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.


  1. I love the Grace Lin books and look forward to this latest one, Jana. I still haven't read Josh Funk's new books and Dear Dragon sounds like one that could be used for writing ideas in the classroom. And, I shared Rosie The Raven today, too. What a sweet and beautiful book! Thanks for all you shared, a few will go on THE list!

  2. So many great books, and a few that are entirely new to me! Rosie the Raven in particular looks beautiful, I can't wait to find a copy. Thanks so sharing all of these!

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed Rosie and Harry and Walter. I loved Where The Mountain Meets The Sea, but still haven't gotten to Starry River Of The Sky. I've put it on hold and will try to get to it before the next one.

  4. I've been watching your reviews of the Grace Lin books. I have them but haven't read them yet. Sounds like I need to move them up in the pile!
    They All Saw a Cat is a wonder!!

  5. When the Sea Turned to Silver sounds wonderful...I think I need to invest in this series for my classroom.

  6. Yours is the second blog I've seen ROSIE THE RAVEN on today and I had never heard of that book before. Guess that means it's going on the TBR pile! :)

  7. I have yet to read a Grace Lin novel, I do feel I can catch up soon. More Rosie the Raven love!

  8. Tiny Creatures is such a beautiful book!