Are you in the mood for an old fashioned magical jaunt? Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett is a classic “perilous adventure” book for middle grade readers. Set in Norway, Zaria Fierce includes trolls, winter-wyvern, ellefolken and more. It also has a modern timeframe, so don’t be surprised if you see iPads or mobile phones pop up.
The plot centers around a girl named Zaria, who has recently moved to Norway because of her father’s role in the military. On her way to school one day she crosses a bridge and accidentally encounters the attention of a horrible troll named Olaf. He demands Zaira pay a price that will take all of her courage and ingenuity to pay.
There were times I found the dialogue to be a bit unusual. Most kids don’t say things like “We are fickle are we not?” or “I met the criteria of your demands.” But there were many other parts of the book that were quite clever like the appearance of dry-ice grenades and the plot twist at the end. I especially enjoyed the illustrations by Eoghan Kerrigan. Somebody please give this man a picture book contract!
I received a free copy of Zaria Fierce from the author in exchange for my honest opinions and review. You can find out more, by checking out the beautiful book trailer.
If you’re a parent you know life can get so busy sometimes you don’t have time to take a deep breath let alone write a blog post. It’s doesn’t matter if you work full time in the workforce, or are a SAHM, your plate fills up fast. But sometimes the universe tells us we need to take a break. In my case, literally.
A year ago I fell ice skating and broke my wrist. You can read the full story here:
Believe me, nothing says “Slow down, Mom!” like surgery, titanium implants, and the inability to drive. Today I revisited my Facebook posts from a year ago and had a good chuckle at my past misery. Why the laughter? Well, it’s pretty funny to read what I wrote while drugged up on pain medication:
March 27, 2014 Good news: learned how to do spins in ice skating lessons last night. Bad news: fell and broke my wrist during free skate with my daughter. Am now in splint and counting minutes to next V. Go to ortho on Monday for cast. Got great people taking care of me and kids.
March 28, 2014 I have decided I am done with capital letters unless autocorrect helps me out.
March 28, 2014 Television has become really confusing. Couldn’t follow plot of modern family or new girl. Not sure my comprehension skills are all there at the moment.
March 30, 2014 I don’t know how this is possible, but my spelling is getting worse. either I’m having decreased blood flow to my brain, or my left hand was a lot smarter than I thought!
And the pictures:
I’ve got a YA book coming out next year, a weekly newspaper column, and a Facebook Page called The YA Gal that is a whole lot of fun. A couple of weeks ago I joined forces with fifteen other 2016 authors and founded Sixteen To Read which is tremendously exciting.
Then there’s all the “mom stuff.” I volunteer in two classrooms, lead my daughter’s Daisy troop, and am treasurer of a parent group similar to the PTA.
Most days I feel like this:
But in my heart, I want to be like this:
Please Universe, don’t teach me another lesson. I know I need to slow down! It’s just really hard to figure out how…
Redo Your Room: 50 Bedroom DIYs You Can Do in a Weekend is a how-to book for jazzing up a tween girl’s bedroom. It’s full of bright pictures, easy projects, and good advice. At only 5 and a half years old, my daughter is not the target age for Redo Your Room, yet she was enthralled by the photography and studied every picture closely. We will definitely be holding onto this book for the future.
For me as a mom, what I really liked was that the projects were doable and not too expensive. One trip to the craft store and $100 later, you’d probably have everything you need to do at least five projects. I hate decorating books that build unrealistic expectations. Redo Your Room is not one of them. (Btw, this book would be a really cool present grandmas could give combined with a generous gift card to Michael’s.)
Ideally, *ahem*, I would have loved to see an entire chapter devoted to the art of cleaning your room and keeping it that way. But that’s the mother in me talking, not the twelve-year-old girl!
In the past two weeks, Jenna has made mind-blowing progress in her RUN, BUG, RUN! reader. I need to buy more star stickers!
Most of these stories are at a Guided Reading level of A or B, but a few of them, like “Get the Moth, Meg” and “The Sad Hog,” are at level C or perhaps D.
I apologize for sounding like I’ve drunk the All About Learning Kool-aid, (full disclosure: I am an affiliate), but committing to our All About Spelling materials twenty minutes a day has really made a difference.
As a former K-4 teacher, I’m still scratching my head about what’s going on. I’ve taught Jenna phonics since she was two years old. We’ve done multisensory lessons up the wazoo. (For a list of everything I’ve tried, click here.) All of my methods worked with Jenna…up to a point. Then she got glasses, which made a big difference.
Now, my daughter is presenting me with the opportunity of becoming a better teacher.
With my son Bruce, I could teach him a spelling pattern like “th,” “sh,” or “ch” and he could generalize that out to basically every word in existence. We could practice with 10 words, and he would be able to read 100.
With Jenna, I’ve discovered I need to explicitly teach all 10o words. Not only that, but it makes a big difference how I teach the words.
Flashcards are the least effective way for Jenna to learn new words.
Multisensory activities are a lot better.
Dictation helps too. She has exceptionally strong auditory skills, and can almost always sound out words properly–even though her handwriting is the subject of another post. In this picture, we are using raised lined paper and that helps a bit.
Too many words doesn’t help. Jenna does better when she can learn words one at a time. Then, if you present her with text where she knows almost all the words, she will be successful.
By the time Jenna has spelled out a word with tiles, and then written it down on paper, she does fine with the flash card version. When she encounters this word in text, she can sound it out.
Another thing that is really helping is the reading focus cards. I’m not sure if reduces eye-strain, improves tracking or what. But for Jenna, they were really worth purchasing and a lot better than the homemade versions I had used with her previously.
My homemade reading windows didn’t have colored film, plus the scalloped edges were probably distracting. For Jenna, they didn’t work very well, although I’ve had them work beautifully for other students.
As a mom, I have 900 kid commitments I’m responsible for right now. As a writer I have a book coming out next year and a sequel following. As a newspaper columnist, I have a deadline every week. So unfortunately, tinkering with my blog is low on the list of my priorities.
Ideally however, I should go back through all my old posts and tag them as “visual,” “auditory,” or “kinesthetic.” I would also go through my main list of ideas and organize them differently. I think Jenna would have had more success earlier if I could have pinpointed her best-practices-learning-path. “If your child is a visual learner, start here.” “If your child is an auditory learner, this page is for you.” etc.
In the meantime, here’s a very cool visual from All About Learning.
Last Saturday my daughter ran around the house saying “Pinch me. Is this a dream? I can read!” It was the cutest thing ever, but it also broke my heart a little bit. Two months ago we realized “Jenna” needed glasses. Now, we’re still regrouping.
One thing I know for sure is that Bob Books weren’t working for Jenna. Don’t get me wrong, I love Bob Books and have blogged about them often. But they weren’t working for Jenna, probably because she had developed an aversion to them because her eyes were hurting.
Since we already owned All About Spelling I decided to buy the All About Reading readers. (Full disclosure: I am an All About Learning affiliate.) All About Spelling and All About Reading are based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, which means teaching kids phonics in discrete, multisensory lessons that build upon each other. It’s the gold standard for helping kids with dyslexia. To be clear, I’m not supposing my daughter has dyslexia, but if she did, All About Learning products would be a recommended intervention.
Doing All About Spelling with my daughter has been a completely different experience than working through the program with my son.) You can read about “Bruce’s experience here.) Bruce blew through each step in a couple of days. Jenna does better spending one or two weeks on every step. She is fabulous at spelling out words with the tiles. Dictating words on paper is also a strength. But when it comes to flashcards, or simply reading the words from the book, she needs more time. I have to be patient.
So honestly, I didn’t know what to expect when we first opened RUN, BUG, RUN! Would this be a good fit?
It turns out, it wasn’t only a good fit, it was a home run. (And yes, I’m mixing metaphors!)
Every time Jenna reads a story we give her a star sticker. This picture shows how many stickers she’s earned in five days. Forty stickers!
There is a combination of things going on that are contributing to Jenna’s success:
- She finally has glasses!
- The stories are at the exactly right level for Jenna. They don’t include any spelling patterns she hasn’t learned yet.
- The illustrations by Matt Chapman, Donna Goeddaeus and Dave LaTulippe are beyond charming.
- Reading focus cards seem to really help.
The other thing I should add is the $1 I spent on those star sticks was totally worth it Getting a star sticker is incredibly motivating and we’ve been celebrating every time Jenna earns ten stars.
As a mom, I feel a tremendous amount of relief to have a program that works. Sure, I have my whole litany of free strategies to teach kids to read but for some reason Jenna needed something different. I’m not sure if it was the undiagnosed vision problem, or something else. But now I feel like we are solidly back on track.
Go ahead and pinch me. I’m living the dream!