Review: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

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WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON is a story about a young Chinese girl who embarks on an adventure–a hero’s journey–intent on making her family rich. After spending her days slaving away in the fields with her parents, eating carefully portioned bowls of rice each night, she believes that her quest to find the Old Man of the Moon will solve all her family’s problems. There’s only one problem with her plan. The Old Man of the Moon is a character from her father’s bedtime stories. Still, perhaps Minli’s adventure is not as crazy as it seems, especially when she meets a dragon who is determined to help her…

Although I had heard fabulous things about this book and read raving reviews, I really did not expect to enjoy as much as I did, but WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON exceeded my expectations in every way. First, I was thrilled to discover a quest-based story where the girl is the hero. While Minli doesn’t slay any dragons or fight major battles, she does overcome obstacles of major importance. Although her head is filled with fairy-tales, she proves herself to be clever and compassionate as she meets each fairy-tale character. In the end, the darkness that she faces is much greater than any monster from your run-of-the-mill adventure book. In the end, she must choose between her own happiness and the happiness of others. One of the things I love about this book is the parallel arcs between Minli and her mother. In the beginning both believe that money will solve their problems, and by the end they must both face that it won’t.

What don’t I like about this book? Nothing. There’s nothing that I can criticize. I won’t got so far to say it’s my favorite book ever. As a lover of adventure fiction, I do prefer the humor and heroism behind books like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson. But I also think there’s something to be said for this softer type of adventure story, a journey that’s based on creativity and clemency rather than bravery and strength. 

I would recommend this book to 4th graders, high 3rd graders, or 5th graders who want something fund to read. This is a great message for young girls who love adventure fiction, the idea that there are ways to be heroic outside of slaying the dragon. In this story, you wouldn’t Minli want to slay the dragon anyway. He isn’t her enemy; he’s her friend. 

Results

Congratulations to the winner of the Book Wars Bracket: The Tiger Rising.  For their enthusiasm and creativity in getting their classroom book selected, each student from Mrs. Farmer’s class chose one FREE book from the book fair (for $10 or less).  I loved to see their excitement, not just over winning the bracket but over being able to choose a free book!

Still not sure what The Tiger Rising is about?  Here a link to the Goodreads page.  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37187.The_Tiger_Rising?from_search=true

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Book Wars Bracket: Week 4

The final round of the Book Wars Bracket is here!  Tomorrow we will be voting on just one set, The Tiger Rising vs. Because of Winn-Dixie.  This is going to be a difficult choice, particularly because these two books are written by the same award-winning author!

It’s been fun to see students get excited about these books, whether they make it to the next round or not.  This month there has been a lot of discussion, in and out of the classroom, about our sixteen books, and isn’t that what this competition was really all about?  First and foremost, we wanted to get the students Sylvester excited about reading!  Our selection of sixteen books represents the kind of books that our kids love to read most.  No matter how far your book made it in the bracket, I hope you at least found out about one new book to read!

Book Wars Bracket: Week 3

Things are getting tense as we narrow down our choices for the winning book.  Here are our last two matches before the big showdown…

Because of Winn-Dixie vs. Hatchet

The Tiger Rising v. Divergent

I’ve been asked a lot today about which books I want to win, and I have to say I’m rooting for both Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo.  Why?  First, she’s an amazing author, which is not just my opinion but something that is backed up by the fact that almost every novel she has written has won an award.  Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie, and Flora and Ulysses are Newberry Awards, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is a Boston Globe Horn Book Award, and The Tiger Rising is a National Book Award Finalist.  And to top it all off, Kate DiCamillo is this year’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature!

What book do you think  should win, and why?  Be sure to back up your choice with a good reason!

Book Wars Bracket: Week 2

The results are in!  The Reading Committee is very excited to move forward with our “matches.”  More exciting, however, is what happens before the voting.  Last week I heard a lot of talk at lunch about who was going to vote for what book, especially by 4th graders.  One student even gave me a little speech about why I should vote for his class book.  I hope the enthusiasm maintains as we head to our final rounds!

This week’s matches are…

The Last Thirteen vs. Because of Winn-Dixie

Hatchet vs. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

The BFG vs. The Tiger Rising

Clementine vs. Divergent

Book Wars Bracket: Week 1

For reading month, the Reading Committee is organizing a reading bracket–this is very similar to March Madness for football, but with books instead of teams.  I am not not any kind of football fan.  All I can tell you about football is that MSU is the best because we are a family of Spartans.  I know the Spartan fight song by heart, but beyond that I am lost.  For this reason, another Reading Committee member had to explain March Madness to be at least three times before I even started to understand.  I am sure not one else is as behind the ball (pun intended) as I am, but for the sake of those who are, here’s how March Madness works.

We start off with sixteen teams, and pair them off in groups of two.  Each team will play another team, and whoever wins that game gets to go on to the next level.  This process is repeated until we are down to our winner.  The class that wins will get to choose one book each from the Book Fair that is $10 or less.

In the place of football teams, the Reading Committee had each classroom teacher choose a book to represent their class.  On Tuesday, we held a pump-up assembly where we had a student from each class read a summary for their class book.  We then chose the books that would “play” each other and tape them up on the wall in the gym for everyone to see.  On Friday, the school will get to vote on each match to decide which books move on to the next level.

Each link will bring you to the book’s Goodreads page.  The books facing off are…

The Last 13 vs. The Series of Unfortunate Events

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane v. Because of Winn-Dixie

The Chocolate Touch vs. Hatchet

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe vs. Skippyjon Jones

The City of Ember vs. The BFG

Tiger Rising vs. Wonder

The Legend of Sleeping Bear vs. Clementine

Divergent vs. Sign of the Beaver

What a great list!  These are some really touch matches.  How do you choose between the City of Ember and The BFG, or Tiger Rising and Wonder?  I even see some of my favorites on this list: The Legend of Sleeping Bear and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  I’m VERY excited about the Series of Unfortunate Events!  Who will you vote for?

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Reach For The Stars

Over the past few weeks the reading committee has been busy with our first reading fundraiser, a program sponsored by Usborne called “Reach for the Stars.”  Students were introduced to the program during an assembly where they received reading packets.  The goal set out before them was simple: to read 300 minutes in two weeks and ask their friends and neighbors for pledges to support their reading.  It was a lot like any other fundraiser, except instead of selling, say, cookies, the kids sold reading.

All of the money raised went back to the school.  Students used half of the money they collected to buy books for themselves, and then handed over the other half so their teachers could buy classroom books.  They could purchase books out of the Usborne catalog.

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I have to go on a tangent to say how much I love Usborne books, especially their non-fiction books.  I love how their encyclopedias are packed with information and vivid pictures that make them really fun to look at.  I can also appreciate their mythology collection, since part of the Common Core State Standards for elementary includes reading mythology (and yet outside of Usborne and Rick Riordan, appropriate mythology books can be so hard to find).  I have a collection of Usborne books on my library tables, and even my most restless students love to sit and page through them during check out time.

To garner excitement, our representative provided all classrooms and the library with sample books, so I decided to try out a new activity.  I put piles of 4 or 5 sample books on each table.  Instead of having storytime on the rug, I had the students sit down at the tables.  I told them to choose one book from the pile, and I timed them while they read in silence for 2 minutes.  When the timer went off, they wrote down their respective titles on a piece of paper with a plus or minus sign, depending on whether or not they wanted to read more.  Then they switch books and we started the process over.  It turned out to be a great way to “try out” different books and practice good book-looking techniques.  You can actually read quite a bit in a couple minutes–enough, it turns out, to understand what the story is going to be about.

FInally, I want to thank Friends for Berrien Springs, who donated $300 to our fundraiser!  We were able to divide the money up between 16 teachers, giving them nearly $19 to spend on their classroom libraries.  We’re all very grateful that we have such a fantastic group in our community that wants to support our students’ reading habits.

How to Raise a Reader: 5 Tips for Parents

This is a great article for parents who want to “raise readers.”

Delightful Children's Books

When my son Jack was in preschool, he read Charlotte’s Web aloud fluently to his classmates. When he was in kindergarten, he began disappearing into his room for a few hours every afternoon to read. My son is known for being a reader — for having his nose in a book. He is a kid who devours books.

Friends see my son, and they ask me from time to time how I did it. How did I raise a reader?

How to Raise a Reader: 5 Tips for Parents | Delightful Children's Books

My friends have expressed a variety of concerns about their kids’ reading habits. “My kid is not interested in reading. He only wants to play Minecraft.” “My kid only reads X, when I know she is capable of reading Y.” “My kid is lazy. He only wants me to read books aloud to him.”

I am hesitant to give my friends advice largely because I think my son sets the…

View original post 1,357 more words

The Missing Series

I can’t say how many times I’ve heard my students ask for a Margaret Peterson Haddix book, and how many time I’ve shelved or walked past Haddix’s Missing Series, blissfully unaware what was really in her books.  It wasn’t until I was trying to find one of my fifth graders a new book to read that The Missing Series really came to my attention.

I began by asking her my usual question: what was the last book you read that you really liked?  (This is interchangeable with: what is your favorite book?)  She pointed me to the first book of the Missing Series, Found.  I had always assumed that these books were suspense novels, maybe with a bit of horror thrown in, due to the artwork on the cover.  I asked the student what Found was about, hoping she would tell me about the plot and the characters, and I could connect it with a similar book.  Instead, she told me it was about time travel.

What now?  I stared at her, flabbergasted, unable to believe that a series of time travel books had been sitting under my nose for the past two years.  Furthermore, I had been struggling for the past couple of weeks to come up with a list of science books to suggest to students.  Science fiction–my favorite genre, by the way–was far and few between for upper elementary fiction.  How could I not have known about the Missing Series?

On principle now, I took it upon myself to read the series.  Here are my thoughts.

The premise of the series is as follows: a couple of criminal time travelers steal 36 famous kids from history, who–as far as anyone knows–seemed to have gone missing anyway.  But their work was sloppy, and it turns out that they stole each child too soon and messed up the time stream.  Another time traveler, JB, shows up to try to fix time.  At first he simply plans to send each child back to history to meet their demise, but the main character Jonah (also a missing kid from history) convinces JB to let them fix history AND return to their lives in the 21st century.  Throughout the series, Jonah and his surrogate sister (not a missing child) Katherine do just that: go back in time to set history right.

One of the reasons this series is great is the integration done with history.  As Jonah and Katherine live out the historical events in each novel, young readers will find themselves learning about history, perhaps unwittingly.  But there is something deeper here as well.  The children were stolen from history before they could meet their tragic deaths, so that hangs very heavy in each book.

And while Jonah and Katherine manage to rescue each child from the claws of death, they cannot save history itself.  In the second book, Jonah and Katherine find themselves in the middle of a battle between the Richard III and the Tudors.  Many soldiers die.  In the third book, they arrive at Roanoke Island after either a massacre or a plague.  In the fourth book, they face the ruthless captain Henry Hudson at the end of long and perilous journey.  Many on the crew have died or are dying from the bitter cold.  In the fifth book they face a scarlet fever epidemic, and in the sixth book they arrive just before the Romanov family is about to be executed.

This is not a glorified or fictional account of death.  Indeed, the horror that accompanies these thrilling adventures lies in the fact that it was real, that it has happened already.  Haddix simply shines a light on these accounts from a child’s eye.  Often in history we focus so much on facts on numbers and fail to see the real horror of our own past.

But we also see how kids can grow and mature after exposure to such things.  This is mixed in with the classes search for identity.  As each child comes into contact with their own history, they find strength to do what is right and to understand the world around them.  I’m most excited for the next book, because it is rumored that we will finally get to see who Jonah was in history and I can’t wait to see how it will change him.

There’s so much more I want to say about this series, but I will leave it here.  Although history, identity, and death are all very serious themes in children’s literature, it should not be said that these books are dark or serious all the time.  Told by a thirteen-year-old traveling through time with his sister, there is plenty to laugh at and enjoy.  These books are written at a DRA level 50, so I would not suggest them for anyone under that level.  But for an advanced 4th grade reader or a 5th grader, it will be a fun read that is meant to challenge.

The Book Fair is Coming!

We’re nearing the end of October, and that can only mean one thing…it’s about time for the fall book fair.  Junior Crew members–two or three student helpers from each classroom–have already been chosen and are hard at work preparing booktalk videos. The book fair will take place during conferences from November 6-7.  Students will also have the chance to buy books during their regularly scheduled library time.  Here are some things to look out for this year:

Reading Ticket Raffle – Leading up to the book fair, teachers will give out reading tickets to students they see displaying exemplary reading habits and strategies.  Students can turn their tickets into the raffle box in the library, and I will give away prizes the week of the book fair.  Prizes may include book and boomarks.

All For Books – As is tradition, we are collecting spare change for the All For Books collection drive.  There is a collection box in the library, as well as collection jars in each classroom.  The money raised will be used to buy books for classroom libraries.

Classroom Wish List – Parents and students also have the opportunity to support classroom libraries by purchasing books off a Teacher Wishlist.  Teachers will be able to fill out their wishlists during the Teacher Sneak Peak on November 1st.

Online Fair – Not able to get down to the fair during conferences?  Or maybe you just want to buy more books?  Visit our online fair any time from October 26 to November 15.

http://bookfairs.scholastic.com/homepage/sylvester

Junior Crew will be helping out during the fair, so if you see a student with a nametag, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

We hope to see you there!

 

BOOK FAIR SCHEDULE

Friday, November 1 – during specials

Monday, November 4 – during specials

Tuesday, November 5 – during specials

Wednesday, November 6 – during specials, conferences: 1:00-8:00

Thursday, November 7 – during specials, conferences: 1:00-8:00

*Please note: the book fair will be closed for lunch and dinner breaks.