Friday, July 27, 2012

Audiobooks galore! To listen and to not.

I am really getting into audiobooks while driving! They can be so entertaining and help in a long car ride (of which I've done 3 of so far this summer-three long drives that is, not books--more books than that).

Wayside School is Falling Down
Sideways Stories From Wayside School
Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger

By Louis Sachar

Rating: A must read/listen to with children! (Okay, or by your adult self too.)

Synopsis from Wayside School is Falling Down: Wayside School was supposed to be 30 classrooms, one story high; but by mistake it was built straight up 30 stories. And that's not all that's funny here.

I listened to the 1st and 3rd books on audio. My niece happened to have the copy of the 2nd book so I read that one and so did my son. I LOVED it. It is so entertaining and funny. All of them. 
Then as I was listening to the 1st book in the car I realized that I remembered this book. I had read Wayside School is Falling Down sometime in my youth (and the cover to #2 is so familiar as well) but the stories didn't stick out as too familiar while reading it. But even so-read it again. Listen to it! My son and I were laughing! Sure makes a long car ride fun.

The part that stinks is having to stop the car at the end of the trip and not have the book over with. But that makes looking forward to more car driving!

These books are silly. They're silly, but not so silly that it's stupid. Because it's not stupid. (Though it does say that word often enough in the books. Oh, they do use idiot too.) It's silly, but so logical at the same time. Or well, as logical as you can imagine. No child should go through readinghood without reading this one! (Or these ones.)

No Talking
By Andrew Clements

Rated: Another good book. Your elementary grade student will enjoy!

The fifth-grade girls and the fifth-grade boys at Laketon Elementary don't get along very well. But the real problem is that these kids are loud and disorderly. That's why the principal uses her red plastic bullhorn. A lot.
Then one day Dave Packer, a certified loudmouth, bumps into an idea - a big one that makes him try to keep quiet for a whole day. But what does Dave hear during lunch? A girl, Lynsey Burgess, jabbering away. So Dave breaks his silence and lobs an insult. Those words lead to other words about who's the biggest loudmouth, and those words spark a contest: Which team can say the fewest words during two whole days? And it's the boys against the girls.

This is another book I listened to. Once again, another fun Clements book. Once again another similar themed book as his others. It all kind of feels the same--empowerment to the students. They shouldn't get into huge trouble for using their brains (pretty much) or acting different from the norm. Which I do think is great.

I enjoyed the ending. And the book does make you think a bit about using less words!

Now onto a book I wouldn't suggest for audio...
The Secrets of Droon
By Tony Abbott

Rating: Not for audio. Not sure about book. 

Synopsis: Eric, Julie, and Neal discover an enchanted stairway in Eric's basement, which turns out to be a portal to the magical and troubled world of Droon! It's a wondrous place where adventure is always close at hand.

We listened to book #1. Personally I was kind of really bored listening to this book. I think my son liked it. So I feel bad that I didn't. I absolutely did not like the audio for it. At some points it seemed difficult to hear so you'd want to turn up the volume and then you'd have this creature with an awful voice (don't want to hear you) who would be very loud the next moment. Not enjoyable for a carride. 

I could have possibly found the book better if I had read it aloud.  And to me there was a part that wasn't very logical. But I mean it's a young kid's book. Probably for 1-3rd grade. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Report Card: But Ds are so pretty!

The Report Card
By Andrew Clements
Audio, 180+ minutes (3 CDs)
Listening Library (2005)
Rating: Read it!

Nora Rowley is a genius. The thing is, nobody but Nora knows that. Being so smart, Nora noticed early on, makes you stand out, and standing out was not something she wanted. Instead, Nora always tried to be exactly average. But now Nora has a new plan, and when she comes home with a bad report card, her parents and the school launch a massive effort to find out what's wrong. But that is exactly what Nora wants. All the attention is the perfect chance to prove how arbitrary grades are and that they don't matter nearly as much as everyone at Philbrook Elementary thinks.

Robot's Review:
I listened to this one as well. My second Andrew Clements book. This one is in a girl's the audio is spoken by a woman...with an at first weird voice. I guess you get used to it. But it's still a little "weird." You just have to hear it.

Anyway, again, brilliant genius child book. The main character is so smart. But she's trying to get bad grades. I enjoyed the book, but I was getting a little lost at the last few chapters. Might have been since I was listening to it. 

I found with this and the Frindle book that situations happen that are "unbelievable". As in yeah right that would never happen. Because  both get "big" groups of people to do something. Which seems unbelievable. But perhaps Andrew Clements is trying to tell kids that they do matter. Because, well, they do. Make things happen. Be brave. Make changes. You are important. 

One thing that stood out to me about the main character in The Report Card was that she was caring. And it bothered me that she told her mom that she wasn't a caring person. How could she not know that. Because it's OBVIOUS. OBVIOUS!! So it's one of those, annoying why did you try to honestly say that when you are smart enough to realize that that is not true.

Anyway, all that said, still enjoyed it and will be continuing reading more of Clements books. We'll see if there's that same theme in the others. 

Frindle: Goobleygawk-you know what I'm talking about right?

By Andrew Clements
Audio, 1 hr 49 minutes (I think, 2 CDs)
Simon & Schuster Audio Unabridged edition June 2009
Rating: Go read it! (Or listen to it!)

Nicholas Allen has plenty of ideas. Who can forget the time he turned his third-grade classroom into a tropical island, or the times he fooled his teacher by chirping like a blackbird? But now Nick's in fifth grade, and it looks like his days as a troublemaker are over.
Everyone knows that Mrs. Granger, the language arts teacher, has X-ray vision, and nobody gets away with anything in her classroom. To make matters worse, she's also a fanatic about the dictionary, which is hopelessly boring to Nick. But when Nick learns an interesting tidbit about words and where they come from, it inspires his greatest plan yet: to invent a new word. From now on, a pen is no longer a pen -- it's a frindle.
It doesn't take long for frindle to take root, and soon the excitement spreads well beyond his school and town. His parents and Mrs. Granger would like Nick to put an end to all this nonsense. But frindle doesn't belong to Nick anymore. All he can do now is sit back and watch what happens.

Robot's Review:
I am glad I decided to give this one a chance! I had seen the actual book before while volunteering at the Scholastic Book Warehouse sale. (Did you go? It was too good!) I might have seen the title before but thought it sounded kind of silly. I mean, really....a kid calling a pen "frindle"?
But it's so much more than just that! It's the reasoning behind it. And it's just an entertaining story. I am SO glad I gave this book a try and have recently finished listening to another of Andrew Clements books, The Report Card (review to come). So glad I found another author who's got lots of books to read!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Savvy: Kids, please don't hitchhike aboard a stranger's bus...

By Ingrid Law
Paperback, 368 pages
Puffin, March 2010

A vibrant new voice . . . a modern classic.
For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a "savvy" -a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity . . . and now it's the eve of Mibs's big day.
As if waiting weren't hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs's birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman's bus . . . only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up-and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.
Pricky's Review:
Rated 1 Star on Goodreads.

I actually had to look up the criteria for a Newberry Medal after reading this. Even as an "honor" medal, I couldn't believe that it deserved the title of "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." But I guess that's not really up to me, it's up to 15 people to decide.

But...if it were up to me, this book would probably get a medal for "best concoction of invented and real words...without saying much." I fully admit that it's unique prose caught my eye in the beginning but after a while the story was so full of word fluff that when digging around for the story, I realized there wasn't very much there.

Word Fluff:
I appreciate beautiful prose but it just got to be too much. Much of the prose sounded like this:
 " to the pushing-pulling waves."
"...broody Samson was a dark and shadowy seven..."
 " palms burned like fire from all of the hurt just under the skin."
"Girls only get quiet, polite savvies--sugar and spice and everything humdrum savvies."
etc. etc. etc.
Now, don't get me wrong. I fully enjoy adjective-saturated imagery...but when the focus is more on the word usage than on the plot, I begin to wonder what was the point of the story in the first place?

Plot (Spoiler Warning):
In case you're wondering, the plot basically goes like this:
1) Leading off from the summary...Mib's parents are at the hospital.
2) Since her parents aren't there, the town's preacher family hosts Mibs 13th birthday party which is a disaster so Mibs hides aboard the Bible Supply Bus.
3) Along with 2 of the preacher's kids and 2 of Mib's siblings, the kids stow away on the bus, heading toward Salina (where the hospital is located). Eventually we learn that an alert has gone out that kids are missing. (Btw Grandpa Bomba is at home with the other Beaumont sibling.)
4) Mibs discovers that her special magical power is hearing the thoughts of people through ink on their skin.
5) The kids and bus driver and another "hitchhiker" travel through different cities until they finally arrive at the hospital.
6) Mibs tells her dad that even though he's "human," he still has a magical power which is that he never gives up.
7) Family returns home.
The End.

Obviously, the message here is one we've heard over and over again. Mibs who is somewhat of a social outcast is initially disappointed in her ability (i.e., Savvy) but ends up appreciating it, and through her adventure she develops friendships with other kids. At the end, there was nothing awe-inspiring of this message. And for an honor book, I expected to be blown away.

Instead, all I could think about was:
1) Why would a group of teenagers along with a 7-year-old go hide in the back of a school bus with a stranger driver. Did they not consider that their parents would be frightened to death by their disappearance? Furthermore, couldn't one of the townsfolk or even her Grandpa drive them to Salina to be with her dad? (Oh, but then we wouldn't have a story now would we?) And couldn't Mibs have told her Grandpa or left a note before they drove off?
2) Then when the bus driver, Lester, finally discovers them, does he insist on calling their parents? Is he the responsible adult he should be? Oh no, he lets them stay on the bus while he continues making his deliveries.
3) When the bus happens upon a broken down car with a lady (Lill) waiting by the side of the road, Lill decides to join them on the bus...because that's just what you should do when your car breaks down...climb aboard a bus of full of kids with a strange man.
4) But Lill is more of a responsible adult because she makes them call their parents...but isn't clever enough to know that the kids trick her by not really calling their parents. (And would any parent that had missing kids tell Lill to just wait until the next day to bring them home?)
5) And when the kids were finally found, when would a police officer ever say this: "I know how easy it is to make wrong choices and end up in difficult situations, but things don't always turn out badly. There will be consequences, of course, but no one got hurt, and no hurt was meant. So, as far as I know, no one's pressing any charges against those folks out there. [Lester] and [Lill] may have made some ill-advised decisions, but they did do a good job of looking after you and keeping you all safe."
6) So I guess the real message would be:

"Kids, if you make really bad choices, but nothing bad comes out of it, it's okay then."

A Pricky Post.
I still can't believe this is what is considered a contribution to children's literature. If you are interested in a Newberry Medal read, there are much better choices out there: try Holes, By Louis Sachar or A Wrinkle in Time, By Madeleine L'Engle or The Giver, By Lois Lowry .

Should you read? I'm sorry but I have to say: "Skip it."

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oopsy, Teacher!

Oopsy, Teacher!

By Stephanie Calmenson, Illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa
Hardcover, 32 pages
Carolrhoda Picture Books, August 1, 2012

Uh-oh! Mr. Bungles drips jam on his tie at breakfast. His students play a trick on him at school. And the class hamster Nibbles escapes from his cage! Mr. Bungles and the class chase Nibbles through the halls and into town. But can they catch the hamster?

The cover doesn't give this book justice. I thought the illustrations in the book were much better than the cover would make you think. It might just be that bright yellow.

I enjoyed the story. I read it with Child #1 and he seemed to like it too. It's nice to know that teachers can make oopsies too!

The book is written in rhymes. Calmenson sets you up with the first two rhyming echo word on the right hand pages. After that, the rhyme is echoed on the left page, giving the reader a chance to come up with the word before it's shown. I thought that was great so your little one could have practice with rhyming sounds.

Calmenson has another Mr. Bungles book that I'd like to read as well called Late for School!

Rated: 4 Bites

I received this book from My review is my own. May 8, 2012