Monday, June 9, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6.09.14

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

Whoo-hoo!  It's officially summertime for me!  I was able to start #bookaday (wow, and what a start that has been, right??) although not as fast as I wanted.  It seems that there is always something else I need to do before I get to sit and read.  I'm thinking today may be a good sit down and read day - watch out next Monday's post!  Here's what I got to this week:

Picture Books

Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey
Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway
4/5 stars
Great beginning reader, in a chapter format.  Pigsticks is the strong and brave, yet clueless in the how to be a friend department character.  Harold is the smarter and kinder sidekick.  Not as clever as Elephant and Piggie, but I think fans of E&P will like this book.  Fun illustrations.

Zen Ghosts
Zen Ghosts by Jon J Muth
3/5 stars
Not my favorite in the Zen series.  The story that Stillwater tells is a koan, "a story that Zen students sometimes contemplate in their efforts for enlightenment."  I think the story will go right over the heads of young readers.  Upon reading the Author's Note, I think older students could ponder the story for a longer time and keep it in their heads longer.  It would lead to an interesting conversation!

Rules of Summer
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan
2/5 stars
I know, I'm pretty much the only one out there that doesn't like… doesn't get this book.  When I pick up a picture book, I want to understand the point it's trying to make.  I love picture books that make me think and I return to it more than once, but this one I just didn't get.  I read it when it first came out and didn't get it.  I picked it up again after reading numerous reviews explaining it.  I picked it up because everyone was raving over the brilliancy of it.  Apparently my brain is done working for the year because it just didn't work for me.  I'm not afraid to admit it.  I think it's ok to have differing opinions.
But, with that said, I do think this book has a place in the classroom, especially for those in an older grade (that for me is 4th and above).  I think you could use it for inferring.  Because of the simple text, there is a lot missing between the illustrations and the words.  I think students would have a great conversation discussing the picture and the rule and what is not being said.  After reading the book in its entirety, have students discuss - is there a message in this book?  The book could be used as a mentor text for writing - students could make up a set of rules for something and then interpret them in their own way.  And after all of that is done, just go back and look through the illustrations and admire.  Even if I don't admire the book, I do appreciate the beautiful illustrations Tan has created.
Travis Jonker wrote a review of Rules this week, and it was the first time I felt like someone else got it.  While Jonker does praise the book, he too was confused and said what he finally figured out was this book does not read like your normal picture book does - straightforward and to the point.  Which is what I wanted it to do.  I needed there to at least be an explanation to these rules and the weird illustrations, but there wasn't one.  Here's the review

The Troublemaker
The Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo
5/5 stars
I love this book!  Easy text, lovely illustrations and a great story.  What a winner!  I can't wait to use this book with young kids to show them how your thinking changes as you read.  When you start the book, you think the "troublemaker" is the little boy, especially since he appears to be up to no good as he sneaks away his sister's toy.  Or is he the troublemaker??  My favorite picture book of the week!

Extraordinary Jane
Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison
5/5 stars
I had heard great things about this book, and it did not disappoint.  Everyone in Jane's family can do something extraordinary except for Jane.  But this sweet little dog ends up having a special talent that surprises even her.  Beautiful illustrations.  Easy text.

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio
4/5 stars
Love this story about what makes up a modern family!

My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
My New Friend is So Fun! by Mo Willems
4/5 stars
There has yet to be an E&P book that doesn't make me laugh!  This one was no exception.  And I love how crazy Gerald gets when he's upset!  So silly!

Hooray for Hat!
Hooray for Hat! by Brian Won
5/5 stars
Love this story about the grumpy animals.  After receiving a special, and what seems to be customized, hat, the grumpy animal celebrates and joyfully wears the hat before going off to give another grumpy animal a hat.  Great for teaching central message/lesson.

Geisel Challenge
I started this challenge back in March when Mr. Schu and Mr. Sharp announced it.  I've really enjoyed going back and reading these books, since so many of them I had missed.  I know a lot more series for young readers that I can suggest.  How wonderful!
I read these books to finish off the challenge:

Let's Go for a Drive!
Let's Go For a Drive! by Mo Willems
This is up there for my favorite Elephant and Piggie book!

I Broke My Trunk!
I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems

See Me Run
See Me Run by Paul Meisel

Adult Reading

The One and Only
The One and Only by Emily Giffin
4/5 stars
I think a good author can take an uncomfortable situation and write it well to make it understandable to the reader.  That's what Emily Giffin did for me in this book.  The main character, Shea, while likable, has a HUGE crush on her best friend's dad.  I'm thinking kind of strange.  But to make it worse, his wife, Shea's best friend's mom, just died.  To me, that sounds like a stupid plot.  But Giffin makes it work.  I enjoyed this book, I liked returning to it.  

Continuing to Read

Circa Now
Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner
This book is fantastic.  I'm really enjoying it.

Readers Front and Center: Helping All Students Engage with Complex Text
Readers Front and Center by Dorothy Barnhouse

Don't miss - Pigsticks & Harold, The Troublemaker, Extraordinary Jane, Hooray for Hat, Let's Go For a Drive, and Circa Now

Looking forward to reading today and seeing what you read!


  1. What great books this week! I just got RULES OF SUMMER from the library but haven't read it yet. I have a feeling I will feel the same as you though since I tend to be ambivalent about Shaun Tan's books. I know he's a genius and all, but I just don't get his books. He's kind of like the illustrator version of Neil Gaiman for me. I know Gaiman is a great writer, but his books are just too weird and creepy for me. Tan's illustrations make me feel the same way.

  2. What a great set of picture books on this list! I'm going to check some of them out. I have to say your description of Rules of Summer makes me want to read it and see what it's all about. I am out of the loop with picture books these days since my kids have gotten older. But that one sounds very interesting.

  3. Oh wow, my heart just jumped out of my throat after I read your review of Rules of Summer. I am a huge fan of Shaun Tan myself, but I do understand that he is an acquired taste for most. :) Love Mo Willems. Someday I hope to collect all of the Elephant and Piggie titles. :)

  4. Loads of good picture books, Michele, like Extraordinary Jane and The Troublemaker, which I will definitely look for. I also will find the Rules of Summer; you certainly have me intrigued about it. On a side note, thanks for asking about my grandson. I'll let everyone know when I know something. So far it's a waiting game. Have a good week, Michele!

  5. May have to pick up The One and Only, although I bust got rid of a couple of titles from the 80s where girls had crushes on teachers or orthodontists. Maybe it was more acceptable back in the day (mine were played for laughs), but this new one sounds more thoughtful. Of course, go back and read Daddy Long Legs or Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm if you want to be creeped out by grooming behavior! How things change!

  6. These are some great titles! I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on READERS FRONT AND CENTER. I will keep checking back. :)

    I've been meaning to read EXTRAORDINARY JANE, so I am glad to see that it lives up to the hype! I hope you have a terrific week! Happy reading!

  7. I'm so excited by the new Elephant and Piggie book. I've ordered 3 copies for our school library. I've also ordered a Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey, and Extraordinary Jane.

  8. So many great titles! I really liked Rules - the strange and unexplained just appealed. But maybe I was just in the right mood. Many titles here are on my must read list including the new one by Castillo who I love! Enjoy all of your reading time!

  9. WOW! A lot of books from your list are new to me. The Troublemaker jumps out at me as I love books that lead your thinking in a different direction - sounds like a winner! LOVE any Piggy books by Mo Willams - I think my favorite is We Are In a Book! I am one who really loved Rules of Summer - but I agree that it would only work for an older class. It really is the perfect book for inviting kids to infer - so many different "maybe's" (my favorite inferring word!) Thanks for sharing!