Monday, June 22, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6.22.15

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.

I needed to get caught up with my #bookaday count so got in a few picture books this week.  I was really caught up in my reading of Deborah Wiles' Revolution.  What a gorgeous book!

Picture Books

Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats
Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats by Alicia Potter
4/5 stars
Another book illustrated by the talented Birgitta Sif.  I love how she always knows what color palette to use with her illustrations that mesh with the text so well.  Paired with the sweet story by Alicia Potter, this book will touch the hearts of many young readers.  I love the gentle teaching style of Miss Hazeltine.  Her soft touch and understanding of her houseguests' needs is just what these cats need in order to grow and learn.

Where's Walrus?
Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage
4/5 stars
Savage has an amazing talent of knowing just how to appeal to young readers.  He creates books that will draw a very young reader in and be excited about books.
Kids will get a kick out of finding Walrus on each page as he eludes the zoo keeper!

To the Sea
To the Sea by Cale Atkinson
5/5 stars
I had heard how wonderful this book is, and the reviewers did not lie!  Such a sweet book about friendship.  What does it mean to be a friend?  I love the small acts of kindness between the two surprising friends and the feeling of hope at the end of the book.
I think this one would be a great companion story to Trudy Ludwig's The Invisible Boy.

I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard
I Will Never Get a Star on Mrs. Benson's Blackboard by Jennifer K. Mann
3/5 stars
I get where this story was going.  Rose might not be the perfect student but she has talent. Can she be acknowledged for her talent?  
What made me sad was the portrayal of the teacher.  To see a teacher put out the flame in a child is sad.  She has a reversal by the end of the story, but I was already turned off by her at that point.

The Whale in My Swimming Pool
The Whale in my Swimming Pool by Joyce Wan
4/5 stars
Loved the easier text in this fun book that is perfect for summertime reading.  The mom cracked me up - completely engaged in her book and not noticing the ginormous whale in the little backyard pool!  The little boy in the story ends up making the best of the silly situation.  The surprise at the end will make young readers laugh.  The bright, bold illustrations are eye catching and fun.  The end pages reminded me a bit of Elephant and Piggie, with a surprise from the front pages to the back.

Middle Grade

Revolution by Deborah Wiles
5/5 stars ++++++
I read Countdown last week and went right into Revolution.  Wow wow wow.  I loved Countdown.  The way Wiles was able to put historical fiction and primary sources together was just astounding.  But the heart of the story in Revolution, was nothing short of amazing.  
Wiles wrote a picture book story, Freedom Summer, that does a great job telling about a small moment in time during the political chaos of the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi.  That book also has a great Author's Note giving some more background.  But Revolution is a brilliant mash-up of the political craziness of Freedom Summer and the Vietnam War.  Although the core of the story is what was happening in Mississippi, you can't help but compare the political unrest that was happening in Vietnam with the political unrest between whites and blacks.  What is the meaning of freedom?  And how does a young girl, who is meant to believe in the adults that surround her - family, friends and community members - but in her heart know something is not right?  How does a young child who is black, understand what is due to him by law, but cannot act because of the way the adults who have power have made it impossible to do so?
Franny's story is such a powerful one because it makes the reader ask, what is right?  And even though you can understand what is right, what is morally correct, how come that can't happen?  And then there is Franny's secondary story, wondering about her mom.  
Raymond's story is equally powerful.  His story is told through emotion and always trying to fight the hard feelings to become an equal.  I love that Wiles told both sides of the story.
It's either the sign of great storytelling, or me just being completely oblivious, but I did not realize until the very end how Wiles brought Countdown and Revolution together.  Not sure how I missed that, but there was an audible "ohhhhhhh" once I figured it out!
Revolution is the second book in a trilogy about the 60s.  I cannot wait for the last one to come out.  I'm very excited to find out what topic will be the center of the third book!
Tonight I'll be chatting about Revolution on Twitter with Aly, Carrie and Leigh Anne.  Join us in our discussion!  We start at 9pmEST using the hashtag #revolutionchat.

Young Adult

Off the Page
Off the Page by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer
2/5 stars
I stuck with this book because off and on it was good.  Overall, I did not care for it.  I think there are certain young adult readers who will enjoy this story.  I felt like it was completely predictable, the writing was easy and the characters were flat.

Currently Reading

Rules by Cynthia Lord
Have you ever had that book that everyone else in the world has read but you?  I'm sure all of you gasped when you saw I hadn't read this title yet, but I'm reading it now!

On Deck
I'm continuing my month of June YA reading.  Here's what will be up next:

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

What book are you looking forward to reading next?


  1. I haven't read Rules either. There are just too many good books to choose from. Come see my YA week here. Happy reading!

  2. I definitely need to look for Countdown and Revolution! Rules is one of my go-to favorites so I hope you enjoy it. I've heard a lot of good things about both the YA titles that you have on deck, but haven't read them yet. It was nice meeting you and spending some time with you at All Write.

  3. I want to read "I'll Give You the Sun" too. I've heard such great things about it. I hope you enjoy "Rules". I read it to my class a few years ago on my daughter's recommendation. They loved it and made up their own rules to go along with it. Enjoy!

  4. I too loved Countdown & especially Revolution. Wiles does an amazing job with historical fiction. I love the pop culture & other graphics that are woven into the books. To the Sea keeps popping up. I put it on my TBR list. ;) Yes, I was surprised you hadn't read Rules, but better late than never. I think you'll enjoy it.

  5. I'm looking forward to reading To The Sea. I've heard such great things about it.

  6. OMG! RULES is an absolute favorite! Happy summer reading!

  7. Revolution was amazing - and Rules is one of my all time favorites. Enjoy!

  8. I loved Where's Walrus! And had not heard of To the Sea. Adding it to my TBR pile immediately. Also Deborah Wiles = automatic win. Enjoyed both of those.

  9. To the Sea sounds like such an important book. Since it is about friendship perhaps it is a perfect book for interactive read aloud in September. Thanks for the recommendation!

  10. Rules is one of my favorites too. I sometimes include it on the syllabus for my Children's Lit class (and sometimes for my YA Lit class too!). It's usually a big favorite with my students as well. Love the look of all these PBs--adding all of them to my list.

  11. Let's all agree that Deborah Wiles can do no wrong. I agree 150% with your comments on these books. Hope you enjoy Rules. Cynthia Lord is another amazing author.

  12. Just finished our chat--what an amazing book! I loved chatting about it with you!!!

    Enjoy Rules--it is a special book!
    I'll also be checking out all of those PBs :)

    Happy reading this week! :)

  13. Rules and Revolution are both on my list! Actually, so is I'll Give You the Sun. You and I are on the same page (pun in tended). I always enjoy coming to your blog because I trust your reviews very much. :)

  14. Hi there Michele. I included Revolution as part of my YA text-set in a higherdegree course I am teaching this August. Rules also sounds like a definite must-read. Your 2star review of Jodi Picoult is precisely the reason why I hesitate reading her because I don't know where to start and I wouldn't want to waste my time.