Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Can't Cook Book by Jessica Seinfeld

Inspired by the friends and family in her life who lament that they're failures in the kitchen (including her husband Jerry), Jessica Seinfeld set out to make cooking an endeavor that elicits as little anxiety as possible. In The Can't Cook Book, Seinfeld takes you by the hand, explaining what utensils and pantry staples you will need to be successful in the kitchen, then lets go of your hand to be your cheerleader through the daunting process of cooking actual meals for you and your family rather than just ordering take-out.

There are many cookbooks on the market that claim to teach non-cooks to become competent in the kitchen, but what makes Seinfeld's book stand out over all the others is the sarcastic wit that must come from being married to one of the most famous comedians in the world. I particularly love this passage:
And that humor continues throughout the entire book, with each recipe containing a DON'T PANIC mantra at the top of the page that basically tells readers, "I know you're going to see this part of the recipe and start to freak out, but here's why you can do this!" I particularly like the chili recipe's motivational speech:
As someone who considers herself more than just competent in the kitchen, I am not the main audience for The Can't Cook Book, but as someone who remembers what it was like to try to teach myself to cook (there were a couple years there where it seemed like I watched nothing but Food Network on TV), I know I would have appreciated a book like this "back in the day." Seinfeld has made the layout simple and easy to follow, and most importantly, fun to read.

The Can't Cook Book: 100+ Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified! by Jessica Seinfeld
Published: October 8, 2013
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 240
Genre: Cookery
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Library Copy

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Picture book review: Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier

A few years ago I was looking for some spoken word poetry performances on YouTube in the hopes of motivating my students to put passion and expression in their own poetry performances. Every April I had my 6th graders memorize and recite a poem of their choosing. It was then that I came across the young Daniel Beaty's Def Poetry performance of "Knock Knock"

I was so moved by this performance that I just knew I had to show it to my students. I imagine if Langston Hughes lived in the 21st century, he'd sound a lot like Daniel Beaty. Out of all the spoken word poems I have shown my students, this one garners the most discussion and curiosity.

Some students ask, "Wait, so what happened to his dad?"
Others confidently respond, "He went to prison."
I push their thinking further by asking, "What does Beaty say in the poem to leads you to believe his dad is in prison?"

And soon students are asking me to show the performance again so they can pick up on the details they missed the first time. Last year my students were so moved by this performance that many of them felt genuine compassion for Beaty and wanted to know more of his story.

So when I discovered that Beaty had turned his spoken word poem into a picture book I was elated. And knowing the story of the poem, I was already deeply affected by the book just by the cover alone. Bryan Collier's illustrations add an extra layer of emotion to Beaty's words. I will say that as much as I loved this picture book rendering, Beaty's spoken word performance is still more powerful in my mind. Because of his need to tweak some of the point of view to make it more appropriate for a picture book telling, some of the impact of his original message is diminished. But for younger kids, it is still a powerful story. I will be absolutely shocked if this book doesn't receive a Coretta Scott King nod in January. The only reason it might not is because it will be published so late in the year (December 17th). But even still, you can't deny what a worthy award-winner it would (and should) make.

Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Expected Publication: December 17, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 40
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary/Middle Grade/Young Adult
Disclosure: Copy acquired from publisher

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 11-18-13

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?

Only a few more days until I leave for NCTE! I'm so excited to go this year! I'll be presenting for the first time! Here is the info about the session I'll be doing with both Jen and Kellee and picture book author Audrey Vernick.  I can't wait! But I'm also worried about the dream I had the other night that our session started off as standing-room only but then when I got up to talk, there were like two people left in the room. It's like my back to school nightmares, but NCTE convention style. :)

Anyway, I'll likely be skipping It's Monday! next week since I'll still be at NCTE for the ALAN workshop.

So here's what I reviewed last week:

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers

I finished listening to:

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Guys Read: Other Worlds edited by Jon Scieszka  

My favorite picture books from last week:

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton
Brian feels invisible at school until a new boy Justin shows up and helps Brian see he might not be so invisible after all. I absolutely LOVED the illustrations in this book and the fact that as Brian began to feel less and less invisible, he began to be more colorful. 

The Snatchabook by Helen and Thomas Docherty 
Simply perfect rhyming story about a little creature who snatches books because he doesn't have anyone to read to him.  

Papa is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost by Natalie S. Bober, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon  
Think picture books aren't for older students? How about a picture book biography of Robert Frost told from his daughter's point of view that gives readers an inside look at his motivation and reasons for writing some of his most beloved poems? That's what you will find in Papa is a Poet. A simply perfect text to pair with an author study on Robert Frost poems. 

Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty, illustrated by Bryan Collier
Simply stunning. While not as powerful as Beaty's Def Poetry performance, it is equally as moving paired with Bryan Collier's stirring illustrations. I'll be posting a longer review of this one this week.

Currently Reading:

Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher

Currently reading with my ears:

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers

Reminiscent of a Little Golden Book, Birthday Bunny is the predictable story of a bunny who wakes up on his birthday and none of his friends remember it's his special day. But then of course, in the end, his friends really remembered it was his birthday and throw him a surprise party. Well Alex thinks Birthday Bunny is lame so he decides to make up his own story, crossing out and erasing words, adding new words and pictures to create Battle Bunny. What begins as a demure, submissive little children's book turns into an incendiary act of subversion

While Battle Bunny would be a difficult book to read aloud to a class in its entirety, it is certainly worth talking about and is one of those books that will get passed around from hand to hand, spending very little time on the book shelf. Despite the subversive nature of the story, it is really quite creative and complex in its structure, causing readers to have to strategize about how to unpack the text. Even I struggled with how to go about reading the book at first, eventually deciding to read Alex's defacings in my initial read-through, completely ignoring the original story, and then going through a second time to see what was actually in the original Birthday Bunny story. So in this way, Battle Bunny is a wonderful book to use to talk to students about reading strategies.

But beyond reading strategy and lesson planning, this book is just plain fun. I mean, who hasn't wanted to deface a book you've found incredibly dull and trite? (I admit to cutting up a copy of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" and creating a found poem as my own act of subversive frustration.) I am now tempted to buy up all those Little Golden Books I find at my library's used book store for such an activity. But in case you can't find your own Little Golden Books or the idea of defacing a real book, no matter how trite, feels blasphemous, you can go on the My Birthday Bunny website and print out the original version of the story and create your own act of defacement. There's even a Tumblr page where other author/illustrator versions have been posted.

But if you're still not convinced you want to read this book, perhaps the trailer will convince you:

Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, illustrated by Matthew Myers
Published: October 22, 2013
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: 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

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Some gluten-free cookbook recommendations

I have mentioned this before, but despite the fact that my blog is called "A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust" I do not have an iron stomach. In fact, I have been dealing with some major digestive issues lately that I have attempted to decode by some elimination diets. One of the eliminations I tried recently was to go gluten-free, which actually didn't work for me, but in the process I learned a lot about going gluten-free. I really think a gluten-free lifestyle can be beneficial for all people, not just those who suffer from Celiac's.

125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster

Despite the fact that I normally prefer cookbooks with pictures and glossy pages, neither of which this book has, it actually has some tasty sounding recipes such as
  • savory leek-onion bread pudding 
  • peperonata on soft polenta 
  • vegetable tikka masala 
  • chili corn bread casserole 
  • falafel with dill yogurt sauce 
  • apple-fennel slaw
  • roasted fennel with garlic and thyme
  • Thai corn chowder
But I think what is most useful in this cookbook is the introductory information Fenster provides her readers about effectively going gluten-free without feeling deprived. The language is very accessible and she makes the process feel surmountable. There is a section on staples for the gluten-free pantry and she explains all of the gluten-free flours that are available.

Gluten-Free Makeovers by Beth Hillson

The gluten-free makeovers in this book are primarily baking related, which makes sense since gluten is a big part of the baking process. Once again, the most valuable part of this cookbook comes from the introductory information. Hillson talks about the differences between celiac, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergies, but most effective is her chart for building your own gluten-free flour blend if you want to experiment with your own blends and not just follow hers. If you enjoy baking and find yourself having to go gluten-free, I highly recommend this title. Just as with Fenster's title above, it is written in a very conversational style and empowers the reader to feel as if the gluten-free lifestyle will not be one of depravation.

Everyday Gluten-Free Slow Cooking by Kimberly Mayone and Kitty Broihier

This is my favorite cookbook of the three. Even though I didn't end up going gluten-free permanently, I loved the ideas presented in this cookbook and will be using my slow cooker more often as a result. Things I had never thought to do in the slow cooker before like frittatas, roasting nuts, and making oatmeal overnight so it's ready in the morning suddenly made so much sense. One of my favorite recipes from this book involves making a Spanish tortilla, but instead of slicing potatoes really thin which takes time and patience (unless you have a mandoline which creates its own new set of problems - the possibility of losing a finger for one) Mayone and Broihier call for using kettle cooked potato chips instead. Not only a practical idea, but a delicious one as well. So for those people who need to go gluten-free and lament over how difficult it can be, this book presents itself as a very no-muss, no-fuss way of going about it. Out of all the gluten-free cookbooks I've looked through, this one made it seem easy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Gratitude Giveaway Hop

For my portion of the blog hop, I am giving away a copy of:

Whistlin' Dixie in a Nor'easter by Lisa Patton
Published: September 29, 2009
Publisher: Thomas Dunn Books
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Audience: Adults

Goodreads summary:
Leelee Satterfield seemed to have it all: a gorgeous husband, two adorable daughters, and roots in the sunny city of Memphis, Tennessee.  So when her husband gets the idea to uproot the family to run a quaint Vermont inn, Leelee is devastated…and her three best friends are outraged.  But she’s loved Baker Satterfield since the tenth grade, how can she not indulge his dream?  Plus, the glossy photos of bright autumn trees and smiling children in ski suits push her over the edge…after all, how much trouble can it really be?

But Leelee discovers pretty fast that there’s a truckload of things nobody tells you about Vermont until you live there: such as mud season, vampire flies, and the danger of ice sheets careening off roofs.  Not to mention when her beloved Yorkie decides to pick New Year’s Eve to go to doggie heaven-she encounters one more New England oddity: frozen ground means you can’t bury your dead in the winter.  And that Yankee idiosyncrasy just won’t do.

The inn they’ve bought also has its host of problems: an odor that no amount of potpourri can erase, tacky décor, and a staff of peculiar Vermonters whose personalities are as unique as the hippopotamus collection gracing the fireplace mantle.  The whole operation is managed by Helga, a stern German woman who takes special delight in bullying Leelee for her southern gentility.  Needless to say, it doesn’t take long for Leelee to start wondering when to drag out the moving boxes again.

But when an unexpected hardship takes Leelee by surprise, she finds herself left alone with an inn to run, a mortgage to pay, and two daughters to raise.  But this Southern belle won’t be run out of town so easily.  Drawing on the Southern grit and inner strength she didn’t know she had, Leelee decides to turn around the Inn, her attitude and her life.  In doing so, she makes friends with her neighbors, finds a little romance, and realizes there’s a lot more in common with Vermont than she first thought.

Terms and conditions:
Must be 13 or older to enter and have a U.S. mailing address
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller

Teaching is a career that can burn you out and drag you down. With so much political fervor in the education world today, not to mention faux research being purported as fact, it's hard to feel inspired anymore. That's where a book like Reading in the Wild stands out. Not only has Donalyn Miller done her research, but she has found a way for teachers and students to be inspired by learning again. And she doesn't just want it. She has found a way for you to do it in your own classrooms.

When I read The Book Whisperer almost four years ago, I felt inspired and empowered as a teacher. I knew the words I was reading about giving kids their reading lives back were important and just what educators needed to hear. I have never regretted a single day of completely changing the way I teach after reading Donalyn's first book.

But I, like Donalyn, initially lamented over the fact that once my students left my class, they stopped reading voraciously. Ever increasing homework demands coupled with lack of free reading time in their new classrooms left most former students barely reading five books a year, let alone the forty Donalyn invites her students to read under her tutelage. But Donalyn, being the ever reflective teacher that she is, recognized the need to pinpoint what behaviors lifelong readers possess and wanted to figure out a way to instill those behaviors in her students. How could she move her dependent readers to become independent readers. Thus Reading in the Wild was born.

I can't even begin to tell you what an important book this is. You just have to experience it for yourself. But I will say this: not only is Reading in the Wild inspiring, it is also practical. Donalyn shares her methods and her means of execution, sharing reproducible forms in the back of the book for you to use and implement in your reading workshop to help start you on the path to creating wild readers in your own classrooms.

If you teach reading in any capacity, please pick up this book. And when you're finished, give it to your administrators to borrow. The conversations about creating lifelong readers need to be happening among more people than just teachers. Administrators are the ones responsible for where the money goes and Donalyn has advice and recommendations for the people controlling the purse strings too.

It amazes me that when I first read The Book Whisperer, I didn't even know who Donalyn was, and now after following her on Twitter and meeting her at conferences, I can say that one of my teaching mentors has become a friend. That might make me biased about what an important book I think Reading in the Wild is, but I want to point out that it also shows how accessible Donalyn is to her readers and fellow teachers. I am grateful for The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild, but I am equally grateful for how available and amiable Donalyn is outside the pages of her books.

Follow Donalyn on Twitter: @donalynbooks

Review cross-posted to my teaching blog Use Your Outside Voice

Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer's Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller
Published: November 4, 2013
Publisher: Jossey-Bass
Pages: 273
Genre: Nonfiction
Audience: Teachers
Disclosure: Purchased copy

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 11-11-13

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?

Last week I reviewed:

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo, illustrated by  Gwen Millward

Last week I finished reading:

Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller
Simply brilliant follow-up to The Book Whisperer. Every teacher and administrator needs to read this book. I will be posting a review of this one soon.

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano
 Really liked the clever, funny writing in the beginning. Felt kind of "meh" about the story in the middle. Then liked it again at the end. I really like that the ending lends itself to a great discussion about irony.

Finished listening to:

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman 

There is absolutely no doubt that Wasserman is an incredibly gifted writer. Like so gifted I'm envious of her ability to weave words into something beautiful and magical. But I never really found myself fully invested in the characters of this story and I almost felt like if the ages of the characters had been changed to people in their 30s, this would have made more sense as an adult novel instead of YA.  

Some picture books that I really enjoyed last week:
This is the Rope: A Story from the Great Migration by Jaqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome
I love the way the rope is woven into the family history. Such a powerful symbol. Jacqueline Woodson's stories always move me. She's one of those authors whose books I will read with no questions asked. 

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
What a brilliant idea for a book: turning mistakes into something beautiful and creative.

See the Ocean by  Estelle Condra, illustrated by Linda Crockett-Blassingame
Oh my goodness. I didn't see that ending coming. I was wondering where the story was going and then my realization was almost palpable.  

Me and You by Anthony Browne
I love how Anthony Browne plays with point of view. In this modern retelling of Goldilocks, the baby bear is telling the bear's side of the story, and Goldilock's side is told wordlessly on the opposite page. A great book to put on your chalkboard ledge and allow students to pick up and discuss with classmates on their own.

Still reading with my ears:

The Duff by Kody Keplinger

Also reading with my ears:

Guys Read: Other Worlds edited by Jon Scieszka

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Happy hour at Roast Detroit

I tried goat for the first time last week. And I didn't hate it.

Michael Symon's restaurant Roast in downtown Detroit is very meat-centric and their bar menu is no different. One of the items they put on their regular menu is something they call the "roast beast of the day."  So on the happy hour menu, they do a "roast beast of the day taco." Well, my husband and I went to happy hour with a couple of our friends last Friday and we ordered some of our usual favorites: the roast burger (topped with cheese, bacon, and a fried egg, all on an English muffin), rosemary fries, and mac and cheese. But we figured since the roast beast of the day was goat and the taco was only $4, what did we have to lose? So we ordered it. And it wasn't terrible. In fact, it didn't really taste like much. I'd compare it to pork but I think even pork has more flavor.
The goat taco wasn't terrible

So the four of us shared two goat tacos among us, but we also ordered all our usuals mentions above. In fact, I come to Roast just for the burger. It is, without a doubt, the best burger I've ever had in my life. Not only is the meat of exceptional quality, but the golden, dripping yolk from the fried egg makes eating it almost a sensual experience. Whoever thought burgers could be sensual? Well, this one is. I've been encouraged by my husband to "get a room" while eating it. :P
Easily the best burger you'll ever eat

But the best part is, that when you come to happy hour at Roast, the prices are more affordable than the chain restaurant down the street. When I went to dinner there with a friend a few weeks ago, I had a burger, fries, and a beer and I left spending less than $15 for myself. Last weekend when it was four of us, our entire bill, with all the food we consumed (and it was a lot), was $63. For a high-end restaurant, that's almost like they're extorting money out of themselves. If you make a reservation and sit in the dining room at Roast, there's no way just two people are leaving there spending less than what we spent for four of us at the bar during happy hour.  While I enjoy going to Roast for special occasions, I have to say, I've come to prefer the casual, cheap, but equally delicious bar food to the fancy meals prepared in the dining room.

If you ever find yourself in downtown Detroit during happy hour, Roast is the place to be. In fact, I'd encourage you to get there right as happy hour starts or you might find yourself not being able to find a seat at the bar - especially on Fridays.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Audiobook review: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

They said I must die. They said that I stole the breath from men, and now they must steal mine. 

In 1828 Agnes Magnusdottir was charged with the murder of two men in Illugastadir, part of northern Iceland. Awaiting execution, the District Commissioner sends Agnes to a remote farm to live with the family of Jon Jonsson. The family is anything but happy to be housing a convicted murderer, but as her execution nears and Agnes slowly begins telling her side of the story to the priest she has chosen to be her confessor, the family realizes that perhaps Agnes isn't the monster they initially believed her to be. As the months go by and Agnes's death looms, Jon's wife and daughters wonder if there's anything they can do to save her before it's too late.

Burial Rites is Hannah Kent's debut novel, but she writes like a seasoned author. Her prose is dripping with vivid, haunting descriptions but not to the point where it seems overindulgent. Kent weaves seamlessly in and out of third person and first person narration, with the condemned prisoner of Anges taking on a first person narrative.

Agnes Magnusdottir was a real person convicted of murder and put to death in Iceland. She was in fact, the last person to be put to death there. Kent had a long fascination with Agnes Magnusdottir ever since she traveled to Iceland on a Rotary Exchange as a teenager. The author's note at the end of the book along with her acknowledgements show the vast depth of research she did to write this novel, but in reading the author's note, you get a sense that Kent's research began as something she was interested in learning and grew into an idea for a novel much later. Kent's use of language throughout the novel is both stark and poetic. I don't know if I would have enjoyed reading about Agnes Magnusdottir coming from any other writer. From the first few pages, you immediately get a sense that Kent was meant to tell this story.

It's not often that I read adult fiction anymore, finding YA and middle grade much more satisfying, but I was intrigued by the stark setting of 1800s Iceland. Having just returned from a trip to Iceland back in June and knowing what a bleak history the country has, I was curious to read a historical novel set there. Burial Rites did not disappoint. It is easily one of my favorite books of 2013. That is also in part because of the brilliant audio narration by Morven Christie. Her voice was like being cloaked in silk. She was both soothing and austere at the same time. While I initially began my journey with this book from the print galley I received ALA back in June, I soon decided that while I was enjoying reading with my eyes, reading with my ears might help me finish the book sooner. I'm glad I did because reading the book on my own didn't give me the same satisfaction as listening to the audio did. Christie's voice transported me to 1800s Iceland better than I think I could have done from just reading the words on the page.

I would highly recommend Burial Rites to anyone who loves historical fiction. However, don't let an aversion to the genre prevent you from picking this book up.  Just like Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, I think this book transcends genre preferences. Even readers who don't like historical fiction can find themselves swept away by the narrative Kent has created. 

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
Audiobook narrator: Morven Christie
Published: September 10, 2013
Print Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Audio Publisher: Hachette Audio
Pages: 323
Audiobook Length: 11 hours, 59 minutes
Genre: Historical Fiction
Audience: Adults
Disclosure: Galley received at ALA/Audiobook purchased on Audible

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Picture book review: The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo, illustrated by Gwen Millward

The Beasties came to Daisy's house
on a night when she couldn't sleep.

Her new room was too strange
and her new bed was too big. 

The Beasties is the story of a little girl named Daisy who is afraid of being alone in the dark in her new bedroom. But soon the Beasties come and tell her stories to soothe her fearful mind. 

A beautiful tale about the power of story, The Beasties is the perfect picture book to read to a fearful child who doesn't want to sleep in her own bed at night. The lovely text by Jenny Nimmo paired with the dreamy Van Gogh-like illustrations by Gwen Millward would make this an ideal gift for any new mama-to-be. The Beasties themselves (Weevil, Floot, and Ferdinand) are absolutely precious characters that can work wonders at putting a child's mind at ease about what's really lurking under their bed. You think there's monsters under there? Oh no, it's just these little Beasties that want to tell you stories.

The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo, illustrated by Gwen Millward
Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Egmont
Pages: 32
Genre: Picture Book
Audience: Primary
Disclosure: Library Copy

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's Monday! What are you reading? 11-4-13

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?

First of all, did you know that Donalyn Miller's Reading in the Wild is out today? If you're a teacher and you haven't ordered it yet, what are you waiting for? This is not just reading for professional development. It is reading to inspire.

Also, check out my current giveaway for the Dystopian blog hop. It's a copy of Divergent by Veronica Roth. 

Last week I finished reading:

Finding the Heart of Nonfiction by Georgia Heard
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Last week I finished reading with my ears:

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
This book is simply stunning. I don't often read adult fiction because I find middle grade and YA to be more engaging, but wow did this book ever catch me spellbound.

Some picture books I really enjoyed last week:

Someday a Tree by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ronald Himler
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenfeld

The Beasties by Jenny Nimmo, illustrated by Gwen Millward
Simply beautiful. I loved the Van Gogh-like illustrations. I'll be writing a longer review of this one hopefully this coming week.

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?
14 different illustrators answered the old riddle "Why did the chicken cross the road?" in 14 different ways. There's so much you could do with this in the classroom. 

Still reading:

The Nine Lives of Alexander Baddenfield by John Bemelmans Marciano
This book isn't much more than 100 pages but for some reason I can't seem to finish it. Grad school reading is holding up my ability to finish even a 100-page middle grade novel.  

Still reading with my ears:

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman 

I came really close to abandoning this one and I'm glad I didn't. The main character finally arrived in Prague (which was mentioned in the synopsis) and so the plot has picked up for me. If a book says it takes place in Prague, I read it, what can I say? It is such a gorgeous city. In fact, maybe I should write a book and set it in Prague just so I can have an excuse to go back. 

Also reading with my ears:

The Duff by Kody Keplinger
Not really diggin this book right now but I also don't dislike it enough to abandon it -- yet.