During the month of February, my students and I work on a poetry unit. A key piece to the POETRY UNIT is the novel, Hate That Cat, by Sharon Creech. I love this book. I cry in front of my students when I read this book. I want to be the character, Miss Stretchberry, in this book. Miss Stretchberry is that once-in-a-lifetime teacher who changes a child’s entire school career. She sees all of the hidden strengths in Jack, the narrator in the story, and spends time nurturing those qualities. She also sniffs out Jack’s worries or troubles and gently solves problems. In return, Jack rises to the occasion and is motivated to stretch his capabilities while he has Miss Stretchberry as a teacher.
Characters like Miss Stretchberry are some of my favorite, so I started building a list of books with inspirational teacher characters. I wish I had more book titles, but here is my first draft. I probably could expand the list into movie titles like Dead Poets Society or Stand and Deliver because movies with inspirational teachers get me too.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
Hank Zipzer by Henry Winkler (pay attention to the music teacher)
Homesick by Kate Klise
Love That Dog and Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
No Talking by Andrew Clements
The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen, 7th grade+ (pay attention to the math teacher)
The Secret School by Avi
The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Word after Word after Word by Patricia MacLachlan
The Year of Miss Agnes by Kirkpatrick Hill
For adults (and particularly teacher adults), try the book Educating Esme by Esme Raji Codell.
Thank you to all who entered to win the Amazon gift card and participated in the recent blog hop. Congratulations to Callie W. who is my big winner! (Please look for an e-mail from me with details about your prize.)
In case Callie (or other readers) need help shopping for books, below is my favorite juvenile literature from 2014. These books were not necessarily published in 2014. They are just the books I enjoyed reading the most this past year.
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm (5th grade +)
The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern (4th+)
Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes by Charise Mericle Harper (2nd+)
It is time for our annual summer road trip, and we loaded up on audio books from the public library earlier this week. I then had to make a trip back to the library because Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss listened to the first batch of books on CD in the TV room before we even packed the car.
Audio books are a great addition to long road trips. They keep voice levels low, so everyone can hear the narrator, and it provides a discussion topic for the whole group since everybody listens to the same story (we play our books on CD aloud– no earphones, although, that is an option). All ages can enjoy a story no matter the actual reading level of the book.
We have been listening to audio books for about 6 years. I cannot gush enough about the benefits of audio books. The narrator reads the book with the correct expression and syntax modeling good oral reading skills for a child. If a child follows along in the printed book at the same time he is listening, sight words, vocabulary, writing mechanics, and varied sentence construction are reinforced. When a group listens to an audio book, it tends to prompt more discussion. This will give a child extra practice re-telling a story, identifying conflicts in the story, and making predictions about future events– all of the skills a (good) active reader utilizes.
I posted an audio book recommendation list awhile back. Many of the books I had on my original list are still here. The Magic Treehouse series is still our favorite. Mary Pope Osborne narrates, and her voice works well. The stories are also a good length for our car attention span. Each story is about an hour and a half.
Magic Treehouse (any in the series) read by the author, Mary Pope Osborne
The Boxcar Children read by Phyllis Newman
Little House in the Big Woods (or any Little House book) read by Cherry Jones
Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing read by the author, Judy Blume
The BFG read by Natasha Richardson
James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons
The Bunnicula Collection read by Victor Garber
No Talking read by Keith Nobbs
Benjamin Pratt & The Keepers of the School: Fear Itself read by Keith Nobbs
The Wizard of Oz read by Maureen Lipman
The Year of Billy Miller read by Dan Bittner
Heavy Hitters (or any in the Game Changers series) read by Fred Berman
Ribsy (or any Henry Huggins book) read by Neil Patrick Harris
Charlotte’s Web read by the author, E.B. White
The 1oo-Year Old Secret (or any in the Sherlock Files series) read by David Pittu
A Series of Unfortunate Events read by the author, Lemony Snicket. (This was probably a bad choice on my part. Not only was the author’s voice too nasal-y, the book is much darker read aloud, and the content was too old for my children’s ages.)
In my house, we all agree that the narrator is the key to a good audio book. What books have you enjoyed on tape? Who was the narrator?
A former student recommended I read Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein because there is a character in the story who has the same last name I do. It took me a few months to get to it, but I finally read it during my spring break.
This book follows a group of characters who are trapped in a library through a scavenger hunt of library knowledge in order to escape. The book becomes a puzzle for the reader too. It taps into your library skills and background knowledge of classic books. The riddles inserted into the story reminded me of a few other books I read and really liked. I had a starter list of this style of books in my Style-Alike book post, but I thought it was time for a dedicated scavenger-hunt-wrapped-in-a-mystery list.
Most titles on the list have the “riddle” element to them, but I also included classic mystery books like Nancy Drew where characters uncover clues to solve the crime without having to decode a puzzle first to reveal the clue.
The 7th Level by Jody Feldman
Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Benjamin Pratt & Keepers of the School series by Andrew Clements
Chasing Vermeer (and others) by Blue Balliett
Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord (must be read in order)
Floors series by Patrick Carman
Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman
Hardy Boys by Franklin W. Dixon
The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan (and The 39 Clues series)
The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart
Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Red Blazer Girls series by Michael D. Beil
The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch
The Sherlock Files series by Tracy Barrett
The Sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
The Teddy Bear Habit by James Lincoln Collier (older publication)
Theodore Boone Detective series by John Grisham
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
Mysteries are actually a great book style for younger readers (1st through 3rd grade) because students have to maintain plot details from earlier in the book to understand any resolutions that happen later in the book. There are many series for this lower reading level that are popular. Reading multiple books from a series strengthens reading because they typically follow the same plot pattern in each book. This gets repetitive for an adult but actually helps improve reading skills in kids because they can begin to more accurately anticipate what will happen next, which makes the story easier to follow and remember.
The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids by Debbie Dadey and Marcia T. Jones
A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (I like the ones by the original author the best, 1-19)
Mr. Star Wars’ teacher just finished reading The Doll People as a read aloud to his class. Mr. Star Wars promptly checked out the sequel, The Meanest Doll in the World, and read it in one sitting. It reminded me of other miniature world stories that I loved when I was his age. The Borrowers and The Indian in the Cupboard were my favorites. In these books, there are mini characters living in a regular-sized world. I think the technical name for this genre is “enchanted reality” but I might be making that up. I wanted to create a book list of all of the great miniature world books, but it turns out there really are not that many that I have read– or could find. So, I guess it is fitting that I have a miniature list of books.
Awfully Short for the Fourth Grade by Elvira Woodruff
The Borrowers (and sequels) by Mary Norton
Castle in the Attic (and sequels) by Elizabeth Winthrop
The Doll People (and sequels) by Martin and Godwin
The Indian in the Cupboard (and sequels) by Lynne Reid Banks
Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager
The Littles (and sequels) by John Peterson
The Minpins by Roald Dahl
The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew (out of print– locate a used copy through Amazon or search your local library)
I considered adding books like The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary and The Rescuers by Margery Sharp because they have small animals doing human things in a regular sized world. I feel that a book like that fits into animal fantasy better. What do you think? What great books would you add to the miniature world list?