Best Book I Have Not Read

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

The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson June 26, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,KidLit,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:31 pm
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hairzoeThe Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School is a great new picture book by wonderful author, Laurie Halse Adnerson. Poor Zoe has wild, out-of-control hair that has a mind of it’s own. Not only does it have a mind of it’s own, but it can perform tasks  such as setting the table or cleaning. Now it wasn’t always poor zoe-her parents loved her hair. She loved her hair. Her kindergarten teacher loved her hair. But come first grade, Zoe became poor Zoe with a teacher that believes in RULES and order. The hair is attempted to be controlled, but it fights back. Hats-nope. Eventually scrunchies, barrettes, clips, headbands, rubber bands, bobby pins and duct tape-all at the same time are able to keep the hair under control.  

The story reminds me a little of Plantzilla by Jerdine Nolen and Brian Kielher and illustrated by one of favorite illustrators-David Catrow. In Plantzilla the plant, not the hair, has a life of its own and is able to perform some amazing feats. It would be fun to read the books back-to-back and look for similarities or differences.

I think kids (especially kindergartners and first graders) will find The Hair of Zoe very funny. It would be a good first week of school book when some students are apprehensive about their teacher. They, like Zoe, will find common ground with their new teacher and have a very good year.


The Vowel Family April 25, 2009

Filed under: book reviews,books,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 2:02 pm
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The Vowel Familyvowel-family:  A Tale of Lost Letters by Sally M. Walker (2008) is a funny picture book that highlights the importance of vowels in words.  I’ve included a few excerpts below to highlight the fun.  


What words can you make when you add vowels to the letters below?

wndr pnch tm bk frm lghtr mrvls rmbl fr


Whn Pm Smth mrrd Sm Vwl, sh sd, “Lf s wndrful!”

“xcpt whn w tlk,” Sm sd. “Tlkng s vr hrd.”


Ftr Alan and Ellen, the twns, were brn, ther parents gggld wth glee. Alan and Ellen’s clear speech made sense.

Lfe was better. Bt t wasn’t perfect.


Tried adopting pets, but it wasn’t until the birth of Iris and Otto joined the family that things made sense.


Thank goodness Ursula chose just that moment to be born!”

But, Otto gets lost and Aunt Cyndy, the police officer needs to help them find the missing boy. They find him in the library attending story hour.


It’s funny/interesting that you can read and understand the story, even without the vowels. I wonder if that is due to years of interpretting students’ misspellings, or if everyone can read it easily. 

I think students of all ages would love this book for different reasons. Check it out. 


I Want to Be Free January 27, 2009

Filed under: books,picture books,Uncategorized,Underground Railroad — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:26 pm
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51l7aga06l_sl160_aa115_I Want to Be Free by Joseph Slate and E.B. Lewis is a new release this month. It’s a lyrical story of a young runaway slave, who despite the burden of a leg iron, refuses to leave a small orphaned child behind. It’s the child’s love that finally breaks the shackle free.  I love illustrator E.B. Lewis. His illustrations are as beautiful as always and add so much to this story. 

An author’s note at the end lets the reader know that “This poem is a retelling of a story in the sacred literature of Buddha about his disciple, the Elephant Ananda, as related by Rudyard Kipling, in his novel Kim.  I moved its setting and language to another times, as I believe its themes to be universal.”

This is such different subject matter, that at first I did not connect that this is the author of the Miss Bindergarten books! That’s a talented author who can handle such extremes ends of the storytelling venue.  

Check with your school librarian to see if this one is on the way to your school.


Put it on the List! January 19, 2009

Filed under: books,KidLit,moms,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:45 am
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51fn2ntjyul_sl160_aa115_Put It on the List! is the first book by new author/illustrator Kristen Darbyshire and is  due out mid February. I have to love a middle school art teacher who writes and illustrates picture books AND can draw with her toes. Teaching, illustrating, writing–all three are impressive on their own.  

Put It on the List! is a familiar phrase to many moms out there. The never ending trips to the grocery store, coming  home to unload and finding out you didn’t know you were out of a certain item.—cereal, toilet paper, etc.

On Monday…

we had pancakes, but no syrup.

On Tuesday…

We had toothbrushes, no toothpaste. 

Teachers will enjoy pairing this book with Cookie’s Week or any other “days of the week” book. 

A well-done  and smartly illustrated first book. Congrats to the author/illustrator


The Big Elephant in the Room January 14, 2009

Filed under: books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,picture books — bestbookihavenotread @ 4:06 pm
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big-elephant1The newest Lane Smith book, The Big Elephant in the the Room is due out July 7, 2009. I went to read it to my first grade son and started by telling him “The Big Elephant in the Room” is an idiom. I immediately launched into “teacher mom” and started to try to explain to him what an idiom was. He interrupts me and tells me, “Mom, I know what an idiom is. You don’t need to tell me!” I’m thinking to myself, “How is it you know what an idiom is when it has always been really hard for my fourth graders to remember one? Your teacher must be brilliant!”

“So did you teacher teach you about idioms today?” I ask, thinking it had to be a coincidence that she just talked about it on the day I was sharing the book with him. Surely he couldn’t have remembered that from some earlier lesson!

“No Mom. I learned it from listening to stink,” he replies matter-of-factedly.

“Stink?” I question him, “What do you mean stink?”

“You know the audiobook I’ve been listening to in my room? I learned it from the book Stink,” he answers (probably thinking “Duh mom!”).

Hmmm! I love audiobooks for so many reasons! Add that to the list!

I’ve loved everything by Lane Smith that I’ve encountered, but I didn’t love the story of two donkey friends, one “geeky” and one not.  The non-geek keeps listing all these mean things that he thinks the “geek” is upset with him about, most of which entail the “non-geek” either making fun of the “geek” or not sticking up for his friend.  I didn’t really care for how the book does not really address that issue or end with a positive message.

The illustration style is fun as always, but the story is not as strong as what I’ve come to expect from Smith. 

If it was a movie in the theatre, I’d say, “Wait until it comes out on video.” Or in this case, paperback.


Snow Show-new picture book to help illustrate Water Cycle January 12, 2009

I was very excited to find The Snow Show by Carolyn Fisher during my last trip to CTC. I’m always on the look-out for a book that can help illustrate a scientific process. All the books I’ve  found in the past that help illustrate the water cycle have been focused on rain as the precipitation.51t4cbo29cl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clicktopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_This one focuses on snow and is presented in the fun format of a cooking show, a format that most kids are familiar with due to the Food Network and cable television.  Often the part dust plays in the formation of a cloud is overlooked a picture book about weather or the water cycle, but not this one. There are also some great illustrations about the different crystals of snow (I didn’t know they were named!).

My only disappointment was on p. 10 (although that’s a rough guess because there aren’t any page numbers).  Here’s the section I had a problem with which I didn’t find until I was reading it aloud to my children. It’s just a small corner illustration so it was easy to miss when I skimmed it in the book store. 

“Water vapor is an invisible gas, like a fart is an invisible gas. (But water vapor doesn’t smell bad.)”

Now why did the author go ahead and ruin a great scientific read-aloud with that? I’m all for freedom of speech, but I would selectively cover that part up with my hand while reading it aloud, and skip it. It was an unnecessary addition that actually took away from the book.

Overall The Snow Show is a good book in a new type of format that I think kids will really enjoy. Just decide how you are going to handle the bathroom humor before reading it aloud to a group.


bees, snails, & peacock tails by betsy franco & steve jenkins October 24, 2008

Filed under: books,Everyday Math,KidLit,kidlitosphere,picture books,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:23 am
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I’ve really liked all the Steve Jenkins books that I have read and this is no exception. The artwork alone was enough to get me to purchase the book, and the narrative is just as strong. 

Our school uses the Everyday Math program and I was immediately struck by how both the first grade teachers and the sixth grade teachers could use the book to tie into patterns.

bees, snails, & peacock tails: patterns & shapes…naturally is a great new must-have to any library or classroom.


“Study a beehive

and you will see

the mathematical genius of the bee.

The hexagons

you’ll find inside

fit side

by side

by side

by side.

This math is passed


from worker bee to worker bee!”



Crazy Like a Fox Book Trailer October 5, 2008

Filed under: books,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 2:23 am
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Beautiful New Picture Book for reading aloud:The Little Yellow Leaf September 22, 2008

The Little Yellow Leaf by Carin Berger is a beautiful book! This picture book not only explores why leaves fall from trees with wonderful poetic words. I love all the illustrations, but I especially love the one of the trees from the overhead view. I think I will use this book to illustrate Units of Study personal narrative lesson on true and exact details lesson. It would be a great mentor text for not just that lesson, but many others. It would have been so fast for the author to say something boring and short like, “The leaves all fell except one,” but then we wouldn’t have gotten this great new picture book. 

A must for adding to your 2008 school year collection.