Monday, January 20, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Not a Bean by Claudia Guadalupe Martínez

This book explains that a Mexican jumping bean is not a bean at all, but a seedpod into which a caterpillar has burrowed. This is a fun and informative book with Spanish words sprinkled throughout and an Author's Note at the end that provides additional facts about the jumping bean and the moths that emerge from them. I learned something I didn't know, so I'm sure many kids will, also.

Old Rock (is not boring) by Deb Pilutti

Tall Pine, Hummingbird, and Spotted Beetle think Old Rock's life must be pretty boring because he sits in the same spot day after day. Old Rock tells them the tale of his life starting with when he formed under the earth's crust and shot out of a volcano and it turns out he's seen and done a lot more than they thought. Old Rock's story isn't just entertaining, but it also provides insight into the history of the natural world. This clever and humorous story will ignite students' thinking about how planet Earth has evolved. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy of the book.

A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner

Silas, a sixth-grader, admires Glenn Burke, a baseball player who invented the high-five. Like Glenn Burke, Silas is a baseball player and also gay. Silas wants to come out to his friends and his teammates, but he also fears that he won't be accepted. This is an important story about identity and acceptance with characters who middle grade readers will be able to relate to. Thanks to Macmillan for an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in February.


Pippa Park Raises Her Game by Erin Yun

This is an engaging story about navigating friendships and the struggle to fit in. Now that Pippa has transferred from her public school to a prestigious private school, she wants to keep the fact that she is a scholarship student a secret. She must also keep her grades up, so she can continue playing basketball, while helping her family with their laundromat business. Managing family and school life presents challenges for Pippa, but she learns the importance of being herself. This is another book that will be relatable for middle grade readers and also appeal to those who are sports fans. Thanks to the publisher and Media Master's Publicity for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in February.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads


The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro

This is one of those picture books that is just all around gorgeous. It's a sweet story of love and friendship. The text is poetic and the illustrations capture the magnificence of the ocean and all the sea creatures living within it, but especially the whale. This book can be read aloud anytime, but because there is a theme of love, I'm thinking about sharing it with my students around Valentine's Day.

A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan

In 1963, Sharon Langley and other black children were unable to ride the carousel at Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore because of a rule that remained in effect at the park. Protesters changed that and Sharon, just before she was one year old, became the first African American child to go on a ride the day the park opened to all regardless of skin color. This is an insightful read about how people were able to work together to make change.

The Best of Iggy by Annie Barrows

Iggy is not the kind of kid who thinks things through and, although not his intention, his behavior often lands him in trouble. This book is silly and humorous and there are, no doubt, readers who will be able to relate to Iggy's impulsivity. The short chapters and illustrations will also appeal to some readers. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for providing #BookExcursion with a review copy.

Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah Kapit

Vivy is a girl and she is autistic, but she knows how to throw a knuckleball and is not going to let anything stop her from playing the sport she loves. The entire story is written in letters between Vivy and a major league pitcher she admires, VJ Capello. Vivy has a lot of personality and learns to use her voice to speak up for herself. Readers will root for Vivy as she strives to overcome obstacles that threaten to get in the way of her baseball pitching. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in February.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.


Recent Reads...


In a Jar by Deborah Marcero

Llewellyn collects things in jars and when he meets Evelyn they collect moments and wonders of the world together. When Evelyn moves away, they find a way to continue to share their experiences with each other and remain friends even from afar. This is a gorgeous celebration of the magic of friendship that offers a reminder to cherish the beauty and wonder that exists all around us. The illustrations are interesting and lovely. I especially loved the two-page spread of the jar-filled walls of Llewellyn's house which I think will intrigue kids and ignite their imaginations. 

The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee

Daniel's babysitter cancels and his parents, who work as night janitors, take him to work with them. Sleepy Daniel would rather be at home, so his parents entertain him by making believe the office they are cleaning is a Paper Kingdom with a king, queen, and dragons. This is a heartwarming story about family inspired by the author's own experiences going to work with her parents. Thanks to Random House for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy. The book publishes in February.

The Deep & Dark Blue by Niki Smith

Twins, Hawke and Grayson, flee to find safety when their lives are threatened after a cousin seizes power of their noble house. Disguised as Hannah and Grayce, they find refuge as part of the Communion of Blue, an order of woman who spin the threads of the world. Grayce begins to realize that she is most comfortable living as a girl. While her desire to remain a part of the Communion of Blue is strong, Hawke also needs her to help regain control of their family's home. There is magic and action in this graphic novel, as well as an important story line about identity and being true to yourself.

The Wonder of Wildflowers by Anna Staniszewski

Mira has moved, with her family, from Poland to a country where everyone uses magic. Mira struggles to fit in, as her family is not permitted to use magic the same way as those who have already been living there. Although based in fantasy, this book explores important and relevant topics such as immigration and fitting in. It's a story of community, friendship, and identity. Thanks to the author for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in February.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Books I'm Reading in 2020


For the past few years, I have joined Carrie Gelson of There's a Book for That and a community of other bloggers to make a must-read list for the year ahead. In 2019, I read all of the middle grade books that were on my #MustReadIn2019 list and enjoyed each one. I had some professional books on my list, but I only read one out of four. The one I did read - We Got This: Equity, Access, and the Quest to Be Who Our Students Need Us to Be by Cornelius Minor - is fantastic. This year, I again, made a list of books to read in the new year. I have a list that is "mostly middle grade with a few young adult titles" and, rather than professional books this year, I made a list of picture books. These are all books, publishing in 2020, that have come across my radar and I am eager to read. To find out what others will be reading in the year ahead, follow #MustReadin2020.

Middle Grade/Young Adult


I have a number of advance reader's copies of upcoming 2020 books in my to-be-read stack. Many of these I received when I attended the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention in November. These twelve are among those that I am most excited about:
  • The Elephant's Girl by Celesta Rimington
  • Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • History Smashers: The Mayflower by Kate Messner
  • Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
  • Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan
  • Queen Bee and Me by Gillian McDunn
  • The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-McGinnis
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds
  • Thank You for Coming to My TED Talk: A Teen Guide to Great Public Speaking by Chris Anderson
  • Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson 
  • Wrong Way Summer by Heidi Lang


Picture Books


Each of these picture books sounds amazing and I can't wait until they publish to read them:
  • Bear Goes Sugaring by Maxwell Eaton III
  • The Bear in My Family by Maya Tatsukawa
  • Dandelion's Dream by Yoko Tanaka
  • Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Michael Rex
  • Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage by Jerdine Nolen
  • The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro
  • Hike by Pete Oswald
  • In a Jar by Deborah Marcero
  • Nesting by Henry Cole
  • 'Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis
  • A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan
  • The Society of Distinguished Lemmings by Julie Colombet
  • Story Boat by Kyo Maclear
  • A Way with Wild Things by Larissa Theule
  • We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

Monday, December 23, 2019

Recent Reads



Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.


Recent Reads...


Dasher by Matt Tavares

This is an enchanting story of how a little doe, Dasher, and his family came to guide Santa's sleigh. The stunning illustrations capture the wonder and magic of the Christmas season. I read it to second graders last week and they were captivated with the story. 

No One Likes a Fart by Zoë Foster Blake

This is a surprisingly heart-warming book, considering it's about a fart. It's a story about self-acceptance and friendship that kids will find humorous. 

Snail Crossing by Corey R. Tabor

Snail's determination and kind heart will charm readers. Snail sets out to cross the road and get the cabbage that is at the other side. Snail encounters dangers along the way giving the story some suspense and an unexpected turn in the journey also provides some humor. The end goal may be the cabbage, but Snail also finds friendship. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy of the book, which publishes in February.

Karen's Witch (Baby-Sitters Little Sister #1) by Katy Farina

The Baby-sitters Club graphic novels have been very popular with students, so I am excited that there is a spin-off that will appeal to a bit younger audience. Young readers will be able to relate to Karen's curiosity and imagination and be amused as to how it gets her into a bit of hot water. I predict this series will be a big hit. 

Pixie Pushes On by Tamara Bundy 

This historical novel gives insight into the 1940s and is also a story of resilience as Pixie deals with grief and guilt after her mother's death and her sister's polio diagnosis. Pixie learns important life lessons with the support of her family and friends. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for a review copy. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Humpty Dumpty Lived Near a Wall by Derek Hughes

In this twist on the nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty lives in an empire where the King forbids anyone from dreaming. In spite of this, Humpty builds a ladder and sets out one night to make his dream of looking over the wall that surrounds the empire come true. This story is both dark and hopeful, but also thought-provoking. It's the type of book that needs more than one read. Although there is a connection to the popular nursery rhyme, which young readers may know, this book would be more appropriate for older children. The illustrations, done in black and white, are intricate and if readers look closely enough they'll recognize characters from other classic tales. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Young Readers, for providing #BookExcursion with a review copy.

The Upper Case: Trouble in Capital City by Tara Lazar

Private I's detective skills are needed when all the other capital letters go missing. There is lots of word play and punctuation-related puns. Like the author's previous book, 7 Ate 9, this is an amusing detective story.

Smell My Foot! (Chick and Brain) by Cece Bell

Brain wants Chick to smell his foot, but Chick thinks Brain should be more polite. The two are involved in an amusing dialogue as Chick tells Brain what to do and Brain takes it literally. In the middle of their conversation, a dog appears and invites Chick to lunch. Savvy readers will know the dog's intentions and, luckily for Chick, Brain knows, as well. Kids will find the silliness and the graphic novel style of this early reader book very appealing.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.


Recent Reads...


The Best Kind of Bear by Greg Gormley

Bear does not know what type of bear he is, so he travels west, north, south, and east in search of a bear who is similar to himself. Bear is not exactly like any of the bears he meets on his journey and he begins to worry that he is simply ordinary and uninteresting until his new friend, Nelly, helps him realize the kind of bear he is and just how special that is. This is a sweet story, but also one that explores identity and belonging.

Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This is a beautiful collection of poems written in voices of different girls who have their own unique perspectives on friendship, family, and life. The poems celebrate the many ways there are to be and the ways we can lift each other up. The poems are simple and lovely and the illustrations are bright and joyful. Thanks to Random House for a review copy. The book publishes in January.

The Runaway Princess by Johan Troïanowski

This graphic novel is a lot of fun. A princess runs away, sometimes on purpose and sometimes accidentally. Her journeys bring lots of adventures and she meets friends, as well as some interesting characters including mermaids and pirates. Sprinkled throughout the book, there are some puzzles and mazes that invite the reader into the story. The book publishes in January.

The Starspun Web by Sinéad O'Hart

Tess has grown up at Ackerbee's Home for Lost and Foundlings since she was left there as a baby and she is quite happy with her living arrangements. When a strange man shows up, claiming that he is a distant relative, Tess is reluctant to go with him, but hopes that he might have answers to her questions about who she is and where she came from. She moves into Roedeer Lodge and discovers that a strange device she was left with as a baby is a portal to an alternate world. As she tries to unravel the mystery, she finds herself at the center of a dangerous scheme. This is an engaging and mysterious story about a brave heroine that intertwines science, history, and friendship.