Roscoe Riley Rules #7 by Katherine Applegate

I’ve read the first Roscoe Riley book and the seventh Roscoe Riley book.  Poor Roscoe, in both books he’s started off in the time-out corner and in both books (and presumably the five in between) he spends the rest of the book explaining why he’s in the corner.  Roscoe seems to redeem himself because by the end of his sad tale, he comes up with a list of Useful Things he learned.  Hmmm, it just occurred to me that this is why the series title is Roscoe Riley Rules… he doesn’t rule as in I’m the best rather he has rules: from never glue your friends to their chairs (#1) to never race a runaway pumpkin (#7).  (It takes a while, but I catch up.)

This is why Roscoe learns one shouldn’t race a runaway pumpkin: In school Roscoe’s class learns that a local bookstore (three cheers for local bookstores) is running a contest: correctly guess the weight of the giant pumpkin in the window and win books for your school library!  Miss Biz, Roscoe’s longsuffering first grade teacher, tackles the issue of estimating with her class which isn’t easy for first graders, by the way.   Roscoe tells his mom about the contest and she takes the family to the bookstore to enter the contest.  While at the store (Hilltop Books — very important to the plot by the way), Roscoe’s sister Hazel encounters a cute little kitty.  Well, actually a black cat… and Roscoe is superstitious!  The rest of the plot involves black kitties, Roscoe’s superstitious nature, and that giant pumpkin.  Will Roscoe’s contest entry be picked?  Why is that pumpkin chasing Roscoe (note the black kitty) in the cover picture?  And most importantly, why is Roscoe in time-out?

I really enjoyed this book.  It is the right amount of humor. The various pictures help move the story along and give some clues to what the text is saying (important in this level book).  Roscoe Riley really does rule!

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Posted in early chapter book | Tagged ,

15 Books that Inspire Me

This started as a facebook game that I did this summer..but I just read my list and I’d like to keep a more permanent record of it. The rules were to come up with fifteen titles that “will always stick with you”.  (I tried putting links on the books to Worldcat, but it wasn’t working…. I’ll try again later.)  So in no particular order:

1. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. This is the first book I read that made me feel like reading mattered, that reading can take you places.  I contend that I’m a librarian because of these stories.  My mom forced me to read this title the summer of my eighth grade. I resisted and my sister read it and told me I should read it.  There is a passage in The Novel by James Michener that talks about loving Anne’s story and understanding that books can take you places in your mind.  Anne and I are kindred spirits.

2. Rebecca by Daphe DuMaurier. I read this in high school and soaked it up. I read it and re-read it. It was a book that helped me understand that text can really bring out emotion in a way that movies can’t. I poured over the romantic parts more than anything else.  The movie doesn’t do it justice.

3. Persuasion by Jane Austen. I read this at a time in my life that I had been burned by love and was feeling mousy and unloved. This is my favorite Austen novel, the other one is…

4. Emma by Jane Austen. My first Jane Austen book. It brought me to a new place in a world I enjoyed very much.

5. For Better, For Worse by Carol Matthews, 2002. A fun little chick lit book about a woman from england coming to NY for a wedding. I read it 2 years before I met my husband. It’s light and fluffy and funny and silly, with one section that really gave me hope: life is worth living to the fullest even if it means getting hurt.

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone The beginning of the story; a whole new world. It still makes me happy.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Love is stronger than death.

8. Bible …speaking of Love conquering death

9. Disappointment with God My pain matters to God… and how I respond to it. I can worry and act on my own or I can turn to Him.

10. Love’s Something something Gosh i wish i could remember the name of this book. Christian fiction published by Bethany House in the mid 80’s about forgiveness and living in the time of Wesley. And of course it was a romance. I thought I kept the copy i have of it, but I can’t find it.

11. Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot When I was a young woman and trying to discover who God wanted me to be. I read this. The sub-title is Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control… as I didn’t have a love life I was trying to reconcile my wants/desires with reality.

12. A Chance to Die by Elisabeth Elliot The biography of English missionary Amy Carmichael. She dedicated her life to living with orphans of India.

13. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Skit Skat Doodle Dot Flip Flop Flee, there are very few books I’ve actually memorized.

14. The Eight by Katherine Neville. A confusing mix of french revolution and the 1970’s but a big puzzle. Dan Brown wishes he wrote a book as good as this.

15. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. If I can live my life like Alice Rumphius, then I’ll be a blessed lady.

Posted in classic, realistic fiction | Tagged ,

The Middle-Child Blues by Kristyn Crow

Ray came first, Kate came last, and Lee is stuck in the middle. He’s too young to do what Ray does and too old to do what Kate does.  Being a middle child isn’t easy. I know I am one and I appreciate everything Lee is lamenting. 

I’m not the shiny engine
or the little red caboose.
I’m just a boring boxcar,
so I wonder, what’s the use?

The problem with all this complaining is that no one is listening to Lee, so he gets his electric guitar out and decides to let music speak for him.

When mom and dad join in everybody sings:

We sing the low-down show-down shakin’-up-the-whole-town big-time MID KID BLUES!

You can just feel the guitar riffs.  With bright colors, David Catrow sets the tone for Lee’s burgeoning music career (slick hair ala Elvis). It’s a delightful little picture book that is easily relatable to the sad forgotten middle child everywhere.

The Middle Child Blues is a picture book by Kristyn Crow and illustrated by David Catrow.  for ages 5 – 8.  SH 11.09

Posted in Family relationships | Tagged

I Am A Genius Of Unspeakable Evil And I Want To Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

Seventh grader Oliver Watson is so smart the world thinks he’s a dummy. In fact, he is the evil genius behind a multi-billion dollar, multi-national empire. He’s good at his manipulation as his parents think he is dummy, his classmates think he is a dummy, and so do his teachers. When a classmate snarkily nominates Oliver to run for eighth class president, Oliver declines until he realizes his father once held the title and holds that memory dear to his heart. See, Oliver has contempt for his father. Apparently Oliver is so intelligent that he has memories from his earliest infancy; where his father realized his having a son meant lost youth. At that moment, at 2 days old, Oliver decided that he would play dumb. 

If he couldn’t love me for simply being what I appeared to be, he didn’t deserve to know the greatness that lurked within.  I resolved at that moment never to care what Daddy thought, never to give him an inkling of what a magnificent monster he had sired.  He meant nothing to me.

So, since daddy won his school election, Oliver decides to do whatever it takes to win his: pay-off, manipulations, and even staging a coup in an African country (an important and funny element in the story).  Oliver says he doesn’t crave his father’s love and attention, but it sure felt like it to me.   The queen bee of the 7th grade class takes “Tubby” under her wing and becomes his campaign manager.  The girls befriend Oliver’s mom who becomes of the pack in her effort to get Oliver elected. 

There were some very clever moments to the story.  Like Artemis Fowl, Oliver has an arsenal of goons and thugs at his disposal.  If someone makes fun of him, his three bodyguards known only to him as Pistol, Bardolph, and Nim quietly take care of any situation.  Oliver has a frontman for his billions, recovering alcholic Lionel Sheldrake who looks and acts the part. 

I found the tone of this book to be contemptible, mean-spirited, and cynical. And there were entirely too many footnotes in this book (118 footnotes for a 303 page book) they distracted me from reading the book. Some of the footnotes could have easily been segued into the story, while others seemed like parenthetical statements.  In my book, Oliver isn’t an evil genius, rather an unsocialized little brat who needs some manners in getting along well with others.

According to the author’s note, Josh Lieb is the Executive Producer of The Daily Show.  I question the audience for this book. If it’s for the young adult crowd (as the quote from Jon Stewart and Judd Apatow would indicate), why make Oliver a 7th-grader?  Shouldn’t he be slightly older? If it is for the 10 – 14 crowd as both Kirkus and Booklist indicate, I don’t see the appeal. 

SH 11/09.

Posted in age-appropriate materials, Family relationships | Tagged

An Ode to Amanda

She's on the left.

Capt Amanda's on the left... with her trusty Parrot Meghan

♥ A soft answer turns away wrath.
♥ Silly and fun are good.
♥ Sock monkeys really are cute.
♥ Baby story time isn’t scary.
♥ Either are junior highers.
♥ Book blogging is fun.
♥ Nice is good.
♥ Change is okay.

I’ve worked with my friend Amanda for seven years. She stopped working at our library today to be a full-time mommy. I think there is nothing more important than a mommy being at home. I just want her with me 37.5 hours a week.

But she isn’t and that is okay too. So, I thank her for making me a better librarian and person. Amanda ROX.

Posted in Downers Grove Public Library | Tagged , | 2 Comments

I Judge You

… well maybe not you.  But I am an official judge for the 2009 Cybils, Easy Readers and Short Chapter Books category.  I look forward to reading the 10 final books (5 for Easy readers and 5 for Short Chapter books) and blogging the process, although not the confidential stuff.  That will go with me to the grave … okay maybe not that dramatic, but I play fair.

I’m looking forward to having my little blog play with the big kids.cybils

Posted in early chapter book, kidlit, Reading

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn MillerI don’t really read non-fiction.  It’s nothing personal, I just prefer stories.  When a non-fiction book holds my attention, I think it’s worth sharing. And I have shared this title too; I’ve shared it with librarian friends and teacher friends, and I’m considering sharing it with the curriculum superintendent in the town where I work.  What Donalyn Miller has written in this book and her blog is exactly what I’ve been thinking and telling the parents that come into our library.  I’m so excited that someone has finally written this book!

Donalyn Miller teaches sixth graders in Texas. She’s a Language Arts and Social Studies teacher and she requires her students to read 40 books during the school year.  Their choice.  Lexile scores don’t seem to be an issue, in fact she’s against that sort of thing, but we’ll get to that.

Teaching reading appears to be very little about reading books.  The students in Miller’s classes seem incredulent that they have to read so many books; what’s the catch?  There isn’t one.  In order to become a reader, you have to read.  And you have to read a lot.  Teachers cannot put limitations on reading, students will select the books that are interesting to them.  Miller does require her students to read a certain number of genres but even this isn’t a fixed line as some students knew what they liked to read.

Miller has given names to classroom readers.  There is the developing reader who score low on standardized tests.  “These students do not see themselves as capable of becoming strong readers”.  They need to read read read.

The dormant reader  is unmotivated and uninterested in reading.  They read because they have to not because it is enjoyable.  They need the chance to books that are interesting to them; the freedom to pick their own book.

The underground reader is a good reader; a great reader really. Underground readers don’t connect school reading with reading for pleasure. These are the students that read ahead of novel studies because they can and then are bored when it’s time to finish worksheets.  These students know what they like to read and just need the chance to read.

Miller spends a lot of the book explaining how her school year starts and dispelling teacher myths  strings like whole class novels, comprehension tests, book reports, and round robin reading. 

Perhaps the section this librarian liked best was the discussion of Accelerated Reading-type programs. Where children select books to be from a list and then are tested for comprehension for points.

… these are the worst distortion of reading I can think of.  … The truth is that a student’s selection of a book is limited by its point value and whether a test exists for it.  Hence, developing students struggle to collect enough points to meet the teacher’s requirements and underground readers are bound to the books for which an AR test exits.  How does this sort of program prepare students for reading in the world outside of school? 

… Instead of falling into a book and travelilng on a journey with characters, readers float on the surface of the story and cherry pick mooments they predict they will be tested on later.

The outline of the book seems to be from the beginning of the school year to end.  As she started with a survey of the student as a reader, she ends it with a student evaluation.  And equipping her students to be lifetime readers.  The most interesting fact? That an overwhelming number of students chose Teacher who reads as the factor that was most important.   The book has many appendices: setting up a classroom library, student forms, book lists.  If I could add one thing to her list of places to go for good books and reading materials it would be the local public library.  Teachers like Donalyn Miller and children’s librarians think the same way. We just want to put good books into kids hands.  Ask your public library for lists of good books to recommend to your students!!! 

Donalyn Miller seems to be my soul-sister.

Allowing students to choose their own books and control most of their own decisions about their reading, writing, and thinking does a better job of preparing them for literate lives than the traditional–and ubliquitous–novel units, test practices, and pointless projects.  What are we waiting for?

What indeed.  I hope that schools across the country take this book to heart.  If you haven’t read this book, please find a copy.  It will change the way you think about reading: both your own personal reading, but also the children in your life. Then, share it with your principal.

SH 9/09

Posted in Reading | Tagged | 3 Comments