The Book Stack

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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?