Monday, January 5, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (1.5.15)

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:

The Exact Location of Home, by Kate Messner
(Bloomsbury USA Childrens, December 23, 2014)
     Kirby "Zig" Zigonski is back in this e-book companion to The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. While Gianna returns, too, the story is Zig's. Zig is grappling with feelings of loss and confusion when he is again disappointed by his father cancelling plans. Zig's feelings are quickly compounded when he and his mother face eviction from their apartment. Zig is certain that he can get his father to make things right again, especially when he picks up the lead on another geocaching fan who just might be his dad. 
     Zig's complex feelings are one reason to love him. Readers will be hard pressed not to have their empathetic hearts expand when let into his story and the challenges that every day presents, from added responsibility, to secrets, to just wanting things to be ok. 
Gone Fishing, by Tamera Will Wissinger, illustrated by Matthew Cordell
(HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013)
     Sam has long awaited the day he can go fishing with his father, just the two boys, so when his sister wakes early and his father invites her to come along, Sam's tune goes sour. His attitude doesn't improve when Lucy catches a few fish, and he does not. When alas he catches a fish that garners a lot of attention, Sam decides having Lucy along to share the trip wasn't so bad after all.
     A novel in verse, Sam's story will be easily accessible to striving readers, making this book a strong contender for passing off among students in my classroom. It is also a Maine Student Book Award nominee. The poems are labeled with type/style of poetry. This would be a comfortable way to ease students in to mentor texts for poetry as the writing is not intimidating.
Coaltown Jesus, by Ron Koertge
(Candlewick, 2013)
     Walker is dealing with the loss of his brother, Noah. The family is engulfed in typical grief and avoidance, and Walker knows things aren't right. He prays for help, and one day, Jesus appears in the flesh. A friendship, of sorts, develops between Walker and Jesus, and Walker shows evidence of healing.
     Something about this book was just right for me. Part of that was appreciating the unexpectedly witty and down-to-earth voice of Jesus in his interactions with Walker. The book is written in verse, making it a relatively quick read, but there is plenty to linger over, too.

Handle With Care, by Loree Griffin Burns, photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
(Millbrook Pr Trade, 2014)
      Curious after learning that butterflies at the Boston Museum of Science were imported for the exhibit, Loree Griffin Burns asked questions about how and why butterflies are imported. This text documents the butterfly life cycle while also telling the story of butterfly harvesting in Costa Rica through their arrival in various locations.
     The text and photo pairings for this book are perfect. Students will flock to this book again and again for both it's stunning photography and for informative text in sizable bites. For readers who are overwhelmed with lots of print in most nonfiction books, this provides an equally informative text with excellent supports, respecting their thirst for knowledge and experiences.
Real Revision: Authors' Strategies to Share with Student Writers, by Kate Messner
(Stenhouse, 2011)
      Successful author Kate Messner invites teachers into her life as an author and into her classroom as a teacher with this collection of examples of activities and routines. To support teachers in making their classrooms "revision-friendly," Kate has drawn from the expertise of many other authors who share their approaches to revision.
     The ideas and suggestions in this professional text are incredibly practical. The style of writing and balance of information (teacher-to-teacher) is empowering to both writing teachers and student writers. The accounts included illustrate that the ways of revising text are as varied as writing itself. The back-stories of revision behind popular middle grade texts are enlightening, also.

What I am Currently Reading:
Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai
(HarperCollins, 2013)

On Writing, by Stephen King
(Scribner, 2010)

What I am Reading Next:
Finding Serendipity, by Angelica Banks
Mark of the Thief, by Jennifer Nielsen
The Writing Thief, by Ruth Culham


  1. I love verse novels (I love anything that's a fast read, LOL), and these are two I haven't heard of, so thanks for reviewing them. I loved the stunning photos in Handle With Care too. Can't believe how beautiful the pupae are. I still have to read Gianna Z.--I put it on my #MustReadin2015 list as a reminder to get to it!

    1. I'm glad you were able to find some new titles, Elisabeth!
      I book talked Handle With Care in the classroom Tuesday, and the students just ooh'ed and aah'ed through the preview. Stunning.

  2. Handle with Care is a very special book! I shared it on my blog this week as well. Looking forward to sharing with my students!

    1. Me too. They get intimidated by informational text often, but I think this one will see many readers.

  3. Coaltown Jesus sounds really interesting. King's book on writing is one of my all time favorites - such great, commonsense advice.

    1. It was interesting, Tara. A purely selfish read, as I'm no going to use Coaltown Jesus in my 4th grade classroom, but I was glad I made time for it. And thanks for the affirmation on King. I'm feeling like it's time.

  4. I am determined to read the 2 Kate Messner books this month - Gianna and the Exact Location. I have them both, just need time to read now that school has started :(
    Hope all went well at school today :)

    1. You must! (Read the Messner books. And then we can talk. :) )

  5. I'm really looking forward to The Exact Location of Home. Kate Messner has a gift for creating characters you can't help but fall in love with.

    1. Zig is very much another of those Cheriee. I wanted to do something for him. I wanted to reach in and let him know how great he is. I hope you enjoy!

  6. I remember reading Inside Out and Back Again at the airport in Mumbai if I am not mistaken and it just made me cry and cry. Such a powerful novel-in-verse. I just borrowed Handle with Care from the library. Looking forward to featuring it soonest. :)

    1. Inside Out and Back Again is actually a recommendation from one of my students, so I'm particularly curious. Now to just carve out time to read it...