What I Read This Week (Or, close to this week...ahem.):
Seven Stories Up, by Laurel Snyder
(Random House Books for Young Readers, January 28, 2014-based on Advanced Reading Copy)
By the way, this is the book I'm bending the rules for because I didn't read it in the last week, but a little before. My blog, my rules? Just kidding...
Annie's grandmother is not doing well, and she travels with her mother to visit. In a twist of magic, Annie travels into the past to a time when her grandmother was her own age. She finds that Molly-her grandmother-is kept captive in her room because she is ill, and Annie discovers Molly's very real feelings of loneliness and a desire to experience the outside world. Through their story, readers are confronted with the effects that friendship can have in "healing" what ails us. And ultimately, Annie must consider her influence in the character-building of her grandmother.
I have long awaited the companion text to Bigger Than a Breadbox. This was the ARC from NCTE '13 that I dove into before even leaving Boston. After waiting to see the book that Laurel herself described as connected, but a story ahead of the story, this book does not disappoint. Connections between the book seem subtle (and admittedly now I need to reread Bigger Than a Breadbox to test that theory), but are there almost like a whisper that allows the reader to feel like they know a secret of the way these books are related. I can't wait to find out what my former students-who were Breadbox lovers-will have to say about Seven Stories Up.
Duke, by Kirby Larson
(Scholastic Press, August 2013)
When he makes the decision to volunteer his German Shepard, Duke, to Dogs for Defense during WWII, Hobie Hanson is conflicted between his sense of responsibility to contribute to the war effort and make his father (an airman overseas) proud and his adoration for his four-legged companion. Student readers will easily relate to Hobie's interactions with his classmates and family, including feelings about bullying and intolerance, concern about the well-being of family members, and a deep-rooted desire to be brave and to do the right thing.
I'm excited to share Duke with the readers in my classroom because they find stories about dogs and war compelling. Kirby Larson's book is accessible to my fourth grade readers, and when shared with peers, I believe it will prompt great discussions about morals and character. I only regret that it has taken me so long to get to it!
Mr. Wuffles, by David Wiesner
(Clarion Books, October 2013)
This wordless picture book gives readers the chance to see the world of cats and cat toys in a new way. Mr. Wuffles takes interest in a spaceship toy, and soon we learn that the toy is inhabited by space people. When the space people take it upon themselves to retaliate, the light-hearted story will make readers smile in response, recognizing all-to-well their favorite feline within the character of Mr. Wuffles.
I am ashamed to admit this is the first wordless picture book I've shared with students this year. The delighted in the quiet reading we shared, and many took sides with allegiance to Mr. Wuffles or the space people. Not only did students have commentary to offer about the story, but they had equally interesting conversation about the illustrations and choices David Wiesner made in communicating story through pictures. Win-win as a shared reading experience.
Battle Bunny, by Jon Scieszka, Mac Barnett, and Matthew Myers
(Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, October, 2013)
A spirited youngster, Alex, reveals his talent for writing in Battle Bunny by "defacing" a book formerly called "The Birthday Bunny." Alex revises the text to create a more aggressive character of the bunny, making his mission to conquer the world. His contributions to the book are not limited in word, but also in his artful modifications to the illustrations of the book. Who will be able to halt Battle Bunny in his evil plan...I wonder...
I cannot think of another text to which I'd compare this work. It's fun. To think through the creation of this book-not once, but twice-is a little mind-boggling to me. Creativity abounds. I appreciate it, and I suspect my students will, also. It's likely that Battle Bunny won't see shelf-life in my classroom because it will be passed from reader to reader.
What I'm Reading Next:
I'm laughing to myself as I even consider what it means to commit to a book. To be completely honest, I'm overwhelmed by my TBR pile and I know I'm not reading as much as I'd like to be right now! But, nevertheless, I'm fairly certain my next reads will be some of these: