Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sunday Review

Here are the books I read this week:

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore  The Fantastic Flyng Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce     

books-about-books, classroom-read-aloud, inference, leaving-a-legacy, memoir, picture-book, reading-is-thinking, symbolism, theme

I read this book to introduce the 40 Book Invitation to my students. It's a beautiful and poignant book about the power of story and our role in a bigger story. Lots of light/dark symbolism which can lead to a great discussion of "reading" illustrations and how reading is thinking. I'd like to use it with Shaun Tan's The Red Tree to talk about color in the illustrations to add to the meaning of the story. Hugo Cabret would also be an excellent step up in the reading ladder. The ending reminds me of The Bridge to Terabithia and Charlotte's Web - two of my favorite endings in children's literature.  There is a wonderful, Oscar-winning short film adaptation and an app that can accompany this book.

NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (NERDS, #1)
adventure, books-for-boys, character-traits, fantasy-science-fiction, humor, intermediate-kids-book

This is book one in a crazy adventure series starring the N.E.R.D.S.: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society. This superspy group is made up of actual fifth grade nerds whose nerdy characteristics have been bionically enhanced into superpowers. The government made them into agents because they're small, overlooked, underestimated, and tech-savvy. Jackson, who was once super popular and the school's star football player, gets braces and is rejected by his once admiring peers, and so is recruited by the group. There are some wise lines about what is really important and valuable, and Jackson learns that his former life of popularity and bullying the "dorky" kids was shameful. He befriends this brainiac group and helps save the world. This story is definitely over the top and full of generalizations and stereotyping, but I think kids would enjoy it. I teach gifted 4th grade reading, and I was talking to one of the kids today about it since his name is Jackson, and he loves the series. Since gifted kids are sometimes thought of as nerdy, they would love this line: "…we know that what the popular kids have to offer the world is so tiny and unimportant compared to what the nerds will do. The dorks, dweebs, goobers, and spazzes that you picked on are the ones who will grow up to discover the vaccines, write the great novels, push the boundaries of science and technology, and invest things that make people healthier and happier. Nerds change the world.”


The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee  (Origami Yoda #3)

books-for-boys, character-traits, classroom-read-aloud, connections, friendship, gifted-character, humor, intermediate-kids-book, point-of-view

The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee by Tom Angleberger

 "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." Everyone misses Dwight at McQuarrie Middle School. With no Origami Yoda, Sara shows up with Fortune Wookie and Hans Foldo. She says Dwight threw them to her out his bedroom window. Tommy starts another case file to investigate whether or not the advice Fortune Wookie doles out is real. Meanwhile, everyone is concerned about Dwight at his new school. He is totally boring! Origami Yoda is in a picture frame at his house, he never gets in trouble, doesn't repeatedly say purple or sit in holes, and no one picks on him. He claims he's completely happy about how he's being accepted at Tippett Academy. Caroline doesn't believe he's happy, and Tommy tries to convince him to come back. As with the other books in the series, there are many words of wisdom along with the entertaining exploits of the kids and staff at McQuarrie. This one ends with a big problem. All the specials have been eliminated and replaced with FUNdamentals, a state test preparatory program. Looking forward to the next installment of this brilliant series!


Henry's Freedom Box Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
african-american, character-motivation, picture-book, symbolism, underground-railroad

This is the true story of Henry "Box" Brown, who mailed himsef to freedom from Richmond, Virginia to Philadelphia in 1849. This would be a great discussion book about what the idea of freedom compels people to do. This is also a great book to use for symbolism.


The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man  The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon
books-for-boys, graphic-novel, picture-book     

Franki Sibberson recommended using this picture book as a ladder for graphic novels. It's a cute story of a boy who double as Awesome Man. It could also be a ladder to introduce students to Michael Chabon's novels.

If You Find a Rock
If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christian

This a beautifully written book about all kinds of rocks - skipping, chalk, resting, wishing, splashing, sifting, worry, hiding, climbing, crossing, fossil, walking, and memory rocks. I think kids will definitely connect to this book. I might use it with Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox.

How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning

biography, picture


The Remarkable Benjamin FranklinGreat book about Ben Franklin - he really was amazing! Kids will enjoy not only learning more about the famous kite and lightning experiment, but lots of other inventions of Franlin's. Bright and amusing illustrations. Use with The Remarkable Benjamin Franklin by Cheryl Harness, which is more complex and goes into more detail of Franklin's role in the American Revolution, as a comparative text.



Kids could start with How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning, then ladder it with this one. It's much more complex with many nonfiction text features. Next on the ladder: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?   What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

animals, nonfiction, picture-book, science


This is a Caldecott Honor Book. It contains lots of interesting facts about how animals use their noses, ears, tails, eyes, mouths, and feet in various ways. The way he uses cut- and torn-paper collages for the illustrations is captivating. Love the cover!

Actual Size
Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

animals, nonfiction, picture-bookscience    
I love Steve Jenkins! What a great idea to show the actual size of interesting animals - from the pygmy mouse lemur to the Goliath beetle. The giant squid's eye shocked me the most.  It's HUGE!  After enjoying the paper collage illustrations, there are more facts in the back about each animal. I'm a big fan of this writer/artist! He makes nonfiction fun!




  1. I actually love this out-sized book!

    1. It's such a cool book! I'm so excited you're posting on my blog! I have several of your books in my classroom library!