Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

This post: some fabulously fun and clever books to celebrate the season of spooky!
I have pulled together a collection of some of my favorite read alouds for this time of year:

Cinderella Skeleton by Robert D. San Souci
Illustrated by David Catrow
Scholastic Press, 2001
Fantasy-Picture Book
32 pages
Recommended for grades 2+  

Older listeners or readers will be able to appreciate the language more.   I love the illustrations!  Catrow is one of my favorite illustrators, and his whimsical and style brings the creep factor to this book.  Kids really love when Cinderella doesn't losse a shoe, but rather has a her foot snapped off in the grip of her darling prince.

"Cinderella Skeleton,
Ignoring the thump of her footless stump,
Reached her coach and cried, 'Away!
I must be home by the break of day!'
They raced pell-mell past the palace gate;
The prince kept pleading, 'Lady, wait!'
In his hand, a foot-in his throat, a lump."

Come on, you had fun reading that!

Last Laughs: Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis & Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins
Charlesbridge, 2012
32 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

I ordered this book over the summer.  After showing it to my sister she looked up at me and said, "You're not going to read this to your kids, are you?"  And I tentatively replied with, "Um, noooo...?"  Ok, so maybe I should not read it to them this year.  Thankfully I have these kiddos for 4th grade too, when I can pull out all the questionable titles because they can handle them then ;)  The illustrations are what gets you with this book.  Right off the bat you can't help but think, ewww.  There is a little continuing storyline with the illustrations that happens in the background throughout the pages.  I don't find the book offensive, but I don't offend easily, so be careful who you send this one home with!
It's not the epitaphs themselves that are gruesome, as below you will see.  But these pictures play up the deadly messages.

Blue Whale Blues

She sang a melody,
two continents apart,
so long and sad, the echo
broke her heart.

In my Laugh Out Loud Picture Book Top Ten I shared the book Sipping Spiders Through a Straw: Campfire Songs for Monsters by Kelly DiPucchio, ill. by Gris Grimly.  I see Last Laughs sitting nicely on the shelf next to that silly collection of songs.   
For the kid that thinks poetry is love and flowers, hand them this!

Tell Me a Scary Story...But Not TOO Scary!  By Carl Reiner
Illustrated by James Bennett
Little, Brown and Company, 2003
32 pages
Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 2-4

This book came with a CD of the author reading the story.  There are great sound effects and music to bring the story to life.  I love sharing a well read audio book, and this one has been a hit with all groups.  

The Widow's Broom by Chris Van Allsburg
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992
32 pages
Fantasy-Picture Book
Recommended for grades 3+

I can't share a line up of favorite read alouds without including Van Allsburg, the master of storytelling and illustrating.  Van Allsburg respects young readers by not giving too much away, by letting young readers work with him to give life to his stories.  I don't think anyone could read a Van Allsburg story to a group of students without hearing gasps of realization or without seeing hands shoot up into the air because a listener is bursting to tell you what they just connected.
I always point out how 3 full length films have been made from three of Van Allsburg's picture books, giving credit to how powerfully immaginative his stories are.  

Kids love the kicker at the end of this book.

Happy Halloween Boys & Ghouls!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Creep, creep. What a great word!

I said spooky, but will Creeepy work?  It will.

Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts.

This week I read:

The Great Unexpected by Sharon Creech
Joanna Cotler Books, 2012
Fantasy?  Realistic Fiction?
226 pages
Recommended for grades 5-7

If you've read this, let me know, do you think this is a fantasy book?  As in, is you-know-who a you-know-what?  Or not?  Fantasy or not though, this book is beautifully written.  I have a serious complaint though.  Too short.  I wanted more time with these characters.  The language and feel of this book take you away from where you are sitting as you turn the pages.  So vivid are these characters that you instantly connect to them.  I love the mysterious going ons across the ocean that the reader peeks in on from time to time.  When watching Poirot was mentioned I smiled to myself.  My father loves Poirot.

Back to back I read the following books:

The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
Nonfiction, general information
33 pages
Recommended for grades 2-5

What do I love about this beetley book:
The awesome illustrations.  Enlarged color drawings with life size black silhouettes accompanying.   
Lots of white space make this book easy to navigate. 
Text looks handwritten-I just like that sort of thing.
The information within the book ranges from habits of the beetle to parts of a beetle to how the beetle survives.  
Lastly, I love how excited my students were today to get their hands on this book.

Creep and Flutter: The Secret World of Insects and Spiders by Jim Arnosky
Sterling Children's Books, 2012
Nonfiction, general information
40 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

First of all, Arnosky is a brilliant artist.  His love of nature and his curious nature makes him a writer that kids can connect to.  This book begins by telling the reader why and how this book came about.  Don't you love when authors include you in their writing?  Really make you a part of it?  Yeah, kids do too.  So this book was sparked by a furry little yellow, black and white caterpillar.  Thanks caterpillar, without you this book wouldn't be here.  
Readers can either choose which groupings of insects to read about via the table of contents, or they can read start to beautiful finish.   As I was sharing this book with the class we talked about how to read a book with massive fold out pages like the ones found in this book.  We also talked about the similarities found in this book and The Beetle Book, lots of similar information, plus the life size silhouettes.  Then I pointed out what Arnosky does that not every nonfiction author conveys.  Arnosky shows us his love of words and language.  He knows the power in more than just facts, the power that lies in the way we craft our message.  
"Insects and spiders enliven the motionless ground and vibrate invisible air, filling the world with movement and sound."

He leaves us with the wisdom to "be mindful of the small."

But what on earth to read now?  Well, this one might be surprising.  I am reading, and LOVING:

ParaNorman by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
256 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

I thought this would be a to say...not so good.  I mean come on, there is an animated movie out at the same time the book is out, how am I to know this isn't just more money to be made in the same story, different format.  WRONG-O!  This book is a hoot!  Poor Norman, he is bullied by meatheads and is pestered by the dead at every turn.  When Norman's great-uncle decides to rest in peace a bit too soon, Norman is charged with protecting the town from the risen dead before...before what?!  I don't know!  I have to keep reading!

Cheers, Nicole

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Start Spelling!

Want a fun way to get students spelling with a beloved character?

Good news, I spelled 'purple' correctly! 

Then I got the word 'Chihuahua.'

That's just UNFAIR!

I'll never spell 10 in a row to win a way cool prize THIS way. hum.

On the cool side,
Judy Moody creator Megan McDonald reads the words, sentences and definitions to you!

Have fun, go spell.  And good luck!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ivy and Bean Day Fun, Fun, Fun

Well, it's Tuesday, which means I have let down hundreds of thousands of blog following fans by not posting my It's Monday post. 

Ok, hundreds of thousands might be a stretch, but hey, you're here!   That's plenty good in my book.

Last week we celebrated Ivy and Bean Day!  

Fun included reading:

The kids listened to it during snack and our afternoon read aloud time.  We continued it during snack for the next 2 days.  If you haven't read an Ivy and Bean book yet, you are missing out on some fun times.  These two are total crack-ups.  Even though Ivy and Bean are second graders, my third grade guys and gals truly enjoyed the book.  
Later that day we made invisible ink Ivy and Bean style.  Idea courtesy of the blog Kid Lit Frenzy.

Kids were given the name of a classmate and wrote a secret message to that friend.  We let the "ink" dry while we went to lunch and recess.  Later we came back to paint over the messages in grape juice concentrate.  A fun time for the little scientists! 

To end the fun the kids got an Ivy and Bean word search and got to pick from the fun goodies sent by Chronicle Books!

Can't I just spend my days celebrating great books and awesome characters?!  

Oh wait...I do.  Just not with enough stickers and confetti.

I wasn't the only one wearing advertising for the event...I was greeted by this hilarious walking billboard.  (It was also Miss Dietlin's birthday, she observes and teaches on Fridays this semester.)

Gotta love Book Love!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Spook On!

Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts

I wanted to write only about spooky titles this month.  I really wanted that.  But the truth is, I haven't been reading any spooky books lately.  Double darn.  So, to get around that I will add on some favorite spooktastic books at the end of the posts.

Here's what I've actually been reading this week:

Giant Squid by Mary Cerullo & Clyde F. E. Roper
Capstone Press, 2012
Nonfiction: General Information
48 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6 as an independent read

Awesome nonfiction text about the search for the giant squid, alive and in its natural habitat.  As a teacher with little squid hunters in my own classroom, this book is especially relevant and exciting to add to my classroom library.  The author is also from our good old home state.  I love the mixture of vintage feeling graphics alongside photographs of the biggest eyeball on Earth and the inside of a Sperm whale's belly.  Ok, I didn't actually "like" either of those pictures, but you catch my drift.

Hocus Pocus Hotel (Book 1) by Michael Dahl
Capstone Press, 2012
204 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

One of the things I love about Capstone books is that they publish fun to read texts that support striving readers.  This book has lots of white space on the pages, and every chapter or so has a full page color illustration.  And with over 200 pages, this book doesn't look like an "easy" read.  The Capstone titles I've added to my classroom have always been a hit.  It's not that they are the best written literature, but they certainly serve an important role in helping many students feel more and more like accomplished readers.

Escaping Titanic: A Young Girl's True Story of Survival by Marybeth Lorbiecki, illustrated by Kory S. Heizen
Picture Window Books (an imprint of Capstone), 2012
Historical Fiction
32 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

I'm on the fence about this title.  Students with a lot of background on the subject of the Titanic will not find any new information here.  The illustrations look old fashioned, which I personally think are charming, though not moving.  One of the best features of the book is the true information about Ruth Becker.  To be honest, I would rather have read about her after the voyage.  We have many texts about the sinking, but not as many written for kids that tell about the people after the voyage. 

Water Sings Blue by Kate Coombs, illustrated by Meilo So
Chronicle Books, 2012
32 pages
Recommended for grades 3-forever

Oh, the loveliness of this book is so powerful!  The watercolor illustrations are absolutely perfect, Coombs must feel so fortunate to have been paired with So.  The style and subject matter of the poems changes throughout, of course keeping an ocean theme.  These poems need to be shared!  It was impossible for me to read this book to myself.  I kept reading them out loud to the fiancĂ©!  
If you have yet to come across this book, don't forget to read the back jacket flap.  I love what Meilo So wrote for her 'about the illustrator'.  I can certainly see doing this with students!

What Came from the Stars by the Amazing Gary D. Schmidt
Clarion Books, 2012
Science Fiction
304 pages
Recommended for grades 5 and up

I'm currently in the middle of this book.  I adore Schmidt's writing, and this is a big change from Lizzie Bright, Holling and Doug's stories  What isn't missing from this book are the emotions found in Schmidt's other works.  What's new is the far away planet where a terrible overthrowing is taking place.   When human Tommy Pepper finds himself in the possession of an item that is desperately needed by both sides of the fighting back on the home planet of the Velorim, he is targeting by the aliens.  Things are violent and frightening as the town of Plymouth is ravaged by nightly storms and home break-ins.  The creature wants to find what Tommy has.

Spook time:

Juniper Berry by M.P. Kozlowsky
HarperCollins, 2011
227 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

This title is currently on the Maine Student Book Award list.  So Maine kids in grades 4-8 looking for a good October read should check this out!

Juniper Berry is the only child of two famous movie stars.  She lives in a mansion, and even though she is surrounded by people that work in her house, she is totally void of human companions.  Luckily she has her little dog, Kitty.  When Juniper watches her parents sneak out in the night towards the forest behind their home, she becomes curious as to where they are going.  Around this strange event Juniper has been noticing some odd changes in her parents.  They are involved with something not right.  Something not human, and Juniper will have to come very close to the source of the evil to find out what it is.  A good creepfest.

Monday, October 1, 2012

A month of Spooooky titles!

Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts

I absolutely love the month of October.  Spookiness is the name of the game this month, and my book posts will be centered around this theme for the next 5 Mondays!  You're welcome ;)

Ghost Knight by Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Andrea Offermann
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012
Recommended for readers in grades 5-8 (352 pages)

Growing up I loved a good ghost story.  Okay, I still love them!  There is just something about being spooked, and believing in what may or may not be real.  So when I saw Funke's latest title, Ghost Knight, I was immediately drawn to it.  

Jon is a typical adolescent boy who at the start of the school year finds himself shipped off to a boarding school.  Jon suspects his mother's boyfriend, which he awesomely calls "The Beard," has a part in his sending off.  Once settled at school Jon hears some strange sounds outside during the night.  Daring a peek outside, Jon finds himself haunted by spirit knights hanging out below his window.  As all good spirits should be, they are bloody, fearsome and apparently after Jon!  Jon ends up learning of the family connection he has to the spirits, finds help from the living as well as from the spirit of Sir William Longspee, a real person in history!  The illustrations add great visuals throughout.  

The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand, illustrated by Sarah Watts
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2012
Fantasy (352 pages...again, that's weird!)
Recommended for readers in grades: 6-8

Here we have a very unique story.  Victoria is top of her class, organized to a fault, rigid and unsure of how to have a loving relationship.  Things begin getting weird in her quaint town.  First we hear and see and feel the bugs that creep and crawl in the strangest places.  Then we notice the adults have wolfish grins at times.  And there's that chilling breeze that sweeps through a room.  And the kids.  Why are some kids missing, and why don't their families seem alarmed?  We, the reader, and Victoria are trying to figure this all out together.  
Things get real bad when Victoria's one friend-even-though-she-won't-admit-it, Lawrence, disappears.  His parents say he is visiting a relative.  But Victoria doesn't buy it.  And neither do we.  Something strange is afoot, and the root of it might be at the Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls.  Pun intended, if you've read the book you caught it!

It's creepy and twisting and dark, the perfect October read.  What is wicked of Claire Legrand is the ending.  The ending is just wicked of her.  

The illustrations are of an interesting style, however they give the story a cartoonish feel that almost makes light of the darkness that is there.  Plus, in a scene at the end Victoria was running from someone  with something in her arms, and neither were portrayed as they were in the text.  That kind of thing can irk me, but I liked the book enough not to dwell on it.  

What are you reading on these dark and windy October nights?