Sunday, June 17, 2012

Great Books This Week!






COME VISIT TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS, WITH JEN AND KELLEE WHO ARE HOSTS OF THIS KIDLIT MEME, FROM PRIMARY TO YA.  CHECK OUT THE LINKS TO SEE WHAT SO MANY ARE READING!

        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys, a variety of reviews to find even more books for your TBR list. 


                 I had a great week reading and writing, but didn't finish as many chapter books as I thought I would.  Still, it was a fun week & I found some wonderful books at the library.  

      A quote for you this week:  Wear the old coat and buy the new book.  Austin Phelps

picture books

Apple Pie 4th of July--I was lucky enough a few weeks ago to win a copy of this book by Janet S. Wong and illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine.  I taught a short story group about looking through the lens of immigrant's eyes this past spring, and would have loved to have added this to the stories I read with the students.  It is a wonderful story of the conflict people (children) have trying to please those in the new country, while keeping their birth country close to their hearts.  More than one child thinks his or her parents have got it wrong in most things, whether from another culture or not, but Janet's story shows there is another layer when one's parents are from another culture.  It's a terrific book that will encourage discussions about differences.  The illustrations are bold, bright graphic designs, kind of like the fireworks on Independence Day.  

Turtle In July by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.  Recently received as a gift for a poem I wrote for another blog, I already love this anthology by Marilyn Singer and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.  It is full of delightful and jumpy descriptions of different creatures throughout the seasons.  For example, there's 'January Deer', 'March Bear,, and "april is a dog's dream,' where is found a dog who says "we're going to the park/to chase and charge and chew'.  The illustrations are gorgeous watercolors surrounding the words.  I hope you can find a copy.


chapter books

Jesse by Gary Soto  I love the books by Gary Soto; chapter books, poetry and short stories are all about the lives of Mexican-Americans, but transfer into universal stories about all of us. They are about challenges, risk-taking and hope. They show real lives of teens mostly with their own hopes and dreams but finding it tough to transcend the poverty gap.
       This book, Jesse, tells of 17 year old Jesse, a Mexican-American boy coming of age during the turmoil of the Vietnam War. I loved Jesse's optimism and his dedication to honesty. I listened to the audio book read by Robert Rameriz, who was marvelous. Despite Jesse's poverty and family difficulties, he aspires to get an education and become an artist. I especially enjoyed Soto's descriptions (one is 'teeth like Chiclets) and his expert use of dialog. He definitely gets teen speak. This is Soto's first YA novel.



Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger   This tickled me all the way through. I'm just sorry I didn't have time to read it in a straight sitting. I know that it would be hilarious to read aloud to middle elementary students. There's just lots of silly stuff, like the 'fake' mustache worn magically gives delusions of power that cannot be beat, almost. Here are a few lines to chuckle with. You can feel the flavor: ""Everybody downstairs! We got a werewolf and a rodeo queen on the loose. Search the factory! Cover every exit! Shoot to kill! And somebody leave a note for the goo department. Looks pretty lumpy tonight." This is in the Heidelberg Novelty Factory. Can you guess where those two missing are hiding? I imagine that quite a few boys and girls would like to do their own imaginary adventure after reading this book. Hope you are able to enjoy it.

graphic novels

Babymouse  Queen of the World, by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

I think this is Babymouse # 1 and I liked it more than earlier ones I reviewed.  It concerns a number of imaginary tales in Babymouse's vivid imagination, but when she really figures out what is true about life and adventures and friendship, she realizes she is luckier than she thought, and is the QUEEN.  It's a story that easily can help start a conversation about young peer pressure and how friends treat each other.   The pages, like the really good graphic novels, hold so much detail that you have to look and look in order to catch all the jokes.

Babymouse Dragonslayer

I don't know how many of these I've read, but this is my favorite so far.  I actually think it's almost for older readers.  Who else would get the jokes, like the math teams' names:  The Fighting Fractions, The Hypotemouses, and the Owlgorithms?  This concerns Babymouse's low grades in math, so her teacher sends her to be on the math team, where she has to work on math every day at lunch.  There are multiple ways to be successful in school, like in math, and this book shows the triumph of Babymouse at the end.  Very fun.  I'd think many math teachers would love this one.

Picture Books

Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

I’ve waited too long to read this book, but luckily I found a copy in the library.  It’s simply wonderful.  It makes me laugh and made me a little sad as well, thinking of all the pets in the world that need a home.  Yes, it begins in a shelter (“Visiting hours!  Yawn.  I pretend not to care.”) but ends in a home (“Yawn.  String-on-a-stick.  Fine.  I’ll come out and chase it.”)  It includes other parts of cats and owners, inside and outside.  Don’t wait to read!  And then you can also see the gorgeous illustrations by Eugene Yelchin.





The Art of Miss Chew by Patricia Polacco

I just reviewed Won-Ton, and now The Art of Miss Chew, which I also found at the library.  This is a beautiful happy-ending story of how Patricia Polacco became an artist, the story of two loving teachers that gave a big boost to a very talented young woman who struggled with reading, but was a gifted artist.  It also gives such a great argument for keeping art in our schools.  I believe that art (learning how to see) helps students in all curriculum areas.  And wish that the powers up there would just ask teachers what they know before cutting classes.  There is also a sweet letter written by Polacco to Miss Chew, and of course the illustrations have Polacco’s usual beauty. 

Ballywhinney Girl   This is my last ‘find’ at the library, a brand new book by award winners Eve Bunting, writer of the Caldecott winner, Smoky Night and Emily Arnold McCully, illustrator of the Caldecott winner, Mirette on the High Wire.   Eve Bunting was born in Ireland, but now lives in the US.  This story is a fictional story of a little girl whose grandfather was digging some peat in the bog and found a ‘bog girl’, possibly thought to have been there as long as a thousand years.  The story is carried through from the child who now lives today, imagining the little girl of long ago, to what happened from the tests done by scientists, the preservation and the ending up in a museum.  It would be a good story that supported geography and science, a story of ancient peoples, a mentor text for telling about an event.  The illustrations are beautiful watercolor, and have a misty quality.

Next--I had the chance to read a recently released book titled The Letter Q, queer writers' notes to their younger selves.  This book belongs in the hands of students who need it, hearing about others' feelings during the years that are/were so painful as they realize their differences.  So far, it's very good, from writers you may know such as Brian Selznick, David Levithan, and Jaqueline Woodson.

I am listening to Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor which makes me want to ride around in the car quite a bit just to hear the next chapter. 

And, I've started Penny Kittle's Write Beside Them.  

19 comments:

  1. Love so many of the books you read this week. And Penny Kittle's Write Beside them is on my to read shelf. I adore her!

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    1. Perhaps we should have an online book group, as Christy suggested later in the comments?

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  2. Wow! Lots of great sounding books this week! I look forward to hearing more about Penny Kittle's book!

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    1. I think it will be a good one to add to what I already believe about working with students as a writer, kind of 'we're all in this together' thinking.

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  3. I have Write Beside them on my summer professional list. I love following her on Twitter!

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    1. Several of us have it; maybe a book group, or at least a couple of shares about it?

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  4. Thanks so much! Glad you enjoyed Won Ton. I'm purrin'! Lee Wardlaw

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    1. You are welcome! It is delightful, from one cat lover to another!

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  5. I added Apple Pie 4th of July and Turtle in July to my TBR! And I'm going to add Jessie, too. I have read some of Gary Soto's work. The topic of Mexican-Americans always interests me. My mom was born in Guatemala and then moved her and I was born here so books about culture are always intriguing BUT the fact that it also talks about the Vietnam was is interesting to me, too because my dad is a Vietnam veteran. I will definitely be checking that one out.

    I had a loooong conversation with someone a couple of weeks ago about the boxes on forms where you have to check your race. I was talking about how so many times, you can only click one box but I identify with being white and being hispanic. So often it will say: "White/Caucasian (non hispanic)" and that drives me crazy. This person I was talking to could not figure out why it would bother me even one bit that I would have to check the "Other" box. It was amazing to me that I even had to explain it. I love those conversations though because I get to share my perspective with others but also because I realize how we all do have such different perspectives sometimes. I think sharing ideas and feelings about culture are so important. Through discussions we are able to understand each other more.

    On another note, I loved Fake Mustache! Such a crazy story but so funny at the same time!

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    1. Hi Jen, hope you like the book. I found the main character one to remember. I understand about the white/Caucasian thing. My daughter always laughs & says she chooses anything she wants because who really knows the full heritage anyway. Like when one fills out a form & then has to put a relationship to someone else down, we might say "very close" or "not so good". There are a number of questions that annoy me, & lately it's the age group. It seems to imply that they will take my answers into consideration only with the age. Judging, judging... I like the discussions too!

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  6. That's a load of books for one week! I am a big Gary Soto fan as well. I think Buried Onions might be my favorite. It is a story that has lingered with me over the years. Afterlife, its follow-up is much more enticing, but I prefer the quiet messages in Buried Onions.

    You gotta love Babymouse! I recently placed a few graphic novels in my TBR pile (not Babymouse, but still). It is not my usual format, but when I can get into the mindset, it is a format I thoroughly enjoy.

    AND Write Beside Them is currently hanging out on the edge of my kitchen counter, calling my name! Great minds think alike. Can you believe before the NCTE conference this November I didn't even know Penny Kittle existed?! She is a gem! I would love to share our thinking as we read that one. Maybe we can convince Katherine to do an online mini book group!

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    1. I'll look for Buried Onions, Christy. That's another one I don't know. Thanks. And I've taught American Born Chinese, a graphic novel and found it wonderful. Approaching graphic novels requires a new set of ways to look at the pages as well as read the words-fascinating. And, maybe we can do a group. I'll be leaving town about mid-July, can we do it soon?

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    2. I love American Born Chinese! Somehow it manages to be both simple and complex. Level Up is another great one by the same author.

      I am ready to get started reading Write Beside Them any time. I have no idea what an online book group might look like, though. A google group maybe?

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    3. Hey Christy, I have replied to your post. We'll see if we can hook up!

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    4. Your plan sounds good to me. I will let you know when I finish the first two chapters and we can go from there. I should have them read by sometime tomorrow.

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  7. Fake Mustache has been on my TBR list for awhile, but now I've got more to add. My list is getting longer and longer. :) I need to check out Penny Kittle's book too. Thanks for sharing so many great titles.

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    1. After reading your post, my list grows too! I think I should add Small As An Elephant for sure. I will look for you on Goodreads! Christy (see above) & I are going to read the Kittle book together I think. Are you interested?

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  8. I love all the titles here! I miss reading and writing and reading - I haven't had that much time to do that as of late, as we've been moving from one timezone to the next (and the change in weather is just so drastic!). I love seeing all these titles though and your thoughts about them. Apple Pie 4th of July sounds like a perfect book for our Immigrant Experience theme. I saw quite a number of Gary Soto books while I was doing my book hunting - I should really check those out. And of course Patricia Polacco is just awesome. The book that really caught my eye though was The Letter Q - especially as today is Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco and other parts of the globe. I hope I can find that in our libraries. :) Sounds like a book I'd love.

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    1. The Janet Wong Apple Pie book is marvelous, Myra. You are right about it connecting well to the immigrant theme. Soto is always good & I really liked this one, his first! I just finished The Letter Q, will review later this week.

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Having a conversation is a good thing!