Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy

Author: Kitty Griffin
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2010

I stumbled on this book at the public library recently. The story caught my attention because it is a local legend from Currituck Sound of North Carolina and I've never heard of Betsy Dowdy.

I will share the book and might even start off the year with it because:

  • my kids are familiar with this area of North Carolina
  • strong female protagonist
  • character shows courage and bravery in the face of adversity 
  • character shows persistence and tenacity = GRIT (heard an NPR episode tonight on the importance of Grit)
  • coincides nicely with the celebration of Constitution Day (September 17, 2012)
However, I'm not a fan of the illustrations. Marjorie Priceman is a two time Caldecott Honor award winner but, the style and art technique do not add or enhance this telling. The characters were harsh which made it hard to connect visually and emotionally. The image of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolves invaded the story line with the cloak and mysterious eyes hiding in the woods. Don't let the art work keep you from enjoying the quest of Betsy Dowdy. Be creative- read aloud the story, withhold the pictures, or share images of the wild ponies of Currituck (readily available online but remember to preselect). This will also lend itself nicely to discussions on Paul Revere and Jack Jouett. If you aren't familiar with the story of Jack Jouett, check out this link

Friday, September 7, 2012

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years

Authors: Sarah and Elizabeth A. Delany with Amy Hill Hearth
Publisher: Kodansha International 1993

This book jumped off the shelf of my public library. It just appeared magically in my pile. It was a busy summer and it was hard to get to all the books I wanted to read. You know how it is. This book was in the pile but not rushing to the top of the list.... until I came home one day and found this from my Mom-
This yellow flag caught my eye as I walked in the door.

I started reading it that night because anything that can make Mom laugh out loud- well it is Not to be missed.

And, I agreed there were parts that made me laugh out loud and parts that made me sad, stronger, and more connected to humanity. The strength and accomplishments of these women who did extraordinary things in the face of unbelievable challenges. Run, don't walk to the library or bookstore to pick up this book and meet the Delany women and family. Be Inspired!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Flight of the Phoenix (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist Book One)

Author: R. L. LaFevers
Illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin for Children 2009

Nathaniel Fludd was left by his parents several years ago with a governess named Miss Lumpkin while his parents explored. The original plan was to send for him at the age of 8. Years passed without word until a lawyer shares that his parents have been declared lost at sea and that he will be sent to live with a distant cousin on his father's side. The cousin Phil A. Fludd is not at all what Nathaniel or the reader anticipates and just like that a drastic change happens.

I enjoyed this book and think it will be a perfect read for my 2nd graders. It is a challenge to find books that meets their level of reading sophistication while recognizing their overall innocence. This book fits that bill with simple story lines and just the right amount of complexity. The introduction of beasts such as the phoenix, dodo, and non-beast such as a gremlin named Greasle will keep readers engaged. The book does have a flaw in my opinion and I'll be interested to hear what the kids think. The book takes a left turn when trying to rescue Phil Fludd from the Bedouin that was implausibly convenient. I'm not a fan of this story technique (remember Dan Brown's character leaping out of the crashing helicopter and landing safely because of a square yard of fabric??). I am hopeful that the series has developed more fully. I do have a large willing suspension of disbelief  but it can be exceeded and this pushed that boundary.

However, I am already thinking perhaps we should start a Beastology Anthology or something and encouraging the kids to research griffins, unicorns, basilisks, manticores... which means I'll have to dig around first. I just saw a book the other day that might provide just the right framework for such an assignment. Hmmm, I'm going to have to check out Michael Hearst's book Unusual Creatures: A mostly accurate account of some of Earth's strangest creatures all over again. The illustrations and style of Unusual Creatures along with the fictional nature of Nathaniel Fludd, now that could be Fun! 

Want more? Here is the webpage to explore more things Nathaniel Fludd. (linked here)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Stopping by the Library

Dashed into my public library the other day to pick up one book for school. This is a bit like dashing to the grocery store for milk and walking out with a full cart. My arms couldn't hold all the books I had not planned to checkout but did. Here's a sampling of what I'll be doing over the next week. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams

Author: Rhonda Hayter
Publisher: Dial Books For Young Readers 2010

Abbie Adams would be described as a normal fifth grade girl who wants to be an actress, has a grumpy teacher, and too much homework. She just happens to be a witch along with the rest of her family. While there are definite benefits such as zapping yourself to the first Olympics or Hawaii, it isn't always easy and it only gets harder when the new kitten (which is not a kitten) arrives.

I loved this book after reading 2 pages and had to restrain myself from running to the computer to purchase it. I managed to finish the book and then put it on my order list but just barely. My favorite things about this book include:
  • filled with smart words like confound, levitating, vermin, and disenchantment;
  • Mrs. Linegar is the perfect name for this teacher;
  • Munch a.k.a. Lazarus, the younger brother;
  • a plot that assumes we readers are intelligent even if young;
  • the way historical events and time periods are interwoven and will spark curiosity;
  • and the Beverly Cleary/Judy Blume feel of the book (just good old fashioned modern writing~ that makes no sense but read it and you will understand the feeling).
Rhonda Hayter's website (linked here) includes a teacher guide perfect for book club conversations. I can't wait to see what happens next for this author or for my copy to arrive so I can share it with the kids.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Summer of Nonfiction

Typically, I read grown up books in the summer and those designed for a younger audience the other three seasons. Very rarely will I choose nonfiction because I find it dry, fact focused, and ultimately boring. Perhaps, I developed this impression from textbook readings. In my experience (with a few exceptions) you want to get someone excited avoid textbooks. You get the idea, my boy's like nonfiction but not me.... until this summer. I have read several well written narrative nonfiction. I decided that if William C. Rempel decided to venture into the "textbook" arena, I would be hooked. How would he present the Battle of Blair Mountain? Who wouldn't want to read about the bombing of U.S. citizens by the U.S. government? Exactly!

"What did I read by Mr. Rempel?" you ask. I heard about his book At The Devil's Table: the untold story of the insider who brought down the Cali Cartel (publisher link) during a NPR episode ofThis American Life. The segment titled Hiding in Plain Sight (available in iTunes) included an interview of a man named Jorge who is currently in the Witness Protection Program. It took about 30 seconds of having the voices and story planted in my head and a quick trip to the library to be completely hooked. This captivating story shows how it can be shockingly simple to find trouble (of course) and the far reaching impact of your family and friends. The price for ourselves and our family can be quite steep with a wrong move. I wonder did Jorge have a choice even in the beginning? Did he ever have a fair chance? I'm still not sure and I've finished the book. 

One thing is certain, I'll look for more books and articles written by Bill Rempel. 

In the meantime, what's your favorite nonfiction?

Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed The Seas

     Authors: Molly Bang, Penny Chisholm
     Illustrator: Molly Bang
     Publisher: The Blue Sky Press, 2012

              Please excuse the quality of my photo. This book is amazing!! 

Ocean Sunlight explores interdependence in nature with a special focus on the ocean. It is 
my new favorite beach book just as summer is coming to an end.... I can't wait to share this book with my four year old nephew (Happy Birthday Zman!), and my fifth graders. Zman is going to love it because the pictures are bright, colorful, and offer a lot of ocean animal conversations. The text is simple enough that it will keep his attention now and at the same time complex enough to be a book we will pull out for years. This book is also perfect for students who must be able to differentiate phytoplankton and zooplankton, explain the food chain as it relates to the sun, explore animal adaptations, is curious, and the list could continue. But really, I expect that marine snow will be a most popular feature and the start of a gigglefest gross out. What nephew doesn't like to get away with a word on the "banned" list? What kid doesn't love for the teacher to say the word "poop"? 

Thank you Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm!! Sometimes these things are hard to explain/connect and now it will be a breeze to kickstart these discussions. The Notes About This Book pages are like the whip cream and cherry on top of the sundae. My favorite lines: "These notes are just a beginning... [we] challenge you to keep exploring"  (unp.)

Visit Molly Bang's (linked here) page for a book description and the back story of this collaboration. I also plan to investigate the previously published related titles. My Light by Molly Bang explores the suns connection to electricity. Living Sunlight by Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm explores the role of the sun to land creatures. And did you notice the a Teacher's Guide free downloadable teacher's guide available on the webpage? Now, we just need one for Ocean Sunlight and to have these as ebooks. Meanwhile, I will share this interview by Horn Book's Lolly Robinson on July 5, 2012 (linked here) with readers while I wait. I can hardly contain my wishful thinking. Let the school year begin with a dive into this book!

Still Learning

So, I'm still learning how to create, organize, and write a blog. I'd like to have the things sorted and pages seemed to make the most sense. I'm not sure this will work because pages don't look or act like the Home page. So, while I'm learning you might want to check out the Kid Reads page which has the info. on my new favorite beach book. Unless of course, you are more interested in the nonfiction Grownup Reads from summer vacation.
Turns out the Pages are for static content. So, I'll be deleting those shortly and using the tags Kid Reads and Grownup Reads. I'm actually a little excited about this as it may lead to less management on my end. Less can definitely be more

Off to try and figure out this blogging thing.

Hope you are enjoying a Page Turner!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

In The Beginning

There are so many little buttons, gadgets, and what does this thing do to explore it is quite distracting. While it looks easy at first glance, that should have been my clue. With luck my head will bob slightly above water by the end of the week year and I'll be able to really start writing about what's on the shelf. So far, I've changed the background a gazillion times and the choices are fairly limited which is good. Here's my Exit Ticket for today. :) And you must be a teacher too if you know what an Exit Ticket is. If not, I'm fairly certain you will figure it out shortly.

Things I've Learned
1. It looks easy but not really for someone as totally clueless
2. Font choices are limited to 7 including Verdana (used here) and Trebuchet (which just sounds cool). I hope these are polite to use. I once taught in a school with a graphic arts teacher who knew typeface (font) histories etc. I discovered sadly Comic Sans is not considered polite/acceptable although I can't remember why exactly.
3. You can only highlight the text and not the text box background.
4. Text color choices are limited 64 (and not all of them are good).
5. I might overuse () and ..... Maybe I will break bad and switch to the m dash because an author friend once told me was perfectly acceptable to use. Just need to remember if it looks like ~ or -.
6. My natural writing voice or style is in the form of fragment sentences. My English teachers must be shuddering unless they are too busy worried about today's generation of texters.

Things I Want To Learn
1. Where is the spell check??? It would be so embarrassing to misspell something accidentally. Intentionally is ok when done for special effect. Right now it is copy and paste into Word and then repaste. Very old school.
2. I like the background and design where you can put pictures and customize the look of the page. Something to study on during the dreaded convocation. Of course, this will only happen if I have sufficiently recovered from the bus ride, mass crowd, loud music.. which is not likely but I digress.
3. What are all those Post settings for???? Permalink sounds like a permanent commitment.
4. All the things I need to know to be able to focus on writing about what's on or off the shelf.

I'm just going to stop the need to learn list now. Partly because my dogs said they need a cookie from the cookie jar and because the list could go on for a rather long time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Once Upon A Time

Once upon a time Library Girl created a blog even though cyberspace was dense, ever changing, and a little bit scary. And the adventures began or really the recording of adventures began~