Monday, December 29, 2014

What I Am Reading This Week






I am continuing on my winter break list. I am halfway through Because of Mr. Terupt. Last week I got distracted with some other books that weren't on my list. Always happens! And let's be honest. There will likely be more distractions this week. That is half the fun!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Digby O'Day (Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy)


This one didn't totally appeal to me, but I do think it could be a keeper for some boys in my class. The chapters are quick and easy but not too simple. The illustrations are plenty and interesting. 

Goodreads Summary: 

Hang on to the wheel for the first of three adventures from a dynamic mother-daughter pair: beloved author Shirley Hughes and talented illustrator Clara Vulliamy.

Digby O'Day and Percy are best friends. This daring canine duo can find adventure anywhere?-?even entering an All-Day Race! Digby is sure he can win, especially with Percy as his co-driver. But when the race starts and Digby and Percy are quickly left in the dust, it seems like they don't stand a chance. They meet peril after peril: a car that breaks down (and slides back to the edge of a cliff!), a near miss with an oncoming train, and worst of all, Digby's archenemy, Lou Ella, who is also in the race and will stop at nothing to win. In a day full of twists, turns, thrills, and surprises, anything can happen. Who will come out ahead? And will Lou Ella get her comeuppance?
 

The Endless Steppe (Esther Hautzig)


There is something about this book that won't let go of me.

When I was in grade six, I started reading this book. For some reason, I had to give it back to my teacher before I was finished. I never forgot it. When I was in university, I finally decide to find it and finish reading it. For some reason, I felt compelled to find it again and re-read it. It is like it calls to me. My great grandparents lived in Russia, transplanted from another country, and we don't know a lot of their story except that they ran for their lives when they left there. Every time I read something about that country I wonder if my grandparents story was similar.

The steppe it refers to is the land in Russia. From what I can gather, it is probably similar landscape to Alberta: prairie at the foot of the mountains. The weather is similar too....lots of cold!

This is a story of Jews during World War II. They aren't sent to a concentration camp. Instead they are exiled to Siberia. They go from living a very comfortable life as wealth citizens of Poland to being very poor in Siberia. They live in mud huts. They work for meager wages. They are separated from each other - yet their determined spirits help them to survive. The story is told by the daughter. While she does suffer terribly because of their exile, she also has many of the same concerns all kids have about fitting in at school, having the right thing to wear (shoes, for example....just having shoes to wear) and seeing popular movies her friends have seen. While these people didn't go through the horrors of concentration camps, their experience is still a compelling story.

I read a book with a story similar to this about similar things happening in Canada during World War I. It is interesting that we choose to take large groups of people and banish them because of their culture. This would be a great story to read with Anne Frank. It discusses big issues but in a child-friendly way.



Goodreads summary: 
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/758919.The_Endless_Steppe


It is June 1941. The Rudomin family has been arrested by the Russians. They are "capitalistsenemies of the people." Forced from their home and friends in Vilna, Poland, they are herded into crowded cattle cars. Their destination: the endless steppe of Siberia.
For five years, Esther and her family live in exile, weeding potato fields and working in the mines, struggling for enough food and clothing to stay alive. Only the strength of family sustains them and gives them hope for the future.






Thursday, December 25, 2014

Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K Jerome)



Reading this book was kind of like watching a Seinfeld episode....every day mundane things that everyone can relate to and told in a way that just makes you chuckle....only not quite as much as Seinfeld.

It was one of those books I would have never read were it not for book club. It wasn't an easy read for me though. I am not a natural reader of old books or classics. It is good to read classics. Right? 

One weird thing about this book (was it something common in the time?): I think they used to think end punctuation was for paragraphs. So many one sentence paragraphs! Oy!!

It's kind of funny, but not really funny enough to be considered a comedy. Or it could be that it is British humor....which I tend to think is an oxymoron. This book reminds me of one of those family parties where you see around and listen to stories that your kooky relatives tell and you feel obliged to sit and listen politely. When it all begins you think, " Oh brother, do we really have to listen to this? And then, eventually, you all have smiles on your faces and you're chuckling away at their gift of storytelling.

It rambles. The stories have no point and are put together in odd ways. Not sure how he decided what constitutes a chapter. Usually a chapter has an event or moves a story along. These were just rambling words. Although, maybe that is how the boat experience was. I don't know.

All in all, I am really glad I read it. Now, on to something I will really enjoy!!


Updated: January 29
We met for book club last night. I was so inspired by the discussion I had to add to this post. I didn't even notice the themes in the story: hypocrisy, class distinction, morality and happiness. They're subtle, yet brilliant! So glad for book club friends who help me see a little further!


Quotes: 

Chapter 6

It was a glorious morning, late spring early summer, as you care to take it, when the dainty sheen of grass and leaf is blushing to a deeper green; and the year seems like a fair young maid, trembling with  strange, weakening pulses on the brink of womanhood.
--Whaaaat???


Chapter 9: 

I do not wish to be insulting, but I firmly believe that if you took an average towline, and stretched it out straight across the middle of the field, and then you and then turned your back on it for 30 seconds, that, when you look around again, you would find that it had got itself altogether in the heap in the middle of the field, and had twisted itself up, and tight itself into knots, and lost its two ends, and become all loops; and it would take a good half hour, sitting down there on the grass and swearing all the while, to disentangle it again.

Chapter 10

It is very strange, this domination of our intellect by our digestive organs. We cannot work, we cannot sync, unless her stomach will so. It dictates to us our emotions, our passions. After eggs and bacon, it says, "Work!" After beefsteak and porter, it says, "Sleep!" After a cup of tea (two spoonfuls for each cup and don't let it stand more than three minutes), it says to the brain, "now, rise, and show your strength. Be eloquent, and deep, and tender; see, with the clear I, into nature and into life; spread your white wings of quivering thought, and sore, a godlike spirit, over the whirling world beneath you, up through long lanes of flaming stars to the gates of eternity!"
After hot muffins, it says, "Be dull and soulless, like a beast of the field - a brainless animal with listless eye, unlit by any ray of fancy, or of hope, or fear, or love, or life." And after brandy, taken in sufficient quantity, it says, "Now, come, fool, grin and tumble, that your fellow-men may laugh - drivel in folly, and splutter in senseless sounds, and show what a helpless ninny is the poor man whose wit and will are drowned, like kittens, side by side, in half an inch of alcohol.
We are but the veriest, sorriest slaves of our stomach.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Reindeer Christmas (Moe Price)



I suppose it all had to start somewhere. It would be fun to read this to students and make up stories about different animals pulling Santa's sleigh. Crocodiles? Elephants?

Goodreads summary:

In this delightful original story, readers learn how Santa chose reindeer as the animals that would pull his sleigh. “Morozumi’s sumptuous, textured watercolors feature earthy winter tones with splashes of holiday reds and greens. Her scenes depicting the flying animals’ mishaps portray just the right touch of humor without becoming slapstick.”--Publishers Weekly

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mercy Watson a Princess in Disguise (Kate DiCamillo)


 Mercy in a prinses costume, ready for Halloween....of course!
The neighbour is still cranky. (I will keep reading this to see if she ever lightens up!) 
Baby still has a soft spot for Mercy and sneaks around Eugenia.
Mr. And Mrs, Watson are still enamoured with their porcine wonder.
Chaos ensues....the firemen come...and it all ends with a serving of toast while everyone is gathered around the table.

Loved the illustrations in this one! Hilarious story. It is sure to be a hit with my grade 3 students.

Goodreads Summary:

Can visions of treats entice a porcine wonder to wear her princess costume? Hold on for some Halloween havoc, Mercy Watson-style!

When the Watsons decide to zip their porcine wonder into a formfitting princess dress for Halloween — complete with tiara — they are certain that Mercy will be beautiful beyond compare. Mercy is equally certain she likes the sound of trick-or-TREATING and can picture those piles of buttered toast already. As for the Lincoln Sisters next door, how could they know that their cat would get into the act and lead them all on a Halloween "parade" of hysterical proportions? Kate DiCamillo’s beguiling pig is back in a tale full of treats, tricky turns, hijinks, and high humor.






Telephone (Mac Barnett)


I am a sucker for anything by Mac Barnett. This is another great one.

Who doesn't love a game of telephone? We even recently played it around the dinner table at Thanksgiving at the request of my niece. She will love this book.


The pictures in this book would be a great discussion starter for inferencing skills. You could discuss why each bird says what they say (they each are dressed up or have accessories that influence what they hear). It could also be a great starter for a discussion about how people's backgrounds influence what they hear or learn or take from relationships.

Goodreads summary: 

It's time to fly home for dinner! In this witty picture book from award-winning and bestselling author Mac Barnett, a mother bird gives the bird next to her a message for little Peter. But passing messages on a telephone line isn't as simple as it sounds. Each subsequent bird understands Mama's message according to its own very particular hobbies. Will Peter ever get home for dinner? This uproarious interpretation of a favorite children's game will get everyone giggling and is sure to lead to countless rereads. 





Owls in the Family (Farley Mowat)

What a fun book. I read it years ago, but it was really fun to read again. We picked this book for Gr. 3 Book Club this month. I am sure it will be a hit. What kid doesn't love adventures with animals?! 

It made me think of various animals we had as pets. When I was in elementary school we lived on an average. I remember playing with our sheep, Wooly, before the bus would arrive. We would have to remember to hurry clip his rope back up to the clothesline when we saw the dust from the bus at the neighbours down the road. Later he got mean and would butt us right off the deck. Then we ate him. :)

We had a lot of different animals back then: Wild cats and kittens, pigs, cows, horses, and of course, dogs. I wish I had been as adventurous as the boys in this story. We would have had more stories to tell!

This book is a book that will keep you chuckling.

I haven't read it aloud to my students, but I bet it would make a great read aloud. It isn't too long and there is a lot of funny stuff! Great read!

Good reads summary: 

Every child needs to have a pet. No one could argue with that.

But what happens when your pet is an owl, and your owl is terrorizing the neighbourhood?

In Farley Mowat’s exciting children’s story, a young boy’s pet menagerie – which includes crows, magpies, gophers and a dog – grows out of control with the addition of two cantankerous pet owls. The story of how Wol and Weeps turn the whole town upside down is warm, funny, and bursting with adventure and suspense.


From the eBook edition.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cat At the Wall (Deborah Ellis)

Deborah Ellis never disappoints. I am always surprised, though, that her books are J fiction. While she does handle difficult issues with ease, they are still very difficult issues. I'm not sure elementary or middle school kids would even come close to "getting it". But then again, maybe that is ok.

What I got from this book was similar to her book, Three Wishes. In the Israeli/Palestinian war there is so much hatred that has gone on for so long and it is so complicated, how can there even be any solution. Hating and killing is just a way of life for both sides.

But, somewhere in it all, there is still humanity. However, there is a lot of heartbreak for all to take in.

This book is definitely worth reading. It handles difficult and complex issues and makes you think.

Goodreads summary: 

A cat sneaks into a small Palestinian house on the West Bank that has just been commandeered by two Israeli soldiers. The house seems empty, until the cat realizes that a little boy is hiding beneath the floorboards.

Should she help him?


After all, she's just a cat.


Or is she?


It turns out that this particular cat is not used to thinking about anyone but herself. She was once a regular North American girl who only had to deal with normal middle-school problems -- staying under the teachers' radar, bullying her sister and the uncool kids at school, outsmarting her clueless parents.


But that was before she died and came back to life as a cat, in a place with a whole different set of rules for survival.


When the little boy is discovered, the soldiers don't know what to do with him. Where are the child's parents? Why has he been left alone in the house? It is not long before his teacher and classmates come looking for him, and the house is suddenly surrounded by Palestinian villagers throwing rocks, and the sound of Israeli tanks approaching.


Not my business, thinks the cat. And then she sees a photograph, and suddenly she understands what happened to the boy's parents, and why they have not returned. And as the soldiers begin to panic, and disaster seems certain, she knows that it is up to her to diffuse the situation.


But what can a cat do? What can any one creature do


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Chanakah Noel (Sharon Jennings)

 
This is a wonderful story. There are so many of us who live amongst people who celebrate in different ways. Everyone's traditions are special and it is nice to find ways to be a part of it even if you are not a part of that religion or culture.
 
We read this book on Tumblebooks.
 
Goodreads summary:
 

When Charlotte and her family move to France, there is a lot to adjust to. Because she can't speak French, Charlotte is put in the lowest grade, which she doesn't like. And what she dislikes the most is when Colette, a girl in her class, calls her a "foreigner." But the holidays are coming, and Charlotte is fascinated by the preparations being made for Christmas--"Noel" in French. To her disappointment, her mother tells her that this is not for their family, they will have Chanukah instead. But when Charlotte learns that Colette's family will miss Christmas too, not because they are Jewish but because they are poor, she puts aside her hurt feelings and convinces her parents that they should give Christmas to Colette's family, as a gift.

 
 

Monday, December 15, 2014

What I am Reading This Week


In order of priority:

The Cat at the Wall by Deborah Ellis


Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome


Uglies by Scott Westerfield

Mercy Watson Princess in Disguise by Kate DiCamillo

Circus Quirkus by Erin Soderberg

Digby O'Day by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy




Friday, December 12, 2014

Dear Dumb Diary (Jim Benton)







This is right up there with Sponge Bob and Captain Underpants. It is one of those books that presents me with the dilemma, "Is it responsible of me to encourage kids to read this series if it gets them hooked on reading?"

I still don't know.

I have a number of girls who really seem to love these books.

There are some laugh out loud moments, but there are also a number of cringe-worthy issues: girls who spend all their time worrying about getting a boy's attention, who could care less about school and their poor grades, and obsession about whatever the latest clothing or lip gloss or shoe fad is. I hated the fat shaming. I really didn't like the cattiness between the main character and the seemingly more popular girl.

And then I found out the author is a male.

...and I was horrified that he had so many girls so pegged....kind of like looking in the mirror and realizing you have a huge zit on your face....and it's bleeding...and everyone noticed.

I will have a hard time recommending this one. There are so many good books in this world. I can't really say this is one.

Maybe lots of people will disagree with me. I just have a hard time with this one.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Quirks - Welcome to Normal (Erin Soderberg)



There are lots of questions left that I'm sure will get answered in the books that follow. We have even had some of our questions answered!

Where did the dad go?



Why are there quirky pages in the book?




And we still have more questions: 

Can't wait for our meeting next Tuesday!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Emma and the Blue Genie (Cornelia Funke)


I have loved Cornelia Funke ever since Inkheart. I think she is brilliant.

I love this book because it will be a great way to introduce my students to Cornelia Funke and the book won't be too hard for them. She doesn't mince on vocabulary. The story is short enough though that even though it isn't easy reading, the brevity of the story will help kids who aren't as confident get through it. 

Might be really good for a summer book club that meets weekly!

The illustrations in the book are amazing. The cover seems to be a little Disney-eque. Blerg. The illustrations inside are amazing though. Really amazing.

Might be a good read-aloud. A discussion about what you would wish for if you had three wishes would definitely happen naturally after this book! I have to say, three days of an itchy scalp every day your brother bugs you is quite brilliant, really!



What if a genie had no whishes?

Cornelia Funke, New York Times bestselling author of Inkheart, brings her signature imagination, adventure, and humor to the youngest of middle-grade readers in this charming tale of magic lost and found.

One dark night, Emma finds a mysterious green bottle floating in the ocean. When she pulls out the stopper, she sets a blue genie free!
Most genies grant three wishes, but Karim can't grant even one anymore. A yellow genie stole his magic nose ring, leaving him small, powerless, and trapped in that bottle. Emma and her noodle-tailed dog have to help Karim get his nose ring -and his magic- back!
 

Tags:

Early Chapter Books - Might be good for students who are good reads and need some success in getting through some chapter books. This one is short and a good quick read. Not for early readers though.
Magic - Genies, bottles, wishes, flying carpets....so much!
Pets - Emma travels with her trusty dog, Tristan
Genies - this story has a good one and a bad one....fun!




Monday, December 8, 2014

What I am Reading This Week

This week I plan to read some more Bill Peet books to my students. 



I will also be reading Uglies.



Need to re-read The Quirks



And my new book club book: Three Men in a Boat



Oh, and I got some Mercy Watson books from the library to share with my class. I can't wait to read them too!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Farewell to Shady Glade (Bill Peet)


Goodreads Summary:

Bulldozers push the raccoon and his friends from their home, but they are able to find a new one after a terrifying train ride.


I read this to my class and they were riveted. Is it the animals? Is it the fabulously crafted story? Is it the beautiful illustrations? I don't know...but this one is a marvelous read aloud.





Tags:

Animals: Bill Peet does a marvelous job of giving animals personality
Moving: The animals have to find a new home because theirs is being destroyed

Monday, December 1, 2014

Martin Bridge: Blazing Ahead! (Jessica Scott Kerrin)



Goodreads summary:

Martin Bridge returns with more daily slice-of-life adventures. This time, Martin's first overnight camping trip with the Junior Badgers is going to be a weekend with the works! There are badges to earn, gooey campfire treats to eat, hiking trails to explore -and Alex's pranks to avoid. But when Martin finds himself on the receiving end of his friend's horror-movie slime, it's payback time! Join Martin Bridge as he blazes ahead with a flashy campfire performance, an inspired prank of his own, some lightning-fast bicycle repairs and a surefire way to make his father's old lawn mower go like blazes.


I've tried. I really tried. This was recommended to us by our librarian. I have been reading it aloud to our class. It hasn't been a hit as a read-aloud. It might be better as an individual read. The chapters go on for way too long. We are going to abandon it and move on to something else.

....and I can't find a website for the author. I did find her on a Nova Scotia writer's website though. What author in this day and age doesn't have a website?? She is a Canadian author, so I was really trying. Sorry Jessica Scott Kerrin! It didn't work out.