Skip to content

The Book Stack

Teach Mentor Texts hosts It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Hop over and join the conversation.

The challenge this Christmas vacation was to see how many books we could read as a family. We lost track of the picture books, but below are some that we read more than once this break, as well as the chapter books.

Ayres Family Christmas Week Chapter Book Total: 14

Hannah’s Reads: MEET KAYA, American Girl Doll; DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, Jeff Kinney; MEET MARIE-GRACE American Girl Doll; SOPHIE THE SWEETHEART, Laura Berger;  FIVE SMOOTH STONES, HOPE’S DIARY, Dear America


Sam’s Reads: THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET, Brian Selznick (I promise a post on this when we finish!)

Karianne’s Reads: ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (an extra credit read for her history class); LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR, Stephanie Perkins (once the extra credit reading is finished)

Andy’s Reads: DIARY OF A WIMPY KID, Jeff Kinney (based on a recommendation from Hannah)

Ruth’s Reads: ABANDON, Meg Cabot; CLEOPATRA’S MOON, Vicky Alvear Shecter ; FRANKLY, FRANNIE: CHECK, PLEASE, AJ Stern

And a few to highlight…

Frankly, Frannie: Check Please by AJ Stern and Doreen Mulryan Marts (Penguin, 2010)

Steph received Frankly, Frannie: Check Please by AJ Stern and Doreen Mulryan Marts (Penguin, 2010) in her traditional jammies, book, and an ornament Christmas eve gift. She started reading it minutes after she opened it and then demanded I read it too. I’m glad I did because in the book, Frannie is learning about writing reviews. When we return to school, I’ll be working with third graders, helping them learn to write reviews. I’ll be using excerpts from this book to help young writers discover the genre of reviews. If you study reviews in your 2nd – 3rd grade writing workshop, you may want to get your hands on a copy of this book too. Also, be sure to check out Frankly, Frannie’s website. The second grader I live with loves it!

ABANDON by Meg Cabot (Point, an imprint of Scholastic, 2011) Review copy provided.

Oh my goodness — you’ve gotta read ABANDON by Meg Cabot! Now, you must know that recommendation is coming from someone who is not big into paranormal. ABANDON is the first in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to read the rest  of the series. I was intrigue by this book because, first, I love following Meg Cabot on Twitter (@megcabot), and second, because it’s based on the myth of Persephone. I’ve been interested in books that will nudge older adolescents into reading things they may not otherwise pick up. Tweens know Meg Cabot from her PRINCESS DIARIES SERIES, so it would be natural for them to want to read this book and then do a little more research and reading into the myth of Persephone (and maybe even other myths). As I was reading, I was struck by the amount of research Cabot engaged in to write this story. Each chapter opens with a few lines from Dante’s INFERNO. I appreciated how each epigram wove Cabot’s story around Dante’s.

I was intrigued by the way I was drawn into world Cabot created. I felt like I was there, in the midst of the storms, with the characters, and even traveling to the Underworld. I look forward to rereading parts of this book to see how Cabot created this experience for the reader. I’ll pay particular attention to the setting, which is masterfully crafted and makes Is Isla Huesos, the setting for Abandon, a real island? number five on the FQA list.

And, because I’m a sucker for author’s process, check out this short video of Meg sharing a few of her notebook pages for ABANDON.

CLEOPATRA'S MOON by Vicky Alvear Shecter (Scholastic, 2011)

 CLEOPATRA’S MOON by Vicky Alvear Shecter is historical fiction for young adults. I appreciated the extra material in this book. There is a character list, outlining the main characters in Egypt, Rome, and Greek and Roman mythology. The author shares the facts behind the book, as well as the story behind her interest in Cleopatra Selene, and her writing group experiences.

I spent 30 – 60 minutes before I started reading the book, just looking through the extra material, reading facts about the time period, and trying to remember my knowledge of Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, Julius Caesar, Octavian, and Octavia. I talked with Andy about the time period, and he Googled some of our questions, as we pooled our knowledge.  As I consider sharing this book with teenagers, I would want to encourage this initial preparation for the story. It is too easy to get lost in the names and miss the enjoyment of the story.

The voice, told from Cleopatra’s daughter, Cleopatra Selene, is compelling. Even when I considered abandoning the book, I had to keep reading because the voice was so strong. For someone who normally reads quickly, I had to slow down for this story. Until I had all the characters straight in my head, I had to take my time and intentionally remember the different people and their role in history. It took about a hundred pages until I felt as though I was able to read through the story at my normal rate. In the end, I was glad I stayed with this story. The voice will stick with me, and I’m glad to have a deeper understanding of the historical events surrounding the expansion of the Roman empire. Historical fiction isn’t something I gravitate towards, but like most historical fiction, I’m glad to have read CLEOPATRA’S MOON.

I know this post is getting too long, but just a couple of picture books that are being read over and over in our house…

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with Chimps by Jeanette Winter (Schwartz & Wade, a division of Random House, 2010)

Our kids just can’t get enough of this charming story. As if that’s not enough, they then wanted to learn more so went to the internet to research and have been scouring the shelves for as many books as possible about chimps. Check out THE WATCHER: JANE GOODALL’S LIFE WITH CHIMPS by Jeanette Winter (Schwartz & Wade, a division of Random House, 2010).

LOOKING CLOSELY IN THE RAIN FOREST by Frank Serafini, Kids Can Press

You know the LOOKING CLOSELY series by Frank Serafini, right? Every time I read one I think of another way to use it in the classroom. This week, as we’ve been reading and rereading this book, I’ve been struck by the art of looking at things with new eyes. Serafini masters this craft. The kids and I have been inventing new ideas for what the picture could be. It’s all about putting on a new lens and looking at something we’ve seen many times in a new way. This is good practice for writers of all ages! Check out the other books in the series from Kids Can Press.

How about you? What was in your stack for the last week of 2011?



Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

11 thoughts on “The Book Stack Leave a comment

  1. I loved the pic of all your books. And now I am curious about Abandon. Sounds pretty different from a lot of M.C.’s stuff. Which is not to say I didn’t like her other work but anyway. And that Cleopatra’s Moon, too. Egads. I need to stick with the middle grade stuff just to keep up with my students. But still. Adding both to my TBR list now. Thanks! ;]


  2. Love that your whole family read during the break!!

    You are the second person to tell me to read Abandon this week. It was also recommended at the end of George O’Connor’s Hades graphic novel. I think the universe is telling me something… (I know I own it; just have to find it.)

    And if your kids are interested in chimps, you should check out a chimp rescue facility that I support-

    Happy reading this week 🙂


  3. Oh my goodness! If your kids are into chimps right now, check out this website for “Chimp Haven.”
    My daughter wrapped up two old board books and sent them in the mail. She was so excited! She devoured the website, learning the quirks of all the different chimps. Sounds like something your kids might like to do!

    Thanks for sharing what your family is reading!


  4. Thanks for the words about these books. I liked The Princess Diaries for younger children, so see how this new series will appeal to the older group. Frankly Frannie looks great & I’m glad to know about it. I’m still trying to finish Chime, just don’t like it as well as others who have spoken about it. And I posted about Heart and Soul, a wonderful book I received over Christmas from a friend. Happy reading as always!


  5. I love comparing book titles! I teach 2nd grade so I need to check out some of your suggestions. Over winter break, I have been pleasure reading books that I borrowed when visiting my sister: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (book inspired by a collection of old pictures), The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan (based in Roman/Greek mythology), If Wishes Made it So by Lucy Finn (magic/genies) and Poisoned Secrets by Margaret Daley (inspirational romantic suspense). And… I just started a book that I received for my birthday, Sisterchicks on the Loose! by Robin Jones Gunn.

    I really enjoyed Abandon, too!


  6. Thanks for the titles. I have found a couple for my grandkids and some for our reading group the MNM–Monday Night Mavens!!! Enjoying The True Memoirs of Little K–historical fiction which I love! It is good to know the history somewhat in order to enjoy the book more. Russian names are difficult and long, but just enjoy the story and the main characters. You will still be led to other books of this time period when you realize you want to know more about another minor character or other point of view. Happy New Year in reading and writing!!!


  7. This is great! It’s fun to look at your picture and find books I recognize! I love Farmyard Beat and Lola!!! I’m excited to look for Frankly, Frannie. That looks great. I love Meg Cabot but read one of her series about a girl who is a witch and I wasn’t too excited about it. I love the Princess Diaries series and others that are similar. I’ll remember Abandon if I ever get a paranormal vibe going!

    Thanks so much for sharing, Ruth!


  8. Love seeing this snapshot of your reading. I read a lot over break too. It was great to get to some titles that have sat on my shelf for months but I couldn’t get to them until now. Breadcrumbs was possibly one of the best that I read over break. Will have to check out the Cabot title, I follow her on Twitter too and she’s hilarious. 🙂


%d bloggers like this: