Monday, July 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.

Hope everyone is having a terrific time celebrating the 4th of July! This long holiday weekend has so much to enjoy - getting together for food, fun, and fireworks with family and friends. But there's also plenty of time to relax in the shade with a good book! Happy Reading on your holiday weekend! Here's what I've been reading:

Early/Middle Grade/YA Fiction (Chapter Books)

Fergus and Zeke by Kate Messner, Heather Ross (Illustrations)  

This is a fun early reader chapter book that will be enjoyed in many classroom libraries. Told from the point of view of the classroom pet mouse, Fergus, Miss Maxwell's class is preparing to go on a field trip to the museum. No one is more excited than Fergus, as he stows away in a student's backpack to go on the trip with the class. At the museum, Fergus meets a new friend, Zeke. Zeke is a mouse who lives at the museum, so he is able to show Fergus all sorts of cool things. Young readers will be able to relate to the fun of a field trip and making a new friend and also the stress of realizing you've lost track of the group and you might miss the bus! Digital illustrations do a wonderful job of showing the classroom, the bus ride, and the museum in bright, inviting colors. This would be a great one to have on hand at the beginning of the school year as kids are getting to know the classroom rules about pets and field trips. It would also be a good mentor text for writing from different points of view.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng  

I read a copy of this book that was shared with me by my friends in my #BookRelays group. It tells a coming of age story about an 11 year old boy who starts out boarding an Amtrak train to New Mexico to attend a rocket festival and finds so much more during an odyssey that takes him to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and back home again. The story is told through the boy’s audio diary, recorded on a Golden iPod, which he plans to launch into outer space.

Alex is very intelligent and mature for his age. He takes care of himself and his mother, who we learn spends a great deal of time in bed. His father is no longer alive, and his older brother lives in California working as a sports agent. So no one objects when he and his dog, Carl Sagan, leave town to attend the rocket festival. The older boy who helps him deal with Amtrak officials by posing as an older brother tells Alex that he hopes he finds what he’s looking for. As the events of the book unfold, it becomes clear that what he's looking for isn’t as simple as launching a rocket into space.

There are lots of moments where Alex, along with readers, learns some profound lessons about life and love. I love this quote about love that is like “a sacrifice but in a good way; you trade a part of yourself for something that's even bigger than you, and it feels good but weird at the same time; it's totally worth it, though.”

Because this story is told entirely through Alex’s audio recordings, there are several opportunities to teach inferencing skills, if you're using this in a classroom. There were a couple of times where something dramatic occurs, and I had to piece together clues to try to figure out what was going on. This book would be appropriate in a middle school classroom library.

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl 

Roald Dahl was such an awesome storyteller and this story is a great example of that. In a turn of the tables, a family of avid hunters find themselves on the other end of the rifle and begging for mercy! The little girl who lives next door to the Gregg family becomes very angry at their recreational hunting sprees, so she turns her "magic finger" on them. As a result, they grow wings and shrink to the size of birds. They're forced to live in a nest, while human-sized ducks take over their home. It would be fun to use this as a mentor text for writing fantasy stories. What if you had a "magic finger"? What would happen if you had to switch places with birds? 

Picture Books

Back to School with Bigfoot by Samantha Berger, Martha Brockenbrough, Dave Pressler (illustrator)  

Everyone gets nervous about starting up a new school year. It's normal to be nervous about new teachers, new friends, and new things to learn. But it's even harder when you're Bigfoot! Bigfoot is worried because he stands out in a huge way and he feels very self conscious about his size. School aged children will definitely be able to relate to these feelings, and the brightly colored, humorous illustrations will make it an awesome book to share with kids. This is one that would make a terrific read aloud on the first day of school! 

Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart, Steve Jenkins (Illustrations)  

This fascinating and fun nonfiction picture book would be great to share with young readers before a trip to the zoo. Grouped together according to the type of sounds they make, the book provides brief, factual information about 35 different animals. With information on so many different animals, kids will certainly have the opportunity to hear them at the zoo or in their own backyards. Colorful and wonderfully detailed illustrations make this a terrific resource for any bookshelf and a great starting point for further research. 

What Is Chasing Duck? by Jan Thomas  

This early reader book has more than just simple text and a few rhyming words. I love the way the author takes the ingredients of a beginning reading book and throws in bright, humorous illustrations, great opportunities for young readers to make predictions, and a fun twist that will let everyone enjoy a giggle or two. Young children will be able to relate to running away from scary things and relying on friends to help face fears. This would make a great addition to any primary bookshelf! 

There Might Be Lobsters by Carolyn Crimi, Laurel Molk (Illustrations)  

This fun picture book shares a day at the beach for Eleanor and her dog, Sukie. Told from Sukie's point of view, there are many scary things at the beach: big stairs, big beach balls, big waves, and maybe even lobsters! Despite all of Eleanor's urging, Sukie refuses to go into the water; until her stuffed monkey floats out with the waves. This book has a great message about being brave and overcoming fears. Great illustrations, rendered in watercolor, acrylic, and ink pen, the artist shows all of the fun details of people enjoying themselves on the beach.  

Trains Don't Sleep by Andria Warmflash Rosenbaum, Deirdre Gill (Illustrations)  

This book is a lovely poem describing different trains. For primary classrooms studying transportation, this would be a great book to include in the mix. The oil paintings are just beautiful!  

Share, Big Bear, Share! by Maureen Wright, Will Hillenbrand (Illustrations)  

This fun, rhyming picture book teaches young readers important lessons about listening, friendship, and sharing. Big Bear has a huge container of blueberries that he's very excited to enjoy. But each time he settles down to eat his tasty treat, the Old Oak Tree tries to give him an important reminder. Young readers will have fun finding out if Big Bear will ever get the message. Warm, colorful illustrations make this a lovely book to have on a primary bookshelf. 

The Treasure Box by Margaret Wild, Freya Blackwood (Illustrator)  

This hauntingly beautiful picture book shares the power and strength of words and stories. In the midst of war, a library is destroyed. One of the few remaining books is protected like a treasure by the man who had borrowed it. As the man and his boy are forced to leave their home, this book goes with them. The illustrations, rendered in pencil, watercolor and collage, are softly colored and evoke the feeling of reverence for the written word. The text that forms part of the illustrations is taken from foreign editions of The Silver Donkey by Sonya Hartnett and of Once and Then by Morris Gleitzman, which of course makes me want to find these books and read them. 

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees by Mary Beth Leatherdale, Eleanor Shakespeare (Illustrations)  

As young people see news stories about refugees, especially from places like war-torn Syria, this book is an excellent nonfiction resource to help them understand what it must be like for kids their age to have to flee from their homes. This book shares details from interviews of five people who were forced to escape their countries under very dangerous circumstances to try to find someplace where they could live in peace. Often they wound up in refugee detention camps, where conditions weren't too much better than the countries they left. The text is appropriate for middle grade students and the illustrations, collage style pictures, are very poignant.

When an Elephant Falls in Love by Davide Cali, Alice Lotti (Illustrations)  
This is a sweet book that is a celebration of all the strange things people (and elephants) fall in love. Anyone that's ever had a crush or fallen head over heels in love will be able to relate to not being able to decide what to wear, hiding when the object of your affection is around, and writing letters you'll never have the nerve to send. This might be good to share with young readers closer to Valentine's Day.

Gifts from the Enemy by Trudy Ludwig, Craig Orback (Illustrations)  

This beautifully written and illustrated picture book biography tells the story of Alter Wiener, a holocaust survivor, who, despite the horrible atrocities he witnessed, focused on the kindness of a German stranger who risked her life to give him food. Alter grew up in a small Polish town in a home that was "full of books, food, laughter, and love." His parents were very kind and giving, and raised him to always look for the best in people and to help those less fortunate. After Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Alter was captured and sent to several different prison camps where he was treated cruelly and never given enough food. A German woman took a big risk and secretly gave him food every day for a month. This book has lots of terrific messages for young readers about kindness and bravery. The back of the book has some great discussion questions and activities for teachers who would like to share this in their classrooms. 


  1. See You in the Cosmos sounds interesting. I haven't gotten to share Fergus and Zeke with students because school was ending when I got it, but I'm sure my first and second graders will love it. I have Can an Aardvark Bark so I'll be getting to it next week.

  2. Everyone is posting about such great picture books today! I'm especially looking forward to The Treasure Box and Can an Aardvark Bark? Thanks for your reviews!

  3. Thank you for reminding me that Stormy Seas is a book I wanted from the library. I really loved The Treasure Box and Gifts from the Enemy, but have read See You in the Cosmos yet. Thanks for your recommendations and have a Happy July 4th.

  4. Oh my, Jana, so much to love and find in your post, today. I loved The Treasure Box, and will look for Gifts from the Enemy & Stormy Seas among others. See You In The Cosmos sounds very good. What a journey! Have a happy holiday!

  5. What a great list of books. I read See You in the Cosmos as an ARC and was completely drawn in. Happy 4th!

  6. I loved See You in the Cosmos. I've just put a hold on The Treasure Box.
    Stormy Seas looks like an important book to have in libraries.

  7. A Jan Thomas book I haven't read?!?! What a treasure!!

    And a wonderful assortment of books for me to go and put holds on right away. :-D

  8. I also loved See you in the Cosmos (though as an adult reader I think it's a bit more stressful because you keep worrying that terrible things might happen as he keeps trusting people!). Thanks for the heads up about Stormy Seas too - looks like a must read.

  9. I was able to read the next two books in the Giggle Gang series (Jan Thomas') and they are great! Can't wait to check out the first two.
    I've heard good and eh things about Cosmos. I'm sure I'll get to it at some point!

  10. I can not wait to get my hands on Gifts from the Enemy - these are the kinds of books that I truly enjoy reading. What a diverse set of books you have here - so many too! :)