Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Tale Dark & Grimm

Dark. Bloody. Violent. Disturbing. Brilliant.

My ten-year-old, a somewhat sensitive reader, would be scarred for life by A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz.

But that does not change the fact that it is awesome!

Not the right choice for Joliet Reads, but awesome!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Cow Loves Cookies

I knew I had to read this book as soon as I heard the title. Cookies? Cow? I'm there! Especially with Karma Wilson as the author - I love her books about Bear and his friends.

Oh happy day! I loved The Cow Loves Cookies by Karma Wilson and plan to use it with the little ones in a few weeks when our theme is cookies. It would also be a great Joliet Reads choice for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Hmmmm. I can't imagine where I got this idea, but maybe I should bake cookies when I get home. Cookies and milk. Yum!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Magnificent 12: The Call

I was really looking forward to reading The Call by Michael Grant. I had read positive things in a blog (must be more critical about which blogs I read) and was psyched.

I enjoyed the first fifty pages, and told others good things based on the book's beginning.

I can't remember when my attitude about the book changed, but I lost enthusiasm sometime before page 100 and had to force myself to finish the book. (In retrospect, I probably should have abandoned it.)

I'm not sure why my feelings about it changed. It might have been the alternating chapters between present and ancient past or the humor that didn't make me laugh (or smile). Hard to say....

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

I just read Clever Jack Takes the Cake by Candace Fleming.

I think this picture book would be an excellent choice for students in grades 1-3.

In an interesting twist on other traditional Clever Jack tales, this Jack really IS clever. He makes smart trades to acquire the ingredients needed to bake a cake for the princess. He then demonstrates resilience and creative thinking when he is forced to give away parts of the birthday cake to blackbirds, a troll and others.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Camille Saint-Saens' The Carnival of the Animals

Our committee has been known to look for poetry that is accompanied by a CD. For a different spin, this poetry has been written to accompany a work of classical music, "Carnival of the Animals" by Camille Saint-Saens. A CD of the musical recording is included.

Here is a review from A Year of Reading blog:

Poetry + Music = Fun

Camille Saint-Saëns’s The Carnival of the Animals
new verses by Jack Prelutsky
illustrated by Mary GrandPré
includes CD of music and verses
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010

This music, long used to introduce children to classical music, does not need poems to suggest the animals each piece describes with sound.

These poems, written by the first U.S. Children's Poet Laureate, do not need musical accompaniment to help their rhythms and rhymes suggest the animals they describe -- the lumbering elephants, the flitting birds, the obnoxious donkeys, the slow and ancient tortoises.

But this music and these poems together, make the music more fun to listen to and the poems more fun to hear and say. What a great way to introduce children to the sounds of language along with the sounds of the orchestra.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pink Me Up

Now for another picture book recommendation:

Pink Me Up by Charise Mericle Harper could be a good choice for preschoolers. While the book has a pink-loving female protagonist, it also shows creativity and good problem solving skills as the little girl helps figure out how to "pink up" her father.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guinea Dog by Patrick Jennings

It made me very happy to finally read a book that is PERFECT for Joliet Reads.

That book is Guinea Dog, by Patrick Jennings. It is the story of a boy who desperately wants a dog and winds up with a guinea pig who ACTS like a dog. This is a guinea pig who comes when called, fetches, wags its tail and even plays dead. It is very possibly the coolest guinea pig ever.

Did I mention that Guinea Dog is less than 200 pages long?


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn

I was alarmed by the jacket flap for Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn. It sounded way too scary to be a read aloud for the fourth and fifth grade classes. But it's not, and I recommend it as a Joliet Reads choice.

There were scary moments, but I think kids in fourth and fifth grade could handle them. One reservation is that one of the bad guys, Silas, punched his ex-wife and child. However, it had been established that Silas was a really bad person who had spent time in jail. In addition, all of the villains were arrested so will face consequences, which should meet students' need for justice.

Picture Books!!!

My newest recommendations are Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don't) by Barbara Bottner, My Garden by Kevin Henkes, Hot Rod Hamster by Cynthia Lord, April and Esme, Tooth Fairies by Bob Graham and Mr. Elephanter by Lark Pien.

I like them all, but think the small scale of the illustrations in Mr. Elephanter might make it a better choice for one-on-one reading than large groups.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Picture Books!!!

Guess who's been reading picture books again?

My newest recommendations are City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems, A Pig Parade Is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black and Little Mouse and the Big Cupcake by Thomas Taylor.

Read them. You will thank me!!!

Justin Fisher Declares War!

I read Justin Fisher Declares War! by James Preller last night.

It's a definite contender for Joliet Reads. It is a school story with a male protagonist, is appropriate for grades four and five, and is only 135 pages. Smiles all around! :-)

Friday, September 17, 2010

More Books I Want to Read

I have just added two more books to my "Want to Read Pile."

Those books are Justin Fisher Declares War by James Preller and Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes.

I first learned about them a while back, but was too focused on Toddler Time to even think about mentioning them on this blog.

Here is the blog entry from "A Year of Reading" that sparked my interest in Justin Fisher Declares War:

JUSTIN FISHER DECLARES WAR was my last read of the summer. I am a huge James Preller fan but this may be my favorite from his list. Most of my teaching life has been in grades 3, 4, and 5. I feel very at home in 4th and 5th grade classrooms. I love the age and James Preller must also love this age. He really understands them and the struggles they deal with. Over the years, I have learned what a huge transition this age is for kids. They go from being little kids, to being big kids and it is sometimes a little confusing.

In this book, we learn that since 3rd grade, Justin Fisher has been the class clown. He is always up to something. He has good friends but in 5th grade, that seems to be changing. His friends and classmates have had enough and are starting to keep their distance. For me, this book is about figuring things out. Things that are cute and funny when you are 8, are no longer cute and funny when you are 11. This is a hard lesson for kids and finding their place in the world gets trickier. But Justin finds his way, thanks to an amazing young teacher (one that clearly deserves a spot on 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Lit!).

If I were in the classroom this year, this would probably be my first read aloud. The first read aloud has always been key and the choice is always a hard one but there are so many reasons that JUSTIN FISHER DECLARES WAR would make a great first read aloud. First of all, it will appeal to both boys and girls. Justin is a character that you cheer for and also one that does some crazy things that make you laugh. For me, laughter is always important in that first read aloud. It helps the community grow and helps everyone feel comfortable. The message "we will laugh here" is one I want kids to know right away. Secondly, the conversation that would happen around a book like this would be powerful. And this book will only provide the beginning of these conversations. James Preller understands this age level and kids will see themselves and their classmates in this book. Finally, the book's length would give lots of time for discussion--135 pages makes it short enough to set the stage for great books and great conversation. I am so hoping someone reads this book aloud early in the year and blogs about the conversations!

I read about Tortilla Sun in the "Mother Daughter Book Club" blog. Here's that blog entry:

Book Review: Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes

Izzy and her mother have moved more times than she wants to remember. She’s just getting settled again when her mom announces she’s received a research grant to study in Costa Rica and Izzy will be spending the summer with her nana in New Mexico.

Izzy doesn’t know her grandmother very well, and she’s not at all happy about being dumped for a couple of months while her mom is gone. But once she arrives at the small adobe village near Albuquerque, magic starts to happen. As Izzy begins to discover more about her family and herself she begins to feel like she may have finally found a place to call home.

Tortilla Sun by Jennifer Cervantes weaves a little magic into the story and a lot of magic into readers as the tale unwinds. Izzy’s nana has a way with tortillas and a way with people as well. The story of Izzy’s parents and her own past slowly comes out in small bites to help her digest it a little bit at a time, and in the process she comes to know and love the people of the village.

Tortilla Sun had me longing to see the Sandia Mountains, feel the warmth of the sun and hear the call of the wind. New Mexico comes as vividly alive as the bright colors worn by many of its people. This book is recommended for ages 9 to 12, but I think girls up to 14 or 15 may enjoy it too. And the moms are likely to be delighted by Izzy’s journey of self-discovery. Issues to discuss include family heritage, ethnic traditions, dealing with grief and finding acceptance.

Now I just have to find a few free moments to read!!!!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book I Want to Read

I know I know. This blog is supposed to be about books I've already read.

But sometimes I read about a book and it sounds great and I want to let others know about it before I can actually find the time to read the book myself.

May I present.... Emily's Fortune by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. It is less than 200 pages and is supposed to be exciting and scary historical fiction.

Here's the blog entry from A Year of Reading:

Monday, September 13, 2010
EMILY'S FORTUNE by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Emily's Fortune
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Random House (Delacorte Press), 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

When we finished Clementine, Friend of the Week, our first read aloud of the year, I asked my class what kind of book they wanted to hear next. They wanted action, adventure, scary and longer than Clementine.

My pick? Emily's Fortune.

Action? Tree climbing, stagecoach rides, near-drowning...Check.

Adventure? Orphaned girl disguised as a boy running away from an evil uncle who wants her ten million dollar inheritance...Check.

Scary? "The man at the bar wore black boots up to the knee, brown britches, and a brown shirt. The sleeves of his shirt were rolled up to the elbows; his large arms bulged out of his sleeves, and on one of the huge arms was...a tiger tattoo." Well, probably not scary by ten year-old standards, but it will have to do.

Emily's Fortune is only 147 pages, so it won't qualify for longer than Clementine, but it takes a look at friendship and trust that will make a nice compare/contrast with Clementine, Friend of the Week. It will also give us more cliffhangers than one book should be allowed to have, as well as some extra-"juicy" words and phrases for our word wall:

"Who in flippin' flapjacks..."
"Where in tumblin' tarnation..."
"What in the hokie smokies..."
"How in the ding-dong dickens..."

Time to add another book to my "to read" pile!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adorable Alphabet Book!

When I first heard that there was a new alphabet book that featured peas, I was not that enthused. I mean, PEAS? Not my first choice in alphabetical subject matter.

But then I read LMNO peas by Keith Baker. There is a large clear representation of each letter of the alphabet with adorable peas frolicking nearby.

As an example, there were illustrations of peas doing acrobatics, painting a picture and orbiting in space for the letter A, along with this sentence: "We're acrobats, artists, and astronauts in space." For other letters, we see peas who are campers, dancers, readers, swimmers and zoologists. And they are all having so much fun!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Recommendations from Kids

I was talking books with some fifth grade boys yesterday.

They recommended The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan and the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan (which they considered worth rereading). There also was a VERY ENTHUSIASTIC recommendation for Jake Ransom and the Skull King's Shadow by James Rollins.

Just thought I'd share!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some recommendations from Planet Esme

I wish I knew how to effectively link to other web sites. Arrrrrrrrrgh!

Anyway, here is the url for Planet Esme's recent blog entry, which is partly about excellent chapter books that sound promising for Joliet Reads:

Please note that she started with a review of Origami Yoda....

Friday, July 23, 2010


I had such high hopes for Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka and Francesco Sedita. I was looking forward to having another science fiction book I could enthusiastically recommend to kids. deep sigh.

Other people might really love it. But I didn't. I guess it was okay. I managed to finish reading it. But I didn't really want to. deep sigh.

I think it's worth having other people on the committee read, nonetheless. I have a quirky sense of humor - maybe people who laugh at more "normal" like sitcoms on t.v. would like it. (Or more to the point, maybe kids will find it funny.)

It's cool that there are web sites that extend the story. They are pretty fun - I especially liked the site, but was okay.

I'll try to find some reviews so we can get other viewpoints.

Kirkus Reviews
P.S. 858 fifth grader Michael K. had hoped for a normal first day in his new school, but what he gets is crazy-weird. He's paired with two other new students, Bob (who talks like a commercial) and Jennifer (who sounds like a wrestling announcer), who seem to know him and who think he can do anything. They and their loquacious hamster, Major Fluffy, even say that they are aliens sent to Earth to recruit SPHDZ. They are sure Michael K can help them recruit 3.14 million kids-if not, the Earth will be turned off! While Michael K. is trying to figure out how to escape or at least mitigate the total weirdstorm, Agent Umber of the Anti-Alien Agency is hot on the trail. With this series kick-off, Scieszka and Sedita have just written the book (literally) on how to integrate new media into a "traditional" book for children. The story's websites are all functional (not to mention funny) and extend the narrative. Prigmore's black-and-white illustrations are a perfect match; in fact, artwork and text have rarely worked so well together in this format. Hysterical, sneakily instructive fun. You will be SPHDZ! (Multi-platform science fiction. 7-12)

Publishers Weekly
Michael K. (nudge nudge, young Kafka fans) is hoping for a smooth transition as he starts fifth grade at a new school in Brooklyn. But things go downhill when two weirdoes named Jennifer and Bob glom onto him, revealing that they're aliens from the planet Spaceheadz; their leader is the class hamster; and they believe Michael K. can lead 3.14 million Earth kids in a movement to save the planet from being "turned off." Additionally, they must deal with a haplessly persistent agent with the Anti Alien Agency (motto: "To Protect, and to Serve, and to Always Look Up"). To get the full experience, readers can log on to a number of Web sites woven into the story:, for example, is a funny spoof of a government site. But while Michael K. makes an appealing fish out of water, the story, parceled out in bite-size chapters, feels both padded and flat. And the central running joke--that Bob and Jennifer talk like TV commercials--comes across as recycled material from a Saturday Night Live Coneheads skit. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 7–10. (June)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

I'm usually so far behind on my "to read" list that I don't read ARC's (advance reader copies), but I made an exception for Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

Why, you ask? Andrea loved it so much she wasn't willing to let it leave her house (or let anyone else read it). And she's a generous kind of person. (Normally!)

And I really really loved their previous collaboration Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. (The book, not the movie.)

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Dash and Lily was actually BETTER! I may even have to buy it so I can keep it always. (And I rarely buy books - work in a library and am extremely frugal/thrifty/cheap.) But this one's a keeper!

The Clementine series

I don't remember if I've previously mentioned my deep and abiding love for the Clementine series by Sara Pennypacker.

The humorous books are at about the same reading level as Junie B. and Judy Moody, but they are wa-a-a-ay better. Just think: funny with character development and a protagonist you can care about. (No offense to Junie B.) Clementine is very creative and has a good heart, EVEN if she calls her baby brother by a variety of vegetable names (broccoli, okra, squash, etc.)instead of his real name.

The newest book in the series is Clementine: Friend of the Week.

To state the obvious, it was excellent!!!

More Picture Books

Guess I'm just a blogging fool today. I have been meaning to mention a few other picture books this summer.

I love the bright cheerful illustrations and creative thinking in A Balloon for Isabel by Deborah Underwood. I enjoyed the heartwarming story and illustrations in Fluffy and Baron by Laura Rankin. And Mr. President Goes to School by Rick Walton is VERY funny.

Another picture book

Guess who spent the morning reading picture books about chickens.... My next recommendation is Tough Chicks by Cece Meng. It was very funny!

Adorable baby bunny!

I found this photo while I was searching for the cover of Wee Little Bunny. It is too cute not to share!

Picture Books!

Just a quick mention of some picture books worthy of consideration. I enjoyed each of them for different reasons.

First of all, there's the humor and photos in Tillie Lays an Egg by Terry Golson. Second, there's the humor and helpfulness in Chickens to the Rescue by John Himmelman. Finally, there's the sweet story and soft, touchable bunny in Wee Little Bunny by Lauren Thompson.

Smiles all around!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

While the weather has been less than ideal, it has been an excellent summer to find books that can be read out loud to fourth and fifth graders!!!

My newest favorite is The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

It is funny, features male protagonists but will also appeal to girls, and has lots of Star Wars references. Huzzah!

Here's a review from the blog 100 Scope Notes:

What’s the next level above gold? Platinum? In both content and appearance, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is reluctant reader platinum. The Star Wars association will draw attention, but the spot-on portrayal of the awkwardness, friendships, and first crushes of 6th grade life will hit home.

The stage is set from the first lines:

"The big question: Is origami Yoda real? Well, of course he’s real. I mean, he’s a real finger puppet made out of a real piece of paper. But I mean: Is he REAL? Does he really know things? Can he see the future? Does he use the force?"

The evidence is inconclusive. He’s a finger puppet, true, but he also gives out some pretty incredible advice. Or does that advice actually come from Dwight, the outcast who created origami Yoda? Probably not – Dwight’s too weird to actually provide sound council. Tommy is determined to find out if the finger puppet can be trusted. He has a girl dilemma, you see, and needs some help. To get to the bottom of things, he’s put together firsthand accounts of his friends’ helpful, confusing, and odd interactions with Origami Yoda. Each chapter is a new anecdote, from a different perspective. When the middle school dance comes around, Tommy has to decide if he should listen to the tiny Jedi master or not.

Angleberger nails the tone here. The dialogue, the inside jokes, the mindset of an outsider – it just feels authentic. Fans of his solid Qwikpick Adventure Society will find Origami Yoda just as easy to relate to.

The interest level is high, the humor is frequent, and the situations authentic. A winner, appears to be, it does.

Here are some reviews from journals:

From School Library Journal
Grade 3–6 — For Tommy, the only question is whether or not Origami Yoda is real. Of course he's real as a small puppet on Dwight's finger. But does the oracle possess magic power? In order to find out, he decides to compile scientific evidence from the experiences of those who asked Origami Yoda for help. His friend Harvey is invited to comment on each story because he thinks Yoda is nothing but a "green paper wad." Tommy also comments because he's supposedly trying to solve the puzzle. In actuality, the story is about boys and girls in sixth grade trying to figure out how being social works. In fact, Tommy says, "…it's about this really cool girl, Sara, and whether or not I should risk making a fool of myself for her." The situations that Yoda has a hand in are pretty authentic, and the setting is broad enough to be any school. The plot is age-old but with the twist of being presented on crumpled pages with cartoon sketches, supposed hand printing, and varying typefaces. Kids should love it.

From Booklist
Tommy and his friends think that Dwight is a weirdo who’s “always talking about robots or spiders or something.” In true Dwight fashion, he shows up at school one day brandishing a little origami Yoda finger puppet. The really weird thing is that it doles out very un-Dwight-like bits of wisdom, and the mystery is whether the Yoda is just Dwight talking in a funny voice or if it actually has mystical powers. The book is structured as a collection of stories gathered by Tommy and told by kids who either believe or don’t. See, Tommy has a more vested interest than just idle curiosity—he is dying to know if he can trust Yoda’s advice about asking the cute girl to dance with him at the PTA Fun Night. Origami Yoda—a sort of talking cootie catcher—is the kind of thing that can dominate all those free moments in school for a few weeks. Angleberger’s rendering of such a middle-grade cultural obsession is not only spot-on but also reveals a few resonant surprises hidden in the folds. Naturally, Yoda-making instructions are included. Grades 4-6. --Ian Chipman

I recommended the book to Natalie, but am not sure whether she'll choose to read it. She's pretty intent on reading Rebecca Caudill nominees this summer!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams

I have found another good 4th and 5th grade choice for Joliet Reads. While it has a female protagonist, she has a younger brother and the book has a *special* guest who is a prominent male.

The 242 page book is The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams, written by Rhonda Hayter. It is light, fluffy and fun.

Here are some reviews:

From Booklist -
For fifth-grader Abbie, being a modern-day witch can be fun, especially when she gets to do primary research for school by time-traveling. It also brings challenges, such as hiding her family’s magical abilities. Life gets more complicated when her new kitten turns out to be 13-year-old Thomas Edison, under enchantment. Soon, Abbie’s regular worries about performing in the school play or preventing her little brother from turning into a wolf and biting his teacher give way to new concerns about how to remove Tom’s spell and return him to his own time. Abbie’s breezy, personable narrative incorporates droll asides and references to Edison’s life and to famous literature, from Alice in Wonderland to Harry Potter. Her colorfully drawn family includes her physician father, whose attempts at curing dreaded “Witch Flu” add humor and depth. Whether facing familiar issues (fitting in, sibling challenges) or fantastical ones, such as developing and using her magic responsibly, Abbie is an appealing, peppy protagonist who finds that there are “all kinds of magic in the world . . . with or without witchcraft.” Grades 4-6. --Shelle Rosenfeld

Excerpt from Kirkus -
"Delivers plenty of entertainment to the elementary and middle-grade audience interested in magical fantasy....Light as cotton candy and just as tasty." --Kirkus

One Crazy Summer

There's been considerable Newbery talk about One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia.

It received starred reviews from School Library Journal, Booklist, Hornbook and Kirkus. (And possibly The Bulletin of Children's Books - I would need to doublecheck that.)

It was an interesting read. I was 7 years old in 1968 so have minimal (okay, no) knowledge of the Black Panther Movement. I vaguely remember that some people with big afros were on trial for something, but that's about it. (Along with the impression that Black Panthers were "dangerous.") I had no idea that the Black Panthers fed children or did other positive things for their community.

Given the time period, I was aware that some women were more interested in "finding themselves" than being mothers. (My mother-in-law was one of those women.) And I think there have probably been mothers who don't value motherhood throughout history.

I can't say I LOVED the book. I resented the way the mother treated her children, and couldn't get past her behavior. However, I could appreciate the book and see all of its strengths.

Here are some reviews I found on Amazon:

From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 4–7 — It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poet who ran off years before and is living in Oakland. It's the summer after Black Panther founder Huey Newton was jailed and member Bobby Hutton was gunned down trying to surrender to the Oakland police, and there are men in berets shouting "Black Power" on the news. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe what her grandmother has said about her, that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that she can work on her poetry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way. Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
*Starred Review* Eleven-year-old Delphine has only a few fragmented memories of her mother, Cecile, a poet who wrote verses on walls and cereal boxes, played smoky jazz records, and abandoned the family in Brooklyn after giving birth to her third daughter. In the summer of 1968, Delphine’s father decides that seeing Cecile is “something whose time had come,” and Delphine boards a plane with her sisters to Cecile’s home in Oakland. What they find there is far from their California dreams of Disneyland and movie stars. “No one told y’all to come out here,” Cecile says. “No one wants you out here making a mess, stopping my work.” Like the rest of her life, Cecile’s work is a mystery conducted behind the doors of the kitchen that she forbids her daughters to enter. For meals, Cecile sends the girls to a Chinese restaurant or to the local Black Panther–run community center, where Cecile is known as Sister Inzilla and where the girls begin to attend youth programs. Regimented, responsible, strong-willed Delphine narrates in an unforgettable voice, but each of the sisters emerges as a distinct, memorable character, whose hard-won, tenuous connections with their mother build to an aching, triumphant conclusion. Set during a pivotal moment in African American history, this vibrant novel shows the subtle ways that political movements affect personal lives; but just as memorable is the finely drawn, universal story of children reclaiming a reluctant parent’s love. Grades 4-7. --Gillian Engberg


“Delphine is the pitch-perfect older sister, wise beyond her years, an expert at handling her siblings...while the girls are caught up in the difficulties of adults, their resilience is celebrated and energetically told with writing that snaps off the page” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review) )

“The setting and time period are as vividly realized as the characters, and readers will want to know more about Delphine and her sisters after they return to Brooklyn...” (Horn Book (starred review) )

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Cinderella Society

From time to time, I read books outside the age parameters for Joliet Reads. I know. Quite shocking.

I recently read The Cinderella Society by Kay Cassidy. Loved it while I read it, despite a little too much teen angst (it's a YA book), but found some gaps in logic a week or two after reading it. I still recommend it highly, especially if you're ready for some Girl Power and Good triumphing over Evil (or Wickeds, to use the book's terminology).

A pick and a pan

Hurray! I read another book that would be an excellent 4th and 5th grade choice for Joliet Reads! That book is The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood (and is the first book in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series). It will appeal to children who love the Lemony Snicket series... but is way better!

Now for the pan. I was very disappointed in The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry. It was kind of cute, but became a bad choice for our committee when she had a character "moon" another character in one of the later chapters of the book. In addition, the princess's suitors were beyond cringeworthy - their descriptions were disgusting enough to put me off food for a while.

It is a Bad Thing to interfere with my appetite or enjoyment of food. A. Very. Bad. Thing.

Such cute fairies!

I saw the cutest handmade fairies on a web site. Here's the rose fairy!

Here's the web site, in case you'd like to see more:


Friday, April 16, 2010

Books That Heal Kids

I just learned about a new blog that talks about books that can help children deal with difficult situations.

Here's the blog:

Books That Heal Kids

Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage

How's this for excellent? I already have read a book that could be a good choice for fourth and fifth graders!

That book is: Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage by Kaye Umansky.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Read Roger: Love Letter to Japan

Check out this blog entry by Roger Sutton for an interesting bit of information!

Read Roger: Love Letter to Japan

I was not surprised to hear that people are in the market for middle grade fiction, considering the difficult time our committee has had finding good choices to read out loud to the fourth and fifth graders.

I've quietly started looking around for books we could choose next year, and hope we'll find it an easier quest.

Note to self: must read The Incorrigibles.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Best 100 Children's Novels

I thought y'all might be interested in Betsy Bird's list of Top 100 Children's Novels. You can find out her methodology by checking the Fuse #8 blog. And you too can predict which novel (that has not yet been listed) will be number one! I'm leaning toward Wrinkle in Time or Charlotte's Web.



Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels

100. The Egypt Game by Snyder

99. The Indian in the Cupboard by Banks

98. Children of Green Knowe by Boston

97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by DiCamillo

96. The Witches by Dahl

95. Pippi Longstocking by Lindgren

94. Swallows and Amazons by Ransome

93. Caddie Woodlawn by Brink

92. Ella Enchanted by Levine

91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Sachar

90. Sarah, Plain and Tall by MacLachlan

89. Ramona and Her Father by Cleary

88. The High King by Alexander

87. The View from Saturday by Konigsburg

86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by Rowling

85. On the Banks of Plum Creek by Wilder

84. The Little White Horse by Goudge

83. The Thief by Turner

82. The Book of Three by Alexander

81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Lin

80. The Graveyard Book by Gaiman

79. All of a Kind Family by Taylor

78. Johnny Tremain by Forbes

77. The City of Ember by DuPrau

76. Out of the Dust by Hesse

75. Love That Dog by Creech

74. The Borrowers by Norton

73. My Side of the Mountain by George

72. My Father’s Dragon by Gannett

71. An Unfortunate Series of Events: The Bad Beginning by Snicket

70. Betsy-Tacy by Lovelace

69. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Stewart

68. Walk Two Moons by Creech

67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Colville

66. Henry Huggins by Cleary

65. Ballet Shoes by Streatfeild

64. A Long Way from Chicago by Peck

63. Gone-Away Lake by Enright

62. The Secret of the Old Clock by Keene

61. Stargirl by Spinelli

60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

59. Inkheart by Funke

58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Aiken

57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Cleary

56. Number the Stars by Lowry

55. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Paterson

54. The BFG by Dahl

53. The Wind in the Willows by Grahame

52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Selznick

51. The Saturdays by Enright

#50 Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell (1960)

#49 Frindle by Andrew Clements (1996)

#48 The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (2005)

#47 Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999)

#46 Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961)

#45 The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (1995)

#44 Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (1972)

#43 Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary (1968)

#42 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1935)

#41 The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare (1958)

#40 The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (1900)

#39 When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (2009)

#38 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (2003)

#37 Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1976)

#36 Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (1970)

#35 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (2000)

#34 The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (1995)

#33 James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl (1961)

#32 Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (1971)

#31 Half Magic by Edward Eager (1954)

#30 Winnie-the Pooh by A.A. Milne (1926)

#29 The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper (1973)

#28 A Little Princess by Francis Hodgson Burnett (1905)

#27 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)/Alice Through the Looking Glass (1872) by Lewis Carroll

#26 Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1989)

#25 Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868 & 1869)

#24 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (2007)

#23 Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (1932)

#22 The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (2003)

#21 Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (2005)

#20 Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (1975)

#19 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (1964)

#18 Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)

#17 Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1990)

#16 Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)

#15 Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2000)

#14 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (1999)

#13 Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1977)

#12 The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien (1938)

#11 The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (1978)

#10 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

#9 Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (1908)

#8 The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1911)

#7 The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)

#6 Holes by Louis Sachar (1998)

#5 From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg (1967)

#4 The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (1950)

#3 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling (1997)

#2 A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle (1962)

It looks like Charlotte's Web is number 1!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More possibilities for grades 4 & 5

On Joy's recommendation, I recently read All the Lovely Bad Ones by Mary Downing Hahn and Kimchi & Calamari by Rose Kent.

All the Lovely Bad Ones was a little creepy for me, but I'm not a big fan of scary books.

I really liked Kimchi & Calamari and think it would be an excellent choice for Joliet Reads. For once, no reservations! The main character is 13, but the book is still appropriate for students in fourth and fifth grade.

The child's fourth grade teacher has been reading Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate out loud to the class, so I decided to read it myself. The book is sad enough that I teared up several times last night. (But then, I cry pretty easily.) More on this book later....

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The "To Read" Pile

In addition to books that others have liked, my pile includes:

The Totally Made-up Civil War Diary of Amanda MacLeish by Claudia Mills
How Oliver Olson Changed the World by Claudia Mills
The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech

I also really really want to read Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage by Kaye Umansky, but it is 297 pages so won't work out for Joliet Reads. deep sigh.

What else we've read lately

Here are some other books that committee members have read recently:

Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in It by Sundee Tucker Frazier
Flawed Dogs: The Shocking Raid on Westminster by Berkely Breathed
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking and Other Natural Disasters by Lenore Look
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Wishworks, Inc. by Stephanie Tolan

Joy thought these books looked interesting:

Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale
Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson by Sue Stauffacher

Committee members began these books but decided they wouldn't work out:

Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
Wicked Will: A Mystery of Young William Shakespeare by Bailey MacDonald
The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley

My choice for the Caldecott Award

Without question, my favorite picture book of the year. The illustrations are amazing and completely integrated with the minimal text. I will be very upset if it doesn't win the award. VERY UPSET! Not to mention surly. It would be best to avoid me for a day or so if a different book wins the award.