Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

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!