Friday, December 9, 2016

Non-Fiction Pick: Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White

Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2016
176 pages
ISBN: 978054431959

Fascinating and extensively researched, Some Writer! The Story of E. B. White pays homage to one of America's most beloved children's writers.  Young readers will be amused and captivated by White's childhood notebooks and sketches. Showing artistic and literary promise from a young age, White's journals and papers narrate his life.

Bookish and shy, White was no good at sports although he did enjoy summers in Maine, canoeing and swimming. When WWI broke out, White did not weigh enough to serve in the military. He always loved Maine and returned there after college. After living and working in New York, he sought the solace of Maine and bought a farm that would end up being the model for Charlotte's Web.
It was unheard of in those days for a serious writer to jump from adult fiction to writing children's books, but White wrote Stuart Little which came under fire from critics and librarians. The adults did not know what children did. Young readers loved the fact that a mouse was born to a human family. Children could imagine!

Charlotte's Web is probably the most loved children's book of all time. Writer Eudora Welty praised it saying, "...as a piece of work it is just about perfect." Kate diCamilio says of White's style, "The thing about White that comforts and fascinates me (and challenges me) is how he manages to make his words matter more. It is as if he is able to make one word do the work of ten."

The book is marketed for middle readers it is enjoyable for anyone who loves words, writing, books, reading and magic. E.B. White made generations believe in magic decades before there was a young boy named Harry Potter, and we are all better for it. He believed, "Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick and generally congenial readers on earth....." Because of this, he never wrote down to them. He inspired them and was inspired by them.

HIGHLY, highly recommended for every reader from eight to eighty and beyond. This is one of the best biographies I have read.

FTC Required Disclaimer; I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.




Thursday, December 8, 2016

Middle Grades Pick: Brightwood

Brightwood
by Tania Unsworth
Algonquin Young Readers
2016
260 pages
ISBN: 9781616203306


Compelling and mesmerizing, Brightwood is a dazzling middle grades read sure to captivate!


Eleven year old Daisy is still waiting for her mother to return to Brightwood. It has been five, or was it, six hours ago that she left? Daisy knows her mother would never go away and not return. Daisy hunkers down in their moldering mansion and awakens to find her mother still missing. It is just the two of them, and Daisy has never left the grounds of Brightwood, not once. Her mother has made it painfully clear that there is nothing out there in the world beyond the gates for Daisy. What can she do now?

There is enough to eat--more than enough. Daisy's mother buys in bulk--everything in bulk. In fact, it is hard to maneuver in the mansion. Even the once grand ballroom is stuffed with boxes and old furniture. Daisy has to clear paths to walk. Keeping her company is her pet rat Tar (aptly named Tar because it is rat backwards) who not only talks but  has a wicked sense of humor. After the first day, Daisy meets a specter of a black and white girl named Frank. Frank has been around the world on expeditions with Daisy's own kooky grandfather. As Daisy begins to panic, Frank is the voice of reason who calms Daisy and talks her through problems.

A stranger shows up and acts like he is right  at home. Daisy is afraid of the newcomer and talks it over with Frank who warns her that the stranger seems to be taking over Brightwood. Daisy looks for clues not only to where her mother could have gone, but also who this newcomer could be and what could he want. When she realizes that the stranger is her mother's cousin--the estranged black sheep of  the family--Daisy goes into defense mode. his words are chilling:  "Nobody  knows you exist."  What are the odds a sheltered eleven year old, a pet rat and a made-up friend defeating a maniacal killer?

Brightwood is everything a story should be! The setting is a creepy, near abandoned mansion located far from help. There is a  missing mother, a scared eleven year old girl who has to rely on herself to save her own life and that of her mother, a family secret, generations of mental illness, strange ancestors, strange family portraits, and rooms full of boxes that hold the clues that will save Daisy and Brightwood.

Cover art is beautiful and evokes a sense of gloominess: the mansion in the background, trees and grass overgrown, the massive iron gate holding Daisy inside the grounds, a girl at the window looking out hoping to see her mother. 

Highly, highly recommended for all middle grades and anyone who gets lost in a great story. I LOVED Daisy! If you know readers 8-up, give them Brightwood. They will love it.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Top Titles 2016: YA and Middle Grades

Pamela's Picks 2016 (Prezi)

It has been a great year for YA and middle grades, too! With so many books to choose from, I've developed my list of favorites this year. Click the link for a Prezi 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

YA Pick: Spontaneous

Spontaneous
by Aaron Starmer
Dutton Books
2016
355 pages
ISBN: 9780525429746


Laugh out loud hilarious, Spontaneous will leave readers snorting with laughter.  Then they realize that they are laughing at a teenager  who just blew up. While that is not cause for laughter in a normal world, Starmer frames teens blowing up in such a comic way they it is instantly (spontaneously) hilarious. This kind of black comedy is rare in YA and done only by a few writers like Andrew Smith and Libba Bray.

When teens begin blowing up, Mara Carlyle  is present each time a classmate meets a  terrible demise. She has the record, in fact, of most teen blow-ups witnessed.  As time wears on, Mara treats it like combing her hair in the morning--just a part of life. Mara is glib, witty and chatty as the narrator and takes the reader on an entertaining journey through her senior year. While insensitive and blatant, Mara uses it as a coping mechanism against the blood and gore around her. Instead of breakups and make-ups, it's blow ups and clean ups. When it becomes obvious that kids from the senior class are blowing up and it's not some random thing that cannot be explained, the government gets involved and surrounds the city. The kids are now prisoners and then lab rats. What is causing the senior class of Covington High to blow up?  Is it something they ingested? Something they took in an illegal drug? Did they pick up a parasite? Is it a medical condition?

The agent covering the case is FBI agent Carla Rosetti who Mara secretly admires, even striving to be her best buddy. The agent lets her know that the government may indeed be involved. She gives Mara and her  bff Tess burner phones to contact her if they find out anything about the case.

Spontaneous is enjoyable and entertaining although some may find the ending disappointing as the cause of the blowups is never addressed. Readers will have to write their own ending to this novel.

Recommended for laughs! High school grades 9-up. Profanity, lots of sex, bad behavior, alcohol, drugs, partying like it's 1999--hey, they are all blowing up, you know.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Mystery Pick: Running Girl


Running Girl
(Garvie Smith Mysteries, Book 1)
by Simon Mason
David Fickling Books
2016
432 pages
ISBN: 9781338036428

Garvie Smith is a genius. He is smarter than any student at Marsh Academy but also is failing all his classes. His teachers and school bore him. It is not until his ex-girlfriend Chloe  is murdered that Garvie is interested in leaving his room.

The police are investigating, but Garvie knows they need help. Working alone, Garvie will leave no stone unturned in Chloe's murder. Inspector Singh is no slouch at police work. He is methodical and precise. He advises Garvie to leave the investigating up to the police, but Garvie does not listen.

Everywhere Garvie goes, Singh is right behind him. This is infuriating to the policeman. He orders Garvie off the case, but the teen is not hearing it at all. The dynamic between the adult detective and teen genius is competitive in nature  but each admires the other.

Garvie begins to investigate some nefarious characters and finds himself in dangerous surroundings. With his keen eye and his Sherlock Holmes' deductive reasoning he is able to know who the true killer is before the police can move in.

American readers will find Running Girl charming with its British place names and some slang words. America seems to have a love affair with all things British: One Direction, Adele, Lord, and way before them: the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the British Invasion.

Recommended for high school readers grade 9-up. This is a solid detective/police thriller and mystery story with a memorable character: Garvie Smith.

Profanity, drug use, sex, mature themes.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received the ARC from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Hour of Code December 5-11: New games, new codes, new apps

New games, new codes and new apps! December 5-11  is fast approaching. Take a look here for all that is NEW!  



Teachers, sign up your students for an EVENT! 
Join millions of students worldwide in learning code.
Go beyond the event and teach all year. The site is full of content for coding.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down (book 11)


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Double Down (Book 11)
by Jeff Kinney
Amulet
2016
217 pages
ISBN: 9781419723445


Readers young and old  know what makes Greg Heffley endearing and likable, but how do they convey their feelings  to adults who may have never heard of Wimpy Kid books? (Okay, I cannot imagine anyone who has not heard of  Wimpy Kid, but I guess some exist)  They may tell you that he is like every kid who ever came before him. He is funny, sarcastic, sloppy, lazy, intelligent but unchallenged, misunderstood and adorable. In a word, he is like them, the every child, and that is what makes Wimpy Kids books worldwide bestsellers and Jeff Kinney one of the most influential people on the planet!

Book 11 does not disappoint. It is a glimpse into the mind of Greg Heffley, and it is hilarious.  Greg swears he is on some secret reality show where he is the star of the show. In order to keep his audience entertained, he whispers funny asides to the hidden cameras. Later, thinking that aliens from space are so advanced they send houseflies in  as their drones to gather information on human life before deciding to invade. Why they seem to be attracted to dog poop, Greg cannot answer. 

Greg continues to entertain with stories about school and Rowley, his best friend. Greg goes so far as to join the school band, not that he wants to play an instrument or for the pleasure, but just so he can get invited to the hottest middle school party of the year. Talk about over achievement!  Of course on the night of the band recital, Greg somehow manages to get himself locked up in the band room with no way out. Not only that, he splits his pants so that even if he is rescued, there is no way he can appear on stage. 

Jeff Kenney's sense of humor comes through in copy and in hilarious illustrations. There is no stopping Wimpy Kid. Kenney is now on his second world tour visiting all the countries where kids love Greg Heffley. Double Down is currently #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. 

Highly, highly recommended for all ages! 

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not not receive monetary compensation for this review.




Thursday, November 3, 2016

Hour of Code: Begins December 5-11, 2016

Hour of Code


Hour of Code December 5-11, 2016—Join millions of students worldwide  Hour of Code 2016

Video “Computer Science Is Changing Everything”-watch

“Why I Code” –watch inspirational video


Learn How To Code for Hour of Code. Play the games and learn. Play Minecraft, Star Wars, and help Anna and Elsa on ice! Play all three code games. All ages

Code.org

Go to Code.org
Create an account and REMEMBER your login and password information !
You will need to sign in each time if you want to print certificates.

Click on Try Hour of Code

WATCH ALL VIDEOS and play the games all the way through.

You will learn about EVENTS; PRINT your certificate when you finish the game.

Intermediate Code:

Introduction to Javascript- learn Java from Khan Academy. 

Build your own game with Tynkor Use Code Monster, K-3, Dragon Dash, grade 3+, Tynker + Minecraft, grade 6+
The Easiest Way To Mod Minecraft—sign up and learn new skills. How to modify Minecraft

Bill Gates Explains If/IfElse Statements-video

Mark Zuckerburg Teaches REPEAT LOOPS-video

For Teachers:


Get tips and watch videos; sign up for FREE and help your students learn code! 

Compiled by Pamela Thompson http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/
feel free to use any information and links as long as you credit the site and link. If you are using my entire blogpost, please link back to this blog. Thank you! Pamela 

Hot Tech Tools for the Classroom and Beyond

Hot Tech Tools for Classroom and Beyond
                                      Some for testing, some for studying, some just for fun!
                                                               List by Pamela Thompson, LMS
                                                              http://booksbypamelathompson.blogspot.com/




http://www.flubaroo.com/    Use with Google docs; self-grading tests, send reports, and best of all, email students their grades. Save time grading. Flubaroo does it for you!

https://edshelf.com/  Get a free account; extensive collection of apps, web links, lessons that teachers can use and add content of their own. A great place for ideas!

https://infogr.am/  Create charts and infograms for free.

http://www.cdc.gov/bam/gameroom.html   games for kids from the CDC; interactive learning

https://www.geoguessr.com/  Students can play in single or challenge mode; guess their location using blank world map and photo. Great fun!

http://bighugelabs.com/  Free site to make your photos into amazing things! Movie posters, puzzles, mosaics, special filters.

http://www.fotobabble.com/  create talking photos and slideshows. Add a message to photos.

http://www.flashcardmachine.com/  create flashcards to study for your next exam; share them with students, friends or study groups.

http://www.funbrain.com/  games to hone math and reading skills; fun!

http://www.imagechef.com/  Choose a photo/image and add your own words; share to Twitter or Facebook.
                            





Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Fun Pick: Girls Like Me

Girls Like Me
by Lola StVil
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2016
320 pages
ISBN: 9780544706743


Girls Like Me is a novel written  in verse and a series of chat room posts. Shay Summers is a high school teen who has lost both her parents--her mother abandoned the family and her father died in a car accident-- and now Shay is living with her stepmother. Shay uses food as a crutch to help her deal with her pain and loneliness. Even though Shay has two good friends, she feels alone in the world. On a whim, full of teen angst, and  bored, she answers an interesting post in a chat room.

Shay is surprised and delighted when the guy (?)  responds and their  posts to each other are fun and clever. The boy keeps pushing for a photo of her, but  Shay is terrified to send him one. Then he will know she's not the beautiful, skinny girl she knows that he imagines her to be.  Shay's self-doubt, body image and boredom make her a believable and loveable character that readers will empathize with. All teen girls struggle with doubt and  questions like: Am I good enough? Am I pretty enough? Do people like me?

The social media aspect of the book drives the interchange between Shay and a mysterious boy she becomes enamored with. Readers are drawn into Shay's world and they see how funny and how beautiful she truly is. Godot (the boy) is clever and snarky. Together they are playful magic.

BFFs Boots and Dash are the type of friends every teen would want to have, but each has a huge problem/concern of his/her own. Boots is dying; she is handling it the best she can, but really, how can a teenager even think about not living to see 20 years? Dash is afraid to come out to his family; he knows that his father will not only be disappointed but he thinks his dad will never accept of forgive him.

The only drawback to this books is the cover! While it is true that readers  like to read books with characters like them; that being said, girl or boy readers with weight/body issues are  not likely to be excited about carrying around a book with a "curvy girl" on the cover and with the title Girls Like Me. One can only imagine the comments and bullying asides that would ensue.

Highly recommended for  high school readers and collections. A fun read that touches on important issues.

Not recommended for middle school: talking about sex in the chats. Sexual and mature content.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review. 


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

LEGO Wall at Middle School

Our ribbon cutting ceremony for our LEGO wall happened today. Carpenters installed our LEGO wall. Students donated unused, unwanted LEGO toys for our Let Go My LEGO drive and today they BUILD!

Check out the photo gallery from The El Paso Times --more photos here

                                                                     Day 1 of build

Our wall is 64 LEGO base plates mounted on plywood. Liquid Nails is the only way I would go. Create a "X" in the middle of each plate and then use steady stream of Liquid Nails around perimeter of each base plate. Liquid Nails also dries fast.

Inspired by LEGO walls around the country, I wanted a LEGO wall for my students.All four local television news stations, including the largest Spanish station interviewed students and taped footage. We were also covered by The El Paso Times. Our LEGO wall is the first in this district's libraries and the first in the region.

                                                Carpentry installs our LEGO wall; Thank you!                  
                                                                     Students Build!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Middle Grades Pick: The Littlest Bigfoot

The Littlest Bigfoot
by Jennifer Weiner
Aladdin
2016
ISBN: 9781481470742


Big-hearted, full of promise and whimsy,  and seriously entertaining, The Littlest Bigfoot is a sure winner for middle grade readers.

Alice Mayfair just does not fit in--anywhere! She's big for her age, well, she's enormous. Her hair is a tangled mop that she has no control over.  Every school Alice goes to, something goes wrong and she is asked to leave or worse, she herself wants to leave to avoid further confrontation. Her parents just don't know where to turn until Miss Merriweather finds her a new school: The Experimental Center of Love and Learning. Alice dutifully packs and take the trip to Standish Town.

The school is located the woods in upstate New York and run by a quirky hippie-ish,  yoga posing, granola eating, meditation practicing couple who probably study Mother Earth News magazine, grow their own pesticide-free food and live off of  the grid. Alice doesn't seem to mind the strange camp/school and settles in to her cabin and begins  helping the cook in the camp's kitchen.

Just across the lake lies a secret community of Bigfoots who are afraid of humans and fear discovery.Millie is the littlest bigfoot--so little, in  fact, that she doesn't resemble any of her tribe. Millie is charming, intelligent and curious--too curious for her own good.

Two worlds collide when the girls meet by chance, but each girl  brings something to their unique friendship. A boy from town is convinced he will find a Bigfoot. When he joins forces with another Bigfoot hunter, the Internet notices. What will happen if he digs too deep?

Jennifer Weiner takes this tale of sweet friendship to the next level. The message that we are all different comes across with a warning that sometimes differences are the reasons actions happen. The ending allows readers to guess what happens to Millie and Alice. Alice is left with many more questions than answers but sets the stage for book two.

The Yare (Bigfoot) dialect is charming. Children are known as "littlies" and snacks are "snackles." The Bigfoot tribe even has a source of income. They have their own Etsy store selling all natural remedies they  get/make from the forest

Highly, highly recommended grade 4-up.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.



Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Middle Grades Book Giveaway: The Littlest Bigfoot

The Littlest Bigfoot
by Jennifer Weiner
Aladdin
2016
ISBN: 9781481470742

I have 5  FREE copies of The Littlest Bigfoot up for grabs! For your chance to win a copy, simply post a comment to the blog. Please include your first name, city, state, and email contact. The deadline for posts is Wednesday, October 19 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer. Check your email on October 19. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my  email. Books will ship from New York. Good luck and start posting!



Reviews

"A charming story about finding a safe place to let your freak flag fly." (People)

"Bestselling adult author Weiner (In Her Shoes) makes a winning children’s book debut with this witty story of outcasts coming together, first in a trilogy. . . .Well-drawn characters, high comedy, and an open-ended finale will leave readers eager for the next installment."

  (Publishers Weekly)

"Weiner writes an engaging tale that helps children to understand both bullying and the difficulties faced by people who in some way deviate from the norm. . . . Enchanting right up to the sequel-beckoning end."

  (Kirkus Reviews)

"A heartwarming tale about friendship and belonging that will resonate with those young readers who have ever struggled to fit in or find their place in the world."

  (School Library Journal)

"Bigfoot believers and non-believers alike will enjoy this story that focuses on the importance of friendship and acceptance amidst bullying, loneliness, and a lack of self-confidence."

  (School Library Connection)

"Plenty of youngsters—legendary creatures or not—will relate to this smartly crafted tale of appreciating your own quirks." (Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books)

Middle Grades Book Giveaway: The Littlest Bigfoot

The Littlest Bigfoot
by Jennifer Weiner
Aladdin
2016
ISBN: 9781481470742

I have 5  FREE copies of The Littlest Bigfoot up for grabs! For your chance to win a copy, simply post a comment to the blog. Please include your first name, city, state, and email contact. The deadline for posts is Wednesday, October 19 at noon MST. Winners will be chosen randomly by Randomizer. Check your email on October 19. Winners have 24 hours to respond to my  email. Books will ship from New York. Good luck and start posting!



Reviews

"A charming story about finding a safe place to let your freak flag fly." (People)

"Bestselling adult author Weiner (In Her Shoes) makes a winning children’s book debut with this witty story of outcasts coming together, first in a trilogy. . . .Well-drawn characters, high comedy, and an open-ended finale will leave readers eager for the next installment."

  (Publishers Weekly)

"Weiner writes an engaging tale that helps children to understand both bullying and the difficulties faced by people who in some way deviate from the norm. . . . Enchanting right up to the sequel-beckoning end."

  (Kirkus Reviews)

"A heartwarming tale about friendship and belonging that will resonate with those young readers who have ever struggled to fit in or find their place in the world."

  (School Library Journal)

"Bigfoot believers and non-believers alike will enjoy this story that focuses on the importance of friendship and acceptance amidst bullying, loneliness, and a lack of self-confidence."

  (School Library Connection)

"Plenty of youngsters—legendary creatures or not—will relate to this smartly crafted tale of appreciating your own quirks." (Bulletin of the Center of Children's Books)