I’ve been to the movies three times in three weeks.  That’s like a world’s record for me! Here is what I saw:

Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game made an okay movie.  If you have not read the book, you will find it to be entertaining, though you may have some questions about it afterward.  I read the book, but my son, husband, dad, and nephew did not know anything about it when they went to see it.  My husband found parts of it to be unbelievable.  My son said it was “meh.” (Teenagers!)  My dad thought it was pretty good, but I think he was relieved to see a more mature kids’ movie for a change, instead of the usual animated things he takes the grandkids to watch. My nephew, a fifth grader, seemed unsure about it, and I think this was his first real journey into a middle-grade level movie.  

I’ll say that what they DID include in the movie was fine.  I mean, we had to know the movie would be much more shallow than the book, that’s a given.  A lot of things were changed, starting with making Ender much older, which softens some of the violence in the story (and allows them to make a movie with a rating that lets kids actually see it.)  It is hard to tell how much time has passed in the movie though, and you can’t really understand that the book takes place over years of time and be able to realize how much they have manipulated and messed with Ender’s mind.  Ender’s brother and sister have been basically eliminated from the movie, but they try to replace those relationships with other characters.  With the actual characters gone though, a big piece of the plot is also gone, but I guess that works out okay because of the compressed timeline.  The book is much more political, but again that wouldn’t really keep the interest of the younger kids that the movie makers need to have in the audience.  It’s definitely a book that is hard to adapt for a film.

So, the verdict is, go read the book.  And then read some of the following books, because Ender’s Game was really just the set-up for the second book, Speaker of the Dead.  It’s a difficult read and it’s complicated, and it’s definitely not for everyone.  I’ve handed it to students only for them to pass it right back to me and say “Thanks but no thanks.”  Science fiction can be tricky because you have to be okay with not knowing what is happening until the author needs you to know more.

Thor 2: Dark World

This was great fun! I liked it better than the first one, and I’m not normally into superhero movies. I  preferred seeing Thor in his own world this time. Having him be lost and confused on Earth in the first movie did not work for me, so I’m glad he got to be a smarter character in this one.  Loki was fantastic and Thor’s mom gets a quick chance to show off her crazy skills, too.  At any rate, it’s not really a movie that you’re supposed to think about too much, so just go see it and enjoy! 

Catching Fire

So good that I didn’t even get upset with the cliffhanger ending! I read The Hunger Games when it first came out and before it was a “thing”, so I’ve been following these books for a long time.  This movie was really well done, and I particularly liked the pacing of how it played out.  It stayed in each setting long enough for you to gather the needed information and then it switched up again.  The images were very impactful.  Remember that in the book, the first part is Katniss and Peeta on their Victory Tour, then it’s the  Quarter Quell, they get swept off immediately for more training time, and the part about the games is pretty short.  The pacing was really important to make the movie feel balanced and still have a lot of action in it to keep it moving.  

The main thing I wished we had been able to see from the books would have been the videos of Haymitch in his Quarter Quell games.  His own story is only hinted at, but it explains so much about his character. I’m hoping that maybe some of those scenes will pop up on the DVD later.  If this same team is going to be responsible for Mockingjay, too, I’ll be very happy!

Next up…

The Book Thief

I read this book when it first came out, too, and it was my favorite book of that year.  The writing is beautiful and it looks like the movie will do it justice. I hope to see it this week while on vacation for Thanksgiving.  Part of me wonders if I have time to read it again, but maybe it is better to not confuse the two versions in my head. Has anyone seen this so yet? 


This is totally not a book….

…But it IS an amazing story, and I just have to share it with all y’all.  If you have 20 minutes to watch an inspirational short film, please check it out.  This is a follow-up to the original ESPN short from 2009.  I was lucky enough to discover it because my brother-in-law was the camera man (and you can actually see him in this one!)  Watch this and be thankful.

What can you overcome?

What can you help someone else overcome?

Watch and remember one of my favorite sayings:  What You Do Matters.

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!

Wonder by R.J. Palacio (updated!)

Your assignment: find and read this book.

I had been hearing all over the internet that Wonder was The Book to Read this year.  I thought I had ordered it online, but it wasn’t in the box, so I guess I somehow forgot to add it to my cart.  Who runs off to the bookstore on the same day they get a big book order in the mail? Me!  So of course, when I went to go pick it up at my local bookstore, it was sold out.  Thankfully the bookseller reminded me that I could (duh!) download it directly onto my Nook e-reader, so I ran home and did just that!  I will still have to buy a couple of copies for my classroom; hopefully it will come out in paperback soon.  If you don’t want to buy a hardback version, remember to check your local library where you can borrow it for FREE!

This book is about a boy named August Pullman.  Auggie is going into fifth grade.  Actually, Auggie is going to school for the first time ever.  He was born with some facial deformities and due to the many surgeries he has been through in his lifetime, he has always been homeschooled.  As a result, he’s a little timid and a little immature compared to other students his age.  He’s perfectly healthy and he’s perfectly smart, but his appearance can be shocking.  We all know how difficult it is to be the new kid at school, let alone at a middle school, but Auggie has his work cut out for him since people tend to draw away from him.  The principal plans ahead for this transition and asks some of the other students to meet up and give Auggie a tour of the school before classes start.  Here he meets Jack, Julian, and Charlotte, so at least he knows a few people to begin the year.  (His principal is a great character, very practical, wise, and very calming.)  Unfortunately, kids are not always so nice to each other, and Auggie is left to figure out who his true friends are after a heartbreaking betrayal by someone he thought was on his side.

Auggie has a mom and a dad who are nervous to send him off to school after all this time. I thought they were the perfect combination of worried, supportive, and loving.  They knew it was time to let Auggie go off on his own and let him have his own adventures, but were present enough so that Auggie knew he would always have them for backup if he needed help.  He also has a sister named Olivia.  She is in high school and also starting to find her own path.  She loves Auggie with all of her heart, but at her new school, nobody knows her as “the girl with the deformed little brother.”  This new freedom is exciting, but it also makes her a little bit sad.  She takes over as one of the narrators of the book, followed by her boyfriend, and a couple of other characters.  It is in these chapters that the reader gets to piece together the whole story, as multiple perspectives combine.  There is a bully that torments Auggie throughout the book, and an encounter with some kids from another school, but for me the saddest case of bullying comes from another parent at the school who tries to get Auggie removed from his private school.

This book made me cry at points, but not at the sad parts.  (Okay, maybe one sad part.)  I was very uplifted by the compassion people were able to show to Auggie and that made me cry happy tears.  People ARE generally good to each other and everyone can make a big difference to another person through very small acts.  The author uses a quote in the book:

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”

Dr. Wayne Dyer

Choose kind.

That’s it, that’s all you have to do.  This has spun off into its own webpage where you can join and sign a pledge to choose kind.  If you have a story to tell, you can share it anonymously, too.  Just click the banner below to find out more!

If you DO read this, know that the author was inspired by a true thing that happened to her as a mom.  The part with the kids eating ice cream?  That is her story and she knew she needed to do better, to make it better, and so she wrote this book.  Here is her webpage as well–

This book is a great read aloud for families to share because it brings up so many questions for discussion.  I think this might be the next book I buy as a class set for school, too.  Wonder has an AR level of 4.8 and is worth 11 points.