Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD – Service Dog Stories

I’ve noticed a trend lately of stories with service dogs central to the plot. I have read several of them and have really enjoyed them, so I thought I would  collect some of them here. If you have enjoyed any of these, you might enjoy some of the others!

Sadie: The Dog Who Found the Evidence – These early reader books are great for introducing kids to stories about service dogs. In this series are also books about a dog named Gabe who is a military dog and one named Stella who is a therapy dog.

 

 

Ranger in Time  – This is a terrific series for elementary school readers about Ranger, a dog who almost passed the service dog training (darn squirrels). Now, thanks to a magical first aid box, Ranger travels in time to disasters and helps kids. Book one is Rescue on the Oregon Trail. This is book pictured is the most recent Ranger story.

 

 

Dog Diaries: Barry – In the Dog Diaries series, the dogs tell their own stories. In Barry, kids can read about a St Bernard who rescues travelers in the snowy Swiss Alps.

 

 

 

Chester and Gus – I adored Chester! Chester is adopted by a family to help their severely autistic son, Gus. You can read my review here.

 

 

Ellie’s Story – Ellie tells her own story here about becoming a search and rescue dog. It’s a cute, fun, emotional story from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed Ellie’s voice throughout.

 

 

A Dog Like Daisy – This is a new release from June. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounds fantastic. Again, the dog gets to tell the story. This time, Daisy is working as a therapy dog for a veteran with PTSD.

 

 

Hero – Hero is a series of books, two so far, with a third releasing this fall. In this book, Hero is a retired search and rescue dog who has to use his skills to save a puppy. In book two, Hero has to find a boy and the puppy during a hurricane.  This series sounds great for kids who love adventure stories and dog stories.

 

 

Secret Service Dogs – For adults, here is a highly rated book about the dogs used in the Secret Service to protect the president and our country.

 

 

 

If you are a fan of heroic stories starring dogs, be sure to check these out!

Summer Challenge 2017

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD – My Summer Reading Plan

I am a planner by nature.

I always have a to do list, and I faithfully check things off as they are completed. Summer is a prime time for me to make a few lists.

There’s the list of projects I want to finish while school is not in session. Then I have the list of fun things I want to be sure we do before school starts up again. And finally, I have my summer reading plan.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my post about summer reading recommendations, a list or a challenge isn’t a great idea for every reader. For some folks, that would make the reading seem like a chore. But I LOVE a challenge. I was the kid who loved the March of Dimes reading challenge at school or who responded well to a sticker chart. Anything where I could track my achievements.

So I set a reading challenge every year in January, and I have another one that covers my summer reading. Here are some of the things on my 2017 Summer Reading Plan:

#Bookaday


If you are on Twitter, you can find a number of teachers tweeting about their reading year-round, but especially in the summer, with this hashtag. The idea is to try to read one book for every day of your “summer” (and you get to choose what qualifies as “summer). This year, my summer will run from June 5 to July 30, which is 56 days. This is pretty standard for me. It gives me a week or so after the school year ends to do whatever I want, which usually includes some reading, but is less structured for the transition from school year to summer. This also gives me whatever non-school days I can get at the start of August to shift my thinking from summer back to school year. So, my #bookaday goal this summer is to read at least 56 books.  The library is a great resource for #bookaday, although my TBR shelves at home easily hold 56 books.

Classics


I tend to read in pretty rigid categories. I like new books – the newer the better – and I stick with mysteries and fantasy/science fiction with some realistic fiction thrown in. This summer, I am challenging myself to read some classics. In most cases, these are re-reads – books I read ages ago but can’t remember. These are the classics on my list:

  • Sense and Sensibility – I’ve never read Austen, and I don’t like Pride and Prejudice, but I love the Sense and Sensibility movie
  • Jane Eyre
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Wrinkle in Time – I’m going to read the graphic novel
  • Much Ado About Nothing – One of my favorite Shakespeare plays

Family Challenge


Last summer my son and I chose 5 books for the other person to read. He did a fabulous job and read all 5 I recommended. I, however, did not. I ended up only reading 3 in the summer, and picked up a fourth one this spring when he insisted. This summer my husband is getting into the act. We are each choosing 2 books for the other two people in the house. I will be reading:

  • Rebels by David Liss (Book 2 in the Randoms series) – chosen by my teen
  • Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos – chosen by my teen
  • The Innocent by David Baldacci – chosen by my husband
  • The X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia – chosen by my husband
  • I have assigned my son The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes and Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (a book from my TBR shelves)
  • I have assigned my husband Alien Tango by Gini Koch and The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
  • My husband has assigned my son The Haunting of Barry Allen by Clay and Susan Griffith and The Recruit (CHERUB) by Robert Muchamore
  • My son has assigned my husband Randoms by David Liss and Quantum Prophecy: The Awakening by Michael Carroll

Nonfiction


I love learning new things, but I am not a good finisher when it comes to nonfiction. So I am challenging myself to read the following:

  • A Mile Wide by Brandon Hatmaker (My husband recommended this one)
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson (I have started this but haven’t finished)
  • Uninvited by Lysa TerKerst (I’ve read this but I want to read through it again)
  • Daring Greatly by Brené Browning

Re-reads


When I was teaching, my students were always so excited about summer break because they could re-read some of their favorite books without penalty. I love to re-read my favorites in January and also over the summer. Some of my re-reads this summer will be:

  • The Fixer and The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (I LOVED The Long Game but I’ve only read it once.)
  • The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (a nursery rhyme based mystery)
  • StarFleet Academy – The Edge by Rudy Josephs (this is the first in a four book series with the new JJ Abrams cast in mind)
  • Talons of Power by Tui T. Sutherland (this is the most recent Wings of Fire book. I want to read it again before the last book comes out in July)
  • The Amber Photograph by Penelope Stokes (This is one of my comfort books that I read over and over)

New books


Of course, there are all sorts of new releases coming out this summer that I hope to read! If you check out my Book News posts on Mondays this summer, you’ll see some of the ones I am most looking forward to.

 

What are you hoping to read this summer? Do you like a challenge or do you prefer to read whatever comes along?

Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: Fractured Fairy Tales

I have mentioned many times that I love fractured fairy tales. These are the stories that take the well known tales like Cinderella or the Three Pigs and gives them a fresh look or a new twist. I have talked about some of these before when I wrote about the picture books I miss reading to students. Here are some of my favorites for all ages:

The Three Ninja Pigs – This book is perfect. It’s funny, the rhyme scheme is fantastic (not an easy feat), and it takes the basic story and gives it a fun martial arts shake up. My students always loved that it was the girl pig who saved the day in the end.

 

 

The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, the Wolf and Grandma – A cat is enjoying the story of Red Riding Hood, but the dog has a lot of questions about the story. This would be a fantastic story to turn into a readers theater. It is funny! There’s lots of drama as the cat gets frustrated that the dog just doesn’t get this great story. My students loved this one every time I read it!

 

 

Don’t Read this Book! – One of the things I did as a librarian was a unit on fractured fairy tales where my students and I compared and contrasted different versions of a familiar story. This book was a favorite because it doesn’t come right out and tell the story of the Princess and the Pea. Instead it is about a royal storyteller who has lost the story for the king. The pompous king tells the reader to go away while they retrace their steps to find the story. This is unusual and a lot of fun to read out loud!

 

Ninja-rella – This is one book in a line of graphic novel fractured fairy tales. I picked these up for my students towards the end of my time as a librarian, and the kids almost wore these out. Graphic novels were tremendously popular with my students anyway, but they especially loved the twist on familiar fairy tales. The series is called Far Out Fairy Tales. They published a Goldilocks story and a Sleeping Beauty one back in December 2016. They are releasing some new ones later this year called Far Out Fables. They look very fun!

 

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible – I adore this middle grade series about a hamster princess who wants to fight dragons and save the day. I reviewed the most recent book in the series, Ratpunzel, here. The next book, Giant Trouble, comes out next week.

 

 

Rump, the True Story of Rumpelstiltskin – This is a terrific take on the story of Rumpelstiltskin. This time Rump is a kid who is trying to overcome an unfortunate name and therefore an unfortunate destiny. This is a fun quest story. The author has also written the true stories of Red Riding Hood and Jack of beanstalk fame.

 

 

The Wide-Awake Princess – I love this series about the sister of Sleeping Beauty. Princess Annie is completely immune to magic. This makes her the perfect person to rescue her kingdom from the sleeping spell or save a prince who has been turned into a bear. The sixth and final book in the series came out this spring. Lots of fractured fairy tales to enjoy in this series!

 

 

The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom – This series is hoot! Have you ever noticed that most of the princes in fairy tales are just called “Prince Charming?” Well, in this series you find out that they all are different guys with different names. It’s the singing, story-telling bards who have focused on the princesses and ignored the princes. But this time, the princes are going to be the ones to make a name for themselves when they save the day. There are so many fun twists and surprises in this three book series. I highly recommend them!

 

The Sisters Grimm: Fairy Tale Detectives – This series is celebrating its 10th anniversary with new covers and touched up stories. I read these faithfully when they were first released. If you like a certain TV show about fairy tale characters in the real world, you should check this out. Some of the ideas in the show were in these books first. I’m hoping my library invests in the re-issues so I can read them all again and not miss out on any revisions!

 

 

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles) – This series for teens takes the stories of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Snow White and sets them in a dystopian future. The main characters are trying to save the Earth from an evil queen from the Moon, Levana. The third book in the series, Cress (the Rapunzel character), is my favorite, but the whole series is solid if you like your fairy tales mashed up with some romance and science fiction (which I totally do!).

 

Geekerella – This book just came out this spring and I reviewed it here. This is an awesome ComicCon/Fandom mashup with the story of Cinderella. I loved it!

 

 

 

The Big Over Easy – I wish there were more than two books in this series! I have several Jasper Fforde books (Tuesday Next series and Chronicles of Kazam) that I haven’t read, but the books in the Nursery Crime series I have read more than once. In fact, I think I might just read them again right after I finish this post. These are great mysteries for adults. The first book looks into the murder of Humpty Dumpty.

 

 

 

So, those are some of my favorite fractured fairy tales. There are BUNCHES more out there. What are your favorites?

 

 

Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: April Fools’ Day

Happy April Fools’ Day! I have never loved this “holiday,” especially as a teacher. But I do like to READ about pranks and pranksters. Here are a few prankster books to enjoy this month:

My Lucky Day – Hilarious picture book about a hungry fox who finds a pig on his front porch. How lucky! By the time it is all over, though, it just might be the pig who is the lucky one!

 

 

 

 

April Fools’, Mr. Todd! – I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, but I LOVE Judy Moody. This early reader series with Judy and her friends is perfect for kids in lower elementary grades who are growing as readers and are ready to try some longer stories. The illustrations are full color and fantastic. I can’t wait to read this one!

 

 

 

The Terrible Two – A prankster arrives at his new school ready to show the other kids his skills. But there is a pretty impressive prankster already there. Is this school big enough for TWO master pranksters? I get a huge kick out of this series by Mac Barnett. There are two books already with a third slated for 2018. Great for fans of the Wimpy Kid books.

 

 

 

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s – This book about the only boy at an all-girls school (the school tried to go co-ed and it didn’t work, but his mom teaches at the school, so he is stuck) who tries to prank his way to expulsion is on my TBR! I’ve been trying to get to this one for awhile. This might be the perfect time to read this one!

 

 

 

 

Codename Zero – A prankster is recruited to help a secret government agency. This is on my TBR, too, This is the first book in a series. I love books where the grown ups have to seek out a kid to save the day!

Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: Picture Books I Miss Reading

Something magical can happen when you read a book out loud to a group of kids. It’s a shared experience. You might laugh together or get teary-eyed together. The story can be inspiring. The story can make you remember something or can describe an experience you have had better than you could describe it.

When I was an elementary school librarian, there were many books that I read every year. They were my favorites. They were my students’ favorites. They were books that my students connected with no matter how many times we read them.  I looked forward to sharing these with students year after year. Since I am not teaching right now, here are 15 picture books I miss reading to students:

The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur –  This is a fantastic story of a small dinosaur getting pushed around by a larger dinosaur for a jar of jelly beans. The small dinosaur isn’t too worried about the bully because he has a “friend” who is much bigger than the bully. The best part of the story is set up in the illustrations. It’s fun to see which students catch on from the pictures alone. Then others will go back later and see what they missed. Such a fun story!

 

Read to Tiger – While the boy is trying to read his book, Tiger does all sorts of things that disturb him – chomping gum, pretending to be a bear, playing with a loud train set, etc. Every time the boy gets upset, the Tiger apologizes. The kids got to the point where they would try to match my “Tiger voice” and do the lines with me.  I discovered this book at the school when I took the library job. There are actually two books about this Tiger, but this is my favorite.

 

 

Arnie the Doughnut – This is probably one of the silliest books I read to my students consistently. It’s long for a read aloud, but good for many laughs, as Laurie Keller’s books often are. In the story, a donut is surprised to find out that the man who bought him plans to EAT him!  Arnie does not want to be eaten, but the man paid for him, fair and square. Can they figure out a way for both of them to win? Keller’s books are even better for lap reading than read-alouds because of the side conversations characters have in the illustrations.

 

Library Lion – This book is so outstanding, it will captivate a room of kindergarteners even though there isn’t a lot of “action” in the story. In it, a lion comes to the library for story time. The head librarian says he can stay as long has he follows the rules like staying quiet in the library. One of the other librarians is certain that there is no place for a lion in the library. One day, the lion breaks the rules for a good reason, but he knows he will have to leave anyway. But no one is happy when the library lion is gone.  This is delightful. If you haven’t read this one, check it out!

 

Duck and Goose – A young duck and goose find an “egg” and squabble over the proper way to care for the egg and the occupant inside. We read this book to our son when he was little – along with the sequel, Duck, Duck, Goose. The fussing between the two characters is great fun to read aloud. And the ending is a hoot! Duck and Goose have a full line of picture books, board books, stuffed animals and such now.

 

 

The Totally Secret Secret – Ballet Cat doesn’t want to do anything her friend Sparkles wants to do. She only wants to do Ballet! What happens when she discovers that Sparkles… doesn’t like ballet?! I can’t get enough of this book. Even though I have no picture book readers in my house, and I am not teaching, I still bought myself a copy of this book! It cracks me up every single time I read it! To me, this is an example of the perfect kids book because it entertains on a kid level and on an adult level for the person reading the book (over and over).  I think the third book in the series, What’s Your Favorite Favorite works on these two levels, too.

 

 

Silly Doggy! – A girl finds a “silly doggy” in her back yard. The doggy doesn’t want to do any of the doggy things the girl thinks he should, perhaps because it is a bear. No one in the story seems to recognize Doggy for what he really is until the zoo comes to collect him at the end. My students always found it hilarious that this girl thought this huge bear was a dog. This is a sweet and silly story. The very funny ending was later turned into a new picture book – Naughty Kitty.

 

 

The Cat, the Dog, Little Red, the Exploding Eggs, The Wolf and Grandma – I asked my family for this Little Red Riding Hood-ish book for Christmas this year because I adored it when I was reading it to students. It is sarcastic and funny and points out some of the inconsistencies in fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood. I am a huge fan of any sort of “fractured fair tale” and this one of my all time favorites!

 

 

This Orq. (He Cave Boy.) – I saw this book on display at a conference and I kept walking past the booth over and over and over again because I was completely captivated by the illustration on the cover. At the end of the conference, I stood in line for over 30 minutes to be sure I could take this book home to my students! The book is told in choppy “cave man” talk which is fun to read. At its core this is a pet story, well told with very few words and a lot of heart.

 

 

Mustache Baby Meets His Match – Sequel to the awesome Mustache Baby, this book is my favorite of the two. The mustache premise is a brilliant metaphor for the “dark side” that can come out with toddlers when they test boundaries or don’t get their way. I especially liked this book when I was teaching at a Christian school because the story helped us talk about how we can be tempted to fall into sin and our “bad guy mustaches” appear. If you are a fan of smart, clever picture books that adults AND kids can enjoy, these two should be high on your list of books to read.

 

The Three Ninja Pigs – My favorite part of the school year when I was teaching (after Book Fair) was the end of the year when I would do a fractured fairy tale unit with my students. The stories are great fun, and we could practice our comparing and contrasting skills when we looked at the original and our fractured versions together. One of the highlights for the age group that did The Three Pigs was when we would read this book. The language is precise and perfect. And when one pig promises the wolf, “I’ll kick your big butt,” my students would roar with laughter! This is outstanding!

 

 

I Will Surprise My Friend! – When I introduced my kindergarten students to Piggie and Gerald, I couldn’t keep the books on the shelves for the rest of the year. I often had spare copies tucked in the library office so I could replace the library copy when it finally crumbled from extreme use. If I could only pick one Elephant and Piggie book to read, this would be the one. Piggie and Gerald decide to scare/surprise each other by the big rock. But it doesn’t go as planned and the results are hilarious! In my opinion, this is the best of the best.

 

 

This Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown – I’m not sure my students loved this one as much as I did, but I adore this book. Emily Brown is a bright, creative and imaginative girl who plays all sorts of cool things with her bunny, Stanley. A princess sees Stanley and decides she wants him! She sends all of her servants to convince Emily to give him to her, but Emily kindly but firmly says no each time. Until the Princess steals Stanley. It’s fun to read with different voices for the servants and a long-suffering voice for Emily Brown.

 

It’s the Bear! – There are three Bear books by Jez Alborough. In the first, Where’s My Teddy?, a boy named Freddie tries to find his bear but finds a huge teddy bear that belongs to a wild bear instead. In the third book, the boy and the bear become friends. This is the middle story, and it’s my favorite. Freddie and his mom are going on a picnic and he’s afraid of the bear in the woods. His mom doesn’t believe there is a bear. In fact, she leaves Freddie alone while she runs back to get a pie she forgot. Of course, what bear can resist a yummy picnic? We read these books to our son when he was little and when he outgrew them, I took them to the library and used them year after year when I introduced Jez Alborough books to my kindergarten students.

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs – Another favorite from my fairy tale unit is this twisted tale by Mo Willems (author of the Piggie and Gerald books as well as the Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny books)! In this version, Goldilocks stumbles into a house of dinosaurs instead of bears. And those dinosaurs seem to be up to some mischief! My students loved slowly looking at every picture for hints of what the dinosaurs were up to. My older students picked up more of the subtle humor and sarcasm of this story than the younger ones did.

 

 

There are so many fantastic books out there for teachers to read to students and for parents to read to children. If you are looking for a great read aloud, look for these favorites of mine!

 

Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: My Favorite Re-Reads

I sometimes have a complicated relationship with books. For the longest time, I kept each book I read. Eventually this created a space issue. Then I decided to just keep the “special” ones. There were no criteria for this designation – just a gut feeling. I kept all of my mystery series for certain. And then books I enjoyed so much I thought I might re-read them. Since I enjoy a lot of books each year, this meant I was still keeping a lot.

Eventually, I realized there were so many books I wanted to read for the first time that it was unlikely I would actually re-read everything I kept. But there are some…

My comfort books. The ones I go back to because I love the story or the character. Books I associate with certain events or seasons of life. The ones that leave me feeling wistful when I see them and I know it’s been forever since I read them.  Books that make me want to drop everything and dive into them all over again. And every January I try to read through as many of them as I can. It’s like visiting with old friends. Here are some of my favorite re-reads.

1. Andrew Clements books – These are some of the first books for kids that I read and loved. Clements tells great school stories about kids and teachers you want to cheer for. Frindle and No Talking are my favorites, but most of his older books are re-reads for me!

 

 

 2. Wings of Fire series – I remember the year I was setting up my library’s book fair and saw this book. I was captivated by the description and read it right away. Then I told all of my students about it. This is a special series! The first five books deal with the war for Sand Wing (a dragon tribe) succession. The second series picks up with a new set of young dragons living in a post-war world. This series just launched book 9, with book 10 slated for this summer. There’s also a stand alone book that fills in some backstory as well as some short e-books. And I think the series gets better and better as each book releases. I’ve taken to re-reading the books in the second series (books 6+) in anticipation of each new book, and that helps me remember all the cool details that are going to matter when the next book comes out.

3. The Westing Game – I read this mystery as a kid and fell in love with the twists and turns. This is the sort of book that you finish and have to read again right away to see where you missed the clues to the solution. I’m thrilled to say this stands up to the test of time. My son read it and loved it, prompting me to read it again as an adult. It was just as awesome as I remembered. In fact, it has become a go-to re-read for my teenage son as well!

 

4. The Harry Potter Series – I can’t tell you how many times we have re-read or listened to these books at our house! Each of us has a physical set of the books. Then we also have all of the outstanding audio books read by the amazing Jim Dale. The antics of the kids and the fight for good to triumph over evil never gets old.

 

 

5. The Fixer series – I have raved about this series multiple times on this blog in the short time since it went live. Book two is even better than book one. The main character is feisty and sticks up for the underdog and I love her. I look forward to spending time with the characters in these books – sometimes more than once a year.

 

 

 6. The Amber Photograph – I have three books by Penelope Stokes that I re-read periodically (this one, The Amethyst Heart and The Blue Bottle Club), but this is my most consistent re-read of the three. This is my sick-day book. If I’m in bed and don’t care to watch a movie or anything else, I will pull this book out. It’s an emotional one about a young woman driving across the country in search of information about who she is and about another woman hiding from her past. God’s redemption weaves through the whole story. It’s outstanding.

 

7. Deadline – Amazing suspense/mystery with a strong salvation message! This is a long, intricate book that covers a lot of issues including abortion, woven around a mystery of why the main character’s two best friends are dead. I love the passages that show one of those friends exploring Heaven. Deadline is a fantastic and inspiring mystery that I love to read over and over.

 

 

8. Touched by an Alien series – This is a very different book from the last two. And I love these just as much. This is a science fiction/romance series that over time has evolved into a science fiction/romance/mystery/suspense series. In book one, Kitty Katt discovers there are aliens on earth and she helps them take down a major villain. Over the course of the series, Kitty and her friends have to puzzle out who the true villains are and take them down as well. With two books releasing each year, and 500+ pages in each, this series gives readers a LOT to enjoy. I have several volumes in this series that are my ultimate favorites, but I usually re-read the last few before a new release and then re-read my favorite passages (don’t tell – I dog-eared them in my books!) when I want to enjoy some of Kitty’s best moments. Unlike the last two books in my list, this series is not Christian. The world view is much more open and the romantic passages are quite detailed. They are easily skipped over for any reader who isn’t interested in that portion of the story.

9. The Sons of Destiny series – Eight brothers with magical powers are exiled on a remote island because there’s a prophecy that if the eldest beds a woman, disaster will ensue and other prophecies about the other brothers will start to come true. Each book in the series focuses on one of the brothers. Two of the books are told concurrently (a pretty cool idea) but the rest go in order over time so that by the last book, the last of the prophecies are coming to pass. I adore this fantasy series. I have my favorite books and others that are less so, but I love the world where these take place and the main characters are fascinating. This is another book with a secular perspective. The romantic scenes are spelled out in detail, but again are easily skipped past if you want to get back to the magic and the story.

10. The Katie Chandler series – The last of my re-reads list is another fantasy series. Katie lives in a contemporary New York City and discovers that wizards, fairies and other magical beings really exist. Katie, though, is an immune. She has no magic whatsoever, so not only can she not DO any magic, but she can see through the illusions that the magic community uses to stay hidden. This makes her an important asset to the magical community when less-than-ethical forces try to take control. I just started reading through these again and I was thrilled to discover an 8th book came out at the end of 2016! So not only do I get to enjoy re-reading a favorite series, but I get a new installment at the same time!

 

So, those are my favorite re-reads. Do you have any books that you go back to time and time again?

Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: My 2016 Favorites

I read a lot of books every year. A lot of times,  I don’t remember all the details about the books I read. But I always remember how I felt when I finish. I remember which books follow me throughout the year – how I feel when I see them in the bookstore or library or online. These are the ones I want to go back and read again. These are the ones I recommend over and over and over.

When I went back through my list of the 304 books I read in 2016, I came up with 28 that were candidates for the best of the year. I whittled that list down to ten. And here they are:

10. The Scourge by Jennifer Nielsen

I read this one earlier this year, so I don’t have a review posted here at The Neverending TBR. This is a fantastic middle grade fantasy from the author of The False Prince. You can read more about The Scourge here.

 

 

9. Alien Nation by Gini Koch

You can find my review of this here.

 

 

8. Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

You can find my review of this here.

 

 

7. Darkstalker by Tui T. Sutherland

I love the middle grade dragon series Wings of Fire. This book stands alone as a backstory for a dragon that makes an appearance in the second five book series.

 

 

6. Still a Work in Progress by Jo Knowles

You can find my review of this here.

 

 

5. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

You can find my review of this here.

 

 

 4. The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere

You can find my review of this here.

 

 

3. The Charming Life of Izzy Malone by Jenny Lundquist

You can find my review of this here.

 

 

2. The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot

You can find my review of this here on February 1. This was a fun romantic story told totally in emails and chat rooms and memos!

 

 

1. The Long Game by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

You can find my review of this here.

Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: Fun Sports Books for Kids

 

You can’t go wrong with books for kids that focus on the sports they love – or even sports in general. Here are some of my favorite sports books to share with kids.

innings-and-outs-of-baseballThe Innings and Outs of Baseball (Science of Fun Stuff) – I love this early reader series – Science of Fun Stuff and History of Fun Stuff. This particular book focuses on the history of baseball. After the epic World Series victory by the Chicago Cubs this year, baseball is as popular as ever.

 

 

babymouse-goes-for-the-gold

Babymouse 20: Babymouse Goes for the Gold – If you haven’t read a Babymouse graphic novel before, you’re missing out. They are FUN, with great pop culture references throughout each story. This particular one focuses on the Olympics.

 

 

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Jump Shot (Barber Game Time Books) – I have enjoyed this series about twin brothers, based on the real-life athletes, Tiki and Ronde Barber. They have books about baseball, football and basketball, but this one is my favorite.

 

 

fantasy-league left-out

Two of the most prolific writers of sports books for kids are Mike Lupica and Tim Green.  Fantasy League – Our family has played fantasy football for years. That made this book extra fun to read. Even though it is written for kids, my husband and I both enjoyed it. It’s about a kid who is amazing at fantasy football. Then he gets to try his skills with an actual football team. Left Out – I haven’t read this one yet, but I have it on my TBR pile. It focuses on a deaf kid who wants to play football and the challenges he faces. I’m really looking forward to reading this one.

athlete-vs-mathlete double-dribble time-out

This series is my favorite of all the sports books! This series is about a set of fraternal twins. One is a basketball star and the other is a star student. When the “smart one” gets recruited for the basketball team in book one, Athlete vs. Mathlete, it starts a series of identity struggles for the boys. “Who am I if I’m not the ‘athletic one’ any more?” In book two, Athlete vs. Mathlete: Double Dribble, the question becomes, “Who are we if we aren’t the best twins in basketball?” And book three, Athlete vs. Mathlete: Time-Out, puts the focus back on the original twins as they try to find their place at a competitive summer sports camp. These would be great for a classroom read aloud where students could talk about the identity struggles of the boys.

what-is-the-world-series what-is-the-super-bowl what-are-the-summer-olympics

Finally, there’s the Who Was series of books. The original series focused on biographies, but they have expanded into Where Is, which looks at amazing places around the world, and What Is which looks at different periods in history and other things. The What Is series includes these sports titles: What Is the World Series? (What Was…?),What Is the Super Bowl? (What Was…?), What Are the Summer Olympics? (What Was…?).

 

Do you have any sports lovers in your life?

Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: Now Monthly!

When I launched my blog this fall, I create the Saturday Smorgasbord as a “a variety show of posts – list posts, links to articles I found related to books, etc.”

In order to have time to do these posts well, I’ve decided to post them just on the first Saturday of the month. I feel like that will keep them fresh.

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If you have missed some the past Saturday posts, you can find them all here. My favorite so far is probably my Top 10 Favorite Illustrators. You can also find posts about Christmas books coming out this season, favorite teachers in literature, and more.

Hope to see you on Saturday, December 3rd where I’ll be posting about my favorite sports books for kids!

Be sure to swing by over Thanksgiving weekend and pick up my PDF of recommended books for holiday gift-giving, too!

Wrong Side of the Paw

SATURDAY SMORGASBORD: Top 10 Favorite Illustrators

I am crazy about picture books! And the illustrations are a large part of a picture book grabbing my attention. Certain illustration styles immediately catch my eye. And when you are reading with kids who don’t read on their own yet, the pictures are a HUGE part of the child’s engagement with the book. Here are some of my favorite illustrators, and links to some of my favorite books that include their amazing art work!

dan-santat

Dan Santat – Dan Santat has a great illustration style. I can usually pick out a book he has done from across the book store. I like his work so much. If you want to see great examples of his work, check out his award winning book, The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, or his illustration work on the Dav Pilkey Ricky Ricotta series ( Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot ).  The Three Ninja Pigs is an outstanding story by Corey Rosen Schwartz. The illustrations by Dan Santat work perfectly with this awesome story!

 

mo-willems

Mo Willems – The Elephant and Piggie books are a huge hit with the preschool and early reading crowd. The language is simple, the stories are funny and the illustrations are a major component of the humor. He is also well known for the Knuffle Bunny series and the Pigeon books. A few of my (many) favorite books by Mo Willems are Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale, Let’s Go for a Drive! (An Elephant and Piggie Book), and I Will Surprise My Friend! (An Elephant and Piggie Book). If you are looking for something for slightly older readers, try The Story of Diva and Flea. Lovely illustrations of Paris in this book.

 

ashley-spires

Ashley Spires – I fell in love with Ashley Spires’ work when my son and I discovered the Binky the Space Cat (A Binky Adventure)  graphic novel series. As cat people, we thoroughly enjoyed the jokes, many of which were in the pictures. The Most Magnificent Thing  is an amazing book about ideas and perseverance. Ashley’s style speaks to me, and I sit up and take notice any time she releases a new book.

 

 

lauren-child

Lauren Child – Lauren Child is the author/illustrator of the Charlie and Lola books. Disney turned these into a cartoon several years back. We watched it all the time. The writing was smart and fun. The illustrations have a paper piecing feel to them that have fun texture. My favorite Charlie and Lola story is We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog (Charlie and Lola). The New Small Person  is a clever story about a boy who gets a younger brother that he refers to as the “new small person.”

 

kadir-nelson

Kadir Nelson – I wish I could show you the illustrations inside this book because they are stunning! I used to show this book to students while letting the accompanying CD of Dr. King’s speech play. The words and pictures were a perfect  compliment to each other. Check out I Have a Dream (Book & CD)

 

 

don-tate

Don Tate – I met Don Tate at a conference a couple years ago. I was so excited to meet him because he wrote about and illustrated stories of African American history I had never heard before. I love Ron’s Big Mission, a book I would read a lot during Black History Month. It is a stirring story of a boy pursuing his right to a library card. I also like The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch and Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton. The covers are lovely and reflect the illustrations within.

 

alex-latimer

Alex Latimer – I discovered Alex Latimer through the American Library Association conference when I saw a cover and it pulled me out of traffic on the exhibit floor into the publisher’s booth. Lion vs Rabbit is my favorite story of his because of the clever rabbit’s solution to bullying. When you read it the second time  (and you will want to read it again), really explore the illustrations! I also loved to read The Boy Who Cried Ninja  and Penguin’s Hidden Talent  to students.

 

troy-cummings

Troy Cummings –  More Bears! cracks me up every time I read it. And Troy Cummings had an interesting job of illustrating such an unusual story. He did a bang up job at it! Wait until you see all the bears! I also love his work in Little Red Gliding Hood. Lovely pictures and lots to look at and enjoy as you read this one!

 

 

peter-h-reynolds

Peter H. Reynolds – I got to meet Peter H. Reynolds at a conference after I discovered his books and it was a highlight of the conference. I love the message of his books The Dot and Ish (Creatrilogy)  about embracing your art, no matter how imperfect you think it might be. My favorite book of his is So Few of Me which I think could be modeled on my life.

 

 

kazu-kibuishi

Kazu Kibuishi – I have loved the Mary Grand Pre’ illustrations in the Harry Potter books since I first read them. The covers are lovely and so iconic at this point. So when Scholastic said they were releasing the books with new covers, I was not interested. But then I saw them. They are gorgeous! (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Book 1)) The illustrator, Kazu Kibuishi, is the author/illustrator for the Amulet graphic novels ( The Stonekeeper (Amulet 1) ). His work is exquisite. If we didn’t already own three sets of the Harry Potter books, I would totally get this new set. I love the pictures!

 

So, who are your favorite illustrators?