Monday, April 3, 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.


As we turn the calendar from March to April, we can look forward to rainy days to bring those May flowers along. The first day of April was a dreary, wet, chilly day which was perfect for getting caught up on some of my reading. Here's what I've been reading:
Middle Grade Fiction

Death by Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart  
This middle grade realistic fiction novel is very popular in my classroom library. On one of the rare occasions that it wasn't riding around in one of my students' book boxes, I decided to borrow it myself for a few days. I can see why so many kids love this book.

The characters are very real. Benjamin is a seventh grader who has some heavy problems weighing on him. His father passed away recently from lung cancer, his overworked mother is behind on the rent for their apartment, and his elderly grandfather has moved in with him and his mom.
Benjamin is constantly entering contests and sweepstakes in the hopes of winning a big prize that could help with his mom's money troubles. Kids can definitely recognize themselves in these pages and feel like their experiences are being reflected and honored.

The book, while dealing with some pretty serious topics, is still able to make readers laugh. Benjamin is entering a contest to come up with a new slogan for Royal-T toilet paper, and so there is certainly enough potty humor to keep fourth and fifth graders (and myself) giggling.

When I return this copy to my classroom library, I'll definitely be book-talking it to kids who haven't picked it up yet.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt 
This middle grade novel did a wonderful job of playing with my emotions and holding on to my attention from the moment I started reading it. The story opens with twelve-year-old Carley Connors being driven from the hospital where she has been recovering from a brutal beating to a foster-family in an affluent Connecticut community. Upon her arrival at the Murphys' home, she is overwhelmed by the kind nurturing of Julie Murphy and her family that includes her firefighter husband and three energetic boys. As Carley comes to terms with what happened to her and the caring attention she receives from Mrs. Murphy, she learns how to be a part of a family that sticks together, no matter what happens.

I think this is great book to have in a middle grade classroom library. The characters are very authentic and kids are drawn to that. Carley is a complicated character, as she truly wants to be a part of this seemingly perfect family, but she pushes back against the kindness of Julie, because she can't let herself believe that she can ever truly be loved and happy.

As the story develops, there are ups and downs in the relationships between these characters. There are no simple solutions to the problems they have, and that makes the story "real". This story can certainly help young readers understand more about what foster-kids experience, and developing empathy is always a good thing. And it also has great messages about trust, relationships, and taking charge of one's life that can be uplifting and helpful for all readers.
Picture Books

Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin, Samantha Cotterill (Illustrations)  
This book is adorable! Charlotte wants a pet, so on her birthday her parents get her a big, pet rock. Obviously, she is somewhat disappointed, but she stays positive and makes the best of it. The illustrator did a wonderful job capturing the cozy, sweet scenes of all of the time she spends with her pet. There is a big surprise for Charlotte, her parents, and readers when it is discovered that Dennis, the rock, is far more of a pet than anyone realizes.

Triangle by Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen (Illustrations)  
This clever picture book from Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen begs the reader to come back for seconds and even thirds! We meet Triangle and learn all about him as he goes to play "a sneaky trick" on his friend, Square. It's a regular laugh riot for Triangle, but then things don't quite go the way he expected. Young readers will love the turnabout in this story and have fun debating whether the outcome was planned or not. 

Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, Brian Biggs (Illustrations)  
This fun picture book imagines the night life in a tall apartment building by going floor by floor - from the first floor where a little boy is trying to sleep to the top floor where an old man is trying to sleep. On the floors in between there are dancers, cheerleaders, sheep, and many other noisemakers. I like how each page is split between two floors, with one person wondering what's making the noise above his or her head and a sneak peek at the culprit. As I read each page, it was fun to look back at the front cover to see in the window of that floor's resident(s). As I was reading it, it took me back to my college days, when my dorm building was full of all kinds of noises above my head on any given night. This would definitely be fun to share with young children.

The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, Ana Aranda (Illustrations)  
This fun picture book tells the story of of three silly goats who are frightened of the chupacabra who is believed to eat goats. They grab a candelabra for light and set off to find him before he finds them. When they do, they're in store for several surprises as they learn about the chupacabra's favorite things to eat. The illustrations are very colorful and vibrant, and help make this book about challenging assumptions and overcoming fears one that young readers will enjoy.     

Round by Joyce Sidman  
I love this celebration of all things that are round! With simple, lyrical text and warm illustrations, this book really looks at and describes many round things in nature. The author considers why things are round and even has some informational text at the end about round things. This book could be a great mentor text to young writers trying to write descriptive pieces.

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner, Christopher Silas Neal (Illustrations)  
This nonfiction picture book is a great follow-up to Over and Under the Snow and Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. Simple, engaging text and beautifully rendered mixed media illustrations make this a fun row across a summertime pond with a mother and her child. As the two glide over the water, the youngster wants to know what's going on underneath the boat. The child, and readers, are treated to explanations of the busy world of swimming minnows, painted turtles, otters, and many other fascinating creatures. The author includes more detailed information about each animal at the end of the book and a nice list of books and websites, making this resource a great starting point for further research.  

Life on Mars by Jon Agee  
This a cute look at the possibilities of life on Mars with a great message of kindness. Our little astronaut lands a spaceship on Mars and sets out to find life. He's got a box of chocolate cupcakes to give away. Unfortunately, he doesn't find any sign of life (at first). Heading back to his spaceship, he realizes that he's lost on Mars. Young readers will enjoy seeing what our young astronaut does not. There could be some good opportunities to discuss inferences and authors' choices with this picture book. 

Great, Now We've Got Barbarians! by Jason Carter Eaton, Mark Fearing (Illustrations)  
This would be a fun book to share with anyone who is developing messy habits and is reluctant to help keep things neat and tidy. The young man in this story can't understand why his mom is so uptight about his cupcake crumbs, candy wrappers, and generally messy ways. Ants and mice are no big deal. But one day, barbarians start showing up around the house, and that's when it becomes obvious that messy ways can lead to some big problems. The humorous illustrations help make this a fun picture book to share with kids.

A Perfect Day by Lane Smith  
This book would be a terrific way to discuss point of view with young readers. The animals in Bert's backyard are all experiencing a perfect day, but in different ways and for different reasons. And who's having a perfect day changes for nearly everyone. This book is very clever, and I love the mixed media illustrations.  


  1. The cover of Death by Toilet Paper is amazing! It sounds like an interesting and funny story. Great picture books, there are definitely some I need to add to my list. Life on Mars is in the stack of books I still need to get to.

  2. So much fantastic reading I loved Death by Toilet Paper. I used it for one of my recent book club selections. I have been hearing so much about A Perfect Day's illustrations. Really looking forward to reading this one.

  3. I loved your two chapter books, both stories that grab the heart. You've shared some picture books that have from the library, but still haven't read them. I'll try to get to them soon. They sound good. Thanks, Jana!

  4. So...I want all of those picture books. "Great, Now We Have Barbarians" and "Round" are both new to me, and have been ordered from the library!

  5. Just requested Noisy Night at my library. Looking forward to reading it. I love Mac Barnett's picture books!

  6. What a great week of reading! I've read Triangle, but all the rest are new to me and I'm adding like mad to my TBR list. I really loved Death by Toilet Paper. One for the Murphys is one that gets passed around in my Children's Lit classes. Everyone falls in love with Lynda Mulally Hunt!

  7. No many great sounding books! I love One for the Murphys. Her other book, Fish in a Tree, is wonderful also.
    I really want to read Triangle, and I'm going to try to get Noisy Night from my library. Perfect Day and Over/Under are both titles I want to read as well.

    Happy reading this week :)

  8. Charlotte and the Rock looks really great. One of my teacher students reported about Death by Toilet Paper in my higher-degree class, and she shared how much she really enjoyed it.