Monday, June 19, 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 is off to a terrific start! The weather has been great, and I've started to get reacquainted with some of my favorite birds that hang around the neighborhood pond. I figure the more I walk and spend time outdoors, maybe the blue herons and the ducks won't be so camera shy. I'll try to see if I can get better pictures of them, soon! On warm, quiet mornings I also love to grab a book and head outside and enjoy unhurried reading with my coffee. Hope you're enjoying your summertime reading (indoors or outdoors), too. Here's what I've been reading lately:
Picture Books

  Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, Kadir Nelson (Illustrations) 
This is a gorgeous picture book that celebrates what it means to be American by using stunning paintings and simple text to explore the underpinnings of the flag and other symbols of our country. Absolutely perfect to share with children as we head into the Fourth of July, readers will want to visit these pages again and again just to gaze at the illustrations and understand. I would imagine there could be some wonderful conversations about what it truly means to be a nation undivided, especially at a time when people seem to be more divided than ever.

Colette's Lost Pet by Isabelle Arsenault  
This book tells the story of a little girl who moves into a new neighborhood and makes up a story about a lost pet because she's not sure how to make new friends. As Colette and her new neighbors go about searching for a lost parakeet, her story grows more and more sensational. I'm not sure that I would want to use this book in a classroom with young children because the girl's basis for the start of her friendship is a lie. The children in her new neighborhood are friendly and she makes up a story and has everyone spending all their time looking for a bird that doesn't exist. In the real world, this fib might even open her up to ridicule when everyone figures out that she's not being truthful. I would rather encourage children to make friends by being honest and by being themselves.

7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar, Ross Macdonald (Illustrations)   
What a fun and clever picture book this is! Written in the style of an old-time detective story, the number 6 comes to the office of a private investigator to get help. 6 was sure that 7 was out to get him, since 7 ate 9, and he was always after 6. This sets off a whole mystery filled with number puns! The illustrations are also drawn with old-style city scenes. This will get lots of laughs and giggles from young readers!  

And Then Comes Summer by Tom Brenner, Jaime Kim (Illustrations)  
This lovely picture book celebrates all the things that we love about summer: flip-flops, fireworks, ice cream. One of my favorite lines sums it up well: "When every day is like a Saturday, and porches and lawns and sidewalks are playgrounds, and a familiar jingle interrupts the game...Then race to be first in line - 'Almond fudge, please!'" The beautifully painted illustrations really capture the joy of the season as well. 

That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares  
In this nearly wordless picture book, the reader sees a lovely friendship develop through the construction of a tree house. The book opens with a moving truck in front of a house. There are two shy neighbors peeking at each other. As the boy starts to build a tree house from the boards in the fence, the girl comes and starts helping. I'm assuming the boy gets the proper permission before he starts ripping the fence apart... Anyway, I love the way the author tells this whole narrative with few words (they each say "hi") and illustrations with a limited palette (only a few of the tree leaves and the paint have color). 

  Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Dow Phumiruk (Illustrator) 
This beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography tells the story of a young Chinese American girl who grew up in a family of artists. As a child, she explored the woods near her home with an imaginative mind and created models of cities and towns in her home. She grew up to study art and won the opportunity to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. The digitally created illustrations complement the fascinating narrative very well, making this a wonderful nonfiction resource to have on the bookshelf.

What's Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle  
Fifteen children's picture book artists share their favorite colors with drawings and words explaining their choices. It's really cool to see the artwork of some of our favorite authors together in this way. I also really like that the proceeds from the sales of this book will go to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. This would make a terrific mentor text for young artists and writers to explore their own favorite colors. I would definitely like to get my own copy of this book for inspiration! 

Balderdash!: John Newbery and the Boisterous Birth of Children's Books by Michelle Markel 
This picture book biography tells the story of the man who's responsible for children's literature as we know it. John Newbery grew up at a time when there wasn't anything pleasant for children to read, just strict religious rules and lessons. He became a printer dedicated to publishing great things for young people to read. The text in this book is down-to-earth and kid-friendly and the illustrations are colorful and fun. This would be a great nonfiction resource to have on any bookshelf! 

Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, Sydney Smith (Illustrator)  
This is a beautiful portrait of life for a family in a seaside mining town in the early part of the twentieth century. With breathtaking paintings to illustrate the contrast between the beautiful views of the ocean and the darkness of the underground coal mines, young readers get to experience a day in the life of a boy whose father works all day in that mine.

A River by Marc Martin  
This beautifully illustrated picture book takes readers on a marvelous journey. The book opens with a young girl looking out her window at a river that winds through the city. As she thinks about this, she finds herself in a small boat, floating along past busy freeways, through hills, past factories, and through wild jungles on her way to the ocean. The lyrical text along with the gorgeous illustrations, rendered in watercolor, gouache, pencil, and digital collage, make me want to read this book over and over. Each time I read it, I discover something new and special that I didn't see before. This is an awesome picture book for any bookshelf! 

If It Rains Pancakes: Haiku and Lantern Poems by Brian P. Cleary, Andy Rowland (Illustrations)  
With fun, kid-friendly topics like bubblegum, pizza, burps, and snow days from school, this book of poetry introduces young readers and writers to two forms of poetry: haiku and lantern poems. With simple text and humorous illustrations, this would be a terrific mentor text to help guide budding poets. The book includes a page of print and web resources for further guidance. 
Middle Grade Fiction

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead  

When You Reach Me was published in 2009 and was awarded a Newbery Award. And now I have finally gotten around to reading it! Wow! This book was just terrific, and my main regret is that I didn't read it sooner. I was hooked right away when I realized the story was set in 1978/1979. As a child of this same time period, my nostalgia compelled me to keep reading. Miranda’s mother was preparing to be a contestant on The $20,000 Pyramid, which was one of my favorite game shows back then.

Even though the story is set nearly forty years ago, the characters and the plot are relatable to young people today. I know this because this book has been very popular with fourth and fifth graders in my classroom library. Miranda and her mother live in the middle of New York City in an apartment building that also is home to one of her best friends, Sal. While dealing with the stress of school, her mother’s unhappiness at her job, and friendship drama, she also starts receiving mysterious notes from a stranger.

These notes tell of things that are happening in Miranda’s life, before they even occur. The writer of the note also says that he's going to try to save her friend’s life. As the plot develops, the story is just impossible to set aside. I understand why folks are able to devour this book in just a day or two!

Book nerds will love that Miranda's favorite book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle . She has some terrific conversations about the possibilities of time travel with another character in the book, Marcus. These conversations made me haul out my copy of that famous novel to reread those passages. I love it when books do that.

I don't want to spoil anything for those who haven't had the pleasure of reading this book yet, but, if you love this book as much as I do, you really should read Once Was a Time by Leila Sales. That book also explores some of the same concepts with adolescent characters that are so authentic and understandable.


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Slice of Life Tuesday

Slice of Life Tuesday
Peanut Butter Cookies
I haven't really made cookies in years!
I've never really been much of a baker.
I love to cook:
But baking has too much measuring and chemistry involved...
It's very unforgiving:
One wrong move and everything falls apart!
There's much more freedom in cooking other types of food.
But summertime always makes me long for the carefree feeling I would enjoy as a kid, and baking cookies was one of the best times.
I was very fortunate to have an older sister who was talented at baking.
She also loved cookies as much as I did.
 I thought about those fun times and I decided to whip up a batch of peanut butter cookies. I gathered my ingredients, listened to the radio play songs from those long ago days (songs from The Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Boston, etc.), and started to work. It wasn't long before the smell of fresh baked cookies filled the air and my mouth started watering with anticipation of tasting them. Sampling the cookies, sharing them, deciding if they were all right, having another from the next tray to be sure...
Now it definitely feels like summer.
And we have a fresh batch of homemade cookies to enjoy.
And now I'm pretty sure I shouldn't wait so long before I make more!

Monday, June 12, 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.
At long last, my favorite time of year is here! The birds are my alarm clock, but I don't have to hurry. I can grab a cup of coffee and head outside! I now spend a lot of time sitting outside, writing and reading. My biggest problem now is where to begin!  So, here's what I've been reading:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this novel through my #BookRelays friends (and also a digital ARC through NetGalley) and I think that middle school readers will definitely be attracted to the unique plot line and the well-voiced characters. Zinnia has just finished seventh grade by getting herself in trouble for yarn-bombing the school mascot with her older brother, Adam. But when she gets home from school, he has left the family mysteriously, without so much as a note. Adam's abrupt departure from home doesn't help Zinnia's tense relationship with her mother, and to make matters worse, a colony of bees has taken up residence in her hair.

The idea of a mass of bees living on my head certainly makes me cringe, but, while Zinnia doesn't like the situation at all, she is amazingly calm about it. The character development is awesome as Zinnia goes from being a depressed loner, to realizing that sometimes it's good to have friends to help out. The book also has messages about reaching for your dreams, being vulnerable or "letting your hair down", and the interdependence of nature.

This book will be available in August. I would recommend it for middle school students, but it would also be fine for upper elementary students.

This graphic novel is awesome because it has stories in it that so many kids will identify with - elementary students, middle school students, and even high school students. I know that this book totally reminded me of my own elementary school experience, and it also made me nostalgic for the eighties! Shannon and her best friend, Adrienne, have been together since kindergarten. But as they get older, they start hanging out with a clique known as "The Group" and led by Jen. Like all cliques of this age group, one day you're cool, and the next day no one likes you. Kids will definitely understand the anxieties and issues Shannon faces with these on-again, off-again friends. I also think that the kids who enjoy books by Raina Telgemeier, Jenni Holm, Cece Bell, and Victoria Jamieson will eat this book up and beg for more! 

Picture Books

This picture book biography tells the life story of Eugenie Clark, a pioneer in the study of sharks. The text is fascinating and accessible to middle grade readers, making it perfect for classroom libraries. Children this age are very attracted to books about sharks, and this one celebrates a woman who contributed so much to what we understand about these animals. Clark became interested in sharks when she was a child. She spent a great deal of time reading and studying at a time when most women didn't go to college or become scientists. End-of-the-book notes and resources make this book a great starting point for further research. Also, the illustrations are just terrific! 

This heartwarming picture book is a celebration of the love, hopes, and dreams that parents have for their children. "On the night you were born, our world shined bright as the sun," begins the poetic text. The narrator shares the joy felt upon the arrival of the child, and of a dream about what the child would become and who the child would be. Illustrated beautifully using bamboo pen, India ink, and watercolor, this book would be a wonderful gift to new parents at a baby shower, Mother's Day, or Father's Day!  

Young readers will definitely get a giggle or two as they read this picture book that shares the story of a little elephant who definitely prefers not wearing pants as he runs about trying to figure out where he belongs and who will play with him. This book might be a fun way to introduce primary age kids to characteristics of things and classification as Pete compares himself to boulders, squirrels, clouds, and a pigeon. 

This cute picture book begs to be read aloud, with a French accent! This is a fun adventure that has an adorable snail on his way to a yummy salad at the end of the book. This little creature is quite friendly, and invites young readers to tell him about themselves and to kiss him. Colorful illustrations with close-ups of the table, the salad, and the sweet snail will make this a favorite book on a young child's bookshelf. 

This is a very sweet picture book, with heartwarming illustrations, that shares with young readers all the different places to be: happy, sad, mad, bravery, etc. This would be a terrific book to share with young readers at bedtime or any other quiet story time. 

With simple rhyming text and stunning photographs, this poetic look at nature and new life appearing all around make this a wonderful book to share with young readers. An author's note at the back that briefly explains each photo helps with further research for kids that might use this book as a starting point for their own informational writing. This would be a terrific resource to have on any bookshelf. 

This charming picture book has a great message about young children exploring the world around them, while still enjoying the safety and protection of a caring parent. When Joey was born, he spent all of his time in his mother's pouch. But now he's gotten big enough to stick his head out and look around. He wants to hop about, but each time he goes out he gets frightened and returns to the pouch. Young readers will appreciate being shy around new people and the joy of making a new friend. Warm, cheery watercolor illustrations help make this a great book to share with primary aged children at story time.  

This fun picture book has a great lesson about listening to everyone's ideas when planning something fun. Pig, Mouse, and Duck are planning a birthday surprise to include an awesome cake. Pig and a Mouse go at it, but when Duck wants to add an ingredient that isn't in their recipe, they refuse to even consider it. Young readers will giggle when they get to the cute twist at the end. Bold, colorful illustrations will help make this a terrific book to share with primary students. 

Freckleface Strawberry (Freckleface Strawberry #1) by Julianne Moore, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator)  

This is a charming picture book that would be a great way to start a discussion about being comfortable in your own skin and accepting the special qualities that make people unique. The little girl in the story wants to be just like everyone else around her, but she feels very self conscious about her red hair and freckles. She tries several different ways to make them disappear, until she makes an important discovery about herself. This would make a great read aloud for young readers at the beginning of the school year. 

This fun book in the Freckleface Strawberry series shares with young readers the stress of dodgeball, especially when playing with someone who's a powerhouse at the game. Freckleface Strawberry loves days when she gets to go to school early because she loves all of the playground games. But on rainy days, the only choice is dodgeball in the gym. Windy Pants Patrick plays brutally and she is sure that getting hit with the ball will be painful and traumatic. Young readers will enjoy finding out how Freckleface Strawberry overcomes this fearsome problem. This might be a good read aloud at the beginning of the school year when students need reminders of how to play so everyone can have a good time. 

This volume in the Freckleface Strawberry series would be terrific to share with kids at the beginning of the school year. Freckleface Strawberry and Patrick Windy Pants are best friends because they have a lot in common. But the kids at school give them a hard time because boys and girls don't play with each other and they lead them to believe that they have too many differences to be friends. This story could lead to some good discussions about what makes a good friendship and why people should celebrate differences. 

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More! by Karen Beaumont, David Catrow (illustrator)  

Budding young artists and fans of the book, No David! by David Shannon will love this colorful picture book. The rhyming text is written to the rhythm and tune of the familiar folk song, "It Ain't Gonna Rain No More", making it a fun, rollicking book to share with young readers.