#IMWAYR (It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?) – Oct. 5/20

Last Week…

Another busy audiobook week for me, including books that I am sure everyone except me has already listened to or read. Now I am getting a bit nervous as I have been on such a good listening roll and worry for an impending slump, or is that just me?

  • Home for Goddesses and Dogs by Leslie Connor narrated by Patricia Santomasso. Quickly becoming another go-to author, Leslie Connor, has once again driven me to tears with the story of Lydia. Lydia is going to live with her aunt and partner, Eileen when her mother dies from heart failure. Once on the farm, her two aunts, Elloroy, who owns the farm, an adopted troubled dog and treasured goddess creations, become intertwined in a story of love, acceptance and hope. 
  • Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt narrated by Christopher Gebauer: Not sure why I kept putting off enjoying this masterpiece, but oh my Joseph and Jack will be with me for a long time. Foster brother Joseph comes to live with Jack and his parents on a farm. Joesph comes with some heavy-duty issues; he tried to kill a teacher and is a father to newborn Jupiter. A story of so many life lessons; love and loss, friendship and family in a manageable length book. I should have read this book a long time ago.
  • Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson, narrated by the author: Wow – this is a must-have book for middle-year classrooms and libraries. I so appreciate and will take any opportunity to listen to an author narrate their books. Jade is a young girl on a scholarship to a predominately white school and has been allowed to be one of twelve girls selected to be part of a black mentorship program. Jade is not so sure she needs the program and feels that perhaps the mentorship program and mentee can learn something from her. A story of a young girl finding her voice, exploring privilege and coming of age novel. 
  • Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake with pictures by Jon Klassen: A new series for our transitional readers, Skunk and Badger, end up being new roommates with polar personalities. I wrote a post on this book last week if you want further details. 
  • Canadian picture books: I enjoyed a variety of past recommendations that I missed and officially looking for Shining Willow nominees. Look for highlights of my favourites at the end of the month.

Up Next…

  • Skrypuch’s Sky of Bombs Sky by Marsha Forchuk – another book that I didn’t quite finish and want to enjoy – it that good and then reward myself with the video chat I missed
  • Breathing Underwater by Sarah Allen: I am glad that this will be my focus this week so I can enjoy the last few chapters of this strong follow-up to her debut What Stars Are Made Of
  • Siha Tooskin Knows Series by Charlene Bearhead, Wilson Bearhead and illustrator Chloe Bluebird Mustooch: just waiting on two titles so I can post about this great new series 
  • Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks – enjoying this art mystery that keeps me on my toes, and I am thrilled there is a stand-alone sequel with Art and Olivia will be released next year.

Down the Road…

I am a big fan of both of these authors, and looking forward to the audiobook version of Patrick Ness’s Burn – A Monster Calls is still in my top ten all-time favourites. I loved Gillian McDunn’s Caterpillar Summer and the Queen Bee and Me with her realistic characters, so I am looking forward to meeting Annie in These Unlucky Stars.

I want to acknowledge the two that started this all. It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? has changed from becoming a meme for adults to the sharing of children’s’ lit. This idea to include #kidlit came from Unleashing Reader blogger Kellee Moye and Jen Vincent, from the Teach Mentor Texts, blog. They thought there should be a children’s lit focus too and hence a version for #kidlit began! So every Monday, join in on the fun by sharing what you just finished reading, currently are reading, or are anticipating reading. Use the hashtag #IMWAYR on your social media sites to share, follow what others are reading and to show support for #kidlit bloggers by reading and commenting.

Hope this week has you excited about some books, and if you want to get some suggestion you may want to check out the #MGBooktober hashtag that’s happening right now- there are lots of book suggestions, and the prompts are below if you want to join in on the fun.

Laurie

Skunk and Badger

Author: Amy Timberlake

Illustrator: Jon Klassen

Series: Skunk and Badger #1

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Release Date: September 15/20

Thank you to the author Amy Timberlake and Algonquin Young Readers for the digital copy of this book.

Always on the look out for the transitional early chapter books for readers I am eagerly waiting for the second book in this series and know others will be too after reading the first in the series – yes, it’s that good!

Badger lives in a brownstone house courtesy of his Aunt Lula and has important rock work to do. Badger has a set schedule so he can immerse himself in the important rock work, and as a result, he has ignored letters from his Aunt. When he is interrupted one day by a skunk, presuming he is a salesman with his suitcase wrapped with red twine around it. To his shock and his dismay, the letters he had ignored were to tell him that Skunk was coming to live with him in the brownstone. The two now have to learn to live with one another and chickens…lots of chickens.

Amy Timberlake’s characters will enchant readers, young and old, by pairing these two unlikely animal characters and their polar personalities. Skunk the optimist, cheerful to a fault and Badger laser-focused and set in his ways are loveable characters, and readers will see themselves in both of these new unique characters.

From Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake and Jon Klassen

Part of the charm, of course, is the drawings by illustrator Jon Klassen, providing us with more insight into their temperament and life in the brownstone. A hilarious must-have addition to classroom and libraries, this will be a fun book to share with young readers and an engaging read-aloud.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: One Came Home, That Girl Lucy Moon, and The Dirty Cowboy

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: We Found A Hat, The Dark, and Triangle

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: Gr. 1-4

I Got You a Present

Authors: Susan McLennan & Mike Erskine-Kellie 
Illustrator: Cale Atkinson

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Release Date: April 7/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to the authors for providing a digital copy.

An exciting day yesterday with the launch of our blog and as Kathie and I have both stated we want to help promote and share Canadian authors, illustrators and books! So I was happy to receive this recently released picture book that has been on my radar.

Our narrator is a very conscientious duck who is excited to be attending a friend’s birthday party with other animal friends. Duck wants us to know that a lot of thought and effort went into getting the perfect present for the friend – which appears not to be the case with some of the other guests attending the party.

What I like about the book is the gender neutrality of the characters which allows readers to be able to see themselves as the main character. Using animals is a clever and common way to avoid having specific gender stereotypes. I find that sometimes this is overlooked and could be used as a point of discussion when talking about the author’s choice of using characters.

The variety of attempts for the perfect gift are brought to life by illustrator extraordinaire Cale Atkinson. The vibrant colours and variety of pages definitely add to the story and readers will enjoy the humour and fun found in the illustrations.

I also appreciated the creativity and perseverance of Duck. I think a lot of young readers will be able to connect to the many different ideas Duck comes up with and relate to when things do not go as planned. The emotion and tone evoked by Mr. Atkinson in the image below would be one I would spend time talking with older readers looking at colour, space, text placement and design. So much to appreciate!

Despite things not going well and having nothing to give to the friend we learn about an unexpected twist as there truly is a present – maybe more than one. A delightful debut by a husband and wife team along with renown storyteller Cale Atkinson – a fine addition to your classrooms and libraries.

RECOMMENDED: K-8

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: Unicorns 101 , Sir Simon: Super Scarer , Off & Away 

ICK!: Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses

Author: Melissa Stewart

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Release Date: June 23/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Media Masters for a digital copy of this book.

National Geographic Kids has scored big time with their recent release of prolific author Melissa Stewart’s latest nonfiction book Ick!: Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses. As one would expect, National Geographic does not disappoint with the vibrant and detailed photographs of the disgusting dinners, dwellings and defences and readers are going to devour this book!

As a teacher librarian there are certain things, I would look for when selecting nonfiction texts for my schools. The number and variety of text features was one area of selection and ICK! does not disappoint. This book has variety of text features that not only can be used for teaching the various text features but also will be engaging for the reader. In terms of text features, the reader will encounter the standards: table of contents, glossary, index, captions and photos but it is the layout and the short engaging pieces that will allow readers of all ages to flip through, find specific information or read cover to cover.

The book is divided by the sections in the title looking at Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings and Disgusting Defenses ( and no the alliteration is not lost on this educator). Each section is colour coded which will help the reader understand what section of the book they are in and each animal has a detailed photo of itself and then other text feature highlights.

So looking at example from the Disgusting Dinner section, readers are not overwhelmed by text. Each page provides information on how the dinner, dwelling or defines is disgusting along with a captivating photo supporting the text. Each animal presented, has a STAT STACK providing the reader with a quick overview about the habitat, size, weight, predators and lifespan.

In addition, Ms. Stewart includes additional information that is related to other animals or to the topic at hand. In the case of the turkey vulture, we learn how the bird stays cool by eliminating waste onto its legs, so when the water evaporates it cools the bird. Kids will love sharing these gross but important facts with friends, but suspect will take particular joy sharing with adults.

Ms. Stewart is a go to author for me, knowing that the information will be presented in an engaging manner but also filled with valuable information. This will be a popular addition to your classrooms and libraries.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Can an Aardvark Bark?, Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs, and Seashells: More than a Home

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

A Whale of the Wild

Author: Rosanne Parry, Illustrator: Lindsay Moore

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Release Date: Sept. 1/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to Edelweiss+, publisher Greenwillow Books and author Rosanne Parry.

Another survival story, this time from a whale’s perspective. A pod of Resident whales are on their way to feed on the Chinook salmon returning from the ocean. We meet Vega, a young female, too young to be a mother and too old to be considered a child learning the ways of their pod from her Greatmother, until one day Vega will be a wayfinder leading the pod to the precious salmon the pod needs. Through Vegas eyes we learn the ways of the Resident orcas and the special relationships between brothers and sisters. We experience the waters of the Salish Sea, other wildlife, and an earthquake that sends Vega out to the ocean that is rare for her species.

Fans of A Wolf Called Wander and those who love whales are going to enjoy this story not only of survival but the relationships within the pod. Readers will gain a great deal of knowledge about Resident orcas from the ways they communicate, the roles males and females have to how they interact with this ecosystem with other types of orcas and humans including intertwining the First Nations perspective and relationship to the land and animals. There is an abundance of back matter including information about orcas, salmon, the tribes of the Salish Sea Watershed, habitats, earthquakes, tsunamis and ways individuals can help. A unique addition for readers who love animals – a recommended addition for classrooms and libraries.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: A Wolf Called Wander, The Turn of the Tide, Written in Stone

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: Sea Bear: A Journey for Survival, Crochet: 25 Easy Patterns for Beginners: A Step-By-Step Guide to Mastering the Basics While Having Fun

RECOMMENDED: Gr 4+

First Day Critter Jitters

Author: Jory John Illustrator: Liz Climo

Publisher: Dial Books

Release Date: July 7/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss + for a digital copy of this book.

Always on the look out for new books for back to school, I first heard about this delightful book from friends @Lbookends (Mary and Steph) on Twitter and knew I needed to read this book for myself.

All the animals are heading back to school, but everyone is nervous for their own particular reason related to a characteristic of the animal – all emotions that not only the animals are feeling, but children and yes, adults. Mole is afraid he won’t be able to read, snake can’t get his backpack on, sloth is worried about being late, rabbit has too much energy, and yes, even the teacher is nervous.

When Mr. Sherwood their armadillo teacher confesses that he is nervous about being forgetful and is worried about remembering names and the last thing he said, all of the animal students band together and decide they all can help one another. As their first day continues, we get to see everyone becoming more relaxed and celebrating goals, working and playing together.

Liz Climo’s illustrations add to the worries and the joy of that first day back with a variety of layouts and realistic drawings of a variety of different animals and the outline shapes with adequate white space draw readers into the characters or the specific scene.

Another unique way for readers young and old to acknowledge various fears about a first day of school or a first day of anything and how when we face our fears and work together, things go better. A great addition for classrooms of all grades and libraries.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Bad Seed, Good Egg, Cool Bean, Couch Potato (Nov 3), Giraffe Problems

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: The Little World of Liz Climo, Please Don’t Eat Me, You’re Mom: A Little Book for Mothers (And the People Who Love Them)

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:K-8

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree

Author: Mary Murphy

Publisher: Candlewick

Release Date: March 10, 2020

Reviewer: Laurie

Mary Murphy is a new author illustrator to me but I definitely will be spending some time checking out her other books.

It’s back to school time and teachers will be looking for that perfect first #classroombookaday and/or story to share with their students. As always, there are many books worthy of this special event and released appropriately so, in August and September to fit this niche. I am going to go back into the archives a bit to March 10 of this year and offer Only a Tree knows how to be a tree for your consideration.

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree is a simplistic but important message to young and old readers alike. Murphy begins the book by explaining how a tree is able to do turn sunshine into food and how it can provide a home and shelter and states “Only a Tree knows how to be a tree.” From there we are logically taken to a bird and what makes it unique always ending with Only a ____knows how to be a _____.

One of the many beautiful things about this book is that Murphy does not stick with animals, we learn about the earth, the stars and the universe – that every single thing or living being is different. Then she brings it all back by connecting it to people . People that are diversely represented by colour by gender and by abilities and that we all have our own thoughts and “Only I know how to be me. And only you know how to be you.”

The illustrations are inviting and vibrant on the two page spreads and use a lot of white space on others so we can focus in on the drawings.

This is a wonderful book to engage in before during and after reading discussions. One can touch on environmental concerns and how we can look after the earth, talk about what is out in the universe to discussing different cultures and how we are different and yet the same.

Only a Tree knows how to be a tree fits all those boxes that one wants at the beginning of the school year ( identity, community, nature to name a few) but do not be fooled, this is a book that defies time – it does not have to be a back to school book but could and should be enjoyed anytime.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Good Night Like This , Crocopotamus: Mix and match the wild animals! , and Say Hello Like This! 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: K-8

Honeybee: The Busy Life of Apis Mellifera

Author: Candace Fleming

Illustrated by: Eric Rohmann

Publisher: Neal Porter Books

Release Date: Feb. 20/20

Reviewer: Laurie

Pardon the pun, but there has been so much “buzz” about this book, I finally borrowed this title from my local library. It appears that I am may not be alone as it doesn’t show up yet (some may be processing it) in my old school division and I hope that will change as it should be in all elementary school libraries and know some will want it for their own classroom libraries.

With the current interest in the environment, certain animals have been put on our radar due to their struggling populations. Bees are one example of sadly many, that have been brought to our attention. Candace Fleming does a beautiful job giving us the life cycle of one bee by personalizing the bee using its scientific name to use as a name.

“Soft, fuzzy and female- like all newly emerged worker bees-her scientific name is Apis mellifera or Apis for short.”

Then Fleming proceeds to tell us all the many things Apis will do always ending with a prompt about flying as surely that would be next. And here lies the genius of the narrative – we learn of so many jobs Apis will do before she flies from inspecting the larva, tending to the queen bee, making the honeycombs to making the honey – all before she flies.

And then you have Eric Rohmann and those illustrations! Those gorgeous two page spreads that just invite you to stroke your fingers over the page of a BEE no less!

Inviting and curious…not scary!

When we finally do get to see Apis emerge out of the nest, it is a fold out four page spread that allows the reader to see how vast the world must look to her. Apis has a new job to do and off she goes to gather the nectar to bring back to the nest.

Finally, readers are shown in a delicate, but truthful way, the ending of a life cycle with Apis laying still after 35 days, flying 500 miles, visiting 30 000 flowers and collecting enough nectar to make 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. Remarkable.

End papers include ways readers can activate their learning to help honeybees along with another beautiful 2 page spread giving further details about Apis’s anatomy.

A must have addition for school and public libraries and again an inviting book for classrooms not only to learn about honeybees but the interconnectedness in ecosystems. This would fit into many science curricular units and also social studies when we think of the impact humans have on the land.

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR: Giant Squid, Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart , Oh, No! 

OTHER BOOKS BY THIS ILLUSTRATOR: Giant Squid, My Friend Rabbit , Bone Dog 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: K+

Harvey Holds His Own

Author: Colleen Nelson

Publisher: Pajama Press

Release Date: August 11, 2020

Reviewer: Kathie

Thank you to the author and publisher for an ARC of this book.

I loved getting to spend time with Harvey again! In this sequel to HARVEY COMES HOME, Maggie is trying hard to forgive Austin for keeping Harvey for a couple of weeks when he was lost. When she finds out she has to get volunteer hours for a school project, she chooses Brayside Retirement Villa, the senior residence where Austin’s grandpa works and where Austin and Harvey are already friends with the residents. It doesn’t take long for Maggie to befriend her own resident, Mrs. Fradette, who tells her about her childhood learning to work on cars with her grandfather when her family had to evacuate their home during a flood in 1950. When she lets Austin take Harvey on a walk one day, Harvey discovers a puppy that’s been left in an alley. Though they take the puppy to a shelter, his fate is uncertain, as is the future of someone whom Austin cares about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, especially the piece of local history. I loved watching Maggie and Austin become friends, and seeing Harvey continue to bring individuals together.

I already have this book in my collection for my patrons to enjoy, along with the first book in the series, HARVEY COMES HOME. This author has several other young adult titles you should check out.

Recommended: Gr. 4-7