Wednesday, October 27, 2010


DreamlandTitle: Dreamland 
Author: Sarah Dessen  
Publisher: Penguin Group 
Publication Date: 2004   
Genre/Format: Teen Issues-Fiction/Novel   
Summary: Caitlin isn't sure what to think when her older sister, Cass, leaves home unexpectedly.  She joins cheerleading with her best friend, Rina, which gives her mother something to take her mind off of Cass's disappearance.  Rina also has plans for Caitlin to be dating one of the high school football players when she meets Rogerson Biscoe.  Rogerson is a bad boy and everyone warns Caitlin about him, but he easily has Caitlin enamored with him.  At first, their relationship is great, but before Caitlin knows it, she finds herself victim to his physical abuse without anyone to realize the trouble she is in.
What I Think: This is one of the most profound YA books I have read in a long time.  Dessen does an amazing job at building the characters and drawing the reader into Caitlin's life.  Having never been in an abusive relationship before, I have often wondered how people stay in relationships, or go back to relationships that are abusive.  This book helped me gain some perspective into that conundrum.  As a reader, I loved Rogerson Biscoe!  He's mysterious and sexy at the same time as being fun and smart, with a brain-ful of trivia facts.  It's easy to see how Caitlin falls in love with him, and then why she continues to love him after he starts to hit her.  It doesn't make sense that he hits her and it's so easy to remember when their relationship was great.  I kept wanting to like Rogerson even when he was hitting her.  I realize that doesn't make any sense, and that's when I also had some understanding of what a person might be feeling when they are in an abusive relationship.
     I'm hesitant to say this, but this book had me making a connection with Teen Mom, the show on MTV about four teen mothers and their lives.  There is one couple who grew up in abusive situations and the girl can be physically and verbally abusive to her boyfriend/ex-boyfriend/fiance/ex-fiance.  On one show, she talked about how she whites-out and doesn't have a clear understanding of what she's doing when she gets physically abusive.  Dessen mentions this in the book and I had never heard of that before.  Similarly, we get a tiny glimpse into Rogerson's relationship with his dad and how that influences his relationship with Caitlin.
     I think any middle school or high school reader of teen issues would devour this book.  It is well-written and such a thought-provoking book.
Read Together: 7 - 12
Read Alone: 8 - 12   
Read With: Someone Like You or other books by Sarah Dessen; What My Mother Doesn't Know and other books by Sonya Sones; Lush and other books by Natasha Friend; A Child Called "It": One Child's Courage to Survive and other books in the series by Dave Pelzer; Non-Fiction about physical abuse or relationships       
Snatch of Text:  
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Visualizing, Author's Purpose
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository, Characterization
Writing Prompts: Research different types of abuse, then choose one and explain characteristics of that type of abuse and what a person can do if he or she finds himself in an abusive relationship - create a brochure to display your research.  
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Love, Reputation, Sisters, Photography, Physical Abuse  
Translated to Spanish: No    

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Pirate Cruncher

The Pirate CruncherTitle: The Pirate Cruncher     
Author: Jonny Duddle
Illustrator: Jonny Duddle
Publisher: Templar Books
Publication Date: 2009 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book   
Summary: In this swashbuckling tale, Captain Purplebeard and his crew set off to an unknown island in search of treasure (of course!) but find a (not-so-pleasant) surprise awaiting them!
What I Think: I think the illustrations are awesome in this book...but I have to say, I read it about three times before I really understood the story.  Maybe that was just me being obtuse; when I finally did get it, I loved it.  This book is definitely a book that should be read with a child because it's pretty complex.  I did read it with Peanut, who is only 3, so maybe an older child would catch on, but I didn't at first so it's hard to tell.  I would definitely make sure to read this book and think about the tone you are going to use, it could be kind of spooky!
     If I were to teach this book, I would use it to talk about being greedy with younger kids and about stereotypes with older kids.  I would start by asking students what they know about pirates and characteristics of pirates, helping them brainstorm and making sure being greedy made it to the list.  Then, I would start the book by talking about the letter at the beginning and ask lots of questions about who is writing the letter (you can tell from the tentacle in the illustrations!) and model making inferences for them.  It's so important to the story that the kids realize who is leading the pirates to the island.  After getting to the end of the book I would talk about who did actually lure the pirates to the island and how clever he was.  AND, I would make sure to talk to them about this character's character, it's really not all that nice to deceive them the way he did.
     For middle school and high school students, I think this might lead to a great discussion about people and morals.  Pirates can definitely be used to examine stereotypes, I actually really like this idea because it's not like using jocks or geeks as examples which could make someone feel bad...most high schoolers I know aren't pirates...  Because of the Disney's recent Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, I would venture to say students would be able to brainstorm stereotypes that define pirates.  Beyond identifying stereotypes, it's interesting to look at how the Pirate Cruncher used those stereotypes to his advantage.  Let's face it, pirates aren't supposed to be examples of upstanding citizens, but do they deserve their fate in this book?  I think students would be able to make some connections with stereotypes and with how people treat other people.  And then what about researching or learning about the history of pirates?  This would be a great introduction. 
Read Together: K - 12 
Read Alone: 4 - 12 
Read With: How I Became a Pirate and Pirates Don't Change Diapers By Melinda Long; The Curse of Snake Island #1  and other books in the Pirate School series; The Pirateology Handbook: A Course in Pirate Hunting (Ologies) by Captain William Lubber/Dugald Steer; Nonfiction about pirates 
Snatch of Text: 
"All was unusually quiet in Port Royal...
but if you listened carefully, on the docks,
down the alleyways,
and in the candlelit taverns,
you could hear the faint sound of a fiddle floating on the wind."  
(These are on the first two-page layout in the book...kind of spooky, huh?)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions, Making Inferences, Author's Purpose
Writing Strategies to Practice: Prepositional Phrases, Tone/Mood, Alliteration  
Writing Prompts: Think about what makes the mood of The Pirate Cruncher spooky, then write your own spooky story including prepositional phrases
Topics Covered: Pirates, Greed, Morals
Translated to Spanish: No

Friday, October 22, 2010

Love Is a Handful of Honey

Love Is a Handful of HoneyTitle: Love Is a Handful of Honey  
Author: Giles Andreae
Illustrator: Vanessa Cabban 
Publisher: Little Tiger Press
Publication Date: 1999   
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
Summary: A bear family talks about what love means to them. 
What I Think: I think this book is a great way to talk about metaphors.  There is almost a metaphor on every page.  There are also endless metaphors about love so it's a great examples to use.  I don't know how middle school or high school students would react to making a "love is..." metaphor, but I think it would be something they could relate to.  This might be a great Valentine's Day activity!   
     I love the song "Happiness is..." from You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  You could also show students the lyrics to the song and play it for them as an example of metaphors.  It might be a good idea to give them an option to write either a "love is..." or a "happiness is..." metaphor.
Read Together: 1 - 12 
Read Alone: 3 - 12 
Read With:  Heaven Is Having You By Giles Andreae;
Snatch of Text: "Love is that highflying feeling
That makes you leap out of your bed.
Love is what makes you throw open the curtains
And somersault round on your head."
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Visualizing 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Metaphors, Personal Narrative 
Writing Prompts: Think about what love or happiness means to you.  Write 5 metaphors that include either "love is..." or "happiness is".  Write about a time in your life when you felt loved or happy, use metaphors to describe how you felt.   
Topics Covered: Family, Love, Happiness 
Translated to Spanish: No

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Say Hello!

Say Hello!
Title: Say Hello! 
Author: Rachel Isadora   
Illustrator: Rachel Isadora
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons 
Publication Date: 2010  
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book   
Summary: A little girl stops to say hello to many people who speak different languages on her way to visit her grandmother.
What I Think:  I think it's awesome to celebrate diversity, and this book makes it fun with all the different ways to say hello!  I think this book would be great for a preschool class.  There are so many songs hello and goodbye songs that you could sing with this book, I think I would choose Raffi's To Everyone In All The World from the Baby Beluga CD.  Kids could walk around the room shaking hands and saying hello in different languages.  This book might be a great way to start a discussion about different languages and about how respect others with different backgrounds who speak different languages.
     This could also be used for older students to introduce a unit about studying different countries around the world.  In one of the schools I work in, all the 4th graders have to choose a country and research that country in order to present at an International Fair.  This would be a fun way to start off a discussion about the different languages there are all over the world.
Read Together: Pre-K - 3 
Read Alone: K - 6 
Read With: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon By Patty Lovell, One by Kathryn Otoshi, Is There Really a Human Race? By Jamie Lee Curtis or Nonfiction about different cultures 
Snatch of Text: "They stop in at the Japanese restaurant to say hello. 'Konichiwa!'"
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Expository, Personal Narrative 
Writing Prompts: Choose a country and do research about the country, including what language(s) are spoken there and if they have an official language.  Write about the customs in your culture - particularly how you greet others. 
Topics Covered: Diversity, Languages, Culture, Customs, Greeting Others, Acceptance, Differences  
Translated to Spanish: Technically this book is in English, but mostly it's speaking all different languages so I think it could easily be used even if it's in English.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

One Voice, Please

One Voice, PleaseTitle: One Voice, Please     
Author: Sam McBratney
Illustrator: Russell Ayto  
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2005   
Genre/Format: Folk Literature/Short Stories 
Summary: This book is a collection of short stories retold by Sam McBratney.  I recognized many of them, like "The Soup Stone", "The Golden Touch", and "The Lion and the Mouse".     
What I Think: I really like that these stories aren't told through picture books.  I love the messages that these stories tell and that they will make students think.  I already have a few of these in mind to use for students to respond to as extended response exercises.  A majority of the time, I work with students in a pull-out/resource setting and I think these short stories are great for a quick read and discussion.  They would be great in a classroom, too, as a read aloud when you have some extra time.   
"Daydreaming" is one of my favorites.  It's less than two pages long and about a man who makes a great pot.  On his way to sell it, he stops at a bridge to daydream about all the money he is going to get for it and what he's going to do with all that money...only to start up again and accidentally tip the pot over the bridge!  Oops...
"Many Littles Make A Lot" is another great story when it comes to thinking closely about what you are doing.  The King doesn't listen when a trusted advisor tells him his small gambling losses will add up.  This advisor gets smart and is able to trick the king because of his mindset.  I have a student who excels in math and I think this story is right up his alley!
Read Together: 5 - 12
Read Alone: 6 - 12  
Read With: Folk Literature or other short stories  
Snatch of Text:  "Once there was a king who played games of dice with the noblemen of his court.  And when he lost - which he often did - he paid off his debts by giving away parts of his kingdom: a timber wood, perhaps, or a copper mine, or a salmon river far away.  The king insisted that he never lost very much, but one of his most honest advisers thought otherwise.  the man's name was Pasha, and he often warned the king about gambling.
     'But I only lose a little now and then, Pasha.'
     'Many littles make a lot,' Pasha would say, frowning when the dice appeared once again." p. 22-23)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Identifying Story Elements (Folk Literature), Predicting, Making Inferences - Character Traits
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Folk Literature
Writing Prompts: Write about a time when you didn't think things through and things didn't end up going your way.  Use the stories in this book as a model to write your own story where a character benefits from someone else's character flaw.   
Topics Covered: Patience, Honesty, Loyalty, Wisdom, Thinking Things Through, Taking Risks, Morals, Trust, Character Flaws, Character Traits, Consequences  
Translated to Spanish: No

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What If?

What If?Title: What If?  
Author: Laura Vaccaro Seeger   
Illustrator: Laura Vaccaro Seeger  
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Publication Date: 2010   
Genre/Format: Fiction/Wordless Picture Book   
Summary: A story told mostly through the pictures on the page about friendship amongst seals.   
What I Think: I love the imagination of this story even with the small amount of words.  I like the idea of thinking about seals playing together on the beach. I have seen some wordless picture books that are complex and hard to figure out, but this one is simple.  I'm excited to talk to students about the pictures and the story they tell.  I think this would be a great book to use to generate some dialogue between the seal characters.  This book can definitely be used with students who don't speak English or who speak limited English because there are few words.  I'm going to be using this with my English Language Learners to help them practice writing in English.
Read Together: Pre-K - 12
Read Alone: Pre-K - 12 
Read With: Other wordless picture books like Good Night, Gorilla By Peggy Rathman
Snatch of Text: "What if...?  And what if...?  Then what if...?  But then...  Or..." 
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Writing Dialogue, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write your own text for What If? including dialogue as the seals talk back and forth. Write about a time in your life when someone included you in a game or other experience or when you made an effort to include someone else in what you were doing.
Topics Covered: Friendship, Loneliness, Accepting Others  
Translated to Spanish: No, but could easily be read and discussed in Spanish because there are few words!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

The Strange Case of Origami YodaTitle: The Strange Case of Origami Yoda 
Author: Tom Angleberger
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: 2010   
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel  
Summary: Tommy collects stories for his close look at "The Strange Case of Origami Yoda".  Origami Yoda is a finger puppet that Dwight makes and brings to life.  Kids ask Origami Yoda's advice...and find that his advice actually works, even though Dwight is not the coolest kid in school.  Tommy hopes that by collecting all the stories he'll be able to decide if he should take Origami Yoda's advice when it comes to his super important question...about a girl!  
What I Think: I think everyone loves Yoda!  How can you not!?!  I have shown this book to all of my students this week and their eyes light up when they recognize Yoda on the cover.  I even showed it to my younger students who I wouldn't recommend the book to just to get them talking about origami.  Many of them have never heard of it!
     I love stories about real boys and real girls.  To me, this is one of those books that either a boy or girl could read and relate to and love.  I think this would actually make for a great read aloud.  I can just imagine getting a class of kids up and dancing the Twist!  Or what about making their own Yodas?  I, personally, think a girly pink Yoda would be very cool!  (There are instructions in the back of the book, very simple instructions that make a basic Yoda.  You can go to the book's website for a little bit harder instructions.)
It's a little tricky to see my computer-paper-white Yodas!  On the left if the very basic one, and the right is the little bit harder one...which I think kind of looks more like a ninja.  I obviously need some more practice with this, but maybe you know just the perfect student who would take the time to master the art of Origami Yoda.  Succeed you will!

Read Together: 4 - 6   
Read Alone: 4 - 8  
Read With: Flipped By Wendelin Van Draanen; Hoot By Carl Hiaasen; Swindle By Gordon Korman; Diary of a Wimpy Kid series By Jeff Kinney; Big Nate: In a Class by Himself By Lincoln Peirce
Snatch of Text: "What happened to me was this: I was in the bathroom right before school was about to start and I saw that someone - probably Harvey - had written 'Kellen Drinks Pee' on the wall over the sink, so I leaned across the sink to erase it and I had on these light brown pants and they got all wet right across the front.
     It seriously looked like I had peed in my pants.  Really bad.  I tried to cover it with my shirt, but it was that really shrimpy shirt of mine with Scooby-Doo on it and it wasn't long enough to cover the pee part.  Which really wasn't pee, of course." (p. 18 - you can start with this and continue through p. 22 for  Kellen's story...and how Origami Yoda helps him out!)  
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Predicting, Visualizing, Making Inferences 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Characterization
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you felt embarrassed and how you coped with the situation.  Write about someone in your life whose advice you trust.  
Topics Covered: Friendship, Yoda, Wisdom, Trust, Taking Risks, Embarrassment, Being Different  Translated to Spanish: No

Monday, October 11, 2010

Little Blue Truck

Little Blue TruckTitle: Little Blue Truck     
Author: Alice Schertle
Illustrator: Jill McElmurry 
Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.
Publication Date: 2008   
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book   
Summary: A what-goes-around-comes-around book about a little blue truck, his animal friends, and a not-so-friendly dump truck.   
What I Think: I love this book for onomatopoeia!  It's a very simple story, but the onomatopoeia makes it really fun...and I love the big green toad, he's my favorite.  I think it's important for kids to understand how important it is to treat others with respect.  This book teaches them this lesson in such a clear but simple way.
Read Together: Pre-K - 12   
Read Alone: 3 - 12   
Read With: Fables - like The Lion & the Mouse or The Little Red Hen By Jerry Pinkney  
Snatch of Text: 
"Sheep said, 'Baaa!'
Cow said, 'Moo!'
'Oink!' said a piggy.
'Beep!' said Blue!" 
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Predicting, Identifying Story Elements (folk literature)
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Onomatopoeia
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you needed someone's help.  After looking at the onomatopoeia in the story, try to add onomatopoeia to your writing.     
Topics Covered: Friendship, Respect, Helping Others, Morals  
Translated to Spanish: No

Friday, October 8, 2010

Call Me Kate

Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires - Mom's Choice Awards® Silver RecipientTitle: Call Me Kate: Meeting the Molly Maguires
Author: Molly Roe 
Publisherr: Tribute Books 
Publication Date: 2008
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel 
Summary: When her family needs her to work after her father is hurt in a mining accident, Kate McAfferty accepts the responsibility.  She learns more about herself than she could have imagined when she ends up having to set out to rescue a lifelong friend in the Civil-War unrest that surrounds her.

What I Think: This is the first eBook I've ever read!  It actually worked out perfectly since I was home with the baby.  I could scroll through the pages with one hand without having to hold the book up.
     Besides the eBookiness, I really loved Kate McAfferty as a character.  Even though she has to leave school, which is a bummer, but it went with the time period, she remains positive and works really hard to help her family.  I love her relationship with Con and her stick-with-it-ness.  I would recommend this to any middle schooler that likes historical fiction. 
Read Together: 4 - 8 
Read Alone: 4 - 9
Read With: The Other Half of Life By Kim Ablon Whitney; Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie: The Oregon Trail Diary of Hattie Campbell, 1847 (Dear America Series) and other books in the Dear American series.
Snatch of Text: "'S'ter, S'ter, I need to see Katie right away!'  The disheveled boy who burst into our classroom was my friend and former classmate, Con Gallagher.  He bent to catch his breath beside the well-polished teacher's desk.  
     Twenty pairs of horror-filled eyes turned in my direction, then darted back toward the frowning nun, expecting the worst.  Sister Mary Charles never tolerated disruptions, especially to her beloved literature class.  I was in for it unless Con had a darn good reason to be here." p.3
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Asking Questions, Visualizing, Making Connections 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative  
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you had to be responsible for something important.  Write about a time in your life when someone was depending on you.  
Topics Covered: History - Civil War, Coming of Age, Responsibility, Family, Friendships, Love, Strong Will, Perseverance, Loyalty 
Translated to Spanish: No
Thanks to Tribute Books for providing me with this eBook and asking me to be part of their blog tour!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 08/28/2023

  It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!   It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kelle...