Monday, February 8, 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.
We've been holding Parent-Teacher Conferences this week (and we'll continue next week). While I love getting the chance to visit with parents and discuss the achievements of their children, it leaves me with less time to read. However, I still try to read a little bit when I get home each night, just to relax from the busy day. Hopefully you've been able to curl up and enjoy some good books this week. Here's what I've been reading:
After the Woods by Kim Savage  I had the opportunity to read a digital-ARC of this book from NetGalley. This is an exciting YA Mystery/Thriller that had me engaged throughout. I really enjoyed reading this book.

The plot events of this novel take place a year after the attack on Julia Spunk occurred. Julia and her friend, Liv Lapin, were running in the woods together in the late afternoon. Liv ran ahead, and was attacked by a paroled predator, Donald Jessup. Julia jumped into the fray to fight off Jessup. Liv was able to free herself and run away. But Julia's ankle was broken and she wound up being abducted. Julia managed to escape her tormentor, and two days later was rescued by a passing bicyclist. After Jessup was arrested, he committed suicide in jail.

The anniversary of this attack is nearing, and Julia is still having trouble coming to grips with what has happened. A year of psychological therapy, memory flashbacks and panic attacks have only raised more questions. Everyone around Julia wants her to let it go and begin healing, except an ambitious local news anchor, Paula Papademetriou.

The families of these two teenagers have worked hard to keep the news media at arms length throughout this ordeal. But now the body of another young woman has been found in the woods, and this has reopened the investigations and speculations about Donald Jessup and whether or not the parole authorities were negligent in keeping track of him. Papademetriou catches up with Julia and befriends her.

As Julia begins to learn more information from this reporter and starts to become more involved in the research into what exactly happened, she becomes aware that there's more to the situation than what meets the eye. She learns a great deal about friendship, love, and honesty.

For my complete review, please visit my blog:

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, Mike Curato (Illustrator)   This is a sweet story about two worms that love each other and want to get married. It seems like it should be a simple thing for two worms to "tie the knot" but one by one, friends come along to offer advice on how a wedding needs to be. And anyone whose ever gotten married knows that there are always lots of people who like to offer opinions on the way weddings should be! The worms take all the advice good-naturedly: they agree to a best beetle, bride's bees, wedding rings, dancing, cake with frosting, flowers... But when they were told that only one of them could be the bride and only one of them could be the groom because that's the way it's always been done, they decided to change things. This book has a very positive message about love and families. It's also very humorous with adorable illustrations.

Be a Friend by Salina Yoon  This is a cute book about a little boy who is a mime. Because he expresses himself by silently acting things out, he often feels lonely and invisible. But one day, Joy catches an invisible ball he kicks and it's an instant friendship. The illustrations are so sweet. This will be a popular book for sure!

Waiting by Kevin Henkes  Caldecott Honor and Geisel Honor Book
I really enjoyed this picture book a lot. The setting stays the same throughout the book - a windowsill. Five friend sit and wait. They wait for different things, but they're very happy waiting together. The illustrations show the changes that take place outside the window, but the friends are there for each other. I like that Henkes doesn't ever show us who is placing items on the windowsill or who moves them around from time to time. Kids can draw their own conclusions. I think this book would be a lot of fun to have in my classroom library.

Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller, Gregory Christie (Illustrator)   I shared this book with my fifth grade students and they enjoyed it. It was a fascinating story about a young man in the 1920s who wanted to read books from the library. Because he was a black man in the South, he wasn't allowed to get a library card. A caring coworker allowed him to use his library card. The paintings are so meaningful, they really capture the emotions that the author and readers felt as we lived this experience together.

More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby, Chris K. Soentpiet (Illustrator)   The illustrations in this book are really powerful and definitely help tell the story of a young boy (Booker T. Washington)who discovers a deep passion to learn how to read. Soentpiet does an awesome job of capturing the emotions of young Booker when he finally writes his name.

Amazing Faces by Lee Bennett Hopkins (Editor), Chris K. Soentpiet (Illustrator)  This book is an amazing compilation of poetry edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins. The illustrations are amazing!

Granpa by John Burningham   This was a nice, heartwarming picture book about the special relationship the young girl has with her grandfather. It's fun to turn the pages and see the brief exchanges between the two. His comments are in the regular font and her questions or comments are in italics. As you read, you're reminded of the cute things that children say. As time goes along, Granpa becomes more feeble, and eventually we see the girl staring sadly at an empty chair. The author believes that children can draw their own conclusions about what has happened to Granpa. This book could lead to some good, heart-to-heart conversations, but some young children might not be ready for that.

The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco   I loved this book, just like I love all of Patricia Polacco's work! Somehow I hadn't seen this one until I saw some of my friends reviewing it on GoodReads. I was sucked right into Mary Ellen's world on the very first page. She's bored with reading and complains that she would rather be running and playing outdoors. Instead of nagging at her, Grampa invites her to help him find a bee tree. He gets a jar, goes outside to the garden, and captures several bees inside. He lets one escape and the chase has begun. As Grampa and Mary Ellen start chasing the bee all sorts of friends and neighbors join in. There's a sweet treat for everyone once the tree is found!

I really enjoy reading these stories (based on Polacco's family as she was growing up in Michigan) because the grandparents and neighbors are all so fun and loving. They truly care about each other and they have a lot to teach readers. The illustrations do a magnificent job of capturing not only the details of the story, but the personalities of these wonderful people. You really get the sense that the grandparents and their homes are soft places for the young protagonist to land.





  1. I'll have to take a look at Richard Wright and the Library Card. My students have access to great libraries and really take it for granted!

  2. Richard Wright and the Library Card sounds like an important book. That's not one that I am familiar with. I love Patricia Polacco's books as well. I think I have Bee Tree, but have never actually read that one - there are so many! There is a great author autobiography series and she has written one called Firetalking which is great.

  3. Wow, After The Woods sounds very serious. I know, and love, all the books you shared except Grandpa, and love Burningham's books a lot, and I know my granddaughters would love to read it since their Grandpa is no longer with us. I have Amazing Faces, and Amazing Places, both extraordinary books. I saw Chris Soentpiet speak about his process & that itself was amazing. Thanks for all, Jana.

  4. Holy Carumba! So many interesting books here. I loved Waiting and have enjoyed all of Pollaco's books. She is really a picture book writer for older readers I think. When I first started teaching we used picture books for so much more. I like to think we are returning to this. I've added Richard Wright and More than Anything Else to my must read list.

  5. I shared Worm loves Worm and Be a Friend this week too! Love these. The Bee Tree is one of my favourites.

  6. Pretty good list for not having as much reading time! This is our parent/teacher conference week, so I know what you're saying! I should be able to make up some time this weekend.
    Be a Friend is a favorite of mine! I've bought 6 copies :)

  7. I love Chris Soentpiet's illustrations and am surprised he doesn't get more attention. They are luminous.

  8. I love Chris Soentpiet's illustrations and am surprised he doesn't get more attention. They are luminous.

  9. I have two Booker T. Washington PBB - but this one illustrated by Chris Soentpiet is new to me - and so I just pinned it so that I can add it to my multicultural text set. Love seeing all the picturebooks here!