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1. #670 – Druthers by Matt Phelan

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Druthers

Written & Illustrated by Matt Phelan
Candlestick Press       9/09/2014
978-0-7636-5955-4     top book of 2015 general
32 pages        Age 2—5
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“It’s raining and raining and raining, and Penelope is bored. “What would you do if you had your druthers?” asks her daddy. Well, if Penelope had her druthers, she’d go to the zoo. Or be a cowgirl. Or a pirate captain who sails to the island of dinosaurs, or flies away on a rocket to the moon. If Penelope had her druthers, she’d go off on amazing adventures — but then again, being stuck inside may not be so bad if your daddy is along for the ride!”  [publisher]

Review
It’s a rainy day and young Ms. Penelope is bored. Rain continues flowing down the window and the sky remains dark. Dad is home reading a book—good for you dad—and he notices his daughter’s frustration and boredom. Dad asks Penelope,

“If you had your druthers, what would you do?”

What are druthers?”

“Druthers are what you would rather do if you could do anything at all.”

Penelope decides if she had her druthers, she and dad would go to the zoo. That is just what they do. Hunkered down behind the bars of a stair railing, dad becomes a caged ape. “Ooo-ooo-ooo,” Dad calls out from his “cage.”

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But druthers change and Penelope decides she would like to be a cowgirl. Dad strides one arm of the couch and his daughter the other. Together they ride their horses . . . until Penelope decides being a pirate would be fun . . . and flying to the moon . . . and . . . with dad tuckered out Penelope makes one final druthers.

“But I guess if I really had my druthers . . . “

Druthers is a wonderful book for rainy days or any boring day. It exemplifies the creativity of imagination. Dad is a hoot and the perfect parent to spend a day with, on any day. I also love that while Penelope is staring out the window waiting for the rain to stop, Dad is reading a book. What a wonderful detail to promote reading. I also love all the activities the two imagined while laughing, singing, dancing, smiling, and enjoying each other while playing together like best friends.

The illustrations are wonderful and do a great job of visualizing all of Penelope’s druthers. Kids and parents will love the story and each scenario and, like myself, all the details that make everything come alive. Druthers allows you to experience the fun, and laugh along with Dad and Penelope. There are not enough books with dad directly involved with his child. Druthers is the best “Dad book”and a wonderful gift idea for Father’s Day (tie not included).

Penelope’s really druthers,

“. . . it would rain tomorrow, too.”

Druthers is a keeper! If I had my druthers, every dad would share this book with his child(ren), boy or girl.

DRUTHERS. Text and illustrations © 2014 by Matt Phelan. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Sommerville, MA.
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Purchase Druthers at AmazonBook DepositoryCandlewick Press.

Learn more about Druthers HERE.
Meet the author/illustrator, Matt Phelan, at his website:  http://www.mattphelan.com/studio-tour.html
Find more picture books at the Candlewick Press website:  http://www.candlewick.com

Full Disclosure: Druthers, by Matt Phelan, and received from Candlewick Press, is in exchange NOT for a positive review, but for an HONEST review The opinions expressed belong to Kid Lit Reviews, and no one else. This is disclosed in accordance with The Federal Trade Commission 16CFR, Part 255: Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Candlewick Press, creativity, daddy books, Druthers, family relationships, great Father's Day gift, imagination, Matt Pheln

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2. Big News


Some big news happening - two book contracts. I am going to have a busy year but so excited about the new directions my work is heading. 

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3. Interpreting César Chávez’s Legacy with Students

Guest BloggerIn this guest post, Sara Burnett, education associate at the American Immigration Council, presents strategies and resources to enrich the classroom with the legacy of César Chávez. This blog post was originally posted at the American Immigration Council’s Teach Immigration blog.

“When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the field is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick.”   — César Chávez

César Chávez was a Mexican-American labor activist and civil rightsWhen the man who feeds the world by leader who fought tirelessly throughout his life to improve the working conditions of migrant farm workers. A man of great courage, he championed nonviolent protest, using boycotts, strikes, and fasting as a way to create sweeping social change. Importantly, his work led him to found the United Farm Workers union (UFW).

His remarkable achievements towards social justice and human rights serve as an excellent example to young people of how vital their voices are in bringing about change and championing causes that are as relevant today as they were in his day.

One group of middle school students in Fellsmere, FL has done just that by writing and producing a short news broadcast “The Hands That Feed Us: A Migrant Farm Workers Service Project,” highlighting the unfair labor practices and strenuous conditions of migrant farmworkers who pick oranges in their community. Their teachers are winners of the American Immigration Council’s 2014 community grants program which helped to fund this service-learning opportunity. Their project culminates with a school-wide donation drive for materials sorely needed for migrant farmworkers.

Inspired to enrich your classroom with the legacy of César Chávez? 

Start with a lesson

Interpreting the Impact of César Chávez’s Early Years

In this immigration lesson plan, students will understand how César Chávez’s adolescence as a migrant farm worker influenced his later achievements.  First, students will analyze how an artist and biographer have interpreted Chávez’s legacy.  Then by reading excerpts from Chávez’s autobiography, students will draw connections between how his early years shaped his later beliefs and achievements around organized labor, social justice, and humane treatment of individuals. Once students have read and critically thought about these connections, they will write a response supported with evidence from the text to answer the investigative question on the impact of Chávez’s early years and development.  This Common-Core aligned lesson includes extensions and adaptations for ELL students and readers at multiple levels.

Use visuals and picture booksCESAR

Appropriate for younger students, but inspirational for all ages, picture books have a unique capacity to captivate and educate. The following books all have linked teacher’s guides.

Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para Soñar Juntos by Francisco Alarcón pays tribute to those who toil in the fields, and to César Chávez. This is an excellent bilingual book to use in your celebration of National Poetry Month in April.

Amelia’s Road by Linda Jacobs Altman explores the daily life of migrant farm working in California’s Central Valley from a child’s perspective. According to the publisher, Lee and Low Books, “it is an inspirational tale about the importance of home.”

First Day in Grapes by L. King Perez follows Chico and his family traveling farm to farm across California where every September they pick grapes and Chico enters a different school. But third grade year is different and Chico begins to find his own voice against the bullies at his school

Calling the Doves / El Canto de las Palomas by Juan Herrera is the poet’s account of his own childhood as a migrant farmworker.  Beautifully illustrated and composed in Spanish and English, Herrera describes the simple joys he misses from his native Mexico as well as detailing his personal journey in becoming a writer.

A brief video Mini-Bio: César Chávez sets the foundation for older students to learn about the major achievements of Chávez’s life.

Initiate a community service project

Chávez was explicit about the need to serve one’s community. As a class, identify a need in your community and then brainstorm ways that students can make a difference from running a donation drive to decorating school walls in order to welcome all students and families.  Take inspiration from the students in Fellsmere, FL for a more intensive project and let us know about it and apply for our community grants.

Extend learning into the present state of migrant farm workers

Read How Inaction on Immigration Impacts the Agricultural Economy (American Immigration Council) and What happens when more than half of migrant workers are undocumented? (Michigan Radio)  Ask students: What is the status of migrant labor today in the U.S.?  How much has changed and stayed the same since Chávez’s early childhood?

Read Interview with a Crab Picker (Public Welfare Foundation) and explore what it is like to apply for U.S. jobs while residing in the home country.  Pair this reading with the short film about a Public Welfare Foundation grantee: Centro De Los Derechos Del Migrante, Inc. available on their website. Ask students:  How do these recent interviews and stories compare and contrast with the conditions facing Chávez and his family? How are some individuals in home countries benefitting from sending migrant workers to the U.S.?

Have more ideas on teaching César Chávez and his legacy with students?  We’d love to hear them.  Email us at teacher@immcouncil.org and follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration.

Sara SelfSara Burnett is the education associate at the American Immigration Council, a non-partisan non-profit dedicated to honoring our nation’s immigrant past and shaping our immigrant future. She was a former public high school English teacher in Washington D.C. and Vermont. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she taught a service-learning and creative writing with undergraduates and recently immigrated high school students. Additionally, she holds a MA in English Literature from the University of Vermont, and a BA in English and Economics from Boston College. 

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4. Featured Fight: USB versus Motherboard

Once more the CPU God has looked down upon me unfavorably. For the third time in just over a year, the motherboard has died on my “new” solid-state laptop. The computer is a dream–when it works correctly.

The odds of having three bad boards in one computer, under 14 months, must be astronomical.  The good news is I know what the culprit is, and no, it is not me. When the piece for the mouse was plugged in darkness fell upon the screen and all became silent. It must be the USB causing a spark or static and that is what has been killing the motherboards. The first  time an external drive was attached and it killed that also. This time, and last, it only took the computer itself.

The good news, after a heated discussion, Levono once again (though not as willing as  last time), agreed to replace the motherboard and check out the USB, though I am positive that will need replaced also. If not, I foresee a fourth motherboard in my future. The techs know about the problem and they will be reminded, so it will be on them if another board dies.

It will be about two weeks before the laptop is back. Plus, I am finally allowed to bear weight on the bad leg, so now it is time for rehab. I will try to get a review or two up — middle grade novels as I cannot post images using the iPad (that I know of). If anyone knows how to do that, please let me know. Just getting this written was a difficult. The keyboard is so tiny..

Thank you for once again understanding the plight of the CPU. Don’t you just love technology?

 

 

 

 


Filed under: Children's Books

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5. #668 – Alien Dude! #2: Mr. Evil Potato Man and the Food Fight! by E. K. Smith & Peter Grosshauser

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Alien Dude! #2: Mr. Evil Potato Man and the Food Fight!

Written by E. K. Smith
Illustrated by Peter Grosshauser
Zip Line Publishing              9/27/2014
978-0-9883792-1-3
64 pages         Age 7—9
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“When the villain Mr. Evil Potato Man puts a spell on the school food, students start turning into food and a huge food fight erupts. Alien Dude morphs into a peeler and peels, then fries the giant potato. Once the fries are eaten, the spell is broken.” [publisher summary]
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Review
Alien Dude is an early reader for reluctant readers. Aimed at boys (and girls who enjoy alien superheroes), Alien Dude is an enjoyable story about a little alien-student. As Alien Dude sits, quietly working on his lessons, the lunch bell rings. He flies off to the cafeteria, but a quiet lunch will not last long. As kids eat, they start turning into items of food. Pizza, hot dogs, ice cream, and a hamburger with all the works begin popping up at lunch tables. Veggies, too. What in the name of popcorn is going on?

Alien Dude realizes the EVIL Mr. Evil Potato Man has caused the chaos. Alien Dude jumps onto his table and yells,

“Don’t eat the school food! He put a spell on the food.”

Then Mr. Evil Potato Man—the villain—yells . . .

Can you guess what he yells?

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He yells,

“Food Fight!!”

The grey-scale illustrations show kids morphing into food. I would have preferred color interior illustrations. Grosshauser’s ability shines on the covers; a marvelous sight sure to catch passing eyes. The cover also masks the simplicity of the story inside. Young boys—and girls—will not be ashamed to read Alien Dude. a story geared toward reading ability, not the reader’s age. The three chapters are composed of one or two sentences per page, with large illustrated characters. Smith repeats words and simple sentence structures to build reluctant readers’ ability and love of reading.

Alien Dude has special powers, as all superheroes should possess. He can fly, fr course, but the little alien can also morph into any working object of his choice. To defeat Mr. Evil Potato Man, Alien Dude morphs into a potato peeler, following up with a slicer, and finally a fryer. Still, the spell . . . Alien Dude disposed of the villain, but the kids, they’re still cafeteria food.

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Young children will enjoy the cafeteria humor and the unusual ending. However, I wonder why Alien Dude flies off rather than finish his school day. Maybe this Alien Dude’s reward for cooking the villain’s goose, so to speak. Alien Dude is a series. Book 1: Alien Dude! and the Attack of Wormzilla!! is also available. I enjoyed Alien Dude and think young children will also like the school age alien. He could be sitting next to them right now.

ALIEN DUDE!: MR. EVIL POTATO MAN AND THE FOOD FIGHT! Text copyright © 2014 by E. K. Smith. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Peter Grosshauser. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Zip Line Publishing, Charlotte, NC.
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Purchase Alien Dude! at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryZip Line Publishing.
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Learn more about Alien Dude! HERE.
Meet the author, E. K. Smith, at her linkedin:  http://linkd.in/1CvjTyw
Meet the illustrator, Peter Grosshauser, at his short bio:  http://bit.ly/1FdmW5y
Find more reluctant readers at the Zip Line Publishing website:  http://zipintoreading.com/

Alien Dude! #1: Alien Dude! and the Attack of Wormzilla!!

Alien Dude! #1: Alien Dude! and the Attack of Wormzilla!!

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Early Reader, Library Donated Books, Reluctant Readers, Series Tagged: Alien Dude!, Alien Dude! #2: Mr. Evil Potato Man and the Food Fight!, aliens, E. K. Smith, Peter Grosshauser, school, Zip Line Publishing

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6. Do you know your Potter from your Paddington?

The last three decades have seen arguably the most fertile periods in the history of children’s literature, across the field. The phenomenon that is Harry Potter, the rise of YA, and books that tackle difficult subjects for younger readers are just a few examples of the material included in the new edition of The Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature by Daniel Hahn.

The post Do you know your Potter from your Paddington? appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. #667 – LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age by David Zeltser

cover - publisherx

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Lug, Dawn of the Ice Age

. . . . .(How One Small Boy Saved Our Big, Dumb Species)
Written by David Zeltser
Illustrations by Jan Gerardi
Egmont USA          2014
978-1-60684-513-4
190 pages       Age 8 to 12
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“In Lug’s Stone Age clan, a caveboy becomes a caveman by catching a jungle llama and riding it against the rival Boar Rider clan in the Big Game. The thing is, Lug has a forbidden, secret art cave and would rather paint than smash skulls. Because Lug is different, his clan’s Big Man is out to get him, he’s got a pair of bullies on his case—oh, and the Ice Age is coming. When Lug is banished from the clan for failing to catch jungle llama, he’s forced to team up with Stony, a silent Neanderthal with a very expressive unibrow, and Echo (a Boar Rider girl!). In a world experiencing some serious global cooling, these misfits must protect their feuding clans from the impending freeze and a particularly unpleasant pride of migrating saber-toothed tigers.” [book jacket]
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About the Story
The clan has broken into two factions, the Macrauchenia Riders and the Boar Riders. Each clan believes the other are uncivilized—without laws, few table manners, and possibly cannibals—yet each clan is living exactly like the other clan lives. The two only get together for the Big Game, called Headstone, where, using stones, they bash in opponents’ heads. To become cavemen, caveboys must catch an animal to ride in the Big Game.

Lug, a smaller caveboy, is the outsider, the one the bullies and their cohorts pick on. He has no interest in Headstone. Lug AG4simply wants to draw, something not understood by others. He fails to catch a llama and is banished to the woods, along with Stone, who also failed. The hot and humid weather is getting colder, something Lug notices but others brush off. The Ice Age is on its way and no one will listen, except Crazy Crag—banished years ago—and Hamela (aka Echo), a Boar Rider girl. To make matters worse, a pride of hungry saber-toothed tigers is migrating south and heading for the clans—and a meal of cave-people-steak. The cave kids try to save their people with the help of Woolly, a baby woolly mammoth, lost from its family, who can communicate with Echo. Living alone in the woods, Crazy Crag has figured out a few things. Can Lug learn Crazy Crag’s secret in time to save the clans people, or will they become extinct?

Review
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LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age
has all the elements of a book: fast-paced action, suspense, and good characters the reader can relate to and enjoy. Written for middle grade kids, younger advanced readers will also enjoy LUG’s charm. I like the cover and the illustrations, which are black-and-white cave-like drawings, slanted enough to often be funny. The story itself has kid-funny action and characters. Reading it will make you laugh and sometimes groan at the word play, (Headstone; Smilus, the ruthless head saber-tooth tiger; Bonehead, the Big Man’s son).

I love the curly-haired Echo, who is an activist and a vegetarian, possibly the world’s first. I also loved the coming of the CG 4 EchoIce Age’s parallel to today’s climate crisis. LUG might make kids more aware of their own climate changing. Lug agrees, writing in a pre-story note,

“. . . You see, the world began to get colder—much colder. And my clan initially reacted by doing this:

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“That’s right, a whole lot of NOTHING . . . I hope this story will inspire you to pay attention to the big changes happening to your world. If you are extinct, sorry.”

There are no prehistoric dinosaurs, but the animals you will find have interesting qualities, including finding a way to talk to humans. More than anything, I like LUG because it is a good story. If cave kids could read, they would have enjoyed LUG

Lug returns for more prehistoric climate-change adventures this Fall (2015) in LUG: Blast from the North (working title). LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age is David Zeltser’s debut children’s series.  (20% of proceeds go to organizations that help children and families in need.)

LUG: DAWN OF THE ICE AGE (HOW ONE SMALL BOY SAVED OUR BIG DUMB SPECIES). Text copyright © 2014 by David Zeltser. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Jan Gerardi. Published in 2014 by Egmont USA, New York, NY.
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Purchase LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age at AmazoniTunesBook DepositoryEgmont USA.

Learn more about LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age HERE.
Meet the author, David Zeltser, at his website:  http://www.davidzeltser.com/
Meet the illustrator, Jan Gerardi, short bio:  http://bit.ly/19Z1Vh3
Find more Middle Grade Books at the Egmont USA website:  http://egmontusa.com/

Curriculum Guide can be found HERE.
Activity Guide can be found HERE.
fcc LUG DAWN OF THE ICE AGE 2014

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Debut Author, Fast Friday Read, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade Tagged: cavemen, children's books, David Zeltser, Egmont USA, humor, Jan Gerardi, LUG: Dawn of the Ice Age, prehistoric era

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8. 7 End-of-Year Field Trips and Book Pairings That Your Students Will Love (but won’t break the bank)

Assessments may not feel far enough in the past (or perhaps haven’t even started!), but the end of the year is fast approaching and field trip planning is in full force!

It can feel like a scramble. For our final science unit in third grade, my colleagues and I wanted to teach our students about animal adaptions by raising trout in the classroom. It was an incredible opportunity to study the behavioral and physical adaptions of a specific species, but timing their release with a scheduled field trip was tricky. We didn’t know until a week ahead when the fish would be ready for release, which led to a mad rush to book buses.

In case you want to plan a field trip with more than a week of planning, here are some ideas with book pairings to get you ahead of schedule and your students excited!

Field trips

If your unit is…

  1. Habitats, Ecosystems, & Biodiversity

NYC field trip: Central Park Zoo

Book Pairing: Puffling Patrol

How to find puffins near you (if outside of NYC): Association of Zoos & Aquariums makes it easy to find a zoo or aquarium close to your school. Most zoo and aquarium websites will list the animals they have.

Virtual field trip: Puffin burrow bird cam from Explore.org

The art and facts are stunning in this Lee & Low book where children can learn about puffin adaptations and their life cycle. After reading about the adorable creatures, fall in love with the real deal: tufted puffins at the Central Park Zoo.

  1. The Solar System & the Moon

NYC field trip: Hayden Planetarium or Hudson River Museum

Book Pairing: A Full Moon is Rising

How to embark on moon exploration near you (if outside of NYC): Go-astronmy.com has put together a national map to search for local planetariums.

Virtual field trip: Amazing Space

Alongside the science, students love to study folktales and mythology from around the world featuring and explaining the solar system and moon. Introduce the significance of the moon in world cultures, with this Lee & Low title which gives readers a world tour of diverse celebrations and beliefs regarding Earth’s only natural satellite.

  1. Plant Adaptations

NYC field trip: Queens County Farm Museum and other farm field trips from GrowNYC.org

Book Pairing: Rainbow Stew, Yum! ¡Mmmm! ¡Qué rico! America’s Sproutings, and Auntie Yang’s Great Soybean Picnic

How to find a garden near you (if outside of NYC): Check out Better Homes and Gardens’ Garden Locator and the National Gardening Association’s Public Gardens Locator

Virtual field trip: My First Garden from University of Illinois Extension program


Share the joy of growing healthy food and the experiences of working the land with these Lee & Low titles!

  1. Life Cycles and Animal Adaptations

In NYC field trip: The Butterfly Conservatory at the Natural History Museum

Book Pairing: Leo and the Butterflies, Animal Poems of the Iguazu, and Butterflies for Kiri

How to find butterflies near you (if outside of NYC): Discover a butterfly house in your state. Also, the  Association of Zoos & Aquariums makes it easy to find a zoo close to your school.

Virtual field trip: Butterflies and Moths of North America, Journey North with monarchs, and Wildscreen ArKive

What better way to celebrate these amazing creatures than to marvel at their incredible adaptations up close?

 

  1. Natural Resources, Human Impact, & Sustainability

In NYC field trip: Hudson River Park

Book Pairing: Water Rolls, Water Rises and I Know the River Loves Me

How to find a body of water near you (if outside of NYC): The National Park Service has created the Find a Park search tool to discover a park by location, activity, or topic.

Virtual field trip: Interactive animation, “The NYC Water Story,” from American Museum of Natural History’s Water: H2O=Life exhibit

Foster respect and a sense of responsibility about the environment with hands-on, outdoors learning and these stunning stories that pack a powerful message about one of our most precious resources.

  1. Recycling

In NYC field trip: Sims Municipal Recycling: Sunset Park Materials Recycling Facility in Brooklyn

Book Pairing: The Can Man

How to find a recycling center or landfill near you (if outside of NYC): Many recycling centers and landfills offer student tours and you can find one near your school here.  It is recommended to call to see if the nearest one to you does school programs.

Virtual field trip: My Garbology from Naturebridge.org

Learn about the impact of recycling on the environment and human relationships.

  1. Physics: Forces & Energy

In NY State field trip: Baseball Hall of Fame or professional baseball stadium

Book Pairing: Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy, Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl’s Baseball Dream, and Louis Sockalexis: Native American Baseball Pioneer

How to find a baseball stadium near you (if outside of NYC): Maps are available to find the nearest major league baseball stadium and most offer student discounts or field trip tours. Minor League Baseball also has a map for its stadiums. For the most accessible option, check here and you can find a local baseball field for students to play themselves or see community members try out the laws of physics.

Virtual field trip: Exploratorium’s Science of Baseball

Long considered America’s “national pastime,” baseball has had major historic milestones paralleling societal changes and attitudes. Readers of all ages delight in learning about overlooked, but nevertheless significant, pioneers in the sport and trivia like the origins of baseball coaching signals.

Pair a Lee & Low title to your beyond-the-classroom-walls adventure to deepen background knowledge and create an interdisciplinary, multi-media experience. Young learners will never forget the time you made the book come alive with a visit to any one of these sights.

You may have a dozens of reminders set, but here is a thorough list to help you plan and execute a successful field trip from the educators at Learn NC.

Field Trip Funding:

  • DonorsChoose.org –For inspiration and proposal models, be sure to study what other teachers in your area and around the country are requesting for their field trips
  • Target Field Trip Grants—These are accepted in August and September only, but this grant option is one of the most popular for teachers around the country
  • ClassWallet
  • Every Kid in a Park—new initiative to help all fourth graders and their families explore our national parks for free
  • Ticket to Ride—National Park Foundation’s answer to transportation costs to and from the national parks and monuments
  • Student Achievement Grants—from the NEA Foundation
  • Road Scholarship from Student & Youth Travel Association (SYTA) Foundation—financial aid for individual students unable to afford to travel
  • PTA—your local PTA may have additional opportunities, ideas, and grants to fund your field trip

Local funding options:

Resources for virtual field trips:

Free ipad Apps for Virtual Field Trips from Edutopia

What are your experiences and tips on bridging a field trip with classroom content? What books have you used in the classroom or at home to begin or culminate a learning adventure? Share with us!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her weekly column at The Open Book, she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

1 Comments on 7 End-of-Year Field Trips and Book Pairings That Your Students Will Love (but won’t break the bank), last added: 4/9/2015
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9. Interview with Whitney Stewart, author of 'Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids'

Whitney Stewart grew up in New England and graduated from Brown University. She published her first award-winning, young adult biography after interviewing the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, the subject of two of her books. She trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in the Everest region of Nepal; interviewed Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon, Burma; and traveled extensively in Asia to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping, Mao Zedong, and Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. She is the author of three middle-grade novels and multiple middle-grade nonfiction books, including an unknown tale of Abraham Lincoln and artist Francis Bicknell Carpenter. Her newest picture books include A Catfish Tale, a bayou retelling of the Grimm brothers’ Fisherman and his Wife, and Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids.

Welcome to Mayra's Secret Bookcase, Whitney! Tell us, do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

I was born with deep intuition, curiosity about people, and a love of story and language. Those are my innate qualities. So, in that sense, yes, I am a born writer. But writing takes talent, discipline, study of the craft, imagination, and patience. I have developed those over the years.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes. I started to love writing stories in 4thgrade, and submitting to publishers in 10th grade.

Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

I have been meditating since high school. I traveled to Tibet and India when I was in my twenties and learned meditation from Tibetan Buddhist monks. I came home and wanted to teach kids the basics of meditation without religious affilitation.

My new picture book, Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids, is nondenominational book of simple meditations easy enough for preschoolers and sophisticated enough for adults.

Tell us about your children's books.

I began by publishing young adult biographies of Nobel laureates and adventurers (the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Sir Edmund Hillary and more). Then I branched out into writing middle grade nonfiction on such subjects as shipwrecks and Abraham Lincoln. Now I am publishing picture books (fiction and nonfiction) for the youngest readers. Last year I published A Catfish Tale, a silly retelling of Grimms’ The Fisherman and His Wife, set in the Louisiana bayou. I am now working on a middle grade novel set in New Orleans and a middle grade nonfiction book about the hunt for a missing German WWII soldier. 

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Yes, I suffered from a creative block after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans where I live. I was evacuated by helicopter from a rooftop after waiting five days in a flooded building. I had to move away from home for 4 ½ months and spent most of my time filing FEMA papers and insurance claims. After I returned to New Orleans, I could not settle easily into my writing routine. I took a private drawing class for a few months to experiment with another creative outlet. I am not a natural artist, but I loved this class nonetheless. I did charcoal portraits of faces. Then I imagined them in stories, which helped me start writing again. After the class ended, I then wrote and published a children’s novel and two shipwreck books. 

Some writers go on long walks, others keep a journal, write at a café, or listen to music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?

I take long walks or a bike ride almost every day. And I travel and research the history of the places where I go. I write nonfiction, so I turn my travels into writing projects. I used to journal when I traveled, but I don’t often do that now. I’m not sure why. However, during my three most recent research journeys, I published an online, eight-part travel series of my adventure.

Describe your working environment.

I work at home in my office library. I am surrounded by windows. I love my office except it has be very noisy when my neighbors on both sides renovated their houses, or when my neighbor’s landscape crew comes through every Monday with leaf-blowers and loud machinery. 

Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style? 

Yes, very disciplined. I work every weekday from about 9am or 10am (after exercising) until 5pm or 6pm. I don’t usually write on weekends unless my family is out of town and I have a deadline. I don’t write at night either. I am a morning person.

Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?

I wish I did outlines or worked on plot first. I am not good at that. I just plunge right into my story and craft the fiction plot or nonfiction chapter sequence later. I often attempt to plot in advance but give up.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?


What are you working on now?

I spent three years on an international hunt for a German WWII soldier (my husband’s uncle) who disappeared from the Russian front after he wrote his last two letters home on January 12, 1945. I was always curious about this man and could not accept that he faded from life without a trace. After Hurricane Katrina, I discovered a box of his war letters in an attic of a flooded house. I went to Germany and Poland three times to follow his last known days. I even worked with a Polish metal detector expert to dig up shrapnel and bones in a former WWII battlefield where my soldier fought. I have learned from the soldier’s letters that he never wanted to fight for the Nazi government and wanted both sides to put down their guns and let the world leaders negotiate peace.

I am now writing a middle grade book that weaves together the soldier’s story with my story to find him. It will be illustrated with drawings, old photographs, and war documents. When I have a solid draft, I will pitch it to publishers. 

Where are your books available?

At online and indie bookstores. I did publish a few museum press books that are only available now from these museum stores.

What was your experience in looking for a publisher?

This is always a challenge. It take time, energy, research, and patience. I used to do all of my own submitting. Now I have a literary agent who submits my work to publishers. I recommend having a agent in today’s publishing climate.

What was your experience in working with an illustrator?

Normally, children’s book writers do not get to choose their illustrator. The publisher does that. In those situations, I am often consulted on early drafts of illustrations. I have contributed comments when I see an inaccurancy in a drawing or when something does not match my text. One time an illustrator drew a left-handed guitar player, but my character was right-handed. I caught the mistake that I knew kids would also discover.

I have also sent photos of a setting if the illustrator does not have access to such.

I have been lucky to work with a few friends on illustrations. I did not tell them how or what to draw. But, if they asked for my feedback, I exchanged ideas with them. Illustrators rock! I have deep admiration for them.

What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

Marketing is not my strong suit. I am shy about promoting my books unless I am invited to give a talk. That’s when I have fun because I love to connect with my readers of any age. I am comfortable talking in public and prepare well for each talk.

I also promote my books on social media, but I prefer to give talks and let my connection with people help sell my books. 

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Have a thick skin and don’t take things personally. Keep moving forward. Every rejection is only a challenge to revise your story and find another publisher. Also, develop a writing habit and discipline, even if you can only write for an hour a day.
And finally, READ.

Who are your favorite authors?

That’s a tought question, which I answer differently depending on what I have been reading lately. Some of my favorite children’s book writers (not complete list) are: Suzanne Fisher Staples, Sally Rippin, Laurie Halse Anderson, Shaun Tan, Peter Sis, Allen Say, James Cross Giblin, Marcus Zusak, and Susan Campbell Bartoletti.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.

What’s your favorite children’s book of all time?

Impossible question. Sorry. That said, The Book Thief  and Owl Moon are definitely at the top of my list. 

What is the best advice on writing you've ever received?

Revise. Revise. Revise. 

We hear again and again that picture books are incredibly difficult to write. Why is that?

I love writing them. But every single word counts, especially now when word counts are way down for picture books. Finding the right pacing, element of humor or poignancy, and plot line is very tricky in 14 double-page spread.

How do you see the future of children’s picture books?

I just read an article, reported by the great Harold Underdown (http://www.underdown.org/) who has his finger on the pulse of children’s book publishing, that sales for children’s books are on the rise and outdid that of adult books in the last quarter. I think the field will survive the digital age. However, nonfiction books seem to be more and more limited. That’s a challenge for me because I love writing nonfiction. I need to rethink the way I write nonfiction so that I can continue to connect with young readers. 

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers? 
I love communicating with you. Send me questions and book ideas on my website. Invite me to your schools and libraries so we can meet. Find me at @whitneystewart2 or at http://whitneystewart.com/. Or read my travel series about the hunt for a missing German soldier at http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/finding-reiner-disaster-to-discovery.
And thanks for loving books.






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10. Winners: 2014 Best Books on Kid Lit Review

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Well, it’s a little later than it should be,  . . . .but the voting is done and the winners have been chosen. Thank you to everyone who voted for the 2014 winners.   It was an honor to review each of these books.

To become a Top Book, and in the running for Best Book, a book must receive a 6-star review here at Kid Lit Reviews, released within the 2013 and 2014, and have been reviewed between December 1, 2013 and November 30, 2014. Voting normally occurs in December and the results announced in January. This year the only variation was the actual voting, which took place in March. Hopefully 2015 will be a healthier year and all will go as planned.

So, without any further delay, here are the winners.  Congratulations to all.

2014 PB hi resBest Picture Book

The Grudge Keeper

Author:  Mara Rockliff

Illustrator:  Eliza Wheeler

Publisher:  Peachtree Publishers    (April 1, 2014)

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2014 MB hi resBest Middle Grade Novel

The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire

Author:  Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Cover Artist:  David McClellan

Publisher:  HarperCollins Children’s Books    (September 23, 2014)

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2014 NF hi resBest Nonfiction Book

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Author: Patricia Hruby Powell

Illustrator: Christian Robinson

Publisher: Chronicle Books    (January 14, 2014)

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2014 poetry hi resBest Poetry Book

Rhyme Schemer

Author:  K. A. Holt

Publisher:  Chronicle Books (October 1, 2014)

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2014 holiday hi resBest Holiday Book

Lobo’s Howliday (The Adventures of Loveable Lobo #5)

Author:  C. L. Murphy

Illustrator:  C. L. Murphy

Publisher:  Peanut Butter Prose    (December 1, 2013)

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cat-reading-bookWINNERS: I can offer you the files for your “stamp,” if you are interested. Otherwise this is more bragging rights than anything. Please email (or use contact form). Once again, congratulations to all the winners!

mycutegraphicsdotcomlogo

(flags and reading cat © Laura Strickland @ My Cute Graphics)


Filed under: Children's Books, Holiday Book, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry, Top 10 of 2014 Tagged: 2014 best books on KLR, C.L. Murphy, Christian Robinson, Chronicle Books, David McClellan, Eliza Wheeler, HarperCollins Children’s Books, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker, K.A. Holt, Lobo’s Howliday (The Adventures of Loveable Lobo #5), Mara Rockliff, Patricia Hruby Powell, Peachtree Publishers, Peanut Butter Prose, Rhyme Schemer, The Grudge Keeper, The Guardian Herd #1: Starfire

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11. #665 – Catwoman Counting (DC Board Books) by Benjamin Bird & Ethen Beavers

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Catwoman Counting

Series: DC Board Books
Written by Benjamin Bird
Illustrated by Ethen Beavers
Picture Window Books 8/01/2014
978-1-4795-5209-2
20 pages Age 1 to 3
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“Catwoman is on the loose in Gotham City! Young readers team up with Batman, tracking down the cat burglar and learning their numbers along the way!” [publisher summary]
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Yesterday, Book-O-Beards was a good choice for boys. Today,  Catwoman Counting, will level field with a book that will immediately appeal to young girls. On the 75th birthday of Batman, young readers have a new and exciting way to learn their numbers one to ten. Catwoman steals 1 bag of precious jewels, but in the night sky is the bat signal. Soon, Batman will be on the case of the missing jewels! Ah, but Catwoman can hear Batman with her 2 pointy ears. Batman throws his 3 batarangs into the night sky as Catwoman transverses 4 rooftops.

The chase is on. Who will win this clawed caper? Will 6 foot, er, paw-prints lead Batman to Catwoman’s lair? Will Catwoman escape with the 9 stolen jewels or will Batman and his 8 bats capture and cage this criminal-kitty? Stay tuned to Catwoman Counting for the fur-raising conclusion.

Catwoman Counting

Young children who like Batman, or super-heroes in general—or adults wanting to introduce their children to this 1960’s icon—will be intrigued with this one-to-ten counting book. Large hero-villain personas chase through the colorful, glossy pages of this counting cat caper. The large 10” by 10” book brings the larger-than-life story to young eyes who will love counting villains, pointy ears, batarangs, rooftops, windows, footprints, trees, bats, jewels, and claws.

Counting is easy with Catwoman Counting. Each spread is a new, in order, number. The pages are made of thick cardboard made to withstand little hands, multiple readings, and grape jelly (strawberry, if you prefer). I really like the look and feel of Catwoman Counting and believe kids will as well. The cover of Catwoman Counting will appeal more to young girls, yet with the inclusion of Batman, boys will also like this imaginative counting book.

Catwoman Counting2
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CATWOMAN COUNTING. Text copyright © 2014 by Benjamin Bird. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Ethen Beavers. Reproduced by permission of Picture Window Books, a Capstone imprint, North Manakato, MN.
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Purchase Catwoman Counting at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryCapstone.
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Learn more about Catwoman Counting HERE.
Meet the author, Benjamin Bird, at his website:
Meet the illustrator, Ethen Beavers, at his website:  http://cretineb.deviantart.com/
Find more DC Board Books at the Capstone website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/

Picture Book Windows is a Capstone imprint.

Also available in the DC Board Books series.

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Batman is Brave!

Batman is Brave!

Superman to the Rescue!

Superman to the Rescue!

Superman Fights for Truth!

Superman Fights for Truth!

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Board Books, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Series Tagged: Batman is Brave, Benjamin Bird, Capstone, Catwoman Counting, DC Board Books, Ethen Beavers, Picture Book Windows, Superman Fights for Truth!, Superman to the Rescue!

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12. Nevada Mentor Program

I am thrilled to have been asked to mentor on the celebrated Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program this year. I was part of the program as a mentee back in 2010/2011. It's pretty special to be asked back and to work with 2-3 mentees myself. The program was probably the one thing I did that really set my career on it's way. The friends and contacts I made are still strong and very much part of my life. Ellen Hopkins and Suzanne Morgan Williams did a marvellous job starting this program and it's as great as ever! Check out the line up of mentors for yourself. Maybe I will see you there? Applications are open ... spaces are limited. What are you waiting for?
http://nevada.scbwi.org/nevada-scbwi-mentor-program/



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13. Illustrator Interview – Mika Song

I have interviewed several winners and runners-up of the SCBWI winter conference portfolio competition and it is my pleasure to welcome this year’s winner to the blog today, MIKA SONG. Congratulations on your win! And we have promised each other to … Continue reading

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14. #664 – Book-O-Beards (Wearable Books) by Lemke & Lentz

Book-O-Beardsx

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Book-O-Beards

Series: Wearable Books
Written by Donald Lemke
Illustrated by Bob Lentz
Capstone Young Readers        2/01/2015
9778-1-62370-183-3
12 pages         Size: 8” x 8”      Age 1 to 6
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“Fun interactive board book that children and adults can wear like masks, allowing for make-believe games and hilarious snapshot moments! With catchy rhymes, colorful illustrations, and interactive dialogue, everyone will enjoy this laugh-pout-load read-along.” [catalog]
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New for 2015, Book-O-Beards allows young children to become a lumberjack—TIMBER!—a pirate—ARRRG!—a cowboy—YEEHAW!—a sailor—ANCHORS AWEIGH!—a police officer—You’re under ARREST!—or Santa—HO, HO, HO! The Book-O-Beards helps young children role-play different  personas as they try these full-spread, fully bushy beards. Read the rhyming text, and then try one on..

9781623701833_Int01

“This orange beard
is softer than fur. I
In a deep voice
shout out, ‘TIMBER!’”

While the Book-O-Beards will appeal more to young boys, girls can certainly use this imaginative interactive board book. Made of heavy cardboard, the Book-O-Beards will stand-up to many hours of play. Young children love to play make-believe. The Wearable Books series lets kids try on teeth, hats, masks, and beards, all the while producing giggles. The love of reading can begin with one spark from these unusual dual-fun books.


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BOOK-O-BEARDS (A WEARABLE BOOK). Text copyright © 2015 by Donald Lemke. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Bob Lentz. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Capstone Young Readers, an imprint of Capstone, North Manakato, MN.
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Purchase Book-O-Beards at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryCapstone.
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Learn more about Book-O-Beards HERE.
Meet the author, Donald Lemke, at his bio box:  http://www.capstonepub.com/library/authors/lemke-donald/
Meet the illustrator, Bob Lentz, at his website:
Find more interactive fun at the Capstone website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/

Capstone Young Readers is a Capstone Imprint.

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Also available in the Wearable Books series.

maskshatsteeth

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Board Books, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Series Tagged: beards, Bob Lentz, Book-O-Beards, Capstone Young Readers, Donald Lemke, hats, imaginative play, interactive books, masks teeth, Wearable Books

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15. #662 – How to Read a Story by Kate Messner & Mark Siegel

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How to Read a Story
top book of 2015 general
Written by Kate Messner
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Chronicle Books           5/5/2015
978-1-4521-1233-6
32 pages          Age 4 to 8

 

“STEP 1: Find a Story.
“STEP 2: Find a Reading Buddy.
“STEP 3: Find a Cozy Reading Spot.

“Kate Messner and Mark Siegel brilliantly chronicle the process of becoming a reader, from choosing a book and finding someone with whom to share it to guessing what will happen and—finally—coming to The End. How to Read a Story playfully and movingly illustrates the idea that the reader who discovers the love of reading finds, at the end, the beginning.” [book jacket]

Review

Early readers will love this short primer on how to read a picture book. A young boy sits among dozens of books trying to find the perfect one. If you look closely, you will see the dog is laying on what will become the final choice: The Princess, the Dragon, and the Robot. I love little details that ask the reader to pay close attention.

How to Read a Story_Int_Step 1

Step 4 says to look at the cover and try to decipher what the story will be about. Step 5 is the most exciting step as you finally crack the cover, turn to page 1, and begin reading.

“Once upon a time . . .”

I love this book. From the cover on, How to Read a Story is a perfect primer on reading a picture book—the start of a love of reading. One important point: talking like the characters, whether a powerful mouse or a hungry knight, using character voices will increase a reader and listener’s enjoyment of the story. The author uses different fonts to emphasize these changing voices.

The ink and watercolor illustrations are cute and really add to the instructions as they draw you into How to Read a Story. Young kids—and parents—will love the young boy and his reading partner curling up in a soft over-stuffed chair reading and listening, until step 8, when they take a break to predict what might happen next in The Princess, the Dragon, and the Robot. Stiegel illustrates each possibility in a talk-bubble.

“Will the princess tame the dragon?
“Will the robot marry the princess?
“Will the dragon eat them all for lunch?”

How to Read a Story_Int_Step 2

During Step 2, everyone—except the dog—had better things to do than read to the young boy; by the end of his reading aloud, they are all interested in the end. Each of the ten important steps helps teach the wonderment of reading to young children. How to Read a Story looks fantastic and its text is important for all to learn. Once you have read a picture book—following the steps—there is one-step left:

“When the book is over say, ‘The End.’
“And then . . . start all over again.”

HOW TO READ A STORY. Text copyright © 2015 by Kate Messner. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Mark Siegel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.


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Purchase at How to Read a Story AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Books.
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Learn more about How to Read a Story HERE.
Meet the author, Kate Messner, at her website:  http://www.katemessner.com/
Meet the illustrator, Mark Siegel, at his website:  https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/mark-siegel
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Reluctant Readers, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Chronicle Books, How to Read a Story, Kate Messner, Mark Siegel, Reading, writing

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16. #663 – How to Read a Story by Kate Messner & Mark Siegel

cover amx

x

How to Read a Story
top book of 2015 general
Written by Kate Messner
Illustrated by Mark Siegel
Chronicle Books           5/5/2015
978-1-4521-1233-6
32 pages          Age 4 to 8

“STEP 1: Find a Story.
“STEP 2: Find a Reading Buddy.
“STEP 3: Find a Cozy Reading Spot.

“Kate Messner and Mark Siegel brilliantly chronicle the process of becoming a reader, from choosing a book and finding someone with whom to share it to guessing what will happen and—finally—coming to The End. How to Read a Story playfully and movingly illustrates the idea that the reader who discovers the love of reading finds, at the end, the beginning.” [book jacket]

Review

Early readers will love this short primer on how to read a picture book. A young boy sits among dozens of books trying to find the perfect one. If you look closely, you will see the dog is laying on what will become the final choice: The Princess, the Dragon, and the Robot. I love little details that ask the reader to pay close attention.

How to Read a Story_Int_Step 1

Step 4 says to look at the cover and try to decipher what the story will be about. Step 5 is the most exciting step as you finally crack the cover, turn to page 1, and begin reading.

“Once upon a time . . .”

I love this book. From the cover on, How to Read a Story is a perfect primer on reading a picture book—the start of a love of reading. One important point: talking like the characters, whether a powerful mouse or a hungry knight, using character voices will increase a reader and listener’s enjoyment of the story. The author uses different fonts to emphasize these changing voices.

The ink and watercolor illustrations are cute and really add to the instructions as they draw you into How to Read a Story. Young kids—and parents—will love the young boy and his reading partner curling up in a soft over-stuffed chair reading and listening, until step 8, when they take a break to predict what might happen next in The Princess, the Dragon, and the Robot. Stiegel illustrates each possibility in a talk-bubble.

“Will the princess tame the dragon?
“Will the robot marry the princess?
“Will the dragon eat them all for lunch?”

How to Read a Story_Int_Step 2

During Step 2, everyone—except the dog—had better things to do than read to the young boy; by the end of his reading aloud, they are all interested in the end. Each of the ten important steps helps teach the wonderment of reading to young children. How to Read a Story looks fantastic and its text is important for all to learn. Once you have read a picture book—following the steps—there is one-step left:

“When the book is over say, ‘The End.’
“And then . . . start all over again.”

HOW TO READ A STORY. Text copyright © 2015 by Kate Messner. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Mark Siegel. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.


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Purchase at How to Read a Story AmazonB&NBook DepositoryChronicle Books.
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Learn more about How to Read a Story HERE.
Meet the author, Kate Messner, at her website:  http://www.katemessner.com/
Meet the illustrator, Mark Siegel, at his website:  https://www.tumblr.com/tagged/mark-siegel
Find more picture books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/
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fcc

Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 6 Stars TOP BOOK, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Reluctant Readers, Top 10 of 2015 Tagged: Chronicle Books, How to Read a Story, Kate Messner, Mark Siegel, Reading, writing

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17. Maria Jordan's interview with Sannel Larson


 Sannel Larson - The Total Picture 
An Interview by Maria Jordan 
You may read the whole interview here: Inspiration Station






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18. 4 Mentor Texts and Activities for National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month. With so many forms of poetry to explore and share with students, what will you choose? 

Here are 4 ideas for using mentor texts to guide students in poetry study.

Additional bonus: a letter to teachers from author and poet, Pat Mora, on the power of poetry.

Poetry MonthPoem type: FOUND POETRY

Mentor Text: Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet

Activity with students: Students select words and phrases from a primary text and use those words to create their own unique poems.

As “Primary Sources + Found Poetry = Celebrate Poetry Month” suggests, the Library of Congress proposes an innovative way to combine poetry and nonfiction. Teaching With The Library of Congress recently re-posted the Found Poetry Primary Source Set that “supports students in honing their reading and historical comprehension skills by creating poetry based upon informational text and images.” Students will study primary source documents, pull words and phrases that show the central idea, and then use those pieces to create their own poems.

This project not only enables teachers to identify whether a student grasps a central idea of a text, but also encourages students to interact with primary sources in much the same way as Etched In Clay’s Andrea Cheng. When researching Dave’s life and drawing inspiration for her verses, Andrea Cheng integrated the small pieces of evidence of Dave’s life, including poems on his pots and the bills of sale.

Lee & Low teacher’s guide

Poem type: HAIKU

Mentor Text: Cool Melons—Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa

Activity with students: Students write haiku using sensory language and drawing inspiration from body movement, music, and art to create their own haiku.

Check out the classroom-tested, standards-aligned lesson plan Experiencing Haiku Through Mindfulness, Movement & Music by Rashna Wadia with Cool Melons— Turn to Frogs! provided by ReadWriteThink.org, a website developed by the International Literacy Association and the National Council of Teachers of English.

Additional resources:

Lee & Low teacher’s guide

Poem type: CONCRETE OR SHAPE POETRY

Mentor Text: Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building

Activity with students: Students choose a building to describe in a poem and shape the poem to look like the building.

In Reading is Fundamental’s educator activity guide for, Dreaming Up, encourage students to try the writing activity “Shape It Up:” Let students pick a type of building and write a poem describing that building (how it looks, its purpose, etc). Students should write their poems on white paper in the shape of the building and decorate the background. (RIF)

Lee & Low teacher’s guide

Poem type: NARRATIVE POETRY

Mentor Text: Chess Rumble

Activity with students: Students compare narrative and lyric poetry and write their own narrative poem based on real or imagined experiences or events.

Check out the research-based novel study unit for Chess Rumble created by the staff at the award-winning, non-profit ReadWorks.org. Students will compare the story elements of Chess Rumble to Where the Sidewalk Ends and Keeping the Night Watch.

Next, students write their unique narrative poem—for tips “by youth for youth” check out How to Write a Narrative Poem from Power Poetry.

Further reading on using poetry in the classroom:

What are your favorite poems to enjoy in the classroom? Share with us!

Jill Eisenberg, our Senior Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

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19. CBC Children’s Choice, Vote Polar Bear

KaliChildrensChoiceIt is such an honor to have Kali’s Story: An Orphaned Polar Bear Rescue selected as a finalist for the CBC Children’s Choice Awards! But kids, now we need your help!

Vote for Kali!!

//www.dogobooks.com/polls/3-4th-gr-book-of-the-year-2015/iframe


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20. #657 – We’re the Center of the Universe!: Science’s Biggest Mistakes About Astronomy and Physics Series: Science Gets It Wrong by Christine Zuchora-Walske

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We’re the Center of the Universe!: Science’s Biggest Mistakes About Astronomy and Physics

Series:  Science Gets It Wrong
Written by Christine Zuchora-Walske
Lerner Publishing Group         9/1/2014
978-1-4677-3663-3
32 pages          Age 9 to 12
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“The universe circles around Earth.
Creatures live on the Sun.
You can tell the future by looking at the Stars.

At one time, science supported wild notions like these! But later studies proved these ideas were nonsense. Discover science’s biggest mistakes and oddest assumptions about physics and astronomy, and see how scientific thought changes over time.”

Review

Why is Pluto no longer a planet? What makes waves ebb and flow as they do? How did the universe begin? We’re the Center of the Universe will answer these questions and many more in this truly fascinating read. Even non-science buffs will find We’re the Center of the Universe interesting.

We’re the Center of the Universe packs a wild punch. Kids can learn about some of the greatest thinkers and scientists throughout history, and how their thoughts and postulates—once considered true—are now terribly off base. The physical sciences change with time. New information and tools improve research. New scientists bring new ideas. We’re the Center of the Universe will have kids laughing—and thinking—about the beliefs people once held, but as the author states,

“. . . in the future, people might think our scientific ideas are pretty goofy too!”

I loved the book and found it difficult to put down. Well-written and well-researched, kids will be drawn into to this primer on the misconceptions regarding our world and universe, specifically in the areas of physics and astronomy. The illustrations and photographs are fantastic and teachers can quickly incorporate We’re the Center of the Universe into the Common Core requirements.  

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Ms. Christine Zuchora-Walske knows how to write non-fiction for children. We’re the Center of the Universe is not a dry textbook, but rather a great adjunct text, a quick reference, and a fun read. In the resources section, she thoughtfully summarizes each book and website so readers can quickly find more information about whatever sparked their interest.

From ancient times to modern times, science continues to change and, sometimes, old ideas and thoughts are simply funny or just odd. Kids will find much to laugh about and learn inside the covers of We’re the Center of the Universe.
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WE’RE THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE! : SCIENCE’S BIGGEST MISTAKES ABOUT ASTRONOMY AND PHYSICS (SCIENCE GETS IT WRONG). Text copyright © 2014 by Christine Zuchora-Walske. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Lerner Publishing Group, Minneapolis, MN.
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Learn more about We’re the Center of the Universe! HERE.
Purchase We’re the Center of the Universe! at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryLerner Publishing Group.

Meet the author, Christine Zuchora-Walske at her Lerner bio:  https://www.lernerbooks.com/contacts/987/Christine-Zuchora-Walske
View  Christine Zuchora-Walske’s linkedin page:  https://www.linkedin.com/pub/christine-zuchora-walske/5/998/847
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SevenCsEditorial
Find more from the Science Gets it Wrong series at the Lerner Publishing website:  https://www.lernerbooks.com/

DON’T FORGET to VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Last Chance! VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Middle Grade, NonFiction, Series Tagged: astronomy for kids, Christine Zuchora-Walske, Lerner Publishing Group, physics for kids, scientific misconceptions, We're the Center of the Universe!: Science's Biggest Mistakes About Astronomy and Physics (Science Gets It Wrong)

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21. PPBF: Eine Kleine Dickmadam

KidLitReviews:

Check out this board book on Julie Rown Zoch’s site. The illustrations are AWESOME! I can’t review this one myself, so this may be a one time look-see. (Don’t forget to come back.)

Originally posted on julie rowan-zoch:

EineKleineDickmadam

A Little Fat Madam: Funny Rhymes for Children (my direct translation!)
Illustrator: Franz Zauleck
Publisher: LieV, 2010; originally published 1979
Ages: 3-6yrs
Themes: funny rhymes in German

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Opening: “Eine kleine Dickmadam reiste mit der Eisenbahn; Eisenbahne krachte, Dickmadame lachte, lachte bis der Schaffner kam und sie mit zur Wache nahm.”

EineKleineDM3Summary: board book with funny rhymes for children.

EineKleineDM4I bought this book because: my daughter planned a visit to the Leipzig Biook Fair while I stayed with her in Germany. I planned to purchase a select few that I could fit in my wee suitcase. This one has pretty edgy illustrations for a 36 year old book! Sure, I enjoy rhymes, and hope to read this to a child someday, but I bought this last Friday for ME!

EineKleineDM5Resources/activities: though it may seem odd to read a few German rhymes to English speaking preschoolers, I think it would be fun for them…

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22. #658 – The Story Starts Here! by Caroline Merola

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The Story Starts Here!

Written and illustrated by Caroline Merola
Owlkids Books         9/15/2014
978-1-77147-079-7
40 pages      Age 4 to 8

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“Little Wolf wants to do things his way. And that includes starting HIS story from the back of the book. But Little Wolf’s topsy-turvy day gets a unexpected twist  when someone else decides to join in on the fun.

Play along as Little Wolf turns the picture book on its head!”

Review

Little Wolf is one stubborn little guy.

Oh, wait! I forgot to tell you a very important thing—The Story Starts Here has the ending at the beginning and the beginning at the end.  So flip the book around and upside down, and then open the back “front” cover. Ready?

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Little Wolf is one stubborn little guy.

“Because I said so.”

He wants things his way, including with you; you are reading his book upside down and backwards. Little Wolf eats dessert first, puts his pants on his head, and plays piano with his toes. Little Wolf declares today is backward day to his unwilling and objecting parents.

“No, you will not begin with dessert.”
“No, you will not play piano with your toes!”

Sent to his room to think about his contrary behavior, Little Wolf sneaks outside (with his pants still fashionably atop his head). Outside, all the creatures are quickly running away from something. Little Wolf turns around and finds he is face-to-face with a monster. The Story Starts Here had me laughing from the get go at Little Wolf and his backward antics. Little Wolf playing the piano and wearing his trousers’ on his head is hilarious, but not as much as the twist. The monster is feeling a bit topsy-turvy itself. “It” explains this to Little Wolf, who seems to understand . . . until the monster tells Little Wolf to flip the book back over.

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Oh, wait! I forgot again. Keep the book open and flip back over so the beginning is the beginning and the end is the end. Now we can finish the story.

Despite the funny goings on the story could be better. Little Wolf is the same stubborn wolf as he was at page . . . the beginning of the story. He does not even think the twist is funny. (Spoilt sport, he is!)  I really like The Story Starts Here and the concept of an upside day. Feeling a little off is a good time to mix things up. Good thing dad understands his son.

I love “Dad Books.” The Story Starts Here will entertain fathers and sons, making a great reading experience for both. Little Wolf is generic and so can be any child; dad can be any father. Kids will love the craziness of flipping and reading backward, then suddenly flipping back. It is one more way to engage and interest them in reading. Kids will also love the surprise ending (a new fashion, which had me laughing, is born).  If the book does not make you dizzy—it will not—you and your child will enjoy a funny story and a great lead into a discussion on how sometimes a story—or the world—has more than one view.
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THE STORY STARTS HERE! Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Caroline Merola. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Owlkids Books, Berkely, CA.
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Purchase The Story Starts Here at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryOwlkids Books
Learn more about The Story Starts Here HERE.
Meet the author/illustrator, Caroline Merola, at her website:  http://www.carolinemerola.com/
Find more picture books at the Owlkids Books website:  https://store.owlkids.com
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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews
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Last Chance! VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: "my way", Caroline Merola, fathers and sons, Owlkids Books, stubborn, The Story Starts Here, tolerance, topsy-turpy, world view

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23. #659 – Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox & Stephanie Graegin

9780803740914_medium_Peace_is_an_Offering

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Peace is an Offering

Written by Annette LeBox
Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin
Dial Books for Young Readers         3/10/2015
978-0-8037-4091-4
40 pages          Age 3 to 5

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“Peace is an offering.
A muffin or a peach.
A birthday invitation.
A trip to the beach.

“Follow these neighborhood children as they find love in everyday things—in sunlight shining through leaves and cookies shared with friends—and learn that peace is all around, if you just look for it.”

Review

Peace is an Offering contains a strong message about what the abstract concept of peace means for the young (and old): helping one another, being kind, joining together, and enjoying all aspects of life with respect to your family, friends, and neighbors. Peace does not need to be overcomplicated or forced. Peace is the accumulation of all the small, meaningful acts we do each day.

“Will you stay with me?
Will you be my friend?
Will you listen to my story
till the very end?”

The children in this large neighborhood, make, find, and (most importantly), show kindness to each other every day in simple heartfelt ways. The poem is beautifully written and illustrated. Children will easily understand each deftly visualized line or verse of the poem. Multicultural children interact with each other, families spend time together, and friends stay close.

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What is not to love about Peace is an Offering? Nothing, though the spread alluding to 911 seems unnecessary. The verse feels out of place, as does the illustration, which deviates from the light, airy, everyday life depicted on the other spreads (see two examples here). but for those who lost a loved one or friend, the spread may provide comfort. Peace is an Offering is a gratifying read; uplifting and inspiring young and old alike. The author finishes the poem by offering advice to children.

So offer a cookie,
Walk away from a fight.
Comfort a friend
Through the long, dark night.

I loved every aspect of every spread. The poetry speaks to the heart. Pencil and watercolor illustrations have those details I rave about. Simply said, Peace is an Offering is a joy to read.

PEACE IS AN OFFERING. Text copyright © 2015 by Annette LeBox. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by Stephanie Graegin. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Penguin Random House, NY.
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Purchase Peace is an Offering at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryPenguin Random House.
Learn more about Peace is an Offering HERE.

Meet the author, Annette LeBox, at her website:  http://annettelebox.com/
Meet the illustrator, Stephanie Graegin, at her website:  http://graegin.com/
Find more picture books at Dial Books for Young Readers website:  http://www.penguin.com/meet/publishers/dialbooksforyoungreaders/

Dial Books for Young Readers is an imprint of Penguin Random House.  http://www.penguin.com/children/

Last Chance! VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews

Last Chance! VOTE for YOUR FAVORITE BEST BOOK for 2014 HERE.


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Picture Book, Poetry Tagged: acceptance, Annette LeBox, Dial Books for Young Readers, family, friends, love, multicultural, peace, Peace is an Offering, Penguin Random House, relationships, Stephanie Graegin

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24. Indiegogo Campaign Launched For a Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Documentary

Producer Cody Meirick has launched a crowdfunding venture on Indiegogo. He hopes to raise $28,000.00 to shoot a documentary about Alvin Schartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

The film will explore several topics including gothic folklore, censorship, and Schartz’s process for creating this classic children’s book. We’ve embedded a video above that features more details about this movie.

Here’s more about the project: “This upcoming documentary will explore the history and background of one of the most controversial works of modern children’s literature: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. In many American libraries of the ’80s and ’90s these books developed a growing interest from boys and girls who were taken in by the gothic tales, the whimsical tone, and the ghostly illustrations. Now the Scary Stories book series stands as the most challenged children’s book of the last 30 years and a testament to the power of something that is often taken for granted: a good scary story.” (via Nerdist.com)

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25. #660 – Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart by Jennifer Adams & Ron Stucki

cover babylit first steps book

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Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart
Sequel to Edgar Gets Ready For Bed
Written by Jennifer Adams
Illustrated by Ron Stucki
Gibbs Smith           9/20/2014
978-1-4236-3766-0
32 pages           Age 4 to 8
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Edgar is dreadfully nervous.. The rambunctious raven knocked over his mother’s prized stone sculpture. But even the influence of his sister, Lenore, threatening to tattle can’t keep Edgar from trying to hide his misdeed.”

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Review

Mom leaves her two little ravens alone for a short while with paper and crayons to occupy them. Little boys being little boys, Edgar—inspired by The Raven— decides to make paper airplanes and throws them at Lenore. Lenore hides. Edgar runs after her with another plane, knocks into a table, and accidentally breaking a statue.

“Look what you did! I’m telling mom when she gets home.”

Sisters can be such difficult creatures. Edgar, hoping mom won’t notice, tries to hide the broken piece. A little mouse suggests under a floorboard and then in a drawer. Finally, while hearing Lenore repeat her I’m-going-to-tell mantra, Edgar and the mouse try to fix the statue—as its eyes look fearfully at the mouse’s offering of tape.

gss pdf 1The illustrations, are black and white with red highlights and light purple backgrounds. This gives the feeling one is peaking in on the raven’s home as the scenes unfold. The story, based on Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, uses a statue—head bust—of Poe, who watches over the children, his eyes darting here and there, providing additional humor for those that notice. The illustrations are very good, though near the end, when the ravens speak their mouths no longer open as they do earlier. Certainly only a small detail and one children may not notice.

When mom returns, Lenore is ready to tell on Edgar, who, with the helpful mouse, has been pacing ever since “fixing” the statue of Poe. Mom stops Lenore short, admonishing her not to tattle. She asks Edgar,

“Edgar, do you have something to tell me?”

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Edgar tearfully apologizes. Mom reminds the young raven how much she loves him; a sweet ending to a typical brother-sister afternoon. Children will laugh at the two ravens, while parents will immediately recognize the tattle-tell from their own lives or that of their children. Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart is a beautifully illustrated story told succinctly in dialogue. It should be another hit in Gibbs Smith’s line of literary-based BabyLit® children’s books. (BabyLit® First Step book)

EDGAR AND THE TATTLE-TALE HEART. Text copyright © 2014 by Jennifer Adams. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Ron Stucki. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Gibbs Smith, UT.

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Purchase Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart at AmazonB&NBook DepositoryGibb Smith.

Read more about Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart HERE.
Meet the author, Jennifer Adams, at her website:  http://jennifer-adams.com/
Meet the illustrator, Ron Stucki, at creativehotlist: http://www.creativehotlist.com/Individuals/details/200567 
Find more BabyLit® at the Gibbs Smith website: www.gibbs-smith.com
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Edgar Gets Ready For Bed2amazonx

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Edgar Gets Ready for Bed: A BabyLit® First Steps Picture book

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Copyright © 2015 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book, Series Tagged: BabyLit®, BabyLit® First Step book, Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart, family, gibbs smith, Jennifer Adams, relationships. Edgar Allen Poe, Ron Stucki, siblings, tattle telling

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