Monday, October 19, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10.19.2020

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
I took last week off to utilize the three day weekend.  I had a few things that had piled up and wanted some time to get them off my plate.  Also got my flu shot!
Here are posts you might have missed from two weeks ago:

New early graphic novels for readers, I'm so excited to share these with readers!

Books that show the power of voice with young readers!

Picture Books

A Bowl Full of Peace: A True Story
A Bowl Full of Peace
written by Caren B. Stelson
illustrated by Akira Kusaka
You might be familiar with Stelson's award winning book, Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor's Story.  This book is also about Sachiko but it focuses on a family heirloom that survives the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.  The resilience of this bowl is a metaphor for the way families in Japan survived this event.  

I Am One: A Book of Action
I Am One: A Book of Action
written by Susan Verde
illustrations by Peter Reynolds
This one is a must read for the fall.  As I shared in my post linked above, young readers do have the power to make change.  This book further explores this idea and shares that by that one action, it has the power to start even more change.

Flight for Freedom: The Wetzel Family’s Daring Escape from East Germany
Flight for Freedom
written by Kristen Fulton
illustrated by Torben Kuhlmann
This was a fascinating read about a family who escaped East Germany to West Germany, over the Berlin Wall.  The escape was made via air balloon, which carried so many risks.  The book shows enough differences between East and West Germany for young readers to understand which side they would want to live on.  There is also information in the backmatter about the history of the Berlin Wall.
Young readers who enjoy reading about adventure and history will be captivated by this story.

One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea
One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea
written by Arthur Yorinks
illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier
Full of puns, an angry ant, and laughs, I have to admit, I do love this series.  It's so fun to read aloud.  Add some voices and pauses for the laughs, and you'll be introducing a series to kids that is so enjoyable to read.  Based on the ending of this one, it appears we'll have more in our future.

If Winter Comes, Tell It I'm Not Here
If Winter Comes, Tell It I'm Not Here
by Simona Ciraolo
I got this book based on the title alone.  If I never saw snow again, I would be just fine.
The beginning part of the book is my story - the young boy loves being in the water, it takes ice cream to get him out of the pool.  But then his older sister starts telling him about the changes that come in the fall and then winter and the little boy is not happy.  One by one he sees these changes happen, just like his sister told him, but he finds new things to celebrate in the changing of the seasons.  And that's where the similarities stop for me, ha!  I think kids will appreciate this because they really do find things they like about each season, especially if it revolves around play!  
My concern with this book is it looks like it's a multi-racial family and the sister and mother are Asian.  You can tell this because they have slightly slanted-upwards eyes.  After a quick search of the author-illustrator, it does look like she has drawn other characters with this eye appearance.

The Boy and the Gorilla
The Boy and the Gorilla
written by Jackie Azúa Kramer
illustrated by Cindy Derby
This book is stunning.  A book about grief and healing, it reminds me a lot of the Caldecott Honor book The Rough Patch and Katherine Applegate's Crenshaw.
A young boy has just lost his mother and both him and his father are overwhelmed with grief.  And when grief is fresh, we often see a divide that happens between children and adults as they are both dealing with grief in their own way.  An imaginary gorilla helps answer the boy's questions.  They are tough questions that many of us have after losing a loved one.  Eventually, the boy is able to talk to his father and the father is able to have a conversation with his son.  The gorilla envelopes both in a hug, and then slowly leaves as the father is able to help his son.
The text is simple which I feel matches the grief felt by the boy.  The questions and answers are usually in just one line, but the weight of both are felt upon the reader.  The boy's questions are in a regular font and the the gorilla's answers are italicized.  After the group hug, the gorilla slowly and silently moves farther and farther into the background.  And the italicized font is transferred to the dad's responses.
So well done.

Middle Grade

by Kate Hannigan
This is book 2 in Hannigan's historical fiction and comic crossover series.  I think it's brilliant how she takes a historical event (World War II) and tells the story of women puzzlers (coders) and their importance during this time period AND the power of comics and female superheroes during this time period to tell one harrowing adventure!  These books are so fun to read I devoured it in one day.  This trilogy tells the story of the Infinity Trinity - three girls who have talents in puzzling and a passion for helping others, including trying to help the female superheroes that have disappeared during a time when the world needs them most.  The girls know the events of the War have something to do with it but before they can figure it out, there are innocent people in America who need their help.  With the infusion of historical facts and events and comic pages, this book has wide appeal to readers.  I'm already looking forward to the next book (and I think conclusion)!

Ninth Ward
Ninth Ward
by Jewell Parker Rhodes
A couple of months ago I read Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere which takes place during and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  While the book was engrossing and gave me even more understanding of the events that transpired, it bothered me that the authors were African American and it was written by a white woman.  The characters spoke in a dialect that is native to that area, and I always wondered if this was the story of an African American community, and dialects and traditions would be written about and used, whose story is being told.  I followed up this one with another book, Zane and the Hurricane, also by a white author.
Finally I found this one.  While Rhodes did not experience Hurricane Katrina, I felt the voice of the novel was more authentic.  This story was different from the others because it also had a spiritual side to it.  The main character has the ability to see, and even communicate, with ghosts that are in her neighborhood, the Ninth Ward.  Like the others, this book has death, but it also has hope and the understanding that family isn't always who shares your blood.
I thought it was interesting that this was Rhodes first middle grade novel!

Young Adult

They Went Left
They Went Left
by Monica Hesse
This story was really interesting because it starts at the end of WWII.  Most books are about WWII, so it was interesting because it explored other sides of characters and events that aren't focused on as much.  
Zofia, who has spent the last years in concentration camps, has now been liberated and is focused on one thing, reuniting with her younger brother.  When they were first brought to the camps, the rest of her family was "sent left", meaning to their deaths.  Zofia and her brother were kept alive but separated.  However, the effects of the war weigh heavily on Zofia as her mind and body heal.  
So many countries were ravaged by the German army and their atrocities, it was interesting how the author brought groups of people together in Zofia's journey.
While I ultimately had the conclusion figured out before the end of the story, I found it very interesting to read and the pages flew by quickly.

Adult Novel

The Alice Network
The Alice Network
by Kate Quinn
A dual timeline story that takes place just after WWII and during WWI, this was an interesting but long read.  I always forget how long adult novels can be and am always reminded how I appreciate MG because the stories have to be told in quicker detail!
I have not read too many books that take place during WWI and this one explored the female network of spies in France during that time period.  It was really interesting and the details that were sprinkled into the storyline were well crafted.  I liked how the two storylines were brought together and loved how the characters were meant to be together.  The author has a more recent book published that I'll have to check out soon.

Currently Reading

A Whale of the Wild
A Whale in the Wild
by Rosanne Parry
I really enjoyed her A Wolf Called Wander.  She did an amazing job capturing the voice of the wolf, looking forward to this one.

As always, happy reading!


  1. I can relate to the title of the book about winter, too. I'm already dreading cold and snow! I've never read The Alice Network, but I've heard good things about it.

  2. Nice choices! I will definitely be checking out "They Went Left" and some of the other picture books you mentioned.

  3. So many good titles shared today, Michele. I will definitely look for the new One Mean Ant. They are such fun! And Flight for Freedom sounds good! I am waiting for The Boy and The Gorilla, have read Ninth Ward, but not the other one. Also, I've read & enjoyed They Went Left & the Alice Network. A Whale in the Wild is fascinating. Enjoy! And thank you!

  4. It's interesting how many of your books today deal with WW's. I think I enjoyed Kate Quinn's The Huntress even more than The Alice Network.
    I have added One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea to my list, and discovered that I still have to read One Mean Ant. I just put a hold on it and plan to catch up!

  5. I am really looking forward to reading I AM ONE.

    I think it's interesting that the cover of THEY WENT LEFT has the exact same colors of Ruta Sepeys' new novel FOUNTAINS OF SILENCE. I know that Hesse's novels have been compared to Sepetys so this seemed like a really intentional choice.

  6. So many good titles! I'm particularly interested If Winter Comes and the Boy and the Gorilla--makes me think of The One and Only Ivan. I think I saw a movie about the balloon escape over the wall. That and the other World War II books you wrote about sound fascinating.

  7. These books sound excellent! I remember learning about the bowl in A Bowl Full of Peace in a middle-grade book in verse, On the Horizon by Lois Lowry, which was pretty good! Mask sounds like an excellent book—it's neat how it blends historical fiction with a bit of comics as well! Ninth Ward sounds great as well! Also, congrats on getting your flu shot—as they say, we should control the things we can control! Thanks for the wonderful post!

  8. The Boy and the Gorilla looks amazing, Michele! Thanks for sharing this title. I'm adding it to my list right now. Have a wonderful reading week!

  9. I keep hearing about The Boy and the Gorilla and when you compare it to The Rough Patch, I know I have to read it. Thank you!

  10. That's a lot of different books! I didn't originally buy Ninth Ward but just came across a hardcover copy in a donation pile. I should probably reread it. I think it came out the year I judged fantasy for the Cybils!