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

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly

I remember, as a child, making shadow puppets with a flashlight. My brothers and I, usually while camping in a tent, would twist our hands and fingers into various shapes and shine the light on them to amaze each other with shadows that mimicked animals and other creatures. Emmeline, in Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly, has an uncanny ability to control shadows that extends beyond simply making shadow puppets. She can weave shadows into almost anything she can think of, use them for her own protection, and even communicate with her own shadow.

Emmeline is proud of her shadow weaving, but not everyone appreciates her magic. Her parents decide to send her to Lady Aisling, who promises to cure Emmeline so she will no longer have her magical abilities. Emmeline and her shadow, Dar, run away into the woods where they meet a boy, Lucas, with his own form of magic. Not only are Lady Aisling's guards looking for Emmeline, but Dar wants to become a real girl and needs Emmeline to help her. Emmeline becomes torn between her shadow friend, Dar, and Lucas and his family who have helped her to escape danger.

The plot of Shadow Weaver is both mysterious and thrilling as Emmeline and her new friend Lucas must defend themselves from those who want to harm them. In the midst of Emmeline's fight to keep her magic, she also struggles with decisions she has to make about where her loyalties lie. Emmeline also learns an important lesson: friends may not always be well-intentioned. With magic and the juxtaposition of light versus dark and good versus evil, this fantasy is a little creepy, but also enchanting. This is an intriguing book for readers looking for an imaginative and magical story that will give them a bit of a chill. There is a second book planned as the ending leaves readers anticipating a sequel. 

I thank the author, MarcyKate Connolly, for providing me and my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advanced reader copy of the book. The book publishes in January.