Best Book I Have Not Read

Writing, Reading, Teaching, Life, Attempting to Balance it All

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters July 3, 2009

Filed under: books,KidLit — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:49 am
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The newest Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters is another hit written by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 

This book starts with Alvin AlvinHoup to his normal scaredy-cat antics and funny family adventures with a Houdini kit from his uncle. 

The above-mentioned uncle also gives him wilderness survival lessons and a Batman ring for good luck,  both of which are supposed to protect him from the disaster of having to camp with his father.

His brother helps him order survival gear with his dad’s emergency credit card, because what else would you order with an emergency credit card besides emergency survival gear? Right?

The relationship and his sister is highlighted in this book, and just like with his older brother, there are plenty of laughs and mishaps along the way.

This Alvin Ho is also great book to hook readers or get reluctant readers going! You can’t help but be drawn in by the illustrations, different fonts, and Alvin’s lists. 

I also love Alvin’s Very Scary Glossary at the end. What a fun way to introduce or reinforce glossaries to intermediate aged readers.

My second and fifth graders both loved having this book read to them, so if you are an elementary teacher or parent looking for a new read-aloud, look no further than Alvin Ho!

 

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell July 2, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:18 am
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What I sawWhen I put this book down at the end of the 48 hour Challenge, I wasn’t sure I was going to pick it back up to finish.  After hearing and reading so many things about it, the book was not quite what I had expected and the first third didn’t quite hold my attention like I wanted it to.  Evie’s desire to grow up, her step-father’s (Joe) and mother’s relationship, the mystery of Peter Coleridge and how or what he knew about Joe , were interesting, but not riveting to me.

I loved the cover with the girl’s red lipstick standing out so brightly from the rest of the cover. I loved the title. I loved that it had won a National Book Award. I didn’t like that I didn’t immediately love it as much as I thought I would.

With that said, I wasn’t prepared for it to be historical fiction. I really wasn’t prepared for it to be a mystery. I had read reviews at The Reading Zone that made me want the book, but a lot of time had passed between when I read the reviews and when I purchased the book. The cover and the title had stuck in my head, but not the gist of the book. I think if I had approached it like reading a mystery or a detective novel, the desire to find “clues” throughout the back story would have kept me very engrossed.
I picked it up yesterday again on a whim. I didn’t want to start the next book on my list, The Thirteenth Tale, because I want to save it for my travel to New York City next week. I didn’t want to start a new book because I am still trying to do some prep reading/reviewing before attending the Reading Institute next week. So, there it was, not even half finished and sitting on my shelf. Unfinished books get under my skin like a splinter. It really bothers me to not finish a book so I decided I was going to “get through it” this week. 

From the second I opened What I Saw and How I Lied up to where I had left off (and no, I didn’t back up a few pages and reread like I would have encouraged a student to do) and started reading, I could NOT put it down! The drama, the intrigue, the “who was guilty of what?”, “who (or who didn’t) lie” kept me up late finishing the book.

As the book unfolds, Evie not only begins to grow up, but finds out about hard issue such as racism and realizes that the eyes with which she has always viewed her mother and step-father might have not revealed all there is to know. Deception, redemption, it’s all in there! 

A great young adult read that I think “grown-ups” will like just as much, if not more. Check out What I Saw and How I Lied. 

 

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements July 1, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:55 am
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extracredit

If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know I ‘heart’ Andrew Clements so of course I had to pick up his newest book while I was buying books at Cover to Cover last week.

Extra Credit is another winner by Andrew Clements! Main character Abby is NOT a fan of school. She loves the outdoors and climbing, and has a hard time seeing the value of her classes (sound like any other Clements’ characters?). She is told she is not going to be able to go on to seventh grade if she does not get her act together in a big way (all B’s from then on and a randomly drawn extra credit project!).

Abby is assigned a penpal in Afghanistan who she needs to exchange at least four letters with, create a class display, and give an oral report to her class about the experience. She selected Afghanistan because of the countries her teacher had personal contacts in, Afghanistan was closest to mountains (Abby’s passion).

Across the other side of the world, Sadeed’s teacher requests permission from the Village’s Council for one of his students to be pen pals with an American student. It is decided that it would not be proper for the teacher’s recommended student Sadeed to write to the girl, but he is to supervise his younger sister’s writing of letters.

A friendship blossoms on both sides, with both Abby and Sadeed having an experience with bias about the other pen pal’s country. Both pen pals end up with much more than they bargained. 

A great “school story” by Andrew Clements that I think boys and girls will enjoy reading. It didn’t knock my Clements’ favorite School Story off its pedestal, but it is still a great new best book!

 

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson June 26, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:31 pm
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hairzoeThe Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School is a great new picture book by wonderful author, Laurie Halse Adnerson. Poor Zoe has wild, out-of-control hair that has a mind of it’s own. Not only does it have a mind of it’s own, but it can perform tasks  such as setting the table or cleaning. Now it wasn’t always poor zoe-her parents loved her hair. She loved her hair. Her kindergarten teacher loved her hair. But come first grade, Zoe became poor Zoe with a teacher that believes in RULES and order. The hair is attempted to be controlled, but it fights back. Hats-nope. Eventually scrunchies, barrettes, clips, headbands, rubber bands, bobby pins and duct tape-all at the same time are able to keep the hair under control.  

The story reminds me a little of Plantzilla by Jerdine Nolen and Brian Kielher and illustrated by one of favorite illustrators-David Catrow. In Plantzilla the plant, not the hair, has a life of its own and is able to perform some amazing feats. It would be fun to read the books back-to-back and look for similarities or differences.

I think kids (especially kindergartners and first graders) will find The Hair of Zoe very funny. It would be a good first week of school book when some students are apprehensive about their teacher. They, like Zoe, will find common ground with their new teacher and have a very good year.

 

Paper Towns by John Green June 20, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:43 pm
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papertownsThis is my first John Green book, even though it is his third published book. Like Franki at A Year of Reading, I didn’t have much time to read YA as I did the elementary and intermediate fiction. I have always enjoyed YA, but since it is for older kids, I wanted to be reading things I could recommend to students. Since I changed jobs last summer, I now have middle/high school students I can talk YA books with so I am making an effort to read quite a bunch this summer. I have a few middle school teaching colleagues that have raved about John Green books, I’d read some “reviews that made me want to read the book”, and he’s a graduate of close-by Kenyon College. 

I loved the book (although there were a few parts that I didn’t feel read as smoothly as the majority of the book, which surprised me some. I also could have done without some of the teenage boy commentary, but reminded myself that they are the target audience, not me. The characters of Quentin, Ben, Lacey, Radar and Margo Roth Spiegelman are greatly developed. Although I wouldn’t have necessarily wanted to be friends with all of them, I could imagine them running around  my high school or a modern high school. For people in my age bracket, think 16 Candles or Breakfast Club kind of relationships and characters. I love that what I thought was going to be a strictly realistic fiction book has a great mystery flair throughout! I will be adding his other books to my pile for summer.  

John Green’s website with his brother can be found at nerdfighters.com. I know I’m going to need more time to explore it than I’ve had!

 

Hunger in my garden! June 17, 2009

Filed under: authors,KidLit — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:05 am
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Not to give anything away, but if you are a fan of Gone by Michael Collins and have recently read Hunger: A Gone Novel (came out end of May) you will understand my fright when I went to pick strawberries from my patch, turned a gorgeous red berry over, pivoted it to pick, and dropped the berry in horror when I saw the holes and disgusting creature that made the holes! Hunger had come to my garden and even though it’s been many months since I’ve read the book the zekes

freaked 

me

out

enough that for a nano-second I thought they were in my berries. Yikes!

 

Scat by Carl Hiassen April 14, 2009

scat

I feel a little strange admitting this, but I have never read a Carl Hiaasen book before. Hoot did come out the year my son was born (the first of three years of getting up with him a minimum of three times a night), so that probably has something to do with it. It’s not that I didn’t think his books looked or sounded interesting, but there was always something else that kept coming up that would bump Hoot further down in the stack. That of course, was until Scat.  

I commited to reading Scat when it was the title my daughter selected for the first meeting of The Mother-Daughter Book Club.  This book has guaranteed I will read both of Hoot and Flush, and think I’ll try some of his adult fiction as well!

Scat is a book that pulled me on one level and then kept me thinking on different levels all the way through.  

The characters of Nick, Marta, Duane Jr. are well developed and feel like people you can relate to. Many of the other characters, are just as well-developed. Mrs. Starch, the mean, missing teacher; Mr. Wendall Waxmo the sub who wore tuxedos and always taught page 160 on Tuesday, no matter the day or subject; Twilly; the detective; Duane’s grandmother.

The environmental theme is woven throughout the story and arrives in surprising packages. Part mystery, part comedy, this book kept me thinking long after I closed the cover. The timely, yet unfortunate, issue of soldiers coming home wounded from Iraq is also handled in way that makes the issue very accessible to younger/middle aged readers. Nick’s determination to become a lefty like his dad really struck a nerve in my heart. 

Interestingly, when we went to get it from the library, it was in the YA section, which I found initially surprising. There are a couple “dumb ass” comments, and the danger/mystery might be too much for some intermediate readers. Nonetheless, it kept my daughter and her friends turning page after page through all 384 pages!

A must-read that would also make a terrific read-aloud. Maybe some science teachers might be brave enough to try it as a read-aloud in their content area!

 

 
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