Monday, September 18, 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.
 We've finally reached the time of year when there are pumpkins all over the place. At the grocery store there are a multitude of pumpkin products: pumpkin coffee, pumpkin flavored cereal, pumpkin-scented hand soap, and (my personal favorite) pumpkin drop cookies in the bakery!

I guess all the pumpkin products inspires me to curly up with good books, because I've read a lot of awesome books this week! I never realize just how much I've read, until I go to write this blog post. So, get ready for my long list of what I've been reading!

Middle Grade Fiction

Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks (Fenway and Hattie #3) by Victoria J. Coe
I am so grateful that an advanced copy of this book was provided to me to share with my Twitter #BookRelays group. The Fenway and Hattie series shares such a lovable set of characters that includes Fenway (an energetic Jack Russell Terrier), Hattie (Fenway’s small human), Food Lady, and Fetch Man (Hattie's parents). We get to see the adventures, big and small, of this family through the eyes, ears, and nose of Fenway. Because these books offer students and teachers a wonderful way to explore different points of view in literature and practice important inferencing skills, the first book in the series, Fenway and Hattie, has been chosen as the 2017 Global Read Aloud selection for Early Readers.

The third book in the series, this novel takes a look at what our pets might be thinking and feeling when they get hurt and have to receive medical help. Poor Fenway is now on the case of a pesky chipmunk that is running loose in the yard. As the dog chases the rodent underneath some bushes, he receives a nasty bee sting on his front paw. This sets off a whole series of tortuous events for Fenway: a trip to the veterinarian, being forced to wear a Cone of Doom, and having to swallow yucky pills. Making matters worse, no one seems to feel the least bit sorry for him as the family is working to prepare the house for a visit from Nana.

The first two books in the series were very popular with my fourth and fifth grade students. So I'm sure this one will be a big hit as well. This book will be out on January 2. In the meantime, have fun reading or rereading Fenway and Hattie and Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang !

  Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, Charles Santoso (Illustrator) 
I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. This middle grade novel looks at the world through the eyes of Red, a red oak tree that is two hundred and sixteen rings old and has watched the comings and goings of this neighborhood for a long time. Through the years, people have attached their wishes to the branches of this tree and now Red has some wishes, too. Red wishes to go on being a home to a wide variety of animal friends and for the people in the neighborhood to be accepting and tolerant of each other. Both of those wishes appear to be in jeopardy as the owner of the property where Red lives wants to cut the huge tree down and a hateful message directed at one of the families in the neighborhood is carved into Red’s trunk.

I like that the entire story is told from Red’s perspective. This would pair well with Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. Both of these books are good mentor texts for writing using different points of view and both have nonhuman protagonists with limited capabilities working very hard to make changes for the better and to make wishes come true. Red loves Samar, the girl who lives in a house near his tree. Samar spends a great deal of time sitting quietly with Red and the animals that make the tree their home. But Samar is very lonely and makes a wish to have a friend. Stephen lives next door to Samar, but he and his parents have been reluctant to befriend Samar and her family. But a stranger carves an unkind message directed at Samar’s family, and Red becomes determined to help bring Samar and Stephen together as friends.

There are lots of good messages about friendship, tolerance, and the importance of preserving animal habitats. I do think that more could be told about the families of Samar and Stephen and the reasons for their animosity towards each other. There also could be more told about the boy who carved the nasty message into Red’s trunk and his motives for doing that. But, this could also lead to some good discussions with young readers making inferences about the motives of these characters and predictions about what may happen beyond what the author tells us. It also would be fun to compare this book with The One and Only Ivan.

Swing it, Sunny (Sunny #2) by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm (Illustrations)  
This middle grade graphic novel is a great follow up to Sunny Side Up. In the first book, Sunny Lewis spent the summer of 1976 visiting her grandfather in Florida while her family was dealing with her older brother's out of control behavior. In this book, Sunny is back home starting middle school and coming to terms with her mixed emotions about her brother's absence. Dale has been sent away to a boarding school, and while she misses him a lot, she doesn't miss the tension and anger that comes when he returns for visits. I really like that Sunny is a regular kid with a loving family and friends. Even with all of the positive influences around her, she still feels sad and has to learn how to deal with her situation. I think that a lot of kids can definitely relate to that. Sunny Side Up was a popular book in my classroom, and I'm sure this one will be as well. This book will be perfect for kids who enjoy reading books by Raina Telgemeier.

Comics Squad: Lunch! (Comics Squad #2) by Matthew Holm, Jennifer L. Holm, Cece Bell , Jeffrey Brown , Charles M. Schulz (Creator), Jason Shiga, Cecil Castellucci, Sara Varon , Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Nathan Hale  
This book is great for fans of graphic novels. Graphic novels have always been very popular with the middle grade students I've taught, and this one is a compilation of short comics from some of our favorite authors - Cece Bell, Nathan Hale, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Jennifer L. Holm, and Matthew Holm. Great book to have as part of any middle grade classroom library. 

Just a Drop of Water by Kerry O'Malley Cerra 
This middle grade novel tells the story of how the awful events of September 11, 2001 affected the lives of people all across America. This story is told from the point of view of Jake, an eighth grader living in Coral Springs, Florida. As the terrorist attacks happened and immediately afterward, everything changed in Jake's world. His mother became extremely frightened of everyone and everything, his friend Sam and his family experienced the nasty intolerance that people had towards Muslims, and Jake became more and more angry as he tried to retaliate against the bullies that were spreading hate. This book has terrific messages for readers in this age group, especially that violence and fighting only lead to more violence and fighting. There has to be better ways for the problems of hatred and intolerance to be solved. This book could lead to some good discussions of ways to find peace solutions, which couldn't be more important lately!  
Picture Books

Rufus Blasts Off! by Kim Griswell, Valeri Gorbachev (Illustrations)  
Loving stories and being able to read really comes in handy for this tenacious little pig! Rufus has a trunk full of awesome books that he loves to read. But when he's sent on a mission for new stories, he is determined to find them in space. Young readers will have a great time reading to see if Commander Luna relents and allows him to blast off with her and the crew! The illustrations are adorable, and I love books that celebrate the fun of stories and reading!

In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes, Laura Dronzek (Illustrations)  
This is a beautiful concept book to share with young children. A great celebration of the changing of seasons, this book presents a good opportunity to discuss the signs of fall: the changing leaves, frisky squirrels, brown gardens, ripe apples and pumpkins, etc. and then go outside and look for these things. The illustrations are gorgeous and I love the way the end papers show fall leaves at the front of the book, and winter snowflakes at the back of the book. 

Lines by Suzy Lee 
There are so many awesome messages packed into this beautiful wordless picture book. "It starts with a line," promises the book's jacket. And with that and a limited palette (the illustrations are rendered in pencil and the only color is red, in the skater's hat and mittens, until the end when there is a whole pond of people enjoying themselves), the magic begins. The book starts with a solitary skater sailing, gliding, and twirling on the ice and one can almost imagine music accompanying this turn on the ice. But as a tumble occurs, we learn that everyone else takes a fall at one time or another, and we can smile and make the best of it. This book would be a great way to help develop a growth mindset, as there's a great lesson in picking yourself up and continuing with your passion - whether it's skating, writing, drawing or any other pursuit.  

Maurice the Unbeastly by Amy Dixon, Karl James Mountford (Illustrations)  
This is a fun picture book that has a terrific message about being yourself. Maurice is not like any of the other beasts. He's friendly, polite, and neat. His parents are worried that he's not messy, mean, or scary and so they send him off to the Abominable Academy for Brutish Beasts. He has a tough time fitting in there, and receives all sorts of discouraging notes home regarding his extremely polite behavior. Young readers will get a kick out of the way everyone expects the opposite behavior from Maurice as their own parents and teachers expect from them! 

When's My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano, Christian Robinson (Illustrations)  
Remember how exciting birthdays were when you were a little kid? I was so excited when I realized that they made birthday candles shaped like the number of your age! I begged for those number candles and then saved them in a shoe box for a long time; although, honestly I have no idea where those candles are now! Anyway, this adorable picture book captures the anticipation of waiting for your special day to arrive. With simple, lyrical text and illustrations rendered in acrylics and collage techniques, this book feels like one of Ezra Jack Keats' picture books. This would make a terrific birthday gift for young readers. 

The Bad Seed by Jory John, Pete Oswald (Illustrator)  
Everyone deserves a second chance, and this clever picture book does a great job of illustrating that point. This book tells the story of a naughty sunflower seed who's always getting into trouble. The seed tells how things came to be this way, but also wants things to be different. Young readers will enjoy finding out if a bad seed can change its ways. Everyone can relate to this book, because everyone knows someone that just has a hard time getting along with others or, maybe, is that person that can't resist trouble. This book would be a great way to discuss ways to help everyone be "good seeds". 

Little Elliot, Fall Friends (Little Elliot) by Mike Curato  
Just in time for autumn days, this book will help young readers stop pining for summer and celebrate the joys of the changing seasons. Our friends, Little Elliot and Mouse, are back and readers will be able to enjoy the same gloriously detailed and colorful illustrations as the two take a much needed vacation to the country. Colorful leaves, hide and seek in a pumpkin patch, and new food and friends will make this a terrific story time book and a popular addition to a primary classroom library. 

Uni the Unicorn and the Dream Come True by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Brigette Barrager (Illustrations)  
Believing that dreams can come true is the theme of this sweet picture book that is perfect for unicorn fans! It's a wonderful gift that we have one more book to share with young readers from this author that we lost way to soon. This sequel to Uni the Unicorn shares the story of how believing in the seemingly impossible led Uni and a little girl to finally meet each other. The vibrant illustrations will make this a popular book on a primary library bookshelf. 

Danza!: Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico de México by Duncan Tonatiuh  
This fascinating picture book biography tells the story of Amalia Hernandez, who founded a ballet company in Mexico that is dedicated to performing dances that celebrate the indigenous cultures of the country. Born 100 years ago, Amalia became fascinated with the dancers that she had seen performing in the town square. She grew up studying ballet with the best teachers that could be found and eventually created her own dances for her group. There are numerous videos of this dance company on YouTube, and it would be fun to watch them as a supplement to this book. There are resources listed at the end, making this a good starting point for further research.

Duck & Goose Honk! Quack! Boo! by Tad Hills  
Just in time for Halloween, this fun picture book will be great to share with young readers. Duck and Goose are awfully excited about Trick-or-Treating. While they are discussing their costumes, their friend, Thistle, is evasive about his dress-up plans. Thistle warns them to beware of the swamp monster. This has Duck and Goose all worried, but they still face their fears and go out with all the other Trick-or-Treaters. Fun surprises await and young children will get a giggle out of this not-too-scary book.

Ghost Cat by Eve Bunting, Kevin M Barry (Illustrations)  
Eve Bunting is a masterful storyteller and this story is a great example. This awesome picture book tells the story of a lighthouse keeper and her cat. The cat is no longer living, but has decided to stay with his friend as a ghost to keep her from getting lonely. The lighthouse keeper has a crucial job: keeping the light going so that boats won't crash on the rocks in the dark or in bad weather. When a catastrophe occurs, it's up to Sailor Boy, the ghost cat, to make sure that everything turns out all right. Beautiful illustrations and an engaging narrative style make this a great book to have in any classroom library.  

Boo Who? by Ben Clanton 
It's difficult to be new and try to find ways to fit in and make new friends. This cute picture book addresses that issue with a story about a little ghost named Boo. He's new, and while everyone is being very nice, he is having a tough time finding a game he can play with them. This would be a great book to share with young children, especially around Halloween. This could be a terrific way to start a conversation about ways to welcome new friends and make sure that everyone feels included in the fun.

Nothing Rhymes With Orange by Adam Rex  
What a fun picture book this is! Not only do you have the fun of rhyming words and awesome illustrations in which fruit is photographed in very humorous ways, but you have a terrific message about friendship and inclusivity. All of the pieces of fruit have gotten together to participate in a terrific poem, but orange feels left out because there are no rhyming words for him. As the poem goes along, everyone has a part but him. This would be great to share with young readers to start a conversation about ways to let everyone have a part to play. 

Someone Like Me by Patricia MacLachlan, Chris Sheban (Illustrations)  
I've been a fan of Patricia MacLachlan's work for a long time, and I'm over the moon about this beautiful book encouraging those who love stories and books and reading that they might become writers, just like her. With gorgeous illustrations and simple text, this inspirational book could serve as a terrific mentor text for those that need help looking around for story ideas. This is a great picture book for any bookshelf and I definitely want to get my own copy of it! 

Shawn Loves Sharks by Curtis Manley, Tracy Subisak (Illustrations)  
This is a cute story about a young man who loves everything that has to do with sharks. He spends all of his time reading about them, watching shows about them, and running around pretending to be a shark. But when it's time to write reports about predators, he doesn't get to write about them, another girl in his class does. This book has a good messages about making the best of things, trying some new, and making friends. Detailed, colorful illustrations and a fun story line make this a nice book to share with young readers or to have in a classroom library.

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-the-Pooh by Sally M. Walker, Jonathan D. Voss (Illustrator)  
This nonfiction picture book is perfect for fans of Winnie the Pooh. Many readers might be surprised to learn that the famous bear from the stories by A. A Milne, was based on an actual bear. This book uses easy to understand narrative text and beautiful illustrations to tell how a baby bear was found at a train station by a young veterinarian heading off to help in World War I. The bear became a mascot for the company of soldiers. When they headed into dangerous fighting in France, the bear was dropped off at a London zoo to be looked after. This book would pair well with  Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick. 

The Little Chapel that Stood by A.B. Curtiss, Mirto Golino (Illustrator)  
With rhyming, lyrical poetry and beautiful illustrations, this book is a moving tribute to the men and women who rushed to help those that were trapped in the World Trade Center towers after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. The centerpiece of this poem is St. Paul's chapel across the street from the towers, which has stood there since 1766. This would be a great book to share with youngsters to help them understand what happened that day, but also to feel hopeful about helping others as a way to win over terror.

September 11, 2001: We Will Never Forget by Peter Benoit  
This well-researched, informative picture book gives enough detail about the events of September 11, 2001, the nation's response, and how that day is remembered without being too graphic or frightening for middle grade readers. Middle grade kids weren't alive when these terrible events occurred, so it's important to have nonfiction resources that help them understand what happened. This book uses easy to understand text, engaging photographs and insets, and provides more resources for further research. 

9.11.01: Terrorists Attack the U.S. by Patrick Lalley  
This is a pretty good nonfiction resource for middle grade students who want to find out more about the events of September 11, 2001. Well-researched and easy-to-understand text explain the details of the terrorist attack, gives eyewitness accounts, and provides historic context. However, because this book was written in 2002, the information isn't complete. This would need to be explained to students if they're using it for research. It should be used along with more current and updated material.