Sunday, January 27, 2013

The One and Only Ivan


Some books are worth reading again and again. This one is one of those. I read it a couple months ago and blogged about it here. I was impressed with it then. This time, though, it has caught a hold of my heart. When I read it the first time I thought it was a 'cute' story. Now, however, I have a bit of a reverence for it. Katherine Applegate has done an amazing job of using simple language to express big ideas. This book would make a great novel study.

The story seems to run along tickety boo, and then Stella, the elephant dies. Events unfold, causing Ivan to be thoughtful about his life's experiences....just like what happens to people. Part of the story touched me so much I had to stop and put the book down for a moment to take a minute to reflect, along with Ivan.

p. 129 Somehow I knew that in order to live, I had to let my old life die. But my sister could not let go of our home. It held her like a vine, stretching across the miles, comforting, strangling.
We were still in our crate when she looked at me without seeing, and I knew that the vine had finally snapped."

Wow....the vine snapped. Amazing visual!

And, like a true gifted entertainer, the author had me laughing a few pages later:

p. 136 While Mack and Helen were busy in the living room, I wandered into the kitchen. A cake covered in thick chocolate frosting sat on the counter.
I like cake - love it, in fact - but it wasn't eating I was thinking about. It was painting.
The frosting peaked and dipped like waves on a tiny pond. It looked rich and gooey, dark and smooth.
It looked like mud.

....he takes the icing and starts painting with it on the refrigerator door, continuing until he's used every bit of the frosting.

Then you turn the page and it says:

p. 138 I soon learned that humans can screech even louder than monkeys.

After that I was never allowed in the kitchen.

Great quotes:

p. 8 Sadly, I cannot read...Once, however, I was able to enjoy a book left in my domain by one of my keepers.
It tasted like a termite.

p. 2 Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peel and leave them to rot.
Everyone knows peels are the best part

p. 27 Stella loves the moon, with its untroubled smile. I love the feel of the sun on my belly.

She says, "It is quite a belly, my friend," and I say, "Thank you, and so is yours."

p. 31 They think I'm too old to cause trouble," Stella says.
"Old age," she says, "Is a powerful disguise."

p. 32 Humans do seem to enjoy watching me eat. Luckily I'm always hungry.
I am a gifted eater.

p. 43 Homework, I have discovered, involves a sharp pencil and thick books and long sighs.
I enjoy chewing pencils. I'm sure I would excel at homework.

p. 60 Humans always smell odd when change is in the air.
Like rotten meat, with a hunt of papaya.

p. 66 Bob, who has been chewing his tail, pauses, tilting his head. "Is that a true story?"
"I always tell the truth," Stella replies. "Although I sometimes confuse the facts."

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Common Sense Media....please use common sense!

Common Sense Media is a website where you can get an idea of what others think of books, movies and tv shows. If you are concerned about a book your child has been asked to read you could get some information here.

I would caution you though, the best way to screen a book is to read it yourself. I did a search on The One and Only Ivan, a book I have found to be heart warming and wonderful. It was part of a Global Read Aloud where hundreds of classrooms participated in reading it at the same time. Really? Would hundreds upon hundreds of teachers agreed to read this book to their class if violence was a serious concern? I know, not all teachers make good choices - but this one is a pretty easy one! It's a great book.

 I would think there is absolutely nothing wrong with this book. It's a story about a gorilla, an elephant and a stray dog. However, on Common Sense Media it give it 3 points (dots?) for violence - which means it has a fair bit of violence.
If you took what this review says at face value you'd probably dismiss this book - and then you'd seriously miss out on an amazing story. It's not violent.

I ran into a similar problem with a book last year. In our Grade 3 book club we read Skellig. I had a parent come to me quite upset that we were reading this book. She hadn't read it, but had looked on Common Sense Media. It said the book was targeted to 11 year olds and she felt it was totally inappropriate for her child to be reading it. Funny thing was that at the time her child was reading the Harry Potter series. It was something everyone was proud of as this child was becoming such a great reader. On Common Sense Media it has ratings for the various Harry Potter books anywhere from age 8 to age 13. Harry Potter was okay but Skellig wasn't. Mom hadn't read either.

My point: Take the reviews with a grain of salt and do your own work. Read the book! Don't limit your child's experiences just because you're not willing to take the time to read the book.

Here's a great video I saw recently that touches on the value of children reading difficult things (oh, and did I mention The One and Only Ivan ISN'T full of difficult things at all??? Just wanted to be clear!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Judy Blume)


February 12, 2018:

We just read this for Grade 3 Book Club. Most of the students loved the book. It was definitely our best attended meeting. There were about 27 kids there. Interestingly, I just found out that yesterday was Judy Blume's birthday! We sent her a happy birthday tweet.

Most of the kids really liked the book. The few that rated it lower than 7 did so because they said it was just a little too crazy an attempt at humor. I thought that was quite insightful. One of the students read the entire Fudge series and it was great to hear her thoughts on it. She said the books get better as they go. I guess I'll have to read the rest.

From Jan 15, 2013:

I just finished reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing aloud to my class. It is laugh out loud, bust a gut stuff for 8 year olds. I read to my class while they're eating their lunches. I always dismiss kids first who want to use the washroom. The rest get their lunches and we start into the book. It's so fun to see how they really hurry down to the washroom and back because they don't want to miss any of the story.

This book is a number of vignettes about Peter and his little brother Fudge. Fudge is a pain in the neck to Peter. He's always getting in his stuff and wrecking things. Kids can totally relate to Peter because, even if they don't have a younger sibling, they've hung around little kids that are a pain.

Love this book!

Monday, January 14, 2013

What I'm Reading

What I'm Reading

It's been a great week of reading! Time for the Monday meme! I learned about this meme from other blogs I read. One of my favorites is SharpRead.
This week I need to finish Inkheart
Inkheart  Cover Image
The Gr. 3 kids chose The One and Only Ivan for our next book club selection, so I'm reading it again, and am very excited about it.  I predict that this is going to be a great discussion for book club.
I'm also reading The Time Keeper by Mitch Ablom. Well, sort of. I'm trying to track down a copy of that one! The library has a long long long list of holds.
What are you reading??!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Christmas Cookie Club (Ann Pearlman)


I am a book blog reader. Most of the books that get on my TBR pile are ones I read about on people's blogs. This one wasn't one of those. I just came across it at the library, suggested it to my book club friends, and it was a go. A big risk, if you ask me!

What I liked about it: I loved the focus in friendship amongst women. I loved a glimpse into a mother's life as she waits to hear if her daughter finally has a viable pregnancy. I loved how the women supported one another. I loved how they welcomed their differences. The book is interspersed with information about ingredients in the recipes, and the information relates to the women and their friendships. I also loved that the recipes they make are included. I love how they share their story about how they made or came to choose which cookies to make. It made me want to join a cookie exchange!

What I didn't like about it: there was a fair bit of language in the book that I was uncomfortable with. I don't really like books with cursing and vulgarities, and this had a bit of that. I also found myself uncomfortable with some of the difficult situations. I'm not claiming to be the perfect language user - but I just think it doesn't have to be in books. Snobbery?? I don't know.

I had to cringe through some parts of the story as the women talked about the challenges they were facing. One woman is having an affair with another's father (??!), one recently had her son die in an accident, one just lost her home, is struggling with unemployment and her husband walked out on her. I think it is interesting that I didn't like those parts of the story. They are just a normal part of life - but I am often afraid of the heartache of those kinds of situations and so I find myself wanting to close my eyes and pretend it isn't there. Maybe that isn't so good.

Some notable quotes:
p. 53 "People say to me, Too bad he didn't get to life his full life. You know, marry Jenny, maybe have children together, grow old together. All that. But now I wonder why we insist that a full life lasts 80 years and anything less is s cheat. That was his life. Those 27 years. It was his full life."
P. 73 sometimes I can't get my mind around the different versions of me, Marnie. And yet the friends who met the other adaptations of me through the decades are still a part of my current life. It is as though my friends give testimony to my history. Witnesses, when we are ok together, to my existence. I love them as I love myself in all my varieties and aspects. And I love them for the spectacular women they are, each in their own way.
P. 138 Love grows from bonds, not biology.
P. 230 I learned not to assume anything. I learned to fill my life up and live every moment. I also learned that love was useless if it wasn't forever and knew that nothing is forever except your children. And your girlfriends.
P. 270 People are mixes of ingredients, too. Each one is a combination of sugar and salt, of spiciness combined with sweetness that enhances both flavors. Our love and support is leavened with the nutrition of nuts and wheat, the sharpness of ginger and the opulence of vanilla, the headiness of chocolate - all plants, like people, which are rare and sometimes tricky to pollinate!