I am a WINNER!


Have you heard of ARC books?  ARC stands for Advance Reader’s Copy.  I have always wanted to be one of the lucky ones to receive ARC books but finding out how to get your name on the right list can be difficult.  Before today I only had one ARC book on my shelf…this copy of Saving Mr. Terupt (that I got at the local YMCA).

Today my luck has changed!

Today I got an ARC of Christmas Puzzles Minkie Monster Saves Christmas.


The author graciously sent me an ecopy of this text (the 4th in her series) along with links to two other Minkie Monster texts: Minkie Monster and the Birthday Surprise and Under the Sea Puzzles:  Minkie the Monster and the Lost Treasure.

Now, ARC’s do come with strings attached.  You must promise to read the text and provide an honest review on Amazon and any other social media outlet you may belong.  Here is my review for Christmas Puzzles:

When Minkie Monster goes to the North Pole to meet Santa he finds a note that says, “Sometimes we all need some time alone I might even…turn off my phone!!!”  

With the help of a young reader Minkie fills in for Santa and saves Christmas for everyone!  Puzzles in this book become increasingly harder and include tracing, coloring, and dot-to-dot.

The author cleverly provides a link in the book so the text may be downloaded and the puzzles may be completed again and again by your favorite little reader.

Want a sneak peek of the Minkie?  Visit the author’s website MinkieMonster.com to get a free children’s e-book.  Disclosure:  I received a free ecopy of this text from the author in exchange for my unbiased review.

Want to get your own ARC?  Here’s how I did it:


Go to: https://www.librarything.com/er/list

To request books: Click “Request it!” next to the books you’re interested in reviewing. At the end of the giveaway period, you will receive a comment on your profile page letting you know whether you’ve won a book or not.

Questions? Try the Help page or the rules

Each month a new batch of books is available for you to volunteer to review.

Here is another way to get FREE books:


Go to: https://www.librarything.com/er/list?program=giveaway

To get books: Click “Request it!” next to the books you’re interested in. At the end of the indicated giveaway period, winners will be randomly selected. You will receive a comment on your profile page letting you know whether you’ve won a book or not. The flag icons indicate which countries the book can be shipped to. Authors may request that you review the book, so look for “Recipient is asked to provide a review in exchange for this book.” at the top of the book description.

To give away books: Instructions on how to give away your books are here.

Questions? Try the Help page or the rules.

Good luck in getting your requests fulfilled!

If you know of another way to get ARC books let me know!


A Warriors Birthday


A standard book I like to recommend to any student who starts talking to me about cats is Warriors – Into the Wild.  It is the first book of MANY in the Warriors series.

I must confess that my knowledge of the book series comes not from reading the books but from my daughter who is a Warriors expert.  Here is a photo of her Warriors bookshelves (please note that two books are on loan…she was very upset I took the picture of the set incomplete):

In May my daughter decided that the theme of her 12th birthday was going to be these Warriors books.  This meant I was in need and in store for some serious schooling about this series. Since my daughter was born in July we are fortunate to have the time to make her birthday party a grand event we host at our house.  Previous book themed parties we have hosted were Skippyjon Jones (7) and Harry Potter (10).

Every party begins with an invitation.  We printed the Riverclan Warrior call to meeting on the outside of each invitation.  On the inside we ask our guests to pounce on over to celebrate her 12th moon and become a Warrior.  The party was to begin at 3pm with pick up at 7pm.


Upon arrival girls met grandma cat at a table and she invited them to choose cat ears, tail, and name prefix…yes, there is an entire naming process in the books.  We gave girls a two page list of possible prefix ideas.  Once chosen girls worked on a few duct tape crafts including decorating a notebook and making feathers.

Once everyone had chosen a name we wrote them on the back of white Tshirts and had the girls sign each of them with their Prefix.  My daughter chose warrior names for her friends but we covered those up with painters tape until the warrior ceremony at the end of the party.  Erin Hunter (the author of the series) website has iron on transfers you can download for each of the cat clans (there are 5) so we iron on the Riverclan symbol on the front of each of the shirts.

IMG_5714I learned in the books when cats are born they are given a prefix (such as shade) then the name endings change as they get older.  Shadekit would be a cat who is younger than 6 moons (months), then she would become Shadepaw as an apprentice cat, and then at 12 moons she would be given a warrior name.

With all the shirts decorated I called the apprentice ceremony to order.  Here is the ceremony from the book:

Apprentice Ceremony
The Clan Leader calls a Clan Meeting to appoint a new apprentice and assign a mentor to him/her.  The following words are used, by tradition:
Leader: (Kit), you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. From this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as (new name, ending with ‘paw’). Your mentor will be (name of warrior or medicine cat). I hope (name of warrior or medicine cat) will pass down all he/she knows to you.
The leader calls up the warrior he/she has chosen as a mentor.
Leader: (Warrior), you are ready to take on an apprentice. You had received excellent training from (former mentor), and you have shown yourself to be (quality) and (quality). You will be the mentor of (apprentice), and I expect you to pass on all you know to (apprentice).
The mentor touches noses with the apprentice and the Clan greets the new apprentice by calling out his/her name.  After this, the apprentice will usually go greet their family.

During the ceremony each girl was assigned a mentor (an adult) and given her shirt to wear.  Girls then read over the warrior code that was printed in their notebook.

The Warrior Code
1. Defend your Clan, even with your life. You may have friendships with cats from the other Clans, but your loyalty must remain to your Clan, as one day you may meet them in battle.
2. Do not hunt or trespass on another Clan’s territory.
3. Elders and kits must be fed before apprentices and warriors. Unless they have permission, apprentices may not eat until they have hunted to feed the elders.
4. Prey is killed only to be eaten. Give thanks to StarClan for its life.
5. A kit must be at least six moons old to become an apprentice.
6. Newly appointed warriors will keep a silent vigil for one night after receiving their
warrior name.
7. A cat cannot be made deputy without having mentored at least one apprentice.
8. The deputy will become Clan leader when the leader dies or retires.
9. After the death or retirement of the deputy, the new deputy must be chosen before moonhigh.
10. A gathering of all four Clans is held at the full moon during a truce that lasts for the night. There shall be no fighting among Clans at this time.
11. Boundaries must be checked and marked daily. Challenge all trespassing cats.
12. No warrior may neglect a kit in pain or in danger, even if that kit is from a different Clan.
13. The word of the Clan leader is the warrior code.
14. An honorable warrior does not need to kill other cats to win his battles, unless they are outside the warrior code or it is necessary for self-defense.
15. A warrior rejects the soft life of a kittypet.

There are 5 different cat clans in the warrior books: ThunderClan, WindClan, RiverClan, ShadowClan, and StarClan.  Each clan has different habitats and characteristics.  After the Apprentice Ceremony I went over the different clans with the girls and the girls actually took notes in their notebooks on the differences.


Next we went outside to play some RiverClan games!  Girls were separated into partners and then two teams.  To practice their scent and tracking partners went on a mouse hunt to find Easter Egg mice we hid all over the yard.  Next partners were given a paper bag and 15 minutes to find as many items on their list as possible.  This was to help them with respecting the environment.  Then it was on to battle training.  Here girls participated in a variety of water balloon activities.  Finally we separated them into two teams and they played a form of capture the flag.  Each team hid a colored toy mouse instead of a flag.

The girls were hot after all the outside activities so we moved on to swimming fun!  We gave them an hour in the pool to practice their cat swimming skills.  Plastic bath toys were lined along the side of the pool and each toy had a number written at the bottom of it.  Every 15 minutes I told the girls to grab a toy and if  the number I read matched the bottom of their bath toy then they got a small prize.


Next we fed the girls pizza and sang happy birthday!  My daughter made and decorated her birthday cake:


For the final event we performed the Warrior Ceremony and revealed each girls final name.  Here is the ceremony straight from the books:

Warrior Ceremony
Once the mentor is satisfied with the apprentice’s progress and skills, he or she recommends them to the leader of the Clan. Then, the apprentice must pass an assessment, when their abilities as a warrior are checked.  In cases when the apprentice has just made an important contribution to the Clan, the leader may decide that there is no need for an assessment.  If the Clan Leader is satisfied, he or she calls a Clan Meeting and calls the apprentice.  The following words are used, by tradition:
Leader: I, (Leader), leader of (Clan), call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. (He/she) has trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend (him/her) to you as a warrior in (his/her) turn.
Leader: (Apprentice), do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?
Apprentice: I do.
Leader: Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. (Apprentice), from this moment you will be known as (new warrior name). StarClan honors your (virtues), and we welcome you as a full warrior of (Clan).
The leader rests his or her muzzle on the apprentice’s head, and he or she licks the leader’s shoulder. the rest of the Clan then greets the new warrior by calling him or her by their new name.  The warrior will sit a silent vigil guarding the camp that night.

And here I am trying to figure it all out so I can lead the ceremony (I am still an apprentice):


In the end it was another great party!  Several girls left loaning books from my daughter to read.  I certainly know more about the series and will continue to recommend the books to kids.  I find 5th graders seem to like them the best but more advanced 3rd and 4th grade readers enjoy them too.  My daughter learned about them in 3rd grade and read 3 of them then, she read a few more in 5th grade, and finished the entire series in 6th grade.  There is also a series about dogs (Survivors) and bears (Seekers) but I am told they are not as good or as many.

Where Has The Summer Gone?

IMG_0652When I last blogged I was packing my bags for a week in Florida.  I was able to spend time with my family and finally conquer my fear of the TOWER OF TERROR!  I hadn’t been on this ride since it was changed from one drop to multiple drops way back in 1996.  That is me in wearing the black shirt in the front row.  I learned that my 20 year fear of this ride was unwarranted and it just held me back from some good times.  Isn’t that usually the lesson we learn when we finally get the nerve to conquer our fears?

So here is how the reading went on this trip:


This book continues to be the buzz on Twitter and other literacy blogs and it continues to get glowing reviews.  There are many parts of the book that are great…and then there are two parts that make me hesitate recommending this book to elementary children.

The first chapter of this book is amazing.  It is fast paced and funny.  I LOVED the explanation of the six types of teachers in the world.  The story moves quickly into the boys quest to give their beloved teacher the good-bye party she deserves.  Here are the two things about this book that I wish I would have known before I read it:

  • On p. 107 Brand tells of the mascot his family made up for April Fool’s Day: “The April Fool’s Jackass, a magical donkey who would sneak through your windows on March 31st and dump a basket of goodies in your bed.”  The word Jackass is then sprinkled through the next couple of pages.  Funny?  Yes.  Appropriate?  I don’t think so.
  • On p. 157 the tooth fairy is not written upon in a positive way to children: “Adults are always telling you you can be whatever you want when you grow up, but they don’t mean it.  They don’t believe it.  They just want you to believe it.  It’s like a fairy tale.  Like the tooth fairy…”  I will let you read the rest on your own.   I personally believe in the magic of the tooth fairy and would not want children who are not ready to read on.

I am surprise that other educators have not mentioned these two events in their reviews. Am I being too cautious?  Let me know your thoughts.


While Ms. Bixby’s Last Day was fast paced….Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children was S. L. O. W!  I had the audio version of this book and even listening to it on 2x speed didn’t even help.  The main character doesn’t arrive to Miss Peregrine’s house until halfway through the book.  This is Mystery and then Fantasy book complete with time travel.  While it wasn’t my cup of tea I am sure there are plenty of readers out there who cannot wait to see the movie coming out on September 30th.


If you can only buy one Donalyn Miller book, this is the one you should choose!  Why I like this book better than her first book, The Book Whisperer, is because more research is sprinkled throughout the text to support her teaching decisions.  I loved so many of the ideas mentioned such as having book doors, students planning of future reading, and To Be Read lists just to name a few.  I will be looking to get a paper copy of this text soon!


I was able to get my unplayed podcast down to 0 and discover a new Podcast called Found.  In Found they share letters that have been found lying around and try to track down the original authors…sometimes 20 years later!  So fun.  Oh, and today I just subscribed to a few more Podcast after seeing this post.


So, that leaves one text that I packed that I did not get to!  Ah…The Armor of God remains on my To Be Read list.

How is your summer reading going?

Packing My Bags…Again!

For my second trip of the summer I am packing light…just two paper copy of texts:


I CANNOT WAIT to read is Ms. Bixby’s Last Day.  It came in the mail on Monday and I have been saving it for my trip.  What I know about this text is that 3 boys tell the story of their teacher getting very sick and the party they will stop at nothing to have her experience.


The second paper text I am taking is my new Bible Study books The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer.  Many ladies at my church have already started working through this book so I have some catching up to do!

I have two LONG audiobooks to listen to:


I was on a waiting list at my local library for Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children for  3 months before I finally got this text!  I believe it is so popular because the movie is coming out very soon.  The book hasn’t grabbed me in yet and I am on chapter 5 (of 11) but I am still holding out hope!


In the middle of July I will be at a conference where Donalyn Miller will be speaking.  Reading in the Wild is the second book she has published.  I am interested to hear what new insights she has from her first book which stressed the importance of independent reading.

Finally, I have 10 unplayed podcasts to listen to:

I will write about the texts I finished when I return!  Happy Reading!!!


Do you know about Donalyn Miller’s Book-a-Day Challenge for educators?

This challenge has actually been going on for 8 years but I am just discovering it.

Here are the guidelines as stated by Donalyn:

  • You set your own start date and end date.
  • Read one book per day for each day of summer vacation. This is an average, so if you read three books in one day and none the next two, it still counts.
  • Any book qualifies including picture books, nonfiction, professional books, audio books, graphic novels, poetry anthologies, or fiction—children’s, youth, or adult titles.
  • Keep a list of the books you read and share them often via a social networking site like goodreads or Twitter (post using the #bookaday hashtag), a blog, or Facebook page. You do not have to post reviews, but you can if you wish. Titles will do.

Want to know more about the challenge?  Click here.

You can find my #bookaday list on Goodreads.  Goodreads is a great site that keeps track of what you have read and provides space to include what you thought about each book as well.  Follow me on Goodreads here.

I have a long list of books I want to read this summer!  Most of the titles have come from recommendations posted on Nerdy Book Club or other teach Blogs that I follow.  I used to try to buy all the books that looked good but now I check them out of the library (both audio and text versions).

This week I finally got two audiobooks I had to wait a LONG time for.  These are definitely YA books:

ClickHandlerThis book is about a boy who has severe anxiety.  For 3 years Solomon’s anxiety has confined him to his house.  Then a young girl Lisa attempts to cure him.  The text is written from both Solomon’s and Lisa’s perspective switching off between chapters.  This is definitely a YA book as Lisa discusses the desire to have sex with her boyfriend and Solomon comes out that he is gay in the book.

thDumplin’ is overweight high schooler living in Texas where football and the yearly beauty queen pageant are the talk of the town.  This book is filled with typical YA topics fights with friends, boyfriends, death, bullies, sex, and sexuality.  Dumplin’ starts a revolution when she applies to be in the beauty pageant.

I gave both of these books 3 stars (I liked them) but I would not recommend them to anyone below high school.

Will you accept the #bookaday challenge?  Let me know!


The Absolute Value of Mike

thWhat should you do as a teacher if you find a great book BUT it has a tad bit of inappropriate material in it?  Should you…

  • keep the book to yourself and pretend you never read it?
  • share the book with adults only?
  • save it for unique students?
  • share it widely?
  • write the author an angry letter?

That is the problem I have with the book I recently read titled:  The Absolute Value of Mike.  Mike is a 14-year-old that gets sent to live with distant relatives for the summer and learns a lot about himself in the process.

What is GREAT about this book:

  • The Characters – The characters in this book evoke emotion.  They are an odd and diverse group that keep you wondering what they will do (or not do) next.
  • The Chapter Titles – Each chapter is cleverly named after a math term (formulas, regroup, compatible numbers, etc.)  with the definition provided.  It was fun to use these titles to predict what might happen and then reflect why each chapter was given that term.
  • The Message – The main character learns a lot of important life lessons in this book.  My favorite quote is: “I looked at the other sign on Glady’s desk: We Promise You Absolute Value!  Absolute value?  That was the only math term I understood.  It’s when you take something and it becomes a positive.  I always liked that idea.  It was as if there were hope, even for me” (p. 72).

What is NOT great about this book:

  • The 3 Letter Words
    • The old joke about what happens when you assume something is shared in the book.
    • The Eye Associates of Pennsylvania sign really reads: YE A$$ of Pennsylvania
    • Moo asks Mike if his father has talked to him about $ex.
  • Some of the Descriptions
    • Mike’s description of Glady’s chest
    • Mike’s thoughts about the reporter’s looks

So, what should I do now…hide the book or share it?

When You Reach Me

th-4My daughter recently purchased When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.  She said that several of her friends had read it and told her it was “good.”  It received 4.6 out of 5 stars on Amazon and won the 2010 Newbery Award so I thought it must be good too.

We read the 200 page book together in less than 24 hours.  This book is leveled at F&P W and DRA 60.  It is a mystery book about a 6th grade girl who keeps getting these strange notes hidden just for her.  The notes ask her to write a letter back but doesn’t tell who she should write the letter to or what she should say.  Thankfully by the end of the book all the mysteries are solved and you learn who wrote the notes and why.

My daughter LOVED the book!  (I guess that is what is important…although she also watches a lot of science fiction movies and TV shows with her father which I think helped her to enjoy it)

I was not a fan.

Now, normally I can envision how to use a book in lots of ways in the classroom.  Not with this book.  My only thought is if you have an above grade level reader who enjoys mysteries and perhaps science fiction then suggest this book to them and see what they think when they are finished.  I feel like I would learn A LOT about a reader who could discuss this book with me when they were finished.