Monday, February 16, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (2.16.15)

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 Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
(HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014)
     Josh Bell is a superstar athlete. He and his twin brother, Jordan, are an unstoppable pair on the court, partially to the credit of the at-home coaching of their well-known father who led his European team to a championship. Yet, when Jordan's new girlfriend impedes the twins' closeness and with additional family stress and worry about Mr. Bell's unattended hypertension, Josh's emotions are checked out of bounds. Through the turmoil, he finds a way back into the most important game.
     The newest Newbery Medal winner, this novel-in-verse is sure to be a favorite read for many readers. The structure of the novel contributes to the all around experience of The Crossover, with the text darting and dashing, suggesting of a player making his stealth moves on the court. Tucked inside this basketball book is a story with enough raw emotional content to charge readers' empathetic nerve and build hope for Josh and his family.
Pluto: A Wonder Story, by R.J. Palacio
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, February 10, 2015)
     When your first best friend has a facial deformity, you might learn early on that friendship can be a lot of work. Since their parents were friends, Christopher was Auggie Pullman's first real friend. Though he was accustomed to Auggie's deformity, he witnessed first hand the troubles Auggie faced making friends and living life like other kids their age. When Christopher's mom doesn't seem to be around for him the way he needs her to be, Chris is reminded of the countless sacrifices he and his family and Auggie's family have made for Auggie. He's resentful, until the truth is revealed...and then he is reminded of why friendships--even hard ones--matter.
     The second additional e-book in the Wonder story series, Pluto is told from the point of view of Christopher, who was Auggie's friend before his days at Beecher Prep. Palacio continues to provide Wonder fans with more pieces of the whole story as she slips into other characters whose voices could offer more lessons in kindness and empathy.
The Honest Truth, by Dan Gemeinhart
(Scholastic Press, January 27, 2015)
     Mark has been battling cancer since the age of 5. It has been an up and down journey--as it often is--but recently Mark received word that the cancer is back. Frustrated with all cancer has robbed from him, Mark sets out on a mission to control the one thing he has left: death.  The Honest Truth is Mark is determined to climb Mt. Rainier and die doing so.
     Dan Gemeinhart has written a new take on a survival story. Mark's plotted plans twist and turn making the reader page-turn to find out how the story will end. Alternating "half" chapters are narration of what is happening simultaneously with Mark's parents and best friend, Jessie, depicting the real struggle in not only having a loved one who is lost, but of being the support system for someone with terminal illness. The Honest Truth is written to hook readers with intrigue and will offer plenty of opportunities for conversation about character motives, actions, decisions.
Violet and Victor Write the Best-Ever Bookworm Book, by Alice Kuipers, illustrated by Bethanie Murguia
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, December 2, 2014)
     Book-loving Violet is writing a book, and when she asks her brother Victor for help, she finds he has a very different style and opinion about what makes a good book. As they work through the differences, the two write a story they both love and find something in common-their interest in reading it. 
     Violet and Victor were cute, likable characters. I appreciated their differences portrayed on the page. Most interesting to me about this book were the choices about color, text, and collage that were used to illustrate the story and help young readers keep the story and the book the children were writing separate from each other. 
The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever, by H. Joseph Hopkins, illustrated by Jill McElmurry
(Beach Lane Books, 2013)
     Kate Sessions always loved studying science, even before it was a common interest for women. When Kate settled in the desert of California, her passion for trees did, too. She conducted research to find species of trees that could live and grow in desert conditions and began her mission to bring plant-life to the otherwise barren space. Kate succeeded in establishing beautiful, lush plant-life in Balboa Park in San Diego.
     Kate Sessions is not a name I would have known without this lovely picture book biography. It is another for the collection of picture book biographies about individuals who have followed their passions with relentless hope in an effort to make a difference and improve their world with their vision.
59 Reasons to Write, by Kate Messner
(Stenhouse, January 13, 2015)
     Kate Messner has rounded up writer friends to publish a bound version of the increasingly popular Teachers Write summer camp. The book includes 59 short essays from authors touching upon any and all parts of the writing process, providing short "assignments" for writers to try for themselves. The chapters include additional warm-ups from Teachers Write co-facilitator Jo Knowles and are punctuated with real excerpts of Q&A from previous summers of Teachers Write.
     More than sitting with a pen and highlighter to read through and extract theory and instructional practice (though, the reflective teacher will find that implied), the intent of this book is to be a friend to writers working daily on their own writing or building the habit of writing. This book would make an excellent guide for a beginning writing group or can serve as a self-study guide for writers who want to work at their own pace. Either way, one thing is clear: teachers should engage in writing.

What I am Currently Reading:
The Imaginary, by A. F. Harrold and Emily Gravett
(Bloomsbury USA Childrens, March 3, 2015)

What I am Reading Next:
How to Fly with Broken Wings, by Jane Elson
The Secret Hum of a Daisy, by Tracy Holczer
The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron


  1. Hi Melissa! Ooh, I did not know there was a new e-book from RJ Palacio. Must get that one. I just got The Crossover and hope to read it during the break. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Glad I could spread the word about Pluto! :) Actually, after I finished I discovered there is another e-book coming in May also, from Charlotte's point of view.

      I appreciate you stopping by!

  2. Yes, Glad to know that Palacio keeps sharing this story! I'll need to check out Pluto. The Crossover! Oh my stars, I loved this book! Finally, we have Tree Lady in our library at school, I'll need to snag that one today. Thanks!

    1. The Crossover left me satisfied in every possible way. When I finished, I couldn't think much except for how right the Newbery committee saw it, and how glad I am it won, because I think it would have taken me much longer to find on my own!

      The Tree Lady was on my wish list for a long time. I was so excited to find a "used" copy recently that looks like it was never touched.

  3. I've seen the Honest Truth on a couple of blogs lately and I'm quite intrigued! I need to find that one and read it!

  4. So many of these books are in my stack... I wish I had more time to read them! Always a problem :)
    Can't wait to get to Kate Messner's writing book.
    The Imaginary is in my pile as well as The Secret Hum... it's a #mustreadin2015.
    Happy reading week :)

    1. 59 Reasons to Write is a book I'll be back to. The first read through let me see what was there-you know? I teased out bits and pieces that resonated with me or things I want to ponder on some more, but I'll revisit this book when I'm ready to dabble in some "fun" writing--much more of my writing write now feels different than this.

      I'll be anxious to hear your thoughts on The Imaginary. I JUST finished.

      Also, thank you. I'm so glad to know I am not the only person who has not read Secret Hum yet!

  5. Thanks for the review of the KAte Messner PD book. I've been on the fence about buying it, but it sounds like just the kind of writing book I enjoy: one where you can dip in briefly for a little inspiration, then close the book and start writing! I love the cover of The Imaginary! Looking forward to hearing more about the book when you finish it. I don't always comment on your blog, but I always read your Monday posts. You write incredibly eloquent reviews!

    1. 59 Reasons is exactly that, Elisabeth! In fact, you could skip around also, depending on what you need for your writing and when. And the shared brilliance of all the writer talent Kate has assembled? Wonderful. Do you participate in Teachers Write through the summer?

      Thanks for your kind comments today. I appreciate your feedback, more than you know.

  6. I just began Messner's book today - and you are right about being able to skip around, which is always fun to do in books like these, to find inspiration where you need it.

  7. Oh wow, The Imaginary looks absolutely delicious. I love Emily Gravett's illustrations. Great review about The Crossover - I've been meaning to read it but have no idea what's it all about. It's good to get a much clearer picture now thanks to your review.

  8. My 10 year old daughter just finished Pluto, she loved it! I'm reading The Imaginary at the moment too. I can't wait to get hold of The Crossover and The Honest Truth, they both sound like wonderful reads.