Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sugar and Ice

I was twelve years old once…and I remember lacing up my white skates and teetering across Tenth Street after a winter’s snowstorm in northern Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie to skate on ice that had formed on the high school’s front lawn. The blades of frozen grass that stuck up from under the iced surface did not stop me from pretending I was a world class skater—that I was Dorothy Hamill or a female version of Scott Hamilton. I had little to no technique, just the joy of sliding around on two silver blades and sometimes twirling in what must have been near imperfect circles. Oh yes, I loved trying to ice skate when I was growing up, and I loved watching all the ice skating competitions when they were televised.

And this is probably why I was enthralled with Kate Messner’s newest novel, Sugar and Ice. While reading this book, I brought my own experiences twirling around on an ice patch in my youth to the experiences Claire dealt with in her story. I, unlike Claire, simply never made it off my ‘cow pond.’

"Claire loves to skate, and when she is offered a scholarship to skate under the direction of Andrei Groshev with some talented skaters at Lake Placid, she enters into an unfamiliar world of grueling practice sessions and competitions not to mention tension-filled relationships with other determined skaters. Can Claire find the strength to stand up to the people who want her to fail and the courage to decide if ice skating is the dream she wants to follow?"

Middle grade girls will fall in love with this story, for the sheer excitement of Claire’s journey in the ice skating world. After readers become immersed in the drama on and off the ice, there is an innocent girl-likes-boy and same girl-meets-new-boy story that will keep girls reading!

Kate Messner certainly knows how to write for middle grade readers.

This week, my students were very fortunate to Skype with Kate Messner during her lunch period—she teaches full-time, folks! She talked to the students about her inspiration behind Sugar and Ice. She showed students a brainstorming technique for generating writing ideas and graciously answered students’ questions. To say her own students are fortunate to have her as a teacher is probably the largest understatement of the year!

Be sure to check out Sugar and Ice as well as her other popular middle-grade novel, The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. Also, look for other works coming from Kate soon…Marty McGuire, a new series for younger readers…SeaMonster's First Day, a picture book coming this summer...Over and Under the Snow, a picture book coming in the fall...

Click HERE to visit Kate's extensive website and HERE to read her blog.

Happy Reading!
Mrs. T

P.S. Reading is like breathing chocolate air!

Saturday, February 12, 2011


"Vita Escolar is ready to rock. She's got a band name, a used guitar, and three chords under her studded belt. All she needs are a few bandmates to complete the picture. Instead, an activist, two gamers, and an artist show up to her audition. None play a lick of music. But when she can't shake 'em off, she resigns herself to join 'em. After all, a virtual band is better than no, right? With a little help from Walt, Tanya, Plinko, and Jay, Vita learns that you can't always get what you want--but you might get what your friends need. And that's way better. Oh yeah!"

Here's the sixth graders will like Zebrafish by Peter Reynolds, Sharon Emerson, and Renee Kurilla. Why? Reason's a graphic novel. Reason's about music. Reason #3...because "the end of a story can actually be the start of something BIG."

And there is something BIG waiting for the reader on the end pages of the book...

"Change happens in 2 ways--to you or by you. You can wait around for other people--adults, politicians, college students--to make the world a better place or you--YES, YOU--can decide to DO SOMETHING."

"Think about it--school teaches us to read, write, and problem solve. Big deal. So what? What are you going to DO with these skills? How are you going to use your talents to change the world?"

Believe me, kids like it when adults acknowledge that they DO have something to offer to the world. Grown-ups don't know it all, and kids CAN make a difference. And that is why my students will eat up this book. It's more than just a story. It is a call to action!

Click HERE to see how other kids are MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

Click HERE for a trailer of Zebrafish and HERE for more information behind the making of Zebrafish.

Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of this book!

Happy Reading!
Mrs. T

P.S. Reading is like breathing chocolate air!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Neil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

"Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year-old. The problem is that no one on Ramble Street knows it but me."

In Nan Marino's first novel, Neil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me, ten year-old Tamara Ann Simpson is a "seventy-nine pound girl with one hundred pounds of emptiness." Her best friend Kebsie, a foster child who lived across the street, has moved away. One day Kebsie was howling at the moon with Tamara by her side on the garage roof, and the next day she was gone.

Tamara takes out her anger at the new kid who moves into the foster home that Kebsie has left. Muscle Man McGinty gets under Tamara's skin with just about everything he says and does. And when Muscle Man brags that he can beat the ENTIRE block in a kickball game, Tamara thinks she finally has Muscle Man right where she wants him.

"It's the summer of 1969, and the world is getting ready to watch a man named Neil Armstrong make history by taking the first step on the moon. But change happens a bit more slowly on Ramble Street, and it'll take one giant leap for Tamara to understand the likes of Muscle Man McGinty."

I am putting this book on my "Don't Miss" list...books that I tell my sixth graders to be sure not to miss reading before they venture into seventh grade and the wild universe beyond...books that if they don't pick up and read this year that they might miss altogether. And that would be very sad indeed.

I know you won't be disappointed in reading this book. It's an emotional story told from a bully's point of view. There are many layers to this book...Tamara...her dysfunctional family...Muscle Man McGinty...his secret...the Vietnam War...the first man on the moon...READ IT! READ IT! READ IT!

Click HERE to go to the author's website and HERE to read Nan Marino's blog.

Happy Reading!
Mrs. T :)

P.S. Reading is like breathing chocolate air!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Books Read in January - Centurions 2011

The Centurions of 2011 is a Facebook reading community made up of teachers, publishers, authors, and readers who have pledged to read 111 books in 2011.

For the month of January, I read 40 books. Thirty-two of those books were picture books. I am especially proud of the 32 picture books I read. Why? Not only am I catching up on picture books I have missed and haven't read, I am sharing more reading with my six year-old and four year-old. And perhaps that is even more important than keeping up on middle grade and young adult books for my sixth graders that I teach.
Here are my forty books with stars and comments by my favorites.

1. Best Friends Forever: A World War II Scrapbook by Beverly Patt **Click HERE to view my blog post on this book.
2. Countdown by Deborah Wiles **LOVED this one. Click HERE to view my blog post.
3. Crunch by Leslie Connor
4. Willow's Whispers by Lana Button (PB)
5. Close Your Eyes by Kate Banks (PB)
6. I'm a Turkey by Jim Arnosky (PB)
7. Heat Wave by Eileen Spinelli (PB)
8. Dogs Rule by Daniel Kirk (PB)
9. Flotsam by David Wiesner (PB)
10. Spot the Plot by J. Patrick Lewis (PB)
11. Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems (PB) **LOVED this one. How have I missed this one for so long?
12. Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems (PB)
13. Lousy Rotten Stinkin Grapes by Margie Palatini (PB)
14. Horton Halfpott: Or, The Fiendish Mystery of Smugwick Manor; or, The Loosening of M'Lady Luggertuck's Corset by Tom Angleberger **Coming in May! Blog post to come.
15. The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable by Dan Gutman **Click HERE to view my blog post.
16. Edwina: The Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct by Mo Willems (PB)
17. I'm the Best by Lucy Cousins (PB)
18. Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems (PB)
19. The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems (PB)
20. The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! by Mo Willems (PB)
21. Sailing Off to Sleep by Linda Ashman (PB)
22. Chimps Don't Wear Glasses by Laura Numeroff (PB)
23. The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill (PB)
24. Tacky and the Winter Games by Helen Lester (PB)
25. Snowboard Twist by Jean Craighead George (PB)
26. The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood **LOVED this one! Cannot wait for the second book due out this month. Click HERE to view my blog post.
27. The Ghost of Crutchfield Hall by Mary Downing Hahn
28. Cliff Hanger by Jean Craighead George and Wendell Minor (PB)
29. Otis by Loren Long (PB) **LOVED this sweet story!
30. Palazzo Inverso by D.B. Johnson (PB)
31. Elsie's Bird by Jane Yolen and David Small (PB)
32. Eeeek, Mouse! by Lydia Monks (PB)
33. My Friend, the Starfinder by George Ella Lyon and Stephen Gammell (PB)
34. Olivia Helps With Christmas by Ian Falconer (PB)
35. Olivia Forms a Band by Ian Falconer (PB)
36. The 3 Little Dassies by Jan Brett (PB)
37. 13 Words by Lemony Snicket and Maria Kalman (PB)
38. Stranger in the Woods by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick (PB)
39. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca (PB) **Great read!!
40. Neil Armstrong is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me by Nan Marino **LOVED this one! Will blog about it soon!

WOW! It's the second day of February. I better go read!

Happy Reading!
Mrs. T :)

P.S. Reading is like breathing chocolate air!