Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Scat by Carl Hiassen April 14, 2009


I feel a little strange admitting this, but I have never read a Carl Hiaasen book before. Hoot did come out the year my son was born (the first of three years of getting up with him a minimum of three times a night), so that probably has something to do with it. It’s not that I didn’t think his books looked or sounded interesting, but there was always something else that kept coming up that would bump Hoot further down in the stack. That of course, was until Scat.  

I commited to reading Scat when it was the title my daughter selected for the first meeting of The Mother-Daughter Book Club.  This book has guaranteed I will read both of Hoot and Flush, and think I’ll try some of his adult fiction as well!

Scat is a book that pulled me on one level and then kept me thinking on different levels all the way through.  

The characters of Nick, Marta, Duane Jr. are well developed and feel like people you can relate to. Many of the other characters, are just as well-developed. Mrs. Starch, the mean, missing teacher; Mr. Wendall Waxmo the sub who wore tuxedos and always taught page 160 on Tuesday, no matter the day or subject; Twilly; the detective; Duane’s grandmother.

The environmental theme is woven throughout the story and arrives in surprising packages. Part mystery, part comedy, this book kept me thinking long after I closed the cover. The timely, yet unfortunate, issue of soldiers coming home wounded from Iraq is also handled in way that makes the issue very accessible to younger/middle aged readers. Nick’s determination to become a lefty like his dad really struck a nerve in my heart. 

Interestingly, when we went to get it from the library, it was in the YA section, which I found initially surprising. There are a couple “dumb ass” comments, and the danger/mystery might be too much for some intermediate readers. Nonetheless, it kept my daughter and her friends turning page after page through all 384 pages!

A must-read that would also make a terrific read-aloud. Maybe some science teachers might be brave enough to try it as a read-aloud in their content area!


Kindergarten Author Study Eric Carle January 17, 2009

Filed under: school — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:33 am
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img_13442Parent Project as part of Eric Carle author study. Done in two phases in small groups with parent volunteer while teacher did small group reading. Tissue paper and watery glue to make the caterpillar body.


Patricia Polacco: For the Love of Autumn October 18, 2008

Filed under: bibliotherapy,books,KidLit,read alouds,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:54 pm
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I love Patricia Polacco. I dream of getting to go to her summer festival in Michigan and getting to see the Meteor in person. I’ve had the good fortune of getting to see her 3 times in my life, but I could listen to her all day any day.  The first time I heard her speak was at the Dublin Literacy Conference as a keynote speaker. She loves teachers and can be very political. It was a very inspiring and I’m pretty sure that I wasn’t the only one hanging on every word. Why I can get so fired up by an author with a vision, and not the many political candidates, is another story.

The second time was when she came to our school last year for an author visit. Students had been thoroughly steeped in her books and had the opportunity to wish on a piece of that miraculous meteor. 

Later that same year, I dragged my daughter to Cover to Cover bookstore when she was there for a talk and signing of her new book The Lemonade Club. I thought that it would be a great opportunity to hear Polacco again, but also provide a little bibliotherapy. 

Defining the concept


“Bibliotherapy is the process of using books to help children think about, understand, and work through social and emotional concerns. Reading with children can be therapeutic…. Adults can use reading to help children come to grips with issues that create emotional turmoil for them. Reading can also be…very effective in preventing and resolving behavior problems.”

from Positive Child Guidance by Darla Ferris Miller

I realize that I am jumping around in this post, but time is short, so I’m just going to keep going and combine it all.  I also believe that adults benefit from bibliotherapy, using the above definition. 

Maggie’s grandmother was going through breast cancer treatment and The Lemonade Club is about not only a little girl who had lost her hair to chemotherapy, but also the story of how loving classmates and a teacher made such an impact on helping this child through a difficult time. As the story progresses, the teacher also ends up battling cancer, but both go on to survive. As with all of Polacco’s books, this one is also based on a true story. The message of friends helping you through difficult times, as well as cancer being beaten were the messages I wanted to have impressed upon my daughter.

For the Love of Autumn tells the story of a young teacher, MIss Danielle Parks, who loves her job-teaching, the students, and also her little kitten. Unfortunately the kitten gets lost during a storm and despite everyone’s best efforts remains unfound.  Eventually Autumn, the kitten, returns with a new collar and someone else’s phone number! Someone else had found Autumn and was caring for her. Neither “owner” wants to give up the kitten, but in true Polacco style, what starts as a conflict, ends up being resolved with both owners becoming friends and eventually marry! 

Her illustrations are magnificent and will inspire everyone to look at stray kittens in a new light.  Another book will be coming out this year and I can hardly wait to see what unfolds under Polacco’s masterful combination of storytelling and illustrations!


Lost and Found Twins August 13, 2008

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Lost and Found by Andrew Clements

Who is this man?

I love Andrew Clements. I wanted to be clear of my bias right from the start. I love teachers who are also authors or go onto become published authors.  I particularly love introducing my fourth graders to an author that they can love as much as me. It doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, Clements hits it right on the head for the intermediate aged reader. Lost and Found was not a disappointment.  The story of twin boys who have moved to a new town was one I was interested in right away as there are FIVE sets of twins coming up into fourth grade this year in my relatively small town.  I knew I was due to have one complete set and two partial sets (Isn’t that a yucky way to describe them? No wonder Jay and Ray did what they did!) within my classroom and already struggled with knowing which identical twin was which, not something I was proud of as I pride myself on knowing almost every child in the grade level. 

Jay and Ray are constantly mistaken for each other and when the opportunity arises (a school clerical error-now those neverhappen) when they move to a new town to be one person, rather than a “set”, they decide to deal with the consequences later and try their plan to just be “one” person. The brothers take turns staying home sick from school and soon realize their plan is a little more complicated than getting to have every other day off to watch tv and goof off. The lies pile up quickly until…

In addition to the two main characters, there is a great character Mrs. Cardiff, school nurse! There is a hallmark adult in each of Clement’s novels that helps pull the story together in a way that makes it believable and Mrs. Cardiff is this novel’s adult.

Unlike Bernetta Wallflower, the boys do end up getting busted and having consequences galore. While dishonesty did not pay in this book, the issues identical twins deal with was given an original treatment and gives readers, as well as parents and teachers, something to think about in their relationships with twins.

Another successful Andrew Clements novel!

While my all time favorite happens to be The School Story,  there is a whole site dedicated to Frindle, Clements first novel.

If you teach middle aged students and you don’t know Andrew Clements work you need to! I do feel he is the Beverly Cleary or Judy Blume of the decade so far.