Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2-24-14

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

Books I Read this Week:

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013
344 pages
Recommended for grades 6-8

Talk about a unique storyline!  I was fascinated by the double plot in this book.  In the forefront we have Dahlia, a girl that only agreed to go to a Jewish sleep-away so that her parents would consent to her going to magic camp later in the summer.
Once Dahlia gets to camp she begins seeing the spirits of two young girls, and one ominous man.  Around the same time Dahlia begins having strange dreams and visions where she glimpses the past of a man named David.  
Somehow David, the young girls, and the ominous man are all connected to the camp Dahlia is staying at.  And she is there just in time to help stop more children from disappearing in the mysterious juniper hedge maze in the woods near camp.

I think that kids in 4th and 5th grade will be drawn to this awesome cover, but there were some reasons I pegged this book as being one for older readers.  First off, the plot would be very confusing for a 4th grader.  The many Hebrew words might also bog them down at times.  The second reason would be due to some of the content.  When Dahlia sees her visions of David's past there are some rather scary scenes (like, a murder).  There are also mentions of drinking, making out, and female body parts.  

Poison by Bridget Zinn
Hyperion, 2013
280 pages
Recommended for grades 6+

I read this book in about the span of a day.  With a fast paced plot and a main character that you immediately want to know more about, it was easy to get lost in this book!
Kyra is a 16-year-old Master Potioner...or at least she used to be, before she tried to assassinate her best friend, the Princess.
So we meet Kyra on the run.  Running from all the parties out to stop her, and running also to find the Princess in hopes of finishing the job she started.
Readers will be curious about Kyra's past and will be anxious to find out why she is after her former best friend.  And of course, a budding-maybe-romance always keeps things fun.

Numbed by David Lubar
Millbrook Press, 2013
Science Fiction
144 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

This is a perfect read for on level 3rd graders, and readers in 4th through 6th that are still growing their skills.  Nice white space between lines, short in length, and a storyline that is easy to keep straight.

I will be adding this book to my classroom library because it is a book that might draw in my reluctant boy readers, giving them a chapter book to be successful with.

Now, is the story that amazing, well no.  The characters are underdeveloped, maybe because it is a stand alone sequel, I'm not sure.  The premise is that two boys go on a field trip to a math museum, get zapped by a robot and have their brains numbed, removing their ability to do any math.  The book is definitely cool for getting kids to think about all the math around them.  The scene in the mall where the boys realize they can't tell time, and therefor won't be able to meet their ride on time, was pretty funny.
The boys must make several trips back to the museum to try to get their math abilities back.

Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell
Top Shelf Productions, 2013
Fantasy/Graphic Novel
192 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Sweet, funny, and at times down right witty.  
Every town has a monster. The monster comes down from his lair, scares the townspeople, and retreats to his lair.  The monster is idolized by the townspeople because he is fearsome and exhilarating, and also because the people know that as long as they have a dangerous monster their town is protected from the threat of invasion by another monster.  Only one per town you know.
But...the monster you're looking at above is not doing his job.  He is depressed and hasn't attacked his village in seven years.  And turns out that attack was really just a misunderstanding...he only wanted a pack of gum.
Anywho, the monster needs to get whipped back into shape, and an experimenting doctor with his license revoked can practice again if he can turn the monster's mood around.  Add in one small stow-away and you've got a fun read ahead!

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On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful reading week!

Monday, February 17, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2-17-14

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

I missed last week's post, which really isn't notable to anyone but me.  I do make it a personal goal to post weekly, sharing my thoughts and opinions on my latest reads.  Because that's what makes teachers and librarians so awesome, we love to share with each other.

And while some things continue to stay the same, like the familiar and constant buzz of snowblower engines around the neighborhood, the spastic and hilarious response of tail wags and four-paws-off-the-ground leaps when we ask our two airedales if they "want to go for a ride," and the soothing effect of a warm mug of black tea being sipped by a window with a perfect view of a sparkling snowy landscape; while all those things remain constant, there is much change in my life.

Now there are tiny clothes to wash and fold, childcare to begin puzzling out, and belly touches from many loving hands.  I've been carrying my son for 6 and a half months now, and the changes in my physical and mental self have been amazing thus far.  So, sometimes I might miss a blog post, and while I'm not fulfilling that single personal goal, I am no doubt being occupied by things I had not even imagined being so consumed by in as little as a year ago.  

And as Pete the Cat would say, "It's all good."

So, making up for 2 long weeks of reading: Short Reviews!

Books I Read this Week:

Stick Dog by Tom Watson
Harper, 2013
189 pages
Recommended for grades 2-4

The front of this book claims: "a really GOOD story with really BAD drawings."
I can agree that the drawings are meant to be simple, but I can't agree that there is a really GOOD story here.  Basically we have 189 pages of a bunch of dogs trying to plot how to steal a family's hamburgers.  
The text size and formatting is perfect for Wimpy Kid fans, but the characters are far less entertaining than Greg Heffley on his worst day. 

Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea by Lisa and Valerie Martin, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Algonquin Young Readers, 2013
256 pages (galley)
Recommended for grades 3-5

An odd story about two cats searching for home and each other on the open sea.  Readers will encounter pirates, adventure, and a Shakespearean quoting dolphin.
I wasn't that taken with this story, and am not sure it will be an easy sell with kids either.

The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson
Walden Pond Press, 2013
375 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

Now here is a book I was able to fall into!  The story of Abbey and Bee Force is one that I enjoyed from start to finish.  Abbey has grit, and she has heart, two features that had me rooting for her throughout this story.
An interesting mystery with enough action and adventure to keep readers turning pages.
Set outside Charleston, South Carolina, the setting is rich and vivid.
This might be J.E. Thompson's first children's book, but I'm suspecting it will be far from his last!

Razia's Ray of Hope: One Girl's Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Suana Verelst
Citizen Kid (Kids Can Press), 2013
Multicultural Literature/Realistic Fiction
32 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

A story of a young Afghanistan girl desperately wanting the chance at an education of her own.  This isn't the first story I've read this year about a child's dream of an education, but this one is nice for younger readers, while retaining the option of stretching upwards into older grade levels.
The illustrations are lovely, part photograph collage and part drawing.
Included in this text are some excellent teaching resources and activities.

(Interior Art)

Princess Tales: Once Upon a Time in Rhyme with Seek-and-Find Pictures by Grace Maccarone, illustrated by Gail de Marcken
Feiwel & Friends, 2013
Fantasy/Traditional Literature
32 pages
Recommended for grades k-4

I remember the fun I had as a child with my nose deep in a picture find book, racing my sister to see who could find the objects first.  Lucky for us we have held on to our nostalgic past-we tackled an I Spy book together just this past year!
The rhyming fairy tales in this book felt too fast paced for me.  I don't think the concept of the book matches up with the age range the text is written for.  I found it to be hard to decide on what age reader would find this book appealing.  I also wondered if kids would actually read the lengthy text sections, or if they would dive right into finding those hidden images!  Certainly a read aloud for the younger range of readers.

(Interior shows lovely and complex art work above a long rhyming fairy tale story.)

Never Say Die by Will Hobbs
HarperCollins, 2013
224 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

A very engaging adventure/survival story about two step-brothers setting out in the Alaskan wilderness.  Along the way they encounter multiple weather hardships, but scariest of all is the cross-breed bear they encounter one too many times.
Nick has grown up on the land, he knows the animals and how to survive.  Ryan is a wildlife photographer and scientist studying global warming's effects of the animals.  Both brothers are intrigued by the grizzly-polar bear mix, but neither is prepared for just how aggressive and huge this bear is.
Along with the adventure sequences, this story has a lot of heart to it.  Although the main character is a teenager, I would feel fine giving it to younger readers, especially Hatchet fans.

Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz
Candlewick Press, 2013
Realistic Fiction
200 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

A unique story about a family that is taken hostage (though not harmed) by a fugitive relative.
Siblings Annie and Rew have very different opinions on what to do.  Rew wants to turn in the fugitive, while Annie seems to want to get to know him.
The story is set in the 1970s, but I doubt that many-or any-young reader would figure that out from the few given clues.  
I listened to it, and I enjoyed it.

Wicked Cruel: Three Urban Legends by Rich Wallace
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
195 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

Ghost story time!  This book is a collection of three stories, all set in a college town in New Hampshire (based on Keene, New Hampshire)
What if urban legends were not made up, what if there was truth to these supernatural tales?
That's what this book is all about, and it is tons of fun!
In each story the main character is a middle school-ish aged boy.  The characters feel so genuine, their actions, thoughts and dialogue all very believable.
I know my fourth graders would love this book, though some of the ideas in the story might be a little scary for them.  There is also some language in the book that gives me pause when recommending for 4th graders.

Dogs of War by Shelia Keenan and Nathan Fox
Scholastic Graphix, 2013
Historical Fiction/Graphic Novel
104 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

Vivid artwork depicts three short stories about a dog in war.  WWI, WWII and Vietnam are explored.  Each war has a different breed dog preforming different tasks.  But all the stories have one thing in common: dogs and their handlers have a special bond, which is heightened in war zones.
Kids will enjoy this action filled book.

Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger, illustrated by Robert Byrd
 Candlewick Press, 2013
Historical Fiction
60 pages
Recommended for grades 3-8

Absolutely lovely!  The artwork is gentle yet strong, and the writing felt pitch perfect to me. 
I look forward to reading this aloud to my students.  The Amistad will be new knowledge for them, but the way this story is told will make it comprehensible for students with little to no background knowledge.  
Seriously, this is one we need in our classroom libraries!

Locomotive by Brian Floca
Atheneum, 2013
Historical Fiction
60 pages
Recommended for grades 2-4

The steam engines chug off these pages with as much life and animation as you can possibly get from reading a picture book!
Filled with information about the development of American railroads, travel by rail, and the sounds found along the way!
Another great one for reading aloud!

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(Listening to)

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful reading week-perhaps a very full reading week if you are enjoying vacation this week!


Sunday, February 2, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2-3-14

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

Books I Read this Week:

One Came Home by Amy Timberlake
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
Historical Fiction
256 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

This didn't mistakenly win a Newbery Honor, it well deserves it.  It's almost one of those books that I find myself weary of reviewing (especially while Sunday-night-pregnant-lady-tired), because I can't give it nearly the beautiful description it deserves.
So I won't bother tonight.  What I will bother doing is saying that this book is unlike any other children's literature I can think of.  An interesting historical setting-with a backdrop of an important pigeon migration that was unknown to me.  Main character Georgie is one that you can fall in love with right away because she is just chock full of personality.
Go on, check this title out, you will be glad of it!

Stranded by Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts
Scholastic, 2013
176 pages
Recommended for grades 3-7

This series has been very popular among my fourth graders, and after reading it I can see why.  
As the title and cover suggest, this story finds 4 siblings, from a blended family, stranded on an island.  Kids love stories with no adults in them, it let's their imaginations run wild with a story.  How would they react if they were one of the kids on the island?  It's fun, and better written than I had expected.  I was easily wrapped up in this story after the first few chapters.
This is one of those titles that will appeal to those boy readers that have trouble getting into stories.

Below by Meg McKinlay
Candlewick Press, 2013 (first US edition)
Realistic Fiction
218 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

An interesting story set in an Australian town that had the damn opened up, and was drowned.  The town was rebuilt nearby with residents all starting over in a fresh new location.  While not heard of all that frequently, this is not an unheard of event.  In fact, it happened here in Maine to a town called Flagstaff.  
The idea of a town sitting at the bottom of a lake is enough to get your mind spinning.  How creepy, how sad, fun to explore!  In Below Cassie is drawn to the sunken town and the allure of the unknown.  
The story starts out slow.  By starts out I am referring roughly to the first 100 pages...But once you add in a kind male classmate with a mysterious past and a shifty town mayor  trying to keep the old town well below the surface of the lake, things do become interesting.

Literally Disturbed: Tales to Keep You Up at Night by Ben H. Winters, illustrated by Adam F. Watkins
Price Stern Sloan, 2013
64 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

I am perhaps disturbed for loving this genre, but there's no denying it, I love a good creep out.  As a kid I would have enjoyed this right alongside my Scary Stories books!
While I wouldn't give this to just any 4th grader, some are much more sensitive to this genre than others, I will say that the poems are not all meant to scare.  Some of the poems within this text are quite humorous, and once you add those creepy drawings you've got a nice little book to read in the dark of night.

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On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!
Have a wonderful reading week!