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.



  1. We share the love of many books, I think. I love Town Is By The Sea! I just got Blue Sky, White Stars and 7 Ate 9 from the library, still need to open them! And I loved That Neighbor Kid, too, Jana, cleverly done! Happy Reading this week!

  2. Ah, your blog always leaves me running to the library to grab new books!! 😀 As a non-American, books like Blue Sky White Stars are just so fascinating - we feel very uncomfortable with patriotism / nationalism here, but it looks quite moving.

  3. I have Balderdash waiting for me on hold at the library. I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Thanks for the read-alike recommendation for WHEN YOU REACH ME. I'll definitely have to check that out.

  4. I loved that I can use 7 Ate 9 to intro the genre mystery. It's great to have pic books for that. Maya Lin is one I'm eager to read. Thanks for sharing so many great picture books.

  5. So many great books! I've heard great things about Blue Sky, White Stars. When You Reach Me sounds very interesting!

  6. Great picture books! I'm looking forward to Blue Sky, White Stars. I'm hearing great things!
    I still haven't read When You Reach Me. I've had it on my #mustread lists, but never got to it!

  7. My favourite fact about Wrinkle in Time and When You Reach Me is that they both won Newbery awards! I had to go and reread Wrinkle after When You Reach Me. I adored this book and so did all the readers at my school. I now can't wait to read Once Was A Time,

  8. So many wonderful looking picture books! I have Blue Sky to read--I hope to get to it soon :)
    When You Reach Me really was wonderful!

    Happy reading this week :)