Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Must Read in 2016 September Update

I have enjoyed some awesome books this summer, and my reading has taken me all over the map, as usual. I actually kind of forgot about my Must Read in 2016 list and was picking up titles from all sorts of lists that I make. Thanks to Carrie from There Is a Book for That for keeping me focused on those titles that I absolutely committed to read this year.

At the time of our Spring Update I had completed 40% of my Must Read titles. Since that time I've added the following books:

Not quite as enjoyable as Larson's Devil in the White City, but still an interesting and educational account of the last crossing of the Lusitania. Something a little different for me.

LOVED this book!  I'm a big fan of Jennifer A. Nielsen's.

This book? A real favourite! I highly recommend it.

I enjoyed Wolf Wilder, but was perhaps expecting something a little different. This resulted in a bit of a conflicted opinion. Still, I would recommend it.

This leaves me with five titles remaining on my Must Read in 2016 list.


That sounds like it should be easy enough to accomplish; however, once I read the other Must Read lists that are shared, I'm sure that my TBR list is only going to be growing!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

PB10for10 - 10 Titles I Need to Add to My New Library STAT!

The last week of June. Chasing down the remaining few borrowed books, cleaning up inventory, Grade 8 Graduation, Talent Show, Awards Assemblies, Staff Party. If it wasn't chaotic enough, I decided to go for the challenge and accept a new posting for September. Needless to say, that decision added a whole lot more to my to-do list that week. As excited as I was, the week became an emotional and draining experience for me.

In addition to loving just about everything about my school, I had developed a pretty amazing Picture Book collection for a small rural school. It didn't occur to me that a larger school, with a larger budget, would be lacking most of my absolute must-haves. In the past few weeks I have been scouring my new catalogue, and it has left me almost in tears. My whole program - what. am. I. going. to. do???

So, I've been prioritizing. And I figure that my list would make a great theme for pb10for10: 10 titles I need to add to my new library collection STAT! I'm sorry to say, but I'm going to need more than 10. But 10 is a start, and 10 it will be.

How does an elementary school library not have Peter Reynold's The Dot in its collection? I always use this one in September for International Dot Day. This will be my first purchase.

The book love that we shared for this Caldecott masterpiece is still so fresh in my mind that I get goosebumps thinking a bout it. Finding Winnie was one of many, many nonfiction picture books that we adored.

I turn to this one again and again - each time I need to make a link to curious inquisitiveness.

The discussions, applications, and extension activities provided by this nonfiction picture book will blow you away.

More nonfiction picture book brilliance. And Julie Morstad's illustrations? To die for.

A beautiful story with important values and life lessons, Grandfather Gandhi also provides an excellent biography option for students studying this genre.

Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast? Because it is SO much FUN! We had a blast with this one.And we reinforced tallying with one of our extension activities.

So much to talk about with Red. Diversity, labels, being true to oneself. This book has applications for many different age groups.

Despite its American bias, this nonfiction picture book is well received when the Toronto Blue Jays make a playoff appearance. Informative and fun - especially once you add some seventh inning stretching to the readaloud.

I guess soon after purchasing Julie Kraulis' first Arlo story, I will need to get her new one, An Armadillo in New York. Excellent additions to the nonfiction picture book genre.

There you have it, my 2016 pb10for10 list. I want to thank Cathy from Reflect and Refine for first inviting me to participate in pb10for10 back in 2013. She, along with Mandy from Enjoy and Embrace Learning co-founded this fun and enlightening meme. I encourage you to take some time and see what other bloggers have included in their pb10for10. Follow #pb10for10 on Twitter. My previous posts may be found here: 2013, 2014 (I was on a screenfree vacation in 2015 and did not participate).

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Plenty of Summer Remaining

As I make plans for the upcoming long weekend (Civic Day in the province of Ontario), I am trying to avoid the thought that this pretty much marks the halfway point of summer. However, plenty of summer remains. And with it - plenty of summer reading!

I am currently dwelling deep in the Texas heat of the summer of 1962, thanks to Stephen King's 11/22/63, but every once in awhile I will surface to eat, sleep, socialize, and read some kidlit.

A couple new titles by familiar authors turned up this week. Both are perfect summer reads for the younger set.
Are We There Yet? by Dan Santat. Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
"Are we there yet?" What road-tripper has not heard, or uttered these words? With a little imagination, the boy in Dan Santat's latest masterpiece turns a boring drive to Grandma's house into the voyage of a lifetime.

Much like Herve Tullet's Press Here, this is an interactive book. Not only is the reader turning and flipping the book in order to follow the text, but if you have a handy QR Reader you can access supplementary dialogue which greatly adds to the humour.

This is one fun read! But it needs to be read over and over again. I think I discovered something new with each visit. Fans of Beekle should watch for his cameo appearance. And make sure to remove the jacket and have a look at that cover - a reminder that "there's no greater gift than the present".

I'd read this one before a big trip, but it would also keep independent readers busy in the backseat during a long drive. And that is a good thing, right?

The Truth About My Unbelievable Summer... by Davide Cali. Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud. Chronicle books, 2016.
Hands up if you've ever been asked what you did on your summer vacation? Of course, you have. And in another month students all over will be preparing to answer that annual writing prompt.

The summer adventure that this boy embarks on in this circular story is just a little too much to be believable. Or is it? Independent readers will appreciate the big-kid construction of the book - it doesn't look like a picture book at all. All readers will love the twist at the end and will be excited to reread for clues to what really happened. The creative illustrations lead to so many possible discussion topics, and add tremendously to the telling of the story.

This is another fun and imaginative summer read in the excuse format. Make sure to check out the companion pieces by this author/illustrator team: A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to School..., and I didn't Do My Homework Because ...

In the spirit of imagination, I'll be returning to 1962 now.

Big thanks to Raincoast Books for supplying me with copies of these titles. 
I always pay it forward, and these titles will be added to my school library.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Must Read in 2016: a Spring Update

Spring? Well, that's what the calendar says, so we'll go with that. But in my part of Ontario, it's looking anything but springlike.

It's a perfect time, though, for a Must Read in 2016 update.

Way back at the beginning of the New Year, while chilling on the Carolina coast, I created my absolute must-read list for 2016. It looked like this:

It still excites me to view this list. I've really enjoyed most of the books I've read so far, and am so looking forward to the remaining titles. I'm also happy with my progress - 40%.

Here are the six Must Read in 2016 books that I have completed:

Buddy and Earl by Maureen Fergus, pictures by Carey Sookocheff (Groundwood, 2015).

I love the imagination and the mismatched friendship in this debut of the Buddy and Earl series. Great fun! I can't wait to read and add the other titles (Buddy and Earl Go Exploring and Buddy and Earl and the Great Big Baby) to my library. Of course, I have to mention that this kidlit gem is also CanLit.

Young Charlottte: Filmmaker by Frank Viva (MoMA, 2015).
More CanLit creativity. I adore everything I have seen from Frank Viva. I can't think of anything that it reminds me of. Young Charlotte offers readers a unique view of the arts, and a jumping point for further research.

The Dogs by Allan Stratton (Scholastic Canada. 2015).
How appropriate is that cover? This is one creepy book. Every grade 7 and 8 student in my school read this Forest of Reading Red Maple nominee this year. Talk about reading engagement! I'm pretty sure I hooked a few reluctant readers with this one (that may or may not have been the goal). A very fun Kahoot session topped off our reading activities. I will always think about our school (intermediate grades) reading community when I see The Dogs. And did I mention? Yup - it's CanLit!

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy (HarperCollins, 2015).

I can't say with total certainty that books like this didn't exist when I was a teen, but if they did, I was not aware of them. It makes me happy to see the strong, confident, and more diverse characters that are available to young readers today. I enjoyed connecting with Willowdean, and I think my younger self would have loved her. A good choice for the older YA crowd.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Scribners orig. pub. 1934).
Tender is the Night is a recent read. I still haven't totally processed my thoughts. I wanted to like this book so badly, which is probably why I felt disappointed. I am such a fan of Gatsby, but this one felt disjointed and random to me, and a bit of a struggle to read.

Villa America by Liza Klaussmann (Doubleday Canada, 2015).
 By contrast to Tender, I quite enjoyed Villa America, an historical fiction set during the same time period (French Riveria 1920's). American ex-pats, Sara and Gerald Murphy (the subjects of Fitzgerald's dedication for Tender) hold court for the Lost Generation at their seaside home. The Paris Wife got me intrigued with this time period, and Villa added new characters that I wasn't aware of. I found the start a little slow, but happy that I stuck with it. 

Next up? I have just begun Dead Wake by Erik Larson. My husband recently finished it and gave it a thumbs-up. We are both huge fans of Larson's work. I am saving a couple titles for those long summer days when I can read slowly - poolside, at the beach, on a train, or in the shade of my backyard. Cold drink in hand, naturally.

I would like to thank Carrie of There's A Book For That for hosting the Must Read meme. Carrie is such a wonderful book resource, and I appreciate the inspiration she provides to keep writing about my reading. You can check out the progress of the whole Must Read community in the comments section of her Must Read post on her blog.

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Widow: a psychological thriller by Fiona Barton

Are you ready for a character-driven, can't-put-down, psychological crime tale? Are you a fan of the British crime drama Broadchurch, and looking for a novel that recreates that tone and experience? A recent reading from debut novelist, Fiona Barton, makes me think that this is what you're looking for.

As a journalist, Fiona Barton was intrigued by the people who existed just on the edge of the story, and this is what she turns to in The Widow.

Jean Taylor is that character - the wife of suspected pedophile Glen Taylor. And although the main story may appear to be about Glen and his possible involvement in the disappearance of young Bella Elliott, what the reader spends the whole book trying to learn is what and how much does Jean know. Who is Jean Taylor, really? A victim? An enabler? Or something worse?

Ms. Barton had intended Jean to be the only narrator in The Widow; however, she soon discovered that other points of view were necessary in order for the story to progress. In the end, five narrators are used throughout the four-year timeline: the determined reporter, Kate Waters; focused detective, Bob Sparkes; inconsolable young mother, Dawn Elliott; and Glen and Jean Taylor, separately. Only Jean's voice is presented in first-person narrative. The other narrators, their voices in third-person, add the building blocks of the story and are rich characters in their own right.

In Bob Sparkes we see a detective who is obsessed with catching the bad guy. And although he sees Glen as "the bloke next door" at the beginning, it doesn't take the detective long to zero in on him as the main suspect. Is Sparkes being objective with his investigation? Or is the case being tainted by an investigation team riddled with tunnel vision? Plenty of discussion can develop about real-life cases where the police were, perhaps, a little too hasty in deciding the guilt of an individual.

Sometimes aiding in the investigation is reporter Kate Waters, a confident and direct journalist who will go to any length to get the story. She is a reliable and likable character who acts as a barometer for truth in the novel. Will she be able to handle Jean and get the story that the whole country is after?

Dawn Elliott, the young single mother of Baby Bella, has her parenting skills and dating experiences opened up for public scrutiny in the media, as well as on the witness stand. What role has her lifestyle played in the disappearance of her daughter? Will she help or hinder the search?

And what about Glen? He's a lot of things. But a pedophile and murderer? That's for you to decide.

The Widow is smartly-written, moves at a quick pace, and gets the reader thinking. And although it deals with some unsavoury topics, there is no graphic imagery employed at all. The lack of gruesome details was much-appreciated by this reader.

Many thanks to the author, Penguin Random House Canada, and Goodreads First Reads for an Advanced Reading Copy of The Widow, in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Must Read in 2016 - Here We Go Again!

Back by popular demand - the Must Read in 2016 list.

I will do lots of reading this year - that's a given. New books will be published that I just have to read, recommendations will be given that sound too good to pass up, and Book Club meetings will see me going home with a whole new stack under my arms. All of this on top of an existing TBR pile.

#MustReadIn2016 is the time and place where I set out what I am absolutely committed to reading in 2016. Hosted by Carrie at thereisabookforthat, it is a self-imposed challenge to add a little structure to my reading plans.

Like last year, my list is realistic. 15 titles worked well, so I'm sticking with that number again. And, just like in 2015, I have a mix of genres: picture books, middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, adult fiction, and adult nonfiction. This mixture is reflective of my reading choices. When you ask me what I'm reading, you just never know what my answer will be.

So, here it is! My #MustReadIn2016 list looks like this:

Middle Grade Fiction

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Heart of a Champion by Ellen Schwartz
The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell

Picture Books

Ask Me by Bernard Waber, illustrated by Suzy Lee
Buddy and Earl by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff
Harry and Walter by Kathy Stinson, illustrated by Qin Leng
If I Had a Gryphon by Vikki Van Sickle, illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Miss Mary Reporting: the True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber by Sue Macy, illustrated by C.F. Payne
Young Charlotte, Filmmaker by Frank Viva

YA Fiction
The Dogs by Allan Stratton
Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Adult Fiction
Salt to the Sea: a novel by Ruta Sepetys
Tender is the Night by F.Scott Fitzgerald
Villa America by Liza Klaussmann

Adult Nonfiction
Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Stay tuned, as I update my progress throughout the year.