Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Monday Feb. 25- What Are You Reading?

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

Here is what I read this week.

Picture Books

Graphic Novel

Chapter Books
Twelve Kinds of Ice
The Dark Frigate
Far Far Away 

Currently Listening

The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle

Currently Reading

The 13-Story Treehouse
Splendors and Glooms

What Are You Reading?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A Review of I Hate Picture Books by Timothy Young

I Hate Picture Books!
Written and Illustrated by Timothy Young

32 pages
Publication Date March 28, 2013

Review copy obtained through

My rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Simply put, I LOVED this book.   Everyone that loves picture books will love it too.  

Max decides that he hates all of his childhood picture books and decides to throw them away.  He complains about getting in trouble and even getting sick when he tries to do some of the things in the books.  For example, he gets sent to bed without dinner for drawing on walls after hearing the book about, "that kid with the purple crayon".  Although he doesn't use specific titles in his narration, classic (and some recent) picture books are represented throughout the story (think Green Eggs and Ham, Are You My Mother, Where the Wild Things Are and lots more).  

picture from

As Max describes how the picture books have disappointed him, he starts to realize how much he truly enjoyed reading them and how important they are to him. 

The illustrations amazingly resemble the original picture books.  The reader (child or adult) is taken on a wonderful journey through the books they read as young children.  In his tribute to the world of children's picture books, Timothy Young has created a new picture book gem. 

This book belongs in every child's library. 
It would make a great read aloud for grades K-4.
It would also make a wonderful gift for the picture book lover in your life (hint, hint).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Nerdy Post Middle Grade Novels for Reluctant Readers

This post appears today on my favorite blog site- The Nerdy Book Club

Top Ten (or so) Middle Grade Books to Awaken the Inner Reader in Every Child

We all have them, our go-to books that we use for those students in grades 3-5 who have yet to be bitten by the reading bug.  You know them.  They are the kids who can’t seem to stick with a book from start to finish. They browse the stacks day after day but, despite your recommendations, have trouble deciding on a book to read.  Whether you call them reluctant, dormant, developing readers, or late bloomers, they all need help discovering what kinds of books will really grab them and open the gate to becoming a reader. 

I have told the story of my winding, rocky path to becoming a reader here at The Nerdy Book Club before.   Like all of you, I am determined NOT to let a child leave my fourth grade class without loving to read.  I know posting here is just like preaching to the choir.  However, even after 20 years of teaching, I always learn something new or gain affirmation with each new post I read.  It is my hope with this post to share some tried and true titles that I use. But to keep the possibilities growing, I hope you will comment with YOUR own go-to books.  Then we can all discover (or rediscover) books that might set a student on the path toward becoming a lifelong reader.

Graphic Novels
There are still many teachers and parents who have yet to embrace the value of graphic novels. Yes, they are “real reading” and kids (and adults) love them. To students who may be intimidated by lengthy books with few pictures, graphic novels can be just what they need to discover that reading can be fun.  With these books gaining such popularity in recent years, authors are really jumping on the graphic novel bandwagon.  There are graphic novels that will appeal to every reader: girls, boys, fantasies, historical fiction, biographies, classics, you name it.  Some series my fourth graders love include: The Amulet series, Squish, Smile/Drama, Bone, The Lightning Thief, Lunch Lady, Sidekicks, Big Nate, Wonkenstein, Daniel Boom and of course, Babymouse.

Diary-Style Books
We have Jeff Kinney to thank for the onslaught of diary-style books that are available today.  Of course many students LOVE the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  This series became so wildly popular that it didn’t take long for other authors to follow suit. Pictures, funky fonts, or colors often support the text in diary books. Books and series such as Dork Diaries, Amelia’s Notebook, Dear Dumb Diary, Justin Case and Tales of a Sixth Grade Muppet are always winners in my class.

 Origami Yoda Series
Once students discover this entertaining series (The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, Darth Paper Strikes Back and The Secret of the Fortune Wookie) it does not return to the shelves until at least Christmas. The combination of humor, relatable yet quirky characters and great illustrations makes students want to read all of these books.  They appeal to older readers as well. My desk is always filed with little origami yodas for weeks after. 

Short but interesting chapter books appeal to many students who are strengthening their reading muscles.  Some kiddos just love a series and there are so many available. For some, these books build confidence with the right combination of comfortable text, pictures and familiar characters and format. Some popular series include: My Weird School Daze, Junie B. Jones, Magic Tree House, Marvin Redpost, Sophie books, Captain Underpants and Bailey School Kids.

Marty McGuire
Recently I have added Marty McGuire to my class library.  Students love Marty because she is not a “girly” girl.  She loves to catch frogs, dig for worms and hates to wear dresses.  Although I hope there will be more to come, currently there are two in the series: Marty McGuire and Marty McGuire Digs Worms. 

With some middle grade readers, fiction is just not their favorite genre. Some non-fiction books that have been popular in my room include Guinness Book of World Records, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, National Geographic For Kids magazine, sports books, animal stories and anything gross.  You also can’t go wrong with biographies of their favorite people in pop culture.  This year our short biography about the boy band One Direction is well worn. 

Tried and True
Yes, there are many new and interesting titles. However, let’s not ignore the many wonderful books that have stood the test of time. My favorite go-to book for students who think they don’t like to read is Skinny-Bones by Barbara Park.  It has just the right combination of humor and sports (baseball).  It is not a difficult read and, at 128 pages, it is not too long or short. The students can really relate to Alex, his interactions with the bully TJ and some of the wacky things he does in this book.
Other books my developing readers really like, that are not exactly new, include: Stone Fox, Shiloh, There’s a Boy in the Girl’s Bathroom How to Eat Fried Worms, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Frindle, The Chocolate Touch, Joey Pigza and practically anything by Roald Dahl.

I know I am leaving out some real gems here. So please comment with your never-fail books for middle graders so we can all add to our growing lists.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Non-Fiction Picture Book Wednesday- Feb. 20

Please visit the Non-Fiction 
Picture Book Challenge Host- Kid Lit Frenzy 

Books from this week....

 Moses....When Harriet Tubman 
Led Her People to Freedom
by Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Goodreads Summary
This poetic book is a resounding tribute to Tubman's strength, humility, and devotion. With proper reverence, Weatherford and Nelson do justice to the woman who, long ago, earned over and over the name Moses.

I recently (finally) discovered the work of amazing illustrator Kadir Nelson.  His illustrations are just fantastic and truly bring the story to life.  I learned a lot about how Harriet Tubman bravely escaped the south and then returned to save countless others. This book would make a great read aloud for any classroom studying slavery, civil rights and African American History. I highly recommend it. 

View Carole Boston Weatherford's Website here.
Check out the amazing art of Kadir Nelson here.

 The Boston Tea Party
by Russell Freeman
Illustrated by Peter Malone

Goodreads Sumary
Tells the story of the Boston Tea Party of 1773 from the arrival of the ships full of controversial taxed tea in Boston Harbor, through the explosive protest meetings at the Old South Church, to the defiant act of dumping 226 chests of fine tea into the harbor on December 16.

Being a teacher of The American Revolution, I am always looking for new books to share with my class.  This picture book was informative and gave some interesting "behind the scenes" facts about The Boston Tea Party that I did not know.  The illustrations are appealing, but not overbearing.  It would be a great read aloud for classes studying The American Revolution or anyone interested in early American history.  I will be asking our school librarian to add it to our collection.  

Click here to see Russell Freedman's Amazon website.
View Peter Malone's illustrations here.

Monday, February 18, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? Feb. 18

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

Here is what I read this week.

Picture Books

            Amazingly.... Alphie!                   The Boston Tea Party        Moses, When Harriet Tubman      
                                                                                                      Led  her People to Freedom

Genie Wishes by Elizabeth Dahl

Currently Reading

Currently Listening 

What Are You Reading?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Non-Fiction Picture Book Wednesday- Feb. 13

Please visit the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge Host- Kid Lit Frenzy 

Hoop Genius
Illustrated by Joe Morse

4 out of 5 stars!

I am not a "sports person", but I enjoyed this book very much.  It is about the invention of basketball and was really intriguing.  The illustrations are unique and interesting. 

Click here for the Goodreads page.

Review copy obtained through

View previous posts:
It's Monday, Feb. 11
A Review of The Center of Everything 

Monday, February 11, 2013

It's Monday- February 11 What Are You Reading?

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

Here is what I have been reading 
over the last two weeks...

The Center of Everything
by Linda Urban
Click here to see my review.

Picture Books 

                 Amazing book!


Graphic Novel

Professional Reading

Currently Reading

What Are You Reading?

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Review of The Center of Everything

The Center of Everything
by Linda Urban

208 Pages
Ages 9 and up Publication date: March 5th 2013 
by Harcourt Children's Books 

Review copy provided by

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars!   

A Brief Synopsis:
Ruby Pepperdine lives in the town of Bunning, New Hampshire.  The town's claim to fame is the late Captain Bunning is said to be the original creator of the donut.  

Twelve year-old Ruby is mourning the recent loss of her beloved grandmother, Gigi.  To add to her feelings of loss, Ruby is feeling guilty for not "really listening" to her when her grandmother wanted to talk.  She would do just about anything to go back in time to talk with her and listen.  Ruby makes a wish on her birthday that she hopes will change everything. 

Ruby has been selected to read her Bunning Day essay at the Bunning Day parade.  This honor is bestowed on one child each year.  To prepare for her essay, Ruby starts to go to the library where she sees Niro, a boy in her grade.  The two get to know each other better and develop a friendship.  When her overly-dramatic best friend Lucy finds out about this friendship, she feels threatened and jealous.  Can Ruby keep her longtime best friend and her new friend Niro?  Will her wish come true and help ease her guilt?  Will she be able to deliver her essay in front of everyone?  

Linda Urban writes beautifully.  She creates characters and situations that are easy for students to relate to. Although it takes place only on one day, Urban uses flashbacks to tell the whole story.  I predict this book will gain lots of attention in the coming months.

I would recommend this book for students in grade 4 and up. Students who enjoy a good book that include conflicts with friends, and getting to know oneself will enjoy this book.  
In my opinion, The Center of Everything is better read independently, not necessarily as a class read aloud.  
Themes include: death of a grandparent, friendship, friendship conflicts, family, courage and faith. 

Click here to learn more about Linda Urban's books.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

A Review of Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

Ages 8 and up
288 pages
Publication date: March 1, 2013
by Scholastic Press

Review copy provided by

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars!

Blue Balliet has written so many wonderful books (click here for a list).  One of my favorites is Chasing Vermeer.  I was very excited to read Hold Fast and it lived up to all my expectations. 

Goodreads summary
From NYT bestselling author Blue Balliett, the story of a girl who falls into Chicago's shelter system, and from there must solve the mystery of her father's strange disappearance.

Where is Early's father? He's not the kind of father who would disappear. But he's gone . . . and he's left a whole lot of trouble behind.
As danger closes in, Early, her mom, and her brother have to flee their apartment. With nowhere else to go, they are forced to move into a city shelter. Once there, Early starts asking questions and looking for answers. Because her father hasn't disappeared without a trace. There are patterns and rhythms to what's happened, and Early might be the only one who can use them to track him down and make her way out of a very tough place.

What I think
Early's was a close knit family with attentive, nurturing parents living in a tiny apartment in Chicago. Reading was important to them and Early's father read with the children constantly.  He even worked at the public library.  The family dreamed of owning a comfortable home in a nice neighborhood.  To earn extra money, her father started a side job delivering old books.  Little did he know, this job would land him in serious trouble.

After her father disappears and strange men break into their apartment, Early, her mother and younger brother flee to safety in a city shelter. They are forced to live in a large room with many other families.  Early has to change schools where she is shunned for being a "shelter kid".  To make matters worse, Early's mom has fallen into a depression and barely gets out of bed.  As many suggest, Early never believes her father just left them. She is determined to put her family back together so she starts to do her own investigating to find out more about her father's disappearance.  Unexpectedly, the trail leads back to the public library.  

The characters in this book are well developed and believable.  Early is persistent, clever and faithful. The story line is interesting as Blue Balliett takes you on twists and turns leading to the truth about what happened to Early's father.      

One of the most valuable elements of this book is the description of the family's life in the shelter.  As someone who, fortunately, has never been without a home, I am ashamed to say that I had never given much thought to what shelter life might really be like.  Blue Balliett does a wonderful job describing how difficult the day to day events of someone who is homeless can be.  The waiting in line for the telephone for hours, sleeping in close quarters in an uncomfortable bed and the boredom from the lack of stimulating activities are all described in detail as the family goes through this tragic experience.  Not to mention the shame, guilt, embarrassment, hopelessness and anger they all feel about losing their previous life.  

I won't reveal the ending here. Although the publishers have specified this book for ages 8 and up, it has content that is  somewhat more complicated than I expected.  I would recommend it to 4th graders and up in order for them to enjoy and fully appreciate the story.  Students who like a bit of mystery, a strong underdog and a story of persistence will enjoy this book.

Hold Fast would also make a good class read aloud for grades 3-6. 
Themes include: mystery, persistence, family, homelessness and differences.