Monday, June 27, 2016

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? (6.27.16)

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!

Sidenote: This is two weeks' worth of reading. I've been feeling guilty about all the book thoughts I've been keeping to myself by not posting, so my intention is to participate weekly through the summer, and hopefully I'll toss in a few bonus thoughts about books I've read earlier this year that I think someone (everyone?) else should know about, too. Stay tuned.

What I Read this Week:

The Distance to Home, by Jenn Bishop
(Knopf Books for Young Readers, June 28, 2016)
     Quinnen was the star pitcher on her Little League Team. She used to live for baseball. But now, she doesn't play. The grief that set in after losing her sister Haley in a tragic car accident last summer has swallowed her passion for playing. Quinnen's parents sign up to host a player from the minor league farm team for the summer in hopes that the presence of baseball in their family will rekindle something for Quinnen. But grief is big. And it seems no one thought of all the reminders of Haley. Is a relationship with the minor league farm players enough to give Quinnen the courage to try again?
     Readers will make quick friends with Quinnen, will feel their own hearts whimper as they realize the immense loss she is fielding, and will read through the story with patient hope, willing Quinnen to make peace with the way things are now. 

Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, July 12, 2016)
     New York City. September, present day. Deja and her 5th grade class are about to enter into a study of state history, including the formidable events of 9/11. As her father's feelings about this controversial subject matter rise, Deja and her friends' curiosity grows about this significant event that had such a lasting impact on the adults in their lives, and which they know so little about.
     Jewell Rhodes writes from the perspective of today's youth, for whom 9/11 is history--a tragic event they know only second-hand. She captures the pain and long-lasting effects of the tragedy experienced by those who lived that day. Her father's concern and fear, his longing to protect Deja and her peers from the realities of destruction and loss, are representative of a growing question among adults in many forums these days about the right time for talking about big issue topics and how soon is too soon for talking about the enormity of this day with kids. Towers Falling is a book that provides and in-road to important, respectful conversations with middle grade kids.

Save Me a Seat, by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
(Scholastic Press, May 10, 2016)
     Two students, two cultures, two different points of problem classmate. For Ravi, hopefulness is crushed. Although he identifies with Dillon because they are both Indian, he comes to realize that is where their similarities end. For Joe, a new student joining the class helps him to escape being the target, a little less often anyway. It takes a week's worth of lunches, but when Ravi and Joe finally see each other for who they are, the boys are able to offer one another a hand in friendship that helps alleviate the distaste of a classmate like Dillon.
     Save Me a Seat will offer readers a chance to consider how too-common school happenings can be seen differently from multiple students' perspective. As a shared read, this book will open the doors of discussion about diversity, respect, and setting shared expectations for the way students want to be treat and student-driven standards for respect owed to others.

Ghosts, by Raina Telgemeier
(GRAPHIX, September 13, 2016)
     Catrina isn't taking well to her family's recent move to Bahia de la Luna. It seems the only redeeming quality of the move is the promise that the new town will improve her sister Maya's quality of life with conditions that are kinder to Maya's cystic fibrosis. Word of the ghosts that inhabit the town, on the other hand, are not helping Catrina to settle in this new place. In time, Catrina's relationship with Maya grows closer still as she learns more about her family's traditions, the Day of the Dead, and her connection to her ancestors.
     Fans will find the same satisfying qualities of Raina Telgemeier's other works in Ghosts. Though not autobiographical like Smile and Sisters, Raina has given readers characters who are just as vivid and feel as well-known as her own family. Not only will the girls' relationship touch readers, but this book will likely serve as a gateway to more reading and discussion about cystic fibrosis and Mexican culture and traditions.

How Writers Work: Finding a Process that Works for You, by Ralph Fletcher
(HarperCollins, 2000)
      With an honest and accessible voice, Ralph Fletcher speaks to young writers about facets of developing a writing process, for example: brainstorming, revising, and publishing. He provides stories and anecdotes from his own writing life as well as concrete interviews and excerpts from other published writers and kid writers alike. There are lots of healthy reminders in this short text for aspiring writers of all ages.

The Best Man, by Richard Peck
(Dial Books, September 20, 2016)
     Archer has grown up with admiration for the men in his life: his grandfather, his uncle, and his dad. As an adolescent boy, he knows about the man he wants to be and is impatient to get there. But in this first year in middle school, Archer builds a relationship with another man he surprisingly finds he aspires to emulate as well, his new teacher.
     There is so much warmth in the relationships Richard Peck establishes on the pages of Archer's story. While the book is speckled with humorous situations (some worthy of an honest out-loud chuckle) and knowing smiles of familiar middle school doings, the relationships radiate, between and among all of the men of Peck's newest novel. I can't wait to see what readers think.

Inspector Flytrap, by Tom Angleberger and CeCe Bell
(Amulet Books, August 2, 2016)
     If you have a Big Deal Mystery that needs solving, Inspector Flytrap will be the newest superhero detective to call on. (Unless you're a fly.) Inspector Flytrap and his sidekick, Nina the goat, will have you smirking as they set out to solve problems.
     Inspector Flytrap has the humor and silliness that will make this a sought after early reader for young students. Written as a series of short stories (or Big Deal Mysteries), students can digest smaller bits at a time. The format incorporates both traditional chapters and mini-graphic novel comics that relate to each of the mysteries.

The World from Up Here, by Cecilia Galante
(Scholastic Press, June 28, 2016)
     When her mother's health requires hospitalization at a center far from home, Wren and her brother move in with their aunt and cousin, Silver, neither of whom they know. Wren and Silver attend the same middle school, where the girls are trying to find their place, and their real selves. The girls form a bond over shared experiences, but none more lofty than to climb Creeper Mountain to interview the fabled Witch Weatherly whom all the local children fear. As they get to know one another, they mirror for each other the secrets of who they might really be.
     Wren and Silver are characters written so simply and so true. Their relationship falls into natural balance. This is a beautiful story of what it means to be brave and courageous and to act with empathy and friendship. These two girls would keep great company at a lunch table with Maggie (The Meaning of Maggie, Sovern, 2015) and Mattie and Quincy (Hound Dog True, Urban, 2012). I'd like to be their friend, too.

Soar, by Joan Bauer
(Viking Books for Young Readers, January 5, 2016)
     Jeremiah has never been unfamiliar with adversity, abandoned as an infant to be cared for by Walt (his adoptive father) and a successful heart transplant patient at the age of 11. Baseball has always been Jeremiah and Walt's shared passion, so when news comes of a relocation to a town that seems to eat, breathe, and sleep baseball, Jeremiah is optimistic and hopeful that this will be the place where he can again be involved with the sport he loves. Only news of dishonest coaching and performing enhancing drugs threatens to crash the town's outlook on baseball for good. Jeremiah, with the self-declared heart of an eagle, is determined to keep baseball soaring.
     Jeremiah is the character kids want to root for, the underdog with a hopelessly optimistic view and the leadership to go along with it. The aspiring young coach will have everyone cheering along as they page-turn to read the outcome of his goals.

Still a Work in Progress, by Jo Knowles
(Candlewick, August 2, 2016)
     Noah and his friends are trying to navigate middle school and everything that comes with the territory: homework, teachers, friends, girls, and relationships. All of that is enough to juggle, but Noah's world is further complicated by his changing relationship with his high school-aged sister who is growing increasingly moody and demanding about the family's food choices. 
     Jo Knowles so deftly brings a troupe of middle school boys to life in a way that you can't resist caring about them and their tribulations. Their antics are humorous and accurately outlandish. Jo honestly and sensitively conveys the emotional turmoil and conflict that arises as Noah's family confronts the crisis of his sister's relapse with an eating disorder. Still a Work in Progress is another 2016 book that sheds light on the real challenges and struggles today's families face and the need to attend to one another with compassion and empathy.

What I am Currently Reading:
The Way Home Looks Now, by Wendy Shang-Lu
(Scholastic Press, 2015)
A Writer Teaches Writing, by Don Murray
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1985)

What I am Looking Forward to Reading Soon (in no particular order):
The Scourge, by Jennifer Nielsen
Wish, by Barbara O'Connor
Midnight Without a Moon, by Linda Jackson


  1. I"ve just put The World from Up Here on hold at our local library. I'm really looking forward to Still a Work in Progress.

  2. Hi Melissa! These look great. Clearly you have been enjoying your summer reading! I am super-jealous about Ghosts!!