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:
How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied by Jess Keating
(Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, June 3, 2014)
I loved Ana. I felt for her- as will many students-as I lived her 12-year old live with her in the pages. Ana (named for an anaconda...see?) and family have moved to a house inside a zoo where her parents are zoologists. Ana's best friend has moved to New Zealand and is out of touch. Ana contends with the popular crowd at school. She feels compelled to do something important, but cannot find her inner bravery. In short, Ana feels like she can't measure up in any of the ways that she wants to.
Filled with natural humor and a main character with a lovable personality, Keating has a story that will have student readers shaking their heads (I can hear them now: I can't believe they did that!) and pumping their fists in support of Ana as she tries to wrangle her own identity.
(Random House Books for Young Readers, August 26, 2014-ARC courtesy of NetGalley)
When Ellie's mom returns home with a strangely familiar teenager, Ellie is not suspecting that this is her relative. But it's her grandfather who has reversed his own aging in lab work studying senescence. The book balances accounts of Ellie's adjustments to new friendships and her grandfather's footprint on her middle school life.
Holm has introduced a curious character in Ellie. Not only does Ellie show interest in learning more about science (the book does a great job touching upon famous historical scientists and will send kids searching for more information about their studies and discoveries), but she does some soul searching when all her thinking leads her to wonder about the effects of exciting, new scientific discoveries. Ellie's realistic social concerns, a touch of science fiction, and ample embedded tough questions will open the door to interesting student conversations.
Always, Abigail, by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
(Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, August 6, 2014-ARC)
In a stereotypical middle school setting, Abigail starts her 6th grade year with high hopes of earning a spot among the popular students on the pom-pom team. As if it isn't hard enough to be the third wheel in her own best friend triangle, Abigail's hopes are shattered and she must face the question of who she is if not
1. a pom-pom squad member, and
2. Allicam's (two girls who go by one name) best friend.
Through a class assignment, Abigail looks below the surface of a social outcast in her class, Gabby, and develops empathy and a friendship. But then she is called upon to fill a vacant spot on the pom-pom squad, and she must face the choice of the 6th grade life she wanted or the one she has created.
Cavanaugh has formatted her second book creatively, just as she did with This Journal Belongs to Ratchet. The text is a page turner, with one page after another filled with lists. The story is told effectively in this format, and the voice captured in Abigail's character is accurate to the age. I want to believe Always, Abigail will touch students' hearts. At the very least, it will open the doors to communication about kindness and being someone you are proud to be.
(Scholastic Press, August 26, 2014-ARC)
Suzannah is a second-grade student who can't have a pet of her own, but is happy to be part of the Shelter Pet Squad at her local animal shelter. When a family drops off a guinea pig, Jelly Bean, one day, Suzannah consoles the upset owner, promising to find Jelly Bean a home. But can she?
Lord has published a first book in a brand-new series that will be versatile across elementary classrooms. Striving readers often look for animal-related stories. They, like Suzannah, will desire a happy ending, which will keep them reading, and straightforward text will help their cause. At the end of the book, Lord has included pages that share facts and information about guinea pigs (since Jelly Bean is the star of this first installment), directions for making the toys that were mentioned in the story, and information about her interest in animal shelters and her guinea pig, Cookie. A second book, featuring a ferret, is due for publication in 2015.
Fossil, by Bill Thomson
(Two Lions, November 2013)
Readers will not need text in this wordless picture book. The illustrations are lifelike and communicative, and the reader is free to imagine the sounds and feelings of the story. Thomson created all of the illustrations with acrylic paint and colored pencils.
Out for a walk with his dog, a boy accidentally find a plant fossil, and his discovery brings the plant to life. He finds two subsequent fossils, which also come to life, and bring a larger-than-life adventure. This book would be a great addition to any collection of picture books and shouldn't be saved only for wordless picture book lovers. The book, or individual pages/spreads, would be wonderful inspiration for original student writing.
What I am Currently Reading:
El Deafo, by CeCe Bell
(September 2, 2014, ARC)
What I am Reading Next:
Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier
Dash, by Kirby Larson
Hidden Gems, by Katherine Bomer