Category Archives: graphic novel

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? – New treasures from Kids Can Press

IMWAYR

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: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers

Despite my heartbreak at the fact that I will not be sharing these books with my students tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day after that due to the ongoing teacher’s strike in B.C., I am happy to share them with you in the hopes that you are not on strike and can share them with YOUR students!

Kids Can Press is a prominent Canadian publishing company.  I am fortunate to be on their list of people who receives samples of some of their new releases twice a year.   Last week, their fall books arrived at my doorstep!  Book joy!  I’m happy to be featuring some of these books in my IMWAYR post today.

Stop, Thief!

Stop, Theif! by Heather Takavec

I instantly fell in love with the main character in this book – an adorable little dog named Max.  Max lives on a farm and one day the farmer asks Max to help him catch a thief who has been stealing carrots, lettuce, beans and cherries from the farm.  Max is eager to help and begins asking all the farm animals if they know who the unidentified thief is.  The humor, of course, is that all the animals Max asks tell him they know nothing about a thief, while they are eating carrots, beans and lettuce!  This is definitely a fun book that will have young children laughing.  A great addition to books about farm animals, as well as for practicing simple inferring.  Charming illustrations!

Super Red Riding Hood

Super Red Riding Hood – Claudia Davila
This book is a perfect blend of old and new and I really enjoyed this modern twist to a classic fairy tale. When Ruby puts on her red cloak – she becomes Super Red Riding Hood!  Strong and spunky female character and bright and colorful illustrations.  A perfect addition to your fractured fairy tale collection and a great read-aloud for primary students.
Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin
Hana Hashimoto – Sixth Violin – Chieri Uegaki
My friend Carrie Gelson has a special fondness for intergenerational picture books and books that promote the special bond between children and their grandparents.  I saw this book first on her blog (There’s a Book for That) and was excited to find it in my box of treasures from Kids Can Press.   It is a delightful story filled with so many wonderful themes – being creative, being determined, being brave.  Young Hana enters a violin talent contest and is determined to win.  Her Ojiichan (grandfather), himself a renouned violinist, is her strongest influence and plays a role in her efforts to face her fears.  I held my breath when she walks onto the stage and begins to play.  Beautiful writing, beautiful illustrations and a true celebration of music and family.
 Into the Woods (BIGFOOT Boy #1)The Sound of Thunder
Bigfoot Boy  – J. Torres
This graphic novel adventure series is action packed and perfect for readers grades 2-5.  The art is rich and colorful and the characters are humorous and fun.  What I like about this series is that it weaves aboriginal themes, characters and artifacts into the story.  In Into the Woods, the main character Rufus finds a totem necklace that turns him into a sasquatch.  In the Sound of Thunder, the story continues when someone steals the magic necklace from him.  His pal, Penny is a great addition to the second  book.  I am definitely going to share these with my librarian and get this series into our school!
Product Details
Loula and the Sister Recipe – Anne Villeneuve
This charming book is about a little girl who is tiring of her younger triplet brothers and asks her parents to “make her a sister”.  Her father explains, “Making a sister is . . . well, it’s like making a cake. You need the right ingredients…..a papa and a mama, butterflies in the stomach, a full moon, a candlelit supper, kisses and hugs and chocolate.”  Loula then proceeds to “follow the recipe” to make her own sister.  The ending will surprise you!  While reading it, I was visualizing a class listening to the story and possibly tricky side track conversations that might ensue about baby-making!  Other than that, I enjoyed the story, particularly the character of Loula – she is observent, determined, cheerful and very creative!  Apparently, this is the second Loula book but I will now be searching for the first.
The Best Part of The Day
The Best Part of the Day – Sarah Ban Breathnach
Part of my bedtime routine with my boys when they were little was to do “gratefuls” –  listing things and people we were grateful for that day. This book would have been the perfect addition to that ritual.  It is a lovely bedtime book I would recommend for parents but also a great book for making connections and one that would certainly stimulate younger children writing about the best part of their day.   The illustrations are gorgeous – detailed and meant for savoring.  The writing is lyrical with a simple rhyming scheme that young children would be reciting with you.  A perfect gift book for pre-school age children.
Little Elliot, Big City
Little Elliot, Big City -Mike Curato
There is nothing I don’t love about this charming book about the challenges an adorable polka dot elephant named Elliot faces in the big city.  This book includes SO many teachable topics – embracing differences, making friends, facing challenges and experiencing greatness. The illustrations are amazing! A must read aloud! (and serve cupcakes afterwards!)
Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success
Read, Write, Lead: Breakthrough Strategies for Schoolwide Literacy Success  by Regie Routman
I have just started reading Regie Routman’s new book called Read, Write and Lead.  My good friends in Kelowna, Lisa Wilson and Donna    , are using this book as a professional book study and have invited me to join in their discussions via Skype.  Regie Routman has had a strong influence on my teaching practice – I find her books practical and full of wisdom and I’ve used them both in my teaching and my writing.  This book looks at what is needed to create a supportive literacy community in your school and  increasing joy in teaching and learning.  It is definitely one I would recommend for a school book study and I am looking forward to implementing her ideas (as soon as the strike is over!)
Thanks for stopping by!  Please let me know which book caught your eye?

 

 

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Filed under graphic novel, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, making connections, Music, New Books, Professional Books, Read-Aloud

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? – New Books for the New Year – 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: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

Last week, I started to share some recently released picture books – and this week I will continue the list of new discoveries…

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My Father’s Arms Are A Boat – Stein Erik Lunde

Stein Erik Lunde is an award winning author in Norway.  This is his first book to be translated and published in the US. Hmmm… what to tell you about this book.  I was immediately drawn to this book by the title and cover but I was certainly not expecting a book about loss and grief.    The book starts out with a boy crawling onto his dad’s lap, looking for comfort.  He begins asking his dad questions (love this part) about and worrying that the birds outside will not have enough bread. From the questions asked and the answers the dad provides, we infer there has been a loss of someone special in their lives.   This book lingered with me after I read it – it was beautiful, sad, comforting and moving.  The cut out, layered illustrations are amazing.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this one…

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Jemmy Button – Jennifer Uman

This book is based on the true story of a boy who was taken away from his native home in South America, traded for a Mother-of-Pearl Button, and taken to be “civilized” in England.  He lives there, is taught the European way of life and then is returned to his native home.  This book is definitely one I would share with older students.  It left me feeling rather sad – I can’t imagine how traumatic this experience must have been for him or for his family.  My connection was to Aboriginal children who were taken away from their  families to Canadian Residential Schools.   The illustrations in this book  are rich and colorful.  An excellent anchor book to use for intermediate students for practicing questioning.

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Jane, the Fox and Me – Fanny Brit

Another translated book that surprised me, this is a graphic novel, exquisitely illustrated, about an overweight girl who is being teased and bullied at school.  During her torment, she makes three connections that eventually bring her solace and comfort:  the fictional character Jane Eyre,  a girl she befriends and, surprisingly, a beautiful fox.  This book is intense, emotional, disturbing, (the girls are so cruel to her)  haunting, visually stunning, powerful and moving ( hmmm….there seems to be a theme emerging from my first three books!)  This is definitely a book geared for middle school students.  Another book that lingered long after I finished it.

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The King of Little Things – Bil Wepp

Never underestimate the power of little things – for they are what make the big things possible!    The King of Little Things rules happily over all things small – from buttons to beetles, from marbles to macaroni. Enter King Normous – who thinks he rules over all the land until one day he discovers that a little king in a little land rules over little things.  The King of Little Things is clever, funny, well written and has amazing illustrations, not to mention an important message and a happy ending.  I loved the idea of this book – and have a new appreciation for paper clips, dice and all things small!

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Sidney, Stella and the Moon – Emma Yarlett

Sidney and Stella are twin sisters who, like many siblings, do not share very well.  While fighting over a ball one night, it accidently knocks the moon out of the sky.  This leads to the need for the two to problem solve together.   A cute, imaginative story for the younger primary students – connections to sibling rivalry and discussion about working together to solve problems.  The illustrations are AMAZING!

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Swimming to the Moon – Jeff McMahon

This is a poetry collection – reminiscent of Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss – filled with silly characters, wacky words, funny rhymes.   Great for reading aloud for early primary children – great rhythm, lots of fun, great pictures!  Very imaginative and many poems would be great for visualizing!

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100 Snowmen – Jennifer Arena

What do you get when you mix a little Math with a whole lot of Snowmen?  You get this GREAT book!  I so enjoyed it – could look at the pictures again and again!  A great counting book for Primary students (the Math does get more complicated as the book goes on), fun rhymes and each snowman has its own unique characteristics.  Delightful, fun and a great link to Math!

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Silver Buttons – Bob Graham

I wrote about this book a few weeks ago in my Top Books of 2013 post, but it’s worth sharing again!  Silver Buttons begins simply enough – a little boy taking his first steps and a girl drawing pictures on the floor.   But the book is an extraordinary look at all things that are happening within the neighborhood and city at the same exact moment.  A celebration of life’s moments and how we are all connected – Simple. Beautiful.

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Inside My Imagination – Marta Arteaga

Beautifully illustrated book about a girl celebrating her  imagination – where it comes from and where it can take her.  A great anchor book for motivating imagination in writing.  Also great examples of similes – “my imagination is like a meadow full of shooting stars… like an enormous music box where I keep everything I see and hear.”    Lovely words, lovely pictures, lovely book! 

Well there is my rather diverse list!   What have you been reading recently?

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Filed under Connect, graphic novel, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Picture Book, Poetry, Question, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

IMWAYR

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:  Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

I have not been blogging lately as I have been focusing on trying to finish my book.  I am extremely pleased to have completed the first draft of my manuscript for Nonfiction Writing Power and it is now in the hands of  Kat – my extremely competent editor at Pembroke.  I know there is a lot of work still ahead but I am enjoying the temporary break from book writing and the chance to share some of the amazing new books I’ve read in the past few weeks.   51InOvbTzZL._SL500_AA300_[1]

David Wiesner fans – you will be happy to know that he has a new picture book out called Mr. Wuffles.  In his latest masterpiece, we meet a finicky feline called Mr. Wuffles who shows disinterest towards all the cat toys his owners have purchased for him.  He does, however, become interested in a tiny toy space ship.  After flicking it about, he discovers there are tiny aliens living inside – and now their space ship is damaged. The aliens eventually team up with household insects to repair their ship.    In his classic near wordless style, Wiesner illustrations are detailed and captivating, particularly capturing the movement and expressions of Mr. Wuffles.  Classic Wiesner!  51WL6EckLdL._SL500_AA300_[1]

How to Train a Train by  is a unique and hilarious “HOW TO” manual on how to take care of your “pet” train.  Any child who loves trains, or any who may prefer the mechanical toy rather than a real pet, will enjoy this book.  I was drawn to this book because of how well it fits into teaching students the form and language of instructional writing.  It is written as a handbook and includes everything from how to choose your train, feed, clean and care for your train.  I do not have a particular interest in trains but thoroughly enjoyed this book!

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This is Our House by Hyewon Yum is GEM!  It is one of those books that you could integrate into so many units of study – from family history,  to multiculturalism, to changing seasons, to immigration.  There is something so warm about this book as you follow a Korean-American girl and her family through seasons and generations.  Through their journey, we witness the true difference between a ‘house’ and a ‘home’.516qNkYtN9L._SL500_AA300_[1]A Single Pebble:  A Story of the Silk Road by Bonnie Christensen is the story of a little girl in 9th century China, who sends a small jade pebble to travel with her father along the Silk Road.  We follow the journey of the pebble along the Silk Road.  It ends up in the hands of a boy in the Republic of Venice – the end of the Silk Road.  The illustrations are lovely and the reference to the five “gifts” (reference to the five senses) which accompany the merchants along the silk road makes this a wonderful anchor book for writing as well as launching a unit in Social Studies.

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The Invisible Boy – Trudy Ludwig.  Brian is so quite he is “invisible”.  He is not included, invited to birthday parties or  is really noticed.  Then Justin, the new boy, arrives and works with Brian on a class project, giving him a chance to shine.  This gentle book is a valuable one to include in your class collection, showing children how small acts of kindness can help others feel included.  The illustrations by Patrice Barton are soft and gentle, just like Brian.

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Princess Tales:  Once Upon a Time in Rhyme with Seek and Fid Pictures by Grace Maccarone.  Ooooooo… you MUST see this book!  It is ingenious and splendid and clever!  Ten well known princess stories, from Princess and the Pea to Sleeping Beauty are retold with hidden pictures and extraordinary illustrations by Gail De Marcken.  Pour over each page and enjoy!  This book is on my Christmas list for several young girls I know!

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Speaking of Christmas… Peter H. Reynolds has released The Smallest Gift of Christmas just in time for the upcoming season ( I know it’s not even Halloween but I can’t help myself!)  I adore anything and everything Peter. H. Reynolds does so was thrilled to see his new book.  “Be careful what you wish for”  appears to be the theme of this book as Roland, after receiving a very small gift for Christmas, wishes for something bigger… and bigger… and BIGGER!  After his search takes him to outer space, he finally realizes that what is most important is waiting back on earth for him.  The true meaning of Christmas is shared as only Peter H. Reynolds can share it.  And in case he didn’t know, his books are enormous gifts to me.

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My dear friend Carrie Gels0n , who shares my passion for books, sent me this book recommendation last week and I am in love with it already.  What Does it Mean to Be Present? by Rana DiOrio has such an important message about being mindful, aware and grateful.  Amazing illustrations and the perfect book for transforming.  To help my students experience how a book can “transform our thinking”,  I started with the word “PRESENT” and asked my students what the word made them think about.  (I call this “taking stock of our thinking”)  Most connected the word  it to gifts, birthdays and Christmas.  After reading the book, we “revisited our thinking” about the word.  Many were transformed by the idea that “present” is not an object but a way of being.

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I love maps.  Any book that begins with a map has me hooked before I even begin reading.  I don’t know if it’s the physical shapes or the sense of adventure a map represents but whatever it is – I’m drawn in by a map.  And so when I saw the cover of MAPS by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski, I was fascinated.   This book is an illustrated children’s atlas – but not one that you have ever seen before.  It is utterly amazing, delightful, sensual, amusing and informative.  There are maps, illustrations and detailed drawings.   The pages are heavy and I couldn’t stop running my fingers over them.  I was completely consumed and mesmerized.   A book for children but no doubt will be loved by many adults.

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I loved A Wrinkle in Time by  Madeleine L’Engle as a kid – my first real experience with Sci Fi that I enjoyed.  50 years later,  Hope Larson’s work has created this graphic novel of the classic tale.  I’m not sure if I wanted someone else to create images of Happy Medium and Aunt Beast that have stayed in my imagination for all these years and the jury is still out.  I did enjoy revisiting the characters and the many layers and themes of this book and think that children who are not familiar with the original version will be captivated by the classic story through this format.  Be prepared – it’s very long!

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My 13 yr. old is reading this book and loving it.  Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi has everything a 13 yrs. old boy could possibly want in a book – humor mixed with horror, baseball, zombie cows, evil coaches, battles and blood.  It also has a lot of great themes for teachers – racism, immigration, corporations, food processing and, of course, friendship.  The setting of this book is a small Ohio town with a big meat packing plant that is pumping their cows full of bad things.  The effect is that the cows turn into zombies.   I loved that the main character Rabi – a boy from South Asian – because there are not many books with main characters from this culture.   This book would make a great read-aloud for an intermediate class – lots of laughs but great discussions too!

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And finally…. Sutton by J.R. Moehringer is my Book Club read this month.  It is based on the true story of notorious bank robber Willie Sutton,  one of the most infamous criminals in New York during the 1960’s.  He was a hero of sorts amongst the public and dubbed a modern Robin Hood because he never carried a gun – his only victims were the banks.   His motivation for robbing – his first love.  I am half way through the book and thoroughly enjoying the writing of a tender love story disguised as a crime novel.

Well – there’s my latest list!  Hope you found one or two new titles that sparked your interest.  What have you been reading this week?

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