Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter

As I wrote yesterday, I know can you believe it two posts in a row; there were many wonderful books on the middle grade Cybil’s list. One of my favorites was The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter. It was the last one I read. I had to wait a REALLY long time for it to come from the library and the copy I ordered from The Bookies won’t be here until next week. It is so good that I am glad I will have a copy for my classroom. Accessibility to kids was in the front of my mind when I read books for Cybil’s. It may be a beautifully written book, but will the average kid pick it up t o read. The answer with The Kneebone Boy is YES, YES, YES. Note to the publisher don’t change the cover when you release it in paperback. You can’t always judge a book by the cover, but in this case the delightful cover sets the stage for a wonderful read.
The story revolves around the three Hardscrabbles siblings. Otto us the eldest that hasn’t spoken for years, but uses a sign language that he created. Lucia, pronounced Lu CHia not Lucy a, and the youngest brother Max. They live in a small town in England called Little Trunks. From the beginning the reader does not know who the narrator is because the siblings they want to make sure that the story belongs to all three of them. I think it is Max. Anyhow, as you can tell by the cover they aren’t your average 21st century kids. Their father is an artist that leaves for periods of times to paint portraits of dethroned royalty. Many years ago their mother disappeared. The children have no idea what happened. This sets the stage for the adventure to find out what really happened to their mother.

During their quixotic quest they learn about survival, their great aunt and that their siblings are important. Their journey is what I enjoyed most about this book. It is fun to follow these quirky kids. The longer I read the book the more I cared about them. It is so odd (but not weird odd) that I think boys will love reading it. I have many boys like Max and Otto. Know you may ask why is it called The Kneebone Boy. I will not add a spoiler to this post. In other words you have to read it to find out.

I’ve heard and read that there is Newbury buzz about The Kneebone Boy. Often the winner is not so kid friendly. In this case it is very kid friendly. Regardless of whether it ends up with a gold sticker on the cover it is a winner for the reader. Thank you Ellen Potter.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian

Done! I just finished my blurb for a book on the shortlist for the Cybil’s. It was a fantastic reading season. I read more this year then last. There were many great books and some not so good. It was an interesting list. It leaned older middle grade, boy and white. To get it out of the way the books I will blog about from the Cybil’s list express just MY views and not the fabulous Middle Grade category.

My Life as a Book by Janet Tashjian was one of the boy books. (Since this is The Boy Reader it fits nicely into this blog.) It is a great book, so I ordered it for my classroom. (The copy I read came from the library.) I have a list of boys that will enjoy reading this book. Derek Fallon is a typical 12 year old looking forward to a fun summer until he ends up at Learning Camp. Derek is labeled a “reluctant reader” by his teacher, but as he says “I like to read. If everyone just left me alone with Calvin, Hobbes, Garfield, …”. Does he remind you of anyone you know? At the beginning of the book Derek finds a ten year old newspaper article about a girl that drowned. His mom refuses to discuss the article. Note to Moms when asked about something mysterious avoidance just leads to no good! Derek spends many hours trying to find out the answers to his questions. At one point he spent an hour READING on- line, but is afraid he will get in trouble because he wasn’t READING.

I enjoyed this book because Derek is a fun, lovable, and determined kid. The book is filled with little, fun illustrations (done by Jake Tashjian the author’s son) of vocabulary words. A strategy Derek is supposed to use to help him remember his words. I liked how Derek solved the mystery and to be honest I didn’t see the twist coming at the end.

Even though Derek is twelve I would say this is a third and fourth grade level book. A struggling or “reluctant” fifth grade would easily enjoy it as well.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Poetry Friday

I am very excited about today’s Poetry Friday which is at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Three years ago our district started a poetry competition for grade K to 5 and the winning poems are published in a poetry collection. Poems are submitted in the spring and in the autumn students, parents and teachers find out if the young poets will be published. Last night was the book reception and poetry reading. Two of my boy poets are now published poets. They did an awesome job reading to a packed auditorium. Below are their poems. I hope you enjoy them. The first one is on the Welcome Page.

Books are ways to escape reality,
ways to feel joy in times of pain
Books are portals to other worlds
      waiting to be opened
         waiting to be read
      waiting to be enjoyed
       waiting to be explored.

Ethan (currently a fifth grade)

The Full Moon

The full moon casts and eerie glow on the ground
Lighting the night for the horned owl to find its prey
Telling people it is time to turn into werewolves
It lures us to sleep with its glow
That’s the moon.

Nicholas (currently in fourth grade)

Both boys are very high readers. Last year there were many times when I had to say “Put the book down. Do something else.” Never thought I’d say that as a teacher.