Monday, May 5, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (5.5.14)

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:

Locomotive, by Brian Floca
(Antheneum/Richard Jackson Books, September 2013)
     Winner of the Caldecott Medal and recipient of a Sibert Honor Medal, this book is a work of art. Floca relays the history of the transcontinental railroad. The illustrations of trains and well-known sites and landmarks are striking. The deliberate choices about font/text style and word choice communicate the feel of riding the rails. The end pages are gorgeous. There is not a bit of unused space in Floca's masterpiece! There is so much to take in on the pages of this text; readers will be captivated.

This is the Rope, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome
(Nancy Paulsen Books, 2013)

     This picture book is a beautiful look at the story of families of the Great Migration who wanted a better life. By tracing an old rope and the ways it was used by women of three generations (skipping rope, tying luggage to a car, hanging as a line for drying diapers) Woodson highlights the choices and decisions made, steeped in hope for the future. Be sure not to skip the author's note either. Woodson connects the story to stories from her own family, making the history of the book more tangible for readers.

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
(Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2013)
     I am so glad this title appeared on the new Maine Student Book Award list. It had caught my attention when it was first published, but fell to the wayside as my TBR list grew steadily. The MSBA list brought it back to my consciousness, and now I'm aware of how "on to it" I was in the first place.
     Ratchet/Rachel is a character you root for. Homeschooled and the daughter of an environmentally-oriented mechanic, readers quickly discover Ratchet's self-perception is impacted by her longing for friends and a wish to know more about her mom (who died when she was young). The whole book is Ratchet's journal, or her Language Arts work, where she has a wide variety of writing assignments to accomplish ranging from poetry (cinquain, list, sonnet) to essay (persuasive, narrative) to freewriting. Cavanaugh weaves Ratchet's story and her strong emotions throughout the ever-changing writing form in a way that will draw admiration from other writers. This is a great story of acceptance and finding value in self and unique circumstances.

The Boy on the Porch, by Sharon Creech
(HarperCollins, September 2013)
     When a John and Marta unexpectedly find a young boy on their porch, their world becomes changed in ways they cannot anticipate. The older couple takes in and cares for this mysterious boy who does not speak. John and Marta come to love and appreciate the boy for who he IS--unusual, artistic, and musical--all the while worrying about when/if he might be reclaimed. The capacity to love that John and Marta discover lead them to bring many more children into their home.
     Sharon Creech is masterful at writing books that reach deep into readers' hearts, grab hold, and sit for a good long while. The Boy on the Porch is in keeping with her other works. The writing is accessible, but the characters and story are charged with emotional conflict that will engulf readers, inviting them into the story, until suddenly they are invested without realization.

What I am Currently Reading:
What Readers Really Do, by Dorothy Barnhouse and Vicki Vinton
(Heinemann, 2012)
Serafina's Promise, by Ann E. Burg
(Scholastic Press, 2013)

What I am Reading Next:
Read, Write, Teach, by Linda Rief
The Joy of Planning, by Franki Sibberson
The Ghost of Tupelo Landing, by Sheila Turnage


  1. Hi Melissa. Great books this week. I love Ratchet and hope it gets a bit more recognition. I personally enjoyed The Boy on the Porch, but my students have not connected to it. Maybe they are too young? Can't wait to hear your thoughts on Serafina's Promise, I have yet to read it. Have a great week!

    1. I wonder about how students will respond to The Boy also. I have not book talked it to them yet. I suspect it could be just that--that the emotional tugs we feel while reading it are not tugs they can related to. I'm not sure. I'll try it and see...

  2. I decided against buying The Boy on the Porch because I didn't think students would really get into it. It was too quiet.

  3. Jaqueline Woodson just has a gift for powerful storytelling - This is The Rope sounds like one of those books that one just has to share with our kids. I loved The Boy on the Porch, but some of my kids had a hard time with it - there was a feeling of what's the story here? for them. In some ways, this is definitely a book that adults appreciate right away.

    1. I just read some really smart stuff from Anne Ursu that described the need for writers to be cognizant of their adult blinds while writing. I wonder if The Boy qualifies as an example of text where the writing--story and emotion--are compelling for adults but not tangible for students?

  4. It's been awhile since I've read a novel-in-verse. From what I understand, Serafina's Promise is a novel-in-verse, right? I hpe to get to it this year. I used This is the Rope as one of my text-set for my multicultural class for higher-degree students. I love Woodson's writing - while this one is not a particular favourite like Each Kindness, and The Other Side, it has its own charm. Love LOCOMOTIVE! Was very amazed by the wealth of knowledge packed in such accessible text and the artwork is gorgeous.

    1. Myra- That is JUST how I felt about Locomotive. I guess when I first flipped through and did a quick preview, I got a sense because I understood that it was awarded the honors. But then when I really sat down to read it and appreciate it, I was filled with book-joy! On Serafina's Promise, yes, it is a novel in verse. I haven't read this format in a long time either and wasn't sure, but I fell into it as soon as a started. I honestly had to coax myself to put it down last night and get some shut-eye. I'm not very far in yet, but I would already encourage others to pick it up. Hoping to comment on it here next week! Thanks for reading.