Nonfiction favourites from 2016

While I haven’t read my usual numbers of nonfiction titles this year, I have read enough to have some clear favourites. Here are my top ten of 2016 (published in 2016)

Looking for some incredible nonfiction? I highly recommend all of these. In fact I own all but two of these titles and plan to remedy that soon. All of these books are titles I can see multiple reasons to use over and over in a classroom. A real reason to celebrate them here.

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet

An incredible title with layer upon layer of stories and illustrations about a beloved author for so many. This is a longer picture book biography (176 pages) perfect for both adults and students.

some Writer!

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Simply beautiful. I featured this book here

Cloth Lullaby

Dorothea’s Eyes by Barb Rosenstock with illustrations by Gérard DuBois

I look forward to sharing this fantastic biography of photographer Dorothea Lange with my students later in the year. I plan also to share these photos she took in a Japanese Internment camp.

Dorothea's Eyes

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

The art in this book is beyond, beyond. Absolutely stunning. An incredible biography made accessible to children. I particularly appreciated the back matter here. Information on Motifs and symbolism in Basquiat’s work is something I will certainly share with students when we explore this book. Steptoe’s author’s note is very important too.

radiant-child-the-story-of-young-artist-jean-michel-basquiat

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

There are so many reasons to share this story with children. It is a story of hope, of change, of perseverance, of the power of music and the beauty of community. A story of transformation.

adas-violin

Tooth by Tooth: Comparing Fangs, Tusks, and Chompers written by Sara Levine and illustrated by T.S. Spookytooth

“What kind of animal would you be if your teeth were long enough to stick out of your mouth, even when it was closed?” This is one of many questions posed in this informative and engaging book. Students love to guess and check and this title allows for a lot of that. I highlighted this book here

Tooth by Tooth 1

The Polar Bear by Jenni Desmond

The ideal blend of mesmerizing art and story that informs and prompts more questions. I plan to use this title with other books on polar bears and videos about the shrinking ice in the Arctic seas.

the-polar-bear

Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals written by Jess Keating with illustrations by David DeGrand

I featured this book here (lots of ideas for how to use in the classroom). This book has been a huge hit in my classroom and we have gone on to become fans of Animals for Smart People videos. You will never think the same about pink again.

Blobfish

Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre

The photographs, the lyrical language . . . absolutely captivating.

best-in-snow

Animals by the Numbers by Steve Jenkins

As always – such interesting information. All communicated via infographics? Perfect.

animals-by-the-numbers

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2016. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

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Monday August 8th, 2016

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Each week I share a reading photo of the week. During the summer, these photos will be about getting my classroom library up and running for a room full of readers in September. Moving spaces and grade levels and sourcing bookshelves has been a lot of work!

So basically going from this (the classroom collection of books sat in these boxes until the floors were done and I could completely unpack).

Monday August 8th, 2016 There's a Book for That

To the beginning of unpacking and organizing . . .

Monday August 8th, 2016 There's a Book for That

One shelf all ready for books – this will be where nonfiction titles end up.

Monday August 8th, 2016 There's a Book for That

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. Follow the links to read about all of the amazing books the #IMWAYR community has read. It’s the best way to discover what to read next.

IMWAYR 2015

On the Blog:

For Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Titles I would buy right this second

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Cloth Lullaby

Books I enjoyed:

Return by Aaron Becker

This trilogy is very special. I love each book for particular reasons. This title must be experienced so that you can see how it continues the stories started in the first two titles. I think this cover image is my favourite of the three.

Return

Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson

This has a Blueberries for Sal vibe to it. Since that was my favourite book from my childhood, I will say I loved many elements in this title!

Explorers of the Wild

 The Not So Quiet Library by Zachariah Ohora

Non-book-appreciating monsters do not make for a peaceful reading environment. Let’s just say that all works out in the end and that there is a lot of book love in this book!

The Not So Quiet Library

Tidy by Emily Gravett

Now, I must admit, I do appreciated tidy and neat environments. But, I can also be productive with mess all around me. This title shows us what happens when we want the wrong locations to be too neat and clean.

Tidy

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

When a little one hates reading because reading does not come easily . . . When there is an opportunity to read aloud to a dog . . . Lots can shift with the right opportunities.

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog

It Came in the Mail by Ben Clanton

This book is absolutely delightful. Since actual letters and personal mail is quite the novelty in this day and age, surprises arriving by post really are special. Maybe too much so . . .

It Came in the Mail

The Toad by Elise Gravel

The seventh in the Disgusting Critters collection – I was thrilled to find this at the bookstore the other day!

The Toad by Elise Gravel

Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets! by Kate Messner

I think I might like this Marty McGuire title best of all. Marty is so earnest and often has the worst luck but I sure appreciate her spirit. A wonderful series of early middle grade novels.

Marty McGuire Has Too Many Pets!2

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

I featured this title for nonfiction Wednesday – see the link above. Just stunning.

Cloth Lullaby

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda  by Tom Angleberger  

Okay, yes, it’s true. I had never read this book. I own two copies. My children have read this book. But me, nope! And then I picked it up and didn’t put it down. I have a class of grade 4/5s this fall and want to make sure I am up to date on many middle grade titles. This is middle grade perfection.

Strange Case

As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds 

Jason Reynolds writes incredible characters. Unforgettable believable characters. In this middle grade title, he delivers characters and relationships in a rich, quietly humorous story full of questions, wisdom and love.

As Brave as You

Reading Progress updates:

2016 Chapter Book Challenge: 31/75 complete

Goodreads Challenge: 213/400 books read

#MustReadin2016: 20/30 complete

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: 31/100 titles

Diverse Books in 2016: 26/50 books read

Up next? I am reading a number of titles including Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Cloth Lullaby

Sometimes a book is just too beautiful to be believed. Such is the case with this biography of Louise Bourgeois.

Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault (Abrams Books for Young Readers March 2016)

Cloth Lullaby Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Cloth Lullaby There's a Book for That

Everything about this book is beauty. The navy fabric feeling spine detail. The colours and patterns throughout the book. Red has never seemed so delicate. The blues. The lines. The depiction of Bourgeois’ art. Arsenault is brilliant.

And then there is the story. I think this might well be my favourite picture book biography of the year. Novesky writes in such a lyrical way that reading the text truly feels like being lulled by a lullaby. The reader is pulled into the story of a young girl on the meandering road by a river that leads her to life as an artist. We learn about her strong connection and devotion to her mother (Maman). Her growing skill as an expert weaver in the family business. Her aptitude for mathematics.

Louise’s greatest pieces – huge sculptures made of steel, bronze and marble were of spiders and were woven into being from the grief she felt at losing her beloved mother.

The connection between weaving and repairing, weaving and creating, weaving and healing are literally woven through the story.

So often we hear how artists create art in response to strong emotions. This book reveals how sadness and grief are transformed into powerful and stunning pieces.

A detailed author’s note is included in the back of the book

Highly recommended.

Thanks to Alyson from Kid Lit Frenzy for the inspiration to read and share more nonfiction picture books in 2016. Follow the link to Alyson’s blog to read about more nonfiction books you need to read!

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Gift Books 2013 – twelve picture books to give this season

gift Books 2013

I spent close to three hours at my favourite bookstore yesterday – Vancouver Kidsbooks selecting books for a donor that wants to gift our primary students with new books to take home this holiday season. Books in hand and in home make so much difference! While my Teacher Librarian and I shopped, we were privy to many conversations between customers and the very knowledgable Kidsbooks staff. And it got me to thinking . . . Which 2013 picture books would I recommend for a gift list?

Of course, there are many amazing titles to choose from. I narrowed it to twelve. Twelve books I think are absolutely worth owning and therefore, worth gifting. My criteria? Is it a book that can be shared multiple times? Does it inspire creativity, thinking, inspiration? Does it make the readers think differently about something? Does it celebrate something important? Is it a book that brings joy? With those questions in mind, here is my list:

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham

This is a fascinating biography that not only makes math seem absolutely engrossing but gives us a glimpse into a mind that was truly one track. A beautiful balance between the mathematical life and the other life of Paul Erdos.

Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

On A Beam of Light- A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne and illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

A wonderfully accessible biography of Albert Einstein. This title has all the perfect themes of wonder, curiosity and thinking outside of the box.

Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

The Man with the Violin written by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Dušan Petričić 

This is an important story of what we miss by not being in the moment. How many beautiful experiences are lost on us as we rush through our days? Based on a true event where famous musician Joshua Bell played in the metro and was basically ignored. My students shared reviews here.

Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

The Matchbox Diary  by Paul Fleischman illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline 

History, stories and memories told through unveiling of various contents of a number of matchboxes. Perfect to inspire storytelling between the generations.

The Matchbox diary Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

Peace by Wendy Anderson Halperin

Full of quotes to read, share and ponder. Love the message that peace needs to be everywhere (in our hearts, homes, schools, countries . . .) in order to impact peace everywhere else.

Peace Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animals’ Lives  written by Lola Schaefer and illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Gorgeous. Want to reveal how math is all around us? This is the book to do it. There is counting and estimating and wondering and a whole bunch of other mathematical applications – in addition to being a beautifully illustrated books with lots of fascinating animal facts.

Lifetime Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

The Snatchabook written by Helen Docherty and illustrated by Thomas Docherty

Know a family with a new baby? Give them this beautiful book which sends the message loud and clear – we all need to be raised with daily read aloud moments.

The Snatchabook Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

Once Upon a Northern Night written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Lyrical, soothing and visually beautiful. Let the text lull you to sleep with dreams of the magic and quiet of winter. A perfect book to celebrate this coldest of seasons.

Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

Journey by Aaron Becker

Grab your imagination and enter a magical world where anything might happen. A wordless treasure.

Journey  Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

Papa’s Mechanical Fish written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov

Papa models the curiosity and persistence of an inventor. This book is “almost true” based on the life of Lodner Phillips who really did build The Whitefish, an actual functioning submarine.

Papa's Mechanical Fish Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

Count the Monkeys written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Kevin Cornell

Because we all need to laugh together! Interactive. Will make you want to leap out of your chair in delight! Giggle, giggle, giggle.

Count the monkeys Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

My First Day by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Children love to hear about what it was like when they were a baby. This nonfiction title reveals what the first moments are like for different animals. So much to discuss.

My first day Gift Books 2013 There's a Book for That

Books are gifts to treasure! This season give books!

Monday August 5th, 2013

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

IMWAYR

Join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers and share all of the reading you have done over the week from picture books to young adult reads!

I had an amazing week for picture books. Amazing. I am pretty sure I met some of the picture books that will make my favourites of the year list.

Here are the books I’ve been raving about this week:

Building our House by Jonathan Bean This book had special meaning for me because a few years ago we renovated our house. By we, I mean our contractors, but we spent many days wandering around the construction site that once was and would again be, our home. We climbed up ladders and visualized stairs and walls and rooms and life. I love how the illustrations in this book document a story as much as the text does. And the author’s note in the back with photographs of Jonathan Bean’s own history of a childhood spent amongst foundation and fields and beams made this story all the more special. Head over to Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast to see more:  sketches, storyboards and photographs. Amazing!

Building our House #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Papa’s Mechanical Fish written by Candace Fleming and illustrated by Boris Kulikov I saw the cover of this book and had to have it. I loved what it hinted at: creativity, focus, absurdity, inventiveness . . . I was not disappointed. The language is fun. The entire family is involved and Papa models the curiousity and persistence of an inventor. This book is “almost true” based on the life of Lodner Phillips who really did build The Whitefish, an actual functioning submarine.

Papa's Mechanical Fish #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Once Upon a Northern Night written by Jean E. Pendziwol and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault One of the most beautiful books I have read in a long time. Lyrical, soothing and visually beautiful. Let the text lull you to sleep with dreams of the magic and quiet of winter. Arsenault’s illustrations are exquisite.

Once upon a northern night #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Mighty Lalouche written by Matthew Olshan and illustrated by Sophie Blackall. I found this story absolutely delightful! The illustrations are stunning and add much to an already engaging story. The messages here are important: perseverance, being true to yourself, finding happiness . . . But there are also levels to this story that are just going to engage children in the joy and humour of boxing adventures and the triumph of the underdog. I cannot wait to read this aloud to my class!

The Mighty Lalouche #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Mama, is it Summer Yet? by Nikki McClure A simple but gorgeous story about the waiting for summer through the seasons. Celebrates the joy of outdoors, the changing seasons and the wonder of nature.

Mama, Is it Summer yet? #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Bee Tree by Patricia Polacco There is so much I love about this story. I love that Grandpa is actively involved (leading in fact) the adventure of racing over fields and country roads in search of a bee tree. I love the spirit of community. And of course, that it ends with a message about the wonder of books and reading . . . Well! 🙂

The Bee Tree #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman  A story of friendship, of adventure and of bravery. My favourite page is snail looking over the page and down, down, down . . . just before he considers leaping. It’s really a fantastic reminder that courage is not in the doing but in the moments of contemplation leading up to the decision.

 The Story of Fish and Snail #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

No Fits, Nilson! by Zachariah Ohora So many books try to capture the essence of the preschool age child and they don’t come close to doing any justice. They have too much sweet. Or too much whiny. Or precociousness that isn’t cute. Only some nail the tantrum and the moments leading up to it with any sort of sense of realism. This book is divine. It really reveals what it is like to be a small being and have to navigate the world while attempting to contain emotional highs and lows. Absolutely adorable. I think this might be my new “must have it” gift for new parents. Captures the preschool mind, heart and will beautifully.

 No Fits, Nilson! #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Some nonfiction titles I loved:

The Boy who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos written by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham Wow. This is a fascinating biography that not only makes math seem absolutely engrossing but gives us a glimpse into a mind that was truly one track. A beautiful balance between the mathematical life and the other life of Paul Erdos. Accessible and intriguing for younger readers/listeners. A definite book to be explored multiple times.

The Boy who loved math #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Healthy Kids (A Global Fund for Children book) by Maya Ajmera, Victoria Dunning and Cynthia Pon I shared this title (and other related books) on my Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday post.

Healthy Kids #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

 I also finished two novels.

Maggot Moon written by Sally Gardner Sigh. This YA read was not an easy one. It literally made my skin crawl. Part of me wanted to shake this book off – it is full of horror and upset and pain. If the text and happenings weren’t enough to make the reader tremble, the black and white illustrations lining the bottom of pages serve to ensure that one is always uncomfortable. This book is a mystery. It is set in an alternative history – tells us a powerful dystopian fable. But it is also about courage and the power of friendship. I have really never read anything quite like this story – even though it has clear parallels and not so subtle nuances that speak to our own recent and atrocious history of war, oppression and brutality. Clearly young adult, fully compelling, this story is not one I will soon forget. Gardner delivers a very important story. Highly recommended.

Maggot Moon #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

After Ever After written by Jordan Sonnenblick I read (and loved) Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie a few weeks ago and couldn’t wait to read this companion book. It made me cry. And laugh. And appreciate life. What more does one need from a story? I am fast becoming a huge Sonnenblick fan.

After ever After #IMWAYR There's a Book for That

Next up? I am starting Sold by Patricia McCormick 

What are you reading this week?

2012 Favourites

What a wonderful year of books! Quickly before I change my mind, my twelve favourites of 2012 (I divided the love evenly between picture books and novels)

Yes, I am aware that Jon Klassen takes a starring role in this list 🙂

My personal challenge here is to do no more than 12 words of raving about each book. Possible? Let’s see . . .

Extra Yarn written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

A town styled out in multi-coloured knitwear. Justice and magic win out.

extra yarn 12 of 2012

This is not my Hat by Jon Klassen

Hat thievery in the big ocean. Much humour, little hope (sorry fish)

ThisIsNotMyHat 12 of 2012

House Held Up By Trees written by Ted Kooser and illustrated by Jon Klassen

The trees are persistent and protective of life travelling on. Stunning illustrations.

househeldupbytrees 12 0f 2012

Virginia Wolf written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

A dark mood, a hopeful sibling, and the magic of imagination.

virginia wolf top 12 of 2012

Little Bird written by Germano Zullo and illustrated by Albertine

A book that celebrates finding joy in the smallest of things.

little-bird 12 for 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce

Become swept away and entangled in book love.

fantastic flying 12 for 2012

Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

Choosing a friend can be an incredible act of bravery.

lions-of-little-rock 12 for 2012

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Be kinder than is necessary; a story to remind us how.

wonder 12 for 2012

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

The power of unconditional love, the magic of resiliency . . .

OnefortheMurphys12 for 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

A story of stories. Flies you through a myriad of emotions.

codenameverity12 for 12

Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

A world of prophecy, desperate searches for magic, the real and unreal.

raven-boys 12 for 2012

Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Funny. Brilliant. Sad. No sappy. All wit.

fault in our stars 12 for 2012

Please share your own favourites of the year . . . 

Monday, November 26th, 2012

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Join a fabulous group of readers who share their weekly reads from picture books to young adult novels by participating in Jen and Kellee’s meme. If you are looking for new book ideas, this is a fantastic place to start!

The reading and the blogging about my reading are guilty pleasures this week. I am supposed to be finishing report cards. The reports are coming along but the reading and celebrating cannot be sacrificed!

I read a lot of wonderful picture books this week. Most of them fit into one of two categories: sweet or humourous. And a few were neither or straddled both. This is how I categorized my top ten favourite picture books reads this week:

Picture books of the Sweet variety :

Spork written by Kyo Mclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault I am a big fan of Virginia Wolf written by this author/illustrator team but I had yet to read this earlier book. A lovely story about being meaningful when you are truly needed. Arsenault’s illustrations are as always, stunning.

Make a Wish Bear by Greg Foley Yes, this book does end on a kind of predictable note but all along the way it celebrates a bunch of “strategies” for making a wish come true. I am a sucker for wishing upon a star so I thought this book was pretty special.

Plantpet by Elise Primavera This book ranks up there as one of my all time favourite picture books. It was not a new read but an important “re-read”shared with my class. We savoured it and then we did some art (see below) to celebrate the wonder of Plantpet. I highlight how amazing this story is in this post. Plantpet enters Bertie’s life as a found little creature in a cage. When Plantpet’s digging seems to have no end, Bertie banishes him to a corner of the yard and soon finds himself all alone. When he recognizes how much he misses his friend, Bertie races to find him only to discover a withered little green being. The two revive their friendship in the most beautiful of ways.

Student art inspired by this story: Ode to Plantpet

Mine! written by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Patrice Barton This little book is almost wordless (so I am instantly a fan) . One word is used in a multitude of ways: “mine” Young siblings and a dog experience owning, sharing and exploring with some toys. A little love expressed happens along the way.

Books that tickle your Humour bones: 

Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems This was a fantastic read aloud shared in my classroom this week. A twist on a classic tale that only Willems could deliver. My favourite comment from a student: “Why did the dinos want to eat Goldilocks so badly? I liked that Goldilocks.” This is a Goldilocks you really must meet.

Slightly Invisible by Lauren Child I really do like Lauren Child’s Charlie and Lola books. They are so much fun for children to read aloud to practice dialogue reading and expression and I love the sibling relationship: Lola’s spunk and Charlie’s patience. I particularly love Lola’s “imaginary” friend Soren Lorensen. So the fact that this character has a kind of key role in this story, makes me an instant fan.

A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid I had seen this title on a number of blogs and booklists earlier this year and finally bought my own copy. This is certainly a book to own. Petunia wants a pet. A pet skunk. And when her parents cannot be convinced, my, oh, my does she react. Off she stomps to live in the woods where she happens to meet a real skunk. Let’s just say real life experience has a way of being a powerful teacher . . .

I’m Bored  written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi I’m Bored” – oh such tedious words that parents and teachers dread. This story’s power is in the hugely large display of “I will prove I am NOT boring” that the main character shows to us.

Kids are boring.” Those are fighting words!

In between:

Won Ton (A Cat Tale Told in Haiku) written by Lee Wardlaw and illustrated by  Eugene Yelchin Such a cleverly told tale of a cat finding his way into the home and hearts of a family who adopts him. Funny moments of cat quirkiness alongside tender images of a cat and “his boy.”

Something else entirely and so worth a read: 

Each Kindness written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis Reminiscent of The Hundred Dresses this beautifully illustrated picture book’s power is in the questions it suggests: What does it mean to be kind? How do our actions impact others? What does it feel like to be left out and ignored? What happens when we run out of chances? Each kindness has a chance to matter if it is in fact offered. Powerful.

I also finally finished The Search for Wondla written and illustrated by Tony Diterlizzi as a read aloud with my children. We took quite a while to read this because we so frequently find picture books and non-fiction titles to share together. But every time we picked it up after a few nights off, we fell right back into this very unusual science fiction/fantasy title. Stunning artwork. Interesting story. Not necessarily the best book I’ve read in a while but certainly made for lots of great discussion with my children.

Upcoming book adventures?

I just started reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio to my own children! I loved this title when I read it and can’t wait to share it.

Last week I finished reading Clementine and the Family Meeting to my class and we just started Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm. I hope it will be a favourite for my students as it was for me!

The novel I am reading for myself is What Came from the Stars by Gary D Shmidt. Very intriguing so far.