It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


With the beginning of a new school year upon us, teachers around the country are making plans for a year that is sure to be filled with challenges. But right now, we aren’t thinking about those hurdles. We’re thinking about possibilities. Teachers are pros at seeing the possibilities and potential in children. We are tireless in our effort to find ways to bring out the very best in our students. One of the most important ways we do this is by sharing books that help our students see the possibilities and potential within themselves.

Artist and writer Debbie Millman recently told graduates at San Jose State University that success has nothing to do with luck. Rather, “it is really all about the strength of IMAGINATION.” This is an important message for students of all ages. Last week I came across several picture books that can help our students understand the importance of keeping their imaginations open to the wonders and possibilities all around them.


Journey (Candlewick Press, 2013) by Aaron Becker is a stunning book. It will remind readers of Harold and the Purple Crayon immediately, but Becker’s full color illustrations give this book a magical quality. There is an exotic mysteriousness to Journey that will lead to many questions and rich discussions about just exactly where the girl with the red crayon has gone. If you haven’t seen this book yet, the trailer will give you an idea of the riches within.


Jesse Klausmeier’s Open This Little Book (Chronicle Books, 2013; illustrated by Suzy Lee) is a book I would have adored when I was little. This is a book within a book within a book and so on. The story follows one pattern to the middle of the book, then follows another pattern to the next to the last page, when the pattern changes and readers are rewarded with Lee’s charming illustration depicting the endless possibilities in books. The cover of each little book hints at the animal featured within. This is just one of the clever details that will have young readers examining the illustrations over and over again.


If you want to see a whale (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Book Press, 2013; illustrated by Erin E. Stead) by Julie Fogliano is a lovely, quiet book. According to Fogliano, in order to see a whale, “you will need…time for waiting and time for looking and time for wondering…” This is an important reminder to children (and their parents!) in today’s busy world.

Yesterday, Donalyn Miller asked readers of the Nerdy Book Club blog what books they were looking forward to sharing with students this year. These are three titles I will be sharing with children again and again to encourage them to unleash the power of their imaginations.

Be sure to visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee at Unleashing Readers to find out what other people have been reading lately. Thanks, Jen and Kellee, for hosting!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?


Yesterday, Donalyn Miller, in a post on the Nerdy Book Club blog, confessed that she was in a reading slump. She stated that she loses interest after she starts a book and has even chosen to watch TV over reading! I read all this with relief, realizing I’m not alone. When I went back to her post later in the evening, there were ninety comments! Ninety! Almost all of them were from teachers who were also feeling overwhelmed by their other commitments and hadn’t had the time or energy to read much lately.

I bring all this up because, even though I have stacks of books everywhere, many of the books I tried to read last week have a bookmark after the first or second chapter. I’m afraid my computer is going to crash because I have so many tabs open to blogs I haven’t had time to read. Don’t even get me started on the newspaper!

My solution to this situation? A trip to the library. I know this seems ridiculous: Why bring in more books if you can’t finish the ones you have? Because my library has all the latest picture books and early readers. If they can’t pull me out of a slump, nothing can.

My favorite book from this visit was Penny and Her Marble (Greenwillow Books, 2013), by Kevin Henkes. It is impossible for me to overstate how much I love Kevin Henkes’s books. And Penny is the latest in a long line of lovable characters created by Henkes.

ImageOne of Penny’s most endearing traits is that she is self-reliant. Her problems are hers, and she solves them on her own. In Penny and Her Marble, she sees a beautiful blue marble, which seems to belong to no one, on her neighbor’s lawn and she picks it up and puts it in her pocket. Once she gets home, however, her conscience gets the better of her and she is haunted by the marble.

Penny never mentions any of her worries to her parents, yet they sense that something is bothering Penny. They support her in subtle ways, such as offering to bake her favorite cookies. Penny does the right thing in the end, and is rewarded for her honesty, but not in a preachy, LEARN THIS LESSON kind of way. Did I mention I am in awe of Kevin Henkes?  How does he accomplish this? He never hits a wrong note and he completely understands children and how their minds operate.

When I began this blog, I did intend to write about how I would use certain books to meet the Common Core State Standards, and I do this often enough. And although this book could be used to address several first grade standards, I would read it aloud to kids just because I love it. I would read it aloud to them because Penny is an imaginative, creative character I’d want for a friend. And I’d read it to them because they will recognize themselves in Penny.

Don’t miss Penny’s other adventures in Penny and Her Song (2012) and Penny and Her Doll (2012). They are the perfect anecdote to any reading slump.

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Dont’ forget to find out what others are reading today by visiting Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts.