Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Inside Out & Back Again

Ha's story begins in Vietnam at her family's home. Through short free verse poems she tells of her family's rich traditions and the quiet times she enjoys with them. Yet, despite the peace and happiness Ha describes, the Vietnam War is raging in the background. Families are being torn apart, separated into North and South by the Communists. Ha's father is lost in the separation and the family hopes for his return every day.
As the war begins to move closer and closer to the family home, they must decide whether or not they will stay in Vietnam. They quickly decide to board a boat with the hopes of starting over in another country. After several excruciating days at sea in a crowded boat, the family arrives in America. There they wait for a sponsor family. The sponsor family brings them to Alabama, where the majority of Ha's story takes place. She must learn English, attend a new school, and adapt to the lifestyle that the family now has. Through the support of her family and a few close friends, Ha overcomes the grief of leaving Vietnam and overcomes several obstacles as she adjusts to her new home.
Inside Out & Back Again is based on the real life experiences of the author, Thanhha Lai. It is rich with imagery and provides opportunities to discuss empathy, friendship, and diversity. A book truly worthy of the 2011 National Book Award.

Read More

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yikes! It's been a while!!

It's hard to believe time has flown by so quickly since my last post. January has gone by in a blur. The last few months have been full of fantastic books. I'm just sorry I haven't been able to post about them. Here's a quickie run-down.
My summer teacher award project with our school media specialist was a hit. Together we reviewed over 50 titles and presented detailed "book hook" cards to support teachers as they match their students to books of appropriate levels and content. It felt good knowing that we were helping our colleagues help spread a love of reading.
In early January I treated myself to the "Chronicles of Harris Burdick" and "The Unwanteds". "The Unwanteds" was a recommendation from a college friend through facebook. What a hit! It's just like she said, Harry Potter meeting The Hunger Games. Magic, death, friendship, betrayal, good versus evil. I loved it! We now have two
copies in our classroom and it is quickly making it's rounds through partners.
Fast forward to the end of January. The school reading incentive is in full swing and this year, teachers get to par
ticipate too! I signed up to read 5 books by mid-March. Not an easy task this time of year. Luckily the latest selection of Newbery contenders was released by Booksource and Scholastic. It wasn't hard to stock up on some great new titles. First up is "Breadcrumbs" by Anne Ursu. The language in this book is enchanting. The plot is complex and the vocabulary complex, possibly too hard for my 5th graders. Yet, I can't put it down. I'm glued to it and as a result, I'll have all 300-something pages read by this evening. I started it after breakfast. Next up, "Wonderstruck," by Brian Selznick. I'm not sure it will be able to stand up to it's brother, "Hugo Cabret" but only time will tell. Perhaps it will win the Caldecott? Or will it be the Newbery?
Books on deck: "A Dog's Way Home" by Pyron, "Lunch-Box Dream" by Tony Abbott, "Inside Out & Back Again" by Lai, and "Witch & Wizard" by James Patterson. (Please note, "Witch and Wizard" was recommended by a student and to my knowledge, is not a possible Newbery contender at this time!)

Happy Reading!!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summer Reading ... How I'll Miss You

This summer was full of awesome books! I thoroughly enjoyed many great titles. Among my favorites were:
~Mockingbird by Katherine Erskine
~True, sort of.. by Katherine Hanigan
~Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix
~Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn
~Edgar Allan's Official Crime Fighting Notebook by Mary Amato
~Amalee by Dar Williams
~ The Fabled Fifth Graders of Aesop Elementary by Candace Fleming
~The Strange Case of the Origami Yoda by Tom Angelberger
~Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
~ The Grimm Legacy by Peggy Shulman
~ Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford

For my teacher friends at school, your BookHook Cards with detailed write-ups are coming soon!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Katherine Hannigan, author of one of my latest favorite books comments on the teachers in her stories during an interview on amazon.com:
I write about great teachers like Ms. Washington (in Ida B) and Lionel Terwilliger (in True) because I know how important teachers are. On any weekday, many children will spend more time with their teacher than with their parents. And so much learning is happening in school—not just cognitive or motor stuff, but social and ethical stuff, too. When a teacher’s really good, kids are learning things like how to be decent people, how to do the right thing after doing lots of wrongs, and how to help one another be their best.

Thanks, Ms. Hannigan! I couldn't agree more!
(and if you haven't yet checked out True (...sort of) by Katherine Hannigan, I highly recommend it!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Do fairy tales really come true?

Have you ever wondered if Cinderella's slippers really existed? What about magic carpets? Crystal balls? And if they are real, where might one keep an enchanted item? The Grimm Legacy by Peggy Shulman will take you on a fantastical journey and reveal the secrets behind the enchanted items featured in the Grimm Brother's fairy tales. This book is at the top of my list for fantasy favorites and I highly recommend it, even if you don't enjoy the genre. There is mystery, romance, suspense, and even a few annoying little siblings and over-bearing parents involved.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Reading

This summer my reading goal is pretty lofty, 20 books of varying levels and genres, to share with my colleagues in the fall. I'm feeling pretty optimistic, although reading them has always been the easy part, it's writing them up that I struggle with!

Anyway, here's what I've read so far:
~ True (..sort of) by Katherine Hannigan (you may remember her from Ida B.)
~ Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little by Peggy Gifford
~ Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
~ Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Books in progress:
~ Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins ( she wrote this series before Hunger Games)
~ Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston

Books on deck:
~ Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka
~ The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
~ To Catch a Mermaid by Suzanne Selfors
~ The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt

I'm always looking for suggestions, so please let me know if you've read any great books lately!!
Happy Reading :)
Miss D

Monday, February 7, 2011

touch blue

Feeling grateful for our Snow Day, I decided to show my appreciation by spending a few hours with a new book. It counted as "doing school work" and I was able to cuddle up on the couch with my kitties and stay warm. Touch Blue, a new release by Cynthia Lord, author of Rules. Tess, an 11 year old from Bethsaida, Maine, doesn't quite know what to expect when her family decides to take in a foster child, Aaron, from the mainland. Many of the families on the island have decided to take in foster children in order to increase enrollment at their local school, which is in danger of closing due to low enrollment. Yet, when Aaron arrives, things don't quite work out as Tess would like.

This is a story of hope and friendship, sparkling with small town charm. It warmed my heart and was the perfect way to spend a snowy afternoon.