Friday, December 28, 2012

be open-minded, flexible, and creative

I was listening to Science Friday on NPR... and I learned about "One Minute Mysteries" by Eric and Natalie Yoder.

The books look fun and engaging. 

While searching One Minute Mysteries, I stumbled upon this cool website:  Check out the Case Files to view sample puzzles.

My favorite quote:
"When solving these puzzles, throw out all your assumptions about what is going on, and of course, be open-minded, flexible, and creative."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Dark

Lemony Snicket's 2013 picture book, 
The Dark, illustrated by Jon Klassen.

"Lasszlo is afraid of the dark.The dark lives in the same house as Laszlo. Mostly, though, the dark stays in the basement and doesn't come into Laszlo's room. But one night, it does.This is the story of how Laszlo stops being afraid of the dark."

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gloom Mansion... cue sinister music

Have you ever thought that your shadow might have a life of its own? I hadn't until I read Gustav Gloom and The People Taker by Adam-Troy Castro

Fernie What (yes, like the question) finds herself lost in the Gloom Mansion after her cat has been chased there by its own shadow. There she meets Gustav Gloom, a not quite boy, who the neighbors call "the unhappiest little boy in the world".

The Gloom house is unpredictable. There's a library full of books that have never been written. There is shadow food, and shadow furniture. Everything is dark and never ending and full of twisty-turny corridors.

And, of course, there is a villainous villain called The People Taker. He, frighteningly, works for someone even more evil.

This book has the makings of a super-creepy series.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

and glimmering incarnations

When we were at the Schoenbrunn Palace in Austria we saw a marionette performance. We saw Mozart's "The Magic Flute" which was maria Theresia's favorite. It was beautiful and enchanting...

...but the marionettes are kind of creepy... in that 'doll-that-might-murder-you-in-your-sleep' kind of way.

So imagine my excitement when I read about the book, Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz:
The master puppeteer, Gaspare Grisini, is so expert at manipulating his stringed puppets that they appear alive. Clara Wintermute, the only child of a wealthy doctor, is spellbound by Grisini’s act and invites him to entertain at her birthday party. Seeing his chance to make a fortune, Grisini accepts and makes a splendidly gaudy entrance with caravan, puppets, and his two orphaned assistants. 
Lizzie Rose and Parsefall are dazzled by the Wintermute home. Clara seems to have everything they lack — adoring parents, warmth, and plenty to eat. In fact, Clara’s life is shadowed by grief, guilt, and secrets. When Clara vanishes that night, suspicion of kidnapping falls upon the puppeteer and, by association, Lizzie Rose and Parsefall. 
As they seek to puzzle out Clara’s whereabouts, Lizzie and Parse uncover Grisini’s criminal past and wake up to his evil intentions. Fleeing London, they find themselves caught in a trap set by Grisini’s ancient rival, a witch with a deadly inheritance to shed before it’s too late. 
Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz’s Victorian gothic is a rich banquet of dark comedy, scorching magic, and the brilliant and bewitching storytelling that is her trademark

Three children in a foggy Dickens-like London, a magical puppeteer, and a dying witch set the stage for a beautifully written, horrifying and heart-warming story.

If you have a fondness for magic, morbid creepiness, and captivating writing... Splendors and Glooms is the book for you.

*spoiler alert...
Let me know if page 118 caught you as off guard as it caught me.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

indoors - outdoors - online - offline

Just when I was wondering what we'll do over the holiday breaks... look what arrived in the mail:

Unbored is the guide and activity book every modern kid needs. Vibrantly designed, lavishly illustrated, brilliantly walking the line between cool and constructive, it's crammed with activities that are not only fun and doable but also designed to get kids engaged with the wider world.

With contributions from a diverse crowd of experts, the book provides kids with information to round out their worldview and inspire them to learn more. From how-tos on using the library or writing your representative to a graphic history of video games, the book isn't shy about teaching. Yet the bulk of the 352-page mega-resource presents hands-on activities that further the mission in a fun way, featuring the best of the old as well as the best of the new: classic science experiments, crafts and upcycling, board game hacking, code-cracking, geocaching, skateboard repair, yarn bombing, stop-action movie-making-plus tons of sidebars and extras, including trivia, best-of lists, and Q&As with leading thinkers whose culture-changing ideas are made accessible to kids for the first time.

Just as kids begin to disappear into their screens, here is a book that encourages them to use those tech skills to be creative, try new things, and change the world. And it encourages parents to participate. Unbored is exciting to read, easy to use, and appealing to young and old, girl and boy. Parents will be comforted by its anti-perfectionist spirit and humor. Kids will just think it's awesome.

Contributors include: Mark Frauenfelder of MAKE magazine; Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man; Douglas Rushkoff, renowned media theorist; Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDGBLOG; John Edgar Park, a CG supervisor at DisneyToon Studios; and Jean Railla, founder of and Etsy consultant.
Make your passion part of your school work.

Do what you love.

This is an awesome guide for kids 8-13. They'll find ways to create things, spark their imaginations, and connect with their community. Check out more at 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

everything is ok

One day, I'll grow up to be really excellent at something.
I don't know what it is yet... 
but I sure am having fun figuring it out.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

the appalling silence

I just read a thoughtful story about bullying called BYSTANDER by James Preller.

Eric is the new kid in seventh grade. He meets Griffin who has good looks and charm. But underneath, pretty-boy Griffin has the dark side of a bully. Initially, Eric doesn't do anything when he realizes that Griffin is a bully. Eric is a bystander because stepping in would make Eric the next target.

Through it all, Eric didn't say a word. He was innocent, Eric reminded himself, he never participated in the pranks. He never lifted a finger to harm David Hallenback. He didn't think it was funny, so he usually walked away, pretending not to see. But Eric did see. Just like all the other kids in the halls. And he slowly began to recognize it for what it was.
Terrorism in jeans. It comes with a laugh and a loose-leaf binder. 

Kids can be cruel (adults too) and it doesn't always mean throwing punches.

Mr. Floyd began by reminding the class of the definition of bullying. He read from the screen,  "Bullying is whenever someone uses his or her power unfairly or repeatedly to hurt someone." 

Are you a Bystander? It's a great question for every tween. Dr. Martin Luther King called it 'the appalling silence'. He said, "In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Who are you? Why are you here?
What are you looking for?
Does this have anything to do with Lemony Snicket?


Lemony Snicket has a new book coming out: Who Could That Be At This Hour?
I just pre-ordered it & can't wait to read it.

Check out the awesome book promo HERE
Read the first chapter HERE

From Goodreads:
In a fading town, far from anyone he knew or trusted, a young Lemony Snicket began his apprenticeship in an organization nobody knows about. He started by asking questions that shouldn't have been on his mind. Now he has written an account that should not be published, in four volumes that shouldn't be read. This is the first volume.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Dav Pilkey (author of Captain Underpants) 
draws and talks about the Power of READING!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

strange things are happening...

Look what I just got:

From Goodreads:
Spending the summer at her grandmother's house is the last thing Sarah wants to do—especially now that Grandma Winnie has died—but she has no choice. Her parents have to fix the place up before they can sell it, and Sarah and her brother, Billy, have to help. But the tedious work turns into a thrilling mystery when Sarah discovers an unfinished letter her grandmother wrote: Strange things are happening behind the bookcase. . . . 
Sarah's mother dismisses the letter as one of Grandma Winnie's crazy stories, but Sarah does some investigating and makes a remarkable discovery: behind the bookcase is a doorway into Scotopia, the land where shadows come from. With a talking cat named Balthazat as her guide, Sarah begins an unforgettable adventure into a world filled with countless dangers. Who can she trust? And can she face her fears, not only in Scotopia, but also back at Grandma Winnie's house, where more secrets and strange goings-on await her?

Monday, October 15, 2012

it's teen read week

October 14 - 20 is Teen Read Week. It's a time to celebrate reading for fun... reading in all its wonderful forms: books, magazines, e-books, articles, on-line, etc.

Some of my top teen picks include:

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Every Day by David Levithan

Miss. Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children 
by Ransom Riggs

Divergent by Veronica Roth

The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A great book to read together with your teen this week is The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker.
“It still amazes me how little we really knew. . . . Maybe everything that happened to me and my family had nothing at all to do with the slowing. It’s possible, I guess. But I doubt it. I doubt it very much." ~The Age of Miracles 
Another great idea would be to share online articles or magazines on a subject your teen is passionate about. What cool things can you learn together this week?

Friday, October 12, 2012

May Betts

Caroline Starr Rose, the author of May B, is over on Mr. Schu's blog today. I absolutely love her!
Here's my favorite bit from Mr. Schu's interview:

Reading is…Henry Ward Beecher pretty much sums it up with this: A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counselor, a multitude of counselors.
I’ll add reading is a resting place, a new way to see the world, a chance to intentionally examine life, a familiar friend.

Check out the May B book trailer:

Sunday, October 7, 2012

the unknown still outweighs the known

After seeing this book on nearly every reading list, I finally finished The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. It's a debut novel in adult fiction... but I think a cross over into Teen and Young Adult Fiction is certain. It's the perfect book to read together with your teen.

The Age of Miracles is an unforgettable story about coming of age in absolutely extraordinary times... the Earth is slowing. It's about people getting on with life amid profound uncertainty... it's the ordinary mixed beautifully with the extraordinary consequences. 

It's a must read for anyone who loves science and life and love and grace.

Here are some of my favorite bits:
Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things.
And who knows how fast a second-guess can travel? Who has ever measured the exact speed of regret?
How much sweeter life would be if it all happened in reverse, if, after decades of disappointments, you finally arrived at an age when you had conceded nothing, when everything was possible.
And yet, the unknown still outweighed the known. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

today begins banned book week

Celebrate your freedom to read.
The top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2011
1) ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle – offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
2) The Colour of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa – nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
3) The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins – anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, occult/satanic, violence
4) My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler – nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
5) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie – offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
6) Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor – nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint
7) Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley – insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
8) What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones – nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
9) Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar – drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit
10) To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee – offensive language, racism

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Callie is cool.

I read Drama by Raina Telgemeier yesterday. It's modern and inspirational and a must read if you love theater... this leads to the title "Drama", which definitely has a double meaning here.

It's a great middle grade graphic novel. Wonderful and respectful with all of a relationships twists and turns.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

naughty john

I'm currently reading a very scary book: 
The Diviners by Libba Bray.

Just so you know, Ouija Boards freak me out... and that's how this book gets going. I was hooked by the first two chapters.

The characters are amazing; the setting is brilliant. There are supernatural powers and an evil, evil, evil killer on the loose. I love it.

The writing is beautiful and plays like a movie in my head. And speaking of movies... Paramount has already picked up the rights to The Diviners. This will be one very scary movie!

Read at your own risk (and probably only during the day... it's that scary!)

The Diviners is the first book in a four book series... that's a lot of terror.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

but I also know that life goes on

Can Henry rebuild his life after the worst-case bully scenario?
a poorly chosen book cover for a heartbreaking tale

I just read The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen by Susin Nielsen.

It takes only a moment for Henry's life to fall apart. In the wake of IT, Henry reluctantly begins to record his thoughts in a journal. The subject matter is terribly dark, but Susin Nielson's storytelling is heart warming and beautifully written.

I loved this book. It was brutal, and reminds us all that IT changes everything.

Monday, September 17, 2012

think for yourself

Banned Book Week
September 30 - October 6

Banned Book Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Celebrate the free and open access to information.

What will you be reading?

Sunday, September 16, 2012


I just finished Sharon Creech's newest book, 
The Great Unexpected.

It's a book about coincidences and unexpected connections. It's also about unexpected kindness and unexpected forgiveness. That's a lot of... unexpected.

Two story lines intermingle chapter by chapter, changing fonts to keep you organized. Naomi Dean and her talkative best friend Lizzie Scatterding live in the sad town of Blackbird Tree. Meanwhile, across the ocean in Ireland, a mystery unfolds.

It's an unusual, quirky story that includes a Dingle-Dangle Man, Unfortunate Souls, a winding bridge, and a couple of rooks (blackbirds).

Two quotes I loved….
"Did a delicate cobweb link us all, silky lines trailing through the air?"
"I had big thoughts to match the big wind. I wondered if we find the people we need when we need them. I wondered if we attract our future by some sort of invisible force, or if we are drawn to it by a similar force. I felt I was turning a corner and that change was afoot."

Sharon Creech reads the first chapter of The Great Unexpected:

Friday, September 14, 2012

the secret series

The Name of This Book is Secret by pseudonymous bosch is an awesome book. You've probably already read it, and if you haven't - you should.

In The Name of This Book is Secret, Cass and Max-Ernest discover The Symphony of Smells - a box filled with smelly vials of colorful ingredients. The Symphony of Smells reveals a mystery surrounding a dead magicians diary and the pursuit of immortality.

What made me remember The Name of This Book is Secret, The Symphony of Smells, and Synesthesia today?

This video:

Using one sense to interpret another is pretty cool... 
or even avant-guarde.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

nothing gold can stay

One of my favorite poems is 
Nothing Gold Can Stay by Robert Frost.

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

So, imagine my surprise when the book I'm reading, every day by David Levithan, gives a 'tip-of-the-hat' to Robert Frost:
"Wow. I mean, nothing gold can stay. How true is that?" She doesn't want to break the moment, doen't want to question what it means. And she's rewarded when he smiles and says, "I guess that means we'll have to be silver." When she leaves that night, he calls out, "So long, Silver!"

I loved every day.  I love the idea of every day a different body; every day a different life. 

Imagine... what are you aside from your body? Who are you without your body?

David Levithan writes:
Imagine yourself purely as a self, with no body. Who would you be? Would you really define yourself by the same standards by which you are now defined? What kind of person would you get to be if you didn't have to worry about gender or race or sexuality?

It's a captivating story, wonderfully written, inherently curious.

make the earth your companion

... walk lightly on it as other creatures do.

Friday, September 7, 2012


Being a kid isn't boring, but try explaining that to a potato.

I'm Bored by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by the amazing Debbie Ohi. Available in stores... yesterday.

Monday, September 3, 2012

a finer world

At school, V is studying civil rights and reading The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis. We had already read The Mighty Miss Malone by Curtis and loved it, so I'm sure 'The Watsons' will be just as informative and inspirational.

Historical fiction is a great way to experience a moment in history. The struggle for civil rights isn't something that happens to strangers, it's something that happens to families and children and people just like you and me. Inspired by Mr. Schu's Road Trip, we decided to read Glory Be.

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood (a super awesome name) is full of history. Glory is a twelve-year-old girl who lives in Hanging Moss, Mississippi during the summer of 1964 (also known as Freedom Summer). You'll be able to experience what it would have been like to be part of one important summer in American history. 

Could I have been as brave as Glory? I'm not sure.

We are heading to Washington DC next month to see the Martin Luther King Memorial. One of the quotes on the Inscription Wall is:
 "Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in." 
~ MLK Jr.  (18 April 1959, Washington, DC)

Sunday, August 26, 2012


I have never spoken one single word. 
I am almost eleven years old.

I'm surrounded by thousands of words. Maybe millions.

Cathedral. Mayonnaise. Pomegranate.
Mississippi. Neapolitan. Hippopotamus.
Silky. Terrifying. Iridescent.
Tickle. Sneeze. Wish. Worry.

Words have always swirled around me like snowflakes - each one delicate and different, each one melting untouched in my hands.

Melody Brooks has Spastic Quadriplegia, a severe type of Cerebral Palsy. She can't walk; she can't talk; she can't feed herself; she can barely move. But from Melody's perspective, in which the story is told, she is brilliant, poetic, and has a photographic memory. She is ... trapped in her own body. Imagine how frustrating that would be. Imagine life from that perspective.

Melody is brave and grateful and authentic. Just because her body is broken doesn't mean her mind is too. Her everyday challenges are things we often take for granted. Just imagine...

One line in the book:

There's so much my mother doesn't know.

I read it several times... so much my mother doesn't know. It makes you wonder... do you really ever know, or can you possibly ever really understand anyone else's experience in life? All you can do is imagine.

Update: I found this awesome quote:
"Quiet people have the loudest minds." 
- Stephen Hawking

Thursday, August 23, 2012

poor moe

Hound Dog True by Linda Urban... love.
Mattie Breen, Uncle Potluck, Quincy... I love them all.

Mattie is the kind of character that will remind you of children you know. She sticks with you. You want to encourage her and protect her at the same time. You want to tell her, "I see you. I get you. I know you." You want to do what Uncle Potluck seems to do perfectly, simply, naturally...

My favorite bits:
This is what Principal Bonnet says. She says, "You can't have brave without scared."
Quincy had a way of talking - flat and dull, like stones dropping plunk, plunk in a puddle. Matter-of-fact, Mama called it. Matter-of-fact. Relating to or adhering to facts. Literal. Straightforward or unemotional. What would it be like to be that way? To tell a story plunk, plunk, plunk, not caring what people think?
Mattie thinks about this. About tricks and understanding. Thinks, too, about how maybe even Stella didn't know the truth until she had to.
Eenie, Meenie, and Miney ... this is a heartwarming book! 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I just pre-ordered....

... Abe Lincoln's Dream. When two of my favorites come together (our 16th president and Lane Smith) magic is sure to happen.
Quincy, a schoolgirl, gets separated from her tour of the White House and finds herself in the Lincoln bedroom, she also discovers the ghost of the great man himself. Together they embark on a journey across the country to answer Lincoln’s questions and quiet his concerns about the nation.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

a story told through stuff

I just read Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick: 
Ginny Davis's Year in Stuff 
by Jennifer L. Holm

What a fun breath of fresh air! The story of eight grader Ginny Davis is told through photographs, post-it notes, grocery lists, homework assignments, IMs, and report cards. It feels like snooping through Ginny's personal effects. I loved the photo-collages that make up the life of a middle schooler.

Part scrapbook, part comic, part diary... entirely relatable.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

and the ridiculous dog

From the publisher: 
“Suppose there were 12-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, (respectively), John and Abigail Templeton. Let’s say John was pragmatic and played the drums, and Abigail was theoretical and solved cryptic crosswords. Now suppose their father was a brilliant, if sometimes confused, inventor. And suppose that another set of twins- adults- named Dean D. Dean and Dan D. Dean, kidnapped the Templeton Twins and their ridiculous dog in order to get their father to turn over one of his genius (sort of) inventions. Yes, I said kidnapped. Wouldn’t it be fun to read about that? Oh please. It would so. Luckily for you, this is just the first in a series perfect for boys and girls who are smart, clever, and funny (just like the twins) and enjoy reading adventurous stories (who doesn’t?!).”

You may think from the title of this book that John and Abigail Templeton (The Templeton Twins) are the main characters of this book... but think again. The sassy, sarcastic, snarky narrator steals the show.

This book is a FUN read. The story is clever and silly and wacky. The illustrations are creative and the end of chapter summary questions are hilarious.  
For example:
  • Why is it a good idea to call something that sinks a "sinker"? Write your answer in the form of a brief opera.
  • Mary has five oranges. She gives two of them to Tom. Tom then buys twice as many as Mary has left and gives half of them to her. Who Cares?
  • True or False (circle one): The Narrator is a wonderful person?  T   T
  • Essay Question: Write an essay on how clever you think you are. It should be at least 500,000 words and in French. Well, go ahead.
If you know a 10-year-old who is burnt out on reading serious stuff and taking serious tests... and wants to get back to the fun of it all, then The Templeton Twins Have an Idea is the book for you.

*After you read the book, check out this Video ... hmmmm, that's interesting!