Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Walking and Listening to "as brave as you"

as brave as you by Jason Reynolds
Simon and Schuster Audio
7 hours and 2 minutes

Narrator: Guy Lockard

Spending your summer with your grandparents in the Virginia countryside isn't high on many people's list of fun things to do. That is exactly what is happening to Ernie and Genie though, as their parents are heading out on a trip to try and save their marriage. From the moment they arrive, Genie is unsure of the situation, questions flood his brain and he makes misstep after misstep. But even with all of that going on, he is having the time of his life, learning about country life, exploring and building an amazing relationship with his grandfather. Soon what seemed like would be forever turns into a summer neither boy will soon forget.

I hate to say this, but when I first saw this book I wasn't drawn to it. The cover didn't scream, "Pick me up and read me!" The cover also gave me the false impression that it was a historical fiction book, which I like but wasn't in the mood for. But once I saw that it was by Jason Reynolds, I decided to give it a whirl and I am so glad that I did. I loved this book. There are humorous aspects to it, honest and touching moments and was one of those books I wanted to go on forever. I enjoyed watching the relationship unfold between Genie and Grandpa and seeing how much they each grew from their time together and seeing what they gained from their relationship. I loved Genie's questions. He would drive me crazy if he was my kid, but as a reader I loved the non-stop flow of them.

I have listened to quite a few books narrated by Guy Lockhard and I love his narration. His voice is very expressive, honest and pulls you in. The voices that he chooses for each of the characters are amazing and match their personalities beautifully. Listen to this book!

I was walking to pick-up my car from getting repaired and went by this construction wall, covered in sign language.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Walking and Listening to "Save Me A Seat"

Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Scholastic Audio
3 hours and 58 minutes
Narrators Josh Hurley and Vikas Adams

This is the type of audio book that stays with you. While I finished listening to this book a little over a week ago, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. I had an amazing discussion with the student, Kate, who recommended the book to me which brought up even more thoughts and feelings.

Told via alternating chapters, we meet Ravi who has just moved to town from India and Joe who has lived there his entire life. Both boys are starting fifth grade in the same situation, friendless and misunderstood. However their attitudes about it are completely different.  Ravi has always thrived at school and thinks he will fit in no problem, he's smart and eager to make friends. Joe dreads it because he is bullied, has an auditory processing disorder and his mom has begun working in the cafeteria. While Joe and Ravi sit next to each other in class, they don't hit it off. If only these two boys would talk to each other they would discover they have a lot more in common than they realize.

Side note: While it is rare for me to hate a book character, I found myself beyond hating Dillon. Yes, I get that this is what good writing is, but I just wanted to call his mother and scream at her. Kate didn't like him either and hated how he tricked Ravi into eating meat. She told me that calling his mother wouldn't make a difference because his mother was probably the same way and gave an example. Kids are seriously amazing.

Josh Hurley and Vikas Adams do a phenomenal job narrating this story. Every single character, no matter who they are, has their own very distinct and unique voice. You hear all the excitement, joy, humiliation, disappointment, sadness, shyness that the characters are feeling, but they do such an amazing job expressing those that you feel those emotions too. There is truly not one thing I would do to improve upon this narration. You have got to listen to this story.

The rock walls surrounding our school campus are covered in night blooming cereus. They are just stunning. Too bad they don't even last 24 hours.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Walking and Listening to "Shadow Magic"

Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan
Recorded Books
9 hours and 48 minutes
Narrator Ramon de Ocampo

When Thorn left home to find his father there is no way he could have predicted that he would become a slave, be sold to an executioner, ride the back of a giant bat, become friends with royalty and find himself wrapped up in a mystery. That is exactly what happened to him and then some.  How does all of this happen? Well, Thorn has no choice but to go with Tyburn, the executioner, once he is sold to Gehenna, where the House of Shadows rules. Shortly after arriving to Castle Gloom an engagement party is thrown for twelve year old Lily who is being forced to marry Gabriel from the House of Light. After refusing to dance with her future husband, Lily's dog accidentally drinks a poisonous drink intended for Lily and dies. Tyburn is convinced that the poisoner is the who he has been hunting for months and is behind the murder of Lily's parents and brother. Lily and Thorn have their own suspect and set out to to get to the bottom of it. They better hurry before another attempt on Lily's life is made.

I enjoyed listening to this story. Ramon de Ocampo's narration was great and held my attention. He kept the story moving along with his pacing and had great character vocalizations, all of which were very different and easily distinguishable. I think that kids will also enjoy listening to this dark fantasy story. If they are a bit squeamish, they may have a hard time listening to the description of zombies though, but it doesn't last that long.

Paddling season has begun and the canoes are in full force.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Walking and Listening to "The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse"

The Secret of Dreadwillow Carse by Brian Farrey
5 hours 2 minutes
Recorded Books
Narrator: Ann Marie Gideon

Being 12 years old isn't easy for anyone. But throw on top of that the fact that your mother is dying and you will soon become the queen and you have what Jeniah is facing. Jeniah has a lot to learn about ruling the Monarchy and as part of her lessons her mother reminds her not enter Dreadwillow Carse or the Monarchy will fall. Jeniah is inexplicably drawn to Carse. Deciding to go against her mother's warning, she heads to the forest and meets Aon, who too is drawn to the Carse. The two girls strike a deal. Aon will go into the Carse and share with Jeniah everything that she learns and in return Jeniah will find Aon's father who have been taken by the Crimson Hoods. With each visit to the Carse, Aon learns more about how it works, but each visit takes more and more out of her leaving her in a deep depression. Not wanting Aon to put herself in anymore danger, Jeniah asks her stop, but Aon just can't. She is learning a great deal and finds comfort in what she learns. 

We have had this book in the library for quite sometime now and for some reason or other I just hadn't picked it up. I wish I had read this book rather than listen to it. I really hate to say this, but Ann Marie's Gideon's narration of this story didn't hold my attention. I thought that the main characters voices were too similar and that they lacked emotion. Maybe that was intentional, the Monarchy is a place where happy is the only emotion felt, but I didn't even get the feeling of joy and happiness in the characters voices. I would suggest skipping  the audio version of this book and go with the reading of the physical book.

I loved the shadow this bird created. Such a big shadow for a smaller bird.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Walking and Listening to "Hello, Universe"

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
Harper Audio
5 hours 17 minutes
Narrators: Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera

"It's hard not to believe in fate when you watch a boy climb out of a well using a jumprope" 
As the school year comes to a close, Virgil deems himself a failure. Not because of bad grades or anything school related, but because he never got up the courage to say hi to a girl in his school. Not sure how he'll get over this, he consults his friend (and psychic) Kaori and her assistant/sister Gen. Convinced that Virgil and V.S. are destined to be friends, Kaori sends him out to find 5 different stones for her to consult and asks that he hang her business card up at the grocery store. These  requests sets off a chain of events, which may just seem like they are unimportant or unrelated, but as Kaori and Gen repeatedly tell us, "There are no coincidences."

I loved this book! The characters were amazing, each with qualities that readers can relate to, whether they are shy, trying to find friends, being picked on, finding their voice etc. I loved how Filipino folktales were woven throughout the story, which not only help Virgil to cope in various situations but are also a great way to expose readers to stories they most likely have never heard before. I love how the story introduces kids to fate in a way that they can understand.

I am a sucker for audiobooks that use different narrators. Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera were great choices for this book, keeping the story moving along and the listener engaged. They beautifully vocalized the characters personalities and emotions. I hate to say this, especially since I enjoyed the book so much, but I did had teeny tiny problem with one bit of the narration. Growing up and living in Hawaii, a Filipino accent is something I am very familiar with, hearing it on a daily basis and this accent was off. Yes, the pronunciation of "Ay Sus!" was spot on, but Lola's accent was something I just couldn't quite place. I know the understanding of a thick Filipino accent might be a challenge to some listeners, but this seemed too mild to me. I appreciated that the narration for Valencia was varied from her thoughts to her speaking voice. How one sounds inside themselves is often quite different as to how they sound in the real world and I am glad this was done for Valencia.

Favorite Chapter Title: Drama in the Freezer Department

Summer is here!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May Bulletin Boards

With the end of school approaching at a way faster pace, it's taken me awhile to share this months bulletin boards. I am obsessed with this one, the kids are too. They are loving guessing who the characters are featured in the silhouettes and peeking behind them to see if they were right.
The silhouettes are fantastic!

Summer is here which mean a lot of time to spend at the beach. Sure, we can go to the beach all year long, but without school, the kids can go daily.
Greg is hitting the beach this summer!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Walking and Listening to "Fuzzy"

Fuzzy  by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dillinger
Recorded Books
4 hours, 33 minutes

Narrator: Erin Moon

Max is absolutely beside herself, a robot will be coming to their school. Sure, there are already several robots at her school. There's a robot vice principal, a robot librarian, but this new robot, this one is special. This robot, Fuzzy, will be joining as a student, the first robot student to attend any school, anywhere. However, when she comes to face to face with him, he collapses and crashes down to the ground. Not exactly the first impression she had in mind. Before he collapsed though, Fuzzy had seen how Max had navigated the hallways to get to him, and was so impressed that he and the members of the Robot Integration Program ask for her help. Thrilled to be helping, Max and Fuzzy go just about everywhere together. Unfortunately, this is getting Max into trouble. You see, Vice Principal Barbara is watching and listening to everyone at every possible second, issuing d-tags for any and all infractions and instantly notifying your parents of what you did. Walk down to the hallway without permission, d-tag. Late for class by a millisecond, d-tag. Max is racking them up left and right. To make matters worse, she is failing the weekly upgrade tests all students are required to take. Max is completely confused by this, she is studying, she feels confident taking the tests and week after week she fails. Fuzzy is concerned too. But, after scanning her most recent test and seeing that she only answered one question incorrectly, he is sure things are turning around for her. Sadly, they are not and Max's most recent test score come back at 62%. Fuzzy is determined to get to the bottom of this. He better hurry though, because the Robot Integration Program has other plans for him.

This is a fun book. It has everything in it that kids love, it has some humor, some intrigue, friendship, robots, a robot showdown, and a glimpse as to what the future could possibly be like. Erin Moon does a great job of character vocalization, making each one distinct so the listener can easily identify them. She kept the story moving along at a nice pace. I personally enjoyed the shout out to Mr. Schu I mean who wouldn't want a character named after them?! Sign me up for that!

The stephanotis is in full bloom on my walks.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Walking and Listening to The Crooked Sixpence

The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer Bell
Listening Library
9 hours 19 minutes
Narrator: Jayne Entwistle

Returning home from the hospital after their grandmother has taken a fall, Ivy and Seb are shocked to find that their home has been broken into and turned upside down. It gets even crazier when a feather begins to write on the wall, "We can see you know." Before they can even wrap their heads around what is going on, a strange carriage parks outside of their home and the men in it (The Underguards) try to capture them. Not knowing what is going on and with no parents insight, Ivy and Seb make a run for it and end up in Lundinor. Things don't get any easier for them there. They are navigating a whole new world full of uncommon objects all while trying to stay out of sight of the Underguards and encountering people they never knew existed before. The greatest challenge they are facing though is a race against time. Ivy and Seb have less two days to find the great uncommon good, which people believe their grandmother has, or else their parents will be killed. 

I always enjoy listening to Jayne Entwistle narration. Her voice is always very calm and peaceful, keeping a very steady pacing throughout the book. While her character vocalizations are just slightly different, it is easy to follow along and I was never confused as to who was speaking. I look forward to sharing this book with the fantasy loving children in my library.

Bikes at the beach

Saturday, April 8, 2017

We Met Author & Doodler Booki Vivat (IN PERSON THAT IS!)

The fourth graders and I were beyond excited to meet author and doodler Booki Vivat! Not only did we get to meet her IN PERSON, but we got to share ideas for doodles, asked her a bazillion questions, saw some of her planners, had a chance to hear her read the first chapter of Frazzled and some of us even had a chance to eat lunch with her. Needless to say, we had the best time!

Booki started off by sharing with us a little about what Frazzled was about.
We then played a game of True or False with her to learn what she and her main character Abbie have in common. I hate to brag, but we were expert drum rollers! During the game we got some writing tips. Did you know that if you write about something you love, people begin to give you that thing? Booki shared with us that she loved pastries, just like Abbie, and after reading her book people realized how much she loved them and gave her pastry after pastry for her birthday! What a genius idea!
We were able to see how her art all began, going back to kindergarten! She then shared how 
it transformed to doodles that she sent back and forth in notes to her friends.
We learned how her school planner transformed from a place to write down homework assignments to what they are today and how that got her a book deal! We are so glad it did!
Booki then talked to us about how she decides what she is going to draw for each of the pages and how she decides what it is in the story that she wants to highlight. She discussed with us the different ways she shares Abbie's emotions. We were then able to pick some emotions that Abbie would feel, shared different scenarios and Booki began to draw.
It was amazing to see her work! She shared with us that she loves to write never-ending h's. She says that she keeps waiting for her editor to tell her that she's made too many, but they never do, so she just keeps making them. The students thought that was hilarious.
These are just a handful of the finished pieces. The classroom teachers fought over who was going to get which picture to hang in their classroom.
What else did we learn from Booki? The best day of her life was when she got her book deal. She has spilled soup in her backpack and would trade gummy worms during lunchtime with other kids for things in their lunches. She loves to watch tv and movies and travel. She has written parts of the first two Frazzled books while on vacation in tropical places (Thailand and Hawaii). We got a sneak peek of the next Frazzled book. Can you figure out what it is about? We had some pretty wild ideas.
During our time with Booki, some of the fourth grade students were able to eat lunch with her. Since it was such a small group they were able to draw with her and really examine her planner. She had the kids write down a word (basketball, swimming, fishing) and then draw two emotions to go with it. It was neat to see what the kids drew while she was writing and drawing her own. Here are some pictures from our luncheon.
Thank you so much Booki for spending so much time with us. We loved meeting you, hearing about your books and drawing with you. You have inspired us all to write and doodle. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Fantastic Foxes and Shooting Stars Meet Lauren Trashis (Via Skype That Is!)

The Fantastic Foxes and Shooting Stars are huge fans of the I Survived series, so when they found out that they were going to have a chance to meet Lauren Tarshis they were beside themselves. Our Skype began in a whisper as Lauren was sneaking out of a meeting and down the hallway to her office at Storyworks. The kids loved this!
Once she was in her office, the questions been to fly. We wanted to know all sorts of things, including which I Survived  was the hardest to write. It is her latest one, which she had just finished the day before we met her! It is about the American Revolution. She shared that it was challenging because she knew so little about it and had no idea that the biggest battle had been in Brooklyn. She spent a year on the book, reading 33 books, watching dvd's, speaking to experts. Here's a sneak peek of the cover!
When we asked how she comes up with the characters she shared that she originally thought that her children and their friends would be the inspiration. She quickly realized that she had to build them from scratch, that they were like Lego's and you had millions of pieces that you had to put together and then take apart. All the characters also have to start with a  problem, a really bad problem. But by going through the events they are going through, they will get back to what they missed and closer to their family.
We know that Lauren likes to visit the places she is writing about. She says it's exciting to go to places that she already knows a little bit about. She loved visiting Joplin, Missouri. She was asked by the people of Joplin to write about the tornado, she became very attached to the city and visited twice. One of the kids asked where she would want to visit if she were writing a new book about World War One. The answer is below.
What other cool things did we learn? People send book ideas suggestions to her all the time. She looks at what time periods and events she has already written about and looks to see if there are any gaps. She likes to go back and forth between natural disasters and war related events. She also looks for events that we should know about, but are also fascinating. She usually spends 6 months on a book. She wants the readers of her books to go on a journey through time, where they hear what the cannons or muskets sounded like and smell the pork cooking over a campfire. Even though her dad was a writer and wrote non-fiction, Lauren never thought she would be a writer. We are so grateful that she did.
Thank you Lauren for sneaking out of your meeting to meet with us. You inspired us!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Walking and Listening to Ghost

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Simon and Schuster Audio
  • ISBN 9781508230472
  • Narrator: Guy Lockhart

The first few sentences of this book had me hooked. I mean who doesn't love random Guinness World Records?! Luckily for me, Castle a.k.a Ghost is obsessed with Guinness and shares a handful of these fascinating facts throughout the book. Everyday after school Castle does the exact same thing, he buys sunflower seeds, sits and eats them at the bus stop across the gym, watching people workout. But one day something else catches his eyes. There is a track team practice going on. Convinced that he can run faster than one of the boys, Castle jumps into the practice and has an impressive run. Coach wants him to join the team, but there's catch. Castle has to stay out of trouble at school, which is a lot easier said than done. Castle looks forward to his afternoons with Coach and the team, finding friendships, a place where he feels like he belongs and discovering that he is not the only one who has been through some rough times. 

I loved Guy Lockhart's narration of this book. It was so incredibly honest. You could hear every emotion in his voice, joy, anger, disappointment, desperation and sadness. He sucked me into the story and had me caring about every character, their story and what was going on in their lives. Loved!

A picture I took as I was walking across campus to start my walk one day.

Our Hearts Are Like A Zoo Too!

As The Explorers and I were getting ready for our Skype visit with Michael Hall (read all about it here) we shared the book My Heart is Like a Zoo. We fell in love with all the heart animals that he had created and decided to create our own heart animals.
We explored hearts of all sizes, colors, tried cutting them in half, rearranging them and making various animals before settling on our favorites. The animals turned out amazing and were all so incredibly different that just had to find a way to share them with others.
The kids got out their iPads and began to take photographs of their heart art. Those pictures were put into Explain Everything. They had to think of how they wanted to describe their animals, just like Michael Hall had done in his book and then add that text to their pictures. Recording their descriptions was next.  It took them a little while to record them as this was their first time using microphones on their headphones to record. After a few takes, we were done! You can watch the final product here.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Explorers Meet Micheal Hall (Via Skype That Is!)

The Explorers had been waiting for weeks to meet author/illustrator Michael Hall. They love his books, the bright colors, the shapes and had even created their own pictures inspired by his book, My Heart is Like A Zoo (more to come on that!)
Since we had so much fun creating our own heart animals, we wanted to know what his favorite heart animal that he had made was. He told us that it was a crocodile but it didn't make it into the book. He also made a skunk and giraffe which didn't make it into the book either. He shared that he wrote the book Perfect Square for his daughter. He hadn't started off writing a book for her, it just turned out that way.
The kids were dying to know what books he read to his kids when they were younger. His answer is below.
He also shared that he wrote a song when he was in kindergarten. It was about a cowboy.
Since he only had 2 lines of the song, we decided to help him write some more. The kids thought he should add, "I ride a horse, Yee-Haw!" to the song. He wrote our suggestions down to add to it. It is sure to become a hit now!
The kids were super curious to see what his next book would be so we had to ask for a sneak peek. It is called Little i and will be out in September. We got to see one of the first covers of the book. The final cover is top secret! Here is a page from Little i.
Lastly, we had to ask, "In Hawaii, we love to eat shave ice. If you could eat shave ice with any author, who would it be?" The answer? Ezra Jack Keats. He loves The Snowy Day because the snow is made of so many beautiful colors.
Thank you so much for meeting with us Michael. We loved getting to know you, ask questions of you and meet your French Bulldog, Wilson.