Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bridge to Terabithia (Katherine Paterson)

Goodreads summary:

Jess Aarons' greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in his grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new girl boldly crosses over to the boys' side and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. Together they create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits.


I re-read this book because my grade fours are doing it for their Battle of the Books. It isn't often I re-read books. This one seemed to bring out more emotions reading it for the second time (or is it the third?)

I love how this book introduces kids to big issues: death, gender stereotyping, abuse, etc. It is interesting to me, however, that when we met to discuss it my grade four students didn't really touch on those big issues. They aren't really what the book is about though. They are just part of the story. Perhaps they didn't bring those things up in our discussion because they haven't the experience of loss in their life, yet. Not sure. 

For me, I really identified with Jess. The world falls out from under his feet when Leslie is gone. I was sad that he never got to see her body. I loved how his parents were gentle with him when Leslie was gone. I loved how it ends with him sharing the magic of Terabithia with his little sister. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Kate DiCamillo)

I have written about The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane for years. We read it last year. This post will take you back to other posts on this book as well. Every time I read it I gain a new appreciation for the writing. It is brilliant. This year it was an equally wonderful experience.

The Global Read Aloud chose this as one of their books, so a lot of people were reading it these days. There were opportunities to connect with people all over the world. One of our other campuses also read the book so we decided to connect with them. We had a video conference and the children were able to share their insights. Brilliant!

You can read more about our experience on our school's blog, here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Two Speckled Eggs (Jennifer K Mann)

GoodReads summary:

It’s Ginger’s birthday, and she has to invite all the girls in her class to her party, including Lyla Browning. Lyla isn’t like the other girls: she smells like old leaves, doesn’t talk much, and once brought a tarantula to school for show-and-tell. On the day of the party, Lyla is much earlier than everyone else. But even after the others arrive, Ginger’s party doesn’t go quite the way she’d hoped: some of the girls change the rules to the games, and no one likes her silver and gold birthday cake — except Lyla. By the time Lyla gives Ginger her present — a tiny homemade nest with two delicious malted-milk eggs — Ginger begins to wonder: is being different really such a bad thing?

This story was read as a part of our character lessons on influence. The children in our classroom loved how Lyla wasn't influenced by what other kids did and liked. She knew exactly what she liked and study with it. They also liked how Ginger saw the good in Lyla. Lovely story!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Librarian of Basra (Jeanette Winter)

This book had me at the dedication in the front. It says:

"In the Koran, the first thing God said to Muhammad was 'Read.'"
--Alia Muhammad Baker

The Goodreads summary says:

Alia Muhammad Baker is a librarian in Basra, Iraq. For fourteen years, her library has been a meeting place for those who love books. Until now. Now war has come, and Alia fears that the library--along with the thirty thousand books within it--will be destroyed forever.

In a war-stricken country where civilians--especially women--have little power, this true story about a librarian's struggle to save her community's priceless collection of books reminds us all how, throughout the world, the love of literature and the respect for knowledge know no boundaries. Illustrated by Jeanette Winter in bright acrylic and ink.

This is a fabulous story. We read it as part of character study topic: influence. My students decided it was a good book about influence because there are many positives and negatives.  The war is a negative influence, as are the soldiers. Alia Muhammad Baker is a positive influence and inspiring for many people.

We turned this story into a reader's theatre and will be performing it for an assembly. We had five books to choose from. Every child in our class voted for The Librarian of Basra.

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Yellow Tutu (Kirsten Bramsen)

I loved this story and so did my students. We read this book while studying the topic "influuence". We had a great discussion about how things other people say can, but shouldn't influence our fun. 

GoodReads summary:

It’s just tutu much fun!

What do you do with a beautiful yellow tutu? Why, put it on your head and pretend you’re a ray of sunshine! Little girls will love the story of Margo, a girl with a tutu and a brilliantly imaginative mind. Lively text and charming illustrations that celebrate individuality and friendship will have fans of this new author-illustrator sister act calling for an encore!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Myrtle (Tracey Campbell Peterson)

I love this story! Here is the Goodreads Summary: 

"Myrtle is happy. Her mom loves her. Her dad loves her. Her baby brother loves her. She has a good life -- until Frances moves next door. Frances does not love Myrtle, and she makes it her mission to keep Myrtle miserable. She makes mean signs, sings mean songs, and says mean things. It comes to the point when Myrtle is afraid to play outside. Then Aunt Tizzy comes to visit, fresh from an African safari, and she has some very good pointers to share with Myrtle, learned from keeping the lions at bay.

"Exuberant and funny, Pearson's story and pictures will resound for any child who's encountered a mean mouse like Frances."

I love that her aunt shows her how to handle someone like Frances. Her aunt is a great influence. I love it that they don't end up being friends. Myrtle just continues being happy and doesn't let France's influence her.

Now that is a great lesson in life!

What I'm Reading This Week

'I didn't do very well last week. I had all this time off and I really only read one book. How did this happen?? Oh wait. I know: report cards! I spent way too much time working on report cards. The good news is, though, that they're finished and now I can get back to life!

This is what I'm reading this week:

This one is due to a recommendation from one of my students. I always like to try to read what they're into, so I'm diving into this one:

Dear Dumb Diary

I'm hoping this one will be a good candidate for book club: 

Run by Eric Walters

Book Club meetings are next week so I need to finish these two:

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

I started reading Martin Bridge Blazing Ahead aloud to my class:

I should probably reread this for book club:

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

And I have a number of picture books to read to my class.

Lots of great reading to be enjoyed this week!


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Loot (Jude Watson)

This book was recommended to me by one of my former students - a number of times! He stopped me in the hall one day and said he had a great book for book club. Then a couple days later he asked if I had read it. Then again in a couple days. And again. Finally I figured I better get the book!

The story is about a boy who is raised by his dad who lives life as a criminal. He is killed and in his dying words he leaves advice to follow. The rest of the book is a series of twists and turns as a gang of would-be kid criminals go about securing a fortune. Cliff hangers run amok. They are everywhere! 

I can see why kids would love this book. What kid doesn't love kid heroes who get through any tight situations. I found it a little far fetched and figured it could have been told in half the number of pages.....but I do have to give the author credit. It is a fun read!

Definitely best for middle elementary or middle school. A little too complicated for my grade three students, I think.

Monday, November 10, 2014

What I am Reading

Be sure to go to for more great reading ideas. What are you reading??

I have a week off this week: Fall Break! I plan to spend a good chunk of time reading. I am so looking forward to it. Here are my plans!

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

I don't re-read books that often, but this is one I love to read again and again. We are reading this for Gr. 3 book club this month.

Loot by Jude Watson

One of my former students recommended this book to me. Well, not only did he recommend it, he has followed up a number of times to see if I have read it. I am really looking forward to letting him know I read it this week. Can't wait to discuss it with him!

Uglies by Scott Westerfield

I am reading this for my book club.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The grade four girls I am doing Battle of the Books with are reading this one this month. Must keep up with them!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Ant and The Elephant (Bill Peet)

I love Bill Peet! This book provided our class with a great discussion.

Why were those animals so grumpy?
Why weren't they more grateful for the help?
Should the elephant have helped them since they were being so cranky?
Could a bunch of ants really save an elephant?

We talked about how sometimes it's difficult to make a difference, but one person can. If it's a big job, if everyone bands together, amazing things can happen!

...then they broke out in song singing, "We can make a difference."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Wump World (Bill Peet)

I love Bill Peet! I hadn't read Wump World before so we gave it a whirl today. I wanted to introduce my students this year to Bill Peet. This story is a great one on recycling, looking after our world and being environmentally friendly. Lots of good vocab in here too. Did I mention I love Bill Peet?

Some aliens, named The Pollutians invade the Wump World and turn the green meadows into a concrete jungle.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Nightingale's Nest (Nikki Loftin)

I learned about this book from the Nerdy Book Club. I also noticed a few other bloggers writing about it, so I decided I needed to read it. Unfortunately, I think it is meant for kids older than my students who are in grade three. However, after reading it, I am quite motivated to go find The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy since the Nerdy Book Club blogger said she read it to her students in grade three.

A lot of people connected it to Bridge to Terabithia, which is great, because I am reading that next!

This story is based on a Hans Christian Andersen story called The Nightingale. It is a great take on the story.

I am a real sucker for magic in real life. In this story, Little John takes on issues that he shouldn't have to deal with - but he does. And somehow, he makes it through, even though it seems impossible - well, all with a little magical help. The magic of birds and music and giving all we can is a great meta narrative.

In the acknowledgements, at the back of the book, the author totally won me over with this:

Throughout my life, I have been blessed with extraordinary teachers who built nests of knowledge, safety, and love for me, and later for my children. In gratitude and memory, I placed the names of many of them in these pages. If you see your name here, thank you for ever for the gifts you gave in the classroom and beyond. I never forgot you, and I never will.

Goodreads Summary:

Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or "Little John" as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree.

There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties.

But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy.

Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale's Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.


Addictions - the father spends his weekends drunk
Children - the story is centred around children who have to deal with issues children shouldn't have to worry about
Death - Little John's sister has passed away and he feels responsible for her death. Her mother is not dealing well with everything either and often talks of the daughter as though she were still alive
Family - Little John's family cannot pay the rent, the neighbour's family is friends with them, plus there is a foster family in the story
Fears - Little John's father is intimidating. They are afraid they will be evicted. Gayle is afraid of Mr. king
Foster Children - Gayle is a foster child who has run away a number of times. She lives with a foster family who don't take very good care of her.
Homelessness - The family is afraid they will be evicted. They are always paying the rent late and the landlord is getting impatient.
Imagination - is Gayle simply a child with a good imagination? Does she really have magical powers?
Magic - Gayle is able to heal people with her songs
Mercy - In the end, things do work out
Teachers - The author writes a beautiful tribute to teachers in her acknowledgements. Beautiful!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Witches (Roald Dahl)

The Witches has become a bit of a tradition in my life. I read it aloud to my class two years ago. Last year, instead, we did it for Book Club and it was a real hit.  This year I got a bit of push back on it. Some parents weren't happy with kids reading about witches. I have really began to worry less about those criticisms over the past year or so. I am more comfortable recommending books and realize that not every book is for every kid. Actually, I quite like it when there are disagreements because it makes for a better discussion. If nothing else, it helps us all to expand our thinking just a little bit.

We had a fun discussion and we played the character game - a good old stand by. All in all, I loved reading this with these kids. Next year though, I might have to save it for a read aloud in class. It is just too fun to read aloud!