Monday, January 18, 2016

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.
Winter has finally made an appearance. It's cold and snowy, which is perfect for curling up with good books. Here's what I've been reading this week:

In Place of Never by Julie Anne Lindsey  I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley. This book has a lot to it that really made me enjoy it. The characters had quite a bit of depth and complexity, but at the same time were authentic and accessible to readers of young adult fiction. The plot events and story development were engaging, suspenseful and romantic. The book deals with some very serious issues: depression, suicide, self-cutting, violence and teen pregnancy.

To read my complete review, visit my blog post:

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. by David A. Adler, Robert Casilla (Illustrator)  I shared this book with my fifth grade students. I did it as an introduction to a lesson about Martin Luther King Day. It's a good book to use with kids as it gets to the point with engaging illustrations. The illustrations do a nice job of showing Martin Luther King as a youngster, so that the kids can relate to the sadness he felt when he wasn't allowed to play with his white friends. The pictures and text are effective at showing how Dr. King worked to change unfair laws and spoke out against prejudice, violence and hate.
The Cart That Carried Martin by Eve Bunting, Don Tate (Illustrator)  This beautifully done nonfiction picture book tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral by focusing on the borrowed cart that was used to carry King's casket from the Ebenezer Baptist Church to Morehouse College. Funeral organizers borrowed the unwanted cart from an antique store - "Friends painted it green. 'It's the color of grass when it rains,' a woman said."

Mules were hitched to the cart - "'Ordinary mules for an ordinary funeral,' the people told one another. 'That was what he wanted.'

The illustrations, which were done in pencil and gouache, do a wonderful job of capturing the emotion and magnitude of this occasion. Most are two-page spreads depicting the crowds outside the church, inside the church, and along the route to Morehouse College and then the cemetery.

My favorite lines are: "The cart was not heavy.
The coffin was not heavy.
The man inside it was not heavy.
His great spirit had been the heaviest part of him.
It could not be kept in a coffin."

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr. by Jean Marzollo, Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)  While the text is very simple and straightforward, the illustrations are very powerful in showing the warmth, emotion, and beauty in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Readers are given a chronologically arranged look at King's childhood, education, ministry and civil activism. I shared this picture book with my students and it serves as a great springboard for further study and discussion.

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, Jerome Lagarrigue (Illustrator)  This is a terrific story about friendship with beautiful illustrations set in the South in the summer of 1964. Joe and John Henry are close friends. They do chores together, play marbles, and go swimming in the creek. But they're never quite able to do everything they want together. When Joe buys ice pops for them, John Henry has to wait outside the store. John Henry's not allowed to swim in the town pool.

When Joe's father announces that a law has been passed that means the pool and all the other places in town are for everyone, the children are so excited. The next day, they race to the pool... But that's when they find out just how nasty segregation and prejudice can be.

The illustrations do a super job capturing the story and the emotion of it. I'm sure that the students in my class will be able to relate to the friendship these boys share and their loyalty to each other in the face of racism.

And Two Boys Booed by Judith Viorst, Sophie Blackall (Illustrator)  I really enjoyed this story of a little boy who's all set to perform in a talent show at school. This cumulative tale tells us that he's practiced a billion times and he's wearing his lucky blue boots and pants with cool pockets. But as his turn gets closer and closer, he's getting more and more nervous. Anyone who's ever performed in front of classmates will be able to relate to this young man's apprehension.

Sophie Blackall's illustrations are awesome. They really hit the mark on how this type of performance plays out in a primary classroom. You can have fun lifting flaps to see the boy's performance. And I had just as much fun watching the children in the audience squirming, whispering, playing with their hair and all the other things young children do when we've reached the limit of their attention span.

What If...? by Anthony Browne  This cute picture book will definitely speak to anyone who's ever been a bit apprehensive about trying something new. Joe is attending his first party and has lost the address to his friend's house. As he and his mother walk along the street, he asks questions, like what if there's too many people or what if I don't like the food? As they glance in the front window of each home to see if that's the house, we see what Joe imagines is in each one.

The illustrations are quite imaginative and detailed. Some are funny, like the old couple reading books with Martian-like growths coming out of their heads. And some are somewhat creepy like the wild party of pigs.

This Orq. He Cave Boy. by David Elliott, Lori Nichols (Illustrator)  This is a cute story about a little boy who falls in love with a growing wooly mammoth and wants to keep him as a pet. The little boy's mother isn't thrilled because the animal is smelly and he's not housetrained. The little boy tries hard to teach the mammoth tricks so that his mother will love him too. Then when the little boy needs him most, the mammoth saves the day.

The illustrations are cute and support the story well. I was a little put off by the "cave-boy speak."
"This Orq. He live in cave. He carry club. He cave boy." I know it's supposed to be humorous and clever, but it didn't work for me. In an age when it's tough to get kids to write complete sentences (when they're so used to texting), I'm not sure this book helps them.

The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, Dan Hanna (Illustrator)   This is a cute book. The back cover says it best, "Sometimes a kiss is all it takes to turn things around." Mr. Fish swims along with a glum pout on his face. His friends all try to cheer him up, but he insists that that's just the way his face is and he can't do anything about it.

Adorable illustrations and repetitive, catchy rhyming text is sure to make this a fun read for everyone. I absolutely love Mr. Fish on the last page. If you're feeling glum, this is a great book to put you in a terrific mood.

TipTop by C. Roger Mader  Wow! What a treat this book is! I was drawn to it, by the beautiful illustration on the cover. Some years ago, I had a black-and-white cat named Homer. Homer was a nosy cat, who always got himself into trouble of some kind. One of his worst habits was going through open garage doors in the neighborhood, and then getting himself shut inside when the door was closed.

When you open the book, you get to experience the appealing endpapers that show the dark rooftops of Paris with kitty-cat tracks on them. The tracks start in the front of the book and end at the back of the book. How can you not dig in to a book with this sort of art to greet you?!

The story tells of a curious cat that was received by someone as a gift. The cat checks out the apartment. The cat in the text and illustrations is so totally Homer, that this book makes me feel wistful for the cat who's been gone for ten years now. When the cat leaves the apartment's balcony to wander the rooftops of the city, he winds up at his favorite spot, a chimney with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower.

The cat gets himself into trouble, just like Homer would, but it all turns out fine. This is a great story of resilience. The artwork has really grabbed me, and I think I need to get my own copy of this book (as I borrowed this one from my local library). The last illustration in the book shows the cat in his favorite spot, gazing at the Eiffel Tower at night, with the lights of Paris spread out below him. Sigh....



  1. Such a great assortment of picture books! I'm especially interested in the ones about MLK. Here is what I read last week. Happy reading!

  2. Wow! Anthony Brown, Eve Bunting, and Debra Whiles. Some of my favorite writers. I love freedom summer and look forward to reading these other titles. Tip Top Cat looks like one that we had when I was a kid. I'm going to have to get that one too

  3. What a lot of reading! I haven't read those MLK texts for a while. I should go back to them and give them a review. Same for Freedom Summer. Tiptop Cat sounds like an adventurous story. I'll have to find that one.

  4. So many lovely books, Jana! I've read many of the Martin Luther King books, but didn't know about The Cart which sounds lovely. I will look for Tip Top, too. I had a cat a long time ago too that it reminds me of. Thanks for so many reviews!

  5. A coworker of mine was obsessed with Pout Pout Fish, her preschooler just couldn't get enough of that silly story. Definitely a good one for blue Monday!

  6. Great books! Freedom Summer is a book I wish I had for tomorrow - but I'll be ordering it for sure.

  7. Just loved Freedom Summer! I so appreciate there are good picture books to tackle a sensitive subject.

  8. Hi there, Jana. I used The Cart that Carried Martin in one of my higher-degree classes last year - and it struck an emotional chord with most of the teachers, especially since this was roughly the time when LKY (Singapore's Minister Mentor) passed away. Quite a powerful read.