Friday, March 30, 2012

Bloggy Book: Little Blog on the Prairie

In the world of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and cell phones, it seems like everyone is ‘socially’ connected, especially teens (and now even pre-teens) .  For this reason, it’s sometimes fun to read a story about a teen that is disconnected from technology in the modern world.  That’s the case with Little Blog on the Prairie about 13 year old Gen whose family is spending the summer at an 1800’s inspired fantasy camp.  Gen’s family will have to fend for themselves and work together to survive.  Reality hits when the family eats a steady diet of watery grits and beans for the first week.  Gen also doesn’t appreciate having to share a bedroom with her entire family, being the one responsible for scraping the greasy film off of the dishes, or missing soccer practice, modern necessities, and her friends.  When a stow-away cell phone becomes Gen’s link to her friends and the outside world, she un-knowingly becomes a mini-celebrity creating daily anecdotes about prairie life.

This book was sweet, sweet, sweet.  It’s a very solid tween read with just enough conflict and drama to connect with early YA readers.  I liked the premise of the book so much, I was actually hoping for more blog entries, more pioneer drama, and maybe even a bit more romance.  (The romance is very very mild.) But, tweens will eat this up.  Recommended for Grades 5-8.

It's Bloggiesta Time: Updated!

When I started seeing blogs and twitter posts about Bloggiesta, I was intrigued.   I am definitely new to blogging and am always looking for ways to connect and improve.  As I started reading other bloggers 'To-Do-Lists' for Bloggiesta, I knew it was for me.  Nervously I lurked and read and thought about my own personal blogging to do list.  Deciding I was ready for a challenge and had some time this weekend to devote, I am jumping in!   First, I am off to read what I can at the BloggiestaStarting Line.  Whew!!! Great information there including the link to mini challenges.  Okay, back to make my To Do List:

1. Make clear blog tags Re-tag posts as necessary. I decided to completely delete all my tags and start fresh.  I am kinda pleased.  I did cringe at some of my older posts though.  Ha.
2. Start list of To-Be-Read books and check availability at library. Off to the library this afternoon!
3. Update GoodReads with reviews, links, and possibly friends? Also set a GoodReads reading goal and post to blog. (Mini-Challenge)  Check out my little reading goal!  And, I did as much as I could as far as updating Goodreads with reviews.  I will continue to work on it.
4. Visit new blogs participating in Bloggiesta and leave quality comments. (Mini-challenge)  I have worked hard to visit and leave comments.  I also have been loving the comments left by my fellow Bloggiestas here. (Thanks!)
5. Also add a few new blog links to my Book Blogs list from Bloggiesta participants.  I added a few, but I only follow KitLit and YA book blogs, so if I missed your blog and you fit that catagory, feel free to leave me a note in the comments here. :)
6. Find library and e-reader archive of books I read and forgot about since January.
7. Research Post on Math Literacy.  (So excited about this one)
8.  Consider Navigation tabs.  (Might be more of a long term goal) I am thinking ... no. :(
9. Enjoy myself and make connections !!!!
10. Last Minute additions to the list. Not on my original list but inspired by other Bloggiesta's ideas: I've also participated in the TweetChats, added some HUGE buttons to my page, visited the library, reserved some books, and have a few reviews/topics to write about for the next month.  (That's as far ahead as I like to work!)

I am jumping in with both feet, so wish me luck. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

More Great Places to
Read Everyday, Everywhere

I’ve already started talking about great places to read and today we are adding to the list.  Here is what we have so far:

  1. Read in Bed.
  2. Read while on the Phone, waiting on 
     hold for Customer Service.
  3. Read at the Library.
  4. Read while waiting at the 
     doctor’s office.
  5. Read in the car.
  6. Read while sitting in your 
     potty chair.
  7. Read in a lawn chair while watching your children playing.
  8. Read on a blanket, under a tree. 
  9. Bring a book for little ones to read during church.
  10.  Read as you have your private lunch.

Now for the next five places, I thought I would focus on places to read a book that might otherwise be a giant waste of time.  If you are going to be held captive you might as well have a book, right?

11. Read on your commuter train ride;  Usually when I find myself on a train early in the morning or even after a long day at work, I don’t want to make eye contact with anyone let alone try for conversation, a book is the perfect antidote.

12. Read while waiting for water to boil.  I usually have a book nearby, but I admit, while cooking dinner I usually have my head stuck in a cookbook or in a newspaper.  I like short bites of information as I am reading, so this type of reading is perfect while waiting for water to boil.

13.  Always, always, always bring a book when you are visiting relatives, especially in-laws.  It may seem silly or even rude, but having a good book to lose yourself in while at a relative’s house can be a life saver.   Books not only can be calming, but also can be the perfect excuse to decline an invitation to play charades or join the annual ping-pong tournament. 

14.  Read on a Plane Ride. I would never get on a plane without at least one piece of reading material.

15. Bring a book to read while you are waiting for the movie to start at the movie theatre.  My husband is obsessed with getting to the movies early.  I don’t mind, as long as I have a book.

So, now we have numbers 1 to 15.  I am still looking forward to hearing from you.  What’s the best place to read a book?  Tell me about the places that help you pass your time.  Make sure to leave a comment and I will add it to the list.  Thanks.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Talking about Lisa Yee

 Although my blog may look like I have only been reading board books and short picture books, I actually have read some great MG and YA books.  I have also been forcing my husband to read some of these books with me, and in turn I have created a bit of a monster, since he has read some MG/YA books on his own. I guess, like many of us who never grew out of teen reads, he finds the genres well written, easy to get lost in, and perhaps just a bit nostalgic.  I admit, often as I read MG/YA books these days, I am thinking about how this book would have been received by myself as a teen.  Often I know the book would have been a hit, as with some of the cutesy, romantic, even drama filled books.  Sometimes, it’s the distance from childhood though, that lets me reflect on some of the lessons and themes in the book.

Back to the general idea today is sharing books that my husband suggested that I read.  I thought it would be best to get him to add his ideas about the books today too.  We are looking at books written by Lisa Yee.  From everything I could read about Yee from her blog, website, and from her content in her books, it appears that Yee is a less than apologetic humorist with a bit of a geeky side.  I think my husband might have a bit of a crush on her too, given her ability to make him laugh out loud.  I first recommended that he read Warp Speed since the main character is a Star Trek kid who is an outcast dealing with bullies on a daily basis.  My husband moved onto Yee’s  first set of books, starting with Millicent Min, Girl Genius.

So, you must have really liked Warp Speed?

Yes, I did.  As a long time Star Trek fan, I loved all the Star Trek references!  There were also references to star wars and comic books.  I may not have been in AV club myself, but I had a few friends that fit the mold.

Would your teen self have liked this book?

Sure.  I would have it, you know back when I was in junior high, there were far less references to Star Wars/Star Trek in books.  Just in general it was difficult for me to relate to books with main characters who were popular and atheletic.

What kind of books were you drawn to as tween/teen?

Well, in junior high I read mostly non-fiction books about history, baseball, and some biographies.  By the time I was in high school I started reading adult novels about Star Trek and Star Wars.

So, were you a big reader in High School?

I read magazines, newspapers, and lots and lots of comic books.

Oh, yeah I could see that.  So, tell me what made you want to read more from author Lisa Yee?

I really enjoyed Warp Speed and as I was finished, I checked on the internet and saw that Warp Speed was part of a series of books which originally told the story of 3 students in the summer before 7th grade.  Warp Speed had some of those characters, so I was interested in the backstory.  Plus, I liked Lisa Yee’s humor and style.

So, you enjoyed finding and reading the rest of the series?

Yeah, so far.  I still have to finish So Totally Emily Ebers.

Did you think the books were geared specifically for girls or boys or had universal appeal?

I think the books had universal appeal.  Millicent Min, Girl Genius would probably be more accessible to girls.  But, with that story, I was just really intrigued by the story of her being a genius and socially awkward too.  I wasn’t in the same situation, but I was in some gifted classes and could relate to some of what she was going through.

That’s interesting.  So, overall how do you feel about being an adult reading YA/MG fiction?

To me it’s fun and nostalgic.  Plus, a good story is a good story no matter the age level.  Given the shorter books and lower reading levels they are also easy to pick up and quicker to get into.  I will keep reading YA/MG books, as long as you keep giving me good recommendations.

That’s some pressure on me.  Thanks for helping with the blog today. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Reading Everywhere, Everyday

I try to always carry a few books with me.  It’s like books are my addiction, and the thought of being without one is a little scary.  Being a mother to 3 year old Lil Guy, I also try to have a supply of book for him.  My purse totes an e-reader fully stocked with adult novels, YA books, a few kids picture books/easy readers, and interactive books for toddlers.  We have book baskets in all our cars, we also stuff diaper bags, backpacks, overnight bags, and even lunch bags with books.  Our shelves are overflowing as is my nightstand.  We simply can’t get enough books.  While I do spend a lot of time reading, I also find that I can read just about anywhere, in many situations.  I thought I would share some of them here on the blog in a cumulative list. Anyone who wants to add to my list of Reading Places, add a comment and I will add your ideas to the end of the list.
I will start with 10 places My Lil Guy and I have been reading lately:

1. Reading in Bed:  I read laying in bed at bedtime almost everynight with my Lil Guy, but I also read before bed on my own.  Since I have a backlit e-reader, I can even read in the dark!

2. Read while on the Phone, waiting on hold for Customer Service.

3. Read at the Library:  Sometimes I can’t wait to read a book I just picked up off the shelf.  With Lil Guy, sometimes we will read arm fulls of books and return them before we even leave the library.

4. Read while waiting at the doctor’s office.

5. Read in the car: If it doesn’t make you too queasy, reading the car is a great way to pass the time as a passenger.  My Lil Guy will check out book after book after book occupying himself on longer trips.

6. Read while sitting in your potty chair. Enough said.

7. Read in a lawn chair while watching your children playing: This is absolutely my summertime joy.

8. Read on a blanket, under a tree. 

9. Bring a book for little ones to read during church.

10.  Read as you have your private lunch: While it’s a luxury these days to find myself alone at a meal,  there is something comforting about bringing a lunch companion to the table in the form of a great book.

There is my start to the list.  I would love to hear about places you find yourself reading, your favorite places to read, or maybe even places you wish you had a book to pass the time.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Procrastination and Hunger (Games)

I have a tendency to procrastinate.  Sometimes this serves me well, and other times I miss my chance.  I am the person who waits to buy more gas until I see that LOW FUEL signal on my dashboard controls.  I have even been known to wait until the last day to buy more diapers! But, sometimes my procrastination really gets in the way of great things.  Sometimes, my procrastination even keeps me from reading.  I don’t start a book because I tend to not put it down, sacrificing sleep, family, and housework.  Or maybe I don’t want to start that new series, because the thought of reading book one and not having the second book ready for me to read, that’s just crazytalk, right?

 So, it is true, although I knew the premise of the book, and in fact had even recommended it for students, I had not yet read even one page of the Hunger Game series.  The books were waiting for me like a gift. I could choose to slowly unwrap the books, savoring each syllable in turn as the books filled me, or I could rip open this gift like a famished child, taking every drop of at once, reading well past when I get my fill.  I began to hunger for Hunger Games as I continued to see (but do my best to ignore) all the hype.  I didn’t click on the links promising me details about the books or movies.  I waited … and waited … until the last moment.  Finally the time had come.  5 days ago, I started Hunger Games.

There has been so much media about Hunger Games, I feel like my short description of the premise will be inadequate.  Nevertheless, I should tell you that Hunger Games is most certainly of the dystopian genre, these books feature a world in which culture, government, and/or society are controlling, omnipresent, and overbearing in the lives of the characters.  Dystopian books are very popular with YA because it gives readers food for thought, the ability to compare a world where today with situations in the book.  Like all YA fans, middle grade teachers, and Masters of Reading graduates, I have read my fair share of dystopian books.  I will admit, they aren’t my favorite, but I do understand the role they play in exposing students to literature, and I certainly understand the appeal from teens who feel many overbearing, omnipresent, and controlling forces in their own lives.

Hunger Games offers this dystopian setting but also features some other popular YA themes, like romance, adventure, and even reality television.  These three themes happen to be three of my favorite in books, movies, and television.  In Hunger Games, like many dystopian societies, government is controlling, punitive, selfish, and unforgiving.  Citizens are forced, as teens, to place themselves into a lottery to participate in a battle to the death.  The most desperate of citizens are forced into entering the lottery multiple times to receive the most basic of rations.  It’s this system that sets the stage for lead character Katniss to enter the arena of the Hunger Games. 

Hunger Games has already won praise from countless reviewers, bloggers, teens, and YA readers, but I don’t mind adding my praise.  Just like I knew I would I absolutely devoured it.  I stayed up late reading, woke up early to finish it, and read the book in just a few short sittings.  I laughed, cried, and got frustrated enough to close the book in anger.  I was also surprised how the themes of romance and adventure were so easily weaved into this story.  I quickly went from curious to obsessed, finishing all three books in 5 days, reading up on the books from other sites, and making arrangements to see the movie.  I can see why Hunger Games is so wildly popular with YA and adults.

The big question here is: Do I regret waiting to read the series until now?  Honestly, the only part that I really regret is that I wasn’t able to fully discuss these books and share them with students.  It’s so important for reading teachers (at all grades) to stay up-to-date on current reading trends and I seriously dropped the ball with this one.  I can think of classrooms of students who deserved to read this book and maybe didn’t get the chance since I didn’t promote it to its fullest.  While it’s impossible to read every single book that may someday be a good recommendation for one of my students, this book was important.  I didn’t read it for selfish reasons.  I can still redeem myself, picking up where the hype of the movie lets off and start putting this book into the hands of students, friends, and colleagues. (If you are wondering: Yes, I am probably talking about you!) 

The point of all this is to say: Don’t wait.  Don’t procrastinate.  Read today.  You won’t regret it, and neither will your friends and family after they get your recommendation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

More Storytime Tales

I first started talking about storytime here on my blog, but I thought I would update, since my Lil Guy has turned 3 and we are now doing storytimes more than ever.  In our area, storytimes are usually geared for the under 3, pre-school, and then multi-aged groups.  That means that at age 3 we can attend both lapsits (where children and care-givers both sit on the floor to listen to stories) and more independent storytimes where kids sit in groups and care-givers get folding chairs in the back of the room.  The pre-school storytimes feature more and more early literacy activities.  I can see that Lil Guy is showing more interest in sitting with the big kids instead of me (gasp), participating in answering questions and repeating phrases from the reader, and recognizing connections between the books, songs, and activities.

We’ve been to story times with color themes, themes such as dogs, circus, weather, and holidays, and even one storytime that focuses on a letter of the alphabet.  The alphabet letter is previewed by showing all of the books that we will be reading and talking about 3 or 4 words that start with this letter.  There is even a alphabasket that has small pictures or items beginning with this letter. Finally, one lucky child gets to reach into a mystery box and pluck out the felt letter which remains on the felt board during storytime.  Since we are at the beginning consonant sounds phase with Lil Guy, he likes this part!  Overall, these storytimes are doing a great job of introducing early literacy activities to little listeners.  

We also attend some story times that have activities built into them.  Almost like a hybrid class to get toddlers moving, one class has the adults sweating as we do head shoulders knees and toes and other clapping, singing, dancing, and stretching moves.  I sometimes count this particular class as my exercise for the day.  I should also point out that sitting still during this class never feels like an option, since Lil Guy grabs my hand and forces me to participate, yelling my name and loudly shouting, “Come on Mommy, get up and dance!”  :)  I know these sessions help make reading an active (not passive) activity for children. 

Most of all, storytime seems to be just about making reading fun, making it a shared experience, and giving children a chance to explore books.  How about you?  What do you think of storytime?  What’s your best experience with your Lil One and storytime?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train

We picked up Whoo! Whoo! Goes the Train at the library since we love trains at our house.  While the topic might be popular with toddlers, this story lacks continuity and imagination.  Even the illustrations were slightly annoying to me with the main character being a sad kitty cat boy.  I just can’t recommend this book for young readers. 

Spoiler Alert:
Allan is a young cat who seems obsessed with trains.  Several examples of his love of train are detailed including play acting like a train crossing signal and having a CD with train noises.  (CD with train noises?)  Suddenly, Allan and his family are at a train station.  Guess what’s the first thing Allan wants to see on the train? The bathroom!  (The bathroom???) Finally after a short little trip, Allan the cat cries when the train ride is over.  Suddenly Allan and his family are at Train Land!!  (Train Land???) Now, the story ends.  No conclusion.  Just, the end!

While I appreciate that little kids like trains, this story reads more like it was written by a child than a story with even basic story structure.  The ending of the book is simply unacceptable.  I can say, one positive about the book was the use of many different train sounds.  That being said, I will send this book back to the library (without another reread) for sure.  If you are looking for a train books check out these books instead: Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis, The Goodnight Train by June Sobel, Freight Train by Donald Crews, or even the countless Thomas or Chugginton books that kids seem to enjoy. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Big Frog Can't Fit In

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!  To celebrate all things green, I thought I would talk about a book with a little bit of green in it.  Many readers of all ages already know and love Mo Willems from his series of books about Pigeon, Knuffle Bunny, and a few other animal characters. For St. Patrick’s Day we look at Willem’s book Big Frog Can't Fit In.  It’s an oversized pop-up book featuring a bigger than life frog that has the problem of being way too big to fit into the book.  Like many pop-up books, it has moveable parts that make the book interactive, but this book is masterfully crafted to not only bring the reader into the scenes of the book, but force the scenes out of the book into the reader’s world.

I found this great you-tube video preview of the book, because seeing this book in action is essential.  

As you can see, this book is a riot.  How much fun is a huge frog hopping in and out of a story?  Kids will laugh at the frog and his silly solutions for fitting into the book.  Like many books with moveable parts, this book runs the very big risk of tears and missing pieces.  This book seems especially vulnerable for being damaged, given the pulls, unfolds, and moving parts.  That being said, the book is sooooo cute!  I enjoyed it, as did my three year old Lil Guy.  It’s a perfect book to share with kids.  Read-Aloud this book to a group or just one little one.  Push and pull and pieces and parts together, but then maybe put it on a high shelf away from little hands that can get too easily frustrated. And, of course, check out the rest of Mo Willems fun and hilarious books for kids.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Yawn .... Review .... Yawn .... Yawn

I am one of those people who yawn even when I see an animal or stranger yawn.  I can even react to photographs of people yawning.  Even as I write this post, I stifle a yawn.  I read that yawning when you see someone else yawn is actually a sign of empathy.  Because of this, I was instantly drawn to the front cover of the board book Yawn by Sally Symes.  The front cover is bright and bold and I think would also draw in the intended audiences of toddlers.

The story begins, like the front cover with toddler, Sean yawning widely.  To demonstrate the large yawn, there is a deep hole in the center of the page.  It’s one of those books that begs you to find out what’s next, and how the story continues to use this deep hole.  The story is set in rhyme and  shows that toddler Sean has passed the yawn to an animal friend, who continues to pass the yawn on and on.  The last page of the book is perfect showing all the friends together finally succumbing to that much needed nap.

I really enjoyed this book with its bold illustrations and turnable pages.  I think toddlers will enjoy the connection between all of these animals too.  The story lends itself to little ones guessing the next animal as they read.  The story also turns out to be a kind of night time book, showing all of the sleepy friends.  At our house we are always looking for more bedtime tales.  I would recommend this book for parents with tots who like to read bedtime stories.  I can’t wait to read it with my Lil Guy tonight.