Monday, January 15, 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...

All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle

I love slice of life stories. I love them even more when the writing makes me pause to think about the choices the author made and then reread lines to immerse myself in the language and the words of the text. This is one of those books. It's also a book that celebrates the uniqueness of Cuba and will provide some background for readers. The author and illustrator also include notes at the end to tell more about Cuba and its antique cars. This is a beautiful picture book.

Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin

Baby Monkey is absolutely adorable and amusing. He's a detective who solves five mysteries, one in each chapter of the book. The story is told through brief text and illustrations. Although there is a lot of repetition in each of the chapters, there is also variation in the text and illustrations that make it interesting. Selznick and Serlin have created a format that is a combination of the picture book and early chapter book. The book is two hundred pages long, but the simple, repetitive text and illustrations will appeal to beginning readers. This is a book I look forward to sharing with my first graders. I read an advanced reader's copy of this book that I received from the publisher at NCTE. Look for it to be published in February.

Rot, The Cutest in the World! by Ben Clanton

A mutant potato is a character I'm sure has not ever made an appearance in a picture book (or any book, for that matter) before, but you will wonder why not after reading this book. He may be a mutant, but he's charming, funny, cute, and will teach readers an important lesson about being oneself. This book is sure to be a hit with young readers who will be amused with the story, but also the dialogue and the illustrations.

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani DasGupta

This is a book, based on Bengali folktales, that is interesting, action-packed, and humorous. Kiranmala, the heroine of the story will win over readers who like reading about brave and spunky characters. Read more about my thoughts about this book here.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani Dasgupta

Kiranmala has spent the past twelve years of her life in New Jersey, living as a typical sixth grader. Yes, she thinks her parents are weird, but don't many pre-teens believe this? Is it so weird that her parents make her dress as a princess EVERY Halloween? That they tell her stories of her real father, the underworld serpent king? Or that they seem to believe she is royalty?

Maybe Kiranmala's parents are a bit stranger than most. On her twelfth birthday, the day of Halloween, she finds out why and her entire world becomes very strange. Her parents disappear, leaving a mysterious note about a spell that has worn off. Two princes show up on her door step. A rakkosh demon is after her. Kiranmala, as it turns out, is an Indian princess after all.

The Serpent's Secret will transport readers to the imaginary world of Bengali folktales, with demons, evil snakes, and untrustworthy kings as Kiranamala goes on a search for her parents. With courage and humor, Kiranmala is an admirable, but fun heroine. Action fills the pages as Kiranmala's quest places her in situations in which she must battle evil and escape the magical powers of those that want to do her and her friends harm. Enjoying this story is possible even without having familiarity with the folktales on which it is based. The author provides background information about the mythical characters that appear in the book in an end note.

I received an advanced reader's copy of this book at the National Council of Teachers of English annual Convention, thanks to the publisher, Scholastic. This book publishes in February.

Monday, January 8, 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...

A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E. B. White by Barbara Herkert

E. B. White's love of the world and words is captured beautifully in this poetic book. The book tells of the author's life, including the backstory of how White came to write Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. The illustrations are stunning, too. This is a lovely tribute to an author whose books are well-loved by teachers and children.  

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman

The author of this book uses gigantic numbers to tell facts about our planet earth. This is a book that will invoke readers curiosity and wonder, but also show them how vast our world is. In the note at the end of the book, Fishman explains more about how he researched and estimated to determine the numbers in the book.

The Quest of the Cubs (Bears of the Ice #1) by Kathryn Lasky

Two polar bear cubs are left without their mother when she is taken captive by Roguers, bears who are putting the Northern Kingdom at risk of destruction. The cubs, who aren't sure where there mother is, decide to go in search of their father. Their journey becomes one of survival as they travel the frozen land of Ga'Hoole, facing the dangers of the arctic while also figuring out who they can trust. They learn that their search for their father is also a battle against evil. Readers who want to know more about the bear's quest to save themselves and their kingdom will have to read the next book in the series. This first book publishes in February.

A Professional Read

The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

This is not a book written specifically for educators, but it is one that has relevance for those in education. The authors explore the elements that make moments meaningful providing insight into how we can create more of them for ourselves and others. Some moments are more meaningful and memorable than others. The authors give examples of moments from business, education, and life, in general, to show that elevation, insight, pride, and connection are the elements that give moments definition and make them those that we remember. This book made me think about both, my life and my teaching, and started me wondering about how I can make more meaningful moments. In the book, the authors state, "And that's the charge for all of us: to defy the forgettable flatness of everyday work and life by creating a few precious moments" (Heath & Heath, 2017, p. 265). Although some defining moments simply happen, creating them is also possible. It's the moments that stand out that bring meaning to our lives and our students and we can make more of these if we look for the opportunities.

Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2017). The power of moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact. Simon & Schuster: New York.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Books I Plan to Read in 2018

Last year, I joined Carrie Gelson of There is a Book for That and a community of other bloggers to make a must-read list for the year. Again this year, I am joining in the literary fun! I've made a list of books to be published in 2018 that are on my radar and sound like interesting reads. I also plan to read some professional books. Visit There is a Book for That or check out #MustReadin2018 to find out what others will be reading this year.

Middle Grade Reads

  • Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender
  • The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
  • Bat and the Waiting Game by Elana Arnold
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth by Sheila O'Connor
  • You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
  • Maggy & Abby's Neverending Pillowfort by Will Taylor
  • The Language of Spells Garret Weyr
  • Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers
  • Grump: The (Fairly) True Story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff
  • Breakout by Kate Messner
  • Elephant Secret by Eric Waters

Professional Books

Last year, I put four professional books on my list. This year, I would like to try to read at least one professional book a month. These are a few that I think I'll start with: 

Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes by Jimmy Casas

Literacy Essentials: Engagement, Excellence, and Equity for All Learners by Regie Routman
Enticing Hard-to-Reach Writers by Ruth Ayres

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

Monday, January 1, 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...

Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford

Every two page spread of this book starts with the line, "You can be a King" followed by an idea about how to follow in the footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Some illustrations show Dr. King and the actions he took to create a better world and others show a group of children creating a mural to honor Dr. King. This book can be used as a discussion starter when teaching about Dr. King and can be a source of inspiration for those who want to make change in the world. The publisher, Bloomsbury Publishing, is encouraging teachers to share what their students are doing to be Kings with the hashtag, #BeAKing. Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending a copy of this book to my book review group, #BookExcursion.

This Is Not a Valentine by Carter Higgins

A boy insists that he is not giving one of his classmates Valentines, but the gifts he gives her are very sweet nonetheless. The text is poetic while also sounding like the voice of a child. A lot of the story is told through the illustrations which are adorable. This is a charming book about friendship that is perfect for Valentine's Day or any day.

Hi, Jack! (A Jack Book) by Mac Barnett

A naughty monkey, some silliness, and delightful illustrations make this a book that early readers are going to love. Jack makes a friend, steals a purse and gives it back, and has fun with lipstick he didn't return. Jack redeems himself, somewhat, at the end of the story, but he will definitely bring a smile to the faces of those just learning to read. Readers can also follow the directions at the end of the book to draw Jack and the other characters in the book. This book will be published in February, as will the second in the series.

Sparks! by Ian Boothby

Charlie and August, two cats who go on rescue missions disguised as a dog, are trying to defeat the Princess, who is actually an alien, and her servants before they conquer the world. The action, nonsense, and humor of this fast-paced story of unlikely heroes make it one that many graphic novel and reluctant readers will enjoy. This is another book that publishes in February.

Raffie on the Run by Jacqueline Resnick

Raffie lives in a subway with his family and tells his brother stories of his heroic acts. When his brother is captured by a human, Raffie knows he must be the hero his brother thinks he is and rescue him. On his adventure, Raffie meets a pigeon who befriends him and helps him learn that he can be unstoppable. This is a fun and sweet story that shows the bonds of family and the power of friendship. Look for the book in Februrary.