Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mock Newbery Club: The Results are In!

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow the American Library Association Newbery Award for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children in 2013 will be awarded. It seems like just yesterday I was watching the awards with my class and we all started cheering like crazy when The One and Only Ivan won the award.  The students couldn’t stop talking about the books.  They not only wanted to read the winner (even though I had just finished reading the book as a class read-aloud) they were excited to read many of the other award winners and honorees as well.

This year I decided to try and start that motivation and excitement even earlier.  We kicked off our Mock Newbery Club on October 1st of 2013.  Our goal was simple, to read, discuss, review and rate as many new releases of middle grade fiction as possible in hopes of determining our “winner” for the Newbery Award.  Again, it seems hard to believe as I sit here and tally up the results, that we have reached the final day. I am so proud of our club.  In approximately 2 ½ months, 25 students have read, reviewed, discussed and rated over 66 books!  As of right now (this may be updated if I received more rating sheets on Monday morning) our current frontrunners are:

First place:  (Three-way tie):  Ghost Hawk, Sidekicked, The Wig in the Window
Second Place:  The Whizz Pop Chocolate Shop
Third Place:  Rump:  The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
Fourth place: House of Secrets
Fifth Place:  Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace
Sixth Place:  Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
Seventh Place:  (Two-way tie): Flora and Ulysses and Zebra Forest

Interesting to note, the two most popular books, read and rated by the most students, were Rump and Flora and Ulysses.  House of Secrets and Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library were tied for second.  What motivated the students to read and keep reading all of the books?  First, I’d have to say it was probably the book trailers I showed during our kick-off meeting and next my excitement as I read the books.  I remember reminiscing about my own Nancy Drew antics growing up as I read The Wig in a Window, and telling my students I was too terrified to read House of Secrets at night.  I was positive a skeleton was going to come to life and walk through my door!  Next, author comments on student blog posts and author tweets were hugely popular!  Students couldn’t believe that “real authors” cared about what they thought.   Finally, as the students read more of the books themselves, they became each other’s motivation to read.  They have no idea how much it warmed my heart to hear them recommended books to each other!

We hope to watch the Newbery awards live tomorrow.  With yet another polar vortex bearing down on us, we may have to postpone our in school viewing party until it’s warmer, but I know many of us will be watching from home if necessary!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

All My Noble Dreams and then What Happens by Gloria Whelan

It’s the early 1920s and Rosalind James, “Rosy” to her friends, feels as if she’s living two separate lives.  She a British girl living in India during a time when India, led by Gandhi, is desperately trying to gain their independence.  Rosy feels torn.  She loves India.  She loves the culture, the land, and most of all the people.  She helps her aunts run an orphanage and she has her own little school for Indian children.  She even secretly tutors an Indian girl.  However, Rosy can never forget that she is British and her well-to-do family wants her to behave as a “proper lady”. He father is a high-ranking official in the British Army with great respect for the British monarchy.  Rosy realizes she has a unique opportunity to help India when she is invited to a ball in Calcutta, which the visiting Prince of Wales will be attending.  However, the risks are great if she is caught.  Not only would she disgrace her family, she could be imprisoned for treason.

Historical fiction has always held a certain fascination for me.  I enjoy reading the books, knowing that they are based on actual events in history.  In the Author’s Note at the back of the book, Gloria Whelan shares with us the parts of the story that are true.  The character of Rosy (one of the “imaginary” parts) first came to life in one of her previous novels about India.  Then, after discovering that the Prince of Wales visited India in the 1921, Ms Whalen couldn’t stop thinking about what her character Rosy would had done if she had had the opportunity to meet the prince on his trip.  Hence, this book was born.  Now, after reading the book, I feel compelled to learn more about this time in history.