It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2-17-14

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!

I missed last week's post, which really isn't notable to anyone but me.  I do make it a personal goal to post weekly, sharing my thoughts and opinions on my latest reads.  Because that's what makes teachers and librarians so awesome, we love to share with each other.

And while some things continue to stay the same, like the familiar and constant buzz of snowblower engines around the neighborhood, the spastic and hilarious response of tail wags and four-paws-off-the-ground leaps when we ask our two airedales if they "want to go for a ride," and the soothing effect of a warm mug of black tea being sipped by a window with a perfect view of a sparkling snowy landscape; while all those things remain constant, there is much change in my life.

Now there are tiny clothes to wash and fold, childcare to begin puzzling out, and belly touches from many loving hands.  I've been carrying my son for 6 and a half months now, and the changes in my physical and mental self have been amazing thus far.  So, sometimes I might miss a blog post, and while I'm not fulfilling that single personal goal, I am no doubt being occupied by things I had not even imagined being so consumed by in as little as a year ago.  

And as Pete the Cat would say, "It's all good."

So, making up for 2 long weeks of reading: Short Reviews!

Books I Read this Week:

Stick Dog by Tom Watson
Harper, 2013
189 pages
Recommended for grades 2-4

The front of this book claims: "a really GOOD story with really BAD drawings."
I can agree that the drawings are meant to be simple, but I can't agree that there is a really GOOD story here.  Basically we have 189 pages of a bunch of dogs trying to plot how to steal a family's hamburgers.  
The text size and formatting is perfect for Wimpy Kid fans, but the characters are far less entertaining than Greg Heffley on his worst day. 

Anton and Cecil: Cats at Sea by Lisa and Valerie Martin, illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Algonquin Young Readers, 2013
256 pages (galley)
Recommended for grades 3-5

An odd story about two cats searching for home and each other on the open sea.  Readers will encounter pirates, adventure, and a Shakespearean quoting dolphin.
I wasn't that taken with this story, and am not sure it will be an easy sell with kids either.

The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson
Walden Pond Press, 2013
375 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

Now here is a book I was able to fall into!  The story of Abbey and Bee Force is one that I enjoyed from start to finish.  Abbey has grit, and she has heart, two features that had me rooting for her throughout this story.
An interesting mystery with enough action and adventure to keep readers turning pages.
Set outside Charleston, South Carolina, the setting is rich and vivid.
This might be J.E. Thompson's first children's book, but I'm suspecting it will be far from his last!

Razia's Ray of Hope: One Girl's Dream of an Education by Elizabeth Suneby, illustrated by Suana Verelst
Citizen Kid (Kids Can Press), 2013
Multicultural Literature/Realistic Fiction
32 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

A story of a young Afghanistan girl desperately wanting the chance at an education of her own.  This isn't the first story I've read this year about a child's dream of an education, but this one is nice for younger readers, while retaining the option of stretching upwards into older grade levels.
The illustrations are lovely, part photograph collage and part drawing.
Included in this text are some excellent teaching resources and activities.

(Interior Art)

Princess Tales: Once Upon a Time in Rhyme with Seek-and-Find Pictures by Grace Maccarone, illustrated by Gail de Marcken
Feiwel & Friends, 2013
Fantasy/Traditional Literature
32 pages
Recommended for grades k-4

I remember the fun I had as a child with my nose deep in a picture find book, racing my sister to see who could find the objects first.  Lucky for us we have held on to our nostalgic past-we tackled an I Spy book together just this past year!
The rhyming fairy tales in this book felt too fast paced for me.  I don't think the concept of the book matches up with the age range the text is written for.  I found it to be hard to decide on what age reader would find this book appealing.  I also wondered if kids would actually read the lengthy text sections, or if they would dive right into finding those hidden images!  Certainly a read aloud for the younger range of readers.

(Interior shows lovely and complex art work above a long rhyming fairy tale story.)

Never Say Die by Will Hobbs
HarperCollins, 2013
224 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

A very engaging adventure/survival story about two step-brothers setting out in the Alaskan wilderness.  Along the way they encounter multiple weather hardships, but scariest of all is the cross-breed bear they encounter one too many times.
Nick has grown up on the land, he knows the animals and how to survive.  Ryan is a wildlife photographer and scientist studying global warming's effects of the animals.  Both brothers are intrigued by the grizzly-polar bear mix, but neither is prepared for just how aggressive and huge this bear is.
Along with the adventure sequences, this story has a lot of heart to it.  Although the main character is a teenager, I would feel fine giving it to younger readers, especially Hatchet fans.

Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz
Candlewick Press, 2013
Realistic Fiction
200 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

A unique story about a family that is taken hostage (though not harmed) by a fugitive relative.
Siblings Annie and Rew have very different opinions on what to do.  Rew wants to turn in the fugitive, while Annie seems to want to get to know him.
The story is set in the 1970s, but I doubt that many-or any-young reader would figure that out from the few given clues.  
I listened to it, and I enjoyed it.

Wicked Cruel: Three Urban Legends by Rich Wallace
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013
195 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

Ghost story time!  This book is a collection of three stories, all set in a college town in New Hampshire (based on Keene, New Hampshire)
What if urban legends were not made up, what if there was truth to these supernatural tales?
That's what this book is all about, and it is tons of fun!
In each story the main character is a middle school-ish aged boy.  The characters feel so genuine, their actions, thoughts and dialogue all very believable.
I know my fourth graders would love this book, though some of the ideas in the story might be a little scary for them.  There is also some language in the book that gives me pause when recommending for 4th graders.

Dogs of War by Shelia Keenan and Nathan Fox
Scholastic Graphix, 2013
Historical Fiction/Graphic Novel
104 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

Vivid artwork depicts three short stories about a dog in war.  WWI, WWII and Vietnam are explored.  Each war has a different breed dog preforming different tasks.  But all the stories have one thing in common: dogs and their handlers have a special bond, which is heightened in war zones.
Kids will enjoy this action filled book.

Africa is My Home: A Child of the Amistad by Monica Edinger, illustrated by Robert Byrd
 Candlewick Press, 2013
Historical Fiction
60 pages
Recommended for grades 3-8

Absolutely lovely!  The artwork is gentle yet strong, and the writing felt pitch perfect to me. 
I look forward to reading this aloud to my students.  The Amistad will be new knowledge for them, but the way this story is told will make it comprehensible for students with little to no background knowledge.  
Seriously, this is one we need in our classroom libraries!

Locomotive by Brian Floca
Atheneum, 2013
Historical Fiction
60 pages
Recommended for grades 2-4

The steam engines chug off these pages with as much life and animation as you can possibly get from reading a picture book!
Filled with information about the development of American railroads, travel by rail, and the sounds found along the way!
Another great one for reading aloud!

I'm Currently Reading:

(Listening to)

Thanks for stopping by!  Have a wonderful reading week-perhaps a very full reading week if you are enjoying vacation this week!



  1. We put Never Say Die on our Illinois book award list for grades 4-8 (Rebecca Caudill Young Readers' Book Award). It's a great title for middle graders!

    1. That's neat to know! I think the book is accessible to readers in 4th, but certainly stretches far beyond that in age range!

  2. Razia's Ray of Hope sounds wonderful - we are keeping our fingers crossed for Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Peace Prize pospects in my classroom, and this is another book to share and learn from.

    1. This is a great book! I'm looking forward to sharing it with my 4th graders after school vacation.

  3. Lovely mix of books in this post! I loved reading Zebra Forest, you're one of the first people to review, glad you enjoyed... I liked the twist. Didn't listen to it though... I'd been really curious about Stick Dog and felt slightly bad that I hadn't picked it up for my library, worries are aside now, thanks. Happy reading week to you!

    1. Zebra Forest certainly had an unexpected storyline. I think it would be so cool to read with a group of kids. Readers could really dig in to the motives and actions of the two siblings. I can imagine powerful discussion around it.

  4. Can't wait to hear what you think about Will in Scarlet. I loved Matthew Cody's Powerless series. I have this new one, but haven't gotten to it yet!

    1. I usually get a lot of listening to books in during my commute to work...since I'm on vacation this week I will be taking a little bit longer to finish this one! No complaints though ;)

  5. I noticed your absence last week! But now, it looks like twice the things to read about! I still have to read Locomotive - we don't have in our school library yet. Need to see if I can get through my public library. The Path of Names is on my shelf but I haven't read it yet. It is written by a parent from my children's school! Africa is my Home is a title I really want to read. I want to read Zebra Forest as well - love the look of the cover. Thanks for sharing all of these titles!

    1. What a small world! That is so neat that you have the author's child in your school! You will have to read it now :) I'm only a few chapters in, but it is very interesting so far. I'm looking forward to seeing where the story leads. You will love Africa is My Home, it is really a special book. I love the cover of Zebra Forest too!

  6. Oh dear. You and Carrie Gelson are so dangerous for me! I always want to get my hands on every book you recommend! Adding several of these to my cart on Amazon. Love the cover for The Path of Names. Locomotive is lovely, but I'm disturbed by the ways the book erases Native Americans and skirts around the issue of immigrant labor. I also really liked the art and really didn't care for the writing. Do lots of dogs die in Dogs of War? That's one I've been eyeing to purchase and share in my Children's & Adolescent Lit courses but I am not sure I can handle lots of dog death!!

    1. Carrie always stocks my library request list each week ;)
      Your comments on Locomotive are so valid, and that's the wonderful thing about sharing our thoughts in a setting like this. I was so taken by the art and the "noises" the book made, that I did not think deeply about the concerns you brought up. I did have a moment of noticing that there was so little mention of the immigrant workers, even though some were depicted. Good points you make.
      Fear not about Dogs in War, none of the dogs die! Each of the three stories follows one dog each, and the focus is strongly on the human and dog relationship, of course with story around the purpose and jobs of the dogs. So, now you can read that one without worrying about having tissues nearby!

  7. You have such a nice list of books here. The Girl from Felony Bay sounds amazing. I also like to have those books about a child's quest for education to be able to start conversations with my middle school students. Congratulations about the changes that are happening for you. It must be exciting to have these new things to do! Have a great reading week!

    1. Thank you so much, this is such a special time in my life :) It is funny how our lives can feel so set in place, and then perspective and mood and ambitions change completely, and wonderfully! Thanks for stopping by. Felony Bay was a really fun read!

  8. Hello there Nicole. I love the image of you staring out the window, a cup of tea in hand. Infanticipating is one of the most glorious moments for a would-be mother. I hope you don't experience a lot of morning (and afternoon and evening) sickness.

    I had to laugh when I read your review of Stick Dog. Looks like I'd steer clear of that one. I checked our online library system, looks like we have a copy of Razia's Ray of Hope - I'd be checking it out to see whether I can use it in my class. Unfortunately we don't have My Home is Africa yet, looks like that one would be a wonderful addition to my text-set as well. Thanks for all these recommendations. The Path of Names caught my eye too. Let me know how it goes.

    1. Hi Myra,
      Thankfully the morning sickness is behind me...but I did have a solid 16 weeks of fun with that...! Infanticipating! I love that! I will have to share that with the other mommas to be I see on a regular basis.

      You will love Africa is My Home, I don't know why I waited so long to read it! The Path of Names was a very cool story, I will be gathering some thoughts about it for my next review. Hope you had a nice weekend!


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