Saturday, April 23, 2011

No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko

Cover from Amazon

Summary:  After the bank forecloses on their house, their mom sends Finn, India and Mouse to fictional Ft. Baker, Colorado to live with their Uncle Red. Since mom is a school teacher and they need the money from her job, she will join them once the school year ends.  However, it's not Ft. Baker where they land, but  Falling Bird.   Reminiscent of Dorothy's trip to Oz, the children soon realize that Falling Bird is like no place they have ever heard of  - and though at first it seems like a wonderful place to India and Mouse (Finn is more skeptical), they soon realize that home is where you family is and "there is no place like home."  But time is running out. Will they beat the clock and make it home?  

This story had the beginnings of a realistic story detailing an all too common experience for many families in today's economy.  When the plane lands the story shifts from realistic fiction to fantasy.   It is a little confusing - trying to figure out just what is going on - but the confusion the reader feels is the same as the characters.  Choldenko's craftily woven plot pulls the reader into the story, making it easy for readers to identify with the characters.  Half the fun of the reading the book is trying to solve the puzzle. 

Young adults/pre-teens will identify with how the children feel about being uprooted from their home. Adults will appreciate the growth the children experience as they try to find their way back. 

Readers who enjoy a bit of a mystery with a twist and a little bit of fantasy will enjoy this book.

Recommended for 4th Grade and up.

Mrs. Archer's rating: 4 of 5 

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Piper Reed Series by Kimberly Hold

Readers who enjoy Judy Moody, Clementine, and Ramona will enjoy reading about Piper Reed's adventures. These books will have special appeal to military children, whether they be Navy, Army, Marine or Air Force "brats."

Each book is lively with humor that will appeal to both children and adults. Piper does learn a lesson in each of the books, but the stories never have the feel of a lecture.  And Piper still manages to be her own true self without becoming a "better child."  (I recently watched an interview with Beverly Cleary who stated that she created Ramona to be real and not a moral tale about children who always learn their lesson and become "better children."  I think Beverly Cleary would like Piper Reed - and who knows, Piper and Ramona might even make good friends.)

 Piper Reed Navy Brat

Cover from Goodreads


Amazon Product Description

It’s not easy being the middle child, especially when your dad is a Navy Chief. Meet Piper Reed, a spunky nine-year-old who has moved more times than she can count on one hand. From Texas to Guam, wherever Piper goes, adventure follows, inspired by her active imagination, free-wheeling spirit, and a bit of sister magic. Unlike her older sister, Piper loves being part of a Navy family, and unlike her little sister, Piper is no prodigy genius. Piper is Piper—fearless and full of life.
Based on her own childhood experience, Kimberly Willis Holt portrays the life of a Navy family with warmth and humor.

This is the first book I read about Piper. I'm proud to say that I met Kimberly Holt at the Texas Book Festival a few years back and she graciously signed my copy of Piper Reed Navy Brat.

Piper Reed The Great Gypsy (later released as Piper Reed, Clubhouse Queen.
Cover from Amazon (

Amazon Product Description

The Gypsy Club Creed
We are the Gypsies of land and sea.
We move from port to port.
We make friends wherever we go.
And everywhere we go, we let people know
That we’re the Gypsies of land and sea.
Piper’s dad—the Navy Chief—might be gone again, but Piper’s got plenty to keep her busy at home: new neighbors, a spaceship beach house, a trip to New Orleans, and most important, the upcoming Gypsy Club pet show. Piper is determined to win, but teaching her dog Bruna tricks seems nearly impossible. Bruna is simply un-teachable! Or is she? Join Piper as she embarks on new and exciting adventures!

 Piper Reed: Clubhouse Queen (previously published as Piper Reed Gets a Job)

Cover from Amazon

 Amazon Product Description

Piper Reed and her fellow Gypsy Club members are in need of a clubhouse. Raising money to buy one proves a challenge. Piper, being the resourceful fifth grader that she is, launches her own party-planning business and gets her first job throwing young Brady’s birthday celebration. But things don’t go as expected on the day of the big event. Fortunately for Piper, her friends and family come to her rescue!

Piper Reed: Campfire Girl

Cover from Amazon

Amazon Product Description

Piper and her family are going camping—nothing could be better. But when Piper finds out that the camping trip is on Halloween, nothing could be worse! Still, catching fish, roasting marshmallows, and sleeping in a trailer are right up Piper’s alley, even if getting poison ivy is not. Get ready for another terrific adventure starring the ever-spunky, ever-loving Piper Reed.

Piper Reed: Rodeo Star

Cover from Amazon

Amazon Product Description

Piper’s parents are going on vacation to France and not taking the whole family. What rotten luck! Still, Piper always looks on the bright side. The Reed sisters will be visiting their two sets of grandparents in Piney Woods, and Piper is determined to have four adventures. By working in a grocery store, listening to Tori’s scary stories, and lassoing a calf, Piper almost reaches her quota. But sometimes the best adventures are the most unexpected ones.

This series is great for classroom (or family) read alouds. It's must have for school or classroom libraries that serve military children.  Non-military children will enjoy the series as well.

Recommended for Ages 9 and up.

Mrs. Archer's Rating: 5 of 5. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Word Play

Recently, I read two wonderful books on word play: David Lubar's Punished and The Cat's Pajamas by Wallace Edwards

Book Cover From:

From the Inside Flap

Logan isn’t grounded. But he is being punished—-by a weird old guy in the reference section who seems to have a little more magic than most librarians. Now Logan’s in big trouble with his parents, his teachers, and even his best friend, Benedict! Why? Because he’s out of control, spouting puns left and right, getting on everybody’s last nerve. 

To end this vocabulary voodoo, Logan must complete three quests in record time, finding some of the wackiest word combos known to English: oxymorons, anagrams, and palindromes. Don’t know what they are? Look them up! But be careful of strange librarians with dusty books or you, too, may be . . .

This book was recommended to me by Mrs. Klock's 5th grade class here at Chinook Trail Elementary.  I just love it when my students recommend books for me to read.

This is great book to teach students about word plays.  It is an excellent read-a-loud that can be followed up with activities allowing the students to create their own puns, anagrams, oxymorons, and palindromes.  WOW! What a fun lesson.

Teachers will enjoy the teachable moments and students will enjoy the humor.

Recommended for Grades 3 and up (though it might work well as a read-aloud to 2nd graders. They will find the word play funny, even if they don't quite understand it all.)

Mrs. Archer's Rating:  5 of 5

Book Cover from Amazon:

Amazon Product Description

From the acclaimed Wallace Edwards comes his second collection of idioms, a companion to the award-winning Monkey Business. The Cat's Pajamas depicts 26 idioms, bringing new meaning to familiar sayings and tickling your funny bone with a surreal illustration on each page. To ensure you get the hang of it, each expression is used in a sentence and explained at the back of the book. And if you look closely you'll discover a cat hidden in every painting; some cats are a piece of cake to find, others may require you to use your noodle. A gorgeously illustrated eye-spy book and a unique introduction to idioms, this book is truly the cat's meow. 

I read about The Cat's Pajamas on another blog and thought it would be a good book to share with Chinook 5th Graders.  The students loved the pictures, and surprisingly knew several of the idioms.  The next time I have an opportunity to share this book with 5th graders I hope to have enough time to allow them to create and illustrate their own list of idioms.  They are rather creative bunch. I bet they would come up with some great ones. A good lesson plan to be used with this book can be found here.

Recommended for Grade 4 and up.

Mrs. Archer's rating 5 of 5!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) & Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary!

Today is National Drop Everything and Read (D.E.A.R) Day. It's celebrated on Beverly Cleary's birthday. It is celebrated on her birthday because "Beverly Cleary receives thousands of letters a year from young readers, many who have participated in D.E.A.R. at school. Their interest in and enthusiasm for this special reading activity inspired Mrs. Cleary to give the same experience to Ramona Quimby, who gets to enjoy D.E.A.R. time with the rest of her class in Ramona Quimby, Age 8." (National D.E.A.R. website.)

Today I was honored to be invited to be a guest reader in Mrs. Nader's 2nd Grade class and Mrs. Drake's and Mrs. Brunelle's 3rd Grade Classes.  I'm also pleased to say that at least at Chinook Trail Elementary, Beverly Cleary books are still loved by elementary students.

When I was in elementary school, I wanted to grow up and be BEVERLY CLEARY!  We had the same first name. How hard could it be.  Well, I've only made it half way there. Mrs. Cleary started out as a children's librarian.  I'm a children's librarian. Maybe someday I'll make it the rest of the way and become a published children's author.  In the mean time, I'm happy to held children learn 21st Century Information Skills and develop a love for reading and books.

My three all time favorite Beverly Cleary Books are Ramona The Pest, The Mouse and the Motorcycle (wonder if Ralph rode a Harley like my husband) and Ralph S. Mouse.  I shared a chapter from Ramona The Pest and Ralph S. Mouse with the third graders.  I introduced the 2nd Graders to Janet and Jimmy, two precocious twins found in Two Times the Fun.

Even if you are not a kid, you should read a Beverly Cleary book once in a while. It would be good for you.  Times have changed.  Today's Klickitat Street would look very different from the one in Cleary's books.  But I do believe today's children can still identify with Ramona.  Wanting to know how Mike Mulligan went to the bathroom if he had to work on the steam shovel all day is a reasonable kindergarten question. And so is thinking that being told "to sit here for the present" means you are getting a present.

I don't remember the name of the librarian or teacher who first introduced me to Beverly Cleary and her wonderful books. But I do know it was one of the nicest things anyone ever did for me. It got me hooked on the world of books, which has made a huge difference in my life.

It's National School Library Month and this week in particular is National Library Week.  Take time to stop by and thank a librarian. It will mean more than you know.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Clementine and The Family Meeting by Sarah Pennypacker - ARC Review

Cover Photo from GoodReads

I received an advanced reader’s copy of Clementine and The Family Meeting by Sarah Pennypacker from NetGalley.

I am always excited when a new Clementine adventure is published.  I’ve enjoyed all of the previous books and so have my elementary students.  This book was no exception.  In fact, it might be my favorite Clementine book .

Clementine is very worried. The FAMILY MEETING! sign has been posted on the fridge.  This usually means that Clementine is in trouble.  What could she have done now? Was she too messy? Did she eat too much junk food or was she too mean to Potato – uh, her I mean her little brother?  No matter how she schemes to find out what’s on the agenda, her parents tell her she has to wait until the meeting.  Hoping the meeting is not about her being in trouble, but is instead about the family getting a pet gorilla, Clementine is dismayed to learn the meeting is about a new baby.  She and Spinach are getting a baby brother or sister.  Clementine very politely tells her parents “No. Thanks!” After all their family is perfect as it is. There are four of them and there are four sides to the table.  How will Clementine cope? Her friend Margaret tells Clementine that if HER mom were going to have a baby, Margaret would just move to California.  Great! Not only does Clementine have to worry about a new addition to the family, she’s now worried about Margaret moving away.  Adding to all the upheaval is a missing school science project.  Will Clementine be able to sort everything out and make room for one more?

Pennypacker has captured the true essence of kid in Clementine. She’s a truly lovable character.  Older readers (parents) may just recognize their own children in some of Clementine’s antics.  She’s not perfect, but she tries very hard and she’s got a big heart (one big enough for a new baby and Acorn Squash.*)   Children who are struggling with sharing Mom and Dad (and grandparents) with a new sibling will relate to Clementine’s struggles.  This is a great resource for helping children work through the issue of sibling rivalry.

Recommended as a read alone for Grades 3 and up or a great Read A Loud for 2nd Grade.

Mrs. Archer’s rating:  5 of 5!

*Clementine frequently refers to her little brother by vegetable names.  She thinks this is only fair since she, herself is named after a fruit.  In the continuing spirit of fairness she suggests the new baby have a food name as well, perhaps Mushroom Soup?