Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Trapped in Slickrock Canyon by Gloria Skurzynski

image from LibraryThing
This is another one I read to my students. This is a GREAT read aloud - filled with action and adventure.

Justin and Gina are first cousin who despise one another. There is so much cousin rivalary that they can hardly stand to be in the same place.

Justin grew up on a farm in Arizona working hard to earn everything he has. Gina grew up in Denver daughter of an orthepedic surgeon and a mom who decided to leave home to throw pots in San Franciso.

This story takes place in the canyon land of Arizona. Justin and Gina's Dads have gone rock climbing. When Gina's dad almomst falls everyone decided it's too hard for Gina to watch, so Justin unhappily leads her on a hike to see a rock petroglyph. As they near the rock carving they hear a buzz saw and discover two men stealing the carving. When Gina lets out a huge scream, the men discover them and the chase is on... Add to this quick sand, gun shots, a cloud burst and a flash flood and you have just the kind of book 4th graders love to hear.

This was a Iowa Children's Choice Book one of the first years I taught.... that was a long time ago!! But, my students have enjoyed it every time I've read it since.

Punished by David Lubar

image from LibraryThing

Another great read aloud!

This is the story of Logan. Logan and his friend are playing tag in the basement of the library when Logan gets stopped by a mysterious man... and punished.

Really he is PUNished. From that moment on everything that comes out of his mouth is a pun. It's fun at first. Then his life begins to fall apart. He gets in trouble at school, sent to the principal who luckily enjoys his puns. But, Logan wants this to stop.

He makes his way back to the library and finds the man again. That's when he begins his quest to break the curse. He has 3 days to find seven palindromes, seven anagrams and 7 oxymorons or he will be cursed with a life of puns.

My class was eager to find examples of puns, palindromes, anagrams and oxymorons. ( all words they didn't know before we started reading.) Lubar made this task fun!

We enjoyed this one too!

Roxie and the Hooligans by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

image from LibraryThing
I've decided to add a few books that I've recently read aloud to my 4th graders. This is a new book in our library and was a fun and fast read....

The book takes place in a small seaside town in the northeast. Roxie is a meek and mild girl who lives through her uncle's adventure stories as he accompanies Lord Thistlebottom to the wilds and through many narrow escapes. She has poured over each of his books and memorized his many methods of escapes - always beginning with "Don't Panic."

Roxie's life is also filled with adventures - but of a nasty nature. She is ruthlessly harrassed by a gang of bullies she calls the hooligans. They have chosen this little girl due to her huge ears. Each day they pursue her and the escape gap gets narrower and narrower until one day...

Roxie is walking along the edge of a dumpster to get to an open window - the holligans are right behind her. And bing, bang, boom they all fall down...into the depths of garbage. At that moment, the dumpster man arrives to take the dumpster away - to a ship - to be dumped in the ocean.

So begins the real adventure. Roxie uses her wits and the wisdom of her uncle's books to keep herself and the hooligans alive on a small island - not deserted but inhabited by 2 bank robbers.

This book sounds English - and seemed a little hard to get into... but only at first. My 4th graders loved it!

it's got a great anti-bullying message - the harrassed girl saves the savages and they begin to understand one another!

We all loved it!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Stone Cold by David Baldacci

image from LibraryThing

This is the third Camel Club book and they just get better!!!

I don't want to say too much - because nothing should be given away.

I will say that this picks up the story right after The Collectors.

Loose ends are tied up - new ravelings are discovered and teased open to leave gapping holes in the known past.

The Camel Club is important, but they are not the center of the story - instead Oliver and Annabelle are.

Oliver Stone/John Carr is amazing.

All I can say is BRAVO David Baldacci!!!

Read this one for sure - but not before you have read The Camel Club and The Collectors!!!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer

image from LibraryThing
The next book in the Artemis Fowl series. Artemis Fowl is an ultra rich genius 14 year old Irish boy who has discovered the world of fairies and how to communicate with them. In his early books he is a devious self-absorbed twit who only wants the fairy gold and knowledge that they hold. In the last book he began to evolve into a much more humane character. This book he is actually self-less...I like that - but I enjoyed the twit as well! :)

I have recommended these books to different 4th graders over the years - and a few have really seemed to enjoy them. The copy of Lost Colony I read was actually from one of my former 4th graders - he bought it and knew I would enjoy it - so he loaned it to me!! Thank you Jackson!! I did enjoy it! :)

This installment introduces two new characters - demons and Minerva. Neither the demons or the girl are what we expect. The demons are much easier for Artemis to deal with than Minerva - the cute 12 year old genius who crosses his path. It turns out the the demons were expelled from the world 10,000 years ago after the battle between people and fairies. Demons are actually a type of fairy and they were sent into limbo land via a time spell. But, that spell is unraveling and both Artemis and Minerva are racing to intercept these reappearing demons for very different reasons.

In a typical Fowl display of technology and logic the demon entry is planned perfectly, but intercepted by Minerva rather than Artemis. The Fowl followers including Holly Short (Fairy recon spy) follow the captives - recapture - are double crossed - end up in limbo and help to save the land of the demons.

The story ends with a mature Artemis reflecting in a very un-selfish way! And with a huge foreshadowing for the next book!

I enjoyed this - the description of fairy technology is always intriguing and amazing. Colfer draws the new characters with as much personality as the ones we already know. Who would imagine a demon caring about others???

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Life and Time of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson

image from LibraryThing

This was a really fun read! Bryson's writing is witty and laugh out loud funny. This is the rather exaggerated story of his growing up years - in Des Moines - in the 50s. He believes he has come to this planet to save it from morons as the Thunderbolt Kid... able to reduce imbeciles to a pile of smoldering ashes by his amazing glance.

The book weaves Bryson's life into the tale of the long forgotten Des Moines of the 50s - sharing the history and good will of the times with the deep ironies that it was. What other decade had such awful toys, such a joy of blowing things up yet had the year voted cheerfulest year (1957)???

He doesn't necessarily long for the good old days, rather he seems to understand that he was privileged to be a part of something that could never happen again. The granduer of old movie houses, the innocence of a unracist school and growing up amid scores and hordes of kids - all out doors without an adult in the vicinity!

Bryson doesn't sentamentalize the 50s as much as he just shares the good and the bad.

His closing chapter - looking back at why society has felt the need to destroy the old rather than revitalizing and connecting it with the possibilities of the new is a point to ponder.

This is the second Bryson book I've read - A Walk in the Woods - is his hilarious story of hiking the Appalachian Trail!

On a side note - the guys dad grew up in Winfield!!! Small world???

This gets a hearty recommendation!!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud

image from LibraryThing

I seem to be in a bit of a rut..books that I can't seem to get into. This was much more than that though. I just could not have cared less about these characters, nothing redeemed them.

The book follows 3 main characters around NYC for three months before 9/11 and another month after. Good premise, but...

Danielle is a documentary film maker loving her independence from her Indiana mom, Julius is a Vietnamese gay man from Michigan bent on living the good life and making waves in NYC without actually working, and Marina is the spoiled pampered daughter of a famous journalist known for his cutting edge truth, caught in his shadow and only sort of trying the shed it.

Sounds like a good beginning, but...

Danielle gets involved with Marina's dad (YUCK!) Yes, it' her best friend and he has been her father figure! Julius finally falls in love with the Down Jones workaholic Dave and ignores the other two - then decides that a 1 man relationship is too 1950s for him. Marina has been working on a stupid book about Children's fashion for 10 years and when she falls for Seely, a slimy, Australian who hates everybody and everything, but mostly Marina's father - she finally finishes it to her father and friends horror.

The title of this book comes from Marina's book. "The Emperor's Children have no Clothes" The book is supposed to trace human history through the way we dress our children.

The only character that seemed to have some potential was Bootie, Marina's 1st cousin. He comes to NYC to be near the famous Murray Thwaite (Marina's father) because he believes that Murray is an honest and thought provoking man after Emerson's ideal. What he finds is that behind the facade there is only an ordinary man. So, Bootie writes an article to uncover the facade. Even this could have been redeeming - but Bootie's reaction to 9/11 took away any redeeming qualities lurking in his story. Anyway - There isn't a character you like or root for - not really.

Instead I just kept reading to see what miserable lives these pretty people have. They are so busy making sure that they have no illusions, no pretend, sentimental beliefs that they are really nothing but a flat surface - reflecting what they think others want to see.

It did make the book mildly interesting to have been in NYC this past summer. I had seen many of the areas they talked about.

But - I would NOT recommend this book. That makes me very sad!