Monday, April 18, 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.
Spring has finally sprung here! The weather has been just gorgeous lately. We dusted off the patio furniture and officially opened the backyard deck for the season!

My backyard is one of my favorite places to read! I put up the umbrella, get a cold glass of iced tea, and open my book and I'm in heaven!

I also was fortunate to come home from the library with an awesome stack of books!

So, here's what I've been reading:

The Island of Beyond by Elizabeth Atkinson    I had the opportunity to read a NetGalley digital ARC of this novel in exchange for this review. This book is the perfect way to kick off anyone's season of summertime reading. Thankfully, I was able to take advantage of the first weekend of truly gorgeous, warm springtime weather to sit on my deck and transport myself to a remote island in the middle of a lake in Maine during the month of July.

Martin Hart is an eleven-year-old boy who is just starting his summer vacation. Like many boys his age, he spends an awful lot of time sitting around the house playing video games. His father decides that it would be good for Martin to spend his summer visiting his great-aunt, Lenore, who lives on the Island of Beyond. He wants Martin to enjoy the things that he had enjoyed as a boy such as sports, swimming, and exploring the outdoors. This is the last thing in the world that Martin wants to do, as he leads a very sheltered life, doesn't have many friends, and is frightened of so many different things.

When his father leaves him at Lenore's house, Martin feels completely abandoned. The house is very old, without the modern conveniences such as TV, Wi-Fi, or cellphone service. He barely knows his great-aunt or her caretaker, Tess and he's uncertain how he's going to last the summer in this creepy place.

Everything changes when he meets Solo. Solo pretty much takes care of himself and is described by Tess as a "wild boy" that Martin should avoid. But as the days go along, Solo changes Martin's life. He teaches him how to canoe, climb trees, and make slingshots. Solo is so cool and makes Martin feel more confident and self-assured than he has ever felt in his entire life.

But as time goes by, Martin starts to learn more about his family, Solo, and the island and he's not certain who he can trust. The reader is pulled into this story that is funny in some places and dramatically suspenseful in other places. There's plenty of action to engage readers from the moment Martin finds out that he's going to this island all the way to the very end.

For my complete review, please visit my blogpost:

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman, Zachariah OHora (Illustrations)   I love this book! It's a fun, adorable book that looks at what happens when accidents happen and tempers flair. The girl's kite flies into the bear's cave. The sleeping bear accidentally rolled over onto it and broke it. Immediately, the girl shouted "Horrible Bear!" At him and stomped away. The story shows her tirade and the bear's angry reaction. Until she realizes he didn't mean to break her kite. I love that the characters apologize to each other and become friends. Zachariah OHora's illustrations are awesome. Be sure to look for Wolfie! My favorite illustration is the girl stomping into her room while we can see out her window that the bear is stomping down the mountain. I borrowed this copy from my public library, but I definitely have to get my own copy for my classroom!

Lion & Tiger & Bear: Tag! You're It! by Ethan Long    This is a fun picture book about friends. Lion wants to paint his picture in peace and quiet. But for Bear and Tiger, it's time to play. Lion tries to get away from them, but finally they give him time to finish his picture. The illustrations are fun and support the story nicely.

Every Day Birds by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Dylan Metrano (Illustrations)    This is a great poem/picture book that describes 20 common birds found in North America. The author is able to create a lovely rhyming poem that gives us great information. The cut paper illustrations capture the birds in colorful, striking detail. We enjoy many of the birds that live in our yard, and we know many of their important characteristics. We even give them names: Reggie (a robin), Dave & Karen (doves), Norman (a heron), Timothy (a mallard duck), an so on! This book also includes great information about each bird in the back of the book and sources to find out even more. I definitely want to get a copy of this book for my classroom, not only for the awesome poem, but it's a great resource as a start for research on birds.

Treat by Mary Sullivan    This book has only one word, that is used over and over: Treat! Anyone with a dog knows how important that word and concept is. At the first whiff of food, the dog in this story is after anyone eating, that might give him something yummy to eat. The pictures are very funny. This would be fun to share with my students to discuss drawing conclusions and author's choices.

What To Do With a Box by Jane Yolen, Chris Sheban (Illustrations)     As a child, I would spend hours and hours playing inside of big boxes that would occasionally come our way. So, this beautiful book by Jane Yolen & Chris Sheban really grabs my attention. The book enumerates all of the wonderful things you can do with a box, and the illustrations (textured, cardboard-esque art) are simply beautiful. I'm definitely going to need to pick up a copy of this for my classroom library and maybe another one for home!

I Want a Monster! by Elise Gravel   This fun, adorable picture book is a perfect read for those who dream of having the perfect pet/monster. All of Winnie's friends have their own pet monsters, so she begs her father for a baby monster. After making her case that she's done her research and she's prepared for caring for a monster, her dad takes her to the Monsterium where they fall in love with Gus, an adorable baby oogly-wump. Young readers will have a terrific time reading about Gus' antics. The digital illustrations accompany the story perfectly, very colorful and humorous. This would be fun to have in my classroom library.

Frankencrayon by Michael Hall     This is a fun picture book that draws the reader right into it! From the moment you pick up the book, the inside flap warns you with big, red stamps proclaiming "This Picture Book Has Been Cancelled". A pencil tries to explain what happened. The crayons were all set to stage a production of an exciting play about a scary monster. Just as the play was getting started, a big scribble appeared across the page. One thing led to another and the scribble only got worse. Kids will have fun trying to figure out how the play wound up being cancelled and what's going to happen next. The illustrations are awesome - digitally combined and colored crayon drawings and cut paper. I think this would be a fun addition to my classroom library!

The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon by Meghan Mccarthy   This is an interesting picture book that details the Olympic marathon race that took place in 1904 at the St. Louis World Fair. The race was a grueling as the temperature was in the 90s and the conditions of the trail were dusty and unforgiving. The illustrations complement the text very well. This would be great to have in my classroom library.

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko, Tim Miller (Illustrator)    This is really a fun and engaging picture book. The narrator of this story of Snappsy, is following the alligator everywhere and trying to make the most mundane activities (grocery shopping, relaxing with a sandwich and a book, housecleaning) sound dramatic. Snappsy is reported to enjoy eating "tiny, defenseless birds and soft, fuzzy bunnies." The narrator also claims that he especially likes foods that begin with the letter "P". As the story goes on, Snappsy plans a party for his friends, but will the narrator be invited? The concept of the narrator at odds with the main character really draws the reader into the middle of the story. The illustrations are especially humorous, especially if you look at all of the little special details in each picture. Those fun details and the cute story will make young readers want to visit the book again and again. This would be a great book to have in my classroom library.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons by Julie Fogliano, Julie Morstad (Illustrations)    What a charming and beautiful picture book of poetry! Julie Fogliano has written simple poems that take the reader from March 20 to March 20. There is poetry to celebrate the what is wonderful and lovely about each and every season. The illustrations, beautifully detailed, complement the poetry so well. I love all the seasons, too. But my favorite poems are those that celebrate summer.

July 12 - "soon we will go to the beach; where we will swim; and eat plums and peanut butter sandwiches"

Wow! Can't you feel the warm, sunny sand everywhere and taste those sandwiches and that juicy fruit? I just have to get a copy of this book for my classroom and another copy to keep at home!

An A From Miss Keller by Patricia Polacco     Wow! What an awesome picture book! Patricia Polacco has written several picture books that are such beautiful tributes to the important teachers in her life. This one tells of "Killer Keller" one of the toughest writing teachers ever. She was very demanding and known for never giving an A. When Tricia suffers a devastating loss, she puts all of her emotions into her writing. This is an emotional book that had me reaching for the tissues and I loved it. I need to get my own copy of this one, for sure!

We're in the Wrong Book! by Richard Byrne     This book is just as much fun as Richard Byrne's other book in the series, This Book Just Ate My Dog. I love the way the author breaks down the barrier between the reader and the characters in the book. Bella and Ben are hopping along the street, happily going from one page to another when a mishap knocks them off the page and into a completely different book. As they attempt to find their way back to their own book, they wander through several other, completely different types of books. The illustrations, which change their look along with the different books in which Bella and Ben find themselves, complement the story so well. This Book Just Ate My Dog is a popular book in my classroom library, so I'm pretty sure I should get this one, too!

Quackers by Liz Wong     This is a cute picture book about a young cat who believes that he is a duck. He lives near a pond and all of his friends are ducks. One day he meets a strange duck like himself, named Mittens. He shows Quackers his home and Quackers learns a lot of important things about himself. But he's still happy being a duck. I think this book has a terrific message for young readers about acceptance of others and fitting in.




  1. Oh, I love reading outside in the shade on my patio!! So glad you're getting the furniture out!
    And you had a great stack of books from the library. A few of those in your stacks were library books that became purchased books. Your review of Yolen's new one is making me get itchy fingers. I'm on hold for it, but may need to just purchase it!

  2. Your pictures are so enticing, Jana, outside on that deck! We have had another snow this past weekend, so it'll be the end of the week before warm weather returns! What a wonderful group of books you shared. I've added many to my list, including The Island of Beyond which sounds very interesting. I have Horrible Bear, but still haven't read it, and will soon! Thanks!

  3. so many great sounding books here. I want to read The Island of Beyond. Reading about it reminded me that my brother, who teaches a grade 7 class, borrowed my copy of From Alice to Zen and still hasn't returned it! I've got some of these picture books in my shopping cart. I agree with others before me, your deck looks very inviting.

  4. Wow! So many great books. Sometimes I leave the library with a stack of books that ends up just being so-so, but other times I end up with some great titles. Looks like you hit the jackpot!

  5. So much wonderful here. :) I want the box book for sure. I've been looking forward to Horrible Bear and Every Day Birds. I've heard many great things about them. Thanks for sharing so many great titles.

  6. Hi there Jana, really loving your detailed reviews here. And so many books! Love the book stack most of all. I am always fascinated by teacher-stories in picturebooks - and absolutely adore Patricia Polacco - would definitely be on the lookout for that one.