Monday, October 15, 2018

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.

This past week was spent getting ready for the rummage sale at our church. The beginning of the week, the weather was so hot and setting everything up and putting prices on all of the sale items was a sweaty affair. But then in the middle of the week, the rains came and I believe summer is gone for good. Now we're wearing long sleeves and pants. And I can't believe I turned off the air conditioner on Wednesday, and had to fire up the furnace on Friday! Thankfully the cooler weather helped make the rummage sale a successful event to raise money for the youth camp ministry.

Of course, the books are always my favorite part of any rummage sale. We had a great selection, and I'm happy that kids walked away with some great titles to curl up and enjoy as the weather turns colder. Hopefully as the seasons change you've got some good books to dig into as well. Here's what I've been reading this past week:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read a NetGalley digital ARC of this middle grade fiction book in exchange for a review. Just in time for the holiday season, this book is a clever, modern twist on the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. And just like the original story, this one has lessons on kindness for everyone.

Eighth grader, Ellie Charles, is the most popular, powerful girl at her middle school. Everyone is afraid of her and wants to be her friend. She’s just as mean as she can possibly be, as the students are preparing for their holiday dance. But a nasty fall off of a ladder results in a hit to the head that takes her on an important journey – to her past, her present, and her future.

The trip to the past allows readers to see the painful events in Ellie’s life that led to her decision to become mean and popular. The trip to the present allows Ellie to see how her behavior affects those around her. And the trip to the future allows her to see what her high school experience will be. If readers are familiar with A Christmas Carol, it will definitely inspire comparisons between Ellie and Ebenezer Scrooge. And the ghost that serves as Ellie’s tour guide is her best friend from earlier days, Marley.

Picture Books

Watching a loved on deal with memory loss and dementia is difficult and sad for anyone, but especially for children. This book does a terrific job of discussing this issue in an easy-to-understand and comforting way for young readers. The analogy of balloons for memories is one that never occurred to me, but I love it. The illustrations are drawn with exquisite detail and colored in a limited palette that really make the memory balloons stand out. This could also be a good mentor text for young writers trying to present their own special memories.

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of growing up with a pet will definitely appreciate this beautiful picture book, but be sure to have tissues ready! With simple, spare text and gorgeous paintings featuring well-placed cut-outs that create a clever connection between the pages, the author takes us from a baby and puppy sleeping next to each other through the fun-filled years to the inevitable decline and passing of the beloved friend and pet. And while the passing of the pet is a crushing blow, the book allows readers to leave it feeling hopeful for future love and good times. This is a terrific book to have on any book shelf!

This awesome picture book is terrific for the fall season. Lula and her father are raking leaves, along with Lula's imaginary friend, Akaraka. Lula's dad encourages her to invite her friend to help them out. When they're finished, the go in for lunch, where Lula's mom sets an extra bowl of chocolate pudding out for Akaraka. According to the author's biographic sketch on the book jacket, "Akaraka is a word in the Igbo language; a meaningful word to the Igbo-speaking people of southwestern Nigeria. It refers to marks on a person's hand that spell out that person's destiny." Jackson's three year old daughter liked the sound of the word and used it to name her imaginary friend. This story would be wonderful to share with young readers during storytime, as it uses beautiful fall colors and rich vocabulary to paint this cozy portrait of a special family time together.

This book will appeal to all of those who have a competitive nature. Whenever someone says, "It's not a contest", it brings out the competitor in lots of kids. In this fun picture book, Sam keeps trying to "win" the special days in his school - Crazy Hat Day, Super Sports-Fan Day, Space Travel Day, and (one of my favorites) Less Famous American Presidents' Day. No matter how hard Sam works to have the most awesome presentation, someone always has something bigger, better, and more exciting. But when Take Your Octopus to School Day rolls around, Sam is sure that Thurgood (his pet) will win the day for him. Young readers will get a kick out of finding out how the day goes and enjoy learning that sometimes it's better to work together with your friends.

This fun picture book uses humorous, cumulative text and wonderful illustrations to adapt the traditional folk song "There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea." Young readers will giggle at the fun tongue twisters and repetitions. The book includes sheet music for the song. 

Fans of Bruce, the grumpy bear who is reluctantly the "mother" of a family of geese and mice, will have a lot to cheer about during the holidays. The grumpy bear just wants to hibernate for the winter, but his family insists that they enjoy the Christmas holidays together. Unfortunately for Bruce, a misunderstanding leads everyone in the neighborhood to believe that he's Santa Claus. Young readers will get lots of laughs as they find out how this grumpy bear is going to provide a Merry Christmas for all the little ones. This is definitely one to share with kids during the months leading up to Christmas.

I spent several years substitute teaching, and it can be a stressful situation when daily routines are disrupted. This cute picture book is written as a series of notes from a student stressed out by the unexpected disappearance of the classroom teacher. The progression of letters shows that the student is adjusting to a different way of taking attendance, saying the Pledge of Allegiance, and going through the daily round. This would be a good book for substitute teachers to share with kids or maybe for classroom teachers who are anticipating an absence to share with students. It also might be a good mentor text for kids who are writing stories in a series of letters.

This is a great seasonal nonfiction picture book to share with young readers trying to learn more about apples and how they're grown. When I taught first grader, we took a trip to the apple orchard every year. This book uses brightly colored illustrations and easy-to-understand text to help explain what goes on at the orchard. The book includes mouth-watering descriptions of some of the yummy foods that are made with apples. At the back of the book, there is a recipe for Upside-Down Inside-Out Apple Crisp, a glossary, and a list of resource for further study.

This fun picture book might inspire young readers to take a closer look inside a pumpkin when they go to make their jack o'lanterns. The kids in Mr. Tiffin's class are trying to determine how many seeds are in each of three pumpkins he has brought to school. The book is a relatable, school-themed narrative that also presents facts about pumpkins and opportunities to count by two's, five's, and ten's. This would be a great book to share with kids during the autumn weeks.

This cute picture book tells the story of a little fox dealing with autumn for the first time. He notices that leaves are starting to fall off of his friend, the tree. Not realizing that this is part of the change of seasons that occurs every year, the fox starts trying to save the leaves. Young readers will appreciate fox's efforts and cheer when he figures it all out. This would be a good book to share with young children during the fall months.