Thursday, February 18, 2016

Story Thieves

Story Thieves by James Riley will be adored by all of  my fantasy/magic/science fiction loving students, but I'll admit it- this one was a challenge for me to finish.

The story is very inventive. One day, Owen catches his fellow classmate Bethany climbing out of a book. Yes, you read that correctly- CLIMBING OUT OF A BOOK! Bethany is a half fictional (her dad is a fictional character), so she has the power to jump in and out of any novel. After a little begging (and blackmailing), Owen convinces her to take him along, but he must promise to simply observe and not alter ANYTHING in the story. They jump into his favorite book, but coming face to face with his literary hero, Kiel Gnomenfoot, proves to be too much of a temptation for Owen. He soon starts a series of events that might change their lives forever.

I'm not sure why I struggled with this book. Admittedly fantasy is not my favorite genre, but I still typically get through most stories easily. This one was a very slow read, and I had to force myself to pick it up every night. It had an original premise and fun characters but started to get a little complicated half way through reading. It was hard to keep the book within a book characters and plot straight.

Nevertheless, it has mystery, adventure, and everything else young readers like, so I will certainly recommend it for ages 8 and up. I think it will fly off the library shelves and be a hit.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Beginner Chapter Books (And I Mean BEGINNER)

"But I don't want a picture book. I want a chapter book!" I hear these words all too often from the mouths of my youngest students. There is a strange phenomena that always seems to happen during the middle of first grade- picture books lose their draw. This is a sad fact but all too true. For many students (not all, thank goodness) picture books are viewed as too babyish and children want chapter books. I've had some students not even care what the book is about as long as it has CHAPTERS!!! I'm not sure if they want to be like the older kids, their older siblings, or just impress their teachers and classmates, but they become adamant that a picture book is no longer for them. I imagine that as they learn to read more fluently and hear more chapter books read aloud, their interest is piqued about this entire new section of the library that they used to pass by without notice.

The problem with this new interest is that they aren't discerning enough about what is appropriate material. Students will wander over to the 4th-5th grade shelves because, of course, the longest books must be the best ones. I have often had six-year-old students who beg to check out the biggest fattest books in the library. This is a tough age because even the best early chapter books (Geranimo Stilton, Jake Drake, or Marvin Redpost) are still a little too tough.

Because they are so excited to read this new type of book, I feel it's really important to direct them to stories that they can read successfully and that they will LOVE. Getting students hooked on a series also helps to keep the reading momentum going. A great tip to finding an appropriate series is to choose a book with a main character who is the same age as the reader. Additionally I try to help them choose books that have larger type, are less than 100 pages, and have few difficult words. The five finger rule is in full effect! (If there are four to five words on the page that the child doesn't know, than it's not a great choice.) Even if a struggling reader can't read chapter books alone, most of them are fun to read aloud with an adult.

The list that I've complied is for the chapter book beginner. These are books I would recommend to grades K- 2. There are fantastic chapter books for ages 8 and up, but I'm going even lower than that! Here are my suggestions for terrific early/first chapter books:

Friday, February 5, 2016

Roller Girl

I have  a lot of love for this Newbery Honor book! To be honest, I saw it on the bookstore shelves for months but had NO IDEA it was a graphic novel before I bought it. I don't know how I missed that since there has been so much buzz surrounding it. When I opened it I was a little nervous because I don't usually enjoy graphic novels, but this book might have made a convert out of me!
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is the sweet story of twelve year old Astrid who decides to attend roller derby camp after watching a local match. Her best friend was going to join as well, but decides not to at the last minute. Besides having to go alone, Astrid must face the awkwardness of being the new girl with no experience. As a beginner she definitely takes her lumps and struggles through the camp while learning lessons about hard work and determination. While roller derby camp is the main setting, this story is much more about friendship. Twelve is a difficult age and childhood friends start to grow apart. Roller Girl is ultimately about the struggle to maintain those friendships or to decide it might be time to let them go. Astrid learns that being honest with herself and others is the only way to roll! (sorry- I couldn't resist the pun!)

This book was great fun! There was a part of me that wanted to run out and find a local roller derby league to join. I had no idea what kind of stamina it takes to be a roller girl. From the costumes to the names (Rainbow Bite, Winnie the Pow etc..) the pageantry of roller derby and the fierceness of the competitors was explained well and illustrated beautifully. Fans of Raina Telgemeier will love this!