Archive | February, 2014

High Stakes Testing Season Begins

24 Feb

The actual test doesn’t start until April, but it’s not too late to start gearing up. I don’t mean gearing up to learn material. Hopefully that’s a year long process. It’s time to get excited, buckle down and get the work done. (Anyone else see the dichotomy in that sentence?)

At my school, we’re going to start with a poster contest and an award per grade level. Other ideas are floating around including pep rallies, prizes, and broadcasts.

What ideas do you have for helping the students and the teachers (!) focus on learning and preparing for the big test? How do we apply enough pressure to get results but not too much?

Share your thoughts. I’ll let you know how we’re doing and what ideas we come up with to promote – in a positive way – a very stressful test.


Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

23 Feb

Revenge of the GirlRevenge of the Girl with the Great Personality by Elizabeth Eulberg

Publisher: Point, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.
Copyright: 2013

In case I haven’t mentioned it before, I am drawn to great titles.  Everyone has their own method of choosing what to pull off the shelf.  For some, the author alone does it.  For others, the cover intrigues them.  For me, the title alone among a list of titles will pull me.  It’s why I originally bought Sonya Sone’s One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies without reading a review or looking at the cover.  I never regretted that purchase either.

Mackenzie is a 7 year old beauty pageant contestant.  Lexi is her 16 year old sister, sitter, driver, dress maker and supporter.  But that’s all Lexi gets to do.  Lexi dresses in t-shirts, sweats, and hair in a pony tail and spends her weekends dreaming of the perfect guy and fading into the background.  Lexi’s best friend, Benny, bets her that if she dresses up with makeup and a dress at school, he’ll finally approach the guy he has a crush on too.

The plot is not terrible original – does Lexi get a date?  Do you care?  Well, yes, you do.  The characters are so real that the book just flies.  I like Lexi and I can understand and relate to the end of the book.  And I can relate to Lexi’s relationship with her sister.  I am the youngest child by several years in a family of three.  And, while my brother may have pushed me around, he wouldn’t let anyone else do it.  Neither does Lexi.

Recommended: Grades 7 & up

Author also wrote Prom & Prejudice, The Lonely Hearts Club, and Take a Bow.

Croak by Gina Damico

15 Feb


Croak by Gina Damico

Published: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Co, New York
Copyright: 2013

I have been reading a lot of first time authors lately.  Not because I planned, but because when I read about the author (after reading the book) I have found new people to follow.  And mourned the fact that this is the first, and there may not be another by the same author yet. (sigh)

Croak is a coming-of-age book.  DON’T STOP READING.  Just because Lex is a juvenile delinquent is no reason to send her to live with some weird uncle.   It’s not that unreasonable to bite someone in high school, is it?  But Lex is sent away from her twin sister to spend the summer with her Uncle Mort.  Mort doesn’t run a farm, like she thought, but runs another family business.  Mort is a Grim (reaper) and Kills people with a capital K.

Lex is going to use her rage and anger to become another Killer – someone who takes the souls from the dead bodies.  But someone is killing people (small “k”).  Can Lex go about her business and ignore it or does she need to know what’s happening?  And has Lex endangered herself too?

Croak is an amazingly fast read.  It’s fun and so is the After Life.  You won’t know until you visit it.

Woodland MS got this book as part of winning the Top Ten YALSA Book Award in 2013 and getting 18 books instead of 10!  YEAH!

Recommended: Grades 7 & up.

Ice Storm Atlanta: What are you reading?

12 Feb

Stuck inside during the latest ice storm? I have a pile of unread books, as always. But I’m drawn to these graphic novels first. Digger by Ursula Vernon tells the tale of a wombat who digs into an unfamiliar temple and can’t find her way home. She doesn’t believe in fanciful things like shadows that talk and a Hyena named Ed and, of course, the statue of Ganesh who talks to Digger. Digger is just a good engineer in a weird situation. I’m on volume 3.

What are you reading right now?


Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

3 Feb

Fortunately-the-Milk-Neil-Gaiman-e1380767163245Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Skottie Young

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2013

It’s utterly inappropriate and out of time for me to review a NEIL GAIMAN book.  Especially after it’s been released and reviewed by hundreds.  Maybe thousands.  Still, why not?

Gaiman’s dedication is lovely “For my late father, David, who would have told the tale with delight, and for my son, Michael, who would never had believed a word of it.  With love.”  Reading this book intended for younger children is just fun.  Don’t let your age get in the way of believing.  Even when the ponies with blue stars show up.

With their mother away on a business trip, the children discover there is no milk for breakfast.  Naturally, their father goes to get some, but he’s gone sooooo long. When their father returns, he explains the odd things that happened to him.  Aliens, pirates, Professor Steg’s Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier and all manner of other people.  After all, it’s all true.  And there’s the milk to prove it.

For students reading alone, this is best for grades 3-6.  But, read it to your kindergartner!  Read it to your 1st grader.  Read to your middle schooler. (I will!)

Highly recommended:  All ages

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

1 Feb

Crown of MidnightCrown of Midnight by Sarah J. Mass

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Copyright: 2013

Two weeks ago I review the first book in the series Throne of Glass.  I was lucky enough to get the second book yesterday at the public library.  Very lucky.  Actually, I often think that the second book in a trilogy is a necessary evil.  Not good by itself, but providing the necessary information to have an exciting end.  Sometimes, I think we get so caught up in the idea of trilogies, that we don’t realize we didn’t nee the second book – it’s main ideas could have been incorporated to one of the other ones.  There are notable exceptions.  Catching Fire was too good to be missed!  So is Crown of Midnight.

I admit that I wanted Celaena to the person that she is.  I hoped for it.  I like her and I didn’t want her to be an assassin.  But she is an assassin.  So how could I like her?  She’s the King’s Champion but hates the king.  She’s an 18 year old who wants to live her own life freely, but can’t.  And maybe others around her are actually in worse positions.  Should she trust the Captain of the Guard?  Or the Prince?  Or the Princess Nehemia?  Celaena sets out to learn to read the Wyrdmarks.  Will it help?

Will Celaena tell one secret too many?  And what is the truth about magic?  Too many questions with some surprising twists and turns keep the story moving along.  The author has said the next book is out Fall 2014.  I’m almost tempted to tell you to wait til you have all three and can read right through.  But, maybe not.   Read the first two and enjoy the wait.

Highly Recommended:  Grades 6 & up