11 November 2012

The Adventure of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt

Title: The Adventures of Nanny Piggins
Author: R.A. Spratt
Copyright: 2010

I don't know how it has gotten to be 2012 and I have never written a review of Nanny Piggins by R.A. Spratt.  I admit to being a sucker for nanny stories.  I loved Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee was simply superb, and don't even get me started on Amelia Bedilia (perhaps she wasn't quite a nanny but close and I love it anyway!)

While some bloggers have complained that Nanny Piggins doesn't teach children the best morale's this is precisly why her books will appeal to older children.  Nanny Piggins does everything that children wish they could do but are never allowed.  She feeds them chocolate for dinner, takes them to the amusement park, cons the school into giving her 500 dollars, plus she used to be in the circus!  This is quite simply a recipe for awesome storytelling!

If you know a child who likes to laugh give Nanny Piggins a try...  I mean just look at the illustrations what could be funnier?   Plus Nanny Piggins is Australian and in Australia there are already six stories!  The Australian versions were illustrated by R.A. Spratt, the American versions were done by Dan Santat. 

05 November 2012

Wizards Hall by Jane Yolen

Warning this is not a review but Book Club ideas!

When I started to plan my Book Club for Wizards Hall I ran into a real problem, there was no information online about running a book club for Jane Yolens story!!!  I was shocked and appalled.  So in return I am putting up what I made so that hopefully someone else will have an easier time. 

I used this book with our 3rd and 4th grade book club.  It turned out to be way to hard for them, so if you are doing it I suggest 5th or 6th grade or a group of really strong readers!

Wizards Hall by Jane Yolen
Book Club Program November 7, 2012:
Summary from Scholastic.com:
Poor Henry. It's not enough that his mother has sent him away from home to learn magic. It's not enough that everyone at his new school calls him Thornmallow because he's "prickly on the outside, squishy within".
It' s not enough that the only talent he shows at Wizard's Hall is an ability to make messes of even the simplest spells. Now, when Wizard's Hall is threatened by a cruel sorcerer' s fearsome beast, it is up to Henry — er, Thornmallow — to figure out how to save not only his new friends but also the entire school for wizards. 
The Master, Nettle, rejected by the other wizards, has conjured a powerful Quilted Beast from the black side of their souls.  He is using the Beast to threaten the entire school with it on the next full moon (which happens to be in only a day)!  Thornmallow isn’t sure what he can do.  He’s tone deaf and can’t chant on the dominant.  He’s not very good at Elementry Spelling, Names, or Curses.  However, Thornmallow does know how to try. 
It is easy to sympathize with Henry, he has doubts about his abilities and is confused in the new magical setting. Yolen does not lay out the school environment in detail but deftly sketches delightful elements, like the portrait that shows Henry and his mother in motion or the ceiling star map that teaches as it puts him to sleep. She gives the reader Henry's perspective on the Hall and its inhabitants. The peril that they all face is real and frightening and its solution is just right.

Wizard's Hall is a charming tale. Though this story was written earlier than Harry Potter's adventures, they have much in common from the school itself to the names Harry/Henry and the winking portraits. The other story that comes to mind in reading this one is The Little Engine That Could. Like the engine, Thornmallow persists through self-doubt and danger and reaches his goal ... because "It only matters that you try."

Activity 1: The Name Game

There is more to a name then just letters strung together.  Page 93.

Thornmallow, Greybane, Beechvale, Briar Rose, Oakbend, Coachwillow, Stickybun, Broadleaf, Daffy-Down-Dilly, Tansy, Willoweed, Gorse, Hickory, Feverfew, Sax, Frafe, Pepperwort, Bucks Horne, Milkweed, Hyssop, Morning Glory, Nettle. 

Henry gets renamed Thornmallow when he enters Wizards Hall because he is prickly on the outside and squishy on the inside.  If you were to become a wizard what would you want your name to be?  Remember your name reflects both your personality as well as the skills and positive attributes that you will bring to the hall. 

Prep Work:
1.      Show them a marshmallow with toothpicks poking into it to demonstrate Thornmallow’s name.
a.       How would changing his name change his personality?  In the book no one can seem to remember his name he is called: Thornapple, Thornmarrow, Thornwillow, Thornmaple, Thornmellow, Thornswallow, Thornpower
b.      What are some cool attributes that a wizard might want to have?
2.      Print up possible words for the kids to look through and choose from if they need help. 
a.       Pull some plant and animal reference books for the kids to look at and a dictionary since most of the names in the book reflect aspects of nature. 
3.      Ask the kids to assign names to each other or their friends and family if that is easier. 
4.      Let’s look at some of the other Wizard Names in the book what do you think they might mean? 

Activity 2: Wizard Quilting

A quilt is a blanket made up of numerous pieces of fabric sewn together into shapes, patterns, and designs.  The warmth and durability of a quilt comes from the layering and stitching of fabrics.  The beast was made up of the people it ate quilted together.  What if you had to battle this monster as a quilted group, what individual powers would you want to combine? 

Page 82 and 83, background on Nettle and his beast.  “One of our original members was a wizard named Nettle from Overton-Across-the-Waters…”

Page 105 , the beast imagery as seen by Thornmallow.  “Something impossibly large stomped down the aisle…”

1.      Give each participant a blank square of paper. 
2.      Ask them to think about some attributes that would tie in with their wizard name and aid in battling the Quilted Beast.
3.      Provide colored pencils
4.      Ask the participants to draw their name and how they could fight on the quilt square.
5.      As a group they need to stitch their quilt together in a manner that would make it strongest, perhaps defensive skills on the outer edges or corners?
6.      Print some premade images that might help spark their imagination. 

Activity 3: The Enhancer
            Why could Thornmallow save the day when he had no magical powers?

“Thornpower asks if he has a talent for magic.” She smiled slowly and shook her head. “He does not. At least, he does not have a talent for enchantment.  His talent is far greater.  He has a talent for enhancement.  He can make any spell someone else works even greater simply by trying.” Pg. 131

Is there such a thing as enhancement in real life?  Can you think of anyone or anything who might be an enhancer

31 July 2012

Signed by Zelda

Title: Signed by Zelda
Author: Kate Feiffer
Copyright: 2012
ISBN: 978-1-4424-3331-1

A lot happens everyday in New York City.  In fact there is so much going on that this entire story takes place in just one apartment building!  Lucy, Nicky, Pigeon and Zelda all live in the same building on different floors.  Pigeon (who really is a bird) technically lives outside but he spends so much time on everyone's windowsills he is an honorary resident.

When Nicky's grandmother Zelda turns up missing he doesn't know what to do.  Even stranger, his father doesn't seem to care at all that Zelda is missing.  It takes a new girl from Savannah (Lucy) who has no friends and only one hobby (handwriting analysis) to crack the case. 

Read this book to see what really happened to Zelda, plus learn some interesting facts about decoding your friends handwriting to reveal their true intentions!  Plus Pigeon talks, what could be better than that.

24 July 2012

Summer at Forsaken Lake

Title: Summer at Forsaken Lake
Author: Michael D. Beil
Copyright: 2012
ISBN: 978-0-375-86742-2

I admit to knowing absolutely nothing about sailing.  In fact I never meant to pick up a book about sailing, it was a complete accident.  I saw that the library had a new book by Michael D. Beil author of "The Red Blazer Girls" and I decided that I had to read it. In reality the only thing that "Summer at Forsaken Lake" has in common with "The Red Blazer Girls" is that the main characters are both originally from New York City. 

When twelve year old Nicholas finds out that instead of spending the summer in New York City  that he is being sent to Ohio to stay with his dad's uncle he is devastated.  An entire summer with no TV, no computer, and no friends what could possibly be worse? 

Little did Nicholas know he would walk into a mystery that is over 30 years old and involves his father, a girl, a sailboat and some other local characters.  Nicholas also learns that there is more to life than the city and that there is a lot to learn about surviving in the country.  The story culminates with the surprise arrival of a very special person. 

10 July 2012

No Ordinary Day

Title: No Ordinary Day
Author: Deborah Ellis
Copyright: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-55498-134-2

Life in Jharia, India is dirty.  Everything is covered in coal dust.  Valli's clothes are never clean, her family doesn't like her, and she never picks up as much coal as the other kids.  Valli is lucky (or so she thinks) she has magical feet that feel no pain.  Life is perfect until she discovers that it isn't

"I'm family too."
Elmma didn't say anything for a moment.
The she said, "No, you're not."
"My mother was the sister of your mother," I said.  "That makes us family."
"Your mother was a sickly woman who died bringing you into the world," she said. "Your grandparents gave my parents money to take you off their hands.  The were neighbors.  Even after they got rid of you they had to move away."
"Your mother shamed her family," Elamma said.  "You have no father."

That was the moment Valli's life became anything but ordinary, the day that she ran away to Kolkata.  There Valli meets a doctor who changes her life by treating her leprosy and curing her magical feet. 

03 July 2012

Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School

Title: Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School: We the Children
Author: Andrew Clements
Copyright: 2010
ISBN: 978-1-4169-3907-8

Have you ever wished that your school would be torn down and replaced by an amusement park?  If so you probably aren't alone.  In fact I am sure that thousands of kids would be absolutely giddy at the prospect.  

Benjamin Pratt is not one of them.  In fact he is devastated that his school is being torn down.  It doesn't help that the school janitor made him promise to fight to stop the construction on his dying breath. 

Can Ben fight Lyman the evil janitor, the school board, the town, and just about everyone else who stands in his way.  Can Ben save the school alone or will he need to enlist the help of a few other special kids?

Find out more by coming to our Novel Read Aloud program on Monday afternoons!

26 June 2012


Title: Bluefish
Author: Pat Schmatz
Copyright: 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7636-5334-7

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.  Travis has always been the Bluefish, ever since first grade when all the students were assigned leveled reading groups.  While all the kids around him moved forward Travis remained the stupid Blue Fish. 

When Calvin, the only person who ever helped Velveeta succeed, dies of a heart attack she is left alone with a drunk mother just trying to get by.  It's the first day of school and her mom forgot to buy her any school supplies. In fact her mother forgets everything except to buy more alcohol, she always remembers that. 

Then Velveeta meets Travis all because of a flying shoe, and their lives will never be the same.  Travis meets a teacher who doesn't make him feel stupid because he can't read, and Velveeta makes a friend who cares about her and doesn't say anything about her home situation.  Travis even shares half his dessert with her everyday what could be a better friend then that. 

Both Travis and Velveeta have a lot of pain and regret to work through, but maybe, just maybe together they'll make it alright.