Monday, November 30, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 11.30.2020

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

I celebrated graphic novels!  Did you see all of the posts?

And I celebrated a new poetry anthology - Friends and Anemones 

Picture Books

I Want to Sleep Under the Stars! (Unlimited Squirrels, #3)
Unlimited Squirrels in I Want to Sleep Under the Stars 
by Mo Willems
While this book is probably my favorite in the series, I have to say it's not my favorite Mo Willems series.  It gets read because it's a Mo Willems book, but there is so much going on in these early chapter books, I think it can be overwhelming for young readers.
I like the story of this one - the squirrel friends keep misunderstanding exactly what their friend wants, but eventually not only get it right, but make a wish happen for their friend.  I don't love all the extras that come along with the story.  If it had ended once the story was over, I think it would be a better and stronger children's book.

The Ninth Night of Hanukkah
The Ninth Night of Hanukkah
written by Erica S. Perl
illustrated by Shahar Kober
I loved this Hanukkah story that celebrates the power people have of looking for joy within each other and finding ways to celebrate that.
There are so many traditions that surround holidays and those traditions bring happiness and a real sense of that holiday, regardless of the holiday being celebrated.  But sometimes, especially when things go differently than planned, it's ok to look beyond those traditions and celebrate it in a way that still brings joy to the holiday.  This book is perfect for that message.

I Am the Storm
I Am The Storm
written by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple
illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell
Storms can be scary and this book acknowledges that and also reminds readers that storms eventually leave.  And while there is clean up involved, communities work together and life goes on and is celebrated.  I like that the story also reminds young readers they are strong too, which may give a young reader just enough courage to fight some fear.
There is some brief backmatter about the storms and wildfires that are mentioned in the story to give additional information.

The Most Beautiful Thing
The Most Beautiful Thing
written by Kao Kalia Yang
illustrated by Khoa Le
The relationships we have with our grandparents are special and treasured.  The knowledge that is passed down from grandparent to grandchild is different, almost more important, than what we learn from our parents.  There is a reverence to their knowledge that makes it all the more special.  Grandparents also have a way of explaining things that make sense to young children.
This is the case for young Kalia.  She lives with her grandmother and in the Hmong tradition, has a special task of caring for her grandmother.  While spending time and taking care of her, Kalia learns of not only stories about her grandmother growing up, but also lessons that she takes to heart.

Ten Ways to Hear Snow
Ten Ways to Hear Snow
written by Cathy Camper
illustrated by Kenard Pak
This was the week of grandparent/grandchild relationship stories!  And this is another must have!  Young readers who live in areas of big snows will surely relate to the idea of snow, something that seems to be quiet and noise-free as something can get, actually has many different sounds.  Young Lina is headed to her grandmother's assisted living home to help her make some food, but she has to walk through a lot of snow to get there.  Along the way, Lina figures out many ways to hear snow, but the final way is told to her by her grandmother.

Middle Grade

by Cynthia Kadohata
Oh, I had so much hope for this one.  The book is a smaller, trim size and it's about a girl and her relationship with an orphaned pig.  I thought it was going to appeal to my heartstrings like Because of Winn Dixie.  It did at first, but then it didn't.  
Young Becca, the only girl in a set of quadruplets, is looking for her thing, what she is known for amongst her siblings.  When she finds Saucy, a young piglet who doesn't look like she will survive the night, Becca knows that this is what she can do - she can love and save this little pig.  And that she does!  But Saucy gets her name honestly as she gets into and destroys so many things, Becca has to keep a list of everything she needs to replace one day.  But the day she bites Becca's mom ends up being a bit too much and Saucy has to go to the pig sanctuary earlier than originally promised.  If the book had cut off right around here, it still would have been a sweet book.  But then it takes a turn and several more events happen and are wrapped up in a matter of chapters.  It becomes a whirlwind, that while a reader will be able to follow it, felt unnecessary and rushed.  The ending gets wrapped up just as fast all of these new events happen.

American as Paneer Pie
American as Paneer Pie
by Supriya Kelkar
Yes yes yes to this middle grade.  Stories like these are exactly what we need for our middle grade readers.  Stories that lay out the microaggressions that marginalized cultures deal with all the time by white people.  The more kids understand how their words affect others, the more we're building a new, kinder, and more understanding generation of citizens.
I love that Kelkar includes swimming as a sport that the main character excels in.  I know my daughter would have loved reading this when she was younger.  And I love that this book mentions several Hindu celebrations including Diwali.  
Be sure to have this middle grade novel in your classroom libraries and be sure to book talk it like crazy!  Get it into readers' hands!

Currently Reading

A Place at the Table
A Place at the Table
by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shoven

I thought I would have more time over the Thanksgiving Break to read, but as always, Christmas traditions kept me busy!  All at home, but that's is ok!  Hope you find time to snuggle under a warm blanket and read!

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Poetry collection - Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children - 11.22.2020

 Poetry collections are so fun to have in libraries.  Young readers enjoy them because they can read them in a multitude of ways - whether they sit down and read them cover to cover, or flip through and read what catches their eye, or take their time reading just a few poems a day - poetry anthologies can be appreciated for years in a young reader's life.  Educators enjoy them too - they share them with readers and can pick and choose poems that work with their lessons.  Sometimes it's content related, other times to show different literary devices!  Here's a new collection for your libraries!

Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children
by The Writers' Loft Authors and Illustrators

Today, writer and poet Matt Forrest Esenwine stops by to talk with the editors of Friends & Anemones: Ocean Poems for Children, Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly.  They let us in on how this book came about and the collaboration behind the project.

Thanks for inviting me back to the "Nook," Michele!  Author/poet Kip Wilson and I were asked to be judges for the poems submitted for this book, so I thought it would be interesting to learn a little more about the book from the editors themselves, Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly!

Matt: Kristen and Heather, thanks for joining me here at the Book Nook!  First, tell me about the genesis for this book - why did you choose oceans as the subject, and how did it first start coming together?

Kristen:  Our first poetry anthology, An Assortment of Animals, was a bigger hit than we'd expected.  The collaboration brought the Writers' Loft community together and gave us something to celebrate, and it brought the Loft community into bookstores.  So right away we decided to do a second, and when we were discussing the subject I said, "Well, we're New Englanders.  How about the ocean?"  It just sort of clicked.  We had a lot of enthusiasm from people who hadn't participated the first time, and we were able to incorporate an environmentalist theme, which is a passion for both Heather and me.  It's hard to argue that keeping trash out of the oceans isn't important!

Matt: This is the third anthology published by The Writers' Loft - what have you learned from the previous two, and what surprised you with this one?

Heather:  We learn something new every time! (And make new mistakes, which is funny!)  We learned from previous anthologies to have soft deadlines we give everyone and secret later hard deadlines.  This was incredibly valuable as the pandemic raged and illustrators needed extensions on their artwork.  Kristen wrote about this in her Editor's note, in the book, take a look!

A bit of a brag: we hit publish one week past our expected finish date, within all the chaos of 2020.  This is a testament to Kristen's enthusiastic and kind managerial skills with all the collaborators!

Matt:  So what should parents, educators, and other book-buyers know about this book?  That is, if you could speak to each one, what would you say?

Heather:  We wrote this book for you!  We're passionate about being Ocean Protectors, and we designed this book with lots of deep dives (pun intended) for children to discover lots of things to love about the ocean, and we have a call to action for everyone to become an Ocean Protector!  We also showcase different artist techniques and types of poems for teaching purposes.  You can utilize our teacher's guide at for bonus activities!

Matt:  What was your favorite part about putting this together?

Kristen:  I love reading the poems before anyone else does.  I sit at my desk and read them aloud to my dog and my cat, and just listen to how each one sounds.  When I find one I love, it's like finding a treasure in the sand at the beach.

My other favorite part is after we've paired the artists with poems, seeing how each artist interprets each poem.  A great example from Friends & Anemones is Heidi Stemple's "The Giant Larvacean" poem paired with Julia Young Cuffe's art.  You have to see it to believe it!  And I found out long after it was finished that it had been a team effort - a lot of artists working on the book had helped Julia with ideas, including her critique partners Priscilla Alpaugh and Marlo Garnsworthy as well as our book designer, Bob Thibeault.  If you know what a larvacean is, you'll understand why it would be hard to illustrate!

I loved the pairing of Amanda Davis (poet) with Leanne Leutkemeyer (artist) as well.  Through words, Amanda conveyed such movement in her "Stingray" poem, and then Leanne's watercolor looks like it's moving as well.  It's such a wonder to me.  I could go on for so long about all the collaborators' work...

Matt:  I wish we could!  But I do have to ask if you'd mind sharing a little bit about The Writers' Loft itself.

Heather:  The Writers' Loft is a supportive and professional community of writers learning together how to do all this writing stuff!  As you can see from our anthologies, our members are of amazing caliber.  We moved all our critique groups, classes, workshops, craft chats, and conferences online when the pandemic hit, and we're so proud we can support writers and illustrators beyond our normal reach of New England.  Our motto is:  Writing doesn't have to be a solitary pursuit.  And there is magic in that idea!  This anthology is a showcase of that magic.

Take a look at these fantastic spreads featuring poems by editors Kristen Wixted and Heather Kelly.

Avid readers will recognize many contributors to this anthology - Jane Yolen, Peter H. Reynolds, Josh Funk, Lynda Mullaly-Hunt, Kip Wilson, and many others.  Congratulations to all the creators who contributed to this anthology!  The book is now available for purchase through this link.

Thank you for stopping by Matt, Kristen, and Heather!  Looking forward to going under the sea with everyone!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Graphic Novel Week - GNs coming soon! - 11.20.2020

 It's graphic novel week on the blog and I have loads of graphic novels to share!  Today is a sneak peek of what's coming our way!

Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey
Cat Kid Comic Club
by Dav PIlkey
Every since Li'l Petey found his way to the DogMan books, he crawled into readers' hearts and has become a fan favorite.  So it should be no surprise that he's getting his own series!  And I love that it's something so different from DogMan, but it still has the heart, humor, and even some cameos!
The storyline centers around creativity and what it takes to make a comic.  And, who gets to decide what stories to write!  Li'l Petey is starting a Comic Club and he's got lots of little frog friends to teach.  Lucky for him he has his friends Molly and Flippy the Fish, around to help him out!  Full of writing advice, like how to get ideas, how to have a critique group, and how to give ideas without changing the story into what you want to hear.  I love how the book incorporates different kinds of storytelling techniques including comics, photography, painting, and claymation.  And what's a Dav Pilkey story without some age appropriate bathroom humor (I mean, come on, it still makes adults chuckle), this book is going to elicit giggles and make you reach for some paper and pencils.  I love how Pilkey finds ways to inspire while having loads of fun.  The Cat Kid series is going to be as well-read as Pilkey's other series so be sure to have many copies on hand.
This first book in the series publishes December 1st.
Thank you to Lizette Serrano and Scholastic for this early copy!
While your readers are waiting for publication, share this video where Dav talks about his inspiration and hope for this new series:

Publisher Simon and Schuster has a whole new line of graphic novels aimed at young readers.  Look for these books in February of 2021!

The Coldfire Curse
Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly: The Coldfire Curse
by Jordan Quinn 
I'm so excited to have this dragon-themed graphic novel for readers.  Kids love dragon books and I know we will all need multiple copies of this series.
This first book introduces us to dragon cousins Cinder and Groth, and their new friend, the scarlet dragon, Ruskin.  A curse has fallen upcon Wrenly and it's other kingdoms and it's up to the three of them to reverse the curse.  Ruskin, who has always been the young prince's pet, is having trouble believing that he just may be the dragon to not only reverse the curse, but also the dragon that is meant to rule.

Super Turbo Saves the Day!
Super Turbo Saves the Day!
by Edgar Powers
If you're familiar with the Captain Awesome series, then you may already know about Turbo.  Of course, Turbo also has his own chapter book series.  Now he's coming to us in graphic novel format.  I think this character fits in the graphic novel format because the stories already have a superhero vibe to them, it seems to be an easy enough transition.  I do notice a different author's name associated with this version, not sure why the change occurred.
In this first story, Turbo discovers he's not the only superhero at his school and ends up meeting a superhero guinea pig, gecko, fish, and rabbit.  It looks like this first graphic novel has the same storyline as the first chapter book.  This new coming book approach will help visual readers.  It will be nice to have multiple ways to read this series.

The First Case
Pup Detectives: The First Case
by Felix Gumpaw
Once I saw some of the character names I realized this is a reboot of another series I adore - the Rider Woofson series.  There are 10 books in the transitional chapter book series and it's one I frequently use to hook readers into a series.  They are fun mysteries that are solved by an all dog private investigator group.  The most difficult part of that series is getting the characters down.  I typically spend time with readers who are new to the series, learning character names and traits.  Once they have them down, they are usually good to go to understanding the rest of the series.
At first I was glad to start this one because I figured it would help with the hardest part - visualizing the characters.  This time Rider and his friends are in school instead of running their own business, but they're still focusing on solving the important mysteries! 
What I had trouble with is the placement of the talk bubbles.  In a series that is being marketed to young readers, the talk bubbles are very confusing.  Readers are used to reading from left to right, but graphic novel readers know you also have to look at what talk bubble is on top and you read them in order going from top down.  If there are multiple characters in a frame in this book with multiple talk bubbles, a reader has to be very careful about looking to see the order to read the bubbles.  In this series, the top bubble is often on the right side of the frame and you read it first.  But your eyes usually want to read all of the talk bubbles that are on the left side, and again, in this series, the story no longer makes sense.  I wish the illustrator had flipped the characters around so the character speaking first was on the left side of the frame.  I think young readers are going to find some confusion with this.  
I will still encourage readers to start with the chapter book series before jumping into the graphic novel one.  If they make some changes so it becomes more readable, then I would add it to my collection.

In the marketing materials sent to me from Simon and Schuster, it talks about how this series of graphic novels are designed for readers in Kg-4th grade (ages 5-9).  I find this a bit misleading.  The storylines will appeal to readers in that age range, and I would even bring it up to 10 years old, or 5th grade.  However, these GNs are still longer in page length (all over 100 pages) and are the size of a typical comic book (does not have a small trim size).  Which means there are multiple frames on a page (up to 5) which adds up the amount of print.  For your average kindergartner, 1st grade, and beginning of 2nd grade reader, these series will be a challenge.  If you're looking for graphic novels to fit a typical kg-1st gr reader, I would still recommend Scholastic's Acorn line.  I would love to see more publishers look at what they are doing and publish more for our very young readers.
The other thing I urge publishers to consider is how many of these early graphic novels are realistic fiction stories, because it seems to be most are animals and other fantasy creatures.  Young readers still want to see themselves within the pages of a graphic novel.  They love animals and dragons, but humans are good too!

Don't miss the other graphic novel posts from this week:

Thursday, November 19, 2020

#road2reading Challenge - more graphic novels! - 11.19.2020

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 independent reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

This summer I wrote about some new graphic novels that are perfect for young readers.  I followed up with some new fall favorites.  Now I'm back with a few more suggestions!  Graphic novels are tops with readers and I'm excited to have more to reach our readers who are just starting to be independent.  Check these out!

Donut Feed the Squirrels by Mika Song
Donut Feed the Squirrels
by Mika Song
Readers are going to love meeting Norma and Belly, young squirrels who are looking for a little breakfast after burning their pancakes.  That's when they smell the most delicious smell... donuts.  They plot to get their own donuts after the donut seller rejects their offer of chestnuts for payment.  Once they take matters into their own hands, Belly even discovers when you add just a hint of chestnut to the donuts, it tastes even better!
It's a cute story that will make readers giggle and want more.  Lucky for us this will be a series and we have more Norma and Belly fun coming in 2021!

King of the Birds by Elise Gravel
Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds
by Elise Gravel
So after reading this, I really am in awe of crows!  They really are amazing and talented birds!
Arlo is a crow and thinks very highly of himself.  He enjoys bragging to other birds and showing off his many talents.  While Pips is the first to tell Arlo he's bragging too much, Pips also finds Arlo's talents impressive.
Readers will laugh at the amazing Arlo - he does crack some good jokes - and the fun facts that Gravel includes about crows along the way.  Readers will leave with a new understanding of crows and their many talents!
Looking forward to reading more in this series!

The Biggest Roller Coaster by Tina Kugler     Let's Bee Thankful by Ross Burach     Hog on a Log by Janee Trasler
Fox Tails: The Biggest Roller Coaster by Tina Kügler
Bumble and Bee: Let's Bee Thankful by Ross Burach
A Frog and Dog book: Hog on a Log by Janee Trasler
I'm so glad to get more sequels to these Scholastic Acorn line books.  They are perfect for newly independent readers.  They stay at a readable level with sight words and decodable text.  They have chapters which look cool.  The characters all talk through talk bubbles so readers get the graphic novel feel to them.  A few even have graphic novel panels and frames.  And they have funny and enjoyable storylines.  If you teach kindergartners or 1st graders, the Acorn line is a must for your readers!

The graphic novel fun doesn't end yet!  Make you sure you visit these posts:

Monday, November 16, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Graphic Novel week! 11.16.2020

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.

This week on the blog I will be celebrating Graphic Novels!  Today's IMWAYR post is a roundup of newly published graphic novels I've read!  Check back this week for more graphic novel fun.

Last Week's Adventures

Check out these new animal informational texts for your young readers.

Some much needed sequels have been published for some favorite chapter book series.

Graphic Novels!

Class Act (New Kid, #2)
Class Act
by Jerry Craft
Unless you're hiding under a non-kidlit rock then you know and have already read the 2020 Newbery winning graphic novel New Kid.  I loved reading this book but loved it even more after reading it with kids in our Mock Newbery discussions last year.  I work with 4th grade readers and it was interesting who understood the microaggressions the book explored and who didn't see it at all.
This time we see the story more through Drew's eyes, although Jordan is always around.  If the first book explored microaggressions that marginalized cultures experience in a school environment, then this book explores what it's like to be a Black kid.  There are things that happen to Drew because he is Black.  Some people make assumptions for him, but not for Jordan, who is a little lighter skinned than him.  People think it's ok to touch Drew's hair without permission.  Drew knows he is at a prestigious school and he has to work even harder to be accepted there.  But there are also people in the Black community that assume things about Drew because he is at that school, and that doesn't feel good either.
Both books in the series give people something to think about.  Many people who are white are going to learn something when reading them.  It may make you uncomfortable (usually adults), but it's going to open a new level of understanding for many kids.  It's also going to help other readers feel seen and appreciate their story being in a book.

Twins: A Graphic Novel
written by Varian Johnson
illustrated by Shannon Wright
You probably know author Varian Johnson from his novels The Great Greene Heist and The Parker Inheritance.  This is his first written graphic novel, and he made the transition to the GN world seamlessly!
Twins is about Maureen and Francine who are starting sixth grade and figuring out, on their own time tables, who they are as an individual, instead of a "twin".  Francine is already starting to become her own individual and this is not sitting well with Maureen, who would rather remain a set.  It all comes to head when they both decide (for very different reasons) to run for class president.  
This is a story about siblings, a story about becoming yourself, and a story about trying new things.  I like how Johnson always weaves microaggressions and elections through the story so they are there, but don't take over the story.
This graphic novel is going to be well enjoyed by readers!

Lightfall: The Girl & the Galdurian
Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian
by Tim Probert
Woah, I am so excited to have found this new GN and upcoming series!  It is absolutely going to appeal to readers of the Amulet, Zita the Spacegirl, Cleopatra in Space, and 5 Worlds graphic novel series.
Taking place in the world of Irpa, readers meet Bea, a young girl who lives with her grandfather, a pig wizard.  While off on an errand to collect various ingredients for a potion, Bea meets Cad (who happens to save her life from a long fall).  Bea learns that Cad is a Galdurian, a species that is long thought of being extinct, if they even existed at all.  He's on a mission to find the pig wizard.  Upon returning to her house, Bea and Cad find her grandfather is gone but he has left a very cryptic note.  Bea is quite upset because her grandfather tends to be forgetful and she doesn't like that he has adventured off alone.  He's also left her with a special Jar that she is to keep in her possession.  
Of course, Bea and Cad are immediately on a quest to find her grandfather and that's when the adventure begins.
Some interesting character traits play out in this story.  It certainly seems as if the grandfather has some form of dementia.  And Bea definitely suffers from anxiety.  I like that she is a multi-dimensional character.
The cover says "book one" and it ends on a cliffhanger so we know there are more stories coming.  I'm ready for it now!

Measuring Up
Measuring Up
written by Lily LaMotte
illustrated by Ann Xu
Cici has just been uprooted from Taiwan to move to Seattle with her parents who have new jobs in America.  Cici has always grown up with her A-má (grandmother), they share an enjoyment of cooking and it's something special they do together.  Cici has a hard time leaving her behind and adjusting to life in American without her A-má.  Cici gets the idea to fly her over for a surprise for her dad for his birthday.  But first she needs to come up with a way to get the money for a ticket.  That's when she sees a kids cooking contest and the prize is $1000.  Cici enters and learns many lessons about herself, cooking, and friendship along the way.
Cooking and baking shows are still pretty popular with kids right now so I can see readers picking this up based on that alone.  The subjects of immigration and friendships are seen in many books right now and it's great to continue to give readers an understanding through these #ownvoices stories.  I think this will be a popular graphic novel.

Mellybean and the Giant Monster
Mellybean and the Giant Monster
by Mike White
This is going to be such a fun series!  
Melly is a very friendly dog who lives with three cats.  They definitely do not see eye-to-eye on activities to do, and the cats even trick Melly to hide a shoe (inevitably to get her in trouble).  While digging, Melly actually finds a portal to another world.  One where a very mean king is stealing all the gold from everyone and putting them in the dungeons if they can't pay.  Melly also meets a giant monster who is constantly being attacked by the king's knights.  It's with Melly's incessant questioning that we learn Narra, the monster, used to have magical powers but Wilma the Wizard took them away to use them for herself.  Melly and Narra end up meeting three orphan kids who are trying to find their human who was taken away to the dungeons by the king.  The five decide to take on the king and his men and get him to change his mind.  They are able to use the king's weakness, his inability to say no to a contest he thinks he can win (i.e. cheat), to try and win back the gold and release everyone from the dungeon.
This book was full of giggles and heart.  Melly is an adorable character who never falters from being herself and showing being kind is always better than being greedy.
I am so glad this will be a series.  We need more Melly!

History Comics: The Great Chicago Fire: Rising From the Ashes
History Comics: The Great Chicago Fire - Rising From the Ashes
written by Kate Hannigan
illustrated by Alex Graudins
Perfect for I Survived readers who need a visual piece to help the historical fiction part come to life.  Sometimes when reading about history, young readers need some visual supports because it's hard to picture something that has never been seen before.  This series of graphic novels will be a perfect compliment.
In this first book, written by Chicago author Kate Hannigan, we meet siblings J.P. and Franny.  Separated from their family, they make the long trek north with a puppy that has also been separated from its mom, trying to get away from the ever-growing fire.  Rooted in facts and with quotes from primary sources, this fictional story gives the readers a glimpse into what those fateful days were like for Chicagoans.  There is even some backmatter to give additional information - I actually started with the backmatter first and it helped me as I read the story.
I am looking forward to seeing how this new series resonates with young historical fiction readers.

I hope this helped you find a new graphic novel title or two for your readers.  Wildly popular, I know we may need more than one copy of these titles!
Hope to see you later this week for more graphic novel fun!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

#road2reading Challenge - new sequels to series - 11.12.2020

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 independent reading journey.
Join in the conversation at #road2reading.

I have some favorite transitional chapter book series, and lately it's been the season for sequels!  Here's a round up of the sequels and if the series are new to you, definitely check them out!

Planet Omar: Unexpected Super Spy
Planet Omar: Unexpected Super Spy
written by Zanib Mian
illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik
Love this #ownvoices series and Omar is a favorite of young readers.  In this sequel, Omar gets his friends to help him solve a mystery, with a very surprising outcome!
Why I love this series:
Omar is a character that is relatable to young readers.  He's likable, yet isn't a perfect kid.  He has a great heart and always means well.  HIs friendships are also realistic and appropriately written.  I'm so glad to have representation in chapter books!

The Ridiculous and Wonderful Rainbow Hat (Locker 37, #3)
Locker 37: The Ridiculous and Wonderful Rainbow Hat
written by Aaron Starmer
illustrated by Courtney La Forest
This series was one of my favorite finds from the summer.  Who wouldn't want to have a locker in their school that gave them something they need - even if it is a bit unexpected?
This book focuses on Riley who is working on doing her biggest school prank ever!  But when she can't get the help from friends (who are unwilling to potentially break school rules - go figure....) she looks for help from Locker 37.  Inside the locker is a hat, but not just any old, boring hat.  Now, every time Riley takes the hat off her head, it clones her.  And with a lot of Rileys, that just means the prank gets even more epic!
Why I love this series:
Again, it's a locker that helps magic happen for you.  The possibilities are endless, and I hope Starmer continues to find more for the kids at Hopewell Elementary!

Emperor of the Universe (Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat, #5)
Klawde: Evil Alien Warlord Cat - Emperor of the Universe
written by Johnny Marciano and Emily Chenoweth
illustrated by Robb Mommaerts
Whoo hoo, more Klawde!
Klawde is running down on his luck lately so he decides to forget conquering Earth, it's time to go after some bigger locations.  And, the job of Emperor of the Universe has just opened up.  With some help from friends, can Klawde get this title under his belt?
Why I love this series:
It is laugh out loud funny.  Klawde is just the right amount of evil, and the best amount of sarcastic cat I've ever read in a series.  I like how the chapters are told back and forth between Klawde and Raj, his human (at least Raj's family views it that way).  And, based on the ending, there looks to be more Klawde in our future.

Iggy Is Better Than Ever
Iggy Is Better Than Ever
written by Annie Barrows
illustrated by Sam Ricks
I can confidently say the second Iggy book is even better than the first.
This time there is a chain of events that happen with one bad thing after another, and as Barrows tells us at the very start, even with all of these bad things, Iggy doesn't learn his lesson.
Why I like this series:
Okay, I didn't love the first book.  Iggy is a character that doesn't learn his lesson, and doesn't change by the end of the book.  In this second book, Iggy still does those things, but this time maybe I understand a bit more?  There are some things I wish Iggy had done, but that goes against his character.  And I think sometimes kids want to read about a character who isn't perfect.  Iggy is that character.

The Princess in Black and the Giant Problem by Shannon Hale
The Princess in Black and the Giant Problem
written by Shannon and Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
There's a snow day and the Princess in Black has a playdate with a couple of superhero friends, although she wishes she could play with everyone.  But the playdate is interrupted by one giant problem - no really, a giant comes and creates a problem.  Unfortunately, he's a bit too big of a problem for the three friends.  Some other friends might come in handy....
Why I love this series:
They are so fun and the problems are universal to all readers.  I can hook boys and girls with these characters and their foes.  Kids will like the snowy setting of this book and will probably relate to not seeing friends, the problem Princess Magnolia has at the beginning of the story.

Disney Before the Story by Walt Disney Company
Cinderella Takes the Stage
written by Tessa Roehl
illustrated by Adrienne Brown
For young readers who love the Disney Princesses, this series is perfect for them.  All of the stories in this series take place before the well-known movies and the princesses are young girls.
In this one we meet Ella, before she has become the Cinderella we know and love.  We see some origins of things that take place in the movie - like how she got her nickname, and how she loves sewing and creating.  It's also before her father has remarried and she's with her evil stepmother.
In this story, Ella is creating puppets for a special show and is hoping to win the puppet contest so she can earn a gold coin.  However, she meets a young and feisty peasant girl who has the same dream.  Ella's original ideas about this young girl are turned around with some wise words from her mother.  The girls end up working together and become friends.
Why I like this series:  
It really does appeal to all of the Disney fans out there and it's fun to see some origins of the well-known stories.  Staying with the Disney theme and ideals - there's always some magic and a lesson to be learned in each book!

Lots of sequels for our readers!  Don't you love hooking readers on a story and knowing you have more to give them?

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - new animal books - 11.11.2020

Wednesdays 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.

A roundup of new animal books for you this week!

Play in the Wild by Lita Judge
Play in the Wild: How Baby Animals Like to Have Fun
by Lita Judge
I hope you have read Lita Judge's other books in her series about baby animals: Born in the Wild and Homes in the Wild.  I love how she organizes the books into clearly understood sections.  Some in this book include how animals ask first before playing, how playing helps build communities, and how sometimes when they are playing animals have to say they are sorry.  After each section intro, Judge spotlights three animals and how they use play.  In the backmatter is further information about the animals and source information.  These are must have books for your collections.  You'll find yourself reaching for them as mentor texts, as well as handing them to readers!

What Do You Do If You Work at the Zoo? by Steve Jenkins
What Do You Do If You Work at the Zoo?
by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page
Another fantastic collaboration between husband/wife team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page.  Most kids know there are zoo workers and they take care of the animals, but what do they really do?  They might find it fascinating to know why they take care of some of the animals (for example, a manatee that was separated from its mother because of a hurricane) and who takes care of it (for example, zoo workers might introduce a golden retriever puppy as a playmate to a lonely cheetah).
As always, there are additional facts in the backmatter that should definitely be read.  I liked seeing the list and map that show some of the world's best zoos.  There is even a section that talks about the pros and cons of zoos and the three main missions zoos have.

The Truth About Butterflies by Maxwell Eaton III
The Truth About Butterflies
by Maxwell Eaton III
This summer I had some butterfly visitors to the flowers I had planted in my backyard.  I really enjoyed getting an up close look at these insects.  Sometimes I could get a closeup before they flittered away!
Kids really like this series.  Mixing facts about an animal - or insect in this case - with humor is always a good mixture for readers.
I've read many books about butterflies, but I always find something new to learn.
I like this format, there are pages that have more of a graphic novel layout than in the other books, but it also seems even busier than the other books.  Some pages have so much information and insects on them, it was hard to follow and know who was talking and what part do you read next.  Regardless, because of the topic, you'll have readers for this one.  Just make sure they take their time and pour over all the information so nothing is missed!

Hope you can find some of these animal books for your readers.

Monday, November 9, 2020

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 11.09.2020

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
I ended up taking last week off as a break from all things social media.  For sure needed a breather!  So from two weeks ago:

Nonfiction picture books that celebrate people who followed their dreams.

Be sure to visit this post to read about Josh Funk's newest - It's Not Little Red Riding Hood - and find some teaching ideas.

Picture Books

For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World
For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World
written by Michael W. Waters
illustrated by Keisha Morris
If you are looking for a book that talks about the horrible loss of black lives in an appropriate way for young readers, this is the book you're looking for.
Young Jeremiah sees on TV again and again, over a period of years, young black people lose their lives for what seems to be no reason, at least that can be explained on TV.  Jeremiah questions his father about what happened, but does not want to engage in a conversation.  Eventually he does and appropriate ideas for all people are shared on how to use your voice - vote, march, pray, speak out are a few mentioned.
I like how the passing of time is noted not only by the names of the victims mentioned, but also by the desire of the main character's, Jeremiah, desire to grow locs, which take time.
There is a lot that I like about this book.  The violent ways that these victims' lives were ended are not mentioned in detail, but sometimes in a brief, matter-of-fact response or not at all.  It also has a very realistic portrayal of young kids when they see unsensible things happen - while some kids have questions, many others don't want to talk about the scary thing that has happened, it's too hard to process.  It is also noted that police officers have lost their lives and the blue ribbons honor their service and lives.  
The story is straight to the point, it would be very difficult for a reader to miss the message of this book.
There is an extensive discussion guide included at the end of the book.  Would be perfect to share with parents if they wanted or needed to extend the conversation.

Smug Seagull
Smug Seagull
by Maddie Frost
Fans of the Pigeon will like this one.  Seagull is just that - pretty smug.  He thinks highly of his snatching snacks skills.  Until he meets Crab, who is able to get snacks with a more gentle approach.

Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation
Northbound: A Train Ride Out of Segregation
written by Michael S. Bandy and Eric Stein
illustrated by James E. Ransome
Written in the perspective of a young Black boy who is taking a train ride from his hometown in Alabama up to Ohio, during the time of segregation.  As he travels, he discovers there are certain parts of the United States that allows people of different races to mix and mingle on the train.  Being a child, the young boy takes the opportunity to find a new friend from the "Whites only" section to play and explore the train with, until traveling into another area of the United States where segregation is enforced.
An excellent story to use when talking about the civil rights era and how different parts of the country viewed races and rights differently.

Shubh Diwali!
Shubh Diwali!
written by Chitra Soundar
illustrated by Charlene Chua
Diwali begins this weekend!  Brightly illustrated, this book gives a glimpse into celebrating this holiday.

Federico and the Wolf
Federico and the Wolf
written by Rebecca J. Gomez
illustrated by Elisa Chavarri
Fractured fairy tales are fun and I really enjoy ones that have a cultural spin on them.  This is a perfect one - Federico has gone to the market to get the ingredients needed to make some pico de gallo with his grandfather.  The tale goes pretty much as expected with a Mexican-American flair.

Rot, the Bravest in the World!
Rot, The Bravest in the World
by Ben Clanton
I adore reading Rot, the Cutest in the World out loud.  It's funny and I love seeing the look of surprise on faces when I get to the turning point of that book.  There is something special about hearing giggles as you read to children!
This one fell short for me.  I think kids will still like it because it features a younger sibling outwitting an older sibling.  And there are some silly moments.  I know I am going to enjoy reading "indubitably" out loud.  But it doesn't quite capture the charm of the first book.

The Night Before Christmas
The Night Before Christmas
written by Clement C. Moore
illustrated by Loren Long
Thank goodness I know the poem well because my eyes were feasting on the amazing illustrations by Loren Long.  Taking place in 4 different homes in different locations, the book shows that the heart of Christmas is family.
I don't buy too many Christmas books anymore, instead I have been focusing on having books of many cultures.  But this one was a must have!

Sun Flower Lion
Sun Flower Lion
by Kevin Henkes
I can see how the Geisel committee might be taking a careful look at this one.  Coming in at only 60 different words and a simplistic storyline, young, independent readers will enjoy reading this one on their own.  At first glance, the storyline seems simple and quick to read, but when you look deeper and notice the metaphors and similes, you can see how masterful Henkes is with his writing.
What confuses me are the use of chapters in this picture book.  It succeeds in splitting up each noun - sun, flower, lion - into its own chapter.  Even though the chapters are 1-3 pages each.

Fox versus Winter
Fox Versus Winter
by Corey R. Tabor
The first page says it all, "Fox does not like winter."
Same, Fox.  Same.

The Elephant's New Shoe
The Elephant's New Shoe
written by Laurel Neme
illustrated by Ariel Landy
I really enjoyed this story about Chhouk, the Cambodian elephant, who, due to a wire snare, had his foot cut off.  Chhouk had difficulties walking and it was infected when animal rescuer Nick Marx found him.  Marx worked hard for years, integrating him into the Rescue Center and partnering with Cambodian School of Prosthetics and Orthotics to find ways for Chhouk to walk and run again.

Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea
Kamala and Maya's Big Idea
written by Meena Harris
illustrated by Ana Ramírez González
Maybe a good book to add to your reading rotation this week? 
Carries the message that kids can make a difference.

Middle Grade

Brother's Keeper
Brother's Keeper
by Julie Lee
A historical fiction middle grade novel that takes place during the Korean War.  I don't have any books based in this timeline so it was definitely one to check out.  
Sora and her brother Youngsoo are separated from  their little brother and parents by a bomb while trying to get from North Korea to South Korea.  Sora must do what she can to keep her and her brother alive and continue their trek to their uncle's home in southern South Korea.  This story of survival gives readers what life was like during this time and the North Korean regime.
It's also a story of familial tradition in this Korean family, where boys are prized and girls are expected to train to be a proper Korean wife and mother.  Sora would rather learn and become a writer than learn about cooking and because of this, her mother sees her as a failure.  It was hard to read the scenes when her mom, thinking she was doing the right thing, be so harsh and not understanding of how Sora wanted to live her life.
While there wasn't anything that would keep me from handing it to a 3rd/4th grade reader, I think with the complexities of war and survival themes, this book is best for 5th grade and up.

No Place for Monsters
No Place for Monsters
by Kory Merritt
One of the best things about this book is its hybrid format.  While a longer book (379pgs), it is FULL of fantastic black and white illustrations that add to the feel of the story.  I am looking forward to more hybrid books like this from the author.
Levi and Kat live in a town where nothing seems out of place, at least from what the people can remember.  Because there is something out there that is taking young kids and erasing all memories and physical things of that person.  But Levi and Kat remember and are working hard to make sure what happened to others, does not happen to them.  But with a creepy monster named the Boojam looking for them, and mysterious, elderly neighbors that seem to know more than they should, and a skeleton monster-dog named Willow trying to help, Kat and Levi figure out they may only have each other to lean on.
This was a good story to read at Halloween-time and while I was able to read it at night, it was a creepy read!  I was a bit turned off that this monster was after kids and took them at night.  I have 3rd and 4th grade readers and I can see that bothering them enough that it could give nightmares.  I would hand this one to older readers!

Adult Novel

The Last Story of Mina Lee
The Last Story of Mina Lee
by Nancy Jooyoun Kim
One of the reasons I get frustrated with adult novels is the characters frequently act in a way that you know is just going to cause trouble.  They keep doing the same thing over and over, which you know if they just faced their issue, it would be over.  Of course that makes for a too short novel, so it would never work.  But because it goes on for so long, it just annoys me.  Middle grade novels have characters like that too but the problem has to be resolved in a quicker and tighter framework.  
This was one of the problems I had in the book.  While I understand some of the decisions by the character were made because of cultural reasons and the effects of being undocumented in a society that harshly punishes for that, it still left my annoyed when a character acted in a way that could have been resolved much quicker.  And the ending was wrapped up so quickly - you went along with the novel for so long and then it was wrapped up in a page or two!

Currently Reading

by Jennifer Niven
Haven't heard much about this one, but I will give it a try!

I apologize that I have not been commenting on blogs the past couple of weeks.  It was hard to be on social media for a bit but I have so much hope for the future and a clearer head, I'll be back looking at what everyone is reading this week!