Monday, August 30, 2010

Notes From the Midnight Driver

Title: Notes From The Midnight Driver 
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick 
Publication Date: 2006  
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel  
Summary: Alex is pretty bummed about his parents divorce.  One night he decides to take his mom's car and drive over to talk to his dad...but to get up the courage he has a drink first. He ends up crashing the car into the neighbors yard and takes out a yard gnome.  His shenanigans end up getting him a sentence of community service spending time with Sol, a man at the senior center.  Both end up learning more than they expected about life and love.
What I Think: I was surprised how much I ended up really liking Alex as a character based on how the story starts.  I loved Sol as a character.  The author does a good job of telling a story and weaving so many different stories into it.  He also mentions  
Read Together: 7 - 10 
Read Alone:7 - 12 
Read With: Other Jordan Sonnenblick books, especially Drums, Girls, And Dangerous PieSleeping Freshmen Never Lie by Dave Lubar; The Juvie Three by Gordon Korman
Snatch of Text: "'Mom, how are you going to drop me off, pick me up, get to work on time, and sleep?' Mom is a night-shift nurse at an old people's home, so she usually slept while I was at school.
     'I don't know, Alex.  I will have to work something out, because I am going to be on you like a bad rash for the next thirty days.  And if you don't like it, maybe you should have thought of about that BEFORE you got arrested.'" p. 22  
Reading Strategies to Practice: Asking Questions, Making Connections, Making Predictions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Similes, Characterization, Letter Writing, Personal Narrative
Writing Prompts: Write about how you learned from a mistake you made.   
Topics Covered: Family, Divorce, Communication, Forgiveness, Elderly, Community Service, Friendship, Love, Music 
Translated to Spanish: No

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Book of Sleep

A Book of SleepTitle: A Book of Sleep    
Author: Il Sung Na  
Illustrator: Il Sung Na
Publication Date: 2009  
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book  
Summary: All the animals go to sleep except for the watchful owl who observes the animals as they sleep through the night.  
What I Think: I was ecstatic about this book before I even read it just because of the amazing artwork.  I couldn't wait to get home and read it with Peanut.  The artwork inside the book is just as enchanting as the front cover.  What's even better is the simple wording.  I love books that automatically lend themselves to being read in a whisper.  It reminds me of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.  Peanut instinctively snuggled in real close and we had fun seeing how the different animals read.  A bonus, mister watchful owl appears somewhere on every 2-page layout so we had fun looking for him.  I adore this book and will definitely be remembering it for friends who are having babies.  As a teacher, I would use this to demonstrate the mood or tone of a book but also to talk about animals and how or when they sleep.  If you focus on the strategy of asking questions, students can brainstorm questions they have about the animals they see in the book.  AND, you could also read it with Bed Hogs by Kelly DePucchio to talk about sleeping and the importance of a good night's sleep.  
Read Together: Pre-k - 5  
Read Alone: 1 - 5
Read With: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, A Story for Bear by Dennis Hasely; Bed Hogs by Kelly DiPucchio; Nonfiction about animals - nocturnal animals or how animals sleep   
Snatch of Text: 
"When the sky grows dark 
and the moon glows bright, 
everyone goes to sleep...

...except for the watchful owl."  
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Asking Questions    
Writing Strategies to Practice: Mood, Tone, Attention Grabbers   
Writing Prompts: Use the first line from this book as a model for your own attention grabbing first line - think of something that everyone is doing...except for _________.  Write about what you might see if you stayed awake when everyone else goes to sleep at night.  
Topics Covered: Animals, Day and Night, Sleep  
Translated to Spanish: No

 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy

Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went CrazyTitle: Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy    
Author: Sonya Sones  
Publication Date: 1999
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel in Verse  
Summary: This is a book written in verse about a girl whose older sister is admitted to a mental institute.  The girl misses her sister terribly, isn't sure what to think about her mental disorder, and worried about what others will think. 
What I Think: I, personally, love novels in verse.  This one wasn't exactly a favorite of mine, but I love that Sones addresses a topic that people probably don't talk about all that much.  I think she does a great job of writing about the various emotions that narrator feels when her sister is sent to the mental institute.  I think young adults might be drawn to reading about her insecurities and how she deals with them. 
     I love the snatch of text, it can easily be taken out of context and used to talk about truth and possibly a time when a student didn't tell the truth or was nervous someone would find out the truth.  
Read Together: 6 - 10  
Read Alone: 6 - 12 
Read With: Sones has other books that talk about dealing with family members who have medical or mental problems that are written in prose; Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick; Ida B (rpkg): . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan, So B. It by Sarah Weeks, Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko 
Snatch of Text:  
"Thin Skin"
"Sometimes
I worry that
the truth will break out all
over my face, like a fresh crop
of zits."


Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Visualizing, Making Connections, Author's Purpose  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive Writing - Similes  
Writing Prompts: After reading the snatch of text, think about a time when you were hiding the truth or imagine what it might be like to hide the truth and write your own simile.  Describe a time when you were embarrassed of one of your family members or a friend or when someone was embarrassed of you.  
Topics Covered: Family, Sisters, Embarrassment, Friendship, Honesty, Mental Disorders, Coping, Guilt 
Translated to Spanish: No
 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Bed Hogs

Bed HogsTitle: Bed Hogs 
Author: Kelly DiPucchio 
Illustrator: Howard Fine  
Publication Date: 2004   
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book   
Summary: One little pig shares a bed with his family until he kicks them out of bed one by one and finds the bed of straw all to himself.  In the end, he decides he doesn't like having the bed all to himself! 
What I Think: This book is a super cute rendition of "There Were Five In the Bed" except with a funny, pig characters.  The illustrations are great but the description of the characters are simple but clear.  The author uses rhyme so it flows nicely.  The author also incorporates alliteration.  Peanut and I had fun reading this book together and laughing at the characters.  We had just seen pigs at the county fair so he easily made a connection with the pigs in the story.  I would definitely brainstorm farm and pig words before reading this book and then add words from the book to develop students' vocabulary.  In a classroom, this could incorporate math because of the counting down while also be a model of rhyme, rhythm, and alliteration from a writing perspective.  This could even be used to incorporate into a health lesson about getting a good night's sleep!  
Read Together: Pre-K - 4  
Read Alone: 3 - 4 
Read With: Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed Big Book by Eileen Christelow, Five Little Ducks (Raffi Songs to Read) by Raffi, or other versions
Snatch of Text: 
"Each night the hogs pack into bed-
they squeeze and groan and grunt.
But underneath the ton of them
squeals loudmouth Little Runt.

'I'm squished!
I'm squashed!
I'm buried in this heap!
You're hoggin' up my space in bed.
I'll never get to sleep!'"
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Predicting, Vocabulary Development 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Rhyme, Rhythm, Alliteration, Characterization
Writing Prompts: Create your own counting down book - change the characters or change the setting.   
Topics Covered: Math, Counting, Farm, Farm Animals, Sleeping 
Translated to Spanish: No
 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Someone Like You

Someone Like YouTitle: Someone Like You     
Author: Sarah Dessen
Publication Date: 2004   
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel  
Summary: Halley strives to be the best friend she can be to Scarlet after Scarlet's boyfriend dies suddenly and leaves her pregnant with his child.  Halley wants to be there for Scarlet while also going to school, having a boyfriend for the first time, and dealing with her strained relationship with her mother. 
What I Think: I have read a lot of young adult realistic fiction geared towards girls in the past year.  One thing I have noticed is that it seems more authentic when there are multiple issues a girl has to deal with all at one time.  This book does a great job of intertwining elements of Halley's life that a teen could identify with.  This is the first book I have read by Dessen after hearing a book talk about it in one of the classrooms I worked in last year.  I have to say that I thought the book would be more about Scarlet and how she dealt with the death of her boyfriend when really this book is more about Halley and her first boyfriend (who is kind of mysterious and dangerous and exciting-gotta love it!) and how that impacts her relationship with her mom.  I can definitely see how this book would be liked by teenage girls.   
     The snatch of text I chose is a great example of how Dessens slows down to describe and build a character.  There are various times in the book when she takes time to describe a character.  I love this as an example for students to practice describing a character.  They might use the description in their story and they might leave it out, but it's still useful to write a description like Dessen does so the student as a writer has a clear picture of who his or her character is.  Besides the story, I love how she introduces and builds her characters.  
Read Together: 8 - 12
Read Alone: 8 - 12 
Read With: Other Sarah Dessen novels, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series by Ann Brashares, Lush and Bounce by Natash Friend, Crank and other books by Ellen Hopkins, All-American Girl and other girls by Meg Cabot
Snatch of Text: "The first time I saw Scarlet was the day she and her mother, Marion, moved in.  I was eleven.  I was sitting by my window, watching the movers, when I saw a girl just my age, with red hair and blue tennis shoes.  She was sitting on the front steps of her new house, watching them cart furniture in, her elbows propped on her knees, chin in her hands, wearing heart-shaped sunglasses with white plastic frames.  And she completely ignored me as I came up her front walk, stood in the thrown shade of the awning, and waited for her to say something.  I'd never been good at friendships; I was too quiet, too mousy, and tended to choose bossy, mean girls who pushed me around and sent me home crying to my mother.  Lakeview, A Neighborhood of Friends, was full of little fiendettes on pink bicycles with Barbie carrying cases in their white, flower-appliqued baskets.  I'd never had a best friend." p. 6 (p.22-23 - more description of Scarlet)
Reading Strategies to Practice: Making Connections, Asking Questions, Predicting, Visualizing
Writing Strategies to Practice: Descriptive, Personal Narrative, Characterization
Writing Prompts: Describe the first time you met your best friend or someone close to you.  Write about the first time you had to deal with something serious like death or love.  Write about a time in your life when you were there for a friend or a friend was there for you.    
Topics Covered: Friendship, Love, Family, Relationships, Independence, Making Decisions 
Translated to Spanish: No
 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Red Pyramid

The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1)Title: The Red Pyramid (The Kane Chronicles, Book 1) 
Author: Rick Riordan   
Publication Date: 2010  
Genre/Format: Adventure and Fantasy/Novel   
Summary: Carter and Sadie Kane are brother and sister but, after their mother's death, have been raised separately.  Sadie lives with their grandparents in England while Carter is off traveling non-stop with their father who is an Egyptologist.  The adventure begins when their father reunites them and they are plunged into a crazy adventure when their father wakes the Egyptian god, Set.    
What I Think: I have to say I wasn't sure I would like this series because it seemed like it might be too much like the Percy Jackson & The Olympians.  I loved that series and the idea for the story was brilliant.  Having red The Red Pyramid now, I would wholeheartedly recommend it!  I think I even liked this series better (...I have only read the first book in this series)!  I think Riordan did a great job with the characters and, as a teacher, I love how he incorporates Egyptian mythology.  It truly brought it to life for me and I think it would be great for kids.  Any kid who is looking for adventure would love this book!
Read Together: 4 - 6
Read Alone: 5 - 8 
Read With: Nonfiction about Egypt, Folk literature - Egyptian mythology, Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan, The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter  
Snatch of Text: "My name is Carter Kane.  I'm fourteen and my home is a suitcase." p. 2   
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Predictions, Asking Questions
Writing Strategies to Practice: Characterization, Perspective  
Writing Prompts: Choose a well-known character from literature or history and write from his or her perspective (either in their story or time in history, or in the present time); Read the above snatch of text and then write your own story for Carter; Read the above snatch of text and then use it as a model to write an attention grabbing first line.
Topics Covered: Egypt, Folk Literature - Egyptian mythology, Family, Trust, Confidence, Making Choices, Loyalty, Genres,  
Translated to Spanish: No
 

Monday, August 9, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (Dragonfly Books)Title: How I Spent My Summer Vacation
Author: Mark Teague 
Illustrator: Mark Teague 
Publication Date: 1995 
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book 
Summary: Wallace Bleff stands up in front of the class to tell them about what he did on his summer vacation.  He tells of his crazy adventures with cowboys! 
What I Think: It makes me laugh when I see or hear about the predictable "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" essay.  I like how Teague puts a twist on it by spinning this fun tale of an adventure with cowboys.  I love stories about cowboys and this one would be great for building background knowledge and vocabulary about cowboys.  This story would be a great way to wrangle in the new school year or for a Wild West unit.  One thing I really love about this book is that it comes with activities that tie in the book on the inside covers.  There are ideas for expanding imagination, a science experiment, a musical instrument, and even a yummy snack!

Read Together: K - 3 
Read Alone: 2 - 4 
Read With: Don't Touch My Hat by James Rumford and other cowboy books
Snatch of Text: "The Cattle Boss growled, as he told me to sit,
'We need a new cowboy.  Our old cowboy quit.
We could sure use your help.  So what do you say?'
I thought for a minute, then I told him, 'Okay.'"
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connection, Developing Vocabulary, Making Predictions 
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative  
Writing Prompts: Write about an adventure you wish you would have went on during your summer vacation!   
Topics Covered: Cowboys, Adventure, Imagination, Vacation

Translated to Spanish: No

Friday, August 6, 2010

Knuffle Bunny

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (Bccb Blue Ribbon Picture Book Awards (Awards))
Author: Mo Willems  
Illustrator: Mo Willems 
Publication Date: 2004  
Genre/Format: Fiction/Picture Book  
Summary: Trixie goes to the laundromat with her dad, only to realize she left her precious Knuffle Bunny there.  Poor Trixie tries and tries to tell her dad that she needs to go back for Knuffle Bunny, but he doesn't understand until they get home and her mom asks about Knuffle Bunny.  
What I Think: Knuffle Bunny is just so cute for kids and adults and I love the artwork in this book.  Peanut is attached to his "eehees".  When my hubby was a kid, he had a blanket that he had to have with him all the time and he called it "eehee."  Now, Peanut has blankets that he likes to pick the fuzz off of and he calls those his "eehees".  He could totally relate to Trixie.  It is such a great book for talking about feelings.  There isn't much text so the pictures relay a lot of what the characters are feeling.  I love that we could talk about how they were feeling and Peanut was able to clearly see how they were feeling from the artwork.  I recently saw a project where a class did their own artwork using the style of art in this book.  I've got it tucked away in my head and I'm hoping to try it out myself!  I think even middle school kids could really relate to this book and use it to brainstorm ideas for their own personal narratives. 
Read Together: Pre-K - 8  
Read Alone: 1 - 8  
Read With: Other books in the Knuffle Bunny series   
Snatch of Text: "Not so long ago, before she could even speak words, Trixie went on an errand with her daddy...Trixie and her daddy went down the block, through the park, past the school, and into the Laundromat."  
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Inferences, Making Predictions  
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, Prepositions, Perspective   
Writing Prompts: Write about a memory you have from your childhood with your father, mother, grandfather, grandfather, aunt, uncle, etc.  Choose one of the other characters in the book: Daddy, Mommy, one of the people they pass along the way and write about what he or she is thinking or feeling at one point or throughout the book.  Write about a time when you were frustrated about something and couldn't communicate what you were feeling. 
Topics Covered: Family, Asking for Help, Feelings   
Translated to Spanish: Yes! El Conejito Knuffle: Un Cuento Aleccionador


 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to Steal a Dog

How to Steal a Dog
Title: How to Steal a Dog    
Author: Barbara O'Connor 
Publication Date: 2009 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel  
Summary: Georgina's dad left and now she's living in her car with her mom and little brother.  Georgina hates it and comes up with a plan to steal a dog so she can return it and get the reward money.  She plans it all out and is hoping the reward money will allow them to get an apartment.  
What I Think: I've never read a book with a homeless character/family.  I love reading books that give us perspective into what someone else's life might be like, especially when I've never experienced it before ourselves.  It's so important for kids to read these kinds of stories, too.  One of my students actually told me about this book and said I should read it because she enjoyed when her classroom teacher read it aloud in class.  For middle grade students, I think it's a perfect blend of understanding how horrible Georgina feels to be living in her car and a good story about how desperate it makes her.  It definitely could be a great way to initiate discussions about feelings, right versus wrong, and how to get help when you need it.    
Read Together: 4 - 6  
Read Alone: 4 - 6  
Read With: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; Ida B: ...and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan; Love That Dog by Sharon Creech  
Snatch of Text: "There in the bushes along the porch was a dog.  A little black-and-white dog digging so hard that dirt was flying out behind him.  His rear end was stuck up in the air and his scraggly tail was wagging away while his front legs worked faster and faster at the dirt." p. 23
     "As I pushed through the bushes toward the front of the house, I had an uneasy feeling.  My worries seemed to be piling up, one on top of the other, like bricks on a wall." p. 111   
Reading Strategies to Practice: Activating Background Knowledge, Making Connections, Making Predictions, Making Inferences, Visualizing    
Writing Strategies to Practice: Personal Narrative, AAAWWUBBIS, Descriptive Writing, Simile  
Writing Prompts: Describe an animal - it could be your favorite pet, a friend's pet, an animal you saw at the zoo, etc.  Use the sentence, "My worries seemed to be piling up, one on top of the other, like bricks on a wall," to start your own personal narrative about a time when you were worried about something.      
Topics Covered: Family, Poverty, Homelessness, Challenges, Disappointment, Feelings, Right Versus Wrong, Asking For Help  
Translated to Spanish: No