Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lunch Lady

There was a mess up from the publisher, so mine just arrived! My students will be so excited. I got emails this summer asking "Mr. Kimmal do you have the second Lunch Lady?" Book talk on the first day will be FUN!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

THE CANDY SHOP WAR by Brandon Mull

One way I judge a great book is how involved I become with the characters. This summer I read City of Thieves by David Benioff. I wanted the book to end so I could find out what happened to the characters, but when I finished the book I was sad that I was done. I wanted to spend more time with the characters and I felt like two friends had moved away.

Another book I have the same relationship with is The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull. I loved this book. The friendship between the Nate, Summer, Pigeon, and Trevor is real and interesting. Brandon Mull captures the scary way adults can manipulate kids. It was exciting to read about the risks these four were willing to take to save the world from evil. (I don’t want to spoil the book!) While I was reading the book, I thought this would be a great Guys Read book because of the adventures and the importance of a female character; but I am doing it for my first read aloud. Nate, Summer, Pigeon and Nate work well together to confront the bullies that torment them, (small spoiler alert!) but at the end they save them. I feel that it is important to share books with strong characters that have to deal with bullies.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull Shadow Mountain.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

SLOB by Ellen Potter

Recently I was talking with a friend about SLOB by Ellen Potter. She started reading it at the library, but passed it off to a student she had last year and I had the year before. It is funny how we can start a book and when we see a student we will pass it on and tell them “I think you will like this book.”

M (the student) is a great kid, but can be uncaring. My first thought is that M wouldn’t like this book, but after more thought I realized that it is a perfect book for him. Slob is about Owen Birnbaum, an over weight, smart 12 year old. He compares every day as being the first day of school in a new school. Not a great thought is it? Owen eventually befriends another outcast. This is the reason that this is a great book for M. First impressions can be very wrong, and we often end up friends with someone we would never expect. I hope that M learns from this book.

It is on the short list for first read aloud of the year

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Too Much Background Knowledge?

Background knowledge is an important part of comprehension, but what happens when there is too much background knowledge? Can it negatively effect what we read? I just finished Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford and my background knowledge made it a very hard book to finish.

Captain Nobody is about a boy named Newton Newman. Certain events happen in the story to turn him into Captain Nobody. I’ll discuss the story after a little information about my background knowledge and how it impacted my thoughts of this book.

Nineteen years ago my brother was hit on his bicycle. It was a hit and run. He was in a coma for nine days. Once he woke up he had to learn how to walk, eat, etc. He lives on his own now, but has a severe brain injury. During the time Kris was in a coma it tore our family apart. We all felt helpless, and, at times, hopeless. At the hospital I had time to spend with my brother and was present when the doctors spoke with my parents. This experience made it difficult to read Captain Nobody.

Let me start by saying that after I finished the book I realized how much I enjoyed it. Newton “Newt” is a skinny kid that happens to be the younger brother of the star football player. He is the son of parents too involved in their jobs to pay close attention to Newt. He is, also, best friend with two great kids. During the “big game” Newt’s big brother is knocked out and ends up in a coma.

There are many things I loved about the book, and some situations that bothered me. What I liked:

I loved the friendship between Newt and his friends. Newt is very self sufficient. He is a great care giver. Newt is funny, and aware of his short comings. Captain Nobody is Newt’s Halloween costume. The day after Halloween he realizes that he doesn’t have any clean clothes, so he wears his costume to school. The teachers think he is wearing the costume to deal with the family tragedy. A sequence of funny events turns Newt into a real super hero.

My dislikes have a lot to do with my background knowledge. After the accident Newt’s parents spend the rest of the book at the hospital. In their quest not to scare Newt they give him no information. A 10 year old needs the information. There is no adult staying with Newt, just the drive by sleep over by one parent. This is where I’m not sure if my experiences cloud my judgment, or if it is the book. I didn’t like that the principal and the counselor didn’t have any idea who Newt was, even after he met with them.

I am curious to see what others will think about Captain Nobody.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon

Last autumn I was told about the most popular books in the UK. The second grader, that told me, had received a few of them from relatives that live in London. His mom said that they were wonderful and E zipped through them laughing the entire time. During my next trip to The Bookies I was told that they heard that they might be published in the US sometime in 2009. After making travel plans for my summer vacation in Scotland I knew what books I was going to bring back. Well, right before I left for Prestwick I received the first four Horrid Henry books.

In Horrid Henry’s Stinkbomb Henry’s feelings about reading sum up what most boys think about reading: “Reading was hard, heavy work, Just turning the pages made feel exhausted.” It is a challenge to find exciting and fun books for reluctant and struggling boy readers. There are the old standbys, but most have read them or are not interested in a boy with his dog.

When I opened the package and saw the cover of the series I laughed out loud. The titles alone are enough to get most boys interested in at least picking them up, but once word gets around about the stories the wait list will be long.

Here are few things I like about the series:

Horrid Henry isn’t too horrid. He is very likeable.
Perfect Peter is FAR from perfect as we learn in the first book. Other “P” words come to mind and they aren’t that nice.
I love the adjectives added on to all the characters. Moody, Acrobatic, Rude….
Great vocabulary. I could easily use it for ELL’s and showing the importance of rich language for higher readers and writers.
Tony Ross' illustration capture boys and make me laugh.
Short chapters/ stories.

The list goes on. Without evening thinking hard I know 20 boys that will eat these up. I am excited to share these books with the readers in my class.

Free books!!! The first two people that email me or comment and want a book will get their own copy of a Horrid Henry.