Sunday, December 31, 2017

Favorite Books of 2017

I've read a lot of children's literature this year and it was not easy to choose my favorites. I narrowed it down to a manageable number, but there are many other fantastic books that are not on my list. If you or your students haven't read any of these, definitely check them out.

Fifteen Favorite Middle Grade Books

  • Amina's Voice by Hena Khan
  • A Boy Called Bat by Elana Arnold
  • Bird & Squirrel On Fire by James Burks
  • Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary Lambert
  • The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff
  • Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
  • Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske
  • One Mixed-Up Night by Catherine Newman
  • The Losers Club by Andrew Clements
  • Superstar by Mandy Davis 
  • The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall
  • Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari
  • The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
  • The Worst Fairy Godmother Ever! (The Wish List #1) by Sarah Aronson
  • Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Six Favorite Early/Transitional Readers

  • Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes
  • Charlie & Mouse by Laurel Snyder 
  • Fergus and Zeke by Kate Messner
  • The Good for Nothing Button by Charise Mericle Harper
  • The Infamous Ratsos Are Not Afraid by Kara LaReau
  • Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen by Debbi Michiko Florence

Ten Favorite Picture Books

  • After the Fall by Dan Santat
  • The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Plan Can Change the World by Katie Smith Milway
  • The Book of Gold by Bob Staake
  • Creepy Pair of Underwear by Aaron Reynolds
  • It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk
  • Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
  • The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt
  • Pax and Blue by Lori Richmond
  • Super Manny Stands Up by Kelly DiPucchio
  • The Teacher's Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi

I hope you find some good reads in 2018. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2017


In January, I made a list of "must reads" for 2017 along with Carrie Gelson of There's a Book for That and a community of other bloggers. Throughout the year we have written blog posts with updates on our progress on our must-read lists. You can read the blog post in April here and the one in September here. Today's post is an end-of-the year update. 

My #MustReadin2017 List

Middle Grade Books

The middle grade titles on my list were all titles published in 2017. I read all of them except for one, Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern. Since the end of the year was coming and I wanted to complete my must-read list, I looked for it at the library last week, but it is checked out to someone else. Hopefully, it will be available in the next few weeks so I can finally read it. Of all the books on my list, I think A Boy Called Bat by Elana Arnold was my favorite. Bat is such an endearing character. I am looking forward to reading the second book, Bat and the Waiting Game in the new year. I think the most popular book with my students is CatStronauts by Drew Brockington. There are now three books in the series and I constantly have students checking them out. 

Professional Books

I had four professional books on my list to read this year. I read the following:

This week I started the one other professional book that was on my list: Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't and What Can Be Done About It by Mark Seidenberg. This book is interesting, but it is packed with research and scientific information about reading. This is a book that I find I am reading slowly because there is a lot to digest and I often have to go back to reread. The author, a cognitive neuroscientist, states, in the first chapter, that there is a gap between what is known about learning to read based on science and how reading is taught in schools. How the brain learns, in general, and how the brain learns to read are areas that fascinate me. I am amazed with the human ability to learn to read considering that reading is such a complex skill and one that our brains aren't naturally wired to do. Even though this is a heavier professional read than other professional texts I have read recently, I am enjoying it. 

With the exception of one book, I have read all of the books on my must-read list. Not bad! In addition, I have read lots of other books, children's literature and some grown-up reads, throughout the year. I look forward to more reading in 2018!

Monday, December 18, 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...

What Do You Do With a Chance? by Kobi Yamada

As with Kobi Yamada's previous two books, What Do You Do With a Problem? and What Do You Do With an Idea?, this book will spark important discussions. The boy in the story shows readers what can happen when presented with chance. The boy's feelings change from regret to embarrassment to excitement as he learns that chances are worth taking. The message of this book, about letting go of one's fears, is inspiring.

Toy Academy: Some Assembly Required (Toy Academy #1) by Brian Lynch

Grumbolt's not quite sure what kind of toy he is, but he really wants to learn to play so he joins the Toy Academy. Grumbolt struggles with fitting in and mastering the lessons he is taught. Despite his challenges, Grumbolt is determined and he finds a way to become a hero. With humor, silliness, and a battle between good and evil this book has lots of kid appeal. There are pictures on most pages which will attract reluctant readers and those readers who have not yet built the stamina for longer chapter books.

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko

This is a fantasy in which two sisters find themselves in another world where one must save the other. The world the girls find themselves in is magical and their quest takes them on an adventure with very high stakes. The sisters have an imperfect relationship, but their love for each other is apparent. This is an exciting read with heart. This book publishes in February.

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.