Remember When: Chasing Vermeer

In Remember When I revisit awesome books from the past.  These may be books I read when I was in school or just a few years back.  Either way they are books that need to be remembered and revisited.  I hope more of you think about doing a Remember When and spread these fantastic books around!
This Week I’m Remembering:
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
Why I’m Remembering It
I read this book to my students several years ago not knowing for sure how they would react to it.  I decided to read it to them because it’s a great mystery (of which there are NOT enough of), and I knew not many would pick it up on their own.  They LOVED it! The mystery kept them wanting to hear more.  What they really loved were the pictures included throughout the book.  I made overheads of them and put them up during those pages.  You should’ve heard the discussions and arguments about what was in the pictures.  If you don’t know, the pictures might contain clues.  I also put them in a binder so they could look at them.  Many would explore them on their down time.  And the best part – they didn’t have the mystery figured out half way through.  They were still guessing right up to the end.  How great was that?! It was just an overall fun read.
To add: my daughter read the book and then needed to read the next two books The Wright 3 and The Calder Game She loved them. 
Side note:  Blue Balliet has a new book out The Danger Box.  It looks fantastic!!
About Chasing Vermeer from Goodreads
A puzzling art theft is solved by two sixth-grade sleuths in a first-rate first novel by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Series of Unfortunate Events artist Brett Helquist. Cut from similar cloth to The Da Vinci Code while harkening back to E. L. Konigsburg and Agatha Christie, Balliett’s book follows young Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay as they piece together separate, seemingly disconnected events to locate The Lady Writing, a Vermeer painting that gets stolen en route to Chicago’s Art Institute. Going on the theory that there are no coincidences, the two wonder about the link between their teacher’s statements, Petra’s dreams, a book Petra finds in the library, and other clues that set the reader guessing as to their significance as well. But after they learn of the culprit’s aim to correct untruths about Vermeer’s life and art — which spurs them into full-throttle detective work — the pieces all come together in a brilliant ending sure to make readers cheer, “Ah ha!” Infused with intrigue and Helquist’s clever illustrations that include coded messages, Balliett’s novel is a dynamic can’t-miss that will get those brain cells firing as it satiates your appetite for intelligent, modern-day mystery.

If you want to do a Remember When that would be great! I’d love to see more “old” book highlighted.  Feel free to take the pic and link back to this post. 

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Remember When: House of the Scorpion

In Remember When I revisit awesome books from the past.  These may be books I read when I was in school or just a few years back.  Either way they are books that need to be remembered and revisited.  I hope more of you think about doing a Remember When and spread these fantastic books around!
This Week I’m Remembering:
The House of the Scorpion
by Nancy Farmer
 I read this book several years ago and LOVED it.  I wish more people would read it.  The concept is pretty interesting – the idea of cloning people and why Matteo was cloned.  The sentence that got me in the summary before I read it was that he was “harvested” and grown in a cow! How could that not get your attention?  Although the story is long it held my interest because it has action, mystery, and suspense.  And or me, it had me cheering for Matteo.  I so wanted him to be free and find happiness.  I remember it being very difficult to watch him go through what he did as he found out he truth behind his life.  But it was also fantastic watching him grow stronger and go after what he wanted.  Ever since reading it, I’ve hoped for a sequel but there has never been a sign of one. 
If you want another opinion of the book, Melissa from One Librarian’s Book Reviews just posted a review of this book.  Check out her review of The House of the Scorpion.
From Goodreads
At his coming-of-age party, Matteo Alacrán asks El Patrón’s bodyguard, “How old am I?…I know I don’t have a birthday like humans, but I was born.”
“You were harvested,” Tam Lin reminds him. “You were grown in that poor cow for nine months and then you were cut out of her.”
To most people around him, Matt is not a boy, but a beast. A room full of chicken litter with roaches for friends and old chicken bones for toys is considered good enough for him. But for El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium — a strip of poppy fields lying between the U.S. and what was once called Mexico — Matt is a guarantee of eternal life. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself for Matt is himself. They share identical DNA.

Remember When: Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

In Remember When I revisit awesome books from the past.  These may be books I read when I was in school or just a few years back.  Either way they are books that need to be remembered and revisited.  I hope more of you think about doing a Remember When and spread these fantastic books around!
This weekend I’m remembering:
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
This was my most favorite ever Judy Blume books.  As is typical with her, she dealt with issues long before other YA or MG authors thought to deal with.  This story of a young girl dealing with the violent death of her father is touching, emotional and honest.  I remember when I read this thinking about the fact that some kids faced this for real.  I gain a bit of understand what they went through – how difficult it truly was.  It is a book that has stuck with me over the years.  I hope, if you haven’t read it, you’ll pick it up and read it now.  It is a story that is still relevant.

The other great news: it’s being made into a movie! And Judy Blume wrote the screenplay herself.  I cannot wait to see the final product.

From Barnes and Noble
Davey has never felt so alone in her life. Her father is dead—shot in a holdup—and now her mother is moving the family to New Mexico to try to recover.

Climbing in the Los Alamos canyon, Davey meets the mysterious Wolf, who can read Davey’s “sad eyes.” Wolf is the only person who seems to understand the rage and fear Davey feels.

Slowly, with Wolf’s help, Davey realizes that she must get on with her life. But when will she be ready to leave the past behind and move toward the future? Will she ever stop hurting?

Here’s the cove I remember!


Throw Back Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme started by Taste Life Twice and is a post about a book that has been out for a while that deserves to be talked about again because yes, it was that good!

This week we throw back to:

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

I LOVE this book.  I’ve been teaching it to at least three different class periods every year since 1996! I never tire of it.  What I love most about it is that it hooks even my most reluctant readers.  I just warn them to hang on past the first chapter.  Every year I have at least one student that tells me it is the first book they’ve actually read and FINISHED in a long time. Thank you S.E. Hinton for that!  Of course I make sure to hand them all the other books she’s written, so they’ll keep reading. 

Side note: a few years back they re-released the movie finally including all the deleted scenes cut out from the original release.  It’s something like 20 minutes of addition scense.  Those scenes made the movie even better – following the entire book not just the rumble and the issues between the Socs and the Greasers.  There are also some fantastic extra features including a news piece about the kids that started the ball rolling on the film.  My students love seeing that.

If you haven’t read The Outsiders ever or in a long while I suggest you pick it up!

From Barnes and Noble: (I’ve never actually read a summary of The Outsiders before.  I didn’t like any of them!)

Three brothers struggle to stay together after their parents’ death, as they search for an identity among the conflicting values of their adolescent society in which they find themselves “outsiders.” 

From Shelfari:

Ponyboy lives with his two older brothers, hanging out with his gang of Greasers. The gang is like a family, they look out for each other, protecting themselves and each other from the Socs. Ponyboy cannot see why the Socs, rich west side kids, always make life miserable for the Greasers.

Throw Back Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme started by Taste Life Twice and is a post about a book that has been out for a while that deserves to be talked about again because yes, it was that good!

This weeks throw back is:

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
This is a book that has been out for a while. It won the Newberry in 1995, but I never read it. I had student after student tell what an great book it was. My own daughter loved it, but I just couldn’t get myself to read it. I was afraid that the main character would annoy me as some main characters in serious MG book do. I couldn’t have been more wrong! It is a beautiful story that shows not only the love of a girl for her mother, but also what happens when that love is tested. I’m glad I finally sat down and read it, and that I now get why everyone told me I should.

From Barnes and Noble

Thirteen-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle’s mother has disappeared. While tracing her steps on a car trip from Ohio to Idaho with her grandparents, Salamanca tells a story to pass the time about a friend named Phoebe Winterbottom whose mother vanished and who received secret messages after her disappearance. One of them read, “Don’t judge a man until you have walked two moons in his moccasins.” Despite her father’s warning that she is “fishing in the air,” Salamanca hopes to bring her home. By drawing strength from her Native American ancestry, she is able to face the truth about her mother.

Throw Back Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme started by Taste Life Twice and is a post about a book that has been out for a while that deserves to be talked about again because yes, it was that good!

This Thursday I’m not just throwing back to one book, but to the entire work of Lois Duncan. I remember reading Daughter’s of Eve back when I was in school (and I’m talking like middle school!) and LOVING it! I then went on to read:

Down a Dark Hall (still my favorite)
I Know What You Did Last Summer – nothing like the movie
Stranger With My Face
Ransom
Killing Mr. Griffin. I laugh at this one now because I’m an English teacher
Summer of Fear

Check out the covers in the slide show.  They are pretty cool, but they are not the covers I remember at all.  I searched and couldn’t find any pictures of the old covers.  The only old cover I really remember that I could get a pictures of was Down a Dark Hall.  Here it is:

I still suggest her books left and right to my students. They look at me like I’m crazy when I talk about loving them at their age, but if they get past that and try one – they want to read more 🙂

So on this Thursday, take a moment and check out Lois Duncan. You can find her website here. I think I may have to reread Down a Dark Hall after writing this post!

psssst – she also wrote Hotel For Dogs – yes the book the movie was based on.

Throw Back Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme started by Taste Life Twice and is a post about a book that has been out for a while that deserves to be talked about again because yes, it was that good!

My Throw Back is:

 
Rules by Cynthia Lord
 
I read this book about two years ago and fell in love with it. I’ve now read it to my students twice.  It’s about a middle school age girl who has a brother that is autistic.  She doesn’t like when kids tease her brother, but she feels resentful of having to stand up for him and of all the attention he gets from her parents.  She meets a young man confined to a wheelchair, and he helps her see and cope with her feelings towards her brother. 
 
I have found it to be a great book for teaching my students about autism and being more accepting of people with disabilities. 
 
Here’s the summary from Barnes and Noble
 
Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach David the rules from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to “keep your pants on in public”—in order to head off David’s embarrassing behaviors.

But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a surprising, new sort-of friend, and Kristi, the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

Throw Back Thursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme started by Taste Life Twice and is a post about a book that has been out for a while that deserves to be talked about again because yes, it was that good!

My Throw Back is:
 
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

 

I read this book several years ago and loved it.  I started reading it aloud to my students, and read it aloud for 3 years in a row.  Last year Ben Mikaelsen came to our school for an author visit.  He was the kindest man and treated the students who got books signed as if he had all the time in the world for them.  The highlight was when he came into my classroom unexpectedly to say goodbye to my students. 
 

If you haven’t read this book I suggest you do.
 
Summary from Barnes and Noble

Within Cole Matthews lie anger, rage, and hate. Cole has been stealing, fighting, and lying for years. His attack on a classmate has left the boy with permanent physical and deep psychological damage and Cole in the biggest trouble of his life. To most, Cole seems beyond hope. But when he’s offered a chance at an alternative path called Circle Justice, based on Native American tradition, Cole finds himself banished to a remote Alaskan island, where his rage and isolation lead him to another brazen attack. This time, his intended victim is the Spirit Bear of Native American legend—and the clumsy assault ends with Cole mauled nearly to death, desperately clinging to the life he has tried so hard to waste.

Rescuers arrive to save Cole’s life, but it is the attack of the Spirit Bear that is the start of Cole’s long journey to accepting responsibility for his life and saving his soul.