Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Scat by Carl Hiassen April 14, 2009

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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!

 

Piper Reed Give-away April 10, 2009

Filed under: authors,books,reluctant readers,series — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:14 am
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PIPER REED AND COMPANY ARE COMING THIS AUGUST!

 

  

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But you can win an advance copy now!
 
Details at Kimberly’s blog:
 

 

 

 

My fourth grade daughter loves Piper Reed and has entered her name in the drawing. Piper is a great character and I used her to hook my daughter in third grade (using an audiobook of the first book) when she was unsuccessfully picking just-right books for herself. I give Piper Reed some of the credit for helping me turn that corner with my daughter from reluctant reader to book-lover. Look for an interview with the author soon!

 

 

 

SLJ’s Battle of the (Kids’) Books starts next Monday April 9, 2009

Filed under: award winners,blogs,book reviews,books — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:09 am
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From School Library Journal’s blog:

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About the Battle
School Library Journal’s Battle of the (Kids’) Books is a competition between 16 of the very best books for young people published in 2008, judged by some of the biggest names in children’s books.

Roger Sutton, editor in chief of The Horn Book, will be judging the very first match. Print out the brackets here.

A longtime player and judge in this sport, Roger was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books and a children’s and young adult librarian. 

Match 1: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves vs Ways to Live Forever

Match 2: The Graveyard Book vs The Trouble Begins at 8

Match 3: Chains vs Washington at Valley Forge

Match 4: Here Lies Arthur vs Tender Morsels

Match 5: The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks vs We Are the Ship

Match 6: The Hunger Games vs The Porcupine Year

Match 7: Graceling vs The Underneath

Match 8: The Lincolns vs Nation

What’s the baddest book of them all? Our all-star panel of judges is about to decide! 

Follow the action as 16 of last year’s best books compete in a winner-takes-all tournament to determine the nation’s top title.

 

Unlike the Newbery short-lists, I am not going to read frenetically to try to be able to have an opinion on different rounds, but will be following along as an interested bystander. I also see a couple titles I am unfamiliar with that I’ll need to find out more about.

 

Teaching Second-Grade Writers by Lucy Calkins April 8, 2009

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The entire title of this little gem is Reading Writing Project Workshop Help Desk: A Quick Guide to Teaching Second-Grade Writers with Units of Study by Lucy Calkins and is available from Heinemann. I picked it up when I was at TC in March and I can’t find it on the website yet, but if you are a second grade teacher, literacy coach, staff developer, or curriculum director I highly recommend picking it up as soon as you can. This 76 page pocket-sized professional development resource ($8.00) would be great to add to your Primary Units of Study set. Even if you aren’t using UOS, I still think this would be a valuable resource.  Something I love in the first chapter is the proposed overview of the year (also known as a shared curricular calendar). Each chapter then goes on to explore each month’s unit of study more closely. It has some great recommendations for modifying the UOS if your first grade and kindergarten teachers are also using UOS.

The second grade study group of writing workshop is going to start reading this as soon as we can get additional copies. All are game for trying their proposed calendar. With the research and thinking that is behind all TC Reading and Writing Project work, I don’t know how their calendar can do anything but help us work together to get even better.

I think it’s an exciting time to be a teacher of writing and reading. What a gift this little book is!

 

What I’m Currently Reading April 7, 2009

Filed under: audiobook,books,KidLit,kidlitosphere — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:46 am
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Just finished Scat by Carl Hiaasen. It’s one of the best books I’ve read! Now I need to read Hoot and Flush!

Bedtime reading Greetings from Nowhere by Barbara O’Connor with my daughter.

Bedtime reading Roscoe Riley Rules #1 Never Glue Your Friends to Chairs by Katherine Applegate with my son.

Listening to The Calder Game CDs by Blue Balliet in the car when I’m by myself.

Listening to Beyond Spiderwick #1 The Nixie’s Song by Holly Black and Tony diTerlizzi and Past Perfect, Present Tense: New and Collected Stories by Richard Peck with my children in the car 

Currently and actively reading The Art of Teaching Reading by Lucy Calkins, Graceling by Kristin Cashore (recommended to me by one of my former students-he even brought it to me at school-I love that!)

Started but yet to finish: Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson, Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson (they are both good, I just got distracted)

need to start, but haven’t Room With a View by E.M. Forester, Drood by Dan Simmons

 

New Books April 6, 2009

Filed under: audiobook,book reviews,books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,picture books,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:36 am
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The goals: spend less than $75 on new books Saturday, find new release books I hadn’t read yet, try to include one each for my son and daughter to get excited about. Here’s how it ended up

Word Builder by Ann Whitford Paul (beautiful new picture book with a construction crew taking letters and eventually turning them into a book) 

The Pet Sitter: Tiger Taming by Julie Sykes (a series from England starring a young pet-loving boy. Will be good for my son as he is not ready for Magic Tree House, but insists on chapter books that look “grown-up”)

Smoke by Mavis Jukes (I’m not sure what gravitated me towards this book. The cover has a cat in profile, the title is the same as one the characters in the book Scat I just finished, I need a new read aloud for my son and thought this would be a nice change from Wimpy Kid, thought he would love the cowboy connection. I’ll let you know.)

Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children’s Book Authors Tell You How to Go Green Edited by Dan Gutman (Good short stories are sometimes hard to come by and 100 by authors such as Ralph Fletcher and Gail Gibbons can’t be beat!)

Change Has Come with illustrations by Kadir Nelson (Kadir Nelson’s drawings, Barack Obama’s words-need I say more?)

The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths by Cynthia Rylant (Love Cynthia Rylant. Love that this myths are retold at a level that I can use to introduce them to my children and students)

Total Damage $71.96

I’m pretty excited about my haul!

 

Professional Learning Focus: Reading and Writing. I Just Can’t Get Enough April 5, 2009

Having had the opportunity to hear Carl Anderson speak about conferring and assessing young writers yesterday just 2 weeks after attending a Lucy Calkins Literacy Institute, I am in professional learning and reflection rapture.

A blogging friend ran into me yesterday at the workshop and remarked, “You’re at everything”.

While I don’t attend “everything”, I would agree with her that I do attend everything that I possibly can that is professionally valuable.  I do draw the line and know that I can’t focus on everything. For instance, several years ago when I had first started using Lucy Calkins Units of Study, my principal got a little annoyed with me when I refused to attend a workshop on 6 + 1 Traits of Writing.  He could not understand why I would prefer (and insist) on going to a workshop about new literature at the Columbus Public Library when I had the opportunity to hear a presenter from Texas in my own school.

“My brain can’t handle any different information at this point. It is really hard work getting Units of Study up and running and I can’t afford any distractions from it if I am going to give it the attention it needs to be successful.”  I tried to explain to him.

I even went so far as encouraging him to cancel the speaker. After all, we were all supposed to be working within the parameters of Calkins Writing Workshop, and I truly believed that all the session with that Texan would do would get people excited about something that they really shouldn’t be doing that year and frustrated that they couldn’t go try out what they had just sat through a whole day session about. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. 

I also have learned that I have to go out and find what I am looking for in the area of professional development. Being a teacher in the community I live in, has so many positives, I can’t even begin to name them. Unfortunately on-site professional development is not one of them.

Bigger districts have had the opportunity to bring in renowned experts to talk and work with their teachers for years and years.

“What!? Ralph Fletcher was in your room teaching writing workshop!” I would drool hearing this year after year while talking to teaching friends at the Dublin Literacy Conference.

I, on the other hand, have had the opportunity to read their books and try things out with a couple of like-minded individuals.  Really good, but not in the same league. Rec league basketball instead of the NBAs.

Fortunately, it has gotten easier over the years with opportunities such as the fifth annual Lakota Literacy VIEW , The Literacy Connection, as well as the annual Dublin Literacy Conference, on-line resources such as Choice Literacy, blogs (see my sidebar for my favorites) such as Two Writing Teachers or Reading Zone and nings with like-minded teachers.  For now, I am still a learner and need to soak in everything I can in order to best help the teachers and students I work with. My excitement over the possibilities leaves me recharged and ready to learn more!