Monday, October 23, 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.

Even though we've had a nice warm spell and beautiful, sunny weather, it's beginning to look a bit like Halloween in our neighborhood. One of the neighbors has set up a temporary graveyard. Other neighbors are starting to set out their nighttime decorations, too. I haven't decorated, but I have succumbed to the temptation to get some Halloween candy early. I'm sure it won't last, as I've been enjoying it while reading my books this week. Here's what I've been reading:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for this review. This middle grade novel is an appealing blend of inspirational realistic fiction with a dash of science fiction. Alba has spent her entire life dealing with braces, crutches, and surgeries to correct a deformity in her left foot. Now she’s in sixth grade and nearly finished recovering from her final surgery. She wants nothing more than to be normal, and to her that means being able to participate in the big cross-country race at school. At the same time, she and her best friend, Levi, are pretty sure that there is an inter-galactic wormhole in the school librarian’s office. Between Alba’s dreams of running like the wind on her left foot, which she has nicknamed “Cleo” and the mystery of the librarian’s daily lunchtime disappearance, young readers will enjoy the quick-paced, engaging story in this book.

I think the character development in this book is pretty good. Alba’s growing frustration with the seemingly slow pace of her recovery and her impatience to get rid of the crutches and other symbols of her “abnormality” is realistic. Young readers will be able to relate to her feelings and her interactions with her friends and her mother.

The symbolism of the hummingbirds is woven throughout the story. The hummingbird is unable to walk, because its feet are too small. Imbedded in the novel is “The Story of the Hummingbird and the Fire”. The message of the story dovetails with the theme of this book, the hummingbird is not discouraged because of what it can’t do, it does what it can. “The Theory of Hummingbirds is to just be who you are and do the best you can…LOVE who you are and LOVE what you can do.”

This is a good book to share with middle grade students from grades 4 – 8. It has appeal for most students. It also has a terrific message for the development of a growth mindset.

Adult Fiction

This is a continuation of the Legacy series. Lia has gone to Italy to run the restaurant Ari left her. But she has to work very hard to free herself from the past and move on with her life.

Picture Books

This is an absolutely gorgeous, nearly-wordless picture book that reassures all readers that there is a beautiful world that is waiting to connect with us. The story of this hope for connection is told through a little girl who sings the song in her heart and takes increasingly brave steps outside of her box into the world outside of it. Little by little, she ventures out and then retreats; but each time there is more of a connection to keep her coming back for more. The illustrations are stunning, and in themselves are a song beckoning readers to connect with it and with each other. This is a great time for a book like this, that teaches us that, with songs in our hearts, there are so many wonderful ways for us to connect with goodness and beauty, rather than the sadness, anger, and despair that threaten to chase us all back into our boxes.

Good descriptive writing tells young readers about a special experience for the little girl that’s telling the story. The little girl wakes up early on this special day. She’s excited about her fancy blue shoes that match her dress perfectly, getting her done, riding in a limousine, and posing for photographs. Not even a trip on the red carpet can dampen her spirit. The vibrant illustrations give readers a glimpse into what it must be like to be famous. For younger readers, you might need to share some background about awards shows like the Academy Awards. This could be a great mentor text to help young writers with their own descriptions of special events in their own lives.

This fascinating nonfiction picture book uses engaging informational text and wonderful illustrations to tell readers of an amazing strategy used by the Allied Powers during the First World War. Because the Germans were ruthless in attacking ships with their U-boats (underwater boats), the Allies were desperate to find a way to protect ships. This book explains how military officials decided to paint the boats in crazy patterns and designs, making it more difficult for submarine sailors to determine the ships’ direction and speed. In addition to explaining this strategy, the author makes a terrific point about the importance of trying new things and not giving up, making this a great history book to demonstrate a growth mindset. This book would be a great nonfiction resource to have in a classroom library.

For those wishing to travel through time, this nonfiction picture book will be a real treat. Detailing a trip from the north rim to the south rim of The Grand Canyon, this book shows the different rock layers and different ecologies of each part. By studying the fossils and rock formations, one can see what the area was like millions of years ago. The engaging text takes readers on a journey with a father and daughter as they hike along, shone with gorgeous illustrations. This is definitely a wonderful nonfiction resource for any classroom library.

There is a lot of work to do to prepare a busy farm for winter. Using poetic language and beautiful paintings to illustrate this family’s different tasks to transition the farm for the season, this book gives young readers a wonderful glimpse into the life of a farm. Children growing up in cities and suburbs often know very little about farm life, and this book does a great job describing it. I love the way everyone in this family works together.

This clever picture book would be terrific to share with children who are starting to become curious about where they come from and wanting to know more about their distant relatives. The narrative starts at both ends of the book, designed like a photo album. The front of the book shows the lineage from the narrator’s father’s side - starting with great great grandparents. The back of the book shows the lineage from the narrator’s mother’s side. Both sides work their way toward the middle, where there is a picture of the entire family. The illustrations use a somewhat limited palette that make the artwork look like older photographs. This might be a good book to use to start a discussion of genealogy and maybe even inspire young readers to find out more about their own families.

This is a heartwarming story about being lost, and then being found. There’s a hungry, lonely cat that used to be loved by a little girl. Now everyone chases him away. But then a ferocious dog chases him right into a dinghy boat which winds up drifting out to sea during a storm. Young readers will enjoy finding out if the cat can find his way to a new home. The paintings that illustrate the book are beautiful, especially the pages that show the cat sailing on the water.

Nearly every child, at one time or another, decided to run away from home. Alfie has decided to leave because his mom wants to get rid of his favorite red shoes. When he declares his intentions, his mother helps him get his things together and puts an extra hug in the bag. He doesn’t get very far before he wants that hug. This story is very sweet, and all kids will definitely be able to relate. Young writers might even be inspired to write their own runaway stories. Lauren Castillo’s heartwarming illustrations help make this book extra special.

This is a silly picture book about a turn-of-the-century lady who tries to chase a naughty pig out of her flower bed. The result is a wild ride that takes her all through the city, creating a chaotic mess in its wake. The warm, colorful illustrations by Lauren Castillo make this book a treat to check out. This book would be a good way to share a cumulative tale with young readers and to illustrate cause and effect/chain of events in literature. 

This book is a terrific resource for anyone (not just kids) interested in learning more about their family history and/or starting a genealogy project. With easy-to-follow directions and illustrations, the author takes readers through the steps of tracing and organizing the pieces of family history (photos, letters, and other artifacts), interviewing relatives, and using the Internet to help with research.

When there are so many pumpkin treats around this time of year, it’s a good time to share books about where pumpkins come from. This book uses easy to read and understand text, along with welcoming, cheerful illustrations to show how pumpkins grow from seeds to the full grown fruits we know and love. There are nice diagrams explaining the science behind growing these plants, and there are directions for further activities to extend the book.

This is a pretty good picture book aimed at primary-aged children who are curious about their roots. A little girl is making a family tree, and as she creates each part, she explains who these people are and why they belong in the picture. I like the way the illustrations consistently show common physical traits throughout the book. For example, the narrator’s brother has an upturned mouth and so does her father, and you can see a bit of a resemblance in the father’s father, her grandfather. This might be a good book to share with children before starting a genealogy project.

With fun, rhyming text and kid-friendly, colorful illustrations, this book of Halloween poems would be a lot of fun to share with young readers. The book includes poems about pumpkins, trick-or-treating, ghosts, goblins, and witches. But the poems are not too scary for sensitive children. They might even help inspire some seasonal poems among young writers. This book would be great to include in poetry collections in elementary classroom libraries.         

With simple, rhyming text and colorful illustrations, this sweet picture book tells about the change of seasons from the tree’s point of view. The tree believes the other seasons are easy, but because of the crazy changes that take place in its leaves colors, fall is the most difficult. This might be a good companion book to Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. It also could serve as a good mentor text for young writers to write from a different point of view.         


  1. The Hummingbird book sounds good in such a variety of ways. Having a little magic comes in handy sometimes! I love Sleep Tight Farm, so sweet. Thanks for sharing those good picture books, Jana. You keep my list growing! I have Dazzle Ships, need to read it!

  2. Look at that lush, green grass! Until recently we were going through a major drought and everything was brown! Too many leaves on the ground because of the dry weather. Now it's been wet and rainy but cold weather is coming.

  3. It looks like you had a wonderful reading week. We are not putting up halloween decorations this year because we won't be in town. Not to many other people put up anything in our neighbourhood, but I love to drive around looking at the yards of those who do! Our son and daughter in law will hand out candy on that day for us if there is any left.

  4. I saw Dazzle Ships at ALA, and it is so beautifully done and really interesting.
    The others are new to me--thank you for sharing :)
    I love the photos of your neighborhood! I love when people get into the mood of the season!

    Happy reading this week :)

  5. The cover of The Pig and Miss Prudence makes me laugh!

  6. What a great list of picture books, where do I even start?!? :-D

  7. Fall is Not Easy sounds like a great book to help teach or reinforce point of view. Love the idea of pairing it with Wishtree.

  8. What a great collection. I agree - La La La is really gorgeous. I want to read A Night Out with Mama.