Monday, May 14, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I've Been Reading...


Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

This is a sweet story about a girl who learns that her very long name fits her perfect. The author includes a note at the end explaining how she got her own name. The book highlights family and identity as well as showing that our names tell a story. This will be a useful book in the classroom to start discussions about the stories behind students' names.

I Walk With Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët

Wordless, beautiful book about how one act of kindness can multiple and make a difference in the life of someone who has been treated badly. Simple, yet powerful story that shows the importance of being empathetic and standing up for what's right.

They Didn't Teach THIS in Worm School! by Simone Lia

Marcus, a worm, agrees to fly with Laurence, a chicken, to Kenya so that he doesn't get eaten. Neither Marcus or Laurence knows the way to Kenya and, although they don't travel as far as they hoped, they do have a life-changing adventure. Marcus and Laurence are a funny and heart-warming duo. They learn about acceptance, friendship, and working together to do what would be impossible alone. This book will also appeal to readers because it's illustrated and not too long.

Life According to Og the Frog by Betty G. Birney

Og the Frog is now living in Room 26 right next to Humphrey (of The World According to Humphrey series). Og, both, misses the swamp and enjoys his new home. When the class has to make a decision about whether to keep Og or put him back in the swamp, Og is not sure which he would prefer. The book is told from the perspective of Og, who is a little different from ordinary frogs because of his love of poetry and songs. This book about friendship, community, and caring for wildlife will be of interest to fans of the Humphrey series and those who like books about animals. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Young Readers, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reader's copy of the book. The book publishes in July.

Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley

Frederick is feeling like he doesn't fit in at his school and is upset with his parents when they cancel a family vacation, when he accidentally ends up at a summer camp for troubled boys. The others at the camp all think Frederick is someone else, a boy with a more interesting past. There is adventure and humor as Frederick learns about himself and friendship. This book publishes in June. Thanks to NetGalley for a digital advanced reader's copy of the book.

Monday, May 7, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  To find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow the posts of other bloggers at #imwayr on Twitter.

What I've Been Reading...


Friends Stick Together by Hannah E. Harrison

Rupert is a rhino who is annoyed when Levi, a tickbird, chooses him as a friend. This is a story of unlikely friendship with an ending you'll see coming, but the humor and the endearing characters make it unique. The illustrations are adorable, too. The classic message about friendship is an important one for young readers and I think the characters will become favorites.

The Last (Endling #1) by Katherine Applegate

Byx is a dairne, a species resembling a dog, but walking upright. When it appears there aren't any dairnes left in the world, Byx begins a journey to find others like him. This an action-packed fantasy about bravery, loyalty, and hope.

Everything I Know About You by Barbara Dee

Tally's class is going on a trip to Washington, D.C., but Tally is less than excited when she finds out her roommate is Ava, one of the "clonegirls" she would rather not be friends with. Tally has never fit in which has been fine with her, but then her friends start to change and she is faced with a difficult choice when she notices that something isn't right with Ava. This book deals with a serious topic, anorexia, but the characters are also working through other ups-and-downs of growing up. The characters are true-to-life and middle grade readers will be able to relate to the dilemmas they face as they navigate friendships and try to fit in with peers. This book publishes in June. Thanks to the author for sending my book review group, #bookexcursion, an advanced reader's copy of this book.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Stacy McAnulty, author of picture books and a few chapter book series for younger readers, has written her first middle grade novel. There is a lot to love about this book, including the fact that middle grade readers will be able to relate to the challenges Lucy faces with feeling different and making friends. Read more about my thoughts here.

Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson

Izzy has difficulty focusing on her school work, but she loves acting. Bri is known as the "brain" and her mother is now teaching drama class at her school. The book alternates between each girl's story and their stories tie together in a surprising twist at the end. Graphic novels about school life, such as this one, appeal to many of my middle grade readers.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty


Lucy was struck by lightning when she was eight and, due to the damage to her brain, became a mathematical genius. She has been homeschooled, but her grandmother insists that Lucy go to public school so she can try something new and make a friend. Lucy, who'd rather take college classes and be friends with the others in her virtual math clubs, is less than excited about starting middle school. Although Lucy tries to hide her math talents in an effort to appear as normal as possible, her OCD tendencies cause many of her peers to view her as peculiar. Middle grade readers will be able to relate to challenges that Lucy faces, such as feeling like she doesn't fit in and dealing with classmates who are unkind. Through her middle school journey, Lucy learns the value of friendship and realizes that her math abilities don't define her. Lucy is a unique and endearing character whose story will show readers that it's possible to find your way even when you feel out of place. This story is both sweet and hopeful. There's a charming dog, as well, who readers will be rooting for along with Lucy. This is one of those books I want to put in the hands of middle grade readers because it has the potential to help readers grow their understanding that we are all different and, also, see possibilities when they feel different. Thanks to the author, Stacy McAnulty for providing me with a copy of the book to review.

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  To find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow the posts of other bloggers at #imwayr on Twitter.

What I've Been Reading...


If Wendell Had a Walrus by Lori Mortensen

Wendell wants a walrus and comes up with a plan to get one. He never gets a walrus, but what he does get is even better. Wendell is a charming and fun character as he imagines what he'd do with his walrus and tells walrus jokes. If readers look closely at the illustrations, they'll notice a hint of what will happen at the end. This is a delightful story of friendship.

Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman

A shark appears while an underwater show is being filmed. Shark is told not to eat anyone, but he claims he never intended to do such a thing. Shark sounds sincere, but is he? This is a humorous story with shark facts included. Those readers intrigued with sharks will be amused.

Lulu Is Getting a Sister (Who WANTS Her? Who NEEDS Her?) by Judith Viorst

Previous books in this illustrated chapter book series have been well-loved by many students, so it's exciting to see another Lulu book. Lulu believes her life has been ruined because she's getting a baby sister so her parents send her to Camp Sisterhood to learn how to be a good big sister. Lulu is convinced she will never have any sisterly feelings and she can neither tolerate or get along with her temporary siblings. Lulu is rude, spoiled, and short-tempered, but also funny and entertaining. In spite, of her undesirable qualities, Lulu redeems herself when she learns what it means to be a big sister. Those with siblings will be able to relate and find Lulu's situation amusing.

The Boy From Tomorrow by Camille DeAngelis

Alec and Josie are both twelve years old, but they are separated in time by one hundred years. Alec lives in the house Josie and her family lived in previously and when they discover they can communicate with each other they form a friendship. Both Alec and Josie learn about each other's family situations and their friendship changes their lives. This is a unique time travel story with magic and some suspense.

Monday, April 23, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  To find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow the posts of other bloggers at #imwayr on Twitter.

What I've Been Reading...


A Chip Off the Old Block by Jody Jensen Shaffer

Rocky wants to do something special like others in his family, but he is told he's just a pebble. Rocky goes on a journey across the U.S. to find a way to make a difference. With a hero to root for and lots of puns, this is a fun book. Young readers can also learn about rock formations. Great lesson about never being too small to matter.

Power Forward (Zayd Saleem, Chasing the Dream) by Hena Khan

Zayd loves basketball and is determined to improve his game so he can impress his coach and move up to the gold team. Zayd's parents prefer that he practice the violin rather than basketball and he gets grounded from basketball when he lies to them. In spite of these obstacles, Zayd will not give up on his dream. This book is the first in a new chapter book series published by Salaam Reads. This book will appeal to sports fans and is accessible for those readers who need shorter books. Zayd is a fourth-grader with interests and problems that young readers will be able to relate to. The story also shows a glimpse of Zayd's family life, giving insight into his Pakistani-American culture. This is a series I am excited to share with middle grade readers who like to read realistic stories centering on sports. Thanks to the publisher for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reader's copy of the book.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Mia is a ten-year-old helping her parents manage the Calivista Motel, owned by Mr. Yao, a crooked business man, who takes advantage of the family's financial situation. This book gives insight into what it was like to be a Chinese immigrant in the 1990's, but also addresses issues related to poverty and racism. Because she is poor, Chinese, and learning English, Mia faces challenges fitting in with her peers at school. Mia is also conflicted because her mother would rather she improve her math skills than spend time reading and writing, but Mia wants to perfect her English and be a writer. Mia has many admirable qualities. She is resourceful, dedicated to her family, and stands up for what she believes is right. She proves the usefulness of her English and writing skills when she makes a positive difference in the lives of others through writing. There are many layers to this story, but what I loved the most is that it shows the power of community and the importance of caring about others, even those who may be strangers. This book is part autobiographical as the author spent a chunk of her childhood helping her parents manage motels. This is an engaging story with a main character who will serve as a role model for middle grade readers. Thanks to the publisher, Arthur A. Levine Books, for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy of the book.

Monday, April 16, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I've Been Reading...



Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes

Rescue is training to become a service dog and really wants to do a good job. Jessica has just become an amputee and wants to be strong for her family. Rescue and Jessica find each other and change each others' lives for the better. This is a book tells a story of hope, strength, and resilience. The illustrations are gorgeous and those local to Boston will recognize a few landmarks. Both authors of this book were injured in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and their service dog, Rescue, provided the inspiration for the book. Last week, the authors and illustrator were at the Massachusetts Reading Association conference where I heard a little about how the book came to be. The illustrator, Scott Magoon, mentioned that he is running this year's Boston marathon which is today. Good luck to Scott! Watch this CBS Evening News clip, featuring Jessica, Patrick, and their service dog, and you will fall in love with Rescue, and then buy the book because it's one you'll want to read and share with children.

Big Foot and Little Foot by Ellen Potter

Hugo, a Sasquatch, lives in the North Woods of Widdershins Cavern, but he longs for an adventure in the human world. When he runs off one day, he makes an unlikely friend, a human boy. Hugo is a friendly and curious character who I think young readers will enjoy. This is the first in a series with an ending that leaves readers wanting to know more about the adventures of Hugo and Boone. Thanks to the author for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reader's copy of the book.

The Creature of the Pines (The Unicorn Rescue Society) by Adam Gidwitz

Elliot is at a new school and his class is going on a field trip to the New Jersey Pine Barrens. The day is quite eventful as Elliot makes a new friend with whom he discovers a mythical creature. When the creature escapes, Elliot and his friend enlist the help of their quirky professor and they become members of his Unicorn Rescue Society. This is an interesting beginning to a series that promises to be adventurous and imaginative. The chapters and the book itself are on the shorter side which will appeal to readers who are new to chapter books.

The Rose Legacy by Jessica Day George

Anthea, an orphan, or so she believes, is once again shipped off to live with a different relative. This time she is sent beyond the walls of Coronam where she learns that much of what she has believed about her family is not true. Anthea also learns she has a gift, The Way, and can communicate with horses, which are forbidden animals. Anthea, determined and headstrong, is putting together the puzzle pieces to figure out who she is and where she belongs. She shows her capabilities when she is sent on an important quest to make things right. This is an engaging story for those who enjoy fantasy, but also those who love horses. I received an advance reader's copy of the book thanks to publisher, Bloomsbury, at the National Council of Teachers of English convention. The book publishes in May.

Professional Read


It's All About the Books: How to Create Bookrooms and Classroom Libraries That Inspire Readers by Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan

I was fortunate to attend a session with Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan at the Massachusetts Reading Association Conference last week in which they shared ideas from their recently published book. Their book, It's All About the Books, celebrates and honors books as the tool to teach and motivate students to become life-long readers. This book shows teachers how they can create classroom libraries that are student-driven and promote student choice to increase engagement with books. There is also useful information about designing bookrooms and making them teacher friendly to support teachers as they provide their readers access to engaging, quality books. This book covers the ins and outs of classroom libraries and bookrooms from budgeting for books, to choosing titles that students will want to read, to organizing books for easy access and everything in between. This book is not only practical and full of useful ideas, but it's also gorgeous. The color photographs of classroom libraries and bookrooms allow readers to step into actual classrooms and schools to see the possibilities for designing book spaces that are both appealing and accessible. I found this book to be a refreshing read because it aligns to my beliefs that it is not only important to support students in becoming proficient readers, but it is also necessary to help readers experience the joy of reading, that comes from reading books that engage them, so they will choose to read both, in school and outside of school, and for a lifetime.


Thursday, April 5, 2018

Books I Planned to Read in 2018 Update


In January, I made a list of "must reads" for 2018 along with Carrie Gelson of There's a Book for That and a community of other bloggers. Now that we are a few months into the year, the #MustReadin2018 community is sharing the progress they have made on their reading lists. I am sharing my progress along with them. Check Carrie Gelson's blog or the Twitter hashtag to read about others' reading and get ideas to add to your own to-be-read list.

My #MustReadin2018 List



Middle Grade Books

The twelve middle grade titles on my list this year are all 2018 releases. So far I have read nine of them. 
  • Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender is a beautifully written book about a young girl in the U.S. Virgin Islands dealing with struggles with friends and family. 
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani, The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, and Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth by Sheila O'Connor are all historical fiction books with important and relevant themes. 
  • Bat and the Waiting Game by Elana Arnold is as wonderful as the first book in the series. 
  • Maggie & Abby's Neverending Pillow Fort by Will Taylor is magical and clever. If I was a kid, I think I would build a pillow fort immediately after reading this one. 
  • Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers is an fun and imaginative story for early chapter book readers. 
  • Breakout by Kate Messner, written completely in letters, text messages, poems, and other short forms of writing, is a compelling read that addresses prejudice and racism. 
  • You Go First is anther fantastic book by Newberry Award Winner Erin Entrada Kelly. It's a book about the challenges of friendship in middle school that many readers will be able to relate to. I enjoyed all of these reads for various reasons. 

Professional Books


This year, I put four professional books on my list. I read the following:

Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes by Jimmy Casas

The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads by Daniel Willingham

I am currently reading:

Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners by Regie Routman

Still on my list to read:

Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers by Ruth Ayres