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.

Monday, July 27, 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...


Bird Hugs by Ged Adamson

With his long wings, Bernard is not like other birds at all. Bernard is disappointed he can't fly until he hears an orangutan crying and he realizes that his wings can be of use. This is a sweet story with fun illustrations about embracing one's differences.

Smug Seagull by Maddie Frost

A very smug seagull is proud of how well he can swipe snacks from humans on the beach until he meets a crab who has some talented skills of his own. I read this aloud to a few classes of students before school closed for the year and they found it really amusing. Living on the coast, my students know how pesky seagulls can be. They also enjoyed drawing the seagull along with the author in this video.

The Very Last Leaf by Step Wade and illustrated by Jennifer Davison

Lance, a leaf on a Cottonwood tree, is a very good student, but he is worried about his final exam which involves falling from his tree. He tries to make excuses so he can stay on the tree, but comes to realize that he must be brave and take the leap. This is a very cute story about believing in oneself and facing one's fears. Readers will also learn some information about trees.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michael Goade

This poetic picture book honors the Indigenous Peoples who have taken action to protect our Earth's water and encourages others to do the same. This is a gorgeous book about ancestry, community, and the environment.

Crabapple Trouble by Kaeti Vandorn

Callaway is very anxious about the upcoming Summertime Fair at which there will be a produce competition since she doesn't think the crabapples are an adequate size. With the help of a fairy and a friend, Callaway enjoys the fair much more than she thought she would. This is a sweet graphic novel about problem-solving and working together. Thanks to the publisher, Random House, for an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in August.

Displacement by Kiku Hughes

This is a historical graphic novel about a teen traveling in time and learning about her family’s experience in a Japanese-American internment camp. It's an important and insightful read. It will not only inform young readers about this dark time in U.S. history, but may also inspire readers to take action to make change.

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan

This is a beautiful and timely story about friendship, standing up for others, and cooking. The book alternates between the perspectives of two sixth-graders who are each navigating family challenges and grappling with identity and belonging. I think this is a book middle grade readers will enjoy reading, but it will also spark meaningful conversation. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy. The book publishes in August.

Grown-Up Summer Reading Recommendations


 
Historical fiction is my favorite genre. I love how a really great historical fiction book can transport me to a different time and place. I enjoyed both of these. The Book of Lost Names by Kristen Harmel is a moving story of courage and compassion about a young woman who becomes a forger during WWII. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy. The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton is about three different women and how their lives intersect during the hurricane that hit the Florida Keys in 1935. Both are engaging reads.

Monday, July 20, 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...

Dozens of Doughnuts by Carrie Finison and illustrated by Brianne Farley

LouAnn has made a dozen doughnuts for herself, but guests repeatedly show up at her door with an appetite for the tasty treat. She's willing to share and isn't left with any for herself until her guests realize their mistake. LouAnn, even when she roars, and all the other woodland characters are endearing. Both the text and illustrations are humorous.

Here and Now by Julia Denos and illustrated by E.B. Goodale

This book is a calming and gentle reminder to be present in the here and now. Based on a poem the author wrote, the book is written to guide young readers in meditation.

'Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis and illustrated by Kenard Pak

I was not aware of the kalo plant and its importance to the Hawaiian people until reading this book. Written in the cumulative style of "The House That Jack Built", the book gives insight into Hawaiian culture and celebrates family. There's an informative author's note at the end and the illustrations are gorgeous.

Pizza and Taco: Who's the Best by Stephen Shaskan

Pizza and Taco are best friends who get into an argument about who is the best. This is a humorous chapter book written in graphic novel style for early readers. Kids will love the silliness and the food-based characters.

Kerry and the Knight of the Forest by Andi Watson

Kerry is on his way home with medicine that will save his parents, but he gets lost. With the help of the Knight of the Forest, Kerry is on a journey to get home that includes facing evil. This is a very adventurous graphic novel.

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is a powerful, but hard to read middle grade novel. It is about two sisters in foster care dealing with the aftermath of sexual abuse. This story drew me in from the first paragraph and I loved the characters, especially Della, who is endearing, courageous, and humorous. Honest, heart-wrenching, and hopeful, this is one of those books that I finished and could not stop thinking about. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

Grown-Up Summer Reading Recommendation


The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir by Michele Harper

This is an insightful and beautiful memoir by an African American emergency room physician in which she shares stories of healing others and the journey she took to heal herself.

Monday, July 13, 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...


Finding Françoise: A Story About the Healing Power of Friendship by Gus Gordon

This is a charming story about a chance friendship and the power of that friendship to heal a hurting heart. There are many delightful details in the illustrations. After reading this book once I reread to notice more about the illustrations and I think young readers will do the same. Thanks to the publisher for sharing a review copy with my book review group, #BookExcursion.

Lift by Minh Lê and illustrated by Dan Santat

A girl always pushes the elevator button until, to the delight of her parents, her brother
takes over the task. Upset with her brother, the girl imagines her own elevator button which takes her on magical journeys. This is a sweet story about imagination and siblings. Written in graphic novel style, the artwork is amazing.

Monsters 101 by Cale Atkinson

This book has everything you've ever wanted to know about monsters and more! Like the author's previous book, Unicorns 101, it's clever and amusing. Once they reach the end of the book, readers earn a diploma and the honorary title of Monster Scientist. Thanks to Random House Kids for providing my book review group with a review copy. This book publishes in August.

A Perfect Day by Sarah S. Brannen

A sweet friendship develops between a sea gull and a crab even though they disagree about whether it's truly a perfect day. The illustrations are lovely and one two-page spread will surprise and delight readers.

Raising Lumie by Joan Bauer

Olive's dad has died, she is in the care of a stepsister she barely knows, and is now living in a new town. She wants a dog more than anything, but it's not something her stepsister is willing to take on. When Olive learns of an opportunity to train a puppy to be a guide dog for the blind, she jumps at the chance. This is a heart-warming story about coping with loss and, also, gives insight into the process of raising a guide dog. Olive is a charming character with a good sense of humor and lots of grit.

The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love, & Truth edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis

This is a powerful anthology that includes stories, poems, letters, and other writing pieces by authors sharing their personal experiences related to systemic racism and the lessons they have learned. It's personal, honest, and empowering. The list of authors and illustrators who have contributed to this book is amazing. This is a book that should be shared and discussed widely. Thanks to the publisher for a digital review copy. The book publishes in August.

Grown-Up Summer Reading Recommendation


We Came Here to Shine by by Susie Orman Schnall

This was one of the complimentary audiobooks offered in the month of June through Libro.fm's ALC (Audio Listening Copy) Program for educators. It's a historical fiction novel set in 1939 during the New York World's Fair. It's a story of friendship that explores the inequalities women faced at the time. I loved the characters of Vivi and Max and was captivated by the details of the Worlds' Fair.

Monday, July 6, 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 Ocean Calls by Tina Cho and illustrated by Jess X. Snow

Dayeon's grandmother is a haenyeo, a diver seeking treasures from the sea near Jeju Island in South Korea. Dayeon wants to be a haenyeo, too, but is afraid of not being able to breath underwater and of the sharks. With her grandmother's help she faces her fears and discovers the beauty of the ocean. This is a beautiful story about the bonds between a child and grandparent and facing one's fears. The artwork is stunning and the information at the end explains more about the haenyeo tradition. Thanks to the publisher for sharing a review copy with my book review group. The book publishes in August.

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

One girl reaches out to comfort another girl who is sad after an argument and this leads to a chain reaction that brings a community together. This is a sweet story about the importance of small acts of kindness and the difference one person can make. The illustrations are really interesting, too. This book will be useful for starting discussions with students about kindness and how to treat others. Thanks to Random House for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy. The book publishes in August.

Soaked! by Abi Cushman

Bear is very grumpy because of the rain, but he finds some unexpected fun thanks to his friends and a hula hoop. All the animals have lots of personality and make a rainy day seem like a delight. Even those not a fan of wet weather (me) will want to splash in the rain after reading this book.

The Magic Eraser (Locker 37 #1) by Aaron Starmer

This is an imaginative and humorous new series. There is lots that will appeal to kids including the over-the-top plot line and the illustrations. The second book, publishing at the same time, is The Rewindable Clock. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

Camino lives in the the Dominican Republic and Yahaira in New York City. When their Papi dies in an airplane crash they learn of his secrets and each other's existence. This is a beautiful story, written in verse, about the friendship and hope that grows out of grief and loss.

Grown-Up Summer Reading Recommendations

If you are looking for a grown-up read to add to your summer reading list, these are two books, both with island settings, that I enjoyed recently.

My Kind of People by Lisa Duffy

Set off the coast of Massachusetts, this book is about a ten-year-old who has been recently orphaned and left in the care of a family friend and the secrets of a small, tight-knit island community.

The House on Fripp Island by Rebecca Kauffman

Two families are vacationing together off the coast of South Carolina. From the beginning of the book, the reader knows one of them has died tragically. Lots of suspense in this one.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

My 2020 Reading Update

At the beginning of 2020, I made a list of books that I wanted to read in the year ahead (see this post). Now that the year is more than half over, I thought this would be a good time to give an update on my progress. In one sense, the first half of this year has flown by, but in another sense it has felt like an eternity. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted many aspects of life and work, my reading included. At times throughout the pandemic, focusing on the words within a book has made reading a challenge, but at other times reading has been just the escape I needed. Even with the ups and downs, I have read some fantastic books throughout the first half of this year.

Picture Books


These are the picture books on my Must-Read list for 2020.

Read in 2020


  • Facts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Michael Rex
  • The Heart of a Whale by Anna Pignataro
  • Hike by Pete Oswald
  • In a Jar by Deborah Marcero
  • Nesting by Henry Cole
  • A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
  • The Society of Distinguished Lemmings by Julie Combert

Still Need to Read


  • Bear Goes Sugaring by Maxwell Eaton III
  • The Bear in My Family by Maya Tatsukawa
  • Dandelion's Dream by Yoko Tanaka
  • Freedom Bird: A Tale of Hope and Courage by Jerdine Nolen and illustrated by James E. Ransome 
  • 'Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis and illustrated by Kenard Pak 
  • Story Boat by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Rashin Kheiriyeh 
  • The Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade
  • A Way With Wild Things by Larissa Theule and illustrated by Sara Palacios


Middle Grade Books


These are the middle grade books on my Must-Read list for 2020.

Read in 2020


  • The Elephant's Girl by Celesta Rimington 
  • History Smashers: The Mayflower by Kate Messner and illustrated by Dylan Meconis
  • Isaiah Dunn is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist
  • Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Queen Bee and Me by Gillian McDunn 
  • The Space Between Lost and Found by Sandy Stark-Mcginnis 
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  • Thank You for Coming to My TED Talk: A Teen Guide to Great Public Speaking by Chris Anderson and Lorin Oberweger 
  • Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson and illustrated by Nina Mata 
  • Wrong Way Summer by Heidi Lang

Still Need to Read


  • Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley 
  • A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan


Favorites of 2020

In addition to these books, there are many others I have read throughout the year. The following lists include my favorites as of now (they will continue to be updated, I am sure):

Favorite Picture Books
Favorite Middle Grade Books

I have curated my lists at Bookshop.org which is an online bookstore that provides support for local, independent bookstores. As an affiliate of Bookshop.org, I earn a commission for any books purchased through my links.

Monday, June 29, 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...


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

A book about first day of school anxieties, this will be a comforting read aloud for the beginning of the school year. On the way to school, various animals express their concerns about starting school. When the animals get to school they realize they are not the only ones who are nervous and they help each other to overcome their worries. This book is both amusing and sweet. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.

Keith Among the Pigeons by Katie Brosnan

Keith prefers pigeons to cats, but they fly away every time he tries to get near them. Keith attempts to be more pigeon-like in various ways, but that doesn't help. This is a lovely story about being accepted and accepting oneself.

Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Wendell Minor

Jayden is unhappy about moving from New York to New Mexico where everything is brown and tan. As he takes a walk through his new home, he finds joy in the surprises of the desert. This is a gorgeous book about the wonders of the natural world.

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

This is a joyous celebration of names. A child meets her mother after school, upset that her classmates and teacher can't say her name. The child's mother helps her appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of her names and of others. This is an empowering and meaningful book that provides a reminder about how important it is to learn to pronounce and to honor people's names. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

Letters From Cuba by Ruth Behar

Esther and her father are refugees in Cuba after leaving Poland in the 1930s. Esther misses her family and worries about them since, being Jewish, it is not safe for them in Poland. As she embraces her life in Cuba, Esther sets out to help her father earn enough money so the rest of her family can travel to Cuba. This story, which is based on the author's own family history, is heart-warming and inspiring. Thanks to the publisher, Nancy Paulsen Books, for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advanced reader's copy. The book publishes in August.

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

This is a must-have for my graphic novel collection. Middle grade readers who enjoy graphic novels with realistic storylines about fitting in and navigating friendships will enjoy this one. With a mystery to be solved and an unlikely friendship that makes summer a little less lonely, it's a fun and heart-warming read. Thanks to the publisher for a review copy.