Friday, June 23, 2017

Spotlight Friday - a new interactive book title Say Zoop! 6.23.17

Time to get ready for the weekend!
Kick up your feet and find a good place to read.
Sharing #booklove for your classroom or library.
Spotlighting a book or two because these books deserve the spotlight!

I love interactive books.  I wrote about them here.  I think they are a great way to get a reader involved with the story in a fun way.  I have found them to reach those kids who really don't want to do much with a book - from being reluctant at the start, to being an active participant by the end of the book!  Here's a new one for your collection:

Say Zoop! by Hervé Tullet
Say Zoop!
by Hervé Tullet
published by Chronicle Books
August 1st

Celebrating color, movement, music, sounds and imagination!  Hervé Tullet invites readers to pop, move, point and press the dots while making fun sounds along the way.  Readers will explore movement and sound while going on the journey with Tullet's dots.  I'm excited to add this one to my interactive book bin this fall.

Be sure you check out these interactive books:

by Hervé Tullet:
Press Here
Mix it Up
Let's Play
Say Zoop

by Christie Matheson
Tap the Magic Tree
Touch the Brightest Star
Plant the Tiny Seed

by Claudia Rueda
Bunny Slopes

by Olivier Tallec
Who Done It?
Who What Where?

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bubbles by Abby Cooper - a review 6.22.17

by Abby Cooper
published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
July 3rd, 2017

Goodreads summary:
Twelve-year-old Sophie Mulvaney's world has been turned upside down. Mom lost her job at the TV station and broke up with Pratik, whom Sophie adored. Her teacher is making them do a special project about risk-taking, so Sophie gets roped into doing a triathlon. And to top it all off, she's started seeing bubbles above people's heads that tell her what these people are thinking. Seeing other people's thoughts seems like it should be cool, but it's actually just stressful. What does it mean that Pratik wishes she and Mom were with him to eat dinner? Is her best friend Kaya really going out with their other best friend, Rafael, whom Sophie also has a crush on? And can Sophie's mom ever go back to her old self? In this funny, heartwarming novel, Sophie comes to learn that people are more than what they seem—or what they think.

My quick thoughts:
I remember going to the library as a middle grade reader and checking out book after book.  I think I read a lot of fantasy back then but what I searched for were books that I saw myself within.  Judy Blume books of course come to mind.  But then I get stuck.  Not many others stand out in my mind.
Middle grade readers want to be taken away to other places when they read, but they also want to see a mirror of who they are, the situations they visit on a day to day basis, a world that helps give them answers when they often can't find them.
In Abby Cooper's sophomore effort, I see middle graders finding pieces of themselves.  These kids are looking for answers.  When they don't know so much about themselves, much less about the world around them, wouldn't it be helpful to have answers right in front of them?
Our main character, Sophie, gets just that.  She sees talk bubbles above the heads of the people around her.  While that helps Sophie get some answers to what she is silently asking and wondering, she also gets answers she doesn't necessarily want to know.  But thoughts are meant to be private and interpreted by the person who is thinking them.  Does Sophie really know what people are thinking?
I think middle grade readers are going to relate to the characters in Bubbles and the situations they find themselves in.  This is a book that will be relevant for years to come.
Be on the lookout for Bubbles in early July!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Can An Aardvark Bark? 6.21.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

If you are a frequent reader to my blog, and especially my Wednesday posts, you know what a big fan I am of author Melissa Stewart.  Her knowledge of nonfiction writing, how to break down nonfiction reading, her analysis of nonfiction material - it's amazing.  I learn something from every blog post she writes.  Her writing has made me a better teacher because I am aware of the type of nonfiction I read, the type of nonfiction I am passing on to students, how I teach reading nonfiction and writing nonfiction.  If you don't already, subscribe to her blog!  It really will change you as an educator, reader and writer.

I'm so excited to share her new nonfiction book:

Can an Aardvark Bark?
Can an Aardvark Bark?
written by Melissa Stewart
illustrated by Steve Jenkins
published by Beach Lane Books

One of the first thing that stands out to me is right on the cover.  You can see Steve Jenkins' iconic cut and torn paper collage illustration.  So this is a book that Melissa Stewart writes and Steve Jenkins' illustrates... you know it's going to be genius!

Something that Melissa has taught me a lot about is text structures.  Text structure can make the world of difference in a book.  As a writer, by choosing the best structure for your writing, it makes your writing point, what you are trying to get across to the reader, clear and understandable.  As a reader, by understanding text structure, you can make better sense of the information.  I love the way Melissa has selected a question/answer structure for this book.  Almost every other layout asks if an animal makes a particular sound (bark, roar, bellow, laugh).  Almost always the answer is no and Stewart goes on to tell us the correct sound that animal makes.  But instead of stopping at the one animal, on the second layout she gives us a round up of animals that make a similar noise.  She goes on to detail the reason the animal makes the noise - most of the time its for communication, although they also make noises for defensive reasons, to find other animals, and even to flirt (well, the proper term is to find their mate, but flirting sounds fun too!).

I really like the animal choices Stewart used in her roundup of animals.  Most of the animal choices were animals I did not know a lot about and were not the common choice.  For example, in the "barking" animals, dogs were not listed.  That is an animal choice kids would be most familiar with, but instead they learn that woodchucks and capybaras bark.  Who knew?

An interesting conversation can be had with young readers about the noises these animals make.  Focus in on the noise word on each page - they are in bigger font so they stick out more to our reading eyes!  What does it sound like?  Go to the last page where we see all of the words together.  How are they different?  Are they similar at all?  What do you notice about these sounds?  Great conversations can be had just by looking at these words!

I can't wait to share this book with readers this fall.  I'm guessing this is going to be a very popular nonfiction book in my circulation!

Happy nonfiction reading!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

#road2reading Challenge - new transitional chapter book series! 6.20.17

All journeys have a starting place.
This is a weekly place to find books and tools 
that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

Sometimes you read a book over summer break and it makes you so excited to go back to school in the fall!  That's the case with this new series from Debbi Michiko Florence!

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen
Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen
written by Debbi Michiko Florence
illustrated by Elizabet Vukotic´
published by Farrar Straus Giroux
July 11th

Goodreads summary
The first book in a new chapter book series featuring a spunky Japanese-American heroine!

Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker!

She's also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophie--something special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before.

But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year's Day?

My quick thoughts
I loved meeting Jasmine!  She's full of spunk, ideas and determination!  I loved how she wasn't afraid of changing "how it's always been done".  We need more of her now!  

This is going to be a great transitional chapter book series for all readers.  I love how this book supports readers by:

  • having one main problem - there aren't multiple story strands for young readers to piece together.  Jasmine tries different solutions, which keeps the storyline moving, but it's all for the same problem
  • short, quick chapters keep the reader wanting to turn pages
  • realistic story lines will help with understanding - even with the cultural references, they are discussed in a way that makes sense to young readers
  • there is an illustration on almost every two page spread in each chapter.  Some illustrations are large, some depict one small item that is talked about on that page.  Every illustrations helps support young readers.
  • will be a series - more about Jasmine to look forward to!
I really love the diverse plot lines this series is bringing - this first book is about the traditions in making a Japanese dessert - mochi, which is a sweet, rice cake.  There is even a recipe included at the end of the book for making microwavable mochi!  The second book (the first two books are being published simultaneously) is about Girl's Day - a traditional Japanese holiday honoring women and girls!

I am really looking forward to where Jasmine takes us next!  Great series for a K-3 library!

Don't miss Alyson's post this week about a fun new picture book series.

Want to talk about books for readers who are on the #road2reading?  Link up here!

Monday, June 19, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 6.19.17

This weekly post comes from Jen at Teach Mentor Texts
 and Kellee and Ricki at Unleashing Readers.  
It's a great source to find new books to use with your students.

Last Week's Adventures

Blog tour for Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth

I answered 3 questions about early reading here.

Talking sharks here.

Blog tour for Welcome to Wonder Land 2: Beach Party Surf Monkey and giveaway

Celebrating Father's Day with this new book.

Graphic Novel

The Great Art Caper
The Great Art Caper by Victoria Jamieson
4/5 stars
The second book in the "Pets on the Loose" series - this time GW, Sunflower and Barry, the friendly class pets, are trying to save the art show from Harriet and her Minions.  They have an evil plan that will not only ruin the art show, but make fun of the administration and get GW sent to a horrible school for unruly pets!
I love this series and it has been a huge hit for the readers at my school.  Anything Victoria Jamieson does is an automatic purchase for me!

Middle Grade

Halfway Normal
Halfway Normal by Barbara Dee
5/5 stars
e-copy from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
This is going to be such an important windows/mirror book!  Norah is returning to school after being gone for the past two years as she battled leukemia.  Middle school is awkward for anyone, but try returning after a very significant illness that has left you looking like a boy instead of a girl, terrorized your body so it's still catching up to puberty, and because of homeschooling, has you skipping a grade level for a few classes.  To adults, this might not seem horrible.  To a middle schooler, this is horrible!  The story is carefully crafted to talk about empathy.  I love the inclusion of mythology Dee uses to emphasize empathy within the school setting.  Empathy and sympathy can be similar yet very different.  How middle schoolers display, show and react to it are explored.
Barbara Dee has written this from her heart.  She has experience with this as written about in her Nerdy post.  As a parent who has a child that has to return to school after prolonged absences, this book absolutely spoke to my heart.  I'm hoping my daughter gets to it soon - I had an e-galley of it and she does not like reading electronically so not sure when she will get to it - because I would love to hear her take on it since it's a mirror book for her.
Whether it's a window or mirror book, I think this book provides the opportunity to gain new perspective, or see themselves within the book.
publishes Sept. 5th.

The Explorer
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell
5/5 stars
e-copy from Edelweiss Above the Treeline
Do you have fans of Hatchet or maybe the Watt Keys books?  Those kids who are looking for nonstop adventure and suspense?  This is the book you'll want to get into their hands this fall.  
My first thought was this book is going to be exactly like Hatchet but with 4 main characters. We meet Fred, Con, and brother and sister Lila and Max, as they are heading over the Amazon when all of a sudden their pilot has, what seems to present, a heart attack.  Crash landing in the middle of the Amazon, the four need to get back to society to get home.  Of course what do four kids, one of them being only five years old, know about surviving in the wilderness?  They must rely on each other and on someone unexpected they meet.  Meanwhile, they learn an important lesson that changes their outlook on their situation.
What I love about this book and other Rundell novels is her way of weaving stories and plot lines together that end up giving you something deeper to think about.  This ends up being not just a survival story, but one that has deeper meaning.
publishes Sept. 12th

Currently Reading

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street
The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie
Can't wait to dive into this one!  Look at that gorgeous cover!

I'm looking forward to this weekend - it's time for ALA, in Chicago!  I will be taking off next Monday with the excitement of ALA, but can't wait to return to update you on all of the upcoming books!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Spotlight Friday - a book to celebrate fathers! 6.16.17

Time to get ready for the weekend!
Kick up your feet and find a good place to read.
Sharing #booklove for your classroom or library.
Spotlighting a book or two because these books deserve the spotlight!

Father's Day is right around the corner and why not celebrate with a book?

My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Fathers
My Daddy Rules the World: Poems About Dads
by Hope Anita Smith
published by Christy Ottaviano Books
Henry Holt and Company

This gorgeous book of rhyming poetry is such a perfect ode of love from a young child to a father.  The majority of poems are written in rhyme, yet the phrasing and length vary from poem to poem.  Featuring a diverse cast of characters in each illustration, this book will be relatable to so many young readers.  I love the torn paper illustrations - unique yet give a feeling of being the same.  I'm also glad to see the book celebrate the father-son AND father-daughter relationship.  Some poems celebrate relationships others an activity, a memory or perhaps a lesson learned.  They all celebrate the bond and love of a father and child.
What I appreciated the most was the dedication.  The author dedicates it to all fathers - recognizing that they may look different from family to family - but the bottom line is it's someone who offers "guidance, love and support".  Beautiful.

Goodreads Summary
Who is your hero? Who's your best friend?
Who says he loves you again and again?

Told through the voice of a child, Anita Hope Smith's My Daddy Rules the World collection of poems celebrates everyday displays of fatherly love, from guitar lessons and wrestling matches to bedtime stories, haircuts in the kitchen, and cuddling in bed. These heartwarming poems, together with bold folk-art-inspired images, capture the strength and beauty of the relationship between father and child.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Welcome to Wonderland: Beach Party Surf Monkey - blog tour 6.15.17

I first fell in love with Chris Grabenstein's works when I read Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library.  I had just begun my "nerdy" journey (well, some may argue I've been on it for much longer than that....) and it was one of those books.  A book you couldn't wait to get in the hands of kids.  I knew it was a book I would be book talking and sharing when school started in the fall.  Since then, I've book talked it, talked about it with readers, bought copies and replaced copies in my library.  We've seen Mr. Lemoncello sequels and other books written by Chris Grabenstein published.  Now, I'm excited to share with you another Chris Grabenstein series, especially since it's time for book 2!

Welcome to Wonderland #2: Beach Party Surf Monkey
Welcome to Wonderland: Beach Party Surf Monkey
written by Chris Grabenstein
illustrated by Brooke Allen
published by Random House

Goodreads summary
From Chris Grabenstein, the bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library and coauthor with James Patterson of I Funny, House of Robots, and Treasure Hunters, comes the second hilarious, fun-in-the-sun adventure in his new illustrated series about all the wacky things that happen when you live in a motel!

There's always something wacky happening when you live in a motel, and P.T. (named after P. T. Barnum, of course) has grown up at the world's wackiest! When word gets out that the hottest teen idols in Hollywood (plus current YouTube sensation Kevin the Monkey!) will be filming their next movie--Beach Party Surf Monkey--right in St. Pete's Beach, Florida, P.T. and his friend Gloria know that the Wonderland would be the perfect location. Now they just have to convince the producers!

But when things start to go wrong (crazed fans? missing stars?), it will take all of Gloria's business genius and P.T.'s wild stories to save the movie before both it and the Wonderland are all washed up!

My quick thoughts
This is another series that I read in the summer and now I can't wait to book talk it to students this fall!  Wonderland is one of those series - the kind that get kids reading!  What I love about this series:

  • non-stop adventure
  • features a fast-talking, outrageous story-spinning character that kids are going to love, and his partner - a smart, quick witted girl!
  • the supporting characters are fun (especially the bologna and celery soda loving Grandpa) and the evil villain characters are always provoke the right amount of dislike
  • the setting is perfect - in St. Pete, Florida in a motel that was as popular as Disney... in the year before Disney opened
  • short, quick chapters and I love that the chapters have title names
  • fun activities at the end of each book
  • illustrated by Brooke Allen, of Lumberjanes fame
The second book in the series was hysterical to read.  With a rock star who has diva-tendencies, complete with groupies and lots of temper tantrums and talent that may exist only in his eyes and who may or may not have similarities to certain rock stars today, kids are going to be laughing out loud with the escapades, or should I say tirades, this character has.  The character of the famous actress will appeal to readers' hearts as she grapples with the price of fame.  And then there is the youtube made famous monkey.  We all know how cute those animal internet stars are!  This time the evil villain is right next door.  As in the hotel next door.  The owner and his scheming daughter are just sure they will be able to buy the Wonderland away from the Wilkie family.  But if you know anything about P.T., you know there will be an idea that is sure to spin one heck of a story and save it all!

Something that Chris Grabenstein has started doing is hiding names of some wonderful Nerdy people into his book.  Imagine my surprise when I found the name of a friend:

Love that Mr. Stroh gets to make an appearance in this book!

Be sure to head over to Chris's website.  There is so much to check out there - activities, chapter samples, audio, and links that go with his books.  Check it out at

Ready to visit Wonderland - well, at least through the pages of the book?  Random House has generously donated a copy to one lucky reader!  Open to residents of the U.S. and must be 13 years old to enter.  Enter below and cross your fingers!  Giveaway is open until Wednesday, June 21 at 5pmEST.

Find Welcome to Wonderland: Beach Party Surf Monkey at your bookstore and library now! As always, happy reading!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - All About Sharks! 6.14.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

Shark Lady by Jess Keating
Shark Lady: 
The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean's Most Fearless Scientist
written by Jess Keating
illustrated by Marta Álavarez Miguéns
published by Sourcebooks
I love that Jess Keating is writing in all sorts of formats!  I love her hilarious fiction middle grade novels.  Pink is for Blobfish is the most checked out nonfiction book in my classroom library.  Not she's venturing into picture book biographies!
In Shark Lady, we learn about Eugenie Clark and how she followed her passion in life and accomplished her dreams.  Keating shows us how Eugenie's passion for sharks began as a child and some of the obstacles she overcame in order to follow her dreams.
I first became acquainted with Eugenie Clark last year with Heather Lang's picture book biography, Swimming With Sharks.  I think it's wonderful for young readers to have multiple books about this amazing women because each author gives us tidbits that is new information.  What a great way to add to our knowledge!
The backmatter that Keating includes is fantastic.  I love how the "Shark Bites" information adds information about sharks and how some of that information was important or made an impact (literally in the teeth section!) on Eugenie.  Also included is a timeline, author notes and bibliography.

Also read:

Swimming With Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark
by Heather Lang

If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams
If Sharks Disappeared
by Lily Williams
published by Roaring Brook Press
Perfect mentor text for cause/effect text structure.  It is used perfectly in this book showing the direct relationship of shark extinction and the effect on other animals, the ocean, and the land creatures, including us.  The visuals that go along with the text use colors that reflect the tone of the page.  
I don't think young readers understand the causal effect of animals and the environment.  It seems simple/easy to just get rid of the apex predators (top predators), without understanding the true consequences.  This book lays it out in a very easy to understand manner that young readers will comprehend.
There is a beautiful trifold spread that will cause readers to spend some time pouring over its magnificence!
Thorough author's notes at the end including:  glossary, explanation why sharks are in trouble, how you can save sharks, bibliography and additional sources.
This is a book I highly recommend for your classroom library!

Also read:

Please Be Nice to Sharks: Fascinating Facts About the Ocean's Most Misunderstood Creatures 
by Matthew Weiss

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting With the Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands 
by Katherine Roy

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth - a review 6.13.17

Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth
Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth
by Frank Cottrell Boyce
published by Walden Pond Press
June 20th

Goodreads summary:
Award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce returns with another one-of-a-kind story of heart, humor, and finding one’s place in the universe.

Prez knows that the best way to keep track of things is to make a list. That's important when you have a grandfather who is constantly forgetting. And it's even more important when your grandfather can't care for you anymore and you have to go live with a foster family out in the country.

Prez is still learning to fit in at his new home when he answers the door to meet Sputnik—a kid who is more than a little strange. First, he can hear what Prez is thinking. Second, he looks like a dog to everyone except Prez. Third, he can manipulate the laws of space and time. Sputnik, it turns out is an alien, and he's got a mission that requires Prez's help: the Earth has been marked for destruction, and the only way they can stop it is to come up with ten reasons why the planet should be saved.

Thus begins one of the most fun and eventful summers of Prez's life, as he and Sputnik set out on a journey to compile the most important list Prez has ever made—and discover just what makes our world so remarkable.

There were some big themes that ran through this book:

Most of us are fortunate enough to have a home, a family, which we can rely upon.  But what if you don't?  What if a traditional home, a traditional family, is something you don't have?  And you have to figure out what is right for you?  What can you piece together to make fit?  Where is home?  Who are the people in your home?
Prez does not have a traditional home.  Raised by his grandfather until close to the start of the book when he is taken away and Prez goes to live in the Temporary (orphanage of some sort) and is placed with a foster family for the summer.  While the foster family does become close and slowly forms a meaningful family for Prez, he does not give up hope of being reunited with Granddad.  But it's through Sputnik's crazy ideas and schemes that helps Prez see what the idea of home is for him.
Further explored in this theme is living with a family member who has Alzheimer's/dementia.    This can be very confusing for a young child and Boyce lays it out in a non-threatening way with Sputnik and his schemes.

Knowing your place in the universe
Wondering how you fit in - with the people around you, with family, at school or a place where you are a lot - can be hard to figure out.  Who you are and who you want to be is something we reckon with for a long time as we mature and come into our own person.  It's not something that is figured out in a day, and as a middle grader, it's confusing and patience is not something that is usually figured out by then.  
We see this within Prez as he grapples with figuring out where he fits in.  Who is family is.  Where is family is.  How does he fit in with the people around him, within his town, within this universe.  The character of Sputnik is there to perhaps help him figure this out, but instead of telling him, he creates situations that makes Prez a bit more aware.

My quick thoughts
This book definitely had a Roald Dahl/British feel to it.  Reality is suspended and the belief in the unbelievable is needed to fully immerse yourself into this book.  I like that science is infused throughout the story lines and quick explanations of physics and the universe occur naturally throughout the book.  I would put this in the hands of readers who enjoy the Roald Dahl books, readers who enjoy science fiction or fantasy and readers who enjoy a quirky sense of humor.

Thank you to Walden Pond Press for the review copy.

Be sure to visit other stops along the tour:

June 5
June 6

June 7
June 8
June 9
The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
June 11
June 12
June 13
June 14

More about author Frank Cottrell Boyce:
Frank Cottrell Boyce is the author of Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth, The Astounding Broccoli Boy, Cosmic, Framed, andMillions, the last of which was a New York Times bestseller and was made into a movie by Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle. His books have won or been nominated for numerous awards, including the Carnegie Medal, the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, and the Whitbread Children's Book Award. Frank is also a screenwriter, having penned the scripts for a number of feature films as well as the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. He lives in Liverpool with his family.

Don't just take it from me, here is what critics are saying:
«“Cottrell Boyce invites readers to suspend belief while going on a physics-defying, mind-bending adventure that’s sure to appeal to a wide audience. Begging to be read aloud and full of escapades, humor, and spunk, this is a stand-alone gem.” — School Library Journal

« “Sputnik’s zany energy and role as clueless tourist produce laugh-out-loud scenarios and turn everyday objects into things of wonder—you’ll never look at a remote control the same way again. On the flip side, he helps Prez find his voice and come to terms with hard truths about his grandfather. A stellar exploration of the meaning of home and the earthly wonders all around us.”
— Booklist

«” A raucous adventure with a heart of gold.”--Kirkus

Find a copy of Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth on June 20th!