Monday, January 23, 2017

New Year 2017

Happy New Year! 

Yikes, it's already the middle of January and I am just getting around to blogging. I am committed to blogging more about the books I have been reading. I also want to share more of my reviews. 2017 is going to be amazing and I am thrilled to share it all here.


I am excited to share, that the Longhorn Leaders from our Abilene Middle School came to our school today, for a character education day. Sharing Horton Hears A Who by Dr. Seuss and connecting this story to citizenship. They did amazing and the students really enjoyed the fun.

Research Papers

First graders are working on their very first research paper in the library. They select an animal book, read the book, share 3 facts that they read about their animal with a friend (in their own words), then show their buddy where they found that fact in their book. We then go to the tables and begin filling out our graphic organizers.

What Am I Reading?

I decided to step up and make an extra effort to read more this year. I'm on a roll, I have been reading a lot lately and I'm hoping to keep up the effort. I have read 6 books since January 1st and I'm currently reading my 7th book. I am going to post my reviews here.

My first book of the year:

 Two By Two

By Nicholas Sparks

 I read all of Nicholas Sparks books, I am very happy to have picked up Two by Two, it kept me reading into the night until I had finished it. With that being said it wasn't my most favorite of his books to be sure, but I did like it.

It is narrated by Russell,  husband to Vivian and father of London. He is a wonderful father, but somehow his relationship with Vivian has been in a bit of free fall, without his awareness. He is a romantic, a people pleaser,  he is always trying to give her what she wants and has started to fail miserably. 

Vivian is a character I didn’t like at all and that’s putting it mildly. We never hear her point of view, but what she says and does and what others observe, rounds her out somewhat. She seems irresponsible to me and really selfish. I got annoyed with Russ for not standing up to her more, in a way he enables her in her ways, always believing in the love he has for her.

This is a book about fatherhood, both Russell’s own Dad and his pleasure in his own daughter, London. He has delighted in everything about her since birth, and when Vivian goes back to work, his more hands on parenting is heartwarming. Its a beautiful relationship to watch.

Russ has a sister Marge, who has a partner Liz and both are very much part of the the family. Russ has an excellent relationship with Marge, they have shared much and Marge is often that friend and voice of wisdom and love.

As well there is Emily, a woman who Russ loved at one time, now divorced with a son that London has become friends with. Russ and Emily slowly renew their friendship as their children’s lives touch.

Russ has some rather tough things thrown at him, however he doesn’t crumble, because he has a strength within that helps him to keep putting one step in front of the other, and also placing other people first. He is able to listen and take on board the support and advice he is given. One step at a time when things just keep getting worse he moves through it.

There is sadness and loss, big loss but it is balanced by the love of family and friends and renewed love. The power of two by two, rather than descending into loneliness.

 3 Stars

The Marriage Lie

By Kimberly Belle

Let me say right away that this story grabbed me in the first chapter and never let go. It's about a couple, Iris and Will, who are very happily married for 7 years. They celebrate their 7 year anniversary and decide to begin a family. The next day the husband, Will is supposed to go to a conference in Florida. There are a series of events that don't add up. After her husband, Will's death, Iris begins to investigate whether her husband, Will, is the man she thought she knew. This story is full of twists and turns and it leaves you guessing, quite literally until the very end. I loved it.
5 Stars

The Girls By Emma Cline

 I absolutely loved the cover of this book. So much fun. I read the blurb on this story and it instantly reminded me of Charles Manson and the Tate murders.  I was excited to read this and I have to say I felt transported to 1969.

At 14, Evie's parents have recently divorced. Her father has a new girlfriend, and her mother is dating a variety of men. Neither parent was paying any attention to Evie. Her best friend wasn't either. The only woman at that party who looked exciting was her dad's girlfriend. She was sexy with cool clothes. Evie knew she should hate her dad for cheating, but...she didn't. Evie began to fantasize about her father with his girlfriend. We not only could see the longing Evie has for attention but love, she no longer feels safe to her. She was angry at her mother and angry that her dad left.

Being 14, angry, and lonely, can lead one down a dangerous path. The year is 1969, the cornerstone for drugs, sex, and rock-in-roll. Evie gets mixed up with a cult. The Leader manipulates his followers into a dark world of violence.

 I'm familiar with the Charles Manson and Sharon Tate story which this novel is loosely based on but the books strength ( besides fresh, intimate, and addictive), is the authors ability to understand teen chaotic years of vulnerability and curiosity. The author points to the fact that Evie did not know when things exactly went wrong in her life. I took value from Evie's unspoken words. Some of  her inner thoughts just before she joined the cult. It's not that we haven't read about angry or sad 'coming-of-age' girls before...but Emma Cline touches on areas where many books don't go. Which made me feel a bit uncomfortable at times.

3 1/2 Stars

Missing Pieces

By Heather Gudenkauf

 How well do you know your spouse? After twenty years of marriage, Sarah Quinlan discovers secrets about her husband that rock her world.

Missing Pieces, takes you on a twisty roller coaster of a ride. Jack Quinlan’s Aunt Julia is critically injured in a fall, Jack and Sarah leave their home in Montana and rush to Jack’s hometown of Penny Gate, Iowa, to be by Julia’s side. After Jack’s parents died in a traffic accident when he was a teenager, Julia and her husband Hal had taken in Jack and his sister Amy and raised them as their own. Why has Jack been so reluctant to return to his hometown all these years?

As Sarah  meets some of Jack's family members for the first time and renews acquaintances with others, Sarah gets a sinking suspicion that Jack has been hiding things from her. She soon learns that not only has he been lying about his mother’s death, he has been covering up much more.

Despite a number of problems with the characters and some of the circumstances, I really enjoyed this book overall.
3 stars

A Wrinkle In Time

By Madeleine L'Engle

This book is one, that can transport me. When I was 10 years old I read it for the first time and I felt like nothing was impossible. It made me realize that with wisdom came strength. Strength to overcome, to carry on and to achieve, and of course a battle between good and evil. I love this book and no matter how many times I read it, I come away with the same feelings. 

As many know the manuscript for this book was rejected by many publishers, who believed its content would be too advanced for young readers. And now, fifty years later, this book frequently finds its way onto “banned” and “challenged” books lists. It contains descriptions of multi-dimensional travel right alongside biblical passages. 

But to me, a child of the 70's (when I read it), it was profound and enlightening and it spoke to me in a way adults spoke to each other. It conveys a bundle of important life concepts without getting weighed down by them.  As an adult it reminds us the critical importance of faith, as we deal with some difficult and harsh realities.

This is a children’s adventure with in a science fictional setting. The story is centered around a strong, smart girl named Meg, and her intuitive and wise younger brother, Charles Wallace. Their relationship is so brutally honest, kind and loving.

It will always be 5 stars for me.

The Whistler

By John Grisham

  The Whistler is a tale of  corruption. Corruption so profound and well hidden that it lasts decades and involves an entire Native American tribe. Going deep into how the organization of a Native American tribe and the federal laws that allow gambling on the tribes land works. I was glued to the edge of my seat.

It all begins with a tip as to a corrupt judge who allegedly is skimming money, along with the help of the little known Coast Mafia, from a casino on Native American land.  Lacy Stoltz, a lawyer who works for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct, who gets the tip based on a complaint of a Florida judge. It is the informant's goal to earn a large fee under the whistler statute for providing a tip that leads to the recovery of money from the corruption.

 Lacey and her partner, Hugo, are presented with several problems; First can they believe the informant? A person who refuses to be identified and who has only reached them through an unknown intermediary's counsel, who goes by the very common name of "Greg Myers." Myers fully admits that he has a criminal record and was at one point disbarred for his past transgressions.  Myers also seems to live beyond his means and constantly on the run on his expensive boat. Can Myers be trusted? Even if he can, Lacey's normal line of work involves sanctioning judges who commit small infractions, not organized crime. When she suggests that Myers take his complaint to the FBI, he absolutely refuses. Stating he will never work with the FBI. Just who is telling the truth and who is corrupt in this story? And the deeper Lacey digs the more dangerous the situation gets when it becomes clear that someone wants to silence her investigation. Can she stay safe when she has no formal law enforcement training to guide her?

This story was gripping but not my favorite Grisham novel.

3 stars

My Secret Sister Swap

I can't believe it is time to sign up again for the OTSP Secret Sister Project. This is a project that the ladies over at The Girls On The Same Page have created a 6 month swap with book lovers, bloggers and the like. This is my 4th round and I am very excited to be in connection with these ladies. I truly appreciate the friendships I have created.  

Happy Reading,
Tula Shamhart

Friday, October 28, 2016

Spooky Stories, Costumes and Swaps...

In The Library:

In the library this week we read stories by Jack-o-lantern. I love to share Clifford's Halloween by Norman Bridwell Humbug Witch by Lorna Balian and of course The Halloweiner by Dav Pilkey, with my Kinders. The students loved them.  First graders got to Enjoy Boo! by Robert Munsch, which worked along with an author study of Robert Munsch we recently completed.  We also got to enjoy my most favorite book this time of year, The Perfect Pumpkin Pie by Denys Cazet. I had a few friends jump when we read this latest title. So much fun!

We also shared about what we might dress up like during Halloween. Here at Kennedy we don't dress up at school. In lieu of costumes we have a pajama day. I myself probably won't dress up unless I go out with my grandkids but I think I am going to stay home with my dogs, Hermione and Zoey and hand out candy treats.

I am preparing a voting lesson for my students to have fun with next week. We will all vote at Kennedy. Not for the Presidential nominee's we are all familiar with but for two other candidates...

After we have the opportunity to read Doreen Cronin's Duck For President.
We will tally each class and graph the entire school with our votes. Should be lots of fun.

This week has been a busy and fun week with the anticipation of Halloween looming.

Love My Kiddo's:

My first grade friends in Mrs. Berns class were so sweet. They earned a popcorn and movie party for their amazing behavior and they invited share it with them. I was so excited. Then they went above and beyond to Thank me. I am so lucky to have such amazing friends.

 Beautiful Fall:

 Here in central Kansas we are enjoying some amazing weather. I was able to go out to the park and finish up my book and this was my beautiful view.
 Blessings come in many forms...

This photo is still my most favorite! I love the stem on this pumpkin it is the best! 

 I am anxious for November to arrive, to see family for the Thanksgiving holiday and to celebrate my grand daughter, Brielle's 1st birthday. I'm very excited! We have a lot going on at home and at school so tune in to see all the happenings in the coming weeks.

My Swaps: 


This swap is an annual swap from Chaotic Goddess Swaps. I recieved a swap from my friend, Judy over at The Knotty Needle Blog she sent me the most wonderful package and card thanks so much! Here is a picture to see what she sent.

 I have several more swaps up and coming I will keep you posted on them.

I'm reading with an online book group The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee. I am also reading The One That Got Away by Leigh Himes and I am just about finished. I can't wait to get started on Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris I just received a surprise book in the mail from St. Martin Press. I can't wait to delve into this amazing thriller. All of these books are so completely and vastly different One is futuristic and another is chic-lit and one is a mystery/thriller. It's fun to delve into a variety of genres. Have fun and enjoy.

Share with me what you are reading and what books are on your "to be read list".

Happy Reading
Have a safe, fun Halloween, and let's welcome November.
Tula Shamhart

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Falling Into A Good Book

In The Library

Fall Books & How I Use Them

Happy fall!  Football games, changing leaves, pumpkin everything, and the crispness in the air fall makes me happy.  We created a fall bucket list and shared some of the things we most look forward to, in the fall. This is always a highlight for me. 
We also shared the life cycle of the pumpkin last week. I love sharing the video and the book Pumpkin Circle by George Levenson it starts October and our fall season. As we approach our trip to the pumpkin patch, reinforcing our understanding of fiction and non-ficition, our "How To Carve A Pumpkin" writing, along with our anchor chart pumpkins inside and outside, using adjectives.

I also, love getting out books about the season with my students. I want to foster a love of reading with them. How reading is more than just words on a page. It offers a different approach to the goals we are working on; vocabulary, figurative language, sequencing, etc. For some of our young students here at Kennedy this helps them build on their developing vocabulary and their ability to communicate more effectively.
Here are 2 wonderful stories for the changing season that I like using in my Library.
LeafMan by Lois Ehlert
This is a very short, beautifully illustrated picture book. It captures the vivid changing colors of the leaves of fall. Great opportunities for fall craft extensions here.
 One of my students brought this leaf man in after we shared the story.

Sequencing: Discuss the order of leaf man’s travels. East-West-South-North. Name what he saw heading east (chickens, marsh, ducks, geese, fields). Then what he saw heading west (orchards, prairie meadows, cows) and so on.

Vocabulary: pile, plans, marsh, drifting, orchards, prairie, meadows, gliding, flock, lonesome, rustle.
Writing: Use the prompt, “If I were a leaf man, I would go” (have them include what they would see and feel along the way).
Compare and contrast: The different types of leaves by shape, size, color etc. Have the students bring in 2 or 3 different leaves from home and discuss the differences and similarities.

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson 
Gorgeous watercolor illustrations capture you in this sweet story. When I read this treasure, children are mesmerized and almost melt listening to the words. This story about a sweet little fox is one of my favorites to use during the fall season.

Social/Emotional: Opportunities to discuss feelings. On the first page the word “worried” is used. When do people feel worried? Illness, bad weather, etc. Fletcher is trying to care for the tree- a great opportunity for teaching empathy (discuss his body language- how his head hangs down and how they can read body language with friends). Encourage your students or child to talk about who they take care of and how (a pet, friend who is sad). Friendship Fletcher says he will stay with the tree holding on to the last leaf left (what does someone do to show friendship to others).
Adjectives: Wow, this book is filled with vivid descriptions. “crinkly whisper,” “dusty gold,” “swirling leaves,” “pale stars,” I could go on and on. Write down some fall nouns and have your students think of vivid adjectives to modify them ( _____ pumpkins, _____ trees, _____ weather). Thinking of alternative color words is relevant in the fall. Find some leaves and challenge them to describe with more meaningful color words: yellow (golden), red (scarlet), brown (chocolate).
Vocabulary words: bounded, crinkly, dull, rough, ruffled, flutter, rustle, swoop, pale, glimmer. I always work on synonyms and antonyms to develop vocabulary deeper.
Figurative language:  personification is on nearly every page- “I think my tree is sick.” “The little leaf shook itself free” “The wind and the squirrel are stealing our leaves.” “The branches nodded.” “The leaves shivered and shook

I hope you can incorporate some of these ideas as you read books about fall!

Me and my family

My family went to the pumpkin patch with our grand kids and  had a wonderful time. I love watching the grands experience something for the first time and or share these moments with them. Here are a few pics...

What I'm reading

The weather here in Kansas has been simply amazing and I love being able to read on my porch or patio. My latest, most current book I'm reading is Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand. It is the third installment to the Winter Street  series and it has to be said that I love it! If you are looking for a warm, cozy page turner this fall/ winter season this series will not disappoint.

I'm also listening to the audio book of The One Who Got Away by Leigh Himes
 I had to pick this chic lit audio book up, I read the blurb below and knew I had to try out this new author's work.
Book Blurb:
 In this debut novel, a freak accident allows a wife and mother to explore the alluring alternative of the Road Not Taken.

Abbey Lahey is a married, harried working mother of two, struggling to make ends meet in a blue-collar suburb of Philadelphia. When a freak tumble down a Nordstrom escalator lands her in an alternate reality, Abbey finds herself happily married to the one who got away--a dashing Philly blueblood she met briefly years earlier--and living a Cinderella life of privilege and luxury.

It's everything Abbey ever dreamed of. Or is it? At first dazzled by the clothes, the penthouse, the nannies, and the glittering social functions, Abbey begins noticing troubling flaws in her new fourteen-carat life...and wonders what happened to the people she left behind. Torn between two vastly different realities, Abbey takes increasingly dramatic steps to reclaim herself--whoever that may be.

Happy Fall and Happy Reading!

Mrs. Shamhart

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

This Week In The Library

In The Library This Week:

For our Kindergarten friends, we read books about Grandparents in honor of Grandparents Day this past weekend September 11. We shared the books:

                                     The Hello Goodbye Window by Norton Juster
Not only is this book a Caldecott winner, it is a precious book about the relationship between grandparents and a grandchild. The little girl (also the narrator of the story) leaves her Mom and Dad and runs over to her grandparents house.  But before she walks in the door, she passes by the “hello, goodbye window”.  Through this window, she sees the amazing things that await her in the kitchen of her grandparent’s house.  The illustrations in the book are eclectic and almost child-like, which only adds to the appeal of the book (in my opinion).

What Grandma's Do Best/What Grandpa's Do Best by Laura Numeroff
 This two-in-one book (from the author of  If You Give a Mouse a Cookie books) is perfect for grandparents.  Half of the book is about what grandmas do best (play hide-and-seek, take you for walks, paint, go on picnics, take naps with you…)  and then you flip it over and the other half is about what grandpas do best.  The text is exactly the same for both books, but the illustrations show the grandparents doing these things in different ways (for example:  one page says “make you a hat” and the grandma is shown knitting a hat while the grandpa is making paper hats out of newspaper).  I actually think this is brilliant because it shows that the same activity can be new and different depending on who you are doing it with!  Each of the pages features a different personified animal pair.

These books were a big hit with our kinders. We talked at length about all the fun things we do with our grandparents.

First Grade friends read the story A Bad Case Of Stripes by David Shannon. We then got creative and started thinking and brainstorming some of the things that we like and who might care for us when we are sick.

Golden Ticket Store

 Our Golden Ticket Store is going very well and I am seeing a lot of positive behaviors.  I have a picture of my friend and I after she went shopping. Oh yes, she was very excited! I kind of love being a part of something that makes them so happy and excited.

My Reads


This week I finished reading The Couple Next Door by By Shari Lapena 
Oh my goodness, this book just blew me away! Just when I thought I'd worked it all out nicely, everything changed. 

With their babysitter cancelling on them, Anne and Marco leave their baby, Cora, at home and they "pop" next door for a dinner party. It'll be fine, they have the baby monitor with them and they go to check on her every half hour and they're only next door. What can possibly go wrong?

Quite simply, they arrive home to find the front door open and the baby gone. Anne goes to pieces, Marco freezes, Anne recovers and the police are called. It is then up to Detective Rasbach to try and piece together what actually happened that night. Did the parents cover up a crime, is one or both of them responsible, is it a third party? It leaves you guessing until you think you know and then plot twist and surprise. 

With most of the suspects being inconsistent with their stories will Rasbach be able to cut through the noise, work out truth from lies, and bring the case to a close?

I really liked this book. It grabbed my attention from the very first page, held on tight and wouldn't let me go until the very last. I was completely invested by all the twists and turns, secrets and lies and some delicious family dynamics specifically between Marco and his in-laws.

I believe that this is a new genre for this author. If this is the quality for her first effort, I really can't wait to see what she serves up next time.


My next swap is one of my favorite swaps with Chaotic Goddess Swaps. It was one of the first swaps I was involved in.

Your Swap Objective

Send a spook-tastic package of goodies to your Halloween-loving partner.
Note: This swap is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.

Package Requirements

  • Halloween related goodies
  • At least 5 Items
  • Value of $20-$40

Important Dates to Remember

  • Sign-Ups Start: Monday, September 19th
  • Sign-Ups End: Monday, September 26th

Happy Reading,
Tula Shamhart

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

What's Happening In The Library....

Library Lessons:

This week in the library we continued to review manners in the library and how to care for books.
Kindergarten heard the wonderful story by Judy Sierra Wild About Books. We also finished up stories from our wall characters. What a fun week!  First Grade classes heard the stories of Mrs Watson Wants Your Teeth by Alison McGhee
 We then created our own class book. What would Mrs. Hoffman look like as a 300 year old Alien?
Ha! Lots of fun pictures in this book.

We also, shared Grandpa's Teeth by Rod Clement.  This book is always so much fun to read aloud, such wonderful voice. A great way to introduce first graders to the genre of mysteries. I always pull a bunch of mysteries out after we read this book.

We shared a character education day with our 1st grade classes and shared the story of Horton Hatches The Egg By Dr. Seuss and discussed caring in the library. The students did an amazing job of sharing their ideas.

What I am reading:

This story takes place in New York and I love that. Jack Harris' wife was murdered several years ago and although he says he has moved on in his life, mainly because of his teenage daughter, Buckley, he clearly has not. His file cabinets are full of case files relating to the man who he feels was responsible. When that man is shot dead, along with two others, during Jack's attempt to meet a woman he met online, he is their prime suspect.

Olivia Randall used to date Jack back in the day. They were together several years until Olivia did something that has left a tarnish of guilt on her life ever since. When she sees that Jack has been arrested, she decides to represent him as his lawyer. She knows Jack is innocent. But the man she used to know, or thought she knew, may not be the same.

Filled with twists and turns, The Ex flashes back to Jack and Olivia's past to help authenticate their current relationship and provide contrast to the differences of how they have changed and grown over the years. While this is important to the story, it doesn't deflect from the current events of Olivia delving into the investigation to prove that Jack is innocent.

While I wasn't surprised by the ending, I was surprised with the repercussions of some character decisions on the facts of the case. Or in this case, the lack some instances. I didn't connect with any characters, which really bothered me because I really didn't care who did it. But I had to know why, so I continued my journey with The Ex.

If you're looking for a standard murder mystery, then The Ex is worth a go. But if you're looking for the darker side of a thriller, you won't find that thrill here. 3 stars for me.

My Secret Sister had this series on her wishlist and when I bought her one of the books, it brought me to read about the series and I was done. I devoured the first 2 books in 3 days.

The Selection by Keira Cass This is a YA novel 
In a world where everything is determined by social castes, America was born a five, one of the lowest castes. This year, a Selection will be held to find a bride for Prince Maxon. America's mother thinks that having her daughter participate will be the solution to all of their problems but America doesn't want to participate for one simple reason, she is secretly in love with Aspen. The only problem is that he belongs to an even lower caste and so her parents prohibit her from marrying him. She ends up applying for the selection, sure that she will not be one of the 35 chosen girls, so you can imagine her surprise when she is the one picked from her district. This is where the heat of the competition starts; complete with friendship, jealousy and of course a little sabotage.

The concept of the book was really great. I know many associated it with The Bachelor,. The dystopian element in it was also quite good and reminded me of The Hunger Games. I found the history element in this book to be interesting. Also, the rebel attacks to the palace added more depth to an otherwise typical YA dystopian romance.

However, what really made me fall in love with this book were its characters. America's character was so down-to-earth and kind that you couldn't help liking her. She cares for the other competitors and even her maids. She even gives tips to her friend on winning over the Prince. I also found the fact that, while the other girls went for the most glamorous dresses, she always opted for the simplistic style that she felt most comfortable in. Through out the book she was the character you rooted for.

Maxon was so swoon-worthy and all he wanted throughout this competition was to fall in love. I thought that he would be arrogant, but from his first meeting with America, he stole my heart.

The only downside to this book, for me, was Aspen's character. I found him to be quite arrogant at times and really didn't understand why America had fallen in love with him. We do get a backstory, which enables the reader to learn how America and Aspen's relationship started. which made me him a bit more likable.

Overall, I felt that this book was like candy floss; fun, colorful and leaves you with a smile. I simply could not put this book down and couldn't wait to get my hands on the sequel! So....I did!

 I enjoyed The Selection so much I had to go right into book 2 The Elite. I was skeptical because of the things I about the complete lack of world-building. This remains a problem for me after reading The Elite.

In The Elite, we find America as one of six final girls in the selection and her heart is torn between Prince Maxon and Aspen, her ex-boyfriend who works as a guard in the castle. She goes back and forth, back and forth, never able to fulyl commit to either one.  She is unsure about becoming a princess and the political ramifications that could have. She discovers some hidden truths about her country's history which color her decisions.

On the plus side for characters, both Maxon and Aspen were stronger love interests this time around and we continue to find out more about each of these characters which lends to the depth of the characters. Which enables the reader to understand why America is truly so perplexed with her decision. 

I also really enjoyed the other girls in The Elite. They each had their place and even surprised me from time to time. Some of them sabotaged, lied, and even fought. I really loved the dynamic between these ladies.

I really enjoyed this story as well. I will read the next novel The One .

I have a couple of ARCS(advanced reader copies) to read and review for our Books On Tour group. I have Falling over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick that I am just finishing up and The Graces by Laure Eve This is a book I have been hearing so much about. I can't wait to read it.

Happy Reading,
Mrs. Shamhart