Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of the Semester

I cannot believe that this semester is over!  I’ve read 84 Children’s Lit books in just over 15 weeks.  I’ve read books that I have loved, and books that I have loved to hate.

For this re-cap post, I have borrowed from another KidLit meme and have created a list of my Top Ten Books of the semester.

How did I choose?

I rifled through my GoodReads shelf for Children’s Lit and realized I read a lot of amazing books.  I had no idea how to narrow this list to just ten,.  I started by sorting my GoodReads shelf by my rating.  I apparently found over 20 books 5 star worthy.

I then decided that since I have read a wonderful collection of picture books and novels, I wanted to highlight five of my favorites from each group.  I chose books that I have not stopped talking about, that I have shared with others and that I have bought for others.  I’ve also included some I knew I had to have a copy of for my classroom.

And here they are……

The Picture Books

  • The Adventures of Beekle:  An Unimaginary Friend, by Dan Santat

This is my hands down favorite picture book of the semester.  Beekle’s art style, different take on the story of an imaginary friend, and the many layers to the story make Beekle a #1 in my book.  I ended up checking it out 3 times from my local library before I bought it.  I have shared my copy with students, family friends, and other teachers.  I also have purchased this book for more than one person too!

  • The Day The Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I had heard a lot about this book from many of my classmates’ blogs.  Everyone said it was an original book with excellent illustrations.  Well, they were right!  I checked this out from my local library and shared it with a 5th grader I was tutoring.  We both really enjoyed the illustrations that mix drawn images with photos.  The story of the crayons, and the demands they make, is a new thing to me too.  This is a great book and sparks discussion and enjoyment. 

  • Press Here, by Herve Tullett

press herePress Here is a fairly simple picture book with a simple premise.  You follow the directions and literally “press here”.  The interactive nature of the book was something I had not really experienced before.  There is no book I read that was so effective in creating reader-book interactions.  I loved the primary colors of the illustrations and the fun actions you do as you interact with the book.  This was such a fun book that my nephew will be Pressing Here all day on Christmas! 

  • So You Want to Be President?, by Judith St. George and David Small

SoYouWantToBePresidentThis is one for my history nerd self.  This book has amazing illustrations, especially some very creative images of our presidents.  This nonfiction picture book gives us all some amazing facts about the presidents of our country.  These include some of the “normal” facts as well as the crazy, unknown facts.  This book is in the top ten because it shares information and shows that history does not have to be boring!

  • Separate Is Never Equal:  Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

SeparateIsNeverEqual-SibertThe final picture book on the list is another nonfiction picture book.  I have to say I had never heard the story of Sylvia Mendez and her fight for inclusion.  The artist’s style of illustrations were amazing.  I honestly first chose this book based on its cover!  Tonatiuh’s telling of the Mendez family’s fight for education is poignant, simply explained, and thought provoking.  This is one I will have for my classroom and one that everyone should read.

The Novels

  • The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate

IvanThe One and Only “required” novel this term was The One and Only Ivan – a Newbery winner.  This is probably my number 1 new novel I read this semester.  I laughed with Ivan and his friends, I cried with them, and I was stirred to share this amazing work with others.  I read a couple of chapters to a classroom of 8th graders and they were silent and paid attention.  If a novel can bring a group of 8th grade students to a stand still and have them be quiet for an extended period of time, it deserves a honored place in every classroom.

  • Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate

b7214-crenshaw_finalThe week we read Ivan I was surfing the KidLit-o-sphere for more information about Katherine Applegate and stumbled across reviews, interviews, and lots of praise for her new novel Crenshaw.  This story delves into the mind of its main character just as much as Ivan did.  Katherine Applegate is the master of making me cry with just a few simple words.  This book also deals with issues of poverty and homelessness.  One thing I have found interesting is the Crenshaw food drives that have been spurred by the book across the nation.  Read Crenshaw. 

  • The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis

watsons go to birminghamI expected this historical fiction novel to be amazing.  My professor recommended it, so I bought it.  The day I cracked into it, I was transported into the world of the Crazy Watsons.  I was really surprised that this Newbery book did not spend the entire novel describing and delving into the Birmingham church bombing.  Rather, Curtis creates a family like any other family, and makes us care about each member of the family.  He then pushes us to explore senseless violence and how it impacts everyone.  It definitely gives you something to think about.

  • I Survived:  The Shark Attacks of 1916, by Lauren Tarshis

ISurvivedSharkAnother work of historical fiction, this is the second book in the I Survived series.  This tells a story that centers around New Jersey shark attacks in 1916.  These sharks strayed up the river into fresh water and attacked people during the summer of 1916.  I loved this book because it allowed me to get deeper into the mind of a young boy who wasn’t quite accepted by his peers.  This book also has suspense and action.  My 5th grader (see “Crayons”) recommended this to me and she picked a great one to share!

  • Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli

This novel is one that has stayed in my mind.  Maniac Magee is a young boy who doesn’t belong on either side of town – the white side or the black side.  Spinelli crafts an intense story that examines the uneasiness we feel when faced with someone unlike ourselves  One thing that I really loved about this novel is that I often found myself forgetting what race Maniac was.  I know that sounds simple, but Spinelli crafted characters who were so true to life that their race did not matter.

There’s my list.  What did you put on your list?  Would you have picked something different off my list to highlight?  Let’s talk below….


IMWAYR – Challenge Week 10

This is my last, official #imwayr post of the semester.  ItsMondayGraphic

We read Challenge books for 10  weeks.  This is the final, official challenge week, but I know I’ll keep working on it, so stay tuned!  To learn more about my challenge, and to view my list of books, head over to the 100 Children’s Book tab at the top of the page!

For my final, official week, I have read 1 chapter book and 5 (yes, 5!) picture books.  Why so many picture books?  It is because bunch of them just came in at the library this past week!

The Picture Books

In the Challenge list, the Curious George book had a number of stories contained in one book.  To stay true to my intent, I chose to read three different George books and count them as one Curious George book off of my Challenge List.

Curious George, by H.A. Rey is the original story about that monkey and his curiosity, the man in the yellow hat, and an introduction to the simple style of H.A. Rey.



Curious George Gets a Medal, by H.A. Rey tells us about George’s mistakes as he tries to clean up his mess.  He just wants to make the man in the yellow hat happy, yet he always seems to mess something up!


Curious George Takes a Train, by Margret & H.A. Rey details all the trouble that our favorite monkey gets into while the man in the yellow hat goes to buy train tickets.


I liked reading these books.  I never was a huge Curious George fan as a kid, but the illustrations and sentence structure really brought me back to times when I watched Reading Rainbow.


See – a Reading Rainbow Book!

Speaking of Reading Rainbow, I read another book that was featured on that show.  Caps for Sale:  A Tale of  a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business, by Esphyr Slobodkina is a silly story about a man who wears a bunch of hats on his head.  He falls asleep under a tree and the monkeys (silly monkeys) all come steal his hats.  The man discovers the mischief and eventually gets his hats back.  And I bet he never sleeps with the hats on his head again!  This would be an interesting book to read with students and have them imagine what they would do to get the hats back


The final picture book I read was Corduroy, by Don Freeman, tells us the story of a toy bear who just wants to go home with a child.  One night he takes an adventure throughout the department store to try and find his missing button.  He is purchased by the young girl the next day and she takes him home to fix his button.  This is a cute story that all kids would love.

The Novel

This week’s novel is another “old favorite” book.  From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L Konigsburg, is the story of runaways Claudia and James Kincaid, and their adventures while they lived within the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  They hide out in the museum for a week, living off of their savings,, and uncover the mystery of a statue called Angel.  Who sculpted this statue?  Was it the famous Michelangelo?

Claudia and Jamie’s adventure leads them to the most recent owner of the statue, Mrs. Basil E. Frenkweiler.  She becomes a semi-co-conspirator in their adventure, and the Kincaid children learn the truth about the statue.

I’ll be honest, I thought more of the book took place in Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’s crazy filing system.  But alas, it did not.  I guess that’s what looking back 20 years without reading a book will do to the old memory!  I think this would be a great book to read with middle grades or upper elementary students.  It would be cool to even integrate art history lessons into the unit!

Well, that’s it for this semester’s Challenge books.  What did I not read that I definitely should read?  Which books should Santa bring me to read?  Let’s talk below…

IMWAYR – Challenge Week 9

ItsMondayGraphicThis week I have been reading more books on my Challenge list!  To learn more about my challenge, and to view my list of books, head over to the 100 Children’s Book tab at the top of the page!

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was filled with good food, good company, and some reading!  Here’s what I read this week off of my Challenge list.

The Novel

This week I read The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster.  This novel is the story of Milo’s adventures in a crazy world filled with King Azaz of Dictionopolis, the Mathamagician of Digitopolis, the Princesses Rime and Reason, a time-keeping dog Tock, and a giant Humbug.  He goes through extraordinary measures to bring peace to this world.  Along the way, he learns to look at his world a little differently.  He returns eager to discover the world around him.

I’m not going to lie – I thought this book was just as confusing and odd as the old cartoon version.  There were a number of times in the beginning that I thought the author spent too much time describing things.  The ending was super compacted – like he just rushed through the last 25 or 30 pages.

Did you see the 1970 movie?

All in all, I’d say this is a three star book.  I’d recommend it for reading during read aloud time or as an exercise in descriptive language.  You could even have students read/listen to it and then illustrate based on the text.

The Picture Book

One of the cool things I got to do over break was go to the bookstore and buy some of my favorite books from this semester as Christmas gifts.  Great fun!  I bought this one for my youngest niece, but read it before I wrapped it  (shhh….don’t tell)

Pat the Zoo allows young ones to explore the textures of different animals at the zoo.  There is the fluffy lion mane, the scaly turtle shell, and (my favorite) the sticky frog tongue!  This is going to be so much fun for my niece, especially as she begins to explore the world with her hands!

Well, that’s what I read over Thanksgiving week.  How about you?  Did you read anything good?

I have only 2 Challenge Weeks left….what is a must read that hasn’t been read?

Let’s talk below….

IMWAYR – Challenge Week 8

ItsMondayGraphicThis week I two more Challenge books and then spoiled myself and read a choice book!  To learn more about my challenge, and to view my list of books, head over to the 100 Children’s Book tab at the top of the page!

The Challenge Books

This week’s Challenge picture book was one that I have been waiting to read for nearly a month!  Llama Llama Red Pajama, by Anna Dewdney, was a cute picture book about young Llama Llama heading off to bed.  However, he keeps getting scared.  He calls for his Llama Mama, but she doesn’t come right away.

This is an amazing little book filled with rhymes and gorgeous illustrations.  Also, the amazing line, “Please stop all this llama drama and be patient for your mama.”  Llama Drama!

My Challenge novel this week was a re-read for me.  Mr. Popper’s Penguins, by Richard Atwater and Florence Atwater, is the tale of an out of season house painter who receives an amazing package from his favorite Antarctic explorer.  Mr. Popper and his family embark on an amazing journey of having a penguin, then a second, then a whole family!

I know I read this in 5th grade.  I remember that I liked it then, but I didn’t remember much about the plot.  I liked this book overall.  However, there is a twist in the plot that left me loudly questioning the book.  My husband actually had to ask if I was okay.

Spoiling Myself

I have a couple of books lined up to read over Thanksgiving.  But I needed to read something else, so I decided to spoil myself.  I have bought a lot of books this semester that I haven’t read yet.  I grabbed one of those and was very happy with my choice.

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate (author of The One and Only Ivan), is the story of Jackson and his family, and Jackson’s imaginary friend Crenshaw.  Crenshaw is a giant cat with coloring just like a penguin, fingers instead of paws, and wisdom for his kid.

Jackson’s family is going through financial difficulties.  This is not the first time Jackson remembers becoming homeless.  As he realizes that they are going to bed hungry more often, his childhood imaginary friend Crenshaw shows up.  Jackson is “much too mature” to have an imaginary friend, but Crenshaw persists.

It was an amazing tale that focuses on this young boy who is trying to be strong and responsible so as not to worry his parents.  This is an honest portrait of a family who is facing difficulties, a young boy who is trying to be mature and handle things that are actually very, very difficult, and the comfort that we can find in our imaginary, and not so imaginary, friends.

So that is it for this week.  Have you read any of these?  Which picture books off my Challenge List do I need to make SURE I read?  What did you read this week?  Let’s talk below…

IMWAYR – Challenge Week 7

ItsMondayGraphicThis week I have been reading more books on my Challenge list!  To learn more about my challenge, and to view my list of books, head over to the 100 Children’s Book tab at the top of the page!

I cannot believe we have been reading challenge books for 7 weeks now!  I felt like I was making a dent in my Amazon’s 100 Greatest Children’s Books challenge, but now I’m not so sure.

I only read 2 books this week, but they were both new to me.  I haven’t been great about estimating how much time a novel will take me to read, so even though I only read 1 picture book and 1 novel, I count this week as a success since I read more than 4 hours.

Now without further ado….

Olivia the Pig, by Ian Falconer, was a cute story of…you guessed it….Olivia the pig!  Fun illustrations added to this picture book’s introduction to Miss Olivia.  This is a book I will happily buy for all my nieces and nephews!


My novel this week was A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle, was also a new one for me.  This is the story of Meg, Calvin, and Charles Wallace.  They are carried through a time wrinkle by Mrs. Who, Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which.  They travel to the planet Camazotz to save Meg’s father from IT – a disembodied brain who controls the inhabitants of his world. 

Honestly, I thought the book was going to be about time travel on Earth.  However, the integration of science, theory of matter, time travel, alternate worlds, was something I wasn’t expecting.  There were parts of this novel that dragged for me – namely the time they are traveling through the wrinkles to Camazotz.

Madeline L’Engle’s Newbery winner certainly has a complicated plot.  But the characters are what makes the story for me.  Meg is a frustrated, angry, compassionate, scared, and mainly REAL girl.  I can totally relate to her.  And, she gets to be the hero!  She is the one who saves everyone!  It is her “flaws” that are the qualities needed to save her family.

All of that is worth a 3 star rating to me.  However, then I read the afterward section.  It started with a biography of Madeline L’Engle written by her granddaughter.  She talked about how the author wrote the book for herself, struggled to find a publisher, read extensively in scientific literature, and was a generally fun grandma!  Then this 50th Anniversary Edition had a copy of the last interview that L’Engle gave before her death.  Her frank answers, and surprising comments, showed her personality to me.  Finally, as with many Newbery books, it included her Newbery acceptance speech.  Once again, I was amazed at the strength and forward thinking of this amazing author.  My connection to the author through these extras edged the book into the 4 star zone!

So, there you have it.  A cute picture book with illustrations.  A Newbery that is made by the stories of the author.  Next week….a picture book that I’ve had on hold FOREVER is finally in at the library!  Also, a re-read novel from my childhood.  Will it hold up?

Have you read these two books?  Have ideas for my next reads?  Let’s talk below….

IMWAYR – Challenge Week 5

ItsMondayGraphicI can’t believe that we’ve been reading challenge books for 5 weeks!?!  Want to know about my Challenge?  Check out the 100 Children’s Books tab above.  Want to hear my mid-challenge thoughts?  Check out my Challenge Check In post!

This week has not quite gone as planned in terms of my challenge reading.  It was Parent/Teacher Conference Week at work (more time working = less time to read), the wind has been crazy (leading to headaches), and I started a “Second 8 Week” class for school.  No, it’s not an excuse, but it’s an explanation!

I did read for 4 hours though, so that’s great!  I also read a New to Me book, a picture book and am working on a reread novel right now.  I guess you’ll have to wait to see what it is.

Anyway, on to the reading….


The first book I read this week was The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  My husband got a copy of it at a library book sale a couple of years ago, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  This is the story of a Little Prince from another planet.  He is exploring the universe and his tale is told in the voice of a human he encountered in the desert.

To be honest, I did not like this book at all.  I don’t know really what happened or what the main plot of the story was.  It was just strange.  Not one of my favorites.

Also new to me this week was The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.  I did also read the sequel, The Day the Crayons Came Home by the same author/illustrator team.

Duncan’s crayons have quit.  They have complaints they share with Duncan.  Yellow and Orange both think they are the color of the sun.  Blue is all stubby because Duncan uses it too much.  Peach can’t believe Duncan peeled off his label and now he is naked!


In the sequel, some of Duncan’s other crayons want to come home.  Neon Red was left at a hotel during vacation.  Pea Green has decided to be called Esteban!  Yellow and Orange got melted in the sun and now are fused together.

I really enjoyed these books!  I LOVED them!  They have imaginative stories told through letters the crayons write to Duncan.  I love, love, love the mix-media illustrations – a combination of photos, crayon drawings, and text “written” by the crayons.  These are extremely awesome books that I recommend to everyone.

What did I read this week that you liked?  What else should I read from my list?  What did you read?

Let’s talk below!

Challenge Check In

Can you believe it has been four weeks of Challenge Reading already?  I certainly can’t!  Since I have been working on my challenge the last few weeks, it is time that I….

What was my challenge?

My challenge was to read through a big chunk of Amazon’s 100 Best Children’s Books.  I knew I’d never read through all 100 books this semester, so I challenged myself to 1 picture book, 1 re-read (picture book or novel), and 1 new to me book.

How have I done?

So far I’m only 1 book behind in the challenge.  There was one week (weeks 2 and 3) that I did not finish both chapter books I had chosen.  I never added an additional book in though either.  I have been good about reading both new to me and re-read books.

Road Blocks

I’ve faced a few challenges.  The first is being realistic in what I can read in one week.  We are supposed to read for 4 hours each week.  However, I’d estimate I read 5-6 hours each week.  I wonder, is this too much?

I have found that the picture books are harder to come by in our small, Wyoming town.  However, I’m doing my best with library trips and borrowing from friends.The picture books are the ones I have to plan for the most since I am relying on others to get a copy of the book.


My re-read books have all been ones that I have not read in a long time.  This has been a pleasant surprise!  There are so many books I know I read at one point, but I don’t remember everything (see The Mouse and the Motorcycle for evidence of that!).

I’ve also been pleased at finding the upper-elementary chapter books I have read.  These books are shorter and filled with characters that I relate to.  I have really found that children’s literature has very well-defined characters and I LOVE it.

Reflecting on the Challenge

Since I’ve begun this challenge, I have been really happy.  This is a great challenge for me because it includes books from nearly all genres (I don’t think there are any non-fiction books on the list).  I also love that it is a mix of all types of literature from picture books to chapter books.  Another wonderful aspect is that many of the books are award winners – a sign to me that they will be amazing.  This challenge seems to be a good fit for me.

I don’t know that I will need to adjust my challenge for the latter part

of the semester.  I feel like I set a reasonable goal – 3 books a week, with one being a picture book – when I set out.  It has been difficult not pushing myself to read all 100 books.  But I am working to hold back.  Otherwise, what would I read at Christmas?

Check In Final Thoughts


  • I have picked an amazing challenge for me that covers many different genres and types of books.  The fact that I am mixing re-reads with new to me books has been fun.
  • It is hard not to push myself to read all 100 books.  I’m working at being realistic with my reading and leaving my future self something to read.

How has your challenge gone?  Which books on my challenge list do I need to be CERTAIN get read this semester?

Let’s talk below….