Saturday, December 11, 2010

Books My Grandson Henry Loves

Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. Pigeon has been a favorite since he was very little. He used to flail his little arms at the "LET ME DRIVE THE BUS!" page.

Knufflebunny, Knufflebunny, Too, Knufflebunny Free by Mo Willems.

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You by Jane Yolen

Any of the Skippyjon Jones books by Judith Byron Schachner.

Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf.

The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton

Twitter, You Make Me Sad

Okay, for a lack of a better word (or better writing...sigh...) sad is NOT correct. What would better describe how I am feeling? Frustrated? Intimidated? Being left behind (I know, three words)? It stems from my late blooming, getting back to teaching late in my life.

But not even Twitter can make me EVER regret the years I stayed home with my kids. They remind me of this by living the wonderful lives they lead. So I do have that. Proud? Indeed. They are, and will always be, my first passion.

But my second passion(s), kids, reading, teaching, being a librarian, has led me to discover other kindred spirits in the most unlikely place. Twitter. But everyone on Twitter that I follow have such the upper hand. I feel so far from their expertise, experience, and yes, geekiness. It is my pursuit of said nerdom that I lack but want so much! Woe is me! See, would a geek say "woe"? I think not.

As I say to my students, "Patience, young Jedi," I AM learning on Twitter. But again, time lifts it's mighty beast of a head. SO MUCH INFO, SO LITTLE TIME!

Right now, I've been up since 5:30, 3 and 1/2 hours. Do I have my shower yet? Nyet. Have I actually accomplished anything? Well, if you count getting caught up with Donalyn, Paul, and Patrick, then that would be an affirmative. "Isn't that nice," you say, "catching up with your dearest and closest of friends". Well, no, that would be Diane, Gail, and Ann. These are my new "friends". My Twitter friends, who teach me so much and yet leave me in the dust.

Back to that patience. I teach tech classes all day long as well as our gifted and talented students. I live with my retired hubby of 35 years. I have an adorable grandson, Henry. Plus my family and friends and OTHER passions: Colorado State University, Colorado Avalanche, golfing, Las Vegas (thank you for the IPad I am tapping away on), MUSIC, my IPad and IPhone, the internet, Facebook, Pandora, my blog, blogs I follow, and now, Twitter. Do you see where I'm going with this?

TIME...where do I find the time, that seems to disappear in a blink the older I get?


"Just cut back on some of those, you idiot!" you say? Are you mental? Or is it you just don't know me?

I'm afraid that's it, you don't know me or if you do, you'd know that I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a hot poker chip, er, than give up any of this.

Patience, my young and me, together.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

So...have you been listening to me about just how GOOD young adult books can be? Have you gone out and TRIED some of these books? Because if you haven't, what the heck!? Go browse the YA section at your nearest library. Do I sound insistent, maybe a little worried? Well, of course! I don't want you to miss some of the best writing around. But, thankfully (notice the Thanksgiving segue?), my students are gobbling (#2) them up and that's what me, anyway. 

The current YA book that I am devouring is SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT by Derek Landy 12 year old Stephanie is dumbfounded when she inherits her author-Uncle's estate. At this point she has no idea that he was murdered. Suddenly, she is attacked but then saved by a detective known as Skulduggery Pleasant. Funny thing is, he's dead. And nothing but a skeleton. A well-dressed skeleton with a dry, sarcastic sense of humor. A skeleton who can throw fireballs. Now THAT was unexpected!

Derek Landy is a young author from Ireland who thankfully (#3) read WAY too many fantasy books and comics in his youth. And still does. This makes for one of the most action-packed, hilarious, page-turning, fantasy-lovers-dreams-come-true kind of book.

Don't be turkey (#4) and miss this book that kept me surprised, laughing, entertained, and wanting more! Gratefully (#5, last one, I promise) there are several sequels waiting for me and YOU!  YAY BOOKS!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Scott Westerfeld's Books

I must, must, must thank teacher Donalyn Miller, author of THE BOOK WHISPERER, for recommending  Scott Westerfeld. Go to his website and see REALLY cool videos. I can't wait to show the 5th graders!

I read his UGLIES series (scroll down) a couple of years ago but had not read any of his other books. Donalyn's 5th graders highly recommended THE MIDNIGHTERS series and I am hooked! . The first book is subtitled THE SECRET HOUR.

Here's a blurb: A few nights after Jessica Day arrives in Bixby, Oklahoma, she wakes up at midnight to find the entire world frozen, except for her and a few others who call themselves 'midnighters'. Dark things haunt this midnight hour - dark things with a mysterious interest in Jessica. The question is ... why? The Secret Hour is a compelling tale of dark secrets, midnight romance, eerie creatures, courage, destiny, and unexpected peril.

From Scott's website: Uglies

Uglies is set in a world in which everyone has an operation when they turn sixteen, making them supermodel beautiful. Big eyes, full lips, no one fat or skinny. You might think this is a good thing, but it’s not. Especially if you’re one of the Smokies, a bunch of
radical teens who’ve decided they want to keep their own faces. (How anti-social of them.)

Uglies is a trilogy-plus-one, with Extras being a “companion novel” and told from a different point of view. All four Uglies books have been New York Times bestsellers!

Then there's his LEVIATHAN series that really sounds intriguing:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

This man must write 24/7...go check out the REST of his books, I'm sure you'll find something that will delight you!

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Even though it didn't even come CLOSE to living up to the books, it was still a fun event. About 15-20 of my students and their families showed up! As well as my principal, a teacher and her own kids as well as many from her class, and George's brother and wife!

I was a little concerned throughout, what with the violence and all. But no blood, thank goodness. A lot of bad guys, fighting, and scary moments, but everyone I talked to the next day said they loved it.

My brother and sister-in-law just raved about the animation, and I agree. The detail and sheer talent of artists blow me away! The attention to detail in everything about the owls was stunning. How long it must have taken to make! But I was really surprised that I ended up thinking that the 3D was totally unnecessary, even with the flying, which was phenomenal in Avatar and How to Train Your Dragon. Maybe because the animation was so well done, the 3D just messed with it too much. I think that says a lot about the artistry!

One of my favorite parts of movies these days are the credits. I won't let my hubby leave until ALL of the credits have played. You never know when they will throw something in at the end. But I also like to read all the names, see who the songs were performed by, where in the world they filmed the movie, etc. I guess it's my love for the intricate and trivial. HA!

And now, they are starting to make the credits fun to watch! Either by the style they use or the little things they insert. I LOVE IT!!

So, my recommendation is to read the books for Kathryn Lasky's writing. Her obvious love of books, learning, friendship, and owls makes it a great read!  And see the movie for the animation! You won't regret reading the books and gasping at the detail will be worth watching the movie.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

THIS BOOK IS OVERDUE: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All by Marilyn Johnson

Marilyn Johnson has written an amazing little book about librarians and their part in world peace.  

My friend Diane found this book in NYC one day and got it for me. Thank you Diane!

I have so many sticky notes in it it's ridiculous! 

Here's the Facebook page, too.

Here's a synopsis from our public library: Those who predicted the death of libraries forgot to consider that in the automated maze of contemporary life, none of us--neither the experts nor the hopelessly baffled--can get along without human help. And not just any help--we need librarians, who won't charge us by the question or roll their eyes, no matter what we ask. Who are they? What do they know? And how quickly can they save us from being buried by the digital age? This book is a romp through the ranks of information professionals and a revelation for readers burned out on the clichés and stereotyping of librarians. Here are bloggers, radicals and visionaries who fuse the tools of the digital age with their love for the written word and the enduring values of free speech, open access, and scout-badge-quality assistance to anyone in need.--From publisher description. 


Kept seeing FABLEHAVEN everywhere I went. Would pick it up and put it back down. Read a recommendation somewhere and thought, "Oh, yea, that's that book I keep passing up, maybe I should go get it at the library." So I did. Yay libraries!

I am on page 205 of the first book in the series with the same name, Fablehaven. It took until page 73 to get hooked. See if you can find the three little words that did it!

What an imagination this man has! I always wonder how an author's take on an old subject, in this case fairies, can possibly make it fresh and new. Well, he's done it, and more so. If you like fantasy books, especially about fairies, check it out.

Two other fairy series I'm crazy about: Victoria Hanley's (see earlier post) VIOLET WINGS and Herbie Brennan's FAERIE WARS.    


Here's hoping that 30 Second to Mars' song, Kings and Queens, is in the actual movie and not just the trailer of LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS.

Yes, it's a lame excuse for a picture of their lead singer, Jared Leto, but what the heck, it's MY blog!


THE BOOK WHISPER by Donalyn Miller

I found this book perusing one of several book blogs I visit. And BOY, am I glad I did!

This book is about a REAL TEACHER, Donalyn Miller, who gets fifth grade students in Texas to read 40 books a year...happily! But more importantly, most of them turn into life-long learners and life-long lovers of books!

If you want to see how she does it, GET THIS BOOK and give it to every teacher you know! Or at the very least, recommend it!

It's actually an age-old idea. She lets her students pick books THEY ARE  INTERESTED IN and then, gasp, she lets them read them in her CLASS!

She has step-by-step instructions and forms to photocopy that she uses to accomplish this.

You will thank me're VERY welcome!

Kathryn Lasky's series GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE

Just this morning, I finished THE CAPTURE, the first book in the series of GUARDIANS OF GA'HOOLE by Kathryn Lasky (click here to go to her REALLY cool website). Enchanting, thrilling, scary, and heart warming!

Star Wars came rushing to me with The Capture's themes of believing in the power of self and confidence, good versus evil, and ultimately, friendship. She does not shy away from the cruelty that is nature. She researched owls for a non-fiction book and then decided to write this series instead. Her depth of knowledge shines through the book without sounding "teachy". I now know how owls fly in total silence, not just why. She slyly uses several species of owls as the main characters. The littlest one has to depend on her smarts, the biggest of the owls is gruff but caring. But it's also full of surprising animals as friends of the owls, like the endearing nanny for the owlets being a blind snake, Mrs. Plithiver.

The first three books are being turned into the movie LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS coming out Sept. 24th. (Click on the website to see the trailer.) Which of course I always have mixed feelings about, because books, children's books in particular, haven't fared very well in movie form. At least in my opinion. For example, Rick Riordan's immensely popular Percy Jackson series based on mythology legends being thrown into the modern world. The movie's take of  THE LIGHTNING THIEF is the first book in the series. It was a disaster from beginning to end. BUT in my library it seems to be getting more kids, especially boys, interested in READING the series, so I can't complain too much.

An extra perk for me is that one of my favorite bands, 30 SECOND TO MARS, sings their song, KINGS AND QUEENS, in the LEGEND OF THE GUARDIANS trailer. Jared Leto, from long ago tv show MY SO-CALLED LIFE fame, is the lead singer. Hubba, hubba! =)

If I've learned nothing else, the finishing of this book has reminded me to give a book a chance and to give it my full attention. This is partly my fault for reading several books at a time. I'll get caught up in a new book and put aside the other book. When I finally pick it up again, it could be days or even weeks, and I confess, sometimes months. At my advanced age, I sometimes can't remember what I had for breakfast, so remembering a book I started weeks they say.

So I abandoned THE CAPTURE for a while but I also had great incentive to get back to it. I picked it as the book to read as a whole school and then go to the movie when it comes out. Yep, two books to go until Sept. 24th...I best get on it.

But now that I finished THE CAPTURE, I can't WAIT to get to the next two: THE JOURNEY and THE RESCUE.

Here is a short synopsis from our public library of THE CAPTURE:  The reader is introduced to Soren, a barn owl and the centerpiece of the series. When Soren is pushed from his family's nest by his older brother, he is rescued from certain death on the forest floor by agents from a mysterious school for orphaned owls, St. Aggie's. When Soren arrives at St. Aggie's, he suspects there is more to the school than meets the eye. He and his new friend, the clever and scrappy Gylfie, find out that St. Aggie's is actually a training camp where the school's leader can groom young owls to help achieve her goal.

Catch ya later, I gotta go start THE JOURNEY.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Books and Emotions

Now that I'm back in school, I haven't had much time for my blog.

So...I've decided that I will add small bits and pieces at a time.

Every once in a while, my post is going to reflect a certain emotion to a certain book. 

First emotion...comfort.  

My very favorite comfort author is Alexander McCall Smith and his NO.1 LADIES' DETECTIVE AGENCY series. This man is a marvel with words. How he can so accurately write from a woman's point of view baffles me. But he is always right on. Precious Romatswe is one of those characters that seems so alive and real. Precious makes me honor my life and to be grateful. It's because of the way she lives her life, how she conducts herself, and how she makes other people feel. When I read these books, they comfort me and I am content. They never let me down...ever.

And for a double treat, try one in audio, with the gorgeous, lilting voice of Lissette Lecat. She IS Precious Romatswe.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Young Adult Books Deserve More Respect

THE BEST BAD LUCK I EVER HAD by Kristin Levine is one of my favorite reads this summer. It pairs well with THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett and my favorite book of all time, Hapre Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The protagonist is a shoeless 13 year old boy, Dit, who lives in the south. The year is 1917. At the beginning he is axiously awaiting the arrival of the train, always a big event in his little Alabama town. They are getting a new postmaster and he's hoping the new family will have a boy to befriend. Instead, a black family steps off the train and he sees a girl wearing a fancy dress and black patent leather shoes. Dit chalks up his misfotune to bad luck. Little does he know that Emma and he will have an adventure like no other.

I loved this book, too, because of the time frame. My mom was born in 1916, so it was like experiencing a little bit of her life.

This book was recommended to me by a middle school media specialist. But I'm almost afraid to mention that it is a YA, young adult book, in fear that you will just dismiss it. Young Adult books are some of the best books written today.

You do know the age of middle school children, right? 13, 14, 15...easy ages to impress, eh? NOT! I am lucky to be a librarian who has to read these books but truth be known, I started reading them when I was a stay at home mom with two young children. I wanted to earn some money and decided I would write books for children. How hard can it be? I soon found out that ALL writing is hard,  but to capture this audience particularly difficult.

Next time you hear about a young adult book, take a chance, you will be glad you did!

Hobart Shakespeareans welcome Michael York

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


This is a great book to read after THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. Zusak's book is an all time favorite WWII story, but you'll want some relief and Guernsey is exactly what you'll need.

My library's summary: January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she's never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends, and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island, boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

I loved getting to know the characters, but to my surprise, I devoured the history learning things I'd never known. Did you know the Germans occupied the tiny island of Guernsey thinking they would get a straight shot to London a 75 miles across the ocean? I was so enamored that we are planning a trip to Guernsey.

Let me know what you think of this book. I LOVED it! 5 Stars

USED AND RARE: TRAVELS IN THE BOOK WORLD by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

I'm only on page 25 but enjoying this book immensely. It was recommended by my friend Yvette, a book lover/artist extraordinaire.

She and I are kindred spirits and found each other on an author's forum. Our love of books, and now each having our first grandchild, has cemented our friendship. We have never met but I call her one of my best friends and it feels as if I've known her forever. Her knowledge and love for books is evident in her wonderful blog, in so many words... check it out!

RARE AND USED is a true account of a married couple stumbling upon the used and rare book world. They each tried to outdo the other with their birthday presents and each year it got more ridiculous than the last. They ended up discovering a passion for used and rare books.

Did you know that the Limited Editions Club was started by George Macy and he employed the best artists of the time to illustrate his beautiful bound and very limited run of books? He got Matisse for Ulysses, Norman Rockwell for Mark Twain, and even Picasso for Lysistrata. Fascinating! Enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Great article about Room 56!

Wonderful article that goes along with my review of TEACH LIKE YOUR HAIR'S ON FIRE by Rafe Esquith:


I finished this amazing book today and ordered his newest one, LIGHTING THEIR FIRES. Rafe Esquith is a force that is almost hard to believe and definitely to live up to. A multiple-award winning teacher in one of the poorest parts of LA, his simple edict, "Work hard, be nice" reverberates throughout this book.

And boy, do these students work hard, as does their determined teacher.

Their day starts at 6:30am and sometimes doesn't end until 6pm. The before and after school, lunch time work, recess practice, and Saturdays are all voluntary on the kids' part.

In their day, they not only cover the three R's, they learn to read music, perfect a Shakespearean play interspersed with rock songs that are played and sung by the students. They take field trips to places like Washington D.C., they learn and master sports like baseball and volleyball,  and read books and watch their movie equivalents.

I was exhausted just reading about their busy days. This is a year-round school, Mr. Esquith does not get summers off, just a few weeks here and there.

But this is not what impressed me. It was the kindness, the goodness, the trust that has been built in Room 56. They have each other's back. The students are safe, they are cared for, and they are obviously loved.

Mr. Esquith doesn't say good-bye to his fifth graders to never see them again. He keeps in contact with them and takes them to visit colleges. And he doesn't just help them get into a college, he's given the fifth graders the tools to make sure they finish college.

Here is Room 56's website, take a look, especially the videos of the kids singing rock songs and performing Shakespeare. There is also a documentary about Room 56 called The Hobart Shakespeareans that you can get through Netflix.

Even as overwhelming as I felt reading this book, I couldn't help but be inspired. I cried, I laughed, I gasped in sheer wonder at HOW this is all accomplished. But it makes me want to try harder because that's what teaching is all about.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How do YOU arrange your bookshelves?

There is a definite art to filling bookshelves. I don’t think there is any right or wrong way; the only thing that doesn’t work for me is when they are empty.

Good article from the NY Times. Enjoy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Author Victoria Hanley

I must post about one of my favorite authors, Victoria Hanley, whom I've met. She lives in the nearby town of Loveland, Colorado. (Yes, Loveland is all a frenzy around Valentine's Day, but that's another story, maybe in February.)

Victoria presented at one of my media meetings and she was just delightful and amazing. I sat in awe and I introduced myself and probably mumbled something about loving her books. She was very gracious. I am a closet writer, so that is one of the reasons for my book obsessions, I live vicariously through authors. They work so hard to perform their magic, and I do mean MAGIC. Because I've tried to make magic with words and it's DARN hard.

I've read ALL of her books and loved them all. Her two books about writing are so helpful, I give them as gifts.

One of my favorite "stories" about her books involves my sweet husband of almost 35 years, George. He reads the paper every morning, and I swear he reads EVERY word. He's one of the smartest people I know and I love him dearly. BUT...and this was a very sad BUT for me. Are you ready? He didn't read books. Not since college. Oh, the occasional book about golfing or Las Vegas but not a REAL book.

Well, he retired two years ago. I was reading out loud to him because now he's captive audience. He enjoys it, actually.

Reading a book out loud to George is one of the biggest compliments I can give a book, it means I LOVE it A LOT!

Well, I was reading Violet Wings, her newest. He picked it up and READ it! I came home after school one day and he said, "I finished the book." I congratulated him but he didn't look too happy. My heart just sank for a moment. "It just ended. Right there. It, it....JUST ENDED." I started laughing when I realized what he was talking about. "Honey, it's a series. It's called a cliffhanger. I promise you there will be more." "But when?" "Well, in about a year or so." "A YEAR OR SO???!!!" I just laughed again and said, "Welcome to MY world!"

I am one of Victoria's FB friends so I get to hear about things like the next title, INDIGO INK, how she's finished the draft and working on the editing and George gets ALMOST as excited as I do to hear the news.

Oh Boy! INDIGO INK! Sigh... ♥

Hurry up, Victoria, George and I are patiently waiting. Please.

My Favorite Children's Books

Okay, the list is on the right hand side. If the title is blue, click on it to go to the author's website. My students LOVE Mo Willems' and Judy Byron Schachner's books AND websites. Authors are SO smart to have beautiful and FUN websites! It's a blast for the rest of us and, I imagine, quite a marketing tool for the author. If you are an author without a website, GET ONE!!

This bloggin' thing!

I'm smitten, obsessed, addicted, you name it, I LOVE this bloggin' thing.

For an introvert, it's a way to "talk" in front of everyone without tripping over words, shaking, turning red, and feeling dumb.

It's liberating to say the least.

But time is always the culprit, ya know? HOW do I get the hundreds of books on here that I want to share with you all? Slowly, I guess, with patience.

Check back often and let me know about YOUR favorite books!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett

THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett, knocked SECRET LIFE OF BEES out of 2nd place in my list of favorite books of all time. Probably because it's much like my number 1 fave of all time, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee. I felt as if I was reading about old friends and didn't want the book to end.

Here's the summary from Fort Collins Public Library: In Jackson, Mississippi, in 1962, there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women--black and white, mothers and daughters--view one another.

Keep Reading!

So many books, so little time...

I love that saying. And "life is simple, eat, sleep, read". I bought that t-shirt from the literacy site.

Loving/reading a few books at the moment.

TEACH LIKE YOUR HAIR'S ON FIRE by Rafe Esquith. Recommended by Blue Skunk Blog (a great media specialist's blog). Pretty intimidating is this award winning teacher from California. He's a SUPERTEACHER that's hard to live up to. But I'm looking at it in a way that is realistic, taking what I can from it and being inspired. What he does with his kids is pretty darn amazing, but I like that the LOVE he has for them and his job comes shining through.

SPINSTERS IN JEOPARDY by Ngaio Marsh, recommended by Yvette, an internet friend who has become one of my best friends and is certainly a kindred spirit, and the reason for ME starting a blog. Our love for books drew us together, meeting at  author Lee Child's website on his forum.  ANYWAY, I'll tell you more about Yvette and Lee later.

Back to SPINSTERS, written the year I was born. Yes, it is OLD, but a delightful mystery starring a married couple and their small son. Marsh was one of the grande dames of mystery in the 50's along with the likes of Agatha Christie. Her writing reminds me of the way Elizabeth Peters writes her Amelia Peabody series, with that unmistakable "English air" about it. Her word usage blows me away sometimes but never distracts from the story.

From Fort Collins Public Library, a summary of SPINSTERS: En route to a family vacation on the French Riviera, Inspector Roderick Alleyn glimpses from the train a shocking tableau. In a moonlit window, a white-robed figure raises a knife to a woman's shadow. Thus begins his incognito exploration of the Chateau of the Silver Goat ... where a jet-set cult's "Way of Life" could spell death for a maiden lady of a certain age--and even for Alleyn's own young son, unless he can unveil its illicit mysteries.

I love it when authors can make you see, feel, smell, and almost touch their story, don't you? If you like that old English way of life, and writing, anyone would enjoy this.

As always, what are YOU reading?


Saturday, July 24, 2010

First Time Blogger

Everytime I write an email to someone who has asked for book recommendations, I wonder why I don't have my very own blog so I can just say, "go HERE to my blog."

So, if you LOVE books, I hope you'll come back often and let me know what YOU are reading!