Monday, December 19, 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.


There's only two days left at school, and then we'll be on Winter Break. I'm really looking forward to spending the holidays with family and friends. And, of course, there will be time to relax and read! Winter took hold this past week, with Arctic temperatures, snow and ice. But somehow it was never bad enough to carve out a Snow Day at school. At any rate, I did get some reading in this week, mainly because it's too cold to do anything else!
Here's what I've been reading:

Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery (Lou Lou and Pea #1) by Jill Diamond, Lesley Vamos (Illustrations)  
I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. This is a good middle grade mystery book that features a couple of plucky girls that find themselves in the middle of a strange crime spree. Lou Lou is a budding horticulturist that is about to enter her beloved camellia in a contest. When her prized plant, Pinky, meets with a tragic end, the circumstances are very sketchy. In addition to her plant's demise, other unfortunate problems are popping up in town. Oddly enough, each time there is a new problem, it becomes featured in a mysterious addition to one of the city's famed murals. Lou Lou and Pea get to work trying to figure out the riddle of the mural additions to see if they can identify the responsible culprit in this rash of criminal mischief.

I like that the characters are smart, interesting young ladies that are both talented in their own unique ways. Lou Lou has a passion for gardening, and Pea is an aspiring artist. They are proud of their individual ways and don't fall in with the cliques in their neighborhood. These characters have the potential to inspire middle grade readers to pursue their own interests, rather than just go along with the mainstream.

The mystery in this story is interesting and even suspenseful at times. But at the same time, it's not scary or violent. The only death is the killing of Pinky, the plant. I think this book would be a nice addition to my classroom library.

The Poet's Dog by Patricia MacLachlan  
This book is just wonderful! It's perfect to read on a snowy day, as it tells the story of Teddy, an Irish wolfhound who rescues two children lost in the woods during a blizzard. Nickel and Flora had been riding in a car with their mother when they became stuck in a ditch. Their mother went to call for help and the children became frightened and abandoned the car. Teddy led the kids to the cabin of Sylvan, a poet who had been Teddy's owner. Children and poets can understand what the dog is saying. Sylvan was no longer in the cabin, but the kids and Teddy became great friends as they all helped each other ride out the winter storm. This is a heartwarming book that I would love to have in my classroom library and on my own bookshelf at home. 

Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton  
The sun is going down and everyone is getting sleepy. But Little Bear isn't tired yet. But there's no one to play with. The digitally created illustrations capture the twilight time in the forest beautifully and help make this a terrific bedtime story to share with young children.

Hotel Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins 
This is a fun follow-up to Mother Bruce. Our reluctant mother, Bruce, has accepted that he has to migrate to Miami annually with his four geese children. But when he returns home to discover that mice have taken over his house and turned it into a hotel, he has a whole new set of issues to make him grumpy. The illustrations are awesome and capture the grumpiness of Bruce in a cute and hilarious way.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, G. Brian Karas (Illustrations)  
This is a sweet picture book that tells the story of Sophia, a little girl, and her heartwarming relationship with her neighbor, Mrs. Goldman. Mrs. Goldman knits hats for everyone to help them stay warm. But Mrs. Goldman needs a hat to keep her own head warm. She won't make one herself because she's too busy making everyone else's hats. Sophia gets out the knitting bag she abandoned the year before and gets to work on her special gift for Mrs. Goldman. This would be a good companion book for the Caldecott Honor book, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett.

Imagine a City by Elise Hurst  
This whimsical picture book takes readers on a magical journey to a lovely world. Using highly detailed pen and ink drawings, we are invited to ride a train with bunnies and bears to a world where there are no edges and buses are flying fish. This is a great book to inspire the imagination! 

A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 by Matthew Olshan, Sophie Blackall (Illustrations)  
This is an interesting historical fiction picture book that is based on the first international aerial balloon flight. In 1785 Englishman Dr. John Jeffries and his pilot, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard flew across the English Channel. These two fellows didn't get along with each other, but when a mishap made the balloon lose altitude halfway across the channel, they were forced to work together as a team to save the mission. The illustrations definitely help tell the story. Parents and teachers should be aware that in order to lighten the load as much as possible, the two men get rid of everything (including their clothes) and then urinate over the side of the basket. While that has a basis in the historical accounts of this flight, I would feel reluctant to read this book aloud to my students because of this scene in the book. Maybe it would be better for more mature readers.   

A Bike Like Sergio's by Maribeth Boelts, Noah Z. Jones (Illustrations)  
This is a fantastic picture book that has a wonderful message about the dilemma of doing the right thing. Ruben would love to have a bicycle like his friend, Sergio. But money is tight in Ruben's family, and it isn't likely that he'll be able to get one any time soon. While he's waiting on line at the grocery store, a dollar bill falls out of a lady's purse. When he gets home, he realizes that it's actually a hundred dollar bill. That would be enough money to purchase the bike, but he knows this money is probably very important to the lady who lost it. This would be great to share with students and discuss what Ruben ought to do. It would also be great to discuss theme.  

How to Be a Hero by Florence Parry Heide, Chuck Groenink 
This is a very clever picture book that explores the criteria for successful heroism. Gideon is a very nice little boy with a very nice life. But he wants to be a hero, "with his name on the front page of the newspaper." I love that he turns to his favorite storybooks to find information on becoming a hero. He realizes that he needs to pay attention and be very observant, so he can be "at the right place at the right time." The details that are presented in the text and the illustrations will have readers smiling as the events around Gideon unfold. It will be fun to share this with students to see their reactions to it.

Charlotte's Very Own Dress by Trisha Krauss  
This is a fun picture book that tells the story of Charlotte, the youngest girl in a family with five older sisters. Being the youngest, Charlotte is used to receiving all of her sisters worn-out and outgrown toys. But when her parents plan a formal dress party, Charlotte becomes very upset at the parade of hand-me-down dresses. Young readers will love the kindness of Charlotte's sisters as they get to work to make her a special dress.  

The Day I Became a Bird by Ingrid Chabbert, Raúl Nieto Guridi (Illustrations)  
This is a sweet picture book that tells the story of a school boy experiencing first love. A young boy falls in love with Sylvia on the first day of school. She doesn't notice him at first because she's really into birds and spends all of her time looking at them or drawing them. So the boy dresses up like a bird, with interesting results. The illustrations, drawings created with pencil and Photoshop, are lovely. 

The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito, Julia Kuo  
As Yoshio walks around the busy city streets of Tokyo, it seems as if he's surrounded by sound: "Tokyo is like a symphony hall." A street musician tells him that her favorite sound is "ma" or the sound of silence. Yoshio spends the rest of the day searching all over for silence. It seems the more he looks for it, the more impossible it seems to find anywhere without any noise at all. When he finally finds it, it seems almost magical to him. This book really gives readers something to consider, and will have them considering the sounds and silences in their own lives. There is a terrific note from the author at the end, that shares her own experiences with the concepts of sound and silence. The illustrations, drawings that were scanned and colored digitally in Photoshop, really capture the beauty of a busy city, like Tokyo.

Christmas Tree Memories by Aliki  
This beautifully written illustrated picture book invites readers into one family's Christmas Eve tradition of sharing memories. The family gathers in front of the decorated tree before bedtime. There are ornaments older than the children, gift ornaments and homemade decorations. Each ornament has a special memory that goes with it. The reader gets the sense that all of these stories have been told many times before, but everyone enjoys them just the same. I love sharing this book with students and discussing their favorite holiday memories.  

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Brian Pinkney (Illustrator)  
Using accessible, kid-friendly text and beautiful illustrations, this nonfiction picture book is great to share with kids who want to learn more about the principles and celebrations of Kwanzaa. I shared this book with my students and it lead to interesting conversation about how these principles could be celebrated at home in our own families.

Grandma's Latkes by Malka Drucker, Eve Chwast (Illustrator)  
This holiday picture book takes us into Grandma's kitchen as she makes potato latkes and also explains the miracles of Hanukkah to Molly. I shared this book with my students, and it made us all hungry for these potato pancakes fried crispy in oil. If the book has your mouth watering, the author has included a recipe.  

Monday, December 12, 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.
This time of year is so much fun! As we get closer and closer to Winter Break, the children are getting crazy and the weather has actually become winter-like! On Saturday, we had an awesome time at our annual Shoes With Santa event.


Thanks to the generosity and wonderful volunteers from Rock City Church kids from our school received brand new shoes, pancakes, and pictures with Santa. Ohio State University cheerleaders were also on hand to make our celebration such a great success! 





With all of the fun and excitement of the past week, I did find time to read some picture books. I can't wait until break to have some time to try to get caught up on my growing stack of middle grade fiction books!  Anyway, here's what I've been reading: 

The Cat From Hunger Mountain by Ed Young

Special thanks to Monica Schroeder for sending a copy of this picture book to share with my BookRelays team. This is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book that shares an important lesson to young readers about what truly makes a rich and fulfilling life. Lord Cat of Hunger Mountain is very wealthy and so lives in the lap of luxury. His home is in the tallest pagoda designed specially for him. His fancy clothes are made by a famous designer with the finest gold threads and silk. And the top chef prepares his meals from the rich bounty of his own rice fields. For all that Lord Cat has, he's never satisfied and always wants more. When misfortune brings drought to the land, everyone leaves Lord Cat, and soon he has nothing to eat and no one to help him. In a journey to find food, he finds so much more and finally learns what true wealth really is. This is an important message in an age when there is so much around us that seems to make everyone unsatisfied and hungry for more stuff all the time. The illustrations, mixed-media collage, supports the text wonderfully. I'm looking forward to sharing this with students.

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe  
This fascinating picture book biography is sure to inspire the artist in many young readers. I was unfamiliar with the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat before I read this, but his love of drawing as a child, his dreams of becoming a famous artist one day, and his family story drew me in right away. The illustrations are wonderful. According to the author's note, he "used bits of New York City to create the artwork for this book." He "painted on richly textured pieces of found wood harvested from discarded Brooklyn Museum exhibit materials, the Dumpsters of Brooklyn brownstones, and the streets of Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side."

The Happiest Book Ever by Bob Shea  
This book would be terrific for anyone that's feeling a bit grumpy. The book desperately wants to be a really happy book and it invites readers to help. As readers are urged to think super happy thoughts, there's a grumpy-looking frog that is hanging around on every page and the book becomes frustrated. But as the book becomes impatient, we see who is really ruining the happy mood. The silly illustrations go great with the text and make it a book that would be really fun to share with young children. 

Henry & Leo by Pamela Zagarenski  
This beautiful, magical picture book is an awesome book to share with kids during the holiday season (or any time of year). Henry received Leo, a stuffed animal, as a gift when he was two. They have been best friends ever since. When Leo becomes lost during a family walk through the woods, Henry is inconsolable. Although the family tries to help find Leo, they all try to tell Henry that Leo isn't real. But Henry never gives up hope that Leo will find his way home. The illustrations are just wonderful and really add to the magic of this book. 

Bear’s Winter Party by Deborah Hodge, Lisa Cinar (Illustrations)  
This is a sweet picture book to share with young readers that tells a great story about making friends. Many of the forest animals avoid bear because he's so big and scary. Bear is lonesome and really wishes he could make some friends before he settles down for his long winter nap. He sends invitations for a winter party complete with yummy baked goods, cranberry tea, and a cozy fire. Children will enjoy reading to find out if these animals decide to give friendship with this big bear a chance. The illustrations are colorful and vibrant and the author includes a recipe for Bear's honey-ginger cookies (which is good, because the story might make you hungry). 

This is a really cute picture book that tells the story of two shy first graders who get some help building their friendship from a precocious woodchuck. When Chuck brings Woodchuck to Show-and-Tell, he is such a big hit that he's invited to come every day. His kind acts toward Caroline on behalf of Chuck bring these two together and might even inspire more kind acts among the young readers who enjoy this story.