World Read Aloud Day March 6 2013 : Week 3 – a snapshot of my reading life

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A snapshot of my reading life :

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I want and need to read lots of books so that I am familiar with as many authors and genres as possible.

The more I read the more I can recommend titles that will match my students interests.

This pile represents the connections I have made with other librarians, teachers, bloggers and publishers. Every one of these titles was purchased as a result of an interaction or connection with another person.

Many of the books above were preorders based on enthusiastic endorsements from others. I use Twitter as a valuable source of intelligence regarding forthcoming publications. Other peoples enthusiasm for stories is contagious.

I read everyday. My reading takes many forms:

  • social networks – Twitter, Facebook
  • blogs – from librarians, teachers, publishers, authors and educators
  • websites – professional journals e.g. SLJ, book reviews
  • email
  • curated sites – scoop.it, learnist, pinterest
  • magazines – I read so I can add articles to our Library Catalogue that match inquiry topics
  • non-fiction – I have hundreds of books covering all of my interests from cooking, quilting, scrapbooking, travel, history, biography, but lots of topics that I feel we need at home for homework and reference, despite our reliance on the internet.
  • fiction – print, ebooks (on my ipad at night so I don’t disturb my husband) and audio books (so I can ‘read’ even when I am doing chores – it stops me feeling resentful and makes the time go quicker)
  • Picture books that I read aloud to children as part of my work

I would like to say that piles of new books like the one above are rare. My credit card will testify to the contrary, I buy books every week. I love new books. Every book is the possibility of a match made in heaven between an author, a story and one of my students.

I can’t imagine a life without reading. The greatest thing that comes from reading is sharing.

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World Read Aloud Day 2013 : Week 3 : Part 1 Reflections on my reading life…..

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Being part of the World Read Aloud Day has really made me reflect on my whole life of reading. I had never sat down and considered what a huge and positive influence, growing up in a house with books and alongside passionate readers had really done for me until I started thinking about what the opposite means for a small number of my students.

This isn’t a snapshot but a movie…
I think life was simpler in the 60’s and 70’s – by that I mean there were no devices or computers and in my house no television for many years. When friends came over after school and it was apparent that we didn’t have TV I would feel embarrassed, now I understand why my parents thought it unnecessary. When my family finally succumbed and bought a television, black and white children’s programmes were only available for an hour per day (Lassie) and aside from Doctor Who and Coronation Street on a Friday night, and on Sunday nights, Disneyland (with dinner on a tray on knees) we followed fantastic historical dramas from the BBC (Fall of Eagles, Edward the 7th). If we ever stayed at my Nana’s on a Saturday night she would let us watch Bonanza in the afternoon – a real treat. If you wanted entertainment you had to make it yourself – there wasn’t anything available to watch for hours on end. I remember playing outside for a big part of every day, riding my bike everywhere, playing without adult supervision and spending most of my free time reading.

If I ever found myself without a fiction book I would read anything else that was available, often my mother’s copy of the Australian or NZ Women’s Weekly (my Mum is Australian and so we had both the Australian and NZ versions each week which was regarded as pretty extravagant by our local newsagent). As I have mentioned in another post my parents bought a lot of books and firmly believed in the value of an excellent collection of non-fiction, so if I had finished all the fiction I had taken at my weekly Public Library visit I would have to read the atlas, the encyclopedia, or the Time-Life book sets on Ancient Civilisations or famous artists. I would often re-read books I had read many times before. Some of my favourites were the Princess Tina and Pink annuals I had been given at Christmas but I worked my way through classics like White Fang and mysteries by Wilkie Collins. My parents must have heard me say from time to time that I was bored, but I was never truly bored as long as I had something to read.

I remember going through phases of liking a particular genre or author and would then read everything avidly but strictly in order or publication. I still read that way today especially with series, and am probably quite anal about reading in order. I did work my way through the public library collection of fairy tales from many lands – this must have been a shelf from the 398.2s in the children’s department. When these were exhausted I graduated to a Young Adult card and earned extra privileges: I could now borrow from the childrens, YA or adult section. In my mid teens I devoured every book of short stories I could get my hands on from the adult section. I vividly remember reading a thick omnibus edition of Jewish Short Stories, I found it fascinating. I have zero recollection of the child/teen appropriate titles and authors from the YA section. I wonder if the collection was poor, or whether I just read so many titles that they have all blurred with time? I certainly feel envious looking at the YA and Teen books available to my daughter and our older students today. On the other hand I read a lot of classics without thinking it was strange or special. These days it takes a special kind of reader to embrace anything smacking of ‘classic’ and most teenagers I meet and suggest these to can’t believe I would expect them to consider something so ridiculously old fashioned.

I don’t remember my parents discussing my reading with me or even talking about the books I was selecting – I was pretty much left to my own devices to choose what I wanted to read, it was just assumed that I would read whenever there was an opportunity. My teachers never had to raise any issues around my reading or writing so my parents didn’t have any cause to intervene. My only regret is that my reading life would have been even richer if I had someone at home to share my enthusiasm with. Thank goodness for my wonderful high school English teachers, who were happy to discuss books for hours on end. How I loved those lessons where we pored over a set text and discussed it – this was the best part of school. The Librarians at the Public Library were reserved and aloof and didn’t talk with the young patrons. I can’t remember them recommending anything to me, but I was probably too scared to ask for help.

Now I feel I have come full circle – it is my turn to help children find books they will love. I find it easy to read and recommend the sorts of books that appeal to 9-12 year old boys and find myself wanting to help reluctant readers struggling well below their reading age. This week one of my successes was a boy who had taken a year to read one book – Harry Potter and the half blood prince. In our summer holidays he read the whole Ulysses Moore series and book one of the Infinity ring. Yesterday he ran up to me saying how much he had loved Gods and warriors by Michele Paver and was halfway through it and how glad he was that book two of the Infinity ring was waiting for him on the hold shelf because he was sure he would finish the Paver book that night. I found myself high-fiving him and punching the air as I felt genuinely excited along with him.

So why do I find that my biggest challenge in readers advisory work is relating to the earnest, serious girls who are reading well above their age/year level and meeting their needs consistently? – I can’t help but think that this is the girl reader I must have been at the same age? Why do I feel slightly more self conscious, awkward and sometimes ineffective with this group? Does part of me subconsciously feel that these girls, like me, will always find something to read and don’t need as much help as the others? I now read widely across a wide range of genres and year levels, but is my personal ‘reading gap’ reading better ‘quality’ or more literary fiction, finding great things and sharing more with that cohort of girls?

I think so.

My inner book geek needs re-nurturing.

I am prescribing myself a reading diet of more Hattie Big Sky and slightly less Percy Jackson.

Snapshot (picture) to come….

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Hooray for Tom Angleberger, Origami Yoda, Darth Paper the Fortune Wookiee and now Horton Halfpott!

I love Tom Angleberger’s books, if only I had more copies of each and every one of them. The copies I have of the Origami Yoda series are in such high demand that they have never been shelved (unless you count the new book display and the hold shelf!)

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Horton Halfpott or the fiendish mystery of Smugwick Manor or the Loosening of M’Lady Luggertucks’s corset by Tom Angleberger. Published by Amulet Books, 2011. Paperback edition.

From the book jacket (publisher):

There are so many exciting things in this book — a Stolen Diamond, snooping stable boys, a famous detective, love, pickle eclairs — that it really does seem a shame to begin with ladies’ underwear . . .

IT ALL STARTS WHEN M’LADY LUGGERTUCK LOOSENS her corset. As a result of “the loosening” all the strict rules around Smugwick Manor are abandoned. Shelves go undusted! Cake is eaten! Lunch is lukewarm! Then, when the precious family heirloom, the Luggertuck Lump (quite literally a lump), goes missing, the Luggertucks search for someone to blame. Could the thief really be Horton Halfpott, the good-natured but lowly kitchen boy who can’t tell a lie? Find out in this funny mystery by the author of ‘the Strange case of Origami Yoda’.

Book trailer:

What did I think of this book?

Loved it! It is so funny and it reminded me a lot of Lemony Snickett but it’s not so dark. There are plenty of quirky and eccentric characters and a slightly over the top style, that is a send up of the British aristocracy and life upstairs and downstairs (imagine David Walliams writing a kid’s version of Downton Abbey…but possibly even funnier!) The humourous scratchy pen and ink illustrations really set off the story. The writers style includes pauses to deliver a bit of “background” which will give the more reluctant reader a chance to draw breath before racing along again with plenty of twists and turns. I like the way the chapters are relatively short. This would be great as a read loud and really good for some of my more reluctant readers as long as they are prepared to tackle the language style.

This book was nominated for an Edgar award: 
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards (popularly called the Edgars), named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America.They remain the most prestigious awards in the entire mystery genre. Since 1961 they have presented an award in the category of Best Juvenile Mystery Fiction. (Source: Wikipedia)

Author website: www.hortonhalfpott.com

About the Origami Yoda Series – This is an awesome series for kids both boys and girls, that will hook many reluctant readers in the same way Diary of a Wimpy Kid has enthralled kids everywhere.

“Dwight is a sixth grader at McQuarrie Middle School who is considered quite weird and doesn’t really have any friends. Then one day, Dwight makes an origami finger puppet of Yoda. Eerily, Origami Yoda gives advice that always seems to work, and may even predict the future. Students at McQuarrie soon become convinced that Origami Yoda has a special connection to the Force. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda tells the tale of Dwight and his mysterious Origami Yoda through the eyes of six graders Tommy, Kellen, Mike, Sara, Cassie, Lance, Quavondo, Murky, Jennifer, Amy, Rhondella, and a seventh grader named Caroline. Origami Yoda gives advice to anyone willing to listen—everything from how to stop being a crybaby to asking a girl to dance. However, there are still some who don’t believe that Origami Yoda is for real. Tommy decides to write a case file to prove or disprove Origami Yoda’s realness. He convinces a number of students to write about their experiences with Origami Yoda, while his friend Kellen illustrates the file. However, Harvey, who has always been cruel to Dwight and is skeptical about Origami Yoda’s wisdom, just wants Dwight to admit that Origami Yoda is fake”. (Source: Wikipedia).

The strange case of Origami Yoda (2010)

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Darth Paper strikes back (2011):

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The  secret of the Fortune Wookiee (2012)

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Coming to my library soon….

Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling: An Origami Yoda Activity Book! 2013….

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World Read Aloud Day March 6th 2013 : Week 2 – Now and then!

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World Read Aloud Day is nearly here – March 6th.  This week as part of the World Read Aloud  Day blogging challenge, along with many other blogging teachers and librarians, I’m answering the following questions as I would have when I was 10 and then again as I would answer today …

1. I think everyone in the world should read…

When I was 10: It’s a tie…King of the wind by Marguerite Henry and Katie John by Mary Calhoun – both these books were bought for me from the Scholastic Book Club. My parents didn’t have a lot of money, I usually borrowed heavily and enthusiastically from the Town Public Library. I still have these books today, they were so precious then, I don’t think I could ever bear to part with them as I read them over and over again.

Now: More! everyone should read more of everything…. But a specific title, that is so difficult there are so many titles I love and it depends on the target audience…but at this particular moment in time I would pick, drum roll please…The one and only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate and Wonder by R.J. Palacio. These books really do change lives by encouraging empathy in readers – empathy and kindness are often ‘missing’ in many people today.

2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be

When I was 10: The male teacher who read us Stig of the Dump. I still remember that story even though I have forgotten everything important about this teacher including his name..(actually he wore very cool plaid flare pants, had enormous sideburns, and wore thick framed glasses – he wasn’t retro, he was original…this was the 1970’s!)

Now: There are two male teachers in my school that have the power to mesmerize their students whenever they read aloud and I could happily listen to them read for longer than their library session allows.

3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is…

When I was 10: Toad from the Wind and the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I have vague memories of reading this to my brother and a collection of soft toys.

Now: I am rediscovering my read aloud ‘mojo’….which is what happens when you switch from Corporate Information Specialist (researching Mergers & Acquisitions) to Stay at Home Mum, lately reinvented as a children’s Librarian. However if I can do it then anyone can! So any parent who thinks they can’t read aloud should try it. I don’t have a favourite character yet.

4. The genre that takes up the most room on my bookshelf (or e-reader) is...

When I was 10: I would love to say I had the ability to predict how we would be reading today but the concept of an e-reader would have seemed impossible outside of an episode of Doctor Who or Star Trek (both of which were screening in black and white during this same time period)….but on my shelf with the books like those pictured below were animal stories, a much loved book of children’s bible stories and the Reader’s Digest big omnibus of fairy tales. Although I had very few children’s books my parents had a big collection of literature classics, all the Time-Life and Reader’s Digest sets – all of which I loved looking at and reading from when I was very small.

Now: Fantasy, realistic fiction, scandinavian noir and masses of non-fiction mainly biography, travel and history. My e-reader (Kindle app on an iPad is full of scandinavian noir..read avidly before beaching Junior Librarian…now it is full of children’s books from all genres!)

5. The last book I wish I’d written or inspired me to write my own story is..

I am not a great writer which is pretty obvious, but if any book could inspire me to write….

When I was 10 (or possibly 11 or 12): I am Rosemarie by Marietta D. Moskin. I had never read a story about the holocaust or life in a concentration camp (and had yet to read the Diary of Anne Frank or I am David) when this book was listed in another Scholastic Book Club selection. This story really opened my eyes and I re-read it many times even into my twenties. I am gratified to see it has been reprinted over the years. Memo to self – get a copy for school library.

Now: The Book Whisperer: awakening the inner reader in every child by Donalyn Miller. I am trying to work out how I can inspire more of the teachers throughout each year level in my school to create a reading culture that permeates every aspect of our students day (and life). I have bought a copy of this book and it’s currently circulating (albeit slowly…) around the campus and I have also encouraged teachers to either buy their own copy or request the epub version via Overdrive from their local public library or borrow the print copies from there also. There aren’t many professional texts that can make a middle aged Librarian cry – but this was one of them!

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Megawocka! Granny Samurai : the Monkey King and I – by John Chambers

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Granny Samurai, the Monkey King and I  by John Chambers. Published by Walker Books, 2013. Paperback 2013. RRP NZ $17.95.

From the publisher:

Granny Samurai is small and dangerous to know. Her teeth are false and so is one of her legs. Her walking stick conceals a double-action repeater, of which there are only two in the world. She has other weapons too, which I am not at liberty to reveal. What I can reveal is contained within the pages of this book. My name is Samuel Johnson. This is our story.

Eccentric young wordsmith Samuel Johnson finds himself home alone while his diplomat uncle is off diverting a crisis in Azerbaijan. As Samuel sits penning his memoirs and wondering how to divert the crisis in his own life – namely the big, hairy brute that is Boris Hissocks – he spots the little old lady next door acting very strangely. Is she actually chopping wood with her bare hands? Then the Monkey King comes knocking, and suddenly Samuel’s whole world is turned on its head…

What do I think of this book!

It’s brilliant!

The story, the humor, the illustrations – what is not to like, in fact LOVE about this book?

This is a book that is difficult to categorise, it’s adventure and fantasy, with shades of Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Jeff Kinney), Mr Gum (Andy Stanton) and Ratburger (David Walliams)and episodes of the 1970s show “kung fu” (with Granny taking the place of the Kung fu master) rolled into one. I enjoyed reading this as an adult and could imagine so many of my students getting a giant kick out of this too. Kids 8-9+ will just have to read this and see what they think as I would struggle to talk about the twists and turns in the plot and give it the credit it deserves in a book talk without giving away all “the good bits”. Some kids may struggle with understanding some of the words, but for those kids this would make a great shared read or read aloud – although in my opinion it would be a shame to listen to the very funny and clever text without the opportunity to explore the illustrations, even though the story can stand without them.  Granny generally steals the show – she gives Samuel and the readers the sense that he (and they) just needs to listen, do what he is told and go along with things and all will be revealed…which it is, but occasionally Granny needs to explain a bit more and when she does elaborate, it results in some very funny dialogue.

I love the way it’s written (scribed!) by Samuel – it is written as a narrative journal and the chapters are short. Everything about this book gets a big tick from me: the cover – it will stand out on the shelf; the superb illustrations with an oriental flavour on nearly every page (there is a wealth of small details in these that will mean reluctant readers might pause ever-so-slightly, take a break from the text to explore them before leaping back into the text). Because this is so funny and so brilliantly done, I would encourage some of my reluctant readers to try this…some  might struggle with some of the words and will need help as for many of these boys the vocabulary won’t pass the ‘five finger rule’, but I would encourage them to try this anyway; lastly I adore the author’s obvious enthusiasm for language, vocabulary and writing. Very, very clever, original and loads of fun!

Author website: grannysamurai.com (it is under development… but go there and see a wonderful illustration from the author)

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The Queen must die – K.A.S. Quinn

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The Queen must die by K.A.S. Quinn. (Chronicles of the Tempus; book 1), Published by Corvus (Atlantic Books), 2011. Paperback, 298 pages.

From the publisher:

…Why is Katie Berger-Jones-Burg under a sofa in Buckingham Palace? The last thing she can remember is reading in her bedroom, trying to block out the sound of the TV. Now she is in London, at the height of Queen Victoria’s reign. Something very strange is going on.

Together with her two new friends – Princess Alice, the young daughter of Queen Victoria, and James O’Reilly, the son of the royal doctor – Katie must discover why she has been sent back in time. And who are the weird and frightening creatures who seek her out? The key, it seems, lies with the enigmatic Bernardo DuQuelle. As the dark forces moving through the royal household begin to take control, Katie and her friends uncover a plot to assassinate the Queen and unearth an even darker mystery…[Suspicious figures huddle in the gas-lit streets of London. And Katie is not the only time-traveller in the city… ]

Reviews and praise:

“Completely gripping, this rollercoaster time travel adventure takes Katie, a contemporary New York teenager, back right into the heart of Queen Victoria’s reign. Landing unexpectedly in the Buckingham Palace bedroom of Alice, Queen Victoria’s younger daughter, Katie is swiftly caught up in a terrifying world of dishonest courtiers plotting unspeakable acts with the help of powerful helpers with extra powers. The details of the life of the Victorian Royals, and especially Prince Albert’s passion for his original project of the Crystal Palace are brilliantly evoked while the adventure spearheaded by three exuberant children rattles along at a cracking pace” Lovereading4kids.co.uk

What did I think about this book?

I confess to having spent rather a long stretch on my sofa in the sun, reading this from cover to cover and luxuriating in the world the author has created. I loved it – I am not sure whether I am addicted to books set in Victorian London or whether there is a trend to use this setting in children’s books at the moment…maybe both. It means that there are some great books being written about this era, however this is very different than others set in this period, because this is set inside Buckingham Palace. This means there aren’t a lot of Dickensian allusions and impoverished characters, although there are plenty with sinister motives and villainous characters with evil intent. Katie Berger-Jones-Burg’s 21st Century New York life, and her dismay at the seemingly shallow obsessions of her ‘Mom’ are contrasted nicely with the formal and ‘proper’ nature of Victorian life at Court and couldn’t be more striking (and amusing!) However the similarity between Katie and Princess Alice are obvious – both have mothers that aren’t particularly maternal, and both have to live their lives relatively independently and are lonely. The time travel mechanism is handled well and it’s believable enough, especially if you are a reader who believes in the power of books as a means to escape. The reader is immersed in a great deal of historical material without feeling they are having a history lesson. It is fascinating seeing this time period through the eyes of Katie, who is like a modern day tourist guide to the past. Some of the things American readers might find amusing won’t have the same impact with a New Zealand audience, but it’s so well done, you can laugh along with Katie as she experiences cricket, victorian clothing and underwear and  chamber pots under the bed.

This book is the first in a planned trilogy, with the second book “The Queen at War” released recently. I wish I could convince more boys to read stories where the main character is a girl as this was a great read and highly recommended for the 10+ crowd.

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Exciting dystopian fiction for reluctant readers “Gamer” by Chris Bradford

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Gamer by Chris Bradford. Published by Barrington Stoke Teen, 2012.

High interest fiction for struggling readers.

From the publisher:

Scott is selected as a games tester for Virtual Kombat, the most realistic fighting video game ever invented – so real it hurts! Once a Gamer enters the fighting world, it becomes hard to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Scott must work his way up the ranks to make it out alive, but when friend and rival Kate fails to return from the Virtual Arena,Scott begins to wonder if it’s more than just a game…

“An action-packed dystopian adventure from the bestselling author of the Young Samurai series”

“Dyslexia friendly”

Hear the author read the first chapter:

What do I think about this book?

I was impressed firstly by the cover – because so many of my readers judge a book by the cover and first impressions really count. This title has a stunning lenticular cover and the image on the front will be instantly appealing to some of my most reluctant boy readers. Secondly, the thickness – it’s just the right size for the same boys. Thirdly text size and layout – it’s promoted by the publisher as dyslexia friendly and looks it, plus the chapters are short. There isn’t anything off-putting about this book – so we are off to a brilliant start.

I am really impressed because so many books published for high interest but low ability readers look unappealing and just don’t look like regular books. The kids that will want to read this aren’t dumb and don’t want to be made to feel that way. This book is so “cool” looking I know higher level readers will want to read it too. Other publishers should take note.

As for the story it rocks along at an exciting pace very much like a mini ‘Hunger games’. I enjoyed it and I am sure my students will too.  This has really made me aware of how desperate I am to fill this gap in my collection, I need more books like this – because one won’t be enough! As a result, I  have just made up a list of other books from this publisher that I will be adding to my wish list  for my library. Chris Bradford has another title available through Barrington Stoke “Ninja : first mission“…and it’s at the top of my list as well as two by Tommy Donbavand who wrote the very popular (at least in my library)…’Scream Street’.

If you are interested in books like these, check out the Barrington Stoke website here: http://www.barringtonstoke.co.uk

One of my favourite ‘go-to’ websites for books categorised by age and reading ability “Love reading for Kids” has previews and reviews of many of these titles and is a good source for information on suitable titles for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic readers:

http://www.lovereading4kids.co.uk/genre/dys/Dyslexia-friendly.html