Sunday, November 29, 2009

Book of the week: Larger-Than-Life Lara

Dandi Daley Mackall's Larger Than Life Lara would be a great read-aloud for fourth or fith grade.  Laney Grafton narrates the story of how 300-lb Lara Phelps joins her class, and the impact that has on Laney and everyone else.  Each chapter is titled with a different element of writing, such as frozen moment, setting, dialogue, oppostion, and cliffhangers.  This title would be a great tie-in with Writer's Workshop, and the students with sympathize with Lara's stuggle with being teased.  This would also be a great tool for discussing bullying and being different.

Book of the week: S is for Story: a Writer's Alphabet

Sleeping Bear Press has many titles in their Alphabet Book series; we own many at Yates Library, including B is for Battle Cry: a Civil War Alphabet,  and M is for Melody: a Music Alphabet.  Esther Hershenhorn's S is for Story: a Writer's Alphabet is a great way to introduce young authors to writing vocabulary.  Each letter of the alphabet highlights a writing term with a short rhyming poem, and additional information is given in paragraph form along the side.  Terms defined include notebook, observe, genre, edit, and character.  Whimsical illustrations complete this charming book.  This title could be used with just about any age group, and it would be fun to have students write their own versions of the writer's alphabet book.  I think I feel a project coming on....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chapter book of the Week: the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I had another title all picked out and ready to go for my chapter book of the week, but that title is just going to have to wait until next week.  I read Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time when it first came out in 2004--it caused quite a stir as a crossover adult/young adult book.  Then I promptly forgot about it.  My husband and I were standing in line to check out during our weekly trip to the public library when I glanced over at the book recommendation display, and there it was.  I told him to grab it for himself, because it is such a novel idea, and he had never read it.  I thought that I would re-read the first chapter, just to refresh my memory, so we could talk about it when he was done, but I couldn't put it down.  Needless to say, he is just going to have to wait until I am done re-reading the whole thing.

I wanted to post reviews of only books that I own at either Yates or Elmer, in case someone read my blog and wanted to read the title that I had reviewed.  I don't own this book at either library, however; it is an adult book.  But I think it would be a worthwhile read for any teacher because the book is told from an autistic child's point of view.  Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone finds his neighbor's poodle murdered on her front yard and decides to solve the case.  His school social worker had encouraged him to write a book, so he writes about his investigation. Seeing our world through his eyes is totally fresh and endearing, and it made me appreciate  how difficult and confusing it must be for our autistic students to navigate through their school days. Go to your local public library and check it out.  You won't be disappointed.

Picture book of the week: Thanksgiving Is...

I love Gail Gibbons.  She can take any non-fiction subject that you wouldn't necessarily find interesting, like the post office, and write a great book about it.  I think that non-fiction is finally getting the recognition that it deserves, in part because of our new reading series, and it makes perfect sense.  If children are going to read, why not read and learn at the same time?  And non-fiction has long been the genre of choice for many boys, so it is great to see their preferences become mainstream.

As I said in an earlier post, I have been discussing Thanksgiving with my students.  Decent non-fiction Thanksgiving books are actually hard to come by, but Gail Gibbons did a great job with Thanksgiving Is...  It has colorful illustations and plenty of opportunities to make text-to-self connections.  If you are looking for a quick but in-depth overview, you won't be disappointed.

Helicopter Parents

I was intrigued by the cover article in Time magazine this week: helicopter parents.  I haven't seen too much of this in the Schenectady school district, but it was very common in my last job in the ' burbs.  I had a mother chastise me for recommending the Babar books for her 3-year-old because there was no way she was going to subject her child to those imperialistic viewpoints...what was I thinking?  Really.  He is a talking elephant who wears suits and carries a cane.  But anyway, I found the article fascinating.  Being overprotective is harmful to both children and parents.  The article made me wonder which is more harmful...too much parent involvement, or not enough?

Can These Parents Be Saved: the Backlash Against Over-Parenting

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chapter Book of the Week: The Mysterious Benedict Society

It has always been a secret wish of mine to be a secret agent. Who wouldn't want to sneak around and learn everything you can about someone else? The book of the week, Trenton Lee Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society, is about four gifted orphans who join a secret society to try to save the world. Will they be able to work together to outsmart the evil Mr. Curtain? Read and find out!

Picture Book of the Week: 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

I  love Thanksgiving.  It is a holiday all about eating and family without the pressure of finding the perfect gift and totally decorating the house.  I was born on Thanksgiving Day, actually, and when I was younger, I used to think that the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was just for me.  I know better now, of course, but it is still my favorite holiday.  And in honor of my favorite holiday, I have chosen a comical book for our picture book of the week: 'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving, by Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame.  As you might have guessed, it is modeled after the old classic, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.  In this version, a class takes a field trip to a turkey farm.  While they are there, the students make the connection between the cute clucking turkeys and their upcoming Thanksgiving feast.  In the end, the students all decide to have turkey for dinner, but not in the way that you would expect!   This is a great holiday read that can be appreciated by just about any age group from kindergarten right on up.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chapter book of the week: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules

As I said in an earlier post, our new circulation program, OPALs, prints wonderful reports.  Not only does it keep track of almost any statistic imaginable (want to know what the boys in Mr. Lichten's class checked out last month?  No problem!), it also lists the one title that was checked out the most for any given month.  Not surprisingly, the most circulated item in Elmer Avenue for the month of November was Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules.

This is the second book out of four in the series.  Our loveable, yet misfortunate Greg Heffley is back, along with his mean older brother, Rodrick.  Rodrick's main goal in life seems to be tormenting Greg.  Greg desperately wants one embarrassing incident from his summer vacation to remain a secret, but things have a way coming to light, especially when there is a journal involved....

Picture book of the week: The M & M's Counting Book

I love our new circulation software.  Not only can you access it from any computer with internet access, but it also prints wonderful reports.  October was the first full month that we used the OPALs software, and when I printed our statistics report in the beginning of November, I found a little bit of trivia at the bottom (and I love trivia!)--the most circulated book at Yates for the month of October was not a spooky story, as you might guess; it was The M & M's Counting Book.  This title was checked out six times in October!

Yes, it might seem a little commercial, because those smiling M & M's, with arms and legs, are on every page, but it is a great way for students to practice counting, number recognition, number sets, shapes, adding, subtracting, colors, and rhyming.  All in one book.  This title, along with some actual M & M's (without the arms and legs, of course) would make for a very exciting lesson for your students in grades K-2.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chapter book of the week: Sunny Holiday

Local author Coleen Murtagh Paratore (author of the popular Wedding Planner's Daughter series) has a new book out: Sunny Holiday.  This title is written for a slightly younger audience than her previous books, (the main character is in fourth grade) and is sure to please.  Sunny  is a spunky fourth grader living in the fictional town of Riverton (which has many similarities to Troy).  Her father is in jail and her mother often works long hours, so Sunny decides to brighten up her life by adding a kid-centered holiday to every month to give herself something to look forward to.  Despite her hard life, Sunny almost always lives up to her name, and is a great example of having a positive attitude and outlook on life.  This would make a great read-alound for 3rd-5th grade classes; not only would students sympathize with Sunny, but they would also get a kick out of all of the local references.

Picture book of the week: Duck! Rabbit!

Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld are co-authors of the adorable new book Duck!  Rabbit!  Two unseen narrators cannot agree on the animal in this it a duck, or a rabbit?  Not only would it make a great read-aloud, it is a wonderful example of how two different points of view could both be correct.  Check it out and let me know which you think it is!

Author of the Month: Lois Ehlert

In the Yates library, we highlight an author every month. The author of the month for November is Lois Ehlert. She has written many books, and we own seventeen. I love the way she uses collage in her illustrations. Her fall titles include Leaf Man, Boo to You!, Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, and Nuts to You!