Monday, October 31, 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.

The last week has been pretty busy and pretty hard to keep excited kids calm as they prepare for their big night. We celebrated at school on Friday and the kids go Trick-Or-Treating tonight. So I'm sure tomorrow will be lots of fun as the children come down from their sugar highs!

Those are just a few of the pictures I snapped as we enjoyed our Costume Parade. I also managed to get some reading in this week. Here's what I've been reading:

Middle Grade Fiction

Like Magic by Elaine Vickers, Sara Not (Illustrations)  

I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this book, along with the other members of my Twitter #BookRelays group. I really enjoyed this book, and will definitely purchase a copy (or 2 or 3) for my classroom library. The characters are very relatable for the students I teach. Ten-year-olds in desperate need of friendship, they each turn to the gentle help of a librarian at the Salt Lake City Library who provides them with a treasure chest from her lost-and-found drawer. Grace is painfully shy and her best friend has moved away. Jada and her father are starting a new chapter in their lives in Utah, but she still longs to have a relationship with the mother who abandoned her. Malia has been an only child her whole life, but is about to become a big sister. One by one, they borrow this treasure box and take and receive gifts from it that provide comfort and deep meaning for each of them. The suspense builds as you see these girls interact with each other through the connection with this box and wait for them to finally meet each other and receive the magic of friendship that they are all seeking. The story unfolds with chapters that show each character's point of view in turn. This book would be great to teach lessons about theme and point of view. I also think it will be popular has an engaging realistic fiction book. 

Juana and Lucas (Juana and Lucas #1) by Juana Medina  

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. This is a nice middle grade fiction book about a girl from Bogota, Columbia who is having a difficult time learning to speak English in school. Juana is someone that many kids will relate to as she giggles with her friend on the school bus, prefers recess to class time, and loves her dog, Lucas. When she has to learn English, she doesn't see the point in learning this impossibly complicated language. Young readers will look forward to finding out how she will ultimately motivate herself to do her best to learn it. This book provides opportunities for readers to learn bits of Spanish, and to see the many ways that children from other cultures enjoy many of the same things kids in America do. 

Picture Books

This fascinating picture book gives an excellent description of what it's like to be a real cowboy. The author uses personality traits such as quiet, careful, gentle, and calm to tell about the job of moving cattle over long distances. This is a topic that would be very unfamiliar to the students in my urban classroom. The author's style is very engaging and draws readers into this world that many of us only know from watching Western movies. The warm, beautiful illustrations make this a book I would love to have in my classroom library.


In this cute picture book, a young panda bear is walking along with his father and trying to convince him to let him wear pants. The father is adamant that panda bears don't wear pants: they don't need them and would look ridiculous. Young readers that are beginning to assert their independence and challenge the assumptions of their parents will appreciate this story. The mixed media illustrations are lovely and support the story well. 

This is a cute follow-up to Hooray for Hat! Little Owl is wide awake and looking for a playmate. The trouble is that it's nighttime and all the other animals are sleepy. When the sun comes up and the other animal are awake, Little Owl is ready to sleep! It might be fun for young readers to consider the problems of nocturnal animals! The bright, colorful illustrations help make the story a lot of fun. 

The author of this book sent me a copy in exchange for an honest review. This is a cute picture book with a great message about sharing and friendship. Bunny and Robin are really good friends and do all sorts of special things together. One day Bunny told Robin how much he wished he could fly like him. The Robin wanted to help, so he magically loaned Bunny his wings. Once he got the hang of flying, he loved it. But both came to the realization that it's probably best if Robin keeps his wings and Bunny stays on the ground. The rhyming text and rich vocabulary make this book a good one to have in the classroom library. 

This picture book biography is a fascinating account of the life of Ada Lovelace, who is credited with developing an idea for what would one day become computer programming. The daughter of the writer, Lord Byron, and her mathematical mother, she was fascinated by science, math, and machines. The book gives readers details about her early ideas about flying, her education and family life, and some of her great ideas.

I shared this book with 4th and 5th graders and everyone enjoyed it. It's a cute, rhyming cumulative tale that's got a great message about teamwork. The witch wants to pick her huge pumpkin so she can make a pie. The pumpkin is so big, that she can't get it off the vine. Several of her scary friends (a ghost, a vampire, and a mummy) lend a hand and try to get the pumpkin off the vine. The illustrations of all of these folks trying to get the pumpkin are very funny. Lots of fun to have in my classroom library during Halloween season! 

This Caldecott award winning picture book tells a wonderful story about friendship. Alexander is a mouse and no one in the house is ever happy to see him. He is constantly screamed at and chased away. One day he meets Willy, a wind-up mouse who is adored by the little girl of the house. He is cuddled and gets to sleep in her bed with several other toys. But he can only move around when someone winds him up. Alexander wishes he could be turned into a wind-up mouse, so he could be loved, too. Just as he is about to receive his wish, he makes a decision that teaches readers a great lesson about kindness and friendship. The colorful collage illustrations are awesome!  


Monday, October 24, 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.

Sorry it's been a while since I've last posted my reads. With the change of the seasons comes lots of busy times. Last weekend my parents made the trek from Iowa to come for a visit. It was awesome to be able to take time to catch up. We also had my husband's family over for food, fun and football!

It's also the end of the first grading period. If the school year were a football game, we would be done with the first quarter and ready to start the second. So this weekend I've been catching up on all the work I didn't do while my family was visiting. Plus it's time to write report cards! At any rate, I did manage to finish a middle grade fiction book and relax with a few fun picture books.

The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White 

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. This book is a lot of fun! I love that the protagonist is a plucky young lady that doesn't back down from a challenge. Anne has spent her entire life in a horrible orphanage under the rule of a mean and nasty matron. When the day finally arrives for her departure, she finds out she's not allowed to leave. An unexpected opportunity to escape with a friend to a fantastic quest academy starts a wild adventure for her. She has to successfully complete a dangerous quest in three days, or face severe, and maybe even deadly consequences. There is plenty of action in this mix if science fiction and fantasy to keep young readers engaged.

Penguin Problems by Jory John, Lane Smith (Illustrations)  

This is the perfect book for ANYONE that's having a bad day and feels overwhelmed by life's complications. Penguin wakes up complaining about everything. Everything seems like too much of a hassle. And nobody else seems to understand this penguins problems. He receives some words of wisdom from a stranger that we should all take to heart. I definitely need to get my own copy for those grumpy days!  

Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead  

This is a fantastic picture book that has a beautiful story about friendship. Samson doesn't have any friends, and often wonders what it would be like. One day he meets a little red bird who is looking for yellow flowers to cheer up a friend who is having a bad day and needs them. Later on, there is a blinding snowstorm and Samson becomes worried about the little bird. As the story develops, Samson winds up with two friends and happiness. The illustrations are gorgeous and draw readers into this snowy world. This book could be a great start to some good discussions about kindness and friendship. 

Shy by Deborah Freedman 

This picture book is very cute and makes such clever use of the gutter (the place where the book pages are bound together). Shy spends all of his time hiding and reading books. One day a bird comes along and Shy is delighted by her singing, but he's too shy to say anything. Young readers, especially shy ones will appreciate Shy's journey to find this bird. The illustrations, made with pencil, watercolor, bits of colored pencil, and assembled in Photoshop, are just beautiful!  

A Hop Is Up by Kristy Dempsey, Lori Richmond (Illustrations)  

This is a cute concept book. Rhyming text and colorful, engaging illustrations would make this a fun book to read aloud to young readers.

King Baby by Kate Beaton  

This is a cute picture book book that really seems to capture the reality of having a baby in the house. This would be a great book to share with young readers who have recently become big brothers or sisters to a newborn. The baby is the king of the household and the proud parents run themselves ragged trying to meet his demands.   

I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino  

This is an awesome picture book that celebrates the life and importance of a story. The text traces the history of a story through time, from a campfire in ancient times to the modern era of digital media and all of the manifestations in between. The book inspires readers to consider stories that have lived through the ages and also shows us that everyone's story is important. Boldly colored ink illustrations pull readers in and takes them on a journey through time and makes them want to cherish and enjoy stories all the more. 

Ned the Knitting Pirate by Diana Murray, Leslie Lammle (Illustrations)  

This is a cute picture book with fun rhyming text that tells the story of a young pirate who loves to knit, even though everyone around him makes fun of him and he gets in trouble with his captain for it. The message that it's okay to do your own thing is told with a fun pirate story that has adventure, buried treasure, and a dangerous monster. This would be fun to read aloud with a pirate accent! 

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn by Kenard Pak  

What a beautiful book to share with kids this time of year. Right now in central Ohio, we have been enjoying several days of unusually warm weather. Temperatures have soared into the 80s and the days have been sunny and wonderful. But the television meteorologist says that all changes soon. Rain is coming in tonight, and with it, the temperatures will drop to more fall-like conditions. As we transition to autumn, this book takes us on a walk with a young girl who has a running conversation with the trees, plants, and breezes of the last gasp of summer, and the cold rains and colorful leaves of autumn. Young readers will be able to imagine what the world around them has to say as the season gives way to colder times. The artwork, created with watercolor and pencil and digitally enhanced, really complements the text, making it such a wonderful book to have on your library's shelf. 

Monday, October 10, 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.


As the fall season starts to really make its presence known with chilly nights and leaves starting to change colors, things have really started to get busy at school and at home. Now that we're halfway through the first grading period at school, we're having more meetings and more planning. We're dealing with more data and trying to determine how we're going to make progress with every child.  At home, there are more fall chores to be done to get ready for cold weather. Through all of that, there's still a few chances to sit and relax with a book.
I'm reading a great book (digital ARC) from NetGalley.  The Adventurer's Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White is an exciting, middle grade fiction novel that takes readers to a futuristic world with quests, dragons, and lots of magic. I'm still reading it, but I will definitely review it when I get a chance!

Here are the picture books that I've read this week:

Leave Me Alone by Vera Brosgol 
I loved this picture book! It's a terrific story for anyone who's ever yearned for a little bit of peace and quiet! The grandmother in this book lived with a big family in a small house. She had a lot of knitting to do before the weather turned cold. But the little kids were all over the place and making it impossible for her to get any work done. Finally she snapped! She gathered up her stuff, yelled, "Leave me alone!" and took off. Young readers will enjoy Granny's adventures, and maybe consider giving the grown-ups in their own lives a break. Hilarious illustrations make this a fun book to share!

The Water Princess by Susan Verde, Georgie Badiel, Peter Reynolds (Illustrations)  
What a terrific and important picture book to share with kids! In our fast-paced world filled with countless modern conveniences, it's hard to imagine that there are people in the world (women and young girls, mostly) who have to walk miles and miles daily to get water to carry back to their homes. We rely on turning on a faucet and having plenty of clean, running water. This beautifully illustrated story tells us about Gie Gie's daily journey with her mother. This book is based on the childhood experience of African model Georgie Badiel and also includes more information about Ryan's Well and the Georgie Badiel Foundation, two organizations working to change this crisis and bring clean water to the people who desperately need it. This would be a great companion book to  A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story by Linda Sue Park.

Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal (Illustrations)  
This is a beautiful picture book that takes readers through the entire gardening season. As the little girl and her nana prepare the garden, nourish it with water, and harvest the produce, there's a whole world of activity that no one ever sees. There's lots of different animals, worms, and bugs helping to make the garden what it is. Warm, heartwarming illustrations along with the informative text make this a great nonfiction resource for young readers interested in gardening.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown 
This one is popular in my school library, but somehow I'm only just now getting around to reading it myself. This book is a fun reminder that everyone has to be able to let loose and be "wild" from time to time. Mr. Tiger gets tired of being so proper and serious all the time. Finally he removes himself to the wilderness! Young readers will enjoy finding out what happens when he gets in touch with his wild side! 


Monday, October 3, 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.
Well September is finished, and now we welcome October! It seems like the pouring rain of the last three days is the announcement that the seasons are about to change! I know we'll still have a few warm days here and there, but cold weather is coming!
And with fall comes the opportunity to curl up with good books and let the fall rains pour. So here's what I've been reading:
Middle Grade Fiction

The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. I enjoyed reading this mystery novel featuring a smart and sassy nine-year-old sixth grader who is somewhat of a neighborhood celebrity because of her great ability as a detective. When eleven-year-old John Watson moves into the same Harlem apartment building, the two of them team up to investigate the strange disappearance of a classmate's dog.

Readers that enjoyed the Cam Jansen mystery series, will appreciate Shelby Holmes. This character, will appeal to middle grade readers who are ready for older, more sophisticated characters. Shelby, who is a bit peculiar and lacks social graces, has a knack for being very observant and paying close attention to details. These qualities help her solve all sorts of mysteries in her neighborhood, mysteries that even the police can't solve.

Even though she is a few years younger than John, she's his only friend in New York City. He relies on her to help him find his way around, including showing him how to ride the subway. But while she's an important help to him, she's also not very friendly to him. She often makes him feel awkward and stupid, so he's not sure if she's his friend or not.

One of her wealthier classmates' show dog, Daisy has disappeared. John accompanies Shelby as she investigates, and winds up learning a lot about observing and really paying attention to what's really happening. This book would make a great series, as I finished the book wanting to learn more about the characters. I definitely want to read about the future cases they'll solve!
Picture Books

The Cookie Fiasco (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #1) by Dan Santat, Mo Willems  
This is a great picture to help introduce the concept of fractional number sense. There are four friends trying to share three cookies. After a bit of arguing, the hippo gets nervous and starts breaking the cookies into equal parts. This is a funny book, with great illustrations to model a difficult math concept for kids to grasp.

We Are Growing! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #2) by Laurie Keller, Mo Willems  
This is a fun picture book written from the point of view of growing blades of grass. As they notice their own growth, the begin comparing themselves to each other. They all celebrate their special qualities until the lawn mower comes around! Bold, humorous illustrations, along with simple text, will make this a popular book with young readers.

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield  
This is a great picture book to share with kids because it's got a great message about overcoming fears and achieving dreams. It also shares memories of a special time in history: the Apollo 11 moon landing. Astronaut Chris Hadfield shares a story of his childhood dream of one day exploring outer space along with his fear of the dark. Chris avoided going to bed by himself nightly because in the darkness he always saw creepy, alien-like shadows. The story culminates in a viewing party at a neighbor's house of the moon landing and how that event changed the way he thought about the dark. The illustrations are gorgeous and help make this just a terrific book!  

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers, Sam Winston  
This is just a wonderful picture book for book lovers of all ages. I also hope it is one that will inspire some of my most reluctant readers! The child of books, a little girl, invites a little boy to go away on a journey into the world of words and stories. The two sail through beautiful illustrations, rendered in watercolor, pencil, and digital collage, that feature 40 classic children's books. I definitely need to get two copies: one for my classroom and one to have on my own bookshelf at home!  

How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett, Adam Rex (Illustrations)  
This is an awesome picture book for readers who have ever wondered just how an idea for a story becomes an actual book. Using humorous, kid-friendly language and fantastic artwork, the authors take us step-by-step through the publishing process. This could definitely serve as a good mentor text for budding writers; it also could be good inspiration for those who dream of someday writing and publishing their own books.  

Dragon Was Terrible by Kelly DiPucchio, Greg Pizzoli (Illustrator)  
What a fun picture book this is! While the dragon in this story is terrible, the awful things he does are pretty funny and will have young readers giggling out loud: pantsing the royal guards, TPing the royal castle, spitting on cupcakes, etc. But rather than giving up, the villagers keep trying to come up with ways to tame the naughty dragon. Finally, one young man comes up with a unique way to win the dragon over. This story could lend itself to writing projects to come up with other stories that could inspire positive changes to solve problems. The humorous illustrations by Greg Pizzoli make this a wonderful book that would be very popular in elementary classroom libraries.

The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel  
This is an adorable picture book that tells the story of a little girl, Ada, who hates ballet class. Every Saturday she has too dress up in tight, uncomfortable clothes and try to learn to plie and pirouette. As she's pirouetting out of the room and into the hall she finds a way to start enjoying her Saturdays. This book would be great for anyone who has trouble fitting in and finding an activity that they enjoy. Humorous , cartoon-like illustrations help make this book a lot of fun!  

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois by Amy Novesky, Isabelle Arsenault (Illustrations)  
This beautiful biographical picture book tells the life story of Louise Bourgeois, who was a famous sculptor. As a child, Louise's mother taught her about weaving and repairing tapestries. Learning about form and color, Louise used these lessons later in life when she created her own art. The text and illustrations, rendered in ink, pencil, pastel, watercolor and photoshop come together to make a gorgeous book! 

Wendell the Narwhal by Emily Dove  
This is a cute picture book with a nice growth-mindset message about finding your talent. Wendell is sad because all of the other animals in the ocean have their own special ways of making music, but he doesn't. With the help of his friends, he does finally find a way to contribute to the music. Cute illustrations of the music-making creatures helps make this a joyful book to share with young readers.  

Whale Shines: An Artistic Tail by Fiona Robinson  
This is a wonderful picture book with a terrific growth-mindset message for young readers. All the ocean creatures are busy getting ready for the upcoming art show. Whale has the job of carry the gigantic advertisement on his side. As he sees everyone's amazing works in progress, he starts to feel sad that he doesn't have a project to put in the show. With the help of some very tiny friends, whale learns that he does have talent and that he can contribute in a special way. This is a great book to inspire young artists to find their own talent and to help encourage others as well. The watercolor and pencil illustrations help make this a really special book!  

Wild by Emily Hughes 
This is a cute picture book that tells the story of a little girl who somehow wound up living in the woods being raised by animals. Birds taught her to speak, bears taught her to eat, and foxes taught her to play. One day she was found by people and brought to live with a psychiatrist and his wife. Young readers will giggle as they try to work the wildness out of this child. 

The Gentleman Bug by Julian Hector  
This is a cute picture book with a sweet message about being yourself and making friends. The Gentleman Bug teaches school and loves to spend all of his free time reading books. Several of the other bugs make fun of him, but it's not a problem until a new Lady Bug arrives in town. Trying to impress her, Gentleman Bug puts on fancy new clothes and hangs out at the popular night spot, but that doesn't work out so well. Young readers will enjoy finding out just how easy it is to make a new friend when you stay true to yourself. Lovely watercolor and pencil artwork add to the charm of this book that seems to be made especially for book lovers! 

Virgie Goes to School with Us Boys by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard, E.B. Lewis (Illustrator)  
This beautifully illustrated historical fiction picture book tells the story of a young African American girl who is determined to go to school along with her older brothers. In the post-Civil War South, many schools for African Americans were established, but many students had to walk for miles to attend. Virgie insists that she's not too little to travel the seven-mile journey and stay at school the whole week. According to the author's note at the end of the book, she "portrayed Virgie as an independent, spirited young girl who despite the typical skepticism of her older brothers and cautious hesitancy of her parents is determined to claim her right to 'go to school with the boys.' I think of her as a symbol of that basic drive and hope that filled the minds and hearts of new black citizens, determined through education to make their way in a hostile environment. I imagine her as having left a legacy for all children, girls and boys, African American and not, that education will always be the first step in 'learning to be free.'" I would love to get a copy of this book for my classroom library.