It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

Here we are, nearly at Monday, again. My first full week of real work begins tomorrow, though I’ve been going in to the library for half days for a bit now. Meetings all this week and then kids start back right after Labor Day. Mourning the short summer, but looking forward to school, the routine, and sharing some great new stuff with a whole school full of enthusiastic readers.

IMWAYRAs always, a shoutout to Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers for offering the opportunity to share and connect with other book lovers.



My week has been consumed with finishing a longish nonfiction work that will eventually be reviewed in SLJ, but I can’t share that one now. Suffice it to say, I liked it.

But, I did get the chance to read two E-ARC picture books from NetGalley, both of which I really enjoyed, so all in all its been a good reading week.

bookitchcoverThe Book Itch: Freedom, Truth and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore
by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Audience: 8-12 yr olds
Lerner Publications
Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2015
E-ARC via NetGalley

This beautiful picture book in the form of a fictionalized biography chronicles the work of Lewis Micheaux and the famous bookstore he created in Harlem which he called “The House of Common Sense and the Home of Proper Propaganda”, and was otherwise known as the African National Memorial Bookstore. It was founded in 1932, and was dedicated to bringing intellectual thought and information to the African American community. It became a hub during the civil rights movement and a meeting place for individuals like Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and others.  The story here is told from the viewpoint of Micheaux’s son, who was a child during the peak of the bookstore’s popularity. This book will pair nicely with Nelson’s other book on the same topic, No Crystal Stair, for an older audience. The artwork is full of color and movement, reflecting the tone of the narrative as it winds through the years. In sum, I can’t wait to share this one with the teachers at my school, especially those who use No Crystal Stair in their classroom. It’s a great addition to any collection.

A couple of screenshots of my favorite pages…

bookitch2 bookitch1





The Great Monkey Rescue: Saving the Golden Lion Tamarins
by Sandra Markle
Audience: 8-12 year olds
Pub. Date October 1, 2015
E-ARC via NetGalley

I’ll pretty much read anything by Sandra Markle, her animal books are top-notch and always popular at my library. This title does not disappoint. It reads like a suspense story; Golden Lion Tamarins are disappearing due to habitat loss in the eastern Amazon rainforest, and scientists and citizens from all over work together to try and boost their reproductive rates, introduce zoo-bred tamarins to the wild, and work against deforestation. This title chronicles a number of strides and disappointments throughout the process, but ultimately ends on a hopeful note. The photographs of these small creatures are gorgeous, the writing is informative and accessible, and I can see myself sharing this one with a number of different groups and individuals. For me, a definite purchase.

An example of the photography…





Happy reading to you all, and those of you heading back to school, Good Luck, Have a great year!


Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

11516221The Scorpion Rules
by Erin Bow
Simon & Schuster
Publish Date: September 22, 2015
E-ARC made available via NetGalley

The Sum: A future unlike any I’ve seen in a long while. 400 hundred years in the future war is contained, and peace preserved, by the holding of hostages. Young hostages. Children of royal families, or ruling dynasties, must submit a child to be held until the age of 18. If at anytime during that tenure a nation goes to war, that hostage, that child, is put to death. It is meant to be a deterrent, and sometimes it is, but there are times when it is not. Her Royal Highness Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy has been a Child of Peace since she was five years old, always living with the knowledge that her world could end any time, if her country, her family, goes to war. These Children of Peace are held by a tyrannical artificial intelligence known as Talis, and it is he that keeps the world’s wars to a minimum; that was the mission given to him 400 years previously when humankind was on the brink of complete annihilation from nuclear war and environmental degradation.  Greta and her agemates have spent years together, building bonds that are all threatened when a new Child of Peace arrives in the form of Elian, a teenager not schooled in the ways of Children of Peace, reluctant participant and general rabble rouser, upsetting the status quo and forcing others to think about their own membership in this dubious club.

The Ins: The characters run deep here, there is much to explore in terms of motivation, intent and relationships. It is a complex and rich world that Bow has created, allowing the details to come naturally through the storytelling, giving just enough to tantalize and maintain interest, without dumping too much information. It was one of those books that I had so many questions as I read, that eventually got answered or explained. It’s a different kind of dystopia that I’ll be sharing with my older readers for sure.

The Outs: Not much, actually. I’m still in the phase of loving it so much, that I have a hard time pinpointing things that may not have worked, or that left me wondering. Even a few weeks after finishing, I’m still thinking about it, and talking about it to my reader friends.

The Overall: Great read. Thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining. Though my library only goes up to 8th grade, and this is probably for the YA audience I’ll still be getting it despite some of the language and sexual references, which are oblique enough to not offend.

A pretty good week, my reading life via IMWAYR

Hey! It’s another Monday, that means I get to share what I’ve been reading the past week. Thanks to Jen over at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting this weekly gathering of readers sharing what they love most, books. Head on over there and check out what everyone else is reading, I always get some good ideas.

elephantmanElephant Man
Written by Marianegla di Fiore
Illus. by Hilde Hodnefjeld
Annick Press
August 18, 2015
E-ARC from NetGalley

This somewhat fictionalized biography describes the difficult, painful life of Joseph Merrick, also known as The Elephant Man, famously portrayed in movies and on stage. Merrick suffered from a rare and unknown condition that caused bony growths, abnormal skin development and all sorts of other problems that made it hard for Merrick to function, to work, to live any kind of normal life. This title effectively and poignantly details his life, from his childhood with a stepmother that would not abide his presence in the house to his eventual participation in a sideshow and eventually, his happiest years living in a hospital, where he was treated with some dignity. Written for children, the author does a great job of balancing the unimaginable cruelty and hardship that he faced with some of the people that he eventually encountered who offered him friendship and dignity. The artwork is unusual and interesting, a collaged mix of photographs, line drawings, and washes of color that have a smattering of Edward Gorey, Lauren Child and something completely unique. An excellent accompaniment to the wholly original story that is a mix of fact and fiction, despair and happiness, mundane and exciting. Young readers will be inspired to search out more about Merrick’s life.

citizenscientistsCitizen Scientists
Written by Loree Griffin Burns
Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz
Square Fish 2012

I just recently added this one to our school library since we are planning on hosting Loree Burns at our school this fall and I wanted to be sure we had all of her books on hand. I read Beetle Busters (part of the excellent Scientists in the Field series) last summer and loved it. I was particularly intrigued by that one since it deals with the Asian Longhorn Beetle infestation in central Massachusetts, which is my home. We’ve shared Tracking Trash with our students and teachers for years at our school, a fascinating read about the flotsam that travels the ocean and the damage it is doing. Citizen Scientists is a really fun, interesting read offering specific ways that young people who are interested in science can get involved and do something right from their own neighborhoods, even their backyards. Each season offers an opportunity to get out, do some exploration and help collect information for larger projects. For fall, kids can monitor and tag Monarch butterflies before they get ready for their migration south. Detailed instructions about how to identify, capture and tag the butterflies before releasing them safely back into the environment are provided, along with a brief description of what it is like for one young enthusiast to participate in this sort of activity. Winter is for birding; learning to identify various species, both by call and appearance, marking down numbers on specific days and in specific places that help organizations track numbers throughout the country and the world. This one is a great group activity. Spring finds youngsters able to count frogs in their areas. By learning to identify frogs by their calls and going out at night to listen for, and count what they hear, students can help conservationists all over the country. And finally, summer is great for counting ladybugs. There are about 70 different species of ladybug in North America, mostly identifiable by their differing colors and spot numbers and patterns. A great activity for even some of the youngest children.  Plenty of information, websites and further are provided, making this an excellent resource both for schools and at home. I can’t wait to share it with our science teachers and put it on our summer recommended lists.

20821284Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
Penguin 2014

I’m a little late to the party on this one. I’m sure everyone here has read it already, or at least read about it, so I won’t say too much other than I enjoyed it as much as the rest of the world, found it to be both compelling and enriching. Novels in verse have a very specific audience in library, I think some students have a hard time finding the narrative in them, and thus label them “boring”. Others, definitely like the brevity, the language, etc… and seek them out. Anyway, I’m glad to have read it, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with a wider audience.

whereitendsThis Is Where It Ends
by Marieke Nijkamp
Sourcebooks Fire
Pub date: January 5, 2016
E-ARC via NetGalley

Brilliant. Intriguing. Suspenseful. This tightly written novel spans only an hour, but feels like a lifetime. A teenager locks a school full of students in an auditorium at the end of an assembly and begins shooting. Told from the perspectives of four different students, all with a connection to the shooter, each providing pieces of the current drama unfolding, as well as the backstory that leads to the tragedy that will be. It is at once heartbreaking, and all too realistic. Loyalty, love, fear, prejudice, and abuse all play a part in this wild ride of a story.

Those are the finished titles. I’m currently working on a few more. Reading an E-ARC of Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow and loving that one, but I don’t want to write about it until I’ve finished it.

COCO and the Little Black Dress

cococoverCOCO and the Little Black Dress
by Annemarie van Haeringen
NorthSouth Books
Publish date:  October 1, 2015
E-ARC made available courtesy of NetGalley


The Sum: This picture book biography details the life of Coco Chanel, one of the world’s most famous fashion designers, primarily for her “little black dress”.  She grew up in France, impoverished and living in an orphanage when her father could no longer afford to raise her. It was there she was taught to sew, to knit, to embroider, to mend clothing and made to work very, very hard. Young Coco had big dreams of life beyond the orphanage, of living among the wealthy, and wanting to be famous. And, she did, with a lot of hard work, creativity and even more determination. The skills she was forced to learn as a child enabled her to make a life for herself, designing and creating clothing for the wealthiest of women.


The Ins: One of the things I love about this story is the focus on Chanel’s free-spiritedness; rejecting the corset that was de-rigueur at the time and creating clothes that were elegant and comfortable for women to wear. Her independence gave her a freedom that was enviable to many women, and she became someone to emulate. The artwork complements the story so beautifully, it has a very “French” feel to them, with a dash of whimsy. The strong black line drawings with sometimes minimal color remind me vaguely of the Madeline books, another French classic.


The Outs: No author notes, bibliography or any kind of backmatter make it difficult to determine if this is actually a biography or a fictionalized account of Coco Chanel, but the brief details included in the book jive with much of what is known about Chanel, sticking to the creative, more positive aspects of her life while leaving out some of the more salacious information.
The All-Around: Similar in tone and content to Different Like Coco by Elizabeth Matthews (Candlewick, 2007), this will make a fun read-aloud. Young clothes-horses will also find much here to admire. I’ll be adding it to my collection.