Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (7.28.14)

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:

Dash, by Kirby Larson
(Scholastic Press, August 26, 2014, ARC provided by NetGalley)
     In Dash, a companion book to Duke, Kirby Larson paints the historical experience of Mitzi, a young girl of Japanese heritage whose family is transported to multiple internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Not only does Mitzi have to part with her dog (Dash) and nearly all her belongings, but she feels she is parting with life as she knows it.
     Mitzi's story will speak to your heart. Deep research and a historical base lives within Larson's beautiful and emotion-filled writing. Readers will feel Mitzi's concerns and worries as she navigates unjust, senseless consequences for her heritage.

Sugar and Ice, by Kate Messner
(Walker Childrens, December 2010)
     Claire is happiest when skating and when passing time with family on their sugar farm in northern New York. After a stunning performance at a local skate show, Claire is recruited to attend an intense training program intended to be a feeder program for Olympic hopefuls at Lake Placid on scholarship. Participating in the program challenges Claire, from maintaining school performance and relationships with her friends to working through catty and competitive girls in the program. Claire has to come to terms with how to balance what makes her heart happy.
      Kate Messner's work is always enjoyable, and in Claire she has created a soft-hearted girl with a familiar conflict between opportunities to shine and what is familiar and comfortable. Her writing is realistic, from the description of the mean girl relationships at Lake Placid to the step by step descriptions of the skating programs they perform. 

Super Schnoz, by Gary Urey
(Albert Whitney & Company, September, 2013)
     Andy Whiffler was born with an exceptionally large nose, which earns him a lot of extra attention from his classmates. day the school is evacuated due to a pungent smell, and Andy--dubbed Schnoz--investigates with his extra attuned olfactory abilities. He teams up with a handful of classmates, and together they work on solving the mystery and saving their town from an evil plot. 
     Super Schnoz is an alternative fictional superhero who will rival Captain Underpants as the next creative character with a story full of boy-humor. Light touches on teamwork and appreciating what makes each person unique might be extracted from the story. The first in a series of books, this could be a hit with intermediate kid readers.

Oliver and the Seawigs, by Phillip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
(Random House Books for Young Readers, July 22, 2014-ARC provided by NetGalley)

     Oliver has lived an explorer lifestyle with his parents. On this day, his parents have wandered onto a rambling island and been swept away, abandoning Oliver. On a mission to find them, Oliver encounters a talking albatross, a blind mermaid, and another rambling island with a confidence issue. As they work together to win the seawig competition, Oliver finds his parents were captured by a bully character who has conquered his own island. In the end, the cast of fantasy characters unites so that good triumphs over evil.
     While the story and characters didn't hold my attention very well, I'm curious to see what students' reactions will be. It is a relatively short text and has ample illustrations interspersed with the text, making it a manageable read for those readers who are gaining independence.

The Map Trap, by Andrew Clements(Antheneum Books for Young Readers, July 22, 2014)

     Alton Barnes is a cartographer. His fascination with maps has lead him to design maps of all types, including sociographs of his school cafeteria, record keeping of the principal's bad habits in public speaking, and trends in the teacher's clothing. His maps have been private, until he shares with a popular classmate who's attention he is glad to have. Then, when the map folder goes missing, Alton must face the unintended consequences that could arise as a result of his map-making.
     As a long time fan of Andrew Clements, I anticipated a new release. This title is in keeping with his characteristic school stories. He is perceptive and accurate in portraying students--in this case, the middle school variety--and their relationships with school personnel. While students will relate to the characters, they may need guidance to arrive at the greater message of this book.

Ice Dogs, by Terry Lynn Johnson
(HMH Books for Young Readers, February, 2014)
     Vicki Secord is a dogsledder, carrying on her father's interest after an unfortunate accident on the ice claimed his life. Still dealing with the grief of loss, Vicki has ambitions to earn a spot in and win the White Wolf. However, in what should have been a routine trip out one night, Vicki encounters a snowmobile accident and a boy her age who has been injured. The book becomes a battle to survive as the pair and the dogs become lost and encounter setbacks and obstacles for many days. 
     There were times in reading this book when I found myself lingering in the language and description Terry Johnson uses to establish the setting and emotions that should come with being stranded in the Alaskan bush. There were other times where I recognized that I was page turning because I couldn't stand to be any longer without knowing that Vicki and Chris would be ok. I know this book has a group of readers waiting for it in my classroom. I can't wait to share.

Feathers: Not Just for Flying, by Melissa Stewart and Sarah Brannen
(Charlesbridge, February 2014)
     Feathers is a collection of facts about the ways various kinds of birds use their feathers for survival, from warmth to camouflage to attracting a mate.
      The book is simply beautiful, but the structure and style of the book was most appealing to me. Each page/spread features a bird, including the illustrated bird, one or two facts, and another picture of an object to which the bird's use of its feathers is being compared. For instance, on the page featuring the heron, the caption under the illustration of the heron itself includes its habitat. On the facing page (with an appearance of being taped-in, scrapbook style) is a slip of paper with information about the heron using it's wide wing-span to shade the water like an umbrella as it hunts for food. And, there are also little drink umbrellas taped in to illustrate the comparison. I love the smart thinking behind this book.

The Three Ninja Pigs, by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Dan Santat
(Putnam Juvenile, September, 2012)
     The three pigs are in trouble when faced with the villainous wolf. The first two brother pigs are helpless in defense, but the third sister pig has what it takes to save them.
      The text of this fractured fairy tale is written with the rhyming structure of a limerick. Additionally, it is illustrated with stunning bright, bold illustrations from Dan Santat. The pages are sometimes home to a single illustration and other times the pages are split into multiple frames. Kids will love this book and hopefully find it a model of creative writing.
Hidden Gems: Naming and Teaching from the Brilliance in Every Student's Writing, by Katherine Bomer
(Heinemann, March, 2010)
     In this professional text, Katherine Bomer emphasizes the power of reading our students' writing in search of the brilliance that sits within the art of their work. Bomer reminds us that both teachers and students can quickly grow discouraged when the emphasis for reading student work is about what students cannot do yet, ways their writing does not meet rubrics and standards. Through examples of student writing and her responses to the writers, Bomer demonstrates the way we can speak long and empower writers by honoring and acknowledging their strengths; building their confidence and self-perception not only yields more writing, but establishes a "can-do" attitude with kids.

What I am Currently Reading:
Divergent, by Veronica Roth
(2012, Katherine Tegen Books)

What I am Reading Next:
Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin
Straw Into Gold, by Gary Schmidt
The Writing Thief, by Ruth Culham

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