Saturday, December 14, 2013

Reading Tragedy

There is a lovely little used book store by the school I work at. I have tried to always check there when I am looking for treasures. The owner of the store has had health issues for years. He was In a wheelchair because of an accident. The past few years he has been in the hospital and the store has been run by volunteers. Unfortunately, despite having no paid staff, it has been losing money for years. 

I stopped by there the other day with two of my students. We were there to celebrate the fact that they had already read 40 books this year! We we're going to go shopping and buy a book for each of them. We were surprised, when we arrived, to hear that everything was free. The girls walked out with all sorts of books!!

Everything was free because the owner has recently died and they have to close down the store. The man there said it was inevitable.

Today they are cleaning out the store. What does one do with 30,000 or so used books? They tried many different things. In the end, they threw out about 20,000 books.

As we approached we could see books being tossed into the bin. My daughter shouted, "Oh no! Stop!! Mom!! Hurry!"

She climbed up and peeked into the roll away bin. She stod there for a long long time. 

 It. Was. Stunning.

And sad.

We saved all we could. But in the end, tragedy reigned.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Babymouse: Heartbreaker (Jennifer Holm)

Goodreads summary: AHHH, VALENTINE'S DAY! Babymouse loves Valentines Day! A day for pink hearts! Flowers! Candy! School dances and romance . . . sweetromance! WAIT! Romance? Ew! And what's this about a school dance? Does that mean Babymouse needs a date? Uh-oh! Looks like thisValentine's Day may turn into a Valentine's dud! Will Babymouse go to the school dance? Will she get any Valentines? Will she find true love? Find out in . . . Babymouse: Heartbreaker!

Cute....kinda sappy too. Brings out all those feelings I remember about being worried about how things would go at a school dance! In the end she dances with a giraffe....and isn't that how junior high goes? Although, often it is the girl that is the giraffe, er, tall one.

I was telling my 15 year old about this book. She said, "I love Babymouse!" .....and there she sat, soaking up another Babymouse. She confirmed, it totally does capture those Jr. High dance feelings! :)

Baby Mouse Queen of the World! (Jennifer Holm)

I liked this book. Lots of cute graphics and I loved babymouse's sassy-ness. It's definitely one to add to my classroom library. I'm a little concerned there is too much pink for the boys to swallow. How come girls can read boy's books, but boy's can't read girls books? The most popular graphic novels are directed at boys, so I liked that this one was different. I rarely see girls reading Amulet or Bone books.

 I picked is one up hoping it would be a good graphic novel for my gr. 3 book club, but I am concerned that a good reader in Gr 3 would read it in one sitting - one pretty short sitting, actually. It will be a great one for my struggling readers though!

There are lots if good lessons taught in this book: Not worrying about being popular, for one. I love that she realizes she doesn't like the sitting around and  talking about boy, looks, etc., like the girls do at the sleepover where she finally gets invited. She goes back to her old pal, eats cupcakes and watches horror movies.

Goodreads summary: 

It’s the same thing every day for Babymouse. Where is the glamour? The excitement? The adventure? Nothing ever changes, until . . . Babymouse hears about Felicia Furrypaws’s exclusive slumber party. Will Babymouse get invited? Will her best friend, Wilson, forgive her if she misses their monster movie marathon? Find out in Babymouse: Queen of the World, a graphic novel with attitude!

It's really quite a fun book. I even got Peirce reading it:

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Little Red Writing (Joan Holub)

This is a cute new version of Little Red Riding Hood. 

I can see using this book in my classroom often to talk about the fun things words can do, the keys to being a good writer (juicy adjectives other fun words), grammar tips, and tips on avoiding run on sentences. It is all done in such a fun way! I can see this one being a classroom keeper to be read again and again.

Goodreads summary:

Acclaimed writer Joan Holub and Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet team up in this hilarious and exuberant retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, in which a brave, little red pencil finds her way through the many perils of writing a story, faces a ravenous pencil sharpener (the Wolf 3000)... and saves the day.

The Stamp Collector (Jennifer Lanthier)

Beautiful and haunting. It doesn't really strike me as a children's book though. It is a wonderful way to tell the story if the need for story, or the tragedy if oppression, and how it can be overcome.

Goodreads summary:

A city boy finds a stamp that unlocks his imagination; a country boy is captivated by stories. When they grow up, the two boys take different paths – one becomes a prison guard, the other works in a factory – but their early childhood passions remain. When the country boy’s stories of hope land him in prison, the letters and stamps sent to him from faraway places intrigue the prison guard – and a unique friendship begins.

A House in the Sky (Amanda Lindhout)

A House in the Sky

I remember this story well when it was in the news. There were contradictory stories - that Amanda Lindhout was living happily and married to a Muslim in Samalia. I knew there was probably much more to the story. There was.

Goodreads summary:

The dramatic and redemptive memoir of a woman whose curiosity led her to the world’s most beautiful and remote places, its most imperiled and perilous countries, and then into fifteen months of harrowing captivity—an exquisitely written story of courage, resilience, and grace.
As a child, Amanda Lindhout escaped a violent household by paging through issues of National Geographic and imagining herself in its exotic locales. At the age of nineteen, working as a cocktail waitress in Calgary, Alberta, she began saving her tips so she could travel the globe. Aspiring to understand the world and live a significant life, she backpacked through Latin America, Laos, Bangladesh, and India, and emboldened by each adventure, went on to Sudan, Syria, and Pakistan. In war-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq she carved out a fledgling career as a television reporter. And then, in August 2008, she traveled to Somalia—“the most dangerous place on earth.” On her fourth day, she was abducted by a group of masked men along a dusty road.
Held hostage for 460 days, Amanda converts to Islam as a survival tactic, receives “wife lessons” from one of her captors, and risks a daring escape. Moved between a series of abandoned houses in the desert, she survives on memory—every lush detail of the world she experienced in her life before captivity—and on strategy, fortitude, and hope. When she is most desperate, she visits a house in the sky, high above the woman kept in chains, in the dark, being tortured.
Vivid and suspenseful, as artfully written as the finest novel, A House in the Sky is the searingly intimate story of an intrepid young woman and her search for compassion in the face of unimaginable adversity.

I listened to this book on CD. I found myself feeling a bit of the emotions Amanda must have felt. Then I would feel shameful thinking how could I ever think I even had an idea at all what she went through. I find the whole middle eastern world fascinating yet frightening. 

This story is compelling. It drug me through the emotions of being a hostage. It broke my heart and it frightened me. It's stunning what humans will do to each other, and it's stunning what we can overcome.

National post photo:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bink and Gollie (Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee)

Kate DiCamillo never disappoints! This will be a great book to add to my list of books to introduce my students to for our friendship unit. 

Bink and Gollie are friends. They are clever. They use great vocabulary. 

I don't always list illustrators in my blog posts, but the illustrations are so integral to the story, and so simply amazing and hilarious, Alison McGhee must be mentioned! The illustrations are hilarious and add perfectly to the laughter of the book. 

These two remind me very much of my own children. They're differently sizes (and ages?) but still have plenty of reckless fun together roller skating. Gollie, like me with my daughter, tries to tolerate Bink's love for the outrageous (it's socks in this book). They get into crazy messes which are creatively resolved. Yup. Sounds a lot like my house!

             “I have brought you half of my pancakes," said Gollie.

              "And I have removed one of my outrageous socks," said Bink. "It's a compromise bonanza!” 

Love love love this book! It is an easy read and also one I would enjoy reading to kids again and again.

Pinch and Dash Make Soup

This is a story about two characters, Pinch and Dash. Pinch is hungry, but not ambitious enough to make his own soup. To make it worse, Dash makes boring soup. They decide to make some soup, but can't quite agree on how it should be made. In the end, they sneak in secret ingredients, much to their own demise.

This is a cute book in many respects. The names are clever. It would be a great additional book if you were doing a Stone Soup activity. It is set up like an early chapter book, however, I can't imagine it would be a book that younger children would be very interested in reading in their own.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Incredible Journey (Sheila Burnford)

This is a beautiful book, definitely one to re-read. It is also a book that would be great for a novel study at the end of grade 3.

Goodreads summary:

Instinct told them that the way home lay to the west. And so the doughty young Labrador retriever, the roguish bull terrier and the indomitable Siamese set out through the Canadian wilderness. Separately, they would soon have died. But, together, the three house pets faced starvation, exposure, and wild forest animals to make their way home to the family they love. The Incredible Journey is one of the great children's stories of all time--and has been popular ever since its debut in 1961.

The end almost had me crying. I can see that this would also be a fantastic movie. What kid doesn't love a story of animals  and reunions and the love humans share with them. There is no talking amongst the animals, but you can feel how they love each other and do look after each other.

Definitely one to re-read!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock (Bill Peet)


I feel for Prewit Peacock. Poor little guy is scared of so much. This is a great self-esteem story. It is also a fun twist on words: spooky tales versus spooky tails.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen and Lisbeth Zwerger)


I've never read the original version of The Little Mermaid. Having been indoctrinated by Disney, I was surprised at how it ends. This book is a translation from Danish. I'm looking forward to sharing it with my class prior to going and seeing our high school put on a play. We will talk about how people tell stories in different ways and change details. Later we will read Battle Bunny and perhaps make our own version of a different story.

Surprisingly, most of the kids in my class have not seen the movie of The Little Mermaid. I sang some of the songs and they all looked at me like I was off my rocker. Kids these days!!

I wondered why the text is in different colors in random places. I couldn't find anything in the book to answer that question.

Lafcadio, The Lion Who Shot Back (Shel Silverstein)

Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back

I love this story. I just read it aloud to my class this week. They were quite surprised with it at first. Shel Silverstein's conversational voice is easy to listen to. I think sometimes they weren't sure if it was me talking or if it was really what was written.

It's a quick read, and perfect for kids trying to move from picture books to chapter books. It's silly and funny and full of great illustrations. I love Shel Silverstein's style of black and white line drawings. They're simple, yet very effective.

Goodreads summary:

"You don't have to shoot me," says the young lion. "I will be your rug and I will lie in front of your fireplace and I won't move a muscle and you can sit on me and toast all the marshmallows you want. I love marshmallows."
But the hunter will not listen to reason, so what is there for a young lion to do? After eating up the hunter, Lafcadio takes the gun home and practices and practices until he becomes the world's greatest sharp-shooter.
Now dressed in starched collars and fancy suits, and enjoying all the marshmallows he wants, Lafcadio is pampered and admired wherever he goes. But is a famous, successful, and admired lion a happy lion? Or is he a lion at all?
Told and drawn with wit and gusto, Shel Silverstein's modern fable speaks not only to children but to us all.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Battle Bunny (Jon Scieszka)


John Scieszka is hilarious, and is doing good things for kids and books! In this book, a boy named Alex is given a picture book that is boring boring boring. He changes it from boring to everything 8 or 9 year old boys love!

I thought this book would be a good starter to writing our own version of a story.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Dear Sir, I Intend to Burn Your Book (Lawrence Hill)

This is a short book. it actually seems more like a speech or essay. It is in response to a man from Holland who organized some people to burn Lawrence Hill's book, The Book of Negroes. It's thought provoking, well written, and a good argument for why banning/burning books should hot happen. ever.

Some great quotes from the book:

P. 8/9 "There is something particularly odious about burning a book, or a pile of books. The action aims not just to remove the offending article from the hands of readers, but to silence and intimidate writers, publishers and booksellers.  It suggests that they too will be burned if they do not heed the message. The act seems to say: "You will not be tolerated. Your ideas will not be discussed. We must protect society from your toxic mind, and so we are lighting this bonfire."

P. 14/15 "Just imagine. If the left wingers and the right wingers formed a coalition, they could yank half the books out of the Canadian school curriculum. Together, they could ensure that no school or public library book would ever be allowed to provoke, disturb, challenge, offend if outrage another reader for the rest of time. They could control our minds forever after. In the publicly funded shelves of schools and libraries, the only things we would have left is Anne of Green Gables."

P. 31/32 "The very purpose of literature is to enlighten, disturb, awaken and provoke. Literature should get us talking-even when we disagree. Literature should bring us into the same room - not over matches, but over coffee and conversation. It should inspire recognition of our mutual humanity. Together.
I can't see any good coming out of burning or banning books.
Let's talk, instead."

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Girl With No Name (Marina Chapman)

The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Child Raised by Monkeys

Wow. This is an amazing story. It was published just recently and is the story of a girl who was abandoned in the jungles of Columbia as a child. She lived with monkeys for years. She ended up escaping the jungle, but you might wonder if she wouldn't have been better off to stay there. What a story. What impressed me most about the story was how she has a deep sense of good. Despite being raised with animals and having no idea about civilized life, she had a desire to do the best she could and to be a person of character.

Goodreads summary:

In 1954, in a remote mountain village in South America, a little girl was abducted. She was four years old. Marina Chapman was stolen from her housing estate and then abandoned deep in the Colombian jungle. That she survived is a miracle. Two days later, half-drugged, terrified, and starving, she came upon a troop of capuchin monkeys. Acting entirely on instinct, she tried to do what they did: she ate what they ate and copied their actions, and little by little, learned to fend for herself.

So begins the story of her five years among the monkeys, during which time she gradually became feral; she lost the ability to speak, lost all inhibition, lost any real sense of being human, replacing the structure of human society with the social mores of her new simian family. But society was eventually to reclaim her. At age ten she was discovered by a pair of hunters who took her to the lawless Colombian city of Cucuta where, in exchange for a parrot, they sold her to a brothel. When she learned that she was to be groomed for prostitution, she made her plans to escape. But her adventure wasn’t over yet...

In the vein of "Slumdog Millionaire" and "City of God," this rousing story of a lost child who overcomes the dangers of the wild and the brutality of the streets to finally reclaim her life will astonish readers everywhere.

It was so interesting to read about how foreign everything we consider normal was to her. At one point she is washing dishes and one falls and breaks:

Chapter 17: I had no memory of simple things like  plates, for example - at least, not plates that went smash! if you dropped them. 'Esfragil' was a word that had no meaning for me until the point when a wet plate, which Lolita had indicate dI should dry, slid from my clumby fingers and exploded into a million pieces across the floor. How had it done that? Why had it done that? Istared wide-eyed at the messat my feet, fascinated.

I didn't associate the 'crash' sound with anything being wrong - why would I? I just looked at pieces on the floor, trying to understand it, because I'd not seen a texture like it before. Ana-Karmen came to hit me, so I naturally ran to hide, but for what misdemeanour, I didn't know. I was just curious. I didn't think, 'Oh, no, I broke a plate. Now I'm in trouble!' The whole concept was completely alient to me. Yes, I was shocked at the volume and intrigued by the discovery of a new noise. But again, I was in control of it. I knew where it had come from, so maybe that's why I didn't fear it so much. I was just desperate to understand.

In a few of the places she ends up living, prostitution becomes an issue. She is approached a number of times by men, but for some reason, escapes their grasps.

Chapter 21: I might have been wrong, of course - and who was I to stand in judgment over these girls anyway? What did I know of the circumstances in which their children were conceived? But in my adolescent mind, with its black and white view of the world, perhaps did me great favour in that respect. My experience at Ana-Karmen's had taught me a valuable lesson - that sex, for many men, at least, was a different thing from love. In the world of the brothen, the prostitute was seen as a commodity - something to be bought and sold for cash. And the consequences were there for all to see. The man promising everything, the girl believing all of it, and then, nine months later, another unwatned street baby being born with the father nowhere to be seen.

I didn't want that. I wanted a home, I wanted a husband and I wanted children. So, hard though it would be later, when a boy would try to woo me, or someone would try to entice me with a plan involving drugs, drink or crime, I would listen to the voice in my head that said, "Hold on - one day you're going to be someone.'

She learns a lot from the monkeys she lived with - most importantly of all, perhaps, to have hope and to work hard. She decides to knock on doors in a city to see if someone will take her in:

Chapter 24: It was a soul-destroying, miserable, thankless, lonely mission. I walked up and down street after street, footsore and thirsty trudging in the heat. And everyone, without exception, still told me to go away. disheartened, I decided I would simply give it - it seemed so pointless - but then a memory surfaced that took me by surprise. I remembered the first time I watched a monkey get a nut from its casing - how long it had taken and how hard he had worke.d How he'd searched for the right rock, with a hollow to place the nut in - a job that itself took a long time - and how he'd found another rock and toiled away for so long, repeatedly hitting it till he was rewarded with that first small encouraging crack. Even then it took a lot more effort to break it open. The tastiest nuts didn't give up their treasures lightly. You had to earn them. Just as I had to earn this.

She lives on the street much of the time and one experience, in particular, shook her. She finds a box in the garbage that is locked. It looks like a cash box that she saw when she lived with a criminal family. She takes it. It's locked so she has to figure out how to open it, but before she can, some other boys living on the street steal it away from her. She chases them but they escape. She can see them at a distance working on opening the box when suddenly the world explodes. She realizes she must be destined for something better:

Chapter 26: Their deaths haunted me, however, dya and night. I couldn't get the image of them out of my mind and was plagued by the thought that it should have been me who died instead  of them. Why had fate arranged it for those boys to snatch the box from me? Why had I been unable to scale that high fence? Why had I been spared and their lives taken so violently? I had no idea, but I was alive. It appears that I had chated what fate had planned for me and I figured there must be a reason. The thought made me determined to find myself a better life.

The story is absolutely astounding. It doesn't take too long to read this book. It's a great read. The book is full of sadness and compassion. It's full of death and a fight to live. It is full of kindness, adapting, learning, and even religion. It's an amazing and true story.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson and Rod Bradbury, Translator))

This book has the longest title I have ever seen. The story kind of matched the title. I felt like it went on and on and on and on. It is quite funny. That kept me reading. Too often though, I found myself saying, "Oh come on!" to some of the humor though. 

There is a lot of history in the book. I am not up on history at all and I wondered if some of the things really did happen that he talks about. If they did, it makes the story even better.

I thought it was really well translated. It seemed like it had been written in English first (it was first written and published in Swedish).

If you are up for something silly, this book is a good one to pick up. I loved the concept if living life to the fullest and not worrying how things will work out.

Goodreads summary:

It all starts on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The Mayor is going to be there. The press is going to be there. But, as it turns out, Allan is not… Slowly but surely Allan climbs out of his bedroom window, into the flowerbed (in his slippers) and makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn something of Allan’s earlier life in which – remarkably – he helped to make the atom bomb, became friends with American presidents, Russian tyrants, and Chinese leaders, and was a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. Already a huge bestseller across Europe, The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is a fun and feel-good book for all ages

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Early Chapter Books

The Cybils is an award given by book bloggers. In my Book Whisperer workshop yesterday a lot of people asked about early chapter books for kids just getting into chapter books. Here is a great list from the  Cybils.

What are the Cybils? Check this out.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Zella Zack and Zodiac

Zella, Zack and Zodiac

Goodreads summary:

Zella the zebra helps Zack the ostrich when he is young and helpless. When he grows up Zack returns the favor by saving Zella's young offspring from a lion.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks (Kate and Sara Klise)

Regarding the Fountain: A Tale, in Letters, of Liars and Leaks

Good Reads Summary:

The Dry Creek Middle School drinking fountain has sprung a leak, so principal Walter Russ dashes off a request to Flowing Waters Fountains, Etc.

...We need a new drinking fountain. Please send a catalog.

Designer Flo Waters responds:

"I'd be delighted...but please understand that all of my fountains are custom-made."

Soon the fountain project takes on a life of its own, one chronicled in letters, postcards, memos, transcripts, and official documents. The school board president is up in arms. So is Dee Eel, of the water-supply company. A scandal is brewing, and Mr. Sam N.'s fifth grade class is turning up a host of hilarious secrets buried deep beneath the fountain.

This is quite an entertaining little story. The story is all told in the form of letters. As the story unfolds you start to realize things aren't as them seem, and something is awry in this little town. I really enjoyed the read.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hank Zipzer: I Got a D in Salami (Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver)

Who knew Henry Winkler was an author? This is a story full of his humor. This book is actually the second book in the series (I couldn't get the first one at my public library) and I was excited to read it to my class. Sadly, it wasn't a big hit. I think, perhaps, the story didn't happen fast enough for a read-aloud. We decided to abandon it as a class - but I had to finish it. A friend had recommended the series to me and she said her son could often be found giggling away as he read those books.

Here's the summary from Wikipedia:

The story is about Hank, a boy in 4th grade, and it starts off with him getting his first report card - which is not good news. He goes to his mom's deli to show her. While this is going on, his mom is making a special salami to give to a leader of a supermarket chain. Hank decides to get rid of his report card before his parents see it. He gives it to Robert to destroy. Robert puts it in a batch of salami. Once his mom is done making many batches of the salami, she picks the one with the report card in it. Hank and his friends try to put a stop to the delivery but they don't stop the deliveryman in time. While this is going on Hank figures out he has learning problems. In the end Hank begins eating his sandwich while visiting the Press for the large Supermarket chain and gets a business deal for his mom's deli.

Even though it was not a hit as a read aloud, I think I will still try to get a bunch of these books for my library corner. Someone's going to catch on to these, I'm sure!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore (Robin Sloan)

I enjoyed the talk of a bookstore and lure to the mystery of books in this story. I kind of felt like I was an old fashioned geek peering into the techno lives of 20 something's who haven't quite found their place in life yet and are wandering from odd job to odd job.  I think it's a great story, but sadly, it is my guess that it likely won't stand the test of time because it won't take too long until the references to technology are outdated. But it's a good one for right now! In one part of the story the author totally got me with the comment, "and if you're amazed at all this techno trivia you're probably over 30"....or something like that. I laughed out loud when I read that.

Mostly, I was glad Google couldn't beat a book. That's how it should be.

I started having a feeling maybe there was more symbolism to this book than i was understanding so I began googling names: Penumbra, Griffo Gerritzson, etc., as well as quotes like:  I work at the opposite of Google.  I would love to ask the author if there is something behind all that.

I read that the book cover won an award for one of the best book covers. It is cool. Mine didn't glow in the dark though. Rip off.

Good quotes:

Re: e-Readers "I have one and I use it most nights. I always imagine the books staring and whispering, Traitor!” 

"Her home is the burrow of a bibliophile hobbit."

“Walking the stacks in a library, dragging your fingers across the spines -- it's hard not to feel the presence of sleeping spirits.” 

“He has the strangest expression on his face- the emotional equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.”

“Neel takes a sharp breath and I know exactly what it means. It means: I have waited my whole life to walk through a secret passage built into a bookshelf.” 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Molly's Pilgrim (Barbara Cohen)

Recently Peirce and I went to a play called The New Canadian Kid at Storybook Theatre. It is a story about a family that moves to Canada. The twist is only the new kid speaks English so the audience understands. Everyone else speaks a form of jibberish that I sometimes thought I understood, but mostly didn't. It was a great way to convey what it is like to be new to a country. It has really given me pause to think since I have a number of children in my class who are new to Canada.

This story follows the same idea. Molly is a Jewish Russian who has immigrated. One of my students read it and wrote about it in her Response Journal. Since my ancestors were Jewish Russians, it caught my eye. It is a quick read (30 pages?). Perfect for kids just starting to get into chapter books.

In the story, Molly's class is asked to make some dolls for their Thanksgiving diorama. Molly's mom makes a doll, and the kids make fun of her because it doesn't look like the traditional pilgrim. They learn that pilgrims aren't just people who lived long ago. Good little story!

Friday, September 27, 2013

If You Find a Rock (Peggy Christian)

I love this book. We study Rocks and Minerals in Grade 3 and the way she talks about rocks in this book totally relates to how kids think of rocks. Forget the science stuff. Rocks are for wishing, standing on, skipping, splashing, sifting, and rubbing away as a worry rock.

What kid doesn't love rocks?!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

Life of Pi

Good thing for book club! I would have never persisted with this book otherwise. I also would have never got the symbolism. Weird book though, I have to say!

Something about it though, makes me keep wondering, could it be true???

Goodreads summary:

Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor "Pi" Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Huge Harold (Bill Peet)

I have a boy in my class who loves rabbits - so Huge Harold is a must read! After we read it he came to me and wanted to know if I had any other rabbit books. I had actually tried to get him interested in some previously, by telling him about them in his Response Journal - but he said he wasn't really interested. Today, though, I showed him those same books and suddenly he was extremely interested. Goes to show that just telling someone about a book doesn't do the trick. You need to do a little book commercial to warm them up to a book!

Huge Harold

Right away my kids noticed this is a rhyming book - and they loved it.   They loved how Harold is big and awkward. One of my kids is crazy about rabbits because he is getting a bunny as a pet soon, so he was especially interested.

Good Read summary:

The world seems a cold place to Harold, a very overgrown rabbit, until he finds his niche as a champion trotter.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Dad Thinks He's Funny


My Dad thinks he s funny. Whenever I say, I m hungry, Dad says, Hello Hungry. Pleased to meet you. My Dad thinks he's funny. But he's not.

This is a great book to read to help children understand the little idiosyncricies of language. It totally nails dads and the funny things they like to say.  When I read it to my class we talked about each page: what he said, what he meant, what other meaning it could have, etc. Then we read it all over again and they really enjoyed it. The more you read this book the more kids would get it.

I think it would be especially good for children where English isn't their first language.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Do Not Feed the Boy (Irene Latham)

Don't Feed the Boy

This was an interesting read for me. I almost didn't finish it. It really didn't grab me for about the first 80 pages. Page 81 was where it really got interesting.

Here is the summary from GoodReads:

No kid knows more about zoo life than Whit. That's because he sleeps, eats and even attends home-school at the Meadowbrook Zoo. It's one of the perks of having a mother who's the zoo director and a father who's the head elephant keeper. Now that he's eleven, Whit feels trapped by the rules and routine of zoo life. With so many exotic animals, it's easy to get overlooked. But when Whit notices a mysterious girl who visits every day to draw the birds, suddenly the zoo becomes much more interesting. Who is the Bird Girl? And why does she come by herself to the zoo? Determined to gain her trust, Whit takes the Bird Girl on his own personal tour of the zoo. He shows her his favorite animals and what happens with them behind the scenes. For Whit, having a friend his own age that he can talk to is an exciting new experience. For Stella the Bird Girl, the zoo and Whit are a necessary escape from her chaotic home life. Together they take risks in order to determine where it is they each belong. But when Stella asks Whit for an important and potentially dangerous favor, Whit discovers how complicated friendship and freedom-- can be.

I don't think this book would be a great one for my current grade 3 class, nor for book club. The book focuses on issues that are a little older than my kids. Whit develops a friendship with Stella that is a little obsessive. He also makes some really bad choices. Although, discussing the things he did would be quite interesting in book club.

Other interesting topics:

  • zoos - ethical or not?
  • Whit's mom is the main breadwinner in the family and has a job where her husband reports to her. Not a common theme in books. The dads aren't the strong patriarchal types - Stella's dad is unemployed because of an accident and doesn't do anything but sit in his chair, and Whit's dad is an elephant keeper.
  • Rebelling against your parents and keeping secrets from your parents.
  • drug use (Stella's dad appears to be addicted to prescription drugs because of an accident)
  • running away (Stella's brother has run away after a confrontation with dad, Stella runs away and Whit leaves the zoo, something which is forbidden)
  • homeschooling versus bricks and mortar schooling (Whit is homeschooled and is quite lonely for friends his age)
  • learning to be happy with what he have (Whit lives in a zoo! Who wouldn't love that? But he doesn't love it)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pingo (Brandon Mull)


Love this book! Pingo is Chad's imaginary friend. However, he gets to an age where he decides he's too old for imaginary friends. That doesn't necessarily mean Pingo ceases to exist.

What happens when your imaginary friend turns into your imaginary enemy?
Are imaginary friends actually real?
"Pingo teaches children that imagination has no

limits and no age. Brandon Mull and Brandon

Dorman have created a lovable, mischievous,

and memorable character. Move over, Tigger,

make some room, Hobbes Pingo is coming

and bursting with imagination!"Chris

Schoebinger, Product Director, Shadow


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Everything On It (Shel Silverstein)

Every Thing on It

I never met a Shel Silverstein book I didn't like....until now. This one is really not up to the caliber of his other poetry books.

Enemy Pie (Derek Munson)

Enemy Pie

This is a great story about a boy who discovers his neighbor isn't that bad, and actually, can be a great friend!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

An Everlasting Meal (Tamar Adler)


I love this book. It's a recipe book in the form of a chapter book. It's one of those books that is like how Grandma would have taught you to cook. Tamar Adler starts off with how to boil water. She talks about the great things that can be done with water and how one meal leads into another meal. Her ideas are practical, frugal and sound absolutely delicious. She is a master of knowing what herbs to add, how to add oil and veggies to make any sandwich amazing, and more.

My big take away from this read is to have a bunch of vegetables that you bake and use those throughout the week. I have tried it a couple times. Her suggestions need a little refining (er, perhaps expanding) to work for me. The first time I did it I bought a bunch of vegetables and baked them up in 3 big corning ware rectangle dishes. My family ate them all up in one sitting. So much for a week's worth! Then again, it might have been the novelty of it all. I'm not daunted. I will try it again. Well worth it.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westbro Baptist Church (Lauren Drain)

I had that same guilty feeling reading this book that I get when I drive by and really crane my neck to check out a bad accident. This book is a sad tale of a twisted religion. The author is still recovering from growing up with a father who emotionally abused his daughter, a mother who never stands up to her husband, and a group of religious fanatics who allowed the to join their closed circle. I hope Lauren Drain can get the counselling she needs. The tie abused people have to their abusers is readily apparent in this story. It is quite fascinating. She ends up getting kicked out for questioning.

I find the clever ways the Westboro Baptist Church uses the law to spread hate and fear a sad reality of the US constitution. I hope their organization continues to have people question and leave.

Here is a video with her parents talking about banishment.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Great Blog Posts

Here are some great blog posts I have read this week.

  • Nerdy Book Club does it again. The problem with reading that blog is that it leads me to other people's blogs, and next thing you know I have a handful more added to my feed list. Good problem! I was inspired by this guy's idea to read all the books at the library to his son. I don't think I could try to do that with our public library. They add books too often. t made me wonder if I could read every book in our school's library!
  • I use a lot of websites as reviews - but have also learned you have to be careful too. You can't believe everything you read. This post shows that so well! Turns out it is a regular feature on this blog. Oh oh! Another one to subscribe to. 
  • Here is another one of those lists of great books kids should read. Sme of them are a little too complex for my Gr. 3 kids, but a great resource for sure!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Quiet (Susan Cain)

Since I couldn't wait until I had finished the whole book to start talking about it, I wrote about this book on my other blog already.

There are a few things I can add though.


It was refreshing to read this book. It made me realize I don't need to feel guilty about my need for quiet. I was reminded of when our family moved to the city. We had lived on an acreage up until I was in Gr. 6. When we moved to the city kids would call after school and invite me to play. I clearly remember hiding to avoid the invitations. I just wanted some time to myself.

I also found myself having to hide, sometimes, to enjoy some of the things I truly enjoy, like reading. I remember well being at family reunions and having people grab my book away and say, "What are you doing?!" Clearly reading wasn't socially acceptable in that situation. So, instead, I would find ways to steal away and read now and then without people noticing. I still do it as an adult, actually.

In our society, we tend to lean towards idolizing the extrovert ways. This book does a great job of showing the value of being an introvert and talks about how extroverts would do well to learn some of the quiet skills that come naturally to introverts.

It isn't just in family situations where this occurs in my adult life either. My kids are swimmers. A lot of our extra time gets absorbed in our swimming world. When we first started I quite enjoyed sitting and visiting with other parents at practices or at meets. After a few years, however, a "new cool" group started to rise. They volunteer a lot (that's good...we need people to be involved), they sit together and cheer for everyone in the club (that is nice), they have tail gate parties in the parking lot (that's's a free world, right?), they wear matching t-shirts (still not sure why), and they are loud and much so that I find myself saying, "I'm out!" Recently, at an out of town meet, I went for a walk and could hear one loud gregarious member of this group even after walking for 15 minutes....this guy is loud! I have  found this group to be rather overwhelming. If I'm totally honest, I have to say I don't want to be part of that crowd at all. After reading this book, I understand why. It's not that they're so bad to hang around, it's just too much for me. I like our swimming friends, but I also need space. While some of them are pretty happy to have their lives quite intertwined together, I have another world, besides my swimming world, that I want to be in.

I really liked how the author addressed the need for situational extroversion and the need to plan for time to re-energize if all that extroversion doesn't come naturally to you. You don't have to be a banker or a statistician if you're an introvert. Nor do you have to avoid jobs where you interact with people a lot if you tend towards being introverted.

She also talked about how to parent or work with kids who are introverts, and how to help them learn to live happily amongst extroverts.

All in all, a great book!

Sarah's Key (Tatiana de Rosnay)


Goodreads Summary:

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.
Paris, May 2002: On Vel' d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

This book totally captivated me.  I found myself being totally irritated when things came up that interrupted the story. "What??! You want something to eat right now??! Can't you make your own sandwich??!"

Julia Jarmond finds herself pregnant in this story. I think that was one reason I was so struck by the story. She is older, her husband does not want another child, but she does desperately. I remember feeling that way when I was pregnant with Destiny. Only it wasn't that my husband didn't want a baby, it was that I was so torn. I was excited, but unsure that I wanted to start over again. Then, when our baby was stillborn, I felt so guilty for ever being unsure.

It's interesting how stories touch your own emotions and mesh with your own story. Somehow the well crafted words that created images of the soldiers tearing Jewish children away from their mothers felt like it felt when Destiny was stillborn and all the possibilities of another child in our family were torn away.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Great Blog Posts

Here are some great blog posts I read this week:

  • I read the Nerdy Book Club posts daily. Love that blog! I especially enjoyed reading about this blogger's read aloud experiences. I'm so excited to read books out loud to my class this year! I've got it all planned. 
  • Kate DiCamillo is amazing. She recently won The Kerlan Award (which I really knew nothing about previous to watching the video). I loved this video. She has a great sense of humor. She provides some great insight into the work required to write. I also loved the banter between her and the other people there. I'll definitely be reading some more of her books to my Gr. 3's this year!
  • I have come across many posts about planning read alouds. I have ever put that much thought into it, but these posts made me think maybe I should be a little more thoughtful about it! I'm really excited to embark on some read alouds. All of this has made me think that perhaps we should be talking about this more in our school to get other teachers excited about read alouds! Check out this post,  or this article, or this post with its great list of suggestions. I put all the ones I haven't read on hold! I would agree.....humor makes for a great read aloud. 
  • This is kind of a fun website. I'm always googling lists of books kids should read when it is time to pick a new book club book. You can share your results from these lists on Facebook and then get your friends to see how many they've read.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Great Blog Posts

Here are some great blog posts I read this week:

  • I've been running across posts by different people who attended NerdCampBC. Looks quite intriguing. They had about 150 people attend. They start with a blank slate, visit and mingle and eventually some people volunteer to lead sessions and then people sign up for those sessions. What a risk eh?! I spent quite a bit of time on A Year of Reading's post about the conference. She had a number of links to things she learned there! Here are the slides from Donalyn Miller's presentation on Reading in the 21st Century. I get to do a presentation on The Book Whisperer and the info in her presentation will be quite helpful! As I kept digging I found an even more amazing link. This link has all the sessions with a link in each that takes you to the notes from that session! Wow!! 
  • I found a list of authors who will skype for free! Boy, if we could have an author skype with us for a book club session....yowza!! That would be so fun!
  • Mrs. Biggs has some great questions in her get to know you questionnaire. I'd like to do a little revising of the one we use. Her post is a great start!
  • I've been mulling over what goals I should have for my professional development this year and I'm leaning towards focusing on formative feedback, especially with writing. This post reminded me of that again. I loved her thoughts about being careful to not look too much at the neatness or perfectly organized paragraphs - but at the content. I learned a lot about that while marking PATs this year. Must remember that as the school year continues! I need to find a good book or expert to use as a study this year to keep myself focused.
  • I believe that teachers should be readers. I am a bit like a religious zealot. In my heart I have a great desire to get other people to read. I loved this Nerdy Book Club post, which expressed so well, the importance of reading kids books. This is going to be a part of my presentation in October, for sure!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Day The Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt)

The Day the Crayons Quit

You know, I've never thought about how crayons feel about what we use them for. This book is hilarious and makes you think of things from a whole new perspective. As a matter of fact, it would be a great story to introduce the concept of perspective or voice! Every crayon has his/her own character that, when I was reading it, I said, "Hey! I bet blue (or green or red or whatever) would really feel that way" ...especially those poor naked crayons who had their paper torn off! It might also be fun to read at the beginning of the school year when kids are opening up all their new supplies. I'd read the story and remind them to take really good care of their supplies because you never know how they're feeling!

Seriously, this book will make you laugh out loud.

Here is the GoodReads summary:

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.
What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Never Forgotten Doll (Lisa McCourt, Jack Canfield, Mary O'Keefe Young)

Chicken Soup for Little Souls: The Never-Forgotten Doll

Chicken Soup for the Soul is at it again. They hit every niche it seems.

I wasn't that impressed.

The story is nice, but it isn't one of those books that you read and think, "Wow!" It tells the story alright. It's not that kid friendly. The pictures are realistic, but not really compelling.

This book is a real lesson in that writing a kid's book is hard. You have only a few words to use to tell the story well. This one is great story, but not a great picture book.

Here is the GoodReads summary:

When Miss Maggie, the best babysitter ever, reflects warmly upon the delicate doll she received many years before on her eighth birthday, young Ellie, her charge, embarks on an odyssey of generosity, determination, and caring, as she tries to give her friend a gift of enduring happiness. Full color.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Great Blog Posts

  • How To Conquer Your To Do List attracted me because my summer is slowly slipping away and I really need to get organized so I accomplish some desperately needed tasks before I am back to the mad world of full schedules. I have Evernote on my iPad, so I started using it, and even downloaded it to my phone. I'll get back to you on whether or not I love it yet.
  • I found a kindred spirit at Read, Write, Reflect. I live her posts on conferences she has attended this summer. She did some summer reading workshops and book clubs for her students! I especially loved her post on reading logs. This is a must- read blog, for sure. 
  • This post, about The Match Box Diary, got me thinking about kids and journals and fun ways to record history. It would be a fun book to read and do an activity on family history. You could use this idea in the classroom too. I can imagine making 10 matchboxes and then each month, choosing something to go into the matchbox to represent a special memory from that month. It would also make a great memory for a family reunion. Grandparents could prepare 10 matchboxes and throughout the reunion kids could pick a match box and listen to the story told that goes with it. Matchboxes are not that common anymore, but you could make your own origami match boxes. This could also be a fun thing to add to our Star Student presentations.
  • This post reminded me that I need to do more writing. 
  • In my school we have a wonderful program that truly gives kids a great foundation to be great decodes and fluent readers. Every class has a rotating list parent volunteers that come in and read with children each week. We don't do that so much in Gr. 3 because they are usually quite fluent by then. However, 
  • This post, from There's a Book For That, got me thinking that perhaps I should still be having volunteers do that - but to with the regular "decodables", with regular picture books linked to our learning. Hmmmmmmmm......
  • And this has nothing to do with books, but Lara's post reminded me that the really important things in life are often fleeting and can suddenly be taken away. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

City Dog, Country Frog (Mo Willems)

City Dog, Country Frog

I love this book! I love dogs. And the dog in this book is a typical lovable, fun dog.  The illustrations look like water color paints. They're simple and beautiful.

Here's the GoodReads summary:

In spring, when City Dog runs free in the country for the first time, he spots Country Frog sitting on a rock, waiting for a friend. "You'll do," Frog says, and together they play Country Frog games. In summer, they meet again and play City Dog games. Through the seasons, whenever City Dog visits the country he runs straight for Country Frog's rock. In winter, things change for City Dog and Country Frog. Come spring, friendship blooms again, a little different this time.

This would be a great book to use in Grade One when studying seasons in science.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Timmy Failure Mistakes Were Made (Stephan Pastis)

Recently I was talking with some teachers and the topic of graphics novels came up. They figured the poor state of children's writing skills was partially due to the graphic novels that are becoming so popular. I was a little perplexed. I have read a few and haven't been bothered by how they are written (which is a little unlike how I felt about Geronimo Stilton books after reading a couple of those!) I mentioned that, while I aim certainly no graphics novel expert, there certainly are some that are pretty darn good actually. You can find a graphic novel version of a lot of different books! ...even classics! The person I was talking with admitted he hadn't read any. That was kind of where I smugly ended the conversation. I was feeling pretty proud for having read a few.

That is basically what led me to read this one. Although, I must admit, this one was a little painful! Good thing it is a quick read. I don't think I could endure the silliƱess for too long.....but I do think it is right up the alley of your average Gr. 3 child - so I am certainly glad I took the hour or so it took to speed read it.

Timmy Failure is a pretty obtuse, funny kid. Even a grumpy old lady like me had to chuckle now and then. Definitely a perfect book for my Gr. 3 kids. It has crazy humor throughout. The vocab is pretty challenging for a student that age, I'd say - but I would kids would work through it because they'd be caught up in the silly humor. Donalyn Miller, on her GoodReads review suggested this might be a great book to practice inferring skills. She's right! A lot of times Timmy, the self-proclaimed great detective, overlooks clues. Great opportunity for inferring!!

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green)

The Fault in Our Stars
The main character in this book loves reading and the story is centered around her love of a book: An Imperial Affliction. I loved this quote:

p. 33: My favorite book, by a wide margin, was An Imperial Affliction, but I didn't like to tell people about it. Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. And then there are books like An Imperial Affliction which you can't tell people about, books so special and rare and yours that advertising your affection feels like betrayal.
It wasn't even that the book was so good or anything; it was just that the author, Peter Van Houten, seemed to understand me in weird and impossible ways. An Imperial Affliction was my book, in the way my body was my body and my thoughts were my thoughts.
The author has a great way with words and there were many times where I had to pause and chew on the words a little longer to truly appreciate them.

And to get a little philosophical - I think the underlying message in this book could be that we need to write our own stories. She tries to find out how An Imperial Affliction should end - but is unable. (I loved how Peter Van Houten was portrayed, by the way....shocking and ridiculous and pathetic). In the end, she really should have written how the story should end....just as she writes how her story will end.

I have a confession though: I didn't cry.
I know. I have no heart.
I do, however, think it's really really good. You should read it.

Augustus: He's seldom seen without a cigarette.And by the way that just a metaphor.

"You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing."

P. 157 Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom. And in freedom, most people find sin.

I found this on GoodReads. I have no idea who made it, but it's a great summary of wonderful things to remember about this book.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chrysanthemum (Kevin Henkes)


This book would go well with Rump by Leisel Shirtliff.
Read July 16, 2013

Reread August 31, 2017 - we read this book on the first day of school. Kids really related to the teasing and could relate to how Chrysanthemum felt. For homework, the students wrote a paragraph about their name. Why did their parents choose it? What does it mean? etc.

Goodreads summary:

She was a perfect baby, and she had a perfect name. Chrysanthemum. When she was old enough to appreciate it, Chrysanthemum loved her name. And then she started school. "I'm named after my grandmother," said Victoria. "You're named after a flower." Chrysanthemum wilted. Life at school didn't improve. In fact, it got worse. Then the students were introduced to their music teacher, Mrs. Twinkle. Mrs. DelphiniumTwinkle. And suddenly, Chrysanthemum blossomed

This book would go well with Rump by Leisel Shurtliff

Reading With Dad (Richard Jorgensen)

Reading with Dad

This book made me miss my dad. My dad wasn't really a big reader and he didn't read with me, but the book is so touching. It stirs up warm feelings. It reminds me of Love you Forever by Robert Munsch. This book made me think I need to do more reading with my kids. They're quite independent readers and often don't want to read books aloud with me because it takes longer. However, when we do do it they don't want to stop. I need to do that more.

Monday, July 15, 2013

How Full Is Your Bucket (Tom Rath and Donald O Clifton)

How Full Is Your Bucket? Positive Strategies for Work and Life

This is one of those books I should read every 6 months or so. It's simply written, so it wouldn't be hard to read it. It has some great reminders though. Sometimes it's easy to get on a negative trend - and this book is a great reminder to simply just be more positive and kind to people. There are also great lessons in the back that could be used for family night lessons, or in school. Definitely on to keep in easy reach.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Great Blog Posts

I read a lot of different blogs about reading. Here are some great posts I read this week:

  • Jen Robinson posted a challenge to read aloud 15 minutes a day. The more I know kids the more I know how important that is. Mine are 11 and 14. I'm going to try to read aloud each day with both of them this summer after reading her great post
  • Top 10 Ways to Turn Your Classroom into a Hotbed of Enthusiastic Readers made me feel good - like I'm on the right track.
  • Lost in My Work made me feel great too. I find myself, in the summer, wanting to discuss books with kids. Everytime I brought up the idea about doing a summer book club most teachers I talked to told me I was crazy and that the kids deserved a break. Thankfully my admin is much more supportive. To me, summer is a great time for more reading, not a time to take a vacation from it!
  • I'm a real fan of Donalyn Miller and The Book Whisperer. I found out she hosts a monthly twitter chat with Colby Sharp, another blogger I follow. I really have to figure out how to get in the game with twitter!