Monday, February 15, 2016

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.
While we had another round of Parent Teacher Conferences this week, thankfully we have President's Day off. And as we are sitting inside with wind chill warnings outside, I've had plenty of time to curl up with great books this week. Hope you've had a good reading week as well. Here's what I've been reading:

The Maypop Kidnapping by C.M. Surrisi  I had the opportunity to read a digital-ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is a fun, middle-grade mystery to read. I enjoyed it, and I believe my fifth grade students would enjoy it, because it's got more suspense to it than mysteries for earlier readers (Cam Jansen, Nate the Great, Encyclopedia Brown), but it's not over-the-top with scary violence.

The mystery begins when Quinnie's teacher, Blythe Stillford, fails to show up for her traditional first-day-of-school breakfast date at Gusty's. Concerned, Quinnie walks from the restaurant to Ms. Stillford's house. No one appears to be home when Quinnie peeks in the windows and nobody answers the door. She can see her teacher's cell phone resting on the dining room table. She enters the house through the unlocked kitchen door. Food is left out on the counter, her teacher's house is undisturbed, and her car is still in the garage. Quinnie becomes convinced that her teacher has been kidnapped.

For my complete review, please visit my blog:

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, Sophie Blackall (Illustrations)    Oh my gosh! This book just blew me away. I've grown up loving Winnie the Pooh, like so many other children. This true story of the soldier veterinarian who found the bear on the way to fight in World War I is fascinating. Lindsay Mattick frames this story in a bedtime story she is telling to her son. Winnie's story is so well told and Sophie Blackall's illustrations are so characteristically appealing. No wonder Blackall won the Caldecott this year for it. The end of the book kind of grabbed me emotionally at the end. This is one of the few nonfiction children's books that made me cry a bit!

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews, Bryan Collier (Illustrations)   A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Award Winner

This is such an inspiring story of a young man growing up in New Orleans. Music was so important in his family and as a child he would make his own musical instruments so he could play with his brother (a trumpet player). When he found an old, discarded trombone he marched out in a Mardi Gras parade with it. The trombone was twice his size, so he earned the nickname "Trombone Shorty". Collier's illustrations, which are a mix of paintings and collage, are beautiful and really capture how special these times were to the author.

On the Wing by David Elliott, Becca Stadtlander (Illustrations)   David Elliott's poetry combined with Becca Stadtlander's stunning paintings makes this a beautiful book to have in your classroom library. This book celebrates the lovable features of fifteen different birds. I think this is a terrific mentor text for celebrating simple things (birds) with lovely verse.

Day Dreamers: A Journey of Imagination by Emily Winfield Martin   This is a lovely picture book that celebrates all of the places you can go when you daydream. The beautiful illustrations depict flying on the back of a dragon, riding on the back of ancient sea creature on a carousel in the waves, and moving through a flowery meadow on the back of a jack-a-lope. The rhyming text is very soothing and would be awesome to share with young children.

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, Bryan Collier (Illustrator)   Coretta Scott King Award for Illustrator (2013), NAIBA Book of the Year for Picture Book (2012)

I shared this book with my fifth grade students and got mixed reviews from them. Many of them didn't care for the style of poetry or the collage illustrations as they tended to bra bit confusing. They said they preferred a more straightforward text and paintings to illustrate. Some of the students appreciated Collier's mix of paintings & collage, especially the fast-moving train pictures. I enjoyed sharing this with them because I thought it led to some great discussions.

Henry Aaron's Dream by Matt Tavares  I shared this book with my fifth graders and it was a great pick for a read aloud. The stunning paintings do a masterful job of telling the story of Henry Aaron's life as he struggled to become a major league baseball player. As a youngster, Henry's father didn't encourage him to play baseball because there were no teams that would allow black players. Even after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, he still faced discrimination, insults and physical assaults from those who couldn't accept him. As I shared the illustrations and the story, my students were disturbed by the images of Whites Only signs on the baseball field fence and the racial bigotry that was widespread at that time in our history. As the story unfolds, though, many were impressed by Aaron's perseverance through these times. Many of them felt inspired by it. So did I. What an awesome book!

Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson, Kadir Nelson (Illustrations)    This book is awesome! I shared it with my fifth grade students. The book, written by Jackie Robinson's daughter, shares some poignant and heartstring tugging memories of events that occurred after Robinson retired from baseball. The family had moved to a large, luxurious home in Connecticut. The property included a lake in which the children and their friends played during the spring and summer. When winter time rolled around, it was time for ice-skating. We loved that this story shares personal things about Jackie Robinson and his family that we had never heard before. It was so nice to get to know more about Jackie Robinson off the field. The illustrations, by Kadir Nelson, are absolutely gorgeous!

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan  This is definitely a different kind of book than what I'm used to reading. The spare text and odd (and sometimes disturbing) illustrations make feel curious to find out what's going on. I do think it might be interesting to share this at the beginning of the school year.

Groundhog's Dilemma by Kristen Remenar, Matt Faulkner (Illustrator)  I got my hands on this library book a week too late, but I enjoyed it very much anyway. Each year, when the Groundhog comes out to look for his shadow, half of the animals are pleased with his predictions and half of them are grumpy about it. Some animals, like Bear and Rabbit, want six more weeks of winter. Others, like the Squirrel family, want spring to come early. Pretty soon, everyone pours gifts, food, and friendship on Groundhog in order to influence his decision. What's going to happen when they realize he has no control over the seasons, he just "calls them as he sees them." The illustrations are adorable and really help to support the story. I want to make sure I get a copy of this one before the next Groundhog's Day!

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson, James E. Ransome (Illustrator)

I shared this book with my fifth grade students today. The book tells the story of a young slave girl who's been separated from her mother. She's sent to a new plantation. At first she works as a field hand. But as it was such exhausting work for such a young girl, she got the chance to learn how to sew. Once she became a seamstress in the master's house, she learned how to make patchwork quilts. As she quilted, she couldn't help noticing that the shapes and patterns in the quilt matched those she saw in the world around her. Before long, she was saving scraps of fabric to create her own quilt map. This became a terrific resource to help her and others escape from slavery. The paintings do an awesome job illustrating this story beautifully.

Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos by Stephanie Roth Sisson   This is a fantastic biography of Carl Sagan. Reading about his childhood fascination with space and stars and how he pursued his imagination throughout the course of his life is very inspirational. He spent lots of time reading and studying until he became a renowned astronomer.

A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki   This picture book biography tells about George Washington Carver in a pretty straightforward, informative way. We learn about his childhood, and how difficult things were for the son of a former slave. He was always trying to learn new things, and was especially interested in gardening. We learn about his schooling and his ideas about crop rotation. He had to work especially hard to convince farmers to grow peanuts. The illustrations are beautiful and really do a wonderful job supporting the text.



  1. A Weed is a Flower! I remember that one! Wonder what Aliki is up to? Liked Maypop more than I thought I would. I have lots of readers who like kidnapping stories. A little weird, but it's true!

  2. Great assortment of books. I'm curious to read The Maypop Kidnapping because I already wonder what happened to the teacher. Here is my week. Happy reading!

  3. I love all of the nonfiction titles you featured here! Some of my favourites like Star Stuff and Trombone Shorty

  4. I will look for the Maypop Kidnapping, Jana, sounds good, maybe even for a read aloud? Amazing list of picture books this week, some I've loved, & some are new. I haven't read that one about Jackie Robinson & illustrated by Kadir Nelson, looks wonderful. I agree about the Shaun Tan. He creates unusual books & most I enjoy, but this one is strange. Have a good 'short' week!

  5. I'm so excited to read Star Stuff and share Carl Sagan with kids at my library.

  6. Wow, busy week! I love how you are sharing your students' thoughts and reactions to the book too. We went to see a play on Rosa Parks last week so I read "White Water" with my students, who were similarly disturbed by the idea of Whites/Colored signs. I think it is so important to discuss these issues with them so they can start to understand that some of these feelings still exist in the world today too.

  7. I was not a fan of Rules of Summer either. I didn't get it.
    Thanks for the Maypop book - I've seen it mentioned a few times but had not heard either way how it was!

  8. Shaun Tan can do no wrong in my book. I loved Rules of Summer for all the reasons you just mentioned: odd, almost inexplicable, weird illustrations. :) Love all the other picturebooks you shared here, will make sure to find a few of them.

  9. Great group of books here! On the Wing looks gorgeous! I have the Maypop book, but my TBR stack is toppling!