Monday, November 11, 2013

Can she do it? Yes she can (and she did!) -- 200 Strong

Ella did it. She read more than 200 books in 10 calendar months. Yup. That about sums it up. Awesome. A sweet, great achievement.

I'm guessing you want some details.

Here's the background: I made a grand bet with my seven year old. I bet her she could read 200 books in 9 calendar months. Around about the start of summer, with camp and vacation and just needing a break, we extended the reading challenge by one additional month. 

The revised bet: Ella could read 200 books between December 1 and October 1.  In first grade, we set a goal of 100 chapter books during the school year, which she hit. A goal of 200 books in second grade seemed the obvious next step. Heaven help my family books budget and her reading schedule if this keeps growing exponentially. By 8th grade she will need to move into a convent and spend all day reading. These books were almost entirely read during 2nd grade and the first month of 3rd grade.

Bet you want to know what she read? Almost all of the books were chapter books suitable for a second grader or older. Her school uses the guided reading program/levels. Using this program, we read books between levels "N" and "V." She choose a majority of the books herself. I picked a select few "required" books. These tended be books of the classic sort, books moms like their kids to read. But among the classics, she had plenty of choice. I set aside a pile of classics and she chose from those ones that interested her the most. Some day Ella will have to read certain books just because someone (a teacher, professor, etc) says so.  But for now I want her to enjoy reading as much as possible. I want her to read stories that get her excited and keep her up late. There is no shortage of classics to choose from and it was interesting for me to see what she gravitates toward and what she is intrigued by.

She read about fairies (so many fairy books), dragons (and more dragons), wild horses, magic horses, talking dogs, cats, one-eyed serpents, Greek goddesses, princesses, siblings, star wars, oragami, mice, goddesses, world record holders, deer, fried worms, parents and so much more.

The incentive? Of course there was a prize. The prize for successfully hitting her goal was three fold. First, lunch with mom at a place of her choosing. Thankfully she didn't pick Trump Plaza. Second, dessert (as grand and sweet and piled as high as she wants) at a place of her choosing. Third, a $100 gift card to Barnes and Noble to be used on books, writing journals, and magazines ENTIRELY of her own choosing. I am going to put a future blog on the structure of the winnings and why we picked these three specific things.

What did mom love the most about this reading challenge? Ella's spirit of excitement as she plowed through books, especially as she hit the last 30 days and figured out a strategy of how many books she needed to read each day (including selecting certain rest days where she didn't read a thing). Those 200+ books -- their plots, characters, lessons, settings, descriptions -- are all in her head now, swimming around, sparking new ideas and thoughts, spilling off into her creative endeavors, and reminding her again, and again, about the power, the wonder, the joy that comes from stories.

Books Read Between Dec. 1 2012 and Sept. 30, 2013                 

How to Eat Fried Worms
By Thomas Rockwell
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.5
Guided reading level: R

The Trouble with Tuck
By Theodore Taylor
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.1
Guided Reading Level: R
  
Nerds Series (3)
Michael Buckley
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.3
Guided Reading Level: V

Goddess Girls Series (4)
Joan Holub
Interest Level: Grades 4 - 7
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.3
Guided Reading Level: S

Beastquest (12)
By Adam Blade
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.6-5.2

Dealing with Dragons (2)
(Enchanted Forest Chronicles Series)
By Patricia C. Wrede
Interest Level: Grades 6 - 8
Grade Level Equivalent: 7.3

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda (Series)
By Tom Angleberger
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4
Guided Reading: T

The Penderwicks 
By Jeanne Birdsall
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.8
Guided reading level: S

Chincoteague Series (1)
By Marguarite Henry
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.8
Guided reading level: R

My Fathers Dragon
By Ruth Stiles Gannett
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.8
Guided reading level: N

Judy Moody Saves the World
By Megan McDonald
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.3
Guided reading level: M

Judy Moody Predicts the Future
By Megan McDonald
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.2
Guided reading level: N

Judy Moody Predicts the Future
By Megan McDonald
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.2
Guided reading level: N

Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record
By Annie Barrows
Interest Level: Grades K - 2
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.7

Socks
By Beverly Cleary
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.4
Guided reading level: O

Ribsy
By Beverly Cleary
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.1
Guided reading level: O

Smart Dog
By Vivian Vande Velde
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.8

Wings of Fire 
By Tui T. Sutherland
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 7

Princess School (2) 
By Jane B. Mason
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.3
Guided reading level: P

Fairy Magic Series (23)
By Daisy Meadows
Interest Level: Grades 1 - 4
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.7 – 4.6
Guided Reading Level: M

Lucky Stars Wish Upon a Pet
By Phoebe Bright
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3
Guided reading level: M

Baily School Kids Series (6)
By Marcia Thornton Jones
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.3
Guided reading level: M

4th Grade Fairy Series (2)
By Eileen Cook
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.2
Guided reading level: P

Magic Pony
By Elizabeth Lindsay
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.6
Guided reading level: N

 Origami Yoda – Secret of the Fortune Wookie
By Tom Angleberger
Interest Level: Grades 4 - 7
Grade Level Equivalent: 5
Guided Reading: U

Origami Yoda -- Darth Paper Strikes Back
By Tom Angleberger
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5
Guided Reading: V

The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppet
By Tom Angleberger
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 7

B Magical
By Lexi Connor
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.3

Junie B. Jones Series (7)
By Barbara Park
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.1-2.3
Genre: Comedy and Humor, Realistic Fiction, Series
Guided Reading: M

Muggie Maggie
By Beverly Cleary
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.1
Guided Reading O

Going Going Gone
By Judy Blume
Interest Level: Grades K - 2
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.0

The Girls Book of How to Be the Best of Everything
By Juliana Foster
Interest Level: Grades 4 - 7

Ralph S Mouse
By Beverly Cleary
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.1
Guided Reading Level: O

Runaway Ralph
By Beverly Cleary
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.1
Guided Reading Level: O

Third Grade Angels
By Jerry Spinelli
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.3

Fourth Grade Rats 
By Jerry Spinelli
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.6
Guided Reading Level: Q

Guinea Dog
Patrick Jennings
Interest Level: Grades K - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.3

Whatever After
By Sarah Mlynowski
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 6
Grade Level Equivalent: 3
Guided Reading Level: S

Fairy Godmother Academy
By Jan Bozarth
Age Range: 8 and up 
Grade Level: 3 - 7

Ramona and Her Father
Beverly Cleary
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.4
Guided Reading Level: O

Ramona Quimby Age 8
By Beverly Cleary
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.5
Guided Reading Level: O

Beezus and Ramona
By Beverly Cleary
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.8
Guided Reading Level: O

Geronimo Stilton Series (4)
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.4
Guided Reading Level: N

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg
Gail Carson Levine
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.3
Guided Reading Level: Q

In the Realm of the Never Fairies: Secret World of Pixie Hollow 
By Monique Peterson
Age Range: 7 and up 
Series: Disney Fairies

Moxie Maxwell Does Not Like Stewart Little
By Peggy Gifford
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.8

Aloha Kanani – American Girl
By Lisa Yee, Jennifer Hirsch and Sarah Davis
Age Range: 8 and up 
Grade Level: 3 and up

McKenna – American Girl
By Mary Casanova
Age Range: 8 and up 
Series: American Girl Today

Sage – American Girl
By Jessie Haas
Age Range: 8 and up 

Super Fudge 
By Judy Blume
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.2
Guided Reading Level Q

Fudge-a-Mania
By Judy Blume
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.5
Guided Reading Level Q

Frankly Frannie
By A.J. Stern
Interest Level: Grades 2 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.4

Secrets of Droon series (15)  
By Tony Abbot
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.1-4.3

Clementine
By Tara Pennypacker
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.5
Guided Reading Level: O

Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
By Judy Blume
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.2

Secret in the Attic Series (6)
By L.A. Peacock
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.2
Guided Reading Level: Q

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series  (2)
By Jeff Kinney
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5-6.5
Guided Reading Level: S, T

Disney Fairies Series (8)
Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Grade Level: 1 – 4

Stink
By Megan McDonald
Interest Level: Grades 2 - 3
Grade Level Equivalent: 2
Guided Reading Level: M

A to Z Mysteries Series (3)
By Ron Roy
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.6-3.9
Guided Reading Level: N

Sophie Simon Solves Them All
By Lisa Graff
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.2

Owen Foote Super Spy
Stephanie Greene
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.5
Guided Reading Level: N

My Weird School Series (13)
By Dan Gutman
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.1
Guided Reading: S

Guinness book of world records 2011

Guinness book of world records 2013

Sideways Stories from the Wayside school
By Louis Sachar
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.9
Guided Reading Level: P

Stone Fox
John Reynolds Gardiner
Interest Level: Grades 2 - 4Grade Level Equivalent: 4.0
Guided Reading Level: P

Dolphin Diaries
By Ben M. Baglio
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.3
Guided Reading Level: Q

Animal Ark: Racehorse in the Rain
By Ben M. Baglio
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.3

Penina’s Doll Factory
By Miriam Walfish

Around the World in 80 Days: Classic Starts
Age Range: 7 - 9 years
Grade Level: 2 - 4

The Fairy Realm
Emily Rodda
Interest Level: Grades 2 - 4

Mini Mysteries – American Girl (2)

Emily Windsnap Series (2)
By Liz Kessler
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.2


Agent P's Guide to Fighting Evil

Castle in the Attic
By Elizabeth Winthrop
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.9
Guided Reading Level: R

Fabled 4th graders of Aesop Elementary School
By Candace Fleming
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.3

Fabled 5th graders of Aesop Elementary School
By Candace Fleming
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.3

39 Clues Series (2)
By Rick Riordan
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 3.4
Guided reading R

Never Girls (3)
By Kiki Thorpe
Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Grade Level: 1 - 4

Little Wings #1: Willa Bean's Cloud Dreams
By Cecilia Galante
Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Grade Level: 1 - 4
  
A Whale of a Tale (Mermaid Tales Series) (3)
By Debbie Dadey
Age Range: 6 - 9 years
Grade Level: 1 - 4

Chocolate Dreams (Candy Fairies Series) (3)
By Helen Perelman
Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Grade Level: 2 - 5

Girl’s Best Friend (Maggie Brooklyn Mysteries Series) (2)
By Leslie Margolis
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 4.5

Poppy’s Perfect Home (Flower Fairies Series) (2)
Age Range: 7 and up 
Grade Level: 2 and up

A New Beginning (Magic Puppy Series) (3)
By Sue Bentley
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7

Honey’s New Friend (Kitten Club Series) (3)
By Sue Mongredien

Catch Us If You Can (Jewel Thieves) (2)
By Hope McLean
Interest Level: Grades 3 – 7

The Jewel Kingdom
By Jahnna N. Malcolm
Interest Level: Grades 3 - 5
Grade Level Equivalent: 2.9
Guided reading level: N

Magic Tree House Research Books (3)
By Mary Pope Osborne

100 Ways to Bug Your Parents 
By Lee Wardlaw

Princess Primers:: A Fairy Godmother's Guide to Being a Princes
 By Stephanie True Peters

Bambi – Disney Classic Series
Spaceheadz
By  Jon Scieszka
Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Grade Level: 2 - 5

Bakugan
By Tracey West
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7

Snake Attack – Ninjago Series chapter book
By Tracey West
Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Grade Level: 2 - 5

Legends of Chima chapter book: Attack of the Crocodiles 
by Greg Farshtey
Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Grade Level: 2 - 5 

Snake Attack – Ninjago Series chapter book
By Tracey West
Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Grade Level: 2 - 5

Legends of Chima chapter book: Attack of the Crocodiles 
by Greg Farshtey
Age Range: 7 - 10 years
Grade Level: 2 - 5

Friday, September 13, 2013

3rd Grade Has Started!

We've been away for awhile -- actually all summer, in Cape Cod, at camp, saw family in Boston -- but 3rd grade has started! So we are back posting. This year we are going to attempt to read a lot more books. We have a big surprise coming -- in 17 days to be exact -- about what Ella has been reading over the past year.

Ella's book blog is going to be filled with some exciting posts this year so stay tuned!

Let us know if you like our posts - we'd love to hear from you!


P.S. in our classroom this year, we have our own library and we use it for S.Q.U.I.R.T.  

Ella's Book Blog

Best,
Ella (with some help from mom)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A new series about kids that go back in time with a magic compass: War with Washington

Title: War with Washington

Author: L.A. Peacock

Rating: **



Review: When the magic time compass whisks Jess and Josh back to colonial times in America they find our that there is great suffering at Valley Forge where George Washington and his troops are living. When Josh and Jess land and find themselves upon a Tory spy/farmer selling pumpkins to the British.  Their mission is to find their uncle who is a messenger from the colonial congress and give him an important message from Benjamin Franklin in France.  The papers told Washington that France would be an ally. They rode in a dog sled with Lady Washington and Pierre to Valley Forge. I always thought soldiers marched to the sounds of drums and flutes but I learned from this book that they march to drums and fifes. I like Jess the best because she is a little more logical.

Friday, May 10, 2013

On Tap for Next Week: Children's Book Week


Next week is dedicated to children's books. A national event, Children's Book Week has a long history dating back to 1919. It is the longest-running national literacy initiative in the United States. Next week, local libraries across the country are hosting special story times and events in honor of the week. Details of events arranged by state are listed here. Love the poster. 


Reading Nook

The best reading chair ever. And yes we purchased one. Perfect fit for a 7 year-old bookworm to curl up in and read half the night away. You can find them here




Pottery Barn


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Baily School Kids Rock Out with Dracula

Title: Dracula Doesn't rock and roll

Author:Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones

Pages: 67

Rating: ** 1/2

Summary: In one of the earlier books Dracula comes to school disguised as a school counselor named Mr.Drake but when Liza, Howie, Melody, and Eddie sneak into his office they realize it's as black as night.They also figure out that he likes pink lemonade but he has to leave when he gets allergies.They realize he is the lead singer in a band called the B.A.T. and he wrote a song called Bailey city rock.After school their teacher Mrs. Jeepers announces that Mr. Drake will be performing at the Bailey city winter feast and since Mr. drake is a vampire the kids think his band is a band of vampires and that when the lights go out Dracula and his vampire buddies will swoop down and slurp down all the blood in the city.My favorite line in the book is when Liza shrieks, "I'm to young for the bloodmobile.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

We're in the Newspaper!

While we were strumming through books at the annual Bryn Mawr book sale (see earlier posting for more details on this fabulous, family-friendly event) a photographer from the local paper -- The Princeton Packet -- snapped a perfect mother-daughter moment. Ella had found a book of interest and asked me to look it over and see if we should add it to her box. Picture perfect.



Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Books or Bread?

My son recently passed from one phase of life into a new phase: an incredible phase, a superior phase, a powerfully affecting phase, a defining-point-in-his-life kind of phase. He barely blinked at the new "him."

We were sitting at the kitchen table, a book from an early reader phonics series in front of us. I was pointing to each word, as he sounded them out. In some cases he relied on memory, in other places he he practices sounding out and blending new words. The magic happened a page or two into the story, the words started coming out faster, one after another, his mind grabbing on and grasping the process of reading. suddenly he hit his stride. The wheels were churning and the story unfolded without me saying a word.

"He's doing it! He's doing it," my mind was SCREAMING. "My kid can read! He Can Read!!"

I wanted to jump up on the table and dance for an hour. I wanted to call my husband and tell him to grab a bottle of champagne on the way home. I wanted to throw my son into the air and twirl him around the kitchen. I was filled with absolute, pure joy and amazement. He rocked my world in that moment.

It is the most amazing thing to watch and I've now watched it happen twice: that moment when a child starts reading with fluency . You can actually see the "click, click, click" become a more fluid read, read, read. And then he's out of the gate.

My excitement was about the magnanimity of the moment, a moment that took place at a kitchen table. Whatever else he may or may not be able to do in life, he can read. He has acquired the skill that will enable him (eventually) to open up any book he chooses and to read. He has left the life of illiteracy and the possibilities for him are endless. He will have access to books, access to ideas, and ways to learn. He will forever forward know how to read (unless he is abducted by aliens that void his  memory or he suffers permanent amnesia). We never hear stories of people unlearning how to read in their native tongue do we?

 If he wants to learn about ancient civilizations, learn how to build a boat or rebuild a 1957 Thunderbird, if he wants to understand macroeconomic theory, study art history or agriculture or physics, or read the Bible, for all these things he will turn to written word. All of the words that have been set down in stone and on papyrus and paper and Kindle are his to peruse. If he lets them, words and the ideals they set out will shape his life, his character, his destiny.

I don't think he realized how significant a moment in his life this was. But maybe, just maybe, he had a glimmer of an idea. Every other word he read, he would glance up at me from underneath those insanely long eyelashes of his -- "Just making sure I'm hit the notes, Mom," his round eyes and easy smile seemed to say. You did indeed hit every note perfectly, baby.

In his autobiography My Bondage and My Freedom, Frederick Douglass wrote some of the most beautiful passages on the meaning and power of literacy and some of the most heart wrenching passages on his journey to learn how to read and open the doors of knowledge. Douglass would covertly learn to read at the age of 13 and in doing so he acquired the words to counter the arguments and evil that sustained slavery. "I saw through the attempt to keep me ignorant," he wrote, reflecting on the desire by slave owners to keep slaves from learning to read.

"Every increase of knowledge, especially respecting the free states, added something to the almost intolerable burden of the thought--"I am SLAVE FOR LIFE," Douglass wrote.



Douglass received a few reading lessons from the wife of his owner after he went to live in Baltimore. But the owner quickly put an end to these lessons, viewing it as too dangerous to educate a slave. When the lessons ended, Douglass understood even more why he needed to continue to learn to read. Having already learned the alphabet, it was the first shaft of light pointing to so much more.

In teaching me the alphabet, in the days of her simplicity and kindness, my mistress had given me the "inch," and now, no ordinary precaution could prevent me from taking the "ell.
Douglass knew he needed to learn how to read so he started trading bread for reading instruction from other children in the streets.

Seized with a determination to learn to read, at any cost, I hit upon many  expedients to accomplish the desired end. The plea which I mainly adopted, and the one by why I was most successful, was that of using my young white playmates, with whom I met in the streets, as teachers. I used to carry, almost constantly, a copy of Webster's spelling book in my pocket; and, when sent of errands, or when play time was allowed me, I would step, with my young friends, aside, and take a lesson in spelling. I generally paid my tuition fee to the boys, with bread, which I also carried in my pocket. For a single biscuit, any of my hungry little comrades would give me a lesson more valuable to me than bread. 
My children will never progress to literacy from desperation, the way Douglass did. They will read with vigor, they will read for joy, they will read to assuage their curiosity, they will read to fuel their passion, they may even read to unveil the world's tragedies and horrors (they may read Douglass' biography). They will read with overwhelming support from their parents and teachers. They have come to their literacy-right-of-passage as young children through hard work but without the dark overtones of terror and fear. They will read in the light and be rewarded, not in the shadows fearful of punishment. In the monumental moment when my son began to read fluently he was given a kind of freedom that will one day give him the power to turn dreams into reality. He won't need to dream of being a free man but maybe his dreams will be just as big and just as righteous.

At dinner the other night, I asked my 7-year old daughter what she would do if she had to choose between bread (food) and a book. This is a difficult choice for an energetic, pixie-sized girl who consumes massive amounts of food each day and is also an avid book lover who reads multiple chapter books on a good day. She squinted and thought, hand on her chin, then said, "I'd choose the book, because if I was a bookworm I could eat it after I finished reading it!" My husband and I burst out laughing at the sharp and quirky mind on display.

I asked my daughter if she knew anything about Frederick Douglass. She asked if he was a black man. I said yes, he was a slave and lived before she was born. She nodded and said "He was a man of great importance in American history." I agreed and told her the story about how he traded bread for reading lessons.

"And the moral of the story is you shouldn't choose the important things, you should choose the really important things," my daughter concluded.

Bravo, sweetheart, bravo!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Annual Bryn-Mawr Wellesley Book Sale

We took the two biggies to the kick-off of the annual Bryn-Mawr Wellesley Book Sale at the Princeton Day School. This is an amazing week-long book event that we were introduced to several years ago when we lived in Princeton. There are a whopping 60,000 books for sale and literally mountains of childrens' book -- most for 50 cents or a $1 each. It is such a great deal. We took the two big kids (ages 5 and 7) -- their second time attending. Each kid was given a big cardboard box to bill with books for the year ahead (mom and dad did an approval screening at the end, eliminating just a handful of books that weren't age appropriate).

It was wonderful to watch the kids thumb through boxes and boxes of books for three hours, sit on the floor under tables investigating more piles, and shout out "Mom, Mom, look at this one! I realllllly want this one" or "Doesn't this look interesting." As I hunted alongside them, I passed along possible "books of interest" and Ella would reply "Let me read the back [summary] and see if it sounds interesting." Love it. They are brook browsers and they are forming their own tastes for reading. We stumbled upon a number of new series (we will be posting a list of these in a special Friday Finds later this week) we are eager to read. Despite the snow and the early morning wake up time to get there, it was a super fun day.

One of the rooms of books at the annual
Bryn-Mawr Wellesley Book Sale (2013)

The kids head to the check out and watch the tally for
their books grow and grow and grow and grow...


Showcasing the kids' loot. Not sure we will be using
the dining room table for a while.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Review: The Secrets of Droon

Title: The Secrets of Droon: Journey to the Volcano Palace (part of a series)

Author: Tony Abbott

Pages: 85

Publisher: Scholastic

Rating: ***

Review: In this story, Eric, Neil and Julie (best friends) go into Droon, a magical world, and they head to the land of  Kano to get to Lord Sparr's secret palace inside a volcano. They need to find Princess Keeah's jewel -- the Red Eye of Dawn. The jewel summons the forces of nature. In the volcano palace, the kids have to get past fire monsters and Ninns (red puffy creatures) that work for Lord Sparr and are strong. I love everything about this book.

The Secrets of Droon: Journey to the Volcano Palace by Tony Abbott

Book Review -- Jewel Thieves by Hope McLean

Title:
Jewel Thieves: Catch Us If You Can
Jewel Thieves: Diamonds are a Thief's Best Friend

Author: Hope McLean

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 140

Ella's Rating: ***

Review: I like that these books are about jewels.In the first book the jewel is a ruby and in the second book the jewel is a diamond.The main characters are four girls named Jasmine, Erin, Willow, and Lili who are best friends, go to the same school (Martha Washington School), and compete in the Quiz Bowl. They are called the jewels because the first letter of each girl's name stands for a letter in the word jewel (the second "e" is for Lili's brother Eli). Their enemies in the Quiz Bowl are the Atkinson Prep Rivals.The jewels -- a sapphire, diamond, ruby and emerald -- belong to Martha Washington. In each book, the girls have to solve each clue to find a jewel.

Jewel Thieves by Hope McLean

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Finds (vol. 4)

Over the past two weeks we have blanketed ourselves in books: we ordered books, sat on the floor and ripped open boxes of books that arrived via Fed Ex man, started compiling our 2013 "What We Have Read" list (Ella has completed 46 chapter books in the first six weeks of the year. As our 3-year old likes to say: "Booyah!").  From our recent deliveries, we highlight a few new finds we're eager to start:

1) Guinea Dogs by Patrick Jennings: Ella has been gunning for a cat for a while but so far her father remains a staunch opponent to the idea. He wants a dog -- but I remain a staunch opponent to that idea. This book about a boy who wants a dog but instead gets a guinea pig with a mohawk seems like a funny take on the whole family-pet negotiation process.

2) Sophie Simon Solves Them All by Lisa Graff: A story about a girl with an exceptionally high IQ and lots of book smarts who struggles when it comes to social stuff and friends.

3) Girl's Best Friend (A Maggie Brooklyn Mystery) by Leslie Margolis: I decided to pick some mystery books for Ella to see if she likes the genre. The setting of the books in nearby Brooklyn, a place she has been to several times, will hopefully make it more real. I also picked one more mystery series below -- see The Jewel Thieves.

4) Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck: I picked this book for a family-read-together selection. I like the idea of introducing them to the Victorian era via a mouse tale. Something about the book reminds me of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Tale of Despereaux (both by Kate DiCamillo), all-time favorites here. 

5) Grayson by Lynne Cox: This was my pick for a mother-daughter read. A real life story about a girl who tries to save a whale, something inspirational.

6) Jewel Thieves by Hope McLean: Seems like a junior version of Nancy Drew. Ella loved the first one (review forthcoming) and the second one. 



Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Books We Read Versus the Books We Plan to Read

I've had a copy of Nathaniel Hawthorne's House of Seven Gables on the book shelf for some time. I've been meaning to read it for just as long.

Recently, a completely random Internet search led me to a web page with information on the real-life house that Hawthorne describes in the book. It turns out that the house is located just a town or two away from where my husband grew up and where my in-laws still live. I immediately decided we would have a little adventure the next time we visit.

As I kept reading, the site described Hawthorne's relationship with the owner of the home, his cousin Susanna Ingersoll. My reading came to a screeching halt. My maiden name is....Ingersoll. My grandmother's name was Joanna Susanna Ingersoll. It seemed like it was indeed time to finally read the House of Seven Gables. I went upstairs to search along the bookshelves for my copy. Found the old green binding with the decorative gold emblems. I sat down and opened up to the first page and realized I could not actually read the House of Seven Gables.

The cover page of my book introduced me to The Prairie, A Tale by J. Fenimore Cooper (yup, the author of the incredible Last of the Mohicans).

I have never read The Prairie but it appears I am now going to start it. A misbound book and a long awaited read with another classic brought us serendipitiously together. This is the way of books.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book Loot


The Fed Ex man arrived at 6:30 last night with five boxes of books from a recently placed Amazon order. Just 12 hours earlier Ella arrived home from school with a Scholastic book order. Here's a look at our book loot. So many books, so little time...



Monday, February 11, 2013

Friday Finds (vol. 3)


A massive snow storm arrived on Friday leaving us with little computer time. So a few days late, here's our Friday Finds. This week they are the result of a little library sleuthing by Ella and a family recommendation.

1) Animorph's by K.A. Applegate -- Ella stumbled across this junior-sci-fi series at her school library. I love the fact that there seem to be  50+ books in the series. This gives us lots of material to feed our hungry reader! The stories are about five kids that can morph into any animal they touch. When they take on their animal personas they can help defend the Earth from invaders.

2) Innerstar University (An American Girl Series) -- My sister-in-law (and mom to a second grader as well) recommended this one. It is a new choose-your-own-adventure style book. The story turns on the decisions the reader makes based on how they choose to act or behave when confronted with  certain circumstances. Our first stab at the choose-your-own style of book was the Club Penguin series earlier this year, which was a hit.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Newbery Medal Winner!!!

"Mom, mom, the slkfdhjskhfkhfsfhkldsfjskljfsfjskjfksf.....fhjdsfhdkjfhgjdbndjkjflf!"

This is what I heard as my daughter stood at the top step ready to descend from the bus the other day.  After "mom," the rest of her statement was drowned out by the noise of passing cars, the mighty purring of the bus engine, and the shouting of students behind her. As she stepped off the bus, excitement shaking her tiny little form, she tried again to share her big news as I leaned in closer to hear. What was coming? Perfect spelling test score? Bonus credit on her Hebrew test? New book from the library?

"MOM, the Newbery winner was announced today!!!!!!!!!!"

I have never seen a 7-year old get so excited about the selection of the Newbery Award Winner. Simply fabulous.

The 2013 winner is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. The Newbery Medal home page gives a summary of the book and the reason it was selected by the judges:


Ivan’s transformative emergence from the “Ape at Exit 8” to “The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback,” comes to life through the gorilla’s own distinct narrative voice, which is filled with wry humor, deep emotion and thought-provoking insights into the nature of friendship, hope and humanity.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Saige's Mission -- An American Girl Book Review

Title: Saige (Part of the American Girl Series)
Author: Jessie Haas
Pages: 123

Rating: ** 1/2

Review:

In this book, Saige realizes at the start of fourth grade there won't be any art classes this year, only music. Every year, the school rotates between art and music because there is not enough money for both. Saige gets the party committee to have a party and a parade to raise money. At the parade, Saige rides a horse named Picasso. Saige and Gabby (her friend) teach Picasso how to paint; how to say yes, no and dah; and how to do a horse laugh. At the party, Tessa (her best friend) sings. I liked this book because it was about horses.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Finds (vol. 2)

While I was racing through Target on Tuesday trying to find a small present and book for each of my two older kids -- a reward for the arrival of awesome report cards that said they were doing wonderfully in everything and trying hard and behaving (!!!!)  -- I passed a funny looking little book, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger.

My first thought: Does no one tire of Star Wars?

My second thought: Ella and Nethaniel will probably love this.

Sometimes reading just needs to be flat out fun. Nothing deep, nothing serious. Just a story about a boy who makes an oragami finger puppet of Yoda.

So in honor of this unexpected find, we bring you this week's Star Wars-themed Friday Finds otherwise known as the Oragami Yoda Series:


1) The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger (book 1)

2) Darth Paper Strikes Back by Tom Angleberger

3) The Secret of the Fortune Wookie by Tom Angleberger


Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Finds

We are starting a new weekly post -- every Friday -- where we highlight interesting books we've stumbled upon online, or read about or heard about in the aisles of the local bookstore. Chances are we've also already submitted an Amazon order.

Below is the first list, called Friday Finds. Wishing you all a great weekend with lots of time spent cradling a book on the couch!

Friday Finds

1) The Lost Years of Merlin by T.A. Barron (a series)
We read King Arthur together about a year ago and really enjoyed it. Thinking this will be a good series for the kids to read on their own.

2) The Fairy Godmother Academy by Joan Bozarth
We've just about tapped the fairy market out. Fairy godmothers seem like extended fairy family.

3) Back in Time series by Dan Guttman
This series looks like biography meets the A to Z Mysteries series

4) Children of the Lamp by P.B. Kerr
Ella brought one of these home from the school library. After reading reviews seems like The-Magic-Treehouse-meets-The-39-Clues.  I think we are going to like this series.

5) Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry
Who can pass up the chance to keep the Peter Pan story alive?