Best Book I Have Not Read

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

Mystery Reader November 11, 2008

Filed under: books,parent involvement,read alouds,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 12:28 pm
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Another great idea that I got from Beth Newingham is Mystery Reader. It is a great, non-threatening (for both parent, as well as the teacher) way to involve parents in your classroom. It would really work at any grade level and would work just as well if there was multiple grade levels in the building that do it. I used it with my fourth grade classroom, but think my first grade teaching friends would really like this idea as well. Parents sign-up for a slot (about 20 minutes) to come in and share a favorite book with the class. The week leading up to their visit, the teacher reads one clue that points to the reader’s identity.  I had it set up to e-mail a reminder to the parent a week and a half out, reminding them of their appointment and asking them to e-mail their clues. Clues usually started general (I’ve always had a pet), to more specific as the week wore on.

There are so many benefits to this project, I can’t even name them all. Kids loved guessing who was coming and it was always amazing to kids if there was a Mystery Reader who stumped them all. We had aunts, grandparents, the school principal, guidance counselor, special education teachers, etc. as well as parents over the year.  It really helped build the classroom community as students found out their were similarities (or differences) not only between them, but between their parents. Parents LOVED having a genuine, authentic experience in the classroom. Some would bring their favorite childhood book, their children’s favorite childhood book, a book that related to what we were studying, or one related to their profession. 

Things I had planned on doing a little differently this year, was incorporating Franki Sibberson’s suggestion of having parents bring their “stack” of current reads. Cookbooks, magazines, book club books, how-to manuals-all great ways to help students see that reading if for life and include so many different things!

Click the link to see Beth Newingham’s Invite and personalize it for your use. If you still aren’t sure it will be the best thing since sliced bread, try it once a month, once a quarter, have other staff members be the mystery readers during their planning period. Mystery Readers-it does a classroom good!

Mystery Reader Invite


Another Beautiful School October 14, 2008

Filed under: books,picture books,read alouds,school,writing — bestbookihavenotread @ 11:14 pm
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Glacier Ridge Elementary is a beautiful school. I’ve had the opportunity to attend a professional workshop last spring and this fall in the building and both times I’ve been very impressed by the displays of literacy throughout the school. The dedication to reading and writing is evident everywhere.

Click to play Glacier Ridge Elementary
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Redwall author to visit Columbus! October 13, 2008

Filed under: books,KidLit,read alouds,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:40 pm
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Brian Jacques, author of the Redwall saga books, will be in Columbus, Oct. 21 from 6:00-8:00. This is a pretty unique opportunity and I admit I signed up within 15 minutes of getting the information. He makes his home in Liverpool and also narrates the audio versions of his novels complete with voices!  They are pretty amazing. There is also a cartoon version done by one of the PBS stations of at least the first two books in the series.
Jacques will do a presentation about his newest book (Doomwyte) and an autographing. You might have students that might like to know about this opportunity. The phone number to register is 614-263-1624 in case you live in the Central Ohio area.
Redwall Is the official website for the author.

Mentor Texts: Author Loreen Leedy October 5, 2008

Crazy Like a Fox: A Simile Story by Loreen Leedy is the newest book by this very fun author. I first became familiar with Leedy while using her book Postcards from Pluto as a mentor text (way back before I even knew what they were) for writing our own postcards and books about the planets when that was part of my science curriculum.  Since then I have had the opportunity to meet her at the now defunct The Ohio State University Children’s Literature Conference (boy I miss that opportunity to see so many great authors) and she has now written around thirty books.

While I have been unable to continue using Postcards from Pluto in science, it is still a great mentor for that type of short, fictional/nonfictional writing.

 I also am a big fan of Leedy’s Penny books, Mapping Penny’s World and Measuring Penny.Both texts fit into the current fourth grade curriculum-measurement, map skills, and are also great read alouds. 

The newest Leedy book, Crazy Like a Fox, starts with a great, child friendly explanation of what a simile is. In Ohio this is always a tested topic, and also one that can be difficult for teachers to help students have a working understanding of, especially as they need to also know idiom, metaphor, etc.

The story progresses as the main characters Rufus and Babette chase after each other until they run into a surprise party for Babette. Each page includes not just the similes that described what Rufus and Babette are doing, but also has little asides as other minor characters comment on Rufus and Babette, all spoken in similes. The book also includes a nice section at the end about creating your own simile story that teachers will find helpful and students will have fun participating. 

If you are trying to teach similes, idioms and metaphors, check out Punished by David Lubar. This short little chapter book is a great read-aloud and chronicles a boy’s attempt to earn back his ability to speak without it all coming out as puns.


Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes September 23, 2008


Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes by Peggy Gifford is the second book starring Moxy Maxwell. The first is titled Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stewart Little-that title grabbed me right away because I knew so many students over the many years Stewart Little have been required to read it. It also hits the topic of assigned summer reading that was such a buzz on blogs earlier this summer (see summer reading rant, The Reading Zone, Jen Robinson’s Book Page, and  the Reading Tub blog

There are a lot of things Moxy does not love, but I do love her and I think a lot of kids will as well! I think the chapter titles are fabulous and I love how some chapters are as short as a sentence or as long as several pages. I also really like the photograph illustrations “taken” by Moxy’s brother Mark.  
Moxy has been given the task of finishing her holiday thank you notes by the day after Christmas, based on a promise she made to her mother the previous Easter (which is when she finished the previous year’s thank you notes!). Moxy desperately wants to not write the thank you notes and is very creative in her attempts to escape doing them. Moxy is not only desperate, but also very creative in the attempts. She wants to be able to go exchange her dress for an upcoming visit to her father in California (who has not seen her in 3 years while he has been busy becoming a “Big Mover and Shaker Out in Hollywood”). The issue of divorce and step-parents is adeptly addressed in a way that doesn’t minimize, but also allows readers to stay focused on the current issue facing Moxy-Not Writing Thank-You Notes.

Of course Moxy does learn the errors of her ways, but you sympathizes with her every step of the way. 

This would be a great read-aloud or also a great hook for a reluctant intermediate aged reader.


Fun Read Aloud: Into the Wild September 20, 2008

Filed under: books,kidlithosphere,read alouds,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 8:08 pm
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Thanks to Ike’s power outage in central Ohio (we got power back last night), I just finished the Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst. What a great read and I can just imagine the fun reading it aloud to intermediate aged students. It does have the same title as a very different book (and movie about the book), but that is the only similarity (although I could come up with others if pressed). The other Into the Wildis by John Krakauer and was made into a movie directed by Sean Penn. It is a “true life” adventure type book that Jon Krakauer writes so well.

The reason I mention the other book with the same title is because you will probably run into, as I have, incredulous looks by people who are familiar with the first adventure book when you mention that you are reading Into the Wild aloud to your class.  Just be prepared with your explanation of the plot and the other author’s name.

Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst has been in my must-read pile for awhile after reading reviews of it on other blogs such as Jen Robinson’s Book Page, The Reading Zone, and A Year of Reading. The main character is a girl by the name of Julie. She just happens to be the daughter of Zel (short for Rapunzel), her brother is Puss-in-Boots, and they are frequently visited by Cindy, the seven dwarfs (didn’t there used to be more?), Goldie, and a wicked witch. Zel and the others had managed to outwit and escape the Wild (an malevolent all-knowing presence that can take many forms, but mainly is in the form of an out-of -control forest) many hundred years ago. Zel, Julie, and grandma are the guardians of the Wishing Well and the Wild, a task that Julie underestimates its importance.

The Wild gets loose and everyone is swept back into their old roles which they have to play over and over again, at the expense of their memories of anything else they have known. There is no free will in the Wild. The Wild is a kind of evil master puppeteer that forces and tricks people into fairy tale stories.

I know as I read I really wanted to get out some of the fairy tales in their many forms and compare what I remember to the actual stories. You could really use this book as a springboard into studying fairy tales or even just introducing some not quite so familiar fairy tales to your students. 

Out of the Wild is the sequel that came out in June 2008. The first chapter is included in my paperback copy of Into the Wild and it pulled me in right away. I wonder if the public library has it yet?

What’s up next in my must-read pile:

Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison

The Primary Comprehension Toolkitby Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis (I like what I’ve seen so far!)

Breaking Dawn  by Stephanie Meyer (I want to read it, but really don’t want the series to be over! She has an interesting website, complete with playlists that inspired/reminded her of her novels-I’ve enjoyed listening to them!)

The Hunger Gamesby Suzanne Collins (I’ve been WAITING for this to come out after several blogs reviewed it from ARCs). BTW-Stephanie Myer also loved this book)


Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest September 17, 2008

Filed under: books,comprehension,kidlithosphere,read alouds,school — bestbookihavenotread @ 1:08 am
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Not having power or school is excellent for reading. Sitting where there is enough light to read is a challenge, but a fun one. I’m trying to remember which blog led me to add this book to my must read stack-wow were those bloggers right! The biggest challenge as a read-aloud would be if you are okay saying ‘hell’ aloud-not as a curse , but as a translated Norweigan word for prosperity (now I don’t speak Norweigan so I will take the author’s word for it). “Welcome to Hell” (prosperity) is used in chapter three and not just once so be prepared.

I love how the book starts with a list/description of all the characters you’ll meet. If you’ve read Franki Sibberson’s read-aloud work in her Day to Day Assessment in the Reading Workshop or Still Learning to Read, this novel would be great for those type of read-aloud comprehension strategy work.

There is a touch of Roald Dahl to the story that I appreciate, as well as a few parts that reminded me of Maniac McGee. The main character and his sister are orphaned in the first chapter and sent to live with their only living relative (hmm-Series of Unfortuante Events?), an aunt that they don’t remember meeting before. Having parents, home, and home country being taken away all at once has caused Samuel’s sister to stop speaking and Saumel to be very resentful about almost everything. Not only does everyone speak a language Samuel does not understand, the aunt’s house is very remote and the children are forbidden to enter the nearby forest. An unusual black cat is the first sign that the forest is very strange, but that’s not enough to keep the children from wanting to enter. Samuel had fortunately discovered a hidden book in the attic (hmm-Spiderwick Chronicles?) that he takes into the forest as he tries to find his sister. The book doesn’t necessarily keep him safe, but it does help maneuver through meetings with different trolls and fantastical characters. 

Eventually Samuel’s love for his sister does allow them to both escape safely, but it was close too many times to count. 

Even with the similarities that I pointed out, I still think this would be a great intermediate-aged read aloud. I think that so many students are familiar with the previously mentioned books that it would be for them (or for the class) to compare and contrast Samuel Blink with some of their other favorite fantasies.

The next book Samuel Blink and the Runaway Troll was just released September 4th. I need to find a copy of it and add it to my must-read stack!

BTW-my husband will often read children books that I recommend and he loved this one. I think I should get him one Matt Haig’s novels for his birthday!