Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Louisiana's Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo tells more of Louisiana's story, one of her characters from Raymie Nightingale, in a novel that can be read as a stand alone.

Louisiana's Granny woke her in the middle of the night and they started to drive away from her friends, her cat, her home. Louisiana is not sure where they are going, but it becomes clear they are not going back. They stop in Georgia, at the Good Night, Sleep Tight hotel and it is here that Louisiana finds out truths about her life that change everything.

Louisiana's story is one of transformation. She discovers who she is and finds her place in the world. There is sadness in Louisiana's life, but out of that sadness grows hope. This is a story about family and friendship and home. It gives a lot for the reader to think about including the power of kindness and forgiveness.

There is a whimsical quality to Kate DiCamillo's writing. Louisiana's voice shines as she observes life and those around her. She's a character with spunk and resilience who readers will be rooting for from the first page.

Both beautiful and hopeful, Louisiana's Way Home is a book that will tug at your heart strings.

Thanks to the publisher, Candlewick, for the advance reading copy.
The book publishes in October.

Monday, August 27, 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...


A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade

Pluto is proud of being a part of the Famous Nine until he gets the news that he is not a planet. Pluto feels rejected and he doesn't seem to fit in with any other group in the galaxy. Just as he's about to give up he finds someone who looks like him and makes new friends. This is a cute and clever story with a good message that also includes some factual information.

Best Frints at Skrool by Antoinette Portis

The best frints from planet Boborp are back! Students are always delighted with the make-believe words and the humor when I read Best Frints in the Whole Universe to them. In the second book, Omek feels left out when Yelfred makes a new friend. The characters are out of this world, but kids will be able to relate to Omek's problem and laugh along as he tries to resolve it.

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell

Chloe gets very irritated when Adrian Simcox says he has a horse. She believes this can't possibly be true if he can't even afford lunch or keep his own desk tidy. When her mother takes her for a walk through Adrian's neighborhood, she begins to understand him better and make a friend. This book will spark discussions about acceptance, empathy, and open-mindedness. There's an interesting use of color in the illustrations which are gorgeous.

Sweep by Jonathan Auxier

This is an amazing, magical story about a chimney sweep and her mythical friend. They come together unexpectedly, but find out how much they need each other. I was captivated by both the historical fiction and fantasy elements. Read more of my thoughts here.

Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Bryan has made a new friend, but he's not always comfortable with the choices this friend makes. He finds himself following along when Mike does things that could get them in trouble, such as hopping subway turnstiles and cutting school. Bryan is torn between being friends with Mike and doing the right thing. Bryan also faces some challenges at home. His father, who encourages him to be tough, has recently gotten out of jail, but is arrested again when he gets into a fight. This book explores the struggles of a kid who's trying to make sense of the expectations his family has for him along with the expectations of the society he lives in. He learns about friendship and discovers that he has the power to make the right choices. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Young Readers for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy of the book.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

When I think of chimney sweeps, Mary Poppins comes to mind, but this book gives a whole new perspective on the profession that involves cleaning soot and ash from chimneys.

Nan Sparrow is an orphan who has no other choice but to spend her days working for the chimney sweep, Wilkie Crudd. She is at the mercy of Crudd and his cruel ways, risking her life by climbing into chimneys that are only narrow enough for a child. Nan, an expert at chimney climbing, has been very lucky until the day she gets stuck. When a treasured gift from her past master turns into a monster, actually a golem, her life is miraculously saved and a new and unusual friendship forms.

Charlie may have been born of a piece of char, but he makes a terrific friend for Nan. Their friendship is just delightful, odd yet sweet. As Nan researches golems she begins to think about his purpose and wonder about the duration of his existence. Their journey together shows the power of saving others to save ourselves.

Nan is a resilient and courageous character. Throughout the book, she changes from a girl controlled by a master to someone fighting to make things right for those who are suffering and treated unfairly. She has fears, but she faces them head on to survive and make things better for herself and others.

With its magic, there is a fairytale quality to this book. Set in Victorian England, I could also imagine traveling over the rooftops of London with Nan and Charlie. Sometimes dark, the story is also one of hope. It offers the reminder that there are many wonders within our world waiting to be discovered.

I read a digital review copy of this book on NetGalley, 
thanks to the publisher, Abrams Kids. 
The book publishes in September. 

Monday, August 20, 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.

My Recent Reads...

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

This is an absolutely beautiful book. The message is one teachers will want to share with their students, so I think it will have a place on many classroom shelves. Read more of my thoughts about the book here.

Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters: The Questioners Book #1 by Andrea Beaty

The characters from Andrea Beaty's picture books, Rosie Revere, Ada Twist, and Iggy Peck, are all back in a fun chapter book series. Rosie is an engineer and, like her friends, loves working on projects. She is asked to help the Blue River Riveters, a group of ladies who built airplanes during WWII. Her task is to build a contraption that will help one of the riveters paint so she can participate in an art contest  It's a challenge, but Rosie is determined. Rosie demonstrates that she is a thinker, a problem-solver, and someone who keeps trying until she gets it right. This book spotlights creating and tinkering, but it also shows how friends can become family. Thank you to Abrams Books for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in October.

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss

Bicycle was mysteriously found at a monastery and taken under the care of Sister Wanda. She lives among the mostly silent monks and has no friends of her own age. Sister Wanda insists that Bicycle attend a camp where she will make friends. Bicycle would rather make a friend her own way so she sets off to cycle from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. This is a charming read. Bicycle's adventure is unique, the characters are quirky, and there's humor and heart. The author's inspiration for the book came from her own bicycle trip across the U.S. The book is a great read, but it may even inspire readers to hop on a bike themselves.

Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos

This is a new graphic novel that I think will be a hit with many of my middle grade readers. There is plenty of action and humor, but the main character, Zoe, also learns about the importance of friendship. Read more of my thoughts about the book here.

The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff

Twin brothers Colm and Mal discover the apartment building they have moved into has a mysterious thirteenth floor that appears and disappears. Mysterious, spooky, and captivating. Read more of my thoughts about the book here.

Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes

June Harper loves reading, but her very strict parents do not approve of the books she reads. June's parents take away her books and her school begins a ban on books that are not deemed appropriate. June discovers a Little Free Library and then decides to break school rules to loan out books to other students. This book reminded me of Alan Gratz's Ban This Book, which has some similarities in the storyline. The message about allowing kids to read the books they choose and standing up for the right to read is one that librarians and reading teachers will appreciate. I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher, Random House, at the International Literacy Association Conference.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

A wise and beautiful book, The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, is one that all teachers are going to want on their classroom shelves. 

The children in this book feel like outsiders. They feel different because of the way they look, how they talk, or what they eat. Our classrooms are also filled with students who have at one time or another felt different. Many students can relate to the struggle to fit in with their peers. 

This book can help students understand that they are not alone in this struggle. We are all different in many ways. There are also ways that we are the same and the sameness can bring us together. This is a book that empowers readers to embrace their uniqueness and share the stories of who they are. Our stories connect us. 

The Day You Begin is a book that needs to be shared in classrooms. The discussions that take place around this book will foster community, empathy, understanding. Like other books that Jacqueline Woodson has written, this one ends with hope. The hope is that our students have the confidence to be themselves and the compassion to see past differences to the heart of who others truly are. 

With poetic text and gorgeous illustrations, this book conveys an important message with warmth and gentleness. In classrooms of any age, this will be a powerful book to read aloud.

Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Young Readers, for a review copy of the book.  


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Phantom Tower by Keir Graff

Twin brothers move from Dallas to Chicago where their mom has gotten a new job. They move into an apartment in Brunhild Tower, which seems unique from the moment they arrive. The building is fancy, but old and their apartment is full of belongings that past tenants have left behind. As Colm and Mal explore the building, they find themselves on the top floor in the apartment of an eccentric princess, an old lady with a fondness for cats. She warns them not to wander and to stay inside their apartment between one and two if they want to be safe. When a button in the elevator for a thirteenth floor appears mysteriously, Colm and Mal discover that there is a phantom tower and the inhabitants are ghosts of people who have lived in Brunhild Tower. With their new friend, Tamika, they set out to solve the mystery of the towers.

Readers of this book are immersed in the world of Brunhild Tower, which is both enchanting and spooky. The setting, along with a bit of mystery, adventure, and suspense, make it a page-turner. Colm, Mal, and Tamika are all true-to-life characters. The sibling relationship between Colm and Mal, whose personalities are very different, was interesting and realistic. Other characters, such as the princess and the professor, were quirky enough to add intrigue to the story.

This is a captivating fantasy for readers who like to be transported to magical and mysterious worlds.

Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Monster Mayhem by Christopher Eliopoulos

Zoe is a heroine whose bravery leads her to not only save the day, but also make friends.

Zoe loves science, especially building robots. Her parents send her to the Advanced School of Technology to develop her science skills, but also in hopes that she will make friends. Zoe, who has come to believe that friends will only disappoint her, has no interest in making any. When she finds a mysterious ring, she puts it on and the next day an enormous monster appears at her window. The monster wants to help her with her friendship problem, but then other monsters arrive and their need to eat may destroy the city.

Zoe is a endearing heroine. Along with her robot, B-4, which she built, she uses her science knowledge to figure out what to do with the monster. In addition to fighting off monsters, she learns about friendship. Although she first believes her robot is the only friend she needs, she realizes that real-life friends are important and necessary, too.

There is enough action and humor to keep young readers engaged in this story. There's a great message about friendship to make it a meaningful read, as well.

Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Young Readers, for a review copy of Monster Mayhem. 

Monday, August 13, 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...


Grandma Gatewood Hikes the Appalachian Trail by Jennifer Thermes

In 1955, at age sixty-seven, Emma Gatewood became the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail in one trip. This book tells her story, providing insight into both, the challenges and wonder of hiking the trail. Interspersed throughout the book are two-page spreads showing a map of the states that Emma hiked through along with facts about the trail. This is an amazing and inspiring story of a unique woman.

My Dog Laughs by Rachel Isadora

This books celebrates the joys of having a canine companion. It also gives insight into what is involved in having a dog as a pet. The book is divided into sections, such as "Getting to Know My Dog" and "My Dog Plays" and features illustrations of different children with dogs of all varieties, shapes, and sizes. There's humor within the pages of this book, too, as some of the dogs get into some mischief. This book will appeal to those who have a dog or anyone who has ever wanted one.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Meg Medina's middle grade novel is a must read. It's a heart-warming story about family and change. Read more of my thoughts about the book here.

Snazzy Cat Capers by Deanna Kent

This book is full of silliness and fun. Ophelia Von Hairball is a cat burglar on a mission to win the Furry Feline Burglary Institute's biggest challenge by stealing a rare Himalayan Diamond located in Paris. Ophelia prefers to work alone, but Oscar Fishgerald Gold, a fish, is sent to her and he is determined to stay by her side and assist. The humor will appeal to many young readers, as will the format which includes lots of illustrations and pages throughout that are written in comic-book style. There are many cat-related puns which are also amusing. Thanks to the publisher for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reading copy. This book publishes in September.

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs

When Nico falls over a cliff after being bullied, Tyler and Emma, two of his friends, and Opal, another schoolmate who he's not sure he can trust, rescue him. At the bottom of the cliff, they discover a mysterious island and an abandoned houseboat. The kids are intrigued and even more so when what's in their imagination comes to life. Visiting this mysterious place is fun at first, but soon their lives are in danger. This book has some creepiness and suspenseful action. For kids who want to read something a little scary, this would be one to recommend. Thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for providing my book review group with an advance reading copy. The book publishes in October. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Ten (Plus One) Picture Books About Friendship

For the fourth year, I am participating in the annual Picture Book 10 for 10 event hosted by Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Enjoy and Embrace Learning. Those who participate share a list of ten favorite picture books. Some share books centered on a theme and others simply share a list of favorites. This year, I chose to share favorite books that focus on friendship. Narrowing it down to a list of ten books was difficult, so I chose to mostly include more recently published books on my list. There were many others I could have added and I'm sure you can think of other favorite friendship books, as well. Here is my list of books and what I think they show about friendship.

10 Picture Books About Friendship


Be a Friend by Salina Yoon

Life is less lonely with a friend.

The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield

Friends are always there for you. 

Brave Enough for Two (Hoot & Olive) by Jonathan D. Voss

Friends give each other courage.

Elmore by Holly Hobbie

Friends see each others' beauty.

Friends Stick Together by Hannah E. Harrison

Even those different from us make great friends.

If Wendall Had a Walrus by Lori Mortensen

Friends can be found unexpectedly.

Iver & Ellsworth by Casey W. Robinson

Friends find their way back to each other.

Pine and Boof: The Lucky Leaf by Ross Burach

Friends have adventures together.

Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin

Even in new places, friends can be made.

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

Friends include others.


Plus One


Sir Simon: Super Scarer by Cale Atkinson

I thought I would sneak another book onto my list my adding one that is soon-to-be published. Sir Simon Spookington has his first house to haunt. He's anticipating that grandparents are moving into the house and is surprised when a boy named Chester also arrives. Chester is not good at ghostly chores and Sir Simon can't manage human chores, but they are good at being friends. This is a story of unlikely friendship that is a lot of fun. It's also a ghost story that is more sweet than scary. This book publishes in September.

Previous Years 10 for 10 Lists


2017: 10 Picture Books to Share This School Year
2016: 10 Picture Books About Books
2015: 10 Picture Books for Sparking Discussion About Effort and Perseverance

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina


Merci Suárez experiences both the ups and the downs of growing up and learns that change is an inevitable and necessary part of life.

Merci lives with her intergenerational family - her parents and her brother, her Lolo and Abuela, and her Tia and twin cousins. She attends a private school in exchange for community service and often feels out of place amongst her peers. Merci not only faces challenges with fitting in at school, but she is also trying to understand why Lolo suddenly seems to be acting strange. He forgets, makes mistakes, and displays anger that is uncharacteristic of him and, although Merci is worried, her family will not tell her what is going on.

Reading this book, I enjoyed the window into Merci's supportive and loving family. The bond between Merci and Lolo is especially sweet and the book gives insight into how grandparents might change as they grow older. Middle grade readers will also be able to relate to Merci's struggles to fit in and get along with classmates and can learn from the ways in which she manages to cope. With hope and humor, this is an engaging story and one that will touch the heart.

I received an advance reading copy of this book, thanks to the publisher, Candlewick. This book publishes in September.

Monday, August 6, 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...

Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Lesa Cline-Ransome

This book is rich with information about Venus and Serena Williams and how they became the tennis superstars they are today. Their passion, determination, and commitment to the game of tennis is admirable. The book also shows the challenges they faced in playing a sport that is predominantly white. This is an interesting and inspirational biography. 

The Squirrels' Busy Year by Martin Jenkins

This book tells about the life of two squirrels throughout each of the seasons. The narrative will help young readers learn about each of the seasons and how animals survive during the different times of year. The text is poetic and the illustrations are beautiful. This book would be a great read aloud in primary classrooms where students are learning about the seasons. It'll also make a great mentor text for teaching informational writing. Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing me with a copy of the book. I received it at their Teacher Tea event which I was lucky to attend last week.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

Every week, six kids meet in a room within their school to talk. Without the supervision of any adults, the kids are free to discuss whatever they choose. Through their conversations, they explore many social issues that have an impact on their lives. The issues the kids talk about are relevant to what is happening in the world today. For example, Esteban's Papi has been taken away and he fears that his family might have to return to the Dominican Republic. Haley, the narrator of the story, is being raised by her uncle until her father is released from prison. As the kids talk, they strive to make sense of their world, but their friendships become stronger, as well. This book points out that kids have concerns and questions about what is happening in the lives and in the world. Jacqueline leaves us with a message of hope and reminds us of the importance of empathy and understanding. I received an advance reading copy of this book, thanks to the publisher, Penguin Books. This book publishes this month.

The Hotel Between by Sean Easley

Cameron has been told his mother has died and his father has left, but his Oma won't give him or his sister any other details. Cam really wants his father back, especially since his sister has spina bifida and another helping hand would be useful. When Cam discovers a magical hotel, The Hotel Between, he is determined to find his father. There are too many secrets and Cam doesn't know who to trust. There is enough adventure, magic, and mystery to appeal to those who enjoy fantasy. A book that explores family, it also has heart. I read a digital review copy of this book thanks to NetGalley. The book publishes in September.

The Splintered Light by Ginger Johnson

Ishmael lives in a world that's drab and gray. He tends to the barn and the sheep, helping his mother make ends meet now that his father has died and his brother has mysteriously left home. One day, Ishmael discovers color, which fills him with joy and leads him on a search to find and bring home his brother, Luc. Ishmael discovers a world beyond his imagination, one that celebrates the joys of the senses. This creative and beautifully written story about a boy who has to make tough decisions explores family, beauty, and the power of believing in oneself. Thanks to the publisher, Bloomsbury, for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, an advance reading copy of the book. This book publishes in September.