Tuesday, August 10, 2021

3 New Titles from National Geographic

National Geographic books for kids are always a favorite. With colorful photos and graphics, snippets of interesting facts and information you didn't know you needed to know, these books seldom get back on the bookshelves once kids pick them up. 

I'd like to introduce 3 new titles from Nat. Geo for Kids. Review copies were provided by the publisher.


by Stephanie Warren Drimmer
Published April 2021
National Geographic Kids
256 pages

Goodreads Summary
Ever wonder how haunted houses got their spooky rep; where cheese originally came from; and when and where people decided hitting a tiny ball with a long stick (ahem, golf?) was their idea of fun? Prepare to be amazed by the surprising backstories behind the things you use or do every day! From familiar foods and common clothing items to bizarre beauty regimens and quirky products, this book covers all your burning questions: Who thought of that? Where did that come from? Why is that a thing?

This riveting little treasure is jam-packed with awesome facts, fun stories, and colorful visuals. Once you know all this cool stuff about the origins of everyday stuff, you can "wow" your friends and family.

My Thoughts
There is something for every reader in this book. From food, to traditions, to toys, readers will find lots of interesting tidbits. Each item features a "Bet You Didn't Know" caption with an additional cool fact. I particularly liked the toy chapter. Which toy started out as a weapon? Read chapter 2 to find out.


by Aubre Andrus
Published April 2021
National Geographic Kids
208 pages

Goodreads Summary
Upcycle, recycle, and/or repurpose your stuff and engineer your way out of all kinds of sticky situations--all while learning about science and sustainability as you do it! Make cool lantern lights for your room, discover a tried-and-true brain freeze cure, learn how to boost your memory power, and more. In this easy-to-follow guide, kids get tips and tricks for upcycling and reusing old stuff, as well as hands-on activities, fun facts, and insights from professional-grade life hackers who use their problem-solving skills to change the world.
By the end, you'll be able to hack your way through all kinds of problems, from a messy backpack to stage fright, a drippy ice pop to smelly shoes!

My Thoughts
I love to watch video snippets of "life hacks". Sometimes they actually work and sometimes, they just don't seem to be worth the trouble. This book describes 101 hacks meant to make our lives easier and the stories behind them. I have tried hack #2: rebuilding a cupcake by ripping off the bottom and plopping it on top and I can testify that it is yummy! Learn about the many ways to use a binder clip in hacks 22-24. 

Published May 2021
352 Pages

Goodreads Summary
Kids can have fun keeping up with our quickly changing world with the New York Times best-selling almanac, packed with incredible photos, tons of fun facts, adventures with National Geographic Explorers, crafts, activities, and fascinating features about animals, science, nature, technology, conservation, and more. The 2022 edition features a new Kids vs. Plastic chapter, packed with ideas on how you can reduce your plastic waste. There's a whole chapter full of fun and games, including activities, jokes, and comics. Practical reference material, including fast facts and maps of every country, is fully updated. Homework help on key topics is sprinkled throughout the book.

I feel like the almanacs really are great keepsakes. Once you start collecting these almanacs, you just can't stop. 

These book would make excellent additions to your upper elementary or middle school classroom. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Violets Are Blue by Barbara Dee


Violets Are Blue 
by Barbara Dee
Expected Publication Sept. 28, 2021
304 pages
Realistic Fiction
Middle Grade
Advanced Reader copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Twelve-year-old Wren loves makeup—special effect makeup, to be exact. When she is experimenting with new looks, Wren can create a different version of herself. A girl who isn’t in a sort-of-best friendship with someone who seems like she hates her. A girl whose parents aren’t divorced and doesn’t have to learn to like her new stepmom.

So, when Wren and her mom move to a new town for a fresh start, she is cautiously optimistic. And things seem to fall into place when Wren meets potential friends and gets selected as the makeup artist for her school’s upcoming production of Wicked.

Only, Wren’s mom isn’t doing so well. She’s taking a lot of naps, starts snapping at Wren for no reason, and always seems to be sick. And what’s worse, Wren keeps getting hints that things aren’t going well at her new job at the hospital, where her mom is a nurse. And after an opening night disaster leads to a heartbreaking discovery, Wren realizes that her mother has a serious problem—a problem that can’t be wiped away or covered up.

After all the progress she’s made, can Wren start over again with her devastating new normal? And will she ever be able to heal the broken trust with her mom?

My Thoughts
I am a huge Barbara Dee fan. I have read several of her books including Halfway Normal, Everything I Know About You, Maybe He Just Likes You, and My Life in the Fish Tank (see my review here). She provides upper middle grade and middle school readers with realistic, well-developed characters who face real and relatable challenges. Her books are page-turners that you just can't put down. Violets Are Blue is no exception. I am, and always have been, a very slow reader. It takes me days if not weeks sometimes to finish novels. I read this book on my first day of vacation and loved it so much I had to finish it that day. Plus, look at that gorgeous cover! 
Wren faces an all too common problem of having to travel between the home she shares with her mother and traveling to see her father and his new wife.  She lives with guilt over leaving her mother alone and the feelings of betrayal when she makes a connection with her new stepmom. Mom makes it clear that Wren is not to discuss her mother with her father and his new wife and does not want Wren to share anything about the time spent with her father. Dee gives the reader hints at Wren's mother's problem, which gradually gets worse until it can no longer be explained away. 
This book explores themes of friendship, self-acceptance, family dynamics, and addiction. 

I would highly recommend Violets Are Blue for grades 5+. 

See What Others Have to Say About Violets Are Blue

Visit Barbara Dee's Webpage for more info.

Monday, August 10, 2020

My Life in the Fish Tank by Barbara Dee

My Life in the Fish Tank
by Barbara Dee
Expected Publication September 15, 2020
Aladdin Books (Simon and Shuster)
Middle Grade Novel
320 Pages
Review copy Provided by Publisher


Goodreads Summary
When twelve-year-old Zinnia Manning’s older brother Gabriel is diagnosed with a mental illness, the family’s world is turned upside down. Mom and Dad want Zinny, her sixteen-year-old sister, Scarlett, and her eight-year-old brother, Aiden, to keep Gabriel’s condition “private”—and to Zinny that sounds the same as “secret.” Which means she can’t talk about it to her two best friends, who don’t understand why Zinny keeps pushing them away, turning everything into a joke.

It also means she can’t talk about it during Lunch Club, a group run by the school guidance counselor. How did Zinny get stuck in this weird club, anyway? She certainly doesn’t have anything in common with these kids—and even if she did, she’d never betray her family’s secret.

The only good thing about school is science class, where cool teacher Ms. Molina has them doing experiments on crayfish. And when Zinny has the chance to attend a dream marine biology camp for the summer, she doesn’t know what to do. How can Zinny move forward when Gabriel—and, really, her whole family—still needs her help?

My Thoughts
I was already a fan of Barbara Dee after reading Halfway Normal, Everything I Know About You and Maybe He Just Likes You, so I knew this was going to be a really great story.  And I was right! After her older brother, Gabriel, is in a car accident, it is revealed that he is also living with bipolar disorder which has led to him exhibiting some risky and dangerous behaviors. Shortly after, Gabriel leaves home to get treatment in a residential facility and the family is in a state or upheaval. Zinny needs to deal with her feelings of guilt, shame, anxiety and has lost friendships. One of the aspects of this book that I enjoyed is the focus is not fully on Gabriel, his disorder and recovery, but more on how the diagnosis has impacted the family. 
The story is narrated in third person which is effective in showing how each member of the family deals with this challenge in their own way. Dee explores each character to show a full spectrum of coping strategies and feelings. 
I would highly recommend this book for grades 5-8. It would also make a good read aloud for grades 4+. 

See What Others Have to Say About My Life in the Fish Tank:

Sunday, August 2, 2020

It's Monday, What Are you Reading? August 3, 2020


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

Here are a few books I read last week at the lake. Click on the covers to go to the book's page on Goodreads.

A nonfiction graphic novel showing how women (very slowly) became part of space exploration in the US. 

I fell in love with the main characters, but all of the characters are extremely well-developed. The many story lines weave together beautifully and Pennypacker does an excellent job of making the setting feel like a character. 


This one was not for me.

This book is quite different from many historical fiction books. The reader travels through time with a sharecropper family from the Mississippi south. I was invested in the characters and wanted to see how it continued to develop. 
Obtained from Netgalley.

I read the digital galley, which did not have all the images quite yet so I did not get to see all the maps and illustrations. It is filled with really interesting facts about the staff that have supported the First Family for decades. 
Obtained from Netgalley.

Wow! A beautiful collection of old and new poems by the US Poet Laureate, Noami Shihab Nye. My faves were Always Bring a Pencil and Gate A-4. 
Obtained from Netgalley.

Currently Listening

Currently Reading





Monday, July 20, 2020

It's Monday, What Are you Reading? July 20, 2020


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

Here are a few books I read last week. Click on the covers to go to the book's page on Goodreads.

Loved it! Full Review tomorrow. 

Alan Katz writes silly books and poems and this series is no exception. None of the information is actually true and the events never happened. There is a very short (factual) biographical section at the end. It has fun illustrations and kids may like it, but it was not my cup of tea.

I LOVE books about lesser-known, but super-important people. German born Emmy Noether was a gifted mathematician in a time when women were barely allowed to attend college. Her research was vital and she even helped Einstein with his Theory of Relativity. Of course, men took all the credit for her work. This book would make a nice companion to science units and to examine gender stereotypes and fairness. 

Currently Reading

Still Listening

Next Up

What Are You Reading Friends?


Monday, July 13, 2020

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? July 13, 2020


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

Here are a few books I have been able to read over the last couple of weeks. Click on the covers to go to the book's page on Goodreads.

An interesting close look at this pesky insect. 

While this book was interesting and I learned a bit of history that was unfamiliar to me, I found that it was very brief. 

A must-read nf book. 

An eye-opening look at far more than a water problem. 

This book is an important read for my fellow white educators. 

Another great middle grade book from Rebecca Stead.

Middle grade readers will want to travel along with Henry in this exciting story as he tries to demonstrate his independence. 

Currently Reading

Listening To...









Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Remote Learning Middle Grade Book Stack Giveaway!

Hi Friends, 
My goodness it has been a very long time since I have posted anything here on this dusty blog. 
I have lost track of how long we have been in remote learning mode, but it has been extended here in Maine for the remainder of the school year. Teachers and parents are all experiencing loss and disappointment and are working hard to to balance it all. 

My senior in high school and my 8th grader with special needs are both learning remotely at home and it is a challenge to keep everyone safe, engaged in their learning, socially and emotionally nurtured while also doing my literacy coaching job from home. That being said, I feel extremely fortunate to be able to keep working and connecting with teachers and kids. 

As we all continue to teach and learn remotely, while we are remaining physically distant, it can sometimes be a challenge to maintain a positive outlook. So I wanted to spread some book love. 
I am giving away the 10 middle grade books, pictured below, to one randomly-selected winner in hopes that they will be put into kids' hands. The books are best for students in grades 4-6. 
The winner will be selected on May 2. Enter using the Rafflecopter below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway