File Under: 13 Suspicious Events by Lemony Snicket

13 suspiciousThis past weekend, I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, which is held on the campus of the University of Southern California. It is a free weekend event which I highly recommend if you live nearby. There are all sorts of booksellers, in all sorts of categories, plus many other bookish things to discover and purchase, like posters, tote bags, journals, and nerdy t-shirts. All throughout the weekend, authors are giving talks, doing book signings, or teaching cooking classes, and there are people reading poetry, performing live music, puppet show-ing, and goodness knows what else! Some of the author panels, or “conversations,” require a $1 ticket to reserve a seat, but otherwise you are free to walk around and attend whatever catches your eye.

I attended two author conversations that were both very popular– John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, and several other titles, but he’s more of a 8th grade-and-up author), and Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket.) I saw Daniel Handler do a reading last year, but this time it was just him talking about how he got into writing and the surprising success of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and his new series, All the Wrong Questions. His panel was moderated by Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, another book I quite enjoyed reading, and together they made a great interview team. I met them both afterward to get my books signed. (Authors are my celebrities, what can I say? It’s all very exciting!)

This particular book takes place in the All the Wrong Questions world of Stain’d-by-the Sea, a town that once had a thriving ink industry until the sea dried up and the octopi that produced the ink disappeared. The town is now practically abandoned, except for a few locals who still live there. A young Lemony Snicket is stationed here with his mentor, but since she is pointless and no help at all, he begins working on some mysteries on the side.

Here we have 13 short mysteries to solve alongside Lemony Snicket. You can put your own detective skills to work as you read each story and then flip to the back of the book to see if you were right. This is in the style of the Encyclopedia Brown books I read when I was a kid, in which the neighborhood boy detective solved disputes by using his keen powers of observation, with the answers located separately in the back. (One of the character names actually refers to the Encyclopedia Brown creator, Donald Sobol!) In addition, watch for references to books that are mentioned, but never named.  I figured one out this morning as I was sitting down to blog, as a matter of fact.

These are fun to share and I started reading aloud as soon as we got into the car to drive home. This book is also important because it tells us about some of the other people who live in Stain’d-by-the-Sea, which is interesting since we have only met a few residents in the other books so far.  Will these people play a part in the larger mystery that Snicket is working on? We will have to wait and see!

HINT: Read the stories.  Read the solutions.  Then read the solutions again. I’m just sayin’.



Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein

IMG_0860I’d been hearing a lot of buzz on the internet about this book and how it would be a great read aloud story to share with a classroom.  I didn’t know much about it except that it took place in a library, so I decided to go find it and check it out.  I’m so glad I did, and now I AM reading it to my new students as we kick off the school year!

Kyle Keeley is a seventh grader in Alexandriaville, Ohio.  It’s a small town that hasn’t had a public library in twelve years, so kids who are Kyle’s age have grown up without a library their whole lives. Kyle has two older brothers; one is a jock, the other a genius.  Kyle excels at playing games of all kinds, but he’s not that into school, or sports, or reading.  Until…he finds out that the master gamemaker, Luigi Lemoncello is the man who is paying to have a brand new library built in Alexandriaville! Mr. Lemoncello is one of Kyle’s heroes and the creator of games such as Squirrel Squad, Family Frenzy, and the Indoor-Outdoor Scavenger Hunt.  He makes card games, video games, board games, puzzles, games with secret codes… you name it, he’s done it.  Suddenly Kyle has to scramble to finish that extra credit essay assignment that he blew off, because that essay was for a contest to be able to spend the night in Mr. Lemoncello’s new library!

Twelve twelve-year-olds are selected to experience the state-of-the-art library before the general public will be allowed inside.  The book is a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Night at the Museum.  The kids are becoming a part of an even bigger game, and the library is coming to life around them while they explore.  Mr. Lemoncello is very much like a Willy Wonka-type character, appearing randomly to give out clues and run the game. (Pay careful attention to how Mr. Lemoncello speaks in book titles and see how many you can identify.  That by itself is kind of like another side game while you read!)  Players are eliminated along the way (though nobody has to go to the juicing room after chewing blueberry bubble gum!) and competition grows fierce as the children race to collect the clues that will help them to escape the library.

Here’s the coolest part though: At the end of the book, there is a note from the author.  He says that there is another puzzle in the story, one that was hinted at, but not used.  The clues are there, and it is up to the reader to figure it out.  If you can solve the puzzle and email the author the correct answer, you can win books for yourself and your favorite library.  You have until January 1, 2014 to play, so get to reading!  I think I’m on the right track, but I’m not telling…

Read this book if you’re a Wonka fan, or if you love mysteries, puzzles, adventures, and balloons!  This is a fast book to read because it is so hard to put down and force yourself to stop.  I read it in a day when it was too hot to do much else than to lay around quietly and not move too much.

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library has an AR level of 4.5 and is worth 7 points.

Spring Break…is over? Already? Are you sure?

I’ve got two new books to blog about, but I’m just wrapping up Spring Break, and there is so much to do to get back in the groove for school again. I promise to fill you in on these two reads just as soon as I finish up my report cards!  (You can do a little research on them yourselves in the meantime, if you want. I read The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine, and Dead End at Norvelt by Jack Gantos.)

Because my family decided to go to Washington DC for the vacation (amazing, highly recommend!), I started reading a non-fiction book about Abraham Lincoln, and now I’m caught up in this book that has 5 gazillion pages.  This will probably take a while to finish. The good news is that my school just had a book fair the week before the break, and I ended up with a bunch of new books to share here.

Just as soon as I get those report cards done, as I have to keep reminding myself. In the meantime, check out this three-story tower of books, all about President Lincoln!  522011_10200936870250874_1012931286_n

And watch as this tower is built! Cool!

Movies come from…books???

Pauline Baynes    This was one of the biggest things I ever learned as a kid.  I can remember two times in my life where seeing a movie opened up a whole new world of reading for me.  Okay, the first time technically wasn’t a movie, it was a play.  And it wasn’t a fancy play, it was a high school play.  I was in second grade and we got to go over to the high school to watch their show of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Since it was during the school day, it was probably a dress rehearsal, but as a 7 year olds we didn’t realize that it was just a practice.  And we wouldn’t have cared anyway.  The high school was huge, the students were all big, the theater was dark, and there was magic inside.  Did I grow up to be an actor after this experience?  Nope.  I was a super shy kid, there was no way!  I did, however, grow up to be a reader.  On the programs we were given was the information I needed to get started.  The author’s name.  “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis.  You mean, this play is a book?  I must have it.  Lo and behold, it was not just ONE book, but a whole series.  SEVEN books! I still have the complete set I got for Christmas when I was in elementary school, back in the days when Wardrobe was considered the first book in the series and not the second like it is renumbered now.  (The Magician’s Nephew is #6 in my collection and now it has moved up to the #1 spot because it technically takes place before Wardrobe.)  These books were made into a cartoon, live action television episodes in England ,and then into a series of big-time movies, too.

   The second time I had worlds collide, I was probably in fourth grade and I saw a cartoon movie on television.  It was called The Hobbit and was about a little fellow named Bilbo who was on an adventure.  There were fantasy creatures, a magic ring, and a creepy guy who kept saying “My precious” over and over.   Again, I was shocked to find out that this was based on a book.  Again, I got lucky because this, too, led me into another famous series, The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien.  As a kid, these were difficult but worthwhile reads.  When I went to college I was assigned to read The Hobbit in a literature class, which threw me back into the whole series again.  When the movies came out, I read them one more time and bought up the DVDs as quickly as they came out.  Now The Hobbit is being made into a full-length movie as well, and Part 1 will be in theaters in December.  I’m wondering if I have time to put it back on my reading list again before then.  I think I do!  Check out the movie trailer here—

You know what is really cool?  These two authors, Lewis and Tolkien, were friends!  They were both professors at Oxford University in England.  Through discussion and debate they influenced and supported each other, even when they didn’t agree with the other’s ideas.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After those experiences, I started searching out book/movie connections.  I read all of the books about Oz, the original Mary Poppins books (did you even know there was more than one? It’s true!), The Wind in the Willows, and everything else I could match together.  And don’t get me started on my Harry Potter obsession!  Lately, I’ve been able to talk to my students about a recent book that was made into a movie.  The book is called The Invention of Hugo Cabret; the movie is just called “Hugo.”  They spoke very excitedly about the book and movie connection, which made me incredibly happy.  Although the book appears to be very long and is very heavy, it is full of the most amazing illustrations you will want to linger over and study.  Reading the book is very similar to watching a movie, and since the book itself is about movies, it’s just the coolest mash-up ever.  The author/illustrator, Brian Selznick, has another book called Wonderstruck as well, again full of his hand-drawn pictures.  Since they had already opened the door by mentioning both the book and the movie about Hugo, I was able to steer them on to Wonderstruck as well.

And that, that is how it starts.  However you get there, it’s never to late to read the book!

Back to School!

Oh my goodness, school starts next week!  Are you ready?  I am not, unfortunately.  9 days out and I still don’t have a job settled for this year yet.  I don’t know what grade I’ll be teaching, what school I will be working at, or even which district I might end up in!  I’m going to try to get a new book post up for you this week, but I’m also kind of on stand-by to run out on a moment’s notice to go set up my classroom and start planning furiously for the first day of class.  UPDATED:  I am teaching 6th grade again, but at a new school.  This time I’ll be working at an elementary school instead of a middle school, so it will be totally different! The first thing I set up? My library, of course!

As the summer is winding down, I had the sudden realization that I have only seen one movie during this whole summer.  I can’t believe it.  Today I noticed that all of the movies I meant to go see are now playing at the $2 theater by my house, so if I don’t start school next week with all of you, maybe I can get caught up then.   Take a guess at which movie I did see…  I’ll give you a hint:

That’s right.  I’ve had THIS song stuck in my head all summer, with nothing new to push it out of my brain.  And now you have it stuck in your head too, so, you’re welcome for that.  Ha ha!  UPDATE: I also saw The Dark Knight Rises this week.  I liked it!

Enjoy the holiday weekend and make these last few days of summer count.  Remember when you are packing your backpack for the new school year to always, always, always have a silent reading book with you at school. There can be a ton of testing and review work during those first two weeks of school, so be prepared for those in-between times when you’re waiting around for the next thing to happen.  Your teachers will thank for you being prepared and respectful towards learning if you show that you know how to use your time wisely.  I hope your new teachers will read to you, share new books with the class, and have lots of great suggestions on what to read this year.  Best of luck for the new year!

Girl Stuff

Now, it’s true that I probably like to read “boy books” more than I like to read “girl books,” even though that is a totally silly thing to say.  Books and stories have something to teach everyone, so it shouldn’t be an issue.  Read what you want, find characters that inspire you, get lost in a great plot!  However, I am also guilty of picking books by their covers as well, so I always end up with more boy-oriented stories.  They are grittier and darker and have cool graphics and intense lettering on the front.  I tend to shy away from cupcakes and flowers, pictures of a girl whispering into another girl’s ear, anything that indicates a book has to do with fashion or dating or puppies, contains girl drama, looks like a diary, or has fancy writing to spell out the title.  I don’t know why, but at least knowing this about myself MAKES me pick up books that I wouldn’t normally choose, and it’s my job to build a well-balanced library for my classroom because not everyone likes what I like.  I try to be as fair as possible when I head out to buy books because the books aren’t for me. (The books aren’t for me, the books aren’t for me, the books aren’t for me.  I have to remind myself that sometimes!)

So today, as I am preparing my list to go to the library later (yep, I make a “shopping list” for the library), I was excited to find this blog post at The Nerdy Book Club first thing this morning!  Here is a great list about strong female characters in young adult literature.  What a coincidence!  It’s not a surprise that I have read NONE of these books, not even Matilda.  Heck, I haven’t even seen the movie for Matilda!  As of this moment, I am most interested in reading the Enola Holmes books.  Sherlock’s Holmes’ sister? Awesome! (He’s my favorite and I love it when an author puts a spin on another well-known character.  These are about his little sister’s detective adventures.  Can she beat him at solving a mystery?  I wonder…)  I also want to read Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, because I’ve read and enjoyed some of her other books already.  The story of The Lions of Little Rock also sounds really good to me, so I’ll look for that as well.  You can’t see my computer screen right now, but I have the Nerdy Book Club blog, my blog, and my local library’s webpage open all at the same time while I’m searching for these books.  I take my library trips seriously!

Check out this list of books about strong and interesting girls and see if you can’t add a few to your summer reading list. I’m going to to try, too, so check back later for some recommendations-

Summer Reading!

Here are some of the books I have hauled home to read over the summer.  Well, these…and then a few more that are still sitting on my desk at work.  And then whatever I find at the library.  Or at Barnes and Noble.  Or from the $1 book guy at the swapmeet.   Can I read them all?  I’ll certainly try!