Monday, August 17, 2020

Monday Reading - Last Week - NEW Books to Love

              Visit Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts to see what they've been reading, along with others who post their favorites.  Your TBR lists will grow! Happy Reading!
          Share with the hashtag #IMWAYR    

        Sending my best wishes to all of you teachers who are starting or have started your school year! 

           In celebrating six women from history who loved math and used it to pursue passions like astronomy and hospital care, the oceans and statistics, Jeannine Atkins offers stories in verse about their lives, including the challenging paths each traveled because they were female.  Caroline Herschel was the first woman to discover a comet and have it named after her and the first to receive a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society. It was more than a century, however, that Vera Rubin, another whose story is told by Jeannine, was awarded the second medal. Thus lies the stories of girls loving math, but expected to stay with housework, marriage, and motherhood, not to carry on their research into questions that arise from their curiosity, whether through microscopes or by tending to war-wounded soldiers. I enjoyed the poetic words as the stories unfolded. Caroline Herschel's brother took her in as his assistant in his "celestial" research. (She also felt beholden to do the housework!) As he began to teach her more mathematics, Jeannine writes: "William begins where many teachers end, pushing so she's caught in thickets and thorns." These girls, then women, worked hard to understand those 'thickets', often going without notice, often having men put their own bylines on articles published. Perhaps you will remember Katherine Johnson's story from the book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly? In part of her story, we read of her preparing charts "for meetings that women aren't allowed to attend". 
            Many moments show the persistence of the women in this book, the hurdles and the accomplishments of leaping over them. Although some things have changed, roads are often still rocky. Look at the news and the talk about Kamala Harris being only the third woman nominated for vice-president as if it's a milestone to be celebrated. In one way it is, yet after reading this book, I wonder why hurdles continue to be placed on so many paths for woman. It's a great book for young girls to know what's gone before, who they might count on for their own push to follow their passions. Sometimes it will only be themselves!
            More information is added at the back about each woman along with a brief author's note. I would place this in the hands of every middle-grade reader, believe it would bring great conversation if used as a read-aloud. It's a terrific book!

         Sixth-grader Bryan tells us what's going on in his thoughts and mostly he seems as if he really knows how he wants to be, but in his neighborhood, there's so much drama. It's on street corners where men hang out, one of whom is his father. That group has Bryan's back, but it can become really mixed up because if his dad gets in a fight, maybe because of his son, he might go right back to jail. He's on probation. Then there's Mike, a year older, someone Bryan's mother thinks can be a good friend, like a brother, to Bryan. He and Mike both love superhero comics and drawing and video gaming. It's a good time until Mike brings in a few more things that are fun, but not what Bryan, inside, knows he should be doing. It's a mixed-up world in this black neighborhood, making this young man "tight" and worried about so many things, pleasing his friends and his family, but often the actions to please contradict each other. I imagine kids will find some of themselves in Bryan and others Torrey Maldonado writes about. Adults will learn, too, that telling a kid to do better is not an easy thing to do at all. Great story! 

Thanks to Charlesbridge for the following beautiful picture books!

          So little traveling is happening during these Pandemic months, but this book will offer an experience for everyone. You'll either say you love that place and have been there, or you know of it and wish you could be there, maybe right now! Wendell Minor's paintings fit Katherine Lee Bates' lines in the song beautifully. For instance, on the wonder of space travel, her words are "O beautiful for patriot dream" showing a space shuttle take-off and with "That sees beyond the years", an eagle flying. Many other pages of this beautiful country create a celebration of the land with thoughtfulness and pride. The backmatter tells more about Bates and the interesting story of the music score itself. Then, they add the song's page as it first appeared in church hymnals and a sample of it in Bates' own handwriting. Added are brief paragraphs of each page's location and finally a map of those locations in America. This could spark a beautiful study of our country, perhaps having students share their own photos of places near and far!
          I also want to share the title page also because of the recent turmoil over the USPS. Wendell writes that this mailbox is in the town where he lives.

         Stephanie Fizer Coleman's brightly colored illustrations accompany Teresa Bateman's poetic story of a class going on probably their favorite field trip, to a pumpkin farm! In these times full of wishes that there could be a happy day like this, it's fun to see the kids scatter to choose exactly which pumpkin is a favorite, "This one, that one–which to pick?" Pick they do, load them up, say goodby to the cows and pigs and travel back to school. That is certainly not all the story. A jolt in the bus, bins fly open and pumpkins roll out, unbeknownst to all. Heavy disappointment follows at school, but there is a surprise, the enormous one tied on top has made it and everyone decides to share. In the meantime, those "Runaway Pumpkins" have been found by neighbors. The nicest thing happens as a surprise to the students! In different forms--pie, cookies, even fries! Bonus! There is a recipe at the back for pumpkin cookies with caramel frosting.

          Travel the world with Constance Van Haven as she shares about the "blues" in nature, identifying some well-known or not so well-known beauties. Some seem to have adapted to certain things in the environment and even at certain times like the American black bear "which can be black, brown, cinnamon, blond, white, and yes, even blue." Others are blue when underwater like the amazing blue whale. She includes more than animals, like the big bluestem grass, and gives information about their environmental challenges. Alan Marks gorgeous paintings bring the blue in all its variations in double-page illustrations and I especially love his design of the endpapers. Backmatter adds a brief glossary, many more facts, and a bibliography. It's a gorgeous book to inspire more exploration of nature's wonders. 

                  For young readers, Hollis Kurman has written a counting book with diverse and cutest children showing the great needs of immigrant children. Its brief text accompanied by Barroux's illustrations showing relief, first with being grateful for things like "two hands" for help from a boat and "four beds" that give a safe place to sleep. As time passes, one can almost hear the children laughing, talking, playing until "ten friends making us happy!" I would imagine this can be used with other books about immigrants to be sure everyone understands that there are a variety of experiences when immigrating and this is only one. 

Next: Still reading Alpha Maniacs, by Paul Fleischman and Melissa Sweet! Just started A Place at The Table by Laura Shovan and Saadia Faruqi.


  1. So many good books! Counting Kindness looks really good and the Illustrations in Rare & Blue look gorgeous. I'll have to check them out.

  2. Counting Kindness is not one I'm familiar with - it sounds great.

  3. These books sound great! Grasping Mysteries sounds like a great book—I agree that it's hard to believe how little progress gets made toward eradicating sexism, though. Counting Kindness sounds like a wonderful story as well! Thanks for the great post!

  4. I will have to look for Runaway Pumpkins and maybe even try the recipe.

  5. Runaway Pumpkins looks really cute and Counting Kindness looks great as well, thanks for all these great shares.

  6. I'm late making the rounds this week :) Thanks for stopping by on Monday! Looks like a great collection of middle-grade and picture books for you. Hope you are enjoying your books this weekend!


    Book By Book

  7. Counting Kindness is a new title for me and I just love anything Torrey Maldonado writes. Have you read What Lane yet?

  8. Thanks, everyone. Laura, I haven't read What Lane yet, but it's on that long list!

  9. Linda, Thanks so much for all your thoughtful comments on Grasping Mysteries, and the context you offer these astonishing women. I appreciate your reading and writing!

    1. You are welcome, Jeannine. I enjoyed each part, especially learning about those whose story I had not known before, but love the poetry of "every" story whether familiar or not. If I may use some slang, I loved your "spin"!


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