We had a great time and can't wait until our next morning book club. Next Up: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.
Every year, around this time, I start having dreams about setting up my classroom. In the classroom of my dreams, I’m moving around small circular tables, unfurling a brand new rug for the… Continue readingAdd a Comment
As the school year comes to a close, many of the schools I work with are launching into a week or so of in-service, summer institutes, and other professional development. It’s “curriculum season”… Continue readingAdd a Comment
It’s been several months since I’ve written for Two Writing Teachers. In December my son was born, and I was on maternity leave until a few weeks ago. Then, in March I pushed aside all excuses… Continue readingAdd a Comment
It's always a joy to learn with Majorie Martinelli and Kristi Mraz. In this interview, they share some excellent advice on using charts to support independence in the classroom.Add a Comment
The first six weeks of school is about providing structure for students. Teachers who are too lenient never seem to gain control of their class while teachers who are too rigid risk the… Read MoreAdd a Comment
We all had a favorite teacher, yes? They did really neat, cool things that we remember well after our school days. My most “cool” teacher was when I was in third grade. He taught us to knit, make bread, sprechen Deutsch (as well as sing Bach Fugues in German!), tumble, and make lye soap. And that’s also the first time I did a comic strip–and fell in love with cartooning. His name wasn’t Mr. McCool, but it may as well have been.
Having taught classroom myself for a number of years, I know how hard the job is. So godspeed to all you teachers out there, prepping for the new year!Add a Comment
5 Stars Back Cover: When Stubby Pencil Noodlehead is forced to stand in front of his class to explain why he is late for school every day, the resulting tale is more than the teacher bargained for. Stubby’s story of pirates, pygmies, mastodons, and more, turns classroom order to chaos, and has yhe teacher begging [...]Add a Comment
We’ve created lots of new content this February to help you extend the experience of reading our books long after the last page has been turned. Here are some of our newest resources to go with our titles:
Free Classroom Guides for:
-First Come the Zebra
-John Lewis in the Lead
-Honda: The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars
-George Crum and the Saratoga Chip
-The Last Black King of the Kentucky Derby
-Poems to Dream Together/ Poemas para soñar juntos
Discussion Questions for Irena’s Jars of Secrets
And remember, sign up for our e-news to get monthly updates of our latest resources, sneak peeks at new books, and more straight to your inbox.
Here it is! The book of the day challenge, to recommend a new book or related media every day in 2012. January is complete, and attached for handy download–just click on the above link. February is on the way! “Friend” Litland Reviews on Facebook to see daily recommendations as they post. http://facebook.com/LitlandreviewsAdd a Comment
Manno, Mike (2010) End of the Line: A Parker Noble Mystery. Five Star Publishing of Gale, Cengage Learning. ISBN 978-1594148637. Litland recommends of interest to adults, acceptable for older teens.
Publisher description: When former banker R. J. Butler is found murdered on a city transit bus, police take little time making a connection with the embezzlement at his former bank. But is that the motive for his murder? State police detective Sergeant Jerome Stankowski and his persnickety “partner,” Parker Noble, are called to investigate and run into a host of possibilities including a trophy wife on drugs and an ex-wife desperately needing a church annulment R. J. was blocking..
The second installment of the Parker Noble series, End of the Line, is a fun yet engaging, quick-paced detective mystery. Parker Noble may be the genius who solves the crimes, but it is Detective “Stan” Stankowski’s antics both on and off the job that lighten the story. Truly a man’s man, Stankowski enjoys girl watching while being easily manipulated by his somewhat-girlfriend Buffy the reporter. He tries to juggle dating 3 girls at the same time, each end up having a role in solving the mystery. Meanwhile, the contrast of Parker’s rigidly-ordered life to Stan’s adds color, and both humor and clues surface throughout the story just often enough to keep the reader alert. My favorite dialogue pertains to Parker’s dog, Buckwheat Bob the basset hound, who listens to talk radio while Parker is at work:
(Stan) “I take it that the human voice is soothing for him?”…(Parker) ”Not really, he likes to listen to the political talk”…”You don’t think he understands all of that, do you?”…”Don’t know, Stanley. All I can tell you is that he’s turned into quite a Republican.” LOL!
A cozy mystery written for adults, it would probably have a PG rating if a movie: use of the bird finger; one suspect referred to as tramp, hussy, nude model; Buffy pressuring Stan into taking a vacation together. However, Stan remains chaste in his girl-chasing and the story is focused on the relationships between all the characters, which adds depth, interest and a few chuckles along the way. A fun story available in the Litland.com Bookstore.Add a Comment
Bradley, Alan. (2010) The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag. (The Flavia de Luce Series) Bantam, division of Random House. ISBN 978-0385343459. Litland recommends ages 14-100!
Publisher’s description: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head? (Bantam Books)
Flavia De Luce is back and in full force! Still precocious. Still brilliant. Still holding an unfortunate fascination with poisons…
As with the first book of the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, we begin with a seemingly urgent, if not sheer emergency, situation that once again turns out to be Flavia’s form of play. We also see the depth of her sister’s cruelty as they emotionally badger their little sister, and Flavia’s immediate plan for the most cruel of poisoned deaths as revenge. Readers will find themselves chuckling throughout the book!
And while the family does not present the best of role models (smile), our little heroine does demonstrate good character here and there as she progresses through this adventure. As explained in my first review on this series, the protagonist may be 11 but that doesn’t mean the book was written for 11-year olds :>) For readers who are parents, however (myself included), we shudder to wonder what might have happened if we had bought that chemistry kit for our own kids!
Alas, the story has much more to it than mere chemistry. The author’s writing style is incredibly rich and entertaining, with too many amusing moments to even give example of here. From page 1 the reader is engaged and intrigued, and our imagination is easily transported into the 1950’s Post WWII England village. In this edition of the series, we have more perspective of Flavia as filled in by what the neighbors know and think of her. Quite the manipulative character as she flits around Bishop’s Lacy on her mother’s old bike, Flavia may think she goes unnoticed but begins to learn not all are fooled…
The interesting treatment of perceptions around German prisoners of war from WWII add historical perspective, and Flavia’s critical view of villagers, such as the Vicar’s mean wife and their sad relationship, fill in character profiles with deep colors. Coupled with her attention to detail that helps her unveil the little white lies told by antagonists, not a word is wasted in this story.
I admit to being enviouAdd a Comment
Wallis, Michael. (2011) The Wild West: 365 days. New York, NY: Abrams Press. ISBN 978-0810996892 All ages.
Publisher’s description: The Wild West: 365 Days is a day-by-day adventure that tells the stories of pioneers and cowboys, gold rushes and saloon shoot-outs in America’s frontier. The lure of land rich in minerals, fertile for farming, and plentiful with buffalo bred an all-out obsession with heading westward. The Wild West: 365 Days takes the reader back to these booming frontier towns that became the stuff of American legend, breeding characters such as Butch Cassidy and Jesse James. Author Michael Wallis spins a colorful narrative, separating myth from fact, in 365 vignettes. The reader will learn the stories of Davy Crockett, Wild Bill Hickok, and Annie Oakley; travel to the O.K. Corral and Dodge City; ride with the Pony Express; and witness the invention of the Colt revolver. The images are drawn from Robert G. McCubbin’s extensive collection of Western memorabilia, encompassing rare books, photographs, ephemera, and artifacts, including Billy the Kid’s knife.
This is one of the neatest books I’ve seen in a long time. The entire family will love it. Keep it on the coffee table but don’t let it gather dust!
Every page is a look back into history with a well-known cowboy, pioneer, outlaw, native American or other adventurer tale complete with numerous authentic art and photo reproductions. The book is worth owning just for the original pictures. But there is more…an index of its contents for easy reference too! Not only is this fun for the family, it is excellent for the school or home classroom use too. A really fun way to study the 19th century too and also well received as a gift. I highly recommend this captivating collection! See for yourself at the Litland.com Bookstore.Add a Comment
Brown, Bea (2011) Wally the Cockeyed Cricket. Mustang, OK: Tate Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61777-106-4. Recommended age 8 and under.
Publisher’s description: When Wally the Cockeyed Cricket finds himself trapped in Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen, he sings a sad song and Mrs. Grumpydee’s locks Wally in a jar. When the jar is knocked over and shatters, Wally the Cockeyed Cricket sings a different tune.
Read it—see it—listen to it! The great thing about books from Tate Publishing is that you do not need to choose between print and audio formats because books have a code that permits you to download the audio version on MP3 too! The print version has beautifully captivating illustrations. Yet the young man (ok, he sounds young to this old reviewer!) reading the audio does an excellent job at it. A great enhancement to teach reading to little ones :>)
Of course, the most important reason to consider adding this book to your child’s bookshelf is because they will enjoy the story! As evidenced by its title, Wally looks a little different than most crickets. He doesn’t think anything of this difference and is happy as can be. Until, that is, he unfortunately wanders into Mrs. Grumpydee’s kitchen! Captured, bullied and made a public spectacle, Wally never loses courage or confidence. Helped with the aid of a complete stranger, he is rescued and makes a new friend. Virtues exhibited are courage, justice and friendship. A feel-good story where the good guys win! Great parent-child sharing, Pre-3rd grade class or homeschool, bedtime reading, gift giving, therapy use, and family book club! Grab your copy at the Litland.com Bookstore.Add a Comment
Warren, Jill. (2011) Abe’s Lucky Day. Outskirts Press Inc. ISBN 978-1-4327-7305-2. Age 8 and under.
Publisher’s description: Any day can be a lucky day. Abe is a homeless man who lives in the alley behind a bakery and winter is coming. What will happen on his lucky day that will change his life?
Introducing us to the varied faces of distress and homelessness, Abe’s Lucky Day reminds us that , while food, warm clothes and dry beds feel great, helping others feels even better. Illustrations permit the child to imagine themselves in the story, and so can feel the heartwarming rewards of selflessness…definitely good for your Litland.com family book club or a preschool classroom. Part luck and lots of kindness, Abe’s Lucky Day infuses a desire for kindness and generosity into its reader’s mind and heart, and is sure to strengthen bonds within the family reading it as well :>) Great for gift-giving, pick up your copy in our Litland.com Bookstore!Add a Comment
Nordhielm Wooldridge, Connie. (2011) Just Fine the Way They Are: From Dirt Roads to Rail Roads to Interstates. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek of Boyds Mill Press. ISBN 978-1-59078-710-6. (26 pgs) Author recommends grades 4-6; Litland adds excellent for younger advanced readers.
Publisher’s Description: Change. Who needs it? We do! Mr. John Slack, the keeper of a tavern beside a rutted dirt road in the early 1800s, thought things were just fine the way they were. So did Lucius Stockton who ran the National Road Stage Company in the mid 1800s. So too, did the owners of the railroads when the first model T appeared in 1908. Yet with each new innovation, Americans were able to move around the country more quickly, efficiently, and comfortably. Connie Woolbridge offers an informative, yet light-hearted look at how the dirt roads of the early 1800s evolved into the present-day U.S. highway system. Richard Walz’s gorgeous paintings capture both the broad sweep and the individual impact of change and progress.
What a great overview of American history focused on transportation! Told in a folky style, the narrator’s storytelling voice reminds us of sitting on the front porch and listening to elders of the family recount the same stories over and over again. And even though we already knew the story, we enjoyed hearing it once more. Only for 8-11 year olds, these stories will be new :>)
Just Fine the Way They Are has lots of potential uses:
* reluctant readers, particularly boys, will find an easy and entertaining style holding their attention.
* a discussion tool for talking about feelings or conflict, making it great for family book clubs or class discussions.
* illustrations are brilliantly eye-catching—I was sitting in a diner reading this, and the waitress walked over saying “What a cute book!”. As such, it would surely keep the students’ attention if read to the class, whether reading to a traditional classroom or homeschool kids around the dining table.
* While intended for 4th, 5th & 6th grades, it also would be great for accelerated students writing their first book report.
An added touch: it comes complete with a historic timeline, bibliography, and list of relevant websites. Plus the author (a former elementary school librarian) has lesson plans on her website too (see http://conniewooldridge.com/ )! This is one of those unique books that provide diversity on the bookshelf, catching the eye of the reader looking for something a bit different, and being enjoyed many times over :>) Pick up a copy at our Litland.com Bookstore!Add a Comment
Back on earth again, we switch gears to a story with a modern day setting that seems it could be straight out of today’s news…except the humanitarian aid workers aren’t quite what they seem to be. Parents should be advised that one of the themes to the plot is the abuse of very human-like female droids as sex slaves.
Editor’s comment: “He’d (the author) read a lot of stories about robots trying to act human, but humans acting as robots?”
This is a solid, fast-paced action drama set in Ghana nearly 50 years from now. The trauma and tragedy of a war-torn African nation, as well as risk to the protagonist, are realistically told almost as if we were watching an award-winning film. The beauty to reading stories instead of watching them in film is that the reader has the benefit of the character’s self-talk. We sense Paul’s, a/k/a TK-19’s, yearning to help the refugees with every cell in his body. Or at least the ones that are still human…
Don’t miss out. Pick up a copy of Infinite Space, Infinite God II at Amazon http://ow.ly/4F48e .
(J Sherer lives in Southern California and works as a marketing supervisor for a large credit union. When he’s not writing, he enjoys playing sports, catching up on his favorite stories, and working with others on business strategies and tactics. His blog, Constructing Stories (www.jsherer.com), is a place where writers of all levels can engage in meaningful dialogue about the writing and storytelling process. He also partners with Nathan Scheck to present a free online science fiction adventure experience called Time Slingers (www.timeslingers.com). J Sherer’s past publication credits include Infinite Space, Infinite God; Dragons, Knights, and Angels Magazine; and the West Wind.)Add a Comment
Once again, we’ve taken off to parts of the galaxy that even Spock and Captain Kirk never imagined! Basilica gives an interesting “take” on space ship architecture…
Editor’s comment (quoting author): (Rundle) “A hero is the architect of his own salvation; that is the very definition of a hero. If a hero can’t do that, he becomes a supporting character with no one to support, an empty suit.”
I agree with the editors: Basilica was a great story. Not a syllable wasted in description that created a fast paced adventure in a short amount of “space” (pages, not outer), the protagonist’s moral dilemma only exists because of his strong moral character. Loyalty to authority of admiralty, choosing to protect civilizations from evil even at the cost of their own lives, all of this heightens the dilemma. The characters know from the outset they must sacrifice themselves for the good of all civilizations; acting in a self-serving manner just isn’t a choice for them. As we are flooded with modern entertainment in all forms (film, book, cable, games) that simply offer “empty suits”, it is refreshing to have such a strong hero at the helm of this ship.
Nine stories, nine excellent reads! Don’t miss them in the anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God II http://ow.ly/4F48e .
(John “Fish” Rundle (“Basilica”): After graduating from college summa cum laude, John turned to writing fiction simply to relieve stress. It became a wonderful outlet for his imagination and he eagerly wrote first plays and then detective fiction then novels and finally short stories. A lifelong Christian, he enjoys writing religious fiction at every opportunity and is no stranger to writing for a Catholic audience. John lives a quiet life in the wilds of Arizona with Iris, his long-suffering wife of almost twenty years.)Add a Comment
Having stories centered either in outer space or on earth, we now have both. Frankie in space returning to earth…
Editor’s comment: “God’s calling or no, she should have honored her parents by telling them personally what was going on…”
Rather than a story, this is more of an amusing intermission. Carrying on from the story first presented in ISIG volume I, we are to imagine its main character, Frankie, finally returning home. Imagine, after a two year absence in outer space, what it would be like to call mom and try to explain it all to her…well, I’ll let you read for yourself in Infinite Space, Infinite God II http://ow.ly/4F48e .
(Karina Fabian writes a wide variety of fiction involving characters with faith. Her first anthology, Infinite Space, Infinite God I, won the EPPIE award for best sci-fi. Her humorous fantasy involving a dragon and nun detective team, Magic, Mensa and Mayhem, won the 2010 INDIE for best fantasy. She’s also written a small devotional with her father, Deacon Steve Lumbert, Why God Matters. Visit her website at http://www.fabianspace.com .)Add a Comment
I know that, for some of you librarians, it feels like summer (and summer reading) will never end. But I was visiting my family in California recently and my sister-in-law mentioned that my niece is starting school on August 10th! August 10th! That seems so early, doesn’t it? Here in NYC, the public schools don’t start until after Labor Day. What about your part of the country? When does school start?
With school starting just around the corner, here are some new books to consider adding to your library to refresh and update your collections:
KINDERGATORS: HANDS OFF, HARRY! by Rosemary Wells
This is an excellent picture book recommendation for kids with personal space issues.
And for those of you librarians with another couple weeks of summer reading, hang in there!Add a Comment
I was one of three new kids in my bunk at camp in 1989. The rest of the girls who were in my bunk had been together for a few years and were known for getting perfect tens on daily bunk inspections. That summer, I was the kid who made my bunk get nines, rather [...]Add a Comment
The island Republic has emerged from a ruined world. Its citizens are safe but not free. Until a man named Adam Forde rescues a girl from the sea. Fourteen-year-old Anax thinks she knows her history. She’d better. She’s sat facing three Examiners and her five-hour examination has just begun. The subject is close to her heart: Adam Forde, her long-dead hero. In a series of startling twists, Anax discovers new things about Adam and her people that question everything she holds sacred. But why is the Academy allowing her to open up the enigma at its heart? Bernard Beckett has written a strikingly original novel that weaves dazzling ideas into a truly moving story about a young girl on the brink of her future.
Irregardless of whether you are an evolutionist or creationist, if you like intellectual sci-fi you’ll love this book. How refreshing to read a story free from hidden agendas and attempts to indoctrinate its reader into a politically-correct mindset. And while set in a post-apocalyptic era, the world portrayed is one in which inhabitants have been freed from the very things that sets humans apart from all other creation, including man-made. Once engulfed in the story, the reader is drawn into an intellectual battle over this “difference” between man and man-made intelligence. The will to kill; the existence of evil. A new look at original sin. And a plot twist at the end that shifts the paradigm of the entire story.
Borrowing from the American movie rating scale, this story would be a PG. Just a few instances of profanity, it is a thought-provoking read intended for mature readers already established in their values and beliefs, and who would not make the error of interpreting the story to hold any religious metaphors. The “myth” of Adam and Art, original sin and the genesis of this new world is merely a structure familiar to readers, not a message. The reader is then free to fully imagine this new world without the constraints of their own real life while still within the constraints of their own value system.
Genesis is moderately short but very quick paced, and hard to put down once you’ve started! Thus it is not surprising to see the accolades and awards accumulated by Beckett’s book. The author, a New Zealand high school teacher instructing in Drama, English and Mathematics, completed a fellowship study on DNA mutations as well. This combination of strengths gives Genesis its intrigue as well as complexity. Yet it is never too theoretical as to exclude its reader. See our review against character education criteria at Litland.com’s teen book review section. And pick up your own copy in our bookstore!Add a Comment
print out your copies today! (scroll down to the pdf labeled "Activity Guide" to download)