Monday, April 30, 2012

It's Monday! What are You Reading?

In light of the big plagiarism kerfuffle going on right now, I've decided that I won't be participating in In My Mailbox any longer.  Since "It's Monday! What are You Reading?" is hosted by my teaching tweeps, Jen and Kellee, over at Teach Mentor Texts and many of my teaching tweeps participate in it, I think this is a good time to participate in a new meme.

What I read last week:
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (audiobook)
The audio of this book is nowhere near as wonderful as reading the book yourself. The narrator's interpretation of St. Clair's voice is nowhere near what I pictured it in my mind.

The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake, illustrated by Adam Rex
A review of this book is coming soon. In the wake of this book being banned by a Pennsylvania school district, I'm going to promote this book as much as I can!

Squish: Brave New Pond by Jennifer and Matthew Holm
Oh how I love Squish. If I had fun stories like this to read when I was in school maybe I wouldn't have hated science so much.

Currently reading (or listening):

Bad Hair Day by Carrie Harris
I requested this one on NetGalley and I'm very excited to read it. I'm about halfway through and it is just as sassy and funny as Bad Taste in Boys. Plus, Carrie Harris visited my class last week so I love that I get to read this before it's out in November.

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (audiobook)
James Van Der Beek is the narrator of this audiobook. How cool is that? Not to mention this book is downright hilarious. Hiaasen is very much poking fun at the whole debacle with Bear Grylls and Man vs. Wild.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (audiobook)
I did not like this book at all when I was in school but I'm trying it again because I know I need to read more books that appeal to boys. I'm definitely liking it more now than I did when I was a kid. The audio version of this book is a little hokey... it plays sad music every time Brian has a flashback to a painful memory.

Paris in Love by Eloisa James
I received the ARC of this book a couple weeks ago and I just started it. Not sure how I feel about it yet. It's told in very small anecdotes (some of them almost Twitter-sized) and it doesn't really have a flow to it. But I'm not that far into it so we'll see if the format grows on me.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Christopher Paul Curtis event at Nicola's in Ann Arbor

Last night I went to Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor to hear Christoper Paul Curtis speak, the author who wrote Bud, Not Buddy along with some other great works of historical fiction for kids: The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963, Elijah of Buxton, and now, The Mighty Miss Malone.

I was so honored and thrilled to meet this Newbery-winning author and even more excited to hear him speak. The man has an enthralling speaking voice. I could listen to him talk all day. Not to mention the fact that he was funny and engaging to both adults and kids alike. It was a standing room only crowd there last night.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Carrie Harris is made of awesome

On Monday, Carrie Harris, author of the epically funny Bad Taste in Boys, came to talk to my 6th graders about what it's like to be a writer, zombie science, monster proms, and her newest book coming out in November, Bad Hair Day.

Carrie taped together all her rejections and showed them to my class

Students are eager to read some of the rejections aloud

They are all apparently fascinated by rejection

Students work on a Monster Prom writing activity

The reason Carrie agreed to come in the first place: I made her maple bacon ice cream :)

A good time was had by all! I hope she'll come back again next year. I'll have to come up with another wacky ice cream flavor to entice her to come back. 

Waiting on Wednesday: Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is:

Bon Appetit: The Delicious Life of Julia Child by Jessie Hartland
Publication Date: May 22, 2012
Publisher: Random House
Pages: 48
Genre: Biography
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade

From Goodreads:
Follow Julia Child—chef, author, and television personality—from her childhood in Pasadena, California, to her life as a spy in WWII, to the cooking classes she took in Paris, to the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to the funny moments of being a chef on TV. This is a comprehensive and enchanting picture book biography, told in many panels and jam-packed with lively, humorous, and child-friendly details. Young chefs and Julia Child fans will exclaim, "ooooh la la," about this book, which is as energetic and eccentric as the chef herself.

Having read Julia Child's memoir, I love the idea of her life being a children's picture book. The picture on the cover alone has already endeared me to this book.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: All-Time Favorite Book Characters

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic is: Top Ten All-Time Favorite Book Characters

1. J.Lo the Alien from The True Meaning of Smekday
I know this book gets put on a lot of my Top Ten lists, but I just love it so much. The reason I love it so much? J.Lo the Boov alien. What crazy mad genius would ever think to name an alien J.Lo (and the main character Gratuity)? That is the hilarious mind of Adam Rex. Check out my interview with Adam where explains how he came up with the idea for the name J.Lo (and Gratuity).

2. Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars
Smart, cute, funny, and the most wonderful teenage boy to grace the pages of a book. I mean, he fell for a girl who had visible signs of a terminal disease. There's nothing more honorable and endearing than that.

3. Melinda from Speak
Melinda has such a powerful voice even though she never talks. Her story will stay with me for a long time.

4.Micah from Liar
Even though I am ambivalent about how I feel about this book, you can't deny that Micah is one memorable character. One that you will question and doubt what is truth and what is lies throughout the entire novel.

5. Holden Caufield from The Catcher in the Rye
One of the few canonical classics I actually enjoyed in high school, Holden is one of the first characters I remember discussing with friends during our own time, meaning not in class. Back then we liked Holden even though we knew he was a pathetic mess.

6. Auggie from Wonder
Born with a severe facial deformity, we meet Auggie for the first time when his parents decide that 5th grade is the perfect time for him to stop being home schooled and start attending real school. Auggie's sweet nature and lovable intelligence makes him one of the most memorable characters to grace children's literature in a long time.

7. Julian Singh from The View from Saturday
The perfect poster boy for weirdness and kindness. Julian and The Souls are the reason I came back to books after a long absence.

8. Minny from The Help
The characters from this novel stayed with me even during breaks from reading. I would find myself cooking dinner or doing laundry and thinking to myself, "I wonder what Skeeter's going to do about this?" or "I can't believe Minny did that!" Or "Oh my gosh! That Hilly is so evil!" But Minny was sassy and mouthy and one of the most fabulous characters to ever grace the pages of a book.

9. Enzo the dog from The Art of Racing in the Rain
This book is one of the most emotional reads I've ever experienced and it was all told from the perspective of a dog. The most wise dog you will ever encounter. One you wish was your dog.

10. Adam and Mia from If I Stay/Where She Went
I am a dubious reader of romance so when I encounter a couple like Mia and Adam who are so perfect for each other and whose relationship has a strong foundation (not this insta-love crap that so much YA lit seems to be spewing out these days), that is something I will remember as a reader.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

In My Mailbox (70)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

For review:
Paris in Love by Eloisa James
Bad Hair Day by Carrie Harris

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Unseen Guest by Maryrose Wood (Thanks Alethea!)

Library Loot:


The Sweet Life by Sam Talbot

Graphic Novel:
Squish: Brave New Pond by Jennifer and Matthew Holm

Picture Books:

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen
The Cloud Spinner by Michael Catchpool, illustrated by Alison Jay

Used bookstore finds:

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen

What did you get in your mailbox this week?

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet and
so cold

- William Carlos Williams

And thus begins the inspiration for Gail Carson Levine's first book of poetry: with William Carlos Williams' infamous insincere apology. This is the first book I have ever encountered where one poem is used over and over again for inspiration and parody.

This is one of those books that isn't likely to lure in kids with its cover wiles or enchanting premise, but it's certainly a goldmine for teachers. What could be more perfect than to have kids write their own false apology poems? And that's exactly what my 6th graders did. After listening to a few of Levine's examples, which included apologies from Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Snow White, and the cow from Jack and the Beanstalk (a great way to teach allusion too), I got everyone thinking about what sorts of false apologies they could write.

The poems themselves, if you read them silently and alone, are not particularly provocative, and after reading about five of them, they get sort of tiresome, but in the context of the classroom, where students are sharing ideas, it can be a fun writing exercise and a means to an end, which is to get them to write their own poetry. Starting with a model to emulate is always the best way to go before getting students to write on their own.  So not only did we have the original poem and the poems from this book as inspiration, but I also gave my students my own example:

This is Just to Say

I have eaten
the bacon
that was on the counter

and which
you were probably
for ice cream

Forgive me
bacon is
meat candy

I was even impressed by the conversation that they initiated about point of view. In that, they asked, "So is this poem written from your husband's point of view?" A few of them argued that no, it was from my dog's, but regardless of whose point of view its from (either one is a logical choice, but I really wrote it with my husband in mind), it just shows that when you have faith in students to rise to the occasion, often they will go above and beyond. I only expected them to emulate a poetic form. Instead, we also had a discussion about point of view, something they have learned and applied in literature class this year (and not from a multiple choice test!) - and now English class too.

After our discussion, I left them to their own devices to have fun and come up with some creative ideas. Here are some of my own students' attempts:

This is Just to Say

I have broken 
your vase
playing baseball
in the house

it must have cost you 
a fortune
and you liked it
a lot

Forgive me
it was a good game
I earned 10 points

-Annie M.

This is Just to Say

I have given
my algebra work
to my dog

You probably
expected me to turn
it in today

Forgive me
I didn't like my
homework but my
dog did

-Micaela F.

This is Just to Say

I have stolen
your lucky rock
that was sitting
so innocently on the counter

that you probably 
needed for
a math

Forgive me
I needed the luck
when you found out
I stole it

- Annabel R.

This is Just to Say

I will not
be home
on time

I was too
busy running from 

I am sorry I didn't
want to get

- Evan W.

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Carson Levine, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Published: March 13, 2012
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 80
Genre: Poetry
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: This was a purchased copy - gotta have it for my classroom! :)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Showers of Books Giveaway Hop

This blog hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & One A Day YA.

For my portion of the hop I am giving away a copy of :

Black Dawn by Rachel Cane
Series: The Morganville Vampires #12
Publish Date: May 1, 2012
Publisher: New American Library
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Fantasy/Paranormal
Audience: Young Adult

To enter, use the Rafflecopter widget:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to showcase upcoming books that you can't wait to read.

My anxiously awaited title this week is:

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
Expected Publication: October 23, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown BFYR
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult

From Goodreads:
Astrid Jones copes with her small town's gossip and narrow-mindedness by staring at the sky and imagining that she's sending love to the passengers in the airplanes flying high over her backyard. Maybe they'll know what to do with it. Maybe it'll make them happy. Maybe they'll need it. Her mother doesn't want it, her father's always stoned, her perfect sister's too busy trying to fit in, and the people in her small town would never allow her to love the person she really wants to: another girl named Dee. There's no one Astrid feels she can talk to about this deep secret or the profound questions that she's trying to answer. But little does she know just how much sending her love--and asking the right questions--will affect the passengers' lives, and her own, for the better. 

I loved A.S. King's Please Ignore Vera Dietz.  In fact, I am ashamed that I haven't read her other books yet since I loved Vera Dietz so much. It doesn't help that now I have this book to add to the pile which sounds equally as compelling as all of King's other plot descriptions.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Monday, April 16, 2012

No Strings Attached Giveaway Hop

This blog hop is being hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

In honor of National Poetry Month, I'm giving away the very unorthodox poetry book:

Broetry by Brian McGackin
Published: July 15, 2011
Publisher: Quirk
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 128

From Goodreads:
As contemporary poets sing the glories of birds, birch trees, and menstruation, regular guys are left scratching their heads. Who can speak for Everyman? Who will articulate his love for Xbox 360, for Mama Celeste’s frozen pizza, for the cinematic oeuvre of Bruce Willis?

Enter Broetry—a stunning debut from a dazzling new literary voice. “Broet Laureate” Brian McGackin goes where no poet has gone before—to Star Wars conventions, to frat parties, to video game tournaments, and beyond. With poems like “Ode to That Girl I Dated for, Like, Two Months Sophomore Year” and “My Friends Who Don’t Have Student Loans,” we follow the Bro from his high school graduation and college experience through a “quarter-life crisis” and beyond.

I read Broetry back in September (check out my review here) and thought it was absolutely hilarious. Quirk sent me a review copy and one to give away but I wanted to wait until poetry month to give my second copy away.

So here's your chance to win - just use the Rafflecopter widget and you'll be entered.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

In My Mailbox (69)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren

Another vlog this week in which I talk about a lot of books and entertain you with big words. I also talk about authors (well, one in particular) who entertain kids by pouring stuff over their heads:

Books mentioned:
Dork Diaries Tales from a Not-So-Talented Pop Star by Rachel Renee Russell
Bad Kitty Gets a Bath by Nick Bruel
The Doppelganger Chronicles: The First Escape by G.P. Taylor
The Guardians of Ga'Hoole: The Capture by Kathryn Lasky
 My Friend is Sad and Can I Play Too? by Mo Willems
 Kali's Song by Jeanette Winter
C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir, illustrated by Julian Hector
Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber (audiobook)
The Trouble with Poetry and Other Poems by Billy Collins
Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry compiled by Billy Collins

Blog posts mentioned in my vlog:
An Evening with Billy Collins
Adam Rex "celebrating" his win as March Book Madness Champion

I also mentioned in my vlog that my dog Frank is a curmudgeon (see? big word). This is a perfect example of his curmudgeon-iness. He was mad that he got a bath and that his bed was put in the wash, so he went to mope in his toy basket: