Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? The Post-#PB10for10 edition #IMWAYR 08/22/16

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.

Last Week's Posts

Picture Books

#pb10for10 is always an incredible opportunity to find out new picture books. I ordered stacks of books from my library, so several of my reviews are going to be shorter this week!

Red: a crayon's story (2015) by Michael Hall. This book nearly made me cry. It is a perfectly-written metaphor for any child who feels different inside than they look on the outside. There is so much fodder for great conversations here about expectations, assumptions, being true to yourself, and accepting others for who they are. I look forward to sharing this book with my middle schoolers.

Ida, Always (2016) by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso. ... and then I read this book next, and I bawled. Ida, Always is a powerful story about death, both impending death and the grief that follows. Having lost a close family member only a month ago, this book hit my hard, but it was very beautifully done. Not sure I could make it through a read aloud of this one, but I will definitely make sure it is in our Mock Caldecott conversations later in the year.

Yaks Yak: animal word pairs (2016) by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. This book is just plain, nerdy wordplay fun. All of the sentences are pairs (or triads) of homographs - words that are spelled / pronounced the same but have different meanings. Additional humor is provided in the illustrations. I'd say you could use this as an extension activity to have kids create their own homograph sentences, but I don't know if there are many that were missed!

What James Said (2015) by Liz Rosenberg and illustrated by Matt Myers. Friends fight. And sometimes those fights start over a misunderstanding. Here, a bit of gossip/telephone garbles a message from one friend to another. I could see using this with my third graders who often had a lot of proxy fights like this one, but the resolution feels really quick and easy.

Mustache Baby (2013) by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Joy Ang. What happens when you give birth to a baby with a mustache? He faces an existential crisis about whether it is a good-guy or a bad-guy mustache! This book is pure silliness, and the illustrations provide some great examples of contradicting the text. There is also a sequel, Mustache Baby Meets His Match. (Also, apparently this is a big thing, because when I googled "mustache baby" for the book cover there were a LOT of images of real babies in ridiculous getups.)

And some misses (or just not quites)

Norman Normal (2016) by Tara Lazar and illustrated by S. Britt. Another take on being yourself rather than following other people's ideas of "normal." This one seemed to drag it on a little long for me. You get the idea right away, but the idea just keeps getting belabored. Interesting anecdote: author Tara Lazar never communicated to the artist exactly what (animal / color / etc.) Norman was, so she too was surprised by the choice of a giant purple orangutan.

Hello, My Name is Octicorn (2016) by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe. A bit of a sillier take on being yourself and struggling with not fitting in. This one was humorous, but I felt like there was more potential than was realized.

Finding Wild (2016) by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Abigail Halpin. I loved the idea of celebrating "wild" and in seeking it out in all places, but this is another one where I really wanted there to bit just a little something more. (Some lovely illustrations though, so it will be in the mix for our Mock Caldecott initial conversations at least.)

Drum City (2010) by Thea Guidone and illustrated by Vanessa Newton. This is a lyrical poem of a picture book centered around the idea of a child creating a makeshift drum and inspiring the town. And then everyone walks around drumming. And ... that's it. I liked the colorful illustrations and the diverse cast of characters, but I wasn't sure what to do with the story.

The Sword in the Stove (2016) by Frank Dormer. Two cartoonish characters are looking for their friend Harold and trying to cook but keep being flummoxed by finding unexpected things inside their stove. And then there's a "twist." This one wasn't for me.

Middle Grade

I posted my full review of Moo earlier in the week (read it here). So good!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

#DiverseKidLit: International Books

Our theme for today's Diverse Children's Books linkup is Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Share your favorite book or books that take place in a different country than where you live! (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?

Diverse Children's Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children's books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.


We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, September 3rd and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Themes

Our theme for the current linkup is Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you're interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes ...
  • September 3rd linkup: Diverse Book(s) Featuring a Character with a Disability. (Need ideas? Check out past winners of the Schneider Family Book Awards.)
  • September 17th linkup: Favorite Bilingual Book(s). Think about your favorite book or books that are published in bilingual (or multiple language) editions.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time

Our most clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit is Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside of the United States (By Continent) from Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. They each share a favorite book from the five populated continents, excluding North America.

My #DiverseKidLit Shout Out

My #diversekidlit shout out goes to author René Colato Laínez. Born in El Salvador, René immigrated to the United States as a child and eventually became a US citizen. Many of his picture books for children feature kids and families dealing with issues of immigration and citizenship. This week I shared an overview of several of his books, which includes a giveaway for his newest picture book: Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre. Stay tuned next week for an interview with René and my review of this newest book!

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Friday, August 19, 2016

New Book Alert: Moo by Sharon Creech

Moo (Aug. 30th, 2016) by Sharon Creech
(ARC begged & borrowed from a fellow blogger)

Full disclosure: I love Sharon Creech. She has written some of my favorite books of all-time. I wrote an entire poetry curriculum around reading aloud Love that Dog (click here for details). I bawled out loud while reading Walk Two Moons, and I am not a book crier. I also loved sharing Walk Two Moons as a small group discussion book with my fourth graders (click here for book club discussion questions and page breakdowns). I have a huge bin of Sharon Creech books in my classroom library.

So it is no surprise that I would be excited about any announcement of a new book by Sharon Creech. But a new novel in verse? Based around an ornery cow? (Even if it does happen to be set in Maine and not my native Wisconsin.) Featuring a main character named Reena so that I cannot wait to share it with a former student of mine named Reena? Love.

Twelve-year-old Reena may have been the one to suggest moving to Maine, but that doesn't mean she really knows what she's in for. Told in imaginative free verse, Moo is a story about changes: moving to a new home and a new state, leaving behind the big city for the oceanside countryside, and learning to get past first impressions. 

People Said ...

My parents' friends said
Are you crazy?
It gets cold in Maine, you know.
There are giant mosquitoes in Maine.
It gets cold in Maine, you know.
Why? Why? Why?

But some others said
They have lobsters there.
Great blueberries in Maine!
Beautiful ocean and mountains!
Great skiing!
Lots of lobsters!
Lots of blueberries!

Though ... it does get cold there
you know?

This is an amusing, enjoyable, and heartwarming story wrapped up in the memorable voice of the protagonist. Whether you like cows and countrysides or just want an excuse to visit for awhile by book, Moo is a story that will appeal to a wide range of readers and poetry-lovers. (I've already pre-ordered the copy for my classroom library.)

Hop on over to Dori Reads for more great Poetry Friday posts!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Kid Lit Blog Hop for August

We want to welcome you to the August 2016 Kid Lit Blog Hop. It's Back to School time! Some kids are already in school, and some are going soon. The kids will be bringing home great books from their libraries. Come share some of those on our monthly hop or for that matter, any great kid's literature.

This month we welcome a new co-host, Bruce from the Bookshelf Gargoyle! Welcome aboard, and we are so glad you are here with us!

This exciting, monthly hop is an engaged group of people who love everything that has to do with children's literature. Everyone is welcome to join us: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers! Please make sure that your posts are related to children’s literature only. Please make sure to add a direct link to your post only, but authors are invited to simply to link to your blog.

Once you are done, then hop around to visit others. Please follow the hosts and visit at least the one or two people directly before your link. Please leave a comment when you do visit - we all like those. Also, it would be appreciated if you grab the Kid Lit Blog Hop badge image and displayed it on your blog and/or your post.

Have you seen the new Kid Lit Blog Hopper Facebook fan page? This page has all the news and information related to the hop plus ongoing posts, giveaways, news articles, etc. related to Kid's Lit. Check it out, and of course, please like the page.

We would be grateful if you tweet about the blog hop using our hashtag #KidLitBlogHop and/or posted on Facebook. Let’s grow this wonderful community.

Our next hop will be September 21, 2016. The hosts will be around to see you soon.

Reading AuthorsHost
Julie Grasso
Cheryl Carpinello
Pragmatic Mom
The Logonauts
Spark and Pook
Hits and Misses
The Bookshelf Gargoyle

Happy Hopping!

Link Up Below:

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Picture Books by René Colato Laínez + Giveaway!

I am so excited to have the opportunity to interview children's author René Colato Laínez about his latest book, Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre. One lucky reader will also be able to win a copy from the publisher, Lee & Low! The interview, plus my review of the book, will be published next week, but here's a taste of some of his previous books ...

Picture Books by René Colato Laínez

Realistic Fiction

Waiting for Papá / Esperando a Papá (2004), illustrated by Anthony Accardo. Beto is turning 8 and celebrating his third birthday away from his Papá, who did not receive a visa to leave El Salvador along with Beta and his Mamá. The book does a good job of showing the long and complicated process of applying for a green card, as well as the impact of having enough money or knowing the right lawyer. This was René's first picture book. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.)

Playing Lotería / El juego de la lotería (2005), illustrated by Jill Arena. Our young narrator is nervous to stay alone with his abuela in Mexico, as he doesn't know very much Spanish. But when she takes him to la feria and shows him her lotería stand, he finds his hook for learning more Spanish - and for teaching abuela some English. The author's note includes additional information about the game, also known as Mexican bingo. This is a cute story about connecting to a grandparent who speaks another language and one that I will be adding to my text set on international grandparents. (Bilingual English and Spanish.)

My Shoes and I (2010), illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck. Mario and his Papá are leaving their home in El Salvador to join his Mamá in the United States. This lyrical story focuses on the new shoes Mario has received from his Mamá and what happens to his shoes during their long trip across three countries. This would be a good book to read in the context of his other stories, as this one does not contain any conversation about legal vs. illegal immigration. (English only, with some Spanish phrases.)

From North to South / Del Norte al Sur (2010), illustrated by Joe Cepeda. Based on the true experiences of his students in California, this story is about a family split by deportation. José is excited to see his Mamá again, after she was deported from their home in San Diego. This book does a great job of highlighting the impact of deportation on families while also ending with a message of hope. The author's note at the beginning explains his inspiration and provides details about the real El Centro Madre Assunta in Tijuana, Mexico. The use of a US/Mexico map for the end papers is another nice touch. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.)

Autobiography / Memoir

I am René the Boy / Soy René el niño (2005), illustrated by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez. Young René has moved from El Salvador to the United States and is shocked to discover that there is another student named Renee in his class ... and she's a girl! This would be a great book to use with students to encourage them to explore the meanings and origins of their own names - or to write their own name-based speeches or poems like René. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.)

René Has Two Last Names / René tiene dos apellidos (2009), illustrated by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez. In this follow-up story, René is frustrated when his school name tag has only one of his last names and not both. Despite some initial teasings from his classmates, a family tree activity helps René showcase both sides of his family tree and what his last names mean to him. This is another book that would make a great classroom tie-in. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.) [A Skipping Stones Honor Award winner]

Traditional Tales

The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez (2010), illustrated by Tom Lintern. In this mash-up, the Tooth Fairy responds to the loss of Miguelito's tooth, only to discover that she has competition: El Ratón Pérez, who has collected the teeth of Miguelito's parents and their parents too. The two are able to work out their differences, and the author's note provides background information about the origins and histories of both characters. (English only.)


Shared with #DiverseKidLit

Stay tuned for next week's interview with René Colato Laínez as well as a review of his newest picture book, Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre. Rather not wait? Enter the giveaway today! (US domestic addresses only, please.)

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR 08/15/16

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.

Last Week's Posts

Picture Books

Return (2016) by Aaron Becker. It's here, it's here! The glorious and satisfying conclusion to the trilogy begun with Journey [a Caldecott Honor book] and continued with Quest. Return brings a new character into the fold - the girl's father, who begins the story by ignoring her kite-flying pleas. I was so pleased with how this story ties the whole series together, and I cannot wait to reread all three of them and analyze the hints and connections within them. Will this be the book to take home the gold Caldecott medal?! (A review copy of the book was provided by the Candlewick Best in Class mailing. All thoughts are my own.)

Follow the Moon Home: a tale of one idea, twenty kids, and a hundred sea turtles (2016) by Philippe Cousteau and Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Meilo So. Inspired by true events, this picture book tells the story of a classroom of activists who use their observational skills to identify a problem in their sea-side town: baby sea turtles mistaking house lights for the moon and dying before making it to the ocean. This is a great one for teachers to inspire their own activists - and their own towns! (H/T Several #pb10for10 lists.) Adding this to my list of wonderful books illustrated by Meilo So ... and to my Caldecott 2017 watch list!

My Name is Gabriela: the life of Gabriela Mistral / Me llamo Gabriela: la vida de Gabriela Mistral (2005) by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra [winner of the International Latino Book Award]. This biography of Chilean poet and writer Gabriela Mistral does a good job of telling the story of her life and influences on the way to her winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. My only complaint about the book is that it does not include any of her original poetry. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.)

Our first writing unit in seventh grade is poetry, and I am hoping to include many Latin American poems and poets to sync with the Social Studies curriculum. Please share if you have additional poet suggestions or favorite poems by either Gabriela Mistral or Pablo Neruda!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Américas Awards: novels

The Américas Awards honor authors, illustrators, and publishers for quality children's and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the US. Both primary and secondary reading levels are chosen. This award was founded in 1993. Click here for more about the Américas Award, including the most recent winnersA list of all previous winners can be found here.

This is my third post in a series about this award. Previous posts covered award-winning picture books as well as honorable mention and commended picture books. To see a compilation of many diverse book awards, please read Spotlight on Diverse Book Awards or click on the Award-Winning Books tag.

Américas Award-Winning Novels

2016: Echo (2015) by Pam Muñoz Ryan [a Newbery Honor book]. This lovely, lyrical novel weaves together three individual stories into its powerful conclusion. I have had this one sitting on my TBR stack, eagerly awaiting the end of the school year. I will admit to quickly skimming past the reviews of others recently, as I didn't want anything to spoil my reading of this book! So I will leave my review at this ... it was well worth the wait!

2015: Silver People: voices from the Panama Canal (2014) by Margarita Engle. This novel-in-verse tells the story of the building of the Panama Canal through a variety of voices, both those native Caribbean people who built the canal itself as well as those of the wildlife and nature within the surrounding environment. The Historical Note at the end shares additional details and the author's personal connections to these stories.

2011: The Dreamer (2010) by Pam Muñoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sís [Pura Belpré Award winner]. This fictionalized biography of celebrated Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (née Neftalí Reyes) focuses mainly on his childhood, interweaving chapters in an intimate third-person voice with illustrated poetry in the style of Pablo Neruda. Excerpts from actual poems are provided at the end, following an Author's Note about her research and inspirations. It is an interesting and emotional story that also draws attention to the focus on ordinary workers and social justice that defined his writing career.

2006: The Poet Slave of Cuba: a biography of Juan Francisco Manzano by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Sean Qualls [also winner of the Pura Belpré Award]. Poetry is the perfect vessel to convey the early life of Juan Francisco Marzano, born into slavery in Cuba, who overcame his lack of education and many hardships to become an admired poet. The story is told through poems in Juan's voice as well as those of other characters around him, providing addition insights and perspectives. There are many disturbing events related to slavery and the treatment of slaves in this story, making it suitable for older readers. The back matter includes more historical information about Juan, as well as selections of his actual poetry (both in the original Spanish and translated into English by the author).


Shared with #DiverseKidLit

To see a compilation of many diverse book awards, please read Spotlight on Diverse Book Awards or click on the Award-Winning Books tag.