Monday, December 11, 2017

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...

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

Two cardinals, Red and Lulu, live in the branches of an evergreen tree, but are separated when the tree is cut down and delivered to New York City for the holidays. Despite their home being taken away, the cardinals find a way to be together again. The sweet story, along with the gorgeous illustrations, will bring the magic of the holiday season to readers' hearts.  This is sure to become a Christmas favorite.

Space Boy and the Snow Monster by Dian Regan

Space Boy and the Snow Monster is a picture book written in a graphic format. Niko is playing in the snow in his backyard with his dog, Tag, when he loses his copilot, Radar, who is actually a small robot toy. Niko imagines he travels to Planet Ice where he searches for Radar and has to defend himself from a snowball attack, a killer bunny, and the Snow Monster, who looks a lot like his sister. The story is fast-paced with a lot of action and shows the fun of using one's imagination. I'll put this book out for my students this week and I imagine, with the first snowflakes of the season having just fell this weekend, that this book will be scooped up quickly. I won this book in a giveaway on the Unleashing Readers blog, so thank you to them and Blue Slip Media.

Grilled Cheese and Dragons #1 (Princess Pulverizer) by Nancy Krulik

Princess Pulverizer, her birth name Princess Serena, would rather be a knight than a princess. Her father tells her she must be smart, brave, and kind to be a knight and sends her on a Quest of Kindness. To prove she has what it takes to be a knight, Princess Pulverizer must complete eight good deeds. As she begins her quest to complete her first good deed, she gets locked in an ogre's castle and makes new friends. This is an amusing adventure about three characters, a princess, a knight, and a dragon, who don't quite fit the mold they are meant to fit. This is a book for transitional readers who enjoy fantasy and humor. This book publishes in January.

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

There is so much to love about this middle grade novel. The characters are wonderful and true-to-life, the plot is interesting and magical, and it will be a book that is relatable to middle grade readers while also giving insight to some who may be reading about a culture different from their own. Read my review of this book, which publishes in January, here

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Leo is an eleven-year old many middle grade readers will be able to relate to. She has four older siblings and is constantly told she is too young. She really wants to help with her family's bakery, but she is never allowed because of her age. Leo is determined to convince her family that she can help out. When she discovers a family secret, she has the perfect opportunity to prove herself.

Leo discovers that, not only are all the women in her family bakers, but they are also brujas, or witches. The brujas of Leo's family get their power from magic combined with love and the sweetness of their baking. Even though Leo is not old enough to practice her magic, she tries her hand at the magical recipes. One problem leads to another when Leo's magic does not go as planned. Leo is a true-to-life character, good-intentioned, but not always making the best choices. Many young readers will be able to relate to the fact that, without meaning to, Leo has gotten herself into a really big mess. The element of fantasy and magic make Leo not just believable, but also interesting.

There is warmth to this book, as well, as Leo's family support and learn from each other. The story also gives insight into the Mexican-American culture of Leo's family. Reading the book may give readers a craving for something sweet and luckily there are a few recipes included at the end. This is a charming and fun read.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book at the National Council of Teachers of English convention, thanks to HarperCollins Publishers. The book publishes in January.

Monday, December 4, 2017

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...

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers

Oliver Jeffers wrote this book when his son was in his first two months of life. In the book, Jeffers talks directly to the reader, telling about the planet earth and giving tips on how to live and be within the world. The simplistic, but meaningful advice Jeffers gives is just what our children need to know to navigate our world. The illustrations are as wonderful as the message. The details within them show much about life. I've already bought a second copy of this book to gift to parents-to-be.

The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgess

Dragons, chocolate, and adventure! This is a delightful fantasy. Aventurine is a dragon who leaves her family's mountain cave to prove she is big, fierce, and can take care of herself. Instead of catching a human like she intended, she is turned into one. As a human girl, who has developed a passion for chocolate, she sets out to become an apprentice at a chocolate house. Aventurine learns about friendship, finds her place in the world, and becomes a heroine.

Snow Lane by Josie Angelini

Annie's life is challenging. She is the youngest of nine siblings and she has some learning difficulties, but she also does not want her friends to know what her family life is really like. The book shows how a young girl deals with some tough issues in her life. This book turned out to have a much more serious topic than I first thought. It is set in 1985, which I found interesting having grown up during the 80's. The book is marketed for grades four to seven, but I think the sophistication of the themes and the language used throughout the book make it more appropriate for the upper end of this range. This book publishes in January.

Granted by John David Anderson

This is a book I put on my to-read list as soon as I heard about it, so I was glad to pick up an advanced reader copy at NCTE a few weeks ago. It's an enchanting and magical fantasy. It's very different from the last two books I read by Anderson, but just as interesting and well-written. Read more about my thoughts here. This book publishes in February.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Granted by John David Anderson

John David Anderson became a favorite author of mine after I read Ms. Bixby's Last Day. It was inspiring, but heart-wrenching. I knew it would be a sad story, but I was surprised by the humor. I loved his book Posted, too. The message of the book is an important one. It's also relevant in today's world and to the lives of middle graders. Being a fantasy, Granted is a very different book from Anderson's previous two. I am amazed with authors who are able to write so well across genres and topics.

In Granted, Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is a fairy, but also a Granter. As a Granter, she must travel beyond the Haven to the human world, and grant whatever wish she has been assigned. She has finally been given a mission to grant her first wish. She must find the coin the wish was made on and then her magic will work to grant a girl a purple bike. Ophelia is sure that she will be able to grant this wish easily, but then she gets to the human world and finding the coin is harder than she thought it would be. It's also a lot more dangerous than she thought, but Ophelia is determined to grant a wish even if it means risking being seen by humans and breaking a wing.

Ophelia is a spunky and courageous character. She not only shows determination, but also a caring, warm heart. There is lots of humor in the book as well. Many places made me smile, especially the parts with the dog, Sam. He's friendly, well-meaning, and a loyal friend. John David Anderson's writing is beautiful, pulling the reader into the magical world of the fairies. This is an absolutely enchanting book. After reading it, you may find yourself grabbing a coin, tossing it into a fountain, and making a wish.

Monday, November 27, 2017

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 Read This Week...

Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart

On my way home from the annual convention of the National Council of Teachers of English last weekend, the airport shuttle dropped me off three hours before my flight was to depart. To kill time, I popped into a restaurant in the airport and was delighted to be seated at a table next to author Melissa Stewart. We chatted about our experiences at NCTE, authors, books, and writing and she graciously gave me a copy of her latest book. Thanks to Melissa, my three hour wait definitely flew by! Written in a question-and-answer format, Can an Aardvark Bark?, gives interesting facts about the sounds of various animals. The end encourages readers to think about the sounds they make. I can hear my students making animal sounds as they read this book. Steve Jenkins illustrations of the animals are wonderful, too. Melissa Stewart has a website with many resources including minilessons for writing informational text. Visit her website here.

Love by Matt de la Pena

While at NCTE, I attended a breakfast hosted by Penguin Random House. At the breakfast, attendees were given a bag of a few books selected by the publisher, one of which was this one. Since this book has been on my radar, it was a treat and a surprise to get a copy. The book is poetic and beautiful. The message is simple, but powerful. The illustrations, which show the journey through life, are diverse and gorgeous. This is a book you'll want to read again and again and one that you'll want to give to others.

Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies by Jonathan Rosen

Devin has a new neighbor and he and his cousin Tommy think he's a warlock. The neighbor gives Devin's sister a Cuddle Bunny, a popular toy, and it comes to life. When Devin tries to explain what is going on nobody believes him. In fact, they start to think he needs some counseling. It's up to Devin and his cousin to save their town from Cuddle Bunnies. This book is fast-paced and hilarious. It's also both evil and heart-warming. I think middle grade readers will be amused. Thanks to Wendy McLeod MacKnight, author of It's a Mystery, Pig Face!, for sending me a copy.

A Book to Look for in 2018

The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd

This book has a winning combination - a quirky family, seven siblings each born on a different day of the week, an evil villainess, and some fun and magic. The Problim Children have returned to House Number Seven in Lost Cove just before it was to be auctioned off. The house is rightfully theirs, but they must prove it. Their neighbor, Desdemona O'pinion, wants the Problim Children out of the house because she believes there is a treasure in there that belongs to her family. The Problim Children must put their charm, determination, and sense of adventure to work to keep what is theirs. This is a fun start to a series that has family at its heart.

Monday, November 13, 2017

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...

Maurice the Unbeastly by Amy Dixon

Maurice does not behave like a Beast should, but he wants to fit in so he goes to The Abominable Academy for Brutish Beasts. Although Maurice tries hard, he just is not beastly enough. Maurice is about to give up until he has the opportunity to show everyone he has a useful skill. Maurice, may be less than beastly, but he is charming and shows that it's okay to be oneself.

Read the Book, Lemmings! by Ame Dyckman

The lemmings repeatedly jump off the cliff (the side of the S.S. Cliff, a ship that is actually a whale) and Foxy repeatedly saves them. If the lemmings would read Foxy's book about lemmings, they would know they are not supposed to jump off cliffs. If the lemmings are going to read they book, Foxy will have to teach them how. I love the lesson about the power and wonder of reading, but there is also much to give readers a laugh in this book.

Patina by Jason Reynolds

In the second book in the Track series, Jason Reynolds tells the story of Patty, who is new to the track team and very competitive. When she's running she can escape from a less than ideal life situation. She and her sister are living with their aunt and uncle after their father died and their mother became confined to a wheel chair. This book gives a glimpse into the life of a character dealing with the challenges of fitting in and striving to make sense of what life has given her. Patty is a resilient and strong character who readers can learn from.

A Book to Look for in 2018

The Uncanny Express (The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters Book 2) by Kara LaReau

Jaundice and Kale are happiest when they are at home darning socks, tying knots, and cleaning. Their parents, who are off having an adventure, send them to meet their aunt at the train station. When Jaundice and Kale show up, they are whisked of on the Uncanny Express as assistants to a magician, an adventure their parents planned for them. Their adventure soon turns into a mystery. There's a lot of wordplay and Jaundice and Kale's over-the-top dullness is amusing. Jaundice and Kale may be bland, but their adventures are not. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

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...

Windows by Julia Denos

A boy and his dog take a walk at dusk, noticing the windows on the buildings in his neighborhood. This is a warm, sweet story that shows if we take the time to observe there is much going on around us. The colors in the beautiful illustrations slowly change to show the passage of time as the day turns into night. Lovely book, which is actually based on a city in my state of Massachusetts, where the author and illustrator live.

Keep Calm and Sparkle On! (The Wish List #2) by Sarah Aronson

In the second book in the Wish List series, Isabelle continues her fairy godmother training, but she is now in level two which is proving to be much harder than the first level. While Isabelle is trying to master her fairy godmother skills, she's also worried that others will find out she broke one of the godmother-in-training rules by leaving a jar of sparkles with Nora, her practice princess who is actually a regular girl. Now Isabelle needs to get her sparkles back and grant a happily-ever-after to her new practice girl without making her friend unhappy. Those who enjoy magic and fantasy will find Isabelle's situation delightful. Even though a fantasy, Isabelle faces realistic problems and situations with friends that young readers will be able to relate. Isabelle is always determined, warm-hearted, and well-intentioned as she figures out how to meet the challenges she's given in order to become a fairy godmother. This book publishes in December, but while you wait you could check out the first one in the series, The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever!

Caleb and Kit by Beth Vrabel

Caleb has cystic fibrosis. One day he is out walking in the woods and he meets Kit. Kit is mysterious and intriguing and Caleb is quickly drawn to her. The two become friends and their friendship gives Caleb an escape from his overprotective mother, his perfect brother, and his distant father. As Kit's family situation is slowly revealed to Caleb, it becomes apparent that she has secrets of her own. This is a book that can help readers build understanding and empathy for those who are facing difficult situations. It also shows the power of friendship. 

Curse of the Harvester (Dream Jumper, Book 2) by Greg Grunberg

I had to read this book quickly because I have students who have been eagerly waiting for this one after reading the first Dream Jumper book. Ben learned in book one that he is a dream jumper, meaning he can jump into other's dreams and save them. Ben and his friend, Jake, continue their dream adventures in this book and Ben faces some threatening challenges. There is lots of excitement, action, and interesting characters. Based on the ending, I believe there will be a third book, and hopefully there is because the first student who borrowed the book is already asking about it.

A Book to Look for in 2018

Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly

This is an enchanting, magical, and chilling fantasy that publishes in January. You can read more of my thoughts about the book here