Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book of Three 50th Anniversary Blog Tour and Giveaway

There are some "old" books that I just can't praise enough. The Book of Three is a novel that I just adore. I use it every year with my fourth grade advanced reading group as a prime example of fantasy, a classic quest structure novel, and just because I love the characters.

Over the past few years, my students and I added yet another reason to love this series. Tom Angleberger - of Origami Yoda fame - also loves Prydain. That was more than enough to help several of my students cheerfully dive into the books.

So when I heard that there was going to be a blog tour to celebrate the 50th anniversary, I knew I wanted in. Look at these covers... just look at them! They are just beautiful. Don't forget to scroll down and enter for your very own hardback...

Paperback edition
Hardcover edition

Info about the 50th Anniversary editions:
Henry Holt Books for Young Readers is proud to publish this 50th Anniversary Edition of Lloyd Alexander's classic The Book of Three, the first book in the Chronicles of Prydain, with a new introduction by Newbery Honor–winner Shannon Hale. This anniversary edition is filled with bonus materials, including an interview with Lloyd Alexander, a Prydain short story, the first chapter of the next Prydain book (The Black Cauldron, a Newbery Honor book), an author's note, and a pronunciation guide.

My Thoughts: 
Personally, I love the interactions between Eilonwy and Taran. Their banter makes me chuckle, and I love to see them grow up over the course of the whole series. Gurgi is always a student favorite. They love to compare him to Dobby in the Harry Potter series. 

I also enjoy the use of Welsh mythology as a seed for Prydain. With the popularity of Rick Riordan's novels that celebrate Greek, Roman, and Egyptian myths, getting kids curious about the stories of other cultures is a definite plus!

Don't just take my word for it, though. I had a student last year who loved the series, and I asked him to write a little description of just why he loves it...

JP drew this depiction of events in
The Book of Three
From the perspective of a fifth grader:
Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles series are awesome in many ways. They are my favorite book series have been since fourth grade. One of the true joys of the series, in my opinion, are Mr. Alexander’s characters. They are just those kinds of characters that you fall in love with instantly, and then you want to read about them forever. Another is the vivid imagination of Lloyd Alexander that makes you sit wondering “Wow! He’s a genius! How does he come up with this stuff?”. And to be honest, that’s the mystery of authors. However, what truly catches my eye about this series is how it keeps you interested and satisfied. Once you pick up the books, you can’t stop. How it manages to keep you so intrigued is the best part of the series. And that’s what makes these books what they are: Awesome!

Get a little more information on Welsh mythology for those curious kids: 

Learn what Lloyd Alexander had to say as he answered questions from students! 

Do you want to use The Book of Three as an example of the Hero's Journey? Check out some specifics and extra resources here:

One of my good friends loves Prydain so much she has dedicated a Pinterest board to the topic. Get some amazing fan art to help kids visualize the characters:  

The Book of Three 50th Anniversary Blog Tour

Monday September 22
YA Bibliophile

Tuesday September 23
Maria’s Melange

Wednesday September 24
The Book Wars

Thursday September 25
Bunbury in the Stacks

Friday September 26
Manga Maniac Café

Monday September 29
Read Now Sleep Later

Tuesday September 30
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Wednesday October 1
Word Spelunking

Thursday October 2
Proud Book Nerd

Friday October 3
Book Haven Extraordinaire

Friday, September 19, 2014

Firebug Blog Tour Q & A and Giveaway!

I absolutely love everything Lish McBride has put out there. I love her twitter feed, too! 

This is an author with just the right level of snark. 
     Just the right level of swagger. 

Her books and her characters make me chuckle, cheer, and captivate me all along the way. 

Firebug (Firebug #1)

by Lish McBride
Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: September 23rd 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
ISBN 0805098623 (ISBN13: 9780805098624)
Source: I received an advanced copy from the publisher for my honest thoughts. 
Ava can start fires with her mind . . . but is it a blessing or a curse?
Ava is a firebug—she can start fires with her mind. Which would all be well and good if she weren't caught in a deadly contract with the Coterie, a magical mafia. She's one of their main hit men . . . and she doesn't like it one bit. Not least because her mother's death was ordered by Venus—who is now her boss.

When Venus asks Ava to kill a family friend, Ava rebels. She knows very well that you can't say no to the Coterie and expect to get away with it, though, so she and her friends hit the road, trying desperately to think of a way out of the mess they find themselves in. Preferably keeping the murder to a minimum.

My Thoughts:
I love Ava! I love her friends. I love how McBride manages to upend many "gender norms" by giving Ava the fire power and giving her male friend, Lock, the earth style dryad magic. Ava's guardian, Cade, loves to garden and cans his own food. Yes, this is a world where people can do what they do best, no matter what body they were born into.

I also love the "book love" throughout the story. Cade owns a used book store called Broken Spines. Sprinkled across the whole story are references to classic tales. That wins my heart.

My favorite part, though, is the interactions between the characters. McBride has a knack for crafting witty banter. I lost track of the number of times I stopped and made a little note about a particularly amusing bit of dialogue. There's plenty of fast paced action to keep the story moving, but it's these little nuggets that keep me coming back to her books.

Okay - enough of my thoughts.... time for the Q&A! There is also a chance to win a hardcover copy of the book for readers in the US or Canada. (Thank you to MacMillan Publishing!) Be sure to check out the giveaway all the way at the bottom of the page! 

1) I love reading about the special powers you give your characters. While I’d be very nervous to discover I could create fire, power over trees would be pretty amazing. What special power would you wish to have? 

     This kind of question always makes me want to answer with, “The power…to move you.” And then I have Tenacious D stuck in my head all day, because it’s from their song Wonderboy.
     I wouldn’t want Ava’s power, either. I’d accidentally burn down the house and also my trousers, and everything would go wrong. I’m not sure I can be trusted with power, really. I think it would corrupt me (more that I am now) and I would use it selfishly for evil. That being said, I think being a were creature would be pretty neat. If only so I could heal, like Wolverine.

2) One of my favorite “little touches” in your books are your chapter titles. I especially enjoyed “The Winds of Change Kind of Blow” and “If I’m Going to Go Through Hell, There Should at Least Be Some Bacon”. How do you create these titles? Does the plot in each chapter come first, do the titles help guide the events, or is it something else?

     Ha-my editor also loves the Winds of Change one. Sometimes the title comes first, if I have a firm idea what the chapter is going to be about. Sometimes, as editing happens, the chapter titles change. Most of the time, I go back and title the chapter right after I’ve finished the first draft of that particular chapter. Sometimes I leave it for a bit if I can’t think of anything good. So basically, it varies from chapter to chapter.

3) In your biography, you mention volunteering at the 826 Seattle Writing and Tutoring Center. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do there?

     Yes! I’ve volunteered at 826 Seattle for…5 years? 6? I love it. The thing that I do regularly is help on the Thursday field trips. Teachers sign up for field trips through 826 Seattle (anything there for kids is free) and the spots go pretty quick. The classes our group gets are usually 4th and 5th graders. We do a Choose Your Own Adventure fieldtrip. The class comes in at ten AM. We go over what makes a CYOA story different from a regular story—we explain Second Person narrative, Choices, etc. Then we all brainstorm the starting point for our story—where is the character? What is the character doing? (Answer: usually the character is in Candyland eating a lot of candy.) Then we write a page together. After that we break into two groups and write the pages that spawn from the choices. Then we split again. We write lots of pages like this and the volunteers do their best to get all the kids to share their ideas. The last few pages the kids handwrite on their own. Those will be the endings to their copy of the book. By the time they leave at noon, they have a 15 page book with an illustrated cover, and their picture and bio on the back, bound and in their hands. It’s pretty cool. Once a month we do a graphic novel field trip instead. 

     Sometimes I teach writing workshops there as well, usually in the summer. 826 programs range from first graders all the way through high school, and like I said, anything for a kid is free. It’s a pretty amazing program. There are several around the US. You can find links to them at www.826national.org. The first year I volunteered I also did a little tutoring, but I’m not very good at that stuff. I do better with the fieldtrips and writing workshops. 

4) Broken Spines sounds like a used book store I could hole up in for days. Since your “day job” is also working in a bookstore, I bet you have a lot of ideas about what makes an ideal shop. If you were going to open a store of your own, and money was no concern, what would your bookstore be like?

     Honesty, my tastes are surprisingly simple. There must be a café. Tea and coffee are life essentials. (As are cookies.) Gleaming hardwood floors would be nice—my current workspace is in need of new floors, and it’s something I think about any time I have to vacuum. Good, sturdy bookshelves. We don’t have a shop cat at my store, either. I would like that. And a nice event space. So stuff you’d find at most of the bigger indie bookstores. Lots of squishy chairs to sit in. Perhaps a fireplace? Yes. And a throne on a raised dais for me to sit on so I could lord over it all, watching as my minions scurried about to do my bidding…

See? All power goes straight to my head.

5) Okay, just one more “bookish” question! You mention several literary classics in Firebug, like Lord of the Flies and Count of Monte Cristo. If you could only recommend five classics for your readers to be sure they have read, what would they be? Feel free to define “classics” in any way that works for you! 

     I’m actually quite picky with my classics. I hated a lot of the ones I had to read in high school. Hated. And if that had been my only exposure to reading? Well, let’s just say that I understand sometimes why kids come out of our schools hating books. I don’t condone it, but I can see their point. I hated Lord of the Flies. My poor English teacher, Mrs. Lackman. She kept trying to discuss the book and I kept saying, “But they’re on an island! I get the symbolism of the pig and all, but why can’t someone go fishing? Claming? Eat some seaweed. SOMETHING.” I know they are sheltered school boys, but c’mon. I liked Count of Monte Cristo right up until the end. Then I threw it at a wall, but I didn’t read that until college. I actually have huge blanks in my classics because I left high school so early. (I dropped out at the beginning of 11th grade.) I’m still trying to catch up on the classics, and I’m slowly figuring out which ones I like. So, in no particular order, here are a few (but not all) that I enjoy:

Frankenstein—seriously the first time I sat down and really burned through a classic. Love this book. Never could make it through Dracula, though. Every time I got to the bits written by the girl, I got bored.

Pride & Prejudice—cliché, I know. I didn’t actually read Jane Austen until about a year ago. I just assumed I wouldn’t like her books. Then I read Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, and I enjoyed those, so I thought, “Hey, I should check out the source material.” And I honestly loved Pride & Prejudice. Elizabeth Bennet is smart and fierce and witty. She’s just a pleasure to read. And the book reads like gossip. I listened to it on audio, and it was almost like watching a soap opera. I kept wanting to gasp and say, “That cad!”

Beowulf—there are various translations of Beowulf, though I find that Seamus Heaney’s is pretty accessible. This story is as classic as you can get as it is (I believe) the oldest written story in English. Lots of people get beaten to death with various limbs. There are sword fights and monsters. A lot of fun. When you get to classics like these, stories that were originally oral tales, I like to listen to them on audio. Like The Odyssey or the Illiad. Those were meant to be heard, not read.

The Canterbury Tales—my first year at Seattle University, my advisor picked my classes for some reason. He placed me in Chaucer and it was a really hard class. The professor was fantastic, though. She truly loved the work, and her love was infectious. And I was surprised at how bawdy the stories were. Chaucer was really funny, and a lot of his stuff read like high-brow fart jokes, basically. And that continues to amuse me.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe—my mom read the whole series to me and my brothers several times when we were kids, and it really stayed with me. It was a story that really caught in my imagination. The books were beautiful and a little bit sad, and courageous. CS Lewis never backed down from showing something horrible. I mean, the book starts with kids being whisked off into the countryside because of the bombings. Real, scary history for the reader to contend with. But I also loved how he showed unexpected things in characters—like when Lucy is trying to tell everyone about Narnia and her siblings are calling her a liar, and they go to the professor and you expect the professor to dismiss her story out of hand. Instead, based on Lucy’s character, he believes her. As a kid, I thought that was a pretty cool idea.

I know you said five, but I’m also a Shakespeare fan. I saw some of his plays as a kid at the Ashland Shakespeare festival and they made in impression. Something about outdoor theatres and people walking around in costume appeals to me.

See? I told you Lish McBride rocks! Grab a copy of Firebug now, and don't forget to enter to win a copy from the publisher below... 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

-Read an excerpt of Firebug now!
-Download the first five chapters of Firebug for free!
-Follow Lish McBride on Twitter!
-Become a fan on Facebook!
-Check out her website!

Tour Stops:

Monday September 15
Adventures of a Book Junkie

Tuesday September 16

Thursday September 18
Teen Librarian Toolbox

Friday September 19
Maria’s Mélange

Monday September 22
Tales of a Ravenous Reader

Tuesday September 23
Novel Novice

Wednesday September 24
MacTeenBooks Blog

Thursday September 25
Good Books and Good Wine

Friday September 26
Carina’s Books

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Little Author in the Big Woods - MG biography review

Did you curl up with little Laura Ingalls as a kid?
Do you eagerly share Little House on the Prairie titles with your children and students?
Do you know anyone (including you) who is fascinated by Laura or her sisters?

Little Author in the Big Woods: A Biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Hardcover, 176 pages
Expected publication: September 16th 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
ISBN 080509542X (ISBN13: 9780805095425)
Source: Advance copy from publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts.

Many girls in elementary and middle school fall in love with the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. What they don’t always realize is that Wilder’s books are autobiographical. This narrative biography describes more of the details of the young Laura’s real life as a young pioneer homesteading with her family on many adventurous journeys. This biography, complete with charming illustrations, points out the differences between the fictional series as well as the many similarities. It’s a fascinating story of a much-celebrated writer.

My Thoughts:
I'm not usually excited about biographies. While I am always interested in learning more about fascinating characters in history, I tend to not be able to sit through an entire chapter book dedicated to the life of one individual. This one read more like a story, though.

Laura Rocks: The best thing about reading this book was finding out how amazing Laura herself truly was. I loved hearing how she decided to NOT include "obey" in her marriage vows. Her belief that homesteaders worked together and were truly equal made me smile. This author was just as independent, caring, and prone to getting into mischief as the Little House books made me believe.

Illustrations: The simple line drawings that are scattered throughout the book kept the old-time feeling alive. It made me want to pull my old books out (or find them at the library) and see how they compare to the novel illustrations.

Back Matter: I loved the wide variety of information provided at the end of the book. The back matter included:
  -- quotes by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  -- descriptions of games she would have played as a child
  -- directions for making a corn husk doll
  -- recipes for gingerbread, Johnny cakes, and homemade butter.

While this wasn't exactly a picture book - it certainly included pictures! So I'm going to link up to the weekly Non Fiction Picture Book Challenge hosted by KidLitFrenzy. Be sure to visit that blog every Wednesday for wonderful nonfiction titles!

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's Monday September 15th

Welcome back! I do love sharing what I've been reading. I hope you enjoy adding to your reading pile!

Don't forget to visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to see other amazing books for your home and classroom.

Let's start with some fabulous picture books! I've seen these two on other Monday posts, and I'm so glad I took the time to snag them from my local library. I'll be using them to reinforce some of the tenants of my class code... (I guess I should write a post about that... maybe for Slice tomorrow!)

"Be Cooperative"

Julia's House for Lost Creatures - by Ben Hatke

This is a fabulous story about a girl who invites lost and lonely creatures in to stay. They have to learn to work together to keep things running well. I adore Hatke's art (from Zita the Spacegirl, in particular) and the story is amazing!

Source: library

"Be Persistent" 

The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

First, this is an excellent wordless story. The illustrations have just the right amount of detail to get the plot across, and I think kids will enjoy discussing what the girl does. She wants that bicycle, and she shows stick-to-it-iveness all along the way.

Source: library

Graphic Novels:
This was a trifecta of amaze-balls graphic novels! Something for every kind of reader.

Cece Bell shares her memories of growing up with hearing loss. I loved how she was able to communicate her feelings. I also appreciated the end note where she shares that each person's experience with hearing loss (or other things) is unique.
Source: Purchased

FANTASY and SCIENCE FICTION! If your students aren't already hooked on this series.... it's time to pick them up and get them in front of the kids.
Source: Purchased

Another wonderful memoir by Raina Telgemeier. All kids will eat this one up - whether they experience sibling issues or not.
Source: Purchased

Beautiful novel-in-verse describing Woodson's life as a child. A perfect pairing for civil rights units or even just units learning about families.
Source: Purchased

Saying goodbye to Origami Yoda isn't easy, but this final book in the series was absolutely wonderful. Looking forward to seeing what Tom does next!
Source: Purchased

I wasn't as excited about this installment as I have been with MANY of the other Bad Kitty stories. Still, it has a solid tale about Puppy and a good message about adopting animals.
(Comes out in January - I won it from Macmillan in a contest)

What have YOU been reading?

Previous Posts:
How to Make a Planet - full review for NFPB 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How to Make a Planet - NFPB review

Be sure to visit kidlitfrezy.com each Wednesday for a fabulous selection of nonfiction titles!

Sometimes a nonfiction book comes along that just totally knocks your socks off. It has just the right amount of information combined with style that would make a fabulous mentor text. Here is one of my favorite books of the year!

How to Make a Planet: A Step-By-Step Guide to Building the Earth

by Kids Can Press Inc
by Scott Forbes (author) and Jean Camden (illustrator) Hardcover, 64 pages
Published March 1st 2014 by Kids Can Press
ISBN 1894786882 (ISBN13: 9781894786881)

Summary from Goodreads:
Young readers can follow along as two children perform an experiment in which they create a new planet, replicating in ten steps the exact processes that formed Earth. Within that context, author Scott Forbes manages to clearly explain basic concepts that span the science curriculum, including: chemistry (atoms, protons, neutrons, elements), physics (gravity), astronomy (star formation, supernovas, galaxies, the Milky Way, black holes), earth science (temperature, atmosphere, the water cycle, surface plates and how they've changed) and biology (cells, single-celled organisms, evolution, extinction).

My Thoughts:
How to Make a Planet has it all.

Information: How to Make a Planet is a great starting point for so many types of science. As mentioned in the Goodreads summary, it manages to touch upon almost everything that would be covered in an Earth & Space science course. While it can't get into a huge amount of detail on each topic, the author is still able to explain each concept clearly and concisely. I can imagine some students being more than satisfied with these descriptions, and others being motivated to seek our more in depth information.

Organization: While packed with amazing scientific information, the book is chunked into ten manageable "steps" with catchy titles like "Begin with a Bang!" and "Bake to Perfection". Each step is a few pages long, and is also well chunked with interesting subtitles, creative graphics, and fun factoids. I love the "time check" portion that helps kids get a feel for the immense stretches of time represented by each step.

The overall style is what really sold me on this book, though. The writing is spot on. Forbes is able to clearly communicate very complex information while still making it all sound so... cool! The kids who are learning how to "make a planet" are drawn as active, interesting children. The main character, illustrated in color, is first shown on a skateboard with a ringed planet on his shirt. I love that the illustrator, Camden, doesn't feel the need to make science kids fit any stereotypical appearance. Two other children appear throughout the story (drawn in shades of greenish blue). One is a boy and the other is a girl. They are also shown in active, engaged poses. It would have been nice to see a little more variety in physical types, though, as all three children appear to be caucasian.

Back Matter:
Rounding out the book is a solid back section. There is a page of "Amazing Facts", which are also well organized. There is a three page glossary with excellent definitions and an index at the end.

Recommended for:
Classes: Based on my district's current science program, this title would fit perfectly in the fourth grade classroom. It is sophisticated enough in concept to go into early middle school.

Students: You know you always have a few kids who are just gung-ho about space, right? Be sure to have this title on hand for them!

Classroom Uses
Science units on space and the formation of the Earth
Mentor text for "how to" writing
Pair with science fiction titles like Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass.

Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Monday September 1st

Wait... what? Did that title really include the word "SEPTEMBER"?? That's just not right! Why does it seem like time speeds up each year?

Anyway - with summer now officially behind me (I was back to work for professional development last week, but students return this Tuesday) I'm hoping to get back on a more regular "It's Monday" posting schedule. I'm also hoping to tackle the stack of books I need to review....

Enough chatter, right? Time to get to the bookish thing.

Also - I forgot to link up last week's post. So here it is.


I love Enola Holmes. Add in the mysterious and fascinating Florence Nightingale, and this story is a big winner!

Wow! This is a great way to introduce science fiction to younger readers. The text isn't too difficult, and the setting is current day, so you can eliminate some of the hurdles kids often face as they tackle science fiction. I loved the story about the "fountain of youth" idea, and there's plenty of science and people in science to encourage readers to seek out more information after the book is complete. I plan to do a full review of this one coming up soon...

Best picture book this week:

I read a few, but my favorite had to be

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
ISBN 1442435828 (ISBN13: 9781442435827)
If you loved The Monster at the End of This Book (as I did), you'll love this one.

Don't forget to look at the back of the book as you close it!

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's Monday August 25th

So, it's the last Monday of the summer.

Technically, though, my summer ended yesterday. I am back at work and ready to get another amazing year started! Somehow it seems to be easier to get these posts written when I am in a work-a-day mode. This post represents several weeks of reading... and I know my reading volume will slow considerably now that I'm back to work.

Don't forget to check out the tag #IMWAYR on Twitter and to visit www.teachmentortexts.com and www.unleashingreaders.com for the roundups of posts!

** (Must read 2014)
Amazing historical fiction. I loved the WWII setting and the powerful friendship between two amazing women. So glad this was on my Must Read 2014 list!

I love Gail Simone's run on Batgirl. This was a nice stand-alone story.

Not out out - but put it on your radar for September. A great introduction to the life of one of my favorite authors from childhood. I didn't know just how progressive and independent she was! I'm also looking forward to the adult memoirs from her diaries coming out soon.

** (Must read 2014)
Very dark tale of superheroes gone bad. For upper high school and adults. The art is fabulous, but the story doesn't feel as highly developed as I had hoped.

** (Must read 2014)
I'm glad I read it - but it didn't really do it for me. I loved the science fiction parts of the story a LOT... but the more realistic portions of the story rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like the story jumped all around and it made me a little seasick.

** (Must read 2014)
Did I mention I love Simone's Batgirl? I'm still catching up - there are 4 volumes out now. Very dark but Batgirl rocks the world.

Another September book to keep on your radar. This is a middle grade fantasy. Gaining magical powers makes for a rough transition to the teen years, and losing your beloved dog is even worse. Very well done story that I think kids will really like!

I love Young's artistic style, and I adore puffins. Your primary kids are going to get a huge kick out of this tale. (late September release date)

** (Must Read in 2014)
I just adore this series. Mixing science fiction with seriously fractured fairy tales is clearly my jam. I can't wait for Winter and Fairest!

Peek into the mind of a young man intent on murder-suicide. I listened to this one and it just about gutted me on a daily basis. So important - I think high schoolers and teachers from middle school on up should all read this book.

Silly and fun - a wonderful early science fiction novel for upper elementary. Pair with the picture book How to Make a Planet!

Middle grade fantasy/steam punk. It has fascinating world-building and intriguing characters. While it was not consistently well-paced, I was hooked on the world and the story by the end and will definitely continue this series.

Update on Must Read...

2014 - I have 9/44 left to read. Will I make it? Since I started with 36 and then added more, I won't be TOO hard on myself if one or two of the books slip to the 2015 list..

2015 - I've already started marking books for my Must Read 2015 list. I won't formalize it until the end of December, so some books may get removed and others may get added. Here's what I have so far...

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