Monday, February 9, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (2.9.15)

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 Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Shane Evans
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, September, 2014)
     Amira is a dreamer. Dissatisfied with tradition in her Sudanese village, Amira longs for education and learning, wishing to let her inner sparrow soar. When their village comes under attack, her family suffers horrible tragedy, losing their home and Amira's father. They become refugees. Aid comes to the refugee camp, and it is there Amira is gifted the red pencil--a gift that opens her grieving soul and inspires her to dream once more.
     This novel-in-verse is a window through which readers can experience a world many of us have heard of but is limited to our imagination. Andrea Davis Pinkney relays the struggles and emotions of Amira and her family with careful words and phrases. Her writing is truly art in itself, and paired with the illustrations of Shane Evans, Amira's character is strong and convicting. 
Hero, by Sarah Lean
(Katherine Tegen Books, February 3, 2015)
     Leo feels overlooked in his family, afraid he will never make his family proud. An accident at school earns Leo the respect of the crowd, albeit led by a classmate with a reputation. In Leo's attempt to belong, he finds himself weaving a tale of lies, and when his lies earn his father's attention and pride, it becomes much harder for Leo to be who he really is. True heroism wins out, saved by the importance of real relationships forged by a small dog.
     Books teach us about who we want to be...and who we don't. Sarah Lean's Hero will evoke conversation with readers about decision making and what is "right." This book will be a good touchstone text for young readers--boys in particular--who are stuck in that battle between who they feel pressured to be and who they want to be inside.
Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of Room 11, by N. Griffin, illustrated by Kate Hindley
(Candlewick, February 10, 2015)
     Smashie's 3rd grade classroom just got a new pet--that she doesn't like--and now that pet is missing. With a lousy substitute, a prankster who is gluing items to people, and a missing hamster, Smashie teams up with her best bud, Dontel, to try to solve the mystery amid the chaos and suspicion of her classmates.
     Smashie is an adorable new character with a heart of gold and just the right kinds of quirks to be imperfect. Student readers will find a new cast of characters to love as they accompany Smashie in her efforts to locate Patches, the hamster. N. Griffin is explicit in her use of investigative vocabulary, making this a strong supporting text for instruction in the genre of mystery.
Beetle Busters, by Loree Griffin Burns, photography by Ellen Harasimowicz
(HMH Books for Young Readers, October, 2014)
     When the Asian longhorned beetle was found in the United States, scientists took to the challenge of identifying the insect and preventing further damage to trees and forests. The eradication of the Asian longhorned beetle has had grave implications for the infested areas, requiring trees that have been inhabited to be cut down and chipped--as well as any trees to which Asian longhorned beetles may have spread to. 
     Loree Griffin Burns' telling of the plight of citizens of all ages and experiences to protect trees from the invasive beetles plays to the emotions of the readers. Readers are challenged to weigh the environmental impact of beetle eradication (the loss of enormous numbers of trees) with the hopeful outlook that the drastic measures taken will result in eventual health of the impacted areas. In Beetle Busters, Burns' presentation of a real environmental threat is an invitation to conversation with students and a reminder of our responsibilities to be environmentally-conscious.

What I am Currently Reading:
How to Fly with Broken Wings, by Jane Elson
(Hachette Children's Books, March 5, 2015)

What I am Reading Next:
Pluto: A Wonder Story, by R. J. Palacio
The Honest Truth, by Dan Gemeinhart
The Imaginary, by A. F. Harrold and Emily Gravett


  1. The Elson title looks interesting, but when I put in the author to see if the local library had the book, it looked for Elton John and came up with a book on Soul Train. Which I now want to read. My job is NOT very linear!

    1. Finding books by happenstance is a celebration, too! :)

  2. Great books as usual Melissa! What grade levels would The Red Pencil fit in your opinion?

    1. Thanks, Gigi. I wouldn't hand off The Red Pencil to my 4th graders independently, but if I had a small set, I might consider reading it as a shared experience. I always have a hard time judging books by grade level because so much depends on the reader. Obviously, the book has themes of war and death and loss, so the reader would need to be mature enough in their thinking to appreciate the emotional toil.

  3. I love Pinkney's writing--I need to read The Red Pencil!
    Looking forward to hearing what you think about The Honest Truth.

    Happy reading this week! :)

    1. I liked The Honest Truth. There is so much there to think about and discuss. I said a little about this today in my 2.16.15 post. Did you read it, too?

  4. I'm waiting for The Red Pencil at our local library, but from your list here I am really interested in Hero. I am always on the lookout for titles that would make good lit circle choices for younger readers (or lower reading levels for older ones) This one sound like it might have lots of stuff to engender good conversations.

    1. One of my students took Hero home to try out over February vacation. I'm anxious to hear his thinking.

  5. I have Hero and Smashie to read. Neither are from the library or in my #mustreadin2015 pile. Hopefully I'll find a way to get to them this year!

    1. You can do it! I believe in you, Super-reader-you! :)
      Both are worth it, especially for those of us who have readers spanning wide ranges, needing the chapter book experience right through the transition to longer novels.

  6. I'm really excited to read The Red Pencil - will definitely include in my upcoming course this August semester on multicultural middlegrade/YA novels. How to Fly with broken Wings also seems like a great read.

    1. How to Fly With Broken Wings got pushed off this week, sadly. I'm hoping to start it today and be able to say more next week!