Overall, I loved this book. While the story clearly ends, I would still like to check in on Autumn from time to time.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Overall, I loved this book. While the story clearly ends, I would still like to check in on Autumn from time to time.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 5:56 AM
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Oh, what a Christmas break. Yesterday was my birthday and my wedding anniversary. Of course we have received so much icky winter weather that yesterday was no exception, and the plans we had made to go out to supper never materialized. I guess that was the least of my worries, however, since after I ate supper at home my stomach hurt so badly I never made it off the couch and ended up throwing up twice. Happy Birthday to me. Today we are supposed to be having Christmas at my parents' house, but due to bad weather my sister and her fiancee didn't want to drive and so our celebration is postponed. The girls' Christmas program at church has been postponed twice now and might actually take place next Sunday. By then they won't even remember the songs or their parts. The roads aren't great, but cabin fever has set in, so we drove to my parents' house anyway, and the girls each got to open one gift and I get to be on a computer that has high speed internet access. Tomorrow I am determined to get to go shopping for a while, and we are still trying to finalize plans to see the movie Marley and Me. I did get a little more reading done, and am happy to report that my oldest daughter has spent some quality time with a few of the books she received for Christmas.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson is the adult book I am reading now. I am not very impressed with the cover so I had it sitting on a pile for a while now, but after getting started on it, I am really enjoying it. I just wish I had more time for uninterrupted reading. When I looked at the author information in the back flap of the book I was excited to see there are two more books in this series, the next to be published in the summer of 2009, but sad to learn that the author passed away after he had sold his books. Talk about bad luck.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 11:03 AM
Friday, December 26, 2008
We had a nice Christmas and have been busy eating too much food and playing a Wii that Santa delivered. Since I only get a small amount of time on the Wii compared to a few other people, I have been able to get a little leisure reading done, although not as much as I would like.
This morning I finished A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg. I had read the author's note in the back and what inspired her to write this novel about an African American girl growing up in the Mississippi Delta in the early 1960s. Burg's own father practiced law in the South in an effort to promote equal rights between the races. Addie Pickett, the protagonist of this novel, is growing up in the South attending the local Negro junior high school. Her mother works as a maid and she and her brother live with her mother and uncle in a poor section of town. It is evident in all aspects of this story that African Americans were treated poorly - Addie and her mother must listen as Mrs. Tate (her mother's boss) and her friends discuss African Americans in front of them, their section of town is without electricity, and when African Americans are accused of a crime, the evidence does not always matter. Addie's brother, Elias, flees town after he is involved in a scuffle with a white boy, and Addie's Uncle Bump is accused of a crime she is certain he did not commit. I wasn't drawn into this story immediately which surprised me. I am not sure if it was because I only find time to read such short snippets that I never really felt connected to the characters. It also felt almost as though it were set in a different time period than Sharon Draper's book Fire From the Rock that I reviwed in November, and which is set in the same era. After I finally found a hunk of time to read yesterday I was able to really get into this story and wanted to keep reading. Uncle Bump's trial also adds suspense, and I was interested to see the presence of the NAACP at his trial. There are a few other surprises along the way in this book - what happens to Elias after he flees town and the truth about Addie's father's death are two revelations.
I would recommend this book to any middle school reader. It is an interesting book that also shares the inequalities blacks continued to face long after slavery ended.
Next up are a stack of picture books I haven't made time for and my blog on the Des Moines Register website where I review the best adult books I have read this year.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 4:58 PM
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
The past few days I have been reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. When I first heard about this book I wasn't really sure I wanted to read it. I am not a big fantasy person, even though I do like Harry Potter and anything written by Madeleine L'Engle. Then I read review after review about the Hunger Games, and being the person who doesn't like to read a book that is getting a ton of press, still wasn't interested. For whatever reason I decided to check it out anyway, and even started to read it. I admit I wasn't instantly hooked, but reminded myself that I should at least give it a try. It is a great book. My only disappointment is that it doesn't really end and I am waiting for a second installment.
How good is Hunger Games? Well, in my opinion, it is as good as The Giver by Lois Lowry. The fact that both are fantasy is the only other real similarity I can find. Hunger Games is set in the future. Katniss Everdeen is a young woman forced to hunt for food to keep her family (mother and sister) alive. The District that she lives in is quite poor and her father has died. Each year there is a drawing and two people are chosen to represent their district in The Hunger Games. Katniss's sister, Prim, is selected, but Katniss takes her place. The other representative is Peeta, a male classmate of Katniss's. They are taken to the Capitol and readied for the Hunger Games where they and twenty two other competitors will fight til their death, literally.
There is a lot of suspense in this novel and I felt transported to Katniss and Peeta's world. The story is more for middle school than elementary students and should keep even reluctant readers interested. I admit I was reading quickly by the end to see how things would be resolved. I am glad I decided to pick this book up and happily recommend it to anyone.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 9:29 AM
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I mentioned in my previous post that I am snowed in. This is great for finding reading time, but is not so good since I have only dial-up internet connection. Until I get to use another computer, I am not going to be able to put book covers on my blog. Dial up is just too slow.
Radiant Girl by Andrea White is what I chose to read yesterday. Having grown up in the 80s and hearing about the Cold War, I have always been interested in the USSR. When I was thirteen Chernobyl's nuclear power plant had an explosion. I have always wondered what happened at Chernobyl. The Soviet government was good at not giving out any information and making it seem as though things were under control. Radiant Girl is the story of Katya Dubko, an eleven year old girl whose father, Ivan, works at Chernobyl. After the explosion her life is turned upside down. While her father trusts the Soviet government completely, Katya begins to question their role in Chernobyl and whether they have been honest about what happened there. Before Chernobyl Katya was an innocent eleven year old who believed in house elfs, but over the course of five years she is forced to grow up and lose the innocence she had.
I know that part of this book's appeal is the subject matter since I have always wanted to know more about Chernobyl. The writing is excellent, though, and I really wanted this book to last. I am famous for skimming through things, but not this book. White has written two other books that I intend to look for. Radiant Girl may be the best middle grade book I have read in 2008.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 9:50 AM
Yesterday school was called off. We received 11 inches of snow, and snow is falling again this morning. As much as being stranded at home does get old after a while, it is perfect weather for cuddling up with some good books. I especially enjoyed my first grader's obsessive reading of Junie B. Jones yesterday. She read 5 of them! At one point Junie refers to someone as 88 years young and my daughter was laughing hysterically at this. Somehow that really struck her funny bone because she was bent over at the waist laughing and laughing and laughing. I managed to read one book and run nine and a half miles on the treadmill where I got some serious reading in, too.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 9:44 AM
Thursday, December 18, 2008
In just a week Christmas will be over. What a relief! I keep finding more reasons to make trips to Target every day. It seems that my original list of who should get gifts and what those might be has morphed into something much bigger.
A month or so ago when I asked my girls what they wanted they each had a few things to request. Some were good ideas. They didn't bring up wanting books, but maybe that is because they know they will get some anyway. I asked them if they wanted books. My oldest daughter said she did, but my middle daughter said, "No thanks," which shouldn't really be surprising. She likes books enough, but does not have the love affair with them that my oldest daughter and I do. My youngest daughter, at two, was not asked since I am not sure I could trust her answer.
So I did buy them a bunch of books, but I have decided just to wrap them all up and not put any one child's name on the packages. That way no one can complain about what book they got or all wanting the same one, since I am not buying duplicate copies of books to have at home.
My books (to be wrapped and given away to my children):
Drummer Boy by Loren Long - I have read so many good reviews, but won't let myself read it so I can have something to look forward to on Christmas Day, too.
A Very Marley Christmas by John Grogan which I reviewed earlier. We read the children's novel as a family last year.
Christmas Cookies: Bite Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I loved her first book which I think makes a great gift
America: The Making of a Nation by Charlie Samuels, a nice history book for kids about our nation; another great gift book
Time for Kids Almanac 2009 - full of intriguing facts and tidbits for my trivia buff
to be purchased: Guiness Book of World Records 2009 - another great book to spend hours upon hours looking through
I wish I had an unlimited budget to buy more books for my girls. There are so many new, great books I want to read and share with them.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 8:40 AM
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
I have been thinking about the Newbery a lot today. Earlier this morning I read Mother Reader's post and the links she included about the Newbery. I remember being in fifth and sixth grade and looking through my teacher's bookshelf for books that had won that award. When I read them I could tell they were so well written- better than the Nancy Drew books I read or the other fluff I enjoyed. I couldn't necessarily put my finger on what made them better, but I could tell. They were the books that once finished, I couldn't find anything else to measure up to. I don't know if kids are looking at Newberys the same way anymore. I loved, loved, loved Hattie Big Sky and think it deserved an award. However, my kiddos are only in PK-5 and that book is just too much above where they are for them to enjoy it. Last year's winner hasn't even been checked out once. Every year I make it a point to show the books that won and we talk about the winners the day they are announced. The books that I love that have won the award are true examples of great writing, but it is just not the stuff that kids are picking. Even Peck's A Long Way from Chicago (another one I loved) is not getting checked out. Adults get the humor in it, but the kids don't. I still look forward to the announcement of the Newberys and Caldecotts, but I am almost expecting to be disappointed when they are announced. I guess we will just have to wait and see what happens in January.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 1:30 PM
Farnaz Fassihi's book Waiting for an Ordinary Day: The Unveiling of Life in Iraq was such a well written book.I am seem to be on a stretch of reading books that aren't very happy in terms of subject matter. But, Fassihi, a reporter living in Baghdad gives an honest look at how the every day life of Iraqis has changed since the war began. She moved to Baghdad and made friends with people who she has watched go through devastating life circumstances. These people are ones I felt I could connect with. While I cannot possibly imagine the sorrow they have experiences, Fassihi is able to make these people real and make me care about them. From time to time as she recounted different events that occurred to her friends I wanted to reach out and help them myself. While not a happy book, it is an important one.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 9:22 AM
Monday, December 15, 2008
The Trials of Kate Hope by Wick Downey was a good read. When I first read about it on LM_Net I was interested because the book is set in Colorado in the early 70's. I love historical fiction and I am familiar with Colorado, having attended a semester long program my college offers there. Kate is a teenage girl coming to terms with her dad and older brother's death. Her grandfather who is aging asks for Kate's help in his law firm. Kate passes the bar exam herself and is able to practice law as a teenager. The two cases that are written about are suspenseful enough that I wanted to know how the author was going to cleverly resolve the issues. I was disappointed because there was not a lot of focus on the setting or time period. This book could have taken plae in the 60s, the 80s, the 90s in any location. While that was disappointing, the book itself was interesting. There are a lot of legal thriller books ala John Grisham out for adults, but not for kids or middle grade readers. This should give them some taste of that type of writing and suspense.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 9:14 AM
Prey by Lurlene McDaniels is a rather disturbing story. I enjoyed the book, which seems not quite right to say since the topic is a bit sensitive. Ryan is a fifteen year old high school student living with a single father. When his new and very attractive history teacher starts showing interest in him, Ryan is happy to take her up on all her offers. The two begin an affair they manage to keep a secret until his good friend, Honey, suspicious about what is going on with her friend, finds the emails he has kept from Ms. Settles. There are different news stories I remember hearing about teachers who are attracted to their students, so I know this is something that does go on. However, it is disturbing and creepy. Every time I hear another story along these lines I am shocked. McDaniels does a good job of writing a book appropriate for teen readers. While it is no secret that Ryan and Ms. Settles are having an affair she is careful to avoid any graphic sex scenes. The ending is interesting, and not what I had initially expected. Yet again, McDaniels ending is probably quite realistic for this type of situation. I am not a big Lurlene McDaniels fan. I read her a few of her books in junior high and high school and they just seem so sappy and depressing - at least that is what I remember about them. This book is a departure from her usual writing and I am happy I took time to read it.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 6:47 AM
Friday, December 12, 2008
I haven't really taken a break from reading, but somehow I have managed to make it through almost an entire work week without blogging. I had plans to share this website in January when I usually teach a unit on snow, but this site is so cool it can be used now and in January.
www.popularfront.com/snowdays allows visitors to create their own flake. I can see spending a lot of time making snowflakes in my future.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 10:41 AM
Monday, December 8, 2008
I am ashamed to say that somewhere along the line I have missed Sarah Dessen. I have heard friends and young adults rave about her books. Every time I have heard them talk about a Sarah Dessen book I have immediately ignored it. Many years ago I took a class on young adult literature. For some reason I always thought that one of the required reading books I read was by her and I didn't enjoy it at all. Going back now to try and figure out which book of hers I read for the class, I am forced to admit that I don't think I ever read a Sarah Dessen book. It has been my loss. Over the weekend I read Just Listen by Dessen. This is not her newest book, but I had received a paperback copy of it recently and during a lull one day at work I picked it up. I now know what others have been raving about. Dessen's book was easy to pick up and hard to put down. Her characters were real, her plot interesting, and her writing engaging.
Annabel is the youngest sister in a family of three girls. As the narrator Annabel introduces us to her middle sister, Whitney, and older sister, Kirsten. All three girls worked as models at some point, something their mother enjoyed doing with them. Whitney has moved back home from New York where she and Kirsten shared an apartment because she has an eating disorder. Annabel feels alone at home where attention is focused on Whitney. At school she is also alone after having a falling out with her best friend, Sophie. Slowly Annabel reveals what happened the night that she and Sophie stopped being friends. Luckily Annabel is not alone. She has discovered a friend in Owen who believes in honesty above all else and helps Annabel see the need to tell the truth.
I have already looked at the list of Dessen's other books and am happy to have tried out one of her books. Teenage girls (and some adults, too) are lucky to have her work to enjoy.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 1:25 PM
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I have been intrigued by Menena Cottin's The Black Book of Colors ever since I heard about it. A few months ago I attended a day-long workshop for teacher librarians, and in the afternoon was able to listen to the head of the children's department at the University of Northern Iowa share some of her new favorites with us. One of those was The Black Book of Colors. I ordered it then and waited patiently while it was back ordered. This past weekend I finally received it in the mail. The entire book is constructed out of black paper with a few lines of white text. The illustrations are raised as is the braille version of the text. This is not something I would share with a large group of students or use as a read aloud, but I do think that kids will be intrigued by it. This would fit especially well when talking about the five senses and using touch to try and "read" the pictures. When I was a classroom teacher most of my students in first grade would ask about braille and would have enjoyed trying it out for themselves. I have enjoyed looking at this book and trying out the braille version of text. This is a unique book that appeals to a wide range of ages and interests.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 3:26 PM
Friday, December 5, 2008
Over the past few days I feel like I haven't been making any real progress with what I am currently reading. So I decided to write about one of the books I read during vacation. Tears of the Desert byHalima Bashir is a memoir (one of my favorite types of books) about her life in Darfur. Bashir is able to skillfully write about her chidhood, a happy time in her life. Her tribe lived in huts and practiced female circumcision, yet she shares many good memories of that time in her life. She was close to her family, especially her father, who believed in education and sent her away to school. Bashir eventually became a doctor and cared for the sick and wounded of her country as political unrest began to prevail. Her role as a doctor marked her as a target for violence and eventually Bashir was raped and her home village was attacked, leaving her father dead. Knowing there is nothing else she can do but leave her country, Bashir leaves everyone she loves behind in an effort to protect them and flees Darfur. Seeking asylum in England she forges on to begin a new life for herself. This book was so well written is was hard to put down. Despite the fact that what Bashir writes about is depressing, Bashir is able to tell her story without complaining about her circumstances. She is a true example of a survivor.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 1:03 PM
Thursday, December 4, 2008
This week I have been sharing some of the new picture books I have received with different classes that come in. I love to share books and see and hear the comments the students make when we read together.
A Very Marley Christmas by John Grogan has been enjoyed by older and younger students. The fourth grade's classroom teacher read the chapter book, Marley and Me to them last year, so they enjoyed another dose of Marley.
Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk has been another hit. All the students like Sam the Mouse and as a teacher librarian, I have found that this book would be a great springboard to teach genre and introduce writers workshop.
Gingerbread Friend by Jan Brett has also been well received. Students are familiar with Brett's other books. We were able to enjoy her intricate and detailed illustrations Brett creates and look at her trademark borders that often include their own story.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 7:43 AM
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell is one of those books that I have read many reviews about. I have owned the book for quite a while, and have looked forward to reading it, but somehow it just kept getting put away for something else that came along. I am rather famous for doing this, and it isn't because I don't want to read a certain book. I am always "saving" my books in case I run out of something good to read. (Yes, logically I know this isn't going to happen, but that doesn't seem to stop me since it is a carry over from childhood). Last night I decided that I should start on it since I have been making a conscious effort to read more of my stash of books before I purchase new ones. And, this blogging deal is making me get through things a little more quickly.
I can understand why Shooting the Moon has received so many favorable reviews. Since I love historical fiction is no surprise that I would enjoy this title. I also like books about Vietnam and that time period, which is when this book is set. The plot is not so different from other books about war. Jamie, the narrator, has an older brother who enlists and is sent to fight in Vietnam. Her father is a Colonel, so she is used to army life, and has always enjoyed playing war and all it involves. After her brother, TJ, leaves and sends her rolls of film he wants her to develop instead of the letters she desires, Jamie is able to see for herself in these pictures that war is not the fun and games she had thought. Her brother's pictures show her the sorrow of war, something she had not thought much about before. I was wondering how this book was going to end...as I was reading I was counting down the pages and just didn't feel like there was much left to read before things were resolved. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that the ending is perfect.
I own my own copy of this book already, but will now purchase it for my school library, too.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 7:50 AM
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I am feeling a little slow on the uptake not to have heard of Cicada Summer prior to reading about this book on different book blogs. Where have I been? I loved this book. I think it ranks right up there with Because of Winn Dixie. There are a few similarities...it is a short little gem much like Winn Dixie, yet with a deeper message, also like Winn Dixie.
Lily is eleven and in love with Nancy Drew novels. It is apparent as the book unfolds that Lily is trying to deal with some fairly big issues: she does not have a mother, and something has happened to her brother. Lily tells this story using flashbacks she has, something that initially confused me. Lily also does not speak. When Tinny Bridges moves to town and starts to make trouble for Lily, she also forces Lily to face reality. Beaty includes a bit of suspense in her story and kept me reading and hoping for Lily, and even Tinny, until the end.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 7:38 AM
Picking out books for teachers to read out loud to their classes is something I enjoy doing. In fact, if I could get a job recommending books to others, I would like that, too. Reading to groups of students is one of the best perks of my current job, and one thing I still miss doing in the classroom setting. I read a lot of picture books to groups I see now, but not chapter books. I tried that a few times, but since there is a week in between when I see groups I would forget where we were, or they would argue about what we had read, or we would spend our whole class reading and rushing through the lesson I had planned... So I have left the joy of reading chapter books to the classroom teachers. I hate to be pushy and tell them what to read since I always like to pick out my own read alouds, but if a teacher asks for a recommendation I am all over it. Yesterday I had a fifth grade teacher come to me with that request. I sent her Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit, One Armed Catch by MJ Auch, Penny from Heaven by Jennifer Holm, Under the Same Sky by Cynthia DeFelice, and On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer. There are so many great books I want our fifth grade to hear that I don't think they will get as much out of if they read it to themselves. Another fifth grade group is reading Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings. Last year's fifth grade class loved it and had some wonderful discussion about it. While I didn't get to be in their room during the read aloud, when they would come and see me for library I would ask which point they were at in their reading and we could tie in some aspects of the oral reading to our work in the library. In my own first grade classroom I always read Charlotte's Web and Little House in the Big Woods. I always wonder how teachers can read the same thing year after year after year, but those two staples were ones I enjoyed and I thought the kids could get into considering chapter books may be new to them. Then it depended on my group of kids. One year we read 7 of the Little House books because my kids were absolute fanatics about them. They even dressed up as pioneer girls with braids and bonnets and "played" Little House at recess. One group loved The Rats of Nimh and begged for the other two books to be read to them. All my classes enjoyed Tomie de Paola's 26 Fairmount Avenue series and every year there was another book to add on to the read aloud. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 101 Dalmations, Flat Stanley, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, some Beverly Cleary (whether it was Ramona or Ribsy or Ralph S. Mouse) was part of the mix. I know Junie B. Jones is a staple first grade read aloud and I did introduce them to her, but I didn't love Junie B and I still don't, and I really think that for first graders many can tackle her on their own at some point during first grade. Thinking of these books brings back many memories of my times reading to my class and how much fun it was when you could see them get excited about what they were reading.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 7:20 AM
Monday, December 1, 2008
I am back from Montana, having had a great time despite 30 hours in our van. I didn't get to read the entire 30 hours, but I tried my best, and ended up getting three, almost four, books read.
Fire from the Rock by Sharon Draper was one of my road trip books. I love children's/young adult historical fiction, which is probably my favorite genre. Draper's book was a great read that I finished in one sitting. Sylvia Ann is growing up in Little Rock in 1957 and in addition to growing up and noticing boys, is also experiencing racist feelings and acts firsthand. Her older brother is angry about his place as an African American male during this time and has a hard time keeping his anger in check. Sylvia is being considered to be among the first African American students to integrate Central High School, something she must think hard about before making her decision. Sylvia also has a friend who is Jewish, which adds another dimension to the idea of segregation since Jews were not treated well by many whites at that time, either. I enjoyed Sylvia's diary entries the most, yet I found myself wondering if they weren't a little too "adult." The content was not inappropriate, it is more that the depth of Sylvia's feelings and insight into the time period seemed too grown-up for her twelve, almost thirteen year old, character. This book was enjoyable to read from start to finish and gives good historical information about a troubling time period in our nation's history. I would happily recommend this book to any reader.
Posted by Tina's Blog at 7:09 AM