Friday, September 3, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Okay, I so I pre-ordered Mockingjay from Scholastic back in April. I could not wait to read it! Not only should I have pre-ordered it from Amazon instead, but I don't know if it was really worth pre-ordering!

Don't get me wrong... I absolutely LOVED The Hunger Games. I read that book and was absolutely amazed at the writing and how vivid it was. I felt like I was there with Katniss and experienced so much emotion as she entered the games. I think I read the book in record speed and could not wait to get my hands on Catching Fire.

When I started reading Catching Fire, maybe a few days had passed after finishing The Hunger Games. I was a little disappointed at how The Hunger Games ended with such an incredible ending that made you HAVE to read more, and then Catching Fire picked up and basically ignored the WOW ending of The Hunger Games.

I eventually found myself even more perplexed by Catching Fire and I was hooked yet again! I had started to love Catching Fire even more than The Hunger Games and when it ended I literally said, "OMG!!!" and couldn't wait for Mockingjay to come out in August.

So the decision to pre-order was a no-brainer. I got a nifty little Mockingjay pin (like the one Katniss wears in the book) and I was pleased that I could use my bonus points to pre-order it, AND it would be sent to my house instead of to my school. All seemed like a good deal until the 24th came and I still didn't have my book. Friends that pre-ordered through Amazon had theirs and were already reading the book before I had mine. I was very disappointed with Scholastic.

Never-the-less, my book finally arrived and I was able to dive right in. It was tough trying to read while having Gus (three months old), but I managed to give up some of my smut tv and DVR for some reading time.

My disappointment comes from being so anxious to read Mockingjay and find out what happened to all my favorite characters, only to have it start like Catching Fire. I don't, for the life of me, know why Suzanne Collins didn't pick up where Catching Fire left off. Once again, we fast-forwarded and then had to work backward with some retelling of what happened, instead of leading us through the action from the point that Catching Fire ended.

So that's my first issue with the book. My second BIG issue is that it was so violent. I'm okay with the mature content of the first two books, but this book was over the top with violence, gore, and unnecessary grossness. I was unhappy about that because I know there are kids in fifth and sixth grade that will be reading this, and unfortunately, if I had to give it a rating, I'd say PG-13.

The third issue I have is that I honestly didn't like the plot of this book. It was up and down and I just didn't like some of the things that happened-- it had already been done in the first or second book and I wanted to see something new, but instead it was more of the same, without even a twist. I also HATED how Peeta's character was changed through this last book.

Everyone used the "Team Gale or Team Peeta" slogan through the first and second books and it worked. In this book... it was just a sham. I have been Team Peeta all along, but I felt robbed of the fun that I experienced in the first two books. The relationships that Suzanne Collins worked so hard to establish in the first two books were basically ignored in this book. I felt like some really good things could have happened but didn't, and then there's the ending.

The ending of this book was horrible. Just absolutely 100% horrible. It just didn't have any zing left to it and it honestly felt like Suzanne Collins got sick of writing and just ended it. It reminded me of how my fourth graders would write these awesome beginnings, pretty interesting middles and then their stories would just immediately end. Except, Suzanne Collins writes a prologue that I think she wrote to try to please readers, but it fell SOOOO short.

I'd give this book three out of five frogs. It lacked a lot and didn't live up to the hype. It's sad that the first two books led readers on a wonderful adventure and made you hope for something amazing to happen and then you were just dropped off in the middle of no where in the third book. Very disappointing.

This book is not for anyone under 13 in my opinion. Parents, you better read it first if you're going to let your child read it. I know I said this about the first book... but I think the first book had some things that parents could talk to their kids about and it'd make for some great parent-child dialogue about war, and injustice. This one... just doesn't do that. It's a lot of extra violence thrown in for no reason.

Hoppy reading!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Butt Book by Artie Bennett it's been a LONG time since I blogged about a book!! What have my fans been doing since April?? I'm sure they've been waiting with anticipation for my next review! LOL

Before I go much further, let me just say how much I love reading children's books and then writing a blog about them! My goal is to get back on top of things so that I can do this more regularly!

Artie Bennett himself contacted me about reading and reviewing his book, The Butt Book. I was thrilled! A real-life author wanted ME to read and review HIS book? Are you kidding me?? I was so delighted to get the book into my hands and read it. He even inscribed it to me! How lucky am I??  So... I promised him that I'd read it and write a review, and I was hoping that I'd like it, because how weird would that have been?? Anyway, here are my thoughts on this book!

The Butt Book is absolutlely AWESOME!! It's a rhyming book and is so darn cute! I think every teacher should have this in their classroom library and I PROMISE you that kids would be signing a waiting list to read it! It's not gross or disgusting, it's very clever and tells about the importance of butts. I laughed thoughout the book and even read it aloud to my husband. He laughed aloud as well!

I think anyone with a sense of humor will LOVE this book. It's perfect for third-fifth graders and would make an awesome birthday or holiday gift. Definitely check it out!!

Hoppy reading!!
Mrs. Walker

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!!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

So I had never heard of this book before this past weekend. While in New York for the Scholastic Teacher Advisors weekend, I met two middle school teachers who told me about this book. They both raved about it and when we all had dinner together, one of the Scholastic book club editors was telling me about the plot, I decided to give it a shot. I cannot believe I almost didn't read this book.
I will not give away too much, but I will say it's one of the most powerful stories that I've ever read. I am so attached and connected to the main character, and I honestly feel for her. I am not finished reading the book, but I wanted to blog about it because I think it's amazing. It's hands down, one of the best books that I've ever read, and I'm only on page 200.
There's a second book called Catching Fire, and then the last book Mocking Jay isn't released yet (August). I cannot wait to see what will happen in the books to come.
This isn't a book that I would recommend for children in elementary school. The concepts are too mature, but I think some middle schoolers would appreciate the book and it would be a great read aloud for older children.
I give this two thumbs up!!
Hoppy Reading!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maniac MaGee by Jerry Spinelli

Maniac MaGee is a wonderful book about a young man who is unfortunate enough to not have a home or family of his own. He becomes a legend of his own right, and makes quite a name for himself. This book is in three different parts, and each one builds up to the final adventure of his life.
I think this book would be appropriate for children in grades 4-6 and has some complex themes. There are things that happen to Maniac that the reader will read about and hurt for Jeffrey "Maniac" MaGee.
The book has a great ending and is told with ease. It doesn't take a lot of effort to read, and the reader will want to read more. My fourth graders really enjoyed this book and couldn't wait to hear the next chapter!
Hoppy reading!
Mrs. Walker

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

Age Level: 4-8
Interesting Facts: This book is an interactive book! You read the novel and also watch videos that are found on the internet, that go with the plot.

Skeleton Creek is an incredible book!! I found that several of my fourth graders were totally scared after the first video, so they opted not to be in the room while I read it aloud. It's not for all kids, but the ones that can handle it-- absolutely LOVE it!

I think I like it so much because it's the type of media that this generation of kids will totally eat up. They are the tech-savvy generation and this book uses the website with the plot and it's a perfect marriage. It's amazing that this hasn't been done before this point! I definitly think this is the new trend in books and I can't wait to read more!

The basic plot is that a boy named Ryan and his best friend Sarah decide to poke around the "old dredge" and end up getting more than they bargained for. The book is written as Ryan's journal and has various entries and they're all dated. Ryan's parents have forbidden him from seeing or communicating with Sarah and so they get around this (as all teens do) by emails and videos. Sarah uses her webcam to send messages to Ryan, which are viewed on her website that goes with the book.

They end up biting off more than they can chew and the book ends with a shocking ending that leaves the reader with tons of questions and the excitement to read the second book Ghost in the Machine.

I highly recommend this book and think that it's one of the all-time most favorite books of my students. I think fifth and sixth graders would love it the most!

Hoppy Reading!
Mrs. Walker


As many of you know, I've been selected to be one of Scholastic's Teacher Advisors for the 2010-2011 school year! I'm so honored and thrilled to be apart of such a wonderful company and can't wait for my trip to New York City next Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!

Two women came to my classroom on Thursday to spend the day with me and my students and it was great. One is the editor of the Arrow Book Club and the other is the editor of the speciality catalogs (social studies, math and science, united we read, etc.). They also brought lunch for my entire staff at school and spent some time talking to the different people that I have the pleasure of working with. It was amazing!

While in my classroom talking, they suggested that I blog about my favorite books... and I thought about it. I mean, I have this blog, but why not use it to talk about one of my most favorite things... books?? So that's what I'm going to do (or at least attempt to do this). I'm going to pick a book and write a little about it and tell why I love it so much. I'm going to start with a new entry (after this)... so leave me some love about what you think!!

Mrs. Walker