Monday, October 29, 2012

What Are You Reading Oct. 29

Please visit the amazing blog: Teach Mentor Texts 
who host this terrific meme each week. 

Last Week I Finished Reading.... 
Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson 
and absolutely LOVED it!

This Week I Plan to Read More of...
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan 

Jumping The Scratch by Sarah Weeks

What Are You Reading?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Small as an Elephant

A Review of Small as an Elephant  
by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Another gem on the MSBA List 2012-13

Ages 9 and up (from the publisher)
Candlewick Press 2011

Watch the Book Trailer

When Jack wakes up at a campground in Acadia National Park all alone, he soon realizes that his mother has left him....again.
Only Jack doesn't find a trusted adult or go to the police like most kids would if faced with the same situation.   He knows from experience that if he tells someone what has happened then his mother will get in serious trouble with authorities and he may get taken away from her and put in foster care.  Although Jack never quite comes out and says it, his mother has bipolar disorder and has severe episodes of mania which he calls "spinning".  

In an attempt to protect his mother,  Jack tries to hide the fact that he is all alone.  It's easy at first.  He spends the day with another boy and his family.  He lies and tells them that his mother is ill and is resting at the campsite.  The family feeds him and he tries to play and swim, all the while hoping and praying that his mother will return by nightfall.  When she doesn't return, and people start asking questions, Jack decides to leave the campground and go search for her in Bar Harbor.  

Small as an Elephant is Jack's incredible, and sometimes heartbreaking, story of adventure and survival.  After he realizes that his mother has really left him and is not returning anytime soon, he decides to try to get to York, Maine to see Lydia the elephant.  Jack's love of elephants started an argument with his mother on the way to Maine. As many children would, he blames himself for her leaving. Using his eleven year old logic, he somehow thinks that if he can get to see Lydia at York's Wild Kingdom then everything will be all right. 

The book chronicles Jack's journey from Bar Harbor to York, Maine.  There are many stops along the way including spending the night at LLBean in Ellsworth, visiting Fort Knox in Bucksport  many other Maine locations.  All the while he is desperately trying to find food, shelter and transportation with no money.

This book is filled with action and near misses. It moves quickly and grabs the reader from the very beginning.
Does Jack's mother return?  Will he make it to see Lydia before she is moved to Florida to spend the colder months?  Readers will be satisfied with the touching ending.

As a 4th grade teacher, and life-long Mainer, I plan to read this book with my class. I would recommend it as a read aloud for grades 3 and up.  Students in late grade 4 and up should be able to enjoy it on their own.  Adults should be mindful that this book touches upon some scary and confusing issues such as mental illness, neglect and abandonment which will need to be discussed. 

Click here for a map of Jack's Route.

Monday, October 22, 2012

It's Monday Oct. 22

Please visit the amazing blog: Teach Mentor Texts 
who host this terrific meme each week. 

This Week I finished reading.... 
Jeremy Bender and the Cupcake Cadets     
by Eric Luper
A very cute book about determination, misconceptions and a little vanilla frosting.  

Next Week I plan to finish...
Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
LOVING this one so far!
What Are You Reading?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
Illustrator: Patricia Castelao

Ages 8 and up (From the publisher)
A Global Read Aloud for 2012

Watch the Official Book Trailer

The One and Only Ivan is a wonderful book convincingly narrated by the main character Ivan. Ivan is a gentle gorilla who lives in a strip mall as part of a small circus-type collection of animals.  He has lived in his "domain" in this mall for nearly three decades. 
When they were young Ivan and his sister Tag were stolen from their home in Africa.  His sister sadly dies in the crate with him during their transport to the US.   Ivan tries, somewhat unsuccessfully, to suppress memories of his homeland and family throughout the book.  It seems too painful for him to think about the happy times when he and his sister would play tag and his father, the mighty silver back, would stoically guard the family to keep them safe. 

In his touching narration, Ivan has a not-so-thin veil of sadness as he discusses his daily events and the humans who visit the mall. Although there are no other gorillas, he finds some camaraderie with Stella the performing elephant and his loyal dog friend Bob.

Ivan is resigned to the fact that he will live out his remaining days at the mall, watching his TV and painting pictures that are sold at the gift shop.  Things change when a new animal comes to the mall, a baby elephant named Ruby.  Stella and Ruby quickly develop a close mother-daughter type relationship. 

Shortly after Ruby's arrival Stella dies of an infection in her foot. This infection was left untreated because the owner did not want to pay for a veterinarian.  While she was ill, Stella made Ivan promise that he would protect Ruby and somehow get her to a zoo. He soon realizes that he has no idea how to fulfill his promise.  Ivan's  memories of his childhood come flooding back when the mall owner uses "the claw" on Ruby to get her to perform.  Being a "mighty silver back", a born protector,  Ivan is more determined than ever to save her.  

What Ivan does not realize is that there are some compassionate humans who are fighting for the animals as well. With the help of the night custodian's concerned daughter, Ivan's art is used to raise awareness of the inhumane treatment of the mall animals. 

I think readers will love the powerful ending.  Students who love animals will particularly love it. 
I will definitely be reading this book to my fourth graders later this year.
This book is based on a real gorilla named Ivan.  Click here to read more about his story.

Monday, October 15, 2012

It's Monday Again...What Are You Reading?

Please visit the amazing blog: Teach Mentor Texts 
who host this terrific meme each week. 
This Week I read.... 
 The One and Only Ivan            
by Katherine Applegate                     
One of this year's Global Read Aloud choices and it is fantastic! 


 I Want My Hat Back   
by Jon Klassen
This was a fun read aloud in our class this week.                                             

This week I plan to finish Jeremy Bender vs The Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper.              

What are you reading?

Monday, October 8, 2012

What Are You Reading?

Please visit the amazing blog: Teach Mentor Texts 
who host this terrific meme each week. 

This week I finished:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio 

Loved this book!  
Click to see my complete review.


Nerd Camp by Elissa Brent Weissman. 


This week I'm reading:

 The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

What are you reading?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Ages 8 and up (From the publisher)

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

I won't mince words here.... EVERYONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK.....EVERYONE!

Wonder is the most compelling and touching story I have read in a long while.  You will fall immediately in love with Auggie.  August Pullman was born with a severe facial deformity.  The strong negative reaction of children (and shameful adults) to the way he looks has prevented him from attending school until he enrolls in 5th grade at Beecher Prep.  Although he is extremely reluctant, with the encouragement of his mother and incredibly loving family, August agrees to try to go to school. 

The well-meaning director of the middle school, Mr. Tushman (a very unfortunate name for a middle school administrator) sets up a visit before school started in order to help Auggie feel more comfortable.  He enlisted the help of a few of Auggie's fellow 5th graders to take him on a tour of the school.  Throughout the course of the book, you learn more about how the students were chosen and how this visit later creates huge conflicts.

Middle school is difficult for any student, but imagine how it could be for a child who looks very differently from his peers...someone who the others don't want to sit near, look at or talk to.  There are numerous incidents throughout this book that will make your blood boil.  Some people actually scream and run away when they see him.  Parents gasp and quickly move their children away from him.  The other students avoid brushing up against him so they won't catch "the plague".  He is picked on, talked about, physically injured and possibly worst of all...completely ignored.  One parent even crops his picture out of the class photo and gives it to parents who want an August-free photo.  This same parent tries to get him removed from the school because of his "special needs" even though he is a very bright student. 

Then there are the parts that will warm your heart as people get to know and love the real Auggie. Despite all the adversity, Auggie develops friendships with Jack and Summer.  These friendships are consistently tested by other classmates who feel Auggie is scary and different and therefore unworthy of attention or friendship.  Jack and Summer learn a lot about true friendship and are wonderful authentic examples of how young people can demonstrate true courage. 

I could go on and on.  In my opinion every parent should read this book with their elementary aged children.  As you read Wonder, there are numerous opportunities to discuss virtues of acceptance, courage, honesty, friendship, love and especially KINDNESS.  Teachers can share the story through read aloud and it lends itself to some very powerful and poignant classroom discussions. 
(I would encourage teachers and parents to read it before or just ahead of the kiddos.  Since Auggie has a teenaged sister, there is some teenage girl drama-type stuff, but not much.)

So go now!  But it, borrow it, download it-whatever you need to do to get your hands on Wonder by R.J. Palacio.  

Click to view a video trailer of Wonder

Click here for author interviews and activities