Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My Next Trip to Cover to Cover 3

I'm back from my first trip to Boston, and ready for my next trip to Cover to Cover, my favorite children's book store. The trip was a success, great weather, good kids and fun for all. Now I can get back to reading and hopefully a little golfing before I leave again the end of July.

On my next trip to Cover to Cover, here's what I'll be buying.

Monkey With a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem by Chris Monroe: Apparently this is the second story involving a monkey and his tool belt and it's funny. I really need to see the first one to see if it's just as funny. In this one there is a strange noise that the monkey needs to fix. He discovers the noise is coming from the elephant stuck in the laundry chute, kids are going to love that, there's something about elephant jokes they find very funny. Combined with fun pix and a list of tools on the monkey's belt that is laugh out loud funny, this book will be a hit in THE PIT!

That Cat Can't Stay by Thad Krasnesky Illustrated by David Parkins: Dad keeps refusing stray cats in this rhyming book, but the family keeps talking him into letting them stay. The cats keep coming and Dad keeps losing the battle. In the end we find that Dad is really a dog person. Very fun pix and rhyming story. The author also has an interesting story, having served three tours in the Army in Iraq and currently is an instructor at West Point.

A Year Full of Holidays by Susan Middleton Elya Illustrated by Diana Cain Bluthenthal: Little Nell loves her birthday and can't wait for it to come around again. Her mother shows her that if she keeps track of the holidays through the year it will help her remember when her birthday is getting close. From there the book goes through each month and the holidays that are celebrated. It's a simple rhyming book with colorful pix that I can see younger grades, especially kindergarten, using for a look at the holidays through the year.

Cupcake by Charise Mericle Harper: When the Cupcake Family is introduced, one little plain vanilla cupcake with delicious white frosting feels left out. All of his fancy brothers and sisters get chosen first and he is left because of his lack of decoration. At last a plain candle comes along to make suggestions about what to decorate the plain cupcake with, suggestions like peas, pancakes, an egg and even a squirrel are tried. When the obvious happens and the candle climbs on the cupcake, it's still not enough and the candle suggests a potato. Very funny and the kids, especially the younger ones, will appreciate the ridiculous suggestions. Cool interview with the author at Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup.

My first trip to Cover to Cover
My next trip to Cover to Cover

Monday, June 28, 2010

Greetings from my Vacation


I know I haven't been around lately. I spent all of last week in the Outer Banks with my extended family. It was so wonderful to reconnect with the group as a whole, but more importantly, to spend quality time with many different individuals within the group. There were many things to look back and smile about -- family dinners together (we each took a turn cooking), family game nights, lots of reading (me), so many games of Rummy that I lost count, walking on the beach, riding the boogie boards, riding along the bike paths, and time at the house pool, just to name a few.

Now, I am in Washington DC with my college roommate doing the sightseeing thing, and getting some visiting time in with my oldest daughter who lives here. It is so amazing to watch her navigate this city; I know this is where she wants to be for the near future, at least. It makes me happy as a mom to see how "right" this place seems to be for her. (now, if she could only get a job that pays more than an hourly wage, life would be perfect!)

I'll be back in Dublin, Ohio late tomorrow night, and hopefully get something posted by Wednesday. I have a ton of books read; but haven't done my reviews yet.

Until then, I'm off for more sightseeing, water drinking (it's a scorcher in the city), and walking. I love DC!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Free Verse Fun at The Dancing Pancake

When I moved into the library 3 years ago, I began reading lots of things I wouldn't normally read. Some of the genres I still don't like, but put up with. Some of them I have really learned to like and look for more of them. One them, not really a genre, more of a style, are the free verse novels.

Titles like Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, All the Broken Pieces by Ann Burg are some of my favorites. In looking for more of these free verse novels, I have also discovered a group of students who love them as much as I do. I've also discovered that most of the kids in this group are readers who are normally intimidated by chapters and thick books of fiction. I think that since they can read quickly through the poems and still get a story, they feel successful and it builds their reading confidence. I'm excited to introduce a new one to them in the fall, The Dancing Pancake by Eileen Spinelli.

Eileen Spinelli has two other free verse novels that I like a lot, Summerhouse Time and Where I Live. All of her books deal with families and the issues that all families have and issues that only some families have. The Dancing Pancake continues the theme with the main character Bindi. Bindi's father has recently moved out, looking for some space to clear his head after being out of work for a while. Bindi doesn't understand, but her mom stays positive and doesn't give up on the father, a theme I like rather than a family just giving up. All three of Spinelli's books have hope as a theme while addressing family changes.

Dad moving out isn't the only issue Bindi must deal with, in order to save money, she and her mom must move out of their house but the question is where. Bindi isn't happy about this development but accepts it. It's at this point that another feature of Spinelli books comes into play, extended family is always involved. Bindi's Aunt Darnell finds a closed diner and dreams of buying it and opening up a breakfast/lunch place. It just so happens that the diner has a small apartment upstairs, perfect for Bindi and her mother. With that, two problems are solved, a place to live and a job with better income and the move is on.

From there Eileen Spinelli takes off, creating characters and situations with her poetry that my free verse friends will love.

There's Grace, the homeless women who frequents The Dancing Pancake:

Our newest customer
wears a curly brown wig,
a man's gray sweater,
and ratty red high tops.
One lens of her glasses
is cracked.
At least one tooth
is missing.

the waitress Ruby Frances who just got her driver's license:

Ruby Frances got her driver's license.
She's so happy. Like a little kid.
She twirls around The Dancing Pancake.
Sings that old Beach Boys song
"I get around"("Round round get around...")

and Mrs. Otis, the complainer, sometimes known as the Jingle Lady due to her bracelets:

Mrs. Otis, the Jingle Lady,
is driving us all nuts.
Ruby Frances calls her Mrs. Picky.
(And Worse)

and one of my favorites about school shopping with Dad:

Dad takes me school shopping.
I've always loved
shopping for school stuff-
the bright candy-colors
of new folders,
the sturdy feel of fresh notebooks,
the smell of Pink Pearl erasers,
the pitter of paper clips
when I shake the box.

Throughout the book the author/poet deals with homelessness, forgiveness, patience, personality differences in a way that keeps the reader going. I will add this one to the libraries collection of free verse novels and can't wait to share it with the kids.

This will be my last post for a few days, I'm leaving on my first trip to Boston with 46 of my closest 11 year old friends. I'll have plenty of reading time on the bus and hope to have more titles to add to my Cover to Cover shopping lists when I get back.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Two More Fun Books

I recently wrote about 2 fun series books for girls. Today, I'll be talking about two more fun books, both of which are a hoot.

Big Nate, In a Class All By Himself
, is very reminiscent of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. There are many laugh-out-loud moments when Nate does free association thinking. Lincoln Peirce, the author of this series, has created a very amusing character that I can't wait to get to know more. I love how much energy Nate puts into avoiding a class assignment. Nate is really quite bright; just not motivated to do schoolwork. The illustrations, the comic boxes, the dialogue that really is an aside to the reader, Nate's sidekicks -- all come together to provide the reader with much hilarity. I also enjoyed the sequence of the story as Nate goes through an entire school day, bouncing from one period and teacher to the next, always getting into a different kind of trouble, each problem worse than the one before. I was happy to see on the back of my Big Nate book that Book 2 is "just around the corner." Can't wait to see what Big Nate is up to next!

The other book is Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters. From the front cover on, this book reminded me of the Alvin Ho series. Like Alvin, Justin Case has many insecurities that can overwhelm him at times. However, the author, Rachel Vail, makes Justin very likable. The story is done in journal format with Justin as the narrator. At times, the dialogue is abrupt and to the point; other times, Justin tends to elaborate more. I really enjoyed how "real" Justin was. He is going into 3rd grade, but he still loves to play imaginary games with his stuffed animals (though he doesn't want anyone to know he does that). Justin also hates PE class, except when there is running involved; he really hates the idea of having to climb the rope and touch the tape at the top of the rope. Justin doesn't see himself as well liked, but he is voted the class's student council representative. Though he is excited about that, he bums out when he realizes he has to give up some of his lunch/recess time for student council activities. The reader will also enjoy some of the "girl problems" Justin has as a 3rd grader.

I read an ARC of Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters, but the other day when I was at Cover to Cover, I saw that this book is already on the bookshelves. Good to know, because Justin is a character readers will want to meet soon.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Two Fun Series for Girls

I write this post as a shout-out to all those girls in my class this past year who so enjoyed "girly" books and mysteries -- you know who you are! :)

I've been a fan of the Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls series since I read the first book in the series. I think Allie is a very believable girl character, surrounded by a supporting cast (friends, family, schoolmates) that is each unique is his/her own way. What's nice about the latest in the series by Meg Cabot, Glitter Girls and the Great Fake Out, is that the characters continue to develop and grow, and I'm not learning about each of them from scratch. This is a perfect example of how a good series can support those readers who struggle - the characters and settings are familiar to them so they can focus more on the plot of any given story.

Glitter Girls and the Great Fake Out focuses on the choices Allie makes between an opportunity of a lifetime - a limo ride, going to Glitterati, eating at Cheesecake Factory, and spending the night at a hotel with someone she doesn't even like, and going to a baton twirling competition with friends she really likes and who really care for her.

In addition to having to make a choice, Allie also tells many white lies along the way that come back to haunt her. I like that the book focuses on the consequences of the choices Allie makes, as well as understanding what is really important in life. Glitter Girls and the Great Fakeout is another good story in the Allie Finkle series. Perfect for girls in grades 3 - 5.

The other series I recently read and enjoyed was written by Barrie Summy. The book I read was I So Don't Do Mysteries. It turns out that I am late coming to this party. This particular book was published in 2008. I believe there are 2 more books in the series by now, and I will definitely be purchasing them for our classroom library.

I So Don't Do Mysteries is about Sherry Holmes Baldwin, a character that hates mysteries. Unfortunately, her mother who was a policewoman has come back from the dead because she needs to solve a mystery, and she needs Sherry to help her. The plot deals with Sherry, her dead mom who is a ghost, Sherry's grandpa who has come back as a bird and is very helpful in solving the crime, a cute boy, rhinos, senior citizens who are bad guys, Junie (Sherry's best friend), Junie's cousin who is fascinated by her own looks, and two famous movie stars. When I read the blurb on the back of the book, I really didn't think I would enjoy this book at all. Turns out I was 100% wrong. Summy manages to tell a lot of the story tongue in cheek so the reader spends a lot of time very amused. The suspense of the mystery just adds to the fun.

I don't know how I missed the "I So Don't Do..." series before this, but am very glad I found it this summer.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Next Trip to Cover to Cover 2

Ok, so even though I haven't made it to Cover to Cover since my first of these posts, maybe today, I've found a bunch more titles I'll be buying, so here goes!

The Shocking Truth About Energy by Loreen Leedy: Some non fiction is always good, it's the part of the library I struggle with the most. Recently, though, I've found quite a few non fiction picture books that the kids like and learn from, this is a new one. The book covers sources of energy, alternative energies and some simple science about energy. It's done at a real basic level making it a great introductory book for the grades that have energy in their standards. Bright, colorful pix make it a pretty fun look at what can be a dry topic.

Nibbles: A Green Tale by Charlotte Middleton: All of the guinea pigs in Dandeville LOVED dandelions and Nibbles loved them more than soccer. The trouble is, dandelions are in a limited supply and eventually run out. The guinea pigs are forced to replace their favorite greens with cabbage, YUCK! When Nibbles discovers one last dandelion plant outside his window he shows remarkable restraint for a guinea pig and doesn't eat it. Instead he does his research and learns how dandelions reproduce and when it turns to seed, Nibbles blows it all over Dandeville and becomes a hero. Fun pix and a story that can be used to introduce concepts of conservation make this a great one.

Jacob O'Reilly Wants a Pet by Lynne Rickards Illustrated by Lee Wildish: Jacob wants a pet, but his parents always say no. His dad suggests starting a pet sitting business and when Jacob does, he is flooded with customers and pets. Not just any pets, he ends up taking care of the usual cats, dogs, rodents, but also a python, sheep, and a zebra. At the end of the two weeks, Jacob realizes he really doesn't want a big, high maintenance pet, but when he finds a snail, that's just right. The rhyming text and fun pix will make this a hit with younger kids.

Birdie's Big Girl Shoes by Sujean Rim: Birdie is fascinated, like most little girls, with watching her mother get dressed up. She is especially enthralled with her mother's high heels and just wants to try them on. Her mother keeps telling her she's too small and her time for high heels will come. Finally, Mom relents and allows Birdie to try a pair. Once they are on her feet, Birdie decides they aren't as glamorous as she thought, in fact they hurt and her bare feet feel the best. Very fun pictures and short text.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

New Andrew Clements Series: The Keepers of the School

Actually the whole title is Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: We the Children and actually, it's really good! The kids at my school love Andrew Clements, he's a pretty quick easy read for most of them, he writes a lot about kids at school, and he tells a darn good story. All things that kids love in a book. I know when school starts up again (not even thinking about it!) this is going to be a popular series.

Benjamin Pratt attends middle school at Oakes School on the coast of Massachusetts. The school was started just after the Revolutionary War by a sea captain Duncan Oakes and is now under attack from the city council who wants to tear the school down for a historical theme park.

In the opening book of the series, We the Children, Benjamin witnesses the death of the janitor and is given a mysterious medallion with the directions:

If attacked, look nor'-nor'east from amidships on the upper deck. First and always, my school belongs to the children. DEFEND IT.
Duncan Oakes, 1783

and with that, the mystery begins. Benjamin recruits his friend Jill to help him solve the mystery and the two of them find another mysterious artifact hidden behind a piece of base board after following the directions on the medallion.

The story line is well done with Benjamin's parents being separated and him splitting ti
me between his mother's house and his father's sailboat. A third student, who isn't very nice to Ben, Robert Gerritt, is introduced early and even though Ben tries to avoid him, the story line keeps bringing them back together. In the final chapter, the two are pitted against one another in a sailing race that is very exciting and keeps the reader going. Andrew Clements provides a bit of a surprise in the end that is a cliff hanger that left me wanting to read the next book, NOW!

I really like the beginning of this series a lot. The book is only 143 pages which make it very accessible to every reader starting in the third grade. It's not fantasy or mythology or filled with weird creatures that are hard to keep track of, it's just a good mystery/adventure that real kids can imagine themselves a part of.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Lastest in The Magic Thief series

I actually got to meet Sarah Prineas, and listen to her speak, 2 years ago as part of our kick-off to the 48 Hour Book Challenge. She was on a book tour to promote her new series, The Magic Thief, and was going to be at Cover to Cover. At the time, she had the first 3 books planned out, but wasn't sure how far to take the series after that. She said she didn't want it to go on longer than it held readers' interest.

Well, after finishing the 3rd book in The Magic Thief series, Found, I sincerely hope this isn't the last book. I always hope in a series like this one (good vs. evil), that when it's truly time for the series to end, that I will feel like things are all wrapped up in a nice neat package with a lovely bow on top. Some things are resolved by the end of Found, but one big question about what will happen to the main character, Conn, is not at all resolved.

I'm not a big fantasy fan; the only reason I read any of the Harry Potter books is because I was reading them aloud with my youngest daughter when they first came out. But, after meeting Sarah Prineas in person, and hearing the premise of her story, I decided to give this fantasy series a try. I'm so glad I did; here was a fantasy book with magic, wizards, spells, good, and evil that was more accessible to a typical 5th grade reader (and I always read with that in the back of my mind). My students in the past 2 years have proved that I was right about the accessibility - boys and girls who couldn't manage those fantasy books that are so huge could read this series, enjoy it and feel successful all at the same time.

This third book is not quite as riveting as the first one was, but to a follower of Conn, Nevery, Rowan, Argent, and Benet this story keeps you turning the pages because each of these characters are still important to the story. Also, important trademarks of this series are still in place: maps to help the reader visualize the different settings, a guide to the characters in the back of the book, and a more in-depth guide to specific places in the story. Once again, these trademarks make the story more accessible to a wider range of readers.

I picked up an ARC of Found on Saturday, but knowing how popular this series has been, I will be adding this book to my classroom library for next year.

Monday, June 14, 2010

My Next Trip to Cover to Cover 1

I love summer! I catch up on my reading and relaxing and am able to make runs to my favorite book store Cover to Cover. I think this summer I'll try to keep you up to date on what I'm buying for the library. It will server two purposes, hopefully our Literate Lives readers will find things they are interested in, and it will also serve as a list for me to refer to when I make my trips to the book store. So here's what I'll be picking up next time I go...

First, I'll be picking up my copy of Pete's White Shoes (check out the way cool video). My blogger friends shared this with me and I had to have it so I ordered it and it should be in. With this book, watch out Joyce, there will be singing in THE PIT! This book is TOO MUCH FUN to be missed!

I'm the Best by Lucy Cousins: Dog compares himself to all of his friends, mole, goose, donkey, and lady bug. He always manages to come out number one because he doesn't compare himself to their strengths, instead, he is a better digger than goose and swim better than donkey. When his friends turn the tables and show him what they are good at, dog is depressed. His friends cheer him up with compliments on his fluffy ears and he feels better. Great friendship book without being too cheesey. Very fun bright pix to go with the story.

Don't Call Me Sidney by Jane Sutton Illustrated by Renata Gallio: Very fun story about a poet pig named Sidney who doesn't like his name because it can't rhyme with anything except kidney, not a very flattering or poetic word at all! He decides to change his name to Joe because there are so many possibilities with Joe, but his best friend doesn't really like it. When Joe's/Sidney's mom comes to visit, she won't hear of a name change. After a night of personal struggle, our friend the poetic pig decides he will stick with Sidney but use the nickname Sid when writing poetry about himself. The pix are laugh out loud funny.

City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems Illustrated by Jon J Muth: Probably my favorite of the summer so far. It's the story of a dog spending time in the country and meeting a frog. They share games and fun and become best of friends. The book passes through the seasons and the animals' activities change to match the seasons. It does have a bit of sadness to it, and is very different from any other Mo Willems I've ever read, but beauty of the pictures and the simplicity of the story will make it a favorite I think. It's my Caldecott measuring stick right now. Franki and I are on the same thought wave length today, read her review at A Year of Reading.

That's it for now, but I have more! I'll continue to do these trips to Cover to Cover throughout the summer.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Word After Word After Word

Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan is a must have for teachers of writing. It is actually set in a 4th grade classroom, but the take-away message from this book is how important words are, and that we all have words inside of us. Some of us just need to work a little harder to find them.

This book reminds me of several other books. One is Sarah Plain and Tall (another MacLachlan story) because of the simplicity of words, and how one character can make such a profound difference in so many lives (the fact that at one point there is actually a quote from Sarah Plain and Tall is wonderful). I also thought about Love That Dog and Hate that Cat (Sharon Creech) because all three books deal with an author who makes a difference in someone's life as a writer, and helps to unlock the words that allow them to tell their story.

There were several lines that jumped out at me, that I thought I would share:
  • "I, myself, write to change my life to make it come out the way I want it to. But other people write for other reasons: to see more closely what it is they are thinking about, what they many be afraid of. Sometimes writers write to solve a problem, to answer their own question."
  • "...we have to understand how important place is in our poetry, our stories. Your character lives in a place that helps shape their character."
  • "Writing... is ... brave."
All of these lines are spoken by a visiting author that is spending some extended time with a particular 4th grade class (lucky students!).

In my writing workshop, I have read aloud and used many mentor texts (usually picture books or short texts) to help my students be better writers. However, I've never considered doing a read aloud that just happens in my writing workshop time, separate from our regular read aloud. Word After Word After Word is making me rethink that. As I read, I thought about how perfectly this book would weave in with the craft lessons I use from Georgia Heard and Ralph Fletcher. I thought about how well it would fit with our 5th grade first trimester writing map as we start to look at the structures of writing and the craft of writing. I thought about how well it would complement some of the mentor texts I already use. But more than that, this is a book to be revisited throughout the year.

Word After Word After Word is a story about giving children a voice and encouraging them and supporting them to use that voice as a writer. How perfect is that?!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Turtle in Paradise Another Good One From Jennifer Holm

Like Franki at A Year of Reading, I'm a big fan of Jennifer Holm. While I don't love Babymouse, I guess that makes me some sort of cold hearted monster, Penny From Heaven and Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf, are two of my all time favorites. So needless to say, I was pretty excited to see Turtle in Paradise on the new book shelf at my local library. I brought it home and it served as incentive to finish the book I was in so I could read it. I finished the book in about two hours and was not disappointed.

The story takes place in Depression Era Key West. Now I've always known that Key West has a culture all its own, but I have never read much about it, especially not in kids' books. When Turtle is taken to Key West to live with her mother's sister, it's a surprise to her Aunt Minnie. In the time of no email or telephones or internet, the mail was slow and inconsistent so Turtle actually arrives before her mother's letter telling everyone she is coming.

I like Turtle, she's spunky and tough and won't let anyone take advantage of her, even her conch cousins and their friends. It's a group of boys who remind me of Spanky and the Little Rascals and they run a babysitting business where they pick up crying babies and pull them around in a broken down wagon all day to give their mother's a rest. They also use their secret diaper rash remedy on the babys' bungies to ease their discomfort. Turns out the remedy is corn starch but you don't find that out until the end.

Jennifer Holm is awesome at writing about family relationships and Turtle in Paradise is no exception. Turtle's mom is a single parent who dates a lot of losers and works as a cleaning woman in wealthy homes, sometimes that works out for Turtle and sometimes it doesn't and her mom must move on to the next job. Even though Turtle's mom doesn't appear often in the book her presence is felt throughout and we learn that Turtle has been forced to become fairly self sufficient and make important decisions since her mom seems incapable of doing it on her own.

While in Key West, Turtle is introduce to a very old lady named Nana Philly who lives in a big run down house and scares all of the kids on the island. When Turtle is recruited to take her lunch she learns what a cantankerous old soul she is, but she doesn't scare Turtle. When she tries to, Turtle stands up to her and eventually the two become friends, sort of. Turtle finds out Nana Philly's story and some interesting history about how the two of them are connected.

All in all, Turtle in Paradise is a perfect, quick, summer read. I loved the humor and the gang of kids, so much personality. My only problem with the book was that it ended too quickly, I wanted more closure to some of the story lines but didn't get them. The author's notes at the end were extremely interesting to me, finding out that Jennifer Holm's family can trace themselves back to Key West and some of the characters are based on family members and other real folks from her past.

Other Reviews:
Welcome to My Tweendom

Friday, June 11, 2010

Funny Business is a Hoot!!!

Is there anyone who understands boys and what they like as readers and writers more than Jon Scieszka and his cohorts?!! During this past weekend's 48 Hour Book Challenge, I was fortunate enough to nab an ARC of the first book in the new Guys Read series, Funny Business. It was edited by Jon Scieszka (sorry no front cover graphic is available yet).

This particular collection of stories are all humorous, and by authors/illustrators we all know and love: Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, Eoin Colfer, Jeff Kinney (sort of - will have to wait to see what the final copy of the book looks like), Kate DiCamillo and Jon Scieszka together, David Yoo, David Lubar, Christopher Paul Curtis, Paul Feig, and Jack Gantos.

I love that, much like the original Guys Read, this is a book full of short stories sure to please readers, but especially boy readers. It is full of things like:
  • a character thinking a diorama in a shoebox was supposed to be diarrhea in a shoebox, and bringing that assignment to school
  • pulling off a gigantic wart with rusty pliers, and then not telling and getting blood poisoning
  • being wrapped as a mummy for a school project by a friend, to find out it was adhesive gauze that was used on a naked body, and how the gauze got snagged by a moving car, and literally "peeled off"
  • farts and other similar noises
  • ninja cats and other ninja things (I had students that loved this phrase this year)
  • a super-villain that comes to school and blows holes in school walls and school doors
And those are just a small sampling of the other hilarity within this book.

I know that I can address a variety of genres and styles within my daily read aloud time. I have seen the most "macho" boy be moved by a character and his/her situation during read aloud. But, when it comes to that huge block of choice reading, I need to have multiple copies of books like Funny Business on my shelves. I need books that pull some of the more reluctant boy readers in and books that will serve as strong models for writing, as well. Guys Write for Guys Read did that as well as Scieszka's latest, Knuckleheads. Now, Funny Business will sit alongside those very popular books.

This Guys Read series is a must have for both school libraries and classroom libraries. The book is due out Sept. 21 -- mark that date on your calendars!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth

I just finished reading As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins for the 48 Hour Book Challenge (this is a pre-dated post). After reading MaryLee's resounding endorsement of this book, I just had to buy it and actually made it my first read this weekend.

I felt a variety of emotions as I read: amused by the story line, fascinated as I got to know the characters, skeptical of the story line, delighted at the way the story is told from different characters' perspectives, frustrated by the story line, total enjoyment of how the dogs' story is told through illustrations and comic-like voice and thought bubbles.

I like the characters in this story a great deal. I especially liked the survivor quality one of the main characters (Ry) develops over time. I also really liked Ry's "savior" and then traveling companion - Del. He truly is a guy who drops everything to focus on a situation that needs to be taken care of, whether it's a loose pipe, rotten flooring, or a control panel on an airplane that stops working mid-flight. Del's inability to admit he was ever wrong, made him stubborn and endearing at the same time. I think many people can relate to the person who has to be right -- you either know that person or you are that person. However, I was more than a little annoyed with Ry's parents who left for a Carribbean sailing trip and left very little information behind for their son to be able to contact them in case of emergency (and he has one emergency after another) - I think the parent in me had a hard time reconciling this type of irresponsible behavior.

So, I pondered all this for a while, since I respect MaryLee's opinion about books and she really thinks that As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth is something quite special.

I read this book as if it were realistic fiction. What if I suspend that belief, and say that this story is right on the edge of believeability?

With that kind of thinking, putting the possibility of the impossible (sort of an insider joke for those of you who have read this story) into play, this book becomes something altogether different than the story I read through my first reader's lens. This becomes a testament, albeit an amusing one in several places, to what can be accomplished with the right attitude. It makes the parents and their decisions less important and more of a plot device. It strengthens my enjoyment of the characters of Ry and Del.

This book grabbed me from the very first pages, when I realized how much trouble Ry had just gotten himself into. As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth is a book I'll be thinking about for a long time to come.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Little Blog on the Prairie Fun Summer Vacation Story

I just realized that I never really wrapped up my 48 Hour Challenge, and honestly, I didn't do very well this year so maybe that's a good thing. I finished only 2 books, which is an average of a book a day, if I could keep that up all summer I might just get through my pile of books to read. While I won't be winning any of Mother Reader's prizes, I did manage to score some pretty cool ARCs from Cover to Cover and had awesome book conversation with my Central Ohio Blogger friends.

One of the ARCs I picked up was Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell. I hadn't heard anything about this book anywhere, I just loved the title so I thought I'd give it a try. I wasn't disappointed.

Gen's family is firmly planted in suburban life, mini vans, travel soccer, too many hours of work, beach vacations, and Mom decides they need a change. She books the family for a historical experience camp in Wyoming. The camp sends families back to the 1890s prairie and grades them on how well they survive. It sounds like a dream vacation to Mom since she loved the Little House books which have given her a somewhat romanticized view of life on the 1890s prairie.

When the family reaches camp, they are whisked of to the main house where they turn in all of their modern conveniences, phones, iPods, make up, deodorant, tooth paste, clothes, pretty much everything they brought with them. Imagine the distress this causes a 13 year old girl who is firmly planted in the world of shopping malls and electronic devices, Gen is not happy. At the first meeting, the rules of the game are explained by the hard core owner, Ron and his always smiling wife Betsy. I have to admit, when I heard the rules that the campers would basically be doing lots of hard labor to make each of their mini farms a success, only to leave when the crops were ready, I was ready to pack my bags and go home.

The story goes on with all of the hardships of being on a vacation that isn't fun, but hard work. Cathleen Davitt Bell includes teen characters from all groups, there are the jocks, the Goth/Emo girl Ka, a picture of teen angst trying to not act or look like her blonde California blended family, and there's the dream boat hottie boy Caleb. Throw in Nora, the daughter of Betsy and Ron who ,basically spends her life in the 1890s, as Gen's nemesis and you have a really fun tween novel with enough romance and plot twists to keep the middle school girls interested.

The heart of the plot is when Gen gets out the cell phone she hid in her Clearasil box and begins to text her friends back home. Her texts are funny and sometimes mean but well written. One of her friends uses the the texts to create a blog for a summer computer camp she is attending and it becomes a nationwide hit. When it is discovered in the camp that gen has been using a cell phone, everyone is disappointed and there is the threat that her family will be expelled from the 1890s. I really liked how the author handled this, she wrote it in a way that was believable and it brought out the human side of all of the characters. It's revealed that Gen isn't the only one who can't live without her modern conveniences, including the adults. Very well done.

Overall, I liked the book a lot. There were some things that seemed a bit far fetched, for example Gen's father being able to take the whole summer away from it all with no access to the outside world, but I was willing to ignore this because I liked the story. I loved the humor of some of the situations and characters. I probably won't be buying it for the elementary library, a little to much romance, but would highly recommend it for the middle school library. I couldn't help thinking as I was reading that it would make a really great movie for the Disney channel!

More reviews:
Kids Lit
Kiss the Book

Sunday, June 6, 2010

48 Hour Book Challenge - Update #6 / Last One (Karen)

It's 10:05 PM, and I've just finished my last book for the 48 Hour Challenge. It was Crunch by Leslie Connor (of Waiting for Normal fame). Truth in advertising -- Bill actually got his hands on this first yesterday at Cover to Cover, but since I was planning on reading more this weekend, he let me have it first. Thanks, Bill! One of us will be blogging about it sometime in the next week or so.

So, since I didn't keep exact minutes of blogging, social networking, etc., here's a final synopsis of my 2010 48 Hour Book Challenge achievements:
  • I read 6 new middle age novels.
  • I updated my progress after finishing each book.
  • I have written blog posts/reviews for 4 of the books I read. I still need to write one for Keeper (last book before bed on Saturday night)
  • I had breakfast and went shopping with some of my favorite central Ohio kidlit bloggers.
  • I started Saturday morning at 9 AM and finished Sunday evening at 10:05 PM.
  • I will be donating $2 for every ARC I took from Cover to Cover or book I purchased to the Welcome Warehouse in my community, for a grand total of $28.
All in all, I am looking back at the last 36 hours and I have to call it a resounding success. I even managed to get to 2 graduation parties and swam a mile during that timeframe, also. I loved this weekend and the "excuse" to read.

I'll do a final wrap-up tomorrow by looking at what some of the other participants accomplished, keeping an eye open for books someone may have read that look promising.

Thanks to Mother Reader for organizing us yet again. I had a blast!

48 Hour Book Challenge - Update #5 (Karen)

Latest update:
  • From 12:30 - 2:10, I read Patricia's MacLachlan's latest, Word After Word After Word. OMG - I loved it!
  • Because I loved it so much, I actually wrote a blog post about it in record time for me-- it will be posted next weekend. If you don't already know about this book, and you teach writing to students, you really need to read this!!

48 Hour Challenge: 2 Down With a Gordon Korman Follow Up

I was very excited to find a third book in the Gordon Korman Swindle series. Readers of Literate Lives know I love these books. Griffin Bing AKA The Man With the Plan is an awesome character who is surrounded by a group of friends that make for great stories.

In Framed, coming out in September, Griffin is still The Man With the Plan, but this time he's under house arrest and his friends have to work without him much of the time. When a Super Bowl ring is stolen from the school trophy case, the new principal, Dr. Egan, blames Griffin based on his reputation and the fact that his retainer is found where the ring used to be.

What follows is Griffin being sent to an alternative school for kids that break the rules. When he tries to catch the real thief and gets caught, the judge then puts him on house arrest under his parents' supervision. Next the gang sets up an elaborate surveillance of the principal's house including Griffin with a computer link. When that fails, Griffin gets to wear an ankle bracelet that lets the police know when he strays too far from home.

Korman introduces us to a new member of the gang, Sheldon Brickhaus, a fireplug of an 8th grader that Griffin meets at his new school, JFK, or Jail For Kids as it is called. He's a street tough with a bad home life but turns out to be a loyal friend.

Framed is a great follow up to Swindle and Zoobreak. It's every bit as exciting and action packed as the other two. Kids are going to love it.

Now I'm off to some grad parties and then home to start Little Blog on the Prairie, an ARC I picked up yesterday because I couldn't resist the title.

48 Hour Book Challenge - Update #4 (Karen)

It's Sunday and I'm into my second 24 hours of the 48 Hour Challenge.
  • I read the 3rd book in The Magic Thief series, Found, from 7:30 AM - 8:30 AM. Couldn't help wishing I had this book before school was finished. I had two students who were avidly reading this series.
  • From 8:30 - 10, I went swimming (swam 1 mile, and it felt great)
  • From 10 AM - 12:30 PM, I finished Found (The Magic Thief) and then blogged about it for later in the week
  • My hope is to read 2 - 4 more books before bed tonight, but I have a graduation party later on. We'll see how it goes.

48 Hour Book Challenge - Update #3 (Karen)

Time spent in literate activities (reading only this time): 10 PM- 12:53 AM
  • I just closed the back cover of Keeper by Kathi Appelt. What a stunning book!
  • Headed to bed. See you all in the morning.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

48 Hour Book Challenge - Update #2 (Karen)

Time spent in literate activities: 5:12 PM - 10:00 PM
  • Spent about 30 minutes or so writing a review of As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth (will be posted this Wednesday)
  • Spent about 20 minutes looking at other people's 48 Hour Book Challenge progress
  • Just finished an ARC of Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka. It is due out Sept. 21. It is an absolute must-have for middle grade libraries (school and classroom). I will post a review later this week (Thursday or Friday).
  • Wrote a review of this new Guys Read series

48 Hour Book Challenge - Update #1 (Karen)

Time spent in literary and somewhat literary activities: 9 AM - 5:12 PM
  • met Central Ohio kidlit blogging friends for breakfast and book browsing
  • came home and started my 48 Hour Book Challenge with a blog post telling about my morning
  • started and finished As Easy As Falling Off the Face of the Earth by Lynne Rae Perkins
  • am going to have to let this story percolate in my brain a little; I enjoyed it but finished the book not knowing what I thought about the actual story line
  • will say that the perspectives from the different characters are clever
  • doing some blog reading and commenting

On to the next book!

48-Hour Challenge: One Down

After a delicious GRANOLA, FRUIT AND YOGURT breakfast with the Central Ohio Bloggers, I came home an finished The Magnificent 12 ARC. It wasn't bad, and I think the kids are going to like it. Mack is a middle schooler who finds out he is one of an ancient group of super heroes destined to save the world. The story is filled with golems, elves, evil queens, insect like beasts and other fantasy creatures. His body guard is a reformed bully named Stefan who takes Mack "under his wing" after Mack saves his life. The book has some pretty good action and battles that will keep readers interested and leaves off at a pretty good cliff hanger, setting up book two.

Now it's on to the ARC of Framed, which I was very excited to find in the stacks at Cover to Cover our friend Sally put out for us. It's the third behind Swindle and Zoobreak from Gordon Korman. I LOVE his books! Gotta go read.

Starting the 48 Hour Book Challenge

Well, I started the 48 Hour Book Challenge this morning. The Central Ohio kidlit bloggers held their annual 48 Hour Book Challenge breakfast / trip to Cover to Cover bookstore extravaganza to kick things off. This year there were 10 of us for breakfast and 12 of us pouring over the ARCs that Sally (the owner of Cover to Cover) had laid out for us, as well as our regular book buying.

We decided not to do a group photo this year, since the pictures tend to look the same each year. People that came, however, were:
As always, we had a great time catching up with one another, talking about our school lives (the good, the bad, and the ugly), and talking about books!!

Now, I'm home and ready to settle in for the next 2 days and read. I will post updates throughout the weekend. My first book is As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth (a purchase today and highly recommended by many). I can't wait!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

My Students' Impressions of Out of My Mind

As a class, we finished Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper yesterday. I actually cried as I read the last few chapters to them. For me, this is a very emotional book, so I can't even imagine the emotions Sharon M. Draper had while writing this book, as she has a child with special needs, so it is close to her heart.

Anyway, I thought I would share with you my students' comments about this last read aloud. So, with no further ado, here we go (** beware of spoilers**):

  • I thought this book was great. I was speechless in parts. (JK)
  • It was really interesting to see the world through Melody's point of view because her life is so different from ours. (LK)
  • I didn't know that people who had special needs could know so much. (NU)
  • In this book, there are so many "ifs" and "ands", that if just one of them was different, it would change the story (FM)
  • It made me mad and frustrated when she couldn't put her goldfish back in the bowl. I wondered if Melody's dad had to fix the hole in the wall at the airport. (BK)
  • It made me happy when Melody got on the Whiz Team. (MD)
  • I notice how the book keeps going up and down, happy and sad. (LE)
  • I thought it was an excellent book, and it was terrible how some of the people treated Melody. (MR)
  • I was mad when they left Melody behind when they went to Washington DC. (JA)
  • The book is like a roller coaster. (CA)
  • As we read this book it gained more and more potential. It was like a roller coaster; you sit in the car and next thing you know, you're doing barrel rolls at 110 mph. (MM)
  • It made me mad when Molly and Claire kept using the word "retarded". (BP)
  • It made me happy when Melody got her Medi-Talker because I thought her life was going to be plain without talking. (LB)
  • I thought it was sad when Melody couldn't tell her mom that Penny was behind the car. (HS)
  • I can't believe Rose didn't call Melody that the plane was leaving earlier. (PD)
  • I'm sad Penny got hit by a car. (MC)
  • I can't believe Mr. Dimming didn't check to make sure Melody was on the plane for Washington D.C. (AN)

Finally, we took a vote for our favorite book between When You Reach Me and Out of My Mind. 19 out of 25 students voted for Out of My Mind. That's a great endorsement, in my opinion!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Another School Year Ending

Literacy Assessments given, graded, and recorded - CHECK

Literacy Assessments entered into database - CHECK

final papers graded for this year -- CHECK

Progress Reports done with comments - CHECK

5th grade Fun Day celebrated - CHECK

Coming up for air and starting to share this blog with Bill again :) - CHECK

Almost done with our last read aloud, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It has been an amazing last read aloud. My students are moved by Melody more than I ever anticipated - CHECK

Last day for students is this Friday - ALMOST CHECK :)

48 HOUR BOOK CHALLENGE -- I will be starting this challenge on Saturday morning as I have breakfast with some of my favorite Central Ohio bloggers and will follow breakfast with a trip to Cover to Cover. I have a huge stack of books I've already read and need to blog about. Can't wait to find some other wonderful gems to put in the pile on Saturday.