#IMWAYR August 1, 2016

Hurrah! It's time for #IMWAYR. Much thanks to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers for hosting this weekly event where bloggers share what they have been reading in the world of kidlit. It might take me a few days to finish up reading everyone's posts this week since I'm away from home until Wednesday.

This will be my first August first in decades where I don't begin to fret that the summer is half over and it is time to gear up for teaching in the fall. I am very thankful for this new life I am entering. I hope to continue along as part of this blogging community for the next while for sure or at least until I get caught up on my middle grade reading. 

This week, I'm doing things a bit differently because the book I am in the middle of, One Native Life by Richard Wagamese, just won't wait. It isn't a new title and has been on my to read list for ages. I finally got around to picking it up. I am seriously in awe of this author. It is exquisitely written. Wagamese has put together a collection of memories, so each section is a short story telling us something about a significant part of his life. It is reminiscent of the finest poetry. The messages he imparts are profound learnings about the world. 

See what a I mean from these snippets so far?

For the past few days I've been hanging out with my two sisters. We have been having a fabulous time, but my reading life has been minimal. I did manage to finish a few remarkable books before we met and I am trying to sneak in time to read the aforementioned title. 


4.5 stars

Everybody Sees The Ants by A.S. King

Here is the thing about A.S. King, I'm pretty sure the worst of her writing is still better than most people's best. I swear I enjoy each book more than the last. In this case, it isn't just that I am a sucker for magical realism, but that is definitely part of the appeal of this one for me. Mostly King pulls many diverse narratives together seamlessly and leaves the reader stunned. It is about bullying. It's about the ramifications of war. It's about growing up in a culture of people who are mostly helpless. It's also about hope and taking a stand. 

5 stars
Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Chicken Farmer by Kelly Jones

Upon finishing this book (well and during it also) I desperately wanted to run right out and purchase a flock of chickens, even if they didn't have super powers. This is a story of a city family struggling to make ends meet on their departed Uncle's farm that just happens to have pretty amazing chickens. I am pretty sure this will be one of the novels that makes my top ten at the end of this year. 

4 stars
The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan

I enjoyed listening to this story of a girl and a boy caught up in circumstances beyond their control. This one is loaded with adventure and close calls. While there is ample action, it is also thoughtful. 


3 stars

Arlene Sardine by Chris Raschka

Beth Shaum mentioned this book last week and I discovered it was available as a digital download. I read it and laughed uproariously at the same time as gasping OMG. (So did my sister) This is a dark and twisted tale of a small fish who longs to become a sardine. It reveals the process it goes through to have its dream come true. I loved this book, but am not certain I would get if for a school library. However, if you are looking for a picture book that demonstrates satire...


As well as One Native Life, I'm listening to Princess X by Cherie Priest. Im pretty sure I am missing a lot since I don't get to see all the graphic components of the story. 


I've got about 5 audiobooks that have come available for me to read from the library. I guess this means I am going to have to find a sewing project to work on, or else do some serious house cleaning and/or gardening.

#IMWAYR JULY 25, 2016

Welcome readers to #IMWAYR! Thank you to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers who host this weekly event. 

I think I am really and truly finished with work. I was in a couple of days last week to finish up. I shelf read the nonfiction collection, weeded our aboriginal resources, watered plants, and packed up the last of my stuff. I realize I left a couple of things behind and forgot to leave my keys. I suspect I am having a bit of trouble letting go of that part of my life. 

Otherwise, I've had a fabulous reading life this week.

Flying Frogs and Walking Fish: Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

Any book by Steve Jenkins is worth the investment in time and money. In this one, not only are the illustrations gorgeous, the snippets of information about how these different kinds of animals move are fascinating. This is the kind of book that will leave readers wanting to say, Did you know..? The back matter includes a bit more information about each of creatures mentioned in the book. 

Follow the Moon Home: A Tale of One Idea, Twenty Kids, and a Hundred Sea Turtles by Philippe Cousteau, Deborah Hopkinson & Meilo So (Illustrator)

This is a book that positions students as activists engaging in deep level democracy. I appreciate how their teacher organized the students to find their own problem and come up with a solution for dealing with it. In this case students realize that newly hatched turtles are getting confused by the bright lights of the ocean cottages and heading towards them instead of the sea. I wish I had this book while I was still teaching. It will be a fabulous book for teachers to use as they engage their own students in realizing their own power and influence. 

Ideas Are All Around by Philip C. Stead

This is a beautifully illustrated book wherein the author, unable to come up with an idea for a story, takes us on a walk with him and his dog. While there is much going on, it is a gentle thoughtful book. It highlights the contradiction between all those ideas they meet on their way, and the capacity to transform them into a story. Stead's integration of photographs into this picture book are just brilliant. 

The After-Room (The Apothecary #3) by Maile Meloy

I'm happy to be finished with this series at the same time as I enjoyed listening to them. It's filled with lots of adventure, special potions that give our characters magical powers, secondary characters who redeem themselves, and even romance. I especially enjoyed reading these because they are set in the time period I remember. 

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as some of Reynolds other work. It is a slower title that took a bit more to get into. Once I was engaged, I fully appreciated it. I just wish I had a book club group to talk to this one about, because I feel that there is much going on that I don't fully appreciate. As usual, with Reynolds' characters, I couldn't help but loving all of them. Genie and his older brother, Ernie, are staying with their grandparents in the country while their parents take a vacation to Jamaica to work on their marriage. There are intergenerational issues that play out through the boys. I appreciate the strong adults (even if they are flawed) who support and love these characters.

I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I've been reading a lot of books dealing with mental health issues lately. Gayle Forman's story of a young woman investigating her best friend's suicide is a sad but enlightening tale that is based true events. In spite of the suicide, this is a book about friendship and acceptance. Our older readers would love this even if there is minimal sexual content. 

I'm reading Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King and listening to The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan

Up Next
I've got a pile of books - whatever strikes my fancy is what I'll attack. I'm heading off to spend a few days with my sisters. I'm not sure I will have time for much reading! 

#IMWAYR July 17, 2016

This Monday is my first #IMWAYR post as a retired person. I don't really feel any different, except for wondering who I'm going to become in this next phase of my life. Will I still read children's books? What a ridiculous question. Of course I will, so long as the rest of you keep feeding me exciting new titles. Thanks to everyone but especially Jen at Teach Mentor Text and Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers, for hosting this event.  

I have been away - both physically and metaphorically. My brother (also a teacher) and I went on our annual 'recover from the end of the school year' high mountain camping trip. My partner comes along also since he doesn't trust me to pull our tent trailer with our car over all those dirt roads. And he cooks for us too.

The weather was miserable. Seriously, it was so cold I wore long underwear for the entire week. We had all kinds of weather, but not nearly enough sunshine. There was fresh snow on the ski resort about 10 kilometers to the west of us.

Of course we had a great time. I wrote something every day. I tried to become a character I have had in my head for some time.  I revelled in the beauty of that green world.

I read a book a day.  Well except for the weekend when friends came up to join us.

Everything I read was good but you don't need to read a bunch of words from me carrying on about all of them anyway. I'm limiting myself to one sentence for those I feel the need to pontificate about! Clicking on the links will take you to where you can read more of my thoughts on these titles. 

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor was filled with truly exceptional characters. 

I adored The Wild Robot by Peter Brown. After finishing it, I did my best to observe the world as closely as possible.

In The Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall filled me with despair and hope.

While I enjoyed Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart, that was a lot of pathos for one book.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool was one of those books that enthralled me, but it wasn't till I reached the end that I realized how much I loved it.

Adelaide Herrmann: Queen of Magic, was an amazing woman I am happy to have learned more about. 

A Place for Frogs by Melissa Stewart reminded me how important these creatures are. 

I'm listening to The After Room by Maile Meloy, the last in the Apothecary series. I'm in the middle of As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds. 

I'm looking forward to getting into Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

A Place for Frogs by Melissa Stewart & Higgins Bond (illustrator)

I like the way this book is laid out. Higgins Bond's illustrations are stunning and Melissa Stewart's text is straightforward and informative.

The top of each two page spread has basic informational text. On the left hand side is information about how humans make frog's lives difficult. On the right-hand is information about a solution.

Each page highlights a different kind of frog or specific problem. An inset picture identifies either the frog, or the problem faced by frogs. This is accompanied by a column filled with additional information about the issue. 

I appreciate that this book highlights a few specific frogs, but at the same time presents information that is problematic for many species of frogs. There is one page that deals with the ramifications of introducing exotic frogs. I wish there had been more information about this. Here in my part of the Pacific Northwest the introduction of bullfrogs is wreaking havoc on native frog populations as well as many other species.

Unfortunately this book has neither a table of contents nor an index. I appreciate that there is a section at the end with extra frog facts as well as a bibliography. The thing is, as a teacher helping students learn to navigate their way through information books, I see these missing components as critical pieces in the creation of cognitive scaffolds. I wish publishers would realize this.

In spite of my quibbles, I think this book would make a fantastic introduction to a study of water, environment, or even just frogs. After I finished reading it, I went to learn more about frogs in my region. (I had been wondering about the tadpoles I saw last week camping anyway) I'm not sure what they were, but I have it narrowed down to a few possibilities.

I recommend this book for all school libraries and people interested in frogs.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

Every once in awhile a book comes along that wows me. This is one of those. 

Eleven year old Perry Cook was raised in Blue River Coed Correctional Facility, a minimum security prison. His best friend, Zoe, lives on the outside, but Perry's family is comprised of its many inmates. Perry and his mother, Jessica, are looking forward to her imminent parole hearing with high hopes of starting a new life on the outside.

Then Zoe's stepfather, Thomas VanLeer, the new district attorney, decides that a terrible wrong has been done to Perry. He removes Perry from the facility and brings him home to live as a foster kid with his family. At the same time, Thomas tries to put a kibosh on Jessica's parole hearing.

Luckily, Perry has Zoe and Robyn, Zoe's mom. Robyn is on Perry's side even when it puts her in direct conflict with Thomas. It does, frequently.

Perry Cook is one of those characters that will stick with me for a long while. In fact all of these folks are memorable. They are richly drawn. The residents at the prison are seen as multifaceted individuals who have made a mistake. Even Thomas, who comes across as Perry's nemesis, is revealed as having many positive aspects. His biggest flaw is that he thinks he knows what is in everyone's best interest without consulting with those most affected. 

I wish I could say that I think students will love this book as much as I do. I think they will if their teacher reads it to them. I'm not sure it it will reach the wide audience it deserves otherwise. You can bet that I will be recommending this one to all and sundry.