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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Top 100: 81-90

Wow, I feel like such a failure as a blogger. I truly intended on posting the next 10 books on my top 100 last week, but I have been busy wrapping up my Young Writers Club for the summer. I compile everyone's poems, stories, etc. into a book and print a copy for each kid that participated. Of course, everyone gave me their writing samples late so I have been madly typing and collating the past few days.

Now that I am not in a harried state of panic I can get back to blogging.

90. Socks by Beverly Cleary

Please do not tar and feather for saying this, but I have never been a huge fan of the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. I don't know why, but I only read one Ramona book and I never had much desire to read another. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for Ramona, I adore Socks by Beverly Cleary. This sweet and funny story of a spoiled kitty who is replaced as the center of attention when his owners bring home a human baby is a great read-aloud for kids with siblings on the way. If fact, I read Socks aloud to my first two children when I was expecting my third and they loved it.

89. The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman

This 1987 Newbery Medal winner tells the story of Prince Horace, or as he is commonly known throughout the kingdom, Prince Brat (what could be a better name for a spoiled royal?). Jemmy is the lowly servant who, by proxy, must endure all of the prince's punishments since it is illegal to lay a hand on the heir to the thrown. As his name suggests, Prince Brat is rude, selfish, mean, lazy, and ignorant, so when he runs away he is ill equipped to navigate the world outside of the castle. Luckily, Prince Brat drags Jemmy along to rescue him when things go awry. You can probably guess that buy the conclusion of the book, Prince Brat, turns over a new leaf and makes amends to Jemmy. The ending may be pat, but Fleischman's humorous writing is not. The Whipping Boy is a riotous adventure  that is a great read for reluctant readers due to its relatively short length.

88. The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

Let me start off by saying that Daniel Handler has the best author pseudonym ever! Also, if you have ever watched an interview you know that Handler is ridiculously, sarcastically funny (and he even plays the accordion)! The Bad Beginning is the first book in the hugely popular Series of Unfortunate Events which are the calamitous chronicles of the three Beauregard children.
 I know that it sounds rather depressing, but The Bad Beginning is so witty and Count Olaf is a wonderfully sinister villain.

 If you do not have time to read The Series of Unfortunate Events you can listen to the audiobooks. I know that I have mentioned this in a previous post, but Tim Curry does a SPECTACULAR job reading these books so even if you have read them check out the audiobooks (we have them all at the library). Here is a brief snippet of the brilliant collaboration of Curry and Handler.

87. Deadweather and Sunrise: The Chronicles of Egg Book 1 by Geoff Rodkey

Pirates, ancient treasure maps, revenge, and even a touch of romance!!! Not to mention that the main character's name is Egg and his best friend is a one handed cabin boy named Guts. For some reason this just makes the book even better for me. Geoff Rodkey may not be a household name, but he is actually the writer behind Daddy Daycare, RV, Shaggy Dog (the Tim Allen remake), and for all of those tween Disney fans, Good Luck, Charlie. It's Christmas...  Deadweather and Sunrise is the first book in The Chronicles of Egg trilogy and all three are amazing swashbuckling adventures with a good dose of humor tossed in.

86. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

I know what you are thinking: "Ugh, another dystopian novel following The Hunger Games craze.  Well, you would be wrong because this dystopian novel was published five years before The Hunger Games. Also, I am sure that parents will be happy to know that there are no children fighting to the death in The City of Ember. Rather the lead characters, Lina and Doon, live in a city surrounded by darkness and the lights are slowly dying. Where is the city of Ember, what lies beyond in the darkness, what will they do when there is no more food and the lights go out for good? This book is the first in a series, but The City of Ember stands on its own as a thrilling mystery.

My husband actually told me that this was a movie. It was released in 2006 and has Bill Murray and Tim Robbins in it. Who knew? I might have to see if I can interloan it.

85. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

Another classic horse book, that I wanted to live as a kid. Honestly, I had  fantasies in which I was stranded on a desert island with Shetan. Who wouldn't, want to canter bareback down a deserted beach on a wild Arabian stallion? The Black Stallion is just a thrilling, gorgeous story.

84. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

This is the 5th book in the Chronicles of Narnia in which Edmund, Lucy, and their cousin Eustace.  The opening line of this book has always stuck with me and I cannot help giggling a bit whenever I hear it. "There was  boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."  Honestly, who would name their child Eustace Clarence Scrubb? Do you want them to be stuffed in a locker one day? Kidding aside, I love the introduction of Eustace, who as his name suggests, is a pompous little sniveler. Similar to Prince Brat in The Whipping Boy there is a certain satisfaction in reading how Eustace receives his comeuppance.

Also, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader brings back one of my all-time favorite Narnians, Reepicheep, the always ready to duel warrior mouse.

There are so many wonderful, exciting moments to enjoy in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, don't stop traveling to Narnia after reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, because you will be missing out on some sensational adventures.

83. Twerp by Mark Goldblatt

There are so many books about bullying, but Twerp by Mark Goldblatt is exceptional. Julian Twerski has been asked by his English teacher to write about the incident that earned him a week long suspension. This turns out to be easier said than done as Julian begins to write about everything but the incident. Through Julian's journal you learn that he he is not a bad kid nor is he a bully. Julian is just a kid like so many others who goes along with his friends even when he knows in his heart that it is wrong. At times humorous and others heartbreaking, Julian's story is an incredibly powerful statement about compassion, making amends, and standing up as an individual.

82. Half Magic by Edward Eager

The four siblings in Half Magic love to read fantasy stories and after one trip to the library bemoan "Why don't things like that ever happen to us?" How will react then when they discover a magic coin that grants wishes, but only by half? This book is just pure, uncomplicated fun. I especially love when they wish that the cat could talk, but since the coin only grants half wishes every other word that it says is "Meow".  There have been many covers of this book over the years, but I am a huge, huge Quentin Blake (he illustrated most of Roald Dahl;s books) fan so I prefer this one featuring his artwork.

81. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lingdren

I once dressed up as Pippi Longstocking when we were supposed to come to school as our favorite book character. What is not to love about Pippi. She doesn't go to school, does and wears whatever she wants, has a suitcase full of gold coins, and lives with a monkey and a horse. Despite having no education, manners, or parents around Pippi is able to take care of herself, her pets, and her home all while having oodles of fun. Definitely a role model for kids that are fed up with going to school and following rules-haha!

Ok, another ten down. Hopefully it will not take me quite as long to get 71-80 posted.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gilmore Challenge proving more challenging than I thought.

Hi everyone, First thing I want to start off with is, I'm sorry it has been a month since I posted.  Between vacations and summer in general I haven't had a lot of reading time.  I now own a copy of Carrie so I started to read it and then thought, hey that would be great to read for Halloween. :) So I think for now I am going with (what I hope) is a quick read, Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers.  I have seen these movies too (seems to be a trend) and they were very light hearted so I think it will read very quickly so that next time I post I might actually be able to talk about a book.:)  Hope your reading is going better than mine.

Just keep reading!
Just keep reading!
Just keep reading!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Top 100 Chapter Books: 91-100

WOO HOO!! This is the Stack Report's 100th Post!

Hopefully, readers are finding this blog interesting, informative, amusing, or, at the very least, not boring.

What could be more apropos for the 100th post than a Top 100 list. I am a list person: I make lists, read lists, keep lists, check things off on lists. School Library Journal polled educators, librarians, and parents to create a list of the Top 100 Chapter Books of all time (they also did this for picture books).

I agreed with some of the selections and placements on the SLJ top 100 but, of course, every reader is unique so I disagreed with much of the list too.  Over the next few posts I will countdown my top 100 children's chapter books. Maybe you will think some of my choices are nuts (and please feel free to tell me so). My hope, though, is that you may discover some wonderful books that you have not read before.

Here are the first 10 books on my list (and when I say first I mean starting at the bottom with #100):

100.  Horton Halfpott or The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor or The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset by Tom Angleberger
You may recognize Angleberger as the author of the popular Origami Yoda series, and as good as those are, I think that Horton Halfpott is infinitely better.  Imagine that Roald Dahl (my hero) and Agatha Christie collaborated on a children's book. Horton Halfpott would be the result. Whimsical, funny, and devilishly clever with a delightful and eccentric array of characters. I actually met Tom Angleberger (and he was incredibly nice and a total geek like me) and asked him if he was planning on writing a sequel. He told me that he wants to, but right now there is more demand for the Origami Yoda books. Hopefully, more people will read Horton Halfpott and clamor for further adventures of this hapless hero.

99. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

Your kids are probably familiar with the 2006 movie, How to Eat Fried Worms, but the book was actually published in 1973.  And if you are a child of the 80s (like me) you may remember the book being made into an episode of CBS Story Break. Does anyone else remember this show? I used to absolutely love it. Anyways back to the book, which despite being published in 1973 does not read as stale or dated. All you need to do is read the title to know that this is a book that kids, especially boys who love to dare each other to do stupid and gross things, will relish. And by relish I mean  ingest all of its squirmy hilarity with delight.

98. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

I wasn't sure if The Velveteen Rabbit counts as a picture book or a chapter book, but I put it on the list anyways. Why? Because I still cry every time I read this page. The Velveteen Rabbit is the orginal Toy Story and every parent should read it with their child.
97. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman, who is a master of writing scary books that are not ridiculous and patronizing to younger readers. The Graveyard Book is a perfect example of this. Don't let the fact that the majority of the book is set in a graveyard and half of the characters are ghosts fool you. This book has plenty of chills, but it is also poignant with several tender, heartrending moments.

96. Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe
Ah, another book that harkens back to my 80s childhood. The first of Howe's books narrated by Harold, the Monroe family's dog, is actually still incredibly popular. Unlike The Graveyard Book which I just mentioned, Bunnicula is more spine-tickling than-spine chilling (Yes I know how incredibly corny that sounded). After all, the supposed monster is a vampire bunny that sucks the juice out of vegetables. Harold and Chester, the family's cat, are the hilarious children's book version of The Odd Couple. Younger chapter book readers will happily devour Bunnicula and Howe's other books featuring these likable, furry heroes.


95. Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
If you are a horse-obsessed tween girl Marguerite Henry is just required reading. What sets Misty of Chincoteague apart from so many other horse books, though, is the spectacular coastal setting. You can imagine being one of the Beebe children watching the wild ponies swim through the ocean waves from the island of Assateague to Chincoteague on the mainland.

94. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
From Misty the wild pony to Shiloh the abused dog, I am really tugging at some heartstrings. I considered not including this one on my list, because mistreatment of animals is something that is hard to read about. Hello, I couldn't even finish Water for Elephants. Shiloh, though, is a beautiful story and (spoiler alert) the dog doesn't die like in every other famous dog book. This Newbery Medal winner is actually the first book in a trilogy and kids will be excited to read more about Shiloh and his boy, Marty.

93. The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
Maybe it is a little premature to include this book on the list since it was only published in May 2014. Oh well, I absolutely loved this Victorian ghost story!  Two Irish orphans flee famine in their homeland and seek employment in England. Desperation sends them to a dreary mansion that could give the House of Usher a run for its money.  The Night Gardener is perfect for kids who love to huddle under the covers with a flashlight and a spooky book.

92. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The holidays would not be complete without the Herdmans wreaking havoc at the annual Christmas pageant. The Herdmans may be wild, cigar smoking arsonists, but they can teach us all about the meaning of Christmas. I have to read this aloud with my kids every December. My kids also love the movie version, even though, the first time they watched it my son said: "This must be really old. Their phone has a cord." Nothing like having your kids make you feel like you belong in a museum.

91Chomp by Carl Hiaasen
Hoot by Hiaasen may have won a Newbery Honor, but I thought that the more recently published Chomp was better. Like most of Hiaasen's books, Chomp takes place in Florida, has an ecological/conservation angle, and teems with sarcasm and acerbic humor. Wahoo Cray (yep that is his name) works alongside his father who is an animal wrangler for television shows. When Wahoo's dad gets a job with a show called Expedition Survival, the unreality of reality television is swiftly exposed.Maybe this book appealed to me because my boys are avid watchers of Bear Grylls, but I thought that it was hilarious. I will warn you that I have had some parents be offended that Wahoo's dad says the word "bleep" (and I actually mean the word "bleep") throughout the book. I grew up in a blue collar home so I heard plenty of F-bombs and I actually found it admirable that Mitch Cray makes the effort not to swear in front of his son.

I have moved and rearranged the books on this list multiple times, but these are the first ten books on my Top 100 list. Feel free to agree, disagree, comment, whatever.  With the next ten I will try to be a bit more succinct so the post is not quite so long. It is hard for me to stop talking about books that I like.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Storytime Anytime-Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Am I the only person who sings this song whenever they are outside in the rain? Maybe that is just something weird that I do, but you can still enjoy this lovely video. The background dancers are spectacular!

As you have probably guessed this Storytime Anytime is all about rain! Personally, I love the rain and thunderstorms are even better.  When you are a kid, though, intense and deafening storms can be petrifying.  Reading together about thunderstorms can make them a lot less scary and a lot more fun, especially when the kids get to make all of the sound effects.

A few weeks ago we had a daycare come to the library for a story time and since we had been having frequent thunderstorms I decided to make that the theme. First I collected supplies: coffee cans, buckets, rhythm sticks, shaker eggs (eggs with rice inside), and even a few cookie sheets. Every child got something to make noise with, but were told that if they made any sound when they were not told to would lose their instrument. You can use pots, wooden spoons, cans with rice or dried pasta inside, and whatever else you can find to tap, pound, or shake.

I had several books that all featured storm-related onomatopoeia. I am so geeked that I have the chance to use that word which is so much fun to say. Onomatopoeia are words that denote sounds. For example: splat, oink, tweet, plop, kapow, etc.

Well, why just say drip drop, boom, crash, etc. when you can bang on a cookie sheet or jump up and down with shakers. Each book, like a real thunderstorm, begins with a light pitter pat, builds to a thundering crescendo, and then slowly wanes to nothing but a rainbow in the sky. The kids had to listen to the story to know when, and how fast and loud to make the rain.

Rain Song by Leslie Evans is a just a sweet little picture book about two girls playing outside on a summer day when thunder starts to rumble in the distance. Lightning's flashing trees are thrashing cymbals clashing big boom bashing!  When the story hit this point, I was a little worried that the director would come downstairs to see what the heck I was doing.

Tap Tap Boom Boom is a fairly  new picture book, but it has a fun rhyming text with lots of onomatopoeia (as if you couldn't tell from the title). This book also takes place in the city and the characters take refuge from the storm in the subway. Some of the boys in my group who were unfamiliar with big cities were fascinated by the idea of underground trains.

Here are a few other picture books featuring rain, thunderstorms, and onomatopoeia (yep I will never get tired of saying that).
Splish! Splash! A Book about Rain by Josepha Sherman
Rain! by Linda Ashman

Boom! by Mary Lyn Ray

I Love the Rain by Margaret Park Bridges

If you choose to do a craft there are a multitude of rain-themed projects to choose from.  With my daycare group we made rainbows that the kids could hang up. Depending on your child's skill with scissors you can let them cut or you can cut out for them 6 circles that descend in size. If you do not have colored paper use white and color them yourselves. Now you are going to start gluing the circles together. Glue the orange circle to the middle of the red circle, the yellow circle on the middle of the orange one and so on. Putting the circles in order by size is actually a great early math activity for toddlers and preschoolers. To make the rainbow you just fold the glued together circles like a taco. You can either staple it closed or glue it, but if you use glue do not be stingy. Tie a string to the top of the arc and your rainbow is ready to hang.

If you have some paper towel tubes and rice on hand you can make rain sticks. First prep the tube by rubber banding or taping saran wrap over over one end of the tube. Place a long, twisted piece of aluminum foil before pouring in rice, dried beans, or beads.  The aluminum foil is not required but it will give a better sound. Then seal the other side. Make sure you seal the ends tightly because you do not want dry rice spraying everywhere when kids start shaking the rain stick.  You can paint, glitterfy (New Word!), color, glue paper on, or decorate the rain stick any way you want.

On to songs! You can go with the classic It's Raining, It's Pouring, but my favorite rain song (beside the 70s classic shown above) is If All the Raindrops.  This song is from Barney (I'm sorry if you are a Barney hater). It is short, super easy, and watching the kids all stick their tongues out is funny.

The best activity for a rainy day is to go outside and walk in the mud. Yes it is dirty, but nothing beats the feeling of mud squelching between your toes and your kids will get a kick out of mom and dad getting messy with them. You can get really gross and look for worms after a rain storm too. My kids are pros at this and often compete to see who can collect the most.

Obviously, the kids in my family really, really love mud!

There it is, my thunderstorm storytime. Have fun on the next rainy day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Young Writers Club-Christmas in August

One of the biggest challenges that I face each year with the Young Writers Club is keeping it fresh, fun, and not too educational. These are kids that are taking time out of their summer vacation to come to the library and WRITE. If I want them to come back each week , it is essential that the kids laugh, goof around, and never feel like they are sitting in a classroom.  This summer I have an amazing group of kids in the Young Writers Club.  They are creative, humorous, cheerful,  and they always manage to surprise me.
Now, I am not above using bribery to get kids coming to writing club and sugar is always a great motivator. Today I made the kids cupcakes and I am sure that you are wondering why they are Christmas cupcakes.  I promise that I baked these fresh today, they were not fossilized left-overs from last December. Not only delicious (if I do say so myself) the cupcakes served as an inspiration for a group writing activity.

I asked the kids to imagine that Christmas takes place on August 25th rather than December 25th. How would homes be decorated, what traditions would there be, what would Santa ride in and what would pull it, what would Santa wear, who would be his helpers?

The kids worked in groups (because what fun would writing club be if they always worked by themselves) to brainstorm ideas and create a complete back story and setting for a summertime Christmas.

Judging by the absurd amount of giggling all of the kids seemed to really enjoy this exercise. After about a half an hour each group shared their vision of Christmas in August.

Now I was expecting to hear about decorating palm trees with sea shells, making Christmas sno-cones instead of cookies, and Santa riding a surf board pulled by dolphins. I did have two groups that at least had Santa wearing a Hawaiian shirt, but flowery shirts were about as happy as Christmas in August got. Forget peace on earth, goodwill toward men, or presents under the tree. These young wordsmiths went the grim and sometimes downright ghastly route.
My first group was Tyler, Gussie and Ruthie and they created what they called the Odd Christmas which is a futuristic dystopian spin on the holiday.
The year is 2099 and Santa Clause has legally changed his name to Mark James the Fifth. To keep from freezing to death, Christmas has been moved to August 25th. His new workshop is in the basement of Tom's Food Center where hypnotized, mind-controlled sales people are his elves. Mark James grew a mustache and dyed it green with purple polka dots. He wears a baseball cap, a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and sandals. He drives a motorcycle pulled by bunnies with a turtle in the lead. People decorate bushes and kids are enslaved by their parents till they are 50 year old so the kids do all of the decorating. Also Emerson is president (Not quite sure what that haves to do with Christmas, but hey this is their world).

Emerson, Kyle, Iggy, Evey, and Preston were my largest group and Emerson is president in their world too (surprise, surprise). This group definitely laughed the most; probably because they worked poop into their Christmas scenario.
It is the 24th century and Santa lives in Frankenmuth, MI which is no longer a happy place to visit. It is always gloomy and raining and there are deadly star bombs falling from the sky. Santa rides a motorcycle and rides around pranking people because he is jealous of everyone who is happy. Instead of presents he leaves flaming bags of poop on doorsteps. 

Instead of Santa Claus David and Zander have Banta Claws
Banta Claws pilots a ALO-G  Warthog which is a bomber plane with gatling gun in front. Banta Claws is a werewolf that wears a suit of ice that never melts. He likes to bomb people and eat them. His elves are zombies and he lives in an underground cave. Also Jack the Ripper comes back from the 1700s to help him. 

My final group surprised me the most since they were all girls and they had the most horrific Christmas in August back story. Sophie, Quincy, Ella, Natalie, and Kayla used creepy pasta for inspiration.
The color scheme for Christmas in August is purple/yellow/black. Santa Claus is actually Slenderman and he rides around on Smile Dog so children hide on Christmas eve. His elves are broken garden gnomes. 

So this was our fun and ultimately morbid group activity to warm up our imaginations.