Monday, February 29, 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.
Happy Leap Year Day! Hope you've had a great week of reading. We have four weeks until Spring Break, but winter seems to be hanging on! It's been a busy week, but here's what I've been reading:

Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate   I had the opportunity to read a digital-ARC of this debut novel by Riley Redgate in exchange for this review. I enjoyed reading this YA novel about the rumors and scandal swirling around a Kansas high school over a romantic relationship involving a teacher and a student. The story is told from the perspectives of seven students who seem to lead completely different lives at this school, and yet are connected to each other through the unfolding events. I was engaged throughout the novel, grew to care about each of the characters, and eagerly turned pages until I reached the end.

For my complete review, please visit my blog post:

Pink Is For Blobfish: Discovering the World's Perfectly Pink Animals by Jess Keating and David DeGrand (Illustrator)   What an awesome nonfiction picture book this is! Jess Keating has written a wonderfully entertaining and informative book about some of the world's weirdest pink animals. From the title blob fish, to naked mole rats, hippos, and many other animals, you get great photographs along with interesting facts and details. I have to get this book for my classroom! I know it'll be very popular. In fact, I probably should get several copies!

Surf's Up by Kwame Alexander, Daniel Miyares (Illustrations)    Wowie Kazowie! I want to go to the beach with Bro and Dude! These two fun-loving frogs make me long for the days of summer reading! Bro loves to read and he's completely wrapped up in the book that he's reading, Moby Dick! Dude thinks books are boring and just wants to get to the beach. As they go along and Bro starts to share some of the exciting adventures from his book, Dude changes his mind. The illustrations are awesome! Colorful paintings of helmet-wearing frogs sharing a book on the back of a motor scooter on the way to the beach will make book lovers out of anyone!

Henry Wants More by Linda Ashman, Brooke Boynton Hughes (Illustrator)   This book will bring smiles to anyone who knows how exhausting a toddler can be. The entire family takes turns playing with Henry: they sing songs, play games, and run around the house. While each family member in turn gets tired, Henry still wants more! The rhyming text, along with the cozy illustrations of this family's loving home, would be a perfect read aloud for very young children. I'm sure it'll become a favorite on many bookshelves!

Tiara Saurus Rex by Brianna Caplan Sayres, Mike Boldt (Illustrations)    This is a cute picture book with a nice message about friendship and perseverance. All of the young lady dinosaurs are competing in the Miss Dinosaur pageant. Everyone participating in this contest is warned that Tina always has to win, although no one really explains why this is the case. After each part of the pageant, young ladies are so intimidated that they are heading for the exits. A strange twist at the end will have readers reevaluating their initial judgment of Tina. Clever digital illustrations by Mike Boldt support the story very well. This would be a fun book to have in my classroom library.

My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald, Freya Blackwood (Illustrator)    This is a very lovely, comforting picture book to read. This book would be great for anyone who has ever moved to a new place and felt strange and lonely. Cartwheel has moved to a new country in order to be safe from the war that makes her native country dangerous. Everything feels different in the city where she now lives. Making the transition even more difficult is a language barrier: "Nobody spoke like I did. When I went out, it was like standing under a waterfall of strange sounds. The waterfall was cold. It made me feel alone. I felt like I wasn't me anymore." The author uses the metaphor of a blanket to describe Cartwheel's way of coping with all of the changes in her circumstances: "When I was at home, I wrapped myself in a blanket of my own words and sounds. I called it my old blanket." As the story develops, Cartwheel makes a friend in the park who teaches her new words. Cartwheel is able to take these words and weave a new blanket. Blackwood's illustrations, a combination of watercolor and oil paintings, have a friendly, comfortable quality to them that really support the text well. This book is definitely one I would like to have in my classroom library.

The Dream of the Thylacine by Margaret Wild   The author of this beautiful picture book does a remarkable job of mixing spare, poetic text with the illustrator's sweeping paintings of a lone Thylacine hunting in the Australian wilderness. The poetry is a lament for the extinction of the lost species, also known as the Tasmanian Tiger. Among Brooks' remarkable illustrations are photographic stills taken from a 1937 BBC film of the last confirmed surviving Thylacine, which died in the Hobart Zoo in the late 1930s. I think this would be a wonderful book to have in my classroom library, perhaps as a companion to Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine Applegate.

Granddaddy's Gift by Margaree King Mitchell    With the backdrop of the Civil Rights era and the struggle African-Americans had to get the right to vote, this story teaches a young girl the power of education. I shared this with my fifth grade students and they enjoyed it. They especially appreciated the determination and perseverance that the characters in this story showed as they pursued their right to vote despite the violence and difficulties they faced.

A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (Picture Book Biography) by David A. Adler, Samuel Byrd (Illustrator)    I shared this book with my fifth grade students. This was one of several books that we've read about Harriet Tubman. The students have enjoyed having these books read on consecutive days so that we could compare and contrast how different authors and illustrators have approached the life of this brave woman who escaped slavery herself and then went back time and again to help hundreds of slaves escape through the Underground Railroad. Many of the students said they liked this one best because of the straightforward way that the author presents facts and details about Harriet Tubman's life. The Picture Book biography series is very popular in my classroom.

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder, Jerry Pinkney (Illustrations)   
I shared this book with my fifth graders and they enjoyed very much. It was a fictional account of some of the painful events in Harriet Tubman's childhood that led to her decision to run away to freedom. Readers get to know the degrading experiences of slavery: being sent out of the house to be a field slave for accidently spilling some cider, being whipped for freeing trapped muskrats, constantly being threatened to be sold down South. The text is very engaging and well-written. The illustrations by Jerry Pinkney are beautifully painted and really pull the reader in to the emotions of the story.

Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky by Faith Ringgold    I shared this with my fifth grade students and most of them enjoyed it. The story was different from some of the other texts we've read about slavery, Harriet Tubman, and the Underground Railroad. The kids appreciated the creativity of the story of the train in the clouds. When Cassie's little brother gets on the train and gets away from her, she goes on a journey in which she experiences what the passengers on the Underground Railroad experienced. Along the way, she receives letters from her little brother that encourage her. The illustrations are gorgeous and do a lot to engage young readers.


  1. Many good books shared today, Jana, some I've read & love, too. I'm reading Home of the Brave now, also about being an immigrant, like My Two Blankets, but a verse novel. So far it's good. I will put Seven Ways We Lie on my list, and will find Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad. I don't think I've read that one by Ringgold. Thanks for all you shared!

  2. Pink is For Blobfish is one I really would like to read. I love the interesting nonfiction picture books that are out there. As a child, I think I associated nonfiction reading with the encyclopedia. It is so wonderful that students can experience nonfiction topics in an interesting way such as in this book. Thanks for sharing!

  3. All gorgeous picturebooks - so much beauty here. Thylacine is a favourite of mine (as all of Margaret Wild's picturebooks) - it would be a great picturebook to pair with I Saw Nothing: The extinction of the thylacine by Mark Wilson. I have two find My Two Blankets soonest - I am sure it will be receiving a lot of awards this year.

  4. Tiara Saurus Rex combines dinosaurs and princesses -- I've got to try that. Thanks for sharing these books.