Picture Book Saturday: Walter the Farting Dog: Trouble At the Yard Sale

The Deets:
Audience: wee ones
Pages: 32
Publisher: March 30th 2004
ISBN: 9780142406267
Genre: picture book
Source: library book






Walter's family is holding a yard sale, but there are few customers. Walter, fartingcontentedly near Father, wonders why. When a man offers ten dollars for Walter, Father readily agrees. Walter wonders why. Walter is sad to leave his family behind, but relieved to discover that his new owner is a clown. Walter figures he will help the clown bring joy to children on their birthdays. But the clown has a dastardly plot: he will use Walter's gas to inflate balloons and then pop them to stun guards during bank robberies. Will Walter turn to the dark side? Of course not! He comes out a hero and is reunited with his family by doing what he does best.





Don't be discouraged by the title. Yes, Walter is a farting dog, but it's funny--- not gross.He uses his flatulence for good, not evil.

In this book, Walter helps foil a would-be thief's dastardly plot to rob banks. No one is expecting his stink bombs to be able to take out grown men with a single whiff, but they do. In the end, the family realizes what makes a family a family, and even dad learns to appreciate Walter just the way he is.

I admit it's a bit much at time. A dog that passes gas--often-- is the focus of an entire series of picture books. But I couldn't help but feature this one. I think Walter needs some more love. My boys love these books. (Walter is a close second to Llama Llama for my youngest.) This odd humor really appeals to them, which appeals to me. Anything to make them readers!

The pictures are okay in the Walter the Farting Dog series. They aren't realistic. In fact, they have more of a cartoonish feel, which seems appropriate for the content. Not sure how realistic you could make a fart cloud look in a picture book... Plus, seeing it blown out of proportion on the pages makes it even funnier to the kids.

So, if you're like me and you have young boys that have that quirky sense of humor, they would probably enjoy this series. Just put the mom squeamishness aside as you read it aloud. You'll enjoy their giggles as you read together if you do.   


Review: Darkride (Laura Bradley Rede)

The Deets:
Audience: YA
Pages: 500+
Publisher: ebook
ISBN: 9781465899651
Source: copr of book from author in exchange for an honest review
Genre: paranormal romance


Darkride (Darkride Chronicles, #1)Ander McNair used to be the favorite son of a great monster-hunting family – until he was bitten by a werewolf and the hunter became the hunted. Now anything that makes his pulse race, even a kiss from his girlfriend Cicely, is enough to turn him into a monster. When he finally gets a chance to earn his cure by killing a vampire prince, he finds he has to choose between his own past and the future of the girl he loves. Can a guy who’s not even human learn what it means to be a man?

Luke Marianez used to be an immortal vampire prince – until the witch he loved betrayed him and cursed him with the ability to die. Now he lives in the world of vampire blood bars, where the waitresses are the drinks, and dreams about killing the last of the witch’s line so he can live forever. But revenge doesn’t just mean breaking the curse. He wants to break the girl’s heart, too. Can Luke seduce Cicely without falling in love himself?

Cicely Watson doesn’t believe in werewolves or vampires. She’s not even sure she believes in true love. But she’s about to discover what every werewolf knows:

People change.



Calling all paranormal romance fans. (in my taunting sing songy voice) I found a new series for you. I bet even you die-hard Twilight fans would enjoy this one. There is a mortal girl, a swoon worthy vampire, a hot werewolf, and a pack of evil blood thirsty vampires ready to captivate you in Darkride.

But don't think I just described Twilight all over again, because I didn't I can assure you if I had that vibe from Darkride, I would have stopped reading instantly. I am very tired of Twilight knockoffs.

While Darkride had the same human-vampire-werewolf love triangle going on, it was very different. For instant, our human girl was not a whiny baby like Bella. She was pretty hard core. Cicely was conflicted, but she was also very determined. She always had a plan; even if that plan often backfired. The boy toys were also a bit different. They each had different reasons for loving Cicely, and they play very different roles in the outcome of the plot.

What I found a little unfortunate about the book was it's predictability. I don't think that would be a problem for the average reader, but anyone that has read a large number of books will probably be finely tuned to the plot twists long before they occur. With all the hinting about 'change' and the bonds of love, it was easy to guess the direction our characters would take. I really didn't have any surprises, which was a bummer.

I can say, however, that the ending left me intrigued. I am very curious to see what will happen in the next book. I also want to know the role of the new addition to the motley crew of paranormals that are traveling to Maine.

The writing is easy on the eyes and quick. It's very easy to get sucked into the story. Darkride was told in alternating points of view between Cicely, Luke, and Ander. Each chapter offers a fresh insight into the characters telling the tale. I think it's extremely challenging to write alternating points of view and maintaining a sense of uniquess for each character. It could very easily end up sounding like the same story being told by a different "voice." Darkride does not dissapoint. It retains its unique quality and keeps the reader moving on a fast paced paranormal romance rollercoaster.  


review: Splintered (A. L. Howard)

The Deets:
audience: YA
pages: 371
publisher: January 1st 2013 by Amulet Books
ISBN: 9781419704284
genre: retelling
source: eARC from Netgalley


SplinteredThis stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.
When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.


I do not usually amend my reviews, but sometimes discussions with others cause me to rethink my original impressions. That is certainly the case with Splintered. After telling two co-workers about the book and describing it to them (they each bought a copy, BTW, because they thought it sounded interesting), I realized that what originally made me complacent about the book didn't have a huge affect when it came time to recommend it to others. So... I thought that warranted an update. (New thoughts are in pink.)

If I could rate a book based solely on its cover, Splintered would have a solid 5 stars. Tell me this cover is not stunning? I dare you to disagree.

I was only mildly interested in the characters in this one. Yes, it was a great retelling of a classic with a new twist-- but that was about it for me. I wasn't really all that impressed with the characters. True, Alyssa wasn't your expected Alice. She actually had a firm control of her purpose; unlike Alice who seemed to bumble around having a grand ol' time in Wonderland. Of course, if you read Splintered, you'll realize Alice's grand adventures really mucked things up a bit. After more thought, I have realized that my lack of connection with the characters is solely due to my own life experiences. I could not relate to Alyssa because I don't have much experience with teens like her. I am extremely empathetic, but I am not emo. I am artistic, but not "artsy." That was really the problem-- I could not relate to her character, so it was hard for me at times.

Which brings me to what I did enjoy about Splintered: the minor characters. The Wunderland that Alyssa experiences is nothing like her ancestor's Wonderland. In fact, the creatures she encounters are down right nightmarish. The White Rabbit that was so cute with his ticking clock is described like some kind of freak-tastic jackalope with rotting flesh and a bad case of the mange. There were others as well that were represented in a brand new way. For that, I thought the story was top notch. It isn't just the minor characters that were so different, either. The entire setting of Wunderland was unique. As far as settings go, this one deserves an A. After talking with the author at a recent convention, (I had to ask how she came up with this story) the setting and certain elements really made sense. She said that she was partially inspired by the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland. Let me say, that made complete sense because you get that vibe from Splintered.

However, the main characters were just bleh for me. I really didn't connect with any of them, nor did I really like them. I guess I couldn't buy into the fairy tale aspect with some of the characters, which made the love triangle not very believable for me. Yes, I know this wasn't meant to be realistic in any way, but the characters just didn't do it for me. They felt flat and one-sided. Sorry. I'm sure many other people will disagree with me on this point. I have thought more on this one and I am still having trouble with Morpheus. I can't put my finger on what exactly gave me trouble with this character, but there is something. I think it might be his extreme shadiness. I just can't figure out if he's the "bad guy" or not. It's worth mentioning though, that if there is a character that so obviously blurs those stereotypical boundaries in a book, he (or she) must be a pretty interesting character. I am curious to see how the storyline with Morpheus develops in the second book, Unhinged.

If you're a fan of retellings, go for it. You'll probably enjoy something in Splintered. If you get giddy over Alice in Wonderland stories, you're probably going to love this one. If you enjoy pretty covers lining your shelves, this one is a must. I still argue that the cover is one of the best I've seen. It's beautiful in person-- the colors just pop.


Teacher Tuesday: Write Better Stories and Essays

Write Better Stories and Essays: Topics and Techniques to Improve Writing Skills for Students in Grades 6 - 8
Write Better Stories and Essays: Topics and Techniques to Improve Writing Skills for Students in Grades 6 - 8.
 
 
 
 
The nice thing about the Common Core Standards is that everyone can use them. Oh, did I say "can"? I mean "will" because they are here--whether you are ready for them or not. After all, isn't that the essence of "common core"?
 
 
I found that this particular book would make a nice addition to your teacher tool kit. Some highlights of the book are:
 
1. The practical writing practice for both fiction and nonfiction pieces. There are several story starters included to allow students the opportunity to practice using different literary elements.
 
2. The practice activities for identifying illogical or incomplete content (in a passage), grammar skills, and inconsistent verb tense and voice. Which, any ELA teacher knows is extremely hard for middle school students to master. There are also lessons on eliminating over used words and properly using personification. As a bonus, there are multiple opportunities for practice with each skill, so you are not left scrounging around for remediation/enrichment activities.
 
3. All of the writing exercises are practical and well grounded in the ELA curriculum. There are pages of student essays that will allow your students hands-on editing practice. I personally love the "show what you know" lessons that let kids practice the skills they have been learning. I seem to get great insight into what my students have learned (and they develop a deeper understanding) when they have the chance to critique their peer's work.  
 
4. There is also an online resource to further enhance instruction. As a bonus. there is a platform that allows (and encourages) students to publish their work. Can you imagine how great your students will feel about publishing their work and getting feedback from other students around the country?
 
There is also a very detailed answer key included for all of the practice activities that helps to break down the skills. Even novice teachers can use this book to enhance their teaching without the fear of not being able to answer student questions.
 
The index of CCSS standards-- and the corresponding page numbers for the activities in the book-- make this a very easy reference tool. No need to flip through every page looking for one particular skill. You can quickly find what you are looking for, and save your precious time for teaching.  
 
 
LumosLearning's Write Better Stories and Essays is a great tool for any ELA and writing teacher.


* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Virtual book club at The Flashlight Reader: Pick a book

Well, after much thought (and a little prodding from a friend), I decided to try something new. I felt like my blogging was in a rut and a bit boring. It was all book reviews and ... Well, that was it. I haven't had an author interview in ages. I do giveaways periodically. I've even slacked on blog tours. Such a bad blogger.

And I totally blame my grown up life. But, as a way to break the blahs and do something new, I thought, "Hey, why not a book club?" All my buds live everywhere but near me, so it wasn't possible to have a face to face club. So I thought, why not take advantage of this thing called the internet and make it a virtual book club? I've seen those around, and they seem pretty fun.

Alas, that's what I decided to do. of course, I had to get moving on it; otherwise, I would procrastinate and it would fizzle out before it ever started. Also a byproduct of my grown up life.

So here we go... A debut (for me). Go ahead and read the summaries of these books and see which one would be best for our first read along. Don't forget to leave a comment and mark your choice on the poll in the right sidebar. You know I can be a little ADD and that helps make it easier for me to track.


Book 1: The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight


The Statistical Probability of Love at First SightToday should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.


Book 2: Daughter of Smoke and Bone


Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?



Book 3: The Lost Girl


Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination--an echo. She was made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her "other," if she ever died. Eva spends every day studying that girl from far away, learning what Amarra does, what she eats, what it's like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But sixteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything and everyone she's ever known--the guardians who raised her, the boy she's forbidden to love--to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.
 

Book 4:  Shatter Me




No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she's finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she'd lost forever.



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