Monday, June 24, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6-24-13

This weekend was the much anticipated Bridal Shower/Bachelorette weekend!  I sit here in a daze of realizing how lucky I am to be loved by so many amazing people.  I will share a shot from the special day in the next post :)  Because I read so darn much this week, and because I usually write my posts on Sunday night, I am allowing myself a pass on writing reviews due to my desperate need for sleep!  If you want details/honest opinions on any titles please ask in the comments section.  Otherwise, I will wait to add reviews to Goodreads when I get a spare minute! 

**Had to come back to add my reviews!**

Thanks to Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting!

Books I Read this Week:

The Truth of Me by Patricia MacLachlan
Katherine Tegen Books, 2013 (8/6/13)
Realistic Fiction
128 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

Sure, with its length, white space and large text size this book looks like an easy read, accesible to second graders and third graders.  But when you begin discovering the tone and themes of the story it is easy to realize that this book shouldn't be wasted at too young an age.  Just because they can read the words does not mean they are understanding the story, we know that :)
Written in short, simple sentences, first person narrator, Jack, unpacks his feelings on being overlooked by his musician mother for the majority of his life.  When Jack spends part of the summer with his grandmother he is given clues as to why his mother act as she does.  (This doesn't explain why his father isn't winning any Father of the Year trophies, but we can let it slide.)  Jack desperately needs to feel taken care of, staying with his grandmother he gets the opportunity to care for others, which proves to be just as important.
The cover might entice animal loving readers into what appears to be an outdoorsy story, and they will be disappointed if that is all they are looking for.  Yes the wilderness and animals are within this short story, but this story of self discovery is much more than that, perhaps too much for some of the readers this will attract.  But then there is the other side of this: perhaps young readers will pick it up and be amazed at what they can learn and understand when presented "big" ideas in a little package.
The Truth: There are few loving creatures on this planet that can compare to a dog.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley
Graphic Novel
First Second, 2013
173 pages
Recommended for grades 8+ 

My relationship with food:  I love good food.  I also love a lot of bad foods.  I love cooking if: I have enough space, the right ingredients don't cost half a paycheck, I have the correct cookware, and best done with or for someone that makes me smile.  My reality of cooking: I often find myself too tired to create what I would like to be creating.
With a reality like that you would think I'd find none of myself in the pages of this book.  Wrong!  Yes Lucy grew up around gourmet cooking, and she herself is a true foodie, but she is also 100% down to earth about food.  The drawings are colorful and sweet.  Each section of her story is divided by a recipe that came from the previous section.  
More than a story of food, also a story of one young girl growing up, and how food follows her through each phase of her life.  Loved the back, filled with photographs of the people and places and times in her story.
Fun read, for foodies or not!  I made the recommendation of grade 8+ due to nudity and sexual references.  They are not crude, but when deciding on adding a book to a classroom library you might like to know beforehand what's inside!

The Sasquatch Escape: The Imaginary Veterinary: Book 1 by Suzanne Selfors, illustrated by Dan Santat
Little, Brown and Company, 2013
216 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

FUN!  Another book about a boy being sent to his grandparent's house for the summer, this time a grandfather.  However, 10 year old Ben is not having a summer like Jack (above).  Ben is plunked in a tired old nothingfunhappenshere town, and isn't very hopeful about having an enjoyable summer.  Things change when he meets labeled Trouble Maker, Pearl.  The two friends realize that something weird is going down at the old empty button factory.
Full of adventure and heart, and awesome Santat illustrations and embellishments, this book will be fun to share with kids!  As I was reading it I thought of how excellent it would be as a read aloud.  I can't wait to add this book (and later the series) to my classroom library!
In the back you will find some great extension activities for art and writing.  I loved one of the writing activities asking kids to write a scene where a squirrel and a snake are comparing motherhood-I can use this in my science unit on animal classification, what a creative way for kids to show what they know!

Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Houghton Mifflin, 2013
Novel in Verse: Humorous/Realistic
120 pages
Recommended for grades 2-5

What a great mentor text this is for poetry writing!  I am feeling wheels turning around how to use this as a mentor text throughout the year.  Students could try a hand at all the various poetic forms (ballad, couplet, double dactyl), try incorporating new poetic techniques (assonance, metaphor and refrain), while learning poetic terms (rhyme, rhythm) and having fun!  
You will love this book, a sure addition to the classroom library!

Odessa Again by Dana Reinhardt
Wendy Lamb Books, 2013
196 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

Fans of A Year Without Autumn and 11 Birthdays will enjoy this time travel story.  Here we have Odessa, parents recently divorced, father getting remarried and mother moving into a new house.  These kinds of changes are the real deal issues so many of our students are dealing with, and they can be heavy on young shoulders.  None of Odessa's family issues are taken lightly, but the book does not have an oppressive feel due to the fantasy element.  Odessa finds a spot in her attic bedroom that she can jump through to go back in time 24 hours.  When she does it a second time it is 23 hours earlier.  Each time she jumps she loses an hour on how far back she can go.  Once Odessa figures this out she has a lot of choices to make on how to use her opportunities.  Odessa starts with fixing little things around her and her friends or school situations, often very little things.  When Odessa realizes that she can do more with this discovery she begins focusing on not just herself, which is when Odessa begins to grow.
I wasn't enamored with the writing or the story, but I know that kids will find this idea very, very cool!

Picture Books I Loved:

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

Feel free to leave a note!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6-17-13

Thanks to Jen & Kelle for hosting our weekly book sharing!  Since I've started participating in this weekly post I have been introduced to countless new picture books, enjoyed comparing my opinions with others' on middle grade novels, and had the pleasure of "meeting" so many wonderfully bookish people that I might otherwise never had the opportunity to cross paths with!  So join the fun!  Visit Teach Mentor Texts for all the inspiration you need.

I've been in a bit of a reading lull.  I place the blame partly on school's final crazy week.  See what I was up to here as I take you on a little video tour of our third graders' final projects of the year.
The second thing I place blame on is being so darn busy!  

I'm certainly not without books to read.  The problem isn't finding a book, but rather, deciding between too many appealing choices.  I should probably focus next on my library books though, otherwise I'll have angry librarians after me!

So forgive this measly reading week, but check out the treat at the end!

Books I Read this Week:

Seven Wonders Book 1: The Colossus Rises by Peter Lerangis
HarperCollins, 2013
Science Fiction/Fantasy
368 pages
Recommended for grades 5+
(amazon recommends ages 8+...I don't think a second/third grader would fare well with this story!)

I listened to the audio version of this book, and it is one you can't miss!  If you like and have the time for an audio book, this one is read wonderfully.  Performer Johnathan McClain brings life and personality to all the characters.
The premise of the book is that Jack, along with some other 13 year olds, are taken to a remote and mysterious island, snatched right out of their lives and families.  On the island Jack meets professor Bhegad, who is planning to use the chosen children to help him find Atlantis.
As much as I loved the reader, the story wasn't one that I was overly in love with.  If you loved the Percy Jackson series...go read that again.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Micelle Markel, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Balzer + Bray, 2013
Historical Fiction Picture Book
32 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

I love sharing picture books with my third and fourth grade students.  This was enjoyed by all students, many having lots to say about this story, the history, immigrant experiences, etc.  Without one small young woman taking a stand, who knows how long others would have had to suffer until job laws changed.  

B.U.G. (Big Ugly Guy) by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
Dutton Children's Books, 2013
Realistic Fiction with a splash of Fantasy/Folklore
Recommended for grades 4-8
344 pages

Sammy is bullied.  Badly.  The fact that he always has a snarky comment on his lips doesn't sit well with the lead bully, James Lee.  After one too many dunks in the toilet, Sammy would do anything to not be James Lee and the Boyz' target.  One evening at Hebrew lessons Sammy notices a book on the Rabbi's shelf.  The book is about golems.  Sammy knows a golem is made of clay and protects the creator.  Stealing the book, Sammy decides to make his own golem.
The relationships between Sammy and the friends he makes, the golem he creates, and the bullies he fears, feel very natural, despite the fact that one of the above is made from clay.
I love the words Sammy uses.  As he uses a good word, either spoken or in thought, he often thinks to himself how cool the word is, usually defining it, giving young readers lots of exposure to high level vocabulary throughout the story-and not in a preachy way!
I loved this story!

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

and also

and hopefully...

And the treat I promised:

Contest will run through June 20th at midnight!  Good Luck!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Third Grade Research Projects

The school year is rapidly drawing to a close, and amidst all the excitement for summer, the bare bulletin boards, and the backpacks stuffed with student work, there is pride brimming out of our third grade classroom walls as our students proudly display and present their animal relationship research projects.  

Each year my fabulous teammate and I, along with our students, are inspired by amazing pieces of children's literature.  Sometimes this inspiration stems into our units.  One fourth grade year we delved into American history with Blood on the River.  The book seeped into our reading, writing, math and social studies.  This year we ran with The One and Only Ivan.  The book got us interested in relationships and impacts on animals, either between different animals, or between animals and humans.

Topics included:

Therapy animals
Animal limb amputation & prosthetics
Tarra & Bella
Kate & Pippin
Environmental impacts of overfishing
Animals in the circus
Extinction and endangered animals
and on and on...

Sit back, take a peek.  We hope you enjoy this project as much as we all did!

Questions, ask them!  Comments, leave them!  Smiles, enjoy them!
Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6-10-13

Visit Teach Mentor Texts to see what Jen & Kelle have been reading, and to find a list of other participating bloggers sharing book love this Monday!

I have four, count 'em, four(!!) days until summer vacation.  And while I have yet to enjoy the type of summer vacation most people imagine teachers taking, it is, nonetheless, a break from the rather hectic pace known as: the school year.

I'm hoping to maintain my reading stamina throughout the summer.  I will be continuing to work double jobs while also pulling together my end of summer wedding!   I'm confident that I won't lose the desire to carve out some reading time no matter how busy (or lazy) my summer days might be.

What about you, do you amp up your reading time, or do you find yourself reading less once summer is upon you?

Books I Read this Week:

A Girl Called Problem: a novel by Katie Quirk
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2013
243 pages
Multicultural/Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 5-8

Shida is a thirteen year old girl carrying around a family curse and a name that does little to let anyone forget it: Problem.  When the members of Shida's African village, Litongo, decide to move to Tanzania for greater opportunities, Shida is thrilled.  In Tanzania Shida will be able to go to school as well as have the chance to learn more about medicine and healing from the nurse.  
But once Shida's friends and family have settled in Tanzania they find that the welcome they had hoped for is not reality.  The young girls face strong opposition to their schooling, even by one of the two school teachers.  As Shida tries to find a way in her new home she must also carry with her the hardships from her former life in Litongo, including a mother that shows little interest in much of anything lately.
With each chapter opening with an African proverb, young readers will be exposed to a vastly different lifestyle than the one they live here in America.  Wisdom, kindness, deep love and utter betrayal pack themselves well into this 240 page story.
The glossary in the back of the book illuminates some of the language used in the novel and also includes photographs and author insights.
I enjoyed accompanying Shida throughout this story and hope many other girls, young and old, will enjoy it just as much!

Bad Girls, by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Stemple, illustrated by Rebecca Guay
Charlesbridge, 2013
164 pages
Recommended for grades 6+

I was reading this the other day when my friend poked the cover and said: "Jane Yolen, as in Owl Moon?"  It goes without saying (though I'm saying it anyway), Jane Yolen can't be pigeonholed.   In this interesting creation Yolen and her daughter team up to explore some 26 Bad Girls from around the world.  2011's How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O'Malley shares a similar format with Bad Girls.  Both books have short nonfiction (with pizazz) chapters on particular historical figures.  Both books share the not so glamorous sides of those public figures, and both books are incredibly fun to read!
Each chapter is dedicated to one or two bad girls, and what follows is a short comic depicting mother Yolen and daughter Yolen debating the accused bad girl of her guilt or innocence, though it's never as clear as one or the other.  
My only qualm about rating this book so highly is that I don't think it truly delves deeply into any one of the bad girls' lives.  I knew a lot more about some of these women than others, and because of that some chapters interested and informed me, while others made me want to say, wait a minute, there's more to this story!

Pug and Other Poems by Valerie Worth, illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Margaret Ferguson Books, 2013
40 pages
Recommended for all ages!

Valerie Worth is a master or words.  We know her for taking the simple and putting the most perfect words with it.  Be it a chair or a cow, Valerie can help us see it and appreciate it in an entirely new way.  So of course, we expect nothing less of her here!  Each short animal poem in this little collection is as darling and as true as we could ever hope to find.  And the illustrations, the illustrations bring this to a new level.  Steve Jenkins' beautiful collage work will have you appreciating the time and attention to detail of each animal image.  This is needed in all of our poetry collections!
(Published posthumously)

I'm Currently Reading:

I'm Currently Listening to:

On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by, as always, I love to hear your thoughts! 

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6-3-13

Thanks to Jen & Kelle for hosting!  Check out what they've been reading at Teach Mentor Texts.
Well, you can't love them all, and this week I'm sharing some candid opinions with you.  Don't agree with me, tell me!  I love to hear others' thoughts on the books I've read.  After all, the reason we write blogs and visit blogs is to share our thoughts and opinions.

Books I Read this Week:

Garden Princess by Kristin Kladstrup
Candlewick, 2013
272 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

A wonderful book for those girls that are starting to look at that boy in math class with new interest.  That is, this is a good fit for those boy crazy girls, as protagonist Adela becomes rather obsessed with a love interest in the second half of the story. 
Overall the book did not wow me.  It was immediately evident what the mystery of Lady Hortensia's garden was, and since the magic garden was the most intriguing part of the book, it quickly became tiresome.  At about the midpoint of the book I felt that the story was over, and what followed felt like a poorly done sequel smushed in with the original book.

Doll Bones by Holly Black, illustrations by Eliza Wheeler
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013
244 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

For starters, best cover I've seen in a long time.  Secondly, Holly Black is a genius, and if her name is on the cover I want to read the book.  
What I loved:  
Three kids on the verge of middle school (Poppy, Alice and Zach) play an in-depth imaginary game, each playing their own characters.  The characters and the plot of the game is written by the children as they think it up.  The game holds them together and perhaps stalls growing up. 
The Queen, an antique doll sitting in a shelf behind glass doors, rules over all the game's characters from her glass tower.  She is scary because...well, have you seen the cover...  What more perfect object of creepiness is there than a china doll?  Many of us have had to sleep in a room when away from home that had a china doll sitting somewhere nearby.  Good luck falling asleep with that thing waiting to come to life as soon as you shut your eyes!
Anyway, when The Queen turns out to be more than just a doll, but instead the earthly remains of a ghost child, the three friends decide to help her rest in peace by undertaking a quest that most certainly can't be a good idea.

What bothered me was that I truly was lead on to believe that the ghost girl was an evil little thing.  Maybe that is in part because I was anticipating it so much, but it was also in part due to some clues in the story.  So, when she wasn't living up to my evil expectations I was a little bummed out.

But no matter how you go into this story, looking for evil or not, you will come out of it having enjoyed one wildly creative middle grade tale of friendship and growing up, disguised as one spooky ride.  

Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Knopf, 2013
Historical Fiction/Fantasy
336 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

Just go get your hands on this one.  I loved every bit of this book, and will not even attempt to tell you why, because I can't.  There is something in this book that gently takes your hand and pulls you along on Bee's journey.  If you loved Wonder, and I know you all did, then perhaps you will come to this story with a deep understanding of how hard it is to wear your differences on the outside, and how cruelly you can be treated because of it.  How one reacts and finds their way in spite of that hardship is what makes Bee such an interesting character.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas written by Jim Ottaviani, illustrated by Maris Wicks
First Second, 2013
Graphic Novel
144 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

Whoa was I excited for this one!  After loving Ivan my third graders researched animal relationships (between humans and/or other animals).  The topics vary widely, but I knew this book, that takes them back to the root of primate and human relationships, would pique their interests.

However, the story feels too jumbled to me.  We meet Jane Goodall, then Louis Leakey, then Dian Fossey, then Biruté Galdikas, and each time we meet a new character we must flashback to how they became players in the primate research game.  Some of the details shared were odd to put it mildly.  I don't think young readers need to know that Leakey was cheating on his wife with his secretary.
I do give credit to how the author pulled together all the points in these scientists' lives where they intersect, that must have taken a lot of careful research.  And yes, I certainly learned new information about all of the scientists, but I think they either could have had their own books, or this could have been longer and not so compacted.  The illustrations are wonderful!  

Though this book will appeal to younger grades, I would suggest it for 5th and up due to text and story complexities.

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

What are you enjoying this week?! 
You know I love to hear your thoughts!