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A site to help parents learn about great books for their kids ages 4 - 14. I'm the Friday Librarian at Redwood Day School, an independent K-8 school in Oakland, CA.
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26. International Women's Day: celebrating women who have won a Nobel Prize (ages 10-14)

March 8th marks International Women's Day, a celebration that has been observed since in the early 1900's. On this day, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements.

I have really enjoyed sharing with students the website for the Nobel Prize. Since 1901, prizes have been awarded for remarkable achievements in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Of the more than 500 prizes 45 have been awarded to women (see the list here), an amount that I think is much too small. But one way to inspire girls of today to reach for greatness is to celebrate the achievement of other women.


The Nobel Prize website provides information for every Nobel Prize since 1901, including the Nobel Laureates' biographies, Nobel Lectures, interviews, photos, articles, video clips, press releases, educational games and more.

Find out about Tawakkoi Karman, who has worked toward improving women's rights in Yemen. Read about Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, who discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Share about Emily Greene Balch, a leader of the American peace movement.

Each day this month, I will be sharing different resources to help children learn about amazing women throughout history. What books or websites do you like to share with children during Women's History Month?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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27. Wangari Maathai, planting trees in Kenya (ages 6-12)

Wangari Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work helping women throughout Africa planting trees to improve the environment and their quality of life. As we celebrate Women's History Month, I make sure to introduce students to women from throughout the world who have worked hard to improve their communities.


Seeds of Change
Planting a Path of Peace
by Jen Cullerton Johnson
illustrations by Sonia Lynn Sadler
Lee and Low, 2010
your local library
Amazon
ages 6-10
Although it was unusual for girls to receive formal education in rural Kenya, Wangari’s parents agreed to send her to school. Wangari’s determination and hard work continued as she went first to high school in the city, and then to university in the United States to study biology.

Wangari returned to Kenya to teach and inspire women scientists, but became concerned when she saw the environmental damage that was occurring throughout the country. Maathai established the Green Belt Movement, bringing about environmental and economic change in Kenya by helping local women plant over thirty million trees.

I would also share this video clip, from the PBS/Independent Lens documentary Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai



International Women's Day, March 8th, is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women's Day is a national holiday. Are you celebrating International Women's Day with your children?

The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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28. Celebrating the life & work of Jane Goodall with kindergartners (ages 4-8)

I am excited to see my kindergarten class today and introduce them to a woman I truly admire: Jane Goodall. I will read aloud the wonderful picture book Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell, but first I want to tell them a bit about Jane's life. I will share this video from the Jane Goodall Institute to introduce students to her life work:


Jane Goodall: Showing Us the Way to a Better World from the Jane Goodall Institute on Vimeo.

We will then read aloud Me, Jane by Patrick McDonnell and talk about how you can see her interest in animals when she was a young child.

Me, Jane
by Patrick McDonnell
Little, Brown, 2011
2012 Caldecott Honor Award
ages 4-8
your local library
Amazon
Little Jane carries her stuffed chimpanzee Jubilee around with her everywhere - reading stories, exploring outside, climbing trees.

Right from the beginning, children can relate to having a favorite stuffed animal. Jane loves exploring the outdoors - and so she spends most of her time either watching animals and plants outside or writing in her journal about facts she's discovered. Children can easily imagine keeping a journal with questions and observations about the animals around them.

Is there a scientist you look forward to telling students about during Women's History Month?

The review copy came from our school library collection. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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29. Celebrating the life of Clara Barton (ages 6-10)

Clara Barton bravely tended to soldiers during the Civil War, and became known as the Angel of the Battlefield. After the war, she founded the American Red Cross, an organization that continues essential relief during emergencies. Patricia Polacco, one of my favorite authors, has just written a book about Clara Barton's childhood. It provides a lovely introduction to this remarkable woman.
Clara and Davie
by Patricia Polacco
Scholastic, 2014
your local library
Amazon
ages 6-10
Like Polacco herself, Clara was painfully shy as a child and often teased. She found safety and comfort in animals on her farm, often treating them when they were hurt. When her beloved brother Davie was dreadfully hurt falling off the barn roof, Clara tended to him day after day, determined to help him heal, seeing to his wounds and providing comfort and encouragement. My students were fascinated by the historical context of this story, especially how much medical treatment has changed since the 19th century.

Want to find out more? Head over to Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month. Louise Capizzo, a children's librarian from Maine, and I are writing about how to help children learn more about Barton's life. We think that Polacco's book will inspire children to learn more about this remarkable woman.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Scholastic Books. The illustrations are copyright ©2014 Patricia Polacco, shared with permission of the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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30. Museum of Amazing Women at Emerson School

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31. Kate Sessions: The Tree Lady of San Diego (ages 5-10)

Growing up, I used to think that our outlook on life was shaped (in part) by the landscape you saw driving to work or school. I felt so lucky to drive through open, grass-covered hills dotted with oak trees. I immediately felt a kinship to Kate Sessions, when I read The Tree Lady, by H. Joseph Hopkins. It's a wonderful picture book biography that shows a woman taking action to improve her environment.

The Tree Lady:
The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever
by H. Joseph Hopkins
illustrated by Jill McElmurry
Simon & Schuster, 2013
ages 5 - 10
your local library
Amazon
*best new book*
From the publisher's description:
After becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, Kate Sessions took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego.
Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman single-handedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city.
Sessions was determined to pursue her passion and find solutions to problems she saw. She was a trail-blazer thinking about sustainability, important issues especially in California. Want to learn more? I especially liked Lisa Taylor's review over at Shelf-employed.
Kate Session arrives in San Diego
Balboa Park, San Diego, 1915
Do you want to share more with kids? I think they'd be interested in this video from the San Diego Historical Society.



The San Diego History Center also has more information on Sessions and Balboa Park.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Simon & Schuster. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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32. Rosie the Riveter -- Women's contributions during World War II (ages 9-14)

Women played an essential role on America's home front during World War II. As men joined or were drafted to the military, there was an especially great need to fill manufacturing jobs -- especially with the rapid increase in the production of ships.

The federal government encouraged the creation of motivational posters during the Second World War. One of the most popular featured "Rosie the Riveter." See the site Awesome Stories for more on the story behind Rosie the Riveter.


Video resources can really engage students, both as an introduction to a topic and a way to deepen their thinking. I think they'd be very interested in this video, with a song about Rosie the Riveter and clips showing women in different manufacturing jobs during WWII.



Read more about this video on the Awesome Stories website, a great source of information for kids, ages 8-14. They write about this video:
"Not long after J. Howard Miller - the artist at Westinghouse who created the "We Can Do It!" poster - released his work, "Rosie the Riveter" was born. Personifying American women, who produced war materials on factory assembly lines, "Rosie" became part of popular culture. In 1943, Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb wrote a song about her."
For students and families interested in learning more about women's role on the Home Front during WWII, check out the National Historical Park dedicated to Rosie the Riveter and life on the home front. The park is located in Richmond, CA, site of many shipyards during the 1940s. They also have many primary resources on their website, including photos, artifacts and stories.

NPS Rosie the Riveter Online Resources
I'm curious whether any friends can think of historical fiction that's connected to women's experiences working in factories during World War II. Our students really enjoyed reading Duke, by Kirby Larson, which shows how children lent their dogs to the War Effort. And there are books that show women pilots during the war. But I can't think of historical fiction about working in factories... if you know of one, please let me know!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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33. Celebrating Women's History Month: a challenge for the month of March

Each year, we turn our library into a Museum of Amazing Women. We celebrate women in our lives, from our community, and throughout history. Students have made posters and presentations on their mothers, grandmothers, scientists, activists and sports heroes -- all of whom are inspiring.

Here at Great Kid Books, I'm going to try something new this March. I will try to post each day about a woman who inspires us, sharing a brief resource that we share with kids. In order to post more frequently, I'll need to write less and quote others more. I'll direct you to resources I use. This will be new, and I'd love feedback on what you think of it.

To start with, check out the fantastic blog Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month. Authors, historians, librarians, and bloggers share their favorite books about women in history. There are guest posts, interviews and book reviews.

Check out Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month
I often go through their popular posts and archives to get inspired and find interesting information to share with kids. This year, they also have a Pinterest page and a Facebook group, if you like staying in touch that way. Check the site throughout the month to find out new resources to share with kids. Here are their popular posts today:


Do you have any favorite resources you'd like me to share during Women's History Month?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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34. Celebrating Black History Month: Because of Them We Can


Our community celebrates Black History Month each year, through the books we read together, the stories we tell, the leaders we honor. This year, I've been particularly moved by a set of posters called Because Of Them We Can.

Eunique Jones Gibson began this project as a way to "share our rich history and promising future through images that would refute stereotypes and build the esteem of our children." This project is much more than dressing kids up as historical figures. It's providing a way for kids to see what they themselves can do, who they can become.

I adore this video about Zora Neal Hurston. Library love. Book love. Imagination.


This video captures exactly the power behind these images. I often think about books as being "Windows and Mirrors" -- letting us see through to other worlds, as well as see images of ourselves reflected in them. The same can be said for historical figures. At times, they let us see into other worlds, but at other times they let us envision what we ourselves might do.

I plan on ordering several of these for our school library. What a fantastic way to share this vision with my students. Thank you, Eunique Jones Gibson, for your vision, talents and photographs. I'm reminded of one of the quotes you share:
"Vision without action is just a dream; action without vision is just something to do. But vision with action can change the world." - Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd
Gibson has combined her vision with action. She knows that that images can be a powerful statement about the way we see ourselves, but then she's taken the action to create this stunning project.


Because Of Them, We Can is a great project to share with children and teachers. I'd love to hear what they think of these images and this vision.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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35. Finding great resources: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 6)

Just look at these kids on the computer--they are totally engaged in doing an activity together. I want to help create situations like this. But it isn't just a matter of putting a computer in front of kids. You need to bring the right media experience as well.

Children at school, Lucélia Ribeiro, Flickr
Technology is changing so quickly that it’s hard to figure out what’s engaging and what is just a marketing drive from another tech company. Parents and educators face a huge array of digital media claiming to be the next best thing.

My first advice is to listen to friends and family--get their recommendations about quality books, apps and sites. Talk with other parents about how they navigate this digital world with their kids.

Also listen to kids--they love talking about their favorite new websites and games. Ask them about what they find really engaging. Talk about the difference between mindless fun and problem-solving, creative games. See what they recommend and think is really interesting.

Look to Children’s Technology Review to learn about a range of different media, from digital games to apps. I value their thoughtful analysis and focused reviews.

Also check out Common Sense Media for a range of different media reviews. The excellent design of this site lets me find exactly what I'm looking for, from reviews of current movies and video games to their take on different websites for specific ages. For example, here's my search on math sites for ages 6-9. Each website review includes an age recommendation, quality rating, learning rating, and a short review focused on what parents need to know.

Definitely check out Great Websites for Kids, put together by the American Library Association. I especially like the way this site is organized into different topics kids might be interested in: animals, the arts, history, literature, math, science, social sciences and general reference.

I've really enjoyed the blog Little eLit, which shares many creative ways to engage kids with digital literacy, especially in the library. The Fred Rogers Center consistently puts out interesting articles on young children and media -- a recent blog post focused specifically on Technology and Family Life.

Are there any sites that help you find great digital media to use with your children? This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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36. Creating together: using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 5)

Photographing nature, via USDA, Flikr
Kids love to create, whether it’s digging in the sandbox, making a paper collage, or creating a digital calendar. Think about how your kids can use digital cameras or mobile devices to create their own media. Take this example from Let’sPlay. Look for an old digital camera or flip-style video camera.
Take (digital cameras) to the park with you and put them in your child's hands—or on their helmet, firmly secured with duct tape. There's something about being able to document their own footage that brings out the adventurer/daredevil in kids. That's a recipe for awesome—and YouTube bragging rights at school.
Older children love creating their own mashups, learning how to digitally edit photos. This sort of active screen time is far different than passively watching TV.

One of our favorite apps is Toontastic (free with in-app purchase of puppet sets, or $19.99 for an all-access pass), created by Bay Area startup Launchpad Toys. This app encourages kids to create their own animated stories. It guides young users through breaking down a story into five basic steps, then adding cartoon scenes, music and characters along the way. You narrate the scene while moving characters with your fingers. Kids absolutely love it, and there’s a great guide to help parents, encouraging collaborative play between grownups and kids.

I love the way Jennifer Reed, a dynamic school librarian, is using an online story creating site Storybird with her 5th graders. She's showing great examples of "hooks" and stories her students have created. These kids are completely engaged in the creative writing process, in large part because they get to use digital media to publish their final products.

As you think about digital media, think about the way children are engaging. Are they passively consuming media, or are they creating something while they use it? I've seen kids learn essential digital skills while doing something as fun as creating a birthday invitation on the computer. What can be better than learning through play? Our role as parents is to create these opportunities, think outside the box and see what creative ways we can engage our kids while introducing them to new media.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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37. Playing together: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 4)

Video games can provide great opportunities for parents and kids to play together. Seek out creative, engaging experiences to play together. Today’s parents grew up with video games--seek out games you like to play together.


iPad family game time, via Tim Wilson, Flickr
Alex B., father of four in Berkeley, describes the fun he has playing Minecraft with his 8-year-old daughter Gabriella:
“We have some worlds we build together, and some we each build on our own. When she’s in her world, she has the whole box of Minecraft toys to play with. When we’re in our world together, we collaborate and build the world we both want to explore.”
Gabriella first heard about Minecraft from a friend and needed help from her dad to figure out how to play. When he realized the fun they could have together, Alex joined her in creating a world together: “It’s about imagination, creativity and design.”

At our school library, kids have a great time playing iPad math and physics games together. Interactive math games like Hungry Fish or Operation Math become a fun social learning experience for two or three children doing it together. Simple Physics is a great partner game, as kids work together to build tree forts, bridges and stairs.

When you’re looking for digital media, don’t just replicate offline activities. Try to use new tools to make learning fun. Arcademic Skill Builders is popular at our school because this helps children practice their math facts in a fun, game environment, instead of just using flashcards.

Above all, I've found that kids love playing with digital media together, making their learning and gaming social.

This week, I'm exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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38. eBooks through public libraries: Using eBooks and digital media with young children (Part 3)

Do you like reading ebooks? Did you know you can borrow them for free from your public library? Our local public libraries are expanding their digital collections, and it’s getting easier and easier to load these onto your own mobile device.

This is a constantly changing field. My best advice is to check out your local library’s website and to ask your librarian for advice. Here’s a sampling from our local public libraries in the Bay Area:

San Francisco Public Library offers digital books for kids and adults through their Axis 360 and Overdrive platforms. Over 3,000 children’s fiction titles are available through Axis 360, many with text-to-speech capabilities. Overdrive features digital audiobooks and ebooks. SFPL has over 2,500 children’s fiction titles in their Overdrive collection. Any California resident may apply for a library card from SFPL and check out digital books.

Oakland Public Library also offers digital media, including ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and music, which library cardholders can download. The Oakland Library has over 1,500 fiction titles for children through Overdrive, which can be read on a Kindle, iPad, Nook, mobile phone and computer. Oakland card holders can also download three songs a week using the Freegal site, which provides access to Sony Music songs.

The Marin County Free Library has an ebook collection through a variety of platforms available for Marin County residents. Overdrive and the 3M Cloud Library are the main sources for downloadable ebooks, but they also have some interactive titles through Axis 360. Marin’s Overdrive account has 800 fiction titles for children and nearly 3,000 for adults.

Need help? Check out the tutorials on the San Francisco Public Library website. These online presentations provide specific information for Kindle, iPad, Android and Nooks. I found them helpful as they led me through the specific steps, one slide at a time. Here's their tutorial on using Overdrive on the iPad:



If you are finding the selection at your local library limited, do try other public libraries in your state. All California libraries will issue a library card to any California resident, whether or not they live in the local area. Other libraries offer digital library membership for a small fee.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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39. Reading ebooks together: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 2)

Kindle kids, via Eric Rice, Flikr
Parents are beginning to explore digital reading opportunities with their kids. Everyone has different tastes. The real trick, in my opinion, is to figure out what fits you and your family. Engage in this conversation together. Try different things out. Talk with your kids about what they like. Above all, read together in lots of different ways.

One mom I know keeps a digital book loaded on her phone so she can read aloud to her kids when they’re stuck waiting for an appointment. Digital audiobooks keep your place saved for each time you come back to your book, often syncing between devices as well.

Many children who are beginning to read like increasing the font size on ebooks. One avid young reader said,
“I like it when I can’t see how many pages I have left, especially when I’m reading a really long book.”
A heavy print book can seem intimidating. Reluctant readers find reading on a digital device appealing because their “just right” book looks just the same as everyone else’s book. The built-in dictionary, speech-to-text and audiobook syncing abilities of digital books can be a huge advantage to children struggling to read.

Explore your public library collection of ebooks; these collections are growing every month! You can download books to your smartphone, computer or tablet. Explore your library website or ask for help. I’ve found that the user interfaces of sites like Overdrive and Axis360 are continually improving.

Reading together, via Robyn Jay, Flickr
Consider interactive book apps, especially ones that integrate audio narration, word highlighting and interactive features. Some of my favorites apps available on the iTunes App Store for young children are Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night, Cinderella and Jack & the Beanstalk by Nosy Crow, and The Monster at the End of This Book.

As you read together, talk about what you find interesting, how the story is coming to life in your imagination, what it makes you wonder about.

Read all the parts of this series, Using ebooks and digital media with young children. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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40. Using eBooks and digital media with young children (Part 1)

Mobile devices are infiltrating our daily lives. Kids know how smart phones, tablets and computers are ever-present, taking their parents out of the moment as they check email, sports scores or traffic conditions. Parents often wonder if their children have too much screen time, but I would argue that’s the wrong question.

Kobe drawing, via Marcus Kwan, Flickr
As parents, our main job is to help our children develop skills and mindsets they need to engage with the world in productive, satisfying ways. We want our children to actively participate in their world. This is the lens through which I look at digital experiences.
  • How can I help my children discover engaging, interesting experiences online and offline? 
  • How can digital devices add to the mix, helping my children learn and grow?
At the heart of this, parents need to remember that our interactions with our young children are what lead to learning. Whether it’s reading a book, playing a video game or listening to music, we use media as a springboard for learning when we do these activities with our children and talk about what we’re doing.

As Michael Robb, director of the education and research at the Fred Rogers Center says,
“Learning is most likely to occur when children are having warm, language-rich interaction with their adult caregivers.”
eBooks, video games and digital media provide many opportunities for active, engaging experiences, but they can also be used as electronic babysitting. When you’re looking at using media with children, always ask yourself whether it’s encouraging active, imaginative engagement and interactions with adults or peers.

This week, I'd like to explore different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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41. Barefoot World Atlas updates: new packs added! (ages 5-10)

I've raved before about Barefoot World Atlas -- the spinning globe that brings a traditional atlas into a new realm for young kids. Well, Touch Press has wowed me again, with five fantastic extension packs. If you haven't tried out this app, please take a look!

Barefoot World Atlas
app developed by
TouchPress and Barefoot Books
available at iTunes App Store
ages 5-10
Young children have a difficult time envisioning the large extent of our world. It's so hard to see how the separate parts relate to the whole. This app lets kids physically spin the globe, zooming in and out, and then learning a specific region. It's tactile and visual -- and kids love it!

The original app presented a select amount of information that Nick Crane's original book contained -- at times, it seemed a bit limited to me. Now they've added five extension packs that enable kids to explore their different interests on a global level. Each is available as an in-app purchase. Normally, I really dislike this approach, but it seems to be very appropriate here. Families purchase the basic app for about $5, and then they can choose a specific area to purchase for an additional $1.99.
Extension packs for Barefoot World Atlas
Barefoot World Atlas
Extension Packs
available now:
Great Cities
North America
International Football
World Art
Puzzles
coming soon:
Cut & Create
Dinosaur Planet
Wacky & Wonderful
Animal Planet
I want to highlight three strengths of these packs:
  1. The format (choosing which pack to explore) helps focus a child, providing more content without overwhelming them. Less is more, especially when it comes to visually arranging information.
  2. The content is truly multinational, covering all the continents. I especially loved the art extension pack, which includes items ranging from a Mayan pottery vessel to a central Africa Bronze plaque to an early 20th century Russian painting.
  3. The Great Cities pack includes several pictures for each location, adding more information without cluttering the interface. These photos lead to great conversations and "ah ha!" moments for kids!
Take a look a this short video from Touch Press demonstrating the World Art pack:



The review copy of this app came from our school library collection, thanks to a generous grant by the Berkeley Public School Fund. I so appreciate their support, as we look for new and exciting ways to engage our students. Please support your local schools fund!

Review ©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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42. #cslacon14: Best Apps for Teaching & Learning

This week, school librarians from all over California are gathering in San Diego to share about ways to engage students, develop critical thinking and promote literacy. I'm excited to present the AASL Best Apps for Teaching & Learning.

Please share this with anyone you know who's going to the CSLA conference this weekend. Here are the details:
AASL Best Apps for Teaching and Learning
California School Librarians Conference
San Diego, CA
Saturday, February 8th
8:00am - 9:15am
Ventana Room
I'll be presenting with a great team of school librarians from Northern California:
  • Allyson Bogie, Portola Middle School, West Contra Costa Unified
  • Trevor Calvert, Marin Academy
  • Brian Thomas, Saint Mary's College High School, Oakland Diocese
  • Adoria Williams, Jefferson Elementary School, Berkeley Unified
Hope to see you there! Follow the conference hashtag #csla14 and the Best Apps hashtag #aaslbestapps to see what people are saying.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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43. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker - inspiring & beautiful biography (ages 8-11)


Dazzling. Exuberant. Full of life.

These words certainly describe Josephine Baker, but they also describe the beautiful biography that Patricia Hruby Powell & Christian Robinson have just created celebrating Baker's life and work. This is a unique picture book biography, presenting Baker's life in poetic text that hums with rhythm, spread across over 100 pages.
Josephine:
The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
by Patricia Hruby Powell
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Chronicle, 2014
ages 8 - 11
your local library
Amazon
*best new book*
Powell tells the story of Josephine Baker's determined rise from poverty to stardom with energy and verve that suits the subject matter. Her free verse poetry creates a driving rhythm that propels the reader along.
"Josephine--
born poor,
out of wedlock
in honky-tonk town--
   rambunctious
SAINT LOUIS, Missouri ...
home of
   RAGTIME MUSIC
raggedy black music
gotta-make-the-rent-music--
life-my-soul music--
GOLDEN-AGE music."
Christian Robinson captures Josephine's movement and playfulness with his gorgeous acrylic illustrations. Just take a look at this trailer that Robinson created and see how the illustrations, music and story all blend together:



I keep thinking about the way the words and pictures in this story go together. Each element complements the other, adding more to the total package. Please take a look at the "peek inside" over at the Chronicle Books website to get a feeling for the wonderful design, illustrations and text in this book.

I sense that this book is perfect for an eight to ten year old, especially one who's interested in gutsy, determined individuals who won't give up on a dream.

Josephine is much longer than the typical picture book biography, and the design makes it better suited to savor over time than in one straight shot.

Students at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley are incredibly lucky--Christian Robinson and Patricia Hruby Powell will be visiting their school this week to share about their creative process. I am just thrilled. What a terrific way for these students and teachers to start off celebrating Black History Month! Many thanks to Books, Inc. and Chronicle Books for bringing these artists to our schools.

Do you love sharing nonfiction with kids? Check out the Nonfiction Monday Blog, with posts every Monday from around the country.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Chronicle Books. The illustrations are copyright ©2014 Christian Robinson, shared with permission of the publishers. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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44. Hooray for Flora & Ulysses!! Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal (ages 8-12)

Wow-oh-wow!! It's been an exciting week telling kids about the news that Flora & Ulysses won the Newbery Award. Our students have loved this story since they first started reading it last fall and they started bounding back to the library exclaiming how fantastic it is.

Flora & Ulysses is just the sort of book that adds a bounce to your step and a smile to your face.

Here are some of the comments our book club made when they first started discussing it:
  • "I loved the characters, especially Ulysses. It was so ironic and not-normal--you can only get this from a book. It was unexpected and unrealistic. But also realistic at the same time."
  • I asked whether Flora change or develop in the book. Naomi said, "Her love for her mom changes throughout the book. Flora didn’t really know the truth about the situation between her parents. Her dad changed--he was unexpected. Underneath an ordinary businessman was a superhero, in a way."
  • Bella E. said, "I liked the fact the squirrel crashed into the window - it makes it more realistic. The author played it for humor as well. The wacky words didn’t bother me because I got the sense it was a wacky type of story."
  • Ben said, "Wacky, weird, amazing! One of my favorites I’ve ever read. My favorite moment is when Flora’s dad had a really fat cat on his head -- it was funny & entertaining. It seemed like a point when Ulysses was established as a superhero." 
  • Ruby agrees: "INCANDESTO!"
  • Naomi added, "My favorite person was William Spiver because he was really important, even though he didn’t have that large part of the story. Without him, it wouldn't be that weird and funny."
  • Julia said, "You thought it would be just all wacky and silly, but it was actually deeper than I thought it was going to be. The relationship between Flora and Ulysses--I didn’t really expect it to be like that. It was also mysterious because you didn’t always know exactly who the characters were."
As I write this, I'm drawn back to a wonderful post written by Amy Koester, a friend and wonderful children's librarian, which she titled "On Giving Readers Credit". Amy talked about hearing Jasper Fforde speak about how once a book is shared, it is no longer just the author's creation. When a book goes out into the world, it creates a unique experience within each reader. Amy wrote, 
"Readers are active participants in the world of the book, and it is their participation that makes the story so rich for them."
As we all celebrate the Flora and Ulysses winning the 2014 Newbery Medal, I want to keep in my heart the joy seeing readers bound into the library full of enthusiasm.

Many many thanks to my Mock Newbery book club students for the joy, thoughtfulness and camaraderie they brought to all our meetings. Also thanks to Betsy Bird who gave Emerson kids a shout-out on her Post Game Show over at SLJ's Fuse Eight.

Many thanks to Candlewick and all the publishers who supported our Mock Newbery at Emerson. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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45. Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Final 2014 Results

Kids always amaze me. They come to discussions full of energy and enthusiasm, with fresh eyes. Our final Mock Newbery discussion was rich, thoughtful and passionate. I'll start with our process and discussion, and then move (quickly!) to our voting results.

Emerson 2014 Mock Newbery notes
One of the biggest challenges is comparing such different books--and books we've read over the span of 4+ months. We worked in pairs to fill out a simple chart that helped us focus on the essential literary qualities the Newbery Committee will be considering. Our goal was to think about which book exemplified a distinguished contribution to American children's literature for each quality.

We spoke about each element, citing specific ways we felt the different books were outstanding examples. For example, Ben felt that Swanson developed excellent characters in "The President Has Been Shot!" Ben said,
"I think Swanson really changed perspectives and you could feel like you were Lee Harvey Oswald, having a tough life and then switching to JFK and being the president." 
Bella held firm to her opinion that it was difficult to connect to the characters in this nonfiction book, instead putting forth the example of Serafina:
"The author helped us go inside of Serafina and understand her feelings and emotions."
Natalie agreed, especially noting that she could empathize with Serafina "because she had to go through a rough life, but she still tried to see the happy things in it, not just the miserable."

Julia felt that Kirby Larson kept the plot moving perfectly in Duke:
"I thought Duke was really well paced because it didn’t really drag on about anything, but kept your interest."
Our other Bella noted that Amy Timberlake used the plot and pacing to draw us into understanding the character in One Came Home: "It really laid out the plot so you got to understand the character and why she had to figure out this mystery, and then her personality made the things she did more realistic." Naomi liked the plot twists that kept readers engaged, especially the fiasco involving the counterfeit money.

Our discussion went on to cover setting, language and themes as well. We focused on positive examples, but also brought up examples where we felt the books were weak. This structure helped us talk about the literary qualities in each book, and not just our individual emotional reactions.

Drum roll please -- we all were eager to see how the votes came in --

Emerson School Mock Newbery Medal:

Emerson School Mock Newbery Honors:
Six of our ten members voted for Serafina's Promise as one of their top three books of the year. This title has certainly been recognized by library journals (it's one of Kirkus Review's best of the year), but hasn't made it to other Mock Newbery ballots. For a great round-up, check out Betsy Bird's post at Fuse #8.

So we're all now all-a-twitter over which books will be honored by the Newbery Committee. I'll certainly be watching the ALA Youth Media Awards live broadcast here:
ALA YOUTH MEDIA AWARDS
DATE: January 27, 2014
TIME: 8 A.M. (EST)
WEBCAST: Click here
Many thanks to my terrific book club at Emerson, my intrepid partner Armin Arethna, and all the publishers who supported our endeavor. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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46. Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Part 5

Our students noted three books for their character development: Counting by 7s, The Real Boy and Jinx. The characters in each of these books spoke to our students and stretched their thinking. I also noticed how discussions about the characters often turned into deeper discussions about theme, another important element that the Newbery Committee will consider.

Counting By 7s
Dial / Penguin, 2013
ages 9-14
Twelve year-old Willow Chance is a character who bore her way into our readers' hearts. "Ms. Scheuer, Ms. Scheuer! You have to add Counting by 7s to our Newbery list!!"

Willow has trouble making friends and feels most comfortable at home. When we meet her, she's just starting sessions with a hapless school counselor, Dell Duke. Suddenly, a car crash kills both of Willow's parents and she's left totally alone. Willow is with Dell and another one of his students, Mai, when she finds out.

Sloan brings us right into Willow's perspective through first person narrative. This is what we read when Willow hears about her parents:
"My teeth start to chatter.
I want to shut my eyes and make everything stop.
I no longer care if my heart pounds in my chest or if my lungs move."
One of the things I liked best about this novel is how each of the characters changed, and how each person impacted the people around them. They all start off living very isolated lives, but by the end they have come together as a family.

At times, I wondered if Willow actually sounded like a twelve year old child, but she was very convincing to my students. She's a character who will stay with them in their hearts for a long time.
The Real Boy
by Anne Ursu
Walden Pond Press / HarperCollins, 2013
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Amazon
your local library
Oscar is another isolated character who found his way into our readers' hearts, this time in a fantasy setting with many echoes of a classic hero's journey. Oscar's world falls apart when his master, the magician Caleb, is killed and people look to Oscar to continue supplying herbs and potions to cure them.

I wish I had taken more notes during my talks with Julia about The Real Boy. She's a thoughtful, soft-spoken reader who is passionate that "more people need to read The Real Boy!" Her observations deepened my appreciation of this book, especially for Oscar's courage and inner-strength. At times, I had trouble following all of the twists in the plot, but Julia was taken right into Oscar's fully realized world.
Jinx
by Sage Blackwood
HarperCollins, 2013
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Amazon
your local library
Jinx is another character who's an outsider in his world, an orphan who must find his own way. Noticing any themes here? It's a common one in middle grade literature--kids can certainly relate to those feelings. All three of these characters find their inner strength, connecting to a friend who proves an important ally.

Jinx is a more fast-paced fantasy than The Real Boy, and it appealed to our readers who love exciting stories. They loved the magic and danger in Jinx's world, as he battled the evil wizard known as the Bonemaster. I imagine the underlying environmental themes also appealed to our readers, although they did not say that. Instead, they talked about liking a world where the trees could talk to us and tell us how they were feeling.

When I read Jinx, I was struck that some of the dialog seemed too colloquial, but this did not bother any of our students. They were swept away by this exciting fantasy and are eagerly awaiting the sequel, Jinx's Magic.

Each of these books had its champions in our group, and none had enough readers to really engage in a full discussion. In just three months, I could only ask our readers to commit to reading five books. While the Newbery Committee will certainly read each of the titles on their list, I'm sure that some will receive more discussion than others.

Many thanks to Penguin and Harper Collins for sharing review copies with us. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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47. Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Part 4

Our Mock Newbery list stretched readers to try out books they may not have been drawn to initially. Two historical fiction books particularly struck our readers: Duke, set during World War II, and One Came Home, set in rural Wisconsin in 1871.

Duke
by Kirby Larson
Scholastic, 2013
ages 8-12
*best new book*
Amazon
your public library
Hobie Hanson misses his dad who's away flying fighter planes in World War II, but he tries to think about what he can do to help the war effort. Sure, he can buy war stamps and help collect tin and rubber to recycle. But his mettle is truly tested when he decides to donate his beloved German shepherd, Duke, to Dogs for Defense.

Our students often connect to animal stories, especially ones about pets, so I was happy to include Duke in our selection. It was also very important to me to include a story with a boy as the main character. In this video, author Kirby Larson talks about her passion writing this story.




Students noted that the setting is a definite strength in Duke. Larson incorporates historical details in a way that really place you in the time -- from the cookies Hobie ate to the radio shows he listened to. These details helped us understand just why Hobie would do something as difficult as send away his beloved dog.

Some students felt that the characters could have been fleshed out a little more. Bella talked about how she wished the story was written from Hobie's first person perspective (don't you love it the way our kids are talking in these writerly terms!!). We got into a great discussion comparing the perspectives in Duke, Flora & Ulysses and Serafina's Promise. Others also noticed that the secondary characters did not come to life as much as they did in Flora & Ulysses. Mitch was clearly a bully, but he wasn't really distinct as a character. Nonetheless, the plot, setting and themes resonated to keep Duke a real favorite of our group.
One Came Home
by Amy Timberlake
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House, 2013
ages 9-13
Amazon
your public library
One Came Home starts off with punch, but then slowly builds the setting and situation, reeling you in.
"'So it comes to this,' I remember thinking on Wednesday, June 7, 1871. The date sticks in my mind because it was the day of my sister's first funeral and I knew it wasn't her last--which is why I left."
Thirteen-year-old Georgie goes heads out of town to search for her sister Agatha, even though everyone else believes she's dead. After all, they found a body wearing her dress.

Our Mock Newbery club felt Timberlake's plot and pacing were certainly distinguished. As Bella E. said,
"It really laid out the plot so you got to understand the character and why she had to figure out this mystery. Then her personality made the things she did more realistic."
Naomi and Natalie particularly liked the plot twists that kept you guessing. Overall, the kids felt that the setting, with its focus on pigeoning, was a bit confusing at times and didn't add to the story as much as in Serafina's Promise. I remember some had trouble getting into One Came Home and understanding the set up of the mystery. I think they got hooked on the story once Georgie leaves in search of Agatha and has to figure out the mystery on her own.

I particularly like this trailer, made by Melissa McAvoy, a friend and fellow librarian:


Many thanks to Random House and Scholastic for sharing review copies with us. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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48. Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Part 3

We really liked the format of our Mock Newbery book club this year. Each student committed to reading five books from our list of ten books, but we read them at our own pace. We did this because we only had two copies of each book, but I loved the side effects. Kids took their reading suggestions from each other, listening to what others raved about. Some got "buzz" and others fell flat. Our students came back raving about Serafina's Promise, but none really responded to Doll Bones. I would have never predicted that.

Serafina's Promise
by Ann E. Burg
Scholastic, 2013
*best new book*
ages 9-13
Amazon
your public library
Serafina dreams of becoming a doctor, but she knows that she must go to school to reach her dream. This is no easy feat in modern rural Haiti. How can she do this when her mother needs her help at home, especially with a new baby on the way? Ann E. Burg writes in free verse poetry, conveying Serafina's struggles in sparse, effective language.

Teachers and librarians might find these two resources interesting:


Our students were immediately drawn to Serafina and could connect with her situation, even though it was so different from their own. Several connected it to Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai, a Newbery Honor book from 2012 -- partly because of the use of free verse poetry, but also because of the way both drew readers into a character's situation.
Ben expressed surprise that Burg "got us hooked on the situation so quickly through poetry." 
Our group agreed that the setting was also a definite strength of Serafina's Promise. Not only could they could imagine being in Haiti, several talked about what an integral part of the story the setting was.
"With some books, it could happen anywhere. With this, you knew it was definitely happening in Haiti." 
I particularly liked the way Burg used Creole phrases throughout, and I know that the first person voice helped kids connect to Serafina's character.
Doll Bones
by Holly Black
with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler
Margaret K. McElderry / Simon & Schuster, p2013
ages 9-12
Amazon
your public library
Best friends Zach, Poppy and Alice struggle to balance their childhood games with new interests in middle school. Holly Black captures the inner emotional journeys of these friends as they come together to solve the mystery of the Queen, an antique doll that Poppy swears is made from the bones of a murdered girl.

I was surprised that this fantasy didn't grab our readers more. It's not that they didn't like it; rather, it just didn't affect them much. I'm guessing that even though the cover is creepy, the story wasn't as scary as something like Coraline. And the emotional aspects didn't resonate with our ten year olds. Perhaps it will connect to a middle school audience more--twelve and thirteen year olds who can relate to the tension between childhood games and adolescent social pressures.

Many thanks to Scholastic and Simon and Schuster for sharing review copies with us. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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49. Mock Newbery discussions at Emerson: Part 2

You know what's one of the best things? Listening to a kid talk about how excited she is reading a book, and then watching three others want to try it out themselves. Best thing in the world.

Our book club started off in September excited to read "for the Newbery", seeing what they thought of the best books that were published this year. Two early favorites were Flora & Ulysses, by Kate DiCamillo, and "The President Has Been Shot!", by James Swanson.

Flora and Ulysses:
The Illuminated Adventures
by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by K.G. Campbell
Candlewick, 2013
ages 8-12
Amazon
your public library
*best new book*
Within a week of launching into our Newbery reading, kids came bounding into the library raving about Flora and Ulysses. They loved it from the get-go and convinced friends to try it out. As Flora would say, "Holy bagumba! It was a hit!" But why, we wondered?

Although Flora claims to be a cynic, it's clear that she has a true heart and good spirit from the moment that she rescues the squirrel from its catastrophic encounter with a powerful vacuum cleaner. She is, most certainly, a hero we're rooting for. Kids like her. They like her spunk, her bravery, her observations.

Students loved that it was full of unexpected and unrealistic moments. Bella E. said that she liked the fact the squirrel crashed into the window because it makes the story more realistic. She also noted how well DiCamillo played the scene for humor as well. And yet, others noted, it was full of very realistic relationships and emotions. Julia said,
"You thought it would be just all wacky and silly, but it was actually deeper than I thought it was going to be."
The supporting characters were definitely a highlight for many of our readers. Several mentioned William Spiver, Flora's quirky neighbor. They liked the way he was fleshed out as a character, even though he wasn't a main character.

The big question will be whether Flora & Ulysses stays with our readers through all the other reading they do.
"The President Has Been Shot!":
The assassination of John F. Kennedy
by James L. Swanson
Scholastic, 2013
ages 9-14
Amazon
your local library
*best new book*
Swanson adapted his adult nonfiction account of Kennedy's assassination, End of Days, for a young adult audience. Our readers were very impressed by the balance of facts and drama in this account of this pivotal event. As Bella N. said,
"I felt that even though it was nonfiction, it wasn’t just a list of facts. Usually I really don’t like nonfiction. But this was like a story."
Swanson begins with a relatively brief introduction, encapsulating Kennedy's rise to power and the key moments of his presidency. The focus quickly shifts to Kennedy's final days. Swanson deftly moves from Kennedy's travels to Dallas and desire to ride in an open-top car, to Lee Harvey Oswald's background and how it might have created motive. Throughout, Swanson presents photographs, diagrams and different accounts of what happened to lead to this moment.

All our book club members agreed that the strength of this book was in the different perspectives Swanson considered. One moment, readers are taken right to the window where Lee Harvey Oswald peered out, overlooking the parade route. The next moment, we are standing next to an observer as he is filming the parade on his home movie camera. Swanson brings readers right into these scenes, while keeping the pace of the story going.

We were all surprised how exciting the story was, especially since you know the outcome. Swanson's gripping storytelling hooked many readers. Ben said, "This was really fast paced. I read it super-quickly because I just didn’t want to put it down. It was a really interesting story."

I raised my concern that Swanson clearly admires John and Jackie Kennedy so much that his writing moves away from unbiased reporting to gushing praise, but our fifth graders felt that the dramatic writing was a more important quality to consider. Hmm...

More to come!

Many thanks to Candlewick and Scholastic for sharing review copies with us. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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50. 2014 Mock Newbery at Emerson School, Part 1

We have had a terrific time this fall turning our 5th grade book club into a Mock Newbery group. Over the next ten days, I'll be sharing about the books we've been reading, students' comments, and then our final voting.

Our process:

2014 Newbery list, Emerson School
Each week, we talk about the books we've been reading, sharing the books' strengths and weaknesses. We began our list with 6 original titles and added others as kids raved about current reads. I've really enjoyed meeting weekly -- it's spread the love of reading and kept up enthusiasm for different titles.

Since we only have two copies of each title, we're each reading different books each week. I've asked each student to read five titles from our list. For some, it's been hard to fit these in with their Harry Potter addictions! We've kept track of our reading on the poster that hangs in the library.

We start with a check-in, sharing what we've been reading. I talk with my students about how important it is to recognize that some of us will *love* a book and we need to respect that. Then we move into weaknesses. Throughout, I encourage the kids to think of specific examples from the books that support their ideas.

We end with a reading plan for the week. I really like this way of helping kids think about a reading plan.

Our Newbery contenders:
There is no way that our small group could read all the books that the Newbery Committee will be discussing. I wanted a representative sample that fell within our 5th grader's range.

In fact, I think I've inspired new admiration from our group about just what the Newbery Committee must do -- from the amount of reading to the hard, hard decisions. Each student has tried to read at least five books from our list. We will only include books with at least five readers in our final vote. Here are the posts on our Mock Newbery:


I've been so excited to share this journey with Armin Arethna, a wonderful children's librarian from Berkeley Public Library, and a member of the 2015 Newbery Committee.

Many thanks to all the publishers for sharing review copies with us. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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