Monday, April 30, 2012

makes you think

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Cloudette is a very small cloud who looks high and low for a way to do something very big. 
On her journey, she discovers new friends, new adventures, and her own silver lining.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

"cheese - us - crust"

4th grader's diorama of Dead End in Norvelt.
Thanks Nat!
I just finished reading the 2012 Newbery Award winner, Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos... starring, Jack Gantos. This book is at once semi-autobiographical and "wildly fictional". It features obituaries, a lot of dead senior citizens, Hell's Angels, underage driving, shooting antique guns, war stories, history, rat poison, a whole lot of nose bleeds... and as the picture above illustrates - the destruction of a corn field.

Jack is an 11-year-old boy who is torn between wanting to do things and being a coward... his nose always gives his fears away.

Over the course of one summer in 1962, Jack learns that actions have consequences... and that history and the future are part of the same time line.

To listen to Jack Gantos reading chapter one of Dead End In Norvelt, click here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


So, I read this book that was good but... not great. It's called The Seventh Level by Jody Feldman.  
It's a book about  a seventh grader, Travis, who must solve seven puzzles in order to be accepted into a secret society at school. The cool part was that you got to solve the puzzles and brainteasers right along with Travis. The lame part was the cover of the book.

The Seventh Level lead me to another book, The Unknowns: A Math Mystery by Benedict Carey. 
Two seventh graders (Tom Jones and Lady Di) investigate the disappearance of their math tutor, Mrs. Clark. If you like maps, math, and math history you will love solving each clue along with Tom and Di.

So, to summarize...
If you like to do math, solve puzzles, have adventures, and save the day - these books are for you.

ps- you may need Sal Khan's help on a few of the math problems in The Unknowns ( Good Luck... and may the odds be ever in your favor (oh wait, that's a different book!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Lovers of books and reading have come together to put books in the hands of kids who need them most.

Taken from Reading is Fundamental's website
"Remember visiting Narnia, playing Jumanji, and eating Green Eggs anHam? Books can have an incredible effect on childrens lives, yet theres only one book forevery 300 kids living in underserved communities in the U.S. So weve brought togethesome of our most beloved literary characters to help make this film and rally Book Peoplfor the cause."   

Check out the NYTimes article on this campaign.

The campaign urges bibliophiles to take five steps: Sign a pledge on the microsite, share the commercials with friends and family, donate money to Reading Is Fundamental, volunteer for community literacy organizations and advocate for the principles of the organization.

Monday, April 16, 2012

favorite firsts

One of my daughter's friends just read Moby Dick. Which, upon saying the words Moby Dick made my brain immediately respond: "Call me Ishmael."

I live for a good first sentence. When I pick up a new book, I don't always judge it by its cover... I judge it by its first sentence.

Here are some of my all time favorites:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (obviously)

"Where's Papa going with that axe?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast. - E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. - R.J. Palacio, Wonder

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. - Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. - Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

All this happened, more or less. - Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

The circus arrives without warning. - Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus (which I love because the book ends as it began... oops, I've said too much already!)

Do you have any favorite first lines?

the greatest thief who ever lived

Today, a funny thing happened... one of my books was returned to me by the librarian at school... a twist of the usual. It was Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier.

It's a great story, if you haven't read it yet... of a ten year old blind boy who has been schooled in the art of thievery. 

The first sentence is: "Now, for those of you who know blind children, you are aware that they make the very best thieves."

There is adventure and sword fights and monsters and magic.

Professor Cake's Island

tough, confident Peg

The Vanished Kingdom
"Of course, the age of great thievery has long since passed; today there are few children thieves left, blind or otherwise. At one time, however, the world was simply thick with them. This is the story of the greatest thief who ever lived. His name, as you've probably guessed, is Peter Nimble."

I hope the librarian read this book, she would have loved it.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

time invested

Despite its massive 500+ pages, H finished the book Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke.

Phew... it was the longest book he has read. 
It's worn and "dog-eared" (which I had to explain means "affected by wear, damaged by long use") It looks just the way a good book should... well loved. 

What's the longest book you have read that was worth the journey?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

from zero to hero

H just finished the book, Big Nate Goes For Broke
He loved it and can't wait for me to read it. He has loved the whole Big Nate series... and I love anything that kindles his love of books. (Have I said 'love' enough?!)

In Big Nate Goes For Broke, Nate starts a new club at school - The Doodlers. They are a comic strip club, but they need to recruit some girls... let the mishaps begin!

Create your own Big Nate comics with this iPad app .

To read an excerpt or play games, go to Big Nate Books.

Friday, April 13, 2012


From the book 
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny - Detectives Extraordinaire!
by Mrs. Bunny, translated from Rabbit by Polly Horvath
illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Monday, April 9, 2012

one fish, two fish, red fish...

I just downloaded this book tonight... Bluefish by Pat Schmatz.
Here's what I can tell you, it's going to be a late night.

"Thirteen-year-old Travis has a secret: he can't read. But a shrewd teacher and a sassy girl are about to change everything in this witty and deeply moving novel."

Eighth-graders Travis (Bluefish) and Vida (Velveeta) are two unlikely friends, both hiding secrets.

Courage and kindness, redemption and forgiveness... and references to The Book Thief... are just a few of the reasons I am loving this book.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

OK. Thank you anyway.

We just read I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen.

It's a book that makes you say, 
"Wait... What just happened!? 
Go back, go back, go back... Read that again!"

Most of us make terrible liars.

celebrate our differences

Boy +Bot by Ame Dyckman, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Release date, April 10

Friday, April 6, 2012


Mo Willems has a new Pigeon book called The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? His books are fun to read and will have you laughing in no time. 

In this book, sharing can sometimes feel like such a complicated issue... at times sharing can feel one step away from injustice... to children and pigeons.

Have some fun with the book HERE

Check out this report on pigeons (a la Victoria) from Saint Mark's Square, Venice:

first day melancholy

A cool new graphic novel about fitting in.

Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks is the story of Maggie's first day of school. She is about to join her three brothers in high school after a lifetime of home-schooling. To make matters worse, her mother has left the family and her brothers have begun fighting. Understandably, Maggie is feeling nervous and unsettled. 

Have I mentioned there's a ghost too? This might make you think of Anya's Ghost... but the two are quite different.

It's a sweet story and a great graphic novel.

Check out the first few pages HERE.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

general betterment

The Popularity Papers 
by Amy Ignatow is a clever, cute, sweet book.
It's a colorful graphic novel, perfect for those heading off to middle school.

In trying to "crack the code to popularity", two best friends learn that when we make mistakes, we learn valuable lessons. Most importantly, it's better to do the things you love - with people you like - than it is to be popular.

*Amy Ignatow has just finished the fourth book in this series. Here is why I think she is so cool: Amy has been an illustrator, a teacher, a farmer, a florist, a short-order vegan cook, a dancing chicken, a wedding singer, a reporter, and a ghost-writer for personal ads. Phew... She lives with her husband Mark and their cat, Mathilda, whom they believe to be well-meaning despite all evidence to the contrary. (if you haven't guessed, she and I have held many of the same jobs and both have an awful cat)


Ernest Hemmingway's  "The Old Man and the Sea" 
in drawings...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

national poetry month

April is National Poetry Month. 

To celebrate, try Poem in your Pocket...

... the idea is simple: select a poem you love and carry it with you in your pocket. Share it with others. 

Here's mine:

The Journey
by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.