Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Almost Forgot Frank!

But this evening Pinterest reminded me. I love Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves. Go here if you want to see it on video ... but of course the book is great, too. It's a MUST for fun, rhymes, practicing reading out loud, and a little bit of gross out. What more do you need in October?

Then go to this blog and make this funny little Frankenstein.

Frank Was a Monster Who Wanted to DanceFrank Was a Monster Who Wanted to Dance by Keith Graves

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Soar, Elinor!Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lewis Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Looks like I was behind the times coming to this one but I'm so glad I did. What an interesting person! Will have to add her to our third grade wax museum list.

I really like picture book biographies ... especially the well done ones. This tells enough of the story to give a good picture of her life from childhood to the experiences that made her famous, but without so much detail that a reader gets bored or distracted or bogged down in difficult text. If they need more information there are, of course, other places to go--including the notes at the end that talk about the research the author did.

Plus the illustrations are just beautiful at giving a sense of time and place.

I won a Skype visit for our students from the author last week. Can't wait to figure out which class will participate and talk more with her about it.

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The Map of MeThe Map of Me by Tami Lewis Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How funny. I was offered a copy of this book to review for my blog and then ... oh, about a month later (I'm a little behind in my reading--been under the weather for a while now, dumb fall allergies) I won a Skype visit from this author through a different blog.

Luckily ... I liked it! Really! Kind of reminded me of Frances O'Roark Dowell, Frances O'Roark in terms of writing style. This is realistic fiction about a young girl named Margie trying to find her place in middle school and in her family. Younger sister Peep is the family genius, Dad's too busy to notice, and Mom is unhappy. One day ... Mom leaves. Margie goes after her and drags her sister along for the drive. Yes, that's right. Drive ... even though Margie is in the sixth grade. Might they have wanted to put some sort of disclaimer in there about "don't try this at home"? Kind of ridiculous to even consider that so in one way I'm glad they didn't. Surely kiddos would know not to put the key in the ignition outside of a book?

"Another minute and we were on Bridge Street. I stepped hard on the gas and we flew right across. out of Ithaca. Off the page. Gone" (p 51).

"Maybe throwing that atlas out the window hadn't been my smartest move, but I couldn't give Peep the upper hand. Peep could not be Queen of the Road. That title belonged to me" (p 61).

Two examples of how the whole map analogy is tied through the story without being preachy.

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Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cold CaseCold Case by Julia Platt Leonard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I love a good murder mystery, so when I was offered this one for review (THANK YOU) I of course said sure.

Things I Liked:

1)The relationships around Oz (the main character)--he and his brother Dave, he and his best friend Rusty, he and fellow restaurant employee Razor. They all rang true in terms of how they communicated and got along.

2)The history of Los Alamos and descriptions of Santa Fe.

3)The descriptions of how a kitchen runs. Not that I cook but still ... it made sense and seemed like it really was a young teen explaining it all.

4)Totally doable for a middle grade murder mystery. Enough detail that the kids will be intrigued but not so much that we have to worry about freaking them out. Who knows which houses allow CSI and which don't.

Things I Think Will Get Even Better with More Middle Grade Mystery Novels:

1)I don't think (wouldn't know for sure, would I?) bad guys explain everything. Mentally going through in my head ... and I just really don't think they do. Will consider more specific examples but the way the final ending plays out was just a little bit contrived.

2)The mother is pretty absent and I'm not sure why. Doesn't have to be that way ... even to get Oz over to Rusty's house more often.

3)Perhaps narrowing down the suspect pool just a bit. There are a couple characters in the story who's only real job seems to be red herring. A little misdirection is fun. Too much and it starts to wear on the credibility of the story.

All in all ... a solid entry. If I could give three point five or three point seven five even I would. Will definitely watch for more from this author. Not a huge fan of the cover (running seemed to be more important to him) but I can see the vibe they were going for. With booktalking I can think of at least a couple fifth graders who will enjoy this one, and definitely sixth or seventh graders. Another reviewer here on Goodreads mentioned they enjoyed this one more than Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer and I would agree. Was thinking the same thing before I even saw that comment.

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I put out the word to kiddos that I was thinking about running a morning Lego Club and a morning Scrabble Club. Kids usually have to go sit in the gym until teachers pick them up. Early busses or parent drop-off means they might be sitting there for a half hour or more.

Now, these would have to be pretty self-sustaining clubs because every morning I am usually working with our morning announcement team getting that ready. But some days are more involved than others so I figured teach the kids where the materials are, make behaviour expectations clear, and give them goals or outcomes to work for (specific Lego shapes like "make a 3-D letter T that is at least six inches tall" or something, or "do your best to create verbs today" ... wouldn't those work? We'll see) and on days when I couldn't hang with them they'd be OK. On days when morning announcements are not crazy I could sit with the clubs and offer suggestions.

Is this totally nuts?

Although I've already run into one problem. GROSSLY underestimated the interest in the Lego Club. Now need to find some more $$$$ to get more Legos. Or to get these games I saw at Target yesterday as I was picking up my Z-Pack prescription for what is my yearly case of bronchitis/laryngitis/tonsillitis or whatever it is. Very bad photography here. But hey. At least I got pics, right? With price. Eek. Can't ask PTA because they are already paying for an author visit. Have to look at what's left from bookfair after our portion of our e-reader grant obligation is met (that's another post ... WAITING for district red tape to clear so that we can get them! We're getting Simple Touch Nooks and using our Overdrive book collection). Well. And maybe wait for December when our Terracycle upcycling program check comes. Have to do something fun with the money we get from me sorting all the trash people bring me. ;)

I really need to work on my photo-taking and REMEMBERING to take photo skills. Especially at school I get pretty caught up in the kids and totally forget to snap pics!

So this year my campus has started an about once a month professional learning community planning period ... for the classroom teachers. Those of us that do not fit that traditional role are left to take care of the kids! While I have to say I would like to be able to plan with the teachers (and dealing with an entire grade level at once for two hours in our small library? A little crazy) I understand that hey ... we need to have something for the kids.

In September we did a bit of a station rotation. I had all of the fifth graders. Started with everyone watching the Bluebonnet (state reading award list) video. Kind of funny that one of the first years I've actually shown it is the year AFTER I appeared IN it. But hey. It killed 25 minutes in a relatively useful way. Made me laugh at how the kids actually paid attention to the silly web show format ... they do love their TV shows, don't they? The Scholastic Bookfair DVD kept freezing on my laptop so we didn't end up watching that one.

Then we split up into groups. I'd given the teachers color/animal coded bookmarks to give the kids before they dropped them off (oh, and PS they all brought books). Half of the kids (about 65) got blue bookmarks and started over on the everybody picture book area rug with silent reading time. They were pretty crowded and sadly I discovered their stamina was not super great. A sad byproduct of testing emphasis ... SSR time has been diminished or forgotten quite often. 35 minutes was hard for them. Some of that would have been the noise from the other end of the library and the crowded conditions. But some of it was just they couldn't sit and read for long. Bummer. Still thinking through how to help this one. They do read. We talk about books. Apparently they just don't read in long spurts.

Then the red bookmarks went to a game table where about 15 kids played Scrabble, Harry Potter Uno, or a Disney-themed Apples to Apples game.

Green bookmark kiddos flocked to a "strange facts" table with several copies of the Guinness Book of World Records, National Geographic for Kids, National Geographics Strange and Unusual Facts books, and a couple others I can't even really remember the titles of. Our kids love those weird fact books. I picked up a bunch more at our recent bookfair. They just loved looking at them ... I'd like to come up with some task cards. About 12-15 kids their as well.

Yellow bookmark holders sat at a table full of paper, pencils, and how-to-draw books. About 15 kids there.

Orange bookmarks went to the table for creating monster bookmarks from the corners of colored envelopes. Wow, that one was popular. That one got a bit crowded with about 18-20 kids.

They got to go to two of the "table" rotations and then we swapped. All the kids that had been trying to do SSR then looked at their blue bookmarks for different animals ... and that's how we assigned them to the table rotations. All of the kiddos that had been attempting 35-40 minutes of SSR then went to two table rotations. Library was a mess when it was done. But ... except for the struggles for many of them reading for that long in those conditions the kids really enjoyed it! Myself and the assistants helping me went home exhausted.

This month's is coming up soon. All of the specialists involved in entire grade level activities were a bit overwhelmed. They really wanted to find guest speakers but even that ... it's two hours. Fifth graders would be hard put to sit on a floor listening to someone for that long, let alone kindergartners so I'm not sure if we'll do the same sort of rotation or something different. I think at least in the library we could do something similar for grades three and four. May have to do some tweaking for the younger grades because I know they are still working on their stamina ... kindergarden's up to ten minutes. I need to find out who I have next!
This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor FrankensteinThis Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kenneth Oppel has done it again. Action and creepy intrigue and ambiance. Krake was an interesting character addition.

May have to pick this one up again sometime. There were beautiful turns of phrase I didn't stop and record.

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Picture Books

I'm a SharkI'm a Shark by Bob Shea

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever so fun. May have to share it this month as we are reading about spiders during library time for K-1. The kiddos will wonder what on earth Ms. O was thinking ... but not for long.

Looking at the pics in our non-fic book this week ... spiders are pretty in pictures. In real life? Ick! Get away!

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The 13 Days of HalloweenThe 13 Days of Halloween by Carol Greene

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this one and might have to get it for our school collection simply for the illustrations. Little ones are ALWAYS asking me for scary or zombie books ... and this is about as close as we'll get (it's not really scary ;]).

My favorite part is the skeleton poodle with pink puffy hair that is always trying to bite the male ... what is he. Ghoul? Ogre? Green ghost?

Though I have to say the end is a little frustrating. But just a little. And perfect, actually, for lessons on predicting.

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Ghouls Come Haunting One by One, TheGhouls Come Haunting One by One, The by Tom McDermott

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Illustrations were cute. And the first part of the stanza works ... but the second part doesn't "fit" the rythmn of the song (hence the three stars instead of four).

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ZooZicalZooZical by Judy Sierra

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love this one, too. The illustrations are adorable ... I think my favorites might be the first one when the animals are singing. Or when the poor little hippo gets stage fright.

The only thing is that many of the words might be hard for picture book readers to get independently.

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The Gingerbread Man Loose in the SchoolThe Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OH SO FUNNY. I want to save it and surprise first grade when they do their Gingerbread Man stories. Would it be mean to hold it hostage until then?

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Time to EatTime to Eat by Steve Jenkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another must have by this husband and wife team. Regular book text is easy enough for less able readers ... and the more detailed info in the back will satisfy older curious kids.

And still LOVE the collage illustrations!

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Time for a BathTime for a Bath by Steve Jenkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Still love the pics. Honestly the info wasn't quite as interesting to me but then again ... kids like to avoid baths anyway, right?

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Time to SleepTime to Sleep by Steve Jenkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I always love anything Steven Jenkins and his wife Robin Page do. They are awesome. Interesting facts about how animals sleep (a giraffe sleeps for less than two hours a day? a white stork for seconds at a time?) plus of course the illustrations are just BEAUTIFUL.

Yawn. Time for a nap now. In a good way!

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I Want My Hat BackI Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like snarky dry humor. I think the kids will, too.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ghosts in the House!Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a lovely little Halloween book to discover at a bookfair just before October.

First of all love the color scheme ... it's all in orange and black with a touch of white (the ghosts!). Perfect for the fall. They have sort of a retro vibe that grownups reading the book might like, too. But we're not talking about grownups liking this book, are we? ;]

The illustrations are just fun! The little ghost mouths on the curtains and tablecloths will delight the picture book crowd. The little witch and her cat work so hard to make their new home look like a nice place, and not haunted at all.

And of course (hope this is not a spoiler!) who doesn't love a story that ends with the little witch, her cat, and the ghosts living together ever after?

Not a tale of terror, this is a happy haunted book. Pick it up!

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