Monday, January 29, 2018

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? January 29, 2018

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

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

What are you reading friends?

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Cap'N Rex His Clever Crew

Cap'N Rex His Clever Crew
by Henry L. Hertz
Illustrated by Benjamin Schipper
Published August 2017
Sterling Children's Books
32 pages

Goodreads Summary
Shiver me timbers! It's the DINOSAUR PIRATES!
Meet Captain Rex and his band of buccaneers. These dinosaur pirates sail the seven seas in search of buried treasure, but whenever they hit an obstacle—like a giant shark or pea-soup fog—the crew members are quick to say they can’t overcome. To this, Captain Rex just glares with teeth bared and says, “CAN’T YE?” And, somehow, the crew always comes up with a clever solution.
A delightful story about using one’s creativity and individual strengths to solve problems. It will encourage kids everywhere to think and say, “I can!”

My Thoughts
You better practice your pirate accent before reading this book to kids or you might have a mutiny on your hands. It is chocked full of piratey lingo such as booty, plunder, balay, and shiver me timbers of course. I am an avid fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies so I was familiar with most of the language, but thankfully there is a glossary in the back of the book. 

I liked how all of the pirate dinosaurs had their own set of skills to put to use to get to the treasure. This is a great example of team work. There is also a fun twist at the end. 
Grab this one for your little buccaneer!

Watch the book trailer

See what others have to say about this book:
Unleashing Readers

Visit David Hertz's website for fun activities.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer

Caring for Your Lion 
by Tammi Sauer 
Illustrated by Troy Cummings
Published May 2017
Sterling Children's Books
32 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
What happens when you expect an itty-bitty kitty . . . but get a lion instead?
It’s kitten delivery day, but—SURPRISE. Congratulations on your new LION! We know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those.Fortunately, the big cat comes with instructions—like, try very hard NOT to look like a zebra. Or a gazelle. And give your lion PLENTY of space to play. But soon the feathers and fur start flying and everything’s in chaos. Is there any way a lion could actually be a child’s purr-fect pet?

My Thoughts
What a unique concept. Each step in the caring for your lion guide looks "official" like one might find in a manual. This book is adorable and funny. Kids will love it for the humor (pizza guy gets eaten and sneezed out) and the illustrations. 
I always enjoy Troy Cummings' illustrations in his Notebook of Doom series.  He varies the page layouts, fonts and colors in a way that will hold the interest of young readers. 
In a classroom, this book could spark discussions about expectations and how to deal with changes in plans. It also lends itself as a writing mentor text. How fun would it be to have students write, "How to care for your...." stories!
I would recommend this book for ages 3-8.

Watch this interview with Tammi Sauer.

See what others have to say about this book:

You Can Be a Paleontologist:Discovering Dinosaurs with Dr. Scott

You Can Be a Paleontologist Discovering Dinosaurs with Dr. Scott
by Scott D. Sampson
Published National Geographic Kids
April 2017
32 pages

Goodreads Summary
Ever wondered how to find a dinosaur? Paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson, host of Dinosaur Train on PBS Kids, tells kids how! How do paleontologists find dinosaur bones? How do they know what dinosaurs ate or looked like? And what is paleontology, anyway? Dr. Scott tackles all these questions and more while inspiring kids to go out and make the next big dino discovery!

My Thoughts
This book takes the reader through the entire process of locating, harvesting, protecting and studying fossils. This is followed by a section that discusses dinosaurs: what they looked like, what they ate, etc. Each section is short with lots of photos, labels and captions. The backgrounds are solid, bright colors and the text is a big on the larger side making it easier for younger readers to read. There is information on how to become a paleontologist and a glossary in the back. 
I learned a lot from this book and think it is just perfect for any budding scientist. Grades 2-5. 

See what others have to say about this book:

Monday, January 22, 2018

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? January 22, 2018

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

I was only able to read 2 books last week.
Click on it to learn more. 

For grades 1-4

A middle grade graphic novel for those that like things a bit creepy. 

What are you reading friends? 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Celebrate This Week-January 20, 2018

Each Week Ruth Ayres hosts a platform where she writes about something to celebrate from the week and invites others to celebrate with her. Visit her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes to read more. 

This has actually been a tough week. Within the last week or so I have had 3 friends lose close loved ones and it has just been sad. While I have reached out to my friends and attended one service so far, I can't help but feel that I should do more. 
My hubby has also been sick and work was pretty tough this week. 

Still, even in a hard week, there have been small celebrations. 

*I had a lengthy chat wth my mother in her kitchen early in the week. 
*I was able to sit around a table full of lifelong friends to reminisce with a friend who lost her father.
*I celebrated with friends at an impromptu party at school for a colleague with a "significant" birthday.
*Today I meet with my Maine State Book Award Committee to create our "short list" of 100 books. 

I hope you were able to celebrate things big or small this week friends. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

National Geographic Kids Ultimate Explorer Guide

Ultimate Explorer Guide:
Explore, Discover, and Create Your Own Adventures with Real National Geographic Explorers as Your Guides!
by Nancy Honovich
Published March 2017
National Geographic Kids
160 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
National Geographic has inspired generations of explorers. Now it's your turn! Learn what it takes to be a real-life explorer in this fun and action-packed guide to discovering the world around us. Unearth ancient mummies and lost treasures, encounter wild animals and learn how to protect their habitats, and shoot for the stars with the latest technologies in space travel. Amazing stories, fantastic photos, and hands-on-activities inspire curious kids to start discovering on land, air, and sea. Profiles feature National Geographic explorers of all kinds: paleontologists, biologists, photographers, artists, writers, activists, conservationists, and more. Kids are inspired to follow their passions into careers and introduced to the first steps to take to achieve their dream.

My Thoughts
I have to admit, I'm not much of an explorer, but I felt like one reading this book. Organized into three large sections, Land, Sea and Sky, this book takes the reader around the world and beyond. 
A detailed table of contents and index make it easy to find specific information. It is filled with facts, experiment ideas, activities and trivia questions. Readers meet real scientists and learn what it is like to be an explorer for a career. 
And then there are the photos. Well, it IS National Geographic after all so the photos are amazing with close-up creatures, rolling landscapes and unexpected places. 

       Image from
I can imagine kids gathered around examining photos and spouting off facts and as they slowly make their way through this book. It would be a great addition to any home, classroom or school library for upper elementary to middle school. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Elly and the Smelly Sneaker: A Riches to Rags Story by Leslie Gorin

Elly and the Smelly Sneaker: A Riches to Rags Story
by Leslie Gorin
Illustrated by Leslie Vamos
Published April 2017
Sterling Children's Books
40 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Sometimes it’s more fun NOT to be a princess. Elly has everything a girl could desire: bonbons, pretty clothes, maids to put everything in order, and a family that treats her like a princess. Except that, to her, life’s a boring, royal pain. All Elly really wants is to be with other kids—especially when they play baseball. She dreams of opening days, double plays, and joining the team. Then, one day, her fairy godfather arrives to make her wish come true. Will Elly FINALLY succeed in trading her glass slippers for a pair of smelly sneakers? A fun and inspiring twist on Cinderella that’s just right for today’s girls.

My Thoughts
This is certainly not your typical Cinderella story, quite the opposite really. It was so fun to read and kids will really love it. Ellie just wants to play baseball outside with the neighborhood kids. Then her "designated fairy godfather" comes and grants her wish. The book is full of baseball 
I have seen many units on "Cinderella stories". This book would make a great addition to these kinds of stories. I can see students really enjoying and appreciating the stark contrast and would hope that this would open the door to some rich discussions.
I think kids would also enjoy writing and sharing their own "riches to rags" stories. 

See what others have to say about this book:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Celebrate This Week-Embracing Change-January 13, 2018

Each Week Ruth Ayres hosts a platform where she writes about something to celebrate from the week and invites others to celebrate with her. Visit her blog, Ruth Ayres Writes to read more. 

I have not written a celebrate this week post for a very long time, not because I don't have lots to celebrate, but time just seems to get away from me. 

This is more of a cumulative celebration than specifically just this week. 
This school year I left my position as a 4th grade teacher, which I held for 14 years, for a position as Lead K-2 RTI teacher in the same building. Not only was it a change in position, but also a drastic change in grade levels. I work with the younger population who are initial and striving readers. I went from feeling very confident in my abilities and knowing my job well, to feeling like a fish out of water. 

So this week I celebrate change and growth.  Change is rarely comfortable at first. There are new routines to learn, systems to navigate, and expectations to meet. I have keenly felt the uneasiness of change and uncertainty this year and instead of fighting it, I decided to embrace it. I ask LOTS of questions and continue to make more than my fair share of mistakes. But, with each passing week, I learn more and I do better. 

It is January and I am starting to feel more comfortable, all thanks to the RTI teachers that I am so lucky to work with. The team consists of 6 other highly trained and experienced teachers and each one has helped me in so many ways. They continue to answer my questions and show patience when I forget to do something or when I do something differently than the previous teacher who held the position for many years
This change has improved and deepened my knowledge of early literacy and allowed me to get to know many colleagues in ways I had not before. It also has solidified, 2 things that I already knew. First, no matter how much we know, how many degrees or professional experiences we have, there is always much more to learn. And second, we are better when we work together. 

I am looking forward to continuing on this messy and exciting journey of learning and change with my amazing colleagues.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher

Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing 
by Ralph Fletcher
Published April 2017
103 pages

Goodreads Summary
Nothing helps writers grow like practice. But not just any kind of practice will do. You've got to bring the joy! In Joy Write, beloved writer and teacher Ralph Fletcher shows you how.
"A writer needs wide latitude so she can bring all her intelligence to the task," Ralph observes. "Assigning a particular format-a hamburger essay, for instance-would curtail this play, if not eliminate it entirely." That's why, instead of teacher-driven assignments, Joy Write shares the whys and the how of giving students time and autonomy for the playful, low-stakes writing that leads to surprising, high-level growth.

First Ralph makes the case for carving out classroom time for low-stakes writing, despite pressure to focus on persuasive essays and test prep. Then he shares five big ideas for choice-driven, authentic, informal writing-deeply engaging work that kids want to do. He also provides numerous suggestions for helping students build and flex their writing muscles, increase their stamina, and develop passion for expressing themselves with the written word.

"We don't teach students to write," Ralph Fletcher advises, "so much as create a safe space where they can teach themselves by doing." Trust Ralph and find out how to bring the joy to your writers.

My Thoughts
Do you feel like your students are uninspired in their writing?
Are they bored? Just going through the motions?
Then Joy Write might be just the book you need right now. As busy teachers, we can get so caught up in covering material, adhering to programs and assessing for standards that we may lose sight that writing should be fun! Students should have time to explore and play with language without fear of always being graded or critiqued. Can you imagine having to always write the way someone else wants you to and then having everything you write analyzed and judged?

This book is relatively short and very easy to read. Engaging stories are included to entertain and to serve as real world examples that connect to his writing ideas. 
The first few chapters set the stage. The author shares his experiences in classrooms and observations of what experiences breathe energy and life into writing workshop and what practices can negatively impact our workshops. 
The following eight chapters give examples of approaches and activities that teachers can easily implement that are engaging and motivating for students. I particularly liked the chapter on reluctant writers and how choice and low-stakes writing can provide the safety and motivation they need. 
I would highly recommend Joy Write for any teacher of writing.

See what others have to say about Joy Write.
Educating Alice

Listen to the Joy Write Podcast.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Don't Forget Dexter by Lindsay Ward

Don't Forget Dexter 
by Lindsay Ward
Published January 2018
by Two Lions
Fiction Picture Book
32 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher and Blue Slip Media

Goodreads Summary
When his best friend, Jack, leaves him behind at the doctor’s office, Dexter T. Rexter panics. First he tries to find Jack. Then he sings their special song. Then he sings their special song even louder. But when Jack still doesn’t appear, Dexter starts to wonder. What if he’s being replaced by another toy? It can’t be—after all, he can STOMP, RAWR, and CHOMP! Right? Right?!
This hilariously neurotic dinosaur will do whatever it takes to get his friend back—even asking the reader’s advice—in this first book of a brand-new series.

My Thoughts
Oh. My. Gosh! This book could not be more adorable! All kids can relate to leaving a beloved toy behind at some point like at a doctor's office, but this book shows what the toy might be going through as they look for their little boy or girl. Kids will be riveted as they follow Dexter's quest to find his best friend Jack. They will love how Dexter talks directly to them and asks for their help. 
A variety of fonts, colors and sizes, combined with speech bubbles, captions and arrows add to the fun. And of course there is a silly catchy song from Dexter in the middle. Just try getting that out of your head after reading this book aloud. 
The illustrations are beautiful and appear, at first glance to be very simple. There are lots of curved lines with smooth colored pencil outlining and and coloring in the backgrounds. Lindsay Ward also uses cut paper for many illustrations which lends an element of dimension and interest. I would encourage you, and your kids, to look very closely at Dexter and at all of the illustrations. Some feel like you could pluck them right off the page.
I really loved Don't Forget Dexter and would highly recommend it for ages 2-7. 

Lindsay Ward was inspired to write this book after her husband texted her a photo of a toy dinosaur abandoned at a doctor’s office.
The caption read: “Well, they left me here.” Lindsay thought it was so funny that she sat down to write Dexter’s story immediately. She is also the author and illustrator of Brobarians, Henry Finds His Word, and When Blue Met Egg. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play.
Most days you can find Lindsay writing and sketching at her home in Peninsula, Ohio, where she lives with her family. Learn more about her online at or on Twitter: @lindsaymward.

★ “Ward’s ink, colored-pencil, and cut-paper illustrations give readers a toy’s view of the world and allow children to stomp in Dexter’s feet for a while, his facial expressions giving them lots of clues to his feelings. Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Ward (Brobarians) is as funny as ever as she chronicles her orange hero’s nervous, no-filter state of mind, and her cut-paper, pencil, and ink drawings—with their visual asides, annotations, and shifts in scale—are irrepressible. It’s high anxiety made highly adorable.” —Publishers Weekly

Check out some fun activities here!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of DON’T FORGET DEXTER! courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses).

Monday, January 8, 2018

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? January 8, 2018

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

Here are some books I read this week. 
Click on the covers to learn more about each book.

LOVED this picture book. Visit tomorrow for a review and giveaway! Grades Pre-K-2.

A fabulous spin on a Cinderella story. 
Grades 2-5. Review soon.

There is a lot of really interesting information about Lady Liberty in this book. Some of the author's voice is a bit sarcastic, but I enjoyed it. Grades 3-6

I read this as an ebook from Netgalley. It had a lot of potential, but I felt the story needed more.

Ralph Fletcher gives us a reminder to infuse more joyful student-driven writing into our workshops. 

Currently Reading

What are you reading friends?

Monday, January 1, 2018

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? January 1, 2018

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

Happy New Year to you!! 
I sincerely hope that 2018 is everything you want it to be. I wish you much health and happiness!

Here are some books I have read over the last few weeks.Click on the covers to learn more about each book.

I read a bunch of picture books that have appeared on several mock Caldecott lists.
I did not appreciate this one as much as others. The illustration style is just not for me, but it does have a surprising ending. 

A neat book about perspective. Great to share and discuss seeing things through the eyes of another.

Gorgeous story of an influential musician. 

A sweet, wordless story of budding friendship.

A fascinating look at elephants. Kids will enjoy it for the information and gorgeous illustrations.

I love both the author and illustrator, but this was another that others seem to like more than I do. 

Good book to use to discuss curiosity and asking questions. 

A really interesting view of what it could be like to have your parent be the principal or work in the school you attend. One to add to your middle grade collection. 

Just so, so good. Grade 5 and up. 

A book for fans of Charlotte's Web. 

Oh my word, I loved this book so much. I would consider it YA for upper middle school and high school.

What are you reading friends?