Wednesday, December 30, 2015

#3rdfor3rd: The Deadly Dungeon (A-Z Mysteries)

Welcome to #3rdfor3rd where I share books that my third graders recommend for other third graders. (Please note that my third 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 third graders.) Read more about this book recommendation series and format here.

The Deadly Dungeon

Book recommendation by Anand.

The Deadly Dungeon is by Ron Roy. This story is about 3 kids who were invited to a castle by Wallis. They meet her in Connecticut,but that is another story.

Wallis tells the kids that there was a ghost in the castle named Emory Scott. The actual owner of the castle. The kids investigate the about Emory Scott and they find a secret dungeon.

I like the part of the secret dungeon. I recommend this book to everyone. This is a wonderful book.

(Note from me: The Deadly Dungeon is book #4 in the A to Z Mystery series. You may want to start with Book 1: The Absent Author.)

The Invisible Island

Book recommendation by Davi.

The Invisible Island, by Ron Roy, is the A-Z mysteries book for I. There is an island in the river called Squaw Island. Josh, Ruth Rose, and Dink swim to the island for a picnic.

But Ruth Rose finds money in a cement fridge hidden deep in the island. Lots of money. But it's just a foggy old island. Who wants to hide money in a foggy old island?

So Dink Josh and Ruth Rose tell the police about it. But most of this mystery is for them to solve. Who would hide money on an old island? A criminal would! Which criminal?

Hmmm . . .

The Vampire's Vacation

Book recommendation by Davi.

The Vampire's Vacation is the A-Z mysteries book for V. It is written and illustrated by Ron Roy. If you have read other A-Z mysteries books you have already met the main characters Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose.

In this book, there is a spooky vampire in town. His name is Dr. A. Cula. The kids got even more suspicious because that spells D-R-A-C-U-L-A! Even stranger, the vampire keeps disappearing into and out of places.

When Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose enter the place, the owner of the place has a band-aid on their neck and acts very strangely. Will Dr. A. Cula turn Green Lawn into a vampire town? Read the book to find out!

Click here or the #3rdfor3rd tag for more great book recommendations!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Picture Books of 2015

I am working on whittling down my favorite picture books of 2015, but it's been fun looking back at all the books and reflecting on them. Here are the nearly 80 picture books I read and enjoyed this year, arranged in topical categories. For other reflections, please see My Favorite Poetry Books of 2015 and 2015 in Review: Middle Grade Novels.

Picture Books published in 2015

Books about Families

Books featuring diverse characters:

Books about Friendship (including invisible friends):

Books about Writing and Stories:

Books about Making a Difference:

Books about US/World History:

Traditional Tales, Fairy Tales, and Fractured Fairy Tales:

Books on Tough Topics:

Books for the Younger Set:

Holiday-Themed Books

Nonfiction Picture Book Biographies

Other Nonfiction Books

Wordless Picture Books:

  • Float (2015) by Daniel Miyares.

Books about Art and/or Creativity:


What were YOUR favorite picture books of 2015?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 In Review: Middle Grade Novels

As the year winds down, I am looking back at the books I read that were published in 2015 and sharing a few of my favorites. Check out My Favorite Poetry Books of 2015 here.

This year, I read 20 novels in-and-around the "middle grade" reading and interest level. I had several favorites, a few of which I think could be strong Newbery contenders for this year. Others, I simply enjoyed for my own reasons. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about these books too.

Possible Newbery Contenders

Listen, Slowly (2015) by Thanhhà Lại. This book is incredible, and I love how different it is in style and feeling from her first book. In this story, our main character is a Vietnamese-American girl, raised in California, and she typifies the ongoing conflict between recent immigrants and their Americanized children. Mai/Mia is surprised to find herself in Vietnam for the summer with her grandmother, attempting to help uncover the mysteries about what actually happened to her prisoner of war grandfather back in Vietnam. An incredible story of family, heritage, and belonging. Highly recommended.

Paper Things (2015) by Jennifer Richard Jacobson. This is such a powerful and important story and one that so rarely is told. Orphans may be over-represented in children's literature, but homeless kids are often invisible. This is a tug-at-the-heartstrings story, for sure, but I appreciate that the author also kept in real, especially moving towards the end of the book. Well worth the read.

Echo (2015) by Pam Muñoz Ryan. 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!

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman. Nightbird is an incredibly bewitching tale of a novel that draws readers in through the intimate and unique voice of the narrator, 12 year-old Teresa, better known as Twig. The story begins as a simple tale, but it does not take long for the deeper secrets and mysteries to begin to surface. Every town and every family has a history, and even events from hundreds of years ago can have impacts and resonate into our present day. Twig must learn to navigate an ever-changing landscape of small-town intrigues and unusual happenings. This middle grade treasure is a must-have for upper elementary and middle school libraries and classrooms and is likely to become a classic.

Other favorites, pitched a bit on the younger side


Other Great Middle Grade books published in 2015

What were YOUR favorite books published this year?

Monday, December 21, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/21/15

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 Weeks' Posts

Picture Books

I am Jazz (2015) This book about a transgender girl caused a bit of a stir recently when a nearby elementary school's plan to share the book with students led to an angry reaction and retraction of the read aloud. The worst part of it is that the school wanted to share the book to help students understand and support a transgender classmate.

The story itself is a fairly straightforward account of the author's own experience growing up and her transition to being a girl. One critique of the book is that it does cleave very rigidly to standard gender norms, which reinforces ideas that only boys play with trucks or only girls play with dolls. (This may also more a function of the fact that the author herself is only a teenager.)

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich (2015) This is a cute, descriptive picture book to use as a mentor text when talking to kids about the role of the narrator in the story. You could also have kids create their own versions of stories from an alternate point of view.

I Don't Want to be a Frog (2015) This humorous picture book will resonate with any kid who has ever wanted to do something different. The young frog narrator wants to be anything other than a frog, but his father patiently reasons with him through each of his crazy ideas.

Land Shark (2015) A young boy drops a series of, in his mind, obvious clues about wanting a shark for his birthday. When his parents surprise him with a puppy, he is less than thrilled. This is an amusing story about wants and in finding the value in what you have.

Sharing the Bread: an old-fashioned Thanksgiving story (2015) I have enjoyed several other of Pat Zietlow Miller's books, but this one didn't work for me. The rhyme seemed clunky, and I'm not sure why a reader would be interested in the story.

It's Tough to Lose Your Balloon (2015) This picture book takes a look at some of life's minor tragedies to help kids think about them in a more positive way. It's cute without being too preachy.

Miss Hazeltine's Home for Shy and Fearful Cats (2015) his is a charming little picture book about what it means to be brave. It also has a great message about giving someone time to figure out how to build things like courage and strong friendships.

Happy reading!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Poetry Books of 2015

I am putting together a series of reflection posts, looking back at the books I read that were published in the past year. Many of my Poetry Friday posts this year have highlighted new books.

Favorite Poetry Book of 2015

Favorites are always tough, but You Nest Here with Me (2015) by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. hit me in the heart-strings immediately. I've already given it as a gift to multiple friends with young children, as I think it is both a sweet message and a great invitation to learn and think about birds. Read the full review here.

Other Great Poetry Books Published in 2015

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

#3rdfor3rd: Ramona Quimby, Age 8

Welcome to #3rdfor3rd where I share books that my third graders recommend for other third graders. (Please note that my third 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 third graders.) Read more about this book recommendation series and format here.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

Book recommendation by Olivia.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary is an amazing book, and I highly recommend this to those who are feeling nervous on their first day of school.

Ramona's big sister Beatrice is babying Ramona, and she does not like it.

My favorite quote is "Daddy, will you have to do homework?".

I would rate this book 1,000! I hope you will have a good time on your first day of school!

Click here or the #3rdfor3rd tag for more great book recommendations!

Kid Lit Blog Hop for Dec. 2015!

Hello! Welcome to the December 2015 Kid Lit Blog Hop. This exciting, now monthly hop, is where we develop 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!

Simply make a post and add it to the linky. (Please make sure to add your direct post only) If you are an author, feel free just to link to your blog.

Once you are done, then hop around to visit others. Please follow the co-host and visit at least the two people above 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 and display it on your blog and/or your post.

Our next hop will be January, 20, 2016. The hostess will be around to see you.

We want to welcome a new co-host to the blog hop, Ann from Hits and Misses. Welcome, Ann, it is great to have you on board!

Happy Hopping!

Reading AuthorsHostess
Julie Grasso, Author/Blogger
Cheryl Carpinello, Author/Blogger
Pragmatic Mom
The Logonauts
A Book Long Enough
Spark and Pook
Hits and Misses

Link Up Below:

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/14/15

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 Weeks' Posts

Picture Books

Tulip and Rex Write a Story (2015) by Alyssa Satin Capucilli and illustrated by Sarah Massini. This book is a follow-up to Tulip Loves Rex and features the same main characters. In this book, Tulip and Rex receive a wonderful present - a blank book and a new leash - which prompts them to take a walk. This walk turns into a hunt for new words, which form the beginning of a fantasy story. This is a cute book for encouraging kids to pay attention to their lives for story ideas.

Goodnight, Good Day (2015) by Mary Lyn Ray and illustrated by Rebecca Malone. This adorable bedtime story follows around an amorphous yellow dog who is not ready to go to bed. Aimed at the toddler-set, the book offers some good advice for getting ready for bed, including imagining that you are tired and dreaming up the next morning.

Kindergarten Luck (2015) by Louise Borden and illustrated by Genevieve Godbout. Our librarian shared this book with me this week - she really enjoyed its message about how a positive outlook can impact your day in a positive way. For me, the message didn't come through quite so clearly. Most of things that happen during the day are positive. I think it might have been a stronger book if something actually negative occurred that Theodore was able to work through due to his sunnier outlook.

Two is Enough (2015) by Janna Matthies and illustrated by Tuesday Mourning. This is a new book to add to my collection of books that celebrate the diversity of and within families. This book is a rhyming ode to two-person families (specifically, a parent or a grandparent and a child) and takes you on a journey through the seasons of the year, beginning in winter and wrapping up in fall. I think an Author's Note would have been a welcome addition here, to help children understand how common two-person families might be and to help guide them towards recognizing the commonality of this kind of family rather than just seeing it as "other."

Middle Grade

The Marvels (2015) by Brian Selznick. I have been patiently waiting my turn in the public library queue for this incredible book, letting students pass around the school library's copies. It was well-worth the wait. In this third book in his wordless-picture-book-exploded-into-novel-length style, The Marvels turn meta-narrative as the first story (told solely through the pictures) becomes entwined with the second (told in text), which makes for an incredible read.

The Marvels was also a topic of discussion in a session I attended at NCTE dealing with the lack of LGBTQ books for Intermediate readers (or middle grade - those between picture books and young adults). One of the speakers made the point that some books with LGBTQ characters or issues are "invisible" in many ways, because book summaries, trailers, and even library cataloging schemes fail to highlight or even mention potential links. Book reviews and trailers for this book tend to skip or gloss over the fact that one of the main characters in the book is a gay man who lost his partner to AIDS. I wonder whether some reviews did so intentionally to avoid stirring up potential controversy ...

Happy reading!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Text Set: Books Featuring International Grandparents and Grandchildren

In November I presented at NCTE in a session called "Reading Another Culture: Teaching Diversity without Reinforcing Stereotypes.

As part of that session, I have put together various text sets of picture books that teachers and parents can use to help introduce children to diverse characters and children around the world. The complete handouts from the talk are available here.

This is the fifth in a series of posts that provides more details about each of the example text sets. Click on any of the previous posts below:

International Books Featuring Grandparents

India: Monsoon Afternoon (2008) by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. This endearing picture book explores the first day of monsoon season as told through the eyes of the younger brother and his adventures with his Dadaji (grandfather). Great connections to the past and the future as well.

India: My Dadima Wears a Sari (2007) by Kashmira Sheth and illustrated by Yoshiko Jaeggi. Indian-American granddaughter Rupa does not understand why her Dadima (grandmother) always chooses to wear a sari, but through the story she learns more about the saris and her Dadima. The author's note includes her own stories of wearing saris as a child and adult and includes step-by-step directions for wrapping your own sari.

Argentina: Abuelo (2014) by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Raúl Colón. This lovely modern tale tells the story of a young boy who rides out into the Pampas of South America with his Abuelo (grandfather). Then when the boy and his family move to the big city, he is able to apply his abuelo's lessons and still feel connected. Great use of Spanish phrases throughout the story as well, and Raúl Colón's illustrations really bring the Pampas to light.

Guatemala: Abuela's Weave (1993) by Omar S. Castañeda and illustrated by Enrique O. Sanchez. In this story, a young Guatemalan girl is nervous about taking her grandmother's weavings to the big market to sell them, but she finds success when people are impressed by the quality of the artistry.

Mexico: 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. (Bilingual English and Spanish.)

China: Noodle Magic (2014) by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and illustrated by Meilo So. This story, in the style of a Chinese folktale, features young Mei who learns, with her Grandpa Tu's encouragement, that true magic really does come from within. Meilo So's expression-filled style really shines in the noodle-centric illustrations, especially when Mei and Grandpa Tu are working together to slap, kneed, stretch, and pull the dough.


Dominica: Look Back (2014) by Trish Cooke and illustrated by Caroline Binch. This folktale-style story from the Caribbean island nation of Dominica is told through the frame of Grannie telling a story from her childhood to her grandson Christopher. Her story involves the mysterious, mischievous Ti Bolom. Kids will love the repeated storytelling call-and-response as well as the 'is he / isn't he' discussions about Ti Bolom himself.

Do you have a favorite picture book that features an international grandparent-grandchild relationship? Please share in the comments below! For more text sets on diverse topics, please click here.