Monday, June 16, 2014

It's Monday!

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 LOVED all of the books I read this week.  Whereas last week was all Middle Grade, this week I read a wide variety of books.  I'm just now noticing it was mostly adult...that's quite an anomaly for me!  

Middle Grade

Spirit's Key

I finished Spirit's Key and loved it!  I'm a MAJOR dog person, so that probably had something to do with it. This doesn't come out until September, but it will make a great addition to the fantasy section of my classroom library.  I'll write more about it at a later date.

Absolutely Almost

Lisa Graff's books have been really popular in my classroom.  I went out and bought this one right away because she's just an author I know the kids will read.  I really love her book Umbrella Summer, but this one is even better.  Albie is a kid you will root for from page one.  Would be a great book to read along with Wonder or Out of My Mind.  It might be a read aloud for me this year.

Young Adult
Lola and the Boy Next Door (Anna and the French Kiss, #2)

I read Anna and the French Kiss just a couple weeks ago and I enjoyed this one just as much.  And it made me want to visit San Francisco ASAP.  I really enjoy companion books.  I liked seeing what was up with Anna and St. Clair as I learned about Lola and Cricket.  Looking forward to the last in this series coming out soon.


I assumed this was a YA book since it is written by Rainbow Rowell, but it's not.  It's still awesome though.  Lincoln is a down and out kind of guy, very much in limbo about what to do with his life.  He gets a job as IT support for a newspaper and one of his jobs is to read inter-company email that gets flagged for being inappropriate for work.  As he reads, he gets caught up in the conversations of Beth and Jennifer, whom he never turns in, and keeps reading their emails for months.  

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

This is a story set in a bookshop on an island.  Sign me up!  This is my favorite setting for a book!  A.J. is in a downward spiral after he unexpectedly loses his wife.  In the midst of all this, the most unusual thing shows up in his shop one day.  This is all I can say.  Read it, it's amazing!

The Winter People

I haven't read a good ghost story for a long time and this one was fantastic.  Definitely creepy enough that I didn't want to get the laundry out of my closet - and it was the middle of the day!

The Matchmaker

I read Elin Hilderbrand's new book every summer...island living at its best.  I'm sensing that I need to visit an island sometime soon...

I just realized that I gave each book on this list 5 STARS on Goodreads!  Definitely a great reading week!  

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill

Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read, whether it's a book for children or adults.  I'm always fascinated by the way that people lived in different periods of time.  Unfortunately, this genre is the hardest one for me to get the kids in my class to read.  I'm not sure why that is.  Maybe it's because they don't have enough background knowledge on the time period and they get lost right away.  Maybe it's because they don't feel that the characters relate to their life.  I'm not sure.  I do know, however, that The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill will be a book that I put in my classroom and book talk in hopes of getting some new readers into this genre.

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill

Hazel loves mysteries.  She carries around her Mysteries Notebook much like Harriet the Spy carried her notebook.  It's the beginning of the Cold War and suspicions are swirling about Communists around town.  Just as the accusations start flying, a mysterious man comes to work as a gravedigger for Hazel's parents.  As she starts spying on him, Hazel becomes convinced that Mr. Jones is a Russian spy.  

There's also Samuel Butler, a new boy in town with a secretive past.  Hazel has always been known as the smartest (a fact that she says was "widely acknowledged by the whole fifth grade").  So she is threatened at first by Samuel.  But then they realize that their natural curiosities benefit each other and they team up to find out what exactly is happening in Maple Hill.  

I think this is a historical fiction book that my fifth graders can really relate to.  Hazel is perfection...I love her voice in this book.  She knows who she is and what she wants.  She can be a little (a lot) snarky at times.  She wants to bust out of this small town and see the world.   I highlighted tons of passages that I thought were perfectly written to show how Hazel was feeling at the time: 

Some were funny - 
"She liked to make a well in her potatoes and fill it with gravy, then float her peas in it, but her mother said that was uncouth, which was another way of saying no."

Some were good advice - 
"Don't go down that road, Hazel, comparing yourself to others.  You'll only end up driving yourself crazy."
"The only problem was, whenever someone told her not to go down a road, she couldn't help but find herself sprinting ahead." 

Some were serious - 
"What if the whole country, the whole world, was just like Maple Hill, over and over again?"

I think that the author, Megan Frazer Blakemore, did a great job weaving history into this book without making it too heavy.  It would be a great introduction into this time period, which I admit, I have trouble wrapping my head around sometimes since it is not written about as much.  It would be a great book to read along with Countdown by Deborah Wiles.

I received this book via Netgalley, but I definitely plan on purchasing a copy for my classroom.  Have you read The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied (also known as the book title that will take up nearly all of your 140 characters on Twitter) is a brand new book by Jess Keating.  After I started hearing some buzz about this book on Twitter, I started following the author.  And I found out that she is hilarious and so very kind!  Based on that alone, I popped out to the bookstore to grab her book and I was not disappointed!  And I had a perfect day to spend on my patio reading it cover to cover.

And see there...she responded right away!

Ana, named after an Anaconda, is having a rough end to the school year.  Her best friend has just moved away (to New Zealand of all places).  She's dealing with final tests at school, a crush on a boy named Zack, and "The Sneerers".  And to top it all off, her famous grandfather has just arrived (surprise!) and her parents are moving the family into a zoo for the summer.  

I loved this book for many reasons, but most of all because the author hits the nail on the head when describing the feelings of a 12 year-old-girl.  I am sure that nearly all of my fifth graders will be able to relate to her and I am so excited to share this book with them in the fall.  

Another thing I love about this book is that Ana keeps lists of things that puzzle her.  For example:

- Strange Things About Girls That I Will Never Understand, Despite Being One


- Top Motherly Tricks:  A Marvel of Science or Black Magic?

Ana is really hilarious and I cared for her right from the start.  I can't wait to read the next book in the series, How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel, which will hopefully come out early next year!

Have you read this book?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, June 9, 2014

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!

Happy Monday!  It has been a wonderful first full week out of school!  Here's what my week of reading looked like...

Circa Now

I loved this new novel by Amber McRee Turner!  The premise is so different...Circa's mom is a photographer and her dad works to restore old photographs.  They have a family tradition called "Shopt" where they Photoshop old photos and add new details to them.  This was based on a fun activity from the author's own family.

  How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied

I bought this book just because the author, Jess Keating is so personable and kind on Twitter.  I love supporting debut authors whenever I can and I am already looking forward to her next book!

Bird & Squirrel on the Run

I am not much of a graphic novel reader, but I like to keep up to date on them so I can share them with my class.  One of the grade-levels I will be working with in the fall is interested in doing a graphic novel unit, and I think Bird & Squirrel will be a great addition. I loved how opposite the two characters were and I loved the enthusiasm of Bird, though I am much more like Squirrel.


I loved the illustrations in this book.  It reminded me of my senior year of high school when I read The Little Prince in French.  I can't even imagine how I did that back then because I can't speak a word of it now.  It was interesting to see how Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry's life was reflected in his writing. 

Spirit's Key

I'm also nearly finished reading Spirit's Key by Edith Cohn, which comes out in September.  I am loving it so's very different from any other book I've read!

Have you read any of these books?  I'd love to know what you think!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Grace is a girl without a place in the world.  She has spent her life moving throughout the state of California with her mother.  A new town every few months.  She is a professional "new girl" at school.  She finally thinks she and her mother have found their perfect spot, living with Mrs. Greene and Lacey, when the unthinkable happens.

                                                                 The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Now Grace is living with a grandmother she has never met, in a town she never heard her mother speak of.  She begins to meet people who knew her mother and her father, and she learns more about her past in a few weeks than she had known in her entire life.

As Grace gets to know the town, she begins to find clues.  Clues that remind her of a game, a treasure hunt, her mother used to send her on when they moved to a new place.  As Grace tracks the clues, she begins to think that they were left by her mother and that they will tell her what to do.

Grace is one of those characters that I just want to pick up and take home with me.  She is creative and loving, but she is not going to give herself up too easily.  She feels lost and betrayed by some of those closest to her.  I also love her new friend Jo and her brother Max.  All of the secondary characters in this book are so perfectly written.

I feel like there have been a lot of books lately where the girl is dealing with the loss of her mother. Revolution and Sure Signs of Crazy are two I have read recently.  All three of these are totally different types of situations, but I feel like Grace, Sunny, and Sarah would be great friends.

Have you read The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Monday, June 2, 2014

It's Monday!

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!

It's my first Monday of summer break!  I'm excited to get back into the blogging groove.  I started this blog last summer, but most of my school year posts came during breaks from school.  I've had a great start to my summer reading, I was in a bit of a slump at the end of the year, but that's pretty normal.  It's a busy time!  

Here's what I've read in the past week:

Picture Books

Paul Meets Bernadette

This was a cute book about opening your mind to new things and using your imagination.  Sometimes you need to meet someone who gives you an extra push.

Extraordinary Jane

I love a great dog character!  This would be a great book to use when talking about accepting yourself the way you are and growing into your own skin.

Middle Grade

All of these books were amazing!


If you loved Countdown, you've got to read this new one by Deborah Wiles.  I reviewed it here.

The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Grace is an awesome character.  I've been so impressed with all the main characters I've read recently.  I've got a review scheduled for tomorrow for this book.

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill

Another awesome main character.  This would also pair well with Countdown by Deborah Wiles.  I think it is a tricky time in history for middle grade readers to understand, but Megan Frazer Blakemore does a good job making it accessible to kids and showing the fear that people were feeling in the early days of the Cold War with Russia.  Plus Hazel is hilarious.

Young Adult

Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1)

This was the first Stephanie Perkins book I've read and I've already requested the other two books in this series at the library.  I love books set in Paris!

Have you read any of these books?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Sunday, June 1, 2014


My first #BookADay for Summer 2014 was Revolution by Deborah Wiles.  I read Countdown when it first came out in 2010 and I was excited that it was the first of three books in a 1960s trilogy.  If you've read either of these books, you will immediately know why there was so much time in between the two...the amount of research Deborah Wiles does for these book is on another level.  I think this is why these books are so appealing. Throughout the book, there are snippets of the world at that time.  Photographs.  Song lyrics.  Quotations.  Advertisements.  All of these additions really bring the book alive.


The summer of 1964 is a turning point of the Civil Rights Movement.  Freedom Summer.  For 12 year old Sunny, it is a summer of change and growing into her own skin and deciding what kind of person she is going to be.  

It starts with a chance encounter in the community pool in the middle of a summer night.  Then come the "Invaders".  Then her beloved pool is closed down.  There is picketing in the street.  There is a new girl from the North who reminds her of her mother.  And through it all, she encounters the boy from the pool over and over again.  Without even knowing him, she becomes more and more curious and confused about what is happening in her town.  

One thing I loved most about this book was Sunny's voice.  I loved everything about her.  She was slightly mischievous but her heart was in the right place.  She is haunted by the disappearance of her mother when she was a baby.  She is trying to figure out where she fits in with her new step-family.  She's trying to understand what has happened to her town.

This would be a perfect book for anyone who has enjoyed The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine or Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood.

I don't know what the topic of the third book in this trilogy will be, but I will certainly be ready to read it!  

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

Saturday, May 31, 2014

5th Grade Must Reads 2014

We've just finished another school year here in Ohio...and what better way to begin a summer than with a list of books that 5th graders say you "Must Read"!  I had my class make a bulletin board of books for two reasons:  to give classmates ideas on books to add to their summer to-read piles, and so that my incoming 5th graders next year have some great ideas to start the year with.

Here is what my class came up with...

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Star Wars Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
The Babysitter's Club Series by Ann M. Martin
Frozen:  The Junior Novelization Adapted by Sarah Nathan
Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Turtle in Paradise by Jenni Holm
Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet
Bigger than a Breadbox by Laurel Snyder
Spy School by Stuart Gibbs
Spider Boy by Ralph Fletcher
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
Mallory on the Move by Laurie B. Friedman
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo
The Power of Poppy Pendle by Natasha Lowe
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper
A Whole Nother Story by Cuthbert Soup
Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

That is quite a list!  Have you read any of these books?  I'd love to hear what you think!

And also...HANNAH...thanks for making the first comment from our class :)  I hope to hear more from you!

Monday, May 12, 2014

We Were Liars

Thoughts about We Were Liars by E. Lockhart have been floating around Twitter for a couple weeks now.  I was happy to receive an ARC through NetGalley so I could read it and join in the discussion!

We Were Liars

I can't say too much about this book, otherwise I will have to lie.  It has all the makings of the perfect summer read:  island getaway, too rich kids with lots of time on their hands, a family so perfect it's hard to believe.

And then an accident.  A big secret.  What really happened?  Is anyone really sure?  Be careful who you believe...

I love it when a book skirts around the edge of something big.  I love it when I am never quite sure what's going on.  When it seems that something is missing and I just quite don't have all the information.  We Were Liars definitely fits the bill.  Or does it?  I might be lying...

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Update: Must Read in 2014

It's been fun spending time with a "Must Read" list this year.  I put 15 books on my list - ranging from middle grade to YA to adult, fiction to nonfiction.  As of today, I have read 6 of my 15 books.  You can see my original list here.  Below are the books I have read and a few thoughts about each!

We Were Liars

I LOVED this book...I have a review set to post in May when it comes out.  It's hard to talk about it without giving too much away.  A great summer read!

The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy, #3)

The final book in the series.  It is a definite must-read if you have read the first two books.


I was excited to have just finished reading this book when the Newbery announcements came out in January.  This was the first year that I had actually read all of the awarded books before they were announced!  I think the way this book was written makes it more accessible to upper middle grade readers, maybe 6th or 7th grades.  I haven't been able to get any of my 5th graders to read it yet.

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)

FINALLY!  I have been wanting to read Cinder for quite some time, so I put it on my MUST list.  I loved that it was a totally different type of dystopian novel.  Cyborgs are actually pretty interesting to read about!


When I looked through my Goodreads list for books to add to this list, I was surprised that I still hadn't read this one.  What a powerful story.  I think it is a must-read for any teenager.  I read this one along with The Impossible Knife of Memory.  Another book to put on YOUR must-read list if you haven't read it yet!


I loved Endangered, so Threatened was a definite must read for me.  Threatened is a stand alone, not connected to Endangered in any way.  After reading both books, I was so amazed at the human characteristics that the bonobos and chimpanzees exhibit.  By the end of each book, you feel for them just as much as you feel for the humans.  Powerful stuff.  I will automatically read anything Eliot Schrefer writes in the future.

All told, I have read 43 books this year, including picture books to my 5th graders.  Here are a couple that I see as must-reads for everyone:

The Night Gardener                                             
I reviewed this one here.                                       

The Power of Poppy Pendle
I thought this was adorable:  Poppy hates magic and her parents (who are non-magic) are obsessed with it.

A Snicker of Magic 
Natalie Lloyd was kind enough to send my class signed bookmarks!

 Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy
I love anything Snow Queen.  I reviewed it here.

I can't wait to catch up with the other bloggers who are participating in this challenge!  I am sure I will add lots of new books to my to-read pile!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Night Gardener

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier has been on my Kindle for awhile, thanks to NetGalley.  I LOVE the cover of this book.  Even if I hadn't read and enjoyed Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes, I would have picked it up based on the cover alone.  When spring break finally arrived, and after I immersed myself in the joy that accompanied leaving cold and dreary Ohio for a few days, it was the first book I pulled up to read as I lazed by the pool.

The Night Gardener 

Thumps in the night?  Check!
Mysterious spirits?  Check!
Forbidden rooms?  Check!

The perfect ingredients for a DELIGHTFULLY CREEPY story!

Molly and Kip are surviving without their parents, traveling the countryside in search of work and safety.  Molly is hired to work as a servant at the mysterious old Windsor house.  As they travel to the house, they are warned several times about staying out of the "Sourwoods" and told to stay away from the house and the people in it.  But, work is work, and they move forward.  

Upon arrival, Molly and Kip meet a very welcoming daughter, Penny, a not-so-welcoming Mistress Windsor, and brother Alistair, who has a strange collection of candy with him at all times.  As Molly works to improve the state of the house, she can't help but notice things that are out of the ordinary.  She sees a portrait, reportedly from the previous summer, showing a glowing and healthy family.  However, the people in front of her are pale and withdrawn.  There is a mysterious green door in the hall, locked with a large iron bolt, to which the Mistress has supposedly lost the key.  And there is a tree outside...a huge, hulking tree that has grown into the house and taken over the land around it.  Finally, Molly starts waking up in the night to sounds...strange THUMPS in the night.  In the morning, the house is covered with dead leaves.  When she wakes one morning with a dead leaf in her hair, she and her brother decide to get to the bottom of things.

This book is nearly perfect, from the descriptions of the setting, to the characters.  It's creepy, but not too creepy (unless you are afraid of the dark...maybe don't read it before bed?)  I think it will be a perfect recommendation for kids who loved Doll Bones, Wait Till Helen Comes, and A Tale Dark and Grimm

Definitely a perfect addition to any upper grade classroom library!  Have you read The Night Gardener?  I'd love to hear what you think!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

It doesn't take much to get me to read a book.  An amazing cover and tweets from Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp...that will pretty much do it.  This is how I came upon Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

As I spent my days indoors during the great "Polar Vortex" of 2014, I happened upon Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy on NetGalley.  I had already requested it at the library, but when I thought about waiting until January 28 or popping it onto my Kindle in 10 seconds...well I didn't have to flip a coin.

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard ranks right up there with my most favorite of characters...Harry Potter, Hazel from Breadcrumbs, Flora from Flora & Ulysses.  

Ophelia has just lost her mother.  She is sad and she is lost and her relationship with the rest of her family is different now.  She and her sister, Alice, have traveled with their father as he prepares for a great exhibition of swords in a mysterious museum with a mysterious curator.  

As Ophelia spends her time exploring this museum, she comes across a hidden door.  When she peers through the keyhole, she finds another eye peering right back at her.  Ophelia has discovered the Marvelous Boy, locked away from the world by the Snow Queen.  He's been waiting for someone for many years and he thinks that Ophelia is just the person to help him.

I didn't read any reviews or summaries of this book before starting, so it was a surprise to me that this was another story based on the Snow Queen.  If you have read my blog in the past, you will know that Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu is one of my favorite books of all time.  As I read, I was thinking about how awesome it would be to read this with my class, who I have shared Breadcrumbs with.  I think we would have fantastic discussions about how both authors incorporated aspects of The Snow Queen.  

So now to figure out if I can squeeze this book into my read aloud schedule...

Have you read Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy?  I'd love to hear what you thought!

Happy Reading!

Monday, January 6, 2014

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!

This is the Arctic Blast edition of It's Monday!  What Are You Reading?  I just received the phone call that school is cancelled again tomorrow due to cold temps...more time for hot tea, books, and a little Netflix!  Though I am getting a little anxious to get back into a routine.  I even had an email from a student today, sad that we were out of school.

Here's what I read last week...

YA Books

We Were Liars

We Were Liars was on my Must Read in 2014 list.  It doesn't come out until May, but I happened upon an ARC on NetGalley and devoured it in about 3 hours.  I highly recommend it!

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Cinder was also on my Must Read in 2014 list.  I liked how different it was from the usual dystopian novel.

 Where She Went (If I Stay, #2) 

I read If I Stay last week and was happy to get this sequel right away.  It was interesting hearing from Adam's point of view.  I wasn't into this book too much until the ending (possibly because I just don't get into music that much), but I am really glad I finished it!  If you read the first book, you should definitely read this one too.

Picture Books

Hank Finds an Egg
I love books with illustrations done in unusual mediums.  This is a wordless book that I will definitely share with my 5th graders!  (When we share wordless books, I place the book next to some chart paper, kids read it when they have time and jot their thoughts.  After about a week, we will talk about it as a class.)

The Snatchabook

I think I will enjoy sharing this story with my little niece when she is slightly older.  Someone is stealing the bedtime stories from all the animals...and they will be surprised to find out who it is and why he's stealing them.  

Reading Plans For This Week

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

I just found Ophelia and The Marvelous Boy on NetGalley, so this one is up first!

Happy Reading...Stay Warm!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Must Read in 2014

As I've been poking around Twitter during this winter break, I came across a great idea shared by Carrie Gelson who blogs at There's a Book for That.  She shared her list of books that she "Must Read in 2014".  Beyond making a Goodreads goal, I don't do much goal setting for my reading life.  If I see a book I like/want to read, I add it to my to-read list or read it right away.  I decided to join this group on Twitter to see how setting this goal would go for me.  Here's my list of Must Reads in 2014...

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)          The Fourteenth Goldfish          We Were Liars      
                                    READ - 4/30/2014               READ - 1/2/14

The Shadow Throne (The Ascendance Trilogy, #3)          Jinx's Magic           Paperboy
 READ 1/13/2014                                                           READ 1/20/2014

Cinder (Lunar Chronicles, #1)          The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)          The Art of Fielding
                 READ 1/5/2014

Outliers: The Story of Success          The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer, #1)          The Animal Book: A Collection of the Fastest, Fiercest, Toughest, Cleverest, Shyest--and Most Surprising--Animals on Earth

Revolution          Speak        Threatened
                READ 5/31/2014                          READ 1/11/2014              READ 3/8/2014
As I was looking over my Goodreads to-read list, I realized that this could go on and on forever.  So I decided to stop at 12 15.  I've got some middle-grade fiction and a non-fiction, some YA, and an adult fiction and nonfiction.  Some old, some new.  I'm excited!

I'm looking forward to watching the progress of everyone else during this challenge.  You can follow this challenge on Twitter at #MustReadIn2014.'s a link to other participants and their posts!  

Happy Reading!

**Update - I started this post yesterday...and today I found WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart on Netgalley.  Three hours later, I can check that book off my list.