Category Archives: 2019 releases

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Final Favorite Picture Books of 2019

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As 2019 comes to an end, I wanted to focus on some of the picture books that were released late in the year,  but that can’t be missed!    From books about friendship, family and traditions, to celebrating nature and special places – there is something here for everyone!

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The Scarecrow  – Beth Ferry

He never rests.
He never bends.
He’s never had a single friend,
for all the woodland creatures know
not to mess with old Scarecrow.

And so begins “The Scarecrow”, my favorite picture book of 2019.  So much to love about this gentle, heart-tugging picture book. With gorgeous artwork by the Tan Brothers (The Night Gardner) and gentle rhyming text by Beth Ferry, (Stick and Stone) readers are pulled into the wheat field where an old scarecrow has stood throughout the passing of many seasons. The local animals are naturally afraid of scarecrow and the excluded scarecrow has never known a friend. But being excluded from community doesn’t stop the scarecrow from showing kindness to an injured baby crow. And as the scarecrow cares for the baby bird and a relationship forms, the lonely scarecrow discovers purpose.
This book invites conversations about being kind to neighbors in need and that everyone is capable of loving and caring for each other no matter who they are. Will be adding this to my Powerful Understanding “OTHERS” book list! LOVE this book SO SO much!

The Cool Bean Jory John

“It seemed like there were two types of beans in the world. There were the cool beans and the beans like me.”  It’s hard when the beans you used to hang out with are now the Cool Beans and you’re just you.  It happens.  But it’s never easy.  (I made many connections to this one!)  This “too-cool-for-school” theme is the third picture book from the bestselling author of The Bad Seed and The Good Egg. 

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My Ocean is Blue – Darren LeBeuf

“My ocean splashes and crashes / and echoes and squawks. // My ocean laughs and hums.”  Love this joyful seaside romp in the follow up to My Forest is Green.  This book is filled with gorgeous paper cut illustrations and overflowing with literary techniques – similes, personification,  and amazing sensory details.  Great anchor for exploring nature, visualizing and descriptive writing.  Not a focus, but certainly noticed and appreciated the girl exploring the ocean has a physical disability.   Many reasons to add this book to your collection!

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Fly! – Mark Teague 

Delightful wordless picture book about a mama bird trying to convince her little one to learn to fly while the baby prefers having food brought to him.  Young readers will enjoy the humorous ideas the little bird has about alternatives to flying and parents will relate to the frustration of the mama bird!  Mark Teague’s illustrations perfectly capture the actions and expressions of a defiant toddler and frustrated parent.

The Love Letter – Anika Aldamuy Denise

This book is SO adorable, I can hardly stand it!  Hedgehog, Bunny and Squirrel find a love letter, and each one thinks it’s meant for them.  But where did it come from, and who is it for?  So sweet seeing how feeling special made a difference in the lives of all the animals.  Such a great read-aloud and a perfect new book for Valentine’s Day!

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Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao – Kat Zhang

Perseverance and family traditions are the themes in this delightful, colorful story.  This little girl is trying so hard to make the perfect bao as others in her family can do but she just can’t get it right.  Charming characters and great illustrations!  This would be a great book for talking about family and cultural traditions.

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Sulwe – Vashti Harrison

Sulwe is a little girl whose skin color is darker than anyone else in her family.  She tries to do anything she can to change the color of her skin, but nothing works.  Breathtaking illustrations with a positive message in self esteem and learning that true beauty comes from within.   This will be added to my Powerful Understanding “Self” book list and also a great anchor book for teaching similes!

The Favorite Book – Bethanie Deeney Murgula

This book was so much more than I expected.  While its central theme is “having favorites”, it focuses more on HOW we go about choosing them and what influences our choices.  LOTS to discuss here and would make a great read-aloud when teaching personal preferences.

Caspian Finds a Friend Jaqueline Veissid

Gentle, imaginative story about loneliness and the friendship that develops between a boy and a polar bear.  Absolutely gorgeous illustrations and heart-warming story.   I loved this one and will be adding it to my “Friendship” book list.

Seeds and Trees Brandon Walden

A beautiful fairy tale for older students with a wonderful message on the power of words!  We always have a choice—we can speak up-lifting, healing words, or we can speak words that are dark and full of despair and hate.  We also have a choice of what we do with the words that are spoken to us.  Powerful message, lots to discuss, and great for inferring theme.  Great book for “Action-Reaction” lesson!

The Map of Good Memories – Zuzanna Celej

When war forces Zoe and her family to leave their city, she draws a “map of good memories,” so that they will always be with her. A simple, effective refugee story and a great anchor for connecting and writing about “Special Places”.  I love the idea of having students create their own “Map of Good Memories”.

I Wonder K.A. Hale

What do clouds taste like? Do my toys miss me when I’m gone? How do clocks know what time it is? Do tires get tired? What are boy ladybugs called? Do trees dream?
A delightful celebration of wonderings and questions to ponder.  The illustrations are magical. A wonderful book to inspire students to think deeply and wonder about the world! LOVE this one!

The Hike – Alison Farrell

Layers of love for this book that celebrates hiking, adventures, friendship and the great outdoors.  It’s tender yet lively, poetic yet scientific, magical yet natural.  Three friends and their dog head to the woods for a hike.  As they wander the woods, they record their observations in a sketchbook.  I love how the lyrical text is woven with detailed labelled diagrams of all that the children observe on their hike.  This would be a wonderful anchor book for observing details in nature and descriptive writing.  I love hiking and I love this book!

Fairy Science – Ashley Spires

Anything by Ashley Spires is sure to be a winner.  This book introduces young readers to to the scientific method in an easy-to-understand way. There’s even a little experiment in the back for budding scientists to try.  Esther examines the fairy world with a critical eye and tries to explain natural phenomena using science.  A great anchor book for science, critical thinking and fairy fans everywhere!

The Serious Goose – Jimmy Kimmel

Late Night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel has written and illustrated this hilarious book aimed for the Pre-K and K readers.  This book will have readers giggling at this very serious goose who refuses to smile and the various attempts to make him do so.  Lots of fun and interaction with this one.

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Who Wet My Pants? Bob Shea

This book, while funny, includes many important themes that can stimulate connections and discussions:  embarrassment, blame, compassion, and forgiveness. Reuben the bear, while delivering donuts in the campgrounds discover that “someone” wet his pants.  And while he accuses his companions, one after another, of being the one responsible, his patient friends assure him that accidents can happen.  Very funny read-aloud and I really like how the friends show empathy rather than make Reuben feel worse by teasing him.

The Boring Book – Shinsuke Yoshitake

An interesting exploration of what it means to be bored.  We follow a young boy as he explores the how’s and why’s of being bored and eventually develops a new understanding – being bored is a choice.  Great illustrations.  For those familiar with my “One Word” activity for transform, this would be a great anchor book for that lesson, using the word “bored”.

Stretchy McHandsome – Judy Schachner

How can you not love a book called “Stretchy McHandsome”?  How can you not love a cat with the same name?  This delightful book is about the youngest of nine cats who sets out from his cardboard box to explore the world and meets a stretchy friend.  For cat lovers everywhere – but you don’t have to love cats to fall in love with Stretchy McHandsome!

 

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found one or two new books to add to your classroom or library collections!  This will be my last post of 2019.

Happy Reading and see you in the 2020!

 

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Filed under 2019 releases, New Books, Picture Book, Powerful Understanding, Reading Power

Holiday Book Gifting Part 3 – Picture Books for Christmas and Winter

Give Books

Welcome to Part 3 of my Holiday Gifting Posts!  Today I’m featuring picture books for Christmas and Winter!  When my boys were younger, I loved choosing a new Christmas book to leave under the tree and open on Christmas Eve.  I hope you find one or two books to gift to a special reader in your life this holiday season!

Happy reading and gifting everyone!

Christmas Picture Books

The Crayons’ Christmas Drew Deywalt

A cleaver festive addition to this series.  Not recommended for a library due to all the fancy flaps and moving parts – but great for gifting!  Fun for kids with much humour for adults, too!

One Wild Christmas – Nicholas Oldland

Cute and quirky! This “wild” book continues the adventures with these three hilarious animal friends.  In this story, they are trying to plan a perfect Christmas together and soon discover they are missing the Christmas tree.  Bright illustrations and filled with funny antics.

Dasher: How a Brave Little Doe Changed Christmas Forever

– Matt Tavaras

How did Santa end up with all those reindeer and why are there eight of them? Do they like living at the North Pole?  This origin story by the author of Red and Lulu will answer all of those questions and more.  Absolutely stunning illustrations.  This book has been mentioned in several best-of-the-year lists.  A great book for “Knew-New’s”!!!

The Tree That’s Meant to Be Yunal Zommer

A heartfelt, gorgeous Christmas picture book about a crooked little fir tree with a powerful message about love and embracing what makes you different.  Have your kleenex handy!  Stunning illustrations.

Nutcracker Night Mireille Messier

LOVE this unique twist of a night at the Nutcracker – telling the story entirely through the sounds of the theater.  This is a lovely gift book but also a great one for teaching onomatopoeia.   Charming and clever!

Little Robin’s Christmas – Jan Fearnley

This delightful story of celebrating generosity and the spirit of Christmas was first published in 1998 and was a favorite of my two boys.   Little Robin gives away his 7 warm vests to different animals in need.  Love the ending when Little Robin ends up getting a red vest for Christmas from Santa.

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The Most Wonderful Gift in the World – Mark Sperring

A sweet reminder that the best gifts aren’t wrappable.  Esme and Bear receive a present from Santa addressed to someone else, so they set off to deliver it themselves.  Adorable illustrations.  I really enjoyed this one.

How to Hide a Lion at Christmas – Helen Stephens

When Iris’s best Lion friend is not able to join them on their Christmas trip, the lion sets off on a snowy adventure to find her.  Charming holiday story of friendship and fun.  

Santa’s Story – Will Hillenbrand

Santa is ready for his big night but can’t find the reindeer!  Lovely story and perfect for any family who celebrates on Christmas Eve by reading  T’was The Night Before Christmas.  Turns out the reindeer have the same tradition!   Very cute!

Winter Picture Books

The Shortest Day Susan Cooper

This stunning, quiet picture book celebrates the Winter Solstice, the Yuletide season, and how throughout history, people have gathered to celebrate the magical return of seasonal light.  This book is a lovely, beautifully illustrated retelling of Susan Cooper’s Yule poem.

My Winter City James Gladstone

A gentle poem of winter in the city.  A young boy awakens to a blanket of freshly fallen snow, and shares his experiences of being out in it with his father.    Gorgeous details in the illustrations and sensory, lyrical text and a large book format, perfect for reading together.   Love, Love, LOVE this book so much (It is my favorite new Winter book!)

A Day So Gray – Marie Lamba

On a winter’s day, one child sees only the gloomy bleakness of the season until her  friend encourages her to see the hidden colors all around her.  Great book for growth mindset and also writing about colors!

My Footprints– Bao Phi

Wow. Wow. Wow.  SO much more than a book about winter.  (In fact it’s not about winter at all!)  I was drawn to the book because it was written by the same author of A Different Pond, which I loved.   It is about a young Vietnamese American girl who is being bullied at school because she has two moms.  She works through her sadness and anger in a creative way, making footprints in the snow of different animals she pretends to be.  I like that this book didn’t focus on the bullies but focused on positive and imaginative ways to deal with them.  Great illustrations.

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Snow Globe Wishes Erin Dealey

A gentle, rhyming picture book celebrating the magic of a snow day.  When a huge snowstorm hits and the power goes out, a young girl enjoys the slow pace of her family and neighbours spending time together.  Lovely illustrations.  The ending was a little sugary but a great book for making winter connections.

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Small in the City- Sydney Smith

Another amazing book by the author of Town is By the Sea and Sidewalk Flowers. Gorgeous illustrations of city scenes, sparse text, touching story of a child giving advice on coping with being “small in the city.”  Love the surprise ending.  Not really about winter but children will enjoy guessing who the advice is for and which clues informed their decision – a perfect book for inferring!

Happy Reading and Holiday Gifting, everyone! 

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Filed under 2019 releases, Christmas, New Books, Picture Book, Winter Books

Holiday Book Gifting 2019 – Part 2 Graphic and Middle Grade Novels

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Welcome to day two of “Book Gifting 2019”!  Yesterday, I focused on Early Chapter Books and Series, as well as Nonfiction and Activity books.  Today, I’m excited to focus on some of the most popular Graphic Novels and Middle Grade Novels perfect for gifting your middle grade readers!   Happy Book Gifting, everyone!

Graphic Novels

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Guts – Raina Telgemeirer

From the rock star graphic novelist Raina Telgemeirer comes her latest book, Guts.  This graphic memoir is targeted for middle grade/ young adult readers and explores the author’s issues with anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias.  I love how this author manages to always touch on subjects important to this age group in a respectful and appropriate way.  Heartfelt and compassionate with a sprinkle of humour.   Likely the most popular graphic novel of 2019.

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The New Kid Jerry Craft

This FANTASTIC middle grade graphic novel is getting a lot of award buzz!  It is an amazing book that approaches racism in an accessible & understandable way for young readers, while not holding back.  Told through the eyes of a new grade 7 student who is one of only a handful of students of color in an elite private school.  Great characters, lots of pop culture, funny, heartfelt… this one is a winner.

Minecraft Volume 1 (Graphic Novel) – R. Sfe Monster

Perfect book for anyone who enjoys middle grade graphic novels and playing Minecraft!   It takes place partly in the real world and partly inside a Minecraft game.  I can’t really imagine someone enjoying this who doesn’t know the game but those who do will make MANY connections!

Best Friends Shannon Hale

So good.  This standalone sequel to Real Friends dives in deep to Shannon’s grade 6 year and her struggles with friendships.  Her friends aren’t always nice and she’s not always nice either.  Why is friendship so hard?  Open and frank discussions of tween friendship, anxiety, and how friendships change.  Lots of connections here, I am certain!  (I made a lot!)

Just Jaime – Terri Libenson

The last day of Grade 7.  Friends.  Frenemies.  BFF’s.  Exclusion.  Inclusion.  Cliques. Peer Pressure. Forgiveness.  Acceptance.  This book has all of these and then some!  I made SO many connections to this book.  Middle school? – Terri Libenson NAILS it!

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Stargazing – Jen Yang

Moon and Christine are both Chinese, but while Christine’s family finds Chinese language school important and is part of a Chinese community, Moon and her mother don’t speak Chinese and are Buddhist.  This new graphic novel from the author of Prince and the Dressmaker is a sweet story of friendship, cultural and religious identity, and belonging.

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The Okay Witch – Emma Steinkellner

This book was recently awarded the School Library Journal Best Graphic Novel of 2019.  Think Sabrina the Teenage Witch meets Roller Girl.  It’s a hilarious story about a half-witch who has just discovered the truth about herself, her family, and her town all while trying to survive middle school.  A unique, charmingly weird graphic novel filled with humor and heart.  

Middle Grade Novels

Funny Girl: Funniest. Stories. Ever. – Betsy Bird

Betsy Bird asked very funny female writers for young people, ages 9-12, to create a story in any format they wanted – prose, memoir, poetry, or graphic novel format. The result of her edited anthology is a collection of hysterically funny, poignant, and heartfelt stories.  Target would be grade 4-5 readers.

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The Trials of Apollo – Book Four: The Tyrant’s Tomb – Rick Riordan

Fans of Rick Riordan will be excited to read this 4th enstallment in the Tyrant’s Tomb series.  I will admit I have not read it in its entirety but love the way Riordan mixes contemporary with mythology and his fast-paced action.  This book came out in September and was just awarded Reader’s Top Choice for MG Novel on Goodreads.  Be prepared – it’s 448 pages!

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Dear Sweet Pea – Julie Murphy

Sweet Pea is a 7th grader living in a small town struggling with the usual things—friends, school, and self-image.  Her parents have just divorced and, in an effort to keep life “normal,  live in almost identical houses on the same street.  This is such a delightful story about growing up, figuring your way through friendships, facing challenging family changes like divorce and finding your voice.  I loved the writing (hints of Kate De Camillo) and loved Sweet Pea.  Endearing and empowering.  Loved the advice columns sub-plot!

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Look Both Ways – A Tale Told in Ten Blocks – Jason Reynolds

This book is a series of short stories linked together because all of the characters go to the same school.  Some cross over and reappear, but this isn’t really about how they intersect but more about how they share the same common ground while living such vastly different lives.  Great characters dealing with difficult issues: some very mature and ready to take on the world; others are just learning to be independent.  Easy to read lots of connections.

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The Strangers: Greystone Secrets #1 – Margaret Peterson Haddix

Ooooo…. how I love the first book in a new series!  This one came out last April (now available in paperback – YES!) and is getting a LOT of buzz!  This book is a thrilling adventure with lots of mystery, suspense, and many plot twists and turns.  If your young reader enjoyed the City of Embers or A Wrinkle in Time – this is the perfect choice for them!  Chess, Emma, and Finn Greystone come home from school to find their mother staring at her laptop, where there is a news recording of three children in Arizona who have been kidnapped. Three children who have the exact same first and middle names as they do and who share their birthdays.  Their mother disappears…. and then it just never stops!  Book #2 is scheduled to be released in April 2020.

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Maybe He Just Likes You – Barbara Dee

This book explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience and the experiences of harassment and unwanted attention from classmates in an age-appropriate way.   It is a heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel.  This one really hit me hard.  A universally important and timely book.

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Tunnel of Bones (Cassidy Blake #2) – Victoria Schwab

In this sequel to City of Ghosts, Cassidy finds herself in another adventure involving ghosts, this time in charming yet very haunted city of Paris (first book was set in Edinburgh) where her parents are filming another episode of their TV show about the world’s most haunted locations.   Perfect for fans of suspenseful ghost stories and paranormal adventures!

More to the Story

More to the Story – Hena Khan

Inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s classic, Little Women, and featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family, this is an incredibly wholesome and wonderful middle-grade story about illness, pursuing your ambitions, and family and sisterhood.  This new book by the author of Amina’s Voice (I LOVED that book!) truly is a modern retelling of Little Women, filled with strong, charming characters and contemporary issues.  LOVE this one!

    Thanks for stopping by!  Hopefully you found one or two great books to gift that special reader in your life!

 

 

 

 

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Filed under 2019 releases, Christmas, graphic novel, Middle Grade Novels, New Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Holiday Book Gifting 2019 – Part 1 Early Chapter Book Series, Nonfiction and Activity Books

 

Christmas books

Well… it’s been a while since I last blogged about books.  But I had a good excuse and that is – I was writing my new book!  But I’m happy to say, I just finished the first round of editing and now waiting typeset and then that’s a wrap!  Powerful Writing Structures will be available February 7th!  Yippee!

So now I have a little more time to relax, enjoy the holidays, and get back to writing about and sharing great books!  I don’t know about you, but my book pile gets very big this time of year!  And if you are like me – you love gifting books as much as you like receiving them!  So if you are trying to do some last minute book buying for that special little or not so little someone in your life – you have come to the right place!

As there are too many books for one post, here’s the line up for the week:

Monday (today) – Beginning and Early Chapter Books and Series, Nonfiction and Activity book Gifting

Tuesday – Middle Grade and Graphic Novel Gifting

Wednesday – Picture Book Gifting (Christmas, Winter and Others)

Thursday – Book Gifting for teacher and book club friends

 

Beginning and Early Chapter Book Series

Hello, Hedgehog! 1: Do You Like My Bike?Norm Feuti

Hedgehog adores his new bike. He wants to share it with his friend, Harry. Oddly, Harry does not want to ride it. What’s going on?  Adorable early reader series, with simple text and repetition that builds fluency, and conversations.  This is the kind of book I can see children wanting to read this book over and over and over.

Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot Cece Bell

From the Newberry Honor author of El Defo comes a hilarious new graphic reader that will have your young reader in fits of giggles.  Chick and Brain. And their friend Spot. Chick likes to follow the rules, Brain might not be as smart as he looks, and Spot just wants to eat lunch.  Simple and oh, so silly!  LOVE!

For the unicorn lover in your family, here is a new early chapter book series by the author of Owl Diaries that is sure to be a hit when it is released on Dec. 26th.  (might have to include a book cover image in the stocking!) Every unicorn going to unicorn school has a magical power.  Lots of unicorn love for this one!

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Bea Garcia – My Life in Pictures – Deborah Zemke

A delightful early chapter book series with a lovely, likable narrator who happens to be an artist.  Would highly recommend to 1st-3rd graders who are transitioning to chapter books for the first time and doodlers everywhere!

Diary of a Pug #1 – Pug Blasts Off  – Kyla May

Another great new early chapter book series – this one for those furry friend lovers in your family!  Bub (Baron von Bubbles) is the self-proclaimed cutest pug on the planet who loves fashion, peanut butter, and his human, Bella.  He does not love Nutz the squirrel, baths, and the rain.  Funny, charming diary-format chapter book with colorful illustrations.

The Bad Guys in the Baddest Day Ever (The Bad Guys #10) – Aaron Blabey

This is such a popular series in school libraries and I know there will be many children thrilled to know that book #10 is about to hit the book stores!  These bad boys are BAAAAAD!  Released Dec. 26th.

Dog Man – Fetch 22 – Dav Pilkey

Fans of this extremely popular series by the creator of Captain Underpants will be thrilled to know that book #8 was just released on Dec. 10th!  This widely popular series while silly and fun, explores universally positive themes, including empathy, kindness, persistence, and the importance of being true to one’s self.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Wrecking Ball – Jeff Kinney

Book #14 in the Wimpy Kid series came out in November.  In this book, the Heffley family encounter all sorts of unexpected issues when they start a home renovation project.   This series continues to have a huge following of fans who have an appreciation for clever, amusing stories and enjoy seeing adult situations through the eyes of a kid.

Big Nate – Hug it Out!  – Lincoln Peirce

Book #21 in this series came out in September with everyone’s favorite sixth-grade prankster is back for more hilarious misadventures — and even a little romance!

 

Nonfiction and Activity Books

Truth or Lie: Sharks!Erica S. Perl

Easy reader and a great introduction for anyone interested in sharks.  What makes this unique is the engaging “find the lie” format of this book.  Would be a great one to read together!   Also available in Truth or Lie: Dinosaurs!

Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive! – Ammi-Joan Paquette

For slightly older readers (grade 4 and up) Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive! by Ammi-Joan Paquette is a highly engaging informational book that presents three unusual stories about plants and animals around the world, but only two of them are true!  Great family read-aloud and I I like how it urges readers to do their own research and fact-checking. Seriously?  Mind-control fungus? I mean, come on!  Also comes in Forces of Nature and Histories and Mysteries.  

Try Not to Laugh Challenge – Would You Rather? – OMG Edition: Hilarious, Shocking and Interactive Questions and Scenarios for Kids 

Great family fun with this thought-provoking conversation game where you and other players have to choose between two equally ridiculous and outrageous situations that you would never be faced with, in real life(hopefully).  Lots of laughs with this one.  Available in many different editions including: Would You Rather? Christmas and Would You Rather? – Ewww!

A Million Dots – Andrew Clements

For the Math trivia person in your family, Andrew Clements “A Million Dots” gives the reader a fascinating look into what “a million” actually looks like. Each page has 23,808 dots and includes a fun fact or two about one of the numbers represented on the page.  For example, at dot #186,000 we learn that light travels through space at about 186,000 miles per second. Some of the facts are completely bizarre but I was completely engaged!  (Andrew Clements sadly passed away a short time ago, so happy to include one of his books here)

Blank Comic Book for Kids – Create Your Own Story 

Kids love making their own comics and cartoons and this blank book is filled with comic frames just waiting to be filled!  Perfect gift for your budding cartoonist!


My Book With No Pictures – B.J. Novak

The Book With No Pictures meets Mad Libs!  Great way to inspire young readers and writers with this follow up to the hilarious and oh-so popular read-aloud.  Interactive and you get to write right in the book!  Bonus sheet of nonsense stickers included! A great gift to pair them together!

150 Christmas Jokes for Kids: Stocking Stuffer Edition – Lilly Winchester

Who delivers Christmas presents to dogs?  Santa Paws!!!  What is Christmas without someone telling really corny jokes?

Where Could the Animals Be?: A Fun Search and Find for 2-4 Year Olds 

“There are fourteen animals, wild and free… I wonder where they’re hiding, let’s go and see!”  A fun, interactive book where readers spot animals as they travel through farms, jungles, deserts, beaches and a winter wonderland.  Perfect for pre-schoolers!

And there you have my Holiday Gifting List!  Come back tomorrow when I will feature some great new Graphic and Middle Grade novels!

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Filed under 2019 releases, Beginning Chapter Book, Christmas, Early Readers, graphic novel, Middle Grade Novels, New Books

Top 10 (okay, 14!) Back to School Picture Books for 2019

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Well, it’s that time of year again.  Time to face the fact that summer is drawing to a close  and school is right around the corner.  Some of you, in fact, have already started teaching.  But there is an excitement that comes at this time of year – the anticipation of a new students to get to know and a new class community to build and nurture.  But while the start of school brings excitement for some, it can bring anxiety for others.  Sharing books about starting school and all that that entails is a wonderful way for making your students feel safe and connected. Here are my top new “back to school” picture books for sharing during “back to school”  week.

The Proudest Blue – Ibtihaj Muhammad

While it doesn’t appear to be by the cover, this is a powerful story about the first day of school that turns out to be so much more.  It is about rites of passage, the bonds of sisters, overcoming classmate cruelty and taunts, and the importance of culture and faith.  This book will be released on September 10th and I highly recommend it.  Gorgeous illustrations!   An important book to share about acceptance and pride in who you are.  (Great anchor for “Who Am I?” lessons from Powerful Understanding!)


Clothesline Clues to the First Day of School – Andy Robert Davies

You will have a lot of fun with this interactive book during the first week back.  Catchy rhymes and clear visual cues introduce young readers to the people they’ll encounter on their first day of school.  Perfect for Pre K – grade 1.

The School Book – Todd Parr

Todd Parr has done it again! With his signature bright, bold illustrations, “The School Book” is a must read for back to school this year. Positive and affirming step-by-step guide to a school day, from morning routines, to meeting new people, to learning and playing together. Love the way he weaves in a cheerful, child-friendly message of sharing, inclusion, and community. A perfect book for parents and teachers to read with any little one starting or returning to school.

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All Are Welcome – Alexandra Penfold

A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids starting and returning to school.    All children need to know they are welcome in their classrooms and feel a sense of belonging.  In rhythmic phrases, this story emphasizes the inclusiveness, acceptance, and celebration of all cultures.  The perfect book for the first week of school to promote a positive classroom and school community.

If I Built a School – Chris Van Dusen

Chris Van Dusen’s If I Built a House is one of my go-to read-alouds to inspire imaginative writing so I was thrilled to see his new book about an imaginary school!  Told in a bouncy rhyming text, a boy describes all the fantastic and amazing things he would include if he was building his own school – money and reality no object!  Puppies and zoo animals would greet you at the door, students would have movable hover desks, every library book would come to life when you opened it, you’d race on submersible bikes in the school’s pool!   What fun!  A perfect anchor book for some inspiring back to school imagination pocket writing and art!

Pirates Don’t Go to Kindergarten! – Lisa Robinson

Very sweet story about “Pirate Emma” transitioning from preschool to kindergarten and getting to know new classmates, a new classroom, a brand new teacher, and a new routine.  Packed with pirate language and lively illustrations, this story is a perfect “connect” book for any buccaneer that might not be feeling very brave when starting a new adventure.

Lola Goes to School – Anna McQuinn

A simple, comforting story about a little girl preparing for the first day of school.  While many similar books begin on the actual first day of school, I like how this one focuses on the preparation day before – choosing clothes, packing backpacks and lunches.   This one leaves you with such a positive, uplifting feeling that gently eases any worries young readers may be feeling about starting school.

Sorry, Grown-Ups!  You Can’t Go to School – Christina Geist

This book is an entertaining story with some reverse psychology intended to make kids want to go to school.   The role reversal outlines all the fun things that a child would be excited about – new backpacks (with secret pockets), playing games, reading on the cozy carpet, science experiments, and recess, all of which drive the adults nuts with longing!  Bright, playful illustrations. (the lack of diversity is my only criticism)  This book is fun and would certainly help to ease nerves as the school year begins.  

Butterflies on the First Day of School Annie Silverstro

Rosie is excited about the first day of school but then when the day actually arrives, she discovers she has “butterflies in her tummy.”   As the first day unfolds, each time Rosie opens up and talks to a new classmate or her teacher, butterflies – which only she can see – escape out of her mouth and fly into the sky.   As the butterflies fly out, Rosie’s confidence begins to grow, and new friendships and experiences are forged; she even finds the courage to help another shy little girl with butterflies of her own.  I love how this “butterfly” metaphor is developed into a clear analogy for kids – opening up to others to let the butterflies out.

The King of Kindergarten – Derrick Barnes

A gentle, joyful introduction to what to expect in a Kindergarten classroom and a sweet story about making friends, playing together, loving school, and putting positive energy into the world.  Such a lovely message in this one!   The artwork is stunning and the story is charming and uplifting.  Love this one!

The Pigeon Has to Go to School! – Mo Willems

Mo Willems is back with another pigeon book just in time for back to school! The Pigeon Has to Go to School is a laugh-out-loud hilarious story focusing on fears about going to school for the first time. Not preachy and a great ending. A perfect back to school read! LOVE this!

How To Read – Kwane Alexander

While not specifically about starting school, this ode to reading by the amazing team of Kwane Alexander and Melissa Sweet would make an excellent first week read-aloud.   I so loved the “how to” format filled gorgeous poetic language and literary techniques: “Once you’re comfy, peel its gentle skin, like you would a clementine…Next, did your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and POP the words out.”  Vibrant, collage illustrations but I did find the busy layout and embedded font sometimes difficult to follow on some pages.   Great for read-aloud and wonderful anchor book for writing similes, personification and imagery.

Back to School: A Global Journey – Maya Ajmera

I so love this beautiful, joy-filled book filled with stunning color photographs of children around the world studying, learning, exploring, and having fun together.  A perfect book for any lesson on global education and includes back notes and maps about each photograph.  Seeing children’s joy about school and learning is so inspiring!   I would pair this book up with The Way to School by Rosemary McCarney.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found on or two “Back to School” books that caught your eye!  Happy “New Year”, teacher friends!

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Filed under 2019 releases, Back to School, Connect, New Books, Top 10 Tuesday

Picture Book 10 for 10 (2019) – New Books for Your Reading Power Collection

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I’m excited to be, once again, participating in this summer’s 10 for 10 Picture Book celebration! #pb10for10   This annual celebration of picture books is hosted by Cathy from Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  Hard to believe this is my seventh year of participating in this event! (you can read my 2018 here,  2017 post here,  2016 post here2015 post here2014 post here and 2013 here. )  Each year, the blogging community chooses 10 picture books on a range of themes – from diversity, to community building, to writing, to conservation.  It is an amazing opportunity to explore new picture books related to a wide range of themes.  (It can also be a little hard on your bank account, if you are anything like me!)

Keeping with tradition, I have organized my #pb10fo10 post to feature new releases that support Reading Power strategies.  I have included two books for each: Connecting, Questioning, Visualizing, Inferring, and Transform (synthesizing).   For those who are already using RP, these would be my recommendations for adding or replenishing your collection this year!

CONNECT

Where Are You From?  – Yamile Saied Mendez

When looking for Connect books, I am now drawn to books that can also double for anchors for my Powerful Understanding lessons.  This is a beautiful book for making connections and exploring identity.   We journey with a little girl, Abuelo, as she explores the important question, “Where are you from?”  Gorgeous illustrations, this book is heartwarming, uplifting, and important.  A perfect anchor book to launch an exploration of family, culture and identity.  LOVE!

Remarkably You Pat Zieltow Miller

I was so excited to share this new book by the author of Be Kind,  one of my favorite books from last year.  I would definitely use this book for making connections with early primary students, as well as it being a great anchor for exploring self identity and making a difference.  I love how the author encourages children to use their talents to do good things in the world.  Whatever their personalities, whatever their interests: “Don’t sit on the sidelines. / Be part of the fray. / Go after your passions a little each day. / Find what needs fixing. / Repair what you can. / Then choose a new problem and do it again.”   

VISUALIZE

Run Wild – David Covell

This book celebrates the freedom and fun of running wild and free in the great outdoors.  With rhyming text, we run with two children through a variety of “wilds” – from cool forests to hot sandy beaches.  I love the energy and spirit of this book and the playful language is perfect for reading aloud and practicing visualizing.

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My Forest is Green – Darren Lebeuf

This book follows a nature-loving boy as he keenly observes and explores “his forest” and uses different artistic techniques to record them.  I love how this book combines excellent information about woodlands with an appreciation of nature, art, and imagination.  This book is filled with descriptive language and would be an excellent anchor book for sensory writing and using descriptive adjectives.

QUESTION

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Why? – Laura Vaccaro Seeger

I like books centered around curious characters to promote the power of asking questions.  In this new book by a favorite author of mine,  two friends spend time together through spring, summer, and into fall.  Rabbit persistently and simply asks Bear, “Why?”   Bear patiently answers over and over until there’s a question he has no answer for.  I so love the simplicity of the story but the emotional impact it left was surprising.  Perhaps it was the hugely expressive characters, curious rabbit and patient bear, interacting so beautifully together.  I also loved how there is room for the reader to infer what question the rabbit is exactly asking.  

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Lubna and Pebble – Wendy Medour

Wow.  This beautiful and heartbreaking story of refugees brought tears to my eyes many times.  Lubna and her father have come to a refugee camp. As they arrive, Lubna finds a smooth pebble that becomes her closest friend (think  Tom Hank’s “Wilson” in Cast Away).  This is a such an important story and a perfect book to open up a discussion with younger students as to why immigration is so important and why so many people “choose” to leave their homes.  There were lots of unknowns that leave the reader wondering –Where is the rest of Lubna’s family? Why doesn’t Lubna have a real doll? “What happened in the war?” “Where is Lubna’s home?” “What will happen to Amir?   The illustrations are gorgeous and fill the pages with emotion.  This is a MUST HAVE book for your school library.

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Camp Tiger – Susan Choi

Okay, I cheated a little here and added a third QUESTION book, but I just couldn’t leave this wild and wondrous book off my list!  I love books that don’t tell the reader everything – and this one leaves us wondering all the way through.  With just a perfect blend of realism and fantasy, this coming of age story focuses on a little boy who goes camping with his family one summer.  Out of nowhere, a tiger walks out of the woods, starts talking, and ends up joining them on their camping trip.  Weird?  Yes, a little.  Did I completely understand why the tiger was there?  No.  Did it matter? NO!  It left me with so many unanswered questions and I was completely hooked.  Absolutely stunning illustrations!  I can’t wait to do a Question lesson with this book!

INFER

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A Stone Sat Still – Brendan Wenzel

Like many other readers, I adored Brendan Wenzal’s previous picture books They All Saw a Cat and Hello Hello.   In this new book, he explores perspective again, this time focusing on a stone and how it means different things to different creatures, depending on their perspective.  For some of it, it’s quite large, but for others, they are overwhelmed by it’s size.    Stunning mix of cut paper, pencil, collage, and paint illustrations and a gentle,  meditative rhythm in the text.   While seemingly simple, it invites readers to infer their own ideas about perspective, home, and the environment.  

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Carl and the Meaning of Life – Deborah Freedman

I fell in love with Carl when I first read this book.  He asks deep-thinking questions about the meaning of life and sets out on a search to find his true purpose. And what he discovers is that he, like all living things, is connected to an ecosystem and, while small, plays an integral part. Can you say adorable illustrations? Can you say science lessons? Can you say making a difference? I was debating whether to list this for Transform, but decided it fit well with Inferring because the message is subtle and invites readers to question and infer – How are we all connected? What is our job here on Earth? Why do we do the things we do? Who do we do them for?

TRANSFORM

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Say Something! – Peter H. Reynolds

I LOVE this book by the great Peter H. Reynolds and have shared it many times since it was released last spring.  This simple book packs a lot of power, encouraging readers to use their voice to make a difference. What I liked is how Reynolds shows different ways of “saying” something – with words, with kindness, with creativity.  This book is a great anchor to launch a unit on global stewardship.

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All the Ways to be Smart – Denise Bell

One word activity – “Smart”!  This book will help transform young readers thinking about what it means to be smart, celebrating different forms of “smartness” and talents children bring to the world.  “Smart is not just ticks and crosses, smart is building boats from boxes. Painting patterns, wheeling wagons, being mermaids, riding dragons.”  This book is as important as it is delightful.

My Heart – Corinna Luyken

Yes, I know, I cheated again and added a third book for Transform but this book is a must share book for teachers.  An ode to the strength of our hearts, this book transforms our thinking about love and self-acceptance.  Focusing on the “one word” activity using the word “heart”, I believe we would see many “transformed thoughts” about our hearts after reading this book.  Simple text and a soft pallet of illustrations. I like how the author uses light and dark to show the different feelings of the heart. There are also hidden hearts found within the illustrations.  I would recommend this book for older students as well as younger ones.

And there you have it!  My #pb10for10 selections for 2019!  Thanks for stopping by and hope a title or two have caught your eye!  Happy reading and thinking, everyone!

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Filed under 2019 releases, Connect, Identity, immigration, Infer, New Books, Picture Book 10 for 10, Question, Reading Power, Refugee, Transform, Visualize

Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2019 (so far!) for summer reading!

It’s summer!  Time to relax, re-charge, and….. READ!  At this time, I like to put out a list of favorite middle grade novels for summer reading.  I haven’t blogged about middle grade novels all year, but I’ve certainly been reading a lot of them!  Whether you know a child,  tween, or teen who might be looking for some great summer picks or you are on the look-out for a new book for next year’s read-aloud, there is something here for everyone: Sci-Fi, family, friendship, mystery, global issues, immigration, bees, wolves, foxes, and frogs!  What trends have I noticed in MG novels this year?  Stories written in multiple perspectives with extraordinary character voices.  Some very powerful books – well worth checking out!  Happy summer reading, everyone!

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Operation Frog Effect – Sarah Scheerger

Mrs. Graham, my new teacher hero, explains the butterfly effect to her class:  “It’s the idea that a small change in one thing can lead to big changes in other things…Anything and everything we do—positive or negative, big or small—can influence other people and the world.”   Talk about making connections!  I said the same thing to the grade 7’s this year when we started our unit on our developing a positive Social Footprint.  This book is getting a LOT of attention right now and I’m not surprised!  I was SO impressed with the way it addresses many difficult issues, but in a light-hearted format which kids can relate. Told through eight perspectives and through letters, graphic novel-like illustrations, poetry and movie scenes, this book explores how young people can come together, speak up and make a difference.  It is both delightfully entertaining while also sending a powerful, positive message.  A MUST read!  LOVE!

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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise Dan Gemeinhart

Rodeo and Coyote are a father/daughter duo that live on the road in an old school bus called Yager. They have been roaming the U.S. for five years – ever since a tragic accident that left them both devastated.  This is another “buzz” book that should really come with tissues because I cried happy and sad tears the whole way through.  This story is about family, friends, grief, and adventure.  Amazing, lovable cast of characters, incredible voice, beautiful writing.  It’s perhaps a bit too early to call it my favorite middle grade read of 2019, but at this moment, it is definitely in my top three!

New Kid – Jerry Craft

Wow!  This FANTASTIC middle grade graphic novel is a must have addition for any school/classroom library. Approaches subtle & overt racism in an accessible & understandable way through the lens of the “new kid” at a private school.  Portrays serious “fitting in at school” issues and one I could see sparking a lot of rich discussions.  Major kid and teacher appeal!

The Bridge HomePadma Venkatraman

An absolutely wonderful and heart-wrenching middle grade novel that takes a bleak look at the plight of lower-caste street children in India.  Similar to when I read “A Fine Balance”, this book will stay with me for a long time.  Based on true experiences of two extraordinary sisters who escape an abusive home life and the street boys who become like brothers to them.  In spite of the immense suffering and loss, this is a story filled with hope, beauty, compassion, and love.  Told in the voice of a girl writing to her sister, this book was hard to read at times, but even harder to put down.  This book is one of two choices for the Global Read Aloud this year.  I highly recommend it.

Pay Attention Carter JonesGary D. Schmidt

When Carter Jones opens the door one morning, he discovers a butler, complete with coat tails and top hat, sent from England to assist his family of 6 after their military father is deployed overseas. We “infer” that life is rather chaotic in the house with four kids and a now single mom.  I did not know what to expect with this book but was surprised at how charming, emotional, and unique it was.  While not particularly transforming, I enjoyed the narrative voice of the middle schooler, learned a lot about the rules of cricket, and found it to be both humorous and poignant.

Count Me In – Varsha Bajaj

This book is not released until August but put it on your list or in your cart now!  It is a powerful story about Karina and Chris, two middle school students who, despite their differences, become friends after Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris after school.  When Karina’s grandfather is brutally attacked by a stranger shouting hate filled words and claiming her Papa does not belong in America, Karina and Chris question how such hate could be directed someone who has lived in this country for 50 years.  Similar to  Wishtree, I really appreciate how this book deals with important and current issues on racism and immigration but at a level and book length appropriate for a younger age group.  Perfect read-aloud for grade 5-6 level to spark discussions about hate crimes, immigration issues and using social media to raise awareness.

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The Simple Art of FlyingCorey Leonardo 

Again, I did not know what to expect when I started reading this one but was surprised by how quirky, whimsical and playful it was.  This story is told from several points of view, but mainly from the perspective of Alastair – a grumpy African parrot born in a pet store who is looking for a grand escape to a better life for himself and his sister Aggie.  For fans of The One and Only Ivan, this is a wonderful middle grade story that I think many children will love.  Great characters with great voices.  I enjoyed that the three points of views (Aggie, Fritz, and Alastair)  are told through three different genres (Aggie writes letters; Fritz writes journal entries; and Alastair writes poetry).   Tender, poignant and refreshing.

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Scary Stories for Young Foxes – Christian McKay Heidicker 

I LOVE THIS BOOK!  And don’t let the cuteness of foxes mislead you – this book is scary!  And kids like scary.  Warning – Foxes die in this book.  But don’t let that dissuade you from it.  Because it’s BRILLIANT!  So so SO good!  The writing is incredible –  weaving 8 distinct stories together.   It reads like you’re one of the foxes, listening to the storyteller, travelling through tall grass, wind between trees in the forest, smelling purple, jumping over large barriers, and feeling everything Mia and Uly feel.  I can’t even explain how good this book is.  You MUST read this one!

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The Bee Maker Mobi Warren

In a recent blog post, I featured books about bees – but hadn’t discovered this one yet!  WOW!   This book is highly creative and kept me turning the pages to find out what happens.  Part science-fiction, the main character time travels from a Texas farm in 2039, where the bees have almost disappeared, to ancient Greece to search for a way to save the bees and ends up saving a boy in the process.   This one really sticks with you and I found myself thinking about the story even when I wasn’t reading it.  A page turner with deep themes – this one will appeal to a little older MG tween as well as adults.

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A Wolf Called Wander – Rosanne Parry

Attention animal lovers!  Inspired by the true story of the famous wolf, known as OR7, who wandered 1,000 miles, A Wolf Called Wander is about family, courage and a poignant journey of survival.  I fell in love Swift, the wolf – his voice and his sheer determination to live no matter what loss and adversity he faces.  (Again, I found myself thinking about dear Ivan.)  The writing is brilliant – gorgeous language that filled my soul.  Beautiful illustrations and an extra factual section about wolves and their environment are added bonuses.  Beautiful.  

Shouting at the Rain – Lynda Mullaly Hunt

From the author of Fish in a Tree and One for the Murphyscomes another poignant, moving, beautifully written story of changing friendships, belonging, loss, love, and forgiveness.  So many themes to explore here!   Here is another example of a writer who develops amazing, strong characters – I don’t think there was one character  in this book I didn’t believe in.  Delsie, our narrator, is strong, independent, kind, and accepting.  I felt like I wanted to be her friend!  She deals with friendship problems,  mean girls, abandonment issues, and struggles to define what, exactly, makes a family.  (not to mention, she loves tracking weather and HATES to wear shoes!)  Another winner by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

The Night Diary – Veera Hiranandani

I absolutely love the writing in this book!  Told from the point of view of a 12-year old Nisha through her diary entries to her mother who has passed away, this story is centered around the confusion, frustration, fear, and sadness experienced during of India’s Partition in 1947.  I learned so much history from this book.  Great characters, suspense, adventure, and heartache interwoven into a story of a family caught in the midst of horrendous cultural/political conflict–Hindus against Muslims.  Amazing sensory writing – I felt the wind, the dust, smelled the spices, felt the pencil in Nisha’s hand.   This would make an excellent choice for a grade six or seven read-aloud or Lit Circle book.

Other Words for Home – Jasmine Warga

“I just want to live in a country where we can all have dinner again without shouting about our president or rebels and revolution.”   An emotional, heart-breaking, and brilliantly written story told in verse about Jude, a 12 year old Muslim refugee facing racism in America. This book deals with the struggles and the heart ache of leaving everything you know behind and searching for your identity when facing an  unknown country and culture.  I would definitely use this book in a grade 6 or 7 class for Literature Circles or a class novel.

Sweeping Up the Heart – Kevin Henkes

What does lonely look like?  Feel like?  Sound like?  I can see some people feeling this book was a little slow – “nothing really happens”.  But there is something so very fragile and sweet in this gentle story of Amelia and her longing to be noticed, loved, felt, understood.  As teachers, we come in contact with many Amelias.  Touching and poetic, this book may not appeal to everyone, but for a thoughtful reader willing to explore loss and loneliness, it is a stunner.   Lots of beautiful subtlety in Henkes’ writing – he leaves lots of space for the reader’s thinking.  I found it heartbreaking and beautiful.

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Caterpillar Summer – Gillian McDunn

A stunning debut novel so full of voice and heart!  Instead of spending the summer with her best friend, Cat is shipped off to her grandparents with her brother Chicken, and given the responsibility of caring for him.  Oh, and did I mention she has never met her grandparents before?   So much to love about this book!  I love smart, thoughtful,  compassionate Cat and her sweet, creative brother Chicken.  I love that each and every character experiences some kind of transformation.  I love that the “bad guy” in this book is real and not “typical” or “cliche”.   I love the interpersonal relationships of the characters.  I love the visual descriptions and sensory details.  I love the themes of family, friendship, community, responsibility, and forgiveness.  I guess I love this book!

The Benefits of Being an Octopus – Ann Braden

I almost forgot to include this book because I read it several months ago – but it is a MUST read and share book.  (Thanks to Kim Fedoruk for reminding me about it!)  An eye-opening, transforming, and compassionate look at poverty and empathy,  and the right to be treated fairly and equally.  Zoey doesn’t have much of a chance to worry about what other grade 7’s might be worried about – things like homework and crushes. She’s too busy helping her family just scrape by, and taking care of her three other siblings.  According to Zoe – she’d literally have to be an octopus with eight tentacles to juggle all the tasks she faces every day.   Zoey has far more responsibility than anyone her age should ever have, and reading about her made my heart ache. Her character is so strong, complex and believable.  And the writing…. the writing is so beautiful and filled with so many amazing quotes.  This book is not to be missed.  I would recommend this book for your more mature middle grade readers  (end of grade 6 or grade 7) but every adult should read it, too.

And there you have it!  My favorite Middle Grade novels so far this year!

Thank for stopping by!  Hope one or two books have caught your eye!

 

 

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Filed under 2019 releases, Bee Books, Friendship, graphic novel, Grief, Homelessness, Identity, immigration, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Point of View, Poverty, Sci-Fi