Monday, July 25, 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.

After being away from home for over a week, it was good to get caught up on things. Not only was there a mountain of laundry from the trip, but their was a mountain of things to read!  

Thanks to excessive heat warnings and stormy weather that only made things steamier, I was happy to stay indoors. I tackled the mountain of laundry and worked on my pile of books. I also made a pot of red beans and rice.

The red beans and rice are all gone, but somehow the mountain of laundry is back (a little smaller than after the trip) and there's STILL a mountain of books to read.  Hopefully you had a chance to hang inside the air conditioning and read some good books as well.  Here's what I read last week: 

Middle Grade Fiction

 Picture Books

This is a cute picture book about friendship. Zander is a monster, and his parents and almost everyone around him is a monster. His sister is a fairy. Zander has a friendly relationship with a bird, but denies that they're friends. Kids will enjoy reading to find how Zander comes to terms with making a friend when it isn't in his nature to do so. Zander reminds me of my 4th and 5th grade students. They're at an age when they're deciding who they are and what kind of friendships they'll have and what it means to be a friend. I would love to have this book in my classroom library.

This is an adorable picture book that tells the story of a little girl who gets the pet unicorn she ordered, but it isn't quite what she expected! Lucy orders a unicorn for a quarter, and she spends days waiting and dreaming of all the awesome things she'll be able to do with her new pet. When Sparkle, who looks suspiciously like a goat, arrives, he eats EVERYTHING, smells funny, and has fleas. Young readers will love the humorous illustrations as they try to find out if Lucy will be able to make this uncooperative animal into a good pet.

This is an imaginative picture book that tells readers about the very first day in a new school building, from the point of view of the building. The school where I teach was a brand new building nine years ago, and I remember the excitement of setting up my classroom (where I still teach BTW); knowing that I was the first person to put stuff on any of the shelves! I really love the idea of sharing this with students on the first day of school. This could serve as a great mentor text for writing from a different point of view. I definitely need to get my own copy!  

Anyone who has ever been faced with the task of writing can relate to the anguish of not having any good ideas. The author of this book does a great job of capturing the meandering train of thought that comes around when you go with your dog for a walk. The narrator takes Wednesday for a walk through the neighborhood; past rivers, trains, a soup kitchen line, etc. A chat with a former neighbor stirs up a lot of ideas. I love the wandering nature of the text and the collage of paintings and photographs that accompany the flow of thoughts. This would be an awesome book to have in my classroom library, since I think kids could relate to it and it might serve as a nice model for getting some of their own ideas going. 

This beautiful nonfiction picture book approaches the rain forest by telling readers about all of the animals who make their homes in and near an almendro tree. The focus on each page is the number of each species that relies on the food and other resources that just one of these trees provide. The information is fascinating and the illustrations, which were rendered in acrylic and pencil, will surely draw in the 4th and 5th grade readers in my classroom. The back of the book tells readers about different organizations that work to protect the plants and animals of the rain forest. There's also two pages devoted to math activities to use with students. I'm really glad I purchased this book to be a part of my classroom library. I also appreciate that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book goes to support the work of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

This fun picture book tells the story of a shelter cat who is adopted and is adjusting to his new home with a boy. Told from Won Ton's point of view, the entire story is told in haiku. According to the author's note, the story "is told in a series of senryu, a form of Japanese poetry developed and similar to haiku. Both senryu and haiku typically feature three unrhymed lines containing a maximum of seventeen syllables (5-7-5, respectively); each form also captures the essence of a moment. In haiku, that moment focuses on nature. In senryu, however, the foibles of human nature - or in this case, cat nature - are the focus, expressed by a narrator in a humorous, playful, or ironic way."

This book really captures the essence of the fun and playfulness of cats. The humorous illustrations support the text. This will be an awesome mentor text to share with my students.

This picture book is a great sequel to Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku! Won Ton has adjusted to the routine of his life with this boy. Everything is going along just fine, until a dog shows up! Told in senryu, a form of Japanese poetry very similar to haiku, this humorous story told from the cat's point of view will be another great mentor text for my students!

This is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography about a young man in Ghana who wasn't going to let his disability keep him from achieving his dreams. Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah was born with one strong leg and a mother who was determined to let him grow up being able to do things for himself. I'm looking forward to sharing this with my students and having it in my classroom library.


For those who are ready to throw up their hands at all of the anger, hatred and violence in the world today, this nearly-wordless book has so much to say. As the little boy in this book is walking down the street to mail a letter, he faces so many acts of war and brutality. A bully at the mailbox is the last straw, and finally the word "No" is repeated three times. This book was originally created as a response to the growing amount of bullying that takes place in neighborhoods and schools. On the book jacket the author says, "When I read recently of one teacher's struggle to end bullying on the playground, I was moved, and angered. How can we expect children to stop bullying when adults can't seem to? Surely children must be aware of what goes on in the world around them?" The illustrations along with the word "No" have the potential to kick off some great discussions. It's also a great example of storytelling, using just one word. I'm really looking forward to sharing this book with my students.

 This is a fun picture book with rhyming text about what happens one day when pigs take over the whole house. The silly pictures of pigs getting into all sorts of mischief had me smiling, and I'm sure it will get lots of giggles as a read aloud!

This is an awesome picture book with beautifully painted illustrations that takes the children in the story on a walk down memory lane by way of their aunt's collection of hats. Susan and her sister, Sarah, visit their great great aunt on Sundays. After tea and cookies, the girls look forward to looking at her hats. Each hat that comes out of its box has a special memory attached and Aunt Flossie tells the story. I think this would be a good mentor text to use with my students. I love how an item, such as an old hat, can become the centerpiece of a personal narrative. I'm glad I have this book in my classroom library!  

This heartwarming picture book is one I definitely want to share with my students. The narrator is a girl who plants a garden with her father every year. She tells a story that her father has told her each and every time they plant it. The story tells of an older gentleman, Mr. Bellavista, who would plant vegetables and flowers in the vacant lot next door. The man spent hours tending his plants, and in one careless moment it was ruined by the storyteller's father. Brilliant storytelling and beautifully painted illustrations come together to tell readers how awful this young man felt about what he'd done and what he did about it. There are so many powerful messages that kids need to read in this story: themes of forgiveness, kindness, and generosity. I also believe this is a great mentor text for writing personal narratives. I'm so glad I have a copy of this in my classroom library.   





  1. So many great picture books! I loved School's First Day! I think Emmanuel's Dream is an important story to share with students. I haven't read it to my students yet, but will this upcoming year. I believe I got a copy of Maxi's Secret at the ILA conference a couple of weeks ago. I may make that one my next read.

  2. Great picture books this week! Yes, I definitely plan on using Unlike Other Monsters with my older students this year to talk about friendship.

    Ideas Are All Around is a writing minilesson waiting to happen! :)

  3. The Summer My Father Was Ten and Liberty are two I know I would like, Jana. You've shared so many good ones (catching up!). Ideas Are All Around is still my favorite picture book this year, just wonderful for writing, any age! Thanks!

  4. The Summer My Father Was Ten looks very powerful - thank you for sharing picture books like this that are a little bit older, there was a big gap in between when I was a kid and when I started as a children's librarian, so there are so many wonderful books that I've completely missed out on!

  5. What a great collection of picture books! I'm a big fan of Won Ton - especially Yelchin's illustrations. The Summer My Father Was Ten is new to me - I'll have to hunt for it.

  6. Great picture books this week! Of course, my favorite is Emmanuel's Dream! I'm a big champion of that book, as you can imagine!

  7. So many great books on this list, many I haven't read, but like Michele I loved Emmanuel. I think it was brilliant.
    I am going to add some of these to my TBR :)

    Happy reading this week!

  8. Me-wow and Bow-wow, too! Thanks so much for sharing both of my haiku books. You are pawsome! =^..^= (BTW, there are curriculum guides for those and all my books on my website: