Monday, December 18, 2017

It's Monday! What are You Reading? 12-18-17

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.

It's been a few weeks since I've done an It's Monday post. Sometimes I wonder if my blog is still relevant and how long I'll continue doing this. But the thought of getting rid of my blog completely also makes me sad, so maybe I'm just going through a funk. I don't know. But enough whining. I did read some really great books in the past few weeks, and here are some of my favorites. 

Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh
I'm not usually a fan of short story anthologies but this one, edited by one of the founders of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, is fabulous.

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris
Did you know that the Statue of Liberty isn’t actually standing still, but she is midstride? She is walking out into the sea to bring us the poor, weary, huddled masses yearning to breathe free onto our teeming shore. When you think about all that small gesture of her right foot lifted in perambulation means, it’s difficult not to be moved to tears by the time you get to the last page. I know I was. I don’t know if the artwork is strong enough to win a Caldecott, but I definitely think the writing is Newbery-worthy.

Now by Antoinette Portis
Stunning illustrations with a much-needed message to live in the now and appreciate this moment.

That is My Dream by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Daniel Miyares
Langston Hughes is a quintessential American poet whose work is all too relevant in 2017. This illustrated version of “Dream Variation” is both nostalgic for the writing and art of that time period and also touches the zeitgeist of today’s culture.

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father's Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
Beautiful and poignant while being both timely and timeless.

Ira Crumb Makes a Pretty Good Friend by Nasreem Hrab, illustrated by Josh Holinaty
We've all felt that awkward, embarrassing sting of being the new kind and the crazy things we think of doing to try to make friends. So for that reason, Ira Crumb will completely win over your heart. I hope Ira Crumb has more book and friendship adventures in the future.

Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin
Loved this fractured fairy tale (along with her first one Little Red) that emphasizes that young girls and women can save their own damn selves (with  a little help from friends) and don't need a man to do it for them.

What Do You Do with a Chance? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom
Another great story to add to the collection of "What do you do with" books that began with What Do You Do with an Idea? and What Do You Do with a Problem?

Noah Webster's Fighting Words by Tracy Nelson Maurer, illustrated by Mircea Catusanu
Language changes, evolves, and grows. Noah Webster, the creator of the first American dictionary, knew that even back in the late 1700s. He even wanted to change the spellings of a lot of English words to make them less British and more American. He was only successful with a few, however. This book is a good reminder to all of us that language and grammar are not static and it changes and grows with the times.

Love, Santa by Martha Brockenbrough, illustrated by Lee White
If your child still believes in Santa, then this is not the book for them. But if they're starting to doubt and you don't know how to answer their questioning of his existence, then Martha Brockenbrough not only has you covered, she has the best possible response you could ever give, one that speaks to a much-needed ethos in our materialistic culture.

We Wish for a Monster Christmas by Sue Fleiss, illustrated by Claudia Ranucci
This one is so much fun to read aloud. Sing it to the tune of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and then have kids draw a picture of what their monster would look like if they asked for one for Christmas.

Mice Skating by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Teagan White
A sweet winter's tale of a little field mouse named Lucy who, while her friends are inside hiding from the elements until spring, is out playing in the snow and ice skating using pine needles that she fashioned as her very own blades.

I'm not sure kids will get the cheese-y jokes (ha!) but a sweet story nonetheless.

Currently reading:

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Currently reading with my ears:

Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Monday, November 27, 2017

It's Monday! What are you reading? 11-27-17

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.

It's been a minute since I've done an "It's Monday!" post. Last week specifically, I was at the NCTE conference and ALAN workshop. For a bit more from NCTE, check out the blog post I wrote for my students and also my Storify archive.

I finished reading:

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy 
All of these books were amazing. Read them ASAP!

Picture books that stood out in the pile:

When Paul Met Artie: The Story of Simon and Garfunkel by G. Neri, illustrated by David Litchfield
This book took my breath away. It isn't one of those picture books you can read in 5 minutes. Give yourself a good half hour to just soak it all in. Hand sell this book to kids since most won't know who Simon and Garfunkel are. But if you know any quiet readers who love music and poetry, this will be a great book for them.

Vincent Can't Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky by Barb Rosenstock, illustrated by Mary GrandPre
Stunning illustrations and a unique perspective on the life of Vincent Van Gogh.

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton 
Chris Barton is one of my all-time favorite nonfiction writers because not only are his stories interesting and little-known, but his writing is full of voice and make for great mentor texts.  

Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Bold prediction: this will be the 2019 Caldecott winner 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Halloween Giveaway: Frankenbunny by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Alice Brereton

“You know monsters aren’t real, right?”
Brave is easy in the sunshine. Brave is easy near Papa. But can Spencer the Bunny learn to be brave ALL the time—even when his big brothers try their best to scare him?

Spencer the Bunny’s big brothers ALWAYS frighten him with scary monster stories. And the most terrifying beast of all is Frankenbunny, with his crusty fangs, flashing red eyes, and ginormous paws. But when Spencer discovers that his brothers made the whole thing up, he hatches a plan to turn the tables on them and conquer his own fears . . . forever.

Any child who has ever worried about a monster in the closet or felt scared in the dark will love this humorous story about learning to be brave.

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It's Monday! What are You Reading? 10-30-17

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.

Last week I interviewed beloved author Wendy Orr for her newest book Dragonfly Song:

I also have a giveaway going on if you're interested in winning a copy.

I finished reading with my ears:

Release by Patrick Ness
If this book had been a straight-up realistic fiction, it would have been a 5-star book for me. But the fantasy element did not feel cohesive to the rest of the story and could have been eliminated completely from the narrative in my opinion.  

Picture books that stood out in the pile:

I Am Peace: A Book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds 
Just like with the book I Am Yoga, just sitting down and reading I Am Peace is enough to put your mind and heart at ease. A wonderful sense of calm seriously did wash over me as I was reading this book. 

The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen 
"I may have been swallowed, but I have no intention of being eaten."

And with that declaration, readers will both scratch their heads and guffaw at the ridiculous premise of a duck and a mouse living lavishly inside the belly of a hungry wolf. It is a story that only Mac Barnett could have come up with and that is why it will be so beloved.

In Your Hands by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Brian Pinkney 
A picture books that speaks to the adults in the room instead of the kids. It is a mother's prayer to God and to the world that they protect and guide her black son as he navigates the dangers and difficulties of a world that will slowly begin to see him as a threat the older he gets. There is no implied message here. It is a gentle reminder to the All Lives Matter crowd that if you can't say Black Lives Matter, then you don't really mean that all lives matter. 

Currently (still) reading with my eyes:

Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today by Cynthia and Stanford Livingston  

Currently reading with my ears:

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Dragonfly Song Blog Tour + Giveaway: Interview with Wendy Orr

Today I am honored to interview Wendy Orr, author of beloved children's book Nim's Island. She has a new book out by Pajama Press called Dragonfly Song.

Book Summary:

The whispers say it’s not true that the Lady’s firstborn died at birth. They say it’s worse—the baby was born with an extra thumb dangling from each wrist. If she’s not perfect, she can never follow in her mother’s footsteps.

Nobody but the old wise-woman knows what truly happened to Aissa, the firstborn daughter of the priestess. If they saw the half-moon scars on the servant girl’s wrists they would find it out, but who would look twice at lowly, mute No-Name? Then the soldiers of Crete come to the island, demanding children as tribute for their god-king’s bull dances as they do every year. Aissa is determined to seize this chance to fight for her own worth and change her destiny once and for all.

Lyrically written and refreshingly unpredictable, Dragonfly Song is a compelling Bronze Age fantasy that suggests a fascinating origin for the legend of the Minotaur and his dark tribute.

About the Author:
Wendy Orr was born in Edmonton, Canada, but grew up in various places across Canada, France, andNim’s Island, Nim at Sea, Rescue on Nim’s Island, Raven’s Mountain, and Peeling the Onion. the USA. She studied occupational therapy in the UK, married an Australian farmer, and moved to Australia. She’s the author of many award-winning books, including
Author Interview:

Dragonfly Song is a novel written in prose and in verse. What made you decide to tackle both in one book? 
 I often ‘hear’ my books in free verse before I write them; Dragonfly Song seemed to be more insistent about being written that way! I felt that the complex background made it unsuitable to be written as a verse novel and after a couple of years of internal arguing, decided to combine prose and verse. When deadlines were tight I wrote it all in verse and transposed some sections back to prose.

How is Dragonfly Song similar to your other books and how is it different? 
This is a very difficult question – which probably means I’m still too close to it to be objective. But… As in the Nim’s Island books, Facing the Mountain (Raven’s Mountain) and Peeling the Onion, there’s a strong female protagonist who has to rise to the physical and emotional challenges that she faces. Nature and the environment are very important to me, both in my own life and in writing ¬– the setting for my stories is very vivid to me as I write, and an essential part of the structure of the book. However, Dragonfly Song is the first time I’ve set a book in the distant past, and has more touches of supernatural. Nim communicates with her animals as many of us do with our dogs or other pets; Aissa’s animal communication is quite different, as it is an involuntary power that she is reluctant to acknowledge and must learn to control. Overall, I think Dragonfly Song is probably deeper, darker and more spiritual than my other books.

You have such a large body of work and write for such a wide variety of ages. Do your ideas just "come to you" or do you find that the discipline of sitting down and writing is what creates the magical stories? 
Both. The ideas themselves usually just come to me – and that is the end of the easy part! Ones like Dragonfly Song stay at the back of my mind for years until they’re formed enough to start working on. Once I’m working on them, the discipline of writing fills in the details – but with a long and complex book, I need to note those details in a guide to refer to. (Yesterday, doing the notes on the first draft of my work in progress, I discovered that three minor characters had the same name!) I also make maps and sometimes physical models of the environment to understand it better, and make sure that the sun doesn’t rise and set in the same place… The saying about writing being 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration is pretty accurate.

Do you have a favorite book that you've written or is that like asking you to pick a favorite child?
Definitely like choosing a favorite pet, since part of me knows that the books can’t know the answer. But very quietly, the two most special ones are Nim’s Island – because it still makes me happy, and because so many good things happened from it – and Dragonfly Song – because it absorbed me so totally for so long, and drew me along with it. And because I kept on seeing dragonflies as I wrote it!

Since this is a blog about food, books, and travel, I always end with this question: what's your favorite food, book, and place you've ever traveled?
That’s another tough one! For one simple food, I choose walnuts; book: Possession by A S Byatt. And favorite place to travel – how could I not pick Crete? My husband and I spent a week there after I finished the book, and it was not nearly long enough. It was magical to visit Knossos, where so much of Dragonfly Song took place – and where real teenagers did perform daring acrobatics over the backs of bulls, even if my Aissa never actually lived. We descended into the eerie Psychros cave, and climbed Mt. Juktas, the sacred peak for Knossos; on the path down I found a 4000 year old potsherd. But the highlight was spending day with an archaeologist who poured information into me, taking me to several sites, and preparing a Minoan meal for lunch, including barley flatbreads, which I called barley cakes in the book. (The Easter eggs weren’t part of the Minoan diet, but they were so pretty I left them in the photo.)

Even if we hadn’t been there for the archaeology, we would have loved Crete. The people were amazingly friendly, and the meals were wonderful. I got very used to the complimentary raki! The last night we were in Heraklion, we went to O Vrakas, a small restaurant on the harbor, just out of the busiest tourist strip. A couple inside waved us in when they saw us peeking at their plates, and we ended up joining our tables for a fantastic meal, mostly fish and salads, all fresh and perfect. The owners joined us for more complimentary raki and dessert: it was one of those magical moments of new experiences, companionship and fun that make traveling a joy.

Wendy with some of the giant storage jars at Knossos

Minoan meal (except for the Easter eggs) prepared by archaeologist Sabine Beckman

Wendy joining in the dancing in the central square in Heraklion.

  • The winner of the giveaway will receive a hardcover copy of Dragonfly Song, a bookplate signed by Wendy Orr, and an enamel Dragonfly Song pin. 
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More information about Dragonfly Song:
More information about Wendy Orr:

Blog Tour Stops:
Unleashing Readers, Activity Guide and Discussion Questions, 10/22
YA and Kids Book Central, Book Playlist, 10/23
Log Cabin Library, Guest Post, 10/24
The Children’s Book Review, Character Interview, 10/25
Bluestocking Thinking, Review, 10/26
Charlotte’s Library, Interview, 10/27
A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust, Interview, 10/28
Writers’ Rumpus, Guest Post, 10/29