Monday, November 5, 2012

Each Kindness by Jaqueline Woodson

I needed a book to follow up Wonder by R.J. Palacio to continue our theme of kindness. Jaqueline Woodson's Each Kindness was perfect. It is not a feel good book, and I warned my students. I invited my fourth and fifth graders to comment or make a connection, and I was touched by their thoughts. Many talked of being bullied themselves. Others told me of an unkindness they had done and could not take back. One child noticed that the girl that they had been unkind to in the book seemed happy and unfazed. Maybe this student will realize that even though the girl was poor and in hand me down clothes, she had dignity and confidence, maybe a proud and strong family behind her.This book will stick with you long after you've read it. "Each kindness makes the world a little better."

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Finished the audio last night (read by the brilliant Jim Dale) of this enchanting book, a debut by Erin Morgenstern. Hubby was watching the first game in the World Series when I took out my earbuds and exclaimed, "Wow, that was AMAZING! I WILL buy the book but in the mean time, I'm listening to it again!" He commented he could tell by all the gasps, sighs, and tears.

I chose this book for our October staff book club and I can't wait to talk about it with everyone. No, it is not a children's book, but one of my former students, now in middle school, would LOVE it. If you like unpredictability, love stories, and magic, then enter The Night Circus.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Charting the World by Richard Panchyk

Charting theWorld - Geography and Maps from Cave Paintings to GPS

Map lovers will not be the only ones fascinated by this book. It is so much more than a book of maps. It is a history of geography with amazing facts. Page 49: "During the 17th century, as the waves of explorers who visited the New World sent favorable reports back to Europe, a steady stream of settlers from Europe began to enter the Americas. The European population of the American colonies rose from about 350 in 1610 to 50,000 in 1650. By 1700, there were 250,000 settlers in the English colonies of North America, and many thousands more lived in the New France and New Spain."  I love a book that makes me think, "I didn't know that," and then leads to a new question or wondering.

The amount of information that is in this book is phenomenal. He covers so many different aspects of mapping, history, a timeline of maps, and of course, a ton of actual maps. Not only does it provide interesting information, it includes 21 activities for students.  

I bought this book for my elementary school even though it is more geared to adults and teachers. It's just so cool to look at and can be read in bits and pieces. If you have a kid who loves maps, this would be a great book to share with them.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Catching Up with My Goodreads Challenge!

Due to a busy summer (our new granddaughter) and an even busier start of school, I found myself behind in my Goodreads challenge. But lately I've had some great luck at the library. Here are some of my favorites.

Meghan McCarthy's wonderful non-fiction books are  great! I LOVE the illustrations and the information is perfect for elementary students. Whenever I read, if the book is really good, I hand it immediately to my husband. We were both impressed with how interesting she makes the story while giving you facts that you might not have thought about. Kids LOVE that!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater, The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series

It's winter and 16 year old Grace watches for the yellow-eyed wolf . She's never seen him in the summer. Ten years ago, his pack tore her from her swing and dragged her into the woods. But "her wolf", with the brilliant yellow eyes, saved her. Finally, she spots him, camouflaged by the trees, but she's memorized those eyes. It's her wolf, and each summer, that first glimpse takes her breath away. She's missed him so. 

Then come summer and Grace meets Sam, a boy her age, who has yellow eyes. Can it be? Grace doesn't know how, but she's certain he has to be the wolf she's come to love.

Sam can't believe his luck. He has watched her from the woods, his Grace, for so long. And now, here she is, in his arms. He won't think about winter, when the degrees start to drop, and the cold will eventually turn him back into a wolf. How can he leave his Grace, he's just found her? But summer won't last forever. 

Maggie Stiefvater has woven a wonderful, imaginative love story, full of suspense. 4 Stars.

And best of all, it's a trilogy!   

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Recent Books I've Enjoyed!

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Picked this up at the used book store and didn't realize what a favorite it oldie but goodie.

In my canoeberry
Under the bridge
And over the dam
Looking for berries Berries for jam

Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Wonderful story about two boys doing the same things but in different cultures!

 Goodnight Ipad by Ann Droyd

One of my student's and her mom bought this for me, aren't they sweet? It's hilarious and oh, TOO true! 

The Biggest Kiss by Joanna Walsh

LOVED this book...such sweet illustrations by Judi Abbot and a lovely story about how EVERY ONE kisses or gets kissed. Here's the line that hooked me: “Kisses on noses, kisses on toes-es. Sudden kisses when you least supposes.” Buying for my grandkids Henry and Kaily. That's right, I have a granddaughter...two weeks old tomorrow, Kaily!

 My Rhinoceros by Jon Agee

Love, love, love Jon Agee! I just went on his website and my, oh, my do I have a LOT of books to purchase for my library, there's only six! Instead of telling you about it, I'll show you. Watch the video below!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer Book Reading!

My Goodreads goal for the year is 366 books...yep, a book a day! And I'm actually ahead of schedule. The wonderful Harmony Library is just blocks from my house. We took Henry there yesterday and of course you know what a three year old wants to do. Push the handicap buttons to open all the doors! We also had to stop him from choosing every book he saw and putting them into my bag. They have a great selection of new books in the children's area and I clear them out. I'm going later today, too.

Over and Under by Kate Messner is one of those books that captures you first with the pictures by Chris Silas Neal and then Kate's wonderful story. Here is the blurb from Kate's website: "Over the snow, the world is hushed and white. But under the snow exists a secret kingdom of squirrels and snow hares, bears and bullfrogs, and many other animals that live through the winter safe and warm, awake and busy, under the snow. Discover the wonder and activity that lies beneath winter’s snowy landscape in this magical book."

I always hand the book over to my darling hubby after I've finished it. We both agreed that the illustrations were amazing and the way Kate wrote the book makes it a great picture book! She teaches us very cool facts about animals and winter without being "teachy". We loved it! If you, or children you know, love animals, pick this book up. I will guarantee not only will you love it but you will be delightfully surprised at what you learn! 5 Stars

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pig Pig Meets the Lion by David McPhail

David McPhail is a prolific writer and illustrator with over 150 books to his credit. Pig Pig Meets the Lion is the latest in his Pig Pig series. McPhail's illustrations are so luscious, it's no wonder he has been a popular illustrator for many other authors besides his own.

Pig Pig Meets the Lion starts on the inside cover of the book, where we see the lion jumping over the zoo's fence while the other animals sleep. On the next page the lion is running down the road toward a lonely house in the middle of the countryside. Then we see Mother Pig bending down on her front porch for the milk and newspaper, the headlines read, "Lion Escapes". Turn the page and we're finally at the title page. Mother Pig is going inside the house, looking at the paper while lion is climbing the tree up to Pig Pig's bedroom window.

Throughout the book Pig Pig and Lion are playing all over the house, chasing each other, while Mother Pig is your typical busy mom, cooking breakfast and talking on her cell phone. Kids will recognize this mom who is chatting with her child but really not paying attention. She's stirring the pot while telling Pig Pig that a lion has escaped from the zoo. Pig Pig says, "I know" while he and Lion are diving under the kitchen table. Kids will squeal with delight while mother is oblivious until the very end of the book; the inside back cover, where she is surprised to see two zoo employees at her front door. We see Lion leaving Pig Pig's bedroom window to climb down the tree.

On the back jacket flap, the fun doesn't stop. "David lives in Rye, New Hampshire, and would very much like to meet a friendly lion over breakfast."

Pre-school age children and up will love the adventures of Pig Pig!

a bus called heaven by Bob Graham

Bob Graham is an author and illustrator from Australia. I don't know why, but I've yet to come across an Aussie author that wasn't unique...even quirky, in some way. This is no exception. An abandoned bus shows up one day in front of the house of a small, pale little girl named Stella. A hand-painted sign, held down with packing tape reads "Heaven". Books with illustrations that beg to be looked at over and over...those that reveal something new each time your eyes meet the page, are an indicator for me, of a great children's book. The first sentence reads, "The bus brought change to Stella's street". On this page, the people are curious about the bus and from every walk of life: young, old, different backgrounds, and Stella, gently pushing the door of the bus open. On a post is a no parking and a towing sign. The community comes together and makes it a place for everyone to gather, which makes it sound formulaic and preachy. Please, please don't assume here, the story is still Stella's, a young girl just doing what her heart tells her. Graham's book is so original and lovely that you don't want to miss what happens when the men come to tow Heaven away. The illustrations wonderfully provide the story with gentle humor. This will be my read aloud to end my school year...I feel it's that kind of story. One that reminds us that each night we are all looking up at the same stars...we are all in this together.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


If you like young adult books, fantasy with a hint of romance, and set in Victorian England, check out Cassandra Clare's series, The Infernal Devices.

Starting with the second series, The Infernal Devices, before reading The Mortal Instruments series, had me thinking this could have been a mistake. In my defense, I saw a review of Clockwork Angel not knowing about the first series, and liked the premise. Needing something in audio, I was delighted to see it was read by the wonderful Jennifer Ehle. She may be best known as the actress who was Elizabeth in the 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth (which I may be just a tad bit obsessed with). She also played Myrtle Logue, the speech therapist's wife in The King's Speech. Ehle is spot on with the different character's voices and I loved the book. Now I am onto the second one, Clockwork Prince. To say that I was duly disappointed that Ehle was not the narrator quickly turned into delight when I heard the amazing male voice of Ed Westwick.  Heather Lind is also good as the female counterparts.

This introduction to the series is taken from Cassandra Clare's website:

"Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own."

One of the things I love about this series, besides being set in England, is the author's obvious love of books, poetry, and reading. Each chapter starts with a quote from a book or a poem. Her main character, Tessa, constantly has a book in her hands. Will, the main male character, often spouts from books and poetry. It is this common interest that draws Tessa to Will, not to mention he's gorgeous and charming. But Will has a past and just when Tessa thinks he feels the same for her, he hurts her to the core. And then there is Jem, Will's best and closest friend. He's so unlike Will, but they are fiercely loyal to each other. These two Shadow Hunters' lives are fraught in mystery. Does Tessa dare get close enough to either of them to find out their secrets?  

The Mortal Instruments, Starting with City of Bones, takes place in modern time New York (and is being made into a movie). So that makes me feel a little bit better about reading them out of "order". Her newest series, The Dark Artifices, will come out in 2015. Los Angeles is the setting. I know I will be devouring the rest of these...will you?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

WONDER by R.J. Palacio

WONDER by R.J. Palacio

R.J. Palacio, thank you, for writing Wonder. I read to p. 46, stopped, and wrote this.

When I'm reading a book,
A book I know that
Has been read by friends,
It's like we are all looking up
At the same bright star in the sky
At exactly the same time.

Picture The publisher's description:

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

It took some time to talk myself into reading this book. I don't go easily into some subjects. I didn't think I could get through it, but so many people raved about the humanity contained within its pages, that I gave it a try. Then I stopped. Then I started again and had it finished within a few days. I have been raving about it ever since.

Everyone knows that I cry at...well, just about anything. So for me to cry wouldn't exactly be newsworthy. But it was when in the book that surprised me...the English class with the amazing was the precepts that got to me. I had actually flipped to the back to see her picture when I noticed the appendix...and breaking my rule of  'never read ahead', I read them...ALL of them. Then I asked my husband to please read up to p. 46. He did and said, "I'll read the rest of it after you do. But you should have read the next page, especially the last sentence." Then he started to read it out loud and I quickly yelled at him to stop. So I just grabbed it from him and read p. 47. And that's where I was as of 2:52 p.m. April 22, Earth Day, 2012.

Monday night we had a visit from our grandson so I had to stop reading and didn't finish the book before bedtime. Woke up at 3:30, tried to get back to sleep and then realized I could get up and finish Wonder. So, of course, I did. Sobbed, and sobbed...and sobbed some more. But it was a good cry. I was glad that I had time to recover before school started, though. Fantastic. Touching. Funny. Sad. Real. Simply amazing!

It's now one of my favorite books I've ever read. To take a subject like this, where few of us have encountered someone like Auggie, it's hard not to think, "how is she going to pull this off?" But she does...and with such grace. Another one of those books where I think everyone on earth should read.

Hurray for Wonder, may it continue getting its well deserved praise! 5 Stars!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Books Make Me Smile!

Ordering books is so much fun because eventually they do make it to my house. It's a great feeling when I see the boxes because I forgot that I ordered them but immediately know what they are. And for someone as old as I am, I forget WHICH books I ordered so it's like Christmas when I rip them open. Each time I pulled out a book, I gasped!

Now, how do I decide which one to read first? Well, I can actually start reading all of them, which I am often known to do. But I'm smack in the middle of a really good second in a series and I think I'll stick with that tonight.  But who knows...once I get finished with this, it's open season.

I've heard SO MUCH about Wonder by R. J. Palacio that I thought maybe I had to start there. BUT...I have a teacher at school that I know will love it and then she'll talk me into reading it. And Wonder is one of those books that I might have to be talked to a LOT. Sensitive material is hard for me...I'm a big baby and a big chicken. Said teacher kept telling me to read Hunger Games but I would grimace and shiver. It took a couple years. I then read the trilogy in a few days. Now it's taken off like wild fire through my fifth graders, especially because the movie is coming out soon. Wonder is also the type of book that I won't start at night. It's a "light of day" type of book for me. Yes...I have a LOT of reading quirks.

Wonder is about a boy about to start middle school after being home schooled all his life. He decides it's time to go to a public school. He's just like every other middle schooler there. Except for one thing...his face is horribly deformed.

But The Mighty Miss Malone, by the amazing Christopher Paul Curtis, is begging me to pick it up, too. It takes place during the Great Depression, which my mother used to say, "you should have had to live through the depression, you'd appreciate things more". My young brain would think, "WHY would you wish that on anyone?" but never voice out loud. Now I want to read anything I can during the time my mother lived her young life.  

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly was one of those books. I just finished it on audio and the reader was superb. A lighter book and probably the reason it only got an Honor recognition by Newbery voters, but it is Newbery worthy. Calpurnia is an 11 year old girl from a well-to-do family in Texas in the year 1898. Wearing corsets and "coming out" doesn't appeal to her in the least. She'd rather be with her grandfather and reading about Darwin's Origin of Species, or being with her six brothers. I laughed out loud every single day driving to work and back as I listened to Calpurnia and her adventures.  

Trail of the Spellmans by the hilarious Lisa Lutz is a book that wasn't supposed to happen. At least that's what I had heard...that the Spellmans series was over. Was I ever delighted to hear that it was out and I could order it. The Spellmans are one of the most dysfunctional families in America but one of the funniest, too. They are all private investigators, with major issues of their own. The minor characters in this book are as delightful as the main!

The picture books are the desserts to the main meal of my group. Who knows when I'll get to them? Desserts are to be savored.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Broke My Trunk by Mo Willems

Mo Willems' simple illustrations are genius! Every line is important. We, as the readers, know exactly how Elephant, Piggie, Pigeon, and Trixie are feeling. Kids get this. Kids love Mo Willems! Adults love Mo Willems! Librarians adore and idolize him! We know his secret. Making children laugh while they are learning to read. I Broke My Trunk is now my favorite E & P book. The story, the expressions on their faces, the hippos, everything is perfect! Mark my words, Mo Willems is going to go down in history as one of America's all time best children's authors and illustrators EVER!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

From Harper Collins: Katherine was inspired to write The One and Only Ivan after reading about the true story of a captive gorilla known as Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla. The real Ivan lived alone in a tiny cage for twenty-seven years at a shopping mall before being moved to Zoo Atlanta after a public outcry. He is now a beloved celebrity at the zoo, which houses the nation’s largest collection of western lowland gorillas. Ivan is well known for his paintings, which he “signs” with a thumb-print.

I had heard so much about this book and just knew I'd never be able to read it. It's about animals...I can't read books about animals, no way. Then, people just kept talking about it. Words like "life changing" & "people will be talking about this book for years to come". Well...I will add my own...everyone on earth should read this book. It's gut wrenching and wonderful all at the same time. I sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed. In a good way. Please, please, please read this book and tell other people to read it. You won't regret it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Squirrel Fever!

The amazing Anita Silvey's Children's Book-A-Day Almanac features Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt. A young friend of mine who is a marriage and family therapist, talks about how important it is to let children know that their feelings are normal. And NOT just happy emotions but ALL emotions. Anger, jealousy, sadness, and FEAR. Anita shares with us how Melanie wrote the book because of her own fears. She's afraid of sharks. This is not only a great book to get this conversation started but it's HILARIOUS, too! I must caution though, don't read books to children to TEACH them something, read them because you want to share the love of reading. If it comes up while reading, awesome. But keep it short and sweet. Being a teacher, I tend to do my "teacher" thing and go on and on and on, just ask my students. But I think I make up for it in my enthusiasm and obvious LOVE of books. At least, I hope so.

My students howled over THOSE DARN SQUIRRELS by Adam Rubin and Illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. The quirky story and amazing illustrations make this one of the funniest books I've ever read! I discovered it by actually reading it's sequel first, which just came out. Well...I can't read the book that came after the original to the kids first, I'm just not built like that! But they are really excited to hear THOSE DARN SQUIRRELS AND THE CAT NEXT DOOR and I can't wait to read it to them! 

The cover of the book hooked me right away, what with the old man and his carrot-like nose, skinny arms, and fat neck, not to mention the squirrels. On the first page I roared when I read the character's name; "Old Man Fookwire". I thought, "Oh, this is going to be good." But I was's GREAT! This book surprises at every turn with Rubin's word choice and the squirrels' antics. This is one of those books where the illustrations fit perfectly. Hopefully this pair will make a lot more books together!

This is the blurb I found on Amazon about Adam Rubin: "Adam Rubin grew up in New York and now lives in Chicago. During the day, he works as a creative director. At night, he writes kids books. Really late at night, he performs improv comedy. When he sleeps, he dreams about magic tricks." Finding out that he does improv comedy explains a lot!

So Adam and Daniel, give us more squirrel adventures, PLEASE!!!