where all things literacy come full circle…

Archive for the month “December, 2011”

Newbery Challenge!!!


I am going to be taking the Newbery Challenge hosted by Mr. Schu and Mr. Sharp!  This is a challenge from the Nerdy Book Club and is extremely stress free.  Take your time (1, 2, or even 3 years). I currently am working on my National Boards, so this may be a 2 year endeavor. Some of the books may be difficult to get through (like many of the earlier winners), but, I am going to go for it.

You know you will want to join the new nerdy revolution: The Newbery Challenge!

Check out to check out the video introducing this challenge!


An idea…

As a teacher who teaches writing (and many other things), I teach my students to write a great hook to really draw the reader into their stories. If you have ever read 30 different 5th grade stories, they either all sound the same or need help in drawing the reader in. I struggle sometimes in finding great hooks to show my students. I think the best hook of all time is in Charlotte’s Web (White, 1952), (“Where’s papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.) I am going to add the hook to every book that I review, because we all know that books are the best way to teach writing. I hope that this will help all of you as well!

Thought: What are some of your favorite hooks from your favorite book?

A Monster Calls: A Reaction!


A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd


Author: Patrick Ness

Illustrator: Jim Kay

Copyright Date: 2011

Hook: The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.

Summary: At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. (from

Reaction: I found this book through the Nerdy Book Club, which was an Middle Grade winner, and heard a ton of positive praise. I also heard how crushing and emotional the book was as well. I read this book, all 224 pages in a few sittings. When I had the last two chapters left to read, I waited. I couldn’t find myself reading them because I didn’t want to feel Conor’s hurt. I have rarely read a book that has stayed with me after I have read it. This book has.

            The characters in the book are written so well that each character seems real. This is a mark of great writing! You get to know Conor, a young lad who is filled with so much hurt and loneliness that you feel for him. The reader seriously feels for him throughout his journey. The grandmother has a tough exterior she throws around but deep inside she is hurting at the eminent loss of her daughter. You feel for the mum and her pain as she goes through the last few weeks of mortality. I cared and loved these characters.

            The plot somewhat reminded me of a classic story. The classic Dickens’ Christmas Carol with the idea of ghosts showing Scrooge the way to change his life. This story kept coming to mind as I read this story. I am curious if anyone else had any connections to any other book. 

            I hope that everyone will get a chance to read this book. It is a painful journey because you seriously walk beside Conor through his journey. It’s painful, it’s slow, and it’s heavy. And, maybe you will discover your truth as well.


  1. Predict what will happen to Conor after the story ends?
  2. Explain how the monster helps Conor through this journey?
  3. Why do you believe his father shows up during this time?
  4. Do you think being invisible, as Conor was, would be a good thing? Can you think of anyone you may know who is like Conor?
  5. Can you think of any connections of other books or movies that are like this story

Writing: In what ways could you use this book in teaching writing? Character development could be one way. The characters in this book seem so real. Another way is plot development. Another excellent way to teach students is dialogue. The author writes excellent dialogue, which shows character development and moves the story forward, in this book.




I have been thinking since my last post about my reading journey. I attended elementary school in the 1980s. During this time, reading instruction was taught using a basal (it seems that throughout most of the country, we are coming full circle in reading instruction). I was bored to death with the stories that were in the basal and detested in having to answer the questions at the end. I loved going to the library. There, the librarian would do book talks about the newest books the school bought. I was introduced to Hatchet, There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, Help, I’m a Prisoner in the Library, Ramona books, and many more. My goal is to do some Back to the Future posts on books from the past! I believe that the library was a guidepost on my reading journey.

A guidepost is that constant sign pointing you in the right direction. Oftentimes on our journey we take detours or even have steep hills to climb. Detours can take the love of reading out of the individual. What could these detours be? They could be reading difficulties, reading programs, poor models at school and in the home, or any other problem or situation. My hope as a teacher that I don’t allow my students to have detours along their journey to becoming lifelong readers.

Currently, I have been reading various blogs on kidlit and YA lit. There are a lot of great blogs out there. I have ideas of what I want to add to mine that I haven’t quite seen in others. The Nerdy Book Club introduced me to the book (and others) (see picture) called A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. So far, so good. I am excited to finish to see if I can agree with all of the buzz. A review will be coming soon.

I am also new on Twitter, please follow me at johnlit360.

Also, I am working on my National Boards (if anyone out there can give me advice, I am more than willing to accept! 🙂 ) I will be working on both endeavors!  Am I crazy?



My First Post…

Well, this is my first post on this blog.  I have started previous blogs, but the content wasn’t focused and I eventually lost interest!  I really hope to take this to great heights…and write content that will help teachers, parents, students, and readers everywhere.

My journey as a reader…

When I was in elementary school in the 80’s, my learning how to read came from a basal.  I remember hating reading the short stories that were extremely boring!  But, I loved going to the library. The Librarian would book talk new books.  She would hold the book up to let us see the pictures, but she would read while looking at us.  She just mesmerized me as a young kid.  The books she would booktalk are still favorites: Hatchet, There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom, and many others.

Later, I would have teachers who would open the world in books for me.  Because of these teachers, I decided to do the same.  I hope that my students don’t lose the love of reading that I so desperately try to instill in them. I love to go into bookstores and peruse the shelves. My son, who loves to go into Barnes and Noble with me calls it “Toties House” (or Thomas the Train’s House) because not only would he look at books but he would play with Thomas.

I sometimes get worried of telling family members where I want to go.  I am called a Book Nerd…and I am okay with it!  If we are driving down the road, my brother-in-law will say “Oh, he has his ‘Bookdar’ on!”  True enough, I usually can spot a book store a mile away.

This blog will evolve, like I believe most blogs will.  I am currently working on my National Boards, so, with this new venture and boards, I will be pretty busy.

After looking at many blogs, I came across The Nerdy Book Club and found finalists for different categories for the first Nerdies award. Two books I am going to be reading are Breadcrumbs by Anne  Ursu and A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  I am excited for both, but from what I have heard about A Monster Calls, I am a little apprehensive and NOT in a bad way.  I have an aunt who is currently battling brain cancer and this book, unfortunately, will hit home for me.  I am sure I will have some lively thoughts with this book.

Hello world!

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