Monday, March 30, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/30/15

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 Week's Posts

Picture Books

I have been continuing to read a lot of picture books but in the run-up to Spring Break and school craziness have not had the time to log them and find pictures, etc. Stay tuned for next time ...

Middle Fiction

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.

Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 10 books, 2 dedicated posts

Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 63 books, 21 dedicated posts (Teaching about US Immigration and New Books from Kids Can Press)

ReFoReMo: For the month of March, I am also participating in the Read for Research Month Challenge. While my picture book reading is growing exponentially, I will try not to be too overwhelming with how many I include here for IMWAYR. Additional books that are new to me will be logged on GoodReads, and rereads will just be logged in my notes.

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: Mini Myth Board Books

I am excited to announce these two new board books in the Mini Myths series, published on March 24, 2015: Brush Your Hair, Medusa! and Make a Wish, Midas! both by Joan Holub and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli (advance copies provided courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Reviews in exchange for an honest review).

Brush Your Hair, Medusa! (24 page board book, publisher recommends for ages 1-3). Joan Holub's delightful Mini Myths series takes familiar stories from Greek mythology and brings the characters and lessons down to the toddler level. Medusa has no interest in getting her wild hair brushed, and her wily delay tactics will be quite familiar to parents. But Grandma knows her secret weakness and wins the battle. The book concludes with a shortened version of the original Medusa myth.

This story does a great job of sharing both toddler and parent perspectives. The black and white alternating dialogue make it easy to determine who is speaking, and kids will enjoy reading or repeating back Medusa's lines. A cute story to placate the wild-haired little ones in your life!

Make a Wish, Midas! (24 page board book, publisher recommends for ages 1-3). Midas's favorite color is yellow. He only wants to wear yellow; he only wants to eat yellow; he only wants to color yellow. But it is only after he decides to take matters into his own hands with his green dinosaur, Dinoboo, that he discovers the error of his ways. The book concludes with a brief version of the original Midas myth, focused around his golden touch (no donkey ears here).

This is a great story for the picky dresser or picky eater (or unruly artist), as toddlers will well relate to his desires for control and obsession over his favorite color. This book also features a diverse main character and mother, making it especially attractive for those seeking inclusive books.

Though these books are geared towards toddlers, my third graders were incredibly bemused and interested when I brought both books into class this week. I think they were passed around to nearly everyone in class, and kids enjoyed noticing the connections and divergences from the original myths.

More about Author Joan Holub

Joan Holub’s fascination with mythology inspired Mini Myths, a new board book series that translates famous myths into situations familiar to preschoolers. The first two titles are Be Patient, Pandora! and Play Nice, Hercules! published by Abrams Appleseed. Joan co-authors two other mythology series for Simon and Schuster, Goddess Girls (ages 8-12) and Heroes in Training (ages 7-10). Her picture book, Mighty Dads, was a New York Times bestseller in 2014. Visit her website, visit her author blog, or follow her on Twitter.

More about Illustrated Leslie Patricelli

Leslie Patricelli is the bestselling author-illustrator of many adorable board books, including Yummy Yucky and Toot! See more books by Leslis Patricelli here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Teaching about US Immigration - nonfiction resources

As part of our study of world geography and world cultures in third grade, we also spend some time learning about immigration to the United States and talking about our own family histories. There are many great resources to help children understand some of the complexity and history behind immigration. This first post provides an overview to some of my favorite nonfiction resources for introducing the history of immigration to young and intermediate-aged elementary students.

The next posts in this series with cover historical fiction and memoir about Ellis Island and turn-of-the-century America and then modern immigrants and immigration. (Even more posts: Picture Books by René Colato LaínezNew Immigration Books, part 1: Syrian and Central American immigrants, and part 2: picture books and anthologies.)

Nonfiction Immigration Resources

The Story of Immigration (2002) by Robert Charles, Reading A-Z. This short nonfiction text introduces many important topics in US immigration including a history of immigration, background on immigration laws and reforms, and introduces three major symbols of immigration: the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and Angel Island.

Immigrant Kids (1980) by Russell Freedman. This fantastic resource introduces children to the photographic work of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine and juxtaposes photographs from the late 1800s and early 1900s with chapters describing what life was like for kids back then, including their homes, schools, work, and play. My students get so much out of reading this book, analyzing the photographs, and comparing and contrasting their own life experiences.

Ellis Island (2004) from Kids Discover magazine. This magazine focuses on the history and experience of coming to Ellis Island and includes many interesting side notes and small stories about actual experiences of individuals.

Immigration (2004) from Kids Discover magazine. This magazine explains about the history and impact of immigration to the United States with some focus on the turn-of-the-century immigrant experience. There are also brief interviews with recent immigrants and a section on immigration in other countries.

Tenement: immigrant life on the lower east side (2002) by Raymond Bial. I use this book mainly for the photographs, which include both historic photographs as well as modern ones from the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This book is a detailed and informative look at tenement life for immigrants from the 1880s-1930s.

We Came Through Ellis Island: the immigration adventures of Emma Markowitz (2003) by Gare Thompson. This nonfiction book is told mainly through the diary entries and letters of the Markowitz family who left Russia in 1883 and went through Ellis Island on their way to tenement life on the Lower East Side of New York City.

Stay tuned! The next posts in this series with cover historical fiction and memoir about Ellis Island and turn-of-the-century America and then modern immigrants and immigration.

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday Challenge is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and is a weekly roundup of educator blogs that are sharing nonfiction picture books. Click the link to check out other nonfiction posts.

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 03/23/15

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 Week's Posts

  • You Nest Here with Me. This incredibly lovely lullaby of a new book features poetry by Jane Yolen and her daughter and illustrations by Melissa Sweet. So much to love!

Picture Books

Mama Panya's Pancakes: a village tale from Kenya (2005) by Mary and Rich Chamberlin and illustrated by Julia Carins. This generosity tale grows as Mama Panya and Adika head to market to buy supplies to make pancakes and Adika continues to invite more friends along the way, but of course everything works out fine by the end. The lengthy end notes contain awkwardly laid out pages about village life in Kenya, animals, Kiswahili, a map with random facts, and a recipe for pancakes. This book felt like a miss to me. The story is too predictable and seems to trivialize poverty, and the end notes are a jumble of things with no information about the author's connections to the story or country.

The Mangrove Tree: planting trees to feed families (2011) by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore. This poem / narrative biography features Gordon H. Sato and his work to grove mangrove tree forests along the coast of Eritrea. It is an interesting story, and one that I should add to my collection of Biographies about People and Trees. The "poem" part, however, I could do without, as its "This is the house that Jack built" format really did not do anything for me or for the story. The book has a detailed author's note about Mr. Soto and his work, including web links and a bibliography.

Little Humans (2014) by Brandon Stanton. I love the idea behind Brandon Stanton's Humans of New York project and was very curious about this version about kids and for kids. The photographs are incredible, and I love the diversity of kids, poses, and locations. The text is pretty meh and actually seems geared far too young, which might turn school-aged kids off. I also wish that there had been back matter with details about the kids. My students love the Children Just Like Me series and have a million questions about these kids, their ages, and their lives.

Battle Bunny (2013) by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett and illustrated by Matthew Myers (and Alex). Young Alex, not pleased by Birthday Bunny, the new gift book from his grandmother, has taken matters into his own hands. Behold, Battle Bunny! My students found this absurd dual-level picture book an absolute hoot, and they enjoy trying to read aloud solely one storyline or the other. It also sparked some interesting conversations about the creation and ideas behind this book. (H/T Juliana at Juliana Lee Writer.)

Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 10 books, 2 dedicated posts

Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 56 books, 19 dedicated posts

ReFoReMo: For the month of March, I am also participating in the Read for Research Month Challenge. While my picture book reading is growing exponentially, I will try not to be too overwhelming with how many I include here for IMWAYR. Additional books that are new to me will be logged on GoodReads, and rereads will just be logged in my notes.

Happy Reading!

Friday, March 20, 2015

You Nest Here with Me - poetry for the natural scientist

You Nest Here with Me (2015) by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple and illustrated by Melissa Sweet.

This precious poetry book is one that I fell in love with immediately. The soothing and rhythmic rhymes are perfectly complemented by the endearing collage and mixed media style of Melissa Sweet. Different birds and their nests are introduced, and the mother reassures her daughter through the repeating refrain of "You nest here with me."

There is also a wonderfully detailed Author's Note at the end that includes facts and identifying silhouettes, feathers, and eggs for each of the birds featured in the poem, as well as hints about some of the additional birds hidden throughout the artwork. This is a fabulous poem of a lullaby for any lover of birds, nature, and children.

"Science meets wonder in this deeply satisfying collaboration between poets and artist." 
- The Horn Book Magazine, Mar/Apr 2015

You can check out this week's Poetry Friday Roundup over at Reading to the Core.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Top 10 Favorite Books of Sixth Graders

I recently surveyed the first through sixth grade students at my school about their favorite children's books, and I am presenting the results as a series of posts. This post will share the Top 10 Favorite Books among the sixth grade students. Other posts include Top 20 Favorite Children's Books, sharing the overall results across all grade levels and including interviewed parents, and the Top 10 Favorite Books of First GradersSecond GradersThird Graders, and Fourth Graders.

Top 10 Favorite Children's Books of 6th Graders

#1 The Giver by Lois Lowry. This happens to be my favorite children's book of all time, and it is one that our students read in sixth grade. This incredibly thought-provoking dystopian book clearly made an impression on them as well! (I have very mixed feelings about the sequels and am terrified to see the movie as well.)

#2 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Adventure, word play, and a watch dog named Tock who goes "tick," what's not to love? Our students read this book in fourth grade, so it was interesting to see that it still made a big impression on them as sixth graders.

#3 Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series ranked highly across the reading lists of many grade levels, including sixth grade.

#4 Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. The movies appear to have only increased enthusiasm for these titles among the sixth grade readers.

#5 Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Though this is another book they read as fourth graders, it still figured very highly on many sixth graders' lists.

#6 This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. The sixth graders were very involved in our school-wide mock Caldecott (read the ballot and the final results here), and we had started by discussing previous Caldecott winners, which is likely why this book made it on so many favorite lists.

#7 Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson. Still a classic.

#8 The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. Another book likely getting a bump from the recent movies, The Hobbit received top billing over multiple mentions of books in the Lord of the Rings series as well.

#9 Holes by Louis Sachar. I love the complexity of plot as this book vacillates back-and-forth between the present day and the murky past of Camp Green Lake. This is a powerful story of the impact of history and our own need to find ourselves in the present.

#10 A Wrinkle in Time and series by Madeline L'Engle. Another classic that I was so glad to see make the top list. This is a book that the students read this year, and it clearly made a big impression on them. The line between science, science fiction, and science fantasy never reads so well!

56th Kid Lit Blog Hop and Google+ Linky

Welcome to the 56th Kid Lit Blog Hop where we continue to develop a dynamic and engaged community of children's books bloggers, authors, publishers, and publicists. So, you are always more than welcome to join us by popping in a post and hopping around to meet some of your fellow Kid Lit bloggers and authors!

This week, we are excited to be including a Google+ Linky Party to be held in conjunction with the Kid Lit Blog Hop. These linky parties are designed to give you the opportunity to connect with and grow your network of fellow kid lit bloggers, authors, and parents through your various social media platforms.

We are pleased to be welcome back Tiffiny from the blog Spark and Pook as co-host this week (two weeks in a row - woot!). Welcome back once again, Tiffiny!


Mother Daughter Book Reviews

Julie Grasso, Author/ Blogger

Cheryl Carpinello, Author / Blogger

Stacking Books


Pragmatic Mom

Best 4 Future: Bringing Up Baby Bilingual

Reading Authors

The Logonauts

A Book Long Enough


Spark and Pook

Happy Hopping everyone and enjoy the Hop!

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Kid Lit Blog Hop & Linky Party Rules *Please Read*

1. LINKY PARTY: Add the link to your Google+ profile page in the Google+ Linky Party list below. Be sure to visit at least the two links directly before yours, say hello and "like" or share a post and follow folks as per your interests. If you do not have a Google+ profile, you are welcome to link up a different social media profile (Pinterest, Facebook, etc.).

2. KID LIT BLOG HOP: Link up any Kid Lit related post in the Kid Lit Blog Hop. This can be a link to a children’s book review, a discussion about children’s literature/literacy, or a post on a recently-read children’s book or one that you love from your childhood.
* Don't link directly to your blog, it must be a specific post.*
* For Authors, we prefer you to link to your blog if you have one. Please link unique posts each time ~ no repeats please. *
* Make sure you include an image relevant to the POST (e.g., book cover), not your blog button or photo of yourself.*
* Feel free to link more than one post.*

3. KID LIT BLOG HOP: Please visit AT LEAST the TWO LINKS from the Kid Lit Blog Hop directly ahead of your own and leave them some love in the form of a comment. We are trying to build a community of bloggers, readers, parents, authors, and others who are as passionate about children’s literature as we are so please CONNECT and follow any or all of the blogs that interest you!

4. If you like, grab the button above and put it somewhere on your blog, preferably the post you're linking up. If you'd prefer, you can just add a text link back to this Hop so that others can find it and check out all these great book links!

5. It would really help us get the word out about the Kid Lit Blog Hop if you would be so kind as to tweet, share, and spread the word about the Hop!

Happy Hopping!


(Please do not link a blog post here - see below for the Kid Lit Blog Hop)


Monday, March 16, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/16/15

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 Week's Posts

  • Picture Books from India. This collection of books highlights favorite picture books about India and featuring Indian-American characters and themes.

Picture Books

Dark Day, Light Night (1995) by Jan Carr and illustrated by James Ransome. This picture book helps kids deal with their frustrations in a positive, thoughtful way. After the main character, 'Manda rushes inside and pouts about a perceived slight from a friend, her Aunt Ruby helps her put a different spin on it by starting a list of things she likes in the world. This is a great book for helping kids deal with anger and frustration, as well as celebrating diverse kids and families.

The Best Winds (2006) by Laura E. Williams and illustrated by Eujin Kim Neilan. Jinho is embarrassed after Grandfather moves in, with his traditional hanboks and other Korean customs. The two begin spending more time together, and Grandfather teachers Jinho how to make bangpae-yeon, a shield kite. Yet when Grandfather starts telling stories about making kites from his own grandfather, Jinho tunes out. I appreciated that this is a grandparent-grandchild story that is not all warm fuzzies and includes an initial skeptical reaction.

Ruth and the Green Book (2010) by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Ruth and her family are planning their first big road trip from Chicago to Alabama in the early 1950s. As they travel farther south, they start experiencing more of the impact of Jim Crow, including whites-only restrooms at service stations. The family eventually acquires their own Green Book, a guide to help black travelers find accommodations and services.

Lights on the River (1994) by Jane Resh Thomas and illustrated by Michael Dooling. This picture book introduces some of the poor conditions of migrant workers, told through the eyes of young Teresa and her family who moved to the US from Mexico for work. The book focused around one time when her family was told to live in a chicken coop with a pump and outhouse, despite being modern day. Could be a companion to Amelia's Road.

The Birdman (2006) by Veronika Martenova Charles and illustrated by Annouchka Gravel Galouchko and Stephan Daigle. Based on a true story of a poor tailor in India. After he lost his kids (no explanation in story or author's note), he started buying birds and setting them free. The four-page long author's note includes how she found out about his story and met Noor Nobi.

Middle Grade

Fish in a Tree (2015) by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. As a teacher, I found the beginning of this book fairly painful to read. It is so hard to hear Ally's inside thoughts as her teacher misunderstands and demands things of her. We have all had those students that are harder to reach, and we never get the opportunity to see them from the inside. In this story, Ally has made it to sixth grade without recognizing her own dyslexia, and her struggles to fit in and to game the system have reached their breaking point. This is a great story of the power of friendship, self-realization, and self-acceptance.

Award-Winning Books Reading Challenge update: 10 books, 2 dedicated posts

Dive into Diversity Challenge update: 56 books, 19 dedicated posts (Picture Books from India)

ReFoReMo: For the month of March, I am also participating in the Read for Research Month Challenge. While my picture book reading is growing exponentially, I will try not to be too overwhelming with how many I include here for IMWAYR. Additional books that are new to me will be logged on GoodReads, and rereads will just be logged in my notes.

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Picture Books from India

Picture Books from India or Featuring Indian-Americans

The Greedy Crows: a tale from northern India (1998) retold by Cathy Spagnoli and illustrated by Omar Rayyan. This folktale features a peacock, the national bird of India, who lived near a crow, his five greedy sisters, and his youngest, kind sister. This story of trust and care for the weak culminates with dramatic consequences for the greedy.

Manu and the Talking Fish (2000) retold by Roberta Arerson. This India flood story comes from Hindu mythology, but students will quickly notice the connections to the story of Noah and the ark. In this story it is the god Brahma, disguised as a fish, who finds goodness in the heart of Manu the fisherman and alerts him to the impending flood. A great way to help students compare and contrast similar ancient tales.

The Ghost Catcher: a Bengali folktale (2008) retold by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss and illustrated by Kristen Balouch. In this trickster tale, the young barber must act quickly when he is confronted by an angry ghost. Thankfully he is clever as well as kind and is able to trick both the ghost and his uncle into helping him along the way.

Read Aloud Tales of Indian Mythology: Shiva - The Fisherman and other stories ... (2014) retold by Vaneeta Vaid. Our partner classroom in India from the Global Read Aloud sent us this book, and my students have really enjoyed it. There are several illustrated short stories drawn from Hindu mythology and geared for younger readers. I plan to explore some of the other titles in this series as well.

A Bucket of Blessings by Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal and illustrated by Jing Jing Tsong. This lovely picture book retells an Indian myth as monkey seeks out peacock for his aid in bringing back the rain. A tale of perseverance and the benefits of doing something to help others.Adorable block-print illustrations too.

Gobble You Up! (2013) by Sunita with text by Gita Wolf. (A SABA Highly Commended Book)

This cumulative folktale is an adaptation of a Rajasthani trickster tale told through Mandna artwork, a traditional finger-painting style from the Meena village. The hand-bound nature of the book's construction further amplifies the handiwork involved in creating this unique book. Combined with an engaging and humorous text, this book is sure to delight! Another excellent arts integration project-in-waiting.

Ganesha's Sweet Tooth (2012) by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes and illustrated by Sanjay Patel. (A SABA Highly Commended Book)

This is a highly entertaining and engaging picture book about Ganesha and the writing of the Mahabharata, though it is more accurate-described by the authors as "loosely based" on the Hindu legend. These is some charming humor and visual effects that kids will enjoy, and the bright, stylistic artwork adds to the joyful exuberance of this story.

The Fantastic Adventures of Krishna (2013) by Demi (A SABA Highly Commended Book)

This book shares the childhood adventures of Krishna, the Hindu Lord Vishnu reborn on earth to defeat the evil demon kings. The wide variety of spectacular and menacing demons are rendered in dramatic fashion through Demi's brightly colored artwork. A truly fantastic way to share these stories with kids.

Anklet for a Princess: a Cinderella story from India by Lila Mehta, adapted by Meredith Brucker, and illustrated by Youshan Tang. This Indian Cinderella story is based on oral traditions dating back at least 1,000 years and features Godfather Snake as her magical adviser. You can find out more about other Cinderella stories from Asia here.

Dorje's Stripes (2011) by Anshumani Ruddra and illustrated by Gwangjo and Jung-a Park. Through the monks experience with the Royal Bengal tiger they name Dorje, the reader learns about the plight of these tigers. The author's note at the end provides some of the sad statistics about tiger poaching and killings.

In the Heart of the Village: the world of the Indian banyan tree (1996) by Barbara Bash. This lovely environmental tale begins with the legend of the first banyan and a history of the banyan tree. The story then follows the tree through its day with a focus on its relationship to the people and animals that live in and around the village. A great way to introduce students to the floral and fauna of this region of India.

Sacred River: the Ganges of India (1995) by Ted Lewin. This incredibly-illustrated book tells about the importance of the Ganges River and highlights the interactions of individuals with the river during the course of a day. The story concludes with details about Hindu cremation and scattering in the river.

Balarama a Royal Elephant (2009) by Ted and Betsy Lewin. This touching nonfiction book details the authors visits to India and their interactions with the royal elephants culminating in a giant parade and Mysore Dasara celebration. The back matter includes facts about elephants in general and the royal elephants individually, as well as a glossary and pronunciation guide.

Twenty-Two Cents: Muhammad Yunus and the Village Bank (published in 2014 Lee & Low) is written by Paula Yoo and illustrated by Jamel Akib. Twenty-Two Cents is a picture book biography of Muhammad Yunus, the Noble Peace Prize winner and founder of the Village Bank (eventually Grameen Bank). The book begins with his childhood and includes background information about the political and economic situations of the time. This is a an inspirational message of how one person can improve the world around him/her. Readers of this book will be encouraged to start asking their own hard questions and perhaps find their own solutions to current and future problems. You can read a more detailed review, including activities, here.

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.

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.

Mama's Saris (2007) by Pooja Makhijani and illustrated by Elena Gomez. This story features an Indian-American girl (implicit) admiring and playing dress-up with her mother's saris. This is a lovely introduction to Indian clothing and traditions that would make any girl want a sari to dress up in.

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji (2011) by F. Zia and illustrated by Ken Min. This story features Aneel whose grandparents have come to visit from India. After hearing some of his Dada-ji's stories, Aneel decides to bake him some hot, hot roti and restore his power. This is a fun story, and my biggest complaint is the lack of a roti recipe in the end notes, because you will definitely be hungry!

Do you have any favorite picture books from India or featuring Indian-Americans? Please share your suggestions in the comments below!