Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-28-14

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers.
Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

The last day of vacation has arrived for me.  I spent some time in my classroom gearing up for the upcoming week, and then calmed and strengthened my mind and body with a wonderful yoga class.   How do you carve time out for yourself each week?

Books I Read this Week:

Cooper & Packrat: Mystery on Pine Lake by Tamra Wight, illustrated by Carl DiRocco
Island Port Press, 2013
152 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

Another title from the 2014-2015 Maine Student Book Award List.  I've got one more title to read after this one, and then I will have read all 41 titles.
This story is set in a Maine campground, which makes for quite a cool setting for adventurous kids!  I did a lot of camping growing up, and was able to feel the setting vividly as I read.  Cooper wants to be a game warden when he is older, and has a passion of keeping an eye on the wildlife around his parents' campground.  In this story Cooper is especially interested in watching the loons that nest on the campground's pond.  Cooper wants to make sure the loons successfully nest and raise young on the pond because he feels that the loons are a big draw to customers of the campground.
I enjoyed this story very much, but I did find several things worth pointing out that got in the way of me loving this book.  First, the print is so small that it is going to turn away some readers.  Second, the illustrations are very goofy and cartoony, not really matching the realistic feel of the story.  And finally, there is a scene in the book where one character reveals a story around a truly traumatic event that he lived through, and it is all but brushed aside by the characters.  I felt that the author needed to provide a reason for some of that character's actions, and used this awful moment in his life to be that reason, which is fine, but it was just too underdeveloped for me to be okay with how it was handled.

A fun picture book by a team that you just can't beat!  I plan on reading this at Morning Meeting in hopes of dashing away the Monday blues that my students just might bring with them on their first day back from vacation.

I'm Currently Reading:

Remember to be on the look-out for my upcoming stop on The Dyerville Tales blog tour!  Highlights include a chance to win a signed copy of the book, and a guest post by the author!  
Date: Tuesday, May 6th.

On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by.  Have a wonderful week, and if you're returning to school from vacation...deep breaths, big smiles, and don't forget to pack a piece of chocolate in your lunch!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-21-14

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers.
Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

Hello Vacation!  If you're enjoying a week off I wish you a wonderful, energizing and also restful break from your regular schedule.

Books I Read this Week:

The Quantum League: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby
Scholastic Press, 2014
Science Fiction
263 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Right off I was reminded of 2013's The Ability, a story where kids are honing in on a mental power within themselves.  This time the kids are called actuators, and are able to manipulate molecules into weather phenomena or various other physical changes and manifestations.  And, like in The Ability, our main male character has to leave his single mother behind in order to pursue his training.  This time things are not as on the up and up though, creating a main character that feels no loyalty to his new trainers.
Filled with double crossing, and double agents, young readers will never know what is coming next!  
The book ends with a total cliff hanger, so be on the lookout for book 2.
The only thing I found odd was that the book is set to a backdrop of reality, but departs so completely midway through the book, in a way that drastically separates the two parts of the story. 

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Little Brown Books, 2013
304 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8
Audio read by Sunil Malhotra

Zombie Baseball Beatdown is on the 2014-2015 Maine Student Book Award reading list, though it was one I hadn't read prior to our final voting meeting.  Why didn't I read it...well, there were so many titles on our "short" list, and this one just didn't strike me as being a contender.  Yes, I based a lot of judgement on the cover and subject matter!
And after listening to the first few minutes of the book I thought I had been right.  Main character Rabi uses the word "suck" at least half a dozen times, which really turned me off of the story immediately.  But of course I kept listening, and thank goodness.  Not too far into the story Rabi's mother scolds him for using the word "suck."  Ok, we got that ironed out.  The rest of the story is one awesome journey through relationships, racial issues, the topic of illegal immigration, and of course, zombies!!

The writing is great, and Sunil Malhotra does a phenomenal job bringing the book to life in its audio version.

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

I'm excited to be hosting a stop in The Dyerville Tales blog tour!  Be on the look out for a chance to win a signed copy of the book!  On May 6th stop by for a guest post written by M. P. Kozlowsky!

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful week :)

Monday, April 14, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-14-14

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers.
Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

Books I Read this Week:

Sorry You’re Lost by Matt Blackstone
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014
Realistic Fiction
320 pages (ARC details)
Recommended for grades 7-9

Well, this was a tough one.  This story opens with 7th grade Denny riding home from his mother’s funeral.  Next chapter: fast forward three and a half months to Denny in school.  

Within a month prior to me starting this story, one of my own students lost his mother.  The parallels between what I was seeing in my own student, and the stream of consciousness running through Denny’s mind, certainly got me thinking.  It was definitely hard for me to read this book right now, but it was also healing in a way.

Denny shows us that we can be totally lost, in every sense, but can eventually be found again, by ourselves and by others.  

I’d keep it geared to 7th graders and up due to some of the language in the book.

Sparky by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014
Recommended for all!

After seeing this book shared on Carrie’s blog I just had to read it for myself!  Immediately after reading through it I knew something else, my 4th graders were going to love this story!  Just look at that little sloth on the cover...and his name: Sparky!  How can anyone resist?

I love the quick thinking, feisty little girl that gets around her mother’s stipulations on which pet she can have- “ long as it doesn’t need to be walked or bathed or fed” -by hitting up the local librarian for her smarts.  Once deciding on the perfect candidate it arrives by airmail, perhaps my favorite page:

The art reminds me of another of my favorites: Jon Klassen, and the kids pointed this out as well :)

Hi, Koo! by Jon J. Muth
Scholastic Press, 2014
32 pages
Recommended for grades 1-4

If Jon J. Muth paints it, I will buy it.  There is something so perfectly real and also perfectly magical about all of his work.  

The author’s note at the start of this collection of poems informs readers of how Haiku originated in Japan and was made up of 17 sound parts called on, divided into 3 lines of 5, 7, 5 on.  These Japanese sound parts do not translate into English syllables and Muth points out that, our rule of 5, 7, 5 syllables is not in fact not something we should feel bound to when writing Haiku.  I love that.  Haiku is a bit more free for me now, not having to adhere to a rigid structure, but instead, writing an “instant captured in words.”

The poems are divided into seasons, and as Haikus go, are simple and short.  My favorite image in the book comes in a spring time poem when our beloved panda has accidentally stepped on a bug, killing it:

Oh, what emotion is a single image!  My other favorite image-yes, I can have more than one!-is the final image in the book.  It’s so sweet you’ve just got to see it for yourself...

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a fabulous week!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Maine Student Book Award Winner 2014!

After an exciting year of reading and sharing opinions on the MSBA 2013-14 titles, the winning title has been announced!

Not all state lists include graphic novels, but here in Maine we think graphic novels rank right up there with some of the other  amazing children's literature being written.  Because of this, for the past two years a graphic novel has won the Maine Student Book Award (Smile and then Lost Trail), which didn't make some people happy...and not just adults, some kids were irked by this.  Which makes this list all the more cool, people care about what's on it.

This year was the first year that there were 3 graphic novels on the list, making it seem like we could have gone for a straight three year run with winning titles being graphic novels.  You see, students in grades 4-8 across the state are encouraged by teachers and librarians to read the books on the list (about 40 titles are there), but kids only need to read three to be eligible to vote for their favorite in the spring.

Well, I was one of those people that thought a graphic novel was going to nab the big prize.  I know my fourth graders favored Cardboard. 

The winner is:

Congratulations R. J. Palacio!!  We will be in touch with you to send a beautiful slate award!

Second place goes to:

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel!

Third place:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate!

Want to see what other titles were on the 2013-14 list?  Click here.

And to see the new 2014-15 list click here.

Happy reading!