Mountains of Reading: Check-in #4

Sorry for the delay, folks! Sometimes life just gets in the way. Now, I know really mountain climbers don’t hop from peak to peak like this, but the library doesn’t always cooperate with my plans 😉 At least that means some kid out there is reading these great books! Back to Scholastic’s 50 summer picks!

Summer16 mtns of rdg

falafelIt Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas. This is a must read for every middle grade class. Just. Read. This. Book. This book is everything. 5 stars dylan villain

Dylan the Villain by K. G. Campbell. Enjoyable and entertaining. I would definitely be open to a sequel 😉 3½ stars

maybe something beautifulMaybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Theresa Howell. I was so hopeful – this one is multicultural, based on a true story, and features art! The illustrations were indeed beautiful, but the story and text were wanting. 2½ stars

Pax by Sarah Pennypacker, illustrated by Jon Klassen. I can tell you exactly when I became invested in this story – paxchapter 13. An interesting ending – not quite a twist, but still a bit unexpected. I enjoyed it, although perhaps not as much as Katherine Applegate (read her blurb on the back cover). I’m still trying to figure out the setting – what war is this?! In the end, it’s not the point of the story, but it’s still nagging me 🙂 4 stars

clatter of jarsA Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff. I thought I had heard of her before, and I was right – she wrote The Thing About Georgie, a great book that even my sports-crazed struggling readers have enjoyed. What is about the multiple perspective story that is so popular right now? Ever since Rob Buyea’s because of mr. terupt (2011) and Rick Riordan’s Egypt series (2010), it seems like this narrative structure is everywhere! Graff weaves a fairly gripping mystery with this structure and the result is definitely worth your time. 3-3½ stars




Mountains of Reading: Check-in #3

Summer16 mtns of rdg

Today I’m hopping back across to the first mountain – Elementary Nutmegs.

village by the seaIn a Village by the Sea by Muon Van, illustrated by April Chu. A nice, quiet picture book about family. For the younger end of the elementary spectrum. The setting in Vietnam make this a good multicultural addition to personal and classroom libraries. 2½ stars queen diamond

Queen of the Diamond by Emily Arnold McCully. Very enjoyable story of a remarkable girl. Be sure to read the notes at the end. This is a subject worthy of further reading! 4 stars

hamsterHamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon. I was VERY surprised at how funny and entertaining this story is! Based on some more advance vocabulary and the sarcasm expressed by several characters, I could recommend this books for 4th graders. Vernon also wrote and illustrated the Dragonbreath series. Like those books, I’m sure boys would absolutely enjoy the Hamster Princess, but the pink and purple glittery cover may put some off. I’d love to wrap it in brown paper and do a “blind date with a book.” 4 stars quinny

Quinny and Hopper by Adriana Brad Schanen, illustrated by Brad Swearingen. SO GOOD! Well-developed characters you love quickly, feel for and celebrate with. And it’s not a series! Although I wouldn’t mind reading more if the story were as strong as this one. 4½ stars

skateboard partySkateboard Party by Karen English, illustrated by Laura Freeman. Part of the Carver Chronicles which follows different students at Carver Elementary. This story is VERY relatable – for students, parents, and teachers. Funny with a good lesson for all our kiddos to learn. 3½ stars lulu

Lulu’s Mysterious Mission by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Kevin Cornell. Viorst (of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fame) creates another memorable child character. I think we all know a Lulu somewhere in our lives 🙂 Great voice by the author. 3-3½ stars






Mountains of Reading – Check-in #2

Summer16 mtns of rdg

Today I’m hopping across the mountain range to Scholastic’s 50 Best Books of Summer. The 50 chosen titles are broken down into a range of genres (and I use that term loosely)- Picture Books, Fantasy & Magic, Humor, Realistic Fiction, Nonfiction, and Magic & Mystery. I’m not even going to try to post my reviews by these categories – since I’m borrowing books from libraries, there’s no certainty that I’ll be able to get all the titles at all, never mind in any sort of organized manner.

Alexie_ThunderBoyJr-1200x1200Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales. I really like Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, so I was looking forward to this one. Read the info below the dedications – how Morales created her illustrations is SO cool! This is one of those stories that just makes you smile. The father-son relationship, the desire to be your own person (not “my father’s son”, but “me”) is something so relatable. The poetic text combined with the bold, colorful, playful illustrations are a treat. 4 stars

red riding hoodRed: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff. What a wonderful message! The themes of fear, life and death, and courage/bravery are skillfully intertwined. Goldie isn’t fleshed out enough and therefore many of the sections where she features fall flat. I would bet that, together with Shurtliff’s Rump and Jack, this would be a kid favorite. For teachers who cover traditional literature in their reading and writing curriculum, this would be a good text to show repeated and overlapping themes. 3 stars

The Bolds by Julian Clary, illustrated by David Roberts. This story started out quite promising, but it didn’t turn out to be as funny as I hoped. This would the-boldsstill make a good read aloud, especially if you can pull off the English accent! Spoiler alert: McNumpty is an animal, too – saw that one coming from a mile away. 3 stars

save me a seatSave Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan. I *heart* books like this! Personal growth. Antagonists you love to hate, but at the same time you know their story is just as dynamic and worthwhile as the protagonists’. Multicultural! It puts me in mind of Andrew Clements’ Extra Credit. I enjoyed Weeks’ food mysteries Pie and Honey. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for her and her co-author.


OK…that’s 4 books out of 50… 2/25…still a long way to go…

Until next time, keep reading!



Mountains of Reading: Check-in #1

Summer16 mtns of rdg
For some reason I have “Climb Every Mountain” running through my head…

Wow. Picture books go quick! All of the books in today’s update are Elementary Nutmeg Book Award nominees – I’m a little more than 1/3 of the way up that peak. Ratings are on a scale of 5 stars, with 5 being the best thing since sliced bread.


one plastic bagOne Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul, illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

Another good story of real world problem solving by kids (it even mentions Beatrice’s Goat and The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind). This would be a good book to use for character traits, problem/solution, or even argument/opinion writing (recycling, plastic bags, etc.). 3 stars


grandma in blueGrandma in Blue with Red Hat by Scott Menchin, illustrated by Harry Bliss

Maybe because I’m an arts-inclined person, but this one made me smile. The illustrations were happy and I appreciated the Van Gogh cameo. Very enjoyable. This would be a good book for an art teacher, or as part of a social development lesson on character – being creative, looking at things from different angles, appreciating beauty in unusual places. 4 stars



mr ferrisMr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, illustrated by Gilbert Ford

I love the cover! Shades of blue always speak to me, and the title font is reminiscent of old carnival posters and theater playbills. The text structure in this one is more complex. Each 2-page spread has the narrative in one font, and then background information in another font. I needed to read this one twice to make sure I got everything. I really loved the illustrations and learned quite a bit about this ride that’s a staple of every fair. 4 stars



star stuffStar Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson

The action and character development are told through illustrations as much as through text. Readers need to infer from the combination of text and illustration to figure out what is really going on with Carl’s thoughts and feelings. That being said…

What a great book – I will definitely read this again! It instilled a sense of wonder, of awe, of vast, open, unimagined spaces that Carl must have felt as a child, stretching his arms out like John Carter, hoping to get to Mars. I love Sisson’s artistic style, and am about to go fin the 60+ other books she has illustrated. 4½ stars (given time, could be 5 stars)

hana_hashimoto_sixth_violinHana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Qin Leng

I was struck by a 2-page spread of Hana, violin in hand, making the long, slow walk to the microphone. Anyone anxious about appearing in front of a crowd can relate to the feeling of blood pumping in your ears, of peripheral vision falling away and your ultimate destination staying forever in the distance, yet arriving all too soon. I was pleasantly surprised by the climax and resolution (without spoiling anything!). That bumped this books to 3½ stars.



winter_beesWinter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen

I was ready to snuggle up just reading the jacket and gazing at the beautiful print of the end pages. Like Mr. Ferris and His Wheel, informational text is included with each poem. Unlike, Mr. Ferris, however, the structure is easier to follow in this book. Sidman has an uncanny ability of crafting the poems to evoke the feeling, sound, sight of the subjects – a gangly moose or a still, silent snowfall. Allen’s prints are GORGEOUS! 5 stars


One thing to think about… When doing the ratings, I found it difficult to compare nonfiction to poetry. Does that make sense?