Monday, September 26, 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.


This has been a pretty hectic week! Last Monday, the fifth grade class took a field trip to the Prairie Oaks Metro Park in West Jefferson as part of our partnership program with the Columbus Metro Parks, S.E.E.D. (Students Exploring Ecosystems Dynamics). We had great weather (albeit a little bit too warm) and we learned a lot. Thanks to the CMP Naturalists who taught us so much! 

We also had Open House on Thursday evening. I was glad to meet so many parents and caregivers and former students. We had a great time!

On Friday, we had a Professional Development Day at our school. This was a good opportunity to check in with our colleagues to see how things are going at the beginning of the school year. We learned about some awesome new technology programs available to us to help students learn. We also had time to plan our next steps in helping each student to succeed.

And, because it was a week off for the Ohio State Buckeyes, I was able to devote a lot of time on Saturday to reading (and getting over a snotty cold that I've caught somewhere through the course of this busy week).  Here's what I've been reading:

Middle Grade Fiction

When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin

I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this middle grade fantasy novel by Grace Lin and I really feel like I've had an awesome experience with it. When The Sea Turned To Silver is a companion novel to the Newbery Honor book Where The Mountain Meets The Sea and Starry River Of The Sky.

Because I had never read either of those two books, I took the time to check them both out from the library and read them. Once I read the first two, I felt like I was ready for this one (which is why it took me so long to read it).

This novel uses some of the same characters, themes and imagery from the first two books. And while readers of the first two books will appreciate that, this novel is also a terrific stand-alone story. It isn't necessary to read the first two books in order to enjoy the action and adventure in this one.

Pinmei's grandmother is a renowned storyteller living in a remote mountain village. One night she is kidnapped by the evil emperor. The emperor is seeking the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Pinmei and Yishan, her friend, embark on an epic adventure that features lots of excitement and danger as they search for the Luminous Stone and try to save the aged storyteller. The author uses the tradition of Chinese storytelling to weave the action of the story with tales that highlight the overarching themes and mysteries of this novel.

I'm excited to share this series with my students. Readers that enjoy fantasy/adventure stories will probably love these books. The author uses fast-paced, suspenseful action along with the traditional story telling to make a great experience for readers. I also think these books would be a great starting point for students that are interested in researching more about the traditions of Chinese storytelling.
Picture Books

Dear Dragon by Josh Funk, Rodolfo Montalvo (Illustrations)  
This is such a fun picture book that mixes pen pal letters and poetry in such a creative way. George and Blaise are part of their respective schools' pen pal project. Their assignment is to write pen pal letters that rhyme! They write back and forth and discover all sorts of cool things about each other and develop a great friendship! The only thing that they don't know is that they are different in a very significant way. Wait until they meet each other at the Pen Pal Picnic at the end of the school year. Our school participates in a pen pal program with students from the Ohio State University. The project culminates in a field trip to the campus for a tour and a meet & greet between pen pals. This book would be fun to share as we get that started this year!

Duck On A Tractor by David Shannon 
This is a cute picture book that tells young readers the story of what happens when an adventurous duck figures out how to start up a tractor. He takes a spin around the farm and then invites all of the other barnyard animals to go for a ride. The tractor is piled high with all of these creatures as it travels down the road through town, past the crowded diner at lunchtime. The comical illustrations along with the crazy events will have young children giggling when you share this story with them. 

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel  
This is an awesome picture book that uses simple, rhythmic text and beautiful artwork to show how many different creatures see a cat. The illustrations, "rendered in almost everything imaginable, including colored pencil, oil pastels, acrylic paint, watercolor, charcoal, Magic Marker, good old number 2 pencils, and even an iBook", are gorgeous. This would be a fun book to share with students for a discussion of point of view!

The Gingerbread Man Loose at The Zoo by Laura Murray, Mike Lowery (Illustrations)  
This fun picture book, with vibrant illustrations and rhyming text, tell what happens when the Gingerbread Man accidentally gets separated from his classmates while on a field trip to the zoo. There's lots of adventure for young readers as our cookie character has to use his wits to solve the scavenger hunt clues so he can find his friends and avoid getting eaten by some of the hungry animals. Along the way, he has an opportunity to help out another lost animal. This book would definitely be a fun read aloud for young children.

Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John, Bob Shea (Illustrations)  
This is a fun picture book that gives young readers a glimpse of how a monster might feel about everyone screaming at him and calling him a monster. Floyd Peterson is technically a monster, since he has horns, fangs, wild eyes, purple fur, clompy feet, long toenails and a huge, toothy smile that glows in the dark. But he gets his feelings hurt when people call him a monster, scream, and run away from him. The lively, humorous illustrations make this a great choice for a read aloud for young children. If your children really are still afraid of monsters, you might not want to read this one as a bedtime story.      

Bear & Hare Share! by Emily Gravett  
This picture book uses spare, simple text and warm, colorful illustrations to teach an important lesson about sharing and kindness. Bear and Hare are out for a walk. While Hare refuses to share when he finds flowers, ice cream, and a balloon, Bear remains very patient with him. Later on, when Hare needs Bear's help, Bear models kindness and forgiveness. This would be awesome to share with young children to discuss these messages.  

Harry and Walter by Kathy Stinson, Qin Leng (Illustrations)  
This is a sweet story about a young boy and his 92-year-old neighbor who are the best of friends. They spend so much time together and do so many things together: riding tractors in the yard, growing tomatoes, playing games, raking leaves, etc. When Harry (the boy) finds out he has to move away, he's devastated. This heartwarming story will have young readers rooting for some way that these two can make their friendship last a long time.

Rosie the Raven by Helga Bansch 
This beautiful picture book, originally titled Die Rabenrosa for the Austrian edition, is a wonderful story of parents loving and accepting their children, even when they are very different from what is expected. High up in a raven's nest, eggs are hatching. One of them is definitely not like the others; it's a little, pink girl with no wings or feathers. When she becomes the subjects of insensitive whispers and comments, she tries her best to be like her brothers and sisters. Finally she realizes she just has to be herself, and use her unique features and talents to help her family as only she can. This would be a great book to share with kids who feel like they are different from everyone else. The artwork is "a collage of pencil drawing, acrylic paint, monotype, and old maps."

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes by Nicola Davies, Emily Sutton (Illustrations)  
This nonfiction picture book is a terrific introduction to the world of microbiology! The author looks at microbes using kid-friendly, approachable language and beautiful illustrations to compare the size of these creatures to known objects in the world, discuss how they reproduce to grow their numbers very quickly, and some of the results of their activity. This would be an awesome resource to have in my classroom library.

Monday, September 19, 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.


How have we flown so quickly through the last several weeks?!  Now it's already time for interim reports (halfway through the grading period progress reports). So, this weekend has been spent writing reports and getting caught up with all my other work. Unfortunately, that hasn't left much time for reading. I did manage to read some picture books. Those are always good for calming down at the end of a stressful day, when you're too tired for more heavy reading. I swear next week, I'm going to try to get caught up on the middle grade fiction books that are piling up around me!
So here's what I've been reading:

Bella's Fall Coat by Lynn Plourde, Susan Gal (Illustrations)  
This is a sweet picture book that shares the story of a little girl, Bella, who is outgrowing the special fall coat that her grandmother made for her. Grandma gently tries to persuade Bella that it's time for a new coat, but each time she brings it up, Bella dashes outside to play some more. But with winter coming, Grandma gets to work to make a new special coat. More than just a story about a coat, this is a story about a special relationship between a grandmother and a little girl. They are both passionate about the special treats of nature: leaves, apples, geese. And they both know that no matter whether leaves fall, apples get eaten, or birds fly away, the love in this home and in their hearts will last forever. The joyful text and the warm, inviting illustrations will make this a favorite, heartwarming book to share with young readers.  

Everyone Loves Cupcake by Kelly DiPucchio, Eric Wight (Illustrations)  
This is such a fun picture book! But be careful, it has made me so hungry for sweets! This is the story of Cupcake's mission to make everyone adore her. As she works so hard to be perfect, it takes a "smart cookie" to help her learn to just be herself. The vibrant, colorful illustrations of Cupcake and all her friends almost had me drooling on the pages! I've got to get my own copy for my classroom library. 

Max at Night by Ed Vere  
This is a very cute and sweet picture book about a little cat named Max who's very sleepy and ready to go to bed. The problem is that he can't see the moon to say good night to it. He goes outside and climbs higher and higher to find it. The story is adorable and would be perfect to share as a bedtime read.  

Pirasaurs! by Josh Funk, Michael H. Slack (Illustrations)  
This is such a fun, rollicking picture book that is going to be a popular one with young readers. With awesome rhyming text and vibrant, humorous illustrations, Pirasaurs tells the story of a ragtag bunch of pirates/dinosaurs sailing the seas in search of treasure. The story is told from the point of view of a little guy that is new, and having trouble getting the hang of life aboard the ship. But the the book has a terrific message that even little ones can make big contributions and that collaboration is much better than fighting. This would be fun to read a loud (especially with a pirate voice).

Monsters Go Night-Night by Aaron Zenz  
This is a cute story to share with young children at bedtime. The text and the humorous illustrations take readers through all of the little monster's bedtime routines. Lots of giggles with this one, and even a little bit of potty humor! 

Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff, Hadley Hooper (Illustrations)  
I really enjoyed reading this nonfiction picture book that tells the story of Nell Richardson and Alice Burke who toured America in a little yellow car in 1916. They were suffragists going from city to city to rally for "Votes For Women". Young readers can definitely be inspired by the courage and determination these women (and many others like them) showed by driving across the country at a time when not many people did that and fighting for equality. The engaging illustrations, along with the descriptions of the adventures these women had, makes me wish I could've been there n the car with them. It would be fun to share this trip with students.  

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service by Annette Bay Pimentel, Rich Lo (Illustrations)  
This nonfiction picture book, so appropriate for the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the National Park Service, is a fascinating biography of Tie Sing. Sing was a Chinese American cook on a very important camping trip. Hired by Stephen Mather in 1915 to feed thirty men for ten days in the mountains, Sing was instrumental in helping to convince them of the importance of protecting this natural treasure. While Sing cooked gourmet food that kept everyone happy, this trip was not without its disasters. It is very inspiring to see how Sing dealt with adversity, and it seems like this book is a terrific example of a growth mindset. The beautiful watercolor illustrations, along with the approachable text, make the trip come to life; to the point I can taste the sourdough rolls, smell the campfire, and hear the wind through the trees. It would be awesome to have a copy of this in my classroom library! 

Ninja! Attack of the Clan by Arree Chung 
This is a really cute picture book about a little boy/ninja who can't get anyone else in the family to play with him. Everyone is too busy. He becomes resigned to the idea that sometimes ninjas need to learn how to find their own inner peace and entertain themselves. But his family has a big surprise for him at dinner time! Humorous, comic-book style illustrations will make this a popular book with young readers. 

Parachute by Danny Parker, Matt Ottley (Illustrator)  
This is a beautiful picture book with a great message about overcoming one's fears. Toby takes his parachute everywhere, because it makes him feel safe. One day, his cat, Henry, is stuck high up in his treehouse tree. Forgetting his fear, Toby climbs up and uses the parachute to get his pet down to the ground safely. But then, he has to overcome his fears to get back down himself. The sweet illustrations add to this wonderful book.