Friday, August 19, 2016

Spotlight Friday: Nursery Rhyme fun 8.19.16

Time to get ready for the weekend!
Kick up your feet and find a good place to read.
Sharing #booklove for your classroom or library.
Spotlighting a book or two because these books deserve the spotlight!

I love using, reading and exploring nursery rhymes.  That familiar rhyme, the lessons some teach, falling into a known pattern.  I love finding books that have a fun new take on these old favorites.

Mary Had a Little Glam
Mary Had a Little Glam
by Tammi Sauer
illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Mary has upgraded from the fields and hills to boutiques and accessories!  Sauer has written such a fun take on "Mary Had a Little Lamb".  This Mary is full of glam and glitz and she's not afraid to share!  The illustrations are so detailed and fun.  Including diverse characters, some that are familiar - I spotted Jack and Jill, Little Bo Peep, and Little Miss Muffet.  At first I was a little concerned - is that the only way you can feel good about yourself, by dressing up?  But then Sauer takes the story another way and shows us it's not about what you're wearing, because sometimes it's about having fun.

Grumbles from the Town: Mother-Goose Voices with a Twist
Grumbles From the Town 
by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich
illustrated by Angela Matteson
published Sept. 13th by WordSong
Another wonderful collaboration by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Kai Dotlich!  The pair gave us Grumbles From the Forest which gave different perspectives on familiar fairy tales.  This time the authors concentrate on nursery rhymes.  Not your typical nursery rhyme book for young children, this picture book is perfect for primary and intermediate readers who can appreciate the different perspectives the poems take on.  There are two poems per nursery rhyme, each giving a different perspective than the original nursery rhyme.  I think these books are great mentor texts for perspective.  Students have to put themselves in the "shoes" of the person/thing in order to get the correct writing voice.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Inquisitor's Tale - a review 8.18.16

Every once in awhile, you find a book that ends up being timeless.  A book that is going to be read the same now as in 25 years from now.  The Inquisitor's Tale is one of those books.

The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
The Inquisitor's Tale
written by Adam Gidwitz
illuminated by Hatem Aly
published by Dutton Children's Book
September 27, 2016

Goodreads summary:
1242. On a dark night, travelers from across France cross paths at an inn and begin to tell stories of three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. They are accompanied by Jeanne's loyal greyhound, Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead.
As the narrator collects their tales, the story of these three unlikely allies begins to come together. 

Their adventures take them on a chase through France to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned. They’re taken captive by knights, sit alongside a king, and save the land from a farting dragon. And as their quest drives them forward to a final showdown at Mont Saint-Michel, all will come to question if these children can perform the miracles of saints.

My thoughts:
You can read this book and be taken away to a different time, to the middle ages (just don't call it the Dark Ages).  With a cast of characters that is unique to most stories read today, a story that is full of holiness, kings and queens, and special books, it really does feel like a different read than you're used to.  Each chapter begins with a different person carrying on the tale of the children.  Because of the different people adding on to the tales, I wish I had written down some of the details to help me remember who was carrying on the story.  Each character brings the story along further, detailing what is happening to the three children and dog.  The book is full of Gidwitz humor (a bit tongue in cheek), language (also used tongue in cheek) and gore (cringe worthy, for sure).  Just like in his Grimm series, the story is interrupted from time to time by the narrator and storytellers, who not only share their insights, but usually say some kind of "wisdom" that makes the reader laugh out loud.  The plot is suspenseful because the storytellers of each chapter leave off with whatever part of the adventure they know about, so the reader is always curious to find out what will happen to the children and dog next.  The writing is clever, smart and funny.  It will appeal to a large groups of readers because I don't think this book is very genre specific - it's not quite historical fiction, it's not quite fantasy, it has adventure... Enough of everything to make this have wide appeal.

I can't wait to see a final copy of this book with the illuminations by Hatem Aly.  Not illustrations, illuminations.  There is a wonderful explanation of this at the beginning of the book.  Keeping in check with this being a medieval tale, those were often illuminated by an artist - interestingly enough, which may go with the author's interpretation of the writing or it may contradict it.  Only the first chapter was illuminated in the ARC, and I can tell you it will be a treat to see the final copy!

Throughout the story, there were themes that reoccured that made me think that although this story takes place centuries ago, it has very real ties with what is happening in our society now.  There is persecution of people who are thought to have certain beliefs.  There is outcasting of cultures.  There is banning of books because of different ideals.  There is a mistrust among people who are of different skin tones.  Sound familiar?  There is a haunting part of the author's notes that talks about a connection within the story to the Paris terrorist attacks in 2015.  Gidwitz does an amazing job of threading relevant themes throughout this story that stay true to the setting of the story, but should result in some great conversations by readers.

This is going to be a fun book to use with upper middle schools.  Doing a Mock Newbery?  I would include it in groups that are 5th grade and above.  Distinguished?  Yes.  Enjoy.

Hey A.J., It's Saturday blog tour 8.18.16

Saturday mornings.  As a kid, these were the best days.  Getting up before the rest of the house was up.  Sneak downstairs and watch some cartoons.  Slow mornings.  The best part was having time.  Time to be lazy.  Time to do things you don't normally do.  Like have a longer breakfast.  

Hey A.J., It's Saturday
created by Martellus Bennet
published by The Imagination Agency

That's when the real chaos begins in Hey A.J., It's Saturday.  A.J. is ready for Saturday morning breakfast but mom and dad are asleep.  What's a kid to do?  Make it herself of course!  

But here's when the book takes a turn and adds in imagination.  Making a breakfast without chaos isn't fun for a kid!  You need monkeys and unicorns and hens, of course!  And the animals can't help out and make things easier and make things run smoothly, right?  Not in a kids' world!  But they do help make food a bit more tasty.  Who doesn't want raspberry, chocolate, bacon, strawberry, sausage, peanut butter, chocolate chip cookie, vanilla and banana smoothie?

The imagination doesn't stop in the book!  Be sure to visit the website and download the app (Hey A.J.) to play more games and puzzles!

Want to know more about the author?  He may be more familiar than you think!
Martellus aka The Black Unicorn is a BIG dreamer. He lives in a magical house with his wife Siggi and daughter Jett in where everything comes to life when it gets dark or there’s food on the table ( which is pretty much all the time). He’s usually a bit overwhelmed by all of the creatures bouncing around knocking things over in his head and in his house, but that’s nothing a creative ninja can’t handle. Marty received his PhD in awesomeness from the highly prestigious Orange Dinosaur University where his focus was coloring outside of the lines and making stuff with his creative and funny bones. The A.J series is inspired by his daughter Austyn Jett (A.J.) and their adventures together.

Oh yea, He’s a Pro Bowl Tight End for your favorite NFL team.

Thank you to The Imagination Agency for sending a copy of the book to review.  Thank you to Jen Vincent (@mentortexts) for setting up the tour.  Be sure to check out the other stops on this blog tour!

Jen at Teach Mentor Texts - 8/16
Niki at Daydream Reader - 8/17
Jessica at Little Lake County - 8/19
Linda at Teacher Dance - 8/20
Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers - 9/4

Happy imagination - and Saturday morning breakfasts!

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8.15.16

IMWAYR 2015 logo

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

Last Week's Adventures

A powerful new novel in verse, Unbound, comes out next month.  I found it to be fantastic, but I'm wondering what the conversation around it will be.  HERE are my thoughts.

I'm really excited about Mo Willems' new series.  Ideas for using the first two books in the series are HERE.

Wednesday was #pb10for10 day!  HERE are 10 books to use at the beginning of the school year to cultivate classroom community!

I love this new picture book that is a wonderful blend of fact and fiction.  Look for it in early 2017!

Picture Books

How to Track a Truck
How to Track a Truck by Jason Carter Eaton
4/5 stars
Another great collaboration between Eaton and Rocco (How to Train a Train).  I love how it starts with advice about tracking, as in tracking prey, this time the prey is a truck!  Lots of funny parts - don't forget about migration, ice cream trucks go south in the winter and snowplows go north!  Sure to be a hit with young readers!
Publishes Sept. 27th by Candlewick Press

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog
Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp
4/5 stars
Little Madeline just wants to get a star from her teacher for doing a good job with her reading (don't you just want to sit that teacher down and give her some professional development??).  Reading is hard for Madeline and she's all but given up.  Thank goodness for librarian, Mrs. Dimple!  She introduces Madeline to Bonnie, a library dog who doesn't worry about reading mistakes, she just wants to listen!  
Publishes Oct. 1st by Peachtree.

Never Follow a Dinosaur
Never Follow a Dinosaur by Alex Latimer
4/5 stars
A young boy and girl set out to solve the mystery of the missing dinosaur.  Coming up with clues and imagining the possibilities are very humorous and the illustrations are sure to appeal to young readers.  The ending was ok for me.  Think about the power of imagination and I get it a little more.  Put this book with Josh Funk's upcoming Dear Dragon to talk about perspectives.
Publishes Sept. 1st by Peachtree

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled
Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins
4/5 stars
I liked the real life connections in this book.  Both Frank (the human) and Lucky (the dog) learn many lessons outside of school.  Lessons that they might not learn in a classroom.

Leon And Bob
Leon and Bob Simon James
4/5 stars
Leon's family life is going through some changes and the way he copes is by having an imaginary friend.  I like the way he holds onto his friend until one day he doesn't need him.

Transitional Chapter Books

A Boy Called Bat
A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold
4/5 stars
This one doesn't come out until March 2014, but 2nd-4th grade teachers, put this one on your list!
Bat loves animals and when his mom brings home a skunk kit, Bat is ready to spend all of his time with the little guy.  Unfortunately, life gets in the way.  Like school, and having to go to his dad's house every other weekend, and all of this means less time with the kit.  Knowing his time is limited because they will soon have to hand the kit over to the wild-animal shelter, gets Bat planning on what he can do to convince his mom to keep the young skunk.
This past week I read a new term, and because I didn't use it right away I can't remember what it's called, but basically it means when diversity is included in the story, but it's not the focus of the story.  Anyone know the term I'm looking for?  Anyway, this book has it.  Bat comes from a divorced family, but like Linda Urban's Weekends with Max and His Dad, it's not a story about divorce.  Bat also falls on the autism spectrum, but it not labeled as such.  
This book will be a hit with students who have a special place in their heart for animals!

* thank you to Lisa M, the term is incidental diversity

Middle Grade

Applesauce Weather
Applesauce Weather by Helen Frost
3/5 stars
Storytelling has such a rich foundation, yet it's not something that happens anymore.  This story brings that tradition back in the most loving way - passing stories along from generation to generation.
Lucy and Peter are anxiously waiting for their Great Uncle Arthur to come to their farm to join them for "applesauce weather".  But this year is different because while not explicitly stated, Aunt Lucy is no longer with them.  But we get to hear Aunt Lucy's voice with a song that is continued from chapter to chapter that tells the love story of her and Uncle Arthur.
What really moves the story long is Uncle Arthur teasing the children about the true story of why he only has half of a finger.  That's where the storytelling comes in, we get small stories of what "could have" happened to cause the missing half finger.  The children's patience is tested but rewarded at the end of the story with the tale of what might have happened.
This is a story that I think will appeal more to the adults that read it than young children.  I think those kids who have "an old soul" will appreciate it the most.

Turtle in Paradise
Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm
4/5 stars
This was a reread for me to get ready for Full of Beans.  I had read Turtle four years ago.  Ironically enough, I read it in West Palm Beach because we were living there during my daughter's limb lengthening procedure.  As most of you know, that's where we are again!  It's fitting to read Beans in the same place.  Beans  is supposed to be a prequel.  I'll be interested in seeing if it can be a stand alone of if it's best to have some knowledge of the characters to appreciate it.
I really love Turtle.  I love the characters.  I love the setting (I really want to go to the Keys!) and I think the time period - the Great Depression - is interesting.  Holm does a great job integrating the culture and feel of the Keys in this book.  My only complaint is it seems to wrap up quickly.  I like the ending, but it's over so quickly.

Be Light Like a Bird
Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schoder
4/5 stars
What a beautiful story about grief and healing.  It's also about staying true to yourself and fighting for things that you believe in.
This book is going to be important to have in libraries and classrooms because there are readers who will need it.  This book will also allow readers to understand how a character can process grief and heal.
Publishes Sept. 1st from Capstone.

Currently Reading

Full of Beans
Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm
Loving it so far!

We Were Here
We Were Here by Matt de la Peña
Making some headway with it, I'm about halfway done.  de la Peña has an amazing way with words.

Not sure what's next.  Have way too many to choose from.  How about you?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Spotlight Friday: Elephant and Piggie Like Reading series 8.12.16

Time to get ready for the weekend!
Kick up your feet and find a good place to read.
Sharing #booklove for your classroom or library.
Spotlighting a book or two because these books deserve the spotlight!

The ending of the Elephant and Piggie books had us all very melancholy.

But I'm here to let you know that we haven't seen the last of the fun duo!  Have you heard the news about Mo Willems' new project?  A new series called "Elephant and Piggie Like Reading".  Featuring a new author/illustrator for each book, with an introduction and conclusion by Elephant and Piggie, see told you we haven't seen the last of them!  The first two books very much have an "Elephant and Piggie" feel to them.  The story is moved along through conversation, the characters are humorous and have over the top reactions to things, and they definitely appeal to young readers.

Here's a little more about each book and how you may want to use it in your classroom this year:

The Cookie Fiasco (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading!, #1)
The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat

Goodreads summary:
Four friends. Three cookies. One problem. 
Hippo, Croc, and the Squirrels are determined to have equal cookies for all! But how? There are only three cookies . . . and four of them! They need to act fast before nervous Hippo breaks all the cookies into crumbs!

Classroom ideas:
  • great book to use when you're getting ready to introduce the concept of division
  • turning point - where did the author give us clues to the solution before the four friends realized what they could do?

We Are Growing! (Elephant & Piggie like reading!, #2)
We Are Growing by Laurie Keller

Goodreads summary:
Walt and his friends are growing up! Everyone is the something-est. But . . . what about Walt? He is not the tallest, or the curliest, or the silliest. He is not the anything-est! As a BIG surprise inches closer, Walt discovers something special of his own!

Classroom connections:
  • I can't wait to use this book at the beginning of the school year!  Have students reflect on individual talents.
  • use to teach superlatives
  • fluency - Elephant and Piggie books were always fun read alouds because you could add such expressive voice.  This one is no exception!
Look for both of these books on September 20th from Disney Hyperion.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Unbound - a review 8.11.16

There has been a lot of controversy this past year in the kid lit world.  From incorrectly portrayals in illustrations to those in text, to misinterpretations to misunderstood reviewers, to taking liberties with language.  My good friend Lesley shared this link that was shared by Grace Lin.  I'm not sure who originally said it, if it was Ms. Lin, or someone else, but I think it holds a lot of truth.  "things are not getting worse, they are getting uncovered.  we must hold each other tight & continue to pull back the veil."

All of this is in my mind as I write this review.  As most of you know, I am a white reader.  I grew up in what many would say in a privileged manner.  I am a copious reader and I learn and grow through books and conversation.  I just finished reading the book Unbound which is about a young African American girl in the 1800s who is being "brought up to the big house" to serve the Master and Missus.  It is written by Ann E. Burg, a white author.  Because of recent controversy, I almost shied away from writing this review.  Who am I, a white reader to review a book about a controversial time period written by a white author?  But I don't want to shy away from conversation.  If I get something wrong, I'd rather talk about it then not say anything at all.  I'd rather learn from my thinking than not grow at all.  So, here goes.

Unbound: A Novel in Verse
by Ann E. Burg
published by Scholatic
September 27, 2016

Goodreads summary
The day Grace is called from the slave cabins to work in the Big House, Mama makes her promise to keep her eyes down. Uncle Jim warns her to keep her thoughts tucked private in her mind or they could bring a whole lot of trouble and pain.

But the more Grace sees of the heartless Master and hateful Missus, the more a rightiness voice clamors in her head-asking how come white folks can own slaves, sell them on the auction block, and separate families forever. When that voice escapes without warning, it sets off a terrible chain of events that prove Uncle Jim's words true. Suddenly, Grace and her family must flee deep into the woods, where they brave deadly animals, slave patrollers, and the uncertainty of ever finding freedom.

With candor and compassion, Ann E. Burg unearths a startling chapter of American history -- the remarkable story of runaways who sought sanctuary in the wilds of the Great Dismal Swamp -- and creates a powerful testament to the right of every human to be free.

My thoughts
I think historical fiction has such an important place in the reading lives of our youth.  We can teach them and tell them and show them about history.  But the way to make it make sense to them is relate it to them.  Historical fiction does this by having characters that are their age experiencing history and giving the reader a window into what it could have been like for them to live during a time period.

This book is an amazing window to what growing up as a slave could have been like.  From what I think I know, the events in this book seemed authentic and raw.  I enjoyed the character of Grace because we see her fight with wanting to do the right thing, yet needing to please her elders.  She is a flawed character because she doesn't always do what is right, yet we understand her reasonings.

The author's note at the end of the book was interesting.  Burg talks about The Great Dismal Swamp, a real location that can be found between Virginia and North Carolina.  This marshy location gave refuge to slaves who were on the run.  Within the deeply wooded marsh area, runaway slaves settled and learned to live on the land and face the perils of the wilderness, all which gave them freedom and was better than being enslaved.

This novel in verse has a rhythmic feeling to it and I think young readers will appreciate the voice but also there being just the right amount of words spoken in the book.

Look for this book on September 27th. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

2016 #pb10for10

It's 10for10 Picture Book Day!

10for10 Picture Book Day is one reason I look forward to August!  Getting new picture book ideas is always fun, but my favorite part is seeing how people put picture book ideas together.  I see ways to put picture books together that I never would have thought.  So many wonderful ideas as we start our new school year.

Thank you Cathy Mere at Reflect & Refine and Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for organizing this day. Stop by the Google Community to see even more ideas, or look for the hashtag #pb10for10.

I seem to go with a theme for this day, I guess my mind is always on the start of the school year at this time of year.  Last year, my #pb10for10 post was about 10 books you could use for Quick Writes at the beginning of the year.  See that post here.  Sticking with the beginning of the year theme, here are 10 books that would be great to use at the beginning of the year.  Whether it's to set the tone of your classroom community, give ideas on how to problem solve, or to put the new year in perspective, these books are sure to give you and your students a lot to talk about!

Books About Perspective
Use these books to help your students think with a new perspective,
think about things a little differently.

Dear Dragon
Dear Dragon
by Josh Funk
 illustrated by Rodolfo Montalvo

They All Saw a Cat
They All Saw a Cat
by Brendan Wenzel

School's First Day of School
School's First Day of School
by Adam Rex
illustrated by Christian Robinson

Looking at Things a New Way
When students get stuck, how do they go about solving their problem?
Sometimes you have to look at things in a new way.

A Unicorn Named Sparkle
A Unicorn Named Sparkle
by Amy Young

What Do You Do with a Problem?
What Do You Do With a Problem?
by Kobi Yamada
illustrated by Mae Besom

Turn That Frown Upside Down
We all have those days.  But how you deal with them make a difference.

Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus
Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus
by Edward Hemingway

My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)
My Teacher is a Monster! (No I'm Not)
by Peter Brown

Look for the Positives.  In Everyone
It's easy to get caught up in what is wrong.   What is not right.
Use these books to encourage everyone to look for the best.

Excellent Ed
Excellent Ed
by Stacy McAnulty
illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach

We Are Growing! (Elephant & Piggie like reading!, #2)
We Are Growing
by Laurie Keller and Mo Willems
publishes Sept. 20th

Working Together
Round up your classroom community and think about 
how you'll work together this year.

Bring Me a Rock!
Bring Me a Rock
by Daniel Miyares

Here's to everyone having a great start of the school year!