Monday, October 30, 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.

Well, this week finally started to feel like we're leaving summer behind! The temperature plummeted, the furnace came on in our house, and we lit the season's first fire in the fireplace. And yikes, yesterday the season's first snowflakes fell! There wasn't anything to shovel, yet. But it was certainly a reminder, that winter is not far away. It was a good week to gather up my books, sit by the fire with a cup of tea, and read. Here's what I've been reading this past week:

Adult Fiction

Lately I’ve taken an interest in finding out more about my Swedish American ancestors. I’ve been looking at my family tree from, looking at family photos and other artifacts from the past, and conducting research into the way of life for the first-generation immigrants that traveled to America looking for a better life. During this research, I became aware of this memoir of life in a Swedish-American family in Chicago. Based on the description of this book, it looked like it could provide some good insights for me. This book certainly provided much for me to consider when thinking about my own family’s background, but it was also a compelling, heartbreaking, look at the struggles experienced by the author’s family members as they came to terms with the difficulties of surviving during the Great Depression, fitting into a society where many of the Swedish traditions weren’t appreciated, and personal tragedies related to poverty, alcoholism, divorce, and bullying. The writer’s style is conversational and personal, such that I felt like I was having a conversation with a friend or a family member about people that I knew. This is definitely an interesting read for anyone that is curious about life in Chicago in the past hundred years.

Picture Books

Learning how to graciously give and receive gifts is an important social skill, and this book uses Mr. Panda’s gift-giving spree to show that. Mr. Panda has decided to bestow gifts upon his friends, but each recipient has a complaint rather than a “thank you”. When it’s Lemur’s turn to receive a gift, young readers will appreciate his reaction and grace. This book might be a good one to share with young children coming into the season of gift-giving occasions and holidays. There are several opportunities to discuss why we give gifts and how we might feel if someone doesn’t like our gifts, and why it’s important to be gracious even if a gift isn’t perfect.

This picture book biography uses lyrical text and beautiful illustrations rendered in watercolor, oil pastel, china marker, printing ink, and newspaper collage to tell the life story of McKinley Morganfield, or Muddy Waters. Raised by sharecroppers in the Deep South, Muddy grew up playing the type of soulful guitar music that became known as the blues. He moved to Chicago in order to one day make recordings of this music. He didn’t have an easy time of it, and young readers will enjoy finding out how he eventually succeeded. There is an author’s note and a list of suggested records to listen to. I would suggest listening to his music along with sharing this book. It could be a great starting place for further research, or just a nice book to help develop a growth mindset.

This silly Halloween story is sure to get a giggle from young readers as they find out who’s going to win the scariest-cat contest at cat school. Splat seems to be afraid of everything and everyone, but he really wants to win the contest. Colorful, humorous illustrations help make this a fun book to share with kids as Halloween approaches.

A special day fishing on the lake will bring smiles and happy memories to the readers of this sweet picture book. The little girl and her father spend a lovely day looking for worms, fishing in a boat on the lake, and enjoying a wonderful meal with the rest of the family at home. Warm, inviting illustrations by Lauren Castillo help make this book a treat. It would also make a good mentor text to help kids write about their own special memories.

In the style of The Night Before Christmas, this picture book tells the story of a witch’s Halloween party in her haunted house. The rhyming text describes the creepy treats and scary decorations and what happens when the local children show up to collect treats. The digitally colored illustrations are very bold and detailed and will have young readers poring over the pages. If young children are particularly sensitive, you might want to be careful with this one, but I don’t think it’s too scary for most elementary-aged kids.

Based on the true story of Mary Ann Goodnight and her husband, Charles, this historical fiction picture book tells the story of a woman’s love for animals and her determination to save the buffalo from extinction in the late nineteenth century. After hunters kill all of the buffalo around her ranch in Texas, Molly starts raising orphan buffalo calves. Eventually she sends four of her animals to Yellowstone National Park to help start herds there. This would be a good book to share with kids, especially as part of a study of pioneer days and westward expansion. The illustrations by Lauren Castillo are beautiful and really help bring this story to life.

This silly picture book will get a lot of laughs, as nearly everyone can relate to having a stubborn case of hiccups. The skeleton tries everything to get rid of his hiccups, but it’s up to his friend to help him out. Hilarious illustrations will make this a fun one to share with young kids leading up to Halloween.

This fun Halloween picture book uses rhyming text and terrific illustrations to tell a great story about friends helping each other. The witch in the story is flying around on her broom and constantly losing important items: her hat, her hair bow, her wand. When friendly animals help her find her things she pays them back by letting them ride around on her broom. But when a catastrophe occurs and the witch is in trouble, her friends are there to help her. This would be a great one to share with young children as Halloween approaches.

This colorful nonfiction picture book, helps young readers understand how pumpkins grow, the history of pumpkins as they relate to Halloween and Thanksgiving, and how to carve pumpkins and dry the seeds. The information is written in an easy-to-understand manner and the illustrations help support the concepts. This would be a good book to share with young readers during the fall holiday season.

This beautifully illustrated picture book tells the story of Lydia Grace, who, during the Depression, moves to the city to live with her uncle while her father looks for work. Uncle Jim runs a bakery, and he never smiles. Lydia Grace loves to plant flowers, and while she stays with her uncle, all kinds of flowers and relationships bloom. The story is told through a series of letters that Lydia writes back home to her family. This would be a terrific mentor text for telling a story through letter writing. It would also be great for developing a growth mindset, as the little girl’s circumstances only seem to inspire her to work harder and grow more flowers. The illustrations, which received a Caldecott Honor, really support the story well, as the colors grow more vibrant as the flowers and relationships bloom. This is definitely a wonderful book for any bookshelf.


  1. The snow was such fun! I'm totally fine with winter holding off for just a little bit longer.

  2. What a great collection of seasonal picture books you have here!
    This is the second post highlighting the Muddy Waters book. I sure wish it was available in any of my local libraries.

  3. I love The Gardener by Sarah Stewart, a lovely book. Thanks for all the wonderful Halloween books, Jana. I enjoy them a lot. Skeleton Hiccups looks fun. And I'll look for Buffalo Music. We have a protected herd in the foothills of the mountains, wonderful to see. Whiskey Breakfast sounds so good. I wish I had more time to read adult books, too.

  4. Skeleton Hiccups is a book that students borrow a lot this time of year. I can't remember if I've ever read it. I'm not looking forward to the first snowflakes. I'm hoping they hold off for quite a while!

  5. The Muddy Waters story took me by surprise. I did not expect it to be as soulful as it was! I really enjoyed it. And I think Evan Turk outdid himself with the artwork. It's one I am hoping to hear about come February....

  6. I love the Mr. Panda books. Kids are always checking them out in the library.

  7. The Gardener is one of my absolute favourites. What a varied selection here this week. Room on the Broom is also a classic read aloud during the Halloween season! I didn't know Lauren Castillo illustrated so many books. Her style just makes me smile.