Friday, July 24, 2015

Winnie: The True Story of the Bear Who Inspired Winnie-The-Pooh by Sally M. Walke

Winnie the Pooh fan? Looking to expand your child’s knowledge of the divine Winnie and the animals of Pooh Corner? Or secretly hoping to expand your own? Get this great book in your hands and learn away. Accessible, engaging, and fascinating, Walker helps us trace an amazing story. She wisely includes photographs inside of both covers, extending the story all the more for readers like me. Honestly I cannot imagine someone having a bear as a close companion, but I also cannot imagine a better way to live through being in the armed forces during World War 1.

And it's all about Winnie the Pooh. What is not to like? Great read aloud, or read silently if you are like me and an adult who turns into a curious child in the living of wise texts. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

I will never forget Tevin’s story. After reading Jacqueline Woodson’s amazing (and somewhat autobiographical) book Visiting Day to my class, a kindergartner asked who is it harder for: the child leaving or the parent who cannot leave the prison. Silence filled our room as we pondered this heartbreaking and difficult question. Then Tevin spoke. He said, “For the father. I would know. I leave my dad every time I see him in prison.”

I sat blinking back tears. Tevin rarely spoke in our classroom. He told us this truth in June—I had no idea his father was in prison.  As is always true, I had so much to learn.

I still have so much to learn. It is from deeply authentic and transparent stories like Woodson’s and now Baskin’s that help others like me make sense of a world I know nothing about (prison) and the feelings, trials, and choices that children of men and women that live in prison. Ruby on the Outside is that kind of book. This is a novel about a young teen who lives with her aunt in a new-to-her town. Ruby makes friends with another girl who moves in, but she very works hard to keep all of her experiences and stories about her incarcerated mother completely hidden from Margalit, her new friend.

True to form, successful young adult writers must capture the reader immediately. Here are the first two paragraphs of the book:
“It’s all she’s known her whole life, Matoo explains to her friends on the phone when she thinks I can’t hear her. “Ruby doesn’t remember anything different, so for her it’s normal,” she says about me.

But Matoo is wrong...”
Baskin, page 1

Baskin, author of Anything But Typical among other titles, absolutely captured me in this text. I didn’t want it to end. I can imagine me as a child loving this book. Yep, it’s a keeper for me!!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Fort by Cynthia DeFelice

I should have known from the start that the author of Wild Life would take making a fort to new heights. And boy, did she!! I loved the second half of this book. I mean I loved the first too, and all of the information in the first half is critical for the second, but the second half of the book held my attention so rapt that I couldn't put it down. I am not sure which one I liked more, Wild Life or Fort

DeFelice starts her story with two teenage boys in their last couple of weeks in summer together. Augie and Wyatt are steadfast friends, and they have the distinct pleasure of sharing the same experiences of being bullied by a couple of school thunks. Since they only have 2 weeks left of summer, they decide to speedily build a fort out in the woods. Early on the the bullies find the fort and verbally tease Augie and Wyatt and in time, the boys decide to figure out that a neighborly special-needs teen has also been bullied. DeFelice sets up a sweet ending; while I don't usually agree with revenge, this time I was clapping and laughing too.

See what you think with her work and let me know. I look forward to learning what you thought!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Float by Daniel Miyares

Miyares wrote the picture book Pardon Me! awhile back, an enjoyable little book that includes a swamp, a fox, a parrot, not in that order and not what you think might happen happens. Come on--it's a picture book! Float just happened to land in my hands at the library last week (okay, I will tell the truth: I ordered it!). Ahh, what a perfect way to start summer vacation!

Float is a wordless picture book focusing on one rainy day in the life of a youngster in a yellow slicker, yellow rain hat, and yellow rain boots. Someone important helped a youngster make a paper boat, and the youngster protects that boat with their life...that is until they get to water. The youngster sets the boat into the water and watches it float away. They try to follow it until they no longer can. No boat. What happens next?

Read Float to find out.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise by Sean Taylor

I am not familiar with Taylor's writing but I want to be. Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise is a favorite of my class, so much so that we read it twice without realizing it 'til the end and loved it both times. Evidently I will have plenty to choose from and read through!

Hoot Owl is hungry. He goes hunting. Or attempts it. Disguised in multiple ways, he hunts and hunts. The struggle immense, and eventually he feeds himself, albeit in a surprising and humorous way. Looking for a fun read aloud? This might be the ticket...

Saturday, June 20, 2015

This Is My Rock by David Lucas

This Is My Rock--one of my new fave read-alouds! I wish I had had the chance to read this to my kindergarten students and unpack it. I think they would have loved it.

Lucas is a prolific author and wrote The Robot and The Bluebird among other favorites. This new text offers a sweet entrance into cause and effect. A mountain goat claims a rock to be his, sending all other comers away. Later he realizes the loss accompanying such action and has to make a large decision about what to do next. This is a very spacious book, with few words and bold illustrations. There are many entrance points and perspectives. I love how the book flows, smooth and steady. Lucas is a master writer, making the few words he chooses to use count with every breath. He dedicated the book to his recently-deceased brother; check out Lucas' April entry on his blog to learn more:

As a child, I played King of the Mountain and never liked it. Maybe Lucas' book can help me understand why.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I loved this book! The author is a new rock star to me!! Loved the expansive storyline, the subtle character development, and the writing style. Love, love love: seriously.

Pre-WWII England: Ada is literally stuck in an apartment, unable to move through both force and disability.  She cares for little brother Jamie in the dingy, tiny apartment, whether their "Mam" is there or not. Deadbeat Mam takes the cake when it comes to negligence  and abuse. Jamie sometimes gets fed because Ada gives him her food. The mom abuses Ada because of her never-repaired clubfoot, forcing her to remain in the apartment at all times, use a bucket to go to the restroom in, and punishes her by forcing her into a small cabinet under a sink filled with roaches. With the slenderest of possibility slinking around the story, Ada and Jamie join the mass exodus of children from London. Placed together in some random single-female home, Ada begins to question almost everything she knows about life. She learns to ask the myriad of questions to help her learn, including vocabulary words like beach and ocean. She also experiences some dramatic PTSD as a result of her mother's severe mistreatment. She hears their caretaker state early on that she didn't request to care for children. But like each character in the book, time and relationships change. The final 30 pages of the book move at an accelerated rate compared to the rest of the book-- this design decision by the author is a brilliant one. I loved the leisurely pace, almost life-like, of living through Ada's eyes. If you regularly read this blog, you know that I often whip through books. This one I did not want to end, but I loved the ending!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously. It was perfect.

I will seek this author out more frequently. Her writing style is so enterable for me. This is a terrific read. I am so grateful to have stumbled across this book. And the cover: perfection!