Category Archives: library

Holiday reading

With some much needed time spent resting after the whirlwind that was the Wonderful World of Reading, today I decided to load up my virtual bookshelf in anticipation of all the free reading time I’ll have once Thanksgiving and Christmas break approaches (that’s minus the eating and #shoppingsmall and socializing time, mind you.)

NetGalley is such a lifesaver, especially when you:

a) are awake at 4am on a Sunday and can’t sleep
b) want a diverse collection of titles to read for personal and professional purposes
c) realize the bag of books you’ve been meaning to read are in the trunk of your car and it’s 30 degrees out at 4am…and raining (finally, California!)
d) have a cat sleeping by your side that wouldn’t take kindly to your getting out of bed, thank you very much.



Boy oh boy, it was such a nice surprise to see that THIS title, not available until May 2017 was available for request:



That’s Ben Clanton’s second book in the Narwhal and Jelly series: Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt. If you’re looking for a fantastically optimistic and fun book to share with young ones, in the vein of Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie series, you must, must, MUST read this.

If that doesn’t sell it, take a look at how cheery and happy the main character is:

Courtesy of

Courtesy of

Sadly, I have to patiently wait for the powers that be to approve my request so that I can infuse my day with a dose of Narwhal cheer. But for the record, I’m such a fan that I *may* be taken as someone who is somewhat, mildly obsessed with the book.

Not a stalker, really

Not a stalker, really

That’s me working to get the first book into the hands of young readers everywhere, and me dressing up as Narwhal for Halloween, and me succumbing to Narwhal and Jelly’s mentioned treat of choice in book #1 (a waffle maker is on the Christmas wish list now, thank you Mr. Clanton).

Can you tell that I really, really like the book?


Notwithstanding the great news about Narwhal, I did pick out a few other titles that I’m excited about sharing:

NetGalley shelf 11/20/16 #1

NetGalley shelf 11/20/16 #1

NetGalley shelf 11/20/16 #2

NetGalley shelf 11/20/16 #2

The first of which ties into a post I made a while back about my challenge to myself regarding mindsets & salads, and I wish I had this book in my hands to encourage me:

Salad in a jar by Anna Helm Baxter (Jan 2017)

Salad in a jar by Anna Helm Baxter (Jan 17, 2017)

The book is my kind of cookbook: simple and straightforward without a whole lot of storytelling, and the photos by Victoria Wall Harris are gorgeous.

For starters, the table of contents utilizes plenty of white space (thank you, designers) and the book is split into 5 sections: dressings, raw food, small jars, big jars and sweet endings.

A short introduction follows, and it covers the types of jars and other equipment needed (spinners, peelers, mandolin). After that are two pages of what I anticipate will be highly pinned images: page 9 showing how to layer the salads and page 11 with a list of the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.

Then you have the recipes. Take for example, the breakdown of the Southeast Asian salad. The ingredients are spread out in front of you with a photo shot from above so you see everything needed at a glance. Turn the page and the salad is assembled, with notes at top on the health properties of the salad, and notes below on how to assemble: simply genius!


Ingredients! Photo courtesy of Ten Speed Press


Assembled! Photo courtesy of Ten Speed Press

With 68 recipes included, there’s no shortage of ways to prepare a delicious salad, and there’s even a section for those who are looking for a sweet treat following a salad.

THIS gal will be studying up on the book for the upcoming vegetarian Thanksgiving (2 in the party that are vegetarian, but everybody skips on meat, another story for another day) and I’m hoping…perhaps there will be a follow up on noodle soups in a jar? I also downloaded The Pho Cookbook by Andrea Nguyen, and judging from the photos within (it’s a storytelling cookbook folks), the content looks detailed and intricate and amazingly delicious.


The next series of books I downloaded come from First Second Press, a publisher that’s been growing in my estimation. I read about the Science Comics series via the Horn Book Guide and flipped through their recommended Coral Reefs title with a smile as I found it was beautifully drawn and informative. This morning, while browsing NetGalley, I found three more to add to the collection: Bats, Plagues, Flying Machines.

Each page is intricately detailed, and the panels contain such great information that I can’t wait until they’re published to share them with students.

Courtesy of First Second Press

Bats: Courtesy of First Second Press (Feb. 28, 2017)

Flying Machines: Courtesy of First Second Press

Flying Machines: Courtesy of First Second Press (May 23, 2017)


Plagues: Courtesy of First Second Press (Aug 29, 2017)

Tremendous Thanks

The Wonderful World of Reading has come and gone which means there’s a few days to breathe before Thanksgiving.

Many thanks to the hard work of the Book Fair Chairs who put in countless hours to ensure everything ran smoothly, and to the committee of dedicated volunteers.

As ever, Tremendous Thanks go to the wonderful authors who always go above and beyond to make their visits special.

David Shannon & the naughty eyebrow

David Shannon & the naughty eyebrow

...Shredderman! (We sold out!)

Wendelin Van Draanen talking Shredderman! (We sold out!)

Thank you, Mr. Shannon!

Thank you, Mr. Shannon!

Thank you, Ms. Van Draanen

Thank you, Ms. Van Draanen

Hope lives

Hope lives

4th grade Q’s for Ms. Van Draanen

Not to be outdone by 2nd graders, today the 4th graders and I read through another riveting chapter of Shredderman (he’s on the roof!!!) and then we prepared for questions after I read the short blurb about Ms. Van Draanen on the back jacket flap.

Perhaps the primary question was how to pronounce her last name, because you know, it’s hard to properly say hello to an author if you don’t know the right way to say their name.

Next up, a question unrelated to writing:

I think the boys are intrigued by the mention of an author playing in a band:

Sari had a question I wanted to ask:

And then there was a question on timing:

All told, we’re so looking forward to the visit!

Questions for author David Shannon

In preparation for David Shannon’s return visit to MJS this November, I had students practice their questions for him. It was a hectic Tuesday as we had a lockdown drill, and a group of 8th graders unattended for a good portion of the period, but the 2nd graders really rallied and came up with wonderful questions.

We first re-read A Bad Case of Stripes, a book that can keep their attention no matter how many times they hear it. Then, we reviewed what a question is and is not, something I may need to work with K and 1st graders on as they’re at the age where they just like to share random facts about themselves. I had students partner up and brainstorm questions with a classmate and alternated taking videos of students asking their questions either by themselves or part of a group. Here are the questions they came up with!

Great job, 2nd grade!

What are you reading? (9/16)

Currently Reading

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

I’m currently making my way through Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart which is a novel I want to deliberately take my time with. It tells the story of Timothy McGrother who wants more than anything to start eighth grade as Lily Jo McGrother. And then there’s Norbert Dorfman who has just moved from New Jersey and is dealing with bipolar disorder and a hidden secret, something to do with his father and why he moved.

I’m doing what Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature calls Reading Without Walls. He’s challenged us to read in one of three ways:

  1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or doesn’t live like you.
  2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about
  3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun (chapter book, graphic novel, book in verse, picture book, hybrid book, etc)

I shared the challenge with students during our book talk on Monday, and am tackling 1 and 2 in the challenge above. So far, the book is tough. My heart aches for Lily Jo and I’m holding my breath as to what Norbert has done, both to fit in with the boys at school and with (or to?) his family.

It’s not an easy book, but I didn’t expect it to be. Reading outside of my comfort zone opens my eyes to other perspectives that I would otherwise be blind to. I’m ever so grateful for authors and their bravery at tackling a topic, bringing it to light and showing others, yes, this is life.

Norbert (aka Dunkin) has just made the final cut for the basketball team. Page 148. The next chapter is called “It’s Time To Go”

Deep breath.

And read.

September 20-23: David Shannon

In preparation for visiting author David Shannon’s return to MJS, we’ll be discussing his books this week in grades K-2. His latest book, Duck on a Tractor, was met with giggles and smiles, and there were several gasps when I showed the classic, A Bad Case of Stripes.

3rd grade this week will continue with fictionalized biographies: last week we read about Louis Braille, Chris Hadfield and Millo Castro Zaldarriaga. This week, we’ll learn about Ruth Bader Ginsberg and the man who invented the super soaker: Lonnie Johnson.

In 4th grade, we’ll continue to dive deeper into Fish in a Tree and consider the mindset of Ally Nickerson, a kid who’s struggling with dyslexia. The students have peppered me with questions about dyslexia, so maybe some research is in order. One thing’s for certain: I can’t wait to introduce them to Mr. Daniels and how he eventually changes her mindset.

September 19: Middle Grade Book Talks

The book shopping overflowed into Monday this week, with 7th and 8th grade students getting the gift of selecting their own book of choice. Instead of the usual 5-10 minutes I’ve given students at the end of the period to look for a book, I opted to extend the browsing period to 20 minutes, much to the agreement and delight of students.

To start, I created a Pinterest board to highlight some of the titles I’d be sharing, then printed out and read reviews from several different websites of the books I haven’t read. On Friday, I chatted with the lovely Steve at Vroman’s and asked for his recommendations and then skimmed through the books I hadn’t read to a) see if the review matched the writing of the book and b) see if there was that hook that engages any reader: me or the students alike. Over the weekend (nursing what I can only hope is a sore throat and nothing more), I sat and read. And read.

What did I recommend?

Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson
Students in the past have recommended Anderson’s Sidekicked, so when I heard he would be at nErDcampMI and that he had a new book out, I had to give it a try. On a week long trip in Seattle, I sat and read his book on the Link light rail, chuckling to myself and looking like a crazy person (albeit one that really enjoyed her book).

Ms. Bixby

Reading in Seattle with a Piroshky!

A heartwarming story, Ms. Bixby’s last day shows the length that three sixth grade students will go to in attempts to recreate the Perfect Day of a teacher that’s one of The Good Ones: the teacher who makes school enjoyable, the ones you want to go back to and say hi to.

Anderson sported a very lovely tee that I wanted for my own when autographing the book, and he wrote that the students need to watch out for the toilet sharks. Shamelessly, I used that as a hook to get them to read the book. “But Ms. Lin, what’s a toilet shark?”

“Well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.”

Frawsome shirt Mr. Anderson!

Frawsome shirt Mr. Anderson!

Sticks and Stones by Abby Cooper
Another title from my voyages at nErDcampMI, I likened this book to David Shannon’s A Bad Case of Stripes, only when things are said about the central character Elyse, words pop up on her arms stating exactly that. When young, Elyse sees words like “cute” or “adorable” on her arm, but navigating through sixth grade, things get a little tricky. She comes to find that often, it’s not so much what others say about her, but what she thinks of herself too.

Not surprisingly, students dove for this book when set free to shop (I had to jump aside!) and it’s one that will appeal to many going through life as a middle schooler.

Loving vs. Virginia: A documentary novel of the landmark civil rights case by Patricia Hruby Powell (Jan. 31, 2017)
In the small, close knit community of Caroline County, Virginia, two teens meet, fall in love and challenge the law forbidding interracial marriage in the 1950s.

Told in gentle verse that alternates between the perspectives of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving, readers come to see how their love develops and become witness to the many challenges against their relationship. Strangers scowl and make comments when they’re together on a date. The sheriff follows Richard’s car as he drives home keeping a close eye on him and who he’s with. Interspersed with the verse are documents detailing the headlines during the civil rights era, a heightened call for justice and equality for all.

I told students I read this book because it reflects my life. My brother married his wife who is from the Netherlands and my sister married her husband who is from England. It is hard to imagine that their marriage would be considered illegal had not the laws been overturned — the most recent in 2000, which is not too long ago. Windows and mirrors. It’s important for readers to find books that reflect their worlds.


Bro & Claire


Tim & Sis

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
A book soon to become a major motion picture (directed by Steven Spielberg!)  this is one that adults and teens alike can share — especially if both are fans of the 1980s and video games.

The year is 2044 and the world is bleak. Resources have been depleted and living life is simply rough. The one saving grace is OASIS, a virtual world created by James Halliday who, upon his death, sets forth a challenge to users of OASIS: find the hidden easter eggs within OASIS and you get to take over my multi-million dollar empire.

Written with the utmost attention to detail, this is  a book steeped in reality with a great mix of science fiction. Referencing an array of old school video games and movies of the 80s, I found myself fact checking details and diving deeper into the world of gaming and films of my past.

The first video game easter egg. Truth.

The first video game easter egg. Truth.

One caveat: the novel is fraught with profanity but a mature reader will focus on the story arc which is fast paced and riveting.

Tales of the Peculiar by Ransom Riggs
A perfect tie in to the movie that’s just been released, this series of short stories may capture the attention of even the most reluctant reader. Continuing with the theme of the strange and peculiar, Ransom Riggs presents 10 stories that are utterly splendid to read.

Short stories find you, or do you find them?

Short stories find you, or do you find them?

Short stories have always held a spot in my heart. In the summer during my last year in high school, I chanced upon a series called, Best American Short Stories and fell in love. For the next 5 years, I proceeded to read each and every issue I could find. Having read them,  I attempted a story writing class in college where we discussed the mechanics of writing and how, often writing a shorter story was even more difficult than writing a longer one (microfiction!). Butler, Prolux, Jin, Diaz, Schoemperlin, Wolitzer, Moore, Jones…my library of the future will need a sizable shelf to contain this series.

The Reader by Traci Chee
In a world where reading is unheard of, Sefia has a book, the only clue to her missing aunt, the same item that led to the death of her parents. What is the rectangular item? What power does it contain?

A debut book that’s the first in a series, astute readers will notice the smudged sentences, ink stains blotting out words and the message cleverly hidden within the page numbers of the book.

Personally, I was fascinated by the premise: a world where reading is forbidden….now that would be terrible.

September 12-16: Book Shopping

So what are we going to focus on in the library this week?

Over the summer, I was fortunate enough to take part in nErDcampMI, where during day two of the un-conference, I was granted the gift of sitting in a session for over an hour to do nothing but simply read. It was something of a revelation when I discovered: I’ve been in this profession for close to ten years and this was the first time I had a chance to not only chose what I wanted to read but was also given the time to read.

While I strongly agree with other librarians that it’s important that kids read for pleasure, I’ve become more aware of how I need to give students the time to browse and select books they find interesting. Often, when engaged in reading with lower school students, or book talks with middle school students, I’ll share snippets about books I’ve come across and am passionate about — but it’s just ME doing the sharing and I’ll allot at most 5-10 minutes for students to look for a book.

That’s really not a whole lot of time to carefully select a book that we expect a child to invest a good week or two with, when you think about it.

I was introduced to Carter Higgins at a CAIS conference a few years ago and Pernille Ripp recently as part of nErDcampMI. Both have opened my eyes to how I want to change my approach in sharing the joy of reading with students.

To circle back to the question in paragraph one: this week, we’ll be discussing how you judge a book by its cover. As much as we claim we should not do it, there are certain ways that books are designed to draw your attention. I’m curious as to what students pick up on (colors? fonts?) and what they feel draws them into a story.

We’ll be, to borrow a phrase, going book shopping.

On reflecting on the upcoming week, I’ll be merging two of the worlds I’m passionate about: books and design. I’m excited to share how a certain color can evoke a certain mood, how illustrators work to give hints about what may occur in a book, how sometimes, a cover is incredibly deceptive and how you may gravitate towards a book precisely because of the illustrations on the cover.

For our kindergarden students, this is a significant first step in a long road ahead for not just developing book selection skills, but associating the printed word with a positive or negative response.

Cover. Color. Fonts. What’s shown in illustrations (or what’s not shown). How the illustrations are drawn. What the illustrations evoke and suggest.

We’ll be taking our time to explore this week, and I’m so looking forward to it.


Sample covers (images forthcoming):

Grades K-2
• Fiction/Non-Fiction
“Cats” and words describing how each look
•Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
•Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin
•Ballet Cat by Bob Shea
•Cat in the Hat by Seuss
•Puss in Boots by Charles Perrault
•Skippyjon Jones by Judy Schachner
•Chester by Melanie Watt
•Mr. Wuffles by avid Wiesner

Grades 3-4
Judging a book by a cover as related to individuals — My Teacher is a Vampire by Mary Amato and Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

•Ada Twist Scientist (review)
•Marisol McDonlad Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown
•Round is a Mooncake by Jenny Thong
•Alvin Ho series by Lenore Look
•Maddie’s Fridge by Lois Brandt
•The Hundred Dresses byEleanor Estes

Middle School
Cover design color, content, fonts

•Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
•My Life with the Lincolns by Gail Brandeis
•Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
•These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
•Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (old vs. movie version)


Books read during our first week back at school

There were so many wonderful books that I read over the summer and was eager to share with students. Below is a short list of the titles that really captured and engaged them on their first week back at school.

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex


Not only do we have to get ready for school, but imagine if a school came to life and had to understand what it’s like to begin that very important first day of school.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña


The winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal, this is a wonderful book to share about the power of positivity,  diversity, and treating everyone with kindness.

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Ada Marie is endlessly curious and wants to learn more about the world around her. A great tie-in for our new D-Lab and all the creations soon to be undertaken, students recognized characters from Beaty’s other titles (Ida Peck, architect. Rosie Revere, engineer).

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk
dragonBack in the days when people wrote letters and mailed them out by hand, there was something known as “pen pals.” In this book, our pen pals write to each other in rhyme AND discover something unusual about each other.

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett

Written when a student asked the author how a book was made, this book provides a great in-depth look at the book creation process (idea, collaboration, printing, shipping, reading) and has students separate fact from fiction.

Pink is For Blobfish by Jess Keating


A wonderful non-fiction title that shows a world of PINK animals, you’ll be amazed at some of the creatures that sport pink in nature.