Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How to Code a Sandcastle by Josh Funk and Sara Palacios

How to Code a Sandcastle 
A Girls Who Code book. 
by Josh Funk and Sara Palacios
Published May 15, 2018
Viking (Penguin Young Readers)
Fiction Picture Book
44 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
From the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code comes this lively and funny story introducing kids to computer coding concepts.
Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, need to build a sandcastle before summer vacation is over, and they’re going to do it using code. Pearl breaks the big we-need-a-sandcastle problem into smaller steps, then uses conditionals, loops, and other basic coding concepts to tell Pascal exactly what to do. But building a sandcastle isn’t as easy as it sounds when surfboards, mischievous dogs, and coding mishaps get in the way! Just when it looks like the sandcastle might never work, Pearl uses her coding skills to save the day and create something even better: a gorgeous sandcastle kingdom!

My Thoughts
How to Code a Sandcastle takes a real problem and uses coding to try to solve it. The book shows how coding is just breaking things down to very small step and solving problems along the way. 
For someone, like me, to whom coding is a completely foreign language, it is a nice beginning to understanding some of the steps involved. When one attempt doesn't work out, Pearl doesn't give up, she just modifies the code for Pascal to try again. Thankfully there are more detailed coding definitions and descriptions in the back matter of the book to explain sequences, loops, etc. 
With summer coming, How to Code a Sandcastle would make a great intro to coding with a summer theme. 
I would recommend it most for grades 1-4. 

See what others have to say about this book:

Watch this great video review.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Albie Newton by Josh Funk and Ester Garay

Albie Newton 
by Josh Funk and Ester Garay
Published May 1, 2018
Sterling Children's Books
Picture Book
32 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Meet Albie Newton: child genius. He’s a whiz at inventing things. But is he inventive enough to figure out how to make friends?
When precocious inventor Albie Newton enters a new preschool, he concocts the perfect plan for making friends. Unfortunately, it involves stealing the hamster’s wheel, snatching the wings off of Dave’s toy airplane, and generally making a giant mess. Now everyone’s angry at Albie! Will his new invention delight the other kids enough to make everything right—and finally win their friendship?

My Thoughts
Albie Newton is certainly not like the other kids in his class. He is a big thinker who learned foreign languages, wrote poetry and was a whiz at math. Although he wants to make friends, he doesn't seem to know how to interact with the other children. When he seems to be stealing the classroom supplies, he is really trying to create a special invention to please his classmates. 
The characters are adorable and represent various shapes, sizes, ethnicities and abilities. The story is told using Funk's signature rhyming text and exposes young readers to some more sophisticated vocabulary. 
I would recommend Albie Newton most for grades K-3. 

Check out the book trailer.

See what others have to say about this book:

Monday, May 21, 2018

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? May 21, 2018

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

Here is my reading from this week. 

by Watt Key
Published April, 2018
Farrar Straus Giroux
272 Pages
Middle Grade

Good Reads Summary
A middle grade survival story about a scuba dive gone wrong and two enemies who must unite to survive.
It's the most important rule of scuba diving: If you don't feel right, don't go down.
So after her father falls ill, twelve-year-old Julie Sims must take over and lead two of his clients on a dive miles off the coast of Alabama while her father stays behind in the boat. When the clients, a reckless boy Julie's age and his equally foolhardy father, disregard Julie's instructions during the dive, she quickly realizes she's in over her head.
And once she surfaces, things only get worse: One of the clients is in serious condition, and their dive boat has vanished--along with Julie's father, the only person who knows their whereabouts. It's only a matter of time before they die of hypothermia, unless they become shark bait first. Though Julie may not like her clients, it's up to her to save them all.

I really loved this book! I read it in one day which is very fast for me. I just needed to find out what happened and could not put it down. I would highly recommend it for grades 5-8. 

I also read...
Read my post here

Currently Reading 

Friday, May 18, 2018

A Seed is the Start by Melissa Stewart

A Seed is the Start 
by Melissa Stewart 
Published Feb. 2018
National Geographic Kids
32 Pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
Beautiful photography and lyrical text pair with comprehensive picture captions in award-winning author Melissa Stewart's story about the surprisingly diverse world of seeds. Learn all about the plant cycle, from how seeds grow, the fascinating ways they travel, and what it takes for a seed to become a plant.
Meet seeds that pop, hop, creep, and explode in this vividly illustrated introduction to the simplest concepts of botany. The story, which is perfect for elementary school Common Core learning, carefully highlights the many ways that seeds get from here to there, engaging children's curiosity with strong action verbs. Stunning photographs with fact-packed captions provide supporting details, explaining the role of seed features and functions in creating new generations of plants. Complete with an illustrated glossary and back matter featuring more resources, this book inspires wonder as it encourages budding botanists of all ages to look with new eyes at plants and their seeds.

My Thoughts
Whenever I see a new book by Melissa Stewart, I just know that I have to get it. She has written dozens of wonderful books about science and nature that kids love. So when I got her newest book, A Seed is the Start, I knew it would be great. 
This book is loaded with easily accessible facts written with accompanying photos from National Geographic and it is a winning combination for sure. I learned a ton! Kids will enjoy learning more about seeds and how they travel, take root and sprout. 
The back matter contains an index, selected resources and places to find more information. There is also a "Words to Know" page in the beginning to teach children words like seed, seedpod, nut and fruit. 

Spring is the PERFECT time to share this book with kids. Since Melissa is the queen of companion texts, here are a few that would par well with A Seed is the Start

See what others have to say about this book. 

Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Mad Wolf's Daughter by Diane Magras

The Mad Wolf's Daughter 
by Diane Magras
Published March, 2018
Kathy Dawson Books
288 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

Goodreads Summary
A Scottish medieval adventure about the youngest in a war-band who must free her family from a castle prison after knights attack her home.
One dark night, Drest’s sheltered life on a remote Scottish headland is shattered when invading knights capture her family, but leave Drest behind. Her father, the Mad Wolf of the North, and her beloved brothers are a fearsome war-band, but now Drest is the only one who can save them. So she starts off on a wild rescue attempt, taking a wounded invader along as a hostage.

Hunted by a bandit with a dark link to her family’s past, aided by a witch whom she rescues from the stake, Drest travels through unwelcoming villages, desolate forests, and haunted towns. Every time she faces a challenge, her five brothers speak to her in her mind about courage and her role in the war-band. But on her journey, Drest learns that the war-band is legendary for terrorizing the land. If she frees them, they’ll not hesitate to hurt the gentle knight who’s become her friend.
Drest thought that all she wanted was her family back; now she has to wonder what their freedom would really mean. Is she her father’s daughter or is it time to become her own legend?

My Thoughts
I have to admit that I don't read a lot of medieval fiction, but I enjoyed this book very much.  Drest is a fantastic, multi-dimensional character. She is brave, clever, strong and, in spite of herself, compassionate.  She is quite creative with her Scottish insults. Some of my favorites included, "rot-headed prickle fish" and "toad-faced boar's bladder".  Drest is faced with moral challenges along her quest. She needs to get the knight, her enemy, safely to the castle. This means that she must tend to his wounds and help him to walk throughout the long journey. It is hard to harbor ill-will for someone you are caring for and Drest begins to see her enemy in a different light. She also learns things about her father and brothers who are hated and feared far and wide for the terrible things they have done. Surely the father who loves her and the brothers that protect her could not intentionally hurt people.
Magras does not shy away from the language of the age.  Thankfully there is a glossary for readers can look up some of the terms. She also provides more information on medieval life in the author's note and there is a map in the front of the book so readers can follow the journey. 
I would highly recommend The Mad Wolf's Daughter for grades 5-8. This is Diane Magras' debut novel and I certainly hope we get more gems from her in the near future. 

Check out the official book trailer.

See what others have to say about this book:

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A New Literacy Resource-Help Appreciated

Hello literacy friends, 
How many times have you heard people talk about what "research says" in education, but they fail to provide or cite the actual research? Well, I have developed a website that just might help.

I am excited, and a bit nervous, to share a new literacy website I created as part of my capstone project for my post-masters literacy CAS. It is called Literacy Resources and Research. I created it to help educators that are looking to locate pertinent research supporting literacy instructional practices and resources to help them implement these practices. It is, by no means, an exhaustive list and will continue to develop over time. 

I hope this website is of help to others. Please check it out and offer any comments with research, resources or topics that you think should be included.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It's a Puppy's Life by Seth Casteel

It's a Puppy's Life 
by Seth Casteel 
Published March, 2018
National Geographic
32 pages
Review copy provided by publisher

This book is just cuteness overload! With sparse, rhyming text, the author shows young readers a bit of what life is like for puppies. From taking walks, making messes, sniffing, bathing and napping, these adorable pups are very busy. Each of Seth Casteel's photos are clear, colorful and make you want to reach in and snuggle these cuties. Kids (and grown ups) will "ooh" and "awww" for sure. 

Image from National Geographic site

The back matter contains an author's note and a breed guide so kids can match the photos to the breed. 
I would recommend this book for ages 2-6. 
See what others have to say about this book: 
Christy's Cozy Corners
Kristi's Book Nook

Monday, May 14, 2018

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? May 14, 2018

Please visit the amazing blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers who host this terrific meme each week.
Not a lot this week, but I am hoping to have more reading time this week. 
Click on the covers to learn more about each book. 

Yes, it is as cute as it looks. Review tomorrow. 

Currently Reading

Up Next

What are you reading friends?

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The Truth About Dolphins by Max Eaton III

The Truth About Dolphins 
by Max Eaton III
Published May 8, 2018
Roaring Brook Press
32 Pages

Goodreads Summary
Did you know that dolphins find their dinners by using sound to track down the location of their prey?
Did you know that baby dolphins are born tail-first?
Did you know that each dolphin has a unique whistle (like human fingerprints) that makes them recognizable to other dolphins?
Discover these facts and more in this new addition to the popular series that combines raucous amounts of humor with a surprising amount of information on beloved animal friends.

I am delighted to have author/illustrator Max Eaton III here today to share his creative process in a most unique way. Enjoy! 

Thank YOU Max! I LOVE this glimpse into your process and your sidekick is adorable!

Friends, there are two other books in this engaging series that combines humor and nonfiction. 

Check out other books by Max Eaton.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul-Guest Post

Breaking News 
by Sarah Lynne Reul
Published April, 2018
Roaring Brook Press
48 pages

Goodreads Summary
When devastating news rattles a young girl's community, her normally attentive parents and neighbors are suddenly exhausted and distracted. At school, her teacher tells the class to look for the helpers—the good people working to make things better in big and small ways. She wants more than anything to help in a BIG way, but maybe she can start with one small act of kindness instead . . . and then another, and another. Small things can compound, after all, to make a world of difference.
The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul touches on themes of community, resilience, and optimism with an authenticity that will resonate with readers young and old.

I am thrilled to have author author/illustrator Sarah Lynne Reul here today for a guest post. 

Sarah Lynne Reul Picks Up A Pencil

On the jacket flap of many picture books, I’ve seen countless illustrator bios that state, “so & so has been drawings ever since she could hold a pencil”. I very much admire people who have been able to consistently draw since childhood, but . . . that wasn’t the case at all for me.

When I first picked up a pencil, I absolutely, unabashedly loved to draw. I was even one of those arty kids in elementary school, drawing on every surface of my binder, in and out of art class. However, sometime around middle school, I started to hesitate – why didn’t my drawings look “real”? Why couldn’t I draw exactly like my favorite artists? I had no idea how to get better. It felt like maybe that was as good as I would ever be, and that certainly didn’t seem like it was good enough. At a certain point, I put the pencil firmly down, and it took me a long time before I could confidently hold it again.

Perhaps it was a lack of formal instruction – the schools I attended were known for science and math academics but had limited funding for arts education. I can’t recall taking any visual arts classes in high school, and I didn’t have access to mentors who could help me figure out how to break through issues of perspective, shading, color, linework or any of the other foundations of representational drawing and painting.

In college, my undergrad degree focused on life sciences and agriculture. I loved the small handful of drawing classes I was able to squeeze into my schedule. As part of one class, I studied Betty Edwards’ wonderful book DRAWING ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE BRAIN, and it helped me start seeing the issue differently. Rather than continuing to believe that some people are simply born with a natural talent for drawing, I began to understand that drawing accurately is a skill that can be taught, just like reading or a foreign language. Just like any of those pursuits, it’s not impossible to make progress on your own, but it’s quite difficult to attain proficiency without someone to teach you the basics or to help you break through plateaus. With the help of an excellent instructor, I felt at last that there was a small potential that I could actually get better at drawing, but I wasn’t quite sure how, or what value learning to draw would bring to my life.

When I graduated from college, I spent nearly a decade working for non-profits & social ventures, fondly remembering the art classes but not really finding the time to practice my drawing skills. It wasn’t until a personal event upended my life that I started to reconsider the value of drawing again.

I evenutally decided to go back to school to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in hand-drawn, traditional animation. I’d always found “pencil tests” of early animation to be fascinating – you can truly see how drawings have been brought to life (some excellent pencil test examples can be found here I wanted be one of the people who got to create that magic. At the time that I started the program, there were several sizable animation companies in the Boston area where I was hoping I might be able to work. However, just as I graduated, about half them happened to go out of business, and I realized that I needed to pivot – to use the skills that I had gained in another field.

Becoming a picture book writer and illustrator seemed like a perfect fit – throughout my life, I’ve loved to read, and a good illustration always feels like magic. Many of the skills that I gained in my MFA have transferred into the kidlit world – character design, storytelling, layout, drawing skills, color theory, to name a few. I quickly learned as much as I possibly could about the field, attending SCBWI conferences and other events, joining critique groups, reading any blogs or other articles I could find, and then just practicing writing, drawing, revising, creating book dummies, sharing with my critique groups – rinse and repeat.

I still struggle from time to time with picking up my pencil - procrastination is a constant companion and with a family to manage, there are always other things that need to get done. To avoid putting it down for too long, daily practice and projects like Storystorm, Inktober & the 100 Day Project all help keep me honest and creating in between projects (as well as sparking ideas for new projects). THE BREAKING NEWS was sparked in just this way – an idea that flowed from my pencil as I attempted to jot down thirty picture book ideas in thirty days during my first Storystorm in 2015 - and I am so pleased to be able to share it with the world this month.

Do you have a similar story? Have you ever reconnected with something as an adult that you used to love doing as a kid? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Thank you Sarah! 
Be sure to visit Sarah Lynne Reul's website here. 

Praise for Breaking News!
“An absolute-must for most libraries.” – School Library Journal

“…a useful classroom and parental tool in tough times.” – The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (STARRED review)

“…the heavily outlined images are steady and solid, including the closing spreads of the girl and her family planting flowers, which circle back to a scene at the beginning, affirming the resilience that can result when small acts are focused on community.” – The New York Times

*A Scholastic Teacher’s magazine summer 2018 reading list pick*
(praise copied from website)

Friday, May 4, 2018

On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen and Bob Marshall Blog Tour and Giveaway

Welcome to Day #5 of the On Gull Beach Blog Tour!

To celebrate the release of On Gull Beach by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Bob Marstall on March 27th, blogs across the web are featuring a scavenger hunt interview with Jane, plus 10 chances to win a set of On Bird Hill, On Duck Pond, and On Gull Beach! Follow along each day to see a new answer or poem from Jane!

Q: How long does it take you to write a picture book?

Jane: Somewhere between 2 days and 20 years. It depends on the book and whether I see it whole or have to arm wrestle it for many moons. Speaking of moons--OWL MOON took twenty years. GULL BEACH a great deal shorter than that.


Blog Tour Schedule:

April 30th - The Eco Lifestyle
May 2nd - The OWL
May 7thWord Spelunking
May 8th - GeoLibrarian
May 9thChat with Vera
May 10thBooks My Kids Read
May 11thMundie Kids

Together again! On Gull Beach reunites bestselling children’s author Jane Yolen and award-winning illustrator Bob Marstall for the third installment of the acclaimed On Bird Hill and Beyond series of children’s books written for the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog as they see the natural world, ultimately witnessing the miracle of a chick emerging from an egg.

On Duck Pond continued their journey, this time at a serene pond filled with birds, frogs, and turtles who are suddenly disrupted by their intrusion, but soon settle back into a quiet equilibrium. On Gull Beach brings us to an idyllic shoreline in Cape Cod, where gulls hover, dive, and chase with pitched acrobatics in pursuit of a seastar. This enchanting sequel in a brand new habitat will delight readers young and old.

About the Author: Jane Yolen has authored more than 370 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, which every budding young ornithologist owns, You Nest Here With Me, which is a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs. Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world. Jane's husband, David Stemple, was both a well known bird recordist and a professor of computer science and he taught the entire family how to identify birds. Many of Jane’s books are about wildlife subjects, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Easthampton, MA. Visit her online at

About the Illustrator: Bob Marstall is the illustrator of nine nonfiction children’s books, including the The Lady and the Spider, which sold over a quarter-of-a-million copies and was a Reading Rainbow selection. Bob has also been honored with an ALA Notable; an IRA Teachers’ Choice; a Smithsonian Magazine Notable Book for Children; and three John Burroughs selections.

In addition, two of Bob’s books are included in the New York Times Parent’s Guide’s “1001 Best Books of the Twentieth Century.” Bob Lives in Easthamton, MA. Visit him online at

About the Cornell Lab: The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a world leader in the study, appreciation, and conservation of birds. Our hallmarks are scientific excellence and technological innovation to advance the understanding of nature and to engage people of all ages in learning about birds and protecting the planet.


  • One (1) winner will receive a set of On Bird Hill, On Duck Pond, and On Gull Beach -- great summer reads!
  • US only
a Rafflecopter giveaway