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.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-Frozen Wild: How Animals Survive in the Coldest Places on Earth by Jim Aronsky

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

by Jim Aronsky
Published September 2015
Sterling Children's Books
40 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Quietly it comes—the dark and chill of winter. And in the snow-covered fields and forests, the great northern plains, vast stretches of frozen tundra, and icy polar regions, wild animals have to survive day after day, night after night, out in the cold. How do they do it? Kids can bundle up and join award-winning author, illustrator, and naturalist Jim Arnosky as he follows the tracks of otters, beavers, moose, polar bears, killer whales, penguins, fur seals, and other creatures to discover more about their lives during this frigid season. Arnosky's stunning art includes five magnificent foldouts that reveal worlds under the ice and at the farthest, frostiest reaches of the globe.

My Thoughts
This is a topic that fascinates me. It is astonishing how these animals survive such extreme cold. Jim Aronsky has done his homework for sure. Each page is packed with information. Did you know that foxes, lynx, and bobcats grow fur on the bottom of their paws so they act like snow shoes in the winter? And porcupines travel the same route daily to wear a trail in the snow making it easier and safer to travel? 
The information is great, and the illustrations are equally wonderful. Just look at that cover! Kids will also love the pages that fold out revealing more animal information. 
Because the text is very dense and quite long, I would recommend this one for upper elementary. 

Pair it with:

See what others have to say about Frozen Wild.
Reviewed by Mom
Publishers Weekly

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Two New Books from National Geographic

National Geographic is known for producing informative books with amazing pictures. Here are two new books to add to your TBR piles. 

by Sarah Wassner and Kathy Furgang
Published July 2015 by National Geographic Children's Books
208 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher

I think the title sums up this book perfectly. It is chocked full of animal records of every kind, from loudest to weirdest to deadliest (you will never guess what the deadliest animal is, I was shocked). 
Along with the records, there are nuggets of info tucked in every corner of the book. There are also repeated sections called "Blast from the Past" where a dinosaur is compared to animals in the record category. 
Of course the photographs are extraordinary, filling each page with vibrant color. I can imagine students huddled around this book in groups sharing the facts they are learning. 
This book is a must-have classroom libraries of grades 3+. 

by Boris Diaw, Kitson Jazynka
Edited by National Geographic Kids
Published July 2015 by National Geographic Children's Books
112 Pages
Nonfiction chapter book
Review copy provided by publisher

Boris Diaw is a famous basketball player who plays for the San Antonio Spurs. However, there is much more to Diaw than just his basketball skills. Several years ago Diaw began to combine two of his other passions, photography and animals, but particularly animals of Africa. Hoops to Hippos, narrated in first-person, tells of Diaw's many adventures on his trips to the African Savannah. 

I did not expect to like this book. I figured that since I am not a sports fan, I would no connect with Diaw's story. I was wrong. I found the his stories of close encounters to be very interesting and his passion and excitement radiate off the pages. The amazing pictures, many taken by Diaw, certainly hold up to National Geographic standards. 
Kids will really like this book. I would recommend it mostly for grades 3-5. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

It's Monday, What Are You Reading-September 14, 2015

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

I am hosting a no-strings giveaway of a copy of Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Songs:A Celebration of Seasons. Enter here

Click on the book covers to learn more about each book. 

A far fetched story from a very guilty looking narrator. 
Grades K-2. 

I plan to use to start a conversation about courage this week with my 4th graders. 

Big love for this middle grade gem. 

Still working my way through...
Not because it isn't amazing (because it is) but just swamped right now. 

Recent posts:
Nonfiction Picture Book Wed. Trombone Shorty
Are you a Maine educator? See my Maine Student Book Award Round Up #1 and #2

Friday, September 11, 2015

Maine Student Book Award Round Up 2

Last Friday I posted my thoughts on ten of the Maine Student Book Award nominees. Visit here to see the post. 

Here are ten more books from this year's list. 

by Marissa de los Santos and David Teague
Goodreads Summary
When thirteen-year-old Margaret's father is unfairly sentenced to death by the cruel Judge Biggs, she is determined to save him, even if it means using her family's secret-and forbidden-ability to time travel. With the help of her best friend, Charlie, and his grandpa Josh, Margaret goes back to a time when Judge Biggs was a young boy and tries to prevent the chain of events that transformed him into a corrupt, jaded man.

My Thoughts
I have to say that the time travel portion of this book came as a surprise to me. The story was moving along nicely and I was really enjoying it and then it was revealed that some people in the family have the ability to time travel. Once I suspended my belief, I was able to enjoy the end of the book. I think many 4th graders would be able to read it, but might need help when it gets to the time traveling portion. However, at 288 pages, they might be turned off by the length. 
Recommended for an independent read for grades 5-8. 
Read aloud for grades 4-8.

by Emily Carroll
Goodreads Summary
It came from the woods. Most strange things do.'
Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.
These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.
Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there...

My Thoughts
This book is a graphic novel which usually appeals to the younger target range of the MSBA. While many people really liked it and rated it favorably on Goodreads, it was a huge miss for me. The short stories are not only creepy, some are downright gory and hugely inappropriate for elementary students. My 8th grader, who doesn't mind a bit of creepiness, read it and just did not like it at all. 
I am very hesitant to recommend this book, but I guess some 7th or 8th graders might like it. 

by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
Goodreads Summary
'Most kids would do anything to pass the Iron Trial.
Not Callum Hunt. He wants to fail.
All his life, Call has been warned by his father to stay away from magic. If he succeeds at the Iron Trial and is admitted into the Magisterium, he is sure it can only mean bad things for him.
So he tries his best to do his worst - and fails at failing.
Now the Magisterium awaits him. It's a place that's both sensational and sinister, with dark ties to his past and a twisty path to his future.
The Iron Trial is just the beginning, for the biggest test is still to come . . .

My Thoughts
This was one of my favorite books from this year's list. Fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter would really enjoy it. While I think many 4th graders could handle it, especially later in the year, it is quite long (299 pages). 
Recommend for an independent read for late 4th grade-8th grade. 
Would be an excellent read aloud for grades 4-8. 

by Ann M. Martin
Goodreads Summary
Rose Howard has 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.

My Thoughts
I have BIG love for Rain Reign! It was one of my favorite books of 2014. It is accessible to 4th graders. They may need a bit of help as Rose writes using homophones of words in parentheses whenever she uses a homophone, but you get used to it. Fans of Anything But Typical, Out of My Mind or Wonder may enjoy Rain Reign. 
Recommend as an independent read for grades 4-8.
It would be a powerful read aloud lending itself to discussions about autism and disabilities for grades 4-8 as well. 

Goodreads Summary
Up close with the ocean's most fearsome and famous predator and the scientists who study them—just thirty miles from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge!
A few miles from San Francisco lives a population of the ocean's largest and most famous predators. Each fall, while the city's inhabitants dine on steaks, salads, and sandwiches, the great white sharks return to California's Farallon Islands to hunt their favorite meal: the seals that live on the island's rocky coasts. Massive, fast, and perfectly adapted to hunting after 11 million years of evolution, the great whites are among the planet's most fearsome, fascinating, and least understood animals.
In the fall of 2012, Katherine Roy visited the Farallons with the scientists who study the islands' shark population. She witnessed seal attacks, observed sharks being tagged in the wild, and got an up close look at the dramatic Farallons—a wildlife refuge that is strictly off-limits to all but the scientsts who work there. Neighborhood Sharks is an intimate portrait of the life cycle, biology, and habitat of the great white shark, based on the latest research and an up-close visit with these amazing animals.

My Thoughts
People have a fascination with sharks. This is an excellent, short (48 pages) nonfiction book.  I don't normally read these types of books much, but I really liked it and learned a lot.
Recommend for grades 4-8.

Goodreads Summary
When thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove's seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high speed car chase, Ronan is shocked. His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped? And the kidnappers are after him, too? His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary. In fact, she's a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure—thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive. Now all those after-school activities—gymnastics, judo, survival training—she made him take, make sense. For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure—dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers. Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he's never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom's last words of advice: Trust no one. That's a lot for an ordinary kid to deal with. But then again, maybe Ronan's not ordinary at all.

My Thoughts
This book is nonstop action. It seems that poor Ronan can trust no one and the people who are after him are very good. Some 4th graders may be able to handle the text complexity and length.
Recommend as an independent read for grades 5-8. 
Read aloud for grades 4-8. 

by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen
Goodreads Summary
In this outstanding picture book collection of poems by Newbery Honor-winning poet, Joyce Sidman (Song of the Water Boatman, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night), discover how animals stay alive in the wintertime and learn about their secret lives happening under the snow. Paired with stunning linoleum print illustrations by Rick Allen, that celebrate nature's beauty and power.

My Thoughts 
This books is beautiful! With a combination of poetry and exposition, Winter Bees shares information about how animals survive the winter. I found it to be very interesting as I have often wondered about this myself. The illustrations in this picture book are beautiful. I don't see many students just grabbing it off the shelves, but it would be a great one to share with the class or small groups in grades 4-6. 

by Cynthia Lord
Goodreads Summary
When Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera's lens, as her father has taught her -- he's a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he's judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special -- or only good enough.
As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn't want to see: his grandmother's memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own.

My Thoughts
Leave it to Cynthia Lord to tell a sweet, touching story. Half a Chance tackles the issue of dementia and Alzheimer's in a subtle yet clear way. The main character also struggles with feelings of loneliness and jealousy as she makes new friends in her town. 
Recommended as an independent read and read aloud for grades 4-6. 

by Jaleigh Johnson
Goodreads Summary
Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields. The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home. The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible. Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

My Thoughts
This one is also a favorite from 2014. I just loved it, but at 400 pages with dense text and some "romantic" undertones, it is really more for middle school and even high school. 

by Cece Bell
Goodreads Summary
Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece's class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends. 
Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school--in the the teacher's the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it's just another way of feeling different... and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?
This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.

My Thoughts
In this somewhat autobiographical graphic novel Cece Bell sheds light on deafness and disability. Set in the 70's it describes some of Bell's early experiences in an entertaining way. My students last year really loved it. Get several copies. 
Recommend for grades 4-6. 

Come back and visit next week for more!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of Seasons by Margaret Wise Brown and a Giveaway!!

Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of Seasons
by Margaret Wise Brown
Published August 4, 2015
Sterling Children's Books
36 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher. 

Did you know that Margaret Wise Brown, the beloved author/illustrator of classic books such as Goodnight Moon, Runaway Bunny and many more was also a songwriter? Well I didn't, until now. Apparently Wise, who died far too young at the age of 42, had only a few of her songs produced before her death. The rest were locked away in a truck in her sister's basement for decades. 
As with her best-selling Goodnight Songs, each of the twelve songs in this collection are brought to life by twelve award-winning artists such as Peter Brown, Floyd Cooper, Molly Idle and Bob Staake. The songs cover such topics as nature, animals and seasons. Each page is a work of art with every song page having its own unique style and theme. 
From Goodnight Songs:A Celebration of Seasons by Margaret Wise Browm copyright 2015

While the songs could be read as poetry, they are meant to be sung so this book comes with a CD! Each song has a folky feel with music and a singer whose voice will appeal to young listeners. The music was composed by Tom Prout and songs were sung by Emily Gary. Among my favorite songs was the lively Fall of the Year. I can imagine children singing and dancing the "Bunny Jig" and imagining "Kitten's Dream". 
Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of the Seasons would make a great gift for any child ages 3-6. It would also be a fabulous addition to a classroom collection. 

Read what others are saying about Goodnight Songs: A Celebration of the Seasons.
Children's Book Review
Publishers Weekly

Enter the Giveaway!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday-Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews

My Friend Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy hosts weekly link up to share Nonfiction Picture Books. Please visit her amazing website.
by Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
Illustrated by Brian Collier
Published April 2015
Abrahms Books for Young Readers
40 Pages
In this autobiographical book, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews tells the story of how he became a musician. Growing up in New Orleans, Andrews was surrounded by music. Inspired by his grandmother, his brother and his city, Troy knew he wanted to make music from a very young age. He would make an instrument out of household objects until one day, as luck would have it, he found an old, used trombone and taught himself to play. He practiced tirelessly and even slept with his trombone sometimes. 

His mother took him to a Bo Diddley concert and he brought his trusty trombone with him. When Troy started to play along, Bo Diddley stopped the concert and invited "Trombone Shorty" to play a song for the huge crowd. Trombone Shorty started his own band of school boys after that and has not stopped since. 

I really loved this book. Andrews tells it in a distinctive voice that made me feel like I am walking through New Orleans listening to sweet jazz and smelling spicy gumbo. Brian Collier's illustrations are beyond excellent and bring this story to life with a combination of big close up pictures and collages that look music on the page. 

Trombone Shorty would be a fabulous book to share with kids in grades 2-5. 

Discussions and Activities 
Share the book trailer.
Share this video of Trombone Shorty at age 13 playing with Duke Ellington!
Discuss skills that improve with practice. 
Share a companion text such as Little Melba and Her Big Saxophone.