Archive for June, 2012

Rush for the Gold by John Feinstein

Rush for the Gold: Mystery at the Olympics. By John Feinstein. Random House Children’s Books, 2012. 320 pages. $16.99

Fans have followed Susan Carol and Stevie as they have solved mysteries at high profile sports events such as the Final Four and the World Series. Nothing get’s higher profile than the Olympics and Stevie is reporting and sleuthing on his own. Where’s Carol Anne? Swimming on the United States Olympic Team! Her good looks and charming personality, plus a gold medal, could make Carol Anne one very rich girl. Agents, sponsors, and even well intentioned parents are putting on the pressure to bring home a gold. John Feinstien’s work, once again shines, as he brings to life the behind-the-scenes story of a major sporting event complete with sleazy opportunists, corrupt officials, and dazzling sports action. Just in time for the summer Olympic Games. Suitable for readers from 5th to 8th grades.

Don’t Miss! Wonder by P.J. Palacio

Wonder. By P.J. Palacio. Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 315 pages. $15.99

“I think there should be a rule that everyone in the world should get a standing ovation at least once in their lives” says Auggie Pullman (p.231). Ten-year old Auggie certainly deserves one! Born with a facial abnormality and persevering through more than twenty surgeries, Auggie has endured more than his share of stares and comments. Enrolling at Beecher Prep, Auggie embarks on middle school after being homeschooled. Coping with being the new kid, trying to make friends, and the logistics of the lunchroom are daunting enough, but when school bullying boils over to the community it challenges Auggie, his family, and his friends in a way they never imagined. Told though numerous points of view, readers learn how Auggie impacts those in his world, encouraging empathy and compassion. Fans of Cynthia Lord’s Rules and Nora Baskin’s Anything But Typical will find much to relate to in Auggie’s story. Teachers will find many opportunities for rich and rewarding classroom discussions. Suitable for readers in 4th to 8th grades.


Having caught up on a fair amount of my “adult” reading for the next few weeks, I’ll be focusing on reviewing books geared for elementary and middle grade readers. For the most part, I’ll feature reviews for newly published books on Thursdays. Tuesdays will feature books from my “backlist,” titles we might have missed given the challenges and excitement of everyday life.

A big thank you to Robert McDonald of The Book Stall in Winnetka, Illinois for graciously allowing me to access his collection of advanced reader’s copies. The Book Stall was recently recognized as Publisher’s Weekly 2012 Bookstore of the Year! This independent bookstore thrives due to its knowledgeable and personable staff. If you find yourself in the Chicago area make sure to plan a visit.

Gone With the Wind

Given that I spend a great deal of the during the school year reading children’s books, I especially enjoy reading more “adult” literature in the summer. Not “adult” in the mature-content definition per se, but “adult” as in “literature.” To that end, I’m taking a class at Northwestern University this summer titled, “The Deep South,” The focus is on the works of southern writers including William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, and Carson McCullers. To start off the class, however, we’re reading Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. Many of us have read GWTW. Many of us have seen the movie. We know Scarlett and her story. Why re-read it?

Why, indeed! In part one alone, Margaret Mitchell provides us with the backstory on every major character, sets the stage for the war, foreshadows events between Scarlett and Rhett, and moves Scarlett through major life events from marriage, to widowhood, and finally, to motherhood. The story is sweeping. The writing is masterful.

The book was (and is) a blockbuster. An article that appeared in New Republic on September 16, 1936, recounted GWTW‘s sales history. The book was published the week of June 29, 1936 and in that week had its fifth printing. The sixth printing was the week of July 13. The movie rights were purchased by Selznick International on July 15. In early August, 1936, it went into its ninth printing. A million copies were sold in the first six months (source: And all of this while the country is in the midst of a depression.

As a reader, I’ve been swept back to another time. I’m in the grasp of memorable characters. I’m caught up romantic dreams. I’m amazed at the resilience and survival of the human spirit. There. Reasons to re-read GWTW.

E-Reader Revolution?

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article yesterday (Saturday, June 16, 2012) about the emerging use of e-reading devices in Africa. I’m a proponent of e-readers. Print in any way, shape, or form, works for me. Having said that, I never considered the value of using e-readers in areas of the word where access to print is difficult. Not that access to electricity and the cost of the e-reader aren’t barriers, but several organizations are working to overcome that. The article by Geoffrey Fowler and Nicholas Bariyo titled “An E-Reader Revolution for Africa?” mentions the work of Worldreader and One Laptop Per Child.

As I weed outdated books from a school library collection, many well meaning people ask if the books can be sent to places like Africa. Shipping costs are often prohibitive and there’s the debate about the quality and currency of information that all children deserve. (After all, the book is being replaced with a new one that has updated information.) With e-readers though, there seem to be distinct advantages including the depth of the collection, instant availability, and access to local authors. As for the impact? “Primary school students who got Kindles increased their performance on standardized reading tests from about 13% to 16%.”

Read more at:
One Laptop Per Child:

Happy Bloomsday!

Today is Bloomsday. A day to celebrate noted Irish writer, James Joyce. Why June 16th? It was on this date in 1904 that Joyce had his first date with his future wife. Joyce commemorated that event by setting his book, Ulysses, on that same date. I decided to commemorate the day by reading some of Ulysses. I started with “Hades,” which is chapter six in the book, having read the opening chapters earlier in the year. In this chapter, Leopold Bloom is attending Paddy Dingnam’s funeral resulting in his contemplating death and mortality. While not the cheeriest of themes for a pleasant summer day, it serves my purpose of exploring more of this amazing work.

If reading Ulysses is on your “bucket list,” as it has been on mine, you should just jump in. Ulysses takes a lot of reading and re-reading and with each exposure comes a deeper understanding of the plot and Joyce’s writing style. A guide such as Don Gifford’s Ulysses Annotated: Notes for James Joyce’s Ulysses (University of California Press, 1988) is a great help in understanding the references to Irish culture, Homer’s Odyssey, and more.

If you’d just like to sample a bit of the text in honor of this esteemed literary hero, I’d suggest reading the beginning of Calypso (chapter 4). This serves as the readers’ introduction to Leopold Bloom. Through Bloom’s interactions with his cat and musings about his wife, we, as readers, begin to have insights into his personality and life.

Regardless of where you start or how long you keep reading, there’s no better day to celebrate James Joyce than today!

Welcome to Ms. D Reads!

I’m Ms. D, AKA Linda Diekman and welcome to my blog! I’ll be sharing thoughts on reading…. not just my own reading adventures, but books and resources that will enrich your adventures as well. I am a school librarian working with K-5th grade students and I’ll be reviewing books of particular interest to that age group.

In addition to holding several advanced degrees in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I am a National Board Certified Teacher. I’ve  taught information literacy skills across all grade levels from kindergarten through graduate school. Currently, I’m an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Illinois’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and at National Louis University’s College of Education. In my spare time, I research, write, and of course, read.

Let’s enjoy the adventure!

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