Monday, May 22, 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.


Summer's getting closer and closer. The days of relaxing on the deck with good books to read are almost at hand. Just a few more field trips, parties, and fun times at school to go!
In the midst of completing grade cards and testing, I have managed to get some good reading accomplished. Here's what I've been reading this week:
Middle Grade Fiction

Bubbles by Abby Cooper 
Middle grade readers will definitely be able to relate to Sophie, a twelve year old dealing with the stress of her mom's depression after a breakup with a longtime boyfriend, homework, and the complicated social world of middle school. On top of all that, she's started seeing thought bubbles appear over people's heads and reading what's going on in their minds. It's confusing because these thoughts don't always match outward appearances. The author does a great job capturing the dramatic self-absorption that is typical of adolescent girls, so I believe this book will resonate with these readers. There are some good messages about honesty, friendship, and standing up for yourself that make this a positive chapter book for kids in grades 5 and up. 
Expected publication: July 18th 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)  
The House of Power (Atherton #1) by Patrick Carman 
I enjoyed this book that I purchased inexpensively for my Kindle reader. The plot development moves along quickly and draws readers in quickly. Readers are brought into the world of Atherton, created by an eccentric scientist after Earth (the Dark Planet) has been loused up by wars and pollution. Atherton was designed with three levels: Tabletop is in the middle and is where Edgar, the main character works in a fig grove; the Highlands tower above Tabletop and is where the leaders of the planet reside and control the flow of all water downward; and the Flatlands are at the bottom and nothing but big, nasty Cleaners live there. The levels are falling into each other, and soon the world will be flat. The people of each level must figure out how to deal with each other in a totally new way, now that they will be forced to see eye to eye. There are some interesting themes of class struggle, power differentials, and the meaning of friendship. I would've given four stars, but it annoyed me that the book ends abruptly, without any resolution. I realize that's how series books work, but you can conclude one episode and still make readers want more from future installments. Ending the book this way is designed to compel the reader to get the next book in order to get some sense of closure. Manipulation of that sort peeves me a bit, and makes me less likely to read further.
Picture Books

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken 
This beautifully illustrated picture book would be great to help instill a growth mindset in young readers. The author takes what she considers to be mistakes and transforms them into something else that works better. So many of my students wad up their paper, throw it away, and want another sheet to start over whenever they are unhappy with their work. The author takes misshapen body parts, odd looking ink splotches, and other "mistakes" and incorporates them into her process. Great for all ages, this book would be an excellent companion to Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg and A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell. 

Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat's Foster Mom by Suzi Eszterhas  
This wonderful nonfiction picture book uses gorgeous photos and engaging text to tell Suzi Eszterhas' story of fostering a week's old wildcat in the African savanna. Eszterhas was working as a wildlife photographer when rangers asked her to help care for the orphaned serval. Fostering a wild animal is much different than raising a pet, as the goal is to prepare it to return to the wild. The photos that were taken of this experience, show Moto in different stages of development as he learned to hunt, fish, and care for himself. There is lots of fascinating information about this animal, making this a wonderful nonfiction resource to have on any bookshelf. 

Rhino in the House: The Story of Saving Samia by Daniel Kirk  
This wonderful nonfiction picture book tells readers the true story of Anna Merz and the black rhino that she rescued and raised at her wildlife sanctuary in Kenya. Samia wasn't being cared for by its mother, so she brought it home with her and took care of it until it was too big to hang around the house with her. This would be a great companion book to Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat's Foster Mom by Suzi Eszterhas (see above) as they both involve fostering wild animals with the goal of returning them to the wild. This book is beautifully illustrated and includes wonderful resources listed at the end of the narrative.  

Puppy, Puppy, Puppy by Julie Sternberg, Fred Koehler (Illustrations)  
This is a cute book that shares a story of a great friendship that develops between a baby and a puppy. Both are very messy, noisy, and playful. Young readers with either (or both) baby siblings or puppies at home will definitely appreciate the dynamics of the family in this book. 

Tidy by Emily Gravett  
This cute picture book shows young readers what can happen when tries to be a perfectionist. Pete likes the forest to be neat and tidy. He works very hard to keep it that way. But when he lets perfect become the enemy of good, life in the forest becomes nearly impossible. This book could start a great discussion about moderation and not letting the best of intentions get out of hand. The illustrations are very humorous and sweet.  

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander  
This book is a wonderful collection of poems that celebrate the work and style of renowned poets such as Robert Frost, Walter Dean Myers, Emily Dickinson, and many others. These poems are beautifully illustrated with mixed media artwork. This would be a great companion to Keep a Pocket in Your Poem: Classic Poems and Playful Parodies by J. Patrick Lewis and a great addition to any bookshelf. 

This House, Once by Deborah Freedman  
This beautifully illustrated picture book takes young readers deep into the pieces and parts of their homes to consider the history and the origins of where they live. For those that ever wonder what came before, this book would be a great way to start that discussion with young readers. 

Robins!: How They Grow Up by Eileen Christelow  
Reggie is an amusing robin who hangs around in the maple tree in our backyard. This awesome nonfiction picture book tells the story of the first year of a robin's life. With beautiful illustrations and kid-friendly text, young readers will learn all about these birds that are right outside their windows. This is a great nonfiction resource to have on the bookshelf. 

Pickles to Pittsburgh (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs #2) by Judi Barrett, Ron Barrett  
This sequel to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs makes a visit to the legendary city of Chewandswallow. The townspeople have figured out what to do with the copious amounts of food that have fallen from the sky. The generosity of the town will be heartwarming to young readers who are learning to be mindful about waste. The artwork is very similar to the drawings in the first book: larger than life servings of every imaginable food piling up on the streets of Chewandswallow. It's a fun follow-up, but the original book is still the best. 


Monday, May 15, 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.
Hopefully everyone had a restful and fun holiday weekend. There's so much work and fun stuff to do at the end of the school year, there isn't as much time for reading. There's end-of-the-year grade cards, field trips, parties, and the struggle to keep busy even though the weather feels like summer! I did manage to get a few picture books read; here's what I've been reading:

This fun, rhyming picture book is a terrific follow up to Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast. Everyone's favorite breakfast duo are trying to relax on a much needed vacation, when Inspector Croissant summons them to help him figure out the source of a nasty smell in the fridge. With rollicking, rhyming text and hilarious artwork, readers are taken on another crazy odyssey through the refrigerator and run into some old and new friends in the process. Young readers will definitely enjoy hearing this again and again at story time.

This is a fun picture book from the author of Barnacle is Bored. Plankton says "hello" to Mussel, but becomes very bothered when Mussel doesn't answer back. Plankton won't give up and continues to try to get a "hello" back. There's a fun twist in the end that will have young readers giggling for sure. 

This book is very funny and I know there will be lots of giggles from young readers. Rupert is very excited to be making his own wordless picture book. Wordless picture books "are very artistic." But then his chatty friends come along, and he has a difficult time getting them to stop talking and take his project seriously. This will be a favorite in classroom libraries. Note to teachers and parents choosing this as a read aloud: there is some potty humor in this book. Be careful if you're sensitive to that.   

I really enjoyed reading this poetry picture book that takes classic poems by well known writers and tweaks them to make parodies of the original. This looks like a fun way to introduce some of these poems and inspire creativity by having kids try their hand at creating their own parody tributes of their favorite poems. The illustrations, done in acrylic paint and ink on canvas and scanned and digitally fine-tuned, are very whimsical and colorful. This is a book I'd definitely like to have on my bookshelf!  

This is an interesting nonfiction picture book that helps to explain how the introduction of one new animal into an ecosystem can have such a significant impact. The ripple effects of the introduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park are very apparent now that over twenty years have passed. The illustrations are lovely, and many of my students have been fascinated by books about wolves. This would be a good resource to have in any classroom library.

This fun picture book is a really cute way to start a discussion about good manners, waiting one's turn, and sharing. Pinkerton Pig is always pushing and shoving in order to be first for everything. One day there is a misunderstanding that leads to him being first for something that he would rather not have at all. Bright, colorful illustrations and humorous text will make this a popular book with young readers. 



Monday, May 8, 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 was Teacher Appreciation Week, and I want to thank all of those students, parents, and administrators who took a few moments to recognize the efforts of teachers and all staff members of our school. In addition to the lovely flowers that I received from a student, our staff enjoyed some sweet treats from our principal and a delicious lunch from kind volunteers from Rock City Church. 
We're in the home stretch of this school year. I'm starting to compile my summertime reading list, and I have to say that I'm super excited at the prospect of slowing down and taking the time to savor some great books. In the meantime, here's what I've been reading this week:
Young Adult/Middle Grade Fiction

The Summer of Owen Todd by Tony Abbott 
I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this book as part of my Twitter Book Relays group. This novel, while being very well written, is tough to read. While the book is about many things, at it's core is a painful story of the sexual abuse of an adolescent boy by a trusted adult. Told from the point of view of the victim's best friend, Owen, Sean's victimization takes place over the summer in a touristy Cape Cod town. Sean's mother works long hours at a new job, and hires a young man from their church to babysit. Sean tells Owen some of the things that are happening, but makes Owen swear not to tell anyone about it. He tells Owen that he'll kill himself if he tells anyone. Owen spends the summer terrified about what's happening and what will happen if he tells. It certainly is an awful dilemma, and readers will certainly be able to empathize with the characters. I think that this will be an important book for middle grade students to read. There are messages about the importance of speaking up when something is so terribly wrong, about trusting your parents and other grown ups in your life to help, and helping even when it's painful to do so. The subject matter, while handled appropriately for middle grade readers, does deal with a sensitive issue and so teachers and parents should consider the maturity of their students and children.
Picture Books

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt, Adam Rex (Illustrations)  
I know that my students will love this awesome picture book that tells the origins of "Rock, Paper, Scissors." "Rock, Paper, Scissors" is used to decide so many important issues for them. Drew Daywalt does a terrific job creating the characters' back stories and personalities. The illustrations are hilarious, with nearly every object shown as a living being with eyes (i.e. gum under Mom's home office desk). This would be fun to use as a mentor text to help students create their own legends and origin stories. 

Olivia the Spy by Ian Falconer  
This fun picture book shows young readers what can happen when you eavesdrop. Olivia overhears her mother complaining on the phone about her behavior. Determined to find out what other sorts of things her mother says about her, she takes to spying on her family. Only hearing bits and pieces of conversations, leads to a big worry when Olivia believes her mom is taking her to an institution. Humorous illustrations will make this a fun book to share with young children. This could lead to a great discussion about drawing conclusions and making inferences. 

Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko, Dan Santat (Illustrations)  
Being afraid is a natural part of growing up, and young readers will definitely be able to relate to the young boy in this wonderful picture book. Nicholas is fearful of many things: the dark, bugs, etc. But when he has his little dinosaur with him, he has the confidence to do all sorts of brave things. But then he loses track of his dinosaur, and he feels scared of everything. This is really a sweet book that would be awesome to share with kids. 

 Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds
This beautifully illustrated picture book is a wonderful celebration of dreamers and dreaming. This would serve well as an inspirational and emotional pick-me-up for readers and dreamers of all ages. This belongs on all bookshelves.

Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins 
This fun, colorful picture book celebrates all kinds of birds with bold illustrations and rollicking, rhyming text. Young readers will have so much fun imagining themselves flying high with their feathered friends. This would make a great addition to a primary classroom's bookshelf. 

Rain by Sam Usher 
This is a sweet picture book that shares a special time shared between a little boy and his grandfather. It's a gray, rainy day and the little boy is looking forward to playing outside, but his grandfather tells him they need to wait until the rain stops. The boy reads books, while his grandfather does some paperwork. When the rain stops briefly and they go outside to mail a letter, the adventure that they share is perfect. The illustrations are almost magical, as they pull readers into this wonderful and cozy afternoon that these two enjoy. 

Thunder Underground by Jane Yolen, Josée Masse (Illustrations)  
This wonderful collection of poems celebrates the world beneath our feet. With beautiful mixed media drawings, readers get to explore basements, subways, ant cities, and many other aspects of the underground world. Scientific and personal notes on the poems at the end of the book help make this a great starting point for more research. This book would be a terrific resource to have on the bookshelf and would pair well with the Over and Under books (Over and Under the Snow & Over and Under the Pond) by Kate Messner. 

Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper 
This is a simple and sweet picture book that tells the story of two cats and the development of a wonderful friendship. It also shares the experience of loss and the circle of life as one pet passes and another one enters the lives of the family members. Children that have lost a pet might find comfort in this gentle story. 

What's the Difference Between a Leopard and a Cheetah? by Lisa Bullard, Debra Bandelin (Illustrator)  
This fascinating nonfiction picture book uses a compare and contrast text structure to share information about leopards and cheetahs with young readers. There are many subtle differences between these two members of the cat family, and the beautifully rendered illustrations and engaging text make this book a nice resource to have in a classroom library. Fun facts and a list of additional resources can be found on the last page.