Monday, April 23, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4-23-18



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.


Last week I read:

For Every One by Jason Reynolds
A gorgeous, inspiring poem for dreamers. I read this to my 8th graders in about 20 minutes. Read it out loud or have your students listen to the audiobook (narrated by Jason). It's way better read aloud than silently to yourself.


Picture books that stood out in the pile last week:

It's a Puppy's Life by Seth Casteel
Having a bad day? Need to be cheered up? Look no further than a book of nothing but adorable puppies.


Anna and Johanna by Geraldine Elschner, illustrated by Florence Koenig
A compelling fictionalized story based on Vermeer's paintings The Milkmaid and The Lacemaker. The blue tones and hues in all of the illustrations are both beautiful and serene.


Albie Newton by Josh Funk, illustrated by Ester Garay
Nobody is better at rhyming picture books than Josh Funk.


How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk, illustrated by Sara Palacios
A fun introduction to the concept of coding for kids


Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters, illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko
A lovely book that gives a nudge to readers about the need to move gently into uncomfortable conversations rather than avoid them completely.

Still reading:

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour


Still reading with my ears:

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee

Monday, April 9, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4-9-18



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.


Last week I posted:

Secondhand Heroes Blog Tour


I finished reading:

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
This historical novel in verse takes place in the early 1600s and is about a young Italian artist named Artemisia Gentileschi who lost her mother at a young age and whose father gave her two options: go off to the convent or stay home as his assistant, where she basically paints all of his commissions for him. But when Artemisia finds herself the victim of rape, she must make another tough choice: remain silent or speak out and risk everything. An incredibly timely book despite taking place over 400 years ago. 


Some picture books I read and enjoyed last week:

On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Bob Marstall
This is the third book in a series, the first two books being On Bird Hill and On Duck Pond. This book is just as lovely as the first two.


Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum
Fabulous text about the Curiosity Mars rover. I love that it’s narrated by the rover itself, which gives a unique voice and perspective to the story.


Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima
Jessie Sima creates another brilliant, endearing story about the power of imagination. I especially love the fact that Harriet has two dads is incidental. It's just part of the story rather than the story itself, which is a beautiful commentary on the paradigm shift that has occurred in our culture.


Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers
A lovely book explaining to new humans what the world is. Would be a cute gift for new parents.


Currently reading:

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour


Still reading with my ears:

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Secondhand Heroes Blog Tour


Welcome to Justin LaRocca Hansen to the blog today. He is here to talk about the final book in the Secondhand Heroes graphic novel trilogy, The Last Battle:


Two ordinary objects turned a pair of brothers into superheroes. Now they're banding together with their neighbors to take down the evil Trench once and for all in the final volume of this graphic novel trilogy.

Tuck and Hudson have figured out how to wield the superpowers they got when their mom bought them an ordinary-looking pair of scarves and an umbrella at a yard sale. But Trench, their supervillain archnemesis, is only getting more powerful. Slowly, the brothers have discovered the others in their town who have superpowered objects from that same yard sale. Now Tuck and Hudson, along with their friend Elvira and their squirrel sidekick, Steen, are leading a band of heroes in the fight against Trench. This final volume of the graphic novel adventure series features the heroes' last stand, with plenty of twists and turns along the way.


Thank you Justin for visiting the blog today. In Secondhand Heroes, two brothers become superheroes using two scarves and an umbrella their mom bought at a yard sale. Why these particular items? And how did the idea of becoming a superhero from secondhand items come to you?

My family has always had a healthy collection of “junk” in our basement. As a kid I would spend hours going through some of that junk and discovering items from my parents’ and grandparents’ past. I think there is something magical about that. Each item has an unknown history and mystery to it. It was an easy leap for me as a child and an adult that something in those piles of junk could contain actual magic.

I picked an umbrella for a few reasons. It’s such a fun tool. I mean…it starts as a sword and then can open into a shield! Well that’s how I thought about it when I was young. With its curved handle it always gave me the impression that it could pull you and you needed that curved handle to hang on for dear life. Which of course can happen in the right storm or if the umbrella could actually fly. For the scarves I just love the action of swinging and gliding and scarves that can stretch and take any shape fit that model perfectly. Also I talk with my hands a lot and sometimes a scarf can become an extension of that.


In your author bio it says that much of your work is inspired by your own childhood adventures. Can you share some of those adventures that inspired this particular series?

Yeah and this often happens without me fully realizing it. A lot of the characters are based on real people. The brothers are heavily influenced by my brother and myself, the villain, Mr. Motstander aka Trench, is based on my 7th grade English teacher and there are quite a few moments that mirror real life moments.

For example my brother and I were walking down a beach in Cape Cod very late at night and we came upon a SHARK. It was beached, flopping on the sand and the surf was way too rough for it to wiggle its way back into the ocean. So we decided, let’s save this shark. We picked it up and waded past where the waves were breaking. We whispered good thoughts to the shark and gently tossed it into the water. Than we ran out of there as fast as possible as we did not want it to turn around and give us a nibble. Now I will tell you saving a shark’s life really boosts the ego of a teenage human.
We felt like heroes! We strolled back down the beach and my brother found a beat up old umbrella. He ran to the top of the sand dune and, intoxicated by his newfound hero status, he leapt off the dune, opening the umbrella as he fell. I suppose he thought he would float to the ground? Of course he plummeted to the earth, hit the sand and twisted his ankle. But for a moment I pictured him skyrocketing into the air barely hanging onto that umbrella. Twelve years later that umbrella moment found its way into Secondhand Heroes. I didn’t do it consciously, I had forgotten about that moment until well after I wrote about it but the seed was certainly planted. 


The title of your latest Secondhand Heroes book is called The Last Battle. Does that mean this series will only be a trilogy? Or is there more in the works?

Yes, for now it will just be a trilogy. There are definitely more adventures for these characters, I have sketches and some moments written out but for now this will be it. I work in ink and watercolor so a project like this is incredibly time consuming. I have a couple picture books that I’m really excited to work on now so maybe when I get those out I might revisit the Secondhand Heroes team.


One of my favorite parts of series is the squirrel sidekick, Steen. What made you decide on a squirrel for a sidekick?

Me too! Well for one I love squirrels. I think I may have been one in a previous life. The way they leap from tree to tree is just so beautiful to me. But also real life Steen bumped into me once. I was walking to school one day when I felt this furry thump against my leg. I looked down and around and saw nothing. I looked further into the woods and there sitting on a stone wall was a squirrel. Apparently he was attempting to shoot across the street and my leg got in the way. We had this moment where we just stared at a each other for a bit, both a little freaked out. I never forgot that little guy and he eventually made his way into my books. Named after the great, great Bruce Springsteen by the way.


Since this is a food, books, and travel blog, my last question to authors is always the same: what is your favorite food, book, and place you've ever traveled?

My favorite place in the world is the island of Nantucket. There’s some real magic and history in that place. Sometimes the fog rolls in on a summer day and it will feel like you have the entire beach to yourself because the fog is so thick you can’t see twenty feet in front of you. It’s eerie and beautiful and amazing. The island of Scraggy Neck in Secondhand Heroes is based on Nantucket.

Favorite food is a tough one! Mom’s spaghetti and meatballs? A good roast beef sandwich? I’m gonna have to go with a clam baked lobster. That’s when you burn wood and rocks for hours, then rake out the rocks and coals so they’re even, throw seaweed on top of the rocks and coals, put the lobsters on the seaweed, cover with a tarp and then they’re steamed from the seaweed. So delicious. 

Favorite book is also very hard but I’ll have to go with Wizard and Glass by Stephen King. It’s the 4th book in his Dark Tower series and is such a great story of young love, tragedy and young people realizing the scope of their power and abilities.

Monday, April 2, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 4-2-18


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.

It's been a few weeks since I've done an It's Monday post. Here's what I've read and loved recently. 

Notes from a Public Typewriter edited by Michael Gustofson and Oliver Uberti
This book reminds me so much of what Brene Brown says in the book Daring Greatly that stories are just data with a soul. Upon opening Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Mike Gustofson, began an experiment. He put out a typewriter with a sheet of blank paper in the basement of the bookstore waited to see what would happen. 

What happened has been the story of this bookstore. The story is that it is made of stories. Not just inside the books. But in the people who make up this wonderful, thriving community. The stories will make you laugh, cry, and sigh with contentment. And maybe even come visit Ann Arbor and add a story of your own.


YA Lit
 
Running Full Tilt by Michael Currinder
Mirror, Mirror by Cara Delevinge 
The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes


Middle Grade

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King


Picture Books:

Sleep Train by Jonathan London, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge
Counting train cars lulls a young boy to sleep at twilight. A book that is bound to make droopy lids of even the most resistant of sleepers.


Miguel and the Grand Harmony by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Ana Ramirez
Matt de la Pena is a master at writing picture books where every sentence is a work of art. This book is no different. As someone who studied piano for many years and feels music in my bones, having music personified as the narrator in this story is absolutely brilliant. My only criticism of the book is, having never seen the movie Coco, why does music upset Mama Coco? That's never explained in this book.

 
You're My Little Cuddle Bug by Nicola Edwards, illustrated by Natalie Marshall
Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatam



A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui
The Secret Kingdom: Nek Chand, a Changing India, and the Hidden World of Art by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola


Currently reading:

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough


Currently reading with my ears:

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter by Celeste Headlee


Monday, March 12, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 3-12-18


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.

Last week I read and loved:

Vincent Comes Home by Jessixa & Aaron Bagley 
Vincent lives on a cargo ship and had never set foot on land. He’s traveled all over the world and has been to every place but one. When he overhears crew members talking about Home, he wants to go there. He’s never been Home before and wants to experience it.


The Magician's Hat by Malcolm Mitchell, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
A beautiful message about the magic of books.


Somebunny Loves Me by Parry Gripp
A sweet book about the love and beauty of owning a pet, whether, fluffy, feathery, or scaly. 


The Great Puppy Invasion by Alastair Heim, illustrated by Kim Smith
In a town that outlaws fun, when puppies invade, terror abounds. But also cuteness. And you can only resist cuteness for so long.

Currently Reading: 

Me and Marvin Gardens by Amy Sarig King


Currently reading with my ears:

Mirror, Mirror by Cara Delevinge 

Monday, February 26, 2018

It's Monday! What are you reading? 2-26-18


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 recently reviewed:

I haven't written a full-length review in a while. Yesterday I read Islandborn by Junot Diaz and was completely spellbound and immediately sat down to write about it. 


Picture books that stood out in the pile last week:

When a Wolf is Hungry by Christine Naumann-Villemin, illustrated by Kris DiGiacomo
This is one of those books that really makes you think. What DOES it take to change someone’s heart?


Waiting for Goliath by Antje Damm
It's like Waiting for Godot... but not. 


Festival of Colors by Kabir and Srishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
A bright, vibrant book about the bright, vibrant festival of Holi, which celebrates "inclusiveness, new beginnings, and the triumph of good over evil.”


I Am Loved by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Ashley Bryan
My only criticism is that it wasn't longer. 


The New LiBEARian by Alison Donald, illustrated by Alex Willmore
An adorable story where reality and imagination hold hands with each other.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Islandborn by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa

"Just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you." 

Lola is given an assignment at school to draw the place where she is from. The problem is, Lola doesn't remember because she came to the United States as a baby. So at her teacher's suggestion, she enlists the help of her family and the people in her neighborhood to help her find that sense of place she is missing.

Junot Diaz is known for his literary fiction, but I hope he writes more picture books because this book was completely enchanting. The writing is beautiful and Leo Espinosa's colorful illustrations are both joyful and sublime. I'm looking forward to sharing this book with kids.



Islandborn by Junot Diaz, illustrated by Leo Espinosa
Expected Publication: March 13, 2018
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 48
Genre/Format: Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade
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