Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Magnificent 12: The TrapThe Magnificent 12: The Trap by Michael Grant

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loads of fun! I can't wait to get these books into the hands of some of our fourth and fifth graders--or middle school, if you happen to work with those kids.

Loved the humor and the action.

"Sometimes I talk to toilets. It .... Well, they seem to like it." In my e-ARC that was on page 10 but that could change in the final copy. Anyway. Lines like that. Who wouldn't giggle.

"(By the way, if you know all this because you read the first book? You can skip this chapter and go on to the next one. My feelings won't be hurt.)" That was on page 23. Though I think you should read them in order because otherwise you miss out.

There were lots of others but that is just a hint. Dragons and ninja-like characters. Lots of Paddy's backstory. More fun from Mack's golem back home. Warning ... ends on a cliffhanger. When will book three come out?

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Exquisite Corpse AdventureThe Exquisite Corpse Adventure by Jon Scieszka

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can think of several kids at my school that would love this story. It was a little hard for me to follow but that was just a factor of the way it was written. Of course each individual author and illustrator contributed their own style to the exaggerated story. And in the end who wouldn't love a big pig named Genius Kelly? (Be fairwarned ... here's a quote from later in the story ... "Who named that pig Genius?" (p 98))

Here are a couple of quotes that I liked. Of course there are more! And these are page numbers from a preview copy, so the final may be a bit different.

"Joe .... bravely dived off the bridge into the gorge. Nancy dived after him, even more bravely. (Don't you agree? I mean, she'd had an extra moment to think about it.)" (pp 19-20) This bit was written by Susan Cooper. It made me laugh.

"'In one way, he is' said Einstein, quickly adding, 'but in two way he's not'" (p 33). Word play always adds a fun touch.

On p 37 they describe a lunch retrieved from a Star Wars lunchbox. May the Force be with you! OH! And speaking of ... that's a quote straight from page 59. That's just awesome.

"She bowed automatically before remembering there would be no applause in these villain-infested wood--only certain death" (p 41). Another one that made me laugh. The irony. Another one ... "UNHAND THAT ARM!" (p79) And "I'm so happy for you. The happiest days are always the days when missing legs are found. Aren't they, Joe? Aren't they the happiest days?" (p127).

Some readers might agree with this statement in terms of the book "'Oh,' thought Nancy, sometimes the world is too ridiculous to be borne'" (p134). That's OK. Every book has it's readers!

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VanishedVanished by Sheela Chari

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This title was a refreshing change of pace. I'd never heard of a veena before, and not read much about modern India or current culture (lots of stories set during the British occupation but not much else).

The prologue opened with description just like a movie set. I could see it in my head.

The description of the veena was well done, but it was a little harder for me to envision just because it was so out of my normal everyday knowledge. I wonder if there is really one with dragon details like in the story. Would love to see a photo! Will have to find some clips of the music to use when I talk about this book to classes.

Unfortunately I didn't keep any notes on quotes that I enjoyed. Just know that this was a fun mystery with believable characters that I will be recommending to ... oh, about fourth grade and above students in the coming school year. If I could have given it three and a half or three and three-quarters stars I would have.

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A Monster CallsA Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a creepy story ripe with meaning. The writing was superb and in light of the situation behind the story the tone fits perfectly. I jotted down several quotes that I liked. These page numbers will not reflect the final hard copy as they are from an electronic preview. I just share them as example of some of the beautiful turns of phrase.

"Stories are the wildest things of all, the monster rumbled. Stories chase and bite and hunt." (p 45) That's why we love stories, right? Because they make us feel things.

“You’re as old as the land and you’ve never heard of sarcasm?” (p 59) Irony. Gets me every time.

"Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?" (p 61) Again, very similar to the earlier quote. The power of story is one way in which we all come together as authors and readers. We find things we have in common after reading a book!

"Belief is half of healing." (p 139) Most doctors would agree with this. And it definitely can be a big part of emotional healing and coming to peace with things that are happening, even if it doesn't end up changing the final outcome.

"Connor's grief was a physical thing, gripping him like a clamp, clenching him as tight as a muscle. He could barely breathe from the sheer effort of it, and he sank to the ground again, wishing it would just take him, once and for all." (p 200) This is just beautiful. WHY CAN'T I WRITE LIKE THIS?

"You do not write you life with words, the monster said. You write it with actions. What you think is not important. It is only important what you do." (p 202) Another case where I am jealous of this author's power with the written word. In this case his action of writing the book in honor of Ms. Dowd is the important thing. The rest of us ... well, what will we DO?

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Google Plus and a mid-Summer Recap

I wrangled an invite and so far it is pretty dull. Don't know many others that already have it. BUT I do like that you can choose "circles" with which to share info. That would make things easier than Facebook considering former students and parents.

Though I do want to be clear ... I don't post anything on FB I would be embarrassed for them to see. Really don't DO anything I would care if they found out about.

It's just good to have boundaries.

That said ... I'm a little behind on my summer professional goals. Still need to get three book trailers done for our district grant. Thinking about a stop-motion Piggie and Elephant one. An iMovie one for The Teacher's Funeral (because it is HILARIOUS and historical fic does not get enough credit--at least in my school!). Haven't decided what the other one will be. Also need to do up a "how to." Would like to use Comic Life but again. MUST SIT DOWN AND DO.

Put finishing touches on a "Connecting with Authors via the Web" presentation. Doing it in Keynote as a way to practice transitions/animations/etc. Though ... I think they use different terms, don't they? Builds, or something like that?

Work on book lists for e-reader grant book club!

Middle Grade & YA

Superior Saturday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #6)Superior Saturday by Garth Nix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. The amount of imagination and detail Nix puts into these books is just amazing. I should try some of his other series ... these are the only ones I've read. And it was nice to come to the series fairly late. Don't have to wait so long for the next ones then.

The whole description of the tower and chains and different colored umbrellas? Sounds ridiculous out of context but IN the story it works.

Now to go track down Lord Sunday!

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The Emerald Atlas (Books of Beginning Series #1)The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I stayed up too late finishing this! (But hey, why not. Fireworks were cancelled in our neck of the woods due to bad drought.)

I really liked the sense of family these three kids gave each other. Two sisters and a brother who did their very best to stay together.

I also really liked the description of the settings. I could "see" the places in my mind.

Some of the "time travel" bits got a little confusing. But it wasn't so that it really interrupted the flow of the story. I noticed it but it didn't bother me too much.

Can't wait to get a library copy into the hands of some kids!

The Emperor of Nihon-JaThe Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I do love these stories. So much epic action and adventure. Intricately plot out stories. Interaction between characters. Never a moment's rest!

I really liked the Emperor.

As much as I loved it, though, I will say this is the first one that seemed a little ... long. And the first one (without spoiling too much) that really showed how much Will and Horace and Alyss and Evanlyn have grown up. I'll probably still get it for our collection. But really encourage younger readers to go for something else. Most of them would not likely make it from books one to nine, anyway. Only the really dedicated that can handle it, anyway.

The Great FireThe Great Fire by Jim Murphy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Actually quite enjoyed this one ... and considering it was a "listened to" while on the treadmill that's saying something!

Terrible tragedy of errors. The whole thing.

Excellent narrator. First heard him do "I'll Fight You For the Library." Which is totally unrelated to this book but hilarious.

Happenstance Found (The Books of Umber, #1)Happenstance Found by P.W. Catanese

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. I enjoyed that one a lot more than I expected to. Grand fantasy with a twist at the end I was NOT expecting.

Actually also glad to see that it's not actually as long or complicated as it might look just from the cover. The print is double spaced ... meaning it will be accessible to a lot more kids (on our state reading list) than might have seemed at first glance. Not all of them, certainly, as it is a complicated story. But the less skilled readers have lots of other choices. No one student has to read every book on the list.

Can't wait to read some more!

CosmicCosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Had to keep going to hear the end. I think this is one of my new favorite books. :]

Not sure what kids will think. Curious to find out.

#3 It just gets better.

"I said cockadoodle doo. I don't usually."

"OK. You lot are my mission."

Update #2 So that I don't forget ...

*the space suits that made everyone look like "criminal tangerines"

*Liam just HAD to bump the other dad in the stomach with their big orange inflatable suits


Update #1

I'm in the middle of listening to this while on the treadmill/bike ... embarrassing myself by busting out laughing at gym inappropriate times.

Seriously funny. I've actually exercised LONGER THAN USUAL just to keep listening.

So I don't forget ...

*playing the Big Friendly Giant as a "Little Stars" actor

*the crisps and pop in his dressing room

*being mistaken for the new media studies teacher and leading the entire school out of assembly

*visiting the travel agent and having his mom nix everything

*discovering the 5 different conversations his dad makes

Also--the narrator. It's KIRBY HEYBORNE--LDS movie "star." How did I not know he did audiobooks? Funny thing is, he also did Little Brother which I downloaded just yesterday but haven't started listening to yet. The accent took a little getting used to but this main character is supposed to be from England.

Superior Saturday (The Keys to the Kingdom, #6)Superior Saturday by Garth Nix

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. The amount of imagination and detail Nix puts into these books is just amazing. I should try some of his other series ... these are the only ones I've read. And it was nice to come to the series fairly late. Don't have to wait so long for the next ones then.

The whole description of the tower and chains and different colored umbrellas? Sounds ridiculous out of context but IN the story it works.

Now to go track down Lord Sunday!

The Last Little Blue Envelope (Little Blue Envelope, #2)The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What a grand adventure. Do people really have adventures like that? Or are they just in books?

I have to admit, though, that I liked the first one better. Maybe I should have reread it just before reading this one. I'm a little far removed from the characters so I can't quite remember why they act the way they do. Hadn't really remembered that the last letter was stolen.

These would make for a fun cheesy movie.

Picture Book Update

Got to spend some time at the bookstore the other day. Here are some thoughts on what I found.

Volcano Wakes Up!Volcano Wakes Up! by Lisa Westberg Peters

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I pretty much have to pick up anything Steve Jenkins touches ... love his collage art! Would love to see/touch some of the works in progress. Will have to make do with looking at the different textures.

I liked many of the poems in this book. I think the construction signs were my favorite. "Darn! This active volcano is always under construction."

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Every Cowgirl Needs Dancing BootsEvery Cowgirl Needs Dancing Boots by Rebecca Janni

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The part that stood out for me was how this little girl was proactive about making friends, even though at the outset it looked like they didn't have anything in common.
Fun! And I am not usually even a pink or sparkly fan.

Otto: The boy who loved carsOtto: The boy who loved cars by Kara LeReau

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cute enough. And possibly useful in a case where a child has an obsession with ONLY one kind of book (or TV show or toy or whatever).

A little preachy. But still cute.

Michael RecycleMichael Recycle by Ellie Bethel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Apparently I missed something because here is another one I was not a big fan of that has a four star average.

Just felt ... super preachy. What is the word ... didactic? As much as I loved the whole "green" theme it just didn't work for me.

That's How!That's How! by Christoph Niemann

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one! Not a lot of story there but I just liked how the one used her imagination to explain how all of the different items worked. Another writing center in there somewhere.

Tickle MonsterTickle Monster by Josie Bissett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here's another one where my rating is quite different from everyone else's.

I liked the illustrations but come on. "Here let me prove it--holy moly kind kitties, The next place to tickle is your under-arm pitties"?

Or is it because I'm not a parent?

Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate CakeBetty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake by Michael Kaplan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another one where I'm being wishy washy between two different ratings.

Loved how the little bunny thinks her mom calling her "a handful" is a good thing.

Pictures are cute. Just wasn't enough interesting about the story to make me really love it.

Miss Smith Under the OceanMiss Smith Under the Ocean by Michael Garland

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I like his other stuff better. Too much of this would require explanation. I mean ... I guess I liked the white whale addition to the story but really? Do we need to be explaining Moby Dick to the picture book crowd?

Should I Share My Ice Cream? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)Should I Share My Ice Cream? by Mo Willems

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I triple heart Mo Willems, Piggie, and Elephant.

Love his absolute anxiety. WHAT SHOULD HE DO?

Love the little penguin.

Love the outcome of the story.

Postcards from CampPostcards from Camp by Simms Taback

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. How could I be the first one to be writing something? I wonder if there is another version I missed.

Anyway. This is an epistolary novel between a son and his dad. LOVED the artwork. Loved the postcards. Loved the letters. Loved the story. Pretty much loved the entire thing.

Two concerns, though, I'll admit. 1)The letters inside envelopes. These can be troublesome in a library. You're trying to check in a couple hundred books ... who has time to check each envelope and make sure the letter was replaced? Or then track down the child and point out one was missing and then have them find it? 2)Some of the letters/postcards are in cursive. This will leave some kids out because they won't be able to read them.

The Underpants ZooThe Underpants Zoo by Brian Sendelbach

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Kids will think this one is hilarious. And "ants in the pants" is kind of funny.

Just not enough in the story for me. :/

Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable ChantRah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant by April Pulley Sayre

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Seen this in a couple people's "read" feeds so when I saw it at the bookstore I had to take a look.

Love the colorful photographs. And maybe, with the right context, this could help connect kids to where food comes from? Maybe? Really like a three and a half.

Big Brothers Don't Take NapsBig Brothers Don't Take Naps by Louise Borden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super cute and a must read for anyone with a little boy ... and expecting.

Calvin Can't FlyCalvin Can't Fly by Jennifer Berne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liked Calvin. Liked the illustrations. Liked the little joke about birds calling you a "bookworm" being an especially bad thing. Liked how they tried to help him when he didn't know how to fly south.

I don't mean to be picky. But that did not look like a hurricane to me. I am no scientist but it looked like a tornado. Aren't hurricanes closer to a coast? I did not see any signs they were near a coast. Of course there were a lot of distractions going on around me when I read this but ... three instead of four. I guess I am being picky.

Detective BlueDetective Blue by Steve Metzger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A sort of "fractured nursery rhyme" book ... loved it! Sort of old-timey detective story. Just make sure the kiddos know the originals first.

There are fun little details for grownups to notice ... like "Miss Mary Contrary's Community Garden." Or maybe a kid would notice that.

Loved the sheep in costume trying to get in to the school.

OH! And the twist at the end. Great thinking!

Hogwash!Hogwash! by Karma Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like the idea of the story but oddly enough (even though I usually like his stuff) was not as big of a fan of the illustrations. This is a rhyming book.

This says it was published in 2004. How is it I've never seen it before? And it was displayed face out at the bookstore?

If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered AlphabetIf Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet by Leslie McGuirk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow. What a cool collection! I think my favorites might have been ... the ones for "ghosts" and the one for "joy."

There's a writing center in there somewhere. Just have to figure it out.

The Green Mother GooseThe Green Mother Goose by David Davis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Was not a super big fan of it at first but then it started to grow on me.

Of course, one must remember that kids have to know the original nursery rhymes before they can even begin to think "fractured" ones are funny.

I liked the one about Jack Sprat eating lots of fast food fat and his wife eating leafy greens. Then he grows out of his jeans.

Can't remember the rhyme but little Jack Horner changes all of his lightbulbs to compact fluorescent. It actually works for the most part.

Splish, Splash, Splat! (Splat the Cat Series)Splish, Splash, Splat! by Rob Scotton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't help it ... I like Splat. His name is fun to say.

So is Mrs. Wimpydimple's.

In this one Splat and Spike find out they have something unexpected in common ... something I'm sure quite a few kids have also experienced.

If you go to B&N's online storytime Molly Ringwald will read it to you. She did pretty well with some of the "s" alliteration.

Pajama PiratesPajama Pirates by Andrew Kramer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hmm. I always find it interesting when I want to give a book more or fewer stars than the average. But oh well, I liked this one! The rhymes were sweet and all the kids playing together was fun and the whole pirates thing WORKED in this story (unlike another one I looked at at the same time whose title I did not even jot down because it was annoying).

Plus the illustrations were lovely.

Press HerePress Here by Hervé Tullet

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally saw what all the fuss was about today.

Ingenious. Innovative. Truly ... is there anything even remotely close to this out there? I am very curious to actually see what a child does with this book. Might come back and go ahead with the fifth star at that point.

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