It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-26-15

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! 

I've let my reviews pile up on me! I will be brief this time.

Books I've Recently Read:

As usual, Preus writes a historical fiction that pulls you in straight away. This is a follow-up novel to the amazing Heart of a Samuri. This story takes place in Japan and follows a new young man. There were places in the book where the perspective changed to that of a young American sailor, I didn't find that it added much to the story, and instead muddled it a bit. Give this one to your readers that love digging in to historical texts, it's not light, but it will be fun for the right reader!
Recommended for grades 5+

A fun mystery! I listened to this one, and would readily recommend the audio version. This title is on the 2015-16 Maine Student Book Award list. 
Recommended for grades 4-8

Fable Comics Edited by Chris Duffy
First Second, 2015
Traditional Literature-Graphic Novel
124 pages
Recommended for grades 3+

A diverse collection of fables from around the world. Some of the fables are well known, others might sail right over the heads of some readers. As usual with this series, the art styles are wonderfully different, which creates a fun collection.

Another 2015-16 Maine Student Book Award title. I listened to the audio version of this book and enjoyed it. There is so much to this story, and reading it aloud to a class would provide so many discussion points. How do we feel about zoos, what are the pros and cons? Can you imagine not being able to speak your mind because a stutter holds you back? Although the animals can communicate with the main character, sending this story into the fantasy realm, there are so many other real issues to solidly ground the story.
Recommended for grades 4-8

Bayou Magic by Jewel Parker Rhodes
Little Brown Books, 2015
256 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

Maddy visits her Grandmére in Bon Temps, spending the summer learning about how magical Granmére thinks Bon Temps is. When Maddy sees the magic first hand when she meets Mami Wata, a legendary mermaid. Though there is a mythical mermaid in this story, there are also hard and heavy issues like alcoholism, oil spills  and loss. At times I felt like there were too many things going on.

The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills
Illustrated by Katie Kath
Knopf, 2015
Realistic Fiction
164 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

Nora studies ants and wants to have an article published in a nature magazine so that she can be the youngest girl published in a scientific journal. Though Nora's motivation to publish an article isn't only stemming from her passion for studying ants, you can forgive her for it as she truly does have a passion for the tiny beings. Great book to add to collections of girls shining in the field of science. The writing has a nice flow, the characters are believable and entertaining. 

The Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler
First Second, 2015
Fantasy- Graphic Novel
312 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

Told in black and white drawings, we follow a family of beetles as they seek to discover what is beyond their city. Driven by their passion for science and exploration, the beetles call on each others' various strengths. Lots of danger, a good helping of humor and many facts about insects and animals make this a multidimensional story. I have a fourth grade student reading this now, and every day when I check in with him he has new facts to tell me or humorous parts to relate to me-he's loving it!

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold
Illustrated by Emily Gravett
Bloomsbury, 2015
224 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Opens heavy, though I don't think young readers will grab hold of the depth of the Christina Rossetti poem that sets the tone for the beginning of the story. 
I do think kids will find the idea of imaginary friends being real, and having a secret gathering place to be a cool idea. The illustrations add a great element to the story. Some parts are down-right creepy, and the accompanying illustrations only heighten the feeling!

And now for two that I absolutely love:

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Aladdin, 2015
374 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

Christopher Rowe is an apothecary apprentice to Benedict Blackthorn, the man that saved Chris from Cripplegate Orphanage. Christopher deeply cares for his master and has a true appreciation for people and also for home. When apothecaries are being found murdered all throughout the city, Christopher has good reason to be worried about his and his master's safety. Benedict knows something powerful, and soon that information will be passed down through a series of clues to Christopher.
The story has tragedy and sadness, friendship and loyalty, action and intrigue. I am recommending it for grade 5 and up due to some of the graphic descriptions. 

Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Candlewick Press, 2015
Realistic Fiction
376 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

Arianna Hazard and her older brother, Gage, bounce around from couch to couch, storage unit to shelter, anywhere offered as they find themselves homeless. Ari wants to fulfill her mother's dying wish of getting into Carter Middle School for gifted students, which is slipping away as Ari's grades and behaviors change. A touching and raw story, with characters that are so real. I would love to read this story aloud to students. 

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by!
Have a great week!


  1. So many titles! I too loved Paper Things. Have you read Small as an Elephant by this author. We did it with our student book club. I also read George and Lost in the Sun this summer so curious to see what you think.

    1. Hi Carrie-I did read and LOVE Small as an Elephant. The author is from Maine, so I've been lucky enough to bump into her at conferences-she's as lovely as you would imagine. George and Lost in the Sun are certainly two heavy hitters to be reading at once!!

  2. I just put a hold on The Blackthorne Key. It sounds sensational. I totally forgot about The Imaginary although I remember looking at it when it came out in March and thinking I would really like to read that! I'd just started hearing things about Trouble with Ants but everything I've heard has been really positive. I need to find that one too! Ack! Just so many great books here!

    1. I hope you love Blackthorn as much as I did! Too many books to read, isn't that always the problem ;)

  3. I picked up The Blackthorne Key last week from Kidsbooks. I don't know when I'll get to it, but I appreciate your comments. I had a hard time with Paper Things. I enjoyed it, but was bothered by the irresponsible brother who would take a sister out of a safe place to live on the streets. I liked that readers might get a sense of what it would be like to be homeless, but they always had a way out. So many people don't.

    1. You make a lot of good points, and this is a book that is sure to warrant a lot of discussion. I see exactly what you mean with the brother being irresponsible at many times, really from the major decision to leave, but then I think of a 19 year old that is full of pride and so desperately wanting to pull through, that I sort of buy in to how this could mirror reality. And yes, they had a way out and a safety net the entire time, which is certainly not the case for most in their situation.

  4. Hi there Nicole - I think one of my teacher-students book talked Paper Things last week as she truly enjoyed it. I've been meaning to get my hands on The Imaginary for awhile now - I am a huge fan of Emily Gravett's art. :)


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