Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - what is in my nonfiction stacks 1.31.18

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen ©2017
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.

Lots of nonfiction picture books have ended up in my stacks lately.  Here's what I've been reading:

Child of the Civil Rights Movement
Child of the Civil Rights Movement
written by Paula Young Shelton
illustrated by Raul Colón
I came across this book and the next when I was searching for another civil rights book on my public library's app.  Both were excellent suggestions!
Written by the daughter of civil rights leader Andrew Young, Shelton sets out to tell us what 1964 and the events that happened in that year looked like through the lens of a young child.  Well written and great illustrations by the amazing Colón.

The School is Not White! by Doreen Rappaport
The School is Not White! A True Story of the Civil Right Movement
written by Doreen Rappaport
illustrated by Curtis James
Story centers around the eight Carter children and their integration into all-white schools in Mississippi in 1965 and beyond.  Great introduction and endnotes from the author.

Free as a Bird by Lina Maslo
Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala
by Lina Maslo
Well written biography of an amazing young lady.  There have been more and more pieces written about how young women cannot attend school or have other rights as their male counterparts.  This story helps young readers see this injustice and why Malala chose to confront it.  The shooting was handled with sensitivity and young readers will understand she was gravely injured.  Additional information is given in the backmatter.

I am interested in this new trend of picture books about famous adult authors.  I'm wondering what their popularity will be with young readers who do not even know about their works.  This week I have two about the author, Jane Austen!

Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen by Deborah Hopkinson
Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen
written by Deborah Hopkinson
illustrated by Qin Leng

Brave Jane Austen by Lisa Pliscou
Brave Jane Austen: Reader, Writer, Author, Rebel
written by Lisa Pliscou
illustrated by Jen Corace

Both are well written and illustrated.  Each will appeal to different readers.  The second book is a bit meatier in information, but they will match up well together and give readers a better idea about this famous adult writer.

What nonfiction reading have you been doing?

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Problim Children, a review 1.30.18

Happiest book birthdays to

The Problim Children
The Problim Children
by Natalie Lloyd
published by Katherine Tegen books

Goodreads summary:
When the Problim children’s ramshackle bungalow in the Swampy Woods goes kaboom, the seven siblings and their pet pig have no choice but to move into their Grandpa’s abandoned old mansion in Lost Cove. No problem! For the Problim children, every problem is a gift.

Wendell and Thea—twins born two minutes apart on a Wednesday and a Thursday—see the move as a chance to make new friends in time for their birthday cake smash. But the neighbors find the Problims’ return problematic—what with Sal’s foggy garden full of Wrangling Ivy, toddler Toot’s 365 stanktastic fart varieties, and Mona’s human catapult.

Truth be told, rumors are flying about the Problims! Rumors of a bitter feud, a treasure, and a certain kind of magic lingering in the halls of #7 Main Street. And the neighbors will do anything to get their hands on those secrets—including sending the Problim children to seven different homes on seven different continents!

Why You Want to Know this book:
I have been a fan of Natalie's words since the start.  Snicker of Magic blew me away by the way each line was magically read.  Natalie's words tugged at my heart and haven't let go.  Her books about magical realism are so powerful, they let you believe that maybe magic really is all around us.
Now we have The Problim Children, who really aren't problems but a family of Problims who know how to love and look out for each other.  With seven characters, there is one for everyone to love.  I enjoyed Mona, whose cranky attitude was right up my alley!  My 12yo couldn't get enough of Toot, who communicates through, yeah, you guessed it, some stinky toots.  
By loving heart first, these siblings stick together, while letting everyone in, even those who are up to no good, because maybe, people can change.  It's through this positive message that Natalie shows us we all need to love heart first.  And tacos.  We need to eat more tacos.  (just read the book).

Give this to kids who:
  • like a positive message in their reading lives
  • enjoyed A Series of Unfortunate Events or The Mysterious Benedict Society
  • are looking for a great character driven book
  • like quirky parts in books (the character Toots speaks through his farts and they are described and analyzed via footnote...)
I am already anxiously awaiting the next book in the series, because yup, it's a series!  That means we have more of Natalie's words to look forward to reading!  Yay, us!  Until then, make sure you pick up a copy of The Problim Children!

Monday, January 29, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.29.18

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

Need some new STEAM books for your library?  Check out this list here.

I love this new girl-power series for young readers - PRINCESS PULVERIZER!

Looking for some picture book biographies featuring some talented woman?  A list for you!

I can't wait to celebrate Smart Cookie with readers tomorrow!  Come visit over here and read an interview with author, Elly Swartz and check out the giveaway - open until this evening (Monday the 29th)!

Picture Books

Wild One
Wild One
written by Jane Whittingham
illustrated by Noel Tuazon
I'm so excited to read and share this book written by follow blogger - @raincityjane!
Sweet rhyming book that would be perfect to read to a little one at bedtime, or use it as a sensory and motor break and act out the movements and stretches depicted in the book.
Congrats, Jane!

How to Grow a Dinosaur
How to Grow a Dinosaur
written by Jill Esbaum
illustrated by Mike Boldt
Will add this to my how to collection - doesn't have a perfect how-to format, but shows other transition words to use.
Love some of the book cameos Mike Boldt threw in!

The Digger and the Flower
The Digger and the Flower
by Joseph Kuefler
I have never read a Kuefler book once and put it down and away.  All three books have required an immediate reread.  I look for something I didn't see before.  I look for clarification.  I look to wonder more.  His messages to young readers are profound in ways that surprise me.  This one is no exception.  I also love the different artistic techniques in this book over his other two.  

Yellow Kayak
Yellow Kayak
written by Nina Laden
illustrated by Melissa Castrillon
Beautifully written in rhyming, two word (almost always) lines.  This book tells the story of a young boy and his friend who are swept away in their yellow kayak and the surprising adventure they are about to have.

The Great Dictionary Caper
The Great Dictionary Caper
written by Judy Sierra
illustrated by Eric Comstock
This is a must have book if you teach any grammar in your day.  Has great examples of different grammatical ideas - such as palindromes, interjections, words that don't rhyme, even archaic words (and don't worry, their definitions are in the glossary at the end of the book!)

Mae Among the Stars
Mae Among the Stars
written by Roda Ahmed
illustrated by Stasia Burrington
Based upon Mae Jemison's childhood and the way her parents always encouraged her to follow her dreams of becoming an astronaut.  Be careful that this book does not end up in your nonfiction shelves - while based upon a real person, the book is filled with imagined conversations, not actual quotes.  A good book to use to show the character traits of determination and perseverance.

Middle Grade

by Cynthia Kadohata
I think this one is going to be well liked by readers.  Conor has three loves in his life - his dad, hockey and his dog, Sinbad.  Conor plays competitive hockey and his life really revolves around his training.  But when he finds out Sinbad has cancer, is Conor willing to put his hockey on hold to help his dog get the medical help he needs?  
publishes Feb. 6th
review copy from Edelweiss

The Art of the Swap
The Art of the Swap
by Kristine Carlson Asselin and Jen Malone
Think Freaky Friday/Back to the Future meets historical time period piece!  Hannah (present time character) and Maggie (lived during the early 1900s character) switch place in time and must rush to solve an art heist without having any consequences in the future!  Long, but fun, this will appeal to readers who enjoy realistic fiction and historical fiction!  They get the best of both worlds with this one!
publishes Feb. 13th
review copy from Edelweiss

Young Adult

American Panda
American Panda
by Gloria Chao
I read this one last year, but I can't remember if I ever reviewed it here.  If it's not on your radar, make sure it get there.  Such a fun young adult read - Mei tries to navigate the world of college and balance it with her Taiwanese parents who have very strict ideas as to what her future should hold.
publishes Feb. 6th
review copy from Edelweiss

Currently Reading

The Oceans between Stars
The Oceans Between Stars
by Kevin Emerson
So some questions were answered after the first book, but now I have a lot more.... Amazing sci-fi!

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, #1)
The Serpent's Secret
by Sayantani DasGupta
Poor Serpent's Secret - it keeps getting pushed off because of all of my other reading responsibilities!  It hasn't taken me this long to read it because they is something wrong, just too many books to read!  I'll get back to it soon :)

Happy Reading!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Spotlight Friday - STEAM books 1.26.18

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'm always looking out for new books that have components of STEAM in them.  A new(er) and relevant topic, we're just beginning to see a wealth of books to have in our classrooms. Here are some new ones you may want to add!

Picture Books

Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe by Katey Howes
Magnolia Mudd and the Super Jumptastic Launcher Deluxe
written by Katey Howes
illustrated by Valerio Fabbretti
published by Sterling Children's Books

What happens when invention time with Uncle Jamie is interrupted by his wedding?  Magnolia Mudd not only has that special time interrupted, but she may also have to wear - gasp - a dress with ribbons and bows on it!  What's an inventor to do?  Get the bride on your side by inventing a Super-Jumptastic Flower Launcher, of course!

Izzy Gizmo by Pip Jones
Izzy Gizmo
written by Pip Jones
illustrated by Sara Ogilvie
published by Peachtree
March 1st

Izzy learns a valuable lesson from Grandpa - when it doesn't go the way she had planned - the first time, the second time, and more - you sometimes have to look at things a new way to get it right.

Nonfiction Picture Books

How Did That Get In My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food
How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food

Where Did My Clothes Come From?
Where Did My Clothes Come From?

How Does My Home Work?
How Does My Home Work?
written by Chris Butterworth
illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti
published by Candlewick

Each book in this series goes through the process of how something works or where something comes from.  I love the organization of each book - sequential order, either put in numerical order or by using transitional words such as first, next. last.  The format is easy to follow and answers the question posed in the title.  Each book has end pages that include an index and some additional information about the topic.  Bright illustrations are eye catching to young readers.

Chapter Books

Ellie, Engineer
Ellie, Engineer
by Jackson Pearce
published by Bloomsbury

I love this book so much!  I talk about Ellie every week to students :)  Check out my review here.

Middle Grade

Fires of Invention (Mysteries of Cove, #1)
Mysteries of Cove: Fires of Invention
by J. Scott Savage
published by Shadow Mountain

It took me a bit to get into this one, but now I want to know what happens in the series!  Follow Trenton and Kallista as they defy the rules and try to build...

Hope this helps your STEAM collection grow and build (see what I did there... ha!)

Thursday, January 25, 2018

#road2reading Challenge - Princess Pulverizer series 1.25.18

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.

Early in my teaching career a series that was very popular with young readers was the Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo series.  The blend of fantasy and realism was fun for kids - what would it be like to switch places with someone?  Author Nancy Krulik knew her young audience well and wrote situations that appealed to them.  She has written other popular series, such as George Brown, Class Clown and Project Droid.  Now she is bringing us a new series that is sure to be a hit with readers.

Grilled Cheese and Dragons #1 by Nancy Krulik       Worse, Worser, Wurst #2 by Nancy Krulik
Princess Pulverizer series
Grilled Cheese and Dragons
Worse, Worser, Wurst
written by Nancy Krulik
illustrated by Ben Balistreri
published by Penguin Workshop

When we first meet Princess Serena she's hanging from the rafters and having fun instead of joining the tea party that is learning how to be a proper princess down below!  That's because Princess Serena doesn't really want to be a princess.  She wants to be known as Princess Pulverizer and join Knight School!  Now if only she can convince her dad, the King...

By pleading, and well, whining just a bit, Princess Pulverizer is able to convince her father to send her to Knight School, but not without a condition.  She must first go on a quest - a Quest of Kindness.  Only after bring brave and doing unselfish acts will her father allow her to attend Knight School.  Acts... as in eight.  And she must have proof of all eight.

Princess Pulverizer is absolutely brave and courageous.  She sets off on her journey... she just needs to find someone who needs help.  She quickly finds her first quest - the Queen of Shmergermeister's jewels have been stolen, who could have taken them?  Princess Pulverizer is ready to help and along the way she meets Lucas, a knight in training, and his belching young dragon, Dribble.  Together, the three of them learn the power of three is a formidable power!

In book two, the trio is off to find Jester the Lester from Salamistonia, who has been kidnapped by the Wizard of Wurst.  Can Princess Pulverizer complete her second quest of kindness and return the jester back to Salamistonia where all of the laughter has disappeared?

It looks like there will be eight books in the series - one for each quest of kindness.  With each book arriving at just over 125 pages, this transitional chapter book will be perfect for second and third graders.  Have a striving fourth or a mature first, yup, this series will fit well with them too!  With gender-bending roles, I can see all readers enjoying this fantasy series.  Nancy Krulik has done it again, and I'm sure you'll have students begging for more Princess Pulverizer!

Do you work with readers who are starting their journey on the road to reading?  Join Alyson Beecher from Kid Lit Frenzy and me every Thursday as we explore books and ideas to help readers have a successful start to independent picture book and chapter book reading. If you blog or have a Goodreads page, please link up with us!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Nonfiction Picture Books - Talented Women! 1.24.18

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen ©2017
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.

I've written about strong females in history before.  Women have been strong, brave, fearless and immensely talented and I love the many books that are being published that feature them.  Make sure you take a peek at these.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
written by Margot Lee Shetterly with Winifred Conkling
illustrated by Laura Freeman
I'm so glad to have a book about these four amazing women to share with young readers.  I absolutely loved Hidden Figures and was so happy to share it with my daughter when it came out.  Sharing this book with young readers to show how to embrace what you know and fight for what you know is right is powerful.  Sharing books likes these and having conversations about them is a great thing!

Girl Running by Annette Bay Pimentel
Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon
written by Annette Bay Pimentel 
illustrated by Micha Archer
publishes Feb. 6th
There is so much to love about this book.  I love the inspirational story - so many strong character traits to discuss when talking about this amazing and talented women.  The illustrations are gorgeous and add even more information to the text.  As an endurance athlete, I really liked seeing the parts where the other athletes were cheering her on.  I feel like people who participate in endurance sports know the work and effort that go into it and are always so supportive of each other!

A Lady Has the Floor by Kate Hannigan
A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out For Women's Rights
written by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Alison Jay
Yet another woman I am not familiar with but definitely should be - Belva was such a strong advocate for women's rights, as well as other minorities.  She was the first women who accomplished many feats, including being the first female member of the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court and the first woman to run a presidential campaign.  The text is full of information and includes detailed endnotes, this is a book you'll want for your amazing women collection!  I really like the crackled illustrations done by Alison Jay.  Perfect for this time period!

Born to Swing by Mara Rockliff
Born to Swing: Lil Hardin Armstrong's Life in Jazz
written by Mara Rockliff
illustrated by Michele Wood
How is it that I've heard of Louis Armstrong, but never his wife, who actually rose to fame even faster than her husband.  
I'm also beginning to see there are a lot of great female jazz musicians - I'm growing quite the library section of these amazing women!
Rockliff made the decision to write this picture book biography in the first person.  As stated in her author's note, Armstrong had been writing her own book about her life, but it was never published.  Rockliff imagined these could be her words.  An interesting choice!

Alabama Spitfire by Bethany Hegedus
Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird
written by Bethany Hegedus
illustrated by Erin McGuire
The name Harper lee always has an air of mystery around it. After reading this book, a little light is shed on her but she really wanted to live her life out of the limelight. I enjoyed getting to know more about her childhood and early years.
Beautiful illustrations from Erin McGuire brings the story to life.
While I found the story interesting, I wonder how young readers, who may be too young to have even heard of the story, will react to it.

Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood
Shaking Things Up
written by Susan Hood
illustrated by 13 amazing illustrators!
This book is absolutely stellar. Filled with poetic verses about 14 young women - ranging from the known to lesser known names - who truly shook up the world they were living in.
Each woman’s story is told through beautiful poems, I love the thought Hood put into each one. They are all just a bit different from each other, but reflect the message, mood and/or character traits of each one.
The illustrations really are a thing of beauty. Each woman is portrayed by a different illustrator and they all capture the essence of the strong female and Hood’s words.
Finished off by thorough endnotes and of course, I must make mention of the amazing artwork under the book jacket!
I can’t wait to celebrate this book with readers.

What a bunch of mighty girls and mighty women!  I hope you find all of these books and share them with your readers!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Smart Cookie - a review and giveaway! 1.23.18

In 2016 I fell in love with a book called Finding Perfect.  It was by a debut author Elly Swartz and just by reading that book, I fell in love with Elly's writing.  There was such heart to the story.  It was a book I got lost in, read quickly, and then held to my heart when I finished it.  After many conversations with Elly I'm honored to call her a friend and know her heart even better.

Now we have Smart Cookie.  Another realistic fiction, another book full of heart... it has all the feeling, yet it's a different story.

Smart Cookie
Smart Cookie
by Elly Swartz
published by Scholastic
Jan. 30th

In this book we meet Frankie.  Frankie lives with her dad and grandmother at the family's bed and breakfast in Vermont.  Her mother passed away in a crazy accident years ago.  Frankie misses her like crazy, but she also really misses being a complete family.  So she steps up and makes a decision... it's time to set her dad up!  And in this modern world, it means using a dating website!  Frankie makes up a profile for her dad and does all of the initial interviews, because, you know, her dad doesn't know anything about this!  

What I love about this it's not a typical missing parent story.  Frankie wants to see her dad happy, Frankie wants to have a complete family again.  It seems too many times we read stories where there is sabotage involved when a parent starts dating.  This was a refreshing take on a familiar scenario.  It doesn't mean that Frankie goes through some growing pains and needs some time to figure things out for herself, but it's all done in an original way.

Of course there are other strands to be woven through this story, like a friend that is obsessed with ghosts... and one that may live at the B&B!  Or a friend that hasn't been a friend lately, but once her story is told, may become a friend again!  Or why her dad is acting so mysterious and why he is fighting with her grandmother so often.  All of these strands are pulled together in a way that pull at the reader's heartstrings!

I'm thrilled to have another story by the absolutely talented Elly Swartz to share with our readers.  Make sure you pick up your copy on January 30th!

1.  I see pieces of you throughout this book.  How much of your own experiences did you pull in?

This question reveals how well you know me! Smart Cookie has a lot of me in it. But, that was a happy accident, not a grand plan.
Frankie’s story is all about family. For me, family is at the heart of everything I do and everything I am. I grew up with a very close family. And 27 years ago, married the love of my life and began my own wonderful family. But when I was thirty, my mom died. She was 55. Her loss opened a hole in my heart. And after 22 years, I’ve realized some holes aren’t meant to be filled. Not in the same way. And that is ultimately what Frankie learns. Family isn’t about having all the same pieces in place, it’s about having people in your life who love you unconditionally. And that circle is so much bigger than those with whom you shared a bedroom, a childhood, a name.
And there’s more. Smart Cookie was a nickname my very loving, almost 102-year-old gram used to call me. So, when it was suggested as a title for Frankie’s story, it seemed serendipitous. She passed before my first book was published. But, I’m certain she’s having her nightly glass of Harvey’s Bristol Crème, reading Smart Cookie, and loving my girl, Frankie. 

Frankie’s friend Elliot’s ghost hunting was sparked by my youngest son and one of his childhood friends. When they were eleven (now 22), they went ghost hunting at my husband’s office. My husband’s office is the John Ebenezer Hancock House in Boston, MA. It was built in 1767 and owned by John Hancock until 1785. It’s the oldest brick building in Boston. That fateful night, the boys entered the building, turned off all the lights, and roamed the office with their ghost hunting laser. After about forty minutes of silence, the boys screamed. Loudly. The needle on the laser’s meter sprang to life, the hair on the boys’ arms stood up. They’d found a ghost!

Frankie’s snow globe collection was inspired by my oldest son. He collected snow globes when he was little. Everywhere we went, we brought one back for him. When I started this book, I found the box marked ‘snow globes’ and shared them with Frankie.

Lucy and Winston, Frankie’s pets and companions, came to the page right from my home. Lucy, my beagle, was about eight weeks old when I started writing Smart Cookie. (Below is her puppy pic.) And every day Lucy insisted on sitting in my lap as I wrote. So, I wrote her and all her funny and endearing antics into the story. Lucy is all spunk and love. Just like Frankie. Winston was my youngest son’s pet named Hippie. She was an African Pygmy Hedgehog, who kept him company all night long.

So, yes there is a lot of me and my life and my heart wrapped up in Frankie and Smart Cookie!

2.  I always love seeing how strands of a story are pulled together.  How did you plan them out?  Did you know how they would come together?

This story took a lot of planning. There were many different plot lines, and when I first started writing, there were lots of sticky notes and index cards all over my desk. Each plot line had a different color. Think rainbow meets outline. It looked something like that. And, while I did know the strands would come together, how they came together changed as I revised and got to know the characters. There were even versions that ended differently! Ultimately though, when I wrote the ending that stuck, it felt different. It felt right. And, I knew that I had finally put all the pieces where they belonged.

3.  I think, and I know you've said this too, that Molly from Finding Perfect and Frankie from Smart Cookie would be friends.  They are different, but both have amazing hearts.  As you are writing, how do you ultimately keep characters separate from each other?

I do think Molly and Frankie would be friends. They’re both loving and loyal and brave, but they are very different people. When I write, I don’t think about making the characters different from each other, I think about really embracing each character. Becoming each character. To create a truly authentic character, I feel I need to wrap my whole self around that character. For Smart Cookie, I had to be eleven-year-old Frankie, spunky and mischievous and vulnerable. I had to take off my mom hat, my writer hat, my adult hat, and look at life through her eyes.  Only then, could I see and feel her world.

4.  I'm thinking this book is going to make readers want to start baking!  Any cookie recipes included in the final book?

So here is the funny story about this. I don’t bake. Not the way you’re thinking. I box bake. Usually, all I need is an egg and some vegetable oil and water. Or just a knife to slice the dough. Don’t get me wrong, I love baking. And thankfully, my husband is a great baker! And I have baked. When I was little, I baked with my best friend Jodi. We were terrible bakers. Leaving ingredients out when we didn’t have them. Spoiler alert – that never works out well. As a mom, I loved the smell and feel of baking. To me, baking has always been about bringing people together. So I became a box baker. Just like my mom. I make a delicious, crooked, birthday cake from the box in Aisle Seven!
However, some wonderful bakers and readers have shared their recipes. And I will be putting those on my site. And who knows, maybe I’ll become a good, scratch baker after all!

Elly has very generously donated a personalized copy of Smart Cookie to giveaway to a reader!  I know you want a copy, or two or three, for your readers!  Enter below, giveaway will be open until Monday, January 29th at 8pm CST.  Giveaway open to US residents only.  Best of luck!