Monday, January 21, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.21.19

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.

This is usually where I put "last week's adventures" but there weren't any to be had!  I have some nonfiction and #road2reading posts started, but just no time to get them done.  But I have lots of reading to share.  Some titles you are definitely going to want on your radar:

Picture Books

The Bell Rang
The Bell Rang
by James E. Ransome
I had heard some buzz about this book and now I know why.  It is simply gorgeous.  A story about slavery and family and what happens when a family member runs and the family that is left behind.  Not a single word is wasted in this story which makes it even more of a heartprint story.  The illustrations are simply gorgeous, I imagine it will end up on some Mock Caldecott lists next fall.  The design choices the publisher made are superb too - the classic book under the jacket feels so right for this book.  It does not shy away from the harshness of slavery which makes it more accurate than other books I've seen.  There are also quite a few signposts throughout the book - again and again, contrast and contradictions, aha moment, tough questions.

Winter Is Here
Winter is Here
written by Kevin Henkes
illustrated by Laura Dronzek
I am really enjoying this husband-wife collaboration.  Now entering the third season and my least favorite - winter.  Blah.  However, Dronzek's illustrations make it look so pleasant... as long as it stays on the page and not outside my window, I'd be fine with it!  

You Can Be
You Can Be
by Elise Gravel
Formatted as a board book, but it definitely should not be overlooked for classroom purposes, a book full of adjectives describing all of the different ways you can be!  Be sure to note the subtle decision to challenge some gender norms by having words more typically associated with girls, attached to boys (sensitive, artsy, scared) and vice versa (funny, noisy, strong).  Well done, Ms. Gravel.

Middle Grade

The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA
The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA
by Brenda Woods
I should have known since it was edited by the Nancy Paulson that I would love this book.  If Nancy's careful eyes have touched a middle grade book, it's going to be a beauty.
Dealing with racial prejudices and taking place in the south during the civil rights movement, this story, which is narrated by a white character, brings to light questions and understandings that are very relevant today.
The only complaint I had was with the ending - I felt like it was too neat and quick.  Perhaps if the issue had been fleshed out a bit in the beginning I would not have had the same issue.
This was one of my first reads of 2019 and if this is any indication how the rest of the reading year is going to go, we are good to go!

by Kenneth Oppel
This one was slow to start for me, but before I knew it, I loved this little blob of ink!
Inkling has come out of a sketchbook to help save a family.  The mother has recently passed because of cancer, and the family is not doing well.  Dad needs help with his graphic novel career, he is definitely having writer's and illustrator's block and oldest sibling.  Ethan, is having trouble trying to keep his family together, which should not be the job of a kid.  He does his best to take care of his younger sibling, Sarah, who has Down's Syndrome, but there are some things that need more parental help than what Ethan can provide.  Along comes Inkling, who when fed a steady diet of amazing literature, including comics, is able to communicate by transforming its ink into words and phrases.  The more quality literature it reads, the more communicative it becomes and the more it understands human nature.  Inkling gives Ethan some help with his school work which sets us suspicions with his classmates.  Friends become confidants, but enemies make life even harder for Ethan and his family.
What surprised me about this novel is how much the reader cares for Inkling.  The reader sees how much help this family needs and what it is able to provide.  The human characteristics Inkling is able to possess, understand and demonstrate really makes it a character you end up loving!
I am looking forward to hearing the reaction of the targeted audience, I have a feeling they are going to really enjoy this one!

This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality
This Promise of Change
written by Jo Ann Allen Boyce and Debbie Levy
This novel in verse co-written by one of the Clinton 12 (the 12 African Americans that were the first to enter a desegregated high school in Clinton, TN during a time when it was violently protested by government officials, adults and the white high school students, themselves) will give middle grade readers an understanding and view of what happened during a time that many students do not have a strong understanding of.  I appreciate hearing a first-hand account and perspective that history books do not provide.
Thank you to Bloomsbury for the review copy.

Dragon Pearl
Dragon Pearl
by Yoon Ha Lee
I am really enjoying Rick Riordan's new imprint that is featuring different mythological stories from other cultures.
This one features Korean mythology.  Min must set out to find her missing brother, Jun.  He has deserted his post in the Space Force cadets, but it is something she knows he would never do.  Could it have something to do with his desire to find the Dragon Pearl, which would help transform their extremely poor country?  MIn leaves home to find out and when she does, the adventure truly begins.
I wish there was some background information about Korean mythology included because since it was embedded in this space story, there was some information that I wasn't sure if it was mythological or fantasy.
Regardless, fun story and one I'll definitely read the sequel.

Young Adult

A Curse So Dark and Lonely
A Curse So Dark and Lonely
by Brigid Kemmerer
A story that is loosely based upon the "Beauty and the Beast" story - a cursed prince, a beast, and true love.  
I really enjoyed the twist on the story and the nuances that Kemmerer put into this story that enhanced the whole 'tale as old as time' thing!  When I first started reading this book, I was thinking about the #metoo movement and Women Empowerment, but I really like the direction the book took.  Our main female character, Harper, ended up being stronger than I thought she would be.  A disabled character who truly showed that people are more than any label others try to put on them.  I rooted for her the whole way and couldn't wait to see not only what happened to her but what is in store for her next.
This book is perfect for readers of Sarah J. Maas, but perhaps who need a more tame storyline....
This publishes January 29th and I'm already eagerly waiting the next book!
Thank you Bloomsbury for the review copy.

Adult Reads

Nine Perfect Strangers
Nine Perfect Strangers 
by Liane Moriarty
Moriarty is an author I read very early on in her writing career.  I loved her first several books, but I'll be honest, her last several have not done anything for me.  It's why I don't read adult novels - they carry on for too long.  
This one starts out well - nine strangers are meeting for the first time as they check-in to a ten-day retreat at a wellness house.  Somewhere around the middle is where the book goes downhill for me.  It recovers at the end, but not enough to save the book for me.

Hope this three day weekend has given you a chance to catch up on some reading!  I know I took advantage of it... I actually have two more blog posts for this week!  See you on Wednesday!


  1. I have The Bell Rang on my list this week, too. It's a heart-wrenching book. I was disappointed with Moriarty's latest. Have a great week!

  2. I had to laugh at your comment about adult books. Conditioned to the pacing of middle grade and YA, I wholeheartedly agree that most adult books go on too long! I'm generally not keen on fairy tale retellings/updates but I make an exception for Beauty and the Beast, so I'll have to read Curse So Dark and Lonely.

  3. It seems so many of my fellow #imwayr friends are reading The Bell Rang, so I'm hoping to get this one very soon. I also have Inkling and Dragon Pearl on my TBR list. I hear you on adult reads often going on so long. I'm saving some of my "adult reads" for the summer time because I like to participate in Sue's "big book" challenge where there seems to always be more discussion on adult and YA reads. It also helps motivate me to pull out all my 400+ paged books and see how many I can get through before the school year starts back up. Thanks for all the shares, Michele, and have a wonderful week!

  4. Lots of ones new to me, Michele. I'm glad you shared them. I imagine I will like The Promise of Change and The Bell Rang already has many holds at the library! Thanks & enjoy this day!

  5. So many great books on your list. Love that This Promise of Change was written by one of the Clinton 12 - WOW!

  6. Lisa just shared The Bell Rang so I know I might find a copy soon. I really loved Inkling! It reminded me a little of The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole. I agree that I feel in love with that little ink spot so easily. Have a great week!

  7. I am going to try and find a copy of You Can Be because I have two grandchildren the same age, a boy and a girl, and try to do my best to give them space to be whoever they are. It's not easy.
    Inkling is on my MustRead list for this year and now, after reading your remarks here, I am really looking forward to it!

  8. I have Unsung Hero, but haven't got to it yet! And Dragon Pearl (although I know nothing about Korean Mythology!) and Inking both sound good!

  9. I really liked Inkling as well. A few of my students have also enjoyed it. I have enjoyed Elise Gravel's books, but I don't have this one so I will be sure to jump on it. The Dragon Pearl was one I also had a couple of issues with, but as you say all the imprint books I have read have been good enough to sustain sequels. Thanks for the post, and have a great week.

  10. The Bell Rang sounds wonderful. I love his work. Thanks for the recs, Michele!