A few new favorites

So, I’ve been reading up on my state readers’ choice award books to prep for my booktalks and my read-a-louds. There are some great books on these lists this year.

My favorites so far in each category are:

The Bluestem Readers’ Choice Award

Swindle by Gordon Korman

Swindle couldn’t have been named more aptly. When this mean-spirited baseball card collector cons Griffin Bing out of his most valuable card, this young sports maven is forced to call in his little band of misfit helpers. A high-spirited romp about trying to set things right.

The World According to Humprey by Betty G. Birney

You can learn a lot about life by observing another species. That’s what Humphrey was told when he was first brought to Room 26. And boy is it true! There are always adventures in the classroom and each weekend he gets to sleep over with different students. Humphrey learns to read, write, shoot rubber bands (only in self-defense, of course), turn off TVs, teach English as a second language, and more. With a lock-that-doesn’t-lock and an adventurous spirit, what more could a mischievous hamster want?

With a fresh voice and an engaging, hamster’s-eye view of school, families, and treats to hide in a cheek pouch, Betty G. Birney’s Humphrey will elicit laughter and demands for hamsters in every elementary classroom.

Adventures in Cartooning by James Sturm

In this action-packed cartooning adventure, kids will have as much fun making comics as reading them!

Once upon a time . . . a princess tried to make a comic. And with the help of a magical cartooning elf, she learned how – well enough to draw her way out of an encounter with a dangerous dragon, near-death by drowning, and into her very own adventure! Like the princess, young readers will discover that they already have the drawing and writing skills it takes to make a comic – they just need a little know-how. And Adventures in Cartooning supplies just that.

You can find the complete list here.

The Monarch Readers’ Choice Award

Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

From the award-winning author of Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink comes a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it! Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s signature humor here there’s also a subtle lesson for kids who don’t know when to let go of an argument. A smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on one thing reading it again!

Memoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian

Day One I swam around my bowl. Day Two I swam around my bowl. Twice. And so it goes in this tell-all tale from a goldfish. With his bowl to himself and his simple routine, Goldfish loves his life…until one day… When assorted intruders including a hyperactive bubbler, a grime-eating snail, a pair of amorous guppies, and a really crabby crab invade his personal space and bowl, Goldfish is put out, to say the least. He wants none of it, preferring his former peace and quiet and solitude. But time away from his new companions gives him a chance to rethink the pros and cons of a solitary life. And discover what he’s been missing.

You can find the complete list here.

Have you guys read any of these? I can’t really pick a favorite right now.

2012 Bluestem Award

The Bluestem Readers Choice Award is on it’s second year and I’m so excited about these books as I was last year. Students have to read 4 books out of the 20 on the list, a mix of older and newer books, nonfiction, fiction and even some graphic novels this year.

So, here is the list, I haven’t read all of them but I’ll chat a little about the ones I have.

14 Cows for America by Deedy, Carmen Agra

*Not read

Adventures in Cartooning by Sturm, James

This was one awesome graphic novel. It describes to readers how to make a graphic novel while having a plot that is interweaved. I laughed hysterically while reading this and could not keep it on the shelves at school for long.

All Stations! Distress! April 15, 1912: the Day the Titanic Sunk by Brown, Don

*Not read

Animal Heroes: True Rescue Stories by Markle, Sandra

*Not read

Bad news for outlaws: the Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal by Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux

*Not read

Bunnicula: a Rabbit Tale of Mystery by Howe, James

*Not read

Dying to Meet You by Klise, Kate

I don’t believe I’ve actually read Kate Klise before, but this start to a new series really impressed me. It’s about an abandoned boy, a writer and a ghost and is quite a funny story that I will find the time to continue on with soon.

Extra Credit by Clements, Andrew

*Not read

Faith, Hope and Ivy June by Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds

*Not read

Flight of the Phoenix by LaFevers, R. L.

Another fun series that I hope will gain some popularity now that this is on a list. I enjoyed the adventure in this one and the discovery of such magical creatures. A boy finds out he comes from a long line of beastologists and embarks on his first adventure with his aunt to see a phoenix become reborn. They encounter trouble and he ends up having to protect the phoenix himself.

Just Grace by Harper, Charise

This is a super cute serious about a girl who is called Just Grace in school because there are too many girls named Grace in her class. It’s a bit along the lines of Ivy and Bean and Mallory and is already a series I can see hitting off with my girl readers.

Knucklehead: Tall Tales &Mostly True Stories by  Scieszka, Jon

*Not read

Passage to Freedom: the Sughihara story by Mochizuki, Ken

*Not read

Riding Freedom by Ryan, Pam Munoz

Not only written by a fantastic storyteller, Riding Freedom is also illustrated by Brian Selznick, who is an amazing illustrator. I fell in love with this book about a girl who runs away from the stable, pretends to be a boy and successfully starts to run her own carriage business and become the first female to vote (although under the guise of a man). Definitely a fantastic piece of historical fiction that I hope the students love.

Rules by Lord, Cynthia

I read this one when it was up for the Rebecca Caudill nominee and loved it. It’s about a girl whose little brother is autistic and she goes with him to doctor’s appointments and meets a young man her age who can only speak through pictures. She is an artist and decides to make him more pictures for his book so he can better explain himself. Definitely a book that is moving and was surprisingly a big hit with the boys when it was up for the Caudill.

Secret Science Alliance & the Copycat Crook by Davis, Eleanor

Probably one of my favorite graphic novels. This one is about a new boy in town who is rather geeky and ends up getting taken under the wing of two very tough kids who are also way into science and experiments in their hidden laboratory. When a real scientist steals their ideas, it’s up to them to take them back.

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Sachar, Louis

I read these books so long ago, it’s time for a reread. I do remember such wonders as the teacher who actually had eyes on the back of their head and the teacher with an ear on the top of her head. SO fun. These books never stay on the shelf, even as old as they are.

Sisters Grimm: the Fairy‐Tale Detectives by Buckley, Michael

I love this series. It’s full of mystery, hilarious moments, and some interesting fairy tale characters. Definitely a series you don’t want to miss.

Swindle by Korman, Gordon

*Not read

World According to Humphrey by Birney, Betty

*Not read

So, I’m about halfway there. A lot of the shorter ones I won’t read until school starts and I prep for my book talks for the 4th and 5th grade students on our program. Last year I had 30 students read 4 books and vote during our pizza party. It was hectic but fun and I can’t wait to do it again.

Have you read any of the ones I haven’t? What did you think of them?

Manga Love

Today, I’ve decided to talk about the manga series I’ve been reading of late and why I love them. I started reading graphic novels like Fables and Gloomcookiec before I ever read manga and I started off with cutesy series like Hana Kimi, Ultra Cute, Faeries Landing. But then I moved on to some of the darker ones – Death Note, well really just that one. What I love about manga is that they are such a blend of elements. There’s almost always a humorous character, then a hero, a love interest, and usually a few gay guys who are in love with said hero. I digress.

So, I really just want to talk about one new series I’ve been reading, which is by the creators of Death Note. It’s called Bakuman.

Now, this is a series about two boys in middle school who decide they want to become manga artists. And follows them into high school. I just was so drawn into the story. The first volume had some funny references to Death Note which made me smile and then it drew into this epic story about two boys dream to make it doing the thing they love.

There’s also this interesting romance. Mashiro is the artist of the duo and his uncle was a manga artist who died from overworking himself. They are similar in a way that they decide they are in love with this equally shy women. His uncle had cherished letters from his love, but eventually she could not wait any longer and got married. Mashiro is in love with a girl at school and she happens to be the daughter of this woman. She says that they will only email until their dreams come true, Mashiro’s is having a manga series published and hers is to become a voice actress so she can star in his anime.

I also love this series because it introduces these other very colorful manga creators, one of which is a high school genius and reminds me so much of L in Death Note. Even the way he sits is so like L.

So, overall I really just love manga in general. If you’ve never read one they’re addicting, almost like soap operas. There’s a lot of drama no matter what genre it is and it just keeps you wanting more. I read the first 5 volumes of Bakuman in a week and am lamenting that I have to wait two more weeks until volume 6 comes out.

Other titles I’ve been reading lately manga wise include: Girl Genius and March Story.

Do you read manga? What are some of your favorite series?

One of the only manga series I own and love (and it’s actually American style reading-wise) is The Queen’s Knight.

Ordering Books

Today I will talk about one of my favorite aspects of my job – ordering books! I have a pretty nice budget at my school – we have over 800 students that I have to buy materials for, so sometimes it’s a tough decision. I have low readers and high readers, 1st through 5th grade that check out library materials.

So, I have to be smart and to be smart – I use the wonderful beautiful company called Follett first and foremost. They have this beautiful thing called Titlewave, where I can upload my records, see where I’m lacking based on what research says a school library should have in each dewey number, fiction section etc.

Not to mention, they carry a ton of stuff. So I can order without having to go through a bazillion companies to get the series my students love.

Although, that being said, I found that sometimes buying from the publisher can really pay you back. Literally. Early this year, when I saw an ad from Capstone, saying they’d give me 30% back in free books.. well I couldn’t resist. After all, a lot of the graphic novels and hi-low nonfiction series I buy are Capstone books.

Not only are they awesome because I’m actually getting FREE books… but they make it so easy to buy with their scan and buy catalog. You can just scan away from their catalog to their online catalog with your handy book scanner. I ended up spending way too much this way btw. 🙂

Also, they are trying out a “green” program, which is awesome so far. I scan all the books I’m discarding but still in good condition and they will give me rewards points for sending them off to Better World Books for free. I get rid of old musty books and get points for new books.

I love Capstone’s line of books – they have some of the best graphic novels for elementary students, nonfiction books that are interesting but still at low reading levels for my struggling readers.

Last, but definitely not least, I order from Junior Library Guild.

They really select the greatest books. I only get their graphic novels right now, but after seeing how many of their picks won ALA awards.. I’m considering upping what I get from them. They send you one book a month in the categories you choose and that way you are getting new and fantastic books every month for the full school year.

I have a lot of fun compiling my lists and use magazines like School Library Journal and Booklist to help guide me along the way. It’s hard because I am a slave to Accelerated Reader, meaning I often have to weigh buying a book that doesn’t have a test yet because it probably won’t get checked out as much as one that does. A sad fact of life, but definitely one that defines some of my choices in book selection.


Series for Boy Readers


My male students are always asking me for suggestions of new series, but I’ve found much of the time they stray towards these series in my library.

Secrets of Dripping Fang by Dan Greenburg

Nobody wants to adopt the Shluffmuffin twins. Wally’s feet stink something awful, and Cheyenne is allergic to everything. Then why are the Mandible sisters so eager to take them home? And what sort of old maids would choose to live in a place called Dripping Fang Forest, where zombies wander the woods singing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and ten-foot-long glowing slugs want to suck the feet right off your ankles?

Would it seem ungrateful of Wally to point out the Mandible sisters’ extra arms? Or to question their all-chocolate, all-the-time menu? Or, um, to venture into the cellar, where the twins have been told to NEVER, EVER, EVER go?

Yeah, perhaps that last bit was a mistake. Now there’s nothing left for the Shluffmuffins to do but run—run for their lives!


Wiley & Grampa’s Creature Feature by Kirk Scroggs

Thrills! Chills! Monster trucks! Hot sauce from hell! Here’s a hoot-aloud, laugh-a-page early chapter book series that will have kids howling for more. After all, who can resist a goofy Grampa-an eight-year-old in an eighty-year-old’s body-who takes his grandson to a monster truckshow in the middle of an R5 tornado? It’s there that Grampa and Wiley meet Colonel Dracula, whose primo vampire truck turns out to feed on some pretty sinister “gas”. With nonstop humor and absurd adventure (did we mention the giant mechanical lobsters?), here’s a treat that will turn reluctant readers into ravenous readers!


Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey


When naughty George and Harold hypnotize their headteacher, they accidentally create the greatest superhero in the history of their school – Captain Underpants! His true identity is so secret that even he doesn’t know who he is…but he’s fighting for truth, justice, and all things pre-shrunk and cottony!! If you’re a naughty villain like the diabolical Dr Diaper, watch out! Captain Underpants has wedgie-power on his side, and he’s coming your way.


Ricky Ricotta by Dav Pilkey

Ricky Ricotta may be a small mouse, but he has a VERY big friend—a giant flying Robot! And when an evil, outerspace villain named Mr. Mosquito invades Earth with an army of Mutant Mosquitoes from Mercury, Richy and his Robot know exactly what to do! Young readers will cheer as Ricky’s Robot battles the bad guys. And when Ricky finds a very smart way to play a trick on Mr. Mosquito, it’s plain to see that even a little mouse can be a BIG hero!



Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

Just when you thought it was safe….the 25 top-selling titles in the series that revolutionized horror for kids are back w/ a fresh new look. The updated design will make you scream. The original artwork will give you nightmares. And the classic bone-chilling stories from the master of horror will just kill you.

This spine-tingling series sparked a licensing phenomenon & made R.L. the #1 author in the U.S.–and it’s STILL the “must have” collection for true horror fans. Now a whole new generation will discover the thrill of reading …and they’ll never be the same again.


Spaceheadz by Jon Sciesza


Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren’t kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ. But with a hamster as their leader, “kids” who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?


Funny Families by Jackie French


Horace’s dad is not like other dads. He has silver wings and a green and orange tail. But that’s not the worst of Horace’s problems. Nasty Sir Sneazle, the most evil teacher at Horace’s school, has given him the worst homework assignment of all time: Horace has to kill a dragon. Why couldn’t he be told to rescue a damsel? Even writing a hundred pages, like Horace’s friend Bernard has to, would be better. Horace knows there’s no way he can kill a dragon. Especially since his dad is one. How can he get out of this awful mess?


My Weird School by Dan Gutman


Something weird is going on.

Miss Daisy, who teaches second grade, doesn’t know how to add or subtract. Not only that, she doesn’t know how to read or write either. She is the dumbest teacher in the history of the world!


Jimmy Sniffles by Bob Temple


Now younger readers can have their own graphic novel adventures in books especially designed for them. Robots, giant bugs, ninja heroes, aliens from outer space and a boy allergic to danger are just a few of the loopy and lively characters that readers will meet in these side-splitting pages. Good-humoured stories with wacky comic book-style artwork will spark the imagination of any reluctant reader.


Buzz Beaker by Scott Nickel


Dracula has kidnapped Buzz Beaker and is holding him hostage to build a machine to allow him to be able to go out in the sun. Dracula misses hanging out at the beach and getting a tan. Well, Buzz Beaker is happy to help – even though he was kidnapped – and ends up helping Dracula fight against his own minions who turned against him!


The Midnight Library by Damien Graves


Drop by the Midnight Library for more spine-tingling terror. In this installment, a gamer named Simon blurs the line between reality and virtual reality. Catherine worries how to handle a kooky customer. Juliet gets strange text messages with urgent content. How will these three tales turn out?



What do a lot of these have in common? A combination of hilarious, scary, and gross. 🙂

What other books do you think my boy students would enjoy?