And the winner of last week's giveaway, The Not Very Merry Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen is. . .
Bridget Magee! Send me your address, Bridget and the book will be on its way.
Visit Jen at TeachMentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to see what they've been reading, along with everyone else who link up. Others join Sheila to share adult books at Book Journeys.
I went to our Denver Library book sale Thursday, and everyone should be proud of me. I took one bag, filled it, and left. Ha! They had a table where you could grab extra bags, great marketing. There are hundreds of books there, in every genre, for every age, and in Spanish, too. I saw books as recently published as last year. Wow. I bought a bunch for the granddaughters, and mostly poetry picture books for me. But I did find Water Is Water, and Boats for Papa, too.
One former colleague and I used to leave surprise books on each other's chairs in our classrooms sometimes, and now that I'm gone, we've missed each other's discoveries A LOT! So we began again, and the final two reviews today are books she found. They are terrific!
Amazing Places - poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, illustrated by Chris Soentpiet and Christy Hale
Fourteen poems by poets you love fill this book as the earlier Amazing Faces did, including love for our country from the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia to San Francisco’s Chinatown, Boston’s Fenway Park to the Watkins Museum of History (Langston Hughes childhood home-Lawrence, Kansas). Considering the increasing division in beliefs recently and before the next election, I especially liked the poem by Alma Flor Ida, native Cuban, who wrote of her family’s visit to Chinatown. Many people are included in this book, as well as nature’s wonders, trees in the Grand Canyon and the mighty Mississippi. This would be a lovely mentor text when studying different cultures and geography, and writing poetry in reflection of favorite topics. The illustrations by Chris Soentpiet and Christy Hale are full color portraits, vibrant with life in the ‘amazing places’.
The Scorpio Races - Maggie Stiefvater
This is a re-read so that two friends and I could meet to discuss it. It was the second time for us all, and we agreed even better the second time. If you like speculative fiction, YA and/or Maggie Stiefvater, this is a book you shouldn't miss. It is lovely. My full review is on Goodreads here.
Zach Delacruz: Me And My Big Mouth - written by Jeff Anderson
Being in middle school is tough, but being in middle school as a sixth grader is worse than tough, and Zach Delacruz is trying to stay under the radar as much as he can. Although he's small (so far), he still can't stay hidden, and his nickname is 'shrimp'. The group he would like to avoid include the bully and a couple of "cool" girls, and a few eighth graders. There's also a girl named Janie who receives oh too many remarks about her eating habits and her weight. Thank goodness, there is also a friend named Marquis.
Zach didn't mean to do it, he didn't want to be noticed, but the good in him finally stepped out to defend Janie. He told the bully to 'stop'. The rest of the story actually works well, with some help from a wise teacher who decided to put Zach and the bully together as leaders of a chocolate bar sale so the sixth graders could go to the school dance. It was a little farfetched the way it all worked out, but stranger things happen in middle school, and the group did learn to be a little kinder. Zach was also working hard to ignore that his parents had just divorced, and he had to change homes every week. There were a couple of emotional moments, but it did work out. The parents played small roles, but it was clear that Zach knew he was loved. I imagine that there might be more about this group as they grow up.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings - Richard Simon and Tanya Simon, Mark Siegel
It gives me shivers when a book comes along at just the right time, and this book, lying on my shelf for weeks, suddenly became one I wanted to read. It’s a made-up story, based on history of the Hanukah, then Christmas in New York City, 1938. Richard Simon also connects one of his grandfather’s stories to it, a choice of staying in America during this time, or returning to Lithuania.
Oskar’s family felt blessed, the stories begins, “until the Night of Broken Glass”. He was put on a ship to America with nothing but an address and a photo of a woman he didn’t know, his Aunt Esther. His father’s last words were “Even in bad times, people can be good. You have to look for the blessings.” When he arrived, it was the last night of Hanukah and Christmas Eve. Oskar needed to walk 100 blocks to reach his aunt’s home, all the way down Broadway! There is a marvelous map showing his route, and how the story makes Oskar connect to those “blessings” along the way. He begins with Trinity Church, seeing an old woman feeding bread to the pigeons. She offers a part of a roll so he can, too, but notices that he eats it himself. From her pocket, she gives him a small loaf of bread, energy so he can make the long journey. Oskar moves along, has some sweet encounters with others known, like “Mrs. Roosevelt and Count Basie” and unknown, a boy having a snowball fight whom he helps, who offers his mittens when he sees how cold Oskar is. I won’t give all the blessings away, but Mark Siegel’s illustrations are beautiful portraits of each scene, in muted brown tones with just a few bits of color, showing that evening walk. They enhance the memory of one fine night when Oskar found his blessings. I would hope that America will be as kind today as it was to Oskar so many years ago.
Toys Meet Snow - Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky
When I first heard of this, and saw the cover, I couldn’t imagine how such a combination of toys and going out into the snow would be entertaining, but it is so much more than that. It is a small moment in time of an adventure with these three toys, poetic, funny, and sweet. In the midst of their snow-play, the day slowly disappears, and they call the sunset, a ‘strawberry syrup sun’. The illustrations glow with happy action, full-page pictures that add the action to the spare text.
The Paradise Bird - Marcus Pfister
From Switzerland comes a picture book with a subtle lesson, one can make your own happiness, bring it everywhere with you. Ravens line a couple of tree branches, complaining that nothing ever happens, life is just boring. Along comes a colorful paradise bird that shows them how to make their own fun, gives them each a colorful feather and they create a dance unique to them, a ‘Croak-a, Croak-a’. Considering most of the birds (ravens) are black and rather dour, the sight of the happy Paradise Bird just makes you smile. He spreads happiness, and it’s fun to see the ravens’ expressions change as the pages turn.
The Plan - Alison Paul and Barbara Lehman
This is a brilliant book, using only twenty words. With Barbara Lehman’s simple, but detailed illustrations, Alison Paul tells a story, changing one letter at a time. It’s a story of a young girl, her dog, and her father, some secrets, some sadness, an adventure and lots of joy. I loved it!
Still reading: This Side of Wild by Gary Paulsen.
Next up: The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose.