Thursday, August 30, 2012


I think I am going to enjoy THIRSTdays. Library Fanatic introduced me to it through this post. She linked back to David Etkin on his blog who says that it was inspired by Maria Selke and her Wordless Wednesdays. What an evolution. THIRSTdays are meant to be a brief post accompanied by a picture of a drink and often something to read. This is likely too long already, so on to the picture!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hattie Big Sky

I just finished Hattie Big Sky this evening and absolutely loved it. Kirby Larson did a fantastic job of breathing life into history. Hattie shows strength, compassion, and a stubbornness that keeps her going when many would give up and walk away. Hattie is an orphaned teenager trying to find her place in the world. When she inherits a homestead claim in Montana, she packs up and heads out to give it a shot. Fear, bitter cold, drought, money problems, and many other outside forces make the going hard, but Hattie continues to fight for her claim through it all.

I appreciated Larson's sense of humor. There were many lines that made me chuckle, like when someone said, he's "one sandwich short of a picnic when it comes to common sense" p. 180. I also enjoyed when ladylike Hattie said, "truth be told, there is nothing like the occasional outburst of profanity to calm jangled nerves" p. 54. She made me smile more than once. Along with humor, there were also passages that inspired deep thought about life, war, grief, and compassion.

Another fun part about this book was that it made me wonder. I had to know where Vida, Montana sits and wanted to know more about it. When I looked it up online, I found some fascinating pictures from around that time. In fact, it seems that these are family pictures of some of the characters Larson had in the story. Larson also provides some pictures of the "real" Hattie on her own website in her gallery. I also wondered about one of the phrases used several times in the book. When I first encountered it, I had to immediately look up "pie crust promises." They are those promises easily made and easily broken. When I posted that definition, Maria Selke cracked me up when she tweeted back, "Clearly they haven't made good pie crust." People in the past must have been much better at the whole pie crust thing, because I am seldom finding pie crust easily or quickly made.

I am excited because now that I am finished reading the book, I can finally look at Colby and Jen's posts without fear of spoilers. They have been discussing the book on Colby Sharp's blog because it is the selection for the Sharp-Schu Book Club this month. I am hoping to join them at 7 CDT on Sept. 5th for what I imagine will be a lively Twitter conversation. Hope to "see" you there!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host a meme every Monday that invites people to share the children's and young adult books they have been reading over the past week and what they plan on reading the following week.

This past week:

Newberry Challenge: Onion John was my most recent Newbery book. I found it touching in many ways. I loved the friendship between young Andy and Onion John. Expectations and people's ideas of what is best for others cause all kinds of complications in this middle grade novel. Krumgold managed to make me care about the characters.

Picture Book: I found the new book Bad Apple pretty cute. It is also about friendship between two very different "people" and how others see the relationship.

Early Reader: Fiercely and Friends is a fun series. I got to sneak preview The Sneaky Snow Fox through Netgalley.  I haven't written up a review yet, but did enjoy this entertaining early chapter book.

Graphic Novel: Sita's Ramayana was a fascinating look at an ancient Hindu poem with amazing Indian artwork. I found this book very powerful. There is action, adventure, love, war and all kinds of things going on, but underneath there are truths pulsing like "Violence breeds violence, and an unjust act only begets greater injustice." 

Professional Book: I loved Choice Words and the inspiration that I got from it. I am hoping to use some of what I learned in the coming year. Choice Words will hopefully help me to reflect honestly on how I speak with students and the types of questions that I am using during class.

I also re-read A Monster Calls (for WI Battle of the Books) which once again, required tissues. In fact, the story was even more gut wrenching this time than last if that can be believed.

For the coming week: I am in the middle of Hattie Big Sky and Show Me a Story: Why Picture Books Matter. I will continue to read Battle Books. I am not sure how much I will be able to read though as I am gearing up for the start of school and will be spending a lot of time at work. Hopefully, reading will still happen. :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


(Cross-posted on Library Fanatic's blog)

What in the world is a #SummerThrowDown? Initially, I had no idea how to answer that question, but, Mrs. Heise offered this explanation: "a friendly challenge to keep us motivated to read as much as possible this summer." Would you believe it involved wrestling each other for the right to read or lobbing items off of high mountains? Well, actually it didn't, but those might be fun too. Instead, teachers and librarians had the excellent chance to read, read, read, read, read with a bit of friendly competition. I figured it could only help me in the #bookaday challenge that I was participating in already. The best part is that we were part of a community of readers and every teacher and librarian won as we read thousands of books together. Here are ten of the most memorable children and young adult titles that I experienced along the way.

I loved this family focused picture book.

Creeptastic picture book! High ick factor.

A definite MG winner for humor & Star Wars fans

Creative graphic novel with multiple authors -
fun to see the variety of ideas around one theme

Action, adventure, swordfights, and mystery  - fabulous MG

Intriguing YA paranormal mystery

Seriously horrifying and creepy YA novel with rather graphic violence -

surprisingly thought-provoking

Young non-fiction picture book about forest life cycle

MG to YA non-fiction about child labor  in the U.S

Moving YA biography about photographer Dorothea Lange

Monday, August 20, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host a meme every Monday that invites people to share the children's and young adult books they have been reading over the past week and what they plan on reading the following week.
I didn't post last week, so am posting all since the last time I did this.
Newbery Award Books

I love the characters in The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I know young readers could definitely get bogged down in some of the political issues (I did as a child), but the story is intriguing and the way everyday life in that time is depicted is pretty fascinating.  

Caldecott Award

The Origami Yoda books were my favorite of this group by far. I had to re-read the first two since it had been awhile. I laughed and cringed my way through all three at a rapid clip. Loved them!

I enjoyed both for the most part. I really liked the review by this Goodreads reviewer about Little Rock Girl.

Graphic Novels
Loved Explorer. It was fun to see the creativity of so many authors as they penned unique stories involving boxes.

Young Adult

I read the Matched series and while I really had a great time with the first book, the second book seemed much slower and I am not sure I liked the alternating voices format. I don't always attend to chapter titles and once in awhile I was mistaken about whose chapter I was reading. That is my own idiosyncrasy, but it did make a difference. Also, there didn't seem to be all that much happening. I find that true of many middle books. I am still quite eager for the next book though.

Restless Spirit was a fantastic biography. I would like to know even more about Dorothea Lange now. 

Picture Book
Loved this wonderful book about family and am happy to have a way to share Anna with younger readers.

Middle Grade
This book had action, adventure, humor, and mystery in addition to a phenomenal main character. I can't wait for the next book.

The Coming Week:
I am planning on reading a professional book Choice Words along with Other People's Children. I will also need to be reading some books in preparation for our Battle of the Books program. We are quickly running out of summer reading time. Ack. Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

Palace of Stone
Author: Shannon Hale
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books
Pages: 336
Audience: Grades  5-8
Genre: Fantasy
Review Copy: Digital ARC from NetGalley
Release Date: August 21, 2012

Description from GoodreadsComing down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting . . . until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she "should "help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city. Picking up where "Princess Academy " left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom.

Review: Miri once again shows her strength as a young girl looking for her place in the world. She feels called to go beyond her small mountain village to learn more even while knowing it will be hard to be away from her family. She is excited about visiting a bustling city and meeting people, but doesn't realize that she is stepping into a palace filled with intrigue and danger. Miri discovers that there is a revolution brewing and she is faced with many complex choices. I appreciated Miri's courage and the honest questioning she engages in as she tries to understand what it is she wants in life and where her loyalties lie.  

Palace of Stone builds on the original Princess Academy so is ideally read in sequence, but it would be completely accessible and enjoyable on its own. I highly recommend this book for those interested in fantasy and books about friendship.

Summer Reading

I have been traveling again and while I squeezed in some reading wherever I could, there just wasn't a ton of time for it the past two weeks. I missed my regular Monday post about what I have been reading, but will catch up on that next week.

Traveling with Pete the Cat has been a blast this summer. We have taken him to eight different states. He has had a ton of different experiences. He's been to mountains, the desert, prairies, farmland, cemeteries, lakes, tiny cities, big cities, and the middle of nowhere. I will be creating a record of his travels that will be available to look at in the library. I am hoping the kids will be excited to see Pete and his many adventures. It was all good. Especially the S'mores.

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen & Kellee over at Teach Mentor Texts host a meme every Monday that invites people to share the children's and young adult books they have been reading over the past week and what they plan on reading the following week.

Newbery Challenge: Miracles on Maple Hill was a pleasant old-fashioned story about family. An interesting aspect was that the father had returned from war with PTSD and that was having quite an effect on the family. A troubling thing about this book is the roles for females are very narrowly defined with the belief that girls are weak and what they are capable of is determined by the fact that they are female. If they try to go beyond the traditional roles, they are a tomboy. Overall, I did really enjoy the book though.

Non-fiction: Breaker Boys was fascinating. I had a vague idea about child labor in the U.S.'s past, but this book really cracks it open and makes that history come alive. Lola and Tiva was a fun look at an unusual friendship between a young rhino and girl. Where Else in the Wild was very engaging since it is a "look and find"type of book that challenges the reader to see past the animal's camouflage. A Log's Life shows the amazing life cycle of a tree in the forest in simple and clear language.

Picture Book: I read several of these, but the most interesting was Inside the Slidy Diner by Laurel Snyder. My lunchtime reading club had the opportunity to Skype with Laurel Snyder earlier this year and she mentioned this book. Our library system didn't have a copy of it, but I intended to order it at some point. This weekend I found two copies just sitting on a rack at a cute little independent bookstore. I was so excited. What added to the fun is that lemon drops play a large role in this story and I had been eating them on the hour long drive to the store. I don't think I have eaten a lemon drop before this week for at least ten years. The book is spectacularly creepy for a picture book. Loved it.

Young Adult: Netgalley was definitely my friend this week. I got to read an ARC of The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater.  I will write a more formal review later. To me it is hard to label this book. My best shot is Paranormal Mystery with a dash of romance. However it is labeled, Steifvater has crafted a very compelling tale. I didn't want it to end, but then to my delight, I found out that it is just the first of a series. Bummer since that means there are many loose ends at the conclusion, but fabulous since it is not really the end. 

Poetry: What a Day it was at School has some hilarious poems that I cannot wait to share with my students this fall. I know that there will be much laughter and this compilation is perfect for the beginning of the school year. I think my favorite is the one about homework. I can't really share anything about it without spoiling it, but do look for it. You won't regret it.

This coming week: I am probably going to tackle Other People's Children for a professional read. I also look forward to Matched by Condie. I just got it after a long wait from the library. I am just not sure what else I will read. Not because I don't have anything, but rather because there are too many choices. Happy reading!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Pages: 240
Audience: Grades 4-7
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Review Copy: Digital ARC from NetGalley
Release Date: September 1, 2012

Description from GoodreadsCallie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she's a terrible singer. Instead she's the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier! Following the success of SMILE, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!

Review: This graphic novel lives up to its title very well. There is drama just oozing throughout the pages. Between the middle-school play, an annoying little brother, deadlines, gossip, romance, broken relationships, and strained friendships, there is more than enough drama to go around for everyone. Callie is an endearing character who has an infectious passion for the theater. She also tends to fall for any young man who looks her way. She is single-minded about the play, but a little more mixed up in her personal life. 

Watching Callie muddle through her relationships can be almost painful at times, but she had me rooting for her all the way. Raina Telgemeier plunges readers straight into the drama that surrounds adolescence and provides plenty of laughs along the way. This is one more sure success for Telgemeier.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Amulet, Vol. 5: Prince of the Elves

Amulet, Vol. 5 : Prince of the Elves
Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Pages: 208
Audience: Ages 8-12
Genre: Science-Fic/Fantasy, Graphic Novels
Review Copy: NetGalley ARC
ISBN: 978-0-545-20889-5

Description from Goodreads: Kazu Kibuishi's thrilling, NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series continues! 

Emily has survived the chaos of the Guardian Academy, but Max Griffin, who is working for the Elf King, has escaped with the Mother Stone. The Elf King has now forged new amulets, which will allow him the ability to invade Cielis and destroy it once and for all. Emily and her friends desperately make preparations to defend Cielis in what will inevitably be a brutal war, and they can only hope that it will be enough to defeat the Elf King.

Review: With Volume 5, we find out more about Max's story. Little by little we learn more about why things have come to this point and what has shaped him. As with the earlier volumes, there is plenty of action and suspense and Emily once again shows strength and courage. Upper elementary students gravitate toward this series with the unique array of characters and mix of science fiction and fantasy. They will not be disappointed with this new episode. Once again, the illustrations are eye-popping and lush. Though the storyline is sufficiently intriguing, I would read this series for the graphics alone.

I did notice that since it had been awhile since I read the others, following the storyline was a bit more difficult than in prior volumes. The complexity is a good thing though as the plot is developing and the characters are gaining more depth. 

This volume leaves the reader begging for more so I hope the wait won't be too long. My students and I can't get enough of Amulet.