All posts by Michelle Isenhoff

About Michelle Isenhoff

MICHELLE ISENHOFF has been reader-nominated for a Cybils Award, the Great Michigan Read, and the Maine Student Book Award. She’s also placed as a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Book Awards and been named a finalist in the kid-judged Wishing Shelf Book Awards. A former teacher and current homeschooler, Michelle has been lauded by the education community for the literary quality of her work, which is regularly purchased for classroom use.

A Great Middle Grade Read for the New Year

I am completely infatuated with this book. It is outstanding in beauty and nearly biblical in its perceptions. It is a story of magic, of beginnings and endings infinite in their proportions; it is the story of love.

The Day of Sacrifice waits for no one. A child, the youngest within the Protectorate, must be surrendered for the well-being of all. Though hearts are heavy, eyes are dry. It is a sacrament old beyond memory. The witch demands it, and the people obey. Until one day, one woman doesn’t.

Her baby is stolen anyway, and she is locked in the Tower.

But the baby, left to die in the woods, lives.

Luna is rescued by an old, old woman. A witch, but not the witch of twisted legend. This witch feeds the infant starlight until she can be delivered to those who will care for her. But the witch grows careless. In a mindless moment, she gathers moonlight on her fingers, sweet and sticky with magic, and the child gorges herself. It is a moment heavy with consequence.

For evil prowls the Protectorate. Evil that walks on padded paws and beats with the heart of a tiger. Evil whose treachery reaches back to the time of wizards and dragons and now feeds off the sorrow of bondage. Evil threatened by a woman who loved. A boy who questioned. A child who lived.

Luna’s story entwines with a host of delightful (and some not-so-delightful) characters. Antain, a young boy with goodness in his heart and sorrow in his future; Fyrian, the faithful, innocent, Simply Enormous dragon who fits in Luna’s pocket; Xan, the witch whose five hundred years never prepared her for an enmagicked child; Grand Elder Gherland, who can’t abide the selfishness of the people whose children he steals; and Glerk, the Beast who is the Poet who is the Bog who is the World. “They are all the same thing, you know.”

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a story of family, of destiny, of hope and goodness, wrapped around with tendrils of blue and silver magic. If you pick up no other book this year, read this one. My absolute highest recommendation.

Thank You, Teachers!

turkey-readingTeachers pour so much of their time and energy into preparing lessons for their students. Today, I want to treat you, our teachers! This Thursday-Sunday only (American Thanksgiving break), The Candle Star will be available as a free download right here on Emblazon. So grab your choice of file format, sit down, and relax for a few hours. You’ve earned it.

Mobi | Epub | Pdf
(It’s always available at Amazon, as well. It’s just not free.)

When you’re finished reading, keep those feet propped up on the coffee table a little longer and browse through these  related resources. I’ve done some of your work for you.

As it  features slavery and the Underground Railroad, The Candle Star has been my most popular classroom-seller. I’ve used my background as an educator to design a companion booklet to help teachers get full mileage out of the novel. It includes chapter-by-chapter vocab and discussion questions, social studies extension ideas, and primary sources. It’s also aligned with Common Core standards. And it costs money everywhere but here!

The Candle Star: Classroom Resources pdf download

I’m not done yet. Encouraged by one of my colleagues, I also wrote out three full lesson plans designed to help students explore some of the novel’s historical context. (I especially like the mapping one. I LOVE old maps!) These pdf downloads are free for the taking.

Anticipation Guide (pre-reading activity) for The Candle Star
The Poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and the Civil War Era

Map Skills–Using Primary Resources with The Candle Star

Happy Thanksgiving, teachers! Enjoy your well-deserved break.

(Non-teachers, feel free to take advantage of this limited time offer, as well. Just be sure to thank the great folks who mentor your kids so faithfully. And point them to this post!)

Do You Remember….? It’s Still a Great Book!

sidewalk endsPublished in 1974, this longtime favorite has fallen in popularity as it’s aged. That’s so extremely unfortunate. I’m here to put it in front of a new generation of kids as well as remind parents, teachers, and homeschoolers who may have loved it long ago and forgotten all about it.

I’ve never been a fan of poetry, but some of these really tickled my funny bone when I was a child. I still have a few of them memorized. Some of you may remember…

I cannot go to school today,
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps…

Ring a bell? After the whole ridiculous rhyming retinue of ailments, Peggy Ann learns…well, if you haven’t read Sick, I’m not going to tell you. But her reaction is funny, and so, so what a kid would do. That’s the beauty of these quirky poems. They’re exactly what a kid would say and think and laugh about. Even forty years later, they’re still extremely kid-relatable. Here are a few more of my favorites:

Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout
Would not take the garbage out!

That’s the first line and the title of this kid-pleasing tale of laziness and its too-silly cost. I may have been known to quote parts of it to my children when the “prune pits, peach pits, orange peel…” and “gloppy bits of cold oatmeal” begin to pile up in our kitchen due to their negligence.

Another one we like to quote (in the car, because this always happens, though we’ve never waited weeks and then months) is Traffic Light:

The traffic light simply would not turn green
So the people stopped to wait
As the traffic rolled and the wind blew cold
And the hour grew dark and late.

Many of you know I homeschool some low readers. Well, it just so happens that one of the exercises recommended by reading experts to improve fluency is called “performance reading”. Basically, a child reads a selected text out loud over and over until they can read it with ease and expression. Practice makes perfect, even in reading. Shell Silverstein’s silly poems are THE PERFECT subject matter. Each Monday, my youngest has to pick a new poem, learn it, and perform it for me on Friday. (Sometimes it takes two weeks.) He loves it. First, the slow work of slogging through new text. Then the smiles as he pieces together the  humor. Next is usually an examination of the illustration, which always suits the poem so perfectly, because it was drawn by Mr. Silverstein himself. And finally, a proud, grinning performance as my son reads the text just as well as anyone could and anticipates the moment I share the punchline. It’s always fun. And it’s EDUCATIONAL! (Shhh…don’t tell him that.)

So would I recommend this dusty old book of poetry? You bet I would!!

Audiobooks as a Literacy Tool

“The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children.Jim Trelease, author of The Read Alound Handbook

audiobook kids

The Benefits of Reading Aloud

When I attended college back in the 1990’s, we elementary education majors got an earful about the 1985 findings of the U.S. Department of Education’s Commission on Reading. Study after study was telling us that reading to children is one of the very best ways to help children become successful readers.

That consensus hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. It’s a philosophy that was pushed heavily in the schools where I worked. When I stopped teaching to raise a family and it became apparent that two of my kids struggled with varying degrees of dyslexia, I read widely on the subject. Guess what the experts recommended? Reading aloud in a variety of formats: teachers reading to students, students reading to teachers, teachers reading chorally with their students, students reading chorally with other students, students performing practiced text aloud to an audience, students recording practiced text, etc, etc, etc.

brainAgain and again studies suggest that listening provides many of the same benefits as reading. And it seems that taking in language audibly and visually creates connections within different parts of the brain that aid a variety of reading skills: decoding, comprehension, increased vocabulary, fluency, word recognition…

I opted to homeschool my low readers so I could impliment these suggestions liberally throughout the school day and across the curriculum. It was a wise decision. Though they aren’t quite up to grade level, their proficiency has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years.

Audiobooks: A Practical Solution

But very few teachers have a 1:2 teacher to student ratio. And parents may not have time to read aloud as much as they would like to. Let me suggest a very practical solution: audiobooks.

Many teachers I know actually record themselves reading classroom books and provide their students with MP3 players so they can listen while reading along. I did this with my boys. It’s a great way for kids to practice reading without direct help. But pre-recording all those books takes a lot of time. And the quality? Um… Let’s just say listening to professional voice artists is far more enjoyable. Reading along can be really FUN!

But aren’t audiobooks expensive?

They don’t have to be! If you buy an ebook on Amazon, the audiobook is often available for a ridiculously low price. For example, the audiobook for The Candle Star lists on Amazon for $14.95. But if you purchase the ebook for 99 cents, you have the option of adding the audiobook for another $1.99. That is a significant savings! Just look for “Add Audible narration” on the page listing.

audio

I don’t know how to listen to an audiobook.

No problem. You can turn any device you own into an audiobook player (Kindle Fire, Kindle Touch, Kindle Keyboard, Android phone, iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, Android tablets, even your PC or MP3 player). Just download the appropriate app and bingo! You’re listening.

If you’re still not certain you want to jump onboard the audio bandwagon, let me suggest that audiobooks are absolutely AWESOME for family road trips. (They’re not bad for work commutes, lawn mowing, cooking, or other brain-free, hands-busy moments either.)

We have a growing selection of kid-friendly audibooks here on Emblazon, often for dirt cheap through Amazon’s narration option. Now that you know about that little secret, you can watch for it on thousands of Amazon titles.

Audiobooks should never replace the special one-on-one time a parent and child share reading books together. But they’re an effective, practical, and inexpensive option for all those other “listenable” moments. Pick one out to enjoy with your family today.

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Michelle Isenhoff is a former teacher, current homeschool mom, and reviewer on her award-winning children’s lit blog, Bookworm Blather. Listen to samples of her audibooks here.