Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: 2-15-17

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.
I noticed years back that my classroom library was heavy on fiction. Since noticing the imbalance of fiction to nonfiction, I've remained on the lookout for engaging and diverse nonfiction titles. Here are some recent finds!

Preaching to the Chickens: The story of young John Lewis by Jabari Asim, illustrated by E. B. Lewis
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2016
32 pages
Recommended for grades 3+

A sweet telling of the early years of John Lewis' life, during which he finds his voice as a preacher among a feathery congregation.
Lewis grew into a leader of civil rights in American history, becoming a member of the Freedom Riders, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was the youngest member of the "Big Six."
After reading Lewis' memoire Asim became interested and drawn to Lewis, leading eventually to the creation of this story. I love introducing students to people, places, concepts and times through accessible picture books that both feed the mind and delight the eye. 
Certainly one to read aloud!

Crow Smarts: Inside the brain of the world's brightest birds by Pamela S. Turner
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
73 pages
Recommended for grades 3+

I'm lucky enough to teach fourth graders, an age when learning and discovery is a desire in most students. I read sections of this one aloud to my class, and found the writing to be engaging enough to sustain their attention (nonfiction can feel heavy at times). 
I want to share some major spoilers, my favorite take aways from this book, but I feel like I should leave them nestled in the pages for you to discover. There is no doubt that crows are clever, but these New Caledonian crows are pushing boundaries that excite scientist daily. 
Visit Crow Smarts for videos and additional and up-to-date information on these crafty problem solvers.

Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros Who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artist, and Won the Hearts of Everyone...While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent! by Emily Arnold McCully
Schwartz & Wade, 2016
Recommended for grades 2+

Imagine a 3-ton rhinoceros being carted around Europe in the 1700s?! Clara was adopted by a merchant marine, Van de Meer, who dreamed of striking it rich by parading Clara around (rhinos were considered mythical beasts at the time, and people would surely pay up to see her). Turns out that the amount of money it took to move and feed Clara often meant that Van de Meer himself went hungry, but the strength of their bond and the love of the lifestyle was worth it to him.
What a fun and fascinating piece of history. A quick google search will uncover pictures of this famous rhino that was an unknown to me until now!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, February 13, 2017

It's Snow Day Monday! What Are You Reading? 2-13-17

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews and recommendations!

The view outside is
snowy white.

I'm feeling incredibly grateful that my family is able to stay home, stay warm, and stay fed. I'm also feeling grateful for nap time, since without that snippet of a break, there would likely be no post today! So here goes a quick run through of my recent readings:

Books I've Recently Read:

Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum, 2016
Realistic Fiction
181 pages
Recommended for grades 6+

Certainly pulls on the heartstrings, while also posing the question, are we doing enough for the kids in our lives? A healthy reminder to slow down and nurture the whole child, not just the student we are tasked with teaching. 

Loved it.

Little Cat's Luck by Marion Dane Bauer
Simon & Schuster, 2016
Poetic Narrative
240 pages
Recommended for grades 2-5

Remember that sweet novel in verse a few years back, Little Dog, Lost? This is the companion to that story, though stands 100% alone. I adore Little Dog, Lost and have even read it aloud to a couple groups of students. The stories are wonderfully different. There is no shying away from emotion in this short story, and in fact would be wonderful to read aloud and discuss with young readers.

Animals by the Numbers: A Book of Animal Infographics by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
48 pages
Recommended for grades 2+

So cool! The visuals are surprising in their values as statistics are compared in graphs and other images. And of course Jenkins is a master of cut paper illustrations! I kept taking breaks to turn to my husband to ask him if he knew this, or that! And of course I couldn't wait to bring it to school!

Matylda, Bright & Tender by Holly M. McGhee
Candlewick Press, 2017
Realistic Fiction
224 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

Oh geeze, where to begin. Tissues, have your tissues handy. I've spent a lot of time just staring at the simple cover, wondering what words to use. I was transported back to one of my favorite childhood movies, My Girl. Many of the same feelings here. MANY. I did love this story, and I will be sharing it with those students that love emotional stories.

A Beginner's Guide to Immortality: From Alchemy to Avatars by Maria Birmingham, illustrated by Josh Holinaty
Owlkids Books, 2015
Recommended for grades 3+

A fun read on the human quest for living longer. From the wild and fantastic, to the scientific breakthroughs being worked on today. Fascinating information and short sections of text surrounded by lively illustrations will attract readers to this one!

Freedom Over Me: Eleven slaves, their lives and dreams brought to life by Ashley Bryan
Atheneum Books, 2016
56 pages
Recommended for grades 3+

Such a gorgeous book in words and images. The author's note and original document in the back of the book are powerful. The artistry in creating two contrasting types of poetry and imagery for each featured slave is well executed. From grays and earth tones on pages that describe the jobs and roles of the slaves, to a rainbow of vibrant hues when the poem changes to the dreams of the slave. 
A book I will surely be sharing with students for years to come.

I'm Currently Reading:

Currently Reading Aloud to My Class:

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-30-17

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews and recommendations!

As Boy #1 gets older, the fun grows and grows and grows. Bedtime stories are full-on serious business now. For the first year and a half it felt like it was mostly for me... Now the books are piled on the bed with gusto by the boy, and the request for repeat readings is never a surprise.

What's he into this week?:

Every time I read this one I think of Ame, so reading it twice a night is ok ;)

This cracks him up nightly.

He finds this hilarious!

I can't even explain what's going on with this selection. We read this every night 2-4 times. Seriously. And long before bedtime he reminds me that we will be reading it that night!

Books I Read this Week:

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet
Candlewick Press, 2016
Historical Fiction
385 pages
Recommended for grades 6-8

This story takes off the moment it begins. You know those books that you think about constantly when you're not reading them? You wonder what lies on the next page, and you think about what you would do in so-and-so's shoes? This is one of those books for me. Maybe it was because I was as unsure of what was really going on as Noah/Jonah/Wallfish was! Curiosity and the thirst for learning about history was a driving force as I read this story. I loved it.
The recommended age is a tough one this time. The main character is finishing up 5th grade, but the typical 5th grader is unlikely to reach for this on their own. Even with a glorious book talk this one might be a hard sell to a reader that young. As you expand the readership upwards, you run the risk of middle schoolers not wanting to read a book about a 5th grade character (even if he and his family are awesome).

Science Comics
 Volcanoes : Fire and Life by Jon Chad
First Second, 2016
Graphic Novel/Nonfiction/Science Fiction
122 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

I LOVE this series! The blend of fictional elements with nonfiction elements, complete with in your face artwork is a win.

In this installment I was less impressed than with the others, but I don't think that will be the case with young readers. I found the science fiction side of this story to be beyond far fetched, and felt like it was a forced side storyline. I also found some of the non-paneled pages to be hectic.
Even with that less than rave review, I am still excited to get this into the hands of kids, as I don't thin they will mind what bothered me.

Science Comics
Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean by Maris Wicks
First Second, 2016
Graphic Novel/Nonfiction/Fish Narrator ;)
120 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

This one hit it right out of the park again (I loved Science Comics: Dinosaurs). I find the style of this graphic novel to be more reader friendly. Maris Wicks collaborated with Jim Ottaviani on Primates. (Which a student borrowed and never returned and noI'mnotbitter)
Coral Reefs is full of relevant information for kids that want to be conscious of their impact on the environment. It (of course) explores the types, stages and functions of coral reefs, but also goes into detail explaining the various creatures that call the reef home.
This series belongs in classrooms where kids can get their eager little mitts on it at any time!

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-23-17

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews and recommendations!

Have fun watching the awards this morning! I have an inservice day, so I won't be celebrating with my students until the day after. 

Books I've Recently Read:

To Stay Alive by Skila Brown
Candlewick Press, 2016
Poetic Narrative/Historical Fiction
304 pages
Recommended for grades 5+

I know the story of the Donner Party, after-all, I am a big Nathan Hale fan, but don't think you will find any hangmen here to break the tension. (I'll let some of you scratch your head at that one.)

The stark style to this novel in verse gives you the feeling that words, like supplies and rations, must be used sparingly. Each step of this journey was arduous, and to imagine children journeying, and a baby being born into this trek, were almost too much at times. And then it gets worse, so much worse. This book hurt me. The words pulled me in, and though the words were not overbearing, the emotion of it was, at times. 

A Boy Called BAT by Elana K. Arnold
Illustrations by Charles Santoso
Walden Pond Press, 2017
Realistic Fiction
208 pages
Recommended for grades 2-5

An enjoyable story about a boy nicknamed Bat, who happens to be on the autism spectrum. This is the first in a series, and will be a most welcome addition to my classroom library.
Bat doesn't relate well to the emotions of the people closest to him, and often misreads situations. When his veterinarian mother brings home a rescued skunk kit, Bat does all he can to convince his mother to allow him to raise the kit until it is old enough to be released. Don't expect Bat to simply beg and plead though, that's simply not his style!

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
162 pages
Recommended for grades 4+ (as an independent read)

If you don't find sparks of inspiration,  lines you want to lift, or quotes to fill your walls and notebooks with, then you have no business reading any more books. Ever. 

As with many biographies I love, I find myself faced with wondering if children will take to the book with the same interest and dedication. Melissa Sweet is known for her whimsical and vibrant art, which will certainly attract young readers, but even so, the text may plod at times for children in fourth grade or below. I say this mostly because I don't think kids give a hoot about where details such as where E.B. White worked. Don't get me wrong, I found this book to be most interesting.

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-24-16

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

Books I Read This Week:

Also an Octopus by Maggie Tokuda-Hall, illustrated by Benji Davies
Candlewick Press, 2016
32 pages
Recommended for all!

You know how all pictures books are great for reading aloud? Well this one seems to NEED to be read aloud. Teach reading? Then read this book to your students, no matter the age. Humorous, whimsical-eye catching art, and a perfect tie in to how stories are set up. My favorite page: when the octopus sits down to play the ukulele, "because music is good for the heart." 

Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis
Candlewick Press, 2016
48 pages
Recommended for all!

I love a good mystery and a good puzzle, and this book is a little of both. All the text is told in a language created by author/illustrator, Carson Ellis; who, by the way, creates some amazing artwork.
I imagine myself sharing this story with my students, asking them to imagine what is being said. Are there patterns in the language? How does the text connect to the images? What do you think is being said? Curious and creative readers will enjoy!
I love the spider. Well, I detest spiders, but I love what the presence of the spider does to the story.

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen
Candlewick Press, 2016
56 pages
Recommended for all!

So it ends. The trilogy comes to a close as you turn the final page in this story. Remember the bear and the rabbit...and how the bear solved the problem of his hat being stolen? Some say smush, some say chomp, all agree, it didn't end well for the hat stealing rabbit. And remember the fish, that tiny hat stealing fish that brags about how clever and shifty he is. No remorse. Well, remember what happened to him? With thoughts of hat stealers getting what comes to them, readers will be delightfully curious about how two of the same creature will end this latest conundrum around one hat and two wanna be hat wearers. I mean, this thought will come to mind: Does that tortoise EAT his companion?! Or is that just me that thought that...?

I'm Currently Reading:

I have more books to read than I can make a dent in, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I chose this one based on its awesome title and fantastic cover art. Not ashamed at all! And much to my delight, I discovered by very own hometown featured in the first few pages! Thankfully I have yet to cross paths with the Evil Wizard Smallbone in real life...eek.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, October 10, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-10-16

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews!

Autumn in New England is one of my most favorite things. And this weekend I breathed in the fall air, reveling in the feeling of crisp cool air, and warm comforting sunshine. The balance was perfect today. Which made it a wonderful day to break in the new sandbox!

Books I've Recently Read:

Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion
Illustrated by Joyce Wan
Beach Lane Books, 2016
Recommended for ages 0-7

Adorable pictures compliment this story of a pug that is put out by the new addition to the family!
Want to win the book or grab some resources to use with kids, check out this post.

Quirk's Quest: Into the Outlands by Robert Christie & Deborah Lang
First Second, 2016
Fantasy/Graphic Novel
127 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

This story will appeal to readers that like high fantasy and stories with action packed pace. 
When Quirk and his crew are shipwrecked on unknown lands, danger is high and a way out is unknown. The crew is surrounded by new creatures, unsure of who is safe to trust, and who is out to get them. The illustrations remind me of fraggles (does this date me?) with a touch of the Simpsons. The story sets itself up to lead right into the second book in the series. I do have some qualms about the book though: many of the words used and names chosen might trip up some readers. The story is not as deep as the language might play up. The cursive script used in the Captain's log is also a potential pitfall for some readers.

Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Iacopo Bruno
Candlewick Press, 2016
Picture Book Biography
44 pages
Recommended for grades 2+

Stunning illustrations! The author explains how this book was born after she went looking for books on female stage magicians for her daughter to read, and discovered that none existed! From that sad fact comes a gorgeous tribute to one of the greatest female magicians of all time. Addie is an inspiration in more than her magic-she is a survivor, a woman that perseveres through hardship, coming out stronger on the other side. A biography to be shared!

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Parts One and Two
by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016
Recommended for anyone who didn't love the original books

I don't have much I want to share on this. I wish I hadn't read it, that's sort of the extent of it. I wanted so much more from my reunion with the original characters. I do NOT think scripts are my preferred style of writing. I want the meaty descriptions, not some stage notes. Aside from that, the story was flatter than I'd hoped for as well. The idea is excellent, the execution fell flat for me.

I'm Currently Reading:

Still...I was sidetracked by my ghost story!

Loving it!

Have a great week, thanks for stopping by!