Sunday, February 5, 2012

January Reading Recap

I read a boatload of books in January, mostly because I was on the Monarch Award committee for next year, and we had our meeting this month. Last month, I mean. Anyhow, I read 50 books for K-3 students - a nice mix of early readers/chapter books, nonfiction, picture books, and even a couple graphic novels. I won't list them all because that would be tiresome and possibly against the rules. I will, however, share some of my favorites and direct you to the 2013 Monarch Award List for the final 20 books we selected for next year.

K-3 January Favorites
Blackout by John Rocco (2011) --- It's the shape and size of a picture book, but I'd call it a beginning graphic novel because of the use of large panels. This book absolutely deserves the Caldecott Honor it was awarded this year. It's stunningly illustrated, with colors that pop right off the page, and the story is wonderful. A little boy just wants to spend some time with his family, but they're all too busy - until the power goes out on their block, and then everyone gathers together and actually socializes in person rather than through their techno gizmos. This blackout takes place in summer, but we've had our fair share of blackouts in the winter too. It's a gorgeous book with a great story, and I can't wait to share it with students.

Where in the Wild? Camouflaged Creatures Concealed... and Revealed by David M. Schwartz and Yael Schy, photographs by Dwight Kuhn (2007) --- Yep, a nonfiction book ended up in my favorites pile. But this one has some tricks up its sleeves. Because it's about camouflaged creatures, each page has a photograph and an accompanying poem/riddle that gives you a clue as to what's hiding in the photograph. Then! You fold open the photograph page, so you're looking at a trifold now - with the center page exposing the hidden animal in full color and the rest of the photograph dulled. And then we get to the nonfiction part of the book, where the animal and its camouflage technique are explained. So much fun! And there are two more books in this series! 

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith (2010) --- I LOVE THIS BOOK. Lulu is a spoiled brat, but you can't help but love her... eventually. Her birthday is coming up, and she wants a brontosaurus, end of story. No other pet will do. When her parents kindly tell her that she won't be getting a brontosaurus for her birthday, she takes off into the forest to catch one on her own. She encounters some ferocious critters that she is not so nice to and finally comes across a solo brontosaurus that thinks a pet is a very good thing. There are surprise twists and laugh out loud moments along with a wonderfully sassy song that Lulu sings on her way to and from the forest. Kids will love to sing along - I can't wait to read it to second grade students!

MG/YA Read in January
A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End: The Right Way to Write Writing by Avi (2008) --- You'll either be pleasantly amused or endlessly irritated by this book. Avon the snail wants to write, but he doesn't know how or where to start. His friend, Edward the ant, gives him some sometimes helpful advice, while the two have delightful exchanges filled with all kinds of fun wordplay. I don't know what child would choose to read this and enjoy it as much as my adult self did. A budding writer, perhaps. Nonetheless, I appreciated it immensely and would often go to sleep giggling over their antics.

Exile by Anne Osterlund (2011) --- I read Aurelia in 2010 (published 2008) and waited two years for the sequel. Only to find out it's a trilogy. This would normally frustrate me, but Osterlund's writing is so lovely, I don't mind the wait. I could have easily read this book in one sitting, but I stretched it out over four days just so I could savor it. Aurelia has just survived an attempt on her life, and she's promptly set off to tour her future kingdom, to get to know the people and the land. The politics are crazy, and her life is still in peril, but she has Robert at her side to keep her safe and calm. This book is all about her journey across the land, so it's not exactly action-packed, which is fine, so long as the third book wraps this story up nicely. 

Have a Hot Time, Hades! by Kate McMullan (2011) --- The Myth-O-Mania series was originally published in 2002, but they got cover re-designs last summer and are now much more attractive, which is, of course, why I bought them for my school library. That and the fact that my students are into Greek mythology. They are eating this series up - there's never a copy on the shelf. So, I thought I should read one to see what it is that the kids are reading. It took me two months to finish this book, when I know students are reading them in less than a week, but I just couldn't get into it. The language is very contemporary even though this is somewhat of a retelling. This is why the kids like it - they're easy to read, funny, and make Greek gods accessible to students who aren't strong enough readers forthe Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. 

Big City Otto by Bill Slavin (2011) --- I don't know how I feel about this graphic novel. Otto is such a sad, sad elephant. He misses his best friend Georgie, who's been chimp-napped. There is a little bit of humor sprinkled in throughout the book, most notably Otto using a port-o-potty and ending up being lifted on top of a building (which although it's funny is also scary!). Otto and his parrot friend Crackers (a truly unfortunate name) go on a quest to find Georgie and run into all sorts of trouble, even getting involved in a candy store robbery. Gosh, what is wrong with this book?! Personally, it was appalling to me, but I know students who will pick it up and love it because it doesn't simplify the world for them, and it tells it like it is. If it wasn't for the conversation Otto had with the gators who mistreated him and tricked him into doing illegal things, I may have sent this book back to Follett. In a way, it's like street lit for kids, and I think they'll appreciate it. I think.

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