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

Monday, April 2, 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...


New Shoes by Sara Varon

Written in a graphic novel format, this is a charming and funny story about a donkey in a South American jungle on a mission to find tiger grass so he can make shoes for his favorite singer, Miss Manatee. There is also information about the plants and animals of the jungle included throughout the book. The illustrations are bright and colorful and amusing. The author included photographs of Guyana that she used for inspiration at the end of the book. This is a fun book, but it also has a message about doing the right thing and will help readers understand another part of the world.

Cody and the Heart of a Champion by Tricia Springstubb

Cody is dealing with a lot of changes in her life. Her friend Pearl has joined the soccer team. Her brother Wyatt is spending more time with his girlfriend. Spencer is making a museum under his porch and Cody doesn't know why. As in the previous books in the series, Cody navigates the ups and downs of childhood and learns life lessons. This series is realistic, relatable, and interesting and it has been popular with some of my students. Thanks to Candlewick Press for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reader's copy of the book.

Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers

Whatever Polly writes in her new turquoise leather notebook comes true. She becomes invisible, turns her little sister into a banana, and makes her house into one that is much bigger. Polly learns that what she writes is not always exactly what she wants. As a teacher, I loved Polly's character because of her imagination and love of words and writing. This is a transitional chapter book for readers who like magic, imagination, and a little bit of silliness. I received an advance reader's copy of this book, thanks to the publisher, at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention. The book publishes in May.

Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth by Sheila O'Connor

In this thought-provoking story told entirely in letters, eleven-year old Reenie Kelly is determined to save her brother from the Vietnam War draft. This is also a story of unlikely friendship as Reenie writes letters to a recluse who lives on her paper route. This book gives insight into the conflict occurring during the time period while also telling a story about family. I received an advance reader's copy of this book, thanks to the publisher, at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention.

Monday, March 26, 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...


Islandborn by Junot Díaz

Lola has to draw a picture of the place she was born as an assignment for her teacher, but she was too young when she left the island that was her first home and can't remember it. Lola asks her neighbors to tell her their memories so she can complete the assignment. With the help of family and friends, Lola pieces together information about the island to understand the place she is from. Even though not named, the author's background and the story indicate that the island is the Dominican Republic. This is a book about learning where one is from, but also the power of imagination. The story and illustrations capture the beauty of the island and the courage of those who faced struggles during hard times. A sweet book with gorgeous illustrations.

Fish Are Not Afraid of Doctors (Maud the Koala) by J. E. Morris

Maud has a fear of doctors and shots, but when her imagination wanders she forgets to be afraid. This book will be useful for kids who have a similar fear as it shows a strategy that will help. The book is also written in a comic book style which will appeal to early readers who want to read graphic novels. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Random House, for an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Breakout by Kate Messner

Two inmates escape from prison in a small, quiet, and usually safe, town in the Adirondacks. The story is told through the perspectives of three seventh-grade girls, two of them friends from the same school and one a girl who has just moved to town because her brother is in the prison. The book, told through various forms of writing, such as letters, poems, news clippings, and comics, is a compelling read. It explores prejudice and racism and can serve to open up conversations about these relevant issues. I think the structure of this book will attract readers, the plot will keep them engaged, and the struggles of the characters will make them think. This book does not publish until June, but it's one to keep an eye out for. Thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advanced reader's copy.

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

This historical fiction book is set in Maine, pre-World War II. Augusta has only her French horn, about which she is very passionate, with her when she arrives at her grandmother's orphanage. She not only has to adjust to her new setting, but she is also struggling with feelings that she is not an American and the suspicions of others in the community because her father was born in Germany. Augusta is a determined character who strives to do the right thing to help others. She stands up for herself and those in her community. The book gives historical insight into the prejudices of the time period, but it's also a story about family and friendship. There is much to love about this book from a great storyteller. Look for the book in April. Thanks to the publisher, Candlewick, for sending an advance reading copy of this book, to my book review group, #BookExcursion.

Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen by Candace Fleming

This fiction story is based on the real life story of Strongheart, a dog actor in the 1920s. Director Larry Trimble was looking for a dog to make a star when he came across Strongheart at a Berlin Police Station. Strongheart was just what Larry was looking for, a gorgeous, intelligent, and dramatic dog. Strongheart's acting abilities are amazing, but he also proves to be a superstar for his helpfulness and loyalty. I know many readers who enjoy books featuring dogs and I think they will enjoy reading about this unique and interesting dog.

Monday, March 19, 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.

Here's What I've Been Reading...


Dude! by Aaron Reynolds

This entire story is told mostly through the use of the one word, "Dude." The language conventions and the illustrations convey the meaning, implying how the word, "Dude!" is to be read on each page. This is a fun story of unlikely friendship between a platypus and a beaver and the shark they meet in the ocean while surfing. It's humorous and surprising. Readers will love the illustrations and enjoy varying their expression to read each page. This book publishes in April. Thanks to the publisher, Macmillan, for providing #BookExcursion, with an advanced reader's copy.

Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre

This book is a lovely celebration of the earth. It reads like a poem and the photographs, which are stunning, bringing meaning to the lines. The book is actually a letter to the Earth, thanking her for what she has given us, which includes some surprising and interesting ideas about what we have to appreciate. The author includes a note at the end in which she encourages readers to write their own thank-you notes about our planet and nature and provides ideas for readers who want to take action to show kindness towards our Earth. This book will make a great read-aloud, but also be a useful mentor text for teaching writing.

Pass the Ball, Mo! by David A. Adler

This is another winning book in the Mo Jackson series for early readers. Persistence and practice pay off for Mo when his team, the Bees, play a game of basketball against the Ducks. This is a book I can hand to readers who enjoy sports, but it's also a fun book to read even for those who don't have a huge interest in basketball. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Random House, for an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Livy does not remember much about her grandmother's house in Australia, but the short green creature in a chicken suit she finds in the closet remembers her. Livy wants to figure out where Bob came from and Bob wants Livy to keep the promise she made to him five years before. This is an intriguing and magical story, as Livy puts the pieces of what she knows together to solve the mystery of Bob. Readers will love Bob from the moment he is discovered in the closet, as he is endearing and funny. Livy is a brave and loyal friend. This is a sweet story of friendship. Thanks to the publisher, Macmillan, for sending #BookExcursion an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Daring Dreamers Club #1: Milla Takes Charge by Erin Soderberg

This series is about a group of fifth grade girls who have formed a friendship after finding themselves in the same advisory group. This is a story about friendship, but also one about a girl solving a problem with the help and support of her friends. You can read more about my thoughts here. The book publishes in June.

Maggie & Abby's Neverending Pillow Fort by Will Taylor

Two girls build pillow forts and discover they can magically travel between them and there is an entire network of secret pillow forts around the world. Maggie and Abby must perform a good deed to become a member of the pillow fort alliance. The task proves more difficult than it seems, especially when Maggie and Abby's friendship is being put to the test. This story is magical and clever, but the characters are realistic and relatable. The ending will leave readers wanting to read the next book and build their own pillow fort. This book publishes in April. I received an advanced reader's copy of this book at the National Council of Teachers of English, thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Daring Dreamers Club #1: Milla Takes Charge by Erin Soderberg


Milla Takes Charge (Daring Dreamers Club #1) is the first book in a new series about a group of fifth grade girls who get to know each other once they all find themselves in the same advisory group. The girls' passions and dreams are revealed through a writing assignment they complete for their teacher, Ms. Bancroft. Milla, who dreams of adventures and would love to attend the fifth grade overnight at Adventure Camp, is worried because her parents are overprotective. With the support of her friends, Milla decides to prove to her parents she is responsible.

This series will be a great one to hand to younger middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction and stories about friends. Young readers will be able to relate to the story, there is a positive message, and the characters provide a model of friendship, showing how friends work together and support on another. The author's note at the end of the book gives information about Ann Bancroft, the first woman to cross the North Pole, who provided the inspiration for the fictional Ms. Bancroft. This book does not publish until June, but I am already looking forward to finding out more about the other girls in the Daring Dreamers Club, who will be featured in the next books in the series.

Thanks to the author, Erin Soderberg, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Monday, March 12, 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.

Books I've Been Reading...


The Boy and the Blue Moon by Sara O'Leary

On the night of a blue moon, a boy and his cat go on a walk through the forest and it turns into a magical journey to the moon and back. This is a story about wishes and imagination. The boy and his cat also realize that their home is the place where they are meant to be. The illustrations, mostly shades of blue, are gorgeous. A magical and lovely read.

Dory Fantasmagory: Head in the Clouds by Abby Hanlon

I have been a Dory fan since the first book was published. Dory is slightly mischievous, but funny and imaginative. In this book, the fourth in the series, Dory has her first loose tooth which leads to an adventure involving her imaginary nemesis who is posing as the tooth fairy. This series continues to entertain. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Random House, for providing my #BookExcursion group with an advanced reader's copy of this book.

Enginerds by Jarrett Lerner

Kennedy and his friends have named themselves the EngiNerds because of their love of science and technology. Kennedy finds a box of parts that assemble themselves into a robot and soon there is an army of robots which the friends must defeat. With an engaging, humorous, and action-packed plot, this book has lots of kid appeal. Humor related to bodily functions will definitely be enjoyed by many middle grade readers. Readers who have an interest in science will also be able to relate to the the characters in the book.

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

Charlotte and Ben play online Scrabble with each other and, although they live miles away from each other, they form a friendship that extends beyond the game they are playing. Both Charlotte and Ben are dealing with family issues and having a hard time fitting in at school. The connection Charlotte and Ben make shows the power of reaching out to others when in need and how one person can make a difference in another's life. For middle grade readers also dealing with challenges in their family and school lives, this will be a book to which they can relate. I received an advanced reader's copy of this book thanks to the publisher, HarperCollins, at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention.

Monday, March 5, 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.

Books I've Been Reading...


I Am a Cat by Galia Bernstein

Simon pronounces that he is a cat, but the much bigger cats, like Lion, Cheetah, and Panther, tell him he is not one because he does not have the characteristics that they each have. Simon may be small, but he is wise, and he helps the big cats realize that he is not so different from them. Although a narrative, young readers will glean some facts about cats. The personalities of the cats is conveyed perfectly in the illustrations which are interesting and fun.

City Mouse, Country Mouse by Maggie Rudy

This is the sweetest version of Aesop's "The City Mouse and the Country Mouse" that I've ever read. The friendship between Tansy, the country mouse, and Will, the city mouse, and the compromise they make for each other give this retelling a unique twist, but will also make readers smile. The artwork, which the author created by photographing sets she made with found materials, is gorgeous. The effect is both realistic and whimsical. I hope the author has more retellings of other classic tales in the works.

Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison

This book alternates between the perspectives of Lauren, the girl who seems to have it all, but is missing her brother who is away at a school for children with autism and Sierra, a girl in the foster care system because her mother is in a jail. Lauren's chapters are told through prose and Sierra's through verse. Lauren and Sierra are relatable and realistic characters. Like many young readers, their lives are complex as they struggle with challenges in their family relationships and friendships. Neither Lauren or Sierra are perfect, but they learn from their mistakes and successfully work through bumps in their friendships. The main story line, in which Lauren does the wrong thing for the right reasons, will give readers much to think about and spark discussion. This book is beautifully written and one that can help young readers build empathy toward others and also show them something about navigating the path of growing up. I read an electronic advanced reader's copy of this book through NetGalley.

Professional Read


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

In this book, Willingham explores reading from a cognitive perspective, providing insight into how the mind is able to engage in the complex process of reading. He explains how readers learn and employ the code of written language and also how the mind extracts meaning from text. The information in the book is research-based and insightful. There are also chapters in the book on reading motivation and the impact of digital technologies on reading that contain interesting research and made me think about these aspects of reading in new ways. In each chapter, Willingham also provides implications for educators. Even though I am a literacy specialist and my job is teaching students to read, I am amazed at the human capacity to learn such a complex task. This is a book I enjoyed because it further increased my knowledge of the cognitive process of reading.

Monday, February 26, 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.


Books I've Been Reading...


Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon by Annette Bay Pimentel

Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon before women were permitted to do so. This book tells her story. It tells of her passion for running and her determination to run and finish the race. Bobbi Gibb inspired others when she first ran the race, as the book will inspire readers today.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

Candice, with the help of Brandon, a boy she has recently befriended when her and her mom move to South Carolina, is investigating a decades old mystery. The mystery was one her grandmother had also tried to solve before she died and involves a million dollar treasure. The book alternates between the story of Candice and Brandon in the present day and the story of those tied to the mystery in the 1950s. The story gives insight into the segregation occurring in the 1950s and touches upon the issues of racial discrimination that exist today. In addition, middle grade readers will relate to Caroline and Brandon who are dealing with challenges of growing up. This is a book with an intriguing mystery, an interesting plot, and important themes. I received an advanced reader's copy of this book thanks to the publisher, Scholastic, at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference.

Monday, February 19, 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.


Books I've Been Reading...


Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

This book is exactly what the title implies, a book about being kind. The message, that all the little kindnesses we do add up to something big, is sweet. The book will also give children ideas about what they can do at home and at school to be kind. The acts of kindness in the book are simple, yet powerful because each small act can lead to another and another. For anyone looking to inspire kindness, this book is a great choice.

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

In his familiar style, Peter H. Reynolds has given us another short and sweet, but meaningful and inspirational story. Jerome is a word collector who knows the power of those words. This book will spark discussions about favorite words and the use of words to empower and transform. I could read this book, as well as many of Peter's other books, over and over again, both for the message and the art. I am looking forward to seeing Peter H. Reynolds in person this April. He is one of the keynote speakers at the Massachusetts Reading Association Annual Conference.

Bat and the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold

I loved A Boy Called Bat and have been eager to read this second book in the series. Bat continues to take care of his skunk, Thor, and navigate his relationships with family and friends as someone who sees the world a little differently. As Bat is on the autism spectrum, he is a model for those readers who face similar challenges in their lives. He is a charming and funny character who learns important life lessons. Thanks to the publisher for an advanced reader's copy of the book. The book publishes in March.

Jake the Fake Stands Up by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach

Jake discovered his talents as a comedian in the first book in this series. In this book, the fame associated with being a comedian goes to his head. Jake learns something about friendship and fame. There's a lot of humor in both this book and the previous one, Jake the Fake Keeps it Real. The numerous illustrations provide additional hilarity, the kind that kids appreciate. For readers who enjoy Diary of a Wimpy Kid, this is an alternative to offer. I received an advanced reader's copy of this book, thanks to the publisher, at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Conference.