Monday, April 22, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Yay!  I'm finally back on track with my book reviews and I'm ready to give you some reviews of my latest reads.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai 

Such a good book!  I wasn't sure I would enjoy it because of how it is written in free verse, but after a few pages I really got into it.  And the fact that the story is based in the author's life makes the story that much more touching.  Would be a good book to read in an upper elementary or middle school Social Studies/ History class.

Kickers: Ball Hogs by Rich Wallace

This is the first book in the Kickers series about a fourth grade boy, Ben, and his teammates who play on a soccer team.  I like that this book teaches good sportsmanship within a sporty story about two competitive fourth grade boys.  If I was more into sports, I would have enjoyed this book much more, but I thought the story was okay.

Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary

I was never a huge Cleary fan growing up, so I hadn't really read any of her books. I was happy to come across this one and found it to be a well written, cute book.  Muggie Maggie is about a young girl who refuses to write and read cursive and her teacher's struggle to get her to change her mind.  I love how the adults let Maggie learn to want to write cursive in her own time (with a little bit of covert encouragement).

Owen Foote, Mighty Scientist by Stephanie Greene

Cute book about an elementary-aged boy who loves Science and wants to get into the "sciency" class next year by creating a fabulous Science Fair project with his best friend.  While I don't condone experimenting with animals, I did like the twist that the two boys presented their project with.  I won't give away what happened.

The Just Desserts Club by Johanna Hurwitz

Cute,but I didn't enjoy it as much as some of Hurwitz's other books.  I was also a little taken aback that the book mentions beer twice.  Not sure why a children's book needs to mention beer at all.  The story follows Cricket, a sixth grade girl who's well behaved and full of knowledge. She finds herself baking for special occasions that pop up throughout the school year and the recipes she uses are included in the book.  Might be a good book for a read aloud for younger elementary students, but the storyline probably isn't exciting enough for upper elementary.

Class President by Johanna Hurwitz

This is a short chapter book so it's a quick read, but it's a good one about self-confidence and friendship.  I like that Hurwitz has different characters be the lead characters in her books.  This time it was Julio, Lucas' best friend who usually doesn't get much page time.  Julio wants to be class president, but he doesn't want to be the one to let everyone know it.  Luckily, he some good friends that recognize his potential and nominate him for the position.  Will we win or will Cricket, the girl who proclaimed in third grade that she would one day be the first female president of the United States win the election? 

Class Clown by Johanna Hurwitz

Lucas Cott is one of those students you hope you don't get in your class, but then by the end of the year, you hate to see him go.  I could see several of my students in this character.  He is full of potential and you could see him grow throughout this book, short as it was.  As an adult, I enjoyed this book, but I think younger readers would enjoy this book, too.  It's funny and it has a good message about becoming the best you that you can be... and the endless possibilities of what you can become.

Starting School by Johanna Hurwitz

Another cute book in the adventures of Lucas Cott, this time focusing in on his twin brothers Marius and Marcus who are just starting school.  And like their brother, Marius and Marcus are full of mischief, but still lovable characters.  This would be a fun read aloud for first or second graders, but third or fourth graders might also enjoy reading it on their own.

This was the first of Ms. Hurwitz's books that I read and I enjoyed it so much that I starting reading her other books with Lucas Cott as the main character.  I enjoy her books because although the characters are always getting into some kind of trouble, they do end up learning a lesson in the end.

Aldo Applesauce by Johanna Hurwitz

Aldo is the new boy at school and on his very first day he gets the nickname Applesuace, all because he brought applesauce for lunch. Why did his mom have to pack applesauce?  Luckily Aldo does make a friend his first day, Dede.  Unfortunately, Dede is the reason he got the nickname Applesauce because she spilled his applesauce at lunch.  But Aldo like Dede and is determined to get to know her better and to find out why she sometimes wears a fake mustache.

This book is about perseverance and friendship.  It's a quick read, but it has some great lessons.  Might be good for a book study or book club for third or fourth grade.

7 X 9 = Trouble by Claudia Mills

Wilson is a third grade boy who is having trouble learning his multiplication tables, but he sure does love his class pet, Squiggles.  His teacher has promised everyone in the class an ice cream cone when they pass their 12s and Wilson is afraid that he might be the only one in his class not to get a cone. Not only that, but if he doesn't learn all his multiplication tables, how will he ever convince his parents that he deserves his very own pet to take care of.  With the help of his parents, his friends, and even his little brother who is only in Kindergarten, Wilson soon gets up to his 12s.  Will he pass or will his chances for an ice cream cone and a new pet be doomed?  Quick, easy read, but enjoyable.  Even fourth graders might enjoy this one.

The Next-Door Dogs by Colby Rodowsky

This is a story about a girl named Sara who is afraid of dogs because she was "attacked" by dogs when she was younger.  The "attack" was by her aunt's dogs and it was more of a "licking," but she was knocked down and big animals can be scary to little children.  So it is understandable that she has a fear of dogs. And she has been able to avoid dogs most of her life, until a new neighbor moves in next door with her two BIG dogs. Sara really likes her new neighbor, Ms. Harrison, but she doesn't really care to get to know her dogs, until one day when there is an accident and Sara has to go over to Ms. Harrison's house. Will Sara be brave enough to get help for Ms. Harrison and will she finally overcome her fear of dogs?

Cute story for K-3.  Would make a good read aloud for younger grades.

Jake Drake: Bully Buster by Andrew Clements

Jake is a fourth grader who loves his teacher and loves being in school. But that isn't the case every year. Like the year he was in second grade and a new student named Link came to town. Link was a big kid, even in second grade.  Link put a target on Jake the very first day and became his own personal bully, nicknaming Jake Flake and Fake.  What was worse, Link rode the bus home with Jake everyday and lived just down the street. There was no escaping Link.  Jake tried to make the best of his life being bullied, but one day Link went too far.  Link purposely splashed water on Jake's pants while they were in the bathroom and then told everyone that Jake had wet himself.  Jake was so mad, that he punched Link in the arm. This got Jake sent to the principal's office.  Jake could have told the principal the real reason why he punched Link, but he was afraid if he "tattled" it would just make Link bully him more.  So Jake said that he thought Link spilled water on him and he was mad about it. Jake got off without a punishment, but Link was still a bully.  As if that wasn't bad enough, their teacher paired them up for a report about Native Americans and Link bullies Jake into doing their report on his own.  But Jake decides not to back down and tells Link that he will have to do the craft part of the project or they will just get an "F."  Will Jake's boldness pay off and will Link ever back down?

I liked this story and found that it had some great lessons in it.  It would be a great book to read and talk about bullying.  Even second graders could understand the plot in this one.

Jake Drake: Teacher's Pet by Andrew Clements

Poor Jake. Although he is doing everything he should, his friends don't like him very much. They think he's a teacher's pet. And it's all because he tries to do the right thing, but gets called out on it by his teachers and praised for his behavior, in front of everyone.  Can he convince everyone that he's really not a teacher's pet or will he be branded for life and lose all his friends.

Would be a good read aloud or an independent read for high readers in second and third grade.

Jake Drake: Know It All by Andrew Clements

Another great Jake Drake book! This one is about Jake's experience with the science fair in third grade.  Jake is super excited to participate in his school's first science fair because the winner gets a brand new, state of the art computer system! If it's one thing Jake loves, it's computers. So Jake begins working on his science project right away. He knows it has to be good if he wants to beat the know-it alls in his class, Marsha and Kevin.  So he keeps his project a secret.  He works really hard until a few weeks before the science fair when his best friend Willie tells him that he is dropping out of the science fair.  Jake begins to wonder if he should drop out, too, but then decides he's worked too hard to quit. So he comes up with a plan to get Willie back in the science fair and together they work on Jake's project so that they can both get credit for it. Will Marsha or Kevin, the know-it alls, win the science fair or will Jake and Willie take first prize?

Great book about perseverance and determination.  Jake is such a great role model and he's funny, too.  Second graders through fourth or fifth graders would like this book.

The Jacket by Andrew Clements

Phil spots his brother's jacket on a boy in his school and accuses him of stealing the jacket.  But it turns out that Phil's mother had given the jacket to the boy's grandmother, who in turn gave it to the boy.  Phil later learns that the boy's name is Daniel and his grandmother is actually Phil's family's cleaning lady. This whole incident causes Phil to do some self reflecting and he begins to wonder if he would have reacted the same way if he had seen a white boy wearing the jacket.  After this incident he is suddenly more aware of the color of people around him and the color of his neighbors and the color of the kids on his school bus, which then begins to make him wonder if he is prejudice.  Phil does talk to his mom about how he is feeling, but she basically tells him he is being silly. That he is a good boy.  I wish that part of the story had been developed more, but it is probably an accurate reflection of a typical discussion that would take place between a mother and a son in this situation.  Good story about how prejudice still exists. Would be a good book to use for an elementary book club.

Herbie Jones by Suzy Kline

Herbie Jones is a third grader miserably stuck in the "Apple" reading group, the lowest reading group in his class. But he and his best friend, Raymond, are determined to make it out of the "Apple" group before the end of the year. And it looks like Herbie might just make it when he scores his first 100 on his spelling test, but he still can't seem to do well on his reading worksheets.  Soon, his teacher has him take some assessment tests with a Reading Coach who discovers that he is a really good reader. This seems to boost Herbie's self-esteem and he continues to do well on his spelling tests.  His buddy, Raymond, isn't as motivated. So Herbie helps Raymond come up with a plan to sort of get out of the "Apple" group and into the "Spider" group.

I remember the days when kids were put into different reading groups and although they were given cutsie animal or fruit or even colored names, everyone always knew which group was the high group and which group was the low group.  I don't know that so much of this goes on today, at least not in the system I work in.  Students are now seperated into classes rather than broken up into groups within the same class, but kids still know which class is high and which class is low.  So although I don't necessarily like the thought of the reading groups in the story, I am sure many students could relate to it.

One other thing that gave me pause was that Herbie's dad spanked him at one point.  Some readers might find that part a little unappealing, but spanking does still happen today.

This would be a good book for a second or third grader.  I think students older than that would find the story too juvenile.

What's the Matter with Herbie Jones by Johanna Hurwitz

Short chapter book about a third grade boy who suddenly finds himself crushing on the smartest girl in his class,  but his best friend is determined to snap him out of it.  It's a true puppy love story that lasts about a day and a half.  Second and third graders might enjoy it, but I would recommend picking up a copy with an updated cover because kids do judge a book by its cover.

This was actually my 100th book I've read this year, which still is amazes me since I only read 103 books in total last year. Well, it might have been more, but I only started keeping track through Goodreads last February.  I am shooting for 240 books this year since I've already read so many.

So what have you been reading lately? Anything I should add to my "To Read" pile?

*I'm an affiliate for things I've bought or used personally.  If you click through any referral links (if included), at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you make a purchase.  Thank you for your support in this way.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spring Book Swap

Monday begins our Spring Book Swap and I think it's going to be a great one! Just look at the books turned in for the swap.

There were about 50 picture books turned in...

About 30 chapter books, and...

13 nonfiction books.

About 20 students are participating this time and I think they are going to get some really great books.

If you are interested in conducting your own book swap, you can read more about what I've done herehere, and here.  

I also have a free book swap packet that you can download here to get you started.

Good luck and happy swapping!  =)

Friday, April 19, 2013

We Give Books

Our free books from We Give Books arrived yesterday.  It was so exciting!

I had already decorated the tables to get ready for the book swap next week, so it was perfect timing!  Look at the stack of books we received!

We received 11 titles of hard back picture books appropriate for kindergarten and first grade readers, and maybe early second grade readers.

We also received 3 titles of board books great for PreK readers.

All the books we received last year were from the Penguin group and they were  were a mix of paperback chapter books as well as paperback picture books, but this year the books we received were from LeapFrog and were ALL hardback books, which is great because they will stand up to wear and tear.  

The titles we received were more for the younger kids and they don't participate in our Accelerated Reader parties, so I invited the Kindergarten and first grade classes to  the Media Center so each student could pick out a book as a way to celebrate their reading successes this year.   I sent the board books down to PreK.   I don't know for sure if the books that are given are based on the types of books read online for your school during the Read for Your School event, but it might be.  And to be honest, I probably promoted the Read for Your School event more with these grade levels this year, which may be the reason for the kinds of books we received.  But whatever the reason for the kinds of books we were sent, all the kids were super excited to receive their books.  I heard lots of thank yous and a few "This is so awesome!"  And it really was awesome to see them get so excited about a book and about reading. Several students said they were picking a book to give to their little brother or sister and that they would read it to them when they got home.  

So thanks We Give Books and LeapFrog. You made the day of some really fantastic kids!  =)

Update; As of January 1, 2016, the We Give Books is no longer active.  =(

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day and although I do not have any classes today because it's testing week, I did make a special display on the library doors.

On one side, I made a Poem in Your Pocket Day display using this free download from Karen Barry on TpT.

I found some silly poems on Giggle Poetry that I typed up and put in the pockets for students to take with them.

On the other side, I posted pictures of the book spine poems that the second grade classes made earlier this month.

I also made a special announcement on the intercom and a few minutes later, a student brought me a poem she had written all about her new sibling.  She was very excited to share it with me and so I posted it on our poetry door with pictures of our book spine poems.

It ended up being a pretty fun day, for a testing day, anyway.

How did you celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Spring Book Swap

The Fall Book Swap was such a huge success that we're getting ready to have another Book Swap.  (You can read all about our Fall Book Swap here and here.)  It's a great way to get "new" books in the hands of your students, and it doesn't cost them a penny!

To get the word out, I sent home letters a couple weeks in advance.  Here's what the letter looks like:

I also made reminder announcements the week before and the week that books were to be brought in for the swap.

The set up of the swap is very easy.  I just decorated the tables with some left over Book Fair table cloths and then set out signs to designate the three different types of books that could be brought in; picture books, chapter books and non-fiction books.

I recorded the number and type of each book students brought in on this spreadsheet. This is probably the most time consuming part because you have to go through each book that every student brings in to make sure it meets the requirements and to it correctly. I did this without any help, but having a volunteer or two to help out would definitely be a plus.  One volunteer could go through the books and the other volunteer could write up the receipts.

And I gave each student a receipt so they would know how many books they turned in and what day their Book Swap day would be.

If you'd like to hold your own Book Swap, you can get a free copy of my Book Swap files here or click on the picture above.  I highly recommend doing a Book Swap. It's free and simple to do.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Animal Research

Researching is a skill that even the very young can learn.  When I taught first grade, I had my firsties complete a short research project on animals at the end of our animal unit.  Animals are a great topic to cover with young kiddos because it's something they enjoy and you can find tons of information about animals.

Throughout our animal unit, we studied the different animal groups: mammals, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, insects, and invertebrates.

By the end of the unit, they had a several graphic organizers full of information as well as a unit summary book that they could use for their research.

For their final project, they had to present some information about an animal of their choice following  a rubric.  I provided them with plenty of print resources from my classroom library and school library and even gave them links to websites where they could find information.

You can get a copy of  the animal research packet I used for free!   Just click HERE or on the picture above.  Happy researching!

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Whew!  It's been a while!  But I've finally gotten around to writing reviews of some of the books I've been reading.  There's a long list, so hang onto your hats...

Secrets of a Lab Rat: No Girls Allowed (Dogs Okay) by Trudi Trueit

In my quest to find books that Diary of a Wimpy Kid lovers will enjoy, I picked up this book. Scab is an almost ten year-old boy with an affinity for getting into trouble. Which is ironic considering what he wants most is to prove to his parents that he is mature enough to get a dog of his own. He tries really hard to be good, until his sister gets int he way. That's when he invents the "sister repellent."  It's full of disgusting ingredients like dog pooh, and the small is enough to drive anyone away, not just sisters.  So, of course, he just has to sell it to the other boys at school.  Unfortunately, one of the bottles of sister repellent bursts in the classroom and the whole class has to evacuate because of it. Did Scab just blow his chances for owning a dog?  Boys will love the gross humor in the book, but I did not. Guess I will keep looking for that DOAWK alternative.

Word After Word After Word by Patricia McLauchlan

Fourth grade is boring for classmates Lucy, Henry, Evie, Russel, and May until Ms. Mirabel arrives and shows them the power of words.  I found this book a bit unrealistic that fourth graders would be so insightful and interested in the written language. If the setting was in a middle school or high school, it would have been more believable. In spite of that, I did enjoy the book, but I doubt most younger readers would appreciate the meaning behind the story.

Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles

Comfort lives in a funeral home in the small town of Snapfinger, Mississippi so she is no stranger to death.  Many of her friends find it strange that she lives in a funeral parlor, but to Comfort it is the only home she's ever known.  Together with her family and her dog, Dismay, Comfort faces growing up and losing her best friend, Declaration to what could be called preteen angst.  Although Declaration has known Comfort all her life, suddenly she's not good enough to be seen with.  But life has a way of bringing everything back around, even if not the way we want or expect.

I love that Wiles named the main characters after words in one of her favorite Christmas carols and that the book was written to help her through a difficult time in her life.  I think more mature upper elementary students could take hold of the meaning within the story, but it might be lost on readers younger than nine.

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

This short picture book from Wiles tells the story of two friends of different races during the summer of 1964.  Joe and John Henry are best friends and they do everything together, everything but swim in the same public swimming pool. But that's all about to change with a law that forbids segregation...or so they thought.  They soon find out people are a lot more difficult to change than laws.  This would be a great book to read during a unit study of segregation. 

Lulu and the Duck in the Park, by Hilary McKay

This  book is about Lulu, a young girl who loves animals, all animals.  Unfortunately, her teacher does not care for animals and does not want them in her classroom. Too bad because Lulu finds a duck egg that has been saved from being squashed from a bunch of rambunctious dogs who ran through the park.  What could she do but take the egg with her to care for it?  But will her teacher appreciate her good deed?  I first read a Lulu book a few months ago, but I really didn't care for it too much.  The writing just didn't seem to flow and I didn't find the plot very interesting either.  But I thought I'd try another Lulu book to see if maybe I just wasn't in a good mood or something when I read the first one.  I can't say that my mind has been changed.  There is just something about the style of writing of this author that bugs me. While the story line is cute, I can't get past the mechanics.  Maybe it's because the author is British.  I am not sure, but I personally didn't enjoy it.  Younger readers might like it, though.  

Waiting on the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan

William, his sister Elinor, and his mother have a lively house full of critters, four dogs and two cats, to be exact.  But his house wasn't always this exciting.  It wasn't until his dad moved out permanently that their house was taken over by furry friends.  But William loves all of his pets, and his sister, well, younger kids often have a special relationship with animals. Elinor's relationship is really special...she can hear them talking.  And with the help of those animals, William will learn to hear the magic, too, and maybe even forgive his father.  This is one of those books that if you "get it," you'll really love the book. Would be good for upper elementary and up.

Ducks Don't Wear Socks by John Nedwidek

If you want just a silly, fun, quick read, this book is it!  Emily is a very serious girl, but she needs some silliness in her life so duck comes along and helps her realize that it's okay to be silly sometimes.  Such a fun, cute book!  I read this book on We Give Books for free.

I Hate Picture Books! by Timothy Young

Don't let the title fool you...this book is not about hating picture books, not really. It's about realizing how much you love picture books, especially the classics like Are You My Mother, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Where the Wild Things Are.  I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Max says he hates picture books until he starts to throw the out and he states why he is throwing them out. That's when he realizes that he doesn't really hate these books. He loves them and doesn't want to live without him. There were a couple of things that gave me pause in the book. One was the picture of Mr. Knox (of Green Eggs and Ham fame) throwing up because he ate green eggs and ham. And the other is that the pictures in the book are clearly of well-known books. I am wondering how legal that is with copyright to do a parody of these books.  I looked and could not find anything stating that the author/illustrator had gotten permission to use the well-known characters in his book.  I would love to know for sure if this was the case or not, because it could ruin what is truly a very cute book.  It just wouldn't be the same without the well-known books in the story.

Source                                    Source

The Lemonade War  and The Lemonade Crime by Jacqueline Davies

Evan and Jessie are in competition to see who can raise the most money selling lemonade and the winner gets to keep all the money. The war started after Evan found out that his sister, who is 14 months younger than he, will be in the same class with him next year. He finds this terribly unfair and begins feeling annoyed with his sister about everything, even the lemonade stand they were going to set up together. And thus the war begins. But who will turn out to be the winner?  A great brother/sister relationship book, with a little bit of math thrown in for good measure.

In the second book, Evan and Jessie are determined to find out who stole the profits from their lemonade stand and Jessie organizes and official courtroom style trial, complete with judge and jury, made up of Evan and Jessie's fourth grade class.  While the first book is a good study of math and money, the second is a great study of the judicial system. I think both of these books would be great for a book study or book club with fourth grade and up.

I have lots more books to review, but I will save those for another post. 

So what have you been reading lately?