Monday, December 12, 2016

It's Monday What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 12/12/16


                                                         The Littlest Bigfoot by [Weiner, Jennifer]

      Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite adult authors, so I was excited to read her first attempt at a children's book. I was not disappointed. Here's the funny thing about The Littlest Bigfoot- no matter how I try to describe it, the plot sounds crazy, but I promise it's fabulous.

      Alice is a twelve-year-old girl who just doesn't fit in no matter where she is. Physically she is a big girl with crazy hair that can't be tamed. Her wealthy family pretty much ignores her existence even though she yearns for her mother's love and acceptance. Also, she has been to SEVEN different schools, but is always asked to leave because of her clumsiness, forgetfulness, or accident prone ways. As sweet as Alice is, she can't seem to find even one friend no matter how hard she tries. Her last hope is a new type of experimental school in the woods where kids are expected to learn outside of the box and find their inner strengths.

      Across the pond from the school is Millie whose life is very similar to Alice's. Lonely Millie doesn't fit in among her friends and neighbors and her family just doesn't "get" her. Millie's dream is to be a famous singer and travel the world, but her family won't even let her leave their village. O.K., now here is the crazy part- Millie is a BIGFOOT! Yes, a bigfoot, as in a yetti  chewbacca looking kind of creature. Millie is obsessed with No- Furs (humans) and longs to get rid of her fur and be part of their world. Inevitably, Millie and Alice meet and become the kind of friends each girl has been longing for all of their lives.

     For as strange as the premise might sound, Weiner has crafted the story in such a way that it is completely believable that Millie's tribe exists with their Etsy store and old Friends reruns to keep them entertained. Her descriptions of how they have cleverly managed to stay hidden for hundreds of years makes me wonder if the Yare might actually be out there somewhere. This book is fascinating and extremely entertaining, but at it's core it's simply a story of friendship and finding a place in the world without feeling like a misfit. I'm hoping I can convince my students to give a try because it is well worth it!

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 12/5/2016


Hello blog readers! Sorry it's been so long. I've been taking a graduate course that has been stealing all of my precious reading time but now I'm back! I've read a few new books that run the gamete of ages and I discovered a new non-fiction series that I'm CRAZY about.


        Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz tells the story of a young girl's struggle with OCD. When we are first introduced to twelve-year-old Molly, we discover that her mother has left town indefinitely, and Molly is convinced that winning her school poetry slam will bring her family back together. Molly worries a lot about her family and she tries to keep everything as neat and perfect as she can in an effort to control her life. As time goes on, Molly's little "quirks" like lining up her pencils and keeping her things organized by color, soon morph into serious obsessive compulsive behavior. Soon Molly struggles to get through her days. She lines up her glass figurines with a ruler, washes her hands over and over, and if she doesn't keep counting by fours, she fears something will happen to her little brother, Soon Molly starts to melt down, and she loses all control. She must find a way to ask for help even though she's scared of what her family and friends will think of her.

      If I ever wondered what it was like to spin out of control with OCD, this book answers that question. As Molly's illness progresses, I could feel her frustration and anxiety- so much so that I had to walk away from the book a few times.  The writing is so powerful that I began to feel anxious while reading. Also, there were so many details, I had to read this book slowly and carefully to catch everything. Ms. Swartz did an excellent job of showing Molly's OCD progress little by little. Additionally, the role of supporting characters surrounding someone who has a mental illness is very important. Molly's friends, siblings, and father slowly start to realize that Molly's behavior is not typical,and they have to find a way to help her. Overall, this is a touching story about a young girl who realizes she's in trouble and her journey to get help and triumph. 


       This is Kate Beasly's first book and like her sister, Cassie (Circus Mirandus) it's hard to believe this is her debut novel. I read Gertie's Leap to Greatness right after Finding Perfect and was surprised by the similar theme. I must have been in a mother's abandonment/ daughter trying to be perfect phase. Gertie's mother left when she was young, and she is convinced that if she can be the best fifth grader of all time, her mother will return. Everything seems to be lining up just right for her until Mary Sue Spivey moves to town and does everything just a little better than Gertie. Their teacher seems to favor her and even Gertie's best friends gravitate towards Mary Sue. Of course it doesn't hurt that Mary Sue's father is a famous Hollywood producer. Since only one person can be the best, Gertie must make it her mission to dethrone Mary Sue. 

     Gertie has gumption. That's the word I kept thinking about as I was reading about her. She is determined and funny and nothing can stop her plans once she sets her mind to it. I kept imagining her as a grown up Junie B. Jones. All of her antics come from a place of desperation and a pure heart. This story was fun and easy to read even though I felt badly for Gertie that she just couldn't seem to triumph over Mary Sue. As with most books set in the south, there is a colorful cast of supporting characters as fun as Gertie. There is an interesting side story about her father's work on an oil rig that will spark discussion about the environment if it's used as a class read aloud. Looking forward to more books from BOTH Beasly sisters!



      I've had these book on my list for a while, and now I am so angry I didn't read them earlier! These are AWESOME books- especially if you are a fan of heist movies. My son, a reluctant reader, enjoys movies like Ocean's 11 and Now You See Me, so I knew these would be right up his alley. He is reading Loot right now and is really enjoying it.

     Loot, by Jude Watson,  is the first novel of the series and it starts with the death of Alfie McQinn, thief extraordinaire. Alfie's last words to his son  March are a bit of a mystery that March and his friends will have to solve if they want to stay safe. March knows it will involve following in his father's footsteps to pull off a HUGE jewelry heist that no one, especially a group of kids, has done before.

     I couldn't put this book down. It was like reading a movie script. With every page, the suspense grew. Reading how the complicated heist plans fell into place was exciting and satisfying. It was light and funny so it's perfect for a young age group. Even though it's technically about committing a crime, it is a highly entertaining caper.

     Sting is the second in the series and just as wonderful. I highly recommend both books for boys or girls.

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      I recently discovered this fantastic non-fiction series called Brands We Know by Sara Green.
There are currently 20 books in the series with more in the works. These books tell the history of some of the most recognizable brands in America with colorful pages and easy to read text. The 3rd- 5th grade students at my school are going nuts for them. They are interesting and extremely up-to-date.

      I've learned so much just glancing through them. The man who invented Nike originally sold them out of his car. Nerf was nothing more than a small orange ball for years, and Mario of Nintendo fame was at first called "jump man."

      I highly recommend purchasing the set for a classroom library, or if you have a non fiction reader at home that loves to learn new and interesting facts.