Monday, August 28, 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.


The beginning of the week had all of us studying the skies! Unfortunately, Eclipse Glasses weren't to be had at any store near me. So I grabbed my box of Cheerios, aluminum foil, tape and scissors and got to work! It worked well for a few minutes, until the clouds rolled in and that was the end of that! Oh well! On the bright side, there's another eclipse due in eight years, and I live in the right part of the country for this one! I'll start looking for my Eclipse Glasses now!

And of course, everyone in our area headed back to school! And as I'm taking some time to focus on writing and reading, my friend and I decided to get together for a celebratory lunch on the first day of school! Hope everyone is off to a great start! Also, I hope everyone is finding awesome stuff to read and share with kids.  Here's what I've been reading this past week:

Middle Grade Fiction

Paper Chains by Elaine Vickers, Sara Not (Illustrations) 
I had the opportunity to read an ARC of this book that was provided to my #BookRelays group. This middle grade novel tells the stories of two fifth grade girls who are neighbors and best friends.

Katie is new to this Boston neighborhood and she has carried several personal secrets with her from Utah. She was adopted as a baby from Russia and has had a heart transplant. She's starting to wonder about her birth parents and her former life in Russia.

Ana lives nearby and envies Katie’s perfect home and family. Her professional hockey player father has left her, along with her mother and younger brother, Mikey. Her paternal grandmother, or babushka, has come to stay with them to help them get their home back together.

The story is told from alternating points of view between Katie and Ana. Both girls feel stressed and unhappy in their circumstances, but have a difficult time communicating that to each other and to their families. I like that this book shows that nobody really has a “perfect” life and that everyone is dealing with stuff. There's a note that Katie carries from a friend back in Utah that reminds her that she is not alone. But that message is true for everyone.

The book also has some great messages for young readers. The importance of telling the truth and being open and honest with the people that love you is stressed throughout the story. Both girls are unhappy, but aren't open with each other, and they don't share their true feelings with their families. They also are learning how to be truthful with themselves. There are also great themes about families and what constitutes them, and overcoming past disappointments and circumstances to march forward into one’s best life.
Picture Books

Tea With Oliver by Mika Song 
Sometimes you don't have to look very far to find a good friend. Oliver is very lonely and spends most of his time drinking tea by himself in his apartment. Philbert lives under the couch and would very much like to join Oliver for tea. Young readers will enjoy the courage Philbert shows in reaching out to Oliver to let him know that he's not alone. With sweet, whimsical illustrations, this story would be a nice one to share with primary aged students. 

Nerdy Birdy Tweets by Aaron Reynolds, Matt Davies (Illustrations)  
Not only is this a fun follow up to the first Nerdy Birdy book, but this awesome picture book would be a great way to start an important discussion about social media and friendship. Nerdy Birdy has started tweeting and is super excited to have hundreds of friends online. But what happens when he neglects is real friendship with Vulture? I think this is an important conversation to have with youngsters of all ages. 

Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari, Patrice Barton (Illustrations)  
This sweet picture book tells the story of Moose, a strong-willed dog that loves "hello" and hates "good-bye"! Moose follows Zara to school and refuses to leave. After being pried loose by several adults and taken home, Moose gets loose and comes back to school. Moose loves to hear stories being read, so finally Moose's family comes up with a great solution for everyone. This book introduces young readers to the concept of therapy dogs in school settings. It also includes a note about how to find out more about therapy dog reading programs. 

Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List by Kate Klise, M. Sarah Klise (Illustrations)  
This is a story that will grab a hold of your heart, especially if you're a pet owner. Astrid has been friends with her dog, Eli, since she was born. As she grows up, though, she begins to notice the effects of aging on her beloved pet. She has many things she would like to do with Eli, before he gets too old. This book might be a good book to help start a conversation about the inevitable loss of a family pet. But the book is kind of tough to read if you're emotional about your pets. 

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby, Mika Song (Contributor)  
Perfect for the start of the school year, this book in verse tells the story of six different children, one in each grade (kindergarten through fifth). Readers will get to experience the jitters of the night before the big day, the morning of, the school day itself, and afterward through the eyes of each of these characters. This would be a terrific read aloud to share with kids in each of these grades, to show that everyone experiences similar feelings. It also could be a wonderful mentor text for writing poems and stories in multiple voices. 

There's a Pest in the Garden! by Jan Thomas  
Anybody who's ever lost some of their favorite vegetables or flowers to rabbits, deer, or ground hogs will be able to relate to these gardeners' pest problem. There's a pest eating row after row of our barnyard friends' garden right before their eyes. As the pest gets closer and closer to the turnips, Duck comes up with a plan. Easy to read text and hilarious digital illustrations will have young readers giggling as they try to decide just who is the real pest in this book! This would be fun to read aloud and help young children learn about making predictions, making inferences, and problem solving. 

Lucia the Luchadora by Cynthia Leonor Garza, Alyssa Bermudez (Illustrations)  
Angry because the boys won't let her play superheroes with them, Lucia dons a mask and cape that her grandmother gave her and she becomes a secret superhero herself. Since no one knows her identity, she feels free to be what she wants to be, even a superhero. This might be fun to share with kids to show them that girls can do the same things boys can do and to help all kids have self-confidence. 

Samson: The Piranha Who Went to Dinner by Tadgh Bentley  
This fun picture book tells the story of a piranha who just wants to find someplace where he can be himself and fit in. He's tired of doing the same stuff all the time and always eating the same food. So, when Samson sees that there are several fancy restaurants opening nearby, he really wants to try them out. Young readers will enjoy finding out how Samson is going to get a gourmet meal without scaring everybody in the place out the door. 

Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney, Carmen Saldana (Illustrations)  
Young readers will enjoy reading the story of a bear who didn't feel like a bear at all. He felt like a bunny and he liked to imagine he was a bunny. Unfortunately the other bears didn't appreciate his bunnylike behavior and the bunnies wouldn't let him come and hang out in their warren. Finally he finds a way to be himself. This book has a sweet message about friends allowing friends to be themselves.  

Hello, My Name Is Tiger by Jennifer P. Goldfinger  
Young children who are very shy about trying new things and making new friends will certainly be able to relate to Toby. Toby spends most of his time pretending to be a cat. But when he starts school, he becomes a shy kitten. This would be a good book to share with young children at the beginning of the school year. As Toby changes the name on his name tag to Tiger and runs off to climb a tree when a little girl asks him if he wants to play, there could be good discussion about ways to make kids like Toby more comfortable at school.

Milk Goes to School by Terry Border  
Full of hilarious puns and amazing illustrations created by manipulating and photographing three dimensional objects, this clever picture book tells the story of Milk's adventures at school. Milk is just trying to make friends, but it isn't easy when Waffle keeps telling everyone that she's spoiled. This would be lots of fun to share with kids during the first few days of school to see how many of the puns that they get. It might even be a nice mentor text to help them make their own pun stories.

You're Wearing THAT to School?! by Lynn Plourde, Sue Cornelison (Illustrator)  
This sweet picture book would be great to share with young children who are getting ready to start school. Penelope is super excited to start school, but her friend, Tiny, who started school the previous year, is worried that the happy hippo is going to go overboard with her clothes, lunch, and show-and-tell item. This book would be a good way to have a conversation about what to expect at school and ways to have a terrific first day. There's even a list of helpful tips at the end of the book. 

Sumi's First Day of School Ever by Soyung Pak, Joung Un Kim (Illustrator)  
Being a new kid in school is scary, but what if you also didn't understand the language? This picture book tells what one little girl experiences as she goes to school for the first time knowing very little English. This book offers a great opportunity to discuss ways to make any new student feel welcome.  

Busing Brewster by Richard Michelson, R.G. Roth (Illustrator)  
This would be a good book to share with kids during the first few days of school. Set during the 1970s when many districts integrated schools by busing kids to schools in order to achieve a racial balance. Brewster is excited to start first grade, but then it turns out that he and his brother, Bryan, will be attending a school across town that is attended mostly by white students. While the first day is fraught with tension and difficulties resulting in the two boys being sent to the school's library for a detention, Brewster finds himself inspired by the librarian and the books she shares with him. This book would be good as part of a larger conversation on the history of school integration. An author's note gives a more detailed explanation that might help for those that want to explore the topic further. 

Dear Mr. Blueberry by Simon James  
This adorable picture book is told through a series of letters written back and forth between Emily and her teacher, Mr. Blueberry. Emily is convinced there is a whale living in her backyard pond and she writes to her teacher for information and advice on how to care for it. No matter how Mr. Blueberry tries to convince her that it is impossible for a whale to live in her pond, Emily continues the letters. This would be a great mentor text for kids to write response journals in class and stories told through letter-writing. 



  1. I loved Stay as you probably know, will look for quite a few others that you shared, Jana, like Paper Chains. We don't realize what people are hiding when they seem perfect, do we? Thanks for sharing that book! Have a wonderful week!

  2. I want each and every one of the picture books you shared this week! I'm particularly excited for anything new from Jan Thomas, who has brought such joy to my story times over the years. :-)

  3. What a fabulous collection of picture books you have here today.
    I'm waiting for my library to get Nerdy Birdy Tweets, but will keep my eyes open for others of these.

  4. Lots of picture book reading for you!
    I have Samson to read from the library.
    Im really looking forward to Paper Chains!

  5. So many great books! I loved the first Nerdy Birdy book so I'm looking forward to the second. I'm not a huge pet person, but Stay made me cry.

  6. Wow! So many great picks! You highlighted two of my favorite picture books this summer, Hello, Goodbye Dog and Stay. I was also fortunate enough to read an ARC of Paper Chains, which was a great story about family, friendship, and finding your identity. I just ordered Sumi's First Day of School Ever so glad to read your review. Dear Mr. Blueberry is an old favorite.

  7. So many of these books are titles I have yet to read - only near the end did I start knowing books. I have spotted many of these at the bookstore and need to spend some time looking through them. Thanks for all of the details about your reading and thoughts.

  8. Busing Brewster is new to me, but I see it shouldn't be--published in 2011! Thanks for pointing it out