Archive for July 7th, 2014

Link up with Teach Mentor Texts

Link up with Teach Mentor Texts

I am sporadically participating in this online book review meme for kidlit from Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey.

This summer I committed myself to reading middle grade novels. One, because I love reading them, and two, because I want to be better prepared to be a book whisperer for my students. (#bookaday)

absolutely almost

Donalyn Miller recommended Absolutely Almost saying that it was an important book like Wonder. I am a huge fan of Wonder and think everybody should read it, so I thought I should read Absolutely Almost. At first I was not too sure how I was going to like Albie. The voice of the character in my opinion is too young. After reading The Year of Billy Miller, I thought Albie sounded more like a second grader than a fifth grader. Eventually I fell in love with Albie. He has the coolest babysitter Calista who does anything to make Albie more accepting of himself. Calista makes up for the shortcomings of Albie’s parents. I was a bit frustrated by their shortcomings. His father does not even remember buying the A-10 Thunderbolt model and promising to help Albie build it. In fact, Dad buys him another one for his birthday. I know some real life parents are career minded, but would a dad really be this stupid and heartless? And Albie’s mother is not too much better. She does tell him again and again that he is caring and thoughtful and good. Which he is, but I can’t help but think that Mom doesn’t see her son for who he really is. And to top off his difficulty at home, he is bullied at school. I found myself becoming more and more empathetic with Albie. He is a hero, and students should read this book. They will learn to understand that not everyone is gifted, but everyone is valuable.

Lisa Graff crafts a lovely novel with word play beginning with the title of Absolutely Almost and continuing with crafted chapters using anaphora (a repeated phrase). My favorite is “rain in New York”:

When it rains in New York, no one knows where to walk…When it rains in New York, The playgrounds are empty and the buses are full. When it rains in New York, the garbage cans at every corner are stuffed with the twisted bits of broken umbrellas. I like it when it rains in New York.

An interview with Lisa Graff about Absolutely Almost.

Albie is slower than most kids in a lot of ways, and I wanted to explore what that would be like for him in a world that constantly expects him to be smarter, faster, better than he is. In a world like that, where does a kid like Albie fit? How does he find his own worth?


I am loving Cynthia Lord’s books. I finished half a chance, and I’m almost finished with Rules. In half a chance, Lucy’s family moves to a house on a lake in New Hampshire. There she meets Nate’s family and helps them track the habits of loons living in the lake. I love nature and the descriptions of the lake and the loons is beautifully done. Lucy is trying to prove to her photographer father that she has a talent for photography, too. She enters a contest that her father will be judging. For students, I like the ideas for the photo contest as metaphor. The contest calls for photos that reflect abstract words, such as secret and lost. I’d like to use these words with students as writing prompts. We could discuss how Lucy interpreted the words with her photographs and then make our own interpretations.

Song for Papa Crow

Schiffer Publishing sent me a copy of a new picture book, Song for Papa Crow by Marit Menzin. The story follows the common children’s book theme that you are special just as you are. Little Crow loves to sing until he is taunted by all the other birds who do not appreciate his “Caw! Caw!” So, a magic seed transforms Little Crows voice; that is, until he is in danger. In the end, Little Crow comes to appreciate his out of tune voice. The illustrations are made with collage. I love the art work. Marit Menzin personifies her birds. For students, they could make their own book using the common theme and use collage for illustrating. Song for Papa Crow is available at Schiffer Publishing.

Used by permission from Schiffer Publishing.  All rights reserved.

Used by permission from Schiffer Publishing. All rights reserved.

Marit Menzin, all rights reserved.

Marit Menzin, all rights reserved.

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