Sunday, July 20, 2014

Schneider Family Book Award Blog Tour - A Mango Shaped Space

When Alyson asked me to participate in this blog tour, I knew immediately which book I wanted to share. It's partly because I haven't read as many of the Schneider Award winners as I would like to, but mostly because this book is nearly perfect.

It had been on my "to be read" list for several years, but I finally made the space to read it in December of 2013. My colleagues and I were doing our second annual Bookish March Madness, with titles selected by our students, and Mango appeared on the list both years. What was it about this story that appealed to them so strongly?

A Mango-Shaped Space

Paperback, 276 pages
Published October 19th 2005 by Little, Brown and Company 
ISBN 0316058254 (ISBN13: 9780316058254)

Goodreads Blurb:

Mia Winchell appears to be a typical kid, but she's keeping a big secret—sounds, numbers, and words have color for her. No one knows, and Mia wants to keep it that way. But when trouble at school finally forces Mia to reveal her secret, she must learn to accept herself and embrace her ability, called synesthesia, a mingling of the senses.

My Thoughts:
I had heard of synesthesia before, and it intrigued me. Mia's sense-mingling was a fascinating hook for a story. Kids can be cruel, and they aren't always accepting of those who don't fit in. It can be frightening to be different, and Mia's desire to hide it from those around her struck me as incredibly realistic.

I loved how there were so many other facets to her story, too. She's growing up, and has trouble figuring out her place with her friends in school. She has trouble in school, even though she seems like a bright young woman. Mia struggles with her spot as a middle child. She argues with her older sister. She bickers with her younger brother. Unlike many middle grade tales, though, her parents are both present and love her dearly. Her family feels like one that could easily live in my neighborhood, or be in my school.

What Makes it Special:
What I love most about A Mango Shaped Space, though, is that her difference is portrayed as both a blessing and a challenge. The synesthesia causes her to have trouble in math and foreign languages, but it also gives her a unique and creative perspective. Mia has no desire to change into someone she is not. Once she understands that her condition isn't a sign of a serious medical problem, she embraces her view of the world, and harnesses it in her art. She even reaches out to help a younger child avoid falling into her own pattern of hiding her truth from those around her.

This is a story of a young woman coming out of hiding. So many girls are convinced that they can only fit in if they wear a mask. She may be concealing talents to avoid the appearance of conceit. She may hide interests she has been told are "too masculine". Whatever her reasons for not embracing her true nature and sharing it with those around her, Mia is a wonderful example of the power of sharing your true self with those you love.

In the Classroom:
A Mango Shaped Space is a perfect title to help with discussions about:
Sibling relationships

If kids are curious about synesthesia after reading, there is information at the end of the book to help them learn more.

Keep The Noisy Paint Box on hand for children intrigued by how Mia imitates the style of the artist Kandinsky (who also had synesthesia)

The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky's Abstract Art

Hardcover, 32 pages
Published February 11th 2014 by Alfred A. Knopf
ISBN 0307978486 (ISBN13: 9780307978486)

For more information about the Schneider Family Book Awardwebpage | list of winners  
Check out all of the links of the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:
July 6, 2014 Nerdy Book Club
July 6, 2014 Kid Lit Frenzy
July 7, 2014 Nonfiction Detectives
July 9, 2014 Teach Mentor Texts
July 10, 2014 There’s a Book For That
July 11, 2014 Kathie Comments
July 12, 2014 Disability in Kidlit
July 14, 2014 Librarian in Cute Shoes
July 15, 2014 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
July 16, 2014 Read, Write, and Reflect
July 17, 2014 Read Now Sleep Later
July 18, 2014 Unleashing Readers
July 19, 2014 Great Kid Books
July 20, 2014 Maria’s Mélange

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, we are providing readers with an opportunity to win a set of all three 2014 Schneider Family Book Award Winners. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Monday July 14th

I'm actually at a teacher conference this week called Confratute. I help out with the conference, and it keeps me hopping! Between that and running a virtual writing camp, I'm going to keep this one short.

I'm at UConn, and one of the first things my roomie and I did was check out the local bookstore. I managed to refrain from buying any books - for now. We have Aaron Becker coming to speak on Thursday, so I'm hoping to get a signed copy of Journey....

Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers for links to other great blogs with book love!

Here's a sampling of the books I've read over the past 2 weeks. I'll try to visit other blogs as much as I can, but I may make it to your post late. If possible, leave me a link in the comments so I can find it easily!

Lots of great 2014 books ...

Beautiful, simple nonfiction book about Gravity. I loved the illustrations and short text.

Jane Yolen is one of my favorites, and this was great! Oddly enough, it was part historical fiction (set in the 1960s) and part mythical. I loved watching the baby centaur grow up with his human and horse family.

What would you do with an 8th day? What if that ability to have a hidden eighth day came with magical powers? Really cool premise and exciting middle grade fantasy story.

This is GREAT! Becky Thatcher isn't the kid you remember from reading Mark Twain books... she's actually the inspiration for many of his tales. GET THIS BOOK! Maybe it will even inspire some kids to pick up some Twain.

MUST READ in 2014 progress:

I read two more. One was an audiobook and one an anthology.

Amazing! I didn't like the narrator at first but then she felt just perfect. Graceling will always be my favorite, but Bitterblue is a fabulous story with lots of book-love and puzzles.

Kids will love this one, but my limited sports knowledge made some of the stories hard for me to follow.

Have a great reading week - and I'll be sure to post about the Aaron Becker speech later in the week!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My Country Tis of Thee - NFPB2014 Review

  It's time for another dip into the Nonfiction Picture Book swimming pool! Be sure to visit KidLitFrenzy every Wednesday for more great titles.

My Country, 'Tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights
by Claire Rudolf Murphy (Goodreads Author), Bryan Collier (Illustrations)
Hardcover, 48 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
ISBN 0805082263 (ISBN13: 9780805082265)

Blurb from Goodreads:
     More than any other, one song traces America’s history of patriotism and protest.
     Everyone knows the words to “My Country, ’Tis of Thee.” What most don’t realize is that this iconic song has been a beacon of change for hundreds of years. Generations of protesters and civil rights pioneers have created new lyrics, beginning in royalist Britain and continuing through conflicts in colonial times, the American Revolution, the suffragist and labor movements, and the struggles for black and Native American civil rights. With spectacular illustrations by Caldecott Honor–winning artist Bryan Collier, My Country, ’Tis of Thee offers a fascinating insight into the American fight for freedom.

My Thoughts:

I couldn't resist waiting to post this gem until shortly before the Fourth of July, even though it has been out in the world for about a month now.

I've known the main song forever, and I certainly knew that it started as an English tune called "God Save the King". I had heard that it was changed to become a declaration of American independence. What delighted me was watching the song change as those protesting for fair treatment and equal rights have used it as a rallying call over the years.

Murphy's words and Collier's art combine to give an overview of the fight for women's rights, the end to slavery, civil rights, labor laws, and Native American rights. With just a brief statement of each step of freedom's journey, and the text to the modified lyrics each group created for the song, My Country Tis of Thee is the perfect way to spark the interest of upper middle grade and high school readers.

Uses in the Classroom:
-- Perfect for highlighting during any units that focus on equal rights in American history.
-- Use to introduce a variety of equality topics to spark interest in research
-- Allow students to create their own chapter with new information on current equality fights.

I was inspired to create #bookishnails for this title, too!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Must Read in 2014 Second Quarter Update


I had 36 books selected as my "must read in 2014". In the first quarter of 2014 I completed 17 of those titles. Since I finished almost half of my choices in the first quarter, I added a few more titles (I'm now at 44).

You can view the whole list on my Goodreads page here.
Check out my First Quarter Update (some really amazing books!)

In the second quarter of the year, my pace slowed a bit. I think I went through a "word draught" and I had trouble writing and reading as much as I did during the first three months of the year, as I'm sure you can see by the dearth of posts over the past three months. Still, I kept plugging along and managed to finish another 11 books. I'll take it.

Here they are, from the most recently completed...

Wonderful middle grade realistic fantasy. Yeah, that's what I'm going with for the genre. Gorgeous language and a great story.

This is a fabulous series. I'm also currently listening to Bitterblue (another of my Must Read books)

I LOVED THIS ONE! I listened to it, and enjoyed every moment. While I didn't write in college, I could have been Cath in so many other ways.

I actually finished the whole first omnibus. VERY dark and disturbing... but excellent work as always from Gaiman.

I listened to this one also - but may have enjoyed it more in print. Some amazing stories, and some that were just "eh". That's usually how I feel about story anthologies, so that makes sense. Gaiman's story was awesome.

Excellent story, intriguing world. This was also the first ARC I received in a "pretty box" so I was totally jazzed about that. I'll be reading this series as it comes out.

Read this with Kathy as a Batty book. It had some flaws, but was overall a very enjoyable book about a world where water is scarce.

Dystopian/post-apocalyptic novel for young adults. Very interesting world building, and a solid addition as a #diverselit title as well. One of the main characters is gay, and it isn't the POINT of the story. Solidly adventurous plot.

Some fun poems, some just okay. Could make interesting material for upper grade math classes!

I love Laurel Snyder (Any Which Wall was also on my Must Read list), and this book was wonderful. I love how she explores the idea of "be careful what you wish for" in a realistic fantasy world.

EXCELLENT example of nonfiction graphic novel format. Perfect to use with any historical fiction that hits this time period. I did a full review.

For those playing along - this marks 28/44 titles complete. I may still add 4 more titles to round it out to an even 48... or I may just start a list of my Must Reads for 2015!

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's Monday June 30th


Yeah.... it's been a while. Totally my bad. I got in a slump (though I have been reading) and I haven't been posting to my blog hardly at all. 

Since my last It's Monday post was over a month ago, I am certainly NOT going to try to cover everything I have read in the past six weeks. I love you all too much to do that to you. I'll just snag a few of my favorites and call it a week.

This non fiction picture book biography is delightful. It comes out in October, so I will do a full review closer to publication. Put it on your list... you want it.

I'm guessing this is already on the radar (or already read) for most of you... but definitely make sure you get the grand finale of the Silver Jaguar series. Perfect for younger middle grade readers. They will eat it up!

Pardon the mess....
An amazing selection of nonfiction picture books. My favorites in this pile were The Noisy Paint Box, Handle with Care, Feathers are Not Just for Flying, and How to Make a Planet (which was a spectacular example of voice in nonfiction). If your students read A Mango Shaped Space, definitely grab Noisy Paint Box as another example of someone with synesthesia. 

I identified with the main character in this story SO strongly. I listened to Fangirl, and I enjoyed every moment of it. Perfect for the writers and fangirls (and fanboys) in your life. 

Looking for some truly creepy stories? This anthology of short stories really fits the bill. Honestly, some did creep me out, so they aren't for your faint-of-heart middle graders. But those kids who love a little chill up their spine? Yeah, hand this right over. Some real favorites here, including an adaptation of the Twelve Dancing Princesses that was hugely feminist and one called Quicksilver and the Stranger (by Legrand) that was an excellent example of a circular structure. 

Be sure to visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to get more great reading ideas!

I was the first stop on the Minion Blog Tour - and there is a giveaway still running. Be sure to enter to get your own copy!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Blog Tour - Minion by John David Anderson

I am devilishly excited to host the very first stop of the Minion Blog Tour! 

I promise it had nothing to do with the fact that I'm a secret super villain, bent on world domination myself. There was no blackmail involved. There are no sharks with lasers on their heads. There is no moon sized weapon of mass destruction aimed at said author's abode. There's just a teacher - a reader - who loves books about super powered kids. Yeah... that's it. 

So come along and check out a fabulous vlog by Anderson, where he reveals HIS secret plans for world domination. What will he demand? Will he be successful? Will you win a copy of this amazing book by entering my giveaway? 

(Also check out my review of the first book - Sidekicked - and Anderson's humorous stop on that blog tour!) 

by John David Anderson
Published by Walden Pond Press
June 24, 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0062133113


John David Anderson returns to the world of superheroes he created in Sidekicked with an entirely
new cast of characters in Minion, a funny and emotional companion to his first breakout tween
novel—perfect for superhero fans who also love the work of bestselling authors Rick Riordan, Louis
Sachar, and Frank Cottrell Boyce.

       Michael Morn might be a villain, but he's really not a bad guy. When you live in New Liberty, known across the country as the City without a Super, there are only two kinds of people, after all: those who turn to crime and those who suffer. Michael and his adoptive father spend their days building boxes—special devices with mysterious abilities—which they sell to the mob at a price. They provide for each other, they look out for each other, and they'd never betray each other. But then a Super comes to town, and Michael's world is thrown into disarray. The Comet could destroy everything Michael and his dad have built, the safe and secure life they've made for themselves. And now Michael and his father face a choice: to hold tight to their life or to let it unravel.

Check out John David Anderson's Dastardly Plans...

Teaser Trailer:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


John David Anderson writes novels for young people and then, occasionally, gets them published. Besides Minion, he is the author of Sidekicked, and Standard Hero Behavior. He lives with his patient wife and brilliant twins in Indianapolis, Indiana, right next to a State park and a Walmart. He enjoys
hiking, reading, chocolate, spending time with his family, playing the piano, chocolate, making board
games, chocolate, not putting away his laundry, watching movies, and chocolate. Those aren't his real

To find out more:

The Blog Tour Continues.... check out all of the stops!

June 23 Maria’s Melange
June 24 The Library Fanatic
June 25 The Next Best Book
June 26 Jean Book Nerd
June 27 Book Egg
June 28 Word Spelunking Book Blog
June 30 Ms. Yingling Reads
July 1 The Book Monsters
July 2 The Book Monsters
July 3 Read Now, Sleep Later
July 6 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
July 7 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
July 8 Candace’s Book Blog
July 9 Middle Grade Mafioso
July10 Librarian’s Quest
July 11 Unleashing Readers
July 12 Trisha Perry
July 14 This Kid Reviews Books
July 16 Charlotte’s Library
July 17 Literacy Toolbox

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Review - The Pilot and the Little Prince NFPB2014

Time for another dive into nonfiction picture books! With the proliferation of amazing picture book biographies over the past few years, it can be hard to really stand out of the crowd. This title, though, is something truly special.

The Pilot and the Little Prince: The Life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Hardcover, 48 pages
Published May 27th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
ISBN  0374380694 (ISBN13: 9780374380694)
Source: ARC from publisher
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in France in 1900, when airplanes were just being invented. Antoine dreamed of flying and grew up to be a pilot—and that was when his adventures began. He found a job delivering mail by plane, which had never been done before. He and his fellow pilots traveled to faraway places and discovered new ways of getting from one place to the next. Antoine flew over mountains and deserts. He battled winds and storms. He tried to break aviation records, and sometimes he even crashed. From his plane, Antoine looked down on the earth and was inspired to write about his life and his pilot-hero friends in memoirs and in fiction. Peter Sís’s remarkable biography celebrates the author of The Little Prince, one of the most beloved books in the world.A Frances Foster Book

My Thoughts:
I love picture books - but this one is over the top amazing. 
Take a peek inside!

The illustrations are remarkable. So many little details are scattered around each page that you could spend hours with this book. Yet it never feels cluttered. 

Each page has a unique layout, from central illustrations to family trees to timelines, and yet I never felt overwhelmed as I went from page to page. 

The color scheme is just perfect for the time period, with muted colors that call to mind old maps and treasure chests. 

I would love to use this book as a mentor text for students creating biographies and/or autobiographies. Each child could choose a layout from this book that matches their person and use it as a model for their information. Wouldn't that be more exciting than a traditional essay? 

Thoughts from students:
I knew right away that I needed to hand this book to my colleague in another building. She reads and discusses The Little Prince every year with a group of fifth graders. They were thrilled by the book, and loved all the extra bits of information they got from reading it. When they wrote up reviews, they mentioned:
   -- the lovely illustrations. Many mentioned the enormous amount of effort it must have taken Sis to put in so many little details that tied in with The Little Prince. They loved finding those hidden gems. 
   -- the connections they could now make with between the story and Antoine's life.
   -- the text layout. Kids notice things like that, and they appreciated the artistry of the pages. 

I loved reading their reviews, because it reinforced for me just how much a child will notice in a picture book. These were advanced fifth grade readers, and they got so much out of the text, images, and symbolism of this book. Make sure you don't relegate picture books to the little kid's section of your library!

Don't miss the wealth of titles at Kid Lit Frenzy every Wednesday. I only participate sporadically, but she's there EVERY week sharing and linking to other blogs! 
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