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. 



  1. Gertie's Leap to Greatness is on my list this week, too. I had been wanting to read it since I heard so many great things about it and then I got a copy at a conference. It made me chuckle a lot. I have never read Rules, but I really should. I've read another book by Cynthia Lord and enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I am still trying to find a copy of Journey and Well-Mannered Wolf. They both look wonderful.

  3. Great books- including Gertie, which I also enjoyed. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Quite a beautiful list, Jana. I enjoyed Gertie very much, read Rules with several groups, terrific for discussion. I've read some of the picture books, but still need to find others. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. I really enjoyed your list. I listened to Gertie on audio and enjoyed it very much. I look forward to sharing some of these titles at our library. Rules and The Scourge are on my to-read list now too.

  6. To Burp or Not to Burp sounds like a real winner - I was fascinated by Mary Roach's "Packing for Mars", and I'm sure the kids in my library will definitely be giggling (and learning!) with this one.

  7. I really want to read Willa, but fear my students will be less interested. They don't even read Laura Ingalls Wilder. Oh, well.

  8. Gerties Leap is on my list, too. What a great picture book collection you've shared - thank you!

  9. That is a whole lot of books! Awesome. I just put an order on Esquivel - I love Tonatiuh's books.