Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Fortunately, The Milk (Neil Gamon)

This book is by the same author that wrote Coraline. I like this one way more than Coraline!

I love this book. It is a real example of how even the simplest things in life can make a great story. In this story, a distracted father takes a quick trip to store for milk. You can't imagine the crazy things that happen to him while he's simply out getting milk! The fate of the Universe hangs in the balance. It's totally crazy, and his kids can hardly believe what he is telling them - but he has proof!! You will have to read the book to find out what the proof is.

This would make a great read aloud. It's funny and has lots of great illustrations. Love it!

Goodreads summary:

"I bought the milk," said my father. "I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road."

"Hullo," I said to myself. "That's not something you see every day. And then something odd happened."

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal, expertly told by Newbery Medalist and bestselling author Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Skottie Young

Monday, February 24, 2014

James and the Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)

Roald Dahl strikes again. Kids just love these books! It was the pick for this month of our Grade Three book club. I have read it before, but I decided I'd better read it again.

Once again, just like The Witches, I think the beginning of the story is beautiful and creative and fun - and as the story comes to a close it seems like Roald Dahl was just rushing ideas to just wrap it up. The ending happens so suddenly and is so bizarre...but then again, that's Roald Dahl!

I was happy the book club kids picked this book because Storybook Theatre is doing the play this month. I am very curious to see how they do the story!

I did enjoy how Roald Dahl made the bugs realistic. The earthworm was blind and was so proud of how all dirt came from him. The ladybug was a worry wart. The old-green-grasshopper is so proud of the music he can play, and quite taken back that anyone would think it odd to have ears on your legs.

I was a little surprised that Roald Dahl uses the word 'ass' as much as he does in this book. Really? Not really necessary!

I could get picky about all sorts of stuff in this book. I don't think it's really warranted though. After all, kids love this book! They love all Roald Dahl books.

Here is the summary from GoodReads:

Roald Dahl's children's classic will be rediscovered with wonder and delight in this handsome gift edition with all-new black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Honor Book artist Lane Smith (who also designed the characters for the Disney animated film).  How James escapes from his miserable life with two nasty aunts and becomes a hero to his new insect family, including Miss Spider, the Old-Green-Grasshopper, the Centipede (with his 21 pairs of gorgeous boots), is Dahl-icious fantasy at its best"This newly-illustrated edition of an avowed children's favorite has all the makings of a classic match-up: Milne had Shepard, Carroll had Tenniel, and now Dahl has and illustrator were made for each other, and it's of little consequence that it took almost 35 years for them to meet" --Kirkus.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Labor Day (Joyce Maynard)

This is one of those books that makes me glad I'm part of a book club. It isn't one I wouldn't have normally picked up. And it also isn't one I would have finished. However, I'm glad I read it because I think it will make for a good discussion at book club.

The story is about a divorced woman who lives with her 13 year old son. She has agrophobia and so she always sends her son to get groceries or do banking. It is just before Labor Day and they have to go get some things for school, so for the first time in months, she starts up the car and off they go to Wal-Mart. While they're there they meet a man who is bleeding and needs help so they bring him home.

Yup. They bring him home. (What kind of a woman does that??)

As he is staying with them for a few days, they find out he has just escaped prison - which is also pretty dumb because he had almost served his time and is about to get out. After being there 5 days the mother and this man decide to get married.

After 5 days??! Serious?!

Oh, and they plan to run off to Canada.

Only it all gets foiled.

It's crazy story. However, I did feel sympathy for most of the characters (well, except the ex-husband...he seemed like a non-caring bland husband). I'm looking forward to discussing it all with my friends at book club!

One thing I thought was weird was how the author never used quotation marks. Why?? Weird.

Update: I sent an email to the author asking about the quotation mark question. Here is our correspondence:

hello dawn. 
so glad you enjoyed the book.  the quotation mark thing is hard to explain. more intuitive.  I wanted you to feel, reading this book, as if you WERE the boy, and to let the dialogue wash through you. did you ever have a hard time figuring out who was speaking?

On Feb 17, 2014, at 10:27 PM, Dawn wrote:
> I have just read your book, Labor Day. It was a lovely read!> I found it curious that you did not include quotation marks for any of the dialogue and just wondered why.> Dawn Ackroyd> Calgary, AB

Hmmm....apparently she also doesn't include capitals and standard punctuation in her correspondance.

The mystery continues.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Better Nate Than Ever (Tim Federle)


I read a lot of J books hoping to find great books to recommend to my students.

While I enjoyed this book, I won't be recommending it to students anytime soon. I actually turned to the spine of the book a couple times when I was reading to double check that it was a J book. It is. I am not entirely sure that is the intended audience.

The main character, Nick, is sharp-witted. However, I didn't really find it a laugh a minute. Instead I found myself sometimes skimming over sentences because I couldn't take it anymore - kind of like how sometimes I tune out someone who is always trying to crack jokes. It just gets old. However, in short spurts, I think it would be okay. I read this book in one sitting - too much corny humour for one stretch, I guess.

This book might work in middle school, as long as I was sure parents wouldn't get upset about reading/discussing LGBT issues, running away, addiction, and family fights. All the off handed slang references to faggots are also not really something I would want to seemingly condone by reading it in school. Then again, maybe that is how middle school kids talk.

I would totally read this with my own kid - I just wouldn't open myself to the inevitable criticism if I read it with or to a class of someone else's kids.

This book truly is funny. I did enjoy the references to broadway musicals, and I love reading about kids chasing their dreams. However, I am not sure all that is enough to out weigh the cons of this book.

One thing I wondered about was his use of parenthesis. Some pages were full of them! Odd!

......but just because I'm curious, I think I will read the next one.

Update: I tried reading the second book (Five, Six, Seven, Nate!). Knowing it won't fit for my students, I just couldn't get into it. Maybe one day, if I move to middle school though, this might become one to read.

The Year of Billy Miller (Kevin Henkes)

I picked up this book because others had blogged about it and because it is by Kevin Henkes. I love his book, Chrysanthemum and also the Penny books for beginning readers.  This is another great one. It was also a Newberry honor book this year.

The story is about Billy Miller, a boy who is in grade 2. There are four sections: teacher, father, sister, and mother. Each section is a number of chapters with a story that brings him and that person closer. It is really a story about ordinary things, but told in a way that is touching and rather magical.

I think this would make a good read aloud for grade 2 or even grade 3. I like that the main character is a boy, but it is still heart warming and soft, like little boys are down deep inside. He tries to do what he's supposed to do, but is still silly and boy-ish:  At the end of the book he needs to write a poem and has chosen to write one about his mom. Billy had trouble getting started. He opened his poetry journal to the first page and wrote: My Mom.  He could not think of anything else to write, so he drew a series of volcanoes in progressive stages of exploding.

He has a little sister that drives him crazy, but still he has good times with her. He moves from calling his dad Papa and his mom Mama to mom and dad, because Papa and Mama just seems so baby-ish. His best friend, Ned, and he navigate through his year of grade two together in a way. Billy declares it definitely is the year of Billy Miller.

Goodreads summary:

Award-winning, nationally bestselling author Kevin Henkes introduces second-grader Billy Miller in this fast-paced and funny story about friendship, sibling rivalry, and elementary school. The Year of Billy Miller was named a 2014 Newbery Honor book by the American Library Association. The Year of Billy Miller includes black-and-white art by Kevin Henkes and is perfect for fans of the Ramona books; Frindle, by Andrew Clements; and the Clementine series.
When Billy Miller has a mishap at the statue of the Jolly Green Giant at the end of summer vacation, he ends up with a big lump on his head. What a way to start second grade, with a lump on your head! As the year goes by, though, Billy figures out how to navigate elementary school, how to appreciate his little sister, and how to be a more grown up and responsible member of the family and a help to his busy working mom and stay-at-home dad. Newbery Honor author and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes delivers a short, satisfying, laugh-out-loud-funny school and family story that features a diorama homework assignment, a school poetry slam, cancelled sleepovers, and epic sibling temper tantrums. This is a perfect short novel for the early elementary grades.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted To Dance (Keith Graves)

Today we watched this book on Tumblebooks (indoor recess day again!). Some had read it before and said, "No!!! Not while we're eating!" Ohers shouted, "Yes! I love this!" My kids laughed their head's off!! Er, I mean, they really enjoyed it.

In the story, Frank wants to dance and so he puts ants in his pants. He dances and dances and dances so much he starts to fall apart - including his head falling off. We had to play it two times today just so everyone could laugh and laugh again.

This would be a fun book to read at Halloween - or anytime we're feeling silly!

Here is the GoodReads summary:

Frank was a monster who wanted to dance. So he put on his hat, and his shoes made in France... and opened a jar and put ants in his pants! So begins this monstrously funny, deliciously disgusting, horrifyingly hilarious story of a monster who follows his dream. Keith Graves' wacky illustrations and laugh-out-loud text will tickle the funny bone and leave readers clamoring for an encore.

First Day Jitters (Julie Danneberg)

This was fun to read with my class. When they got to the end a number of kids blurted out, "I never expected that!"

We talked about whether or not teachers would be nervous about school. Everyone was pretty sure they aren't. I told them that actually, they are. They worry about all sorts of things. I'm not sure my students believed me.

Goodread summary:

Everyone knows that sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach just before diving into a new situation. Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn't want to start over at a new school. She doesn't know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. This charming and familiar story will delight readers with its surprise ending.

Fun, energetic illustrations brighten page after page with the busy antics surrounding Sarah Jane. FIRST DAY JITTERS is an enchanting story that is sure to be treasured by anyone who has ever anticipated a first day of school.

For Just One Day (Laura Leuck)

Goodreads summary: What child hasn't pretended to be a monkey, a bear, or a bumblebee? After imagining the fun of being a variety of animals from around the world, a sweet ending—and an attached mirror—remind little ones that the very best thing they can be is exactly who they are.

It was interesting to read this with my class. They didn't initially catch on to the rhyming patterns in the book. They would guess the animals appropriately, but not necessarily the rhyming name (i.e. rabbit instead of bunny). It would be a good exercise, when starting poetry, to read this and stop as you go to guess what animal might be the next one.

Great character message too: Be happy to be yourself. You're perfect the way you are.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed (Emily Pearson)

This is a wonderful little story about a girl who does something nice for five people. Each of those people, in turn, go out and do something nice for five more people, and on and on it goes. It doesn't take long until everyone on the entire earth feels the affects of Mary's kindness.

We have been doing Rachel's Challenge at our school. We talk often about the dominoe effect. This book is a great way to continue that conversation.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I Am Dead at Recess (Neil Crone)

It has been a week of indoor recess. Tumblebooks is a lifesaver!

Today we listened to I am Dead at Recess. It is a story of a book who tries to shoot a spitball at the teacher, but misses and hits the big mean kid. He's pretty sure he's dead at recess. However, as he sits, cowering, he discovers that the mean kid thinks it was the kid behind him who did it. The kid who sits behind him takes matters into his own hands and knocks the big mean kid on his ear. As a result, forever after, he carries those kids books.

The story is all in prose and is really well done. However, the words were a little too tricky for my class. They didn't get it, even after we read it twice.

Hoover's Bride (David Small)

Hoover's Bride

Goodreads summary:

"Her name was Elektra. He bought her a ring / And he didn't buy her just any old thing. / A grapefruit-size diamond was what Hoover chose / In a size that would fit on the end of her hose."
In this hilarious, wacky "love story," the clueless Mr. Hoover gets married to Elektra, the vaccuum cleaner of his dreams. After being pronounced man and appliance, the two go on a honeymoon -- where Elektra promptly runs off with a lawn mower. But all is not lost for Mr. Hoover, who soon finds a much more conventional bride.

Another great book by David Small. This is hilarious laugh out loud book all in prose. We read it on Tumblebooks today. It's a funny story and my class was totally taken by it.