Monday, November 30, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

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.
Thanks to Thanksgiving Break, I was able to do quite a bit of reading this week!

Raising Rufus by David Fulk   I received a copy of this middle grade novel from the author to place in my library at school. He was hoping to spread awareness of this book. I am so happy that he sent it to us, because I really enjoyed reading it and I'm excited to share it with my students.

Raising Rufus pulls the reader in right away with characters that are very authentic. My students often have a difficult time getting hooked into books unless they can relate to the characters. The eleven-year-old protagonist, Martin Tinker, is a small town boy who experiences many of the same problems that a lot of students do: he's shy, he's a bit small in size, he's not athletic, and he's bullied by the son of the local sheriff. He prefers to spend time alone either exploring the woods near his home or studying in his lab (which is a seldom-used barn in his back yard).

The action in the story starts on the first pages, as Martin is chasing a butterfly into the local quarry and is nearly killed in a rock slide. As he emerges from the rocks, boulders and chunks of ice, he discovers "a smooth, oval object, a bit smaller than a football, grayish-brown and covered with ... were those speckles, or just chunks of dirt?"

Martin takes the object home along with other fossils he found. After a week, it becomes clear that the object is an egg because it hatches, and a baby lizard is born. But this isn't an ordinary lizard, it is a Tyrannosaurus rex:

For my complete review, please visit:

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminiated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, K.G. Campbell (Illustrator)  I really enjoyed this book. It was so much more than I thought it would be. I was expecting a great story, because I've enjoyed Kate DiCamillo's other books, like Because of Winn-Dixie and Tiger Rising. Several of my students read Flora and Ulysses last year and really liked it.

The characters are so interesting and the story of a squirrel that has a near-death experience that leaves him with the power to fly and type poetry is very engaging. But the voice that DiCamillo gives to the main character, Flora along with a love of words and how they can be used, makes this book irresistible.

The book has so much to say about observation, overcoming fear, friendship, love, and finding your way home when you're lost. I feel like I need to read the book again and again. And I bet I'll pick up something new and wonderful each time. What an awesome thing for a story to do!

Trouble at Betts Pets by Kelly Easton   This book follows Aaron Betts, a fifth grader whose family runs a pet store. Aaron is a typical kid who has homework and chores. He develops an unlikely friendship with Sharon Trout, a wealthy classmate who was assigned by the teacher to tutor Aaron in math. There's a bit of a mystery in the pet store as animals and pet supplies have been disappearing with no logical explanation. Readers will be engaged as we learn about some of the social issues in Aaron's Cleveland neighborhood and the mystery is solved. The story has a positive message, that we should get to know people before we make assumptions about them.

The Little Gardener by Emily Hughes  This is a beautiful picture book with a lot of meaning for me. On the surface, it's a cute story about a tiny farmer with a cute pet worm who is passionate about his garden, but needs help. But when I looked at how hard the little gardener worked at the daunting task of taming this garden, I couldn't help but see that as a metaphor for teaching! Teachers works so hard, but often it feels like the job is too much and we get overwhelmed. I can relate to the little gardener staring at the moon and praying for a little help! When I saw how it turned out, I felt a little emotional. What an encouraging story for anyone who feels small in the face of an enormous job!

Little Elliot, Big City by Mike Curato   This was a cute story about a little elephant, who has a difficult time getting around the city because he's so small. He is so small that he finds it difficult to buy cupcakes. When he helps out someone who's even smaller than himself, he learns something about friendship.

A Crow of His Own by Megan Dowd Lambert, David Hyde Costello (Illustrator)  This is a fun book with beautiful watercolor illustrations about trying to fill the shoes of a famous predecessor. It's tough to try to live up to someone else's great example. Clyde tries and tries to make his morning wake-up crow even more special than Larry's. Readers will be anxious to see if Clyde is ever going to figure out how to make daybreak crow his own.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle, Rafael L√≥pez (Illustrator)  This is a really special book that allows all children to dream to be whatever they want to be. The beautiful, colorful illustrations along with Engle's poetry tells about a young girl who very passionately longed to make music drumming. All along the way grown-ups tried to discourage her because she was a girl. Through persistence and tenacity, her father finally agreed to send her to a music teacher. She learned and worked and practiced until she was ready to play her drums for others.

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee  I loved this book for the amazing story it tells about friendship and love with beautiful illustrations and a wordless text. The author builds the relationship and character development with great attention to small details. I love the shared meals, chores and bedtime, but my favorite is the switching of the hats at the end.

Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco  Wow! What a terrific story! Polacco tells the story of a young soldier fighting in the South Pacific during WWII. He befriends a young girl who gives him special leaves to heal his bug bites and he shares food and supplies with her and her family. Eventually they have to evacuate the area and he never sees her again, until years later when she is able to repay his kindness. The illustrations are powerful and emotional and support the text of this story. Have tissues handy!

Mummy Cat by Marcus Ewert, Lisa Brown (Illustrator)  This book is an interesting look at daily life during the time of ancient Egypt, especially the special relationship between a cat and a queen. As the mummified cat wakes up for his once-in-a-century search for his beloved queen, the murals and hieroglyphics inside the pyramid tell the story of jealousy and foul play. The end of the book has informational text about mummies and hieroglyphics. I'm pretty sure that several of my students would be fascinated by this book.

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood, Meg Hunt (Illustrator)  This is a fun twist on the Cinderella fairy tale. Set in outer space, Interstellar Cinderella is able to make repairs to broken robots and spaceships. She rescues the prince by fixing his broken spaceship. The sharp, brightly colored illustrations really bring the story alive and everyone can cheer for the ending. I love that this Cinderella is strong heroine and someone that all young people can aspire to become!

The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo  This book is a lot of fun to read. Kids of all ages can relate to being bored and having fun with a sibling's prized possessions. But when everyone's stuff, including the little boy's, starts disappearing, the mystery begins. The true culprit is another one that most homeowners can relate to! The illustrations really draw the reader into the story, especially as we are aware of the true thief! You can see the bandit in the first silhouette illustration! My favorite is the picture showing the creature at the little boy's window in the moonlight! This book is awesome for everyone!

Melvin and the Boy by Lauren Castillo  This book is so simple, and yet so heartwarming and sweet. The boy wants a pet so badly, but all of the pets he suggests are either too big or too much work or too noisy. Everyone else gets to enjoy a pet, it doesn't seem fair. When he finds a turtle at the park, it seems as though he'd be the perfect pet. But it takes great maturity and sensitivity for the boy to see that the turtle isn't really happy. And this little boy is faced with a decision to make. The illustrations do a wonderful job of capturing the sweetness of this story. My favorite is when he's sitting on the steps of his apartment building watching everyone else walk by with their pets, including someone passing by with a llama!

Baby Bear by Kadir Nelson   This book is absolutely wonderful - the story is sweet and heartwarming, while the illustrations are stunningly beautiful! As the baby bear searches for the way home, he receives advice from all the other creatures of the forest: the mountain lion tells him to retrace his steps, the frog tells him to trust himself, the moose tells him to listen to his heart and so on. The advice is good for anyone who feels like they're not sure which path to take to turn out all right. Very moving! I love it!


  1. Sad to see that The Trouble at Betts Pets is out of print. Sounds interesting. Did love Raising Rufus, but Flora and Ulysses... not one of my favorites. Talking animals and I don't do well, I guess. Looks like a great week of reading.

  2. You did read a lot! The Mummy Cat sounds interesting. I got a copy of the Little Gardner from the library, but haven't read it yet. Now I really want to!

  3. Lots of beautiful books here, Jana. I've read quite a few, loved The Little Gardener and Baby Bear (love all the bear books!). I'll look for Raising Rufus and A Crow of His Own, both sound worth finding. Thank you!


  4. Tucky Jo and Little Heart is a new Polacco title to me - I must look it up! The same is true for Raising Rufus - I have a feeling I know some sixth graders in my class who will be clamoring for this one!


  5. Tucky Jo and Little Heart is a new Polacco title to me - I must look it up! The same is true for Raising Rufus - I have a feeling I know some sixth graders in my class who will be clamoring for this one!

  6. I haven't read that many of these, I need to get cracking! A Crow of His Own just came into my library, and I thought it was pretty cute - a great story about finding your own voice. Have a great week!