#IMWAYR September 28, 2015

Hurrah it's Monday! I'm looking forward to checking in with dedicated bloggers who are aficionados of children's literature. You can join the fun by checking out Jen at Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee andRickie from Unleashing Readers, our hosts for this weekly event. 

It's been two weeks since my last post. Last weekend we moved. Well, we partly moved. We are living in our new place while we figure out what to do with the 'stuff' we left at our other one. Our new place is crowded with piles of unpacked boxes. Partly it is because we need more cupboards and book shelves. Partly it is because my partner decided to refinish the shelving unit he built when we were much younger than we are now. Thankfully I convinced him that they were not that bad so he is only refinishing the piece he started.

It has been a relief to get away from the mess at home and return to work where boxes full of new books wait for me. I've been limiting my reading of them so I can actually find time to do other work. Still, I have come to the sorry conclusion that I will never get the library under control.

Here is what I have been reading.


Rufus the Writer by Elizabeth Bram, Chuck Groenink

4 stars
This is a beautiful book about a young writer. I enjoyed Rufus' stories and think the illustrations are luscious. Rufus sets up a story stand instead of a lemonade stand. He writes four stories in exchange for 'gifts' from his clients. My favorite stories include Orange is the Best Color and Annie and the Dancing Teapot. I'm looking forward to reading this to children, but think teachers will get more mileage out of it in their classrooms working with young writers.

5 stars
Butterfly Park by Elly MacKay

This is a sweet book that shows how one person can start a movement that makes the world a better place for all of them. I love the gorgeous illustrations and the sparse powerful text.

My Dog Is the Best by Laurie Ann Thompson & Paul Schmid (illustrator) 

4 stars
I am enchanted by this charming little book. If you just read the text, you will see how much this young boy loves his dog. It's in the pairing of Paul Schmid's illustrations with them that makes the reader smile. As the boy tells us about his dog, we discover that his dog isn't exactly as his words would suggest.

I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton

5 stars
As someone with arachnophobia, I liked this book. I still don't love spiders, but I'm coming to some kind of truce with them, so long as they stay out doors. This book is full of information about spiders and it is written in such a humorous voice that I'm certain other readers, whether they love spiders or not, will enjoy this one. This book just arrived in our school library. I'm trying to like spiders, but, as fun as it is, it isn't helping me.

5 stars
Yard Sale by Eve Bunting & Lauren Castillo

This is a story of a family that, due to financial difficulty, has to move from their house into a small apartment. It is heartbreaking to experience the sale of their possessions through the perspective of Callie, the young girl. Her confusion and sorrow resonated powerfully with me.

Marilyn's Monster by Michelle Knudsen & Matt Phelan (Illustrator)

5 stars
This is one of those books that requires a couple of readings I think. On the surface it's the story of a girl who lives in a land where eventually everyone gets their own monster. She waits and worries that she isn't good enough to have a monster. She waits until eventually, gets tired of waiting and heads off in search of her monster.  I really need to read this one again.

4 stars
The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach

Love this story of the bear that just happened to end up in a city and ended up eating someone's sandwich, or did he? I was delighted by the surprise ending!

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson, Sydney Smith (Illustrator)
5 stars

I've read this book three times since I took it out of the box on Friday. I read it at work and knew I had to take it home for another read. I read it last night and again today. Each time I take more away from this gorgeously illustrated wordless book. I adore how in the beginning of the book, the black and white illustrations are punctuated with sparks of colour. At first it is primarily the girl's red jacket. Then as as the story progresses there are more splashes of colour in the city and the flowers. As it continues and the girl begins to give the flowers away, the world becomes more and more glorious. The page spread where she stops to put a flower on the dead bird while the father continues ahead talking on his phone, is achingly tender and poignant.


Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle by George Hagen narrated by Michael Goldstrom

3 stars
I wanted to like this book. I really did. Ever since I read The Mob by Clem Martini, I've been fascinated by the idea of corvids having a rich history and mythology. So I was prepared to embrace the concept of a magical bond between ravens and humans. I did at first, but somewhere in the execution of this tale, it all fell apart for me. I kept thinking that either there was something wrong with my audiobook, or that my overdrive app was going wonky. I kept losing chunks of text and then suddenly it seemed like these missing bits showed up at odd times later on. On top of this, I thought I had back tracked or something, but hadn't. It was just that the text was so similar, it seemed like it had. All that aside, I quite liked the characters of the four children. I only wish they had been developed more fully. I suppose this will happen in the sequel. I doubt I'll read it though.

Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy

4 stars
This is another story where someone dies, but there is so much more going on than just a character dealing with it.
Danielle was babysitting five year old Humphrey when he ran into traffic and died. Her coming to grips with her grief and responsibility is a large chunk of what this book is about, but it's also about Humphrey and who he was. It's impossible not to love this remarkable little person. 
All of this would make for a great read, but what makes the book exceptional is how different members of the community use the tragedy to further their own agendas. There is the group that wants trees cut down, sidewalks laid out and streetlights put up. When it turns out that the car that hit Humphrey was driven by an undocumented immigrant, a group wants to use this to force the police to automatically report such people to ICE. It's in the complex exploration of all this, as well as Danielle's personal encounters with old friends and new, that make this book a compelling read.
This has been on my to read list for a couple of years. I made certain to get to it this year because all of my readers have sung it's praises. They were not wrong.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertali narrated by Michael Crouch

4 stars
This book is worth all the praise that has been sung about it. On the one hand it is a coming out and coming of age story. It's a story about friendship and family. I appreciate how masterfully the characters are developed. There are no real bad guys, and even the one who did the most terrible things seems to be redeemable by the end. I also appreciated how sensible and authentic the parents and teachers of these teens are portrayed. There is a sweetness to this book that left me completely satisfied.

Currently I'm reading (and expect to be finished Sunday night), A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff. I've started listening to Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. It is being passed around by my grade 7's so I decided I better see what it is about. 

Up Next? More from my 2015 must read list. I'm planning on posting an update at the end of the month!

#IMWAYR September 14, 2015

I love Mondays! It's time to check in with other bloggers to find out what they have been reading and discover some fabulous reads for myself. Jen From Mentor Texts and Kellee and Rickie from Unleashing Readers host this event, so check out their sites for a list of participants' blogs to check out. 

I was unable to post last weekend, because we were marrying off my younger son. I survived the production, but only just. I do not recommend do it yourself weddings. I'm already saving up for my other son to do a destination event when and if he ever ties the knot. For at least 5 days I had absolutely no time to read. Ok, maybe I read for 5 minutes until I fell into bed exhausted.

Was it worth it? Of Course!
Because of wedding frenzy, I also didn't get my Must Read update posted. I hope to get around to it by the end of the month Carrie Gelson! By that time I might have more books finished...

This is what I read in the past two weeks. Nearly everything has been brain candy: books that entertain and delight without leaving me overwrought.


The Forbidden Stone (The Copernicus Legacy, #1) by Tony Abbot

4 stars
I was hoping fans of Abbot's Underworld and Secrets of Droon series would appreciate this one as well, but it hasn't been flying off the shelf. Perhaps it is because this seems like a tome compared to the ones in those series. I picked it up to listen to in hopes of figuring out how to sell it to that crowd. Kirkus gave it a starred review and the write up at goodreads make it seem very compelling. 
It's the story of a group of children and one adult who have to work together to figure out clues and find ancient relics before an evil organization gets to them. I liked the friendship between these kids. The story is loaded with adventure. It will introduce readers to many significant historical figures. My conclusion is that it is ok. It's not stellar, but I can see the appeal in this kind of tale. Now that I know what it is about, I look forward to seeing if I can convince readers to try it out.
4 stars

 Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2) by Marissa Meyer

I admit to loving this series. It's just fun with strong female characters. I love the combination of science fiction and fairy tale. Cress is waiting for me to start soon. I am really looking forward to introducing my readers to these books. For me, the only problem with getting into this kind of series is that I'm falling farther and farther behind on my must read list. 

4 stars
Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco

I enjoyed this book a lot. It is a sweet story about a young girl who manages to overcome numerous obstacles to find a place for herself in the world. There are many aspects to this one. It's an historical novel about family and friendship. Readers will become aware of the suffragette movement, the difficult times of the second world war, and the importance of inclusion of all children into regular classrooms. Adults and teachers who read this one will be reminded of their power to improve or destroy the worlds of children in their community. (Hurrah! this is one of my must read books)

4 stars

The Terror of the Southlands (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates, #2) by Caroline Carlson

This is one of the series I am totally infatuated with these days. I love the spunky Hilary Westfield and her piratical friends. These reads are pure pleasure with hints of deeper understandings about our present day world.

4 stars
Jinx by Sage Blackwood

I enjoyed this story that is loaded with all kinds of traditional fairy tale tropes. I appreciated the complexity of the many characters especially of Simon Magus, Jinx's guardian. It is a superb coming of age saga that mirrors many of our own culture's foibles and flaws. (Hurrah! this is also one of my must read books)

3 stars
The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) by Maryrose Wood

I'm quite enchanted by these Incorrigibles and their governess, Miss Penelope Lumley. In this book the family heads off to London while their manor house is being repaired after the Christmas fiasco. While there, the children get into all kinds of mischief and Miss Lumley learns more about her employer, the children and even her own mysterious background. To add to it all, there is a hint of romance. 

Waistcoats and Weaponry (Finishing School #3) by Gail Carriger

4 stars
I adore these books. If you are not acquainted with this series, you need to run right out, grab the first one, and not stop reading until you are done. The series is a conglomerate of steampunk, paranormal, spy and mystery. It focuses on Sophronia and the friends she meets at her very unordinary finishing school. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, students learn much more than the social graces. For a start, their curriculum includes spying, assassination techniques, the art of seduction, and thinking for themselves. 
In this book Sophronia and her friends end up stealing a train that is loaded with stolen technology (purloined by a vampire hive from the Picklemen). If the Picklemen get their hands on it, they will cause chaos in London and the rest of England. I love the political intrigue, the humour, the adventure and most especially, I love Sophronia and her candid and honest reflections on her life. 
The next and final book in the series won't be out til November. I can hardly wait. Because I think it will require a sophisticated reader, for now I've only ordered the first book for our library. I've got a passel of girls I want to try it out on. I really hope they enjoy these as much as I do!


With help from another teacher, I had students new to Dickens in the library for a couple of days this week. They were there while we made sure that our planned organization would work.  We spent time getting to know each other and creating our own twisted fairy tales. These are the picture books we read together. 

4 stars
First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.

On Tuesday our vice principal read this charming picture book. It was new to me. I was delighted by the surprise ending. I might have been less surprised, but while he was reading, I was getting other materials ready and just listened. Unfortunately we don't have this one in our library.   

Courage by Bernard Waber

5 stars
I love this book. I've read it a number of times over the years to groups, but last week I read it to this group of students. Starting the day out with this book, followed by a conversation about the different kinds of courage we need for different things, seemed to help them begin to take risks. In fact, nearly all of these 40 children did a short presentation telling the rest of us about their name. 

Prince Cinders by Babette Cole

4 stars
This is one of my favourite twisted fairy tales. It's so much fun to read. Prince Cinder's fairy godmother is terribly incompetent. I love how pretty much anything that can go wrong, does go wrong, except of course that sometimes going wrong turns out to be exactly the best thing that could have happened. Everyone laughs when the prince, who wants to be big and hairy like his brothers turns out to be big and hairy, but not quite like his brothers. 

Interstellar Cinderella by Deborah Underwood & Meg Hunt (illustrator)

3 stars
I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did. Unfortunately, the poetry ended up annoying the heck out of me and got in the way of my enjoying this book. In addition, I tried to read it to a group of children using my epson projector, but the print didn't show up against the background. I appreciated the humour, but my students missed out on many of the technological references. Aside from these piddly little complaints, this is a fun book. I liked the ending. 

I'm listening to Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella. I'm glad that I had no idea what it was about before starting it. It isn't brain candy, but it isn't overly angst producing either. I admit so far that this mother irritates the heck out of me. While I've been working on my must read list, I realized that many of the titles on my netgalley list have already been archived. The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin is still there so I've started that. 


As soon as I finish these books, I'm hoping to get back to my must read list. This is going to be a challenge since boxes of new books I ordered at the end of the summer have arrived in the library. I hope to get them opened and processed soon!