Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bink & Gollie

Newbery winning author Kate DiCamillo pairs up Alison McGhee to create an engaging story about two precocious young girls, Bink and Gollie.  One is tiny. One is tall. Gollie loves pancakes. Bink loves peanut butter.  Both are beyond imagination.  The two extraordinary girls share three humorous adventures involving an outrageous pair of socks, a trip to the Andes and the somewhat intrusive addition of a most unlikely new companion.  Despite not always agreeing on everything, at the end of the day they are always best friends.   This is a wonderful  tale of friendship brought  to life by the delightful  illustrations of Tony Fucile.  I hope we see more of Bink and Gollie.

Available at Pikes Peak Library.

Mrs. Archer’s Rating: 5 of 5

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Buddha's Diamonds

While searching for books on responsibility, I ran across this little gem: The Buddha’s Diamonds by Carolyn Marsden and Thay Niem.  Though a work of fiction, the story is based in part on Niem’s childhood experiences in Vietnam.  Even though Tinh is 10, he has begun to take on adult responsibilities and is proud to help his father support and feed the family.  During a fierce storm Tinh’s father trusts him to secure the boat – key to the family’s livelihood.  Unfortunately, Tinh panics and fails to keep the boat safe.  Feeling guilty that while he was unable to save the boat he was able to save a coveted toy, Tinh hopes that he can salvage the boat and gain back his father’s trust.  Young readers will learn about Buddhist concepts as they are gently introduced throughout the story.  Vietnamese words may be a challenge for younger or less fluent readers.  A glossary at the end helps with the meanings.  This is a beautifully written story about responsibility and family relationships. It is an excellent story for introducing students to a different culture.

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 5 of 5

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Princess and Her Panther by Wendy Orr

The core character trait for September is courage/bravery.  The Princess and Her Panther by Wendy Orr is a quick, imaginative picture book about two sisters who brave the night camping out in their back yard.  I originally checked out this book from the public library because I have a student who is always looking for “princess” books, but this book is also an excellent example of bravery.  The princess (the older sister) is brave and her panther (the little sister) tries to be.  Brilliant illustrations pull the reader into the girls’ adventure.  Their red tent becomes a royal shelter, the lake is their wading pool and the sandbox is a desert. While the princess is brave, the little panther finds nightfall scary.  Not only is the timidness of the panther shown in the rich illustrations, but also in the refrain “The princess was brave and the panther tried to be.”  As the night goes on the girls are confronted by one scare after another, but instead of retreating to the house the girls stand up to their fears.  Not only is the princess brave but so is her panther.

This is a great book for young girls who love princess stories and for parents who want to encourage young children to be brave.

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 5 of 5

Do you have a favorite princess story?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Not All Princesses Wear Pink

In the tradition of  Do Princesses Wear Hiking Boots? by Carmela LaVigna Coyle, Jane Yolen’s Not All Princesses Dress In Pink is a wonderful picture book that tells girls that a princess does not have to fit a certain mold.  Written in rhyme, Yolen tells us "Some [princesses] play in bright red socks that stink,/blue team jerseys that don't quite fit,/ accessorized with a baseball mitt,/and a sparkly crown."


Princesses are shown riding bikes, doing carpentry, and getting muddy while dancing with dogs in the rain—all while wearing their crowns. The message is a good one for young girls and the illustrations are appealing.  If you have an unconventional or even a conventional little princess you should read this book with her.


Mrs. Archer's Rating: 5 of 5

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Library Mouse: A World to Explore by Daniel Kirk

If you are looking for a good book to teach children about being brave, check out Library Mouse: A World to Explore.  Sam, the Library Mouse likes to spend his time researching subject – like exploration. He’d rather write about them than actually do them.  One night he meets an adventuresome mouse named Sara.  Fearless Sara loves to explore.  Sam doesn’t know much about exploring. Sara doesn’t know much about research and writing.  But together they learn that with teamwork anything is possible. 

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 5 of 5

Other titles in the series:
Library Mouse
Library Mouse: A Friend’s Tale

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Which Authors Do You Follow?

Today is the fall equinox.  Soon leaves will be changing colors and the air will get cooler.  I love curling up in the fall/winter with a good book.  The fall is a busy time for book release as publishers release many new books in the hopes that people will buy books for the holiday season.  Do you have a favorite author you like to read? One you get on the reserve list at the library for before their new book is even published?  I have several authors I follow and anxiously await the release of their new books.  Here are just a few of my favorite authors:

Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson series)
Megan McDonald (Judy Moody series)
Nancy Springer (Enola Holmes Mysteries)
Ron Roy (A to Z and Capitol Mysteries)
Sarah Pennypacker (Clementine series)
Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid)
Pam Munoz Ryan (a variety of titles)
Deborah Wiles (a variety of titles)
I’ll stop now because I could go on and on into the next century.  I want to know the authors you like. Post a comment and let me know.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Emma Dilemma and The New Nanny by Patricia Hermes

In the tradition of Ramona, Junie B., Clementine and Judy Moody, comes Emma O’Fallon, better known as Emma Dilemma.  Emma Dilemma and The New Nanny centers around Emma’s struggles to be more responsible.

When Emma is around mishaps abound.  Most often they center on Marmaduke, her pet ferret.  Marmaduke tends to escape from his cage (ok, Emma frequently forgets to put him there.)  One night Emma’s mom finds Marmaduke in her mattress and threatens to return him to the pet store unless Emma shows more responsibility.  Not only is Emma worried that this will happen she’s afraid her parents will not think she’s responsible enough to be on the Under Nine Traveling Soccer Team.
On top of all this, the family gets a new nanny, Annie O’Reilly.  Emma and her brothers and sister take to Annie right away, but Emma is worried her mom will think Annie is not responsible enough to be their nanny.  A burned passport, an adventure with a locked door and a near fall from a tree add to the mayhem.  Things work out as Emma learns to be more responsible and her mom learns that no one, including parents, is perfect.  With a reading level of 3.1 this is an enjoyable early chapter book and good read-aloud.
Other books in the series: 

Emma Dilemma and The Two Nannies
Emma Dilemma and The Soccer Nanny
Emma Dilemma and The Camping Nanny
Emma Dilemma, the Nanny and the Secret Ferret

Mrs. Archer’s Rating:  5 of 5 stars!

Do you have a favorite character that always seems to get in trouble? Post a comment and let me know.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Aurora County All Stars

Each time the students visit the library I try to give them a quick book talk about one of the books they can find in our library. There are so many books and just not enough time to introduce them all to students. A few weeks ago I told the students about one of my favorite authors: Deborah Wiles. She is a wonderful southern writer that I have had the honor to meet on two separate occasions. It's a real treat to listen to her talk about how she gets ideas for her books and the routines she follows when writing.

I told the Chinook Tigers about Aurora County All Stars which is a wonderful book. It's about baseball, about finding yourself, about finding friends you didn't know you had, and it's about including everyone. It's a book with a message, but it doesn't hit the reader over the head with it. I believe children will enjoy it, but I'm not sure they will understand the Walt Whitman references. The true baseball fans will love the quotes from famous players. Another reason I enjoyed this book, is one of my favorite characters from a previous Wiles book (Ruby Lavendar) plays an important role in the story. Mrs. Wiles has a new book just released this May about growing up in the 60s. Countdown is next on my to read list.

Other books by Deborah Wiles:

Love Ruby Lavender (available at Pikes Peak Library)

Each Little Bird That Sings (available at Pikes Peak Library)

Mrs. Archer's rating for Aurora County All Stars – 5 of 5.


What are you reading?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kenny and the Dragon by Tony Diterlizzi

Kenny and the Dragon is an all animal version of the famous battle between St. George and the dragon. Written by one of the authors of the Spiderwick Chronicles, the tale tells the story of Kenny, a young bookworm rabbit who finds a new best friend in Grahame (like the cracker, except with an E) who is anything but your typical bloodthirsty dragon. Things are going great until one of the villagers sees Grahame and panics. The next thing you know Kenny's other good friend, George is tasked by the king to eliminate the dragon problem. Using his wits Kenny finds a way to give the villagers the show they are looking for, while not losing either friend.

This was a quick read, but if you are looking for something like the Spiderwick Chronicles, you should look elsewhere. This feels more like a lighter version of a Brian Jacques Redwall novel, rather than a field guide about fantastical creatures. (Grahame is the only mythological creature in this story.) If you like dragons and would like a less violent ending to the story of St. George and the Dragon, give this book a try.

Friday, September 10, 2010

To Read or To Listen: That Is The Question

On another blog a few years back, I posted a review of book I had read on audio. I was surprised to receive a response. I think an author that takes the time to communicate with his readers is a true treasure. Most of the time we can only guess about the person who created the stories we read. I find my students sometimes have trouble making the connection that authors are real people, because they never see or hear for them. (That's an argument for setting up author visits at your school.)

Back to the question. The author made an interesting comment. Listening to a book is absolutely not the same as reading it on the page. The author is absolutely right and it brings up an argument I hear from time to time. Listening to a book on audio does not count as reading a book. Dear, sweet Mr. Archer has actually made that statement to me. The author was right – Mr. Archer - not so much.

As far as I'm concerned and I know many educators who will agree, listening to a book on audio does count. Try telling a seeing impaired reader that their listening to the book does not count as reading it. What about children who struggle so much with reading comprehension because for whatever reason, reading is so difficult, but totally get it when they listen to the book? Audio books are a great way to get them to keep "reading." What about the bookworm who has way too many books to read and not enough time to read them? I would never get half the books on my "to be read" list read, if I didn't listen to some of them while driving.

It's important to keep in mind one thing when deciding between reading a book and listening to it on audio. Listening is not the same as reading. I love being able to hold a book. I like the feel and scent of the pages. If the print version has illustrations, you won't get them with the audio version. If you miss something important while listening to a book, it is not that easy to go back and find it. With a book in hand you can simply turn back the pages. With a book on audio, you have to search back through tracks – not always easy while driving down a busy highway.

I've always felt two readers can read the same book and come away with something different. When you read you create a mind movie and YOU are in charge of casting and set design. Reading a book is an intimate experience between the writer and the reader. Each brings something to the experience. When you listen to a book on audio, you add another person to the mix and they bring something to the experience as well.

Sometimes, listening to a book on audio may be the only way to "read" a book. Sometimes, when a book is moving too slowly, listening to it can help you make it to the end. But, sometimes, listening to a book on audio can ruin the experience. The reader's voice or choices of tone and inflection can turn off a listener. Of course there are times when the opposite is true. The reader's voice, tone and inflection can bring something valuable to the experience. I have yet to find an audio book done by Bruce Coville's Full Cast Audio that I haven't fully enjoyed.


Whether for enjoyment or for assistance with reading comprehension, I recommend parents and students give audio books a try. Many public libraries now have Playaways – sort of an individual book MP3 player. This would allow several passengers in the same car to listen to different books. Some libraries even offer audio books for download to your iPod. Give it a try. You can always turn it off and pick up the print version.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Word After Word After Word

In Word After Word After Word, by Newbery winner Patricia MacLachlin we meet best friends Lucy, Henry, Evie, Russell and May. The five fourth graders are spellbound by the engaging Ms. Mirabel, an author who spends a few weeks with their class. She introduces them to the magic of words. "I, myself, write to change my life, to make it come out the way I want it to," she tells them before encouraging them to find their own reason for writing.


The story is short, covering just a span of a few weeks. Yet we learn so much about each of the budding young writers. One must deal with the illness of a parent, while others deal with changing families. With Ms. Mirabel's encouragement and daily meetings under the lilac bush at Henry's house they find their own magical words to tell their stories,


This short, quick read provides not only an interesting story, but a lesson in creative writing. Reluctant readers will enjoy the shortness of the book while being engaged by the characters. Readers who dream of being an author themselves will be inspired by the writing process outlined in the book.


This book is a gem: one that will appeal to boys and girls as well as teachers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Flat Stanley

Flat Stanley first appeared on the scene in 1964. Since that time he has surely circled world numerous times. Who would have thought a little paper guy would be so popular with students and teachers alike?


Flat Stanley was created by Fred Brown. The adventures involve Stanley Lambchop and his brother Arthur. In the first book, Stanley is flattened when a bulletin board falls on him during the night while he sleeps. Surprisingly he survives and has numerous adventure including sliding under doors, being flown as a kite, catching art thieves and traveling to California via air mail. Stanley's trip to California sparked what is known as the Flat Stanley project. Educators often use Stanley to help students learn about geography, different cultures and letter writing. Students create their own Flat Stanley, mail him to a friend or relative who then take Stanley on various adventures. Stanley is sent home with a write up and photos of his visit.

Chinook Trail first graders will be participating in the Flat Stanley project this year. Photos of his adventures will be posted in the library. Library Stanley will take a yearlong adventure visiting various parts of the world. His adventures will also be posted in the library. If you know of someone who would like to host Library Stanley be sure to let Mrs. Archer know. Check back periodically for Library Stanley updates.


Books in the series include:

Flat Stanley

Stanley In Space

Stanley and the Magic Lamp

Invisible Stanley

Stanley's Christmas Adventure

Stanley Flat Again

Stanley's adventures continue in the new series: The World Wide Adventures of Stanley:

The Mount Rushmore Calamity

The Great Egyptian Grave Robbery

The Japanese Ninja Surprise

The Intrepid Canadian Expedition

The Amazing Mexican Secret

The African Safari (December 2010).



Thursday, September 2, 2010

Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker

Clementine is a precocious third-grader with good intentions that often land her in trouble. She is eager to help her family and friends, but her creative solutions often cause problems. In the first book she fixes her best friend's hair by cutting it all off and then using her mother's special paint pens to draw on curls; she helps out the principal by answering her phone; and pays attention in class by watching the janitor embrace the lunch lady. Clementine is somewhat reminiscent of Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody. However, parents will find themselves much more comfortable with Clementine than Junie B. Clementine's predicaments, though humorous, seem to be more realistic than those experienced by Junie B. I've heard many educators and parents complain about Junie B.'s atrocious manner of speaking. This is not a problem with Clementine.

In the newest installment, Clementine's best friend, Margaret causes Clementine to worry that her classmates won't find enough good things to write about her in her "Friend of the Week" booklet. Hoping to give them plenty of good things to say Clementine devises a campaign to win the kids over. Of course this campaign has unforeseen (at least by Clementine) consequences. To complicate things even more, her beloved kitten, Moisturizer, vanishes, and Clementine must face the possibility he is lost forever. This just might be my favorite of the Clementine books. We see a side of Margaret that we haven't seen before. Clementine, as always, tugs at the reader's heart strings. I recommend this series for second grade (read aloud) and up.

Titles in the series:


The Talented Clementine

Clementine's Letter

Clementine: Friend of the Week

Mrs. Archer's Rating 5 of 5!