Monthly Archives: May 2018

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2018 Top Summer Picks for 9-12 yr olds (part 2)

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

Last week, my IMWAYR post featured some new middle grade novels that would make excellent choices for summer reading or end of the year read-alouds!  Turns out there were TOO MANY books to mention in one blog… so here is Part 2!

Heartseeker by Melinda Beatty

I actually haven’t read this first book in a debut series as it is not released until June 5th – but it’s certainly on my TBR summer list.  It’s getting a lot of great ARC reviews and I so like the concept behind this fantasy adventure about a girl named Only who can see lies.  When news of Only’s abilities reaches the king, he commands her to work for him to seek out traitors and corruption.  WOW!  Sounds like a winner!

The Mortification of Fovea Munson by Mary Winn Heider

So this book may sound a little weird and morbid – parents who work in a cadaver lab, a tiger kidnapping, talking severed heads… but with such an original plot line, and laugh-out-loud humour – I think it will appeal to many middle grade readers.  Fovea (whose name means eyeballs, by the way), is a 7th grader – embarrassed by her parents, mocked by her peers and without a single friend. She spends the summer working in her parent’s cadaver lab with a whole lot of body parts and in the process, discovers herself, some new friends and a new “embrace the moment” approach to life.  Perhaps not for everyone – but would certainly appeal to middle grade readers (Gr. 6-7 range) who enjoy this type of “screw-ball comedy” and the “ickier” side of things!

Nightbooks by J.A. White

Another book I have on my MUST READ this summer (not released until mid July but I have my pre-order in!) is this scary (but apparently not too scary!) re-telling of The Arabian Knights that sounds like a mixture of Neil Gaiman’s books and Grimm’s fairy tales.  It is the story of Alex, a monster-loving boy, who finds himself trapped in a magical apartment building.  In order to stay alive, he has to tell the witch who captured him a scary story every night.  Sounds Ah-Mazing!

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea – Lynne Rae Perkins

A charming, breezy read – perfect for summer!  A family with two young girls goes on vacation, spending a week on the ocean.  No huge dramas, life-threatening crises, or earth shattering issues – but a heart-warming celebration of small moments.  Walking on the beach, feeling the ocean waves for the first time, sand castles with different kinds of bucket mixtures, imaginative play, a new friend, horseshoe crabs and learning to be brave.  Sweet but not fluffy.  Love the addition of some wonderful illustrations!  This is the kind of book I would have LOVED when I was in grade 6 or 7 – and I love it now!

Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe –  Jo Watson Hackl

A charming coming-of-age story – this one with an endearing protagonist, lots of adventure and an added suspense, mystery and a treasure hunt.  I was hooked right away with the authentic voice of Cricket – a young girl dealing with the death of her father and the disappearance of her mother.  Cricket’s adventures are driven by a longing to heal her family and are filled with ups and downs and twists and turns.   Lots of life lessons in this one that will leave you filled with sadness, hope and love.

Where the Watermelons Grow – Cindy Baldwin 

WOW – a beautifully written, moving, sensitive story about families living with mental illness.  Gorgeous writing with wonderful descriptions of the charming characters in a small southern town and the sticky summer heat.   My heart ached for Della and her concern about her mother, who suffers from schizophrenia.  The author does not shy away from difficult, important issues that we often have no control over.  A wonderful, heart-wrenching story filled with hardships and harsh realities, yet also filled with love and hope.  Likely this would be more suited for older middle grades and even teen readers.  I recommend a box of Kleenex and a fresh watermelon close by – I started craving one while I was reading!

You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

I was excited to read this second book by Erin Entrada Kelly, who won the 2018 Newberry for her book Hello, Universe.  She focuses on similar themes in this book – family stress, bullying and friendships.  Charlotte and Ben are two middle school students who connect through an online Scrabble game.  Their new friendship becomes invaluable as the chaos in each of their lives begin to spin out of control.   I enjoyed the alternating chapters that focus on the scenarios in each child’s life.   A great story about the importance of connecting with others for helping us navigate through life’s ups and downs.

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Breakout – Kate Messner

A group of young students everyday lives are turned upside down when two inmates escape from the local prison.  This compelling story about prejudice and racism in a small town was inspired by the escape and subsequent search of two prisoners from the Clinton NY correctional facility in 2015.  Written in a very unique format depicting multiple points of view told through a series of letters, essays, articles, texts, newspaper articles and poetry.  Even though it is 400 pages, the format makes it a surprisingly fast read.  I really like how Kate Messner weaves important and current themes into her books and believe this one will spark many thoughtful and reflective conversations.

Sunny – Jason Reynolds

Sunny is the 3rd book in Jason Reynold’s popular Track series.  This book follows 12-year-old Sunny Lancaster, the #1 middle distance runner of the Defenders whose mother died the day he was born.  Sunny’s story is very different than  Ghost or Patina.  It is told in a series diary entries Sunny keeps to help control all the thoughts and ideas swirling around in his head.  It becomes clear through the stream of consciousness entries that Sunny’s brain doesn’t process things like other kids – he jumps from thought to thought, from subject to subject, rhyming and playing with words.  Sunny’s story is so authentic, so sad, so full of hope – I think it is my favorite in the series.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Charming story about overcoming obstacles and finding your place in the world.  Twelve year old Lucy was unharmed after she was struck by lightning strike four years ago.  But it left her with some compulsive behaviors and somewhat of a mathematical savant, making navigating, fitting in, and being accepted in middle school very challenging.  So much to love about this book… the short chapters make easy reading, great character conversations, very “connectable”,  lots of math and STEM connections, and love the dog!!!

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found one or two titles that caught your eye!

 

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Filed under 2018 releases, IMWAYR, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Novels, New Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2018 Top Summer Picks for 9-12 yr olds (part 1)

It’s Monday and I’m happy to be participating in a weekly event with a community of bloggers who post reviews of books that they have read the previous week. Check out more IMWAYR posts here: Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers

While I tend to promote a lot of picture books on my blog, I try to share novels for your middle grade readers when I can. (They just take longer to read!)  I have been reading A LOT of newly released titles recently and am excited to share them with you!  And with summer right around the corner, it is time to start choosing titles for your own TBR pile!  For your middle grade readers, regular “Catch the Summer Book Bug” book talks will hopefully get them excited about summer reading.  From fantasy, to graphic novels, adventures, and realistic stories – there is sure to be a book for every reader in your class!   Maybe create a bulletin board with some of the these book covers to get the kids excited about summer reading!

The Lifters – Dave Eggers

A whimsical fantasy filled with an imaginative underground world (was making connections to the Secret World of Og!)  Granite Flowerpetal (what a great name for a character), Gran for short, has moved to the town of Carousel with his family while his dad searches for work.  It is there he discovers this extraordinary underground world and learns that the town is actually sinking from sorrow – the tunnels are actually holding the town up.  Subtle but powerful message of hope and happiness in this quirky, intriguing story.  Short, fast-paced chapters and great humour.

The Boy, the Bird and the Coffin Maker – Matilda Woods

Part folktale, part magical realism.  This is a gentle inter-generational tale of a lonely, grieving older man who finds hope in an unexpected friendship with a magical bird and a kind-hearted boy named Tito.  Charming characters, uplifting story and wonderful language (lots of similes!)  I loved that this novel included gorgeous illustrations.  This story has a fairy tale feel, similar to The Girl Who Drank the Moon.

Humor, heart, fantasy, and adventure – this book has them all!   Bicycle is a 12-year-old orphan who is determined to ride across the country to meet her hero – Polish bicycle champion, Zbigniew Sienkiewicz.   Along the way she meets ghosts, pie-makers, crazy inventors; gets run over in a pig stampede; and accidentally launches a missile!  And just who is that mysterious woman in black chasing her?  Delightful story!  (Lots of reference to USA geography – hoping there will be a “Part 2” across Canada!)

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Coming-of-age middle grade graphic novel about summer friendships and that awkward time between childhood and teenager years. When thirteen year old Bina is left to her own devices for the summer while her best friend Austin is off at soccer camp, she has to learn how to have fun all by herself.  Heartfelt and easy to read, with many themes and lots of connections!  (I didn’t love the orange toned illustrations – it was hard on my eyes – or maybe I’m just getting old!!)

                                                                Bob – Wendy Mass

I was quite moved by this incredibly endearing and thought provoking book about childhood friendships, change, growing older while still remembering what it was like to be young.  Ten year old Livy is going back to visit her grandmother in Australia and reconnects with Bob – an endearing green creature she left 5 years earlier whom most people cannot see and she had forgotten.  Great characters and I enjoyed the alternating points of view between Livy and Bob.  Charming, weird and lovely all at the same time.  A MUST read!

Amal Unbound – Aisha Saeed

An important, empowering story about Amal – a young Pakistani girl who loves school and dreams of becoming a teacher one day.  But when she offends a member of an influential family in the village, she is sold as a servant to pay her father’s “debt” and her dreams are suddenly shattered.  Thought provoking themes accessible to even a grade four reader and would make an excellent read aloud and Lit. Circle choice  (great companion to The Breadwinner).   An eye-opening,  riveting and inspiring story with cliff hanger chapter endings and an excellent author’s note at the end.  SO good!

The Boy From Tomorrow – Camille DeAngelis

An almost time-travel story of friendship between two children, Josie and Alec. They are the same age (12) and they live in the same house on 444 Sparrow Street in the same room… but a hundred years apart.  Such a unique story that sounds complicated but flows very smoothly. I loved all the ways Josie and Alec manage to communicate across time, like the letters or the writing on the windowsill.  Heartbreaking, and perhaps a little spooky at times – but a great read.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

LOTS to love about this graphic novel featuring a diverse neighborhood of children who use their imagination to create an elaborate, imaginative kingdom out of cardboard boxes in their backyard.  Each chapter stands alone featuring one child in the neighborhood and how they came to choose their imaginative character based on some of the issues they are experiencing in their own life.  I love how this book gently introduces a variety of issues that middle grade students will all connect to:  including siblings, bullies, inclusion, friendship struggles, gender identity, and budding crushes.  The stories are heartfelt, entertaining and perfect for this age group.  LOVE!

                                            Endling: The Last by Katherine Applegate

Anything that is written by this amazing author is sure to be on my “top pick” list!  (Wishtree and The One and Only Ivan are among my favorite middle grade novels EVER!)   The Last Endling is the first book in an animal fantasy series which features a truly imaginative world called Nederra and imaginative characters including the protagonist Bynx, a “dairne” – a creature somewhere between a dog and a flying squirrel who can detect lies.  When Bynx returns from a forbidden venture, she discovers her pack has been killed, making her possibly “the Endling” – or the last of her species.  Determined to find another pack of dairnes, Bynx sets off on a “hero’s quest”,  with the help of her new loyal companion Tobble.    As with her previous books, Katherine Applegate weaves important themes throughout including: family, loyalty, loss, identity and hope. This adventure is fast-paced and so believable –  I was completely transported into this fantasy world and can’t wait for the next book!

Ghost Boys – Jewell Parker Rhodes

This is a heart-breaking, deeply moving book that deals with harsh reality of racial issues in America throughout history.  Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one.  As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.  While observing the aftermath of his own death, Jerome meets Emmett,  another ghost, whose similar death happened decades earlier.  WOW.  This story is so powerful and told in such a unique way.  Due to the more mature themes in this book, I would suggest it for upper middle grades (Gr. 7-9) This book is getting a lot of “buzz” and is already on the New York Times best-seller list.   It is quite a short read so would make an excellent read-aloud, no doubt prompting many important discussions.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

WOW!!  I LOVED this book about a hard-working Chinese immigrant family’s experience trying to make it in their new home.  It’s funny, heart-wrenching and so straightforward in presenting the clear struggle that immigrant families experience.  Ten-year old Mia, the main character, captured my heart with her sweet, spunky, courageous personality, her thoughtfulness and her sense of justice.  Such a great book to start conversations about prejudices and how new immigrants are treated.   This debut novel from Kelly Yang is loosely based on her own experiences and includes and interesting author’s note.  A PHENOMENAL book that would make such a great read-aloud in a grade 4-5 class.  SO many opportunities for discussion!  LOVE THIS BOOK!  (I know I say that a lot – but this is my favorite on this list!)

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found one or two titles that caught your eye!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Top Picks for Summer Reading for 9-12 yr. olds next week!

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Filed under 2018 releases, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Read-Aloud

Top 10 Tuesday! My Top 10 Books About Perseverance, Courage, Growth Mind-Set and Grit (okay… 15 books..but who’s counting?)

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Teaching children to persevere through challenges is an important step in helping them develop a growth mind-set.  The older I get, the more I come to realize that it is though failing that we succeed; through disappointment that we develop resilience; and through challenges we face that we grow stronger.  Sharing picture books where characters are faced with and overcome challenges is a great starting point for teaching these important life lessons.  Here are my top picks for promoting perseverance and growth mindset.

You Can Do It, Bert! Ole Konnecke

Bert is gathering up courage to launch into flight.  This is a fun tale about taking a leap of faith and trying something new. It’s good to face our fears, whether it’s learning to fly…or something else.  Sweet illustrations and I loved Bert’s encouraging friends.

The Most Magnificent Thing

The Most Magnificent Thing – Ashley Spires

I love using this book to teach critical and creative thinking, problem solving and perseverance.  When a little girl decides to make a “most magnificent thing”, she finds herself becoming more and more frustrated when things don’t work the way she had planned.  Although she keeps trying, she eventually has a melt-down and quits!  It’s only when she re-visits her plan, reflects on her mistakes, and develops a new plan that her”magnificent thing” is finally built!  I used this book as the anchor for a school-wide “MMT” (Most Magnificent Thing) project.  You can read about it on my blog post here.

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The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do – Ashley Spires

I’m a big fan of Ashley Spires so was excited to read her new book when it came out this fall.  Lou is an adventurous, imaginative girl who loves to play with her friends.  But when they decide to play pirates and climb a tree, Lou hesitates.  She doesn’t know how but is afraid to admit it.  Great messages about trying new things, overcoming fears, and not making excuses.

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Jabari Jumps – Gaia Cornwall

Every child can make connections to being on that diving board for the first time and looking down into that pool.  This is wonderful book about facing and overcoming your fears.  Great for making connections!  Big clear words and pictures with views from below and above fill the pages.  I loved the view from the diving board with “his toes curled around the rough edge”.  LOVE!

Rosie Revere, Engineer – Andrea Beaty

This amazing picture book shows the importance of failing before you can be truly great – and it’s a wonderful story about self-esteem.  I love this great, smart young role model and the rhythm and rhyme of the text.  Delightful read-aloud!

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When Sophie Thinks She Can’t... – Molly Bang

When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry” by Molly Bang has long been one of my “go to” connect books for managing feelings and emotions. This new companion “Sophie” book, “When Sophie Thinks She Can’t…” is the perfect anchor book for introducing the concepts of “Fixed” and “Growth” mindsets to your students, as well as problem solving and perseverance. Would also be a great link to Math as Sophie is frustrated with tangram puzzles.

What Do You Do with a Problem?

What Do You Do With a Problem? Kobi Yamada

An excellent book to explore a variety of problem-solving strategies with your class at the start of the year.  An inspiring companion to What Do You Do With an Idea?  Love the message that we have the power to turn problems into opportunities.

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain Stretch It, Shape It

Your Fantastic Elastic Brain – Stretch it, Shape it! – JoAnn Deak

Fascinating non-fiction book about the brain about the importance of learning new things & making mistakes in order for your brain to grow.  Love the illustrations and the “voice” of the narrator.  Although this book does include some scientific vocabulary, it is clear and colourful and communicates the message that your brain is an amazing thing and that you should learn from mistakes and challenges.  Perfect for growth mindset!

Flight School – Lita Judge

SOOOO love this book about an adorable penguin who has a dream to fly.  Brilliant message that encourages hard work and persistence in achieving your dreams. Beautiful illustrations, great humour –  this book is definitely one to share.  I love this penguin’s tenacity and positive attitude!

 

More-Igami Dori Kleber

Perseverance. Patience. Practice.  Joey, a little boy who loves to fold things, learns that he needs all three “P’s” when trying to master the art of making an origami crane.  Instructions for making an origami ladybug is included in the back.  (was confused why it wasn’t instructions for a crane…?)

After the Fall:  How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again – Dan Santat

One of my favorite books from last year, After the Fall is beautiful, brilliant, inspiring and surprising!  A contemporary retelling of Humpty Dumpty, where we learn that after his fall, Humpty Dumpty developed a fear of heights.  I really appreciated the way that after Humpty Dumpty was physically put back after his ordeal, but still has to deal with the emotional impact.  Such a great story with a VERY surprising ending!

 Anything is Possible – Giulia Belloni
Lovely book about perseverance and teamwork.  Two unlikely animals team up to see if they can create a flying machine. Beautiful illustrations!

The Girl Who Never Made MistakesMark Pett

The idea of perfectionism is explored in this charming book.  Such an important book to help children understand that it is through our mistakes that we grow and learn. “Mistakes are proof you’re trying!”

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Hana Hashimoto – Sixth Violin – Chieri Uegaki

SO many things to love about this book!  It is an inspiring and beautifully written story of ambition, resilience, creativity and courage; an inter generational story about the special relationships with our grandparents; a perfect anchor book for making connections to family; and an amazing mentor text for writing descriptions and similes.  WOW!   LOVE this book!

If I Had My Black Belt Millicent J. Mackeroy

A young girl dreams of what it will be like to have her black belt in Taekwondo. Her delusions of grandeur are very entertaining,  but in the end she reminds herself of the hard work and practice needed to earn her belt.  I LOVE this brand new book, this message, these illustrations – everything about it!

Thanks for stopping by!  What are your favorite books for teaching perseverance and “growth mindset”?

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Filed under Growth Mindset, New Books, Top 10 Tuesday