Monday, March 25, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Ahhhh...spring break! Reading Heaven! These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week. I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.

Here are the books I read this week:
Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show

Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show by Michael Buckley, illustrated by Dan Santat
 character-traits, great-read-aloud, humor, hyperbole, onomatopeoia, picture book

So cute and funny! Perfect bedtime book for toddlers and preschoolers, but it still made my 4th graders laugh! Kel is a daredevil! Just watch him eat broccoli, go potty, put his clothes on, take a bath, and go to bed without checking for monsters - no small feats! I got to go to a talk and signing by Michael Buckley.  He's hilarious and connected with the kids there.  Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S. series are also really popular with my students.

Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, #2)

2013 book, action/adventure, technology, fractured fairy tale, series, strong girl character

This series is so clever! This second book begins with Cinder breaking out of jail and accidentally landing in Thorne's jail cell. The two of them break out together. We also get introduced to the heroine, Scarlet, and I love how the story weaves Scarlet, Wolf, Thorne, and Cinder together. There's lots of great action in this one with a great set up for the next in the series. I hope boys aren't turned off by the covers or the idea that they're based off fairy tales because they would love these books!

Change Me into Zeus's Daughter: A Memoir

This memoir reminded me a lot of The Glass Castle. Barbara was born into a family of an alcoholic and abusive father, stoic and poetic mother, and lots of kids. They were impoverished in the South, and Barbara lived with a face that she likened to a mummy - twisted with malnutrition and tooth decay. It amazes me that any of them survived, but survived they did, and luckily, Barbara knows how to tell a story! Our book club enjoyed talking with amazement and sometimes horror about what this family lived through. She has a follow-up memoir, Fierce, which one of our book club members read and like.  She said it filled in some of the gaps of the first one.

The Lions of Little Rock

Re-read. First time through I listened to it. This time through I read it with a small group who read it during a civil rights unit. I liked it even better this time! My students loved it! This is such a well-told story about two girls living through a tumultuous time in Little Rock, AR, in 1958, and the complicated friendship they forge. The narrator of the audio version is very good. Marlee, the main character, is called "The Mute" by a few bullies in her town because she's shy to the point of never talking. Liz, her new friend, on the other hand, can't seem to stop saying whatever is on her mind. The two try to help each other with these character challenges, but there is way more to the story. It is a year after the Little Rock Nine, and schools have been closed because of the integration controversy. Marlee and Liz unintentionally end up right in the middle of the storm. I think Levine does a great job facing race issues head on but being sensitive to intermediate readers. The "n" word is used, however, so be be aware if you use it as a read aloud or hand it to kids. This book can be used for all kinds of literary elements - character development and motivation, importance of setting, theme, and symbolism (the lions at the local zoo are central symbols in the story).  I have a student that liked it so much, she checked out The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, Levine's first middle grade novel.  I'm curious to hear what she says about it!


bullying, character development, gifted characters, technology, humor, theme, intermediate kids' book

 I borrowed this book from a student who had liked it, and since I teach gifted kids, I wanted to read it.  I also read some criticism about it on a gifted education website, so I was curious about that.  I thought the premise of the story was funny - a trouble-maker and middle-schooler of average intelligence, Donovan, pulls a prank that gets out of control, and the superintendent, who prides himself with a well-run district, wants him gone.  However, Donovan's name gets accidentally picked up as someone whose scores send him to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction, the school for gifted kids.  He knows it's a mistake, obviously, but his parents are so happy about it, and it's the perfect place to hide out until his mishap has blown over.  What he doesn't expect is that he'll excel in some unexpected areas, especially robotics, and he'll learn to appreciate the kids who go there when he thought it was just Nerdville.  There are some major stereotypes in this book, but I still liked it and think it's good not to take things too seriously.  A redeeming value of the story is that Korman shows us that kids are kids, no matter what their iQ is - they want to be accepted, feel a part of something, and want adults to believe in them.  Gordon Korman just knows middle school kids and write good books for them!

I, Too, Am America

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier

2012 book, poetry, civil rights, symbolism, picture book, award winner

I'm a big fan of Bryan Collier, and I love his illustrator's notes. He puts so much symbolism and meaning into his illustrations. He also explains what Hughes's poem means to him. This would be a great introduction to Langston Hughes.

Flora and the Flamingo

I LOVED this charming, sweet, wordless book. I smiled all the way through it. It just made me happy! I love the flaps you have to lift up to reveal the pictures, love the little girl, love the flamingo, love everything about it!! I think it's a Caldecott contender for 2014!

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

 I enjoyed this book. The set up is great - the setting is in San Francisco in a skinny bookstore with mysterious patrons. The musty, fantastical bookstore is juxtaposed against an ultra-modern technology era in which Google savants and web-designers are teeming with creative and futuristic ideas. The main character, Clay, is a web-designer who lost his job in the recession and takes a shift as a clerk at the Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore. He knows something is unusual and tries to figure out what is going on. He eventually catches on that there is an unbreakable code somewhere in the books, and there may be a secret to immortality involved. Using his knowledge of a beloved fantasy series he read in 6th grade with a friend who is now uber-smart and successful in the technology field, he eventually solves the mystery. I was a little disappointed by the ending.  I liked the story; I just wish it were a little more profound.


Going Vintage


Reached (Matched, #3)

The Painted Girls


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Spin Cams of what my students will be reading during spring break:

What are YOU reading this week?


  1. Those spin cams were the coolest things ever. I need to learn how to do that. So many of your books are on my TBR list.

    1. Spin Cam is free app I put on my iPhone. The kids think it's super cool, and it's an easy, unique way to capture what the kids are reading. My blogger and Twitter friend, David Etkin, introduced me to it.

  2. Looks like you have some good reads. Enjoy!

  3. Fun books!!!! I love seeing the picture of your student/parent Wonder book club! Yay! What fun! Korman's Ungifted looks good. I Lions of Little Rock. I also am really intrigued by the 24 Hour Bookstore! I was in San Francisco in February so it would be fun to read and make connections. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jen! You should definitely read the 24 Hour Bookstore if you've been San Fran. I love reading books set in places you've visited or lived in, don't you?!

  4. I love Kel Gilligan! I read it to 40 third graders and half way through the reading one blurted out Read it again!! I think they liked it ;) I also loved Lions of Little Rock and Ungifted, both of which just made our 2013-2014 Maine state book award list! Some good reads this week!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Nicole! That's so cute about your 3rd graders responding like that to Kel Gilligan. Your Maine state book award list picked some good ones!

  5. Such fabulous reading--both you and your students. I'm glad you like CINDER, too. Can't saint for number 3!

    How is your student likening WHITE DOLPHIN? M student just bought it at the book fair. And how about the EMBER GN?

    1. I'm looking forward to #3, too! My student bought White Dolphin at our book fair, too. She likes it so far. I'll get the full scoop when we get back from spring break. I'm reading Going Vintage while on vacation right now and loving it. The class with the girl who's reading City of Ember is obsessed with GN. I can barely provide enough for them. We've got waiting lists galore all over my desk for the ones they love. She just started Ember. The girl who read it before her loved it. They also love the GN of Wrinkle in Time. Amulet, Smile, Bone, and Sidekicks are also flying around that room.

  6. Daredevil Stunt Show sounds excellent. I will need to add that book to my TBR list. My second graders will probably enjoy it too. I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks last year and really enjoyed the book. While it was non-fiction the writing style really drew me in. The story is tragic in many ways, but fascinating.

    1. Your second graders would definitely love it, Debra! I'm looking forward to Henrietta Lacks. Thanks for stopping by!