Showing posts from November, 2011

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

The Trouble with May Amelia
written by Jennifer L. Holm
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4169-1373-3
Interest Level: Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

BLURB:May Amelia lives in pioneer Washingon State in 1900, and she just can't act the part of a proper young lady. Working a farm on the rainy Nasel River isn't easy - especially when you have seven brothers and a Pappa who proclaims that Girls Are Useless. May Amelia thinks she may have finally earned her father's respect when he asks her to translate for a gentleman who's interested in buying their land and making them rich. But when the deal turns out to be a scam, Pappa places all the blame on May. It's going to take a lot of sisu - that's Finnish for guts - to make things right.

There are quite a few things that I really enjoyed about this book.  I enjoyed May Amelia's voice, she comes shining through loud and clear.  Within the first chapter I had a pretty good idea of May Amel…

YA/MG Fantasy Challenge & Marvelous Middle Grade Read-a-Thon

I've found some more fun challenges to participate in for 2012.  The first is the YA/MG Fantasy Challenge hosted by The Book Cellar.  To participate I will be doing the following:
- Read 10 YA or MG fantasy that are released in 2012
- Post a review on a personal blog or Goodreads
- The challenge runs from January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2012 I already have a bunch of books that I am looking forward to reading next year.  I'm excited to be a part of this.

The Marvelous Middle Grade Read-a-Thon will take place Jan 2-Jan 8, 2012. This one is being hosted by Deb Marshall at Just Deb.  I hope to get a bunch of my middle grade books read during this week.  I will not be able to read all week though since I go back to work (school) that week, but I will do what I can.  For every book I read I will donate a book to my school library.

Book Talk Tuesday: Cloudy with a Chance of Boys by Megan McDonald

Cloudy with a Chance of Boys
(The Sisters Club Series)
written by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Pamela A. Consolazio
Candlewick Press, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4615-8
Interest Level: Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

BLURB:As the middle sister in a family with three girls, Stevie Reel doesn’t know much about boys, and that’s always been just fine with her. But lately, things have been changing: kids at school are starting to pair up, and Owen, the new boy in her Earth Science class, seems to have his sights set on Stevie. The trouble is, Stevie doesn’t want a boyfriend- she’s not even sure she’s ready to have a boy friend. And her sisters, who know exactly where they stand on the issue of boys, are no help: drama queen Alex is busy trying to orchestrate a perfect, Romeo-and-Juliet-style first kiss from her heartthrob, Scott Towel (er, Howell), while Joey can’t understand why anyone would like a boy better than a frog anyway. If only figuring out boys were as easy as predictin…

Nonfiction Monday: Cities of the Dead by Denise Rinaldo

Cities of the Dead: Finding Lost Civilizations
24/7 Science Behind the Scenes Mystery Files (series)
written by Denise Rinaldo
Scholastic, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-531-18739-5
Interest Level: Grades 3-6
Reviewed from copy borrowed from my school library.

BLURBThere's a legend about a great empire that was swallowed up by the sea. Another tale tells of a beautiful city that was buried under ash and falling rock. Did these civilizations ever really exist? And if so, can traces of them be found? That's where archeologists come in. From the harshest deserts to the deepest oceans, they search the world for lost civilizations.

Cities of the Dead provides a basic introduction to the field of archeology and some of the most famous sites that have been searched for and studied.  While not providing a lot of detail, Rinaldo discusses the interest in, search for, and study of the following sites: the City of Troy, the City of Pompeii, and the City of Vilcabamba.  Later in the book, she provides…

Read to Me Picture Book Challenge: Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade
written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-19945-0
Interest Level: All Levels
Reviewed from purchased copy.

BLURBEveryone's a New Yorker on Thanksgiving Day, when young and old rise early to see what giant new balloons will fill the skies for Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Who first invented these "upside-down puppets?"  Tony Sarg—puppeteer, illustrator and legendary prankster who once declared, "I never worked a day in my life."  In brilliant collage illustrations, award-winning artist Melissa Sweet tells the story of this puppeteer, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America—the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy's Parade.

I don't know that I can say anything about this book that hasn't already been said.  Except that I really…

Book Review: America: The Last Best Hope Volume 3 by William J. Bennett

America: The Last Best Hope, Volume 3
From the Collapse of Communism to the Rise of Radical Islam
written by William J. Bennett
Thomas Nelson, 2009
ISBN: 978-1-5955-5428-4
Interest: High school/Adult
Reviewed from copy received through the Book Sneeze program.

BLURB: Twenty years ago, John McCain was serving his second year in the Senate, and Colin Powell had just been promoted to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There was no Fox News Channel, no American Idol. Saddam Hussein and the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeni ruled Iraq and Iran, respectively. George W. Bush was the fairly unnoticeable son of the then-president. If you asked someone to "email me," you would have received a blank stare, and "Amazon" was a forest in South America. Finally, 20 years ago a young man named Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The two decades from 1988 to 2008 have proved to be some of the most pivotal in America's history.

I really e…

Fantastic Friday: Janitors by Tyler Whitesides

written by Tyler Whitesides, illustrations by Brandon Dorman
Shadow Mountain, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-60908-056-3
Grades 3 and up
Reviewed from purchased copy.

BLURBHave you ever fallen asleep during math class? Are you easily distracted while listening to your English teacher? Do you find yourself completely uninterested in geography? Well, it may not be your fault. The janitors at Welcher Elementary know a secret, and it s draining all the smarts out of the kids. Twelveyear- old Spencer Zumbro, with the help of his classmate Daisy Gullible Gates, must fight with and against a secret, janitorial society that wields wizard-like powers. Who can Spencer and Daisy trust and how will they protect their school and possibly the world? 

Maybe it's because I work in a school that I enjoyed this so much, janitors with special tools, critters that suck brain power from students, what great concepts.  I know the janitor at my school is a valuable ally and I think it's a g…

Read to Me Picture Book Challenge: Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka

Fall Mixed Up
written by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Chad Cameron
Carolrhoda Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7613-4606-7
Grades K-2
Reviewed from personal copy.

Fall is full of many enjoyable activities, carving pumpkins, raking and jumping in piles of leaves, or watching flocks of geese fly south for the winter.  Unfortunately, Raczka seems to be a little confused in this book.  Here we have red pumpkins and orange apples, bears gathering nuts for winter and squirrels flying south, while geese hibernate.  And the worst error of all, touchdowns are hit and home runs are kicked!? What a horrible mix-up!? (I hope you realize I'm being factitious, here). 

The kindergartners got a big kick out of correcting all the mix-ups in this book.  I also enjoyed reading it and pretending to be shocked at all the errors. The words are fun to read, but it's the glorious full color illustrations that showcase the silliness in this book.  Combine this with the Fall's Here series of books produced by Lerne…

Nonfiction Monday: Fall's Here series

The Fall's Here series, part of Cloverleaf books, published by Millbrook Press, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, consists of the following six books, all of which I recommend.

Animals in Fall: Preparing for Winter (ISBN: 978-0-7613-8506-6)
Fall Apples: Crisp and Juicy (ISBN: 978-0-7613-8507-3)
Fall Harvests: Bringing in Food (ISBN: 978-0-7613-8508-0)
Fall Leaves: Colorful and Crunchy (ISBN: 978-0-7613-8505-9)
Fall Pumpkins: Orange and Plump (ISBN: 978-0-7613-8509-7)
Fall Weather: Cooler Temperatures (ISBN: 978-0761385103)written by Martha E. H. Rustad, illustrated by Amanda Enright
Millbrook Press, 2012
Grades K-2
Reviewed from personal copies.

Each of these books covers a specific part of the fall season.  Animals is Fall discusses what animals do to prepare for winter including migration, hibernation, and camouflage.  Fall Apples covers the growth and development of apples from the planting of the seed to the harvesting of the crop.  It also mentions some of the different ways that …

Fantastic Friday: The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale
written by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright, drawings by Barry Mose
Peachtree, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-56145-595-4
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

Skilley, an alley cat with an embarrassing secret, longs to escape his hard life dodging fishwives brooms and carriage wheels and trade his damp alley for the warmth of the Cheshire Cheese Inn. When he learns that the innkeeper is looking for a new mouser, Skilley comes up with an audacious scheme to install himself in the famous tavern. Once established in the inn, Skilley strikes a bargain with Pip, the intelligent mouse-resident, and his fellow mice. Skilley protects the mice and the mice in turn give to Skilley the delectable Cheshire cheese of the inn. Thus begins a most unlikely alliance and friendship. The cat and mouse design a plan to restore Maldwyn wounded raven and faithful guard in the service of Queen Victoria to his rightful place in The Tower, but …

Read to Me Picture Book Challenge: The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett

The Princess and the Pig
written by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene
Walker & Company, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8027-2335-2
Grades K-3
Reviewed from library copy.

BLURB:There's been a terrible mix-up in the royal nursery. Priscilla the princess has accidentally switched places with Pigmella, the farmer's new piglet. The kindly farmer and his wife believe it's the work of a good witch, while the ill-tempered king and queen blame the bad witch-after all, this happens in fairy tales all the time! While Priscilla grows up on the farm, poor yet very happy, things don't turn out quite so well for Pigmella. Kissing a frog has done wonders before, but will it work for a pig?

I picked up this book thinking it would be the typical based on fairy tales sort of book.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is not.  Many princess books, which little girls devour, show only the positive parts of being a princess, the beautiful dresses, the parties, the happily eve…

Seasons Readings Challenge

I've decided to participate in the Seasons Readings Challenge being hosted by Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf.  I love Christmas books of all kinds, so this is a great chance for me to share my favorites, old and new. The challenge starts on December 1st, but for directions on how to participate see this post.  Basically, all that is required is to read and review books related to the holiday season, as many or few as you want.  I'm going to try to do at least one for every weekday.  Most of the ones I plan to read will be picture books that I will be sharing with my students, most will be Christmas related but some will be Hanukkah and Kwanzaa related. I am looking forward to a great reading season.

2012 Debut Author Challenge

I've decided to participate in this year's 2012 Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren.  I'm excited to get to read at least 12 middle grade or young adult books by author's new to these genres. 

Here is a list of some of the books I'm interested in reading for this challenge.  This is of course just a preliminary list, it will undoubtedly change as the year progresses. I will undoubtedly discover other great debut books to read. Book descriptions and covers are from

Storybound by Marissa Burt

In the land of Story, children go to school to learn to be characters: a perfect Hero, a trusty Sidekick, even the most dastardly Villain. They take classes on Outdoor Experiential Questing and Backstory, while adults search for full-time character work in stories written just for them.

In our world, twelve-year-old Una Fairchild has always felt invisible. But all that changes when she stumbles upon a mysterious book buried deep in the basem…

Book Talk Tuesday: Otis and the Tornado by Loren Long

Otis and the Tornado
written and illustrated by Loren Long
Philomel Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-25477-2
Grades K-3
Reviewed from personal copy.

Otis the tractor and his farm animal friends love to play follow the leader.  All the animals participate except for the big bull who snorts and growls at anyone (or anything) that gets too close to his pen or pasture.  Otis tries to befriend the beast, but with no luck.  The day a tornado arrives at the farm changes everything.  While the farmer and his family run for the cellar, Otis frantically releases the animals and they flee to the lowest lying land on the farm. When Otis realizes that the bull is not there he is determined to help the animals despite past unkindnesses.

I'll say right off the bat that I am a big fan of Otis.  I fell in love with him the minute I read the first book.  So much so that I ordered the stuffed toy.  I like this book even better than first.  The large, bright illustrations make this book perfect as a read-a-lou…

Nonfiction Monday: Wilderness Survival

Stranded! Amy Racina's Story of Survival
written by Tim O'Shei
Capstone Press, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-4296-0088-0
Grades 2-6
Reviewed from personal copy.

Amy Racina set out during the summer of 2003 on a 17-day hike through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  She went alone.  She felt comfortable doing this after developing a love of hiking following her first intense hiking trip with her father and brother in 1972.  Amy stayed on the main hiking trails for the first 11 days of her trip.  Then she decided she wanted more time alone and took to the more rarely used trails.  Unfortunately, she lost the trail and had to cross a steep hill to get back to the trail.  While attempting to accomplish this, the ground fell out from under her and she fell 60 feet.

Amy's injuries were severe, including broken bones and a crushed right knee.  She quickly put on a tourniquet to slow the bleeding and then fixed herself some hot soup to keep herself from succumbing to shock.  Amy decided to try to attemp…

Mix N' Match Monday: Triangle Waist Company Fire of 1911

There are some events that are forever etched in a person's memory.  Some of these events are individual, some of them involve a community.  And some events reside permanently in a country's memory.  These events may be tragedies like September 11th or triumphs like landing on the moon or bringing Apollo 13 home safely.  One such event occurred on March 25, 1911. A building fire. Now fires occur every day, what makes this one unique is the number of lives lost, needlessly lost one might say.  The 146 people (123 of them were girls) who died that day needn't have died if some simple precautions had been taken.  At the time however, laborers had few rights and in fact were treated in many cases like dirt.  The following books take a look at this event and the circumstances that preceded it and what happened afterward.  The first two books I highlight below are nonfiction, the final two are fiction.

Garment workers in the early part of the twentieth century had few rights.  T…

Fantasy Friday: 43 Old Cemetery Road by Kate Klise

43 Old Cemetery Road (series)
written by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
Harcourt Children's Books, 2009-2011
Grades 2-5
Reviewed from personal copies.

This series revolves around the experiences of three characters, Ignatius B. Grumply, a famous author of children's books, Seymour Hope, an 11-year old boy who has been abandoned by his parents and his cat, Shadow, and Olive C. Spence, an unpublished author and resident ghost.  Book one, Dying to Meet You, begins with Ignatius looking for a house to rent for the summer while he wrestles with writing a new children's book in his Ghost Tamers series.  Unfortunately, or so Ignatius thinks, he discovers that the house that he rents has other residents, namely Seymour and his friend Olive.  Ignatius becomes increasingly frustrated with what he believes is Seymour's pranks and references to his ghost friend, Olive.  But when Olive inserts herself into his increasingly frantic efforts to overcome his writer's block, …

Read to Me Picture Book Challenge: Billy & Milly Short & Silly by Eve B. Feldman

Billy & Milly Short & Silly
written by Eve B. Feldman, pictures by Tuesday Mourning
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-24651-7
Grades K-2
Reviewed from personal copy.

Follow Billy and Milly through thirteen adventures in these funny and simple short stories. Through very basic storytelling, these brief narratives are told in only three or four words apiece. For example, "Stoops (Billy and Milly sit on their front stoops as the ice cream truck drives by.), Hoops (Billy shoots his basketball...), Scoops ( Milly licks her ice cream cone...), Oops (...until the ball hits the cone and squashes her ice cream!)." I used this book last week with my first and second grade students as an introduction to story elements.  I explained to them that to be a story there needs to be at least three things: characters, setting, and plot.  The short stories in this book worked perfectly to emphasize my point that a story doesn't need to have 100 pages to be a …