It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/24/14

IMWAYR

Visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers to participate in the kidlit version of this weekly meme.

On my blog:

  • A slice about leaving my son to travel to NCTE
  • The all-NCTE version of Saturday celebration

All of the books I read last week were purchased or gotten for free at NCTE!

handle with care

Loree Griffin Burns’s Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey is a nonfiction picture book that follows the journey of the blue morpho butterfly through its life cycle from a butterfly farm in Costa Rica to its eventual life at a museum in Boston. The photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz are beautiful, especially the photographs of the different butterfly pupae. I had no idea they came in so many different shapes and colors! As you can see from the cover, they can be exquisitely beautiful. Burns’s text is clear and lively and written in a style appropriate for quite young readers. (No more than a short paragraph of text per page, and sometimes just one or two sentences.) There is ample back matter including an explanation of insect life cycles, insect words, a glossary, suggestions for further reading, and an index–all written in a style appropriate for younger readers. (I so appreciate being able to read back matter aloud to children without having to “translate” first!). I do wish that two captions depicting Costa Rican farm workers caring for the butterflies had identified the men as “farm workers” instead of “farm hands.” Earlier in the book, an unnamed white woman shown at her workplace is identified in the caption as a “museum worker.” It seems demeaning to identify human beings as “hands.” I realize that the term is still used in agriculture, but it disturbed me to see a white person described as a worker and brown people identified as hands.

case of vanishing brown batsSandra Markle’s The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery is a terrific nonfiction title for older readers. (Lots of text–closer to what you’d find in a Scientists in the Field book, just not as long. With support and perhaps slower reading–a few pages a day rather than the whole book at once–this would still be a great book for younger elementary.) There are ample photographs that also tell the story of the vanishing brown bat population, which has been hit hard by a mysterious fungus. Markle’s book becomes a page-turning mystery as scientists race to figure out what’s killing off thousands of bats and how they can save the existing population. Excellent back matter, including tips to save bats locally and globally. hug machineScott Campbell’s Hug Machine is just as sweet as you imagine it would be. Wonderful story with exactly the right art. I didn’t automatically think Caldecott when I read it, but Thom Barthelmess’s post for Calling Caldecott is pretty darned persuasive.

footer davis probably is crazy

I picked up Susan Vaught’s Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy (ARC; to be published in March) because the cover was intriguing, and then I read the first paragraph and was hooked because it’s a zinger. And I would totally quote it here but I gave the book back to its rightful owner (one of my pre-service teachers who traveled to NCTE with me). You’ll just have to trust me: it’s a great first paragraph. I am thinking this book is going to get a lot of Nerdy Book Club love. What I loved about it: its main character, the feisty strong-willed Footer; voice–Footer’s got that in spades; interesting secondary characters; thoughtful look at mental and physical disability that is well-integrated into the story (Footer’s mom has bipolar; her best friend has Cerebral Palsy and his little sister has autism; another character has PTSD); a mystery that needs solving; the incorporation of illustrations, sketches, and other materials (excerpts from journals, school assignments, notes, lists) into the text. What didn’t work as well for me: the plot device of having Footer conveniently remember all the solutions to the mystery as she experiences flashbacks throughout the story.

completely clementine

I was very excited about several ARCs I got at NCTE, but I think I got MOST excited when I found Completely Clementine in one of my pre-service teachers’ treasure bags. The seventh (and final) Clementine story will be published in March. It’s a fitting end to the series, as it focuses both on goodbyes (the end of 3rd grade) and new beginnings (a wedding for Margaret’s mom, a new baby for Clementine’s family). I enjoyed it (how could I not?! It’s Clementine!) but didn’t find it as strong as the other books, and I’m trying to decide why. Partly it’s a lack of interaction between Clementine and some of the key adults. There are nice scenes between Clementine and her mom, but Clementine is mad at her dad and not speaking to him, so his strong character isn’t quite as present as he usually is. And she is also avoiding her teacher, as she doesn’t want to leave him and move on to third grade, so we don’t see enough of Mr. D’Matz. Oddly, Mr. D’Matz doesn’t show up for school on the last day of the year and so the good-byes don’t really get to happen (though Clementine does write him a letter later on). It would be quite unusual for a teacher to miss the last day of school without explanation. Perhaps there was an explanation that I somehow missed (I was reading quickly, as Kelsey did not agree to my plan to permanently keep her book hostage). There is also a clunky plot device towards the end, as Clementine’s problem with her dad is resolved after she recalls a verrrrry long speech he once gave her after they saw Beauty and the Beast together. Clementine has an attention problem. Her dad never would have used that many words. And if he had, Clementine never would have remembered all of them.

Still. In the context of a Clementine book, these are minor quibbles. When I say I didn’t like Book 7 quite as much of the other Clementine stories, that means very little because I still liked it more than 90% of the other books I read. I am sad that this is the end. What a series! (Pennypacker is working on a new series about Waylon, a boy in Clementine’s class. So perhaps there will be some glimpses of Clementine and the most excellent Principal Rice to come!)

terrible two

If you’re eager to read Jory John and Mac Barnett’s new illustrated middle-grade, The Terrible Two–and why wouldn’t you be?!–you won’t have to wait long because it comes out in January. It’s about Miles Murphy, the new kid in town, who gloried in his reputation as a genius prankster at his old school. He thinks it won’t be a problem to start pranks at his new school and plans to establish his reputation early on, but then he discovers that his new school already has a prankster–someone who’s even better at pranks than Miles. How they eventually meet, compete, and team up is the plot. The book has been blurbed by Dav Pilkey and Jeff Kinney, and it’s certainly a story that will appeal to their readers. It’s kind of like Captain Underpants for older readers with the (to my mind) improvement of two main characters with more smarts and more heart. I think the cows were really my favorite part. Miles’s new town has very little to offer besides cows–lots and lots of cows. Something about cows is just funny to me. They moo quite a bit in this story and also figure prominently in the final prank.

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19 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 11/24/14

  1. How did you get a chance to read this past weekend??? What a crazy, yet awesome one! The Footer book looks intriguing. I missed the Barnett-Johns book, although I did get sworn in by them 🙂

    • LOL, I missed the swearing in but heard about it! I stayed up WAY too late–that’s one way I read. I also read 4 of those books on the flight home! Sorry we missed each other–but there’s always next year!

  2. Such a delight to meet you at NCTE! How did I miss Foster Davis?! Definitely need to order it right away. So interesting that you noticed the use of language Elisabeth. Yes, that would have bothered me, too.

  3. The first time I learned about all those different & wonderful pupae was at our Butterfly Museum, Elisabeth. They are wonderful, I agree. The book sounds good, as does Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy. I don’t know the Clementine books like you do, but you’ve made me want to read more! Thanks!

    • Is there a Butterfly Museum in Denver?? The Clementine books are some of my favorites–wonderfully written and of course much elevated by Marla Frazee’s illustrations. They’re too young for your students, of course, but well worth a read.

  4. I loved the Clementine books but find that the reading level is a bit challenging for my students who I know would appreciate the story lines. They are very popular for parents to read to their children though. Your review of Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy, has made me desperate to get my hands on it. Sigh. I just hate waiting. I’ve got Handle With Care. It truly is a beautiful book. I like the idea of The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery, but I find these days that older students who might be interested in learning about this, tend to do more online research. Their teachers and I usually have to insist they use a text based resource as well.

    • I know what you mean about waiting for books–it’s challenging to see so many advanced readers copies being reviewed on blogs and know the wait is long for some of these books! I want to get Sandra Markle’s other nonfiction books–wish I’d read Handle with Care and Vanishing Bats while I was still at NCTE because the publisher had a very good price on their hardcover nonfiction. Interesting observation about older students’ preference for online research. When my son and I read a good nonfiction book, we also pull out the iPad and find out more.

  5. Clementine, Clementine, Clementine. LOVE! I read Markle’s book about the Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs and really was fascinated so I would like to read this title about the bats. So pleased that you had such a great time at NCTE!! And found so many wonderful books.

    • I need to get Markle’s book about the golden frogs. I was very impressed by the bat book. My mom loves bats, so I loaned it to her. Hope she enjoys it. I know you will enjoy the Clementine book. I just wish it weren’t the last!

  6. Handle with care is a great book, the Hug Machine sounds great and the Case of the Little Brow bats is another good choice. I am adding Footer Davis Probably is Crazy to my reading list, the rest of your choices sound good too.

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