Babymouse: Queen of the World!


Babymouse: Queen of the World!

by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

AR Level 2.2, 0.5 points


Jennifer L. Holm is the author of several other awesome books, including The Fourteenth Goldfish and Sunnyside Up, books I’ve read and blogged about.  She is also super nice to her fans and took a picture with my friend and I after signing our books at the Book Fest.  I’ve heard of Babymouse, but I never had a desire to pick it up for my class, because it is only at a 2.2 and isn’t particularly challenging or engaging for a sixth grader.  HOWEVER, my almost-first grader is obsessed with “big kid books” and I thought there’s no better time to get her started on quality literature!  We picked this up for her, and she’s determined to read it, even if it is a bit over her head.  She will get there, and she will love it.  🙂

Babymouse: Queen of the World! is about a mouse with a big imagination.  She loves her best friend, cupcakes, good books, and horror movies.  She wears a dress with a heart on it and creates fictional situations for herself.  Babymouse desperately wants to be invited to a slumber party hosted by a popular cat.  All of the other animals are going, and she tries to find ways to be popular or cool enough to get an invitation.  When she does get invited, there are 2 problems: 1) it is the same night as her best friend’s movie night, and 2) she has to give her book report to the popular cat and she goes home with a note saying she didn’t do her assignment.

What I liked about this book was that it ends with a good message, and Babymouse goes to her friend’s house after realizing the popular cat was full of hot air.  It’s also engaging and a great beginning graphic novel for those new to reading.

What I didn’t like about this book was that it could have taught more lessons.  For example, Babymouse gave her homework to the popular cat.  That’s cheating!  She never got caught, either.  Also, she could have been nicer to her friend instead of just showing up late.  Maybe Holm just wanted to keep it a bit lighter and include only one theme so it didn’t get too overwhelming for younger readers, which totally makes sense.

Book 8 of 10 (summer goal)

Reading in the Wild


Reading in the Wild (paperback)

by Donalyn Miller

No AR Quiz (professional development book)


I was a little anxious about reading Reading in the Wild, because while I enjoyed much of The Book Whisperer, Miller’s tone bothered me a bit.  She seemed very condescending, like if you didn’t do it her way, you were doing it wrong.  Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was a bit more humble.  Her goal for this book was to create life-long readers.  In the past, she’d blamed her former students’ teachers (after her) for not allowing the students to continue their reading goals, and that was why they fell out of love with reading.  However, she realized that there are specific things that we as teachers can do to create “wild readers” who will keep it up, regardless of future teachers.

While I did find this book a little repetitive, here are my key “ahas” based on the 5 chapters.  “Wild Readers…”

1. Dedicate time to read.  It is true that silent reading time is the first to go when you have other pressing matters, lessons, etc. to take care of.  Miller suggests the rule of thirds, which I will have to keep in mind:  split your class period into thirds and make 1/3 of that silent reading time.  That time also has to be on task, though.  She brings up ways (and observation forms) to make sure students ARE spending that time reading and not wasting time.  One thing I will definitely do is have my students log their reading times and locations for the first few weeks so we can identify patterns and hold them accountable, but I realize this won’t have to be done throughout the year.  I as a reader don’t write down my times and page numbers when I read.  I will also have the discussion about stealing time to read, like in the car, at appointments, etc.

2. Self-select reading material.  The ways to find materials to read is brought up, including websites like Goodreads and magazines with book reviews.  Students should be able to read what they want to read, as long as it is challenging them and not too far below their level.  One aha was using read alouds.  I like to read the first book in a series to get my students hooked, like The Bad Beginning from A Series of Unfortunate Events.  However, it hadn’t crossed my mind to read from a book of poetry, a website, or informational book.

3. Share books and reading with others.  I need to identify the experts in my class.  Some will be graphic novel experts, mythology experts, etc. and will be enthusiastic to share their knowledge.  I had a ton of avid (wild) readers who never talked about their books to other students.  What a shame I let that pass.  I will also do more book reviews and encourage some kind of public posting, either through Edmodo or our Haiku page.

4. Have reading plans.  I started having my students keep a “books I want to read” list, but I will go full force with that this year.  I have a pile of “to read” books in my house, but perhaps if I encourage that in my class, it will get kids more excited.  Readers look ahead to future reading plans.  I know I do.  If I apply the things I do as a reader, hopefully my students will also catch on.

5. Show preferences.  The graphic novel bit in this chapter was an eye opener.  Many students read graphic novels because they’re short and easy to read, but there are so many valuable things about graphic novels.  It encourages inferencing, increased knowledge of higher level vocabulary (due to illustrations), and it is motivating!  If I have students who are graphic novel-obsessed, I will try to make sure I find more to provide for my students.

This book has a HUGE index of forms, many of which are available via slideshare in case you don’t want to recreate them.  I, personally, recreated a few to fit my purposes better.  Plus I’m uptight and like things in my favorite fonts.

Book 7 of 10 (summer goal)

The Book Whisperer


The Book Whisperer (paperback)

by Donalyn Miller

No AR Level – Professional Development Book!


I picked up The Book Whisperer after finishing The Reading Zone by Nancie Atwell.  I first heard about this book after doing research on how to get kids to become readers.  I regret that this took me so long to finish, but I got caught up with some fiction books, and wasn’t in my professional development mode!


Here are my Top 5 “Ahas” from The Book Whisperer:

1. The 40 Book Challenge.  I have read tons about this, I’ve downloaded free things from Teachers Pay Teachers, and then I’ve read the blogs where people complain about how the 40 Book Challenge is done all wrong, is distorted, and isn’t the author’s intentions.  So, I decided I needed to read this book to find out what her intentions really were when she created it.  So she created the 40 book requirement so students would see they would not be getting away with 2 books for the whole year, and so they would get the chance to read around the genres.  You can’t develop a love of reading in just a few books!

2. The Types of Readers.  There are 3:  Developing (aka struggling), Dormant (the ones who can but don’t), and Underground (the gifted, avid readers).  The dormant readers make up the biggest group in the class, and this is usually my focus, because I believe they just need to be shown that reading isn’t a chore.  They haven’t found the right book, genre, author, etc. to engage them.  I believe I converted a few dormant readers into underground readers in the past, and it is my goal to continue to do that as a teacher!  I think if I can identify the type of reader, I can better meet the needs of the reader.

3. The Need for Role Models.  ANYONE who has spent time in a classroom knows that there are kids who feel they are good at math, but bad at reading, or they just don’t like to read.  I could name at least 10 of those kids from each class for my past 14 years of teaching.  I would be the teacher who handed out reading logs and read class novels and required students to take AR tests, and then wondered why they didn’t like reading.  I made it too academic.  What made a HUGE change in my classroom was making a drastic change in my own reading habits.  I started the 52 books in 52 weeks challenge (for myself) and started falling in love with reading all over again.  If I could talk about the books with my students, they would see that I was living the reading life, as well.  Students need to see that reading isn’t something just done in school, but something that is done throughout their lives.  “You cannot inspire others to do what you are not inspired to do yourself.” (p. 118).

4. Traditional Practices vs. Alternatives.  Miller talks about many traditional practices that teachers do because they are what we have always done and what others do, as well.  Some of these practices include whole-class novels, comprehension tests, book reports, reading logs, round-robin or popcorn reading, and incentive programs.  Now, I agree with most of the negatives that were brought up, but I don’t think they’re all terrible as a whole.  I do use incentive programs, I use comprehension tests (like AR), and I have a very modified reading log.  But she gives great alternatives for the traditional practices that are worth looking into.

5. Reader’s Notebooks.  I have been researching and considering how I will implement a Reader’s Workshop in class.  We have already been doing Writer’s Workshop, so Reading shouldn’t be too big of a stretch.  With my school’s student population, I know that will also need to include direct and explicit instruction to some, if not all, of my students.  We’ve used a notebook, but it often gets ignored mid-year.  However, the use of the Reader’s Notebook is clearer to me than other descriptions have been in the past.  Her notebooks include 4 sections: 1) Tally List (basically the number of books they’ve read from each genre), 2) Reading List (the books by genre), 3) Books-To-Read List (for future reading, based on recommendations), and 4) Response Entries (letters to and from the teacher).  I personally would add a fifth section for mini-lessons based on standards or needs of my students.

Next up on my Professional Development Reading list… Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller, or In the Middle by Nancie Atwell.  We will see.  🙂

Book 6 of 10 (summer goal)