Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book-A-Day # 8

LaikaLaika by Nick Abadzis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Graphic novels are typically a quick read for me, although the more I read the more I recognize their literary value and challenge. Graphic novels are not comic books and they do require specific literary skills. This novel was no exception. This is a wonderful story of Laika, the dog sent into space by the USSR. The characters are well developed, the story is clearly told, and the art work is wonderful.

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Book-A-Day # 7: Monsters of Men

Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking, #3)Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a very good book, and I'm still thinking about some of the messages in it. I think that I liked the first two in the series better. President/Mayor Prentiss reminded me of Aaron, from the first book. The guy needed to die and just wouldn't. The book was fast paced, but going from one disaster to the next started to get a little old. The first two books had the action, but also the psychological factor of Todd fighting to be himself amidst the expectations of Prentiss and the people. I didn't feel that part of the story was as strong in Monsters of Men until the very end.

The first hundred pages where difficult with rather graphic descriptions of war, but that seemed to temper some as the story moved on. The unique narrative style- switching point of view between Todd and Viola- continued to develop as a new point of view is introduced in this book. The alternating narratives create a strongly woven story.

Sometimes when a series ends you are disappointed that it is over because it feels like there is still so much more story to be told. Sometimes you are relieved because perhaps it dragged on just a little too long. Sometimes when a series ends you are just plain satisfied because it was a good run. Monsters of Men leaves you with sadness at what was lost and hope that the characters still alive have a future. Things aren't necessarily tied up in a neat bow but it ended well.

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

RevolutionRevolution by Jennifer Donnelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an amazing story. Fact and fiction, present day and the 18th century are masterfully woven together. I couldn't put it down. The story made me want to go do my own research about the French Revolution and create a playlist on my ipod that ranges from Bach to Red Hot Chili Peppers. This is a masterfully written story.

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A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

A Tale Dark and GrimmA Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A clever retelling of some Grimm Fairy Tales. It made me wish my copies of Grimm where home instead of school! I can think of several students who will enjoy this story. There is a nice balance of gore and humor that will catch the interest of middle school students who have been corrupted by the disneyfied versions of fairy tales. When I do a fairy tale unit this book will definitely be a part of it. This is one that I want to include in my classroom library.

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There are many who are trying the book-a-day challenge this vacation. Does it count if I'm doing it informally? I didn't set aside a stack of 12 books, but I'm trying to do as much reading as I can: I had a stack from the library that I wanted to get through and so far I've succeeded. I haven't quite done a book-a-day, but pretty close. Of course I also have papers to correct for school and lessons to plan.

What I've read so far:
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons by Ann Rinaldi (read in companion with The Complete Writtings of Phillis Wheatley)

What I've reading now:
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

What I'm Will Probably read next:
Of Monsters and Men by Patrick Ness ( started this one a while ago and need to get back to it)
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (another that I started a while ago and need to get back to)

Also on my To-Read Pile:
The Secrets of Serised by Renee Hurteau
A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly
Countdown by Deborah Wiles
Another Pan by Daniel and Dana Nayeri
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadful by Steve Hockensmith
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Ben Winters
It's Like This, Cat by Emily Neville
As Easy as Falling off the Face of the Earth by Lynn Rae Perkins
You Know Where to Find Me by Rachel Cohn
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
City of Ashes by Cassandra Claire
Dibs: In search of Self by Virginia Axline
Losing Faith by Denise Jaden
Out of My Mind by Susan M. Draper
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton
That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week by Ana Homayoun
and of course a re-read: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Kelly Fineman is going to do a chapter by chapter blog of Pride and Prejudice starting January 1. I've been wanting to read Pride and Prejudice, so I think I might try to join her.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tis the Season

You always wonder what students notice and what they think of you. Sometimes they seem so oblivious to anything outside of themselves-especially when they are in middle school. Perhaps the gifts we receive from our students at Christmas or end of the year are a good indication of what they notice. I think that is true of my students, and it delights me. Today we had a wonderfully fun time exchanging Christmas gifts. The kids were really thoughtful in what they got for their classmates and for their teachers.

I received two B&N gift cards, and three students gave me books. Two of the students chose books for my classroom library and a third gave me a beautiful book of photographs of nature accompanied by scripture and quotes. One of my coworkers (who happens to be the mother of one of my students) gave me a copy of the Penguin classic The Complete Writings of Phillis Wheatley, which I have been wanting since our recent field trip to walk the Freedom Trail in Boston (The Old South Meeting House has a wonderful Phillis Wheatley exhibit and program). I also received some chocolates and some coffees and candles. But the books. That touched me so much. I love books and I love to read and the kids get that and it's important to them.

I'm looking forward to some time to read during Christmas vacation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ooh! Shiny! Books!

I don't know how they do it, but Scholastic Books has got a good thing going. I placed an on-line order for my kids Tuesday morning and according to UPS the books will be delivered Friday. I didn't even pay for the fast shipping. It usually takes at least a week. I think they're doing some special promo for Christmas.

The Warehouse Sale is also going on right now and we have a warehouse nearby, managed by a wonderful woman named Beth. Last year when the 3rd grade teacher and I were there for the winter sale we asked if we could have a Read Around the World cardboard display thingy because that was the theme for our read-a-thon. Beth said, "Sure! They're old, I can't use them. Take as many as you want!" When our read-a-thon ended they let us bring the winners from the middle school classes over to buy books. They met us with Clifford, balloons, backpacks and water bottles and free books. They were so good to us.

Tonight Sandi and I went to the warehouse sale and I got a boxful, but best of all, I needed a classroom set of Avi's Nothing But the Truth. I found 2. So I asked if there were more. I was directed to Beth. Yes there were more, but way up high on a shelf that couldn't be reached right then. But, I could buy them- at the discount price- and she would ship them to me. She asked for the name of my school and when I told her she broke into a grin. "Oh yes! I could drop them off for you tomorrow morning! I come right by there. Oh wait, the bridge is closed on 140 and I have to take the highway so I'm not coming by. I'll have UPS pick it up tomorrow."

I love Scholastic!

New Books I got tonight for my classroom: