Saturday, August 28, 2010

California Dreamin'

Can you believe we will be back at school in less than two weeks? I just returned from a wonderful vacation to San Francisco, Yosemite, and Napa Valley. It was the most interesting and fun trip ever! We learned all about the giant Sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove and Muir Woods. We saw the magnificent Yosemite, Bridalveil and Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park as well as watched rock climbers scale the face of El Capitan- it was breathtaking. We also learned about wine making in the Napa Valley and actually saw the clusters of grapes growing on the vines- they looked so delicious and colorful growing in perfect rows on acres and acres of farmland. We even took an aerial tram car to view the entire area from a mountaintop. In San Francisco we became experts at riding the cable cars and navigating the streets. We very carefully drove down Lombard Street "the crookedest street in the world" and marveled at the architecture on each side. We even took a boat ride around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate Bridge. I can't wait to share this adventure with you during the first week of school. I also can't wait to hear how you spent the summer months.
As vacation comes to an end, grab every last bit of sunshine- I will see you soon!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Is it August Already?

I have been busy at school helping our new principal Mrs. Chesnut, get things ready for back to school. It's going to be a great year!
My latest book is Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary. Don't you love the name Beezus? Did you know her sister's name was really Beatrice? It's funny how some nicknames originate.
I read the Ramona series years ago when my girls were students at St. Charles. Re-reading the book brought back great memories of curling up on the sofa and reading with them.

I am happy to announce the book has stood the test of time. It was actually first published in 1955. Although a few words may be outdated, it is still a great read for students in the younger grades. With the movie debut and excellent reviews, it may be time to get your hands on a copy and become a reading detective. Try to discover how the story differs from the book. Although I have not seen the movie, I have read that Beverly Cleary was pleased with how the movie was produced. Apparently it is very true to the book. I'm sure it will be quite entertaining to actually see Ramona and her imagination in action.
Today, Beverly Cleary is 94 years old. Did you know her birthday, April 12th, is recognized as National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R.) Day?
If you like the book, there are so many great Beverly Cleary chapter books. they follow Ramona from the age of four to fourth grade. Have fun many little time!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Happy Birthday to ME!

Today is my birthday! How lucky am I to have such a wonderful life- God has given me so many gifts!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Extra Credit

I spent last week in Florida exploring the Gulf Coast. I am happy to report the oil has not reached the beaches of Venice, St. Pete's Beach or Caladesi Island. It was beautiful, hot and very relaxing. I hope you are still reading the summer away! Here is a peak at the book Extra Credit by Andrew Clements:

Can you name the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council? Abby Carson can, but yet her grades have fallen so low that she is in danger of repeating the sixth grade. She hates dong homework, doesn’t like to study, and really can’t see the purpose of multiplication. All she wants to do is spend time outside, ride her bike, and explore the woods on her parent’s property. The one and only thing she does like about school is the new rock-climbing wall they have installed in the gym. Rock climbing has become one of her new favorite past times.

In the book Extra Credit by Andrew Clements Abby’s teachers give her a final chance to pass sixth grade. In order to do so, she must sign an agreement that she will complete all homework assignments and will pass all tests with no less than a “B” until the end of the school year. She must also complete one extra credit assignment that involves a pen pal letter with a student halfway around the world.

Through her correspondence, this story introduces the reader to a child’s life in Afghanistan. It presents another culture in a unique and understanding way for this age group. Through the simple letter exchange the reader will begin to realize how different life can be depending on where you live. The book presents two points of view (from each of the letter writers), and shows how some foreigners may look unfavorably upon Americans. It also shows the dangers children face walking to and from school in a land where education is not guaranteed and permission is required before a letter can even be written.

As a fan of Andrew Clements I enjoyed reading his story and found myself admiring the way Abby and Sadeed Bayat could communicate by “reading through the lines” and understand each other’s messages. This book would be appropriate for grades four through six.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A new book for younger readers...

Oggie Cooder has a talent many fourth graders can only dream about. He can “charve” a piece of cheese into any shape he wants and that includes a giant cherry picker he discovers on his way home from school. Charving is a new word that describes Oggie's ability to carve and chew cheese into different shapes. He wants to be an inventor after all, fascinating isn’t it?

Oggie Cooder is an interesting and unusual character who is quite adorable as well. He wears odd mismatched clothes from his parent’s thrift shop, makes weird uncontrollable sounds when he is happy "prrrrr-ip", and basically “follows a different drummer”. In her second Oggie Cooder book, Oggie Cooder Party Animal, author Sarah Weeks brings the lovable fourth grader back into the spotlight. Oggie is invited to "mean but cool" Donnica Perfecto’s birthday party, but unbeknown to him it is at the insistance of her mother. Once again Oggie finds himself at the mercy of Donnica as she conspires to keep him from actually attending the party. Luckily Oggie is pretty oblivious to Donnica’s intentions and with the help of a few friends Donnica is outsmarted. After arriving at the party and being locked in a bathroom with a juggling bear, Oggie inadvertently gives her the best birthday present of all.

As a great introduction to Oggie Cooder Party Animal be sure to read Sarah Week’s first Oggie book Oggie Cooder (it is available in paperback). It will detail the "charving" side of Oggie's personality.

This short chapter book is fun and hilarious. The story can even inspire readers with a great idea for a memory tool that may help kids who have trouble with memorization. It is perfect for second through fourth graders and is a delightfully easy read aloud. Oggie proves that even though he is a little different, nothing will stand in his way!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

We're having a heatwave...

I don't know about you, but the heat is causing me to spend more quiet time inside with a few good books.

Yesterday I enjoyed The Dreamer a fictional biography of the early life of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda written by Pam Munoz Ryan. The book is gently illustrated by award winning artist Peter Sis (who I actually met at the ALA convention). The text is printed in soft green ink, a tribute to Neruda who wrote his own poetry in green, the color of “esperanza”, hope. Visually it is a beautiful book.

Pablo Neruda became the pen name of Neftali Reyes, the book’s main character. It is a story of a boy growing up with a very strict father who is determined to lead Neftali into a future that he (the father) has planned, just as he did with his older son Rodolfo. In the process he tries to discourage Neftali’s fascination with words and dismisses his joy of daydreaming and exploring as "absentmindedness". Moments of happy times are terminated whenever the father returns home. Through it all Neftali is surrounded by the love of his stepmother and his younger sister. His talent for writing is supported by his uncle who runs the local newspaper. In one very moving episode Neftali watches as his father destroys his beloved work. Somehow, even though Neftali is portrayed as a weak, frail child he is able to muster the courage to pursuit his dreams.

When I began reading the book I did not realize it was based on a true story. I was unfamiliar with Pablo Neruda so the book prompted me to read more about him. Pam Munoz Ryan introduces some of his actual poetry at the end of the book.

I enjoyed the way the book was written and especially appreciated the simple, beautiful illustrations that supported the quiet nature of Neftali and his story. The book has a very poetical style that makes it special and unique.

A great book to read quietly on a hot, summer day! I would love to share this autographed copy (Peter Sis) with you- send me an email to borrow it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Almost Astronauts

After reading Almost Astronauts 13 Women Who Dared to Dream by Tanya Lee Stone, I felt myself wanting to know more about these daring pioneers of the 1960's. In the book I discovered so much about the women in space program, but even more about the inequality encountered by these women while pursuing their dreams.
As a young girl growing up in the fifties, sixties and seventies, I now realize I was unaware of so many things. It's hard to believe that in 1961 a woman could not rent a car or acquire a loan from a bank without the signature of a man. Or that a woman could not become a jet pilot or a commercial pilot even though she met all of the qualifications of her male counterparts. When I was growing up, my father encouraged his four daughters to do whatever we dreamed- that we should aspire to be whatever we wanted. In 1970 he approved of my application to a college that had been previously open to only male students. With the acceptance of my class, women would be permitted to live and study on campus along with their male peers. Today, 40 years later, women make up over half of the school's enrollment. Although I became a teacher (a career chosen by many admirable women), one of my sisters entered the male dominated field of metallurgical engineering and found success. My own daughters have pursued careers in science and math, and I am happy to say one is now a chemical engineer, one an accountant, and one is an architect.
Not only did Almost Astronauts 13 Women Who Dared to Dream provide an interesting and enlightening story but also made me think about the equality of women today and how so many pioneers have paved the way for our present experience.
If you have the opportunity to read this book it will provide insight into more than the careers of women in space. It will make you wonder, what is truly a woman's place?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 5th of July!

Don’t miss When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, this year’s Newbery Award winner. The book is about Miranda, a 12-year-old girl, who lives in a Manhattan apartment with her single mom who works for a New York City law firm. Miranda becomes caught up in a web of mysterious notes that keep popping up unexpectedly. The notes mention things only she would know and seem to beg her to do things she is unsure about. The story is a combination of mystery, historical fiction and a bit of fantasy. It gets you hooked, and I promise, until the mystery is solved, you won’t be able to put it down. The characters are very believable and the clues within the story fit together perfectly in the end. It’s one of those books you may even read again to re-discover all that has happened.
Read Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time before or after reading When You Reach Me. It’s Miranda’s favorite book and Rebecca Stead uses the theme of time travel brilliantly within her story.
Currently When You Reach Me is only available in hard back. Check it out at the public library or if you would like to borrow it this summer, email me! We have a copy in the SCB library.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A New Review

Just finished reading an advanced copy of Hero by Mike Lupica. Unlike his previous books centering on sports themes, this story takes the reader on an adventure of superheros and fantasy powers. Can a fourteen year old boy really follow in his father's footsteps and possess the superpowers to fight the evil which threatens the United States? Billy Harrigan is a boy who is about to discover secrets about his father and about himself. He cannot accept the circumstances of his father's death so he sets out to uncover what really happened. Will he be able to find evidence of foul play while accepting the challenge of his own destiny?

Not my favorite Mike Lupica book, but a good summer read! To discover more about Mike Lupica visit his

Reading level 9 to 12. Hero will be published in November 2010. Send me an email if you would like to borrow my copy.

Monday, June 28, 2010

ALA Convention

I have just returned from the American Library Association Convention in Washington DC.

I met so many authors including Mo Williems (Don't let the Pidgeon Ride the Bus) and Laura Numeroff (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). I was able to gather so many items for the library (books and posters) as well as so many bookmarkers for all of my students. We will be set for September!

One of the books I purchased is called Almost Astronauts- 13 Women Who Dared to Dream which is a non- fiction story about 13 courageous women who wanted to become space pioneers. The book describes their journey and the roadblocks of the 1960s that kept them on the ground. I can't wait to read it and then share it with you. This book received the Sibert Medal for the most distinguished informational book for children published in 2009.

I also purchased a book called The Dreamers by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sis. It's on my bookshelf for this summer! I'll keep you posted!