Monday, January 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.


It's been a busy week, but I still was blessed with time to get in some reading. Hopefully you had a great reading week, too.

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle, Edel Rodriguez (Illustrations)  
This is a fascinating childhood memoir written in verse of Margarita Engle, a Cuban-American poet and novelist. She relates how her American father and Cuban mother met and fell in love. As a child, the family traveled back and forth as a matter of course between the beautiful island neighbor and her American home in California. She often felt torn between the two countries, like she didn't entirely belong to either. When the revolution in Cuba changed everything, it had a profound effect on her. The Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis not only closed the door on the ability to travel back and forth, but made her question the policies and ideologies that kept neighbors from talking to each other and solving problems peacefully. This would be a good book to share as part of a study on Cuba and America's relationship with it. It also may help understand some of the larger issues of nationalism and immigration that are relevant now.

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Steve Johnson (Illustrations), Lou Fancher (Illustrations)  
This biographical tribute poem shares the inspiring life story of Ezra Jack Keats. Keats won the Caldecott Medal in 1963 for The Snowy Day, a story with an urban setting featuring an African American main character. This well researched narrative shares the difficult life of this son of Polish immigrants during a time when jobs and money were difficult to get and discrimination against Jews made his circumstances even more painful. The illustrations do a wonderful job of incorporating the collage techniques that made Keats' work special. I would definitely love to get my own copy of this book! 

Cat on the Bus by Aram Kim 
With spare text and lovely illustrations, this picture book tells the story of a homeless cat who dashes on to a city bus. He's befriended by a kind grandfather who takes the cat home. This story makes great use of onomatopoeia and would be fun to share in the classroom. 

Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers' Journey from Slave to Artist by Barbara Herkert  
This a well-illustrated and interesting picture book biography of Harriet Powers. Born into slavery, Harriet learned how to sew and tell stories through quilts. When slavery ended, her quilt-making became a skill that paid her well and caught the attention of many people. Interesting facts about the life and times of this artist are scattered in quilt blocks across the pages. End notes and a resource list make this book a good starting point for further research. 

President Taft Is Stuck in the Bath by Mac Barnett, Chris Van Dusen (Illustrations)  
This funny picture book tells the story of President William Howard Taft getting stuck in the bathtub in the White House. Hilarious illustrations show some of the most important members of his cabinet standing around the tub trying to figure out how to get him out. There is a list of fun facts about President Taft and bathtubs in the back of the book. 

Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown, John Parra (Illustrator)  
This is a fascinating book about a young girl who lives in a remote village where she doesn't have access to school or books. She has one book that she reads over and over again. All of that changes when she and her neighbors get a visit from a man leading two burros carrying library books on their backs. Based on the story of a real-life librarian, Luis Soriano Bohorquez, this book tells the story of a traveling library providing books to people who live in rural Colombia. This book is written in English and Spanish. 

The Animal Hedge by Paul Fleischman, Bagram Ibatoulline (Illustrator)  
This is a beautiful story about following your heart. A farmer has three sons and a barnyard full of animals. He loves the animals with all his heart and taking care of them is his greatest joy. But times get tough and he has to sell the animals and the farm. He and his sons move to a small house with a hedge all around it. Soon though this family sees magic in these hedges, as they are able to clip it and shape into their hearts' desires. Readers who enjoyed The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers will love this narrative and it's wonderfully painted illustrations. 

Nocturne by Jane Yolen, Anne Hunter (Illustrator)  
This book would be a terrific one to share with young readers at bedtime. A parent and a child take a walk in to the nighttime world around their house and get to see the wonderful bits of life that they never get to see during the day. Beautiful, poetic language along with stunning paintings really make this book something to savor. In the end the child snuggles into bed with the dog sleeping on a rug beside it, to drift off too sleep dreaming about the wonders of the night. 

Letting Swift River Go by Jane Yolen, Barbara Cooney (Illustrator)  
This beautiful picture book tells the story of one girl's memories of the town where she was raised. Many years ago, the Swift River communities of western Massachusetts were bought by the government and flooded in order to form the Quabbin Reservoir. Sally Jane shares her happy childhood memories and her experiences once the purchase was made to quench the powerful thirst of Boston, many miles away. The illustrations complement the narrative perfectly. This book could be a great way to discuss how things change over time and the importance of preserving memories. 

The Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg  
This Caldecott Honor book is one that I have not read until now. I really enjoyed it, as I have all of Chris Van Allsburg' books. Alan Mitz gets quite an adventure when he is asked to take care of Fritz, Miss Hester's dog. He's somewhat of a naughty animal, and runs away from Alan, into the forbidden garden of Abdul Gasazi, a retired magician. With beautiful black and white drawings, this story has Alan and readers wondering what really happened. I'm sure this could be used to start some wonderful discussions with young readers. 



  1. Thanks for reminding me about Sewing Stories! I'll have to dust that one off today and see if I can get someone to read it.

  2. A Poem for Peter is beautiful to read and look at. The President Taft books sounds funny. It's by Mac Barnett, I'm thinking it's got to be great.

  3. I love all Margareta Engle's books, and you're right, Enchanted Air would make a great one to read today. I know many of the books you shared, but thanks especially for sharing The Animal Hedge. I love Paul Fleischman's stories, and this one is new. Thanks, Jana.

  4. Another week of great picture books! I love the artwork of Vanessa Brantley-Newton. I can identify her illustrations right away.

  5. You had a great reading week Jana. I loved Enchanted Air. I also read Cat on the Bus this week. It is adorable.

  6. This is the second time I've seen Cat on the Bus this week - it's just calling to me!

  7. Enchanted Air was such a beautiful book. One of my favorite books I read last year.

  8. I love Bagram Ibatoulline's art - I would definitely try to find The Animal Hedge. Margarita Engle is simply a gem. - Myra from GatheringBooks

  9. I love Enchanted Air! Actually, I love everything Engle writes--she is such a beautiful poet. I haven't read the others, except President Taft, but I definitely want to get to Cat and Peter :)

    Happy reading this week!