It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a kidlit meme hosted by Jen and Kellee at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS. Come read everyone's links! And, there is a terrific meme hosted by Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers more reviews of all kinds of books, adult and children.
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Island: A Story of the Galapagos – written & illustrated by Jason Chin
I loved the beautiful paintings and the way that Chin told the arc of the story of these islands, from birth to projected end. There are many examples of the animals that ended up there, and how they evolved because of the conditions. For example, a certain species of cormorants’s wings begin to shrink because they no longer need to fly to escape from predators. After a time, they can no longer fly at all. There are good backmatter pages at the end of the book too. It’s a good introduction to this part of our science history.
Sky Color – written & illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
About little Marisol who loves to paint, is excited to help with her class’ mural project. She chooses to paint the sky, but cannot find a blue color in her paint box. Then she begins really watching the sky, and discovers something she hadn’t noticed before. It’s another wonderful book by Reynolds that again helps us examine our assumptions.
Dragons Love Tacos – by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
I am always amazed at what stories authors write, and this is a recent silly one that is quite fun, has a great story line with suspense. While those dragons love tacos, even taco parties, the storyteller warns that one mustn’t ever give them hot salsa. There is the reader’s challenge, to discover just what happens when a mistake is made. It’s a book that will have you and the children with whom you’re reading laughing and wanting to read it again.
Exclamation Mark – by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
It would be a fun learning experience to have older students write a story of interactions between punctuation marks, using this as a mentor text. Yet, the real story of this unique punctuation is that it has a special purpose, which it is late in discovering because it doesn’t want to be different. At first, all it sees is a lot of small circles and then itself, a line above. Discovery and acceptance of one’s special qualities is what we all want, for ourselves and for children growing up. This book celebrates the special traits of two punctuation marks, and offers the message of celebrating the uniqueness of us all.
Fever 1793 – Laurie Halse Anderson
I’ve read this before & now will read with a group of younger students. Anderson is such a good writer, I’m happy to re-read her work. She gathers the information needed so well, and sneaks in the descriptions so that you hardly notice she’s done it-delivering tension, calm, happiness or sorrow with just a few words. Here, toward the end, moving some people who are ill to a better place, the main character Mattie says “The city was darker than I’d ever seen… Candlelight spilled from only a few windows, and the stars were faint and distant, as far away as hope or the dawn.
This story of the terrible yellow fever epidemic that killed at least 5,000 people in Philadelphia, 10% of the population, is told through the eyes of a young woman, Matilda (called Mattie) whose mother runs a popular coffee house. Her tale begins there, but Anderson takes us into many places not always so sweet during this sickness. Just the description of washing the dreadfully soiled bedclothes (light the fire, carry the water, boil the water, scrub, then dry) makes one wonder how the people survived doing all that they had to do. The descriptions are clear, there is excellent background information about conflict among physicians, the rich fleeing the city, the gender roles, etc. We enter this 18th century world easily with Laurie Halse Anderson’s writing showing the way.
Rabbit’s Snow Dance – by James & Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Jeff Newman
This book was on display and I grabbed it on my last visit, knowing that a snowstorm was on its way, and it would be fun to read another snow book. The Bruchacs, father and son, are storytellers in the most wonderful Native American tradition. This book tells the tale of why rabbits have short tails. It is summer, and rabbit wants snow to help him reach higher to tasty tree leaves he so likes to eat. He pays no mind to the needs of the other animals that still need to prepare for winter, gets his drum and begins his special chant to make it snow. The illustrations are amusing, rather cartoon-like, and show the story well, with unhappy animals and an enthusiastic rabbit, until the end, which you’ll have to discover when you read the book. I can imagine students wondering and then being delighted with the great end.
I found several books I wasn’t aware of at the library lately concerning African American history. They are all good stories, different looks of well-known stories, some all the way to President O’Bama’s first inauguration, already history!
The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights – by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Tim Ladwig
With gorgeous paintings of scenes like those captured on a slave ship, all the way to the freedom of a streamside baptism, the Biblical beatitudes follow at the bottom of each page. The text declares they were there every step of the way. For example, the text reads: “I was on the Freedom Rides and at the lunch counter sit-ins, I sat alongside the protestors.” It’s a poetic timeline to enjoy.
Stealing Home, Jackie Robinson: Against The Odds – by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Mike Wimmer
Everyone seems to write about Jackie Robinson, and this book is another good one. It carries a poem of text with the full page, beautiful illustrations, but in addition, there is a small box on each page with quite a bit of additional information. This book tells very well the inspirational story of a great man.
Ain’t Nobody a Stranger to Me – by Ann Grifalconi, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
I loved this story, perhaps because it’s a grandfather passing along his story to his granddaughter, and I like family stories. He tells of the time when he and her grandmother were slaves, her mother was a baby and they knew they must flee to the north, along the Underground Railroad. Grandpa acknowledges the help he got all along the way. He says: “I been on both sides. When somebody falls down, what kind of man gonna stop ‘n’ say: ‘I don’t pick up no stranger! Let ‘em lie there’? Leastways, not me!” These two are on their way to Grandpa’s apple orchard, and when they arrive, the granddaughter plants her own seeds, to carry on the story. Jerry Pinkney's illustrations tell the story too with his beautiful paintings.
Next: I am also reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan with another book group, and got the new Hattie Ever After book by Kirby Larson--hurrah! And, I am reading a book by Kim Stafford with my new writing group, titled The Muses Among Us. Lots to enjoy, lots to read!