Sunday, December 29, 2013

My New Years Bookish Resolutions

Hello fellow readers,

As 2013 ends and a new year begins, it is time to bring out the resolutions. I love New Years because it gives everyone a fresh start to try new things or become better at what they love to do. This New Years I am lucky because I don't have school to get in the way of any of my resolutions because I have graduated and now have more time to spend on what I love to do.

What do I love to do. you ask? I love reading (can you tell?) and so I made up a few bookish resolutions for the year 2014 and I explain each of them below.



Don't mind the Super Woman sticker, I thought it was a little encouragement for me to complete each of these resolutions.

1. Read more middle grade books:
The reason I want to read more middle grade books is because I work with children in that age group but I have a limited number of books to recommend them. I can hardly remember the books I read during those years (which is saying something because I usually have a good memory) and I usually just recommend Harry Potter or Roald Dahl books. This year I want to become more acquainted with middle grade books (both Canadian and international) so I can recommend them to my students.

2. Write a review for each book I read.
Since starting this blog I have always wanted to review more books. I read a lot and I don't have many friends who read the same books as I do (or read very much at all) so I can't discuss books with them. I want this blog to be that outlet for me, where I write reviews and people share their opinions and I do the same on their blogs. This resolution may be the most difficult for me but I am up for the challenge.

3. Read 50 books this year.
Every year I put this as a new years resolution and every year I fail. I am hoping that not being in school will help me pursue this resolution more because I will have more time to read the books I love. Also, being apart of the book blogging community may help inspire me more to keep reading.

4. Visit and support more independent bookshops.
If there is one place you want to take me that will make me unbelievably happy, it would be a bookstore. An older bookstore with wooden shelves that are ageing, workers who care about books and reading, and comfortable squishy chairs to sit and read books in. Sadly, in the city I live in, there are no independent bookstores (just Chapters) but some Christian bookstores here and there. Luckily for me, I live just outside of Toronto and I visit the city a handful of times a year and Toronto has an ABUNDANCE of independent bookstores. I went in to one particular bookstore on my way to the Distillery District and I didn't want to leave. So I would like to make it a point to visit more and support them (by purchasing a book or two).

5. Utilize the public library more.
If bookstores are my favourite place, libraries are a close second. In particular, the children's section of a library just makes me feel so enchanted and inspired to read all of the stories. The staff who work at libraries are so knowledgeable and helpful as well, you are surrounded by people who also love reading. Another incentive to utilize the library more is that the books you borrow are free which will save me some money here and there.

That concludes my New Years Bookish  Resolutions for 2014. My non-book related resolution is to drink more water (which may also get me out of the habit of drinking Coke/Pepsi all the time). What are your book/non-book related New Years Resolutions? If you don't have any, why not?

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year, I am looking forward to mine.

Happy Reading,
Tara

Friday, December 27, 2013

Boxing Day Book Haul

Hi fellow readers! 

With the passing of Christmas comes every shopaholic's dream: Boxing Day. For those of you who don't know, Boxing Day is the day after Christmas (but most sales last all week) where many retailers in Canada and the UK have sails (a lot like Black Friday). 

Being an avid book reader, I knew I would hAve to tale advantage of my Christmas money and go to chapters. Much to my surprise, Chapters was having 30% off any hardcover book. I was in heaven! I immediately went to look for Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor & Park and I was happy to have found it along with Fangirl by the same author. I then found a paperback version of Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

  

I am a huge fan of young adult fiction as well as historical fiction. I have read many book blogs which recommend all three of these books. I especially loved seeing the John Green review on the back of Eleanor & Park. I also enjoy love stories so I am excited to begin reading Rainbow Rowell's books. 

As one can see, each of the covers of these books are just gorgeous in all aspects. The simplicity of Eleanor & Park as well as Fangirl just makes me hesitate to put them away on a shelf. Between Shades of Gray has a beautiful closed eyelid with snow falling down on it. Absolutely stunning.

Look forward to book reviews on each of these books in the New Year. Let me know in the comments if you have read any of these books and what you thought of them!

Happy Reading,
Tara 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

TUTOR TIP: Christmas, Read Alouds, and Christmas Presents

Hello fellow readers,

I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas holiday in which you read and ate a lot. I sure did and I didn't let a 13 hour power outage and ice storm get in the way of my Christmas spirit.

Before the ice storm hit, I had a tutoring session (the last one before Christmas) with a grade two student. Wanting to focus on Christmas and comprehension I found some useful online resources.

The first thing I found was a digital copy of Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dowdney. I have never read a Llama Llama book but I have seen them a lot at my local bookstore. When I found this digital copy, I knew I had to read it with my tutee. We have been focusing on comprehension when reading and stopping and asking ourselves who the main characters are and what is the main problem, how did they solve it etc... I also found this awesome Llama Llama holiday resource that is completely free! I have used other lesson plans from The Lesson Plan Diva and would highly recommend using her resources.

I also wanted to introduce some new vocabulary to my tutee because she is somewhat limited that way. So I had my tutee complete a crossword puzzle of words from the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and then we read it together.

Finally, we worked on some 3D Object geometry games because that is what we have been working on recently. For any tutors and teachers who do not know this, the Alberta Ministry of Education has awesome math games for primary students in all areas of the math curriculum. It is called Math Under the Sea.

Moving on from tutoring and into book reading, I asked for several books for Christmas. My best friend was sweet and got me Demi Lovato's Staying Strong: 365 Days A Year and when I opened the book, I couldn't help but notice how beautiful the book is. The cover is translucent and has a picture of birds flying upwards and the hard cover part has the picture of Demi's face. I was expecting more of an autobiography than a day by day thought calendar, I am looking forward to reading her daily thoughts.

My sister and her fiance went to purchase me Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan but it was sold out in the bookshops near us so they have ordered it and I  can't wait to get into that book.

Alas, here is the picture of the Christmas presents my best friend purchased for me. He bought me the Demi Lovato book in the back, a nice smelling candle from B&BW and a mug with my initial, T, on it.
I hope you all had a lovely Christmas holiday. What books did you open up for Christmas and are you planning on purchasing any during Boxing Day/Boxing Week?

Happy Reading,

Tara




Thursday, December 19, 2013

Young Adult Books with LGTBQ Characters

Hello fellow readers,

I have many friends who consider themselves to be part of the LGTBQ (Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Bisexual, or Questioning/Queer) community and I consider myself to be an ally for that community. As an avid reader I began to notice that most of the books I read had little to no LGTBQ characters so this year I took it upon myself to find books that had characters much like the friends I have in my own life.


The four books that I have read (all this year except for Will Grayson, Will Grayson) are:

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan:
This novel was about a boy named Paul who is a gay teen that lives in a very accepting community. Paul has various friends and throughout the book, problems arise with several of them. Paul meets a guy named Noah who is really likes and they begin dating but problems arise when Paul's ex-boyfriend comes back into the picture. Paul also has a friend named Tony (I feel like many of us have a friend like Tony) who does not have an accepting family and he has to learn to treat his parents with respect while standing up for himself at the same time. I really enjoyed this book and felt that many of Paul's problems were not just applicable to an LGTBQ teenager but is applicable to any teenager (which I think is exactly the point).

Shine by Lauren Myracle:
Having been recommended this book both because I was a Hufflepuff and because I was looking for more books related to LGTBQ matters, I decided that this book would be my summer read. Opening the book made me instantly connect with the characters despite not having ever lived in a community like their own. This book is set in a small town in North Carolina where the church plays a big role in community. The main character is a girl named Cat whose best friend was beaten up and ended up in a coma in the hospital. Cat vows to solve the mystery of who attacked him (she definitely suspects a hate crime). This book has a great suspense to it also tied in with the sad realities not being able to accept who you truly are.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray:
This year I have read four of Libba Bray's books (The Gemma Doyle Trilogy and Beauty Queens). While the Gemma Doyle Trilogy (a 19th Century fantasy novel) is very different from Beauty Queens (a feminist satirical novel in the 21st Century) I still enjoyed both of them (I'm a fantasy fan and a feminist). The cover of Beauty Queens might have you pick it up and put it right back down again, don't be fooled. This book is about a group of Beauty Teen contestants who are flown out to record the show but their plane crashes onto a remote part of an island. As a group, the girls have to fend for themselves and hope that help comes near. Bray's writing is very satirical and pokes fun at large corporations (think Disney or ABC) but also contains a character who is a lesbian and a character who is transgender.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan:
It has been a while (three years possibly since I have read Will Grayson, Will Grayson but I will say that I loved the story and will definitely read it again. Both John Green and David Levithan wrote this novel from the perspective of two different characters (both named Will Grayson) who happen to meet. With characters like Tiny Cooper and Jane (I saw a little bit of myself in Jane) you can't go wrong with this happy story.


I hope this blog post helps you if you are also trying to read more books with LGTBQ characters or if you need to recommend any books for teenagers or young adults you might know. Let me know if there are any other books that I should read with LGTBQ characters in it.
Happy reading!
Tara

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman

Book Review: FORTUNATELY, THE MILK by Neil Gaiman
I love children's literature. I think some of the most unique and enchanting stories come from books written with children in mind. As a teacher, I like to be well read so I can give recommendations to students I may work with. Throughout my time working with junior grade students I realized that while I have a host of story books and young adult fiction I can recommend, I do not have a lot of recommendations for the 8-12 year-old range. So when I saw Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman, I had to read it.



The book filled with beautiful illustrations drawn by Skottie Young. The illustrations add to the story and so does the unique use of font. The font changes between the real time characters versus when the father is telling his story.Also when the characters seem to be doing something like climbing a ladder, the words will be placed in a position of like a ladder. 

The premise of the story is about a boy and his sister are left with their dad when their mom goes away on business. The boy and his sister want to eat breakfast but there is no milk for their cereal and so their father goes out to get milk but it takes him an unusually long time. When the father gets back with the milk he tells his children the story of why it took him so long and the story is very bizarre.

The story includes a Professor Steg who is a dinosaur, a queen pirate, and even Vumpires (there is a funny joke where his daughter pipes in about Vumpires falling in love). I liked how this story introduces the fantasy element while keeping the illusion of whether it is real or not real alive.




Overall, I really liked reading this book. I would recommend reading this book aloud to children aged 7 and up. I also think it could be a good Read to Self book for children aged 9 and up. I remember teaching a combined grade 2/3 class and they loved having a novel read to them and I can see them loving this book.

Let me know what you thought of the book and if you have read any other Neil Gaiman books, please let me know if you would recommend them.

Tara
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Disney's Frozen: Book and Movie Review

This past weekend I went to see Disney's Frozen with my sister, my nephew, and step-nephew. I was pretty excited because it was my nephew's second time seeing a movie in a theatre and my first time going with him. I didn't know much about the plot but I had heard good things about the movie and it was really good. The movie is set in Norway and stars two sisters who are princesses. One sister, Anna, has a magic power of turning things into ice. The other sister, Elsa, was hit by her magic as a young girl and was healed but the troll who healed her said she shouldn't be hurt again (especially in the heart) because it would be more difficult to heal her. Anna kept her magic powers hidden from her sister from then on until they opened the castle to the town and everyone saw her magical powers. The best part of the movie is dialogue, whoever wrote the screenplay for this movie was a genius! I also really liked the snowman character, Olaf, and the reindeer, Sven. Olaf is a comical character who is just a warm and fuzzy bundle of joy.

So naturally, after having seen the movie, I went to my local bookstore and bought two books. The first book was titled Disney's Fro\zen Read Along Storybook and CD. This book was fairly cheap ($7.99CAD) and came with a CD that reads the story aloud. I remember growing up and reading stories with cassette tapes (even though CD's were available back then) so seeing this feature brought back a lot of memories. The CD is pretty easy to use and can be put into a computer or a CD player and has clips of the characters saying certain lines from the movie. The story is identical to the movie and is very cute. I plan to use this book in tutoring with my grade two student.

The next book I purchased was for my nephew as a Christmas present and is called Disney's Frozen: Olaf's 1-2-3. This book is hard so that no young kids can rip the pages and is meant for pre-school to Grade 1. The book features the character Olaf counting winter things (he has 1 carrot nose, 2 very happy arms) all the way to 10. My three-year-old nephew knows how to count to 10 but needs practice counting objects and identifying the written number (1, 2, 3 etc...) so this is a perfect gift for him. I can also ask my sister if I can borrow it when I am teaching later down the road.

Overall, I highly recommend these two books for teaching and for home use. These would make great Christmas presents as well. There were several different versions of the Frozen story at my bookstore but I thought the read along book gave me more bang for my buck compared to the hardcover ones available. Also, the Olaf book was geared towards a young audience with simple sentences and counting as the main theme.

Let me know if you enjoyed the Frozen movie, bought any books based on Frozen, or purchased the two books based on my review!

Happy reading!
Tara