Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Clubs are the Best!

What happens when a group of women enter your house bearing food, drinks, and all carrying the same book? An amazing book club adventure, that's what!!

This past year was my second year at a new school in my district. As the newbie last year, I sort of sat back and did a lot of observing of my new colleagues. What I noticed right away was the social nature of this group. In my second year, I wanted to see if this social group would be interested in starting a book club. I threw the idea out to the entire staff by email in April, and for our first organizational meeting in May, 23 people expressed an interest in participating in this book club!! 23!! That was a whole lot of energy and excitement about reading and discussing books together!

Last night was the inaugural book club meeting of a GREat group of women - 14 of us were able to make it! We met at my house, and as in all fun social gatherings, the first 45 minutes or so was spent on catching up on each other's summers and enjoying good food and drink. After we filled our tummies, quenched our thirsts, and tried to finish the last anecdote about vacation, we were ready to get down to the big conversation.

We had selected Little Bee as the book to read and discuss. Those of you who have read this book know that it is not at all an easy book to read due to its content, but wow, does it make for great discussions!! Not knowing how the conversation would flow, I tossed out a feeling I had about the ending of the book, and then the fun began. People were so eager to wonder, ask questions, give opinions, share favorite parts, talk about language, and talk about characters. We didn't have a list of guidelines; we were just a group of fun, smart women talking about a book that had several important messages for all of us. The conversation was a like a ping pong ball being hit all around the room. Some of us had a lot to say; others not as much, but everything shared added to our appreciation of the book, Little Bee.

It was also interesting to see the format in which each of us had read Little Bee. The majority of us had an actual paper book, but one had it on her iPad, and another had read it on a Kindle. I love that there are choices available to suit each readers' needs.

For me, book clubs are so rejuvenating!! It is an opportunity to share a book communally and talk about meaty topics. That experience just heightens my appreciation of the book. I'm still abuzz with the excitement of last night, and I look forward to sharing books with this lovely group of women for a long time to come!

We have decided to read The Lincoln Lawyer for July, followed by Jodi Picoult's latest, and then Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls (many had read and loved her memoir, The Glass Castle). We are also considering the following as future reads:
  • Unbroken
  • Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
  • Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
  • State of Wonder - Patchett's latest
  • The Alchemist
If you have any other great book club suggestions, I would love to hear from you so I can relay some more choices to this wonderful group of women.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Couple of Reviews and an Award Too!

So I've finished both trips to Boston for the summer and both went well. The weather could have cooperated a little more, but the kids were troopers and didn't mind their raincoats and sweatshirts. When I returned this time I saw a comment that informed Karen and I that we have been chosen as one of the Top 50 Teacher Blogs by a website called We didn't start this for awards, but it's nice to be recognized especially when some of our blogging friends like A Year of Reading and Raising Readers and Writers are also included, so, thank you.

Before I left I finished two short novels that I liked, not only because they are short, quick reads, but also because they are well done. The first is an early chapter book called The Golden Ghost by Marion Dane Bauer. Delsie wants a dog in the worst way but her father is allergic to all animals, including ground hogs, so all she can do is wish. As the summer winds down, she and her best friend Todd are bored and looking for something to do. In her desperation for adventure, Delsie throws out the idea of exploring the "ghost houses" on the edge of town. The houses are nothing more than abandoned company homes, but kids start stories and soon they are known as the ghost houses. Even though they aren't supposed to go in, Delsie and Todd do and Delsie senses a presence in one of the houses that appears to have had someone living in it recently. As the story continues the drifter who lives there appears and so does a sparkling being that resembles a golden retriever, but Delsie is the only one who can see it. Young readers will enjoy the mystery and ghost of this story. There is just enough suspense to keep them interested and just enough ghost to make it a young reader thriller.

The second book was Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr. and Kevin Cowherd. Cal Ripken is a legend, not only for his streak of games played, but also because he played the game the right way. Who better to write a baseball book than a genuine baseball hero. In Hothead, Connor Sullivan is the star of his baseball team. In true Cal Ripken fashion he is humble and an ultimate team player. When things at home start getting tense due to his dad's job loss and money problems. It affects Connor's play and attitude and he begins to lose his cool on the field earning him the nickname Pshyco Sully. His old school coach pulls him from the big game and the school reporter threatens to do a tell all article in the school paper if he doesn't get himself under control. Connor is forced to take a look at himself and figure out how to channel his energy into performing better on the field. I was a big fan of Matt Christopher books growing up, and, even though those books still hold up today, I've been on the look out for some books that today's kids will relate to. Hothead fits the bill and I can't wait to introduce it to my kids next year. It's well written, less than 200 pages, and the beginning of a series by Cal Ripken, Jr. which automatically gives it sports credibility. I found this cool related website with some batting tips from Cal Ripken, Jr. himself.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Great NFPB and MG Pair!!

I recently read Bird in a Box by Andrea Davis Pinkney and absolutely loved the story it told. Bill recently wrote a review of this book (look at end of post), so I don't want to spend a lot of time re-reviewing the story.

However, I do want to share with you my plans for pairing Bird in a Box with A Nation's Hope, a nonfiction picture book written by Matt De La Pena and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. These books were meant to be used together. In Bird in a Box, the backstory is how intently the characters follow the story of Joe Louis, and how much pride they take in his successes. But to understand these feelings, I really think that students need some background knowledge about who Joe Louis is.

Enter the picture book, A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. It has a lyrical text that shares the story of Joe Louis and is accompanied by the gorgeous illustrations of Kadir Nelson. Through conversation about this story, and maybe doing some quick online searches of the fight with Max Schmeling, students will then have the knowledge needed to support their thinking while listening to Bird in a Box.

This is a perfect example of how to use a picture book to scaffold for a longer text. I can't wait to share both books in my classroom this year!

Friday, June 24, 2011


Hidden by Helen Frost was recently recommended by several people I follow on Twitter. Wow! Were they ever right!!! As much as I loved Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt and felt like it had "medal" written all over it, I feel the exact same way about Hidden.

Frost once again strikes gold with her writing. The story is written entirely in verse and is told from two different points of view: Wren and Darra. What makes this book so compelling is that when Wren is young, she gets "kidnapped" by Darra's father, and years later they run into each other at the same summer camp. Both girls have many issues through the years - Wren has dealt with the trauma of being taken and Darra has dealt with a somewhat abusive father who ended up in jail.

The book is divided into 3 parts: the first part is the story told from Wren's viewpoint, the second part is Darra's perspective, and the third part takes place at camp, many years later, and alternates between Wren and Darra telling the story through their own lens.

Frost manages to put in a "form" that further enhances the readers' understanding. Whenever we are reading Darra's point of view, the last words in the long lines combine together to let us know more of what Darra is thinking. It's like a story within a story, much the same as Diamond Willow.

The first two sections help build wonderful background knowledge of this traumatic event through the eyes of both girls. Then, the camp scenes, when the girls come to realize who the other one is, are very gripping. The story is powerful and I shed more than one tear as the story came to a conclusion.

Hidden is a book I plan on rereading multiple times to fully grasp all the nuances. It is a truly amazing read!

For more reviews of this amazing book:
The Reading Zone
Reading Nook
The Musings of a Book Addict

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu

I was catching up on others' blog posts last weekend when I came across a review of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang at A Year of Reading. It was written by one of the contributors' (Mary Lee) brother. After reading his review, I decided that this book needed to be on my TBR list. Imagine my surprise and delight when I got to our public library late Saturday afternoon, and The Great Wall of Lucy Wu was sitting on the children's "New Book" shelf!! I snatched it up and made it my #bookaday reading for today.

Mary Lee's brother, Dave, was so right about this book! I started it, and finished it within a three hour period. I was totally involved with the main character, Lucy, and her attempts to mesh her Chinese heritage/relatives with her American way of life.

Lucy has complicated relationships with everyone in her family. Her older sister, Regina, is the beautiful "perfect" child and is headed off to college. They share a room that Lucy can't wait to claim as her own. Her older brother, Kenny, is a math and science whiz and is always immersed in a book; he doesn't have time for a younger sister. Her parents love her very much, but they ask her to do two things she doesn't want to do: 1) share her room with her great-aunt coming to visit from China, and 2) quit playing basketball for the school team so that she can go to Chinese school on Saturdays instead. For someone who loves basketball as much as Lucy, this is a huge sacrifice. Her great-aunt, Yi Po, is a kind gentle soul but she annoys Lucy just because they have to share a space that Lucy had thought would be her own. Lucy even moves furniture to divide the room into what is hers and what is Yi Po's (thus, the title - The Great Wall...).

And those are just the issues with her family. There are other important issues at school that come with being a 6th grader. The school issues will all be ones to which students can relate.

As the story unfolds, the author does a great job of explaining how difficult life for Chinese people was, both in China during the revolution and in America, during and after World War II, in a way that student readers will be able to understand.

After reading The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, I immediately ordered it for our classroom. It will be a book to which I direct many students. I love the cultural aspects of this book, and know that many of my students will relate to that as well.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Poetry Friday - Emma Dilemma

I got Emma Dilemma: Big Sister Poems by Kristine O'Connell George way back in April, and am only now getting around to reading and reviewing it. Seems to be the story of my life lately. But what a great book to read during the summer #bookaday challenge!!

This book contains a delightful collection of poems that very aptly share the ups and downs of being a big sister. In one poem, Jessica (the big sister) is mortified that her little sister (Emma) wore her pretend clothes to Jessica's soccer game and keeps cheering her name loudly so that all notice. A few poems later, Jessica notices how Emma's hand is

"just the right size
to fit
inside mine."

Whether it's Emma encroaching on Jessica's room, or Jessica's markers, or time with Jessica's friends, she always manages to make herself noticed.

But, the true love between sisters shines through when Jessica allows Emma to hop into bed when she's scared, or when Jessica teaches Emma the best way to blow paper off of straws, or when Jessica goes on a field trip and spends her 3 dollars on a gift for Emma.

Emma Dilemma is a collection of poems that tell a tender story about the relationship between a big sister and a little sister. Kristine O'Connell George chose the perfect words in each poem to share the feelings and emotions of sisterhood. And the illustrations by Nancy Carpenter mesh wonderfully with the words. I was touched by this book of poems and can't wait to share it with my students in the fall!

For more Poetry Friday fun, see the lovely Jone at Check it Out!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2 Quick Reviews

I've returned from my first of two annual pilgrimages to Boston and that long bus ride provided plenty of reading time. Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate this trip but the kids were terrific and real troopers in their ponchos and raincoats. I've managed to finish 2 new books since my last post and enjoyed both.

I finally got my hands on a copy of The Friendship Doll by my friend Kirby Larson. She shared the background of the book and even some of the story with the kids at Bailey when she visited and I was intrigued from the beginning. The book did not disappoint. Back in 1927 Japan sent a set of 58 traditional Japanese dolls to the children of the United States. The dolls then went on tour and over the years, most have gone missing. The Friendship Doll is told through the eyes of one doll, Miss Kanagawa, who calls herself an ambassador and carries herself in just that fashion. She starts in New York at the ceremony to present the dolls where she "interacts" with a young girl named Bunny Harnden who constantly feels left out, by her classmates and her wealthy family. She is chosen to be part of the committee to welcome the dolls, but not chosen to recite her speech. Even though Bunny feels hers was the best speech, the honor goes to Belle Roosevelt, the granddaughter of Theodore Roosevelt. Before the ceremony Bunny makes a connection with Miss Kanagawa even "hearing" the doll speak to her. The connection changes Bunny, making her less self centered and more willing to reach out an help others and understand their feelings and behaviors.

The book continues in a similar theme. Miss Kanagawa connects with a series of girls through the years. The girls' situations are all different and yet they all have things in common that provide the catalyst for the Kanagawa connection. In the last chapter, the doll actually makes a connection with a boy, Mason, who uses Miss Kanagawa to help an Alzheimer's patient remember things from her past. It's a very touching finish to a wonderful book. I'll be adding it to my list of great books that are less than 200 pages.

The second was an ARC of a fun mystery that I got from Sally at Cover to Cover after the Central Ohio Blogger breakfast. The Mystery of the Missing Everything by Ben H. Winters comes out in September and will be added to our library as soon as I can get my hands on a copy. It's actually the second book featuring the students of Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School, the first was The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman which I have already reserved at the library.

The detective in the book is Bethesda Fielding and she is put on the case when the gymnastics championship trophy goes missing from Achievement Alcove. This sets Principal Van Vreeland into a royal hissy fit and she cancels all extra curricular activities including the 8th grade trip to Camp Taproot. The mystery winds and weaves its way through the book with suspects changing all the time for detective Bethesda. The reader is introduced to plenty of very interesting characters like the wimpy vice principal Jasper Ferrars who moonlights in musical theater, Reenie, the new kid, who is a bit mysterious, maybe a little mean and always has her nose in a book, just to name a couple. The book is funny, fast paced and full of enough plot twists to keep a kid reading. In the end, just when I thought Bethesda had the case wrapped up, Ben H. Winters throws another twist and gave me an excellent ending.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Visit with Loren Long

I'm embarrassed to tell you how long ago the visit Loren Long made to our school occurred (ok, it was the beginning of May). Between getting ready for my knee surgery, getting ready for end of year items before the end of the year, and now, after surgery, having the attention span of a gnat, I find it hard to concentrate for any length of time. This doesn't bode well for article writing, preparations for a workshop this summer, knitting projects, or advance planning for next year. And it especially doesn't bode well for blog writing. Besides exercising, icing, and resting, the only thing I seem to be able to sustain for a period of time is reading -- whew!!

But, back to the point, I would like to very belatedly share the wonderful visit our school had with Loren Long.

Loren was actually scheduled to come on a day that became a snow day for us this past winter - tough weather. We were so delighted when he was willing to reschedule from his original date in February to a date in May.

What we all came to realize is that Loren Long is both a talented artist and a talented writer. One of the things he shared that really stuck with me is that he likes to think of his books as films, and he is the director - he gets to decide what will happen and how it will happen. He continued to model smart thinking as a writer/illustrator. He gave an example of how when writing Otis, he first thought about the main character and how to develop him. Then, he brought in secondary characters. After that he likes to develop setting, and his setting allows him to set "mood" for his readers right away. Finally, he thinks about the events that comprise the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

I loved the quote he borrowed from Stephen King: "There is no such thing as writing, but rewriting."

He also shared a little about the honor he felt when he was asked to illustrate Of They I Sing by President Obama. He shared how much he rose in his own sons' estimation when President Obama shared that he knew Loren Long's books. The kids at our school got a kick out of it when he said we could address him as Loren Long, "Illustrator in Chief."

All these thoughts Loren shared are why we're so very fortunate to be able to host authors and illustrators at our school. They help de-mystify the process of writing and creating, and share it at a level that is meaningful for the students. I took so much from Loren Long's session and applied it in both our reading workshop and writing workshop focus lessons.

The other rich piece of having an author visit is the learning and preparation that happens before the author even gets there. We were able to share so many of Loren Long's books, and then students could respond to them in a way they wanted. One of my favorite things that happened before the visit was a class who wrote a book like Of Thee I Sing, with heroes that matched specific parts. This pre-visit thinking and work really helps enrich the visit, and the students feel so connected to the author and/or illustrator.

A huge thanks to Loren Long for being so willing to share of himself and his creative process with our students. Another huge thanks for all the conversations he had with teachers during his "down times" that enriched their creative processes as well.

Monday, June 6, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge - Wrapup (Karen)

What a fun weekend this has been! By participating in MotherReader's (thanks, Pam!!) 48 Hour Book Challenge, I created many opportunities for reading and activities surrounding the reading community since Friday afternoon. I didn't exactly follow the rules because we had a friend of my youngest daughter staying with us , so I read and participated in chunks of times over the last 3 days. I read 2 books Friday afternoon, met my fellow Central Ohio bloggers for breakfast and book shopping on Saturday morning, read 3 1/2 books on Saturday afternoon, and Sunday afternoon, when I was the only one in the house, I read 3 more books (finished the other 1/2 from Saturday, and ended the evening by beginning another one).

Final total: reading off and on for 3 days, I managed to read 8 1/2 books. I'm so pleased that I was able to set aside time to immerse myself in some new books, and some great conversations (both online and in person) with people who love books as much as I do!

I already shared about my Friday and Saturday reading, but I have to share about my last three books I read yesterday. They were probably my favorite.

I finished Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. I don't want to ruin the plot, because this book doesn't even come out until this October, but I do have to say the themes within the story make it an incredibly important read. A couple of notes, however. The main character is at one point reading When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I loved how cleverly Ursu lets the reader know that without ever mentioning the actual title, and how well she connected the two story lines. Another part that truly stuck a chord with me is the following:

"Somewhere ahead there was a boy who had been her best friend. She had known so many versions of him, she carried all of them with her."

If that passage doesn't capture the essence of friendship, I'm not sure what does. I kept reading the section over and over, loving it more each time.

The next book I read was a picture book, A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Both the words and illustrations are amazing. I can't wait to pair this picture book with Bird in a Box, a historical fiction by Andrea Davis Pinkney. I'll need to post more about this book later, but let it suffice to say that this pair of books is definitely on the "short list" of books I've already to begun to think about sharing in read aloud with my class.

The final book I read was The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson. I've read several other bloggers who thought the same thing, but this book is very reminiscent of Edward Tulane. The doll in this story answers a need for both young and old alike who come into her presence. Again, not wanting to ruin the story for anyone, I will say I loved the way Kirby Larson concluded the story. It gave me a real sense of closure in a story like this that jumps from setting to another.

Great reads, great weekend! Thanks again to Pam for hosting such a fun event!!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

48 Hour Book Challenge - Update #1 (Karen)

Well, I started the 48 Hour Book Challenge over 24 hours ago, and though some other things have interfered (all good), it's been fun to devote my time to reading when not otherwise socially engaged.

On Friday, before evening company came, I was able to read two excellent books. The first was Junonia by Kevin Henkes. I'm embarrassed to say that I actually got this as an ARC all the way back in November at NCTE, but never got around to reading it. What better opportunity than the #48HBC to rectify that! I love that the setting of the book was a beach in Florida and that the main character, a ten year old girl, is so knowledgeable about shells. I have to admit I didn't even know what a Junonia was until I read this; now I want to get a shell book and start classifying some of the shells I've collected over the years. The other thing I loved about this book was that the main character, Alice, had rituals established for her vacation - people, places, and events on which she relied to happen the same way each year. The backdrop of this book is how Alice reacts when her expectations are not met on this vacation. Really loved this book!

My second read was Grounded by Kate Klise. This is another book that has been on my bookshelf for multiple months and I just kept passing over it. Again, I am so glad that changed this weekend. I love the symbolism of the front cover, where a large tree is shown, and we can also see underground where a strong root system keeps this tree "grounded." The main character, Daralynn, loses her brother, sister, and father in a plane crash. This is a story of a small town, and the ways that people who live in a town like that keep one another grounded, even when on the surface they might not even seem to like one another. I love that Daralynn becomes a hero in this story, and I both loved and hated how much I cried toward the end of this book. Very emotional in a good way.

After some family social time last night, I was up bright and early for our annual Central Ohio's 48 Hour Book Challenge breakfast and bookfest. Today, there were 12 of us who gathered at the ever popular Northstar Cafe. If you read Bill's earlier post, he had his favorite, granola, and I had my favorite, fresh squeezed orange juice with a Cloud 9 pancake (an amazingly fluffy pancake made with ricotta cheese and topped with banana slices). Yum! Conversations abounded around our huge booth. After breakfast, we headed down the street to Cover to Cover, an independent children's bookstore. There, we tempted one another with titles, found some fun ARCS that Sally the owner so kindly shared, talked some more, and eventually left the store with our arms full of books (see picture of my loot). This was my first outing since my surgery for total knee replacement two and a half weeks ago, and I enjoyed every minute!!

After a much-needed nap following my first outing, I got up and immediately started my 3rd book, The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer Holm. Such a great story, and I love May Amelia, but I found myself so absolutely angry with her father toward the end, I could actually feel my jaw clenching. Believe it or not, I never read the first book, Our Only May Amelia, but I don't feel like that took away from my understanding of the characters or my enjoyment of such a tough little girl. The fact that it is a historical novel is just icing on the cake!

My fourth book was another Jennifer Holm book, this time paired with her brother, Matthew - Squish. What a great new series, and as my friend Mary Lee pointed out, I now know more information about amoebas reading a graphic novel than I probably retained through any science classes I have ever taken. Squish is so fun, and sure to be a kid pleaser! I'm doubly happy that the 2nd book in the series will be coming out in September - perfect timing for the start of school!!

My fifth book was Liar, Liar by Gary Paulsen. I follow a lot of people on twitter that have read this recently and had only positive things to say about it. While I really enjoyed it, I always read books with my own 5th grade class in mind, and I have to say that I think Liar, Liar is really better targeted to a middle school, or early high school audience. The message about lying is an important one, and even if things get tied up a little too neatly, such an important message for kids to hear. However, some of the other situations are a little more "grown up".

I have now moved on to my 6th book, an ARC I picked up today - Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu. I feel so fortunate to have found this today (okay, truth in advertising - I feel so fortunate that Bill found it but let me have it first - THANK YOU!). I am currently on page 68 and am enthralled by the dynamics of both the main characters and the secondary characters already.

So, as I look back over the last 30 hours, I am so happy I was able to focus on reading some really good books. I look forward to the next 18 (or more) hours!!

48 Hour Book Challenge: Update 2

So first I need to apologize for a mistake. The event is called the 48 Hour BOOK Challenge, not reading challenge as I have been calling it I promise to do better. I started the morning with about an hour of reading then went and enjoyed some delicious granola and conversation with the Central Ohio Kid Lit Bloggers. I even convinced 3 others to try the granola at the Northstar Cafe and they all agreed, it's awesome.

Then we journeyed to our favorite book store, Cover to Cover where Sally and Beth helped find all of the good titles that we just had to see. The one I'm most excited about is the second book of Those Darn Squirrels. It may just kick of the year in THE PIT next fall. What's funnier than a cat giving wet willies, noogies and wedgies to squirrels!? Nothing, that's what! I was laughing out loud in the book store. I LOVE THOSE DARN SQUIRRELS!

When I got home I got the pork tenderloin into the marinate and then finished A Million Miles from Boston by Karen Day. I love the setting of this book, a small summer beach community on the coast of main and with the humidity in Columbus today, I found myself wishing I was there. The story is about Lucy, a soon to be middle schooler who lives with her father and brother. Her mother passed away from cancer and Lucy finds herself not only dealing with the social pit falls of middle school and boys, but with the grief over her mother and her father's new girl friend. It's very well written and I'm pretty sure I know some fifth grade girls who will really like it.

I think I'm moving on to one of the ARCs I picked up called The Mystery of Missing Everything by Ben H. Winters.

Friday, June 3, 2011

48 Hour Reading Challenge: First Update

So just as I suspected, not much reading time came my way. Started at 3 and an hour later went to dinner. After that I had to bake an apple pie, crust from scratch of course, for the lovely Mrs. Prosser's birthday and by then it was 8:30. So to update my reading time, 2 hours from 3 to 10:30...pathetic!

I finished two books, probably neither of them qualify under the rules of competition, but I enjoyed them both anyway and know I have young readers who will enjoy them too.

The first was the first in a new series called Ball Park Mysteries by David A. Kelly. The title is The Fenway Foul-Up. I think this is going to be a great beginning chapter book mystery series and I really like the list of facts in the back of the book. In this one all of the facts are about Fenway Park in Boston, one of my favorite cities. Oh yeah, I'm leaving for Beantown on Thursday with 47 of my closest friends.
The second book I finished was part of a new series by Kate Messner called Marty Mcguire. Marty is a tomboy third grader who would rather be in the woods or creek exploring nature than dressing girly and princessy. However, she gets the lead role in the class play and it's a princess. Very fun and well done. Fans of Clementine and Moxie Maxwell are going to love this series too.

Right now I'm working on A Million Miles from Boston by Karen Day. That should be good for a few hours!

Ready...Set...Go! 48 Hour Reading Challenge

It looks like I may be the first Central Ohio Blogger taking the plunge, but my start time for this year's 48 Hour Reading Challenge is 3:06 P.M. on Friday. As usual, I won't be winning any prizes but hope to increase my hours from years past. After all, this weekend is as much about the social part of reading as it is the actual reading for me. Tomorrow, I will enjoy a bowl of delicious granola, excellent conversation and a look at new books as the Central Ohio Blogger get together to celebrate MotherReader's annual event.

A bit of a change for me this year, I'm not announcing my reading list. I'm going with the flow and whatever hits me at the time. I know I'm starting with a new mystery series for kids that may be younger than the rules state, but I have to work into these things slowly.

So without further ado...READ!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Making Progress: 2 More Reviews

Here is how the stack looked when I started.Here it is now.I've managed to get through two more books since I last posted about my reading stack. I've also managed to squeeze in a trip to DC to see my son sing with his high school choir at the Kennedy Center. They were part of a 300 member choir that performed with the U.S. Army Symphony for a Memorial Day Celebration. It was incredible, inspiring, awesome, moving and on and on and on. Just let it be said that there were goosebumps and tears all around.
The Reinvention of Bessica Lefter by Kristen Tracy is a great middle school transition book. Bessica decides to reinvent herself before she starts middle school. So she destroys the elementary school journal she kept with her friend Sylvie, gets all new clothes, and a drastic haircut. She talks Sylvie into the same haircut and that is the straw that breaks Sylvie's mother's back! She forbids the friendship and enrolls Sylvie in a different school. Now Bessica must really reinvent herself because she has no friends at her middle school and doesn't know how to make them. The trials that come Bessica's way are typical middle school stuff, and that's what makes this such a good transition story, I think kids will relate to her troubles. Fortunately for Bessica she has a strong support system at home from her parents to the live in grandmother who takes a camping trip with her new boyfriend just as school starts, but keeps in touch through mail and cell phone. All in all the book does a nice job of handling the middle school issues and I already have a few fifth grade girls who will really enjoy this book in mind.

The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton is a fun fantasy that can be read at many levels. On it's surface it's about a small island country that thinks it's the center of everything. When a surprise is discovered under the mountain, Mt. Majestic, in the center of the island, the islander's life is changed forever. But, like the book itself, there are lots of themes and ideas under the surface of Mt. Majestic that make this book ripe for discussions. The fact that the islanders think they are the center of the world and are willing to accept that there is nothing else out there is one. The boy king who looks down on his subjects and will never leave the hilltop castle to mingle with them is another. The heroine, Persimonny, who believes in her missing father and all that he stood far, at least as far as she knows will lead to discussions of loyalty and family. Persimonny's friend Worvil who continues to shrink due to his self doubt will open another avenue of discussion. There are so many ways this book could go that it keeps the reader going and on the Island at the Center of Everything. Throw in the illustrations by Brett Helquist and some very funny stuff and I think it makes for a book that kids who love fantasy will love.