Thursday, April 28, 2016

YA Friday: Salt to the Sea

History has a lot of stories about famous ships sinking and a number of people dying. There is the history of the Titanic where 1,500 people died. There is also the history of the Lusitania where 1,100 people were killed. We have all heard of those two ship wreaks. What about a ship sinking that killed over 9,000 people? Have you ever heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff? I sure hadn't before I read Salt to the Sea and I am a former history teacher. 

Salt to the Sea is the story of four people traveling through a war torn Germany during World War 2. The Russians are attacking parts of The country killing people in their way. The characters in this story are all running for their lives. The book focuses on four main character. These characters include: Joana, Alfred, Emilia, and Florian. Joana is a former nurse who helps injured people throughout the story. Emilia is a young polish girl who has a strange pregnancy. Florian is a young man full of secrets and Alfred is a German soilder. Ruta Sepetys takes the reader on a journey with each of the characters until they all interact with each other. 

This is seriously one of my favorite historical fiction books. Sepetys' character development helps the reader to identify with each character in the story. The style of each chapter focusing on one of the main characters also makes for a fast read. This is just one of those books that you do not want to put down once you pick it up. I highly recommend Salt to the Sea to you all. If I could, I would give this book a 100 stars but I give it a 5 out of 5. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Middle grade Thursday: Hour of the Bees

I'll admit it; I'm not fond of bees. I know they are vital to the Earth's ecology, but getting stung is no fun. However, in this story, bees are beyond magical.

Carol, her parents, her difficult teenage sister, Alta, and her baby brother Lu, leave their home in Albuquerque to the desert to ready her grandfather's sheep farm to be sold. Carol's grandfather, Serge, is suffering from dementia and will be moving into a assisted living facility. Serge and Carol's father, Raul have had a falling out so the family is not close. Serge often mistakes Carol for her grandmother and gets angry and frustrated. The ranch is in the midst of a long drought, but Serge insists that the bees will bring back the rain. Carol is burdened with a lot of responsibility for a girl her age, mostly because Alta ditches her share of the work at the first opportunity. One example was when Serge wanders off when Carol's parents are busy and she is taking care of her younger brother. The love and care she shows for Serge, and her ability to keep working despite her misery shows an immense integrity.

There is a story the Serge tells Carol about a tree that granted the village immortality. However, the villagers were not satisfied with remaining in the village and wanted to venture out so they began to sacrifice the tree to make a talisman for each of them to wear to keep them safe. Eventually, they destroy the tree and lose their immortality. The conflict presented here is an interesting one:  is it better to stay safe and live a long, yet boring life or should one take risks and have adventures, even though it could shorten one's life? 

This book definitely requires tissues; sad books seem to be a trend among middle grade book this year. 

Picture Book Wednesday: Are We There Yet

Amy's Review:

Road trips are tough for kids.With road trips comes complaining and the inevitable "Are we there yet?" The main character in this story is just like other kids; he hates road trips and complains the entire time. Then he decides to use his imagination to end his boredom, and exciting things happen in the story. His imagination takes him to different places making his time in the car go by faster. 

This book really brought me back to my childhood road trips.  I remember as a child being bored to death in the car.  Unfortunately, I have motion sickness so I basically had to look out the front window on trips. I was always jealous of Sara because she was able to read books when we went on vacations. I wish that I had this book back then. The central message that Dan Santat presents suggests that kids should enjoy their time in the car and make the best of it. My favorite part of this book was that it is interactive and requires some turning to read. I give Are We There Yet? 5 out of 5 stars. 

Sara's Review:

Are We There Yet? is the kind of picture book that you will want to revisit again and again. It provides an important lesson about patience and takes the reader on an amazing journey. As soon, as I finished the book, I opened it again to study the pictures, and found something new on almost every page that I had missed the first time. As an educator, I see so many curriculum connections with this book. For ELA, you could have students write a narrative story about a time in their lives that they wished time would speed up. For science and social studies, you could have them research the difference time periods to which the family travels. For art, you could have students draw pictures of what 2059 will look like. Do I need to even rate this book? We feature the best of the best on Picture Book Wednesday.

Check out the book trailer:

Monday, April 25, 2016

New Book Tuesday 4/26

I thought there wasn't going to be a post this week because I haven't ordered any books. What the what? Yeah, it's true. Not sure what happened there. No worries, I have books ordered for May 3. Anyway, it is book fair week at my two younger children's school so here is what I bought yesterday (sans the books they picked out):

I'm so excited that Jewel Parker Rhodes is coming to my daughter's middle school! 

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?


Like any book nerd worth her salt, I not only buy books, I also check them out from the library. I started this one this week:

I starting Dr. Dolittle, and after I got to the part of the monkey Chee-chee dressed as a woman (to sneak on a boat), I knew I had read that book as a child! I'm enjoying it so much more than Story of Mankind.

Everyone is raving about this one, so I really hope to start this one:

Amy is reading:

Friday, April 22, 2016

April Giveaway

I made a padlet with the books on our giveaway.

You will win a copy of Josh Funk's Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and any other book we have featured this month. You must enter by April 30. The winner will be announced on Monday May 2.

To enter, complete this Google Form.

YA Friday - X: a novel

X tells the story of Malcolm's childhood and adolescence, most of which has been previously unknown. We follow Malcolm on a journey, starting with when he is ripped away from his mother and moved into a white foster home. He eventually goes to Boston to live with his half sister Ella, trying to find out who he is among the excitement of jazz clubs, jobs, which Malcolm refers to as "slaves," and girls, both white and black. Eventually, Malcolm moves to Harlem, learning the ways of the hustle. While X is a work of fiction, the novel has a strong foundation in truth based on stories from family and friends. The author of the novel, Malcolm's daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz, provides a detailed account of how the book came together, along with a timeline, historical details about the time period of Malcolm's life and an extensive book list for future reading.

I have to admit my extreme ignorance here. While I was somewhat aware that racism existed above the Mason-Dixon line, I thought lynchings and people getting beat up for crossing the race line was something that only happened in the South. I was clueless that these things also happened where Malcolm X grew up in Lansing, Michigan or in Boston, Massachusetts. I also knew next to nothing about Malcolm X's life other than he was a Muslim and that his civil rights message was contrary to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's one of nonviolent protest.

Reading this book was a good reminder that racism isn't a regional problem, it is an American problem. People still don't understand hashtags like #blacklivesmatter and #weneeddiversebooks.  #blacklivesmatters doesn't mean that black lives are the only lives that matter or that people shouldn't have respect for police officers. It means that there is a problem with some police officers stereotyping and racial profiling young black males, which has led to innocent lives being lost.

As for #weneeddiversebooks, ALL students need to be able to see themselves in the books they are reading, as well as see others so they can develop the empathetic skills needed to grow up in a diverse world. Right now picture books are dominated by white male authors/illustrators, and middle grade/young adult novels are dominated by white female authors. Author Grace Lin refers to it as windows and mirrors in her excellent TED talk.

X: a novel is recommended for teenagers and adults. I plan to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X to learn more about this important civil rights leader.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#tbt The Penderwicks


I recently read again the first book in The Penderwicks series. I am such a fan of these books. I love the characters. There are four sisters: Rosalind, Skye, Jane and Batty. Their mother died shortly after Batty was born, so they are being raised by their father. They have a large, sweet, yet rowdy dog named Hound. In this first novel, they are spending their summer vacation in a rented cottage on Arundel estate. They become friends with the boy who lives on the estate, Jeffrey, and have many adventures, both fun and troublesome. There are three sequels, with a fifth and final one forthcoming.

Which Penderwick Sister Are You?

My result, which is not surprising because of my love of books, is Jane. However, I can see myself in some of the other sisters. I am the oldest child like Rosalind and I like math like Skye.

Two of my favorite review on Goodreads are from my nerdy guy friends:

"This is a very, very good novel. It's kind of like Little Women for modern readers. I love all of the sisters, but I think Skye was my favorite, Batty was close though towards the end." - Benji Martin, Elementary School Librarian in Montgomery Alabama

"This book almost made me wish I was a girl, almost. Okay, maybe not at all, but seeing the relationship between the four sisters was so cool." - Colby Sharp, 3rd grade teacher in Parma Michigan

I love their reviews and that they are from guys, because we really want kids not to limit their reading based on what they think is a "girl" book or a "boy" book. Yes, this book focuses on the relationship between the sisters, but there are some amazing male characters, and Jeffrey's story is the center of the plot.  

I am including Colby's video from when he was a 4th grade teacher because he speaks to this issue when he addresses Babymouse. I showed this video to my students and I had suddenly had boys checking out Babymouse all the time. #noreadingshame

How great it is to know people that share the love of reading and want kids to love it too!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: The Night Gardener

Sara's Review:

Each night, young William awakes to find a magical new tree sculpture on Grimloch Lane. He is mesmerized and his fascination is contagious; soon, the entire town shows up to gaze in wonder at these amazing creations of the night gardener. Eventually, William meets the night gardener who asks for his help. Finally, there is a passing of the torch - er, clippers - and William takes over. The illustrations are extremely well done. I love the way color is used to depict the mood and tone of the neighborhood. At the beginning of the story, the colors are extremely muted, except for the tree sculptures, but as the town transforms the colors become more vibrant with each page turn climaxing with the double spread of the neighborhood at dusk in vibrant colors, the complete opposite from where we began. My favorite page:

If you have a limited budget, The Night Gardener is worth your money. 5 stars! Do we ever give any of these Wednesday picture books less than five stars?

Amy's Review:

The Night Gardener is a beautiful book full of illustrations that make it unique. The illustrations were not my favorite part of the story. I loved that the night gardener had such a huge impact on a small town and the people who lived there. By sharing his artistic talent he provided something beautiful for the people of Grimloch Lane to remember. He also helps William to unlock his own artistic talents. I think we can all learn a lesson from the night gardener. We too can have a positive impact on the people we interact with everyday. How have you positively impacted someone today? I give The Night Gardener 5 out of 5 stars.  

Monday, April 18, 2016

New Book Tuesday 4/19

Only ordered two books this week:

I bought two others because nerdy friends were talking about them. I mentioned Maybe A Fox in yesterday's post. The other is:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've done it again! I've started way too many books and I feel like weeks are going by and I'm not finishing anything. So I have to finish those, including:

As for Newbery Pie, I will finish up Island of the Blue Dolphins in the next few days and start on another one from the 1920s. I hope this one is better than The Story of Mankind.

Finally, in 2016 books, I plan to finally finish Hour of the Bees and then start on this book: 

Amy is reading:

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Monthly #bookgiveaway

I just thought of this so it will not only be a surprise for all of you, it will be a surprise for Amy too. I was thinking that it had been quite awhile since my last Twitter book giveaway and I wanted to involve our blog. I was also pretty sure that the last book I gave away was our friend, author Josh Funk's debut picture book Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast. Josh has been promoting our blog on Twitter like it is his second job so this will be a special two book giveaway. You can get a copy of Josh's book and any other book we have featured from March 28-April 30. If you win and you already have Josh's book? Donate a copy to a school or classroom library. As much as I love those tweets and retweets when I give books away on Twitter, I was terrified I was going to miss someone last time so we're going with the Google Form option. If you decide, "oh I really want The Wild Robot," and you complete the form, and then we feature the awesome new Greg Pizzoli picture book (hint, hint), you can complete it again, no problem.

Young Adult Friday: Drowned City Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

I was immediately drawn to Drowned City because of my love for history and graphic novels. This book, with the aid of illustrations, provides the reader with a timeline of the events and hardships surrounding Hurricane Katrina. Don Brown does an excellent job of explaining how Hurricane Katrina formed and the results of the hurricane's landfall in New Orleans. Some facts I learned from this book that I did not know:

1. The gap in the levees was so large that a 500 foot barge came through one and floated around New Orleans. 

2. Conditions were made worse by a smashed oil refiner tank that leaked oil into the city. 

3. Poisonous snakes were floating around in the water. 

4. The convention center had a large amount of people that suffered like the people in the Superdome. 

5. Many people had to wait for help under highway overpasses. 

6. People who tried to flee to the city of Gretna, LA were forced back by local police. 

7. Pets were intentionally abandoned by rescue workers. 

8. Workers had to clear thousands of dead bodies from the street. 

This book is excellent for YA libraries and classrooms. It can also be used by history teachers and science teachers to enhance their instruction. I recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Hurricane Katrina. I give Drowned City 5 out of 5 stars. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Middle Grade Thursday: Happy Birthday Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary turned 100 on Tuesday. I would not be a librarian today if it weren't for her books. I remember going to the public library and heading straight to the C shelves to check out a book about Henry, Ramona, Risby or The Mouse and the Motorcycle. My very favorite Beverly Cleary book, published in 1981:

It was good to grow up in the 1980s! Thank you Ms. Cleary for your contributions to children's literature.

Here's the feature of Beverly Cleary from the Today show:

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: Horrible Bear

Amy's Review:

Horrible Bear seems to be the story of a little red haired girl's encounter with a bear, but this book provides so much more. The book begins when a girl's kite flies into a bear's cave. The bear accidentally breaks the little girl's kite. The little red haired girl reacts poorly about the situation. The book continues with confrontation between the bear and the little girl that eventually leads to an apology and a friendship between the two characters. The thing I liked most about this book is the fact that it teaches multiple lessons. One lesson children can learn from this book is to watch what they say to people. Bear was perfectly pleasant until the little red haired girl called him horrible. Then he decided that he would show her how horrible he was. I think teachers can also use this lesson as far as students are concerned. Often if we are expecting students to act up then they do to prove us right. The other lesson children can learn is the importance of admitting you are wrong and saying you are sorry. A simple apology changes the entire dynamic between the bear and the little red haired girl. 

Ultimately, I think Horrible Bear is an excellent book for all readers. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. 

FYI: this is my favorite page from this book. A little kindness goes a long way. 

Sara's Review:

Wolfie the Bunny was one of my favorite books of 2015, and I was thrilled to see that Ame Dyckman and Zachariah OHora teamed up for another book. Do you remember a time in your life when something horrible happens and you need someone to blame? Or when someone horrible blames you for something you didn't do? If so, you will be able to relate to the little girl, the bear or perhaps even both. Dyckman teaches a great message on conflict resolution without being preachy. This would also be a wonderful book to read when talking about emotions. OHora's illustrations are so colorful and vibrant. I love, love, LOVE the girl's hair! Just check out the end paper:

Horrible Bear is a five-star book and highly recommended for all school, public and home libraries.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Book Tuesday 4/12

New books coming to my door:

I ordered some books using the online book fair option when the middle school I work at part-time had their Scholastic Book Fair. Here is what I bought:

Maybe I'll go a week without a trip to Barnes and Noble ;) Here's what I bought:

Happy Reading!

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading


For Newbery Pie, I finally finished Story of Mankind. This feels a little like climbing Everest. Okay, okay, a bit of hyperbole, but I've never been so happy to be finished with a book. Next up:

I am extremely lucky to have a reading community as a source of book recs. This is partially why I buy too many books. I bought this one on a friends recommendation and it was beyond awesome! I can foresee many, many rereads. 

I am reading and loving Linda Urban's newest book and will be reviewing it on Thursday:

Happy Reading!

Friday, April 8, 2016

YA Friday: Unbecoming

Three women from three different generations. After her boyfriend dies from a heart attack, Alzheimer's patient, Mary, comes to live with her estranged daughter, Caroline, and two grandchildren, Katie and Chris, who is disabled. Since Mary abandoned Caroline to be raised by her sister, Pat, Caroline is not at all happy with this arrangement. She is also frustrated with the other aspects of dealing with someone who has Alzheimer's: inability to recognize her, constant running away, refusal to bathe, etc. Katie, on the other hand, enjoys spending time with her grandmother, and helps her create a memory book to help her become less upset.

During the process of creating the memory book, stories from Mary's past are told in small vignettes. Katie discovers many secrets that her mother has not told her about her past, and pushes for more details. Katie is also exploring her own sexuality, and faces bullying at school after kissing a friend. She uses the memory book to express her own feelings along with Mary's memories.  The women in this book experience a lot of pain revealing these family secrets. Many false assumptions are made about the other person's intentions and feelings that could have been cleared up with communication.

Regarding the LBGT theme, I have three daughters and this book made me think about how I should react (or not) if they tell me that are not heterosexual:

1) I am not going to cry and act like they have harmed me.
2) I am not going to question them or act as if this is a "phase."
3) I am going to make sure they know that I love them for who they are.
4) I will accept and love whomever they love as long as that person is not abusive.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Middle Grade Thursdays: Alamo All-Stars

Here are 5 things I learned while reading Alamo All-stars, the seventh book in Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series.

1) One of the leaders of the Texas colony, Stephen Austin, pushed for peace at every turn, and only agreed to go to the fight with Mexico when it was obvious that there was no alternative.

2) We may think of Texas as a warm state, but the Mexicans marched through snow to get to the Alamo.

3) Davy Crockett fought and died at the Alamo.

4) Mexican president, Santa Anna, ordered 300+ Texans to be executed by being shot in the back.

5)  Sometimes a series can get tired or formulaic. No worries with that happening here. Hale changes things up a bit; even the characters remark on it! This is one not to be missed.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

New Book Tuesday 4/5

This week is about as severe as it gets for me a #bookaddict. Books scheduled to arrive today:

I went to two different Barnes & Noble stores last week. On Wednesday, I bought these books: 

On Friday, I bought two more. The first one is a new release today, but it was on the shelves Tuesday. Nancy Cavanaugh is special to us because she was the first author my daughter Carolyn met at Nerd Camp Jr. in Parma, Michigan in 2014. 

This last book is the April read for the Printz group on Goodreads.

Happy Reading!