Thursday, October 1, 2015

Three New Fall Releases by Little Gestalten

I  receive these three new visually stunning selections from Media Masters in exchange for my honest thoughts. 

by Gerald Lo Monaco
Expected release October 25, 2015
Little Gestalten
24 pages
This small and simple pop up book will have little ones flipping pages again and again. Each page features a classic toy such as a sailboat, fire truck, cars and a baby cradle in a colorful popup illustration on a clean, white background. Accompanying each toy is a short poem told in first person from the point of view of a child. 
I can't stop looking at it! 

by Jean Baptiste Lebrune and Jeremie Fischer
What seems at first to be a story about a night watchman soon takes on the feel of a dark, haunting, somewhat creepy folktale. This suspenseful tale is not for the very young. With sophisticated language, some violent images and a bit of romance, I would recommend it for ages 10 and up. The illustrations are very colorful and abstract and remind me somewhat of Ashley Bryan's work. 

by Alice Briere-Haquet and Csil
Expected Publication November 2015 
Little Gestalten
This is an English translation of the French version published in 2014. The story is a fictionalized description of why Gustave Eiffel built The Eiffel Tower. While the English translation and its rhyme pattern is a bit awkward for me, the illustrations are very intriguing.  Using only black, white and pink with mostly thin lines, the illustrator gives the reader the experience of building and standing atop this famous tower.  For ages 5-8.

Monday, September 28, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading-September 28, 2015

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

Here is my reading from last week. 
Click on the book titles to learn more about them. 

Very cute, short picture book about what it might be like to do household chores after shrinking down to a few inches.  Fun for grades PK-2. 

Kids will love the big, collage-style pictures in this book. Can the book-eating zombie change his ways and read books instead of eating them? Grades K-2. 

A very powerful novel in verse for middle schoolers. 

A really interesting book about what it might be like to live on Mars. Good for late elementary or middle school. Review to come.

Currently Reading

And a boatload of research articles for my research project on goal setting. 

What are YOU reading friends?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Maine Student Book Award Round Up #3

The few Fridays ago I shared my thoughts on several books from the 2015-2016 Maine Student Book Award list. You can see the first post here and the second one here.

There are only a few more books that I have read. This is mostly because I know that some are not written for my 4th graders and others I just won't get to. I am sure they are all wonderful and you should definitely read them for yourselves. 

by Kwame Alexander

Goodreads Summary
"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I'm delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.

My Thoughts
This book was the 2015 Newbery winner for a very good reason. It was one of my favorites from 2014 for sure! It is written in verse which can take some getting used to, especially for my 4th graders. It is also chocked full of wonderful, rich, descriptive language and vocabulary. While they might miss some of the subtleties, I would recommend it for some 4th graders, but definitely grades 5-8.  

by Stuart Gibbs
Published 2014 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
352 Pages 

Goodreads Summary
It's a murder mystery on the moon in this humorous and suspenseful space adventure from the author of 'Belly Up' and 'Spy School'. Like his fellow lunarnauts -- otherwise known as Moonies -- living on Moon Base Alpha, twelve-year-old Dashiell Gibson is famous the world over for being one of the first humans to live on the moon. And he's bored out of his mind. Kids aren't allowed on the lunar surface, meaning they're trapped inside the tiny moon base with next to nothing to occupy their time; and the only other kid Dash's age spends all his time hooked into virtual reality games. Then Moon Base Alpha's top scientist turns up dead. Dash senses there's foul play afoot, but no one believes him. Everyone agrees Dr. Holtz went onto the lunar surface without his helmet properly affixed, simple as that. But then Dash learns Dr. Holtz was on the verge of an important new discovery, and it's a secret that could change everything for the Moonies;a secret someone just might kill to keep...

My Thoughts
Science fiction meets murder mystery! This book is a great combination of the two. I like how living on the room is not romanticized and actually seems sort of boring and constricting after a while. I was very interested in the authors description of how this moon base works and the info from the NASA manual add a comedic component. There are many possibilities for this book. I would recommend it for an independent read or read aloud for grades 4-7. 

by Ann Bausum
Published 2014 by National Geographic Children's Books
80 Pages 

Goodreads Summary
Move over, Rin Tin Tin. Here comes Sgt. Stubby! That German shepherd star of the silver screen may have been born behind enemy lines during World War I, but Stubby, the stump-tailed terrier, worked behind enemy lines, and gained military honors along the way. Private Robert Conroy casually adopted the orphan pup while attending basic training on the campus of Yale University in 1917. The Connecticut volunteer never imagined that his stray dog would become a war hero. He just liked the little guy. When Conroy's unit shipped out for France, he smuggled his new friend aboard. By the time Stubby encountered Conroy's commanding officer, the dog had perfected his right-paw salute. Charmed, the CO awarded Stubby mascot status and sent him along with Conroy's unit to the Western Front. Stubby's brave deeds earned him a place in history and in the Smithsonian Institution where his stuffed body can still be seen. Almost 100 years later, Stubby's great deeds and brave heart make him an animal hero to fall in love with and treasure all over again.

My Thoughts
This book is about little Stubby and how he became a war hero, but it is more about a man and his incredible love for his dog. I am not a "dog person" by nature, but I fell in love with Stubby within the pages of this story. Kids will eat it up! I can imagine sharing it as a read aloud slowly, bit by bit as you watch your class fall in love with Stubby. I would recommend it for kids in grades 4-8. 

by J Patrick Lewis and George Ella Lyon
Published 2014 by Wordsong
128 Pages
Historical Fiction/Poetry

Goodreads Summary
This novel-in-verse plunges readers into the heart of the experience of the March on Washington, capturing the emotions of the day from multiple points of view. Throughout this moving, beautifully crafted collection of poems, six “soloists” tell their personal tales of how the March changed them. These voices are interwoven with those of more than 35 others, combining to share one incredible story of that important day. From a woman singing through a terrifying bus ride to DC to a young child riding above the crowd on her father’s shoulders, each voice brings something different and fresh to the story, making the March completely accessible to young readers. Based on extensive research, Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis and highly-lauded poet George Ella Lyon have crafted a unique and beautiful account of this important moment in our history.

My Thoughts
Beautiful!! Reading this book makes you feel like you are right there in Washington during the historic March in 1963. The authors have certainly done their homework. They have taken over 70 different points of view and woven them together in one powerful, moving novel in verse. While it would take a good deal of discussion and vocabulary building for 4th graders, selected poems could be shared if classes would like to discuss this period in US history and get varied perspectives. However, I would recommend it more as an independent read and read aloud for grades 5-8.

Those are all the MSBA books I have read. I will not likely get to the rest, but I would encourage you to support the efforts of The Maine Student Book Award by reading as many as you can and sharing them with your students. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Just in Time for Halloween! Four New Monster Books From Sterling Publishing

I received these books from Sterling Publishing in exchange for my honest thoughts. 

by Catherine Bailey 
Illustrated by Oriol Vital
Published August 2015
Sterling Children's Books
32 Pages

Goodreads Summary
Vampires and werewolves and zombies—oh my! It's a monster invasion, and the stinky-smelling creatures are destroying Wally's peaceful little town. They scare the kids, knock over the lampposts, and make a mess of everything. And no one can stop them—until, fed up, Wally says . . . the magic word, "PLEASE." Learning good manners has never been as monstrously fun!

My Thoughts
This is a neat twist on a book about manners. It is really about how using manners changes how people (or monsters) respond. Kids will love the big, colorful pictures. They will also get a kick out of watching these monsters trash the town before they are asked nicely to stop. Ages 4-8. 

by Agnese Baruzzi
Published September 2015 
White Star Kids (An Imprint of Sterling Publishing)
34 Pages

What an adorable rhyming, counting book! The pages flip open and are so big that the book needs to be held sideways.  Each page contains a close up view of a monster. Opening the flap reveals the critters the monster ate with the number of critters increasing by one each time. I can imagine the kids getting really excited to pull down the flaps. The illustrations remind me a bit of Ed Emberly's Big Green Monster Books. Young kiddos will love this one. Ages 3-6. 

by Lane Fredrickson
Illustrated by Michael Robertson
Published September 2015
Sterling Children's Books
26 Pages

Goodreads Summary
Nothing frightens Winifred Schnitzel—but she DOES need her sleep, and the neighborhood monsters WON'T let her be! Every night they sneak in, growling and belching and making a ruckus. Winifred constructs clever traps, but nothing stops these crafty creatures. What's a girl to do? (Hint: Monsters HATE kisses!) The delightfully sweet ending will have every kid—and little monster—begging for an encore.

My Thoughts
Try as they might, these monsters just can't scare little Winifred Schnitzel (great name right?). When they interrupt her sleep night after night with their antics, she is forced to take drastic measures. Kids will enjoy the silly things these (not so scary) monsters do to try to scare Winifred. They will also love the ending when she figures out what monsters hate. The pictures by Michael Robertson are so adorable. I can see this one being read over and over again. 
by Anna Llenas
Published September 2015
Sterling Children's Books
20 Pages

I absolutely LOVE pop up books and this is one of the best I have seen in a long time. But even without the pop ups, this is a sweet story of how monster starts to identify and name his feelings. At the beginning the monster is all colorful, scribbly and overwhelmed by his feelings. Using jars, a friend helps Monster learn what color each feeling is and separates it into its own jar. For example happiness is "...yellow like the sun and twinkles like the stars".  The feelings of happiness, sadness, anger, fear and calm are each described in a fabulous pop up page with the appropriate color and artwork to represent the feeling. Many young children have difficulty identifying their feelings. This book would be a fabulous way to discuss emotions, their names and how they make us feel. I just loved this book and can't wait to share it. Ages 3-7 (but older kids will find it really interesting to look at). 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-Tree of Wonder by Kate Messner

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website.

by Kate Messner
Illustrated by Simona Mulazanni
Published August 2015
Chronicle Books
36 Pages

This is one nonfiction book with so many possibilities. First, it teaches about how important one tree is to the many lives that depend on it for survival. The animals that depend on the tree are not ordinary animals that most children have probably heard of before. They will learn about howler monkeys, dart frog and rusty wandering spiders just to name a few. This book could be a mentor text for many science lessons including how animals and plants depend on one another. Along with the simple text on each page, there is a more in-depth description of the animals in the bottom corner. 
Then there is the mathematical aspect of the book. It starts off with 2 green macaws that live in the tree, rest in its branches and eat its fruit. Then, each time a new animal is discussed, the number doubles. It ends with 1,024 leaf cutter ants. Each number is displayed with small black pictures of the animal in an array. 
The pictures are amazingly done! Kids will enjoy examining them closely to look at the animals. 
I would recommend Tree of Wonder for ages 6-12. 

Possible Pairings

See what others have to say about Tree of Wonder.

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading-September 21, 2015

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.

Busy week, not much time to read. 

But I just finished this little gem and I can't stop laughing. 
by Drew Daywalt
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

I am a huge fan of The Day the Crayons Quit and my students love hearing it read aloud. I can't wait to share this one as well. The authors are so clever, I don't know how they think of such creative ideas. After reading these books, you will never look at crayons the same way again. 

Currently Reading

Not sure what is next right now. 

What Are YOU Reading Friends?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Nora Notebooks: The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills

The Nora Notebooks: The Trouble with Ants 
by Claudia Mills

Expected publication: Sept. 22nd 2015 
by Knopf Books for Young Readers
179 Pages
Realistic Fiction
Middle Grade
Review copy is an advanced readers copy provided by Blueslip Media.

Goodreads Summary
Science-obsessed fourth grader Nora has ants all figured out—now she just has to try to understand her fellow humans!

The trouble with ants is . . .
. . . people think they’re boring.
. . . they are not cuddly.
. . . who would ever want them for a pet?

Nora Alpers is using her new notebook to record the behavior of ants. Why? Because they are fascinating! Unfortunately, no one agrees with her. Her mom is not happy about them being in the house, and when Nora brings her ant farm to school for show and tell, her classmates are not very impressed. They are more interested in cat videos, basketball practice, or trying to set a Guinness World Record (although Nora wouldn’t mind that).

Mostly they are distracted by the assignment their teacher Coach Joe has given them—to write a persuasive speech and change people’s minds about something. Will Nora convince her friends that ants are as interesting as she thinks they are? Or will everyone still think of ants as nothing but trouble?

With real science facts, a classroom backdrop, an emphasis on friendship, and appealing black-and-white interior illustrations from artist Katie Kath, The Nora Notebooks is perfect for newly independent readers—especially budding scientists like Nora!—and adults who want to encourage awareness of STEM subjects in young readers.

My Thoughts
Claudia Mills writes many fabulous books for early middle grades. I have read and enjoyed several in her Franklin School Friends series. Like that series, The Trouble with Ants (and likely the entire upcoming series) contains characters the reader gets to know well through their interactions and the author's descriptions. The characters are diverse and complement each other well. Readers may recognize Mason from Mills' Mason Dixon series. This book is a bit longer and "meatier" that the Franklin School series for student who are ready for a bit more of a challenge. 
Nora is an intelligent and delightfully quirky girl who is not afraid to proudly and publicly like what she likes. She loves science, but currently thinks ants are the most fascinating creatures and wants others to feel the same. She is a multifaceted character who also enjoys sports and is a great basketball player. This shows readers how it is possible to like something, but also have other talents and interests. 
Nora is also a bit socially awkward and is navigating the increasingly complex world of friendship. She is not what one would call "girly" and struggles to see the allure of cute cat videos and tea parties that seem to be capturing the interest of the clique of girls at school.  I think many middle graders will identify with Nora's difficulty with the confusing and increasingly strange social world of upper elementary school. 
When looking at the title, I thought that The Nora Notebooks would be "notebook style" books that are all written as though the character has written them. That is not the case. While there are a few interesting pieces of Nora's ant notebook scattered throughout, the book is written in third-person narration in a font size that will be comfortable to many readers.
Katie Kath's adorable black and white illustrations give the reader occasional images of the action. This will help readers who are beginning to read longer prose. The pictures are adorable and compliment the text beautifully. 
I would recommend The Nora Notebooks for students ready for a challenge in grade 2, but mostly for grades 3-5. 

Read what others are saying about The Nora Notebooks: Trouble with Ants.