Monday, October 16, 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.

Fall is still working it's way in. While it hasn't been particularly cold the last few days, it has been awfully gray and dreary. My trees are still clinging to their leaves, but they're starting to drop faster and faster. The coming rainstorms will help start knocking them down, for sure. At any rate, I'm starting to move the reading indoors. Curled up on my sofa, here's what I've been reading this last week:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read a digital-ARC of this middle grade novel from NetGalley in exchange for a review. As someone who grew up reading and loving the Little House on the Prairie series of novels by Laura Ingalls Wilder and watching the television show, I can appreciate the idea of making a pilgrimage to Walnut Grove, Minnesota.

Unfortunately for Charlotte, the main character of this book, her mom has uprooted the family and moved to this small town on the edge of the prairie looking for the inspiration to write the next great prairie novel. Charlotte, her twin brother, Freddy, and her younger half-sister, Rose are used to being uprooted whenever their writer-mom gets the urge to find new fuel for her creativity. So, when they arrive in Walnut Grove, Charlotte is very reluctant to settle in and make friends, while Freddy and Rose seem to have no trouble meeting people and becoming popular.

While it isn’t necessary to have been a big fan of the popular Little House on the Prairie books, having some familiarity with the Ingalls family story would help the reader gain an appreciation for the setting of this novel. The family references On the Banks of Plum Creek when they visit the grounds of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and the site of the sod house that Charles Ingalls built. Throughout the novel, the family reads and refers to passages in Little House in the Big Woods, Little House on the Prairie, The Long Winter, and By the Shores of Silver Lake.

I like how the author uses the backdrop of Walnut Grove and the life story of Laura Ingalls Wilder to tell a contemporary story of a twelve-year-old girl and the stress that comes from being new to a school and community, dealing with the change in family relationships that come with growing up, and learning how to trust others in the context of caring relationships. I also liked the sneaky way the author teaches young readers about the history of westward expansion along with critical thoughts about the unintended consequences of such.

The characters evolve as they also learn about accepting friends for who they are and not making assumptions about people and their intentions. There’s also uplifting moments as Charlotte learns to look at life and its circumstances through the rainbow lens that her mom encourages her to use.
This is a nice middle grade novel. I would recommend it to readers who have read and/or enjoyed the books in the Little House on the Prairie series.

I had the opportunity to read a digital-ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. Just in time for Halloween comes this spooky story that will have readers listening for things that go bump in the night.

Tessa, a seventh grader, is already miserable to be moving from her home in sunny Florida to cold and rainy Chicago. The new house is old and creepy, and Tessa has reason to believe that it’s haunted. There are too many strange things happening: unexplained power outages, strange drawings appearing on her sketchpad, and real tears coming from her younger brother’s doll. There’s a lot for Tessa to learn in her new neighborhood, and thankfully, she’s made a few friends that are willing to help her get to the bottom of this mystery.

I think that this will be a popular book with middle grade readers. This book mixes the fun of a spooky ghost story with the normal adolescent stressors of a new school, a new neighborhood, and new friends. I think that kids will be able to relate to all of these things. The story moves along quickly, and the unfolding drama of these strange occurrences will have readers engaged throughout.

Picture Books

In a world where so many crazy things happen, and it seems like there’s danger everywhere you look, it might seem like a difficult task to teach young people resiliency and how to move on after a setback. This wonderful picture book, teaches a wonderful lesson about that through the eyes of Humpty Dumpty. In a clever epilogue to the story of the famous fall, we see that Humpty had a difficult time overcoming his sense of fear and self-doubt. Young readers will really enjoy finding out how he pulls himself together again. This could definitely generate some great discussions, especially when teachers are trying to help develop a growth mindset. It could also be a nice mentor text for young writers to try to write epilogues to other favorite stories.

With lyrical, poetic narrative and beautiful illustrations, this wonderful picture book tells the life story (in verse) of Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote. I think Cervantes’ story is relevant to kids’ lives today, because we live in such a chaotic world where young people sometimes pay the price for choices the grownups in their lives make. Cervantes’ father struggled with a gambling addiction, and as a result the family was constantly struggling to survive and had to move around a lot. Through all of this turmoil, Cervantes continued to dream and to imagine stories that would one day come to life in his writing. This is an awesome book to have as part of any classroom library.

Kids have a lot going on and it seems like there is always something to worry about. This picture book gives young readers the basic steps to calm oneself into a state of mindfulness. The simple, warm, and welcoming illustrations reach out to all and make it seem like an easy thing to let go of worry and stress and focus on peacefulness and kindness. I know that mindfulness and meditation is something I’d like to learn more about, and this book is a terrific resource for classrooms and households.

Using the same well-organized and well-researched text style that she used in Neighborhood Sharks, Katherine Roy's newest book takes a look at African elephants. A baby elephant has so much to learn in order to survive, and this book takes each lesson as a way to help young readers understand an elephant's way of life. Gorgeous illustrations and informative diagrams go together with helpful resource information in the back to make this a terrific nonfiction resource to have in an elementary classroom.

Learning how to read can be so empowering for young children. This beautiful book of poetry celebrates the freedom that comes with finally being able to access stories, road signs, cereal boxed, and comics pages independently. The colorful, inviting illustrations and poignant, heart-warming poems can definitely be used to inspire a love of reading with children, and should definitely be a part of every library!

This Latin twist on The Princess and the Pea fairy tale is a real treat for readers! The rhyming text incorporates Spanish words into the story of a queen trying to find the best wife for her son. She sets up a tricky test to see if she truly has the makings of a princess, but readers will be delighted to see the queen isn’t the only trickster around. The warm, cultural illustrations really draw readers into the story and wraps us up in the beautifully designed textiles, which were inspired by the artful creations of the indigenous people of Peru. This is definitely a book that you won’t want to put down!

With spare, poetic text and beautifully rendered illustrations, this book examines a common existential question that children and adults have tried to answer for a long, long time. As the narrator moves along a busy city street and onto a train full of fellow travelers, the question is posed and the answer seems to be everywhere around, and yet, there is no one correct answer. But in posing the question, and really taking a close look we see how there are no two people exactly the same, and at the same time there are so many commonalities. The art, which was created with paints, pencils, and collage techniques, draws readers into the minutiae of this community in a way that is spirit-lifting. This book could generate so many great discussions, that it would be a wonderful addition to any bookshelf.

Beautifully orchestrated collage illustrations and text inspired by the classic novel, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, come together to make this lovely picture book. This would be a terrific book to share with young readers as a mentor text to make their own twists on favorite stories.

This cute picture book uses the story of a grumpy dragon and a rambunctious little boy to share the message that laughter can be powerful in turning thing around and helping good relationships to grow. The grumpy dragon just wants to sit quietly in his cave and be left alone. When the tenacious little boy keeps roaring and poking him, that changes everything. Clever, colorful illustrations and simple, narrative text make this a fun story to share with young readers.

This is an awesome picture book that helps readers see a day in the life of a homeschooler. With the same family and warm, inviting illustrations from the book Building Our House, the narrative describes the day by showing each part of it as it would be in a traditional school setting. The boy’s classmates and teacher are also his sisters and his mom. The classrooms are also his living room, basement, and kitchen. I love that this book is one that homeschoolers will recognize themselves in and one that kids in traditional school can use to learn about how other kids learn. And I think it’s also a great way for all kids to see the potential to make all sorts of situations at home into opportunities to learn, no matter where they attend school.

This sweet picture book would be fun to share with young readers in the weeks leading up to Halloween. The author takes a fun, spooky twist on the classic lullaby “Hush Little Baby”. The father monster lulls his little monster to sleep with a son about werewolves, ogres, witches, zombies, and more. The rhyming text seems to fit the framework, and might even be fun to try to sing. This could also be a fun mentor text for writers trying to make fun twists on their own nursery rhymes or songs.

This Caldecott honor book shows the differences in how people view their world with the seasonal example of snow. The little boy and his dog see something exciting and magical in the snow that has begun to fall. But the busy adults barely notice, and if they do, they are certain that it won’t amount to much. The illustrations are simply beautiful; the cold, gray world of this town on a day when it’s about to snow is contrasted with the warm, inviting colors of the little boy and his home. As the snowfall becomes heavier, the white blanket that washes over the pages is amazing. This is definitely a book that should be on the shelf as autumn starts to give way to winter.


  1. Love After the Fall and Read! Read! Read! The Peculiar Incident is on my list this week, too. I like that it's spooky, but not too scary for middle grade kids.

  2. Miguel's Brave Knight is in my stacks! Hope to get to it at some point...
    Lots of other great books. I'm looking forward to reading Laura Ingalls and Shady Street is a definite favorite!

  3. I just read I Am Peace today and absolutely loved it!

  4. How To Be an Elephant is on my wish list. Looks beautiful. Read, Read, Read! is one I want to find too! Thanks for sharing all of these titles.

  5. I love Jonathan Bean's picture book memoirs. They are full of such fascinating detail and so perfectly-pitched to kids!

  6. Oh wow! So many great titles you have here. Miguel's Brave Knight caught my eye - should find that one soonest. Visited Miguel Cervantes' home while I was in Madrid last year - that was quite an experience.