Monday, March 5, 2018

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.

What a beautiful weather week it has been here in central Ohio! For a few days the temperatures climbed up to nearly 60 degrees. Last Tuesday was a terrific day to visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to celebrate International Polar Bear Day. As we leave February behind, hopefully we'll leave the worst of winter behind, too. I know we're not completely done yet, but in a few weeks it'll be spring and hopefully we'll have more warmer days. In the meantime, here's what I've been reading:

Middle Grade Fiction

I had the opportunity to read a digital ARC of this middle grade novel from NetGalley in exchange for this review. I was drawn to this story because the main character, Vanessa Martin, dreams of one day becoming Miss America after Vanessa Williams becomes the first black woman to win the crown in 1983. I was thirteen and an eighth grader in 1983 also, and so absolutely gobbled up all the cultural references sprinkled throughout the book.

I also remember what it was like to be that age, when other kids could be so snotty and mean to those who weren’t popular or good-looking like them. Vanessa studies hard to get good grades, would rather read a good book than run around with the popular girls, and has an awesome voice from singing in her church choir every Sunday. When her choir teacher, Mrs. Walton, pushes her to enter the First Annual Miss King Middle School Pageant, Vanessa reluctantly agrees to give it her best shot. It isn’t easy for her because her father is adamant that he does not want her to participate, her mother left the family many years before, and her grandfather (Pop Pop) and cousin (TJ) are the only ones at home to help her prepare.

The author does a good job of capturing the adolescent voice and drama of Vanessa’s character. I remember how terrifying it could be to sing for an audition on a stage in front of half the school, many of whom are whispering and giggling. Vanessa goes through so much during the preparations for this pageant: the pain of her family’s heartache from her mother’s absence, the growing pains of friendships being strained, and trying to become the kind of girl who wins competitions like this pageant. I love that kids from all backgrounds will be able to recognize themselves in Vanessa’s story. I think this would be a great book to share with kids in grades six and up.

An advanced copy of this middle grade novel was provided to my #BookRelays group by the author. I really enjoyed this animal adventure story. The young coyote pup, Trouble (so named because of his habit of letting his unbridled enthusiasm and curiosity get him into trouble), learns some invaluable “lessons in friendship, bravery, love, forgiveness, belonging, and home.” The awesome storytelling and wonderful themes reminded me a bit of The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford.

As a young, rambunctious coyote pup, Trouble has a difficult time obeying his mother, and staying away from the Makers (humans). Curiosity leads him to climb into the back of a produce truck on a nearby farm, and soon Trouble finds himself in the heart of New York City. Now there’s disaster waiting around every corner, and all Trouble wants to do is figure out how to get back home! In order to survive and find his way back to his family, Trouble makes friends with an unlikely assortment of wild animals: a crow, an opossum, a fox, and an owl.

Picture Books

Pizza Day is always the best day in the school cafeteria and who doesn’t enjoy a pizza party every now and then? Just about everyone loves pizza. So this fun rhyming picture book that tells the story of the awesome pies at Pizza Pig’s shop will have young readers puzzled when everyone is enjoying their meals except one shy turtle. When the staff at the restaurant notice that the sad-looking turtle isn’t eating the pizza, Pig does everything he can to figure out how to make her happy. The simple rhyming text and adorable colorful illustrations make this a terrific book to share with beginning readers.

I’ve always loved to start the school year with the book First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg as a way to discuss how everyone is excited and anxious on the first day of school. This sequel, shows how Mrs. Hartwell’s year is going through a series of letters that the students write to her. Mrs. Hartwell sets up a classroom mailbox so her students can practice letter writing. This hilarious picture book is a great mentor text to help young writers see examples of letters and it may also inspire kids to try to tell their own stories through letters.

This fascinating nonfiction book tells young readers about Chinese New Year by showing how one family in New York City’s Chinatown celebrates this special holiday. With awesome color photographs and a simple narrative style, the author of Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl takes kids through the special day by following Ernie Wan, who has the exciting honor of performing his first Lion Dance on the city streets. While this book was written in 1990, the pictures aren’t too outdated for kids today. This is a good resource to have on the bookshelf for those who would like to learn more about this holiday.

Anybody that’s ever bundled up to go outside and play in the snow knows that while warmth is important, sometimes you can overdo it and become very uncomfortable. The narrator of this cute, rhyming cumulative tale has on so many clothes that are too stiff, wrinkled, or caught up in the zipper that finally tears bring help from Mother. Simple text for beginning readers and full-color artwork created with watercolor paints, colored pencils and a black pen make this a fun, wintertime book to have on the primary bookshelf.

Finding a healthy balance between the work you’re expected to do and an activity that you’re passionate about is not easy, especially for kids. Ralph’s rabbit colony was responsible for decorating all of the eggs delivered by the Easter bunny, and so he was expected to help get this huge job done. But he also loved playing soccer, and dreamed of one day being a famous player. Unfortunately, Ralph spent so much time practicing his footwork and kicks, it interfered with the egg decorating. Young readers will enjoy finding out how he learns to strike a balance between the two. Engaging text and adorable illustrations make this a fun book to share with kids in the days leading up to Easter.

With lyrical rhyming text and lovely colorful illustrations, this book helps young readers understand what collective nouns are and gives many examples. For young readers who love the sounds and textures of different words, this book would be a treat. This would be a good resource to have in a collection of books you might keep near your writing center.

This cute mystery picture book reminds me of The Mitten by Jan Brett. If you ever take a glance in the Lost and Found at an elementary school, you’ll see that lost mittens are a very common problem. In this story, a little girl has lost a red mitten and she and her dog retrace her steps from a day spent playing all over the neighborhood in the snow. The artist created black and white illustrations, except for a red cardinal, and red mittens. This would be a good book to include in a collection of wintertime books.


  1. What a great array of reads. I think it's always fun to see the polar bears. It's amazing at how big their paws are.

  2. I watched Lady Bird recently, and it was so very strange, it was like watching my own high school experience on film! It does make me sigh a little bit when my youth is marketed as "historical fiction" though... :-) I love all the older titles you've shared - sometimes I feel as if every blog is sharing the same few buzzy picture books (I can be the same way, since I get sent a lot in PR), but it's so refreshing to discover new-to-me classic titles I've missed!!

  3. Lots of good books to find, Jana. I like the descriptions of the two chapter books, will put them on my list! And the Kellogg book, "lost Mitten" does look like that older 'other' book, called The Mitten. Thanks!

  4. I'll have to check out A Pup Called Trouble. So many kids love animal stories.

  5. I really want to read Like Vanessa, especially after reading your words and discovering on Goodreads, that it is semi autobiographical!

  6. Huge variety of books! Looks like some amazing reading!

  7. I am looking for picturebooks that feature mysteries and puzzles - thank you for introducing me to the Kellogg one. Nice!

  8. I would love to get my hands on First Year Letters. My kiddos have been interested in writine "real" letters, lately (probably after Valentine's Day cards), so this might be a nice and fun prep text. :) A Pup Called Trouble also looks really cute! Is it in 3rd person or is it 1st person from the "pup's" perspective? Thanks for sharing this week!

    1. A Pup Called Trouble is in 3rd person. Most of the time you read the coyote pup’s point of few, but a few of the chapters show what’s going on with some of the other characters.