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.


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.


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!


Love the Scholastic Author Videos January 28, 2009

Filed under: authors,books,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:06 am
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Grr-there is something wrong with the code-Here’s the link to the video-


Here’s Suzanne Collins reading aloud from Hunger Games. I love that she has what I would call a “slight southern drawl”. I love getting to hear an author read their own words. Brilliant Scholastic!


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.


The Girl Who Could Fly January 25, 2009

girl-could-flyThe Girl Who Could Fly by first-time author, Victoria Forester, is a great book! I really enjoyed the first fifty pages, but  LOVED the next 250ish pages.  

The book was completely different than I anticipated from when I started reading and I LOVE a book that can surprise me! The cover shows a girl in an old-fashioned nightgown and the names of the characters reinforce the idea that the book is set in an “old-fashioned” time or at the least a very rural area.  I’m not implying that the cover or inside flap are misleading, but they don’t give away any of what had me reading compulsively. The school (its name!!), the headmistress, the classmates, the quote the book starts with, etc. make for compelling reading!

I’m torn between wanting to write about it and just telling you that you need to read this book! 

I really enjoyed the character Letitia Hellion who instantly brings to mind  Mrs. Colter from The Golden Compass, (watch out Philip Pullman!). The beauty and smarts that cover up a deviousness you can’t even begin to imagine exists makes Dr. Hellion a character with depth and facets that you’ll just have to read to appreciate.  

I was also reminded of the movie War Games(80s review here) that I  enjoyed when I was in high school. It starred a young Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy and just looking at the review on-line brought back all kinds of 80s nostalgia that I didn’t even know that  I had. 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, dreamalittle421 Jump Street, oh my. 

Well, no matter what happy reading and viewing memories The Girl Who Could Fly brings back for me, you’ll need to read this and find your own. I’m very happy this will be a sixth grade read-aloud, but want to give to every intermediate teacher I know as well as wanting to recommend it to countless young readers. Must. Behave. And. Not. Ruin. A. Potential. Read-aloud.


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.


A New Christmas book to add to our family collection December 11, 2008

Filed under: Art,holiday book,KidLit,kidlitosphere,picture books,read alouds — bestbookihavenotread @ 9:24 pm
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christmas-farmChristmas Farm, by Mary Lyn Ray, is a charming new addition to our family Christmas book collection. I’ve added to the holiday collection each year since my children were born. We start reading our collection December 1st and continue through the holiday. 

Christmas Farm was given to me by my dear friend and literacy guru, Carol.

It is the story of Wilma and Parker, the young boy next door, and the Christmas trees that they nurse from seedlings through the years. Eventually they sold five-hundred and sixty-six Christmas trees.

The author’s choice of words are so poetic and beautiful. There is also references to counting by dozens (something many children have trouble with) so I could see using it to springboard a math lesson as well. 

“The young trees work with the spring, and again Wilma and Parker weeded around them, and Parker told them things. Now that he was six, he knew even more than when he was five.” 

“On summer nights, brown moths fluttered among the trees, fireflies flickered above them, and whip-poor-wills called across the darkness.”

The illustrations are as beautiful as the words! This is a must for a holiday book collection. A great gift for children, families, or lovers of books.  


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!”



The Kaleidoscope Kid: Focusing on the Strengths of Children with Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism October 21, 2008

Filed under: books,KidLit,kidlitosphere,picture books,read alouds,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 6:57 am
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The Kaleidoscope Kid  is written to remind children with Asperger Syndrome or high-functioning autism of their many special gifts and to make others aware of them, too.

These children possess a kaleidoscope of intellectual strengths and unique personality traits. Their outlook and creative ways are as variable and colorful as the view through a kaleidoscope.” 

Larson The Kaleidoscope Kid 

I hadn’t seen this book before we bought it for our elementary school guidance counselor. She and one of our intervention specialists were familiar with the author’s other book Chameleon Kid and had found it to be a successful read-aloud with primary students who are in inclusion kids with children with Asperger Syndrome or Autism.  This book is presented as a series of attributes and related poems that celebrate positive traits of all children. One two page spread is K-I am Knowledgeable with a poem entitled Dinosaurus Infomaurus.  Bright colors, and primary shapes will appeal to young children and the book would be great to use at the beginning of the year as you develop your classroom community. It would be a great book to use with guidance programs as you talk about how we are all unique.