Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Review


I just had a great time following #titletalk on Twitter.  Make sure you "tune in" every last Sunday of the month at 8:00.  It's awesome to read about what great things teachers are doing to promote reading and great books in their classrooms.

Here is what I read this week:

The Night Circus  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

adult-fiction, audio-book, fantasy-science-fiction

To all those storytellers out there, this quote is for you..."It is important," the man in the grey suit interrupts. "Someone needs to tell those tales. When the battles are fought and won and lost, when the pirates find their treasures and the dragons eat their foes for breakfast with a nice cup of Lapsang souchong, someone needs to tell their bits of overlapping narrative. There's magic in that. It's in the listener, and for each and every ear it will be different, and it will affect them in ways they can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift." And what a gift Erin Morgenstern has! I can't even begin to summarize this fantastical, exquisitely told fantasy. Brilliant. I listened to it on audio with Jim Dale narrating, which only made it that much more disturbing, unique, compelling, and magical. The contestants made me think of another great storyteller's heroine and hero, Katniss and Peeta.

How to Steal a Dogaudio-book, character-motivation, character-who-writes, empathy, intermediate-kids-book, theme
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor

Another Barbara O'Connor book to love! Georgina and her little brother live in a car with their mother after their father left. After Georgina sees a sign offering a reward for a lost dog, she gets the idea that if she steals a dog, especially one that is loved by a rich person, she can hide it, then return it as if she found it, and get a monetary reward. It would buy them a place to live! She keeps notes in her journal with "How to Steal a Dog" tips, and after scoping out nearby areas, she finds an adorable dog that seems to fit the bill. Things aren't what they seem, however, and Georgina learns a lot about life. There are several gems in this story including Mookie, a vagabond with a heart of gold and a couple good mottos: "Sometimes the trail you leave behind you is more important than the path ahead of you" and "Sometimes,the more you stir it, the worse it stinks." One of my students borrowed the trail motto as his precept when we were writing precepts as a response to Wonder by R.J. Palacio, our current read aloud. We also got to know Carmella, the dog's owner. I think there is a lot to talk about in this engaging story - perfect for 4th and 5th graders. It's also perfect for teachers. It's always good for us to hear from the point of view of a child who gives us insight into life outside of school - why that one student might not be able to turn in her homework.

Out of My Mind  This was one of our small book group books for our unit on empathy.
  Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper

characters-with-disabilities, gifted-girls, great-read-aloud, intermediate-kids-book, point-of-viewtheme

REREAD. Review from August 2011: Sharon Draper created a gem of a book in Out of My Mind. The narrator is Melody, a fifth grade girl with cerebral palsy, who is brilliant but cannot walk, talk, or feed herself. As she is integrated into inclusion classrooms, the relationships she experiences with her classmates, teacher, and aides are complicated. Her life changes dramatically when she is given a piece of technological equipment that makes it possibly for her to speak. It's still limited, but she is so relieved to finally be able to communicate aloud. She earns her way on to the academic quiz team in her school, and just when you think they've accepted her, something traumatic happens. The grace with which Draper handles Melody's character is amazing. We could also all learn a lesson from certain adult characters in the book! I will definitely add this to my read aloud shelf - the potential discussions this book could inspire would be incredible. This novel could be a good companion book to Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine and Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin.

Annie and Helen
  Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson & Raul Colon

biography, gifted-girls, picture-book

Thanks,Mr. Schu, for this book! I won it in his blog contest. I've always been fascinated by Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, so I'm glad new books are being made about them. This one has beautiful photographs lining the inside covers, and I liked the letters throughout that Annie wrote to her friend and former teacher back home in Boston about her experiences with Helen. It never ceases to amaze me the strength and willpower it took for Annie to break through the barriers and teach Helen to communicate. Out of my Mind would be a good companion novel - to be brilliant but not able to communicate has to be incredibly frustrating. Students will enjoy this picture book a lot.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

epistolary-novel, young-adult-book

I had ambivalent feelings over this one.  I read it because the movie is coming out.  Charlie, the narrator, is a freshman in high school and going through tough times.  You know something is "off" about Charlie, and you don't know who he is writing to - it's address to "Dear friend."  Two quotes toward the end that I liked:    "So, I guess we are who we are for a lot of reasons. And maybe we'll never know most of them. But even if we don't have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. ANd we can try to feel okay about them." And "even if sombody else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad."  The cast of the movie, which is filmed in the South Hills of Pittsburgh (Chbosky graduated from Upper St. Clair, just down the road from where I used to live), looks good - looking forward to seeing Emma Watson as Sam.

The Pain and the Great OneThe Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

classroom-read-aloud, picture-book, point-of-view

Read this one aloud to one class this week.  I always use it for point of view. 


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