MONDAY FUNDAY: March 20, 2017

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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Happy Monday, everyone! I hope everyone had a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day on Friday. I shared a poem by W. B. Yeats in honour of my Irish heritage, which you can check out here.

I also shared a collection of picture book biographies celebrating feisty, fabulous, fearless females as part of Nonfiction Wednesday, be sure to check out the list and share these amazing stories with the young people in your lives!

Finally, just for a bit of fun, I participated in a book tag – the Stationary Book TagCheck it out to find out a bit more about the mysterious person behind the blog!

And on to this week’s mini reviews – there’s not a huge assortment of books this week, as I’ve been pretty busy, but here we go!

Rhino’s Great Big Itch

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Poor Rhino has a great big itch in his ear, and no one seems able to scratch it! Frog is too slimy, lizard is too prickly, and silly old monkey is just too silly to be of any help at all. Fortunately bird, though small, is clever, and knows just what to do to solve a pesky itch. Sure the “size doesn’t matter” has been done countless times before, but it’s always worth repeating. There are a few movement scenes that are fun to act out, and the brief, limited text and sweet illustrations make this a pretty OK choice for a wiggly, impatient story time crowd.

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise

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Everyone knows that owls are wise, but Hoot Owl is also a master of disguise! A hungry night hunter, Hoot Owl sets his sights on several tasty meals, including a bunny, a bird and a sheep. His disguises, however, leave a little something to be desired! But Hoot Owl isn’t one to give up easily, and eventually his persistence pays off with the best dinner ever! This is a sweet story about a little creature who doesn’t let his failures dent his optimism. The text is a bit long for my group, but it’s easy enough to shorten it to suit a wiggly audience (pro tip – I’m always adapting my picture books to meet the needs of different audiences. The kids aren’t reading along with me anyway – they’re too busy staring intently at the pictures!). We had some great conversations about being persistence, having self-confidence, and never giving him, which are always worth having!

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Carrie

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The back cover warned me of a tale “gruesome, gory and horrifying”, but while the deeds of telekinetic teenager Carrie are indeed violent, the text left me more saddened than horrified. Even if you haven’t read this early Stephen King novel, you’re likely familiar with the general story – Carrie is a plain teenage girl who’s bullied and tormented both at home and at school. Her mother, who is clearly insane and gripped by a violent religious mania, locks Carrie in a dark closet for perceived transgressions, and abuses her verbally, emotionally and psychologically, as well as physically. Unable to fit in with other teenagers, Carrie’s peers mock her mercilessly, taunting her and driving her to despair. Eventually something has to give, and a truly terrible act of bullying causes Carrie to snap and exact a terrible vengeance that leaves swathes of destruction in its wake.

Carrie is in no way a subtle book – King wields his distaste for religion like a club, beating readers over the head with his “religion is evil!” sentiments. Whether or not you share his point of view, the lack of subtlety can be tiring. I get it, Mr. King, Carrie’s mother is a religious fanatic. Yeesh.

Still, Carrie’s experiences are so harrowing that you can’t help but feel sorry for her. There’s no condoning acts of violence, whatever their motivation, but you can see how years of ceaseless torment with no outlet or support could cause an individual to become “unhinged”, and to lash out at a world they see as cruel and uncaring. While Carrie is a fictional character, and her actions are outlandish, with a supernatural element, there are countless young people out there like Carrie who are mistreated at home and / or at school, and who feel that there is no way out, no way to end their suffering.

Carrie is a short novel and a quick read, but its depictions of abuse, both at school and at home, are harrowing, and could be upsetting for some readers. Hopefully, though, it might just inspire people to take a harder look at their own treatment of others, and to consider how their actions (or lack thereof) might impact the people around them.

Have a great week, everyone!

#IMWAYR – June 6, 2016

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share recommended (or not so recommended….) titles, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

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The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk

It’s no secret that I love singable picture books, so I’m always on the lookout for new stories to add to my collection and use in my story times. This lively picture books puts a fun new spin on the classic children’s song The Wheels on the Bus by placing it in a colourful, bustling Indian setting. The text is rousing and bouncing, though perhaps a little long for my story times. Still, it’s easy enough to skip a page or two to shorten the text without losing any of the fun. Definitely worth taking a look at, especially for the joyous illustrations – check out the impressive size of the moo-moo cow!

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Baa-Baa Smart Sheep

This dryly funny little picture book features a clever sheep who relieves its boredom by playing mind games with a slightly dim-witted turkey. The dialogue is sharp and witty, and the exchanges between the two characters would make for an effective elementary school read-aloud, but ewwwww….. just …..ewwwww…..this is certainly not a title for those with an aversion to potty humour or bodily functions, I’ll just leave it at that!

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Hoot Owl: Master of Disguise

“I am Hoot Owl!

I am very, very hungry.

And here I come!

The shadowy night stretches away forever, as black as burnt toast.”

A charming protagonist with unshakeable optimism and endless persistence, wonderfully striking illustrations with bold lines and an eye-catching palette, and a perfect amount of repetition make this a fantastic picture book for young readers. Sweet, silly, endearing, and lots of fun.

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Two is Enough

Families come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and this rhyming picture book is dedicated to families of two – whether it’s a parent and a child, or a grandparent and a grandchild, these small families have just as much love in them as a family of any other size. Cheerful illustrations and a gentle, reassuring text celebrate the loving everyday experiences of families of two.

Where Things Come Back

I’ll be honest, I don’t read a lot of young adult fiction. It wasn’t my jam when I was a young adult, and it’s just not my jam now. Being a teenager wasn’t the best or easiest time in my life, so I’m not really in any hurry to relive it! But every once in a while I come across a young adult novel that knocks my socks right off, and makes me rethink my assumptions about what teen fiction is capable of. Where Things Come Back is one of those novels. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely has elements of a coming-of-age, where-do-I-fit-in story line. But in John Corey Whaley’s hands, these potentially tired tropes become something much more. There are two major story lines that run along side each other before finally intersecting in a dramatic and surreal conclusion – one features teenager Cullen, whose younger brother has suddenly disappeared, while the other follows a young missionary and his shattering crisis of faith.  This is a strange, complex, weird and wonderful novel that challenges any preconceived notions you might have about teen fiction, and argues that fiction written for and about young people can be as thought-provoking, meaningful, and nuanced as any adult novel.