Sunday, January 26, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-27-14

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other bloggers participating in the book sharing fun!  There are so many new books to discover, and so many great conversations to be a part of!
Get your library cards out!

Books I Read this Week:

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal
Knopf, 2013
Fantasy (reads like realistic fiction)
384 pages
Recommended for grades 6+

Oh no...I'm finished this audio book.  I could have been a part of this story for many more weeks than I was.  I'm not sure how the book reads, but I can say that this is a masterfully done audio book.  I'm guessing the book does just fine on its own, based on the immediate way I was drawn into this world.
This book will work for readers that love stories.  Like really love the art, simplicity and depth that all are a part of a good story.
In this unique tale readers follow Jeremy Johnson Johnson and his companion, the ghost of Jacob Grimm.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And if you're not already a wild fan of the Grimm brother's, you might just find the room in your heart after reading Jacob's narration of this story.
To give an overview of the plot of this story I would have to be extremely vague, or go on and on and on, neither or which would do the book any favors.  So, I will just say that this is an unexpected, captivating. and beautiful story of relationships and motives.  And of course, it's also about the power of stories.

VIII by H. M. Castor
Simon & Schuster, 2013
Historical Fiction
432 pages
Recommended for grades 8+

If you're like me, and many students we have might be, the only thing that comes to mind when I think of Henry the 8th is: the famous portrait of a portly man with a plumed hat of some kind, a number of wives, and a number of them dead.  Pathetic, I knew nothing of this legendary king.
VIII opens when Henry, Hal, is only a young boy.  Readers spend the majority of this lengthy novel getting to know Henry as a youth and then as a young man.  And guess what, he was loving and athletic and motivated.  But as we know, Henry the 8th did have his flaws.  Plagued by a vision for most of his life, Henry made some decisions based on a reality he was the only one a part of.
History comes to life when we read novels like this.  In the conclusion of the novel the author explains of the in-depth research that began long, long ago, and resulted in a masterfully created window into the life of Henry the 8th.  I was fascinated by what I read, and have quite a better understanding of how this man's life played out.
And this is why I say to the American education system: Goodbye text books, hello historical fiction.  

Explore! The Most Dangerous Journeys of All Time by Deborah Kespert
Thames & Hudson, 2013
96 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

Divided into six sections: Polar, Ocean, Land, Desert, Sky and New Frontiers, each filled with information about the world's bravest and cutting edge explorers.  From the 1400s to the late 1900s, readers can travel the world with record breaking and record setting explorers. 
The format is easy to read and visually appealing.

Explorer: The Lost Islands edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Amulet, 2013
126 pages
Recommended for grades 3+

Just as he did with The Mystery Boxes, Kibuishi brings us another visually stunning collection of themed short stories.  This time the theme weaving these drastically different stories is that of being on or near an island.
With so many different styles of writing and artwork, there is surely something for all readers to enjoy.  I will certainly be adding this to my classroom library!  And I have to admit, Kibuishi steals the show again (at least for me), with his stunning artwork.

Two stand out picture books I read this week:

My students loved the artwork in this book.  At one point I had to laugh and remind them that they were 10 year olds and had to let me read the words before they went wild trying to find the baby bear in each picture. 

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!  I enjoy hearing your thoughts!
Have a great reading week :)

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-20-14

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other bloggers participating in the book sharing fun!  There are so many new books to discover, and so many great conversations to be a part of!

Books I Read this Week:

Look Up!  Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate
Candlewick Press, 2013
Nonfiction Informational
54 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

I love this book!  The author did all her own illustrations, and at times they are detailed and meant to teach, at other times they are simply there to crack the reader up!  
Packed with information on topics like: coloring, shapes, sounds, diets, habitats and more.
This book will be certain to inspire young bird lovers to begin keeping notes and sketches of the birds they observe around their own homes.
Bottom line: Tons of information and plenty of laughs!

The Secret Pool by Kimberly Ridley, illustrated by Rebekah Raye
Tilbury House, 2013
Nonfiction Informational
32 pages
Recommended for grades 2-4

This book is designed similarly to the "A Place for" series.  Each two page spread has lovely detailed illustrations and a nonfiction sidebar giving deeper information about one or more of the animals featured on that page spread.  On the opposite page there is a passage of narrative writing told from the perspective of a vernal pool.

The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman, illustrated by Darren Rawlings
Scholastic Graphix, 2013
Graphic Novel: Science Fiction
192 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

A sci-fi tale set in future Boston.  Six orphans find themselves together and discover a secret connection between them: the death of their parents in a mysterious shuttle explosion a year earlier.  When the kids take off from Earth they make their way to a moon, and begin the journey to uncover the truth of their parents' deaths.  Fun with lovely bright illustrations.

I'm Currently Reading:

(Listening to, and loving!)


These ought to keep me going this week!

Have a wonderful reading week!  Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-13-14

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other bloggers participating in the book sharing fun!  There are so many new books to discover, and so many great conversations to be a part of!

Books I Read this Week:

The Key & the Flame by Claire M. Caterer
Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2013
469 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

As I was moving through this story I had just the right student in mind to give it to next.  Because this book is certainly not for the average reader, this book is one for our readers that love getting lost in a book, the longer-the better.   And my little Harry Potter loving reader will have fun with this hefty fantasy.

I loved the beginning of this book.  A family moves to the English countryside for a summer, a key is bestowed on a young girl, and time/dimension travel commences.  Things then became almost tiresome for me as I read hundreds of pages about three children trying to find their way back home.  But even though I found myself bogged down, I think the story will still be plenty fun for kids.

Battling Boy by Paul Pope
First Second, 2013
Graphic Novel-Fantasy
202 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

Cool cover, right?  Actually, I think the covers of all my reads this week are pretty excellent.
I can't say I enjoyed this book, but that's simply because I am not a 5th or 6th grade boy, not because the book isn't awesome...because I'm pretty sure it is...

Battling Boy is sent away from his home planet for his coming of age testing at age 13.  And his task, to get rid of some baddies.  Good thing the planet he lands on is riddled with them.  
The pace of the action and the style of the drawings makes this book zoom by at a breakneck pace.  My favorite characters in this book are the creepy, covered in mummy-like wrappings, creatures that are praying on kids in the opening scene.  They are topnotch as far as thingsyoudon'twantcatchingyou goes.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K. G. Campbell
Candlewick Press, 2013
233 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

Awe, all of my favorite children's literature two of her characters have melted my heart like no other: a mouse named Despereaux and a china rabbit named Edward.   But now I've met Flora the cynic and Ulysses the squirrel poet, and the heart melts again.

If there are two things I can say I know about Kate DiCamillo they would be that she loves the art of crafting words and can do so in ways to help us open our hearts to the beings and places around us, and that she truly believes in the power of light and illumination.

I was scared to read this book.  I won't lie about it...I've had it on my shelf for months now.  I needn't have been frightened of being let down, for I love Flora and Ulysses.  Not like I love the mouse and the rabbit, but in a different and much their own kind of way.

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Sourcebooks, 2013
Realistic Fiction
307 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

Rachel/Ratchet is a young girl that wants to know more about her mother and wants to make a friend.  Being home-schooled, Ratchet spends all of her time with her mechanic father, learning more about how to put an engine back together than she learns about long-division.  The journal Ratchet keeps is one of her homeschool assignments, filled with a wide variety of writing forms.  It is through these poems and essays and fables and narratives that we learn of Ratchet's inner workings.

All her life Ratchet has missed her deceased mother.  With only one of her mother's possessions, Ratchet feels like she doesn't really know much of anything about her mother.  In working to uncover details about her mother, Ratchet discovers more than she anticipated.  
My heart broke and soared for Ratchet through the ups and downs of her quest to learn more about her mother, and through her first encounter with real friendship.

I am quite sure that if Ratchet's dad met me in real life he wouldn't like me though.  I'm not sure if he could like anyone except someone exactly like himself.  His preachy and insulting ways completely turn me off from him as a character, and I'm not sure if I ever warmed up to him.  If I did, it was fleeting. 

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you are staying warm and enjoying some good books :)

Monday, January 6, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1-6-14

Visit our hosts Jen & Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for their reviews as well as links to all the other blogs participating in the book sharing fun!  There are so many new books to discover, and so many great conversations to be a part of!

Books I Read this Week:

The Menagerie by Tui T & Kari Sutherland
HarperCollins, 2013
277 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Fantasy lovers will enjoy all the mythical creatures in the secret menagerie, and adventure lovers will have fun on the quest of seeking out 6 young griffin cubs that have scattered themselves about town.

With many unanswered questions-and a "To be continued..." ending, readers will not feel resolution at the conclusion of book 1 in this new series.

Personally I wasn't riveted by the storyline, but there are certainly plenty of young fantasy lovers that will love this long yet accessible story.

The Great American Dust Bowl by Don Brown
Houghton Mifflin, 2013
Graphic Novel- Nonfiction
80 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

The artwork in this story absolutely reflects the devastating subject matter found within these pages.  Simple flipping through the pages feels like being surrounded by a cloud of dust.

This text is a good introduction to what the Dust Bowl was, its causes, and how people survived and perished during its wrath.

You will not find an in-depth look at any one aspect of the dust storms or their effects that occurred during the time of the Dust Bowl of 1935, instead readers will be exposed to a general big picture.

Where Out of the Dust, by Karen Hess, left a lasting impression of the despair hardship during the dust storms, The Great American Dust Bowl hardly left any such impression on me. 

Which is why I think this text would pair marvelously with Out of the Dust, allowing for some great contrasts and comparisons.

The Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb
Arthur A. Levine, 2013
245 pages
Recommended for grades 8+

After reading Bomb! last year it is hard to place another nonfiction novel next to it without feeling like Bomb! is a show stealer.  Though the result and path of the mission in The Nazi Hunters was unknown to me before concluding the book, it just didn't capture me throughout its journey.

The story of justice after the Holocaust is not one I've read though, and it is too important to be ignored.  So many books about the Holocaust end with the subjects perishing or surviving.  It leaves a gaping hole to be filled in the minds of our youth: What happened to the people that caused and carried out this horrific event?

So even while it wasn't my favorite nonfiction novel, there were certainly moments that caused pause for reflection, moments where I was moved to tears, and moments of inspiration.  One such beautiful passage is below:

"For their ashes are piled up on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka and are strewn in the forest s of Poland.  Their graves are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Europe.  Their blood cries out, but their voice is not heard.  Therefore I will be their spokesman."
-Attorney General Gideon Hausner

White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan
Margaret K. McElderry, 2013
Realistic Fiction
116 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

This is the fourth 2013 book I've read where we have a nonspeaking boy character.  Just something I noticed.

The Cassidy family loves animals;  Dad is a vet, Mom is passionate about opening their house to rescue and foster Great Pyrenees dogs and sisters Alice and Zoe care deeply for reach creature brought into their home.

When a new boy, Philip, moves in next door Alice and Zoe befriend him.  Philip is staying with his aunt and uncle and won't speak to them, nor anyone other people...Philip does seem to have a bond with the dogs though.  It isn't until the end of the book that the reader learns why Philip is choosing not to talk.

A quick-but not simple-book, as MacLachlan seems to be known for.  It might have to do with the length of the text, but there didn't seem to be enough here to grab me.  If the book were longer the characters and story could be developed more.  Given the weight of the things Philip must be dealing with, it seemed to cut that issue short.

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Spelling Trouble (Book 1) by Frank Cammuso
Abrams, 2013
Graphic Novel-Fantasy
95 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

Ok, this was much cuter than I thought it would be!  This new series is by the creator of The Knights of the Lunch Table, which I also found to be quite endearing in its own way.

Salem is a witch that doesn't control her powers well.  She is also lacking in the friend department.  When her nonmagical parents need suggestions on helping their daughter they turn to her witch aunt.  Salem's aunt suggests an animal companion for Salem, and she knows just the animal for the job.  Salem is hoping for a unicorn.  She gets Whammy the cat.  The two are not fast friends, but it turns out the Whammy is perhaps just the pal Salem needs.

The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand
Simon & Schuster, 2013
410 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

This year I've read around 100 middle grade texts published in 2013.  With so many under my belt it is with tons of excitement that I am just now finding another favorite of the year!  Last year I was introduced to Legrand through her creepy The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls.  That story was for older readers, and certainly not for everyone, though I did enjoy it quite a bit.  

The Year of the Shadows has a much broader readership available to it than Cavendish does.  I can see many of my readers getting excited over this text, and in fact I can't wait to prove myself right when I book talk it this week!

In this story we are confronted by a 12-year-old girl that harbors anger over her mother leaving, and that anger manifests itself through a lack of relationships at school, poor attention and focus in her academics, but mostly it boils over into a hatred for her father, whom she thinks is at fault.

When we meet Olivia she is forced to move into Emerson Hall where her father works as a Maestro.  Along with her 80-year-old Nonnie, Olivia and the Maestro set up home as best they can, which isn't much to speak of.  Trying to hide the fact that she is living in the Hall and can barely afford clothes and food, Olivia's life isn't looking up.

And then she discovers the ghosts of Emerson Hall, and everything changes.  It is through Olivia and Henry, a boy she reluctantly lets into her life, that these ghosts can find peace.  And at the end of this long and complicated journey there is hope for Olivia to find peace as well.

Readers will notice and perhaps be surprised by Olivia's feelings and actions towards her father, which are truly vile, but if you've witnessed a child dealing with a loss of a parent, it is often the one they are left with that takes the brunt of the difficult and hard to pin emotions.  

I'm Currently Reading:

On Deck:

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful reading week.  I'm headed back to school this morning, after two bonus days off last week due to snow!  It's been a long vacation, and a much needed vacation, but it's back to reality today!  If you are returning to work today I wish you a wonderful first day back.

Have a great reading week :)