Monday, September 23, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9.23.19

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.

Last Week's Adventures

Make sure you take a look at Sarah Albee's upcoming North America.  This is a book you will want for your libraries!

Go time traveling with these chapter books!

Picture Books

written by Lisa Mantchev
illustrated by David Litchfield
The illustrations in this book are stunning.  Shouldn't expect anything less from David Litchfield!  They may be my favorite of his yet!
However, the story fell really flat for me, and I love Mantchev's Strictly No Elephants.  The beginning was promising.  The first lines and some subsequent ones seemed like there was going to be this really important story about how things work out in the universe for the right reasons.  And maybe that's the way the story goes but I'm not sure because it ended up being really muddled for me.  
Have you read this one yet?  Any insight for me?

The New Neighbors
The New Neighbors
by Sarah McIntyre
Hmmm.  Here's another one I would like to discuss.  
A story about an apartment building who has just gotten new neighbors.  As the news travels from the top of the building down, all of the animal inhabitants come up with reasons why the new neighbors (rats) are going to be horrible neighbors.  Often the reason why they are going to be so bad is a quality that one of the animals already show.
On my first read I was thinking good story to talk about perspective since at the end the rats are perfectly clean and kind neighbors, not at all what everyone had been thinking.
But on my second read I started to get a little annoyed - what if the rats are dirty and smell bad and keep their apartment not clean?  It's their apartment!  And I got mad that the animals were all self-righteous about these neighbors when clearly they had their own less-than-desirable habits.  
I guess that's what a good book does - makes you discuss.  Maybe read this and discuss with your class!

This Book of Mine
This Book of Mine
written by Sarah Stewart
illustrated by David Small
How many pages can you find yourself in?  This love letter to books and reading is perfect to read at the start of the school year.  

What Riley Wore
What Riley Wore
written by Elana K. Arnold
illustrated by Linda Davick
Kids can be very intentional about what they wear.  And parents can be very intentional about what they pick out and buy for their child to wear.
This book is about Riley and what Riley chose to wear on any given day and due to circumstances.  What is cleverly not mentioned about Riley is if Riley is a boy or a girl.  Another child asks at the end of the story and based upon the answer Riley gives, it's not important because kids like to play and pretend and have fun.  
Yet another story that will lend itself to important discussions.

Ball & Balloon
Ball and Balloon
written by Rob Sanders
illustrated by Helen Yoon
A book to add to your SEL collection to talk about perspective and jealousy.  Ball is jealous of Balloon who gets to fly and soar when Ball is stuck to the ground due to gravity.  But it takes just one child to help Ball roll, bounce, and fly through the air.  At that point the roles reverse and Balloon is feeling jealous.  

How to Code a Rollercoaster (How to Code with Pearl & Pascal, #2)
How to Code a Rollercoaster
written by Josh Funk
illustrated by Sara Palacios
I had a conversation on the second day of school with a reader.  He quickly said Josh Funk was one of his favorite authors, and then added, "of course".  Because of course, isn't he everyone's?  
Of course, I know that reader is going to be so excited to have a new Josh Funk book to read and celebrate.
I love the coding books he's been writing because it's so popular with young readers.  Understanding coding challenges their thinking in a way we don't always encourage in our classrooms and I see such excitement from girls and boys.

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border
Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border
written by Mitali Perkins
illustrated by Sara Palacios
Oh, this is an important story to share with readers today.  It takes place on the border between the US (in California) and Mexico.  The time of year is Christmas during Las Posadas.  A mother is bringing her two young children to the Border to see their Abuela who lives in Mexico.  On this night, one side of the double sided fence is opened up on the United States side and families can go right up to the gate and see their loved ones on the other side.  The Border Patrol watches and families can talk but cannot pass anything between the fence.  The young children in this story each have a homemade gift for their Abuela, but how can they get them to her?  It's a beautiful story and one that will open discussions with young readers.

by Mark Teague
A wordless picture book that shows in talk bubble pictures a conversation between a mother bird and her young one.  The little bird has fallen out of its nest.  Mother Bird wants Little Bird to fly but Little Bird has lots of other ways to get where it needs to go!  Clever and funny, this will be a hit with young readers.

Graphic Novel

Best Friends
Best Friends
written by Shannon Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
I loved Real Friends when it published and was so excited to be on the IL Bluestem Award Committee that added it to our current list.  I was so happy to see it would have a follow up GN for readers.
This GN memoir continues Shannon's story into middle school.  Broken up into 4 chapters (almost mini stories) we learn how Shannon's relationships with her friends and others grow and change.  As I was reading the story, there were so many parts that felt familiar since I grew up in the 80s too.  But there are some themes that stay the same - middle school is such a confusing time, whether it was decades ago or now!  Kids will still relate to this confusing identity-developing time and love seeing it depicted in this book.
Because of the popularity of Real Friends, this book is going to appeal to many readers.  I think the perfect audience is middle school (different from middle grade) readers.  There are some mature scenes.  In one, Shannon and her friends are seen calling boys and asking them to rate the girls in their class, including rating their body.  Two of the four chapters are about boy-girl relationships.  Knowing this information will be helpful when recommending this book to readers.   

Middle Grade

Roll with It
Roll With It
by Jamie Sumner
Meet Ellie - she's just moved with her mom to OK from TN in order to help out her Mema with her Grandpa, who is showing signs of Alzheimer's.  Ellie is a champion baker who loves to make things for her friends and family.  Speaking of friends, she doesn't have many so when she makes friends with oddball Bert and beauty pageant contestant, Coralee, Ellie may just decide to stay in this new town.  
Oh yeah, and Ellie has CP and moves around in a wheelchair.
Sumner has written a well-thought story about living with a disability.  There were aspects that I see in my own child who has a physical disability.  In my intro above I tell you about Ellie being in a wheelchair last because while it most certainly is a part of her, it's not the defining part of her.
Great story to add to your classroom library!

The Van Gogh Deception
The Van Gogh Deception
by Deron Hicks
This book has been in my pile for a really long time and I am so glad I was able to make time for it.  Fast-pace, high adventure, suspense, and QR codes!  This art mystery is made more accessible by the QR codes found throughout the story that gives readers a glimpse into the artwork the book refers to throughout the mystery.  
Art is a young boy with amnesia.  We don't know much about him other than the contents of his backpack and the fact that people seem to really want to get their hands on him!  Art has been placed in a temporary foster home where he meets Camille, a member of the family.  Before he has time to get past her first name, Art and Camille are running for their lives from people who want information Art has... if he could only remember what that was.  
Taking place in the National Mall in Washington DC, I think kids will have a hard time putting this one down.  I know I did!

I Can Make This Promise
I Can Make This Promise
by Christine Day
Edie knows her mom was adopted and she is Native American.  But that's as much of the story as she knows... until Edie and her friends find a box in the attic with letters and photographs all signed by "Edith".  The assumption is Edie is related to this mystery person but she can't get any information from her parents.  The story eventually comes out and information about what the American government did to Native people is woven through the story. 
This story gave information that, once again, has been left out of our history books.  I'm grateful these #ownvoices stories are being told.
Publishes Oct. 1st.

Lalani of the Distant Sea
Lalani of the Distant Sea
by Erin Entrada Kelly
I can honestly say this is my favorite book by Erin!  In this story we meet Lalani who goes on a quest to save not only her village, but her mother who has fallen ill.  Kelly deftly weaves a story that has roots in Filipino folklore, but also an adventure story with a heroine everyone will cheer for.

Currently Reading

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky (Tristan Strong #1)
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky
by Kwame Mbalia
This book has made me laugh out loud, but it's also made me pause and think about how clever it is.  Loving it.

Hope you have a great reading week!


  1. I've been waiting for Best Friends for what seems like forever. Roll With It appeals to me because my father used a wheelchair and I'm always interested in seeing characters who use one.
    I Can Make This Promise reminds of what we call the 60's scoop here in Canada (although it went on into the 70's too) I've put a reserve on that one.

  2. Roll With It is a book I have to get around to reading. The New Neighbors made me think a bit, too. Tristan Strong sounds amazing!

  3. Much to note, Michele, & I’m glad to know about them, like Roll With It & I can make this promise. I shared Between Us and Abuela today, too, a beautiful story. Thanks!

  4. I just loved Ellie in Roll with It and can't wait to share with my students. I agree about Josh Funk. His books are always a hit with children and adults. I just got Best Friends from First Book so plan to read it soon and Ball and Balloon is one I look forward to reading.

  5. So many great books this week, lots that I have been waiting for us as well, such as Best Friends and How to Code a Rollercoaster among others. Thanks for the great post, enjoy Tristan Strong.

  6. Great books this week! I have heard a lot about Best Friends and it is on my to be read list but I have not found it yet at our local library. I am happy to see so many good reviews on it so far though. Roll With It sounds like it would be a great book for any classroom. Thank you for your sharing!

  7. I like picture books that make you think. I will look out for the ones you have questions about.

  8. What Riley Wore looks like a great picture book for my preschooler. Elana K Arnold is one of our favorite middle grade authors for my stepson, and this looks like a winner as well. Have a great week!

  9. I have Lalani in my to-read pile now, and I Can Make This Promise on hold. Thanks for the recs, Michele :)

  10. I love that cute story about Josh Funk! I hope he hears about it!! I have Roll With It on reserve for the first day it comes in, so I'm excited to read it. And What Riley Wore is a new title for me. I love what you shared about it and I'm putting it on my list right away. Thanks for sharing, Michele!

  11. I so need to add Ball & Balloon, What Riley Wore & Remarkables to my collection! Thank you for sharing.