Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Screen Free Week

I am typing this on Sunday as I plan for Screen Free Week. Matthew Cordell's book hello! hello! is the perfect way to kick off the week too. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest you pick it up.

I will be laying low on the Internet and hopefully only using screens as necessary for my job. At home, I plan to be studying for my Hmong class, reading, enjoying music, walking my dog, spending time outside and hanging out with my family. I love my screens, but taking a break and disconnecting for awhile will be refreshing. Have a great week and I will see you here again next Monday for It's Monday! What are you reading?

Monday, April 29, 2013

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.

You may find more complete information about what I am reading at Goodreads or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

The Past Week:
Picture Books

I read quite a few picture books this week since I got to go to the CCBC book presentation and I got a new order in too. My favorite one this week was Please, Baby, Please. The illustrations are beautiful and the situations are completely hilarious from a parent perspective. I think children will love it too though. They also managed to put a little clock in each picture so it could be used to help when teaching time. Two others that really captured my attention were the ones about Tea Cakes. I am going to have to give at least one of the recipes a try soon. The best part about them was not the tea cake recipes, but the wonderful glimpse into the relationship with the grandmothers. Just wonderful family love.

Young Adult

These three are completely different books. Legend is a sci-fi adventure that has some intense action scenes and is focused on two very smart and strong characters. Eleanor and Park is a sweet romance set in the eighties. The characters have way less physical strength than those in Legend, but they have emotional strength that helps them through their difficulties. Jasper Jones is historical fiction/mystery and is set in Australia. This caused me some comprehension trouble as it features several cricket games. This is not a sport I can follow, but fortunately there is more to the story. I'm reading it for the Printz challenge. That is what I like about challenges. It pushes me into books I wouldn't normally pick up.

Middle Grade

The main character in this story was actually middle grade age, so it seemed odd to place it in the YA category. I understand why some people do though. The themes it deals with are tough. A family is still working through the death of one of the children at the hands of a terrorist. Sudden violent death is a tricky subject and the father's racism is also really in your face. I appreciated the voice of the younger brother who is trying to make sense of it all and live his life without the shadow of this sister he barely remembers. It provides the reader with a lot to think about.

Ash Mistry was a cool fantasy book and it was fun to see a bit into the world of the mythology of India. It seems the author was trying to do something like the Percy Jackson series with Indian gods and goddesses instead of the Greek and Roman ones. Fortunately, it worked. It's not a copy, but it does have a similar flavor of action, humor and seriously evil beings battling it out with the heroes. I am looking forward to reading more of this series.

The Coming Week:
I think I will finally be diving into The Summer Prince and then will get to more of the books that were in my stack last week. I am listening to Lucky Breaks on CD and I plan to get to Yaqui Delgado. With it being Screen Free Week, I will probably get to a few more too. What will you be reading this week?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Screen Free Week

I've been seeing a lot on Twitter about Screen Free Week.

All of those posts and the beautiful weather outside have about convinced me to take the pledge. I just have to figure out how to manage it. Clearly, I will have to still teach my lessons at school and some require screen use. Also, tomorrow I am scheduled to update a cart of iPads. Difficult to avoid those screens. I also think not answering email at school might get me into trouble. So, I will be limiting my screen time during my free time at home. No Goodreads, Twitter, blogging or Facebook. This will be difficult, but will give me a greater appreciation for them OR will show me that I don't need them. I don't watch TV already so that will be easy. I will try to get my blog posts done ahead of time and schedule them so it won't go completely dark. Will you be joining us for Screen Free (or partially free) Week?

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Poem in Your Pocket Week

image from Goodreads.com
We stretched Poem in Your Pocket Day out over a week so more students could read with each other. Many of my classes have had the chance to share poetry with students around the country. We connected with schools in Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Maryland and Connecticut. We have read poems individually from our pockets, we've read together as a class and we have even read some poems back and forth with other classes. Joyful Noise was a great way for us to connect. Instead of two voices, we had about 40. Another great experience was when one class read the book Chicken Soup with Rice for us. Fun times. I love poetry month! Have you done anything fun for Poetry Month?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

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.

You may find more complete information about what I am reading at Goodreads or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

The Past Week:
Young Adult

I read Huntress first and then Ash and it didn't seem that it makes a difference for the order (that is the opposite of the publication dates) since they are companion books. I enjoyed both. I loved the uniqueness of the plots and the fairytale flavor. I am a sucker for fairytale re-tellings. Especially in this case since Malinda Lo adds more texture to the surroundings and depth to the characters. I also enjoyed reading the second book of the Tankborn series. I reviewed Awakening over at the blog Rich in Color. It is part of a great sci-fi series.

Graphic Novels

Netgalley was definitely my friend this week. I was able to read several graphic novels that I wouldn't have had access to otherwise. A Match Made in Heaven was quite a fun diversion. I did laugh out loud several times and had a smile on my face throughout. 

Saints and Boxers on the other hand was much more serious. I know that I have read novels that take place during the boxer rebellion at least several books by Pearl S. Buck, but otherwise I didn't have a ton of background knowledge about the time period. Afterward, I checked out Gene Luen Yang's blog and found out more about this tumultuous time. I will write a review about them both either here or on Rich in Color closer to the release in September.

Middle Grade

A Tangle of Knots was a fun and entertaining mystery that happened to include recipes. See my post from yesterday for more on that. 


So creepy and icky!! Loved it. The Book of Blood is exactly what non-fiction should be: informational AND absorbing. Who knew that cockroaches can live up to several weeks after having their head severed? Maybe you, but not me. I now know things about blood that I never learned in school. It was pretty fascinating.

For the Coming Week:
I am listening to Legend by Marie Lu and I am reading The Savage Fortress. I still have a ton of books sitting by the bookshelf and I have no idea which ones will grab my attention this week. Have a great week of reading.

Lime Pound Cake from A Tangle of Knots

image from IndieBound

This week I had the pleasure of reading the middle grade novel A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. It is a book with many layers (didn't truly mean to drop in a cake pun). It is certainly about family and is a mystery, but has a thread of fantasy too. In addition, it has RECIPES! I love it when a book comes complete with a mini-cookbook. Another great excuse to bake. The first one that tempted me was the Miss Mallory's Peach Cake -- see video instructions below.

But then I saw the Lime Pound Cake and that was so different, that I would have to try it as soon as possible. The recipe is in the book, but is also here. I had everything but limes since it has a fairly short list of ingredients. So after I ran out to the store for those, I was in business.

To get ready, I set up the audio book I have been listening to and made a pot of tea. Then I gathered the seven ingredients.

What took the longest was the zest. I really need to get a little gizmo for doing that. I just have a grater, but it is a tricky and slightly messy process. You know what I love though, using my little juicer. The smell of the limes when they are juiced is fantastic.

And, I got to whisk. I love whisking. I feel all official when I get to use a whisk. 

Lotsa butter!

Ready for the oven. Smells yummy!

And finally, my afternoon snack.

This isn't the first time a book has led me to cooking or baking. We moved back to Ohio when I was 11 or 12. Since we finally had snow (after living in southern CA for years), I made the maple syrup candy that Laura told about in Little House in the Big Woods. Later when I taught third grade, we made homemade butter and bread after reading that book too. I have tried several recipes in The Little House cookbook. One I remember was truly wonderful, but oh, so bad. It recommended frying up your chicken in bacon fat. I made that for my husband years ago. Not on the healthy menu. I've also made strawberry jam and honey butter from Winnie-the-Pooh's Teatime Cookbook. Excellent with a nice cup of tea. I made a lemon chess pie when I read Sarah Weeks' book Pie last year too.

Do you have any favorite cooking/baking associated with a book or know of any other book related cookbooks that you would recommend?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Platypus Police Squad

I was so excited to see that Platypus Police Squad by Jarrett Krosoczka is on our Junior Library Guild order coming soon. After watching this trailer, you will know why.

Monday, April 15, 2013

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.

You may find more complete information about what I am reading at Goodreads or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

The Past Week:
 Picture Books

Scaredy Squirrel made me laugh the hardest, the artwork of Golden Domes had me in awe, and I Hate Picture Books! got me all nostalgic about picture books I have loved. Sky Color made me smile and is a great book about creativity. World on a String would be great when a child is going through a loss. Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors is flat out gorgeous aside from the great learning that can also happen. Me Want Pet! was fun, but I was just too much of a curmudgeon that day to enjoy the caveman grammar after the first page, so here is a better review of it from Mr. Schu.

Young Adult

I fully enjoyed both of these exciting dystopian adventures. They have two completely different worlds, but both have characters that I felt connected to immediately. Fortunately, both books were the first in a series so I don't have to say goodbye to those characters yet.


I am continually shocked by how much I don't know about racism in our country. In Courage Has No Color, Tanya Lee Stone quotes Stephen Ambrose who said, "Soldiers were fighting the world's worst racist, Adolph Hitler, in the world's most segregated army." I knew that the military was segregated to a certain degree, but I just didn't understand the full scope. Black Americans were kept in menial positions for many years and Stone tells the story of the first black paratroopers as they began to make change happen.

The Coming Week:

I am reading a digital galley of Awakening, the sequel to Tankborn. I have also just started to read Huntress by Malinda Lo and I will likely follow that up with the other book Ash. Other than that, I have quite a pile waiting for me. It will be hard to choose.

What will you be reading?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Scaredy Squirrel Goes Camping

AuthorMelanie Watt
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Pages: 32
Audience: Ages 4-8
Genre: Animal Fantasy
Review Copy: ARC from NetGalley
Release Date: April 1, 2013 (on shelves now)

Summary:  -- Cover image & summary from publisher

Review: If you are familiar with Scaredy Squirrel, you know that he is extremely risk averse so of course, "Scaredy Squirrel never goes camping. He'd rather be comfortable...." As usual, he has some legitimate concerns, but he also fears really random things such as zippers. For the seasoned camper, this book could cause an outbreak of giggles between his carefully thought out wilderness outfit and his elaborate plans. Be prepared to laugh through Scaredy's marvelous escapades. My family has camped out many times so this was great fun. It's my favorite Scaredy book yet.

Activity Page posted by Publisher

Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: I Hate Picture Books!

Author: Timothy Young
Publisher: Shiffer Publishing
Pages: 32
Audience: Ages 5-8
Genre: Realistic
Review Copy: ARC from NetGalley
Release Date: February 28, 2013 (on shelves now)

Summary: Max hates his picture books and he’s throwing them all away. But he soon learns just how invaluable imagination is and has a change of heart. Find out why in this outrageous book that both pokes fun at and celebrates many of the classics of children’s literature. Join writer and illustrator Timothy Young for this irreverent and humorous story ideal for children and adults alike. Early Reader; Ages 5-8. --Cover image and summary from publisher

Review: The title certainly gives cause for a double-take from a book lover. Hating on picture books seems unfathomable but the boy states his case well. He has some valid reasons for his dislike and he is certainly tormented and confused about his love/hate relationship with picture books. The storyline is very simple, but the fun part is definitely the cameos of excellent picture books. There are glimpses of and references to many childhood favorites throughout the book. Seeing so many book friends all in one place was definitely a treat. Children will likely get a kick out of seeing their favorites sprinkled throughout. This would be a nice addition to a Picture Book Month celebration.

I Hate Picture Books! video from Kickstarter project page

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Trailer Wednesday: The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani looks intriguing. 

Welcome to the School for Good and Evil, where best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. With her glass slippers and devotion to good deeds, Sophie knows she'll earn top marks at the School for Good and join the ranks of past students like Cinderella, Rapunzel, and Snow White. Meanwhile, Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks and wicked black cat, seems a natural fit for the villains in the School for Evil. The two girls soon find their fortunes reversed—Sophie's dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School for Good, thrust among handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are... ? The School for Good and Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one. --summary from publisher HarperKids

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Trailer Tuesday: Matt & Craz

From the author of Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze comes 
The Awesome Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & Craz


Monday, April 8, 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013

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.

You may find more complete information about what I am reading at Goodreads or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

The Past Week:

Normally over Spring Break I would read a ton, but I needed to take a quick trip back home to see my grandparents and other family and I spent a lot of time talking to and enjoying them. On the way I listened to The Girl of Fire and Thorns. It was perfect for the drive. Elisa and her many adventures kept me alert and awake on my 9+ hour journey. Poison (reviewed here) was also part of my trip. I stopped in Naperville at Anderson's Bookshop to pick up Lunch Lady, Chester, and Elephant & Piggie for my nieces. I also grabbed Poison so I would have something to read while I ate my lunch at the great pizza place across the way. It was the perfect comic relief. Hammer of Witches, reviewed at Rich in Color, was a unique and interesting fantasy/historical fiction that I was lucky enough to get on NetGalley. Finally, our fifth grade is looking for graphic novels that deal with social or political issues, so I grabbed the one about Obama to see if it would fit the bill. If you happen to know of any others, please toss the titles my way.

This Coming Week:
I will be finishing up the audio of Cinder, which I am loving. I am also reading Tankborn and the new release Awakening by Karen Sandler. I've started Courage Has No Color too. I am re-reading Pathways to the Common Core and then I am not sure what else will come my way. I wish you a great week of reading!

Falling Back Into YA

In the past few years I have been trying to read as many picture books and middle grade books as possible for my day job, library media specialist at an elementary school. Here is the problem with that: I love young adult lit. I mean really love YA. So I was fitting a few in here and there, but my reading life was definitely dominated by elementary level lit.

That was about to change. I started reading a few more YA books since I challenged myself to read all of the Nerdy Shortlist books from 2012. As I was enjoying those, I decided to go ahead and do the Printz Challenge to read all of the winners and honor books. I'm lovin' it!! And I have even more incentive to read YA for the Rich in Color blog I am part of now. It is so cool to have given myself "permission" to read what I enjoy most. I'm still reading elementary level books, but the amounts have flipped. I fully expect that after this bit of a binge, things will settle back to a more even split, but like Donalyn Miller in her Nerdybookclub post today, I don't want reading to just be an obligation. It is one of my avenues of recreation and stress relief. Donalyn reminded us of the Rights of a Reader.

I am holding on to #5 The Right to Read Anything.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Rich in Color

During the past few weeks, I have been collaborating on a new blog. I am very excited about being a part of Rich in Color. Diverse literature for children and young adults has been an interest of mine for many years. When I went to EdCampMadWI recently I thought more about what I could do to promote diverse literature (read a post about that here).

I was lucky to meet Audrey during a #diverselit chat and we decided that we would like a blog with a focus on diverse YA books. We put our heads together and started planning. Audrey is an amazing organizer and has gotten a website set up with a book release calendar, she also set up a tumblr and twitter account @rich_in_color.

I hope you will stop by and see what we have going on at Rich in Color. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: Poison

Title: Poison
Author: Bridget Zinn
Publisher: Disney Press
Pages: 288
Audience: YA
Genre: Fantasy & Adventure
Review Copy: Purchased at Anderson's Bookshop
Release Date: March 19, 2013 (on shelves now)

Blurb from Publisher: Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she's the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom's future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king's army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she's not alone. She's armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can't stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she's certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.

Review: On her website, I read that Bridget wanted to make people laugh. She "hoped that her readers' copies would show the watermarks of many bathtime reads." I believe that she will meet that goal. As I was reading, I felt a smile creep across my face and laughter burst out over and over as Kyra stumbled into one ridiculous predicament after another. That smile also appeared as Kyra managed to outthink and outmaneuver those around her too. I look forward to re-reading this book many times especially if I need a little laughter in my life.

Zinn created a charming character who can hold her own with bad guys, bad gals, and all kinds of creatures. She is smart and strong, but also has the endearing habit of tripping herself up. Kyra is not the only charmer here though. The dog and pig certainly give her some competition there and the stranger she meets up with on her journey, Fred, has plenty too. Though the title sounds dangerous, the book itself is quite lighthearted and flirty. I recommend that you locate this book, read it, and share it with anyone who could use a smile.

About Bridget: I never met Bridget, but unfortunately, I never will. All I know of her, I learned on her blog right around the time of her death in 2011. I was so eager to finally read her book. Now I am certain that I would have loved to meet her. The book oozes joy and laughter and she must surely have shared that with those who were lucky enough to know her.

Extra: John Green's post about Poison.

Monday, April 1, 2013

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.

You may find more complete information about what I am reading at Goodreads or by clicking on the Goodreads widget along the side of my blog.

The Past Week:
Young Adult

I absolutely adored the Tiffany Aching series so really looked forward to Dodger. Can you believe I didn't get the Dickens reference even knowing that Dickens was a character in the book. About 75 pages in, I thought to myself, Dodger? Like the Artful Dodger? Pffft. There are definite connections and it is a lively mystery. Dodger definitely made me laugh. He was a fantastically charming & amusing character. My only complaint was that though Pratchett was obviously favorable toward his Jewish character, it seemed not so great that he portrayed him as a penny pinching haggler. Going for the stereotype is a little less creative than I would expect. Also, there was a word used, shanky, that I thought was really fun, but it turns out that it has negative connotations towards Jewish people too. Not so cool.

I listened to The Winter People and enjoyed learning about the Abenaki people. Although there are some pretty exciting and action filled scenes, the book was often moving quite slowly, so I am not sure if upper elementary students would go for it. The historical aspect was fascinating for me and also, it reminded me of how differently the French and English could be when interacting with Native Americans.

Middle Grade

This was definitely my favorite book of the week. I also read The Porcupine Year with my ears. I loved the interaction between the main character, Omakayas, and her brother. They have a quarrelsome, but loving relationship. Like the previous books in this series, there are very realistic situations that the family encounters with strength and love for each other. I found myself wanting to find out more about them. I can't wait to read the next installment.

Early Chapter Book

I had fun with Tugg and Teeny. It is an easy reader chapter book about two sweet friends. I think my students will enjoy them.

For the Coming Week:
I have started reading an ARC from NetGalley -- Hammer of Witches. I was also listening to The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I would be finished except that the last CD was missing so I will have to wait until tomorrow when I can pick it up at the library. In the meantime I started listening to Cinder. I also started reading Poison. I will likely finish that this evening. Aside from these, I am not sure which books I will get to next, but I know it will be a great week of reading.