Monday, September 4, 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.


Hopefully everyone is finding time to rest, relax, and read this holiday weekend! I know that the past week has brought a lot of pain and worry to our friends in the Houston, Texas area. I'm very pleased that there are so many ways to help. One way that children's authors have been helping is by donating books, time, and lots of other neat items. Author Kate Messner has organized the effort - #KidLit Cares - by providing information and space and other great opportunities on her website.

KidLit Cares 

Check out the above link! I know that so many of you want to give and here's a way to do that and score great prizes and/or opportunities for your kids and your classrooms!

In the meantime, since so many of your are either back in school or headed back this week, I've included a lot of good back-to-school titles this week. The remnants of the storm made it's way here and through the wet rainy start to the weekend, I got A LOT of reading in:
Middle Grade Fiction

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner 

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. This book deals with a very important topic, homelessness, in a very realistic and sensitive way. We never know who among our students, coworkers, classmates, or neighbors might be experiencing financial difficulties, and this novel tells the story of a family that is living that nightmare.

Eighth grader Kirby starts the school year with the normal stress of homework, changing dynamics of relationships with friends, and missing his dad. His parents had divorced several years prior and his dad rarely comes to town to see him. His mother works extra shifts as a waitress at a local diner and is studying to become a nurse. As he becomes aware of the money troubles facing them, he becomes convinced that if he could get in touch with his father everything would be all right. His father is into geocaching as a hobby and Kirby gets the idea in his head that he could track down his father by pursuing this scavenger hunt game with a GPS device.

I like that this story is told from a boy’s point of view. The character development is very authentic and I believe middle grade kids will be able to relate to Kirby. Because of the social pressures facing kids in this age group, it's very difficult to let others know that you're having problems or that you need help. The book has some terrific lessons for all of us about making negative assumptions about people. While the main characters in this story are eighth graders, I believe this book would be appropriate for kids in upper elementary grades and maybe even some high schoolers.

Click'd by Tamara Ireland Stone 
I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. I really enjoyed this middle grade fiction story that has likable characters, a STEM plot that taps into kids’ obsession with social media apps, and good messages about friendship and making good decisions.

Seventh grader Allie Navarro has just spent the summer at CodeGirls Camp developing a really cool friendship social media app/game called Click’d. Designed to help strangers find new friends that have compatible interests, the app has users complete profile quizzes, and uses sound effects and pictures from Instagram accounts to help friends find each other in a type of scavenger hunt. During the first week of school, her app is a huge hit at her middle school and hundreds of new users download the app right away. Her app is so awesome that her computer science teacher is mentoring her in a big contest that upcoming weekend. But when Allie discovers a glitch in the program that allows users’ private pictures from their phones to become very public, she realizes she's going to have to fix the code in order to salvage her app before the competition.

I think this would be a terrific book to share with middle grade students. The main character, Allie, is a relatable girl who embraces the “computer geek” inside her, but also has a group of close friends and participates on a soccer team. She deals with the normal middle school stress of homework and friend drama, along with her technology talents.

Middle grade students of the iGen generation cling to their phones and spend a colossal amount of time texting and relating to each other through social media. I think this book definitely taps into that in a positive way. I think this will be a very popular book with kids in grades 5 - 8!

My Happy Life (Dunia #1) by Rose Lagercrantz, Eva Eriksson (Illustrator)  
This book starts with Dani's first day of school and follows the ups and downs of her school year. There are mostly pleasant experiences, but the book is peppered with difficult times for the youngster: shyness, having a best friend move away, quarrels with other children, etc. 
Picture Books

  Another Way to Climb a Tree by Liz Garton Scanlon, Hadley Hooper (Illustrations) 
I love Lulu, the plucky little girl in this story about the way we look at things and making the best of our circumstances. With beautiful art and simple text, this book tells about a little girl who loves to climb trees. She climbs trees all the time, to the amazement of everyone in the neighborhood. But when she's sick and has to stay home, she misses the trees terribly. But her sweet, positive attitude and wonderful imagination allows her to enjoy playing in the treetops once again. This book would be great to share with kids as way to help develop a growth mindset.

Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood, Claudia Rueda (Illustrations)  
This adorable picture book is a wonderful tribute to the brave people who step up as substitute teachers whenever the need arises. I spent the first couple of years of my teaching career subbing, and it could be a daunting job. Everyday was the first day of school in a new classroom with new children to get to know. This would make a great gift for your favorite substitute teacher and a fun book to share with young readers.  

Little Red Riding Sheep by Linda Ravin Lodding  
Fractured fairy tales have always been very popular with my students, and I'm sure this one will be a big hit as well! Arnold is a sheep that desperately wants to be a part of this Little Red Riding Hood story. Once the author agrees, he becomes very demanding and wants to make all sorts of changes to the book. Young readers will have a lot of fun seeing all the changes Arnold wants to make. This could be a great mentor text for kids trying to make fun and creative changes to their own favorite fairy tales. The digital illustrations are bold, bright, and hilarious! This book would be awesome to have in any classroom library.  

Cap'n Rex & His Clever Crew by Henry L. Herz, Benjamin Schipper (Illustrations) 
This would be a great read aloud book to share with young readers, especially if read with a pirate accent! Four adventurous dinosaur-pirates sail the seven seas looking for treasure. Every dinosaur has a skill or talent to contribute to the effort and the captain learns a lesson about sharing the bounty!  

Droughts by Melissa Stewart, Andre Ceolin (Illustrations)  
Although this nonfiction picture book was written about a dry topic 😉, the text is engaging and easy for kids to understand and the illustrations are gorgeous! The information in this book explains the water cycle and how lack of rain affects the environment. The diagrams and step-by-step experiments kids can perform make this an awesome nonfiction resource for any bookshelf! 

Me and You and the Red Canoe by Jean E. Pendziwol, Phil (Illustrations)  
Perfect to share with young readers as an example of descriptive writing, this gorgeously illustrated picture shares the perfect summer morning fishing on a lake. Using poetic language and acrylic paintings on wooden panels, the author describes waking up very early on a summer morning in the woods, enjoying hot chocolate by the campfire and the sights and sounds of rowing a canoe through the water to catch a trout to take back to camp. This is a beautiful book to add to any bookshelf!


This Beautiful Day by Richard Jackson, Suzy Lee (Illustrations)  
What a terrific pick-me-up book to share on a rainy day. With spare, lyrical text and illustrations that start with a limited palette of gray and blue, gradually add green, yellow, and red and finally, have full-color spreads, this book takes a gloomy day and shows how imaginative friends and a little music can change everything. This would be great on any bookshelf, as it has a terrific message about the way a positive attitude and creativity and lift hearts and spread joy. 

I'm Smart! by Kate McMullan, Jim McMullan (Illustrations)  
This clever picture book would be good to share with young children at the beginning of the school year, especially those that will be riding a school bus. This book would provide a good opportunity to discuss the safety rules of a bus.  

Twindergarten by Nikki Ehrlich, Zoey Abbott Wagner (Illustrations)  
It's stressful for young children to start school for the first time. It is especially so for twins, Zoe and Dax. They are nervous because they will be in separate kindergarten classes. This would be a good book to share with young children who are starting school.  

Double Take! a New Look at Opposites by Susan Hood, Jay Fleck (Illustrations)  
This rhyming concept picture book takes a look at opposites, but goes more specifically into comparison. This might be a good read aloud to share if you're trying to teach these concepts. The rhyming feels a little bit awkward in places, but it's still worth having on the shelf of your classroom library. 

What the Dinosaurs Did at School: Another Messy Adventure by Refe Tuma (Visual Art), Susan Tuma (Visual Art)  
This fun picture book uses dinosaur action figures and clever photography to imagine what would happen if the naughty toys stowed away in a backpack and came to school one day. Kids will definitely get a giggle when they see what happens! This could be a good mentor text to help kids write their own stories about toys coming to life and running amok!

Mission: Back to School: Top-Secret Information by Susan Hood, Mary Lundquist (Illustrations)   
This cute back-to-school book reads like a secret agent checklist. This would be fun to share as a read aloud to younger kids during the first day of school. It might be a good opportunity to discuss routines and set expectations for the classroom community. It could also be a good mentor text to help young writers create their own "mission guides". 

Time for (Earth) School, Dewey Dew by Leslie Staub, Jeff Mack (Illustrations)  
This fun picture book about a little space alien that's nervous about his first day of school on Earth would be a good one to share with young children who may also be worried about their first day. Dewey Dew is different from all of the other kids at his new school and he's sure he won't fit in. See what a difference a smile can make. This could lead to a good conversation about how to make others feel welcome.  

Otter Goes to School by Sam Garton  
This is a cute picture book to share with young children who are eager to go to school. Kids with great imaginations who like to "play school" will definitely be able to relate to this story about little Otter who decides to run a school for his friends. Whimsically detailed digital illustrations make this a nice book for a primary bookshelf. 

Mouse's First Night at Moonlight School (Moonlight School, #1) by Simon Puttock, Ali Pye (Illustrations)  

This is a cute picture book about a shy little mouse on her first night at school. The little mouse attends school for nighttime animals. Everyone happily discovers that she is very good at hiding! This would be a nice book to share with young children about to start school for the first time. It would also be a good companion to The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn (see my review further down on today's blog post).


The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts  
This sweet, rhyming picture book would be great to share with young readers during the first days of school. It tells the story of a little girl who doesn't receive much attention, but is a keen observer of all that takes place around her. As the the school year rolls along, she notices that many of the other kids are mean to each other. The story wraps up with a nice message about how even the smallest among us can make a powerful difference in inspiring others to be kind to each other. The illustrations by award-winner Christian Robinson are awesome! This would be a terrific book to have in an elementary classroom library. 

My New Teacher and Me! by Al Yankovic, Wes Hargis (Illustrator)  
This would be fun to share during the first days of school. With rollicking, rhyming text and hilarious illustrations, Billy's wild stories have his teacher, Mr. Booth, shaking his head in disbelief. It might be a good way to talk about the concept of tall tales. It could serve as a good mentor text to help kids create their own tall tales.  

Max and Zoe at the Library (Max and Zoe) by Shelley Swanson Sateren, Mary Sullivan (Illustrator)  
This fun early chapter reader would be a good one to share with young readers at the beginning of the school year, especially as you're establishing routines and expectations for the care of library books. Max loves to read, but his dog constantly interrupts. With each interruption, Max folds down the corners of the book's pages, creating dog-ears. This book could serve as a great mentor text to help kids write their own stories about rules at school, in the library, or at home. The book also includes discussion questions, writing prompts, and a glossary. 

  The Kissing Hand (Chester the Raccoon #1) by Audrey Penn, Ruth E. Harper (Illustrator), Nancy M. Leak (Illustrator)  

This sweet picture book would be great to share with young children that are nervous or reluctant about going to school for the first time. Chester Raccoon doesn't want to go to school at all. He wants to stay home with his mother. But then she shares with him the secret of the kissing hand and he's able to have a reminder of his mother's love all night long. The illustrations are just beautiful and the text had me a little choked up at the end, but definitely a good one to have on the primary bookshelf!


Ruby The Copycat by Peggy Rathmann  
This school-themed picture book has a good message about the importance of being yourself. Ruby is brand new in Miss Hart's class, and it becomes obvious fairly quickly that Ruby has a tendency to copy the people around her, rather than being herself. This would be a nice book to share during the first days of school. 

Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting, Ronald Himler (Illustrations)  
I've been meaning to read this picture book for quite some time, but have only just now gotten to it. Wow! Just like all of Eve Bunting's books, this one really grabbed me by the heartstrings. A little boy and his father are homeless and live at the airport. They spend much of their time moving around and trying not to be noticed. The boy relates to a bird that is trapped inside, until it finds a way to fly outside. The story is written from the boy's point of view, and it's very tough to think about children in these circumstances. But sadly, this is the reality for many kids. This book could be a great conversation starter, and an awesome book to help talk about point-of-view. It would be interesting to consider how the story would be different if it were written from the father's point-of-view. Even though this book was written about families living in the airport before the terrorist attacks of 9-11-01 occurred, I think kids will be able to understand and relate to this story. 



  1. SO many great books! The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade is a new favorite and I will definitely include it as in #classroombookaday. I ordered Teacher Cat and am awaiting its arrival; I know it will be a fun read in the primary grades. Mission Back to School is a new book for me so will have to add that to my back to school collection. Thanks for all the recommendations!

    Laura @

  2. Wow, Jana, this took me a long time to read because I kept putting the titles on my "growing, growing" list! I know a few like Me and you and The Red Canoe, but thanks for new ones too! Happy Reading!

  3. I'm intrigued by Click'd. I'll definitely have to check that one out.

  4. I'm like Linda B. I found lots of these books at my library and have put holds on them. I'm especially interested in This Beautiful Day and Little Red Riding Sheep. I can see lots of fun activities connected to that last one, and I am a sucker for twisted fairy tales.

  5. The Kissing Hand was always a first day of school read aloud when I taught first grade. Love that book!

  6. I really liked Double Take - I'm going to use it to talk about perspective. I thought it did a good job of taking what you think and then changing it to what someone else might be thinking.
    I want to read Click'd. It's not at my library yet so I am patiently waiting....

  7. Love this collection of books in your post - So many wonderful texts for starting the year. We can't wait to read Double Take and The Drought

  8. You have a wonderful text-set here about coming back to school, friendship, compassion, and acceptance. I am super looking forward to finding Suzy Lee's newest picturebook - I knew her when she was still living here in Singapore, and I read that she also has just recently published "Lines" a new picturebook! More to look forward to!

  9. I love the contrast between the storm on the cover of This Beautiful Day and the child's radiant face.