Monday, May 16, 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're getting closer and closer to summer! There are only 13 teaching days of school left! You would never guess it with the bit of cold weather that has settled into our area over the last couple of days. I actually had to put the furnace back on and we had a fire in our fireplace this weekend. In a way, I suppose this strange fall-like feel in the air helps to keep Spring Fever from completely taking over. It's also perfect weather for snuggling into a cozy chair and reading books. Here are some of the books that I read last week:

From Wolf to Woof: The Story of Dogs by Hudson Talbott    This beautiful picture book tells a creation-myth about how dogs came to be such great companions to people. The story is about an abandoned wolf pup and an orphaned boy who become friends through the sharing of food and effort. The two work together to provide food and protection for each other. Eventually other outcast wolves and humans join them to become a team. Through time this relationship evolved into the relationship dogs and people enjoy today. I love the themes of friendship and teamwork. Many of my students have such a difficult time building positive relationships with peers and adults. This book would be awesome to share at the beginning of the school year. It also might be a great PB companion to Julie of the Wolves. I definitely want to get this book into my classroom library!

Hello, My Name is Ruby by Philip C. Stead    This is a nice picture book about friendship. In order to have a friend, you need to be a friend and Ruby flies around introducing herself to everyone she meets. The illustrations are rich and colorful and do a great job of supporting the text.

Special Delivery by Philip C. Stead, Matthew Cordell (Illustrator)   
What a fun picture book this is! Sadie, a plucky little girl, is determined to send an elephant to her Great-Aunt Josephine, because she "lives completely alone and could really use the company." She tries to send him in the mail, but can't afford the stamps. She also tries to deliver the elephant by plane and a train. I love the strong, determined girl, who takes all setbacks in stride. The illustrations, which were created using pen and ink and watercolor, could have been in the picture books I read when I was a young child. This book would be a lot of fun to have in my classroom library!
Sebastian and the Balloon by Philip C. Stead   
This is a cute, whimsical story of a young boy taking a wild ride in his imagination. Bored with everything around him, Sebastian made a balloon out of his grandma's afghans and patchwork quilts. He set off on a journey during which he shared pickle sandwiches with a bear and fixed up a broken down roller coaster with the bear, a bird, and three sisters. The illustrations, created with pastels, oil paints, and pressed charcoal, are just lovely. My favorite is of the boy and the bear sitting on a blanket together eating pickle sandwiches. I was a little concerned that the boy was sitting on his roof at the beginning of the story, and I think it should be stressed to young readers that this is dangerous and NOT something they should ever try. That said, this would be a fun book to share with kids.

Building Our House by Jonathan Bean   This picture book tells a great story of a family who bought a piece of land and built their own house on it. It took them over a year (they lived in a trailer during that time) and a lot of hard work. The story is based on the experiences of the author's family and shares all of the fascinating details of each step in the process. The text along with the great illustrations of this family ALMOST makes me want to build my own house. This would be a great book for my classroom library! 

Bird by Zetta Elliott, Shadra Strickland (Illustrator)   Wow! This book does a terrific job of taking serious issues of grief and drug abuse and putting them into a context that middle grade readers will be able to relate to. Mehkai (aka Bird) loves to draw as a way to escape from unpleasant circumstances and also as a way to express himself. He also uses art as a way to relate to his grandfather, his drug-addicted brother, and his Uncle Son. When he can't save his brother and his grandfather passes away, he uses his drawing as a way to heal. The art in this book, rendered in watercolor, gouache, charcoal, and pen, really reaches out to readers. This is definitely a book that should be in my classroom library! 

A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jennifer Fisher Bryant, Melissa Sweet (Illustrator)   This is a fascinating picture book biography of Horace Pippin, an artist of the early 20th century. And even if young readers are not familiar with Pippin's work, the narrative of his life will still draw them in. He was born in 1888, the grandson of a former slave. He always loved to draw. Although he didn't have much time to draw, because he had to work so hard to help his family. After he was injured in World War I, he began painting and the rest is history. This book is very well researched by both the author and illustrator. There is an extensive list of resources at the end for further research. The artwork is just wonderful, rendered in watercolor, gouache, and collage. I'll be very excited to share this book with my students. 

A Dance Like Starlight: One Ballerina's Dream by Kristy Dempsey, Floyd Cooper (Illustrator)  This is is a terrific picture book that will inspire young readers to achieve their dreams. The little girl in this story has spent much of her life longing to become a ballerina. Her mother mends costumes and does other work for a ballet school. When the school master sees what a good dancer she is, he allows her to take lessons even though she can't perform with the white dancers. It's 1951, and Janet Collins has become the first African American ballerina to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House. The story gives a heartwarming account of this little girl's trip to the theater to see this historic performance. The illustrations are simply gorgeous and support the text so well. I love this book and definitely want to get a copy for my classroom library! 

Locomotive by Brian Floca   This awesome nonfiction picture book really takes readers for a ride back in time to cross the country during the early days of the Transcontinental Railroad. In 1869, when crossing the country on the railroad was still new, there was so much to see, hear, and experience. Brian Floca captures all the aspects: how passengers passed time, used the bathroom, ate dinner, slept, etc. There are also well-researched, highly detailed explanations of how the steam locomotive worked. The illustrations are awesome! I am definitely ordering this one for my classroom library!
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light  
This is a fun counting book. A little boy has lost his pet dragon in the city. As he goes around looking for it, black-and-white illustrations (except for color on the items you're supposed to count) show the dragon hiding in very clever ways. According to the title page, "the illustrations were done in ink using a Mont Blanc 149 with a B nib that 'flips' to a fine line. The nib was adjusted to do so by Richard Binder. They were then colored using Platinum Mix Free inks." This will be a fun book to share with young readers!

Leaves by David Ezra Stein   This is such a sweet picture book. With very simple text and heartwarming illustrations, the author captures the magic and wonder of the changing seasons. It's Bear's first year, so he has a lot to learn. He becomes very worried when the leaves start to fall off the trees. In one adorable scene, he's trying to put them back on the trees. He becomes sleepy, digs a hole and stuffs the leaves inside. He goes in and falls asleep. He gets a very happy surprise when he comes out in the spring. The illustrations were created with bamboo pen and water colors. The art really supports the text very well.  

Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood, Jonathan Bean (Illustrator)   This is a terrific picture book to share with anyone who has ever experienced the sadness of moving away from friends and a neighborhood you love. The beginning of the book shows the "bad" - boxes, rain, stuffed hot car, gray clouds. As the journey progresses, the clouds lift, naps are taken, lunch is eaten, and there's fun relaxation in a motel pool. As the family arrives at their new home, there are new rooms, new neighbors, new bugs, and new trees. By the end, there is reassurance that everything will be fine. The illustrations are perfect, as the show the transitions so well. The change from bad to good is gradual, and the artwork really expresses that in a lovely way. Moving is tough for everyone, especially children who often feel like that have no say in the matter. This book would be a great companion to Jessixa Bagley's "Before I Leave". 

Jazz by Walter Dean Myers, Christopher Myers (Illustrator)   This book of poetry celebrating jazz music and musicians is really something special. The poems read like a jam session, that incorporate so many styles of jazz: ragtime, swing, be-bop, fusion. The writing reflects the sounds and spirit of music. You almost feel like you're in a jazz club and you're ready to get up and dance! The illustrations by the author's son were created by painting black ink on acetate and placing it over acrylic. I'm really glad I found this book in my school's book room! 


  1. You sure got a lot of reading done this week! I've only read one of these, A Dance Like Starlight. The others sound interesting. The book Wolf to Woof reminded me of a book I read this week called Wolf Camp - it's a cute, funny picture book about a dog who goes to wolf camp for a week.

  2. What a lovely assortment of picture books. I didn't know Stead had written so many. Come see what I read last week. Happy reading!

  3. Wow, so many wonderful books, Jana. I know many, but thanks for the ones new to me, too. A few years ago my students studied wolves and that evolution into dogs. Each took a specific breed and traced the unique changes because of climate, etc. It was fascinating. I'll definitely find that book, From Wolf to Woof! Thanks. We have cold here in Colorado too, and rain. Warming up by Friday! Happy reading by the fire, or in the sun!

  4. Great selection of books! Some of them I've read, others I haven't and I'll be checking those out. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Such a wonderful collection of beautiful picture books, some I've already enjoyed, others which I need to get my hands on pronto!

  6. What a great collection of books! Jazz and Bird are especially stunning, aren't they?

  7. I loved Special Delivery, Building Our House, A Splash of Red (especially this one!), and Locomotive. Ricki and I both reviewed Locomotive and loved it. A Splash of Red is just so special. I love books that highlight authors.
    I really want to read Jazz and Bird. I am not sure how I didn’t know about them until now, but I definitely need to read them.

    Happy reading this week :)

  8. Bird looks fabulous! I am going to get it from my library. As Kellee mentioned above, we absolutely love Locomotive. I recommend it often. My two-year-old loves to flip through the pages! I hope you have a great reading week!!

  9. Loved seeing all the Stead books this week. The Steads live in Ann Arbor and I've been to a few events they've done at local bookstores and they are such a fascinating couple. I love that they take children's literature so seriously and treat it very intellectually. If ever people look down on children's literature as unliterary, I challenge them to think that way after listening to Phil and Erin Stead talk.

  10. I like your thought on Wolf to Woof... It was different than I thought it would be and I haven't figured out how I want to use it yet. This gives me a new perspective, thanks!