Monday, September 1, 2014

It's Monday September 1st

Wait... what? Did that title really include the word "SEPTEMBER"?? That's just not right! Why does it seem like time speeds up each year?

Anyway - with summer now officially behind me (I was back to work for professional development last week, but students return this Tuesday) I'm hoping to get back on a more regular "It's Monday" posting schedule. I'm also hoping to tackle the stack of books I need to review....

Enough chatter, right? Time to get to the bookish thing.

Also - I forgot to link up last week's post. So here it is.

I love Enola Holmes. Add in the mysterious and fascinating Florence Nightingale, and this story is a big winner!

Wow! This is a great way to introduce science fiction to younger readers. The text isn't too difficult, and the setting is current day, so you can eliminate some of the hurdles kids often face as they tackle science fiction. I loved the story about the "fountain of youth" idea, and there's plenty of science and people in science to encourage readers to seek out more information after the book is complete. I plan to do a full review of this one coming up soon...

Best picture book this week:

I read a few, but my favorite had to be

Hardcover, 40 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
ISBN 1442435828 (ISBN13: 9781442435827)
If you loved The Monster at the End of This Book (as I did), you'll love this one.

Don't forget to look at the back of the book as you close it!

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 25, 2014

It's Monday August 25th

So, it's the last Monday of the summer.

Technically, though, my summer ended yesterday. I am back at work and ready to get another amazing year started! Somehow it seems to be easier to get these posts written when I am in a work-a-day mode. This post represents several weeks of reading... and I know my reading volume will slow considerably now that I'm back to work.

Don't forget to check out the tag #IMWAYR on Twitter and to visit and for the roundups of posts!

** (Must read 2014)
Amazing historical fiction. I loved the WWII setting and the powerful friendship between two amazing women. So glad this was on my Must Read 2014 list!

I love Gail Simone's run on Batgirl. This was a nice stand-alone story.

Not out out - but put it on your radar for September. A great introduction to the life of one of my favorite authors from childhood. I didn't know just how progressive and independent she was! I'm also looking forward to the adult memoirs from her diaries coming out soon.

** (Must read 2014)
Very dark tale of superheroes gone bad. For upper high school and adults. The art is fabulous, but the story doesn't feel as highly developed as I had hoped.

** (Must read 2014)
I'm glad I read it - but it didn't really do it for me. I loved the science fiction parts of the story a LOT... but the more realistic portions of the story rubbed me the wrong way. I felt like the story jumped all around and it made me a little seasick.

** (Must read 2014)
Did I mention I love Simone's Batgirl? I'm still catching up - there are 4 volumes out now. Very dark but Batgirl rocks the world.

Another September book to keep on your radar. This is a middle grade fantasy. Gaining magical powers makes for a rough transition to the teen years, and losing your beloved dog is even worse. Very well done story that I think kids will really like!

I love Young's artistic style, and I adore puffins. Your primary kids are going to get a huge kick out of this tale. (late September release date)

** (Must Read in 2014)
I just adore this series. Mixing science fiction with seriously fractured fairy tales is clearly my jam. I can't wait for Winter and Fairest!

Peek into the mind of a young man intent on murder-suicide. I listened to this one and it just about gutted me on a daily basis. So important - I think high schoolers and teachers from middle school on up should all read this book.

Silly and fun - a wonderful early science fiction novel for upper elementary. Pair with the picture book How to Make a Planet!

Middle grade fantasy/steam punk. It has fascinating world-building and intriguing characters. While it was not consistently well-paced, I was hooked on the world and the story by the end and will definitely continue this series.

Update on Must Read...

2014 - I have 9/44 left to read. Will I make it? Since I started with 36 and then added more, I won't be TOO hard on myself if one or two of the books slip to the 2015 list..

2015 - I've already started marking books for my Must Read 2015 list. I won't formalize it until the end of December, so some books may get removed and others may get added. Here's what I have so far...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Stand up and Stand Out! Picture Book 10 for 10

It's time, once again, to dive into the stacks and pull out some favorite picture books.

Head on over to Reflect and Refine for the information on how to participate, then share your own Top Ten or just check out other lists!

When I started sorting through some of my favorite picture books from the past year, a few distinct themes jumped out at me. Most of them were biographies of amazing people. Others emphasized creativity and self-expression. So I'm going with the theme...


Let's get kids to recognize all the hard work it takes to earn and keep the rights and freedoms we sometimes take for granted.



My Country 'Tis of Thee uses the variations in this well known American song to share the history of the fight for equality in America.   (Full Review Here

Brave Girl is the perfect book to show how even young women can help change the course of history.

Elizabeth Leads the Way describes how one woman helped gain the rest of us the right to vote.

Pair either of those titles with Uprising - a young adult novel of the beginning of unions and early suffrage movement by Haddix.

(Find more titles that focus on HERstory here)  



The Noisy Paint Box - See the world your OWN way. Vasily Kandinsky found his way, sharing his artistic visions with the world.  Perfect to pair with A Mango Shaped Space - middle grade realistic fiction by Wendy Mass.

The Pilot and the Little Prince shares the story of the life of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince.   (Full Review Here)
Star Stuff - Okay, so this is a little bit of a tease (Sorry... not really sorry) because Star Stuff doesn't release until mid October 2014. Since I just finished reading Pi in the Sky by Wendy Mass, where Sagan has a little chat with the characters, I couldn't resist putting this title out there. Get it on your radars!



Beekle - Get out there and find your tribe... your clan... or just the "one in particular" who will help you feel loved.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild - Express yourself in whatever way suits you. Sometimes that may mean you need to go a little wild.

The Most Magnificent Thing - Have you ever known just what you want to make, but it just doesn't come together? Isn't that the most frustrating thing? I loved how this book explored creativity, persistence, and the joy of making.

And one more.... "for luck"

You didn't think I'd get through TEN books and never mention Star Wars, right?

Monday, August 4, 2014

It's Monday - August 4th

Soo.... yeah... I haven't been doing such a great job on the blogging front this summer. You'd THINK that having more unstructured time would mean I would be MORE likely to get these posts done, right?


I have been busy. I'm tutoring, cleaning the house, and ran a month long online writing camp. Not as busy as during the school year, though. So what's the deal? I wish I knew. Still, I'm going to share some of my favorites from the past month today and hope that I can get back into the swing.

Don't forget to hit the sites of Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. THEY do a great job of posting frequently and sharing books!

I got hooked quickly on this one (though it had some flaws). Edie wants revenge on high school bullies and is sucked into a world where higher powers scheme and plot. Reminded me a lot of the demon law firm on Angel.

You KNOW I liked this one! Another good tale of fitting in and managing bullies.

LOVED IT! I'm not usually as happy with how authors wrap up their series, but I really loved what Bardugo did here. Excellent young adult fantasy series!

Ahh... Jeffrey Brown. Little kids will love the silly pictures. Big kids will love the Star Wars references that span the entire Star Wars Universe.

McBride has a talent for this kind of urban fantasy. I adore her snarky humor and the worlds she creates. If you like Butcher - definitely grab this and the Necromancer books!

Must Read in 2014 progress

I only read ONE of my "must reads" this past month.... (13 left to go out of 43!)

Only two (so far found?) male creatures are left after a mysterious something fells everything with a Y chromosome all over the world. Interesting setup, but I thought the arc ended in an odd place. I will be reading more in this series.


I also finally made time to read the first volume of this series! Teens discover that their parents are actually villains, and they run away to try to find a way to stop them. Excellent start to a series - I can't wait to read more!

Recent Posts:

Schneider Award Blog Tour - A Mango Shaped Space

Ooo.... that's it. That's the only post I had up since my last It's Monday post on July 14th... Ouch!

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!

Blog design by Imagination Designs using images from the No Monsters Under My Bed kit by Lorie Davison