The Word Eater

The Word Eaterby Mary Amato

The answer seems simple enough until you begin thinking your way through the 151 pages.  I wonder what you’d do.

What does the birth of a worm and the initiation of a sixth grader have in common?  Well in The Word Eater they begin in the same moment, neither go well and both set in motion actions that will change the world.

Reba – president of MPOOE (Most Powerful Ones on Earth) seems to rule sixth grade at Cleveland Park Middle School along with Randy.  They have divided the class into MPOOE members or SLUGs.  Lerner has just moved to this school, this town, this state and she is not too impressed with what she finds.  She doesn’t want to be a MPOOE, but she doesn’t want to be a SLUG either – she just wants to be left alone.  With Reba around that doesn’t seem to be an option.

Meanwhile in a mud circle at the edge of the playground a worm emerges from its casing.  The other worms of the clan sense its arrival and circle up for the naming waiting eagerly to feel the vibration.  The worm is teeny – almost nothing at all, but it is able to move on little skinch to earn the name Fip. Once named, Fip is carried on to the eating ceremony, but Fip doesn’t seem to be able to stomach the taste of dirt.  Fip’s clan always eats dirt and because he doesn’t he is left on his own.  He discovers he has a taste for sweet and crunchy, crisp and crinkly words.    And what he eats disappears.

No one understands this at first, but soon Lerner catches on.  She realizes that this worm, no bigger than a grain of rice has amazing power.  She is the one who can use that power.  Perhaps she will be able to undo all her recent moving misery.  But while as Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power, “ he also said, “Appetite for too much power caused the angels to fall.”  Lerner is faced with a dilemma – how can she best use this power?  Should she?  Can she changes things and make them better?  Everything, she discovers, is connected.  What would he do with the power to change the world?

The Fire Chronicle

The Fire Chronicle (The Books of Beginning, #2)by John Stephens

Kate, Michael and Emma have been hidden away by Stanislaus Pym, their guardian. They are not safe and he hopes that he’ll be able to discover more about the danger and the reasons with time. Time, though, is not on their side and Michael and Emma find themselves on a breathless quest to find the second Book of Beginning, The Fire Chronicle. At the same time Kate is transported by the power of the Emerald Atlas to the past.

Michael and Kate race from the Screechers and others who work for the Dire Magnus. They travel around and through the world in search of the magical book and clues to discover where and why their parents have been taken from them.  With the help of steadfast Gabriel, Michael and Kate join a dragon and an army of elves (not Michael’s beloved dwarves)  to gain control of the Chronicle and learn even more about their destiny as the prophesied three.  While their quest unfolds Kate is whisked through time to the exact moment when the magical world divided itself off and went into hiding. There she learns of another part of the children’s destiny and comes to understand more about the divide between the wizards and the Dire Magnus.

Only by being together will the children be able to do any thing – Kate is in past in New York City and Michael and Emma at at the bottom of the world in the lava chamber of vast volcano.  Magic can bring them together – but how and when.    There is a cost  for using magic but that won’t be fully understood until the story of the Books of Beginning is told from start to finish.  What is the  cost of bringing the three books together? Who will pay and how will the worlds be left? Are their more than two choices?  Are there only two sides –  good and evil?  The Fire Chronicle is a thrilling adventure that will leave you breathlessly turning pages, eagerly searching for information, connections and answers to your many questions.  I didn’t think a book could be better than The Emerald Atlas, but The Fire Chronicle just might be.  All I know for sure is that I cannot wait to read the final book in the trilogy – so many twists and turns, so many possibilities.  I can’t wait to find out discover what is in store for Emma, Michael and Kate – their parents and friends and the world.  Life is in the balance.

Starry River of the Sky

Starry River of the Skyby Grace Lin

Rendi has run away from home – gone as far as he can to be away from his father, Magistrate Tiger as he possibly can.  His father, hoping to become an important man, bullies everyone around him with his arrogant and dishonest challenges.  His tricks and plans seem to get him what he wants, but Rendi cannot bear to be part of the deceit. Although it means leaving his mother and sister behind, Rendi’s anger at being used and discarded gets the best of him and he set off.  His journey brings him to the City of Clear Sky.  He finds a job as chore boy in the Inn and here questions and stories unfold around him. They make him wonder about choices – his choices.   Where has the innkeeper’s son gone? Is Peiyi angry or sad?  Why is she concerned about leaving?  Why do neighbors argue, when working together they could find a solution? Is it possible that Mr. Shan cannot tell the difference between a rabbit and a toad?  Where is the moon and why does no one else notice it is missing?  And mostly, what is the sound, the crying and haunts Rendi everywhere he goes?

An elegant lady comes to the Inn and Reyndi wonders why she has chosen to stay there.  At once enchanted by her stories and the ease she brings to their lives, Rendi begins to understand that people are revealed by the stories they tell.  He learns that many stories can be understood different ways – one story may have as many different meanings as there are listeners.  Finally Rendi’s questions are answered and he knows what he must do.

Readers of Starry River of the Sky will smile as they discover how the threads from each story told are woven together to create a rich tapestry combining China’s ancient tales with our contemporary lives to create a new, completely satisfying story challenge, friendship and love.  Mountains, the moon, toads and journeys play an important role in Grace Lin’s new book – a companion to When the Mountain Meets the Moon.  You’re sure to love to journey as you begin to wonder what you reveal through the stories you share and tell.

Grace Lin shares how she came to write this story and how her favorite fairy tales and legends combine in her telling.  Click here to hear what she has to tell.

Ginger Pye

“One thing that Jerry Pye wanted more than anything else in the world right now was a dog. Ever since he had seen the new puppies in Speedys’ barn, he was not only more anxious than ever to have a dog, he was most anxious than ever to get one of these Speedy puppies. He had the particular one picked out that he would most like to have as his own. This was not easy to do for they were all wonderful.” (Pages 1-2, Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes)

Jerry Pye, as you can tell, loves everything dogs. Mr. Pye, Mrs. Pye, and Rachel Pye are his family, and they are very interesting people. They are supportive of Jerry as he works for his dollar and finally, he buys his dog.  His new, “intellectual,” and, “wonderful,” dog is named Ginger. Ginger Pye. But strange activity starts happening involving Ginger, like mysterious footsteps on the day Ginger was being picked up, and then other things. The Pye Family is enjoying Ginger so much but then…. he disappears!! Where could he have gone???? You will find out when you read Ginger Pye by Eleanor Estes.

Click HERE for the LibraryThing description of Eleanor Estes and HERE for the description of Ginger Pye.

This book was published in 1951, so there is no author or book website but the LibraryThing descriptions are sufficient.

My mom loved this book so much that we convinced her that we needed to get a dog. And she wanted to name our new dog Ginger. Sorry, but her name is Lucy.

Lucy, my dog, when she was a puppy. Now she’s 60lbs.

Wondering About Knowing…

I started wondering – how do you learn about new things you know nothing about?  In fact, do you learn things if you know nothing about them to begin with?  I’m lucky to be a teacher and a book lover.  I spend a part of each day reading about books – new and old  and about the authors and illustrators who create them.  As I read all of these reviews I think about how these books might fit in with the things going on in our classroom.  We are working to understand ourselves as learners and as members of a learning community.  We are working to learn how we are connected to history and past explorations.  We are trying to expand the ways we express ourselves individually and collectively as we grow to see ourselves as productive members of our global community.

Picture books are important tools for opening doors in your mind to information and ideas.  They are brief, but complete windows onto new things – and once you’re aware of possibilities they are more likely to develop into something richer and more complex.  Here’s a collection of recent informational picture books written for intermediate and middle grade readers – snapshots of information to open your mind.

The Fantastic Jungles of Henri RousseauThe Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markle  Henri Rousseau is a toll collector in Paris.  He is forty.  He wants to be a painter.  He wants to capture the glory and beauty of nature.  He can not afford a teacher and so he sets out to teach himself.  He studies.  He practices. He learns of an exhibition and decides to put his art on display.  His work is ridiculed by the experts.  They say his work is childish; something even cavemen would ignore, but he does not give up.  He paints what he loves, what he sees, what he imagines and what he feels. He keeps at it.  For twenty years the art critics berate his technique and ability, but finally one year other artists begin to notice the love , the story and the light captured in each piece.  In time his work is notice and not laughed at.  Finally Henri Rousseau is allowed to become what he has dreamed of becoming – an artist.  Can you imagine the courage and effort, the determination and persistence required for him to succeed? For twenty years or more he was mocked and jeered at – what an amazing person he must have been.  I would very much like to have him as my friend.

Faith: Five Religions and What They ShareFaith – Five Religions and What They Share by Dr. Richard Steckel and Michele Steckel does exactly what the title says.  Illustrated with current photographs, it shares information about Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism.   With so much unrest in the world centered around belief and doctrine it is important for us to understand how closely related our beliefs, the origins of our faiths and underlying tenets of these religions are.  Certainly each is different – but just a certainly, they are the same.  Faith explores sacred texts, common acts of worship, charity, symbols and clothing. It helps us understand the rituals and celebrations that lead to a common belief – treat others as you would like to be treated.  It is a beautiful books to see.  It shares the richness of diversity, while at the same time honoring the individuality of one’s faith.


Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose: Growing Up On Mount RushmoreHanging off Jefferson’s Nose – Growing up on Mount Rushmore by Tina Nicholas Coury tells the story of Lincoln Borglum, the son of the sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, who designed the great monument on Mount Rushmore.  Mount Rushmore is amazing.  It is stunning to see and imagining the enormity of the accomplishment is mind-boggling.  And then you read the book and realize there is so much more involved – investigating the stability of the rock, creating two-story models so the 500 men working on the project would know the dimensions they were working on, keeping the crew safe and warm all year.  It wasn’t a fair weather project.  Stairways, scaffolding, dynamite, starting over, taking care of the men, taking care of the Lakota tribe, adjusting and readjusting the design, losing your father, being commissioned as head sculptor and dedicating fourteen years of your life to see a project through to its end.  I don’t think you’ll see any sculpture in the same way once you read this book. It is such an amazing feet of engineering and art created by an entire community dedicated to one task and doing something they believed in.  Lincoln was 15 when his father began the project.  He was 29 when he finished the project for his father.  Just imagine.

Once you get reading you’ll find more to pique your interest.  Here are a few that I have found in the last few weeks as our class works to uncover and discover possibilities:  Rachel Carson and Her Book that Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor, Leo-Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth by Jon Chad, I Could do That!  Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote by Linda Arms White or For the Birds – the Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Peggy Thomas

Mark of Athena

The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, #3)I thought the challenges and actions in this book were outstanding.  I appreciated the twists and turns that were added as new myths and legends were told.  I think it is one of Riordon’s best stories so far.  My review definitely sounds like a teacher – I really appreciate when people are challenged and their efforts are respected.  I’ll try to tone it down, but if you know me, you know that taking risks, being committed to achieving greatness and being kind are my top three.  I think this book has that, along with lots of interesting twists. Enjoy!

574 exciting pages of adventuring quest

Working together is the only way to save humankind.  This is more challenging than it seems. The Greeks don’t like the Romans.  The Roman’s don’t trust the Greeks.   Gaea is working to gather  the power and energy she needs to reawaken,  That means that  nothing touching earth is as it seems when you’re a demigod.  The Giants are hoping to regain their authority.  That means nothing is as it seems underground.  The Gods are in chaos – which strength, which image should they let appear to the demigods charged by Hera/Juno to bring peace to Earth.  That means being in the air may not be safe either.  This is the turmoil Leo, Hazel, Jason, Percy, Annabeth, Piper and Frank must journey through.  If they fail, our world will fail too.  What will rise in its place?

The Mark of Athena continues the story begun when the Prophecy of the Seven was foretold.   Greek and Roman demigods must not let Gaea rise while defeating the giants, thwarting the eidolons and gathering long lost secrets along the way.  When the way for the quest was established, the makers could not conceive of cooperation among enemies, but so far in the quest it has been cooperation that helped them through each challenge; cooperation and genuine care for others and humanity.  Each one of the heroes has his or her special talent and unique weaknesses.  Only through accepting both the good and the bad and making a total commitment to  respect and trust each other can they discover what the world needs.

It is comforting to know that gods get scared, that they make bad decisions and that they have to deal with the consequences of their mistakes.  It is also comforting to know that self-centered, egotistical power is undone and outwitted while friendship, family and dedication struggles on.  There is strength in this quest because of the trust and respect shown by and for each of the characters.  You’re sure to enjoy The Mark of Athena.  The only down side is that The House of Hades is a year away.