Teaching difficult novels

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Ideally, students would stop judging books by their covers and at least try to read what they are given.  Yet more often than not, I am faced with the question, “How do I get students to love the amazing books I love, or at least tolerate the books we are assigned since they’re the only […]

“Where do you buy these?”

Barnes and Noble at Cherry Hill, NJ.

Eight years ago, the question shocked me: “Mr. Ribay, where do you buy these?” The student was holding up a book. He had no idea where to buy a book. That was my first year teaching in Camden, NJ and the first time I had ever encountered someone who had to ask this question. But […]

The queen of all biographies

Queen of the Falls

“What?! You can’t stop reading there!” bellowed one of my second graders as I shut our read-aloud book and left the main character, Annie Taylor, sealed in a barrel and about to reach the precipice of Niagara Falls. I smiled at his uncontainable outburst and began soliciting predictions about whether Annie would survive her madcap […]

Email from Laban Carrick Hill

Dave the Potter

After our discussion of Dave the Potter on this blog a few weeks ago, I received an email from Laban Carrick Hill, the book’s author, who had been silently following the discussion. I asked if I could share his thoughts here and he graciously agreed. Here’s his email. I’ve been reading the comments on your […]

Five questions for Cynthia Leitich Smith

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Cynthia Leitich Smith’s urban fantasy series the Tantalize quartet did indeed tantalize readers with its vampire-themed eatery Sanguini’s: A Very Rare Restaurant (and, of course, the vampires and other supernatural beings involved therein). Her latest novel, Feral Curse (Candlewick, 13–16 years), is the second book in the Tantalize spinoff series Feral, which brings various species […]

Dayenu!

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Pour the wine (or grape juice) and chop the nuts and apples. Here are some new books for Passover. (And here are two more.)   Preschool Two Shalom Sesame series entries, written by Tilda Balsley and Ellen Fischer and illustrated by Tom Leigh, follow Sesame Street characters in Israel as they learn about doing good […]

Harriet and Me

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

Where to begin with how important Harriet the Spy has been in my life? I guess I’ll have to start with my childhood. I was in fourth grade, at a school book fair. I’d forgotten to bring money that day, which was a problem because there was one book I was desperate to have. It […]

May/June Horn Book Magazine starred books

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I feel like the Fisherman’s Wife here–now that I have a window in my office, I want sunshine. But we are getting accustomed to our new quarters, scary warnings in the cafeteria about noroviruses notwithstanding. We even managed a star meeting! The following books will receive starred reviews in the May/June issue of The Horn […]

Night of Cake & Puppets

taylor_night of cake and puppets

The last book in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, Dreams of Gods & Monsters, publishes today. In honor of that occasion — and in case you need something to tide you over (and excite you further) until you can get your copy of Dreams — here’s a review of Taylor’s digital original […]

Charlotte’s Web

Charlotte's Web

For our very last class, the students are busy finishing up their final projects so I like to lighten the reading load a bit. Charlotte’s Web has been my last class staple for several years, and I call it our dessert book. Of course, most of the students have already read it, but most years […]