Sunday, August 17, 2014

THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen

This book is so smart! I love a main character with sarcasm. Short, cliff-hanger chapters make it a great pick for a kid who needs some motivation to keep reading! I listened to the audiobook of this and really enjoyed (and laughed out loud at) the wonderfully unique voices the narrator created. It made me want to step up my own read aloud game. Loved how all the pieces of this puzzle fell together. 

BLOODY TIMES by James L. Swanson

I actually read BLOODY TIMES: THE FUNERAL OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND THE MANHUNT FOR JEFFERSON DAVIS, which is the "special adaptation for young people" published by Scholastic. I learned so many things! For one, I didn't know that the South had a president during the Civil War, Jefferson Davis. I felt so ignorant when I announced that fact to my husband while he was driving and I was reading. He, a history buff, couldn't believe I didn't know that. There were a lot of details about Lincoln's funeral train that were fascinating, and seeing the images of his Springfield house and tomb bring back memories from my many years chaperoning 7th graders on a field trip to visit. It made me see those places in a different light after seeing the vintage photographs of each place decorated for his memorial. Fascinating!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

DOGS ON DUTY by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

I teared up a few times reading about the bonds that develop between the dogs and their handlers. Especially the story of the soldier who was shot and his dog who laid over him to protect him though he died. The dog comforted the family at the soldier's memorial without ever having met them before. He could sense the connection. Wow. A great pairing with Letters from Wolfie. 


I was intrigued at first about the artist's severe dyslexia and his struggles in school, but when it got more into his process, I was fascinated. The grid process he uses to create his art is unbelievable - genius, really, for him to devise a way to combat his natural tendencies that could be self-destructive. I love his discipline - 3 hours of work in the morning, and 3 hours in the evening. Even though he has parameters for his work, I appreciated that he leaves space (NEEDS  space) for his creativity. He also understands how the human brain works; that our brain will fill in the unanswered gaps. This is why he leaves some work for the viewer in some of his paintings - he doesn't draw a nose, or an eye. He draws a blob, that when viewed as part of the whole (the landscape, as he calls it) creates for your brain a symbol of a nose or eye. My two favorite lines: "In life you can be dealt a winning hand of cards and you can find a way to lose, and you can be dealt a losing hand and find a way to win. True in art and in life: you pretty much make your own destiny" (47) and "I think problem solving is highly overrated. Problem creation is much more interesting" (51).

Sunday, August 10, 2014

NOTHING CAN POSSIBLY GO WRONG by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

I love pretty much everything Faith Erin Hicks touches. She can do no wrong. I laughed out loud more than once and I appreciate that this story doesn't get too babyish with its message of "can't we all just get along?" I can think of many students who would devour this and come back up asking for more F.E.H.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

FISH IN A TREE by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

I wish I could give this six stars! Loved all of the characters in this book. Albert's one-liners are perfection. And Ally. Kids everywhere will connect with her. Teachers everywhere need to know her story.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Loved the style of this graphic novel -- black-and-white, bold lines, interesting use of the page. Students may need support understanding the unique use of storytelling when they come to scenes where the typical "frames" are not used. Those were some of my favorite pages, though. The barrier that I usually feel when reading graphic novels melted away as I read this one. I loved the message of creativity. 

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

What a wonderful book for the comfortably quiet, in-her-head girl (like I was! Wait, am!)  I can't wait to give this to the artist, daydreamer, doodler, creative spirit, new student in my class. I always struggle with finding non-series, age-appropriate, engaging GNs, and this one fits the bill!

Bad Boy: A Memoir by Walter Dean Myers

I love that Myers so honestly shared the trials of his childhood, particularly the challenges he faced at home and the struggles of feeling different from his family and friends as a reader and writer. And some of the "bad" classroom behavior will surely slip into some of those teacher nightmares we dread. It's hard to believe he came out of some of the situations he faced alive! I loved reading about Harlem in the 50s and the big names that Myers came across growing up: Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, Billie Holliday. I didn't love the writing; some of the chapters jumped around to a bunch of different topics: basketball, school, reading, girls, gangs. I think some students may struggle with the lofty literary allusions (this former English major did!) but if they can accept their confusion and read past it, it could be an enjoyable book for the right kid.