Archive for the ‘Books in My Classroom’ Category



Dictionary of Latin and Greek Origins: A Comprehensive Guide to the Classical Origins of English Words

Bob Moore and Maxine Moore

2000. Barnes & Noble Books


This modestly-sized book has come through for me often. The entries are deeply researched and effectively organized. If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the main part of the book, there’s an extensive word list at the back. You look up the word and it will tell you which root to look for. That being the case, you might find yourself surprised at what and how you find what you’re looking for.

To quote Bono – I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. There are some interesting information gaps. There’s no entry for “cap” or “capit” – latin roots that mean “head”. There’s not even a word that means “head” in the glossary.

This image is from the most recent paperback version published by NTC Publishing Group. Have no idea what NTC stands for. I tried looking it up and apparently…it stands for just about everything under the sun.  I searched it on the interweb and hundreds of hits came up. Sigh…

Still, it’s a good book and should definitely be expanded in future editions.  I used it to create a vocabulary unit for my Language Arts classes.  Keep it alongside your dictionary, your thesaurus, your MLA and APA handbooks, and your Chicago Manual.

The Chicago Manual of Style

I was introduced to this in college and have kept one around ever since. Very helpful if you do any kind of desktop publishing or have ambitions for more high-end publishing.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition (Red Kivar Binding with Jacket)

I don’t endorse any particular dictionary, but I have a couple of these in my classroom and they are pretty decent, but the print is too, too small.

MLA: The Easy Way! [Updated for MLA 7th Edition]

Is MLA becoming obsolete?

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Sixth Edition

Widely accepted, useful, easy to work with. I think the day is coming where it will supersede MLA.

Roget’s International Thesaurus, 6th Edition

There is a skill one needs to get the best use out of a thesaurus.  One needs to have a capacity to distinguish degrees of sensation.  Otherwise, how do you know whether you need “smelly” or “stinky”? How do you know that something is “scorching” and not “scalding”? 


I held strong for about two months. I didn’t venture near Amazon for several days — almost two weeks.  Maybe three.  And then…

Sigh…the first Saturday of the month.  The South Texas Writing Project Fall Conference.  The book jumble sale at the Methodist Church.  A twinge of curiosity about my Amazon wish list. I was lost. It’s like that first drink an alcoholic takes after being dry for a year.  It makes all that came before it a mockery of self-discipline.  An illusion of control.

Yet, I’m not sad. I feel good. The urge to read something — the compulsion to get between those covers and make some noise — in your head.  It’s to be nurtured, appreciated, loved.  And I didn’t just think of myself. Oh, no. I’m a generous sort when given the space. I picked up some titles for my classroom, as well.

FOR MY CLASSROOM   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[Scroll down to see links to author pages]

Mystic Places (published by Time/Life)

→  one of those book series they put out.  This one is about the pyramids, Stonehenge, crop circles, Atlantis. I think a lot of the myths have been debunked on most of these.

Little Women (Louisa May Alcott; abridged version by Barbara Greenwood, illustrations by Greg Ruhl.)

→ it’s not complete, hence "abridged".  It concentrates on their home life in the early part of the novel where their father is away and mother too, sometimes.  The illustrations are beautifully rendered. Amy’s hair is to die for! It’s a nice hardcover edition as well.  The end papers have a lace design on them. 

The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)

→ This Signet Classic is a tie-in version to go with the 1993 motion picture.  The cover is a still photo of Dickon and Mary taking Colin to the garden.  Inside the front cover is the movie information that you see on movie posters with the production company — Zoetrope, producer Francis Ford Coppola, director Agnieszka Holland.  About halfway through the book is a set of black and white photos of the cast.  The language of the characters tries to be true to life. Dickon’s country pronunciation, I think, makes the story more interesting to read. 

Where The Red Fern Grows  (Wilson Rawls)

Product DetailsThis one was particularly interesting because of what was inside the book.  And I don’t mean the text.  This copy belonged to a girl named S. back in 1998.  In various parts of the book were school pics of her mates.  They look to be middle schoolers.  One little boy, wearing the uniform of a local Catholic school, wrote: To: S, From: C.  In smeared red felt tip, it says:  I ♥ U.  Awwww….precious. 

Another boy, M., wrote #1 M. WUZ ↑.  (That’s such a lame thing to write.) 

A girl named A. wrote: To: S.  Have fun this year and do well.  Your Friend. A. 10/07/98.  Then! in smeared red felt tip, it says, BITCH! Oooooooh! Behind-the-scenes drama!

►More girl stuff:

To: S.S.  To a cool friend I meet this year.  p.s.  7th grade girls kick ass.

Hi S.  howes goin’?  To which someone replies (S.?):  go to hell (I’ve been there)

Hi! Whats up?  So, I hope you have an awesome year!  A. P.

You know, I’ve been teaching middle school my entire career in private and public schools.  For foul language and foul thoughts, I would –easily — put them up against a stevedore from Marseille, a gunnery sergeant, or a prison guard. 

Soccer Halfback (Matt Christopher, illus. by Larry Johnson, cover illus. by Richard Schroeppel)

→ large print children’s novel from 1978.  Interesting to see a soccer-themed book before the 1990s.  Soccer in the US used to be the property of suburban/upper-class kids who didn’t have the body mass or political connections to get into football or basketball.  It was a "white-boy" sport.  For preppies.  It’s not that way anymore.  Thank GOD!!!  The story concerns "Jabber" Morris. He desperately wants to play soccer, but his family want him to give it up for football.  The blurb at the back says that Matt Christopher has a fan club.  []


Pick your favorite Matt Christopher book and tell us why it would be a great movie in 50 words or less. Submit your entry through the contact form

Selected entries will win the opportunity to receive an autographed Matt Christopher book ($4.50 shipping and handling charges apply). Offer ends December 20, 2009.


NIGHT (Elie Wiesel)

→ Winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize.  Translated from the French by Stella Rodway.  Preface for the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition by Robert McAfee Brown.  Wiesel spent time in Auschwitz and Buchenwald.  This book is his experience.  The cover art, for me, echoes other war novels such as ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, CATCH-22, and The Sharp End: The Fighting Man in World War II by Max Hastings.  An image of spiritual chill, sinister solitude, hopelessness. No human comfort of any kind.  Has teaching Holocaust units in schools prevented mass murders or massacres from happening again? Are children getting the message that it’s wrong and must never happen again?

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

→  This Bantam Classic paperback is practically new.  Wonderful text illustrations by John Tenniel.  The cover image is by Milo Winter from a 1916 edition.  I believe Bantam could have spent a bit more money to make the book easier to read. The print is too pale. The letters too tiny. There’s no excuse for such a lack of consideration towards the reader.  On the bright side, I love how the stories are mixed media, so to speak. There’s prose, poetry, songs, and thoroughly English dry wit.  P. 103 contains a diagram of chess moves related to the story. My school’s girls’ chess team won state. I can’t wait to show them p. 103!





  1. Amazon’s Wilson Rawls Page
  2. Amazon’s Louisa May Alcott Page
  3. Amazon’s Elie Wiesel Page
  4. Amazon’s Lewis Carroll Page
  5. Amazon’s Frances Hodgson Burnett Page
  6. Amazon’s Matt Christopher Page


There are so many translations of THE ILIAD. Ambitious, reverent, respectable translations compiled by similarly-natured men and women.  Too bad. Because this translation has what most of those scholarly tomes lack: verve, pizazz, clarity, and bluntness.  To be fair, those traditional translations are by adults for adults.  The version I’m talking about here is for children. 

The Iliad (Kingfisher Epics)Nick McCarty’s retelling of THE ILIAD is a bare bones story version.  Reading this version is like watching a soccer game — non-stop action, reaction, blow-by-blow…he’s calling the game!  Not a wasted word nor gratuitous comment anywhere.  And here’s a word I rarely ever use — GRIPPING!  The way he tells the story is gripping.  McCarty has distilled the story down to all the action bits.  THE ILIAD is about an interesting war to begin with, but that quality of bloodthirstiness is tamed and faded by the time the traditional scholars get through with it.  This version designed for children has all the imagery, action, power and range of emotion you might find in an oral telling in the original Greek.  Every word counts.  Every sentence paints a picture.  Every paragraph drives the action forward.  Nothing is wasted nor superfluous. 

"So they came — swan-prowed, open boats crashing through the deep, green sea and over the sparkling dawn waves…They rode, like carrion birds swooping the swelling waters together, close by the black cliffs and foaming spray."

F**k, yeah!  Bring it on! 

I absolutely love how the story namedrops like crazy.  It’s crazy with labels, too. 

  • Agamemnon, King of Men, son of Atreus, High King
  • Nestor the Wise
  • Idomeneus the Cretan, the spearman
  • Zeus, Lord of Lightning
  • Poseidon, the Earthshaker
  • Apollo, the Archer God
  • Thetis, Goddess of The Silver Feet

It’s not that this is new stuff, it’s that this version has done a superior job of putting all the action at the forefront. It’s all the best bits.  I’m surprised this is being marketed as a children’s book.  I would put this up against anything Loeb or Penguin has to offer.  It’s easy to follow the story.  The language is vivid to a high degree.  The qualities that make ILIAD a magnificent poem are here as well.  In several places during the story, the sentence structure or imagery closely echoes the original poem, such as the section of the thousand ships. An amazing feat of scholarship.  McCarty does that wherever he can.  He pulls the feel of the original poetic tale in, instead of dumbing it down as most children’s versions of classic stories tend to do.

Another writer who has brought Greek mythology to children is Mary Pope Osborne.  She has done a respectable collection of Greek myths retold for children and I use them.  Very reader-friendly.  But this ILIAD far outshines her Odyssey stories.  It’s the language.  The language is what makes all the difference.  Again, the vividness, the straighforward, no wasted words, picture-painting prose.  I’m excited about this book. Reading it gives me such a rush. It grips you from the beginning and hooks you from chapter to chapter.  It’s a stimulating read that’s great for reluctant readers.  You can read it aloud or let your students read it.  Your class can make skits from it.  This is a book that should be used in the classroom.


Hector hurtled into the field in full battle armor.  His chariot had bronze rails and ivory fittings on the reins.  The reins were made of oxhide, strong enough to curb the wildest horses.  With his long spear in his left hand, Hector surged through the men fighting hand to hand, jsut as they were about to retreat.

"Stay!" he called.  "You won’t fight for nothing.  Be real men, not cowards.  Don’t give another step."

Oh yeah, it’s ON!  One of the things that’s so fun about this version is you can play with sports idioms.  I could go on about all the lessons that are possible with a story like this, but that’s not exactly my point.  It’s a fun book to read and it’s a great story to teach. Go for it.

A caveat: the edition I got from has a different cover from the one shown here.

Other books in the Kingfisher Series:

           Product Image

Children’s Greek mythology by Mary Pope Osborne:

Product Details   Product Details  Product Details

Related posts:

Pen & Paper in Perfect Accord



Skippyjon Jones: A Siamese Cat Who Thinks He’s a Chihuahua


Remember those cartoons about Ralph, the little boy who would become consumed by his fantasies? Well, imagine Ralph is a Siamese cat named Skippyjon Jones and he likes to affect a Mexican accent and be a hero.  The first book is wonderful!  He is banished to his room and goes into "Ralph" mode to become El Skippito. 


Skippyjon JonesI was happy to see that SKIPPYJON JONES, the first book, won an award for Best Read-Aloud Book. Judy Schachner, the author, has created something very special.  Everything about the character and his family (Mama Junebug Jones, Joo-Joo Bee, Jillyboo) is just too adorable.  You’re going "awwww…" practically every page.

I noticed at that a couple of reviewers took offense at the nod to Mexican culture.  Considering how the language of urban African-Americans has pervaded even corporate-speak, I really don’t see what they are complaining about.  Surburban children of this generation LIKE to be seen as "gangstas" and "bangers" and "pimps".  If you’re looking for insults to one’s  culture, do yourself a favor and start there.  I’m a Mexican-American who grew up on the border where people don’t have a sense of humor about themselves.  But that’s because they are badly educated, naive, unworldly.  Those of us that have been out in the world a bit can see the humor.  But this was not meant to be a rant about self-conscious, PC-obsessed types. 

This book is friendly, full of love, good humor, wonderful dancing language and beautiful artwork.  If you’re offended, that’s your problem, not the book’s.


If you buy the toy/book set, be warned.  They are quite small.  I bought the big doll separately and these two hardcovers.  Since I’m Mex/Am, it really works out well for me to do the voices.  That’s the fun part.  The thing about reading stories aloud — you can’t be preoccupied with your looks.  If you’re afraid to look like a dork, forget it.  You have to sing where you’re supposed to sing.  Yell where you’re supposed to yell.  Make faces, gestures, MOVE!  If you sit perched on a chair and read like a prim schoolmarm, you "lose the dressing room", as they say in soccer.

MUMMY TROUBLE, btw, comes with a CD.  Cool! 


  • Skippyjon Jones in The Doghouse
  • Skippyjon Jones and The Big Bones
  • Skippyjon Jones Color Crazy
  • Skippyjon Jones Up and Down
  • Skippyjon Jones and The Treasure Hunt
  • A Surprise for Mama

[These might not all be story books.  COLOR CRAZY, when I saw it at the bookstore, was a very basic picture book.]

The books are available at the usual major booksellers.

Pen & Paper in Perfect Accord

I keep a smallish libaray in my classroom.  As an English teacher, I teach writing straight from the source — literature.  I haven’t used a textbook in 2 years and I haven’t missed them at all; my students either.  Most of the books I buy from Scholastic.   Visit my MINI-MALL  for other sellers. 
We use the books to analyze and practice writing styles.  By the end of the school year, students have a sigfinicant repertoire of sentence and organizational styles at their disposal.   This is just a short list from the top of my head.

Animal Farm                            Animals are people, too.  Absolute power corrupts — absolutely.

A Wrinkle in Time      Epic.  Classic.  Beautiful.  Fun.                         

Among The Hidden   Can it be considered futuristic if it’s already happening?

Chicken Soup for The Teenage Soul     I don’t like these, but my students do.

Freak, The Mighty

Green Angel                      Tatooing.  Fine, whatever.

Guys Write for Guys Read     I recommend "The Crossing", "Just a Game", and the poem where every line starts with "Don’t".

Henry P. Baloney                    Adorable. Colorful. Funny.  Beautiful design.  Clever.

How to Eat Fried Worms       Easy to read.  Good for reluctant readers.

John, Paul, George & Ben    Beautiful design.  Clever, witty, sardonic.  Lots of Beatles in-jokes!

Love That Dog                       Adorable.  Good for reluctant readers.

Maniac Magee

Oops, I Did It Again               Hard to find, but worth it.  Short anecdotes about dealing with embarassment.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  A different world, yet the same.

Squids Will Be Squids           A laugh-riot!  Hysterical.  Beef lips!

Surviving The Applewhites

The House of Dies Drear (pronounced /Dees/)

The Keeper

The Outsiders

The Phantom Tollbooth        Inventive. Layers of meaning.  In every sense, a Language ART!

The Uglies/The Pretties          Children reap what parents sow — preoccupation with labels

The View from Saturday         A refreshing urban sense of humor.  How long has it been since you’ve written a bread-and-butter letter?

To Kill a Mockingbird                A cosmos of universal themes

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer  Growing pains of a new country echoed in the spirit of a young boy 


"Books are, let’s face it, better than anything else."
Nick Hornby~The Polysyllabic Spree
[This blog is a hobby.  I have no business or personal connection
with any of the sellers listed in MINI-MALL other than being
a customer.  I am not making any financial profit from any of this.]

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