Monday, November 13, 2017

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.

Last week my parents came to visit. We had a terrific time catching up and enjoyed relaxing and spending time together. I love it when they come to see us, as it makes it seem like it's not so long until we get to come and see them and the rest of the family during the holidays. We had pretty good weather. Then after they left, the temperatures plummeted and it was time to curl up by the fireplace with a cup of tea and my books. Here's what I've been reading the past week:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this middle grade historical fiction novel from NetGalley in exchange for this review. This book is a follow-up to Neri’s 2016 novel, Tru & Nelle. It continues the fictionalized account of Truman Capote’s and Harper Lee’s friendship during their childhood. I loved the first book, and I think this is a nice sequel.

While this is a historical fiction story, it was inspired by real people and real events that took place in the 1930s. Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee were childhood friends in Monroeville, Alabama. This novel opens a few years after the events of the first book, with a custody hearing in which Truman chooses to live with his mother and her husband in New York City. A few years later, Truman is sent to a military school from which he is running away – back to Alabama. Truman arrives in town a few days before Christmas, and it seems there is nothing but trouble from the moment he returns. And while Truman believes he is cursed, against the backdrop of the South during the Jim Crow era, he and those around him learn the true meaning of the grace and giving during the holiday season.

The skillful character development continues in this story, with a strain on Tru and Nelle’s relationship because they are growing up into young adults and are unsure how they are supposed to feel about each other. I think that young readers who enjoyed the first book, will enjoy this one as well. I do think that the second book is dependent on the first book – if a middle grade reader hasn’t read the first book, they probably won’t understand or appreciate the first book.

The Tales From Deckawoo Drive series’ books are such a treat, I devoured this latest story in one sitting. The Lincoln sisters are such different characters. In Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? Baby Lincoln took a necessary journey of self discovery. Now it’s Eugenia’s turn. A large, unexpected package is delivered to Eugenia one day, and rather than enjoying the surprise of it, she’s very annoyed by the intrusion into her neat and orderly world. When it turns out to be an accordion, she’s even more appalled. Unable to return it, readers will have a delightful time finding out how she deals with it. There is such a great opportunity to discuss growth mindset goals as the message of stepping outside of our comfort zones and finding the joy that lives in the hearts of every person is revealed in this fun tale.

Picture Books

The books of E.B. White were among my favorites when I was growing up, especially Charlotte’s Web. I would read those books over and over again. This wonderful picture book biography of one of my favorite authors is one that should be in every classroom library. Not only would it pair well with Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little, and Trumpet of the Swans, but it could be an inspiring mentor text for young writers to find their own stories in the world around them. The kid-friendly text, along with Lauren Castillo’s wonderful artwork, make this a terrific nonfiction resource.

This clever picture book shows young readers how much fun collaboration and cooperation can be. Sam is enjoying himself drawing until Eva comes along and wants to draw with him. The stories that are shown through their art are competing and topping each other “dueling banjo” style. Each change in the story is for the better in a way that reminds me of Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka, until it gets out of hand. Young readers will enjoy seeing if these two can work things out. The digital illustrations show the characters Sam and Eva in black and white and their artwork in color, which makes the story pop even more. This would be a fun book to have on any elementary bookshelf.

Getting ready for Christmas is one of the best times of the year, and young readers usually love the fun colorful books that celebrate that. This fun picture book by the author of Flora and the Flamingo shows the silly complications that can occur when T. Rex and his friends come to help you get ready for the holidays. Festive illustrations in warm, cheerful colors show the mayhem of big dinosaurs helping to make decorations, bake cookies, and hang stockings. The story kind of reminds me of the crazy mishaps in the Clifford the Big Red Dog series by Norman Bridwell.

Building forts is one of those activities that just about every kid has tried at least one time or another. So this charming picture book will definitely be one that kids can relate to. The poetic text and warm, inclusive illustrations take readers through each of the seasons by listing the fun things to do, and each season includes fort-building! This could be a terrific mentor text to help young writers describe the seasons in their own way.      

While lots of kids enjoy going to school, I think many of them don’t realize how fortunate they are to live in a country where their right to get an education is vigorously defended. Malala Yousafzai’s story is so inspiring and I think kids will enjoy it because she is young and relatable. This is a terrific story to help develop a growth mindset and also a great mentor text to help young writers make changes in the world around them with their own pens and pencils.

This picture book is a fun follow-up to Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book!). Snappsy likes peace and quiet, while Bert is ready to party all night with popcorn, pizza, and dancing. Snappsy insists that he wants to be alone in his house, but Bert has other plans. The humorous back-and-forth in the text, and the colorful comics-style illustrations are sure to make this a popular book in an elementary classroom library.   

Amelia Bedelia, the famous confused maid, lends a hand at school when the third grade Thanksgiving pageant is about to be canceled because all of the teachers are out sick. But there’s all sorts of mix-ups because Amelia misunderstands phrases like “dressing room” and “break a leg”. Amelia Bedelia books are usually popular with middle grade elementary kids, and so this would be a good one to include in a seasonal classroom collection.

This is a well researched and well written account of the first Thanksgiving. Beautiful oil paintings illustrate this nonfiction picture book that gives detailed information about the pilgrims of the Mayflower, the friendship of Squanto, and how they celebrated their survival and good fortune. This would be a good one to share with kids during the month of November.


Monday, November 6, 2017

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.

Another Halloween night has come and gone! Thankfully the weather was dry (although a bit chilly) for Trick-Or-Treat. We had a terrific time sitting out and watching the parade of costumed characters out in search of candy. We had quite a few visitors, but we still have quite a bit of candy left. At least we had the good sense to make sure the leftovers are all the ones we like! It's been a good week to curl up with my favorite candy and read some terrific books. Here's what I've been reading this week:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this middle grade historical fiction novel in exchange for this review. I had been very curious to read this title. The Cuban Revolution occurred long before I was born, and through my studies of history I have had a largely negative impression of the Castro regime and the totalitarian system inflicted on the Cuban people. So, I think it’s awesome when a book comes along that sets the geopolitical animosities aside for a moment, and reminds us that the people of Cuba are not so different from everyone else.

When Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, took over the Cuban government, they launched a campaign to end illiteracy in the country in a year. In 1961, Castro sent “literacy brigades” out into the mountainous, rural areas of Cuba to teach peasants to read and write. Because it was such a monumental task, the country called for young volunteers to go and live and work with families while teaching them to read and write.

This novel tells the story of Lora Diaz Llera, a brave thirteen-year-old girl who, against her parents’ wishes, volunteers to become a brigadista. It was a very dangerous mission, as they would be in remote areas with little protection or everyday comforts. Counter-revolutionaries roamed the wild areas determined to kill these brigadistas. This novel is very well written, and I was drawn into Lora’s world. Readers get to experience the beauty of the Cuban mountains along with the excitement of sharing the gift of literacy with people who desperately want it. The author also includes a note with some historical perspective along with a timeline of Cuba history for young readers unfamiliar with the events around this story.

This book could be a terrific way to introduce Cuban history with kids. This book would be best for older elementary or middle school kids because of the complexity of this time in history. Even so, teachers and parents may need to provide kids with background on the Cuban Revolution and the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this middle grade novel from NetGalley in exchange for this review. I really enjoyed reading this book. The novel shares the story of a family’s summer of healing and growth. Twelve-year-old Rose is very tall for her age, very mature, and a very talented cellist. Her twin brother, Thomas, is often mistaken for her younger brother. While Rose is busy preparing for an important musical competition, she and her brother help their neighbor, Mr. Pickering, with a giant pumpkin growing project in his back yard. When a freak accident occurs, everyone’s plans are altered, and the pumpkin project becomes even more important than ever.

I love how the pumpkin growing project brings together the folks in this Minneapolis/St. Paul neighborhood and allows everyone opportunities for the growth and healing that they need. This neighborhood has a rich diversity of culture and personality, and I think middle grade kids should read books that encourage tolerance and acceptance of all kinds of people and families. I also like that this novel introduces young people to music and classic movies that they might not ordinarily experience. I found myself finding Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach Suites for Cello on Spotify, so I could listen to them. I’m always pleased to find different music to enjoy. Also, the librarian encourages Rose and her friends to watch movie musicals such as The Music Man, Hello Dolly, and My Fair Lady. Again, young people might be inspired to check these out.

The book has great messages for middle grade students. The recurring theme of healing and repair is applied not only to Rose and her circumstances, but also to her friends and neighbors, who are dealing with their own issues. At over four hundred pages, the book may seem a bit long, especially to kids. But, the story is very engaging, and I found it to be a fairly quick read.

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this middle grade fiction book in exchange for this review. The Ratso brothers are certainly a pair that many elementary grade readers will be able to relate to. They decide that the annual Big City Carnival is so much fun that they want to make their own arcade in an empty lot in the neighborhood. They clean up the junk in the lot, make up a bunch of carnival games with their friends, and gather their old toys together to make prizes. Along the way they must overcome several fears, including their fear of the Haunted House next door to the empty lot.

This story reminds me of the summers when my sister and our friends would always try to make carnivals in our backyard. We would try to plan different games, prizes, and refreshments. But once we all put it together, there was no one else left in the neighborhood to attend. At any rate, kids will enjoy reading about this fun bunch of characters. The characters also learn important lessons about overcoming fears, treating each other kindly, and not starting rumors about each other.

Sometimes, what appears to be a bad situation turns out to be better than we imagine. In this clever picture book, a wolf gobbles up a mouse. Most of us would agree with the mouse that this is horrible. But then, the mouse meets a duck who was also swallowed by the wolf and he is living it up inside the wolf’s stomach. Things are not as bad as they seem, and one should make the best of things. Now for the wolf, the two creatures who have made themselves at home inside of him are causing him great pain and discomfort. But they prove themselves to be a great help to him when he finds himself in a tough situation. Sometimes we must accept the consequences of our actions and decisions. I would imagine that there could be some good conversations with young readers about cause and effect, and perspective. The illustrations, digitally colored in dark shades of mostly brown and gray, a reminiscent of Jon Klassen’s art in books like Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

When the cold winds start blowing and snow starts flying, all I want to do is curl up inside with my books and stay warm. Having big piles of cheese around would be nice, too. That’s all Lucy’s friends want to do. But Lucy loves putting her winter clothes on and playing outdoors. It’s fun, but it’s lonely. This fun story tells how Lucy figures out how to coax her friends outdoors. The cute, playful paintings do a wonderful job of supporting this winter, friendship book.

This is a hauntingly beautiful picture book that would be wonderful to share with young readers as the holidays approach. With an awesome message of the joy of opening doors and opening hearts to those who need kindness and love, this book tells the story of a little monkey and an organ grinder noticed by a little girl, Frances. Out the window of her warm, comfortable apartment she can see them standing on the street corner performing for coins. When she looks again on a cold, snowy night, she sees that they’re still there and this bothers her. The paintings that tell the story are stunning. This definitely belongs in any seasonal collection of books for classroom libraries or just to share and enjoy at home!

Monday, October 30, 2017

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, this week finally started to feel like we're leaving summer behind! The temperature plummeted, the furnace came on in our house, and we lit the season's first fire in the fireplace. And yikes, yesterday the season's first snowflakes fell! There wasn't anything to shovel, yet. But it was certainly a reminder, that winter is not far away. It was a good week to gather up my books, sit by the fire with a cup of tea, and read. Here's what I've been reading this past week:

Adult Fiction

Lately I’ve taken an interest in finding out more about my Swedish American ancestors. I’ve been looking at my family tree from, looking at family photos and other artifacts from the past, and conducting research into the way of life for the first-generation immigrants that traveled to America looking for a better life. During this research, I became aware of this memoir of life in a Swedish-American family in Chicago. Based on the description of this book, it looked like it could provide some good insights for me. This book certainly provided much for me to consider when thinking about my own family’s background, but it was also a compelling, heartbreaking, look at the struggles experienced by the author’s family members as they came to terms with the difficulties of surviving during the Great Depression, fitting into a society where many of the Swedish traditions weren’t appreciated, and personal tragedies related to poverty, alcoholism, divorce, and bullying. The writer’s style is conversational and personal, such that I felt like I was having a conversation with a friend or a family member about people that I knew. This is definitely an interesting read for anyone that is curious about life in Chicago in the past hundred years.

Picture Books

Learning how to graciously give and receive gifts is an important social skill, and this book uses Mr. Panda’s gift-giving spree to show that. Mr. Panda has decided to bestow gifts upon his friends, but each recipient has a complaint rather than a “thank you”. When it’s Lemur’s turn to receive a gift, young readers will appreciate his reaction and grace. This book might be a good one to share with young children coming into the season of gift-giving occasions and holidays. There are several opportunities to discuss why we give gifts and how we might feel if someone doesn’t like our gifts, and why it’s important to be gracious even if a gift isn’t perfect.

This picture book biography uses lyrical text and beautiful illustrations rendered in watercolor, oil pastel, china marker, printing ink, and newspaper collage to tell the life story of McKinley Morganfield, or Muddy Waters. Raised by sharecroppers in the Deep South, Muddy grew up playing the type of soulful guitar music that became known as the blues. He moved to Chicago in order to one day make recordings of this music. He didn’t have an easy time of it, and young readers will enjoy finding out how he eventually succeeded. There is an author’s note and a list of suggested records to listen to. I would suggest listening to his music along with sharing this book. It could be a great starting place for further research, or just a nice book to help develop a growth mindset.

This silly Halloween story is sure to get a giggle from young readers as they find out who’s going to win the scariest-cat contest at cat school. Splat seems to be afraid of everything and everyone, but he really wants to win the contest. Colorful, humorous illustrations help make this a fun book to share with kids as Halloween approaches.

A special day fishing on the lake will bring smiles and happy memories to the readers of this sweet picture book. The little girl and her father spend a lovely day looking for worms, fishing in a boat on the lake, and enjoying a wonderful meal with the rest of the family at home. Warm, inviting illustrations by Lauren Castillo help make this book a treat. It would also make a good mentor text to help kids write about their own special memories.

In the style of The Night Before Christmas, this picture book tells the story of a witch’s Halloween party in her haunted house. The rhyming text describes the creepy treats and scary decorations and what happens when the local children show up to collect treats. The digitally colored illustrations are very bold and detailed and will have young readers poring over the pages. If young children are particularly sensitive, you might want to be careful with this one, but I don’t think it’s too scary for most elementary-aged kids.

Based on the true story of Mary Ann Goodnight and her husband, Charles, this historical fiction picture book tells the story of a woman’s love for animals and her determination to save the buffalo from extinction in the late nineteenth century. After hunters kill all of the buffalo around her ranch in Texas, Molly starts raising orphan buffalo calves. Eventually she sends four of her animals to Yellowstone National Park to help start herds there. This would be a good book to share with kids, especially as part of a study of pioneer days and westward expansion. The illustrations by Lauren Castillo are beautiful and really help bring this story to life.

This silly picture book will get a lot of laughs, as nearly everyone can relate to having a stubborn case of hiccups. The skeleton tries everything to get rid of his hiccups, but it’s up to his friend to help him out. Hilarious illustrations will make this a fun one to share with young kids leading up to Halloween.

This fun Halloween picture book uses rhyming text and terrific illustrations to tell a great story about friends helping each other. The witch in the story is flying around on her broom and constantly losing important items: her hat, her hair bow, her wand. When friendly animals help her find her things she pays them back by letting them ride around on her broom. But when a catastrophe occurs and the witch is in trouble, her friends are there to help her. This would be a great one to share with young children as Halloween approaches.

This colorful nonfiction picture book, helps young readers understand how pumpkins grow, the history of pumpkins as they relate to Halloween and Thanksgiving, and how to carve pumpkins and dry the seeds. The information is written in an easy-to-understand manner and the illustrations help support the concepts. This would be a good book to share with young readers during the fall holiday season.

This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of Lydia Grace, who, during the Depression, moves to the city to live with her uncle while her father looks for work. Uncle Jim runs a bakery, and he never smiles. Lydia Grace loves to plant flowers, and while she stays with her uncle, all kinds of flowers and relationships bloom. The story is told through a series of letters that Lydia writes back home to her family. This would be a terrific mentor text for telling a story through letter writing. It would also be great for developing a growth mindset, as the little girl’s circumstances only seem to inspire her to work harder and grow more flowers. The illustrations, which received a Caldecott Honor, really support the story well, as the colors grow more vibrant as the flowers and relationships bloom. This is definitely a wonderful book for any bookshelf.

Monday, October 23, 2017

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.

Even though we've had a nice warm spell and beautiful, sunny weather, it's beginning to look a bit like Halloween in our neighborhood. One of the neighbors has set up a temporary graveyard. Other neighbors are starting to set out their nighttime decorations, too. I haven't decorated, but I have succumbed to the temptation to get some Halloween candy early. I'm sure it won't last, as I've been enjoying it while reading my books this week. 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 this review. This middle grade novel is an appealing blend of inspirational realistic fiction with a dash of science fiction. Alba has spent her entire life dealing with braces, crutches, and surgeries to correct a deformity in her left foot. Now she’s in sixth grade and nearly finished recovering from her final surgery. She wants nothing more than to be normal, and to her that means being able to participate in the big cross-country race at school. At the same time, she and her best friend, Levi, are pretty sure that there is an inter-galactic wormhole in the school librarian’s office. Between Alba’s dreams of running like the wind on her left foot, which she has nicknamed “Cleo” and the mystery of the librarian’s daily lunchtime disappearance, young readers will enjoy the quick-paced, engaging story in this book.

I think the character development in this book is pretty good. Alba’s growing frustration with the seemingly slow pace of her recovery and her impatience to get rid of the crutches and other symbols of her “abnormality” is realistic. Young readers will be able to relate to her feelings and her interactions with her friends and her mother.

The symbolism of the hummingbirds is woven throughout the story. The hummingbird is unable to walk, because its feet are too small. Imbedded in the novel is “The Story of the Hummingbird and the Fire”. The message of the story dovetails with the theme of this book, the hummingbird is not discouraged because of what it can’t do, it does what it can. “The Theory of Hummingbirds is to just be who you are and do the best you can…LOVE who you are and LOVE what you can do.”

This is a good book to share with middle grade students from grades 4 – 8. It has appeal for most students. It also has a terrific message for the development of a growth mindset.

Adult Fiction

This is a continuation of the Legacy series. Lia has gone to Italy to run the restaurant Ari left her. But she has to work very hard to free herself from the past and move on with her life.

Picture Books

This is an absolutely gorgeous, nearly-wordless picture book that reassures all readers that there is a beautiful world that is waiting to connect with us. The story of this hope for connection is told through a little girl who sings the song in her heart and takes increasingly brave steps outside of her box into the world outside of it. Little by little, she ventures out and then retreats; but each time there is more of a connection to keep her coming back for more. The illustrations are stunning, and in themselves are a song beckoning readers to connect with it and with each other. This is a great time for a book like this, that teaches us that, with songs in our hearts, there are so many wonderful ways for us to connect with goodness and beauty, rather than the sadness, anger, and despair that threaten to chase us all back into our boxes.

Good descriptive writing tells young readers about a special experience for the little girl that’s telling the story. The little girl wakes up early on this special day. She’s excited about her fancy blue shoes that match her dress perfectly, getting her done, riding in a limousine, and posing for photographs. Not even a trip on the red carpet can dampen her spirit. The vibrant illustrations give readers a glimpse into what it must be like to be famous. For younger readers, you might need to share some background about awards shows like the Academy Awards. This could be a great mentor text to help young writers with their own descriptions of special events in their own lives.

This fascinating nonfiction picture book uses engaging informational text and wonderful illustrations to tell readers of an amazing strategy used by the Allied Powers during the First World War. Because the Germans were ruthless in attacking ships with their U-boats (underwater boats), the Allies were desperate to find a way to protect ships. This book explains how military officials decided to paint the boats in crazy patterns and designs, making it more difficult for submarine sailors to determine the ships’ direction and speed. In addition to explaining this strategy, the author makes a terrific point about the importance of trying new things and not giving up, making this a great history book to demonstrate a growth mindset. This book would be a great nonfiction resource to have in a classroom library.

For those wishing to travel through time, this nonfiction picture book will be a real treat. Detailing a trip from the north rim to the south rim of The Grand Canyon, this book shows the different rock layers and different ecologies of each part. By studying the fossils and rock formations, one can see what the area was like millions of years ago. The engaging text takes readers on a journey with a father and daughter as they hike along, shone with gorgeous illustrations. This is definitely a wonderful nonfiction resource for any classroom library.

There is a lot of work to do to prepare a busy farm for winter. Using poetic language and beautiful paintings to illustrate this family’s different tasks to transition the farm for the season, this book gives young readers a wonderful glimpse into the life of a farm. Children growing up in cities and suburbs often know very little about farm life, and this book does a great job describing it. I love the way everyone in this family works together.

This clever picture book would be terrific to share with children who are starting to become curious about where they come from and wanting to know more about their distant relatives. The narrative starts at both ends of the book, designed like a photo album. The front of the book shows the lineage from the narrator’s father’s side - starting with great great grandparents. The back of the book shows the lineage from the narrator’s mother’s side. Both sides work their way toward the middle, where there is a picture of the entire family. The illustrations use a somewhat limited palette that make the artwork look like older photographs. This might be a good book to use to start a discussion of genealogy and maybe even inspire young readers to find out more about their own families.

This is a heartwarming story about being lost, and then being found. There’s a hungry, lonely cat that used to be loved by a little girl. Now everyone chases him away. But then a ferocious dog chases him right into a dinghy boat which winds up drifting out to sea during a storm. Young readers will enjoy finding out if the cat can find his way to a new home. The paintings that illustrate the book are beautiful, especially the pages that show the cat sailing on the water.

Nearly every child, at one time or another, decided to run away from home. Alfie has decided to leave because his mom wants to get rid of his favorite red shoes. When he declares his intentions, his mother helps him get his things together and puts an extra hug in the bag. He doesn’t get very far before he wants that hug. This story is very sweet, and all kids will definitely be able to relate. Young writers might even be inspired to write their own runaway stories. Lauren Castillo’s heartwarming illustrations help make this book extra special.

This is a silly picture book about a turn-of-the-century lady who tries to chase a naughty pig out of her flower bed. The result is a wild ride that takes her all through the city, creating a chaotic mess in its wake. The warm, colorful illustrations by Lauren Castillo make this book a treat to check out. This book would be a good way to share a cumulative tale with young readers and to illustrate cause and effect/chain of events in literature. 

This book is a terrific resource for anyone (not just kids) interested in learning more about their family history and/or starting a genealogy project. With easy-to-follow directions and illustrations, the author takes readers through the steps of tracing and organizing the pieces of family history (photos, letters, and other artifacts), interviewing relatives, and using the Internet to help with research.

When there are so many pumpkin treats around this time of year, it’s a good time to share books about where pumpkins come from. This book uses easy to read and understand text, along with welcoming, cheerful illustrations to show how pumpkins grow from seeds to the full grown fruits we know and love. There are nice diagrams explaining the science behind growing these plants, and there are directions for further activities to extend the book.

This is a pretty good picture book aimed at primary-aged children who are curious about their roots. A little girl is making a family tree, and as she creates each part, she explains who these people are and why they belong in the picture. I like the way the illustrations consistently show common physical traits throughout the book. For example, the narrator’s brother has an upturned mouth and so does her father, and you can see a bit of a resemblance in the father’s father, her grandfather. This might be a good book to share with children before starting a genealogy project.

With fun, rhyming text and kid-friendly, colorful illustrations, this book of Halloween poems would be a lot of fun to share with young readers. The book includes poems about pumpkins, trick-or-treating, ghosts, goblins, and witches. But the poems are not too scary for sensitive children. They might even help inspire some seasonal poems among young writers. This book would be great to include in poetry collections in elementary classroom libraries.         

With simple, rhyming text and colorful illustrations, this sweet picture book tells about the change of seasons from the tree’s point of view. The tree believes the other seasons are easy, but because of the crazy changes that take place in its leaves colors, fall is the most difficult. This might be a good companion book to Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. It also could serve as a good mentor text for young writers to write from a different point of view.