Monthly Archives: March 2011

In the Classroom: Book Reviews

One of the most important homework I give is nightly reading.  Most of the time the kids read whatever they wish, but occasionally I do give a more directed assignment.  Recently, for example, I pulled together a bunch of old favorites, forthcoming galleys, and recent publications; book talked them; then asked the kids to each chose one to read. When they were finished, I told them, they would write reviews of the books on their blogs.  And if, I also told them, the reviews were well-done, I’d write a blog post here with links to their reviews.  Of course, the possibility that outsiders (you all) might read their reviews was very exciting!

Happily, they LOVED the books they chose.  They couldn’t stop talking to me about them as they read them and were primed to write those reviews. But before they did I did a lesson on review writing.  First I showed them several reviews of Frank Cotrell Boyce’s Cosmic, a book I’d just finished reading aloud, and then asked them to come up with a list of attributes for good reviews. Here’s the blog post for that lesson. After that they were off to write their own reviews and, in no particular order, here they are:


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Special Horn Book Magazine Issue on Fact, Fiction, and In Between

The latest Horn Book Magazine is filled with insightful articles from all sorts of luminaries considering the complexities of writing for children and young adults about facts, nonfiction, history and a whole lot more. I’m honored to be included with a piece about historical fiction back matter, “After ‘The End'”.  While it isn’t available online a number of the other articles are here. Do check them out.


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Top Ten Reasons to See How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

10.  If you like old-fashioned musicals, this Broadway revival by the creators of Guys and Dolls, Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows, in previews with a March 27th opening, is well worth your time.

9.  It is presented straight; that is, nothing has been cut (as was the case in the 1995 revival) or adjusted for 2011 sensibilities. Yes, you are forewarned, the secretaries — all women, natch — in the corporate world of this historical artifact of 1961 want nothing more than to marry and spend their lives in one of the snazzier suburbs. (The heroine yearns for New Rochelle.) The men, on the other hand, are all clawing their way to the top. Not to mention the acceptance of their bits on the side. Bits like Hedy La Rue who causes all the men to ogle and all the women sigh. An ironic view of a particular stereotyped time and place. Don’t go if this sort of stuff bothers you. Watch the movie The Apartment instead.

8.  The staging is terrific — the set, the costumes, lightning, and all. Very Mad Men, but in the frothy vein.

7. There are a bunch of winning production numbers. Director/Choreographer Rob Ashford knows what he is doing.

6. The ensemble is excellent.

7.  So are the various secondary players.

6.  Tammy Blanchard’s portrayal of the vavoom girl, Hedy La Rue, a close cousin of  Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls.   She’s remarkably nuanced in this production — at one moment a bit of a flit and at another smart and savvy, but not mean or nasty. It is a tightrope to walk/dance/strut in 2011 and Blanchard pulls it off.

5. Rose Hemingway, in her Broadway debut as the ingenue Rosemary, is totally charming.

4.  It is a kick to see hangdog John Larroquette, also in his Broadway debut, singing and dancing. Not to mention, knitting.

3.  The show is a lighthearted treat. Go to be entertained and nothing more.

2.  The audience is a hoot. Lots of very, very, VERY excited young women because…

1. Daniel Radcliffe is pretty darn good. Yep, he sings and dances very nicely indeed. And he plays the tricky role of someone slipping his way up the corporate ladder in a remarkably endearing way. No easy thing to do that.

Also at the Huffington Post


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Want to Know More About Educating Alice?

If so, head on over to Children’s Books and Reviews where I’ve just been interviewed.

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The Scenic Book Journey — Good, Bad, or What?

I admit that I started and left unfinished Moon Over Manifest until after it won the Newbery at which point I returned to it and read it with pleasure. On my first go-round, like some others, I’d found it a bit too languid and easy to put down and not pick up again.  Now having just read Laura Miller on the amount of description in novels I’m wondering if that was what caused me to lose interest.  Or is it a taste thing?  Miller references David Wroblewski’s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, a book I definitely found had too much description for me to stick with it.  I thought it was just me, but is it?  There are books where I love the world building (the Harry Potter series comes to mind) and the more description the better, but there are other books where it just gets a bit too tedious for me.  For example, I finally have put aside Salman Rushdie’s Luka and the Fire of Life unfinished for the time being.  I had enjoyed his first children’s book (and several of his adult books) and so dived in feeling delighted to be in that familiar world building, filled with wild imagery and language. But then I’d tire of it and was unable to sustain interest.

There is occasionally complaining about the bulk of some children’s books and the suggestion that they would have benefited by page culling.  Is that because there was too much description?  Or something else?


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Diane Ravitch: Teachers deserve rights

If the voices of their teachers are silenced, who will stand up for students?

via To my critics: Teachers deserve rights –


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