Monday, October 20, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 10-20-14

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:

Press Play by Eric Devine
Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales


Finished reading with my ears:

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman 

A solid, interesting read about the life of Charles Darwin and his wife Emma. I'm still scratching my head as to why it was marketed as YA though. Seemed more like an adult read to me.

Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal - the World's Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin
I actually read this book last year, but it's required reading this week for my prizing children's literature class, so I thought I'd give the audio a go. Whether you choose to read it or listen to it, this is one fascinating read.


Still reading:

Winger by Andrew Smith
Still really enjoying this, but other reading obligations for my grad classes are making this slow-going. At least I've finally passed the page 100 mark. Baby steps, right?


Currently reading with my ears:
 
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
This is another selection for my prizing children's literature class. I decided to listen to the audio instead of read it because the screenplay format was not very engaging to me. I'm still finding the format a little vexing as I'm listening, but at least it's easier to picture events in my mind as I listen to the different character voices.


On my teaching blog I wrote:
5 things I loved about last week

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales

A young woman searches.

She sees.

She explores.

And finally, she creates.


This beautiful picture book about Frida Kahlo is not so much a biography as it is a living, breathing poem that celebrates her artistry and creativity. The colorful photographs of puppets that evolve into dreamlike paintings later in the story, add to the poetry of images and language. The delightful Niño Wrestles the World was my first foray into Yuyi Morales's work, and now that I've witnessed Viva Frida's as well as Niño's artistic genius, I am convinced that someone needs to give Morales a Caldecott already. It's likely not to be for Viva Frida since the question of whether to include the photographer, Tim O'Meara, as a contributing artist complicates the question of whether he would be included as one of the winners, but I've decided that eventually this woman needs to win the most prestigious award for children's book illustration.

Viva Frida gave me chills and a lump in my throat when I read it. I know others have criticized it for not giving enough insight into Frida Kahlo's life in the story itself, but to me, this book is so much bigger than just a biography of a famous artist. As I mentioned above, it felt like I was witnessing a living, breathing poem and I was utterly enchanted. I think the open-endedness of the text also intrigues readers enough to want to go out and learn more about Kahlo's life. I know it did for me.  

I discussed the book with my 8th graders to get their opinions, and many of them felt that, despite the fact that younger kids might not understand everything that is happening in the text and illustrations, it still has facets that are appealing to kids (minimal text, bright illustrations that call them to use their imaginations). And yet, despite the text's spare simplicity, it is still a very complex book, which is an observation one of my astute 8th graders made and it was right on the money. To quote another one of my 8th graders, it is a book "you have to read with your heart, not your eyes."

With the plea for more diversity in children's literature this year, the multicultural and multilingual aspects of Viva Frida - with text in both English and Spanish - also make this an important book to have on our classroom and library shelves. 

Watch this video to witness the beautiful and complicated process behind the making of Viva Frida:


Viva Frida by Yuyi Morales
Published: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary, Middle Grade, Young Adult...
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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

ARC review: Press Play by Eric Devine

Goodreads Summary:
Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.

Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.


Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities.



The publisher blurb above compares Press Play to Friday Night Lights and books by Walter Dean Myers, but I'd also like to draw comparisons to the raw honesty of Chris Crutcher and Andrew Smith books as well. For a student who loves all those books and authors, I wouldn't hesitate to hand a him (or her) a copy of Devine's latest book. 

The edginess of the narrative isn't Press Play's only appeal though. There are a few different entry points for which it could entice students to read: there's the sports narrative -- specifically lacrosse, which isn't often found in sports narratives -- and there's the film-making aspect for students who might not be into sports. In addition, it's a story about bullying, hazing, and a teen who is struggling with his weight, so there is a lot going on in its 368 pages.

While this book might be a tad mature to recommend to my current 8th grade students, I am likely to recommend this book to high school teachers who work with juniors or seniors. Devine is proving himself an excellent edition to the landscape of YA novels that appeal specifically, though not exclusively, to male readers. 

Press Play by Eric Devine
Expected Publication: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Pages: 368
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Young Adult
Disclosure: ARC 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, October 13, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading? 10-13-14

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.


 Current giveaway:

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley


Last week I reviewed:

Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton
Maple and Willow Together by Lori Nichols


Last week I finished reading:

Celebrating Writers: From Possibilities to Publication by Ruth Ayers with Christi Overman
Writing is a celebration no matter what stage of the writing process we're in. Ruth Ayers illustrates this concept beautifully in this short (less than 100 pages) professional text.


Picture books that stood out in the pile:

This Book Just Ate My Dog by Richard Byrne
A delightfully interactive book about a girl who encounters a frustrating curiosity: her dog disappears into the gutter of the book. I love the idea of calling awareness to the gutter, making it a point of discussion rather than something to ignore -- like the gutter is its own character in the story. So fun and different.  


A Perfectly Messed-Up Story by Patrick McDonnell
A laugh-out-loud funny story about a picture book protagonist who is having a tantrum over the fact that the owner of this particular book doesn't appear to take very good care of his belongings. It's sort of the meta-picture-book version of "And this is why we can't have nice things!" :) 

 
The Flat Rabbit by Bardur Oskarsson
This one stood out for perhaps not the best of reasons. I definitely see the dark humor here but I'm not entirely sure I get it. I'm wondering if some of the problem is that the humor was lost in translation or if it's a cultural difference that maybe Americans don't quite understand. 


Still reading:

Winger by Andrew Smith
I'm really enjoying this book but all of my grad school readings and assignments are preventing me from spending a lot of time pleasure reading, and if I do have time, I tend to gravitate towards short and sweet picture books. 


Still reading with my ears:

Charles and Emma: The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman 

I'm both enjoying this and not enjoying it at the same time. It's a book that no doubt has some interesting pieces to it, but I'm still scratching my head at why this was marketed as YA lit -- and won a Printz honor.  Maybe it will become clearer to me by the end.


Last weeks' posts from my teaching blog:
5 things I loved about last week
Celebrating a little subversion -- okay maybe a lot of subversion
Pairing the old with the new

Also, check out my contribution to Kurt Stroh's blog post about blanket books.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Maple and Willow Together by Lori Nichols

Maple, Lori Nichols' debut picture book as an author/illustrator, was a beautiful story about a nature-loving girl whose parents planted a maple tree in their backyard in honor of her birth. As Maple and the tree grow up together, she eventually comes to discover that she will be a big sister... to Willow. And a new tree is planted in the backyard.

In this lovely follow-up to Maple, Lori Nichols explores a different facet of growing up: experiencing the love and frustrations of sharing your life with a sibling. While most of the time Maple and Willow get along famously despite their differences, there are times when those differences cause conflict, and trouble brews under their deciduous trees.

Both the writing and the illustrations in Maple and Willow Together are done with a gentle, loving touch, and despite the inevitable conflict that tends to arise when growing up with a sibling, the overall message of this book is clear: the bonds of sibling love are stronger than our own selfish desires.


Maple and Willow Together by Lori Nichols
Expected Publication: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary
Disclosure: Book requested from 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.   

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton

Gizmo, Sprinkles, and Wild love to build things.

Rex likes to wreck things.

"Gizmo's out-of-this-world rocket?
Rex wrecks it!
Sprinkles's magical heart?
Rex wrecks it!"

Needless to say, Rex's penchant for destruction makes everyone unhappy.

Rex wrecks it

What can Rex do to try to make up for his destructive ways?

Rex Wrecks It wasn't even on my radar until I saw it sitting on the NEW shelf at my library, but now it is one of my favorite picture books of 2014. The words and the pictures are in perfect, delightful simpatico. It's a book that just plain makes you happy. As I read it to myself while sitting on the floor in my home office, all I could think about was how the rhythm of the story makes for a perfect read aloud. Even though the primary audience for this book is ages 3-7, I wouldn't hesitate to read it to my 8th graders because it's a wonderful example of the music and rhythm of language -- something we are talking a great deal about this year.  

In addition to the effective language, each character is illustrated in both a fantastical way (a rabbit with a unicorn horn; a robot who appears to be able to rocket launch himself into the air) and also with gleeful childlike personification, as evidenced by the illustration above. No matter what grade you teach, you're going to want to add this one to your read-aloud pile. 


Rex Wrecks It by Ben Clanton
Published: September 23, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary
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

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Giveaway: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Harlequin Teen is providing one lucky reader of this blog with a finished copy of Robin Talley's new book Lies We Tell Ourselves, which came out on September 30, 2014.
Goodreads Summary:
In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.



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