Thursday, December 31, 2015

A 2015 Round-Up of Favorites

It is hard to believe that 2015 has already come and gone. It has been an extremely busy year for me professionally and personally. I took some time to look back on my Goodreads page at all the books I have read in 2015. I often paused to say, "oh yeah, I loved that book".  I shared my favorite nonfiction picture books published in 2015 yesterday on Kidlit Frenzy's Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge. So today I am sharing the fiction picture books, novels and graphic novels published in 2015 that I really loved. I have not provided a review, but please click on the covers to go to the Goodreads page for each book if you are interested in learning more. Here they are in no particular order.

Picture Books



Graphic Novels

What were some of your faves from 2015? 

Happy New Reading Year Friends!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book 2015 Round Up

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website.

It has been far too long since I paid attention to my blog and post much of anything. Today I would like to share five of my favorite nonfiction picture books from 2015. I have not provided a review, but click on the title to learn more about each book. It was very hard to narrow it down, but here they are in no particular order. 

by Matt Tavares

by Lindsay Mattick
Illustrated by Sophie Blackwell

by Laurel Snyder
Illustrated by Julie Morstad

by Rebecca Langston-George
Illustrated by Janna Bock

by Charles R. Smith
Illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Ok, so I said it was hard to narrow it to 5 so here are a few more.

What were your favorites?

Over the River & Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure by Linda Ashman

Over the River & Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure 
by Linda Ashman
Illustrated by Kim Smith
Published October 2015
Sterling Children's Books
32 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Pack up the pooches and load the van.
We need to leave by eight!
There’s so much to bring.
Do we have everything?
Come on, we can’t be late!

The classic song gets a fresh new twist! The fun begins when Grandma and Grandpa send invitations to their far-flung, modern, and multiracial family: Come to our house for the holidays—and bring your favorite pie!Off everyone goes, driving down snowy roads, riding the train, boarding a plane . . . even sailing along in a hot-air balloon. As each family faces an obstacle that delays their trip, they learn that sometimes the most old-fashioned form of transportation works best . . . NEIGH!

My Thoughts
Even though this song/story is usually thought of as a Thanksgiving tale, the holiday in this book is not specific. The snowy scenes and sleigh make it feel like the holiday could also be Christmas with family traveling to be together. 
While I am not always a fan of books that rhyme, this book makes it work. By the end of the book I can imagine the children shouting "Neigh" each time the sleigh arrives to help more family members. 
The illustrations are bold, colorful and have an appealing realistic yet cartoonish quality. Each page is filled from top to bottom with color. 
Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure would make a great addition to any holiday collection. 

See what others have to say about Over the River and Through the Wood: A Holiday Adventure. 

Learn more about the illustrations at Picture Book Builders.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Vermont by Toni Buzzeo

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Vermont
by Toni Buzzeo
Illustrated by Liza Woodruff
Published October, 2015
Sterling Publishing
32 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Grace gets to visit her cousin Camden and tour New England for 12 days. Each day cousin Camden gives her something related to the state they are in. Grace writes letters back to her Mom and Dad about her trip which tell the story and provide the reader with interesting information about each of the New England states. 

My Thoughts
   Don't let this little picture book fool you, it is much more than just an adorable story of two cousins touring New England. Toni Buzzeo naturally weaves in information about each state in a way that the readers will barely notice they are learning about each state. As a lifelong New Englander, I can tell you that Buzzeo and Woodruff do a fabulous job together presenting information and capturing the feel of New England in the winter. There are also things that I learned about New England. Did you that Rocky Hill Connecticut has a state park called Dinosaur State Park with large prehistoric animals and hundreds of fossilized tracks? Me either!

   I would definitely recommend this books for any child ages 5-9 (publisher's range). It will definitely be reading to to my 4th graders. It would make a great addition to a classroom library or a gift for a New England child or a relative "from away".  

See what others have to say about The Twelve Days of Christmas in New England.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mina's White Canvas by Hyeon-Ju Lee

Mina's White Canvas 
by Hyeon-Ju Lee
Published 2015
Peter Pauper Press
38 Pages
Fiction-Picture Book
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary

When young artist Mina looks up at the cold winter sky, she is struck with an idea. And as she draws with her crayon, something magical begins. Her canvas expands to the snowy world beyond -- a world in which Mina uses her creativity to help others, forge new friendships, and make memories to warm the heart for seasons to come.

My Thoughts
This gorgeous book reminds me of Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson which I LOVE! It is a sweet story of how Mina uses her crayon (which can draw in many colors) to escape the boredom of a gray, gloomy winter day. It takes her on an adventure through the snowy forest where she meets several different woodland creatures, each with a problem which she helps solve using her artistic ability and her special crayon. 

The illustrations are beautiful, soft and often appear to be colored in crayon. With lots of white space for snow, the colorful scenery, animals and Mina pop from the page. I can see little ones wanting to look at this one very closely.

I would highly recommend Mina's White Canvas for any K-2 classroom or school library. 

See what others have to say about Mina's White Canvas.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-A Friend for Lakota: The Incredible True Story of a Wolf Who Braved Bullying

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website.

by Jim and Jamie Dutcher
Published 2015 
National Geographic Kids
32 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher.

Goodreads Summary
The sweet tale of Lakota, the shy wolf pup, is sure to touch the heart of any animal lover. Readers will marvel at Lakota's strength growing up as the lowest-ranking and frequently picked-on member of a wolf pack until he finally finds that supportive and nurturing friend he's always wanted. The book also introduces young readers to the need for conservation awareness: through Lakota's life story, readers will come to understand the many challenges wolves in the wild face today.

My Thoughts
Oh my word! Even in the wild, all you need is one good friend who has your back. I just loved this sweet story of friendship and the fact that it is true, makes it all the sweeter. Husband and wife team Jim and Jamie Dutcher lived among the wolves for six years in a tented camp in the mountains of Idaho. They studied wolf behavior in an attempt to show the world how intelligent and social these animals are. Although Lakota was physically the largest, his timid, mild personality put him at the bottom of the social hierarchy. He was picked on by other members of his pack and forced to submit to them. But one pack member, Matsi, never joined in the bullying. Finally Matsi had enough of the others cruelty and he stuck up for Lakota by putting himself between Lakota and the others. Things change for Lakota as his friendship with Matsi develops. 

As one would expect with National Geographic, the pictures are just gorgeous and take up most of the page. I would recommend Lakota's beautiful story for grades 1-4. 

Monday, November 30, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? November 30, 2015

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

It has been many weeks since I posted an IMWAYR post due to NCTE and the general craziness of school, home and coursework. Here are a few highlights. 
Click on the book titles to learn more about them. 

This would be a good mentor test for argument. K-4.

Really enjoyed this one. Matt Davies' illustrations are unmistakable. K-3. 

A thought-provoking little book. 

Sweet story about 5 friends, each waiting for something wonderful. 

A look at what the world looks like at night through a child's eyes. Beautiful!

My mind is still processing this creepy, yet enthralling story. Not sure it is for my 4th graders. 

Finished Listening to...
Beautifully narrated in this audio version. 

What Are YOU Reading Friends?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

NCTE '15 Highlights!

Every week, Ruth Ayres over at Discover. Play. Build. invites people to share celebrations from their week.  Please visit and consider linking up your own celebration. 

Thanks to Ruth for providing a platform for me to share my big and small celebrations. 

This year's NCTE convention was a whirlwind of activity as usual. 

I was thrilled to be able to have two of my colleagues, Anna Sedenka and Lynne Walsh with me. We had so much fun learning and talking together!

But I missed my friend Susan Dee who brought me to my first NCTE 3 years ago, so I decided to bring her along with me. Flat Susan met many new people and connected with old friends.

Pernille Ripp and Jillian Heisse

Gordon Korman

I had many fangirl moments meeting authors I admire. 
Linda Urban


Kwame Alexander

Sharon Draper

At The Nerdy gathering with Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Nikki Loftin

Ok, so I did not meet her, but I LOVE Kate DiCamillo! Hearing her speak was a huge thrill!

 Then there are MY nerds!! I love being able to call this group of passionate educators my friends! 
Melissa Guerette, Michele Knott, Jason Lewis, Lesley Burnap, Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Of course we had Flat Susan with us! (Photo bomber, David Smith).

One inspiring session featured Teri Lessene, Donalyn Miller, Kylene Beers and Bob Probst! I sat on the floor because all the seats in the HUGE auditorium were filled!

Check out this fabulous group of authors at the Nerdy Penguin Bash hosted by Donalyn Miller, John Shumacher (Mr. Schu), and Colby Sharp. 

Finally, presenting with my panel was such a dream come true. I admire and respect each one of these ladies tremendously. 
Me with Cynthia Lord, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and Alyson Beecher

Weekends like this keep me inspired, motivated and ready to do what is best for my students. I can't wait until next year!