Thursday, September 24, 2020

What I Read Over the Summer

Here's what I read and loved this summer. Not as much as usual because I was distracted by binging TV. 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


LiftLift by Minh LĂȘ
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly breathtaking. And could lead to some super fun activities. I need to invest in a button for the kids to press ... while covered in PPE. 




Outside InOutside In by Deborah Underwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ooh, I liked this one. As someone who has only in the past year been introduced to hiking as a thing to do, to rivers as a place to swim, and to skiing as a not-horrible pasttime, I want my kids to be outside more. Just make sure to be slathered with sunscreen. 


In a JarIn a Jar by Deborah Marcero
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ooh. I kind of love it. The art teacher and I were just talking today about how we would like to try and combine lessons for virtual learning (if that's the way our district goes). This could serve that purpose. Mock Caldecott read and opportunity to draw your own jar all in one.



The Bear's GardenThe Bear's Garden by Marcie Colleen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh! To hope that the kids will be inspired to create their own gardens! Even if they only consist of a sunflower or one tomato plant.



Middle Grade Fiction


Awesome Dog 5000 (Book 1)Awesome Dog 5000 by Justin Dean
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Bravo, RICBA Committee. The kids are going to LOVE this. Perfect hybrid for those who are ready for more than Branches: lots of action, underdog heroes, the mention of farts. Big old cliffhanger at the end means I'm going to be getting lots of requests for #2.






Nonfiction

Facts vs. Opinions vs. RobotsFacts vs. Opinions vs. Robots by Michael Rex
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yeah, I'll be reading this one for sure to my students. And that is a fact. 





The Fabled Life of Aesop: The Extraordinary Journey and Collected Tales of the World’s Greatest StorytellerThe Fabled Life of Aesop: The Extraordinary Journey and Collected Tales of the World’s Greatest Storyteller by Ian Lendler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Impressively put together ... weaves the fables in with his [imagined?] life, and Zagarenski's illustrations are fabulous. 



Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis MelliferaHoneybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera by Candace Fleming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fleming does not disappoint. Although Rohmann's illustrations were a little too scientifically accurate for comfort. I was sad when Apis died at age 35 days, which was not how I expected to feel after reading this book! Also how do you get to be a queen who lives for years v. a worker who flies 500 miles in less than 2 weeks?


A Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights StoryA Ride to Remember: A Civil Rights Story by Sharon Langley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clear, matter-of-fact, hopeful, and inspiring. Nice job. And the concept of not being about to go on a carousel is probably going to resonate more with kids. If I am back in the buildings next month and going into classrooms, I'm doing readalouds only, and this will be one.


The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to ReadThe Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I may need to add this into my K or 1 curriculum to try and get kids to understand that being able to read is a privilege. Gorgeous illustrations from Oge Mora as usual.




For Grownups 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley StartupBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Completely bonkers! I cannot BELIEVE how much she got away with. Gasp-inducing audacity. Hooray for the whistleblowers! Truly astounding. And kind of scary.




Rabbit CakeRabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How would I describe the plot? I'm not entirely sure. "Girl grieves for mother" is just a bit. But what wonderful characters - even if the choices they make drove me crazy. A fast read, but not an easy read, if that makes any sense.

Just noticed it was blurbed by Kevin Wilson, who wrote "Nothing to See Here," which I really liked and showed up at the top of the page as a book that people who like this one also like. 


Precious and Grace (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency #17)Precious and Grace by Alexander McCall Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yay, more books in the series! Perfect for summer vacation. I alternated between hard copy and audio. Lisette Lecat's voice is like a warm blanket. Well, that's not great for summer ... how about a shady seat in the sun?





Two AcrossTwo Across by Jeff Bartsch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The plot dragged a bit in the last quarter, and the characters' actions were annoying me, but oh! that last perfect paragraph! I gave the fourth star back.

And I enjoyed the crossword clues peppered throughout.

p. 81: "She had a real, honest-to-God situation on her hands, involving an interesting boy, a boy who most certainly knew the square root of four."

p. 110: "One got the impression that the things Abby didn't hate were merely waiting in the wings for her to discover them, so she could hate them too."


The Escape RoomThe Escape Room by Megan Goldin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Is this book literature? No. Did I figure out the twist early on? Yes. Was it a great beach read? Absolutely.



Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Best Reads T2 2019-2020

Here's what I read and loved this trimester. 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

Linus The Little Yellow PencilLinus The Little Yellow Pencil by Scott Magoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shared with the art teacher, since kids can be mean about each other's work.




Ginny Goblin Is Not Allowed to Open This BoxGinny Goblin Is Not Allowed to Open This Box by David Goodner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More Ginny Goblin books, please.





Going Down Home with DaddyGoing Down Home with Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sweet.




Hum and SwishHum and Swish by Matt Myers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This may be a last-minute addition to my Mock Caldecott pile. Love the illustrations.


I Want a DogI Want a Dog by Jon Agee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I laughed out loud at the dead fish and the costumed lizard.





The Sad Little FactThe Sad Little Fact by Jonah Winter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Can we send several copies to the White House?




The King of KindergartenThe King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cute, but doesn't Barnes know that naptime takes away from Common Core instructional time? Ugh. My students could so use that downtime. So, sadly, unrealistic.




Middle Grade Fiction


  Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #1)Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wish I had read it when I was younger, but I'm glad to have come across it now. Fun stuff.





Planet Earth Is BluePlanet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I probably should have seen the big reveal coming before I started to suspect it.

I appreciated reading Nova's letters for a chance to better understand what someone with her issues might be thinking trapped behind a wall of communication problems.

p. 221:"It turns out a nova is not an explosion at the end of a star's life, like a supernova. A nova is an explosion on a white dwarf that makes a dull star get brighter and brighter all of a sudden until it is the brightest thing in the sky after the sun and moon, but then it fades back to normal. A supernova kills a star, but not a nova. In a nova, the star survives the explosion. That's me. I survived."


Bad DadBad Dad by David Walliams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely Dahl-esque.

Lots to love, including Auntie Flip's volumes of poetry (e.g., "Rhymes About Hand Cream" and "The Joys of Quiche"), bottom humor, Raj's rounding up "best by" dates to the nearest decade, and the wonderful design. So much fun - the written words are part of the action.



Nonfiction


Manhattan: Mapping the Story of an IslandManhattan: Mapping the Story of an Island by Jennifer Thermes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gorgeous. Well written, bursting with facts, meticulously illustrated.

"The city commissioners had thought it would take centuries to fill the grid with buildings. It only took sixty years."

I want to learn more about Paradise Square falling into the old landfill, Seneca Village, and the Great Blizzard of 1888.

Which One Doesn't Belong?: A Shapes BookWhich One Doesn't Belong?: A Shapes Book by Christopher Danielson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Will add to my 1st grade unit about sorting and categories.



Firefighters' HandbookFirefighters' Handbook by Meghan Mccarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Straightforward facts that my kids will eat up.




Comics: Easy as ABC!: The Essential Guide to Comics for KidsComics: Easy as ABC!: The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids by Ivan Brunetti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really liked the tips and suggestions, but then at the end there were bizarre four-panel comics that didn't seem to be for kids, and it all ended with a giant ad for TOON books.





For Grownups 

  Curious ToysCurious Toys by Elizabeth Hand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had no idea until I was looking at other reviews that Henry Darger was a real person! Kind of belies the statement at the end of the audiobook that any similarity to charaters living or dead was a coincidence ...

Anyways, I enjoyed listening to this, even though I thought we hadn't been given enough clues at all as to the killer's identity.


Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Mock Newbery 2020 - Final Voting List

So we're voting tonight. My first choice is at the top.


This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School EqualityThis Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality by Jo Ann Allen Boyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Holy shit.

Some gut punches here.

Delivered in verse that is truly poetic.

Interspersed with media coverage from the time.

Damn.

p. 89: "All those cups of sugar. / All those cakes and pies / Mrs. Smith baked with those borrowed cups. / How did they bear to swallow them? / How do I bear / to swallow this?"

p. 124: "The news is something / that happens / to other people / in other places. / Until it happens to you."

p. 168: "It's the little things that help. ... It's the little things that hurt."

p. 192: "It's the big things that grow from the little things."



Genesis Begins AgainGenesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gen broke my heart. The racism within her family and classmates - and within herself - was, quite frankly, shocking to me. The brown bag test and the bleach elicited out-loud reactions. Powerful stuff.





The Line TenderThe Line Tender by Kate Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of our strongest Mock Newbery contenders so far. Although I stopped reading for a while after an unexpected tragedy struck and traumatized me. Mr. Patterson was a fantastic character. The postcards were lovely. Would probably recommend for middle school v. elementary.

p. 84: "I love that you can just throw around 'uterus.' You are highly evolved."



Sweeping Up the HeartSweeping Up the Heart by Kevin Henkes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautifully written. We are completely in Amelia's head for a week.

p. 11: "She was moving quickly because she was eager to work, but more to the point she was reinventing her walk, trying to make it faster and more graceful. Purposeful. Her legs had grown so much lately that she felt out of sync, as if her body belonged to someone or something else. And she'd recently decided that she hated her knees."


Dear Sweet PeaDear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charming with a sweet resolution. Although I never got over Sweet Pea hiding her dad's mail.

p. 10: "And because he's a true best friend, he even slams my bedroom door for me because my hands are full."

p. 34: "Heck, when I fed Miss Dillon's cat for a week when she went on a cruise, she told me she'd pay me too. She just didn't say it would be in seashells she'd found on the beach and painted herself. When one of them started stinking up my room, Dad found a dead snail inside. Mom said it was a good lesson in doing nice things without expecting anything in return. I thought it was a good lesson in why you should check your seashells for living creatures before taking them home."

p. 53: "He laid claim to Greg on his first day. Oscar says it's like he peed on him to mark his territory."

p. 240: "We all love each other, but it's like on those shows about doctors where they need a certain kind of blood for a patient, but all they have is the wrong kind. This is what that feels like. We have plenty of love. It's just not the right kind."

p. 255: "Sometimes it's easy to forget that quiet moments mean just as much as the loud ones, because it's no always about moving. Sometimes it's about sitting perfectly and quietly still."



The Bridge HomeThe Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Liked it more than I thought I would. I feel like I need a shelf of child-laborer books to hand to my students when they complain about having to do anything.





Caterpillar SummerCaterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Kind of generic. And I know I'm supposed to be more sympathetic to Chicken, but my lord he was annoying.






The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. JamesThe Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While collecting Mock Newbery reviews to paste into a blog post, I realized that I evidently never wrote anything about this one. So ... not my favorite.






Pay Attention, Carter JonesPay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I very much welcomed the return to the breezy narration style of The Wednesday Wars. But ... I was disappointed in the rest. Also, too much cricket.

Wait, let me review the pages in which I stuck bits of paper ..

- Heartily agree with the disgust re: 1% milk
- Laughed at the possible "serial killer" identity of the Butler
- "Evocative connotations" get a plus
- Liked the point made about Loyalists
- Dying to know the relationship of Principal Swieteck to our protagonists of yore
- The Eggplant was a nice touch

Ok, moving up from a 2 to a 3.



Queen of the SeaQueen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I was so excited by the idea of the book, but it was rather boring. Extra star because I appreciate the work that went into it.






Butterfly YellowButterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Hated it. Which was so disappointing. I loved Lai's previous books. Enough people liked it at the last Mock Newbery meeting, though, that I forced myself to finish it. The Kindle said it would take 2 hours. I dragged it out over 2 weeks. Everyone was annoying and the trauma flashbacks were exceedingly traumatic. I am now convinced every itch is a worm.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Best Reads T1 2019-2020

Here's what I read and loved this trimester. 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


TreesTrees by Verlie Hutchens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Editors, THIS is poetry! Please make some of your other authors work a little harder at word choice and rhythm. Rich vocabulary - castanets shimmer, canapes of sunshine and pollen, fuzzy round baubles, akilter / unkempt, struts in royal ermine robes. I have ideas for using this for lessons ...


SaturdaySaturday by Oge Mora
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it. Loved the pictures, loved the text patterns, loved the message.




Grandpa's StoriesGrandpa's Stories by Joseph Coelho
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beautiful. I miss Beepie.





Ginny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster for a PetGinny Goblin Cannot Have a Monster for a Pet by David Goodner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Extra star for the vocabulary. Oh, this will be so fun to read for Mock Caldecott. And I can use in the future for some kind of bad pet theme with other books of the ilk.




The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's GardenThe Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden by Heather Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a wonderful idea for dealing with grief.






Who Wet My Pants?Who Wet My Pants? by Bob Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely adding to the Mock Caldecott list. The hand in the fish tank made me laugh out loud. Thank you, Bob Shea and Zachariah O'Hora, for living up to expectations.




Sweet DreamersSweet Dreamers by Isabelle Simler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At first I found the palette off-putting, but upon rereading, I became more appreciative of this book as an artistic tour de force. I also noticed that the wordless spreads were introducing new habitats. May buy as a gift for the next baby I know who is born.



A Normal PigA Normal Pig by K-Fai Steele
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nice rendition of a classic theme.





Music for Mister MoonMusic for Mister Moon by Philip C. Stead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first Stead production I have really liked! Will my kids? Not sure.






Bear Came AlongBear Came Along by Richard T. Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We're all in this together.






Cat KnitCat Knit by Jacob Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Adorable.






Early Readers



Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot!Chick and Brain: Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

OMG.







Hello, Crabby! (A Crabby Book #1)Hello, Crabby! by Jonathan Fenske
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love these Acorn books. And crabby characters.






Harold & Hog Pretend For Real! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!, #6)Harold & Hog Pretend For Real! by Dan Santat
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So meta!







Graphic Novels


GutsGuts by Raina Telgemeier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As someone with terrible stomach problems for years, who didn't even know "anxiety" was a thing until she was 30, I really could have used this when I was in middle school.





Middle Grade Novels



A Drop of HopeA Drop of Hope by Keith Calabrese
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Immensely readable, sweet, and lovely. The interconnecting stories worked, and some of the resolutions made me cry.

p. 10: "It was like he was riding in the back seat of his own family."

p. 25: "Parents always tell their kids to stand up for themselves, but they never mean for their kids to do it with them>."

p. 90: "At first none of it made any sense. ... It was like trying to listen to a four-year-old describe his dream to you."

p. 301: "You can't fix the world. But you do your best in your own little corner of it. And you hope."



The Line TenderThe Line Tender by Kate Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of our strongest Mock Newbery contenders so far. Although I stopped reading for a while after an unexpected tragedy struck and traumatized me. Mr. Patterson was a fantastic character. The postcards were lovely. Would probably recommend for middle school v. elementary.

p. 84: "I love that you can just throw around 'uterus.' You are highly evolved."



Finding OrionFinding Orion by John David Anderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So much fun. And now reviewing the highlights, I'm sad I agreed to let it go from the Mock Newbery list. Hoping it makes RICBA.






Dear Sweet PeaDear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charming with a sweet resolution. Although I never got over Sweet Pea hiding her dad's mail.

p. 10: "And because he's a true best friend, he even slams my bedroom door for me because my hands are full."

p. 34: "Heck, when I fed Miss Dillon's cat for a week when she went on a cruise, she told me she'd pay me too. She just didn't say it would be in seashells she'd found on the beach and painted herself. When one of them started stinking up my room, Dad found a dead snail inside. Mom said it was a good lesson in doing nice things without expecting anything in return. I thought it was a good lesson in why you should check your seashells for living creatures before taking them home."

p. 53: "He laid claim to Greg on his first day. Oscar says it's like he peed on him to mark his territory."

p. 240: "We all love each other, but it's like on those shows about doctors where they need a certain kind of blood for a patient, but all they have is the wrong kind. This is what that feels like. We have plenty of love. It's just not the right kind."

p. 255: "Sometimes it's easy to forget that quiet moments mean just as much as the loud ones, because it's no always about moving. Sometimes it's about sitting perfectly and quietly still."



Nonfiction



Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston MarathonHer Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer’s Historic Boston Marathon by Kim Chaffee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great combination of text and pictures. May use for a Mock Sibert.







For Grownups


The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn HardcastleThe 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well done, Mr. Turton. Meticulously plotted with a reveal I did not see coming but tied up some loose ends. Supremely entertaining if a bit braintwisting.

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