Category Archives: Novels

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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Filed under graphic novel, immigration, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, New Books, Novels, Picture Book, Social Responsibility, Transform, Writing Anchors

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – More great books!

 

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.

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The book blogging community has been going “wild” about Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown so I was anxious to get my hands on a copy!  This book is really all about letting loose and letting your inner “wild side” come out.  Mr. Tiger lives in a very proper society and conforms to what is expected of him.  One day, he decides to loosen up a little and walks on two legs instead of four.  Despite the frowns of disapproval from those around him, he continues to let loose a little more each day, jumping from rooftops and even taking off his clothes!  Eventually he is banished to the woods to be wild on his own.  When he returns, he discovers the others have followed his lead and “loosened up” a little!  Great illustrations and lots of humor makes this a wonderful read.  Great discussions about “getting wild” at the appropriate time and place.

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Up! Tall! and High! by Ethan Long is a hilarious introduction to the concepts of “up”, “tall” and “up” told in three separate short stories.   The cast of bird characters in this book are hilarious and the lift the flap pages make for an even more appealing read.  The bright, colorful illustrations remind me of Mo Willems.  Great for Pre-K and K.

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Diverse writer Linda Sue Park amazed many with her powerful novel last year A Long Walk to Water.  She has now released this delightful picture book  Zander’s Panda Party which describes the challenges of planning a birthday party.  The lyrical, rhyming text follows Xander as he tries to decide who to invite to the party.  He starts with inviting all the pandas, then all the bears, then is informed by the Koala that she is not really a bear but a marsupial.   Not only is this book a pleasure to read (some of the rhymes are rather unconventional!) but it’s a great introduction to different types of animals.  Top it off with the message of the importance of not wanting to leave anyone out – and you have a winner!

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If you are teaching your students about following rules, making good choices, consequences of action or being conscious of your community  – here is a book for you;  What if Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick   Simple, up-beat text and colorful illustrations is entertaining as well as putting a new perspective on how our choices impact the world around us.  A good reminder to us all – before you do anything or say anything, ask yourself, “what if everybody did that?”

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Caldecott winner Philip Stead is inching higher and higher up on my “favorite author” scale.  Everything he writes is heartfelt and his soft, whimsical illustrations add to tenderness to the text.  Bear has a Story to Tell is one of my all time favorites and Home for Bird  was a book I reviewed this summer.  In his latest book, Hello, My Name is Ruby, Stead once again touches the heart with his words and pictures.  Ruby is delightful  – she is tiny, brave, curious and compassionate.  She attempts to find her place in the world by making friends, introducing herself to different animals and birds and asking them thoughtful questions in order to learn more about them.   Could there be a better role model for children?   I felt a true sadness when one of the birds did not want to be her friend.  There is nothing not to love about this book.

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For all you Scaredy Squirrel fans out there – here’s the latest – just in time for Halloween!  In Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween,  Scaredy helps us plan for the spooky night – with everything from costume choices, making treats, pumpkin carving and safety tips!  In his familiar overly anxious approach to everything, Scaredy uses lists, maps, diagrams, charts and webs (love those nonfiction text features!) to get ready for the spookiest night of the year!

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Memoirs of a Hamster by Devin Scillian is a follow up to Memoirs of a Goldfish (published in 2010).  In a similar style as Diary of a Worm, this book is written in the voice of Seymour the Hamster.  Seymour is at first content with his life and describes the coziness of his cage.  But after a chat with a cat, he begins to feel he may be missing out on something beyond the confounds of his cage.  Great anchor book for writing “in person” as an animal and for developing voice.

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I Want a Dog! by Helga Bansch was published a few years ago but I came across it while searching for anchor books for persuasive writing lessons.  There are several books with a theme of a child trying to convince their parents to buy them a pet.  I was immediately drawn to this book by the cover – and the delightful images of different breeds of dogs.  Lisa desperately wants a dog but her parents don’t feel it realistic as they live in an apartment.  Lisa tries many different persuasive tactics to change her parents mind, but with no luck.   In the end, she doesn’t give up and comes up with a creative plan to solve her dog desire!  Great for predicting, problem solving and to introduce persuasion.

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I have a huge author crush on Chris Raschka.  Ever since his Yo! Yes! book topped my Infer book list – I have been using his books to teach inferring and questioning.   Chris Raschka won the Caldecott award in 2010 for  A Ball for Daisy.  As with many of his books, it was a perfect wordless picture book for practicing inferring with younger students.  I had many Daisy fans in my class so I know there will be much excitement when they see Daisy in a new adventure in the book Daisy Gets Lost.  I’m not sure how he does it, but Chris Raschka always manages to capture emotion with his swirly impressionistic illustrations and this book is no exception.  Daisy chases a squirrel at the park and suddenly finds herself in unfamiliar territory – and we can see the fear on her cute little face.  A great book for making connections to feeling lost and afraid.

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I adore anything Georgia Heard writes. I have likely used  For the Good of the Earth and Sun for teaching poetry more than any other professional resource.  I am starting a poetry unit with a grade 6 class this term so have been  gathering poetry books from my collection.  Amongst many amazing poetry anthologies and collections, I rediscovered Falling Down the Page, Georgia Heard’s amazing collection of list poems by contemporary poets (including Eileen Spinelli and Avis Harley – who was my teacher for one of my poetry classes at UBC many years ago!)   I sat and read through the every poem and marveled at how a simple list can tell so much.   A great anchor book for writing list poems!

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I am in the middle of reading two amazing novels.  First – is The Real Boy by Anne Ursu – a magical adventure.   (You can read a great review of this book by Linda Urban posted in  Nerdy Book Club )  So far, I am LOVING this book.  I adore Oscar, the main character, and the writing is wonderful.  Oscar is an orphan who works for a magician, gathering herbs and helping to prepare his potions.  He is quite content in his life until things start to suddenly change in the town when everyone starts to get sick and Caleb, the magician, is no longer around.   I have just met Callie, a girl who is going to help Oscar.  I can’t wait to find out what happens.  I think this will be a GREAT read-aloud to grades 4-6!

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I am a huge Kate Messner  fan and follower and first learned about her latest book Wake Up Missing  when she wrote about it on her website just before its release date on September 10th.  I have not finished this book yet but not because I don’t have time – but because I don’t want it to end!  All  I can say is WOW!  Four teens – a hockey star, a football star, a horse lover and a bird watcher – all meet when they arrive at an elite Brain Science center in Florida.  The four have nothing in common – except they have all experienced head injuries and have gone to the center for some concussion testing.  (Being a mom of two boys who play hockey, I make a lot of connections to the concussion discussion!)  But after a while at the center, the four begin to suspect that there is more to these “tests” – and they begin to suspect they are part of some strange experiment that may steal their identities.  How exciting does this sound?  SO EXCITING!  My son wants to read this but I’m not letting him until I finish it and find out how they escape!      12991201[1]

I have been inspired by reading other IMWAYR posts and particularly  Holly Mueller of Reading, Teaching and Learning, who always includes non-teaching books she and her family are reading.  I’m blessed to part of a wonderful book club that meets once a month.  (And yes, we DO read and discuss the books!)  So I’ve decided to share my book club books each month.  This month, we are reading The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan.  This historical novel is set in Paris in 1856 and is the story of two sisters whose lives are upended when their father is murdered.  This is the story of one of the girls who becomes a model for artist Edward Degas, while her family struggles to survive.  I have not read too far into it yet, but certainly getting a different perspective on the artist Degas!

Well, there you have my latest reads of the week.  What have you been reading lately?

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Filed under Connect, It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, New Books, Novels, Picture Book, Poetry, 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.

This week I read several picture books – some recently released and some I somehow missed along the way.  I’ve also been busy ready a few recently released novels to share with teachers at my workshops this fall.

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I am a huge fan of the Stella and Sam books by Marie Louise Gay.  Sam is the quintessential child of wonderings and Stella, his sister, does her best to provide him with the her most thoughtful responses.  In Reading Me a Story, Stella we not only get these two delightful and well-loved characters at their best, but Gay subtly imparts the importance and pleasures of reading in many different forms – humor, fiction, nonfiction or poetry.  Throw in Gay’s whimsical watercolors and yes, we have a winner!

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Oh, the stomach ache inducing fear of having to stand up in front of the class and share something when you are painfully shy!  In Too Shy for Show and Tell by Beth Bracken, dear little Sam (well, he seems little, despite his very long neck!) dreads the thought of having to get up in front of the class.  What if he cries or throws up?  This is a great book to help children learn to deal with their anxiety about public speaking and one many will be able to connect to. z is for moose[1]

Somehow, I must have missed this book when it came over a year ago!  But I’m very happy to have discovered it now as it is extremely clever and VERY funny.  In Z is for Moose by Kelly Bringham, Zebra is directing an Alphabet play.  It is his job to ensure that all the animals appear in alphabetical order on stage.  His problems begin when Moose keeps trying to come onto the stage out of turn and things really go badly when Zebra discovers that he isn’t actually in the play at all!  This is a perfect read aloud for younger primary children learning the alphabet but also a great read aloud-laugh aloud with older kids!

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I love books clever books and Little Red Writing by Joan Holub is SO clever!  Not only is it a humorous re-telling of Little Red Riding Hood that children will recognize, but weaves in the key elements of story writing.  What could be better?   Little Red pencil is excited when her teacher, Ms. 2, tells her pencil class that it is time to write a story. Her basket of nouns help her along the way, particularly when she runs into Wolf 3000 – a pencil sharpener on a rampage!  This book is engaging, entertaining and hilarious!  Great water color illustrations with lots of details is the icing on the cake!

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I’m often not taken with sparkly book covers and tend to avoid them.  I’m glad I got passed the sparkles to discover the delightful story of Zoe Gets Ready by Bethanie Deeney Murguia.  It’s Saturday and Zoe is trying to decide what to wear. But her dilemma is not so much about the clothes she will wear as it is about what she wants to do that day. Will it be a pocket day? (in which case she will need a pocket to put her collections) Or maybe a twirling day? (when “twirly skirts” are essential!) or cartwheeling, or exploring kind of day. Adorable!   The surprising way she solves her problem will have children laughing!  This book got me thinking…what might one wear for a “reading day”?

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Another book I clearly missed when it was published in 2011 is Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczke and illustrated by Chad Cameron  It is a bright, colorful and entertaining book about the wonders of fall with an added element of fun: there are mistakes EVERYWHERE – from squirrels flying south to pumpkins growing on trees!  This book is pure entertainment – and I know my students will enjoy finding all the mixed up mistakes in both the text and illustrations.

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Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietow is a recently published book and perfect for your fall collection.  Sophie chooses a squash at the Farmer’s market but refuses to let her mom cook it for supper.  Instead, she names the squash Bernice and they become fast friends.  She takes Bernice everywhere, despite her parents’ gentle warning that Bernice may soon begin to rot.  At first, Sophie is convinced that Bernice will last forever, but eventually, she notices some soft changes!  What will she do?  A great book for predicting, problem solving and surprise endings!

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Mouse with the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck is the first of a few novels I’ve managed to read over the past few weeks.  This is a lovely story, reminiscent of Despereaux, with a main character I began routing for from the beginning. Mouse Minor lives in Buckingham Palace and is in service to the queen.  But he is unhappy and has many burdens to bare, including not knowing who his parents are, having no friends and being picked on. So he runs away from school and begins his adventures.  This dear little mouse who questions the world around him is not only brave but optimistic.  I enjoyed the setting of London and the detailed descriptions of Buckingham Palace and the Diamond Jubilee, as well as the fine illustrations.  I also loved language and wonderful phrases Peck uses including many little sayings and repeated poems.  Would make a wonderful read-aloud for upper primary and early intermediate students.  True Blue Scouts cover[1]

I had read several reviews of this book over the summer and was excited to read it.  The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (The Underneath)  is another animal story starring two “boy scout” raccoons and a whole cast of interesting characters – both animal and human.  This is a tall tale about a swamp in Texas guarded by the Sugar Man. Some of the characters want to preserve this swamp and some want to make money by turning the swamp into a Theme Park.   This book is so well written.  The short chapters jump from different points of view with such ease, you hardly notice.  The story is funny and fast paced and touches on community, conservation and adventure.  This would be an excellent read-aloud for grades 3-5.  9780307977939_p0_v1_s260x420[1]

I SO enjoyed Rump: the True Story of Rumplestiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff.  It is a twisted re-telling of the classic fairy tale told from the perspective of “Rump”.  This book has everything you could want in a classroom read-aloud: humor, magic, adventure, no parents, evil people, “butt” jokes, a character that you will be cheering for and did I mention humor?  Every boy in my class will want their hands on this book after I read the first chapter.  I can’t wait to start reading it to them!

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On a more serious note, Vince Vawter’s Paperboy deals with a boy with a disability –  a familiar trend in YA books since Wonder came out.  Set in Memphis in 1959, this coming of age story is about an 11 year old boy who suffers from a strong stutter.  He takes over his friend’s paper route one summer and so begins a story that ends up being so much more than about a boy with a disability.  While we do get a glimpse into the life of boy who stutters and the fears he must face when having to talk to his customers and collect money, we are also presented a piece of American history and of the racism that was so much a part of the South at this time.  The author Vince Vawter suffered through a stuttering problem in his childhood years, making this book semi-autobiographical.  This would be a great book for middle school lit. circles.

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Kate DiCamillo is high on my list of favorite writers.  I cried buckets reading Edward Tulane and held off reading the last page of Despereaux for almost a week because I didn’t want it to end.  In this, her first novel in “graphic” format, I have to say she has done it again.  I must admit I was a little hesitant when I learned this book was written partly in a comic book format as I was worried it would somehow lack the extraordinary gift of words and tender tale that I have come to know from any Kate DiCamillo book.  But I should have known that she would somehow master both humor, tenderness and a tapestry of wonderful words in this new format.  Flora and Ulysses is the story of a 10 year old girl (Flora) who is devoted to superheroes and a self-proclaimed cynic.  One day she rescues a squirrel from a disaster with a vacuum cleaner.  The squirrel, whom she names Ulysses, turns out to be a poetry writing superhero squirrel and Flora suddenly finds herself in the role of “sidekick” to this squirrel.   The characters are endearing, the writing is exquisite and the story is both humorous and touching.   Kate DiCamillo has done it again.

Well.. there you have it!  The latest picture books and novels I have read and enjoyed.  What have you been reading lately?

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Filed under It's Monday, What Are You Reading?, Lesson Ideas, Literature Circles, New Books, Novels, Picture Book