Monday, June 30, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (6.30.14)

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:

Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
(Nancy Paulsen Books, August 28, 2014 - ARC)
     In Brown Girl Dreaming, Jackie Woodson invites us into the memories of her childhood as she, in verse, recalls the formative experiences of living in the south and the north during the era of Jim Crow laws. She offers her child-perspective of this period of great change as civil rights leaders fought for equality. And between the stories of travel and play are glimpses into the evolution of Jackie Woodson, the now accomplished author, with chapters that alight readers with Woodson's early memories of reading and writing.
     Brown Girl Dreaming is one of the most talked about titles in book conversations this summer, and for good reason. I had a persistent feeling while reading that I was reading something important, being let into some intimate moments the author was sharing. The novel-in-verse format presents historical perspective in a lyrical format, which would pose a gentle contrast to informational titles about the civil rights era. The whole text is a work of (he)art, but most chapters could be used with students as stand-alone excerpts for study of writing craft. There are many ways for this book to be incorporated into the classroom, but it is undeniable that any classroom library will be richer when this book is included.

Book 1: Friendship Over (The Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine), by Julie Sternberg (author) and Johanna Wright (illustrator)
(Boyds Mill Press, October 1, 2014 - ARC courtesy of NetGalley)
     I was familiar with Julie Sternberg's work with Eleanor, the star of Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Like Bug Juice on a Burger, and Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake--my students have devoured the first two and will be ecstatic to see the third--so when I discovered she had a new book coming, I didn't hesitate to see what it was about. Alas, I discovered Celie Valentine, a new 10-year old character who is every bit as real and relate-able as Eleanor.
      The book is intended to be a journal, given to Celie by her father to help her handle her feelings and frustrations, especially related to her older sister. Celie's journal takes readers alongside her thoughts and feelings about more than just her big sister, Josephine, as everything around her seems to be in a state of change. She logs accounts about friendship struggles with her (former) best friend and the confusion she is trying to puzzle through as her parents suddenly get very serious about her grandmother's health. Celie is about to become a new friend for our students to align with when they seek comfort and company in a book! The book is printed in a casual font suggestive of journal writing, and many artifacts are made to look like they are taped in, such as spy notes and Celie's drawings. The book itself will be very appealing to middle elementary readers, especially those who are just beginning to venture into books of length but are not ready to commit to novels with hundreds of pages of straight print.

Circa Now, by Amber McRee Turner
(Disney-Hyperion, May 27, 2014)

     Circa Monroe has rested comfortably in the creative lair of her parents, both photographers, until a sudden stroke of misfortune befalls her family in a weather event. Faced with the sudden, premature loss of her father, Circa and her mother, who battles anxiety and depression, must their way as a team of two. When a teenage-stranger appears in their yard out of nowhere one day, he provides a distraction for both the remaining Monroes, finding his way into their hearts. Driven by a desire to develop her photography skills to be able to continue her father's work, Circa continues to tinker with images on the computer. The hobby allows her to feel close to her departed father, but also challenges her thinking and makes her wonder about her influence on the world and brings her closer to the people around her the more she shares her talent. 
     Many times during the reading of this book I found myself reaching for note paper or my phone to write down lines that I knew would linger with me later. The writing is lovely, and the story itself is tight with all of its pieces carefully interlocked. Nothing is left loose or wiggly, making the Monroe's story one readers can be wrapped up in. While the theme of dealing with loss is predominant, Turner writes such beauty into the characters' relationships that the story's emphasis seems to be on healing rather than on darkness.

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade, by Melissa Sweet
(HMH Books for Young Readers, 2011)
     I am ashamed at how long this book sat on my to-be-read (-purchased) list. The book won the Sibert Medal and the Orbis Pictus award, need I say more? Melissa Sweet has a stunning pairing of informational biography and collage artwork in Balloons Over Broadway.
     Tony Sarg was the puppeteer responsible for the original balloon creations that float through the streets of New York City to Herald Square in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Sweet writes a narrative-style picture book biography of how his inverted-puppets came to be. The writing style and the layout of information will make the book very appealing to my 4th grade readers who are curious and love to learn, but are easily overwhelmed with lots of print. They will, like me, spend as much--if not more--time feasting with their eyes in the illustrations created with various mediums. The end notes include Sweet's resources and some insights into her process.

What I am Currently Reading:
Bugged: How Insects Changed History, by Sarah Albee
(April 15, 2014)

What I am Reading Next:
How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied, by Jess Keating
Spirit's Key, by Edith Cohn
Hidden Gems, by Katherine Bomer


  1. Wow. some powerful titles. Brown Girl Dreaming is high on my TBR list. Can't wait for its release. Balloons over Broadway is one of my favourite nonfiction titles. It is one I plan to share with my class next year for sure.

  2. You have fantastic books featured! I can't wait to get ahold of Brown Girl Dreaming and Julie Sternberg's new one! I adored Circa Now - like you said, tight writing. Loved Balloons too! I'm reading Outrun a Crocodile now and can't wait for Spirit's Key. Like I said, good books! Have fun reading!

  3. Hey Melissa! I would love to find a copy of Brown a Girl Dreaming, looks great. I just got Cira Now from my bookstore, but my reading has to wait until my writing class is over. Can't wait to hear about Boothbay!

  4. I always feel a little twinge of jealousy when I see others reading Brown Girl Dreaming before me. I can't wait to read this one! :)

  5. I've heard so much about Brown Girl Dreaming. Jacqueline Woodson is a masterful storyteller, and I do own a few of her novels-in-verse, this one sounds like a real winner. Haven't read Balloons Over Broadway yet, thanks for reminding me to find it in our library! :)