Monday, March 18, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey as a way to share what you have read and/or reviewed in the past week. It's also a terrific way to find out what other people are reading.

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers have given this meme a children's literature focus: picture books, middle grade novels, etc. They "encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting the other bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Hopefully everyone had a fun and safe St. Patrick's Day. Did you remember to wear green so as not to get pinched? We're just a few days away from Spring, and we even had a day that the temperatures were warm enough to open some of the windows and let in some fresh air. This moved me to take a look at my huge pile of books from the library and get moving on reading them and getting them back so that others can enjoy them. So, I have a pretty long list of picture books this week.'s what I've been reading:

Middle Grade Fiction

This second book of the The Danger Gang series picks up right where the first book, The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo, left off. All of the fun characters of the first book are back, too. They're all going to the big premiere of Josh Brigand's movie, Buccaneers of the South Seas, to celebrate their amazing adventure rescuing him from the hands of Zeetan Z, the nasty pirate of the first book. Afraid of falling into the dreaded Second Adventure Slump, it isn't long before this trio is called into action. When the movie ends, Josh Brigand is kidnapped by the same notorious group that they fought in the first book. This book, while based on the adventures of the first book, does stand alone nicely as an adventure-packed story, for those who maybe didn't get a chance to read it. There are lots of dangerous chases, sword fighting, and dazzling costume changes. This series is great for the fans of adventures like Indiana Jones or Lemony Snicket.

Picture Books

The Bear, the Piano, the Dog, and the Fiddle (The Bear and the Piano #2) by David Litchfield

This lovely follow-up to The Bear and the Piano shares some awesome messages about friendship and forgiveness with young readers. With the same stunning artwork as in the first book, this is the story of Hector and Hugo. Hector has spent many years playing his fiddle on the street corner, accompanied by his furry friend, Hugo. But Hector becomes discouraged and packs up the fiddle for good. So Hugo teaches himself to play the fiddle and when Hector realizes how talented the little dog is, he teaches him everything he knows. Hugo becomes discovered by the famous, piano-playing bear and that changes everything. Hector sends Hugo off with some unkind words because he's envious and sad and afraid of being on his own. As time goes by and Hugo becomes world-famous, Hector gets the opportunity to attend a performance at a local theater. Young readers will cheer when they see the grace that Hugo extends to Hector. This could generate some good discussions about how we celebrate the successes of our friends and how our friends' successes don't diminish our own gifts and talents.

This awesome picture book uses the story of a life-changing opportunity for a young girl to attend a classical music performance to show that nothing in this world happens in isolation, and that chains of events lead to all sorts of circumstances and opportunities for us all. The books starts with a composer creating music hundreds of years ago, to the formation of the orchestra group, to the music being learned and practices and so on. When an uncle gets a cold, and a little girl gets to attend the orchestra in his place, young readers get to see all that results. This would be a clever way to talk about cause and effect in reading and writing and inspire other causal chain stories.

Fans of the first two books of this trilogy will certainly enjoy this story about friendship, boundaries, and overcoming fears. Circle is playing hide and seek with Square and Triangle. She asks them not to hide behind the waterfall because it's too dark. Triangle declares he's not afraid of the dark and of course, hides behind the waterfall. Young readers will appreciate Circle's dilemma as she's irritated that Triangle didn't do as she asked but she's a good friend and wants to find him. Everyone sees that it's better to stay in the light as they encounter something in the dark that frightens both of them. This could generate a lot of curiosity about just what was sitting in the dark with them.

This beautifully illustrated story of friendship and sharing will really tug at heartstrings. But the stories of vulnerable people that have lost nearly everything, especially refugees fleeing from war and violence, really need to be shared. Young readers will certainly be able to relate to the little girl with her father, feeling scared and alone, and sharing those feelings with a friend. At first the girl finds a friend in a pebble, but then she finds a friend in Amir. Her friend, Amir, is struggling with the same hopelessness that she felt when she first arrived at the World of Tents. But when it's time to move on, Lubna's simple act of generosity speaks volumes. This book could be shared as part of a larger discussion of refugees and the struggles of those who have to flee their homes and countries because of violence.

With bouncy, rhyming text and adorable illustrations this book celebrates biomes and all of the fun to be had outdoors. This group of girls pack up their bags and head outside to enjoy the ocean, the desert, the tundra, grasslands, and forest. There is a note in the back about biomes, making this book a fun way to inspire further research. 

Inspired by the authors' own dogs and the walks they take together, this lovely picture book has four chapter/stories about two doggie friends. Olive is older and shorter and Pekoe is younger and more energetic. But even though they're different, they enjoy being together to take walks and play. The stories deal with issues such as thunderstorms, bullies, and friendly differences. 

Life can be scary for everyone and this awesome picture book uses a relateable story and gorgeous illustrations to help young readers learn to cope with overwhelming fears. The little girl in the story is moving away to a new neighborhood, but as she reflects on some of the other scary times that she has faced and looks inside herself to find that spark that becomes the glow that helps her find her way out of the dark times, she calms down and finds herself experiencing hope and joy. This book would be good to share with young readers who might be experiencing this sort of change in their own lives. It could also inspire young writers to share their own strategies for overcoming life's challenges. This book would pair well with other books about dealing with the stress of moving like Me And My Fear by Francesca Sanna and A Piece of Home by Jeri Watts.

This is a terrific book to share during the spring season. With simple text - there's one word on each page and all of the words rhyme - and beautiful, collage illustrations in bright colors, young readers can celebrate a baby bird's first flight. Young readers also get to see that there is magnificent imperfection in all of nature's firsts, and yet one shouldn't be discouraged. This would be a great book to encourage a growth mindset.

Living in community with others is important, but what happens when folks that are different come along and want to join? It can be easy to let rumors, stereotypes, and misconceptions make us feel worried and reluctant to welcome newcomers into our established groups, neighborhoods, churches, or schools. When the residents of the apartment building in this awesome picture book learn that rats are moving into the first floor they are certain that they will be terrible neighbors. When they all go to confront the new tenants they are surprised by what they find - an also a bit humbled by the gracious treatment they receive in the form of a yummy cake prepared for them. This could start a terrific discussion about how unkind rumors can prevent us from welcoming and caring for our neighbors and ultimately keeps us from enjoying the fruits of loving relationships with them.

This wonderfully upbeat book lets all young readers know that their stories matter and that everyone has something to say. It also validates all forms of expression so that anybody can be a part of the conversation, from shy and quiet folks to those who are bold and daring, from those who are writers, or artists, or musicians, and on and on. Sharing this book with kids would be a great way to talk about ways to share our stories and our ideas.

Waiting is tough, especially for young children. It seems like we spend so much of our lives waiting and waiting for things: waiting to grow older, waiting for birthdays and holidays, waiting for friends, waiting to arrive, etc. So young readers will definitely be able to relate to the impatient little caterpillar in this humorous picture book. All of the other caterpillars are wrapped up in their chrysalises, and our little caterpillar is going crazy. Their will be lots of giggles as the little caterpillar tries his very best to be patient. This is a good way to talk about how hard it is to be patient and how to develop a growth mindset with young readers. It also may inspire young writers to describe their own difficulties with waiting and being patient.

This interesting picture books shows different animal parents reading bedtime stories to their children. But when you look closer, you can see that all of these loving parents sharing stories are connected to each other. And with each story that is shared, the story grows and soon we can see that we all share this wonderful connection with our families and with the rest of the world and beyond. It's a bit of an abstract book, but I think that it could generate some lovely discussions.

This interesting picture book tells the story of a little girl who runs too fast, despite warning from her mother not to do so, and winds up lost in the woods as it's getting dark. She encounters a wolf who winds up being a surprising source of help. Most of the wolf stories we read portray them as malevolent beings that are frightening. This could start a good discussion about why the author chose to have the wolf be friendly and helpful rather than scary and mean. 

I've enjoyed Hedy Lamarr's movies, but I never realized that she was an inventor of important communication technology. This fascinating picture book biography is written for middle grade students and includes nice illustrations and easy-to-understand narrative text. An author's note at the back tells of her personal experiences with the famous movie star/artist/inventor. There's also a bibliography for further research. This along with Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark, which also was published in February, makes a great pair of nonfiction books to include with other books about inventors.

This interesting picture book biography tells the story of Pura Belpre, who came to New York in 1921 and became the first Puerto Rican librarian. She was dismayed to find that there were no storybooks in Spanish for young readers, so she shared the stories that were shared with her years before. The book tells how she started a bilingual story time for children, wrote bilingual stories, and blended them with the music of her husband. This book uses Spanish words and phrases, woven into the English-language narrative. And while many of these words and phrases can be figured out from story context, I wish there were a glossary or footnotes explain the definitions and pronunciations of these words for young readers. I think that would make the book more accessible to all children. There is an author's note and bibliographic notes for further reading, making this a nice nonfiction resource for the bookshelf.