Thursday, January 18, 2018

#road2reading Challenge - "Time Twisters" series 1.18.18

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.

I've had this new transitional chapter book series on my TBR for awhile.  I was excited to receive it in the mail last week because I wanted to know more!

Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler by Steve Sheinkin       Abigail Adams, Pirate of the Caribbean by Steve Sheinkin
Time Twisters Series
Abraham Lincoln Pro Wrestler and Abigail Adams Pirate of the Caribbean
written by Steve Sheinkin
published by Roaring Brook Press

You probably know author Steve Sheinkin for his middle grade nonfiction books like Bomb: The Race to Build - and Steal- the World's Most Dangerous Weapon or maybe The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights.  Or maybe you know one of his newest - Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team.  He's definitely made a name for himself!

I was intersted in seeing how he was going to write for a new audience and a new genre!  

The series is called "Time Twisters".  We meet step siblings Doc and Abby.  While they wait for their teacher parents after school, they pass the time in the library supply room where they are supposed to be doing their homework.  Little did they know this is the place where history would come alive for them!  For here is where they meet Abraham Lincoln... where else would you meet him??  He's come to let the two know that history might be a little different from now on because everyone in history can hear them, you know, when they say "history is boring", they hear it all!  Lincoln is the first and he's had it.  He's come to try new things - like pro wrestling!  Meanwhile, history isn't sounding right.  Instead of Lincoln making one of his biggest speeches after accepting the results of the presidential election, Lincoln is just missing from the history books!  That's because he's busy wrestling in today's times.  It's up to Doc and Abby to set things straight before time twists itself into something very different!

In the second book, Abigail Adams starts to get the idea that she's known more for hanging laundry in the East Room instead of convincing her husband to not forgetting the ladies when writing the rights of the American people.  She's heard from Abraham Lincoln that if you don't like the way history is written, go change it!  Abigail decides to go where women fight for their rights - in the time of piracy!  Abigail joins Anne Bonny and Mary Read and takes the pirate code before fighting alongside other pirates!  Once again, can Doc and Abby help get history back on track before we have a new history to learn?

Almost every two page spread has an illustration or two by Neil Swaab to give readers a visual.  Since history can be vague to young readers, this gives them a visual representation of a possible unknown concept/person.

At the end of each book, Sheinkin includes a section called "Un-Twisting History".  Here he explain some fact from fiction and gives his readers a little more insight into what happened in history.  Sheinkin mentions using sources to help him with his research, I just wish he had included a list of them in this section.

I think the Abraham Lincoln book, really the first in this unnumbered series, should be read first.  It sets up the concept of the historical figures being tired of hearing that history is boring and giving them the idea to change history.  After this first book, it seems like the rest can be read in any order.

This series will be fun to include in 3rd-5th grade classrooms.  Readers don't have to have a lot of knowledge about the historical figures to enjoy this book, and they will definitely learn about them through this series.  I'm looking forward to seeing what other historical figures Sheinkin will feature - looks like Neil Armstrong and Nat Love are next!

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 17, 2018

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Behind the Legend series 1.17.18

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.

There is always something mysterious in the unknown.  We've had many a mythical creature come alive for us through favorite books and movies, but what is the truth behind them?  Now there is a series that encourages us to take a deeper look into these fantastical beasts.

The Loch Ness Monster (Behind the Legend Book 1)     Bigfoot     Zombies

Werewolves     Unicorns
Behind the Legend series
written by Erin Peabody
illustrated by Jomike Tejido
published by little bee books

Each book presents facts, myths, and popular legends about the creature.  It's up to you to decide what to believe.

The books starts with an introduction to the beast, describing them as what most of us have heard - whatever pop culture typically has defined them as.  Subsequent chapters detail, usually in historical order, how the stories, or legends, came about.  Within the chapter are shorter page notes that give additional information from that time period.  Each page is accompanied by illustrations from Jomike Tejido.  The illustrations are especially helpful when they depict some of the earlier visions of the creature, or what other cultures believed the creature to look like.

The author sets out to tell us both positive and negative beliefs about each animal.  Sometimes these creatures are believed to have magical features.  These ideas are explored throughout the chapters.  Other than the Unicorn, most of the subjects have many fearsome or gruesome or just crazy.... scary... stories that surround it.  Many of the more well known myths and stories are explored...debunked... and left up to you to decide the truth behind it.

The author does include some of the main sources used while researching these creatures and some fun fiction that explores them.  The author notes are not very extensive - I wish there had been some additional backmatter for further exploration.

This series is a fun one for young readers to discover.  Because of the amount of unknown information about these creatures, there is a lot to wonder and explore.  The historical parts can be a bit more complex to read.  I think this series is a great fit for middle grade libraries.

Monday, January 15, 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 1.15.18

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

Have you met The Bland Sisters?  Make sure you read their second unintentional adventure!  Don't miss the author interview and giveaway in this post.

I shared some nonfiction and fiction books about strong African American leaders.

Two January releases you don't want to miss - the third Fenway and Hattie installment and Hope in the Holler.

Picture Books

Snow Sisters!
Snow Sisters! Two Sisters, One Snowy Day
written by Kerri Kokias
illustrated by Teagan White
I think the dedication in this book speaks volumes about perspectives, "To my family: May we always see the ways we're connected, even when we're apart."
Two very different sisters approach a snow day in different ways.  Told in simple nouns and verbs, we see how two sisters approach the day with their own personalities.
Illustrated by the lovely Teagan White, this is a book I would spend time pouring over the small details in the illustrations.

Grandma's Purse
Grandma's Purse
by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
I feel like grandmas always have a mysterious air around them.  They seem to be full of treasures, and this book celebrates just that!  I love how Brantley-Newton sees the special parts in all of the things that make up the items in grandma's purse!

written by Matt de la Peña
illustrated by Loren Long
There's really nothing new I can say about this gorgeous, magical book.  Just please be a book pusher, and make sure everyone has a chance to read this one!

Dear Girl,
Dear Girl,
written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal
illustrated by Holly Hatam
This is just the sweetest book - a love letter, most likely from a loved one to a daughter.  I read it three times.  Twice to myself to soak it in and once with my daughter.  Be sure to share this one and keep it on your gift list - it's one you'll want to share with others.

The Pink Hat
The Pink Hat
by Andrew Joyner
Add this to your books about peaceful demonstrations, civil rights.  
A story of how a pink hat came to be and then belong to many different people for short amounts of time until it lands in the hands of a young girl who eventually wears it to the historic Women's March on January 21, 2017.

written by Stacy McAnulty
illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
I have been trying to find this one for awhile, so glad it was in the Scholastic order!  I really loved the message this book shares - it's not the big things we do to be brave, sometimes it's the hard, small and quiet things that matter the most.

Bagel in Love
Bagel in Love
written by Natasha Wing
illustrated by Helen Dardik
I'm always looking for books that have figurative language, in this case silly puns.  Perfect to use when teaching punny language!  Also a sweet story (see what I did there?) for Valentine's Day love!

Hey Black Child
Hey Black Child
written by Useni Eugene Perkins
illustrated by Bryan Collier
When we made our Mock Caldecott list this book had not been published.  Looks like I better make sure we read this one too!  Bryan Collier is an artistic genius.  I loved finding the references from long ago, to MLK, to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Powerful words from Perkins makes this a book you'll want to make sure every child hears.

The Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at School
The Gingerbread Man and the Leprechaun Loose at School
written by Laura Murray
illustrated by Mike Lowery
This may be my favorite Gingerbread Man book because I can't wait to do a leprechaun voice!  This is going to be a very fun read aloud.

Middle Grade

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire
Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire
by John August
Oh, I can't wait for it to be February because this book is going to be well loved and read!  Perfect for Harry Potter and Fablehaven fans, this suspenseful/action-filled/fantasy will leave readers hanging on the edge of their seats and wanting more.  
Come back on Feb. 6th (its book birthday!) for a longer review!  Until then, make sure you have it marked on your TBRs.

Currently Reading

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, #1)
The Serpent's Secret: Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond
by Sayantani Dasgupta
Do you know how long I've had this book on my TBR?  Goodreads said I first marked it down on May 23, 2017.  That's a long time to wait for a book - especially since it doesn't publish until February!  Thank goodness for ARCs!

X: a novel
by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon
This book has been on my TBR even longer, and for one reason or another, I just haven't gotten to it.  That's why it went on my #mustreadin2018 list!  Here we go, book one for 2018!

Happy reading to all!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

#road2reading Challenge - The Uncanny Express blog tour - 1.11.18

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.

Not too long ago I read a book called The Infamous Ratsos, you may have heard of it... being a Geisel Honor winner and all!  It was perfect for my readers who were getting into chapter book reading.  That put Kara LaReau on my list of authors I did not want to miss.  Not too long after, I read The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina.  In this first book, we meet Jaundice and Kale Bland.  Sisters who are awaiting the return of their adventure seeking parents by staying in their home, eating bland cheese sandwiches and darning socks.  However those seeking a quiet life style so rarely get just that.... soon enough the sisters find themselves with a band of pirates and having an adventure on the high seas.  This series reminds me a lot of a Kate DiCamillo series - it's full of humor and vocabulary that is new, exciting, and just the right words at the perfect time!

Now we have the next installment in The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters!  Please welcome The Uncanny Express into your library!  I love this second adventure even more than the first.  Kale and Jaundice are the perfect sort of bland - that dry humor that makes for a fun dead-pan read aloud!  The kind that you read and when you get to the dry humor you stop and wait for the students to yell back at you because it's going just the opposite of what they expect.  It's the type of read aloud that makes the reader engaged with the characters.  

Goodreads summary:

Jaundice and Kale are back from their adventure on the high seas, and they are settling back into a quiet life in Dullsville, just the way they like it. The tea is tepid, the oatmeal is tasteless, and the socks are ripe for darning . . . until Aunt Shallot shows up and reveals herself to be anything but the dull relation they were expecting. Instead, she tells her nieces she is Magique, Queen of Magic, and she’s on her way to a big show and in need of two willing assistants. As Magique and the Bland sisters board the Uncanny Express, they meet a cast of mystifying characters. And when Magique goes missing, it’s up to Jaundice and Kale to solve the mystery—with the help of famous detective Hugo Fromage.

An inventive story in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient ExpressThe
Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Uncanny Express has all the whimsy and humor that readers who are looking for an anything-but-bland adventure will love.

Lucky for us, Kara LaReau has stopped by to answer some questions for us!  I'm excited to get to know a little more about Kara and her books!

How do you plan on the humor? How do you decide on what is the most bland way to go? 
K: I don’t really plan the humor — I try to get into a zone where the characters “speak” to me as I draft, and the deadpan stuff just comes naturally. I have to build in some of the other jokes as I revise, but the setups are usually just there, waiting for me to finish them off. As for figuring out the blandness, I often ask myself, “What is the opposite of what I would normally do?”

You’re writing in different formats for different audiences, how do you keep that straight?
K: I try to take breaks (however brief!) in between projects, to cleanse my palate. Usually I am researching whatever the next project is going to be, so that helps with the transition. But I have written enough of the Infamous Ratsos series by now that the tone and format just comes naturally. I’m working on a new chapter book series now for Candlewick and I am only just starting to figure out what I want the template to be. It’s a challenge, but I love working it all out!

Is there anything you do with your writing to specifically help young readers with their understanding of the story?
K: I really trust and respect my readers, so I don’t do too much to help them along. Kids are so much more savvy than we’d like to believe! I do love that there are discussion guides available for The Infamous Ratsos, because I think those books work both as entertaining stories and a jumping-off point for discussion about gender norms, toughness, kindness, fear, bravery, and other concepts and issues kids (of all ages) are dealing with.

Who do you relate more to — the Bland Sisters or the Ratsos Brothers?
K: They both come from me, so there are aspects of my personality in the Blands and the Ratsos. Like Jaundice and Kale, I have a pretty dry sense of humor, and while I love going out and trying new things, there is a part of me that is a real homebody and would rather just shuffle around in my pajamas (I’m not as handy with a needle and thread as Jaundice so I don’t have a smock). I relate to the Ratsos in that my intentions are usually well-meaning, but I don’t always make the right decisions, and I’m still learning how to be the best person and friend and citizen I can be.

Tell us about something we don’t know just by reading the book?
In the dining car on the Uncanny Express, the Bland Sisters sample a croque madame (for the uninitiated: a fancy fried ham and Gruyere sandwich topped with béchamel and a fried egg). It doesn’t make much of an impression on Jaundice and Kale, but it’s one of my favorite foods!

What do you have planned for 2018 and beyond?
I have a picture book called Goodnight, Little Monsters (illustrated by the brilliant Brian Won) coming out this summer; it’s my first picture book in a while, so I’m really excited about it. Then the third Infamous Ratsos story comes out in early fall 2018, the third Bland Sisters adventure comes out in January 2019, and the fourth Infamous Ratsos story comes out in early fall 2019. I also have another picture book in the works called Baby Clown, to be illustrated by one of my all-time-faves, Matthew Cordell; I’m just finishing up the first in a new chapter book series called Rise of ZomBert, about a cat who may or may not be a zombie; and I am working on a contemporary middle grade novel that doesn’t have a home just yet, but my fingers are crossed. Whew!

If we were sitting at your desk what would we see?
Not much right now, as my office is in our attic, and these days it’s waaaaaay too cold up there to work! Currently I am camped out at our dining room table, where I am surrounded by

  1. my laptop
  2. a cup of coffee
  3. a banana peel
  4. my toddler’s fart gun (which needs new batteries due to EXCESSIVE use)

I think that pretty much sums up my life!

More about Kara La Reau:

Kara LaReau was born and raised in Connecticut. She received her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing, Literature, and Publishing from Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts and later worked as an editor at Candlewick Press and at Scholastic Press. She is the author of picture books such as UGLY FISH, illustrated by Scott Magoon, and NO SLURPING, NO BURPING! A Tale of Table Manners, illustrated by Lorelay Bové; an award-winning chapter book series called The Infamous Ratsos, illustrated by Matt Myers; and a middle-grade trilogy called The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, illustrated by Jen Hill.  Kara lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her husband and son and their cat.

image copyright Jen Hill

I hope you're also excited to meet Jaundice and Kale.  Kara has generously donated a Bland Sisters giveaway pack so your readers can also meet Jaundice and Kale.  Be sure to enter the google form for your chance to win signed copies of The Jolly Regina and The Uncanny Express plus a swag pack!  Giveaway is open through Wednesday, January 17th.  Open to US residents only.

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!