Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I'm Lovin' It!

To borrow some words from McDonald's "I'm Lovin' It!"
I am transferring this very cute gift idea from Barbara O'Connor's blog Greetings From Nowhere to you. Check it out, hilarious. IMO.
Click Here for details

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles

This weekend I finished reading the The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles. I must say that I have not read Love, Ruby Lavender or Each Little Bird That Sings the other two books in this series by Wiles. I'm guessing I should have, considering Each Little Bird That Sings was a National Book Award finalist. Then again, I might not be as critical having not read the other books.

Am I wrong? I wasn't digging it... It just wasn't MY favorite. There were plenty of good qualities to the book. I can see the reader of this book. I know there is a reader for this book. I will surely recommend it in my room. It just wasn't MY favorite.

What is good about this book? The lesson to be learned. The book has an underlying theme of equality. Whether or not it is equality for women or racial equality, or both, I am still unsure? Or maybe I am sure, but I wanted the story to focus more on one than the other. I liked that the book could appeal to both girls and boys. I also liked that the characters had some genuine qualities that could pull you into the story. I did shed a tear or two during the story. I love stories set in small towns. (Probably because I grew up in one. Not this small, but small.) I have always liked books that tie into the Jackie Robinson Pee Wee Reece story. You could pair this up with any number of picture books about the two, such as Teammates by Peter Golenbock.

What I didn't like about the book was that I thought it was a bit too unpredictable. I think that may be the point of the plot, however. I think that has to do with the keeping the mystery of the plot going. An example was the fight that transpired between the main character, House, and his best friend, Cleebo. To me it was as if Wiles were forcing the fight to make a point. I didn't understand the fight. My brain just didn't mesh with this writing style.

I am going to go back to read Love, Ruby Lavender and Each Little Bird That Sings and maybe I will rewrite this review. For now, it just didn't grab me. BUT there are SO MANY people for whom this story did click. Here they are:
A Year Of Reading
I Read Books (cute, review Haiku)
Welcome to My Tweendom
Book Hog
Bookshelves Of Doom
and the list goes on and on...

Funny Stuff!

Okay, I don't mean to be demanding, but GET OVER THERE NOW! Where you say? A Year Of Reading. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Something New!

I am doing something I have never done before... I am introducing a book to the world via my blog!
A parent of a student in my class published her first novel in a series!!! Now, I must say I have yet to read the book, but I promise I will get right on it.
The book is titled The Pages of Tamenara: The Keeper by T. H. Ferrell. You can find it currently on Amazon, but its official release is this Monday, October 29 at Ferrell's family coffee shop What's Brewin' Cafe in Xenia, OH.
The book is fantasy and Mrs. Ferrell tells me it is published for ages 12 and up. Although her daughter has been reading it and of course she is in the fifth grade, but she is also quite gifted as reader and writer herself. Unfortunately, I don't have an image of the book, but here is an image of T. H. Ferrell herself. (Scratch that! I found a picture of the book!)
I also found this site for the book The Thoughts and Writing of T.H. Ferrell.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop

I finished Counting on Grace by Elizabeth Winthrop last night. I could not put it down. It is one of the first books in awhile I felt I needed to stay right with or I was going to miss something. It was one of those fascinating historical fiction novels you feel yourself swept into and you want to become part of that world.
The story is set in the early 1900's in a small town in Vermont where working in the local mill is a way of life and child labor is rampant. The main character, Grace, is torn between continuing her schooling, or helping to support her family working in the mill. Grace is a spunky main character that carries the story through the highs and lows of her family and their lives. Her parents, while wanting the best for Grace, also must stay grounded and realistic in their dreams. Although they encourage her in a direction her teacher, Miss Lesely, and her grandfather feel is less than what she is worth, they are not bad people, they simply did not know better. It reminds me a of quote I have often heard Oprah use, "When you know better, you do better." That statement rings true the further this story is unveiled to the reader.
When Grace meets the real life photographer, Lewis Hine, her life is forever changed. As are the lives of all characters in the novel. Lewis Hine was a photographer who took photos to help crush the world of child labor in the 1900's. His photographs are well documented and are now on display at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont. There are also several books written about his photographs. (All of which are found in Winthrop's Further Reading section of this book)
The things that I like about this book are of course the historical connections, the back story to the photograph that inspired the novel, the fact that Grace is French Canadian and there is a lot of French in the book, and the gripping story of Grace's new friend, Arthur. (Gotta read the book for that one)
Something I did not like about the book is really a good thing in disguise. I was left wanting more. I wanted more of the story. I couldn't stop myself. I wanted to be in that world, in that time period, in that schoolroom, just to say "I AM HERE FOR YOU!"
This story is exactly right for fifth grade. I would recommend the novel to any real reader in my class. I would say everyone, but it would take a special fifth grade to ingest this story all on his or her own. I would love to read it aloud.
There is so much more to this story, I am just giving you my initial response. If you would like a detailed view of the story, I must again point you to Fuse #8. You may also check out these reviews:
Best Books 2006
Kellogg-Hubbard Library

Friday, October 19, 2007

Library Meme (LOL at Your Library- Teen Read Week theme)

Here is a cute Library Meme I found on Confessions of a Bibliovore. (Which coincidently I found on the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group)
1. How old were you when you got your first library card?
I was young, maybe 5 or 6. We lived a half block from the library. (Actually across the street from it, until a new one was built in the late 70's)

2. What's the first book you can remember reading from a library?
I have absolutely no idea, if I could remember that, I could probably remember what I did yesterday, which I cannot!

3. Did you ever participate in a summer reading program or other kids' event at a library growing up?
Yes! That was the best part about the summer. I would get armfuls of books every other day.

4. Do you remember when card catalogues weren't computerized?
Yes, but they weren't like that for long. I would say until I was in junior high or so. Or at least that I remember. I remember when they got rid of the card catalogues, they used the old cards for scrap paper.

5. When was the last time you went to the library?
Day before yesterday. Got a bunch of good stuff too.

6. How many books do you usually check out of the library at one time?
Depends. Usually about 5 or 6. That is about all I can stand carrying.

7. Name one great author you've discovered at your library.
Gary D. Schmidt Knew who he was, hadn't read his books. Now I have read them all.

8. What was the librarian at your elementary school like?
Old, not wanting to work there. I remember she was originally the kindergarten aide.

9. How many times a year do you go to the library?
About once every two or three weeks.

10. If you could change on thing about your library, what would it be and why?
They need to be able to get their books faster. I waited the entire summer for a book they ordered in May. That is ridiculous.

Feel Free to complete this Meme if you so desire. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Great Websites!

Recently I was introduced to a new website via Two Writing Teachers. Which brought me to another website.
If you are a classroom teacher of language arts, you may be interested as well. They are classroom websites, with so much more! Check them out!
Mrs. Hayden's World
Team Newingham
P.S. I found a hidden picture of Mary Lee Hahn in the photos section of Mrs. Hayden's World. :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli and Illustrated by Matt Phelan

Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli is such a "cute" book. I put cute in quotes because I am not sure I like that word to describe the book, but I guess I am sticking to it now.
A long time ago I found this little book for cheap by Eileen Spinelli (Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch) and I was intrigued because I really liked Jerry Spinelli, Eileen's husband. I got a lot of use out of that old little picture book. Which brings us back to this book Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli. Again I thought, what can I get out of this little book? Turns out, just a good feeling. It is not exactly a book for my age student. Probably more like third grade. However, Spinelli's interesting use of poetry/prose is perfect for this book and it left me with a good feeling about a subject that could be sad and sappy.
The main character, Diana has recently learned her father has lost his job, the family is short on money, and they will be moving in with their grandfather. For the first half of the book, Spinelli sets the scene to show how much Diana loves her own home, her friends, and her way of life. The second half of the book shows how Diana resolves her issues with moving. On top of all this, Spinelli weaves in neat things like Diana's love of poetry, writing, and all things having to do with astronomy. In the end the story comes full circle with a poem that matches the beginning poem, yet also matches Diana's new life.
One of my favorite character's in the book is Diana's younger sister, Lucy, aka "Twink." she reminds me of my own little sister, looking up to her older sister. (Or I might have just imagined that my little sister looked up to me.) Here is a small part of a poem "Twink" wrote for her older sister:
You are my big sister.
I like you the bestest
of any big sister
in the whole world.

Not to be missed in this book are the illustrations by Matt Phelan. I knew there was something special about the artwork, but I wasn't sure what it was until I read that Phelan illustrated The Higher Power of Lucky.
Other reviews of this book can be found at:
Fuse #8
Read It Again!
Book Hog
The Brack Blog

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Great Interview

Okay, I am starting to forget my whole purpose for blogging, but there is so much out there to look at. Thank you Miss Erin for pointing out this interesting interview with the lovely Lisa Yee. I think she is so fun! This interview is no exception.
Lisa Yee presented by Inkygirl: Daily Diversions for Writers.

Just a Funny!

For your viewing pleasure brought to you by Jen Barney at A Teacher's Life. Please take a look by clicking on the blog name above! (No, it is not the clip art I have included here. I am not putting it up myself because I want you to visit her site. It is just as fun as mine ) :)
P.S.- I did not forget, I am still going to review a book, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Horn Book Awards

Didn't go to the Horn Book Awards? Neither did I... booo! But I felt like I did when I watched this here video footage from the Boston Globe. Enjoy.

P.S.- I am going to review a book, tonight maybe. Tomorrow for sure.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Teen Reading Week

I know I am not exactly a "Teen" teacher but I can't get enough of the young adult books, so I went to check out what ALA is putting out for "Teen Reading Week." I wanted to share it with you because there is so much fun stuff to look at. So check it out for yourself...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Check out this review.

Please check out this review by Fuse #8 of I am Not Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos. Please note the reference to Read, Read, Read at the bottom. :D (If you don't brag about yourself, no one else will do it for you.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia by Barbara O'Connor

Since I am now a fan of Barbara O'Connor, I had to run out and get all her books to read. I am starting with Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia.
The plot of the book follows the main character, "Bird" Weaver, who is somewhat of a social misfit. A new boy, Bird's age, moves into town and Bird is determined to make him her friend before the others "get to him" and ruin her chances. Her chance comes along when she finds out she must have a partner for the spelling bee. Come to find out Harlem Tate, the new boy, is somewhat of a social misfit as well.
First before I say anything else, I am always drawn to books about spelling bees because I am forever in charge of our school's spelling bee. (I enjoy the position, but I don't think I will ever get out of "being in charge") It is fun to find a book to help me promote the spelling bee. I thought the way they conducted the spelling bee was interesting. I wonder if that is something O'Connor made up or if there are actual spelling bees conducted in this manner.
The characters of this book make it! They are believable, lovable, and honest. Bird is an excellent judge of character, even when no one but her neighbor, Miss Delphine, is judging her correctly. I was rooting for both Bird and Harlem all the way through. But I couldn't help but to be rooting for everyone else as well. (Especially Harlem's father... oooo, great story there, but you'll have to read the book to find out his part in the plot.)
The novel is just the right length for a recommendation because it will not overwhelm the reader. -- Just 112 pages. I think the setting is fun too. I love books set in the south and I know a lot of the cities mentioned as we used to visit that area of Georgia each summer. I am going to say this right here and hope no one is offended, but... I was totally attracted to the cover, I loved the art. But I can't for the life of me figure out how it represents the story? Sure the girl looks like maybe what I expect, but the whole rest of the picture matches nothing in the book? Strange, I think. Maybe it is just me.
The message of the novel is perfect for fifth grade/sixth grade age students. It is important for me to teach children to see the worth in everyone around them, friends, family, or mere acquaintances.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy

Deliciously wonderful! I don't know what made me remember the book Me and the Pumpkin Queen by Marlane Kennedy, but something told me... "Yes! Pick it up!" So I did, and my mind was right, it was a great idea.) Who am I kidding, it wasn't my idea, I got the idea from Franki at A Year of Reading, and I knew that all along.)
One of the main reasons I liked this book is because it is about something that I have heard of before, but never attended. Now I feel like I have actually been to the Circleville, OH Pumpkin Festival. (Really, check out the website, amazing!) The Pumpkin Festival in Pickaway County is not that far from where I live and I have heard so much about it. This book is set in that county and has to do with the festival. How exciting is that? (I even know someone who's mother was a Pumpkin Queen long, long ago)
This book is perfect for my students. It is fast paced, and innocent just like I think of my students. The main character is in the fifth grade and acts just like a typical fifth grade girl, except for the fact that she is obsessed with growing the perfect giant pumpkin. She is unlike some fifth grade girls because she is not obsessed with clothes or boys, which I personally feel is a great thing, but her Aunt does not.
Ever since Mildred, the main character's, mother passed away when she was 6, all Mildred could remember was how her mother loved the giant pumpkins at the Circleville Pumpkin Show. As a tribute to her mother Mildred would love nothing less than growing a giant pumpkin. It is hard work but Mildred is dedicated to the cause.
I thought it was awesome that this book was quite scientific. There are very specific directions for growing giant pumpkins intertwined through the book. I would love to recommend it to my students. Especially because their science teacher gave them pumpkin seeds at the end of last year to grow and journal about over the summer. This will be a perfect ending to that project. The ending of the book brought a little tear to my eye. I wasn't bawling or anything, and that is exactly how I like an ending. This book comes as perfect timing as well because the Pumpkin Festival is next weekend!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Next Picture Book Carnival

Please consider contributing to the next Picture Book Carnival. It is a carnival of Nonfiction picture books which lift your students as nonfiction writers. Please see Mentor Text, Read Aloud, and More for the details. Happy Blogging.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

New Blog to Check Out!

As I was going through my blog reading I stumbled upon this from In the Pages. It was of interest to me, so I thought I would share it with you...

Click on the button to procede to the site. I found it very comprehensive. And if you don't see your site and want it added, you can email the owner of the blog.

Picture Book Carnival

Mentor Text, Read Aloud, and More presents a Mentor Text Picture Book Carnival! Stop by and visit!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

I am so glad I finally got around to reading The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. I think I was protesting because I didn't want to carry a book that big to the pool, but pool season is over so I had no excuse. And it is never too late to read a wonderful book!
This is a beautiful book! Not a true picture book, or graphic novel it is so much more. It is all of these things. The story is so rich. I never expected what I saw when I opened the book and began reading.
As the story follows the life of 12 year old Hugo Cabret whose life consists of hiding out in a train station, keeping the clocks running, the author douses the story with the beautiful pencil drawings and cinematic stills! The book is fast paced (finished in 2 hour long settings) and easy to follow. The vocabulary is just right for my students. The author did not feel it necessary to a have foul mouth main character. (Unlike other books I have recently reviewed) The novel has just the right amount of mystery, intrigue, and suspense to keep most fifth graders reading. Surprisingly the author also seamlessly intertwines some cinematic history into the novel. I think this just brings about a whole new genre of books made just for my 5th grade readers, graphic novel!
Check out the Amazon page for this book for great information from the author and perfect reviews.
There is so much to say about this book and many people have done it better than me, so check out what they have to say:
Fuse #8
Interview with Brian Selznick from Scholastic
Librarian's Choice
Best Books 2007
Shelf Life
Heck, just Google it... there are plenty!

Monday, October 1, 2007

S-P-E-L-L-D-O-W-N by Karen Luddy

Officially titled Spelldown: The Big-Time Dreams of a Small-Town Word Whiz by Karen Luddy, this book is going to be a tough one to review. I loved it, I really did, but I am not sure I would recommend it to anyone I know in particular. This is the first novel for Luddy and I feel like she will really have a place in young adult literature. It is just that.... Grrrr.... I am not a prude, but come on with the language! I think I got tricked a little because my library had this book in the juvenile section and it is clearly NOT. I just really can't get past the way the main character used curse so much??? I swear to you I am no angel. I do not believe in judging a book on the language it uses. I am known for reading books with cuss words in them aloud to my class. (And of course politely changing the words to keep my lady-like image and explaining why an author would chose to use those particular words.) But with this book I couldn't even come up with a good reason. Then of course there was the topic of puberty and puppy love that comes in most any young adult book. Even that may have gone a little too far in this book. But... saying all that, I still can't say I didn't love it!
In the story the main character, Karlene, is a thirteen year old spelling whiz, growing up in the 1960's, who is mostly trying to hold together a dysfunctional family. I can so appreciate Karlene's life, not as a child living in a dysfunctional world, but as an adult. The ups and downs Karlene goes through are truly something no child should ever live through. By spelling her way to D.C. with the help of a generous and mentoring teacher, Karlene manages to hold some parts of her life together.
I think Karen Luddy did a beautiful job developing characters who really stand out. She sets the scene and develops the plot with a satisfying resolution. I really would only recommend this book to adults. I am sure a teen in the range of 13-15 could take a lot from the book, but I would never recommend it to anyone under that age. See for yourself, don't take my word for it.
Other reviews:
Emily Reads (Cool Haiku review)
Franklin Park Teens and Tweens