In which I model my post after Karen Cushman

Sorry, peepz. I was inspired by Karen Cushman.

1. Star sign: Scorpio. I’m supposed to be all passionate about everything. I suppose I am.

2. Favorite food: Pizza, salad, and spam musubi.

3. Favorite music: Have you ever heard Van Cliburn before? You must. He’s the most brilliant human being on Earth. I love all sorts of music, but I don’t listen to it much when I write.

4. Pet: Cricket and Olive. My husband, Toby, loves Olive more than he does Cricket, which is frankly heartbreaking. But it kind of makes sense, as Olive is charming and Cricket eats clothing.

5. Weird things I love: Green smoothies, research, vintage underpinnings.

6. Favorite books: Anything by Laura Ingalls Wilder and other well-written historical fiction, anything by Karen Cushman except Rodzina, everything.

7. Favorite fantasy: Doing everything all at once.

8. Dislikes: Stupid people who don’t want to learn.

9. Best subject at school: Let’s be honest, I was amazing at everything. I don’t know how. Probably English.

10. Subject I wished I’d studied harder: Computer science.

11. Favorite past job: Yeah, I sold out to the man, but I loved working at The Gap.

12. Biggest surprise about me: I’m really, really, really boring when I’m at home just relaxing.

13. Thing I like best about writing: LOL oh that’s right, this is a writer’s survey. I only write when I make blog posts and complete National Board entries.

14. Favorite holiday: Halloween. Although lately I really like telling people that if they pinch their classmates on St. Patrick’s Day, they are insulting my heritage.

15. Heroes: Amelia Earhart, Eleanor Roosevelt, Richard Feynman.

16. What I wanted to be when I grew up: Actor, author, physicist, inventor.

17. Things I love: Cats, restfulness, laughter, surprises.

18. Favorite sport: Baseball.

19. Favorite TV show: The West Wing, CSI, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, How I Met Your Mother.

20. Biggest fault: I GET SO UPSET WHEN PEOPLE ARE STUPID. My patience is limited.



#titleiconf draws to a close

Wow. I did quite a bit of thinking, pondering, and reflecting at the National Title I Conference the past few days in Seattle. I sat down tonight ready to share some of the things I learned / was frustrated with, but my brain seems to be dried up.

I will point out that Twitter was basically my savior for the conference. I Tweeted a whole bunch, and I met some pretty rad people in person.

My brief overall impressions? The keynotes were excellent, progressive, compelling, and frankly more radical than I thought the Title I folks would be. The sessions I attended were largely awful and overpopulated by people straight-up selling a product. The people I met were pretty cool, and the colleagues I attended with were infinitely inspiring.

More to come. I’m slinking off to bed to finish It’s Like This, Cat.

Nerdbery, Nerdcott, and an appeal for Nerdibert

So 2012 is nigh! I’ve come to the end of my 101 in 1001 challenge, so I suppose it’s time to reevaluate my reading life.

About a year or so into my 1001 days, I added “Read All Newbery and Caldecott Winners” to my list. Little did I realize how lonnnnnng and ollllllld and dulllllll some of the old winners would be. I succeeded in reading all the Caldecott winners and a good chunk of Newbery winners, but not what I had hoped for.

So it’s time to regroup. I’m trying to remain aware of the fact that I’ll be finishing my National Boards this year and I already have some responsibilities at the district level, but I think I can commit to a few things.

1. I will read or reread any Newbery medal winners I haven’t read in the past five years. I set my limit at five years because as I mentioned, I trudged all the way through The Story of Mankind, Smoky the Cowhorse, and Roller Skates recently, so I don’t know that I’d get much from rereading them so quickly.

2. I’m currently working on writing lesson plans for picture books in our school’s bookroom. A bunch of the books are Caldecott honor books I haven’t read yet, so I’ll read and post lesson plans for as many of these as I can track down.

3. What about the nonfiction books? I can’t find any information about a #nerdibert (#nerdbert?) challenge, so… anyone want to put one together with me?

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Early Book Box

Every year since I can remember, I’ve received a book box from my parents. Usually wrapped in green paper (my favorite color), usually attached to my Christmas card (which sometimes, but not always, indicates it is a “significant” gift), my book box has been a staple of holiday giving in our immediate family.

This year, I don’t know if I’m going to get a book box. I’ve been checking books out from the library a TON, reading free classics on our McHoughtKindle, and frankly, most of my book purchases have been turned over to my classroom. Oh, and did I mention this is the first Christmas in 28 years that I’ve spent without my parents?

So when I finally made it over to the post office, where they’ve been holding my box of American Girl books since October (whoops), I decided that in case I don’t get a book box this Christmas, I’d count this one instead.

When we moved from our Lake City apartment, we had more than 60 boxes of books. Sixty. And there were still more back home in Michigan. I think this American Girl box might be among the last of them.

I first learned about the American Girls in early second grade. Laura Ingalls Wilder had made me a historical fiction NUT, and the series fed my addiction through most of my youth.

Olive, inspecting our newest addition.

It’s possible at this point that you don’t fully understand the depths of my love for the world of American Girls. Everyone had a favorite American Girl, right? Mine was either Felicity or Molly. Many people owned an American Girl, right? It’s a bit embarrassing, and I’m aware of the privilege I had in my childhood, but I’ll admit that at the time, I had all of the American Girl dolls. All of them. And the books. And the accessories.

These were acquired over a lengthy period. Namely, my entire youth. I never got tired of receiving accessories for gifts or purchasing them on my own with saved spending money. After a while, I could even decode the heart-shaped labels Pleasant Company stuck to the bottom of every American Girl box to identify what was inside.

But it was always about the books.

The paperback sets, because hardcovers took up more room and weren’t really worth it. You’ll notice in the photo above that I also have Kit. But Kit is one of the newer American Girls, Shannon, you say. CORRECT. I GOT KIT FOR CHRISTMAS IN COLLEGE BECAUSE SHE WAS AWESOME AND FROM THE 1930S WHICH IS AN AMAZINGLY INTERESTING HISTORICAL PERIOD AND ALSO SHE WAS A NEWSPAPER REPORTER LIKE ME. WHAT AN AWESOME PRESENT!!!!! But aren’t the new slipcases ugly?

Did you know my mom worked at a bookstore when I was in school? BECAUSE SHE DID AND LOOK AT WHAT SHE SCORED FOR ME! They were like book group guides and I filled them out in my BEST HANDWRITING because I KNEW I WOULD WANT TO KEEP THEM FOR FOREVER.

Remember when they first introduced the Girl of Today? And there was only ONE outfit you could get for her? I asked for her, but was totally disappointed there were no books. Note the rad stencil I could have used to write my own Girl of Today stories, but I didn’t because writing the TALE of the GIRL of TODAY was intimidating.

There they are (don’t the Kit books look out of place? :( The times, how they change)! Staples of my bookshelves for so many years, finally reunited with me in Seattle!

I’ve missed you, ladies.

At home with some of my other children’s books. <3



Readerly Reflections on 2011

I hate doing posts like these before the END end of the year because I wind up doing so much post-Christmas reading and I inevitably leave something out, but I suppose I’ll try. This list contains children’s books, YA books, and grown-up books. One of the things I’m happiest about in my reading life is that I try to read a variety of books. Oh, and not all of these books were published in 2011. You can see my complete list at GoodReads. At this point, I’ve read 346 books this year. I hope to hit 365 by December 31!



I know I should have linked all the book titles to the authors’ websites or to my reviews, but that seemed like too much work and I wanted this to be fun.

Books I Liked That Got Some Hype
But Not As Much As They Should Have

  • The Aviary, Kathleen O’Dell
  • Packing for Mars, Mary Roach
  • No Passengers Beyond This Point, Gennifer Choldenko
Books That Lived Up To The Hype
  • The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
  • Divergent, Veronica Roth
  • Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick
  • Hound Dog True, Linda Urban
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, Catherynne Valente
  • Marty McGuire, Kate Messner
  • Me… Jane, Patrick McDonnell

Books That I Really Don’t Understand
Why Anyone Published Them

  • Pomelo Begins to Grow, Romanoa Badescu
  • Skippyjon Jones, Class Action, Judy Schachner
  • Pretty Princess Pig, Jane Yolen
  • The Green Mother Goose, David Davis
  • Charlie the Ranch Dog, Ree Drummond

Books That I Couldn’t Finish (but I still plan on trying!)

  • Small as an Elephant, Jennifer Richard Jacobson
  • Wildwood, Colin Meloy, Carson Ellis

Book That Was Good But Totally Ruined
by an Overdescriptive Back Cover Blurb

  • The Magnolia League, Katie Crouch

Books I Randomly Picked Up And Really Liked

  • Vintage Knitwear, Marnie Fogg
  • Sharing Our World, Ian Reid
  • Modelland, Tyra Banks (OH GOD HOW?)
  • The Melancholic Mermaid, Kallie George
  • How To Build Your Own Country, Valerie Wyatt

Grown-Up Books You Should Read

Best Books With a Message

  • Three By the Sea, Mini Grey
  • Bigger than a Bread Box, Laurel Snyder
  • The Fences Between Us, Kirby Larson

Books I Want To Hold Onto And Cuddle
And Reread Again And Again

  • Amelia Lost, Candace Fleming
  • I Want My Hat Back, Jon Klassen
  • Should I Share My Ice Cream?, Mo Willems
  • The Quiet Book / The Loud Book, Deborah Underwood

Best Author Discoveries/Rediscoveries

  • Gerald McDermott
  •  William Steig
  •  Kate Messner
  •  Jackson Pearce
  •  Andy Runton
Agree? Disagree? Wonder why I made the choices I did? Let’s chat in the comments.

Spartan Scholar-Athletes

I know many of you are bummed that our Spartans aren’t heading to the Rose Bowl, but here’s something to celebrate!

Potsy Ross Award (Top Scholar-Athletes)
P Mike Sadler – 4.0 Applied Engineering Science
LB Max Bullough – 3.93 Finance
QB Andrew Maxwell – 3.76 Supply Chain Management
OL Nate Klatt – 3.78 Accounting

This is highly impressive. Although I still hold Chris Hill as my favorite scholar-athlete.

P.S. I learned this information from my fellow alum Stephanie Simpson, who is charming and brilliant and who makes me miss HSTAR.


So Colby’s tree fell over, destroying ornaments. It wouldn’t be very Christmassy of the Twitter community to ignore his plight, would it?

[blackbirdpie url=”!/colbysharp/status/140651818962264066″]

Aw, poor Colby, he had no idea what was about to hit him.

[blackbirdpie url=”!/mentortexts/status/140652184663638016″]

I decided to make Colby, a fellow Michigander, an ornament highlighting where several authors were born or call home. But first, I had to confirm which authors were truly from Michigan.

Here’s the official list of Michigan members of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

I like thinking of Michigan authors and illustrators as Natural Resources.

Also, while researching, I learned my lake is the largest in the Mitten State. (I’ve never actually been there.)

Then, I gathered my materials.

I used Giant Dwarf’s Fancy Felt for this ornament. Once you touch it, you will never ever ever again want to use the craft store variety.

I created a key so I’d know where to stitch each author.

Sorry, UP. You’re always getting the short end of the stick. This is by no means a comprehensive list. I picked authors/illustrators I knew and enjoyed.

I needed a heart-shaped stitch that would work well on a small scale, and I thought of the wishbone stitch, signature stitch of The Merriweather Council. So I practiced it.

Satisfied with my work, I printed an outline for my state.

Look at that felt, isn’t it amaaaaaazing?

Then, I realized I needed a reminder on how to sew a blanket stitch, so this video did the trick.

And here’s the final product!

Hope ya like it, Mr. Sharp!

I’m Bringing Hats Back.

So talk to me, Colby Sharp. And the rest of the Internet.

I read I Want My Hat Back last night in Barnes and Noble while we were en route to see Hugo.


Mr. Sharp is frankly the driving force behind my eagerness to read #hatback, and he has long been a Team Bear proponent. Although I feel similarly to the person on Twitter (help me, I can’t find her tweet) who said both Bear and Rabbit were poorly behaved, I don’t think I should sit on the fence on this issue.

So I began a list of pros and cons for each team. Spoiler alert and such regarding the content below.

ALSO, before I go any further, has anyone yet pointed out how much THIS VIDEO IS #HATBACK? (Learn the history of this meme here.)


I’ve chosen to use genderless pronouns in this debate. I checked to see if my style guide of choice (the AP Stylebook) had weighed in on genderless pronouns, but it seems they haven’t really. So I’ve gone with my personal favorite gender-neutral pronoun, “per,” which I first learned about in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time.


  • Bear’s gotta eat. (Thanks, Donalyn Miller)
  • Eye for an Eye.
  • I HATE it when people mess with me. I feel Bear’s pain to a certain extent.
  • Bear went through the appropriate channels to find per hat before resorting to what were PERHAPS unsavory measures — per searched high and low through the forest.
  • My initial impression of Bear is that per is rather simple. Is Rabbit taking advantage of a cognitively compromised character?
  • We don’t know what happened right before the end. Perhaps Bear contacted the authorities, who safely removed Rabbit from the forest and returned the hat to its rightful owner.
  • Similarly, maybe Bear is just sitting on Rabbit. Or maybe per tried one of Kelso’s Choices and made a deal.
  • If that’s the case, maybe Bear is mimicking Rabbit’s protests ironically at the end. Like, SEE, I could have been a jerk like Rabbit was, but I did the right thing AND got my hat back.


  • Rabbit must know that its odds aren’t too good in the forest food chain. So maybe per decided to BUCK THE SYSTEM and mess with bear, sacrificing per existence to mess with The Man.
  • Eye for an Eye. Maybe Bear munched on Rabbit’s friend/lover/cousin in the past. WE DON”T KNOW the backstory.
  • How did bear misplace per hat in the first place?
  • If Rabbit innocently happened upon the hat, per might not have realized that it was Bear’s. Maybe Rabbit’s frantic, verbose, seemingly guilty response is due to being TOTALLY FREAKED OUT that a bear is questioning per.
  • Dare I suggest that joining Team Bear be a little bit of victim-blaming?
  • I’m not completely convinced that the fox wasn’t somehow a part of this whole mess.

I’m currently leaning toward Team Rabbit. Which is where I seek your counsel, MISter Sharp et al.

Also, ouch, GoodReads. I thought we had an understanding.


Do you have an old iPod?

I’ve buried this as an old post because I don’t want my students to see it when they stop by our website. Look below for a sweet opportunity to help my fabulous students!

This year, I’m looking to expand our listening library. We are already fortunate enough to have three computers and a bunch of cassette players, but I think we’re ready to step into the digital age. I’d LOVE to unveil a brand-spanking new listening library as a holiday gift for them this year!

My students are honestly perplexed by tape players, and I can’t say that I blame them. For our highly visual kids, the idea of not knowing what track/chapter they’re on is crazy, and the idea of flipping over a cassette seems odd. I think we’re ready for iPods. Plus, we mostly use our listening library for picture books, and I think it’s time to provide chapter book listening opportunities as well.

I know a lot of charitable organizations are looking for your assistance this year. If you’re already feeling pulled in many directions, perhaps you could think of my request as one of environmental recycling rather than charity.

So do you have any old iPods? I know I’ll be chipping in three of my own, but I’d love for us to have a few more. I’m not aiming for a full class set of 25, but on the off chance that we receive extra, rest assured I’ll pass them along to my teammates.

I’ve done the math — if you send us your iPod in a small padded envelope, you won’t even need to go to the post office, just slap on $1.50 in stamps. (probably less for an iPod nano. I weighed my first-gen iPod touch using the sweet scale Scott Porad got us for our wedding.)

We don’t need fancy iPods. In fact, if you got us a new one, I’d probably actually be a little disappointed because that $100 would be better spent on books or saved for an iPad.

So why haven’t I asked before? Our district has just recently become more open to technology. Having non-school-purchased tools in the past was frowned upon. Now is the perfect time!

What will you get in return?

  • Personal thank yous on this site, in your inbox, and in your mailbox.
  • Recognition on a sweet, official plaque in the listening library.
  • The satisfaction of knowing that your iPod isn’t leeching chemicals in a landfill or sitting on a lonely Goodwill shelf.
  • My students’ eternal devotion (they really love and attach themselves to people who support our class)
I hope you’ll consider our classroom as a loving home for your out-dated iPod. If you’ve packed your device up, please send it here:
WIldwood Elementary
2405 S. 300th Street
Federal Way, WA 98003
Thank you so much in advance.