Saturday, June 30, 2012

The True Meaning of Smekday

Title: The True Meaning of Smekday 
Author: Adam Rex 
Publisher: Hyperion 
Publication Date: October 2007 
Genre/Format: Science Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary:  It all starts with a school essay. 
When twelve-year-old Gratuity ("Tip") Tucci is assigned to write five pages on "The True Meaning of Smekday" for the National Time Capsule contest, she's not sure where to begin. When her mom started telling everyone about the messages aliens were sending through a mole on the back of her neck? Maybe on Christmas Eve, when huge, bizarre spaceships descended on the Earth and the aliens - called Boov - abducted her mother? Or when the Boov declared Earth a colony, renamed it "Smekland" (in honor of glorious Captain Smek), and forced all Americans to relocate to Florida via rocketpod? 
In any case, Gratuity's story is much, much bigger than the assignment. It involves her unlikely friendship with a renegade Boov mechanic named J.Lo.; a futile journey south to find Gratuity's mother at the Happy Mouse Kingdom; a cross-country road trip in a hovercar called Slushious; and an outrageous plan to save the Earth from yet another alien invasion. 
Fully illustrated with "photos," drawings, newspaper clippings, and comics sequences, this is a hilarious, perceptive, genre-bending novel by a remarkable new talent. 

What I Think: I remember burying a time capsule when I was in elementary school. I have no idea if people still bury time capsules, but I remember them being awesome then. This book is the story Gratuity tells so that it can go into a time capsule to tell people in the future about when aliens invaded Earth. It's an interesting way to tell the story and asking kids to write about their world for people in the future would be fun. I think this would be especially perfect for middle schoolers and high schoolers because pop culture is so interesting and unique. I'm sure my students would have a completely different story about life today than I would. Especially with all the changes in technology, I would love to read what they have to say. 
     This book reminded me a bit of When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. I liked reading about Gratuity's journey to find her mom and save the Earth...but at the end, it gets interesting when readers finally find out how things all fit into place. It was like a lightbulb going off in my head which reminded me of the end of When You Reach Me
     This book is a perfect example of middle grade science fiction! Sometimes I think it's hard to find science fiction that isn't dystopian or post-apocalyptic. I wouldn't consider this book to be either of those, to me it's pure science fiction.
Read Together: Grades 6 - 8 
Read Alone: Grades 6 - 9 
Read With: When You Reach Me and First Light by Rebecca Stead, 11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass, The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick, Cosmic by Frank Cotrell Boyce, The Name of This Book Is Secret by Psuedonymous Bosch  
Snatch of Text:  
     "I'd been living by myself after Mom left. I didn't want anyone to know. I had learned to drive our car short distances by nailing cans of corn to my church shoes so I could reach the pedals. I made a lot of mistakes at first, and if anyone was walking on the sidewalk at 49th and Pine after dark on March, 3rd, 2013, I owe you an apology.
     But eventually I got really good. Like, NASCAR good. So, while more people were reporting I'd drive there myself, with no help from anyone." p. 7
Mentor Text For: Making Connections, Asking Questions, Characterization, Expository
Writing Prompts: Describe the world (small - like your city or town - or big - like your country or the whole world) and explain what you would want people in the future to know about what life was like now.  
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Aliens, Courage, Perseverance, Cloning, Teleportation 
I *heart* It:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Inside Out and Back Again

Title: Inside Out and Back Again
Author: Thanha Lai
Publisher: Harper Collins Children
Publication Date: Feburary, 2011
Genre/Format: Historical Fiction/Novel-in-Verse
Harper Collins's Summary: No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by... and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape... and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.
What I Think: When you hear the word refugee, most people will automatically think of refugees from Africa, but there are refugees from all parts of the world. This book shares a story of a young girl fleeing Vietnam during the war. It is 1975 and the war is threatening her city, Saigon, and life is getting worse and worse. When it was possible, her mother took her whole family to US where a family from Alabama sponsors them. This book is interesting because it deals with many different aspects- Vietnam war, refugee, ESL learners and bullying. 

I will admit, I wish that this book was in prose. I felt that I was missing some of the story by it being in verse. I am a big fan of verse as I feel it really shows emotion beautifully and this is true with Inside Out as well; however, I wanted more of the story than this novel had. I wish it was a mix of prose and verse actually with the story in prose and her true emotions in verse, but that is wishful thinking just because I liked it so much and wanted more. It is an interesting book that will find an audience and deserved the awards it got.

Read Together: Grades 4 to 6
Read Alone: Grades 4 to 8
Read With: All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg, Any nonfiction book about the Vietnam War and/or the refugees from Vietnam during the war

Very few books are about the same topic and for the same age, so these books are more along the same theme or same genre- One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Hound Dog True by Linda Urban, Countdown by Deborah Wiles, Once by Morris Gleitzman, Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park

Here are some books about the Vietnam War and/or refugees, but I haven't read them- Escape from Saigon by Andrea Warren, Goodbye Vietnam by Gloria Whelan, The Life We Were Given by Dana Sachs, Cracker!: The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata, Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Snatch of Text: "Two More Papayas
I see them first. 

Two green thumbs
that will grown into
orange-yellow delights
smelling of summer. 

Middle sweet 
between a mango and a pear. 

Soft as a yam
gliding down
after three easy, 
thrilling chews." (p. 21) 

"Spelling Rules

the spelling changes 
when adding an s.

Knife becomes knives.

a c is used 
instead of a k
even if
it makes more sense
for cat to be spelled kat.

a  y is used 
instead of an e
even if
it makes more sense
for moldy to be spelled molde

Whoever invented English
should have learned
how to spell." (p. 177)
Mentor Text for: Novel in verse, Poetic Elements, Simile, Grammar/Spelling, Background Knowledge
Writing Prompts: Ha is treated poorly at school and is often bullied and tormented. What would you do if you saw a classmate in the situation Ha is in?; A lot changes for Ha when she gets to Alabama. What are the biggest differences she finds? What are her biggest challenges? What does she enjoy? 
Topics Covered: Cross curricular- Vietnam War, Refugees, Immigration, Culture, Missing in Action; Bullying, ESL, Grammar, Family, School
I *heart* It:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

We Give Books

Who doesn't like free books? And who doesn't like giving books to children in need? We Give Books, a Pearson Foundation Initiative partnered with Penguin and DK, covers both of these.

In late May, while looking at sites for our Monday Meme, I found a link to the site We Give Books and was intrigued. The way it works is you sign up, pick which charity you would like to support, pick some books to read and then the more books you read, the more books they give to your charity. At the end of each book, you just push the "Give a Book" button- how easy is that. To make it even better, they have some great books!

Today I wanted to share with you some of the gems on We Give Books that I have either read or plan on reading and I hope you'll visit their site and help children in need be able to read as much as we do. 

Picture Books for ages 0-3

When the Sun Comes Up in Tinga Tinga TalesMany Marvelous MonstersCorduroy Lost and FoundMommy Loves Me The Tale of Peter RabbitDucks Don't Wear SocksLlama Llama Red PajamaLlama Llama Mad at MamaLlama Llama Misses MamaLlama Llama Holiday DramaGood Luck BearThank You Bear

Nonfiction Books for ages 0-3

See How They Grow - PenguinsLet's Look: Dinosaurs

Picture Books for ages 4-7

Skippyjon Jones: Up and DownSkippyjon Jones: Color CrazySkippyjon Jones Lost in SpiceSkippyjon Jones and the Big BonesSkippyjon Jones in the DoghouseSkippyjon Jones in Mummy TroubleWhy Elephant has a TrunkWhy Monkeys Swing in the TreesWhy Lion Roarrrs!Stand Tall, Molly Lou MelonThe Strange Case of the Missing SheepLittle Owl's NightHuck Runs Amuck!Silly Goose's Big StoryChico the BraveOne Cool FriendSandy's CircusSquish RabbitBunny CakesGoodnight Goon: A Petrifying ParodyGoodnight iPad

Nonfiction Books for ages 4-7

Watch Me Grow: ApeDK Readers: Twisters!Far Out!Watch Me Grow: TurtleAnimal FamiliesIncredible Insects Q&ADK Readers: Greek Myths24 Hours: Rain Forest

Nonfiction Books for ages 8-10

ReptilesHistory Dudes: Ancient EgyptiansSavage EarthHuman Body
Amazing Animals Q&ADK Readers: Dinosaur DetectivesVolcanoDangerous Dinosaurs Q&ATitanic Sinks!WeatherLook to the StarsEruption! The Story of Volcanoes

Happy reading!

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