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Amber Thomas (althomas80) | 28 comments 1

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Amber Thomas (althomas80) | 28 comments Mailing May By Michael O. Tunnell
This is a historical fiction book about a little girl named May who wants to visit her grandmother, but her parents do not have enough money to send her by train. The little girl tries to get a job herself to help pay for the trip. However, no one will hire her. Discouraged, the little girl headed home. That night her parents put her to bed very early. In the morning, they woke her up while it was still dark and took her to the post office. Her mother’s cousin Leonard worked in the mail car on the train and they thought they would “mail” May to her grandmother’s house. The rules stated they could not mail anything over fifth pounds and May and her luggage weighed less than that. Stamps were put on her coat and she got on the train with Leonard. She watched her uncle work and enjoyed the train ride and all of the destinations she saw as she traveled since this was her first train ride. When the train conductor saw May, he demanded a ticket from Leonard. However as soon as he saw the May was “mail,” he laughed and let her continue her ride to her grandmothers. At the end of the story, May arrive at her grandmothers very excited that her parents were able to make her wish come true.
I would recommend that young and old students read this picture book. It gives background knowledge of 1914, how mail was delivered, and how much items cost back then. This book also has pictures of many things from this time period that are very different than how we live now. You could use this book to not only talk about the historical fiction genre, but also to compare and contrast this time period with ours. It also contains a few similes you could stop and talk about as you read. It could be revisited as a mentor text as you teach more about figurative language. Although it is a picture book, there are many ways it can be used with all ages to teach about different reading strategies and to explore characteristics of the historical fiction genre.

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Amber Thomas (althomas80) | 28 comments Frindle By: Andrew Clements
Frindle is a story about how a boy challenges his new teacher by inventing a new word. Nick is beginning a new school year and knows he will have Mrs. Granger for a teacher. She teaches all about words and grammar and always finds a way to get in every part of her lessons each day. Nick is a creative boy who uses this characteristic to get into what some adults consider mischief. While questioning Mrs. Granger about how words are made, she told him words become words because we consistently use them in certain ways. This gives Nick the idea to start calling a pen a frindle. He gets all of his friends to begin using the word. Mrs. Granger begins to punish students for using the word and they have to stay after school. Eventually, parents begin to complain and the principal has to get involved. The principal speaks to Nick’s parents and they begin to realize that even if Nick tells other kids to stop using the word, it will not stop being used. It was becoming a real word.
As time goes by, a reporter hears about this word and from here news about the word Frindle begins to spread around the country. Soon, Nick kind of become afraid of his new fame and begins to fear any new ideas he has. At the end of the school year, Mrs. Granger speaks to Nick and encourages him to continue to use his new ideas and not hide them. Years later, Nick receives a letter from Mrs. Granger with a dictionary with the word frindle in it. Mrs. Granger’s letter shares that she was rooting for his word the whole time and was simply acting as a “bad guy” so his word would get noticed more and draw more controversy. Nick send a return note to Mrs. Granger which indicates that he used the money he gained from his publicity from the word frindle to create a scholarship in Mrs. Granger’s name.
This is a wonderful story that warmed my heart. It kept me turning pages, because I wanted to know what happened with the word frindle in the years that Nick was growing up. I can see that this book would promote a lot of discussion with my students. We could debate about Nick being a trouble maker or just a creative kid. I can also see having conversation about the end of the story that shares why Mrs. Granger tried to be the “bad guy” when it came to Nick’s word. We could talk about character traits as we discuss how Nick is a very bold character at the beginning of the story and eventually begins to keep things to himself more often. I see much potential to use this story with fourth grade students in literature discussion groups.

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Amber Thomas (althomas80) | 28 comments The Legend of Spud Murphy By: Eoin Colfer
This book is about two young boys named Marty and Will whose parents want to give them something to do for the summer since they are getting into too much mischief at home. Their parents decide that they should join the library to enjoy reading for a few hours a day. The only problem is the librarian who has been nicknamed Spud Murphy by all of the local children is one mean lady. It is rumored that she has a gas-powered spud gun under her desk for any child who misbehaves or does not returns books on time.
Despite their best efforts to get out of going, Marty and Will’s mother forces them to go to the library. During their visits, they try to outsmart “Spud” by going to other sections of the library and causing mischief. However, true to her reputation, Spud puts both boys in their place. Eventually, there is nothing else to do but read. In the end, both boys end up enjoying reading and going to the library. In fact, they even begin to “get along” with Spud Murphy.
This book is recommended as a read aloud in everyone’s classroom. There are so many parts that I cannot wait to read to my students so I can hear them laugh just like I was. I think some second grade students could read this, but it is definitely for third grade to about sixth grade students. It might be a little too young for junior high students, but an easy read if they are interested in something comical. This book was recommended for my classroom a few years ago at a district meeting I attended. I purchased it right away, but have only had a few students read it. This was one book I knew I had to read as one of my self-selected books. I recommend that you pick it up for your classroom too.

message 5: by Amber (last edited Nov 09, 2011 08:21PM) (new)

Amber Thomas (althomas80) | 28 comments 43 Old Cemetery Road: Dying to Meet You By: Kate Klise
This story is about an old man named Ignatius B. Grumply (I.B. Grumply) who moves into a house on 43 Old Cemetary Road for the summer. He is a struggling author and moves here in order to write the next book in the Ghost Tamer series he has been writing. However, his publisher, Paige Turner, has been waiting for this book for a long time and his lawyer, E. Gadds, has been covering for him so he does not get into any more trouble with her. After moving into this house, Ignatius learns that a boy, Seymour, and his cat already lives here with his friend (a ghost) Olive C. Spence. Olive used to live in this house and was an author herself. She died never having had a book published. She now haunts this house which is now owned by paranormal experts, Les and Diane Hope (Seymour’s parents). They left Seymour here since he claimed he saw Olive the ghost, and since she never showed herself them, they thought he was making it up. They had written in the housing contract that the next person who rented the house would be the one to take care of Seymour.
Ignatius at first is upset that Seymour lives there and “makes noise” when he is trying to write. Seymour tries to tell Ignatius that it is a ghost, but Ignatius does not believe in them. However, over time, he soon learns that Olive is the one making the noises and she begins talking to him. She tells him she understands his troubled past, and they become friends. She agrees to write his book with him. After many bumps along the way, the book is finally completed, and the money earned is put towards buying the house for Olive, Ignatius, and Seymour.
This is a wonderful book that could be used for a read aloud. I chose to read this book, because it is one of the Bluestem book nominees for 2012. I looked in the book and saw that the entire thing is written as letters from character to character. The humorous names of the characters also intrigued me. I could see this book being a real hit with the class as they listen to the communication between the grumpy Ignatius, Seymour, and Olive the ghost. There is a second book in the series that I will be ordering next. This book is recommended for third through sixth grade students. It is written in the form of letters and appears easy. However, there are several difficult words in it that even I was curious about and had to look up.

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Amber Thomas (althomas80) | 28 comments 14 Cows For America By: Carmen Agra Deedy
The story begins with a man named Kimeli returning to his village in Kenya after being gone for a long time. He has been in the United States learning to become a doctor. His tribe (the Maasai) is full of peaceful nomadic herders where their cows represent life. They ask him if he has brought back any stories to share with them. He remembers what happened on September 11th and retells the story to his people. They felt terrible for all of the suffering people went through and decided they want to do what they could to help. The tribe contacted the United States Embassy in Nairobi who sent a diplomat to speak with them. A ceremony was held when the diplomat arrived and they presented him with 14 cows for America. Since the cow represents life, this is what this tribe gave to the United State to show their support.
This is a wonderful story that has a great theme and proves that no matter who you are, comfort can be provided for those that are in need. This is a true story that I know I had never heard during the time after September 11th. It showed me that even though the tragedy happened in the United States, other countries empathized with us and provided support in the best ways they knew how. This book is recommended for students in third through sixth grade. It displays a powerful message as students they remember September 11th.

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Amber Thomas (althomas80) | 28 comments Mystery of the Haunted Playhouse By: Laura E. Williams
This book is about two children named Jen and Zeke who are living with their Aunt Bea in Mystic, Maine. They are both trying to be a part of the revival of a play called Werewolf in the Woods that will be presented at one of the old playhouses in their town. This is the same play that years before made one of Mystic’s local legends, Alania Shine, a famous star. However, Alania Shine disappeared while on a boat years ago and her body was never found. Many think she still haunts the playhouse. It is also revealed to us at the beginning of the story that the owners of the playhouse are not thrilled about opening this play again, but no one can figure out why.
Meanwhile, Jen and Zeke both become involved with the play and while practicing for opening night, dangerous things keep happening and props turn up missing. One night, Jen went back in to get something she forgot and hears eerie noise like moaning coming from inside the playhouse. Jen and Zeke come back a few nights later to investigate and realize the moaning is singing and they even see a woman on stage that looks a lot like their Aunt Bea. They make it their goal to investigate the supposed haunted playhouse and find out what really happened to Alania Shine. Reporters also want to get to the bottom of the supposed ghost at the playhouse and one even claims that Alania Shine is alive and well and living in their town. On opening night, a reporter announces that Jen and Zeke’s Aunt Bea is really Alania Shine. The whole town is shocked, but Aunt Bea proves she is really not Alania. After this announcement, Aunt Bea, Jen, Zeke, and the playhouse owners meet backstage. Jen and Zeke reveal that through their detective work, they found out one of the playhouse owner’s Alice, is really Alania Shine. She admits that they are right and tells them she did not want to be famous and faked her death years ago. Alania and her husband were responsible for the dangerous things happening at the playhouse and the singing they heard was her. Jen and Zeke swear to keep her identity a secret.
This story would be a great read aloud in all classrooms. Every chapters ends with suspense that makes you want read on to the next chapter to figure out what happens next. This would be a great story to discuss the plot and characters of mysteries. I know that even I thought that Alania Shine was Aunt Bea until I got to the very end of the story. It constantly kept me guessing at the outcome of the story. I would recommend students in second through sixth grade read this book. It is quite simple to read, but the plot makes you want to keep going until the very end.

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