Thursday, July 16, 2015

Top Five Books from the first half of the #BookADay Challenge

Thanks to the wonderfully inspiring "Book Whisperer," Donalyn Miller, and her blog, I decided to take up her #bookaday challenge for this summer.  In essense it is a personal challenge with the community benefit of sharing your reading with others using the Twitter hashtag #bookaday.  I have enjoyed checking in on other readers' books and reviews, but I have especially enjoyed keeping myself up to the challenge and really enjoying lots of new books.  Honestly, I have spent some recent summers not really reading anything in particular, and then kicking myself at the end of the summer knowing how I wasted all those precious sunny hours.  Of course I have managed to waste a lots of sunny hours this summer already, but I have kept up with my personal #bookaday challenge and discovered some pretty great books for kids.

Here are my Top Five:

5. Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Brian Biggs
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What is not to love about the always entertaining Jon Scieszka?  In this newer series Frank Einstein is a child genius who just wants to prove he can win the city-wide science fair just like his dad did as a kid.  He knows he cannot win with another tired project like a baking soda volcano, so he decides to tackle artificial intelligence.  Will he win the prize, or will his new inventions be stolen by his arch enemy and classmate, T. Edison?

4. Loula and Mister the Monster by Anne Villeneuve

Loula is a tiny and spunky young girl with a gigantic dog as her best friend.  Mister, the dog, is not the most agile of sorts.  He tends to run into and over everything, leaving a path of broken and spilled household items behind him.  One day Loula overhears her mother claiming to want to get rid of that "monster" right away.  Loula enlists the help of her doorman to find a way to teach Mister some manners and prove that Mister is not a monster.   You will love Loula and her determination to solve this huge problem!

3. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
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For all of those perfectionist inventors out there, this is the book for you!  The girl in the story is on a quest to build the most magnificent thing.  She has a faithful assistant, who occasionally unmakes her things, but sticks with her throughout her trying process of attempting, but failing in her opinion, to make the most magnificent thing.  The neighbors are quite impressed with her hard work, but "they can't see the MAGNIFICENT thing that she has in her mind."  She goes through the process of numerous attempts, anger, frustration, and even resignation.  But after a walk with her assistant, things seem a little better, and she discovers that now she knows how to make what she had been seeing in her mind all along.

2. I Yam a Donkey by Cece Bell

I don't even know how to explain how utterly simple, yet hilarious this book is.  I loved it.  I read it out loud in Elliott Bay Books in downtown Seattle with my grown daughter, and we laughed louder than we probably should have been laughing in that quiet, subdued bookstore.  We laughed because we are the grammar police at times, and this throws all of that out the window for the sake of some wonderfully satisfying belly laughs.

1. Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

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Jackson is going into fifth grade. He has a mom, a dad, a little sister named Robin, a dog named Aretha.  His life appears normal, but something is different about Jackson, or so he thinks.  He has an imaginary friend.  His imaginary friend is a giant black and white cat with a baseball cap named Crenshaw.  Jackson doesn't want to be different.  He wants to have a home and enough food to eat, but his life is like so many other children of poverty these days.  The last time they lived in their van, Jackson was much younger, but now he knows what that means, and he sees it coming. Then Crenshaw appears, again, just like when he was little.  He wants to help his family, but his parents don't want him to worry, so they tell him that everything will be fine.  Then Crenshaw appears in the bathtub.

This is an amazing story about the reality of hunger and homelessness from the perspective of a child in the middle of it.  His method of coping involves and imaginary cat, but not everyone has that luxury.  I think that the honesty of this book will help teachers from all walks of life understand some of the hardships our students face at home, even while they appear to be holding it all together at school.  Sometimes school is the only safe or normal place for our students, so that is what we try to provide, yet this story is set in the summer, when a healthy breakfast and lunch is not available every school day.  I appreciate the  research and heart that went into this book, and I hope that it will reach the many students and adults who will benefit from the message contained in its beautiful story.

Now I have to get back to my reading!

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