It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-8-13

Hosted by Jen & Kelle at Teach Mentor Texts

Yesterday I looked out the window to a bright and beautiful morning.  And then I stepped outside.  28 degrees.  TWENTY-EIGHT!  So today I am hopeful that as we enter the second week of April, things will start to warm up.  

Books I Read this Week:

Hokey Pokey by Jerry Spinelli
Random House, 2013
285 pages
Recommended for grades 5+ (Teachers and Librarians:  We pre-read so we can recommend the right books to the right readers, that is especially important with a book like this!)

Jack wakes up one day and finds that his beloved Scramjet is gone...stolen by a Girl!  The Girl, Jubilee.  In a one-day journey to recover Scramjet, Jack finds that his bike belonging to another is not the only change he is facing.  In the land of Hokey Pokey you will find kids and only one adult, the Hokey Pokey man, delivering his daily treat of shaved ice with any flavor syrup you can think up.  
Kids fill their day with things like tickling, pretend fighting, snuggling, climbing, exploring, playing, and of course, bike riding.  Snorting, rearing, living, breathing bikes.  The land of Hokey Pokey is a land of children's adventures.

I don't know how I feel about Jack.  He must have been nicer when he was younger.  Jack is one of the 3 Amigos, but he rarely gives any glimpse to readers as to why his friends Lajo and Dusty respect him so much.  But Jack is approaching...teenage years, Lajo and Dusty aren't there yet.  Maybe that gives Jack his edge.  

This story is a beautiful allegory of childhood.  Spinelli immediately throws us in to Hokey Pokey not knowing where we are or what to expect, but we soon put the pieces together.  At least as an adult reader you will.  The end of the book neatly ties up the suspicions readers might have about what Hokey Pokey represents.

The writing is stunning, and the emotions and experiences are so real, no matter that the setting isn't.  How often do we claim children are in their own world?  Which of us didn't pretend our beloved bike was a horse pounding through the neighborhood after our friends, at least once?  I encourage this to be a shared reading experience, a group of readers would have interesting discussions around this story.

Some of the prose that hit just right:

"As neatly as a foot slipping into an old sneaker."
"crickets clickit."
"The girls rockwalk across the water."

The cover art is beautiful, which makes me happy.  The back of the book does not make me happy.  The back of the book is covered with praise for Stargirl and Love, Stargirl, with images of Milkweed, Crash, and Knots in My Yo-Yo String.  That's not geared towards kids!  Kids want to get a feel for this book, not others by the author!  

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
Scholastic, 2013
288 pages
Recommended for grades 5-7

When Early's father goes missing one day her family is left a shadow of what it once was.  The disappearance of Dash (her father) leads to a mystery of where he is, why he's gone, and how to get him back.  The mystery develops around a business of buying and selling old books.  Dash was involved, and this seems to be a key in figuring out what has happened to him.  
When a group of people break into Early's apartment, trash it and take all the money the family has, Early finds herself in a shelter with her mother and younger brother.  

I loved the writing style, there are some truly beautiful lines.  Langston Hughes' work is woven throughout, and is an important poet in the lives of the characters.  The mystery isn't rich enough to keep younger readers hooked though.  Even I found myself wondering when we could wrap things up.  It just wasn't a home run for me.  

Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci & Sara Varon
First Second, 2013
Graphic Novel: Fantasy
96 pages
Recommended for grades 2-5

Simply so sweet!  Need a story that sends home the message that we are all wonderfully odd in our own way, and that it is more than ok?!  Here is your story!  

Theodora is the only duck around that doesn't fly south for the winter, she likes different foods than other ducks, she reads different books, she is just a little different.  When a new duck moves in next door Theodora is dismayed at his messiness.  That stuff in his yard is not art to her!  Deciding to be neighborly, Theodora brings her new neighbor a cake.  Thus develops a friendship with Chad, a duck that also loves different foods, is always late, talks too much, and even (gasp) dyes some of his feathers!  
Theodora and Chad have their friendship tested when the pair hears gossip of "that odd duck."  Each assume the other is the odd duck, and neither wants to believe it is them.  

Varon's artwork is lovely as usual!  I think this would make an excellent read aloud, as it is not a traditional graphic novel, maybe more like a rather long picture book?  Think Bink & Gollie, which has book 3 coming soon!!

Astronaut Academy: Re-Entry by Dave Roman
First Second, 2013
Graphic Novel: Science Fiction
190 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

Students at Astronaut Academy are at risk of losing their hearts to a monster disguised to be the object of their hearts' desire.  So, to protect the hearts of the students, falling in love is banned.  There is a lot of loving and losing in this story, which is funny considering the book appears to be geared towards young boy readers...not sure if they care about falling in love yet.  

Things I appreciates:  Roman is a fellow child of the 80s, so there are some 80s & 90s shout-outs in the drawings.  Nintendo's Mario Brothers influences in various scenes, toilet paper called Bum Equipment (remember that brand?!), haha.

And a rather funny line from the principal on pg. 136 when students are asking whether the upcoming sporting event will be cancelled like all other student events:
"No, no, of course not.  There's a long tradition of double standards when it comes to sports!"

I would recommend reading this after the first Astronaut Academy: Zero Gravity before reading the sequel.   Like in the first installment,  this story bounces around between the various characters that are found at the academy.  I am not a fan of how the stories jump around to so many characters, I never really felt connected to any of them.  By the end of the story I was just plain bored.  

Books I'm Currently Reading:


(Reading with my students)

On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!  As always, I welcome your feedback!


  1. I read an ARC of Hokey Pokey, and have had several discussions about it since. It seems to fall under a love it OR hate it category, with very little between. I really enjoyed it, BUT I can see how it was almost written more towards adults than kids. I agree with you, a good read and discuss book, but I'm not sure kids would pick this up on their own, especially since I (as an adult) had a hard time getting into it...even though I feel the ending was worth it. Interesting book.

    1. I know, I agree that it is one of those books for kids that won't work as an independent read for the majority of child readers. Total bummer. If the premise of the book was more clear to young readers it would lose that ambiguous feel, and not be as powerful, yet then readers would be more apt to "get" it. But then I wonder, are children that are still living in their own version of Hokey Pokey really at a place to care much about this? Hmm, more to think about!

  2. I have been wondering about Hokey Pokey. I loved Hold Fast, it was one of my favorites this year. I really want to read The Water Castle.

  3. Hi Gigi!
    I don't know why Hold Fast didn't keep my interest. When I started the book I was loving it. Are you going to Reading Roundup this week? Megan Frazer Blakemore will be there! I'm going to do a giveaway for a signed copy of her book, so stay tuned, because the book is plain amazing!

  4. Okay - I am now so so curious about Hokey Pokey - maybe I will read it and test it out on my daughter as well! I do love Spinelli.

    1. Oooh, that will be the real test! Do share afterwards! How old is she?


Post a Comment

Popular Posts