Thursday, September 30, 2010

September Reading Recap

Goals, Goals, Goals
Did I meet them? Partially. I finally read The Help! I love love loved it, but I haven't blogged about it yet. Oops. I haven't been reading as many novels from my collection at school as I wanted to, but that's okay with me. And I decided not to revisit The Hunger Games and Catching Fire just yet because I'm not reading Mockingjay anytime soon. As for coffee shop reading - hah! What was I thinking? 

What and Why I Read
Because the public library had an awesome autumn display
Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie by Jill Esbaum
I Know It's Autumn by Eileen Spinelli
Fall Is Here!: Counting 1 to 10 by Pamela Jane
Who Loves the Fall? by Bob Raczka
Mouse's First Fall by Lauren Thompson
When Autumn Falls by Kelli Nidey
Fall by Ann Herriges
Leaves, Leaves! A Lift-the-Flap Book by Salina Yoon

Because I like to read to and for my students
Frog by Moira Butterfield
Beware of the Frog by William Bee
The Tale of Tricky Fox by Jim Aylesworth
My Lucky Day by Keiko Kasza
Pinduli by Janell Cannon
I Went Walking  by Sue Williams
Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Because I like to read for me too
Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
 Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

I should have blogged about The Help. But what could I say, really? "Best book I've read in a long time" just doesn't cut it. It's one of those books that will forever stay with me. Maybe I'll find words for it the next time I read it.

I did blog about Bleeding Violet. And Pop! and Found.

But not Glimmerglass because it was such a pathetic, fairy bore. That sounds harsh, I know. But when you've read as many fairy books as I have, you have slightly higher expectations. And boy, was I disappointed. Same with Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men, except with vampires. I really need to take a fantasy break.

Finally, I have to gush about my public library. We librarians have to stick together, you know, and brag about each other too - I love that my library buys anything and everything autumn-related because teachers and parents will inevitably seek those books out this time of year. Multiple copies galore! So many shiny books, all published this century! Nice.

October Aspirations
Read more for me. That's all. :)


Monday, September 27, 2010

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
published January 2010 by Simon & Schuster
454 pages (hardcover), YA

Hanna has issues. She's manic-depressive. She talks to her dead father. She's run away from home because she nearly killed her aunt. And now she's on her mother's doorstep, a mother who wants nothing to do with this teenage daughter of hers. Here we are in Portero, Texas, where the world is not quite the way it should be. Evil spirits more than just lurk; they are deadly. Portero is a portal to many other places and worlds, with hidden doors littering the entire town. Nothing is impossible in Portero. Odd as it may be, Hanna actually feels at home in this town that defies reality - mostly because it's weirder than she is. But Portero folk are not that accepting of outsiders, and Hanna must prove that she can fit in if she wants to stay with her aloof mother.

I love this book. I needed this book. I read it at exactly the right time - the weather finally turned chilly, I was curled up in bed ready for the kind of creepy, spooky book we all want to read this time of year.

Let me just say again that this is definitely a creepy, spooky book. Blood. Gore. Violence. Nudity. Sex. Drugs. Monsters. Just the kind of book I should be reading during Banned Books Week - but shhh, don't say I said so. It has that weird Going Bovine feel to it, where you're not quite sure if what you're reading is actually happening in the story or if it's just a hallucination trip, and it's creepy in that Girl, Interrupted way because people who are not quite mentally stable are apt to do unpredictable and very dangerous things. Add the likes of the City of Bones, with portals to other worlds and otherworldly creatures, and you've got most of the elements of this book.

But what I loved most was not the strange story or fantasy setting or troubled characters but instead the way they were seamlessly intertwined. There was no moment of suspending disbelief for me here; I just went with each twist and turn as if it was all normal. That's how much Ms. Reeves pulled me in from the start. Wow. Just wow.

There's not much else I can really say about this book. You'll love it or hate it. The story will grab you or repel you. I will say this, don't be fooled by its length. If you love it, you'll fly through it. I did not want to put it down! One late night and early morning later, and I was finished. Sad but sated.

Four purple crayons for the wow factor and fresh perspective.

Others said it better:
Book Gazing; Reading in Color; Bookworming in the 21st Century; read what you know; Presenting Lenore; Bloody Bookaholic; The Neverending Shelf; Pure Imagination


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall into Reading

I confess that I haven't been keeping track of my other challenges lately, but one of these days, I will catch up with the progress I've made.

But that doesn't mean I could resist the temptation to join another. :) Hosted by Katrina over at Callapidder Days, this is a laid-back sort of challenge just to inspire and encourage some more reading during the chilly, rainy autumn days. Not that you could tell that it's autumn around here - it's 9:20pm and it's still 77 degrees outside, yeesh.

Anyhow, the challenge runs from September 22 until December 20, 2010 - that's four months of fall reading! I know that I get into a reading slump this time of year, what with school and the holidays approaching. Here's my list of books that I hope to read during this time:

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves
because everyone loves it

The Body at the Tower by Y.S. Lee
because I liked the first one

The Cardturner by Louis Sachar
because I love to play cards

Extraordinary by Nancy Werlin
because I liked Impossible
The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, and June by Robin Benway
because I loved Audrey, Wait!
A Kiss in Time by Alex Flinn
because I love retold fairy tales

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz
because I love all things fairy

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George
because Jessica Day George is awesome

Savvy by Ingrid Law
because it's a Rebecca Caudill Award nominee

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
because Leviathan made me so happy

Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
because Oprah said so

I will inevitably add more books to the list and perhaps take some off. But that's a pretty good start.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy
published May 2010 by Simon & Schuster
40 pages (hardcover), children's nonfiction picture book

How do I express adequately how much love I have for this book? But it's not the gleeful, jumping up and down kind - it's the quiet admiration of a job well done. So well done that I'm a little bit in awe.

The subtitle of this book gives it away - it is the story of how Walter Diemer persevered to create the perfect bubble gum. The topic will be an instant hit with kids, but what I love most about this book is how it tells a story by using actual quotations. No need to put this book in your picture book section, it's as real as they get. Every quotation is cited! And can we talk about the illustrations, please? The sweet, bubble-gum flavored, acrylic illustrations perfectly evoke the 1920s in color and style. And not only is it perfect for a read-aloud, but this is also a book the little ones could read on their own, with just a little help from an adult.

I am so happy when I find a nonfiction book that I enjoy because let's face it, nonfiction has a tendency to either be too dry or tries too hard to appeal to the kiddos. This book is neither - it's confident in its subject matter and tells the simple story of bubble gum's beginning. There is added material at the end for those wanting to know more about Walter Diemer and gum in general.

Check out the Nonfiction Monday Wrap-Up at Wrapped in Foil!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

First grade wonders

I've been teaching first grade students the difference between fiction and nonfiction for the past couple weeks, and this week's lesson involved a reading of each type of story. It's no secret that I prefer fiction - I love made-up stories, especially fantasy, so I share that love often. But I may be doing things a little differently from now on.

Beware of the Frog by William Bee
published June 2008 by Candlewick
48 pages (hardcover), picture book

Sweet little old lady, Mrs. Collywobbles, is afraid of the "big, dark, scary wood" near her house - but luckily, she has her pet frog to keep her safe. Monsters leave the forest en route to Mrs. Collywobbles house (goblin, troll, ogre) but are gobbled up by her pet frog before they can make any trouble. In a surprising twist of events, Mrs. Collywobbles gives her pet frog a little kiss of gratitude and is transformed into a frog herself! Whatever will she do?

The kids loved this book - all three classes of first grade students ended this story with a chorus of "Read it again!" Of course it helped that I love this book and used all kinds of creepy, scary voices for the monsters. It was good choice for the fiction side of things because although little old ladies may have pet frogs, 1. their frogs don't eat monsters and 2. humans can't change into frogs. This was an easy concept for some students to grasp - others alluded to The Princess and the Frog, and I had to remind them that that was a made-up story too. But all in all, they were pretty good about telling each other why this book was fiction.

Frog by Moira Butterfield
published October 1991 by Simon & Schuster
24 pages (hardcover), children's nonfiction

Frog is the story of the life of a frog, from egg to tadpole to full-grown frog. Each page has a single sentence with clear illustrations. It's a small book. It's simple. It's easy to understand.

And the students were mesmerized. I read each word slowly and fanned the book to show the illustrations. Not a peep from the children. They were leaning forward, completely captivated by what I was showing them, which totally shocked and confused me. It was so quiet in the library that when I finished the book, I used my whisper voice and asked if this was fiction or nonfiction and why. Students raised their hands and gave articulate responses. Well, knock me over with a feather! I'm only surprised because the previous story brought out the silliness in students and this one sobered them up so quickly. Bad librarian for being so biased! Nonfiction is interesting to the little ones, so I've witnessed. I'll have to bring more of it to my library lessons.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
published April 2008 by Simon & Schuster
320 pages (hardcover), Middle Grade

Glad the public library still had a copy of this book left on the shelf because mine was checked out Friday morning when the fifth graders assaulted our stack of Rebecca Caudill books. I was pleasantly surprised that they were so eager to get their hands on those nominees. Anyway...

Found is the first book in The Missing series. The book begins with a mystifying event - a plane carrying 36 babies appears from nowhere at an airport gate; once the babies have been unloaded, the airplane vanishes the same inexplicable way it came. Thirteen years later, these babies now teenagers in adoptive families begin receiving notes in the mail that they are the missing and someone is coming back for them. A bit ominous, no? So begins Jonah and Chip's journey to find out what these notes mean, who they really are, and where (and when) it is that they're missing from.

I really liked this book. Mostly. Tons of suspense and intrigue, not to mention the emotional turmoil of Chip finding out that he's adopted and Jonah, who has always known about his adoption, attempting to console his new friend while staying at arm's length. The plot moves this book more than the characters, which will always be a shortcoming for me, but it's fast-paced even though there's not a whole lot of action until the very end. Chip, Jonah, and Jonah's sister, Katherine, embark on adventures close to home in order to uncover clues about what the mysterious notes in the mail could mean, and it's all very realistic.

So, I was confused when I saw the Science Fiction sticker on my library book because up until the last few chapters of the book, I thought I was reading a mystery. If you read jacket flaps or back covers, I won't be revealing anything in saying that hey, there's time travel in this book. While Found is the introduction to a time travel series, I much more enjoyed the mystery in the beginning of the book to the science fiction place it led me to. I worry about how my students will feel about the ending too. Time travel is tricky and confusing. But there's bound to be more action as well, I suppose.

Personally, I don't think I'll be reading more of this series, but I did quite enjoy this book, even though the ending was a bit odd for me. All in all, a hearty three purple crayons.

What they said:
Sweet Reads; One Librarian's Books Reviews; The O.W.L.; Peaceful Reader; Becky's Book Reviews; etc.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Reader's choice awards

I'm a fan. Caldecott, Newbery, Printz, and others are just fine for the literary folk (read: adults reading kidlit), but I want to know what the kids actually like to read. So, I've happily begun promoting the Rebecca Caudill Award to my fifth graders. The trouble is, the award is for grades 4-8 - that's a wide age gap. We only ordered 13 of the 20 titles because of this. I wonder how that will play out when it comes time to tally up the votes from schools across the state. If more middle schools and junior highs participate, then we can pretty much guarantee that The Hunger Games will win - everyone loves it. But I certainly wouldn't hand it to a fifth grader. Here are some of the books on the list that I hope to read sometime soon:

The Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull was on my summer to-read list, but that never happened. This was the book that most of my students were interested in reading, just by the cover alone, of course. We'll see how many actually do. I'm more intrigued by Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix - mostly because of this trailer I happened across:

Found Book Trailer from KSD140 on Vimeo.

KSD140 actually has trailers for all the Caudill nominees this year, which were great for me to watch since I hadn't read any of the books I was booktalking. Unfortunately, Vimeo is blocked at school (but YouTube wasn't!), so I wasn't able to share the trailers with students.

Anyhow, Savvy by Ingrid Law has been on my bedside table for months. I won it in a contest at The O.W.L. quite awhile ago, but I just haven't gotten to it yet. Maybe this weekend? I'm just kinda magicked out at the moment. And I don't know too much about Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy, but can I be a kid and say that I like the cover? :)

Whenever I'm settled somewhere, I'd like to create a homegrown reader's choice award, where teachers nominate titles, and students choose a winner. It seems more authentic than a state-wide program because it's tailored to a specific population. And there's a sense of pride that goes toward choosing a school winner - it's much more personal.

Oof, I'm in a sick funk, so pardon the absence and occasional incoherent thoughts. I'm hoping for a weekend of reading, relaxation, and recovery.

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