I am continuing my 20-21 pattern of being very inconsistent with keeping a weekly reading blog. I was surely much better in 2017-19, but I feel fortunate that I have a second week of Spring Break in which to recharge for the last third of the school year and sneak this blog in. Covid is certainly a focus of everything these days and my work life has this as a background. In my province, we have been face to face all year with about 500 new cases of covid each day (with a population of around 5 million). It certainly impacts most of what we do. We have been on a bit of a vaccine rollercoaster with things looking good right now. At one point, we were hearing that we might be vaccinated in about the next month, then plans seemed to change and there would only be an age-based rollout. I was looking at perhaps August for vaccination. Now, there has been a change in supply and it looks like April for teachers once more. It has been a strange year again, so far, with lots impacting what I am allowed to do in my library (K-7) in terms of events (no gathering, not as many events that build community), and what we do at home to make life more fun for everyone (lots of games with the kids, not as much reading). Thanks to Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting the link-up for this group once again.
Books I Enjoyed This Week
I wanted to make sure that I covered some books in each section of my library over the Spring Break and while I don’t have a dedicated early chapter book series, I always have books that fit that criteria in a display for at least part of the week. Our school is organized into age cohorts, and there is only one cohort allowed in each day, so I don’t have these books out when the gr. 5-7 cohort is in. This book will be displayed when I have the grade 2-4 cohorts in. You can really see a lot of what it is about from the cover. There are magical creatures and a girl who is concerned about their health and very focussed on science. In this first book of the series, she learns that her mother has been able to see magical creatures for a while (she thought she was the only one). They come to her when they need help. When Mom is leaving for a work related trip, young Zoey asks if she can help any creatures who ring the hidden doorbell at their barn as a request for help. Naturally, the dragon on the cover does and Zoey goes through quite a process of hypothesizing what might be wrong and how to help, along with her cat Sassafras.
The story has a real science based focus. The Mom is a scientist, no detail on what she specifically does and Zoey has to go through several theories of what is wrong and test them out. I am hoping the magical creatures will pull a few readers into trying this series.
This was a family read aloud for me, my wife and my two kids. I had read an ARC of this one almost exactly a year ago from writing this today and I loved it. It is a recent Newbery Honor book. If you haven’t yet had the chance it is a really interesting story with some creative world building inspired by Thailand. I have read that it is inspired by Les Miserables as well, but I am not as familiar with that story and I read it without thinking about that part at all. Our main characters are Nok and Pong who grow up together in a prison, where they were born. Society is really controlled by one man, the Governor who is able to control light and energy. After a Great Fire, his power is really the only source of energy that is considered safe and this gives him great power. As Nok and Pong grow older, one of them escapes Prison and one is eventually released, they begin to see better ways for society to function without one person having so much power. It sounds like it could be a dark (mood) book but it isn’t really.
The third book of the Mighty Muskrats series is another mystery set in fictional community of Windy Lake First Nation. Most readers, especially non-Indigenous, will learn a lot about the ways that many Indigenous peoples live, particularly in rural, reserve areas.
I would say that each book has one topic that is a theme in the plot and something that young (or old) readers likely know little about. The ’60’s scoop in the first book, land use in the second and in this one treaties are an important topic. The Burgled Bundle of the title is the missing Treaty Bundle. I didn’t have much knowledge of what a treaty bundle is, but throughout the story Hutchinson weaves in a lot of information about how treaty bundles tell a story of a people and I also learned more about the ways that Indigenous peoples use story, ceremony and information in this book. This could start a lot of conversations about the ways that Indigenous peoples in Canada hold and pass on their knowledge and stories that is quite different from how non-Indigenous people have do.
The four main characters, Sam, Chickadee, Otter and Atim, are cousins that all live on the reserve but have slightly different backgrounds and personalities that allow them to rely on each other’s strengths to solve these mysteries, and also to learn about their culture from their Elders as they grow. Readers, particularly those of non-Indigenous ancestry like myself, can learn with them about ideas like ceremonies, treaties, the unity of Cree people from different areas, the importance of the land, and many other smaller seeming parts of daily life.
I always enjoy a new Muskrat Mystery. Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this before its April release.
This is another series that I really enjoy, that I started reading because of a few of the people that I saw reading it in our Monday link-ups. If you have never tried one, they are really written for adults although my thirteen year old really enjoyed the first book of the series. They are really short novellas that take place in a corporate dominated space-faring world. The main character, The Murderbot of the series title, is a self-aware droid who develops a keen sense of justice, an addiction to watching its favourite serial media, and a heavy dose of snarkiness. The series is so much fun.
This is actually the second of a series, and I don’t even have the first one in my library, which I need to rectify soon. It is more of a graphic novel, but it has some text sections. I know one librarian that shelves a copy in her fiction section, while mine is in my graphic novel section. It is for fans of Telgemeier and Jennifer Holm’s Sunny Side Up books. There are two different plot lines running through this book, one that involves a daydreamer named Izzy who lives with her single Mom and two sisters. She is a typical daydreamer in that she does not focus on schoolwork or her home life. She does really care about drama. The other character is Bri, who has the label at school of being a brain, but wishes people would see the other aspects of her personality. The two plots come together at the end but seem unrelated for much of the book. The ending was enjoyable, I will get the rest of these for my graphic novel readers.
I typically find the Branches early chapter books from Scholastic to be fairly reliable short books I can get to emerging readers. I am kind of struggling to find readers for fairy tale type books lately. One of the teachers I talked to about this feels that readers in my school don’t really know the fairy tales until they have been in a school for a few years and by then not many are reading early chapter books. This book doesn’t have a particular fairy tale that it follows but is in a fairy tale world in which summer is not leaving to make way for winter. Kara and Zed find a message from the Ice Princess asking for help with her Magic Mirror in order to bring winter back. As no one appears willing to help the not well liked Ice Princess, these two head to the Ice Princess’s castle to save the day. The plot seemed a little like Frozen, with some twists and I liked the resolution. I didn’t love the whole story but if you from a character perspective (Kara does something in the beginning I did not like) but I think this could be a good one for young readers who need a short chapter book.
I had a student who really loves wolves, but also loses a lot of books, so after searching for new wolf books I stumbled across this one. It is a non-fiction story that is probably familiar to many adults, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. The focus here is on how bringing back the wolves made so many changes to the food web and indirectly to the land itself. It’s well illustrated and has a number of text features. I think it will be a good choice for teaching intermediate aged students how to use non-fiction books in addition to helping kids learn about the connectivity of living things in an ecosystem.
I am re-reading Wink, a story of a middle school kid who just wants to blend in and be normal but has a rare cancer near his eye that makes that impossible. Believe it or not, it is actually a very funny read. The character finds a lot of strength from a new found love of rock music. I am using this for a Literature Circles/Book Club unit and my District’s Battle of the Books. I am re-reading The Whisper, book two of The Riverman trilogy, with my family. We typically start a lot of series and don’t continue with them lately so my oldest and I decided we would use our consecutive turns choosing to finish a trilogy we started about a year ago. Rooftoppers is a book that was recommended to me by a grade 5 student who I had recommended Katherine Rundell’s The Explorer and The Good Thieves to. She said it is her favourite 2021 read so far and I just noticed that it is this author’s most popular book on Goodreads. I have only read a couple of chapters
On Deck Reads
I have put this book here twice already. Sometimes I don’t get to the books that are on my devices, out of sight, out of mind I guess. I do better with the books that are on my physical shelves. Also, this ARC is not actually released until August, so there is no urgency on my part. However, I do feel like I haven’t read any YA this month/Spring Break so my next book will be YA for sure and I have loved Zentner’s The Serpent King and Goodbye Days.
Thanks for stopping by here to see what I have been read. I need to get off the computer for a while, but hope to check out what others have been reading over the next few days.