Thursday, February 27, 2014

Of course she couldn't save the world. She was only eleven years old.

After reading the beginning to Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee, I thought, "I should give up all other genres and just read middle-grade fiction." 

Here's an abridged version of how it begins:
In the end the Queen was nothing like she was in the stories the Marvelous Boy had been told, first as a child beside the hearth and later by the wizards. There were no claws. No sharp teeth. She was young. Her pale hair dripped over her shoulders. She opened her blue eyes wide and smiled sweetly at the King.
"I do not like him, my darling," she said, not once raising her voice. "I do not like him one little bit."
"I should like him locked away," she said.
She really was very cruel.
The boy did not struggle as he was led to his room. He had struggled already. Three times since the wedding he had tried to run from the city, and three times he had been returned.
"You have failed in everything you have set out to do," she said when they were alone, just the Marvelous Boy and her. "I do not know why the wizards chose you, such a poor, sorry thing. Why did they think you could defeat me?" She did not pause for his answer. "And this charm that is bestowed on you so that I cannot harm you - it is nothing but an irritation. When the charm has worn off, I will run you through with my sword."
She said it very pleasantly, as though she were talking about marshmallows or afternoon tea.
"I will find the sword," the boy whispered. "And the one who will wield it." 

It's an awesome beginning.

You can read a preview of the book for free on amazon. You can also listen to a clip of the audiobook.

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, our heroine, loves science and is grieving the loss of her mother. She and her sister Alice move to a new city where their father takes a job in an unusual museum. On her very first day in the museum Ophelia discovers a boy locked away in a forgotten room.

Can Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy save the world?
"Of course she couldn't save the world. She was only eleven years old and rather small for her age, and also she had knock-knees. Dr. Singh told her mother she would probably grow out of them, especially if she wore medical shoes, but that wasn't the point. She had very bad asthma as well, made worse by cold weather and running and bad scares." 
Yet. Perhaps. Maybe.

I'll be giving away a copy of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy on Friday, March 7th. Leave a note in the comments to be included in the drawing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

book basket

Another Basket of Books… this one donated to the Longfellow Elementary School auction. I always love to come up with a collection. It's exciting to imagine who will "win" the books and what children will get to read them. This time I tried to find books that would appeal to a wide range of elementary school tastes, either to be read by kids or as read-alouds.

Here's what I came up with:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DeCamillo

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made by Stephan Pastis

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

Wonder by RJ Palacio

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

In addition, I attached my thoughts on the joy of reading. Of course, anchoring them with a quote from Donalyn Miller, the Book Whisperer herself.

Reading belongs to readers. If we want children to see reading as anything more than a school job, we must give them the chance to choose their own books and develop personal connections to reading, or they never will.
Readers have the right to read below their Lexile level and beyond their ATOS score.

“Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters – the saints and the sinners, real or imagined – reading shows you how to be a better human being.”
The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Cliché… a once lovely phrase now worn out from use.

I was following #tctela on twitter this weekend. It was the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts conference. Teri Lesesne (@ProfessorNana) was presenting, and though I was 1,500 miles away, I was hoping to learn from a distance.

I was following Donalyn Miller's tweets (@donalynbooks) of professor nana's slides when she tweeted:

Excited about Once, Twice, Thrice Told Tales. Writing advice for young writers.

So, of course I had to order Once, Twice, Thrice Told Tales by Catherine Lewis.

It is not exactly a writing manual, but Lewis tells the story of the three blind mice in the most creative and educational ways. It's amazingly clever and every middle school and high school needs to own this book. 

Once, Twice, Thrice Told Tales is a crafty, artful retelling of the familiar nursery rhyme. It ingeniously teaches readers about literary terms which are then defined in a brief “snip of the tale.”

The APPENDIX alone is worth the price of the book.

Some of my favorite parts were the retelling under STYLE:
Dickens Mouse… They were the best of mice, they were the worst of mice, they lived in a cage of despair, they lived in an age of wisdom, they had everything before them in the lab, they had nothing before them in the wild, they were all going to survive, they were all not going to - in short, their lives were so far like the present period of our own.
Homer Mouse… Sing to me of the mice, Muse, the mice of twists and turns driven time and again off course, once they had torched the Love Labs of Inc.
Hemingway Mouse… Three mice. Woman with knife. No tails.
The Snip of the Tale… It's not just the idea, but the author's way of putting it. Style begins on the level of the sentence, including things like vocabulary, imagery, word order, and length.

I also loved the bit on SENTENCE DIAGRAM. The Snip of the Tale declared: 
Depending on your optic, diagramming sentences is an old form of torture or a delightful way to play with language.

I have always found diagramming sentences delightful... #nerd.

It would be a wonderful idea for every Language Arts / English teacher to use pieces and parts of this book. Not only will students be learning something – they’ll also be laughing as they enjoy learning something.

Sunday, February 2, 2014