Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts.
What I've Read During the Past Two Weeks:
Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2012
Recommended for grades 4-6
Grace Lin has a talent for weaving Chinese folklore so seamlessly into the story of runaway Rendi. When Rendi finds himself stuck working for the owner of a small inn he is reluctant to open up or show any warmth towards the owner or his young daughter. When a mysterious woman books many nights at the inn Rendi (and readers) are treated to her stories of Chinese folklore. Through listening and sharing stories Rendi forms bonds with this new group of friends, while also forming new understandings of human nature, including his own. When it is time to return home he is not the same young man.
Buddy by M.H. Herlong
Recommended for grades 5-8
Shortly into this book I was excited about sharing it with a student that has a special tie to New Orleans. I thought although it might be a bit of a stretch for him, his interest in the story might be strong enough to overcome it being a tough read. And because I was so excited, I told him at school the next day that I had a great book to share with him as soon as I was done with it. I should have waited until I'd finished it, because there is no way I'm giving this book to a 9 year old. Sigh.
Here's the low down: A family hits a dog on the way to church. They bring the dog with them to church to cower in the back through the service. This bugs me, as they said they could see bone sticking out at one place in his leg. Why not go straight to the vet? Anyway, they raise money at the service to get treatment for the dog. Main character Li'l T wants a dog badly, so stray Buddy gets a home. Then Katrina hits and Li'l T's family has to leave the city. Buddy is left behind in the bathroom, as the family thinks they will only be gone for two days. From about here until the end of the book my heart was in a vise. Much more will spoil the book, but though there are some good twists. Li'l T is a hard working boy, with many admirable qualities. However, there are two scenes involving drugs that make me shy away from sharing what is otherwise a wonderful book to share with children. I know that drugs are a real part of our world, but if it's not pushing the story forward a scene like these can hinder a book making it into the hands of kids. What do you think? I'm not about censoring, but I'm also not about angry parents...
Twelve Kinds of Ice by Ellen Bryan Obed
Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, 2012
Recommended for grades 3-5
If you're looking for a nostalgic trip back in time to simpler days when your winter days revolved only around how ready the ice was, here's your book. The write recalls a winter in Maine and leads readers through the progression of the 12 kinds of ice there are in a winter. The illustrations are simple old fashioned pen and ink. To be honest, I won't be rushing to add this one to my classroom library...
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett illustrated by Adam Rex
Recommended for grades 3+
Speaking of adding to classroom libraries, this is a must! These two chums are hilarious. Even the about the author scores high on the awesome level.
Mac writes a story about little Chloe saving the coins she finds throughout the week to ride the merry-go-round at the park on the weekends. But the simple story is repeatedly interrupted as Mac argues with first Adam, and then his replacement illustrator. Kids get such a kick out of the story because they are expecting a story, and instead they watch Mac and Adam duke it out while learning that author and illustrator are equally important in our picture book experience! Such fun!
Hades: Lord of the Dead by George O'Connor
First Second, 2012
Greek Mythology/Graphic Novel
Recommended for grades 5+
O'Connor's Olympians graphic novels are simultaneously educational, entertaining, and lovely to look at. The myths will certainly stick with readers when experienced through this series. In Hades we learn not just of the bad boy, but equally, if not more, about Kore's (Persephone) journey of self discovery and how she becomes the Queen of the Dead. I loved it! O'Connor has an excellent section in the back of his books where we learn more details and hear why he took some of the artistic licenses he did.
On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave by Candace Flemming
Schwartz & Wade, 2012
Recommended for grades 5-8
This is an amazingly fun collection of short stories. In each of the stories the main characters are so richly written that you feel connected to each. When Mike picks up the typical lady in white on the side of the road he offers to drive her home. After dropping her off he notices that her shoes are sitting on the passenger side floor. And when he rings the bell and tries to return the shoes we all know what happens: She has been dead for years! Ack! That's usually where that story ends, but Flemming sends Mike on a mission to return the shoes to the girl's grave, which just happens to be in a graveyard that is filled with the graves of teenagers (a real cemetery in Chicago). Before Mike can leave he encounters the spirits of souls that must tell their side of the story before they can rest in peace. And off we go to learn of the demise of each teen. Set in varying time periods, each a good read. Some are more haunting than others. As awful a premise as this book sounds, it truly isn't too heavy on the doom and gloom!
Island of Thieves by Josh Lacey
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
Recommended for grades 4-6
An action-packed adventure/treasure hunt, toss in a few kidnappings, a trip to South America and one hilarious uncle and nephew pair and you have The Island of Thieves.
Uncle Harvey has a page from an old journal that he thinks is the key to a huge treasure. But the page came from Peru, and he lives in England. When he is strapped with babysitting his nephew for a week he ends up taking Tom with him. The two are immediately kidnapped upon landing in Peru by a mobster that Uncle Harvey sold a fake painting to. They've either got to pay up $100,000 in a matter of days, or plan a great escape. But neither are in their cards. The action never stops, twists and turns will keep kids on their feet with this one. The baddies do have guns in this story though, so if that sort of thing deters you from books you've been warned.
Citizen Scientists: Be a Part of Scientific Discovery From Your Own Backyard by Loree G. Burns
Henry Holt & Company, 2012
Recommended for grades 3-6
Initially alarmed by the notion of kids working to tag the fragile wings of the monarch butterfly, by the end of the section I was already making plans for doing this next fall with my students!
There are 4 main sections of this book that teach kids how they can become involved in the study of animals in their own communities. Monarchs, winter birds, frogs and ladybugs.
If you have children or you work with children, go buy this book!
Next fall I will be urging students to bring in monarchs, but for more than watching a life cycle in action. We will tag our butterflies, and months later we will be able to go online to see if any of our butterflies made the migration to Mexico (which is touch from the northern states, but it happens). Meanwhile, in Mexico school children will be collecting the tagged butterflies and returning them to the migration project where they will be paid about $4 US dollars per tag. Our students become part of a bigger understanding of science and the world through projects like this.
The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs: A Scientific Mystery by Sandra Markle
Millbrook Press, 2012
Recommended for grades 3-5
This text tells of the golden frogs found dying off in alarming numbers in Panama during the 90's. The book felt out of date, focusing mainly on work done in the 90's. To our young readers the 90's is...history! I will be using this book with my third graders as some weigh the pros and cons of zoos in their research, a spin off topic from our reading of The One and Only Ivan. Without the support of zoos species can face extinction when harmful bacteria threaten their survival, as is the case with the golden tree frog. Not a thrilling read.
To Review Later this Week:
On Deck to Read:
As usual, I welcome any thoughts and comments!!