Monday, February 10, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 2.10.2020

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

Take a look at these nonfiction picture book biographies.

Some books for readers who are starting to read independently.

Picture Books

Where Lily Isn't
Where Lily Isn't
written by Julie Paschkis
illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
A sweet book that will touch hearts, especially readers who have lost a beloved pet.
We see a young girl loving and playing with her dog, Lily, until Lily is no longer with her.  She remembers all the things they did together, but at the end finds peace that Lily still lives in her heart.

Black Is a Rainbow Color
Black is a Rainbow Color
written by Angela Joy
illustrated by Ekua Holmes
This is a book that will stick with me for a long time and one that takes multiple readings to unpack.  It reminds me a lot of Fry Bread in that way.  You can't just get everything about this book in one reading.
First of all, there is so much in the backmatter to pay attention to - you'll want to play the music that is listed in the background, you'll flip back and forth from the backmatter to the corresponding pages to learn more and get greater depth of understanding.
I'm really looking forward to hearing how educators and librarians use this book with readers and the conversations that occur.

Are Your Stars Like My Stars?
Are Your Stars Like My Stars?
written by Leslie Helakoski
illustrated by Heidi Woodward Sheffield
The book uses colors to compare how children from different parts of the world see their surroundings.  I wish there had been more information included in backmatter about the different locations, cultures, and traditions.

Hosea Plays On
Hosea Plays On
written by Kathleen M. Blasi
illustrated by Shane W. Evans
Written about Hosea Taylor Jr., this story imagines a day in the life of Hosea doing what he was known for - bringing music into the lives of youngsters that lived near him.  
In this story, we see Hosea set out to play his saxophone on the city streets and collect money that he is saving to buy something.  We find out it is a trumpet for a teenaged neighbor.  
Information about the real Hosea Taylor Jr. is found on the endpage of the book.  I wish the publisher had made this information available in backmatter instead of the endpage because I had a library copy and had a difficult time reading around the taped on book jacket.

Overground Railroad
Overground Railroad
written by Lesa Cline-Ransome
illustrated by James Ransome
Beautifully written and illustrated story about the Great Migration.  You are probably familiar with the Underground Railroad, but do you know about the Overground Railroad?  Trains were a way of transportation for millions of Blacks as they ran away and to new lives in the North in the 1900s.

The House at the End of the Road
The House at the End of the Road
by Kari Rust
I have seen people post about this book but I had trouble finding it and then I kind of just forgot about it.  So glad I finally read it because I really loved the story.  Three cousins find an old house they are pretty sure is haunted.  But what may look old and scary can be deceiving, as they find out.  Their grandmother introduces them to the inhabitant, old Mr. Peterson, and they learn to not always judge a book by its cover!

In a Jar
In a Jar
by Deborah Marcero
A sweet story about friendship and how the things we enjoy with friends can continue even when the miles between are long.

The Heart of a Whale
The Heart of a Whale
by Anna Pignataro
I think what most people want is to have that companion, that one to talk with, share time with, and just enjoy space with.  This book captures that essence.  It also shows the power of friendship and helping a friend.  All of this in a beautiful, lyrical story with water-colored illustrations that flow across the pages.

Almost Time
Almost Time
written by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney
illustrated by G. Brian Karas
The passing of time can be hard and difficult to measure for a young child.  Especially if the passing of time means the weather has to cooperate!  A young boy and his father are waiting for it to be time to collect sap from the trees to make syrup.  The days need to be longer and warmer and that just doesn't seem to be happening!  He also is waiting for a tooth to get looser and fall out.  After a while, green grass starts to appear and it takes just a bit longer to turn on the lights at night, and then it's time for sap!
I've read books recently about the passing of time and this one just struck me right in the heart!

Nonfiction Picture Books

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
written by Rita Lorraine Hubbard
illustrated by Oge Mora
Wow.  Just an amazing story.  Mary Walker never had a chance to learn to read.  Not only was she just working to stay alive as a slave, it was also outlawed for her to learn to read.  So she waited.  She waited until she had outlived her family - her parents, her husbands, and her sons.  She waited, but she eventually learned to read... at the age of 116!  Just an amazing story.  
Oh, and it's illustrated by Caldecott Honor winner, Oge Mora.  
I appreciated in the backmatter the author included a note that while there are certainly things known about Mary Walker's long life, there are many holes to it, too.  The author admits to filling in some of the holes with her own imaginings in this book.  And that's why you read the backmatter to young readers!  They need to know that information!

Middle Grade

The Ambrose Deception
The Ambrose Deception
by Emily Ecton
This book took me by surprise!  I really enjoyed it and wonder why I haven't heard more about it.  It's definitely for readers who enjoyed Mr. Lemoncello's Library, The Book Scavenger, or even the game/movie Clue.  
I also loved that it took place in Chicago, it was fun to read about familiar landmarks.
Melissa, Wilf, and Bondi have been selected from their middle school to compete in a scholarship competition.  How they were chosen is sketchy at best, figuring out riddles to win a scholarship is a bit unconventional, but with $10,000 on the line, the trio doesn't worry about the details.  As each individual goes all around Chicago, with a personal driver and cell phone, the reader gets a glimpse of Chicago history and goes along for one wild adventure!

Currently Reading

by Michelle Obama
I've made no progress on this book because my reading life has gone to three places:

1.  assessment reading - we just got the new Jennifer Serravallo Complete Comprehension Assessment kit and I've been avidly reading the new-to-me titles.  Since I'm assessing kids using these books, I read the books too.
2.  committee reading - just wrapped that up!
3.  picture books - I've had stacks of library books pile up and needed to make a dent in them.

I'm almost done with the assessment reading.  A few more to go.  Meanwhile I have a lot of MG and YA that are piling up!  I'm sure I'll find time soon.....

Did you know today is #nf10for10 day?  Bloggers are putting together lists of 10 books (or so) that are about nonfiction topics/ideas.  Be sure to search for the hashtag on social media for lots of nonfiction picture book ideas!

Here is my post:  10 nonfiction picture book biographies that celebrate KIDS showing us the way!


  1. The story of Mary Walker is certainly amazing. I need to check out Almost Time. It sounds sweet.

  2. I have or have read nearly all the books you've shared, but thanks for The Overground Railroad, Michele. I'm sure I will enjoy it, too. I loved The House at the End of the Road and In a Jar - both poignant in their own special way. Hurrah for #nf10for10!

  3. I just picked up The Heart of the Whale at the library. I'm definitely looking forward to reading it. I'll need to check out the other books on your list, too. Thanks for sharing and have a great week!

  4. The House at the End of the Road sounds like if To Kill a Mockingbird were just about Boo Radley. :)

  5. As soon as I saw, Gary D. Schmidt as one of the authors, I knew, even before reading your comments, that I needed to read Almost Time. I loved The House at the End of the Road, and that Robert - I've know kids like that and wish they could all have a Mr. Peterson in their lives.

  6. Your review of Black is a Rainbow Color makes me want to read it. Thanks.

  7. I'm very pleased to learn of Black Is a Rainbow Color. I'm adding that one to my list and will pay attention to the back matter and music you mentioned. Oh my, how I understand the piling up of MG and YA books. This is a tough time of year for me, but I just want to get past it so that I can dive into more lovely books! Hope it's been a wonderful reading week, Michele!

  8. It was nice to bump into you last week and wish we'd had more time to talk books. I am eager to read Black is a Rainbow Color and Overground Railroad. Thanks for so many reviews.