Monday, December 14, 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.
Hope you've had an awesome week! Here's what I've been reading:

Satch & Me by Dan Gutman  For those who enjoy reading the Magic Tree House or Time Warp Trio series, this book (part of the Baseball Card Adventure series), should be a great fit. Joey Stoshack has a secret power - he can travel through time with baseball cards. When he touches certain cards, he disappears from the present and reappears in the past:

"If I'm holding a 1919 baseball card, it will take me to the year 1919. If I'm holding a 1932 card, I'll show up in 1932. It's just about the coolest thing in the world. But as far as I know, nobody else can do it. But I can take people with me when I go back in time. I know that because I've done it."

Joey and his Little League baseball coach, Flip Valentini, want to take a radar gun back in time to see who was the fastest pitcher in history. They wind up traveling to the year 1942, to meet up with Satchel Paige.

When Joey and Flip find themselves in a South Carolina diner in 1942, they're surprised by the cheap food prices and how different everything is. They also see firsthand the racism of the times. When a busload of black baseball players is denied service, Flip buys the food for them. They spend time talking to the team and find out more about Satchel Paige. And this starts their adventure.

This book is an awesome mix of the excitement of time travel, an honest depiction of the racial bigotry that prevented many talented black baseball players from joining Major League baseball teams, and great sports entertainment for readers who love baseball. The author has done extensive research and includes photographs of the players and a helpful list of resources for those who want to learn more.

Anastasia Krupnik by Lowis Lowry  Anastasia Krupnik is a 10-year-old that has a lot of strong opinions about what she loves and what she hates. Her father is a professor of literature and a poet. "Sometimes he read his poems to Anastasia by candlelight, and lets her take an occasional (very small) sip of his wine."

Her mother is a painter. "Very often there was a smudge of purple on her cheek, or a daub of green on one wrist or elbow. Sometimes she smelled of turpentine."

The book chronicles all of the important events that occur in the year that she is ten. Each chapter begins with a revised running list of the things she loves and the things she hates. As she goes through the trials and tribulations of the year, items are crossed off one list and reappear on the other.

This could be a good mentor-text for writing. Anastasia writes a poem early in the book that her teacher, Mrs. Westvessel doesn't appreciate at all. When she recites it in class and her teacher asks for an explanation, I LOVE Anastasia's response: "It's a poem of sounds; it's about little things that live in tidepools, after dark, when they move around. It doesn't have sentences or capital letters because I wanted it to look on the page like small creatures moving in the dark; I don't know why it doesn't rhyme; it didn't seem important."

Anastasia's green notebook is her way of keeping lists of things that are very important to her. She lists the important events in her life, words that she loves, and the previously-mentioned "Love" and "Hate" list. She also records her choice for the name of her soon-to-be-born baby brother (which is a very nasty name).

One day, Anna goes with her father to one of his classes. After she agrees to go along, she goes to her room to change into her "poetry outfit": "Anastasia's poetry outfit was quite simple. She put a black turtleneck shirt on with her jeans, replaced her owl's eye-shaped glasses with dark glasses, and undid her pony tail. She combed her hair straight and flat. If she had had time she would have painted her fingernails crimson."

Since this book was published in 1979, there are definitely some references and ideas that are dated. This could generate good discussions comparing and contrasting that period in time with the present day. Also, because there is some foul language and references (including the previously-mentioned baby's name), I would recommend using this book with mature readers and providing appropriate guidance.
The Scraps Book by Lois Ehlert   Wow! What an inspirational picturebook. Lois Ehlert has written and illustrated so many wonderful books. This book takes you into her studio and into her life. Ehlert shares how her parents inspired her to start creating art - her mother sewed and her father had a basement workshop. She shares some of her techniques for creating the awesome collages that we find in her books. For anyone who loves art, this is the perfect book.

Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won   It's hard to stay grumpy when you read this book! The back cover lets you know that "Happiness is best when it's shared". And the front dustcover flap advises "Grumpy days don't have to stay that way..." Elephant starts off the book grumpy, but a surprise present delivered to his door cheers him up. He goes visiting all of his grumpy friends and shares his surprise. Watch what happens when people spread their cheer! The illustrations are adorable as we all enjoy the happiness spreading around.

Jospehine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)  I've always enjoyed reading and learning about the music and entertainment of the early twentieth century - imagining the flappers of the Roaring Twenties dancing the Charleston in Paris. So I was eager to read this book about the life of Josephine Baker. I loved it!

Right after the title page, is a page with this quote:

"I shall dance all my life....
I would like to die, breathless,
spent, at the end of a dance."
- Josephine Baker, 1927

The next page ends with, "America wasn't ready for Josephine, the colored superstar. PARIS WAS."

This biography, with stunning illustrations, takes us from Josephine's difficult childhood in St. Louis, through her hard work and determination to perform on vaudeville stages, to her arrival on Broadway. All throughout this story, you're faced with the sad reality of racial inequality and segregation. She couldn't enter through the front doors of the theaters in which she performed.

When she finally traveled across the Atlantic to France, she encountered a completely different world. The story takes readers through her rise to success abroad and her return to America. She wanted to make a difference in the lives of black people here.

This is an awesome biography. It definitely makes me want to learn even more about Josephine Baker's life. The author has included a good list of resources for readers who want to continue reading about her life.

Lenny & Lucy by Philip C. Stead, Erin E. Stead (Illustrator) I really enjoyed this picture book. Before I even opened the book, I was drawn to the cover art of the wood-paneled car loaded up with this family's possessions and the drive through the tall trees of the forest. And on the back cover, the flowered wallpaper with the sentence "And Millie was a good friend to Peter." That sentence intrigued me, as neither Millie nor  Peter's name is in the title.

The book opens with this scene, as you meet Peter, who is very unhappy about this trip. We're not sure about the circumstances that led to this move, but you feel sympathetic to this youngster. I'm glad he had that dog. The story is so heartwarming as he starts building Lenny and Lucy to guard the bridge and house from anything that might come out of the forest. When Millie comes from next door and shares her binoculars and marshmallows, everything seems just about perfect.

This book is very comforting and pleasant to read and the illustrations are terrific. Even before Millie asked if Peter had ever seen an owl, I had already notice the owl that seems to show up on just about every page. I have to get my own copy of this book, for sure!

Louise Loves Art by Kelly Light   This is a cute story about a little girl who loves to draw and create artwork. She also loves her little brother, Art. As she's getting ready to put on her own art show (at home, down the stairs and through the rooms to the kitchen), her little brother surprises her with his own work of art. The drawings are a lot of fun, and I think some of my students with younger siblings will certainly be able to relate to this.


  1. I cried when I finished the last Baseball Card Adventures book! So sad to have the series end! I haven't read Anastasia Krupnik in 25 years; it's amazing how dated some things can become. Now I have to look up what she called her brother!

    1. She was going to name her brother One-ball Reilly. The lyrics to this Irish drinking song are just terrible. I don't think my 5th graders would be familiar with the song, but the name still might generate some inappropriate comments. Also, when Anastasia goes to her father's college class one of the students says "shit" not once, but twice.

  2. The Baseball Card Adventures books sound wonderful. I am not familiar with them at all, Jana! I know the others, & haven't thought of Anastasia Krupnik in a long time & you've made it sound like I should find it & re-read! I love Lenny & Lucy, a favorite of this year!

  3. What a huge variety here! Lenny & Lucy is also a favourite of mine. So gentle and necessary. Happy reading this holiday!

  4. I adored "Anastasia Ask Your Analyst" when I was a kid, it was exciting to find a book starring a girl who was as weird as I felt I was! I really appreciate it when bloggers share a mix of new and old books - there are a lot of great new books coming out every day, but you really seem to read about them everywhere, and it's all too easy to forget or overlook some of the classic (or lesser-known) titles of the past! Have a great week!

    1. I like to include books that have been sitting around in my school for years. Somehow I haven't gotten around to reading them until now. The nice thing about reviewing older books is that people usually have them close at hand in their schools or at their libraries without having to go out and pay a lot of money for them. Thanks for your kind comments!

  5. Josephine looks very good! I am a sucker for picture book nonfiction. I am going to be sure to get a copy of that one. I've still yet to read Lenny & Lucy. I am starting to feel like I am the only one who hasn't read it!

  6. I just bought Anastasia Krupnik as a gift for one of the kids I know here in our neighborhood, I have a feeling she would love it. I also enjoyed the Josephine Baker picturebook.