are Glamourpuss and Honey.  She treated the students to a full reading of Glamourpuss and the high-energy students were mesmerized.  I loved how she showed Honey to the students.  She showed several slides with single words that helped students know some things the books was about, but then she showed students several characters from the book along with text from the book that gave the students a taste of the character.

Then, she showed the students how she had to do research to learn about how nail polish is made.  This story connected with a great story about how some girls in a library were painting their nails and several boys were very curious.  The librarian at the school hosted a nails at noon session in the library and it was attended by mostly boys who painted their nails and posed for some fierce pictures.

I couldn’t believe how much Sarah packed into an hour long presentation.  There was even time for Q & A.  She was engaging, funny, and a pro at keeping the student’s attention.  I loved getting to hang out with Sarah Weeks even for a brief time.  She is a fun person and a talented writer.

Thank you Avid Bookshop and Scholastic for bringing her to our school. Thank you to all of the donors who got Pie into the hands of all of our kids.

As I went to car riders today, I saw several students in the hallway already reading their books while they waited.  That’s what it’s all about!

It was a really fun day!



Give Our Students Some Pie (by Sarah Weeks)

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We have a wonderful opportunity at our school.  Author Sarah Weeks is coming to visit on May 8th to promote her two new books Glamourpuss and Honey.  She is also author of the amazing book Pie.  

From the book Pie:

From the award-winning author of SO B. IT, a story about family, friendship, and…pie!

When Alice’s Aunt Polly, the Pie Queen of Ipswitch, passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily fat, remarkably disagreeable cat, Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

Suddenly, the whole town is wondering how you leave a recipe to a cat. Everyone wants to be the next big pie-contest winner, and it’s making them pie-crazy. It’s up to Alice and her friend Charlie to put the pieces together and discover the not-so-secret recipe for happiness: Friendship. Family. And the pleasure of donig something for the right reason.

With Pie, acclaimed author Sarah Weeks has baked up a sweet and satisfying delight, as inviting as warm pie on a cold day. You’ll enjoy every last bite

Some schools in our district benefit from the amazing Books for Keeps, which gives 12 books to every student in the school to read over the summer.  We don’t benefit from this program, and I have always wanted to give students something to read over the summer.

We have never done an “On the Same Page” or “One Book” event at Barrow, but this seems like a great time to try getting lots of our students reading the same pages over the summer.  We would love to give every student in 3rd and 4th grade (rising 4th & 5th graders) a copy of Pie to read over the summer.  We will have lots of online ways to talk about the book over the summer and a celebration of the book when we return in August.

For now, we have a bit of urgency.  We need to raise enough money to purchase these books from our local independent bookstore, Avid Bookshop. We have created a GoFundMe campaign to raise $1000 over the next month.  We expect the miraculous, so we truly believe that this opportunity will be miraculous for our students and we will miraculously raise the funds.

Any amount helps.  Please consider donating a few dollars to get books into the hands of our summer readers.  Click the picture below to visit our GoFundMe campaign.