I know I have said this before, but I love the trend of writing picture books about strong woman who should be well known because of their brilliance. Melba Liston is an inspiration. What I loved most about this book is that I think it captured Melba’s spirit as well as the rhythm of the music. The lively oil paintings mixed with Melba’s amazing story make you feel like you know her by the end of the book. I was excited to read the back matter to learn more, and immediately went to You Tube to hear some of her music. I am so glad I was introduced to her....more
*Told in a very matter-of-fact tone and style, Hanna's story does not hold back from the horrors of the Holocaust and shows how one piece of good luck*Told in a very matter-of-fact tone and style, Hanna's story does not hold back from the horrors of the Holocaust and shows how one piece of good luck can change your life. (I am glad the name was changed for the US release. Much more about playing than boys.)...more
This is quite the book! When I ordered it, I hadn’t realized that it was illustrated chapter book biography, but after learning about Josephine, I can see why she couldn’t be confined to less pages. Her life is an explosion of adventure from running away at 13 to standing up for her civil rights to spying for France during WWII to adopting her “rainbow tribe.” Like Melba, Josephine was a new name for me, but I cannot believe I hadn’t heard of her before. She is the epitome of strength and was a large part of the civil rights movement. I am so glad that I read this picture book that truly captures her spirit through the rhythmic prose and colorful, lively illustrations....more
I first want to address the cover. I have read and heard teachers/reviewers mention that this cover is inappropriate for schools (and also that it isI first want to address the cover. I have read and heard teachers/reviewers mention that this cover is inappropriate for schools (and also that it is misleading); however, once you read the book, the cover is perfection. The cover isn't about violence. I think it is about finding a way to be above violence which is what Ali, Noodles, and Needles are trying to do.
When I Was the Greatest is about Ali. Ali lives in Bed Stuy, New York where violence and drugs run rampant; however, Ali's focus is his family and boxing. But then there is Noodles. Noodles is a ticking time bomb, but he is also Ali's best friend. But being near a bomb puts you in danger.
Ali's mom Doris and his sister Jazz may be two of my favorite family members in a YA novel. Jazz is so sassy! She is the brains behind all of the nicknames, and has such funny stories behind each of them. Doris, on the other hand, is very serious, but she is a rock. She ensures that her children are respectful and have the foundation to be able to succeed.
This book is also so important because of Needles. It shows acceptance, honor, and respect are more important than anything. Including reputation.
When I Was the Greatest is character driven and is about the boys (which is where the "misleading" cover complaint comes in), but you will fall in love with these boys and will want to know what happens to them. ...more
Synesthesia is something that I only became aware of after reading The Noisy Paint Box, and the idea of seeing colors of words or hear colors or foods having colors when you eat them just is quite fascinating and intriguing. This is a picture book, a very well done picture book, that introduces Jillian who is a young girl who loves her 5 senses and specifically loves being able to see colors of things. She doesn't realize that this is different until she starts school, but she soon realizes it isn't something to be ashamed of but something to be proud of. ...more
Birgitta Sif’s other book Oliver really stuck with me (about imagination and empathy), so when I was told about Frances Dean, I knew I had to read it. Frances Dean is a kindred spirit who finds true joy in dancing; however, she soon notices that others are judging her, so she stops. But she then realizes that if she doesn’t dance, she isn’t happy, so she embraces who she is. This book is about empowerment and not hiding one’s gift....more
I’m so glad that Carrie Gelson recommended this one to me. This book is about family, memories, music, and dreams. Hana Hashimoto is influenced by her grandfather’s violin playing when she visited him in Japan. So much that although she has only had 3 lessons on the violin, she enters her school’s talent show. Although her brother doesn’t believe she will succeed, little Hana says she is going to play anyways. The ending of the book is perfection, and I just love our protagonist so much for her creativity and perseverance....more
This is one of those quiet, special books that just goes straight to your heart when you read it. I loved so many of Natalie Lloyd's words I actuallyThis is one of those quiet, special books that just goes straight to your heart when you read it. I loved so many of Natalie Lloyd's words I actually pulled out tabs to mark pages for reminders and sharing. Beautiful writing....more
Sean Beaudoin's novels always have such a unique voice. His style of writing is like no others, and that is truly impressive. Although Infects is stilSean Beaudoin's novels always have such a unique voice. His style of writing is like no others, and that is truly impressive. Although Infects is still my favorite, this one was quite entertaining. ...more
This book is about depression, friendship, poetry, music, loyalty, teachers, and family.. It is amazing that through Sam’s interactions with Luis and introduction to poetry, he goes from trying to be invisible on purpose to having a whole different view of his surroundings. Luis changes how he sees the world because Luis ends up being everything he thought he wasn’t.
This book surprised me. I didn’t know what it was about when I started, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. At first Sam seems to just be a slacker that is hard to connect with, and I thought it was going to be similar to many other books with a bully that I’ve read. But it ended up being like Luis was to Sam–everything I thought it wasn’t going to be, and it was so unpredictable. From page 1, the author had me. The images just jumped out at me. And that was just the beginning of me being thoroughly impressed with the book. Both of the voices in this book resonated with me for a long time after (As much as I end up liking Sam in this book, I think Luis may be one of my favorite characters ever. He has a beautiful voice, and I felt privileged to meet him.). It was one of those books that I had to let marinate before I could pick up another one because it was still banging around inside of my head (and I couldn’t stop hearing Sam and Luis’s voices)....more
I must preface by saying that this book is not technically nonfiction. It is based on nonfiction, but the story is actually made up.
Too often our days go by without us slowing down and taking anything in. It may be that we are busy or stressed or late , but it has become too common to see people always rushing wherever they are going. This book shows how much we may be missing out on. It also shows the innocence of childhood, and how we need to allow children to explore and slow down even if we are moving fast. It is wonderful how the illustrations capture this for the reader. Combined with the story, this one definitely hits close to home....more
This book makes you feel. As Yaqui fills Piddy’s world with fear, Piddy begins to lose herself and get caught up in the terror. As a reader, you find yourself afraid with Piddy whenever she leaves her house, goes to school, or even thinks about doing either. A book that can do this is brilliant. Meg Medina has a way of sucking you into the world, and I think it is her use of imagery throughout. You can see the characters, hear the music Piddy listens to, feel the fear, etc. And Piddy’s voice is so crystal clear, that is something she never loses. When you finish reading, you can still hear Piddy’s voice in your head. I also feel that this is a wonderful diverse book in a time when the YA community is calling for diverse books (http://weneeddiversebooks.tumblr.com/). This one should be in high school classrooms, and should be discussed as it has such important themes and beautiful writing (no matter what anyone thinks about it! http://megmedina.com/2013/09/04/autho...)....more
This book has multiple levels going on at the same time. There is the story of Eleanor and Pearl’s friendship and their first speed bump. Then there is Eleanor getting the lead in the play, and dealing with the fear of singing a solo. Eleanor dealing with her puppy having trouble getting house trained. And finally, the Eleanor and Nicholas story. But Sternberg balances it all because it is just all part of Eleanor’s life. Julie Sternberg is so great at writing in an elementary student’s voice. It is so authentic and well done!
What I love so much about all of the “Eleanor” books are that they are written in verse, and Eleanor is an amazing poet. I love that it is free verse and includes such beautiful language, but it never comes off as anything but authentic. Teachers could definitely take Eleanor’s writing and use it as a mentor text for students to write about their own experiences....more
Oh. My. Goodness. I love this book so much! I just finished it, and I immediately had to read the second one. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle is more than just a funny book about a young boy auditioning for a Broadway musical. It is about a boy who doesn’t feel like he fits in at home because of who he is. There are so many young kids out there that will connect with this feeling. And the prejudice and bullying that Nate faces is so real for so many. However, this book has hope. He finds something he loves and it helps him find a place to be himself....more
My Review: This book is a love note to music and for finding a friend to share your love. This wonderful story is told in a way that makes you fall in love with the characters immediately and feel every up and down with them. Also, the illustrations in this picture book are probably some of my favorite ever. I love the cartoony style mixed with some mixed media. Beautiful.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book will find its most love as a read aloud and as a wait to promote music and other passions; however, the book could definitely be used in other ways in the classroom. The tone and mood of the book takes a drastic turn about halfway through and would be a good introduction to these two narrative elements. It is interesting to look at how the illustrations helped drive the change. Also, there are onomatopoeias throughout that add to the imagery of the book....more
My Review: Marvin’s story reminds me of why I build relationships with students and help them find who they are and what books they will like. Marvin is forced to play certain music and he hated it. He never understood why he had to “play music by composers with funny names, like Wolfgang and Ludwig,” but he loved his own kind of music. Being forced to play the other music was making him not want to play piano anymore–this is exactly what we do to kids with books!
Overall, I loved the book and think it is a great read to promote following dreams and passions–a great read aloud!...more
*Loved this book. A perfect combination of Spinelli's Stargirl, a John Green book, and a rom-com. Loved the voice, quirks, characters, and plot. A sleeper title from 2013 that you should read.
A couple things I really loved about this book: -The characters are such good people. Although they evolve, they never were kids I wouldn't want my son to hang out with. -A romancey book from a boy's point of view! -Camilla is so cool yet so uncool and just shows how the labels and cliques and such of high school are just so stupid. Oh, and that you cannot judge a book by its cover. -The writing, music, and movie references. Just a bit of geeky, but not too much.
I think first and foremost, this book needs to be in libraries so that kids (and adults!) can get their hands on it. In the classroom, it can definitely be used as for a mentor text. I think it is perfect for an example of character development and voice. The characters in this book are so strong and there are lines and passages throughout that show the characters’ personality. There are also parts that deal with writing poetry/music and would be great passages to talk about writing with students....more
This year I am teaching a Developmental Language Arts class for incoming ESOL students who, when they enter my school, have been in the United States for less than a year or score low English proficiency on the CELLA test when they enter. I knew this class would be a challenge as I do not know any other language, but I also knew (and now know) that this class was going to very rewarding. With teaching a different group of students than I've ever had before, my thinking when searching for books to use in their class has changed and I am always looking for books that they'll connect to and books that celebrate world cultures. This book is perfect for my class! It'd be a way to build class community because many of my students come from Hispanic countries and they can share the music/dances with my non-Hispanic students. It also gives them the ability to share their language with me and the rest of the class. Finally, since it is such a well done biography, it gives them all an opportunity to learn about a fascinating young man. ...more
Someone described Skinny to me by saying that it reminded her of an episode of Glee and I completely agree: very realistic, easy to connect to and oveSomeone described Skinny to me by saying that it reminded her of an episode of Glee and I completely agree: very realistic, easy to connect to and overall positive. This novel is a huge hit in my classroom with the girls and I am glad I can now discuss it with them. ...more