Hello Monday! It's time to check in with Jen at Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers to find out what other readers are up to

What with guests all last weekend, dealing with my ill mother, and trying to get through the last week of school before the holidays, I didn't get a post in last Monday.  So this here is a recap of most of my reading for the previous two weeks.


The final school week of 2015 was all about reading seasonal picture books, handing out candy, and making sure students were loaded up with good books to last the winter break. I gave each group of children their choice of three books for me to read. Each one wanted When Santa was a Baby.

4 stars
When Santa was a Baby by Linda Bailey and Genevieve Godbout (Illustrator)

I had a lot of fun reading this. Have I mentioned that I am a Linda Bailey fan? The K/1/2 grouping laughed much heartier than the older students did, but we all appreciated the humour and enjoyed Godbout's retro looking illustrations. When there was enough time, I paired it up with Little Santa by Jon Agee and my listeners couldn't decide which they liked best. 

An Otis Christmas by Loren Long
3 stars

While I am an Otis fan, this book just didn't quite work for me. It might be that this book was a little too saccharine for my tastes, especially paired with the humour and fun of the other seasonal titles I've been reading recently.

4 stars
Merry Christmas Mr Crow by Kathi Appelt and Jon Goodell (Illustrator)

While this text by Kathi Applet is charming, it is Jon Goodell's beautiful illustrations make this book. A crow flies around at Christmas time collecting odd bits of this and that (in very crow fashion) to decorate a tree.

How to Read a Story by Kate Messner and Mark Siegel (Illustrator)

5+ stars
If only it was possible I would give this book many more than five stars. Mark Siegel's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to Messner's brilliant text. I love that this is a story within a story. I can't wait to read it to our older students who read with little buddies. I can't wait to read it to the younger students because there is just so much here about making sense of text.
What a jewel of a book!


4 stars
Water Can Be...  by Laura Purdie Salas & Violeta Dabija (illustrator)

I've waffled back and forth between giving this book 4 or 5 stars. As a primary level picture book read aloud it is a solid five. The poetry of the text works well against the backdrop of these rich, almost illuminated illustrations. I appreciate the section at the back of the text that explains almost every line of the text in more detail. Unfortunately, as research tool for older readers, this section provides introductory information only.


3 stars
The Rule of Three by Eric Walters (book club book)

I'm pretty sure I'm not the target audience for this book, but that said, it is a pretty engrossing read. It is an end of the world scenario set in America as some kind of virus destroys computers and shuts down all power. It's a reminder that when disaster strikes in any form, we really must pull together as a community to survive. To be completely honest, this book was a bit too macho for my tastes. 

4.5 stars
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands narrated by Ray Panthaki 

This was a stunning book to listen to. It's got murder, mayhem, suspense and all kinds of plot twists and turns. 
In addition to all that, there is a sweetness to this book that underlies all the adventure. 

4 stars

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde narrated by Elizabeth Jasicki

If I wasn't already a fan of Fforde's work, this would have put me solidly in his camp. I'm in awe of how he is able to pull together a fabulous satire that melds our modern world with magic and dragons. 
Avid readers of Terry Pratchett's work will probably be appreciative of Jasper Fforde. 

4 stars
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan narrated by Ari Fliakos

This book has been keeping me company in my head for a while now as I travel back and forth to work, go Christmas shopping, and work on assorted projects. I was happily engrossed in this complicated story that begins in a book store.  I appreciated the combination of archaic mystery and the modern world of google. This was a very satisfying read. 

4 stars
George by Alex Gino narrated by Jamie Clayton

I enjoyed listening to this book. I liked that it is essentially a positive story about a transgendered child. It is important that George is referred to as she right from the beginning. While there are a few boys who are nasty, and one teacher who has to learn to be more accepting, this is a good book to introduce my elementary readers to a transgender character. 
My only quibble is that Girls are very multidimensional characters and as I finished the book I couldn't help but wonder if all transgender girls want to be girly girls in the same way that George and Grayson from Gracefully Grayson by Amy Polonsky want to.
Both of these books are circulating constantly in our library. I now want to go and talk to readers about them to see what they are thinking.


The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, one of my #MustReadIn2015 titles, is the book I'm reading with my eyes. I'm listening to Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I read the book last spring, but listened to all the previous books in the series and always planned to listen to this one too. Will Patten's narration sent me back into this world within the first few words. I hope this will tide me over until The Raven King is published this coming April. If I read one of my #MustReadIn2015 books twice do I get to count it as two books?


Cress will be my next audiobook, and then Jellicoe Road, another of my #MustReadIn2015 titles. 


It's Monday and not only is it time for #IMWAYR, there are only two weeks of school left til winter break. I admit that the latter makes me a tad more excited than the former, but just a tad. Thank you Jen at Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting this weekly party. 

I have held my last book fair. It is very liberating to say this. It isn't that Scholastic didn't have some spectacular books. They did. In an ordinary year, I would be having another one in the spring, but this last one was so frustrating, I decided to just say enough. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the 'seasonal' collection was all Christmas books. I teach at a multicultural and multifaith school. To be honest, I was ashamed to see this selection of books. I have been complaining about it for the last number of years, but this year when I was told that they had included some other titles but they didn't sell, I suggested that maybe they needed to have better choices. My other frustration came from the fact that they upgraded their Wi-Fi credit/debit machines and now they don't work at our school. I want to thank Ms Yingling, whose comments here last week gave me extra courage to make this decision. 

I went book shopping on Saturday and picked up a passel of new Hanukkah titles and even scraped together time to do a blog post about them. You can read my post about them here or see them on goodreads here

I also picked up some new Christmas books, but I'll blog about them next week some time. 

Other than seasonal books, I did get some other books read. 


4 stars
If You Happen to Have a Dinosaur by Linda Bailey Colin Jack (Illustrations) 

I must confess that I have adored every Linda Bailey book I have ever read. In other words, I am a fan. This is one of our Chocolate Lily book club books for this year. Readers will discover all the truly positive reasons why owning a dinosaur is a good thing. This is a fun read that will leave young readers with a model for writing their own story. Colin Jack's cartoon style illustrations add an extra level of hilarity for the reader. 

Of the many picture books I read at the book fair, these are a few that stuck out.
4 stars
The Very Noisy Bear by Nick Bland

I have loved every one of Nick Bland's books about Bear, and this one is no different. I loved that bear wasn't afraid to keep trying new instruments until he found the right one, even though the instruments (and their original owners) suffered for it. I finished this book up with a surprised laugh.  

3 stars
Monsters Love Underpants by Claire Freedman & Ben Cort

Ben Cort's bold and colorful illustrations are perfect, albeit, some are a tad scary. Mostly the poetry works for me but occasionally the rhyme and rhythm falters. I can see that this would be a great book for children just moving out of diapers!

4 stars
Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz & Dan Santat

This book is a lot of fun. I read it during the book fair with a few boys I have been doing writing workshops with. It will make a perfect addition to the twisted fairy tale telling ideas they have been coming up with. In fact, I told them they could have written this. (Maybe without the rhyme scheme as they are only 6 and 7 years old) We were not totally satisfied with the ending because while we didn't want the wolf to eat Red Riding Hood, he really had worked hard to become a ninja! 


5 stars
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall & Narrated by Susan Denaker

Adoration isn't too strong a word for how I feel about the Penderwick family. Each book is like visiting with a family of old friends. I can't imagine listening to a finer book to provide a break from the insanity of book fair week. I loved discovering what was going on with them through the voices of Batty and Ben. I laughed and I wept a bit while driving home and listening to this book. Susan Denaker's voice captures this family brilliantly. The best part of finishing it, is discovering that I missed The Penderwicks at Point Mouette so I have it to look forward to while waiting for the fifth book in this series to come out. 

4 stars
Rabbit Ears by Maggie de Vries

This book deals with difficult subject matter. It is the story of a girl, Kaya, and her family after she ends up addicted to heroin and working the streets in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, BC. We eventually discover that an old man in their neighborhood abused her when she was younger. It is not an easy read despite being a relatively short and simple book. de Vries knows her subject matter having written earlier about her sister, Sarah, who was one of the Missing Women from that part of town. 
I have to admit that I'm nervous about my grade sevens reading this book. It's part of the Stellar book club books chosen for high school. I'm sure glad that I've read it and can debrief it with them in our meetings. 


I've started listening to The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands and reading The Rule Of Three by Eric Walters. 


Since we separated book club into three groups, and I am leading only one of them, I feel a bit relaxed about needing to finish them all. I hope to get a few more of my must read in 2015 titles completed before reckoning day arrives.