It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts.

Books I Read in the Past Two Weeks:

Chickenhare by Chris Green
Scholastic, 2013
Graphic Novel: Fantasy
158 pages
Recommended for grades: 5+

Two buds, a bearded turtle named Abe and a chickenhare named Chickenhare, are captured and sold to Mr. Klaus-a deranged taxidermist.  Mr. Klaus was scarred after his beloved goat, Mr. Buttons, ran away from him.  So now Mr. Klaus wants all his precious pets to be stuffed so they can never leave him.  This is bad news for Chickenhare and Abe.  Once locked up in a tower the pair meet two more unusual creatures, Banjo and Meg.  Together the four plot their escape.  When the ghost of Mr. Buttons joins the plot to seek revenge on Mr. Klaus, things get a little violent and iffy.  The end of the books is left wide open for a series to follow.  

Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheikin
Scholastic, 2013
214 pages
Narrative Nonfiction
Recommended for grades 5+

Ok, so maybe Sheinkin shouldn't have lead with Bomb!'s a hard act to follow.  But that's not to say Lincoln's Grave Robbers isn't a stand-out read, because it is!
This nonfiction narrative begins by providing great background into America's history of counterfeiters  people that threatened to collapse the economy by infiltrating this fake currency.  Key players are introduced, relationships are established, and soon we are following a group of men in a plan to rob and leverage a beloved presidents remains in order to spring a man from prison.  I love history and was fascinated to learn of how and why the secret service was born, and found the description of the night of the grave robbing to be vividly described.
I'm so glad for all readers, young and old, that Steve Sheinkin has stepped away from textbook writing and begun adding some of the most well written historical nonfiction that I've read in...ever!
(Also, the layout of the book is highly appealing.  Nice white space, liked the font and size.)

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
Random House, 2013
320 pages
Historical Fiction
Recommended for grades 5-8

I loved this beautiful tale set during WWII in the Maine wilderness.  Jack is sent to a boarding school in Maine after his mother's death.  Neither Jack nor his father know quite what to make of life without Jack's mother, and distancing themselves from it seems easier than facing it at first.  While at school Jack befriends Early.  Early has an amazing mathematical mind, and is revealed in the author's note to represent an autistic savant, though during the era Early would not have been labeled as such.  Early has wounds of his own, though deals with them in a far different way than Jack.  Early's brother went missing during the war while he was fighting in France.  Early has faith that his brother is alive but lost, and he intends to find him.  Readers do not know if Early is simply desperately hoping that his brother is still alive, or if Early knows something that others do not.
During a school break Early and Jack find themselves alone at the school and take advantage of this to set out on a quest.  A quest with many facets, more than they even know as they depart.  The two boys heal each other, themselves, and those they cross paths with.  Every single page of this book is crafted with beauty and care.  As someone that reads and reviews hundreds of children's and middle grade novels, I read a wide variety of writing styles.  Not all books we give kids should be this heavy, not all should be this beautiful.  We can't expect kids to appreciate what we adults appreciate in their books, because we are reading them not as our children selves, but as our experienced adult selves.  Kids need books for fun and for leisure   But my goodness, they also need books of beauty like this!  And it just might be that for some kids they can't navigate a text like this alone, and why should they have to?  
Warning:  Don't listen to the audio like I did-though it is flawless-you will regret not being able to dog-ear, highlight and underline many of the wonderful lines!

But I need to know, are kids enjoying this book??

Timmy Failure: Mistakes were Made (Book 1) by Stephan Pastis
Candlewick, 2013
294 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Timmy Failure thinks himself to be a topnotch detective that is destined to run a multi-billion dollar detective agency.  The irony here is that Timmy does live up to his name, no matter how much he tries to assure readers he isn't a failure, by missing the blatantly obvious answers to all his cases.
When Timmy borrows his mother's Segway and loses it, he is determined to get it back before he's really in for it.  The cast of characters are fairly flat, but there are many sophisticated words used throughout the book.  I found it strange that the author chose to use obscure songs, historical references and old book titles as names of his chapters, since the average kid reader wouldn't pick up on what they were referring to.  
The ending was sweet, though poor Timmy misses out on that sweetness, he just isn't too sharp.  Set in a Wimpy Kid format this will certainly appeal to kids!

Oh, and I should mention, there are some lines that caught me just right, Timmy's voice is laugh out loud (or at least a little nose snort self laugh) funny:

"I should say a word about the Failuremobile.  It's not actually called a Failuremobile.  It's called a Segway.  And it belongs to my mother...And she has set forth some restrictions on when and how I can use it.  (NEVER.  EVER.  EVER.)  I thought that was vague.  So I use it.  So far, she hasn't objected.  Mostly because she doesn't know."  pg. 7

Currently Enjoying:

Case File 13: Zombie Kid by J. Scott Savage

So far, so good!  

I'm listening to:
Road Trip by Gary and Jim Paulsen

On the fence about this one right now...

On Deck:

Happy reading!!


  1. I also enjoyed Navigating Early. I have it in my room now and it will be interesting to see how they like it. I have heard such good things about Timmy Failure. I enjoyed Road Trip, even though I am not a dog person. Have a great week!
    PS I love your blog design.

    1. I would love to hear student response to this book. I don't have my own copy yet, so I've not handed it to any students, but I'm so curious! Timmy Failure is fun for sure, there are certain readers that will appreciate the humor more than others!
      Thanks for your thoughts, I love connecting with other readers!
      P.S. THANK YOU for the design comment, I decided it was time to spruce it up now that I've been at it a bit. :)

  2. All of the books you read this week sound really good. I had not heard of Timmy Failure before and have now added it to my TBR list. I agree will Gigi, love the blog design!

    1. Hi Andrea, Timmy will make you laugh. I've got third graders this year, fourth next, so I'm going to save it for next year. There are some high level words in that book, which is part of its charm really. And thanks for the design comment!! It made me smile :)

  3. Hi there Nicole, I'm eager to know what you think about Hokey Pokey - I've been reading a lot of mixed reviews about it. I love Spinelli so I'd like to know how his latest novel seems to raise the ire of quite a number of fans/librarians. Your review makes me want to read Navigating Early NOW. I love Clare Vanderpool's writing in Moon Over Manifest, I have a feeling I'd fall in love with this one too. Have a great reading week!

    1. Hi Myra! I've heard the same type of mixed reviews on Hokey Pokey as well, which makes going into the book kind of exciting. Clare Vanderpool is a writer that truly has a gift with words with evoke such emotion and thought in her readers. Thanks for stopping by! Have a wonderful reading week yourself!

  4. Nicole, my 4th grader loved Navigating Early! He is generally more a fan of fantasy, but I left it by his bed on Pi Day. On March 15, he came downstairs and said, "How many digits have they calculated in pi?" I said, "Oh, did you start reading Navigating Early?" And he said, "I finished it." Stayed up ALL NIGHT. Or most of it. He was a mess, but I couldn't get too mad. He kept saying, "But it was REALLY GOOD."

  5. Hi Julie! I am so glad you shared that! I know this will be a title that will have a lot of heated discussion for MSBA purposes. Could you ask your son to write a review for us? It doesn't have to be too long or anything, just a few of his thoughts on it. All Maine students grades 4-8 and any adult readers can use the exact same review sheet the committee uses, they just select "other" for the name section. He can use his first name and or school name. We love outsider reviews. You can even submit reviews to us!
    Or just go to our page and click on the Review Book tab.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'll ask him to do a review, Nicole!

    2. YAY!!! And since he is such a reader, tell him we need his help in making future MSBA lists!! Kid power ;) This list is for them!

  6. I think my nephews are too young for Chickenhare and my teen readers are too old, but I think it looks totally wacky, so I just put a hold on it for myself! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Proceed with gets a little...strange at the end ;)

  8. Like Myra, I am curious to see what you think of Hokey Pokey. Mixed is definitely the word I have seen most often in regard to this book. Lincoln's Grave Robbers is one that I need to find right now. Bomb was terrific and now you have whetted my appetite for Sheinkin's next book.

    1. Hi Jeff! Sheinkin is awesome!! I was on the edge of my seat reading Bomb. And I felt this strange desire to talk about it to everyone I saw. I was probably a huge weirdo about it, but I couldn't help it, it was fascinating! I am ready for his next book. He can't write them fast enough! What will he bring us next? Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I haven't read Bomb yet! I want to and at the same time I have so many other books that are drawing my attention! I really liked Navigating Early. I had to smile when I saw your thoughts on Navigating Early extend beyond my computer screen. It was so hard for me to review it because I had soooo much to say. I think it's definitely for an older or more mature reader but I agree that it is well written and beautiful. :)

    1. It's kind of exciting when a book drums up controversy over Who will read this? and Will kids enjoy this? when we all can agree that the writing is amazing. There are many books I read that I think, Kids won't like this. But there aren't as many where you doubt readership but at the same time really want to promote the title! Thanks for the thoughts!

  10. Loved your reviews, Nicole. I stopped by your blog since you stopped by mine and ended up joining it since I can see I'll definitely want to follow it - great blog! I LOVED Navigating Early, too, and totally agree with all you said about it. I'm going to add the GN you read to my TBR list since my 4th graders are loving GN. Timmy Failure looks cute, too. I read and loved Bomb and want to read other Sheinkin books because of it.

  11. Hi Holly! I'm so glad you stopped by, your comment certainly made me smile!! Have you read any of George O'Connor's GNs? He has a series called Olympians that highlights a different Greek god in each book. I haven't had them in my classroom library yet but was thinking about adding them to my 4th grade library next year. I think they will be tough for some readers, but so many past fourth graders love the Percy Jackson series, so I know there is interest in the Greek myths and gods. Our state book award list has 3 graphic novels on it next year, the most ever! There are so many great ones out now.


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