Thursday, July 27, 2017

Don't Go To School by Máire Zepf + A Giveaway!!

Don't Go To School 
by Máire Zepf
Illustrated by Tarsila Krüse
August 2017
Sterling Children's Books
Hardcover
Fiction
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Benno is really excited about his first day at school. But there’s one problem: MOMMY! 
A laugh-out-loud twist on a familiar theme.

What can a little bear do when he’s all ready for his first day of school—but his mother isn’t? “DON”T GO TO SCHOOL!” she wails. “STAY HERE WITH ME!” Mommy sulks, she’s shy, she even throws a tantrum. Can Benno convince her that everything’s okay? He comes up with an ingenious idea to help her adjust—one that many a mom and dad will recognize. This humorous story will reassure and delight nervous children, while parents feeling a little sad to see their babies grow up and march off to school will empathize with Mom!

My Thoughts
There are many books about the anxieties of starting school for the first time, but this is the first book I have read where it is the parent who is anxious and doesn't want her child to start school. Author Máire Zepf uses hilarious juxtaposition and turns the tables describing what, I am sure, some parents might feel as their little ones begin school. "New things are scary sometimes, Mommy..." little Benno says to his mother to help calm her fears. He practically drags her to school to meet the teacher and she is nervous because she doesn't know many of the other parents. 
In the end, Benno convinces his mom that everything will be fine and gives her a pocket full of kisses. 
The text font and illustrations are simple with endearing characters on every page. The colors are somewhat muted and dark with some patterning mixed in which I liked very much.

I really enjoyed this take on a "starting school" book and think many kids and parents will enjoy its humor as they engage in discussions about starting school. 

I would like to thank Sterling for hosting a giveaway of Don't Go to School. Enter in the rafflecopter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Nonfiction Wednesday-Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins

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



Can an Aardvark Bark? by Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins
Published June 2017
Beach Lane Books
32 Pages
Nonfiction
Review copy provided by publisher


Goodreads Summary
From award-winning author Melissa Stewart and Caldecott honoree Steve Jenkins comes a noisy nonfiction exploration of the many sounds animals make.

Can an aardvark bark? No, but it can grunt. Lots of other animals grunt too…
Barks, grunts, squeals—animals make all kinds of sounds to communicate and express themselves. With a growling salamander and a whining porcupine, bellowing giraffes and laughing gorillas, this boisterous book is chock-full of fun and interesting facts and is sure to be a favorite of even the youngest animal enthusiasts.

My Thoughts
Talk about a dream team?! Nonfiction royalty, Melissa Stewart and Steve Jenkins, have teamed up to bring us this wonderful book about animal sounds and there is so much to love about it! 

I love the cover with its little ants marching along the bottom. If you open the book up, you can see the front and back of the aardvark. 

I love the repetitive pattern: Can a giraffe laugh? No, but it can bellow. Lots of other animals bellow too. This structure gives the book a nice flow and helps readers to know what is coming.

I love the facts. Readers learn about different animal sounds presented in just a few sentences. Did you know that a baby beaver whines to let its mother know that it is hungry? 

I love the illustrations. Steve Jenkins is a genius, plain and simple. 
Image from Simon and Schuster Website. 


I would highly recommend Can and Aardvark Bark for any classroom or school library. With its simple, yet informative text and engaging illustrations, it will appeal to a wide age-range. 

But, don't take my word for it, watch this adorable book trailer created by kids! 

See what others have to say about this book:
Publishers Weekly
Kirkus
Kid lit Reviews

Read more about the making of the trailer and info about the book at Mr. Schu's site


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Spotlight On: Claymates by Dev Petty

Claymates
by Dev Petty
Illustrated by Lauren Eldridge
Published June, 2017
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
40 Pages
Fiction
Hardcover
Obtained from public library

Goodreads Summary
Meet the claymates: two balls of clay that can become anything--even best friends! 

What can you do with two blobs of clay? Create something amazing! But don't leave them alone for too long. Things might get a little crazy
In this photographic friendship adventure, the claymates squish, smash, and sculpt themselves into the funniest shapes imaginable. But can they fix a giant mess before they're caught in the act? 

Quick Thoughts
Oh my word! This book is so creative and so much FUN! These two balls of clay discover that they can be anything they want to be and in the process they become friends. I would highly recommend Claymates for grades Pre-K-4. 

Kids will love it and adults will love rereading it. Just make sure to have some clay ready so they can create "something wonderful". 

Check out this great book trailer!

See what others have to say about this book:
Mr. Schu-Watch. Connect. Read
Publishers Weekly
Kirkus

Monday, July 24, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? July 24, 2017


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

I was lucky to take this stack of books with me on a brief road trip. 

I also read this gem. So good!

What are you reading friends? 

Monday, July 17, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? July 17, 2017




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

Here are some books I have enjoyed this week. Click on the cover for more info. 

Sweet and sad, but mostly sweet. Prek-2

I will review this excellent middle grade adventure story near its release date in November.

LOVED this one! Great for fans of The Goldfish Boy. 

Get this one. Trust me.

Currently Reading

Listening to...

Continuing to read and participate in #cyberpd2017
Here are my posts if you care to read them.


What are you reading friends? 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#CyberPD2017 Week Two


     This summer I am participating in my second #CyberPD session. This virtual book club is organized and facilitated by educators, Cathy MereLaura Komos and Michelle Nero. This summer, we are reading and discussing Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by the incomparable Vicki Vinton. 

This week we read chapters 5 and 6 in section two of Vinton's book. Both chapters gave a glimpse into how a problem-based reading session might unfold. Although, both chapters were thought-provoking, chapter 5 spoke to me a bit more.

File Under Duh, Why Didn't I think of That?
Right from the beginning, Vinton was blowing my teacher mind by suggesting things that, until now, seemed counterintuitive. She suggests instead of activating background knowledge or preteaching tricky vocabulary in a text, have the students read the text and underline the words they DO know instead of those they do not know. This, she says, "...builds their confidence, sense of agency and identity as readers." (58). 

I Do This, But I Didn't Know I Did This
Feedback strategy: Noticing and naming. As I read this section (pgs 73-74) I was pleased to find that this might be something I actually do, but didn't realize I was doing it and didn't have a name for it. Now I have filed it away to definitely have available in my questioning/feedback toolbox. The idea is simple, notice what students are doing to attempt to solve problems and name what they did. There is a nice list on page 74. 

Quote Worthy
"While the ability to argue with evidence is certainly an important skill, we might better serve our students as readers if we think of that as a by-product, not the real purpose of reading." Unfortunately text-dependent questions and "proving" accuracy by quoting the text has become the goal in may classrooms thanks to the Common Core's emphasis on it. 

Steer the Ship
I absolutely LOVE the "Steering the Ship" charts where Vinton summarizes the essence of the chapter. I have each one marked with a sticky flag and feel like they would be great to revisit for reminders and inspiration. 

Confession
I-we-you has been a hallmark of my instruction for some time. I love it when my thinking is "disrupted" to coin a phrase from Beers and Probst. Why not let them grapple first and then decide if/when/how to help?




Monday, July 10, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? July 10, 2017




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

Here are some books I have enjoyed this week. Click on the cover for more info. 

Terrific nonfiction biography. Grades 3+

An important book to add to your library. Grades 3+

I am always interested in books where a person is born with an innate gift. Grades 2-5

Fun concept book about things that are round. PK-2

Really adorable early chapter book. Grades 1-3

This one was not a favorite, but some gn fans will enjoy it. 
Grades 3-5

Middle grade. See my review here

Finished
A new historical fiction novel set during the Holocaust with a fantasy twist. Upper middle grades.


What are you reading friends? 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Animal Planet Chapter Books-Dolphin Rescue and Farm Friends Escape

Dolphin Rescue 
by Catherine Nichols
Published Feb. 2017
Animal Planet
112 Pages
Middle Grade
Review copies provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Siblings Maddie and Atticus love living by the sea. Their dad traps lobsters off the coast of Maine. They love helping with the family business and volunteering at the local aquarium. The summer is shaping up to be a super one, for sure. Then one day they spy a pod of dolphins in the cove looking distressed. How will the kids use their knowledge of animals and their awesome problem-solving skills to help the dolphin family get safely back to sea? Perfect for reluctant, challenged, and newly fluent readers, the Animal Planet Adventures chapter book series combines fun animal mysteries with cool nonfiction sidebars that relate directly to the stories, bringing the best of the animal world to young readers. With full-color illustrations and photographs throughout.

by Gail Herman
Published Feb. 2017
Animal Planet
112 Pages
Middle Grade
Review copies provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
During summer vacations, cousins Luke and Sarah help out at their grandparents' petting zoo. But what happens when the animals get loose overnight? Can Luke and Sarah use their knowledge of animals and their awesome problem-solving skills to get the animals back to safety?Perfect for reluctant, challenged, and newly fluent readers, the Animal Planet Adventures chapter book series combines fun animal mysteries with cool nonfiction sidebars that relate directly to the stories, bringing the best of the animal world to young readers.

My Thoughts
This series is sure to be a hit with middle graders. Each has a compelling storyline with relatable characters. In each book, the children need to work together to try to solve a mystery. There are many pages of nonfiction sprinkled in to provide some factual information-perfect for you students who love nonfiction. I just need to point out that Dolphin Rescue is set in Maine (where I live). The children have many close encounters with dolphins which makes the story exciting, but dolphins in this area are usually see far off shore, rarely from the beach.
The sturdy hardcover has colored illustrations and a fun flip book feature at the bottom right of the pages. 

I would recommend this animal planet chapter book series for animal lovers in grades 3-5. 

See what others have to say about these books:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Things that Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari

Things that Surprise You 
by Jennifer Maschari
Expected publication August 22, 2017
Balzer and Bray
288 Pages
Middle Grade 
Realistic Fiction
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice. 

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?


Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart. 

My Thoughts
Add this one to your list of books that should come with tissues. Many "tweens" can relate to the events and feelings in this book. Friends change and mature at different rates and when a best friend changes a lot, and seems to be moving away from you, it can be devastating. Emily's character really rang true for me. The struggle and pressures that kids (particularly girls) can go through with friends, popularity, bullying and just finding their place is all presented perfectly. I was moved to tears more than once as I watched how Emily was treated and felt her desperation to be accepted. 

Who Would Like It
I would highly recommend this book for grades 4-6. Fans of books like One for the Murphys, The Thing About Leftovers and Raymie Nightingale will enjoy Things that Surprise You. 

See what others have to say...



Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Spotlight on: Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence

Star Scouts 
by Mike Lawrence
Published March 2017
First Second
Fantasy
Graphic Novel
Middle Grade
Copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Avani is the new kid in town, and she’s not happy about it. Everyone in school thinks she’s weird, especially the girls in her Flower Scouts troop. Is it so weird to think scouting should be about fun and adventure, not about makeovers and boys, boys, boys?

But everything changes when Avani is “accidentally” abducted by a spunky alien named Mabel. Mabel is a scout too—a Star Scout. Collecting alien specimens (like Avani) goes with the territory, along with teleportation and jetpack racing. Avani might be weird, but in the Star Scouts she fits right in. If she can just survive Camp Andromeda, and keep her dad from discovering that she’s left planet Earth, she’s in for the adventure of a lifetime.

My Thoughts
I enjoyed reading this fantasy graphic novel and I know many students in my 4th grade class that would really love it. The illustrations are great and there is enough "potty humor" and action to keep kids interested. I would definitly add it to my classroom library. 

Who Would Like It
Fans of Earthling or Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels can add Star Scouts to their TBR lists. 

See what others have to say...



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

#CyberPD2017 Post Week 1-Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading


     This summer I am participating in my second #CyberPD session. This virtual book club is organized and facilitated by educators, Cathy MereLaura Komos and Michelle Nero.  This group started in 2011 and has grown every year. This summer, we are reading and discussing Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by the incomparable Vicki Vinton. 

This week we read chapters 1-4 and boy were they chocked FULL of ideas! My head is swimming! 

Reflection
As I thumb through my book, now covered in highlights and sticky notes, I will attempt to reflect on my reading. Rather than summarize or reflect on each chapter, I will reflect on a few quotes that really spoke to me.  

"Too often though, what passes as productive struggle in reading is asking students to persevere through an exceedingly hard text to find a particular answer or to give the teacher what she-or the program she is using-is looking for, which only captures on piece, not the more complex whole, of what's meant by productive struggle." (13)

"It [Common Core] does not suggest that teachers should choose a different text, only that they should continue to scaffold until a students get it. This means that too often teachers are doing the heavy lifting, nudging and prodding students toward whatever it is that they are supposed to get-and if that fails, simply telling them." (19)

Both of these quotes are centered around using too much scaffolding. Vinton discusses how Common Core and commercial programs are pressuring us to scaffold like crazy to "get through" a text, even though it may be far too difficult. She suggests, rather than slogging through a text that is too difficult, finding a more accessible text to help the student apply problem-solving skills to be able to read more independently. Seems like a no-brainer, but I think teachers often feel tied to the texts in a program and feel that they are helping students by nudging (or dragging) them through a tough text in the name of "rigor". 

Questions I am Pondering:
How much (if any) scaffolding is beneficial?
How can I make sure my students are exposed to the right types of texts to help them problem solve and become more independent?
Am I doing all the heavy lifting?

"...in our rush to get answers or have students make claims, we rarely give them enough time to truly engage in critical thinking." (32)

"What's important is how deeply they come to understand and consider what the author might be trying to show them-in other words, what they think the text means at the literal, figurative and thematic levels. Of course the question then becomes how to achieve this outcome without all those prescribed steps and scaffolding. I believe the answer is to bring that complex mix of creative and critical thinking into classrooms by setting students up to wonder, generate questions and form hypotheses, then to test out these hypotheses using reasoning and logic, to arrive at a final judgement or claim." (37) 

"Close reading is a noun, while reading closely is a verb; one's a thing and the other's and action." (39)

This set of quotes involve critical thinking and reading closely. Vinton points out that "close reading" is one of those educational terms that can mean different things to different people. To many, close reading is a scaffolded procedure meant to guide students in digging deeper into the reading with multiple readings for different purposes. I really like Vinton's suggestion that close reading should be an outcome, not a procedure. She, and Harvard's, "How to Do a Close Reading" suggest having students read the text first for, "anything that strikes you as surprising, or significant, or that raises questions". Then they reflect and interpret which will likely lead to them back to the text. This seems a more natural way to look at reading closely where the student decides what work is required as the transact with the text. 

Questions I am Pondering:
What might critical thinking and reading closely look like at different grade levels? 
How can we ensure that students get ample time to think critically about texts?

I am eager to read the next section where Vinton shows us what her approach might look like in the classroom. 


As a last thought, I'll just leave these little nuggets of wisdom.

"The thing that really matters in feedback is the relationship between the student and the teacher."
(Dylan Williams, 2014) pg. 52

"...rigor doesn't have to be the opposite of pleasure." (pg. 51)

"..there is, in fact, no teaching without learning". 
(44, quote from Paulo Freire, 1998) pg. 44


Monday, July 3, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? July 3, 2017


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

Happy 4th of July (almost)!
I have been busy reading lately, but not so busy posting. Here are some books I have read in recent weeks. 


 
I reviewed these books last week. Very fun way to play with words for pre-K-2

So FUN! A must-have! K-5

Adorable, as expected. K-4

Nonfiction picture book about one of the first coders. Loved it. Review here

An alternative to Wimpy Kid. Will make you want to do some pull ups. Grades 3-5

For fans of Matt Christopher. Grades 3-5

Full review here

Beautifully written. Grades 5+

Currently Reading


Up Next?


I hope you all enjoy the holiday with family, friends and great books!








Friday, June 30, 2017

Two New Picture Books by Linda Ragsdale

How I Did It!
by Linda Ragsdale
Illustrated by Anoosha Syed
Published April 2017
Flower Pot Press
32 pages
Fiction
Picture Book
Review Copy Provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
This encouraging tale about a daring letter in the alphabet who wants to stand out uses clever play on words to deliver a message about creativity, individuality, and following your dreams!

My Thoughts
Cute, cute CUTE! The letter "I" wants to have the freedom to have curves and change his shape. He wriggles around until he finally breaks free of the page. When he falls off the book, he has to take a hard look at himself and problem solve. 
The book is chocked full of fun alphabet and punctuation puns.
The illustrations are lively and simple, done in bold colors that kids will love. The illustrator has managed to create emotions of the faces of the alphabet characters, even the grumpy ones are cute.



I would recommend it to grades 1-4.

Visit Linda Ragsdale's website
Visit Anoosha Syed's website



Alphabetter
by Linda Ragsdale
Illustrated by Martina Hogan
Published 2017
Flower Pot Press
Picture Book
Review Copy Provided by publisher

Summary
This book is the second in the Peace Dragon series (I have not read the first). This book invites the reader to have fun with putting words together. The author describes the book as "...a playful take on empowering our vocabulary with hilarious words that encompass the best qualities, thoughts and emotions we can imagine, in order to create a dictionary like no other." 

My Thoughts
This book will have children manipulating words into their own fun language. Maybe they could even make their own dictionary. 
The illustrations are bold and fun with interesting fonts and colors. The animal characters are just adorable and add to the book's appeal. 



Fan of Amy Krouse Rosenthal's Exclamation Mark will enjoy How I Did It! I would recommend it for grades K-4.  

See what others have to say about this book:
Publishers Weekly