#Bookexcursion, Book Birthday

Happy Book Birthday to Every Shiny Thing & The Battle of Junk Mountain

Happy Book Birthday to Cordelia Jensen’s and Laurie Morrison’s Every Shiny Thing and Lauren Abbey Greenberg’s The Battle of Junk Mountain!  

Every Shiny Thing by Cordelia Jensen & Laurie Morrison

Every Shiny Thing is a uniquely structured novel told in alternating points of view.  Told in prose, Lauren comes from an affluent family and is struggling with her parents’ decision to send her brother to a residential school for autistic teens.  Told in verse, Sierra is the foster child of Lauren’s neighbors as well as her new classmate.  While her father has been in jail, Sierra’s mother was recently arrested and needs to complete rehab as a condition of her sentence.

With her Quaker school’s theme of simplicity and her new friendship with Sierra, Lauren becomes increasingly cognizant of her privilege.  She embarks on a project to help autistic children from less affluent families and enlists Sierra to help her. While well intentioned, Lauren becomes consumed with raising money at any cost which begins to negatively affect her friendship with Sierra. Sierra is also grappling with her own personal battle of always taking care of everyone but herself. She finally learns that sometimes the best thing you can do for anyone is to let them fall.

I absolutely adored this beautifully written novel on so many levels.  The use of both prose and verse was perfect to share each character’s point of view.  I applauded Lauren’s altruism but I was so worried observing how easily the lines between right and wrong became blurred for her.  Due to her family circumstances, my heart broke for Sierra but I was touched by the fact that she remained courageous and hopeful.  Sierra’s story was definitely a window for me because I know she could be a mirror for many students I teach.

A very special thanks to Laurie Morrison for sending an advance reading copy of Every Shiny Thing to my #bookexcursion group.

This review was originally published on March 25, 2018.

The Battle of Junk Mountain by Lauren Abbey Greenberg

With all the cold, icy, and rainy Maryland weather this week, The Battle of Junk Mountain was the perfect read.  I was transported to the Maine coast with 12-year-old Shayne on her summer vacation.  Shayne lives in Maryland and always spends summers on Thomas Cove with her grandmother Bea and her best friend Poppy.  Nostalgic for summers past, this vacation is different.   Poppy’s free time is limited because she has to work at her father’s grocery store. Bea is not ready to let go of her treasured collectibles  as Shayne is organizing  and pricing them for sale at a flea market. Then to her surprise, Shayne develops an unlikely friendship with Civil War obsessed Linc, the grandson of Bea’s neighbor Cranky.

The Battle of Junk Mountain is a definitely a page turner. Once I began, it was hard to stop reading. The novel starts with anticipation of a fun-filled summer but as you read each chapter (and by the way, pay close attention to each title),  Lauren begins to tackle not only familiar topics like changing friendships but also the serious topic of hoarding.  Readers will quickly fall in love with Shayne for she shows both maturity and vulnerability.  While she can tackle new situations like banding lobster claws and driving a boat, it is evident that Shayne like Bea is holding on to the past and apprehensive about change.  Growing up and letting go is hard, but Shayne learns that change can actually surprise you in a good way.

A sincere thank you to fellow Marylander Lauren Abbey Greenberg for sharing an ARC of her debut middle grade novel The Battle of Junk Mountain with my #bookexcursion group.

This review was originally published on February 11, 2018.

#Bookexcursion, Picture Books

Mama’s Belly by Kate Hosford Illustrated by Abigail Halpin

A very special thanks to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sharing Mama’s Belly  with Beagles and Books. All opinions are my own.

There is no doubt that a new sibling can cause feelings of both excitement and apprehension.  Mama’s Belly tells the tender story of an inquisitive young girl who poses a variety of questions to her parents about her sister’s arrival.  The questions start simple.  “Does my sister know me already? “Will my sister have freckles?”  Mama explains that the baby already knows her sister’s voice. While the baby will not be born with freckles, her father thinks yes, perhaps after a few summers by the lake have passed.

As the young girl asks questions,  Halpin’s gorgeous illustrations not only depict her excitement in the present but also the girl’s visualizations of helping her baby sister learn to swim and take a bath in the future.  All of Halpin’s paintings warmly show how the girl’s parents have included her in preparing for her sister’s arrival.

Clutching her blanket, the questions turn more personal.   “When my sister comes, do I have to share my blanket?”  ‘Will your lap ever come back?” Mama assures the girl that her blanket will always be hers and suggests making another one together for her baby sister.  As for her lap, Mama tells her daughter it will return after her sister is born.

The young girl saves her most important question until the end. “When my sister comes will you still have enough love for both of us?   Gently holding her daughter’s face in her hands, Mama lovingly looks at her and says  “More than the all the stars in the sky.”

For any child preparing for a new sibling, Mama’s Belly is the perfect gift.  As a teacher, I also look forward to sharing Mama’s Belly with students.   Hosford has written a beautiful and touching story to remind us that a parent’s heart expands with each child, and there is always room to love everyone.

Mama’s Belly will be released on April 17,  2018.  For a sneak peek, view the trailer.

About the Author and Illustrator
Kate Hosford is the author of several picture books, including Infinity and Me, which was a New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book award and was named an ALA Notable Children’s Book. Her books have been translated into Chinese, Korean, French, and Romanian. Kate lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York. To learn more, visit her website ae khosford.com.
Abigail Halpin is the illustrator of many books for children, including Finding Wild. She lives in southern Maine. Visit her on the web at theodesign.com
Bookexcursion

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

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Front Desk is a semi autobiographical account of young Mia Tang who recently immigrated with her parents from China to the United States. When her parents get the opportunity to manage the Calivista Motel, they jump at the chance to earn $150 a day plus free rent. After signing the contract, what they don’t know is the owner Mr. Yao can change the terms at any time.  This not only means less money a day but also the financial responsibility of paying for refunds and broken appliances.  Still, Mia and her family continue to manage the Calivista with her parents taking care of the housekeeping and Mia managing the front desk.  Mia becomes friends with the Calivista weeklies who become her extended family.

Managing the front desk and being the new student at Dale Elementary School is a lot to handle but Mia is determined to succeed even when things get tough. While Mia wants to focus on becoming a better writer, her mother encourages Mia to spend more time doing math.  Her mother says “You just can’t be as good as the white kids in their language honey.  It’s their language,”  Mia though is insistent in proving her mother wrong practicing and perfecting her writing with the help of Calivista weekly Mrs. T’s dictionary-thesaurus.  Writing also becomes therapeutic when Mia wants to express her feelings after being teased at school or write an apology to a friend.  When weekly Hank who is African American gets wrongly accused of  a crime and subsequently loses his job, Mia decides to write a reference letter which helps him secure a new job.  Her writing also helps a friend of the family get his passport back from his dishonest employer.

Knowing that her writing has changed people’s lives for the better, Mia realizes she has the power to change her life too and for the first time in school, Mia honestly writes from the heart sharing a personal experience.  Hoping to change her family’s life, Mia also takes a leap of faith entering an essay contest to win a motel. As her friend Lupe says, “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

Front Desk is a story of hope and heart.  Mia is an exceptional character who shows not only a genuine kindness but also immense courage to help others.  She has good role models in her parents who help fellow immigrants by hiding them in empty motel rooms. Despite the obstacles they face, Mia and her parents continue to pick themselves up and keep going.

Kelly Yang’s story is a window for me to see life through the eyes of an immigrant family but also can be a mirror for young readers who have endured similar experiences.  At the end of the novel, she includes an author’s note sharing information about her own life as well as the struggles of Chinese families immigrating to America. When I am having a rough day, I will reread Front Desk and remember these important lessons:

  • Sometimes a mistake is actually an opportunity.
  • Words have the power to change lives.
  • Sometimes the people you least expect can blow you away with their courage and kindness.
  • Dreams can come true with kindness, courage, and determination.
  • Success is sweeter when shared with friends.

A very special thanks to Arthur A. Levine Books and Lizette Serrano of Scholastic for sending an ARC of Front Desk to my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order Front Desk now, for it releases on May 29, 2018. Your life will be forever changed after reading. I know mine has.

Bookexcursion

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/9/18

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Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Our Reads This Week

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Front Desk is a semi autobiographical account of young Mia Tang who recently immigrated with her parents from China to the United States.  Mia and her family manage the Calivista with her parents taking care of the housekeeping and Mia managing the front desk.  Mia becomes friends with the Calivista weeklies who become her extended family.

Managing the front desk and being the new student at Dale Elementary School is a lot to handle but Mia is determined to succeed even when things get tough. While her mother encourages Mia to spend more time doing math, Mia wants to focus on becoming a better writer. Her mother says “You just can’t be as good as the white kids in their language honey.  It’s their language,”  Mia though is insistent in proving her mother wrong practicing and perfecting her writing with the help of Calivista weekly Mrs. T’s dictionary-thesaurus. After Mia’s writing changes a few people’s lives for the better, Mia realizes her written words could have the power to change her life too. As her friend Lupe says, “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

Front Desk is a story of hope and heart.  Mia is an exceptional character who shows not only a genuine kindness but also immense courage to help others.  For my full review, click here.

A very special thanks to Arthur A. Levine Books and Lizette Serrano of Scholastic for sending an ARC to my #bookexcursion group.  Pre-order Front Desk now, for it releases on May 1, 2018.

Neither by Airlie Anderson

“Once upon a time, there were two kinds: this (a blue rabbit) and that (a yellow bird).” An egg hatches and out comes a green creature that has characteristics of both a rabbit and a bird.  “You can’t be both.  You must be a neither!” said this and that which forces “Neither” to fly off to Somewhere Else.  As “Neither” soars in the sky, the reader can see a bird’s eye view of the Land of This and That, which is predominantly blue and yellow while the land adjacent to it includes many more colors. “Neither” soon finds out that she has not found Somewhere Else but rather the Land of All where animals of different kinds are welcome. Anderson’s colorful and vivid illustrations are captivating to the eye. In the Land of All, creatures are a blend of different animals such as a cat butterfly and a dog fish celebrating both uniqueness and inclusiveness.

Reminiscent of Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Manchev, Neither is an engaging and thoughtful story about tolerance, diversity, and acceptance.  I cannot wait to share this with students for #classroombookaday.

Etta’s and Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week: 

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings

Arfy is a dog in search of a forever home.  Living in a cardboard box in an alley, he decides to write letters to residents on Butternut Street asking “Can I be your dog?” In each letter, Arfy states why he would be a good fit for them.  Unfortunately, Arfy receives letters back turning him down for different reasons.   A sad Arfy returns to his “home” in the alley and wakes up to find a letter addressed to him.  Unbeknownst to Arfy (although readers can infer from the illustrations), the mail carrier has been reading some of his letters.  She writes her own letter to Arfy asking him “Can I be your person?” stating why they would be a good match.

From the bold and lively illustrations, the plot being told through letters, and determination of Arfy to find a home, Can I Be Your Dog is not only the perfect read aloud but also a great resource for teaching persuasive writing or composing letters. What especially warms my heart are the tips for how to help a homeless animal in the end papers.

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Etta, Bella, and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!  Have a great week! Happy Reading!

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Bookexcursion

My #MustReadin2018 Spring Update

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Is it really already April? In January, I compiled my Must Reads in 2018 joining host Carrie Gelson of of There’s a Book for That and a community of other bloggers.  It’s time for a spring update to check in on my progress.  To read other bloggers’ progress, search using the hashtag #mustreadin2018.

2018 is my first year participating in #mustreadin2018.  I choose 20 middle grade books. Some are books in my TBR stack that weren’t read in 2017, some are #bookexcursion ARCs generously provided by authors, and others are titles recommended by authors and book bloggers I follow on Goodreads and Twitter.

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I am slightly behind in my reading.  I have read 3 books and am in the process of reading 2 books.  I am not worried though because in about 50 days, I will have a summer truly free to devote more time to read many of the books on my list. Plenty of time to catch up!

#MustReadin2018 Middle Grade Books Read

Takedown by Laura Shovan

A book that was out of my comfort zone.  Sports has never been my thing but I devoured Takedown. I absolutely loved the format of the novel hearing from both Mikayla’s and Lev’s perspective, which revealed their determination, competitiveness, and insecurities.  For my full review, click hereTakedown releases in June 2018.

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

Mathematical genius Lucy discovers that all things aren’t easy to calculate, and sometimes numbers aren’t all that matters.  For my full review, click here.  Lightning Girl releases in May 2018.

Pashmina by Nidji Chanani

This graphic novel was a window into the world of Priyanka, an Indian American teenager being raised by a single mother. Like Pri, I questioned why her mother left India and why she refused to discuss it.  The mysterious and magical pashmina allowed me to join Pri on her journey to uncover the truth.

#MustReadin2018 Books Currently Reading

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

I am currently listening to the audio version.  I have about an hour and a half left. Another window book for me. Lolly is a good kid trying to make the right choices which isn’t easy living in the projects in Harlem.  Rooting for Lolly to fully realize his talents and potential to do great things in life.

Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff

I just started reading Grump and am already intrigued by his fascination with humans and wanting to go above the surface.  Stay tuned!

Professional Books

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While I have not read the books in their entirety, I have read portions of Preventing Misguided Reading and From Striving to Thriving as they support my teaching of students as well as assist me in my work supporting teachers in professional learning.  I have not yet received my copy of Understanding Text as Readers. 

Thanks for joining me in my book journey!