It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/12/2018 #imwayr

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Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give Kathryn’s (at Book Date) “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” meme a kidlit focus, reviewing books in children’s literature (picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, or anything in the world of kidlit). If you enjoy this type of reading, join us every Monday!

Children’s Books on Music

As I’ve mentioned in recent weeks, my college students are using a lot of children’s literature this month. This stack is for a 3-hour course called “Music for the Classroom Teacher” and I have almost all elementary education majors. Sadly, many K-6 schools are no longer hiring certified music teachers or offering official music classes. And we are definitely seeing the slow deterioration of music literacy RIGHT BEFORE OUR EYES (and on a rather large scale). Therefore, many colleges have made it a requirement for elementary education majors to take a course on music fundamentals so they can find ways to include limited instruction within the regular classroom.

I was surprised when I found NO mention of using children’s literature in the course textbook or in the lecture notes from past curriculum. Clearly, kid lit is one of the best ways to normalize anything, including music — year round we should include plenty of fiction and nonfiction books on the display shelf about singing, dancing, and playing instruments like the piano, guitar, saxophone, banjo, trombone, violin, etc. So as my students discover practical ways to include music-related books in their classrooms AND in their lessons, they are digging into our libraries and creating an annotated bibliography to keep in their Music Resource Binders. After our local book searching experiences, I do have to wonder: How many children’s books on music are in most elementary classrooms, today?

On to my book reading for the week…

SweepSweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster
Jonathan Auxier
September 25, 2018
Puffin Books

Nan is loved by the Sweep. He carries her on his shoulders, sacrifices his comfort for hers, and even gets beaten up for her protection. But one day, the Sweep disappears and she has to take matters into her own hands to survive. She becomes a climber for a new sweep (basically she became an indentured servant) and proves herself to be the best climber of the bunch. One horrific day, Nan finds herself trapped inside the confines of a narrow chimney. To force her out (which sometimes means being drastic and breaking your own bones to squeeze through), one of the competing climbers lights a fire beneath her and she quickly loses consciousness and burns up. Except she doesn’t, really. When she wakes up, she’s in a hidden room. And she’s not alone:

The Sweep had raised Nan to believe in impossible things. He had told her countless stories of genies and dragons and witches and fairies. He had made her believe that a thousand wonders were waiting around every corner. But she had learned through hard experience that those stories were not the real world. The real world offered no miracles. No “once upon a time.” No “happily ever after.” And yet, here in this dusty crawl space, she held a miracle in her hands. A miracle with eyes and a heartbeat and a crumbly gray body.

Through the second half of the book I often had damp eyes. There were touching moments that just gave me all the feels, and then just moments later some adorable conversation would have me smiling big or even giggling:

“The letter A makes the sound Aaahhh,” she explained. “It does?” Charlie’s eyes went wide. “How wonderful!” He leaned very close to the paper and pressed the side of his head against it. “What are you doing?” Nan asked. “Shh,” he said. “I want to hear it make the sound Aaahhh.”

And then some amazing conversations popped up with philosophical reflection on childhood, family, tradition, and religion. I could have easily highlighted half the book (but then it wouldn’t really be a highlight, would it – grin):

“Does it make you believe in God?” Miss Bloom stared at Charlie for a long moment. “It makes me believe that the world is full of wonders that I can scarcely imagine. Perhaps that is the same thing.”

It’s such a lovely, warm tale that needs to be experienced, first hand. I dare you not to fall in love with Nan and the Sweep and Charlie and Toby and Miss Bloom — each an important piece of Nan’s sanctuary.

One beauty of this book is that it’s historical fiction, but also magical realism. I found myself looking up information online while reading. Because WOW — how did I not know about this stuff?! At the very end, Jonathan Auxier offers an author’s note that helps fill in more details. So you don’t want to miss that. I highly, highly recommend Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster.

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it HERE.

Sharon M. Draper
November 6, 2018
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

Eleven-year-old Isabella is blended — meaning that (1) she’s biracial AND (2) in a blended family where she lives half her time with her white mom (and mom’s boyfriend) and half her time with her black father (and his girlfriend). Mom lives in a humble home with just what she needs and dad is richer than rich. Lucky for Izzy, her school lies just between where each of her parents live. This keeps her halfway sane. However, she still keeps two of everything so that she isn’t completely uprooted every weekend when she goes to the other parent’s house (for example, a book bag she keeps at each home with all the same items in each one).

Isabella experiences racism in many places, including friends who tell her she’s beautiful since she’s “mixed,” store clerks who refer to her as exotic, and other who want to know “what are you, really?” Being half and half is not an easy position and she discovers that she may never live fully in one culture or another. There are some good discussions on this topic and I especially appreciated an important discussion she was able to have with her white mom to explain how differently people look at her (and how many people even wonder if her mom is her “real” mom).

The scariest part of the story comes when Isabella and her soon-to-be step brother, Darren, are pulled over by an officer. If you’ve already read other reviews, then you know it’s bad. But I can happily say that it’s not too frightening and there are lots of lessons to learn and discuss after reading this book. This story will be a mirror for other “blended” children and a helpful window for those who need to understand how different we all experience life, based on our skin color. Oh, and you must eat ice cream while reading this one. Trust me!

You can add Blended to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it HERE.

(Lifelike #1)
Jay Kristoff
May 29, 2018
Knopf Books for Young Readers

This is a fast-paced book that revolves around the discovery of several lifelike androids, created so human-like, visually, but who have super human powers (such as fast healing, regeneration of limps and organs, and super strength and defense capabilities). In the beginning we meet Eve and Lemon Fresh, best friends who basically scavenge for parts and fight with robot gladiators while barely scraping by with what they can make. Eve is taking care of her Grandfather who is, clearly, knocking on death’s door. One day on their way home they happen upon a crash and discover a very human-like male being inside. Eve immediately recognizes that this being is a high-quality Lifelike and she decides to take his remaining parts with her to sell for credits. And they all live happily ever after… Okay, not exactly. There’s backstabbing, passion, blood, guts, and “you aren’t who I thought you were” in this one, but I cannot carry the storyline further without giving up too much information. Two huge surprises come near the end and they have left me guessing where in the world Kristoff will take us next. WOW! If you enjoy dystopian science fiction with incredible world building, this one’s definitely for you! Book #2 will be released in May, by the way!

You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it HERE.

Meet-YasminMeet Yasmin!
Saadia Faruqi
Hatem Aly, Illustrator
August 1, 2018
Picture Window Books

We get to meet second-grader Yasmin Ahmad who is a spunky, highly imaginative youngster. Readers will love witnessing Yasmin’s resilient personality as she splatters paint to make a unique piece of art, makes unique use of all the unused blocks in her school classroom, and tears her mother’s kameez. There will always be something unexpected with this young adventurer!

Written in short 5-paged chapters, brightly colored illustrations appear every couple pages. Meet Yasmin! will be an excellent addition to any young reader’s collection as of offers an introduction to a sweet, fun, multigenerational, Pakistani American family. There’s additional information in the back section including things to discuss, a glossary of Urdu words, Pakistan Facts, and even a recipe to enjoy.

Here’s one example of the artwork scattered throughout the pages:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it HERE.

38398193Giraffe Problems
Jory John
Lane Smith, illustrator
September 25, 2018
Random House Books for Young Readers

Poor Edward the Giraffe is extremely self-conscious about his enormously loooong neck. He’s sure everyone is staring at it all the time. He has tried everything imaginable to hide it or make it blend in, but no such luck. But one day he meets Cyrus the Turtle and he learns just how wonderful his neck can be. In the end, Edward and Cyrus feel much better about their necks. Plus, they both made a new friend!


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it HERE.

Potato-PantsPotato Pants!
Laurie Keller
October 2, 2018
Henry Holt and Co.

Potato has been waiting for TODAY. Because today is Potato Pants Day and he gets a brand new pair of pants. Yesterday was Eggplant Pants Day, but today is Potato Pants day. Only problem is, Eggplant just flew right by him, knocking him out of the way and taking one of the new pair of potato pants!! And would you believe all the pants are now GONE!! This is a funny little story about apologizing and forgiveness. When you open the first pages, it’s easy to get lost in this adorable little potato world with scenery and clothing, allowing you to find more minute details the longer you stare (LOL @ tuber uber — potato driving a car). These humorous illustrations were created with markers, colored pencils, pen and ink, acrylic paint, potato stamps, collage, and digital drawing. I’ll provide one spread, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it HERE.

Wordy-BirdyWordy Birdy
Tammi Sauer
Dave Mottram, illustrator
February 6, 2018
Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Wordy Birdy is completely SPASTIC! She asks tons of questions, but doesn’t wait or listen for the answers. One day Wordy Birdy gets herself into a very dangerous situation and learns a hard lesson about listening to her friends. And this is one lesson her friends won’t ever let her forget. Heehee! Check out one colorful and humorous spread, below:


You can add it to your Goodreads list HERE.
If you do not have a local bookstore, you may purchase it HERE.

To Be Read:

I’m clearing the first days of this week to read WUNDERSMITH: THE CALLING OF MORRIGAN CROW. This is book #2 of the new award-winning NEVERMOOR series by Jessica Townsend. It’s coming out tomorrow and I’ve had it on pre-order since I read book #1 last spring. This is supposed to be a 9-book series and so far it has a long list of awards and starred reviews from outlets such as School Library Connection, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal.


31 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 11/12/2018 #imwayr

  1. I’m so glad that you loved Sweep as much as I did. There are so many deeply philosophical sections along with all the endearing bits you’ve highlighted above. if Blended wasn’t already on my list, it would be now. I know I won’t have time to get to Wundersmith before the end of this year, but I can always add it to my MustRead list next year! I really appreciate the first book in the series!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really did love Sweep — totally agree on the philosophical parts. VERY meaningful! I see Wundersmith made your “must read” list and that you hope to get to 25. Fingers-crossed that it falls under your 25!! 🙂 I think I actually enjoyed it more than the first one, if that’s possible. #superlatereplies


  2. Such great points about the role of children’s literature to teach EVERYTHING! Ok, I realize you were talking about MUSIC education, but I use it for everything! If there’s a picture book about it, I want to read it and probably make everyone else read it too. My son, who is doing online school for 10th grade, has a Music Appreciation class and we’ve been using picture books to try to make the dry and tedious textbook more interesting. I just got Blended and am looking forward to it. Might be our next family read aloud?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I definitely agree on using children’s literature for *everything*. And since music education is slowly disappearing from so many schools, I think it’s especially important to normalize it in classroom library literature. I kept repeating to my students that one of the best reasons to create an annotated bibliography is so that they’d have a list ready to give to their school librarian when they are asked for book recommendations. If nothing else, they got a feel for just how many newer titles are available right here in this tiny community. YAY! #superlatereplies


  3. I think that Meet Yasmin! is a terrific book to share with young readers. Many kids will be able to relate to Yasmin and her problems, but learn from a different culture as well. You have lots of other awesome looking books on your list this week that I’ll need to check out. Thanks for sharing and have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. YES! I think she will definitely appeal to young children — so cute and funny and the inclusion of her family culture is important. I was very glad to get my hands on it! #superlatereplies


  4. Wonderful books today & I’ve only read Wordy Birdy! I guess I’d better get Sweep fast. It sounds awesome, Shaye. And Blended is a new one to me from Sharon Draper. I saw her speak once & loved the session, know this one will be good, too. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How wonderful that you were able to see Draper speak in person. I’ve been trying SOOOO hard not to be too envious of everyone getting to meet all these amazing authors. There’s just something about that face-to-face opportunity. Since we moved to the middle of nowhere and I had my 5 babes, I have pretty much had to rely on Twitter to “meet” my favorite authors. One day… 🙂 #superlatereplies


  5. So sad about so many schools not hiring certified music teachers. I have so many great memories of my music teachers reading books and singing with us in elementary school.

    I also really loved Blended and think it’s going to be such a great book for biracial kids looking for someone like them! Also this was a great reminder that I still need to read Meet Yasmin! I can’t believe I still haven’t picked it up yet

    Hope you have a great week 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is pretty horrifying seeing the arts disappear in schools. If it’s not music or art, then it’s often the librarian (they’ll keep the library, but not the certified librarian – UGH). #superlatereplies


  6. Funny you should mention books and music in today’s post after I was just going through our shelf of music-themed books this weekend! My husband is a former elementary and high school band teacher so music instruction is very big around here. Our girls love picture books that can be sung, and they enjoy watching me pick out tunes from songbooks on the keyboard.

    Also, I’m always so glad to see your reviews of newer books. I read so few new books these days, but every time I read one of your Monday posts, I feel like I’m being kept in the loop. So thank you! And have a great reading week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s so important to have musical books in the home! When I was teaching kindergarten in public schools, I used to sing the songs from the picture books (instead of just reading the words). Kids just love that — even when it’s a song they’ve known forever. There’s something about seeing the words printed and with beautiful artwork. Just love it! #superlatereplies


    1. You’ve possibly already gotten to Sweep and Blended by now, since I’m responding so late. But if not, they’re both definitely worth it. Thanks for swinging by, Earl! #superlatereplies


  7. So glad your students have you to expose them to amazing picture books about music – That is some stack!!! We are big fans of the Yasmin series – So glad more books are being published. Blended is going on the top of our TBR list. Are you going to NCTE? Sharon Draper is one of the featured speakers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is such a late reply that it seems silly to just now share that I didn’t make it to NCTE. But I sure had fun following everyone on Twitter and seeing little clips and photos and quotes all over the place. I hope you got a chance to meet Draper and many others! ❤ #superlatereplies


  8. Meet Yasmin is one of my favorites! Love her curiosity, determination and spunk! Can’t wait for the next book in the series. Potato Pants is a such a LOL book! I know kids will love it and I need to add it to my growing list to read for #classroombookaday. Sweep is one my TBR so I have to find time to read it. Thanks for the thorough review. Have a great week!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Potato Pants was such a fun little “odd ball” sort of book. But the cutsie artwork will definitely appeal to so many children. I can’t remember if you’ve already gotten to Sweep by now (since I’m replying so late), but that one was really special — one of my favorites of the year. #superlatereplies


  9. Great collection of books. Some that I have and should have read already like Potato Pants, some that I have ordered and am eager to read like Sweep and a few that I am hoping to get funds to order soon like Blended. I am extra thankful that you wrote about Giraffe Problems, which I had kind of forgotten about but I have enjoyed lots of earlier work by John (shelved The Bad Seed today at school) and Smith (loved A Perfect Day which I also shelved today). Also, Lifelike is new to me and looks great. Thanks for the post! Happy Reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still haven’t read The Bad Seed. It feels so miraculous when I get my hands on a real book within a few months of publication. Overdrive online library (and netgalley/Edelweiss) is my saving grace much of the time. LOL #superlateresponse

      Liked by 1 person

  10. That’s really interesting about including music in curriculum for elementary ed students – and horrifying that music classes are disappearing from schools!

    Have you read the middle-grade novel Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan? It’s a wonderful novel, and music is central to its plot and connects children in various places & time periods – it is especially lovely on audio, with music a part of the production.

    Looks like quite a variety of books for you this week. Can you believe I have never read a Sharon Draper novel?? I know, crazy. I need to get on that!

    I love the sample page from Meet Yasmin – really cute!

    Enjoy your books this week –


    Book By Book

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Blended really made me think more about how I phrase questions. I’m so appreciative of literature that pushes my thinking these days.
    I’m excited to read Sweep, but the premise doesn’t sound interesting. But I love Auxier and EVERYONE who has read it loves it, so I’ve got high hopes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very good points on both counts. Both of these books made me really think about some important things. I was NOT expecting to get so attached to the characters in Sweep. Ahhhh… #superlateresponse


  12. I’ve heard great things about Sweep. Potato Pants and the giraffe book look fun. I’ll have to chase them down also. I have Yasmin, but haven’t read it yet. Thanks for the reminder. I just put Blended on my latest book order. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am embarrassed to share that I had Yasmin sitting on my bookshelf for WEEKS before I finally picked it up. I couldn’t believe I’d waited so long. Such a cute, spunky, and curious little gal — she’s going to steal our student’s hearts in no time! #superlateresponse


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