Fly With Me is a masterpiece of transdisciplinary study. The book examines birds from every possible angle: biological, historical, conservation, art, and stories. Poetry is peppered throughout complementing the other information. It's a National Geographic book, so you can trust that the photography throughout is stunning. Perfect for bird enthusiasts and curious minds.
Kate DiCamillo’s characters have a warmth and richness of language that I associate with the South. You will fall in love with Louisiana Eleffante, child of the tragically dead Flying Eleffantes circus performers. Her story begins: ”I am going to write it all down, so that what happened to me will be known, so that if someone were to stand at their window at night and look up at stars and think, My goodness, whatever happened to Louisiana Elefante? Where did she go? they will have an answer. They will know. “This is what happened. “I will begin at the beginning.” Granny, who is raising Louisiana, wakes her in the middle of the night raving about the curse which has hung over their heads for generations. They take off on a road trip leaving friends and home behind. Winding up in a small town in Georgia, Louisiana wakes to find Granny gone! There she meets a Reverend, a grouchy motel-owner, and a boy with a pet crow. I love Louisiana’s voice which manages to be funny and profound at the same time. She must find her own way and her path brings up big questions about her past and her identity. Warm and generous hearts will help her along the way until she can find a place to call home. As the walrus-faced Reverend Obertask says,”‘I do think that, more often than not, love has a way of finding us,” Indeed.
Tessa's Picks, 3rd-5th grade, Character driven, Contemporary fiction, Friendship.
With hopes of discovering memories of the father who died when she was very young, Paloma Marques is accompanying her mother to Mexico City on a fellowship for the summer. Paloma had other plans for the summer and her lack of proficiency in Spanish dampens her enthusiasm for the trip. Paloma sees herself as girl detective modeled after Lulu Pennywhistle of her beloved mystery novels. Newly arrived in Mexico City, she starts using her power of observation and memory to make mental notes of the people and places. Little does she know that a real life mystery is around the corner. Her mother’s fellowship opening event takes place in the museum that houses some Frida Kahlo works and she learns about the artist. Meeting twins Lizzie and Gael, Paloma is introduced to the artist’s history and they reveal that a room in Frida’s house that hid some of her personal treasures locked away for 50 years, has recently been opened. Learning of Paloma’s sleuthing abilities, they enlist her help in solving a crime! The twin’s father is in jail for the theft of Frida’s famous peacock ring and they insist he is innocent. Can Paloma solve the crime? A mysterious fortune teller, the charming son of the museum director and the Russian secret service all play a part in this intriguing adventure of artistic proportions.
Tessa'sWritten as journal entries to her dead mother, Nishna’s story takes us to India in 1947 when that country is being liberated from British rule and partitioned into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. Nishna’s father is Hindu, her mother was Muslim and although their marriage was not usual or accepted by all, they had lived peacefully. As Hindus they must now leave Pakistan as differences threaten to turn violent. Their beloved servant Kazi, who taught her to cook and is practically a father to her, is Muslim and must stay behind. Nishna and her family become refugees and embark on the dangerous and harrowing journey to find a new home. Nishna’s is the voice of a child, simply recounting the sights, sounds and experiences that mark their sojourn to safety in Jodhpur. The family has survived but she has seen many who did not. Nishna’s search for home and identity look for a hopeful future. In the author’s note Ms Hiranandani offers “Remembering the mistakes of the past will hopefully create a more enlightened, tolerant, and peaceful future. Accepting differences has always been a great challenge for humanity played out in thousands of ways. This was one way.”
Tessa's Picks, 3-6th grade, 3rd & 4th summer 2018, 6th summer 2018, Diaries, Historical fiction, Global perspectives, People of color.
Danza! tells the story of Amalia Hernandez, the founder of El Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. She drew from local dance traditions throughout Mexico and combined them with ballet and modern techniques to create spectacular performances. The costumes are inspired by local tradition and when the company tours it takes more than three tons of costumes with it! Tonatiuh captures these beautifully by combining digital collage with his hand-drawn illustrations. I love this mixed-media approach which uses photographs to fill in fabric, hair, and other materials and adds a wonderful texture. Amalia's life and the spread of Mexian folkloric dance is an inspiring tale. I'm lucky enough to have seen the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico perform and recommend that you do too, but first read this book!
This colorful and practical guide leads kids through a variety of exercises in mindfulness. The bright illustrations and simple language make it an engaging way to teach mindfulness to even the youngest kids. The exercises are broken down into five sections: Be Calm, Focus, Imagine, Make Some Energy, and Relax. Each exercise gets a fully illustrated two page spread with large text in appealing fonts explaining what to do in kid-friendly language. I love the squirrels with their kindness exercise and the wolf that leads the get your grumpies out exercise, but it's afternoon as I write this, so I am most drawn to the energizers. This example from that section certainly looks appealing to me. Just look at that lion!
Breathe Like a Bear by Kira Willey, illustrated by Anni Betts
Reading comforts me. I find magazines in trash piles. Reading leads to writing. I find poetry in tomato fields, and stories in the faces of weary workers.
-from "Tomas Rivera" by Margarita Engle
This gorgeous collection of poetry highlights many lesser-known figures from artists to activists. The poems are short but inspiring and made me want to learn more about the people described. It would be a great class share, especially with the full-page mixed media illustrations that could each make beautiful posters on their own. Brief additional biographical information is included in the back, but you will probably want to do more research on your own after reading.
Bravo!: Poems about amazing Hispanics by Margarita Engle; illustrated by Rafael Lopez
What could be better than playing a munchkin in the Wizard of OZ? Well O.K. for me it would be the wicked witch. But Julia, did I mention that she is really short, is cast to play a munchkin. Not her idea. It’s her younger brother Randy who is the actor; she has just been coerced into tagging along to watch out for him. It turns out to be the summer of her life as she becomes best friends with one of the munchkins, Olive, an adult with dwarfism. Olive, the director, and an older neighbor who helps with costumes are all quirky wonderful characters who help Julia figure out who she is. “On opening night of the show: I lean into the window on the passenger side of the car. I smile at Mom and tell her something I’ve wanted to say all summer. “Thanks, Mom. Thanks for making me try out for this play.” I think I might just have made being a mother totally worthwhile for her. I will try to never forget her face…. Mom’s got tears in her eyes and she’s smiling. It’s an amazing look. I have to remember how powerful it can be to say thank you. Especially to the people you live with. They probably least expect it.” This book will have you laughing out loud one minute and swiping a tear the next.
Tessa's Picks, 3rd-7th grade, Character driven, Humor, Friendship, Contemporary fiction.
Red is over 200 years old, but she still doesn't understand people. She's been the community's wish tree for a long time and seen all sorts of wishes from the silly to the profound. She's never actually done anything to grant a wish though. Trees are the strong, silent types. Then one day a new girl wishes for a friend. When Red finds out that she's going to be cut down, she decides that for once she's going to do something to make a wish come true.
I love the perspective of a Red Oak as a narrator and all the critters who live in and around her. There's so many delightful details like the naming conventions of all the animals from skunks (named after something sweet) to opossums (named after their biggest fear.) As someone who is fond of jokes that aren't always appreciated by others, I identified with the tree's attempts at humor.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate Erica's Picks 3rd - 5th Grade Tags: Animals, Character Driven, Friendship, People of Color
When Anna reads Secret Garden, she decides she wants to create a magical garden of her own. Her family just moved to a new house with a back yard that looks pretty rough and weedy, but she can already see how it would look with a little help. Luckily there's a girl on her street whose birthday is just one day apart from hers. She can help her get the garden ready. But when school starts and poison ivy attacks, Anna wonders if she's lost her friend and her garden.
I love Anna's imagination and the way she navigates her new friendship. A lot of kids will love the storyline about the lost baby bunny they rescue. It's great for kids learning to read chapter books on their own, but parents would enjoy it as a read aloud as well.
Year of the Garden by Andrea Cheng
Erica's Picks 1st - 3rd Grade Tags: character driven, animals, contemporary fiction, friendship, people of color