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. 



  1. Hope you have your list of nominations for the Cybils' Awards! It's funny how I could tell that Virgie was an older title by the cover illustration. I wonder how astute children are at that? The newer picture books do have some lovely covers.

  2. Excited to learn that Elizabeth Eulberg has a new novel, and middle-grade at that. Thx for sharing!

  3. The mystery book sounds good. I have had kids come in at the used bookstore looking for good mysteries, and we have a few! Thanks for all the picture books, Jana. I've read some, know of others, but it's always lovely to hear what you think of them.

  4. Wow, oh wow - I just went through this list going "love that one!" or "oh wow, I need to get my hands on that one" - where do I even start?!? I'm particularly excited for the Chris Hadfield book, he's a bit of a Canadian celebrity :) Have a great week!

  5. Fantastic books, Jana! A few are new to me. I've been trying to get my hands on The Darkest Dark, but the libraries don't have it. Will keep my eyes open for it.

  6. I met Kelly DiPucchio this weekend at a book event in Ann Arbor for another author but didn't realize she had a new book out. I just requested Dragon Was Terrible at my library. Thanks for the review!

  7. I see a lot of familiar titles here. I already own a copy of Cloth Lullaby and will probably read it this afternoon. :)