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Showing posts from August, 2011

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn

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The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn
by Donna L. Peterson, illustrated by Rachel Sharp
Bonneville Books, 2011
ISBN: 9781599558936
Grades 1-3
Reviewed from copy received from publisher through NetGalley.

Blurb:
Pip, whose real name is Phillip Isaac Penn, feels that the world is against him as he struggles to deal with angry parents, a bossy older sister, a frazzled teacher, and memorable characters such as Bully Bart, Cheater Chaz, Know-It-All Nell, Liar Lizzy, Stealer Steffan, Conman Cody, and Tattle-Tale Tess. Every day of the week brings another challenge that Pip handles in his own endearing way. Yet, no matter how hard he tries, he realizes that it’s just not easy being a kid. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11010453-the-mis-adventures-of-phillip-isaac-penn)
This book reminds me of the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald, where in each chapter a child's particular weakness is dealt with.  Although this book does not use magic to solve the problem.  One thing I particula…

Book Review: Desk Stories by Kevin O'Malley

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Desk Stories
written & illustrated by Kevin O'Malley
Albert Whitman & Company, 2011.
Grades 1-5
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Blurb:
Even though kids spend most of their days with one, desks can be very....surprising. Desks have a long and enduring history -- from the spiked desks of the Middle Ages to the beanbag desks of the 1960s. School desks, in particular, can hide a wide variety of...let's just say "things." In this tongue-in-cheek companion to Backpack Stories, Kevin O'Malley returns with six stories of desks gone wild. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11451417-desk-stories)One thing I enjoy about O'Malley's work is the variety of styles that he uses.  In this collection of short stories he uses a variety of styles, making each story stand on it's own.  My favorite story was the one about the history of the desk (it was fun reading the made up caveman talk). The jokes were a nice pause in the middle and the desks of the future intr…

Book Review: Substitute Creacher

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Substitute Creacher
written & illustrated by Chris Gall
Little, Brown & Company, 2011.
Grades 1-5
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Blurb:
The troublemaking students of Ms. Jenkins' class arrive at school one day to discover a substitute creacher has come to put a stop to their monkey business! He regales them with mind-boggling stories about his former students who didn't follow the rules: Keith the glue-eater, Zach the daydreamer, and Hank the prankster, to name a few. But even this multi-tentacled, yellow-spotted, one-eyed monster's cautionary tales about the consequences of mischief-making can't seem to change the students' wicked ways until he reveals the spookiest and most surprising story of all: his own. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9419182-substitute-creacher) I must confess, I'm not entirely sure about this book.  On the one hand, the rhymes are fun to read, but it's hard to switch back and forth from the rhyming text to the regular t…

Read to Me Picture Book Challenge & Book Talk Tuesday

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Eddie Gets Ready for School
written and illustrated by David Milgrim
Cartwheel Books, 2011.
Grades K-1
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Blurb:
Fall in love with Eddie as he gets ready for school!
Now that Eddie can get ready all by himself, his morning routine is anything but ordinary!
[ ] wake up (with a megaphone)
[ ] get dressed (up in a costume)
[ ] pack a snack (a watermelon's perfect)
[ ] find something for show-and-tell (No, not the TV!)
[ ] run like mad to catch bus!
With understated humor and uproarious illustrations, David Milgrim's first checklist book gets you to school on time, and in a great mood. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10824120-eddie-gets-ready-for-school)
Every year as school starts I look for new books about school to share with the students.  This year I found several new ones to try out on my students.  When I heard about this one, I knew I had to get it and try it out.  I used it last week with a class of first graders and if giggles are any indicatio…

Nonfiction Monday: What's So Funny?

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What's So Funny? Making Sense of Humor
by Donna M. Jackson, illustrated by Ted Stearn
Viking, 2011
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Blurb:
Everyone loves to laugh, and to hear and see funny things-but what makes something funny in the first place? What is humor? This book explains why our brains think something is funny, what happens to us physically when we laugh, why you can tickle your friend but not yourself, and so much more. Plenty of jokes and silly anecdotes are included, and hilarious line drawings appear on almost every page. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10774291-what-s-so-funny)I found this book rather fascinating.  I had no idea that people actually studied humor.  It makes sense though, since laughter is such a big part of human existence.  The author starts off by defining humor and explaining that, "Humor is highly personal."  Which is very true.  This made me think about the times when I've been reading to my students and they laugh at…

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: What makes a classic?

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The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Inga Moore
Candlewick Press, 2008.
Grades: All ages
Reviewed from personal copy.

Sometimes when I go back and reread a book, I find that I don't like it as much the second or third time around.  I've reread books that I liked when I was a kid, but I don't like them as an adult.  But there are some books that are better the second, third, or fourth time around.  And that is for me what creates a classic. I confess I don't like a lot of the books that are traditionally called classics, many of which are too dark and depressing for my taste.  I like books that contain a strong element of hope.

I heard about this beautifully illustrated version of The Secret Garden and I wanted it.  When it came, I started to reread the book, not having read it since childhood.  I loved it.  I loved the characters, Mary, and Dickon, and Colin and Martha, even crotchety Ben Weatherstaff.  I enjoyed reading about Mary's excitement …

Fantastic Friday: Ravenwood by Andrew Peters

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Ravenwood
by Andrew Peters
Chicken House, 2011.
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Blurb:
Who holds the seeds to save a sky-high world?

Arborium is at risk, the sharpened blades of rival Maw poised to saw off its bark and branches. What can a poor plumber's apprentice armed with little more than a monkey wrench do to stop the chopping?

Carved into a massive, mile-high canopy, the forest kingdom of Arborium stands upon the tallest of trees. Within them, 14-year-old Ark holds the lowest of jobs: unclogging toilets. He's already up to his elbows in gunk when he REALLY steps in it. He overhears a plot echoing through the pipes: Maw, a ruthless glass-and-steel superpower, is scheming to wield its axes of evil to strip Arborium of its wood -- a natural resource now more precious than gold.

The fate of a kingdom in the filthy hands of a plumber boy?

Plunged into danger, Ark must make the treacherous climb down to the darkest roots of RAVENWOOD if there's any hope of res…

Before the Last All Clear Review and Giveaway

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Most of the books I read these days are children's books.  Occasionally I read an adult history book or memoir and that is what I am highlighting today.

Before the Last All Clear
by Ray Evans
Book Guild Publishing, 2006.
Grades 5 and up
Reviewed from copy sent by the author.

Blurb:
During World War II, around three and a half million British children were evacuated away from possible air raids in the big cities in one of the largest social upheavals Great Britain has ever seen. One of those children was Ray Evans. This is the story of a young evacuee from Liverpool sent to live in the Welsh town of Llanelli. Separated from his mother, brothers and sisters, six-year old Ray was dispatched to a series of families who ignored, exploited and brutalised him. Pushed from pillar to post, he finally finds happiness with a family who make him so welcome that he is reluctant to leave when war ends. Set in a world of ration books, air-raid sirens and ever-present danger, this is a candid…

Nonfiction Monday & Mix N' Match Monday: Antarctica

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For this upcoming school year, I am using this year's summer reading theme, "One World, Many Stories." As part of that I am paying particular attention to books that take place around the world.  Today I am sharing some books that highlight the continent of Antarctica, a place few of us will ever see in person. After reading these books, I am more than willing to let others visit the place, while I stay at home wrapped up in a cozy blanket and read about it.

Shackleton's Stowaway
by Victoria McKernan
Laurel Leaf Books, 2005
Grades 5 and up
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Blurb: 
On October 26, 1914, Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance set sail from Buenos Aires in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize in exploration: the crossing of the Antarctic continent. The crew stood on deck to watch the city fade away. All but one.Eighteen-year-old Perce Blackborow hid below in a locker. But the thrill of stowing away with the legendary explorer would soon turn to fear. Within months, the…

Fantastic Friday: The Magical Ms. Plum

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With so many children's books vilifying teachers, I enjoy coming across a book with a great teacher in it.  Throw in some magic and some children and I'm hooked.

The Magical Ms. Plum
by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Amy Portnoy
Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.
Grades 1-3
Reviewed from personal copy.

BLURB:
Everybody wants to be in Ms. Plum’s class. It’s not just that she teaches the usual things in unusual ways. There’s something more, something about Ms. Plum herself—and her mysterious supply closet. Whenever she asks her students to get her an eraser or a pencil or some paper clips, they come back with something . . . unusual. Who’d have thought a pinky-sized alligator, a big-mouth parrot, or a tiny wolf could teach kids a thing or two about life? Each year, Ms. Plum is certain she’s had her best class ever. And it looks like this year . . . she’s right! (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6164018-the-magical-ms-plum)Working in a school, I have a chance to see the power of a good tea…

STEM Friday

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STEM Friday highlights great Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math books are available in children's literature.  Today I'm highlighting a great book by Sally Walker, one of my favorite nonfiction writers.

Frozen Secrets, Antarctica Revealed
by Sally M. Walker
Carolrhoda Books, 2010.
Grades 7-12
Reviewed from personal copy.

BLURB:
Antarctica is a land of frozen secrets, with scarcely a handful that have been completely divulged. Join Sally M. Walker as she explores both historical and modern-day scientific expeditions to the continent and examines what secrets might still be locked in the continent's icy cloak secrets that might help scientists understand what the future holds for Earth and its changing climate. (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8561673-frozen-secrets) This book has many great features including the following:
Great organization: the book is easy to follow with a logical beginning with the race to the South Pole and the first discoveries to the impli…

Read to Me Picture Book Reading Challenge

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I have decided to participate in the Read to Me Picture Book Challenge.  I know I am starting kind of late, but with school starting up in a couple of weeks I think I can do it.  I try to read at least one book or chapter of a book to each of my classes each week, so I think the "Watering" level is a good place to start. The goal is to read 36 books with a child by the end of the year. I think this is doable for me.  It should be really fun too with all the great picture books that have come out this year.  Nothing gives me a bigger thrill than to see a child enjoying a book, especially when it's a book that I enjoyed also.  Since school hasn't started yet, my first book is one that I shared with my nephew. I don't want to share his real name so I will simply call him Action Boy (he is a very active child.)


Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow?
by Susan A. Shea, illustrated by Tom Slaughter
Blue Apple Books, 2011.
Grades K-1
Reviewed from personal copy.

Blurb:
A duckling g…

Book Talk Tuesday: Words

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I have found words to be a powerful tool that can be used in both positive and negative ways.  When I hear the phrase, "sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me" I know how wrong it is.  Words can do a lot of damage.  But words can also do a world of good and that is the idea that Patricia MacLachlan explores in Word After Word After Word.

Word After Word After Word
by Patricia MacLachlan
Katherine Tegen Books, 2010.
Grades 2-5
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Blurb:
Every school day feels the same for fourth graders Lucy and Henry and Evie and Russell and May. Then Ms. Mirabel comes to their class—bringing magical words and a whole new way of seeing and understanding.(goodreads.com) Each of the five children that the story focuses on has there own troubles, everything from a parent with cancer to resentment toward a soon to be adopted sibling.  Ms. Mirabel reminds me of a teacher I had who taught me the power of words.  She teaches the students about h…

Fantastic Friday: Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest

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Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest
by Amos Oz, translated by Sondra Silverston
Harcourt Children's Books, 2011.
Grades 5 and up
Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher through NetGalley.

Book blurb:
In a gray and gloomy village, all of the animals—from dogs and cats to fish and snails—disappeared years before. No one talks about it and no one knows why, though everyone agrees that the village has been cursed. But when two children see a fish—a tiny one and just for a second—they become determined to unravel the mystery of where the animals have gone. And so they travel into the depths of the forest with that mission in mind, terrified and hopeful about what they may encounter. (goodreads.com)This is a rather unusual book.  The intent seems to be fable-like with an underlying moral, but for me it came off as mostly a rather sad, depressing book.  However, the writing is beautiful and credit needs to be given to both the author and the translator for that.  I doubt though t…

Book Review Extra: Play Ball, Jackie

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Play Ball, Jackie!
by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Joe Morse
Millbrook Press, 2011.
Grades K-5
Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher through NetGalley.

Book blurb:
Batter up! It's Jackie Robinson's first game in the major leagues. April 15, 1947, is a big day for ten-year-old Matty Romano. His dad is taking him to see his favorite team--the Brooklyn Dodgers--on opening day! It's also a big day for the Dodgers' new first baseman, Jackie Robinson. Many white fans don't like the fact that an African American is playing in the major leagues. By putting Jackie on the team, the Dodgers are breaking the color barrier. How will Jackie respond to the pressure? Is he the player who can finally help the Dodgers make it back to the World Series? (goodreads.com)
Krensky does a good job of placing the reader in the stands during the first major league game that Jackie Robinson played in.  I liked the point-of-view being that of a young boy enjoying a baseball game,…

Nonfiction Monday: A Land of Big Dreamers

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A Land of Big Dreamers: Voices of Courage in America
by Neil Waldman
Millbrook Press, 2011.
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from e-galley provided by publisher through NetGalley.

Book blurb:
From the time Thomas Jefferson wrote "all men are created equal" in 1776, equality has been important to our nation. Yet for much of our history, women, African Americans, Native Americans, and other groups faced unfair treatment. In each generation, brave people who shared Jefferson's dream have spoken out. Over the years, America's dreamers have brought about dramatic changes.In this inspiring book, Neil Waldman honors thirteen Americans who stood up for their beliefs of equality and justice. Many of these brave leaders did not live to see their dreams come true, but each, in his or her own way, achieved a victory that took the nation a giant step ahead toward achieving Jefferson's ideal. (Amazon.com)This book is very thought-provoking, but it only provides a brief introduction to…