Thursday, October 31, 2013


Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett read the list

Athlete vs. Mathlete by W. C. Mack (upper middle grade novel about twin brothers; one loves math and the other sports; they narrate the story in alternating chapters; first in a series)

Counting by 7's by Holly Goldberg Sloan (upper middle grade;  about 12 year old Willow Chance - eccentric genius and finding family - compared to "Wonder" and "Mockingbird")

The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt; illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (picture book about crayons going on strike)

Dead City by James Ponti (zombies; Manhattan; strong female protagonist; and a series - upper middle grade!)

The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man's Canyon by S. S. Taylor; illustrated by Katherine Roy (steampunk for middle school - first in the series)

Face Bug By Patrick J. Lewis; Illustrated by Kelly Murphy; photography by Frederic B. Siskind (poetry for the 2nd - 4th grade crowd about a museum of bugs for bugs!)

Flora and Ulysses:  The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo (Flora is a girl; Ulysses is a squirrel that gets sucked up in the vacuum -- and then starts to write poetry.  3rd - 7th grade)

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters by K. G. Campbell (picture book for K-3; Lester's visiting Aunt knits him some truly awful sweaters to wear to school - what's a kid to do?)

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead (middle school about friendship, family and facing your fears)

Lost Treasure of Tuckernuck by Emily Fairlie; illustrated by Antonio Javier Caparo (a mystery for the 4th - 6th grade crowd)

Monsieur Marceau by Leda Schubert; illustrated by Gerard DuBois (Did you know that Marcel Marceau worked for the French Underground during WW2 before he became a world famous mime? - biography for 3rd - 4th grade)

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales:  One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale (Famous spy Nathan Hale is swallowed by a history book just before his execution and lives to present history’s roughest, toughest, and craziest stories in graphic novel format for 4th - 7th graders! and - it's a series)

The Neptune Project by Polly Holyoke (upper middle school dystopian sci-fi with genetic engineering thrown in; also the first in a series)

Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald (a Holocaust story about a young Jewish girl in Paris who manages to stay hidden in the country - 5th and up)

Pickle:  The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School by Kim Baker; illustrated by Tim Probert (school friendship and sixth grade pranks)

Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (8 & 9  year olds should love this series about platypi that solve crimes; Kroscozka writes "The Lunch Lady" series)

Rebel McKenzie by Candice Ransom (realistic fiction about a 12-year old girl that wants to be a paleontologist but ends up babysitting her nephew in a trailer park and decides to enter a beauty contest)

Rump:  The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff (the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale turned inside out for upper middle school)

Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs (a sequel to "Spy School" - our hero thinks he gets to go home for the summer after completing his first year at Spy School; instead he gets to go to Spy Camp! Gibbs wrote "Belly Up"; this should appeal to upper middle school)

The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng; illustrated by Abigail Halpin (a series of books about Anna - this one is about Anna in 4th grade and how hard it is sometimes to make friends.)

I've read a few of these and hope to read more over the next few months.  I have "Flora & Ulysses" and "The Neptune Project" so those will probably be the first two that I read.  Right now I would vote for "Liar & Spy" but there are a few others that sound compelling!  Which one would you vote for?

Monday, October 28, 2013

Happy fall!  We just got back from the Texas Book Festival.  A grand time was had by all.  My favorite was seeing Mac Barnett in a bunny suit...  and hearing Jon Scieszka and Mac read "Battle Bunny" together.  But it was only a brief break from school work.  Last week, I had an assignment due that covered three areas - Fantasy, Poetry and Multicultural.  I will share Poetry and multicultural today and leave Fantasy for another because - it's complicated...

Boris by Cynthia Rylant, published by Harcourt in 2005.  
Why "Boris"? I like cats and I enjoy Cynthia Rylant’s writing.  And Boris is, indeed, a wonderful cat.  Big and gray and, when the author finds him, living in a cage with his sister.  She adopts both of them and takes them home.  Written in free verse, this collection of 19 poems describes different aspects of Boris’ personality and his many feline antics.  It’s a very honest slice of Rylant’s life, with Boris as the focal point of seasons changing, neighbors coming and going, and households moving.  I think my cat would enjoy watching other cats on TV but I’m not sure about spinnies…  If animals are a part of your life, I think you would enjoy “Boris”.  Or a teacher could read one of the poems in class; there are several that would resonate with teens even if they are not owned by an animal.  PS - It’s a poignant book in places but it’s not a sad book.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich, Hyperion 1999

This story takes place on an island in Lake Superior in 1849.  The main character is Omakayas, a 7 year old Anishinabe or Ojibwa Native American girl.  The story begins with the rescue of a baby girl from an island. It then jumps to Spring and introduces us to Omakayas and her family as they start construction on their summer home - a birchbark house.  The story makes a full circle through the seasons of the year and gives readers a glimpse into what life may have been like for a Native American family in upper Minnesota circa 1847.  Erdrich is Ojibwa and was inspired to write The BIrchbark House while doing family research with her mother.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book!  It has been on my list of books to read for many years and I am so glad I finally read it.  Louise Erdrich incorporates a lot of Native American language and lifestyle into the book, including folklore!  The use of the Native American language sprinkled throughout the book might make it challenging for some readers which is why it would make a perfect read aloud.  There is a glossary included in the back to help translate words but the meaning is not difficult to discern because of the way the book is written.  I especially enjoyed how Omakayas and her family used everything - down to storing food in the intestine of the moose!  There are also three more Omakayas books - “The Game of Silence”, “The Porcupine Year” and “Chickadee”.  Highly recommended!