Monday, November 7, 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 finally beginning to look and feel like fall around here. This is going to be a very busy week with Parent Teacher Conferences and, of course, the election. There's not going to be a lot of time for reading this week, but it's going to be important to make time for it. With this contentious election and all of the nasty advertisements and disagreements over candidates and positions, I know that I am going to need to take time to just sit quietly, focus on what is good (no matter what happens or who runs the country), and read things that help calm the racket. I'm glad that I already voted a few weeks ago, so I'm not going to have to worry about crowds or crazy traffic around my polling place. I saw an excellent reminder from Patricia Polacco on Facebook:

I hope that everyone keeps that in mind. No matter who wins, the people in this country need to find a way to let kindness come back into fashion. 

Here's what I've been reading:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a review. I've heard so many wonderful things about Finding Perfect that I was really excited to read it. I was drawn into the story almost immediately. The main character, Molly, is a girl that we've all known in our lives. She's the kind of girl who seems to have it all together: good grades, good friends, good looks. At first, the neatness and insistence on organization and cleanliness seem kind of quirky, but not beyond what you would expect. As the story develops, you see the situation slide from somewhat eccentric to troubling and unhealthy. The plot really pulls the reader into Molly's downward spiral so that one can begin to understand what an anxiety condition like OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) feels like.

I love that readers can learn so much from a book that is also very engaging and well written. You often hear people talk about OCD, and I had a vague notion about repetitive actions, like hand washing. But this book shows that this condition affects people from all walks of life and in all sorts of ways. I think it's great that this book is available to kids who might be experiencing some of the same worries as Molly, or know someone who does. And even if this condition hasn't affected you personally, this book will certainly help build empathy for people who need help. This is an awesome book, especially for kids in middle and high school.

Picture Books

Fans of I Don't Want To Be A Frog will have fun with this follow-up picture book. The funny little frog is having a conversation with his dad about growing bigger, as the father wants the youngster to eat his soup. The little frog has a long list of reasons for not wanting to get big, but finally decides that growing bigger doesn't necessarily mean growing up. The same bold, humorous illustrations from the first book make this another fun one for young readers to check out. 

This book is awesome in its simplicity: it uses simple, repetitive text to tell a story with a great message about sharing and friendship. Two turtles find a hat in the desert and it looks good on both of them. But they leave it behind, because there's only one. It wouldn't be right for one to have a hat and not the other. Young readers will appreciate that while one turtle was tempted to sneak back and take the hat, his friendship with the other turtle was way more important. The illustrations will seem comfortable and familiar to fans of Jon Klassen's other work.

This is a fun picture book that I'm sure will have wide appeal with my students. The escapades of Paxton C. Heymeyer will excite many kids. Paxton discovers that the magic word is not "please" but "alakazoomba". With that word he can have all the cookies he wants, plus all of the most fantastic things he can imagine. He also can order up walruses to chase away anyone who tries to ruin his fun. Young readers will have so much fun imagining what they would do with the magic word! The colorful, humorous illustrations really make this an awesome book to share with kids.  

This is a very interesting nonfiction picture book that tells about the invention of the Slinky. I'm not even sure if kids play with Slinkys anymore today, but I know I played with them on the basement steps and the playground slides. The writing style is very accessible to kids, and I love great inventions that came about by accident. The story also shares how hard it was to get stores to sell the toy. The book has great messages about ingenuity, hard work, and perseverance. The diorama illustrations are awesome and help make this book one I'd like to have in my classroom library.  

This is a great nonfiction picture book biography that tells readers about the life of George Gershwin and how he developed as a musician to create famous pieces, such as Rhapsody In Blue. This very well researched book pulls readers into the jazz scene of the 1920s and the ideas in George's head to create sounds and rhythms that had never been used before in popular music. The colorful and creative hand lettering along with the beautiful paintings add to the creative spirit of the book. Reading it really put me in the mood to go back and explore some of the famous songs that George and his brother, Ira, created!

This is a sweet picture book that will allow young readers to enjoy all the fun of a winter day playing in the snow. When Pedro comes to visit his cousins he experiences the first snowy day of his life. At first, he doesn't like it because it's too cold. But after the fun of snow angels, sledding, and snowballs he's definitely a fan of the cold, white stuff! Lovely, whimsical artwork make this a nice book to share with little kids. 

This is a gorgeous wordless picture book that tells a story of kindness. A fox is cold and lost on a winter night. Everyone in the village chases her away. She enters a greenhouse to get out of the cold weather. A child sees her and shows her kindness which is rewarded with something beautiful.  

Even though I'm not looking forward to winter weather at all, I loved this sweet story about a little boy eagerly awaiting a big snow storm. David is so excited about the prospect of a big snow, that all through the day he checks on the weather. He tries to help his mom make cookies, clean bathrooms, and make beds for the holidays, but he is driven to distraction by the snow. I love the illustrations in this book, especially the progress of the falling snow over the course of the day in David's yard. 

Even though it reached 80 degrees today, one of these days it'll be time for the nasty white stuff to start falling out of the sky. This is a great nonfiction resource to share with young readers who are interested in how snow crystals form. Stunning photography of magnified snow crystals help make this book an inspiration to take a closer look at the science behind snow.

I shared this awesome historical fiction picture book with my students the day after the Cubs won the World Series. The youngster in the story, Oliver, visits his grandfather's nostalgia shop across the street from Wrigley Field. Upon discovering a Cubs uniform from the 1940s, he listens as his grandfather tells the story of the day he got to practice with the Cubs and how close he got to realizing his dreams of a career in the Big Leagues. We had a great discussion of the wonderful messages in this book about the importance of everyone involved in the game of baseball and in life, and how we deal with adversity. The brown and white illustrations are awesome and helped make this book a big hit with my students. 



  1. Thanks for your thoughtful intro & that lovely visual about being kind! It's needed very much I think, today, tomorrow, & beyond I'm sure. I love all the snow books, especially considering we still have had warmest of days and no snow in sight except in the mountains. I have First Snow, still waiting to read it! Thanks for I Don't Want To Be Big. My youngest granddaughter continues to say she doesn't want to grow up, will love this book I think! Happy reading this week, Jana.

  2. Like Linda B, I was struck by the Be Kind book. Here in Canada, we are worried about what is going to happen this week. You are right that we need to keep reading no matter what. I'm planning on finishing March of the Suffragettes!

  3. Too many snow books, I am dreading its arrival! I am loving these warm days :)
    So glad you enjoyed Finding Perfect. I adore the book and the author! We're sharing it tomorrow with our 4th grade students who are in Mock Newbery. Can't wait to start talking to them about it!

  4. Another fantastic selection of books, as usual!! I echo Cheriee - we Canadians can only sit on our hands and worry, waiting to see what you guys get up to!

    Finding Perfect sounds powerful - mental illness is very prevalent in my family, and I've had two cousins diagnosed with OCD - it's so important that kids realize that they are more than their conditions, and that having a condition doesn't make them a bad person or a weak person - it's not their fault, and it doesn't make them anything less than amazing. So glad to see such diversity and variety coming out in MG fiction.

  5. Oooh! I need to read that George Gershiwn book! I can't pass up a picture book bio about a composer I admire! :)

  6. "Be kind to one another." Excellent advice, and advice that is encapsulated in most picture books, too. I think I need a hefty dose of picture books today.