Time for Summer Reading

JH Paperboy

Summer vacation begins today and so does our annual Super Summer Reading Program! It’s just as important to read in the summer time as it is during the school year. To make it a little more fun, we add a dose of silliness! We get caught reading in super fun or super silly places!

our summer reads

DSCN1088It’s super easy to participate! Here are the directions:

1. Choose a something you are reading. It can be a book, magazine, eReader, pamphlet, map – the choice is yours! Reading can happen in all sorts of ways!

2. Snap a photograph of yourself reading this summer! It can be silly or serious. It can be a picture of you here or there or anywhere! Do not hurt yourself or your book! No underwater reading! Unless you are  scuba diver! You can be reading in your house, or backyard, on vacation or even in a kayak!

sal and lou

3. Ask your parents/adult family member to email the photograph to Mrs. Hembree between now and September 1, 2014. Students may not send a photo from their personal account. It must come from  an adult. Send to my blog email address:


 ***Important Parent Note: By emailing the photograph, you grant Mrs. Hembree permission to post it on the Bulldog Reader Blog. I never publish last names!  http://bellbulldogreaderblog.edublogs.org

4. Prizes will be given to everyone who participates. In the fall, I will make a poster of all of our photos and hang it in the library!

5. Have fun! The best part about reading in the summer is making your own choices on what to read! Twenty minutes a day all summer long will keep your reading skills sharp and ready for the fall. I urge everyone to read at least 5 books during your reading brain healthy and strong!


Need an idea for what to read? Keep checking the blog. I plan on posting ideas and review all summer long. Visit one of the area book stories like ParkPlace Books, Third Place Books, or Elliott Bay Books. Browse the shelves at Value Village and Goodwill for inexpensive choices too. Check out neighborhood garage sales and pick up a book that your neighbor has finished reading.

Another place to find ideas for books is on the website Common Sense Media. You can explore books by age level and genre interests. You can use the ideas to find books at your local library or bookstore. Have fun! There are also ideas for apps and websites.

Send in those photos! I can’t wait to see what you are reading this summer! Remember, anyone can participate. You don’t have to go to our school to send in photos. yollis


Have a great summer reading!

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Scuba Diver Skype

Do you love the ocean?

Our first graders have been learning about the oceans and sea life in their science unit. It’s magical to watch their excitement as they learn about the amazing animals that live in the sea. Luckily for us in the Seattle area, we have lots of opportunities to see sealife in the Puget Sound.


The students will be visiting the Seattle Aquarium on Monday. To get them even more interested in sea life in the oceans, we skyped last week with Karen Zammitti and her father, Sal Zammitti, scuba diver and owner of BambooReef Enterprises, Inc in San Francisco, California. He and his wife Lou have been diving since the 1960′s. They can even read underwater!

sal and lou

I knew the Zammitti family when I lived in the San Francisco area of California as a teenager. In fact, Karen and I went to high school together! I spent many, many hours at the Zammitti house. That’s why I knew he would be the perfect expert for the first grade ocean unit.


Mr. Zammitti is a very experienced scuba diver has over the last 50+ years been instrumental in certifying over 10,000 people how to scuba dive. In 2011, he was awarded the California Scuba Service Award for his significant and long lasting contributions to the California diving community. He has been on several episodes of Mythbusters, including the Jaws episode. 

Mr. Zammitti talked to us via Skype from his main store in San Francisco. He told us about diving all over the world and showed us some of the equipment he uses on his dives. The students asked him if he ever sees sharks in the ocean and they were shocked to hear that he takes divers on shark divers! The divers go inside a large metal cage to keep them safe and the cage is lowered into the ocean. He said he loves sharks, even great white sharks! He does a lot of underwater photography and showed us the large waterproof case he uses to place is camera inside.

Sal Skype

Our students are still too young to scuba dive yet, but they are the perfect age to learn how to swim and snorkel in the wonderful lakes in our area. There are great dive shops in the Puget Sound, and if you are ever in San Francisco, stop by Bamboo Reef Enterprises and say hello to Mr. Zammitti and his daughter Karen! Here is a video he created when he dove in Raja Ampat in Indonesia.

Can you identify any of the sealife in the video? Here is a link to coral reef books available at the Kirkland and Kingsgate branches of the King County libraries. Take a trip there this summer and check them out! Coral Reef Books

 If you would like to learn more about BambooReef they can be found on Twitter @bambooreefscuba or on Facebook Bamboo Reef Diving Centers

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Celebrating Memorial Day


Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

My baby girl
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: praline3001 via Compfight

While it’s not technically summer, Memorial Day weekend seems like the weekend that launches the summer season. Books that have been calling your name go to the top of the pile as homework dies down. Soon school will end and the long days of summer vacation will begin. However, Memorial Day weekend is more than just a long weekend of summer barbeques, camping trips and fun with family and friends.



Memorial Day, celebrated on the last Monday in May, is a holiday to give tribute to the men and women who have lost their lives serving in the US armed forces. Originally it was known as Decoration Day, to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War. Not to be confused with Veteran’s Day in November, Memorial Day is a day to stop and reflect on the women and men who have lost their lives while serving their country, 


It is a common tradition to decorate the graves of soldiers with American flags and fresh flowers. The President of the US also places a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery in Washington, D.C.


I hope this weekend as you enjoy the days off from work and school, you will also remember the purpose of the day and pause to reflect on their sacrifice to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

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May is Mystery Skype Month


Are you in the United States?


This month has become “Skype” busy! We started with Dino Skype. Then we moved to Mystery Skype. On Monday, I posted on our new library bulletin board that I was looking for ten  volunteers in grades 3-5 to mystery Skype on Friday at lunch recess. The sign up sheet filled up. Then on Friday they gathered in the library where I had maps and supplies spread out on tables. I included some sample questions to get the group started and we were off!   It turns out that we were connected with Mr. Tellgren’s 3rd grade class in Iowa. They are AWESOME at mystery Skype and have played the game over 20 times!  I think they had our state figured out within 5 questions. It took us a little longer, but we figured it out soon enough. Knowing which question to ask is not easy and takes a lot of geographical thinking.  IMG_1588_edited



This group had such a great time that they asked to do it again. I put a request on Twitter with the hashtag #mysteryskype.


Within a day, we were set up for our session #2. This time, I knew it would be a bit more challenging. I set out maps of the US, but also the world, the provinces of Canada and the states in Mexico. A different group came to recess and were eager to begin. We had a few technical glitches with the internet, but we worked through them and kept trying. Eventually we had to stop video calling, and we could only audio call. However, both groups figured out the location of each other’s classroom! Here are a few scenes from our visit with Mr.Moya’s class in Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico! This city is near El Paso, Texas.


 “Can we do this again next week Mrs. Hembree?” It looks like we will be trying this again soon. I’m crossing my fingers that we will be able to connect with one of our partner schools in our Books to Africa program. That would be amazing!


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A True (…sort of) Conversation


“You HAVE to read this book!


The morning bell had just rung and kids were streaming past the library doors. Parker surged against the tide to come inside the library. She set the book down on the counter and looked at me.

“Really, Mrs. Hembree, you need to read this book. I know you’ll like it! I brought you my personal copy so you wouldn’t have to wait. See here on the inside?  I wrote my name inside.”

“Okay, okay!” I replied with a big smile on my face. “I recognize the cover, but I never read it. I’ll read the book as soon as I can.”

“No, Mrs. Hembree, you need to start reading it today…like right now!” Parker insisted. “I’ll stop by later and see what you think.” Just as quickly as she came in, she was gone, caught up in the morning chaos of kids making their way down the hallway to class.

That book drop began our multiple recess book conversations about True (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan. She did stop by an hour or so later to see if I had started it. (I hadn’t had a chance.) Her insistence was infectious, so that night I did take it home and began falling in love Delly Pattison from page one. Delly is one of six children in the Pattison family: Dallas, Tallahassee, Montana, Galveston, Delaware, (Delly for short) and RB, the baby. She is tiny and always in trouble.

And Delly Pattison was trouble: little trouble on the way to BIG TROUBLE, and getting closer to it every day.

Reading True (…sort of) was like getting a Delly present, or as she says, a surpresent. A surpresent is a present that’s a surprise. That’s what True (…sort of) is- it’s a surpresent into a Delly world of readeliciousness. That’s reading deliciousness. (my new word). I finished the book in 2 days and couldn’t wait to tell Parker. As she came down the hall on her way to class that morning I asked her to stop by later that morning.

“Did you finish it?” Parker asked through the crowd of kids.

“Yup, I LOVED it! We gotta talk! Stop by at recess!” I yelled back to her.

She came at recess and we started talking. Those conversations lasted for days, usually starting with, “What did you think about the part when….” or “Why do you think….” or “How about ……what did you think of that?” Other  kids would gather around the check out desk listening to our conversations, and interrupting with, “What book are you talking about? Can I check it out?”

Eventually Parker and I decided to sit down for a long conversation so we could include it on the blog. Mr. Schu on the blog Watch. Connect. Read. publishes long conversations with authors, so I thought we could try something similar. 

Why did you want me to read this book?

Parker: I wanted you to read this book because I know you liked Ida B and this was kind of  a very adventurous book and I thought you might like it.

What was your favorite part?

Parker: Probably my favorite part is where Ferris Boyd got lost or kind of disappeared and they went on a Dellyventure.

Don’t you love the words she uses? Like surpresent. I want a surpresent! I love all the words that were her own. She even had a Delly dictionary made up with words. A Dellyictionary I guess it is. Words made up by Delly (Delaware) Pattison. I like that. The words give a lot more depth to Delly.  I thought that I really knew her.

Then there’s Ferris. Why did you think she didn’t talk people couldn’t touch her?

Parker: Maybe because she was really shy and whenever that father came over, and whatever happened inside, I think, kind of connected to why she didn’t talk.

Did you have the idea that she was being abused before the author let you know?

Parker: Ya, I did. How did you think the author came up with the idea of Ferris not talking and being abused? Do you think it’s some kind of influence (she witnessed) reflected in the book?

I wonder if she came across a student who dealt with selective mutism.

Taylor, who has been listening to us talking, and has not read the book, joins our conversation.

Taylor: Do you think the characters would be based off some people you’ve met, or something that happened to you?

 I bet, for her, she either met somebody, or read about it. I know I’ve had students who have suffered from this same problem. I think I’ve had three in my career, who could talk, but chose not to.  (selective mutism: when a person who can talk, choses not to talk, at all or very selectively).

If you could talk to Katherine Hannigan, what would you ask her?

Parker: What gave you the idea for writing this book?

Why would it be good to meet her?

Parker: Because I could actually meet the source of the book. And knowing the source of the book, I could know more about her personality so that I could see why she wanted to write this book.

What do you think about the title, True (…sort of)? It’s an interesting title.

Parker: I know!  On the back (of the cover) it says, ” At the end of the day Delly watched Ferris Boyd slump out of the back door of the school, then she ran to the front. “Go with Cletis,” she hollered at RB. “I’ll be home later/” RB went pale with worry. “You in trouble?” “Nah,” she said. “I got a project.” “What kind of project?” Delly told the truth, sort of.

So you think Delly never told the entire truth. She always told portions of the truth. That’s how the book got it’s name?

Parker: Yes!

What do you appreciate about Delly?

Parker: What I would say I appreciate about Delly is that she cares about others. She wants to help Ferris Boyd. Do you think that RB is a good guy or a good leader for little kids?

I think he’s good because he’s always trying to do the right thing. He kind of annoys Delly because he always wants to hang around her, but he wants to do the right thing because he sees how his sister doesn’t always make good choices. He’s trying to influence her. He’s like an old soul in a young body. He wants to do the right thing!

Our conversation shifted at this point from talking about the book to talking about reading. Others have joined in our group, curious about what we are talking about.

Finish this sentence: Reading is……

Parker, Taylor, and now Yana: AWESOME! Because it’s sometimes fiction, sometimes, non-fiction, and it gives you a good idea of adventure or imagination or mystery or comedy…things like that! Realistic fiction!

School libraries are….

Yana: The coolest thing ever! Because you have so many books! You can’t even count them all! There’s too many to read.

Parker: But that’s good because then you have more books to read!

So girls, if somebody read True (…sort of) already, what other book would you suggest? If they likes those themes in that book, what else might they like in our library? Besides Ida B. It doesn’t have to be by the same author.

Parker: I would recommend… Out of my Mind, and Wonder!

All three girls chimed in and shout WONDER! So cool! And Almost Famous, and Anything but Typical.

That sums up our True (…sort of) conversation. A copy for the library is ordered and Parker already has friends waiting to read her copy! Thanks for the great conversation girls! Below is a video with the author Katherine Hannigan who discusses her book. For me, it was interesting to see how she handwrites notes to herself in a spiral notebook as she works out the beginning drafts of her books.



If you enjoy Realistic Fiction, what book would you add to our list?

Do you have a “Delly-ism” to add to the Dellyictionary?

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Dino Skype!

Who wants to be a paleontologist? 


Nearly every hand was raised after our first graders visited with paleontologists Matt, Adam, and Jennifer from Stony Brook University in New York. Our first graders have been researching dinosaur facts, creating art, learning science, singing sings, reading books, and writing stories in Dinosaur Land to get ready for the annual Dinosaur Show. 

dino collage

Our music teacher, Ms. Gibitz knows paleontologist Matt from when she grew up in Ohio. When he offered to do a Skype Dino visit, we were thrilled! When you bring Skype in the Classroom, you don’t have to go anywhere outside of the school! You can stay where you are, and have people visit you, virtually! It’s super fun, easy and free!


The students at Stony Brook University prepared a video for us to view first. 


Then our first grade dinosaur experts also prepared some questions as well, such as “What was the first fossil you found?” and “What’s your favorite dinosaur?”  During our virtual visit, they answered these questions and talked about some of the dinosaur bones they have in their laboratory. Some of them are 60 million years old! 




We ended our visit with the “Fossil Rock” song about the dinosaurs! Mrs. Daly thinks a lot of our students have sung that song through the years. Thank you Ms. Gibitz for leading the song and arranging for this visit. It’s really great to collaborate with music, library, PE and the first grade teachers. Thank you Matt, Adam, and Jennifer for sharing your expertise with our students. I wonder how many of them will now want to be a scientist when they grow up just like you. If you would like to learn more about fossils, you can visit their Past Time website where they share their knowledge in podcasts. They will also Skype or GChat live with educators and their students. 

If you want to know the answer to the questions above, you will need to ask one of our students or leave a comment! 

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Acrostics for our Bobcat Friends

For National Poetry Month we have been going a little Poetry Crazy in the library! In addition to daily poems in the announcements, poetry bulletin boards and posters and a Poetry Cafe where over 40 students read poems aloud at lunch, we wrote poems…. A LOT!  The kindergarten students wrote shared and Furry Inspiration poems, the first graders wrote Favorite Things  and dinosaur poems, the second graders wrote silly “What’s in the Bag” poems, the 3rd and 4th graders created I Am and Origami  poems, and the 5th graders made black out and book spine poems.





fortune teller

A highlight of the month was connecting  with the Bobcat Library at Benfer Elementary. They have been writing Paper Bag poems this month and we both decided to write just a couple more to end Poetry Month.  You can read the poems they dedicated to us on the Bobcat Library Blog. Here are our poems dedicated to the Bobcats in Texas! They are written in Acrostic Style, which is a poem written vertically and horizontally. We hope you have had a fun poetry month!

awesome poem
partner poem

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Furry Inspiration

Our kindergarteners are using little furry friends as inspiration for writing list poems this week. As they came into the library today, I handed each one a stuffed animal and a blank poetry paper. We talked about adjectives and ‘describing” words and within a few minutes each student was writing a poem about their furry friend. There are no minimal age limits to being a poet.



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Duke Book Trailer Debut

How much do you love your dog?

Are you brave enough to give him away?

 duke picm

I originally wrote this post in November 2013 after Kirby Larson’s book launch for Duke. Recently I had the chance to create a book trailer for her book, so I decided to update and repost the article. I took the majority of the photographs myself in Seattle. Using the PhotoStudio iPhone app, I artificially aged the photos to make them look old. I also used Creative Common photos, where people give permission for you to use the photo. I did obtain permission from the artist of one photograph and received another from Kirby herself. I wonder if you will know which picture is of Kirby’s dad?  Usually I make book trailers using Photostory3, Windows MovieMaker or Animoto, however, this time I decided to try out the iMovie app on my iPhone. There is a book trailer template available, and within an hour or so, I had the rough draft of my book trailer made. Really, anyone with a little patience, some photos and love for a book can make a book trailer! Here is the original post, with the book trailer at the end.


The poster in his classroom seems to be screaming at him. Are YOU doing all you can?  Hobie struggles inside. Is he really doing everything he can to help his dad? He’s saving all his dimes to buy war stamps. He’s helping his Uncle Tryg and trying to be the man of the house for his mom.

Is it enough? Hobie hears about the Dogs for Defense program where people with well trained dogs can donate them to help the war movement. Hobie has spent hours training Duke and the military could use him to sniff out mines or help patrol borders. It is important work and Duke would be a great defense dog.



From the moment Hobie says yes, and watches Duke leave, he regrets his decision. What if Duke doesn’t come home? What if his Dad doesn’t come home? Does Hobie have what is takes to be this brave? You will have to read Duke and find out!

Kirby had a book launch party at Third Place Books in the fall of 2013. She talked about her love of history, the research about Dogs for Defense and the backstory she used from her own family that developed into the book. You can also watch an interview with Kirby talking about her book.

Duke launch collage

Kirby is a serious dog lover and a portion of the proceeds went to Reading with Rover, a local reading organization where children read to dogs and practice their reading in a fun and non-stressful way. Along with some other Reading with Rover teams, Reese and I had the opportunity to attend the launch of Duke at Third Place Books.


If you would like to learn more, visit Kirby Larson’s website and find out about other books she has written. Update: April 2014 – Reese has now retired from  Reading with Rover. At almost 7, he is  considered an old dog in the Bernese Mountain Dog breed.  He really likes his naps and occasional walk around the block. The Duke launch was his last official outing and I’m thrilled it was to promote a book featuring a fabulous dog!

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It’s All in the Bag

What does a rock, a feather, a mask, a rubber chicken and a bag have to do with one another?

bag poem

Poetry of course! I wanted the second graders to use their touch sense as the only method to describe an object hidden inside a bag. First I hid an object in the bag. Then volunteers came forward, covered their eyes with the mask, reached inside the bag and touched the object. Using one word, they had to describe what they felt, without using a word already used by a student previously. Squeak, hard, rubbery, soft, smooth, light, heavy. As fast as I could, I wrote down their words in a list.

After a few minutes we switched gears. This time, the students had to look at the list and see what the words had in common, to try to guess the hidden object in the bag.  How could something be both rough and smooth, hard and soft? The library got pretty loud with all the giggles and laughter as they realized that what they were describing was a rubber chicken! Yes, even rubber chickens and rocks deserve their own poems! Here are two of the poems written by our second graders. Poetry can be fun! A big thank you to Mrs. Daly for sharing her awesome mask, Mrs. Butler for the white feather,  and Mr. Haeck for donating his rubber chicken to us for our poetry lesson.

chicken poem

rock poem pic

A few years ago, I did a similar lesson called Paper Bag Poems. Another librarian, Mrs. Camp, in Klein, Texas saw the post and also had some poetry fun with her students. You can read about her Paperbag Poems on the Bobcat Library Blog.

What poems have you written lately? Leave a comment and let us know!


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