Monday, April 27, 2009

If a tree falls at lunch period by Gennifer Choldenko

Gennifer Choldenko is coming to Iowa tomorrow (yeah!) and I hope to shake her hand and have her sign my copy of If a tree falls... I loved Al Capone does my shirts and gleefully await the second one Al Capone shines my shoes. I picked up If a tree falls, thinking it was more of a YA book but after reading I think I have several students that would enjoy it. I did! I thought the school story was good, characters were well-developed and the plot timely without being preachy.
The chapters flip back and forth between Kirsten and Walker, seventh graders at an elite private school. Kirsten is struggling with popularity, losing her best friend to a more popular clique of girls, her recent weight gain, and her parents constant fighting. This is exactly what middle school, high school is like for many students. It is more than one anxiety all the time. Hmmm, like my life now...
Kirsten's character emerges through the course of the story to kinda figure some things out with out a big aha moment! I was so excited for her when she decided her ex-best friend, Rory was not the same person she used to be. It's hard when friends change and make choices you never thought they would, especially at this age. Rory lies and follows her new friends places Kirsten just does not want to go in the name of popularity. She wants to be popular and to make her mom happy but who to trust is a difficult choice.
One new classmate in particular, Walker Jones seems able to give her advice that is mature and worthy. The two, as well as his friend Matteo, the "scholarship students", treat her fairly and worry more about school than who's butt is fatter.
Brianna is the resident popular girl bully and she plays it with flair. Lying, scheming, cheating all done to make her life easier; more painful for those around her. I'm not going to spoil what the big mystery is between Kirsten and Walk even though I figured it out pretty quickly-the major crisis does make the story intriguing and timely. I dig this author and if you haven't read her picture book, Louder, Lili-you need too. Shy Lili learns that a loud voice is worth it at certain times in your life!!
Here's a teen-ager's view on If a tree falls at lunch period...Enjoy

Thursday, April 23, 2009

April Showers bring May flowers...

I have been looking around at all the amazing books I have added to the library this year and I realize many of them are titles I heard about from the blogs on the right. (insert arrow---) I picked a few favorites just for you.

1. bees, snails, & peacock tails by betsy franco and steve Italicjenkins(2008). I love the combination of math, shapes, patterns mixed into the natural world. The illustrations are amazing!! Here is another great look at this book by another blogger.
2. Flip, Float, Fly; seeds on the move by JoAnn Early Macken, ill. Pam Paparone (2008). I am astounded at how wonderful non-fiction has become and these first two books are perfect examples. Gone are the days of boring text mixed with simple photos of what becomes an uninspiring topic! When you have text like this: "a wild oat seed curls up in the sun like a comma. The seed straightens out when it rains. Wiggle! Jump!" and a perfect illustration to match. How great!
3. Helen Keller; the world in her heart by Lesa Cline-Ransome; ill. James Ransome (2008). Finally a great biography of Helen Keller that elementary students will get! Now if this team could do one on Anne Frank my students would really appreciate it. They have another biography (Young Pele; soccer's first star) out which is also fantastic.
4. A River of words; the story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant; ill. Melissa Sweet (2008). This book is such a simple retelling of one man's life; about dreams not realized in the usual way and hope for all artists. The illustrations are as-if-lifted right from his notebook; we get such a sense of being right there with him. Thank you for this book because we glimpse into this life and understand.
5. Cinderella by Max Eilenberg and Niamh Sharkey great blog :)(2008). I love fairy tales, all kinds of versions. This particular one I like because of its simplicity and because the father steps up (for once) and says His daughter should try on the glass slipper-yes, thanks for coming out of the fog, dear Dad! I am going to read it to students next week.
6. Beware of the frog by william bee (2008)-great name, great book...funny, funny book and children love it!
7. Our Library by Eve Bunting (2008)-I've already blogged about this one so here's someone else's thoughts on this great book that reminds us all of working together in our communities!
8. One boy by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (2008). My kindergarten students loved this book when I read it to them in the library. They said "will you read it again..."
9. The Beeman by Laurie Krebs and Valeria Cis (2008). My step-father is a beeman so maybe I like this one because I can relate but this book shows an unusual occupation/hobby that most kids wouldn't even think about in an easy-to-read rhyming text!
10. Mrs. Claus explains it all by Elsbeth Claus; ill. David Wenzel (2008). I can't wait for Christmas! This one offers great questions with wonderful answers! How does Santa get into your house if you don't have a chimney??? This has a great format and beautiful illustrations. Age-0ld, priceless and brand-new, all in one!
I think 10 is a good number to stop at for today-I know there are more but these are the ones that have been stacking up on my desk; Read Me!! These are just the picture books...whew!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Beginning Reading Conference

Last Friday I was able to go to our local Reading Conference at UNI and it was a great day. I enjoyed talking with other adults about reading, looking at all the vendor stuff, and listening to knowledgeable professionals (some) talk about out craft. The guest author was Herman Parish, dressed neatly in a bow tie, and he had lots of good stories to tell. I remember reading the Amelia Bedelia books myself but have never really pushed them in the library and I'm rethinking this now because they are good word fun. They don't get checked out much so I will have to read one aloud and talk them up. Mr. Parish has added to the 12 books his aunt, Peggy did and a new one is coming out this summer, showing Amelia as a child. I loved Herman's slide show with old clips of his aunt carrying her purse (pocketbook) with her everywhere! I have memories of my grandmother having a death grip on her purse where ever we went.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Black Box by Julie Schumacher

I'd never heard of this author before and now I want to race back to the library and get one of her older titles. Black Box is a book about a family in crisis-real crisis not our everyday-to-much-going-on crisis). Dora is the very troubled sister and Elena, the narrator, is the stable sister, the one trying to hold it altogether. Julie Schumacher does an amazing job of creating realistic characters. There is only mom, dad, Dora, Elena and Jimmy Zenk, a teen-age neighbor, to focus on and the author weaves the story tightly around these characters. There is no fluff, no extra dialogue...not one sentence that shouldn't be there. The opening of the book has Dora locked away at the local hospital psych ward, screaming her head off after an overdose. The rest of the family spirals around this change in daily routine as if they are looking for ruby slippers. Elena especially is left confused by her sister's betrayal and truly feels she is the one that must save Dora. Elena just wants the life they had before; before Dora decided to be crazy. The sisters do have a special bond, which Dora, in her depression, uses to her advantage, creating more confusion for Elena. Jimmy's odd friendship ultimately brings truth to the family and to Elena. I reread the last chapter over and over when I was finished: (little excerpt)

"I needed to be closer to the ground.....
I dropped to my knees. Cars drove past in both directions. I thought about what the Grandma Therapist had told me. 'You learn to carry it with you. But sometimes, in the presence of a person you trust'-- 'I was supposed to save her, Jimmy,' I said. 'She asked me to save her.'
The traffice streamed by on either side of us. 'I'm right here with you,' Jimmy said. " p. 164

This is not meant to be a spoiler but a tease and of course, the reason why all this makes such sense to me and why I will carry these lines around with me for awhile is because the rest of the book makes it all fit together so perfectly! You'll have to read it now. Another reader who enjoyed this book as well.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Back to work Monday

beautiful, fun and one of my top ten movies!
check it out!
Thanks to Books List Life for starting my Monday this way

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Weekend

What a great and crazy weekend! We've run errands, we've grocery shopped, we've readied the church for Easter service and we've managed to relax! Saturday the children and I dyed silk scarves in Easter egg colors instead of trying to dye our beautiful brown organic eggs and having too many hard-boiled eggs around. It was a great project, both children enjoyed their creativity and one inspired by my friend Verda in Little Rock. She was inspired by The Rowdy Pea and when I got ready to do it this is where I found the easy and exact directions. Here is another great site that recounts their dyeing experience.

I did get some knitting done(just about finished with the white washcloth) and since I did not make it to the library on Saturday amidst all my other errands, I pulled a book off the pile of to-reads-eventually by my bed. I chose I have lived a thousand years; growing up in the Holocaust by Livia Bitton-Jackson. I purchased this book a few years ago in DC at the Holocaust Museum. After reading The Devil's Arithmetic a few of my fifth-graders in our multicultural book club are interested in the Holocaust so I thought I would read this and pass it on to one of them. I've read five chapters and am impressed with how well it it written. The author writes a lot about her early dreams of becoming a poet; the one object she smuggled out of the ghetto was her poetry notebook. The dishes are done, my son wore a tie today and the Easter Bunny brought good peanut butter treats and black jelly beans!! The meal my mom and I prepared together was delicious. The day is done.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another week gone...

I finished Elvis and Olive by Stephanie Watson today-great cover illustration which perfectly matches the story inside. Elvis and Olive, aka Annie and Natalie, find themselves sharing a summer together with all the fun and trouble two young girls can find. They don't like each other in the first few minutes of meeting on the first day of freedom. Annie, the risk-taker, shows Natalie a dead bird and then invites Natalie into her makeshift under-the-porch clubhouse.
Who knows why Natalie goes with her at this point-she is grossed out by the dead bird and Annie's up-front behavior. She does go with her though and somehow their differences turn into a caring relationship. I thought both characters were so lovable and real. I love their spy names and all the neighborhood secrets they discover together. I thought the conflict that arose was especially poignant for 3rd-6th grade girls to read about it; Arguments happen then you get over them!! check out what others have said...Kidsreads, The Breakfast Platter, me (te he) previously and haiku written by Ms. Watson herself!
I noticed her interview on the haiku for two site that a sequel is on its way-we can continue to read about this little friendship.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

I finished The Underneath today!! I began this book as a read-aloud for my 6-year-old daughter because of the cute dog and kittens on the front cover. J and I, soon concluded it was not a good story for her.Gar Face's character scared her, she did not like the Grandmother Moccasin sections and it simply confused her as to how any of the stories were connected. She liked Ranger's tale and how the cats all became part of one family. I decided to keep reading on my own. I am still struggling with how I feel about the book. I thought some of the images were beautiful. I love Ranger's story and I honestly wanted the book to just stick with that relationship. I didn't think the three stories merged enough to make it work. The Tale of Desperaux by Kate Dicamillo is, for me, a great example of various stories merging to make one great tale. Gar Face did not have any redeeming qualities and yes, he gets it in the end but it all just ties together in one quick knot. I thought the writing was repetitive and went on to long (i would have cut out a few chapters). As a school librarian my main concern is who to recommend this book to; what age group; what teacher for read-aloud. I am left wondering. Many students would love the animal aspect but be very put-off by Gar Face's treatment of animals and his swilling of every known spirit available to him. The snake, Night Song and Hawk Man thread is complicated and students have trouble traveling back and forth, back and forth so frequently. Was this bookmeant for elementary students? I am glad I read it and parts of it will stick with me; I have especially enjoyed reading the variety of comments about this book from other bloggers. There seems to be no definitive answer on this book and perhaps that is what makes an interesting tale.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Freaky Friday

I haven't read any books today! I have been spending far too much time browsing blogs, browsing cookbooks, and selling books to students and I am so ready to go home. What I did not get done was cleaning my desks of piles. The last two days have been conference days and so the Scholastic book fair is in the library. Parents and students have browsed and bought and I like that; I just don't like the commercialism of the book fair. Two tables are devoted to the amount of Disney stuff they include. High School Musical cookbooks (did they cook in the movie, how is this related??), Hannah Montana work books, photo albums and chapter books devoted to the girl and all that fluff gets in the way of the good books that are there. Doesn't even count the powderpuff pens and fancy ribbon pencils that I leave in the box...ugh...
Okay enough ranting!! I do love it when parents come in and buy their student a good book or two and say no to the crap. Yeah Parents! Yeah Friday! Ready, set, go home and relax...with a good book.
Here is what I am reading: Elijah of Buxton for a school book club, Elvis and Olive, and trying to finish The Underneath. I'll take a cold beer with those books and hope and pray we do NOT get the winter storm predicted for this area.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Double O book club

Shelf Awareness link is now working:)
Also President Obama, an avid reader, is launching a book club with Oprah Winfrey. Called the Double O Book Club, the joint venture will feature titles from "distressed" publishers and be tweeted from the White House.--John Mutter

Just read this great little paragraph from Shelf Awareness. Can't wait to see their selections. I never really participated in Oprah's book club but adding my favorite president to the mix will make me read and write about it!!

J and I read a not-very-exciting book last night at bedtime, new from our public library; The Great Doughnut parade by Rebecca Bond. Here is the excerpt from the publisher:
"Just where is small Billy going? Why does he have a doughnut tied to his belt? Does he know he is being followed by, first, a hen (with a cluck, cluck, cluck), then a cat (all quiet and slinky), and, farther down Main Street, a band . . . and firemen? Then sign painters . . . brick layers . . . even cloud catchers! Author/illustrator Rebecca Bond reveals the truly marvelous things that can happen when a doughnut is tied up with string.

okay...I have to admit I have never once been curious about what might happen when a doughnut is tied to a string, especially tied to a belt loop...I did poll my family (we mostly all thought the doughnut would fall apart) and made my husband read the book to see if I was perchance missing something. He agreed with me; the book lacks imagination, a good rhyme scheme and as J put it "who would want to eat a doughnut after it has been bouncing back behind you?" Oops, now I've spoiled the ending for you. I've not read any of her other books and the illustrations by her were alright. I have to admit I was drawn in by just the word doughnut...sadly, just fluff.