Monday, November 28, 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.


Hope everyone had a restful and fun Thanksgiving with family and friends. It's been so nice to have some time off from school to relax and get caught up on some reading! Things have been so hectic lately, I didn't get a chance to post my books last week. So here's what I've been reading the last few weeks:
Middle Grade

In Over Her Head: Hannah Smart by Melody Fitzpatrick  
The author sent me an ARC of this book for me to share with my BookRelays group. This was a fun book to read and I think it will be popular with middle grade students. This is the third book in the Hannah Smart series and a fun continuation of her adventures. Hannah, a cute and quirky fourteen-year-old, is the host of a popular news segment for teens and has just signed on to do a reality TV show. Teenage Treasure Hunters takes Hannah and A.J. on a yacht owned by the father of Piper Steele, the girl who used to live in the house where Hannah lives. Piper is a cunning, conniving girl who appears to be determined to make Hannah miserable on this project. Hannah is an awesome protagonist for kids this age because she's positive, optimistic, and always true to herself. She faces a lot of fears in this book, and her confidence could help encourage others to push past their worries and try new things.

Gertie's Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley, Jillian Tamaki (Illustrator)  
I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. I can see why so many other readers have enjoyed this book so much. The main character, Gertie, is an energetic and passionate fifth grader on a mission. She wants to be the very best fifth grader at school. Her mother left the family when she was very young and is about to sell her house and move far away. She wants to show her mother what she's going to be leaving, and maybe even convince her to come back. When Gertie is on a mission, she won't let anything or anybody get in her way. Through the course of the book she must overcome a mean newcomer, a five-year-old determined to follow Gertie everywhere, and her own impulsive behavior. Gertie kind of reminds me of an older Ramona Quimby - she has the best of intentions, but things never seem to go the way she plans, and she often winds up in trouble. Fans of Beverly Cleary books will definitely like this one.  

The Scourge by Jennifer A. Nielsen  
I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this book as part of my BookRelays group. Even though I'm a little bit late getting through it, I'm glad I did! The characters in this adventure book about a deadly disease sweeping the imaginary land of Keldan were compelling and exciting to follow. The story was set in another time and place, where the River People, or grubs, were constantly at odds with the townspeople, or pinchworms. The paranoia in place because of the Scourge only intensified the hatred these two groups of people had for each other. When ten-year-old Ani becomes a victim of circumstance and is taken away to the colony for those infected, her friend, Weevil, comes along for the adventure. Attic Island, the Scourge colony, isn't what it appears to be, and neither is the Scourge. Lots of action and intrigue await readers as Ani, Weevil, and their new friends work to escape and help save the entire country. There are lots of great themes, including discrimination, fairness, teamwork, and leadership.

Willa: The Story Of Willa Cather, An American Writer by Amy Ehrlich, Wendell Minor (Illustrator)  
This is a beautifully illustrated biography for readers that are ready for chapter books. As part of the American Women Writers Series, this book tells the story of an adventurous young woman from Virginia. Her family moved to the plains of Nebraska, where she met many immigrant families. She loved to listen to their stories and she longed to explore the world and write about it. Young writers can definitely find inspiration in this book, as all of her studies and travels led her back to her home in Nebraska to write simply about the things she knew best. This would be a terrific mentor text to share with students. I would love to look at the other books in the series.  

Rules by Cynthia Lord  
I am so glad that I finally got around to reading this Newbery Honor book! This is an awesome middle grade fiction novel with so many important messages for kids. Catherine is a twelve-year-old dealing with the stress of trying to make new friends and the awkwardness of her age, while at the same time coming to terms with her younger brother's autism and the challenges that go along with that. Readers are presented with a list of Catherine's "rules" that she has developed to help her brother fit in with the world round him, such as "Chew with your mouth closed" and "No toys in the fish tank." When she makes new friends during the summer, many of the old rules no longer apply, and she learns to look at things in different ways. I love what this novel has to say about accepting people for their strengths and working past their disabilities. I definitely need to make this book a part of my classroom library!  
Picture Books

Little Penguins by Cynthia Rylant, Christian Robinson (Illustrations)  
This is an adorable picture book that celebrates the joy of the start of winter fun from the point of view of a family of penguins. They're all excited as winter begins, they put all of their snow gear on and go outside to play. When they get too cold, their mother comes to take them back home and treat them to warm cookies. I'm sure this will be very popular with young readers as the season begins. 

Nanette's Baguette by Mo Willems  
This book will definitely be a favorite of carb lovers of all ages! Nanette is a little frog who's been given the responsibility of going to the bakery to get the family's baguette. It's her first trip to get the baguette on her own. Once she purchases the baguette, it's so warm and it smells so good that she can't resist a taste; but then she can't stop! Young readers will love finding out what happens next! The artwork is awesome! According to the inside back cover, "the images in this story are comprised of photographed handcrafted cardboard-and-paper constructions digitally integrated with photographed illustrations and additions."

If You Give a Mouse a Brownie by Laura Joffe Numeroff, Felicia Bond (Illustrator)  
This latest installment in the "If You Give..." series has the original mouse back, enjoying a brownie. But as we have learned with the other books, it won't stop with the brownie. Next he'll want some ice cream and a spoon, and pretty soon you'll be running all over the place to organize a rock concert! Young readers will enjoy this one-thing-leads-to-another circular tale!  

To Burp or Not to Burp: A Guide to Your Body in Space by Dr. Dave Williams, Loredana Cunti, Theodore Key (Illustrations)  
This fascinating nonfiction picture book as engaging text and awesome photographs to share with readers EVERYTHING you ever wanted to know about space travel. Dr. Dave Williams, a physician and astronaut, has been on two NASA space shuttle missions and so is an expert on the ways the human body behaves in space. The author shares details on picking your nose in space, going to the bathroom in space, burping and farting in space, and much more. This would definitely be a popular book in my classroom library! 

Charles Darwin's Around-the-World Adventure by Jennifer Thermes 
This is a very interesting and beautifully illustrated account of the five years Darwin spent on the Beagle (a 90-foot ship) exploring South America. During this voyage, he collected insects, studied bones, and explored many aspects of life on this interesting continent. This book has great descriptions of his experiences and great map diagrams. This would be a wonderful nonfiction resource to have in my classroom library!

A Well-Mannered Young Wolf by Jean Leroy, Matthieu Maudet (Illustrations)  
This fun twist on wolf stories is just terrific! A young wolf goes hunting in the woods for the very first time. His parents had raised him to be a very well-mannered wolf. Each time he captures prey to eat, he offers his victim a last wish. These wishes wind up helping the animals to trick the wolf and escape. After the wolf finds a well-mannered young boy, there's a delightful turn to the story! The humorous illustrations along with the clever story will make this a popular book with young readers.

Giant Squid by Candace Fleming, Eric Rohmann (Illustrations)  
Little is known about the giant squid. Until 2012, no one had ever photographed one in its natural habitat. The authors of this awesome nonfiction picture book take us into the dark depths of the ocean to learn more about this elusive creature. Using poetic language and beautiful illustrations, young readers will certainly gain an appreciation for this animal and use the resources listed in the back to learn more. 

The Mouse and the Moon by Gabriel Alborozo  
This is a sweet story about finding friendship in a surprising way. The little mouse lives all alone and counts the moon as his only friend. He tells everything in his heart to the moon, but the moon never answers back. Figuring the moon was too far away to respond, the mouse sets off on a mission to find the moon. Readers will love the surprising new friendship he finds instead. The illustrations are just beautiful! 

The Journey by Francesca Sanna (Illustrations)  
This powerful picture book uses a heart-tugging narrative and beautiful illustrations to tell the story of a family who has been ripped apart by war and forced to flee everything they know to find a safe place to live. The narrator's family was a typical happy family that loved each other and enjoyed spending time at the beach. When war took the narrator's father away, the family packed up everything they could and left in the night. The challenges of traveling, getting past unrelenting border guards, and spending days at sea in a crowded boat are shared in a way that can really give readers a sense of what's happening to families in the current refugee crisis. This would be a great book to share with my students. 

Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood, Duncan Tonatiuh (Illustrations)  
This fascinating picture book biography tells the story of Juan Garcia Esquivel, a musician from Mexico who created his own, unique sound. I had never heard of this musician before I read this, but reading this inspirational story had me pulling up songs on the internet so I could check it out! The beautiful, vibrant illustrations along with the kid friendly text make this a book I would love to have in my classroom library. 

The Lonely Book by Kate Bernheimer, Chris Sheban (Illustrator)  
This beautifully written picture book is perfect for all book lovers. The story is written from the point of view of a beloved children's book. When it was brand new, it was placed in the front of the library with other new books. It was very popular and many children checked it out. As time went on, the book became old and worn and fewer kids even looked at it. Then a little girl came and fell in love with it. But once the book becomes separated from her, it seems as if it'll never find love again. The illustrations are gorgeous and really make me want to get my own copy! 
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet  
I shared this book with the students in my class and they were very interested in it. Nearly everyone has spent time on Thanksgiving morning watching the big parade on television. It's fascinating to learn how the traditional big balloons became the main attraction of this yearly spectacle. The illustrations are great, and help make this a great read aloud for this time of year!

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal (Illustrator)  
This is a fascinating nonfiction picture book that tells the story of all of the forest animals that live in the subnivean zone, "a network of small open spaces and tunnels between the snowpack and the ground. It's created when heat from the ground melts some of the snow next to it and leaves a layer of air just above the dirt and fallen leaves." While the narrator is skiing on top of the snow and looking at deer, foxes, and owls, there is a busy world of activity with beavers, mice, and other animals keeping warm and safe under the snow. Told in a kid-friendly style that ends with hot cocoa and toasted marshmallows, this would be an awesome book to have in my classroom library. 


Monday, November 14, 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.

It's been a heck of a week, that's for sure!  As the stress of the election outcome plays out and everyone deals with the emotional turmoil that has followed, we've also had two nights of Parent Teacher Conferences along with the business of teaching and learning. As I've said before, thank goodness for the awesome children's books that help calm us and the children around us. When it's difficult to find the words to reassure everyone that we will be safe and all right in our homes, classrooms, and schools, great kidlit is always there to help us. By the end of the week, I was thankful to take a moment to rest up, light the first fire of the season in my fireplace, and cook good comfort food to help us recharge so we can move forward. I hope everyone finds a moment to hug those that are close to them and find the peace and happiness that will give them the strength to spread that love outward to those that need it.  Here's what I've been reading this week:

This is a beautiful picture book that tells a story of a circle of life. A tiny plant begins to grow as neighboring insects live their lives nearby. They admire the growing shoot, build a fort in it, and experience happiness and sadness through the course of the season. Written in an invented language, readers really need to focus on context to determine what's happening. This would be great to share with students to talk about making inferences, determining theme, and developing vocabulary skills. 

This is a nice picture book to share with kids, as it has a great theme of acceptance of differences. Big Bob moves in next door to Little Bob, and it's clear from the beginning that these two children are very different from each other. They look different and they enjoy different activities and they have very different personalities. But when another new neighbor moves in, they realize that their differences are all right. 

This is a sweet picture book that tells the story of a little robot that was tossed out with the trash. When he becomes friends with a sparrow, he learns so much about the world. Eventually the season changes and it's time for the sparrow to fly south. The illustrations are beautiful. This would be a great picture book companion to The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. 

This nonfiction picture book written in verse is an awesome resource for fans of jazz or anyone who would just like to learn more about the great musicians of this time. This book tells the story Art Kane's famous 1958 photograph for Esquire magazine. A special issue was being planned focusing on American jazz. Kane decided to gather as many jazz musicians as he could to pose for this picture in front of a Harlem brownstone building. The rhythm of the poetry along with the beautiful illustrations make this book an excellent resource. You can almost hear the music as you're reading. I definitely want to get my own copy of this book!

I shared this book with my students as part of a mini lesson on determining the sequence of events in a nonfiction selection. The story is a fascinating account of Christopher Ludwick, a German baker who fed the American patriots and convinced the Hessians to switch sides during the Revolutionary War. Engaging text and humorous illustrations made this a good read aloud book.  

I am old enough to remember the blizzard of 1978. I was 8 years old and was thrilled to have the time off from school to play in the snow. I love the way the author of this book captures the excitement of the first snowflakes of the storm, the thrill of school closing early as the snow starts to pile up, and the coziness of drinking hot cocoa by the wood stove. There is excellent storytelling about his trip to the neighborhood grocery store with tennis rackets tied to his feet to get food and supplies for his neighbors and family. This would be a great book to have on the bookshelf when the snow starts to fly!  

This is a cute picture book that tells the story of a rabbit who loves the snow. Using a traditional Iroquois drum song, he is able to make it snow whenever he wants. He decides he wants snow in the summertime, so he can hop to the treetops easily. Young readers will enjoy reading what happens when an impatient rabbit gets too much of a good thing.

This is a good picture book to share with kids as it teaches an important lesson about bragging too much, and the effect it has on others. Tyler's neighbor, Jake, is constantly boasting about how much better he is at just about everything. Whenever Tyler shows Jake a basketball skill he has learned, or something new he has bought, Jake always has to throw shade by saying how much better he is. Eventually Tyler becomes resentful of Jake, and begins to avoid him. This book has a foreword with tips for parents and educators about helping children change their boastful ways from Michele Borja, EdD.  

This is a beautiful picture book that takes a look at two children, one black and one white, separated by a fence that runs through their town. They've been told by grownups to stay on their own sides, but neither of the children understand why they shouldn't play together. Eventually they sit together on top of the fence, and learn to see farther than anyone before them. This would be great to share with kids to discuss how racism has kept people apart, and ways we all can sit on top of the fence with each other.