Monday, June 30, 2008

Johnny Appleseed

I was fortunate enough to read an advance review copy of Johnny Appleseed written by the incomparable Jane Yolen, illustrated by the very talented Jim Burke, and published by Harper Collins. It was one of the many ARCs that Sally, the owner of Cover to Cover, allowed us to preview during the 48 Hour Challenge. I absolutely fell in love with this book!!

Most of us are familiar with the legend of Johnny Appleseed, but Jane Yolen digs deeper, and gives a text that is much more than just the legend. She divides his life into small segments, each segment taking up a 2 page spread. Each segment begins with a couple of lines from what I imagine is a song about the legend of Johnny Appleseed, about 4 - 5 lines. Then, using a lovely verse format, Yolen tells the actual history of what was happening to John Chapman during that time frame -- this part of the page is called "The History". Finally, at the bottom of the page, there is "The Fact" -- this is more true information, written as factual sentences.

I learned so much about John Chapman by reading Yolen's text. I was amazed at how little I knew about him, other than his legend. Yolen's details are quite wonderful! I have to imagine that much research went into writing this book. She points out that the true facts about Johnny Appleseed are even more impressive than the legend. After reading her book, I would have to agree with that statement. And Jim Burke's illustrations are the icing on the cake -- truly fabulous!

This book, Johnny Appleseed, would be a great find for many 4th grade teachers I know, as they teach about folk heroes in Ohio. It would be a nice learning opportunity to share with students the difference between what's real and what's legend. For me, the book will have a different purpose -- it is yet another great mentor text to share with my 5th grade students when studying literary nonfiction.

Johnny Appleseed should be in bookstores this August. It would be a terrific addition to any library!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Along Came Spider (revision)

I was looking around at author blogs the other day, and I found James Preller's blog (author of Along Came Spider). It is a great blog to read, but I point this out because it would appear that the cover I copied in my review of this book is not the cover that will be the final published cover. Check out the top of James Preller's blog for the final cover idea. I like this cover soooooo much better -- it is much more representative of what happens in the plot line of Along Came Spider!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Greetings from the 50 States

Well, Bill (my blog partner here at Literate Lives) is on a short vacation... ok, not really a vacation. More like a coach bus full of 5th and 6th graders headed to Fort Niagra, Niagra Falls, and then historical sights around the Boston area. He does two of these trips each summer, and I will actually be one of his chaperones for the trip in July. But for now, I'm sitting in my nice, quiet air-conditioned home, and his trip made me remember an advance review copy I just got of Greetings from the 50 States, so I thought it would be an appropriate review to do while Bill is on his trip of some of those 50 states! :)

Greetings from the 50 States - How They Got Their Names by Sheila Keenan and illustrated by Selina Alko, is slated to be released in hardcover this September. With two whole tables of ARCs of books to choose from, I was drawn to this one for 2 reasons. First, it has the same postcard design as one of my favorite books of 2008 - Greetings From Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor. Second, one of the Ohio indicators for 5th grade in social studies is to know the location of all 50 states.

But this book is delightfully a little more than just where states are located. Each state has a 2 page layout. On the left side, is an illustration of the state, filled with other illustrations about the state: geographical features, products of the state, state seal, important cities -- all done in a very clever way. The right side contains information like what year the state became a state, which number state it was, and the state's nickname. The part I liked the most, though, is that the majority of the right page is devoted to telling interesting historical facts about the specific state, with the intent of explaining how the state actually acquired its nickname.

This whole book is a different take on the 50 states of the United States, and one I really enjoyed reading! The clever illustrations are very kid-friendly, and actually reminded me of another book like this I enjoy: Go Go America . In fact, I envision using both books as mentor texts to show my students how writers can approach the same topic in mulitple ways.

Greetings from the 50 States - How They Got Their Names is definitely a book you'll want to add to your nonfiction collection!!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Great Revising Tool!

I was doing my daily blogroll reading this morning, and I found the best idea over at Greetings From Nowhere, my favorite author's (the talented Barbara O'Connor) blog! Even her blog is well-written, and she most definitely has a sense of humor!

But back to the topic - won't these be great for having kids highlight a section of their text, and then use tools from their "revision toolbox" (thanks, Georgia Heard!!) to improve their own writing?!!! Love it! :)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Along Came Spider

I've read a lot of books recently about girls trying to make sense of friendhsips and themselves, so it was a delightful surprise to find and read an advance review copy of a book that deals with boys trying to find where they belong in Along Came Spider, by James Preller (due out September 2008).

James Preller is probably most known for his Jigsaw Jones mystery series, but this book is much more character driven than the series.

This book has two main characters: Spider Stevens, a "typical" 5th grade boy, and Trey Cooper, Spider's neighbor and childhood friend. The story takes place during the boys' 5th grade year in Mrs. Wine's classroom. Trey appears to be mildly autistic, though that is not explicitly stated in the text. Instead, there is the scene where Trey realizes his pencils are not as sharp as he'd like them to be: "... if Trey boke a penil tip, or noticed that his supply of perfectly pointed pencils was running low, Trey had to respond - immediately, ASAP, pronto." And then when his teacher gets mad at him, he doesn't understand why, and tries to get her to smile by quoting statements off Mrs. Wine's Creating Smiles poster -- only none of the phrases he chooses are appropriate to the situation. Trey seems to have difficulty with social cues. Then, there is the scene where he gets in trouble at recess, and has to stand at the wall. For him, that is a relief from the hectic and loud playground. So, he stands facing the brick wall, contemplating each individual brick.

Up until fifth grade, none of Trey's behaviors or comments have bothered Spider; if anything, he has appreciated the wonderful brain Trey has and the way he can be so focused on a topic for a long period of time. They have been great friends. They play together at home, they walk to school together, they even do projects together. But in fifth grade, other kids start to pay attention to Spider, and he has an opportunity to be part of the "cool" boy group. But it will most likely mean Spider will have to leave Trey behind to be part of this other group.

The rest of the story deals with their separation as friends, and how they both grow a little as individuals. James Preller has also included a character that should make the 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature started by A Year of Reading. Her name is Ms. Lobel, the school librarian in the boys' school. She is one amazing lady!!!!!!!!! Her perceptiveness and kindness truly know no bounds, and her ability to see things the way Trey does is amazing!

The story concludes in a very satisfying, realistic way, but that's all I'm giving away because this is a book you need to read. I think that all adults in education, as well as students, need to read this book because it gives a thoughtful, insightful look into the minds of children like Trey. We all encounter them at sometime in our careers, and I hope, like the amazing Ms. Lobel, we can start to look at the "Treys" in our lives differently, instead of just looking at them as being different. There is a huge distinction in that mindset!

Thanks to James Preller for such a wonderful, thought-provoking story! And a huge thanks to Sally at Cover to Cover for allowing me to read and review this ARC.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Newbery/Caldecott Short Lists

Since looking for the Newbery before it was announced played such a huge role in me moving to the library and starting this blog, I thought I'd join the growing number of bloggers posting short lists for Newbery and Caldecott worthy books. We are half way to the announcement of the winners, so the timing seems right. My Newbery list is considerably shorter than my Caldecott which means I need to pick up my reading pace this summer!

First a short list of books that should win something, I'm just not sure which award fits best.

We Are the Ship by Kadir Nelson: Such a beautiful book, well written, incredible artwork. It could go either way for the awards and would be deserving of either.

My very short-short list of Newbery contenders.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor: Probably my favorite so far for 2008. I reviewed it earlier in the year.
Greetings From Nowhere by Barbara O'Connor: Some of the best character development for kids that I've read. Read Karen's review here at Literate Lives.
Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell: Great Viet Nam era military family drama that is accessible to kids.

That's it, I told you it was short. My Caldecott list is longer, but it's easier to get through the picture books.

Scoot by Cathryn Falwell: Similar to Deep in the Swamp or Over in the Jungle, outstanding illustrations and fun text make this a book that can be read over and over.
Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale: A very funny take off of Sleeping Beauty with even funnier pictures, look at that dragon's lips! I reviewed this book earlier.
Friday My Radio Flyer Flew by Zachary Pullen: Short story highlighted by two page paintings on every turn. The detailed on the boy's face make the story.
Necks Out for Adventure by Timothy Basil Ering: A hit from THE PIT this year. Read my review here.
The Sea Serpent and Me by Dashka Slater: My second grade friend Vince found this for me. Very fun read in THE PIT and the kids loved the pictures.
Woolbur by Leslie Helakoski: Fun story of being an individual. "Isn't it great!" Yes, it is. More reviews here, here, and here.

That's it for now. I need to go read and catch up on my Newbery search!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Chasing Normal

What is "normal"? That is the question that the main character, Mieka, tries to answer in Chasing Normal by Lisa Papademetriou.

When I saw this book on the "new book" shelf at my local public library, I at first thought of all the connections I would most likely make to Waiting for Normal (reviewed here by Bill), and actually wondered if some of the same territory might be covered in each book. I was so delighted to realize that this book holds its own. Although, I absolutely loved WFN, Chasing Normal is actually a more accessible book to 4th and 5th graders. There is one scene that involves Mieka getting her period at a camp during some water challenges, and the difficulties that presented, but that's as PG as this book gets.

Mieka, the main chararcter, lives in NYC with her artist dad. Mieka's mom jumped ship a long time ago, leaving her family behind. Mieka and her dad live a very bohemian lifestyle which seems to suit both of them. Mieka's one grandmother (her mom's mom) is a huge part of their life as well. The main plot of this story revolves around the phone call that Mieka's dad gets from his sister, telling him his estranged mother is very ill. This news results in Mieka and her dad traveling to Houston, Texas (home of Mieka's aunt, uncle, 2 cousins, and other grandmother) to stay with their relatives for a short visit while also spending time with Mieka's grandmother / Dad's mom.

All of these characters might sound confusing, but what it really comes down to is this -- the life Mieka's relatives in Houston live is lightyears different than the life Mieka and her dad live back in NYC. Mieka's aunt, Kate, is meticulously neat with her fancy designer home; Mieka and her dad live in a little bit of chaos (they even have been known to call some of their furniture "Salvation Armani").

So Mieka is left to wonder, what is "normal"? Is "normal" living happily in New York with your father in a very disheveled apartment, with hodge-podge furniture? Or is "normal" a large surburban house in Houson, complete with swimming pool, and brand new furniture in every room? Is "normal" buying your clothes at thrift shops, never concerned about style? Or is "normal" a big shopping trip with your aunt and cousin where money is no object and nice clothes are a must? Is "normal" having your family be just you and your dad? Or is "normal" a dad, a mom, a brother, and a sister family group all living under one roof? The list goes on and on.

I think most of us wander through life redefining our own forms of "normal" as we go, but in Chasing Normal, it is a flashback to those teenage years, full of angst -- trying to define what our identities truly were.

Mieka is a character Lisa Papademetriou really makes us care about. Her exploits as she tries to fit in in her new setting are sometimes amusing, sometimes sad, and sometimes confusing, but all of them are easy to relate to. The ill grandmother in Texas is NOT at all likeable, not even a little bit. It's been a while since I've read a children's book where I just wanted to deck a character, even one as ill and elderly as Mieka's grandmother. The rest of the characters are well done and important to the plot, especially Mieka's female cousin, Greta. I especially like Greta because she is the poster child for the fact that you can appear to have everything (friends, clothes, material things) and still not be happy. Greta might be the biggest influence in helping Mieka find out for herself what "normal" is.

Chasing Normal is a wonderful book that I can't wait to put into the hands of the right readers next year! Since I teach in a school that is predominantly similar to the Texas relatives' lives, this book could bring good perspective to students in my school about other kinds of "normal".

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer Goals Meme

Well, Franki at A Year of Reading tagged us a long time ago, so maybe one of our goals should be not to procrastinate!!

But other than that, here are our summer goals:

Karen -
1) Spend more quality time with friends and family, especially my husband.
2) I'd like to golf an average of 2 times a week this summer - one night with my league and another with my husband and/or friends
3) Get lots of reading done - both adult and children's books
4) Get 4 major projects done (or contracted out) -- home improvement kinds of things
5) Take better care of myself -- specifically, work out (aerobic and strength training) at least 5 times a week
6) Find 5 new, good recipes for dinner main dishes
7) Be more spontaneous!!!! (I might have to give up the idea of always having a list of things to do to accomplish this one -- what do you think?!)

Bill -
2) Read a lot, I've been doing pretty well with this one so far.
3) Have two successful student trips to Boston.
4) Improve my golf game before my August trip to Michigan.
5) Find at least one book for our Grand Discussions next year.
6) Take more morning bike rides.

For the roundup of some of the goals people have written so far, check our Mary Lee's post. Good luck to everyone with their goals!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Bronze Pen is a Fun Fantasy

As I have said before, my job as librarian has really stretched me in the genres I now read. Before, I stuck to historical or realistic fiction with an occasional mystery thrown in for good measure. I read a lot of non fiction, in particular, biographies. My fantasy list was pretty much the Harry Potter series, which I loved all the way to book seven.

Since moving to the library, I have enjoyed Dragon Slippers, one of my dark horses for the Newbery last year. I recommended Dragon's Egg to my students and colleagues, and recently loved The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, which Karen reviewed here.

The Bronze Pen by Zilpha Keatley Snyder is another fantasy that I think kids will enjoy. The story takes place in California in 1973. Audrey Abbot is a 12 year old that dreams of being an author. She has plenty of life stories to draw upon, a father diagnosed with serious heart disease at a young age, a mother who was voted "most beautiful eyes" in high school that others are still jealous of, a mysterious cave within walking distance to her house, and two great animals an irish wolf-hound, and parrot that swears.

When a large white duck entices Audrey to visit the forbidden cave once more, she encounters an old woman who gives her a bronze pen, hence the title! The pen has mysterious powers that Audrey and her new friend Lizzie begin to experiment with. I'm not giving anything away as far as the powers, but I will say that I think kids will really enjoy the events that transpire due to the pen.

At one point Audrey can communicate with her pets, gets tied up by pirates, and helps her mom with a grumpy boss. All very fun adventures and will keep the kids turning the pages. I was a little disappointed with the ending, it seemed a little quick and neat to me, but kids tend to like stories with a clear finish better than adults so they will probably think its just fine.

I like this book for kids who may be just getting into the fantasy genre. The story moves along and there aren't a lot of magical creatures to make it confusing. Most third and all fourth and fifth graders can read this book.

Zilpha Keatley Snyder is also the author of three Newbery Honor books, The Egypt Game, The Headless Cupid, and The Witches of Worm.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Magic Thief -- bonus!

I read The Magic Thief last week during the 48 Hour Challenge and loved it! Today, while I was looking at the Class of 2k8 website (of which Sarah Prineas, the author, is a member), I found the coolest bonus website for The Magic Thief. This year's class of new authors has really got it going on when it comes to great graphics to appeal to their audiences! One more bonus reason to like this book! It will be fun to share with my class next year!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Gollywhopper Games Contest

I loved The Gollywhopper Games, and after my 1st post and my 2nd post about this book, I was delighted that Jody Feldman stopped by, and left a comment. But, I forgot about it in the end of school rush until my good friend, Franki, from A Year of Reading, reminded me about it last night (and actually, she has just posted her thoughts about the book as well). Jody Feldman is having a contest that involves solving a puzzle much like the ones in the book. Even if you don't enter the contest, the graphics on her web page are well worth the look!!

If you're going to enter the contest, click on the balloon that says, "Contest". Simple enough, right?

This website and contest are just a few more reasons to enjoy The Gollywhopper Games!!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Colonial Voices Planning the Boston Tea Party

The new book shelf at my branch of the library is one of my favorite places to go each time I visit. I have found many great titles there, and most of them have appeared here at one point or another. Colonial Voices Hear Them Speak by Kay Winters is another surprise find for me.

The story is written from the viewpoint of the craftsmen, shopkeepers, citizens and slaves of Boston in December 16, 1773. An errand boy for a Patriot newspaper tours the city, visiting each person who gives their story and perspective on independence leading up to the Boston Tea Party.

Each Bostonian is represented in an almost free verse poetry and their opinions are expressed loud and clear through the authors strong vocabulary. For example, the blacksmith's slave says:

Men sit in his shop and talk of tea,
taxes, liberty, and freedom.


Strong opinions which will lead to great discussion in the classroom. As a former fifth grade teacher I can see endless possibilities for this book and the writing that could come from it.

From the Native American basket trader:

We will not fight their battle. It matters not who wins or loses. OUR PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY LOST.

I love this Native American perspective of the Revolution that many times gets lost in the classroom.

From the Son of Liberty in Old South Meeting House:

"NAY!"roars the crowd. "NAY!!!!" Sam Adams stands up and pounds the gavel. "THIS MEETING CAN DO NO MORE TO SAVE THE COUNTRY."

OK, I may be a cornball, but I got goosebumps every time I read this quote in Johnny Tremain.

Larry Day's beautiful illustrations show life as it was in Colonial Boston and the book has plenty of non-fiction information like an errand boy's daily schedule, a glossary of terms, and a map of Colonial Boston which is fun to compare with a map of present day Boston.

As a fan of all things American Revolutionary, and Boston, this book will be hitting the library shelves in the fall.

Friday, June 13, 2008

See How They Run Gets My Vote!

I love the title of this book -- very catchy! The full title is See How They Run - Campaign Dreams, Election Schemes, and the Race to the White House, and it is written by Susan E. Goodman. The inside of the book is as fun as the title.

It was hard for me to decide what kind of book this actually was. I know it's informational nonfiction because I learned a lot of information about elections and campaigns. I think it's also a picture book, and an enjoyable one at that, because the illustrator, Elwood H. Smith, has drawn some very fun, but informative pictures throughout the book. Finally, it has to qualify as a reference book as well, with Presidential facts section in the back. Regardless of type, it's a great book for kids!

The Table of Contents lets the reader know that the book is divided into five sections: A Short History of Democracy, See How They Run, It's Showtime, Hail to the New Chief, and Uncle Sam Wants You. All are fun and engaging titles, and underneath each title, the author has listed subtopics. Goodman's play on words with these titles and subtitles will be great conversation in my class as we talk about how to do similar things in the students' own writing.

Then, the back of the book has all the stuff good nonfiction should: glossary (a fabulous one at that!), Presidential facts, Sources and Resources (more about this later), Acknowledgements and Picture Credits, Index, and an author/illustrator page called "See Who Ran to Create this Book" (more about this later, also).

In a year of historic primaries and elections, this is a perfect book to share with kids!!! See How They Run is written with kids in mind -- very kid-friendly language, with great illustrations and graphics. It's also great that this book was released in 2008, so the information inside is very timely, and not dated. It starts by giving kids a historical background of elections, moves into the primaries, campaigns, and conventions, talks about what happens after we elect our new President. It's a book that could be read cover to cover, but I plan on sharing snippets with my class in the fall.

One of my favorite parts of this book (and there are many!!) is the very last chapter, the last subsection, titled "A Preachy but True Ending." Goodman does a great job of explaining to the kids how things have changed over the years -- women got the vote / now Hillary Clinton has even made a bid for the White House, African Americans were slaves and definitely couldn't vote / now Barack Obama is the apparent Presidential candidate for the Democrats, we didn't use to have religious freedom / since 1960, we've now had a Catholic President - Kennedy , a Jewish man, Joe Lieberman, campaigned in a primary for President, and a Mormon man, Mitt Romney campaigned this year in the Republican primary for President. Chamge has occurred because people banded together to make the change. This section really encourages students to get involved and try to make a difference -- what a wonderful civics lesson!!

In the Sources and Resources section in the back, I really appreciated as a teacher, that each section of sources starts with a message for children about why that section is important, and how kids can actually utilize and access some of the resources themselves. It's yet another example of how I could tell this book is meant to be FOR KIDS. Goodman has a clear target audience, and she serves them well.

Finally, when I read the author/illustrator page, I realized why these two names (Susan E. Goodman and Elwood H. Smith) sounded so familiar -- they had collaborated on two other books: The Truth About Poop and Gee Whiz! It's All About Pee. They share that they have voted in every possible presidential election since they were old enough to register to vote. Another great civics lesson!

I found See How They Run at my local public library, but will be purchasing it soon for my classroom. It is the perfect election book for kids ( I actually know some nonvoting adults that should read it as well)! Like I said, it definitely gets my vote!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Magic Thief Stole My Heart

Since I shy away from fantasy (I have to admit I was one of the few people not avidly awaiting each new Harry Potter book), I'm not sure I would have picked up The Magic Thief, if the author and I hadn't been at the same bookstore on the same day. I was at Cover to Cover children's bookstore with some blogging friends to kickstart the 48 Hour Challenge. Sarah Prineas was in town because her book had just been released last week, and she was doing some promotional tours. After hearing her talk about the book (more on that later), I just had to get it!

It truly didn't disappoint. The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas was a perfect fantasy for me. It was perfect for a variety of reasons. First of all, it was 411 pages in length, but the hardback book is a smaller size and the font and spacing on each page is a little larger, so 411 pages isn't the difficult task you might think. Second, as a teacher, I love that since this text and vocabulary are not quite as strenous as a Harry Potter might be, it will much more accessible to students of a variety of reading abilities. They will be able to enjoy the elements of fantasy -- magic, wizards, spells, good battling evil, dark and scary places -- and not feel overwhelmed. Another bonus for me was all the extras added to the book that helped with my understanding of the story -- the map in the front of the book was particularly helpful, and I also referred to the back of the book where there is a list of main characters and settings accompanied with descriptions of each. Something else that was just pure fun was all the times Sarah Prineas included coded messages within the book (the decoder in the back helped me with this). In fact, Sarah actually autographed my book, and the message to me was in code -- I was very impressed with her ability to have the code memorized! Finally, I enjoyed the characters she developed.

In her sharing, and then question/answer time, Sarah Prineas shared that The Magic Thief is actually going to be at least a trilogy. Book 2 is done, and will come out sometime next year, and she is currently revising Book 3. I really look forward to spending more time with the characters, especially the main, main character, Conn.

The story is mostly told in first person, with Conn being the narrator. But every once in a while, Prineas would include letters from other people (mostly Nevery, the wizard Conn becomes an apprentice for) that helps further the story line. The descriptions of people and places in the book are both fun and detailed -- easy to get a picture in your head of what you are reading about.

Definitely a book to share with children -- The Magic Thief stole my heart!

Monday, June 9, 2008

48 Hour Challenge Wrap-up (Karen)

Well, like Bill, I wasn't as productive as I anticipated. Part of my problem was I started with a thick adult book, and then switched horses mid-stream and started reading children's novels that I've been dying to read. The other problem was being too social -- 2 graduations and a trip to the movies with my "yayas" to see the Sex in the City movie. What's a girl to do?!

So, here's my final tally:
Hours read - 15 (18, including time with other bloggers and author)
Adult books read - 1/2 of Dark of the Moon by John Sanford
Children's books read - 4 (Jeremy Cabbage, 4 Kids in 5E & 1 Crazy Year, Smiles to Go, and The Magic Thief
Bloggers I started my Challenge with - 7!!
Pages read - 1331
Amount of fun I had participating in the Challenge - enormous!!!

Well, as you can see, I'm not going to win any of the established awards for the 48 Hour Challenge, but I think we might want to start 2 new categories :) :
1) Coolest place to do the 48 Hour Challenge -- our local children's bookstore, Cover to Cover
2) Coolest people to be with for the Challenge all at one time and place -- Sarah Prineas (author of The Magic Thief), Mary Lee and Franki of A Year of Reading, Bill (my cohort here at Literate Lives), Stella of My life - Mi Mundo, Karen of Talkworthy, Katie of Creative Literacy, Abby of Authentic Learner, and yours truly.

I'm planning on training for next year's challenge starting now -- so many books, so little time!

Bill's 48 Hour Wrap Up

Ok, so I wrapped up yesterday about 12:30, and frankly, I'm a bit disappointed in my efforts. It turned out to be a busier weekend then I had originally anticipated and I found out that I'm not capable of pulling the all nighter like I use to. All that said, I had a lot of fun with it, read some good books and had some great book discussions with some other bloggers from Columbus. Here's my summary:

TOTAL BOOKS READ: 3 and a half (pitiful)
When the Sergeant Came Marching Home by Don Lemna
Long Shot (advance copy) by Mike Lupica
Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major by Ronald Kidd
and about half of The Magic Thief by Sara Prineas who I also talked to and met!
HOURS READ: Approximately 15

So there you have it. It was fun and next year I'll try to be more committed.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Update - 2:43 PM (Karen)

I just finished 4 Kids in 5E & 1 Crazy Year by Virginia Frances Schwartz -- OH! MY! GOSH! Bill was so right when he reviewed this earlier this year. This book is terrific! Even though school has just been completed for this year, I am soooooo excited to share this with my 5th graders next year! It brought tears, laughter, and visions of best practice as it applies to writing workshop.

Now, it's time to stop and shower. I need a slight break in reading, and we have a graduation party to attend. I'll check in later tonight and try to get one more book in before it's time for bed.

48 Hour Challenge Update - 11:30 AM (Karen)

Just finished reading The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas. Thoroughly enjoyed it! Since fantasy is not a genre I would normally choose, it took me a few chapters to get the hang of it, but definitely a book I'd like to share with my class next year! I will review this book in more depth on Tuesday.

Next book: 4 Kids in 5E & 1 Crazy Year

48 Hour Update - 12 AM (Karen)

Well, it's time for me to go to bed. Before I do that, I want to share some pictures from the day (truth is, I needed my daughters to get home to share with their technology-challenged mother how to import pictures from a camera!).

First, we have breakfast pictures with Stella from My Life, Mi - Mundo, Mary Lee and Franki from A Year of Reading, Katie from Creative Literacy, Abby from Authentic Learner, Karen from Talkworthy, and Karen and Bill (that's us!) from Literate Lives. Yummy breakfast, great conversation!

All of us posing with books we'll be reading in the next 48 hours on the story steps at the best children's bookstore ever, Cover to Cover! A huge thanks to owner, Sally Oddi, for generously hosting us today!

Bill and I arguing over one of the free ARCs Sally allowed us to take. This one really belongs to Bill, but it is illustrated by Kadir Nelson, so I had to at least try to talk him into giving it to me!

One of the other bonuses of being at Cover to Cover today -- getting to hear Sarah Prineas talk about her new book, The Magic Thief. Of course, we got signed copies, and she signed in code! It was especially impressive since she had the code memorized! I had to cheat to decode it by using the guide in the back of the book!

This has been an amazing first day! I look forward to getting up early tomorrow and continuing the fun!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

48 Hour Challenge Update - 10:30 PM (Karen)

Well, it's 10:30 PM. I had to take a break in the action to attend a graduation party, but now I'm back and ready to dig in again.

So the update on my progress is this: I got half-way through my John Sanford book (adult), and decided I needed to pick up my tempo a little bit. So, I switched to Jerry Spinelli's latest, Smiles to Go. I liked most of it, but I need to reflect a little more. Check out my review of this book on Monday.

Now, I'm moving on to my newly autographed copy of The Magic Thief...

Advance of a New Comeback Kids

I've just finished an advance copy of a new installment of Mike Lupica's Comeback Kids Series called Long Shot. The book is slated for a November 2008 release, which is appropriate since it follows two 11 year old boys through a middle school presidential election.

Pedro Morales is a basketball point guard with skills, and the desire to work hard. Ned Hancock is his team mate and the superstar player of every sport in their hometown. It is just assumed that Ned will be the captain of every sports team and also elected class president. Pedro's father immigrated from Mexico with his family as a boy and has worked hard to put himself through cooking school and is about to open his own restaurant. His positive attitude and "can do" attitude about everything is Pedro's inspiration to run for class president. Ned reacts like a jerk toward Pedro on the court and in the classroom, forcing Pedro to draw on his father's strength to be the better person.

I've read two other of the Comeback Kids Series and I like this one the best. Lupica always does the sports descriptions with great detail and accuracy. In this one he does the life lessons just as effectively. The positive portrayal of the Hispanic family will also make this a great addition to the library.

I'm off to start The Magic Thief.

Book Two and a Morning of Fun

Just an update on my progress. I just finished my second book of the challenge, although it may be borderline as for the reading level. It's an adaptation of a play by Tom Isbell called Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major. Ronald Kidd did the adaptation. Obviously it's a quick read about the Roosevelt kids being sent on a scavenger hunt through the White House by their father, BULLY! It's got some good humor and interesting facts about the White House. It reminded me a lot of the National Treasure movies which I love being the history buff that I am. All in all a fun book put out by The Kennedy Center.

As you have read on numerous other blogs several of us met for breakfast and then a trip to the fabulous Cover to Cover Bookstore. It was a morning of good food, a big bowl of granola with vanilla yogurt and fresh strawberries, great book conversations with other bloggers and a new children's author, and best of all FREE STUFF! The free stuff has led me to amend my original list as I picked up some advance copies of a couple of new books in series that I like. I'm adding these three to my list, advance copies of the new Comeback Kids series by Mike Lupica called Long Shot and an advance copy of another football book from Tim Green called Football Hero which I think may already be released.

I'm also adding The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas since we heard her speak this morning.

48 Hour Challenge Update - 1:30 PM (Karen)

Wow! What a great kick-off to the 48 Hour Challenge -- had breakfast with 7 other Columbus bloggers -- Stella, Abby, Karen S., Katie, Franki, Mary Lee, Bill, and then me. Great breakfast and had fun meeting Stella (My World - Mi Mundo).

Then, we headed to Cover to Cover and the real fun began! Sally Oddi, the owner of CTC, graciously allowed us to look through gallies of both new, and soon to be released books. We were like kids in a candy store; we couldn't look at things fast enough. As we were combing through the piles, the visiting author, Sarah Prineas, came back to see what was going on. We eventually moved back into the main part of the bookstore and got to hear Sarah speak about her new fantasy book, The Magic Thief (part of at least a trilogy, and possibly more). Then, we browsed some more on our own. Many pictures were taken, and I promise I'll post them later this afternoon.

Now, I'm home on my comfy couch, hanging out inside since it's too hot and humid to be out on my beloved screen porch. As soon as I finish this entry, I'm beginning my reading.

Books on my pile:

Dark of the Moon by John Sanford (I'm starting with an adult book)
Smiles to Go by Jerry Spinelli
The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas
4 Kids in 5E & 1 Crazy Year by Virginia Frances Schwartz
The Bronze Pen by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Along Came Spider by James Preller
Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson

So, with that said, I'm off to read! I'll check in once in a while, and let you know general comments about what I've finished, but my blog reviews will come after the 48 Hour Challenge. Stay tuned...

48 Hour Challenge for Karen...

The 48 Hour Challenge for me starts Saturday morning at 9:00 AM with some great bloggers from the Columbus, Ohio area. The group will include me, Bill (my blog partner), MaryLee and Franki from A Year of Reading, Katie from Creative Literacy, and Stella from the fairly new blog, Learn Love Grow. We will gather at one of our favorite breakfast places (Northstar Cafe), and then proceed to the wonderful children's bookstore here in town, Cover to Cover. We will be shopping and reading and blogging while there. And, to make a 48 Hour Challenge even better, we will have an opportunity to hear Sarah Prineas, the author of The Magic Thief, speak at Cover to Cover.

Are we going to have a fabulous 48 Hour Challenge or what??!!

Friday, June 6, 2008

One Book Down

It took me the whole day, between swimming and watching my son play baseball, they won and he had a great hit, but I finished my first book, When the Sergeant Came Marching Home by Don Lemna.

It's a post WWII book that takes place in Montana. The main character's father comes home from the war and moves the family to a farm in the middle of nowhere, with no indoor plumbing or electricity. The boy hates it and makes plans to save ten dollars so he can run off to Hollywood. As time passes, he realizes the country life isn't so bad and decides to stay. The book has a great blend of humor and struggle to make it an enjoyable read. It brought to mind many of Richard Peck's books that tell of the simple life in the country in a similar time period. I'll be adding it to our library collection in the fall, but for now, I'll keep reading, so many books so little time!

48 Hour Reading Challenge Book Pile

I know, I know, I said I would post my reading challenge book pile early this morning. Well, it's my first day of summer break, and I didn't get out of bed quite as early as I had planned, and then there were some things that I needed to take care of for the student trips to Boston that I host, and then I need to run to the store to pick up some breakfast groceries and so now I am getting around to making my list. It's probably not long enough, but I'll add as I go, and and I always reserve the right to change in the middle. Here it is, in no particular order:

Thank You Lucky Stars by Beverly Donofrio
Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major by Ronald Kidd
Dear Sylvia by Alan Cumin
The Bronze Pen by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
When the Sergeant Came Marching Home by Don Lemna
The Trouble With Rules by Leslie Bulion

My plan is to kick it off around 1:00. I'm headed to pool with my family and it seems like the perfect start to summer.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Last Day!

Well, another year in the books today. That makes 23 if my math is correct, and to my way of thinking, it was one of my best yet. Our last day was a bittersweet one, our principal, who opened the building with many of us 12 years ago is retiring and so his final comments to the staff were filled with memories and tears all around. He is moving on to a new adventure, a mission to Africa to work with children there as part of his church. He's willing to do whatever needs to be done, just so he's "not in charge" as he told me once.

Adding to the sad side of things today was the loss of my library aid, Yvonne. Thank goodness I got the benefit of her knowledge and expertise for one year, she taught me a lot about running a library. Not only will I miss her help, I will miss her daily friendship, and common sense that helped me make so many decisions this year. Unfortunately during budget cuts these hard working, behind the scenes people are the first to go.

On a more upbeat note, as I turned out the lights in the library now named for our retiring principal, I looked back and a smile came through the tears. I had a real sense of accomplishment and pride in a job well done this year. For the first time in a while, I wasn't quite ready to leave, but I know exciting things will happen next year after a summer of recharging the batteries.

My recharging starts tomorrow with Mother Reader's 48 Hour Reading Challenge. I'll post the titles in my stack early tomorrow morning as I get started!