Monday, July 21, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (7.21.14)

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:

El Deafo, by CeCe Bell
(Amulet Books, September 2, 2014, ARC)
     CeCe Bell uses her talents in storytelling and art to share her own memories and experiences as a student with a profound hearing impairment. Readers witness Bell's frustrations and challenges around being different when all she really wanted was to be the same. Bell's language and portrayal of the characters is realistic and accurate. Her superhero identity, El Deafo, helps to keep the autobiographical graphic novel light and humorous.
     El Deafo is a graphic novel that will circulate in classrooms this fall. I expect it will rarely see shelf time in my classroom. El Deafo is a beautiful book, bringing the reality of hearing impairment to light for students who are full of curiosity about others' challenges and adversity. 

Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier
(GRAPHIX, August 26, 2014-ARC courtesy of NetGalley)
     The long awaited sequel to Smile is on it's way. Raina Telgemeier illustrates the ways in which her wish for a baby sister was more than she bargained for. Telgemeier captures the truth behind sisterly relationships-the irritations, the frustrations, the embarrassments, and even what makes it worthwhile.
     Telgemeier uses true stories from her own relationship with sister, Amara. While the text takes place over a family road trip (California to Colorado and back) to a family reunion, Telgemeier has perfectly positioned flashback episodes along the way that help illustrate the complexity of their relationship and how small things compound. Students will be page turning from beginning to end, and their only complaint I expect? They're going to want more.

Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
(Nancy Paulsen Books, February 5, 2015-ARC)

     Ally has earned a reputation as a difficult student with challenging behavior. She feels isolated and alone at school, her peer relations and academics seem to suffer from her choices. Until Mr. Daniels appears on the scene with a different approach to working with Ally. Through his intervention and unwaivering belief in her, Ally gradually overcomes her tarnished self-image and discovers what good she can be.
     Infused with inspiration from her own emotional stories of school, Lynda Mullaly Hunt has captured the very raw emotion of students who struggle to fit in, keep up, and generally belong. Hunt's characters will instantly feel real, and students will find discussions about this book to be an easy bridge to talking about their own school experiences with perceived distance. Without a doubt, this is a book that anybody (everybody) should read.

Mountain Dog, by Margarita Engle
(Henry Holt & Co., 2013)

     Margarita Engle has written a novel in verse where the alternating chapters switch perspectives between a boy (Tony) and his uncle's dog (Gabe). Tony's life is in flux when he moves to his uncle's house. His mother is in jail for dog-fighting. When his uncle assumes guardianship, Tony must adjust to life with Gabe, a mountain rescue dog, and his uncle's lifestyle of helping hikers who have encountered trouble on their hikes. In time, and with Uncle Tio, BB, and Gabe, Tony finds peace with the cruel misfortune he was dealt and learns that he can have dependable relationships.
     The novel-in-verse style of this book will empower reluctant readers to assume a can-do attitude. Further, I expect some of these students to find themselves in the pages, relating to Tony's fears and frustrations about feeling less than sufficient, wanting to be loved. The alternating viewpoints raise the level of complexity in the text and will provide plenty of place for thoughtful, sensitive discussions with students.

Out of Nowhere, by Maria Padian
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2013)
     Maine author Maria Padian writes about a small Maine city in a post-9/11 world in this YA novel. Some communities saw an influx of Somali immigrants post-9/11, and the communities faced very real problems around cultural tolerance and understanding. Tom Bouchard, the senior soccer player stars in the story, befriending a Somali student with profound talent on the soccer field. Through his friendship with Saeed, and in his work with Myra and Samira at the K Community Center, Tom realizes first-hand the injustices and prejudices that come with the intersection of American culture and Somali culture and beliefs.
     Intrigued by the setting (fictional Enniston is based on a community 30 minutes east of my home) and by the predominant French-Canadian culture, Out of Nowhere was on my TBR list for a long time. Certainly, with frank language, references to drugs and alcohol, and suggestive sexual content it isn't a text I will recommend to elementary students, however it is masterful and held my attention from cover to cover. When I took a break from reading to attend to other tasks, I kept thinking about the characters and couldn't wait to get back to the book. I'm glad I carved out time for this one.

Adventures in Vacationland, by Mark Scott Ricketts
(Islandport Press, Inc., May 3, 2014)
     A young boy, Joe Livingston, embellishes his family trip to see an aunt in Maine by writing his own version of the story. Joe, on his way to rescue his auntie from the perils of Cracker, a mechanical lobster-monster, encounters a band of characters that are deeply Maine-inspired including the Moose King, a "wicked big" Maine Coon Cat, and Captain Chester.
      The text includes typical picture book pages with text and rich illustration, but interspersed in the pages are also those designed to look like they were lifted from Joe's own notebook (white lined paper with child-like drawings). Many pages include speech bubbles, adding to the whole book experience. This book is fun and Joe is endearing.

What I am Currently Reading:
Dash, by Kirby Larson
(August 26, 2014, ARC courtesy of NetGalley)

What I am Reading Next:
Sugar and Ice, by Kate Messner
Super Schnoz, by Gary Urey
Hidden Gems, by Katherine Bomer


  1. Great books this week! Your first three listed are definitely ones close to the top of my TBR pile!

    1. I wish you happy reading then! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. You had a great reading week and I'm quite jealous of the ARCs you have read! My fingers are itching to get to these books!

    1. Thanks, Michele. I realize this was quite a week looking back at it. And honestly, there are great things about all of them! (And, my weeks are not always so full of ARCs-I've been really lucky in recent weeks.)

  3. Fish in a Tree is a title I can't wait to read! So pleased that you liked it so much.

    1. Thanks, Carrie. I hope to be able to say more about this soon... Will let you know. ;)

  4. Wow! You had an AMAZING reading week. Lots of ARCS. :-)

    1. I realized how lucky I was when I sat down to write! I have been fortunate in the last few weeks to score some advanced reading opportunities. Grateful. :) Thanks for stopping by, Holly.

  5. Isn't Out of Nowhere amazing?! It just grabs you and sucks you in and then spits you out. I loved that book..
    I have Sisters to read--I can't wait. And jealous about Fish!!

    Happy reading this week! :)

    1. Out of Nowhere really was just that good. I wish I had more readers to recommend it to, really. I'm glad you commented. I had wondered if my proximity to the events that inspired the story caused me to appreciate it more than a reader from another location. Thanks for verifying that it's really just that good.

  6. I am always fascinated by Margarita's novels - I particularly love her historical fiction novels-in-verse. Would definitely be on the lookout for Mountain Dog. I've been seeing so many good reviews of Kirby Larson's novels, will have to pick those up very soon.