Sunday, January 5, 2014

Reading - Making Terrific Plans for 2014

 It's Monday! What are you Reading? is hosted by Jen at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS, and shared with Ricki and Kellee at UNLEASHING READERS.   
         And, also visit Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS for more reviews. Thanks to all these blogs we are able to discover many, many new books!  Thanks Ricki, Kellee, Jen and Sheila!
 Tweet! at #IMWAYR
New challenges!  See the sidebar for all three.  Today I'm checking off a couple of books that are on my TBR list.  Week by week this year, I hope I can find time to read all that are on my list found here in this post.  If you're interested in having a group help you keep track of your reading, go to Carrie Gelson's post here to discover what it's all about and who's participating (tweet at #MustReadin2014), or to Gathering Books with Myra, Fats & Iphigene to see their challenge!  

                   The Latinos in Kidlit Challenge is here!

     For contemplating challenges here in this new year when many are making resolutions and signing up for challenges, enjoy the quote!  "I hope everyone who is reading this is having a really good day.  And if you are not, just know that in every new minute that passes you have an opportunity to change that."  Gillian Anderson






Here are books that I completed for the challenges:

Allegiant – Veronica Roth
           Finishing a series over several years is challenging, especially since I read each of the first two books when they first were published. Also, considering this includes a main group that belong to a faction named "dauntless", my "daunting" task is to write about a book series I thoroughly enjoyed without giving much away to those who haven't read number three!   I feel that sometimes this particular book was a bit slow going.  Some details seemed to be repeated more than I needed, and I wanted to "get on with" the story.  There was less action and perhaps that was part of what I missed. None of this prevented me from enjoying the book thoroughly, however.  



          A new world opened in this part of the series, with some new characters, and a new world approach to dealing with people that is akin to some of our own problems today.  You will be touched by various strong feelings all through the book, which makes it very good.  And in parts there are characters that reminded me of some of our own citizens, with narrow opinions resulting in painful outcomes.  And there are those who remain or become heroic, inspirational.  Veronica Roth has created characters who have grit, and I loved the ways she carried their strength throughout, thinking all of us young and old could learn a few things about good living from the stories. 


Flora & Ulysses, The Illuminated Adventures – written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by K.G. Campbell
            I read this nearly straight through and wondered about the story and what kind of child might like it?  It's a story with quirky characters, whose main one is a ten year old girl, Flora,  fascinated with comic super-heroes, especially because of a comic she and her father read, The Amazing Incandesto.  I believe this is called "magical realism".  It involves a strange encounter between her neighbor's outdoor vacuum that vacuums up a squirrel who is then invested with superpowers but only after Flora gives CPR and saves his life.  Therein lies an adventure to keep the squirrel, aided by the neighbor and her great-nephew William Spiver, kicked out of his home by his mother for revenge against a stepfather, even quirkier than Flora.  Flora's parents are divorced, her mother spends all her time writing romance novels, and her father constantly introduces himself.  The story is aided by the wonderful black and white comic illustrations interspersed throughout.
            The underlying story, of the need for children to have love and care comes through beautifully, and I wonder if this wouldn't be best as a read aloud, to discuss the feelings that are really going on with Flora, who continues to say she's a cynic who doesn't cry.  The end is a super heroic ending, satisfying.  I know many have loved this, but I did not, although as I said above, I'd love to read with students to see what they will say.


And here are the other books read this week:

Black? White! Day? Night! A Book of Opposites – written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
My granddaughter just brought this over when she came to visit, so we read it.  She can read (guess) most of the words, and was delighted to pull the flap and discover the opposite picture.  We read it more than once!  It's an interactive, brightly colored, but simple picture book with opposites.  I missed it when it was published a few years ago, but it would be terrific for beginning readers, or older pre-school if you don't know it! I really enjoyed it.


How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird – written by Jacques Prévert and illustrated byMordicai Gerstein
           This is an interpretation of a poem by Prévert, filled with imagination and wonder, beautiful color and magical events, all from that first brushstroke.  A boy paints a cage, then takes it to a forest, or a park, or… And then the magic happens, a bird appears, and the painting becomes a tree.  All the text including “Paint the smell of the sunshine and the flowers, and the songs of the bees and the butterflies”  are beautifully illustrated by Caldecott winner Gerstein (who won for The Man Who Walked Between The Towers).  This is a book to treasure.

Hello, My Name Is Ruby – written and illustrated by Phillip C. Stead
           It’s always a delight to read books by one of the Steads, and just as many others have written, this book is a wonderful story of a little bird looking for a friend, and finding more than she imagined.  When reading, I wanted to see what happened next again and again.  Can’t wait to read this to some young children!

Augustus And His Smile – written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner
         The illustrations filling the pages of this story are breathtaking, sure to engage everyone who opens the cover.  It’s a story about a tiger who looks for his smile, under the sea, to the tops of trees, up and down mountain slopes, but there is a surprise and a lesson at the end, a nice one to discuss after reading. 

Gathering Sparks – written by Howard Schwartz and illustrated by Kristina Swarner
           This story, written for younger readers, comes from a 16th century Jewish teaching about repairing the world.  There is an explanation of the background of what is known as "tikkun olam".  A grandfather takes his granddaughter out to look at the stars one night, and answers her question "where did all the stars come from?" by telling the story of God sending vessels of light into the world that shattered before reaching their destinations.  That scattering became the stars, and people gather the sparks by doing good deeds, loving each other, and caring for the earth.  It's a lovely story, one to "spark" conversations with young children.  The illustrations by Kristina Swarner are dreamy night scenes, showing the stars, the ships, and the grandfather and granddaughter enjoying a special time together.

Homer – written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
f you've had old dogs, you already know Homer.  He may not be the same breed, but he is comfortable watching everyone else continue playing and working and going places as he sits on the front porch.  He moves inside to climb into his favorite old blue chair at night, knowing he could join in when he wished, but content to watch those he loves.  Kids will enjoy the bright beautiful illustrations of the family doing things in their day, but I think adults might like the book even more, understanding well this old dog's life. 

At Our House – written by Isabel Minhós Martins and illustrated by Madalena Matoso
                  This book comes first from Portugal, is a delightful walk through a family counting things, like toes and thumbs and freckles, even intestines and bladders!  When family comes to visit, there are even more things to add.  The illustrations are graphic, bold and colorful.  I imagine many primary teachers using this for counting experiences, graphing and research from each child’s home.  What fun to compare each other’s numbers!

The Starcleaner Reunion – written and illustrated by Cooper Edens
                This is a wonderful old book I want to share, could be a great mentor text for older students writing myths or fantasies. The story is about the origins of the stars, and begins in a young boy's dream as he realizes there are dark stones that need to be polished for all the world to see. Illustrations show a large group of men who manage to find ladders tall enough to reach the stones. In the rest of the story, the stars are offered a reunion, but the house they come to keeps bursting and then another house forms until the stars disappear! The story ends with another surprise. It's a fantastical story with brilliant illustrations. I don't want to give away more!

Frog Song – written by Brenda Z. Guiberson and illustrated by Gennady Spirin
          I found this book because of a friend’s recommendation, and am so glad I did.  It is written in basic, but lovely repetitive language, and the text paired with the pictures gives just the right amount of information for young students. Also, the extensive back matter fills in more if needed.  The illustrations are exquisite, managing to keep the frog both alive, and in a setting that shows its ability to camouflage.  The author has shared interesting frogs from all over the world.  One is from Chile, the Darwin’s frog, showing the male guarding about 30 eggs, and when they wiggle, he scoops them up into his vocal sacs, keeping them safe for about 7 weeks.  Each frog’s song is also emphasized.  I think a wide range of readers who are intrigued by frogs will love looking and learning.

Now Reading: The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson.  May not finish this week, dense and long, but good so far!  I have a new pile of picture books from the library!
photo credit: Eneas via photopin cc

20 comments:

  1. How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird is indeed a treasure. I'll probably end up reading Frog Song but just having flipped through the pages, it's like one of those books that practically sells itself!

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    1. Yes, I agree that Frog Song is gorgeous, but the one I most want to own is How To Paint the Portrait… Isn't it a great book? Thanks, Earl!

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  2. I thought Flora and Ulysses was a quirky read as well. I hope kids do enjoy it, I haven't figured out what the audience would be.

    Books We Read

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    1. I really am interested in seeing what our Newbery clubs kids will say. I know some were reading it over break! Thank you!

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  3. Wonderful books Linda, I have Flora and Ulysses on my tbr list, but just have wondered about everything you mentioned. I'm not sure it will be for me, but I am putting it on my Must Read in 2014 list anyway. How to Paint a portrait of a bird looks great. Enjoy your week.

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    1. Thanks Gigi. Do find the 'bird' book-it is terrific. I saw you have a snow day today-hope it's a good one!

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  4. Flora and Ulysses sounds wonderful! I agree with everything that you said about the Divergent series, and especially Allegiant. It is so hard to talk about these books without spoilers, but there is such heroism in the acts of the characters. Have a great reading week!

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    1. Thanks Andrea, hope you have a good week of books & books shared with students too!

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  5. So many incredible picture books up there. (You're emptying my wallet again, Linda!)

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    1. Thanks Stacey, I'm buying some, but using the library too! It is a challenge, isn't it?

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  6. I read Flora & Ulysses aloud to my 11 yr old son who is ESL/ELL (whatever acronym your district prefers--or maybe they have yet another one!) and a reluctant/struggling reader. I liked it more than he did, but he was very engaged by it. It reads aloud beautifully, and the ample illustrations are a real draw. It's an odd little story. I am not sure about audience as well. I think I would not have liked it as much reading it by myself and silently. The sentences just zing read aloud! Thanks for sharing so many lovely PBs. I hope to find several of these at the library.

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    1. So very happy to hear from you about this book, Elisabeth. I suspected that was the case, that reading aloud & talking about it would enhance it very much. Best wishes for the picture books! And thanks!

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  7. Wow! What a reading week!

    I can't wait to get a copy (or two) of Flora & Ulysses. I can see using this with my strong 3rd graders in small groups. I WISH I had a read aloud group!

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    1. Yes, I usually just get to read a picture book these days. I understand completely! Sometimes it's hard not to want to share more! Thanks, Maria!

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  8. Hi there Linda! What a gorgeous post. I've read with great interest your thoughts about Flora & Ulysses. I gave the book as a present to one of my lovely GatheringReaders book club members, Madilyn, who's very much into fantasy. She's ten. I have yet to ask her what she thinks about the book. I also got my girl a copy of the book. I have a special affinity for magical realism, I am a huge fan of Allende (have you read any of her YA series - while I enjoyed them it didn't really stick with me as much as her adult novels, but still worth reading) - and so I wonder whether Flora & Ulysses would resonate with me in that regard. I haven't read any of Kate DiCamilo's novels yet (not even Winn-Dixie, even though I have a copy of that one in my shelves), so Flora & Ulysses might be my first Camilo read. :)

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    1. I love Allende's adult novels, but haven't read any of the YA ones-actually don't remember knowing about them, Myra. I'll be interested in seeing what you think of Flora & Ulysses, or really what your book club member or your daughter. I enjoyed Winn-Dixie very much, and The Tale of Despereaux, but this was different, okay, but I'm not sure about it as you can see. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. You have been busy, Linda! I still haven't read Divergent, let alone the rest of the series. Maybe that should be a reading goal for 2014. I loved Flora & Ulysses, but see your point about it's quirkiness, and agree that for most students it would probably work best as a read aloud. Thanks for sharing so many titles today.

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    1. I know that many have loved Flora & Ulysses, & there is a part that is sweet, that 'underlying' one I discussed. I'll see also what students think; they are a huge key to this. Hope you'll find Divergent good if you like those kinds of books! Thanks!

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  10. Oh Linda - Where to start? I think with that lovely image of the reader in his pile of books - what a great picture! So much reading ahead this wonderful year of 2014! I liked At Our House a lot too. Sharing it with my class soon. I think it needs an art project or something . . . Flora & ulysses is on my MustREAD list - but my plan is to read it aloud to my children - now I am happy to have made this decision reading your comments. Isn't Augustus and his Smile just delightful? Love its message! Happy Reading this week! Hoping to get my 2nd Must Read title finished tonight! Then my reading will be somewhat directed by library due dates!

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    1. Yes, just took a bunch of things to school today (I don't work usually on Mondays) & dropped At Our House by to my PB friend. She is a picture book guru, knows so, so much, so I'm always thrilled when I can loan one she doesn't know. She doesn't blog, but reads mine & yours on Mondays, Carrie! Will be interested to know what your class thinks about F & U! Have a great rest of the week!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!