Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu January 13, 2012

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

September 2011, 320 pages

Walden Pond Press

Library Copy

Anne Ursu has written an amazing book. I love the intersection of realistic fiction with a version of  The Snow Queen. The two friends Hazel and Jack each are suffering from their own family problems. Hazel doesn’t “fit” with her school and her father has recently left, doesn’t call, and is getting remarried. Jack gets teased by the boys in his class for being friends with a girl and has a mother suffering from a serious depression.

So that I can get on to other reading, instead of writing my own review, I’m going to give you a couple links to other blog reviews:

NPR December 2011 Kids’ Book Club Pick  (This is the first I’m learning of Backseat Book Club. Love it!)

Jen Robinson’s review 

Book Smugglers interview  with author in their Inspirations and Influences category.

The author’s use of language really grabbed me. I aspire to write as well as she. Here are my favorite lines:

“Everyone in the fifth grade had messenger bags, everyone but Hazel, who had not been cc’ed on that particular school-wide e-mail.” (p. 11)

“She spoke in bright, shiny words, as if that might distract Hazel from thoughts of Jack.” (p.98)

“Her heart plummeted, and her feathers fell away.” (p. 108)

“…their voices were rough and loud and had the sharp edges of crushed-up beer cans.” (p. 138)

“They were plastic flowers of words–but they looked nice on the surface.” (p. 142)

“She had stepped into the woods in the park and landed in an entirely different place. She knew this might happen. She’d been to Narnia, Wonderland, Hogwarts, Dictionopolis. She had tessered, fallen through the rabbit hole, crossed the ice bridge into the unknown world beyond. Hazel knew this world. And it should have made this easier. But it did not. (p. 160)

“There were so many Jacks she had known, and he had known so many Hazels. And maybe she wasn’t going to be able to know all the Jacks that there would be. But all the Hazels that ever would be would have Jack in them, somewhere.” (p. 247)

“The truth was he had been getting more and more scratchy and thick lately. Because sometimes when you are scratchy and thick you don’t want to be sitting in a shack with someone pretending it’s a palace, especially someone who can tell you are scratchy and thick, especially someone who tries to remind you who you really are.” (p. 248)

Brilliant don’t you think? 

I had heard about this book for a long time before it was released. I probably would have read it sooner if it wasn’t for the one thing that bothers me about it. I don’t think it’s very nice to point out a negative about such a great book, and of no fault of the author’s, but it REALLY bothers me that the girl on the cover looks so much like a Disney cartoon. In the shower this morning, I decided she looks like a cross between Lilo from Lilo and Stitch and Pocohantas. I don’t want a Newbery-worthy book to have a cartoon-like character on the cover. I know that’s probabaly dumb, but really???

That aside, teachers and parents definitely should introduce this book to your middle grade readers! 

 

Bigger Than a Breadbox October 2, 2011

Friday, October 7th, fifty of our students will get the opportunity to Skype with author Laurel Snyder about her newest book Bigger Than a Bread Box (which I am madly trying to finish today). To promote her book, Laurel is Skyping with 100 classrooms in 100 days. I “won” one of the Skype visits over the summer. I’m excited that authors are embracing Skype as a way to still do author visits during these economic times that have made traditional author visits financially unfeasible and believe author Laurel Snyder deserves to be commended. She has a great website and blog

I’m hopeful this opportunity will provide a little more magic for our students.

 

More Greek Hero series from Riordan June 23, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:43 am
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Thanks to The Reading Zone for the alert that the cover for the new Rick Riordan series The Lost Hero was made public this week. It will be the first in a five book series. You can check out Rick Riordan’s blog Myth and Mystery. Over at Entertainment Weekly, you can see the cover AND read the first two chapters. There is a link that will take you to http://www.camphalfblood.com and you’ll need to enter the secret password newhero. Here’s a teaser first sentence:

“Even before he got electrocuted, Jason was having a rotten day.”

Here’s the press release info about the series:

ABOUT THE BOOK:

After saving Olympus from the evil Titan lord, Kronos, Percy and friends have rebuilt their beloved Camp Half-Blood, where the next generation of demigods must now prepare for a chilling prophecy of their own:

Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire the world must fall.
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.

Now, in a brand-new series from blockbuster best-selling author Rick Riordan, fans return to the world of Camp Half-Blood. Here, a new group of heroes will inherit a quest. But to survive the journey, they’ll need the help of some familiar demigods.

 

Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen June 12, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:32 am
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Woods Runner

by Gary Paulsen

2010, 164 pages

Middle Grade/Young Adult fiction

Woods Runner was a great change of pace for me reading-wise. It seems like everything I’ve read lately is either dystopian fiction, fantasy, or a too sad realistic fiction. Despite the book being set during the War for Independence, no tears were shed during the reading.

I would describe this book as a cross between historical fiction and non-fiction. The clever way that Paulsen combines the story line of Samuel and his parents, interspersed with short, non-fiction accounts of the war will have this book flying out of your classroom library. It will definitely be more of a “boy” book, but your female readers who enjoy historical fiction will also like this book.

Reading this book, I was constantly struck by what a simple, yet brilliant way Paulsen has employed with the combination of fiction and non-fiction. As a format to help those readers new to some of the complexities of historical fiction, this type of book would be helpful to slowly provide the background information throughout the story. It’s making me think of all sorts of possibilities for historical fiction reads. Lily’s Crossing? hmmm…read along with short, reading-level appropriate passages explaining parts of World War II.

I hope this is just the beginning of a trend to combine fiction and non-fiction in an appealing and natural way for middle grade readers.

 

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies June 8, 2010

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies

by Mick Cochrane

2009, 192 pages

Middle Grade Fiction

Middle school is fraught with more than enough problems. You add the death of a father, a withdrawn version of her mom and Molly Williams is entitled to a whole lot of self-pity. But that’s not who Molly is and she doesn’t want to be known as “Miss Difficulty Overcome”.

I love the author’s description of Molly on the back flap, a part of the book I often overlook.

” About halfway through the first draft of the novel, it occurred to me that in writing about the knuckleball, I was in a sense really writing about writing, or maybe any art for that matter: the technique and the craft, the wonderful sense of possibility, the joyous surprise. Like many artists, and like many protagonists of fairy tales, Molly has suffered a wound. She’s sad and she’s grieving, but she’s been given an unlikely gift, and through her patience and perseverance, her courage and spirit,she triumphs–that gift helps to make her whole.”

Baseball was always Molly and her father’s thing. She ends up going out for the boys’ baseball team. And making it. Not to be a rebel. Not to get herself noticed in an obnoxious, teenage angst kind of way, but because “playing catch” brings her closer to her father and helps her find a place of calm within herself.

This book gave me chills! Just reading the inside flap brought those chills right back. I never would have thought a book about baseball, even a girl playing baseball, could keep me as enthralled as I was while reading, but the writing is just amazing.

“Molly understood that keeping score was a kind of storytelling, an almost magical translation of loud and dusty events in the world–” (p. 146).

I had never thought to think about baseball, or scorekeeping, as a kind of story telling, but I can see how it is…

“Molly meanwhile was fantasizing about a scoring system not for baseball but for life. If she said something stupid, fogot to bring home her science book–those would be errors. If her mother came through for her about a third of the time–that sounded about right–her batting average would be .333.” “Would a system like that be a brilliant invention? Or would it be a nightmare?” (p. 147)

The last two pages of the book make me weep. Not in a horribly sad ending kind-of-way, but in the hope it gives me for my friend’s children who lost their father earlier this year. I know they are okay, but to read Molly’s words, it reminds me that there are all different kinds of okay. You can learn to be okay with a missing limb.

“She would alwyas miss her dad. Always. That wasn’t ever going to go away. That had been an amputation. That limb was never going to grow back. It would always ache.” (p.176).

Beautiful book, well-developed characters, a different take on sports and life. How can you not want to read this book?

 

New Clements book a winner! April 27, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:21 am
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Book blurb from Clement’s website:
We the Children

Benjamin Pratt’s school is about to become the site of a new amusement park. It sounds like a dream come true! But lately, Ben has been wonder if he’s going to like an amusement park in the middle of his town—with all the buses and traffic and eight dollar slices of pizza. It’s going to change everything. And, Ben is not so big on all the new changes in his life, like how his dad has moved out and started living in the marina on what used to be the “family” sailboat. Maybe it would be nice if the school just stayed as it is. He likes the school. Loves it, actually. It’s over 200 years old and sits right on the harbor. The playground has ocean breezes and the classrooms have million dollar views…MILLION DOLLAR views. And after a chance—and final—run-in with the school janitor, Ben starts to discover that these MILLION DOLLAR views have a lot to do with the deal to sell the school property. But, as much as the town wants to believe it, the school does not belong to the local government. It belongs to the CHILDREN and these children have the right to defend it!
Don’t think Ben, his friend Jill (and the tag-along Robert) can ruin a multimillion dollar real estate deal? Then you don’t know the history and the power of the Keepers of the School. A suspenseful six book series, book one, We the Children, starts the battle on land and on sea. It’s a race to keep the school from turning into a ticket booth and these kids are about to discover just how threatening a little knowledge can be.

Prior to reading the new Clements book, when I saw the cover of The Benjamin Pratt & The Keepers of the School: We the Children, it had me thinking ahead of time that it was going to be a historical fiction book set during the American Revolution-hmmm-I guess it was the sepia tones of the book and the “We the Children” similarity to the “We the people…” I couldn’t have been further from the truth.

I loved the new We the Children: Keepers of the School by Andrew Clements. (I know. Big surprise.)
My only complaint? It was too short!

Just about the time you hit that peak, the book ends!  I’ll call it the 39 Clues phenomenon. I’m not quite sure what I think about it in the form of a $14.95 book that is only available in hardback. While this book will be a winner for reluctant readers as well as book lovers, I do worry that the reluctant readers will lose interest before the next one in the series comes out-September 7, 2010(title- Fear Itself). At $14.95 for 160 pages, complete with pictures and a middle grade font, the $90 price tag for the series is a little hefty.

Here’s the cover for Book 2:

I loved this twist on a school story. Benjamin is a great character, as is the janitor who gave him the coin, his friend, Jill, and his “frienemy” Robert. A great combination of suspense and “school story” realistic fiction, you can’t help but want to know how the kids will outwit the bad guys/big corporation.

The black, blue and white illustrations are a great addition to the story and help the plot move right along.

 

More Middle Grade Fiction -SLOB February 20, 2010

Filed under: book reviews,Middle Grade Fiction — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:43 am
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SLOB by Ellen Potter

Philomel, 2009

199 pages

I must be on an “out of the ordinary” reading bend. It seems every book I read has a main character with non-mainstream kind of issues.

Colin-An Abundance of Katherines-worried about whether he is a prodigy who won’t become a genius. Trying to find a mathematical formula to explain the dumpee-dumper relationship between himself and all the Katherines.

Cameron-Going Bovine-stricken with mad-cow disease, Cameron is on a quest to save himself and the world.

Jason-Anything but Typical-living a life of autism from the autistic’s point of view.

The next main character is Owen. While he is not on the “spectrum” he certainly is not your typical character. Owen is an overweight, genius-type middle schooler who drops clues throughout the book to as why he is the way he is. Tormented in middle school by someone who is stealing Oreos from his lunch, he is also dealing with a P. E. teacher who takes personal pleasure out of torturing him, the building of a time machine to try to catch a criminal from the past and his sister, “Jeremey”, who is a member of GWAB (Girls Who Are Boys).

There are some great well-developed secondary characters in this book as well. I loved the neighbor who Owen would confide in. The suspected “oreo thief”-both of them add great depth of realism to the middle school experience.

Don’t ask me why, but I was really bothered by the title. SLOB-captial letters. I liked the half eaten Oreo for the O- but it created a tension for me as I was reading. I was relieved that you do find out where the SLOB comes from, but it rubbed at me the entire book! It was probably supposed to when I look back at all the mysteries that are revealed throughout the book.

Thanks to the review at Literate Lives that made me want to read this book.

 

Middle Grade Fiction New Reads February 16, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:00 pm
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Anything but Typical by Nora Baskin

Simon & Schuster, 2009

208 pages

A Starred Book by Booklist as well as highly regarded by fellow bloggers:

Literate Lives

The Reading Zone

You can’t help but love the main character, Jason, a sixth grader who is diagnosed with autism along with “numerous disorders, most with labels like alphabet soup”. For any teacher who has ever had a student on the autism spectrum, you’ll be reminded of them while reading. I was cringing when reading the part about the substitute librarian who was trying to get Jason to “behave like other kids” and not freak out over someone using “his” computer. It brings back memories of my first interaction with a student, not then diagnosed with autism,  when I was a young(er) teacher. At the time, I could not understand the intensity with which he blatantly ignored my request that he put on his glasses. Why were my normal teacher charms working?

Written from Jason’s point of view, the author really takes you into the mind of Jason and how he views life with “neuro-typicals” ( his family members-brother, mom, dad; his classmates). I enjoyed the clarity he was able to view himself and others with. I also really enjoyed Jason’s on-line writing community. So many students that I’ve worked with on the spectrum have not enjoyed writing or written output. It made me so glad for Jason that he was able to connect with others in a safe forum.

There is a new paperback cover-coming March 2010-I am trying to soft-sell the book to my daughter to help her with her understanding of the many different types of people we encounter in school and life.

 

Skeleton Creek from a Sixth Grade Point of View February 10, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:21 pm
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Will
The book Skeleton Creek is written in journal format, as though the main character, Ryan, is writing down the events as they happen. The story begins with Bryan having a crushed leg after falling in a gold mine called the Dredge. With a realistic style, he begins to record events that bring suspense and even scares into the reader. With twists and turns, Ryan and his friend Sarah begin to uncover the secrets of the gold mine, from ghosts to secret clubs. To add to the spine tingling chills, the book adds videos on sarahfincher.com with codes that make an extremely suspenseful book entwine with pure horror videos. Although the book is a great read for all ages, the videos can be slightly terrifying, with demons (see the front cover) and massive buildups. 
This book is certainly something any suspense novel fan, ghost story lover, or horror flick admirer should read and watch. The book is truly phenomenal for many reasons. First of all, the detail is incredible. After a rather rocky beginning, the story begins to unfold into a true piece of literary art, where it feels as though you are right there with the main character. It also has massive amounts of suspense, along with bits of shear horror, that make it a page turner that is virtually impossible to put down until the very last page. The videos on the site add to the suspense, giving readers the ability to watch for themselves the events that make the story so great. If the videos are to creepy, the book itself explains most of what is in the videos. Watch out though, the end of the book has some serious surprises and will leave the reader begging for more. A definite read for anybody who likes anything eerie. Note though: this book along with the videos may be to scary for some viewers under 13 years of age and the parents may want to watch the clips with their child(ren).
Also- while watching the videos, watch the image of the Dredge behind the clip, if parts of it begin to glow, click on them, you may be surprised by what you see.  
 

January’s Books-On the Way to the Year’s Goal February 4, 2009

Filed under: books — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:02 am
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Books I read in January 

Picture Books: 

Put It on the List! by  Kristen Darbyshire My review 

I Want to Be Free by Joseph Slate My review

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Christine King Farris My review

Posy by Linda Newbery and Catherine Rayner My review

Snow Show by Carolyn Fisher My Review 

The Snow Globe Family by Jane O’Connor

Fourteen Bears Summer and Winter by Evelyn Scott

Princess Peepers by Pam Calvert

A is for Art : An Abstract Alphabet by Stephen T. Johnson

The Big Elephant in the Room by Lane Smith My Review 

 

Middle Grade and YA Fiction:

42 Miles by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer 

Along Came Spider by James Preller My review

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron My review

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman My review

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester My review

Shoot the Moon by Francis O’Roark Dowell 

Ida B. and  Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disasters, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan 

 

Professional Books: 

Inside the Writer’s-Reader’s Notebook by Linda Reif

Assessing Writers by Carl Anderson

 

Adult Fiction: 

Nada-it WAS Newbery month! Ooh wait-I think I finished Mr. Pip by Lloyd James in January-very good book!

 

 
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