Monday, August 17, 2015

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.



I love wordless picture books! This one has all the elements of the perfect wordless story - beautiful illustrations, pops of color, vivid expressions on the boy's face, a perfect story arc, and a great ending. I would use this in the classroom for teaching story elements and for discussions on imagination, creativity, play, and resiliency.

The Night World

The night really can be a creepy, silent, but magical world. I loved the illustrations in this book as the black and gray tones of night explode into a colorful morning. Loved Sylvie, the cat!

Red: A Crayon's Story

2015-book, honesty, humor, identity, individuality, metaphor, mock-caldecott-2016, picture- book

Seemingly simple at first glance, this story goes pretty deep! A "red" crayon can't seem to do anything right - everything it draws is blue!! Self-discovery, true identity, honesty, and defying labels - all embedded in this humorous, but important book. Would be great to use for teaching metaphor. Also, I thought of my friend who will be leading an LBGTQ group (she's calling it The Alphabet Club) at her high school this fall. This would be a great book to share with them to spark discussion!


Circus Mirandus

I loved this book from the dedication to the acknowledgments. I think I found a new read aloud - it would be perfect for my home/family or a hope unit. A somewhat Roald Dahl-esque story, Circus Mirandus captivated me from the first page - "Four small words. That was all it took to set things in motion. The words came from an upstairs room filled with the rustle of paper and the sweet stink of medicine." Talk about a great lead! I loved Micah Tuttle and his hopeful heart, Grandpa and his sweet generosity, and Jenny and her spunky loyalty. And of course we have to have an antagonist - Aunt Gertrudis is someone my students will love to hate! Magic, love, adventure, courage, friendship, and the true definition of home...everything I love in a book. Everything my students love in a book! This one is a treasure.

Big Top Burning: The True Story of an Arsonist, a Missing Girl, and The Greatest Show On Earth

I thought this was an interesting follow up to Circus Mirandus - a nonfiction book about the 1944 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus fire that killed 167 people. I didn't know about this fire. What a tragedy that something that is supposed to bring joy and happiness to children and families should end in devastation instead. Great photographs and vignettes of the people who attended made this story more personal.  Two mysteries remain from this story: was the unidentified body of "Little Miss 1565" really Eleanor Cook, and was the fire accidental or an act of arson by Robert Segee? I think my students would find this book interesting - I'm sure they don't know much about the circuses of early days.

The Great Good Summer

Beautiful! The Goodreads review of this book compared it to Deborah Wiles' Each Little Bird That Sings and Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie, and I would agree. The humor, the spunky protagonist,the charm of the South, the spiritual aspects, the unlikely friendship, and the tug at the heartstrings, etc., all remind me of Wiles' and DiCamillo's work. It's a classic journey story, so I will be adding it to my JOURNEY unit text set.

Whenever authors handle the subject of God in middle grade and young adult lit, I get a little nervous because I want them to handle it well. I don't want faith in God to be made fun of or put down; however, I'm okay with characters questioning or doubting God and spiritual beliefs - that's just part of the process! Scanlon handles this subject beautifully. Ivy's friend, Paul, is a scientist (he loves space and dreams of becoming an astronaut) and quite possibly an atheist, and Ivy believes in God (even though she has to work through the mistakes her mama makes as a result of her religious upbringing and beliefs). Both Paul's and Ivy's stances are honored and even compared - they both question and are sometimes disappointed in what they put their faith in, they both find a way back to it, they both fight for what they believe in, and they both appreciate each other's passions. Perfect. I also loved the "if" and "then" discussion and will be using it in a future blog post!

"Looking up at the sky and wondering is what science people like Paul do. And it's what God people like Mama do too. If that's not the craziest thing."

Lost in the Sun

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

This story captivated me right away - I was rooting for Jared through everything. What a heartbreaking, hopeful, beautiful book with complicated, flawed, and wonderful characters. It will definitely be a read aloud this year. Reminds me a little of Tangerine, only not as dark. I loved how Graff decided to end it.  I think this book has great Newbery potential. Graff is such a talented writer - her books are becoming some of my favorites!

Mark of the Thief (Mark of the Thief, #1)

Another great adventure/fantasy series coming from Jennifer Nielsen! Nic reminds me a lot of Sage - funny, rebellious, dauntless, reckless, reluctant heroes, impulsive, smart. I liked the setting of this one - Rome. I also love the Griffin - she reminds me of Saphira from Eragon. I'd like to include this in my mythology unit text sets.

A Handful of Stars

Cynthia Lord is brilliant. How does she keep writing these beautiful, touching stories?! So much wisdom in this one about home, family, art, loss, love, moving forward, diversity, courage, letting go, friendship, identity - on and on. Some of my favorite pearls of wisdom:

"I think art can take ordinary things and show them to you like it's the first time you've ever seen them," she (Salma)continued. "And you realize that even ordinary things aren't really ordinary at all."

"That's something we can learn from dogs, isn't it? They don't keep looking backward at what they've lost or asking 'why me?' They just move on and find a new way to be happy again." (Pepere)

"Giving up and letting go are too very different things, Lily. Giving up is admitting you're beat and walking away. Letting go means you're setting something free. You're releasing something that's been keeping you stuck. That takes faith and more than a little courage." (Pepere)

Masterminds (Masterminds #1)

59 Reasons to Write: Mini-Lessons, Prompts, and Inspiration for Teachers


  1. Great assortment and variety of books. I really need to put Circus Mirandus on my reading list. I have heard so many great things about it. Here is my reading week. Happy reading!

  2. Wow! You are really cruising through a lot of books. I loved Circus Mirandus, but most of the other middle grade books are still on my TBR list. Have a great week.

  3. You have great reading on your list this week!
    I just finished reading A Handful of Stars this week too. I quoted several quotes from the book, but they were all different from yours. Isn't it funny how different lines stick to all of us! Yay!

  4. Float and Night have been on a lot of lists--I need to read them.
    I adored Red. I think it is a super special book!
    Love your mini-review of Handful of Stars. Loved it! Circus Mirandus is another favorite.

    Happy reading this week! :)

  5. Oh my goodness you have so many novels here that I recently read and loved - A Handful of Stars, The Great Good Summer and Lost in the Sun. I love that quote about learning from dogs in Lord's Book! I also marked it.

  6. Great books here, Holly - you've read the best YA books of the year!

  7. LOVE, love, love all these amazing books! I have read many of them - especially love Circus Mirandus. Have you read The Night Circus? Lots of connections to that book, which is one of my all time favorites! Thanks for always including these clips! Have a great week!

    1. Yes, I have read The Night Circus and loved it! I totally agree that they have lots of connections. I listened to the audio of The Night Circus because it was narrated by Jim Dale. It was fantastic!

  8. Wow, Holly! How you read so many great books in a week is beyond me! We had a circus reading theme a few years back - Circus Mirandus would have been a wonderful addition to that list - I just read it while I was in Munich and enjoyed it greatly. I have yet to read The Night Circus. :)