Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Bring Reading Rainbow to Every Child, Everywhere!

From the Kickstarter website for the Reading Rainbow Project:

Hi. LeVar Burton here. You may know me as Kunta Kinte, from ROOTS, or Geordi La Forge, from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
You also may have grown up with me on Reading Rainbow.
It was my mother who taught me that, by picking up a book, I could "go anywhere" and "be anything." Ever since Reading Rainbow began in 1983, I have dedicated myself to fostering a love of reading in children, just as my mother did for me.
Over the past year, I have watched Kickstarter bring communities together to support artists and inventors. Again and again, I have been inspired by watching like-minded people team up to accomplish impossible dreams, and to change the world.
Now, I am hoping you will join me on my mission: to bring Reading Rainbow back for every child, everywhere. 

 Here’s the problem:

And: numerous studies reveal that children who can't read at grade level by the 4th grade are 400% more likely to drop out of high school.
And: as of 2011, America was the only free-market country where the current generation was less well educated than the one before.
These problems won't solve themselves.  Real change will require us all to work together. We cannot afford to lose generations of children to illiteracy. And if we work together, we don't have to.

Want to help?   
Go to the Kickstarter page and make a a donation!
  Don't have any money to donate right now? 
Help by spreading the word!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Free SYNC Audiobooks Week 2!

SYNC for Young Adult Listening: Free Weekly Summer Classics & Novels
SYNC Week Two Is All in the Family!
Download the 2nd FREE pair here »

This Week's Audiobooks:
Available to download free May 22 – May 28
Cruel BeautyBy Rosamund Hodge
Read by Elizabeth Knowelden
Published by Harper Audio
(Available EXCEPT UK & British Commonwealth)
Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom — all because of a reckless bargain her father struck. And since birth, she has been training to kill him. Betrayed by her family yet bound to obey, Nyx rails against her fate. Still, on her 17th birthday, she abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex.
"Knowelden's subtle inflections add to the mystery and mood as Nyx explores her new home and builds her plans even as she grapples with her growing feelings toward the Gentle Lord and her ambivalence toward her mission."
– AudioFile Magazine
Oedipus the KingBy Sophocles
Read by Michael Sheen and a Full Cast
Published by Naxos AudioBooks
In the hands of Sophocles, the master dramatist, the anguished tale of a man fated to kill his father and marry his mother retains its power to shock and move beyond any Freudian reference.
"Aristotle admired Oedipus Tyrannos as the pinnacle of tragic art. Indeed, aside from its fine poetry and Freudian undertones, it is a taut, suspenseful detective story."
– AudioFile Magazine
Thank you to Harper Audio and Naxos AudioBooks for generously providing this week's titles.

Available for a Limited Time: 
Remember — grab these titles before they are gone! Once you have downloaded the MP3 files, they are yours to keep.
Downloading Tips: 
The OverDrive Media Console will deliver SYNC summer audiobooks to you. The app is available for every major desktop and mobile platform. Visit OverDrive to download.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Children's Book Week

May 12th to the 18th is Children's Book Week. 

Celebrate by downloading a bookmark HERE 
and by reading some great books!

Friday, May 02, 2014


Yesterday I participated in the #weneeddiversebooks campaign, and I'd encourage you to participate in the third part that comes tomorrow if you're able.  It's a campaign to raise the awareness of the need for diversity in characters in books.  Hopefully it will get the attention of the publishing world.

Day 1 - yesterday - was a photo campaign. Here's my photo:

Today - day 2 -  was a Twitter chat.

Tomorrow, the third portion of the campaign will begin. There will be a Diversify Your Shelves initiative to encourage people to put their money where their mouth is and buy diverse books and take photos of them. Diversify Your Shelves is all about actively seeking out diverse literature in bookstores and libraries.

I hope you can participate by looking  at the Tumblr, using your social media outlets to share the idea,  and diversifying your shelves! 

Here's to more diversity in books to meet our school populations' needs!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Reviews of elementary award winners from 2014

Mr. Wuffles by David Weisner (Caldecott honor)
Notes: "Mr. Wuffles ignores all his cat toys but one, which turns out to be a spaceship piloted by small green aliens. When Mr. Wuffles plays rough with the little ship, the aliens must venture into the cat's territory to make emergency repairs"--Provided by publisher.
Do not be fooled by the adorable cat on the front cover! This is not your average cute cat book.  It's filled with spaceships, aliens and insects. This book's unusually paired characters and the spare text (some of which is in alien language, not English) will appeal to the vivid imaginations of storytellers, paticularly reluctant boys.

A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jennifer Bryant (Sibert honor, Schneider Family award)
Notes: Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring story of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist.
An excellent beginner biography of a painter I'd never heard of before, a man who overcame significant obstacles and re-taught himself to paint in a whole new way after being wounded in WWI.  Lovers of art and children with obstacles to overcome in their own lives will find a friend in Horace Pippin.

Niño Wrestles the World by Yuyi Morales (Pura Belpré illustrator award)
Notes: "A Neal Porter Book"--Title page. Lucha Libre champion Nino has no trouble fending off monstrous opponents, but when his little sisters awaken from their naps, he is in for a no-holds-barred wrestling match that will truly test his skills.
An adorable little boy and his twin sisters, excellent word choice, and cultural endnotes combine to make this a book many children will love and learn from.

Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan Roth (Sibert award)
Notes: Includes bibliographical references. "A combined history of the Puerto Rican parrot and the island of Puerto Rico, highlighting current efforts to save the Puerto Rican parrot by protecting and managing this endangered species"
Interesting historical information about the Puerto Rican people and fascinating scientific information about the conservation efforts to save the nearly extinct parrots alone would make for a top-notch book, but paired as they are with gorgeous mixed-media collage, this book is truly top notch.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring break TBR list!

Even with a week off in my sights - spring break starts today - I'm stressing out. Which books will I read on our trip?  I'll have some time sitting by the pool in sunny Arizona, and I plan to get a mountain of reading done, but choosing the right books is tricky.  It's easier now than it used to be because I can load several on my e-reader and not have a suitcase that weighs 200 pounds.  My husband is happy about that! But still, I like to have a game plan.

Room by Emma Donoghue is on hold for me at the library, and since I need it for my grown up book club, I'm hoping it becomes available before I leave.  Actually, it's an e-book on hold, so I could download it while I'm gone if needed.  That's a handy thing about electronic holds!

I also have the new Sue Monk Kidd novel - The Invention of Wings - to read, and that's pretty high on my list. I've heard it's amazing.

Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach s coming out in May, and I have an advance copy of it.  He's one of my favorite authors, so I'l probably give that one a try.

I have Sarah Mlynowski's newest book, Don't Even Think About It which I think would be a good vacation book, and The Best Seat in Baseball, But You Have to Stand which is about baseball umpiring, and what could be more appropriate than that to read at spring training? Go Cubs, Go!

What's on your spring break reading list? Leave me a note in the comments.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Great things are happening in our school district libraries!

This last week was exciting for two of my school district's middle school libraries.

On Saturday, the Oregon Battle of the Books team from Clear Creek Middle School won their regional competition and will head to state on April 12th!  And then on Sunday the video students at Dexter McCarty Middle School submitted  to the Teen Video Challenge won and will now be available for all the states in the summer reading consortium to use for summer reading promotions!  You can see that video below.

Well done, everyone!!!

4 Seuss Geisel award winners from 2014

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes (Seuss Geisel honor) Notes: Penny feels guilty after taking a beautiful blue marble that she sees in Mrs. Goodwin's grass, but gets a pleasant surprise when she goes to return it the next day.
This book is a little longer than most of the other beginning readers or at least has more text than the others (perhaps not more pages).  There's nice repetition of words and simple sentences, allowing young readers to build confidence.

A Big Guy Took My Ball by Mo Willems (Seuss Geisel honor) Notes: Piggie is upset because a whale took the ball she found, but Gerald finds a solution that pleases all of them.
Mo Willems' ability to put expressions on the faces of his very simple characters is pretty amazing.  Repetitive word choice that's good for beginning readers. Funny story, as always, and good lessons.

Ball by Mary Sullivan (Seuss Geisel honor)
Notes: While searching for someone to play ball with him, a dog dreams of fantastical adventures he could have with his ball.
Amusing cartoon panel pictures and the one word text will appeal to visual learners and their creative imaginations.  This would be a great book to use with writers - beginning to middle grade -  who could create stories from the panels.

The Watermelon Seed by Greg Pizzoli (Seuss Geisel winner)
Notes: After swallowing a watermelon seed, a crocodile imagines a scary outcome.
Haven't all kids worried about swallowing a watermelon seed? Well crocodiles are apparently no different.  Kids will love the bright illustrations and funny story.

Some recent YA reads

Recently, I've read several YA books that were on lists of best books of 2013. Two of them really wowed (is that a word?) me!

Just One Day by Gayle Forman Notes: "Sparks fly when American good girl Allyson encounters laid-back Dutch actor Willem, so she follows him on a whirlwind trip to Paris, upending her life in just one day and prompting a year of self-discovery and the search for true love."--Provided by publisher.

Strengths: The storyline was interesting and I wanted to know what would happen in the end.  The main character showed growth as a young adult over the course of the novel.  That said,
Weaknesses: The main character in this novel was really annoying over the course of most of this novel.  I really felt little sympathy for her, and I find it difficult to read books where I cannot sympathize with the main character.

Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff Notes: Twelve-year-old Mila travels with her father to upstate New York to visit friends and family, who may lead them to clues to the whereabouts of her father's best friend, who has gone missing.

Strengths: engaging and creepy storyline. I really wanted to know what happened.
Weaknesses: The fact that Rosoff used NO quotation marks throughout the entire book, a book chock FULL of dialogue nearly drove me over the edge.  Interestingly, I'd recently been to a workshop with Matt de la Peña, and we'd just been talking about how different authors use and introduce and tag dialogue.  This method, definitely my LEAST favorite method of all time.  I consider myself a pretty strong reader, and even I found it confusing sometimes.  I think students who are not strong readers would definitely struggle with this book due to the style, while they would have been fine if quotation marks are used.  I have no idea why she chose this method.

The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider Notes: "Star athlete and prom king Ezra Faulkner's life is irreparably transformed by a tragic accident and the arrival of eccentric new girl Cassidy Thorpe"
Strengths: Some serious nerds are actually very strong characters in this new author's writing.  There are some super smart characters in this novel, and I am a big fan of smart kids.  I also like Ezra's introspection.  The mystery about what really happened to cause Ezra's accident is nicely doled out in snippets throughout the story as is Cassidy's secret.
Weaknesses: I thought this novel was a particularly strong debut.

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan Notes: While preparing for the most dreaded assignment at the prestigious Irving School, the Tragedy Paper, Duncan gets wrapped up in the tragic tale of Tim Macbeth, a former student who had a clandestine relationship with the wrong girl, and his own ill-fated romance with Daisy.
Strengths: This was my favorite of these four novels. The mystery and suspense in this novel are masterful. I wanted to finish this novel as quickly as possible but also to savor it because it was so well done.  The two main characters are very well done, and I was really vested in what happened to each of them. As an English teacher, I love the idea of the culminating tragedy paper, and I appreciated the thoughtful discussion between adults and Duncan about the paper near the end of the story.  It was quite thoughtful.
Weaknesses: I actually didn't find Daisy, Duncan's love interest, to really be necessary to the plot, although I know readers who like romance will appreciate it.  This book is reviewed for grades 7 and up, but I don't think the storyline will have too much appeal for middle school students.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss would have been 110 this year. I spent my day running around in my Cat in the Hat costume reading to kids.  I love this job!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Fault in our Stars movie trailer!

The movie trailer is finally out and even these clips made me cry! See it for yourself HERE!! And get your kleenexes ready for June 6th.

Monday, January 13, 2014

When Audrey Met Alice, by Rebecca Behrens

From the Publisher: Living in the White House is like being permanently grounded. Only with tighter security. When First Daughter Audrey Rose discovers Alice Roosevelt's hidden diary, the White House will never be the same. Because Audrey stops being the perfect "First Daughter" and starts asking herself, What Would Alice Do?

Strengths: Similar to the way many girls want to be princesses, many people think being a kid in the White House would be fun.  I mean, they have their own bowling alley!! This story presents both the good and not as good things about living in the White House.  I really enjoyed the tie-back to history, especially because Alice Roosevelt, whose supposed diary Audrey has found, was a delightful whippersnapper whose character I love.  Strong voice from both first daughters. This story was plain fun to read. Great endnotes by author.

I'm excited to have such a strong debut by this author - it bodes well for the future!

Weaknesses: Although I find it charming, I do not think the cover will be very appealing to kids and will make it a harder sell.  I hope I am wrong.

This book is perfect for grades 5-8.

This book would pair well with  the picture book What To Do About Alice?: How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy... by Barbara Kerley and Edwin Fotheringham 

Publication date: Feb. 4. I read an e-galley of this book from NetGalley.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos. By Deborah Heiligman. Illus. by LeUyen Pham

I am not a girl who loves math.  I love reading. I like Math.  Paul Erdos, however, was  a boy who looooooved math. This book made me love him and love math just a little bit more.

Notes: Presents a brief biography of mathematician Paul Erdos.

From the Publisher: Most people think of mathematicians as solitary, working away in isolation. And, it's true, many of them do. But Paul Erdos never followed the usual path. At the age of four, he could ask you when you were born and then calculate the number of seconds you had been alive in his head. But he didn't learn to butter his own bread until he turned twenty. Instead, he traveled around the world, from one mathematician to the next, collaborating on an astonishing number of publications. With a simple, lyrical text and richly layered illustrations, this is a beautiful introduction to the world of math and a fascinating look at the unique character traits that made "Uncle Paul" a great man.

Strengths: I loved how the editor and illustrator incorporated all kinds of math in the artwork of the book, including in the text.  For example, when it says Paul loved his mama to infinity, they use the infinity symbol instead of the letter. I was pleased that the author didn't try and make Paul Erdos, who was clearly eccentric and had less than stellar social skills, out to be a fabulous guy.  She wrote about his fabulousness and his foibles. Excellent end notes. A good entry level biography.

Weaknesses: This book will require some guidance for all but the most mathematically gifted young readers, and even some adults will struggle with some of the math concepts. Some reviewers have commented on font size.  This isn't something I think a lot about, so I will have to pay better attention to that. I actually see this as more appropriate for older elementary readers, although the target age is 3 and up. Unlikely to be read by those for whom it is most appropriate without someone hand selling it.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Stardines Swim High Across the Sky - Jack Prelutsky, ill. Carin Berger

Notes: A collection of poems describing imaginary creatures such as Bluffaloes, Swapitis, and Stardines.
From the Publisher: The poet, author, and indomitable naturalist Jack Prelutsky, having returned safely from far-flung places with an extensive collection of unique creatures that are a blending of the animate and inanimate, has worked in close collaboration with the fine artist Carin Berger, who herself conducted considerable field operations in preparing Mr. Prelutsky's specimens for exhibition and publication. While many creatures (two dozen species in all) were discovered and recorded and their precise qualities examined, we are presenting sixteen here for the first time and for the enjoyment and education of the general public.

Strengths: The poems in this book are funny and as delightful as Prelutsky always is. I think this would be a terrific book to use with a class as a model for student writing. The art is exceptional. Check out this amazing art illustrating Prelutsky's poem "Jollyfish". Carin Berger creates art in the book from all kinds of ephemera including cigar boxes (and I'd JUST read The Matchbook Diary when I picked up this one!). Lots of 3-d looking stuff. Just amazing. Should get a Caldecott something or another. Truly outstanding.
Weaknesses: Vocabulary is very challenging, so this book will probably best be read with an adult for most young readers. To my mind, however, that's not actually a weakness, just a point to note.

LOVE this book.  One of my favorites of the 2013 crop. Hoping it gets a shiny sticker!

Counting by 7s, Holly Goldberg Sloan

Notes: Twelve-year-old genius and outsider Willow Chance must figure out how to connect with other people and find a surrogate family for herself after her parents are killed in a car accident.
From the Publisher: In the tradition of Out of My Mind, Wonder, and Mockingbird, this is an intensely moving middle grade novel about being an outsider, coping with loss, and discovering the true meaning of family.

Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn't kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

Suddenly Willow's world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

Strengths: Willow's character is very well developed, as are all the characters in the story. Her situation is heartbreaking and makes readers feel for her immediately. Willow's unusual narrative style was very appealing to me; it felt like it fit perfectly for this story. I like a happy ending, even though I know it's not necessarily always the case in real life.

Weaknesses: This book may be a hard sell to many middle schoolers because Willow is just a bit too quirky (such as her narrative style that I liked so much) and it will take a strong reader to put together why. I also felt that the situation was  a bit too unrealistic as far as the whole foster family thing and the school counselor. I'm all for suspending some disbelief, but for me I had to over-suspend. Perhaps kids, without the background knowledge of the state/education systems wouldn't struggle with this as much (or at all). Interestingly, I didn't struggle with the idea of the taxi driver seeing Willow as divine guidance, but other readers might.

Fly Guy vs. the Flyswatter

Notes: "Cartwheel books." Fly Guy accompanies Buzz and his classmates on a field trip to a flyswatter factory and causes a commotion in his efforts to escape a robotic flyswatter.

From the Publisher: When Fly Guy goes to school with Buzz, they learn that his class is taking a field trip to a flyswatter factory! BAD NEWZZ! Fly Guy tries to hide in Buzz's pocket, but when the tour guide starts insulting flies, Buzz cannot help but stick his head out. A robotic flyswatter named the Super Swatter detects Fly Guy, and Fly Guy causes a hilarious ruckus in his efforts to escape.

At the end of this zany adventure, the flyswatter factory announces an end to its factory tours and the students use their free flyswatters as art to celebrate the "best field trip ever!"

Strengths: Simple, easy to read in both font and vocabulary. Funny, compelling story.

Weaknesses: Not necessarily a weakness, but some students may not appreciate the humor (although I certainly did!)

This series is also a big hit in the elementary school, especially for boys.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, James Dean

Notes: Pete the cat loves the buttons on his shirt so much that he makes up a song about them, and even as the buttons pop off, one by one, he still finds a reason to sing.

From the Publisher: Pete the Cat is wearing his favorite shirt—the one with the four totally groovy buttons. But when one falls off, does Pete cry? Goodness, no! He just keeps on singing his song—after all, what could be groovier than three groovy buttons? Count down with Pete in this rocking new story from the creators of the bestselling Pete the Cat books.

Strengths: Pete the Cat is always a big hit in the elementary school library.  I mean, what's not to love.  Pete is a very hip and funny cat. In this book, he's got a coat with four groovy buttons. Unfortunately, they're always popping off. But Pete doesn't cry. Goodness no, buttons come and buttons go.  He just keeps on singing his groovy song. Easy subtraction from 4 to 0 included in the text.

Weaknesses: I would not dare to call Pete weak for fear of a retaliatory scratching!

To see a video of the book with music, check out this link