#IMWAYR January 16, 2017

A well-timed “ice day” this week gave me a little extra time for reading, so I didn’t let it go to waste! I read several more books on my #MustReadin2017 list, and I got to tackle a large stack of books that were on the 2016 Nerdies Picture Book list. Here’s what I’ve been reading this week…


YA Novels

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon

After reading The Sun is Also a Star just a few weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Nicola Yoon’s debut novel, Everything, Everything. The premise of this book is that the narrator, Madeline, has been completely confined to her home for her entire life because she is “allergic to the world around her.” Kept company only by her mother and her nurse, Carla, her monotonous days are suddenly disrupted by the arrival of a new family next door–particularly their son, Olly. As Madeline watches him through her window, increasingly intrigued by his dark and mysterious ways, he begins to notice her and establish contact. Inevitably, their relationship advances, though at great risk–even being in the same room with Olly puts Madeline in grave danger. This book was full of twists and turns and lots of heart, and I found myself unable to put it down. While I didn’t love it quite as much as The Sun is Also a Star (I was missing the various perspectives Yoon included in that story), I definitely enjoyed reading this YA novel and look forward to more from this author.

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Middle Grade Novels

Towers Falling, by Jewell Parker Rhoades

As I’ve read several different middle grade and YA novels about 9/11 over the past several months, I’ve felt a deep appreciation for all of the different perspectives each author has brought to keeping the memories of this day embedded in our hearts. Towers Falling, written for middle grade students, is the story of a homeless girl in New York who is struggling to find her way as she balances the stresses of a home life with younger siblings, an overworked mother, and an ill father with trying to fit in at a new school. As she settles in at her new school, her father’s illness escalates as she begins to learn about the tragic events of 9/11. While I didn’t love this book as much as Nine, Ten: A September 11th Story, I felt that this book brought another perspective to understanding how many people are still living each day with the consequences of September 11th.

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Paper Wishes, by Lois Sepahban

Paper Wishes, another book from my #MustReadin2017 list, is a beautifully written book about a Japanese family that is relocated to a camp during World War II. As Manami and her family leave their peaceful island home to go live in a camp in the desert, her beloved dog is confiscated and she loses her voice. This book is an amazing story about finding your voice, finding yourself, and finding peace in circumstances that are beyond your control. I highly recommend this as a historical fiction novel, especially to some of the middle grade readers at my school who have fallen in love with Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky this year.

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Two Naomis, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

I really enjoyed this contemporary middle grade novel about two girls–both, of course, named Naomi–who find themselves battling with conflicting feelings when they are forced to come together because their parents begin dating each other. What I really loved about this novel is that it shifted back and forth from the perspective of one Naomi to the other, really giving the reader an understanding of how complicated their relationship was and how they felt toward one another. I think middle grade girls, especially those in blended families, will really enjoy reading this novel.

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Picture Books

Wild Feelings, by David Milgram

I read this as a bedtime story with my kids. We loved the cute illustrations and talking about different feelings, but some of it went over their heads. This would be a good book to use to talk about emotions.

Rosie Revere, Engineer, by Andrea Beaty

I loved this STEM-themed book! Rosie learns the value of trial-and-error as she creates, builds, and problem-solves. Highly recommend for elementary classrooms!

Ida, Always, by Caron Levis

This book was absolutely beautiful (and one of the most heart wrenching picture books I’ve read). Polar bears Gus and Ida are best friends who live and dream together in a zoo until Ida becomes terminally ill. As they share her last days together, and as Gus grieves her loss, readers experience both the grief and peace of her passing.

These Hands, by Margaret H. Mason

These Hands addresses a complicated issue for kids in a very unique way. As the grandfather in the story shares all of the things he can do with his hands with his grandson–playing ball, playing piano–he also shares something he was not allowed to do with his hands: make bread at the Wonderbread factory. This story of civil rights illustrates the power that lies within each of us and the tremendous amount of courage it takes for change to happen.

The Night Gardener, by Terry & Eric Fan

The Night Gardener is one of those absolutely amazing picture books that relies on the pictures to fill in the story. The gorgeous illustrations in this book show how a community, especially the orphanage that lies at its heart, are transformed by the daily appearance of beautiful topiaries created by a Night Gardener. This is a book I’m excited to use with older elementary students!

Penguin Problems, by Jory John

Adorable story about a penguin who will not stop complaining. About everything. The sun, the temperature, other penguins–nothing escapes his criticism in this cute book about finding the positive around you. It was slightly over my preschooler’s head, but I think it will be loved by elementary-age readers.

Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask To Be In This Book), by Julie Falatko

This was one of my favorites this week! We read Snappsy as a bedtime story, and while I think parts of it were (again) over my kids’ heads, there were several parts where we laughed out loud. This book is witty and charming, and will be a great mentor text for thinking about point of view and perspective.

Be a Friend, by Salina Yoon

This is a story that is meant to be read over and over again. This book celebrates individuality and being “different”–and how there is a just right friend out there for everyone. The illustrations inspired a lot of discussion, and this book will be an excellent addition to any classroom library!

Shy, by Deborah Freedman

The soft illustrations of this gentle book are gorgeous. The story of Shy, who learns to go out in the world, leaves readers with a quiet confidence about trying new things and embracing the world around you.

We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen

I loved the first two books in this trilogy and was not disappointed in this final book in the series! As two turtles find one hat in the desert and both want it for their own, they battle the inner conflict of their friendship against their desire for the hat. Just as in the other two books, Klassen leaves the reader thinking deeply about the motivations and relationships between characters while using simple words and engaging illustrations.

Worm Loves Worm, J.J. Austrian

This simple picture book, a tale of two worms getting married, opens up big conversations. Throughout the book, the worms plan their wedding by “the way it’s always been”–until it’s time to decide who will be the bride and who will be the groom. As both worms embrace both roles, readers realize that what truly matters is that the two worms love one another.

Thunder Boy, Jr., by Sherman Alexie

This may be one of the first picture books I’ve read that features Native American culture from a standpoint that is not historical, making me realize how much books that celebrate the diversity of this culture are needed in our libraries. This is the story of Thunder Boy, Jr., who dislikes his name because the name he shares with his father is so unusual. Throughout the book, he tries on new names until he finds one that is “just right” at the end of the book.

Let Me Finish, by Minh Le

This book is perfect for anyone who has ever had a book spoiled by someone who has already read it. As the main character begins book after book, different characters keep popping up to spoil the ending. This is one I can’t wait to share as a read aloud with older readers as we kick off book talks and book clubs next year!

Du Iz Tak?, by Carson Ellis

By far the most creative picture book I’ve read this week, Du Iz Tak? takes a seemingly ordinary event in nature and makes it extraordinary with invented language and bold illustrations. As the creatures in this book interact around the growth of a plant, I was enchanted by their interactions and completely caught up in trying to decipher their language. This is another book that will be great for both younger and older elementary readers.


Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 35/230 books read
    • 8/100 chapter books
    • 2 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 7/30
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Read at least one YA and one Middle Grade novel
    • Read one graphic novel
    • Read at least 3 new picture books

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

 

#IMWAYR January 9, 2017

As school has kicked back into gear with new projects and a new semester ahead, I’ve enjoyed taking a “break” from my hectic reality with some great reads this week!

Here’s What I’ve Been Reading This Week:

The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
Everywhere I’ve seen this book mentioned, I have heard nothing but glowing reviews–and it far exceeded all of them. This is a book about love, about hope, about understanding yourself and recognizing the best in others. It’s about fate and the universe working hand-in-hand. This is a book that filled my heart with optimism and joy to start 2017, and I absolutely loved every page of this beautiful story.

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Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty
I really enjoyed the easy flow of this story about a boy whose talent was stifled until everyone realized how much it was needed. Great STEM and character ed read aloud to share with my elementary readers!

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Lost. Found., by Marsha Diane Arnold
I found this book on last year’s 2015 Picture Book Nerdies when I was searching for good books at the library this week and was not disappointed. This cute story about a scarf that is lost and found is not only a simple and fun read with adorable illustrations, it will be a great resource for working with younger kids on developing systems thinking.

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The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, by Julia Roach-Sarcone
This book has been on my TBR list since my kids’ school participated in Read for the Record a few months ago, and I was excited to pick it up (finally) this week to read it with them. Another fun story with a cute twist at the end. We loved the illustrations and the imagination that went into creating this story!

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That is NOT a Good Idea!, by Mo Willems
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a deep appreciation (LOVE) for Mo Willems’ books, and this one is no exception. My kids and I giggled at the little chick’s dire warnings throughout the book and loved the ending!

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Poor Puppy, by Nick Bruel
Another bedtime story shared with my kids, I was excited to introduce this book because of how much I loved using Bad Kitty when I taught second grade. While my kids found the book enjoyable and loved the pictures, I think this is one we will need to reread a couple of times to pick up on the patterns of letters and numbers throughout the book.

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Smile, by Raina Telgemeier
After seeing this one popping up on desks in all of the fourth and fifth grade classrooms I push into and hearing students mention this book (and Sisters) over and over, I added this to my TBR list several months ago. Like the other graphic novels I’ve read, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading this book. The theme–struggling through adolescence–is so easy to relate to, and I love how the experiences Telgemeier had in this autobiographical novel were best expressed through her illustrations (I just don’t think there are any words that can do justice to extreme dental work…). I’m excited to pick up Sisters and read it soon!

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They All Saw a Cat, by Brendan Wenzel
I started 2017 off at school by reading this book aloud to a group of 2nd graders–and they loved it. They not only loved the illustrations, but they were eager to chime in once they picked up the pattern of the book and were excited to discuss it after reading. I highly recommend this as an addition to any classroom library!

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Baby Bear and If You Plant a Seed, by Kadir Nelson
The illustrations in both of these books are absolutely phenomenal–beautiful paintings that feature animals. They are so filled with emotion and feeling. I found both stories, however, to be just OK. I read Baby Bear with my kids and, while they liked the pictures, I don’t think they understood the story. If You Plant a Seed has a great message, but would have to be supported with a lot of dialogue if used in the classroom.

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Finding Winnie, by Lindsay Mattick
I’ve had this book on my shelf for awhile and got the first opportunity to share it with a group of students this week. As I read it aloud in a second grade classroom, I fell in love all over again with this beautiful story about the origins of Winnie the Pooh. The captivated looks on every child’s face only reinforced how amazing this book really is!

The Marvelous Thing That Came From a Spring, by Gilbert Ford
This is one of a few picture books on my #MustReadin2017 List, and I absolutely loved the illustrations. I finished this book with a nostalgic feeling–I really enjoyed learning the little piece of history behind the Slinky and look forward to sharing this one with students.

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Holding Up the Universe, by Jennifer Niven
I read All the Bright Places right before Christmas and couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. I was just as “hooked” as I was with Bright Places, intrigued by the characters and their relationship with each other and the people around them.

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Snow White: A Graphic Novel, by Matt Phelan
Another book that keeps popping up on Twitter and blog posts, I was intrigued by the premise of this book–a graphic novel version of the fairy tale set in Depression-era New York City. It was an incredibly fast read (I finished the entire book in about 15 minutes, though I didn’t dwell on the illustrations as long as I maybe should have), and one that I think might hook some reluctant readers who are familiar with the classic story.

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Finding Perfect, by Elly Swartz
This book definitely ended my book-filled week on a high note. The second book I’ve read about OCD in as many weeks, Elly Swartz’s Finding Perfect found its way onto my #MustReadin2017 list after showing up on the 2016 Nerdies for Middle Grade Fiction. As the stress in Molly’s life gets out of control when her mom moves out of the country, she begins obsessing about her glass animals and counting repeatedly. This novel tackles a difficult topic for a middle grade audience with grace, compassion, and a story line that is perfectly realistic. I hope this book finds its way into the hands of many young readers, especially those who may be facing situations similar to Molly’s. A full review of this book, written by Bridget Hodder, can be found here on the Nerdy Book Club blog.

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • 2017 Total Progress: 15/230 books read
    • 4/100 chapter books
    • 2 graphic novels
  • #MustReadin2017 Progress: 3/30
  • My reading goals for the week:
    • Read 3 more novels from my #MustReadin2017 list (I start my spring semester classes next week, so I need to squeeze in as much reading as possible this week!)

What is #IMWAYR?

Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

 

#MustReadin2017: My List

When I see a list of books, I feel like a kid in a candy shop–so many options, and they all look amazing! My Goodreads account is overflowing with “Want to Read” titles, and the announcement of the 2016 Nerdies over the past few weeks has only filled it up more.

When I saw Carrie Gelson’s call for a #MustReadin2017 list a few days ago on Twitter (more information can be found on her blog There is a Book for That here), my only question was: Why am I so late to this party???

I’ve spent the past few days reflecting, eliminating, and compiling, and am excited to challenge myself to reading the following picture books, middle grade novels, and YA novels in 2017:

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For a full list of titles and authors, click here to see my living document on Google docs.

Here’s to a great (and busy!) year of reading!

#IMWAYR January 2, 2017

One of my (many) resolutions to kick off 2017 is to renew my commitment to keeping track of my reading. Each Monday this year, I hope to join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I’ve done during the week, from picture books to young adult novels.

Here’s What I’ve Been Reading:

Since getting lost in the pages of Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places right before Winter Break began, I dove into several of the YA titles highlighted on this list over the past few weeks.

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Although I found this book uncomfortable, even devastating, no one can portray the heartbreaking reality of eating disorders and loss like Anderson.

The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B, by Teresa Toten

Adam/Batman’s roller coaster of balancing falling in love and battling his OCD made this book an absolute page-turner for me.

13 Reasons Why, by Jay Asher

Asher tackles a difficult topic head-on, leading the reader to understand the complexities of teen suicide through the tapes Hannah leaves behind for Clay. Equal parts mystery and tragedy, I found myself wishing for answers along with Clay throughout the story. I’m anxious to see how this one will be adapted for the screen when it shows up on Netflix later this year.

 

Wish, by Barbara O’Connor

A sweet middle grade novel about finding your place in the world and discovering what your heart truly desires. This is one I will definitely be sharing with upper elementary readers, especially those who have fallen in love already with Winn-Dixie.

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Elephant and Piggie Like Reading!: The Cookie Fiasco, by Dan Santat

I picked this up to read to my own kids (ages 2 and 4) tonight, and although some of the math ideas went over their heads, they loved the characters and were excited to see their old friends Elephant and Piggie (and, of course, to look for The Pigeon in the back of the book).

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Reading Progress Check-in

  • I finished 2016 with a grand total of 226 books read (goal: 200)!
  • 2017 Total Progress: 2/230
    • Chapter Books: 1/100
  • My reading goals this week:
    • Finish The Sun is Also a Star
    • Read Smile and Sisters (both are sitting on my nightstand and I promised some students they were next on my To Read List)
    • Create my #MustReadin2017 list

It’s Monday! Time to Share Books for the New School Year

I’m excited to commit to participating in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted by Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers.

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Sharing books is one of the most powerful ways to connect with other people. When you find out you’ve read the same book as your friend, your colleague, your spouse, your child, it’s like you’ve had a new shared experience that you can’t wait to talk about with one another. After a summer spent devouring book after book, I’m excited that the return to school means new ways to connect with kids and colleagues and new books to recommend to just the right readers.

Even though the end of the summer also means the end of an abundance of reading time, I’ve managed to squeeze in several good reads over the past few weeks:

Picture Books

How to Read a Story Kate Messner’s How to Read a Story was a great book to kick off our professional development focused on Reading Units of Study. I love that this book is not only practical, but focuses on how enjoyable reading is. This book has been passed from classroom to classroom this fall as primary teachers have introduced Reading Workshop to their students.

School's First DayI kept seeing School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex on every list of “Must Read Back to School Books”–and it definitely earned its place! This was a fun book to share with kids during the first few days of school to welcome them back and make them think about the perspective of the school itself. I love how Rex calms the anxieties of a new school year through this tale of school who was also fearful about what would happen when students walked through his doors. This is definitely a book I’m glad I added to my library!

Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late If you’re looking for humor, a story kids can relate to, and a book that lends itself to being read over and over again, you can’t go wrong with anything by Mo Willems. Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late is a favorite with my own children right now, and I love how such a simple story has so many layers of emotion and character development. This is a great story for young readers to practice big thinking skills!

I have to admit that I greatly underestimated Troy Wilson’s The Duck Says during the first several bedtime readings at my house. It was a book that we

Duck Saysread once or twice, then dismissed to our bookshelf. However, my daughter dug it back out this evening and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this fun, rhyming text has a few hidden gems that make it worth taking a closer look. Throughout the book, events of the story build upon one another–requiring the reader to not only read the story but to also pay close attention to the pictures. This would be an excellent book to practice close reading with young students, taking the time to look back at  pictures and explore the story that is being told through the illustrations.


Middle Grade

I can’t praise John David Anderson’s Ms. Bixby’s Last Day enough. It’s one of those books Ms. Bixby's Last Daythat you pick up knowing that it’s going to be a touching read, but this is so much more–it’s an adventure, it’s a tribute, and it breaks your heart. This was the last book I read before returning to school, and I’m so glad I was able to end my summer with this one. As the three main characters–Topher, Brand, and Steve–set out on a mission to visit their terminally ill teacher in the hospital, their own tragedies and weaknesses are revealed to the reader. It’s a story of loss, of hope, of friendship, of respect, and of love–and it’s one that needs to find its way into the hands of every teacher who’s ever wondered Am I good enough for these kids?

After reading The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill several months ago, I was excited to get my hands on The Girl Who Drank the Moon. This story reminded me of a beautiful tapestry, Girl Who Drank the Moonweaving together the stories of a young girl who has been “enmagicked,” a madwoman, a scarred young man with a powerful conscience, and an aging witch with two unusual companions. With beautiful language and imagery throughout the book, this is a timeless fantasy story that middle grade readers will love.

 


 

Young Adult
Memory of ThingsGae Polisner’s The Memory of Things, set to be released on September 6th, is a YA novel about a lost girl set against the  backdrop of New York City on 9/11. The main character, a girl who has lost her memory and been found by a boy (Kyle) making his way home in the aftermath of the fall of the Twin Towers, slowly reveals herself to the reader throughout the book through verse. The story alternates between her perspective and that of Kyle, son of a first responder and sufferer of his own life tragedies. This story unfolds with hope, faith, and the truth that nothing in life is certain. Although this book is too mature for the readers I work with on a regular basis, I would highly recommend it for high school readers.


It’s Monday! A Summer of Reading and the #Bookaday Challenge

This summer, in the quiet moments after my kids go to bed and before they wake up in the morning, I have committed to the #bookaday challenge. Some of my absolute favorites from the past few weeks include:

  • Booked, by Kwame Alexander. I loved The Crossover, and this one was just as fantastic. Nick, the main character, juggles his love for soccer with stresses in his home and academic life. As his father’s love for words seems to push him away from books, a unique librarian changes his perspective.
  • Nine, Ten: A September 11th Story, by Nora Raleigh Baskin. One of the most bittersweet moments every fall is when I look into the faces of the elementary students I work with and realize that September 11th is nothing more than something they read about as a part of history. This book keeps the emotions and life-changing impact of September 11th in focus as Baskin weaves together the lives of 4 middle school students from very different places and backgrounds in the moments leading up to September 11th. This book is powerful and beautifully written and I can’t wait to see it in the hands of upper elementary students.
  • The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner. This book touched me on so many different levels. Part fantasy, part harsh reality, this story about drug addition leaves the reader with a deeper understanding of the impact of drug addition on families. Although drug addiction is something we always wish is a never conversation for upper elementary students, this book gracefully acknowledges that for so many of our students it is a reality that must be dealt with every day. Another beautifully written book that needs to find its way into the lives of students who are dealing with the fear and unwarranted shame of loving someone with an addiction.
  • Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart. This book stands out both because of the themes and the characters. Lily, a transgender child who is trying to embrace and develop her identity in middle school, meets Dunkin, a transfer student with bipolar disorder who is dealing with demons of his own. The paths of these two unique characters continue crossing as each tries to understand the other. The themes in this book handled so realistically throughout the book, providing readers with a deep feeling of empathy for these two characters.
  • Maybe a Fox, by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee. This story takes grief to the deepest level as Jules, the main character, comes to terms with the loss of her sister. A beautiful blend of nature and raw emotion, this book is a fantastic companion to Sara Pennypacker’s Pax.

This has also been a summer filled with reading book after book with my own two children snuggled up on my lap. Our current favorites are:

  • Anything in the Elephant and Piggie series, by Mo Willems, but especially Watch Me Throw the Ball! Even after our sixth read in a single day, my 4-year-old howled with laughter throughout the book like it was the first time he’d ever heard it. A close second is I Am Going!, which inspired a makeshift picnic on our living room floor last week.
  • The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson. Another book we have on repeat at our house, my kids absolutely love the bold characters in this book.
  • Mortimer and The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch. We have the board book versions of these books, and my kids spontaneously quote both on a daily basis.

Only three weeks of summer left–looking forward to adding several more titles to my growing list of favorites to share when the new school year starts!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? Week 4

A new semester started, so my reading unfortunately had to slow down a little this week. However, I still finished a couple of fantastic books:

 

Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars has been one of my favorite books since childhood, and I was so excited to find Jennifer Nielsen’s A Night Divided this past week to be a close comparison. Also a historical fiction novel, Nielsen’s book is about 12-year-old Gerta, separated from her father and brother in East Berlin overnight by the Berlin Wall in post-World War II Germany. This book had me on the edge of my seat, heart pounding, as Gerta redefines bravery with a daring plan to reunite with her family and live a life of freedom. This was definitely a book I couldn’t put down and will be anxious to hand to any student who loves Number the Stars.
Although dramatically different from A Night Divided in content, character, and setting, I loved Lisa Graff’s Absolutely Almost just as much this week. As a teacher, this book made me pause to think about all of the students I have worked with who have struggled. In this book, fifth grader Albie struggles with unidentified learning issues that are impacting not only his learning, but also his relationships with his family and his ability to make and keep friends. This book confronts the difficult topic of what it’s like to be different without support, especially in the middle grades. This book is one I will hand to both kids and to fellow teachers.
At home this week, I loved sharing Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman’s Bear Sees Colors with my 2- and 4-year olds. I absolutely love Karma Wilson’s books (and our tattered copy of The Cow Loves Cookies is a clear indication that my kids do, too). Bear Sees Colors, the latest in the Bear series, does not disappoint. Gorgeous illustrations and gentle rhymes accompany a storyline perfect for little readers. I have a feeling this one is going to be a bit tattered soon, too!

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 leave a comment.