Best Book I Have Not Read

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

How Cool is it that there is a Betsy-Tacy Society July 23, 2009

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I find it remarkably cool that there is a society (The Betsy-Tacy Society) that has restored the Maud Hart Lovelace homes ofbetsytacy book characters Betsy and Tacy. I loved those books growing up. Even though they were betsyhousewritten in 1940’s, those girls could have easily been my best friends.  I loved reading about the things they did and my best neighborhood friend, Lori, and I would frequently have their adventures.  Every time they have been re-released, I’ve pounced on them in the bookstore to add to my collection.

The Betsy-Tacy Convention just wrapped up in Mankato, Minnesota. It sounds like fun was had by all and that author Meg Cabot was a huge hit with the audience. You can read the convention highlights over at Book Club Girl’s blog.

Wow-now I can dream of going to Patricia Polacco’s farm in Michigan AND Betsy’s home in Minnesota. Don’t tell my husband I dream of book-themed vacationing!

You can get a sneak peak at the upcoming re-releases here-they look great and very true to the original illustrations. forgetmenots


Quick Reviews July 14, 2009

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:55 am
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Peter Rabbit Munch! Peter Rabbit Naturally Better board book-a beautiful new board book that I picked for a friend’s new baby-love that each page looks “munched”.peterrabbit

The Problem with the Puddles by Kate Feiffer (intermediate aged readers) Love the illustrations which will help support those transitional intermediate readers. A great story about a family whose parents agree on nothing! Through an adventure together trying to find their lost dogs, they find there really aren’t so many things worth disagreeing about.

problem puddles

Lucky by Rachel Vail (YA)-A very fun YA read-very timely with the economy going south daily. The main character, Phoebe’s, mother has lost her well-paid job, leaving the family in a big financial pinch. Going from privileged child who wants for nothing, to having to tell her friends she can’t afford her part of their lavish, middle school graduation party, Lucky is a fun read. Gorgeous, the “sequel” (and part of a planned trilogy) focusing on Phoebe’s sister, just was published in the end of May. Sure to be a hit with YA readers looking for some light, realistic fiction.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (“grown-up”)-a great mystery read in a non-traditional mystery format. Margaret Lea, a young woman who rarely leaves her father’s rare and collectible book store, lives most of her life through the characters she reads. Selected by a famous, reclusive author to write her biography, Margaret partakes on the quest to find truth in Vida Winter’s story-telling. The story of dysfunctional twins, and the people who attempt to raise them, including a governess, pulls the reader into this book that allows the author’s knowledge of literature to shine through in a way that is pleasing for any reader. For the lover of literature, shades of Jane Eyre will be evident. thirteenth tale



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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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!


Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume June 30, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,kidlitosphere — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:54 pm
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Soupy Saturdays with the Pain and the Great One was a great audio-book that my children and I enjoyed recently. We listened to the other Pain and the Great Ones by Judy Blume in succession and loved them as well. We had enjoyed the Superfudge books read by Judy Blume herself, but also really enjoyed the voices used to portray sister (aka-The Great One) and brother (aka-The Pain). I’m not sure which of the three of us found the stories the most amusing (I”m guessing me, since my daughter and son don’t recognize that they do so many similar things to The Pain and The Great One!) but we were driving around laughing at many of their episodes.

This book began the series started by Judy Blume’s picture book. I missed the books with my daughter so I am VERY excited to know about them for my son.

soupy saturdays


Tunnels by Brian Williams & Roderick Gordon June 24, 2009

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:03 am
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tunnelsTunnels by Brian Williams & Roderick Gordon was a great read. I had an ARC of Book Two and certainly wasn’t going to read Book 2-Deeper without having read the first! Tunnels was one of those books that I kept seeing around, but not ever going ahead and making the purchase. During my last trip to Cover to Cover, I picked it up again and was caught by ‘Soon To Be Made Into a Movie’ on the back cover and thought, “That does it. I have got to read this before trailers for a movie come out that RUIN the experience for me”. I’m obviously not a huge fan of books being made into movie for a whole lot of reasons. 

I really enjoyed the characters of Will Burrows, his bumbling father Dr. Burrows, and the rest of Will’s dysfunctional family. His friend Chester made me think, “I hope this is the only Harry Potter similarity”. Fortunately for me, it was. As the story unwinds, other great characters are introduced as well. 

The idea of an underground Colony of people was something that had never crossed my mind before so I really enjoyed how Will’s adventure through the layers introduced new worlds. The idea that humans are “Topsoilers” is a great description of many citizens.  

It wasn’t until I finished the book and started poking around on their website that I became aware that Tunnels was supposed to be the next “Harry Potter” with big royalties for the authors (How do two people write a book together?).  That’s a lot of hype to have to live up to. I’m glad I didn’t know that ahead of time, because it allowed me to read it without that type of critical lens. 

As I was reading, I was quite surprised when I came to Part 2 “The Colony” because I hadn’t anticipated as a reader that that was the direction (ha,ha-not meant to be a play on words) the authors were going. Even though the inside cover starts with “Where the End is Just the Beginning…” the strength of the story kept pulling me along so there were quite a few surprises that in retrospect, I might have been able to pick up more clues as I read.

I’m looking forward to reading Deeper later this summer. If you are a fan of 100 Cupboards or other fantasy books, Tunnels is for you!


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 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




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


Cynthia Rylant

Filed under: authors — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:55 am
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I will start by admitting my bias for anything Cynthia Rylant.  I’m not sure when my love affair with her books first came into bloom, but I think it might have beengive me grace with The Relatives Came in 1986.  I think she is brilliant. I love everything from God went to Beauty School to Henry and Mudge, and everything in-between. I believe every family needs the sweet volume Give Me Grace: A Child’s Daybook of Prayers and every classroom needs In November.  

I LOVE Poppelton and his cast of merry animal friends. I love the short stories of Every Living Thing-the stories are so great to use with older students. I love Mr.Tulip Sees Putter, Annie & Snowball. I LOVE Silver Packages-such a poignant true story highlighted with Chris Soentpiet beautiful illustrations. I LOVE Tulip Sees America. Who doesn’t love When I Was Young in the Mountains?

Now I am not Katie Wood Ray, and can not recite her books from heart, but I sure wish I could!

Didn’t love the redo of Cinderella or Hansel and Gretel, but that was due to illustration style, not the language or story. I LOVE Van Gogh Cafe and have given Heavenly Village to several friends who work with teens.

the relatives cameI do have an autographed copy of The Relatives Came-I always started my reading and writing workshop school year with that book . I think I’m lucky enough to have that autograph because she presented at a Children’s Literature Workshop at Miami University (my old stomping ground) one of my first years teaching (Back when Children’s Literature Conferences were more common-boy I miss the one at OSU). I have a vague memory of driving back to Miami because she was going to be a presenter. She is much more elusive than many authors or illustrators-I wonder if anyone has been fortunate enough to have a school visit from her? She’s such a prolific writer, she probably doesn’t have time for school visits, but boy would that be great!



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