In my opinion, books are the best accessory.
So, I visited the US and had a long list of books I was excited to read… my wonderful mom took a list of my to-be-read books and ordered them all from the public library so they were waiting for me when we arrived. Additionally, my beautiful sister had a pile of books for reading as well…
So, here’s my reading journey over Spring Break in the USA!
First off, my sister and I made a few videos about our favorite books of the moment… (Thanks to my wonderful silent videographer husband who chuckled through the videos!)
Personally, my favorite moment when chatting about books with my sister was when I began reading a book in the stacks and realized I’d read a book before, or something similar… my sister said “Oh, you’re having deja book!” — Oh yes, that is a new term I’ll be using in the future.
Oliver Jeffers Fun:
The Way Back Home by Oliver Jeffers and The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers – All ages- I’ve read both of these before but certainly they are ones to enjoy and read over and over and over again. Gorgeous messages- you can find a friend anywhere- don’t forget your promises- open your heart to others- appreciate the wondering of youth – don’t lose out on your chance to grow with others – losing someone shouldn’t shut you off from the world… just gorgeous. Goodreads Summary: The Way Back Home: “When a boy discovers a single-propeller airplane in his closet, he does what any young adventurer would do: He flies it into outer space! Millions of miles from Earth, the plane begins to sputter and quake, its fuel tank on empty. The boy executes a daring landing on the moon . . . but there’s no telling what kind of slimy, slithering, tentacled, fangtoothed monsters lurk in the darkness! (Plus, it’s dark and lonely out there.) Coincidentally, engine trouble has stranded a young Martian on the other side of the moon, and he’s just as frightened and alone. Martian, Earthling—it’s all the same when you’re in need of a friend.” The Heart and the Bottle: “There is a wonder and magic to childhood. We don’t realize it at the time, of course . . . yet the adults in our lives do. They encourage us to see things in the stars, to find joy in colors and laughter as we play. But what happens when that special someone who encourages such wonder and magic is no longer around? We can hide, we can place our heart in a bottle and grow up . . . or we can find another special someone who understands the magic. And we can encourage them to see things in the stars, find joy among colors and laughter as they play.”
Biography fun –
Nelson Mandela – words and paintings by Kadir Nelson – 2nd grade and up- very respectful, honest approach to Nelson Mandela’s life and in inequality of the apartheid. It has the most gorgeous illustrations. Reminded me of the book Martin’s Big Words… 27 1/2 years of being in jail… released in 1990 to go on and inspire and impress people for years to come. So powerful, inspiring. Nelson Mandela is a person I use when people ask who a role model might be who encompasses all the learner profiles. Goodreads Summary: “One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, the country’s capital, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans.”
Helen’s Big World The Life of Helen Keller by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares – 2nd grade and up- favorite quotes from the book: “I do not like the world as it is; so I am trying to make it a little more as I would like it.” “The chief handicap of the blind is not blindness, but the attitude of seeing people toward them.” Just love that the manual language chart is at the back of the book, a little different than ASL but not much. Goodreads Summary: “This picturebook biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential luminaries. With her signature style of prose laced with stirring quotes, Doreen Rappaport brings to life Helen Keller’s poignant narrative. Acclaimed illustrator Matt Tavares beautifully captures the dynamism and verve of Helen Keller’s life and legacy, making “Helen’s Big World” an unforgettable portrait of a woman whose vision for innovation and progress changed America–and the world–forever.”
Seed by Seed The Legend and Legacy of John “Appleseed” Chapman by Esme Raji Codell, illustrations by Lynne Rae Perkins – 2nd grade and up- Powerful message about Johnny Appleseed… my favorite part of this book which was reiterated through the book was how he wanted people to use and share what we have, make peace where there is war, respect nature, and appreciate the process, not the product… love this book for not only the special illustrations but also because of the examples shared of John’s actions… practice what you preach. Love it. Goodreads Summary: “His real name was John Chapman. He grew apples. But wait. So what? Why should we remember him and think about him and talk about him today, more than 200 years after he was born? Why should we call him a hero? …”
Harlem’s Little Blackbird – The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, pictures by Christian Robinson – 2nd grade and up- Really appreciated learning more about the Harlem renaissance and another civil rights leader. Beautiful. Goodreads Summary: “Zora and Langston. Billie and Bessie. Eubie and Duke. If the Harlem Renaissance had a court, they were its kings and queens. But there were other, lesser known individuals whose contributions were just as impactful, such as Florence Mills. Born to parents who were former-slaves Florence knew early on that she loved to sing. And that people really responded to her sweet, bird-like voice. Her dancing and singing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired songs and even entire plays! Yet with all this success, she knew firsthand how bigotry shaped her world. And when she was offered the role of a lifetime from Ziegfeld himself, she chose to support all-black musicals instead.”
Picture book specials-
Penguin and Pinecone – a friendship story by Salina Yoon – All Ages- This is the most precious story!! So happy to finally read this little treasure. My son and I loved the pictures, story, and message. All around special story recommended for anyone who wants to share a quick special heartwarming story about friendship. Goodreads Summary: “When Penguin finds a lost pinecone one day, an unlikely friendship blooms. But Grandpa reminds Penguin that pinecones can’t live in the snow-they belong in the warm forest far away. Though he will miss his friend, Penguin returns Pinecone to his home, dreaming of the day they can reunite. And when he finally returns to the forest to check on his friend, Penguin discovers that love only grows over time-and so do little pinecones! Prolific author/illustrator Salina Yoon’s spare text and bright, energetic illustrations bring to life this endearing story celebrating friendships lost and found, and overcoming the odds to be with the one you love.
Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld – All Ages- what an amazing team. What a fantastic story. What a brilliant concept. What a fabulous book for gifts, schools, and fun read alouds. Can’t wait to share this with students in the future! Goodreads Summary: “He stood out here. He stood out there. He tried everything to be more like them. It’s not easy being seen. Especially when you’re NOT like everyone else. Especially when what sets you apart is YOU. Sometimes we squish ourselves to fit in. We shrink. Twist. Bend. Until — ! — a friend shows the way to endless possibilities. In this bold and highly visual book, an emphatic but misplaced exclamation point learns that being different can be very exciting! Period.”
Wild About You! by Judy Sierra, pictures by Marc Brown – K-3rd grade- Loved this continuing story about the zoo, beautiful illustrations, rhyming text that is endearing, not annoying, and lovely messages – it takes a village to raise a child, or a whole zoo to bring up a baby! Goodreads Summary: “The tree kangaroo at the zoo would like nothing more than a baby of her own. So, when a new egg arrives via the endangered species van, the ‘roo jumps at the chance to take care of it, even when no one else wants it. Soon, out comes a penguin and all the animals chip in to help because, as the tree kangaroo says, “Penguins eat fishes.” … ”
Larf by Ashley Spires – 1st grade and up- This is such a cute story about a bigfoot who is curious to meet others of his own kind, even when it means venturing out into the mass of people who stare. Loved reading this after enjoying Ashley Spires’s Binky the Cat graphic novel series. Goodreads Summary: “No one believes Larf exists, and he likes it that way. Larf, you see, is a sasquatch, the only sasquatch in the world (or so it seems). He has a very pleasant, and very private, life in the woods, where on any given day he might be found jogging, gardening or walking Eric, his pet bunny. But everything changes one morning when Larf discovers that another sasquatch is scheduled to make an appearance in the nearby city of Hunderfitz. What?! That must mean he’s not the only sasquatch in the world! Excited by the prospect of having a friend to share hair grooming tips with (and let’s face it, teeter-tottering alone is no fun), Larf disguises himself as a city slicker and heads for Hunderfitz — where he’s in for a couple enormous surprises. Ashley Spires once again shows her chops for creating irresistible, quirky characters and laugh-aloud stories and illustrations. Readers with little feet and big feet will fall head over heels for Larf.”
*funny promo for Larf-
The Longest Night – A Passover Story by Laurel Snyder & Catia Chien – All Ages- I’ve been dying to read this book for quite some time, no disappointment here, except for the fact that I didn’t have this book as a child! Beautiful illustrations open the book with a welcoming feel, author’s note explains in a respectful way why Laurel was inspired to write the story, and careful yet appropriate choices were made for the retelling of the Passover story. I suggested using this book during the seder, didn’t fly this year, but I hope that other years we could enjoy the story together! It is a book that could be shared throughout the year but additionally one of those beautiful books that is traditionally pulled out each year to share. For me growing up there were two books continually pulled out every passover: Mrs. Katz and Tush and There’s a Carp in the Bathtub – neither of them had too much to do with Passover besides a slight mention but they were treasured year after year by my family. I am happy to add in a new treasure to our traditions! Goodreads Summary: “Here’s a picture book for all Jewish families to read while celebrating Passover. Unlike other Passover picture books that focus on the contemporary celebration of the holiday, or are children’s haggadahs, this gorgeous picture book in verse follows the actual story of the Exodus. Told through the eyes of a young slave girl, author Laurel Snyder and illustrator Catia Chien skillfully and gently depict the story of Pharoah, Moses, the 10 plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea in a remarkably accessible way. ”
The Secret Seder by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully – 4/5th grade- I read this ages ago but wanted to reread it since it was Passover time. Touching, upsetting story about how Jewish people in hiding during the Holocaust still found a way to celebrate Passover and pass traditions down to their children. Goodreads Summary: “Jacques and his parents are hiding in Nazi-occupied France during World War II, pretending to be Catholics. On the first night of Passover, Jacques and his father elude Nazi soldiers to gather with other Jews and celebrate the Seder in secret. For this book, Doreen Rappaport researched the lives of resistance fighters and Jews in hiding: brave men and women who managed to survive one of the darkest times in history with their faith intact. Emily Arnold McCully’s intense and respectful paintings illuminate the perils of a turbulent time and the triumphs of a resilient people.”
Early Readers/Early Chapter Books-
Frog and Friends by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Josee Masse– Hilarious cute little book with animals misunderstanding objects and working hard to be friendly with one another. Precious early reader book for a K-2nd grader. Highly recommend. (I love reading all of Eve Bunting books!- There are already three books out! Goodreads Summary: “Welcome to Frog and his world. He enjoys nothing better than spending time floating in his pond or visiting with his friends. He appreciates the simpler things in life and would prefer that things stay just the way they are–nice and peaceful.”
The Secret Chicken Society by Judy Cox, illustrated by Amanda Haley – What a hilarious book! I loved how caring and persistent the main character is… and how information about hatching and raising chickens is naturally integrated into the book. If I was at my old school, this would be on the shelf immediately since my Kindergarten class hatches eggs and many colleagues have their own chickens. I think that many children would enjoy successfully reading this lovely book. Imagine if your class science project is brought home and takes over your family’s life! Special little treat for 1st-3rd graders… Goodreads Summary: “When Daniel’s class hatches chicks as a science project, he adopts them. After he finds out that his favorite bird, Peepers, isn’t a hen but a rooster, and therefore illegal to keep in the city of Portland, the Secret Chicken Society is quickly formed to save Peepers.”
Penny and Her Doll by Kevin Henkes – Early reader- PK-2nd grade- I’m so thrilled to finally read a Penny story! I heard wonderful reviews for months now and was happy to find one on the bookshelf. This was such a precious story from beginning to conclusion with simple yet realistic situations that I know children will adore. Note to self: get the other two Penny books soon! – Simply, this is a story about a little mouse named Penny who receives a new doll and has a lovely process for coming up with a name for the doll.
Pete the Cat Play Ball! created by James Dean and Pete the Cat Pete’s Big Lunch created by James Dean – PK-2nd Grade (plus for any Pete the Cat fan!) – What I really appreciate about the Pete the Cat books is that there’s a pretty obvious yet not annoying message. My son and I had a discussion about sportsmanship and winning with Pete the Cat Play Ball! I really appreciated the attitude that was portrayed with both books- sharing is great, support your team, you don’t have to be fantastic to enjoy an event… Just wonderful books. Goodreads Summary for Pete the Cat Play Ball!- “Pete the Cat has a mitt, a ball, and a bat. He’s ready to play baseball! Pete’s team, the Rocks, is playing the Rolls. But when things don’t go Pete’s way, will he get upset?” and Pete the Cat Pete’s Big Lunch- “Pete the Cat is hungry. Pete is going to make the grooviest sandwich ever! But what happens if his sandwich is too big for Pete to eat?”
Last Laughs Animal Epitaphs by J. Patrick Lewis and Jane Yolen, illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins – 4/5th grade and up- I admit it. This book is too dark, even for me… But there were a few times that I chuckled during the read. Most of the time I winced. The illustrations just emphasized the poems and it is interesting to see an illustrator who isn’t scared to share blood.
DREAM A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom & Wishes by Susan V. Bosak – 3rd-5th grade- quite the inspiring, gorgeous picture book packed with different impressive talented illustrators… wow to the message about growth and hope of people. Goodreads Summary: “Winner of 10 national awards including IRA Children’s Choice, Teachers’ Choice, and Book Sense Children’s Pick “This elegant children’s book depicts the journey of life with all the hopes and dreams found along the way… Richly crafted and thoughtfully written, ‘Dream’ is a dazzling project that challenges us to find a dream and follow it” — The Bloomsbury Review. Fifteen top children’s illustrators each offer a gorgeously illustrated page to complement quotations from historical sages and a beautifully told, multilayered poetic story about life’s hopes and dreams from childhood to adulthood, inspiring both children and adults. A book to explore and discuss with children, a keepsake and collector’s item, and a lovely gift book for milestones like a birth or graduation, the holidays and birthdays. “Dream” offers wonder, wisdom, and good wishes — for everyone who dreams.”
Ocean Sunlight How Tiny Plants Feed the Seas by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm – Great for 2nd grade and up- sometimes more for older children but younger students can also get a lot out of the book- absolutely gorgeous pictures lead you through this gorgeous informational book told from the perspective of the sun. Loved how the book was packed with information, led you through the ecosystem, and didn’t thump you over the head with information on how the earth is ruined but instead shared hope and information respectfully. I personally though ocean snow information was fascinating… read to find out about that- or watch the movie at the top of this post! Goodreads Summary: “In this timely book, award-winner Molly Bang uses her signature poetic language and dazzling illustrations to introduce the oceanic world. From tiny aquatic plants to the biggest whale or fish, Bang presents a moving, living picture of the miraculous balance sustaining each life cycle and food chain deep within our wondrous oceans.”
Alex the Parrot – No Ordinary Bird- A True Story by Stephanie Spinner, illustrated by Meilo So – 3rd grade and up- I grew up knowing about Alex the parrot so was quite excited to learn that there would be a picture book released with the story of how he was selected, raised, grew in both intelligence and personality and captured the hearts and minds of many people who doubted the intelligence of a parrot. Brilliant character, wonderful book. Goodreads Summary: “In 1977, graduate student Irene Pepperberg walked into a pet store and bought a year-old African grey parrot. Because she was going to study him, she decided to call him Alex–short for Avian Learning EXperiment. At that time, most scientists thought that the bigger the brain, the smarter the creature; they studied great apes and dolphins. African greys, with their walnut-sized “birdbrains,” were pretty much ignored–until Alex.
His intelligence surprised everyone, including Irene. He learned to count, add, and subtract; to recognize shapes, sizes, and colors; and to speak, and understand, hundreds of words. These were things no other animal could do. Alex wasn’t supposed to have the brainpower to do them, either. But he did them anyway.
Accompanied by Meilo So’s stunning illustrations, Alex and Irene’s story is one of groundbreaking discoveries about animal intelligence, hard work, and the loving bonds of a unique friendship.”
Wish You Were Eyre – The Mother-Daughter Book Club by Heather Vogel Frederick – 4/5th grade- Ever get lost in a world and then realize you were officially at the end of a journey you hoped had one more book when completing the book? Well. That occurred. I loved this book, enjoyed jumping back into the Mother-Daughter Book Club angst and adventure, and had fun reading the conclusion of the series… What a fun, special book this was to read! Stay tuned, an interview with Heather is coming soon on this blog! (I’m thrilled.) Goodreads Summary: “The book club says bon voyage to Concord and bonjour to France!It’s a dream come true for Megan, who’s jet-setting to Paris for Fashion Week with Gigi. Meanwhile, back in Concord, Mrs. Wong decides to run for mayor, so Emma and Stewart team up to make her campaign a success. Jess and Cassidy are also hoping for victories, Jess in the a cappella finals with the MadriGals and Cassidy in the national hockey championships with her teammates. In the midst of it all, the girls—along with their Wyoming pen pals, who drop in for a visit over Spring Break—dive into Charlotte Brontë’s classic Jane Eyre. Some real life romance follows, as Becca may have found a Mr. Rochester of her own. And then there’s the matter of a certain wedding. The book club girls, their families, the British Berkeley brothers, and even Stinkerbelle will be attending the ceremony, which means there might be some bumps before the bride waltzes down the aisle….”
Postcards from Pismo by Michael Scotto, illustrations by Dion Williams – 4th grade and up- Wow, this was a powerful book that I snuck in a read of while here in the US, didn’t expect to fit in another novel. I took longer to read it than I expected, perhaps because of the font/printing which was well chosen and made the book approachable. I didn’t doubt once the voice in this book. I was drawn in immediately to the story of a boy who is assigned to write a letter to someone in Afghanistan and continues writing after the assignment is complete. I personally was asked to write multiple letters to a class when I was in 6th grade and away from regular school for a short term and one person I’ve continued to be friends with through mail/email/Facebook to this day. The character development was exciting and I really appreciated how there was no “miracle” solution to the family’s financial situation (which they were content with) and how the older brother is portrayed in the book. Just a beautiful, powerful book that I highly suggest reading aloud to a class, as a family, or independently! *Have to mention, I love the illustrations throughout, really made the story come to life! (I’m so grateful to Twitter connections and that Colby Sharp mentioned this book in a video, would have slipped by me otherwise!) Goodreads Summary: “Postcards from Pismo is the story of Felix Maldonado, a sensitive ten-year-old living in the central coast region of California. What begins as a school project blossoms into a powerful friendship when Felix writes a letter to an American soldier serving in Afghanistan. Their pen pal friendship grows more important than ever when Felix’s older brother, Quin, enlists in the military to raise money for college. Told entirely through Felix’s letters, emails, and postcards to the soldier, the novel traces the boy’s growth as he grapples with bullies, the fear arising from his brother’s enlistment, and the meaning of bravery itself. Humorous, timely, and deeply moving, this unforgettable tale is not to be missed.”
Secrets from the Sleeping Bag by Rose Cooper – 4th/5th grade- Talk about camp pranks to the extreme… I chuckled my way through this read which is the third Blogtastic! novel in this series. I think it is a perfect fit for fans of Dork Diaries and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I personally enjoyed how the main character faces repercussions for lying and isn’t as sweet and innocent as some characters yet isn’t malicious as well. I know students would love this series… Goodreads Summary: “Sofia is spending the summer at Camp Krakatow! S’mores, crafts, bug juice, water sports, boys(!) . . . Sofia doesn’t want to forget one second of sleepaway camp!”
Want more book ideas and reviews? – Yes, I’m quite brief, but a prolific reader! Please visit me at Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1941055-the-styling-librarian Also, please follow this blog through email updates – (do so to the right of this blog post), my Facebook page, comment, or meet up with me on Twitter. I appreciate all of the support, makes my day! Honored by all the wonderful followers.