Monday, September 16, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 09/16/17

It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.

Recent Posts

Middle Grade

I decided to dedicate a white board in my room to our own #IMWAYR, and I love it! The kids enjoy seeing what others are reading, and it's been an easy way to initiate book conversations. My plan was for it to be a once-a-week thing, but they kept wanting to keep it current and changed Monday to whatever day of the week it was.

I've read several new books over the past month, most of which are now available. Click over to the full posts to read more!

Friend or Fiction is the third novel from Abby Cooper, and it debuts on October 8th, 2019. Click here to read my full review post.

Hena Khan's newest middle grade novel More to the Story debuted earlier this month. Click here for my full review post.

The Okay Witch is a new graphic novel by Emma Steinkellner debuting on September 3rd, 2019. Click here to read my full review post.

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 14, 2019

New Book Alert: Friend or Fiction

Friend or Fiction is the third novel from Abby Cooper, and it debuts on October 8th, 2019. Like her previous books, Sticks & Stones and BubblesFriend or Fiction is set in our modern world with one very specific element of magical realism thrown in. (I received a digital ARC of the book through Netgalley. All thoughts are my own.)

Jade has always felt adrift in her small town, and her dad's cancer diagnosis has only made things work. She (and her dad) takes solace in her creative writing about her imagined best friend, Zoe. So when a classmate's experiment brings real life Zoe out of the notebook and into her classroom, Jade couldn't be more thrilled. But is writing your own best friend the same as actually having one ... ?

I thorough enjoyed this amusing novel, and it has a lot to say about the realities of true friendship. I also particularly loved all the winks and nods about the writing process, especially some of the things Zoe doesn't know/have because Jade hadn't thought to include them in the writing. But you'll have to read it for yourself to find out more!

I think readers will really be drawn to the premise of this book ... and they might be surprised at how much it makes them think too!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

New Book Alert: More to the Story

Happy book birthday to Hena Khan's newest middle grade novel: More to the Story! Inspired by Little Women, this modern-day story is narrated by seventh grader Jameela (Jam), the second oldest in a family of Muslim-American four sisters. She'd much rather be thinking about her next story for the middle school newspaper than dealing with the news of her dad's new job overseas. But the new school year brings even more challenges for Jameela and her whole family.

Readers already familiar with Little Women will enjoy recognizing the connections (big and small) to the original story - the sisters share names with matching first letters (Jameela / Jo for example). But I think even readers without any knowledge of Little Women will find a lot to connect to in this novel: from long-distance parents to navigating new friendships to learning to speak up for what you care about. This is a book I look forward to adding to my classroom library!

(I received a digital ARC of More to the Story via Net Galley. All thoughts are my own.)

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Book Recommendation: Number the Stars #iLoveMG

Welcome to #iLoveMG where I share middle grade books that my fifth graders recommend. (Please note that my fifth graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for fifth graders.) Or check out #3rdfor3rd for recommendations from when I taught third grade.

Number the Stars

Recommended by AH

Hi, my name is Anna, and I recommend the book Number the Stars by Lois Lowry because it is full of adventures, and takes you back in time to imagine what it was like for Jewish people during the Danish Civil War.

The book is about a girl named Annemarie, and her best friend Ellen, who live in Denmark. At that time, many Nazis roamed Denmark looking for Jewish people to arrest, and because of that, Ellen and her family are in great danger, and it is up to Annemarie to save their lives.

My favorite quote from the book is from Annemarie’s mother: “ The God of Thunder [a kitten] made a very small rain shower in the corner of the kitchen floor, keep an eye on him."

If you like adventures, mystery, and history I think you would like this book. It was a lot of fun to read this book and learn a little about the history of Europe, and if any of you read it, I hope you like it too.

Click here for all of our #iLoveMG posts. What are your favorite middle grade books?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Best Book List: Fantasy Favorites #BestBooks #iLoveMG

At the end of the year, I asked my fifth grade students to create their own Best Book List, themed however they wished. Click our Best Book tag for more lists or #iLoveMG for individual books recommended by my fifth graders. (Please note that my fifth graders read a wide variety of books across a wide variety of genres, levels, and topics. Do not think that these books are "only" for fifth graders.) Check out #3rdfor3rd for kid recommendations from when I taught third grade.

My Favorite Book List

Recommended by ER

  • Ready Player One is a futuristic book where everyone lives most of their lives in vr. There is a giant competition in the vr game and the whole world tries to win. This game makes a lot of troubles for the main character. (YA)
  • Amulet 1 through 8 are a great series of books. The main character finds an amulet that brings to many adventures. These books are very exciting and will take you many places.
  • Percy Jackson is a great low fantasy series where the main character is half god. Being half god is very hard for a young teenager. He and many of his friends go on many treacherous adventures.
  • Artemis Fowl is a good book if you like mystery. Artemis Fowl may seem like a good guy but he is not. He is an 11 year old criminal that never gets caught. In this book he finds out a lot about other species and uncovers secrets.
  • Savvy is a very good low fantasy book where one family has special powers. They might seem odd but really they’re just a regular family. The kids go on an adventure to see their dad in the hospital this book has many secrets.

Student-designed cover for Savvy

Click here for all of our Best Books posts or here for more great middle grade recommendations. What are your favorite fantasy books?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

New Graphic Novel Alert: The Okay Witch

The Okay Witch is a new graphic novel by Emma Steinkellner debuting on September 3rd, 2019. (I received access to a digital ARC via Netgalley. All thoughts are my own.)

13-year old Moth has always felt like the odd one out in her small New England town, so finding out that she's actually a witch, descended from the hunted witches of the 1700s, is almost more of a relief than a worry. But unraveling the truth about her parentage and why her mother has been keeping her witch powers secret will take a little more digging.

Moth is an immediately engaging character to root for, and I love how the book wraps this story in the imagined history of a sleepy New England town and its connections to its darker history. There is a lot to be discovered here about how we understand our past, what lessons we choose to learn from it, and what divisions we continue to sow, as the angle of "witches" makes it easy for the reader to make connections to real-world racism, hatred, and discrimination.

Graphic novels continue to be among the hottest books in my classroom library, and I am sure this is another that I will likely never see on my shelf again, as it makes its way from reader to reader to reader!

Looking for more graphic novels?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

#pb10for10: Inclusive Picture Books for the First Weeks of School

Hooray! Today is August 10th, which means it is time for the annual Picture Books 10 for 10 event (#pb10for10). Teachers and educators are challenged to choose and share their 10 favorite picture books, thanks to Cathy of Reflect and Refine and Mandy of Enjoy and Embrace Learning.

Previous #pb10for10

10 Inclusive Picture Books for the First Weeks of School

I am not a strict #classroombookaday teacher (I only teach Reading four periods a week, plus we do several novel read alouds too), but I do love beginning the school year with picture books. This is my current round up for how we will be starting off fifth grade together, but these books would work for many ages!

I used Jabari Jumps last year as our first day of school book. (Thank you to Jess for this idea and fabulous post: How am I supposed to confront racism and white supremacy on the first day of school? Please, please read and deeply digest this post if you haven't.) The story of Jabari and the various ways he wrestles with his fear of the high dive serves as a great extended metaphor about facing your own fears and be willing to try new things. We also used the character of Jabari to discuss issues of identity and make a model "identity web" (below, inspired by Sara Ahmed's Being the Change). Students then used Jabari's web as a jumping off point for making their own personal webs. Below you can see last year's brainstormed list about characteristics of our own identities.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson is another great one for new beginnings (like the start of the school year). It touches on many overlapping elements with these other books - new schools, feeling like you don't belong, etc. - but also addresses the reader directly, which makes it more personal.

One Family (2015) by George Shannon and Blanca G√≥mez. This charming counting book is so much more. One is not just one, when it is a pair of shoes or a hand of cards. And one can be any number when it comes to "one family." This picture book is a celebration of families, in all their quirky uniqueness. The illustrated families include grandparents, mixed race couples, twins, single parents, young boys in Sikh turbans, gay couples, and so much more. This is great mentor text for a getting-to-know you activity, where each child could illustrate a page representing whatever number describes their "one family."

I'm New Here tells the story of the beginning of a new school year through the eyes of three children who are all recent immigrants to the US. It's a great book to get kids thinking about what it might be like to be new to a whole country and not just a new school. I also recommend reading the companion book, Someone New which revists the story from the perspective of the three kids already at the school who each reach out to welcome the new immigrant students. We had some great conversations last year around the ways that each character has to choose to take action and the impact it has.

In Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal (a Caldecott honor), the titular Alma is frustrated by the length of her name, but her father patiently explains to her where each name came from and how each is connected to her family and her history. This one has a structure that would be easy for younger students to emulate when writing about their own names. My fifth graders will be researching and writing etymologies of their own names, so this book is a great inspiration.

 by former US Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera and illustrated by Lauren Castillo is fantastic! The entire book is an invitation to the reader to imagine themselves through the life of the author and eventually to what they could accomplish in their own lives. With both my classes it took about halfway through the story before they suddenly started to realize that the author was sharing about himself. This realization made them especially excited and engaged for the rest of the read aloud. This is also a powerful immigration story. (Yuyi Morales' Dreamers would, of course, work well here, but I feel like Imagine is less well-known.)

Stella Brings the Family (2015) by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown. Stella faces a dilemma: who can she invite to her school's Mother's Day outing when she doesn't have a mother? Papa, Daddy, and her classmates help her realize what really matters in a family and how to celebrate all the types of families there are.

Benny enjoys a lot of things, but Benny Doesn't Like to be Hugged. This gentle, rhyming story by Zetta Elliott is told from the perspective of Benny's friend and gives readers insights in to how to better understand and appreciate kids with autism. My students and I had an incredible conversation last year about neurodiversity after reading this book, and it really helped them ask thoughtful questions.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita is a timely story about family, love, and support. The story centers on Aidan, a biracial transgender boy, and his concerns about how best to welcome and support his soon-to-arrive baby sibling. Drawing on his own experiences feeling boxed in by his assigned gender at birth, Aidan wants to make sure the new baby feels accepted and appreciated right away. As a new parent, this book made me smile so much, as I have struggled to find clothes and toys for my 17-month old that aren't exclusively pink or blue. What a breath of fresh air!

Can I Touch Your Hair: poems of race, mistakes, and friendship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham and illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko. Last year we spent two days unpacking this one, as the poems make for a longer read than most picture books. It also has some heavy content that required some schema-building with my fifth graders: about police shootings, about Trayvon, about the N-word, and continuing our conversations about identity, prejudice, and stereotypes. So much growth and so many conversations were started with this book.

What are your favorite inclusive books for the first weeks of school? Please share in the comments below! (Looking for more #pb10for10? Check out #pb10for10 on Twitter or click the #pb10for10 tag to see my previous years' posts.)