Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Challenge Continues...

My personal summer reading challenge is proving to be one of the best endeavors I have ever undertaken. About a month ago, I decided to read as many children's novels / chapter books as I could in an attempt to familiarize myself with literature that my students and my children might find interesting. As of today, I have finished my 13th book, and I still have a month remaining in my summer vacation. This journey has allowed me to meet some wonderful new characters and experience daring adventures in a world that only books can create. Here are some that I have recently completed...

1. Fish by Gregory Mone (ISBN# 9780545116329)Yo-ho, Yo-ho, a pirate's life for me!! This was a tale of daring, courage, and true adventure. It follows the life of a young boy named Fish who unwittingly becomes part of the crew of a pirate ship. Along the way, he discovers that friendship and loyalty are important qualities, even among a bunch of scallywags.

2. Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage by Kate Umansky (ISBN# 9780312660932, published by Square Fish). This book was recommended to me by my daughter, who chose it as part of her summer reading. It was truly a magical journey with some unexpected characters. I enjoyed reading this story immensely, and my daughter loved it, too. She is currently reading the sequel and gives us nightly recaps of Clover's adventures. I also love the resourcefulness and quick thinking of the title character. It is great that my girls can read about strong characters who are easy to relate to, like Clover!! We all loved it!!

3. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate Dicamillo (ISBN#9780763643676, published by Candlewick Press) This is that rare book that surprised me from the beginning. The journey I expected was completely different from the journey described in the story because I expected to love Edward from the get go. That was not the case at all. It wasn't until Edward's journey progressed that I began to feel compassion for him. At first, I was disappointed by this, but after reflection I realize that it was part of the genius of DiCamillo's story. Fair warning.. The story is sad in spots and involves the death of a beloved character. It was an emotionally wrought read, but well worth the tears.

4. Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass (ISBN #9780316058490, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) I am in love with Jeremy Fink and his quirky personality, and his search for the meaning of life is a quest you will love taking with him. The surprise twists at the end of the story were so clever, and illustrated the lengths parents will go through to help their children. The writing was vivid and the characters were truly remarkable. This might not be my first choice for a 4th grade read, especially because the subject of discovering life's meaning and origin may require a more mature perspective to fully appreciate. However, middle school students will love it. Fair warning.. The untimely death of Jeremy's father is central to the story, so be aware of this in case your young reader is extra sensitive to this content.

5. The Magic Half by Annie Barrows (ISBN #9781599903583, Published by Bloomsbury USA)
A great story about two girls who share a bedroom but live many years apart. With the help of some magical glasses, they travel through time and forge an unbreakable friendship and sisterhood. It is a story of courage and determination that is a great example for girls everywhere.

You might also want to check out these titles, too. Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff (fair warning-- this book dealt with a family coming to grips with the loss of a child/sibling--very sad in places). The Lemonade War by Jacqueline Davies is a story of sibling rivalry (and misunderstandings) in a war of lemonade stands.

I hope that my challenge inspires you to find a good book and read this summer! There is something out there for every reader!! Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More Great Summer Reading...

Summer is proving to be a great time to catch up on the amazing stories that I missed this past year. As I continue my "summer reading challenge", I am trying to challenge myself to read outside of my box and try stories that would not typically land on my personal reading list. The results have been surprising and fun. Here are some books I have especially enjoyed...

1. Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford (ISBN# 9780142416679, published by Penguin Group)
Love this book!! I am a softie for a good superhero (just ask my students), so this book was right up my ally. The main character is an unlikely superhero who finds himself in the right (or perhaps wrong) place at the right time. The story is filled with heart and very touching moments (I cried at the end). I think it would be loved by boys and girls alike.

2. National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society (N.E.R.D.S. Series #1) by Michael Buckley (ISBN# 9780810989856, published by Harry N. Abrahms, Inc)
This story was way outside my box of preferred reading, but it came recommended and I decided to give it a whirl. I'm glad I did. This was a fun read with some unexpected twists and turns that you would expect from a spy novel. As a teacher, I loved the underlying message of acceptance that was woven through the story. At face value, this seems like a perfect "guy read", but I feel sure anyone wouldmfindmit entertaining.

3. The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall (ISBN # 9780440420477 published by Random House Children's Books)
This felt like the classic summer book, probably because it was a tale of summer fun and adventure. I loved that as I read this story, I felt every possible emotion. Plus, just when I thought I might be disappointed by the ending, the story pulled through and left me feeling content. I really enjoyed this one, too!!

Not every book that I have read so far left me feeling as pleased as the books I have listed here. However, I recognize that all readers are different and you might really love these books. I certainly found endearing qualities in each of them, but they were not my favs... Ida B: . . . and Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, and (Possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan (I had a hard time liking Ida B, but I am a mom not a kid); and My Life As A Book by Janet Tashjian (my husband read this and he said I would've enjoyed it more if I was a boy).

I'm signing out for now, but I have a few more to share in my next post. I am starting a new book today!! I hope you find a story that captures your imagination this summer. If you have any suggestions for me please leave a comment!

Friday, July 6, 2012

My Summer Reading Challenge

I have a deep and abiding love for children's literature, especially picture books. It began when I started teaching and grew with the birth of my daughters. During my brief stint as a preschool teacher, I was the person who could match a book to any lesson, theme, or alphabet letter; and, I probably had the book sitting on the shelf in my classroom or at my house. However, when I accepted a position teaching 4th grade two years ago, I came to the realization that my so called expertise was limited to grades three and below. I was not familiar with the plethora of chapter books and novels that now lined my classroom shelf, and after two years I realized I would not become well-versed in these books through osmosis. So my challenge began.

I am reading chapter books and novels in the hopes that I can better advise and direct my students to quality literature during the coming school year. I have a few conditions for myself. First, I try to steer clear of series because I want to expose myself to many different authors and genres. Next, I want to focus on stories within the reading level of my current students. Therefore, I am chosing books that range from 3rd to 6th grade readability. Finally, I try to chose titles that I do not recognize but that were recommended for readers in this age range. I use state recommendations, like Florida's Sunshine State Reading List, to help guide my selections. After a bit of searching and research, I went to the bookstore and began my challenge. This summer, my posts will focus on the books I am reading and my reflections along the way. I will start with the first book I decided to read...

WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON, by Grace Lin (ISBN #9780316038638; published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers) Usually, you save the best for last. In this case it appears I reversed it. It is the story of a young girl who leaves home in an attempt to change her family's fortune, and her many adventures along the way. This book was so well written with unexpected twists and turns on every page. I love the way the author used Chinese legends to connect the events in the story in such an engaging manner. I laughed, cried, ached, and rejoiced with the characters in this story. It is one of the best books I have read and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to readers young and old. I am signing out for now, but I will be back soon with an update on my progress. I hope you are enjoying your summer. Grab a good book and get lost for a few minutes!!