Some Suggestions

Dear Mrs. Eaves,

This took a lot of thought. I couldn’t think of anything right away, but while reading your post, Poppy did come to mind. But after looking through the bookshelf, thinking very hard, and asking my twin sister, I came up with three books:

  1. Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
  2. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
  3. The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

I think My Side of the Mountain is one of the best woodland books out there. Sam, living in New York City is so unhappy that he goes out to live in the Catskill Mountains with nothing but a very small batch of supplies. In the wilderness, he learns how to survive by making meals out of dandelions, making a house out of a hollow tree and lots of other things. When I read this book in the summer after 3rd grade, I remember trying out some of the things that he did in the woods behind my house. I think 3rd graders will enjoy this read because it teaches them about the woods, but also they will connect with Sam because he is a character that you like reading about. When reading, they will be able to feel his triumphs and failures.

The next book that I think is fitting is Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl. After reading Mrs. Eaves recommendation for Midnight Fox, I realized that this has a fox, a farm, but a totally different concept. It is about Mr. Fox’s life and the farmers who live in the farm next door. A chant from the book about the farmers Boggis Bunce and Bean is below:

Boggis, Bunce, and Bean
Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One fat, one short, one lean
Those horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were nonetheless equally mean

This Roald Dahl book is about the Fox family adventures, their encounters with the crooks without good looks, and lots of other things that capture the reader and make them connect to the characters. The way this is wilderness is that they talk about Mr. Fox’s fox hole and the also go through the barn, so that might be a good learning experience for 3rd graders as well.

The last book I recommend is The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl. This story has a little bit of wilderness and woodland theme, bit mostly it is a funny and enjoyable read. I think 3rd graders will like this book because it is a fantasy type book that will capture readers. It  is about a girl who apparently has supernatural powers. She only uses this power when she gets angry and she can’t control it. This time, she’s done something very bad. She’s turned the neighbors into a group of… read to find out! 3rd graders will LOVE this book. It is fantasy, but as with all these books, readers can connect to the character with ease.

I hope my suggestions will help your class!

Good Luck,

Matt 🙂

Does anyone have any great suggestions?

  • In search of books that will help us develop as readers while exploring animals in different habitats
  • You know, integrating language arts and science…

Hi Matt (and readers of our blog),

I need some help.  This year I would describe my class of third graders as a group of readers not always sure of how to choose books to read and enjoy.  Sometimes great choices happen, but often they seem accidental.  There is a lot of wandering around the bookshelves, starting and stopping, and turning pages and pretending.  Of course that’s not true for everyone, but it is the general feel.  Because of this I find myself structuring more of our reading time with small groups.  I really want kids to know what it feels like to finish a book and to find a book that changes them.  I’ve met with some success with the first goal – not really with the second.

So that leads me to my current challenge:  What books can I select to support the range of readers in our class (from those who find Magic Tree House-like books a challenge to those who are reading and loving The Lightning Thief) AND also allow us to explore a variety of animal habitats?

Do you have any title suggestions?  I would really appreciate them.

The Midnight FoxOne idea is The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars.  It has been a very long time since I first read this book.  I’m not sure what made it pop into my head, but I am glad it did.  Right from the beginning I was hooked.  What a lead!

Sometimes at night when the read is beating against the windows of my room, I think about that summer on the farm.  It has been finve years, but when I close my eyes I am once again y the creek watching the black fox come leaping over the green, green grass.  She is as light and free as the wind, exactly as she was the first time I saw her.  .

Or sometimes it is that last terrible night, and I am standing beneath the oak tree with the rain beating against me.  The lightning flashes, the world is turned white for a moment, and I see everything as it was – the broken lock, the empty cage, the small tracks disappearing in the rain.  Then it seems to me that I can hear, as plainly as I heard it that August night, above the rain, beyond the years, the high, clear bark of the midnight fox.

I was drawn through the pages right to the end wondering how a fox and a farm could mix – they don’t always and this book is no exception.  I hope all intermediate  readers find it.  Every word is a perfect choice.  It’s one of those books – sort of sparkles.  The Midnight Fox will be one selection.  It is realistic fiction – the favorite genre of our class.  It is will be a good match for many in the class  and the book club/discussion format will help increase the understanding for those who’ll find the reading a bit  challenging.  And the flow of the language … we’ll have a great time exploring passages to see how they can inform our writing.

Beyond The Midnight Fox, am not certain of any other choices.  Maybe Poppy.  Maybe A Toad for Tuesday.  I wish I could find books with various settings – not all woodland and habitats familiar to us.

Please let me know if you have any suggestions.  I could use the help.


Mrs. Eaves

Ordinary Magic

Ordinary Magicby Caitlen Rubino-Bradway

278 pages for intermediate and middle grade readers who want a little magic and a little fairness in their lives.  Ordinary?  What is that?

When ordinary is not normal and normal is an illusion, how can you be sure of what you know?  Abby Hale is the youngest of five.  On her twelfth birthday she heads to the guild where the mages will give her some tests and learn what magical abilities and talents will be.  The Judging is an exciting to day!  Abby can hardly wait to discover her magical ranking.  Her family has gathered.  A celebration has been planned.

Abby walks through the door and into the testing – her score… zero.  Abby Hale – youngest of an important magical family, sister of one with a nearly perfect score … has no magic.  She has nothing.  She is nothing.  She is an “ord.”

In one moment Abby’s life is changed.  What will she do?  How will she survive in a place where she is no longer wanted and no longer safe?  Though Abby has a family who loves and accepts her for who she, that is not typical.  Traditionally Ords are abandoned or sent away.  Having no value to society, they are sold or stolen and forced to do things only the non-magical can do.  King Stephen wants to change that – but will it be in time to help Abby?

Ordinary Magic is fun.  You’ll like the new places this book takes you, but it will make you think.  Ordinary…what does that really mean?

Horten’s Incredible Illusions

Horten's Incredible Illusions: Magic, Mystery & Another Very Strange AdventureHorten’s Incredible Illusions picks up where Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms leaves off.  The illusions Stuart found stored in the bandstand are moved to the museum for preservation and 10-year-old Stuart Horten is given a job curating his uncle’s magical contraptions.  Stuart and April (the one of the April, May, June triplets who is serious about uncovering a mystery) are charged with naming and describing these illusions.  They give them enticing names like “The Cabinet of Blood,” and “The Book of Peril,” but the magical devices each hold a secret – a secret that must be revealed in order to find Uncle Tony’s long-lost will.  Once activated, the contraptions whisk Stuart and his friend April away to other realms, where their wits and their friendship are gravely tested.

 “So maybe that’s how it works,” said April.  “We find how the trick operates – the switch or the swivel or the lock or the handle or whatever – and that’s where the Magic Star goes.”

She gave a bounce of excitement.  “So let’s get going!  This is the next one, isn’t it?  The next adventure.”

There’s more going on in this story than illusion and adventure.  Have you ever thought that maybe illusions work by knowing what people will look for instead of seeing what is actually there?  Have you ever wondered what the difference between seeing and observing is?  You might after reading this book.   How often to you slow down enough to notice how you might help those around you?  When you’ve finished reading Horten’s Incredible Illusions the magic will stick with you.  You’ll be hoping for more.

a note:  You don’t have to have read the first to enjoy the second – but I bet when you finish, you’ll find the first and read it too.  The characters and the story are too fun to miss.

Morpheus Road: The Black



At the end of The Light, Marsh and Sydney discover that the real reason behind their hallucinations is a spirit named Damon, a soldier who fought with Alexander who wants to prove himself. Marsh and Sydney also discovered that Cooper was a spirit, and he had been given permission to be able to be seen by Marsh and Sydney to help them through the crisis with Damon. Now there is a different twist on the story. It’s from Cooper’s perspective.

Cooper tells the story of how he died and he finds himself in Stony Brook, his hometown, but it is filled with people who have passed away. He meets up with his deceased grandfather and he tells Coop all about where he is. He is in his vision, in the Black. This book is a big mix of ghosts, twists, battles and supernatural stuff, and it creates an AWESOME book! D.J. MacHale applies his same style of writing of Pendragon to make a book with something that science-fiction and just about any reader will like.

Click on the book cover to go to D.J. MacHale’s website. He is even involved with producing TV shows as well as writing books!

(Click on the logo to buy the book.)

Knightly Academy

if you like reading The Ranger’s Apprentice and Harry Potter, you’ll certainly like Henry Grim and his story

Knightley Academy (Knightley Academy, #1)Henry Grim doesn’t know anything about his past.  He was left on the steps of an orphanage.  Now he is a servant boy at  Midsummer School.  He cleans up after and serves the wealthy boys who are planning to pass the exam that will allow them to enter into Knightly Academy for the training they will need to become leaders of the realm.  The only problem though is that no one from Midsummer had passed the test for years – is the school cursed?

This spring is different.  When the test is announced is it clear that Henry may take it too – he does not have to be a enrolled to take the exam and he’s ready.  While the other students of the academy have been whiling their time away, Henry has been studying.  He’s been working to learn everything he can during every spare minute of the day and night.  Henry is prepared – without missing a moment of his work and chores Henry does it all.  He is the only one from Midsummer school to pass.  A commoner,perhaps, but  Henry is going to become a knight one day.

Once at Knightly, Henry discovers he is one of three commoners – the only commoners ever allowed into the school.   Valmont and Theobold are not about to let forget that they are different – and not wanted.  Despite their challenges, Henry continues on in his same determined fashion until the undercurrent of prejudice and injustice pulls him under and puts him near expulsion.  Poised to lose the only thing he has ever dreamed of, Henry discovers a conspiracy that violates the Hundred Years’ Peace treaty—and could lead to war.   The question is can Henry find a way to save his school and country from enemies who want to change everything, and keep his place at the Academy?

The story continues with The Secret Prince – you won’t believe how Henry’s story unfolds and you’ll be left wondering about the power of people to do good or evil.  What leads us to our choices?The Secret Prince (Knightley Academy, #2)


Dr. Seuss

Theodore Seuss Geisel

Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss) is one of the most valued children’s books writers of American history. You probably know him because of The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, but most people don’t know who he really is and his story.

He was born on March 4th, 1904. He was raised on Fairfield Street in Springfield, Massachusetts and attended Springfield Central High School. After High School, he attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. His writing and drawing and humor really took off there. He became editor of Jack-o-Lantern, the school’s humor magazine. In his senior year he was stripped of that job due to drinking during the times of Prohibition, so he started publishing cartoons under various pseudonyms including Dr. Seuss. That is when he officially adopted his pen name.

He married a Dartmouth classmate Helen Palmer, and his first real success was the “Quick, Henry, the Flit!” This catchphrase was featured in advertisements for the Flit bug repellent. The ads were of someone saying to Henry the catchphrase when there looked to be a massive cloud of bugs bearing down upon them. That phrase was the “Got Milk” of that time; everyone knew it. For the next three decades of his life, he made advertisements for all different companies, including GE, Ford, and many other big names.

His first children’s book was And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and he wrote eleven others until his HUGE success, The Cat in The Hat.  It is what he is most known for. The book surfaced from the Doctor’s ( 🙂 ) friend from the publishing company Houghton Mifflin asking him to write a book with 225 words that first graders should know. The Houghton Mifflin director also wanted the book to be entertaining for the kids. In nine months, Dr. Seuss had used 223 of the words and included 13 more in The Cat in The Hat. There has been a TV show made from it as well as a film. It really took off with the kids and parents of America.

March 2nd, a few days ago, would have been Seuss’ 109th birthday. But people have not forgotten. For one, Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in The Hat are number 5th and 9th on the all time best selling children’s books. But also Dr. Seuss’ birthday has been made National Read Across America Day by the National Education Association (NEA). It was created to promote reading in America, which fits him perfectly!



Gingersnapby Patricia Riley Giff

recipes seasoned with herbs and care are always the best – even when ingredients are rationed and scarce.

Janea lives with her brother Rob.  He’s nine years older than she is and has just become old enough to gain custody and take her from foster care.  That’s been their dream since she’s been five and Rob has visited her every Sunday.  Finally they can build a home together.  It is a home of love, stories, shared meals, soup and change. Rob is a cook at the Navy base and he’s about to be shipped out on the USS Muldoon.  He’ll be cooking meals for the sailors and Janea will be living with their landlady, Celine until he comes back.  Rob assures her it won’t be long.  When the war is over and Rob is home they plan to open a restaurant where he’ll make the meals and “Gingersnap” will make the soup.  Gingersnap is the nickname Janea’s mother gave her because of her ginger-colored hair.  The name makes Janea feel closer to her family.

Rob leaves and the days pass by.  Celine thinks that Janea needs to learn manners and perhaps she does.  Janea tries her best to be a quiet, neat girl.  She tries to stay out of the way.  She cares for Theresa the turtle in the soon-to-be dried up pond in their old backyard.  She carries the rock girl with her always – the funny rocky face from one of the last days at home with Rob, when she’d been trying to pick a yellow flower in the pond and become stuck in the mud completely.  Rob had rescued her and found the curious rock that looked like a face. He’d given to her with a quip and that’s when she’s seen the ghost – her but not her.  Curious.

Then the unthinkable – Rob’s ship is sunk and he is lost in the Pacific.  Celine feels burdened by the responsibility of Janea.   Janea feels totally alone.  Both want their old lives back, but have no idea how that can be.  At the insistence of the ghost, Janea goes back to their house one more time.  She finds a box of carefully saved things that must once have belonged to her parents.  There is book of carefully written recipes with a photograph of woman in front of a bakery named “Gingersnap.”  Janea knows right away that this is a key – her grandmother she dares to hope.  There is an address and so Janea, along with Therea for company, sets off to Brooklyn full of hope in search of her place to belong.

You’ll have to read Gingersnap  what happens to Janea when she arrives in the city.  You might become a soup specialist too – Janea shares her recipes with you.  Savor every page – it is delicious.