Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The big 10K

Illustration by Sarah Windisch
At some point this week, the Teacher With Tuba blog reached 10,000 pageviews! It's hard to believe I've been able to share with so many of you over the last two years. Before I joined Twitter and started blogging, reflection on my work as a teacher was an entirely private activity. I didn't believe the things I did were worth sharing to a larger audience than the students in my classroom. Then I saw this:

I realized that sharing makes all of us better. I've learned so much through reading others' blogs and discussing the posts I've written. Thank you so much to everyone who reads the Teacher With Tuba blog and interacts with me. It's helped me and my students to reach greater heights. I look forward to continuing to learn together for a long time to come.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Recent reads

Christmas break is a great time to recharge my batteries, reflect on how the first four months of the school year have gone, and re-tool for the rest of the year. This year, it was also a great opportunity to read some of the middle grade books that have generated a lot of buzz this year.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

The most checked-out books in my classroom library are graphic novels, so I'm always on the lookout for good ones with well-developed characters and engaging story lines. Roller Girl did not disappoint. This story of a girl's first experience with roller derby during the summer between elementary and middle school is one of the best realistic fiction graphic novels I've encountered. I especially like how the protagonist, Astrid, demonstrates perseverance through the trials of roller derby camp. It also deals with many of the changing friendship issues that I see kids encounter as they transition to middle school.
I can think of a lot of my kids who I'd recommend this to. I have a feeling that I won't get the chance, though, because it will fly off my shelf before I can.

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

I was intrigued by Circus Mirandus since I first saw an image of the cover almost a year ago. I've heard great things about it since, but I didn't know what to expect when I started reading it. The story follows Micah Tuttle as he sets out to find help for his dying grandfather by finding the magical circus from his grandfather's stories.
I loved the way this story showed the love between a boy and his grandfather through the stories and experiences they shared. The scenes at the circus created a nice blend between realistic fiction and fantasy. I really enjoyed reading this, but felt like there was a little unfinished business at the end of the story that left me unsatisfied. Still, this is one I will heartily recommend to students. I this is a book that could get some of my single-genre readers to broaden their horizons.

The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This book was a surprise. I just recently heard about it at #titletalk and on a couple end-of-the-year favorites lists. My public library had it in their digital check-out library, so I gave it a try. The War that Saved my Life  may be the finest young-adult historical fiction I've read. Born with a club foot, Ada has been isolated from the world by an unloving mother. When the children of London are evacuated to the countryside as the threat of German bombing raids increases, Ada is able to start a new life when she and her brother are taken in by a reclusive villager. The author uses Ada's lack of experience with the outside world as an opportunity to thoroughly explain historical concepts that will probably be unfamiliar to young readers.
As good as this was, I won't be able to add it to my classroom library. There is some strong language near the end that will keep it off my shelves. Still, it's a terrific book and I wouldn't be surprised if it won this year's Newbery Medal.

I hope to read a lot more middle grade books in the coming year. My school library recently ordered some of the other buzzed-about books from 2015, my to-read list from my classroom library is long, and there are sure to be some to add to my list in 2016. I look forward to hearing what my students and PLN recommend!

Purchases made at my links to Amazon provide me with a small compensation that I use to purchase more books for my classroom library. Although I greatly appreciate purchases made through my links, I encourage you to support a local bookstore if you have one available.