Sunday, August 28, 2016

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. Cover images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Last week on the blog:

Last week in books:

I read A Wish After Midnight and The Door at the Crossroads for the Rich in Color book discussion coming soon. I am not usually into time travel, but these are really well done. I'll talk more about them during the discussion, but Zetta Elliott has created two very compelling novels that take place both during the U.S. Civil War and the the year of 9/11. The books deal with family and romantic relationships, but also with racism and social issues in a unique way. I'm eager to see how she follows up with the characters in the third book. 

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen is a middle grade book written in verse and tells the story of the Tuskegee Airmen in a clear and compact way. I appreciated the way she is able to deliver the information in such small packages. I wasn't bowled over by the poetry, but was impressed by the way she was able to tell the story succinctly. The back matter was great too. There is an  interesting timeline and a great collection of resources which included links to great primary sources.

It Looks Like This was one that may require tissues. I hope that isn't too much of a spoiler. It was emotional, but I am not sure I would hand it to a gay teen because of things that happen in the book. It would maybe be a great one to hand to a parent struggling after their child has just come out. Maybe. I appreciated Dahlia Adler's review (beware it's a little spoiler-y) after I read it. I also really enjoyed the same quote she liked in the book. A gay teen says this to a parent, "This will always be harder for me than it is for you, so get over yourself."

Little Red Gliding Hood is a cute re-telling. It includes many aspects of Little Red Riding Hood, but it is a completely different story. One thing I liked was how many folk/fairytale characters were included in the story.

The Coming Week:
I'm listening to the Alexander Hamilton book by Chernow and I'm reading Rani Patel in Full Effect in preparation for an interview and review. Other than that, I may read some picture books, but I'm not sure if I will get to very much with school starting this week. It is sure to be a week full of excitement, but I'm betting not much reading will happen. 

Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge - 429/550
Diversity on the Shelf 2016 - 197/225 (goal = 50% of my books by and/or about POC)
LGBTQIA Challenge - 28/31
ReadPOC Challenge - 139/125
#MustReadin2016 - 23/54
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge - 79/100
Around the World with Books 2016

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Celebrating Exchange Students



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


This week I celebrate having exchange students. We hosted a student from Germany for ten months. We hosted a girl from Japan for one month. We hosted a boy from South Korea for 11 months. Now, we have a girl from Brazil staying with us for about 6 months.


Hosting students has been both a challenge and a blessing. It's a bit daunting to bring a stranger into our home knowing that we have committed to keeping them and parenting them too. At the same time it's also very exciting to meet someone new, find out about another culture and form relationships with them and their family.

Without sharing too much about our new student, I will just say that we are truly blessed to have her with us and I hope that we are able to make her stay here a positive learning experience.

We've spent the past few weeks getting to know each other and touring around our community. It's a great way to remind ourselves about why we've chosen to live here and what treasures are around us.


I feel almost like an advertisement for hosting exchange students, but it is certainly a life changing experience not only for the students, but for the families they stay with too. I'm glad we've had the opportunity to do this so many times.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

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. Cover images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

On the blogs:

Not much else happening as I took my youngest to college, helped my oldest move to a new apartment and got my new exchange student settled in along with training for an upcoming half marathon. Ack!

Last two weeks in books:
All three of these were for review. I had a final copy of Playing for the Devil's Fire and ARCs of Another Brooklyn and Labyrinth Lost. I'll review Playing for the Devil's Fire next week at Rich in Color. I enjoyed the story though it's a rough one. I'll review Another Brooklyn here soon. It was one that made me look to my own past. It also made me think. Labyrinth Lost was a fun adventure (see above for more) and was a great escape type of story.

My audio of the Nelson Mandela book expired for a second time and I still wasn't 3/4 of the way through so I am going to move on to something else for a while. My hold for the Chernow book about Hamilton was available so I'll try that until it expires before I can finish. I think audio books should definitely have a longer checkout time especially when they are so massively long.

The Coming Week: I've started reading A Wish Before Midnight for the Rich in Color book discussion coming soon. When I finish that, I'll move on to The Door at the Crossroads. With school meetings starting this week, that may be all I read. I'm enjoying the first one so far. Happy reading!

Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge - 424/550
Diversity on the Shelf 2016 - 191/225 (goal = 50% of my books by and/or about POC)
LGBTQIA Challenge - 27/31
ReadPOC Challenge - 136/125
#MustReadin2016 - 23/54
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge - 77/100
Around the World with Books 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016

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. Cover images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Group Book Discussion at Rich in Color


Last Week in Books:
 

I'm running off to Minneapolis to pick up our exchange student so I won't thoroughly review the books, but really enjoyed Save Me a Seat, Maxi's Secrets and Monsoon Diary. I had mixed feelings about the new Harry Potter book. Gifts, was interesting, but not enthralling. 

The Coming Week:
I'm still listening to A Long Walk to Freedom by Mandela. I just started reading the ARC of Jacqueline Woodson's newest book which is for adults. Since our exchange student is arriving today, my reading will likely slow down. Have a great week!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Review: The Last Cherry Blossom



Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Pages: 240
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review copy: Digital ARC via publisher
Availability: On shelves now

Summary: Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan's fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden from its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror. 

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

Review: The Last Cherry Blossom pulled me into the past and held me there from beginning to end. Yuriko and her family are living in wartime Japan and the author brings readers into their daily life. I thought that the book was mostly going to be about the bomb in Hiroshima, but the vast majority of the book is about life before the bomb. Readers get to see into the everyday activities and worries of children during the war. It was interesting to find out that in the media the government was narrating a story about the war that was inconsistent with what was actually happening. Though the news was announcing victories, you see the clues piling up that show a country at the end of its rope. There is no more metal for constructing more planes, they're looking for alternative fuel because they are running out and they have enough workers to be making more things, but there simply aren't enough supplies.

Aside from the war issues, Yuriko is slowly discovering secrets within her family. These secrets will shake her world. Fortunately, Yuriko has a good support system. I love seeing Yuriko's relationships with her family and with her best friend Machiko. Again, the author seemed to aim for showing everyday interactions and typical activities. I really got a sense of what life would have been like for a wealthy young Japanese girl during the war. With Machiko, we also got to see what it was like for someone with less money and standing. Machiko eventually has to start working in a factory by order of the government.

And then there is the bomb. Obviously, that is a disturbing part of the book. There is no way to make that day easy to recount. The fear, death, pain, and gruesomeness of such an event is evident. This is an ugly piece of history seen through the eyes of a young girl. War is terrifying and deadly. It's a truth expressed clearly through Yuriko's experiences. This would be an excellent book to use for discussion around war and how it affects the individual people in a country.

Readers may want to have some tissues handy, but Yuriko does have a bit of hope at the end which keeps it from being entirely overwhelming for sensitive readers.

Following the story, Burkinshaw provides an afterword explaining how the book came to be. It was loosely based on memories of her mother who grew up in Hiroshima and was twelve when the bomb was dropped. She also included a selected bibliography and information about the Japanese words in the book along with a glossary. One thing that had a big impact on me was the page of statistics. When I looked at the numbers after having been immersed in the lives of the people affected, I was overwhelmed. 80,000 people died immediately and 140,000+ died within the next five years. The loss of life is staggering.

Recommendation: This is an excellent choice for readers who enjoy historical fiction. It would be a great addition to classroom and school libraries especially if WWII is part of the curriculum and would be perfect for a book club or discussion group.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

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. Cover images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Last Week in Books:

My adult reading was a mix of poetry and professional. I really enjoy Joy Harjo's poetry. I'm glad I read her memoir first though because knowing a bit about her life helped with understanding some of the poems. Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings was a nice collection of poems.

The discipline book was okay. I think there may be better ones out there, but I found a few nuggets of wisdom in it to put into practice.


I hit the jackpot with middle grade this week. These were all excellent books. It Ain't So Awful Falafel took place in the late 70s and I really enjoyed that look back to my childhood. I lived in southern California during that time and remember many things that were mentioned in the book. The main character is from Iran and her family is living in California for her father's job, but they intend to return to their country when he finishes. While they are there though, many things are happening at home in Iran and the US is tied up in a lot of it. Things become dangerous for their family back in Iran and Zomorod (she goes by Cindy though) and her parents face a lot of difficult issues in the US too. I found Zomorod to be a fun character and I loved her voice. There were many historical things to explain, but the author was able to do this through many conversations so it didn't read like a textbook. Many of our students may not be aware that the US has been involved with Iran for many, many years. This may shed a little light on some of that history.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day is a book packed full of many things. There is a wonderful teacher, a great group of friends, a quest with adventure, humor, and a little sadness. I enjoy a good quest and I appreciated going along with the boys on their journey. I loved that the whole thing was an attempt to celebrate their teacher. I'd heard many good things about the book and I wasn't disappointed.

As Brave as You pretty much starts out with dog poop. Lovely right? It will be a good hook for some readers. Genie (short for Eugene) is with his brother at their grandparents' home and is learning a lot about his family and himself. It's a quiet kind of book with a lot to think about, but it also has enough humor to keep it from feeling slow. I loved getting to spend time with Genie and his family as they built their relationships.

The Coming Week:
I'm still listening to these two books, Gifts, and Long Walk to Freedom. I'm reading an ARC of The Last Cherry Blossom to review this week. I also just started an ARC of Maxi's Secrets, coincidentally another middle grade book beginning with dog poop. Monsoon Diary: A Memoir with Recipes just came in through ILL so I will need to get to that soon. I have a couple of books by Zetta Elliott that are waiting for me too so it looks like I have plenty to read. I hope you have a great week filled with wonderful books.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

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. Cover images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Recent Blog Posts



The Past Week in Books
In addition to the nonfiction picture books above, these were the best picture books of the week. When Penny Met POTUS is timely and is a fun way to talk about what POTUS means. Penny's mother works for POTUS, but that terminology throws Penny for a loop. She imagines all kinds of things to go with that word. The Stone Thrower is based on the story of Chuck Ealey who was an amazing quarterback, but because he was African-American, was unable to quarterback in the NFL at the time so he went to play for the CFL. Strangely enough I was unaware of the CFL until I saw a game on TV while I was in Toronto this summer. I couldn't for the life of me place the teams and the uniforms. The Airport Book is a fabulous look into airports. There is so much happening in the illustrations. There are stories within the pictures that aren't necessarily referenced in the text. It's one that can be read and re-read and more things pop out in the pictures. It's got a look-and-find quality to it. There are lots of things to find if you are paying attention. I appreciated the diversity shown in the airport too. Lisa Brown has included many types of travelers.

A Big Dose of Lucky is part of a series. There are seven girls in an orphanage and they end up going their separate ways. Each book tells one girls' story. This one is about Malou and yes, eventually you do find out about her name. Malou is the only black girl in the orphanage outside a small town in southeast Ontario. She has only one clue about her parentage and she has to decide if she will investigate her birth family or not. It was quite interesting to see the ways in which race was a factor in Canada in the midst of the U.S. civil rights era.

Peas and Carrots was also about a young girl without her family. She is a teenage white girl who has a younger brother who is biracial. He is with an African-American foster family and then Dess joins them too. Dess has a pretty hard shell, but this is a family who has kindness as their mantra even if the teen daughter, Hope, has a hard time being kind when all Dess does is insult her. It got a few tears out of me.

I really enjoyed the memoir Crazy Brave by Joy Harjo. I had only read her children's books before so it was nice to get to know her a little through this book. She includes her story, some of her dreams, and a few poems. Here are the children's books I've read and enjoyed in the past.


The Coming Week:
I'm listening to a CD of Gifts by Ursula Le Guin whenever I'm in my car. I'm listening to Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela on my phone. I am reading the hardcopy of Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems by Joy Harjo and I started a professional development book called Discipline with Dignity for one of my summer classes. I have Rhythm Ride waiting for me at the library so will likely start that this week too. I wish you a great week!

Reading Challenge Updates:
Goodreads Challenge - 408/550
Diversity on the Shelf 2016 - 183/225 (goal = 50% of my books by and/or about POC)
LGBTQIA Challenge - 26/31
ReadPOC Challenge - 125/125
#MustReadin2016 - 21/54
Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge - 71/100
Around the World with Books 2016