Wednesday, July 18, 2018

#CyberPD Week Three

This is week three of #cyberPD, a virtual book study group that I am participating in this July along with other educators. The group is reading Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed. You can find out more information about #cyberPD here.

As I was reading Chapter Five, "Finding Humanity in Ourselves and Others," I was also reading The Red Bandana (Young Readers Adaptation) by Tom Rinaldi. This is a story of an upstander, defined as "people who decide to help or to stand up, no matter the consequence" (p. 106). The book is an account of 9/11, so it's heart-wrenching. It's also the story of Welles Crowther, one of the heroes of that day, who sacrificed his life to save others so there's inspiration in the pages of the book, as well. The books ends with a reminder to readers that we all have choices and we can choose to be one who helps. This book provides young readers with insight into a crisis, a horrific tragedy, that occurred in our world, but it can also spark discussion about courage, self-sacrifice, and how helping makes our world a better place.

Sharing literature which illustrates the power of standing up and helping others is essential. Picture books, like Super Manny Stands Up! by Kelly DiPucchio and Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, are must-reads in the classroom because they convey important messages about kindness and compassion that we want our students to take to heart. The conversations we engage students in about ideas related to this literature are important, but Sara offers us ways to deepen the learning about these concepts. Working with students on understanding the idea of having an obligation to others and helping them to recognize who they feel obligated to, seems to dig deeper into the mindsets that result in our decision to help or not help. Our identities and perspectives tie into the choices we make. Exploring our identities and perspectives in relation to our decisions to be kind and empathetic seems a helpful way to support students in developing strong, positive relationships with others.

When 9/11 occurred, I was just beginning my career as a teacher. I remember the challenge of addressing students' concerns about this event. There have been many crises in our world since and managing the questions and conversations that students want to have is still a challenge. There is a need to help students process what is happening around them, but also ensure that they are safe. Sara offers great suggestions in the last chapter of the book for responding to the events of our world. Listening, taking the stance of learner alongside students, and sharing the stories of good in the world will help both teachers and students process what the world hands us.

As Sara states on the last page of her book, there is no magic formula for changing the world, but every effort we make to support students in navigating the world with understanding, kindness, and compassion is a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Story Collector by Kristin O'Donnell Tub

For many book lovers, living in a library would be a dream come true. Viviani Fedeler is living such a life in The Story Collector.

Viviani was born in the New York Public Library where she lives with her parents and her two brothers. She loves stories, but doesn't think the stories of her own life are very important. When Viviani tells a new girl at school that the library is haunted, the girl does not believe her. Viviani's plan to prove she is not a liar gets her into a predicament with her friends, but then she needs the help of one of those friends to solve a library mystery.

This book takes place in the 1920s and is based on the real life Viviani Fedeler who was actually born in the New York Public Library in 1917. Because her father was the superintendent of the library she lived there until she was fifteen. In the note at the end of the book, the author provides some historical information about Fedeler's family and the library itself.

The story draws readers into the time period, but also brings the library itself to life. From playing baseball in the library, with books as bases, to hiding in the card catalog, to exploring the rooms of the library at night, Viviani's life in the library seems fun and full of adventure. The story also addresses friendship as Viviani wrestles with a dilemma related to making and keeping a friend. The ending of the story is satisfying as Viviani learns about stories and realizes she does have a story worth sharing.

The Story Collector will speak to the hearts of those who love books and stories, especially librarians. With an interesting setting and a plot with a bit of mystery this story is an enjoyable read.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher, Henry Holt and Co., 
I read a digital review copy of the book. 
This book publishes in August. 

Monday, July 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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Goodbye Brings Hello by Dianne White

This book celebrates the changes and milestones of growing up. As something ends for the children throughout the book, something new begins. There is an encouraging message to embrace all the new and different opportunities that life brings. I thank Unleashing Readers and the publisher for the giveaway opportunity through which I won a copy of this book.

Mr. Monkey Bakes a Cake by Jeff Mack

Mr Monkey bakes a cake, but because he has eaten too many bananas while doing so, he decides to bring it to a cake contest. There are lots of funny near-mishaps along the way and an encounter with an unfriendly gorilla. Readers will root for Mr. Monkey as he tries to get his cake to its destination in one piece. I am always on the lookout for beginning reader series that will amuse my students as the Mo Willems's Elephant and Piggie Books do. I think the Mr. Monkey series will be enjoyed just as much. This book has short, repetitive text, charming characters, and lots of humor.

What Do They Do with All That Poo? by Jane Kurtz

There are more facts about zoo animals' poo in this book than you ever wanted to know! Students are going to be fascinated with the information they'll learn from the book. It features different zoo animals, telling interesting facts about their poop. It also gives information about what zoos do with the immense amount of animal waste that piles up at the zoo. When I bring this book to school in the fall, I imagine that it is not going to stay on the shelf very long. This is another book I was lucky to win a copy of, thanks to Word Spelunking and the publisher.

Escape From Castaway Island (Mr. Puffball #3) by Constance Lombardo

Mr. Puffball desires fame and fortune, but he knows his friends are what matter the most. In the third book in this series, Mr. Puffball is starring in a reality show, Celebrity Castaway Island, along with his feline friends, some who seem more like frenemies. As Mr. Puffball tries not to get voted off the island there is lots of adventure, mishaps, and humor. This is a series I'll recommend to readers who enjoy illustrated novels and fun stories that make them laugh. Thanks to the author, Constance Lombardo, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, a copy of the book to review. 

The Red Bandana (Young Readers Adaptation) by Tom Rinaldi

This true story tells about Welles Crowther, a hero of September 11, 2001. Like any account of 9/11 this is a heart-wrenching story, but it is also inspiring and hopeful. The book portrays the self-sacrifice and courage that Welles exhibited that day and offers a reminder that heroes live among us. This is an informative account of 9/11, which will give young readers insight into what occurred, but it will also be useful to spark discussions about the fact that we can make choices to help others and make this world be a better place.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Literacy Essentials by Regie Routman, Part II

I have been reading Regie Routman's book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners. The book is divided into three sections: "Engagement", "Excellence", and "Equity." I previously read and wrote a blog post about the first section, "Engagement" here. The second section of the book, "Excellence," is brimming with as much practical and insightful knowledge as the first section.

The idea of teacher excellence is something I have strong beliefs about. I have seen programs come and go in the different school districts I have worked in. Some of these programs were abandoned after only a couple of years. The remains of these programs often get tucked into the back of storage closets, gathering dust, as the components of a new, shinier model take its place. Sometime the materials connected to these programs were never even opened because teachers were unsure how to use them within the program or they were never necessary to begin with. None of these programs have been the quick-fix that it seems many educators, administrators, and other stakeholders seem to be looking for. Unfortunately that quick-fix will never exist because programs won't work for all students all of the time.

Ensuring that there is an excellent teacher in every classroom is a fix, although one that takes a greater investment of time than the implementation of a boxed program. In the first chapter of the "Excellence" section of Literacy Essentials, Routman explains that professional learning must be a priority if the goal is teacher excellence and the high achievement of all students. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Programs don't make excellent teachers. The recipe for excellence includes a commitment to professional learning in which teachers delve into understanding the reading and writing processes, how students learn best, and the best practices for literacy instruction. This recipe also needs to include time for collaboration in which teachers have opportunities to problem solve together, share what works in their classrooms, and discuss ways to improve student learning. Excellent teachers make the difference in students' achievement.

There is much more within the pages of this section of the book, but here are a few of my takeaways about "Excellence."

My Takeaways

  • Ongoing, collaborative professional learning is crucial to ensuring that there are effective teachers in every classroom. Professional learning that involves conversation about shared beliefs related to literacy instruction and empowers teachers to implement best practices based on those beliefs will have long-lasting effects on students' achievement.
  • Let students talk. Learners deepen their knowledge when they engage in conversation. Supporting students as they learn to actively listen and increase their conversational skills will help to make discussions more effective. When teachers talk less and listen more, students have more opportunities to engage in talk themselves.
  • If students are to get better at reading and writing they need to read and write a lot. Share great literature with students and make the connections between reading and writing. Show students that readers can learn about authors' craft by reading and trying out this craft in their own writing.
  • The end goal in teaching readers and writers is independence. When students are allowed to do the authentic work of readers and writers, they build a sense of agency that will support them as they read and write more challenging text over time. Conferring is an opportunity to name students' strengths and provide feedback that will nudge students forward in their reading and writing.
  • Be a teacher who reads and writes. By reading and writing and sharing this with students, teachers model a literate life. Teachers also gain an understanding of the reading and writing processes that students are being asked to engage in. When teachers read what their students read, they become more knowledgeable about children's literature and have more expertise about books they can share with students and can make recommendations for students.
Look for my thoughts about the final section of the book, "Equity," next week.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

#CyberPD Week Two

This is week two of #cyberPD, a virtual book study group that I am participating in along with other educators. The group is reading Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed. You can find out more about #cyberPD here

Watching the news or scrolling through my feed on social media, I have no doubts that there is room for our society to change and grow. In fact, change and growth our vital to a better world. We could use more kindness, more compassion, more humanity. Reflection, exploration, and conversation about our world, our place in it, and how we relate to others will help lead to this change. As tough and uncomfortable as this work may seem, it's the work that will propel us forward.

Chapters three and four of Being the Change, offer us tools to reflect, explore, and converse with our students as they consider ideas about the world and their understanding of it. As I read these chapters, I found myself thinking that the conversations the lessons will inspire are the sort that I tend to avoid. I have been guilty of steering the conversation in a different direction when the topic seems to be one that could potentially cause distress or when students bring up questions that are hard to answer. Although discussing bias and supporting students in recognizing bias, the focus of chapter three, can be a heavy topic, it's important to address. Classrooms can be the safe places where students discuss these ideas. Students naturally have questions about the events that are taking place in their lives and the world and the lessons in chapter four can help them make meaning out of what is happening. Even if these questions about the world lead to discomfort, students need the time and space to explore what is happening around them.

As I read the chapters this week, I found myself changing. Rather than avoid the difficult conversations, we can create a safe environment of trust and respect and foster deeper understanding. We can help students make sense of ideas, such as bias, and the events of the world. We can help them figure out the kind of people they want to be and how they want to relate to others. Getting their may take some hard work, some of it risky and uncomfortable, but if we trust in our students and ourselves we can do it. 

Monday, July 9, 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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

Geraldine by Elizabeth Lilly

Geraldine moves and when she starts at her new school she is the only giraffe. She feels out of place until she meets Cassie, the girl who wears glasses, likes math, and organizes her food. With Cassie's help, Geraldine learns to embrace the qualities that make her who she is. This book would be useful for discussing uniqueness, identity, and self-acceptance. Geraldine has a lot of personality, dramatic, at times, but funny. The illustrations are humorous, as well.

The Truth About Dolphins: Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals by Maxwell Eaton III

This book is part of a nonfiction picture book series that combines information with humor. The text provides straightforward facts while the playful illustrations and speech bubbles add a comic element. I have many readers who love to learn about animals and also enjoy books that are silly so I think this is a winning combination. Readers will both learn and laugh while reading this one.

Elephant Secret by Eric Walters

This was an amazing read. Engaging and interesting. It has elephants with personality, a surprising twist, and lots of heart. Read my review of this book that publishes in August here.

Mr. Wolf's Class by Aron Nels Steinke

I am always excited to read new graphic novels because my students love them so much. This one about the first day of school in Mr. Wolf's class is charming and funny. The students, although animals, are true to the life of fourth graders. I wasn't surprised when I read the author's bio to find out he is a teacher himself. This is the first in a series and a definite must-have for my graphic novel collection.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Elephant Secret by Eric Walters

I got to the last page and wished I could have stayed longer in the elephant sanctuary that is the setting of this book.

Thirteen-year old Samantha Gray lives on a North American elephant sanctuary with her father where they care for a herd of elephants. Samantha has lived with the elephants all her life, understands them better than people, and considers them her family. A baby elephant is born on the sanctuary and, because the mother dies during birth, Samantha takes on the responsibility of tending to her needs. About halfway through the book, the secret of the baby elephant is revealed and from there the story takes an intriguing turn. I enjoyed being totally surprised by the twist in this story, so I will say no more.

This book gives readers insight into the characteristics and behavior of elephants, bringing to light what amazing creatures these animals are. Amused by their personalities and fascinated by their loyalty, I adored the elephants. Samantha is a great character, as well, displaying a selfless love for the elephants and bravery when the lives of the elephants is threatened. Although the elephants are central to the plot, another storyline explored Samantha's relationship with her father and her father's girlfriend, adding another tender element to the story.

A compelling read that imagines a possibility that may be fact in our future, calls attention to the need to protect the wildlife of our planet, and warms the heart. 

I read an advance reading copy of this book, thanks to the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. This book publishes in August.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

#CyberPD Week One

For the next few weeks I will be participating in #CyberPD, a virtual book study group. You can find out more about #CyberPD here. I am excited to take part in this community of educators for the third year. This year we are reading and discussing Being the Change: Lessons and Strategies to Teach Social Comprehension by Sara K. Ahmed. I will be posting weekly reflections on the chapters we are reading. Like previous years, I anticipate the #CyberPD community will stretch my thinking and help me grow as a literacy educator.

Week One: Introduction and Chapters One & Two

Teachers make a difference in lives of learners every day. They have an impact on the learners in their classrooms who will then go out into the world and take part in shaping our future. We are social beings and relationships are at the heart of what it means to be an active participant in the world. It is essential that learners have the social comprehension skills to relate to others in a diverse society, one in which perspectives differ, and navigate a world that is fraught with challenges and is always changing. Teachers can make a conscious effort to put these comprehension skills in learners' hands. That is the focus of this book. If we don't teach these skills, can we feel confident that our learners will develop them? Is that a risk we want to take?

Chapter One of the book includes lessons to help learners explore their identities. The goals being to honor learners, build connections, and help learners position themselves as individuals who exist alongside a world of others. Each of the lessons is valuable as students develop a sense of self and respect for those around them. One of the lessons, "Placing Ourselves in the World," involves learners in an exploration of their names. This is a lesson that will help students discover something about themselves and learn more about their peers. In addition to the books referenced that could be used to introduce this lesson, I think Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal would be a useful book to explore this concept.  

Chapter Two of the book discusses how to teach students to be active listeners. I know many adults, including myself, at times, who could continue to improve upon their listening skills, so I believe this is something that our learners should be explicitly taught. As with many skills and strategies that we want learners to develop, modeling and noticing and naming what happens when engaged in the skill or strategy can be an effective teaching practice. Teaching listening skills in this way lends authenticity to lessons and will help learners internalize the behaviors necessary for active listening.  

From my reading of the first two chapters of this book, I am finding the lessons relevant, practical, and engaging. I look forward to next week's reading, Chapters Three and Four. 

Monday, July 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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

Niblet and Ralph by Zachariah OHora

Niblet and Ralph live in the same apartment building. They find a way to visit each other's apartments, but this leads to confusion when their owners return and find that they each have a different cat in place of their own. Niblet and Ralph are two amusing cats whose mischief inadvertently leads to a new friendship.

Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

Yasmin is a second grader who is great at solving problems. In each of the four short chapters, Yasmin is faced with different problems that are resolved due to her sense of adventure and creativity. Readers will also get a sense of Yasmin's Pakistani-American culture throughout the book. Illustrations, which are on included on most of the pages, are wonderful, too. This will be a great read to recommend to transitional chapter book readers. Thanks to the publisher, Capstone, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reader's copy of the book. The book publishes in August.

Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge

Evangeline is an apprentice to her grandmother who is a haunt huntress. When they take a job in New Orleans, Evangeline begins to question whether she has inherited any of the powers that are part of her family's history. In spite of her doubts, Evangeline is determined to keep those around her safe. This is an adventurous read with lots of action and supernatural elements. The setting, the Louisiana Bayou and New Orleans, is both charming and spooky. Evangeline is a character with strength, grit, and spunk and a heroine who demonstrates that fear can be faced head on.

Toaff's Way by Cynthia Voigt

Toaff is an adventurous and curious squirrel who gets separated from his family after a storm. The year following his loss, he takes a journey in which he strives to figure out the world and his place in it. He learns about survival, acceptance, and friendship. Imagining the world from the perspective of a squirrel, this is a sweet and entertaining tale. Toaff will win over readers' hearts. Thanks to NetGalley, I read a digital advance reader's copy of the book. The book publishes in August.

Professional Read

Sparks in the Dark: Lessons, Ideas, and Strategies to Illuminate the Reading and Writing Lives in All of Us by Travis Crowder and Todd Nesloney

Sparks in the Dark is about creating meaningful and authentic experiences for learners so they develop the love of reading and writing that will allow them to grow their literate lives. Throughout the book, Travis, a seventh-grade teacher, and Todd, a school principal, weave stories of their experiences as educators who promote literacy and provide instruction that aligns with best practice. They write about the necessity of access to books, providing choice, being teachers who read and write and the importance of having difficult conversations with kids and being professionals who learn in a variety of ways to improve our practice. This is a conversational, inspirational, and practical professional read. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Literacy Essentials by Regie Routman, Part I

Regie Routman is one of those literacy experts I know I can trust. When she has a new book hitting the shelves, I can almost guarantee that it will be brimming with wisdom and practical suggestions. Regie Routman's latest book, Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners does not disappoint. The almost 400-page book (not including the appendix) is filled with brilliance about teaching and literacy instruction. In the book, Regie explores ideas, research, and practical steps that center on creating a learning environment in which all students can thrive and feel empowered.

When I started reading this book in the spring, I immediately enjoyed and connected to Regie's perspective which is smart and sensible. I found myself starring many of her suggested action steps in order to remember which ones I want to set as goals for myself. I am delving into the book again because I am discussing it with a virtual book club community. During the first week of the book club, we read and discussed the section title, "Engagement". Here are some of my takeaways from this first part of the book.

My Takeaways

  • If we want our schools to be places where all students thrive as literacy learners, we have to engage both, the heart and mind. We reach students' hearts by creating spaces where they feel safe, joyful, and celebrated. We reach students' minds by providing purposeful, relevant, and engaging instruction. Students are empowered when they learn, but also when they have a love for learning.
  • Students achieve more when they are involved in instruction that is authentic and meaningful. Allowing students choice, providing authentic audiences, helping students understand the purpose of their learning and make connections, and giving students opportunities to have a voice in their learning optimizes instruction for all students. 
  • A thriving school culture is one in which there are positive relationships not just between teachers and students, but between the entire school community. Schools should be welcoming places for students, as well as their families. In order to create a positive environment for students, teachers also need to feel safe, trusted, and respected. Students are at the center of the school community, but their sense of well-being and their knowledge that they are cared for depends on an entire school community that is working as a team towards a common goal, the success of its literacy learners. 
Next week, I will post my thoughts about the next section of the book, "Excellence". If you are interested in participating in the virtual book club, which will continue through the week of July 15th, join the Literacy Book Club Facebook page

Monday, June 25, 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. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

The Brilliant Deep: Rebuilding the World's Coral Reefs by Kate Messner

A few weeks ago I attended a presentation and signing with author Kate Messner at An Unlikely Story Bookstore (one of my favorite bookstores, located in Massachusetts and owned by Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney). I knew she has authored quite a few books, but I was reminded of what a versatile author she is. Her research and writing process are amazing. Although she was on a book tour for her middle grade novel, Breakout, I picked up a copy of The Brilliant Deep, a nonfiction picture book about the coral reefs and Ken Nedimyer who had an idea to restore them. This book provides information about the reefs, but also shows how one person can make a positive difference for our environment. Gorgeous, informative, and inspirational.

Crunch, The Shy Dinosaur by Cirocco Dunlap

I read this to some classes of first graders the last week of school and they loved it. Crunch is a very shy dinosaur who needs some coaxing to come out of the bushes. With some participation from readers, Crunch reveals himself, showing readers that he's not just shy, but also entertaining.

Dear Substitute by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick

A girl's day starts very differently when her class has a substitute teacher. This book is told through a series of letters the girl writes to her substitute and some of the things that get mixed up. Kids will be able to relate to this book and it may also assuage some anxiety about having a substitute teacher.

We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins

Phoebe is anxious about starting school and very surprised to learn that her classmates are not dinosaurs like her, but children. Because children are so tasty, Phoebe has a difficult time making friends. This is a humorous book with a twist at the end. School just got out for the summer, but I am eager to read this one to students at the beginning of next year.

Junior Ninja Champion: The Competition Begins by Catherine Hapka

A group of kids practice their ninja skills and tryout for Junior Ninja Champion, a reality show featuring an obstacle competition. The kids' love for ninja sports has brought them together and they all have the determination to make it to the finals. Although they are in competition, they work together and support one another. This book will be a good addition to the basket of sports books in my library, especially since it will be a good option for students who have an interest in less traditional types of sports and competitions.

Monday, June 18, 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. To find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

Bear's Scare by Jacob Grant

Bear, living with his stuffed friend Ursa, keeps his house very tidy. When he discovers a spider web among his books, he and Ursa go on a search to find the uninvited house guest. This sweet story of unlikely friendship between a bear and a spider conveys a subtle message about making premature judgments. The illustrations are quirky and fun with details that are revealed to the reader, but not Bear. Thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, a copy of this book.

Off & Away by Cale Atkinson

Jo's dad delivers the bottled messages that gather in the sea to those who they belong to. When Jo's dad gets sick and can't make the deliveries, Jo must face her fears and set out to sea herself. This is a unique story with equally unique and whimsical illustrations. It's also an inspirational story about facing fears and realizing that our imaginations can make things seem scarier than they really are.

Annie B., Made for TV by Amy Dixon

Annie is often overshadowed by her best friend Savannah who is an outstanding student, great at soccer, and can sing and dance. When Annie tries out for a part in a local show and Savannah gets it instead, their friendship becomes strained. Annie is a humorous character who faces friendship challenges that middle grade readers will be able to relate to. Annie learns the importance of apologizing to a friend and how to cope when she feels like she does not measure up. This is a fun story that will show readers possibilities for navigating the ups and downs of friendship.

A Book to Look For This Summer...

Marcus Vega Doesn't Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya

The fact that Marcus stands out among his peers at his school because of his size is both a blessing and a curse. When Marcus gets in trouble for fighting at school, his mother decides the family needs a break and they take a trip to Puerto Rico. While there, Marcus is hoping to find his dad who he barely remembers. As in his previous book, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, this is a story that centers on family and how they support one another. It also gives insight into the culture of Puerto Rico. This book publishes in August. Thanks to the publisher, Viking Books for Young Readers, for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Monday, June 11, 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. To find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

This is a stunning story about a boy and his grandfather and how they connect with each other in spite of speaking different languages. The illustrations by Dan Santat, which tell most of the story, are stunning. Although few words, this book has a powerful message. 

Neck & Neck by Elise Parsley 

Leopold, a zoo giraffe, is jealous. Not of another giraffe, but a giraffe-shaped balloon. In spite of Leopold's feelings, he makes the right decision when his assistance is needed. The illustrations are amusing.

Out of Left Field by Ellen Klages

Katy is a fantastic pitcher. So good that the boys in her neighborhood let her play with them. When Katy tries out for Little League, she is denied a spot on the team because she is a girl. Katy refuses to simply accept this unfairness and, as part of a school project, learns all she can about women in baseball. The book includes information about women baseball players at the end. Historical and showing the importance of standing up for injustice, this is a winner. 

Books to Look For This Summer...

The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Lowen is dealing with loss and guilt after his friend dies as the result of a random shooting. When his family buys a house for a dollar they move to a new community where they find it is not so easy to fit in. As Lowen deals with his own internal struggle, his family is dealing with the financial situation they find themselves in when the family business doesn't do as well as expected. The concept of the dollar houses and the small-town setting were interesting. The characters are realistic and I loved the way that friends and family supported each other in the book. This book shows that we can manage tough times with the help of those around us. Thanks to the publisher, Candlewick, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Wonderland by Barbara O'Connor

Mavis and Rose have very different backgrounds and family situations. Mavis's mother hops from one job to another so they've had to move around a lot to make ends meet. Rose's family is well-off and lives in the biggest house in a gated community. Mavis and Rose are also similar in that they both struggle to make and keep a friend. When Mavis's mother is employed by Rose's family, Mavis is determined to make Rose her friend. This story of friendship alternates between the perspectives of Mavis and Rose. In addition, some chapters of the book are written from the perspective of a dog named Henry who the girls are trying to rescue so that Mr. Duffy, the gatekeeper, will be happy again. As Mavis and Rose work through their struggles with friendship they help each other grow. One learns to be a best friend and the other learns to be brave and speak up for herself. One of my favorite books is a previous novel by Barbara O'Connor, Wish. With two sweet friends and a lovable dog, this latest novel is just as heart-warming. This book publishes in August. Thanks to the publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advanced reader's copy of the book.

Monday, June 4, 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. To find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. You can also follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

What I've Been Reading...

Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin Kheiriyeh

Rashin is going to the beach for the first time in America. A she tells the story of her beach trip, she recounts what it was like to go to the beach when she lived in Iran. This book provides insight into two cultures and also captures both the sadness and joy that Rashin feels as she has an adventure in a place that is unlike her old home and makes a new friend. The illustrations are bright and lively. This book, about the beach, is one that can be shared as we go into summer, but it will also be one that will spark discussions about differences in culture and what it feels like to live in a new place.

This Is a Taco! by Andrew Cangelose

A squirrel agrees to be in a book because he thought there would be tacos so when there aren't any tacos he rewrites them into the story. The squirrel's antics are entertaining, but readers will also learn a few squirrel facts. This one will make readers giggle.

Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School by Julie Falatko

Waldo and Sassy think their boy, Stewart, does not like school so they want to find a way for him to stay home. Wearing a trench coat, the dogs pass as a human and get into Stewart's school. Because Waldo can speak human, Stewart's teacher and classmates are fooled into thinking he is a new student. Waldo and Sassy manage to help Stewart in more ways than one. Yes, this is a far-fetched story, but it will be right up the alley of those students who love silliness and humor. There are also jokes that adults will appreciate. This is a book I'll definitely add to my classroom library because many of my readers enjoy these types of illustrated chapter books.

Two's a Crowd (Pug Pals #1) by Flora Ahn

Sunny's world changes when her human brings home her new kid sister, Rosy. Sunny is annoyed with Rosy and wishes she never had a sister. When Rosy loses Mr. Bunny, one of Sunny's stuffies, the two pugs are on an adventure which ends in a lesson about happiness and appreciating a sibling. This is an amusing, short read with illustrations on every page. Early readers will enjoy reading about these two sweet pugs.

Books to Look For This Summer...

The Basque Dragon (The Unicorn Rescue Society) by Adam Gidwitz and Jesse Casey

Elliott and Uchenna are members of Mr. Fauna's Unicorn Rescue Society and, after just one day in the club, they are being whisked off to Europe to rescue a dragon. The second book in the series, after The Creature of the Pines, is as adventurous and imaginative as the first. This is an amusing read as well, as the story and characters have a bit of quirkiness. There are short chapters and illustrations throughout which will appeal to many readers. This book publishes in July. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Young Readers, for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy of the book.

The Rhino in Right Field by Stacy Dekeyser

This is an historical fiction story about a twelve year old with a love of baseball. Nick and his friends play in the field that is right next to the city zoo so there is actually a rhinoceros just over the fence. When a new owner buys the town's minor league baseball team, Nick is determined to win a contest so he can be batboy for a day. Nick finds a way to enter the contest which is on a Saturday, a day that his father requires him to work at their shop, but it means being dishonest. This story has an interesting plot, true-to-life characters, and a heart-warming ending. Nick is an imperfect character, but his determination, work ethic, and willingness to stand up for what's right are admirable qualities. Touching and humorous, this is a great read. This book publishes in July. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy of the book.