Monday, December 15, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelfImages via Goodreads unless otherwise noted. 

The Past Week: 

I didn't finish many books this week, but the ones I did finish were excellent. The Family Romanov was a fascinating look at the Romanovs. Candace Fleming did a nice job of presenting the information in a way that showed the complexities of their lives and the influences that led to their downfall. The Night Gardener gave me chills, but also gave me a lot to think about. I like that in a book. There's a bit of philosophical pondering over several topics including the difference between stories and lies. The Turtle of Oman was a beautiful story of the love between a boy and his grandfather. There are other things happening in the book, but that relationship warmed my heart. Sylvia's Spinach will be a welcome addition to our library because it supports our garden project so well. Many of our students are like Sylvia and are leery of spinach. The publisher, Readers to Eaters, sent me the book for review along with some of their other titles. I will review it more thoroughly later, but our garden coordinator was excited when I shared the great titles about food literacy.

The Coming Week: 

I am having to slow myself down reading Stephen King's book On Writing. It's not like a typical nonfiction book since it is made up of so many stories. It reads like fiction so I am loving it aside from learning about writing. I'm listening to Blue Shoe in the car when I am not listening to holiday music. I have only read Anne Lamott's nonfiction in the past. I started The Joy Luck Club ages ago and abandoned it, but this time it's on a Playaway so I'm listening while folding clothes and knitting. Maybe I will finish this time. Dreaming in Indian is amazing. It's full of vibrant illustrations and powerful poetry and text. I'm still taking my time with it, but will be reviewing it later this week.

Aside from those that I'm currently reading, I have a huge pile of books waiting for break that I may sneak into again. I already snagged several of them as you might have noticed. If you have a pile waiting for break, be sure to share it on Twitter with the hashtag #WinterTBR or email them to The Nerdybookclub is collecting pictures of TBR stacks. I just have a hard time waiting. I think I'll be snagging The Madman of Piney Woods before next week.

What will you be reading?

Sunday, December 14, 2014


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

Here are things that I celebrated this week:


* We started to relocate and downsize our library the day before Thanksgiving break and we finished early this week. The job was huge, but we're very happy with the results.

* Experiencing The Hour of Code with my students is a treat. It's exciting to see them figure things out and then help each other.

* We got a box of lebkuchen and other treats from Germany and they are so yummy.

* I enjoyed participating in the Nerdy Book Award nominations. It's so fun to look back on favorite titles from 2014.

* Watching and hearing my daughter sing The Messiah with the local university choir was a fantastic experience. The orchestra and choir sounded fabulous and put us in the holiday mood.

* My daughter and I also went to see the Nutcracker. It was special because we know the young woman that danced the part of the Sugar Plum Fairy. We had a lovely evening together.

I hope that you had some wonderful celebrations in your week!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Savage Fortress Book Tour

Title: The Savage Fortress
Author: Sarwat Chadda
ISBN: 978-0545385176
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Pages: 304
Genre: YA, MG, Fantasy, Adventure

Plot Summary: The gods and monsters of India roar to life in this thrilling fantasy!

After three weeks of vacation, Ash Mistry is ready to leave the heat and dust of India behind him. Then he discovers a gleaming gold arrowhead hidden in the sands---a weapon used to defeat evil King Ravana in legend.

At least, Ash is pretty sure it's only a legend . . .

But when Lord Alexander Savage comes after Ash, the legends are suddenly way too real. Savage commands an army of monstrous shapechangers called rakshasas, who want only to seize the arrowhead and restore Ravana to power. As they hunt Ash through magnificent fortresses and brutal deserts, he must learn to work with a powerful rakshasa girl named Parvati, and find the strength within himself to fight on no matter what. Because this isn't just a battle to stop the end of the world. It's a battle to stop the end of reality as we know it.

No pressure.

My thoughts: The Savage Fortress caught my attention soon after its release. Evil kings, shape changers, and young people trying to save the world seemed like an excellent combination. I wasn't disappointed either. Ash and his adventures kept me reading at a furious clip. I'm happy to recommend The Savage Fortress to my fantasy fans.

"His heroes are Prince Rama and the demon-slaying Kali. Isn’t it about time you met them too?" This quote is found in the bio on Sarwat Chadda's blog - and is so true for me. Here in the US, many children (like myself) grow up with the Greek, Roman and even Norse myths and legends, but miss out on those from India. The Ash Mistry series is an excellent opportunity to explore some of that culture and meet new heroes and monsters. For those readers already at home with these personalities, the book is likely even more interesting.

If you haven't started the Ash Mistry series, get on it. You'll be glad you joined the adventure.

Book Tour Info: This mini-review is part of a book tour arranged by Diverse Book Tours. Be sure to stop by some of the other blogs for more information and reviews.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Alyson Beecher over at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts a Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge and has a roundup every Wednesday. I love the encouragement to explore more non-fiction. I am thankful that she has this challenge because I know I have read more nonfiction texts as a result.

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

As I am typing this, I hear the clink of sleet on the window. It is so interesting to learn about how animals survive the bitter winter cold. I'm not sure I needed a mental image of thousands of snakes curled up together though. Eek!

There are twelve poems in the collection - each about an animal or part of nature in winter. She used a variety of poetic forms and provides a glossary that includes the nature terminology, but also explains a couple of the poetry terms. 

As always, Sidman weaves together words in a beautiful way. In "Vole in Winter," a vole describes the snow above him as "a blanket made of sky-feathers!"

And I have to say, the illustrations are gorgeous. Also, watch for the fox. He is on the cover in the middle of a leap. If you want to know what that looks like in real life, watch this video. The fox is also on many of the pages of the book. I know that children will enjoy hunting for the fox on the pages.

I had never been to Joyce Sidman's website, but it is a fantastic poetry resource. If you teach poetry or want to experiment with your own poetry, she has pep talks and suggestions. I will be visiting her site again soon.

Aside from Winter Bees, if you wish to teach about winter, there are a few other picture books I would recommend. 

Over and Under the Snow by Kate Messner
Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Illustrated by Mary Azarian

Illustrations by Robert C. Kray

by Francisco X. Alarcón
Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez

It's not precisely nonfiction, but it could be argued so I'm including it anyway.
Besides, my students adore it!
Rabbit's Snow Dance by James & Joseph Bruchac
Illustrated by Jeff Newman

Here's a video with the author explaining the story:

Do you have any favorite nonfiction picture book titles focused on winter? Please share them if you do. Happy winter!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Bramble and Maggie

Title: Bramble and Maggie: Horse Meets Girl
Author: Jessie Haas
Illustrator: Alison Friend
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 52
Availability: On shelves now
Review Copy: Final copy via publisher

Summary:Maggie wants a pony to ride and take care of, and to prepare she's been reading a big book on horse care. Meanwhile, Bramble is bored with giving riding lessons and walking in circles. She's looking for just the right person to take her away from her routine. Is it a perfect match? Maggie loves Bramble as soon as she sees her, but there are some things Bramble has to be sure of. Will Maggie let Bramble venture into new places? Will she protect Bramble from strange objects in the yard? Will she, most importantly, know when Bramble needs her undivided attention? This charming and funny early reader is an ideal match for young animal lovers and anyone who has ever longed for a friend who truly understands.

My Thoughts: Bramble and Maggie begins with a chapter from Bramble's perspective. I'm glad that we got to know the horse first. She is a bit of a pill. She's been giving lessons for so long that she's become bored with the whole process and is finding ways to liven up the day. She has a lot of spunk and personality.

In the second chapter, readers learn about Maggie. She's a girl who is completely horse crazy. She's been studying up and is ready to take on the challenge.

This is a sweet and funny early chapter book that will inspire giggles and smiles. It reminded me of Cowboy Kate and Cocoa. Horse fans will love it especially since it makes owning a horse seem like something anyone can do. Maggie doesn't live on a farm or have a barn. Maggie just makes a stall out of a garden shed. This may be quite inspirational for those children who have been begging for a horse.

If you are looking for more early/transitional chapter books, this one with short and interesting chapters will be just the thing.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

It's Monday! What are you reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. Jen Vincent over at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye from Unleashing Readers decided to put a children's and YA spin on it and they invite anyone with an interest to join in. You can participate by creating your post then visit one of their sites to add your site. Finally, visit at least three participant blogs and comment to spread the love.

If you want to know more about what I am reading, visit me at my Goodreads shelfImages via Goodreads unless otherwise noted. 

The Past Week: 

The Princess in Black is a very fun and cute adventure. The Princess has ninja skills and uses them to help keep monsters in check despite the expectation that Princesses are ladylike and only wear pink. It's great that it is in an early chapter book format. 

Foreign Gods, Inc was quite unique. I read it for the Africa Challenge and for the Diversity on the Shelf Challenge. It's an adult title and deals with a man who is contemplating stealing a deity from his hometown in Nigeria. He is rather desperate for money and believes that he could sell it for a high price in the U.S. It was a slow start for me, but ultimately I found it fascinating in a grim way.

Grim was also a good word for The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza. Joey is once again in a tough situation. His homelife is such a challenge. His mother has sunk into depression and his father has run away. He is left to take care of his baby brother. Joey is determined to be positive though and is using all kinds of coping skills. It's a hard book to read, cue sound of cockroaches crunching, but has humor and all kinds of heart.

I will be reviewing Tea Party later in the week. I got an ARC from the publisher. It's a cute picture book and how can I resist something about tea parties? I drink tea multiple times a day.

Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold is a fantastic collection of shivery poems about winter animals and plants. I loved the combination of poetry and non-fiction text.

In preparation for the final edition of The Hobbit in theaters this month, I listened to a radio version. We also watched the first two movies this weekend. I am eager for the movie, but not for the tears I will shed.

The Coming Week: 
I've started listening to Anne Lamott's fiction title Blue Shoe, but am between books otherwise. I have a lengthy list planned for my winter break. I've been putting a bunch of books on hold so I will have many choices. A few of them may get read ahead of time because I just can't wait. *eyes The Family Romanov sitting on the floor* I think I will finally get to Dreaming in Indian this week and maybe Escaping the Tiger

Have a wonderful week full of reading adventures.

Saturday, December 6, 2014


Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres has a link-up on Saturdays where people link to posts that are celebrations about their week. I love this reminder to celebrate every week.

* I'm participating in Write Daily. This is a writing challenge that is hosted by Linda Urban. I'm celebrating that I have been writing more this week and posting to my blog more often. I wrote for four days straight. Yesterday though, I didn't make my goal. I planned to, but this week I have stayed almost 2 hours after work every day. We're going through a renovation and we (me and two aides) had to move almost half of the library to a new location and we're boxing up the rest. This is an exhausting job. When I came home yesterday I sat on the floor until my husband brought home dinner. We watched the hobbit together and I went to bed. No writing was accomplished, but my brain and body relaxed and I spent time with family. I was disappointed this morning when I realized I hadn't written, but today is a new day.

It's fun for the students to hide in and around the boxes during the shift.

* The library move is a struggle. Doing all of my regular tasks with moving on top of it is wearing me down. Almost every free moment is spent shifting books, packing them, or making decisions about the new or old library space. I would love to say that it's exciting and I am looking forward to the new space, but right now I have my head down and am just trying to get through. There is a small light shining at the end of the tunnel though. All of the books that are staying in our new mini-library are moved and there is only one more bookcase of nonfiction to be packed on Monday. We still have the chapter and picture books to pack, but there are fewer of those. It's beginning to feel manageable.

* One of our pre-k teachers left that fun note seen in the center above. Chocolate always helps when I am stressed and it is wonderful to know that others are behind us and understand the stress of the move.

* Because of my schedule, I won't see all of the classes during the Hour of Code week, so I started some of those lessons already. It was fun to see the students enjoying the Hour of Code program online and some of my earlier grades were interacting with the apps Kodable and Light Bot. One child was not as thrilled though. He is a true Nerdybookclub guy. When he realized what we were doing he said, "I don't want to play a game on an iPad, I just want to read a book." He did manage to learn a little about coding and enjoy himself, but he was happy when we got to checkout time and he could finally get to the books.

* My daughter is performing in many musical events this season. We get to go see her at one of the local universities this weekend. It's an honor choir with nominated high school students along with the university choir. They're singing portions of the Messiah and she has been looking forward to this for quite some time.

* Finally, I got our Christmas cards ordered and they came in the mail. I haven't sent any in about six years so this is a step in the right direction. I've written a few of them already and am hoping to get the majority mailed this weekend. I'm enjoying the Advent Season and while cards add more work, it's also nice to send out greetings to people we don't see often and think of them.

I hope that your week was full of celebrations big and small.