Mrs. McGriff's Reading Blog

Happy reading!

February 2, 2011
by Mrs. McGriff
15 Comments

What’s a widget?

When I first started blogging, I was clueless.  What were these widgets people kept talking about?  Now I know.  Widgets are all those nifty things you see in the sidebars.  Widgets can include pictures, text, graphics, counters, badges…the choices are nearly endless. 

Just because the choices are endless doesn’t mean readers want my page to go on forever, so it’s time to take another look at just what’s on my sidebar as part of Kickstart Activity #7 in the Edublogs Teacher Challenge.   I first looked at my side bar when I chose my current theme.  I liked the flexibility using both a wide sidebar paired with two narrow sidebars.  All of the fit quite nicely on left side, but I did do some rearranging. 

I kept the two options for subcribing to my blog on the top.  Readers can follow with either an RSS feed or an email subscription.  Since many of my students (and their parents) are new to blogging I wanted to make sure they all had an option they were comfortable with.  Next comes the cluster map showing visitors to my site.  I love seeing new red dots show up and old ones grow bigger.  I feel much less lonely now.  I think the tag could and search box are some of the most useful widgets over there.  I don’t know how often my readers use them, but I use both to search for previous posts I want to refer to later.  I recently added a “What I’m Reading” box.  I tell my students how important it is to read, and I wanted to give them a glimpse into what I read.  I’ve considered upgrading to a bookshelf from Shelfari, but am passing at this point.  I have enough trouble updating just the text.  I can’t imagine how far behind I’d fall if I tried to link to another site and include graphics, too. 

I like the two narrow side bars that hang out next to each other.  Together they can present more information without someone having to scroll so far down the screen.  The one on the left holds my avatar, recent comments, and the meta links for getting into the controls of my blog.  I also have room over here to include different badges I pick up.  Right now my only badge is for Tera Lynn Child’s Splash Team, when I blogged about her new book coming out last summer.  In the future I may include other badges promoting more YA books and reading. 

The far side is a collection of links I want to share with my students.  I moved the Blogroll to the top of this stack because that’s where students and parents go to find the lastest posts written by students.  They are organized by class period to make individual students easier to find.  I also have a link to the blog written by our fabulous choral director.  The remaining links are grouped into different categories:  editorials, fun stuff, poetry, blogs by writers and blogs about books. 

Yes, there are a lot of widgets lined up over there, but I hope they become a resource for my students and their parents as they explore the world of reading YA literature.  I’m looking for good links to share.  I found several great posts reflecting on the use of widgets and side bars. Check them out!  What widgets do you like best? 

August 15, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
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Best of my blogs

Three of my favorite YA authors have good news!  A collection of their short stories and musings on the writing process are being published!  You can read their short stories every Monday at the Merry Sisters of Fate blog.  Go now and find out much more.

Looking for just the right word for your writing?  Head over to Books, Boys, and Buzz for some writing advice from YA author Marley Gibson.

I already have my Mockingjay pin and preordered my copy of Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, but I’m always up for winning more.  You, too, can enter to win by visiting Beth Revis’s blog at Writing It Out.

August 9, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
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Countdown to Mockingjay

It is only fourteen more days until the release of Mockingjay.  Are you ready?  For those of you who somewho have missed out, Mockingjay is the third (and final?) book in Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.  In these books, twenty four teens are chosen each year to compete in the Hunger Games, where they must fight to the death.  The winner is the last one left living.  I can’t wait to find out what happens to Katniss, Peeta, Gale and the others. 

Meanwhile, you can vote for your favorite YA charaters from fantasy and science fiction in the YA Fantasy Showdown.  You heard right.  It is going down with the biggest, baddest characters from YA Fantasy, and you get to pick the winners.  Can Katniss Everdeen take on Tally Youngblood?  What will happen if Edward Cullen faces Hermione Granger?  Head on over before August 10, when the epic battles begin.  Also head over to creator Heather Zundel’s blog for more details and great ideas for your very own release party. 

What are you going to do to celebrate the coming of Mockingjay?

July 20, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
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Writing Roundup

Are you a writer wondering where to send your work?  Never fear, writer Alisa M. Libby has rounded up some of her favorite publications that publish teen writing.  Be brave!  Let your writing out into the big world.  Click here to find her list of links.

Now that you’ve decided to share your writing with the big, bad world, it’s time to find out who you write like.  This app has been all the rage on the web.  Click here, give a sample of your text, and see what famous writer is similar to your writing style.

You can win some amazing stuff from the Merry Sisters of Fate.  They are sponsoring a writing contest on their blog this week–all in the spirit of promoting free fiction on the Internet. Click on the link to check out the writing prompt of epic proportions and the great prizes.  I’m in.  Are you?

July 15, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
2 Comments

Best of my blogs

We hear a lot about carbon footprints these days and carbon caps for big energy companies, but what about individuals. What would you have to give up if the government put limits on individual carbon consumption? Laura Brown, the main character of Saci Lloyd’s Carbon Diaries 2015 and Carbon Diaries 2017, finds out. Check out the review at the League of Extraordinary Writers.

I will never forget my reaction when I first saw Madeleine L’Engle’s Many Waters in the book store:  the twins have an adventure!  Sandy and Dennys are the normal ones!  For those of you familiar with the Time Quartet (beginning with A Wrinkle in Time), you will understand.  Check out what Guys Lit Wire has to say about this odd book out.

Madeleine L’Engle shows up again in The Goddess of YA Literature blog.  This time she, along with writer Paula Danzinger, were writing teachers for Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of Eighth Grade Super Zero.  Check it out.  Do you think it should belong in my classroom library?

Are you getting tired of vampires?  How about unicorns and zombies?  A new anthology of YA short stories gives you the chance to vote for which is better, among unicorns and zombies, that is.  Check out what Book Page has to say about it, including the list of awesome authors who contribute.

Why should you care about history–especially ancient history?  Check out what GuysLitWire has to say about a biography of Alexander the Great.  Then go read Alexander the Great Rocks the World by Vicky Alvear Schecter.

Elana Johnson shares her love of book covers on this week’s installment of Bookinistas.  Drool over the cover of Bad Taste in Boys and then click on the links to see what covers other YA authors love.  Do you judge a book by it’s cover?  Have you ever been wrong?  I have.

July 6, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
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My best blogs

One book that I keep hearing about is The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson.  I’m definitely going to have to move it up on my TBR pile.  Meanwhile, check out the book trailer for it and a discussion as to how and why science fiction and dystopian literture are different at the League of Extraordinary Writers.  They also mention my current dystopian read, The Road by Cormac McCarthy.

Have you had enough of vampires yet?  If not, check out Christopher Farnworth’s Blood Oath.  Zach Barrows has a new job as assistant to Nathanial Cade.  Let’s just say it’s not his dream job–that would be Chief of Staff for the President.  Instead he learns that vampires–and worse–are real.  Cade is not only a vampire, he is sworn to “to support and defend the nation and its citizens against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”  Check out the review on GuysLit Wire.

One of my students my second year of teaching recommended that I read Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom.  I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t got around to this series of seven books.  Since it keeps showing up, as it does here on GuysLitWire, I’m going to have to move it higher up the pile.  I promise.  I will read them–sometday.

What do you use as a bookmark?  Me–anything I can find lying near me.  Check out this blog by a guy who works at a rare and used book store.  He blogs about the unusual “bookmarks” left behind in the books that make it through his store.

Ever wondered about the difference between science fiction and fantasy?  What about speculative fiction or dystopian literature?  I know, I just dump them altogether on the same shelves in my classroom, but there are differences.  Check out the discussion at the League of Extraordinary Writers.

Elana Johnson says that The Healing Spell by Kimberly Griffiths Little is AWESOME. Head over to her blog to check out the trailer and a chance to win a signed copy along with your very own gator.

June 26, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

My Best Blogs

The girls had their traveling pants; now the boys have an orange couch. Three guys in Couch by Benjamin Parzybok discover just how powerful an old orange couch can be as they take it on their journeys after being evicted from their flooded apartment.  Read all about it on GuysLitWire

Calling all fans of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series.  Riordan has a new Olympus series called Heroes of Olympus that comes out in October.  Can’t wait that long?  Check out the cover and first two chapters at http://camphalfblood.com/.  PS – the password is newhero.

Goddess Boot Camp is now out in paperback (the hardback is still in my towering to-be-read pile). To celebrate, Tera Lynn Childs is giving away five signed copies.  Check out details on how to enter on her blog.

Tessa does Shakespeare again. This time the scene is from Measure for Measure.  It includes a guest actor, a stuffed unicorn, and dragon statues.  You don’t wanna miss it.

Check out this book trailer for Raised by Werewolves by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.  Thanks to the YA Book Nerd for creating and sharing it.  She used a new online program to create it.  You can create you own photo show here.

If you want to write, but think you don’t have the time, take up Laurie Halse Anderson’s WFMAD challenge for August.   It’s the perfect opportunity for me.  I’m doing pretty well with my goal of writing two hours a day on my novel this summe (okay, I do miss a few days), but I wasn’t sure how to keep up through the school year.  Here’s the answer.  For the month of August, I can join Laurie in writing just 15 minutes a day.  You can do it, too.  Will you?

Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book just won the Carnegie Medal from Great Britain.  (That’s the top award for children’s literature in England.  The Graveyard Book has the honor of winning both the Carnegie and the Newbery (the top award for children’s lit in the U.S.)  Check out the video of his acceptance speech on his blog.  If you haven’t yet read this book, get thee to a library or bookstore–NOW!

June 19, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
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Best of my blogs

Hear the voices of women in Afghanistan as they express their hopes and fears, joys and sorrows in the online magazine Afghan Women’s Writing Project.

Learn everything you ever wanted to know (and maybe more if you’re one of these writers who is once and done) from Maggie Steifvator.  She is writing a series of blog posts dedicated to revising, starting with this one here.  Learn the who, what, when, where, why, and how and see her at work revising some of her own writing.  Here is one of my favorite quotes (It’s so hard to choose just one) on WHY REVISE:  Why don’t you hate revisions, Maggie? Because I don’t fart glitter and unicorns. My words don’t come out of the faucet perfect. Even when I can write line to line in a way that looks pretty darn good, the overall themes and characterization and pacing always need help to be their best. It is in no way, shape, or form optional. Everyone revises, from the newbie to the Pulitzer winner. And it’s not something that you get “better” at, so that you eventually don’t need it.

Check out how to create your own sticky notes to put on web pages, email, etc.  See how they are used at Write-Brained (and check out cool jewelry and writing while you’re there.  Create your own here.

Calling all fans of Cornelia Funke (Inkheart, The Thief Lord).  Get a sneak preview of her newest book, Reckless, from the Goddess of YA Literature.  I’m adding it to my ‘to-read list.’  How about you?

As usual, GuysLitWire has a wealth of books.  Check out the review of Anthill by EO Wilson that combines the scientist’s knowledge of ant societies with an environmental crisis.

I finally found an explanation of steampunk at the League of Extraordinary Writers.  Steampunk reimagines the Victorian era with modern technolgy powered by steam.  Check out the cool trailers for Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan and others.

I have told my students over and over again to read their own writing out loud while they are revising.  They look at me like I am crazy (I probably am), but it still stands as good advice.  Rambling Rose agrees with me, or is it I agree with her?  Whichever, go check out what she has to say about reading outloud.  It will make you laugh.

For those of you spending summer break wondering what high school will be like, check out Not that Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian.  It is not a romance novel (but according to the cover, there may be some kissing involved), but instead focuses on the challenges of an over achieving senior.  Check out the review by the Goddess of YA Lit.

Are you heading to Orlando this summer?  (I’m not.)  If so, swing by the new Harry Potter attraction at Universal Studios.  If you can’t make it in person, check out the review on The Book Case, complete with links to videos.  Speaking of videos (and books into movies), Disney has released the trailer for the latest Narnia movie, Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  It’s my favorite of the books.  Now I have another reason to look forward to Christmas.

If you’re looking for a few good zombie books, check out what Jen Lancaster has in her beach bag.  Scroll down past the rant (a very enjoyable rant) to get to the books.

June 14, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Best of my blogs

Have you ever wanted to travel to a different country?  Let Rory Stewart take you to Afghanistan in The Places in Between.  In this book he recounts his experiences hiking across Afghanistan with his great big dog.  Read the review on GuysLitWire.  What do you think?  Are you up for adventure?

How do you decide what to read?  Blogger and author Elana Johnson shares how she picks books on What Writers Read.  So what do you think?  Is she a book snob?  Are you?  I read pretty much anything and everything, but somehow I do have to decide what to read next.

Looking for more on Greek mythology now that Rick Riordan has finished the Percy Jackson series?  Check out the review on Guys Lit Wire of this graphic novel on Athena: The Grey Eyed Goddess by George O’Connor.  Bonus material is a review of a Japanese graphic novel that doesn’t draw manga.

Maureen Johnson writes her Manifesto on social media.  It’s a lot to think about.  How do you want to present yourself to the world of the web?  How do you want to participate with others on the web?  While you’re there, check out her books.  They look good!

Looking for something to read while waiting for Mockingjay to come out in August.  Check out the review of The Enemy–a combination of survival, dystopia, and zombies by Charlie Higson.

Who said reading couldn’t pay off?  Read The Clock Without a Face and look for the clues that can lead you to emeralds hidden around the country.  Watch or read an interview with the authors and the reader who found the first emerald.

Check out what Christina Lee has to say about Liar by Justine Larbalestier.  What happens if you can’t trust the narrator?  The review of this book reminds me of Avi’s Nothing But the Truth.  It leaves you wondering what is the truth and if anyone is indeed telling the truth.

Head over to the League of Extraordinary Writers to enter a contest to win a new book series.  They are giving clues each day.  If you can guess the book under discussion, you can win the entire series.

June 9, 2010
by Mrs. McGriff
0 comments

Best of my blogs

Who says real men don’t cry and real girls can’t kick butt?  We are surrounded by images of what boys and girls are supposed to be like.  Do you believe it?  Think about the real people you know–those who aren’t afraid to be themselves.  It’s hard to classify them, isn’t it.  Good characters should be the same way–hard to pin down in simplistic ways.  Check out Maggie Steifvator’s rant on gender stereotypes.  What do you think?

I just learned that it brings good luck to keep a vampire in your basement.  Read what happens to one girl who goes to feed the family pet in her father’s absence in “The Vampire Box” by Tessa Gratton on The Merry Sisters of Fate blog.

You can also read The Second Short Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer for free online or pick up your copy in a bookstore near you.  Bree Tanner is a minor character in Eclipse.  If you have forgotten, Bree was one of the newborns in the army created by Victoria.  She is the newborn who surrendered to Carlyle.  He wanted to offer her a chance to change her ways, but the Volturi killed her anyway.

In case you haven’t had enough of vampires yet, the book with all the buzz this summer is The Passage by Justin Cronin.  It keeps popping up everywhere.  In this twist, vampires were created by being infected with a virus from a failed government experiment.  They have swept over the world, killing and infecting the rest of the population.  Now a few holdouts try to save what’s left.  Will you be reading The Passage this summer?

It’s time again for blockbuster books to hit the big screen as blockbuster movies.  Check out the video trailers for Eclipse and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows found at the Book Case.  Will you be in the theater on opening day?

Where do you get your ideas for writing?  Cynthia Kadahota shares her sources of inspiration in a guest blog post..  Hint:  It involves lots of staring out of windows.