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!