Monday, July 31, 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.


After being away from home for ten days, it was so good to be able to take time to relax on my own deck and get caught up on my reading. Here's what I've been reading this week:
YA/Adult Fiction

Solo by Kwame Alexander, Mary Rand Hess  

I had the opportunity to read a digital arc of this novel-in-verse from NetGalley. I'm really glad that I read it, because I'm sure it'll be hugely successful among YA/middle grade readers. Kwame Alexander’s other novels (The Crossover and Booked) have been very popular with the fourth and fifth grade students in my classroom, and while this book is more appropriate for older students, I know it will hold the attention of the most reluctant of readers.

Written in fast-paced, easily digestible verses, this novel shares the turmoil of a young man who has grown up in the savage glare of the media spotlight focused on his aging rockstar father. Blade, who has just graduated from high school and is about to turn eighteen, has spent a great deal of time mourning the loss of his mother, being embarrassed by the media attention toward his dad’s constant battle with addiction, and dealing with the emotional turmoil of being a teenager in love. As Blade discovers painful truths about his family, his girlfriend, and his own past, he sets off on a journey to Africa. There, he learns so much more than he dreamed he would.

I really like that this book gives young readers an opportunity to look inside the lives of the rich and famous to see that all of the money and material possessions don't amount to much, if you're spiritually and emotionally lost. Money and fame can't shield Blade and his sister, Storm, from the pain of losing one parent and seeing the other parent caught up in the devastating spiral of drug addiction. I also like that the book shows that everyone deserves a second chance and no one is beyond redemption.

When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn 
I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley. For me there was just too much graphic violence, sexual content, and foul language without any redeeming message for young people. I would not be able to recommend this book to teachers or parents to share with kids.

Buying Time (Legacy #1) by Paula Kay  
My mother encouraged me to read the Legacy series, and this was the first book. It was a nice, but somewhat sad, story about a young woman learning to develop relationships with family and friends after a series of tragic events. I enjoyed the author's descriptions of the main characters' trip to Italy along with the food, wine, and opera music. The book definitely made me hungry for each of those things!  
Picture Books

The Quilts of Gee's Bend by Susan Goldman Rubin  
Vibrant, colorful photography combines with interesting narrative text in this nonfiction picture book that tells the story of a group of African Americans who created beautiful quilts on a plantation in Alabama. The descendants of slaves, these people farmed the land and worked very hard. Making quilts was social entertainment and also a necessary task to keep their homes and families warm and comfortable. As time went on through the Civil Rights era, these quilts were discovered for the amazing works of art that they are. This well-researched book shares their story. This is a nice nonfiction resource to share with middle grade readers.

A Rock Can Be . . . by Laura Purdie Salas, Violeta Dabija  
Simple, poetic text along with colorful, cheerful illustrations share many of the ways rocks make the world a better place. Examples include hopscotch markers, lake skimmers, paving stones, and statues. Factual information about each example is included in the back. This would be a terrific mentor text for poetic descriptions of the things that make up our world. This would definitely be a great book for all bookshelves!

Frances Dean Who Loved to Dance and Dance by Birgitta Sif 
This is a sweet picture book that encourages young readers to have the courage to express themselves without worrying about what other people may think. Frances Dean loves to dance to the music of the birds and the wind. But whenever people are around, she is too nervous to move. She is certain that everyone is looking at her. I think lots of people can relate to that. I often feel the same way, especially when it comes to dancing or exercising in public (that's why I like exercise videos). The detailed drawings reflect the author's love of animals and nature and they also show the busy public areas where folks are engaged in all sorts of activities, except for paying any attention to Frances. The text and illustrations remind readers that most of the time no one is even looking at us, and that it's all right to dance or sing or whatever the creative spirit moves you to do! 


  1. I am really looking forward to reading Solo. The other books are new to me. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for recommending Frances Dean. I have a 7yo daughter that gets petrified when she thinks anyone is watching her. We will be checking it out.

  3. I love all of Laura's "can be" books, so glad you liked the rock one. And thanks for being honest in your reviews. It helps when I'm choosing what to save for my lists, Jana. Francis Dean will be a good one for my dancing granddaughter! Thanks!

  4. Awwww, I can definitely relate to Francis Dean - I still struggle to get up on the dance floor at weddings! My mother always likes to remind me that I'm not anywhere near as interesting as I think I am, because most people are too busy worrying about themselves to notice anyone else! ;-)

  5. Sometimes I'm glad when an author drops an f-word in the first 15 pages. Then I know it's something I don't want to have in my library!

  6. The Quilts of Gee's Bend sounds like a wonderful addition to our nonfiction library.

  7. I'm super excited to read SOLO. Kwame Alexander is one of my "read with no questions asked" authors.

  8. I am so excited to read Solo! I have it, and I hope I get to pick it up soon!
    I love Frances--she is who I hope to be when I grow up :)
    I was lucky enough to see a quilts from Gee's Bend exhibit at our art museum here--they are so beautiful!
    And welcome home :)

    Happy reading this week!

  9. Just got Solo! I'm really excited to read it.

  10. I'm nearly done with a quilt for my new grandson. Maybe I'll mail it off before I check out the Gee's Bend quilt book and start rethinking all my artistic choices.

  11. Thank you, Jana! Have you read Irene Latham's Leaving Gee's Bend, by the way? Your post made me think of her wonderful mg novel. And I'm putting Frances Dean on reserve right now!