If it's Monday, it must be "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?"/ #IMWAYR sponsored by Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye at Unleashing Readers. This is the weekly link-up for those who wish to share their (mostly) children's and YA reading. If you want to find out about great books some voracious readers are reading– check out their pages to see all the lists people have "linked up" to their site. If you have a list of books you've been reading, you can link your list, too!
Greetings, and Happy Monday! It has certainly been an exciting week in Children's Literature as the 2016 ALA Youth Media Awards were announced last Monday. The "Academy Awards" of children's and youth books, this ceremony– which is now shared live via webcast– is a highlight of the year for book lovers everywhere. I really enjoy watching the awards with my students and seeing them get excited for books they love that receive recognition. There are inevitably books they are cheering for that don't win awards, and this gives us a great opportunity to talk about how tough the competition is, and that only ONE book can win each award. We also talk about how, if kids love a book, that's a kind of reward of its own. To see a list of the awards and this year's recipients, you can check out the press release from the American Library Association.
Since I last checked in, I've finished three of the books I had been reading, and completed five more To see more about these books you can click on the title to read my review on Goodreads:
Pack of Dorks, by Beth Vrabel, is a great story about friendship and finding a place to belong. Lucy, the main character, has always been one of the popular kids, but when a series of events causes her classmates to look at her differently, she begins to see some of the "not-so-popular" kids in her class– who she has basically ignored in the past– in a new light. A highlight of the book is when Lucy and her new friend, Sam, visit a wolf sanctuary to do research for a school project. I enjoyed this book and look forward to Vrabel's sequel due out this year. 4/5 stars
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea! by Ben Clanton is a charming graphic novel for young readers, but it will be loved by older kids, too. I purchased this for my classroom because of a student request, and I'm sure it won't be my last "Narwhal and Jelly" book! 5/5 stars
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the rehearsal script for the West End play written by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne. I must admit from the start that I am a huge Harry Potter geek, and it wouldn't really matter WHAT this was about as long as it extended the Harry Potter story. That said, I think it would be great to see this as a play. Reading it, something gets lost in translation– and that "something" is the descriptive, rich voice that all of J.K. Rowling's fans have come to expect from her writing. The story line isn't bad — but reading a play does not provide the reader with the character development or sense of time and place that a novel does. I kind of expected this going in, so it wasn't a huge surprise. Despite my lukewarm review, and my 3/ 5 star rating, would I skip this one? Not on your life!
The Night Gardener by the Fan Brothers, Terry and Eric, is a beautiful picture book about a man who creates amazing topiaries at night, transforming the once drab Grimloch Lane into a community that its citizens grow to be proud of and care for themselves. My students "oohed and ahhed" over this book, and I understand their amazement with the beautiful pictures. The story was sweet and enjoyable, and it introduces the art of topiary-making to an audience that may not have any experience with it. 4/ 5 stars.
Penguin Problems, by Jory Johns (with illustrations by the awesome Lane Smith), is a hilarious picture book from the cover through the front jacket cover (which IS part of the story!), and to the end of the book. I have a definite penchant for snarky picture books, and this one certainly fits the bill. Children of all ages will enjoy the running dialog the main character penguin carries on with the reader as well as the clever illustrations. Just when you think there may be an inspirational, serious moment and message toward the end of the story…. Well, you'll see! This book is a treat! 5/ 5 stars
The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles is a picture book full of beautiful prose by author Michelle Cuevas that is equally beautifully illustrated by Erin Stead. The lonely, somber mood at the start of this book is beautifully echoed in Stead's drab-colored oil pastel paintings, and with every addition of hope introduced by the text, the illustrations become brighter as well. This is a lovely book with a great message about how important it is for everyone to feel wanted, needed and loved. This worked out to be a great mentor text for addressing tone, mood, and theme. 4/ 5 stars.
Another book to add to my collection of "snarky picture books", A Hungry Lion, or A Dwindling Assortment of Animals by Lucy Ruth Cummins, is a delightful book with several crafty plot twists. Students loved it as I moved from page to page, because they just knew what was going to happen next…; or, maybe not. I love this book, and cannot say enough about it. Just trust that this one will have kids thinking, AND laughing! 5/ 5 stars
During the 2017 ALA Youth Media Awards last week, They All Saw a Cat, by Brendan Wenzel took a Caldecott Honor medal, and I couldn't be more pleased! This picture book doesn't have many words, but the words it does have are chosen specifically to make a certain point. The art of the book is what "makes" the story (I saw that there was an audio version of this, and for the life of my I can't imagine the appeal…!), for as the reader proceeds page by page, the cat is "seen" by a good number of people and animals. The important part is that each sees from his/her own perspective; a cat as seen by a goldfish looking through a goldfish bowl appears very different from a cat seen by a flea riding along on the cat's back. While it is a fantastic book for teaching about perspective, They All Saw a Cat can also just be a very enjoyable book to share with people you love! 5/ 5 stars
Hopefully it won't be quite so long before I post again. I am currently 2/3 through Mrs. Bixby's Last Day and am also re-reading From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (a personal favorite) and Artemis Fowl as a read-aloud with my 4th graders, and Love That Dog and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library (read-aloud) with my 3rd graders. Oh, and then there are those pesky graduate class texts…. I hope everyone has a great week, and Happy Reading!