Best Book I Have Not Read

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

The Girl Who Could Fly January 25, 2009

girl-could-flyThe Girl Who Could Fly by first-time author, Victoria Forester, is a great book! I really enjoyed the first fifty pages, but  LOVED the next 250ish pages.  

The book was completely different than I anticipated from when I started reading and I LOVE a book that can surprise me! The cover shows a girl in an old-fashioned nightgown and the names of the characters reinforce the idea that the book is set in an “old-fashioned” time or at the least a very rural area.  I’m not implying that the cover or inside flap are misleading, but they don’t give away any of what had me reading compulsively. The school (its name!!), the headmistress, the classmates, the quote the book starts with, etc. make for compelling reading!

I’m torn between wanting to write about it and just telling you that you need to read this book! 

I really enjoyed the character Letitia Hellion who instantly brings to mind  Mrs. Colter from The Golden Compass, (watch out Philip Pullman!). The beauty and smarts that cover up a deviousness you can’t even begin to imagine exists makes Dr. Hellion a character with depth and facets that you’ll just have to read to appreciate.  

I was also reminded of the movie War Games(80s review here) that I  enjoyed when I was in high school. It starred a young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy and just looking at the review on-line brought back all kinds of 80s nostalgia that I didn’t even know that  I had. 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, dreamalittle421 Jump Street, oh my. 

Well, no matter what happy reading and viewing memories The Girl Who Could Fly brings back for me, you’ll need to read this and find your own. I’m very happy this will be a sixth grade read-aloud, but want to give to every intermediate teacher I know as well as wanting to recommend it to countless young readers. Must. Behave. And. Not. Ruin. A. Potential. Read-aloud.


Along Came Spider by James Preller & The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron January 22, 2009

Filed under: books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:10 pm
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Along Came Spider by James Preller (not to be confused with Along Came A Spider) and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron are both great books for intermediate readers. I’m guessing this might be the first post that compares and sees similarities between the two titles, but it so happened that I was listening to Lucky and reading Spider at the same time, so I couldn’t really overlook the similarities even if I wanted. 


Along Came Spider is the story of two fifth grade boys who have been both neighbors and friends for a long time. Now that it is fifth grade, Trey faces a great deal of peer pressure to ditch his friend Spider who the other students find “weird”.  It never comes out and says that Spider has Aspberger’s or is on the autism spectrum, but from years of classroom experience working with students with both, it seemed to me that Spider would fall somewhere on that spectrum.

 I found the books to be a quick and pleasant read that would appeal to many different students. I think the fifth grade teachers are going to really enjoy sharing this boo. Having this book as a shared reading experience will open windows to conversations about peer pressure and differences.  I wish that the book had been around those first couple years I had a student similar to Spider, and struggled to find words to help nine year-olds accept/understand the differences in some of their classmates. Having a character in a book that can be discussed can really open conversation in an amazing way!

Even though the characters are fifth graders, I think the content and readability will appeal to a wide range of intermediate readers, both as a read-aloud and as an independent reading book. I’m adding Six Innings to my read list since I enjoyed this James Preller so much.  

I also enjoyed The Higher Power of Lucky. Lucky who also struggles with acceptance is on a quest to find her own “higher power”.  Too many overheard 12 step meetings have led her to the decision that she needs to find hers.  Lucky has two “friends”. One who makes knots nonstop (a little overfocused like Spider, but maybe that implies OCD) and one who lives with his grandmother and is overfocused on the book Are You My Mother?

I find it interesting that three Newbery titles easily come to mind that deal with foster children. I wonder if there are others I don’t know about. I wonder how the percentage of Newbery/Newbery honor books about foster children compare to the percentage of books about foster children? 


The little section that mentions a dog’s scrotum is not really worth all the fuss it’s gotten. It’s certainly not a good reason to ban a book-it is a real body part for goodness sakes. If I was reading it aloud, I would have probably just changed a few words if I was worried. 

This is a great book and I think Lucky is a character that many intermediate readers can relate to.  Add these two to your library. :)


Put it on the List! January 19, 2009

Filed under: books,KidLit,moms,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:45 am
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51fn2ntjyul_sl160_aa115_Put It on the List! is the first book by new author/illustrator Kristen Darbyshire and is  due out mid February. I have to love a middle school art teacher who writes and illustrates picture books AND can draw with her toes. Teaching, illustrating, writing–all three are impressive on their own.  

Put It on the List! is a familiar phrase to many moms out there. The never ending trips to the grocery store, coming  home to unload and finding out you didn’t know you were out of a certain item.—cereal, toilet paper, etc.

On Monday…

we had pancakes, but no syrup.

On Tuesday…

We had toothbrushes, no toothpaste. 

Teachers will enjoy pairing this book with Cookie’s Week or any other “days of the week” book. 

A well-done  and smartly illustrated first book. Congrats to the author/illustrator


The Big Elephant in the Room January 14, 2009

Filed under: books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:06 pm
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big-elephant1The newest Lane Smith book, The Big Elephant in the the Room is due out July 7, 2009. I went to read it to my first grade son and started by telling him “The Big Elephant in the Room” is an idiom. I immediately launched into “teacher mom” and started to try to explain to him what an idiom was. He interrupts me and tells me, “Mom, I know what an idiom is. You don’t need to tell me!” I’m thinking to myself, “How is it you know what an idiom is when it has always been really hard for my fourth graders to remember one? Your teacher must be brilliant!”

“So did you teacher teach you about idioms today?” I ask, thinking it had to be a coincidence that she just talked about it on the day I was sharing the book with him. Surely he couldn’t have remembered that from some earlier lesson!

“No Mom. I learned it from listening to stink,” he replies matter-of-factedly.

“Stink?” I question him, “What do you mean stink?”

“You know the audiobook I’ve been listening to in my room? I learned it from the book Stink,” he answers (probably thinking “Duh mom!”).

Hmmm! I love audiobooks for so many reasons! Add that to the list!

I’ve loved everything by Lane Smith that I’ve encountered, but I didn’t love the story of two donkey friends, one “geeky” and one not.  The non-geek keeps listing all these mean things that he thinks the “geek” is upset with him about, most of which entail the “non-geek” either making fun of the “geek” or not sticking up for his friend.  I didn’t really care for how the book does not really address that issue or end with a positive message.

The illustration style is fun as always, but the story is not as strong as what I’ve come to expect from Smith. 

If it was a movie in the theatre, I’d say, “Wait until it comes out on video.” Or in this case, paperback.


Snow Show-new picture book to help illustrate Water Cycle January 12, 2009

I was very excited to find The Snow Show by Carolyn Fisher during my last trip to CTC. I’m always on the look-out for a book that can help illustrate a scientific process. All the books I’ve  found in the past that help illustrate the water cycle have been focused on rain as the precipitation.51t4cbo29cl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_This one focuses on snow and is presented in the fun format of a cooking show, a format that most kids are familiar with due to the Food Network and cable television.  Often the part dust plays in the formation of a cloud is overlooked a picture book about weather or the water cycle, but not this one. There are also some great illustrations about the different crystals of snow (I didn’t know they were named!).

My only disappointment was on p. 10 (although that’s a rough guess because there aren’t any page numbers).  Here’s the section I had a problem with which I didn’t find until I was reading it aloud to my children. It’s just a small corner illustration so it was easy to miss when I skimmed it in the book store. 

“Water vapor is an invisible gas, like a fart is an invisible gas. (But water vapor doesn’t smell bad.)”

Now why did the author go ahead and ruin a great scientific read-aloud with that? I’m all for freedom of speech, but I would selectively cover that part up with my hand while reading it aloud, and skip it. It was an unnecessary addition that actually took away from the book.

Overall The Snow Show is a good book in a new type of format that I think kids will really enjoy. Just decide how you are going to handle the bathroom humor before reading it aloud to a group.


Tune in next week for the first Mystery Author clue! January 9, 2009

Filed under: authors,blogs,books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,Mystery Author — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:38 pm
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I’m so excited to announce something fun and new (at least for me)!!

Starting this upcoming week I am going to begin posting one clue each day (four total) about an upcoming KidLit author who has agreed to a “blog interview”. The clues will start general and get more specific with each day. If you can guess the identity of the author in a posted comment before the day of the “reveal” you will be entered into a drawing to receive a new book by that author.  

I’m modeling the Mystery Author after a classroom activity that I posted about in fall 08 called Mystery Reader. The link to that post is here

In my definition a KidLit author can write anything from board book up through young adult. Only limitation on winner of contest is they need to have a U.S. mailing address.

“Same Bat time, Same bat channel.” – Batman’s Narrator

batmanTune in next week!


Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce The Immortals Book 1 January 8, 2009

Filed under: books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:00 am
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wild-magicSecond review from my friend Amelia, age 12.

Wild Magic is about a girl, named Daine, who can communicate with animals.  The book follows her along her journey where she first meets and is employed by Onua Chamtong, keeper of the horses for the Queen’s Riders.  She also meets a master Mage, Numair, the Lioness, a lady knight, and the King and Queen of Tortall.  Daine discovers that she possesses wild magic and becomes apprenticed to Numair with whom she learns to control and direct the gifts she has had since birth.  Daine is also visited in her dreams by a badger who tells her that he knew her father, a person that she has never met, and that she is needed to help stop the immortals, who are bloodthirsty monsters.

Wild Magic, like Alanna: The First Adventure (the “Song of the Lioness” book 1), is well written. There is constant action, whether Daine is fighting huge spider-like things or is talking to a dragon.  It is a great book for animal lovers because animals are a huge part of the story.  This story also intertwines with the “Song of the Lioness” series because Daine meets the adults that are talked about as children in the “Song of the Lioness” series.  While is has lots of action that boys may enjoy, it is marketed more towards girls. It talks more about inner turmoils that a girl might have rather than a boy.


“Child of a Blogger” January 5, 2009

Filed under: blogs,book clubs,books,KidLit,kidlitosphere — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:46 pm
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I just arrived home from Book Club and received the update about bedtime from my husband. We both had to laugh about the following story that took place while I was gone.

My son (age 6) was trying to decide what to read at bedtime tonight. My daughter (age 9) overheard her brother and said the following,

“Mabye I can help. I’m the child of a blogger. It’s just who you want picking out your literature.”

So we are not quite sure what is most amusing, the fact that she referred to herself in third person or that she used the word “literature”. Either way it is classic and I take it as a huge compliment.

The same daughter did not want me to go to Book Club tonight and was pretty sure that I should let her come so she could hear grown-ups talk about books. She has also decided that she should be allowed to have her own blog to review books. She declared that if I am going to read 100 books for a challenge, that she certainly will as well.

Amusing, but also endearing. This same child is the one I’ve written about in the past. The struggle to get her hooked reading a book in the past has been a sore spot for me. Fortunately we seem to have moved past that hurdle.

It’s certainly the nicest thing I’ve heard so far this week.


Free Verse Poetry Genre: 42 Miles

Filed under: books,free verse poetry,KidLit,kidlitosphere — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:20 pm
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42 Miles 42 Miles by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
I love books done in free verse poetry. It’s a great new genre that’s emerged over the past 10 years. This book, by Ohio author Tracie Zimmer, takes place in Cincinnati, OH where the main character lives with her mother, as well as on a rural farm 42 miles away where her father lives. A quick and engaging read, intermediate aged girls will really enjoy the story and the “scrapbook style” illustrations.

View all my reviews.


Posy-the most beautiful picture book I’ve seen this year! January 3, 2009

posyI found Posy by Linda Newbery and Catherine Rayner when I was CTC yesterday and instantly fell in love with this beautiful picture book!  

She’s a…
whiskers wiper,
crayone swiper,
playful wrangler,
knitting tangler…
Not only did I need a copy, but I gifted one to my friend Carol. I was pleased as punch to be able to find a  gem for her for a change. (Very hard to do! The first book I had selected for Carol for Christmas had to go back and be replaced since it turned out she already had read it!) 
I absolutely love the illustrations by Catherine Rayner. It’s so easy to imagine how soft she would be to pet, her curly whiskers give a little peek to her personality, and she reminds me of all the reasons I convinced my soon-to-be-husband (1996) that I needed not one, but two kittens.
I love the big accessible font that will pull kids into the story. Even the jacket flap is written in a font meant to read by kids. 
kitten Posy
as she
and bounces 
through her 
filled day. 

It’s easy to imagine what you could do with older elementary or intermediate students just using the text.  Each page has an engaging illustration and a two words…



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