Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 7-28-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

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.


Last week I reviewed:

Brunette Ambition by Lea Michelle


I finished reading:

Noggin by John Corey Whaley
I'll be writing a longer review of this book but I wanted to share my first thoughts of this book: Even though the premise of this book is about a teenage boy who comes back to life after his head has been cryogenically frozen, it is about so much more than that. Anyone who has ever felt left behind by friends and/or family by going away and then coming back from somewhere or something will completely relate to Travis Coates's story. I will be recommending this book to teens and adults for the rest of my life. 


I paused reading for now:
 
Smek for President! by Adam Rex 

As excited as I was to read the sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday, I found myself longing to listen to the audiobook rather than read the book because I really want to hear Bahni Turpin tell more of Gratuity Tucci's story and narrate for J.Lo the Boov alien. The first Smekday book is my favorite audiobook of all time so I'm praying that Turpin also narrates the sequel too.  


Picture books I enjoyed last week:

Pardon Me! by Daniel Miyares 
Fans of I Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat are likely to enjoy this story of a cranky bird who gets his comeuppance. What I loved about this book is how the pictures told more of the story than the text did.  


My Teacher is a Monster (No, I Am Not.) by Peter Brown 
I love how Bobby's perspective of his monstrous teacher changes throughout the story. Would be a fun read aloud. 


Currently reading:

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: A Memoir of Food and Love from an American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn 
Food is a great form of storytelling, as evidenced by the layout of this book, which tells a family story and then includes a related recipe at the end of each chapter. I envision reading a couple chapters to students and then having them write their own story of a family recipe. 


Currently and still reading with my ears:

After the End by Amy Plum  

The Elite by Kiera Cass  


Some posts from my teaching blog:
Changing the narrative -- one story, one workshop at a time
My EMWP portfolio 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Brunette Ambition by Lea Michele

Lea Michele is best known for her role as Rachel Berry on the wildly popular TV show Glee, but she was also an incredibly successful Broadway performer before she rose to TV stardom. In this memoir/how-to book, Lea tells her story of her rise to fame, as well as gives health, fitness, and beauty advice.

Brunette Ambition is beautifully laid out with many color photos and organized in such a way that makes it feel more like a magazine than a book. I know its unconventional and innovative approach to a memoir will appeal to teen girls, but as a thirtysomething teacher I wasn't impressed. The best parts of this book were when Lea forgot about the gimmicky layout with ridiculous diversions like recipes, beauty advice, and photographs of exercises she does to stay in shape, and just got real and told her story. She is not someone I would consider an authority on food or fitness, so adding those advice column-type diversions lessened the impact of her story. Instead, this book comes off as more novelty than substance.

What also didn't sit well with me about this book is that Lea talks a lot about staying true to who you are and not changing your appearance for the sake of Hollywood, yet the photos in this book are clearly heavily airbrushed. In addition, she comes of as a bit boastful when she talks about how to be red carpet ready, which she tries to downplay by attempting to approach her advice to the  "commoner"  by saying that her words hold true whether you're getting ready for the red carpet or your high school prom.

I'm not saying there aren't special moments in this book. I really do find Lea's story and her life fascinating -- I especially loved her story of when she met her hero, Barbara Streisand. But I wish she would have just focused on being real instead of distracting the reader with so much superficiality. I don't think this is a book I will be adding to my classroom library.


Brunette Ambition by Lea Michele
Published: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Pages: 208
Genre: Memoir/How-to
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, July 21, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 7-21-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

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.


Last week I reviewed:

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten


My favorite picture book from last week was:

Emily's Blue Period by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Lisa Brown
I liked how this book was kind of a combination of a picture book and early reader since it had chapters, but it still had more of a picture book feel to it.


Still Reading:

Smek for President! by Adam Rex 


Still reading with my ears:

After the End by Amy Plum  
This book has such an interesting premise: a girl thinks the world had been decimated by World War III 30 years earlier, only to realize that her clan had been lying to her all along when she discovers civilization. I'm really enjoying this so far.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Zoe Elias dreams of playing Carnegie Hall someday. She wants to wear a tiara and opera length gloves, which she will take off one finger at a time, and then set them down at the shiny, black grand piano. Zoe dreams of being the next Vladimir Horowitz

 A piano is glamorous. Sophisticated. Worldly. 
It is a wonderful thing to play the piano.

But instead, her dad bought her an organ.

A wood-grained, vinyl-seated, wheeze-bag organ. 
The Perfectone D-60. 

To say that Zoe is disappointed would be an understatement. At first, she doesn't want anything to do with the Perfectone D-60, but eventually relents and takes lessons from a teacher named Mabelline Person (that's pronounced Per-saaahn) who always expects a cold glass of Vernors ginger ale when she gets to Zoe's house for her lesson.

As Zoe learns to play the Perfectone D-60, she also learns to navigate a new friendship with a boy named Wheeler Diggs who comes by her house everyday to do his homework and bake desserts with Zoe's dad. She is also figuring out how accept her somewhat dysfunctional family -- with a mom who, as a controller for the state of Michigan, is obsessed with numbers and the bottom line and never seems to be home -- even on Zoe's birthday -- and a dad who appears to suffer from a rather debilitating case of agoraphobia. He rarely leaves the house, and when he does, he usually ends up buying something he shouldn't have (thus the Perfectone D-60).

I adored Zoe's story and could completely identify with her desire to play the piano. While other kids resent being forced to play the piano by their parents, I begged mine for piano lessons from the time I was three years old. And just like Zoe, I dreamed (and still dream) of the day when I could own my very own shiny black grand piano.

The writing in A Crooked Kind of Perfect was exactly as the title describes -- perfect in its imperfections and humanness. It is light and humorous, but also beautiful and heartfelt. It reads a bit like a novel in crots, with short chapters that end somewhat abruptly, yet gliding like staccato notes on a piano, finishing on a satisfying cadence.

Linda Urban is known for writing quiet books that are more character studies instead of filled with plot-driven action, but this is why I adored A Crooked Kind of Perfect so very much. Not only could I identify with Zoe in her desire to play the piano, but I just love books that are full of imperfect yet loveable characters. I could read a novel about nothing so long as the characters were well-written, and that's what Linda Urban has done with A Crooked Kind of Perfect: created characters you just want to sit with and talk to for a while.

Hand this book to kids who are music lovers, but who also appreciate quiet, under-the-radar stories.


A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Published: September 1, 2007
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 214
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Middle Grade
Disclosure: Purchased Copy

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.  

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You CAN Make at Home by Ina Garten

Ina Garten is best known for her wildly popular Food Network show The Barefoot Contessa. Barefoot in Paris takes her to France where she proves just how easy French cooking can be. So often we think of French food as fancy and complicated, but every recipe in this cookbook has minimal ingredients and simple steps, making the home cook feel comfortable navigating French cuisine.

Not only are the recipes simple, but so are the page layouts and photographs. There is very little fanfare on the page, emphasizing the theme of simplicity.

My one criticism of the book is that most of these recipes have already made an appearance on her show, so there is nothing new or exciting that Ina brings to this cookbook, other than it's just a collection of her already aired recipes. Seeing as how I can pretty much access all of these recipes on foodnetwork.com, there isn't much motivation for me to actually purchase this cookbook. It is, however, a lovely book to peruse at the bookstore or check out at the library.



Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make at Home by Ina Garten
Published: November 1, 2004
Publisher: Clarkson Potter
Pages: 240
Genre: Cookery
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Library Copy

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, July 14, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 7-14-14

Originally hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts along with Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers also host a kidlit version of It's Monday! What are You Reading?

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.


Last week I reviewed:

Food Trucks! by Mark Todd


I finished reading with my ears:

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick 

I will be thinking about the ending of this book for a very long time. It's incredibly vague to the point that it NEEDS to be discussed. At the same time, it's also satisfying somehow. 


Picture books I enjoyed last week:

Mister Bud Wears the Cone by Carter Goodrich
Mogie: The Heart of the House by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal
Two wonderful dog books for different reasons. Mister Bud is silly and humorous. Mogie is heartwarming and makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.


I am Thomas by Libby Gleeson, illustrated by Armin Greder
An incredibly powerful picture book for YA readers that explores how hard it is to be yourself when everyone, even adults -- especially adults -- want you to conform and comply. 


Currently Reading:

Smek for President! by Adam Rex 
I am so excited to be reading the ARC of this book you don't even know (Thanks Danielle K. for sending it to me!). Although I did consider waiting until October just so I could listen to the audio since Bahni Turpin's performance of the first book is my favorite audiobook performance of all time. I sure hope she's narrating the sequel too.  


Currently reading with my ears:

After the End by Amy Plum 
I just started this last night and am only on chapter one so I don't have an opinion yet.  

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Food Trucks! by Mark Todd

Food trucks have become the new, hip way to eat on the go, and in this collection of poems, Mark Todd explores some of the different types of cuisines and themes most commonly found in food trucks. Everything from barbeque to clam chowder, Todd manages to create both delightful poems and endearing illustrations. Given that food trucks in real-life often have personalities all their own, why not create a book a picture book with illustrations of anthropomorphized food trucks? Seems legit. And despite how strange it sounds in premise, it somehow works.

Included among the poems and illustrations are real-life food truck facts peppered throughout the book. Just a word of warning: this book will make you hungry so don't read it if it's been many hours since your last meal. 


Food Trucks! by Mark ToddPublished: June 3, 2014
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book/Poetry
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade
Disclosure: Library Copy

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.