Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Free Audiobooks! May 31, 2010

Filed under: audiobook — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:27 pm

Seeking to build the audience (13 and older) for audiobooks, the online community plans to give away two free audio downloads each week:

a popular Young Adult title paired with a Classic title that appears on Summer Reading lists–starting July 1 through September 1, 2010.

The download schedule for Summer:

Available July 1 – July 7

Available July 8 – July 14

Available July 15 – July 21

Available July 22 – July 28

Available July 29 – August 4

Available August 5 – August 11

Available August 12 – August 18

  • Coming Soon…

Available August 19 – August 25

  • Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Available August 26 – September 1

SYNC is hosted by Audiobook Community Ning, a new social networking site for the discovery of audiobooks.  Young listeners are welcome to take part in the optional book-related networking opportunities which will include authors, narrators, publishers, librarians, and other listeners.


TCRWP Reading Institute excitement May 30, 2010

Filed under: Calkins,professional learning community,reading workshop,TCRWP — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:38 am
Tags: , ,

I’m so excited that I am attending TC’s 17th annual Reading Institute, July 5th-July 9th. While traveling on the Fourth of July is not ideal, in my mind, it does open up some fun possibilities. Maybe we’ll see the Macy’s New York City fireworks. Maybe the Statue of Liberty?

I’m even more excited as my former teaching partner was just accepted off the wait list this past week to attend as well! She will be attending a fourth grade section, another colleague will be attending a second grade section, and I’ll be attending the advanced sections. We’ll have information galore to share!

The sections I will be attending are:

  • Help Readers Progress Along Trajectories of Comprehension Development: Using Formative Assessments to Make Our Teaching Data-Based and Powerful (3-8), Lucy Calkins and Cory Gillette.
  • Design Units of Study That Can Move More Readers from Levels K, L, M to P and Q: Humor and Series, Inference and Monitoring for Sense (2-4), Emily Smith.
I’m thrilled that I’ll be learning information relevant to grades two through eight! I also think both topics are ones that will really help me help teachers.

David Booth,  Lucy Calkins, Kathy Collins,Tim Rasinski, and Jon Scieszka are the scheduled opening presenters. Of the five, the only one I haven’t heard before is Kathy Collins. Tim Rasinski, a fellow Ohioan, is a great speaker on fluency; last time I heard David Booth he made me laugh and think; Lucy-you all know what I think; Jon Scieszka-love that guy-so funny, was a great first ambassador, love his Guys Read project.

Three colleagues are attending the Reading Institute in August, representing second, fifth, and sixth grade. I’m so excited that we will be able to share information with each other, our buildings, and our district.


Star in the Forest May 27, 2010

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:24 pm

Star in the Forest

by Laura Resau, 2010

160 pages

I hadn’t read a book with a topic like Star in the Forest before. I think I received an advanced review copy at NCTE. I know I’ve been spending a lot time reading young adult books, so I was scouring my to-be-read book shelf for something more middle grade, when this slim volume caught my eye.

Zitlally’s, the main character, voice grabbed me with the first paragraph as she describes her home like this, “There is a forest behind my trailer, through the weeds and under the gate and across the trickly, oily ditch. It is a forest of very, very old car parts, heaps of rusted metal, spotted orangey brown, with rainbow layers of fading paint, and leaves and vines poking and twisting through the holes. Birds and snakes and bugs sometimes peek out from the pipes and hub caps. My neighborhood is called Forest View Mobile Home Park. I think that must have been the forest they’re talking about.”

I had to stop to think if I’ve read a children’s book that has been set in a trailer park, and I couldn’t come up with a title. I could think of ones where characters, major and/or minor, have lived in a trailer that moves across country, one that is parked behind someone else’s home. No wait. As I writing and thinking, I just came up with Lucky from The Higher Power of Lucky. My brain can’t pull out any other titles.

Zitlally, which translates to Star from Nahuatl, a language her father speaks to her. I did flip to the back of the book and look for a glossary, and found out that “Nahuatl was the langauge of the ancient Aztecs. Forms of Nahuatl are still spoken by about one and half million people, mainly in rural communities in central Mexico, although dialects can differ from village to village. ” (p.145)

Zitlally’s family is illegal immigrants living in Colorado, and her father has just been stopped for speeding and deported back to Mexico. Unsure how to deal with the loss of her father, Zitlally withdraws into herself, only to find comfort in two unlikely friends: A dog she names Star who she found chained in the junkyard behind the trailer, and another girl, Crystal, who lives in the same trailer park. Through the friendship of Crystal and their mutual taking care of Star, both girls find comfort from some ugly parts of their lives.

I really enjoyed the entire story from sad beginning to happier ending.

If you are working with students, I would recommend having them read Zitlally’s Papa’s folktale from the end of the book (p. 132) when the tale first gets mentioned. For younger readers, I think it help them stay grounded in the story and prevent confusion.

As my daughter is immersed in an immigration study this week for social studies, I’m thinking this would be a perfect book to introduce the idea of modern-day immigration, both legal and illegal. With the background knowledge of Ellis Island, I think many students would appreciate having a simple, hopeful tale to help build their understanding of current day immigration.

A great story that I could see being a read-aloud, a literature circle selection, or a book used in social studies as part of an immigration or culture study.

Highly recommended.


178 days until NCTE 2010 May 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:38 am

Why would I point out such a random fact?

I should be counting down the days until Summer Vacation, yet on my personal to-do, but not yet accomplished  list is call Disney Dining to make dinner reservations for NCTE. 180 days ahead of time is the furthest out you can reserve and since I am not trying to eat breakfast with a princess, I’m just going to try to get it done before the end of the weekend.


4th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge May 24, 2010

Filed under: reading — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:31 pm
Tags: ,

Coming up in two weeks (June 4th -6th) is Mother Reader’s 4th annual 48 Hour Book Challenge. I’ve been working on my TBR pile for a couple weeks now, but keep reading the books that I meant to read that weekend! I’m also looking forward to taking a break to have breakfast with Central Ohio KidLit bloggers and a trip to Cover to Cover. It doesn’t get much better than that in my book!


Little Blog on the Prairie May 23, 2010

Filed under: book reviews,Middle Grade Fiction — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:34 am

Little Blog on the Prairie

by Cathleen Bell, 2010

288 pages

Middle Grade Fiction

Little Blog on the Prairie is as funny of a read as the title implies. Being a Little House fan myself, I had to have this book when I saw it in Cover to Cover’s book store this week. There have been many a-time when I’m doing something “hard” or that I don’t want to do, when I remind myself of how hard Ma and Pa had it “back in the day”! How about a whole book based on that idea?

It’s summer vacation for Gen’s family, which, unfortunately for her, means the 1890’s, frontier living at Camp Frontier. Not the normal hanging out with friends, swimming pool, soccer camp that she has come to expect.

Having to share a bed with her ten-year old brother, Gavin, in the same room as her parents, in a “house” that her neighbor-at-home’s shed puts to shame, eating beans for countless meals, doing laundry and dishes in water that is heated on the stove, after the water is hauled in! None of these things were on Gen’s list of to-do’s for the summer.

After her normal teenager fit throwing, Gen’s parents had offered a cell phone at the end of the summer for cooperating with the idea of family Frontier Camp. Desperately wanting to have a phone, Gen agrees. And then sneaks the phone into camp inside her Clearasil products (the one item another episode of fit throwing had gained her). Through text messages she sends to her friends, Gen tries to make the best of the situation. Little does she know that her friend has turned her texts into a blog for her tech class that has hundred’s of comments rolling in!

In a great turn, the modern world and television show up at Frontier Camp, based on people’s interest in the blog. I’d say it’s a great read-aloud, despite a little kissing in the last chapter. Guaranteed to be a hit with readers, whether they are Little House on the Prairie fans or readers who enjoy making fun of the series.


Award Winner? I Think So! As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth May 17, 2010

Filed under: award winners,book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:47 pm

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

by Lynne Rae Perkins

2010, Green Willow books

368 pages





He’ll Get There.

Won’t He?

The inside flap doesn’t give much away about this gem of a book. I’m trying to retrace my steps that first led me to this book. I had read something, somewhere in the great internet world that made me first put the book in my Amazon cart, then look to see if it was in at my local library. Was it in the info about BEA? My favorite blogs? I’m stopping just short of searching my own internet history.

Library! Score! I was so pleased that a book released April 27, 2010 was there! I’m not saying my library is not current, but it’s not my normal experience to find a newly released book that I had to read at the library waiting for me! Usually if it’s new, it’s checked out by someone asap, with a wait list to boot!

Checked out at 2:00 on Saturday. Done by 2:00 on Sunday. Also not my normal experience. I am always on the look-out for the next best book (hence the blog title), but that leads me to flit from book to book, sometimes as many as eight, back and forth until I finish one. I am looking for the next one, almost at all times. I could not stop reading this book. I loved it!

“It’s just a hypothetical situation,” said Del. “It’s pretty unlikely that it would ever actually come up.”  (p. 98)

Main character Ry, is on, what turns out to be, a mis-adventure. The book is divided into four parts, with great chapter titles like, ” It seemed to Ry at this moment that having a cell phone in Montana was like having a canoe on Mars…” On his way to summer camp, he opens a letter. When he gets off the train to call his grandfather to ask advise about the letter, he misses getting back on the train before it goes away. And so the beginning of the mis-adventures begin…

Train, missing boot, black eye, new friends, car, airplane. How many things can go wrong for one person?

Somehow Ry has the good fortune to meet Del, who seems to major in damsels in distress and damsels are not limited to women in Ry’s case.

I loved the descriptive language of characters, of setting, of emotions. Below are a couple memorable quotes:

“And then they were going, backing out of the driveway, waving good-bye, rolling down the street. Houses, streets, minutes, and miles came and went, all ordinary enough. Ry could not identify the odd sensation he had as they rolled along. Maybe it was what a lobster feels when it finds itself in a pot of water that started out cold enough but it seems to be starting to boil.” p. 99

Love it! What a great description. I think I’ve had that odd sensation many a time-but never described it so wonderfully!

Here’s another quote that describes one of the people Del and Ry encounter on their journey…

“Their host was Carl. Wooly coils of silvery-white hair forested the back and sides of his head, thinning to a zone of barren scrub at the tree line of the shiny dome of his head.” p. 111

Right before Ry’s mis-adventure begins, his family had moved to a new hometown. When he and Del get there, no one is home.

“Then he opened them and looked around at the familiar furniture of his life that had moved into this house and taken up residence. He was glad to see it all–the lamps, the knickknacks, the throw pillows. The steadfast couch welcomed him like a childhood friend.” p. 153

So what would any teenager do when he comes home to an empty home? No house-sitting grandfather, no dogs, no parents. I think most would stay put. But Ry (and Del) decide they should go in search of the missing.

So next comes the plane. Then the boat(s).

“And so it went. Back and forth, side to side, tilt this way, tilt that way. The deep tilting was called ‘heeling.’ Having a name other than ‘tipping over’ made it seem less dangerous, more like a normal thing that happened all the time, that was okay if it happened.” p. 272

There is something magical that happens as you read this book. The simple line art that you find throughout the book, the language. This is going to win an award. I sense another Newbery for author Lynne Rae Perkins. I haven’t read Criss Cross, her first winner, but you’d better believe I’ll be adding to my TBR pile.

So much more I want to say about this book, but I must run off to the school board meeting…Fortunately it’s just a short walk away.


New picture books

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:08 am

We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow (2010)

illustrated by Bob Staake

LMNO peas by Keith Baker (2010)


What business does a padlock have on a library? Ever? May 16, 2010

Filed under: libraries — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:12 am

My brother-in-law lives in California with his family. They moved from the East Coast (Maryland) to the West Coast (CA) for a job.

It seemed like the other side of the world.

It seemed like a great opportunity.

In many ways it has been, but today’s conversation has given me yet another reason to be thankful I live in the smack in the middle of Ohio. Things may not always be rosy, but I wouldn’t trade for what they are facing with their schools. My youngest niece will have 40 students in her class. She is already on a split/staggered day at her school where one group goes early in the day and one group goes later. The first year they were there, her older sister was bussed forty-five minutes across town from the school they lived less than a mile from. She ended up being home schooled.

Now,  specials are all cut, the librarian  let go, teachers were given a two-week unpaid furlough, and, to add insult to injury, put a d**n padlock on the library door!

Okay, these are tough financial times. Many states and districts are having to make hard choices. But to put a padlock on a library door is, in my opinion, completely asinine.


Funny of the week May 15, 2010

Filed under: slice of life — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:54 am

There weren’t many things that were funny this week. It’s that time of year where individual testing is being finished up, projects are due for grading, vacancies for next year are being filled, classrooms needing to be packed, so on and so forth. Most people have an edge to them. We are more likely to snap, to cry, or to hide out in our own classroom. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel and most just want to bunker down and make it across the finish line with all body parts intact, while trying to enjoy the great end-of-the year moments with the students.

Like many people who work in blended roles (part teacher, part literacy coach, part curriculum coordinator, part cow herder) I sometimes end up doing jobs that wouldn’t otherwise get done. A classroom teacher “owns” so many problems, piles, and questions, the last thing anyone wants is another problem, pile or question to deal with.

One of our buildings was very lucky that the PTO agreed to tackle a problem, pile and question as part of Teacher Appreciation Week. The “junk and good-stuff you might need one day” area–I’m sure many schools have one of these; teachers have been trained to be natural hoarders to survive during slim times (“By god, I’m not going to have another orange pine tree like I had in 1984!). Our problem area is a “stage”. It was a real stage at one point in what was the Multi-purpose room, but now it is a “room” blocked off from the music room with large sound-proof panels. It gets heat (lots in the warm months!) and not much air. I usually start sweating within three minutes of arriving. It’s where teacher-y things go to die because someone can’t bear to throw it away or “someone might need it one day”.

There are freebie-textbook workbooks. The kind that publishers throw in to try to “sweeten the deal”, but no one ever wanted, props from musicals of the past, half-broken chart stands, outdated dictionaries, encyclopedias and more!

My favorite finds while I helped the PTO try to interpret what had to be saved from “it looks good, but no one has or will ever use it”, to the “it’s lived a good life and now it needs to be recycled”, are pictured below.

There was a very large, sturdy, waxed box. On top of the box was a typed (like on a typewriter, not what I am doing now) index card listing all the contents of the box. I blew up the card in case so you can enjoy it as much as I did.

This Equipment in the Box Marked bananas

Box 1 of 5

1 first aid tin of various screws extra

8 ropes of various lengths

Many of you reading know that I also attended this elementary school as a child, so when a teacher’s name is unfamiliar, it’s because they taught there before 1976!

I have to say I am part impressed/part scared by this OCD organizer! To carefully inventory, type, and adhere a note card to a plantation box of bananas, took a great deal of work on someone’s part. I also found “This equipment in the box labeled dog biscuits Box 3 of 5“. Both boxes contained items that would have been used to conduct experiments for a science unit.

There really should be a “teacher museum” for fabulous finds like this, as well as the large plastic and metal briefcase that contained all it’s components of magnets and a bound book of experiments dated 1963, priced $4.00.

What’s the best thing you’ve “found” this year?