Summer Whatever Wednesday= Summer Reading Postcards #4 & 5

Whatever Wednesday — a chance to post something I’ve seen that I’m diggin’. Though often a cool quote or poster, it might simply be a picture.

Enjoy!… and consider posting your own Whatever.

If you’ve been following along, you know that students have started mailing back that Summer
Vacation is for READING postcards that I passed out to them at the end of the year. I posted on Postcard #1 and #2 & 3. Last week, two more came in. Thanks to Connor and Stephanie for following through. Let’s have a look shall we?





More info here.



Read up on it here.



More info here.

Patterson has great, interactive sites for his books. Enjoy.


Patterson interviewed on NPR. Check out what he had to say.

And you may want to follow his YouTube channel for gems like this:



[This last one is just for you, Connor. ]





Read the summary here.

You can also visit the author’s website.

2. [See first postcard]



Here’s the book summary.….
And a trailer for a movie based on the book:

Isn’t this FUN? Keep those postcards coming. And don’t forget to send me your summer picture of you reading a book. Mail to:

The Genesis of #Chompsticks Week

A bunch of teachers posting pictures of themselves eating treats with chopsticks while reading…




Wait… what?

It was just some summertime Nerdy Reader-type fun that turned into:


How did it all get started? Quite simply, like this:

**cue Wayne’s World dream sequence sound effect**

It was a pleasant summer day–the sun was shining brightly, the birds were chirping in the treetops, and a sweet breeze was blowing–when someone in Twitterville dropped the question: How do I eat my spicy Cheetos while I’m reading without getting my pages messy?

That’s all it took. After much banter, we decided that chopsticks were the messy snack solution for serious readers. And to prove it, we were going to dedicate a week to daily snapping and sharing pictures of ourselves eating with chopsticks and reading a book. People put their own spin on it (Light Saber chopsticks, anyone? Feeding pets?). Some of us involved our families. The meme is open to interpretation.

Here are some samples from last year:










Each evening I collected the Tweeted pics (found using the hashtag #chompsticks), collaged them, and tweeted the final product.

Good, silly, readerly fun.

Sherry (@LibraryFanatic), Maria (mselke01), and I would like to continue the tradition we started last year by running the second annual #chompsticks week from August 1st through August 7th. Getting involved is simple: chopsticks + food/snack + book —>> snap a picture. You can do it daily or just once or anywhere in between.

1) Include chopsticks and any type of treat! Include your current read, and anything else you want to add your own flair to the fun.

2) Tweet a photo with the tag #Chompsticks and be sure to mention @davidaetkin

3) If you are on Instagram (use #Chompstick and post to Twitter) or tumblr or another SM service, feel free to share your photo there, too! Maybe we’ll get more folks to join in the silly.

4) If you are not on Twitter and want to get involved (or know someone else who does), you can send your pic to the extra special email address:

4) If you are feeling super ambitious, gather up all your photos at the end and blog ‘em! Hey, there are more serious things you COULD post on your blog – but sometimes silly needs to win out. Help yourself to the #chompsticks badge above. (And let us know when you post–we’d love to see.)

Happy Chompsticking!


Heading into last summer I gave out a SUMMER VACATION IS FOR READING postcard to each student. One design option has a beach scene and one has a camping scene. The return rate wasn’t great last year, but I didn’t let that deter me this year. I again printed, cut, and passed them out. You know why? It gets ME excited, and is cool for the students who decide to respond. I tried not to count–or take personally–the postcards that were dropped on the floor or in the classroom or hallway accidentally left behind. I received the first postcard last week.

The 2nd and 3rd postcards recently arrived in my mailbox.

They were a nice break from the yardwork I was doing.

Sooooo–let’s start out (alphabetically) with Amanda’s:






Night would be a great companion to:



* * *

And now for Ilona’s books:






{I don’t know this book, but I do love me some Dan Santat illustrations.}

The First SUMMER VACA IS FOR READING Postcard arrives

Heading into last summer I gave out a SUMMER VACATION IS FOR READING postcard to each student. One design option has a beach scene and one has a camping scene. The return rate wasn’t great last year, but I didn’t let that deter me this year. I again printed, cut, and passed them out. You know why? It gets ME excited, and is cool for the students who decide to respond. I tried not to count–or take personally–the postcards that were dropped on the floor or in the classroom or hallway accidentally left behind. And here is why:

The first postcard recently arrived in my mailbox.

There was much rejoicing.

Here is the Postcard from Samantha L.:



Before we take a closer look at her three books, just a reminder that this is the same Samantha who made a video response to The Wig in the Window after she read the ARC that Ms Kittscher sent me.

And here is a picture of Sam and her friend/classmate/my former student Julia at Yankee Stadium where they BROUGHT THEIR BOOKS to pose for this summer reading pic:

I’ll even pardon Sam’s Cowboys hat this one time (did you see the bat she’s holding?). Julia is reading The Testing. Many students were very excited about reading it after seeing the trailer.

It does this teacher’s heart good to see pics n’ postcards like this. For every student who says, “I’m not reading this summer!” there are students like these. Ahhhhhh….

So–the books.

Book one needs no introduction in the YA reading community:


Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Winter 2012 Kids’ Next List
“A cancer support group might seem like an unlikely place to meet your true love, but for Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters the stars align and these two sweetly cynical souls find each other at an interesting moment in their lives. In a story brimming with mystery, humor, and lots of love, Hazel and Augustus show readers that life is made up of a million moments worth noticing — much like a night sky filled with stars.”
— Julie Wilson, The Bookworm, Omaha, NE

TIME Magazine’s #1 Fiction Book of 2012!
“The Fault in Our Stars is a love story, one of the most genuine and moving ones in recent American fiction, but it’s also an existential tragedy of tremendous intelligence and courage and sadness.” —Lev Grossman, TIME Magazine

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning-author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love

I wouldn’t recommend this book to a seventh grader… but I’m sure curious how Samantha liked this.

• • •



Selected by Indie Booksellers for the Winter 2012 Kids’ Next List
“Every Tuesday, the castle presents Celie with a new adventure by adding onto itself. Sometimes it’s a new room; other times it’s a tower. But no matter what it is, you can bet Celie will be there, adding to one of her maps. It’s all fun and games until her parents, King and Queen Glower, are ambushed and are gone without a trace. Now it’s up to Celie, her siblings, the Castle, and its love for them to protect the kingdom from outsiders. I loved how each step Celie took in the castle led to a new surprise and an exciting revelation!”
— Clare Nelson, The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop, Fort Atkinson, WI

Tuesdays at Castle Glower are Princess Celie’s favorite days. That’s because on Tuesdays the castle adds a new room, a turret, or sometimes even an entire wing. No one ever knows what the castle will do next, and no one-other than Celie, that is-takes the time to map out the new additions. But when King and Queen Glower are ambushed and their fate is unknown, it’s up to Celie, with her secret knowledge of the castle’s never-ending twists and turns, to protect their home and save their kingdom. This delightful book from a fan- and bookseller-favorite kicks off a brand-new series sure to become a modern classic.

• • •


A wonderfully whimsical debut that proves ordinary people can do extraordinary things

In the mountain town of Remarkable, everyone is extraordinarily talented, extraordinarily gifted, or just plain extraordinary. Everyone, that is, except Jane Doe, the most average ten-year-old who ever lived. But everything changes when the mischievous, downright criminal Grimlet twins enroll in Jane’s school and a strange pirate captain appears in town.

Thus begins a series of adventures that put some of Remarkable’s most infamous inhabitants and their long-held secrets in danger. It’s up to Jane, in her own modest style, to come to the rescue and prove that she is capable of some rather exceptional things.

With a page-turning mystery and larger-than-life cast of characters, Lizzie K. Foley’s debut is nothing short of remarkable.

You can have a little fun looking over the author’s website.

§ § §

And that, my friends, is that–the first SUMMER VACATION IS FOR READING postcard recap. If you’re a reader of this blog and would like to send me a postcard, email me at and I’ll send you my address. You can also send me a picture of you reading in a fun, summer location. I’ll include the picture in my end-of-summer/beginning-of-school slide show. Make sure we can see the cover of the book :-}

Happy summer reading, y’all!

7.15 It’s a SUMMER Monday! What are you reading? #MoreThanThis #MilkOfBirds

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?—Summer Version


Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 10.31.35 AM

{I just made this little graphic.Feel free to borrow.}


Description from IndieBound

From two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness comes an enthralling and provocative new novel chronicling the life — or perhaps afterlife — of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this.

{I don’t know how to talk about More Than This without giving too much away. I’m involved in an on-line discussion about this book because clearly I’m not the only one pondering and questioning and wondering about its meaning. I DO know that Ness is a fantastic author. His topics are thought-provoking and inspiring. There is a lot to still discuss and discover.

PS—This is not a book I would recommend to my sixth-grade readers due to the complexity and some mature content.}

Description from IndieBound

This timely, heartrending novel tells the moving story of a friendship between two girls: one an American teen, one a victim of the crisis in Darfur.

Know that there are many words behind the few on this paper…

Fifteen-year-old Nawra lives in Darfur, Sudan, in a camp for refugees displaced by the Janjaweed’s trail of murder and destruction. Nawra cannot read or write, but when a nonprofit organization called Save the Girls pairs her with an American donor, Nawra dictates her thank-you letters. Putting her experiences into words begins to free her from her devastating past—and to brighten the path to her future.

K. C. is an American teenager from Richmond, Virginia, who hates reading and writing—or anything that smacks of school. But as Nawra pours grief and joy into her letters, she inspires K. C. to see beyond her own struggles. And as K. C. opens her heart in her responses to Nawra, she becomes both a dedicated friend and a passionate activist for Darfur.

In this poetic tale of unlikely sisterhood, debut author Sylvia Whitman captures the friendship between two girls who teach each other compassion and share a remarkable bond that bridges two continents.

{This was a very moving book. I was originally interested in it because of how it ties in with A Long Walk To Water, which I read aloud this past year and which the whole sixth grade is talking about reading aloud next year.

This book is geared to slightly older readers, for sure. If you can imagine some of the atrocities that a young woman might deal with in Southern Sudan during a civil war, you can guess why this is a more mature read. (See the link below from the Teen Reads site for more info.)

That being said, the relationship between Sudanese Nawra and her American counterpart K.C. is very touching. It starts off cold, mostly due to the academically challenged K.C.’s hesitation to write. But things heat up quickly, and their long-distance friendship and care for one another is touching. I was totally wrapped up in both their letters and the narration of what was happening in their day-to-day lives outside the letter-writing. To hear what Nawra had to deal with in her life makes my problems seem inconsequential—what my wife now calls “first-world problems”. Witnessing the previously distant K.C. moved to action by Nawra’s plight—while also learning about herself as a learner and thinker—was very cool.

I’m hoping we can find some students with that energy in the coming year.

One of my favorite aspects of the book is how Nawra writes the wise sayings of her culture in her letters—and how K.C. internalizes them and reuses these saying in her letters back.}

Screen Shot 2013-07-15 at 2.17.58 PM

“You should not carry eggs and iron in the same basket.”

“A sandalwood tree perfumes the ax.”

Here is a more complete review of the book from the Teen Reads site.

The author also has a site:!the-milk-of-birds

•     •     •
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Today is Thursday THIRSTday: A beverage and a book.

Photo Jul 04, 8 39 33 AMHappy July 4th, everyone. I hope you have a little time to read and drink on this special THIRSTday. I’m looking forward to my cup of coffee and starting one of these books (after a run in my new sneakers). Milk of Birds will tie in with A Long Walk to Water and I just received the digital ARC to Patrick Ness’s More Than This. I’m a little excited.

Now—how do we keep it from raining on fireworks tonight?


The Mighty Lalouche takes my class by storm

Since posting this, author Matthew Olshan has visited this blog to view the comments students made about his book. Here is the email I received from him.

Hi David,

I found your amazing blog early this morning as I was trawling the Web.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful use of Lalouche. I loved your students’ comments — especially Tahron G.’s, which may be the best comment in history! Actually, I appreciated all of the comments. Many thanks to Kenny, Angela, Nick, Colin…and to the unattributed student who mentioned the use of simile. In fact, the caliber of the student critiques blows away the stuff I’ve been reading by grownups on Goodreads.

It’s wonderful to hear from students, and thrilling to know that clever teachers like you are using the book to advantage in the classroom.

My hat’s off to you. (Not to mention my booties.)

All the best,


For me—and I hope for my students—that is a thrill. I frequently remind the students how cool it must be for authors to get real student feedback after spending so much time on a project. Authors are real people. And for sure it’s cool for US to hear from authors. Authors are ROCK STARS. Thank you, Mr. Olshan.

Now… back to the original post…

•    •    •

I was fortunate to be on Twitter one night when Random House Children’s Books asked if anyone wanted a copy of the then-upcoming The Mighty Lalouche by Matthew Olshan; illustrated by the award-winning Sopie Blackall.

Ummmm… YES! (please)

When it was delivered to me at work (is getting book packages at work not one of the coolest things?), I was excited to share it with my students. Before I got the chance, author Matthew Olshan wrote a Nerdy Book Club post giving a bit of a sneak peak at Lalouche and some of his opinions about mail.

I could tell that my students weren’t sure what to think about the book when I introduced it and began, but by the end they were quite excited. Be sure to check below for some of their comments. It was my students who pointed out that the illustrator signed my copy— wow!


Along the way I showed them the illustrator’s site for the book. In one word: AMAZING. Blackall used the Japanese paper diorama style called tatebanko. She demonstrates the painstaking process on her site, and also gives some background for the book and preparation. Don’t miss it.  [Maria Popova did an extensive feature on Lalouche on her site, Brain Pickings.]

[click the picture above to see the animation]

Matthew Olshan also has a website where he includes some further information about the book (including his use of the “B” word in this book… HAH!).


About Matthew Olshan’s writing:

  • Mighty Lalouche fighting those three guys in the beginning was hilarious! Especially after all of them were sitting in the corner sad.   —Kenny M.
  • I liked how the author used background about French boxing. It made the story a lot better!   —Angela G.
  • I thought the book was for little kids, but it wasn’t when we read it, so you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.   —Nick T.
  • Very funny! I think it’s the best of the books and comics and short stories. This is going to be the best book in history!!!   —Tahron G.
  • In the writing and pictures, Lalouche doesn’t seem like a boxer without the words describing him. When Lalouche was comparing Anaconda to the mail stuff the author used simile.
  • I think the book was elegant and delightful how she made Lalouche so wimpy looking, but mighty and strong.  The end of the story kept me on the edge of my seat.   —Colin R.

About Sophie Blackall’s artwork:

  • I liked how the pictures looked after you spent all that time making them. They turned out really nice and I like how the Anaconda wore pink tights.     —Ilona L.
  • I liked all the pictures throughout the book, but the think I liked most were the mustaches that you put on people.
  • I really like how she made the illustrations and took her time. I love the idea of overlapping the pics.    —Annie S.
  • I thought it was very cool that the illustrator took the time to draw everything and cut it out and then put it all together. It probably took a long time to do it but it turned out really, really good!    —Dylan A.
  • I liked the way the illustrator did the pictures with shadows.   —Lucas Marshall
  • I like how all of the photos were all cutouts. The best cutout was when we were able to see the mail.   —Cameron M.
  • I like how the author put in cut outs so it makes you almost imagine it like you are there. It sucks you into the book so you keep reading.   —Roman V.
  • I thought it was really neat how the illustrations were drawn and then cut out. What an interesting technique!   —Andrew T.
  • I liked how all of the pictures were drawn so carefully even if they weren’t that big. Everything was important to look good.   —Jacob W.
  • I really liked the illustrations. It’s amazing how you cut out each tree, house, envelope, and everything else on its own.   —Liam K.
  • …the time spent on each piece of paper makes the book a lot better and cooler than other books.   —Mark N.

About Lalouche and the book in general:

  • I thought the book was a very good book with both equal amount of action and funny things. And I liked how you made the Anaconda look like a dork, ‘cause then people liked it when Lalouche beat him. —Connor A.
  • My favorite part was when at the end they gave him a house with a balcony because he didn’t have a window.
  • I like when the main character went back to his own life again. — Daniel B.
  • I think that the book was very heart touching. I like the way that the book ended because Lalouche always loved his finch and being a mailman and that was his life dream. — Wendy G.
  • I liked how everyone didn’t think Lalouche could beat them at first, but then he beat everyone and then that guy wanted to coach Lalouche. — Gabby G.
  • I like Lalouche because he stood up for himself when he wanted to fight…
  • It was kinda’ crazy when Lalouche came out of nowhere and beat Anaconda and he still wanted to be a mailman. — Jalen
  • I liked how Lalouche never even knew that he was a good boxer, but yet he was amazing. If he didn’t get fired he would’ve never known his talent. — Jake J.

About the lessons of The Mighty Lalouche:

  • I thought that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, just like the Anaconda judged Lalouche. He thought he could beat him because he was small, but Lalouche was fast, nimble, and strong — Ben C.
  • I liked how Lalouche never gave up and it doesn’t matter about how big your are, it is about how big your heart is. —Evelynn R.
  • I love this book because there’s the lesson of never giving up! Also the lesson of no judging. Lastly I love how the pictures are just placed on but still have a shadow. —Rena B.
  • I like that the book shows that size doesn’t matter. —Solomon S.
  • What I think about the book is that it is a story that can help you make your own choices like Lalouche did. One issue in this book is making choices, because in the end Lalouche had a choice to stay a boxer or go back to a mailman.
  • This book shows you should never underestimate your opponents, no matter how miniscule or clumsy. Underestimation isn’t always good.