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Posts from the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Books on the Blog: Everything I Never Told You

by Sharon Williams

everything i never told you.jpgEach year I teach a historical fiction reading unit in the reading workshop format. Students are offered 14 titles to choose from and are paired with other students who pick the same title. When our grade level team of LA teachers first began teaching this unit, we had a limited number of novels from which our students could choose. Past practice found the LA teachers spending time combing through internet searches for historical fiction novels to add to our repertoire.

Last year, upon finishing our unit, I encouraged my students to do a bit of searching on their own to find a historical fiction novel to use for their independent reading and to report back to me any titles they found to be outstanding. I had a few students take me up on this challenge, and I have spent some time reading their recommendations over the past few months. One novel that a student had deemed a worthy read was Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Read more

Books on the Blog: Who Done It Books

by Linda Walker

pic1.jpgWho Done It books help young readers and writers make inferences and draw conclusions. The opening pages of The First Case by Ulf Nilsson, a celebrated Swedish children’s author, illustrated by Gitte Spee, generates the questions of why is squirrel hurrying through the deep snow and what is the destination. The accompanying text arouses interest…” Wretched thieves!” cried a small creature as it scurried through the snow. “Thieving wretches!” It was late in the evening and the whole forest was asleep. It was snowing softly and beautifully. “Monstrous plunderers!” called the little animal in a trembling, squeaky voice. “Plundering monsters!” Read more

Books on the Blog: The Book With No Pictures

by Melissa Hurwitz9780803741713.jpg

“Warning! This book looks serious but it is actually completely ridiculous! If a kid is trying to make you read this book, the kid is playing a trick on you. You will end up saying silly things and making everybody laugh and laugh! Don’t say I didn’t warn you…”


Do you enjoy hilarious, laugh out loud fun?  Are you looking for a way to spark your students’ interest in reading?  If you answered yes, then look no further than B.J. Novak’s The Book With No PicturesRead more

Books on the Blog: Moo: a novel

by Lynne Dorfman


a wide silk of bluesilver

spotted with treegreen islands


a banner of bluewhite sky

41Ypg52oXoL.jpgIf you loved reading Love That Dog and Hate That Cat, you will not want to miss Sharon Creech’s newest tween novel, Moo. This story is about a family’s momentous move from the city to rural Maine, and an unexpected bond that develops between twelve-year-old Reena and one very ornery cow.

When the family moves to Maine, Reena is dreaming of picking blueberries and eating all the lobster she wants. Instead, she and her younger brother Luke are volunteered by their mother to help an eccentric neighbor named Mrs. Falala who has a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a parrot named Crockett, a snake named Edna, and an enormous belted Galloway named Zora.  What happens next is amazing…

Told in a blend of poetry and prose with defining variation in print of different fonts and 51-5S7JNGBL.jpgsizes and unusual placements of words on pages to create word pictures for the reader, this delightful story will warm your heart. It is just right for so many middle schoolers who are between wanting to be children and wanting to be adults. The story has a full range of emotions from light and funny to sad and reflective. The characters are so different that they complement each other completely. Moo is a story about opening our minds and hearts to new experiences and letting others into our life so that we can grow, develop relationships and insights, and be renewed. Themes of loss, friendship, courage, and family are represented here in a story to love long after you finish reading the final page!

minneapolis-2015-lynne-paul-mary-and-me-5Lynne R. Dorfman is a Co-director of PAWLP and an adjunct professor at Arcadia University. She is eagerly awaiting the second edition publication this spring of her first book, Mentor Texts: Teaching Writing Through Children’s Literature, co-authored with PAWLP fellow Rose Cappelli.  Currently, she is writing Welcome to Writing Workshop with Stacey Shubitz. Lynne enjoys her role as President of Eta chapter of ADK and working with women educators who tirelessly raise monies for charities

Books on the Blog: The Cheshire Cheese Cat

Searching for a Multi-Purpose Mentor Text

by Linda Walker

During the summer I co-teach a specialty course for young writers. I am always searching for texts I can use to show writing craft. Katie Wood Ray’s Wondrous Words gives two tenets about craft; story structure and ways with words.  So I keep that forefront when I visit a book store or a library; discover an interesting book which will appeal to young readers sh1.jpgowing an author’s craft structure and word use. But I also want a book urging readers to move beyond the story in search of answers to questions about the places, events and people within the pages of the book. Could the characters be based on real life people? Could I visit the places cited in the book online or in person? Did the events and daily living of the time period really happen? I want to show young writers how an author can weave snippets of fact into a satisfying fiction tale.  In short I want to multi-purpose the book. I found this unique package in The Cheshire Cheese Cat :A Dickens of a Tale by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright.

So begins the tale of Skilley. HE WAS THE BEST OF TOMS. He was the worst of toms. Tired of London’s seedy back alleys and fighting off Pinch, an evil tomcat, Skilley prowls the streets for a safe place to call home. As luck would have it, the innkeeper of the renown Cheshire Cheese tavern is looking for an expert mouser to eradicate cheese stealing rodents overrunning his establishment. Now mice are not Skilley’s preferred delicacy but he’ll do anything to secure a place at The Cheshire.  And so he forms an unheard of alliance with Pip, a resident mouse at the esteemed inn which attracts the famous writer and word lover, Charles Dickens (an onlooker and commentator throughout the story). There is much intrigue between Skilley and Pip as they try to hide private secrets and fears from one another and attempt to return Maldwyn, one of Queen Victoria’s prized ravens, to The Tower. Read more

Books on the Blog: Two Middle Grade Books About Growing Up and Discovering the True Meaning of Family

The World from Up Here by Cecilia Galante

Reviewed by Ginny McGarvey

Rating: V25648199.jpgery Good-Book of Note. Level: Elementary School/Middle School. Genre: Realistic Fiction – 309 pages.

Summary: Wren Baker is afraid of everything and when her mother is hospitalized in a different state, requiring her father to go also, Wren and her brother with Asperger’s syndrome are forced to live with their aunt and cousin who are new to their town; and Silver, her cousin appears to be afraid of nothing at all and inspires bravery in Wren.

Annotation: Wren Baker is afraid of everything. Her mother, suffering from depression must travel from their Pennsylvania home to an Ohio hospital for treatment which means that her father must go as well. Wren’s new to town and her Aunt Marianne and cousin Silver offer to care for Wren and her brother who has Asperger’s syndrome. Silver does not appear to be afraid of anything. As the girls become close, they inspire each other, and when they climb the forbidden Creeper Mountain, they discover parts of themselves and rely on each other.

This fast paced, well written novel is sure to thrill young readers. It is packed with suspense and its many plot twists will engage and entertain readers. With all the action that abounds, the story comes full circle and all that is mysterious is resolved and explained making it a very fulfilling read.

Recommendation: This book is highly recommended for any elementary or middle school library as a Book of Note and will relate well, engage, and entertain young readers.

Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Reviewed by Lynne Dorfman27414384.jpg

Then, as we were turning onto the main road into town, I saw a black horse out in a field, eating grass and swishing its tail at flies. I shook my fist at it three times and made my wish. That was the rule for black horse wishing. If you see a white horse, just make a wish. But for a black horse, you have to shake your fist at it three times. (p.43)

Set in a small town in North Carolina, Charlie (short for Charlemagne) learns many important life lessons. Her family is broken – “Scrappy” (her Dad) is in jail being “corrected” and her mom just can’t meet the everyday challenges of raising two children on her own. Charlie’s older sister Jackie goes off to live with her best friend’s family, and Charlie is sent to Colby to live with her Aunt Bertha and Uncle Gus.

Read more