Saturday, February 28, 2009

Happenings and Links

This morning I came across a link to Maira Kahlman's blog where she's done this incredibly impressive piece about Abraham Lincoln. Her illustrations are mesmerizing- but, then, I've been a fan of hers for years. And, I think it's fitting that she did the illustrations for the new Elements of Style book, which has been my friend since I was in high school. I had to get that one- have yet to introduce the students to it, though.

And,...though I have been sick on my week-long vacation, President Obama's (I still Love writing that!) speech to the nation included text very near and dear to my heart. He, too, is on the band wagon for parents to step up and take the third leg of our tripod stool in education (in my school we talk about the three-legged stool analogy: one is the child, one leg is the school, and the other leg is the parent. Unless all of the legs are "working" the stool will not stand up). Here is the text that I am proud our President took to the podium and here is the speech text in its entirety.

"These education policies will open the doors of opportunity for our children. But it is up to us to ensure they walk through them. In the end, there is no program or policy that can substitute for a mother or father who will attend those parent-teacher conferences, or help with homework after dinner, or turn off the TV, put away the video games, and read to their child. I speak to you not just as a President, but as a father when I say that responsibility for our children's education must begin at home."

Have a wonderful weekend and spend some time reading to a child. And, don't forget to look for the wonderful week of Reading Aloud to Children coming in March!
Share a Story - Shape a Future

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Share A Story-Shape a Future: A Blog Tour for Literacy

Don't miss this exciting event coming up! Head over the The Book Chook to read more about all of the events that will take place during March 9-14 in Kidlitosphere. Click on The Book Chook link above to see who is going to host each day and what the content will be.

Audio-The Graveyard Book

I won't say too much about The Graveyard Book as a book, but more about it as an audio. Obviously, it won the Newbery so it must have some literary merit and appeal. But, I have to say that the audio was stunning. After the first scene (where I had to rewind it to see if I'd really heard it correctly) I was a bit baffled at the entire premise of the book. However, Neil Gaiman's own reading as well as the eerie music made this a great audiobook. I believe it was an honorable mention in the Odyssey Awards this year. Once I got past the "baby-being-raised-by-ghosts" part and started to understand that this was a novel about growing up, its genius rang true! It is simply a beautiful book about growing up. (period) I did look at a copy of the book in our school library and saw that it was somewhat illustrated, however, I think the incredible audio made up for the pictures in the "ear version". I won't say any more because so many have already reviewed this book. I highly recommend the audio version!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Beacuse I Am Furniture

I have a confession that won't surprise too many people since I'm an English teacher. I LOVE poetry. And, I ADORE novels told in poetry. I devoured (love that word-eating books imagery) Because I Am Furniture and it was more exciting than the Academy Awards! :)
Anke is in high school and at home her father abuses everyone but her. Her sister, brother and mother all suffer at the hands of what her friends term her "handsome" father. Anke just wants to be noticed for anything. She feels she has escaped her father's abuse because she's not worth abusing. This is a disturbing part of the novel, but it works in Anke's voice. Volleyball turns out to be Anke's outlet, and a good one at that (smacking the ball over the net, etc.). As Anke grows both physically and emotionally, she learns to find her voice and speak up against the wrongs she has witnessed for so much of her life. Even if this finally does gain the ire of her father, Anke knows she's done what an adult would do.

I felt like I was left wanting more of this book and I'd really love to see a sequel. I would characterize this as a sort of Sonya Sones meets Speak novel. The character of Anke is beautifully portrayed as she grows into her new body and emotions. I'm giving this to kids immediately.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Haunting of Derek Stone/City of the Dead

Vacation at last! I'm home with the kiddies Mon and Tues, but after that I can READ READ READ all I want! I cannot wait!
Last night I finished The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead. This is the first in a creepy series of what looks like 4 books (Scholastic). Derek, his dad and his brother Ronny are on a train coming back from a convention, when the entire train derails and falls into Bordelon Gap, where at least 10 people are killed in the fall into the canyon. Derek seems to be the only survivor and is mourning with his uncle when his brother Ronny comes home in a taxi! Only, Ronny isn't really Ronny; he's someone else entirely. As you read you realize that the "dead" are returning and they are after Derek. This short volume will creep out the stoutest of readers and I can't wait to unleash it on my 7th grade boys because I think it will be a huge hit in my classroom. I was also given the ARC of Book 2- Bayou Dogs, which I will begin promptly. The "creepiness" of this book really intrigues me to read more.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jane in Bloom

I found this delightful book in my pile that would be just perfect for middle school girls.

It is no surprise that Jane's older sister, Lizzie, is in trouble with her eating disorder. And, after Lizzie dies, Jane isn't sure what to do with her new only child role. Jane's always been close to Lizzie and yet has lived in her shadow. Lizzie was the beautiful blonde-obviously haunted- who everyone noticed. As the story progresses you gradually see the reasons Lizzie might have been prone to an eating disorder. Jane eventually finds her way to "growing up" on her own and the journey is beautiful.

This book is like a milder version of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (also coming in March). While Wintergirls is definitely for older teens, Jane in Bloom can teach younger girls the perils of eating disorders; controlling, perfectionistic mothers; and possible missteps in the journey of adolescence. This book was quietly wonderful and you cheer for Jane through every page. A little romance thrown in never hurts the plot either- especially where teenage girls are concerned. Spare, lovely prose graces the novel from cover to cover.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Wow! Check this Out!

My new cool friend from Australia (The Book Chook) just graciously had me "over" for a guest blog. Read all about it here! This woman is awesome, and not just because she featured me in an entry! :) Click on the link to see the entry. Happy Reading!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Reading Time and Dreaming

So, I snuggled into my warm bed on Friday night and DEVOURED The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I had just finished the audio book of Gregor and the Code of Claw and my students were begging me to finish Hunger Games. I was on pg. 77 when I started and at 1:00 a.m. I closed the cover after the last page. The excitement and nervousness I felt just from experiencing Katniss' adventures through the page were unprecedented. And, my students are studying science fiction right now as well! Collins weaves such an original story that I'm not sure how she dreams these things up. However, I couldn't help but be reminded of Shirley Jackson's short story "The Lottery". I would love to see kids read both and compare them.

Katniss Everdeen is one of the shrewdest and spunkiest characters I've ever met. The dystopia that is Panem also reminds me of William Nicholson's Wind on Fire trilogy and the way the different sectors of society are segregated and attained. I don't even know where to start with a review except to say that this book is powerful and haunting and kind of mimics a more violent version of today's cliques in middle school! SPOILER ALERT

When Rue died I thought a part of me went with her as well. She was my favorite little darting character and I rooted for her as much as I did Katniss. The writing was powerful enough for me to give an audible intake of breath.


Susan at The Book Chook has posted an absolutely wonderful entry on what her "dream" is. You really need to check it out along with her cute new logo and the awesome pictures that go with her entries.

Also, Kidlitosphere Central is up and being run by my favorite bloggers around! The page that has a link to all children's book bloggers is just what I've been looking for. Now, I have to see how I can get on that list..... Happy Reading

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Book Ramblings

Do you ever feel overwhelmed with your TO BE READ pile? Currently, I am! Here are the books I really want to finish and can't seem to find the time to read with my busy household-

The Hunger Games by: Suzanne Collins (I did manage to listen to the last Gregor book and loved it, but the kids at school have been bugging me to finish this one so we can talk about it)

The Dragonfly Pool by: Eva Ibbotson (ever since Jen Robinson blogged about this book I 've seen it on many "best of 2008" lists. I was sucked in and am about 150 pgs. into it)

Flygirl by: Sherri L. Smith (sent to me as an ARC and it's been published already! Looks great but I haven't read anything about it anywhere else)

The Haunting of Derek Stone
by: Tony Abbott (this is a thin volume-1-that I was engrossed in immediately, but was at school and couldn't finish. It would only take an hour at most! I read about it on Ink Splot 26, a scholastic blog)

The Corrugated Castle
by: Joan Blos. I've loved other books she's written and I am currently reading this one aloud to my oldest who is learning lots about the gold rush in CA! My penchant for historical fiction seems to be rubbing off on her. It's not a fast moving adventure book, but the letter format has kept both of us reading and enjoying the life of Eldora.


The Graveyard Book by: Neil Gaiman. Even before it won the Newbery I wanted to read this book because it appeared on so many bloggers' must read list. Border's was out of it, and the public library had possibly a 6 month wait! So, I downloaded it from audible kids and transferred it to disc today. The ride to school was quite eerie with the opening scene and I must admit that I sat in my van trying to squeeze in more before I had to make the long cold trek to the school doors. I can't wait for tomorrow's drive!

Favorite Children's Books for the Twins:

Currently, the twins are way into Dr. Seuss and I think I've read Cat in the Hat about twenty times this week. That's okay, though! I'm happy to do it-

My personal favorites from Christmas are:

The Girl Inside the Castle Inside the Museum by:Kate Bernheimer and Nicoletta Ceccoli (absolutely GORGEOUS art!)

The Tear Thief by: Carol Ann Duffy and Nicoletta Ceccoli (not only is the art gorgeous, but the story is touching and calming for any child with tears)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More about Reading/Read 180

I wanted to discuss Read 180. While I think Scholastic is a fabulous company and I use them often, I am very opposed to canned reading programs. Then, while discussing this with colleagues today, they informed me that students are making some reading progress using this system. One person told me: "Basically, we're making up for the lack of being read to as a child." Read 180 involves lots of audio in addition to other forms of reading comprehension improvement. How sad that educators must do this! Let's try and figure out how much money it would SAVE school districts if everyone read to their children on a daily basis! Each system costs around $60,000 for a district. How many districts in the US use Read 180 or a similar program? We could take that money and make sure that books were in the hands of parents when kids are born so they can read and read and read to them.

Here in Michigan, (and specifically my town) there is a group called Baby Book Club. Actually, now it's now called The Family Book Club. Look it up and see if you can help!