Friday, September 28, 2012

Our little reader

Our little reader.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Upcoming reviews!

Upcoming reviews from Atria Books! 

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Monday, September 24, 2012

MMGM: 1st Quarter Book Highlights in Mrs. Ko's Class

So, I thought I'd do more posts on my life as a teacher. I feel like my blog is a little schizophrenic at times and I don't fully portray who I am in all facets of my life, so here we go.

I teach 5th grade at a school in South San Diego. I've taught 5th grade for over 8 years now. I love the age and everything about the kids in 5th grade.

My favorite thing about teaching, and subconsciously probably the main reason I became a teacher in the first place, is sharing my love of reading with my students. I haven't perfected it, but I'd like to think of myself as a little bit of "book whisperer" at my school. I have parents that constantly come back to tell me how much I've changed their child's life by helping them to love books. THAT is the biggest compliment I can get as a teacher.

Unfortunately because of the deep budget cuts in education, our school library is only open two days a week, which means our kids have very limited access to the MANY books just sitting on the shelves waiting to be checked out. :( The worst part of it is my kids have limited access to the nonfiction titles in the school library. I only have one shelf of nonfiction in my classroom library.

However, the upside to this is the my students are mostly relying on my classroom library to feed their reading appetites this year. Lucky for them, they're in MY class this year and their teacher owns more than 1200+ books. The great thing is that my kids are digging deeper into my library than I've had for many years now and I am so excited that they're exploring different genres and authors. I can't wait for the next Scholastic book order to add more titles that I think they'll love! :)

Each year, I love seeing which books/series catch on and spreads like fire in my class. Without fail, Goosebumps always catches on each year and so does The Lightning Thief, but there are several unexpected "fires" going strong right now and I wanted to share that with you.

Without further ado, here's a list of the BOOK HIGHLIGHTS in my classroom as of 1st quarter:

39 Clues
I have waited and waited for years for this series to catch on in my classroom. I planted a little seed in one kid this year who was seeking a mystery book and started him off on Book One. Now, I have four or five other kids who can't wait to get their hands on the first book. YES! I haven't personally read this series myself, but have heard the best things about it, so YAY!!! Looks like now I can finally justify buying more of them for our classroom library!

Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Each year, I'm always surprised by how many kids have NOT read Diary of a Wimpy Kid by the time they reach 5th grade, but when they do they just devour them one after another. I don't have to push these books at all, which is awesome. I just wish it had a better message. I've only read the first one, but based off of my student's reading journal letters, it sounds like there's a LOT of bullying going on. I'd really hate to promote something that's promoting bullying, but I guess I'll have to read more to see what it's really about. Does anyone have any insight into this series they can share with me?

Magic School Bus
I inherited a huge tub of Magic School Bus books from my mother-in-law who was also an elementary school for many years. Year and year, I wished someone would pick one up and I don't know WHO started reading them this year, but they are probably the most read books in my classroom at the moment. I LOVED Magic School Bus as a kid, so it's exciting to see a new generation enjoy them. And they aren't reading just one, they are reading all of them.

Beverly Cleary books
I must have read every single Beverly Cleary book when I was a kid. Our school library was pretty small, but it was always stocked with Beverly Clearly books. Beverly Cleary is one of the few authors where I actually have 2 tubs full of their books. I love that I have a few students who are just plowing through all of her books and I'm happy to say that they aren't ALL GIRLS either! :)

Who Was? biographies
I have tons of biographies. I think I own almost every single "Who Was?" biography there is out there. Same thing like the other books mentioned above, year after year, I have kids dabble in and out of this tub, but right now there's a little "fire" building for biographies. My Who Was Anne Frank? is MIA at the moment and I have another kid asking me for it. Looks like we need to add more too our library!

I have Donalyn Miller's 40 Book Challenge (from her book The Book Whisperer) to thank for the diversity of books my students are reading this year. This is the first year that I'm fully implementing the challenge and I know that my kids are finally venturing out into different genres because of it.

Now if only I can get them digging into my historical fiction tubs!

Plans for next quarter:
I am planning on building my graphic novels tub in my library because I want to give my kids more options other than Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I think @mrschureads and especially @colbysharp have me SOLD on Babymouse, so that's next on my to-buy list. :)

Here's to many, many more FIRES this year!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Blog Tour & Review: Don't Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Title: Don't Let Me Go
Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Source: Received from author via Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours

Buy book here: Don't Let Me Go ebook at Amazon or paperback
THE Kindle edition IS FREE TODAY 9/21 AND TOMORROW  9/22!
What a great story. This book grabbed me from the beginning and I couldn't put it down because I just LOVED (and my heart just ached) for the main character, Grace. She's not the perfect character, but you couldn't help but adore her in this story.

This book reminds me a lot of So B. It by Sarah Weeks because both books follow a young girl who is trying to survive life pretty much on her own without the full support of a family, or in Grace and Heidi, they have mothers who can't fully care for them. Grace is a nine-year old girl who's just a little bit too loud and precocious. Her mother is a drug addict.

Grace seeks the help of an agoraphobic neighbor, Billy Shine, who hasn't left his home in years. Billy used to be a Broadway dancer and they form the most unlikely of friendships together. The story switches from Grace's and Billy's perspectives and I enjoyed hearing what was going through both of their points of view.

The book is full of other characters, neighbors, who also get involved and have their own interesting personalities as well. They were all so different in their own way and added their own flair to the story and reluctantly become a makeshift family while they take care of Grace.

The best part of this book is the writing. It's gripping and heart wrenching all at the same time. I can easily see this book as a movie. I hope it will get picked up someday because it's truly a wonderful story. Get the Kleenex's ready!

4 out of 5 stars

About the Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 18 published and forthcoming books.

Her newest releases are When You Were Older,  Don’t Let Me Go, Jumpstart the World , When I Found You and Second Hand Heart. Forthcoming is Walk Me Home (Transworld UK, Spring 2012). 

Other newer novels are Becoming Chloe, Love in the Present Tense, The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, Chasing Windmills  The Day I Killed James, and Diary of a Witness.

Both Becoming Chloe and Jumpstart the World were included on the ALA’s Rainbow List.  Jumpstart the World was chosen as a finalist for two Lambda Literary Awards, received a third place Rainbow Award for Young Adult/Coming of Age Fiction and a tie for first place in Bisexual/Transgender Fiction. Love in the Present Tense enjoyed bestseller status in the UK, where it broke the top ten, spent five weeks on the national bestseller list, was reviewed on a major TV book club, and shortlisted for a Best Read of the Year Award at the British Book Awards.

Older works include the story collection Earthquake Weather, and the novels Funerals for Horses, Pay it Forward, Electric God, and Walter’s Purple Heart

Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt, chosen by the American Library Association for its Best Books for Young Adults list, and translated into more than 23 languages for distribution in over 30 countries.  The mass market paperback was released in October 2000 by Pocket Books and quickly became a national bestseller.  It is still in print, and was rereleased in a trade paperback edition in April of 2010.

More than 50 of her short stories have been published in The Antioch Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Glimmer Train, The Sun and many other journals, and in the anthologies Santa Barbara Stories  and California Shorts and the bestselling anthology Dog is my Co-Pilot. Her stories have been honored in the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Tobias Wolff Award and nominated for Best American Short Stories, the O'Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize.  Three have been cited in Best American Short Stories.

She is founder and former president (2000-2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation. As a professional public speaker she has addressed the National Conference on Education, twice spoken at Cornell University, met with Americorps members at the White House and shared a dais with Bill Clinton.

Connect with Catherine!


Remember that you can get this book for free on Amazon today and tomorrow! Don't miss out!

Monday, September 17, 2012

MMGM: One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

Title: One Year in Coal Harbor
Author: Polly Horvath
Publisher: Schwartz & Wade (September 11, 2012)

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley
Summary from Goodreads:
Readers rejoice--Primrose Squarp is back! The wise and curious heroine of the Newbery Honor Book Everything on a Waffle is facing another adventure-filled year in Coal Harbor. Even though her parents, once lost at sea, are home, there's a whole slew of problems and mysteries to keep Primrose--and eager fans--busy. There's Uncle Jack and Kate Bowzer, who may (or may not) be in love. There's Ked, a foster child who becomes Primrose's friend. And there's the new development on the outskirts of town that threatens the Coal Harbor Primrose knows and treasures. Prolific and brilliant Horvath has delivered a masterful sequel to a beloved novel, sure to please old fans and gain new ones.(
I adored Everything on a Waffle (it was my very first MMGM post!) and was ecstatic to find out there is now a sequel for my beloved book. I didn't think it needed a sequel, just like how I felt with Princess Academy: Palace of Stone, but I was pleasantly surprised with that sequel, so I thought this would be another great addition to Primrose's story. However, I'm sorry to say that I was very disappointed.

SPOILER ALERT for those who haven't read Everything on a Waffle!!! It was nice to revisit all the characters again and get to see Primrose actually interact with her parents. However, everything else just seemed all mashed up together in a gobbly-gook mess. I guess I didn't really need to see what happened to Primrose after her parents returned. I thought everything would be happier, but it just seems like the mundane just continued on.

I was also upset that the little love story at the end of Everything on a Waffle just kind of fizzled between Uncle Jack and Miss Bowzer. Why are they such jerks to each other in this book? Seriously, Uncle Jack, you're going to build a "high-class restaurant" across the street with her restaurant because she doesn't serve high-class clientele?! SERIOUSLY?!

Which leads me to my final point, I just didn't like the characters this time around. It was a little too late for me when Ked finally enters the story. Maybe I went in with too high expectations because I LOVED Everything on a Waffle, but I think this story didn't meet the hype for me.

3 out of 5 stars

About the Author: Polly Horvath

Polly Horvath grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. She went to college at the Canadian College of Dance in Toronto, studying with the Royal Academy of Dance and later becoming an R.A.D. teacher.
After graduation, she lived in New York City and Montreal before settling  in Metchosin, British Columbia, with her husband, Arnie Keller, and their two daughters, Emily and Rebecca. They have a dog, Andrew, and a horse, Zayda. They live on a hilltop with an assortment of deer, rabbits, two ducks who visit their pond daily—and the occasional cougar and bear.

Polly Horvath has written many books for children that have won awards in both the United States and Canada including a Newbery Honor, National Book Award and The Vicky Metcalf award for her body of work. Her books have been picks of both Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah amd have been translated into over twenty five languages.

Did we mention an occasional bear?

Author's website:

If you would like to find out more about Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday, you can check out Shannon Messenger's blog here.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

MMGM: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Title: Drama
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Publisher: Scholastic GRAPHIX (September 1, 2012)

Source: Received from publisher via NetGalley
Summary from Goodreads:
Raina Telgemeier, the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author of the Eisner Award winner, SMILE, brings us her next full-color graphic novel . . . DRAMA!

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she's a terrible singer. Instead she's the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier! Following the success of SMILE, Raina Telgemeier brings us another graphic novel featuring a diverse set of characters that humorously explores friendship, crushes, and all-around drama!
I simply adore Raina Telgemeier's work. It's one-of-a-kind and just draws you in even before the first page, the cover is gorgeous! I was first introduced to Telgemeier's work with the graphic novels she did for The Babysitters Club. I LOVED them. (Read my review: here) I didn't think anyone could do BSC justice as a graphic novel without making the characters too modern-looking (aka "hoochified" like how many of my other childhood characters have suffered from in their remakes - ex: Strawberry Shortcake). However, Telgemeier stayed true to the essence of each character and I just devoured all four books, as if I were 10 years old again. Therefore, I was SUPER excited to read Drama!

The artwork is beautiful and I was found myself savoring each page in order to absorb all the little details in each of the boxes. I even loved the colors! The characters are fun and loveable. I enjoyed that the main character, Callie, is not necessarily the lead of the play (like Rachel on GLEE), but a part of the stage crew. She's a creative young lady who uses her set designing talents to help out behind the scenes.

It definitely fits a middle grade/young-adult reader with all the DRAMA that goes on throughout the plot, including a love triangle (kind of a square, actually) and boy-girl relationships/friendships. I was surprised to see such a prominent theme of exploring sexuality. I tend to run on the conservative side and wasn't expecting that in a book for middle-graders, so in that sense it's a little more YA than MG. For the younger MG readers, I think I'd recommend parents to read it first before putting in the hands of 3rd or 4th graders in order to be prepared for possible discussions or questions about sexual orientation.

This book is perfect for the fans of GLEE since it both centers around performing arts.

Overall, I think it's a great piece of work from Telgemeier and will be a great graphic novel addition to a library!

4 out of 5 stars
And now, the book trailer!

About the Author: Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier grew up in San Francisco, but made her way to New York City when she was 22 to attend the School of Visual Arts as an Illustration and Cartooning student. She received her BFA in 2002, and has worked as a freelance artist ever since. She is the adapter and illustrator of four Baby-sitters Club graphic novels, the co-author of X-Men: Misfits, and the author-illustrator of the bestselling dental memoir graphic novel Smile, which recently won the Eisner Award for Best Publication for a Teen Audience. Smile was also an ALA Notable Book, a Kirkus Best Book of 2010, and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Honor title.
Raina lives in Queens, NY, with her cartoonist husband, Dave Roman.

Author's website:

If you would like to find out more about Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday, you can check out Shannon Messenger's blog here.
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