Monday, April 28, 2014

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George is a wonderful story that will appeal to readers who enjoy a fast paced adventure full of magic.

The Castle Glower finds itself bored on most Tuesdays and when the castle is bored it creates a new room, a new turret, a new staircase or it may get rid of a room.  You just never know what will happen on any given Tuesday.  Thankfully, Princess Celie creates maps that show any changes that are made to the castle.  She is the only one in her family that marks the changes made each week.  This is very helpful when word reaches the castle that Celie's oldest brother and her parents have been ambushed and are feared dead.  It is up to Castle Glower and the rest of the family to save their Kingdom.  It is a good thing that Celie knows of all the castle's rooms and just where to go to find what she needs to face a variety of enemies.  Many other kingdoms send their princes to take over the castle and Celie family's kingdom.  During one battle, the seams of the enemies clothes magically come apart causing the clothes to fall off.  This makes not only the reader laugh, but also all those in the battle.  When Princes come to stay at the castle, their rooms become smaller and smaller -- an indication that the castle does not like them.  With the help of her siblings and the Castle Glower, Celie is able to save the day and looks forward to another Tuesday with more changes to her lovely home, Castle Glower.

Do you think you could defend your home?  Is there a room that was in the castle that you would like to have in your own home?  Be sure to talk about this book with your friends and family.  I know you will love it as much as I did and will want your friends to read it too.

Happy Daily Reading

Sunday, April 27, 2014

I Survived - Hurricane Katrina, 2005 by Lauren Tarshis

This is just one of a series of books written by Lauren Tarshis.  These books are very popular in my elementary school library. Not one of the titles stays on the shelf for long.  I decided I needed to read at least one to understand their popularity.

In I Survived:  Hurricane Katrina, 2005 we meet Barry Tucker and his family.  Barry lives with his parents and younger sister, Cleo, in the lower ninth ward in New Orleans Louisiana.  They live in a home that has been in the Tucker family for several generations.  Barry remembers stories that his grandfather shared about storms hitting the town of New Orleans and how the levees were built to help keep the town from flooding when future storms hit.  When the news tells the people of New Orleans to leave because of hurricane Katrina, which will hit land soon, the Tucker family begin to drive to Texas to stay with family.  There are so many cars on the roads that they do not get far from home when Cleo becomes sick.  She has a fever and they decide to head back home.  Early the next day, their home begins to fill with water.  They find safety for a short while in their attic.  Barry is the only one who can calm Cleo down as they are together in the dark attic.  They hear the water rising in their home and soon the four of them are huddled together on the roof.  Barry is knocked off the roof and is swept away in the flood waters.  He grabs a tree, climbing to the top for safety.  He then jumps into a house that is floating by.  In that house, he finds a dog chained to a bed.  Barry unties the dog and looks for a safe place for them both.  Barry finds the roof of another home where he and the dog stay for a night.  He is rescued the next day and is reunited with his family on the St. Claude Avenue Bridge.

Many families were not as lucky as Barry's and many pets were abandoned.  The last few pages tell what happened to the people and animals of New Orleans during and after the hurricane.  Many facts are shared about natural disasters in the United States and how we can learn from hurricane Katrina to be better prepared for future storms.

After reading this story, I would recommend you spend time as a family creating a plan for what you would do in case of a natural disaster, home fire or other emergency.

Happy Daily Reading

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears by Cynthia Rylant

Cynthia Rylant is an author of books for those that are just beginning chapter books.  She has a few series that are perfect for those that are ready for longer texts.  Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears is one of my favorites.  Just reading the title makes me smile.

Mr. Putter and his cat, Tabby, live happily together.  It was time to pick the pears from the pear tree so Mr. Putter could enjoy some pear jelly.  However, this year it is hard for him to climb the ladder to reach the pears.  He thinks and thinks of how he can get the pears off the tree and into jelly jars.  He remembers playing with a sling shot as a child so he decides to make a sligng shot to help him get the pears off the tree.  His apples have fallen off of their tree so he picks up an apple to sling at the pears.  His aim isn't very good.  The apples miss the tree and go over the roof of his house.  Mr. Putter is having so much fun slinging apples that he slings all the apples that were on the ground and he never hits any pears off the tree.  The next morning, Tabby and Mr. Putter are pleasantly surprised to see their neighbor at the front door.  She has brought apple turnovers, apple pies and apple jelly.  She told them of how she found apples in her front yard.  She did not know how they got there.  Quickly, she decided to make the free apples into treats.  Mr. Putter decides it will be better just to wait for his pears to fall off his tree.  Then he will get out his sling shot once again and see what happens next.

Life sometimes gives you twists and turns.  Go pick some fruit and make a treat to share with a friend.  You never know what might happen next.  After enjoying your treats you might want to check out other books written by Cynthia Rylant.

Happy Daily Reading

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ever After High (series) by Shannon Hale

This is a photo of my beautiful friend Sophia.  We are both fans of the new series by Shannon Hale -- Ever After High.  The first in the series The Storybook of Legends is what Sophia is showing you.  This photo was taken right after she finished reading it.   She just had to share her joy with me!  Friends like Sophia are such a blessing in my life.

In book one we meet Raven Queen, the daughter of the Evil Queen and Apple White, the daughter of Snow White.  These are two unlikely friends, since their story is that of the Evil Queen cursing Snow White so she will not get her "happily ever after."  Ever After High is where all the children of classic fairy tales attend high school.  Many things go on at this high school that happens in every high school, but some things are different.  For instance, they use mirrors as their instead of "texting" they have "hexing".  The children are tied to the stories of their parents and most are happy about that.  Raven is not. She does not want to be evil, she wants her own "happily ever after".  Raven wants to be able to make her own choices.  So, on the day each student pledges (signs the book of legends) to live the story that their parents lived, she does not sign the book.

This is where book two begins.  In The Unfairest of them All, because Raven did not sign the book of legends, the school is now divided.  The royals (those who want to live their parent's stories) are battling the rebels (those that do not want to live their parent's stories).  The royals have always had happy endings and they want that to continue.  The rebels are mostly the evil people in stories and do not have happy endings to their stories, they feel they should have a chance at obtaining a happy ending of their own.  As both sides argue and fight, a major food fight occurs which really gets principal Grimm angry.  Maddie, who is a mutual friend of Raven and Apple, finds herself in big trouble.  Maddie is the Madd Hatter's daughter.  She already feels out of place since she is not in Wonderland and now she is accused of letting the Jabberwocky loose.  Maddie will not only be expelled from Ever After High, she will be sent to Neverland.  Raven's mother is imprisoned inside a mirror but Raven finds a way to contact her in order to find a spell that can help Raven and Apple save Maddie.  Raven's mother sends the two friends off on a scavenger hunt, filled with riddles and danger.  As the girls work on solving the riddles and obtaining all the necessary items for the spell, they find strengths they did not realize they had.  Most importantly they learn that together than can accomplish more than they could individually.

I highly recommend this series of books.  Shannon Hale continues to be one of my favorite authors.

After reading these books take some time and read some of the classic Grimm tales.  Think of some ways you might change the stories so that everyone can have a happily ever after!

Happy Daily Reading

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton

Author Virginia Lee Burton wrote one of my favorite childhood books, The Little House.   I remember reading this book many times as a child and I had no idea that it was an "old" book back then.  The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton won the Caldecott Medal in 1943, years before I was even born.  And I believe that many more generations have loved and can in the future love this story.

What I enjoyed most about this book is the cute little house and the happiness she has when she lives in the country with a family living there taking care of her.  The man who built her was sure she would never be sold and that his great-great grandchildren would love her too.  She watched the countryside around her change as day followed day, season followed season, year after year.  At night she would watch the moon and stars.  Sometimes she would see the lights from the city and she wondered what it would be like in the city.  As the years passed by, she began to see more houses and horseless carriages where the green grass and the apple trees used to be.  There began to be more roads and more buildings crowding around the little house.  Nobody wanted to live in her or take care of her any longer.  At night, she could no longer see the moon or stars, but she did see the city lights.  She had learned what the city was like and she didn't like it.  For many years she was ignored and neglected as the world continued to crowd around her.  One day, a great-great granddaughter saw the little house and knew it was the home of her grandparents.  The girl decided she wanted the house moved the house back to the country.  Once again, the little house was happy.  She was well taken care of and she never wanted to return to the city.

After reading this story talk about how you take care of your home.  Do you think your house is as happy as The Little House?  Do you think houses long to be somewhere else?

Happy Daily Reading

Monday, April 14, 2014

Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

Magic Marks the Spot is the first book of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series by Caroline Carlson.  I really like pirates, so how could I pass up reading about a girl who wants to be a pirate?

This story begins with an acceptance letter to Hilary Westfield from The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates (VNHLP).  However, when the VNHLP find out that Hilary is a girl, the acceptance is quickly taken away.  There are no girls allowed in the VNHLP, especially high society girls.  She is the daughter of Admiral Westfield of the Royal Navy and her parents desire her to attend Miss Pimm's Finishing School of Delicate Ladies and would think it very horrible for their fine daughter to become a pirate.  Hilary's only friend is the gargoyle who sits above her bedroom door.   If Hilary is leaving for Miss Pimm's, she and the gargoyle decide that he is going with her.  While at Miss Pimm's, Hilary runs away to join the pirates.  No matter what the teachers or her parents say, she is destined to be a pirate!  Pirates are being blamed for the disappearance of items from Hilary's home and others in her neighborhood.  She is sure it isn't the pirates and she is going to prove it.  This is a fast paced book with many twists and turns.   Hilary finds that the true treasure is magic, but the magic might not be found where she thinks it is being hid.  What will Hilary and the gargoyle do?

I believe that books provide magic in our hearts and minds.  I hope after you read this book you find that there is magic in being with those that you love and that love you.

Happy Daily Reading

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

WOW!  What a great book written by R.J. Palacio.  Wonder is a not-to-be-missed book.  It is a story that will stay with you forever. What makes this story so interesting is that each part is told from a different character's point of view.  It made for great reading to actually see the same situations from a variety of viewpoints.

August Pullman (Auggie) is a ten year old boy who feels ordinary but he is anything but ordinary.  He was born with extreme facial abnormalities and wasn't expected to live for very long.  Because so many children would run away when they saw him, Auggie was home schooled until the fifth grade.  It was the beginning of fifth grade when his parents decided to enroll him in a private school that life really began to change for Auggie.  Before school began, Auggie was able to meet with a few of the students and meet his teacher, Mr. Browne.  Auggie isn't sure about attending school.  His sister gives him advice and encourages Auggie to be a part of the community as well as the school.  Auggie makes a few friends, endures some bullying, and teaches everyone to accept others and themselves.  With all the ups and downs that school offers, Auggie isn't always happy to be there.  But in the end, his participation in school benefits his entire class and his family.

Mr. Browne shares a precept with his class each month.  They learn about it at the first of the month.  At the end of the month, the students write an essay about what they have learned.  A precept, as explained by Mr. Browne, is a rule about really important things.  The September precept is from Dr. Wayne W. Dyer "When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."  I believe this was the theme of the entire book -- be kind because it is the right thing to do.  August creates his own precept "Everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their life because we all overcommit the world".

After reading this book create, I think it would be fun to create some precepts of your own.  I also encourage you that as you go out into the world, take time to do something good each day.

Happy Daily Reading

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

I read this book in September of 2012 after meeting the author Lisa McMann at a local bookstore.  Once I read The Unwanteds, it quickly became my new favorite fantasy book.

Alexander and Aaron Stowe are twins who live in the land of Quill.  At the age of 13 the children of Quill are marked as Wanted or Necessary.   Any children that remain after the marking become the Unwanted and are purged from Quill.  Aaron becomes a Wanted but Alexander is purged, sent to what he believes will be his death.  Will the twins ever see each other again?

Alexander and the other Unwanteds board a bus and say goodbye to the life they have always known and head into the unknown. As they exit the bus they have no idea that they are headed to a new land, Artime.  Mr. Today is the leader of the land of Artime and he is unlike anyone Alexander has ever known.  Mr. Today is more like Alexander so he forms a strong friendship with him.  Artime is home to the Unwanteds; those that are free thinkers, those that are artists, and those that are capable of magic.  They learn how to use magic for good while in Artime.  Using some everyday objects in magical ways is just one aspect of the story that kept my interest.  Soon Quill and Artime collide and a war begins.  Who will win?  Will Alexander and Aaron fight together or against each other?  This is just the first in a series of books that are all just as thrilling as the first book.

When you finish reading this book, and the others in the series, use your imagination to find new ways to use everyday objects in your life.

Happy Daily Reading
Lisa McMann and me at the release of the second book in the Unwanteds series

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Wild Wings by Gill Lewis

 Most books I read just because they appeal to me.  Wild Wings by Gill Lewis is a CA Young Reader nominee for the 2014-15 school year.  I was not sure what to expect from this book as I had never heard of it before.  After reading this book, however, I have a new hero in my life.   His name is Callum.  I am confident that when you finish reading this book, Callum will be your hero as well.

Wild Wings takes place on Callum's family farm in Scotland.  It is there that his friend, Iona, finds a wild male osprey preparing a nest for mating.  Callum and Iona see another wild osprey female (that they name Iris) that finds the male, along with the nest.  Iona and Callum keep this a secret and watch the nest each day, witnessing the birth of a new baby osprey in the process.  Nearby Callum's farm is an osprey reserve.  A worker at the osprey reserve sees Iris flying one day.  He puts a transmitter on Iris so they can keep track of her when she migrates to Africa.  Callum enjoys watching the migration on his computer, looking at all the countries Iris flies over to get to Africa.  One day the signal is lost.  How can Callum help her from so many miles away?  He makes contact via email with Jeneba, a girl in a hospital in Africa.  Callum forms a friendship as the two work together to help Iris.  Over time Callum helps Jeneba too.

After reading this book you may want to find out more about osprey. Wild Wings lists a variety of websites you can search.  Perhaps you can find an animal that is migrating and follow its path.

Happy Daily Reading

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois

Every summer I try to take the time to read an old Newbery Medal winner.  This past summer I read The 21 Balloons by William Pene du Bois this book won the Newbery in 1948 and I believe it deserved to win!  Once I began reading I could not put it down.

This is a great story about Professor William Sherman's adventure of flying across the Pacific Ocean.  However it does not quite work out as he planned.  He leaves San Francisco (August 15, 1883) in a balloon and he is picked up three weeks later in the Atlantic Ocean holding onto a raft that has evidence of 21 balloons?! How did this happen?  Once rescued, he travels by train from the east coast to the west coast and has a grand welcoming upon his return to San Francisco.  This is where he finally tells his story.  About his landing on an island and the people he encounters there. The community of people on Krakatoa are unique and interesting.  Some of their homes are unlike anything you have seen or heard about before.  I am sure you will never forget these people, once you read this story.  Professor Sherman's time on a this very special island, Krakatoa, is amazing you just may want to visit it yourself.

After reading this story you might want to find out more about hot air balloons.  Perhaps find a place nearby where you can ride in a hot air balloon and have your own adventure.

Happy Daily Reading

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Out Of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

This book is a MUST read for everyone over the age of 10.  Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper is a story that will stay in your heart forever, and most likely change you for the better.

Melody has a photographic memory she remembers everything she sees and hears.  She sometimes wishes she had a delete button on her wheelchair so that she could forget some of the things she knows.  Melody was born with cerebral palsy and is unable to communicate.  This is her biggest frustration she knows a lot but, she cannot communicate with others.  She does not mind the wheelchair, other than the color, which is pink!  When she was five and it was time to start school she was unable to show the teachers how much she knew because she could not write or move her arms to do what was asked.  So, her school life is in the special education class where she hears the same things day after day.  She is able to get a new wheelchair that enables her to move around better but she still cannot communicate.  This changes, in the fifth grade, when she is given a computer that enables her to "talk" and once she begins to communicate there is no stopping her. Teachers quickly learn how smart she is and soon she is on the school academic team.  Because of Melody the team makes it to the final competition.  However, the other students on the team, although they love winning, are embarrassed by Melody's looks and her wheelchair.  This is where we see the true feelings of the other students, are they really Melody's friends?

Out of my Mind is a great story about friendship and acceptance of others.  Melody is one special girl and someone I'm glad I got to know through this story.

After reading this book think about ways you can be a better friend to others.

Happy Daily Reading

Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery by David A. Alder

David A. Alder is the author of the Cam Jansen series of books.  Cam is a nickname for Jennifer Jansen, she has a photographic memory.  Cam is short for "the camera" which was her original nickname.  Cam uses her gift to solve a number of mysteries.

In the book Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery Cam and her friend Eric are selling chocolate fudge bars and rice cakes to raise money for the city's Ride and Read program.  This is a program that takes homebound elderly to the library.  Something seems a bit strange to Cam at one of the houses when she sees a lady wearing a raincoat and sunglasses leaving with a trash bag and placing the trash bag into the trashcan of a different house.  Cam wants to know what is in the trash bag so she digs it out and sees a variety of food containers.  Cam and Eric notice newspapers in front of the house that are the exact same, why have more than one copy of a newspaper in your driveway??  Cam takes Eric to the back of the house and there they see a box of groceries, the same food items that were just thrown into the trash, something is not right!

Play a game with your family, have a person look around the room then have them close their eyes and see how much they can remember about the room.  Go to different places in the house and have a different person close their eyes and see who can remember the most.  Also, enjoy some chocolate fudge!

Happy Daily Reading

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Press Here by Henre Tullet

Press Here by Henre Tullet might not look like much of a book but children love it.  I found this story much more fun when read aloud.  Press Here will be a book I read to new students each school year.

Listeners to this story are told what to do and when the page is turned they discover that what they did created differences on the next page.  For instance "rub here" changes the color of the dot.  Look out when the listener begins to "clap" you won't believe what happens!

After reading this book you can talk about primary colors and what happens when you mix them.  You can have a fun time giving commands and coming up with new outcomes with your directions.  Share your experiences in the comment section of this review.

Happy Daily Reading

The Pigeon Needs A Bath! by Mo Willems

 It is here!  The newest book in the Pigeon series by Mo Willems.  The Pigeon Needs A Bath! is just as good as the rest of the Pigeon books.  I had to get my copy the day it arrived at the bookstore because the Pigeon is my favorite picture book character.

The Pigeon Needs A Bath! is a book that needs to be read aloud.  The listeners get involved with the story which is what makes these books so much fun.  All of my classes, kindergarten through sixth grade, have enjoyed hearing The Pigeon Needs A Bath! this week.

The Pigeon is a character to which children of all ages can relate.  He wants to do things that he cannot do.  He wants things he cannot have.  In this new book, he has to do something he does not want to do.  At some point in all of our lives we did not like to take baths and we certainly tried some of the tactics used by the Pigeon to get our way.  Children always laugh when the Pigeon throws a tantrum because they see that the tantrum strategy does not always work.  

After reading this book, take some time to talk to your child about what the Pigeon learned in the book.   Be creative and make up your own story with the Pigeon as the main character, talk about what will happen next in his life.  The Pigeon series is treasured by me and my family and I hope your family will treasure the series as well.

Happy Daily Reading

Beyonders - A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull

If you are a fan of fantasy books A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull is a book you must read.  This is the first book of the Beyonders Trilogy and you will want to read the entire series.

Brandon Mull pulls the reader immediately into this amazing story.  Imagine being swallowed by a hippopotamus or chasing a butterfly and then finding yourself in a new world, unlike anyplace you've seen before.  This is how the main characters (Jason and Rachel) arrive in Lyrian.  Brandon Mull writes so well, you feel like you are in Lyrian too.  Jason meets a blind king and finds a book with an eyeball on the cover, after reading just one page of the book Jason is compelled to go on a quest to overtake the evil emperor, Maldor.  In order to overtake the emperor Jason and Rachel, need to find the syllables of the word that will end the life of Maldor.  Each syllable is being protected and many obstacles have to be overcome in order to obtain each syllable.  Many have tried but nobody has succeeded, will Jason and Rachel be the heroes that Lyrian so desperately needs?  Jason is not sure he can be a hero until he learns that "a hero sacrifices for the greater good.  A hero is true to his or her conscience. . . Heroes do the right thing regardless of the consequences."  This is what we see Jason and Rachel do during each of their quests to obtain the syllables of the word.  As they travel through Lyrian searching for the syllables they meet all kinds of interesting people.  The most interesting to me is the displacer, Ferrin.  Ferrin can take himself apart and then put himself back together.  Displacers are usually spies for the governor but they find a friend in Ferrrin, well they think he is a friend.  Jason also visits a land where the people just eat and play all day long.  A place nobody ever leaves, until Jason.  Read this book and you will cheer when you see that Jason and Rachel are indeed the heroes Lyrian needs.

After reading this story you will be busy reading book 2 in the series Seeds of Rebellion.  However, take sometime to imagine some different types of people and lands that may be fun and/or dangerous to visit.

Happy Daily Reading

Biscuit Finds a Friend by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

Who doesn't like puppies?  I'm not really a pet person, but I do think puppies are cute.  The Biscuit series by Alyssa Satin Capucilli is a wonderful series for children who are beginning to read on their own.  I love all of the books in this series but I especially enjoy Biscuit finds a friend.  I believe that friends are important to us all and friends come in all shapes and sizes.  You will be surprised to see who is Biscuit's new friend and I am sure your child will giggle at the fun they have together.

After reading this book, take some time to play with some old and new friends.

Happy Daily Reading