Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

The Past Week: 

Access the reviews by clicking here

Books Completed

I loved Arcady's Goal. It's another thoughtful historical fiction for middle grade from Eugene Yelchin.   Hope is an Open Heart was gorgeous and inspiring. All were enjoyable though and it was a good week of reading.

The Coming Week: 
Currently Reading

I will likely finish all of these except Elements of Style which is not meant to be rushed in any way. I have Strike! by Brimner, Hidden Like Anne Frank, and Frida & Diego in my TBR pile on the couch. I will also be starting an ARC of Hold Me Down by Calvin Slater. I will also get an audio book for the drive to ALA. *happy dance*

Have a wonderful week!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Multicultural Children's Book Day

Multicultural Children's Book Day is January 27th, 2015!

Children’s reading and play advocates Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book and Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom have teamed up to create an ambitious (and much needed) national event. On January 27th, Jump into a Book and Pragmatic Mom will be presenting yet another Multicultural Children’s Book Day as a way of celebrating diversity in children’s books.

Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

As part of the celebration, I'm reviewing two fun multicultural books today, The Case of the Paranoid Panda: An Irwin Lalune Mystery and The Dragon, the Thief, & the Princess.

Author: Bruce Murphy
Illustrator: Christian Paniagua
Publisher: Bliss Group Books
Pages: 113
Review Copy: Final copy via publisher

Summary: Irwin LaLune is a skunk detective who likes the smell of a good mystery. But he gets more than he bargained for when a squirrel tips him off to the antics of the panda Ling Ming--the local zoo's star attraction. Someone is driving the panda crazy, but no one's saying who—not even the panda himself. Can Irwin solve the mystery before things get really out of hand? Irwin's mission will take him from the anaconda cage to the lion's den—and that's before it gets really dangerous!

Review: A skunk, squirrel, magpie, anaconda, and a few other quirky critters collaborate in an attempt to help a panda before they run out of time. Through a curious set of circumstances, this crew comes together and helps each other. They learn to appreciate the others even though they're different at first glance. Irwin even starts to look for the similarities between skunks and pandas. They're both black and white and are related to raccoons.

The exchange between Irwin and the sloth really delivers the theme of the book. Irwin says the sloth is upside down and gets this reply, "Maybe I'm not upside down. Maybe you are. Ever think of that?" The sloth continues, "Depends on your point of view." Seeing things from someone else's point of view is emphasized throughout the book.

This is a mystery that allows the reader a little guesswork and quite a few laughs. Young readers will enjoy getting to know the sleuthing skunk, hyper squirrel, multi-lingual magpie, an alliterative anaconda, and other friends along the way.

Publisher: Bliss Group Books
Pages: 289
Review Copy: Final copy via publisher

Summary: Award-winning novelist Gillian Bradshaw's classic fantasy-history tale of Egypt and Nubia, now in one volume. Teen fisherman Prahotep is nicknamed "bad-luck" because everything he touches turns to disaster. When his father dies, he sets off to Thebes to improve his fate, but soon winds up on a dangerous work crew, cutting stone for an evil magician. There he befriends a dying tomb-robber who tells him of unimaginable riches-and how to find them. Prahotep escapes the work crew but instead of finding the riches, he finds Lady Hathor, a proud, irritable dragon. Meanwhile, to the south, in Nubia, the princess Kandaki's family is murdered by a usurper. Kandaki refuses the usurper's offer of marriage, and is sent north to be offered as a sacrifice to a "swamp dragon."

Review: Prahotep has the nickname "Bad-luck" and it's seems to be entirely appropriate as he is a fisherman unable to catch fish and his father has just died. Even as he leaves seeking a better life, the bad luck follows him. He falls in with a work crew led by a horrible man and ends up being chased by an evil magician. Prahotep does come into his own though as he races farther and farther from home. The book is filled with adventure, magic and of course the dragon. Prahotep's missteps are often amusing as are his wily solutions to problems. He may have horrific luck, but his brain is agile and helps him to squeak through seemingly impossible situations.

To avoid spoilers, I won't say much about the dragon, but Lady Hathor is quite impressive.

In the second part of the book, we meet the princess. She is a damsel in distress, but she's not crying in a corner waiting for rescue. Kandaki looks fear in the face and determines to save herself or die trying.

This would be an entertaining novel for middle grade fantasy/adventure fans. Though Prahotep is seventeen, the romance was not a big focus and the action scenes were not extremely graphic so it works well for even young readers. I was worried that this would be slow going, but it's a face paced book and I'm glad I found out about Prahotep and his amazing journey.

We appreciate MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors 

There are Author sponsors too. You can meet them here.
We also have NINE amazing Co-Hosts. You can view them here.

First Book and Stories for All Virtual Book Drive 
 book drive1
MCCBD has partnered with First Book to create a Virtual Book Drive connected to their Stories for All initiative which features books that contain a diverse array of characters and cultures. The money raised through your local Virtual Book Drive will provide new books to kids in need in communities; every $2.50 raised translates into one brand-new book for a child. We have created our own Virtual Book Drive page to raise funds to purchase multicultural books that First Book will work to distribute to under-served children. The MCCBD Virtual Book Drive is now LIVE so please visit the page and do your part on getting books into the hands of kids!

Children's Book Council and Multicultural Children's Book Day
A big THANK YOU goes to Children’s Book Council as they highlight wonderful diversity books and authors on an ongoing basis all year.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

This week held quite a few challenges and I am struggling to hold on to my One Little Word - breathe. I chose that word to remind myself to be in the moment and to let go of frustration. I'm taking those deep breaths, but unfortunately some of the frustrations are still there.

Several colleagues just got the news that they will need to change positions if they wish to remain full-time (bumping other people out) because their positions are being reduced to half-time. One of our part-time librarians was also informed that her position will no longer exist next year. 

I celebrate anyway. I celebrate positive co-workers who listened when I shared my frustrations and concerns. I celebrate my family and the love and support they provide.

On a completely different note, my daughter and I were able to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with many other people on Monday evening. We attended our community gathering and the keynote speaker was Ruby Bridges. She expressed appreciation for the youth she meets who give her hope for the future. Hearing about her experiences was amazing. She shared both serious and amusing moments from her past.

I also celebrate books this week. We had so much fun this week reading please, baby, please by Spike and Tanya Lewis Lee. My first grade students connected that book with No David! Second grade had a great time experiencing Ninja by Arree Chung. They loved the book and the trailer too. Third grade learned a lot through We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song. What a powerful song. I'm listening to it as I type this post.

There were many ups and downs in the week and I'm thankful for the time to reflect on both.

Monday, January 19, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

The Past Week: 
Reviews on the Blog
I reviewed quite a few books this week. Click on the links to read about them.

Feeding the Young Athlete
Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious
Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table
I reviewed these here for the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 

Books Read

It's odd, but three of these books had fabulous illustrations, but the text was just okay. Our School Garden, Hansel & Gretel, and Beauty and the Beast really had great illustrations, but the two retellings weren't anything out of the ordinary and the poems in the garden book were not very poetic.  I still want to like the books though because of the illustrations. 

Speaking of illustrations, I loved those in Julia's House for Lost Creatures. It also happened to have a fun storyline. Hatke is just creating some fantastic children's lit. 

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is a wonderful picture book biography. I'm so happy to learn about Melba and again, I loved the illustrations. It was a very good week for me with illustrations. 

Ruby's Wish takes a look at gender roles. It also shows the determination of one young lady who happens to have been the author's grandmother.  This was on my shelf at school and I'm so glad I picked it up.

Another one I'm glad I found on the shelf this week was Skin Again. This is a book by bell hooks  about how our skin color is just one part of who we are. From the Goodreads summary, "Race matters, but only so much-what's most important is who we are on the inside." This is a book that can open up discussion about race and who we are.

The Coming Week: 

I will be bopping along through The Elements of Style for quite some time. It's not really one to sit and read from cover to cover, but I am enjoying it. I started The Dragon, the Thief, and the Princess yesterday and am about half-way through. I have started the e-novella Rose Eagle and will review it over at Rich in Color next week. I'm listening to House of Many Ways. I still have a few more ARCs to read, but the pile is smaller than it was last week. I made good headway this past week. :)

Beyond reading for reviews, I may start S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst. I have wanted to read it ever since I heard an interview with one of the authors on NPR. I used a gift card to purchase it today  and am eager to get started on it, but I am also a little hesitant to start it too. It's a different kind of book. Anyway, it should be a fun week of reading. What will you be reading?

Reading Challenge Updates:

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Review: Dreaming in Indian

Title: Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices
Editors: Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
Publisher: Annick Press
Pages: 128
Review copy: Digital ARC via Netgalley & final copy via local library
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: A powerful and visually stunning anthology from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today.

Truly universal in its themes, "Dreaming In Indian" will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, 'Roots, ' 'Battles, ' 'Medicines, ' and 'Dreamcatchers,' this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media.

Emerging and established Native artists, including acclaimed author Joseph Boyden, renowned visual artist Bunky Echo Hawk, and stand-up comedian Ryan McMahon, contribute thoughtful and heartfelt pieces on their experiences growing up Indigenous, expressing them through such mediums as art, food, the written word, sport, dance, and fashion. Renowned chef Aaron Bear Robe, for example, explains how he introduces restaurant customers to his culture by reinventing traditional dishes. And in a dramatic photo spread, model Ashley Callingbull and photographer Thosh Collins reappropriate the trend of wearing 'Native' clothing.

Whether addressing the effects of residential schools, calling out bullies through personal manifestos, or simply citing hopes for the future, Dreaming In Indian refuses to shy away from difficult topics. Insightful, thought-provoking, and beautifully honest, this book will to appeal to young adult readers. An innovative and captivating design enhances each contribution and makes for a truly unique reading experience.

Review: Dreaming in Indian is a breathtaking collection of stories told through a wide range of methods. In their welcome, editors Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in – Raven Clan) and Mary Beth Leatherdale explain, "We wanted to give people a fresh perspective on what it means to be Native in North America." They wanted to give Native Americans the opportunity, "... to tell their stories, their way." They definitely  accomplished these goals. The many voices heard within the covers of Dreaming in Indian allow readers to see the incredible diversity of the Native experience. The voices shout out that Native Americans are still here. They are here remembering the past, but also looking to the future speaking to us through fashion, art, words, and ways that fit them.

In the foreword, Lee Maracle (Salish and Cree Stó:lō Nation) shared this thought, "All the works in the following pages are part of that amazing struggle to go forward, into modernity, onto the global stage, without leaving our ancient selves behind." The first section of the book, 'Roots,' pointed to maintaining history, remembering the things that shaped them and their families. The section opens with two poems from Nicola Campbell (Nle7kepmx [Thompson], Nsilx [Okanagan], and Métis) speaking of childhood memories. These are followed by photos and essays from young people who are expressing what home means to them. Eleven different pieces speak to home and roots.

'Battles' is the second section of the book and included thirteen different pieces that addressed many topics such as stereotypes, gender, sexual abuse, government issues, fashion, comedy, superheroes and poverty. This is a section that gets at the heart of some issues Native youth are facing.

In 'Medicine,' the third section, readers hear about the many different ways that Indigenous people  find strength and healing in their lives. This includes art, music, dance, culture, hunting, sports and many other activities. Chayla Delorme Maracle (Cree, Mohawk) wrote of her addictions and the choice to stay sober so she could share Sun Dance with her mother. "Nothing--no drug--can compare to the feeling I felt at that Sun Dance. That's what helped me quit everything."

The final section of the book, 'Dreamcatchers,' shows how Indigenous people in North America are dreaming and making those dreams come true. The book ends with healing and hope. With more than 60 contributors, this book is an amazing testament to what people can do when they collaborate and utilize their creativity.

The incredible beauty of this book is found in the turning of the page. The pages are 8.5 x 11" so the visuals are able to  make quite an impact, especially when there is a two page spread. With each turn, the reader meets a new person or group of people - hearing other stories in a completely different way. There was a lot of attention paid to the presentation of each of these pieces. Even when the majority of the page is text, the design will lend fantastic visual support. One example is the essay 'Shedding My Own Skin' by Joseph Boyden (Anishinaabe). They used a white font and layered the text over a photo by Inti Amaterasu entitled Snake skin. Boyden shared his story of teenage struggles and his triumph over them. The text is excellent alone, but with the added richness of the photography, it becomes even more powerful.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book to young adults or anyone working with young adults and college age students. It would be an excellent springboard for discussion about social issues, history, identity, and culture among other things. Art teachers may also want to add it to their design collection. It would also make for a wonderful coffee table book. Can you tell I love this book? This will be a book I visit and revisit many times. Dreaming in Indian is a book to savor.

Extras: In case you are still not convinced to read Dreaming in Indian, check out the trailer and the discussions with the editors:

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

This week I am celebrating my friend Kimberly. She is a caring person and I am so fortunate that I got to work with her. She brings sunshine into a room. She inspires the people around her to be their best and she is an incredible advocate for her students. Kimberly is moving away and that's hard for me, but she's moving to be with her fiancé and I am so happy for both of them. I'll miss her smiling face peeking into my office each day, but she did promise to provide a nice picture. 

Today we got together for some yummy breakfast crepes and had a relaxing time chatting about the move and the new adventure she's beginning later this month. I'm thankful that we live in a techy age. We have many tools at our fingertips to keep in touch. It's also nice that she'll be back in the summer for their wedding. 

I can't help but have the song "For Good" going through my mind right now. She will "be with me like a handprint on my heart." And, because I know her, "I have been changed for good."

Review: Sylvia's Spinach

Title: Sylvia's Spinach
Illustrator: Anna Raff
Publisher: Readers to Eaters
Pages: 32
Review copy: Final copy from publisher
Availability: On shelves now - hardcover and paperback

Summary: Sylvia Spivens hates spinach. Bleh! But what will a picky eater do when her teacher hands her spinach seeds to plant in the school garden? Will it be joy—or agony? Join Sylvia as she discovers the magic of growing food from the ground up and what happens when you give something new a try.

Review: In November, I listened to this article, 'Why These Kids Love Kale' on NPR. The students love Kale because they have planted, worked in the garden, and prepared their food. When I read Sylvia's Spinach, I couldn't help but think of that article. It seems like an impossibility that students would change their attitudes toward certain foods after such a short time, but it can certainly happen. The book shares Sylvia's journey through the growing season and her changing ideas about spinach. It is certainly focused on a teaching point, but has cheerful, lighthearted illustrations. Primary students learning about seeds or plants would likely relate well to the story. Schools with gardening programs could benefit from having this in the school and classroom libraries - especially in the spring. The author also provides some classroom activity ideas on her website. I'm excited to share this with our gardening co-ordinator and with first grade when they begin to plant their lettuce.