29 November 2013

B.O.T.B. '14 - Twiddles and Trailers

One of my favorite times of the week is meeting with my Battle of the Books students. Right now, we're meeting twice a week, but students put in a lot of time outside of school. I think students would day that B.O.T.B. is a fun program, but that it's not easy. It requires a lot of reading, a good memory, a willingness to put in a lot of time and effort, and the ability to work together with teammates. 

For those wondering, Battle of the Books is a reading incentive program designed for students with a love of reading and a thirst for competition. Students form teams of five members and read a pre-selected set of ten chapter books. The program culminates in a "battle" in which teams answer questions about the books they've read. All questions begin with "In which book..." and students must respond with the title and the author of the book. In order to answer the questions, students must really know the books. Students sometimes read a particular book three or more times.

This year's group of students is the biggest I've had in my three years here at Stroud. And just like every year, I'm already impressed with their hard work. We have 18 fourth grade students and 21 fifth grade students participating this year. Our fourth grade competition ends at the school level, with four teams battling and one team left standing. The fifth grade competition is a bit different. After our school battle, the winning team will go on to battle the other 13 elementary schools in our district. I'm certain that we're going to send a team of very bright and very determined students to represent our school in April. 

When we meet on Monday and Tuesday afternoons, we spend a lot of time reading books and thinking about questions. But we also like to try new things. Last year, students blogged about their experiences during B.O.T.B.. Recently, students created riddles that we tweeted from our library Twitter account. 

And soon, students will start working on book trailers. This was something I was thinking about, but after attending Erin Broderick's (@librarybrods) session on book trailers at AASL13, I decided to get it started. Students will plan out a brief book trailer, then create a trailer using Animoto or iMovie. 

Here's a list of this year's books:

11 November 2013

Book Review: Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses by James & Kim Dean

When I saw the new Pete the Cat book at the book fair, I had to buy it. I loved Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes, and Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons. Unfortunately, the art work is the only thing that ties this latest Pete the Cat adventure to the previous books. Eric Litwin, author of the first four Pete the Cat books, didn't write this one. Instead, James Dean, the artist/creator of Pete, and his wife authored this latest edition.

I've been a fan of James Dean for nearly twelve years now. My wife and I have several of his prints in our house. James even painted an original Pete the Cat with my wife's engagement ring at Pete's feet for my proposal to my wife; that's something I'll treasure forever. And Dean's art work in this latest Pete the Cat book is as great as ever, but the story itself is the book's weakness.

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses begins with Pete being in a bad mood, which is a big departure from the previous Pete the Cat books. In the Litwin books, Pete was usually happy and always chill. But hey, everyone has bad days every now and then, right? Especially cats. The good news is, Pete sheds the blues and helps some friends feel better along the way.

But the big difference between this Pete the Cat book and the four written by Eric Litwin is the flow of the story. The Deans' story has a lot more words per page and doesn't really have the rhythm of the previous books. But the worst part is there's no song. There's a repetitive passage, but it's not a song. And it's just not the same. You can listen to the book at harpercollinschildrens.com/feature/petethecat and make up your own mind.

I hope Eric Litwin hasn't permanently parted ways with Pete. Lucky for me, there's one Litwin authored Pete book that I haven't yet read, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas. I hope it's not the last I get to enjoy.

My rating:  (It's still Pete after all.)

01 November 2013

Book Review: When a Monster is Born by Sean Taylor

When a monster is born, there are two possibilities. Either it's a faraway-in-the-forest monster OR it's an under-your-bed monster. If it's a faraway-in-the-forest monster, that's that. But if it's an under-your-bed monster... 
Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out what happens if it's an under-your-bed monster.

Sean Taylor's When a Monster is Born is a great book about the two kinds of monsters: those that live in the faraway forest and those that lurk under little kids' beds. Despite the content, this isn't a scary book. It's a humorous take on a scary subject that always elicits giggles from my students. There's also a guaranteed EEEEWWWW moment, but it's not what you might expect; the gross out moment involves the monster falling in love. Gross, right?

When a Monster is Born is a circular narrative that's sure to be a read-aloud favorite. If you read this book, there are two possibilities. Either you'll love it as much as I do OR you'll get gobbled up by one of those under-your-bed monsters.

My rating: ☆ (Money Back Guarantee)