It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7-23-18

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 and recommendations!

Summer should be the time that I get loads more reading, reviewing, and blogging done. It's not. I'm a creature of habit, and once the school year ends I find myself with wide open expanses of time that I need to fill with different activities day to day. With two young sons my days are not as predictable as they are when school is in session. As much as I love more free time, I also very much miss my school year life. So, long overdue, here are some of the books I've recently read.

Books I've Recently-ish Read:

The Button War by Avi
Candlewick Press, June 2018
240 pages
Historical Fiction
Recommended for grades 5+

I have ben reading Avi's books since I was old enough to. I've read so many of his books, and have been amazed at how diverse his writings are. Think of the different lead characters he has created. From fantasy to historical fiction, female leads, male leads, curmudgeon porcupine leads, they are all so believable and rich! I have never met Avi, but I have spent countless hours with him. 

So, when I read The Button War you would assume I would feel a familiarity with Avi's writing. Yes and no. Yes, the style and craft are so clearly there. But this story surprised me. It made me nervous, it made me feel curious, it settled like a seed of dread in my belly from the very beginning. Avi lets you know that one of the boys in this book is not good, not quite right, and he lets you know early, then he hangs on to that awful truth until the very end. 
Though set in the early stages of WWI, so much feels relevant.
A must add to classroom libraries. Actually, better make it two copies.

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery by Allison Rushby
Candlewick Press, July 2018
256 pages
Historical Fantasy
Recommended for grades 4-8

I wasn't sure what I was in store for with this one! There are certainly surprises within these pages. I did learn a bit more about Highgate cemetery, which came in handy shortly after while reading Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries!
Flossie's role as the Turnkey means she protects all those buried in her cemetery. Turnkeys are able to leave the cemetery, and on one such outing Flossie encounters a man that seems odd to her. The story then takes a turn into the devilish plots between some living men, and one ghost. With a backdrop of London in WWII, the use of the mysterious ancient Mexican crystal skulls, and a young female spirit trying to save the living and the dead around her, it makes for a wild ride!

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet
Candlewick Press, April 2018
448 pages
Historical Fiction
Recommended for grades 5-8

I don't often read the author's note before reading the book, but I am so incredibly glad I did this time. When I read the book was set in Maine, but that Nesbet is not from Maine herself, I was curious about why she chose to set her story there. Being a Mainer myself I always enjoy reading books connected to this place. The author's note reveals that this story is an ode to Nesbet's mother, a mother she lost too early. This story is the one of Nesbet's mother's childhood, which her mother never finished telling. Knowing this changed the way I felt when I turned back to page one. The story had more weight to it that I might have felt otherwise. I am so glad I read it knowing the deep personal and emotional work that this is.
The story itself is layered and complicated with events and prejudices and struggles of the time, near the start of WWII. And as I encounter these topics in historical texts I keep realizing how very relevant they still are. 
The story moves at a gentle pace, a reader that enjoys joining a character for her daily life, some ups, some downs, will value their time with Gusta. At over 400 pages long, and historical, I do know that for some kids this will be one that might be a struggle. As with Cloud and Wallfish, I think it takes a particular young reader, but I know that many adults would love the book.  

The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Candlewick Press, August 2018
416 pages
Realistic Fiction
Recommended for grades 5-8

I read back-to-back books set in Maine. Past and present. One town with a thriving mill, one town broken from a closed mill. The premise of The Dollar Kids is that select families are chosen from an application pool to purchase a house in Millville, a town that is losing too many families due to lack of work. The families must fix the houses up within a year, each family needs to have at least 3 children to boost school and athletic enrollments, and a few new families have plans to bring a business to the downtown. 
But why have these families agreed to take this on? For our lead family the reason comes at you in the very opening of the book. Comic panels play out the devastating story of a boy being shot. It is this tragedy, this guilt, this constant reminder of what is lost, that spurs 11-year-old Lowen to get his family one of those dollar houses.
But it's not just a new town, a new home, and new struggles that will ease Lowen's pain and guilt, there is a coming to terms that he needs to do in his own time, which is beautifully played out in this story. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Be Prepared  by Vera Brosgol
First Second, April 2018
256 pages
Recommended for Grades 4-8

I love this story so much. The angst, the longing, the feeling like you just don't fit in, the insecurities, the curiosities, all the things we feel as we are growing up, are brought to life on these pages. 
Summer camp is what all her more affluent friends are doing, but Vera can't go. But then she learns of a Russian summer camp and knows her mother won't refuse that! When the next summer finally arrives it is Vera's turn to experience the magic and wonder of all that is summer camp. But it isn't magical or wonderful at all. It is fairly horrid, which some of us can relate to. I hated summer camp. For the most part. Anyway, I read this in one sitting because I loved it so.
That being said, there is one point in the book where a boy is called a name that I find cringeworthy. To the point that I am not sure if I would put it in a 4th grade classroom library. Probably 5th. But I would say readers as young as 3rd grade could absolutely enjoy the story, but on a kid to kid basis.
If you've read and loved this one, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the name calling I've mentioned. Did it make you hesitate to put it in a classroom library, or not?

Have a great reading week!
P.S. I am offering facebook friends and twitter followers a chance to win The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery. I am giving my ARC away to one lucky reader! Check there for details!


  1. I just read A Boy Called Bat.

  2. I loved the Orphan Band of Springdale and I agree a lot of the prejudices of immigrants was so relevant to the issues that are happening today.

    1. It was also interesting to be reading about the birth of unions in the mills, while we also have unions in the news currently!

  3. Lots of reading! Looks like some great titles here. I have The Orphan Band of Springdale and need to read it this summer but I keep getting holds in from the library that pull me from other piles!

  4. I'm so glad you shared that bit of information about Nesbet's mother and The Orphan Band of Springdale. I also have The Button War and The Dollar Kids on my TBR list, so thank you for providing more details here. I'm looking forward to reading them both! Have a great reading week, Nicole!

    1. You'll enjoy them all, though they are so different! The Button War really had me strong, and right after reading it I couldn't stop talking about it!

  5. I shared The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery today too, an interesting look at WWII & all those cemeteries mixed into the plot. The Avi book is good, as is The Orphan Band. . . Thanks for sharing the others, too, on my list!

  6. I liked The Dollar Kids a lot, because it was just so unusual. I'm always looking for WWII books, but I'm not sure about Orphan Band. The Avi was different; perhaps that sense of dread was why I didn't like it quite as much.

    1. Maybe I should be concerned with myself ;) The dread was what enticed me SO much with Avi's book.

  7. There are so many books here today that I am wanting to get to. What a fabulous literary week you've had!

    1. Oh, make that literary weekS ;) Summer has me all out of sorts!


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