Monday, April 11, 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.
There was quite a bit of work to do this week at school. After an awesome Spring Break, we all had to get back into the swing of things. State testing has begun this week and so we need to get ready for that. Winter weather has also made a return. Cold, windy, snowy days just don't seem to want to go away and let springtime take hold!
I did manage to read a great middle grade novel about a fifth grade class in Brooklyn, New York studying the events of September 11, 2001. I also read a handful of awesome picture books. Hope you're having a good reading week!

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes   I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley. I am so glad I did, because it was just terrific! I'm really excited about this book that tells the story of Deja, a fifth grader who lives in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn, New York with her parents and younger brother and sister. When the book begins, she's getting ready for the first day at a new school. She's worried about whether or not she'll like it or have any friends. She's not even sure she wants to go to school, because "school doesn't help with real life."

As she begins making new friends and settling in to the school year, her class begins studying the events of September 11, 2001. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center happened several years before Deja and her friends were born. To Deja, it's ancient history and she doesn't see the point in learning about it. But as the students begin to dig deeper and learn more, she begins to see lots of connections that are having an impact on her family's life in the present.

I love this book because the author does a terrific job of creating characters that my students will be able to relate to. The author also shows a great way to explore what happened on that terrible day in a way that is honest, but focuses on how communities come together and help each other heal in the face of tragic circumstances. I really want to get copies of this book and share it with my students in the fall. I think this is going to be a very popular and important book!

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley, Lauren Castillo (illustrator)    What an awesome picture book! I love this story that includes a wonderful family outing to the beach that makes everyone in the family sleepy. But then the little girl in the story wakes up in the night and looks at everything in her room and the house in an entirely different way. With great imagination, she snuggles into bed with all of her toys and with the twentieth yawn, goes to sleep. The illustrations were created digitally with painted textures by Lauren Castillo, and as always, there is such lovely detail to all of the people, animals, and settings. I want to go back to the beach illustrations again and again. I want to play with this family at the beach!!!! I was lucky to get a copy from my public library, but I definitely want to have a copy of this one at home and in my classroom library!

Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole    This is a fun picture book that somehow I'm only just now reading! This is a modern twist on the classic fairy tale - Princess Smartypants doesn't want to get married. She wants to live happily ever after with her pets in her own castle, doing whatever she wants. This doesn't sit well with her parents and the queen insists she find a husband. She tells her parents that she'll marry whoever can accomplish the tasks she sets for her suitors. Of course, as the story unfolds, we see that these tasks are nearly impossible! The illustrations are very funny. My favorite is near the beginning in which the princess is laying on the floor enjoying TV with her pets all around her. I LOVE the horse watching TV from the sofa. Kids and grown-ups can enjoy this fun and engaging story. It would be fun to have a copy of this in my classroom library.

Cat & Bunny by Mary Lundquist   This is a heartwarming book about first friendship. Cat and Bunny were born on the same day and have been friends ever since. They do everything together and even have their own Made Up Game. When Bunny encourages others to join in the Made Up Game, Bunny feels uncertain and left out. This would be a good story to share with young children starting school because it celebrates the inclusion of others and sharing. The illustrations are just perfect - pencil and watercolor pictures that celebrate all aspects of childhood friendship.

Who Wants a Hug? by Jeff Mack    This was a fun picture book that made me giggle. Bear just loves to go around and give hugs and most of his friends love getting hugs, except Skunk. Skunk can't stand hugs and is annoyed every time Bear offers to give him one. Skunk decides to play a super stinky trick on Bear to try to get him to stop hugging. Unfortunately all of his tricks backfired. The illustrations, ink and pencil on paper and Photoshop created, are hilarious. I'm reminded of Wile E. Coyote who was always trying to get the Roadrunner. The Skunk's big suitcase of "Super Stinky Tricks" is just like the Acme packages that the coyote was always ordering! I think everyone can have a good time, and a good hug, reading this book!

Stormy Night by Salina Yoon    What an adorable picture book! This would be a great story to share with young children who are frightened by stormy weather. It's a dark and stormy night at bedtime. Bear hugs his stuffed bunny tightly and sings to it, but then the thunder starts booming. Thankfully, Mom and Dad come to comfort him and before long the storm goes to sleep and so can the Bear family. The digital illustrations are wonderful. My favorite is Bear's feet sticking out from under the bed after the first loud thunderclap. The poor stuffed bunny is all alone on top of the bed.

The Fun Book of Scary Stuff by Emily Jenkins, Hyewon Yum (Illustrations)    This is a fun picture book about a little boy analyzing his fears. His father tells him to make a list of everything that frightens him so that he can start to be brave. He shares his list with his two dogs. The dogs offer their opinions about whether each of those things is really all that scary. At the end of the story, the boy has the opportunity to be brave himself. The illustrations are cute and this would be a fun book to share with young children who are dealing with many of these fears themselves.

My Rows and Piles of Coins by Tololwa M. Mollel, E.B. Lewis (Illustrator)    What a beautiful and inspiring picture book this is! Set in Northern Tanzania in the 1960s, Saruni is saving the coins he earns helping his mother carry farm goods to market. He longs to buy his very own bicycle. Kids who have ever saved up their money to purchase something big will definitely be able to relate to this story. It would also be a good companion to A Chair For My Mother by Vera B. Williams. The watercolor illustrations are gorgeous and capture all of the excitement of the busy marketplace and the emotional moments Saruni shares with his family. I'm so glad I found this title in my school's book room and I'm looking forward to sharing it with students.



  1. Towers Falling was good; we're starting to see more "historical" fiction coming out about 9/11. Our teachers still do a project on it, so I'll probably buy it.

  2. Twenty Yawns is simply beautiful! Lauren gave me a copy to send out on a book journey, contact me on Twitter if you're interested in having it head your way!
    I have a copy of Towers Falling. Looking forward to it!

    1. Thanks for the offer, but I was fortunate enough to get a copy from my local library. My library is awesome at getting brand new books onto the shelves pretty quickly. You can send the book to someone who hasn't had a chance to read it yet. I'm definitely going to have to get to the bookstore and get my own copy. Have a great week!

  3. What a great assortment of books. I'd like to read Towers Falling myself. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  4. Towers Falling sounds good, one to recommend about that time for young students. I know I'll love Stormy Night, looks fun, and I have the "scary stuff" book on my list, need to find it. Thanks, Jana, so many good ones today!

  5. I'm looking forward to reading Twenty Yawns. Have you read any other of Babette Cole's books? There are more Princess Smartypants titles, and Prince Cinders is hilarious!

  6. Towers Falling sounds like a book I need to read soon. Thanks for sharing.

  7. The Fun Book of Scary Stuff looks like a fun book to pair with Emily Gravett's Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears - have you read that one yet? Twenty Yawns seems to be receiving a lot of love this week! Can't wait to read it.

  8.'s unreal to start thinking of 9/11 as a historical event. I remember that morning so clearly, it's like it was yesterday!

  9. So many books here that I love or want to love! Twenty Yawns looks just so beautiful

  10. Salina Yoon was super friendly when she stopped by the bookstore. I'm glad Kohl's has dolls featuring her characters.