Monday, September 29, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? September 29, 2014

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.
by Aaron Becker
It is just as good as Journey. I was so excited to learn that this is a triliogy! 
by Marc Barnett
Illustrated by JanCorace 
Such a cute book. You will be compelled to play the telephone game after reading it.

by Oliver Jeffers 
I LOVE Oliver Jeffers!! This book is silly and fun and shows how this boy never gives up!

Finished Listening...
Out of the Dust 
by Karen Hesse 
I enjoyed this book although it is mostly sad. What a horrible experience.

Almost Finished...

Currently Listening...

What Are YOU  Reading Friends?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Stack-It-Up Sunday, September 28, 2014

On Sundays I like to share some of the random piles of books around my house. I originally posted about my piles on this celebration post. I'm sure you have stacks of books piled around and as I like to say...
Each pile has its own story.

Here is the "return to library" pile. Sadly I did not read all of them.

I picked these up at the library this week! Plan to read them today!

TJ has been reading these three favorites over and over again all week. 

Molly finished This Journal Belongs to Ratchet this week and LOVED it! 

Here is my bedside table stack. The two on the bottom are Brown Girl Dreaming (LOVING IT!) and Mystery of the Eagle's Nest. Does anyone else remove the jackets while they are reading? They bug me a little. 

Then there is my car.
Thanks to my super-awesome nerdy friend Susan Dee I have new-to-us graphic novels to bring to school tomorrow! I got these from her last week when we met up for a wonderful dinner and they are still in my trunk. 

In my front seat. I literally ran into my public library before it closed yesterday afternoon to grab Stuck by Oliver Jeffers. I get to read it to a first grade class tomorrow. 

What's In YOUR Stacks?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Review of Charlie Bumpers and the Squeaking Skull

Charlie Bumpers and the Squeaking Skull
by Bill Harley
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Expected release date: September 1, 2014
164 Pages
Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher. 

Summary From Goodreads
This Halloween Charlie and Tommy have big plans. They hope they can get out of taking their little sisters around and go trick-or-treating in Alex's upscale neighborhood instead. There they'll get tons more candy, they'll be on their own, and afterwards they'll get to attend the sleepover at Alex's house. But when Charlie finds out that the entertainment at the party is to consist of the "Scariest Horror Movies Ever," he is struck by panic. Charlie loves candy, he loves sleepovers with his friends, but he absolutely hates horror movies. There is yet another wrinkle in Charlie's Halloween plans. He is determined to win the big prize (ten movie tickets) that will be awarded for the best costume, but when he finally comes up with a genius prize-winning idea, he runs into an unexpected obstacle

How will Charlie be able to enjoy Halloween this year?

My Thoughts
Charlie faces a common problem. How can he tell his friends that he doesn't like something that they all seem to be really excited about? When everyone wants to see a really scary movie at a friend's Halloween sleepover, Charlie is too afraid to speak up and say that he doesn't like to be scared. This could lead to some great discussions in class or at home. What should/could you do if your friends want to do something that makes you uncomfortable?
I admired Charlie's determination to make his Halloween costume despite the fact that his very busy mom can't help him. Kudos to Ms. Bromley, the art teacher for stepping up to help him. 

I like how Charlie finds out that the grass is not always greener in ritzy neighborhoods when his candy haul is less than what he gets when he trick-or-treats with his little sister. He also learns that the tough, fearless bully is not always as he seems. 

Many children ages 7-10 will enjoy this book. It has a mixture of humorous parts and parts that lend themselves to thought-provoking discussions.  

Watch the book trailer.

Other books in this series:

See what others have to say about the Charlie Bumpers books.

A Review of Mystery of the Eagle's Nest-Cooper and Packrat #2

Mystery of the Eagle's Nest-Cooper and Packrat #2
by Tamra Wight
Illustrated by Carl DiRocco
Published by Islandport Press
August 2014
180 pages
Middle Grade
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Did you know that people buy and sell eagle feathers, claws, and parts? Cooper and Packrat didn't, either. But they're learning fast. When the boys find a box of valuable eagle parts, they soon realize that the owner will stop at nothing to get them back, in this fast-paced middle-grade mystery from Tamra Wight.

Trouble has returned to Wilder Family Campground. When Cooper and Packrat find their geo-cache box full of illegal eagle parts, their lazy summer is over. Someone wants those valuable parts back. And if they can't get the parts back, they'll settle for holding one of the rare Pine Lake eaglets hostage instead. Cooper, Packrat, and Roy must elude two goons, tolerate an annoying teenager, keep tabs on a shady new camper, and stake out the eagle's nest -- all without getting grounded. Tamra Wight has written an exciting follow-up to "Mystery on Pine Lake," ripe with adventure and natural history, but above all, a tale of compassion and friendship.

My Thoughts
This series is perfect for middle graders. The friendship that Wight has developed, among the characters, throughout the first book and this installment seems genuine and students will enjoy watching how they work together. I live in Maine and I am very familiar with our campgrounds and our beautiful lakes and forests. Wight's love for Maine's natural environment shines through in her writing.  I also learned a lot about eagles by reading this book. Did you know that it is very rare for a female eagle to hatch more than two eaglets at a time? Me either! 
In this book Cooper, Packrat and their friends must face many dangers and work together in order to save the eaglets from capture. Like most mysteries, you think you know "whodunnit" but then there are surprising twists near the end.  Children ages 7-10 will enjoy this book (and the series). 

Cooper and Packrat: Mystery of the Eagle's Nest is available now. Be sure to check out the first book, Cooper and Packrat: Mystery at Pine Lake. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading-September 22, 2014

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

Bramble and Maggie: Spooky Season
by Jessie Haas
Illustrated by Alison Friend
A cute early chapter book series for girls who love horses. 
A more detailed review to come. 

by Raina Telgemeier
Another terrific graphic novel based on Raina's early life. 
Sure to be a hit with fans of Smile and Drama

Finished Listening...
by John Green
Ok, now I get it. This is a book that stays with you. Unfortunately, I listened to it in the car on the way to work so I had to pull myself together before entering the building. 

Currently Reading...

Currently Listening...

What are YOU Reading Friends?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-The Long, Long Journey: The Godwit's Amazing Migration

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website. 

by Sandra Markle
Illustrated by Mia Posada
Published by Millbrook Press 2013

This book starts with the birth of a little, female godwit chick in Alaska. It then chronicles her development and finally her 8 day, often perilous, migration flight to the mudflats of New Zealand. Accompanied by Mia Posada's beautiful illustrations, The Long, Long Journey is full of facts about this little bird. The most amazing to me was that they fly for 8 days without stopping-unbelievable! My partner teacher read it to my 4th graders last week and used a world map to show the path from Alaska to New Zealand. The kids were awestruck and filled with questions. There is an author's  note and further reading suggestions in the back of the book. 

Use this book....
*as part of a unit of study on animals or animal adaptive behaviors.
*as a mentor text for nonfiction writing. 
*to spark interest during a research unit. 

This neat video shows the flight path of the godwits. 
More info about these amazing birds here

Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading-September 15, 2015

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

This will be short. I have not been able to read 
a whole lot lately, but I did read one book this week.

Charlie Bumpers and the Squeaking Skull
by Bill Harley
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Cute middle grade book. 3rd in the series. Review later in the month. 

Currently Listening....
Loving it so far. Now I see what all the buzz was about. 

Up next?
Hopefully I can get back to Brown Girl Dreaming.

I also need to finish Sisters.

What Are YOU Reading Friends?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

A Review of Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Expected Publication February 5, 2015. 
Nancy Paulsen Books
288 pages
Disclosure: Review copy provided by the publisher. 

My 12 year-old daughter Molly and I recently finished reading Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Our love for Lynda and her first novel, One for the Murphys, is no secret (see our Nerdy Book Club Post). She is a wonderful author and an amazing person. When I was fortunate enough to receive an advanced copy of Fish in a Tree, we were thrilled to say the least.

Molly made me promise not to read ANY of it without her. She wanted to read it aloud like we did with Murphys. This was tough for me because I was dying to read it, but I'm glad we were able to experience it together. 

It took us a while to finish reading this book, only because Molly kept wanting to stop to discuss what was happening. She had many questions and comments. "Why were Shay and Jessica so mean? I love Keisha! This happens at my school too." Etc. But I would not have had it any other way. Stopping to discuss the story deepened our experience and connection to the book. 

Ally is a girl who misbehaves in school to hide the fact that she can't read. Finally Mr. Daniels becomes her teacher. Although she needs to deal with teasing and humiliation from the awful Shay and her cronies, things are about to change for Ally. Mr. Daniels is the kind of teacher who sees the potential in every student. He notices that Ally is a talented artist and is great at solving problems with logic and critical thinking. Through his observations and assessments, Mr. Daniels realizes that Ally has dyslexia. Finally she has an explanation for why the letters seem to float around on the page and why she gets headaches while reading. Through hard work, faith and grit, Ally begin the arduous, but rewarding task of learning to read in a way that works for her brain.
I love Mr. Daniels. Every child should be lucky enough to have such a dedicated teacher who believes wholeheartedly in their success.

Throughout the school year, Ally has developed a friendship with the spunky and outspoken Keisha and brilliant, but quirky Albert. Through this friendship each one of them learns about their true gifts and what real friendship feels like. They learn that they are capable of things they never dreamed possible and that indeed, great minds don't think alike

Fish in a Tree is a wonderful middle grade novel. From my experience with Molly I can also say that it would make a great read aloud. I will definitely be reading it to my 4th graders. It would also make a fabulous book group, book club or independent reading book. Students will love this story of resilience, hope, individuality and friendship. 

Lynda Mullaly Hunt has a gift. She is able to create characters that you fall in love with and stories that live on in your heart. 
Fish in a Tree is expected to be published in February of 2015, but it will be worth the wait. 

See what others are saying about Fish in a Tree. 
These 4 Corners
Finding Ways for All Kids to Flourish
Stotz's Stacks

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared Into America's Heart

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website. 

by Julie Cummins
Illustrated by Malene R. Laugesen
Published 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
32 Pages
Nonfiction Picture Book

Ruth Elder was a determined young woman in her early 20's when she became captivated by stories of Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic. This was before Amelia Earhart's famous flight. Elder became determined to be the first woman to complete the transatlantic flight. Even though women were thought to be meant to stay in the kitchen by most of society back then, Elder did not let it stop her from trying. Although her flight was unsuccessful, many admired her spunk and she became a national heroine, paving the way for many American female aviators.

My Thoughts
I love stories of "girl power" and determination to prove others wrong. Although I would have liked to know a bit more about Ruth Elder as a person, I enjoyed reading about her flying experiences. She is a great example of a woman with courage and determination. The illustrations are well done and reflective of the time period. The author includes an author's note and suggestions for further reading.

Use this book....
*as part of a biography unit.
*during an American history unit on the 1920's.
*as a mentor text to discuss character traits.

Find companion texts about other female aviators here.

Here is the real Ruth Elder
Image from

Although there is no audio, here is a video of Ruth Elder in Europe after her flight. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Review and Guest Post for Spirit's Key by Edith Cohn.

Spirit's Key
by Edith Cohn
Release Date September 9, 2014
Published by Farrar Straus Giroux
320 pages
Disclosure: Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
By now, twelve-year-old Spirit Holden should have inherited the family gift: the ability to see the future. But when she holds a house key in her hand like her dad does to read its owner's destiny, she can’t see anything. Maybe it’s because she can't get over the loss of her beloved dog, Sky, who died mysteriously. Sky was Spirit’s loyal companion, one of the wild dogs that the local islanders believe possess dangerous spirits. As more dogs start dying and people become sick, too, almost everyone is convinced that these dogs and their spirits are to blame—except for Spirit. Then Sky's ghost appears, and Spirit is shaken. But his help may be the key to unlocking her new power and finding the cause of the mysterious illness before it's too late.

My Thoughts
I am not typically a fast reader so it was unusual for me to finish Spirit's Key in 3 days. I found Spirit's story to be compelling and I just needed to find out how all the pieces fit together. The story is wonderfully told and perfect for middle graders. While it is a mild fantasy, the reader quickly accepts the fact that Spirit and her father have the power to see the future and that Spirit sees the ghost of her dog as the story progresses. I loved the relationship between Spirit and the reclusive, crotchety Mrs. Borse. I also enjoyed her developing friendship with fellow islander Nector whom she decides to trust with her secret.  
The press release describes Spirit's Key as "Savvy meets Winn Dixie" and I feel that is a spot-on description. I loved it and can't wait to share it with my students. It would make a fabulous read aloud, book club book or independent read for grades 4-8. Spirit's Key is the debut novel for Edith Cohn and I hope to read many more of her books in the future. Spirit's Key is available now! 

Below is a guest post by the author. I would like to thank Edith for describing her inspirations for Spirit's Key

Guest Post by Edith Cohn
Spirit’s Key is a mystery about a twelve-year-old psychic girl named Spirit who works with the ghost of her pet dog to solve a crime on a remote island filled with magic keys, wild dogs and superstitious characters.

The book had several inspirations. The first was a dog named Marisol who went missing. Marisol belonged to my dear friend, and I helped her search the city for her lost pet. I saw Marisol everywhere, even though it was never really her. It was kind of like seeing her ghost, which led me to the idea of a ghost dog. I have a dog myself, and I like imagining that while my fur baby won't live forever, maybe her spirit will come back to play with me!

The setting of SPIRIT’S KEY, the fictional Bald Island, is deeply inspired by the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I grew up going to the Banks. But I also read a lot of history about their hurricanes, their whaling, and their one room schoolhouse. I even read about an islander who was a hermit and wore furs, which inspired Spirit’s eccentric neighbor Mrs. Borse. And it seems so unreal, but in SPIRIT’S KEY, the islanders’ belief that yaupon tea can cure anger actually comes from something real. 

Of course, I took fictional liberties. I decided my island would have wild dogs instead of wild horses like the real Outer Banks. I live in the hills of California, and I have coyotes in my backyard. They want to eat my little dog Leia. Every spotting takes my breath away–reminds me of our mortality, the wonder of nature and what it means to be a wild thing. 

My niece at the time was becoming a vegetarian. And I also got to thinking about how kids are still figuring out what they believe. One of my favorite things about SPIRIT’S KEY is this discussion about animal rights and beliefs.

The idea of magic keys that can tell the future is one of the only eccentricities of island life that didn’t come from something I read about the Banks. Spirit and her father have a gift. If they hold someone’s house key, they can see that person’s future. This idea came straight from the wilds of my imagination.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Stack-It-Up Sunday, September 7, 2014

I love for Sundays to be lazy days focused on home and family so I don't normally do a big post. However, I like to share some of the random piles of books around my house. I originally posted about my piles on this celebration post. I'm sure you have stacks of books piled around and as I like to say...
Each pile has its own story.

This is my haul from the library yesterday sitting on my kitchen counter. Excited to listen to The Fault in Our Starts. 

This pile is on the same counter. My daughter is reading Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy in her 7th grade language arts class and This Journal Belongs to Ratchet as an independent read. 

This pile sits on the floor in my "living area" still waiting for me to cover them with contact paper and return them to school. 

This is TJ's most recent pile. 

What's in YOUR Stack?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Maine Student Book Award List 2014-2015 Part One

Each Year The Maine Student Award Committee selects a list of books meant for grades 4-8 published during the previous year. Students then vote for a winner in March. 

My friend Cathy Potter, Children's librarian and Falmouth Elemenary, has organized a collection of book trailers for each book. You can visit it here

While I have not read all of the 41 titles (and I won't get to them all), I have read several from this year's list. There are some gems and some I personally did not love. Over the next few weeks I hope to share my thoughts about some of the MSBA 14-15 books I have read. 

Instead of giving a complete summary, I will mostly give my thoughts, please click on the titles to read a summary of the book. Here are the first 7 in the order in which I read them. 

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet
by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

I read this book back in March of 2013 and just loved it. I am so glad that Ratchet made it on to the MSBA list this year! One of the things I like about it is the different forms of writing in which Ratchet shares her story. I also love how she is not a "girly" girl, but loves fixing cars and skateboarding. 
This one would make a good choice for grades 5-8 and would be an excellent book club book. However, I feel it is better to be enjoyed by individuals and small groups than as a read aloud. 

The Water Castle
by Megan Frazer Blakemore

This book is written by a wonderful Maine author! It is a beautifully written story with a complex plot. If you are looking for a book for your advanced readers, this one would be great. The cover is deceiving. it seems to suggest that the story takes place in medieval times. It is a fantasy, but it takes place in present day. It would also make a good read aloud. There is much to delve into here. 

The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu

As an adult reader, I enjoyed this book very much. It is a complicated fantasy that I would suggest for grades 7-8. It has some confusing parts in my opinion and I just don't see many younger readers sticking with it on their own. 

Gone Fishing: A Novel in Verse
by Tamera Will Wissinger
Illustrations by Matthew Cordell

This is one to add to your poetry collection. It is a novel written in many different forms of poetry. It would make a wonderful mentor text during a poetry unit. Most 4th graders could read it by themselves. 

The Imaginary Veterinary: Book 1-The Sasquatch Escape
Kids love fantastical creatures. This series is based on a veterinary clinic that takes care of such creatures. While it was not a big favorite for me, fourth graders will like it for its fast paced action. I would recommend it for grades 4-5. 

Doll Bones
by Holly Black
This book was a Newbery Honor book this year and for good reason. It is beautifully written with rich language. I really enjoyed reading it. However, the plot is a bit complicated for younger readers to enjoy independently. I read it aloud to my class last year and they did not love it. I would recommend it for grades 6-8. 
The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
by Kathy Appelt
This book was entertaining, but a little difficult to follow. It is mostly fantasy where two raccoons, who live in an abandoned Desoto, try to save Sugar Man Swamp from development. The Sugar Man is an ornery "Bigfoot" type character who is said to protect the swamp. There is also a realistic plot line where a family may lose their land and livelihood to developers. The writing is creative and rich, but I have not found a student who has enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-Who Was Here by Mia Posada

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website. 

by Mia Posada
To be published in Oct. 2014 by Millbrook Press

This book is much more than a book about animal tracks. The author combines a picture of the track with a rhyming verse or two about the animal. This may include its location, predator or prey or an adaptation. Each animal (or animal pair) is followed by the question "Who was here?". Then the animal is revealed. The author then provides a few snippets of factual information about the animal. 

My Thoughts
I love the concept of this book. It goes beyond just looking at tracks to learning about the animals. The animals come from many different biomes and animal classifications. The organization of the book work beautifully together to entertain and inform children. I can see the students on the edge of their seats ready to guess the identity of each animal. I could imagine it being used preschool-grade 3.

Use this book...
as part of a unit on animals.
to teach inference.
to model nonfiction reading.
to practice cause/effect.
to encourage predictions.
The list is really endless.

Here is a cute cartoon video about how animal tracks are made