Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! While I LOVE these homemade costumes my children are wearing this year, none of them are particularly bookish. You could argue that my little guy's Frankenstein is inspired by Mary Shelly's novel, but it's not. He doesn't know the book exists. He just wanted to look creepy. I have seen some other people in good book-inspired costumes this year. One of my older son's fifth grade classmates is going dressed as a thesaurus! How great is that? A student at the high school where I work dressed as the other mother from Coraline, carrying around big buttons, a needle, and thread yesterday. And yesterday, on my drive home from work, I nearly crashed my car because I saw the cutest little girl, about three years old, walking down the street in a precious very hungry caterpillar costume. Whatever your costume and whatever you are reading, have a happy Halloweekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In A Dark, Dark Room

Every summer, my children attend a camp out on the beach at our local lake. They enjoy setting up tents, roasting marshmallows, racing around in the dark with friends, and two of my three children love to hear and tell ghost stories around the campfire. Ghost story fever stays with them from the time of the camp out until Halloween. They spend those months on the lookout for new ghost stories. I try to find good ones at the library, but it is a difficult task balancing high interest with low fear factor. They don't want any "babyish" books, but I don't want to be woken up by children crying from nightmares. One of the best books we've found to satisfy everyone is Alvin Schwartz's In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. It is an easy reader, perfect for first and second graders. It contains a good mix of spooky, creepy, and funny stories perfect for campfires or pre-Halloween reading. My daughter who is now in the fourth grade first checked it out of the school library when she was in the first grade. It has been a family favorite ever since. My six year old son now owns his own copy and does a spine tingling rendition of "The Green Ribbon" story in it. I imagine he'll graduate to Goosebumps and Stephen King someday, but happily he's satisfied with this book for the time being.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Foodie Friday: Fast Food Edition

I haven't written a Foodie Friday since the summer and prepare yourself, this one isn't earth shattering. Three kids on three different soccer teams is killing me. Last night after an evening dental appointment and dragging the kids through Target for toilet paper and sundry other items, I treated them to dinner at Wendy's. I was feeling a small measure of guilt about the fast food dinner because they rarely pick the healthy side choices preferring grease and salt like their Mom. Redemption came in the form Kids' Meal "toy." Rather than a toy, each kid's meal contained a Scholastic Audiobook. And my kids liked them! They were excited about the selections. all Halloween themed, including a Jigsaw Jones mystery and a Geronimo Stilton. French fries and guilt averted. Who can ask for more at 7:30 on Thursday night?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mixed Reviews

On Friday night my ten year old son saw the new Where the Wild Things Are film as a guest at an eleventh birthday party. He loved it. He was inclined to enjoy the evening as he also went out for pizza beforehand and milkshakes afterward. My nine year old daughter attended the movie at a nine year old's birthday party. My daughter did not enjoy the movie one bit. None of the girls did. Indeed, the birthday girl cried at the sadness and darkness of the film. I did not see it, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to. I adored the book as a child. Actually, I still do. In some review I read, the reviewer made a big deal of the fact that the book only consists of nine sentences so it was doomed to fall short of the original. While I was mentioning that to my kids, my husband said he heard on NPR that it consists of just twelve sentences. Anyone out there curious/anal enough to check it out?
My children have reached unanimity on Jeff Kinney's latest installment in the Wimpy Kid series, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days. Both kids laugh out loud love it. Particularly funny to them is when Greg (aptly referred to as a middle school Larry David by his creator) is signed up for a book club by his mother and then not allowed to quit it when all the other boys have dropped out.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Misc. Items

I want to write about a variety of book related topics that have occurred to me this week, but I feel I must begin with the title of this post. I wrote "Misc." on the chalkboard at school this week and more than one student asked me what it meant. I explained that it was an abbreviation for miscellaneous and I was asked twice why I didn't bother spelling that word out. That struck me as highly ironic since so many of my students write in such a way that I can tell they are of the texting generation. Their papers are filled with "&," "b/c," "w/" and "LOL." Yes, "LOL" on an essay. I spoke with another teacher who told me to brace myself for the emoticons that are sure to come, as in "It was sad when Romeo and Juliet died at the end of the play :(" I didn't see that when I was last teaching high school students almost ten years ago.

On a positive note, this week I had one of my best book conversations in the classroom ever. I was discussing Benjamin Franklin's autobiography and his "Speech in the Convention." I asked the kids what they think he valued based on their reading and was met with blank stares. Someone said he might have valued the Philadelphia Eagles because (b/c?) he lived in Philly. After we went over the fact that football was not played in the colonies nor was there an NFL, I asked if it had been played then, what position did they think old Ben would have played based on what they read by him. They warmed to the topic so quickly. I then asked if he was dropped into our society today, what sport would he enjoy the most based on what they read. The answers were brilliant and I left work happy that day.

Speaking of leaving work, I have something to listen to now on my drive home. A friend just lent me the audio book of Spencer Quinn's Dog On It, I've been told that it's a humorous whodunit with a canine narrator. Chet the dog and his owner, a down on his luck private investigator, solve a crime and have some adventures in this story that I have been assured I will enjoy greatly. While I'm in no hurry for Monday to get here, I am less cranky about my long commute now that I've got Dog On It to look forward to.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Book Club Report

My book club met one night this week to discuss Stieg Larson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It was a big hit with most of the ladies. I really enjoyed it and was happy for the opportunity to discuss it with others. It's a difficult book to describe as it is part corporate intrigue, part dysfunctional family saga, and part mystery with some sado masochism thrown in there too. It set in Sweden and all of the place names are these ridiculously long Swedish words which I couldn't begin to try to pronounce so I just glossed over them while reading. No matter. The story was a quick engaging read, and I'm looking forward to the other books in the series that Larson wrote before he died. The book club was a double success because I think I also brokered a workable ice hockey carpool with one of the other moms who is in the club. Win-win. Next month's selection is Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Readable Rodents

I can't believe I'm going to admit this, but I recently attended an athletic event where all of the participants were rodents. In a weekend with two childrens' soccer games and another one's ice hockey game, we squeezed in the Hamster Ball Derby at Petco. That's right; I gave up precious hours of my Saturday afternoon watching Mario, our pet gerbil, put to shame on a plastic track by a bunch of hamsters in plastic balls. While my children cheered, cajoled, and commanded him to the finish line, Mario paused to groom himself and I thought it's not a far leap from Petco to the greyhound track or that whole mess Michael Vick got himself into. Trying to be more positive, later in the week we reflected upon other rodents who have impressed us with their adventures. By the way, they are all imaginary. Our list included Ralph S. Mouse, Lily of the purple plastic purse fame, that mouse who got the cookie, went to the movies and school, and of course, the Big Kahuna, Stuart Little. If we lined them in plastic hamster balls and yelled "Go!" who do you think would win? My money's on Ralph S. Mouse.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oh Books, How I've Missed You!

Here's a bit of irony for you: I've been so busy working as a high school English teacher that I've been unable to read a book all week. Actually, I've been busy teaching high school and having three children who are all playing soccer this season, who all like to eat dinner, and who all want someone to check their homework. It's taking a toll on my reading for pleasure. I haven't even read a newspaper this week. Don't worry, I am all caught up with my Newsweek and Entertainment Weekly magazines. A girl does have to stay current after all. But I miss my books. It's a heartache walking past my night table and seeing that yummy looking stack gathering dust.

Luckily for me, I happened to ask the more than one hundred sophomores that I teach to write about the most memorable book they ever read. I only asked for two or three sentences from each. Every single kid found at least one book he or she could write about. Some told me it was to hard to narrow it down. Some gave me eight, nine, ten sentences about books they found memorable for either good or bad reasons. What fun I had reading their responses. So many of the girls named Twilight (one of the books on my to-read list), but there were Harry Potters, Holes, Unfortunate Events, Wayside Schools, Nancy Drews, Boxcar Children, The Outsiders, and more. It was like walking through a doughnut shop on a diet. It was tantalizing but also satisfying just to sniff the air, so to speak. I am more determined than ever to carve out a little book time in my schedule. 4 a.m. maybe?