Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading Dec. 31, 2012

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

It's the last Monday of the year....and 
what a great reading year it has been!

Here is what I was able to read this holiday week.

     Loved Marty! Click to see                 Super funny!                      Beautifully simple picture book.
     my full review.                                

 Great picture book about friendship    A wordless picture book with          Great graphic novel.
 and acceptance.                                   AMAZING pictures!!                     No wonder it was a Nerdy
                                                                                                             winner this year.

 Gary Paulsen's latest. Click to     A Roald Dahl like fantasy   A simple and sweet story about patience
 see my review.                              Click to see my review.      and friendship.

This week I hope to finish...

What Are You Reading??

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Early Chapter Book-Marty McGuire by Kate Messner

Marty McGuire by Kate Messner
Illustrated by Brian Floca
Ages 7 and up
160 pages

My rating 4 stars!

When Marty McGuire catches a big bullfrog in the pond during recess, the boys think she is one of the coolest girls they have ever met.  I would have to agree. Marty McGuire is a wonderful book about a girl who loves to catch frogs, play sports and hates to wear dresses.  She is a rambunctious tomboy and I LOVE her!  In this first book of the Marty series, third grade Marty is having a common friendship issue when her former bestie, Annie, becomes friends with the bossy and very girlie Veronica Grace.  Suddenly Annie wants to play princess at recess instead of playing with Marty.  Marty is confused about the change in her friend although her mother tells her that if she waits patiently, Annie will come back to her.  

Then comes the third grade play.  This year they will perform The Frog Prince and, convinced that she is perfect for the part,  Marty's teacher has chosen her to play the role of the princess.  Despite her reluctance, Marty's mom and teacher convince her to play the part.  While Marty hates princesses, she does have a great imagination so she is able to pretend her way through the play and does a fantastic job.  Of course she adds some unique touches and makes it her own.  Throughout the rehearsals she is also starting to notice that Annie is getting a little less princessy.  

Kate Messner has created a strong female character in a chapter book that is accessible even to younger readers.  Students who are intimidated by length and like/need a few pictures along the way will be able to really enjoy this book. I will certainly have both Marty books stocked in my classroom library.

I am looking forward to reading the next in the series, Marty McGuire Digs Worms (published April 2012).

Along with the Marty books, Kate Messner has written picture books, historical novels and a book for educators called Real Revision.  Click below to see two interviews with Kate about revision.

Real Revision Interview Part One
Real Revision Interview Part Two

Friday, December 28, 2012

Review of The Terrible Thing That Happened to Barnaby Brocket

The Terrible Thing that Happened to Barnaby Brocket by John Boyne 

Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers  January 8, 2013
288 pages
Ages 8 and up

My rating: 3 stars

Review copy provided by NetGalley.
Poor Barnaby Brocket was born into a family that just wanted to be normal, with normal parents and normal kids. They don't like anything that brought attention to them. Unfortunately, their third child Barnaby was different from most kids. He was born without the ability to keep his feet on the ground. He literally floated into the air unless he was weighted or tethered somehow. In his parent's eyes, this difference was shameful and should be hidden as much as possible.

His horrible parents tell him at every turn how embarrassed they are of him and his insistence on being different. Finally when Barnaby is eight years old, his parents do the unthinkable, they let him go. His awful mother takes him to Sydney, cuts holes in his weighted rucksack and lets him float away.

This leads to many exciting, if not outrageous, adventures for Barnaby. He bumps into a hot air balloon occupied by two elderly women who take him to their coffee farm in Brazil. The farm is home to a host of people who don't fit in with conventional norms. From there he travels to New York, where he befriends a window washer and ends up helping the man become a recognized artist. His travels continue to Canada, Ireland and finally to a space shuttle that eventually lands back in Sydney where he is reunited with his family. His siblings are thrilled, but his neglectful parents are not so welcoming.

I won't spoil the end, but suffice it to say, Barnaby has some decisions to make.

This book has a definite Roald Dahl-like feel with the terrible parents and the child with a special ability. The illustrations even seem to be similar to Quentin Blake's illustrations. It also has many strange and outlandish experiences like Roald Dahl's books, but a few too many actually. While the message of the book is a common and valid one, be yourself and accept others, the outrageousness of it actually gets in the way of completely delivering the message. Barnaby does not stay anywhere long enough for the reader to really get to know any of the characters. In fact Barnaby himself is not a very well developed or believable character. He is supposed to touch the lives of so many in his travels, but the experiences are brief and superficial. 

While it was just ok for me, this book has been well-received by many in the UK where is has already been published.  Children who enjoy Roald Dahl books or books with world travels and quirky characters may enjoy this book.

Click here to see other reviews of this book. 

Click here to go to the author's web site.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review of Road Trip by Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

"Dogs never lie or cheat, and their default setting is love.  Some may seem grumpy, but all dogs have honor, humor and dignity and, if you're really lucky and you pay attention, they will bring out those same characteristics in you."

Road Trip by 
Gary Paulsen and Jim Paulsen

Publication Date January 8, 2013

Ages 10 and up (from the publisher)

128 pages

Review digital copy provided by NetGalley
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Who doesn't love Gary Paulsen?  He is a beloved author who is mostly noted for writing books geared toward young adults.  This is not the first time Paulsen has written about dogs, but it is the first time he has teamed up to write a book with his son, Jim Paulsen (a sculptor and former teacher). 

The book begins with 14 year-old Ben and his Dad starting out on a road trip to rescue a puppy.  Ben's family loves dogs and Ben is looking forward to getting another border collie. Atticus, their current 15 year-old border collie thinks he is more of a person than a dog and doesn't exactly love the idea of getting a dog, but he is enjoying the trip. The story is mostly told by Ben, but there are a few chapters where Atticus narrates the events from his point of view.  These descriptions add nicely to the development of the story. 

Early in the trip, Ben's impulsive and quite flaky father tells him that he has quit his job in order to start a business flipping houses.  The news is of little consequence to Ben until his dad explains that Ben might not be able to attend hockey camp because of the family's lack of finances.  

Ben is so upset by the news that he decides to give his father the silent treatment for most of the trip.  To further show his anger, Ben invites his friend Theo to go with them. Theo is a bit rough around the edges and Ben knows his father doesn't approve of their friendship. The trio are not far along in their trip when everything starts to go wrong. However, with every challenge a new character is introduced. 

First, the truck breaks down and needs extensive repairs. This is where we meet Gus, an ornery, old mechanic with a sharp tongue and a big heart.  After he learns about the puppy rescue, he lets the travelers borrow his old school bus, as long as he gets to go along with them.  

Next, they stop at a pub where we meet Mia the waitress/aspiring actress.  She is throwing a burly young man out of the pub with gusto.  Mia is an attractive and tough older teen who is very spiritual and in touch with the emotions of others. Both boys are instantly intrigued by her.  After Theo nearly gets in a fight with the ejected man, Mia gets to know the group and ends up traveling with them on the bus.  

It is at this point that Theo starts acting distracted and nervous and we find out he has been keeping a secret.  This unlikely group of new friends bonds during the next few days as they try to get to the border collie.

The last third of the book is a whirlwind.  Theo is being followed by criminals who want to hurt him and the group is trying to lose him with the help of some local police officers.  Will they ever make it to the puppy before someone else takes him? Will Ben ever forgive his father?  Will Theo survive and turn his life around? It all ties up nicely at the end for the reader.

Paulsen did a great job of creating tension near the end and providing a few surprises along the way.  However, the beginning third of the book was a bit slow for me.  The book is definitely meant for young adults with situations such a "flipping the bird" and some slightly romantic situations. I would not recommend it for students under 5th grade.  

Gary and Jim Paulsen have taken their love of dogs and created a great novel. You don't have to be a dog lover to really enjoy this book.  It will appeal to a wide variety of readers including reluctant readers.   

Click here for a list of books by Gary Paulsen.

Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Monday...What Are You Reading-Dec. 24

Before leaving my blog today, please leave me a picture book suggestion below for my Picture Book A Day Challenge. 

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

What I finished this week...

I read this great book with interviews of authors and illustrators of picture books.  I particularly liked the sections about Ashley Bryan, Eric Carle and Mo Willems

We finished reading The One and Only Ivan in our class. 
Obviously, everyone LOVED it!

Then I read three holiday picture books
 and loved them all.

Hoping to get a bunch of reading done this week. I am reading my first ARC- a book called Road Trip by Gary Paulsen. So far, it"s pretty good. Not sure where I'll go after that.

Happy Holidays to Everyone!
What Are You Reading?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Picture Book A Day Challenge

I recently read a wonderful book called Show Me a Story by Leonard Marcus. After reading it I realized that my students love, and still need picture books in their lives.  So in an attempt to read of them in the classroom, I am challenging myself to read a picture book to my class each school day in January (for starters).  

I would LOVE suggestions you have for great picture books to read to my 4th graders.  

Please leave your suggestion(s) as a comment. 

Thank you SO much!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Reading!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Review of Diary of a Wimpy Kid the Third Wheel- by Mrs. M and Class

This post is also featured on The Nerdy Book Club today!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid 
The Third Wheel By Jeff Kinney

Students from elementary to high school and even some adults have been eagerly awaiting the release of Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Third Wheel.  My students were no exception.  As Jennifer Tazerouti suggests, we took advantage of the hype by having a book release celebration. The arrival of the Scholastic box brought cries of delight.
The students beamed as they received their new treasures. 

Although it took me a bit longer, many of the students devoured the book in one day or even just a few hours.  So, I decided to have some of the biggest fans help me with this review.  

We all agree that this 7th installment in the series does not disappoint.  Greg and the gang have to deal with the middle school awkwardness of crushes, a big dance, gossip, and trying to fit in.

The approach of a middle school Valentine’s dance puts pressure on Greg to find a date.  After some amusing failed attempts, Abigail agrees to go with him. Unfortunately his best friend Rowley has not found a date.  Greg wants Rowley to come to the dance as his “wing man”.  Even after Rowley comes down with chicken pox (which Greg later thinks was just acne) Greg convinces him to go.  At dinner, Rowley and Abigail seem to get along very well…maybe a bit too well. 

Jeff Kinney captures a middle school dance perfectly.  The girls all go to the restroom together and dance together while the nervous and confused boys look on.  And what is a middle school dance without some drama and girls crying over a boy.  Unfortunately it is Greg’s date who ends up crying, surrounded by a circle of concerned friends. If you’ve ever been to a middle school dance, I’m sure you can picture it.

There are so many hilarious tidbits throughout this book. Some are downright laugh-out-loud funny.  But don’t take my word for it.  Here are a few quotes from some of the die-hard fans.

“I liked when Greg didn’t have a date to the Valentine’s dance so he sent a bunch of candy grams to himself so the girls would want to go him.”  L.F.

S.G.’s favorite was  “…when Greg talks about when these 8th graders told Greg that there was a secret elevator.  They sold him an elevator pass for $5 and there really was no elevator.”

G.F. and N.S. liked “…the part when Greg kept a bathroom stall all for himself.  He had a bunch of toilet paper, a radio and a pair of extra shoes to make it look like the stall was taken.”

A.L. laughed “When Greg babysat Wesley. Wesley locked him in a laundry room and then  rode his bike all over the house and crashed it down the basement stairs.”

H.E. enjoyed  “…when a ‘mad pantser’ pulled down Vice Principal Roy’s pants. We never found out who that was.”

One of A.D.’s favorites was “When Manny was trapped in a play structure tube so Greg climbed up to get him.  Greg was too scared to come down so a waiter had to come get both of them.” 

M.L. liked “The part where Greg’s Uncle Gary moves in and has nightmares about monkeys in the walls.”

Loyal and novice Diary of a Wimpy Kid readers will love this book. The story is enhanced by just enough of the author’s adorably simplistic, but effective illustrations. Jeff Kinney has done it again…The Third Wheel is sure to be as beloved as the rest of his best selling series.  I will let one of my students have the final word, “This is the best one yet”. M.L.

Monday, December 17, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading? Dec. 17

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

What I finished this week...

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead
A really wonderful story of friendship, family 
and dealing with challenges. 

I listened to an audio recording of
Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri
I REALLY loved this book about residents of an inner city Philadelphia neighborhood that raise horses and lead a "cowboy" way of life.   Great choice for middle schoolers.  

What Are You Reading?

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading? Dec. 10

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

This was mostly a picture book week for me with a graphic novel and some early reader books thrown in.  I read some of the Nerdy Book Club nominees and some others just for fun.  

                     Cute!                       Kind of interesting, but                      Sweet, loved it!
                                                         not my favorite.

             Fascinating story and I'm             Gotta love Fly Guy!          A wonderful interpretation
                not even a sports fan.                                                           visually stunning! 

        So hilarious!  Sarcasm galore!                 Fascinating!                   My first Pete the Cat book.
                                                                                                              Long overdue.

               Loved the story and                  Funny, my students            Neat idea, but not my favorite.
                      illustrations.                           would like it.

                         Beautiful book with great pictures       LOVED it!  Must use to demo
                          and a simple yet effective story.                    writing process.
Mo Willems is a genius!

What's Next?  
A few chapters in. Liking it so far.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How The Grinch Stole Christmas

Let's get in the spirit!
Everyone loves a good holiday book.....especially Amanda Furman at Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf. I'd like to thank Amanda for linking up with me today as part of her 25 Days of Holiday Book Reviews.  Be sure to check out her amazing blog!

How The Grinch Stole Christmas
by Dr. Seuss

Originally printed in 1957, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a true holiday classic.  Many children (and adults) do not realized that it was a book before it was made into an animated movie.  

I chose this book because it was my favorite holiday special as a child (no I did not know it was a book at the time).  I enjoy reading it to my own kids and to my class.  I also love the sweet message it delivers.

This is such a beloved and familiar story that I don't feel the need to review it in great detail.  It is the story of love and family....the true meaning of Christmas. 

The mean old Grinch lives alone high above the town of Whoville. He hates Christmas because of all the happiness it brings to the Whoville residents, the whos. He especially hates it when the whos gather hand-in-hand and happily sing together to celebrate on Christmas morning.  So he decides to steal all the decorations, food, presents and Christmas trees while the whos are asleep, in the hopes of ruining their holiday.  

When the whos awaken to find all of their Christmas items gone, they still gather and sing together because they are so happy to have each other.  When the Grinch hears their joyful singing  he realizes that Christmas might be more than presents, food and sparkly decorations.  Then something happens inside the grumpy Grinch that makes his shriveled heart grow "three sizes".  He returns the presents and decorations to all the whos and even joins them in their feast.  There "He HIMSELF..... The Grinch carved the roast beast!"

With it's signature "Seussical" illustrations and unique cadence and rhyme, this book is super fun to read aloud.  It serves as a great reminder of the real meaning of the, family, friendship and togetherness!

Happy Holidays to you and your families!

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Monday What Are You Reading Dec. 3, 2012

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

Here is what I finished this week.

Wild Wings by Gill Lewis

Out of My Mind 
by Sharon Draper
Simply amazing with an ending I didn't expect.

Oh No! by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann
Because it looked so cute...and it was.

And Two great non-fiction picture books. 

Ocean Sunlight-How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas.  
I found it fascinating and learned a lot.

by Douglas Florian    
A unique combination of non-fiction poetry and expository text.

 What Are You Reading?