Monday, April 1, 2019

Best Reads T2 2018-19

Here's what I read and loved this winter. Click on the titles to read plot summaries. If you'd like to see all of my books, you can follow me on Goodreads.

Picture Books

AnimalphabetAnimalphabet by Julia Donaldson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

GORGEOUS. Will use with PreK.

The Wall in the Middle of the Book
The Wall in the Middle of the Book by Jon Agee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Could be used in high school as an example of metaphor / allegory. And it's timely.

Night Train, Night TrainNight Train, Night Train by Robert Burleigh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The text rhythms sound like a train chugging along, and I liked how the colors were introduced gradually. Perfect for those 3-year-old train fanatics.

Dear SubstituteDear Substitute by Audrey Vernick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really liked it but got mad that there was no librarian and therefore they couldn't go to library. Hmpf. Buy for any friends you may have who are elementary subs.

Grumpy MonkeyGrumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes you just need to be a grump. Take it from me ... approximately 25 years ago my baby brother threw me out of his family play because I was being too grumpy.

The Patchwork BikeThe Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fabulous artwork. I liked the book better after reading the author and illustrator notes at the end.

Little HootLittle Hoot by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Little Hoot and I would get along so well ... I'm so good at pondering, staring, and going to bed early.

Early Readers

Fox the TigerFox the Tiger by Corey R. Tabor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So cute. Could be used as part of my Not a Box lesson with PreK.

Middle Grade Fiction

InklingInkling by Kenneth Oppel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some very strange things happened near the end, but all in all an original story that kept my attention. I loved how Inkling took on the mannerisms of his latest meal (e.g., "I am in the depths of despair" and "You is looking like a whopsy butterflapper!").

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her MonsterSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, the Dickensian squalor! Fantastic protagonist and OH! Charlie! Loved him and all of his quirks, like leaning in to the paper to hear the sounds the letters made.

I need a Nothing Room, "for being quiet, and things like that." And maybe some napping parties.

Young Adult

The Poet XThe Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the kind of book that can save a person's life. Should be stocked in every high school library. A novel in verse that was actually poetic.

p. 65: "Just because your father's present / doesn't mean he isn't absent."

p. 107: "He is not elegant enough for a sonnet / too well-thought-out for a free write, / taking too much space in my thoughts / to ever be a haiku."

p. 283: "It almost feels like / the more I bruise the page / the quicker something inside me heals."

For Grownups

Textbook Amy Krouse RosenthalTextbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

AKR was a genius. Before her death, I only knew her as a children's picture book author. ("Exclamation Mark" is one of my favorites.) But when I read her Encyclopedia, I realized that she was a quirky, deeply sensitive, inventive, funny person. Textbook is even better. I'm so sad to know that she is gone, and we won't get anything else from her brain. The Art chapter and the Science Experiments were amazing - she was kind of a performance artist as well. Using words mostly.

Definitely go to the web site and read the Serendiptiy stories and look at the Blue/Green gallery. Oh, and watch the Beckoning of Lovely video. I am sitting here in tears after viewing it myself.

View all my reviews Goodnight Trump: a parodyGoodnight Trump: a parody by Erich Origen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's funny yet super depressing because it's true. This book should be read at Trump's trial as evidence. (Please let 2019 bring a trial, please let 2019 bring a trial.)

The AdultsThe Adults by Caroline Hulse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun read full of imperfect people in a fraught situation ... even though it takes place over Christmas, would be a great beach book.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Best Reads of T1 18-19

Back to school is always busy and chaotic, but I have still managed to read some great books. Here are my favorites from the past three months. Click on the titles to read plot summaries. If you'd like to see all of my books, you can follow me on Goodreads.

Picture Books

DreamersDreamers by Yuyi Morales
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gorgeous. Make sure to look at all of the book spines in the illustrations.

The Bad SeedThe Bad Seed by Jory John
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I need a copy of this for my guidance counselors to use.

Giraffe ProblemsGiraffe Problems by Jory John
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The Rough PatchThe Rough Patch by Brian Lies
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovely illustrations, although I thought it was kind of odd for a fox to own a dog. Why not make it a person? That said, even though I usually go for hilarious books for Mock Caldecott, this one definitely has a place on my 2019 list.

Adrian Simcox Does Not Have a HorseAdrian Simcox Does Not Have a Horse by Marcy Campbell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lovely. Just recommended to my principal who has school-wide reads each month.

The Day You BeginThe Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A Dog with Nice Ears: Featuring Charlie and LolaA Dog with Nice Ears: Featuring Charlie and Lola by Lauren Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A better-than-average I-want-a-pet book. Because Charlie and Lola.

Allie All AlongAllie All Along by Sarah Lynne Reul
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Will definitely recommend to my RSPs.

Those ShoesThose Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Non-schmaltzy book about kindness.

Early Readers

I Lost My Tooth! (Unlimited Squirrels)I Lost My Tooth! by Mo Willems
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Makes kids in grades K-2 laugh out loud.

MelonheadMelonhead by Katy Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delightful. I may submit a DonorsChoose project to get the entire series for my schools.

Fly Guy and the Alienzz (Fly Guy #18)Fly Guy and the Alienzz by Tedd Arnold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Middle Grade Novels 

CosmicCosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Extra star for the narration. I looked forward to driving places so I could listen to this in the car. Great main character and original plot.


Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie GermainNothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain by Cheryl Bardoe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Talk about grit and perseverance! Will request when I post my next DonorsChoose biography project.

For Grownups

Murder on the Flying Scotsman (Daisy Dalrymple, #4)Murder on the Flying Scotsman by Carola Dunn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally, a solution that made sense and was hinted at with normal clues! It took me a while to figure out the family relationships, but overall this was the most logical of the series so far.

Broken HarborBroken Harbor by Tana French
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A tad overlong with very strange behavior revealed ... maybe the house needed a CO monitor? Can't you go cuckoo from it? And I didn't buy the way the culprit shared their story with so many details and poetic language. Not as good as #3 but better than #2. On to #5.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Best Reads of August 2018

Summer vacation means way more reading time! Here are my favorites from August. Click on the titles to read plot summaries. If you'd like to see all of my books, you can follow me on Goodreads.

Picture Books

Bigger! Bigger!Bigger! Bigger! by Leslie Patricelli
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Imagination! Cooperation! Although if I were the main character I might have beaned my sibling with a block.

We Don't Eat Our ClassmatesWe Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ahhh! I need to add this into my K "how to behave at school" repertoire.

I say OOH You say AAHI say OOH You say AAH by John Kane
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Will the kids like it? I think so. Adding to Mock Caldecott and will also use with K.

GeraldineGeraldine by Elizabeth Lilly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A super cute allegory about being the new kid and finding your way to fit in. Although Geraldine's neck is a bit insane.

What Happens NextWhat Happens Next by Susan Hughes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting structure and important theme, but would the solution presented here really work? Will recommend to Guidance and social worker/school psychologist anyways.

Middle Grade Novels

Walking with Miss MillieWalking with Miss Millie by Tamara Bundy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Solid coming-of-age novel with some good advice from Miss Millie that I plan to use this school year:

p 124: "You're never too old to be hurt just a little. But if you're lucky, one day you be smart enough to quit putting yourself in the situations that hurt ya."

p. 192: "I learned it's okay to get mad. It's okay to get sad, but after all that gettin' mad and sad, ya gotta get smart. Ya gotta take a step back, away from all your hurtin', and figure out what ya can change and what ya can't."

Secret Sisters of the Salty SeaSecret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked this so much more than I thought I would. Nothing much really happens, and spending a week at the beach (what state? I couldn't figure it out. It drove me crazy. Maine?) in a rented house is a foreign concept to some of my students. And they may see it as "girly." But I loved Perkins' style ... it was almost dreamlike.

p. 222: "You never knew what amazing thing would happen next, that was for sure. Alix wondered if that might be true in Shembleton, too. If it could be true in everyday life, when you weren't on vacation. She felt that it could."

I'm going to try and hold on to that when the school year starts ...

Road Trip with Max and His MomRoad Trip with Max and His Mom by Linda Urban
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked it better than the first one ... I feel like we got a little more insight into Max's personality. Lots of amusing lines. For example:

p. 57: "There were a lot of minutes between now and after school tomorrow. How as he supposed to know if he needed any last-minute things when it wasn't the last minute yet?"

His desire to experience "hardships and deprivations."

p. 103: "he did not look tall or brave or awesome. He looked like a guy whose family motto might be 'Let's Go Home and Eat Soup.'"


Do Not Open This Math Book: Addition + SubtractionDo Not Open This Math Book: Addition + Subtraction by Danica McKellar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, now I finally know what it means to add 3-digit numbers in expanded form. McKellar does an excellent job of explaining things like 10 frames and number bonds, which I still find annoying but oh, well. Would recommend to any parent to work through with their early elementary students.

For Grownups

Erotic Stories for Punjabi WidowsErotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be my favorite book of the summer because it was so fun. I mean, yes, there were some terrible actions / beliefs revealed by the end, but it kept me reading after my bedtime because I was enjoying it so much. One of my favorite scenes was the widows declaring that Preetam had "done plagiarism" by describing a TV movie as her story. Excellent summer read ... actually, it would be an excellent read during any season. Loved it.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

RI Mock Newbery - October Reading List

It's that time again! I decided to start posting after our meetings so I can mark which ones are kept and which are dropped. 

SunnySunny by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars (committee agrees - KEEP)

A self-contained gem. My favorite of the series so far, I think.

p. 99: "Diary, I watned to tell her that was impossible, but she was so nice and she already had a broken arm, and I'd already almost died, so I felt like maybe we should let some of the small things slide."

The Truth as Told by Mason ButtleThe Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (committee agrees - KEEP)

My first Mock Newbery-worthy read of the year. Great main character and storytelling.

p. 25: "Looks like someone made him out of paper clips and Scotch tape."

p. 58: "I couldn't read it. But I could hear and see that her parents are very fond of letters. And if she ever wrote one of those acrostic poems from her name, well, that would be very long."

p. 242: "This crazy, awful experience is probably preparing you for a really great decision somewhere down the line. Something no one can even guess about yet. ... How cool is that?"

A House That Once WasA House That Once Was by Julie Fogliano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (dropped)

Oh Ms. Fogliano has such a command of language.

BobBob by Wendy Mass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (committee agrees - KEEP)

I want a Bob in my closet! His voice cracked me up.

Front DeskFront Desk by Kelly Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (dropped, but considering for RICBA)

Powerful depiction of an immigrant family trying to make it. Or at least keep a roof over their heads. It gets a little "It's A Wonderful Life" at the end, but we could all use a happy ending. Mia pretty much is the embodiment of grit.

p. 82: "I used to think being successful meant having enough to eat, but now that I was getting free lunch at school, I wondered if I should set my standards higher."

Just Like JackieJust Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (did not discuss yet)

Beautifully written, although the entire situation nervoused me. And the grandfather refusing to tell Robinson about any of her family members - even back when he was fully there - was infuriating. But still a moving read.

p. 117: "I'm so sad at Grandpa's brain because I don't know how to diagnose his malfunction, and I don't even know if he knows that his check engine's light's on."

p. 126: "I do want to cut away at Grandpa's hard, thick bark because it feels really scratchy and crappy to keep rubbing up against it."

p. 166: "And I wish there were some wire brush to clean out Grandpa's corroded cables and reconnect them to his starter so he could ride out good as new too."

You Go FirstYou Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (dropped)

So glad I'm not a middle schooler any more.

Slow slips.
"You are a finch."
"There's this saying by Robert Frost. It goes, 'In three words I can sum up everything I know about life: it goes on."

Ghost BoysGhost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars (dropped)

Wow. Rhodes delivers some gut punches. Like on p. 134 when Jerome realizes he had never really left his neighborhood. I was going to give an extra point for originality, but the tone shifts towards didacticism near the end, so point back off for that. Still, an important book that I will add to our collections.

ReboundRebound by Kwame Alexander
My rating: 3 of 5 stars (dropped)

3.5. Started out strong, then faltered a bit. I didn't think the poems were as "poetic" as those in The Crossover and Booked. But still a solid addition to any middle school library.

p. 377: "You gonna miss some. / Heck, you gonna miss a lot.
That's the way the real world works. / But you gotta grab the ball and
keep shooting. You understand?"

The Night DiaryThe Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
My rating: 3 of 5 star (dropped)

Extra star because I'm partial to immigration stories these days.

p. 130: "Amil is only being all he knows how to be. But I guess Papa is, too. I guess we all are. It's just that some people are better at being than others."

The Prince and the DressmakerThe Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars (dropped)

Extra star for the tear in my eye when the king participates in the fashion show.

Be PreparedBe Prepared by Vera Brosgol
My rating: 3 of 5 stars (dropped)

Why did they put her in a tent with 14-year-olds?

And will parents complain about the term "tit head"?

The Book of BoyThe Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
My rating: 2 of 5 stars (committee disagrees - KEEP)

Oof. I started out really enjoying this one ... plague backgrounds always get me excited. And the writing elicited the period, and there was a mysterious quest ... and then we found out Secundus' back story. And that his key was magic. And then it started to be a chore to read. I thought relics were all pretend ... how could he really make his way to heaven by stealing them? (Nevermind that stealing is a crime.)

This is why I usually only buy books that I've read or that my kids have specifically requested. Winning awards (this is on a lot of Newbery contender lists, including RI) does not mean that a book will get checked out.

BreakoutBreakout by Kate Messner
My rating: 2 of 5 stars (dropped)

I thought it would never end. The race stuff was buried in among way too many other things, and wow those inmates were good at hiding!

Liked the reference to the Al Capone books, and I've read the majority of the books Messner mentioned at the end. Poor Mr. Russell wanting his library books back ... I feel his pain! I enjoyed Elidee's first few poems - I had never heard of a Golden Shovel / "striking line" poem before - but then it started to seem like Messner was just showing off. Finally, I did appreciate Nora's "leadership moments." And learning about cow shoes.

But overall, not a huge fan.

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
My rating: 2 of 5 stars (dropped)

I enjoyed the first half, although I wanted more of Althea's stories. But from the time Alice and Finch got off the bus, it was a struggle to finish. Albert is a good writer with imagination, but the plot went off the rails and then became just boring. And I don't really understand how the Hinterland works.

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