I read this book because of the hook--a classroom of 6th graders are left alone for the day when their substitute teacher doesn't show up. It has a diI read this book because of the hook--a classroom of 6th graders are left alone for the day when their substitute teacher doesn't show up. It has a diverse group of characters, each with their own voice. Some fun moments, some heartfelt moments. I especially recommend this to reluctant readers in middle school who haven't developed the stamina to read a chapter book--this book is a good start to get them to fly solo....more
As if middle school wasn't hard enough. Throw in being a vampire, and it totally sucks.
I suppose the Vladimir Tod series serves as an alternative to tAs if middle school wasn't hard enough. Throw in being a vampire, and it totally sucks.
I suppose the Vladimir Tod series serves as an alternative to the Twilight series. Eighth Grade Bites is told from the vampire's perspective. Poor kid--Vlad's parents are dead, he's as shy as all get-out, and he can't eat dinner at his best friend's house (they don't serve type A neg).
The angle of the story is entertaining, and believe me, it was a relief to read a young adult vampire book that wasn't fully of sappy purple prose. I just wish the writing was a little better. Sadly, I'm not motivated to read the next book--I hope Vlad finds his place in the world. ...more
My fourth grade students begged me to purchase a class set of the book Night of the Living Dummy, part of the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. I can sMy fourth grade students begged me to purchase a class set of the book Night of the Living Dummy, part of the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. I can see why they love this book, although--sorry, kids, I won't be getting a class set.
Night of the Living Dummy is kind of like a cross between Stephen King weirdness and the Night Gallery series by Rod Serling, but targeting kids. That aspect of the story was fun. I enjoyed the creepy and familiar of the story. (I recall, in fact, an evil doll in one of my favorite Night Gallery episodes; folks these days might compare this to Chucky.) However, the writing leaves a lot to be desired. It's flat. Boring. It's okay for the kids to read independently, but when it comes to sharing a piece of literature as a whole class, I expect something a little more meaty.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not against covering books that kids love. We do have a class set of The Adventures of Captain Underpants (and the second in the series, Attack of the Talking Toilets). However, the Captain Underpants books are loaded with figurative language, metaphors, similes, and idiomatic expressions. Each page offers a plethora of opportunities to discuss the finer points of the English language. Sadly, this Goosebumps book does nothing like that. If there is an R.L. Stine book out there that has more sophisticated language, I will be happy to get a class set for my kids. Otherwise, I'll have to pass. ...more
If you are expecting a facsimile of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's prose and approach to Sherlock Holmes--drop your expectations. This isn't that kind of boIf you are expecting a facsimile of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's prose and approach to Sherlock Holmes--drop your expectations. This isn't that kind of book. More than being a crime fiction book, Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God is more like a book about the supernatural and paranormal.
That's okay if you don't have any expectations. Holmes plays a relatively minor role in this story and disappears halfway through the book, only to reemerge at the end. His departure is reminiscent of his disappearance in The Hound of the Baskervilles, to which the author alludes when Holmes makes his disappearance. I was okay with that, especially since the Baskerville book is one of my all-time favorites.
What I had to do, though, was drop expectations that this was a crime novel and treat it more like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I enjoyed the magical aspects of the story, especially the appearance of Alistair Crowley. The addition of Holmes as a character, and his approach to solving crimes, seemed like an afterthought. What do we want from a Holmes story? We want to see his attention to details that lead him to bold speculation that is almost always spot-on. We didn't find that in this book (maybe only a couple of times), and so I am wondering why Holmes is in this book at all.
Having said that, this story reminded me so much of the Rod Serling series Night Gallery that I even imagined Mr. Serling himself making introductions to the various chapters. That was a big plus. Another big plus was giving the story various perspectives in the form of letters and stories presented by various characters. That reminded me of Dracula, so the book gets another plus. The gruesome details of the mysterious deaths were deliciously horrific, reminding me of Stephen King. Another plus.
I do want to say one thing about the editing of this book. I found so many editorial mistakes in this printing that I began to wonder if it was edited at all. I had to pinch myself--was this a problem with differences in standards between British and American English? Was this due to the fact that this was told in the first person from the viewpoint of John Watson? I started to dog-ear the pages with mistakes. For example, I found a simple typo where the word "to" was used instead of "too." Also there were numerous grammatically challenged sentences that I had to read several times before I understood them ("Nonetheless, Mycroft has insisted that Holmes returns to London immediately"--really???). And finally, there were so many sentences with comma splices that I wanted to cry (I have not been a resident here for many months, I bought the house from the previous owner due to its suitability for a ritual I had in mind. For God's sake, don't be afraid to put a semicolon in there!). Certainly John Watson would never make these mistakes. Anyhow, I thought it was my own peevishness until I read this sentence: SIlence looked concerned. (sic) Note that the second letter in the name "Silence" is capitalized. This is obviously a typo, which makes me think that the editors did not give this book the once-over or twice-over it deserved.
Don't get me wrong--I did enjoy this book. I would give this book 3.5 stars because of the fun I had reading about the supernatural aspects, but I'm knocking it down to 3 (instead of raising it to hallowed 4) because of misleading me into thinking that this was a story in the Holmes tradition (i.e. looking at subtle clues to draw grand conclusions) and for the poor editing, which is sadly not the fault of the author....more
If you have a dog, know a dog, or have only ever seen a dog--this book will make you laugh until you cry. A brilliant piece of work and scientificallyIf you have a dog, know a dog, or have only ever seen a dog--this book will make you laugh until you cry. A brilliant piece of work and scientifically based. Really! ...more
Wow. What a book. I read War Horse because the movie is coming out during the holidays, and the play is coming to Los Angeles in the spring. I think iWow. What a book. I read War Horse because the movie is coming out during the holidays, and the play is coming to Los Angeles in the spring. I think it's important to read the book before the movie. Movies are a visual medium, and once you see it, you can't turn back to your own imagination. Boy am I glad I read this book first.
War Horse is beautifully written and told from the point of view of a horse having adventures in Europe during World War I.
What's great about this book:
• The point of view of the horse really gives an outsider's view of the toils of war. • I learned many things about the strategies of warfare during World War I. I haven't been a big fan of historical fiction revolving around war, mainly because it downright just makes me sad. But I did learn quite a bit from this story, and I recommend it to anyone interested in history. I also recommend it to school-age kids who don't like history but do like animals. This story about a horse sneaks some interesting aspects of WWI into the narrative. • I said it before, but the writing is beautiful. Simple, but wonderful to read. • In spite of the backdrop of the war, the humanity in this story is breathtaking.
I have two bones to pick with this book.
• Our horse Joey is really a passive narrator, but he is also the main character in this book. That makes him kind of a weak protagonist. Joey is acted upon during much of the book, and in only a couple of occasions does he actually do something. The author missed an opportunity during the scene where (view spoiler)[Joey is in "no-man's land" standing between a British soldier and a German soldier. During a temporary cease fire to determine which side gets to keep Joey, the soldiers decide to flip a coin. (hide spoiler)] I would have rather seen Joey actually do something to make this choice himself. Maybe that's not what a real horse would do, but that's what a solid protagonist in a book do. Anyway, I found Joey to be charming in some ways, but I really wanted him to do something.
• Okay maybe I shouldn't complain, but Joey translates everything said in English and German and French, and yet he cannot speak horse language. This story would have been more believable if he had actually said what the horses were saying too.
Having said that, this is a wonderful story. It's a quick read, so grab a copy and read it before you see the movie and Steven Spielberg's vision of the story overtakes your own.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Tacos. Reading anything by Stephen King is like eating tacos for me. I love tacos, I could eat tacos every day, and there is no such thing as a bad taTacos. Reading anything by Stephen King is like eating tacos for me. I love tacos, I could eat tacos every day, and there is no such thing as a bad taco. I haven’t read anything by Stephen King in, oh, about 15 years, and returning to his fold with 11/22/63 was like having the best taco feast of a lifetime.
I’m sure you’ve had one of those college dorm room conversations—if you could travel back in time and change one moment in time, what would it be? It’s a great conversation to have over coffee, a beer, or whatever is floating your boat. And certainly that’s the kind of conversation you will have after watching movies like Back to the Future, Ground Hog’s Day, and Millennium (which was based on the novel by John Varley).
Thankfully, Stephen King took this concept and flew with it. The title is a dead giveaway to what will happen, and so you have to ask yourself—do I trust Stephen King to tell this story, a story that my college friends and I could have created ourselves? And do I trust him to play around with an infamously treasured moment so permanently marked in our culture that people can tell you exactly where they were when they heard JFK was assassinated? I certainly do trust him, as much as I love tacos.
What’s great about this book:
• Time is a character. Like many of Stephen King’s books, the setting becomes a strange, mystical influence that can’t be explained but is a formidable force in the story. Don’t mess with Time, he’s much bigger than you. He can rip the very fabric of your world.
• The world in which this takes place is wonderfully familiar if you have read other Stephen King books, especially It. It was great to visit creepy old Derry once again.
• Everyone in this story has a purpose. And depending on which way the butterfly falls, that purpose can change in an instant.
• The time jumps provide a compelling piece of historical fiction with a lot of fact thrown in. In fact, I would have liked to see more interaction between historical characters, but that wouldn’t have been possible given that the story is written from the point of view of our high school English teacher. A trip to the Rose Garden would have been cool but wouldn’t have fit in with the story. (view spoiler)[That phone call from JFK was such a teaser—I wanted to see more of him. *sigh* (hide spoiler)]
• You really have to think about it. Would you change history if you could? Should you?
• Dang it—it’s just fun to read.
What’s not great about this book:
• (view spoiler)[Jake’s return to the dystopic 2011 is somewhat disappointing in its skimpiness and extreme ugliness. I was hoping for something a little more subtle. On the other hand, since he took the advice from the brilliant Doris Kearns Goodwin of putting in George Wallace as president, maybe this kind of horrible dystopia could happen! Just kidding. Really, the effect of Jake’s changes in the years 1958-63 were so profound that it almost completely pulled apart the fabric of the universe, thereby rendering our world with earthquakes galore? (hide spoiler)] That part was a bit hard to swallow, but since the other 830 pages of the book were so very excellent, I’ll allow Mr. King that transgression.
Really, we don't get to this final part until the last 1/8 of the book. Stephen King has no trouble writing thousands of words at the blink of an eye; why did he spend so few words on the punchline? After all, (view spoiler)[weren't we waiting to see what the world would be like if JFK had lived? (hide spoiler)] He spent just a few pages on that point, and as I said before, they were a little extreme. What I think, though, is that this book is less about JFK and more about making moral choices. We see such a complete character arc for our hero George/Jake that the JFK stuff is forced to take a back seat. Isn't that what we love about Stephen King, though? It's his ability to forge a complicated character and make us privy to everything that character is thinking. So, even though I was a little disappointed in the lack of detail in the last part of the book, it forced me to frame the theme of the book in a different light.
Well, anyway, Mr. King, thank you so much for the most excellent ride. I guess since I’ve had a 15 year hiatus, I should revisit some of your recent work. Why? Because I love tacos. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The Report Card is a cute book. I don't want to stick a dagger in its side, but it really is cute.
I read this book to screen for my class as a whole-The Report Card is a cute book. I don't want to stick a dagger in its side, but it really is cute.
I read this book to screen for my class as a whole-group read. It's okaayyyy, but not great. There is so much exposition and so little action that it's a little tedious. But the main character is charming, and her reflections are clever....more
I teach fourth graders, and there are three tall boys in my class who always seem to be hanging around together. Since they are likable fellows aBah!
I teach fourth graders, and there are three tall boys in my class who always seem to be hanging around together. Since they are likable fellows and have a synergistic energy, I started calling them "The Three Musketeers." Realizing that yet another Musketeers movie is coming out, I decided to get a children's version of the story and read it to the kids before the movie takes over and destroys the imagery of the novel.
Oh well! I'm always wary of "retellings" of classics, and there's a good reason. They're always a huge disappointment. Now, I have read The Man in the Iron Mask, and I really enjoyed the storytelling of Alexander Dumas. And I'm sure the original Musketeers by Dumas is excellent as well, given that the Musketeers have surpassed the test of time.
This version, the "Ladybird Picture Classics" The Three Musketeers, was a total gloss over the story. You come to know just a little about the eager and energetic d'Artagnan, but almost nothing about Aramis, Porthos, and Athos. My disappointment with this is great--how am I supposed to explain to my fourth graders how the Musketeers each have wonderful personalities when they aren't even portrayed in this condensed version?
Also--I was hoping for more of the swashbuckling and adventure, and less of the intrigue and romance. This "retelling" almost completely focuses on Cardinal Richelieu's attempt to frame the Queen in an episode of infidelity and d'Artagnan's attempt to protect her. That's not the kind of story I really want to be reading with my students. I understand that's the plot of the book but, oh I don't know, I was hoping for something more kid-friendly.
So, maybe I'll turn back to the original version by Dumas, pick out excerpts, and read that to the kids instead. There's no honor in the poor retelling of a classic story....more