Friday, December 16, 2011

There But for The by Ali Smith

There but for theThere but for the by Ali Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Based on the reviews and descriptions of this book on Best of the Year lists, I expected to love this book. A bit quirky? Fine. Written from different viewpoints? Fine. Not linear? Probably fine, just so there was some sort of logic that I could follow.

They neglected to mention that the wit and wordplay became precious, or that the reader would reach the end of the book still having no clue why Miles (aka Milo) had locked himself in the room for months, which I found incredibly frustrating.

It seems this is a book for special readers and I wasn't special enough....

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Every Thing On It by Shel Silverstein

Every Thing on ItEvery Thing on It by Shel Silverstein

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are times when posthumous publication of an author's work is a bad thing.

But that is certainly not the case with Every Thing on It by Shel Silverstein. Hurray hurray!

I think it would be a great choice for Joliet Reads - definitely for grades 4 and 5, maybe for third graders.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas

Is Everyone Ready for Fun?Is Everyone Ready for Fun? by Jan Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So. Much. Fun.

Excellent for toddlers, preschoolers AND early elementary. Fun fun fun!!!!!!

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The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

The Quiet BookThe Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An excellent (quiet) book for one-on-one sharing with preschoolers. Shhhhhhhh.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011


Laura has been very busy reading.

She recommended these chapter books: The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy, We the Children by Andrew Clements, Cat Found by Ingrid Lee, Chengli and the Silk Road Caravan by Hildi Kang, The Case of the Lost Boy by Dori Hillestad Butler, The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester and Runaway Twin by Peg Kehret.

She recommended these picture books: Strega Nona's Gift by Tomie DePaola, Driscilla's Halloween by Sally Walker, Grace for President by Kelly Di Pucchio and Imogene's Last Stand by Candace Fleming.

She recommended these nonfiction books: Nic Bishop Butterflies and Moths, Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins and Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets by Kathleen Krull.

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel / 1 Dog = Chaos

I strongly recommend 8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel / 1 Dog = Chaos by Vivian Vande Velde for Joliet Reads.

It is the funny story of what happens when a dog chases a squirrel into an elementary school after school. That would be... chaos!

I'll let the rest of you decide on the appropriate grade level....

Runaway Twin

Runaway TwinRunaway Twin by Peg Kehret

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was okay. I concluded it wasn't appropriate as a readaloud for grades 4-5 thanks to input from my sixth grade daughter and the age of the protagonist (13) who is running away from a foster home. I did not feel compelled to finish it just for fun. (So many books, so little time.)

The child's reaction was, "Why are you reading THAT?" when she saw it on our library book shelf. She then reminded me how much she had disliked it, especially the ending, and I remembered how much she griped about it at the time she read it.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Jan suggested these picture books:

Utterly Otterly Night by Mary Casanova, Bear's Loose Tooth by Karma Wilson, Hampire! by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen, Perfect Snow by Barbara Reid, Gonzalo Grabs the Good Life by Janice Levy and Strega Nona's Gift by Tomie DePaola.

She suggested these nonfiction books:

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet, Christian the Lion by Anthony Bourke and Gifts from the Gods by Lise Lunge-Larsen.

She suggested these chapter books:

Eight Class Pets Plus One Squirrel by Vivian Vande Velde, Pie by Sarah Weeks, Nurk by Ursula Vernon, The Case of the Lost Boy (The Buddy Files) by Dori Butler and The Books of Elsewhere by Jacqueline West.


Joy suggested these picture books:

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine, One Foot Two Feet by Peter Maloney, The Busy Tree by Jennifer Ward, Snowmen All Year by Caralyn Buehner, The Christmas Coat by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve, Even Monsters Need Haircuts by Matthew McElligott, Interrupting Chicken by David Stein, and Where Is Home, Little Pip? by Karma Wilson.


Jane suggested these picture books:

Fortune Cookies by Albert Bitterman, Say Hello to Zorro by Carter Goodrich, Who Loves the Fall? by Bob Raczka and Chicken, Chicken, Duck by Nadia Krilanovich.

She also suggested this book of poems:

Bookspeak!: Poems About Books by Laura Purdie Salas.

Intriguing Chapter Books....

First of all, here's a book that fits into the "good so far, but I haven't read many pages yet category":

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck

Here are some chapter books that committee members found intriguing but hadn't yet read:

The Secret Spiral by Gillian Neimark, The Ogre of Oglefort by Eva Ibbotson, Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald, Theodore Boone: The Abduction by John Grisham, Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith, Chronicles of the Red King: The Secret Kingdom by Jenny Nimmo and The Lemonade Crime by Jacqueline Davies.

These books were ruled out: Hound Dog True by Linda Urban, The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan. (Hound Dog True was a quiet book that might not appeal to a broad audience, The Unforgotten Coat had British phrases and situations that the kids might not understand, and Waiting for the Magic was a bit too quirky.)

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet

Jan told us about Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet at yesterday's Joliet Reads subcommittee meeting.

How's this for a coincidence? It was featured in A Year of Reading blog today!

Here's the blog entry:

Nonfiction Read Aloud, Part 3: BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY by Melissa Sweet

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, on shelves November 1, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

There's so much to love about BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY for a nonfiction read aloud!

It is a true story that needs to be told. Tony Sarg, while famous to puppeteers (one of Sarg's apprentices was Bill Baird, who did the goatherd scene in The Sound of Music, and one of Baird's apprentices was Jim Henson), has fallen through the cracks of history when it comes to his association with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And yet, his creation lives on. I think a read aloud of this book would be a great opportunity to talk with kids about all the amazing things they might accomplish in their lifetimes...that will touch lots of lives, but never result in celebrity fame.

It is inviting. In the classic Melissa Sweet style, there are large, bright, engaging parts of each illustration to be seen from afar, AND there are lots of fun details to be examined on a close-up rereading. Plus, it's about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which has been known to (and loved by) generations of Americans. How many memories do YOU have of that parade?!?

It celebrates tinkering. Tony Sarg was lucky. He grew up in a day and time when toys were mechanical, and he could take them apart to figure out how they worked. Kids these days need experiences with tinkering. I was reminded of this recently when a wave of "fortune teller" making passed through my class. (You know -- those origami devices that you stick thumbs and forefingers into and pinch this way and that, giving the player the option to make several choices before you lift the flap that tells their fortune?) Nearly everyone learned to make them, then improved on the design in their own ways, either with innovative fortune choices, or by making the largest or smallest ones possible.

In our science curriculum, "tinkering" is know as The Design Process. As long as you PROMISE to make sure your students have the chance to USE the design process to create their own invention and then find ways to make it better, I will suggest that you read this book aloud in your science time in order to discover how Tony Sarg utilized the design process in the development of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. One more stipulation -- you are not allowed to do a first read of this book in science. You must first read it for enjoyment! Okay...pinky promise? Pinky promise. Now go get a copy of this book and share it with your class!

Here's the link to the blog entry:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Hound Dog True

Here is the information from Good Reads:

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban
Hound Dog True 3.94 Rating details: 82 ratings and 38 reviews

Do not let a mop sit overnight in water.Fix things before they get too big for fixing.Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down. She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she'll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth-graders.

But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie's plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true.

Hardcover, 176 pages
Published September 19th 2011 by Harcourt Children's Books

I was not able to accurately evaluate this book because I was in a very very grouchy mood when I read it. Other people whose opinions I respect have loved it, and I think it could be a good choice for Joliet Reads. (And joy of joys, only 176 pages!)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

If You Give a Dog a Donut

If You Give a Dog a DonutIf You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Numeroff

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Seriously, we all know the formula, but it works! Cute illustrations, circular story, donuts! And apple picking, softball, a happy dance, water fight, piratical treasure hunt and kite flying! Who knew you could fit so much fun into 32 pages?

Could be a Joliet Reads possibility for preschool or kindergarten.

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Animal Baths

Animal BathsAnimal Baths by Bob Barner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever wondered how animals take baths? This engaging book tells how monkeys, elephants, ducks and other animals get clean.

This book is appropriate for toddlers, preschoolers and early elementary school students.

It could be a good choice for Joliet Reads preschoolers.

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Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in NorveltDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't feel the love for Dead End in Norvelt. I think I was overwhelmed by all of the death - the mice, the town, little old ladies. It also troubled me that people in the community didn't seem very upset that someone they knew was a serial killer who targeted elderly women. Wh-wh-what?

I do NOT recommend this book for Joliet Reads.

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Friday, October 7, 2011

Not actually a book....

It's a warm October day with bright sunshine and a vivid blue sky. So of course, logically, I just listened to a... Christmas CD. More precisely, a winter CD titled "Sing the Cold Winter Away" by Kathy Reid-Naiman.

Loved it! The music was beautiful with varied instrumentation, sometimes including "old timey" instruments like dulcimer and penny whistle. I also appreciated the song choices and the vocalist's lovely voice.

Monday, October 3, 2011

City of Shadows

City of Shadows: A Novel of SuspenseCity of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense by Ariana Franklin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Set in Berlin between World War I and World War II, this book gave me a greater understanding of how Hitler was able to come to power.

For whatever reason, I never reached a "just can't put the book down" point in the book, but it was interesting historically between its focus on a possible Princess Anastasia and Germany's challenges between the world wars.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Poindexter Makes a Friend

In addition to being a cute story, this book shows children how to make a friend.

Themes: friendship, shyness, libraries, pigs, turtles

The Unforgotten Coat

The Unforgotten CoatThe Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A definite Joliet Reads possibility for students in fourth and fifth grade, this book packs a powerful punch in less than 100 pages!

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Turtle in Paradise

Turtle in ParadiseTurtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My daughter strongly recommended that I read this book. I must admit that the child has good taste!

Turtle has been sent to Key West, Florida to stay with her aunt's family during the Great Depression. But no worries that boys won't like the book due to the female protagonist - it turns out that her cousins are all rambunctious boys who she joins on adventures. Turtle may never be the same....

This would be a good readaloud for students in fourth and fifth grade. A nice bonus: it was a 2011 Newbery Honor Book.

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Blue Chicken

Blue ChickenBlue Chicken by Deborah Freedman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh that clumsy chicken! This story would be a great choice for preschool storytimes about art, colors, farms, mistakes/accidents/accountability and chickens. Sadly, a bit confusing for toddlers.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

Pete the Cat: I Love My White ShoesPete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I learned about this book at an Early Literacy Workshop where the presenter SANG the book. Oh my goodness! This book is so much fun!

Not only that, it introduces colors, the children will enjoy chiming in on the refrain and has an excellent moral (without being didactic).

But, bottom line, this book is fun fun fun! It is essential that we use it for Joliet Reads!!!

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The Busy Beaver

The Busy BeaverThe Busy Beaver by Nicholas Oldland

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good ecological message without being heavy-handed and didactic. I love the illustrations, especially the beaver's facial expressions!

Would be a good Joliet Reads choice for students in grades K-3.

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Don't Worry, Douglas!

Don't Worry, Douglas!Don't Worry, Douglas! by David Melling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great for preschoolers!

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The Bear Who Shared

The Bear Who SharedThe Bear Who Shared by Catherine Rayner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great for toddlers and preschoolers!

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The Cheshire Cheese Cat

I spent last night reading The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, with drawings by Barry Moser.

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a TaleThe Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's a fantasy (talking animals) and historical fiction (Charles Dickens and Queen Victoria make appearances). There's a cheese-loving cat who becomes friends with a mouse named Pip (who can, by the way, read). Good vs. evil, a mysterious visitor and the best cheese in London. Who knew life in a British pub could be so exciting?

This is a strong candidate for Joliet Reads, in the ever so difficult fourth and fifth grade category. Students do not need to understand the Charles Dickens puns/references to enjoy the book, but they'll be a nice bonus for the teachers reading the book out loud!

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zombie in Love

Zombie in LoveZombie in Love by Kelly DiPucchio

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's tough for the walking dead to find a love connection. The ladies aren't impressed when Mortimer offers a box of chocolates (and worms), a real (formerly live) heart or a stunning diamond ring (still, unfortunately, on a finger).

Will he ever find his one true love?

Clearly, this picture book is not intended for the preschool set. However, I think students in second or third grade and up would find it hilarious. It's worth consideration for the Joliet Reads third graders... if we dare.

Bwa ha ha ha!!!

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The main character in YOU WILL BE MY FRIEND! by Peter Brown wakes up one day and decides she will make a new friend. No matter what. Whether any of the other animals want to be her friend or not.

This story is funny and (mostly) true to life. It would be a great choice for the Joliet Reads Preschool and Kindergarten age group. It could also be good for Preschool Storytime or possibly the I Can Read Club.

The Help

I finally read The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It was just as good as everyone said.

Now I need to go see the movie. I've heard that the film is very true to the book, but has a different ending. We'll see if it measures up....

The One and Only Stuey Lewis

I read The One and Only Stuey Lewis by Jane Schoenberg in about an hour last night.

I really liked Stuey Lewis. He was a realistic character - not yet a reader but still very creative and smart. His Halloween caper idea was brilliant. I wish I'd thought of it as a child!

As for Joliet Reads... I think the kids would really enjoy it. Would the district's teachers mind that his brother calls him "Stu-pid" when their mom is not around? The brother also called him "Jerk" one time, but gets in trouble for it.

I strongly recommend that all selection committee members read this book. I will be returning my copy within the next five minutes. :-D

Monday, August 8, 2011


I love the book Pie by Sarah Weeks!

I think it could be an excellent fourth and fifth grade choice for Joliet Reads. While the protagonist is a female, it is not a girly book. Her best friend is a boy and they have adventures as they try to solve a mystery. The catch: reading the book made me hungry for pie!!!

Here's the book description from Good Reads:

"Who would leave a world-famous pie recipe to a cat?

When Alice's Aunt Polly passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe. Or does she? In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily surly cat Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice.

Suddenly Alice is thrust into the center of a piestorm, with everyone in town trying to be the next pie-contest winner ... including Alice's mother and some of Alice's friends. The whole community is going pie-crazy . . . and it's up to Alice to discover the ingredients that really matter. Like family. And friendship. And enjoying what you do."


I know I know. The blog is supposed to be about books.

But I finally watched "Secretariat" this weekend. We liked it so much that we watched it twice - once on Saturday and again today.

Great story. Beautiful horses, especially the horse/actor who portrayed Secretariat. Excellent acting. Positive message. Actually appropriate for a family to watch together, including children. And now I have the gospel tune "O Happy Day" in my head, which is a good thing.

I recommend it highly.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I don't want to use the book's title as my adjective, so I'll say I was awed by Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick.

No one will ever describe it as a quick or easy read, but wow! All I can say is wow!

I hope it will win the Newbery award.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sugar and Ice

What would you do if you were an ice skater given the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to train in Lake Placid, NY? The obvious answer is to shout "Hurray!" and start skating. But choices aren't always that clear. How much would you be willing to give up for that incredible opportunity? Time with her family on their farm? Friends? Parties? Math competitions?

These are the decisions that Claire Boucher must make in Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner.

Very good book. At 271 pages, it is a bit long for Joliet Reads. I think the sports emphasis compensates for it having a female protagonist. It also raises some interesting questions about the price of fame (and the pursuit of excellence) - things to think about during the 2012 Olympics!