Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts.

Books I Read in the Past Two Weeks:

Chickenhare by Chris Green
Scholastic, 2013
Graphic Novel: Fantasy
158 pages
Recommended for grades: 5+

Two buds, a bearded turtle named Abe and a chickenhare named Chickenhare, are captured and sold to Mr. Klaus-a deranged taxidermist.  Mr. Klaus was scarred after his beloved goat, Mr. Buttons, ran away from him.  So now Mr. Klaus wants all his precious pets to be stuffed so they can never leave him.  This is bad news for Chickenhare and Abe.  Once locked up in a tower the pair meet two more unusual creatures, Banjo and Meg.  Together the four plot their escape.  When the ghost of Mr. Buttons joins the plot to seek revenge on Mr. Klaus, things get a little violent and iffy.  The end of the books is left wide open for a series to follow.  

Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheikin
Scholastic, 2013
214 pages
Narrative Nonfiction
Recommended for grades 5+

Ok, so maybe Sheinkin shouldn't have lead with Bomb!'s a hard act to follow.  But that's not to say Lincoln's Grave Robbers isn't a stand-out read, because it is!
This nonfiction narrative begins by providing great background into America's history of counterfeiters  people that threatened to collapse the economy by infiltrating this fake currency.  Key players are introduced, relationships are established, and soon we are following a group of men in a plan to rob and leverage a beloved presidents remains in order to spring a man from prison.  I love history and was fascinated to learn of how and why the secret service was born, and found the description of the night of the grave robbing to be vividly described.
I'm so glad for all readers, young and old, that Steve Sheinkin has stepped away from textbook writing and begun adding some of the most well written historical nonfiction that I've read in...ever!
(Also, the layout of the book is highly appealing.  Nice white space, liked the font and size.)

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Random House, 2013
320 pages
Historical Fiction
Recommended for grades 5-8

I loved this beautiful tale set during WWII in the Maine wilderness.  Jack is sent to a boarding school in Maine after his mother's death.  Neither Jack nor his father know quite what to make of life without Jack's mother, and distancing themselves from it seems easier than facing it at first.  While at school Jack befriends Early.  Early has an amazing mathematical mind, and is revealed in the author's note to represent an autistic savant, though during the era Early would not have been labeled as such.  Early has wounds of his own, though deals with them in a far different way than Jack.  Early's brother went missing during the war while he was fighting in France.  Early has faith that his brother is alive but lost, and he intends to find him.  Readers do not know if Early is simply desperately hoping that his brother is still alive, or if Early knows something that others do not.
During a school break Early and Jack find themselves alone at the school and take advantage of this to set out on a quest.  A quest with many facets, more than they even know as they depart.  The two boys heal each other, themselves, and those they cross paths with.  Every single page of this book is crafted with beauty and care.  As someone that reads and reviews hundreds of children's and middle grade novels, I read a wide variety of writing styles.  Not all books we give kids should be this heavy, not all should be this beautiful.  We can't expect kids to appreciate what we adults appreciate in their books, because we are reading them not as our children selves, but as our experienced adult selves.  Kids need books for fun and for leisure   But my goodness, they also need books of beauty like this!  And it just might be that for some kids they can't navigate a text like this alone, and why should they have to?  
Warning:  Don't listen to the audio like I did-though it is flawless-you will regret not being able to dog-ear, highlight and underline many of the wonderful lines!

But I need to know, are kids enjoying this book??

Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made (Book 1) by Stephan Pastis
Candlewick, 2013
294 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Timmy Failure thinks himself to be a topnotch detective that is destined to run a multi-billion dollar detective agency.  The irony here is that Timmy does live up to his name, no matter how much he tries to assure readers he isn't a failure, by missing the blatantly obvious answers to all his cases.
When Timmy borrows his mother's Segway and loses it, he is determined to get it back before he's really in for it.  The cast of characters are fairly flat, but there are many sophisticated words used throughout the book.  I found it strange that the author chose to use obscure songs, historical references and old book titles as names of his chapters, since the average kid reader wouldn't pick up on what they were referring to.  
The ending was sweet, though poor Timmy misses out on that sweetness, he just isn't too sharp.  Set in a Wimpy Kid format this will certainly appeal to kids!

Oh, and I should mention, there are some lines that caught me just right, Timmy's voice is laugh out loud (or at least a little nose snort self laugh) funny:

"I should say a word about the Failuremobile.  It's not actually called a Failuremobile.  It's called a Segway.  And it belongs to my mother...And she has set forth some restrictions on when and how I can use it.  (NEVER.  EVER.  EVER.)  I thought that was vague.  So I use it.  So far, she hasn't objected.  Mostly because she doesn't know."  pg. 7

Currently Enjoying:

Case File 13: Zombie Kid by J. Scott Savage

So far, so good!  

I'm listening to:
Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen

On the fence about this one right now...

On Deck:

Happy reading!!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Is it April 2nd yet?

Which trailer makes you yearn for April 2nd more?

Raise your hand if you're a huge fan of Snicket & Klassen.  Raise your hand if you're super excited that they've combined forces!!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

A First Look at the 2013-2014 Maine Student Book Award List!

This year there have been so many e-mails from librarians asking for the title list for next year.  The committee is thrilled about the interest so early, and it lead us to the decision of posting the list under a Sneak Peak link on our website.  So, here's the list:

(As seen on our website) Due to overwhelming requests for the new book list, here is the 2013-2014 list. Please be aware that it has not been throughly edited so there may be some errors. Check on the webiste after April 1st to get a printable list, annotated list and bookmark.
Remember to send in your students' votes for 2012-2013 books by April 1st! 

2013-2014 Reading List (2012 copyright)
AUTHOR. TITLE. Publisher.
Aguirre, Jorge. Giants Beware! First Second.
Airgood, Ellen. Prairie Evers. Nancy Paulsen Books.
Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. Harper.
Bauer, Marion Dane. Little Dog, Lost. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Beck, W. H. Malcolm at Midnight. Houghton Mifflin.
Bell, Juliet. Kepler’s Dream. Puffin.
Cerullo, Mary M. Giant Squid: Searching for a Sea Monster. Capstone Press.
Coville, Bruce. Always October. Harper.
Evans, Lissa. Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery & A Very Strange Adventure. Sterling Children’s Books.
Fearing, Mark. Earthling! Chronicle Books.
Fforde, Jasper. The Last Dragonslayer. Harcourt.
Fleming, Candace. On the Day I Died. Schwartz & Wade Books.
Healy, Christopher. The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. Walden Pond Press.
Hearst, Michael. Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of Earth’s Strangest Animals. Chronicle Books.
Hunt, Lynda. One for the Murphys. Puffin.
Kelly, Lynne. Chained. Farrar Straus Giroux.
Key, Watt. Fourmile. Farrar Straus Giroux.
Korman, Gordon. Ungifted. Balzer + Bray.
Kraatz, Jeramey. The Cloak Society. Harper.
Lacey, Josh. Island of Thieves. Houghton Mifflin.
Levine, Kristin. The Lions of Little Rock. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Lewis, J. Patrick, ed. National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry. National Geographic.
Lin, Grace. Starry River of the Sky. Little, Brown.
Messner, Kate. Capture the Flag. Scholastic Press.
Meyer, Marissa. Cinder. Feiwel and Friends.
Nielsen, Jennifer A. The False Prince. Scholastic Press.
Palacio, R.J. Wonder. Yearling Books.
Pennypacker, Sara. Summer of the Gypsy Moths. Balzer + Bray.
Poblocki, Dan. The Ghost of Graylock. Scholastic Press.
Preus, Margi. Shadow on the Mountain. Amulet Books.
Ritter, John H. Fenway Fever. Philomel Books.
Rodkey, Geoff. Deadweather and Sunrise. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
Rusch, Elizabeth. The Mighty Mars Rovers: the Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity. Houghton Mifflin.
Schlitz, Laura Amy. Splendors and Glooms. Candlewick Press.
Schrefer, Eliot. Endangered. Scholastic Press.
Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build -- and Steal -- the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Roaring Brook Press.
Stead, Rebecca. Liar & Spy. Wendy Lamb Books.
TenNapel, Doug. Cardboard. Graphix.
Thomson, Jamie. Dark Lord: The Early Years. Walker & Co.
Voorhoeve, Anne C. My Family for the War. Dial Books.

Well, what do you think?!  I'd love to hear thoughts on the titles on the next list.


Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sneak Peek at the 2013-2014 MSBA list selections!

It's never easy, but after hours and hours of discussion, we came to a final decision.  We are excited about sharing the new list with Maine students.

Voting for the 2012-2013 Maine Student Book Award can be submitted anytime between now and April 1st.  After voting is closed we will update the webpage with the winning book (and some voting stats) and then will be sharing the new list in detail.  Along with titles and authors you will see our recommended grade levels and our thoughts on which books make the best read alouds.

So be sure to vote, and check back for the new list!  
We would love to see photos of students voting, or the displays you might have for MSBA.  If you are interested in sharing with the committee we will be pleased to feature them on our facebook page!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book, Skype & Donut Giveaway!?!

That's right!

Linda Urban and her publisher are celebrating the release of her new book, The Center of Everything with a (quite literally) sweet giveaway!

Click here to read the details and take a shot at winning!  And please, share a donut with me if you do :)

Sunday, March 3, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts

A month since the last post...eeeehh, how did that happen?

Oh yeah, I've been incredibly busy reading!  Like, too many books to even write about!

But this week I finished up:

How to Be a Math Genius:  Your Brilliant Brain and How to Train It by Dr. Mike Goldsmith
Dorling Kindersley, 2012
Nonfiction: General Information
128 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

This book has an appealing layout, with bright cartoon style graphics on double page layouts on various math topics.  Between different sections there are short mathematician biography pages with a more business look to them (the cartoon feel drops from these pages).  I enjoyed the bios the most perhaps, but I fear those are the pages students will skip!  The pages are busy, something to consider when recommending it to younger readers.  The puzzles and brain teasers throughout the book are fun, and let's just say...not all super easy.  At least I hope they are not supposed to be super easy....or...well, anyway, a fun book!

Son by Lois Lowry
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
400 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

Remember that book, The Giver?  Of course you do!  And if you don't quite recall it, go read it again before you pick up Son.  Sure, the book can stand alone, but should it?  I have never read the middle two books of this series, so that may be swaying my opinions here on the final installment.

If you loved spending time with the characters living in The Community in The Giver, you will love how Son takes you right back to the time when Jonas is being selected as Receiver.  But this time we follow Claire, a young girl chosen to be a Birth Mother.  Whose mother does she turn out to be?  Gabe's of course!  I was hooked as I read through Claire's story...and then Book 1 ended and abruptly Claire and I were tossed out of The Community into another village.  Book 2 takes us on a thoroughly different and (in my opinion) less interesting course.  And then we really take a dive when we enter Book 3.  Let me just say that the ending and the fantasy elements lost me as a fan.  I love The Giver and I love Book 1 of Son.  I just finished it about a half hour ago, so I guess I'm still working my lasting impressions out.

Plunked by Michael Northop
Scholastic, 2012
Realistic Fiction: Sports
247 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Who loves sports books??  Not me!  But I read them from time to time.  Just because I don't dig a play-by-play of really any sport, doesn't mean my students feel the same way.  

But here's the thing:  I loved this book!  Northrop is well versed in the game of baseball, there is no question there.  But writing a middle grade novel about baseball isn't just about writing good sports plays, you've got to create likable and genuine characters.  I've just about gagged on the phony dialogue of some other popular sports book authors, so it was thrilling to find myself liking main character Jack!

The play-by-play:  Jack is a 6th grader and passionate about his Little League team.  Things are going great for him until he is hit in the head with a fast pitch.  After the minor injury Jack is more shaken inside than out, and begins to silently battle the option of giving in to his fear of returning to the game over the extreme love he has for his sport.  

One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale
Amulet Books, 2012
Graphic Novel: Historical Fiction
128 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

WOW!  Go, buy it now.  Especially go buy it now if you teach history.  Let's start adding engaging books like this to our classroom libraries so that American history isn't so blah, and heavy on names and dates but laking those faces and people to really attach meaning and understanding to.  I don't care if that sentence was a mess, I'm pretty passionate about this book/series!

Nathan Hale tells the tale of how American spy Nathan Hale meets an untimely end.  As Hale (spy, not author) is standing under the tree in which he will be hanged, the hangman and a British officer begin reminiscing/arguing/discussing/questioning the events that lead up to that moment.  The rest is a flashback that takes readers to the beginnings of Hale's involvement in the Revolutionary War.  

I have to say I thought this one was more engaging that Sophia's War, and not just because it is a technicolor graphic novel.  The humor and facts behind the writing brought many more historical figures to life for me than Avi's latest did.  Plus, it doesn't look incredibly GIRLY.

In the earlier weeks of February I fell in absolute love with:
Simply hilarious and strangely endearing.  5 stars to this Dark Lord that finds himself trapped on our plane in the body of a puny human boy~Oh the Horror!

What I'm enjoying now & what I plan to read later this week:
This isn't a Newbery Honor book by accident!  And while we're on the subject, I'm very, very impressed with the selections of this year's Newbery Committee, way to make this award about the kids again!

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts & know what you've got on deck!