Monday, January 6, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (1.6.14)

Every Monday bloggers all over the web participate in an effort to share books we have read and what we are excited about digging into. Thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee & Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting us all!

What I Read this Week:

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal's Lives, by Lola M. Schafer, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal
(Chronicle Books, 2013)
     This book may become one of my most recommended. In a time where literacy and STEM are becoming increasingly separate from one another, this book shows us exactly how science, math, and literacy can be interrelated. The scientific research conducted and the mathematical curiosities explored are laid out and modeled in the last pages of this beautiful book. The artwork is attractive and appealing, and the information is limited and not overwhelming to readers. This text could lend itself to introducing a unit, jumpstarting interest in learning about animals and their lifetimes, and could be used as a model for science/math writing in the classroom.

One Word Pearl, by Nicole Groeneweg, illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
(Charlesbridge, 2013)
     Here's another book I read this week that I found could be versatile in purpose in the classroom. Groeneweg has a whimsical picture book devoted to word consciousness. You can't help but be more thoughtful about words and word choice after reading this book. Pearl has a love for words and is selective about how and when she uses them. The book also conveys a message about the power of stringing words together. I anticipate using this word with students during an instructional sequence about word choice, but it could also be used in the introduction of our annual vocabulary parade. Regardless, One Word Pearl would be a quick read and worth sharing with students.

14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
(Peachtree Publishers, 2009)
     I don't think there is much left to be said about this book. It seems that everyone has known about this gem, and I'm behind in finding out about the treasure in this book. I had often heard it mentioned, but I finally slowed down and took time to read this work. The story of the 14 cows is the story of sacrifice and a gift from a village in Kenya as a show of solidarity with the U.S. after the attacks of September 11, 2001. This book offers a remarkable glimpse at the good in humanity, and provides readers with a tangible example of kindness and support from people at a great distance. One cannot help fall into self-examination about what we do to show support, kindness, solidarity with others in times of need. This book is a winner for helping students visualize the concepts of compassion and empathy.

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell
(St. Martin's Griffin, 2013)
     I will read anything Rainbow Rowell writes. I know that with certainty after finishing Fangirl overnight. Rowell's characters are compelling and real. I suspect other readers, like me, find themselves within the characters' relationships and conflicts of her novels. Though the story of Cather, Wren, Reagan, and Levi is set during their college experience as young adults, it reconnects us immediately to days pushed aside. I love the escape Rowell's novels provide me, and the way her books make me think about and remember my own stories of my heart.

Tommysaurus Rex, by Doug Tennapel
(Graphix, 2013)
     I knew I had to beat my students to this new acquisition if I was going to get my hands on it before June. They are big fans of Doug Tennapel after reading and passing on Cardboard. I'm curious to have them read this graphic novel and respond-both about this text alone and in comparison to Cardboard. When Ely loses his dog, Tommy, in an accident, he has a hole in his heart. Losing a pet is a common experience for students, and this imaginary story of Tommy returning to life as a Tyrannosaurus Rex may be just the inspiration needed for readers/writers who prefer to stretch the truth around their real experiences.

The Spy Catchers of Maple Hill, by Megan Frazer Blakemore
(Bloomsbury USA Childrens, May 6, 2014, based on an Advanced Reader Copy)
     As a reader who loved The Water Castle and a supporter of Maine writers, I was elated to have acquired the ARC of this book at NCTE '13. Hazel Kaplansky is an underdog. The only child of cemetery keepers and unpopular among her peers, students will find Hazel easy to befriend. Hazel is, like many intermediate-aged students, quick to assume excitement-enough that she may materialize a mystery where one doesn't exist. The text is historical fiction and set in the era of McCarthyism, a great backdrop for rumor spreading and suspicion. Beautifully woven into the novel are bits of wisdom that could breed thoughtful reflections from readers.

Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton, by Matt Phelan
(Candlewick, 2013)
     In the style of a graphic novel, Phelan gives us an alternative narrative biography of Buster Keaton. The story of the young vaudevillian is told from the perspective of Henry, another young boy in the Bluffton area of Michigan. The fact of Buster Keaton's life is shared through soft, inviting illustrations that impeccably capture the intricacies of characters' emotions, offering strength and depth to the story. This book swallowed me into it's pages and the story, and I wanted to drag out the book like the summer days it described. Students will be intrigued by this book that blurs genre lines, and-I suspect-some will have an interest in learning more about Keaton and the vaudeville life.

What I am Currently Reading:
Wake Up Missing, by Kate Messner
(Walker Childrens, 2013)

What I am Reading Next:
Half a Chance, by Cynthia Lord
The Boy on the Wooden Box, Leon Leyson
Waiting for the Magic, Patricia MacLachlan


  1. Read Eleanor and Park by Rowell - it is well done. I haven't read Fangirl yet but is on my list. Great list of books. Thanks

    1. Thanks for commenting, Joanne! I found Rowell's other book, Attachments, and have added THAT to my TBR list. Funny thing about TBR lists...I'm no sure they ever get shorter!

  2. I adore Lifetime! It is a beautiful book for many different reasons. One Word Pearl sounds wonderful, I'm requesting that one to check it out. I loved Tommysaurus Rex and Bluffton as well. I haven't shared Bluffton with my class yet, and I'm not sure how they will do with the historical setting on this one. Buster Keaton will be just another name to them I'm thinking. We'll see :)

    1. Thanks for reading, Nicole! I'm optimistic that Bluffton will be a match for a few readers in particular who are advanced and interested in "entertainment." One aspires to be a comedian, even. I think my students will be intrigued at the historical component.

  3. I too, am in that Rainbow Rowell fan category! She is just fantastic. So pleased to see how much you liked LifeTime This was one of my favourite titles of 2013! I love sharing it page by page with my class. I hope you like The Boy on the Wooden Box. A powerful read for sure.

    1. Have you read Attachments, Carrie? I won't get to it for a while. I know The Boy on the Wooden Box will be a big shift from the reading I have been doing, but I'm looking forward to reading it after hearing so many mentions of the book! Thanks for reading!

  4. Hello there Melissa, I really hope I can find Bluffton soon in our public libraries, I've been reading a lot about it, and I am definitely intrigued. It sounds like a beautiful book. Same with Lifetime. I haven't read any of Rainbow Rowell's novels yet, but I have a feeling my 12 year old girl would take to them, as she is into books that deal with relationships. :)