Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Thank You Jon Scieszka! Ambassador Extraordinaire! December 31, 2009

What is a National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature you might ask? Besides my dream job, it’s a position that Jon Scieszka held the past two years for. The ambassadorship was created by the Library of Congress to “raise awareness of the importance of young people’s books as it relates to lifelong literacy, education, and the development and betterment of the lives of young people”. (LOVE IT!). Scieszka’s platform (platform cracks me up-it’s like a congressional candidate or beauty contestant) was to reach reluctant readers.

The books he has authored are certainly a good example of books that do reach out to reluctant readers, as well as readers of all ages and forms! From Knucklehead to The Stinky Cheese Man, Seen Art to Time Warp Trio, it’s nearly impossible to be a parent or elementary teacher and be unaware of Scieszka’s books. His tongue-in-cheek humor keeps me chuckling. Even his website, Jon Scieszka Worldwide (tagline: Facing tomorrow’s challenges today!) will have you chuckling.

Check out his annual report or any of his other graphics.
Check out his Guys Read website.
You’ll also find a link to the Superhero Supply Store in Brooklyn. If you haven’t heard of the Superhero Supply Store, come back tomorrow to read a post about it, 826 Valencia, and TED awards.

Scieszka’s LA Times Article“It’s All Good!” has a great run down of kids’ books from his tenure. Great list of books to add to your TBR list!

Maybe starting a Guys Read Field Office should be on the 2010 to-do list…hmmm…..


The Pioneer Woman Cooks December 28, 2009

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Another category of books I love is cookbooks!
I received this new cookbook, The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond, and love everything about it! It has great wit and humor, great photographs, and great recipes! Check out her great blog/website. Don’t you love the graphics? It doesn’t hurt (except our waistlines) that my dear hubby also loves cookbooks and cooking. My love used to be only baking cookbooks, but it has really expanded in the past couple years.


Clean Sweep for the New Year December 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:49 pm

I used to be a good candidate for Clean Sweep. I like to think I’ve made a lot of progress in the past couple years. Throwing things away from my classroom, donating my classroom library when I left fourth grade for this current position, donating my stash of patterns and fabrics that date back to my teen years. For many years (actually most) I was one of those teachers who held onto 24 baby food jars, the half skein of yarn, the last little bit of glitter, because I never knew when I might need something like that. (I suspect a lot of teachers are hoarders after spending thousands of our own dollars over the year on items for the classroom. Raisins for math lessons, seeds for science, books to help one more student fall in love with reading, blah…blah…blah).

Unfortunately for my husband, I was also one of those types at home as well where I would keep every single— stitch of clothing that my children had outgrown from birth until just two years ago (I pat myself on the back for only keeping one clothing items from their infancy); every craft/hobby that I was convinced I was going to get back to one of these days (cross stitch, scrap booking, knitting, etc.); greeting card we had received for our wedding, birth of our children, or a birthday; books from my childhood. You get the idea. Some of you sympathize and others of you are just plain frightened.

I have the voice of  Peter Walsh from Clean Sweep in my head telling me I don’t need to hang onto the ceramic Cocker

Spaniel my grandmother made for me when I was little and she lived at the Ohio Masonic home. That guy would say that it’s the memories of my grandmother that count, not a ceramic dog. Still, I find it hard. Peter Walsh and my mother are arguing in my head.

I’m wrapping said ceramic dog up for my husband’s white elephant gift exchange. Last week’s white elephant gift exchange was still in the moving tub from when we moved into our current home more than eleven years ago.  I was pregnant and throwing up when we moved in and continued to throw up everyday until my daughter was born. Somehow those eleven years have passed in a blur.

We are getting ready to move in a couple weeks and one of the many good things about moving, is that it really does give me a chance to Clean Sweep my house. We aren’t going far-just from out in the township/country back into the village which is where we lived when we first got married. I’m also giving myself a mandatory blogging break for the two weeks of holidays/packing that are fast approaching.

While I am excited about getting rid of detritus, the weak part of my brain argues with me that I am being wasteful. If I feel myself weakening, I tell myself I can always call fellow teaching colleagues who are known for their spartan like lack of junk and let them grouch at me. They don’t have the charming accent of Peter Walsh and certainly won’t be as patient with me.

Here’s a few examples of a crazy things I’ve found since beginning to clean sweep:

Turns out I never finished Breaking Dawn. I stopped on page 700 of 754.  WTH? Do I just read the last fifty pages or do I need to reread it since it’s been so long. Maybe I don’t even bother.

My viola is in the basement and it hasn’t been played since 1983. Do I honestly think one of my children will ever want to play it?

Throwing away art projects from when my kids were three isn’t the same as throwing them away, even though it feels mean and bad.


Meet Scaredy! December 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:14 am

If you aren’t familiar with Scaredy Squirrel, you need to make his acquaintance.  Check out my new Scaredy Squirrel puppet! I LOVE him. Now if I could only figure out how to make him wearable to perch on my shoulder like a parrot. I would love to walk around with my pal Scaredy on classroom visits.



Holy Guacamole December 18, 2009

Filed under: authors — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:53 pm
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If you do not know who Skippyjon Jones is, you need to fix that before the holidays! I feel in love with that “rambunctious kitty boy” when he arrived in his first book in 2005. Look at this adorable Skippyjon Jones that Santa brought me! Wouldn’t he be perfect peeking out of a stocking?

There is no way a Siamese cat who thinks he is a chihuahua is NOT going to make you laugh.  His sisters, Mama June bug Jones, and his gang of Mexican Chihuahuas are also very fun and colorful characters.

It’s hard for me to say, but my favorite line might be from book 3 ,” Skippyjon Jones did his very best thinking outside of the box.” (complete with an illustration of him outside a litter box!)

I probably have already mentioned that I stood in line forever to get the author’s autograph at NCTE, only to have the line cut off with the lady in front of me. Grrr…

Nonetheless, it did not stop me from buying the newest Skippyjon Jones or laughing at the videos on his new website. Readers of all ages will be amused by his books. A great last minute book choice.


NCTE pics December 16, 2009

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along for the ride by Sarah Dessen December 15, 2009

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:54 pm
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along for the ride

by Sarah Dessen

Viking, 2009

383 pages

This was my first Sarah Dessen book, but it certainly won’t be my last. I LOVED along for the ride (personalized and

autographed from ALAN : ) and found myself thinking about the characters and story long after finishing the last page.

Growing up with two competitive professors for parents, it’s no wonder that Auden becomes a “mini-adult” quite young.  Able to gain their attention with only her academic accomplishments, Auden didn’t have much time for friends, riding bikes, or normal childhood past times.  After graduating high school, she decides to spend the summer with her father and her step-family: new step-mom and brand new baby sister.  Yearning for a quiet summer, that allows time for reading textbooks ahead of fall university classes, Auden is in for a rude awakening.

Her father is still is selfish as ever, and uncomfortable scenes from her own childhood are being played out again with another mother and child.  Not only did she not anticipate feeling like a third wheel in her father’s home, she also did not anticipate the sympathy she has for her young step-mother Heidi or new step-sister Thisbe.

One of Auden’s coping techniques as a child was avoiding going to sleep. If she could stay awake, her parents would not fight. It was after she went to bed, that their anger and bitterness spilled out. Still an insomniac, Auden meets another night owl, Eli. Unlikely friends, Auden and Eli begin spending the summer nights together throughout the beach town of Colby. All-night laundromats with out of this world pie, 24 hour convenience stores, the beach sidewalks are where Eli decides they are on a quest to make up for Auden’s lost childhood.

Eli also comes with his own baggage that keeps him up at night. A former all-star biker, Eli is still struggling with the death of his best friend. Together, through their unlikely friendship, Auden and Eli start to heal and find there is a lot the daylight can offer them as well.

Great characters: rival, turned friend Maggie, Eli’s mom who comes to the rescue for step-mom Heidi , Auden’s selfish father, Adam, the goofy friend; Great settings: hot dog parties, small beach town boutique; Great story.

along for the ride is a YA must-read. You can’t help rooting for Auden and Eli to both overcome shadows from their pasts as they begin a new part of their lives.


Hush, Hush-a great gift for your teen reader December 12, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:25 am
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Hush, Hush

by Becca Fitzpatrick

Simon & Schuster, 2009

400 pages

Young Adult

Check out that cover. Can you help but be intrigued by what appears to be an extremely well-built angel falling from the sky? Besides being intrigued by the cover, I had seen a little bit about this book when it first came out in October. Then it, and the author, seemed to be receiving a great deal of attention/publicity at NCTE. The publisher had a special invitation to a cupcake “party” and author signing at NCTE that was attracting additional interest. My curiosity was piqued. I picked it up and started reading it immediately. I stayed up late and was hard pressed to put it down to sleep. The next day at the Middle School Mosaic: Being the Book to Being the Change session I had the opportunity to sit at a table next to the author for one of the roundtable discussions. The woman sitting on the other side of me had stayed up late and was within pages of finishing. She loved the book! The author, Becca Fitzpatrick was kind and charming. She had wanted to be a spy when she went to college. As a birthday present, her husband had been torn between getting her Japanese cooking classes or an online writing class. That was 6 years ago, which is when Hush, Hush was born. I think her readers will agree with her that we are glad she didn’t get the Japanese cooking lessons.  While there are similarities to Twilight that critics and readers will notice, but author Becca Fitzpatrick states that her ideas are her own and she wrote for the entertainment of her sixteen year old self. She was drawn to YA by Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak.

Hush, Hush is the story of Nora Grey, a young high school girl who wasn’t very interested in boys, despite pressure from her best friend Vee. Enter bad boy Patch, the new dark and mysterious student at her high school. Soon her encounters with danger are oddly paired with the appearance of Patch. I don’t have a background in fallen angels or nephilium, but just as I had no background in vampire lore, I was able to completely lose myself in the book. Mind candy. Sometimes you can’t beat it. I enjoyed the smart girl, bad boy love story that was fraught with suspense and tension (not just the sexual kind!).

A great holiday gift for those looking to push the Twilight reader out of the rereading rut and into another book. You can listen to the first chapter on the author’s website.  Also check out the fan site

The sequel is planned for fall 2010. Just in time for the next year’s holiday gift.


Teacher presents December 10, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,books,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:55 am
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My son and I had fun picking out books for his teacher. He likes everything about his teacher (his direct words) and enjoys spending “quality time with his teacher”.  My daughter preferred that I recommend and she approve.  If you are one of their teachers, stop reading or you will ruin the surprise. 🙂

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

by Brian Floca

Atheneum, 2009

48 pages

New York Times named it one of the ten best illustrated books for 2009.

Simon and Schuster’s website says this:

“Simply told, grandly shown, here is the flight of Apollo 11. Here for a new generation of readers and explorers are the steady astronauts, clicking themselves into gloves and helmets, strapping themselves into sideways seats. Here are their great machines in all their detail and monumentality, the ROAR of rockets, and the silence of the Moon. Here is a story of adventure and discovery — a story of leaving and returning during the summer of 1969, and a story of home, seen whole, from far away.”

My son loves the detailed illustrations, as well as the story of Apollo 11.

Little Red Riding Hood

by Jerry Pinkney

Little Brown Books, 2007

40 pages

My son’s second grade class has a unit of study in writing on fairy tales coming up after winter break. I love Pinkney’s work and my son loves this tale.

While this Little Red Riding Hood is true to the original and does have the wolf eats the grandmother and Little Red. The woodsman does kill the wolf with his ax and use grandmother’s sewing scissors to cut open the wolf, it’s not gory and shows no sign of the violence that is taking place.  Jerry Pinkney’s beautiful illustrations help set off this fairy tale classic. Here’s hoping this will help some of his fellow students realize that Disney did not invent all the fairy tales, as several of his classmates believe.

Fuse #8’s review

Chester’s Back

by Melanie Watt

Kids Can Press, 2008

32 pages

“A long time ago, in a faraway land, lived a cat named Chester.” This is how the new Chester book starts out. A fun addition to a writing unit on fairy tales or another book by a favorite author. Either way, kids and adults love Chester.

Greg Mortenson’s newest Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan for my daughter’s language arts/science teacher

Sea Clocks by Louise Borden for her math teacher.

National Geographic’s Book Ain’t Nothin’ But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry by Scott Nelson and Marc Aronson for her social studies teacher. They did a great presentation at NCTE about their book. Loved them!


wish you were dead by Todd Strasser December 9, 2009

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:35 pm
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I hadn’t thought about the thriller/mystery genre in quite a while. I went through many a year where I LOVED reading thrillers, mysteries, true crime, etc. That interest came to an abrupt stop with the birth of my first child. Patricia Cornwell had been one of my favorite authors. I had pre-ordered her book Black Notice, hoping it would arrive before the birth of my child. I knew there wouldn’t be much time for reading after that! I remember coming home from the hospital and finding the Amazon box with the book inside. There is sat. Unread. Still. (although it’s out of the box now)

I still haven’t read a Patricia Cornwell. When double checking the title of the book I’ve had since 1999, I was surprised to learn that the author is now on #17 of the series. Black Notice was #10.  It seems funny to me that I would read the first nine the week they came out and then just be completely done with them.

The idea of crimes, thrillers, mysteries, murders had no appeal for me in any form for many years. It is only just recently that I could even begin to think about reading one.

Wish You Were Dead is the first book I would classify in the thriller category since 1999! Yikes! I hadn’t even considered that thriller/mystery was part of the YA niche. I was surprised that this is the same author who wrote all the Help! I’m Trapped series that I had for years in my middle grade classroom. That series was silly and fluffy. This first installment in this “thrill”ology was a creepy  and compelling page-turner!

Even though I wasn’t too sure when I saw the cover of Todd Strasser’s newest book (very Psycho shower), I ended up loving it. I wish that it had been out for a while so I could run right out and read the second one. No such luck.

The main character’s friend disappears out of her front yard in a wealthy, gated community.

While writing this, I was reminded of a YA novel from my own youth. It was called A Question of Survival by Julian F. Thompson and was published in 1984.  It is one of those books that I still have in my basement from my childhood that I read over and over again.  It was set at a Teen Survival Center and was supposed to teach survivalist training in case of “the worst” happening in the United States. I guess there has always been a niche for the thriller, no matter the age group. Face on the Milk Carton, Chain Letter, I Know What You Did Last Summer,