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Archive for April, 2012

April 27, 2012

May: Let’s Celebrate Teachers!

The 2012 observance of National Teacher Appreciation Week is May 7-11.  During this week, students are encouraged to find some small way to say “thanks” to their teachers.  Often school clubs and parent groups sponsor some type of event to let teachers know that they are appreciated. There may be a rose for teachers’ desks, or a special goody bag of treats.  Though there are now greeting cards that honor teachers, I think the best remembrance is a card penned and illustrated by students.  It’s much more sincere.  Perhaps teachers can actually get in on the fun, and ask students to read books that have strong teacher characters.


  • Public libraries might consider sponsoring a teacher night.  This is a good time to honor them, as well as let them know about your services.
  • Public and school libraries might display books with strong teacher characters.
  • Librarians could also put a bibliography of books with teacher characters on their website.
  • Teachers and librarians should engage readers in a discussion about the strengths of the fictional teacher in any of the books students select to read.
  • Make a card that the main character of a book might give to his/her teacher during National Teacher Appreciation Week.
  • Write an essay called “My Favorite Teacher” from the viewpoint of a main character.
  • Nominate a fictional teacher for Teacher of the Year.  Include what makes them an outstanding and innovative teacher.
  • Write a feature story for a newspaper called “What Makes a Good Teacher.”  Interview fictional teachers, and include quotes from their students.
  • Recommend a book to a teacher (based on what they teach or their special interests).
  • Make a bookmark for a teacher that features an illustration of a favorite book.
  • Make a placemat that illustrates a favorite book for the teacher to use in the cafeteria during Teacher Appreciation Week.
  • Have readers create an advertisement for the local newspaper for Teacher Appreciation Week.
  • Sponsor a writing competition called “How to make Everyday Teacher Appreciation Day.”
  • Have readers write a letter to a teacher telling them what they’ve learned most during the school year.


Suggested books from Random House include:

Junie B. First Grader (at last)  (ages 6-8) by Barbara Park & illus. by Denise Brunkus

Alone in His Teacher’s House (ages 6-9) by Louis Sachar & illus. by Barbara Sullivan

The Beast in Ms. Rooney’s Room (ages 6-9) by Patricia Reilly Giff & illus. by Blanche             Sims

The Candy Corn Contest (ages 6-9) by Patricia Reilly Giff & illus. by Blanche Sims

Alice-Miranda at School (ages 7-10) by Jacqueline Harvey

Gooney Bird Greene (ages 7-10) by Lois Lowry

The Fabled Fourth Graders at Aesop Elementary School & The Fabled Fifth Graders at    Aesop Elementary School (ages 7-11) by Candace Fleming

The Magical Ms. Plum (ages 8-11) by Bonny Becker & illus. by Amy Portnoy

Miami Jackson Sees It Through (ages 6-9) by Patricia and Frederick McKissack &      illus. by Michael Chesworth

Miss Brooks Loves Books (And I Don’t) (ages 6-8) by Barbara Bottner & illus.Michael             Emberley

Counting on Grace (ages 8-12) by Elizabeth Winthrop

Faith, Hope and Ivy June (ages 9-12) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Fourth Grade Weirdo (ages 9-12) by Martha Freeman

Child of the Mountains (ages 10-up) by Marilyn Sue Shank

The Fruit Bowl Project (ages 10-up) by Sarah Durkee

The Mighty Miss Malone (ages 10-up) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Moon Over Manifest (ages 10-up) by Clare Vanderpool

Scat (ages 10-up) by Carl Hiaasen

When You Reach Me (ages 9-12) by Rebecca Stead

Burning Up (ages 12-up) by Caroline B. Cooney

Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature (ages 12-up) by Robin Brande

How to Get Suspended and Influence People (ages 12-up) by Adam Selzer

Ringside, 1925 (ages 12-up) by Jen Bryant

Sarny (ages 12-up) by Gary Paulsen


April 01, 2012

Two starred reviews for Chomp by Carl Hiaasen!

?  Things are looking bleak for Wahoo and his animal wrangler father; the mortgage is months overdue, and Wahoo’s mother has left for the summer to work in China. They think it is the answer to their financial frustrations when the hit reality TV show Expedition Survival! wants to hire Mickey and Wahoo to help their star, more prima donna than rugged survivalist, film their Everglade episode. On the first day, Derek Badger ignores Mickey’s sage animal-handling advice, attacking a python and trying to ride a croc. The result is an infuriated handler and some excellent footage. The show, however, loves the realistic feel and decides to head to the wilds for some unscripted shoots. Wahoo runs into a physically abused schoolmate and is inspired to take her with them to save her from her father. Tuna’s father pursues her, and suddenly keeping Derek safe isn’t Mickey’s only potentially deadly task. Chomp reads at a good pace and has some unique, lovable characters. The author manages to sustain a comedic mood with the inept survivalist and the budding romance between two fish-named youngsters while simultaneously developing an underlying sense of tension. Mystery, action, humor, and exotic animals and settings, all tied together by a writer with an exceptional grasp of language, makes this a sure hit with any mystery-loving readers.–Devin Burritt, Wells Public Library, ME – School Library Journal, STARRED


? Lots of kids think they live in a zoo; Wahoo Cray actually does.

Wahoo’s dad, Mickey, was the best wild-animal wrangler in south Florida until an iguana, frozen solid in a flash freeze, fell from a tree and conked him on the head. Now, Mickey has migraines and double vision, and the family’s in such dire financial straits that Wahoo’s mother has taken a temporary job teaching Mandarin to American businessmen in China. When offered good money for the use of Mickey’s tame animals, there’s no saying no to the production company of Expedition Survival!, a “reality” show starring Derek Badger (actually a former stepdancer named Lee Bluepenny with a fake Steve Irwin Australian accent). The Crays, however, draw the line at harming any animal; and Derek doesn’t think the scenes are “real” enough. The production company hires Mickey and Wahoo as guides on an Everglades location shoot, which is complicated in true Hiaasen fashion by an abused, runaway girl from Wahoo’s class, a toothy encounter with a jazzed-out snake, a disastrously unsuccessful live-bat brunch…and a vanishing star. Hiaasen’s best for a young audience since Newbery Honor Hoot (2002) features a shy, deep-feeling protagonist who’s also a pragmatist and plenty of nature info and age-appropriate cultural commentary.

Humorous adventure tales just don’t get any more wacked…or fun to read than this. Kirkus Reviews, STARRED

April 01, 2012

April: My Favorite Things

April – My Favorite Things

If you are looking for a fresh approach to celebrating reading in your classroom or library, consider a “Favorite Things” theme.  Begin by having readers make a list of their “favorite things.”    Then send them searching for books that best represents their “favorite things.”   For example, if someone likes chocolate, send them looking for cookbooks that have recipes for fudge, brownies, or chocolate chip cookies.  If a person names baseball, then they may search in the nonfiction section of the library for a book about baseball; the biography section for a book about a famous baseball player; the fiction section for a story about the game of baseball.   Many library users love crafts.  Lead them to books like The Golden Book of Family Fun (all ages) by Peggy Brown and Ill. By David Sheldon.  Readers will celebrate the idea that there is something in the library that satisfies their interests.  Other suggestions for a “Favorite Things” theme include:

Have readers make a list of favorite books in specific genres.  Such genres and books may include the following from Random House:

Favorite Historical Novels

The Book Thief (ages 12-up) by Marcus Zusak

Bud, Not Buddy (ages 9-12) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Counting on Grace (ages 9-12) by Elizabeth Winthrop

Moon Over Manifest (ages 9-12) by Clare Vauderpool

Nory Ryan’s Song (ages 9-12) by Patricia Reilly Giff

North by Night (ages 12-up) by Katherine Ayers

Rodzina (ages 9-12) by Karen Cushman


Favorite Humorous Novels

Junie B. Jones series (ages 6-8) by Barbara Park

Almost Starring Skinnybones (ages 8-12) by Barbara Park

Alvin Ho series (ages 7-9) by Lenore Look & illus. by Lellyen Pham

Imogene’s Last Stand (ages 6-8) by Candace Fleming & illus. by Nancy Carpenter

How to Survive Middle School (ages 9-12) by Donna Gephart

10 Things to Do Before I Die (ages 12-up) by Daniel Ehrenhaft


Favorite Fantasy and science fiction

Ace: The Very Important Pig (ages 6-8) by Dick King-Smith & illus. by Lynette             Hemmant

100 Cupboards (ages 8-12) by N.D. Wilson

The Diamond of Darkhold (ages 9-12) by Jeanne DuPrau

Ashling (ages 12-up) by Isobelle Carmody

His Dark Materials trilogy (ages 12-up) by Philip Pullman

Brain Jack (ages 12-up) by Brian Falkner

Emerald Atlas (ages 12-up) by John Stephens


Favorite Mystery Novels

The Amazing Ghost Detectives (ages 4-8) by Daniel San Souci

The Case of the Cool Itch Kid (ages 6-9) by Patricia Reilly Giff

The Case of the Elevator Duck (ages 6-9) by Polly Berrien Berends

The Black Heart Crypt (ages 9-12) by Chris Grabenstein

Boom (ages 10-up) by Mark Haddon

Acceleration (ages 12-up) by Graham McNamee

Bad Taste in Boys (ages 12-up) by Carrie Harris

If the Witness Lied (ages 12-up) by Caroline B. Cooney

Favorite Classic

Alexander the Wind-Up Mouse (ages 4-6) by Leo Lionni

Are You My Mother? (ages 3-6) by P.D. Eastman

Go, Dog, Go! (ages 3-6) by P.D. Eastman

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (ages 6-9) by Dr. Seuss

The Phantom Tollbooth (ages 8-up) by Norton Juster & illus. by Jules Feiffer

Harriet the Spy (ages 10-up) by Louise Fitzhugh

The Black Stallion (ages 10-14) by Walter Farley

The Chocolate War (ages 12-up) by Robert Cormier

Encourage readers to think about favorite book characters and write about that character’s favorite things.  Then ask them to suggest books that the character would enjoy reading.  Examples from Random House include:

  •  Jack Catcher, one of the main characters in All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky   ages 9-12) by Joe R. Lansdale dreams of being a hero.  Have readers make a list of novels about heroes that he may like.
  • Wahoo Cray, the main character of Carl Hiaasen’s Chomp (ages 9-12) loves   animals and the Florida Everglades.  What books would he enjoy reading?
  • Maybe readers will choose Deza Malone, the main character of The Mighty    Miss Malone (ages 9-12) by Christopher Paul Curtis; Brick and Mariel in All  the Way Home (ages 9-12) by Patricia Reilly Giff; Brendan Buckley in Brendan Buckley’s Universe (ages 8-12) by Sundae Frazier; and Andi Alpers in             Revolution (ages 14-up) by Jennifer Donnelly.

Suggest that families volunteer their favorite read aloud books, and post a list of the books on the school or library’s website.