Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (5.20.14)

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:

The Daring Nellie Bly: America's Star Reporter, by Bonnie Christensen
(Dragonfly Books, Reprint 2009)
     In this picture book biography, readers learn the story of Elizabeth Jane Cochran, known best as Nellie Bly. This is the story of Bly's break into the world of journalism during a time period when being opinionated, motivated, and driven were uncommon characteristics of women.
     I was mostly interested in this book because it is the story of a journalist, a career I am trying to make more tangible for students. Nellie Bly would easily find herself at home in my classroom library alongside other like-picture book biographies about daring women who chased after their dreams.

Extraordinary Jane, by Hannah E. Harrison
(Dial, February, 2014)
     A beautiful picture book about Jane, an ordinary dog in a family of circus dogs with extraordinary talents. Through inferences drawn from the illustrations and what is not said explicitly in the text, readers can find implications of what is appreciated about Jane and why who she is is much more than ordinary. This is a wonderful first book by Harrison, who studied in Maine and interned with Kevin Hawkes.

Dogs of War, by Sheila Keenan, illustrated by Nathan Fox
(GRAPHIX, 2013)

     This graphic novel is actually three short stories of dogs in service, one each from World War I, World War II, and Vietnam. The combined efforts of Keenan and Fox allow readers to synthesize information from the images, speech bubbles, and still more that is left unsaid to gain a deeper respect for war veterans and the dogs who served at their sides. 
      Once I book talk this with my students, it will not return to my shelf until the end of the year, and that is only if it isn't pilfered first. For my students who have shown a preference for historical fiction and informational books featuring dogs and war--think Saving Zasha (Barrow), Duke (Larson), Dogs on Duty (Patent)--this will be one more genre in a set of related reading experiences. I'm anxious to see if my graphic novel fanatics will take to Dogs of War as quickly, because I felt it required more reading work than many other graphic novels I have loved.

Serafina's Promise, by Ann E. Burg
(Scholastic, 2013)
     I found this book as I have continued to read titles from the Maine Student Book Award list. Serafina's Promise provides readers with a look into the life of Serafina, a young Haitian girl, and her family. Her mother and father and grandmother are hardworking, using fruits of the earth to survive and to live. Serafina, having already experienced the immense loss of a baby brother to malnutrition, has become inspired to become a doctor to help her people. Driven by her strong family values and cultural identity, Serafina is determined to do whatever is within her power to succeed.
     The book is a novel in verse, which will appeal to many readers in the classroom. Personally, I also loved the incorporation of lines of both Creole and French, not only because of my familiarity with the languages, but also because they strengthened the development of the characters and their pride. However, student readers may not be as attentive to text that is not easily understood. The end of the book came rather abruptly, and I found I was still turning the last page expecting the resolution to be coming. Don't be surprised if readers come running upon completion, insisting that there wasn't enough information about how the story ended!

The Julian Chapter, by R. J. Palacio
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, May 2014)
     When I learned that R. J. Palacio would be releasing an additional section to compliment the best-selling Wonder by sharing the perspective of the bully, Julian, I knew I wouldn't be able to delay gratification. Not only did I preorder the e-novella, but I read it the day it was released.
      I admit that I had to do a little bit of work as a reader to get back in sync with Julian as a character, trying to read the text with his voice and his perspective, but it didn't take long, and I actually felt that I appreciated this additional chapter more having distance from Wonder than I might have if I had been able to read his story in sequence with the other characters' parts. There is no question, after Palacio gifts us with insights and evidence of how multiple accounts of incidents build a multi-dimensional story, readers naturally wonder about the "villan's" point of view. This chapter does not disappoint. It will satisfy that curiosity, and will continue to prompt the development of empathy for others. Last year's students who heard Wonder as our first read aloud last fall are asking to come back for lunchtime read alouds--and I just might indulge.

What I am Currently Reading:
Read, Write, Teach, by Linda Rief
(Heinemann, 2014)

What I am Reading Next:
Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
Every Day After, by Laura Golden
The Ghost of Tupelo Landing, by Sheila Turnage


  1. I've seen several people talk about Extraordinary Jane now so I'll have to check it out! I preordered The Julian Chapter too but I promised my daughter I'd wait for her. We're reading the book together now. I loved Every Day After. Lots of good buzz on Brown Girl Dreaming! Enjoy!

  2. Extraordinary Jane is a book I want to get my hands on. I am seeing the loveliest of comments about it every time it is mentioned. I loved Every DayAfter. Enjoy!

  3. So many great books this week! I need to read The Julian Chapter soon too. I've heard so many people talk about how amazing it is.

    I'm also seeing the Linda Rief book around a lot lately. I'm looking forward to that one as well.

  4. I can't wait to get my hands on Brown Girl Dreaming. I am jealous.

  5. I just pinned Nellie Bly into my Pinterest Board as I am currently collecting titles of PBBs for a conference presentation end of this year. Thank you for alerting me to this title. The Julian Chapter seems to be receiving a lot of love this week, how awesome. I have to read Wonder soon! :)