Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Check out the Cybil Finalists! January 1, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:36 pm

Here are the 2008 Middle Grade Fiction Cybil Finalists.

You can see references to many of the bloggers who helped in the decision process all over KidLit blog land today. Thanks to all of them for working and reading so hard to help the greater good! I am thankful for the group. 

Alvin Ho
written by Lenore Look
Schwartz and Wade Books    (My Review)

Alvin Ho is brave (as long as he has his Personal Disaster Kit), a gentleman (in training), a good friend (but NOT to girls), and an interesting kid (who doesn’t talk in public). It’s just that he’s allergic to everything: girls, substitute teachers, airplanes, escalators … and anything else that’s even remotely scary (like leaving the house). However, he loves explosions, his dog Lucy, Plastic Man, Wonder Woman, the Green Lantern, Aquaman, King V, and all the superheroes in the world. The illustrations are unique and flavorful, and so is the Ho family. A book that everyone — from the struggling second-grade reader through to the adults who know that struggling second-grade reader — will fall in love with.

Diamond Willow
written by Helen Frost
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux


Helen Frost tells the story of Willow, a young girl living in a remote Alaskan town. When Willow gets her first chance to mush the family dogs, everything changes. Told in a series of diamond-shaped poems, with sporadic prose every few chapters, Frost has woven a beautiful coming-of-age story fraught with realism and magic. Braiding the stories of Willow, her family, the dogs, and her family’s ancestors, the story is simple and middle-grade students will easily connect with Willow and her family. The deeper themes of love, respect for nature, and being yourself are carved into the poems, just like the diamond willow stick can be carved.


Every Soul a Star
written by Wendy Mass
Little, Brown

Three middle school students are brought together along with thousands of eclipse-chasers to witness a rare full solar eclipse. Told in the three voices of Ally, Bree & Jack, the alternating narrations are beautifully written and increasingly weave together. Ally (short for Alpha) and her family own the Moon Shadow campground, and have been preparing for their eclipse-chasing guests for years. Bree’s parents have bought the Moon Shadow and are dragging her from city life to try running a campground. Jack is along for the ride as his science teacher’s assistant in an amateur astronomy experiment they plan to run during the eclipse. Every Soul a Star offers three humorous and insightful journeys of self-discovery mixed with an intriguing dose of astronomy lessons.

Shooting the Moon
written by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Both the characters and the setting are fully fleshed out and believable in this Vietnam era novel. Born and raised in a career army family, 12-year-old Jamie explores her changing feelings as her brother enlists in the army and is sent far away to fight. While offering no easy answers, this is a thought-provoking page-turner that will have lots of appeal for kids.

The London Eye Mystery
written by Siobhan Dowd
David Fickling Books

This story has Ted and Kat searching for a cousin who disappears from the London Eye Ferris wheel. The two siblings must work together to solve the mystery. What’s unique about this tale is how Ted’s Asberger’s doesn’t stand in the way of him being active in solving his cousin’s disappearance. The portrayal of Ted is a refreshing change from stereotypical characters in some books.


Okay, I’m a little depressed. I try and try to keep up with the reading, but only managed to read one of the Middle Grade finalists and own one other.  I’ll have to try harder for next year! 


New Year Resolutions: For Families, for Teachers

Filed under: blogs,KidLit,kidlitosphere,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:41 pm
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On that magical first day of a new year, many reflect on the past year and plan for the future year. Several interesting blog posts I have seen the past week are worth passing on! 

From: Family Literacy Resolutions

Happy New Year! It’s that time of the year when everyone is making positive changes in their lives. But instead of resolving to eat fewer desserts or exercise more, how about making a family literacy resolution?

Maybe your resolution could be personal, like promising to read aloud more often to your family. Maybe your resolution can improve your family literacy program. For example: if you are an adult education teacher, you could resolve to learn more about how children learn to read, and then teach those skills to parents so they can help their children improve reading skills. If you are a principal, perhaps you would like to encourage more parent involvement by providing incentives – such as new books for families or pizza parties – to classroom teachers whose parents have outstanding attendance at PTA meetings.

Whatever your resolution is, please let me know! Either submit a comment by clicking the link above.


Planet Esme

Celebrating 200 fantastic posts!

New Year’s Resolution for Teachers: from The Reading Zone 

“My resolution?  To give my students more time for independent reading and writing.  I have somehow managed to lose focus as the year has moved forward and that independent time has fallen by the wayside.  So I will be reworking a few routines and procedures so that I can make that time every day.”

Which leads to her link to Cornerstone Blog:


“I am SO not letting my kids do that next year.”
“Next year, I’m going to approach this in a totally different way.”
“I wish I could just re-do this whole thing and start over.”
“Oh well, next year.”
I hear teachers make these comments all the time. Unfortunately, they all reference next year on the school calendar. And August is a loooooong way away.
It’s never too late to change something that’s not working. You don’t have to wait for an entirely new group of kids. You can–and should–modify your procedures, expectations, and teaching strategies any time they are not effective, at ANY time during the school year.
And don’t worry that making changes to the way you run your classroom will confuse the kids or cause them to question your authority and expertise. The key is to articulate to students what’s not working and how you plan to fix it. Tell the class your observations about the problem and share your solution.
For example, you could say, “I’ve noticed that many people are copying their homework assignments incorrectly. I want to change the way the assignments are displayed and copied in order to help you. From now on, the list of assignments will be on this poster, instead of on the transparency, so even if you come late to class, you can see what needs to be done. I will also be giving you five minutes instead of three to write everything down and have a partner check over what you wrote. Here’s how that’s going to work.” Then model exactly what you want, and guide the kids through it.
Other changes to your teaching practice may be more subtle. You may have noticed a dampening of your enthusiasm or patience, or a heavier reliance on test prep practice and teaching materials/strategies that you know are weak. Maybe you need to stand up to–or acquiesce–an administrator or parent who has been making your life difficult all year long. You might be desperate to change the way you structure your time or prioritize your tasks and goals.
So in light of this, I present the “Not Waiting for a New Year” resolution. What do you want to change NOW in your teaching practice? What thing is so important that you can’t afford to write off this year’s kids and wait for a fresh start in the fall? What’s really pressing for you?
Is there something you want to change in the way you manage your classroom? A different teaching philosophy you want to embrace? A deeply held truth that you’ve lost sight of and want to focus on once again? Or even something small and simple that you know will make a big difference in how you (or your students) feel at the end of the day?

So no matter whether you are a reflector or a planner, take these great ideas and run with them in a way that works for you!