Friday, August 18, 2017

Busy Builders Books and Activity Kits by Silver Dolphin Books

I was fortunate to receive these 3 activity kits from Silver Dolphin Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Currently, there are three kits. 



Busy Builders: Airport
by Timothy Knapman
Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros
Published Dec. 2016





Busy Builders: Fire Station
by Chris Oxlade
Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros
Published Dec. 2016





Busy Builders: Construction Site
by Katherine Sully
Illustrated by Carles Ballesteros
Published Dec. 2016



My Thoughts
I was skeptical at first since activity kits can sometimes be a bit flimsy and rip or break easily. They can also be tricky to put together. These kits are very sturdy with thick cardboard for the base and for all the small components that you put together. Easy to follow directions in the back of each book make them simple to assemble, although parents may want to supervise that kids don't push too hard to slide pieces into place. Both sides of the vehicles etc. have the image on them and stand up nicely alone when assembled. 
The box that holds the kits has a velcro latch and also serves as the center of the kit scene. The back side of the box shows a scene from the inside of the location. 

The books have thick pages and are filled with information about the topic. 

My son really likes his airplane kit. I gave his cousins the other two kits and they loved them as well. 


With a book and an activity, the Busy Builder kits would make a great gift or addition to classroom games (think indoor recess!). 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Hoot and Honk Just Can't Sleep by Leslie Helakowski

Hoot and Honk Just Can't Sleep 
by Leslie Helakoski
Published by Sterling Children's
March, 2017
40 Pages
Hardcover
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Some chicks like day, others like night. Some sleep in the dark, and some in the light. Hoot, an adorable owlet, and Honk, a fuzzy gosling, have just hatched—but their eggs got switched and now they’re in the wrong nests. Will they find their way home? Leslie Helakoski’s gentle, lilting verse and irresistible illustrations make the perfect bedtime story as they capture two adorable babies exploring the world for the first time.

My Thoughts
This story is so sweet. The baby owl and baby goose wake up in the wrong nests and notice that they are different from the other baby birds in their family. When the other birds want to sleep, the baby owl and baby goose are wide awake. They go exploring when they can't sleep and find other babies that are like them and discover a family where they belong. 
The illustrations are exceptional. Pastels are used over sanded paper to create colorful, textured pictures. The pages are thick enough for little hands to turn again and again. 


Picture of book taken by me.

The rhyming text is simple and filled with creative language and the font size and style are great for young readers.

I would recommend Hoot and Honk Just Can't Sleep for ages 2-6.  

See what others have to say about this book:
We Have Kids
Jill Bennett

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Duck and Hippo Lost and Found by Jonathan London Review and Giveaway!

Duck and Hippo Lost and Found 
by Jonathan London
Illustrated by Andrew Joyner
Published August 15, 2017
Two Lions
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Duck and Hippo invite their friends Turtle, Elephant, and Pig to a picnic at their favorite pond. Yippee! It’s time to dance and sing, swim and eat. Everyone brings goodies to share…except Hippo. He didn’t bring ANYTHING. So Hippo sets off into the forest to find some berries. But he is gone a long time, and Duck begins to worry that Hippo is lost. What should his friends do to find him? Join Duck and Hippo on another fun adventure!

My Thoughts
You likely know Jonathan London's work with his widely popular Froggy books. My daughter particularly liked Froggy Eats Out. London and Joyner have teamed up again to bring us more Duck and Hippo. 
I really enjoyed the first Duck and Hippo book, Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm (see my review here).  In Lost and Found, Duck and Hippo are back and they have brought some friends. Hippo feels bad that he did not bring something to the picnic and leaves to look for some berries. He searches high and low, but doesn't find any berries even as night falls. His friends are concerned and go looking for him. 
I think this story lends itself to many themes and discussion topics. 
Friendship
Responsibility
Cooperation
Safety
Perseverance
Problem solving

The illustrations are excellent and the characters are adorable.  The color palate is subdued with pops of bright red in Duck's coat and Hippo's bowtie. A variety of text fonts, sizes and colors adds another element of interest to the book. 

Kids will be excited to see if Hippo's friends ever find and if they finally get to have their picnic. 
I would recommend Duck and Hippo Lost and Found for ages 3-8. 

See what others have to say about this book:
Kirkus

Visit Jonathan London's website
Visit Andrew Joyner's website

Find some activities to use with this book here

Enter the giveaway! 
Two Lions and Blueslip Media are generously offering a copy of Duck and Hippo Lost and Found AND a copy of the first book, Duck Hippo in the Rainstorm. Enter in the rafflecopter below. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel by Kimberly Willis Holt

Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel 
by Kimberly Willis Holt 
Published by Henry Holt and Co. 
March 2017
336 Pages 
Realistic Fiction
Review copy provided by publisher


Goodreads Summary
Twelve-year-old Stevie's world changes drastically when her parents are tragically killed and she is forced to live with her estranged grandfather at his run-down motel. After failed attempts to connect with her grandfather, Stevie befriends the colorful motel tenants and neighbors. Together, they decide to bring some color and life to the motel by planting a flower garden, against Stevie's grandfather's wishes. It will take Stevie's departure before her grandfather realizes just how needed she is by everyone.

My Thoughts
"A heartfelt middle grade novel about life, loss, and finding your true family." This is what I wrote in my Goodreads review of this book. I also called Stevie, "A character that stays with you." and boy is that the truth. Her character is so well-developed that you feel her emotions of loss, anger, frustration and hope right along with her.
Winston, Stevie's curmudgeon of a grandfather, is stuck in his ways and really seems to resist any kind of change. He is standoffish with Stevie who doesn't feel as though he wants her to be living with him. Stevie is desperate to learn more about her mother, but Winston is tight lipped on the subject. Stevie gets the feeling that there are secrets about her parents that no one is telling her.

The cast is balanced out with loads of colorful characters. Roy, Arlo and Ida, who work at her grandfather's aging motel, become a family of sorts for Stevie. Mrs. Crump is Stevie's elderly homeschool teacher who nods off during each day's lesson and surly, brooding Frida is Stevie's only classmate.

When Stevie learns about an aunt she never knew she had, she goes to visit and has a wonderful time. She gets a glimpse at feeling like a part of a family for the first time since her parents' death.
Will Stevie learn to "bloom" where she has been planted? The ending is touching and gives the reader some closure.
I enjoyed this book very much and would recommend it for grades 4-8.

See what others have to say about Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel:
Kirkus
Redeemed Reader
Book Page

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? August 14, 2017


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

Here is what I read this week. 
Click on the covers to learn more about each book. 



Middle grade historical fiction of how Cuba became a literate nation.

Finished
Middle Grade. Sports enthusiast, Hudson, may get sidelined due to asthma. 

Currently Listening

Currently Reading-Paper Book

Currently Reading-ebook

Friday, August 11, 2017

Ouside Shot by Fred Bowen

Ouside Shot 
by Fred Bowen
Published March, 2017
Peachtree Publishers
144 Pages
Advanced readers copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Eighth-grader Richie Mallon has always known he was a shooter, but will his amazing shooting talent be enough to keep him on the team? Outside Shot tells the story of eighth-grade basketball player Richie Mallon, who is known as the shooter, the one on the team who scores most of the baskets. He has practiced every day at his driveway hoop, perfecting his technique. Richie never plays any other roles on the court; he lets his teammates do the assisting and rebounding. Richie makes the team under a tough new coach, but he's not a starter. Then when his shooting skills go into a slump, he must find a way to become a more well-rounded player. Author Fred Bowen continues his Sport Story Series with full court, play-by-play action thats sure to keep readers on the edge of their seats!

My Thoughts
Richie starts out quite sure of himself at the beginning of the book since he has a reputation of being able to make shots consistently. He and his best friend Bryce are certain that they will both be starters on the 8th grade team. But, when he tries out for a new coach, he makes the team, but he is not first string.  
Richie is stunned and sets out to prove his worth to the coach. He is very concerned about his stats, most specifically, points scored and percentage of shots made. When he hits a dry spell, Richie grows more and more stressed. He starts to befriend one of the managers who keeps the stats and she suggests that he try to also get more assists and rebounds and perhaps his shot will return. But who would he be is he weren't "the shooter"? 

Richie learns some valuable lessons in this story and many middle graders will enjoy it. It's length, font size and readability make it quite manageable for many in grades 3-5.  

Visit Fred Bowen's website 

See what others have to say about this book. 
Boys and Literacy
4th Grade Reading

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Okee Dokee Brothers: Thousand Star Hotel

The Okee Dokee Brothers: Thousand Star Hotel
Illustrated by Brandon Reese
Published March 7, 2017
Sterling Children's
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary 
The Grammy®-winning Okee Dokee Brothers create a fanciful story—inspired by the folktale “The Fisherman and His Wife”—about the things we wish for . . . and the things we really need.
"I’m sleepin’ in a thousand star hotel.
Gold leaf pillow for my head.
Feel like a king on a king-size riverbed."

Once upon a time there were two muskrats who lived in a cabin near a big old river. Mr. Muskrat dreamt of catching enough fish to make them rich; Mrs. Muskrat was happy if they caught enough for a good supper. Then, one day, they reel in a giant golden catfish who promises to grant their wish if they set him free. The two muskrats agree to let the fish off the hook and he does keep his word . . . but in a most unexpected and magical way. (from the publisher's website).

My Thoughts
This classic folktale is reimagined in this lovely book that reminds readers of wants, needs and what truly makes us happy. 
The illustrations are excellent! Images are presented in circles frames or cover the entire page from top to bottom. The book has a thick cover and sturdy rounded pages that beg for rereadings. 
The folktale lends itself to rich discussions about wishes, desires and gratitude. 
It comes with a 12-track cd sung by The Okee Dokee Brothers. 
I would recommend this book for grades 1-4.

Watch the trailer.
Thousand Star Hotel (preview, book trailer) from Sterling Publishing on Vimeo.


Here is some music from the cd.

See what others have to say about this book:
The Children's Book Review
The Hungry Bookworm

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Double or Nothing with the Two and Only Kelly Twins by Johanna Hurwitz

Double or Nothing with the Two and Only Kelly Twins 
by Johanna Hurwitz
Illustrated by Tuesday Mourning
Published April, 2017
Candlewick Press
80 pages
Review advanced reader copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Arlene and Ilene love so many things about being identical twins. They like sharing a room, sharing friends, and wearing matching outfits. But they're in different classes at school, and one twin has a scar that the other one doesn't. One morning, their friends Monty and Joey point out a new difference that takes the sisters by surprise and gets them thinking: if they are identical twins, why are there differences between them at all?Their tongues must be the same, so why do they like different kinds of ice cream? Why does Arlene wear pink nail polish while Ilene thinks it's silly? Why is Ilene sleeping soundly when Arlene is awake, wondering how she can be sure that she isArlene, not Ilene? Revisit the funny, lovable characters from The Two and Only Kelly Twins and take a peek at the wonders -- and puzzles -- of being an identical twin. 

My Thoughts
The Kelly twins, Arlene and Ilene, return in their second book. These second graders love being identical twins. They dress alike and wear their hair the same way so it can be hard for others to tell them apart. 
When another student notices that the girls look different one day, they realize that one of them lost a tooth overnight. For once, the Kelly Twins did not look exactly alike. Then they end up having separate sleep overs and, although they were nervous, it all went fine. Maybe they could be different every now and then. One time, I think they might not have minded being different was when head lice went through the classroom and unfortunately, both girls, as well as most of the class, end up getting it. These experiences planted the idea that maybe the sisters didn't always have to be exactly alike. 

I would recommend this book, and series, for kids in grades 2-4. 

See what others have to say about this book:
Kirkus
Kidlit Frenzy

Monday, August 7, 2017

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? August 8, 2017


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








Currently Reading

Thursday, July 27, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Spotlight On: Claymates by Dev Petty

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

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

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

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

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

Check out this great book trailer!

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

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


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

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

I also read this gem. So good!

What are you reading friends? 

Monday, July 17, 2017

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




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

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

Sweet and sad, but mostly sweet. Prek-2

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

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

Get this one. Trust me.

Currently Reading

Listening to...

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


What are you reading friends? 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

#CyberPD2017 Week Two


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Monday, July 10, 2017

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




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

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

Terrific nonfiction biography. Grades 3+

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

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

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

Really adorable early chapter book. Grades 1-3

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

Middle grade. See my review here

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


What are you reading friends?