Category Archives: Friendship

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

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Summer Picture Book Picks 2018 (Part 2) Family, Friendship, and Inclusion

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

Well my intention of blogging more this summer has certainly not unfolded as planned!  But I have discovered I have only two speeds – Fast Forward and STOP!  And when I stop – I literally get nothing done!  But I’m enjoying the lazy (hot) days of summer immensely!  Here is my “Part 2” of some my favorite summer picture books.  This week I’m featuring books that focus on Family, Friendship and Inclusion – all themes and lessons you will find in my new book Powerful Understanding.  Enjoy and happy reading!

Drawn Together (Hyperion Picture Book (eBook)) by [Lê, Minh]

Drawn Together – Minh Le

Beautifully touching story celebrating the power of unspoken language and bridging the gap between ages, languages, and cultures.  A young boy and his aging grandfather can’t communicate due to a language barrier but eventually find a new way to communicate through drawing together.   Lots of connections here.  Stunning story… stunning illustrations.  I see award nominations coming for this one.

Islandborn – Junot Diaz

“Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”  A perfect book for exploring immigration, community, family, traditions and culture.  WOW!  Great book for sharing and making connections to family origins.  Bright, bursting illustrations.  LOVE!

Alma and How She Got Her Name – Juana Martinez-Neal

Who named you?  What does your name mean?  What connection does your name have to your family?  These are questions I love to ask my students as we explore identity  (and the first lesson in my Powerful Understanding book!) Alma has six names – each one connected to people in her family.   A perfect anchor for a lesson on exploring our names!

Funeral – Matt James

I love books that invite questions from the cover… “What’s a funeral?” …“Who died?”…  “Why do the kids look so happy when the book is called The Funeral?”  “Why are the letters in the title in different colors?”   A refreshing look at a “FUN-eral” of a beloved uncle – celebrating life rather than mourning death.  It’s simple, honest and affirming.   This one grew on me.

FRIENDSHIP

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Little Robot Alone – Patricia Maclachlan

Can’t ever miss reading a book by the great Patrica Maclachlan…  Little Robot Alone is a lovely story about a Robot who decides to use his creativity to make himself a friend – a robot dog!  Repetitive segments and sing-song elements make this a charming read-a-loud for Pre-K-Gr. 1.  Would be a great anchor for inviting students to create their own “friend”.   (Would also be a great anchor for my MMT school project – based on The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.  See my blog post here.)

Hoot and Olive:  Brave Enough for Two – Jonathan D. Voss

Mix a little Goodnight Moon, Winnie-the-Pooh, and The Night Gardner…. and you have this delightful story of two inseparable friends – a little girl and her stuffed Owl. Gorgeous, whimsical watercolor illustrations.  A tale of bravery, adventure and hope.  Love this one.  (I know I say that a lot but I really did love this one!)

Rescue and Jessica – A Life-Changing Friendship – Jessica Kensky

Written by two of the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing, this picture book is the true story of one of them and their service dog, Rescue.  But it is really the story about overcoming life’s challenges and the hope we find during times of overwhelming adversity.  I love the parallel stories of both Rescue, a dog that thought he would grow up to be a seeing eye dog, but life had a different responsibility for him and Jessica, a young girl whose life also turned out differently than she imagined. Together they rescue each other.

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We Don’t Eat our Classmates – Ryan T. Higgins

Oh my goodness – SUCH a funny book!   Yes, there will be many “back to school” books being released this month… but this is definitely the one I recommend.  So fresh and funny, but teaches empathy so beautifully.  A perfect read-aloud or gift for that young one who might be experiencing “back to school jitters”

                                                       How to Be a Lion – Ed Vere

Melt my heart.  I love this book.  SO simple yet such an important message:  there is more than one way to do something. Or be something.   Leonard is not your typical lion. Leonard is not fierce but enjoys the great outdoors and loves words.  He befriends Marianne, a poetic duck and, together, they compose poems.  When other lions hear about unconventional Leonard – they confront the pair.  A unique and beautiful story about celebrating individuality and diversity; for standing up for your gentle self and befriending who you want.  This is a great book for building classroom community.

                                               Niblet & Ralph –  Zachariah OHora

Two look-alike pet cats switch places in this humorous, sweet story of mistaken identity.  A little like “The Parent Trap” for cats!  Love the retro illustrations.  I like how, while the cats look alike, their owners slowly discover their differences.  Very sweet story.

Friendship is Like a Seesaw – Shona Innes

Great rhyming read-aloud for your younger students.  Sweet illustrations and gentle text explores friends at their best–sharing, laughing, and playing together–as well as friends who sometimes say hurtful things, leave others out, or get a bit bossy.  I love how the story introduces specific “friendship fix” strategies (another lesson in my Powerful Understanding book!) like talking about our feelings, looking at our own friendship skills, or taking a break.  A great anchor book for talking about the ups and downs of friendships!  

INCLUSION 

All Are Welcome – Alexandra Penfold

Oh my.   This book.  It’s a must read for every teacher to share in the first days or week of school.  A wonderful, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity, inclusiveness, acceptance, and celebration of all cultures in a school community.   I hope this book ends up in EVERY library in EVERY school EVERYWHERE!

The Outlaw Nancy Vo

Wow.  This book is powerful, so powerful.  Set in the old west, it tells the story of an Outlaw who, after many years of terrorizing a town, disappears.  When he returns, years later, he must begin the long process of making amends.   While not really about inclusion, it is a story about forgiveness, acceptance and second chances.  Simple text but this is definitely going to be added to my list of Inferring books for intermediate students. Would make a great book to spark conversations about forgiveness.   Love the “old west” feel to the mixed-media illustrations.

We are All Dots:  A Big Plan for a Better World –  Giancarlo Macrì

If you attended any of my workshops this past spring, you will have heard me going on and on about this amazing, powerful picture book that introduces, in simple format, many important social issues.  Intended for an older audience, this book would stimulate great discussions about equality and diversity with older students.   SO many inferences can be made from the many different dot images.  This is one of my favorite books of 2018.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found a book or two that caught your eye!

 

 

 

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Filed under 2018 releases, Connect, Diversity, Family, Friendship, Grief, Identity, immigration, IMWAYR, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, making connections, New Books

It’s Monday- What Are You Reading? Spring into Third Term with New Books (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, I posted Part 1 of my “Spring into Third Term” book collection and this week, I’m excited to continue with Part 2!  Lots of great books in this list – from global warming, to Earth day, to celebrating imagination and creativity… there is sure to be a book for you and your class here!


Sometimes You Fly – Katherine Applegate

“Remember then with every try, sometimes you fail. Sometimes you fly. What matters most is what you take from all you learn.”   And there lies the premise of this stunning new picture book by the amazing Katherine Applegate (One and Only Ivan, Crenshaw, Wishtree).  Whimsical illustrations and perfect examples of how learning from mistakes will lead to great accomplishments.  Would make a perfect gift for graduations, baby shower, first birthday.  LOVE this one!

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I Love My Purse – Belle DeMont

A great book to start conversations with younger students about celebrating individual choices and moving beyond “boys” and “girls” stereotypes.  Charlie loves his purse and brings it to school one day.  Despite the objection of others, he remains steadfast in his “purse love” and eventually influences others to tap into what they love as well, be it make-up, shirts or sparkly shoes. Wonderfully illustrated by Sonja Wimmer.

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What Matters – Alison Hughes

If you are looking for a new book for Earth Day... look no further!  (Think Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed but for the earth!)   A wonderful look at the ripple effect of how one small act – picking up garbage that isn’t yours – has repercussions to make the world cleaner and better.  I also think this book would be great for introducing the concept of  the inter-connectedness of ecosystems.

Harry and Walter – Kathy Stinson

Endearing inter-generational tale of a wonderful, unusual friendship between Harry, who is 4 3/4, and Walter, who is 92 1/2. They live next-door and do all kinds of things together –  ride their tractors, grow and eat tomatoes, and play croquet.  Then, Harry has to move. This is a heartwarming story of friendship and the importance of elders in our lives. Whimsical illustrations by Qin Leng.  This book actually came out last summer.  I love Kathy Stinson and can’t believe I missed this book!

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My Wounded Island – Jacques Pasquet

This book, originally published in French, is a heartbreaking story of a northern island slowly disappearing into the sea and introduces the concept of “climate refugees” to young readers (and to me!)  Beautifully written and gorgeously illustrated.  Would make an excellent introduction to a unit on climate change or northern indigenous cultures.  I also like the use of metaphor:”the beast” in the story is actually global warming.

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On Our Street – Our First Talk About Poverty Dr. Jillian Roberts

A gentle, honest book answering a series of questions about homelessness and different types of poverty.  I really liked the mix of real pictures and illustrations,  helping to make the information understandable and easy to relate to.  I also enjoyed the addition of quotes.  Not a book a child would necessarily pick up and read on their own, but definitely an excellent book to share and spark a class discussion.

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

While I have used When Sophie Gets Angry- Really, Really Angry many times for making connections to managing feelings and emotions, this new “Sophie” book is the perfect anchor for introducing the concepts of “Fixed” and “Growth” mindsets to your students, as well as problem solving and perseverance.  Would also be a great Math read-aloud as  Sophie is frustrated with tangram puzzles.

Picture the Sky – Barbara Reid

The sky tells many stories: in the weather, in the clouds, in the stars, in the imagination. This book inspires us all to look up…. way up… and see and think about the sky in a different way.   A perfect anchor book for spring, for art and for sharing and writing stories of the sky.   I am a huge fan of Barbara Reid’s work and her brilliant Plasticine illustrations.   A perfect companion to her book Picture a Tree.

What If – Samantha Berger

WOW!  This is a stunning book about creativity, imagination, and believing in yourself.  Gorgeous mixed media illustrations.  Inspires, empowers and encourages the creative spirit in all of us.   Great end papers and notes from the author about how she was inspired to write this book.  LOVE this one!  (Release date is April 10th)

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The Big Bed – Bunmi Laditan

Humorous picture book about a girl who doesn’t want to sleep in her little bed, so she comes up with a plan to get her dad out of her parent’s bed in order to move in herself.  This would make a great anchor book for problem solving and persuasive writing as the little girl identifies the issue, researches it, and creates a very persuasive presentation of possible solutions.  Any parent who has struggled with their kids’ sleeping arrangements will make LOTS of connections but wondered, at times, if parents would connect more than kids!

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The Pomegranate Witch – Denise Doyen

I really enjoyed this eerie tale told with lovely, lyrical text with wonderful word play, reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.  Five children plan to storm the wall and steal some pomegranates from a tree guarded by a witch.  A great fall read-aloud and not-so-scary choice for leading up to Halloween.  Gorgeous illustrations by Eliza Wheeler.

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Grains of Sand – Sibylle Delacroix

If grains of sand were seeds, what kinds of things would they grow into if you threw them in your garden? Ice cream? Pinwheels?    This is a short, sweet story of a boy and girl who bring sand home from the beach in their shoes, and then wonder what would happen if they planted it.  A perfect anchor book for inspiring “imagination pocket” writing!  Love the simple black and white images with splashes of blue and yellow.

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

 

 

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Filed under 2018 releases, Creating, Earth Day, environment, Friendship, Growth Mindset, Immagination, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Poverty

It’s Monday- What Are You Reading? Spring into Third Term with New Books (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

With Spring Break quickly coming to an end and third term quickly approaching, I thought I would focus my IMWAYR post on some new releases for sharing in your class this spring.   There are too many to include in one post so look for Part 2 next week!

Florette – Anna Walker

Loved this whimsical and wonderfully illustrated book of a young girl who searches for a way to bring the green life of her country garden to the new city she just moved to. Simple, elegant text.  Great for making connections to change, adjusting to change and urban gardens.

Harry’s Hiccups – Jean Little

Lots of connections and plenty of giggles will emerge from this laugh-out-loud story by the amazing Jean Little.  Vibrant, colourful illustrations and a surprise ending make this a must share read-aloud.

Buttercup’s Lovely Day – Carolyn Beck

A day in the life of a grateful-for-the-simple-things-cow named Buttercup.  With lyrical, rhyming prose, Buttercup takes us through her day describing everything she loves about being a cow and the world around her. Gorgeous and bright illustrations. A great anchor book for inspiring writing about life’s simple pleasures.

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest – Sarah Hampson

Pigeons unite!  When the pigeons in the city feel disrespected, they decide to stage a protest and disappear until the people acknowledge their importance and decide to treat them with kindness (in exchange for less bird droppings on their heads).  Lovely watercolor illustrations by Kass Reiss.  I liked the historical background about the relationship between people and pigeons. This book is longer so I would definitely use it with middle grades to prompt discussions about protests, getting along and respecting others.

I Walk With Vanessa – A story about a simple act of kindness – Kerascoet

Looking for a new book about bullying, empathy and kindness?  Here it is!  This is a simple, powerful wordless picture book about being the new kid, bullying, stepping up and not being a bystander, and simple acts of kindness that can make a difference.  Based on true events.  I love this book and perfect for inferring and making connections.

Wordy Birdy – Tammi Sauer

Wordy Birdy loves words and she talks – A LOT!  Hilarious, fun, fast-paced read-aloud (you have to talk really fast when you read it!) with an important message about the importance of listening.  I really loved Birdy’s friends – Squirrel, Rabbit and Raccoon. Even though she annoys them and can’t be quiet, they are extremely patient and tolerant of their friend.  Large, colorful illustrations and great speech bubbles give it a graphic novel feel.

Elmore – Holly Hobbie

Holly Hobbie, author of the Toot and Puddle series, has created another adorable character in Elmore.  Elmore is a happy porcupine who longs for a friend.  So he put up a sign on a tree saying “Friends Wanted.” But then he overheard the other animals talking about how prickly he is.  Endearing story about making the most out of your circumstances, loving yourself, and different forms of friendship.  Expressive illustrations will prompt many collective “Awwwww’s” from your class!

I Am Enough Grace Byers

An affirming celebration of all sides of us – the hard and soft, the peaceful and wild, the right-side-up and the upside-down. This book is an invitation for every girl (child) to be herself and love herself, while honoring her differences from others. I love the positive message it sends all us and reminds us to be kind to each other and that we all have a special place in the world.  Lovely song-like rhythm and lively illustrations.

If I Had a Little Dream – Nina Laden

Beautiful folk-like art in this book about appreciating the world, through the eyes of a child.  A wonderful celebration of the wonder of the world – the joy, love, and beauty that is part of each and every day.  Rhyming text, this book is intended for the younger readers and would make a wonderful anchor book for K-2 to inspire writing and drawing about things in the world we are grateful for.

Be Kind – Pat Zietlow Miller

What does kindness look like?  This thoughtful, introspective look at what it means to be kind and empathetic toward others, from the viewpoint of a child.  This is definitely one of my new 2018 favorites because it’s such a fresh look on kindness.  I leave you with these three words:  SHARE THIS BOOK!

Ebb and Flow – Heather Smith

One summer,
after a long plane ride
and a rotten bad year
I went to Grandma Jo’s.
It was my mother’s idea.
Jett, what you need is a change of scenery.
I think she needed a change of scenery, too.
One without me.
Because that rotten bad year?
That was my fault.

And so begins this poignant story, in free verse, about 11 yr. old Jett who has made a terrible mistake and is spending the summer with his Grandmother in Newfoundland to get some perspective and hopefully forgive himself.  Fresh, engaging voice – this is a lovely, sad, ultimately hopeful story.   I was surprised by how captivating and emotional I felt reading this book.  Would appeal to both reluctant and avid readers, as well as make a great read-aloud for middle grades with an opportunity for classroom discussions about empathy, resilience, courage, and responsibility.  I loved Jett’s voice and fact that the reader does not know the mistake he has made until well into the story, leaving space for questioning, predicting and inferring.  Surprisingly powerful read.

Thanks for stopping by!  Hope you found a book that caught your eye!

Watch for New Picture Books for Spring – Part 2 next week!

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Filed under 2018 releases, Friendship, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Kindness, New Books, Picture Book

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Favorite Early Readers and Beginning Chapter Books of 2017

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

This week, I am highlighting my favorite early readers and beginning chapter books from 2017.  So many great books to read and share with your emerging and transitional readers!  Many themes were featured this year, including strong, culturally diverse characters who face adversity, solve conflict and think outside the box to resolve problems.  Each of these books would work well either as a read-aloud in a primary classroom or as an independent reader.  (For each selection, I have included number of pages.)

 

Fergus and Zeke – Kate Messner  (56 pages)

Meet two charming, mischievous mice:  Fergus – a lovable classroom mouse who sneaks into a backpack to join a class trip and Zeke – his streetwise counterpart whom he meets and brings back to school with him.  Short sentences, repetition, great sight words, four easy chapters, straightforward plot and colorful illustrations – this brand-new series is perfect for emerging readers! 

Ballet Cat – What’s Your Favorite Favorite?  – Bob Shae (56 pages)

A delightful celebration of family relationships is the theme in this humorous third book in the Ballet Cat series.  Grandma ends up in quite a predicament when her two grandchildren – Cat and Goat – try to outdo each other when they put on a show for her.  Cat thinks ballet is Grandma’s favorite; Goat is convinced she likes magic tricks best.  A perfect early reader, the text is done entirely in large word bubbles, highlighted by Shea’s signature style illustrations and bright bold colors.

Super Narwhal and the Jelly Jolt – Ben Clanton  (64 pages)

In this follow-up to the first A Narwhale and Jelly Book, Narwhal decides to become a superhero.  He already has a name, an outfit, a secret identity, even a sidekick. But he still needs to find out which his superpower is… Cute, funny and very heartwarming. Comic style illustrations.

The Good For Nothing Button – Charise Mericle Harper (64 pages)

Yellow Bird has a button. It does . . . nothing!  It is a good for nothing button. Red Bird and Blue Bird are excited to try the button. But when they press it, they discover that the button makes them happy.  Happy is something! A flabbergasted Yellow Bird insists the button does nothing. But it sure does seem to be making him mad. Mad is something! A great read-aloud and high on the giggle scale!

Princess Cora and the Crocodile – Laura Amy Schlitz (80 pages)

When an over-scheduled princess, tired of no time to play and discover, asks her fairy godmother for a dog she is surprised when a crocodile is sent by mistake.   But the hilarious plan that follows involves the croc swapping places with Cora – giving her some much needed freedom.  With a mop wig and frilly dress, the “princess” croc insults the Queen (“Reptile!” “Mammal!”) and gnaws on the fitness-obsessed King (just a little). Charming and so much fun to read.  (and I “inferred” a little lesson for helicopter parents!)

Bruno: Some of the More Interesting Days in My Life So FarCatharina Valckx (96 pages)    Six linked quirky stories are full of friendship, silliness, and the little moments that make life memorable and unpredictable.   Bruno, a small cat in a blue checked cap, recounts in turn the peculiar and often extremely silly goings-on of his life.  I loved that Bruno takes such delight in embracing any experience that come his way.

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Zoey and Sassafras: Dragons and MarshmallowsAsia Citro (96 pages)

What should you feed a baby dragon?  Zoey and her cat Sassafras use the scientific method and science journals to find out!  I LOVE this first book in a series that celebrates science and features a smart, strong, tenacious female character.  Also love the message that you need to work through mistakes and re-think your plan before you can succeed!  Cute illustrations, short chapters and a sprinkle of magic thrown in!  I can’t wait for more books in this series!
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Yours Sincerely, Giraffe – Megumi Iwasa (104 pages)

Sweet, quirky little book about a lonely giraffe and a lonely penguin who become pen pals.  A great early chapter book, first published in Japan, that touches on loneliness, friendship, letter-writing and understanding differences.  Love the playful line drawings which break the text into manageable chunks.

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Heroes in Training – Hermes and the Horse with Wings – Tracey West (112 pages)

Not sure how I missed this series – but this is book #13!  Each book in the series features one of the Greek Gods as a child.  Ten chapters, simple text and single page black and white illustrations.  A perfect series for any young readers interested in Greek Gods and the exciting world of Greek mythology.

Ivy – Katherine Coville  (144 pages)

This short, delightful fantasy includes pixies, a sick dragon, a three legged griffin, and some nasty trolls! Ivy and her Grandmother, whom villagers call “Meg the Healer”, can relate to all the animals that live in and around the village of Broomsweep.  Her grandmother can heal all the animals, including the magical ones.  Enchanting and heartwarming!

Jasmine Toguchi – Mochi Queen Debbi Michiko Florence  (160 pages)

So much to love about a headstrong eight-year-old named Jasmine Toguchi and her Japanese-American family.  In this first book, Jasmine longs to be part of a cultural family tradition of making Japanese mochi – a small, round dessert ball made with soft, pounded sticky rice.  But she is told she is too young to help.  I loved Jasmine’s determination, the details about mochi, and the family’s traditions.  Great for making connections!  A mochi recipe is included at the end of the book.  Looking forward to more from this series.

Beatrice Zinker – Upside Down Thinker – Shelley Johannes (164 pages)

I so enjoyed getting to know Beatrice Zinker.  She’s got the right combination of quirky and spunk, as well as her share of bad luck (think Ramona Quimby). She thinks outside the box and upside-down!  Fast paced and delightful with lots of quirky illustrations (reminded me a little of Dory Fantasmagory).  Themes of individuality, optimism, and the shifting shapes of friendships. Can’t wait for more Beatrice!

Stinkbomb and Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers – John Dougherty (192 pages)

With an undertone of Monty Python, mixed with Captain Underpants, Geronimo Stilton, an abundance of hilarious slapstick silliness, and plenty of tremendous wordplay – I LOVED this goofy LOL British adventure!  I especially loved that the cast of  characters are aware that they are in a story, and occasionally comment on it: when the king realizes they are in a story he immediately goes and puts on his clothes.  HILARIOUS!

A Boy Called Bat – Elana K. Arnold (208 pages)

Bixby Alexander Tam, or Bat, is great at Math and knows more about animals than anyone in his class, but he is not great at making friends. When his mom, a veterinarian, brings home a baby skunk, Bat becomes the best skunk care-taker ever, all while trying to navigate his world.  A charming story perfect for students transitioning from early readers to chapter books. I like that this book has a character most likely on the autism spectrum, without the book being about that.  Also touches on divorce and single parents. The story focuses more on Bat’s love of animals and how this empathy for animals helps him connect to his classmates. Tender, heartwarming and funny with an amazing character you and your students will fall in love with. Major warm fuzziness! 

      Thanks for stopping by!

              What are some of your favorite beginning chapter books from the past year?

 

 

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Filed under 2017 releases, Beginning Chapter Book, Cultural Celebrations, Early Readers, Family, Friendship, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Read-Aloud, Science

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 2017 Fall Releases from Kidscan Press (part 1)

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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

book pile

It’s like Christmas in August when I find a box of brand new picture books from the outstanding Canadian Publishing Company Kids Can Press on my doorstep!  I’m excited to share the first post featuring some of their new books for fall 2017!  This week I will be focusing on fiction picture books – next week nonfiction!

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No Room for Baby! – Emile Jadoul

A perfect fit for new big brothers and sisters.  Full of reassurance that there will always be room in our home and our hearts for a new addition.  Simple text and adorable penguin characters.  A great connect book for K’s and 1’s who may be “expecting” a new sibling.

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Goodnight Hockey, Fans! – Andrew Larsen

Bedtime comes at the worst times – especially in the middle of a hockey game!  Of course, when this young hockey fan is told to go to bed, he can’t sleep!  After his parents tuck him in, he shines his flashlight on his hockey equipment and trophies and listens to the hockey announcer on the radio.  As he drifts off to sleep, he dreams his is playing hockey on his favorite team.  This is a must have book for young hockey fans and would make a perfect connect book for having kids share what they do when they can’t fall asleep!

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Middle Bear – Susanna Isern

Being “middle-sized” is not very fun – too young to hang with your older brother and too old to play baby games with your younger one.  This middle child is longing to feel special and be noticed.  I love the message that no matter what size or age, we all have our own unique gifts.  Heartwarming story and unique illustrations.

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Captain Monty Takes the Plunge – Jennifer Mook-Sang

A delightful tale of adventure and courage on the high seas!  Captain Monty is a scary pirate – and he also STINKS because he never takes a bath.  And he never takes a bath because he can’t swim!   A frolicking story with a great message about overcoming your fears.  Vibrant illustrations, lots of action and a sweet love story with a Mermaid named Meg!

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Me, Me, Me – Annika Dunklee

I was excited to see this follow up to Annika Dunklee’s book Me, Too!  This book continues the relationship of a delightful trio of multicultural friends – Annie, Lillemor and Lilianne.  In this story, problems arise when the girls enter a school talent show as a singing group and Annie starts making all the decisions about song choice, dance moves and costumes.  This is a wonderful connect book for talking about friendship issues, cooperation and teamwork.  I love the authentic dialogue and the snippets of other languages in the text.  Great read-aloud!

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The Elephant Keeper: Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia Margriet Ruurs

This is a beautiful book based on a true story about a young boy named Aaron who rescues a baby elephant.  Gorgeous illustrations and with facts included about elephants and the dangers from poaching and destroying their habitat and information at the back about how we can help endangered animals.  Engaging story of compassion and hope for intermediate students.  The book is longer than most picture books and could be read over several days.  Great for inspiring passion projects or a study of endangered animals.

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Mr. Crum’s Potato Predicament – Anne Renaud

In case you have ever wondered where the potato chip came from – this book has the answer!  Based on the true story of a chef who accidentally invents potato chips when a customer keeps returning his potatoes and asking for them to be thinner and crispier.   Clever, funny, entertaining!  Love the tongue-in-cheek humour.  (Be warned – you will crave potato chips after reading!)

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The Tiny Tale of Little Pea – Davide Cali

“Even the littlest among us can make a big mark.”  I loved this book and the adorable character of Little Pea!  Little Pea is very small, but very happy.  He doesn’t realize that his small stature makes him different from others until he gets to school (Think Will Farrell in Elf!) and discovers the world is not very inclusive of small people.  In the end, Little Pea remains true to himself and learns there is always something we can find that we are good at.  Great for discussion as there are many themes you could infer from this book.

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Shelter – Celine Claire

If I could pick a favorite from the pile, this would be it!  Such a beautiful illustrated book (reminded me of my childhood illustrated copy of Winnie the Pooh) with a meaningful message of kindness, compassion and community.  As animals prepare for a coming storm, two lone bears are searching for shelter, but no one offers to help, including the fox family.  When the storm arrives, the fox family must leave their den to find a safer shelter – and the turn to the two bears for help.  A perfect book for the start of the year with the message of “treat others how you would like to be treated”.  Gentle and heartwarming.  With older students you could compare this story to Stone Soup and discuss the different ways the community acts.

Thanks for stopping by!

Would love to know which book(s) caught your eye!

 

 

 

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Filed under 2017 releases, Animals, Connect, Friendship, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Read-Aloud, Social Responsibility

IMWAYR – First New Picture Books of 2017!

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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

I haven’t posted a IMWAYR for a while…but I have been reading LOTS of new books!  So this Monday,  I’m happy to be sharing the first picture books of 2017!

A Greyhound and a Groundhog – Emily Jenkins

Delightful word playful, tongue twisting story about an energetic greyhound and a rolly-poly groundhog.  Charming illustrations and so much fun to read out loud.

Pen Pals – Alexandra Pichard

An octopus and an ant are paired up to write letters for a school project in this charming picture book.  Charming letters and lovely surprise ending.

A Perfect Day

A Perfect Day – Lane Smith

This book will be released on Valentine’s Day but I had a chance to read an advance copy and I loved it!  Lane Smith is such a clever writer.  This book is a delight – funny, charming and sweet.  All the animals and insects are having a perfect day, that is, until Bear comes along!

XO, OX A Love Story – Adam Rex

Charming book about a smelly ox and a refined gazelle writing letters to each other. Whimsical illustrations and beautiful prose and a perfect one to add to your Valentine’s collection.

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Hug it Out! – Louis Thomas

Fun story about siblings who are made to “hug it out” whenever they fight.  So to avoid another “icky hug”, they agree to call a truce.   Great story for conflict-resolution and for making connections to siblings spats!

Wolf in the Snow – Matthew Cordell

Care, kindness, cooperation, and discovery fill this delightful, almost wordless picture book about a little girl who gets lost in a snow storm, paralleled with a wolf pup who is lost in the same storm.  Oh, this  is a lovely book.

Egg – Kevin Henkes

This graphic novel format for very young readers is about 4 different colored eggs – three of them hatch and one doesn’t.  What to do?  Simple repeating text, large bold illustrations – another winner by Kevin Henkes.

The Unexpected Love Story of Alfred Fiddleduckling – Timothy Basil Ering

This is truly an unexpected and heart-warming story that I adored. It is fantastical tale of a farmer, a gentle old lady, a dancing dog, and one brave, tiny duckling.   Gorgeous illustrations and thrilling adventure story – this book is a must read and must share. (Loved Frog Belly Rat Bone – but I think I love this one more!)

Thanks for stopping by!  Which book or books have caught your eye?

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Filed under 2017 releases, Friendship, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Valentine's Day