Thursday, June 27, 2013

Oh Rats! The Story of Rats and People

Today, I've got a non-fiction book review for you.  First of all, and trust me on this, reading a book about rats would not be my first choice.  Oh Rats! The Story of Rats and People, written by Albert Marrin, was recommended at the workshop I attended last week.  I checked it out from the library before I went since it was on the book list.  I was sitting next to Mrs. Addington and she said, "Oh, did you read the rat book yet?  It is SO GOOD!"  I was kind of amazed.  So I read it that night.  And she was right.  It is SUCH a great book.  I learned more than I ever imagined about rats!  They are extremely interesting creatures!

Oh Rats! The Story of Rats and People: The Story of Rats and People

For example, did you know that they can survive being flushed down the toilet?  And they can also make their way back up the pipe and out of the toilet...this makes me slightly nervous.  They also can collapse their skeleton so that they can fit through the tiniest of holes...holes the size of a quarter!  There are lots of fun facts in this book and some slightly creepy illustrations.  I highly recommend it...even if you hate rats!

Remember that non-fiction is a great genre for summer reading.  Choose a topic you love and head over to the library.  I'm sure the librarian will have lots of ideas to keep you busy.

Has anyone read non-fiction this summer?  What else are you reading?  Be sure to leave a comment!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

Today's book review goes along really well with my last post.  I've been reading The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy...and it is HILARIOUS!  If you are a person who loves to read a new perspective on old tales, this is definitely the book for you. 

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (The League of Princes, #1)

This book starts off with a list of things you didn't know about Prince Charming.  For example, he hates wearing capes.  He doesn't know how to use a sword.  AND...his name isn't Charming.  In fact, this book is about four princes who are supposedly named Prince Charming.  Actually, they are named Liam, Frederic, Gustav, and Duncan.  Each of these princes belongs in a fairy tale - Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, and Cinderella.  And each prince is having trouble with his so-called princess. 

The story begins with Prince Frederic and Ella.  Frederic has lived a VERY sheltered life...he doesn't have much sense of adventure.  Each day is the same.  Sleeping in.  Going on picnics.  And Ella is tired of it.  One day, she leaves him a note.  She is sorry, but she has run off to find some adventure.  Frederic realizes that he needs to grow up and go after her.  So begins the story.  Frederic ends up bumping into the other princes who decide to help him on his quest. 

If you like this book, there is also a sequel out now too...The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle.  I'm looking forward to reading it!

Have you read this book?  What books have you read and loved so far this summer?  Leave a comment below! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Grumbles from the Forest...And Some Other Thoughts About Fairy Tales

I grabbed Grumbles from the Forest by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich from the library because it reminded me of all the different versions of fairy tales that were read in my classroom this year.  I had quite a group of kids that read all of The Sister's Grimm books by Michael Buckley.  A few of us went to Cover to Cover bookstore to hear him speak and have him sign our books.   A lot of kids also read The Grimm Legacy by Polly Schulman (a companion book to this one called The Wells Bequest just came out this's definitely on my to-read pile).  I also read Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu as a read aloud.  So, I thought it was fitting to review this collection of fairy tale poetry.

Grumbles from the Forest: Fairy-Tale Voices with a Twist

I liked this book because the authors chose 15 fairy tales and each of them wrote a poem based on that tale.  The authors chose to write from different perspectives.  Instead of hearing from Jack in "Jack and the Beanstalk", we heard from the giant's wife.  In the poems about the "Three Billy Goat's Gruff", the troll under the bridge tells how he will eat them.  There are also poetry versions of "Snow White", "Rumplestiltskin", "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" (I loved this one), and "The Princess and the Pea".

If you are a fairy tale lover, here are some more books you might want to try:

Rump by Liesl Shurtliff
The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (This is the author of doesn't come out until September but put it on your to-read list...I've already ordered it!)
The Wells Bequest by Polly Schulman
Jinx by Sage Blackwood
The Hero's Guide to Saving your Kingdom by Christopher Healy (I'm reading this one now...look for a review soon!)

Do you have any favorite books based on fairy tales?  Let me know in the comments!


Friday, June 21, 2013

The Fourth Stall

Wow!  What a busy week it has been!  I was so lucky to be able to spend a week learning about teaching writing with Christopher Lehman from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.  It's awesome that my school district is able to bring amazing folks like him to "teach the teachers".  I have so many new ideas to try out in my classroom in the fall.  I was also able to dash up to Michigan last weekend and see little miss Eloise.  She is growing up so fast!

I have been reading lots during this busy time...I've read a few young adult books and adult books.  But I do have one book that will be perfect for fifth graders...The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander.  Quite a few kiddos in my class read this one during the school year.  I can definitely see why they liked it so much and went on to read the next two books in the series!

The Fourth Stall

Mac and his best friend Vince run a "business" out of the fourth stall of an abandoned bathroom in their school.  Kids young and old come to Mac for help and advice...even the custodian came to him for help once!  Sometimes they need help dealing with siblings or parents.  Sometimes they need help dealing with a bully.  And he helps them solve their problems.  Mac is a good kid.  But somehow he has gotten on the bad side of the neighborhood bully, Staples.  And now Mac thinks that someone he is close to is spying on him and also working for Staples.  

I especially liked that Mac and Vince were working hard and saving money for the ultimate to see the Cubs play in the World Series.  As a life-long Cubs fan myself, I would TOTALLY love to do this.  But the Cubs haven't been anywhere near the World Series in over 100 years...the longest drought in Major League history!  In the book, the Cubs are close...they are in the playoffs.  But you'll have to read it to see if they finally make it to the ultimate game!

Let me know if you've read this book or leave a comment about your own summer reading!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Eye of the Storm

I am SO GLAD that I picked up Kate Messner's Eye of the Storm to read this week.  I loved everything about it.  If you are looking for a fast-paced, action-packed book, this is definitely for you!

Eye of the Storm

In Eye of the Storm, the future is filled with wild weather.  Hurricanes have taken out much of Florida and people all around the country live in fear of monster tornadoes.  There are storm shelters along the sides of the highway and at every home, people don't gather in public anymore, and everyone carries around a DataSlate so they can get weather alerts.  Jaden Meggs is going to spend the summer in Oklahoma with her father.  She hasn't spent much time with him since he re-married and had a new baby.  Oklahoma is located right in Tornado Alley.  But Jaden's father, a prominent scientist, has created a new community...a "StormSafe" community.  Jaden will finally be able to ride her bike and play with her friends because the storms cannot reach her here.  At first, she is wary.  Wary of riding her bike far from home, wary of the new kids she meets, wary of her father.  As she learns more and more about this place, and about her father, she realizes that things are not what they seem.  She and her new friends Risha and Alex uncover a dark side to all of this new technology and have to work fast to save everything that is important to them.

As I was reading this book, all I could think about was the amount of scientific research that Kate Messner had to do in order to write this book.  Even though it is a chapter book, I think it would be a great model for showing kids how to incorporate their knowledge of a topic into fiction writing.  I can't wait for her next book Wake Up Missing to come out later this summer!

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Always War

The Always War, written by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is a perfect fit for anyone who loves futuristic, dystopian novels such as The Hunger Games.  I've read this author's Shadow Children series and loved it.  This book has been in my classroom library for quite a while and I'm glad I had a chance to finally read it.

The Always War

Tessa has lived her whole life knowing nothing but war.  Everyone around her has been beaten down and seems to have given up.  But Tessa has some hope.  She reads books left to her by her grandparents, fairy tales and folklore such as The Wizard of Oz.  She wants to have a better life, but she just doesn't know how.  One day, a neighbor, Gideon, returns home from military duty as a hero.  There is to be a huge celebration for his accomplishments.  This is about as good as it gets for the people of her town.  But in the middle of it, Gideon cries out and runs from the stage.  She chases after him, and eventually gets to know him a little bit.  One night, she sees him sneak out of his house.  She notices someone following him and in a panic, she decides to follow. 

This fateful decision leads her on a journey into the war zone and "enemy" territory with Gideon and a new companion, Dek.  The three teens eventually learn more than anyone ever imagined about the so-called "always war".

Be sure to let me know if you've read this book!  And leave a comment about your current summer reading!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Prisoner B-3087

Prisoner B-3087, written by Alan Gratz, is a perfect fit for anyone studying World War II and the Holocaust.  This book is based on the true story of Jack Gruener.  He spent six years of his childhood, from age 10-16, trying to survive until the end of the war. 

                                                              Prisoner B-3087

Yanek (Jack) and his family first became prisoners in their own home when the Nazis walled in their neighborhood in Krakow, Poland.  Everyone who wasn't Jewish was moved out.  Each day, more and more Jewish people were moved into this Ghetto.  Soon, there were 16 people living with his family in their small apartment.  Eventually, the ghetto would be liquidated and Yanek found himself on his own, his family members disappearing at a moments notice.  After he left the ghetto, he was moved from work camp to concentration camp ten times, sometimes walking for days on end with nothing to eat.  He learned to keep a low profile, and ultimately survive on his own.

This is an amazing account of the horrors of the Holocaust, but not for the faint of heart.  It fits well with books such as Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli, and Yellow Star by Jennifer Roy.

Let me know if you've read this book...and remember to comment about your summer reading!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Close to Famous

Close to Famous by Joan Bauer has been on my to-read list for quite some time.  I love reading books about people who live in small towns.  And Culpepper, West Virginia is certainly small.  There's a restaurant called Angry Wayne's, Fish's Hardware, the FOOD store, and...not much else. 

Foster and her mother arrive in Culpepper late one night after escaping a bad situation in Memphis.  Lester and Kitty give them a place to stay for awhile and they begin the task of starting over in a new place.  Mom gets a job at the hardware store and Foster begins to meet other kids in town.  She meets Garland, who loves to run.  Amy, who wants to change the way her father runs the hardware store.  And Macon, who wants to be a filmmaker and who works for Miss Charleena, a famous actress who lives in town. 

The most important thing about Foster is that she is a baker.  There is nothing she loves more than baking cupcakes and muffins to share with others.  She becomes quite popular in Culpepper when she starts selling her baked goods at Angry Wayne's Bar and Grill.  But Foster has a secret that she tries to hide from everyone she meets.  Eventually, Miss Charleena figures it out.  With her help (and the help of her new friends), Foster realizes that she truly can do anything she sets her mind to. 

I loved this book!  The author has two other books on my radar, Hope Was Here (a Newbery Honor book, which I read and really enjoyed) and Almost Home (which I am hoping to read this summer). 


Let me know if you try out any of these books!  And leave a comment with your current summer read!

Monday, June 3, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts in discussing our reading this week.  Go to their site to find out who's reading what and link up your own blog!

I've been reading the "It's Monday" posts for such a long time!  I'm excited to finally join in!

I had an amazing weekend of reading. When you put together beautiful weather for reading on the patio, no plans, and a husband at work, you end up with 7 books read in just three days. Wow!

Here are the books I read last week:

The Origami Yoda Books by Tom Angleberger (review posted)

Close to Famous and Hope Was Here by Joan Bauer (review to come)


The Mixed -Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
I had never read this Newbery-Winner, but it came highly recommended by some kids in my class.  I am glad I can now say I've read it.  Wouldn't it be amazing to live in a museum for a few days??  But not much longer.  I'd get tired of hiding out!

Rebel McKenzie by Candace Ransom (review posted)

Rebel McKenzie

Some books on my to-read list this week:

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (Highly recommended by a student in my class)

The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Winger by Andrew Smith

Rebel McKenzie

Rebel McKenzie, written by Candice Ransom, is a book that I received in our very last book order of the year.  I actually picked this book based on its cover alone!  And I am really glad I did!

Rebel McKenzie

Rebel's main goal in life is to be a paleontologist who studies the Ice Age.  She is looking forward to a summer spent at the Ice Age Kids Dig and Safari.  However, her summer dreams are shattered when her mother sends her off to live with her sister, Lynette.  Rebel spends her time watching her nephew, Rudy, in a mobile home park with no air conditioning, odd neighbors, and a 21-pound cat named Doublewide who can ring the doorbell and use the toilet.  There's also a so-called bully, Lacey Jane, who turns out to be more than she seems.

I loved the author's writing in this book.  Rebel is really funny and I laughed out loud several times throughout the book.  Let me know if you read it!  And remember to post a comment about your current summer reading!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Origami Yoda Books

I spent today reading the Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger.  I "book-talked" these books to many kids this year, some of you read them and some of you didn't.  The main reason for people not reading these books was that they didn't like Star Wars.  First and foremost, this book is NOT about Star Wars!  And it is not a book only for boys!  There are many girl characters that play major parts in the story.  The first book, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, was a re-read for me.  But it had been so long since I had read it that I really didn't remember anything about it.  I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it! 


Dwight is the creator of Origami Yoda.  His friends ask him questions and Yoda gives them advice.  Each book is a "Case File" - a bunch of evidence gathered by Tommy and illustrated by Kellen.  The main question in Book One is, "Is Origami Yoda real?"  Each chapter is written by a different student and tells of a time when Origami Yoda helped them solve a problem.  Harvey is Origami Yoda's main enemy and spends all his time trying to prove that Yoda (and Dwight) is a fake. 

It's really a book about kids who are adjusting to middle school and they use Origami Yoda and his mysterious powers to help them make tough decisions.  Is Origami Yoda REALLY real?  You'll have to read it and decide for yourself!  And after you read this one, be sure to check out Darth Paper Strikes Back and The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee.  Then, let me know what you think!

                                               Darth Paper Strikes Back (Origami Yoda Series #2)                 The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee (Origami Yoda Series #3)

Be sure to comment and let me know what you are reading!