Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein is truly a book for all book lovers.  As I read, I thought I should be making a list of all the references to famous books in this story.  I can imagine the kids in my class raising their hands and their faces lighting up as they make literary connections throughout this book.  Mr. Lemoncello's library will go on my list of places I wish I could visit in books.  Other places on this list include Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, and the magical and mysterious forest in Breadcrumbs.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

Mr. Lemoncello lived for his small town library.  It was an escape for him as a child and a place where his imagination could run wild.  As he grew older, he became an eccentric multi-millionaire creating all sorts of board games, trivia games, and video games for kids and adults.  He is basically a Willy Wonka for the gaming industry.

Twelve years before this story begins, his library was torn down to build a parking garage.  Mr. Lemoncello decides to build the most amazing, state-of-the-art library to replace it.  It is so secretive that different crews of workers are hired for short bursts of time and none of them know what the other is working on.  In celebration of the opening of his library, there is a contest.  Twelve 12-year-olds have an opportunity to win a night in the library!  

Kyle Keeley, whose family has sort of an obsession with games, nearly forgets to enter the essay contest.  He makes it in by the skin of his teeth and ends up with one of the coveted spots.  The twelve kids soon find out that this is not your ordinary library...and this was not your ordinary contest.  They find themselves in a race against the clock to get OUT of the library...for a very handsome prize awaits those who succeed.

I think this book will make a fantastic read aloud for my fifth graders.  I am actually thinking of starting my year off with it.  I love that the reader can play along and try to solve the puzzles along with the characters in the story.  

Have you read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, July 29, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers in sharing my reading this week.  Head on over to their blogs to see what others are reading and link up your own post!

I have had an awesome last couple weeks of reading!  I was on such a reading high after The Real Boy and Wake Up Missing that I actually had a hard time deciding what to read next.  I bounced around a little bit before getting back into my groove.  Here are the books I have read and enjoyed the last two weeks!

Middle Grade Books

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu (review here)

The Real Boy

Wake Up Missing by Kate Messner 

Wake Up Missing
I loved this I do everything Kate Messner has written.  I wrote a review, but I am going to post it closer to the release date in September.  I was lucky enough to borrow an ARC of the two books above, but that is usually not the case.  I always get frustrated reading about books that I can't get my hands on yet!  (But I was so excited about The Real Boy that I posted that one already!)

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh (review here)

 This Journal Belongs to Ratchet 

Bomb by Steve Sheinkin (review here)

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library

I am going to review this one on Wednesday.  I think I have decided to use it as my first read aloud of the year!

Picture Book

The Matchbox Diary by Paul Fleischman

The Matchbox Diary

This book will be fantastic to share with my fifth graders when we think about writing memoir.  A great-grandfather uses small items in a memory box to tell his granddaughter stories about his life.  I don't teach an immigration unit, but it would be great for that as well.

Adult Book

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)

I am not a big fan of murder mysteries...but learning that J.K. Rowling  had a new book out?  I had to read it!  I was actually on Twitter when this news came out...I quick clicked over to my Worthington Library App and requested it.  I was number 4 on the list...and when I picked it up this week, there were over 1,000 requests for it!  I was actually very proud of myself for my quick thinking.  This was a FANTASTIC book!  I am looking forward to the next book starring Cormoran Strike!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

I grabbed This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, by Nancy J. Cavanaugh, from the New Arrivals shelf at the public library.  When I opened it up and realized that it was written in diary-type format, I knew it might be a good book to suggest to those kid who enjoy books like Dork Diaries and Wimpy Kid.  Instead of being a straight-forward diary, this book is written in different styles.  Some pages are poetry, some pages are graphic organizers, some are essays.  This book would be a good model of what a writers notebook with many different types of writing might look like.

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet

Ratchet, aka Rachel, lives with her dad and is homeschooled.  She doesn't have any friends.  They move around often as her dad finds houses to fix-up.  She spends a lot of time each day working on cars with him in the garage.  (This made me laugh because I often help my husband work on his cars in our garage.  I know way more about tools than I ever wanted to know!)  When her dad isn't working on cars, he is speaking at City Council meetings about saving the environment.  Ratchet is annoyed and embarrassed by her dad.  She has made a new goal for the year:  to be less like her dad, and more like her mom.  The problem is, she doesn't remember anything about her mom.  There is a mysterious box in her house that her dad hides from her, and he is not willing to answer any questions.  In addition to learning about her mom, Ratchet wants to make a friend.  She tries a girls group at the library...which doesn't go well.  Then, her dad is ordered to teach a class on building go-carts at the library and she has to help.  From the start, it doesn't go well.  There are some boys who constantly make fun of her.  But there's another boy, Hunter, who doesn't.  Ratchet finds out a lot about herself in this story, some things she wanted to know, and some she didn't.  And she finally finds a friend in the place she least expected it.  

This book would be a great bridge for kids who have been reading a lot of graphic novels, but are wanting to read something deeper.  It's a perfect fit for my fifth grade classroom library!

Have you read This Journal Belongs to Ratchet or other books like it?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Friday, July 26, 2013


Bomb, written by Steve Sheinkin, has been on my to-read list for about a year.  I have read many blog posts about this book, the folks I follow on Twitter rave about it, and it won about million awards this year, including a Newbery Honor.  I have checked this book out from the library no fewer than 3 times.  Each time, it sat in my pile of library books until the due date came up and I had to return it.  I just haven't been in the mood to read a long non-fiction book.

Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World's Most Dangerous Weapon

So, finally, last week, I had Bomb once again sitting in my library pile on my bookshelf.  I headed out to my patio to start it.  And I did.  And then I put it down.  And then I picked it back up.  So much stuff about physics!  So many characters to keep track of!  Where was the spy novel stuff people always talked about?  Was I going to be able to read this?  I'll be honest, I wasn't sure.  I put it down for about 5 days and read a different book, then I went to my aunt and uncle's lake house for the weekend.  Then I realized, I didn't want to send this book back to the library again!  This book was becoming my White Whale (Seinfeld reference, anyone?)

So, yesterday, I picked it up again.  And guess what, about 70 pages in I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!  I have read a lot of middle grade, YA, and adult fiction about World War II.  But this is a perspective I had never learned much about.  I was amazed at the lengths our country went to in order to keep this project secret and keep the technology out of the hands of the Germans.  The people who put their lives on the line for this project, when they didn't even really know what it was all about.  The fear that everyone had about the catastrophe that would ensue if Hitler got his hands on this.  The secret cities in the United States that helped ready the uranium and plutonium needed for the project.  The secret missions deep in the mountains of Norway.

It's interesting to read about this time in history, obviously knowing what the outcome of the project would be.  It was easy to get wrapped up in the excitement with the scientists, seeing if they could create this monstrous, feared weapon.  But when they did, and at the end when they dropped it, there seemed to be a huge relief and sense of accomplishment and awe, but also a lot of sadness.  Kind of...what have we done now?  And that is what this book left me with.  Science allowed them to create a horrible, awful thing.  And we all live in a world where this now exists.  I was actually amazed...and the number of atomic bombs that are currently held in the world.  Let's hope they stay wherever they are for the rest of time.

On a side note, as I said before, this book was really hard for me to read.  It really made me think about the struggle kids in my classroom have with a difficult piece of text.  There was so much new vocabulary and people and places I hadn't heard of.  I had to do a lot of rereading and looking at dates and times in order to fully understand the book.  I will definitely take this experience with me into my classroom when I see kids struggling with non-fiction.

This would be a great book to read along with The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages or Countdown by Deborah Wiles.

Have you read Bomb?  I'd love to know what you think!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Real Boy

You know that feeling you get when you just can't wait for something to happen?  Every time you hear about it, your stomach knots up and you feel anxious?  That is how I felt when I thought about reading The Real Boy by Anne Ursu.  I am a HUGE fan of her book Breadcrumbs.  It's really on my list of top 5 favorite books ever.  I have read it aloud to my fifth graders for the past two years and it has been a huge hit.  So, when I heard that Anne Ursu had a new book coming out, another book based on fairy tales and folklore, I was SO excited.  I remember showing my class the cover reveal on the Nerdy Book Club blog back in March.  We had just finished Breadcrumbs, so they were excited, too.  "When does it come out?  When can we read it?" they asked me.  Unfortunately, I had to break the news that it was September, they would be 6th graders by the time that happened, and I would have a new class.  To be certain, we were all bummed.

But THEN, my new best friend Stephanie went to nErDcamp (which I must attend next year by the way)...and lo and behold, she won a copy!  And she read it quickly and popped it right in the mail to ME!  So, as you can imagine, the mailman dogs barked at him...I opened the door...and spent the next 5 hours on my couch reading THE REAL BOY!  (Thank goodness I didn't have plans!)

The Real Boy

Oscar lives in the Barrow, a huge forest filled with magic.  The Barrow surrounds the city of Asteri, where the Shining People live.  The Shining People are perfect, but they don't have magic.  So, they come to the Barrow to buy their magical trinkets and spells and potions.  Oscar works for Caleb, the Magician.  He keeps to the back room and gathers and grinds plants and runs errands.  He enjoys his work and spends his time learning as much as he can about plants and how they can help people.  He is very content working alone and learning alone in the basement.  But one day, things start to change.  The magician's apprentice goes missing.  Caleb is often running off to the Continent, leaving Oscar alone to run the shop.  This is not easy for's hard for him to read people, and he often doesn't know what to say. 

Thankfully, he meets Callie, the Healer's apprentice.  She helps him navigate the world, even as it is changing before their eyes.  The perfect children from Asteri are getting sick.  Something is trying to destroy the Barrow.  Oscar and Callie find themselves as the only people who might have a chance of saving things.  

I adore Oscar.  I adore Callie.  I adore this book.  I can't wait to get a copy to share with my class in the fall!

Have you read THE REAL BOY?  Are you looking forward to it?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Every Day After

Towards the end of the school year, I did a historical fiction unit with my fifth graders.  Several kids who were not interested in historical fiction before the unit realized how awesome it is by the end of it.  I have always loved reading books about the past.  I  read the Little House on the Prairie books over and over as a kid.  As an adult, I still love it.  Especially if it focuses on pioneers, the Great Depression, or World War 2. And actually, now that I think of it, I love the 50s, 60s, 70s...all time periods intrigue me!  
Every Day After

I picked up Every Day After by Laura Golden after it was raved about on Twitter.  Well, my "Tweeps" still haven't let me down.  I loved every thing about this book!  

Lizzie Hawkins is having a rough year.  It's 1932, and the country is in the middle of the Great Depression.  Her father lost his job and left the family.  Her mother has become depressed to the point in which she sits in a rocking chair all day long, not moving or speaking.  She is dealing with a bully at school, and her long-time friend Ben is having troubles of his own and is drifting away from her.  Lizzie is tough and fiercely independent.  She finds ways to make money for her family and realizes in the end that it takes friends to help each other through hard times.  

I think fans of Turtle in Paradise or the "May Ameila" books by Jenni Holm will love this one.  Lizzie is an awesome character that I can't wait to share with my class in the fall!

Have you read Every Day After?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Monday...What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers in sharing my reading this week.  Head on over to their blogs to see what others are reading and link up your own post!

I really enjoyed all the books I read this week.  Once again, my reading ranged from Picture Books to Adult. 

Picture Books

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers' Strike of 1909
I'm adding this to my list of picture book biography mentor texts.  It would also pair well with Uprising by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

The Story of Fish and Snail
This was a sweet story of friendship and trying new things.  Fantastic illustrations!

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein
I read about this book last week on my friend Stephanie's blog.  I will echo her in saying that this book will be a great conversation starter about inquiry in the classroom.  I can see myself reading it at the beginning of the year, during a scientific inquiry unit, and adding it to my list of picture book biography mentor texts.  I also adore the illustrations and might put it on the Mock Caldecott list in my classroom!

Middle Grade Books

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata (reviewed last week)

The Thing About Luck

My  Name is Parvana by Deborah Ellis (reviewed last week)

My Name Is Parvana

Young Adult Books

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I adored this book, everything about it.  The voice of Aristotle was spot on.  I can imagine if I were teaching a group of high school kids we would sit and marvel at the language.  There were so many parts I wanted to read over and over again.

Adult Books

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

I loved this book about twin sisters who have psychic abilities.  Their lives are changed forever when one of them predicts an earthquake to hit St. Louis on October 16.

This week I am looking forward to reading:
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull
Every Day After by Laura Golden

What books are you loving right now?  I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Thing About Luck

When I picked up The Thing About Luck, I didn't realize that it was written by Newbery Medal-winning author Cynthia Kadohata.  Kadohata won the Newbery Medal for Kira-Kira, which many of my students have read and loved.  I have to confess...I haven't read Kira-Kira, but after reading this book, it is moving to the top of my to-read pile!

The Thing About Luck

Summer's family is having a rough year.  Her family lives in Kansas and works harvesting wheat each year from late spring until early fall.  Just before leaving for the summer, her parents are called back to Japan to care for her great-grandparents.  This harvest season, it will be Summer, her brother Jaz, and her grandparents traveling from Texas to Oklahoma to the Dakota's following the wheat harvest.  Summer and her grandmother cook for the team of workers and her grandfather drives a combine.  As the season starts, Summer's grandmother is disabled by frequent back pains and her grandfather's age is starting to show as he works 16 hour days, 7 days a week.  Summer finds herself stepping into roles she never imagined in order to keep her family's job afloat. 

I loved Summer's voice in this book.  She argues with her brother and her very demanding grandmother.  She has a crush on a boy who is traveling with the group.  She is trying to find her place in this world.  The thoughts that go through her head are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.  She is a GREAT character and I think fifth and sixth graders will really relate to her.  Her grandmother is also quite a character...the "arguments" she has with her husband are really funny.

On another note, there is a lot to learn in this book about the people who travel the country each year harvesting the food we eat.  I've never thought about the young kids who must leave school and go along with their families when harvest-time arrives.

The Thing About Luck is a must-purchase for my classroom...and now I am off to the library to check out everything else Cynthia Kadohata has written :)

I'd love to know what you think about this book or what books you are loving this summer!  

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Name Is Parvana

I have been a big fan of The Breadwinner series, written by Deborah Ellis, for quite awhile.  I've read the first book, The Breadwinner,  aloud to my fifth grade class several times.  The book tells the story of Parvana, an eleven year old Afghan girl who has to dress up as a boy in order to feed and support her family when her father is arrested and sent to prison.  The second book, Parvana's Journey, follows Parvana as she gets separated from her family and travels the Afghanistan countryside in search of them.  The third book, Mud City, follows Parvana's friend Shauzia as she, too, tries to navigate and survive in her own country.

My Name Is Parvana

After reading these books, my students and I always wondered what happened to Parvana.  So, I was very happy to find out that there was a fourth book published last fall.  My Name is Parvana is an outstanding addition to this series of books.  In this book, fifteen year old Parvana is back with her mother helping to run a school in Afghanistan.  Schools for girls are few and far between, and many people still think that they should not be operating.  They are threatened many times and told that they need to shut it down.  But Parvana's mother believes very strongly in educating girls for Afghanistan's future.  Nothing in sugar-coated in these books.  It's eye-opening to think about the kinds of things that are happening in other parts of the world while we sit in our classrooms on a daily basis.  These books read like a true story, and for too many children, it is a true story.

Have you read books about Parvana?  I'd love to hear what you think.

Monday, July 8, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I'm joining Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers in sharing my reading this week.  Head on over to their blogs to see what others are reading and link up your own post!

My list this week doesn't show a lot of Middle Grade books that I can recommend to my class, but I can say that I definitely enjoyed every book I read this week!  I NEED to get back to reading the books I brought home from my classroom, but I am so easily sucked in to reading YA and all the adult books that I requested long ago from the library.  But, that's what summer reading is all your reading life how YOU want to live it.  I hope my students are doing the same...

Picture Books

Open This Little Book by Jesse Klausmeier
I'm definitely going to have to pick this book up for my niece Eloise!  I loved the book within a book within a book format.  
Open This Little Book

Middle Grade Books

Timmy Failure by Stephen Pastis (reviewed last week)

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Young Adult Books

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
I really enjoyed this one, but it's not particularly appropriate for my fifth grade class.  Great story of a girl who gets rid of technology for a few weeks and teaches herself a lot about who she really is.
Going Vintage

Pivot Point by Kasie West
Loved this book about a girl who can see the future when she is faced with an important decision.  She gets to live out both choices and then make the one she deems best for her and those around her.  Can't wait for the next in this series!
Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)

Adult Books

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
Another epic novel that spans almost 40 years.  I loved this story of friends who met at camp at age 15 and how their lives played out afterwards.  Highly recommended!
The Interestings

Books I Checked Out At The Library For This Week:

I REALLY need to get back to my Middle Grade reading...I've got a few here, but also more YA!

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata
BOMB by Steve Sheinkin (I've checked this out multiple times, hoping to finally read it!)
My Name is Parvana by Deborah Ellis
This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

I'd love to hear what you are reading this summer!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Timmy Failure

Are you a fan of Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Dork Diaries?  If so, Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made, written by Stephan Pastis, is just the book for you.  I wish I had read this book during the school year because I can think of about 6 kids to hand it to right now!

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Has someone TP'd your house?  Has your hamster died?  Did someone steal your Halloween candy?  If so, Timmy can help solve your problem.  Timmy Failure is a detective.  But not just any detective.  He and his trusty sidekick, Total the Polar Bear, run a detective agency...Total Failure, Inc.  One of the best parts of this book is the language and voice that the author gives to Timmy.  For example, one of the funniest passages happens right at the beginning of the book:

So I wake up my partner and hop on the Failuremobile.  I should say a word about the Failuremobile.  It's not actually called a Failuremobile.  It's called a Segway.  And it belongs to my mother.  She won it in a raffle.  And now she has set forth some restrictions on when and how I can use it.

Never.  Ever.  Ever.

I thought that was vague.  So I use it.  So far, she hasn't objected.  Mostly because she doesn't know.

Throughout the book, Timmy has some friendship issues.  Especially with Corinna Corinna, otherwise known as the Evil One.  She has her own detective agency.  Also, as you can imagine, Timmy manages to lose his mother's Segway and has to come up with a plan to find it.

I laughed out loud throughout this book.  There will be a sequel coming out sometime in 2014.  I will definitely be adding both of these to my classroom library.

I'd love to hear what you are reading this summer!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Genie Wishes

Genie Wishes, written by Elisabeth Dahl, is a perfect book for middle grade girls.  Fifth and sixth grades seem to be hard for kids because of all the changes they are going through...friendships change, bodies change, schools change.  I think this book will help kids see that they are not alone.

Genie Wishes

Genie is your average 11 year old.  She is best friends with Sarah, has a moody older brother, and is excited about starting fifth grade, her last year before she moves up to middle school.  She has just been chosen to be the fifth grade class blogger.  She blogs about everything from Junk Food Lunch to Friendship to Bullying.  As she thinks of stories to tell on her blog, she begins to notice how her classmates are changing.  Her best freind Sarah is being taken over by a new girl, Blair, and doesn't seem to have time for Genie any more.  Lots of girls are starting to become boy-crazy, shaving their legs and wearing make-up.  Genie doesn't feel ready for all of this.  Throughout the book, she has to decide what works for her and how she can continue to be her own person and not get lost in the crowd.

I'd love to hear if you've read Genie Wishes!  Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Beholding Bee

Beholding Bee, written by Kimberly Newton Fusco, is one of those books that I had to sit with for awhile and think about after I finished.  It was a hard book to read because Bee is treated so badly and I just wanted to reach into the story and yank her out of it. 
 Beholding Bee

Bee works for a traveling carnival.  She has been looked after by Pauline ever since her parents died in a car accident when she was four years old.  Pauline and Bee run the hot dog stand and live in a hauling truck.  They travel from town to town, never really putting roots down anywhere.  Bee has a hard time because she has a large diamond-shaped birthmark on her cheek.  People, young and old, stare and laugh at her.  The owner of the carnival even wants to put her in the freak show so that he can make money off of her.  These parts of the book were really hard for me to read.  It reminded me of how people treated Auggie in Wonder and Melody in Out of My Mind

Eventually, Pauline is sent away to work at a different carnival.  Bee is 11 years old and on her own.  Without Pauline to protect her, she has an even rougher time.  One day, she decides to run away.  She takes her dog Peabody and her favorite runt pig, Cordelia.  Bee and her pets are taken in by two old women, Mrs. Swift and Mrs. Potter.  It seems like it will be a wonderful life.  But Bee begins to notice things about the women, first and foremost, they seem to disappear often.  And no one but her can actually see them.   

This book is in an interesting genre category.  It's historical fiction, taking place during World War II when many men are being sent away to fight.  But there is an element of fantasy in it as well.  So maybe it is historical fantasy?  I'm not sure, but Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder fits into this fiction/fantasy genre as well.

Have you read Beholding Bee?  I'd love to hear what you think in the comments!

Monday, July 1, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/1/13

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!

It's been another busy week of summer reading for me.  I feel like my list is pretty short compared to other weeks, but I spent a good chunk of time reading one adult book that I really enjoyed.

Middle Grade Books I will review this week:

Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco

 Beholding Bee

Genie Wishes by Elisabeth Dahl

Genie Wishes

Young Adult Books I Read:

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

This World We Live In (Last Survivors, #3)

I enjoyed this book because I liked how it brought the characters from the first two books togeher.  But I was really hoping for a different kind of ending.  Unfortunately, I don't think there will be another book in the series.

Adult Books I Read:

The Engagements by Courtney Sullivan

The Engagements
This book took me such a long time to read!  I enjoy books that span many years and this one did just that.  There are four different stories told that span almost 100 years.  There was also a lot of interesting history into the diamond industry.

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani
The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls
The story of a girl who is sent away to boarding school during the Great Depression.  I really enjoyed this one too!

I'm not sure what I am going to pull out of my to-read stack this week...I'm in between books right now!  What have you been reading?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments!