Monday, March 20, 2017

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.


Today is the first day of spring, even if it doesn't exactly look or feel like it. It's just good to know it. Between getting ready for state testing and the end of the third grading period, I haven't had as much time to read as I normally do. But I've read a few good books. Here's what I've been reading:
Middle Grade Fiction

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord  
I found a copy of this middle grade realistic fiction novel in my classroom library, and remembering how much I enjoyed Cynthia Lord's Newbery Honor Book Rules, picked it up and brought it home to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and will definitely be book-talking it at school.

Middle grade students will be able to relate to the characters. Lucy, whose family moves around frequently, is once again the new kid. Her family has just moved into a lake home in New Hampshire. She makes friends with the kids in the house next door, who are spending the summer on the lake. Her father is a famous photographer who spends a lot of time traveling for his job. Lucy experiences so many of the same situations that most kids know so well: the stress of making new friends in groups that are already established, the loneliness of having a parent who spends so much time away from home, and trying to make your parents proud of you.

The story has several things occurring at once, which is also typical of an adolescent's life. Lucy wants to show her father what a good photographer she is by secretly entering a contest he's judging. As her friendship with Nate and Emily develops, she encounters some passive aggressive hostility from Megan, their friend that also spends summertime on the lake. There is also a heartbreaking decline in the health of Nate and Emily's grandmother, that adds new urgency to Lucy's desire to win the cash prize from the photography contest.

This book has so many great messages for kids to take away. Lucy has such a big heart for animals, and she is always looking for opportunities to help creatures that need it. A little brown moth that she finds stuck on some pollen while walking her dog near the lake is a good example: "The moth might already be too wet, too exhausted to live. But I found a leaf to scoop him out of the water and placed him gently on a rock so he could dry his wings. Even half a chance beats none."
Picture Books

Bunny's Book Club by Annie Silvestro, Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Illustrator)  
This adorable picture book celebrates the joy of spending time reading books with friends and going to the library. Bunny loves to hang around the library listening to stories with other children. But when summer ends and the librarian goes back indoors to read books aloud, Bunny figures out how to sneak inside and get all the books he wants to read and share with friends. The illustrations are so sweet, I want to join the Bunny Book Club myself!

Martin's Dream Day by Kitty Kelley  
This nonfiction picture book gives a fascinating account of not only Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, but King's efforts to persuade leaders in Washington to pass civil rights legislation. Kitty Kelley used great, true-to-life photographs taken by Stanley Tretick to tell this story. These photos really pull readers into the momentous day. This would be an awesome resource to have in any classroom library.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

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.

Did you remember to turn your clocks ahead one hour! For some reason, I can never remember how to change the clock in my car. I have had the same car for three years and still need to get out the manual to figure out how to turn the clock ahead. Even though we lost an hour of reading, it's awesome that spring is just around the corner. Longer days spent reading!
Here's what I've been reading this week:
Picture Books

This wordless picture book tells a wonderful story of friendship and giving with a beautiful, magical world as the setting. A little girl and her friend follow a fox into the woods after the fox takes off with her treasured stuffed animal, which happens to be a fox. They catch up with the fox in a deep woods wonderland. The story is presented with awesome illustrations, which were rendered in pencil, watercolor, and ink and then assembled and colored digitally. The artist used a limited palette of various shades of blue and gray, until the children reach the magical place in the woods. The illustrations are in full color while the characters are in this world, which is a great contrast from the everyday world. The scenes of love and generosity will take a hold of readers' hearts, which is desperately needed these days when kindness can be tough to find.

This is a sweet follow-up to the earlier picture book, Gaston. Antoinette is growing up in a family of bulldogs. Each one is special and unique, but Antoinette is having a hard time figuring out what makes her special. When on of Gaston's sisters goes missing, Antoinette steps up and proves herself to be very grave and resourceful. I love the acrylic painted illustrations, from the award winning illustrator of Last Stop on Market Street!  

This is such a fun picture book, and would be so much fun to read aloud. It would definitely be appreciated by anyone with a horrible, snotty cold! Poor Little Louie comes down with a terrible cold. All he wants is for his mom to take care of him. But every time he calls for her with his stuffy nose, Bob (the family dog) comes running. This book is one that all readers will be able to recognize themselves in, as we can all relate to those nasty colds that turn one into a mouth-breather and make it impossible to enunciate certain words. The illustrations are great, too! 

This hilarious picture book has plenty of reasons to deter folks from wanting a unicorn as a pet. They're messy, destructive, and overly social. And you definitely don't want to eat the cupcakes they leave behind! Kids will have so much fun reading this. The illustrations were created by an artist from The Simpsons, and so they have that same humorous quality to them.  

This sweet picture book tells the story of young helpers with good intentions run amok. Tic and Tac are bored and nothing their mother suggests sounds interesting. When she suggests they help hang the wet laundry, they discover that they're pretty good at this job. When she leaves them at it while she goes to the market, they get carried away. Young readers will have fun relating to these two fun-loving characters who learn that you can have too much of a good thing. The pen and watercolor illustrations are warm and whimsical and will make this a great book to have in a primary library. 

I know - the title and subject matter of this rhyming picture book is kind of gross; but, it's still funny. Mom leaves strict instructions when she leaves, no picking and no playing ball in the house. Once she's gone, the fingers go into the noses and before you know it, there's a gigantic booger that gets out of hand. The colorful illustrations are just as silly, and I'm sure this would get tons of giggles as a read aloud to kids. In fact, I'm pretty sure I know some older elementary kids that would laugh at it, too. This would be a fun one to have on the bookshelf! 

Young Adult Fiction

I just finished reading this beautifully written novel, which was published over ten years ago. My only regret is that I didn't read it sooner. The story is set in Germany during World War II and follows a young girl who has been brought to live with a foster family in Molching. Her younger brother died on the train, and so she is all alone. As she faces challenges to fit into her new household and neighborhood, she becomes especially close to her foster father, Hans Hubermann. He is kind and gentle as he teaches her to read. As she grows to love reading, she starts stealing books to feed her hunger for words and stories.

This family struggles to make ends meet, especially as the times become more difficult with the escalation of war. But even as they face these challenging times, the family takes in a Jewish man and lets him hide in their basement, which is very dangerous for them. There is also the constant threat of air raids, which forces them to huddle together in a neighborhood shelter.

I love how the book shows us the World War II, Nazi Germany story from the point of view of a German family. In the midst of the hateful propaganda and suspicions of the Nazis, we have the story of people that are bravely capable of extraordinary kindness and selflessness. There are so many awesome characters with compelling circumstances. As you go deeper into the book, the characters grab a hold of you and it's very difficult to put them aside.

Monday, February 27, 2017

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.


What a strange week it's been in central Ohio. We've had record-breaking high temperatures. The weather felt like spring, and the kids had a great time playing outside at recess. Then the storms rolled in at the end of the week, and now we're back to winter temperatures again. The extended forecast suggests that the temperatures are going back up and then down and then up, etc. It's hard to know how to dress for this weather! Anyway, here is the round-up of picture books that I managed to read this week:

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, Joel Sartore (Photographs)  
This is a beautiful collaborative book that takes the stunning photography of Joel Sartore and puts it together with the poetry of Kwame Alexander to make a celebration of all animals in our world. Sartore took great care to make sure that all the animals were photographed so that they all looked equally impressive; small animals were captured close-up so that they looked big, and all animals' were shown in all their fascinating detail. The hope was to present a work that would inspire all readers to take steps to save the endangered species in our world. I know that this book will be very popular in all schools and libraries. 

Bear Likes Jam by Ciara Gavin  
This is an adorable picture book from the author of Bear Is Not Tired. Bear learns that jam tastes wonderful, and it becomes one of his favorite things. He eats jam all of the time to the exclusion of everything else. Mama Duck firmly tells him that he'll get no more jam until he balances his diet with vegetables. Picky eaters will definitely appreciate Bear's problem, and caregivers might learn some fun ways to get kids to eat their vegetables. Warm, friendly illustrations rendered in watercolor, will draw young readers in, and make this a favorite read aloud.

What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward, Susie Ghahremani (Illustrator)  
This is a great book to have around as folks star planning and planting their gardens. This rhyming picture book looks at all the different types of seeds that grow into backyard trees and plants. The beautifully painted illustrations draw the reader in to the beauty of a garden and stretches the fun with fold-out pages. 

Dormouse Dreams by Karma Wilson 
This is a cute picture book about a hibernating dormouse who spends his winter snoring and dreaming about playing with his friend in the spring. The rhyming text, along with the adorable illustrations, make this a great book to share at bedtime.  

Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet by Jonah Winter  
This beautifully illustrated picture book biography tells readers the inspirational story of Mickey Mantle's life in baseball. An unhealthy child growing up, Mantle overcame his physical barriers to become a phenomenal baseball player. Although he had to work very hard, and sometimes was far from perfect, he learned to power through adversity. This book has a great message of perseverance to pass on to young readers. 

I Do Not Like Al's Hat by Erin McGill  
This is kind of a fun story about a magician's rabbit who's fed up with being pulled out of a hat by his ears. After sitting down and thinking through his options, he answers an ad to be Sophie's pet and best friend. The choice is clear, and the reader learns that sometimes it's best to make a change in life when your current situation isn't working for you. Cut paper collage illustrations help make this a cute picture book. 
North, South, East, West by Margaret Wise Brown, Greg Pizzoli (Illustrations)  
A little bird is learning to fly, and asks her mother in which direction should she go - north, south, east or west. When she visits north, south, and west, she comes to the conclusion that her home is in the east and she wants to go back where she belongs. This heartwarming book by classic children's author, Margaret Wise Brown, has awesome digital illustrations by Greg Pizzoli.  

Play with Me! by Michelle Lee  
This picture book would be terrific to share with young readers who are still figuring out how to get along together and play in a way that makes everyone happy. Pip wants to play with Nico, and suggests all sorts of fun ideas. Nico isn't interested in any of Pip's ideas, because he just wants to play his cello. This book could generate some good discussions, as kids read to find out how they can play together. The watercolor and ink illustrations are very sweet and cheerful, and help make this a great book for a primary bookshelf.  

Caterpillar Dreams by Clive McFarland  
This sweet picture book has a great message for young readers. Henri is a little caterpillar that longs to see the world. Adventuring beyond the walls of his garden seems to be impossible. But with persistence and help from his friends, Henri ventures out and chases his dream of flying. Uplifting text along with lovely illustrations make this a great book to share with young children. 

Nope by Drew Sheneman  
This nearly wordless picture book tells the story of a baby bird faced with the terror of making its first flight from the nest. The baby looks down from the nest and imagines all of the horrible things that could happen if he falls. The mother practices some tough love to get the young one to take flight. It would be interesting to share this book with young readers to see what they infer from the awesome illustrations. It also could serve as great inspiration to anyone who's afraid to try something new.  

When You're Feeling Sick by Coy Bowles  
This is the time of year when many kids (and teachers) get sick. This is a silly picture book with bright, funny illustrations that would be great to share with a young reader that isn't feeling well. The author reaches back into some of his own difficult experiences of attempting to bring comfort and cheer to friends and loved ones who were recovering from health setbacks. Sometimes readers just need something that can bring some laughs and relaxation. 

Monday, February 20, 2017

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.


What beautiful weather for a 3-day weekend! Here in central Ohio, we have received a nice break from the usual mid-February winter weather. With temperatures in the upper 60s, I happily dusted off my deck chair and spent quite a bit of time reading outside. Hope you've enjoyed this President's Day holiday weekend, as well. Here's what I've been reading this past week:
Middle Grade Fiction

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar 
I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar that was generously shared with my Book Relays group. I thought the book was amazing and I feel like I'm quite lucky to have been able to read it. This novel shares the struggle of recovery after Ruthie Mizrahi was seriously injured in a car accident.

It was 1966 and Ruthie's family had recently moved to New York as refugees from Cuba. As difficult as it was for the family to get ahead without knowing much English and having to become accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle of America, it became even more challenging when the family was in a car accident that left Ruthie in a body cast and confined to her bed for nearly a year.

Suddenly Ruthie was as helpless as a baby and had to rely on help from her family for all of her needs, including going to the bathroom. As time dragged on for her, not only did her leg muscles atrophy, but her self-confidence and independence did as well. Not only would she have to learn to walk again, she would need to build the courage to go back out into the world again.

I loved the character development in this novel as everyone in the family learned to face fears and challenges. Ruthie's mother was very sad to have left her home in Cuba, to face a scary and confusing world in New York. She relied on Ruthie to help her navigate the English-speaking world of places like the supermarket. Once Ruthie was injured, her mother not only became an around-the-clock caregiver, but she also was on her own to make sense of the world. Ruthie, who at the beginning of the book was the hopscotch queen of Queens, becomes a quiet book lover and artist.

I also love the diversity of backgrounds and ideas presented in this book. As Ruthie was recovering and spending so much time examining her beliefs, she began writing letters and prayers to three different gods/angels. She also has friends of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. But the feelings and experiences these kids display will certainly be relatable to readers from all walks of life. So many kids will be able to recognize themselves in this story.

This book has some terrific themes that will help generate great discussions with young readers. At one point, Ruthie is asked by her teacher to write about what freedom means to her. Freedom has so many different dimensions in this story. Ruthie's family came to America looking for freedom. Ruthie longs for the freedom to get up and walk again. But freedom can be scary, too. And I think all readers can recognize a little bit of Ruthie in themselves when the world seems a little bit too big and challenging. We all have days when we want to stay in our safe beds, instead of meeting the day and moving forward.

This book will be available in April. I can't wait to get my own copy. This book would be a great addition to any middle grade classroom library.
Picture Books

Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland by Sujean Rim 
This is a good picture book to share with young readers who wish to learn more about the immigrant experience. Chee-Kee and his family have sailed across the ocean from a foreign island to make their new home in Bearland. While his family has brought with them their own traditions, they also are embracing new ways of doing things. Chee-Kee is reluctant to try new ways, and feels like he'll never feel at home. The text and illustrations are very kid-friendly, making this a good one to have on primary bookshelves. 

Tony by Ed Galing, Erin E. Stead (Illustrations)  
This beautifully illustrated picture book uses simple text to tell the story of a friendship that develops between a boy, a horse, and a milk delivery driver. It would be interesting to see how young readers relate to this story, as we don't have home milk delivery service anymore, by truck or by horse. I think all kids can relate to the love of an animal, so I'm sure this would be a good book to have in classroom and school libraries.

Dill & Bizzy: Opposite Day by Nora Ericson, Lisa Ericson (Illustrations)  
This fun picture book tells the story of two strange birds who are best friends. When one of them declares that the day is Opposite Day, all sorts of crazy things happen. Young readers will giggle and have fun imagining their own Opposite Day. This would be a great book to help with a study of opposites.  

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson  
This picture book biography presents a fascinating account of The Children's March for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. This book is one that will make an impression on young readers, as there aren't a lot of stories about kids their age participating in the marches and protests and being sent to jail. The text is kid-friendly along with beautiful illustrations, making it a super resource for classroom libraries. 

Rabbit Magic by Meg McLaren  
This is a fun picture book in which a magic trick goes wrong and Houdini, the bunny assistant, switches places with the headlining magician. Houdini enjoys the spotlight, but comes to realize that things need to go back to the way they're supposed to be. Awesome illustrations and a fun story loaded with bunny rabbits make this a terrific book to have on the bookshelf. 

Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr., Michael Sampson, Brian Won (Illustrations)  
Cute book with the rhythm and rhyme that's made the books by Bill Martin, Jr. so popular. Fun digital illustrations will make this an awesome read aloud for young children.