Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Review of The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

The Wonderling
By Mira Bartok
Published by Candlewick
September 26, 2017
Digital Copy Provided by NetGalley

Goodreads Summary:
Have you been unexpectedly burdened by a recently orphaned or unclaimed creature? Worry not! We have just the solution for you!
Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name -- a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck -- it is the only home he has ever known. 
But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home's loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name -- Arthur, like the good king in the old stories -- and a best friend. Using Trinket's ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur's true destiny. 

My Thoughts:
I would definitely call this book an epic fantasy! I loved the fantastical nature of the story and, though it took me a while to finish it, I enjoyed the journey that Mira Bartok took me on as I followed Thirteen (Arthur) in his search for answers about his family and about himself. One of the ways I know that I enjoyed this book because there was at least one character who I really detested, and I only truly dislike a character when I am fully invested in a book. I also enjoyed meeting, and learning about, the other friends that Thirteen meets and makes along his journey. This story also addresses the idea of equality in a way that I think my 4th grade students will really understand. I would definitely use this book to have bigger conversations about equality in the real world and how it might compare to this story. 

Though it is long, I would recommend this story for grades 4 and up.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? September 18, 2017

A great meme hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers! A place for people to talk about the books they have recently read and are currently reading. A great place to find books to add to your "must read" list!

Here is what I have recently read (click on the title to learn more about the book):

By Mira Bartok

This was an epic fantasy and I really enjoyed it! Full review coming this week.

By Ally Condie

I started this one right before school started back up, so it sat, untouched, on my nightstand for a bit. I finally had time to pick it back up this weekend and couldn't stop until I was done! It is a pretty deep story about sadness and loss, but also about friendship and family. Even though the story is a fairly serious one, I still think that I will add it to my 4th grade classroom library.

Here is what I am currently reading (click on the title to learn more about the book):

By Erin Downing

I had been hearing a lot of good things about Erin Downing's (Soderberg) newest book so I purchased it right when it came out. It is my classroom independent reading book so I only have about 5 minutes everyday to read it, but I am really loving it so far! I find that I have to pull myself away from it when it is time to start my reading conferences!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Review of Ugly by Robert Hoge

By Robert Hoge
Published by Puffin Books
February 7, 2017
ARC obtained from the 2016 Annual NCTE Conference

Goodreads Summary:
Robert Hoge was born with a giant tumor on his forehead, severely distorted facial features and legs that were twisted and useless. His mother refused to look at her son, let alone bring him home. But home he went, to a life that, against the odds, was filled with joy, optimism and boyhood naughtiness.

Home for the Hoges was a bayside suburb of Brisbane. Robert's parents, Mary and Vince, knew that his life would be difficult, but they were determined to give him a typical Australian childhood. So along with the regular, grueling and often dangerous operations that made medical history and gradually improved Robert's life, there were bad haircuts, visits to the local pool, school camps and dreams of summer sports.

Ugly is Robert's account of his life, from the time of his birth to the arrival of his own daughter. It is a story of how the love and support of his family helped him to overcome incredible hardships. It is also the story of an extraordinary person living an ordinary life, which is perhaps his greatest achievement of all.

My Thoughts:
I really enjoyed this story! I read Wonder by RJ Palacio every year to my class, so it was interesting to read a "real" version of August Pullman's story. I was surprised at how truthful Robert was in his story. Some of the things that he shared about his birth and the days that followed were hard to read and I imagine hard to write and "relive". I was amazed at Robert's outlook on life as he grew up and especially as he started school. For the most part he kept a very positive outlook and really just tried to have a normal life. When he was a bit older, he had a really hard decision to make about having one more major surgery in order to even further "fix" his face. I'm not sure I would have been strong enough to make that decision if it had been me.
Overall Robert is such a courageous and strong character. When you stop and remember that he is actually a real person, it makes his story that much more powerful!

I would recommend this story for grades 4 and up.

Click here to hear his story that aired on NPR last September!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Slice of Life - September 5, 2017

If Only Every Weekend was a 4 Day Weekend!

So I officially went back to school last week. I had open house last Monday night, then had students Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I then had Friday-Monday off. At the beginning of last week my classroom was ready, my supples were set to go and I was ready for my students. Then they arrived. I forgot how exhausting the first few days of school can be! We got all the rules down and got all of our norms set, we got our #classroombookaday off to a great start, and we started our first read aloud of the school year. All in all it was a pretty good first few days, but boy was I ready for a few days off! I'm not sure what it is about this school year, but I don't think I have ever looked forward to my 4 day Labor Day weekend this much before. Maybe it was because I felt like summer really flew by this year or that I know I am going to have to be on top of my classroom management skills this year. Whatever it was, I was ready to enjoy my weekend with my family! We spent the first two days just kind of lounging around, my daughters played while my husband and I did some yard work, there may have been a trip to get donuts! Also, a true sign that fall really is around the corner, we spent Saturday afternoon watching the first Notre Dame football game of the year (Go Irish!). Then the Sunday it rained, but we still made the most of it by taking a quick trip to the playground and then going for ice cream. On Labor Day we took a ferry ride on Casco Bay in Portland and went to one of the nearby islands for some more ice cream. We finished off the night with some great Flatbread pizza and possibly some more dessert! All in all I felt like it was a great weekend and I am now recharged and ready to be truly back to school!

Monday, September 4, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? September 4, 2017

A great meme hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers! A place for people to talk about the books they have recently read and are currently reading. A great place to find books to add to your "must read" list!

Here is what I have recently read (click on the title to learn more about the book):
Last week was back to school for me so I didn't get much reading in! 

By William Joyce

Scroll down to see my full review of Ollie's Odyssey!

Here is what I am currently reading (click on the title to learn more about the book):

By Robert Hoge

In my 4th grade classroom we are starting the school year with Wonder as our first read aloud. I wanted to read it to my students before the movie comes out in November. This book is one of my all time favorites so I was very intrigued to start Ugly by Robert Hoge. I am hoping that it will be appropriate for my classroom, as I am sure a number of my students will be interested to read Robert's memoir.

By Mira Bartok

I'm not too far into this one yet, but I already love the fantasy nature of this story!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review of Ollie's Odyssey by William Joyce

Ollie's Odyssey
By William Joyce
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
April 11, 2017 (Reprint)
Paperback Purchased from Amazon

Goodreads Summary:
Can a beloved but lost stuffed rabbit save himself and other Losts from becoming the most feared designation of all: The Forgotten? Find out in this epic quest from the author of The Guardians series and the creative force behind The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Oswald is a favorite. Of all the toys in Billy’s home, the stuffed rabbit takes top rank: everywhere Billy goes, so goes Oz. But being a favorite is more than a privilege—it’s also fraught with danger. Because of Zozo.

Zozo has never been a favorite. An amusement park prize who was never chosen, Zozo has grown so bitter that, when the amusement park closes, he seeks revenge on every toy lucky enough to be a favorite. He wants them all to become The Lost, and even better, Forgotten.

When Billy accidentally leaves Oz under the table at a wedding, Oz finds himself on an unplanned adventure, kidnapped by the nefarious Zozo and his gang of creeps and faced with the momentous task of saving not only himself, but all the other stuffies who are “lost” as well…

With nods to Toy Story and Knuffle Bunny, but with that insoucient joie de vivre that is all William Joyce’s and Moonbot’s own, here’s a look at what REALLY goes on with your stuffed animals when the lights are out. 

My Thoughts:
Ollie's Odyssey had been on my Amazon wish list for quite some time so I was excited when I was finally able to read it. I was surprised at the length and overall heft of the book when I received it. The pages are gorgeous and shiny and thick, and the book has some amazing illustrations! Overall, I was surprised at the darkness of the story. The "bad guy" in the story is an old clown who's heart has turned cold and hard. William Joyce did a great job making Zozo the clown a fairly frightening create, to a level that only creepy clowns can achieve. Zozo's henchmen are also a pretty creepy lot, rightfully named the Creeps.
From Moonbot Studios
But fear not, the story has a happy ending and I think shows some great examples how even the unlikeliest of characters can find the courage to be brave and stand up for what is right in the name of friendship!

Even though it is a bit dark, I would recommend this book for 4th grade and up!