Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12-30-13

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!  There are so many new books to discover, and so many great conversations to be a part of!

Books I Read this Week:

The Ability by M.M. Vaughan
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013
330 pages
Recommended for grades 5-7

Set in London, readers follow 12-year-old Chirs Lane-from expulsion from school to acceptance into the mysterious Myers Holt School.  Not sure if he should leave his depressed mother alone, Chris goes back and forth on deciding whether to head off to boarding school, or stay at home.  His decision is made easier when Myers Holt steps in to assure Chris that his mother's needs will be taken care of while he is away. Free to enroll, Chris discovers that Myers Holt is a school where he and 7 other 12-year-olds will learn how to control their amazing abilities.
But school isn't only about training, it becomes life and death when former Myers Holt students, now powerful and respected adults, turn up murdered.
Chris finds himself part of an amazing adventure that I had a great time tagging along on!
The ending leaves you longing to open unwritten book 2!

The Animal Book by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin, 2013
Nonfiction Informational
207 pages
Recommended for...Everyone!

Last year I fell in love with The Beetle Book, but this year I was blow away with where Jenkins took us next!  Each page in this 200 plus page book contains information on countless animals, information that I bet will surprise you!

Do you know how many eggs a termite queen lays per hour, around the clock, for 30 years or more?  page 36-37 might shock you!

Do you know which ant will self-destruct in order to save its colony?  pg. 100-101

Animal sizes and shapes, defenses and extremes, hunting and surviving, from thriving to endangered to extinct, this book is full of information that keeps surprising. 

If readers are too young to truly read the text, there is so much visual beauty to be celebrated here, making it a book for all ages!

What the Heart Knows: Chants, Charms & Blessings by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski
Houghton Mifflin, 2013
65 pages
Recommended for grades 7+

An interesting text filled with poems on love, loss, bravery and more.  I initially thought this to be a poetry book I could use in my 4th grade classroom, but upon reading it was proved wrong!  These poems seem best suited for adults with the life experience to understand their meanings deeply.  
The whimsical illustrations are captivating!

My favorite:
Time Spells (pg. 20)

Part II.

O sweet Time:
stretch like a sleepy dog,
slow and languid and warm
with flickering light.

Let the fire of this moment-
with my friends beside me-
                      and burn
                                                   and burn.

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I'm excited about this new I got for Christmas!  I will be reading it slowly, savoring all the advice I can get :)

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful reading week...even if it means school is starting and your reading time is going to be majorly encroached upon! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12-23-13

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!  Last week there were over 40 blogs participating!  There are so many new books to discover, and so many great conversations to be a part of!

Books I Read this Week:

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Simon & Schuster, 2013
277 pages
Recommended for grades 5-7

A truly unique story about the search for a mother leading a young girl to the rooftops of Paris.  All Sophie knows of her past is that she was rescued at sea by her guardian Charles.  Though she has been told her mother never survived, Sophie has never lost hope that her mother did in fact survive.  When the government steps in to remove Sophie from Charles, the two make a decision to flee to Paris in search for Sophie's mother.
The cast of characters and the drastic change in setting make this book feel magical.  Beautiful language and the desire for Sophie to find her mother propel this story forward. 

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Dial Books, 2013
Realistic Fiction
380 pages
Recommended for grades 6-8

I know I'm late to this party, so I"m not expecting to impart any new insight into this story, but I can do one thing: I can give this book a whole hearted double thumbs up.
Readers know by page 8 that Willow Chance has lost both of her parents.  I am not spoiling anything by mentioning that, however, I went into this book having no idea what I was in store for.  I should have had more tissues with me, and I should have carried them around for each opening of this book!  I'm not saying that all the tears are from heartache, some are from the beauty of a situation and the miraculous changes people can make in one another's lives.  But, there were certainly heartache tears involved.  
A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful story.

The Mystery of Darwin's Frog by Marty Crump, illustrated by Steve Jenkins and Edel Rodriguez
Boyds Mill Press, 2013
Nonfiction Informational
39 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

This title has gotten some great reviews this year, and as much as I am a fan of frogs, I can't say I was enamored by this book.  Yes this book had new information for me, but I will be honest that the names of the various scientist highlighted in the book were not done so in a way that will stick with me.  I found those sections to feel slightly textbookish.  The style used to write about the frogs was much more engaging.  I thought it interesting to pair two very different illustration styles as well.  This book would pair nicely with 2012's The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs.

The Lost Boy by Greg Ruth
Graphix, 2013
Graphic Novel/Fantasy
190 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

I'm not really sure how I feel about this book.  I didn't love it, but I certainly can't say I didn't enjoy it.  It might take a second read of this one to solidify my opinions.  The art style fits the mood of the story, mysterious and dark.  I was intrigued by the beginning section of the book when a young boy moves into an old home and finds some missing tapes left from a lost boy decades before.  The tapes could be clues to where the boy went.  The book turns to high fantasy and ends with a bang, but wasn't as satisfying as I'd hoped.  I need to try it out on kids!

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Thanks for stopping by!  
Have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12-16-13

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!  Last week there were over 40 blogs participating!  There are so many new books to discover, and so many great conversations to be a part of!

Books I Read this Week:

Otis Dooda: Strange But True by Ellen Potter, illustrated by David Heatley
Feiwel & Friends, 2013
225 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

For some reason this book struck me in just the right way.  A little bit weird, a little bit unexpected, but a big bit humorous!

Otis Dooda's family moves to the big city with his family and soon meets some very unusual apartment neighbors.  Otis and his new friends have one episode after another of strange-but true- fun!

The verdict is still out on what the story is with Potted Plant Guy, but I'm sure there are more Dooda adventures to follow!

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale
Abrams, 2013
HIstorical Fiction/Graphic Novel
127 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

I'm a big fan of the Hazardous Tales series.  I find them to be packed full of historical information, balanced with easy storytelling and solid doses of humor to break up the grimmer parts of the story.
My one criticism would be the small size of many of the image boxes.  Pages with larger panels felt like a nice break from the itty bitty boxes that make up most of the book.
I think this particular tale will be a gross-out, but exciting one, for many readers.  The hangman is a hoot in this one!

Serafina's Promise by Ann E. Burg
Scholastic, 2013
Novel in Verse/Realistic Fiction
299 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

Serafina lives in Haiti with her grandmother and parents.  After losing an infant brother, Serafina longs to become a doctor one day.  But with another baby on the way Serafina knows that it will be even harder to fund her schooling.   Not one to give up, Serafina works to contribute to the family fund of coins. 
Through two natural disasters, Serafina and her family push on, showing true grit and a determination to make the best out of each situation they are faced with.  
A powerful story of survival and the desire to gain an education.  Many American students take their opportunity of schooling for granted, and this story might be a nice eye-opener to show that not all the world works like our country does.

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On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!
Have a wonderful reading week, and if you celebrate Christmas, a wonderfully magical week leading up to it!

Monday, December 9, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12-9-13

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!

Books I Read this Week:

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
367 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

As a longtime fan of Cynthia Voigt's writing, I was quite excited to get my hands on a copy of her newest title.  Sitting near to 400 pages long this is a book that will appear daunting to readers that choose books based on length, which might not be a bad thing, because I sense this book needing a reader that is willing to stick with a book through the highs and lows of a plot. 
I say this because I found myself slow to warm up to this book.  Once I was about 50 pages in I found myself quite interested in solving a mystery alongside Max...I'm not sure why it took me so long.
Certainly a quirky book, a unique main character, and many subplots to keep action going once it kicks into gear.  In the end I can certainly say I enjoyed this story!

The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson
Knopf, 2013
Historical Fiction
256 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

I listened to this as an audio book, and I've got to warn you, the reader's voice is a bit screechy as he gives his best English Cockney accent.  I wasn't sure if he was hitting a stride with the accent, or if my ears were growing accustomed to it, but towards the latter half of the book the sharpness of it had slightly subsided!
This historical tale nicely weaves together many facts of the who, what, where, when and why's of the Cholera outbreak in 1854 in a particular English neighborhood with a young character struggling to survive a tough existence.  I didn't really care for the subplot around a mysterious man named Fisheye Bill Tyler that Eel lived in constant fear of.  When Fisheye entered the story I just found it as an unnecessary distraction from the main storyline.  Of course, I'm sure many kids would like the added action, and find that to be more exciting than another outbreak of Cholera!  To each his own.  Not a standout of the year, but not too shabby!

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So funny!

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Thanks for stopping by, and have a wonderful reading week!

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12-2-13

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!

Books I Read this Week:

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud
Disney-Hyperion Books, 2013
390 pages
Recommended for grades 7+

If you know me in real life you know that I can sometimes get excited about a book I've recently read and loved.  This is one of those books that I can't stop praising!  And as much as I urge my students to avoid the phrase "It was a good book," I find myself saying over and over: This is such a good book!
So pardon me for being elementary in my review, but I've got to say, this book is really, really good.
We find ourselves in London, time period unknown.  The Problem is in full effect, that being the issue of ghosts plaguing citizens by threatening to give them "ghost touch."  Ghost touch can range from being short and painful to stronger and lethal.  
Lockwood & Co. is a team of three young investigators that risk their lives to enter haunted locations to locate the source of the haunting.  Once they uncover the item that is tying the spirit to Earth it can be destroyed or through other methods, un-haunted, thus ridding the danger of ghost touch on people living with or near the haunting.
Full of English wit and incredible visual imagery, I simultaneously wanted to keep reading and also to never finish.  You will love the characters for their vivid individual personalities, and the action literally never ends.  Thank goodness there are more to come in this series!

The 9 Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Viking, 2013
Science Fiction/Fantasy
140 pages
Recommended for grades 4-5

And then I read this one...
Now, I'm a big fan of fantasy, grim humor, and naughty characters.  But I just couldn't fall in love with this story.  In a nutshell, Alexander Baddenfield gets a mad scientist to remove the 9 lives from his cat and transplant them into Alexander.  Next Alexander goes on a dying binge, doing reckless and deadly things simple because he has so many lives to spare.  Until he is down to the last one, and naughty Alexander takes a turn for the worst, too scared to do anything at all.  Too scared to live his last life.  The illustrations and size of the book will appeal to young readers, but the content is slightly iffy to me.

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Thanks for stopping by!  Have a great reading week!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 11-18-13

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!

Books I Read this Week:

The Art of Flying by Judy Hoffman
Disney-Hyperion, 2013
320 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

I was drawn to this book because of the lovely cover and my love of birds.  Right away readers are thrust into a magical mystery of how and why two sister witches transformed a young sparrow into a young boy.  
Fortuna finds herself asked by the strange and creepy Baldwin sisters to convince the young boy that he wants to be turned back into a bird.  The sisters think their spell won't reverse unless the boy wants to be turned back, and if they don't turn him back they are in loads of trouble with the witch counsel.
As layers are revealed we find out that an entire bird community is coming together to set things right too.  Turns out 3 birds were transformed by the sisters, and two are missing.  The spell will only be reversible if all three bird-humans are together at once, since they were together for the original spell.

I found the birds to be tiresome, finding myself not enjoying their portion of the storyline.  Fortuna begins her mission of helping "Martin," but once she finds out she can fly with him she isn't so keen on helping him become a bird again.  I wouldn't say it was captivating, and would assume that readers that need constant action will not make it to the end of this story.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2013
432 pages
Recommended for grades 8+

Earlier this fall I shared a review for one of my favorite 2013 books thus far, Doll Bones.  With such a superbly done story for middle grade readers I was of course awaiting The Coldest Girl in Coldtown with high, high hopes.

Coldtown is not for young readers, don't let the publisher name fool you!  Geared towards high school readers, this is a vampire story that fantasy fans should not miss.  

Tana lives in a world where vampires have become a threat to all civilization, and the fix is to create Coldtowns to contain all vampires and all infected individuals.  The opening scene of this book is hugely surprising, and it is immediately apparent that this story is not for the faint of heart or young readers.  

There is blood, blood, blood, love, betrayal, and loyalty, all found in this quickly moving story.  I know it's not for everyone, but I will say I was immediately captivated and drawn into this story.  Truly, I was sad to see it end.

I guess this is Holly Black's year, it will be a hard one for her to top!  
(And isn't that cover awesome?)

The Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck
Dial, 2013
224 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

A sweet story about a funny little mouse who isn't quite sure who he is or where he belongs.  Peck does a nice job at introducing readers to the mouse world running parallel with our human world through the young nameless narrating mouse, without it feeling like forced explanations of the hows and whys.  
I think many young readers will enjoy this fun fantasy with wonderful illustrations, but readers with their wits about them might quickly predict the bloodlines of this orphaned mouse.
  I have given my heart to another small mouse, but have to admit that there was fun to be had within these pages.

Salt: A Story of Friendship in a Time of War by Helen Frost
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2013
Historical Fiction/Poetic Narrative
160 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

A few years back my students fell in love with a poetic narrative titled Hidden, also by Helen Frost.  Now she brings us a story with an entirely different feel and purpose.  
Two young boys in 1812, an American boy and a Native American boy, friends with a language barrier.  Told in alternating poems by each boy, readers are privy to the feelings and experiences of a child on either side of the battle lines which are beginning to form between American, British and Native forces.  

When it comes to Helen Frost's poetic narratives you can feel assured that though the text is sparse, each word and each poetic form is put to the page with intention.  I've already added this one to my classroom library!

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Have a wonderful week reading and discovering!
Thanks for stopping by!