Monday, July 27, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You reading? July 27, 2015

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

Click on the book covers to read more about them.

Picture Books
The Sweetest book for young readers.


Jeff Mack writes an adorable story using only two words!

Middle Grade
I Really loved this story of being true to oneself and finding where you belong. Grades 4-8

Upper Middle Grade/YA

Finished Reading
This is an excellent historical fiction novel set during the American Revolution. It is a bit too graphic for my 4th graders but would be good for grades 5-8. 

Finished Listening
Art, mystery, friendship, family conflict and a bit of historical fiction. Great read for grades 5-8.

Currently Reading
Great so far!

After today's post, I will be taking a bit of a blogcation for a couple of weeks. See you soon and happy reading!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Review of Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

by Katherine Applegate
Expected Publication September 22, 2015
Feiwel and Friends
256 pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Review copy provided by the publisher

Goodreads Summary
In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.
Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

My Thoughts
As with The One and Only Ivan, Crenshaw has become a heart print book for me. Katherine Applegate has a way of writing that just makes you want, no NEED to keep reading to find out how the story will unfold. Children (and some adults) often think that becoming homeless happens to "other people", people who don't have jobs or abuse drugs or alcohol. While reading this story it is easy to see how a hard-working family, who falls on tough times, can slowly lose their ability to pay the rent. It was very difficult as a parent to watch Jackson try to be so brave and not let his emotions show his parents how angry and frustrated he really was. I also felt for the parents who try so hard to keep things as "typical" as possible for their children. It is fascinating to watch how Jackson's imaginary friend, Crenshaw, creeps back into Jackson's life even though Jackson says he is too old for such things. Through the dialogue between Crenshaw and Jackson the readers is able to learn a bit more about how a child's imagination can protect them and help them deal with large and small challenges. 
Applegate is a gifted writer who creates characters that absolutely live on in the hearts of the reader. She develops each of the characters in the book extremely well and made me care about them individually and as a family. 
Crenshaw lends itself to discussions about homelessness, coping with challenges, expressing emotions and family. 
Fans of The One and Only Ivan will indeed love this book. I would highly recommend it to grades 4+ as an independent read. It would also make a great read aloud for grades 3+! 

Take a look at what others have to say about Crenshaw.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Celebrate This Week-July 18, 2015

Every week, Ruth Ayres over at Discover. Play. Build. invites people to share celebrations from their week.  Please visit and consider linking up your own celebration. 

Thanks to Ruth for providing a platform for me to share my big and small celebrations. 

Today I am catching up on a few celebrations from the last couple of weeks. 

Girls Weekend
Last weekend I went to an annual "girls weekend". This is one weekend each year where I get together with friends from high school on a gorgeous lake here in Maine. The weekend was a picture perfect summer weekend with lots of sunshine and low humidity. Twelve of us "girls" spent floating on the lake and catching up on what is happening in our lives. There was talk of kids getting ready to head to college and others facing the challenges of middle school. Of course there was also much eating, drinking and much laughing. When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? 

Learning New Stuff
I spent the last 5 days in a graduate class on assessment at The University of Southern Maine. Although it is tough to miss out on some of the few warm, sunny days here, I enjoyed this class very much. I love learning new things, but I especially enjoy learning among really smart and dedicated educators. The twelve of us spent the week learning more about assessment for learning with lively discussions and challenging perspectives. It was an invigorating experience has me rethinking the ways I will teach and measure learning going forward. 

A Weekend at Home
Today I celebrate being with my family. After over a week of being gone, I am very happy to be able to hang out with my family this weekend. Today is a rainy day and I am welcoming the chance to talk, read, watch movies and just be home. 

What are YOU celebrating this week? 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Space Boy and His Dog by Dian Curtis Regan

Space Boy and His Sister Dog 
by Dian Curtis Regan
Published 2105 
Boyds Mills Press
32 Pages
Picture Book
Review Copy provided by Blue Slip Media

Goodreads Summary
Niko may live on boring old Earth with his family, but he’s always finding a new adventure. Using the spaceship that he built from a box in his backyard and a little imagination, he flies off into space with his robot, Radar, and his dog, Tag. The only one NOT invited is his sister Posh who keeps trying to insert herself into Niko’s story. In this first mission, Niko and crew (and maybe also pesky Posh) fly to the moon in search of a lost cat. Illustrated in comic–book style and featuring easy–to–read text packed with humor, Space Boy and His Dog is Niko’s first adventure, with two more books planned in the series.

My Thoughts
Let's just get something straight here. Despite what you might see, this book is definitely NOT about Niko's sister Posh. Niko has a fabulous imagination. He has created a spaceship in his backyard with cardboard and scraps. His trusty toy robot is his copilot and he never goes anywhere without his dog, Tag. When a neighborhood cat goes missing, Niko and his crew travel to the moon to find it. Unfortunately Posh has stowed away and is now part of the story, which was NOT supposed to happen. Can they find the lost cat? Will Niko find it before Posh? 

This book is a cute way to show a bit of sibling rivalry and competition. Although it is a picture book, it is told in mini chapters and sometimes uses a comic-book style. The pages are filled with color and the cartoonish illustrations will appeal to young readers. I love how Niko uses his imagination to have adventures. Perhaps this book will encourage readers to do the same. This book would appeal to readers approximately ages 3-7.

See What Others Say About Space Boy and His Sister Dog
Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Visit Dian Curtis Regan's Website for more information about her books.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall by Anita Silvey

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall
by Anita Silvey
Published June 2015
National Geographic Children's Books
96 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

This biography chronicles the life and influence of Jane Goodall on the scientific community and the planet as a whole. Starting with young Jane who loved animals, the readers learns about how she used this love to become one of the most recognized and important scientists in the world. 

My Thoughts
This book is gorgeous! In addition to the text, each page contains a photo of Jane with her beloved chimps, other scientists, animals, field notes, or sketches. I enjoyed learning about each of the chimpanzees that she named when she was living in Gombe. These mini bios give inside information about the animals' habits and unique personalities. 
When Jane did her famous research, she did so using binoculars, a notebook and very little else. The book shows how research is done more easily today, largely with the aide of technology. Untamed also focuses on Goodall's legacy and how she changed how people look at the planet. In the Forward, she describes what people can do to help our planet and the creatures that inhabit it.  
I would highly recommend Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall to grades 4 and up. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? July 13, 2015

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

Click on the book covers to read more about them.

A very funny book about silliness and grammar. I will be sharing it with my 4th graders for sure!

I did not expect to like this book as much as I did. 
Marlin is a very endearing character. Great for grades 4-8. 

This is a new heart print book for me. I adore Ruby! Click here for my review. 

Currently Reading
Really loving this historical fiction novel. 

Currently Listening
Very interesting so far. 

What Are You Reading Friends?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Lazy Days of Summer $250 Cash Giveaway

lazy days of summer 250 
  Lazy Days of Summer $250 Cash Giveaway July 6th to 26th An Amazing Group of Authors & Bloggers have joined together to bring you 1 fabulous prize!! 
We’re giving away $250 in Paypal Cash.   

Giveaway Details 
 $250 in Paypal Cash (alternately the winner can choose a $250 Gift Code) Ends 7/26/15 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use money sent via Paypal. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. 

Sponsor List 
I Am A Reader Unshelfish The Discerning Reader Raven Haired Girl Author Camelia Miron Skiba TMBA Corbett Rachelle J. Christensen Krysten Lindsay Hager, author Heather Boyd Author Dorothy Dreyer Free Bookster Rae Lori The Late Bloomer's Book Blog Laurie Treacy, author Kindle and Me Glistering Bs Blog FaeBooks Jennifer Faye, Romance Author Bookworm Lisa Simple Wyrdings B. Kristin McMichael Tim Hemlin Literary Winner Diana's Book Reviews Magical Cool Cat Mysteries LeahSay's Views Author Inger Iversen J.C. Whyte Heather Gray  

Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors, bloggers and publishers on the sponsor list. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.
a Rafflecopter giveaway   

Friday, July 10, 2015

Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything by Calef Brown

Hypnotize a Tiger: Poems About Just About Everything
by Calef Brown
Published March 2015 
Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan)
Review copy obtained from publisher

This book is definitely a hilarious collection of poems about lots of different things. There are poems about real and imaginary animals, school, food, vehicles and more. Each is accompanied by his signature fun and silly illustrations. Under many of the poems are characters that comment on the poem or offer a random question or information.

To say that Brown has a way with words is quite the understatement. He is known for his humourous and zany use of language. He uses rhyme, homonyms, alliteration, creative vocabulary, potmanteaus and puns (and several other techniques I can not describe) to create an experience of nonsensical word play. The poems beg to be read out loud. I can imagine children wanting to share them with each other and reading them over and over again. 

Here is an excerpt from ANTS on page 37

I don't mean to nitpick,
but I went to a picnic, 
and ants were rampant!
I saw one take a crumpet. 

There is a Q and A section near the back where the author answers questions about himself (mostly in verse, of course). He also sends the reader off with parting thoughts urging them to "heed the call" and write. 

Kids will love Hypnotize a Tiger. It would make a fabulous addition to any classroom or personal poetry collection. I would recommend it for grades 2-6. 

What Others Think About Hypnotize a Tiger
Kirkus Reviews
Kids Read
Great Kid Books

Visit Calef Brown's Website for more information about his work. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Ruby on the Outside 
by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Published June 2015 
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
176 pages
Middle Grade Fiction
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Ruby’s mom is in prison, and to tell anyone the truth is to risk true friendship in this novel that accurately and sensitively addresses a subject too often overlooked.
Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes is about to start middle school, and only her aunt knows her deepest, darkest, most secret secret: her mother is in prison.
Then Margalit Tipps moves into Ruby’s condo complex, and the two immediately hit it off. Ruby thinks she’s found her first true-blue friend—but can she tell Margalit the truth about her mom? Maybe not. Because it turns out that Margalit’s family history seems closely connected to the very event that put her mother in prison, and if Ruby comes clean, she could lose everything she cares about most.

My Thoughts
Some might pick up this book and think that it is just about a young girl whose mother is in prison. It is about that, but it is also about love, the power of having one true friend and dealing with what life hands you.  Ruby has lived with her aunt whom she calls Mattoo since her mom went to prison several years prior. She visits her mother each Saturday, but has given up hope of seeing her mother get out of prison any time "soon". When she was younger, she never wanted to know much about the circumstances that landed her mother in prison. She just treasured the time she had with her and hoped with all her might that one of these visits, her mother would come home with her. 

When Ruby meets Margalit, lots of things change.  Finally Ruby feels like she has a shot at having a true friend. The author carefully develops this friendship and makes you feel their happiness and Ruby's pull to want to trust Margalit. Through her genuine interest and obvious desire to befriend Ruby, Margalit is able to get Ruby to peek through her wall of protection. 

Ruby fears that the secret of having a mother in jail might be too much for her new friend to accept. When she learns more about her mother's crime and discovers that it might somehow be related to a tragedy in Margalit's family, Ruby is forced to deal with strong, new emotions. Anger, fear, guilt and betrayal are all starting to bubble to the surface as she tries desperately to hide her secret. 

In a mere 176 pages, Nora Raleigh Baskin tells a story that makes you fall in love with the main character and root for her as she navigates the complex and confusing world in which she lives. This book is a page-turner because you just HAVE to discover how it all turns out in the end. 

I can not wait to share Ruby on the Outside with my fourth graders this year. Ruby deals with many of the complexities of friendship and trust that many students in late elementary and middle school face. I think fans of books like Lynda Mullaly Hunt's One for the Murphy's will particularly enjoy it. This book would make a wonderful read aloud, book club book or independent read. 

See what others have to say about Ruby on the Outside. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-Dirtmeister's Nitty Gritty Planet Earth by Steve Tomecek

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

Ok, so technically this is not a picture book, but I thought I would still share it here because it is amazing!
by Steve Tomecek
Illustrated by Fred Harper
Published June, 2015 by National Geographic Children's Books
128 pages

Goodreads Summary
Come and explore the world under your feet with the Dirtmeister and friends! Part graphic novel, part fun guidebook, this very cool, rocky journey introduces both eager and reluctant readers to the basic geologic processes that shape our Earth. Clear and concise explanations of the various geologic processes reveal the comprehensive science behind each fascinating topic. Fun facts and simple DIY experiments reinforce the concepts while short biographies of important scientists inspire future geo-scientists.

My Thoughts
This book was written by geologist Steve Tomecek (aka The Dirtmeister). First of all, I learned a TON! Did you know that after studying the way our tectonic plates move, scientists believe that the ocean will eventually flow through the middle of Africa millions of years from now (pg 65)? Or that there are glaciers at the top of Mt. Kilmanjaro even though it is near the equator (pg 77)? Crazy right? 
This book is a one-stop resource for anything you need or want to know about the Earth. The information is presented in digestible pieces with accompanying visuals and extra tidbits of info snuck in. There are mini scientist bios and invitations to "try this" where kids can do a project at home to help further their understanding of the concept. Each chapter starts with a two page cartoon that will absolutely hook kids (and adults). The photos, diagrams, maps and charts are incredible and work with the text beautifully. Visit this site at DOGObooks to take a look inside this beautiful book. 

Dirtmeister's Nitty Gritty Planet Earth is a must-have resource for any grade 3+ classroom. 

What others are saying about Dirtmeister's Nitty Gritty Planet Earth.
New York Journal of Books

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Not Having to Nag-Slice of Life Post-July 7, 2015

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. 

Each summer it is the same story. My daughter, who is 13 and going into 8th grade, resists reading and I need to "suggest" that she read from time to time which usually leads to eye rolling, heavy sighs and the whole bit. Well, not this summer! Molly always listens to her teachers so when she was assigned the task of reading a book this summer she took it seriously (I know, I don't like assigned reading either, but that is a different discussion). She was given a list of books as suggested reading. I looked it over and saw that Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson was on the list. I had a copy and knew Molly would love it. I had to temper my enthusiasm because nothing makes her want to read a book less than my being excited about it. I mentioned that I had a copy if she wanted to read it.
As I had predicted, she was hooked from the beginning. I always know when she is into a book because she keeps reading me quotes. I can't think of a more quotable book, can you? Over the week she read without being asked and for long periods of time until she was finished. "Wow Mom, that was a good book, can we talk about it?" 
To which I replied, "Of course!" while trying not to do a very uncool happy dance. As we talked I told her about my brief meeting with the author at NCTE in Boston where I was introduced to her and shook her hand. She stared at me, mouth agape and in that moment I was a rock star! 
While I do not like the idea of assigned summer reading and really despise the lengthy list of questions and activities she now has to do with the book, I am thankful for this positive summer reading experience with my daughter. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? July 6, 2015

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

Click on the book covers to read more about them.

Finished Listening
Just ok for me, but football or sports fans may enjoy it. 

Finished Reading
Would recommend for grades 5+.

Loved this book of poetry. Check back on Friday for a full review. 

This is an absolutely excellent nonfiction book. Full review on Wednesday.

Loved, loved, loved....
The kind of book you plow through because it is so 
good and then you are sad that it is over. 
Full review soon. 
Did I mention that I loved it??

Currently Reading
Excellent so far!

What Are YOU Reading Friends?

Recent posts:

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Celebrate This Week-July 4, 2015

Every week, Ruth Ayres over at Discover. Play. Build. invites people to share celebrations from their week.  Please visit and consider linking up your own celebration. 

Thanks to Ruth for providing a platform for me to share my big and small celebrations. 

Today I celebrate this.

Although we are not a perfect country and have a long way to go in many areas, we have freedoms, rights and privileges that are not available to everyone. I celebrate the people who fought and continue to fight for our independence. 

Happy Independence Day! 

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Review of Izzy Barr, Running Star by Claudia Mills

Izzy Barr, Running Star
by Claudia Mills                              
Pictures by Robb Shepperson
Published 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Middle Grade
144 Pages
Review copy provided by Blueslip Media
Goodreads Summary

Izzy Barr is the star athlete of the third grade: she hits homeruns on her softball team and is one of the fastest runners in her class. But at home, her half-brother, Dustin, seems to be her father's favorite athlete—why else would her dad go to all of his games and miss so many of hers? Izzy pretends that she doesn't care, but as she, her friends Annika Riz and Kelsey Green, and the rest of their class are gearing up for class field day, she can't help but hope her dad will be there to cheer her on in the big race against her rival, Skipper Tipton. Dad doesn't make it to field day, but when he realizes how important it is to Izzy, he and all of her friends and family are there to watch her participate in the citywide 10K run.

My Thoughts
Claudia Mills continues to create endearing characters in this latest installment of The Franklin School Friends series. This time Izzy is in the spotlight. Izzy faces a situation that many students will find familiar, she feels that her father is favoring her older brother because he seems to choose to attend more of her brother Dustin's events than her own. Izzy tells him that she doesn't care, although she cares very much and wants him to see her run. Each of Mills' characters has their own strengths and their talents which they use together to solve problems. Like the two previous books, Kelsey Green, Reading Queen and Annika Riz, Math Whiz, this book follows a familiar pattern that students will find comforting. With text that is not too complicated, but not too simple, this series is perfect for students who are making their way into longer chapter books. I would recommend it for grades 2-4. 

Visit Claudia Mills' website for more info and discussion guides for her Franklin School Friends series. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Review of Wonton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw

Wonton and Chopstick: A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku
by Lee Wardlaw
Illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Published March, 2015  
Henry Holt and Co. 
Fiction Picture Book
40 pages
Review copy provided by Blueslip Media

We first met and fell in love with Won-Ton the cat in Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku where he was adopted from an animal shelter. In this book, Wonton laments the arrival of a new puppy. The puppy comes with new toys, eats Won-ton's food and worst of all, takes the attention of his boy. Won-ton tries to teach the puppy the rules of the house without much luck and usually ends up being put outside for his efforts. Will Won-ton have a change of heart and accept this new member of the family?

My Thoughts
Lee Wardlaw is a master at telling stories in seamless haiku. I am not an animal owner, but one can easily imagine this rivalry through her description. She also does not shy away from using rich vocabulary throughout the book as seen in this haiku. 

Picket fence lament:
Woe is meeee-ow! The crowd howls,
Cue for an encore

What a great way to introduce children to wonderful new words! Illustrator Eugene Yelchin fills each page with color and soft background details while keeping the focus on our two main characters.  

Won-ton and Chopstick lends itself to discussions about conflict resolution, jealousy, and dealing with changes with young children. I can imagine the stories many students will want to tell about their own pets' behaviors. It would also be a fantastic way to show haiku used not just in isolation, but to tell a story. Perhaps the students will want to try telling their own stories in haiku. I would recommend Won-ton and Chopstick to children in grades 1-5. 

See what others have to say about Won-ton and Chopstick