Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunday Review on Monday

I know I said I would be publishing Sunday Review blog posts, but school is starting, so yesterday was spent working on getting ready.  Better late than never!  Here is what I read last week:
The Art of Miss Chew

Patricia Polacco has done it again in telling a great story about inspiring teachers. Great book to use at the beginning of the year to build connections and community.

The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco
character-development, gifted-girls, memoir, picture-book, theme

  Reading Ladders by Teri S. Lesesne
teaching - professional
Reading Ladders: Leading Students from Where They Are to Where We'd Like Them to BeThis is a must-read for all reading teachers. Lesesne talks about the merits of using contemporary literature in the classroom and building literacy ladders. I have lots of post-it-note flags sticking out of the pages marking great ideas. She's a high school expert, but there is a lot here for elementary teachers, too. One of the ways I'd like to use reading ladders is to build background knowledge using picture books for historical fiction books like A Long Way from Chicago  by Richard Peck, Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, Countdown by Deborah Wiles, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool, etc. These are some of the best books for kids, but if they don't know enough about the time period, they get lost. Building their historical background knowledge could go a long way in helping them appreciate these brilliant books. I think with practice, laddering books can become second nature.

  Kakapo Rescue by Sy Montgomery
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
animals, nonfiction, science
I think people who devote their lives researching, studying, rescuing, and just loving animals are fascinating. This book is about a team of people who are devoted to saving the critically endangered Kakapo Parrots who live on the remote Codfish Island off the southern coast of New Zealand. Only 91 parrots remain. The photographs are beautiful, and although there are plenty of nonfiction merits to the text, Sy Montgomery also captures the emotion and drama of the ups and downs of animal rescue.
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis

Fantastic. I think this would make a great read aloud (I've used Greetings from Nowhere as a read aloud). I love how Barbara O'Connor captures the simplicity, freedom, and adventure of childhood. The kids in this book are just so endearing. It makes me want to be a kid again. I listened to the audio version, and the narrator is perfect - I laughed out loud as I was walking my dog! I also love the way she weaved vocabulary throughout the story without it sounding contrived. Loved the ending - great text to use for mood, setting, and character. I also admire how she can create poignancy right after something funny. Brilliant. O'Connor is a great author, and I can't wait until her new one comes out - On the Road to Mr. Mineo's.

audio-book, character-development, intermediate-kids-book
A Crooked Kind of Perfect

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Ten year old Zoe Elias is living in what I brilliantly saw described today in a review of See You at Harry's, a benignly dysfunctional family. Her dad has severe social anxiety and her mom is almost never home and always working. All Zoe wants is a piano, but she's stuck with a wood=grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag organ: The Perfectone D-60. The story is told endearingly and houmorously from Zoe's point of view and includes a friendship with an odd boy, Wheeler, best friend tensions, and a potential crush, and an organ competition. I like that things aren't completely wrapped up perfectly in a bow at the end, and that Zoe's parents, although far from perfect, really do try to do the right things by her. I think kids will like it.

Capture the Flag Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
history, idioms, mystery
I enjoyed this mystery about Anna, Jose, and Henry, 3 kids solving the case of the stolen famous flag that inspired "The Star-Spangled Banner." I think kids will really like it - it's part National Treasure, part From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, part Chasing Vermeer, and part DaVinci Code since there's even a secret society. It would make a terrific read aloud. It could be part of a unit on American History. Some picture book laddering would be a good idea to build background about the War of 1812, Fort McHenry, Mary Pickersgill, Grace Wisher, and Francis Scott Key

What did you read last week?  I'd love to hear about your reading and how you're going to use books in the classroom.  Good luck to all those teachers, parents, and kids as the new school year begins!

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