Monday, December 29, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

These are memes started by Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey, and I'm excited to participate, along with many other bloggers, in reviewing books I read the previous week.  I'll be reviewing picture books through adult books.
The Red Pencil
Andrea Davis Pinkney describes her choice of format, a novel in verse, which is about a young Sudanese girl's experiences in the Darfur conflict, like this: "I found that verse could be a means of insulating young readers from the tragic realities of genocide and could offer a way to make the horrors of war easier to comprehend." What a perfect choice because Pinkney does just that. I love the sketches (which seem to do the same thing as verse) throughout, also, showing a loving village/family life, war, grief, healing, and soaring. Beautiful novel!
Half a Chance
I finished this book on my birthday; it was like unwrapping a gift. What a beautiful story! Lucy just moved with her family to a lake house in New Hampshire, and her dad, whom she admires, is frequently gone on photography assignments for work. She is a budding photographer herself, but needs approval from her father, which she doesn't always get. When a photography contest comes up that her dad is judging, she decides it's the perfect opportunity to show off her talent and hopefully get validation. Lucy befriends a boy who summers at the lake and lives with his grandmother in the next cottage every summer. He helps her with the contest (I know this is crazy, but at first, I missed the fact that the chapter titles coincided with the topics of the contest - don't make the same mistake), and together they look for the perfect shots. To complicate things, Nate's grandmother is showing signs of Alzheimer's, a long-time friend of Nate seems jealous of Lucy, and Lucy can't decide what to do since her father is the judge of the contest - should she enter under a different name? I thought this book had interesting topics for thought and discussion - should art always be honest? What if a piece of art hurts someone? "It was a truthful photo, even if that truth wasn't beautiful." Who owns art? "And whose photo was it? Did it belong to Grandma Lilah because she was in it? Or did it belong to me because I had taken it?" I even have a further question: Does it belong to the viewer of the photo? Would there be art without truth and honesty, even if it's hard to bear? There are further topics of when to say goodbye, what home means, what memory is, living in the moment, how to discover your gifts and talents, when to focus on what's important, and more. Have some tissues nearby for the ending. This book helped me cinch my 2015 One Little Word (FOCUS - more on that later). 

 The Way to Stay in Destiny

The Way to Stay in Destiny by Augusta Scattergood

Coincidentally, Cynthia Lord (above) is the one who sent me the ARC of this book!  I was so glad I won her little contest on Facebook because I am a big Augusta Scattergood fan. 
Theo comes to Destiny, FL, whisked away from Kentucky and his grandparents who couldn't take care of him anymore, with his uncle, who doesn't seem to be the nicest guy in the world. It's 1974 and Theo is trying to figure out who he is in this odd town while his uncle deals with demons that haunt him from the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Thank goodness for Miss Sister, Braves' fan, Anabel, and a shiny grand piano. Theo's uncle doesn't want him to play piano and Anabel's mom wants her to dance, but both kids know their and baseball. This is a story of family, home, and identity - all of which the characters need to define for themselves. Glory Be was a big hit in my classroom (we read it in small groups during our FEAR/COURAGE unit), and The Way to Stay in Destiny is destined to be, also, in 2015!  This book has been published now, so be sure to pick it up in the bookstore.  The cover can't be missed - beautiful!
Arcady's Goal
By the Newbery Honor winning author, Eugene Yelchin (I still need to read Breaking Stalin's Nose!), Arcady's Goal is a story of human rights, freedom, kindness, family, dreams, and soccer. Arcady was sent to a home/prison for the children of "enemies of the state" while his parents simply vanished into the penal system during Stalin's oppression of Russia. When Ivan Ivanych sees Arcady playing his ferocious game of soccer with the other children, he decides to adopt him. Arcady thinks he is a soccer coach, but he is actually a teacher, and he, too, has lost a family member, his wife, to the cruel government system. Arcady's only goal is to become part of the esteemed Red Army soccer team and is frustrated with Ivan's true story. However, the two begin to understand and love each other, and Arcady's dreams begin to be realized. The audio was excellent, but now I also want to see a hard copy of the book since Yelchin apparently included his own illustrations. A lot is packed into this story, and the author's note at the end is really interesting. I predict students will really like this one!
Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse
A little mouse decides that it's time to travel to America, but he can't go by ship because of all the cats guarding the shipyard. After getting inspired by the wings of bats, he decides to FLY to America. Thus begins his quest to build the perfect flying machine. After his successful flight, we learn that a little boy was inspired by the mouse's adventures. That boy was Charles Lindbergh. I loved the thick pages, sepia tones, and wonderful illustrations in this book. I also love books about mice!
 Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters  by Oliver Jeffers

Clever! Oliver Jeffers has put a new twist on the alphabet book by writing a short story for each letter. This would make a great mentor text - maybe kids could write a blog series of short stories of their own for each letter?
The Pigeon Needs a Bath!

The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems

Pigeon is so funny! Readers of all ages will recognize the irony of not wanting to do something at first, but then ending up loving it and not wanting to stop.

What Forest Knows by George Ella Lyon

I love George Ella Lyon. Her mastery of language is unparalleled. This one reminds me of picture books by Cynthia Rylant, Ralph Fletcher, and Patricia MacLachlan. I also loved the gorgeous illustrations of the forest.  And the dog will win you over!
Louise Loves Art
Louise Loves Art Book Trailer from Louise Light on Vimeo.

Sweet! This book made me smile, and I loved the antics of the cat and Art, Louise's brother. Louise's character is so distinct that she would make a great example of characterization. I also love picture books in which the illustrations tell a different story/additional story than the text. The conflict/resolution between big sister and little brother reminded me of Emily's Blue Period.

Mix It Up by Herve Tullet
Young children will love this interactive book about mixing colors. Make sure you have a palette of paints nearby!
The Jacket
The Jacket by Kirsten Hall, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
I love the actual book jacket of this book about book jackets! Great illustrations in this one. The girl loved her book (who is personified in the story), but she loved her dog, too.  Her dog, Egg Cream, tended to be messy and made her mad by getting her book all dirty.  Thus, the book jacket!  Cute book.
A Perfectly Messed-Up Story
Cute! Peanut butter, jelly, orange juice, etc. plop down on the page while Louie tries to tell his story. He ends up learning that messes don't ruin anything. It's the story that counts! Pair this one with The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires.
This is just a silly (but clever) book that all kids will enjoy. Who wouldn't want to hear their teacher or parent say, "Boo Boo Butt"?!

Goodnight Already!
Goodnight Already! by Jory John, illustrated by Benji Davies
Funny! Bear is exhausted and just wants to go to bed, but his neighbor, Duck, has different ideas. He's wide awake! Cute twist at the end. Great expressions on the animals' faces.  Sure to be a hit with kids - perfect bedtime story.
Nightingale's Nest
The Madman of Piney Woods
Later this week I will post my favorite books of 2014!


  1. Hi Holly, Don't you just love vacation reading time! I totally agree with you about Cynthia's Half a Chance. I am planning to do it as a read aloud later this year. I would LOVE to read The Way to Stay in Destiny. Your picture books look great. My twelve year old loved The Perfectly Messed Up Story and brought it to the Kindergarten class where she volunteers. The kids cracked up. Hope you enjoy the rest of your break with your girls (and reading, of course).

  2. Wow, Holly, loads of wonderful books here. Lucky you to already have a copy of Augusta Scattergood's new book. I'm looking forward to it. The Red Pencil is on a stack of "next ones", & I shared Arcady's Goal today too. What a powerful story! Thanks for some new to me, will look for them!

  3. Nothing like vacation time and great books like the ones you've shared. I'm ordering Augusta's book right away - love the sound of her voice, too!

  4. I am only a few pages away from finishing The Way to Stay in Destiny and am really loving it. And I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who is smitten with the cover. :)

  5. Holly, these all look great. I am reading The Red Pencil and really enjoying it. There are SO many good books right now!

  6. I love so many of those picture books, especially Louise Loves Art! I had not seen the trailer before, thanks for including it! I've had Half a Chance since Jan and never got to it. I think I am going to put it on my #mustreadin2015 list! I have an ARC of Destiny too, hoping to get to it over break. Happy continued reading!

  7. I got copies of Lindbergh and the Book with No Pictures, and met both of the authors last summer at BEA. Great list this week!
    Check out my Monday post

  8. I just picked up Lindbergh from the library and waiting for The Red Pencil. What a great list of books you have here. :-)

  9. The cover of NIghtingale's Nest looks so beautiful. I just borrowed Louise Loves Art from the library and perhaps over 50 picturebooks in all. I am looking forward to sinking my teeth in most of them for 2015. The Red Pencil is also in my to-read list for 2015. :)

  10. I love Once Upon an Alphabet, and it's a good thing since I ended up with 2 copies for our library! I've heard great things about The Madman of Piney Woods. I will probably get to reading it because I love so much of Curtis' work, but I wasn't that taken with Elijah of Buxton. I have just added The Red Pencil to my 2015 list.

  11. So many great books! I read the Pigeon Needs a Bath to almost every grade this year. The Madman was one of my favorites too. I'm looking forward to Arcady's Goal. I just got it right before the winter break. I couldn't bring it on my trip though since I had packed 9 books already aside from digital bks. Oops! :)