Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo and Chris Van Dusen (illustrator)

I started this book a while ago, but then got side tracked. Remembering I had liked it, I started it all over again. It's only slightly mortifying that I was thoroughly enjoying it when I started noticing that the writing felt familiar to me. At first I assumed it because I had read it before. But that feeling persisted. I knew this style. I knew this writing. Then I started to recognize places, and the names of characters. Can it be I asked myself? 
A quick check to the front of the book showed me that, Yes! the author was Kate DiCamillo. I've had this book on my device for so long I'd forgotten why I had it in the first place. 

This is the story of Francine, an animal control officer extraordinaire. She's got forty seven trophies proving that she's fearless and never fails to catch her creature, no matter how big or how fierce. Then one day she is beaten by a screaming, glowing raccoon. Poor Francine ends up in the hospital with many injuries after this encounter. Yet it's not her physical wounds that are her undoing. Francine has felt fear and doubt for the first time. It has paralyzed her. 

She quits her job and finds another position in the local hardware store. Francine tells herself that she is content. After all, she is killing hundreds of flies a day. Then two children from Deckawoo Drive come to the store and recognize her. With their help, Francine finds her old self and the courage to face the raccoon down. 

What I liked
I liked Francine. I liked the connection to Mercy Watson and the quirky characters on Deckawoo Drive. Fans of that series who are ready for reading a bit more challenging material are sure to enjoy this. I think my readers will feel empathy for Francine. At the same time she will help them learn to overcome their fears. 

What I didn't like
My netgalley copy didn't have completed illustrations. This make me sad because Chris Van Dusen's illustrations are the icing on the cake of this DiCamillo series. This is the only one placed in the book. You see what I mean? 

#IMWAYR June 29, 2015

Here we are, it's Monday again, my favourite day of the week. Time to check in with hosts Jen From Mentor Texts and Kellee andRickie from Unleashing Readers, to find out what bloggers around the world are reading this week.

As I've been limping and whimpering my way to the end of the school year, my reading life reveals it. My brain can only deal with certain kinds of tales. This means I've put some books on hold while I endeavour to find fluffier stuff that will hold my attention without requiring a great deal of tense, anxiety provoking, emotional investment.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Graphic Novel by Isabel Greenberg

Wow! Just Wow! I started reading this book last week and had to put it down. It's so good I couldn't finish it in one sitting. I needed to savour the mystical richness of it. I've been doling out a bit daily since then and am heartbroken to be finished it. 
This is the kind of graphic novel that will work for people of any age group. I'm adding it to my list of possible Christmas gifts people can purchase for me.

It's the saga of a storyteller who lived before our history began.  His stories hearken to our own creation myths and histories. I was wondering what words I could use to tell you more about it, and then I read this on the back cover. It tells you everything you need to know. Everything except that the mostly black and white images are powerful and sweet in their magical simplicity. Just google The Encyclopedia of Early Earth and click on images to see what I mean. 

Mr Terupt Falls Again by Rob Buyea

Saving Mr Terupt is waiting for me to read from Netgalley. My readers told me that I had to read the second one before starting it. Reading this sequel was good, but not as good as the first one. Perhaps it is because the first was fresh and new, and if I am honest, I was rested when I read it. Still, I'm ready now to go on to the third in the series.
Fartiste by Kathleen Krull 

This is the story of a man who could control his flatulence at will. He could get very creative with it. 
I wanted to like it, but I just couldn't get into this book. The poetry didn't work at all for me. I have decided not to purchase it for our library. There are so many other books I would rather spend the money on. 

All the Water in the World by George Ella Ryan  and Katherine Tillotson (illustrator) 

A few of our intermediate classes are starting off next fall with an integrated hydrosphere unit. While at our local library picking up my holds, I decided to see what they might have on the topic. I picked up this book and just fell into it. The rich poetry is filled with facts at the same time as it packs an emotional wallop. Tillotson's illustrations are just drop dead gorgeous. While this title doesn't provide the in depth information students will need for research projects, it will make a fabulous read aloud to start the unit off, and could even be a model for presenting their own finished work. It's also one of those books teachers of younger readers will read to their students when they are studying water. Heck, its beautiful poetry that will make fabulous mentor text. 

PS: I will appreciate recommendations for titles on the topic of the hydrosphere in the comments section.

Why'd They Wear that? Fashion as the Mirror of History by Sarah Albee

Much thanks to Debbie Alvarez from The Styling Librarian who blogged about this book a few weeks ago. I agree with everything she has to say. It is a fascinating book filled with information that connects fashion to what was taking place in history. It's a book on attire and fashion that will entertain different ages and gender. My partner and I had an entertaining conversation about armour and the Battle of Agincourt over dinner one evening while I sat at the table and read. 

What I liked 
There is some critique that connects to social justice issues throughout the book. I am happy that the section at the end delves into the real cost of cheap clothing. It "comes at a high cost to the environment, the economy, and human suffering." I enjoyed the humour throughout the book. While discussing the job of tanning leather, Albee writes, "The hair was smeared with dog poop (which contains a softening enzyme). If you can stand to read more - the mixture was then heated up, to speed the softening process. Hard to imagine what the neighbourhood must have smelled like." 
What I didn't like 
There is a primarily western-centric perspective to the history explored within the confines of the book. 
I also had a hard time reading the black font against the blue backgrounds. 
In spite of my quibbles with it, I have added this book to my school shopping cart.

Currently I'm listening to Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger. I'm loving it! I had put Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King, aside temporarily but am back reading it again. I've started another of my must read in 2015 titles, A year in the Life of a Complete and Total and Complete Genius by Stacey Matson. I'm almost on track with that goal!

Up next week I've got a pile of books I brought home from work to read. I've also got three or four books from the library that I have to get to. What is for certain is that I will be reading titles from my to read list. 

#IMWAYR JUNE 22, 2015

Well, here we are, it's Monday again. Time to check in with hosts Jen From Mentor Texts and Kellee and Rickie from Unleashing Readers, to find out what bloggers around the world are reading this week.

It was a surprisingly productive week for me. Everything I picked up was good! I read plenty of picture books, finished a couple of chapter books, completed a number of middle grade novels, managed to read an adult title, and even got some reviews posted!


Storm Song by Nancy Viau and Gynux (illustrator)

I enjoyed the sound poem in this this delightful book and know my younger readers will also. The bold illustrations perfectly match the powerful text. I like these multicultural characters and think my readers will empathise with their fear as the storm becomes so fierce, the power goes out. 

Enemy by Davide Cali and Serge Bloch (illustrator)

This is a dark and sad book about war and how we come to see ordinary people like ourselves as the enemy. It's the story of two soldiers from opposite sides of a conflict. Both are ordinary people who have come to see each other as some kind of monster. This is a powerful addition to our Remembrance Day collection. 

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis

A mother tells the story of her son who likes to wear dresses and doesn't fit the traditional gender stereotype. I hate that this book equates girly with frilly, pretty and pink. I don't particularly care if people are like this or not, it's just not all there is to being a girl. I also don't like the faceless people. On top of this it's preachy at the end and doesn't need to be.  I suppose it has it's place, but I wish I hadn't purchased this one.

Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle and Jeanne Rorex Bridges (illustrator)

Tim Tingle is a gifted story teller. Every time I read his work, my appreciation of him increases. This picture book tells the story of how the Choctaw helped a family of black slaves find freedom. It begins as Martha Tom, a young Choctaw girl, heads off across Bok Chitto in search of blackberries for a wedding. She gets lost and is returned to the river by Little Mo, a young black boy about the same age as her. The two become friends. When Little Mo's family is about to be separated, he comes to Martha for help. The Choctaw community gathers together to save them. 

Jeanne Rorex Bridges illustrations are so gorgeous I'm tempted to purchase a copy of this book just to cut them out and frame them. See what I mean below. 


I appreciated the notes at the back of this book giving the reader more information about the two Choctaw nations on one page, and then information on Choctaw storytelling and how this tale came to be on the other.

I Wish You More by Amy Kraus Rosenthal

This book gave me shivers when I first read it. I've ordered a copy for my great-niece who graduates high school this year. I love this book so much that I've scanned the pages to share and read at our school's end of year goodbye ceremony. 


Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter and Qin Leng (illustrator) 

I was happily hooked by this book on the first page. Piper is a great addition to the world of strong spunky fictional girls. I love her honesty. I love the adults around her. I've preordered a couple of copies of this and am going to get the next one for sure.

Detective Gordon: The First Case by Ulf Nilsson and Gitte Spee

This is a sweet mystery story with delightful animal characters. It's reminiscent of William Steig's work. The reading level is probably a bit high for this to be an easy chapter book but will make a delightful read aloud for younger children. I admired Spee's illustrations and the ambiance of the forest that comes through. 


Magic Marks the Spot (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates 1) by Caroline Carlson

This is the perfect novel to read/listen to in June. It is such a fun romp. Hilary Westfield wants nothing more than to be a pirate. Unfortunately, The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates won't take her because she is a girl. It looks like Finishing School is where she will end up. However, Hilary is indomitable and has her ways of getting what she wants in spite of those pesky adults in her life. I'm planning on reading more of this series this summer. 

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman

I enjoyed this book about a young gourmet chef who is banned from her parent's kitchen after setting the curtains on fire. I'm also looking forward to trying out some of the recipes from Dairman's website. The only downside of this book is that I have to wait for the sequel. 

The School Of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

I started listening to this at the same time as I was reading the previous title. What a delightful pairing of books. This adult novel centers around a cooking class and delves into the lives of the different students who attend it. My sister has been bugging to read this one. I'm so glad she didn't let up. I was utterly enchanted by it. If you haven't already read it, you should. 

All The Answers by Kate Messner

I got up Saturday morning earlier than I expected, and after I made coffee, started to read. I didn't stop till this book was done. It's the story of a Ava Anderson, a young girl with anxiety issues. She finds a pencil that will answer any factual questions written with it. To Ava and her best friend Sophie, it seems at first that this is an ideal tool. However, as is the case with all kinds of magical power, there is a downside. The two girls start to become dependent on it and rely on it more than their own awareness of what is going on around them. Ava ends up with more information about her family than she is able to deal with. 

What I liked about this book:
These are full dimensional characters with strengths and flaws. I liked that the two girls used the pencil to help out the people in the home for older people. I liked that there was some examination of the ethical issues of using the pencil and that they tried to focus its use on doing good. 

What I didn't like:
I've taken students to these kinds of adventure places Ava and Sophie went to. When I was a classroom teacher I took my students to an indoor climbing facility every fall. It was the most important field trip we went on, because my students had opportunities to try again and again to reach the top of a wall while their classmates encouraged and cheered them on. For the rest of the year, Remember The Wall, was our reminder not to give up. I tell you this because it influenced how I felt about the latter part of the book. 
That Ava chose to go to the adventure course without her mother's support so that her mother could get her cancer screening test felt realistic to me. On the other hand, her success while there, didn't feel honest. Whereas I think Ava might well have discovered that she had more gumption than she realized, with her level of anxiety, it just didn't work for me that she would manage to achieve the level of success she manages in the book.  

As I read this book, I couldn't help but make connections to Mary Amato's The Word Eater. It would be interesting to have these two books as part of a collection of books dealing with power and how it is used.

Currently I'm listening to Mr Terupt Falls Again by Rob Buyea and reading, with my eyes, Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King. 

Up next. I'm going to try and get a couple more of the books on my to read list crossed off so that I won't be mortifyingly shamed when Carrie Gelson calls for the next update. Unfortunately, I also have a pile of public library books I have to get to....