Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs March 20, 2012

I’d looked at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children many, many times, always ending up putting it back on the shelf at the bookstore or library. The photos honestly creeped me out a little. (If you are familiar with The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, there’s a picture in the book that also can creep me out-girl with knife and glowing pumpkin). I didn’t try reading any of it. I just got hung up on the photos and had decided it was probably a ghost story. And scary–which I don’t do very well.

It wasn’t until I found it on sale for the Kindle sometime in the past couple weeks that I decided to download it, thinking it would be something to read when I was in Africa. (Not having enough to read while in Senegal is one of my nagging worries, but probably a silly worry). Once I read the first page though, I was hooked!

“I had just come to accept that my life would be ordinary when extraordinary things began to happen. The first of these came as a terrible shock and, like anything that changes you forever, split my life into halves: Before and After.”

I love looking at first lines of books and trying to determine what is it that creates the magic that an author can just hook you with a line.

 At first, Jacob and his relationship with his grandfather is what got me. Then I just had to know what was going to happen. Possible mental illness. Time travel. Father/son relationships. Good vs. Evil. I just kept wondering and reading.

I would describe the book as a fantasy/mystery and can’t really imagine anyone who would not enjoy this story. It would be a great book to curl up in the evenings and read with my nine and twelve-year-old (if they could be that close to each other and not start wrestling or sniping at each other). It does have the creepy factor if you are looking for a that in a read-aloud. Overall, it’s just a great story. It got me thinking about what old photos I might find around from my grandparents and what I might think when looking at them. I’m sure there are no floating girls, but it would be interesting nonetheless.

See what you think!


My Favorite New Quote March 19, 2012

Filed under: reading — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:49 pm
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“Independent Reading is, in fact, not independent at all. It is actually interdependent.”

Love that- I think renaming it interdependent would help people realize it’s not just something to fill time with- it’s an essential part of instruction!

Calkins & Colleagues -A Curricular Guide for the Reading Workshop-Grade 4


So I’m Going to be Raising a Ten Year old and a Thirteen Year Old in West Africa March 18, 2012

Filed under: Africa,parenting,Senegal — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:59 pm
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Part of the getting ready process is deciding how much info to share (or not share) with my children ahead of time about what they might expect in Africa. There is a fine line between preparing them and scaring them. The photo above is from a different expat’s family and some of the food items they packed for their move. The photo below is a traditional Senegalese meal that is eaten with your right hand. Now I expect that our reality will live somewhere in between the two photos.

There will be things that we pack for the move, including food or household items that will just make things easier for everyone (One child could live on instant oatmeal). I also expect that we will have many opportunities to eat traditional Senegalese meals. I’m guessing that silverwear can be used if that is the comfort level for the kids (or us). I don’t feel the need to replicate the exact eating or grocery experience for my family while we are there. That is one of many things I am looking forward to as being able to experience a different culture.

I am taking the opportunity when things come up in regular conversation to make connections for them.


child–“Wow there is a lot of trash along the highways. It must have been under the snow that melted.”

me–“You know not every where in the world has trash pick-up like we do here in Ohio. Some places don’t have trash pick-up at their house.”

child-“I can’t believe that guy just can the red light.”

me–“Even though traffic laws are very important to obey, not everyone always does that, so you always have to be thinking about your safety when you are walking and not take the traffic rules for granted.”

On the other hand, I don’t like it when people word their comments to me in a way that implies that the children and I should be terribly frightened. I’m sure they aren’t thinking about it that way, but it does honk me off a little.

 “You must be so trepidatious!” (We aren’t, excited-not nervous. And stop suggesting to my kids that there is anything of which they should be afraid.)

“Your poor mother must be beside herself!” (She’s not, but my mother-in-law is a different story. CNN effect)

“I hope you’ll be able to communicate from over there in some way.” (Yes-they have phone, internet, Facebook, parcel post, etc.)

I have been preparing by reading blogs by people who currently live in Dakar or Senegal. I have been enjoying:

Girl, Guy, and Globe: A Tale of Two Americans Living Abroad

Senegal Daily 

The View From Here (an Ohio missionary couple in rural Senegal) is also one I check frequently.

I know that there isn’t anything that is going to be able to completely prepare all of us for this move, but it IS going to be a positive experience for all and we are going to learn a ton that we would not be able to learn by moving to Indiana or even London.

It’s okay if the idea of moving to West Africa is completely beyond your wild imagination. Everyone has different comfort levels. We aren’t scared. We are excited and know that there are going to be highs and lows along the way, but so would there even if we never set a foot outside of Granville.


First Trip to Dakar, Senegal March 17, 2012

Filed under: Africa,Dakar,Senegal — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:28 pm

Satellite photo of Dakar

My husband and I are preparing to travel to Dakar, Senegal at the end of the week. We’ve had our shots, have our malaria pills, have packed and repacked our suitcases and now wait with nervous and excited anticipation for the journey to begin. From Ohio, it’s about a fourteen hour trip. That includes a several hour layover in New York before boarding the second flight. From New York or D.C.  to Dakar, the flight is seven or eight hours. I think when most people ask me about the flight, they are expecting a much longer travel time. It’s not that far! You should definietly come and visit in the next couple years.

We will have the opportunity to stay in Dakar for most of the week and I’ll be able to spend several days at the International School of Dakar meeting with the current curriculum coordinator, meet more staff, and orient myself to the important work they have already accomplished in the past several years. I’m also looking forward to just getting the lay of the land and probably making some silly mistakes without the kids there. I’ve been working on brushing off my very rusty French, but I can read it much better than I can speak it.

We are taking the opportunity to spend a couple days south of Dakar in Saly on the Petite Cote coastline. Having not traveled together without children since our honeymoon, we are looking forward to some time just for us. Bandia Park animal reserve is on our itinerary for the week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Petite Cote


Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Filed under: book reviews — bestbookihavenotread @ 10:35 am
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Wonder by R. J. Palacio is a must-read. It is an amazing book that belongs in the homes and classrooms of as many children as possible.

The strength of the characters and the important message about kindness will have children hanging on every word as a teacher or parent reads it aloud.

Auggie (short for August) Pullman is a regular ten year old boy. He loves his dog, his X-box and Star Wars. You would think he is very typical. That is until you see his face. Auggie was born with severe facial abnormalities that are shocking to most people. Until this year, Auggie has always been home-schooled. He is finally well enough to attend public school and it’s with excitement and trepidation that Auggie goes to see his school for the first time.

Wonder is the story of how Auggie navigates his life in school for the first time. It’s also his sister’s story, as well as other people’s stories who are lucky enough to get to know Auggie.

Don’t wait for it to come out in paperback. Go buy it today and start sharing it with students and children. I love the cover and the illustration at the beginning of each person’s part of the story.

Wonder was named Amazon Best Books of the Month for Kids February 2012, as well as receiving starred reviews from: School Library Journal, Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly.


Just my opinion, but…I hate AR (Accelerated Reader) March 9, 2012

Filed under: independent reading — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:33 pm
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This is just my opinion, but…I absolutely hate AR (Accelerated Reader)–always have, always will. At least I’m consistent and most people have had to hear me talk about this subject at nauseum. I’m bringing it back up again and here’s why. The past several weeks I have had conversations with one of my own children that have pained me greatly. I’ve managed to bite my tongue with the child, but on a personal and professional level, it was extremely difficult and I can’t keep quiet any longer. I have the research to back up my professional and personal beliefs, as well as personal experience.

I should give you the background that last quarter I took a hands-off approach to my child taking AR tests and he got 50 out of 200 possible points for the quarter–not a stellar result.

I am a fan of reading logs that go back and forth between home and school where students record how long they’ve read and how many pages. You can really learn a lot, both as a reader (or as a prying parent) by looking at how much they accomplish in a home setting compared to a school setting. You won’t always learn the same thing-some kids are consistent between home and school, some will spend 20 minutes “reading” at either home or school and only get 2 pages “read”, while accomplishing 12 at the opposite location. That tells me that at the 2 page location, the student is really distracted or just pretending to read.

I am also a fan of having individual reading conferences with students based on their independent reading and reading log. Not everyday mind you, no teacher is Superwoman, but on a regular basis which becomes even more frequent with reluctant or struggling readers.

So I’ve been riding herd daily on my child about their home reading, ensuring that they take the same independent reading book back and forth between home and school. We read with the child as a model in the same room, we listen to books on tape in the car, we have Kindles, bookshelves full of books, we have conversations about books compared to other books, books to life, etc.

I thought that I had dealt with the issue for this quarter, but based on these conversations, I have not. Here is a sample:

“Mom, I need to read a 11 point book so I have enough points for the quarter. I’m going to search 11 point books on the internet and see what I can pick from.”

“Mom, I need to check the name of a (certain minor) character in my book. The name of a character is the kind of question I am sure to be asked on an AR quiz.”

“Mom, do you know any 7 point books that I can read? Maybe I can buy one on the Kindle.”

me-What about that new series you were so excited to read and you started over the weekend? Child-“Well that doesn’t have enough points so I’m not going to be able to read that AND another book to have enough points for the quarter.”

“Mom, I know I picked out a book to read, but since it’s worth 14 points, I’m going to save it for next quarter because it gets me almost all my points for the whole quarter.”

Never once does said child talk about genre, reading interests, series, or any of the things I consider important and necessary. I’m worried about said child’s reading stamina, their love of reading (or more like their lack thereof), their exposure to multiple genres, some of which should include non-fiction.

In no way do I feel that the 10 AR questions said child is going to have to answer about any given book a good reflection of their comprehension. Nor do I feel that reading for points, pizza (Pizza Hut Book-it–hate it), or any other reward is necessary. Not that I’m above an old-fashioned bribe now and then, but for something so essential to success as an adult, no.