Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? 8-22-16


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Today is my first day back to school with students. I'm both excited and terrified. As many of you might already know, I will be the K-8 librarian at my school and also still teach my three 8th grade English classes that I've been teaching the past two years. I'm not terrified to share my love of books with the entire school. What I am terrified about is how I can possibly learn all 400+ students' names in a timely manner (I have a hard enough time with 50) and also that I'm not organized enough to work with such a wide age range of kids. I've been so stressed that I made myself sick last night. I'm sure everything will fall into place, but right now I just kind of want to have a few more weeks of summer. I'm not ready for the school year to begin.

Okay, enough of the pity party. I did have a great reading week, so I can at least celebrate that.


I reviewed:
 
Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker


I finished reading:

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell   
This is such a powerful series of graphic memoirs. I'm looking forward to reading the final book in the trilogy.  


I finished reading with my ears:

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow  

I FINALLY FINISHED THE HAMILTON BIOGRAPHY! Boy does one ever need stamina to read this behemoth! I enjoyed the parts that I could clearly tell had inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write Hamilton, but I had a hard time focusing on the rest of it. I still can't believe 1) Miranda considered this book vacation reading 2) That he immediately thought, "Oh, what a great hip hop album/musical this would make!" when he was reading it. 


Picture books I enjoyed last week:

A Child of Books by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston
This books is EVERYTHING. I'm so happy Candlewick sent me a copy before the first week of school because I WILL be sharing it with all of my students, K-8. Full review to come -- after I share it with my students, of course. 


If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
Well, since the title describes exactly what this book is about, I will say that if you liked Tea Rex by Molly Idle and Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton, give this book a try. 


A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young
When Lucy orders a unicorn from an ad that declares "Unicorn, 25 Cents" she dreams of how beautiful and regal her new unicorn will be. What she expects and what she gets are two totally different things.


The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead \
This book is the very definition of quiet beauty. It's not a book that will make you shout in glee at its cleverness or snap your fingers at the discovery of an aha! moment. Instead, it will be a book that lingers, like that of a fine wine. For that reason, this is one of those picture books that will perhaps appeal to adults more than kids, but I'll have to see if that prediction rings true after I read it to a group of students. 


Dear Dragon by Josh Funk, illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo 
A human boy and a dragon become unexpected pen pals, but they don't realize how different they are when they're writing each other. I especially loved the illustrations that showed what each character was thinking as they were reading the other's letter. Could be a good discussion with kids about expectations and perceptions.


Currently reading:

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
I will read anything Jason Reynolds writes. I am only a few pages into this one and am already enjoying it.  


Currently reading with my ears:

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
I am intrigued by the premise of this book but I don't know yet what to make of it. I am really enjoying the audiobook narrator though so he is keeping me focused whenever my mind keeps asking, 'What the heck is going on here?" :)
  

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

Every Saturday, Goldie Simcha in apartment 5A makes her famous cholent. The tantalizing smell reaches the noses of all her neighbors and they join her for the Shabbat. One Saturday, however, the building residents notice there are no smells emanating from Goldie's apartment. When they realize that she has fallen ill and can't make her famous cholent, they organize an impromptu Shabbat dinner for their ailing neighbor.

When I picked up Chik Chak Shabbat, I'm ashamed to admit that I was fully expecting it to be one of those didactic picture books that teach kids about another faith. Boy was I wrong. What I love so much about Chik Chak Shabbat is that despite the Shabbat being a Jewish religious observance, this story emphasizes more about the importance of community and breaking bread with your neighbors rather than that of a specific religious observation. Goldie's neighbors are all diverse and clearly of other faiths and backgrounds, but they still join her for dinner every Saturday out of respect for her faith and traditions. If only more of the world operated this way: sharing, learning, and celebrating differences rather than fearing and condemning them. This is a beautiful book to share with kids and adults alike.


Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
Published: September 3, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 32
Format: Picture Book
Audience: Primary
Disclosure: Paperback copy provided by publisher

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley

When Solomon Reed was in seventh grade he had a panic attack at school that was so severe that he never went back. And three years later, he still hasn't gone back to school. He also hasn't left the house. Battling agoraphobia and panic disorder, the only people Solomon ever interacts with are his parents and his grandmother.

Until Lisa Praytor.

Lisa has her heart set on a university with a prestigious psychology program, but in order to earn a scholarship, she needs to write an essay about her personal experience with mental illness. Since she has no personal experience, she decides to go looking for some. Lisa remembers Solomon from her middle school days and now has decided that she's going to fix him in time for her to turn in her scholarship essay.

What she doesn't anticipate is that both she and her boyfriend Clark will hit it off with Solomon and form a bond so special that it leaves Lisa questioning everything about her future, her friendships, and her relationship with Clark.

Highly Illogical Behavior is a novel that will stay with me for a long time. It's not one of those books that has a suspenseful, fast-paced plot. Instead, it's more of a quiet book. And yet, despite that quietness, the story arc is unique and page-turning and the characters are memorable. And it's not so much that the characters are lovable individually, but instead, you find yourself rooting for these three unusual friends because you love the bond that they've formed together, no matter how deceitful and dysfunctional the original intention was.

If you liked John Corey Whaley's book Noggin, chances are, you will enjoy Highly Illogical Behavior due to both novels' unique plots and memorable characters.

Lastly, I'd like to comment on the cover of this book. Not only is it visually appealing when you see it on a shelf, but as you read the book, there are so many layers to peel back, on both the front and the back. It's one of those covers that becomes more meaningful the more you read the book. I really hope that the marketing team at Penguin doesn't redesign this cover when it goes to paperback because it is perfect just how it is.


Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
Published: May 10, 2016
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 249
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: Finished copy provided by publisher

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? 8-15-16


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

Staff meetings start this week. And then next Monday is the first day of school. I am wholly unprepared despite the fact that I've been going into school at least three days a week since the end of July to work on organizing the library. But I'm excited to be the librarian this year and I can't wait to share my love of books with the WHOLE SCHOOL! :)


Last week I reviewed:

Three 9/11 themed books to put on your TBR pile


This is NOT a Cat by David Larochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka


Last week I finished reading:

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
I absolutely LOVED this book. I have a full review scheduled to post tomorrow. 


Picture books that stood out in the pile last week:

Gary by Leila Rudge
So I think I need to read this one to a group of students to take the pulse of this book. I didn't really get this one, but at the same time, there's also that feeling bubbling up inside that I'm missing the point and I need a group of kids to help me figure it out (like my 8th graders did with Shaun Tan's Rules of Summer).  


Ooko by Esme Shapiro
What wonderful writing! My favorite line: "I would much rather be stinky and play stick than be squeaky clean and play itchy games." :) 


Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by  Kyrsten Brooker
I have a review scheduled of this one on Wednesday, but I'll give you a little teaser and say that this book totally exceeded my expectations. 


Hey, Coach! by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Kim Smith
 Ashman and Smith perfectly capture the chaos and feeling of herding cats that is coaching beginner sports for little kids. This book is both humorous and sweet. An absolute delight to read. 

 
Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson
A book that reminds us to always view the world with wonder and amazement -- and to find friends who can share it with you. Love the adorable illustrations in this one. 


Currently reading:

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell  


 Still reading with my ears:

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow   

 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Three 9/11 Themed Novels to Put on Your TBR Pile

With the 15th anniversary of 9/11 fast approaching, many who follow the goings-on in the kidlit world have noticed a spate of 9/11-themed novels being published this year. I've read three such novels in the past few months and I'd like to give you my thoughts on them.


The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
Expected Publication: September 6, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 288
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Digital ARC downloaded from NetGalley


When Kyle Donahue who sees the twin towers fall from the window of his high school, he immediately flees to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge like so many did on that fateful day. As he's running for his life, he notices a girl along the side of the bridge, not moving, covered in ash, and wearing angel wings. Fearing for her safety, Kyle decides to bring her home with him. As he tries to figure out who this girl is and where she lives so he can get her home safely, Kyle realizes that the girl has amnesia. 

As the chaos of that horrible day in history unfolds, Kyle tries to solve the mystery of who this girl is and why she was so content to just stay put on the bridge as everyone else was running for their lives.

The Memory of Things is a book that takes place during 9/11 but manages to not be ABOUT 9/11. It's a reminder to us all that despite great tragedy, life goes on and the world keeps turning. It's a book that took me back to that fateful day in September of 2001 and what I was feeling, but it reminds me that the students I now teach weren't even born yet when it happened. 
 
It's so easy to dismiss narrative and expressive writing in favor of teaching students dry, expository essay writing in school. But students aren't going to feel loss and empathy by reading about 9/11 in a textbook. They feel it by reading stories. All the more reason that books like this, while fiction, bring out an understanding that expository writing just can't accomplish. I have a feeling that when this book finally hits bookstores, it's going to be a popular staple in my classroom library.



Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Published: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Atheneum
Pages: 208
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: ARC provided by Simon & Schuster rep

This book begins a few days before that fateful day as we meet four different kids from across the country whose stories seem disparate and unrelated, but stick with it because the stories do intertwine in a meaningful and important way at the end — especially in today's political climate of fear and mistrust.


Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Published: July 12, 2016
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 240
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Purchased copy


Fifth-grader Deja doesn't understand why they have to study history in school. To her the past is the past and it's better to look toward the future. She also doesn't understand why her dad is always sick and depressed and why he can no longer work -- especially since his lost income means they must now live in a homeless shelter. 

But when a school project forces Deja to confront a moment of history she knew absolutely nothing about, suddenly the past as well as their family's circumstances are very much part of her own present and future. 

It's hard to believe the kids I teach now weren't even born when 9/11 happened. This novel speaks to that feeling of what it must be like to be a kid who doesn't know about 9/11 when the adults in their lives are still haunted by it. For that reason, Towers Falling is a book for adults just as much as it is for kids.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

This is NOT a Cat! by David Larochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

In mouse school it's very important that students know how to identify a cat -- it's a matter of life or death after all. But when a teacher's lesson on cat identification suddenly turns into a real world dilemma, readers are left wondering, is this really a cat?

Few words actually do the storytelling here. The heavy lifting is done with Mike Wohnoutka's adorable and hilarious illustrations. But don't let the scant number of words fool you. If read with conviction and expression, it's the words that will make kids laugh hysterically as they're discerning what's really happening in the story based on the pictures. I have a feeling this book will be a very popular read aloud with my students. I'm looking forward to watching their reactions as I read it to them.


This is NOT a Cat! by David Larochelle, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka
Published: August 9, 2016
Publisher: Sterling Children's Books
Pages: 40
Format: Picture Book
Disclosure: Finished copy provided by publisher

If you buy this book or any book through Amazon, it is my hope that you also regularly patronize independent bookstores, which are important centerpieces of thriving communities. While I am an Amazon Affiliate, that by no means implies that I only buy my books through their website. Please make sure you are still helping small, independent bookstores thrive in your community. To locate an independent bookstore near you, visit IndieBound

Monday, August 8, 2016

It's Monday! What are you reading? 8-8-18


It's Monday! What are you reading? Is a wonderful community of readers, teachers, and librarians. Hosted by Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers, participants share their reading adventures from the past week along with their reading plans for the week ahead.

My Monday posts are generally just a highlight of what I've been reading during the week so if you'd like to see all that I've been reading, follow my Goodreads page.

I am trying to hold onto any of the remaining vestiges of summer but it is escaping from my grasp rather quickly. I've been up at school the past few weeks working in the library, trying to get it organized and up to the standard I know I'd want if I were a student. It's been tiring work, but I'm enjoying it and in a way it's been somewhat therapeutic to purge so much stuff.  I am a big fan of purging. :)


Last week I reviewed: 

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist by Susan Wood, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh


I finished reading:

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
I'll be reviewing this one on the blog very soon. A really enjoyable read.


Picture books that stood out in the pile: 
 
School's First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
This book is an absolute must-read to students on the first day of school. I couldn't stop smiling the entire time I was reading it. I'm still smiling right now.


Goodnight Everyone by Chris Haughton 
Little Bear is wide awake and wants to play but all the forest animals are settling down for the evening. Eventually biology and peer pressure take over and Little Bear falls fast asleep. A sweet bedtime story for any rambunctious toddler. 


Currently reading:

Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley
I'm finding that I'm enjoying this book just as much as Noggin.  It's one of those books where the characters are what keep you turning the pages more than the plot and those are the kinds of books I love.

 
Currently reading with my ears:

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz
I'm really enjoying the narrator of the audiobook. She has such a lilting, soothing voice. The perfect choice for this story.


Still trudging through:

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow  
I am now on disc 16 of 29. Not gonna lie: If it weren't for Lin-Manuel Miranda, I a) would have abandoned this book a long time ago and b) actually, I never would have started it to begin with. But I keep trudging through it because whenever I do come across a part of Hamilton's story that is so clearly integral to the musical, I get a little thrill. But let's face it, I space out a lot when I'm listening to this book. Nobody can make the founding fathers come alive like Lin-Manuel Miranda. That's just all there is to it!