Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

I have to confess. I don't usually shy away from novels because of their length, but this one I did. So, I got it on audio and the kids and I listened to it throughout the week. Well, I love puzzles and critical thinking, so this one was great! Plus, I think it gave my own children a new way to look at problems from a different angle.

Reynie, Sticky, Kate and Constance are alone in the world for various different reasons. When eccentric Mr. Benedict has them go through a variety of intelligence and integrity tests, these are the children who come through with flying colors. They are ensconced in Benedict's mansion filled with thousands of books (yum)and he tells them his ultimate plan. He needs the children to save the world from ultimate disaster/takeover at the hands of the evil Mr. Curtain, creator and director of the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened or LIVE- which backwards spells EVIL. The puzzles presented here are wonderful for keeping brains sharp. A great book for kids to read over summer where it seems our district reading test is good at identifying summer "non-readers".

And, Happy Birthday to my little "Benedicts"- Are you both really 6 already?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Schooling, Audio and More...

After a few days/weeks of total chaos, school has finally begun for everyone in my household. The private school likes to mess things up and start one day after the public, therefore messing up my babysitting schedule. Anyway,....this year I am: a yoga student, a teacher, a mom, a wife, a Daisy leader, a department chair,a book reader and reviewer, a person vying for a position on a book award committee, a tennis player,a small business owner, an oblate, a soccer mom, a critic teacher and many, many others. So, things have been a bit crazy around here.

I did get time to finish the 7th 39 Clues Book: The Viper's Nest. Yes, I'm a bit behind, but I have the rest waiting in a stack. We're half way through Book 8, eagerly awaiting 9 and 10. When are the movies going to begin? If there was ever a series written to be made into films, this one is it! Sometimes I get bogged down with all of the information in this series, but I do have a prediction as to what Amy and Dan are looking for. This is a must read-aloud for building predicting skills with kids. I read Book 1- The Maze of Bones to struggling readers last year and they loved it. The action makes the series incredibly appealing. Additionally, I am really enjoying the audio versions on my walks around the neighborhood. The narration is well-paced and the voices are wonderful considering all of the characters in the series.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn

This is the latest installment from the author I seem to have craved since the spring. I think she is definitely an undiscovered treat for my students, as not many of them have read her books over the years. What a treasure trove for horror/mystery/ghost story fans. The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall doesn't disappoint and delighted me with a Bronte-esque feel to it.

In 19th century London, Florence is suddenly whisked away to the mansion of her wealthy Great-Uncle who has been looking for the orphan for years. Florence finds another distant and sickly cousin (think young Linton)living in the house along with an ill-tempered Great-Aunt (sister of the Uncle). Soon Florence finds out that James' sister, Sophie, died the year before from a fall and is haunting Florence for unknown reasons. In one of her most haunting novels yet, Hahn has captured both fear, illness and mystery in a most gothic tradition. Middle grade readers will be happy with the ending and my 6 year-olds were fascinated that there was "blood on the cover, Mommy." (part of the picture)


Okay. Just about everyone has weighed in on this long awaited finale, so I'll keep this short and sweet.

I LOVE SUZANNE COLLINS. okay- that's enough.

No, really....this book definitely portrayed a slightly different mood than the others, but it should have. I loved the interplay between characters but found the ending leaving me with a desire to re-read the novel and digest it a bit more. After all, I ate it in GULPS! Couldn't seem to get through it fast enough.

As a school novel, I think Collins offers teachers a plethora of thematic topics to discuss: war, imperialism, bravery, choices, death- whether it's justified or not, survival. The whole trilogy is rich in themes that either affect students now or will in the future. I'm so curious to see what the students think, but I won't be able to ask them until next week!