Monday, February 2, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (2.2.15)

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:

Mark of the Thief, by Jennifer A. Nielsen
(Scholastic Press, February 24, 2015, ARC)
     Nic is a slave in the mines who earns his freedom by taking on a mission to steal a precious amulet. The mission is almost certain to have him killed, only the amulet provides him with unsuspecting magical powers and he escapes a harrowing situation. However, his magic makes him a target of high-ranking officials who are vying for positions of power in the future of Ancient Rome. Nic has mysteries to unravel and must make choices to protect himself and Rome.
     Mark of the Thief is the first book in Jennifer Nielsen's new triology Praetor War. Fans of the Ascendance Triology will find the same kind of characters, suspense, and adventure that made the first triology a hit without fearing repetition. Jennifer Nielsen knows how to take her readers on an adventure that walks the edge of danger. Readers will have a hard time putting this one down.
The Question of Miracles, by Elana K. Arnold
(HMH Books for Young Readers, February 3, 2015, ARC provided by NetGalley)
     After Iris's best friend Sarah died in a sudden tragedy, her family relocated to rainy Oregon. Iris's grief is overwhelming, and as she grapples with the vacancy in her life left by Sarah's death, she struggles with belief in miracles. She especially questions how miracles are appropriated. In time, Iris befriends Boris--who is himself being investigated as a miracle--and as she rediscovers friendship, she is able to move closer to peace.
     Iris will find her way into readers hearts, as there is hardly one among us who has not at times questioned why bad things happen to good people. I appreciated that things were not tidy in Iris's life, but rather real--from her struggles to accept friendship in life again to her worries about her parents and the changes in their lives since the move. The choice to have Boris investigated by the Vatican as a miracle for sainthood of a deceased pope was an interesting contrast to Iris's very real thoughts and actions. While accurate, most student readers will not have the background knowledge to appreciate this thoroughly. 

My Cousin's Keeper, by Simon French
(Candlewick, September, 2014)
     When Kieran's estranged cousin Bon suddenly turns up at his school, Kieran's efforts to blend in with the popular crowd are in danger. Bon is awkward, at best. Outwardly, he appears different--unkempt, a long braid, and in the company of a another new student...a girl. Bon has been on the road with his mother, moving frequently from place to place, until now-she has asked her mother and sister to care for Bon. Kieran must do some soul-searching as it becomes clear that he cannot deny his relationship with his cousin...and that his cousin needs him.
     While this book has a popular theme addressing bullying and a young character who must find out who they really want to be in the depth of their heart, there is something about Kieran's perspective that felt different. I know I have one reader already waiting for me to bring this in--but for my 4th graders I will want to give parents a disclaimer that some of the language is very...real.
Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins, by Liz Kessler
(Candlewick, February 24, 2015, ARC provided by NetGalley)
     Jessica Jenkins had no knowledge that she had superpowers until her best friend Izzy catches her disappearing. As the girls uncover the source of Jessica's magic, they learn the magic could be in danger as the wrong hands are itching to steal it away. With the help of some unlikely friends who share the magic, the group is able to preserve their powers.
     I was eager to read this book by Liz Kessler, having been fascinated by her workings of magic in A Year Without Autumn and North of Nowhere. The power of intrigue and mystery wasn't as strong in this book, which may make Jessica Jenkins easier to follow for developing readers. Some students will be amused with these characters, their superpowers, and the plot to save the magic from being stolen. 
Yard Sale, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Lauren Castillo
(Candlewick, April 24, 2015, ARC)
     When her family decides to downsize, selling their house to move to a studio apartment, Callie finds all of her families belongings strewn across the yard. As items begin to leave their home to go to the homes of other people, Callie has to part with their memories and meanings. Callie is overcome with fear that she, too, might be easy for her family to part with.
     The authenticity of Callie's emotions come through clearly for readers because of the beautiful pairing of Eve Bunting's story and Lauren Castillo's artwork. Anyone who has had to part with their belongings and begins to feel their life shifting before them will connect to Callie's facial expressions and will deduce the feelings in her heart.
My Grandma's a Ninja, by Todd Tarpley, illustrated by Danny Chatzikonstantinou
(NorthSouth, March 1, 2015, ARC provided by NetGalley)
     Ethan's ninja-grandma seems pretty cool. His friends are all paying attention. But when her ninja moves ruin the soccer game, Ethan does something he didn't expect: he asks Grandma to stop being a ninja. Grandma concedes, but Ethan realizes all the ways Grandma being a ninja was a good thing after all.
     This picture book was a perfectly cute story about a boy's relationship with his grandmother, the ways kids want to impress friends and get embarrassed, and-an early approach-to looking at how we learn to be who we are. I shared with one of my favorite young readers (age 6), and he loved it.
Mr. Ferris and His Wheel, by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford
(HMH Books for Young Readers, September, 2014)
     George Ferris created the Ferris Wheel for presentation at the World's Fair in Chicago. When he presented his plan to the committee, he faced nay-sayers and doubters. In fact, they were unwilling to invest in his structure financially. But George Ferris persevered in creating one of the most remarkable structures the world knows.
     This is a stunning picture book with it's outstanding art and interesting narrative account of George Ferris and his work. Punctuated on each page by facts or quotes from first-hand sources, readers can learn about the history of the Ferris Wheel without being overwhelmed with text and information. This book is already getting rave reviews from my 4th graders.
The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees, by Sandra Markle
(Lerner Publishing Group, 2013)
      Large quantities of honeybees disappear from hives each year, concerning beekeepers and scientists alike. What is causing their mass disappearance?
     Sandra Markle investigates many theories about what might be impacting the honeybees and causing them to die off. With clear, real photographs, the book is attractive in format and presents information about honeybees in a way that will hold readers' attention.
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon
(Milbrook Press, February 1, 2015, ARC provided by NetGalley)
      Women in the Gambia recycle plastic bags that have been discarded as trash, cutting them into strips and weaving the strip to make small purses and bags. This informational text shares the story of one woman, Isatou Ceesay, who saw a need to make her world a better place and took the steps to make it happen.
     Presented as a story, readers may not recognize the informational nature of this book. The mixed medium illustrations are fascinating, incorporating actual plastic bags collage style. It is hard to imagine a reader who will not walk away from this book with a sense of responsibility for caring for the planet.

A Rock Can Be..., by Laurie Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija
(Milbrook Press, March 1, 2015, ARC provided by NetGalley)
     This beautiful book presses readers to think about all the different things rocks can be and what rocks can be used for. 
     A poetic nonfiction text, Laurie Purdie Salas and Violeta Dabija have collaborated to create a beautiful work of art in this book. Each poetic example of what a rock can be is explained with more depth in the final pages of the book, providing more information for readers.

What I am Currently Reading:
Beetle Busters, by Loree Griffin Burns & Ellen Harasimowicz
(HMH Books for Young Readers, October, 2014)
59 Reasons to Write, by Kate Messner
(Stenhouse, January 13, 2015)

What I am Reading Next:
How to Fly with Broken Wings, by Jane Elson
The Imaginary, by A. F. Harrold and Emily Gravett
Hero, by Sarah Lean


  1. Rats, I didn't see A Rock Can Be on net galley. I do love her work!
    Lauren is sending me Yard Sale so I can send it on a book journey! I quick read it at ALA, but didn't have enough time with it. I can't wait to pour over it again!
    Mark of the Thief is a definite for this month. Need to read The Shadow Throne first :)

    1. Michele, I know of Laurie Purdie Salas's other books, but this was the first one I read and spent time with. I will certainly be looking for others. You will love spending time with Yard Sale. I was fortunate to come away with an ARC from nErDcampNNE.

      I'm surprised you haven't already read Mark of the Thief! After NCTE? And it took me a while to get to, so I totally expected to be one of the last with an ARC to discover it's genius. Enjoy!

  2. You seemed to plow through some great non fiction titles this week! Hoping to get to Mr. Ferris and His Wheel this week. The Question of Miracles has piqued my interest.

    Great reviews as usual Melissa!

    Happy Reading!

    1. I did, Susan. I took advantage of my snow day time to read a lot of the nonfiction that I got in my DonorsChoose project that was recently funded. (So lucky!) I'm hopeful that acquiring new and varied nonfiction will strengthen my nonfiction instruction in the classroom. It has been a book gap for me also!

      Thank you for your feedback! Have a great reading week!

  3. One Plastic Bag sounds thought provoking - I'll have to put this on my to buy list. I'm also intrigued by My Cousin's Keeper - it seems to have a powerful storyline and important themes my sixth graders would love to discuss.

    1. Tara, YES. I think sharing the biography of One Plastic Bag will invite a lot of conversation with students about our responsibility to care for the earth. I'm hoping so, anyway. I think My Cousin's Keeper would be a good fit for sixth graders. I would have a lot less hesitation about using it with middle school.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Thanks for the heads up about some beautiful new picture books. I've got One Plastic Bag on my to read list already, but am especially looking forward to the Eve Bunting one. I adore everything she publishes.

    1. Yard Sale seems to be well-liked by every who has read it. And it's illustrated by NEW Caldecott Honor winner Lauren Castillo, too!

  5. There are so many lovely books here, I don't even know where to begin! One Plastic Bag sounds like a book I should add to my multicultural text-set as well as the one by Eve Bunting and Lauren Castillo - now that's a picturebook to look forward to - it's their first collaboration, if I am not mistaken.