Monday, September 25, 2017

The Way to BEA - blog tour 9.25.17

Who do I want to be?  Am I happy being that person?

I think these are two really big questions young kids think about.  When kids are younger they play with who they want to play with without thinking about what it means for them, will others make fun of them.  It's just about having fun.  When kids are younger, all of their choices are to make themselves happy.  They don't make choices to impress someone else, even if they know it's not nice, or kind, or feel right.  Being content is just a way to be.  

About the Book:
Author: Kat Yeh
Pub. Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 352
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Find it: AmazonB&NiBooksTBDGoodreads

Book Summary
With a charming voice, winning characters, and a perfectly-woven plot, Kat Yeh delivers a powerful story of friendship and finding a path towards embracing yourself.

Everything in Bea's world has changed. She's starting seventh grade newly friendless and facing big changes at home, where she is about to go from only child to big sister. Feeling alone and adrift, and like her words don't deserve to be seen, Bea takes solace in writing haiku in invisible ink and hiding them in a secret spot.

But then something incredible happens--someone writes back. And Bea begins to connect with new friends, including a classmate obsessed with a nearby labyrinth and determined to get inside. As she decides where her next path will lead, she just might discover that her words--and herself--have found a new way to belong.

My thoughts

"I need a new way to be." - back cover of The Way to BEA

It's a big thought for young kids but in this coming of age story, I love watching Bea figure out who she wants to be.  How Bea figures that out is what I wish for all young kids.

As the book opens, we know Bea is going through changes - her family is changing in size and she is no longer friends with her very best friend.  As we get to know Bea, we come to understand that she is not someone who likes change.  She knows what her quirks are but is not someone who is going to change them to fit in.  She is an introvert who wears headphones, without always listening to music, just to avoid talking to people.  She is a reader, a writer of haikus, and someone who puts together playlists.  Adults, especially the teachers in the story, like her.  The kids who she used to be friends with, don't like her.

But slowly, things start to change for her.  She begins a new position at Broadside, the middle school newspaper, where she is starting as the poetry editor.  Here she meets some characters that will have a lasting impact on her.  First, there's Briggs.  He is the kind of friend that will do anything for you, especially for Bea since he's got just a little crush on her.  Bea learns from Briggs that kindness makes a person feel good.  Then there is Will.  Based upon his need for lists, and rules and structure, we know Will thinks a little differently.  The older reader will pick up on the signs that this character is someone with Asperger's.  Even though Will does not show his emotions, even though Will is someone who will tell you like it is, Will is someone who shows Bea how to be a friend.

Yeh also shows the opposite of what happens to Bea.  While Bea slowly navigates the changing life of seventh grade, her former best friend does not have the same successes.  I asked the question earlier, "am I happy being that person?"  Everywhere I look, I can find people who probably aren't happy with the decisions they make, often because those decisions are based upon making others happy.  This happens to middle schoolers all the time - they act in a way to make others around them happy, even at the expense of others.  I like that Yeh shows the positive in Bea's choices and the consequences of her friend's choice.

I really loved seeing the importance of the arts throughout this book.  Bea loves writing haiku poetry and figuring out how the words she wants to say can fit in this controlled poetic format.  Bea uses poetry as a way to work through the changes that are happening around her.  The concepts of mazes and labyrinths were used in the book and had important implications for Bea and her friends throughout the story.  Music also factors in throughout the book.  Bea is a fan of playlists and having music that fits the mood or the situation she is in.  I love that Yeh includes a list of songs - a playlist - at the end of the book that tells us the songs that were going through Bea's mind in the story.  I only wish it had been included at the beginning of the story so readers could be singing along with Bea!

I think this quote is important to think about and discuss.  It made me pause and think about all that Bea learned and the importance it can have to all readers.

"This is the same path that I know so well, that I've walked hundreds of times, but today, all I can think is that the more you walk down a path, the more you start to feel that you can probably handle whatever it is you find at the end." pg. 310

This is a really important book to have in middle grade classrooms.  The characters in this book provide the kind of positive role models readers need to see in books.  Make sure you add a copy (or two) to your library!

About the author

Years ago, I added The Truth About Twinkie Pie to my TBR months before it had even published.  After reading it, I knew I would always add Kat Yeh's books to my TBR!  This book further cements Kat Yeh as one of my favorite authors.

Kat grew up reading, doodling, and scribbling in Westtown. She worked for many years in advertising and sports marketing, while writing children’s books in the wee hours of the night. She currently lives on Long Island where she can see water every day and explore all the bay and harbor beaches with her family.

Don't miss the other stops on this blog tour to learn more about the book and from the author!

Tour Schedule:

Week One:
9/18/2017- Jennifer Mary G.Interview
9/19/2017- YAYOMG!Review
9/20/2017- BookHounds YAGuest Post
9/21/2017- Word SpelunkingReview
9/22/2017- Little Red Reads- Interview

Week Two:
9/25/2017Mrs. Knott's Book NookReview
9/26/2017YA Book MadnessReview
9/27/2017La La the LibraryReview
9/28/2017The Autumn BookshelfInterview
9/29/2017Cindy's Love of BooksReview

Would you like to win a copy of this book?  3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE WAY TO BEA, US Only.  Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for allowing me to come along on this awesome book tour!

Friday, September 22, 2017

Spotlight Friday - Flashlight Night blog tour 9.22.17

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!

Do you remember the days of playing outside so late?  Of the joy of being outside past dark?  It was like you were stealing time and being on a new adventure.  All of your regular games and stories became new and different at nighttime!  

This is a book that captures the feelings, the stories and all of the imagination of nighttime play!

Flashlight Night
Flashlight Night
written by Matt Forrest Esenwine
illustrations by Fred Koehler
published by Boyds Mills Press

Goodreads Summary:
Flashlight Night is an ode to the power of imagination and the wonder of books. Three children use a flashlight to light a path around their backyard at night; in the flashlight's beam another world looms. Our heroes encounter spooky woods, a fearsome tiger, a time-forgotten tomb, an Egyptian god, a sword-fighting pirate, and a giant squid. With ingenuity, they vanquish all, then return to their tree house--braver, closer, and wiser than before--to read the books that inspired their adventure.

I have read this book countless times now and I find a new detail to love in every reading.  This book begs to be read over and over because there is magic to be found in every word, in every picture.   Matt Esenwine's poetic verses roll off the tongue.  Fred Koehler's illustrations have hidden treasures every where you look.  But the magic is when you piece it all together.  I keep finding new ways a word and part of an illustration match.  Or a new possibility of what something could mean.  I think this is a book young readers, of many different ages, will reach for multiple nights for multiple reads!

I feel very fortunate to have been able to meet and talk with the illustrator, Fred Koehler, this past summer at ALA.  Koehler shared details of how he came up with his artwork.  Most came from a trip to the U.K. and he showed us the photographs that were the inspiration for different layouts.  It was fascinating to hear how some of the small moments were added into the illustrations!

The true test of a book's power is when you read it aloud to a young audience.  Since I had an early copy of the book, I was able to do this at the start of the year.  We have a summer reading celebration the first week of school and I read this book aloud to first-fourth graders.  And let me tell you, this audience was ENCHANTED!  And for all different reasons.  The younger readers were caught up in the imaginative parts of the story.  Their eyes went right to the parts that the flashlight highlighted - they loved the pirate ship, the hieroglyphics, the kraken, the tiger!  The older students loved making connections between what was real and what was imagined.  They matched parts of the text to the illustrations.  I loved seeing how each group approached the book differently, which shows me this book will be loved by readers of all ages! 

When I asked students if this was a book that should be on our school's Mock Caldecott list this year, the answer was a resounding "YES"!  Done!

Don't miss any of the other stops on the tour!  But really don't miss this book, it's available now!

Friday, 9/15                     Jama’s Alphabet Soup
Monday 9/18                   KitLit Exchange/The Loud Library Lady
Tuesday 9/19                   Penny Klostermann Book Blog
Wednesday 9/20              Unleashing Readers
Thursday 9/21                 KidLit Frenzy
Friday 9/22                      Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Monday 9/25                   Librarian in Cute Shoes
Tuesday 9/26                   Nerdy Book Club

Thanks to the good folks at Boyds Mills, they have offered a copy of Flashlight Night for a giveaway!  Enter below, giveaway open until Sept. 28th! 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Wishtree - a review 9.21.17

Sometimes a book lands in your hands and you know that it's pure magic.  

by Katherine Applegate
published by Feiwel & Friends
Sept. 26th

That is the case with Wishtree.  This is the book I want to put in the hands of every child, every where.  Children believe in hopes and wishes.  They see things as they are - not what others have told them.  At what point does this change?  When do their beliefs change because of misconceptions?  What a powerful powerful book.  Let the kids lead.  Let their open minds stay open.  Let their power to believe in hope and wishes continue.  

I believe books have the power to change lives, change minds.  I also see how kids have the ability to accept and understand way better than adults do.  The children in Wishtree show this perfectly.  They are also able to make a difference in this story.  Maybe if we allow kids to make decisions about our world, we would have more peace and equality...  The way children see community and friendship and family shines through in this book.

I think using an unconventional narrator made a difference in this story.  In my opinion, having the character that is telling the story be non-human, made the story not be a learn your lesson, preachy story, but one that tells the beauty and power of open minds.  Of hoping and wishing.  And believing.

Finally, I want to take a moment and acknowledge the gorgeous cover by Charles Santoso.  The cover is stunning and I could get lost in the details he included on the tree.  I can't wait to see the interior artwork with the finished book.

This book is going on my Mock Newbery list and I will make sure to have multiple copies on hand in my library.  I hope a copy (or two or three) get into your libraries!

And don't miss the fabulous trailer!

Goodreads summary
Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - new Nicola Davies books 9.20.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

I am a big fan of Nicola Davies and her wide variety of writing styles.  I think her nonfiction books are perfect mentor texts and I have two new ones to share with you.  Both are published by Candlewick and are releasing soon.  You won't want to miss them!

Many by Nicola Davies
Many: The Diversity of Life of Earth
written by Nicola Davies
illustrated by Emily Sutton
publishes Nov. 7th

Davies and Sutton are reunited!  I first met them in Tiny Creatures.  In both books, Davies is able to take such complex topics and bring them to a child friendly way of understanding them.  Sutton's illustrations give the reader so much to look and ponder at in the busy and colorful illustrations.  What a pair they are!
In this book, they tackle the concepts of the many different life forms on Earth.  Habitats, animal groups, and life cycles are explored.  Conservation and the damage humans are doing to life on Earth are also discussed.

Song of the Wild by Nicola Davies
Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals
written by Nicola Davies
illustrated by Petr Horacek
publishes Oct. 3rd

This book is a must for any readers who love animal facts and information.  This large book about animals, coming in at over 100 pages, is well organized and fun to read.  Separated into categories like color, size, and movement, readers will enjoy looking at specific sections or reading the book from cover to cover.  Each page, or sometimes layout, features information about the animal written in poetic verse.  The information reads like stories, but has plenty of facts to learn about the animals.  Bright, large illustrations accompany the information and readers will love pouring over the colors.

Both of these books are must haves for elementary libraries.  Nicola Davies continues to be an author who knows just how to hook her readers with nonfiction facts!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

#road2reading Challenge - Charlie&Mouse&Grumpy 9.19.17

All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools 
that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

I have fond memories of being young and having my grandparents stay with me.  It was always a treat knowing they were there in the house when you woke up and you had the whole day with them.  Sometimes it was a treat just knowing you would get to share your daily routine with them - whether it was your usual lunch or board games or imaginative play.  Grandparents always made the usual into something special.

Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy by Laurel Snyder
Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy
written by Laurel Snyder
illustrated by Emily Hughes
published by Chronicle
October 3rd

Charlie and Mouse are back and this time it's their grandfather, or Grumpy, that comes to stay with them.  Having Grumpy there means figuring out a little bit more about yourself and learning more about how an older generation works (spoiler alert: they sleep a lot more in the day time!).  Each chapter tells another adventure with Grumpy, but each one is really just a celebration of time spent with a loved one.  Grumpy helps make old fun new again.  Whether it's because he has a new perspective of things, or because he shows Charlie and Mouse a new way of doing something.  I think young readers will love the heartwarming chapters and hopefully be able to relate it to something they get to do when a loved one comes visiting.

I like this Charlie and Mouse sequel even better than the first one.  I think the chapters flow better than the first story and center around a common idea.  There are a few word concepts that may have to be discussed (what does it mean to be medium, the word 'armchair') and it does require young readers to infer a bit (what does it mean to pounce, there is a metaphor for feelings in the last chapter), but I think most readers will be able to rely on some schema to help them problem solve.

I'm really excited to have this chapter book series in my library.  I think it's an appropriate one to have in a kg-3rd grade library and with Emily Hughes' illustrations, it will appeal to those readers.

The series also has a fantastic teaching guide.  Take a look at it here.

Be sure to find Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy on October 3rd.

Don't miss Alyson's post!

Want to talk about books for readers who are on the #road2reading?  Link up here!

Monday, September 18, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9.18.17

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

Check out the Question and Answer post with Josh Funk about his new book, It's NOT Jack and the Beanstalk.

Do not miss this amazing sequel, Rise of the Jumbies.

Love these new nonfiction animal books.

You'll fall in love with Beatrice Zinker - a review here!

Picture Books

The Perfect Siesta (Junior Library Guild Selection)
The Perfect Siesta
by Pato Mena
Loved this one way more than I thought I would.  What happens when each animal needs to take a siesta and depends on the sloth to wake them up in exactly 10 minutes?  Funny outcome!

Little Red Riding Sheep
Little Red Riding Sheep
written by Linda Ravin Lodding
illustrated by Cale Atkinson
Another one where the narrator and main character go back and forth with each other.  Pair with It's NOT Jack and the Beanstalk and Snappsy the Alligator.

by Arree Chung
Told in minimal amount of words, readers will enjoy this sweet story of a young boy and his dog.

It Takes a Village
It Takes a Village
written by Hillary Rodham Clinton
illustrated by Marla Frazee
Love the simple text (great for words of the wiser) and amazing illustrations!  I think this book, along with Holly McGhee's Come With Me, are great texts to use to illustrate how every little bit of kindness is important.

The Antlered Ship
The Antlered Ship
written by Dashka Slater
illustrated by The Fan Brothers
I'm thinking of many reasons to read this book, besides the fact it's just beautiful.  Great for tough questions signpost... would match well with Kat Yeh's The Friend Ship... and will probably end up on Mock Caldecott lists!

Sarabella's Thinking Cap
Sarabella's Thinking Cap
by Judy Schachner
Young Sarabella has amazing thoughts, but they stay in her head and occupy a lot of her time when she is supposed to be listening.  I like that her creativity is celebrated.

Currently Reading

The Way to Bea
The Way to BEA
by Kat Yeh
I've been waiting a long time to get to this book!  I loved The Truth About Twinkie Pie so I was thrilled when this book was announced.

I'll be taking next Monday off as we have a follow up doctor appointment for my daughter's lengthening.  I'll be back in two weeks with lots of great books to share!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Spotlight Friday - It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk 9.15.17

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've read a lot of fairy tales, fractured fairy tales and fairy tales that are very loosely based on fairy tales.  It's hard to get the writing right because kids know when fractured fairy tales are more broken fairy tales and when those loosely based ones are hanging by a string.  But this one has done everything right and kids are going to enjoy the fun twists and smart humor this book offers us.

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk
written by Josh Funk
illustrated by Edwardian Taylor
published by Two Lions
September 19th

Josh Funk has given us a new fairy tale and added a whole new twist - a conversation between our main character, Jack, and the narrator of the story.  It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk holds true to the most commonly told "Jack and the Beanstalk" story - Jack has been given magic beans for a trade for his beloved cow.  The beans are magical and grow a large beanstalk.  Jack finds treasure and a giant at the top of the beanstalk.  But then our story changes due to a main character that breaks from his fairy tale mold (did we ever really know Jack?) and a narrator whose story keeps changing from the original format.  

I think this story has many uses in the classroom:
  • of course, as a read aloud!
  • readers theater - work on fluency in a very fun way as the narrator and Jack have a battle of wits in this silly story.
  • unreliable characters - is someone acting in a way that is different than you expect?  How does this change the story?
After reading this hilarious story, I had a few questions of my own for Josh.  He graciously agreed to answer them for me:

1.  How do you hear the characters talking in your head?  Are there certain accents you use?

Actually, the characters REALLY talk to me. By that I mean, my kids would read the manuscript like an actual script while I was writing it. My daughter played Jack, my son played the giant, and I played the storyteller. We would often read it out loud at family gatherings and for friends. My daughter has always played the pesky youngster very well (whether reading this book or not). And my son does a great deep-voiced, slow-witted giant. And I just like whining and arguing a lot, which worked well as I played the role of storyteller.

2.  How do you figure out how you're going to change the traditional tale - do you plan the changes ahead of time or do they come to you as you are writing?

A lot of it has to do with certain aspects of fairy tales that simply don't make sense. For example, trading your cow for a handful of beans? Are we supposed to believe that Jack is so feebleminded? Come on! Of course he'd argue with the storyteller. If an enormous beanstalk grew in your back yard, would your first instinct be to climb it? No! So Jack fights back in the hopes of avoiding this ridiculous task.

3.  What made you think of having the narrator and main character go at it with each other throughout the story?

My goal with this book was to make the reader/narrator/storyteller look ridiculous. I wondered what it would be like if the characters in a book didn't do what the reader told them to do - and not in a 'the pictures tell a different story than the words' type of way. I wanted the characters in the book to actively defy the storyteller!

In short, I wanted to make teachers and librarians and parents and caregivers have to ARGUE with a book - and look foolish while they did it. Because I think kids like it when adults look silly. See how frustrated these educators get when try to read this book? 

4.  Tell us more about some of the hidden fairy tale treasures in the book.

Ahh, the hidden fairy tale treasures were all concocted by the book's brilliant illustrator, Edwardian Taylor. On nearly every spread, he's hidden characters from other fairy tales, folk tales, nursery rhymes, and more. Look closely - because it's possible he's added characters from the next IT'S NOT story featuring our stymied storyteller ... but now I've said too much.

Lucky for us, here it is!  Can't wait for It's NOT Hansel and Gretel!

My students are in for a treat today because thanks to Two Lions, I have an early copy of this book!  We are reading it today for #classroombookaday.  Can't wait for the laughter to begin!  
Be sure to pick this one up next week and share with your readers!