Monday, October 2, 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.



It's starting to look like fall! The temperature has dropped a bit, making gorgeous days for walking in the park. The leaves are starting to change and the jackets will be coming on any day now. I am taking advantage of the beautiful weather to walk outdoors as much as possible. I know that before long, the weather will turn gray and nasty and the workouts will have to take place indoors. For now, I'm enjoying and still finding time to grab my books and head out to the patio. Here's what I've been reading this past week:
Middle Grade Fiction

  The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. I really enjoyed reading this middle grade novel that allows readers to pull up a chair in the cozy kitchen of the Vanderbeekers’ Harlem brownstone. The Vanderbeekers are a family with five children that are each charming in their own way. Middle grade kids will most definitely be able to relate to somebody in this household!

The Vanderbeeker kids have lived in this apartment house for as long as any of them can remember. But a few days before Christmas, they are informed that their lease is not being renewed, and they have to be out of their home by the end of the month. Mr. Beiderman, their mysterious landlord who lives on the third floor of their building, has given the family no reason why he wants them to leave. The kids in the family team up and concoct a plan to try to convince Mr. Beiderman to change his mind. But they don't have much time, and if they don't succeed, this will be their last Christmas in this house.

This close knit family sets a good example for how we should get along in our homes. Family members don't always agree with one another, but they always remember that they're on the same team and that it's important for them to stick up for each other. The family also realizes how fortunate they are to have friends, family, and neighbors that love them and care about them.

The book also has a good lesson about making assumptions about people without having the whole story. Sometimes when a person acts in ways that are unkind, there are reasons that explain how that person got to that place. And while this story doesn't excuse the behaviors, it shows that we should still persist in being kind anyway.

I think this a terrific middle grade novel. It definitely belongs in classroom and school library collections for kids in grades 4-8.

This fun middle grade fiction book takes the popular character from the Babymouse graphic novel series and places her in middle school, which to her is just like a monster movie. Trying to find a way to fit in using her own unique style, Babymouse joins the school film club. Thinking that everyone will want to be friends with her if she makes a blockbuster movie, she learns that there’s more to being a film director than bossing people around. This book will definitely be a great one for fans of Babymouse who are ready for a more mature read. This one reads a little more like Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell.

Picture Books

Dough Knights and Dragons by Dee Leone, George Ermos (Illustrations)  

This awesome picture book uses rhyming narrative text and bright, colorful digital illustrations to tell a terrific story. In this magical kingdom, knights and dragons are required to fight each other, with the loser getting eaten. But something unthinkable happens: a young knight and a dragon become good friends and would rather spend time together baking yummy treats than fighting. They can’t bear the thought of hurting each other, so they must come up with a plan! Young readers will enjoy finding out how these two will avoid dueling with each other and if they can put an end to generations of hate. I love the message in this book, that fighting and hatred don’t have to be anyone’s destiny and two have the power to put an end to it and choose friendship instead.

This is such a sweet book to share with young children, especially as a bedtime story. Using clever, rhyming text this book takes us through the bedtime routine of Little Bot: turning off video games, bathing, pulling on pajamas, snacking, and stories. But because he’s a robot, young readers will enjoy pointing out the differences: snacking on batteries and oil, combing circuits, brushing bolts, and plugging in a re-charger. Bright, kid-friendly digital illustrations show the familiar sights of bedtime in a way that will be relaxing and fun to look at before retiring for the evening.

One of our favorite grumpy bears is back and he's ready to make a big move! This awesome picture book series continues the trials and tribulations of Bruce, the reluctant mother of four silly geese. Now three mice have taken up residence in his den and they won't leave. Bruce like things calm, quiet, and tidy. But these three mice are quite the opposite: messy, chaotic, and loud. So he packs up the geese and moves to a brand new house, with no mice in it. The hilarious illustrations along with the fun story of this grumpy bear (who, incidentally, reminds me of Lou Grant from the Mary Tyler Moore Show) will make this, and the first two books (Mother Bruce and Hotel Bruce) a great trilogy for the classroom library.

For those readers that think they know how Jack and the Beanstalk goes, think again! This fun fractured fairy tale shows what happens when the main character of your story is uncooperative and takes over! From the start, Jack wants to do things his own way and kids will have a great time reading to find out where he takes this story. Fractured fairy tales have always been very popular with my students, and this book could serve as a great mentor text for taking traditional stories and giving them a new twist. The detailed, colorful digital illustrations have the added fun of favorite fairy tale friends sprinkled throughout the book. I found myself going back and forth through the pages and feeling mighty clever each time I found a new one! This is definitely a book for every bookshelf!

Wow! What a beautiful picture book that will definitely find a place on my bookshelf before the holidays arrive! This is the story of a pair of cardinals that spend nearly all of their time together in the branches of a big evergreen tree. When the tree disappears and the couple is separated, Red does everything he can to find Lulu again. The paintings in this tale of friendship are just breathtaking!

The universality of being bored will definitely be familiar to kids who read this fun picture book. And I can definitely relate to the frustration of complaining to a parent of your boredom only to be given suggestions of chores that could be done around the house. The little frog in this book looks everywhere for something fun to do, and it seems as though nobody does anything interesting. Young readers will have a fun time reading to see what he winds up doing. Bright, humorous illustrations will add to the fun of this book! 

Is there ever too much adventure or friendship, can someone ever ask too many questions? The animals that board the antlered ship are searching for the answers to these questions and more! An inquisitive fox and some adventurous pigeons join some hungry deer on a great antlered ship to find their way to “a wonderful island, with tall, sweet grass and short, sweet trees.” This gorgeous picture book would be a good one to share with young readers to help develop a growth mindset, as learning and growing are pursuits worth all of the ups and downs that come with them. 

This is a clever picture book about unlikely friends helping each other out and the gift of learning to read. Two sheep, one is a reader and the other is a knitter, become friends with a wolf who is unable to read. Young readers will enjoy finding out if Wooliam will be able to teach the wolf to read in spite of the wolf’s dangerous and rambunctious behavior. The illustrations are very cute.  

This nonfiction picture book contains fascinating information about wild cats around the world and beautiful illustrations. Young readers are always interested in books about animals, and I believe this would be a lovely nonfiction resource to have on the classroom bookshelf.

This cute picture book has a great growth mindset message that no one is too small to make a big difference. Hugo is hamster who has a lot going for him and lots of friends. But more than anything, he wants to be a firefighter. When he gives it a try, though, it seems like the job just might be too big for him. This would be great to share with young readers who will enjoy finding out how Hugo is able to contribute. Bold, colorful illustrations will make this a book that kids will come back to for repeated readings.  

As the leaves start falling from the trees and the weather turns cooler, it's so much fun to play outside with friends. This adorable picture book shows young readers the fun things friends can do on an autumn day. The illustrations were made up of tiny pieces of fabric, salvaged from the authors' little girls’ baby clothes and photographed. This book would be great as part of a seasonal collection in a primary-grade classroom library. 

Pet lovers have special relationships with their animals, often like family. Frida Kahlo was an artist of the early twentieth century who grew up in Mexico with quite an assortment of pets around to love. It's good that she did, because a bout with polio when she was a young child, and a horrible accident with a bus later on, left her bedridden much of the time and very lonely. This beautiful picture book biography shares how Frida used her time and her special relationships with her animals to inspire her art. This could be a good mentor text to help kids think about how the special things in their own lives might inspire their art or their writing. This book could also be shared with young readers to help develop a growth mindset, as Frida was faced with much adversity but did not give up her artistic pursuits. This is also a nice nonfiction resource to use as a starting point for further research. Sadly, La Casa Azul (her art museum) outside Mexico City was damaged in the September 19 earthquake and is currently closed. Hopefully the museum will be able to recover, soon.  

Anyone who enjoys watching dogs bark at stuff out the window, will definitely smile reading this early reader. Cute illustrations for dog lovers will make this a nice one to share with young children. 

With lyrical, rhyming text and beautifully rendered digital illustrations, we go on a journey leaping through the grass on the back of a flea. This poetic picture book takes a close-up look at our backyard creatures on a warm day. This would be great to share with young readers as a way of discussing cause-and-effect relationships and chain of events. Definitely a lovely book for any bookshelf. 

This colorful, cultural picture book shares a terrific message about facing your fears, appreciating tradition, and not jumping to conclusions. The little girl in the story, Anyaugo, wakes up on the eve of the village’s yam festival, to find an enormous chicken making a mess in the kitchen. She knows she can’t let it ruin all of the prepared yam dishes, but she’s frightened to go into the kitchen. This would be a great book to share with young readers, especially if you’re studying stories from other cultures.

Even though we've had a string of hot days at the beginning of autumn this year, the days are getting shorter and the leaves are beginning to change color and fall. This annual process is detailed beautifully in this nonfiction picture book. Using simple, rhyming text and gorgeous photographs, this book celebrates the science and spectacle of the color, shape, and textures of fall. The publishers have even added special texture to the front cover of the book, so little hands can feel the red maple leaf in the photo. This would be an awesome book to share with young readers as part of a seasonal collection. 

This picture book biography tells the story of Zaha Hadid, an architect from Iraq. She had a unique way of looking at the world around her and incorporated lines and structures that she found in nature into her designs for buildings. This book would be great to share with kids to help develop a growth mindset, as she never stopped entering her strange and controversial designs into contests, even though her work was frequently rejected. Notes at the back make this a nice nonfiction resource for further research.  

While young children are very excited to prepare for Halloween and trick-or-treating, sometimes they can be a little apprehensive if they’re going out for the first time. The little boy in this book isn’t so sure if he will like Halloween. I like that the father is very upbeat and encouraging that the holiday doesn’t have to be spooky. He helps the boy put together a costume, carve a pumpkin, and get ready to collect candy. This would be terrific to share with young children as Halloween approaches.  

With beautiful illustrations rendered in charcoal and digital collage and fun rhyming text on folded over pages, this book is a wonderful celebration of the fall season for young readers. This book would be a terrific addition to a seasonal collection for primary age children. 

With simple, engaging text and colorful photographs to illustrate important concepts, this is a terrific nonfiction picture book to share with young readers. This would be perfect to read right before a trip to the pumpkin farm or as part of a seasonal collection in a primary-grade classroom library. 

This is a nice nonfiction picture book that tells young readers about pumpkin growing and how the changes in the seasons affects that process. The easy to read text and colorful photographs make this a good book to share during the autumn season, especially if you're planning a trip to a pumpkin farm. 

This fun picture book tells what can happen when you have too much of a good thing. A pumpkin farmer and his sons aren’t very careful when it come to disposing of their leftover pumpkin seeds. When the nearby town becomes inundated with pumpkins growing everywhere, the boys know it’s their fault and they need to fix it. The story reminds me a little of Too Many Pumpkins by Linda White and would be fun to share with young readers as part of an autumn collection. The clever illustrations were created with collages of original art and found objects. 

With lyrical, poetic text and beautifully painted illustrations, this picture book is a celebration of the things that we share with people all over the world. In this frustrating time, when it seems so many people are focused on our differences and things that divide us, it is great to share books with young readers that help us connect to each other. This awesome book would be a good addition to any elementary classroom library. 




  1. It took me a long time to wander through your post, Jana. So many books to love, and put on my list! Fall books, wonderful chapter books and more! I shared Full of Fall today, have Red & Lulu & The Antlered Ship, but still haven't read them. Thanks for so much goodness today!

  2. So many great books here today. Red and Lulu looks beautiful and I love all the Fall themed books.

  3. The Vanderbeeker parents bothered me. They made NO plans to move? It struck me as very odd. Did love the cover! Have you nominated books for the Cybils Awards?

  4. Wow! Lots of great children's books here! I hope you enjoy them all!

    Here’s my It’s Monday! What are You Reading?!

    Ronyell @ Rabbit Ears Book Blog

  5. So many good books this week! Must. Read. New. Bruce. Book.

  6. You have some great picture books on this list! Bruce and Jack were both favorites. I have Vanderbeekers to read too - I've heard great things about it!

  7. So many of your books have been my favorites-Vanderbeekers, It's Not Jack & Hamsters Don't Fight Fires. I hear such good things about I've Got Nothing to Do. Def on my TBR list.

  8. Wow what a lot of books here ! I need to get a hold of that new Bruce book. Isn't The Antlered Ship gorgeous?

  9. Thanks for sharing all these great books. I'm especially happy to see the sequels (Bruce, Frog) but hope they are able to live up to book one.

  10. What a gorgeous collection of picture books. Red and Lulu looks exquisite. The graphic novel I just finished, The Big Bad Fox, reminded me of a picture book I had read. It wasn't until I saw the cover of this Bruce book that I remembered. Now I need to find this one.

  11. I loved Frida Kahlo's Animalitos but hadn't know the museum was harmed in the earthquake.