Monday, August 31, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads

Nana Akua Goes to School by Tricia Elam Walker and illustrated by April Harrison

Zura's favorite person in the world is her Nana Akua, but she is worried that when she brings her nana to school for Grandparent's Day her classmates will laugh at her. At school, Nana Akua shares part of her culture with Zura's classmates, helping them see their uniqueness. 

Share Your Rainbow: 18 Artists Draw Their Hope for the Future by various authors with Introduction by R. J. Palacio

Many talented illustrators contributed to this book, each including a lovely illustration that somehow incorporates a rainbow and text that tells of a hope for the future. It's a book that will be useful to spark discussions to help students feel optimistic as they continue to navigate the very uncertain and different times that the pandemic has brought to their lives. 

Mindy Kim and the Birthday Puppy (Mindy Kim #3) by Lyla Lee and illustrated by Dung Ho Hanh

Mindy Kim has always wanted a dog and when she gets a puppy for her birthday she learns that training a dog is hard work. This is a very sweet chapter book series. Mindy and her puppy, Theodore, will put a smile on readers' faces. Thanks to Lyla Lee for sending me a few copies to share with my students.

Pea, Bee, & Jay #1: Stuck Together by Brian "Smitty" Smith

A pea, a honeybee, and a bird named Jay form an unlikely friendship and team up for an adventure that takes them beyond the farm and back. This graphic novel has action and humor. It's both charming and silly and sure to have kid appeal.

Three Keys (A Front Desk Novel) by Kelly Yang

This novel set in the 1990s when anti-immigration law was being proposed is relevant in today's world. Readers were first introduced to Mia and her family, who now own the Calivista Motel, in Front Desk. In this book, Mia and her friends are navigating discrimination and racism in their community and using their voices to take action. It's an important and empowering read. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Jules vs. the Ocean by Jessie Sima

Jules wants to impress her sister, who is off body surfing, by making the fanciest castle on the beach, but the ocean continuously washes away her creations. Disappointment turns into joy when Jules's sister lends a hand to help her. This is a sweet story about the relationship between two sisters and persistence. 

The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrated by John Parra

Through this picture book biography readers are introduced to Ethel Payne, known as the "First Lady of the Black Press." It's an interesting and inspirational story of a historical leader who fought against injustice. 

Swashby and the Sea by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

Swashby retires to a cottage near the sea where he enjoys the quiet and serenity until a girl and her granny move in next door. He tries to discourage their neighborliness with messages in the sand, but the girl and the sea have other ideas. This is a sweet and clever story.

Speak Up by Miranda Paul and illustrated by Ebony Glenn

This rhyming text tells about the many ways there are to use one's voice in positive ways. Whether it's to show appreciation, be kind to others, or create change, one's voice can be powerful. The end pages include information about real kids who have spoken up for themselves and others and examples of ways to speak up.

Story Boat by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh

This is a beautiful and lyrical book about a sister and brother who flee their home and go in search of another. The book gives insight into the refugee experience and explores imagination.

Tune it Out by Jamie Sumner

Lou's world suddenly changes when she's taken out of her mother's care and sent to live with her aunt and uncle. Lou's not only adjusting to living in a new place and going to a new school, but also trying to make sense of the fact that she feels different because she has an aversion to loud noises and being touched. This book gives insight into what it's like to have a sensory processing disorder and explores family relationships and friendship. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy.

Adult Book Recommendation

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

This book is about how a group of strangers, all who find themselves in a hostage situation after a failed bank robbery, connect with each other and help each other move forward. This book has a lot of wit and humor even though it deals with some heavy topics. I will probably never enjoy a Fredrik Backman book as much as A Man Called Ove, but this was a great read. Thanks to the publisher for an advanced reader's copy. The book publishes in September.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Picture Book Love: Fauja Singh Keeps Going

Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon by Simran Jeet Singh and illustrated by Baljinder Kaur

Sharing stories with children in which individuals overcome adversity and exhibit resilience and perseverance has always been important. These stories show children how others have coped with challenges and provide them with possibilities for their own lives. The COVID-19 pandemic, and all the stress and uncertainty that is associated with it, is impacting all lives including that of our children. As we strive to support children's social-emotional well-being sharing such stories is even more necessary. 

Fauja Singh Keeps Going is a picture book biography with an amazing story of perseverance. Fauja faced difficulties walking as he wasn't able to do so until he was five and then even after being able to do so was not able to walk very far distances. Throughout his life, he continuously worked on becoming stronger and being able to do more than he was previously capable of. When Fauja was in his eighties he decided to take up running and eventually became the oldest person to run a marathon at the age of one hundred. 

Fauja's inspiring story offers life lessons about how to face challenges and keep going even when things seem hard. Now more than ever, we want our children to understand that it's possible to move forward in the face of obstacles and this book provides a wonderful example of how to do that.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away by Meg Medina and illustrated by Sonia Sánchez

This is a heartfelt and beautiful story that captures the bond between two friends and the emotions of the last moments as it's time to say good-bye when one friend moves away. I found the last page particularly touching. Thanks to the publisher, Candlewick, for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy. The book publishes in September.

Love is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

This book tells the story, inspired by real life, of Mari who participates in a Women's March and learns that her voice matters. It's an empowering book with a much needed and always timely message. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy. The book publishes in September.

Memoirs of a Tortoise by Devin Scillian and illustrated by Tim Bowers

Oliver, an eighty-year old tortoise tells about his life with his eighty-year old human companion, Ike, throughout each month of the year. The year brings joy, sadness, and change. This is a moving story about loss and the importance of spending time with loved ones.

Tad by Benji Davies

Tad is the smallest of the tadpoles and all his brothers and sisters are growing up faster than him. When all the others have left the pond, Tad is left to fend for himself and keep away from Big Blub, the big, mean fish lurking in the dark waiting to eat him. This is a very sweet story illustrating the life cycle of a frog with a message that everyone grows and learns at their own pace.

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley and illustrated by Xavier Bonet 

This is a quirky, fun, and middle grade-appropriate murder mystery that takes place in a haunted hotel. There are five suspects who have all been invited for a getaway at the Barclay Hotel and three kids are determined to figure out which one of them is the criminal. Readers will be eager to turn the pages and find out as well. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

Adult Reading Recommendation

Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

I have been eagerly awaiting this book since I consider the author's Homegoing is one of my favorite books. As in her first book, Yaa Gyasi's writing is stunning. She explores important and timely topics including the immigrant experience, opioid addiction, and mental illness. The story is heart-wrenching, but thought-provoking, as well. Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for a digital review copy. The book publishes in September.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Picture Book Love: Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper

Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper by Miri Leshem-Pelly

Some picture books leave me in complete awe of the author's creativity and imagination. Penny and the Plain Piece of Paper is such a book.

Penny is bored living on her plain piece of paper, so she walks off and goes on a journey to explore other types of paper. She discovers different papers, such as a newspaper, wrapping paper, and a page from a coloring book, but they all have rules that don't suit her. Returning to her own piece of paper, she realizes she doesn't have to conform to the rules of others, but can create her own. 

This is a clever story with many aspects that will amuse readers. Illustrations show Penny walking off a piece of paper and, when turning the page, landing on a different type of paper. Penny herself is a unique creation, appearing as if someone used different colored crayons to draw her. Her interactions with the characters on the different types of paper, such as when she keeps encountering children on the wrapping paper who repeat the same thing over and over again (because they are part of the pattern) add humor to the book. 

In addition to being an imaginative story, there is an important message about belonging and being oneself. This book will be fun to read aloud, but I also think it will spark some great conversations.

Thanks to the publisher for providing by book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

The Bear in My Family by Maya Tatsukawa

This is a sweet and humorous story about living with a bear, aka an older sibling. Those with siblings will be able to relate. Charming illustrations.

Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by James E. Ransome

Based on African American folklore, this is a lyrical and powerful story of two enslaved children who escape to freedom. Gorgeous illustrations.

A Journey Toward Hope by Victor Hinojosa and Coert Voorhees and illustrated by Susan Guevara

This book tells the story of four migrant children on their journey through Mexico to the United States. It's a heart-breaking and hopeful glimpse into immigration that will be useful to start important conversations. Notes at the end of the book give more information about the journey the children took and the projects that Baylor University, co-publisher of the book, has launched to address issues related to migration and poverty. Thanks to Media Masters Publicity for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

She Leads: The Elephant Matriarch by June Smalls and illustrated by Yumi Shimokawara

This is a poignant story of a group of African elephants and the matriarch who guides and teaches them alongside factual information that provides insight into how elephants live. The text and illustrations are a beautiful tribute to this amazing animal.

13th Street #1: Battle of the Bad-Breath Bats by David Bowles

I'm really looking forward to introducing my early chapter book readers to this book in the fall. It's a fun read with illustrations and lots of action and suspense.

Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid by Mikaila Ulmer

Mikaila was four years old when she got stung on two separate occasions by a bee and decided that rather than be afraid of them, she wanted to do something to help save them. She began making and selling lemonade to raise money which then turned into a business and now, at fifteen, she is the CEO of Me and the Bees Lemonade. This is an inspirational and insightful memoir for any kid who is interested in starting a business or being a change maker. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group with a review copy.

Grown-Up Summer Reading

A common thread in my recent grown-up reading right now is the 1918 flu pandemic. I had two books set during this time period on hold at the library and it just so happens that they became available to me at the same time. I finished reading The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman which was a really good story about a thirteen-year-old immigrant from Germany navigating the pandemic in her city of Philadelphia. Currently, I'm reading The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue (the author's book Room is one that has always stuck with me). This one takes place in the maternity ward of a hospital in Dublin. I'm halfway through and like it so far, but I'm still trying to get used to the fact that the author does not use quotation marks. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Ten Picture Books For a New School Year

For the fifth year, I am participating in the annual Picture Book 10 for 10 event hosted by Cathy Mere of
Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning. Every August, those who participate share a list of ten favorite picture books. Some bloggers, and others who participate, share books centered on a theme. My 2018 list included ten (plus one) picture books about friendship. Others simply share a list of favorites. My 2017 list included favorite books that I wanted to share with students in the upcoming school year. My list this year is similar. All of the books on my list are recently published picture books that explore themes and topics that relate to students' socio-emotional well-being and will be useful in helping to build a classroom community and environment of caring and acceptance. (There are definitely others I want to share, as well, but I had to keep this list to ten!) If you are interested in my other Picture Book 10 for 10 lists, my 2016 list has ten picture books about books and my 2015 list has ten books about perseverance and effort.

My 10 For 10 List...

The Arabic Quilt: An Immigrant Story by Aya Khalil and illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan

Kanzi's family has immigrated to America from Egypt and it's her first day at her new school. She really wants to fit in, but some of the children laugh at her because her mother speaks Arabic. When Kanzi's mother involves the class in a creative project, her classmates learn the importance of embracing differences. This is a beautiful book about accepting others' cultures and languages.

First Day Critter Jitters by Jory John and illustrated by Liz Climo

This is a sweet and amusing story about first day of school anxieties. Readers will find comfort in realizing that others experience worries at the beginning of the school year and it's not just students who have these feelings.

How to Write a Story by Kate Messner and illustrated by Mark Siegel

The companion to How to Read a Story, this book walks young readers through the steps necessary to write a story. The advice is useful and encouraging. The main character in the book works through the writing process, writing an entertaining story that she shares with friends. I think readers will be inspired to write their own stories.

Keith Among the Pigeons by Katie Brosnan

Keith is a cat who feels more comfortable around pigeons, but the pigeons don't feel very comfortable around him. This book has wonderful message about being oneself.

Lulu the One and Only by Lynnette Mawhinney and illustrated by Jennie Poh

Lulu is part of a biracial family and often gets asked the question, "What are you?" When her brother explains that he answers this question with a power phrase, Lulu realizes she should have a power phrase of her own. This is a wonderful book that explores race and identity,

Our Favorite Day of the Year by A. E. Ali and illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell

Over the course of their year, classmates learn about each other's favorite days and the different ways families celebrate. It's a lovely and joyful book about friendship and the importance of community, connection, and understanding. 

The Power of One: Every Act of Kindness Counts by Trudy Ludwig

One girl starts a chain reaction of kindness that brings a community together. This is a sweet story about small acts of kindness and how one person can make a difference.

We Disagree by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

A mouse and squirrel disagree about everything until they agree to disagree. This is an amusing book, told through dialogue between the two rodents, that will help students understand the importance of respecting the opinions of others.  

You Matter by Christian Robinson

The illustrations in this book provide an interesting and clever perspective on our world and the message that everyone has value is beautiful. 

Your Name is a Song by Jamila Thompkins-Bigelow and illustrated by Luisa Uribe

This book is a celebration of names and offers the important reminder about how important it is to pronounce the names of others correctly.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, 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, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Gustavo, The Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago

This story is both spooky and festive. A lonely ghost makes friends by being brave and taking a chance. Really sweet and the illustrations are captivating.

Rot, the Bravest in the World! by Ben Clanton

Mutant potatoes, mud, and a worm are a winning combination in this humorous book. Students love Rot, the Cutest in the World! and they are going to be just as pleased, if not more so, with this second book. Hopefully, there's another Rot book in the future!

A Way With Wild Things by Larissa Theule and illustrated by Sara Palacios

Poppy loves books and spends lots of time sitting among the wildflowers observing the world around her. At parties she'd much rather blend in with the surroundings than interact with others and she does quite a good job of it. This is a sweet story about being oneself showing that what may be perceived as a weakness can actually be a strength.

Kingdom Caper #1 (Zoo Patrol Squad) by Brett Bean

Many of my younger readers want to start reading graphic novels and this will be a fun one to hand them. It's the first book in a new series that has fast-paced action, adventure, and humor.

City of Secrets by Victoria Ying

This is an adventurous graphic novel about a city that is a world of its own and the secrets and puzzles it holds. It's fun, intriguing, and imaginative.

BenBee and the Teacher Griefer by K. A. Holt

This is a heartfelt book written from the perspective of four kids who, with the help of a teacher, realize they are more than their learning challenges - they are divergent thinkers. The format which is unique and clever includes prose, verse, and sketchbook pages. The varied format, short chapters, and humor will all appeal to kids. Thanks to the publisher, Chronicle Books, for a review copy.

My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee

Barbara Dee's books always address important, serious topics in a way that is accessible and appropriate for middle grade readers. This book explores mental illness, as Zinnie's brother has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. In addition, she is navigating the ups & downs of friendship. It's an engaging, heart-warming, and relatable read. Thanks to the author and Media Masters Publicity for an advance reading copy.

Grown-Up Reading Recommendations


Books in the mystery/thriller genre are always a quick read for me and I've read quite a few this summer. The Distant Dead by Heather Young has a murder mystery at its center, but it's also a book about choices, survival, and forgiveness. The Girl From Widow Hills is a creepy and addictive read. One by One is the newest book by Ruth Ware that publishes in September. I loved the contrast between the cozy, idyllic ski retreat setting and the situation that turns deadly.