Monday, February 22, 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.
This has been kind of a weird week. We had Monday as a scheduled day off from school for President's Day. Tuesday was a Snow Day. So you would think with only a 3-day week, I would have had more time to read. On Tuesday, I read several picture books that I needed to return to the library. But, then we were so busy catching up at school, I never got a chance to finish the novel I started. And I must confess, that the weather was absolutely gorgeous this weekend. So, how could I not get outside and frolic (in short sleeves) before the next snowstorm snaps us back to our winter reality?!
So, at any rate, here's what I have been reading this past week:

Peddles by Elizabeth Rose Stanton   This is a really cute picture book about a little pig who has big dreams. Peddles does all of the other stuff pigs do, but he thinks differently. He dreams about all sorts of things. But one night when he sees a party going on in the barn with music and people dancing, he decides he also wants to dance. He works so hard at it and one day he finds a pair of red boots behind the barn. Maybe this will help him realize his dream. The illustrations are adorable! The little pig has such a cute look on his face on every page and there will certainly be some giggles over the potty humor! This has much of what made Henny such a popular book!

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins    This picture book is so much fun. This grumpy bear just wants to eat his eggs in peace. And then they hatch. Now he has a family of goslings following him everywhere and no amount of yelling and grumpiness will make them go away! I love the way he solves his problem in the end! The text and the illustrations work perfectly together, both making a hilarious story! The bear kind of reminds me of Lou Grant on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Anyway, this book is awesome and I really want to have a copy of this book for my classroom library!

Counting Lions: Portraits from the Wild by Katie Cotton, Stephen Walton (Illustrations)   This beautifully illustrated book calls attention to threatened and endangered species around the world, by showcasing them in a counting them. As you count and learn more about each animal, you realize that the numbers of each of these animals is decreasing at an alarming rate. Stunning charcoal drawings on each page look just like photographs. The book grabs your heart and gives fascinating information about each species. The back notes also include more information and resources for further study. I would love to have a copy of this in my classroom library.

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash by G. Neri, A.G. Ford (Illustrations)    I really enjoyed reading this book. I've always been a big fan of Johnny and June Cash. So this book captured my interest right away. The text, written in verse, takes us from Johnny Cash's young childhood (when he was called J.R.) through his start in music, his time in the Army, and his later years. The book takes a look at the rough times his family experienced through the Depression, the Great Flood of 1937, and his older brother's death. The book touches on Johnny Cash's battle with addiction in the notes at the end of the book, but it doesn't dwell on that aspect of his life. The paintings by A. G. Ford are absolutely gorgeous and are a fitting tribute to this legendary country singer. I'm not sure how many of my students are familiar with Johnny Cash or whether they're interested. I'm anxious to see what they think of this book.

Harry & Hopper by Margaret Wild, Freya Blackwood    Oh my gosh! This is a beautiful, heartwarming book! But, have your tissues ready!!! This is an important book, because it deals with the death of a beloved pet. Most children (and grown-ups) experience this heartbreak at one time or another and it's never easy. Harry's experience coming to terms with the loss of his dear friend could be a great way to have this difficult conversation with a child. Freya Blackwood's illustrations, rendered in watercolor and charcoal, are gorgeous and really capture the range of emotions that this book portrays. I'm not sure if I would be strong enough emotionally to read this book aloud to a class, but it's definitely one that I think should be in my classroom library.

A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jennifer Fisher Bryant, Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)   This is a wonderful picture book biography of William Carlos Williams, that takes us from his childhood years to his life as a doctor and a poet. It's very inspirational to read how he worked so hard at his studies through high school, college, and medical school. He was such a busy doctor, but he still made time to write poetry. He would work all day helping his patients, and then sit in his attic office into the night arranging notes into poems. That certainly gives me pause and makes me realize that there's no reason in the world why I shouldn't be spending more time writing when I'm certainly no more busy than he was! Melissa Sweet's mixed media illustrations are beautiful and thought-provoking. Her work does a lot to support the text and contributes much to the uplifting tone of the whole book. I would love to get my own copy to have in my classroom library permanently; and maybe another copy to have on my bookshelves at home!

Freedom School, Yes! by Amy Littlesugar, Floyd Cooper (Illustrations)   I shared this book with my 5th grade students, and they enjoyed it. The illustrations, along with the text, are powerful in their ability to convey the mood and strong emotional weight of this story. The setting is a small town in Mississippi during the summer of 1964. Jolie's family has agreed to host Annie, a 19-year-old girl from the North who has come to teach in the Freedom School. Even before classes begin, someone has thrown a rock and a hateful note through the front window of Jolie's house. Then someone burns the church where the Freedom School classes are to be taught. Undeterred, the Freedom School is held outside under a hickory tree while a new church can be built. One of the things my students appreciated most was the determination of Jolie and her family to make sure the Freedom School would happen no matter what the haters in their community said or did.

A Day's Work by Eve Bunting, Ronald Himler (Illustrations)    This is a touching picture book that tells the story of Francisco and his abuelo (grandfather) who are looking for a day's work. Francisco's grandfather just arrived in America and he doesn't speak English. Because it is Saturday, Francisco is able to come along with his grandfather and speak English for him. Francisco is able to get a job with a gardener by telling him that his grandfather is an expert gardener. The problem is, his grandfather is a carpenter, not a gardener. Francisco's dishonesty gets them into a bit of trouble as the pair wind up making a big mistake and angering the fellow that hired them. Eve Bunting really does an excellent job of capturing the feelings and anguish of this situation as Francisco learns an important lesson. Ronald Himler's illustrations are awesome and really help support the text. I'm glad to have this book in my classroom library.

Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)   I shared this book with my fifth grade students and they really enjoyed it. This picture book biography takes us from Edward Kennedy Ellington's childhood, when he would've rather played baseball than take piano lessons, to his introduction to ragtime music. We follow the start of his career in the clubs of Harlem, most notably the Cotton Club. As more and more people were able to listen to his music on the radio, he became famous across the nation and around the world. The book takes us to the pinnacle of his success, playing at New York's Carnegie Hall. Brian Pinkney's illustrations are awesome. The colorful paintings really capture the energy and excitement of the jazz age. I found that I just wanted to crawl inside the picture in which his orchestra is playing and people are dancing in the Cotton Club! I did need to take time to explain a lot of the language of the day: phrases like "fine-as-pie good looks and flashy threads," "Take the floor, Daddy-O!" and "While they were cuttin' the rug, Duke slid his honey-colored fingertips across the ivory eighty-eights." But most of the kids were able to enjoy the figurative, colorful language and imagine what fun it would've been to be a part of that scene!

Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish, Fritz Siebel (Illustrations)   This is a fun favorite that's always fun to revisit. I shared it with my fifth grade students as a fun way to talk about idioms. Amelia Bedelia has just begun a new job as a maid in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Rogers. They leave for the day and Amelia has a list of jobs to accomplish before they get home. Among the items on the list: change the towels, dust the furniture, draw the curtains, and dress the chicken. Because Amelia takes these directions literally, she cuts designs into the bathroom towels, spreads dusting powder all over the fancy furniture, gets out a sketch pad to draw a picture of the curtains, and puts a suit of clothes onto the chicken. Of course, when the Rogers return they're very upset. Thank goodness she's made them a delicious lemon meringue pie, so they don't get too upset. Even though it's a silly book, it is effective for teaching about idioms and we did have some good laughs over Amelia's antics!

The Sign of the Seahorse by Graeme Base    This was a fun book to read on a snow day. The search to find the culprit behind the mysterious poisoning of the Seahorses, starts at the famous Seahorse CafĂ© and takes readers from the doomed coral gardens of Reeftown to a sunken wreck and an underwater junkyard, across the Deep all the way to the edge of the Great Continental Shelf. The rhyming text and the beautiful illustrations really help immerse you in this awesome underwater world.



  1. Wonderful books this week, Jana! Mother Bruce I think is my favorite from your list. And yes, midwest weather is crazy!!

  2. Wow, so many marvelous picture books! I will look for the one about Johnny Cash. I loved Peddles, thought it was very cute, and Eve Bunting's books always please, good stories and messages. Snow is coming here tomorrow, then back warm again. Weird weather!

  3. What a great assortment of books. Mother Bruce came in our last book order but I haven't had a chance to read it yet. I
    didn't have any days off last week and the pile of work that needs assessing is growing exponentially. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  4. I am glad to see quite a number of familiar books. I use Duke Ellington, A Day's Work in my higher-degree class with teachers. I have yet to find Mother Bruce - still not available in our libraries. Soon, I hope. Enjoy the rest of your week!

  5. I read Peddles this week too and thought it was darling. Mother Bruce just came in at my library and I need to go read it as I've heard so many great things! These are some awesome picture book choices!