Monday, July 27, 2015

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 shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

Whew! In the past 33 days, I have slept in my own house only 7 times. I am done traveling for a while. I loved my time away, but am super happy to be home.

I've had some fantastic adventures, but haven't been so good at blogging.

One of the great things that happened while I was away was meeting Debbie Ridpath Ohi while we were in Canada.

This involved a nice trip to the Indigo Chapters bookstore and some book purchases including Where Are My Books? by Debbie. She is so fun and welcoming. She's also an encourager. I love being around people who are looking for the positives in everyone. I'm excited because some of my classes will be Skyping with Debbie this year!! Where Are My Books? is an adorable book that I'll be sharing with many of my classes early in the school year.

I came back to a pile of books that I need to review. I took care of two right away. 

A very fun middle grade/early chapter book Letters From Heaven by Lydia Gil

An intense YA novel The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

Here are the rest of the books I've been reading lately:




The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste is a lot of creepy fun. Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older is also creepy, but on a young adult level so obviously even more so. Both were very well done and high on my recommendation list. 

Two others that really stood out were The Blue Whale and Little Robot. The Blue Whale looks like it might be fiction, but is really a nonfiction picture book chock full of information about these amazing creatures. Little Robot is another wonderful adventure from Ben Hatke. Like his other graphic novels, it is creative, fun and quirky too. 

The Judy Blume book, Iggie's House was new to me. I have a collection of Judy Blume books that were reissued with Debbie Ridpath Ohi's new cover art. Somehow I had missed reading this historical fiction that deals with racism in the sixties. The message is delivered with a slightly heavy hand, but certainly touches on key points that are still relevant. 

The Coming Week:
I just started The House of Hades which is a monster at 597 pages, but it is going pretty quickly. I'm also reading Kate Messner's book 59 Reasons to Write. I've ordered a few books at the library from my #MustRead2015 list, so will chip away at that while I still have free time. Otherwise, I will be picking up more nonfiction picture books for that challenge too. Have a great week filled with excellent reading!  

Friday, July 24, 2015

Review: Letters from Heaven/Cartas del cielo

Title: Letters From Heaven/Cartas del cielo
Author: Lydia Gil
Illustrator: Leonardo Mora
Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Publico Press
Pages: 116
Availability: On shelves now
Review Copy: Final copy via publisher

Summary: Celeste is heartbroken when her grandmother dies. But everything changes when a letter mysteriously comes in the mail—from Grandma! “I know you miss me as much as I miss you. Don’t be sad. Where there is love, there is no sadness.” As letters continue to arrive from the beyond, each with a recipe of a favorite food her grandmother used to prepare, Celeste consoles herself by learning how to cook the dishes. Meanwhile, without Grandma’s social security check, Mami needs to get a second job to make ends meet. Celeste has to quit dance lessons, and a bully at school gloats that she will replace Celeste as the star in the upcoming recital. To top things off, her friends think that she’s gone crazy; dead people can’t send letters! When a final letter arrives, Celeste realizes that all the recipes combined make an entire meal: café con leche, guava and cheese croissants, congrí, plantain chips, ropa vieja and flan. Can she really make a Cuban feast to celebrate her cherished grandmother’s life?

A tender story of family and friendship, Letters from Heaven / Cartas del cielo celebrates Latino traditions, especially those of the Spanish Caribbean. This entertaining novel is written in ten brief chapters for children ages 8-12 and includes six traditional Cuban recipes with easy-to-follow instructions.

Review: I am a complete sucker for books that include recipes and this one has me itching to get in the kitchen. There are six recipes that together create a complete meal if one is brave enough. The description above says they are easy-to-follow, but the flan looks a bit tough to do. I will probably give it a try though.

The story itself has a little bit of everything. Celeste is grieving after the death of her grandmother, but she also has a good adult support system. There is also a friendship and bullying component. And of course, food plays a very important role. Lydia Gil provides characters and situations that are believable and interesting too. Overall, it's a story of family love and how that can be expressed and celebrated in and around food.

Early readers of chapter books will find this story to be both quick and engaging. They will likely want to try some of the recipes too. All of the recipes involve cooking so adult supervision will be necessary. Some of the recipes, like the flan, may seem a bit intimidating, but they all look like they lead to deliciousness.

As the title implies, this book has text in both Spanish and English. It's a flip book so the texts are kept separate though there are a few italicized Spanish words in the English portion. For readers who don't know Spanish, the words are almost always easily understood through context, but even if they aren't, major plot comprehension issues won't be likely.

This is a great early chapter book for any young readers. I definitely recommend it especially for libraries looking to include books from a variety of cultures.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge


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.

This will be a combination post with two books I've read recently and a few that are on my pile to be read soon. First for my vacation finds.


Astounding ABC produced by the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto

Goodreads Summary: From an arch and a lantern to an owl and a zoo, this ABC spelling book illustrates letters from the Latin alphabet with details from the Aga Khan Museum's superb collection of paintings, illuminated manuscripts, ceramics, metalwork, coins, and tiles from the 12th to 19th centuries. The board book offers an accessible introduction for very young children to the Museum's collection, showcasing a rich diversity of works from around the world, including Egypt, Sicily, India, Turkey, and Iran. Proving that learning can be fun, colourful, and exciting, Astounding ABC encourages children to explore the Museum's collection through animals, nature, historical figures, and a variety of artifacts.

My Thoughts: I loved this look at art from Muslim civilizations around the world. This book would be perfect to share before or after a visit to the Aga Khan Museum, but it is also a beautiful ABC book for children without physical access to the museum collection. The words used in the text are simple and the images that accompany them are vivid and interesting. I find it especially intriguing to see a king portrayed not with a crown, but a turban. It provides a look at artistic patterns and styles of dress that most of my students would not normally see in their daily lives.
 
The Aga Khan Museum

The Little RijksMuseum produced by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Goodreads Summary: More than 120 works of art or details from them can be seen in this Little Rijksmuseum. Their creators are Rembrandt, Vermeer, Steen, Breitner, Van Gogh and other famous artists. From angel to windmill and beetle to zebra, these and many more... allow a fascinating glimpse into the national treasure-house of the Rijksmuseum.

My Thoughts:  Again, this would be a wonderful book to share with children before or after a visit to the museum. It is so fun to visit a museum and then watch for specific works of art. It's also nice to look at the images and remember the ones that you saw on your trip. That's what I like about this book. It makes a great reminder. There are works by Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Vermeer along with many others that are less familiar. Even without the visit though, anyone interested in art would love this bookish walk through the museum.

Books to Read Soon

 The Blue Whale by Jenni Desmond

 
The Call of the Osprey by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent with Photographs by William Muñoz




Monday, July 13, 2015

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 shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

I have been on vacation for a few weeks and haven't reported on my reading, but it would be a ton of titles so I will just hit some of the highlights.


Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family was an audio book offered by www.audiobooksync.com It was a fantastic way to hear another perspective after re-reading Anne Frank's diary a few weeks ago. I also enjoyed learning about how and why Miep helped the family. This book was particularly interesting to me since my husband and I were able to tour the Anne Frank house during a visit to Amsterdam.


Also related to that trip are books I purchased and read while there. The Little Rijksmuseum (the link takes you to an excellent review by @globalmouse1) is a great book with simple words on a page matched with a piece or section of a piece of art from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. I saw the book before visiting the museum then also found a copy in the amazing library within the museum. Then I really wanted to get my own. Luckily, I found it again in the bookstore around the corner from our hotel the morning we left.


Another book I read there in the Rijksmuseum is Miffy at the Gallery. I found a copy at another bookstore, but not in English. I bought it in Dutch with the title nijntje in het museum. It's fun to have it in another language. I didn't know that Miffy had a different name in her homeland. Nijntje is a short form of little rabbit. She was also on display outside the museum since it was her 60th anniversary this year. I kept finding her all over town in bookstores and libraries.

In front of the museum
At Scheltema (a bookstore)
At the library

This is a flip book - Scrumple Dirty/Scrumple Clean. When you flip it over, you have the second story. It's by the Dutch author of Jip and Janneke. The book made me laugh out loud as did this hilarious review on Goodreads comparing Dutch and German children's literature. I don't think she is reviewing this exact book, but Scrumple doesn't have very negative consequences in this book either. We own a copy of the German book she refers to and it's true the mischievous children have quite negative and often violent consequences.


Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes is one of my #MustReadin2015 books. I loved how it shared about people that are well-known, but also shed light on people that would be new to most readers. The biographies are not very long and the book can be used as a reference work or be read straight through.

The Coming Week:
I am traveling again - this time to Toronto. I know I will read some books written or illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi in honor of being in her hometown. Other than that, I am not sure what I will accomplish. It will be a surprise. Have a great week!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Celebrate!

Discover. Play. Build.

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

I had a fantastic vacation with my husband as we celebrated twenty-five years of marriage a smidge early (August 11th is the actual date). We spent five days in Amsterdam alone before heading to Germany to visit with family and friends and had one final day alone in Brussels before heading home. Here are a few of the 1,000+ photos that were taken along the way.





Wednesday, July 1, 2015

#MustReadin2015 Update


The fantastic Carrie Gelson organized a reading challenge to help herself and others whittle down the books on their To Be Read list/pile. My #MustReadin2015 list has 53 books on it and is housed on a Goodreads shelf.

I've read 30/53 books on my #MustRead2015 list. Many of them have been simply amazing. Here are the ones that stand out from the rest.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

The more I look at the list though, the more titles I want to say are stand-outs. I think I will leave it at that, but know that many of these were fantastic books that spoke to me.
I have two of the books on my list checked out right now. I'm currently reading Circus Mirandus and have Boarding School Blues on deck. 

I'm so glad that Carrie has this challenge going because it does keep these titles fresh in my mind so they aren't forgotten.

Monday, June 22, 2015

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 shelf. Images via Goodreads unless otherwise noted.

The Past Week:
Picture Books


The Monkey King, Have You Seen My Dragon? and The New Small Person were my favorites, but all of these picture books were good. 

Middle Grade


90 Miles to Havana and I Lived on Butterfly Hill are historical fiction and both were Pura Belpré award books. Both tell about leaving a homeland for the United States. The Screaming Staircase is an excellent fantasy. I look forward to the rest of the series.

Young Adult


I got The Summer of Chasing Mermaids as a digital ARC from Edelweiss. It's an excellent romance. I'll review it soon. Another review book is I Will Always Write Back. I will share it over at Rich in Color soon. I won it in a giveaway that the author shared on Twitter. Here in Harlem was a download from audiobooksync.com and shared poems in different voices. Each voice is a personality from Harlem. Anne Frank was a re-read for me in preparation for a visit to the museum. This time I was struck by how well Anne wrote. I had not remembered that she wanted to be a writer. She observed so much around her and was able to share that through her writing. The world lost an amazing voice.

Young Adult/Adult
These aren't marketed as Young Adult books, but they seem like they would appeal to young adults. The nonfiction book, Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures, was a great companion to her diary.  I appreciated having both to read together. Signal to Noise is a coming of age novel, but it has another component. The book is set up with a woman coming back to her hometown, Mexico City, when her father dies. The book flashes back and forth between her teenage years and her present life showing how the past has influenced her future. The book is filled with music references and I loved that aspect. I heard about the book through Rincey's video. I'm glad she recommended this one or I never would have found it since I had to request it via ILL.

The Coming Week: 
I'm reading Circus Mirandus and am starting Boarding School Blues. I have another audio book, Anne Frank Remembered that I may finish before we visit the museum. I have quite a few ARCs that I'm may start, Another Kind of Hurricane, Goodbye Stranger and Fuzzy Mud. 

Reaching Challenge Updates:
Diversity on the Shelf/Diverse Books - 111/100
Goodreads - 239/520
#MustRead2015 - 30/53
Diversity Reading Challenge - 10/12
Around the World With Books 2015