Wednesday, September 28, 2016

6 More Great October Reads

You probably don't need me to reiterate the fact that I love fall, but I'll say it again anyways.

I am head over heels for this season.

First of all, that crazy heat has left us. It was a pretty hot and dry summer here in New England, so I am relishing the cool breeze.

Second, everything is pumpkin flavored (I'm a fan), leaves are crunchy and beautiful, and Halloween is just around the corner. Fall is also my favorite season for reading, because it's still warm enough to read outside, but you can elect to cozy up with a sweater or blanket. 

If you're looking for a good book to start off your autumn reading list, seek no further! You can find 10 great October reads in my original post, plus a few more reads below!

Conversion by Katherine Howe // I rarely read young adult fiction, but I sought this out at the library because it's by one of my favorite local authors. Seriously, if you like books that are well suited for this time of year, start with her The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. This one follows a group of teenage girls who attend a prestigious private school on the North Shore of Boston. When a mystery illness breaks out among the students, the events become strangely reminiscent of The Crucible and the Salem Witch Trials that inspired the play. Since I'm currently teaching in Salem (yes, that Salem), I loved that local connection and trying to solve the mystery of what was really going on with the students.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier // This is a classic work of gothic fiction, but I only recently picked it up because it's been recommended for those who enjoyed The Thirteenth Tale, one of my all-time favorites. It's the story of a young woman who lives a tedious life as a companion to an obnoxious American woman. They're on holiday in Italy when the narrator (who, strangely enough, is never named) meets a gentleman widower. She's whisked away to his gorgeous estate, and there finds herself haunted by the ghost of his late wife, Rebecca. This one doesn't have a huge scare factor, but there's an excellent twist and a general, creepy sensation throughout.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry // I read this over the summer, but I felt while reading that it would make a great autumn read. Brunonia Barry is another local author whose work I adore. This one is about a young woman recently returned to her hometown (you guessed it, Salem). There's a strange element of magic woven throughout the plot in the form of lace reading, which was (and is) a real trade that some practice as a form of fortune telling. I don't want to give anything away, but as I read I couldn't help but think something wasn't quite right with the story as it was presented. All I can say is that the final pages had me yelling, "Wait, what?!?!?" I always love a good twist.

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston // I read this last fall and loved it. You can read my full review here.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs // I read this years ago when it first came out, but I'm going to attempt to rapidly re-read it before seeing the movie (opening September 30th). I would say that peculiar is a particularly fitting word for this book, as the title suggests. It features strange, antique photographs (which the author collected before coming up with the storyline), an alternate universe, children with supernatural gifts, and a nightmarish evil force. All great components for an autumn read, wouldn't you say? 


Stay tuned next week for a list of the books that I'm coveting for myself in October!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Teacher Talk: Community Read Alouds

Hi there!

Today I want to introduce a new series here on Top Shelf Text: Teacher Talk! These posts will be more education-oriented than my typical children's literature posts, but they are also aimed at parents who want to bring more educational material into their homes!

I want to kick off the series with a list of books that I'm using to set the tone in my classroom this year. As teachers, we want to encourage our students to work together as a community of leaders, learners, and friends. Many of these books will help to facilitate discussions about how best to treat others, to treat ourselves (positive self talk!) and to life each other up in the face of challenges. I think the true aim of all teachers is to help make the world a better place, and to me doing that starts with modeling those behaviors (be the change you wish to see) and using literature to show students how to do the same.

Talking Points: compassion, kindness, being an active bystander
Essential Questions: If we decided to make our school and our world a better place, what kinds of things could we do? What would make you feel happy to come to school each day?

Talking Points: creativity, teamwork
Essential Question: What does this book teach us about working together? What would happen if everyone approached new challenges in the same exact way?

Talking Points: manners, kind/unkind behaviors
Essential Questions: What was the difference between the rude cakes and the giant cyclopses? Which one would you rather be friends with, and why?

Talking Points: teamwork, pursuing personal interests, second chances
Essential Questions: Did Iggy give up when he was told that there was no place for architecture in second grade? What happened when Miss Greer kept an open mind?

Talking points: acts of kindness, community
Essential Questions: What acts of kindness could we do in this classroom and in our school community?

Talking Points: manners, individual differences
Essential Questions: How can we use the ideas from Do Unto Otters to write our classroom rules?

I'll be using many of these books over the course of our first two weeks and then at regular intervals throughout the year to keep my students thinking about what kind of actions make for a positive classroom culture.

I want to also add that, because I am a substantially separate special education teacher, the stigma that we try to prevent in schools is often directed at my students. Some of them look different from their typically developing peers, and some look the same but act differently. Teaching children (both in school and at home) to treat everyone with kindness has become increasingly important to me as I teach in a classroom of students who really need extra TLC. I hope that encouraging parents and other teachers to use literature to teach kindness in the classroom will help to make our world just a little bit safer for all children.

Do you have a book that you'd like to add to this list? Comment below! I'm always looking to grow my collection!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Lately at the Library

There are few things I love more than going to the library. I love the way that the library feels. It's quiet, but it's almost as if you can hear the rustling of pages, of stories waiting to be read. I love thinking about how many characters and worlds exist in such a small space.

The library is a place where I sometimes go to recharge. Most of the time I run in and out to return books and to pick up holds, but about once a week I like to go in just to wander. A lot of the time I come out with way more books than I could possibly read in the amount of time I'm allowed to keep them, but I like having the choice when I get home.

I wanted to share what kind of books have caught my eye lately during my wanderings. I tend to always get about 10 picture books to browse and take with me to school for the kids to read, but I also usually end up with a relatively tall stack of pleasure reads. 

I know that the fall doesn't really begin for another month or so, but I've been drawn to fall reads on recent trips. That can only mean that my favorite season is approaching -- but I'll refrain from talking about it for another week or so!

Here's what ended up in my stack on a recent trip to my local public library -- I've included Goodreads links below -- check out the full description if the cover catches your eye (like it did mine)!

Conversion by Katherine Howe // Young Adult, by a favorite (local) author. An elite prep school, allusions to The Crucible, and of course a local setting. Oh, and that witch-y feeling, which you know is my favorite to read in the fall.

Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid // I've since decided that it would probably be a literary crime to read this before I've read the original (Austen) version. It caught my eye because it's part of The Austen Project series, in which contemporary writers modernize Jane's original works. It'll go back to the library unread -- for now. You can consider the original to be at the top of my classics list for now.

The Nautical Chart by Arturo PĂ©rez-Reverte // I've read this author before in high school (I highly recommend his The Fencing Master), and really loved his style. Plus, this has sunken ships, and you can always count on my interest in a treasure hunting-type of tale.

The Cruelest Month (Inspector Gamache #3) by Louise Penny // I just started reading this mystery series this summer thanks to the recommendation of Anne Bogel, and I love it. This is the third, which I just finished today -- in my opinion, it was the best of the series so far. I'll be posting more about the series after I've read a few more.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier // Another recommendation from Anne Bogel, for readers who loved The Thirteenth Tale (one of my all-time favorite gothic books). I can't wait to dive into this, if not to relive that subtle, creepy-crawling feeling that comes with gothic fiction.

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart // Forensics + history + archaeology + suspense. Need I say more? This is totally in my wheelhouse. Plus, the main investigator is a woman, somewhat unusual in mystery novels and definitely to my liking.


I will add a disclaimer here that although this particular batch is a little grim-looking, my children's picks are usually rather bright and cheery. Balance, right?

What's caught your eye at the library lately?

Happy Reading!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Children's Review: The Great Shelby Holmes

I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, so when I saw this new middle grade series pop up, I couldn't resist taking a sneak peek. My college roommate and I both love the iconic detective in all his forms and I liked the idea of a female/male team. The Great Shelby Holmes is written from the perspective of John Watson, an eleven year-old boy who has just moved to NYC with his military mom after his parents' recent divorce. 

On the first day in his new city, John meets his neighbor, a verbose and sassy girl named Shelby Holmes. Shelby's not used to making friends, but soon enough John proves himself to be a valuable sidekick and she decides to bring him along on her latest case: the kidnapping of a prize-winning show dog belonging to a schoolmate. The plot itself isn't anything new in this book -- in fact, the dognapping was really the least interesting part of it, as I felt that the level of the plot could have really been raised had the crime been something more serious than a kidnapped pet. However, I really liked the friendship themes that went on through the book. Even though Shelby may be the incredible detective, Watson was a good model for a caring friend, which is poignant for kids at this time of year when a new school year means forming new friendships. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to my students, and I'll definitely follow the series in the future to see how that friendship grows. For those who want to help get this into the hands of young readers, there's still time to purchase a pre-order copy on Amazon before The Great Shelby Holmes hits shelves on September 6th!

Bottom Line Rating: 4/5

Title: The Great Shelby Holmes
Author: Elizabeth Eulberg
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's
ISBN: 1681190516
Format: E-book
Source: Net Galley

Note: Top Shelf Text was provided with a copy of this text by the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.