Monday, November 30, 2015

Mattoo, Let's Play! (Irene Luxbacher)

A simple story, but great starting point for a friendship discussion. The main character in the story seems to not realize that she is too boisterous and adventurous for her cat. We talked about how when you want to be friends with them you have to see things from their perspective and consider playing games that they are comfortable with.

The illustrations in this book a beautiful! They are black and white and very bold, with just a bit of colour. Loved the book.

Goodreads summary:

Ruby can't understand why her cat, Mattoo, never wants to play. Ruby is good-natured but is perhaps too boisterous. Will Mattoo ever want to play with Ruby? Will Ruby ever win Mattoo's affection? With striking acrylic illustrations, Mattoo, Let's Play! is a visually rich story that shows how playing carefully and gently with a pet can make all the difference.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Star Wars: Jedi Academy (Jeffrey Brown)

One of my students gave me this book to read. I commented that I had seen those books a lot on blogs I follow and on twitter and I was curious about the phenomenon. He gave it to me to read. Unfortunately, it got put in a pile of stuff and I forgot about it. The other day he asked me, "Hey, did you read my Star Wars book?" I hadn't even clued in that it was a Star Wars book. I found it in the pile and told him I'd read it right away.

It's a really quick read - graphic novel and all. I sometimes have trouble reading graphic novels because often the pictures tell a lot and I tend to skim over them quickly.

Here's my confession: I'm not a Star Wars fan. Never watched the movies. Never watched it on TV. Never. I know. It's blasphemous to some. It just isn't my thing.

This book really wasn't my thing either. It was kind of painful, to tell you the truth. I totally blame that on my lack of Star Wars knowledge and love. However, I can see where those who really love Star Wars would love this book! I'm glad I read it. I might be able to maintain a little more of a Star Wars conversation now. Still not going to watch Star Wars though. :)

New York Times bestselling author/illustrator Jeffrey Brown takes readers to a middle school in a galaxy far, far away...

This incredible, original story captures all of the humor, awkwardness, fun, and frustrations of middle school--all told through one boy's comics, journal entries, letters, doodles, and newspaper clippings. The setting? A galaxy far, far away...

Roan's one dream is to leave home and attend Pilot Academy like his older brother, father, and grandfather. But just as Roan is mysteriously denied entrance to Pilot School, he is invited to attend Jedi Academy--a school that he didn't apply to and only recruits children when they are just a few years old. That is, until now...

This inventive novel follows Roan's first year at Jedi Academy where, under the tutelage of Master Yoda, he learns that he possesses more strength and potential than he could have ever dreamed. Oh, and he learns other important things too--like how to make a baking soda volcano, fence with a lightsaber, slow dance with a girl, and lift boulders with the Force.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Coriander the Contrary Hen (Dori Chaconas)

Funny story! We had a good discussion about what contrary means and people that are contrarians. Prior to reading it I asked if they knew what it meant. Some had a bit of an idea. After we read it we talked about it again and the ideas were pretty strong then because there are so many examples in the story.

Who would have ever thought a chicken could be a contrarian?!

We read this book on Tumblebooks.

Goodreads summary:

Coriander is a contrary, stubborn hen, with a mind of her own. When she decides to plant herself in the middle of the road causing a chaotic traffic jam of cars, trucks, and buses, Farmer Bucket and Mrs. Bucket can't get Coriander to budge. Little Fanny Bucket finally uses a bit of reverse psychology to get her way. But will Coriander have the last laugh?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Waiting (Kevin Henkes)

This is a beautiful story about waiting and not worrying about what is next. Just waiting and enjoying the wait. Great story to help you focus on mindfulness and keeping peace in your life. Simple illustrations and muted colors add to the beauty of this book. I thought it might be too "babyish" for my grade 3 students, but they loved it.

Goodreads Summary:

What are you waiting for? An owl, a puppy, a bear, a rabbit, and a pig—all toys arranged on a child's windowsill—wait for marvelous things to happen in this irresistible picture book by the New York Times–bestselling and Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes.

Five friends sit happily on a windowsill, waiting for something amazing to happen. The owl is waiting for the moon. The pig is waiting for the rain. The bear is waiting for the wind. The puppy is waiting for the snow. And the rabbit is just looking out the window because he likes to wait! What will happen? Will patience win in the end? Or someday will the friends stop waiting and do something unexpected?

Waiting is a big part of childhood—waiting in line, waiting to grow up, waiting for something special to happen—but in this book, a child sets the stage and pulls the strings. Timeless, beautiful, and deeply heartfelt, this picture book about imaginative play, the seasons, friendship, and surprises marks a new pinnacle in Caldecott Medalist Kevin Henkes's extraordinary career.

"The short sentences of the text flow with the precision one would expect from a master picture-book creator like Henkes. Little ones, to whom each experience is new, will know what it's like to dream and wait."—ALA Booklist

Otis and the Puppy (Loren Long)

We have been talking about making connections to stories. I didn't think this would be a great story for that because it is about a tractor on a farm and I have a bunch of city slickers in my class. However, there was a lot they could relate to in this book: playing hide a seek, getting a new puppy, feeling adoration over how cute a puppy is, being afraid of the dark, etc. It was a great read and we had plenty of connections!

Goodreads Summary:

Otis and his farm friends love to play hide-and-seek. Otis especially loves to be "It," finding his friends as they hide. Yet when the newest addition to the farm—a bounding puppy who can't sit still and has a habit of licking faces—tries to hide, he finds his attention wandering and is soon lost in the forest. Night falls and Otis, knowing his new friend is afraid of the dark, sets out to find him. There's just one problem: Otis is also afraid of the dark. His friend is alone and in need, though, so Otis takes a deep breath, counts to ten, and sets off on a different game of hide-and-seek.

From the critically-acclaimed illustrator of The Little Engine that Could,Of Thee I Sing, and Otis, the 2013 Read for the Record selection.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Wonder (RJ Palacio)

Goodreads summary:

I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

Originally posted February 9, 2013:

Today we had a 2.5 hour drive to make, and so I got to spend a lot of time reading. Actually, we drove 2.5 hours to get to the funeral, then another hour to the cemetery, and an hour back home. I told my family we would have to leave the family festivities by 4 pm so I'd still get some daylight hours in for some more reading - but they told me I was out of luck. Still, I pretty much got 5 hours of reading in today. It was blissful.

I spent most of my reading time with August Pullman, the main character from Wonder. What an amazing book! I have read a lot of blogs where people rave about this book. I don't think they quite said enough about what a great story it is. It is one of the best books I've read in the past year, for sure.

Wonder is the story of August Pullman, a boy in Grade 5, who is starting public school for the first time. He has home schooled up until that point because he has had so many health issues. He was born with many facial deformities and has endured endless surgeries. He is not eager to start school, and kids aren't eager to have him around. Middle school is hard enough. When you have deformities, it is even harder.

My heart broke as I read the mean things other kids did to him. I cheered him on as he endured the trials. I cried, and I laughed.

The story is told from many people's perspectives: His sister, his friends, his non-friends, his sister's friends, his sister's boyfriend, and August, himself. It is brilliantly crafted. It, for sure, is a wonder!

....personal note: It was interesting to be reading of August's experiences, and then go to a family event. Maybe you don't have this in your family - but we have a few, um, shall we say, wing nuts in our family??! Funerals seem to be an interesting melting pot of people and I found myself shaking a finger at myself as I did my usual dance and duck to avoid some people in the family. I found myself wanting to be a little kinder. And, man, was it hard!

Favorite quote: Everyone should have a standing ovation once in their life.

I am giving August a standing ovation right now!

Great idea: There is a teacher in the book that has the kids learn "precepts". They are meaningful quotes. Each month there is a new precept. At the end of the month they write an essay about what the precept means. He also encourages kids to send him their precepts in the summer, and he promises to write back. I love that idea!

Re-read November 2015: I love this book. I'm re-reading as it was the choice for our book club this moth.

The way the author has told the story through different perspectives is brilliant. I could relate to each person as they told the story.

I finished this book on the bus with a bunch of my students. Nothing like trying to hold back the tears amongst a bunch of 8 year olds as I read.

I love this story. It is a great conversation starter.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Loch Mess Monster (Helen Lester)

Some of my students had heard of the Lochness Monster, so they thought the title was pretty humorous.

The scottish influence on the words were puzzling, but good fodder for discussion. The book has a glossary of Scottish terms. It also has an epilogue....great way to introduce those vocabulary words.

They thought the little monster was pretty cute.

Fun story!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister (Linda Ravin Lodding)

I wish I had read this book earlier in the day so we had more time to discuss it. I live a life like Ernestine. Many of us do. I would have been interested to hear more about what the kids in my class would say about how over-scheduled our lives get. It isn't really the gets that set up their over-scheduled lives.

...maybe this book really isn't for kids after all.

Goodreads Summary:

Ernestine is in over her head. Monday through Sunday, Ernestine’s week is packed with after-school lessons—tuba, knitting, sculpting, water ballet, yoga, yodeling, and karate. Overwhelmed and exhausted, Ernestine decides to take matters into her own hands and heads off to the park with her Nanny where she builds a fort, watches the clouds, and plays all kinds of unstructured and imaginative games. But when a teacher calls Ernestine's mom to report that she has not shown up for yodeling, her parents search everywhere until at last they hear their daughter's laughter coming from the park. Ernestine tells her parents what a wonderful afternoon she's had, and explains her plight, asking, "I like my lessons, but can't I stop some of them?" This saga hilariously captures the dilemma of the modern-day over-scheduled child in riotous color and absurd extremes. A delightful heroine, Ernestine will be sure to put “play” back on everyone’s agenda, demonstrating that in today’s overscheduled world, everyone needs the joy of play and the simple wonders of childhood. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore

This story makes me chuckle. I am reminded of so many kids I know when I read it.

This is one of those misunderstood girls...she just doesn't think like everyone else. It sometimes gets her in trouble.

After we read it, we got talking about funny things my students had done when they were younger. We decided to make our own book of things we're not allowed to do anymore. So fun!

Goodreads Summary:

This Parenting Magazine Best Book of the Year and Bank Street College of Education Best Children's Book of the Year features a kid full of fun ideas. For example, in the morning, gluing her brother's bunny slippers to the floor sounds like a good plan. But now she's not allowed to use glue anymore. And what about when she shows Joey Whipple her underpants—they're only underpants, right? Turns out she's not allowed to do that again, either. And isn't broccoli the perfect gift for any brother? It's just too bad her parents don't think so. But she has the last laugh in this humerous picture book about not-so-great behavior. And don't miss the companion book to 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore: 11 Experiments that Failed, a zany exploration of the scientific method by everyone's favorite troublemaking protagonist.