I read so many wonderful books this year! Most of the ones on this list are relatively new releases, but a couple of them have been out for a while - they were just new to me. I still included them. Picture books are first, then graphic novels, middle grade books, young adult, and finally professional books. There is no way I could whittle this list down to 10 or some other manageable number, however, so here is my super long list of favourite books of 2018:
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena (2016) - not much room left on the cover for more awards
A BIG Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (2018) - love the book cover and illustrations!
Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick (2015) - the conection between Winnie the Pooh and Winnipeg
Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins (2016) - a book of infographics. I can't wait for the next books in this series to be published!
Red Sky at Night by Elly MacKay (2018) - weather idioms and their meanings - beautiful illustrations!
Town is By the Sea by Joanne Schwartz (2017) - Canadian history in a picture book format - beautiful, lots of curriculum connections
Cute as an Axolotl by Jess Keating (2018) - third book in Keating's Weird Aimals series features adorable animals you may not have ever heard of (pygmy hippopotamus!!!!!)
Poetree by Caroline Pignat (2018) - a book of acrostic poetry that is a must-add mentor text for Writer's Workshop
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold (2018) - perfect for the first day of school!
The Composition by Antonio Skarmeta (2003) - how I missed this gem of a book is a mystery to me, but it is absolutely amazing!
Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth (2017) - lovely message and perfect illustrations make this a beautiful gift for a newborn and a must-read on Earth Day
Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie (2016) - this book will garner some giggles from your kids and is great for exploring name origins
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (2012) - beautifully written, this story in verse is about the importance of kindness
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton (2016) - this is just the first book in a series of hilarious early graphic novels for our youngest readers
I'm Sad by Michael Ian Black (2018) - great message about how it's Ok to be sad, told by a girl, a potato and a sad flamingo - funny!
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner (2017) - hilarious! Perfect for ages 7-12
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka (2018) - Powerful memoir about growing up with a drug-addicted mother and absent father - for high school students
Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson (2018) - the modern classic for high school students in a graphic novel form
Middle Grade Novels
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (2017) - what a memorable cast of characters in this funny mystery about finding your place in the world
Don't Tell the Enemy by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (2017) - based on a true story of Krystia, a young girl who saved many in her Ukrainian town during WWII
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier (2018) - how a monster (a golem, really) saved the life of a young chimney sweep (I learned so much about the dangers of being a sweep in the 1800's)
ood Dog by Dan Gemeinhart (2018) - someone once told me if there's a dog on the cover, you're gonna cry. Good advice. This is a remarkable story about a dog that has already died at the beginning of the book but then must go back to save his boy.
Raymie Nightingale by Kate diCamillo (2016) - I laughed and laughed while reading this one - what an amazingly well-written story!
The War Below by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch (2018) - Another book about children in war time - this one tells of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, which operated below the ground during WWII
Breakout by Kate Messner (2018) - how three preteens cope with racism and more during a prisoner breakout in their town - told via images, text messages, poetry, and correspondence
Front Desk by Kelly Yang (2018) - based on the true story of the author as a child, who often manned the front desk of the motel her parents managed, and how they hid illegal immigrants from the mean motel owner
Winnie's Great War by Lindsay Mattick (2018) - another story told by the great-granddaughter of Harry Colebourn, who saved a black bear from a trapper while on his way to fight in WWII, and told from Winnie's point of view
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (2014) - the story of twins on and off the basketball court, told in free verse. The climax will make you gasp! The prequel Rebound (published in 2018), is just as good, but should be read after Crossover.
Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate (2018) - first book in a new series by the author of The One and Only Ivan, a fantasy about the last of a species that includes the message of inclusion and respect for others who are different from us.
The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015) - one of my favourites for sure, about an abused girl sent out of London during the bombing of WWII (make sure to follow up with the sequel The War I Finally Won, published this year)
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016) - memoir by TV personality who grew up in South Africa during and immediately after Apartheid
Strangers (2017) and Monsters (2018) by David A Robertson - the first two books in a supernatural trilogy featuring Cole, a young boy returning to his reserve to solve the mystery surrounding his hometown and his father's disappearance
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014) - absolutely beautiful novel in verse about growing up during the Civil Rights era
Love, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed (2018) - a Global Read Aloud choice about a Muslim American teen and the events surrounding her and her small town after a terrorist attack
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017) - lots of awards for this book too, about how a young girl copes after the shooting death of her friend by a police officer (the movie came out this year too, and is definitely worth watching!)
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017) - one of my favourite YA authors, this novel in verse tells of a teen who meets a ghost on each floor of his apartment building as he sets out to avenge his brother's death in a gang shooting
Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson (2017) - SO AMAZING! You must read this beautifully written story of a young girl and her struggle to make others see her and value her, in a world that values the wrong things
Refugee by Alan Gratz (2017) - this is a message the world needs to hear - another Global Read Aloud choice about three child refugees in different eras, trying to survive the journey from their different countries, for different reasons
180 Days: Two Teachers and the Quest to Engage and Empower Adolescents by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle (2018) - how to plan your ELA year and grab hold of your students' interest
Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Robert Probst (2017) - practical strategies for creating responsive readers
From Striving to Thriving: How to Grow Confident, Capable Readers by Stephanie Harvey and Annie Ward (2017) - how to turn kids who don't like to read into engaged readers
I've been working with a Grade 5 class lately on a poetry unit. We had read and practiced writing acrostic and free verse poetry before I arrived this week. I especially loved the free verse component, and celebrated along with the teacher as the students experimented with similes, onomatopoeia, alliteration, repetition and more. This past week I showed them some forms of concrete poetry, along with various ways to represent their words visually, including filling a shape, creating the line of the shape, and writing words to demonstrate their meaning.
The first step in the lesson involved handing out some examples of concrete poetry. Students had a couple of minutes to read their example, and then turn and talk with the members of their group to discuss all of the examples in their group, and how they were similar and different.
After a class discussion of their findings, I modeled how I might rewrite the free verse poem "The Snowman" that the students and I had written together the previous week:
Three balls of snow,
rolled with love and then stacked,
like glasses in a cupboard.
He stands watch over our yard,
a silent soldier,
his cheerful smile
frozen in place.
The students each chose an idea from our brainstorming of winter topics that we had created earlier in the unit, and began composing. They were very excited to get to the visual representation of their words, and were super engaged to try out various forms. Here are a few samples (with names blacked out):
I'm quite pleased with their first attempts, and can't wait to see what else they produce as they continue to write, revise and share. They still have lots of time to work on this during the week ahead. Their teacher is planning to have each student choose their favourite poem to publish and frame as a Christmas gift. Wouldn't that make a great addition to their home Christmas decor?
Have you ever tried concrete poetry writing with your students? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.
I've just been rereading Book Love by Penny Kittle, a book that deeply resonates within me regarding the necessity of teaching kids to love reading. For this reason, we must make time for independent reading in our classrooms - a time where kids read books OF THEIR OWN CHOOSING, and are not expected to respond to each and every book. A time to promote the love of reading!
Besides encouraging a love of books, independent reading provides opportunity for the teacher to observe students' engagement with their reading, and time for students to practice the reading skills they are working on. And there's one more important aspect...
Independent reading provides time for me to conference with students about their reading behaviours. While the class is reading, I often take this opportunity to have two-minute conversations with students about their books. Faye Brownie calls this the "whip-around" conference. I've taken information from Faye and Donalyn Miller (from her great book The Book Whisperer) to create a record that I use during whip-arounds to keep track of my observations. This form is available for download below.