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.

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.