Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (1.12.15)

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:

Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai
(HarperCollins, 2013)
     Ten-year old Ha narrates the story of escaping war-torn Vietnam with her family in 1976. She and her mother and three older brothers take refuge on a ship bound for safety, stopping in Guam, and later moving to Alabama. Her story highlights prejudice, hardships of culture left behind, and the pressure of assimilation.
     The poetic nature of Thanhha Lai's novel-in-verse contributes to the overall sense of brokenness and struggle, while maintaining a beautiful quality--the rebuilding and healing that continued over time. The writing in this book relays the emotion of the story in a way intermediate readers can share. This is an important glimpse into history and the impact of war.
Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca
(Scholastic Press, January 2014)
     Marty McGuire returns in another third grade adventure. Marty is inspired to sponsor chimpanzees captive in a sanctuary. To raise the money needed, Marty begins a pet-sitting company with the help of her friends, unbeknownst to the adults in her world. Marty's pet-sitting detracts from her time to prepare for the 3rd grade talent show. When the pet-sitting trouble sets in, Marty is all kinds of stuck and must figure out how to make things right again.
     There's nothing not to love about Marty McGuire, a book character with whom most readers will connect. Marty's passion for the chimpanzees will be familiar for many readers, and they'll find themselves laughing along as the pet-sitting business gets riskier and riskier. And in the end, they'll be satisfied with how things work out for Marty (and the pets!), too.
Blue on Blue, by Dianne White, illustrated by Beth Krommes
(Beach Lane Books, December 2014)
     This picture book is a beautiful poem about the way weather changes when a beautiful day is interrupted by a rain storm and what happens when the clouds pass.
     The lyrical language of this book pairs well with the striking artwork, creating a picture book you can fall into. 
The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee
(Beach Lane Books, September 2014)
      When a clown is separated from his circus train, he is taken in and cared for by an old farmer. The farmer thrives with the opportunity to care for the clown and share his company. Then one day, when least expected, the train returns to reclaim the clown, and he and the farmer must say farewell.
     Marla Frazee's wonderful artwork upholds a strong story arc in this wordless picture book. The reader extracts all the implied emotion of the two unlikely friends. In a most magical way, Frazee's wordless illustrations leave plenty of room for all readers to bring to this story their own personal transaction. But I'd dare say all will reach the end and feel a fuller heart.

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story, by Patrick McDonnell
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, October 7, 2014)
     Louie is about to star in "A Perfect Story," but he stumbles upon some plops and splats and smudges that seem to be out of place and threatening to his perfection! When Louie realizes the blemishes have not sent the reader away, his mindset changes and he realizes it's not so bad, "Messes and all."
     Clever art and creative thinking turn Louie's "Perfect Story" into A Perfectly Messed-Up Story.  This book from Patrick McDonnell lives in the same vein as Scieszka and Barnett's format-bending Battle Bunny.
Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
(Clarion Books, October 7, 2014)
      In the nonfiction picture book companion, Katherine Applegate tells the true story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla taken into captivity as a baby and his journey to a restricted environment at a shopping mall.
     What is there to say about this book that hasn't been said already? It's beautiful--in artwork and story, in truth and in the challenge it issues to readers of all ages to be compassionate and considerate of animals' well-being. For readers who have befriended Ivan, this companion text will be similar to another visit with a friend. Pairing with The One and Only Ivan provides opportunity for text comparison and analysis about the author's purposes, craft, and choices. I don't expect Ivan will stay on the shelf very long once he makes his way to the classroom!

What I am Currently Reading:
Finding Serendipity, by Angelica Banks
(Henry Holt and Co., February 3, 2015, ARC)
On Writing, by Stephen King
(Scribner, 2010)

What I am Reading Next:
Beetle Busters, by Loree Griffin Burns
Mark of the Thief, by Jennifer Nielsen
The Writing Thief, by Ruth Culham


  1. A Perfectly Messed-Up Story sounds like a book with a great message, thanks for sharing!

    1. It's cute, Christine. Glad you found something to look forward to!

  2. I loved The Farmer and the Clown. And I loved it even more after reading Dylan Teut's tribute to his sister through the lens of that book.

    1. I saw that. What incredible courage. I can't imagine the sorrow he feels. What a gift that he is finding comfort in Marla Frazee's beautiful book.

  3. Those are all excellent picture books! And I agree with Beth's comment about Farmer/Clown. I can't believe the parallels that Dylan wrote. I adored Ivan, of course.
    I tried for Finding Serendipity on net galley but didn't get it. I'll wait for Feb. I guess :)
    Hope all is going well!

    1. I wrote about Finding Serendipity in this week's post. I will be interested to talk to you--and other writer friends--after more people have read it. Curious.

  4. I've been meaning to find Ivan in our library but it is always on loan! I hope I have better luck this weekend. Loved Inside Out and Back Again - very powerful voice. :)

    1. Ivan is special. No doubt. I prefer the novel, but this picture book will also lend itself well to initiating inquiry or passion projects where there may not be time to share the entire novel version. The novel will always be there for further reading.

  5. Somehow I missed this Marty McGuire title. Must remedy that! I loved the Ivan PB. Inside Out & Back Again is one I occasionally require in my Children's Lit class. Very powerful story.

    1. Oh yes, Marty and her adventures. I'm covering the entire Kate Messner collection currently because she is the center of our whole-school (One Author) reading project.

      I'm so glad I took my student's recommendation to read Inside Out and Back Again. I had skipped over it (as I sometimes do with historical fiction that doesn't have a close curricular tie). Foolish me.