Monday, September 25, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I've Been Reading...

The Banana-Leaf Ball: How Play Can Change the World by Katie Smith Milway

This is a wonderful and inspiring story. Deo is in a refugee camp, separated from his family, where he is often the target of bullies who steal from the others when food and supplies are scarce. The boys in the camp find a way to unite with each other by playing soccer. Deo's soccer skills and knowledge of how to make a soccer ball from banana leaves help him make friends with one of the boys who bullied him the most. The end pages explain that the story is based on the life of a boy from Burundi in East Africa and include information about an organization that helps to change lives through sports and games. This book will definitely provide students with insight into life in another part of the world. It made me think of Goal! by Mina Javaherbin which is also a story about the power of soccer to bring people together.

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz

This book has been on my to-read list for bit and knowing that Banned Books Week is this week I figured it was a good time to read it. Amy tries to check her favorite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, out of the school library, but she is told it has been banned. Amy thinks this is unfair and starts a to run a banned books library out of her locker. This book is a celebration of books and the joy they bring to young readers, but it also shows the power of students when they stand up for what they believe in.

The Wild Bunch by Jan Gangsei

Paul does not want to spend his first weekend of summer camping with his dad and the sons of his dad's friends, but he has no other choice. There is a lot of action and adventure as the boys decide to explore Bear Falls on their own even though they have been told it's off limits. There is plenty of humor, as well, some of it the gross-out kind that kids will love. This is sure to be a book that will amuse many readers.

Monday, September 18, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I've Been Reading...

Read, Read, Read! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater

This is a book of poems that will speak to book lovers' hearts. Those who love reading or teach reading will want this collection of poems all about reading. Being a reading specialist, I find it hard to resist any book about books or reading. This is one I had to buy for my collection and I look forward to sharing the poems with students.

The Adventurer's Guild by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

Zed and Brock live in the city of Freestone, one of the last cities still standing after the world has ended. They hope to be picked for Guilds that will give them the best opportunity in life, but on the day of the Guildculling they both find themselves a part of the dreaded Adventurers Guild. Their survival skills are put to the test and they are soon trying to save the city. This is an engaging fantasy, with magic and lots of action told through the alternating perspectives of Zed and Brock. This book will capture imaginations and enchant readers who enjoy stories about other worlds, mythical creatures, and children who must be brave, strong, and quick-thinking in the face of threatening situations. This book will be published at the beginning of October.

The Princess and the Page by Christina Farley

This is another adventurous read, but this one is part fairy tale and part mystery. Keira's parents have always forbidden her to write stories. She writes a fairy tale with a unique pen and wins a trip to a French castle. At the castle, she begins to realize that her story has come to life and it has something to do with the pen she used. Keira becomes involved in an adventure to figure out what is happening at the castle and ensure that no one else goes missing. Mystery and magic will intrigue young readers. Keira learns the power of words, as they can create either a happily or unhappily ever after ending.

Refugee by Alan Gratz

This book is as great as everyone is saying it is. It's an intense and important book. Three kids, during three different times periods, are on journeys in search of safety as they have been forced to flee their homes. There is action and suspense to keep young readers interested, but it will also give them insight into the refugee experience.

Monday, September 11, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I've Been Reading...

Come With Me by Holly McGhee

A young girl watching the news is scared when she sees that there is anger and hatred in this world. Her parents show her how she can be kind and she decides to do something on her own to spread kindness. This picture book is heart-warming, hopeful, and inspirational. The message that everyone can take a part in making the world a better place and that every little step in doing this matters is an important one.

Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks by Victoria Coe

Fenway and Hattie are back in their third book. Each book is told through the perspective of Fenway, so readers get insight into the mind and life of an adorable Jack Russell terrier. In this book, Fenway goes to the vet and comes home wearing a Cone of Doom. Poor Fenway is miserable and does not understand why Hattie seems to be treating him badly. Fenway will amuse readers and warm their hearts, as he works through the tricky situation he finds himself in. This book does not publish until January which seems like a long time to wait, but if you haven't read the first two books it gives you time to catch up on those first. Fenway and Hattie is one of the book choices for the Global Read Aloud project, which enables classrooms across the globe to connect with each other. You can find out more information about it here.

Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl by Debbi Michiko Florence

I had the opportunity to read the third book in the Jasmine Toguchi series. In this book, Jasmine's school is having a talent show. Jasmine is unsure about what she can do for the talent show until her mother sends her to learn to play the taiko, a Japanese drum. Jasmine finds a talent and a friend and learns about the necessity of practice. Jasmine is fun, spunky, and kind. As in the previous books, this book has pages at the end that give directions for making something related to the book. This book is another one that does not publish until 2018, but Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen and Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth are currently available and highly recommended for early chapter book readers.

Giant Pumpkin Suite by Melanie Heuiser Hill

Rose is a cello player who is practicing for an important competition. When Rose has an accident, she is unsure whether she will be able to play the cello again. Rose becomes involved with helping her brother grow a giant pumpkin in their elderly neighbor's yard. Rose learns about herself as she deals with the changes in her life. There are great characters in this book. You'll want to move to Rose's neighborhood just to be a part of the close-knit community in which she lives. A charming story.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke

My students have been eagerly awaiting this sequel to Mighty Jack. Jack, with the help of his friend Lilly, is trying to save his sister, Maddy, who has been carried away to a dangerous world. The story is exciting and action-packed. The ending will have readers curious about what's in store for Jack, Lilly, and Maddy in their next book.

Superstar by Mandy Davis

This is a book that can help readers understand others and develop empathy. It's told from the perspective of Lester, a boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Lester is a true-to-life character who shows that navigating the paths of life aren't always easy, but it is possible to overcome challenges. Read more of my thoughts about this wonderful book here.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


In January, I made a list of "must reads" for 2017 along with Carrie Gelson of There's a Book for That and a community of other bloggers. Reading over the lists that other bloggers made gave me lots of titles to add to my own ever-growing to-be-read list. You can read about an update on the progress I made with my must-read list back in April here. This is another update on my progress with reading the books on my list.

My #MustReadin2017 List

Middle Grade Books I Have Read

As of last April, I had read eight of the books on my list. As of today, I have read most of the rest of the books on my list. I read Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder, a very compelling and unique story. I had been anticipating Tumble and Blue because I loved Cassie Beasley's Circus Mirandus so I was glad to finally read this one. It was magical and beautiful. The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff is an amusing star about a group of kids who go to war against their parents, but it is also about a girl dealing with the challenges of having parents who are getting divorced. Jake the Fake Keeps it Real by Craig Robinson is a funny chapter book about a boy who finds his true self that I think will appeal to reluctant readers. I read two books that will be great for transitional chapter book readers. One, The Unlucky Lottery Winners of Classroom 13 by Honest Lee and Matthew Gilbert tells short, funny stories of what happened to a class of students when they won the lottery. Isadora Moon Goes to School by Harriet Muncaster is also an amusing book that tells about Isadora, who is half fairy and half vampire and conflicted about whether she should go to fairy school or vampire school. All of these were great reads and books I would recommend to middle grade readers.

Professional Books I Have Read

I read one of the professional books that was on my list.

I discussed this professional text as part of #cyberPD, a virtual professional book study. You can read my posts about it here, here, here, and here. This was an insightful professional text that got me thinking about how I teach reading. A worthwhile read.

Books I Still Need to Read

I still have one middle grade novel on my list. I have not yet read Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern. I checked it out of the library once, but I had to return it before I had a chance to read it. I will be looking for it at the library again soon. I have one book from my professional book list still to read. This book is Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can't, and What Can Be Done About it by Mark Seidenberg. This book seems a bit dense which is why I have been putting it off, but it definitely sounds interesting. I bought it back in January so I have no other excuse not to read it.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Superstar by Mandy Davis Book Review

Books that give young readers insight into what it's like to feel, think, or be different from one's peers are important to have in our classrooms. There are students who face challenges with fitting in because they are considered different so they can relate to these sorts of books. These books can also help students understand others' differences and develop empathy toward others. Superstar by Mandy Davis, told from the perspective of a boy with Autism Spectrum Disorder, is such a book.

Lester has never gone to school before because his mother home-schooled him. When his mother gets a job and sends him to fifth grade, he has difficulty adjusting to his new environment and following the rules. Making friends isn't easy either because many of his classmates think his behavior is odd and one student is especially mean. The one friend he does make soon starts to reject him. Although Lester is faced with these challenges at school, he is excited about the science fair. Lester loves science, much like his dad who was an astronaut and died in a shuttle accident. Navigating school life isn't easy for Lester because of his disorder, but he works through his challenges and finds ways to shine like a super star.

Lester is a true-to-life and appealing character. He is unique, smart, and capable of solving his problems even in the face of a disorder, that as his mom explains to him makes his brain work a little differently. He can provide readers with a model of how to manage school and friends when it seems difficult to fit in. Lester can also give readers a glimpse of what it's like to be different. Superstar is a wonderful story and an important one to share with middle grade readers to help them understand that we are all different.

Monday, September 4, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week...

After the Fall by Dan Santat

I loved Mother Goose nursery rhymes as a child and Humpty Dumpty was one of my favorites. After the Fall picks up where the nursery rhyme left off. Since falling, Humpty Dumpty is afraid of heights. He tries to make the best of his situation, but realizes that he's missing out and decides to conquer his fear. This will be a great book to discuss one of the mindsets for learning, resiliency. Although I have to wait until October, this is definitely a must-buy book.

The Bad Seed by Jory John

Bad seed is bad.  Readers learn all the things that make him bad, such as lying, cutting in line, and telling jokes with no punch lines. There is also a backstory as to why he is so bad. Although bad, the seed does some self-reflection and decides he wants to be good. This book has a positive message about how one can change their behavior. Kids can learn from the bad seed, but they will find it a humorous book, as well.

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats by Dori Hillestad Butler

Kayla and her dog King have a mystery to solve. Someone has stolen their peanut butter treats. Kayla puts her detective skills to work in order to find the treats while King investigates, as well, to prove he is not the culprit. This mystery will entertain early readers. Readers also get a look into the mind of King who they will love. This is a fun series that I think my beginning readers will enjoy.

Auma's Long Run by Eucabeth Odhiambo

This book is set in the 1980's in Kenya where AIDS is beginning to take the lives of many who live in Auma's village. Auma, 13 years old and an amazing runner, dreams of attending high school, but when illness strikes her family she must also take on the responsibility of caring for her siblings. This will be an eye-opening book for young readers as it shows how children in another part of the world live. I was completely absorbed in Auma's story and gained some insight myself into how the AIDS epidemic was perceived by those affected by it in Africa. Although the topic is heavy, inspiration can be found in Auma's courage and determination.

The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This sequel to The War That Saved My Life is as wonderful as the first. The book gives a glimpse into life during WWII, as Ada and her brother and their guardian deal with the hardships facing them. Ada is also learning to adjust to a life free of her mother and the clubfoot that she had surgery to fix. There is lots to admire about Ada as she shows kindness and courage. I am a fan of historical fiction so I found both of Bradley's book engaging and informative. Students who have read the first book have also loved it, so I am eager to share this one with them as well. This book publishes in October.

Wedgie & Gizmo by Suzanne Selfors

This is the first in a series about Gizmo, a guinea pig, and Wedgie, a dog, the pets of two families who are now living together. The story is told through the alternating perspectives of Gizmo and Wedgie. Both are amusing, as Wedgie thinks he's a superhero and Gizmo is the evil genius who must protect himself from being eaten. As Wedgie and Gizmo are involved in their escapades, Gizmo's owner Elliott is trying to adjust to his newly blended family. This is a fun story and there are lots of pictures throughout. I think some of my more reluctant readers may be enticed to read this one.

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

According to Aster's family, men are trained to be shapeshifters and women are trained to be witches. Aster would rather use his magic and powers as a witch rather than a shapeshifter but his family warns him that breaking the family's traditions in this way is dangerous. Those who have ever felt different or out of place will be able to relate to Aster's dilemma. There is lots of magic and action to entertain readers, as well. I think this will be a graphic novel that will be popular with my middle grade readers. This is another book to look for in October.