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Showing posts from May, 2012

40-31 SLJ's Top Children's Novels

As always links take you to Betsy Bird's posts at Fuse8. 40.  Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli I don't get it. I just don't get it. Some books I find I don't like that lots of people do I can at least see why they like them. Not this one. Even reading Betsy's post and the others she quoted (all of whom I have heaps of respect for) I'm still left looking at this book with ??????????? 39. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick I love how this book plays with format and is next to  impossible to pin a label on. It is a true homage to art in all forms. 38. Frindle by Andrew Clements I think it is criminal this book wasn't given an award. The characters. The concept. The themes. The heart. And all brilliantly told in 105 pages (with illustrations from Brian Selznick) that a 2nd grader can read but that will have any age reader engrossed. I have reread it so many times and it never gets old. 37.  The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt Such a g

The Lions of Little Rock

The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine is a good strong MG historical fiction novel. A spot should be saved on shelves for it in libraries and upper elementary classrooms. If you have a young voracious reader in your life who enjoys historical fiction with a strong minded female protagonist then put this book in their hands. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Two girls separated by race form an unbreakable bond during the tumultuous integration of Little Rock schools in 1958 . Twelve-year-old Marlee doesn't have many friends until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is bold and brave, and always knows the right thing to say, especially to Sally, the resident mean girl. Liz even helps Marlee overcome her greatest fear - speaking, which Marlee never does outside her family. But then Liz is gone, replaced by the rumor that she was a Negro girl passing as white. But Marlee decides that doesn't matter. Liz is her best friend. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are w

Dandelion Fire

Featuring Bit, Age 8 (Can you believe it?????) Upon finishing our last read aloud , 100 Cupboards , Bit was anxious to begin its sequel, Dandelion Fire. The Story Dandelion Fire picks up where 100 Cupboards left off. The Willis family is recovering from their adventures with the cupboards and Henry is trying to make sense of all he learned about himself and what is coming in his future. Then an inexplicable encounter with a dandelion changes Henry for good and his connection with the cupboards isn't over. Nimiane, witch queen of Endor, wants his blood. There is a strange deranged wizard intent on making him his son. There are some grumpy Faeren intent on silencing Henry for good. And then there is his family who he has to find before it is too late. Bit's Thoughts I liked the book so much I don't know what to say. I like how Henrietta changed how she acted and started thinking about others more. I thought the plot was interesting because it switched back and fort

50-41 of Top Children's Novels

The next 10 books in the list are out today and this puts us in the Top 50. I have a feeling my thoughts on the books to come will be extreme one or way another. Though there are a couple today I could take or leave. As always I have linked to Betsy's posts at Fuse 8. 50. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry This is an excellent book in so  many ways. It is a book that introduces children to the concept of the Holocaust without throwing the full horror of it at them. The main themes of the story are friendship and family, both of which children identify with. Also, and this is key from a teacher's view, it is short enough to include as part of a history unit. 49. My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett Cute and fun. This is an excellent book for kids who are crossing over from early readers to chapter books. It has to be given to a child at exactly the right time. 48. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket I have a fondness for The Series of Unfortunate Events because

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek by Erin Dionne is a book I wanted to read because, I'm not going to lie, I was a band geek. Even after I quit band and wasn't in it anymore I was still a band geek. That's where all my friends were. It's like the mafia. Once you're in, death is the only way out. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Elsie Wyatt is a born French horn player, just like her father and her grandfather before her. In order to qualify for the prestigious summer music camp of her dreams, she must expand her musical horizons and join - gasp! - the marching band . There are no French horns in marching band (what the heck is a mellophone??), but there are some cute boys. And marching band is very different from orchestra: they march, they chant, they . . . cluck ? Elsie is not so sure she'll survive, but the new friends she's making and the actual fun she's having will force her to question her dad's expectations and her own musical prior

60-51 SLJ's Top Children's Novels

I am a day behind! Here are the next ten. Not as many of my favorites today, but still some excellent titles. As always all links lead to Fuse 8. 60.  Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtuis This is a wonderful book, historical fiction that is about the characters and not the time period. 59. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo I am not a huge fan of this one despite loving DiCamillo's books in general. It is beautiful writing, marvelous illustrations. The story? Not real sure what DiCamillo was trying for there. 58. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome Just not my thing at all. All that nature. 57. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken THIS is my thing. Orphans! Evil Guardians! Old house! England! I love it, delightfully creepy and just scary enough it is a delight for the imagination. 56. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett Not my favorite Burnett. Or even my favorite classic. Still the perfect book for little girls

Everybody Sees the Ants

Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King is a bizarre book. It is in fact one of those books I normally don't finish. Or if I do I'm annoyed that I did. Not this time. Nope. Despite the highly bizarre and inexplicable weirdness that sometimes doesn't make any sense I ate it up as if it were made of dark chocolate with flecks of hot peppers inside. I can't say I was completely satisfied at the end but the experience was delightfully strange. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Lucky Linderman didn’t ask for his life. He didn’t ask his grandfather not to come home from the Vietnam War. He didn’t ask for a father who never got over it. He didn’t ask for a mother who keeps pretending their dysfunctional family is fine. And he didn’t ask to be the target of Nader McMillan’s relentless bullying, which has finally gone too far. But Lucky has a secret—one that helps him wade through the daily mundane torture of his life. In his dreams, Lucky escapes to the war-ridden jungles of

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom

I love when authors take old fairy tales and spin them around in new and inventive ways. I was so very excited about The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy. Four disgruntled Princes Charming going out to make their names important. It is most excellent fun. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never head of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as "Prince Charming." But all of this is about to change... Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Guztav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other associated terrors to becom th

70-61 Children's Novels Poll

Here are the next 10 books in the SLJ Top 100 Children's Novels Poll. There are a couple of surprises in today's list. (At least it was surprising to me.) Again titles are linked to Betsy's posts at Fuse 8. 70. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech This is one that almost made my top 10 but ended up not. It was so close though. I love this book for its beautiful narrative, Sal's voice, and the themes. And all the other characters too. They become real people as you read. This book will make you cry, or at the very least tear up, but the end is full of such joy it makes it worth it. 69. The Ruins of Gorlan by John Gorlan SURPRISE #1! And really the bigger one. I have had the Ranger's Apprentice series on the TBR for quite some time but felt no big rush to read them. That is changing now. The premise is perfect for me so I have a feeling I will enjoy it. 68. The High King by Lloyd Alexander Another favorite. I love the Chronicles of Prydain. I love Taran and

Children's Festival of Reading

I can not tell you how thankful I am to live in a place where the library has such a prevalent role in the community. I sometimes complain about the slowness in the availability of some titles (particularly in the Teen section) but most of the time I know that for a city this size the library is phenomenal. The Children's Festival of Reading reminds me of this every year. It is our annual kick off to the summer reading program. There are several tents with events going on all day. Storytellers, musicians, authors. The zoo does a presentation. There is a quartet from our orchestra who comes and plays. And it is all free. My kids LOVE it. Here is a recap of some of the fun we had this year:  That is Bit and the Little Man looking at a tarantula. It eats birds. Shudder. One of the animals brought by the zoo. Like always the presentation was fresh and informative. A horrifying story about what a spider wasp would do to the tarantula was reshared by Bit at dinner. Because hear

80-71 Children's Novels Poll

Day Three of SLJ's Children's Novels Poll has a few newer titles, but most are again older titles. Again I have linked to Betsy's posts at Fuse 8. 80. The Four Story Mistake by Elizabeth Enright The only Enright book I have ever read is Gone Away Lake . I haven't read the  quartet of books that this is the second one of. They are sibling stories though so I probably should. 79. The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder I remember liking this book as a child, but haven't read it since. I tried to entice Bit to read it this past year as she was studying Ancient Egypt but she found it uninteresting and didn't finish it. (Unlike Eloise Jarvis McGraw's Egypt novels, The Golden Goblet , which she read herself, and Mara Daughter of the Nile, which I read to her. Those she couldn't get enough of and wanted more.) 78. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild There is a lot I like about this book. It is a sibling story. It is British. There are three very dif

Birthday Books

May is a busy month here in our house. In addition to all the end of school stuff and Mother's Day, we have three birthdays and a wedding anniversary to celebrate. Two of those birthdays, falling 8 days apart, belong to the children. I always like to do a post on the books they are getting for their birthdays. This year is a little bittersweet for me. I'm so excited about the people and readers my children are becoming, at the same time we are well and truly leaving the baby years behind. (Wait until next year when my little one will be preparing for Kindergarten. I may be a puddle.) Here is this  year's lists: The Boy (turning 4): Bit (turning 8):   The third birthday in May was my own. I also got a lot of books (thanks to gift cards received). My b'day books:   Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein The Shield Ring by Rosemary Su

90-81 of SLJ's Top Chapter Book Poll

No books in today's 10 that I haven't heard of. I am happy to say I have heard of every single one of them. Even if I haven't read them all. Again I have linked to Betsy Bird's descriptions of each book posted at Fuse 8. You should really click through and read them if you haven't yet. She does a fantastic job discussing each book. 90.  The Children of Green Knowe by L.M. Boston This is one I haven't read because I don't typically go in for these type of books. Since it has made the list twice now I suppose I need to go ahead and read it. Sigh. 89. The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary Not my favorite Cleary book but who can resist that cute little mouse on his motorcycle. I actually think this book works best as a read aloud for the 4-6 year old range because it hits right at their level of development. 88. The BFG by Roald Dahl This is actually tied with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as my favorite Dahl book. In fact I can do wi

Something Like Normal

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller is a book that intrigued me since I first heard of it. I liked the idea of a book that shows soldiers returning from war dealing with the aftermath. Then I read Trish Doller's post during Marchetta Madness and became even more interested. Synopsis (from Goodreads): When Travis returns home from a stint in Afghanistan, his parents are splitting up, his brother’s stolen his girlfriend and his car, and he’s haunted by nightmares of his best friend’s death. It’s not until Travis runs into Harper, a girl he’s had a rocky relationship with since middle school, that life actually starts looking up. And as he and Harper see more of each other, he begins to pick his way through the minefield of family problems and post-traumatic stress to the possibility of a life that might resemble normal again. Travis’s dry sense of humor, and incredible sense of honor, make him an irresistible and eminently lovable hero. I have to say that for the f

100-91 SLJ's Top Chapter Books Poll

Over at A Fuse 8 Production the new polls have started posting. I shared the picture books I voted for a couple weeks ago. I'm not going to share the chapter books I voted for until next month even though the results have started posting. Today revealed the first 10 of the Chapter Books. I have listed them and linked each to the post Betsy Bird did on it today. The links are followed by brief thoughts of my own. 100. Love That Dog by Sharon Creech I used this book in my poetry unit every year and the kids loved it. Without fail.  99. The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner  Always a crowd favorite. I was never really into these books and Bit outgrew them fast but it is definitely a must read for students who are venturing into chapter books.  98. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling I am in the camp that believes this is where the editing of the series started to go awry. Yet I still love it. I love the tournament, and the Yule Ball, and the da

The Cabinet of Earths

The Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet is one of those books that begs to be read. Just look at the cover. It is one of those fantasies that surprises in how grounded in reality it is. There are no journeys to other magical places to fight evil. There is plenty of evil to fight right here. Synopsis (from Goodreads): On their first day in Paris, Maya and her little brother, James, find themselves caught up in some very old magic. Houses with bronze salamanders for door handles, statues that look too much like Mayas own worried face, a man wearing sunglasses to hide his radiant purple eyes . . . nothing is what it seems. And what does all that magic want from Maya? With the help of a friendly boy named Valko, Maya discovers surprises hidden in her family trees brother. And now the shimmering glass Cabinet of Earths, at the heart of all these secrets, has chosen Maya to be its new Keeper.  As she untangles the ties between the Salamander House, the purple-eyed man, and the C

The Hunter's Moon

Faeries. Ireland. Quests. Sacrifice. All good stuff. All in O.R. Melling's The Hunter's Moon . Synopsis (from Goodreads): The Hunter's Moon , follows two cousins, Gwen and Findabhair, as they backpack around Ireland in search of the country's magical past. When she arrives in Ireland to visit her cousin Findabhair, American Gwen expects a fun backpacking trip to sites of the fairy lore they're both fascinated with. What neither cousin knows is that it's the summer of the Hunter's Moon, a dangerous time for mortals to meddle in the kingdom of Faerie. The girls camp out, and deep in the night Finn is kidnapped by the handsome Faerie king! In Gwen's quest to save her cousin, across beautifully evoked settings of modern-day and mystical Ireland, the spunky heroine's biggest challenge may be convincing Finn she needs to be saved! We know how much I dislike insta-love between beautiful people one of whom is magically powered in some way t


Who out there knew there was a race riot in Wilmington, NC in 1898? If you did not know this and you have never set foot in NC then that is understandable. I however lived in NC for 10 years and didn't know. I took a class on NC history in college and IT NEVER CAME UP. I want my money back. My husband was born and raised in NC and he didn't know either. Thankfully Barbara Writght wrote Crow so hopefully more people will be aware of this interesting event in the history of our country. It also has the bonus of being all around awesome. Synopsis (from Goodreads): The summer of 1898 is filled with ups and downs for 11-year-old Moses. He's growing apart from his best friend, his superstitious Boo-Nanny butts heads constantly with his pragmatic, educated father, and his mother is reeling from the discovery of a family secret. Yet there are good times, too. He's teaching his grandmother how to read. For the first time she's sharing stories about her life as a sl

Dark of the Moon

The myth of the labyrinth and the minotaur has always been a favorite of mine, which is why it is embarrassing to admit that I have never read The King Must Die by Mary Renault. It is, after all, supposed to be the quintessential novelization of Theseus. I think I have built my expectations of it so high I'm afraid to read it in case it doesn't live up. I did intend to read it before I  read Dark of the Moon by Tracy Barrett., but then I saw Dark of the Moon sitting so enticingly on the new arrival shelf at my library and I couldn't resist it. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Ariadne is destined to become a goddess of the moon. She leads a lonely life, filled with hours of rigorous training by stern priestesses. Her former friends no longer dare to look at her, much less speak to her. All that she has left are her mother and her beloved, misshapen brother Asterion, who must be held captive below the palace for his own safety. So when a ship arrives one spring day,

Favorite Picture Books

I became a regular follower of Betsy Bird's SLJ blog A Fuse 8 Production back when she did the original 100 picture books and chapter books polls. I was pretty excited when she decided to redo them because it meant I would be able to submit my own choices this time. Little did I know how hard it would be. Not so much the first five or so, but those last few were next to impossible. There are simply too many wonderful books. The picture book poll was a little easier for me because I don't have as vast an experience with picture books. The only factor in determining what went on my list was the love I have for the books. I'm really interested in seeing which ones make the final Top 100 when the new results start posting. In the meantime here are my choices:  This not the order I listed them in for the official poll. Anyone want to guess which got the top spot? What is your favorite picture book of all time? For more of my (and my children's) favorit


Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby is a book I have had my eye on for a while. It is excellent historical fiction full of mystery, treachery, and deceit with Vikings and berserkers. I love when books are set in different times and places we don't have an overabundance of books about. So much the better when they are as well written as this one. Synopsis (from Goodreads): Trapped in a hidden fortress tucked between towering mountains and a frozen sea, Solveig, along with her brother the crown prince, their older sister, and an army of restless warriors, anxiously awaits news of her father's victory at battle. But as winter stretches on, and the unending ice refuses to break, terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst. A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another. Those charged with protecting the king's children are all sus