Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Barbara O'Connor

I'm a big fan of Barbara O'Connor's books, and since today was On the Road to Mr. Mineo's book birthday, I thought I'd put the reviews I've written about her other books on my blog post today.  I'm writing it really late - busy day - but I didn't want the day to go by without acknowledging the release of her new one.

I can't wait to read it!  I also know some students who want to get their hands on it.  Hmmmm...what to do?!  Buy it and read it first or hand it to a student?  Moral dilemma!

                                                                                                        How to Steal a Dog

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.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester
  Owen Jester has a fantastic secret in Carter, Georgia.  He heard something fall off a train, and he's going to find it.  With the help of his friends and one very nosy and know-it-all Viola, they discover it's a submersible contraption.  He also catches the biggest, slimiest bullfrog in the pond and makes sure it doesn't escape.  What I love about this book, is it's like summertime - mysterious, quiet, simple, and sweet. 

Greetings from Nowhere
Franki Sibberson recommended this book as a read aloud, so I tried it out.
What a wonderful example of multiple first person points of view, theme,
symbolism, characterization, and setting. Aggie is the aging widow who owns Sleepytime Hotel,which is no longer doing much business, so she decides to sell it.  Enter Clyde and his daughter, Willow.  Clyde answers the for-sale ad, deciding to make a new life for himself after his wife left them.. Loretta and her family also descend upon the motel on a journey to find out more about Loretta's birth mother. 
The last and most intriguing guest is Kirby and his less-than-loving mother who's trying to take him to a school for troubled kids (students love hearing
Kirby's point of view), and her car breaks down.  When they all come together, great discoveries, friendships  and personal journeys unfold.  Brilliantly crafted.
The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis
Fantastic. I think this would make a great 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. 


  1. Replies
    1. You're welcome, Barbara! Anything I can do to encourage you to write more, more, more! :-)