Best Book I Have Not Read

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

And I’m Back…..New School Year, new position August 31, 2015

I am very excited to have the opportunity to focus on curriculum and academic achievement for a new school district during the 2015-2016 school year. While I loved my position of the previous two years, doing curriculum AND special education did not leave much, if any, time for reading, much less reviewing or posting.

I am fired up for A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating Our Way to Better Schools by Carmen Farina and Laura Kotch. Hence the desire to start blogging again!

 

School Leader's guideThis updated edition from 2014 takes a proactive look at how school leaders must work to involve the stakeholders they “lead” if there is to be any positive change. In an era of teaching under attack and decisions, often appearing random and not well thought out by the state legislatures, governors, and department of education, this book is a breathe of fresh air. The power of relationships and consistency is emphasized again and again throughout this professional resource. One of the highlights of my first several years in curriculum was when I got to be the “book fairy” and delivered books with a short book talk to elementary classrooms each month. Farina & Kotch have their own version of “book fairy” for their staff. Each month with a book and an inspiring letter explaining how the book ties into the ongoing work their team is involved in. A great read for a Literacy Coach, principal, superintendent, or other administrator who supports teaching and learning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kindred Souls by Patricia MacLachlan April 30, 2012

Filed under: book reviews,books,KidLit,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:22 pm
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Once again, turned off by the Disney-esque cover, I almost passed this one over the last time I was at Cover to Cover. Forutnately Franki was there to say, “It’s Patricia Maclachlan!”

I loved this story but it took me a long time to get through it. Not because it was a hard or long read, but I just kept thinking that there was no way there way going to be a happy ending, and I just kept not being in the mood to read anything that might make me cry.

Hence, this slight 120 page book took me over four months to finish. Patricia MacLachland knocked it out of the park again with this one. I loved the relationship between boy and grandfather, as well as grandfather and dog. What a great story.

 

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu January 13, 2012

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

September 2011, 320 pages

Walden Pond Press

Library Copy

Anne Ursu has written an amazing book. I love the intersection of realistic fiction with a version of  The Snow Queen. The two friends Hazel and Jack each are suffering from their own family problems. Hazel doesn’t “fit” with her school and her father has recently left, doesn’t call, and is getting remarried. Jack gets teased by the boys in his class for being friends with a girl and has a mother suffering from a serious depression.

So that I can get on to other reading, instead of writing my own review, I’m going to give you a couple links to other blog reviews:

NPR December 2011 Kids’ Book Club Pick  (This is the first I’m learning of Backseat Book Club. Love it!)

Jen Robinson’s review 

Book Smugglers interview  with author in their Inspirations and Influences category.

The author’s use of language really grabbed me. I aspire to write as well as she. Here are my favorite lines:

“Everyone in the fifth grade had messenger bags, everyone but Hazel, who had not been cc’ed on that particular school-wide e-mail.” (p. 11)

“She spoke in bright, shiny words, as if that might distract Hazel from thoughts of Jack.” (p.98)

“Her heart plummeted, and her feathers fell away.” (p. 108)

“…their voices were rough and loud and had the sharp edges of crushed-up beer cans.” (p. 138)

“They were plastic flowers of words–but they looked nice on the surface.” (p. 142)

“She had stepped into the woods in the park and landed in an entirely different place. She knew this might happen. She’d been to Narnia, Wonderland, Hogwarts, Dictionopolis. She had tessered, fallen through the rabbit hole, crossed the ice bridge into the unknown world beyond. Hazel knew this world. And it should have made this easier. But it did not. (p. 160)

“There were so many Jacks she had known, and he had known so many Hazels. And maybe she wasn’t going to be able to know all the Jacks that there would be. But all the Hazels that ever would be would have Jack in them, somewhere.” (p. 247)

“The truth was he had been getting more and more scratchy and thick lately. Because sometimes when you are scratchy and thick you don’t want to be sitting in a shack with someone pretending it’s a palace, especially someone who can tell you are scratchy and thick, especially someone who tries to remind you who you really are.” (p. 248)

Brilliant don’t you think? 

I had heard about this book for a long time before it was released. I probably would have read it sooner if it wasn’t for the one thing that bothers me about it. I don’t think it’s very nice to point out a negative about such a great book, and of no fault of the author’s, but it REALLY bothers me that the girl on the cover looks so much like a Disney cartoon. In the shower this morning, I decided she looks like a cross between Lilo from Lilo and Stitch and Pocohantas. I don’t want a Newbery-worthy book to have a cartoon-like character on the cover. I know that’s probabaly dumb, but really???

That aside, teachers and parents definitely should introduce this book to your middle grade readers! 

 

Bigger Than a Breadbox October 2, 2011

Friday, October 7th, fifty of our students will get the opportunity to Skype with author Laurel Snyder about her newest book Bigger Than a Bread Box (which I am madly trying to finish today). To promote her book, Laurel is Skyping with 100 classrooms in 100 days. I “won” one of the Skype visits over the summer. I’m excited that authors are embracing Skype as a way to still do author visits during these economic times that have made traditional author visits financially unfeasible and believe author Laurel Snyder deserves to be commended. She has a great website and blog

I’m hopeful this opportunity will provide a little more magic for our students.

 

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.

 

Author Blogs April 28, 2009

Filed under: blogs,book reviews,books,read alouds,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:47 pm
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While poking around on the internet after finishing Graceling by Kristen Cashore, I found her blog This Is My Secret (great title!)

My favorite entry (so far) starts with a quote from Sherman Alexie

“A lot of people have no idea that right now Y.A. is the Garden of Eden of literature.”

I think there are many of us in the world of KidLit/Blogland who definitely agree with that statement! 
Kristen Cashore has a list of her recommended YA books for all age readers and there are some great other titles in the comment section. Check it out!

 

Earth Day books and read-alouds April 20, 2009

Looking for an Earth Day read-aloud? Here are a couple of my favorites!

h_earthday_oAll ages: Read alouds

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (How can you go wrong with Dr. Seuss???) There is even an old video of the book, but you should read the book!

Evangeline Mudd and the Golden-Haired Apes of the Ikkinasti Jungle by51ju4huwnl_sl160_aa115_ David Elliott (a great chapter book that is a blast to read aloud and has a wonderful environmental theme. My students begged for this book every day-probably grades 3-6)

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest by Lynne Cherry (classic!)

10things10 Things I Can Do To Help My World by Melanie Walsh (great for everyone-kids of all ages love the flaps! Adults of all ages will love the message!)

Old Turtle by Douglas Wood (beautiful fable, but definitely religious overtones)

The Earth and I by Frank Asch (Moonbear author-beautiful illustrations-good message for younger kids)

 

Our Big Home by Linda Glaser

Children of the Earth by Schim Schimmel

Our Big Home: A Poem by Linda Glaser

 

There is also a great little short story book just released in March called Recycle This Book: 100 Top Children’s Authors Tell You How to Go Green Edited by Dan Gutman. Each story is one to three pages. My fourth grader and first grader  love it! recycle-this-book