Monday, June 30, 2014

The Best Book You've Read So Far in 2014

Can you believe we're halfway through 2014? Someone at work started talking about 2015 planning and I believe I got the vapors. Not being ready for 2015 aside, I've been asking around the neighborhood - which means the Mystery Playground Facebook page, the comments in posts and my extensive network of mystery readers - What is the best book you've read so far this year? 

The book didn't have to come out this year, it just had to be read this year.

And here are the answers, followed by the person that offered the recommendation:

- Natchez Burning by Greg Isles - My Mom  
- I've Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark - Lynda Lee M. 
- The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley - "traveler"
- The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor - "Petite"
- The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks - Natalie Y
- The Collector by Nora Roberts - Robin B
- Desperate by Daniel Palmer - Kim Hammond

And my favorite so far? The Intern's Handbook by Shane Kune
If you haven't had a chance to weigh in yet, we want to hear your favorite book so far of 2014, so comment below. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Set Your DVRs: Endeavour is Back Tonight

Endeavor, the Inspector Morse pre-quel, returns to Masterpiece Mystery! on PBS for Season Two (four episodes) starting tonight. The show stars Shawn Evans as Endeavor Morse and you don't have to be a fan of the original series to enjoy the show. 

Here's where this season starts:

"Four months after DC Endeavour Morse’s involuntary leave of absence, he returns to the force and a case that unites an unidentifiable corpse, an enigmatic note, and the theft of medieval artifacts – seemingly unrelated cases as fractured as Morse's state of mind after his terrifying brush with death."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Happy Birthday Henry VIII

Divorced, Beheaded, Died. Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. 

So goes the rhyme that helps people remember how one of my favorite kings dispatched with five of his wives. 

And today is King Henry VIII's 523rd birthday of one of my favorite kings. You can celebrate with this very special mug. When you fill it with hot water, Henry's wives disappear. Although to be fair, it did take a little more than hot water for him to get rid of most of them.

By rights the last wife, Catherine Parr, shouldn't disappear from the mug. She outlived him. I guess even disappearing royal wives mugs aren't fair. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Drinks with Reads: Bellweather Rhapsody and Homemade Wine

Kate Racculia is one of my favorite authors - I discovered her in 2010 with This Must Be The Place, and now she’s published Bellweather Rhapsody, a mystery in the spirit of Ellen Raskin and Agatha Christie.  If you like quirky characters and twisty plots, this one is for you.  The tale takes place in the Bellweather, a falling-down hotel in upstate New York, during a high school music festival.  Our hero, Rabbit Hatmaker, is a shy senior - but there’s something about the Bellweather that causes him to come out of his shell.  At the same time, his twin sister, Alice, discovers a gruesome tableau: it could be a murder, but it could be something else.  The Bellweather is haunted, and the mysteries surrounding our characters unravel as we find out what exactly happened, both that night and in every night that came before.

I interviewed Kate here on my podcast, The ABC Book Reviews, and we had a great time telling bassoon stories. Like Rabbit, we’re both bassoonists.  Check it out for more details. 

Our drink of choice is red wine: you’ll know why when you read the book.  My husband makes his own, so yes, you can ferment it yourself.  We get juice from local vineyards, then let it age in our basement for at least nine months.  You can add sugar to the juice to make it sweet, or leave it alone for a drier taste - of course, it also depends on the juice and grape type you are using.  Supplies for storing the wine can be found at beer or winemaking stores; typically, the juice ages in a large glass jug called a carboy.  When it comes time to bottle, you can re-use old bottles or buy new ones.  For an easy introduction, you can use a wine making kit such as Wine Expert:  I'm certainly not an expert, but I'm sure my husband would be willing to answer any questions! Just ask him in the comments below. 

This one is a ruby red cabernet, and it will knock you down, just like a certain character in Bellweather Rhapsody.  Curl up with a glass and this fine read.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Crafty Thursdays: Book Page Photo Frame

We're back with Crafty Thursdays and this time the crafting group decided to try to make book page frames. Since real frames can be expensive and this was an experiment, we decided to practice with the $1 Michaels versions with no glass. These $1 frames are also great for kids projects (although it may be we are really just big kids...). 

Pat took the design lead tearing out quotes and chapter headings from damaged books. We made two frames and we're only giving away one of them, so scroll down to the end to comment if you'd like to get in on that one. 


Here are the materials we used:

- Michaels $1 frame
- Mod Podge
- Book pages from damaged books
- Old maps and toy cars
- Sponge brush
- Sealant spray

Step One:
Tear around the quotes or chapters headings or photos you'd like to use. You can cut them as well but I prefer the torn look. Then arrange them as you like on the frame.

Step Two:
Get out the Mod Podge and your sponge brush and get to work. When you're done let it dry and apply one more coat.  

Step Three:
Wait until it dries. Then we took highlighter and red marker to highlight some favorite phrases. Then we sprayed it with sealant.

We used the same technique on with maps and put a little toy car on the frame after the sealant was put on. And you're done!  
the little car is a cute touch

We're giving away the book page version (below) of the frame to one lucky commenter based in the US. The map frame is not being given away because it is being sent to the Portland Office of Mystery Playground.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Macavity Award Nominations

The Macavity Award nominations are out. The Macavity Awards are nominated and voted on by members and friends of Mystery Readers International and subscribers to Mystery Readers Journal. Winners will be announced at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention in Long Beach (CA) on November 13.

Congratulations to all who were nominated. 

Best Mystery Novel 
Sandrine’s Case by Thomas H. Cook (Mysterious Press) 
Dead Lions by Mick Herron (Soho Crime) 
Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger (Atria Books) 
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood (Penguin Books) 
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Minotaur Books) 
Standing in Another Man’s Grave by Ian Rankin (Reagan Arthur Books) 

Best First Mystery 
Yesterday’s Echo by Matt Coyle (Oceanview Publishing) 
Rage Against the Dying by Becky Masterman (Minotaur Books) 
Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books) 
Norwegian by Night by Derek Miller (Faber & Faber) 
A Killing at Cotton Hill by Terry Shames (Seventh Street Books) 

Best Mystery Short Story 
“The Terminal” by Reed Farrel Coleman (Kwik Krimes, edited by Otto Penzler; Thomas & Mercer) 
“The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” by John Connolly (Bibliomysteries: Short Tales about Deadly Books, edited by Otto Penzler; Bookspan) 
“The Dragon’s Tail” by Martin Limon (Nightmare Range: The Collected Sueno and Bascom Short Stories, Soho Books) 
“The Hindi Houdini” by Gigi Pandian (Fish Nets: The Second Guppy Anthology, edited by Ramona DeFelice Long; Wildside Press) 
“Incident on the 405” by Travis Richardson (The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble, edited by Clare Toohey; Macmillan)
 “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants” by Art Taylor (Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, March/April 2013) 

Best Nonfiction
The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo (William Morrow) 
Being Cool: The Work of Elmore Leonard by Charles J. Rzepka (Johns Hopkins University Press) 
The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War by Daniel Stashower (Minotaur Books) 

Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award 
A Murder at Rosamund's Gate by Susanna Calkins (Minotaur Books) 
Saving Lincoln by Robert Kresge (ABQ Press) 
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson (Minotaur Books) 
Murder as a Fine Art by David Morrell (Little, Brown) 

Ratlines by Stuart Neville (Soho Crime)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Think of A Card: An Interview with Magician Chris Dugdale

I love magic tricks so when I got the chance to meet magician, Chris Dugdale, I just couldn't resist asking him a few questions. Chris has performed his magic for HRH Prince Charles, Richard Branson and Angelina Jolie, entertaining at 11 Royal Command Performances, two United Nations Performances, but you may have seen him in on the NBC show, Dracula

Here's Chris doing a card trick called, "All In."

Here is the interview with Chris:

What is the best part about being a magician? 

The fact that it is the only thing left in the world that can make a billionaire feel like a child again. 

Here's Chris on the left and on the right is HRH Prince Charles.

What is your process for developing new tricks? 

Have a goal and work backwards. Work with great people. I am lucky to have a great writer, director, consultant and agent. 

How long and where did you study to be a magician?

I've been studying magic since I was five. I was self taught until other magicians took and interest in me and offered to mentor. 

Who is the magician that you admire the most or who influenced you the most?

That's easy. Lance Burton is the greatest magician who ever lived. 

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Traveling away from my baby and wife. 

What inspired you to become a magician?  

First it was Paul Daniels. And then it was the disbelief in people's faces when you perform magic and suspend their disbelief. It continues to inspire me when you can give the audience an emotional experience beyond the norm. 

Is there a book or a trick for beginners that you recommend?

There are lots of tips and tricks at

Here's Chris with Penn & Teller and on Dracula:

Chris Dugdale started learning magic at the age of 5 years old. Not being an enthusiastic reader, his grandfather thought that it would encourage Chris to read if he bought him a set of magic tricks and go through the instructions with him. The magic took hold more than the reading! From that young age he was captivated and this has lead into a life long passion for the art.

At the age of 18 he became the youngest member of the world renowned Magic Circle and successfully levitated a presenter on BBC television live in front of 6 million people. Shortly afterwards he was promoted to the highest honour possible by award - Associate of the Inner Magic Circle. The day he graduated from Leicester university, armed with a degree in psychology, he became a full time magician. He has since become a world famous author of his own magic and lecturer on the psychology of magic. But performance is his real passion and in 2003 he became the first magician in history to entertain Her Majesty the Queen and the United Nations in the same year. December 2nd 2005 saw his return to New York to entertain at the United Nations.

His schedule has included over 100 appearances in the Monte Carlo Casino in Las Vegas and over 50 appearances at the world famous Hollywood Magic Castle

We'll leave you today with this 30 second magic trick from Chris:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Major Crimes Facebook Chat Recap with Jonathan Del Arco & James Duff

Jonathan Del Arco, who plays Dr. Morales on Major Crimes, joined the shows co-creator, producer and writer, James Duff for his weekly on-season Facebook Chat. 

It seemed like James spilled more information this week and here's what we learned:
  • After seven years of watching Dr. Morales but never hearing his first name, we'll find it out in a court scene later this season. Jonathan has asked that it be anything but Spike, but who knows if James will honor that request.
  • We'll meet Amy Sykes' love interest later this season.
  • The Flynn & Provenza focused episodes are among Duff's favorites - not a surprise since they are among our favorites as well.
  • Jonathan and James first met playing a game of Murder.
  • Provenza will get a love interest in the winter season of Major Crimes.
  • Next week the show gets more serious again. 

Here's the recap of the rest of James' answers. It doesn't include the questions because as this chat gets more and more popular, they stack up too fast to match them up. James does a good job of putting the question inside the answer most of the time. 

James Duff Shirley V. - I'd love to see a movie special with Flynn and Provenza, too. And the dead aunt was played by the great genius of the Los Angeles film and theatre community, Carole Cook. Goodnight to all of you and see you again next week.

James Duff Gregory E. H asks why The Closer is not on Netflix. I have no idea, really. But I think it's on Amazon Prime!

James Duff Gail S says tonight's episode is very different from the others, and wants to know if we got new writers. Not really, Gail! We do at least one Flynn & Provenza episode every year, where they get involved in the...lighter side of crime fighting.

James Duff @Marea D H asks if we use any true crimes for the show? Yes, we do sometimes take something that happened in life and turn it around to make it a Major Crime. This story, for instance, was suggested by a real life instance where someone left a minor fortune to a pet.

James Duff Holly Michelle B wants to know if Sykes has lost her relationship because she's dressed back in a professional manner. Not at all! She is playing it cool.

James Duff Just Smile asks if plan on adding any new younger characters. Tune in to episode 307, Two Options, where we introduce another whole division of the LAPD.

James Duff I don't want to say how the story resolves, because it's part of our ongoing exploration of the them of expectations. Tonight is all about the consequences of thinking you should always have a second chance at the ball.

James Duff Samantha R asks what rights Rusty has. The kid has turned eighteen, so legally, he's an adult as long as he's not in a bar by himself. So he does not need to be adopted for reasons of guardianship. But there are other reasons he might want to supersede the relationship with his mom.

James Duff Jennifer S asks if Rusty will ever become a police officer? The answer is probably not. But maybe! I can't say, really, what would bring him into the LAPD. But he has a big change coming up this summer. A very big change. And one that will take all his concentration to overcome.

James Duff This is our ninth Flynn and Provenza episode over the ten seasons of The Closer and Major Crimes. And they usually end up being one of my favorites of every years.

James Duff Sophie O asks if we could have anyone guest star on the show, I guess I would have to say either Jeff Bridges or Oprah Winfry. I just want to meet them! And there's no reason either one of them should ever talk to me!

James Duff Yes, the show is about the Maltese. Falcon. On Twitter, there are folks asking!

James Duff Debbie M asks if Sharon would adopt Rusty if she could. I think adoption takes both parents to agree. And Sharon is still married to her husband Jack. I think she has some decisions to make in that regard.

James Duff Holly Michelle B hopes that Jonathan doesn't have to do an autopsy on the dog. Actually, his autopsy tonight is much, much worse!

James Duff Jonathan had a hoot doing it.

James Duff Jon Tenney is hilarious in real life. And he tells the best jokes, too, and normally I don't really like jokes so much.

James Duff Trinity D KT wants to know who the funniest actor is in the morgue. The answer would be the same from every actor on the show, I think. Because everyone thinks Jon Tenney is the funniest

James Duff Debbie M asks what it will take for Rusty to see Sharon as his true mother. If you want to know the answer to this question, tune in next week. Because we answer it!

James Duff She L wants to know if we're going to expand the part of Buzz. His role gets bigger every year! And he would agree with you that he should have more to do. But all the actors say that!

James Duff Peggy H asks how Jonathan develops his character. Jonathan responds that he learns his lines as well as he can, and then tries not to scream at the dead bodies.

James Duff Andrew D, who plays Dick Tracy in this ep, is one of the greatest talents in the acting profession

James Duff Kimberlee T ask if we have already finished shooting this season. No! I wish! No! We still have half all the winter season to go.

James Duff I should say, Sanchez has shown anger issues several times before

James Duff Lots of people asking about Sanchez anger issues. All will be revealed during the summer. And no, I am not planning on having him leave the show! He's one of my best friends. And he's a fantastic actor!

James Duff Ilona Arcari Asks how Jonathan feels about the morgue. Jonathan is death-a-phobic! He gets freaked out by the dead bodies. All the time. And I'm not kidding!

James Duff @Jenean Johnston V M asks if I ever thought Major Crimes would be as successful as it's become. I wasn't sure, of course, but I know how good our actors are and how hard working and talented our writers are, I was betting on success.

James Duff Funny to recollect now, but Jonathan and I met during a game of Murder!

James Duff Stephanie P wants to know if Rusty's Mom is going to be a long running storyline this season. She is a kick off point. I love Ever Carradine, and I'm glad to be working with her. She and Graham do a great job in next week's episode.

James Duff RJ F wants to know what happened to Nadien V. and if he can get her contact information. The answer is, she will come back later in the season and No! You cannot have her contact information, though I will tell her you asked about her.

James Duff But we will be giving Provenza a love interest. This winter!

James Duff Jane P asks if there will be a love interest for Provenza. Jonathan says we've already done a show about a nursing home, which is really rude!

James Duff Brittany T wants to know who Sykes is dating. Watch episode five of this season, two weeks from tonight. I can't just tell you. This is a mystery show!

James Duff Elizabeth C asks she is uncertain what Rusty meant when he said to Provenze in the premiere, "And that other thing? That you think you know? I'm not ready to talk about that at all."

James Duff Ilona Arcari asks if Jonathan has a preference for Dr. Morales first name. All I can say is Jonathan has asked me not to name him Spike. You will get to hear Dr. Morales's first name the next time he testifies in court. Which is not too far away.

James Duff Dina S asks what are the hardest episodes to watch, for me personally. I think Jonathan and I would both agree, they have to do with the murders of children. I always get upset when I see them. And yet, they happen so often in life that not to portray them would un inauthentic

James Duff
Shelby M asks if Sharon and Flynn are ever going to get together? I don't know the answer to this. I just know they have good chemistry!

James Duff Laura U Asks who my favorite character to write for is! Normally, I don't answer questions like that, but since he's sitting right next to me, I'll say Jonathan Del Arco and take all the grief that comes after.

James Duff
Before we go, Jonathan wants to thank all of you for warming up to him after joining us in the middle of season three of The Closer. He's been working on some version of the show for seven-and-a-hlaf years, which is his longest gig in his career. And to those of you who remember him fondly as Hugh from Star Trek, he thanks you! It was one of his favorite roles of all time!

James Duff Thanks everyone for having us in your homes this evening. We'll be back next week with a more dramatic entry into our summer series.

Speakeasy New York: BathTub Gin

It's been awhile since the Mystery Playground SWAT team has hit a speakeasy but during a recent trip to New York City we stopped into a speakeasy bar in Chelsea called BathTub Gin (not to be confused with the speakeasy of a similar name in Seattle). We were not disappointed. 

This bar is really hidden -- the entrance is located inside a coffee shop, called Stone Street. It's small and they really do serve coffee. Once you get inside, if you say you are going to BathTub Gin, they let you in the door to the bar (it's hidden in a wall of the coffee shop). Like most speakeasy's the bar was dark with rich decor.

The drinks were fabulous. I had the Carol Channing #1 (Champagne, creme de framboise, kirsch eau-de-vie served in a flute) and my friend had the Paloma (tequila, cointreau, Cappelletti Aparativo Rosso, pressed lime and grapefruit and grapefruit bitters). Then we both had a drink called It's About Thyme (Champagne, Yellow Chartreuse, pressed lemon and fresh thyme). All of the drinks were great. It's About Thyme was the best. 

BathTub Gin serves food. We had the gnocchi and it was fabulous. 

Directions & Details:
BathTub Gin is located 132 9th Avenue, between 18th & 19th. You have to walk into the Stone Street Coffee shop to get to the front door. Reservations are advised, although we walked in on a Monday night at 7pm without a reservation and got in just fine. Weekends are a different story. No password is required. They have live jazz on Monday nights at 9pm.  

What Are Speakeasies?
Speakeasies were essentially secret bars that sprang up when the United States outlawed alcohol in 1919. Most speakeasies were housed in unmarked locations, many required a password to get in and some may have even moved from place to place to stay ahead of the law. Many think the name came from patrons being told to "speakeasy" or to lower their voices so no one suspected they were serving alcohol. 

Today, there are many modern speakeasies that retain some of these traditions. Usually they feature fresh ingredients in their food and drink, and though the secrecy is no longer needed, many are in discreet locations that lack signage. Some even require passwords.

You can read about Mystery Playground's other speakeasy adventures here

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Set Your DVRs: Tyrant

Fx has come up with another super edge TV concept, called Tyrant, and it makes it's debut this Tuesday. It's a challenging subject - the happenings of a family in a fictional war-torn middle eastern culture. 

Here's a description of the show:

Bassam "Barry" Al Fayeed is from the fictional war-torn country of Baladi. He has been living in self-selected exile in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years. Barry, the younger son of Baladi's dictator, ends his exile to return with his American family to his homeland for his nephew's wedding. His arrival leads to a dramatic culture clash, as he reluctantly returns to the familial and national politics he once left.

The concept is intriguing to me because I haven't seen a show tackle these topics in this lens. The subject matter is tough and about as far from relaxing as you can get. There's also been a little drama in getting the show made. 

Here's a preview:

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Mystery TV Show Theme Songs: 80s Private Eye Edition Vol 1

We're back again revisiting mystery TV show theme songs from 70s Private Detective shows. This time starting with a ruggedly handsome detective that lived in the house of a crime fiction novelist before Castle's Nathan Fillion even made it to One Life to Live

Here's the beginning to Magnum P.I.


And here's the Han Solo edition, Wookie included:


Next we go to those darlings of the rich detective set, Jonathan and Jennifer from Hart to Hart. This show started in 1979, but since the bulk of it was in the 80s, it stays in the 80s. This is the side to side parody with Adam Scott and Amy Poehler. 


Friday, June 20, 2014

Drinks with Reads: Rebecca & The Bramble

Janet Rogerson joins us today to tee up Rebecca by Daphne DeMaurier ( (Winner of the Anthony Award for Best Novel of the Century - that's a big deal.) 

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again..."

Romance and mystery, are intertwined perfectly in this tale narrated by the second Mrs. Maxim deWinter whose first name the reader never learns.

In a whirlwind romance, the narrator is swept off her feet by the handsome and wealthy Maxim, a widower. He is loving and attentive until he brings his new bride home to his estate, Manderley, on the rugged Cornish coast of England.

Almost from the moment they arrive at Manderley, Maxim becomes withdrawn. His friends and sinister housekeeper make our heroine feel shabby and inept compared to the elegant and sophisticated Rebecca deWinter, Maxim's first wife.

And there are secrets, all centering on Rebecca's disappearance.

Our heroine searches for answers, unsuccessfully. But Rebecca's body is found and Maxim is accused of murdering her. As the case comes to trial, the truth about Rebecca's deceitful life and the unhappiness she caused Maxim comes to light.

The Bramble

1 1/2 oz. gin
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. crème de mure liquer (blackberry liquor)
Garnish with a couple of blackberries

1.  Pour the gin, lime juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker filled with ice.
2.  Shake well.
3. Strain over crushed ice in a highball glass.
4.  Drizzle crème de mure on top and garnish with blackberries.

Non-alcohol Bramble

2 oz. of tonic water
3/4 oz. of fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. black cherry juice
Garnish with a couple of blackberries

1. Mix lime juice and tonic water.
2. Pour over crushed ice in a highball glass.
3. Drizzle black cherry juice on top and garnish with blackberries. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Crafty Thursdays: Painted Glass

The craft today is silhouette painted glass. As it sometimes goes with crafting, what we liked when we started was dramatically different than what we liked when we finished. That being said, this one isn't too hard. 

Here are the materials you need:

- A glass or a jar, we wound up liking the recycled pickle jars we used for practice best. Much better than the wine glasses.  Go figure. Now we're saving pickle jars, but really how many pickles can you eat?

- A cut out silhouette (like the ones below). Don't use the Malificent cut out below unless you have serious artistic talent, as I don't. We wound up trying and scrapping her twice. Sherlock is much easier.

- Black craft paint made by Martha Stewart for Plaid. It's non-toxic dishwasher safe on the top rack. We liked Beetle Black Opaque best although Shadow Transparent was also used.

- Rubbing alcohol and a paper towel to clean the glass

We took this photo before we ran to the drugstore to by rubbing alcohol
Step One:
Print out silhouette images that you want to use. The simpler, the better, unless you are a talented artist. There are some templates below (you may have to print them smaller or larger depending on the size of your glass item). Cut around the image to the desired size. 

Step Two:
Clean your glass with soap and water, then rubbing alcohol. The glass needs to be really really clean. The part where the paint will go can't have any fingerprints, so touch other areas of the glass or wear tight rubber gloves. 

Step Three:
Tape your image inside the glass. You read that right, INSIDE.

Step Four:
Open your paint and practice on paper a bit. When you are ready, trace the outside of your design on the glass. Then remove your pattern from the inside. 

Step Five:
Start filling in the outline with the black paint. I know Sherlock was replaced with Alfred Hitchcock below, but we liked making them so much we forget to take photos and made more to illustrate. 

Step Six:
Either let dry for two days or bake them in the oven for 30 minutes like it says here. I decided to let them dry for two days. 

And you're done. Here are final votives: 

Handcuffs, Poirot, Nancy Drew and Sherlock votives

Here are the two jars (filled with my favorite color blue M&Ms) and the Sherlock wine glass.

Silhouette templates:

Isn't this awesome - Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant. We only used Alfred this time since Cary seemed a little daunting in our first foray. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Seeing Europe with Famous Authors

I came across this wonderful little book called Seeing Europe with Famous Authors. It's one of a set of ten published by Funk & Wagnalls in 1914. This volume focuses on France and the Netherlands (more France than the Netherlands) and features travel essays from famous authors of the time including novelists:

-  Charles Dickens, author of A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Oliver!, etc., etc.) who wrote about The Papal Palace at Avignon. Turns out that this was the papal seat sometime in the 14th century. Dickens wrote multiple essays for the many of the other volumes as well.
-  Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlett Letter, who writes about The Madeleine and the Champs Elysees in Paris and Amiens, a city north of Paris with a beautiful cathedral
- Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, who writes about Notre Dame
Henry James, author of Turn of the Screw and Portrait of a Lady writes about Orange, a borough in France that has in James' words, "a collection of eminently civil monuments."
- William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair, who writes about Versailles

Here's the start of the Notre Dame Essay from Victor Hugo:

It's a wonderful little book and there are quite a few available on Amazon. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Donors Choose: 1000 Books

One of my favorite charities is Donors Choose - a website that helps teachers get resources for their classrooms. It lets the donor (that's you) pick which project that you would like to support. We feature a special project every few months to help a teacher get their project funded, Our project today is for a 5th grade classroom in Memphis, TN. Mr. Akinmoladun needs books for his classroom. Here's what he has to say about his project:

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.. The man who never reads lives only one"  
  - George Martin 

In my second year of teaching, my goal is for each scholar to grow 2.5 reading years. By getting texts that are from various levels and topics of interest, this will help close the gap.
Our scholars are in desperate need for strong instruction in the area of literacy. In our first year of existence, we started the school year with only 3% of scholars reading on grade level. However, after analyzing winter reading data, we saw that 25% of our scholars can now read on grade level. That's huge in six months, but we must continue to progress forward.

In the Achievement School District, the goal is to take the bottom 5% schools; and in less than five years, the vision is to take those schools to the top 25%. By increasing my classroom library with new books, scholars will find a book that will captivate their interest. Increasing student engagement and passion for reading will allow my scholars to become lifelong readers. It is unfair that my scholars must endure these statistics. I believe my scholars can overcome any odds and consequently, have the power to redefine statistics. This project will help my scholars deepen their understanding of the world.

To improve the literacy program in the 2014- 2015 school year, I am hoping this Donor's Choose project can support scholars by increasing both literacy resources in terms of reading levels, multiple genres, and expanding various areas of interest. The hope is that scholars will be exposed to a rich variety of text that allows them to exposed to a world outside their own community.

Entering the upcoming school year, my scholars are currently limited with the resources within my classroom library. Some students must share the same books and unfortunately,all my kids don't have the resources to read at their independent level and spark their interest like a normal library should. By widening my classroom library, kids will have everything they need to reach their goals and what's more, scholars can select from a wide range of books that can captivate their interest.

These resources will give my students the tools to become readers and will also put them on track for college. My students need books! I want my scholars next year to deepen their imagination by reading texts that are from various levels, genres, and topics of interest.

This Donor's Choose project will help me close the achievement gap by allowing my scholars to access a rich variety of texts. Moreover, this project will help me spark the interest of 5th grade minds and also help me shape lifelong readers.

This project cannot happen without your support. It takes a village to raise a child. We are doing everything we can to bring our scholars to grade level. However, we need the proper tools and resources. Help me make this dream become a reality.

My students need books! I want my scholars next year to deepen their imagination by reading texts that are from various levels, genres, and topics of interest.

If you would like to help Mr. Akinmoladun reach his worthy goal, you can learn more here. If you want to find your own project whether it's about reading, science, art or math, you can find it here