Monday, April 26, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure Series

When I was in fourth and fifth grade (1985ish), I discovered a series of books called "Choose Your Own Adventure." These books were amazing because you usually only read the first two or three pages, and then you were forced to make a choice that pertained to the plot. It was awesome to see how the plot unfolded based on my choices. There were hundreds of these books written and published between 1979 and 1998. Edward Packard is one of the authors that wrote over 50 different Choose Your Own Adventure books.

The thing that I liked the most about these books was that I got to choose the actions of the characters, and if I didn't like how it ended, I could go back and make a different choice. There were always between 20-30 different possible endings in each book, and some were good, and some were bad.

I brought in a few of the duplicates that I had from my childhood into my classroom. The books have been sitting all year without anyone reading them. So, we were at track out week and I had just finished reading Big Nate, and I didn't want to start a new book that I wouldn't be able to finish in a week. So, I decided to grab a book from the Choose Your Own Adventure basket. My students weren't sure what to make of the choice, but once I started to read it and they were able to choose where the character went next, they were hooked!

I absolutely LOVE exposing my students to new genres and authors. I soon found out that there are Choose Your Own Adventure books that were published between 2005 and 2010! One of my students went to the local library and brought in a few copies of the newer versions. While they have the same concept, I do not like the newer ones. Mainly because there are fewer choices and more reading. One of the books that I read (that she had brought in) was called Track Star. This book started off with me reading... and reading... and reading... and then there was finally a choice for the kids to make (after like five pages of reading). We made the choice and I read... and read... and read... and then the end happened. From one choice! The same thing happened when I read Terror on the Titanic.

So... my suggestion would be to check out or eBay to see if you can find some of the older versions of these books (if you're interested). There's also a series similar to this by Goosebumps called "Reader Beware, You Choose the Scare." My kids like those too because they're a little on the creepy side.

Hoppy Reading!!
Mrs. Walker

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Big Nate: In A Class By Himself by Lincoln Peirce

I found this book at the Book Fair that my school had a few weeks ago. I had not noticed it when I first went in with my class, and I don't think any of my students noticed it either. The fair ended on Tuesday, and on Monday I received a $10 gift certificate. I went down on Tuesday and saw Big Nate: In A Class By Himself and immediately picked it up. It looked exactly like something my fourth graders would LOVE!!

Big Nate is about a middle schooler named Nate and he is always getting detentions. His teacher is named Mrs. Godfrey and is AWFUL! Nate has a best friend named Francis and another good friend named Teddy. Together the three of them take each day as they come, and fill the days with laughter. My girls and boys both enjoyed this as a read aloud.

You can read portions of this book here:

Anyway, I hope you find this review helpful! I think 4th-7th graders would enjoy this book the most and while it's primarily for boys, girls can and will enjoy the humor as much as boys will!!

Hoppy Reading!
Mrs. Walker

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Sweet Farts by Raymond Bean

I decided to read the book Sweet Farts to my class a few months ago and they LOVED it! I have to admit that there were quite a few parts where I couldn't help but laugh out loud at how funny it was! I do teach fourth graders (who by nature are gassy) and I do admit that I have a juvenile sense of humor. Now when a student passes gas in my class, I usually remind them to say excuse me, but that's it. I think I've only laughed maybe three times in my ten years as a teacher, and all three warranted a laugh.
So when I introduced the book Sweet Farts to my class, they were instantly hooked, just from the title. The story was actually really good though and my kids thoroughly enjoyed it as a read aloud. It's definitely appropriate humor for grades 3-6 and fourth and fifth graders would be the targeted audience for this book.
I liked the book because the main character has the problem of figuring out something to research for his science fair. He decides to focus on gas and finding something that a person can eat to make the smell of their gas less gross. He has to test his theory and use various things from the scientific method to test his hypothesis, but it's quite humorous as he goes through the process. He ends up discovering that he's not the first in history to ever try to find something to make gas more pleasant. His thoughts are if gas didn't smell so bad, it wouldn't be a big deal to pass gas in public. This all comes from a boy in his class that farts and then blames him. The whole class thinks he farted and everyone blames him.
If you're a teacher who is "above" talking about gas, or thinks it's disgusting and rude and a dirty habit, this book is NOT for you. I tend to be more light-hearted with my kids and I don't mind laughing with them when it's appropriate. They thoroughly enjoyed this book and actually learned something about the scientific method at the same time.
Hoppy Reading!
Mrs. Walker

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Dork Diaries: Tales of a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell

So my school just had our 15th Annual Scholastic Book Fair and it was a HUGE success! I love the book fair because I love books and I love Scholastic books in particular, so it's the best of two things! I love being able to touch the books and read the back and really browse them as if I were at a book store. I love the Scholastic Book Orders but you can't touch the books.
Anyway, I make a HUGE deal about the book fair with my students. They know I'm crazy about books and I love to go to the preview with them and really check out the books. The kids get to create "wish lists" to take home and share with their parents and then hopefully come back to school with money to buy some of the books on their list. My school also has a big family night centered around the book fair (with face painting, various games and activity rooms, and teachers reading aloud) and it brings in a lot of families and books get purchased!
While the kids are making their wish lists, I make one as a teacher. This year I received quite a lot of books that I had selected for my wish list. When the last day of the fair arrives, I usually go down and buy some of the books that weren't purchased for me. This year I bought numerous books, but one stood out for me and I began reading it for read aloud this week. It's called Dork Diaries and when I first saw it and looked through it, the first thing that I thought of was Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
The book is like a Diary of a Wimpy Kid told through a middle school girl instead of a middle school boy. I wasn't sure if my boys would like it, but I was wrong! It's very funny, has awesome illustrations, and totally engages both boys and girls!
I highly recommend this book to kids in 4th-8th grade, though I think 4th-6th is the group that will appreciate the humor most.
The basic plot revolves around a girl named Nikki and her struggles to fit in. She is a new studnet without any friends and she ends up making friends and deals with a mean girl named Mackenzie.
There's a second book coming out in June called The Dork Diaries: Tales From a Not-So-Popular Party Girl. You can bet that I'll be buying that one!! Rachel Renee Russell is currently working on book three and has plans for a fourth book in the series!! Get on board now and enjoy the whole series as it unfolds!!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

This is the second book in The Hunger Games trillogy. I had hoped that it would start up exactly where The Hunger Games had left off, but it didn't, well not exactly. I started reading this thinking that I knew what was going to happen (sort of) because I had read The Hunger Games. However, I was wrong! This book takes the reader on another unexpected journey, just as The Hunger Games did. I wasn't expecting the plot to twist and turn and keep me reading more!

I still hold firm that this book is NOT for elementary readers. Not even mature readers in 5th grade. I think this should remain a hidden jewel reserved for middle schoolers, teens, and adults. I've recommended it to several teachers that I work with and they are devouring it as quickly as I did! I am now waiting in anticipation for the last book Mockingjay to come out in August!!