Monday, March 25, 2019

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.

Spring has finally arrived! And while it's taking a while for the temperatures to start climbing, we're finally getting weather in which we can walk outdoors without putting on fifteen layers of clothing! The parks are just waiting for us. And while the flowers aren't blooming yet, at least there's no snow. I can't wait until I can start taking my books outdoors to read! But for now, I'm still keeping them inside where it's a bit warmer. Here's what I've been reading this past week:

Middle Grade Fiction

The Storm Keeper's Island (Storm Keeper #1) by Catherine Doyle 

This exciting middle grade fantasy novel will be popular with young readers who enjoy Harry Potter and Percy Jackson books. Just in time for good Spring Break or Summer Break reads, this book swept me away to a remote island, Arranmore, off the coast of Ireland. Fantastically descriptive settings and plot events make the reading go quickly as the story of Fionn Boyle’s legacy of magic, battles between good and evil, and family history come together during a summer visit that changes everything for this adolescent boy.

Fionn Boyle and his older sister, Tara, are visiting their paternal grandfather of this rustic island of old, stone cottages, lighthouses, and wild weather patterns. Left behind by his social butterfly sister, Fionn has the opportunity to learn about the strange candles his grandfather makes that sweep whomever lights them back in time to significant events in the history of the island.
The island itself seems to be alive and this summer seems to be a turning point for the island. Fionn’s grandfather, who is the current Storm Keeper, is getting older and losing his memory and his ability to keep the island safe from dark forces. There is a question about who is going to be chosen by the island as the new Storm Keeper. It’s looking more and more like Fionn’s going to be the unlikely one.

Young readers will definitely be able to relate to Fionn, who is more interested in video games than island history. I can definitely see this book becoming a terrific adventure series. I was left wanting to know and I would love to read a follow-up!

Picture Books

When you're young, it seems like it takes forever to grow - older, taller, smarter, etc. And it can be especially frustrating when it seems like everyone is growing faster than you. The two little girls in this cute picture book, are best friends and seem to be exactly the same. But, when Jo starts growing and El doesn't, El starts to feel left behind. The teacher in their class takes notice, and gives everyone a plant to care for over the summer. Nurturing a young plant gives El a chance to understand that everyone grows and blooms at just the right time. The back page has a note explaining the science behind plant life cycles. Definitely a great book to share with young readers during the springtime months.

This interesting picture book biography tells young readers about the life of Gloria Steinem, who was a champion for women's rights. Growing up during a time when women were discouraged from going to school, having careers, and being independent, Steinem broke all of the conventional rules. This book uses easy-to-understand narrative text and beautiful artwork to share how Steinem blazed a trail for women today. The book includes author's notes, timeline information, and resources for further study, making this a good nonfiction resource to have on the shelf.

The world can be a scary place for little kids. Dot, the little chicken in this adorable picture book, is afraid of lots of different things, and these fears are overwhelming for her. But when an accident occurs, and one of her mother's eggs rolls out of the hen house, she forgets her fears in order to go after it. The relatable story and the lovely illustrations will make this a nice book to share with young readers. This could be a great way for young children to discuss or write about their own experiences overcoming fears.

Mourning the loss of a beloved family member is never easy, especially for children who may have a difficult time understanding death and the spiritual implications of that. But for Asha, the girl in this lovely picture book, mourning the death also involves a long trip from her home in California to India. On previous visits, Asha would carry a yellow suitcase filled with gifts for her grandmother. The suitcase would be filled with treats and gifts from her grandmother for the return trip. This time, Asha realizes that the suitcase will be empty going home. I love that this book is a book that all children will be able to relate to, as the loss of someone special is heartbreaking in every culture and place. But the book also includes bits of the Indian culture, so that young readers can take a look into a world that might look a bit different than their own. This would be a good book to share with someone who has experienced a loss in their family, but it also is a good book to share with all kids as a way to develop empathy for those that are grieving.

Guacamole is a favorite in our house; we can't get enough of it. So our mouths were watering just a bit as we read this fun twist on the traditional story of The Little Red Hen. In this fun picture book, Little Red Hen is making the tasty treat, but she can't get any of her friends Coati, Armadillo, Snake, or Iguana to help out. When she is finally ready to share her snack, she extends grace to her friends, but she has included a secret ingredient that gets their attention! This book has a glossary to help young readers understand some of the Spanish words and phrases that have been included in the story, there's an informational note about guacamole, and (best of all) there's a recipe for guacamole so hungry readers can make their own!

Learning how to read is exciting for many youngsters, but there is so much competition for attention from tablets, video games, social media, etc. Young readers need encouragement to shut out some of the distractions and learn how to enjoy time spent reading. As a teacher, I was always looking for ways to provide kids with time to choose their own books and READ! This awesome picture book uses bouncy, rhyming text and gorgeous illustrations that have a rich, retro feel to them to celebrate all the different ways books and reading can be enjoyed. Now that springtime is here, there are going to be more opportunities to get out of the house and read in different ways and places. This could be a great read aloud to encourage that. It could also generate a good discussion about all of the good times and places for reading. For example, our local transit company is now working with the local library to provide books to read on the busses. I'm all for any book that can get young people interested in reading!

Young children experience a wide rage of feelings and emotions and it isn't always easy to understand or respond to them in an appropriate way. This lovely picture book uses cozy illustrations in a warm palette of colors and lyrical, rhyming text to share with young readers all the different ways a person can feel during the course of a year. I like that most of the days are filled with positive, emotional experiences such as eating chocolate pudding pie, swimming at Grandpa's, and flying kites. But there are also times such as falling and scraping a knee, or getting into trouble for making a mess in the kitchen that can leave someone feeling angry, sad, or hurt. The book focuses on the good days, but it might be helpful to discuss with young readers ways that they can address negative emotions in a helpful way.

This awesome picture book helps young people learn a terrific message - how to graciously receive a gift that wasn't what you were expecting. When the young lady in the book receives a lemon tree for her birthday instead of phone, robot, or headphones that were on her list, she learns how patience and effort can be rewarding as well. The colorful, lush illustrations and the humorous narrative really help drive home the books awesome message. 

In a world where children (and all of us) are constantly being encouraged to want more, better, faster, etc., it is so important to teach them how to be content in the blessings around them. This sweet, rhyming picture book uses a gentle tone and beautiful illustrations to show a mama bear and her cub at bedtime naming the happy things of the day. This reminds me of some of the gratitude journal exercises I've seen that have people write down five things for which they're grateful on a daily basis. This would be great to share with young children as a bedtime read aloud. It could also be a great way to encourage young writers to share the things that make them happy.

It's so easy to get caught up comparing ourselves to others and even feeling a bit competitive about things like who's the strongest, the fastest, the smartest, etc. Croc believes he's each of these things, and proudly shows Turtle how well he can lift heavy rocks, jump over things, and run really fast. But each time he's showing Turtle how good he is, someone comes along that's stronger, a higher jumper, or a faster runner. Croc becomes discouraged and believes that if he isn't the best at these things, he's not good enough at all. This sweet picture book could be a good way to show young readers, that we all have different strengths and talents and that we all are good enough no matter how fast we run or how strong we are.

Young readers will definitely be able to relate to the frustration of tying and untying shoes, especially when finding help is nearly impossible. Bear has an untied shoe, and he needs help. Obviously all of the animals that are prey for the Bear run away when he approaches. The book has a cute twist at the end. This could be a great way to discuss conflict/resolution in writing. Young readers could discuss all of the possible ways that the Bear could solve his problem. It might even inspire young writers to share a time when they had to solve a problem like Bear's.