Book-A-Day Challenge Week 7

The Book-A-Day Challenge hosted by Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisper) has been one of my favorite challenges.  Not only did it really help me focus on my reading goal for this summer, but using the #bookaday hashtag on twitter introduced me to some great teachers and school librarians and added a whole community feel to the challenge.  I just want to give a shout out to some of my favorite  Book-A-Day folks: Kathy (@thebrainlair), John (@mrschu81), Jamie (@fiteach), David (@tkslibrarian), Elisha (@elishakarr), Denise (@ddigiova), Paul (@paulwhankins), and Donalyn (@donalynbooks).  If you are on twitter, go follow them.

Now onto my update, I will preface this and say it was a big picture book week.  A bookseller friend of mine gave me free reign to go through her galleys for new releases coming out in late fall/early winter. The only thing that kept me from reading more is that I actually had to get to a meeting and ran out of time.

You will also notice a lot of books by Melanie Watt included below.  When I had admitted that I hadn’t read her stuff before, my friend pulled everything off her shelves for me to read.  Just for references purposes, I have indicated below the release dates for the ones not yet out.

Picture Books

The Monster Princess by D.J. MacHale, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger – This is a debut picture book by MacHale.  Written in typical fairy tale style, MacHale tells the story of a little monster who really wants to be a beautiful princess.

Will It Be A Baby Brother? by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Beth Spiegel – A mom and her preschooler discuss the pending birth of the new baby in the family.  This big brother wants a “James” (brother).  Mother assures him that whatever he gets will be just right.

Grandma’s Gloves by Cecil Castellucci, Illustrated by Julia Denos – A debut picture book by YA author Castellucci and a very wonderful one at that.  Get out your box of tissues.  There will be tears.  Castellucci does a beautiful job with telling one child’s story of losing her grandmother and how she deals with her grief.

Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt – Scaredy Squirrel is afraid of just about everything.  One day things don’t go exactly as planned and Scaredy learns something new about himself and takes a risk.  Funny and wonderful.

Scaredy Squirrel At Night by Melanie Watt – In a similar vein as the first book in this series, Scaredy is afraid of his dreams.  What will happen to him if he falls asleep?  As with the first one, Scaredy learns a lesson and conquers a fear.

Scaredy Squirrel At The Beach by Melanie Watt  – This may have been my favorite out of the three.  Scaredy tries creating the beach at home but he is missing something that he can only get by going to the actual beach.  Once there, things don’t go as planned but then readers have learned that this is the best thing for Scaredy.

Chester by Melanie Watt – I love Scaredy Squirrel but I might even love Chester more.  Chester is a very fat, orange tabby who is snarky and difficult and loves to challenge Watt.  Chester, along with his red pen, is very funny but Watt usually has a surprise and Chester gets his comeuppance at the end.

Chester’s Masterpiece by Melanie Watt – As if Chester couldn’t get any funnier, this time he has hidden Watt’s writing and drawing materials and is writing his own story.  But never fear, Watt has the last laugh or does she?

Have I Got A Book For You! by Melanie Watt – Though this book really is having a little fun with our “hard-sell” advertising world, I couldn’t help thinking about all the teachers and librarians out there who spend hours trying to find just the right book for the right kid.

You’re Finally Here! by Melanie Watt  Release Date: March 1, 2011 – Bunny (a new character) is so excited that the person he has been waiting for is finally here.  To make his point, he goes through all the agonizing moments leading up to the arrival.  But there is a twist.  Read it to find out.  As with her other books, readers will delight in her humor.

Cuddle Up, Goodnight! by Katie Cleminson Release Date: February 1, 2011 – A toddler picture book for bedtime.

Pirate vs. Pirate by Mary Quattlebaum, Illustrated by Alexandra Boiger  Release Date:  March 22, 2011 – This one I want.  Two pirates compete to see who is better.  A fun book, great illustrations, and a nice lesson about what really make someone better. Boiger also  illustrated MacHale’s The Monster Princess – equally well done but also very different.

What’s Special About Me, Mama? by Kristina Evans, Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe Release Date: January 18, 2011 – Another one that I would like to have.  A nice addition to the category of books for preschoolers about “what is special about me?”

Before You Came by Patricia MacLachlan, Illustrations by David Diaz  Release Date:  February 8, 2011 – Fans of David Diaz will recognize the artwork in this book.  Unfortunately, there are many books for preschoolers that deal with the theme of waiting for a baby’s arrival and this one does not really add anything new.

Baby Says Moo! by Joann Early Macken, Illustrated by David Walker Release Date: March 1, 2011 – This one was a nice twist on the typical toddler/preschool animal sounds.  A young toddler learning to talk refers to all animal sounds as “moo” much to the parent’s frustration.

Ten Little Puppies/Diez Perritos by Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy, Illustrated by Ulises Wensell  Release Date: March 1, 2011  – On each two page spread is a poem first in Spanish and then in English. This is a nice twist on the traditional “Five little ducks” where each verse subtracts one. Illustrations are lovely. A nice addition to a bilingual Spanish classroom.

A Lot of Beans by Barry Varela, Illustrated by Sebastia Serra Release Date: March 1, 2011  – I really loved this one.  Aside from the multi-cultural aspect of the story (representing the Latino culture), the theme is very well presented.  The main character places a white bean in a jar if it is a good day, and a black bean if it is a bad day. After a series of really bad days, the boy decides to count all of the beans to see if his life is mostly good or bad. Don’t want to give away the ending. But wonderful resolution and ending.

Mama and Me by Arthur Dorros, Illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez Release Date: March 1, 2011 – There was something about the illustrations in this book that made it stand out.  The story about the little girl and her mother – though not especially unique – is well constructed and offers a twist on others in this category. One that I will definitely find once it is published to see if I still feel the same way.

Non-fiction Picture Books

Miss Dorothy’s Book Mobile by Gloria M. Houston, Illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb  U.S. Release Date: January 25, 2011 –   This is a biographical picture book about  Dorothy Thomas who drove books to people all over the Appalachian during the 1940’s.

The Great Migration by Eloise Greenfield, Illustrated by Jan Gilchrist  Release Date: December 21, 2010 – Some picture books do an amazing job of mixing text and illustrations to tell a story. I loved the combination in this book. The Great Migration tells of one African American family’s migration from the south to the north. One that I will definitely look for upon it’s release.

Early Chapter Books

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald, Illustrator Peter H. Reynolds – I’m not sure how I have avoided reading Judy Moody but I thought it was time to catch up.  Judy is not in a good mood.  It is the first day of school and things don’t look like they are going to get any better any time soon.  Teachers will recognize the characters in the book.  The Judy Moody series is a great one for 2nd and 3rd graders and for fans of Ramona.

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker, illustrated by Marla Frazee – I am behind in my 2nd & 3rd grade chapter books.  Probably because many of them annoy me.  However, I loved Clementine.  I think I might love Clementine as much as or maybe even more than Ramona.

Felix Takes the Stage (The Deadlies) by Kathryn Lasky – I think all I know about brown recluse spiders I learned from reading this book.  A family of brown recluses live in a music hall.  Felix wants to conduct an orchestra but gets a little too close to the conductor in an after hours practice and the conductor gets a surprise.  What’s a spider family to do when they are forced out of their home by exterminators?  A fun early chapter book which includes a reference about spiders at the end.

Two more Book-A-Day Postings for the summer and then I will be switching over to Book-A-Week during the school year.  So how’s your summer reading going?

– Aly

Book-a-Day Challenge Week 5 Update

It is amazing that I am already doing a week 5 update.  It is also scary at how fast my summer is flying by.  The Book-A-Day Challenge is being hosted by Donalyn Miller, teacher extraordinaire and a write to boot.  I have been linking to her original challenge but she recently posted an her own update which included a list to the blogs of others participating in the challenge.  You can find it here.  It has been fun seeing what everyone is reading for Book-A-Day.  Lots of wonderful books.

I have to confess that this was not one of my best reading weeks.  It was a busy week with lots of commitments that left little time for reading.  Since I knew it was going to be a slow reading week, I stocked up on graphic novels, manga, and picture books.

Book-A-Day Week 5 Reads:

Picture Books

It’s A Book by Lane Smith (Advanced Readers Copy) This picture book will be out in the fall.  It is hysterical!  One character is very technology savvy.  The other is partial to traditional books.  The dialogue between the two is hilarious.  Check out Amazon’s page for the trailer.  Note: Some parents may not appreciate the use of “jacka**” in the book.  You will have to read it and determine its appropriateness for your class.

Mirror, Mirror! A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer This is a beautiful and amazing book.  Filled with two page spreads that incorporate stunning illustrations and reversible text that provides two sides for every featured fairy tale.  For my review, click here

Alfred Zector, Book Collector by Kelly DiPucchio Alfred as a young boy sets out to collect every book in the town and then to read every book.  In the end, he learns a lesson that reading books is good but sharing them is even better.

Non-fiction Picture Books

Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver  I love finding creative non-fiction picture books to use with upper grade elementary students.  This one covers the history of the hot dog.  For my review, click here.

Graphic Novels:

Flight Explore, Vol. 1 by Kazu Kibuishi This is Kibuishi’s Middle Grade version of his Flight series.  I enjoyed the collection of stories included in this volume and hope that more will be coming.  For my review, click here.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Long Way Home (Season 8 Vol. 1) by Joss Whedon This is Whedon’s first attempt at writing a graphic novel and also a chance to continue the Buffy Series after it went off the air.  It benefits the reader if you are familiar with the series.  Though it is a little “clunky”, I did enjoy it and have been promised by friends that subsequent volumes improve. (Note: This would be considered YA and up).

Manga

Death Note Vol. 1 Boredom by Tsugumi Obba A bright but bored teen discovers a Death Notebook left intentionally by a death god.  Light (main character) attempts to create an utopia using the notebook.  The dialogue between Light and Ryuk (death god) is probably the best part of the book.  Not sure Manga is really my thing but this was interesting.

YA

Restoring Harmony by Joelle Anthony This has been on my TBR list since before it was released and is part of my list of books for the 2010 Debut Author Challenge.  Considered a dystopian novel (and it does have many elements of a dystopian novel) it is very different from something like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  For my review, click here.

All in all, still a pretty good reading week.  What have you been reading this summer?  Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Book-A-Day Challenge Week 4 Update

Can’t believe that I just finished the fourth week of the Book-A-Day Challenge hosted by Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer).  I did get in 8 books this week including a Manga book which was a new genre for me.  I was aiming for a few more books but I had a couple of days where I was doing some vacation/touristy things with my sister and didn’t get in any reading.

Book-A-Day Week 4 Reads:

Picture Books:

Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse by Rebecca Janni  Nellie Sue wants a horse.  She will do just about anything to show her parents that she can be responsible for a horse.  On her birthday, Nellie Sue gets a surprise gift from her parents.  A fun story, with great language, imagination, and illustrations.

Birdie’s Big Girl Shoes by Sujean Rim  The illustrations really won me over on this one.  This is a book for every girl who has either wanted to play dress up with her mother’s heels or who has played dress up or who has tried to do anything in heels will get a kick out of this book.  Birdie learns that heels aren’t all they seem.

Graphic Novels:

Amulet Book 2: The StoneKeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi  Though the first book in this series had some rough spots technically (awkward transitions, and areas that were unclear), I was interested in seeing if book 2 was better developed.  I am glad to say it is.  Emily (The StoneKeeper) and her brother Navin continue on their journey to learn how to control the amulet (and not let it control them), to fight the Elf King, and to save their mother.  Note: This is a Middle Grade level graphic novel.

Manga:

Black Bird, Vol. 1 – Kanoko Sakurakoji  – This was my first time reading Manga and it required that I get use to the back to front, right to left format.  Misao is a 16 year old girl who can see spirits.  These are demon spirits who she discovers wants to eat her (guess her blood is powerful but also smells good).  She is courted by Kyo (a tengu demon and head of his clan) and another demon (also head of his clan).  Classic love triangle and feels like a Japanese twist on the Twilight story.  Interesting.  I will probably give volume 2 a shot but not sure if I want to read every one in the series at this point.  Note: This is definitely a YA Manga series.

Middle Grade:

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper Melody is an 11 year old girl with severe Cerebral Palsy.  She is unable to speak or to let anyone know what she is thinking.  And Melody has a lot of thoughts.  This is a remarkable story about perceptions and attitudes towards children and people with disabilities.  Every teacher should read it.  I think it ill be a contender for an ALA/Schneider Family Award in 2011 (MG book with a character with a disability).

A Place For Delta by Melissa Walker  Joseph spends the summer in Alaska with his Aunt Kate helping to care for a polar bear cub and trying to find out who killed Delta’s (polar bear) mother.  An interesting story of friendship, mystery, and the care of the environment.  Read my review here.

YA:

Spirits that Walk In Shadows by Nina Kiriki Hoffman  Jaimie has grown up in a family using magic.  Kim is from a world without magic.  Jaimie and Kim end up as roommates in college.  Turns out that  Kim’s struggle with depression may not be purely psychological.  An interesting twist on the typical world of magic, and paranormal beings.

Top Secret Manuscript – I also read an author friend’s second book in her paranormal romance series.  The book will be out next year and it will be great.  But I can’t say anything more than that.

Adult:

First Rule by Robert Crais  Joe Pike is back and this time it is personal.  A former member of his team has been killed along with his family.  Was he killed because he was “dirty” or did the killer have the wrong home?  I love Robert Crais books and this one was no exception.

In progress:

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne Several teachers on my staff and I are reading a couple of chapters of this each week and discussing it.  Very powerful and practical.

So how are you doing on your summer reading challenge?  Read any good books lately?  Post a comment about what you are reading.

-Aly

Book-A-Day Challenge Week 3 Update

Wow!  I am into my third week with the Book-A-Day Challenge hosted by Donalyn Miller (The Book Whisperer).  I have been this kind of crazy obsessive person with the challenge.  I am determined to get at least 7 books (including picture books) read during the week.

Book-A-Day Week 3 Reads:

Picture Books:

Pete and Pickles by Berkeley Breathed This is an odd (in a good way) story about a friendship between a pig (Pete) and an elephant (Pickles). Pete is a bit uptight.  Pickles is a free-spirit.  The ultimate odd couple.   The illustrations seem to come alive and the story is touching.

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll I loved this twist on “the monster under the bed” concept.  The little boy in the story is unable to sleep without his monster under the bed.  Gabe, his monster, has gone on a vacation.  Substitute monsters are sent but none are just right.  What’s a boy to do without his monster to keep him in bed at night?!  Great illustrations.  Great text.  Read my review here.

LadyBug Girl by Jacky Davis  A little girl and her alter-ego Ladybug Girl go out for the day on her own adventures when her brother tells her she is too small to play ball with him and his friends.  I know a lot of little girls who would just adore this book.

LadbyBug Girl At the Beach by Jacky Davis This is a companion novel to Ladybug Girl.  In this installment, our ladybug girl is afraid to admit that she just might be afraid of the water at the beach.  After a day of trying every which way to avoid going into the water, ladybug girl must come to the rescue when her favorite purple pail starts to float away.  Read my review here.

City Dog, Country Frog by MoWillems, John Muth (re-read) I had originally read this prior to it’s release so it was fun to actually hold a finished copy in my hand.  Mo Willems is a master at writing wonderful stories with simple language.  Muth’s illustrations enhance the story wonderfully.  The concept of the story is a tale of friendship between a dog and a frog.  Willems tells of how the dog and frog play during spring, summer, and fall.  After winter, dog goes to find his friend who is missing (do I dare say…no, I won’t).  What will dog do in frog’s absence?  The story has an answer to that question.

Graphic Novels:

Amulet Book 1: The StoneKeeper by Kazu Kibuishi  I am not a huge graphic novels fan.  I think I get distracted by the pictures. 🙂  However, this one will certainly appeal to 9 and 10 year olds.  A girl discovers a special amulet which is activated after her mother is captured by a creature from an alternate universe.  The girl and her younger brother go in search of their mother and discover the history behind the amulet and the legacy that is bestowed on them.  Read my review here.

Middle Grade:

The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere) by Jacqueline West I will be posting a review of this book soon so I won’t say much other than – this is a definite read.  I will edit the post when I have written the review.  Read my review here.

The Kneebone Boy (Advanced Readers Copy) by Ellen Potter  I will be reviewing this book in August closer to the actual release date for the book.  However, I will say that Ellen Potter has outdone herself.  Fans of Lemony Snickets and Pseudonymous Bosch are certain to love this book.

Shooting the Moon by Frances O’Roark Dowell In this novel of coming of age during the Vietnam War, Jamie learns through the rolls of film her brother sends to her to develop that war may not be all that she believed it to be and even her father who is a Colonel in the Army may be helpless to prevent somethings from happening.

YA:

Beautiful Darkness (Advanced Readers Copy) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl I will be doing a review closer to release date on this book, but I will say that fans of Garcia and Stohl’s first book, Beautiful Creatures, will love this sequel.

Reality Check by Peter Abrahams This Edgar Winnner for Best YA is a fast, compelling read.  Abrahams leaves you wondering for most of the book who can you trust.  After a slightly slow start, I was unable to put this one down until I finished.

Scanned by did not truly read:

Nightlight (A Parody of Twilight) by Harvard Lampoon Okay, I will admit it.  I like Twilight.  I think those who love to poke fun at Twilight will love this, but it just annoyed me.  I scanned parts of it but just lost interest after awhile.

In progress:

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne Several teachers on my staff and I are reading a couple of chapters of this each week and discussing it.  Very powerful and practical.

So how are you doing on your summer reading challenge?  Read any good books lately?  Post a comment about what you are reading.

-Aly

Summer Goals, Part II

A few days ago, I blogged about my summer reading goal here.  Today, I wanted to share my writing goal for the summer.  Normally, I consider myself a reader.  What do I mean by this?  I love reading books, but I never gave any serious consideration to writing a book before.  I consider myself a reasonable writer from a technical standpoint.  I write a lot for work but that is very different than creative writing and story development.  As a teacher, I also read a lot of student work and enjoy the process of helping them improve on their writing.  So, I also consider myself a decent editor.  But calling myself a writer,well that is another thing.  I almost have this feeling of being taken back to preschool and to dress-up pretend play.  I wonder if I am the only one who feels like this?

Yet, over the last year, I have felt the pull to try my hand at writing creatively.  To stretch my brain and do something that may be uncomfortable and hard at times.  Several friends have talked about creating a writing group that can support one another.  To set goals and to work towards those goals.  A couple of the members have manuscripts that they are preparing for query.  Others, like me, have not even fleshed out a true chapter.

Of course when you decide to do something it seems like writing challenges pop up all over the place.  Karen Mahoney, a YA author, started a Summer Reading Challenge which you can read about here.  I signed up for it knowing that in June I would get little writing in and would have to play catch up in July and August.  Then, on Judith Graves’ posting on GoodReads about a 1K a day challenge.  The lovely ladies over at YA Edge are hosting a 1K a day challenge for the month of July.  You can sign-up here I encouraged a couple of my other friends to join me.  Breaking the writing task into 1,000 words seems much more do-able.  However, I don’t think writing my blog counts towards my 1,ooo words.  So, I am heading off to – yes, write.

I do have one quick announcement – In the next day or two, I am going to kick-off my summer book contests.  I will be giving one book a way per week for the month of July in celebration of summer reading.

Happy reading or writing,

-Aly

Summer Goals

School just wrapped up a couple of days ago and I am beginning to transition to my summer schedule.  Since my work schedule is lighter, I try to attempt some things that are difficult to do from September to June.  I won’t bore you with my plans and goals for creating a better filing system for paperwork or for getting back into a regular workout routine.  Instead, I am going to share with you my book reading goal for the summer.

Book A Day Challenge

Donalyn Miller is a 6th grade Language Arts Teacher and author of THE BOOK WHISPER.  She challenged her students to set some summer reading goals.  Her own goal is to read a book a day (picture books, and graphic novels count).  You can read about her challenge here.  Some of us on twitter have joined her.  If you are interested please remember to use the hashtag #bookaday when tweeting your books.

Book A Day Week 1:

Picture Books:

Pinkalicious by Victoria Kahn Pinkalicious loves pink.  She loves it so much that she consumes too many pink cupcakes which turn her skin pink.  My 3 year old niece loved this story when I read it to her.  She loves anything pink and anything with a fairy princess costume which this book had in abundance. A definite hit with girls under 5 .

Fancy Nancy and the Late, Late, LATE Night by Jane O’Connor  Fancy Nancy makes everything fancy by dressing up or using big words.  In this installment (there are a lot of Fancy Nancy books), Nancy stays up late looking at  a neighbor’s scrapbook and learns about consequences the next day.  An enjoyable read with a good lesson.

Fancy Nancy and the Sensational Babysitter by Jane O’Connor  In this Fancy Nancy book, Nancy learns that a teenage male babysitter may not have been what she expected, but may just be the perfect babysitter.  I think I actually enjoyed this one a tad bit more than the other one.

Middle Grade Fiction:

Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith  I couldn’t help but laugh while reading this one.  Any chocolate-aholic will surely appreciate Henry’s love of chocolate and then the results of eating too much chocolate.  I realize this was written many years before Pinkalicious but both are really different takes on the same theme and geared at different age groups.

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency by Daniel Manus Pinkwater  What happens when a six foot tall 266 lb chicken gets lost looking for her young owner?  New Jersey may never be the same.  A funny story of friendship between a boy and his chicken.  A great read for reluctant readers.

YA Fiction:

Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus Fans of paranormal YA romance will want to pick up this debut novel by Anastasia Hopcus.  You can read my review here.

I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder  This was my first novel in verse and I fell in love with it.  It is a beautifully told story of a girl who loses her boyfriend in an accident and how she learns to live again.  Tender, touching, and well written.  A great place to start if you have never read a novel in verse and  a book that I would highly recommend for reluctant readers particularly girls.

I will continue to post my progress towards the Book A Day Challenge and next up, I will be back with my Summer Writing Challenges, an announcement on the name for this blog, and some summer book contests.

So what have you set as your summer goals?