Monday, June 30, 2014

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 shelfImages via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Reading from the Past Week:

I just got back from an extended weekend in Chicago so didn't have much time to post this. I am fairly exhausted so will just say that I really enjoyed Naked!,  Manhunt, My Abuelita, and The Game of Let's Go though there were many that were fantastic.

The Coming Week:

These are the books that I am currently reading. I will be reading some of the Printz books and some of the Pura Belpré books too. I just got Sarah Kay's new book No Matter the Wreckage last night when we went to hear her and will likely read that. Since it's poetry I will likely take my time and savor it. Have a great week of reading!

Saturday, June 28, 2014


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 day. Here are some of my celebrations from the week in no particular order.

One of my finger paintings
* A friend and I had a "play date" this week. We used finger paints and watercolors to make some fun art together. We had candles lit near our working spaces and it was super relaxing.

* I got the garage and the refrigerator cleaned out. These were rather huge chores because I took things apart and got really picky about it all. I love to do a thorough cleaning periodically. Afterwards, opening the doors and looking at the shininess and organization gives me a burst of happiness.

* I have also spent many hours outside pulling weeds and taking care of plants. All of the cleaning and taking care of things is difficult at the time, but is so satisfying once it is accomplished. I have enjoyed checking things off of my "to do" list.

* My daughter sent some pictures of her trip to Japan. It looks like she is having a wonderful time. I worry about her while she is there, but it's also very exciting to realize all that she is getting to experience and it will be so wonderful to hear about her trip when she returns in a few weeks.

* I don't usually watch sports on tv, but have had a great time watching World Cup games with friends and family.

I hope that you also have found many things to celebrate this week. Have a great weekend.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Poetry Friday

This weekend I am planning to go see Sarah Kay in Chicago. I love her spoken word poetry. Here is one of the poems from her recent book No Matter the Wreckage.

Here is the first poem I ever heard from Sarah Kay. In this one, she is doing what I would call a poetry duet with Phil Kaye.

At some point in the past, Sarah created a Youtube playlist that highlights some of the spoken word poets who have influenced her own work. It's pretty cool. 

Finally, I also found a helpful book this week, Picture Yourself Writing Poetry.

It has some fantastic writing prompts that are tied to the photographs in the book. Laura Purdie Salas also offers some sample poems and many excellent suggestions for writing poetry inspired by photos. 

Here is a photo that I took a while back as a train passed by me. I am attempting to use it as a prompt. I've started brainstorming words, but don't have a poem yet. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Nonfiction Picturebook Challenge

Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday.

I've started to work on reading all of the Pura Belpré Award winner and honor books. All of the following except the Dolores Huerta biography have received a Pura Belpré award or honor. The cover images are from IndieBound.

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Yuyi Morales won the award for illustration in 2004. The text tells a bit about the childhood of Chavez, but mostly focuses on his activism and non-violent fight for the rights of farmworkers. This would be a great book to pair with Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren. I had heard of Chavez, but until recently didn't even know that Dolores Huerta existed. That may be partly because as in Harvesting Hope, she was not mentioned, yet she worked closely with Chavez and was also instrumental in improving conditions for migrant workers.

Both books would be great in a biography or civil rights unit. Yuyi Morales provides a fantastic teacher's guide to go along with Harvesting Hope. I would be remiss though if I didn't also include a mention of César: ¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can! by Carmen T. Bernier Grand.

It is an amazing book of biographical poetry that would also pair well with Harvesting Hope.

George Ancona is an expert at photo essays. The photographs are always full of life and brilliant color and ¡Ole! flamenco was no exception. I was surprised to learn that flamenco is actually not only Spanish. I knew it was from Spain, but didn't know that the Roma people were part of the creation of flamenco. Ancona provides background on the Roma. I haven't really ever seen that history provided in children's lit in the past. He mentions them as Roma initially, but then tends to use the term Gypsies more frequently throughout. That was a bit of a disappointment for me as I would rather stick with Roma, but he wrote respectfully. 

The photographs of dancers, singers, and musicians, had music rolling through my head and my feet itching to dance. I can just see students wanting to try it out with some music. That reminds me that I have a friend who studied flamenco. Perhaps she could visit and teach us a few moves. We will have to at least watch a video like this one:

The author did an interview over at Lee and Low if you want to know more about this beautiful book.

Monday, June 23, 2014

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 shelfImages via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.


Previous Week:

It's a brief recap today. The ones I really, really liked: Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story, Grandfather's Journey, Baby Flo, and Tea with Milk. My Heartbeat and The Red Pencil were also quite good. A Rule is to Break was quite funny though I had mixed feelings about it. Many of the others were okay too, but didn't quite zing as much. 

I did enjoy several of the poems from Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice. Here is one of them.

The Coming Week:
Currently Reading
I will probably read The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano after those and a few Printz books. I had started working on the Caldecotts again, but may focus on the Pura Belpre books instead since they would go toward my Diversity on the Shelf Challenge and the Latin@s in Kid Lit Challenge also. Besides, I only have about 60 more to read for that unlike the 150+ for the Caldecotts. I love that summer offers so many opportunities for reading. What are you reading this week?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Review: Let's Salsa/Bailemos Salsa

Title: Let's Salsa/Bailemos Salsa
Author: Lupe Ruiz-Flores
Illustrator: Robert Casilla
Publisher: Arte Publico Press
Pages: 32
Review Copy: Supplied by Publisher
Availability: On Shelves Now

Summary: Estela can’t help but giggle when she sees her neighbors, Doña Rosa and Doña Maria, shaking their hips while dancing and sweating at an exercise class at the community recreation center. A few days later, when her mother complains about gaining weight, Estella encourages her to join the class.

Every day after school, Estela enjoys watching the women dance to the rhythmic music. And she’s especially thrilled when the instructor invites her to join them in dancing salsa. “Salsa? That’s what it’s called? I thought salsa was to eat with chips!”

But one day, kids are banned from the class, and Estella is forced to go to a boring crafts class instead. She’d much rather be dancing! So when Estella learns that women had to fight to gain the right to vote, she decides she’ll petition for kids’ rights to enjoy salsa dance classes at the community center!

In this bilingual picture book for children ages 5-9, a young girl learns that dancing is good for fun and fitness, and that even kids can change the way things are done. -- Cover image and summary via Arte Publico Press website

Review: The title of this book caught my attention since I attend dance classes every week and part of that time we are salsa dancing. In the story, Estela hears the music and sees how much fun the dancers are having and she convinces her mother to get involved. Of course Estela wants to try it too.

What I really liked about the book is that when Estela is faced with a challenge, she uses what she has learned from school about activism and goes after what she wants. Several grades in our school focus on how people can make a difference. Teachers have asked me many times for books about young people making a difference in the world so this will be another I can hand them.

Strangely enough, just last Wednesday at my adult dance class, one of my fourth grade students from school was hanging out at the door watching our class. The instructor invited her in and she had a blast. I know that it is part of the adult programming so I am curious to see if we will end up with a similar situation as that in the book if she continues to dance with us. This is a very realistic type of issue.

I look forward to sharing this book with teachers and students. It's definitely a book that has a distinct message about healthy habits and making a difference, but it is also fun. I plan to share salsa music and teach some steps to my students when I read this one aloud and I am sure we will have a fantastic time.

Saturday, June 21, 2014


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 day. Here are some of my celebrations from the week in no particular order.

Dad and Daughter at airport before flight
* My sixteen year old daughter safely got herself to Japan and met up with her exchange family. Obviously, this was also a source of some stress, but I was proud of her for making her connecting flight and navigating customs alone. It's difficult to send our child that far away on her own, but she is living a dream that she's had for many years and I'm so happy for her. We get her back in about a month and she will bring her exchange sister here. It's all pretty exciting.

* Since school is out, I finally had time to take the dog to the groomer. He looks so much cooler now with a super short summer cut. While he was being groomed, I got to sit on a bench facing the Mississippi and read a book - very relaxing.

* I had our first summer checkout. Children used iPads, played checkers, read books, and checked out many books. It was a fun time.

* I also spent some time in the library doing some weeding. I've gotten to the letter N in the picture book section. Whew! I had some nice music playing and yes, once in a while I have to read a book to see if I want to keep it or not. That makes perfect sense right? :)

* We've had some amazingly loud and windy storms during the nights this week which freaks out my dog, but we've also had beautiful days. Eating breakfast on the back porch has been a treat. I get to listen to so many birds and watch them at the feeder. The sun has been warmly shining on me, but there is always a cool gentle breeze too.

I hope you are having many moments to celebrate. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Franklin School Friends

Title: Kelsey Green, Reading Queen (Franklin School Friends #1)
Author: Claudia Mills
Illustrator: Rob Shepperson
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
Pages: 128
Review Copy: From Publisher
Availability: On Shelves Now

Summary: Kelsey Kline is the best reader in the third grade--well, maybe tied for best with know-it-all Simon Ellis. When the principal Mr. Boone announces  a school-wide reading contest, complete with a pizza party for the winning class and a special certificate for the top readers in each grade, she knows she's just the person to lead Mrs. Molina's third graders to victory. But how can they win when her classmate Cody Harmon doesn't want to read anything, and even Kelsey's best friends Annika and Izzy don't live up to her expectations? And could Simon possibly be reading all of those books that he claims he is, or is he lying to steal Kelsey's rightful spot at the top?

Review: This is a realistic fiction series that is just the right length for beginning chapter book readers. There are illustrations scattered here and there and the font is a nice size for young readers too. In each of the books in this series one of the group of friends will be the focus. The first friend to be featured is Kelsey. Her strength and passion is reading. In this first book, we see what happens when Kelsey participates in the school reading contest. She gets so focused on winning, that she loses sight of everything else in her life including family, friends, and even fun.

There are some bonuses at the end of the story. There is a list of books read by Kelsey's class,  a list of fun facts about books, reading and libraries, and interviews with both the author and illustrator.

I love reading and I want to encourage reading as much as possible, but I have to say that a reading contest like this kind of put me off a bit. I don't think that would necessarily be a problem with students reading the book, but it did make me a little uncomfortable as a teacher. I was not always impressed with the educational decisions of the adults in the book, but again, I don't think all young readers would have that same reaction. Later I read in Claudia Mills' curriculum guide for the series, "I hope the book shares the fun of reading contests, but also raises some doubts about them."

Overall, it is a fun school based book that has plenty of third-grade drama and silliness along with friendship themes. I think it will be a hit with second and third grade students- especially those who are excited about reading.

Title: Annika Riz, Math Whiz (Franklin School Friends #2)
Author: Claudia Mills
Illustrator: Rob Shepperson
Publisher: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux
Pages: 128
Review Copy: ARC from Publisher
Availability: On Shelves Now

Summary: Annika Riz loves math more than anything. She's trying to teach her dog, Prime, to count. She's determined to beat fellow math whiz Simon Ellis in a Sudoku contest at the public library. She even sleeps under number-patterned sheets. But Annika's best friends Kelsey and Izzy think math is boring. All they care about is the upcoming school carnival: their principal is going to be dunked in a dunking tank and their class is going to have a booth selling home-baked cookies. But then disaster foils the friends' cookie-baking plans. Can math save the day?

Review: I enjoy math, but reading is definitely has more of my heart so I wasn't sure how this book would work for me. I actually enjoyed Annika Riz more than the first in the series though. Again, some of the decisions of the educators in the book had me frowning, but not as much as in Kelsey Green.

Annika's house is filled with math since her father is a high school math teacher and her mother is an accountant. They even have a dog they named Prime after prime numbers, which Annika explains for readers. The salt and pepper shakers in the shape of three and four were also a nice touch.

Another part that I enjoyed was the baking fiascos. I spend a lot of time baking cookies and have had all kinds of disasters over the years. The girls have many chances to make the cookies, but each time they find some new way to mix things up. Like in the first book, readers see plenty of third-grade drama with school, friendship and keeping perspective as main themes.

I am a runner, so I look forward to reading the book that will highlight Izzy. There aren't a whole lot of books out there for younger readers that focus on running. It's nice to have another series for young readers.  -- Cover images and summaries via Goodreads

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. This week I read quite a few of the new biographies of women that I bought for my elementary library. Unless otherwise noted, the images and summaries are from IndieBound.

Title: Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story
Author: Paula Yoo
Illustrator: Lin Wang
Publisher: Lee and Low

Summary: Born in 1905, Anna May Wong spent her childhood working in her family's laundry in Los Angeles s Chinatown. Whenever she could afford it, Anna May slipped off to the movies, escaping to a world of adventure, glamour, and excitement. After seeing a movie being filmed in her neighborhood, young Anna May was hooked. She decided she would become a movie star.

Anna May struggled to pursue an acting career in Hollywood in the 1930s. There were very few roles for Asian Americans, and many were demeaning and stereotypical. Anna May made the most of each limited part. She worked hard and always gave her best performance. Finally, after years of unfulfilling roles, Anna May began crusading for more meaningful roles for herself and other Asian American actors. 

Anna May Wong the first Chinese American movie star was a pioneer of the cinema. Her spirited determination in the face of discrimination is an inspiration to all who must overcome obstacles so that their dreams may come true."

My thoughts: I really appreciate learning about people who have done amazing things. I am so happy to find biographies that shed light on people that I may otherwise have missed. Anna May was a persistent person and she was also a trailblazer. In her time, and unfortunately sometimes still today, Asian characters were usually played by non-Asians. She had to compromise early in career and take parts she didn't necessarily like, but later she stood her ground and only took positive roles. She fought for change. This would be an excellent book to introduce when talking about racism or white washing in the media. It is also simply a very interesting biography.

Title: Flying Solo: How Ruth Elder Soared Into America's Heart
Author: Julie Cummins
Illustrator: Malene R. Laugesen
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Summary: In 1927, airplanes were a thrilling but dangerous novelty. Most people, men and women, believed that a woman belonged in the kitchen and not in a cockpit. One woman, Ruth Elder, set out to prove them wrong by flying across the Atlantic Ocean. Ruth didn't make it, crashing spectacularly, but she flew right into the spotlight and America's heart. This is the story of a remarkable woman who chased her dreams with grit and determination, and whose appetite for adventure helped pave the way for future generations of female flyers.

My thoughts: There have been many books about women flying, but I never really get tired of them. I love seeing Ruth's spunk. It's also fun to see that even as she was doing these dangerous things, she still enjoyed evening gowns and dressing up. I especially enjoyed the spread at the end that highlights many other women pilots and there is information about them in the author's note which is thorough and informative.

Title: Baby Flo
Author: Alan Schroeder
Illustrator: Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
Publisher: Lee and Low

Summary: Straight up: Florence was a remarkable child, and that’s a fact. 

Pint-sized dynamo “Baby Florence” Mills was singing and dancing just about as soon as she could talk and walk. She warbled a tune while her mama did laundry. Everywhere Flo went, she strutted through the streets of Washington, D.C. with a high-steppin’ cakewalk. Flo’s mama and daddy knew they had a budding entertainer in the family, so they entered Florence in a talent contest. Baby Flo went on to become an international superstar during the Harlem Renaissance—but first she had to overcome a case of stage fright and discover that winning wasn’t everything. 

Here is the spirited story of that spunky young girl learning to chase her dreams with confidence. A sensation in her time, Baby Flo is back, dancing and singing her way into hearts and history.

My thoughts: I loved seeing the joy Flo found in singing and dancing. It reminded me of Josephine Baker. Florence Mills appears to have had a flat out love of singing. It's fun to see a child succeeding and having fun while accomplishing her goals. The book was very upbeat and the story concluded while Flo was still young. The author's note tells about the rest of her life. While it was mostly positive, I found the end of her life rather tragic as she died at thirty-one. The photograph that shows thousands of people at her funeral definitely shows that she touched many people's hearts and lives.  

Title: Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala-Ša, Native American Author, Musician and Activist
Authors: Gina Capaldi & Q.L. Pearce
Illustrator: Gina Capaldi
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books

Summary: This is a picture book biography of Zitkala-Ša, born Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a Native American woman at the turn of the nineteenth century. Zitkala-Ša was a writer, editor, musician, teacher, and political activist in a time when even basic education was uncommon among Native Americans.

My thoughts: I really appreciated finding this biography of a Yankton Sioux woman. It is great to see her strength, persistence, and her contributions to the world. Through this book, readers learn a bit about what it was like for Zitkala-Ša to be separated from her family and culture while she was educated at a residential school. We see the conflict as she learns the white ways and begins to lose her feeling of belonging with her family and culture. Books, music and writing were places that she found comfort. 

In adulthood, Zitkala-Ša worked for equality for women and Native Americans. She became an activist and supported American Indian issues. She also received national acclaim for her writing and music. 

The book made me want to read Zitkala-Ša's own works though. I wondered a few times about the word choice I was seeing - whether they were her own or those of the authors since the authors note explains that they have "reworked her language and substituted modern phrasing for clarity." One example of this is on pg. 21 when she was giving a speech and the text says, "I spoke of the noble Indian and urged my audience to accept us as equals." It's not necessarily a big thing, but I wondered if she used the phrase "noble Indian." It is possible since that is a phrasing that was often used. Another instance is p. 14 when the text says, "I was neither a small girl nor a tall one, neither a wild Indian or a tame one." These instances definitely made me curious to find her own words. Besides, she won awards for her speeches and writing, so I am wanting to experience the real deal now.  -- Cover image and summary via Goodreads

I am happy to have all of these illuminating biographies available for my students and am excited to share them next year.

Monday, June 16, 2014

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 shelfImages via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

The Past Week:

I reviewed several of these for my Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge post on Wednesday. I really enjoyed the nonfiction picture books that I have been reading. I bought a lot of biographies about women right before school ended and I am making my way through many of them. It's fun to learn about so many women who pushed beyond what was expected of them.

I will review Landline a bit later, but did enjoy it. Maggot Moon was for the Printz Challenge and wasn't one of my favorites. Kendra was another good one from Coe Booth. All in all it was a good week for reading. My summer break started this week and I am looking forward to more and more reading. 

The Coming Week:

I'm about half way through The Ropemaker which is another one for the Printz Challenge. After that one I will only have 25 remaining. I have also started The Red Pencil. After those are finished, I have an entire box of books that I brought home from school that I will begin to tackle. You should see the smile on my face as I think about it. Have a wonderful week of reading!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Celebrate This Week

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 day. Here are some of my celebrations from the week in no particular order.

* School ended on a good note and we are off to our summer adventures. We had beautiful weather for our field day and our last day of the school year picnic also. There were hugs, smiles and lots of positive comments floating around our building.

* My daughter and I have just about finished all of the preparations and shopping for her trip to Japan this coming Monday. Shopping is not something that I truly enjoy, but it has been nice to spend time together before she leaves for a month.

* The paperwork is wrapping up for our exchange students. We will have a Japanese student coming to stay with us when my daughter returns from Japan and she will stay for about a month. We also have a South Korean student coming at the end of July. He will stay with us for the whole school year. It's tedious to take care of the papers, but it is also a bit exciting to think about the visits.

* My husband is having a birthday and we are celebrating Father's Day too. So this means special dinners and cake and fun food. It also means time together as a family before our daughter leaves.

* I am getting focused on my running. I am signed up to run in a RAGNAR race. I am part of a team of 12 women who will run in a relay format from Winona to Minneapolis (204 miles). We are about 9 weeks out so training is starting to get serious now. I love to have something motivating me to work just a little harder.

I hope you have lots of celebrations in the coming week.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge

Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Non-fiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. This week I was working on my Latin@s in Kid Lit reading challenge so all of these books are written by a Latin@ author and/or have a Latin@ focus. All images and summaries are via IndieBound.

Author: George Ancona

Summary: Want to grow what you eat and eat what you grow? Visit this lively, flourishing school-andcommunity garden and be inspired to cultivate your own. At an elementary school in Santa Fe, the bell rings for recess and kids fly out the door to check what’s happening in their garden. As the seasons turn, everyone has a part to play in making the garden flourish. From choosing and planting seeds in the spring to releasing butterflies in the summer to harvesting in the fall to protecting the beds for the winter. Even the wiggling worms have a job to do in the compost pile! On special afternoons and weekends, neighborhood folks gather to help out and savor the bounty (fresh toppings for homemade pizza, anyone?). Part celebration, part simple how-to, this close-up look at a vibrant garden and its enthusiastic gardeners is blooming with photos that will have readers ready to roll up their sleeves and dig in.

My Thoughts: Last year I read this review on the blog The Nonfiction Detectives. From their review I believed that this would be an excellent book for our school since we have a school garden also. I immediately purchased it, but didn't get around to reading it until this week. It's Our Garden combines simple yet informative text with fantastic photos and crayon illustrations created by the students. It is a gorgeous book that demonstrates the work, benefits and excitement of having a school garden. I can see this being a great introduction for our younger students before they begin working in the garden. It would pair well with Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table.

Title: Frida
Author: Jonah Winter
Illustrator: Ana Juan

Summary: This long-awaited companion to Jonah Winter's acclaimed DIEGO features the paintings of young Spanish artist, Ana Juan. This stunning picture book is the perfect gift for art enthusiasts of all ages. When her mother was worn out from caring for her five sisters, her father gave her lessons in brushwork and color. When polio kept her bedridden for nine months, drawing saved her from boredom. When a bus accident left her in unimaginable agony, her paintings expressed her pain and depression - and eventually, her joys and her loves. Over and over again, Frida Kahlo turned the challenges of her life into art. Now Jonah Winter and Ana Juan have drawn on both the art and the life to create a playful, insightful tribute to one of the twentieth century's most influential artists. Viva Frida! 

My Thoughts: I loved the fancifulness in the illustrations. The illustrator explained that she used elements from Mexican folk art that Frida would have seen in her childhood. It gave the story an added bit of creativity that seemed in keeping with Frida's own imagination. For me the illustrations take this book to a higher level. They really are unique and surreal. 

The author did an excellent job of explaining her very complex life in a way that young children can understand. He also kept it rated G. He described a woman who flourished despite the hardships she endured. The author's note included this line, "She has specifically been an inspiration to women artists, who have found in Kahlo's strength, courage, and pizzazz an example of how to thrive as a woman in an art world dominated by men." I ran across an interview with the author. The focus isn't this book, but definitely delves into why he chooses to focus on famous people of color in his books. It was a fascinating read.

Illustrator: John Parra

Summary: In this lively picture book, children discover a world of shapes all around them: rectangles are ice-cream carts and stone metates, triangles are slices of watermelon and quesadillas. Many of the featured objects are Latino in origin, and all are universal in appeal. With rich, boisterous illustrations, a fun-to-read rhyming text, and an informative glossary, this playful concept book will reinforce the shapes found in every child's day!

My Thoughts: This is a bouncy rhyming book that offers examples of many different shapes. The examples are often part of Latin@ culture and are usually fun. It does include a glossary of the Spanish words used in the text in case a reader is not certain about the meaning though usually the illustrations assist with that. This will be a concept book that will be great to use in the primary grades. I can't wait to share it.

Author/Illustrator: Duncan Tonatiuh

Summary: Almost 10 years before "Brown vs. Board of Education," Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a "Whites only" school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

My Thoughts: This is a very important part of our history that is not often discussed. Students may hear of Brown vs. Board of Education, but this happened earlier and in some ways paved the way for that ruling. I knew of this case before, but I taught in California or I probably wouldn't have. The story is well told and includes many details that add a lot. To find out that there were signs in business that said, "No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed" could be eye-opening for many readers. 

Tonatiuh explains that many people pulled together from all around the country to help desegregate the schools in California. These people included the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Japanese American Citizens League, and the American Jewish Congress among others. I love the quote attributed to Felícitas, Sylvia's mother, "Cuando la causa es justa, los demás te siguen. When you fight for justice, others will follow" (p 33).

As I was reading though, I was thinking about the project that Michelle Norris has been tweeting about, Segregation Now, that has investigated the resurgence of segregated schools. I wondered if this book would have students thinking that segregation happened a long time ago and then it was stopped forever. That might be true if readers stop with the story, but in his author's note, Tonatiuh addresses the fact that unfortunately this fight is still relevant. That note and the other materials at the end are very helpful. They include photographs of the family and schools involved. He also included a glossary that includes many of the legal terms among other things. The Bibliography is very thorough and he also included an index.  

I will be recommending this book to my teachers, students and many others. I think it is a part of our country's history that everyone should know about. I also believe that it is all too relevant right now. It will be helpful for civil rights studies and would pair up well with Through My Eyes or The Story of Ruby Bridges

One final note, if you have read the middle grade book Sylvia & Aki, this Sylvia is the same Sylvia that story is based on.

If you are interested in the illustrations, Tonatiuh explains his digital collage process in the following video.

Julie Danielson (from the blog 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast) had a chance to interview the author for Kirkus here. She followed up after the interview over at her blog and that includes images of some of his preliminary sketches. Both posts are quite interesting.

What nonfiction has caught your attention lately?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Diversity in Children's and Young Adult Literature

Diversity in children's and young adult literature is something that I have been passionate about for quite some time. I believe that readers benefit from having diverse reading choices. I wrote a post about this over on Rich in Color last year called Why We Need Diverse Literature and How to Find It. Speaking of Rich in Color, here is a podcast that explains why and how Audrey and I co-founded Rich in Color, a blog promoting young adult books by or about people of color.

Over the past year or so I have become more and more of an activist as I realized that there are diverse books being published, but not in the numbers that would reflect the actual people in our country and things aren't changing as quickly as I would like. As part of this activism, I am doing a lot of things in my own school and school district, but I have also been trying to reach beyond my walls. It's exciting because I've had several opportunities lately to encourage others to read and promote diverse literature. I was able to write a Nerdybookclub post about my students and library. I was also a contributor to the School Library Journal Diversity issue. I have to admit that writing is still scary for me, but I want things to change. I believe my students deserve to see themselves in the books that they read. They also deserve to see the wide variety of people that share this world with them.

On this blog, my goal is to talk about all kinds of books and share some of my experiences as I teach and learn with my students. Thanks for joining me on this journey.

**I forgot to mention this, but the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Campaign is an excellent resource and a way to involved in bringing more diversity to children's and young adult literature.

Monday, June 9, 2014

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 shelfImages via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

The Previous Week:
Young Adult

It was a great week for me with young adult novels. Heist Society was pure fun. Both Bronxwood and Angel de la Luna were pretty intense, but were also excellently written. As I was writing this I realized that in both of these books, the main character is struggling to support their family and acting in the role of a parent for a time. Later, they also have to step back out of that role and that is a tough situation - feeling grown up and responsible, but having to move back into the role of a child. I reviewed Angel de la Luna over at Rich in Color on Friday.

Middle Grade

I liked The Thing About Georgie. It is a nice middle grade realistic fiction book about family (new sibling coming), friendship and a little bit about the challenges of being a dwarf. Everything on a Waffle was just a lot of fun. I have used What Color is My World in class before, but I had only shared some of the non-fiction portions. I finally read the story part, but I didn't like that as much. It felt pretty contrived and the story is aimed at a younger audience than the non-fiction text. It didn't mesh well. I still appreciate the non-fiction sections though. The Last Airlift is basically a memoir written by a second person. It's the story of Tuyet, a young girl who was airlifted out of Vietnam during the fall of Saigon. I found it interesting and something that I may want to add to our library collection. I wanted it to have more detail and be a fuller story, but at least this way it is a quick read and readers do get the gist of what happened. I did just find out that there is a sequel though so I will have to see if that fills in some of the gaps I felt.

Picture Books

This was also a great week for picture books. I would recommend any of these. 

The Coming Week:

I am still listening to Landline on CD. I am really enjoying it. I am just starting Kendra and I will likely read the ARC of The Red Pencil too. I brought home a ton of books from my school library so I will be hitting those in no particular order. Our last day with students is Tuesday so my official summer #bookaday will begin though I have been posting books there all year long anyway. If you haven't heard, the hashtag has been in the news lately. I mostly dislike what the publisher is doing because typically we are posting about kid lit and ya lit, but some of the images now are definitely adult and don't have enough clothing for my taste. I am starting to see things that don't really match up with what the #bookaday community has been focused on in the past. I enjoy things that get people excited about reading, but teachers and librarians have been using that hashtag for a specific purpose and it is sad to see it compromised this way. It's made me read even more though so I can post to #bookaday in the way it was originally intended and do it a lot. :)

Happy reading!