Monday, February 27, 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.


What a strange week it's been in central Ohio. We've had record-breaking high temperatures. The weather felt like spring, and the kids had a great time playing outside at recess. Then the storms rolled in at the end of the week, and now we're back to winter temperatures again. The extended forecast suggests that the temperatures are going back up and then down and then up, etc. It's hard to know how to dress for this weather! Anyway, here is the round-up of picture books that I managed to read this week:

Animal Ark: Celebrating Our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures by Kwame Alexander, Joel Sartore (Photographs)  
This is a beautiful collaborative book that takes the stunning photography of Joel Sartore and puts it together with the poetry of Kwame Alexander to make a celebration of all animals in our world. Sartore took great care to make sure that all the animals were photographed so that they all looked equally impressive; small animals were captured close-up so that they looked big, and all animals' were shown in all their fascinating detail. The hope was to present a work that would inspire all readers to take steps to save the endangered species in our world. I know that this book will be very popular in all schools and libraries. 

Bear Likes Jam by Ciara Gavin  
This is an adorable picture book from the author of Bear Is Not Tired. Bear learns that jam tastes wonderful, and it becomes one of his favorite things. He eats jam all of the time to the exclusion of everything else. Mama Duck firmly tells him that he'll get no more jam until he balances his diet with vegetables. Picky eaters will definitely appreciate Bear's problem, and caregivers might learn some fun ways to get kids to eat their vegetables. Warm, friendly illustrations rendered in watercolor, will draw young readers in, and make this a favorite read aloud.

What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward, Susie Ghahremani (Illustrator)  
This is a great book to have around as folks star planning and planting their gardens. This rhyming picture book looks at all the different types of seeds that grow into backyard trees and plants. The beautifully painted illustrations draw the reader in to the beauty of a garden and stretches the fun with fold-out pages. 

Dormouse Dreams by Karma Wilson 
This is a cute picture book about a hibernating dormouse who spends his winter snoring and dreaming about playing with his friend in the spring. The rhyming text, along with the adorable illustrations, make this a great book to share at bedtime.  

Mickey Mantle: The Commerce Comet by Jonah Winter  
This beautifully illustrated picture book biography tells readers the inspirational story of Mickey Mantle's life in baseball. An unhealthy child growing up, Mantle overcame his physical barriers to become a phenomenal baseball player. Although he had to work very hard, and sometimes was far from perfect, he learned to power through adversity. This book has a great message of perseverance to pass on to young readers. 

I Do Not Like Al's Hat by Erin McGill  
This is kind of a fun story about a magician's rabbit who's fed up with being pulled out of a hat by his ears. After sitting down and thinking through his options, he answers an ad to be Sophie's pet and best friend. The choice is clear, and the reader learns that sometimes it's best to make a change in life when your current situation isn't working for you. Cut paper collage illustrations help make this a cute picture book. 
North, South, East, West by Margaret Wise Brown, Greg Pizzoli (Illustrations)  
A little bird is learning to fly, and asks her mother in which direction should she go - north, south, east or west. When she visits north, south, and west, she comes to the conclusion that her home is in the east and she wants to go back where she belongs. This heartwarming book by classic children's author, Margaret Wise Brown, has awesome digital illustrations by Greg Pizzoli.  

Play with Me! by Michelle Lee  
This picture book would be terrific to share with young readers who are still figuring out how to get along together and play in a way that makes everyone happy. Pip wants to play with Nico, and suggests all sorts of fun ideas. Nico isn't interested in any of Pip's ideas, because he just wants to play his cello. This book could generate some good discussions, as kids read to find out how they can play together. The watercolor and ink illustrations are very sweet and cheerful, and help make this a great book for a primary bookshelf.  

Caterpillar Dreams by Clive McFarland  
This sweet picture book has a great message for young readers. Henri is a little caterpillar that longs to see the world. Adventuring beyond the walls of his garden seems to be impossible. But with persistence and help from his friends, Henri ventures out and chases his dream of flying. Uplifting text along with lovely illustrations make this a great book to share with young children. 

Nope by Drew Sheneman  
This nearly wordless picture book tells the story of a baby bird faced with the terror of making its first flight from the nest. The baby looks down from the nest and imagines all of the horrible things that could happen if he falls. The mother practices some tough love to get the young one to take flight. It would be interesting to share this book with young readers to see what they infer from the awesome illustrations. It also could serve as great inspiration to anyone who's afraid to try something new.  

When You're Feeling Sick by Coy Bowles  
This is the time of year when many kids (and teachers) get sick. This is a silly picture book with bright, funny illustrations that would be great to share with a young reader that isn't feeling well. The author reaches back into some of his own difficult experiences of attempting to bring comfort and cheer to friends and loved ones who were recovering from health setbacks. Sometimes readers just need something that can bring some laughs and relaxation. 

Monday, February 20, 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.


What beautiful weather for a 3-day weekend! Here in central Ohio, we have received a nice break from the usual mid-February winter weather. With temperatures in the upper 60s, I happily dusted off my deck chair and spent quite a bit of time reading outside. Hope you've enjoyed this President's Day holiday weekend, as well. Here's what I've been reading this past week:
Middle Grade Fiction

Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar 
I had the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar that was generously shared with my Book Relays group. I thought the book was amazing and I feel like I'm quite lucky to have been able to read it. This novel shares the struggle of recovery after Ruthie Mizrahi was seriously injured in a car accident.

It was 1966 and Ruthie's family had recently moved to New York as refugees from Cuba. As difficult as it was for the family to get ahead without knowing much English and having to become accustomed to the fast-paced lifestyle of America, it became even more challenging when the family was in a car accident that left Ruthie in a body cast and confined to her bed for nearly a year.

Suddenly Ruthie was as helpless as a baby and had to rely on help from her family for all of her needs, including going to the bathroom. As time dragged on for her, not only did her leg muscles atrophy, but her self-confidence and independence did as well. Not only would she have to learn to walk again, she would need to build the courage to go back out into the world again.

I loved the character development in this novel as everyone in the family learned to face fears and challenges. Ruthie's mother was very sad to have left her home in Cuba, to face a scary and confusing world in New York. She relied on Ruthie to help her navigate the English-speaking world of places like the supermarket. Once Ruthie was injured, her mother not only became an around-the-clock caregiver, but she also was on her own to make sense of the world. Ruthie, who at the beginning of the book was the hopscotch queen of Queens, becomes a quiet book lover and artist.

I also love the diversity of backgrounds and ideas presented in this book. As Ruthie was recovering and spending so much time examining her beliefs, she began writing letters and prayers to three different gods/angels. She also has friends of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. But the feelings and experiences these kids display will certainly be relatable to readers from all walks of life. So many kids will be able to recognize themselves in this story.

This book has some terrific themes that will help generate great discussions with young readers. At one point, Ruthie is asked by her teacher to write about what freedom means to her. Freedom has so many different dimensions in this story. Ruthie's family came to America looking for freedom. Ruthie longs for the freedom to get up and walk again. But freedom can be scary, too. And I think all readers can recognize a little bit of Ruthie in themselves when the world seems a little bit too big and challenging. We all have days when we want to stay in our safe beds, instead of meeting the day and moving forward.

This book will be available in April. I can't wait to get my own copy. This book would be a great addition to any middle grade classroom library.
Picture Books

Chee-Kee: A Panda in Bearland by Sujean Rim 
This is a good picture book to share with young readers who wish to learn more about the immigrant experience. Chee-Kee and his family have sailed across the ocean from a foreign island to make their new home in Bearland. While his family has brought with them their own traditions, they also are embracing new ways of doing things. Chee-Kee is reluctant to try new ways, and feels like he'll never feel at home. The text and illustrations are very kid-friendly, making this a good one to have on primary bookshelves. 

Tony by Ed Galing, Erin E. Stead (Illustrations)  
This beautifully illustrated picture book uses simple text to tell the story of a friendship that develops between a boy, a horse, and a milk delivery driver. It would be interesting to see how young readers relate to this story, as we don't have home milk delivery service anymore, by truck or by horse. I think all kids can relate to the love of an animal, so I'm sure this would be a good book to have in classroom and school libraries.

Dill & Bizzy: Opposite Day by Nora Ericson, Lisa Ericson (Illustrations)  
This fun picture book tells the story of two strange birds who are best friends. When one of them declares that the day is Opposite Day, all sorts of crazy things happen. Young readers will giggle and have fun imagining their own Opposite Day. This would be a great book to help with a study of opposites.  

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson  
This picture book biography presents a fascinating account of The Children's March for civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. This book is one that will make an impression on young readers, as there aren't a lot of stories about kids their age participating in the marches and protests and being sent to jail. The text is kid-friendly along with beautiful illustrations, making it a super resource for classroom libraries. 

Rabbit Magic by Meg McLaren  
This is a fun picture book in which a magic trick goes wrong and Houdini, the bunny assistant, switches places with the headlining magician. Houdini enjoys the spotlight, but comes to realize that things need to go back to the way they're supposed to be. Awesome illustrations and a fun story loaded with bunny rabbits make this a terrific book to have on the bookshelf. 

Spunky Little Monkey by Bill Martin Jr., Michael Sampson, Brian Won (Illustrations)  
Cute book with the rhythm and rhyme that's made the books by Bill Martin, Jr. so popular. Fun digital illustrations will make this an awesome read aloud for young children. 

Monday, February 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.


Hope everybody has a nice Valentine's Day tomorrow filled with love and friendship! I can't think of a better way to spend it, than snuggling up with someone you love and reading a good book! Here are the awesome books I read last week: 

Middle Grade Fiction

Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang by Victoria J. Coe

Fenway, his family and friends are back in this awesome sequel to Fenway and Hattie. Now, not only are squirrels hanging around in the Dog Park behind the family's house, but now there's a gang of evil bunnies hanging around the neighborhood wreaking havoc on Food Lady's vegetable garden. To Fenway's dismay, not only are there bunnies running amok in the yard, but now his beloved small human, Hattie has brought one home in a cage and is paying lots of attention to it. Fans of this ornery Jack Russell terrier will have so much fun reading to find out what Fenway and his friends, Goldie and Patches, will do to put and end to the evil bunny menace and restore peace and harmony to the Dog Park yard once more.

I loved this book even more than the first one. I liked that through Fenway's eyes we get to go deeper into Hattie's personality. Middle grade readers will definitely be able to relate to the challenges she faces in dealing with her parents' expectations, her neighborhood friends, and keeping feisty Fenway under control.

My students are excited to continue the Fenway story. I'm anxious to share it with them because it has the same opportunities to discuss point of view and practice inferencing skills. Readers will have to piece together the clues that Fenway is able to describe in order to figure out why Hattie has brought home a bunny in a cage, why Hattie is working so hard to please her parents, and the source of tension between Hattie and her friends.

I also truly appreciate the kindness of the author for mentioning my name in the acknowledgements. My students were over the moon excited to see that when I showed it to them! Authors like Victoria Coe are truly a special gift to young readers!
Picture Books

The Green Umbrella by Jackie AzĂșa Kramer, Maral Sassouni (illustrator)  
This wonderful picture book shares a story with a terrific message about friendship and sharing. The elephant is taking a walk in the rain with his green umbrella. Along the way he meets several other animals claiming that the umbrella is theirs. These animals all have unique ways that the umbrella is important to them, and stories about their adventures. While the elephant is sure that the umbrella belongs to him, he is glad to share it with all of them. I love all of the imaginative ways that this umbrella could be used: as a boat, a tent, a flying machine, and many more. The illustrations use bright colors and whimsical details to make readers feel like they belong in this growing group of friends. This would be a great addition to any library.

Watersong by Tim McCanna, Richard Smythe (Illustrations)  
With a playful arrangement of words and beautifully rendered watercolor illustrations, this picture book takes a music-like look at a rainstorm through the eyes of a fox in the woods. Starting with a just a few drops, and growing into a strong storm, the reader can experience the beautiful arrangement of the symphony of water, and come away with a whole new way to look at rainy weather.  

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne by Carole Boston Weatherford, Elizabeth Zunon (Illustrations)  
As a child of the 1970s, I remember watching Lena Horne singing with Kermit the Frog on Sesame Street. Whenever she would appear on television, she always had the most engaging smile and beautiful singing voice. This picture book biography, takes readers on a journey through her early years and her determination to fight against racial injustices wherever she encountered them. This book is so well-researched and beautifully illustrated that I think that it would be a great resource to have on the bookshelf. For young readers who weren't born before she passed in 2010, this book would be an excellent starting point for further research. 

I Am Jim Henson by Brad Meltzer, Christopher Eliopoulos (Illustrations)  
I grew up watching Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, so I was really happy to read this book. This picture book biography presents fascinating information about the life of Jim Henson. I love how the the author highlights the ways that Henson was encouraged to read and create by his grandparents. Through hard work and creativity, he was able to create characters and programs that celebrated people getting along together and helping each other. There's a lot to inspire the kids of today to find ways to come together, despite people's differences. The illustrations are somewhat odd, as Henson as a child is drawn as a short figure with a full beard. But, I think that adds to the charm of this book. 

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling by Timothy Basil Ering  
This is a sweet story about a little duck whose egg hatched in a violin case lost in the sea after a terrible storm. Captain Alfred's boat full of ducks and his dog were headed home when an unexpected storm hit. The duck was born all alone with only the captain's violin floating nearby. When the duck loves the instrument and starts making music with it, all sorts of wonderful things happen. Beautiful acrylic paintings do an awesome job of helping to tell this beautiful story of love, hope, and music. 

The Bear Who Wasn't There by LeUyen Pham  
This is a fun book that will have readers searching all through the book for a bear who hasn't shown up. There is a duck with a great book idea that would like readers' attention, and he tricks readers and gives miscues so that folks will pay attention to him. The author makes an appearance to try to help readers find the bear, so what will it take to locate him? The author breaks down the third wall to pull readers into the book, and I'm sure this would be awesome to read aloud to young children.