July 19, 2013

Fiction Friday: Chapter 6

Happy Friday! Can you believe another summer week has come and gone?  This summer is flying by.  A couple of things to note…

This is where I got my coffee this morning. Yum!
First, I’m back in Seattle for the weekend.  Actually, I’m on Bainbridge Island  if you want to be technical. It’s funny how much the Pacific Northwest is part of me.  I grew up in Austin and moved to the Seattle area when I was 15. I went to college here, got married here, and did a fairly significant part of my growing up here. Yet, when I lived here and people asked , I told them I was from Texas.  Now, I’m back in Texas and  if  people ask where I am from, I respond (without any hesitation), “Oh, I’m from Seattle.”  Ha! I think I am a cultural hybrid.  Regardless, it’s good to be back.  The air is crisp and fresh.  The coffee is strong.  On all accounts, it just feels right and it makes for a nice break from that oppressive Texas heat.

Second, I received an email from Elementary Education Degree.com, telling me that my blog had been chosen for their 151 Leading Sites for Elementary Education.  Can I just say that I am flattered.  I looked at the list. It’s an impressive group and to be included is such an honor.  Blogging has been such a great way to meet other educators and share ideas with people that have the same passion (teaching and BOOKS!). Thank you to all my loyal followers.  I so appreciate you reading, commenting, and sharing your thoughts and insights.

Those are my dry eraser markers with pom-pom erasers!
Third...Yesterday, I was sitting in the San Francisco airport killing time surfing my phone.  I was cruising around on Facebook and a friend posted a link to 25 Clever Classroom Tips for Elementary School Teachers.  Naturally, I had to follow the link and check out these great ideas, and guess what?!?  One of the ideas came from MY blog.  My dry erase pom-poms were featured and it was going around Facebook.  Holy cow! I totally freaked out, but because I was sitting in the middle of the San Francisco airport I had to control myself.  There was really nobody to share in the excitement.  I reposted immediately, leaned back in those oh so uncomfortable chairs, and just smiled to myself.  How cool is that?!?  According to the article, I’m clever.  I like it. Of course, it would have been better if it had been completely my own idea, but I originally found the idea on pinterest. As you know, I am a thief.  Steal, change, modify, and personalize.  That’s my motto. So, whoever originated the idea...well done! I think my picture was just more colorful.  Hehe.

Okay, now on to the real goods… it is time for the next installment of Fiction Friday. I’m excited because of all the books I have read this summer, these two have been my favorite.  So, pull up your Amazon wish list now because you are probably going to need it.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

by Barbara O’Conner

Barbara O’Conner is quickly becoming one of my favorite children’s authors.  I blogged about another one of your books earlier this summer – How to Steal a Dog.  Like, How to Steal a Dog, this book is filled with wonderful characters, a great plot, and a wonderful message about friendship and perseverance. 
After Owen Jester’s father lost his job, his family moved in with his grandfather and according to Owen, there are three good things about living with his grandfather:
1) The house is surrounded with woods, paths, and a big pond
2) There is barn behind the house that is falling down and filled with all kinds of cool things.
3) There are train tracks behind the woods behind the house.

One night, Owen hears the train come through, but then he hears something else.  He hears, “A thud. The crack of wood.  A tumble, tumble, tumble sound. Then the clatter, clatter, clatter of the train…” And, so the mystery begins.  What fell of the train? Owen sets out with his friends, Travis and Stumpy, to explore the tracks and find the mystery package. Everything would be just fine, if his noisy know-it-all neighbor Viola would just leave them alone.  The problem is…they just might need her. Owen is going to have to make some decisions.  Does he include Viola in the adventure?  Should he let his beloved bullfrog, Tooley Graham go back into the wild?  One thing is for sure, he will never have another adventure like this summer.

Without giving too much away about the story, I will just say that it was a well-crafted novel perfect for all elementary students.  This book could be read and enjoyed by everyone. I loved the theme of perseverance throughout the book.  Owen never gives up, even when things get tough and his friends have already thrown in the towel. For those that teach the 7 Habits, this would be a perfect book to discuss beginning with the end in mind. Several times throughout the book, we see Owen establish a goal and then make and carry out a plan.  Other habits could easily be woven into your class discussions as well. 

The character development in this book was spot on. Owen is an incredibly likeable character.  He is insightful and looks at things from both sides, often acknowledging what he wants to see and what he knows to be true. Viola is….well, annoying.  I felt just like Owen for a majority of the story, but then (just like Owen) she starts to grow you on and you appreciate her know-it-allness. It’s clear she just wants to join in and not be left out, opening the door for another great discussion starter in the classroom.

Often people consider good writing to be complex sentences filled with vivid descriptions and verbose vocabulary, but it doesn’t have to be. It can be simple and elegant.  O'Conner's use of onomatopoeia and word choice is a great example for student writers. I would definitely consider this a good book for a writing mentor text. The language is simple, not overdone, but well done - making it perfect for 3rd and 4th graders to read and emulate in their own words.  In the spirit of Cynthia Rylant, Kate DiCamillo, and Patrica McLaughlan, Barabara O’Conner crafted a wonderful story.  I loved it.

Fast Facts:
  • Read Aloud 2-5
  • Chapter Book 3-5 (RL 4.7)
  • 168 pages
Did I convince you?  Have you added it your Amazon wish list yet?  I hope so.  It’s worth it. 

Just in case you are unsure, here's the video trailer.  :)

Well, seeing as I have already written the world’s longest post and the other book I read this week was also AWESOME, I’m going to save it for next week.  Too much to say.

Until next week… happy reading! And don’t forget to click around below to discover other great reads.  Feel free to link up with Fiction Friday anytime with your own book reviews, mentor text ideas, etc.  Anything having to do with children’s literature and books is fair game.  I do ask that you do not link up soley to promote products and please provide a link back to my blog.  Thanks for understanding and joining the fun.


  1. I loved How to Steal a Dog, so I will definitely check this book out. Thank you for hosting this linky party. I just love reading about all the books out there. I am a recent follower and a first time participant in this linky, but I am a long time reader of your blog. Thank you for sharing all your great ideas!


  2. Congratulations! What a wonderful honor for you and your blog. :)
    Creating Lifelong Learners
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  3. I love Seattle! Wish you were closer to Portland:-)

    Chickadee Jubilee

  4. Congratulations!! So exciting when you get mentioned on a blog or other website. I know when my little duckie got mentioned I practically screamed with delight.
    Also, I feel like I hit the jackpot because there was no one ahead of me at the library to read The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester. Should be here tomorrow! Lucky me!!
    Hope you have enjoyed your time in the Seattle area and have a safe trip home. :) Enjoy your summer break!

    Happy Reading!

    1. Thanks Rebecca! It was quite the thrill. Let me know what you think about Owen Jester when you finish. :)

  5. Thanks for sharing The Fantastic Secret of Jester Owen. This was a SSYRA book last year but didn't make it onto my "read it" list. Your review makes me want to give it a try!

    Congrats on being featured in the 25 Classroom Clever Tips, that's awesome!!!

    :) Nicole
    Tadpole Tidbits

  6. Hi Amanda,
    I'm heading to the local bookstore today to grab a copy of "the Fantastic Secret of Jester Owen"....your review was perfect & intriguing. (Also picking up Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore).

    Congrats on all your good news! So happy you are recognized for your good work!!!


    1. Oh, I hope you love it as much as I did. Enjoy and thank you!


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