The Fourteenth Goldfish is about valuing life in all of its stages, family and friendships and how they inevitably change over time, and food. I mean,The Fourteenth Goldfish is about valuing life in all of its stages, family and friendships and how they inevitably change over time, and food. I mean, come on, who doesn't love a book that cleverly infuses Chinese food into many of its chapters? Holm also has cleverly tucked in bits of science where she can, an homage as she states at the end of the book to her physician father. Young readers will learn about the Nobel Prize, patents, Jonas Salk, Robert Oppenhemier's Manhattan Project, Galileo, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, and Isaac Newton.
I would have given five stars had I learned more about what made the characters tick. I felt distant from them because I knew so little-but somehow it all worked because of the pace (what a quick read) and the fact that I still rooted for them.
The Fourteenth Goldfish is a unique, even quirky read that has much to teach us-both young and old. Holm's book will be the final book club selection for my students, and I plan on opening it up to parent-child partnerships. ...more
Super creepy! Doll Bones will be passed from hand to hand by lovers of ghost stories, mysteries and middle grade fiction lovers alike. Holly Black, auSuper creepy! Doll Bones will be passed from hand to hand by lovers of ghost stories, mysteries and middle grade fiction lovers alike. Holly Black, author of the one series that finally allowed my middle son entry into the love of reading (thank you, Spiderwick Chronicles!), has done it again.
Three friends in middle school set out on a quest to right a wrong committed a century before. But the changes they are all going through as they grow into young adults is only one stumbling block. Will they be able to return home without their parents discovering their absences? And here's the real question: will the creepy glass doll they call "The Queen" get the better of them?
Well crafted, believable characters help drive the story line of tweenagers on the cusp of growing into the people they are intended to be, with the added bonus of a ghost story thrown in for good measure.
I loved this wink at Hans Christian Anderson's classic tale, but feel that many boys may not "get into" the story as much as I would like for them to.I loved this wink at Hans Christian Anderson's classic tale, but feel that many boys may not "get into" the story as much as I would like for them to. The writing was crisp, and it kept me-an adult reader-constantly guessing what would happen next. ...more
Liesl Shurtliff's debut novel is a good one. A fractured tale about Rumpelstilskin, she cleverly threw in a few other traditional tales if you read clLiesl Shurtliff's debut novel is a good one. A fractured tale about Rumpelstilskin, she cleverly threw in a few other traditional tales if you read closely.
But many middle grade readers WON'T get the references, sadly. In fact, I'd recommend reading the original tale of Rumpelstiltskin prior to reading Rump aloud if I were to dole out advice to a teacher. Why? For some reason, kids more and more are coming into my class knowing less and less about traditional literature. I'm not sure why, though I have a few educated guesses to throw out. Be that as it may, I continually find it disheartening that students don't have a good working knowledge of fairy tales, fables and nursery rhymes anymore. Not only are they what I, and scores of generations before me, grew up on, but they are what countless current stories are built on and borrowed from. We are doing our kids a disservice by not encouraging a strong grasp of our literary past. After all, "if you don't know where you came from, how can you know where you're going?"
Highly recommended to anyone who loves Adam Gidwitz's work. Happily, Shurtliff is hard at work at another fracture tale. This time, she's writing about Jack and the Beanstalk. I wonder if I'll have to read the original first on that tale?...more
Difficult to put down, Jonathan Axier's book, according to the notes at the end, was even more challenging to write. Nine long years and several worksDifficult to put down, Jonathan Axier's book, according to the notes at the end, was even more challenging to write. Nine long years and several works that inspired him later, he has a winner. Reminiscent of Coraline, but oh, so much better, The Night Gardener will surely scare the kiddies but only enough to keep 'em turning the pages.
Swallowed whole (that is to say, read in one evening), The Night Gardener plays out in your head like a Timothy Burton movie.
I cannot wait to book talk this one to my students. It'll never be on the shelf again.
I think I'm in the minority with this rating. Strike that. Based on reviews that I've read, that makes my opinion of this book different from the reviI think I'm in the minority with this rating. Strike that. Based on reviews that I've read, that makes my opinion of this book different from the reviews. But the kids in my book club (with the exception of one huge admirer of West of the Moon-so much so that he read the book twice) and I found West of the Moon challenging to understand and "not one of my favorite book club books this year." Heart of a Samurai was beautifully written and I very much enjoyed it as a book club selection a few years ago. This one, though, had a radically different voice and tone and I found it difficult to get into the flow of the story. I felt for Astri, but didn't connect to her in a way that we all should when we're talking about abuse and getting away from your abuser. I was too involved in following the story line and figuring out the flow of the words so that I could get lost in the book. I never did, though. I remained on the surface and never dug in deep. It's too bad, really, because I loved the premise of the story. I loved her additional notes at the end about the time period and its illnesses. I loved the picture of Preus' family and laughed out loud at the ridiculous collar on the minister. My students referred to it as a dog cone! But I didn't love West of the Moon, and I so wanted to. Write another one, Margi. I can't wait to read it-even though West of the Moon was not what I bargained for....more
I've read this book aloud to a group of third graders when I was a newbie teacher (i.e. twenty years ago), and they loved it. I just finished readingI've read this book aloud to a group of third graders when I was a newbie teacher (i.e. twenty years ago), and they loved it. I just finished reading it again to another set of third graders and once again, it didn't disappoint. This is a highly engaging story about two friends with a secret-their "plas-tick" cowboy and Indian (and any other "plas-tick" figure)can come to life with the turn of a key in a cupboard. It's a story about friendship and what is truly important in life. Kids love this timeless, imaginative tale and each chapter leaves them wanting more. Isn't that what we want from our young readers?
That's why I was disappointed to see some reviewers vehemently discouraging teachers to pick it up and read it aloud. Why, you might ask? Apparently, Lynne Reid Banks' depiction of Little Bear is unfavorable and insensitive. Have we gone so far around the bend as to actually discourage kids from reading or having a book read to them simply because the book (published in 1980) has references to "the red man?" Remember, folks, it was written when the American consciousness didn't blink when cheering for the "Washington Redskins." My class did discuss some of Little Bear's comments, for sure, which added a depth to the book that would be sorely lacking if we had not. But to not read it because of those few references?
My first thoughts about this Newbery Awarded book written by an author who happens to be one of my favorites (Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, anyMy first thoughts about this Newbery Awarded book written by an author who happens to be one of my favorites (Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, anyone?) was, "Eh." In fact, I nearly abandoned it. At the end of the book, I still struggled with the star rating. Should I do two, for me as a reader/audience; or should I do three, for the intended reader/audience? In the end, I give three stars to this quite fantastical story of Flora and Ulysses.
Flora is an odd duck. She is a deep thinker, and as such, might have some issues making friends and connecting with her fellow odd duck/deep thinker writer mother. With her parents' divorce, she finds herself largely ignored while her mother tap, tap, taps away old school on a typewriter. Her mother looks up from her romance novel writing mostly to denigrate her daughter if she is consuming too much food (something this reviewer might know a thing or two about personally from her own childhood). So when her accidentally vacuums up a squirrel (I know, I know), Flora appears to finally have a comrade in arms. It turns out her squirrel friend has some super powers-he can type, poetry no less. And he has a voracious appetite. Sprinkled throughout this tale is a beloved lamp that is kidnapped, a blind neighbor's great nephew who hides behind his darkened glasses much more than his eyes, and a tale of acceptance. I very much disliked Flora's mother, even at the end when she suddenly changed on a dime to wrap the story up in a neater bow than life does. And I had a heart (read the book and you will see what I did there) for her dad, who was a likable guy trying to guide his daughter around the pits and bumps of life much better than her mother.
The final twenty (or so) pages made me change my two stars to three. It's okay. It's just no Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.
"But always, always in Blundermeecen, you opened the door because you could not stop hoping that on the other side of it would be the face of someone you loved." Dr. Meescham looked at William Spiver and then at Tootie. She smiled. "And maybe, too, the face of someone you did not yet know but might come to love." "Normalcy is an illusion, of course," said William Spiver. "There is no normal."...more
If you want a book that keeps your readers LITERALLY at the edge of their seat page after page, if you are looking for a text that teaches prediction,If you want a book that keeps your readers LITERALLY at the edge of their seat page after page, if you are looking for a text that teaches prediction, questioning, and drawing conclusions...look no further.
Read with my youngest son curled next to me in bed, I can now see why Dan Gutman is a popular draw for the baseball aficionados. Youngest selected theRead with my youngest son curled next to me in bed, I can now see why Dan Gutman is a popular draw for the baseball aficionados. Youngest selected the title...it's not one I would pluck from the shelves myself to read to him. But I'm glad he did. History, fantasy elements, boy humor---we both enjoyed Mickey and Me....more
Perhaps because I'm not crazy about fantasy (shhhh...don't tell my students), I liked Gaiman's newest novel-as opposed to loved it. Typical Neil GaimaPerhaps because I'm not crazy about fantasy (shhhh...don't tell my students), I liked Gaiman's newest novel-as opposed to loved it. Typical Neil Gaiman with the creep factor-a worm/the new housekeeper bores a hole in the young narrator's foot making him a portal to her world...I could completely envision The Ocean at the End of the Lane as a movie much akin to Coraline.
While I loved that the narrator (told through the eyes of a seven year old naive boy, and then by the same narrator older and wiser) was a bookish, quiet boy, I pitied him for the lack of connection that he had with his own family. Perhaps that is why Lettie and her household held so much appeal, and why he returned to her land periodically throughout his adulthood. The Ocean at the End of the Lane holds mystery, and will surely keep readers guessing until the very end. A tale of friendship and sacrifice, Gaiman's imaginative tale was brought to life even more so through his own reading of the audio book....more
I'm not sure if I disliked this one because of the format (audio version is pedantic and lacks creative oral storytellers), if it was because it tookI'm not sure if I disliked this one because of the format (audio version is pedantic and lacks creative oral storytellers), if it was because it took me a record time to read it, or if the plot was simply not my cup of tea-but I simply did not like this one at.all....more
I'm not a fan of fantasy. With only one book in my "go-to" pile for fantastic fantasy titles (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane if you must knowI'm not a fan of fantasy. With only one book in my "go-to" pile for fantastic fantasy titles (The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane if you must know), I always approach the genre of fantasy with a weary eye. I should have known The Magic Thief wouldn't disappoint before cracking the cover, though. Having set up one of Sarah Prineas' first skype sessions with a school four years ago for my old elementary school, I found her to be charming and approachable. How many authors do you know will happily greet a library full of eager readers in bed proudly donning her jammies? Sarah did it...and so I pitched her first book in the Magic Thief series to my most challenging readers. You know the ones-they are the kids who gobble up books and look to you to feed their insatiable appetite just days after finding "just the right book" for them. They're the ones who see deeper than the surface level of the text, the ones who read well beyond the book. They loved it. In fact, I couldn't contain them. Once they began reading, they couldn't (or wouldn't) read JUST to the agreed upon page number AND STOP. Instead, it became a race to the finish. And isn't that what we want for our kids? The Magic Thief was a resounding success complete with a skype session from the ever gracious Ms. Prineas herself (this time taking the time to come to the camera in a turtle neck and sweater, thank you very much). Talking with great passion and stirring up excitement for the written word, she left my kids hungry for more of her books; though they left the skype session with full bellies. Why, may you ask? I made them some biscuits from one of the two recipes tucked into the book. Which recipe I followed, you'll have to guess. But here's a hint...they finished them. Could they be Bennett's or were they Conn's? Read the book, decipher some codes along the way, and maybe you'll be hungry for more, too. Much enjoyed, even if it WAS fantasy. Thanks again, Sarah!...more
This quick-read from one of the masters of the funny bone and a pied-piper-for-reluctant-boy-readers, Scieszka didn't disappoint my crowd of (mostly)This quick-read from one of the masters of the funny bone and a pied-piper-for-reluctant-boy-readers, Scieszka didn't disappoint my crowd of (mostly) reluctant and emerging readers. The great thing about Time Warp Trio #1 besides its fun sized size is the fact that it is the king of all series. Do you like this one? Well, you're in luck! There are nine hundred more where this one comes from, AND you don't have to necessarily read them in order! Bingo! Sign your kids up. I just did mine!...more
I like Suzanne Collins. I trust her to reel in her readers and leave them begging for mercy (or more). So although I hadn't yet read this one when I sI like Suzanne Collins. I trust her to reel in her readers and leave them begging for mercy (or more). So although I hadn't yet read this one when I sprung it on my readers (yes, I am one of those rare bird teachers who HASN'T read this series AND has children who HAVE read it), I knew it would be a winner. And a winner it was. Some of my readers gobbled it down before our agreed upon stopping points and were even on the second book before the rest had even closed the first book's cover. My kids are hungry readers, and I knew if I tempted them with a strong first book in a series, that the chances were good that they'd be coming back for a second and a third and a...you get the point. Welcome to series reading, kids. It seems this is the name of the game in the publishing industry nowadays. ...more