I have a few minutes before we need to take off, and have been thinking about biographies. This is one of my favorite types of books to read so I am always amazed when I read other people's thoughts on this genre and how infrequently they choose to read biographies. At school today we have been finishing up our fifth grade biography unit. Recently I read on Esme's blog about how important it is to expose students to biographies, even reading one a week would expose students to forty new and interesting and important people each school year. The book I used to introduce biography was Wilma Unlimited. This book seems to really keep my students interested and engaged and it has the elements of a biography I am trying to teach them. We also read Phillis's Big Test about poet Phillis Wheatley. The students enjoyed this book, too, even requesting a book of her poetry (which I didn't have in my collection). Not a single student had ever heard of Wheatley prior to my sharing this book, either. Today as the culminating activity we made biography hash. I have found variations of this recipe on the internet, but this snack mix type of recipe allowed students to add an ingredient for each element of biography. Goldfish are added for education, since fish travel in schools. Bugles are added since everyone likes to toot their own horn. Peanuts are added because every family has a couple nuts....you get the idea. The kids seem to really enjoy this activity and hopefully making some connections between their biographies they have read to themselves and the biography hash they have made to eat.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
In just four hours I am leaving to go to Montana for my brother-in-law's wedding. I am sure that a fourteen hour car ride with three young children will be lovely. I ended up getting a few new DVDs and different things to occupy them (I hope) for a while. I am also hoping for some reading time, and have plenty of books packed. Once I return I am hoping to write about all I have read, so it will be a few days before my next post. Happy turkey day!
Posted by Tina's Blog at 7:15 AM
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I LOVE this book! It is so cute and clever and I am always impressed with new picture books that are being published now. They are a world away from the books I grew up with. Emily Gravett's illustrations are wonderful and I am so anxious to share this for story time. Mouse is scared of everything. Like spiders. And water. And knives (the illustration of the 3 blind mice makes me laugh since they got their tail chopped off with a carving knife). At the top of each page a phobia is listed because Mouse has a lot of those . I just had our music teacher read this over her lunch hour and she laughed a lot, too. Anyone needing a cute picture book as a Christmas gift should consider this one. Did I tell you how much I love it?
Posted by Tina's Blog at 10:02 AM
Monday, November 24, 2008
I just finished reading Motherreader's post about her favorite Thanksgiving books, and chuckled to myself that two of them on her list of three are ones I had laid out to read to my classes today. To reiterate what motherreaderhas already said, Thanksgiving in the White House by Gary Hines is one of my favorite Thanksgiving books. We have been working on recognizing the difference between fiction and non-fiction. This book has facts about the first Thanksgiving and Abraham Lincoln pardoning the White House bird, but it also has some elements of fiction, such as the conversations that Tad had with his father. Younger kids might like the story, but the older kids are trying to recognize how sometimes stories can contain facts and information in them as well as being read for entertainment.
This is the Turkey by Abby Levine is reminiscent of This is the House that Jack Built. The repetition and rhyming were commented on by the kids who heard this book.
Turk and Runt: A Thanksgiving Comedy by Lisa Wheeler is perhaps my most favorite Thanksgiving book yet. I love that there is a story kids can enjoy and jokes that even adults find funny. Turk and Runt are the children of some turkeys who don't realize that being selected by the visitors to the farm is not a good thing. Mom and Dad are busy telling Turk, their handsome and strong turkey offspring to really try and show off when these visitors arrive. Younger brother Runt is the one in the family with the brains and does his best to get rid of these people. Finally when Runt is nearly selected by a little old lady as her Thanksgiving meal his parents and brother see the light. The ending is worth a few laughs as the family finds an interesting way to hide from people out looking for their Christmas dinners.
Other Thanksgiving books that I can't seem to find because they have been checked out, but that I usually love to read out loud: Thanksgiving at the Tappletons by Eileen Spinelli, A Plump and Perky Turkey by Teresa Bateman, 10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston, and We Gather Together...Now Please Get Lost by Diane De Groat. One new Thanksgiving book that I have yet to purchase, but have enjoyed looking at is Thanksgiving: The True Story by Penny Colman.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 10:24 AM
Over the weekend I read The Possibilities of Sainthood, a first novel by Donna Freitas. I thought the story was enjoyable, and one I could recommend to any middle school or teenage girl without having to be embarassed by some of the content. Antonia is a fifteen year old girl who works for her mother in the family's grocery store. The whole book centers around the store, their Catholic faith, and Italian roots. Antonia wants a first kiss more than anything, yet the boy she thinks she wants the kiss from turns out not being what she first thought. This means Antonia needs to examine her relationship with Michael, a boy she has been friends with for a few years. In addition to this storyline, Antonia is also hoping to become a saint, so she spends a great deal of time researching saints and petitioning the pope her ideas for sainthood. I am curious how much research Freitas had to do to have such a wealth of information on the saints. The ending of this book is happy, although I won't reveal if Antonia gets her first kiss wish.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 7:46 AM
Friday, November 21, 2008
Today I just finished reading One Small Step by PB Kerr. Kerr has written The Children of the Lamp books as well as some others, but I am not familiar with much of his work. The synopsis I read about this book was appealing because I thought it was a historical fiction book set in the 1960s covering the space race. Well, it is set in the 1960s and it does cover the space race, but the book is also a bit fantastical.
Scott, the protagonist, is sought after by NASA after he makes an emergency landing with an airplane he and his father are flying. NASA has a secret mission it is working on using chimpanzees to make the first trip to the moon. When one of the chimps is dismissed due to behavior issues, Soctt looks to be a good substitute. This sounds too good to be true to Scott, which it is. NASA is sending Scott and the chimps into space, but erasing any record of this so that no one else will ever know about it. The journey is risky, as it to be expected, and of course, there is a lot of drama and suspense thrown in to keep readers hooked. There were times I really enjoyed this book, and there were also times that I wanted the action to speed up. I absolutely love historical fiction books, but I had a hard time deciding about a few things that occurred- whether or not they were made up for the storyline, or were they legitimate facts. I don't have a lot of knowledge about NASA so perhaps there were things written that are facts that I am not catching. I can almost guarantee a child who reads this wont' be able to tell the difference, either.
I was in seventh grade when the space shuttle Challenger exploded with Christa McAuliffe on board. I still can recall with great detail the news surrounding this tragedy. I also recall President Reagan speaking at the astronaut's funeral quoting from High Flight written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., "...have slipped the surly bonds of earth..." "...and touched the face of God." This poem is included at the end of One Small Step and is Scott's final thought about his brief moon landing, "I think back to the time when I trespassed on the sanctity of space, put out my hand, and touched the face of God."
Posted by Tina's Blog at 1:39 PM
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I am always on the lookout for some high interest series books. It seems like Junie B Jones and Magic Tree House have been read and re-read by every student at my school. While I admit that I enjoy series books, I can't imagine not branching out a bit more, or at the very least, exploring new series.
Secret Agent Jack Stalwart is a new hero that I am hopeful my students will soon be fighting over. The first book in the series, The Escape of the Deadly Dinosaur, is full of suspense that I think readers will find appealing. Jack is a secret agent assigned to rid the world of evil. He receives his directions and then will end up being carried off to the location of his job. He posesses a few secret agent tricks that help him in his endeavors. Each book takes place in a different location and there is a bit of information about the locale included, without becoming too school-like. Kids might actually be picking up little facts without even realizing it.
These books are right around one hundred pages in length with short chapters, and are quite comparable to the Magic Tree House series. Written at a bit higher reading level, they would be a good fit for those readers who need to challenge themselves a bit more, but don't have the attention span or stick-to-it-iveness needed for longer chapter books.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 1:42 PM
I seem to spend much of my time reading about new books, looking at Booklist magazine and plotting out what to check out, read, and purchase, that somewhere in there I lose my free reading time. I also spend a lot of time wishing for new books to come out. There is nothing quite as exciting to me. So, my list of books I want to read keeps growing, and even though I keep working on reading a lot of books, I can never catch up, and continue to fall further behind.
Right now I am reading a variety of things: Here's The Story by Maureen McCormick - Marcia from the Brady Bunch's memoir. I am only reading it while on the exercise bike, so I might only read 20 pages a day, but I will finish it up tomorrow and it has been a good, easy read. I am reading Thin is the New Happy, a memoir by Valerie Frankel while running on the treadmill. This book has been motivating me to want to run, which is always a good thing. Frankel talks about her body image issues and the many diets she has been on over the years....I feel quite virtuous reading this as I sweat. I am also reading Julia Glass' new book, I See You Everywhere. I read her other books and can barely remember anything about them except that they took a while to get through. This is true of her latest book as well, although I think I am enjoying it more than I did her other work. I have been carrying some kids books around that I need to finish off: PB Kerr's One Small Step is first on my list since I have been reading it for over a week now. Obviously I am not so enthralled with this book I just can't put it down. Reading other blogs I am seeing people reviewing a book a day, which is yet another way I am feeling a bit overwhelmed. I should stop writing and go read!
Posted by Tina's Blog at 7:37 AM
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
When I read the initial review of this book I immediately wrote the title down in the notebook where I list all the books I don't want to forget. As an elementary teacher librarian how could I not want to read a book about packhorse librarians? Add to that the fact that David Small is the illustrator, and it just can't get any better.
I was so excited to get an ARC of this book and read it to my girls before bed one night. I don't think they shared my enthusiasm quite so much. The language is beautiful, but too hard for them to really understand. I did a lot of stopping and explaining myself so that they would "get it." The illustrations are as beautiful as I thought. The story is heartwarming, too. The idea that a chid who initially didn't enjoy books could become a book lover should warm every librarian's heart. What a great story. I liked the fact that there was additional historical information included in the back to give more background on the packhorse librarians. Heather Henson has written a book that I can't wait to share with others.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 11:45 AM
Monday, November 17, 2008
In the second book, Racso and the Rats of Nimh, Timothy has gone off to school in Thorn Valley with the rats. He encounters, Racso, a rat from the city who also wants to attend school there. Timothy and Racso have a few struggles along the way, and therefore, don't arrive at Thorn Valley in time for the start of the school year. There are a lot of great connections to the first book that I pointed out to my girls so they didn't miss them. Jenner, the rat who left the Rats of NIMH in the first book makes an appearance as well. There was enough suspense to keep my girls begging each night for me to read more. After about 20 pages I would have to stop.
R-T, Margaret, and the Rats of Nimh is the third and final book in this set. RT (Artie) and his sister Margaret are lost in the woods near the rats' home. Artie, who is possibly autistic (although that is never stated) does not speak. Yet, when he encounters the rats, he is able to communicate with them and occasionally talks. He and Margaret are anxious to get home, yet they are becoming friends with the rats. When they finally do return to their lives will they be able to keep the rat's secrets? I am a little over halfway done reading this one out loud and I haven't warned the girls yet that this one has a little bit of a sad ending. As much as I want there to be another in this series, this third book is it.
There are so many new books coming out all the time, that kids and teachers might overlook this classic. Even after twenty plus years, there is so much to be enjoyed in all three books.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 1:22 PM
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Today was an exciting day....I convinced my husband to go to Minneapolis/St Paul this weekend just because Tomie De Paola was going to be signing books at The Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. I had never been there and probably could have found my way while dragging three children with me, but having him come along to help was wonderful. We had to leave last night after we got home from work/school and stayed with some friends just south of the Cities. Then we had to get up early and drive about 45 more minutes to get to the store. We were over an hour early. At one point Chris looked at me and asked how in the world we were going to kill another hour. I love, love, love bookstores, and this one was great, but I spent most of my time trying to keep my eyes on all three kiddos, so I didn't get a lot of browsing done. Plus, the place was quite crowded. And, I was trying not to spend money (nearly impossible when I am turned loose in a children's book store). The girls had their picture taken with Strega Nona who was making the rounds, and then Tomie (finally) came out. The bookstore was packed, so even though my poor husband had never heard of this guy, it was obvious quite a few people had. I had brought a book from home, 26 Fairmount Avenue the first in that series that my girls loved when I read it to them at nights before bed, and had him sign that. I also purchased his newest book- a pop-up he and Robert Sabuda
Posted by Tina's Blog at 5:25 PM
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I first heard of Sharelle Byars Moranville when I read her book, The Snows. I love, love, love this book and have recommended it to many other readers- adults as well as young adults. I also like the fact that the author is from Iowa and writes her books as though they take place in the midwest. I was excited to run across a copy of A Higher Geometry since I loved the Snows so much, and quickly purchased it. I will admit I didn't love this book quite as much as the Snows, but perhaps this book had too much to live up to. A Higher Geometry takes place in the 50s, a time when girls were expected to graduate from high school, get married and have their own family. Anna is a gifted high school math student. While she doesn't really know what she wants her future to hold, she can't really see herself graduating and getting married. She also is very aware of the girls in the community who have had to get married before graduating, bringing disgrace to their families. While Anna doesn't want that to happen to her, either, her boyfriend, Mike, is hard to resist. Anna learns a lot about herself in this slim novel as she wins math competitions and continues to challenge herself academically, she also challenges her parents to allow her to use her gifts, and to let go of some of the conventions they have about the role of women. Perhaps the thing that frustrates me the most about Moranville's book- that this slim novel could have been so much longer with more development- is also it's biggest strength. Not everything is spelled out. Part of my job as the reader is to think about what I am reading and connect the dots. By giving too much away there would be less to think and wonder about.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 1:31 PM