Monday, August 13, 2012

Aaaaaah - vacation reading time

I am off traveling for the last few weeks of summer break, and one of the things I love most about my long weeks of travel is the time I have to read. Today I spent half the day reading, and it was fabulous! The book I've been reading is one I think middle school students would love. It's called The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony. He's not the best writer ever, and in fact he even had a co-author, but his stories of the game reserve he runs in South Africa were fascinating and fun to read, so I didn't care so much about the writing itself. There's kind of a wait on this book at the Multnomah County library, but they do have it. If you're an animal lover - of elephants or any other type - I recommend you give this book a go! Enjoy the last few weeks of summer, and be sure to get your summer reading done, too. There are all kinds of things to discover in a book!

Friday, August 3, 2012

How is summer reading coming along?

Well, it's about one month to go until your SIZZLING SUMMER READING should be finished and your assignment ready to turn in.  How's that coming?  Hopefully you finished your two books long ago and have read several more in the meantime. But in case you're a little behind on that, now would be the time to step up your game and get ready, get set, get reading!

In case you've forgotten what your school requires, click HERE to find all the guidelines.

If you've accidentally lost your assignment, you can click HERE to get a new one.

Your teachers are counting on your to have done some reading and completed that assignment when you get back, so please be sure to be ready.


Why do we even have to read during the summer?  
Reason 1: Kids who don't read during summer lose skills.  

Reason 2: When everyone does something together, it creates community.
Reason 3: Reading is fun and a life-long skill.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Multnomah County Summer Reading!

I hope you've been tracking all your summer reading on your Multnomah County Summer Reading game card and turning in your card periodically for prizes.

If you've lost your card you can just go into any branch and tell them you go to the Gresham Barlow schools and they'll be able to get you all fixed up!

I think the free Timbers game just happened or is coming right up, right?  What prizes have you won so far? Anyone going to have a free t-shirt by the end?  I have mine!   Leave a note in the comments!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Author Jack Gantos!

Wow, got to meet another great writer-- Jack Gantos while in New York City!  Check out his books if you haven't already!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

Today we focus on America and celebrate all the glories of the United States, and America is, without question, a great country.  But if you asked people from other countries  around the world what the greatest country is, they're like to answer with the name of THEIR very own country, just like we do.  Can we ALL have the best country?  I think so, and I like to learn about other peoples' countries and cultures through books.

If you'd like to learn more about other cultures and countries in your reading this summer, here is a great list of fiction books compiled by author Mitali Perkins that you might want to explore.  She has several books of her own, too.  You can find those listed HERE.

Enjoy, and Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Yippee - We're getting some prizes!

Hey, I got great news yesterday.  The Stephen and Melinda Gates Foundation (and the real Gates Foundation, too) is supporting our program with a grant to purchase some incentives - certificates, pencils and bookmarks.  So there will be some prizes to give out in the fall!  Yahoo, and a huge thanks to and The Gates Foundation!!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

A summer adventure - If you had to choose

If you had to choose a summer adventure with the characters from a book - a Summer Sizzler, another book you're reading now, or just  a book you've loved, who would your adventure be with?  Would you like to tag along with the BFG as he blew night dreams into bedroom windows?  Roam the Texas hill country with Travis and Old Yeller, or hang out in the neighborhood with Bryce and Juli?  Would you want to climb Mt. Everest with Peak Marcello, investigate with Alex Rider, or go to spy school with Cammie Morgan?  Would you like to enter Narnia with Edmund and troops or save Redwall with Matthias?

There are so many adventures to escape into and characters to go with, but I'm thinking I'd pick one that was set on a beach and involved a lot of lying on the beach reading.  Maybe I'll hang out with Auden from Along for the Ride.  And you?  Leave a note in the comments!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Author Eric Velasquez in NYC!

Got to meet amazing author Eric Velasquez today in New York City!  He signed his copy of Grandma's Records.  Beautiful book!  Hope you are all out there reading up a storm!
-Mr. Ball

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Can you relate?

When I'm reading a book, the most important element to me is character development.  I want deeply developed characters that I can relate to and almost become friends with.  It's really important to me to have this element in a story or I find myself losing interest quickly.  this is one reason I love this year's Summer Sizzlers.

In The BFG both the BFG himself and Sophie are strongly developed characters.  I can visualize them and I feel like I'm in their heads.  I especially love the BFG's bumbling language.  It's so endearing, sweet and funny.  It definitely helps develop his character, too.  Roald Dahl was a master at character, wasn't he?  Think back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, The Twits, James and the giant Peach.  A master, I tell you, a master.

In Old Yeller I feel like I really know Travis, even though he lived a long time ago in a way different situation than I do.  I love his strong loyalty to his family and, later, to his dog.  And of course I love the dog.  And here's the thing, I'm not really even a dog person that much.  I'm a cat person.  But really, you can't help but love Old Yeller, right?  I think it's pretty interesting how an author can get you to love an animal.  animals can't even talk.  How do they do it?

I think both characters in Flipped, Bryce and Juli, are really well developed, and I think that is in large pat due to the format of the novel.  Alternating chapters has become much more popular in the last several years than it ever used to be.  In some ways I like it because you can really follow a character's progression, thoughts, actions, etc. intensely.  On the other hand, Just when you really get going with one character, it's usually time to do the switch off, and that can be  little frustrating when you want to get back to character A but it's character B's turn.  I find it does make me read faster, though!  Do you like the alternating characters style?

Which characters do you really connect with in these books or others?  Leave a comment to let us know!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Flipped - a review from Teen Ink

Click HERE for a nice review of Flipped from Teen Ink.

If you are a writer and don't know about Teen Ink, there's some information from their website below that you definitely need.  If you are age thirteen or older YOU can contribute to Teen Ink.  You can also join their Facebook page.

Teen Ink, a national teen magazine, book series, and website devoted entirely to teenage writing, art, photos and forums.  Students must be age 13-19 to participate, register and/or submit work. Distributed through classrooms by English teachers, Creative Writing teachers, Journalism teachers and art teachers around the country, Teen Ink magazine offers some of the most thoughtful and creative work generated by teens and has the largest distribution of any publication of its kind. We have no staff writers or artists; we depend completely on submissions from teenagers nationwide for our content.

We offer teenagers the opportunity to publish their creative work and opinions on the issues that affect their lives - everything from love and family to teen smoking and community service. Hundreds of thousands of students have submitted their work to us and we have published more than 45,000 teens since 1989.

The Young Authors Foundation, Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization that supports all Teen Ink publications. The foundation is devoted to helping teens share their own voices, while developing reading, writing, creative and critical-thinking skills. All proceeds from the print magazine, website and Teen Ink books are used exclusively for charitable and educational purposes to further our goals.

Old Yeller - review

Click HERE to find an excellent blog entry about Old Yeller.  It begins with an exciting excerpt, then has a short synopsis and review.

If you were going to pick an excerpt to draw readers in, which section of the book might you choose?  Why?

(Thanks to Mrs. Gilman from CCMS for the pic!)

BFG - trailer

I thought you might enjoy this little preview of The BFG. This was actually for a theater play, but I like it. And I love the English accents. When I read a book I usually make up voices in my head for the characters.  I think it's more fun. What do you do?


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Our Summer Sizzlers!

Welcome to Sizzling Summer Reading!  

Just a quick recap of the program for everyone. Everyone reads TWO books and does ONE assignment.

Check your school's page to see if you have a specific book you have to read HERE.

Click HERE if you need a copy of the assignment (there are two to choose from and you can do either one).

Summer Sizzlers are books we think everyone would love.  For sixth grade we've chosen The BFG by Roald Dahl, the story of a big, friendly giant who together with sweet, smart Sophie hatches a plan to rid the world of the evil giants who eat human beans.  The seventh grade Summer Sizzler is Old Yeller, the adventurous story of a boy and his dog set in Texas in the 1800s.  And our eighth grade Summer Sizzler is Flipped by Wendelin van Draanen. This "he said - she said" story is told in alternating chapters by a boy narrator (Bryce) and a girl narrator (Juli).

We hope you will find some awesome books to read this summer.  We'll look forward to hearing about them!  Post a comment with YOUR favorite book!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Looks like Bryce is in for it!

Chapter 1-  Sounds like Bryce's new home comes with a pest!  Poor guy!  He's not even moved in yet, and already this girl across the street is all up in his business.  And what is worse is she doesn't seem to be able to take a hint!  Luckily for Bryce, his dad steps in to help him out.  I wonder how he's going to deal with a girl that is apparently "flipped out" over him and lives right across the street?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Hello everyone! I am Ms. Patti and I am the SUN Coordinator at Clear Creek Middle School!

This summer, Gordon Russell, Dexter McCarty and Clear Creek will have SUN Summer Camp at Gordon Russell - and we are hosting an exciting and interactive Summer Reading Program during camp!

During the SUN Summer Camp, you will read the Summer Sizzlers, talk about what you liked about them, make art projects, post a review on this blog! And, you might even be able to make a Book Trailer for your favourite book!

SUN Summer Camp is July 9 - August 2, 2012! Ask for information from your SUN Coordinator:

Mr. Crowley at Gordon Russell Middle School
Ms. Neely at Dexter McCarty Middle School
Ms. Patti at Clear Creek Middle School

If you are from West Orient Middle School or Damascus Middle School, please contact Patti Haack (that's me) at 503-819-6180 or and we can get you signed up for SUN Summer Camp, too.

From one bibliophile to another: "Happy Reading!"

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Welcome to the GBSD Sizzling Summer Reading blog. Here you'll find entries on the SUMMER SIZZLER titles written by students from all five middle schools. I hope you'll take time to read their comments and add your own! I know I'm looking forward to a great summer of reading and hearing from all of you. Hope you enjoy the books and that your summer SIZZLES!