Saturday, November 15, 2014

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for all the Letters by Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers is quite a character. How in the world did he think up this book? Short stories for each letter of the alphabet? Quirky stories, funny, with great drawings, all connected through our amazing alphabet.

I am not sure which I like more, the stories or the illustrations. I am not sure at all which letter I am most drawn to...likely all of them, depending on the day.

Adults will be equally engaged by the least I was!
And the storyline within each letter is instantly accessible, a treat to read aloud or silently. 

I only dare you to read the stories and illustrations without laughing....see what you think!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

We buried our family dog last Saturday. Losing a dog is always difficult for me, and the pain I felt saying goodbye to Bandit seemed endless. I just happened to be reading Ann Martin's new book Rain Reign at the same time; that turned out to be an okay thing, and maybe even good.

Martin wrote A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray years ago, and I loved that read. Martin is a prolific writer; her website shows a whole bunch of titles I have not even touched yet. I may be inaccurate but based on the content of A Dog's Life, I see Martin as knowledgable about dogs. When I saw Rain Reign, I did not hesitate to check it out. Martin weaves together Aspberger's, relationships, and homonyms all into a artful mosaic-like story. Her content surprised me and further engaged me (and even has me hearing more homonyms!).  In short order, Rose's dad brings home Rain the stray dog and gives the dog to Rose. Times are hard at home, a giant hurricane comes and wreaks havoc, and Rose actively struggles with behavior stemming from her Asperger's. Said father lets Rain out to go to the bathroom during the flooding aftermath of the storm and Rain doesn't return. Rose and her uncle (very interesting and lovely relationship here) search for the dog, eventually finding her as well as discovering some more of the mystery of Rain. I refuse to say more here because I don't want to spoil the book for you, but suffice it to say that there is light within the great dark story that Martin paints as Rose's life.

Looking for a new great dog book? Looking for a terrific new y.a. novel? Looking for more on Aspbergers? Wanna know more about homonyms? Here you go, on a silver platter: Rain Reign.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

I love Shannon Hale's work. She writes the Princess Academy books, a total fave of Alysa when she was in 5th and 6th grade. I read a couple of the books then too--just to join together with my little one and support her new swallowing-books-in-one-day practice way back then. Well, the divine Mrs. Hale has a new gem out, The Princess in Black.
Oh-yeah, this one is our next read aloud in my class! I could be wrong, but I predict my kindergartners will be right at my side, clamouring for more!! Princess Magnolia may very well become our new heroine, a monster-stopping chiquita not to be reckoned with. She keeps her black clothes hidden and her monster-stopping skills at the ready. Her monster alarm is a ring whose tone alerts her to monsters on the prowl--come on, her castle just happens to be right next to a hole in the ceiling of the monster's home. She has a sweet steed waiting to receive its alert via hoof resonance. And then there is Duff the goat boy....not sure where he is gonna do in the next book in the series but I have a feeling we have sort of Batman and Robin with way more smarts, curiosity, prowess, and way less power-structure, Batman-knows-best, Robin here. I swallowed this book just this morning, refusing to let freshly-made homemade waffles deter me from finishing. And a question nuzzles in me: who is this Duchess Wigtower? Just curious.

I fully believe you, dear reader, will LOVE this new one from Shannon Hale. The illustrations by LeUyen Pham are totally the cat's meow, representing and engaging all in one. If you want to seek out more before you order the book, check out the link below to Shannon Hale's new page on the book:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I think one of the things I love most about Patricia MacLachlan's writing is how it enlivens my thinking with images. As I read this brand-new gem from Ms. MacLachlan, I could seen tons of details: the porch, the steps, the river, the bridge, the family van, the chickens, the sleeping situation when they camped under the overhang, the cow....the list goes on and on. I just see characters and settings, live and stills, all alive in my head.

Lucy can't sing. But her teeny brother who most folks think can't talk can. And he sings with her every night. Or for her. Lucy gets sort of lost in the day to day of life, trying to figure out where she sits in all of it, what she might be as she grows up. Then the family travels down to her great aunt's house to help out when the river rises and Lucy has all sorts of moments to figure out who she is and what makes her tick.

This is a sweet read; those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile know that I (Andie) love MacLachlan's work. For instance, Edward's Eyes. WOW. Awesome read. This read is almost as good in a different way. But still important, still worth picking up, still totally worth figuring out with Lucy what makes her tick and why. Fly Away. A great autumn, windy-rainy day kind of book. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan

The author of I'll Be There has come out with a sequel that will keep you hopping in suspense and hoping for a decent outcome. I loved I'll Be There, and reviewed it here:

"...Emily knew how to do manipulation techniques to solve derivations in calculus using a graphing calculator. She knew how to conjugate Spanish language verbs in six ­tenses. But she had not been taught about psychopaths..." 

Sam and little brother Riddle now live with Emily's family at their house. Safe from their crazy, abusive, controlling, unpredictable father who is in prison, Sam has started community college and Riddle starts talking a little after years of silence. Emily continues to attend high school, and younger brother Jared dreams of a brother not quite like either Sam or Riddle whom he secretly and seriously dislikes. Add in a new twist in the form of a gal named Destiny--racy, seemingly intrusive, and totally unafraid of anything, Destiny runs through life with the throttle wide open. Here is a little opener into her life from well into the story:
"...Destiny took a deep breath. 
Well, he didn't scare her. 
She exhaled. 
He did scare her. 
He totally scared her. 
But she hadn't struck out on her own as a kid by being scared.
Or maybe she had.
So maybe she had used her fear to her advantage. Taht was another way to see it." (Page 264)

I liked this book for the way the author uses fear to several of the character's advantage, like she did in I'll Be There. I also loved the character development, though honestly I didn't like Destiny until way, way later in the book. What about you?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Looking for a new alphabet book? An alphabet book that grips all of us by the shoulders and encourages us to do the right thing in so many moments of our lives? An alphabet book that is for so many more than the usual alphabet-book audience? Here is your book:

Try this page on for fit:

And this one:

And then go get the book to read to your family or classroom or self....and then go change the world, one step, one gentle word and message at a time.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses

Many of my students have been read to before, but they don't seem to have read many of the books I bring in. So note to self: keep bringing in books! Tons of them, in fact! I am constantly checking out a spread of goodness from all sorts of amazing authors and illustrators, and one of my goals is to read tons and tons out loud this year. One new-to-most-of-them book was Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses.

Pete is the cool cat, always searching out some trouble or another, seeking to save the day for those around him. This book finds him using magic glasses to change characters' feelings from negative to positive. I know my students love the illustrations of Pete and his buddies. They noticed all sorts of details in the pictures, which is then simple for me to use as a mentor text into their writing in class. They also appreciated the humor of the basic storyline. Pete the Cat books always have some catchy phrase that is repeated throughout the books, and this one is indeed something my students enjoyed.

I look forward to searching out some of the older Pete the Cat books. I understand the storyline is even more engaging. I know for certain that I will bring in more Pete....we all need some magic sunglasses some days!