Shark Girl

26 05 2012

Lately there have been a whole bunch of really good novels for young people written in poetry form.  I read Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate earlier this year, and that was fantastic.  Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass (who visited our school a few years ago) is a great book.  Love that Dog and Heartbeat by Sharon Creech, Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, and Sold by Patricia McCormick are all wonderful books – and really quick reads  – that are great novels with outstanding characters told in a series of poems.

Yesterday I read another one – Shark Girl  by Kelly Bingham.  This one’s about a 15 year old girls who is attacked by a shark during a family trip to the beach.  She loses her right arm, the one she uses to draw and paint, so she seems to lose a little bit of her self worth too.

The story takes place over the course of about a year, during which Jane deals with her mom’s need to protect her, her brother going away to college, her friends looking at her just a little bit differently, and the stares and pseudo-sympathy of complete strangers that just won’t let her create her “new normal.

Shark Girl is a great summer read.  It’s quick (I don’t read fast, and I finished in one day), it’s interesting, and it has a wonderful main character that you really want to root for.

In my effort to read 90 books in 90 days this summer, Shark Girl is number 2.  Follow my progress here or on Twitter @MCLiterature.

Summer Reading: 90 Books in 90 Days

25 05 2012

Summer break is here!  There are so many things on my “to do list.”  In just 20 days, I’ll be on a plane to Japan with 27 of my students, touring the country for 12 days to learn all about Japanese culture and history.  I’ve got t-ball games to watch, and some family to visit for the 4th of July.  My yard really needs some work, and the basement is a wreck right now.

I know the kids all have stuff to do too.  There’s baseball, soccer, gymnastics, dance, and football.  There are playgrounds to visit, swimming pools just waiting to be filled with screaming pre-teens, and video games to conquer.

Summer for me is getting some time with family.  Summer for most of the kids is for just that – being a kid.

However, even though I realize how much pressure is on our kids and how much they need this nice long break, I have thrown out a challenge to all of them.

Read 90 books this summer.

It sounds crazy, I know.  That’s what I thought when a fellow teacher challenged me to try it, but then I realized it’s not that ridiculous.  The kids all thought I was nuts when I challenged them to read 20 books between January and June, but more than half the kids succeeded, and even those that didn’t came pretty close.   They thought they’d failed because they’d only read 13, 14, or 15 books in 5 months!  Then I reminded them that most of them had only read 7 or 4 or 2 books in all of fifth grade – suddenly coming up “short” and reading “only” 12 or 15 books in half a year doesn’t seem like missing the mark.

If they can read 15 or 20 books in five months during the school year, I’m sure they can read more than that during the summer if they set their minds too it.

Of course, to expect them to read 90 6th grade level novels is pretty ridiculous, but that’s not the challenge.  The challenge is to read 90 books.  Read picture books, read an old favorite like Junie B. Jones or Captain Underpants, a Dr. Seuss book that’s been on the shelf waaaaay too long, a comic book or graphic novel.  Those are books too, right?  So it’s not Huck Finn or Oliver Twist – who cares?  Summer is supposed to be fun, so have some fun reading, or even re-reading, some great books that don’t take so long.

A 5th or 6th or 7th grader could breeze through a picture book in 10 minutes, a little kids chapter book in 30, or a few graphic novels in less than an hour.  Those count.

Sure, it’s never a bad idea to challenge yourself and read a few books at grade level – so finish the Hunger Games series or start The Red Pyramid books or check out one of the books from next fall’s Rebecca Caudill list – just read, read, and read every single day – even if it’s just a picture book, read.  See if you can read 90 books in 90 days.

I’m going to try it, and my 6 year old son, Andy, says he is too.  We’re going to try and post a quick review here every time we finish a book, so if you want to, add to the discussion.  I don’t want students to write essays or reviews over the summer, I’m just going to do it so that maybe it will motivate a few of them to keep going.

You can also follow our progress on Twitter – @mcliterature.

So get yourself to the library, borrow some books from friends, find some old favorites that have been hidden away on the shelf for years, or read some books for free on  No matter what, no matter where, when, or how – just spend some time this summer reading.

Book 1 for Mr. C: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Ever since the new Sherlock Holmes movies started coming out, I’ve been eager to read the books.  I’d never read any of them before, but Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who shares a birthday with my twin sons Jake and Josh – May 22nd) wrote four Holmes novels and 56 short stories.  Earlier this year I read three of the novels, and now I’ve decided to start with the stories.  This volume collects 12 of the Holmes mysteries, and I really enjoyed trying to match my wits with the detective, attempting to figure out the answers before Holmes could.  There were some really fun mysteries in here, but I honestly enjoyed the three novels more, because these just don’t have a lot of meat to them.

Book 1 for Andy C: The 3 Little Pigs retold by John Duncan, illustrated by Wes Ware

Andy read this re-telling of the classic fairy tale to his brothers.  I have to admit that I wasn’t giving it my full attention, but somehow an elephant showed up in the story near the end, and the wolf wound up with a job blowing up balloons at a carnival.  Not the story I heard when I was little, but the boys all seemed to like how silly it was.  I like the fun illustrations.  The artist’s style is clean, fun, and kid-friendly.  Plus, I found this one in the Dollar Spot at Target, so for a buck you can’t go wrong.


An End of the Year Survey

7 05 2012

The year is almost over.  That’s both happy (yay summer) and sad (of course I will miss all of you when you move on to the big, scary junior high).

Before you go, though, I’d like you to take the time to answer a few questions for me about what you think makes the perfect school environment.  I always work hard to make my classroom better each year, so your honest answers on this survey will help me make next year even better than this year.

Mr. Curtis

Click here to take survey