Sunday, August 23, 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:
Since school is about to start up again, I tried to get caught up on my reviews so there were several posted this week.

I reviewed Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile along with Rock & Roll Highway

Over at Rich in Color, I also reviewed Written in the Stars

I read a lot of books, so I am going to post the covers and if you want to know more about them, please visit my Goodreads shelf.



Reading Challenge Updates:
Diversity on the Shelf/Diverse Books - 151/100
Goodreads - 352/520
#MustRead2015 - 39/53
Diversity Reading Challenge - 12/12

The Coming Week:
I have several books coming through the library that I am looking forward to: Enchanted Air by Engle and two more Pura Belpre books. I also have an adult book Neither Wolf Nor Dog. I will be trying to move into my new library space though so depending on how much longer they take to get it ready, I may have more or way less time to read. We will see. Have a great week of reading.


Discover. Play. Build.

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.

My celebration this week is that I am back to running. Last September I had an injury and I slowed down with my running, but by October I had to stop completely. I tried to run again a few times, but things didn't work out.

I went through physical therapy and other medical interventions, but wasn't able to get back to running again until the end of last month. Most of the time I'm running with a team that does both yoga and running together. We always start or end with yoga. We're training together for The Mini Donut Half Marathon.

The run has a specific focus "We will remember Mike Olson and also raise money for the Joe Was Just Joe Foundation, a local non-profit organization founded to develop and fund programs and educational resources to address issues related to suicide. We will also use the opportunity to raise awareness for suicide and mental health issues and honor all of our loved ones, both living and passed, who have suffered from depression and thoughts of suicide." This is the perfect event for me since I lost my father to suicide 18 years ago.

I have run just over fifty miles in the past few weeks in preparation for the fun in a few weeks. Some of the miles have been hilarious as we chat, some have been grueling in the heat, some have had lovely scenery and some miles have been boring. I'm just really happy that my body is cooperating.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Review: Estas manos: Manitas de mi familia/These Hands: My Family's Hands

Title: Estas manos: Manitas de mi familia/These Hands: My Family's Hands
Author: Samuel Caraballo
Illustrator: Shawn Costello
Publisher: Piñata Books
Pages: 32
Language: Bilingual - Spanish/English
Review Copy: Final copy from publisher
Availability: On shelves now

Summary via publisher's website: In this heart-warming ode to family, the young narrator compares the hands of family members to plants in the natural world. “Your hands, the most tender hands! / When I’m scared, / They soothe me,” she says to her mother. The girl compares her mother’s hands to rose petals, which represent tenderness in Latin America.

Her father’s hands are strong like the mahogany tree; her siblings’ friendly like the blooming oak tree. Grandma Inés’ are the happiest hands, like tulips that tickle and hug tightly. And Grandpa Juan’s are the wisest, like the ceiba tree, considered by many indigenous peoples of Latin America to be the tree of life and wisdom and the center of the universe. His are the hands that teach his granddaughter how to plant and care for the earth and how to play the conga drum.

She promises to give back all the love they have always given her, “Dad, when your feet get tired, / My hands will not let you fall.” Samuel Caraballo’s poetic text is combined with Shawn Costello’s striking illustrations depicting loving relationships between family members. An author’s note about Latin American symbols will introduce children both to the natural world and the idea that one thing can represent another.

Review: This a beautiful tribute to the love between family members. A young girl speaks of how the hands of her family members provide many things for her. She then shares the ways she will reciprocate with her own hands when she is older. The narrator compares hands to plants and flowers. I appreciated the author's note explaining the symbolism and it's roots in Latin America. It would be interesting to read this book in school with older readers and follow up by researching the many ways that people have used the "language of flowers" over time. There are many places online that explain various meanings assigned to different flowers. Students could then write about the hands of their own family members.

The illustrations are gorgeous and show the loving hands and the ways they nurture and care for each other. The paintings are vibrant and radiate peace, joy and love. They also enhance the quiet reflective atmosphere of the text.

My only quibble is that the pages with text seem to be more rigid than the full page illustrations. The pages with text break the mood a bit even with the small square painting in between the Spanish and English text. It is a little boxy when compared to the flowing and relaxed pictures.

Still, the text and illustrations together create a reading experience that celebrates family love. It brought me into a peaceful and contemplative space. It would be a lovely story for bedtime.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Review: Elephant in the Dark

Title: Elephant in the Dark [Based on a poem by Rumi]
Retelling by: Mina Javaherbin
Illustrator: Eugene Yelchin
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Review copy: ARC from publisher
Availability: August 25, 2015

Summary: A bold, humorous rendition of "The Three Blind Men and the Elephant", magnificently illustrated by an award-winning artist!

When the villagers hear of a huge and mysterious creature that has come all the way from India, they steal into the dark barn to find out what it is.

"It's like a snake!" says one.
"It's like a tree trunk," says another.
"No, it's like a fan!" argues the third.

Who is right? Which of them knows the creature's true shape?

Mina Javaherbin's charming and witty retelling combined with Eugene Yelchin's refreshingly brilliant illustrations bring this enlightened classic, inspired by Rumi's poem, vividly to life.

Review: Many people are familiar with the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. This is a fun new way to experience that tale. Mina Javaherbin has retold the story based on a poem written by Rumi about 750 years ago. The message is timeless and will have readers chuckling too.

The first thing I noticed about the book was the rich illustrations. To see several samples, visit Eugene Yelchin's page here. Yelchin used a wide variety of patterns and textures in each spread. There are so many things to see. I found the many different textures to be fascinating. There are also pages that are simple and streamlined. When the text focuses on one aspect of the elephant, the illustrations are narrowed in to that one thing and the background is plain. There are no distractions on those pages.

In the illustrator's note at the end Yelchin explained that he got his inspiration from Persian miniature painters. His own style is there, but the illustrations are clearly influenced by Persian art work from years past.

In their notes at the end, both the artist and writer speak of the meaning of this story and how it relates to their own lives. That is the best part about this story. It can speak a truth to readers of all kinds. This book will be one many people can easily connect with and share. Teachers could also use it effectively during fable units or when discussing point of view.

Elephant in the Dark is an upbeat and fun way to discuss different perspectives and points of view. I look forward to sharing it with staff and students.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction. I am thankful that she has this challenge because I know I have read more nonfiction texts as a result.

Picture Book Biographies

I love learning about how people have lived and finding out about their passions. These two books show two people who cared deeply about something and shaped their lives around that one thing. 

Written by Gloria Houston & Illustrated by Susan Condie Lamb

Goodreads summary: When Dorothy was a young girl, she loved books, and she loved people, so she decided that she would become a librarian.

Dorothy's dearest wish is to be a librarian in a fine brick library just like the one she visited when she was small. But her new home in North Carolina has valleys and streams but no libraries, so Miss Dorothy and her neighbors decide to start a bookmobile. Instead of people coming to a fine brick library, Miss Dorothy can now bring the books to them —at school, on the farm, even once in the middle of a river!

Miss Dorothy and Her Bookmobile is an inspiring story about the love of books, the power of perseverance, and how a librarian can change people's lives.

My thoughts:  Obviously, with a librarian as the focus, this book will be capturing the attention of librarians. Miss Dorothy ends up living in a place without a public library. She can't even imagine not having books available for everyone. She sets about changing that situation.

Miss Dorothy didn't have the ideal situation for a library, but she used what she had to share her love of reading with the people in her community. Even without a big physical library like the one she grew up visiting, she made it work. The author was one of the school children able to check out library books because of Miss Dorothy

I think children will be fascinated with the idea of a library on wheels and can't help but imagine what that would be like. This would be great paired with My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World by Margriet Ruurs or Waiting for the Biblioburro by Monica Brown & John Parra.


Written by Sebastian Robertson & Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Goodreads summary: Canadian guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson is known mainly for his central role in the musical group the Band. But how did he become one of Rolling Stone's top 100 guitarists of all time? Written by his son, Sebastian, this is the story of a rock-and-roll legend's journey through music, beginning when he was taught to play guitar at nine years old on a Native American reservation. Rock and Roll Highway is the story of a young person's passion, drive, and determination to follow his dream.

My thoughts: Robbie was a young man in love with music. He played the guitar practically non-stop. He even slept with it. If he woke in the night, he would play even then. With such a consuming fire for the guitar and music in general, Robbie put in hours and hours of practice to become an amazing musician. This book shares the story of how he made his way to a group called the Band. They became world famous and have been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also went on to have a solo career.

The book includes a narrative followed by a wonderfully thorough timeline and an interview with the author. The narrative was mostly choronological, but started with the final performance of the Band and shared how they got to that point. The interview was quite interesting and I'm glad that they included photographs from Robbie's life in both the timeline and interview.

One confusing thing was the headings. I didn't realize that they were song titles and lyrics. They don't always go with the narrative. Like "Stage Fright" was the heading above the section that described Robbie's first major public performance. There was nothing in the text indicating that he was afraid prior to performing. In the interview where they discussed Robbie having stage fright later in his life and the song he wrote about it. That's when I realized the headings were songs. I looked up a few and some are from lyrics too. I thought it was a little clunky because my brain would try to figure out how the headings and the text were related and sometimes it was only very loosely. This may not bother most readers and may have been done for readers to discover on their own.

I was fascinated by Robbie's story and wanted to know more about him. Fortunately, there are many videos of performances and lots of information about him online. I would have liked to see resources provided, but readers will likely head to the Internet, as I did while reading, and will find things on their own. I'm happy to have this book in our collection because it is hard to find picture book biographies that are about contemporary Native people. Robbie's mother is Mohawk and that is pointed out in the narrative. Some of his later music explores his Native roots and is mentioned in the timeline. Debbie Reese shared a great review of the book on her blog  American Indians in Children's Literature

I would highly recommend both of these picture book biographies and I look forward to sharing them with students.

Sunday, August 16, 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.

Past Two Weeks:
I am reporting on two full weeks so I will just hit the highlights.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz 

This will be published soon and was an ARC I received from the publisher. The Hired Girl is a fabulous young adult book that I will be recommending like crazy to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. My full review is here.

Billy's Booger had me laughing out loud in the airport bookstore. It is a picture book memoir (sorta) about Billy writing a book back in fourth grade. Whether or not it is strictly fiction or non-fiction is rather beside the point. It will still work well with our fourth grade unit on memoirs. It is hilarious.

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music
Written by Margarita Engle & Illustrated by Rafael López

The illustrations in this one are gorgeous. The colors are vibrant and energetic. This is a wonderful book that shares a true story of a young girl who loved drums and challenged gender rules to play them.

Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

Written in the Stars is an amazing book and will share more when I review it on Rich in Color next week.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Infidel was by far the most controversial book I read in the past weeks. Ayaan Hirsi Ali shares her personal history and the shaping of her beliefs over her lifetime. She was raised in a Muslim family and shares how her beliefs changed over time. The memoir expresses her deep concerns with the rigidity of Islam and the damage women have experienced as a result of some of the teachings. I don't necessarily agree with all that she says, but definitely appreciate her right to say these things and appreciate her courage in the face of threats and opposition. 

Reading Challenge Updates:
Diversity on the Shelf/Diverse Books - 137/100
Goodreads - 320/520
#MustRead2015 - 35/53
Diversity Reading Challenge - 12/12

The Coming Week:
I'm reading the graphic novel March Book 2. I have a few books from my #MustReadin2015 shelf on order from the library so will likely get to them too.  Ms. Marvel is also at the library for me. This will be my last full week before going back to work so I'm hoping to do a lot of reading. I hope you have a great week!

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Discover. Play. Build.

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.

I didn't post a celebration last weekend because I was out celebrating. Frequent flyer miles had accumulated over the past ten years and a visit to my grandmother was in order.

Gram moved to Florida more than a year ago and I hadn't seen her since a little before that.  We had four fun-filled days together.

Gram is a special woman. She's been on this earth for 90 years now so she can tell you a thing or two and you best listen.

One of my favorite experiences was meeting the manatees. My cousin took us to see them. We had our feet in the water and several manatees swam over to snuffle around our toes. Feeling their whiskers and breath on my feet was startling and wondrous. What made it even better was hearing Gram's giggles.

Time like this with special people is priceless.