Best Book I Have Not Read

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

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! 


Central Ohio’s Got Talent! August 28, 2010

How exciting! A first successful week of school is under our belts and we have a get-together planned for  Central Ohio KidLit bloggers at our favorite indy children’s bookstore. Not only that, but the event ties in with a great author visit and a trip to a favorite eatery.

How could it get better? It’s hard, but today news came through the KidLit blog pipe that  Julie Johnson of Raising Readers and Writers won NCTE’s Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in Teaching Writing! How does one find out they have won the award? With a phone call from none other than Katie Wood Ray!

Holy Cow!  I can’t even imagine answering the phone and hearing that southern drawl?

I first met Julie when I was fortuatnte enough to attend The Literacy Connection’s Carl Anderson visit 2 Aprils ago. Participants got to see Julie in action with Carl and her students in her Hilliard, Ohio classroom. A KidLit friend introduced us, it turned out she also had started a blog AND had taught with my former co-teacher in another life in another district. Small World!

Julie happens to be one of “them” that I refer to in my guest post over at Two Writing Teachers. If she happened to read that article, she probably didn’t know she was a “them” for me. Julie is one of “them” because she made the time for writing in her life both through the Central Ohio Writing Project AND her own classroom. She had a writing club! Ah…

One of her first posts on her blog was about the writing community her principal and fellow teachers were forming. Wow! The dedication…I still can dream of that day…

Congratulations Julie! What a deserving winner. May you continue to be an inspiration for people not just in your school, classroom, and community, but even further with the audience of your blog.


Summer is always a little crazy… July 13, 2010

Filed under: ALA,book clubs,KidLit,reading workshop,summer reading,TCRWP,units of study — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:42 am

I enter summer, knowing full-well it’s going to be crazy. It’s always too fast, and make me wonder how I manage to work full-time during the school year. This summer has proven to be crazier than normal. In case you are interested, here is a week-by-week breakdown of the craziness.

first week June-last week of school for kids; swim team starts

second week of June-hubby and kids go on vacation with my family to NC. I have an extended contract so I stay to finish up the 2009-2010 school year. Breathe a sigh of relief that all the administrative team seems to be staying in place for next school year.

Realize that I miss having multiple dogs in the house and add another puppy.

third week of June-

Monday evening-our superintendent announces he is leaving for another district.

Tuesday mid-day-my direct supervisor (Director of Educational Operations) announces he has accepted a job in another district (ARGH!)

Wednesday and Thursday-lots of extra meetings

Friday-leave for D.C for my first ALA

Sunday-return from D.C. with van full of books!

Board member steps down…

last week of Junemidweek: first set of house guests arrive. So happy to see my college roommate and her family! It’s always too long between visits.

last week of June-end of week: one set of house guests leaves, another arrives two hours later-So happy to have Guy’s cousin, wife and baby visiting us! They have the happiest baby on earth! It’s also beginning of arrival in town for husband’s family reunion AND 25th high school reunion.

Fourth of July weekend-house guests, street fair, family reunion AND pack to leave for Teachers College

Our beloved Director of Technology dies unexpectedly of a heart attack.

First week of July– 17th annual Reading Institute at TCRWP. (Great learning opportunity-if you ever have the opportunity to attend one of TC’s institutes, you WON’T be sorry! )Hot beyond belief in NYC (103 degrees at 6 p.m. near the former World Trade Center site (see photo).

get home Friday night very late after multiple delays with flight

Our Director of Student Services accepts another job.  We are a small, relatively stable district. We go years without anyone leaving.

Saturday-all day class at Muskingum University. Approximately 18 hours after leaving Columbia University’s campus in NYC.

Sunday-drive to Michigan and back to deliver son to summer camp. Wish I was staying for a week of Lake Michigan!

Second week of July-let the meetings continue….new board member and interim superintendent named-whew.

What I was looking forward to was a month of reading on my screen porch, with a lap full of puppies. In the plans were-the new Units of Study for Reading books by Lucy Calkins, The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen for my upcoming book club, and as many ARCs from ALA that I could manage. Progress is slow, but I have started the first book in the reading series (such a great resource), finished Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (Fantastic!), and at least checked out the book club book from the library. I’ve also learned to type with the lap full of puppies. Unconditional love and affection is worth a few little potty-training accidents.

Instead, I’m reminding myself daily that with each new challenge there lies opportunity. Here are a few of my favorite change quotes:

“Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.”

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.” Brian Andreas, Story People artist


Buying souvenirs…. August 12, 2009

Filed under: authors,books,KidLit — bestbookihavenotread @ 5:56 pm

You have to understand that I had never been an business trip or a trip without spouse and/or children until this year. There were a couple teacher workshops where I had gone with a couple other colleagues for a night or two, but hadn’t traveled by myself until this year. With that time away, came a little (or a lot) mom guilt for being gone-that part wasn’t different from the times I had gone away overnight for a teacher conference.  More often than not, when I came home from one of those events, I had an autographed book for them from one of the speakers. It helps my kids know I am learning things to help teachers and students in our districts and that those things are linked to literacy, reading and writing. When I came home from NCTE it was like I’d won the lottery of books-galleys, promotionals, ARCs-my kids of course assumed it was all for them, like the mother load of souvenirs. I guess that’s better than coming home with junk I’d bought in the airport kiosk for them.

This time I was very strict with myself and refused to buy any book for myself, professional or pleasure reading, that I would be able to easily obtain at home. Dragging my luggage up and down the hills of Columbia’s campus, and not just pulling it out of the back of my mini-van has shown me the wisdom of packing light, among other things.  On the other hand, I can’t come home empty handed or I will have disappointed children. I prefer to return home the hero-mom who was missed dreadfully AND bears a new book rather than having my youngest look at me with disappointed eyes when I announce there is no new book.

My son is easy-I found a new Geronomio Stilton book-A Fabumouse School Adventure and knew he’d love it. While I was at, I even bought a book for my husband who usually gets short-changed. He is getting The Demigod Files by Rick Riordan as he has torn through the first four books in that series in the last two weeks. I love that he reads KidLit as well!

My daughter is harder and I’ve been thinking about her choice all week. Her favorite book has been The Magic Half by Annie Barrows for a couple years now and while I’ve gotten her to read much more than in past years, she still doesn’t have that passion for books that I wish for her. Well I am darn pleased with what I found for her when I returned to the bookstore today-a new Moxy Maxwell book! Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing the Piano-but she does love being in recitals. Yeah! She will be able to power right through it, already find Moxy funny from her previous books, AND has her own history with not loving to practice the piano. Perfect! It just came out yesterday which is why I couldn’t find the perfect book for her when I found my son’s.

moxy maxwellNow, just to fit them into my suitcase.

P.S. Book 5 of the 39 Clues Series-The Black Circle also came out yesterday. I haven’t read of any of them, but I did help a mom find it for her son as she came in frantic that it might be sold out-I love that a Children’s Book can cause  a stir. Her son had even informed her how many days until Book 6 comes out (November 3rd if you want to know).


Teachers College Mary Ehrenworth’s Closing Talk Notes Magnificent Books That Can Create the World of Difference as We Launch the School Year August 10, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,books,KidLit,TCRWP — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:24 pm
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Magnificent Books That Can Create the World of Difference as We Launch the School Year by Mary Ehrenworth

Fox by Margaret Wild and Ron Brooks

dark and allegorical

good read-aloud

a rare picture book because bad things happen in the book and there is a character that is genuinely evil

KidLit/YA-so many books start out sad, but everything almost always works out in the end (cautionary tales)

High School reading diet of tragic disasters-readers lose interest because they haven’t learned how to deal with beautiful language with tragedy

text form and pictures match-good example of how to turn their writing into a published picture book versus the sterile typed final draft

Icarus at the Edge of Time by Brian Greene (Black Hole Scientist)

she shared with 3rd, 5th, and 9th graders last year

a fiction book that can lead into intense study of nonfiction

a ship encounters a black hole-Icarus wants to explore it, but the captain says that they must keep going

generations of his family have been on this spaceship for over 100 years

retelling of a classic tale

words and names are metaphorical

She loves books that lead to other texts

read different versions of Icarus

Greek myths are cautionary tales-shat learned?

Can transcend your current conditions

A third of your library should be NEW every year!

Brothers in Hope by Mary Williams

survival tale

witness tale told in first person

tie to MS/HS Long Way Gone

Child Soldiers of Sudan

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

a retelling of Lord of the Flies, the short story The Lottery, and The Most Dangerous Game

dystopian future where things have gone terribly wrong

The Mortal Instruments trilogy by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones, City of, City of Glass-book 3 is the best

great for sixth grade and up

good for post Twilight reading

adult pics

Fall On Your Knees by Ann Marie MacDonald

post modern novel where language fails to reveal truth

5 girls-different perspectives, 3 generations

great for book club-best read in the company of discussing with others

a challenging book where adults all had to keep post-its and compare retelling

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

success-commonality-someone gave them the opportunity to work hard-conditions of working hard

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery


Great Reading in July July 26, 2009

Filed under: authors,book reviews,book turned into movie,KidLit,kidlitosphere — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:31 pm
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I haven’t been blogging much lately between getting my daughter to camp and having my son think her being gone means he is now an only-child whose whims I have nothing better to do than fulfill! On the other hand, I have been getting some great reading done.

Recently read:

Mudshark by Gary Paulsen-short, quirky, not quite sure what I think of it. I wouldn’t rush out to buy it in hardback. mudshark

Edward’s Eyes by Patricia MacLachlan-see 100 Scope Notes or A Year of Reading review. Wow! An amazing book.edwardseyes

The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan (See PBS Parents Booklink’s article about the author Rick Riordan) Loved it! Surprised I hadn’t read it before. Even more surprised that my public library does not have ANY of the series. (I’ve been told they are there in the YA section-I will verify, but sure that I must be wrong) If I was an intermediate or middle school teacher, I would definitely want to read this aloud before the movie is released February 12, 2010.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart (see Jen Robinson or semicolon‘s review) or check out the series’ website, The Curiosity Chronicle. Hate to say that I really had to make myself finish this book, although the last fourth flew by.

Beautiful Stories of LifeThe Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths, Retold by Cynthia Rylant (I had bought it because I love Cynthia Rylant and worry that kids don’t know some the “older” myths, fables, and fairy tales. Thought it would be good to read-aloud to my own children. It was a great coincidence that I started reading The Lightning Thief- right after this book. I love that The Lightning Thief will get kids familiar with many of the Greek myths that otherwise might not be that interesting to some readers.)

Recently won from a Twitter contest: The new released Slugger series=4 books so far= (formerly known as Barnstormers) by Loren Long and Phil Biloner-I do love the new covers! Thanks Children’s Book Review!

Recently viewed: While at the movies with my son this weekend (G-Force in 3-D, what else?) previews for both book related movies Where the Wild Things Are and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs were being featured. Obviously they are taking the picture book at a starting point for the movies, but hmmm….are movie writers out of original ideas? Is it cheaper for studios to option books and adaptations? I wonder… Also recently viewed on DVD, Coraline. Creepy, but not as scary as I bet it was on the big screen!

Currently Reading and upcoming reads:

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (recommended by Lucy Calkins)

A Quick Guide to Making Your Teaching Stick by Shanna Schwartz (re-reading in preparation for an upcoming workshop class I’m teaching)

Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff (re-reading for Mother-Daughter Book Club)

20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (had to stop reading it because it made me keep crying)

Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino (How can you resist a title like that?)

The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti (YA-picked up in NYC)

What I REALLY want though is a new BestBookIHaveNotRead to jump all those and take me to a new world. I’m on the look-out. It must be time for a trip to Cover to Cover!


Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters July 3, 2009

Filed under: books,KidLit — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:49 am
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The newest Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disasters is another hit written by Lenore Look and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. 

This book starts with Alvin AlvinHoup to his normal scaredy-cat antics and funny family adventures with a Houdini kit from his uncle. 

The above-mentioned uncle also gives him wilderness survival lessons and a Batman ring for good luck,  both of which are supposed to protect him from the disaster of having to camp with his father.

His brother helps him order survival gear with his dad’s emergency credit card, because what else would you order with an emergency credit card besides emergency survival gear? Right?

The relationship and his sister is highlighted in this book, and just like with his older brother, there are plenty of laughs and mishaps along the way.

This Alvin Ho is also great book to hook readers or get reluctant readers going! You can’t help but be drawn in by the illustrations, different fonts, and Alvin’s lists. 

I also love Alvin’s Very Scary Glossary at the end. What a fun way to introduce or reinforce glossaries to intermediate aged readers.

My second and fifth graders both loved having this book read to them, so if you are an elementary teacher or parent looking for a new read-aloud, look no further than Alvin Ho!


What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell July 2, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit,young adult — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:18 am
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What I sawWhen I put this book down at the end of the 48 hour Challenge, I wasn’t sure I was going to pick it back up to finish.  After hearing and reading so many things about it, the book was not quite what I had expected and the first third didn’t quite hold my attention like I wanted it to.  Evie’s desire to grow up, her step-father’s (Joe) and mother’s relationship, the mystery of Peter Coleridge and how or what he knew about Joe , were interesting, but not riveting to me.

I loved the cover with the girl’s red lipstick standing out so brightly from the rest of the cover. I loved the title. I loved that it had won a National Book Award. I didn’t like that I didn’t immediately love it as much as I thought I would.

With that said, I wasn’t prepared for it to be historical fiction. I really wasn’t prepared for it to be a mystery. I had read reviews at The Reading Zone that made me want the book, but a lot of time had passed between when I read the reviews and when I purchased the book. The cover and the title had stuck in my head, but not the gist of the book. I think if I had approached it like reading a mystery or a detective novel, the desire to find “clues” throughout the back story would have kept me very engrossed.
I picked it up yesterday again on a whim. I didn’t want to start the next book on my list, The Thirteenth Tale, because I want to save it for my travel to New York City next week. I didn’t want to start a new book because I am still trying to do some prep reading/reviewing before attending the Reading Institute next week. So, there it was, not even half finished and sitting on my shelf. Unfinished books get under my skin like a splinter. It really bothers me to not finish a book so I decided I was going to “get through it” this week. 

From the second I opened What I Saw and How I Lied up to where I had left off (and no, I didn’t back up a few pages and reread like I would have encouraged a student to do) and started reading, I could NOT put it down! The drama, the intrigue, the “who was guilty of what?”, “who (or who didn’t) lie” kept me up late finishing the book.

As the book unfolds, Evie not only begins to grow up, but finds out about hard issue such as racism and realizes that the eyes with which she has always viewed her mother and step-father might have not revealed all there is to know. Deception, redemption, it’s all in there! 

A great young adult read that I think “grown-ups” will like just as much, if not more. Check out What I Saw and How I Lied. 


Extra Credit by Andrew Clements July 1, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit — bestbookihavenotread @ 7:55 am
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If you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know I ‘heart’ Andrew Clements so of course I had to pick up his newest book while I was buying books at Cover to Cover last week.

Extra Credit is another winner by Andrew Clements! Main character Abby is NOT a fan of school. She loves the outdoors and climbing, and has a hard time seeing the value of her classes (sound like any other Clements’ characters?). She is told she is not going to be able to go on to seventh grade if she does not get her act together in a big way (all B’s from then on and a randomly drawn extra credit project!).

Abby is assigned a penpal in Afghanistan who she needs to exchange at least four letters with, create a class display, and give an oral report to her class about the experience. She selected Afghanistan because of the countries her teacher had personal contacts in, Afghanistan was closest to mountains (Abby’s passion).

Across the other side of the world, Sadeed’s teacher requests permission from the Village’s Council for one of his students to be pen pals with an American student. It is decided that it would not be proper for the teacher’s recommended student Sadeed to write to the girl, but he is to supervise his younger sister’s writing of letters.

A friendship blossoms on both sides, with both Abby and Sadeed having an experience with bias about the other pen pal’s country. Both pen pals end up with much more than they bargained. 

A great “school story” by Andrew Clements that I think boys and girls will enjoy reading. It didn’t knock my Clements’ favorite School Story off its pedestal, but it is still a great new best book!