Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Marty McGuire by Kate Messner July 20, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,books — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:49 pm

Marty McGuire by Kate Messner

May 1, 2011

Good transitional chapter book

The internet, Facebook, Twitter–they are all kind of funny things. On more than one instance, I’ve started talking to someone or thought I knew someone, only to realize that I don’t really “know” them. I only “know” them through Facebook. Or Twitter. Or from standing in line at the same educator conferences.

Marty McGuire by Kate Messner was one of those purchases for me. I book it at Cover to Cover in early June because I recognized the author’s name and therefore assumed I had read lots by her. It wasn’t until I got home and read the About the Author blurb that I realized that while I had read something Kate Messner had written (The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.) and had another of her books in my classroom library (Fire and Ice), I actually recognized her name from her posts on Twitter. That did give me a little laugh. So Kate, even though we haven’t met at some fabulous autographing event, I think we are already friends and will greet you as such when we do finally meet.

That aside, I’m really happy with Marty McGuire. She’s a great female main character-headed into third grade and not interested in dress-up or girly things like so many of her classmates. She had me with the first line, “That nice Mrs. Kramer lied to me about third grade.” and it just went up from there. Brian Floca’s illustrations also add a great touch to the book. Having had many Veronica Grace’s and Marty’s in my classes, it’s great to see Marty as the main character for a change. Readers will find this new series a nice change from Junie B. Jones, as Marty does not use baby language like Junie B. is prone to.

I’m glad there was no pond close by our school playground or I know many a student who would have had to wear sweatpants from the nurse.

I see this book as one that will fly off the elementary library shelves and be great in second, third, and fourth grade classrooms. Pick one up today!

You can also enjoy listening to the first chapter on the author’s website (link above).


The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney July 19, 2011

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:33 pm

Just to be clear, The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney is about date rape. It’s also about the powerlessness of adults, and justice. The book begins with the main character Alex awakening naked in a boy’s bed that she does not know. She knows she is in a dorm room at her high school boarding school, gets dressed and goes home. Having no recollection of how she ended up in the boy’s room, Alex turns to her roommate and older sister for help.  Through talking to them, she realizes that she has been date raped while she had had too much to drink the night before. At a school where the students view the adults as incapable of helping, they have formed their own Mockingbird society to mete out justice. To Kill a Mockingbird is where the Mockingbirds found their origins and plays an important role in the book.

The board of the Mockingbirds listens to potential cases and make the determination whether the case will be tried or not. Alex’s case is taken on, but first new language must be voted on that incorporates date rape into the student code of conduct. In the meantime, the Mockingbirds begin to impose small penalties on the perpetrators, such as marking them absent while they are present, which prevents them from certain privileges on campus. Both ‘plaintiff’ and ‘defendant’ are represented by a student advocate and witnesses are called. If defendant is found guilty, they must agree to give up the thing they love most (ex: quarterback on the football team). If they are found not guilty, they are offered a position on the Mockingbirds.

A great book overall with lots of good things to think about. The message that a lack of yes is a no, and that the one saying yes must be able to know that they are saying no is a powerful message. Now I just need to decide when it would be appropriate to share with my middle school daughter. I’m counting on being able to wait a couple years.



In My Mailbox July 17, 2011

Filed under: In My Mailbox — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:08 am

Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne

Eon by Alison Goodman

The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner

Forever by Maggie Stiefvater

Black Cat by Holly Black


Ah, Harry Potter…. July 14, 2011

Filed under: books — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:08 pm

Sarah over at ReadingZone wrote about her Harry Potter memories, which started for her as a high school student. Sigh. That made me feel a little old, yet my own first memory of Harry Potter is as crystal clear as if it was just last week.

It was my fifth year of teaching fourth grade-1997.

No surprise, I was already obsessed with filling my classroom with books that would help kids find the magic of reading.

I was attending the Ohio State University’s Children’s Literature Conference that they held every year.

The most fabulous conference that used to exist.

Where I would go to get my fix of children’s authors and illustrators and get to talk non-stop to other people who loved children’s books as much as I did. I had a computer and a dial-up modem, but there was no KidLitosphere to meet like minded people. Reviews were from School Library Journal, Hornbook, or Publisher’s Weekly.

Where I first met Sally Oddi from Cover to Cover. Where I heard Katherine Patterson give a keynote that was more inspirational than any church service I had ever attended. Ah….

In the bottom level of the Columbus Convention Center, a “book store” was set up for the duration of the conference. I was in a very long line with a huge stack of books to purchase when I overheard the women behind me discussing Harry Potter. One was asking the other if she had read Harry Potter yet and went on to explain about the ‘boy who lived’, his lightning scar, and his room under the stairs. As I eavesdropped unabashedly, my gaze swept the room for the book.

There it was, a huge stack of Harry Potter and the Socerer’s Stone. I picked it up, started reading while I was in line, and was in love before the end of the first chapter.
Sure I butchered Hermione’s name in my head, but who didn’t?
I can’t even begin to guess the number of people who I would go on and on to about Harry Potter. Children, fellow teachers, adults, parents. You name it.

 Starting with book two, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and I was attending midnight release parties. I borrowed my friend Debbie’s two boys, Spencer and Tyler to a movie to “kill” time before the midnight premier. It was Chicken Run. Not a memorable movie, except that it preceded the release of Book Two.

I could go on, but won’t too much more.

I taught a Harry Potter class one summer for an enrichment camp.

I remember being frustrated how quickly my students were tearing through Book Four and I didn’t have any time to read with a newborn at home.

I couldn’t make myself start to read book seven, because I never wanted the series to end.

Ah, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Herimone Granger and all the other characters, you created a magical world that so many of us love being a part of.


A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

Filed under: book reviews,books — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:59 am


Now I know I usually review new releases, but after reading Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly, I put her other books on my to-be-read list. Summer vacation finally allowed me to finish some of my to-be-read pile that have been sitting in for too long. Reading A Northern Light reminded me why I found Jennifer Donnelly to be so brilliant in Revolution. I’m still unhappy that Revolution (and Donnely) was not awarded the Printz award last year but am glad she received the honor for this book along with so many other accolades.

Set in 19

06, Mattie is the oldest daughter of a large farm family. With her mother recently deceased, the burden of running the farm with her father, falls on Mattie. Mattie dreams of finishing high school and getting to attend college in New York City. Her family’s precarious financial situation, as well as the reliance on her for meals, taking care of her siblings, and community expectations weigh heavily on Mattie in a way that makes her dream seem impossible. With the encouragement of a classmate, African-American Weaver, and a school teacher, Matty writes stories and poetry in any free moment she has, and practices for her placement exams with word duels.

The story begins with an accident at the summer camp where Mattie is working and alternates between the “present” and chapters that introduce to Mattie’s background and life. Like Revolution, Donneley seamlessly transitions from the present to the past and back again. The murder of a young girl, her letters that she left with Mattie, her courtship by a young man who does not love her, her frustration of both gender and race, all play major roles in the book.

I can not say enough good things about the book. As I read, I wondered if Donnely wrote the two parallel stories and then inner wove them, or if she drafted in the format the book is set in. I feel the need to write and her about find out.

I have added Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy to my to-read list since I understand that the backstory of the young woman who drowns and the young man who disappears, which is based on true events, also is the backdrop for that classic that I have never read.

Another review: Book Smugglers



True (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan July 13, 2011

Filed under: book reviews,books,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:45 am

True (…sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Middle Grade Fiction

April 26, 2011

368 pages

True (…sort of)by Katherine Hannigan is the author’s newest book and it is another hit! Every middle grade teacher should consider purchasing it for a new read aloud for their classroom. Your students will love the characters, and you will be provided with some great discussion points. (kids who look like boy/girl, sibling rivalry/love, good secrets vs. bad secrets,

Main character Delly Pattison is endearing and as a former teacher, really hit true. Delly isn’t a bad kid, but she’s been told she is so many times, she has given up on herself. With just a little encouragement and some help from her younger brother and another unlikely friend, Delly realizes that she does have good in herself and that she doesn’t always have to be ‘bad’.

In the back of the book there is a Dellyictionary to define all the words that Delly has invented. I think my favorite is Dellyventure (an adventure of the best sort) but its an awfully close tie with the Nocussictionary (a dictionary of words to replace cuss words).

Ferris Boyd is not like anyone Delly has ever met before. Ferris doesn’t talk and it’s awfully hard to tell if Ferris is a boy or girl. The confusion over Ferris’ gender causes more than one person to embarrass themselves and get in trouble.

I love every single character in this book. Delly Pattison, Ferris Boyd, brother RB, Officer Tibbets, and others are so believable that I was able to imagine them as people I might know or meet. There are no perfect people, everyone has their foibles, and these characters are no different. From Delly’s father to the busy-body grocery clerk, Hannigan has captured their quirks and the essence of them in such a way that any reader can’t help but want to know them better.

Below is the Q and A with author Katherine Hannigan on the Amazon site that I really enjoyed reading as well.

A Q&A with Author Katherine Hannigan 
Q: In your debut novel Ida B, Ida B declares, “There is never enough time for fun.” I suspect Delly, your protagonist in True (…Sort Of) would say the same thing—except fun for Miss Pattison often leads to trouble. What draws you to such fun-loving characters such as these two?

Hannigan: First, there’s this: In my experience, most children expect life to be fun, and they are constantly on the prowl for it. Delly and Ida B are just experts at finding it.

But there’s this, too: When I’m writing a story, I spend a long, long time with the characters—Ida B took one and a half years to write, True (…Sort Of) took longer. So if I’m going to spend that much time with somebody, she has to be fun.

And finally, there’s this: Life can be tough, and there are some tough times in these stories. Fun helps temper the tough times. A lot.

Q: Ida B was written in first-person, but in True (…Sort Of) you write from a third-person-omniscient perspective—and on top of that you’re focusing on two characters, Delly and Brud. How was the experience of writing this time around different from writing Ida B?

Hannigan: There’s something wonderful about writing in the first person—knowing a character so completely, and seeing the world through her eyes and with her heart (especially if she’s someone like Ida B). There’s a real flow to the plot, too, when I’m only considering one character’s point of view. But that’s the limitation of writing in the first person—the world is only as big as that character’s perception.

The great thing about writing a story in the third person is that the world is as big as you want it to be. You can go wherever any of the characters go, you can understand what any of them is feeling. The hard thing about that, though, is it can get pretty complicated. In True, I wanted the reader to know a town, and lots of the people in it. I especially wanted the reader to know four kids: Delly, Brud, RB, and Ferris Boyd. And I wanted to show how the four of them, with all their troubles and their talents, could come to be friends and sort of save one another. To do that really well, I needed to write True in the third person. It was harder than writing in first person, and it sure took longer, but it was worth it.

Q: In both novels, a favorite teacher plays a significant role in the course of the story—offering wisdom and encouragement at important times. Is there a teacher from elementary school that filled that role for you?

Hannigan: I write about great teachers like Ms. Washington (in Ida B) and Lionel Terwilliger (in True) because I know how important teachers are. On any weekday, many children will spend more time with their teacher than with their parents. And so much learning is happening in school—not just cognitive or motor stuff, but social and ethical stuff, too. When a teacher’s really good, kids are learning things like how to be decent people, how to do the right thing after doing lots of wrongs, and how to help one another be their best. Not all the teachers in my stories are great, or even good. I focus on the wonderful ones, though, because that’s what I’d wish for every kid, every day.

I also write about teachers like Ms. Washington and Lionel Terwilliger because while I’m writing, I get to spend time with them, and they are wonderful to be around. That’s one of the gifts of writing.

Q: You don’t shy away from tough issues (abuse, cancer) in your novels. Do you ever struggle with how to approach such troublesome issues for a younger audience?

Hannigan: Not really. Maybe because I don’t see them as “issues.” I see them as hard things that have happened to lots of people, including me and the folks I know. I realize that kids have hard things happen in their lives all the time.

What I am careful about is making sure that my characters’ reactions to difficulties are genuine. They all struggle, and handle things imperfectly, just like me and everybody I know. But they all have hearts that help them figure out what’s right and good, as I believe we all do. And I’m careful to surround all the hard times with humor and with love, because I think that’s what saves us.

Life is beautiful and wonderful and amazing. And sometimes it’s awful and ugly. In my stories, I hope I’m showing kids (and maybe grownups, too) some of the ways we can be more aware of the wonderful, and come away from the awful better than we were before.

Q: In Delly’s world a “surpresent” is a present that is a surprise (the best ever, she says). What would be your best “surpresent” ever?

Hannigan: Well, I was going to answer, “My cats,” because there are five of them, and all of them started as strays. So they were all surprises, and they are all presents (although sometimes I wonder about Tinken, who is 3/4 cat and 1/4 hellion). But I think the best surpresent ever was learning that I could write stories, because I didn’t know that until I was almost 40-years-old. Then I wrote Ida B and it was one of the best times of my life. So that was a great and wonderful surprise.


Hidden by Helen Frost July 7, 2011

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:28 pm

Hidden by Helen Frost

I first saw Hidden reviewed at The Reading Zone earlier this May. I picked it up when I was at Cover to Cover the weekend of the 48 hour book challenge soon after for my summer vacation reading list.

When Wren and Darra meet in summer camp, they know each other instantly, even though they’ve never met. How could that possibly be? When the girls were eight, Darra’s father stole a car, not realizing Wren was in the back. It was with Darra’s help that Wren managed to escape without her father knowing that he had “kidnapped” her.

Free verse poetry tells the story in both Wren’s and Darra’s voice. First in Part One: The Way You Might Remember a Best Friend, we hear the story from Wren’s point of view. Part two: It’s All Her Fault  is told from Darra’s viewpoint after the girls have “re-met” at camp. The third part, The Diving Raft, is told by both girls. The story is mesmerizing, and not in a “true crime” type of story. You feel for both girls and you see how they have both positive and negative feelings towards each other. Even the different parts are told with a different version of free verse poetry.

You wouldn’t think an Endnote could give such a big thrill, but what the author reveals in Diving Deeper: Notes on Form, is remarkably unique and had me rereading the book again instantly.

Set in a Michigan summer camp, the book also does a great job of capturing the magic of summer camp and the friendships that develop there. I love summer camp and we have a family favorite/regular in Michigan, but not the one in the book.

Literate Lives has a review as well.