Sunday, June 30, 2013

Nokum is my Teacher (David Bouchard)

I love David Bouchard. I have listened to him speak a few times and love his passion for books and reading. He is native and writes books in French, English and Cree. He might have some other languages too. I just have a hard time keeping track of them.

Cover Art for Nokum is my teacher

This book has a CD. I loved listening to David Bouchard read it. The voice of his Nokum (grandmother) was a little odd to me - but then again, quite a typical native style. He is talking to his grandmother about why he should go to school and learn to read since she did not and is perfectly happy. She guides him to finding his own answer.

The paintings in this book are beautiful. The words are beautiful. There is so much to  this book. 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Witch?

Here we thought the problem was taken care of! Today, on the way to swim practice, we someone who we're sure is a witch!

Who wears black gloves in the middle of summer??! I'm thinking she didn't have her wig on either and that's why she's wearing a hat. We tried to see her nostrils but couldn't get close enough.

Be careful children!!

Prisoners in the Promised Land (Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch)

Good Reads sums the story up like this:

Anya and her family have made a difficult journey to Canada in search of a new life. But soon after they arrive in the land they hoped would welcome them, World War I is declared, and Ukrainians are considered “enemy aliens” — many of them sent away to internment camps. Anya must find a way to deal with the challenges in the land she now calls home.

This is the first of the Dear Canada series I have read. I was pleasantly surprised at how enlightening it was. It sounded like it was quite historically accurate and it was written in a way that made the story very compelling. I would definitely recommend it. I plan to read more books from this series this summer!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Oh no! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) (Mac Barnett)

Oh No!: Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World

It's a terrible thing when a giant robot starts destroying your city.

The  unnamed girl in this story has created a robot that is terrorizing everyone.

I can see kids reading this book and loving it. What kid doesn't imagine that they couldn't create a robot? Everyone does! And if things went terribly wrong, they'd just fix it, of course. And this time they're saved by a frog!

There aren't a lot of words, but just enough to tell the story perfectly. These are the type of illustration that kids will sit and look for long periods of time.

I'm a little afraid this might turn into a Disney movie though. It's made by Disney Hyperion books. Never heard of that.

The World Belongs To You (Riccardo Bozzi)

The World Belongs to You

This is a great book for the end of a school year. Funny thing that I picked it up and ended up reading it today on the last day of school. The message (which is well tied up with words and pictures) is very simple, yet very poignant. It could be a great starting point for some interesting discussions. It would be a great end of year gift or a gift f or someone going on to a new step in life.

Mossy (Jan Brett)

Cover Art for Mossy

Mossy is truly a beautiful book. It is a story about a turtle that has moss and flowers growing on it's shell (does that really happen?). She is caught by a biologist and taken to a museum so everyone can see her. However, Mossy is sad and soon the people who care start to realize this. In the end they discover a win-win resolution.

I love how when children read books they soak up all the information in the pictures without saying a thing. I found myself doing that with this book. It would be an interesting book to read prior to visiting the zoo and having a discussion about zoos keeping animals, especially if you accompanied this book with one about the wonderful things that zoos do for animals.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The BFG (Roald Dahl)

We read this book in my Grade 3 class this past month. One of the worst things about school being cancelled this past week was I worrying about how were we going to finish our novel study! We had to scrap painting the huge giants on looooooong paper - but we did finally get to finish reading it today. We started our half day of school today with finishing this book.

I had never read The BFG, but my colleagues love the it and so I was looking forward to reading. My own children, who have each gone through Roald Dahl phases, were not fans of this book. The BFG talks strangely and makes up words and I wonder if those long and tricky words were what turned them off. I think it is a terrific read aloud. I will have to try to get them to read it aloud with me this summer!

This story is about a girl who is stolen by a giant. He is a friendly giant though. He spends his time bottling dreams, and blowing good dreams into sleeping children's minds. However, there are other giants who aren't quite as kind and they eat children! Sophie, an orphan, realizes something must be done and she and The BFG work together to come up with a plan. My class had a lot of good laughs over things in this story. It was a delight to read together!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Town Like Alice (Neville Shute)

This is one of those books that was good to read for book club, or I likely would have never finished it. I found the story quite intriguing, but the way it was presented was never really satisfying. I didn't think there was enough descriptive detail of her experiences in the war, the narrator for the story didn't seem to have enough detail or insight into feelings and experiences, and in the romantic parts, there really wasn't any romance. It was odd. I am not sure if it is because it was first published in 1949, and maybe that was just the style then, or perhaps it is because it is a British author? Not sure. There were unanswered questions too: whatever happened to the little boy she looked after after his mother died? There is no mention of him again. I also found the organization of the story odd. Paragraphs ended in strange places. The story is told by the man who manages the main character's inheritance (surely an unmarried woman couldn't do that herself!) The narration would start up again and it would take me a bit to realize we were jumping back from the story to the narrator's perspective.

The story starts off in the war. A group of women and children are taken captive by the Japanese, only they don't leave them in a prison camp. They don't seem to know what to do with them so they march them for hundreds and hundreds of miles. Many die in the process. The narrator mentions how many have told stories of the atrocities of prison camps, but none have really told the story of those who would have fathered been in a prison camp than marched for months at a time. It is s bizarre, and apparently true story.

The woman comes home to England and after a few years discovers she has been left an inheritance. She decides to return to Malay (Malaysia) to repay some of the kindnesses she received from villagers while marching. From there she decides to go to Australia to see how a man she met in the war has survived, that is, after she discovers he in fact did not die after the Japanese attempted to crucify him.

I really did like the main character in this story: Jean Paget. She is strong and resourceful and willing to work. She is patient and sensible. She becomes a leader everywhere she goes, which I found ate inspiring. I would like to be a woman like her!

I felt like this book took me forever to read. I wasn't taken by the writing style. I really had to force myself to pay attention or I would totally lose track of the story.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Marty McGuire (Kate Messner/Brian Floca)

I read this book because it has been chosen by The Global Read Aloud for the book for the fall of 2013.  I really like Kate Messner. Strangely though, this is the first of her books that I have read! I read her blog all the time. She does a summer writing program for teachers online and I have stood on the sidelines watching it for a couple years (really should jump on the wagon).

Marty McGuire is a great little book. It's about a girl in Grade 3 who is a bit of a tom-boy. There are more Marty McGuire books too - which will be great for my Grade 3 kids next year. I plan to read this one aloud to them, perhaps connect with some other classrooms somewhere in the world to have a follow up activity, and hopefully, my kids will want to read more Marty McGuire books!

This story is about a school play. Marty, who is nothing close to a princess type girl, gets cast as the princess in the school play. The play is the Frog Prince and Marty surprises everyone with a REAL frog during the performance. There are lots of laughs for the reader in this book. I love how she narrates the story, her name calling and trickery. It's really a lot of fun!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

That Book Woman (Heather Henson illustrated by David Small)


I put this book on hold first because it is illustrated by David Small. I love so many books he has illustrated: The Library, The UnderneathWhen Dinosaurs Came With Everything and Imogene's Antlers. I seriously love books he is involved with!

That Book Woman seemed a little put-offish at first. The language is kind of tricky for kids:

My folks and me-
we live way up
as up can get.
So high
we hardly sight
a soul -
'cept hawks
a-winging in the sky
and critters
hid among the trees.

However, it kind of grows on you, and in the end I thought, this is a book kids need to learn to enjoy because it has a great message!

The story is about a lady who brings books to a family that lives out in the boondocks. Turns out there really were people who did this in Kentucky back in the 1930's to help increase literacy. The boy in the story talks about how odd she is and how he doesn't have time to looking at chicken scratch in books, but eventually he becomes curious. He wonders what could be so fascinating - and that is the beginning of him getting hooked on reading.

I'm all for any book that talks about getting hooked on reading!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Runaway King (Jennifer Nielsen)


I'm not even sure what to say about this book, except, it's great!

The Runaway King is the second in The Ascendance Trilogy. The first book, The False Prince, was terrific as well. It's always nice when there's a series where the second book is even better than the first. I sure wish the 3rd book was going to out before March 2014!

I've really enjoyed these books. The author is great at twists that keep you surprised and wondering about what will happen next. It's one of those books that you need to read in one sitting - although I painfully stretched it out over a few weeks. A number of my students have been reading it at the same time and it's been fun to compare notes and make predictions with them.

In this book Jaron (or Sage, as he was formerly called) is King. I think I always will prefer to call him Sage. He's more like a king that is one of the people when you think of him as Sage. He  has to battle those wanting to remove him from the throne. Jaron/Sage is witty, quick, daring and kind. I really liked him as the main character.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Frindle (Andrew Clements)

I first loved this book because it is illustrated by Brian Selznick, the author and illustrator of The Invention of Hugo Cabret. There are many other things to love about the book though.

The story is about a boy who tends towards trouble. He decides to get under his new English teacher's skin by inventing a new word for 'pen'. He calls it a 'frindle'. Mrs. Granger, his English teacher, will have none of this nonsense going on in her school, and she does all she can to stop it. However, you can't come to a gun fight with a sword and expect to make a big difference. The power of the new word continues on, despite her attempts to stop it. It becomes big, really big!

We had lots of laughs with this book. I read it aloud to my class. We even starting using the word in our class!

Apparently, this happened in real life! The book says that the word 'quiz' was made up by someone on a whim. I googled it, and found the same info. It must be true then, right?! Well, then again, I did another google search and found this. Too bad. The tale fits well with the story.

This one is definitely worth reading. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Boy Who Cried Ninja (Alex Latimer)

This is one of those books where kids get together and roll their eyes at the adults in their lives. Adults just don't get it!

This is a twist on the boy who cried wolf. Time has a great fantasy life. Well, everyone assumes it is fantasy.

This book would be a great way to start into a discussion about telling the truth.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Two Bad Ants (Chris Van Allsburg)

Chris Van Alsberg is one of my favorites. I read this to my class this week and realized I haven't read them any of his books this year! Time to change that.

We have ants in our classroom.  This is a big distraction! I decided to turn it into a learning experience. We catch them and put them in a Ziploc back and study them. We've also read books about ants!

Two Bad Ants is hilarious. It is about two ants who decide to leave their home and venture into a kitchen. They find some wonderful crystals (sugar!) and soon become addicted to them. Getting out of the kitchen isn't easy either. Seeing the adventure from the ants perspective is something the kids in my class loved.

Bring on the ants! We love having them in our classroom.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Running Dream (Wendelin Van Draanen)

I read this book because my daughter really wanted me to. She said she laughed. She cried. She really loved it. I wasn't really interested in it, but figured sometimes it's a good idea to read something because your kids love it and you want to find out what they're loving.

Teach Mentor Texts also loved it. Check out her review here.

The story is about a girl who is a runner.  Her track team is traveling home from a meet and gets into an accident. One teammate is killed, the driver of the other vehicle is killed, and Jessica, the main character of this story, loses a leg. It took me a while to get into it. The beginning of the story is just a lot of pain and doctors and misery. Apparently this type of genre though, is a new obsession with teens these days. I'm glad to hear this new obsession. It beats the vampire trend!

(p. 20, Part I, Chapter 9)

A thin curtain separates me from the moans of my new neighbor. It smells sickly in here now. Like diarrhea and disinfectant.

My flowers are dropping and dropping petals. The balloons are sagging too, losing air. It's like they're tired of trying to cheer me up. Like they want me to give up too.

There have been so many calls, but I don't want to talk.

Not to anyone.

I can see why my daughter loved this book. It was inspiring to see how the girl fought through the challenges, found ways to overcome the accident, and rallied with her team to become a runner again.

Jessica becomes friends with a girl named Rosa who has cerebral palsy. Rosa is in Jessica's math class and helps her catch up on concepts she struggles with. The friendship with Jessica and Rosa is touching and reminds me of Wonder. When she first returns to school, Jessica is in a wheelchair and of course, doesn't fit in a regular desk.

(p. 106 Part II Chapter 12)

"There's plenty of room at that table," Ms. Rucker says without looking over her shoulder.

Inside, I panic.
Yes, I'm missing a leg, but the rest of me is...well, it's normal.
Do people think I'm special-needs now?
Is that how they see me?

No! They can't!

But...but if I start sitting with special-needs kids, that is what people will think.

It just is.

Ms. Rucker turns and give me a cool, blank look.

She wants an answer.

My mind is a flurry of contradictions. I want to lie and say I'm nearsighted. That I need to be up front in my own chair. That I hop just fine.

But I also think about my terror in returning to school. Feeling like a freak.

Is that how Rosa feels?

I've never stared at her, but I have....overlooked her.

No-the truth is, I've totally acted like she isn't there.

It's been easier.

Less uncomfortable.

For me.

"Sure," I tell Ms. Rucker. I'd be happy to sit with Rosa."

I loved her descriptions about why she loves running when people wonder. A lot of people think it's really boring. It reminded me of my daughter. People often ask her why she likes swimming. All that back and forth and back and forth must be quite boring, they say.

That's the funny thing about running. The deceptive thing about it. It may seem mindless, but it's really largely mental. If the mind's not strong, the body acts weak, even if it's not. If the mind says it's too cold or too rainy or too windy to run, the body will be more than happy to agree. If the mind says it would be better to rest or recover or cut practice, the body will  be glad to oblige.

Another great quote:

(page 314, Part V, chapter  12)

It's disturbing how fast weeds take root in my garden of worthiness.

They're hard to pull.

And grow back so easily.

It's interesting how we make connections to books. I asked my daughter why she cried in it and she listed a bunch of things that weren't the reasons I cried (yes, it did make me cry). I was really touched by the math teacher showing up to the race the girl runs at the end of the book. That whole teacher-student connection really touched me.

(page 321, Part V, chapter 14)

But there's a woman approaching us. She's wearing a TEAM ROSA shirt, but she's not a cross-country runner.

She's a math teacher.

"Ms. Rucker?" Fiona and I say together.

She's wearing running shorts and tightly laced yellow and black Sauconys.

And a racing bib.

Number 27.

But it's her bare legs that are somehow shocking to see.

"Hi, girls," she says. "I just wanted to wish you good luck."

"You're a runner?" Fiona asks.

Ms. Rucker gives her a little shrug. "In my private life, yes."

"Wow," Fiona says.

I'm noticing Ms. Rucker's watch-it's a serious runner's watch. And her shorts have little pouches built in-I can see the tops of energy gels peeking out from both sides of her hips.

I wonder how she calculates her pace-with her watch or with her brain.

I wonder if she thinks in numbers the whole way.

If she counts her steps.

But despite all the indications that she's a machine, her shirt isn't made of that fancy sweat-wicking technical fabric that would be on par with the rest of her gear.

It's cotton, and more than just a little too big.

"Thanks for wearing the T-shirt," I tell her.

She smiles, first at me, then at Rosa.

It's an amazing sight.

Warm, and a little bit shy.

"Proud to wear it," she says, then moves away. "Run strong," she says. "I'll see you at the finish line."

I watch her go.

Run strong...

I decide right then that that'll be my mantra for this race.