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Have you Read This?

30 Mar

Looking for a few “fresh reads” for your students? I have two  great new picture books that I’m excited to  recommend!

The first is Allen Say’s Drawing from Memory. Drawing from Memory is an engaging, well-written autobiography told in a “graphic novel” type format. Say recounts his struggles toward becoming an accomplished and widely-recognized author and illustrator. Students will readily connect to Say’s young life as he dealt with World War ll and his parent’s subsequent divorce. Other issues addressed in the book include parental approval, finding a mentor, perseverance, and starting over. Children who are passionate about art, illustrations, and Japanese Manga will be particularly intrigued. Older students who struggle with reading will be supported with the  comic strip type format and pictures. Rich vocabulary and thoughtful writing will expand the reading abilities of all readers. Great teaching points abound from the  descriptive illustrations to the autobiographical genre.

Another great book that would be appropriate for all ages is Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt! by Leslie Kimmelman. This entertaining biography offers a fantastic opportunity to teach the genre of biography as well as an inviting look into the family life of President Theodore Roosevelt. Sprinkled throughout with quotes from Theodore Roosevelt, children will be interested to learn more about the lives and families of our presidents. Most students will easily connect with the feisty, full- spirited Alice and her adventures.

Happy Reading!

You Gotta Read This…

18 Mar

Looking for your next “pleasure read” book? Have I got a book for you?! If you liked The Hunger Games you will love Divergent by Veronica Roth. Although I was initially worried that Divergent was going to be a clone of The Hunger Games, I  couldn’t have been more wrong. The only things that Divergent and The Hunger Games share are a strong female protagonist and a dystopian setting- other than that, Divergent completely diverges! I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but I will say that Veronica Roth manages to create a world that is at once familiar and terrifyingly different. Although the book is pure, adrenaline-junkie entertaining, she slyly manages to make some astute observations about the best and worst features of humanity. Be sure that when you start this one, you have plenty of uniterrupted time because you won’t be able to leave it until you are done!! Keep an eye out, because this is absolutely going to be the next “big read” that everyone is talking about!!

Pure Pleasure Reading

11 Mar

Are you looking for your next “read for pleasure” book? If you’re like me, you keep a constant stack of books to read. Some of the books in that stack are books that I read to stay on top of educational trends, research, and best practice. Some of those books are children’s books that I read as I look for that perfect “just right” book to entice a reluctant reader or to help a reader stretch their “reading muscles”. Some of those books in my pile are also self-improvement books. These include devotionals, inspirational books, sociology, political and historical texts. And then there is the “pure pleasure” pile. Many of these books are brain “junk food” and are what I reach for when my brain is maxed out and I just need to relax.

One series that has been a recent constant feature in my pure pleasure pile is the Maisie Dobbs series by Jaqueline Winspear.  The series, which is part mystery and part historical fiction, follows the life and adventures of Maisie Dobbs. This series moves way beyond junk-food reading with its attention to detail and rich description. You won’t be able to put the book down as you follow Maisie into the mud and blood-soaked fields of France during World War 1. Later, your heartstrings will tug as you follow Maisie and other war veterans back into Post World War 1 London. Each story in the series delves a little deeper into the psyche and development of Maisie and her mentors as you watch Maisie try to solve difficult and dangerous cases. Maisie is no shrinking violet. She is an independent, strong, smart, courageous protagonist. Although she is not portrayed as some super-hero, she is everything you’d want in a book heroine. Ms. Winspear does a great job developing all of the characters in this series, so that you’ll come to feel like they are all close companions. Additionally, you will gain key insights into events leading up to World War I, the brutal conditions that ensued during the war, and the difficult aftermath of the war. You don’t want to start this series when you  might need lots of extra rest because you won’t be able to put this one down. This is definitely an “up all night” reader.

If at all possible, you’ll definitely want to start with the first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs. The first book will take you back to Maisie’s pre-teenage years and give you insights into how a girl from the rough East End of London comes to  be a highly educated, successful, entrepreneur, and investigator. You don’t have to read the rest of the books in order, but it will make it easier to keep characters straight if you read them in the sequence in which they were written.The newest book in the series is being released in March (in both traditional and e-book versions). Out of the more than 100 books that I have read this year, this series is absolutely one of my favorites. Enjoy!

More Wonderful Words

11 Mar

Looking for a great book to entice even the most reluctant intermediate reader? Try Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan. Storm in the Barn is a historical fiction, graphic novel. It tells the story of a young boy and his struggles to weather the Kansas Dust-bowl and discover his own worth, strength, and courage. The story, which is told through a series of  gritty, dusty picture sequences, relates an often- shared, Dust-bowl myth about what happened to the rain.

Anyone who is attracted first by illustrations, next by the story, will be captured with this book. Moreover, the subject matter, the male protagonist, and the gritty sequences will particularly appeal to intermediate age boys.(For other great ideas on literature that will appeal to boys check out Ralph Fletcher’s Boy Readers).  Due to one somewhat violent scene (baaed on actual events) I wouldn’t recommend this book to boys younger than 4th grade, but older boys will be intrigued.

Last, but not least, this book would be a fantastic vehicle for anyone who wanted to teach about the Great Depression and the Kansas Dust-bowl (and would make a great companion read to Into the Dust by Karen Hesse.). Extensively researched, and carefully illustrated this book is definitely award-worthy and deserves a place in every intermediate elementary classroom.

Wonderful Words

9 Mar

Looking for a great read-aloud for your intermediate grade students? I have a super suggestion for you. The chapter book, Hidden by Helen Frost is an action packed adventure that would offer a perfect opportunity to teach perspective, writing style, and voice. At the beginning of the story, you listen and watch from the perspective of a young girl. Her day is moving along like every other day, until tragedy strikes. What happens next (told in free verse) will keep you hanging on the edge of your seat. The next section is told from the perspective of another girl whose life has intersected the life of the first girl in an unexpected and unusual way. 
The second section is told in prose format and will take students straight into the heart and feelings of a thirteen year old girl as she grapples with difficult emotions and thoughts about an abusive parent and loss.

The last section brings both characters together for a reunion of sorts that will stretch and mature each character. At the end of the story, the reader is given one extra glimpse into still another perspective. By reading the last word of the longest line in each paragraph in the second section, the reader gets a glimpse into the thoughts of the first girl when she, too, first encounters the life-altering event.

Readers will be blown away by the depth that Helen Frost brings to each character, the realistic voice that she manages to capture and the unique and creative perspective that she brings to this story. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Don’t miss this one!