Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Must Read in 2018



When I first started thinking about composing my #mustread list for 2018, I feared that it was going to be more difficult than usual, as it did not seem like I had marked too many upcoming books or prepared well. Once I started going through my stack of ARCs, looking over my Goodreads list, and seeing end of year posts, I found that my problem has been not in coming up with great books, but in narrowing it down. This may be my longest list yet, with 42 books, but I am excited about a wonderful year of reading!

Most of my titles are middle grade fiction, although there are a few YA books mixed in. Several are new 2018 releases, although many are books that I have missed reading during the past couple of years.


  • Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar
  • Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
  • Bat and the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold
  • Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
  • Breakout by Kate Messner
  • Chasing Augustus by Kimberly Newton Fusco (1/2/18)
  • Checked by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Code of Honor by Alan Gratz
  • Code Word Courage by Kirby Larson
  • Everything I Know About You by Barbara Dee
  • The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner
  • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart
  • Granted by John David Anderson
  • Grump by Liesl Shurtliff
  • Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee
  • Hope in the Holler by Lisa Lewis Tyre (1/6/18)
  • I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
  • The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Just Dance by Patricia MacLachlan
  • Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
  • Knockout by K. A. Holt
  • Loser's Bracket by Chris Crutcher
  • One Amazing Elephant by Linda Oatman High (1/6/18)
  • The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (1/14/18)
  • The Perfect Score by Rob Buyea
  • Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein by Jennifer Roy
  • Rebound by Kwame Alexander
  • A Pup Called Trouble by Bobbie Pyron
  • Scythe by Neal Shusterman
  • In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner
  • The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore (1/13/18)
  • Sunny by Jason Reynolds
  • Supergifted by Gordon Korman
  • Tradition by Brendan Kiely
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (1/2/18)
  • The Van Gogh Deception by Deron R. Hicks
  • Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
  • We Were Here by Matt de la Pena
  • The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown
  • Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
  • You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly
My other reading goal involves keeping better notes on some of the books I read. I find that I read quickly and am struggling to keep information straight when I am making recommendations to students down the road. I am working on a journal to help me out in this area. 

I look forward to viewing the lists of other participants and to sharing an exciting year of books. Thank you so much to Carrie Gelson for hosting this group.  Happy reading in 2018!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Must Read in 2017 - List Completed!


In 2017, I created a list of 35 #mustread books, which I just completed with only a few days to go! I am definitely a list maker in most areas of life, and I enjoy having a reading list to guide me as I begin each new year. I tend to make great progress on this list early in the year, and then I slow down as new books pop up and the state award lists are released. This year was no exception, as I followed my typical reading pattern. My list is below:

                                                   

  • Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson (2/26/17)
  • Another Brooklyn by Jaqueline Woodson (2/20/17)
  • The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey (5/31/17)
  • Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder (2/25/17)
  • A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold (4/6/17)
  • Compass South by Hope Larson (2/25/17)
  • Flying Lessons by Ellen Oh (3/1/17)
  • The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson (3/5/17)
  • Gone Camping by Tamera Will Wissinger (5/2/17)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (3/15/17)
  • Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (2/5/17)
  • House Arrest by K. A. Holt (2/12/17)
  • Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks (2/1/17)
  • Liberty by Kirby Larson (3/27/17)
  • Payback by Gordon Korman (3/12/17)
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt (1/23/17)
  • Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (11/10/17)
  • My Life with the Liars by Caela Carter (2/23/17)
  • The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby (12/27/17)
  • Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (4/15/17)
  • Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter (2/21/17)
  • The Playbook by Kwame Alexander (1/14/17)
  • Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz (1/28/17)
  • A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins (5/21/17)
  • Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart (1/24/17)
  • Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes (2/5/17)
  • Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2/10/17)
  • Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (1/17/17)
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (2/17/17)
  • Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix (5/27/17)
  • The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (2/1/17)
  • The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli (2/11/17)
  • When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (2/18/17)
  • The World From Up Here by Cecilia Galante (1/7/17)
  • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (3/8/17)
I enjoy being part of the #mustread community, and I know it helps me to pause and create a reading list at the beginning of each new year. Thank you to Carrie Gelson for hosting. I always look forward to checking out lists and progress of others, while gaining new titles for myself. I did miss part of my reading goal that I shared last year, which was to use a journal to write about my reading. I started out doing this with little consistency, and eventually gave it up completely. This is going to be a priority on next year's list!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Must Read in 2017 - Spring Update, April 6



January and February are usually really good reading months for me, partially due to the fact that I am not a fan of cold weather and would be happy to stay in and read for the entire two months if I could! I have made great progress on my Must Read list, sitting at 28 of 35 at the present time. My updated list is below:

  • Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson (2/26/17)
  • Another Brooklyn by Jaqueline Woodson (2/20/17)
  • The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey
  • Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder (2/25/17)
  • A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold (4/6/17)
  • Compass South by Hope Larson (2/25/17)
  • Flying Lessons by Ellen Oh (3/1/17)
  • The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson (3/5/17)
  • Gone Camping by Tamera Will Wissinger
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (3/15/17)
  • Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (2/5/17)
  • House Arrest by K. A. Holt (2/12/17)
  • Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks (2/1/17)
  • Liberty by Kirby Larson (3/27/17)
  • Payback by Gordon Korman (3/12/17)
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt (1/23/17)
  • Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
  • My Life with the Liars by Caela Carter (2/23/17)
  • The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby
  • Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
  • Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter (2/21/17)
  • The Playbook by Kwame Alexander (1/14/17)
  • Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz (1/28/17)
  • A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins
  • Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart (1/24/17)
  • Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes (2/5/17)
  • Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2/10/17)
  • Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (1/17/17)
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (2/17/17)
  • Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (2/1/17)
  • The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli (2/11/17)
  • When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (2/18/17)
  • The World From Up Here by Cecilia Galante (1/7/17)
  • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (3/8/17)

With a list like this one, it is almost difficult to identify favorites, as nearly all of these books have been highly recommended and they usually live up to the hype. Even with a list of exceptional books, there are still a few that stand out to me.

A Boy Called Bat
Wow, don't miss this one! You can see into Bat's heart and you will grow to love him! It is truly written in a way that children can look through that window and see life through Bat's eyes, and many will share his love for animals. I think it is an exceptional book!

The Hate You Give
I listened to the audio version of this one, which is such an important and relevant book for anyone living in our country today. I highly recommend the audio version if you enjoy listening to books!

My Life With the Liars
I could hardly put this one down once I got started reading it. It is a fascinating look into Zylynn's world after being removed from a compound where she had not been treated well. To most readers it would seem like she should be relieved to have a new start, but she is very unsure of her new family, home, and surroundings.

Payback
I have adored the Masterminds series, and this final one was no exception. This has also been a hit among my middle grade students, with many eager readers signing up to be the next person to check it out. 

Scar Island
This one is fast-paced and packed with actions. I have had many middle grade students who have loved it! It reels them in and holds their attention. When our 4th/5th grade book club discussed it, there were several wishing for a sequel!

Once the state award lists have been released around the first of March, my reading from this list always slows down a great deal, but I look forward to completing the rest of these titles and catching up on what other #mustreadin2017 participants have read. 


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Must Read in 2017


Here we are in a New Year! I am usually not one to make resolutions, but I do like to make reading goals. Last year I was one book shy of meeting my #mustread goal, reading 39 of 40. I had broken it up into New Releases, Books I've Missed, and Classics. This year I had a little more trouble making the list. It is certainly not that I don't have a large amount of books to read, but I think I was just a little less organized going into this project. After working on it off and on for a few days, I composed a list of 35 books.

Most of the books I have chosen this year are books that have been previously published, with a few upcoming 2017 releases mixed in. Many came from my own Goodreads "to read" list, while some I added after reading other #mustread updates. One thing that I want to do this year is to begin keeping a reading journal. I don't plan to write a great deal about each book, but I feel like I read so many books during the year that I really lose track of the characters and important details. I am hoping that keeping a few notes will help me to remember so that I can better help readers in their search for that perfect book!

My list for 2017:

  • Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson (2/26/17)
  • Another Brooklyn by Jaqueline Woodson (2/20/17)
  • The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey (5/31/17)
  • Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schroder (2/25/17)
  • A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold (4/6/17)
  • Compass South by Hope Larson (2/25/17)
  • Flying Lessons by Ellen Oh (3/1/17)
  • The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson (3/5/17)
  • Gone Camping by Tamera Will Wissinger (5/2/17)
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (3/15/17)
  • Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (2/5/17)
  • House Arrest by K. A. Holt (2/12/17)
  • Jumping the Scratch by Sarah Weeks (2/1/17)
  • Liberty by Kirby Larson (3/27/17)
  • Payback by Gordon Korman (3/12/17)
  • Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt (1/23/17)
  • Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke (11/10/17)
  • My Life with the Liars by Caela Carter (2/23/17)
  • The Nine Lives of Jacob Tibbs by Cylin Busby (12/27/17)
  • Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder (4/15/17)
  • Piper Green and the Fairy Tree by Ellen Potter (2/21/17)
  • The Playbook by Kwame Alexander (1/14/17)
  • Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz (1/28/17)
  • A Rambler Steals Home by Carter Higgins (5/21/17)
  • Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart (1/24/17)
  • Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes (2/5/17)
  • Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan (2/10/17)
  • Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (1/17/17)
  • The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau (2/17/17)
  • Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix (5/27/17)
  • The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (2/1/17)
  • The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli (2/11/17)
  • When the Sea Turned to Silver by Grace Lin (2/18/17)
  • The World From Up Here by Cecilia Galante (1/7/17)
  • When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds (3/8/17)
I look forward to jumping in and having a great year of reading. Happy 2017 and happy reading!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Must Read in 2016 - Final Update



I really enjoy being a part of the #MustReadin... community. Reading is certainly the hobby that fills a vast part of my free time, and I love having a goal with a checkoff list. I thank Carrie Gelson for organizing this, sharing posts, and sending reminders. In the past two years that I have taken part, I have immediately begun the new year reading as many books from my list as I can get my hands on, only changing gears a bit when our state's new award lists are announced and I focus on those titles. 

This year, my goal was to read 40 books, and I started out strong. At the time of the April update, I was well on my way with 26 of the 40 read. The link to my update post is below:

I slowed down a little after that, with the end of school, a daughter graduating, but as summer began I enjoyed more free time being able to participate in #bookaday. On June 20, everything came to a screeching halt. Early that morning I received a call that my son, who was running with his cross country team, had been hit by a semi truck. Certainly our lives were turned upside down for the months to follow. Over a three month period he went through eight surgeries along with countless hours in the hospital and rehabilitation center over 120 miles from our home. We are very grateful that he continues down what is definitely a long road to recovery, and has returned to many of his normal activities.

Anyone who knows me would assume that I spent many of those hours of waiting with my head in a book, and I often tried, but I must say that I rarely moved more than a couple of pages, and then I wouldn't remember what I read. I fought it for a while, and finally realized the only reading that was happening for me during that time was picture books, so I did read picture books, and several of them, but I definitely took a long break from any type of novel. I also missed out on reading updates from others and taking part in many chats, book clubs, etc. I tried to stay in touch with a few contacts, but my time and focus was obviously spent elsewhere.

In September, I got back into my groove as life became somewhat more normal, and I began reading more like I normally do. It was interesting how many books became mirrors after the experiences of our summer that might not have been before. 

These two sets of books that I read in 2016. The first set includes new releases, and the second set was made up of books I had missed.
I added a new component to my 2016 goal, setting out to read four classics, three of which were rereads. This is where is just missed my goal! I read three of the four. The one I missed was Treasure Island, which is the one I had never read. I am hoping to get to it soon!

Many of these books I have listened to the audio version. While I believe I have always been more of a visual learner, I have become a huge fan of audio books and listen to one or two per week.

From the new releases, a few of my favorites are below:









Each of these five books had characters and stories that stayed with me. I would classify all of them as heartprint books for me. I had the awesome experience of skyping with Nora Raleigh Baskin along with some of my book club members from school. Talking to her about her work on Nine, Ten was truly an amazing experience for us! We are hosting Sarah Weeks at our school in April, and I cannot wait to hear her tell more about Save Me a Seat and her experiences in writing it with her co-author.

From the set of books I had missed reading, the one that stood out to me most was Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson. I listened to the audio version, which was amazing, so I continued with trilogy, and was captivated by all of them. While I have read many books about slavery, I have not read hardly any from this time period.
Image result for chains forge ashes laurie halse anderson g

From the classics I read, Peter Pan was fun as it used to be a favorite of my own children. The one that stood out to me most was Heidi. Many years ago, I convinced my grandma to let me take her old copy of Heidi. I didn't read it for years, but I loved it when I finally did, and even more this time. I think Heidi is an absolutely delightful character.
Image result for peter pan bookHeidi

I have enjoyed looking back over my own reading, and am happy to report that I read 39 of the 40 titles. I look forward to seeing everyone else's updates before we begin 2017.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Books From Our Grandma

As a child, I spent a great deal of time at my grandparents' house. I was one of ten grandchildren, and we were all welcomed to make ourselves at home there, and we did. My cousin Pam and I loved to explore the entire house, yard, and barn. Some of my happiest childhood memories took place there.

With Pam being my older cousin, she was somewhat of a role model for me, and I usually wanted to do the things she was doing. On one particular occasion, Pam had arrived there at our grandparents' home before me, and she had done a little exploring on her own. She had been down in the basement digging through some boxes in the storage area, where she had come upon some of Grandma's old books. She was proud to show me old worn copies of Bambi and Bambi's Children. But that wasn't all, she shared with excitement in her voice. Grandma had told her she could keep them, to have for her own! I am sure Pam saw the look of envy developing on my face, because she quickly followed by telling me that she was sure I could pick one too. We charged down to the boxes and dug around until I picked a somewhat tattered copy of Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Soon after, we bounded upstairs to see if Grandma would let me keep one too.

I should share a few bits of information at this point. Grandma loved to read and almost always kept a book that she was reading in the living room. Pam loved to read, and often told me about the books she was reading. I also loved books, but at this point I was very young. I honestly don't remember how old I was, but I am going to guess around five. I had lots of books, but they were mostly picture books. My mom read to me most nights before bed, even though she wasn't a reader herself. I loved to look through and "read" my books, but I wasn't really a reader at that point, unless it was a very simple book. The book I had chosen not only had no pictures, but it didn't even have a cute cover like some copies of Heidi do now. This one was old, frayed, and brown.

From the moment the adults in the room saw the book I had chosen, I was encouraged to find another one. Looking back, my mom was probably hoping I'd go back and choose a shorter one! I remember asking Grandma if she had liked the book. Well, yes, she said, she had. So I asked her what it was about. I don't think I really even listened very well to her answer, but they laughed when I told them that I was very interested in both Heidi and goats! So, just like Pam, I had one of Grandma's books.

This is the point where I really wish the story was different. I wish I could say that my mom read from that book every night until we finished it, but that was not the case. I wish I could say that I had Grandma read it to me every time I visited, but that didn't happen either. I am going to be truthful when I say that I don't think I really cared much at that point about Heidi's story or reading that book. Now don't get me wrong, I WANTED that book! I wanted to own one of Grandma's books, and I loved showing it to everyone and telling people that she gave it to me. I wanted to be the same type of reader that she was, and to be able to read the same books she did. I even wanted to be like Pam, who was enjoying the books that she got from our grandma. Even though I would have never admitted it to anyone, I really wasn't ready for that book right then, nor was I really even that excited to read it. What was exciting to me was skipping around the house with it that day, showing it off to the other cousins, aunts, uncles, and anyone else I saw. I was proud to take it home and keep it on my book shelf and show friends, but it was a long time before I ever actually read that book.

I think of this experience of my own sometimes as teachers, librarians, and parents debate about book levels, good fit books, and what is appropriate for kids. The right book for a kid can be many things, but not always the things that we may be considering. I don't think you could find an educator who would have agreed that Heidi was the right book for me at that time, and in a lot of ways they would have been right, but I don't think there was ever another book I was so excited to receive or one that made me want to become a reader so much.

My grandma, Norma Keen Edmison, passed away on Friday, July 15, 2016, but she will always hold a special place in my heart. Years after she shared her book Heidi, she loaned some of her other books to me, and I shared some of mine with her. I would often search to find a book to give her for her birthday or Christmas. At one point, her failing eyesight made reading difficult, and she began reading on a Nook so that she could enlarge the print. I don't think a birthday or Christmas went by that we didn't get her a gift card to buy books. I am grateful for many experiences with her, but our shared love of books is one I celebrate today.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Spring Update - #Must Read in 2016

I have read and listened to several great books so far in 2016. Of my forty books on my #mustreadin2016 list, twenty-six are checked off. It is typical for me to do more reading than usual during the month of January, because I have extra time at home, including a few days remaining at the end of winter break. I am by not a fan of cold weather or the shortened daylight hours, and if it's below freezing I seriously leave my house as little as possible! So, even though we only managed to score one snow day, I hit my list pretty hard, reading fifteen of those titles.  That pace dropped dramatically in February (four books), March (six books), and April (1 book, so far!) as my life became busier and I began reading some books from our upcoming state award list.  I have kept track of the dates for each book I read on my original post:  http://mrssimpsonreading.blogspot.com/2016/01/must-read-in-2016.html

Some of my favorites are below:
  • Historical Fiction:  Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban. Manami's story broke my heart. I really had not read or learned much about Japanese prison camps until very recently, and this is a touching book.  Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton, which is written in verse, is an amazing story about Mimi, who stands up for herself during the late sixties. My student readers who have taken this book have loved it!  Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, was another book that showed me a new perspective. Isabelle and her sister Ruth, who are slaves during the American Revolution, face cruel treatment and horrible living conditions after their owner dies and they are sold.
  • Beautiful Writing: The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd. I was fortunate to be part of a group that read this book while adding short notes about our thoughts on it as we went. Then we passed the book on to the next person through the mail. It was an amazing journey, and made a beautiful book even more special while sharing it with friends. 
  • Best Audio Book(s):  Masterminds: Criminal Destiny by Gordon Kormon. I love this story, and in this audio version, I believe the different voices make it even better if possible. It is full of mystery and action. I will also say that even though I thought I had it all figured out, it still threw me for a loop!  Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle is another excellent audiobook, narrated by the author himself, and he really brings Nate's character to life.
  • Books I Expected to Be Great:  Booked by Kwame Alexander. I loved The Crossover, and this one did not disappoint! I enjoyed the format and the story, and I think kids are going to fall hard for it too!  Pax by Sarah Pennypacker made my day one Saturday when an ARC arrived by surprise in the mail. I could not put it down! As a dog owner and lover, this one touched my heart.
  • One of My Favorite Characters: All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor. I adore Perry and his friendship with Zoey. What a wise young man!
  • Great Read Aloud:  Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks. This book alternates between two narrators, Joe and Ravi. I was really drawn into both of their stories and liked watching them become woven together. We will be getting a copy of this book for each of our intermediate grade classrooms at school for the 2016-17 school year.
  • Biggest Surprise: Death By Toilet Paper by Donna Gephart. While this book contains some humor, the storyline is much more serious than the cover may lead you to believe. Ben and his mother are facing hard times financially as they try to recover from the impact of the death of his father. 
I am looking forward to reading the rest of the titles on the list and seeing updates from other participants. Excitement bubbles as my summer break is quickly approaching (last day - May 16!), which means much more time for reading!