Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Last summer when I was on vacation in Scotland I read in the Sunday Book Review what the best books were to take on holiday. The woman that wrote the article wrote about The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. She wrote that it was a wonderful prequel to one of the best books she had ever read, Shadow of the Wind. Now when a reviewer writes about their favorite book it must be good. She was right on. When I returned home I bought Shadow of the Wind and couldn’t put it down. I had to wait patiently for The Angel’s Game (Paperbacks reduce the amount of money spent on books!) to come out in paperback. It was perfect timing because it was right when school got out.

At the same time The Angels’ Game was released in paperback Zafón’s first novel was released in English in the States. Zafón states at the beginning of the book in “A Note From the Author” that the book had been trapped in a legal issue. Here is the exciting part it is considered a YA book. Even more exciting news it is not totally YA, and it is on my list for a read aloud next year.

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a mysterious supernatural tale that takes place during World War II. The Carver family moves from the capital to a seaside village. It is on The Channel, but it is hard to tell exactly where. This adds to the mysterious nature of the story. It is very different from Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game where Barcelona is an important character. The story is about a family that moves to a house with a tragic past. The main characters are the son Max, his older sister Alicia, their new friend Roland and the Prince of Mist. The Prince of Mist goes by many names. His most recent is Dr. Cain. He grants wishes, but with a huge debt attached. A debt is still owed to him and he has returned to collect. The battle between good and evil is very clear. Max and Alicia risk their lives to help their new friend Roland.

As I was reading The Prince of Mist I could help but feel that Dr. Cain is very similar to Andreas Corelli from The Angel’s Game. Both are evil through and through! There are hidden identities in all three novels. The uncertainty of who someone really is makes all three books such wonderful reads. I love the feeling of wanting to quickly finishing a book to find out what happens, but once I am finished I miss the characters. Zafón’s beautiful use of language is hypnotizing. Of course, his wonderful translator Lucia Graves eloquently puts his words into English. No easy task. I end with a passage from The Angel’s Game:

I stepped in the book shop and breathed in that perfume of paper and magic that strangely no one had ever thought of bottling.

I cannot wait to share Zafón with kids!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Reluctant Trout and The Reluctant Reader

The angler enters the fly shop giddy with anticipation of what new flies will be found. The angler asks “What are they biting? What do you suggest?” The shop keeper replies with “Well, I hear that some are biting the streamers and wet flies on the rivers. The dry flies are working at the ponds, but you could also try the nymphs.” The angler ponders the choices. I do have some great streamers, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new. I always have luck with nymphs. Let me see what the hatch is. “Excuse me. What is the hatch? Any good nymphs I should try?”

After spending time and a lot of money in the fly shop the angler heads out to the find the perfect spot to try out the new flies. The angler spends time preparing the rod, putting on the correct strike indicator and weights. After getting into the waders the angler slowly enters the rushing river and prepares to catch a trout. After awhile the angler tries a different fly. You can see that the perseverance will pay off and a trout will be caught.

The teacher enters the book shop giddy with anticipation of what new books will be found. The teacher asks “What are they reading? What do you suggest?” The shop keeper replies with “Well, I hear great things about this new series by… These new non fiction books are engaging, but you could try the graphic novels.” The teacher ponders the choices. I do have some great graphic novels, but it doesn’t hurt to try something new. I always have luck with books by…. Let me see what the best sellers are? “Excuse me. Any good series I should try?”

After spending time and a lot of money in the book shop the teacher heads out to read the perfect book. The teacher spends time reading the books, thinking of the correct questions. After getting the plans ready the teacher slowly enters the classroom and prepares to catch a student. After awhile the teacher tries a different book. You can see that the perseverance will pay off and student will be caught.

Last week I spent a few days with my dad and brother fly fishing near Crested Butte. Truthfully, I spent most of my time reading. I think I used up all my patience during the year, so trying to catch a trout was very challenging for me. One morning we tried to catch some trout at the base of the Taylor Reservoir. It was a beautiful spot. The river had many crystal clear pools. It was easy to see and count the fish. As I stood there trying to get my line in correctly about six fish just stared at me. (Ok, not really but there were six fish right in front of me.) They had no interest in what I was doing. I realized that the angler is very similar to a reading teaching. We both spend hours trying to get the reluctant trout and reluctant reader to bite. We DO NOT give up. When they strike and take the hook we are elated. We can’t wait to share our successes. I can honestly tell you I would rather spend my day trying to catch the reluctant reader, but spending a few days in the Rocky Mountains with family and a good book is a great way to start the summer.

Now it is off to do more pre-painting prework. Fun times house painting.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

OK really, in a decade far far away my life changed. It was the summer of 1977 and a 14 year old dork saw Star Wars 14 times on the big screen at the Cooper Theatre in Denver. (for the record I did see it one more time during the school year, and once in Mexico City the following summer when I studied abroad! The dubbing was awful!!!) I will never forget the opening text followed by the most important scene I could have ever imagined.

Last Sunday as I was reading the book reviews in The Times I read a review of a book I HAD TO HAVE. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger was immediately ordered. I emailed the Bookery Nook and it came in by the end of the week. Now I know some of you are saying “Kyle Yoda wasn’t in Episode 4. He doesn’t come until Episode 5.” Yes, I know. It even references that at the end of the book, but I knew that some boy out there will be greatly impacted by Star Wars.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger is about a group of misfit “friends” in the 6th grade. Yuck what an awful year. Tommy the main character writes the book with help from other people helped by Yoda’s wisdom. His friend Harvey comments at the end of each chapter pointing out that it was Yoda’s wisdom but just coincidence. Origami Yoda was created by Dwight the biggest misfit of all. He has little social skills yet seems deeply aware of what is happening around him. Yoda/Dwight give advice on what to do when it looks like you have a pee stain, asking a girl to dance and sharing. It is a really fast and fun read. I laughed out loud for an hour. Given the content I would say it is 5th grade and above. I am sharing it with a couple of Guys Read boys this Wednesday. Enjoy and may the force be with you.

PS. Can anyone help me on how to add a you tube video to my posting? I have a great on to put here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Spaceheadz by Jon Scieszka

Book, TP, Breakfast cereal
and Tide courtesy of
Simon and Schuster.
Summer is here. I have spent the last few days (ok few weeks) reflecting on my challenging year. I spent most of the year feeling like a first year teacher. Luckily, I had one of the kindest classes I have ever taught. As a matter of fact it was the first time in all my years of teaching that I cried saying good bye to a couple of VERY special kids.

May was a whirlwind of a month. One of the many unique programs at my school is the multiple field trips we go on. However, as a teacher of two grades I went on double the number of trip. This included two wonderful overnight trips. The fourth graders spent two days and a night on the plains. It was a VERY COLD night in a teepee. The boys were excited because in the morning a little bunny had spent the night sleeping by my head. The other option would have been a rattlesnake. The third grade trip was an overnight in the basement of an historical mansion. The girls slept in the ballroom and we slept on the floor of the bowling alley. Two 8 year old boys had fun ALL NIGHT long. During the two weeks of the trips there was all the rest of the end of year teacher work and preparing my student teacher for next year. It was the best two weeks of the year.

When I returned home from the third grade trip there was a box from Simon & Schuster on the front stoop. Hurrah, a box of books. Well, I opened the box and the fun began. I laughed, laughed and laughed. I took the box into class on Monday morning and during Morning Meeting I shared the contents with my class. Throughout the year I have shared ARC’s with my students. Thank you publishers for bringing so much excitement to a group of third and fourth graders. This box, however, is different. The comments I heard came down to this “WOW a box of books. We can’t wait to read the new books.” I laughed because in the box were four items: a roll of TP, a box of Raisin Bran, and a packet of Tide all with a sticker that read SPHDZ, and one book by Jon Scieszka titled Spaceheadz Book#1! They laughed as hard as I did.

With any new book I try to make it fair to the readers. Which student gets to be the first? Sometimes I pull sticks, sometimes a lottery, etc. This time I decided to let S be the first to read it. S came to me a tall, gawky, no self confidence third grader. He started the year just barely at grade level and finished the year at an Independent DRAII 50. The expression on his face as I explained which student would be first made my month. He even wrote about how it was one of the best memories of the year.

S loved the book. I loved the book. It is a funny new series about aliens needing the help of a fifth grader named Michael K. They tell him that if they can sign up 3,140,001 Earthlings Earth will be turned off. It is great for reluctant readers. (Yes lots of humor!)