Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami tragedy

I've been glued to the news for the past couple of days watching the horror play out in Asia. It is too hard to even imagine the scope of this tragedy. To see the children swept away is more than my heart can bear. Stories of mothers having to choose which child to save -- strangers risking their lives to help others -- the wail of a parent watching a child being buried in a mass grave. These are images I will never forget. There is very little I can do to help other than donate money to organizations who can help. I did donate and I urge everyone who reads this to donate as well. There is so much help needed and needed quickly.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Tofu and T. Rex by Greg Leitich Smith

Smith, Greg Leitich. TOFU AND T. REX New York : Little, Brown, 2005 IL 5-8 ISBN 0316777226

They're back. Those wonderful kids from Peshtigo School who we first met in Ninjas, Piranhas and Galileo. This time we meet militant vegan Frederika Murchison-Kowalski who has just been kicked out of another school. It has to do with setting the football field on fire but I won't go into that just yet. So her short-lived stint in Texas ends and she is sent back to Chicago and Pestigo. Her cousin, Hans-Peter, is applying to the school and really wants to make a good impression on the selection committee. His life at home has become more complicated now that Freddie has moved in but he really hopes that she can help him get into the school. I won't tell you too much about what goes on but let me just say it involves a life-size papier-mache tyrannosaurus rex head, some bull frogs and some sushi kielbasa!

The Salem Witch Trials by Jane Yolen

Yolen, Jane. THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS New York : Simon & Schuster, 2004. IL 3-6 RL 6.4 ISBN 0689846207
Have you ever heard of witches? Sure you have. They are mentioned in fantasy stories all the time. Even the Harry Potter books have witches in them. But do witches really exist? Back hundreds of years ago, little girls in Salem, Massachusetts became ill. When no one could figure out what was wrong with them, it was decided that witches had cast spells on them. That started a witch hunt that resulted in many deaths. What really happened? It is a mystery to this day about what really went on in Salem. But here are all the clues you will need to decide for yourself what happened.

Predator's Gold by Phillip Reeve

Reeve, Philip. PREDATOR'S GOLD New York : Eos, 2003 IL YA ISBN 0060721944

Tom and Hester have escaped about their airship but now find themselves pursued. When they manage to avoid capture they turn their ship north and come across the city of Anchorage. One of the earliest traction city, Anchorage is one of the few non-predator cities. But the city is in bad shape. Most of the inhabitants have been killed and the few that remain are being led by a young girl who has been thrust into the role of leader with the death of her parents. Unsure of how to rule the city and knowing that they are being hunting by the fierce predator city Arkangel, Freya makes a bold decision. Anchorage will navigate towards the Dead Continent. Freya has read Professor Pennyroyal's books about America and she believes that there is hope there. When Tom, Hester and Professor Pennyroyal arrive on Anchorage, she is convinced that this is the correct course for her beloved city. Little does she know that it will not be as easy as she thinks. They still have to outrun Arkangle and actually find America. Non-stop action and the introduction of some new and interesting characters will delight fans of the Hungry City Chronicles.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

More Christmas books

Here are more Christmas books for the season. Enjoy your holidays!

Numeroff, Laura Joffe. IF YOU TAKE A MOUSE TO THE MOVIES New York : Laura Geringer, 2000. IL K-3, RL 1.5 ISBN 0060278684
"If you take a mouse to the movies, he'll ask you for some popcorn. When you give him the popcorn, he'll want to string it all together." And so it goes. The little mouse is back making his demands. And we just know that one thing will lead to another. Join the mouse in this Christmas tale.

Palatini, Margie. MOOSELTOE New York : Hyperion Books for Children, 2000 .IL K-3, RL 3.2 ISBN 0786805676
Moose is getting ready for Christmas. And he wants everything perfectly perfect. He makes lists and has everything down that needs to be done. And then he starts doing everything on his list. Check, check, check. Everything is done. Or is it? Has Moose forgotten anything? Will it be a perfectly perfect Christmas in the Moose household?

Tafuri, Nancy. COUNTING TO CHRISTMAS New York : Scholastic, 1998. IL K-3, RL 1.3 ISBN 0590271431
When December comes, we know it is just a few days before Christmas. Do you do anything special on the days leading up to the big day? Do you bake cookies? Or wrap presents? Or write to Santa? This counting book tells the story of a little girl who is counting the days until Christmas.

Walsh, Vivian. OLIVE, THE OTHER REINDEER New York : Chronicle Books, 1997. IL K-3, RL 3.5 ISBN 0811818071
Olive the dog was listening to the radio. It was almost Christmas so there was lots of Christmas music playing. Olive heard on the radio "All of the other reindeer" but she misunderstood and thought they said "Olive the other reindeer". Oh no. Now she is on her way to the North Pole to join Santa and his reindeer. What will happen to Olive?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Christmas books

Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in Midnight Madness festivities. I spent time at a local bank reading to children. While preparing, I read a lot of Christmas books before I decided on which to use. Of course, I also wanted to read them to my grandson so it certainly was fun. And, I can't read a book without writing a booktalk so there are going to be many on this month's update. Here are several that will be appearing on my page.

Brett, Jan.
New York : G.P. Putman, 2002.
IL K-3, RL 5.3
ISBN 0399238735
Kyri is not looking forward to that knock on the door on Christmas eve. You see, each year, just as she finishes all the baking, a band of hungry trolls come crashing in and eat all the food. And they break things in the house. This year, Kyri's father has gone to the hilltop to chase the trolls away. But then Kyri hears a knock on the door. It's a very polite knock so Kyri doesn't believe it is the horrible trolls. But, who can it be?

Greene, Rhonda Gowler.
New York : Atneneum Books for Young Readers, 1999.
IL K-3, RL 5.0
ISBN 0689812582
This is the story of the little stable where Jesus was born on that magical day thousands of years ago. This is the story of the animals. And the shepherds. And the angels. And mostly, this is the story of Jesus.

Hooks, William H.
New York : HarperCollins, 1999.
IL K-3, RL 5.0
ISBN 0060271035
A long, long time ago, a little girl named Dorothy lived with her parents and brothers. Her brother were much older than she and spent most of their time with the flock of sheep that the family owned. Dorothy loved bringing her brothers food and water while they were out in the fields. When she noticed a group of strangers passing by, she was afraid that they were robbers. But, she learned that a law was passed that all citizens must return to their place of birth to be taxed. So the road was now filled with people heading out. Then one night, her brothers saw an angel and were told of the birth of a king. They set out to see him. Dorothy wanted to go along but knew her brothers would say no. So she secretly followed them. But she had no gift for the newborn king. Do you have any idea of who Dorothy would see when she arrived?

Krensky, Stephen.
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998.
IL K-3, RL 4.5
ISBN 0689806973
Have you ever wondered how Santa became Santa? I mean, was he always Santa or did he have other jobs before becoming Santa? What made him want to become Santa? How did he find out about the job? There are so many questions. This is one explanation that might be How Santa Got His Job.

Mangan, Anne.
New York : Troll, 2003.
IL K-3
ISBN 0816774587
The little white bear waited in the toy shop window for someone to notice him and take him home with them. But no one did. And then the owner of the shop took him out of the window and put him on a tall, tall shelf. Now no one could see him. He became very sad. He really wanted to belong to someone but day after day he sat in the toy shop and no one wanted him. One lady even said he looked like a mistake! Will he ever find a home?

More to come later.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Knuffle Bunny

Willems, Mo.
New York : Hyperion Books for Children, 2004.
IL K-3, RL 3.1
ISBN 0786818700
Do you have a favorite stuffed animal? One that you hate to be without? I know my daughter did. She never went anywhere without her BoBo Bear. This is the story of a little girl who has a favorite stuffed bunny -- Knuffle Bunny. She's just a little girl who can't talk yet. When Knuffle Bunny gets left behind during an errand, she does all she can to get her father to understand what is happening. Will she ever see Knuffle Bunny again?

Whispering to Witches

Dale, Anna.
New York : Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2004.
IL 3-6, RL 5.8
ISBN 1582348901
Joe had really been looking forward to spending Christmas at home with his dad. But now his life has taken a whole new turn. When his dad is called out of town, Joe is put on the train to spend the holidays with his mother in Canterbury. When he gets off the train at the wrong stop, he "borrows" a bike that seems to have a life of it's own. And Joe ends up in the company of witches. As a matter of fact, he finds himself joing the Dead-nettle Coven who are involved in a in a mystery involving a lost spell. How does this all come out? Well, you'll just have to take a trip to Canterbury with Joe to figure it all out.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Librarian of Basra

Winter, Jeanette.
New York : Harcourt, 2005.
IL 3-6
ISBN 0152054456
This is the story of an amazing woman. Her name is Alia Baker and she lives in Basra, Iraq. During the spring of 2003, she became concerned about the rumors of war coming to Basra. She was the head of the Central Library in Basra and she was concerned that the war would destroy the library. Some of the books in the collection were over 700 years old and priceless. So, Alia came up with a way to save the library. This is a true story of the librarian of Basra.

December update loaded

I was able to load the December update already. The indexes have been updated as well. And now it is time to go shopping!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Updating the page today

I am a bit late getting my webpage updated this month. I attended a really great conference last week so got a bit behind. The conference was the Christa McAullife Technology Conference. Lots of great ideas being shared. I presented two workshops on reading and technology and got to attend several others. I am now starting to use a Palm handheld. I have resisted up to this point, but I broke down and bought one and got great ideas for using it at the conference.

My Saturday class ended today. I love the last day of class but at the same time get sad because of the students I won't see again. But anyway, I'm taking time this afternoon to update my webpage. It should be loaded by tonight. I might not get to indexing it until later but my goal is to have the December update done.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Wildfire! by Elizabeth HIll

Ben has always loved the Fourth of July. Living in rural Florida with his
great-grandmother, his life is a simple one but a happy one. But then
there's Elliot -- the know-it-all boy from up North. He's always putting Ben
down and making fun of the little town. When Elliot gets the puppy that
Ben wants, it is just too much. And now Elliot is trying to ruin the Fouth of
July too. He dares Ben to set off some fireworks even though it is too
dangerous. Will Ben give in and risk a forest fire?

Kissing Vanessa by Simon Cheshire

With the success of Louise Rennison's books that chronicle the adventures of Georgia Nicholson, it was just a matter of time before we were treated to the male perspective on teenage life in England. Fifteen-year-old Kevin is certainly not the most popular boy in school. But when beautiful Vanessa arrives, it's love at first sight. But how can someone like Kevin ever get noticed by the beautiful Vanessa? Enter Jack -- Kevin's best friend. Jack is a self professed "babe magnet". As a matter of fact, he is actually writing a book on how to attract girls. And he offers a sneak preview to Kevin -- who is not so sure he can pull this off. Unfortunately, Jack's advice doesn't always work!

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick

The dead days. These are the days between Christmas and New Years. Days when spirits roam and magic prevails. And in a European city in the late 18th century, Valerian is desparate. He is running out of time. With his servant, a young boy with no name, and Boy's friend Willow, they attempt to find the book that will save Valerian. The search will not be easy. They will come upon strange and mysterious sights along the way. Through graveyards and tunnels under the city, the three must find the book before the end of the dead days. Since, the end of the dead days signal the end of Valerian.

Witch Child by Celia Rees

"I am Mary. I am a witch." So begins the diary of Mary Newbury. After watching her grandmother being tortured and hung as a witch, Mary is determined to escape the same fate. With the aid of others, she sets off for America along with others who are leaving England in search of a new home. The year is 1659 and Mary knows she must keep her secret to herself. But she is not alone. There are others like her in the new world. But she must be very careful not to be found out. Even her journal must be hidden so others won't know her secret. But as witch hysteria reaches fever pitch and the village turns on her, Mary must escape into the woods.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Wittlinger, Ellen. Heart of My Sleeve

Can you really get to know someone through emails? I know a lot of people who meet others on the Internet and strike up friendships and feel they know the person through their emails. Well, Chloe has actually met Julian so she feels she knows him already. They met on a college orientation weekend. They are both into music and planning to attend the same college. From that weekend through the summer, they stay in touch through emails, notes, and postcards. Chloe can't wait for August when she'll see him again. Get to know Chloe and her family and friends through their correspondence during that summer. You may find that you don't know them as well as you thought.

Trueman, Terry. Cruise Control

Paul is an all around great guy. He's a great student. A great athlete. A great brother. But he sometimes finds it hard to be a great brother. You see, his brother is a veg. A lump in a wheelchair, drooling, incoherent veg. Paul won't let anyone else call Shawn that but he can. He really does love his brother but it is really hard to love someone like that. And that makes him very angry. Paul has a terrible temper. He gets into fights for no reason. Someday he will surely go too far and hurt someone seriously. He is mostly angry at his father for leaving the family when the going got tough. Now he makes a living writing about Shawn and how hard it is to live with someone who is severly disabled. How would he know? He is never around. A companion to Trueman's earlier novel, Stuck in Neutral, this book is Paul's story.

Ryan, Pam Munoz. Becoming Naomi Leon

As Naomi Leon Outlaw's great-grandmother would say, the good and bad of any situation are sometimes the same. It doesn't seem that way to Naomi. She and her brother have become accustomed to living with their great grandmother. Their mother left years ago and Owen barely remembers her. Naomi sometimes dreams of her mother coming back but she isn't prepared for what happens when she does! Unannounced, she just shows up after seven years. Naomi is thrilled at first but then she notices how her mother is treating Owen. Owen can't help it if he is a FLK -- funny looking kid. He has some problems that will take some operations to correct but that will have to wait til he's full grown. When Naomi finds out that her mother plans to take Naomi with her but leave Owen, she and Gram have to take drastic action.

Peck, Richard. The Teacher's Funeral

"If your teacher has to die, August isn't a bad time of the year for it." So begins the story of fifteen-year-old Russell Culver who is looking forward to having the school shut down after the teacher dies. All Russell can think about is quitting school and joining up with a wheat threshing crew to get out of this town. There isn't much here in Indiana for a young boy in 1904. Russell wants to go to the city and see all the wonders that modern technology brings. But there is no such luck. Russell's older sister Tansy is appointed the new teacher and so begins a year of privy fires, missing bells, and elocution lessons for this rag tag class at Hominy Ridge School. If you liked Richard Peck's other novels set during this time, A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago, you are sure to enjoy the comical look at rural schools from the last century.

Pascal, Francine. The Ruling Class

Myrna Fry can't believe this is happening to her! She has been asked by none other than Jeanette Sue herself to have lunch with the RC! This is what she has dreamed of. Being accepted by the Ruling Class girls. And to be invited by the queen of the RCs herself, this is truly a mementous day! They said to meet them out by the tree and to bring sandwiches. And Myrna has lugged those sandwiches around with her all morning. But now lunch is just about over and the girls haven't shown. Oh, wait a minute. There they are. Over by the school. Myrna must have misunderstood where they were meeting. She waves and sees them laughing. Good, they don't seem angry. When she starts over to catch up, they disappear into the school. Maybe they didn't know it was her. And now the door seems to be stuck so she can't get in.
Does this sound like the girls want to be Myrna's friends? Or does it sound like they are teasing Myrna? Well, Myrna keeps making excuses for them since she is desparate to be liked by them. But the new girl is different. It's not that she has such a strange name -- Twyla Gay -- and it's not that she's from Lubbock of all places. It's just that she doesn't get that Myrna doesn't want to be her friend. But Twyla doesn't get it. And she gets Myrna's place in the pecking order also. And she's determined to do something about it.

Starting to use the blog

OK, I set up this blog months ago and haven't used it. I had good intentions but the summer came and I didn't do all the things I had intended. So, now I plan to update this more frequently. I will be posting my booktalks that haven't yet been added to my booktalks page. I only update Booktalks--Quick and Simple once a month but I am reading and writing booktalks all month long. So, here is a preview. These booktalks may change a bit when I add them to my website. These are my working files. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to email or blog! If you haven't been to my website, you can access it at


Friday, June 04, 2004

Starting a blog

I have been hearing about blogs for a long time now and thought this was as good a time as any to start one of my own. I have no idea how it will all work out but time will tell.

I thought it would be interesting to have a place to talk about what books I am reading and what I think about them. On my web site, I post booktalks about all the books but I never really talk about how I feel about the book. So, this is my plan. Perhaps others will join the discussion and see where it goes.

I just finished reading January 1905 and enjoyed it a lot. I am partial to historical fiction and this one certainly fits that.

I am currently reading the new Rennison book Away Laughing on a Fast Camel. So far, so good.