Monday, June 13, 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.
With all of the book shopping I've been doing lately, along with my huge pile of library books to read, I've been doing A LOT of reading this week. I love summer, and I've taken this week to start getting caught up on my reading. Here's what I've been reading:

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

 You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this from NetGalley. While the subject matter is too mature for me to use in my 5th grade classroom, I would totally recommend this book for high school students.

The book's chapters alternate between the points of view of Mark and Kate. They've been sitting next to each other in their high school calculus class all year long. They only meet during the last week of school before they graduate from high school. Mark is gay and Kate is a lesbian and both are experiencing the insecurity and confusion that comes from complicated teenage love, not being ready to be who you're supposed to be, and growing up.

The events all take place during Pride Week in San Francisco. And so much happens in this week, it seems that Mark and Kate have known each other all their lives.

I think books like these are important, because they help young people understand their own circumstances and the feeling of others. Understanding other people's struggles and feelings leads to empathy, and it seems like our world needs a lot more of that, for sure.

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley and I was just blown away by how well written it was. I wasn't sure what to expect, as I have not really read any of the YA novels that deal with transgender issues. I know that there are more and more books being written that address this, and I think that it's really important. Books like these help all of us to understand each other better and that can only help make a world where everyone feels valued and included.

Lisa Williamson has done an excellent job of helping readers begin to understand what it is like to be grappling with this on top of all the other difficult circumstances that teenagers face today. This book tells the story of Leo and David, with alternating chapters from each characters' point of view. The book was originally written in Great Britain, and so a lot of the cultural references and school circumstances are written for those readers, but I think the concepts and the issues transfer very well.

I also think the character development and plot development are excellent. I was swept up into these characters' lives and really ached for them. This book might be really good for people that enjoy books like All the Bright Places by Lisa Niven.

The book, while showing how difficult it can be to be transgender, also has a lot of encouragement for anyone concerned about these issues. I think that this is going to be a popular and important book to read this year.

It's worth noting, however, that because of the mature themes and language in this novel, I would recommend it for high school aged readers. I don't think it would be appropriate for my elementary school classroom.

Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods

Circle by Jeannie Baker

This is a beautifully written and illustrated nonfiction picture book. Jeannie Baker explores the annual migration of the godwit. The godwit is a shorebird that migrates every year from Australia and New Zealand to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. Using collage techniques to illustrate this book along with notes and resources in the back, Baker has created a treasure for classroom libraries.

Mr. Particular: The World’s Choosiest Champion! by Jason Kirschner 

This book is a fun graphic novel style picture book about a little boy that is just too fussy. All of his peculiar hang-ups about squishy things, and green things, and humming, and a bunch of other irritants get in the way of the fun his friends want to have. So, they ditch him for another playmate. Finally he gets a chance to step up and rescue one of his friends when he really needs help. I love the social message this sends to picky kids. I'd like to get a copy of this in my classroom library.

Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd, Abigail Halpin (Illustrations) 

This picture book uses lovely illustrations and poetic text to inspire readers to look closely for and appreciate the wild, natural area that exist within cities and communities. The illustrations were created using watercolor, and colored pencil, and finished digitally.

Hippopotamister by John Green

This is a fun graphic novel that's sure to tickle young readers. Hippo and his friend, Red Panda are tired of living in the run-down zoo. They leave to go find other jobs. Through a series of "perfect jobs" these two run into all sorts of trouble. Kids will have fun reading to find out if Hippo ever finds something to do where he'll be successful. This would be fun to have in my classroom library.

I Love Cake!: Starring Rabbit, Porcupine, and Moose by Tammi Sauer, Angie Rozelaar (Illustrations) 

I laughed when I read this book. I love cake, as well. And so I was very sympathetic toward Moose, even though it was very naughty of him to eat Rabbit's birthday cake. Young readers will get a kick out of reading to find out how Moose is going to make it up to Rabbit and Porcupine. The illustrations are hilarious. I especially love the one in which Moose denies eating the cake, even while he had cake crumbs all over the front of his sweater. This would be a fun book to have in my classroom library.

My Old Pal, Oscar by Amy Hest, Amy Bates (Illustrations) 

This book is absolutely lovely, but have a tissue handy. For those who've ever loved and lost a pet, this book will speak to that grief. A little boy, who is still mourning the loss of his beloved dog, Oscar, finds a stray dog on the beach. The boy does what he can to discourage the dog, because he can't imagine replacing Oscar. Eventually, the stray wins and we can see the start of a wonderful new relationship. The watercolor illustrations will just melt your heart. This would be great in a classroom library as a resource for those who have experienced this kind of loss.

Samanthasaurus Rex by B. B. Mandell, Suzanne Kaufman (Illustrations) 

This is a cute picture book that has a great message for young readers. Everyone has unique qualities that can be used to help others. Samanthasaurus Rex has her own special way of doing things, and this appears to be at odds with the way the rest of her family goes along. Suddenly there's a crisis that has everyone counting on Samanthasaurus Rex. The illustrations are perfect for this story.

Wolf Camp by Andrea Zuill 

This picture book is hilarious! I love it! When Homer finds a flyer for Wolf Camp. He begs his owners to let him go. When he goes, he learns all the ins and outs of being a wolf. The illustrations, along with the text, are so funny; sprinkled with little jokes all throughout. I found myself going back several times and finding new things to laugh at each time.

Grumpy Pants by Claire Messer 

This is a cute story about a penguin who's in a grumpy mood. Young readers will enjoy finding out how he snaps out of it. The illustrations are wonderful. The author used linoleum printing to create these awesome pictures.  

Fresh Delicious by Irene Latham, Mique Moriuchi (Illustrations) 

Just in time for summer fruit and vegetable season, the poems will make your mouth water and you'll start looking around for the closest farmers' market. Short, simple poems tell the pleasures of so many yummy items: cucumbers, blueberries, peaches, tomatoes, corn, onions, and so much more. The collage illustrations are fantastic!

Fearless Flyer: Ruth Law and Her Flying Machine by Heather Lang, Raúl Colón (Illustrations) 

This is an inspirational picture book biography about a woman who defied the social customs of the day and all of the doubters to become the first pilot to fly from Chicago to New York in one day. Heather Lang tells an exciting and fascinating story of the difficulties and dangers faced by this brave and persistent woman. Beautiful illustrations by Raul Colon and well researched notes and photographs at the end make this a book that I really want to have in my classroom library.

How to Swallow a Pig: Step-by-Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom by Steve Jenkins, Robin Page 

This is an awesome nonfiction picture book that is packed with fascinating information about the animal kingdom. I love how the authors present the information as step-by-step directions on various topics like the title, How To Swallow a Pig, to describe how Python eats a wildebeest. This would be a great mentor text for informational writing and a great starting point for research on the various animals presented. Definitely getting this one into my classroom library!

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor, Jean Jullien (Illustrations) 

This is a fun picture book that tells the story of a hungry hoot owl trying to catch something to eat. Even though Hoot Owl is a master of disguise, young readers will have fun watching as this bird fails at most of his attempts to catch dinner. The illustrations are quite funny and really support the text well.  

Bugs in My Hair! by David Shannon 

This is a cute book that explains to young readers what lice are, what they do, how to get rid of them, etc. I'm glad there's a book like this, because it's a big problem in our school. And upper elementary students are especially embarrassed by this problem. I'd like to get a copy of this for my classroom library.

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

This is a charming picture book with a terrific message about stretching yourself and not being afraid to try new things. Snail is quite content to stay in the same book all the time. He has no interest in leaving. Fish comes along and tells Snail about an exciting new book. It's got pirates and oceans and adventure. Snail doesn't want to leave and fish says it's boring to stay in the same place doing the same things all the time. I can totally relate to Snail, as I am often very reluctant to try new things. I get too comfortable and don't realize I'm in a rut. Thank goodness for friends like Fish, to help me out. I have to get my own copy of this book!

Blue Chicken by Deborah Freedman

The author of this book does a great job of removing the barrier between the book and its readers. The little chicken wants to help paint the page. She accidentally knocks over the blue paint and there's one big mess. Young readers will feel like they're in the middle of the chaos as the barnyard animals try to deal with the paint and clean it up. This book is lots of fun!





  1. Oh, Hippopotamister looks fun! I saw Grumpy Pants at B&N last week and loved it. I didn't know how the artist created the illustrations but enjoyed them so much. The Seventh Wish. I wish kids didn't need that sort of story but the reality is they DO. I wish they had protected lives and everything went hunky dory for them but it doesn't. Not for all of them. The ones going through it need to know they're not alone and the ones with the easier lives can gain some empathy.

  2. Wow! So many book to add to my reading pile for next week. Hippopotamister and Grumpy Pants look fun. Thank for these suggestions.

  3. Love the YA chapter books you shared Jana, and so many new picture books for me to love, too. Thank you for all. I did enjoy I Love Cake a lot, a cute one for the younger kids. And I just got Lily & Dunkin, another about a transgender child. I had a student who started the process in high school, a tough journey but she did it!

  4. I read recently about Kate Messner being disinvited from a school visit because of the subject matter of The Seventh Wish, which is just heartbreaking. I'm so glad that authors are able to handle these difficult topics in such sensitive, skilful ways.

  5. I am very excited to read You Know Me Well. I have it from NetGalley and am ready to get going. I just need to finish a few books I promised beforehand! I was very glad to read your positive review!

  6. Great books, as always. I'm waiting for Wolf Camp. My dad bought it for me, he's brining it over this weekend. Hippopotamister is on my list!

  7. I ordered The Seventh Wish because of the controversy with it, and I want to make sure to support Kate.
    I really liked Hippopotamister! It was a fun story and look at identity. Glad you liked it, Fearless Flyer, Chicken, Snail and Fresh Delicious; I did as well.
    The other picture books I haven't read, and I look forward to them.
    Happy reading this week :)

  8. I just put the seventh wish on hold from our library. It's on order and I'm the first one! Aside from all that this is sure one heck of a lot of reading. I've read some of them but there are so many here I really want. I adore the cover of Finding Wild and look forward to finding a copy of it and Circle. Alas, Grumpy Pants describes me these days!

  9. Thanks to your recommendation I just suggested our library order Circle. Thanks!