Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Nonfiction Wednesday, January 28, 2015-Earmuffs for Everyone How Chester Greenwood Became Known as the Inventor of the Earmuffs

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

by Meghan McCarthy
Published 2015 by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
48 Pages 
Nonfiction Picture Book
Review copy obtained from public library

Goodreads Summary
As a young boy, Chester Greenwood went from having cold ears to becoming a great inventor in this nonfiction picture book from the acclaimed author-illustrator of Pop! and Daredevil.

When your ears are cold, you can wear earmuffs, but that wasn't true for Chester Greenwood back in 1873. Earmuffs didn't exist yet! But during yet another long and cold Maine winter, Chester decided to do something about his freezing ears, and he designed the first pair of ear protectors (a.k.a. earmuffs) out of wire, beaver fur, and cloth. He received a patent for his design by the time he was nineteen, and within a decade the Chester Greenwood & Company factory was producing and shipping Champion Ear Protectors worldwide!

But that was just the beginning of Chester's career as a successful businessman and prolific inventor. In this fun and fact-filled picture book you can find out all about his other clever creations. The Smithsonian has declared Chester Greenwood one of America's most outstanding inventors. And if you're ever in Maine on December 21, be sure to don a pair of earmuffs and celebrate Chester Greenwood day!

My Thoughts
I was thrilled to see the story of Chester Greenwood in a picture book. Being from Maine, it always excites me when a Mainer is featured in a book. Even more exciting, I attended college in Farmington, Maine, the birthplace of Chester Greenwood. It is true that the town celebrates Chester Greenwood Day every year. However the actual Chester Greenwood Day is December 21 and the parade is always on the first Saturday of the month.
I always thought that Greenwood actually invented earmuffs. Well Meghan McCarthy has done her research and it turns out that he did not actually invent earmuffs, but improved them. Before his patented version, earmuffs did not fit snugly over the ears. I also learned that Thomas Edison did not actually invent the light bulb, but improved it to last longer. Who knew?

I like how McCarthy combined her adorable big-eyed cartoonish characters with factual information and recreations of original documents. Readers will learn about invention patents and a bit about Greenwood himself. The story and the author's note explain how difficult it was to sift through what was true and what was not true about Greenwood. I would recommend this book as part of a classroom library biographies. It would make a good read aloud for grades 2-5. 

How Stuff Works has a nice, quick video about Chester and his ear protectors. 

Here are a few other books about kid inventors:

Please visit Meghan McCarthy's website to learn more about her and her books. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading-January 26, 2015

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

Here are a few things I read this week. Click on the covers to learn more about the books.

Neat story of Molly Williams, America's First Female Firefighter.

A gorgeous story of a young girl's dream to be a ballerina. 

Cute story, but not a great way to teach manners.

So adorable! Great read aloud for K-2!

I LOVE the simplicity of this book. Super wintery read aloud for grade K-2. 

Yep, still... Not because I am not enjoying it, but because I keep falling asleep when I try to read at night. 

What Are YOU Reading Friends? 

Recent posts:

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Review of Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign 
by Ann M. Martin
Published 2014 by Feiwel & Friends
240 Pages
Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Ages 9-12 (from the publisher)
Review copy provided by the publisher

Goodreads Summary
Rose Howard has OCD, Asperger’s syndrome, and an obsession with homonyms (even her name is a homonym). She gave her dog Rain a name with two homonyms (Reign, Rein), which, according to Rose’s rules of homonyms, is very special. Rain was a lost dog Rose’s father brought home. Rose and Rain are practically inseparable. And they are often home alone, as Rose’s father spends most evenings at a bar, and doesn’t have much patience for his special-needs daughter.
Just as a storm hits town, Rain goes missing. Rose’s father shouldn’t have let Rain out. Now Rose has to find her dog, even if it means leaving her routines and safe places to search. Rose will find Rain, but so will Rain’s original owners.

Hearts will break and spirits will soar for this powerful story, brilliantly told from Rose’s point of view.

My Thoughts
Rain Reign is absolutely a favorite from 2014. I fell in love with Rose as she tells her story as only she can. Rose has several of the stereotypical traits of many people with Asperger's syndrome including intense interests and/or obsessions and a desire for predictability. Ann M. Martin approaches the condition with respect and has obviously done her research in creating such an endearing and believable main character. I believe that Asperger's syndrome is one of the most confusing disabilities for other students to understand as the individual does not usually "look" as though they have a disability. With a need for order and following the rules, students with Asperger's syndrome can often seem like they are tattling when they insist that others follow the rules. This book provides students with a look inside the thinking processes of someone with the condition. This could increase their understanding and in turn their compassion for people with Asperger's. There is much opportunity for discussion throughout Rose's story.
One of Rose's intense interests is homonyms. She often inserts the homonym(s) for words next to them in her story. I can imagine having a big unit studying homonyms as a class when reading Rain Reign aloud. I thought it would be distracting, and it was a first, but it just becomes part of the way Rose talks. 
I have to admit, I found myself getting very upset with Rose's father who seemingly has no compassion or patience for Rose or her disability. Thankfully she has her uncle who is just the opposite. He spends time with her and talks about the things that interest her. I loved their sweet relationship. 
I really could go on and on gushing about how much I love Rain Reign. Ann M. Martin has created another gift for her readers. 

A Review of Ranger in Time #1 Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner

Ranger in Time #1-Rescue on the Oregon Trail 
by Kate Messner
Published January 2015 by Scholastic Press
144 Pages
Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Meet Ranger! He's a time-traveling golden retriever who has a nose for trouble . . . and always saves the day! Ranger has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog, but can't officially pass the test because he's always getting distracted by squirrels during exercises. One day, he finds a mysterious first aid kit in the garden and is transported to the year 1850, where he meets a young boy named Sam Abbott. Sam's family is migrating west on the Oregon Trail, and soon after Ranger arrives he helps the boy save his little sister. Ranger thinks his job is done, but the Oregon Trail can be dangerous, and the Abbotts need Ranger's help more than they realize!

My Thoughts
I read this book in one sitting. I found the time period to be fascinating and this book is jam-packed with events that kept me wanting to see what would happen. I have to admit, I am not a "dog person" but you don't need to be one to enjoy Ranger's story. The characters are easy to love as they bravely face dangers like a buffalo stampede and life-threatening diseases. They often have Ranger to thank for keeping them safe and together. 

I learned a great deal about The Oregon Trail and the travel west during this time period. It was a difficult and often sad time when so many families made the courageous decision to move west seeking land and, in some cases, fortunes. Messner has done her research and seamlessly weaves facts into this page-turner. Her author's note also provides additional interesting information for the reader. 

At only 144 pages, with manageable text complexity, Ranger in Time is accessible to many middle grade readers. They will fall in love with Ranger and his thrilling adventures! 
Ranger's next story will take place in ancient Rome. I am thrilled that there will be more Ranger books. I am putting in my vote for one that takes place during The American Revolution since that is one the time periods I teach in social studies. I expect this series will appeal to readers who love historical fiction books like The Magic Tree House and the I Survived series. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Slie of Life-nErDcampNNE 2015 Reflection

Each Tuesday the amazing bloggers at Two Writing Teachers host Slice of Life Stories (SOLS). This is where bloggers link up to share anything they would like to share about what is happening in their lives. 

After a year of planning, the second nErDcamp Northern New England was held this past weekend. 200ish teachers, librarians, authors and other educators gathered together for a day of learning and connecting. To my knowledge we are the second region to hold a nErDcamp. Nerdcamp was the brainchild of Colby Sharp and his friends at Nerdy Book Club in Michigan who hold their nErDcamp in the summer. 
The weekend started off with an author event on Friday night. Dozens of local authors and illustrators from New England gathered to meet fans and sign books. It was so exciting to see kids' eyes light up when they meet the author that wrote their favorite book. Of course, kids were not the only ones who were a little star struck. 
Susan Dee, author Lynne Plourde, Me, author Jennifer Jacobson

Me with author of the Cooper and Packrat series, Mainer Tamra Wight!

Yep, that's me with Cynthia Lord!! Love her!

Lynda Mullaly Hunt is the selfie queen! 
Lynda, Jenn Chafin, me, Paula Bourque, JoEllen McCarthy

What a fabulous group of authors and illustrators!!

Our planning committee: Mary Lou Shuster, Cathy Potter, yours truly, Jenny Stahl, Susan Dee, Natalee Stotz, Jenn Chafin (Chris Pirkl was not able to attend due to illness, but helped us with technology from home. He was missed very much.)

The day of nErDcamp started early and ended late. Last year's nErDcamp was great and I have to say I think this year was even better! We were more prepared and we had many participants return who were familiar with the "unconference" model. We also had many volunteers who helped in numerous ways! We had four sessions, two in the morning. Thanks to many generous publishers, authors and educational companies, we were able to offer great door prizes and a ton of giveaways. 
The day passed too quickly. I love the "unconference" model where the participants choose what they would like to learn. Nothing is preplanned and no one assumes to be an expert. It's teachers getting together to share what they know in a relaxed, supportive environment. We were able to connect with people around the country via Twitter and our live Google notesOne of the hardest parts was choosing which of the amazing sessions to attend. 

Visit Jenny Lussier's storify of nErDcamp to see a collection of Tweets.

Author Sarah Albee reflected on her time in Maine and the Nerdy weekend here.  

LOVE these ladies! Susan Dee and Cathy Potter!

This picture was taken at an after camp gathering. I had to include it because it makes me laugh just looking at us. 

We are already talking about nErDcampNNE 2016! I love this weekend and all it offers teachers. We just don't get this kind of PD at school. It respects teachers' ability to determine what they need to learn. Can't wait until next year!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

When Otis Courted Mama by Kathi Appelt- Review and Author Interview and Giveaway!

When Otis Courted Mama 
by Kathi Appelt
Illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Published Jan. 2015
HMH Books for Young Readers
40 Pages
Picture Book-Fiction
Copy provided by the publisher

I was very fortunate to be able to ask Kathi Appelt about her new picture book When Otis Courted Mama. Her responses are italicized.

Why did you decide to write a book about blended families?

   When I was growing up, I was part of a blended family. My parents were divorced and first my dad remarried; then a few years later my mom remarried. So, my sisters and I had to learn to adjust to all of these new people in our lives who were—for better or worse—suddenly related to us.  
   As a person who has always found refuge in the pages of a book, I could have used a story or two that featured a family like mine. Of course, that was many years ago, and blended families seem more common now than they did back then. We’re talking decades here. But even today, while there are plenty of middle grade and young adult stories that feature blended families, there aren’t that many picture books. Anna Grossnickle Hines’s When We Married Gary is a notable exception.  
   There are also lots of stories that feature the stepparent as the 
villain. How many stepmothers and stepfathers come with the word “evil” in front of their monikers? See what I’m saying. But in reality, most stepparents are just doing their ever-loving best, and they aren’t evil at all.  
   My stepfather, George, definitely fell into this latter category. Not only that, but he was a terrific storyteller. He could spin a yarn with the best of them, and he was funny to boot. He made life mostly wonderful for my mom and my sisters and me. So, OTIS is very much a tribute to him and also to the wondrous powers of a story.

 This book has a definite southwestern feel. What made you choose this setting?

I love the sounds of the southwest. The names of the flora and fauna made my ears happy. And even though coyotes can be found pretty much all over the place, I associate them primarily with the desert southwest. Coyotes seemed like the perfect main characters because they’re so scrappy and I think most families are scrappy. I don’t know too many cute and fluffy bunny-type families. (Not that I’m dissing bunnies, just saying). And also, I wanted to give a subtle nod to Coyote the trickster. My Otis isn’t so much a trickster, but I think he understands the power of a good lark.  

How is this book different from most of your other work?

It doesn’t rhyme for one thing! I went through a period of writing picture books when it seemed like everything rhymed. Sometimes a girl has to rhyme, but with Otis, I just felt like I needed to tell the story in a straight-ahead manner, as if we were sitting around a campfire.

What question do you wish I would ask you about When Otis Courted Mama?

Well, if you asked me about the art, I would tell you that Jill McElmurry’s paintings make me over-the-moon happy. This book was a long time in the making, but it was so worth waiting for Jill’s art. Yep.

Goodreads Summary
Apart from sticker burrs and sand fleas, Cardell’s life is mostly wonderful. He knows he’s loved through and through by his perfectly good mama and his perfectly good daddy. They live in different parts of the desert, but that’s okay—Cardell is mostly used to it. Then Otis comes calling, and Cardell feels a grrr form in his throat. Otis can’t make jalapeño flapjacks or play Zig-the-Zag anything like Cardell’s daddy. And so Cardell waits for Mama to say "Adiós, Otis." But what will happen if she doesn’t?

My Thoughts
This picture book is unlike any I have read. It tackles the topics of blended families, step parenthood and shared custody in a sweet and seamless way. Otis has a dad and a stepmother whom he sees "part of the time". He spends the rest of the time with his mama all to himself on the other side of the dessert. Other suitors have come to call on his mama, but she has said Adiós to all of them until she meets Otis. When Otis keeps coming around, Cordell's anger and fear are apparent and described as a "grrr" in his throat. Gradually, Cordell begins to see that, although he is not like his dad, Otis has a place in his family. As a step-parent myself, I am glad to see a book where the step parent is shown in a patient and loving light. 

 It is important for students to be able to see themselves in books. This book provides that mirror for many children dealing with divorce, step-families and feelings of loss, anger and fear. It is equally important for children whose families are in tact to see what it might be like for children who have experienced divorce. There are many opportunities for valuable discussions using this book. It is beautifully written with rich, varied language with a southwestern flair. I would highly recommend When Otis Courted Mama for any elementary school or classroom library. 

Watch the book trailer!

More about Kathi Appelt
Kathi Appelt’s perfectly wonderful stepfather was a terrific storyteller, and she grew up to become a teller of stories, too. She is the New York Times best-selling author of more than forty books for children and young adults. Her picture books include Oh My Baby, Little One, illustrated by Jane Dyer, and the Bubba and Beau series, illustrated by Arthur Howard. Her novels for older readers include two National Book Award finalists: The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp and The Underneath, which was also a Newbery Honor Book. In addition to writing, Ms. Appelt is on the faculty in the Masters of Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in College Station, Texas. To download a free, CCSS-aligned curriculum guide, visit or Kathi’s website at

Bonus! Find a full-color door hanger and other fun downloadables at

Visit all the other blog stops for When Otis Courted Mama.

Mon, Jan 5     5 Minutes for Books
Tues, Jan 6    Cracking the Cover
Wed, Jan 7     Sharpread
Thurs, Jan 8    Unleashing Readers
Fri, Jan 9       Once Upon a Story
Sat, Jan 10     Booking Mama
Mon, Jan 12    Geo Librarian
Tues, Jan 13    The Late Bloomer's Book Blog AND
                    NC Teacher Stuff
Wed, Jan 14   Teach Mentor Texts
Thurs, Jan 15  Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Jan 16      The Fourth Musketeer

Enter the Giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading-January 12, 2015

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

I apologize for not having time to write a description of each book, but you can click on the covers to see my rating on Goodreads. 

Here are some books I have read recently.

Currently Reading

What Are You Reading Friends?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

A Review of Nanny X by Madelyn Rosenberg

Nanny X 
by Madelyn Rosenberg
Published 2014 by Holiday House
106 Pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Ages 7-10
Review copy provided by the publisher

Siblings Ali, Jake and their baby sister Eliza are getting a new Nanny. When Nanny X arrives wearing her motorcycle jacket and mirrored sunglasses, already seeming to know all about each of them, they quickly suspect that this is no ordinary nanny. Their suspicions are soon confirmed. 
The mayor in their town wants to turn the town park into a space for a factory. At the town meeting, Jake's friend, Stinky, is accused of throwing a rock that knocked out the mayor. Then Nanny X starts acting very peculiar, talking to a diaper. Nanny X finally confesses that she is part of a secret organization called N.A.P. (Nanny Action Patrol). Using spy gadgets including a sippy cup that allows them to eavesdrop on conversations and a bib that is actually an interactive map, along with their own bravery can the kids help Nanny X save the park from becoming a factory and get Stinky out of jail? 

My Thoughts
Nanny X is a fun read. At only 109 pages (without pictures), it is accessible for many middle grade readers. Children will enjoy trying to solve the mystery along with Jake, Ali and Nanny X. The spy gadgets that Nanny X uses will make them look at diaper bags quite differently. The book also follows the rocky relationship between grouchy older sister Ali and her younger brother Jake. This relationship changes as the two courageously work together toward a common goal. There is plenty of danger, action, fun and surprises in Nanny X

Friday, January 2, 2015

Review of How to Behave at a Tea Party

How to Behave at a Tea Party
by Madelyn Rosenberg
Illustrated by Heather Ross
Published 2014 by Katherine Tegan Books
32 pages
Fiction Picture Book
Ages 4-8 
Review copy provided by the publisher 

Goodreads Summary
Julia's little brother doesn't know how to behave at a tea party. It's time that changed. Julia will show Charles that slurping and burping are not allowed, that teacups are not building blocks, and that underwear does not count as a fancy hat. Charles will teach Julia that tea parties sometimes require deep breaths, and welcoming unexpected guests, and that maybe--just maybe--there is more than one way to properly behave. In this humorous and imaginative spin on the classic manners book, Madelyn Rosenberg and Heather Ross explore the joy and freedom that come when you keep an open mind.

My Thoughts
This is no ordinary book about tea party manners.  What seems to be a book about Julia teaching Charles the "right" way to have a tea party, turns out to be a book about having an open mind to possibilities. Sometimes a little spontaneity and silliness makes tea parties (and life) a whole lot more fun! With just the right amount of text and adorably funny illustrations, How to Behave at a Tea Party will appeal to many young children. I can see children begging for this book to be read aloud over and over again. With the funny things her brother does, the precocious neighbor boys and a little frog that can be spotted in silly places on many pages, this book will appeal to boys and girls alike. I really enjoyed and highly recommend How to Behave at a Tea Party. 

Visit Madelyn Rosenberg's Website here and Heather Ross' website here

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My Favorite Novels and Graphic Novels of 2014

Looking back on my reading year has been so much fun. On Tuesday I shared my favorite fiction picture books of the year. Yesterday I recapped my favorite nonfiction picture books

Today I will finish up sharing my favorite middle/YA novels and graphic novels from various genres. 

Graphic Novels
by Raina Telgemeier

by Jimmy Gownley

by Cece Bell

Middle Grade
by Edith Cohn

by Cynthia Lord

by Jennifer Nielsen

Middle Grade/YA
by Tracy Holczer

by Jonathan Auxier

by Jaleigh Johnson

by Jacqueline Woodson

by Ann M. Martin