Best Book I Have Not Read

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

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.


Where I’m Hiding February 21, 2011

Filed under: assessment,background knowledge,blogs,books,kidlitosphere,professional development,reading — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:36 pm

Where Have I Been Hiding?

In plain sight, but off the blog-o-sphere.

Wishing to be blogging rather than yearning to blog.

I tell myself, it’s all worth it.

I’m hidden:

  • Under a pile of professional books both for grad classes and for
  • “catching up” (Building My background Knowledge) with the point of view our new superintendent brings with him to our district

Good thing I find his thinking right in line with my own, and also as a positive for our district 🙂


Recently finished:

Leading Change in Your School: How to Conquer Myths, Build Commitment, and Get Results by Douglas Reeves

Inside the Black Box: Raising Standards Through Assessment by P. J. Black & Dylan William

My current professional reading list:

The Leadership Challenge by Kouzner & Posner

Guided Instruction: How to Develop Confident and Successful Learners by Douglas Fisher

Ahead of the Curve: The Power of Assessment to Transform Teaching and Learning by multiple authors (Reeves, DuFour, Marzano, Stiggins)


In progress:

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The Things that Keep us Here by Carla Buckley

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (audio in progress)


Wish List (What I wish I was reading!)
Every Last One by Ana Quindlin

Linchpin: Are you Indispensible by Seth Godin


Alas, I must stop procrastinating the revision of grad papers so I can get them crossed off my to-do list. It doesn’t seem like one type of writing should count as procrastinating for another type of writing, but it sure is for me.




Delirious for Delirium! Lauren Oliver is amazing February 5, 2011

So intrigued by Delirium. Still thinking about it long after, just like Before I Fall.

So excited to be in the countdown to having Lauren Oliver talking to some of our students Monday afternoon.

So excited to share it all with you!


2011 Debut Author Challenge November 26, 2010

Filed under: books — bestbookihavenotread @ 3:10 pm

Story Siren is having a 2011 Debut Author Challenge. I’m always up for a good challenge, love debut authors (well, I pretty much love books). I’m always looking for ways to connect to other bloggers, as well as stretch myself as a reader. Thanks Story Siren!

What is the 2010 Debut Author Challenge?

  • The objective is to read a set number of YA (Young Adult) or MG (Middle Grade) novels from debut authors published this year.* I’m going to challenge everyone to read at least 12 debut novels! I’m hoping to read at least 30! You don’t have to list your choices right away, but if you do feel free to change them throughout the year. I will also be focusing on mostly Young Adult novels.
  • Anyone can join, you don’t need a blog to participate. If you don’t have a blog you can always share your views by posting a review on, or any other bookish site.
  • The challenge will run from January 1, 2010- December 31, 2010. You can join at anytime!

Upcoming Wish List November 2, 2010

Filed under: books — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:43 am

Delirium by Lauren Oliver: Harper Teen Publishers

Plague by Michael Collins: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins Publishers)

The Dark & Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan:  Random House Children’s Book

City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare Publisher-Margaret K. McElderry–Simon & Shuster

Stay by Deb Calletti-SimonPulse

Evercrossed by Elizabeth Chandler: SimonPulse

The Trouble with May Amelia by Jennifer Holm: Atheneum Books for Young Readers Simon & Shuster

Kat, Incorrigble by Stephanie Burgis: Atheneum Books for Young Readers


100 Things About Me as a Reader-or at least the beginning of the list October 31, 2010

Filed under: books,reading — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:04 am

Inspired by Franki and Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading, I decided to start my own 100 Things About Me as a Reader list. It will have to be a work in progress, but now is as good a time as any to get started.

1. A reading goal is still motivating to me.

2. I used to keep track of every book title and author I read as a child. I probably shouldn’t admit that I would start copying the list over again if it got messy. What can I say. I wasn’t allowed much tv as a child.

3. The Betsy-Tacy books are ones I could buy over and over again with new covers.

4. I often think about characters or books many years after I have read them.

5. I really don’t enjoy nonfiction unless it’s professional work related.

6. I read every biography in my school and public library more times than I can count, but now can’t think of the last time I read a biography.

7. I dream of going on literary themed vacations. Just typing Betsy & Tacy makes me want to start researching trips to Minnesota to see the homes.

8. My first bedroom had been my father’s study. It was lined from floor to ceiling with books on all walls.

9. My father just finished writing his first book. It grew out of his research that he did back when I was in that nursery.

10. There is something so cozy about reading aloud to my son, that I used to fall asleep in the middle of the book. He’d wake me up when I started reading nonsense.

11. I love audiobooks because it feels like I’m sneaking a quick reading break in when there is no time for quick reading breaks.

12. I’m trying to figure out how I can reread Harry Potter #7 before the movie comes out. I’m not sure I want to see it until I do.

13. My husband and I love many of the same books, but there are others that each of us read that the other can’t even stand to think about reading.

14. I love nothing more than helping a child find a book to read that they love. There’s no better thrill in the world.




Buckeye Book Fair October 16, 2010

Filed under: authors,autographing,books — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:19 pm

Buckeye Book Fair is going on its 23rd year, yet this is the first year I’ve heard of it. I must be living under a rock! $2 to get in to meet over 100 authors! I’m thinking it might need to be a family event! I won’t make up for not being able to attend NCTE or ALAN this year, but it might help a little.


Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly October 10, 2010

Filed under: book reviews,books — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:59 am
Tags: , ,

Here’s an item for your to-do list. Go buy Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution on Tuesday when it comes out.

I’ve read an advanced review copy and it is AMAZING! A blog tour is planned for this week that coincides with its release in the US and England.
Monday 11th October – The Book Smugglers
Tuesday 12th October – Once Upon A Bookcase
Wednesday 13th October – Bloggers Heart Books
Thursday 14th October – Daisy Chain Book Reviews
Friday 15th October – Chicklish

There’s also a great little YouTube video with the author talking about how she got the idea for the book.

I loved the characters, learned more about the French Revolution in the process than I had ever learned in college.