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Results 1 - 25 of 106
1. Karmack by J. C. Whyte

Karmack*Middle-grade fantasy novel

*5th-grade boy as the main character

*Rating: Karmack by J. C. Whyte (MuseItUp Publishing) is a good novel about a bully who learns a bit about karma through the creature pictured here. Filled with humor, interesting characters, plenty of pranks, adventure, and a subtle lesson, children will enjoy this book immensely.

Short, short summary: Sully is the Big Cheese of the 5th grade. He got that way by being tough (a bully) and playing pranks on everyone from classmates to his teachers. He has a gang, and he has enemies. . .until one day, when he sees a little creature, Karmack (stands for Karma) playing pranks on him and his friends. He’s able to catch Karmack and question him about what he’s doing. Karmack’s basically there to even out all the bad things that Sully and his friends are doing. If Karmack doesn’t do his job, all of their bad deeds will add up, and some doom will happen to them. In the end, Sully figures out how to beat bad Karma, and he changes as a result of it. Although it sounds like this novel could be preachy, I don’t feel like it is. The lesson is there, but the characters and situations are interesting enough to get kids into the novel and discuss the lesson afterwards.

Buy this book from the publisher: MUSEITUP Publishing: http://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/museityoung/karmack-detail

So, what do I do with this book?

1. This is a great book to work on reading skills, such as character arc, character emotions, and character motivation. Sully goes through amazing changes in the book–you can discuss why with kids–and also list characteristics he has BEFORE he meets Karmack that might have led to him being able to make these changes.

2. Give students a journal writing prompt: If you could have a conversation with Karmack about your good and bad deeds, what would you say? Write a one-page conversation between you and Karmack OR a letter to Karmack. Are you “balanced”?  Could you get “balanced”?  What if you are leaning in a good way–more good than bad?

3. Before you read the end of the book with children, stop at the part where Sully says he put the mustache on the photo. Ask: Do you think he really did it? Why or why not? How did it get there? Why is it there? What’s going to happen now that Sully admitted it, but maybe didn’t do it? Ask students to use their knowledge of the story world to make some predictions. Then after reading the ending, see who predicted correctly.  (As long as a prediction is logical, even if not correct, it works for this activity.)

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2. Katie Woo: Moving Day by Fran Manushkin Illustrated by Tammie Lyon

Katie Woo

*Early, early chapter book (like Amelia Bedelia), realistic fiction
*6-year-old girl as main character
*Rating: Well, I’m in love with the character, Katie Woo–this is just one book in a series. Young girls will eat these up and want more and more. Love the illustrations, too!

Short, short summary:

In Katie Woo: Moving Day, Katie is moving to a new house, but she is worried about leaving her old house. She writes a note to the new girl who will have her room, and then she goes with her parents to her new abode. She is a bit worried about the “whirlpool” and especially the “sunken living room”–what if she falls in and can’t get out? Once she’s there, she starts to adjust and eventually feels right at home. This is a “chapter book” but there are pictures on every page–PERFECT for first or second graders who want a step-up from a picture book.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Well, here’s a book where I didn’t have to do much brainstorming to show you how to use it because the authors/publisher did it for me! Love this. In the back of the book, there are discussion questions and writing prompts to use with kids. For example, one of the questions to discuss is: Do you think it would be fun to move? Why or why not? One of the writing prompts is: Make a list of ten words that describe your home. The activities are built right in!

2. And there’s more. In the back of the book, there’s also a step-by-step art activity to go with something that happens to Katie Woo in the story. She notices a bird’s nest outside her window, and the art activity is to create a next with a brown bag, glue, and dried leaves, grass, and flowers. This is an activity that kids would probably need help with–especially the part where you change the bag into a nest shape, but it’s a cute activity.

3. For those of you at home or doing this in a school with computer lab free time, it turns out that Katie Woo is ONLINE. (Who would have thought?) So you can go to www.capstonekids.com and click on the picture of Katie Woo. Once you do this, you will be taken to her section of the site where you watch short videos, learn more about her and her friends, and download color and activity sheets.

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3. LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

lmno peas

* Concept book (ABCs) for preschoolers through first graders
*Peas as the main characters
*Rating: LMNO Peas is a cute book, going through the ABCs with the peas doing different jobs is clever. Some of the jobs were a little strange, and I wanted more of a play on the LMNO Peas idea, but my 2-year-old loved it–that’s whom it’s for anyway!

Short, Short summary: Keith Baker has created little peas characters who have all sorts of jobs throughout this ABC book. For example, the first two pages state: “Acrobats, artists, and astronauts in space, builders, bathers, and bikers in a race.” Each letter of the alphabet is written in large, colorful font, and the peas use the letters as ramps, buildings, and more–the letters become a “stage” for the peas. This is a popular book if you haven’t heard of it before. There’s a sequel with numbers titled, 1-2-3-Peas, and it got all kinds of starred reviews! You can look inside both these books on Amazon. Use the link right here. . .

So what do I do with this book?

1. Come up with other professions that the PEAS could do starting with that letter that weren’t mentioned in the book. Ask students to create an illustration for that letter and word, in a similar style to Keith Baker’s.

2. Which pea (job, profession, hobby) does your child or your students relate to the best? What do they want to be when they grow up? Do they see your job in the book? Do they know what each job is? This is a great book for a career week/career day and to start talking about jobs/careers.

3. Each pea is different! Just like each child and grown-up are different. How are the peas different? How are they the same? Ask children if they are fond of any certain pea. Have fun with this concept while talking to students about how each of us being different helps the world to go around!

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4. For the Love of Pete (An Orphan Train Story) by Ethel Barker


This is a book I am EXTREMELY excited to tell you about for several reasons. . .

  • I helped to edit this book in its beginning stages in 2009, as part of my Editor 911 business.
  • It is a terrific HISTORICAL FICTION book for upper middle grade/tween/younger YA audience by a delightful author.
  • Ice Cube Press is a wonderful small publisher that also published DIVORCE GIRL (see my post:http://margodill.com/blog/2012/07/30/the-divorce-girl-blog-tour-and-giveaway-ya-or-adult/ ) which is one of the best books I read last year!
  • You can use this book to teach history AND writing lessons such as voice. There are TERRIFIC voices throughout this book.

*Historical fiction, upper-middle grade/tween/younger YA (set during the Orphan Train days)
*Three main characters: a street-smart boy, an older sister, and a younger sister–all three have chapters in their voice
*Rating: Well, is it appropriate to give a rating to a book you helped to edit? :) For the Love of Pete is a very well-written book with an interesting story/adventure that will appeal to both boys and girls–perfect for the classroom and/or home school setting!

Short, short summary:

The book starts out with a bang! Iris and her sister Rosie have to flee their New York tenement when their mother is murdered. This puts them out on the street, where they meet a “street rat”, Pete (love this character!). The three come to rely on each other and become friends. When they are put on the Orphan Train and taken to Iowa, they hope to stay together–but adults have different ideas about where the children should be and with whom. However, you can’t squash a child’s spirit or determination, and Pete, Iris, and Rosie work hard to get back together again.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Compare a nonfiction book, such as Orphan Train Rider: One Boy’s True Story by Andrea Warren, to Ethel Barker’s book. What makes For the Love of Pete historical fiction? What true facts can you learn from it about the Orphan Train? Can you tell the author did research to make the characters experience the same things as the actual boys on the Orphan Train? (The back of the book does have a small section on the Orphan Train with a photo of boys living on the street.)

2. As mentioned, this book is told in three different voices–Pete, Rosie, and Iris. Ethel Barker does an amazing job with each voice, and this is a perfect example of voice to use with a six plus one traits lesson. You can read a bit of each chapter to the students, and without looking, they can tell you which character is speaking. Which voice do they hear? What makes that voice unique? Is it word choice? Sentence fluency? Which voice do they like best? Have a discussion about voice using this book as a starting point (since it has such a strong voice!).

3. This is also a great book to study characters, motivation, and feelings. Each character has their own motivation throughout the story (and it changes a bit as the characters develop). For example, ask students what is Pete’s motivation in the beginning of the book for helping the sisters. How does he follow through on this? Why does this motivation fit his character? As for feelings, how does Iris feel toward the end of the book? (Sad and determined) Why?

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5. Traveling and Voice: Some Thoughts on Finding My Place

Speaking to the COSMO group in Columbia, MO

Speaking to the COSMO group in Columbia, MO

Today, I have a few things to share with you about Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg: a story about my recent “book tour” :) , a story from someone who bought the book, and a quick lesson on VOICE, one of the 6 + 1 traits of writing–so let’s go!

Going On a Book Tour
Last week, my good friend, who is just like a mother-in-law to me (that’s a story for another post!), Pamela Anderson from Columbia, MO invited me to stay at her house with my two-year-old and speak to her COSMO group (diabetes research) and Pachyderms (the first club ever in the U.S.) and then organized a breakfast for me of old friends–all to promote my book. My husband came, too, and the trip was a huge success! I was worried about my talk because I was used to speaking to either groups of writers, teachers, or kids; but I tied the story of taking 11 years for my book to be published (FIVE after I signed the contract) to never giving up and following your dreams. People seemed to really relate to it, even if they weren’t writers because when I finished talking, there was actually a line to buy a copy of my book! I met the most interesting and nice people–one woman was almost 90-years-old and had been researching her family on the Trail of Tears for over 30 years. Her determination and spirit made my trip. The breakfast with old friends was so great, and my two-year-old came to that–I was a little worried about this, as she is not in the “patient” stage. But even she was so good and ATE, too. (You mothers of toddlers know what an accomplishment this is.)

I am so thankful to Pamela Anderson (the retired air traffic controller, not the actress) for organizing AND my husband Rick and my good, good friend Michelle Pfeiffer (I swear–I have a friend named Pamela Anderson and Michelle Pfeiffer–both married last names!) for helping me with KB!

Final Finding My Place CoverA Cool, Heartwarming Story
My mom’s friend, Bobette, bought a book for her grandson, Gavin. He is in fifth grade. My mom and Bobette have been friends for longer than I’ve been alive (not telling you how long that is!); and I’ve met Gavin before, but he lives in a different state–so I don’t know him well. Anyway, as the sweet kid that he is, he took my book to his fifth grade teacher and said that he HAD to read if for independent reading because this was written by a family friend. The teacher was reluctant–this is understandable because she has NO IDEA who I am–but agreed to read the book to see what she thought. (What an awesome teacher!) After she finished reading it, she agreed Gavin could read it, and even better–she put my book on her reading list. WOW! Thank you!

A Lesson in Voice: 6 + 1 Traits of Writing

This is a quick lesson you can do with ANY book, not just Finding My Place. But it works better with novel length books. traits-logo

1. Once you and your students have read at least half of the book, they should be familiar with the main characters’ voices. For example, in Finding My Place, students should be able to recognize Anna, Sara, James, Mrs. Franklin, and possibly Dr. Franklin and Stuart, too.

2. Review what VOICE is. This is such a hard concept for children to understand–there is an overall voice to the book, which is Anna’s in FMP, but then each character also has their own voice. Voice is the way the words sound together, and authors have their own distinct voice. For example, you can easily tell the difference between my book and one written by Mark Twain! (HA!)

3. Each student should have a piece of paper, numbered 1-10. You, the teacher (or students can take turns doing it to) or parent, read a line or two from FMP–it could be Anna’s narrative or dialogue OR dialogue from one of the main characters. Then ask students to write down whose VOICE they think that is.

4. After revealing the correct answers, discuss with students how they knew that Mrs. Franklin said what she did or that it was Anna speaking–what is different about the VOICE?

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6. A Cat Named Mouse: The Miracle of Answered Prayer by Anna Alden-Tirrill (giveaway)


I have a special book to share with you today for chapter book/middle-grade readers (ages 8 to 12 or so) titled, A Cat Named Mouse: The Miracle of Answered Prayer. This book is inspirational or Christian fiction for kids with a heavy emphasis on prayer and Bible verses. It would be perfect for a homeschool family or group, parent/child book club, or a Christian school. Parents who are wanting to introduce or emphasize how prayer is answered and how Bible verses can be applied to our lives would also find this book helpful for their children to read or to read with their children. It has several illustrations. AND THE BEST NEWS OF ALL: I HAVE A COPY TO GIVEAWAY! IF you would like to enter the giveaway, please go below to the Rafflecopter form and do the tasks that you are interested in doing. Each task you do gives you more entries into the giveaway contest, which closes at the end of February. I’m using the Rafflecopter system because it is an easy way to keep track of entries! Thanks for trying it out with me.

A Cat Named Mouse: The Miracle of Unanswered Prayer is. . .

*A chapter book/young middle-grade realistic, inspirational fiction (based on a true story) for kids ages 8 to 12
*12-year-old girl as the main character (and a cat named Mouse!)
*Rating: A Cat Named Mouse is an enjoyable and fast read, perfect for a parent to read with a child. This book is important to discuss with children–there are a lot of Christian concepts and ideas!

Short, short summary: After being introduced to Annie and her family and their cats (as well as some neat practices they have such as their TALK UP tradition), Mouse, one of their cats, goes missing when a large animal tears down a window screen, scaring the cat who likes to sleep on the windowsill. The cat either falls out the window or jumps out the open window and goes missing. During this time, Annie and her family come up with many different ideas to get the cat back–one of them being prayer, another discussing how God has a plan. They also make signs and look for the cat. So, since it’s a children’s book, you can probably figure out what happens in the end–but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone! Annie is a wonderful main character with very loving parents.

So what do I do with this book?

1. It’s important to discuss the concepts with children that are presented in the book. One of the main things to focus on is that Annie and her parents use prayer to help find Mouse, but they don’t just sit by and hope God finds the cat. They are proactive also. Asking children to respond in a journal after reading a section will give them a chance to reflect on what happened before the discussion.

2. This is a great book to compare a personal story to what happens in the story. Children can either discuss something their family prayed for and the prayer was answered or a time something important to them was lost and then found with God’s help. If they think about this time in their own lives, they will understand the feelings Annie is having, too.

3. If you are reading this post between Feb. 18, 2013 and Feb. 28, 2013, then enter the Rafflecopter form below for your chance to win a copy. (United States and/or Canada mailing addresses only please) If you have any problems, leave a comment or e-mail me at margo (at) margodill.com. Depending on your Internet browser, you may have to click the blue underlined words that say: RAFFLECOPTER in order to see the form and enter the contest! Remember if you enter a comment, make sure you check the box in the RAFFLECOPTER FORM, so you are entered to win. :) EVERYBODY who checks the free entry gets two free entries into the contest without having to do anything else. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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7. Do You Have a Dog? by Eileen Spinelli; Illustrations by Geraldo Valerio

*Picture book for preschoolers through third graders, history?–you’ll see what I mean. . .
*Man’s best friend as main character/topic
*Rating: Do You Have a Dog? is one of those books I wish I would have written. Brilliant!

Short, short summary:

This book starts out asking the reader if he/she has a dog and lists (in poem/rhyme) some qualities dogs might have. Then it goes on to tell about famous historical figures and their dogs. I love this idea. Included in the book are the dogs of Empress Josephine Bonaparte, Annie Oakley, Orville Wright, Billie Holiday, Admiral Richard Byrd, and of course that famous dog, Seaman who belonged to Meriwether Lewis (and more!). Each page gives a few facts about the dog and the person–the illustrations also help immensely to tell what each person is “famous” for and to show us their dog.

So what do I do with this book?

1. Use the poems and illustrations in this book as a starting point for students to research more about each individual. Give them extra points or some kind of bonus if they can find out any more about the person’s dog or other pets.

2. Try to find out other famous people–either historical or contemporary–and their dogs. When students find someone and do a little research, have them write up a page about the person and their dog. They can also illustrate it. Or do pets of presidents–our current president has a dog.

3. For younger children, talk about the characteristics of a dog. Compare and contrast dogs and cats using a Venn diagram. Allow children to choose which one they would rather have for a pet.

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8. An Interview with Glen Downey, Author of Into the Fire

I am excited to welcome Glen Downey, author of Into the Fire, a middle-grade book. Here’s a synopsis from Amazon: “It’s been a year since Alice Booker disappeared — a year since she went to work one morning at the Byron County Library and never came back. Her son, Max, is still trying to come to terms with her disappearance when he strikes up a unusual friendship with Becky Smart, a tough new kid at Lincoln Middle School that everyone quickly learns not to mess with. When Max discovers there’s been a fire in his mom’s old office at the library, he and Becky form the Book-Smart Detective Agency to investigate. What they discover about the fire, and about the strange circumstances surrounding it, plunge them into a mystery that is almost too impossible to be imagined.”

WOW! As kids, can you remember wanting to be a detective? I can–I used to love to play Charlie’s Angels! But I digress. I got to ask Glen some questions about his new book and his writing career, so here we go. . .

Margo: Welcome, Glen, to Read These Books and Use Them. I’m excited to talk to you about your latest children’s book, Into the Fire. From the synopsis above, we know it has some mystery and adventure. How would you describe your book?

Glen: Into the Fire is the first installment of The Book-Smart Detective Agency series. At its heart, it’s a book about relationships: the lost relationship between Max and his mother, Alice, who disappears about a year before the novel opens, and his unique relationship with Becky Smart, the new kid at school whose tough exterior is not quite what it seems. It’s also a book about the insatiable curiosity of young people and about how brilliant they can be when given the opportunity to think for themselves. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it’s a story about the power of books and reading, although to understand this fully, one needs to read the story.

Margo: Yes, of course! I am imagining it has something to do with the fact his mom is a librarian. . .(smiles) What age reader is it appropriate for and why?

Glen: When I came up with the concept for The Book-Smart Detective Agency, I wanted the series to be for middle-schoolers. This is a group of kids that I’ve worked with for many years as an educator. Into the Fire really speaks to kids in Grades 4-8, and its two protagonists are in Grade 7 and 8 respectively. I feel strongly, though, that teenagers and adults will enjoy the book as well.

Margo: I think that is true more and more–we are all reading each other’s books. What made you want to write Into the Fire?

Glen: I wanted to write a novel for young people about the special power of books and reading. As a kid, I was an avid reader; and as such, I was often encouraged to read books that would “challenge” me. I distinctly recall a conversation with a school librarian when I was a young lad who was bemoaning the fact that I seemed interested in books that were “below my reading level.” I can remember thinking at the time (not saying, of course, but thinking) that this was rather bad advice. I spent countless hours reading books like Two-Minute Mysteries, Encyclopedia Brown, Choose Your Own Adventure stories, Fighting Fantasy game books, comics, and the endless manuals and tomes of fantasy ro

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9. Benefits of Literacy and Children—What Some Studies Show

Benefits of Literacy and Children - What Some Studies Show

by Maggie Lyons

Those who read a lot will enhance their verbal intelligence; that is, reading will make them smarter.
Anne Cunningham and Keith Stanovich, “What Reading Does for the Mind”

That statement won’t come as a surprise to many, but the widely shared belief in the power of reading is not just a matter of personal opinion. When it comes to literacy among children, there is solid scientific evidence that the more children read, especially independently—that is, outside school—the more likely they are to do well in other subjects at school and in their adult lives. From a study they conducted in the 1990s (see “What Reading Does for the Mind” in American Educator, Spring/Summer 1998), Professors Cunningham and Stanovich found that children’s vocabulary, spelling, verbal fluency, and general knowledge were significantly influenced by the amount of time they spent reading, and this is considered a conservative conclusion.

According to Cunningham and Stanovich, a child who reads—outside school—for 21.1 minutes per day (1,823,000 words per year) learns more than 200 times more words than a child who only reads—again, outside school—one minute per day (8,000 words per year). Conversation doesn’t come close to expanding vocabulary as reading does. When children become habitual readers, they are much more likely to enjoy opportunities as adults that may occur more slowly or not at all for children who don’t read much. The benefits of reading can be enjoyed not just by smart or more skilled readers but by children with limited reading and comprehension skills.

The benefits listed above are considered to be conservative. Many others have been listed in numerous academic and nonacademic sources. In the ongoing British Every Child a Reader project, which stimulates reading among school children, teachers have reported that students who improved in reading comprehension also improved in motivation, behavior, work habits, and emotional health and wellbeing. The more proficient readers enjoyed learning. Their “oral language skills, ability to following directions, work habits, social interaction with adults and classmates and self-confidence all improved.” One teacher reported that the increased effort her students made with reading changed “their whole outlook … from being a negative ‘I can’t’ to a very positive ‘I will have a go.’” Students in this study even acquired “long-term aspirations for an economically successful future.”

Elizabeth Pretorius, lecturer at the University of South Africa, believes what we “can’t read will hurt” us because most of our knowledge is contained in printed literature. So “we must read to access it … successful learning relies on the ability to read.” Reading develops our ability to decode characters, in other words, our ability to make sense of information on the written page. This skill is especially necessary in our technological age when we now have access to massive amounts of text via the Internet.
Research into the benefits of reading, especially reading in childhood, is still in its infancy, but everything I have read so far confirms the widely held belief that it is important to encourage children to become avid readers, and the earlier the better.

* * * * *
Maggie Lyons is a children’s author and freelance editor. After a career of business and educational writing and editing, she has discovered the magic of writing fiction and nonfiction for children.

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10. Should Characters Change During a Story? For Teachers and Writers

Found at this link: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/southern-belle.htm

I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately–should characters change throughout the course of a novel, and more specifically–should they change for the better? In the latest novel I’m working on, I had a fairly simple, but hopefully humorous-appealing-to-boys story, idea for a middle-grade series–especially book one. While writing it and finishing the first draft during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month which is November), I realized that one reason why I wasn’t falling in love with the story yet is it was SO plot-driven. My main character was cute and clever and funny, but did he learn anything from his experiences? Did he change? Not much, and in the rewrite, that’s one thing I plan to work on.

In Finding My Place (White Mane Kids, October 1, 2012), Anna the main character definitely changes from the beginning of the book to the end of the book. I think it’s one reason why the book was accepted by a publisher and the reason why it’s fairly universal, even though it’s set in 1863 during the Civil War. Anna has to grow up and accept responsibility. She has to adopt to her new role in the family. She has to make decisions that affect more than just herself. She is not like this in the beginning of the book–in spite of her 13 years of age back in Civil War times. She was still acting like a child before the Siege, always wanting to write in her journal and not help out her ma.

You can help children understand character growth and change using books and characters, like Finding My Place or even picture books with younger students–any book or story that has a character (not concept books probably) who shows growth due to experiences. You can discuss these questions below with students when focusing on characters. (These questions will work for any book–not just mine. :) )

  • How is the character different at the end of the story than at the beginning?
  • What events happen in the book to help the character change?
  • Does the character change for the better or for worse? Explain!
  • Why do you think the character changed?
  • Can you think of a time in your life when you might have changed like this character did?

You would probably focus mostly on these questions during reading, but remind students of the answers when they are writing their own fiction stories.

For more information on Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, please see this page.

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11. Harry Goes to Dog School by Scott Menchin

*Picture book, preschool through 2nd grade, humorous
*Harry, a little boy, as main character
*Rating: Harry Goes to Dog School is right up my family’s alley. My 2-year-old LOVES “woof-woofs,” and this book teaches a lesson in a subtle way–the grass is not always greener on the other side. Although for just one day, I wouldn’t mind laying around, chewing on my bone. . . (smiles)

Short, short summary:

Harry wants to be a dog. He is driving everyone crazy in the family by licking his sister instead of kissing her good night, growling and chasing a cat up the tree, and growling at his oatmeal. His parents decide to send him to dog school. At first, he loves it. He is the star of the class–rolling over and fetching. However, he isn’t so crazy about lunch or nap time. His dog teacher says she can use some help, and he likes that but it is exhausting. He soon misses all the things that boys love to do–play baseball, watch TV, and eat chocolate ice cream! He decides, on his own, that he would like to be a boy and go to regular school–most of the time. . .

So, what do I do with this book?

1. You can teach children to make a pros and cons list with this book. What are the pros of being a dog? What are the cons? What about the pros of being a kid? The cons? Then talk about how people use pros and cons to solve “real” problems–like what to play at recess. You can use this to solve a problem in your classroom or school.

2. Because the text doesn’t come right out and tell students why Harry decides he wants to be a boy again, this is a good discussion point. Students have to infer! from the illustrations and text what is going on in Harry’s mind and even in his parents’. This is a great way to introduce inferring to elementary-aged students.

3. Do your students/children ever wish they could be someone else? Start with this “story” starter: If I could be someone/something else for one day, I would choose . . . (Examples: the President, a dolphin, my mom, a teacher, my baby brother, a cat, etc.) Then they copy their sentence down on their paper (older students can write a few detail sentences, too) and draw an illustration to go with it.

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12. Common Core State Standards Lesson Plan for 5th Grade Reading USING Finding My Place

One of the Common Core State Standards under reading standards K-5 literature for fifth graders is:

“Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.”

Using a historical fiction novel to teach this standard is perfect–in Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, there are a few events that are told from more than one character’s point of view. One great example would be the fire downtown. Another would be the army hospital. Here’s how you can use these events to work on this standard with students:

1. Pick an event that you’ve read in the story with students or they’ve read on their own, such as the fire downtown.

2. Ask students: how did Dr. Franklin describe the fire downtown?

3. Ask students: What is Mrs. Franklin’s description or opinion of the fire downtown?

4. Make sure students are giving details from the text to support this (Dr. Franklin tells what it was like to fight the fire; Mrs. Franklin at first says it serves the people right for having high prices.)

5. Ask students: What is James’s version of the fire? Again ask for novel support.

6. Discuss with students WHY each of these characters has a slightly different version of the fire. You can even bring in Rev. and Mrs. Lohrs as well as Anna. Each of these characters has an opinion/interaction with the fire. Why aren’t they all describing it the same way? Why don’t they all feel the same way about it?

7. Ask students to tell about an event the entire class attended. You can have them write in their journals first for about 10 to 15 minutes OR you can do think-pair-share–where they are thinking about the event, sharing it orally with a partner, and then the partner shares with the class. Did everyone mention the same details? Why or why not?

8. Now go back to the book and think about the army hospital. Ask students to write down Anna’s description of the army hospital. Next write down Molly’s. Finally do Michael’s or Frank’s. Do they all sound the same? Why are the descriptions slightly different? (They should be different or the students are not thinking about the individual characters.)

This will help students see bias in writing as well as unreliable narrators.

To buy a copy of Finding My Place, see this page: http://margodill.com/blog/buy-finding-my-place/ (Links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble)

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13. The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton by Angela Shelton (Interview, Giveaway, and WOW! Blog Tour)

TildaPinkertonI am happy to welcome middle-grade author Angela Shelton to my blog today for her book, The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton (Book One: Crash-Landing on Ooleeoo). I am really excited about this book, which kind of reminds me of A Wrinkle in Time. If I was still teaching elementary school, I would choose this book as a read-aloud for sure! This would also be the perfect book for a parent/child book club or to read together before bedtime.

I have a copy to giveaway–print or e-copy–it’s the winner’s choice. To be entered to win, please leave a comment by December 23 at 8:00 pm CST. I will choose one winner using random.org.

Here is a short summary:

The Adventures of Tilda Pinkerton is a story of inter-galactic crisis with bionic bugs on a mission to capture the great Tilda Pinkerton and destroy her magical hats before she can spread her Light across the galaxy. Written in a wonderfully lyrical way that will appeal to fans of Dr. Seuss, Star Trek, Matilda Wormwood, and Harry Potter with every character’s name being a verbal play on their personalities. Quinn, for example, is Quinn Quisquilious, who works with rubbish to create new things. Belinda Balletomania is just that – obsessed with ballet. And of course Aaron Arachnophobia is the spider desperately afraid of himself.

Let’s join Angela and find out more about her book for middle-graders!

Margo: Welcome, Angela, and thanks for talking with us today! Tilda Pinkerton is a wonderful, lovely character, full of spunk, magic, and spirit! How did you create such a fantastical main character?

Angela: It’s me! Or at least the best me I could come up with. I wrote Tilda with all the aspects I would love to have more of: a vast vocabulary, magical powers, and direct contact with the light source!

Margo: Yes, we all need direct contact with the light source! What are some themes you are exploring in this first book?

Angela: I wanted to explore the theme of insecurity for one. It shows up in Tilda Pinkerton herself since she thinks she is deformed when in reality her deformity is her strength. It also shows up in little Maggie Mae who is mute since her mother disappeared and no longer sings or speaks. Turns out Maggie has a few tricks up her sleeve and more power than she realized, too.

Perception is the key word in Book One because I wanted to explore that what you think you know may not be true just because you were taught it–all your beliefs are based on your own perception. The book is also littered with many spiritual truths that I had fun sprinkling in and will show up more as the books progress.

Margo: I like that! “All your beliefs are based on your own perception.” So true! What led you to write a fantasy book?

Angela: I was a huge fantasy fanatic as a child and always had a dream to write fantasy. I love anything with magical trees and creating a book with trees you could ride like horses–I could not resist. But it all started with a meditation prayer asking what I should write next that would be great for kids and adults, and voilà–Tilda Pinkerton popped into my head.

Margo: How awesome is that! Who would you say is the perfect audience for your book? Whom do you envision reading it?

Angela Shelton

Angela Shelton

Angela: I originally wrote Tilda for 10-12 year old girls, the same age I was when I was reading the most fantasy; BUT lo and behold, the most people who are buying Tilda are women 50 and over. I was at a book signing yesterday, and it happened again, women 50 and over were the ones buying copies. So much for thinking I knew who I was writing for! Maybe Tilda is helping them connect with their 10-12 year old side again. Maybe they love clean, fun, and enlightening reads. I had a 12-year-old tell me that she really enjoyed Tilda and that it was very imaginative, but there was nothing inappropriate in it like there was in Twilight. I about fainted. The good news is that I wrote Tilda as a book I would want to read, whether I was 12 or 50: Who knew she would have such a wide audience? I did not!

Margo: I think it’s great, and actually as a children’s writer, sometimes I prefer reading books written for children. Us children’s writers are a talented bunch! While reading this book, I see a lot of ways that it can be “used.” One of the ways is the new vocabulary words you introduce and define on several of the book’s pages. What led you to do this?

Angela: Dinosaurs lead me to Tilda’s vocabulary! I play “Safe Side Superchick” in the Safe Side Series created by Baby Einstein’s Julie Clark, and I get recognized by kids all the time. I started being invited to their classrooms; and whenever I was around a group of kids, I would ask what they were loving to learn at the moment. The most common thing was dinosaurs. What struck me the most about it was how they knew exactly how to spell, pronounce, and explain each type of dinosaur. When I would try to get into the conversation and was incorrect about something to do with dinosaurs, I got the eye roll and the sigh–I just did not understand I was talking to experts! Seeing how well-versed the kids were in dinosaur speak, I wondered if they would be the same with large vocabulary. That is what brought the rare and sometimes difficult words into Tilda. But I know kids can handle it! (and 50+ women, too.)

Margo: Great, and I didn’t know that you were a Safe Side Series star, too. (smiles) On the front cover, it says, BOOK ONE! This means, readers are in luck–you are planning a series! What’s next for Tilda?

Angela: Someone kidnapped Tilda Pinkerton and she spends Book Two fighting to get away from her kidnappers and back to Ooleeoo to save Gladys, meanwhile discovering something horrible about Earth.

Margo: Poor Tilda–she can’t catch a break, huh? (laughs) Anything else you’d like to share about you, your books, or your writing world?

Angela: Buddy Balletomania is alive. That’s all I’m going to say. I am having so much fun creating Tilda and all of her friends. I learn as much vocabulary as Tilda shares, too; and though the general story is mapped out for 3 to 5 books, Tilda always surprises me, too.

Margo: As an author, those are the best kind of surprises. Congrats on your success, Angela. And readers, remember to leave a comment TO WIN COPY!

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14. Hippo and Gorilla: Interactive Picture Books for Your E-Reader

hippo and gorilla Hippo and Gorilla are two loveable characters, (remember The Odd Couple?) who face problems children will be all too familiar with–things like crashing model airplanes (Airplanes), eating too many donuts (Donuts), and a rainy day birthday (Bathroom Beach) . Illustrator and author Bryan Langdo has created cute, humorous picture books for children. But what makes these different than the thousands of picture books at your library?

These are made for your e-readers! Right now, they are best for an iPod Touch or iPhone or iPad with the program iBooks. I didn’t have this (my iPod Touch is a 2nd generation–I can’t get iBooks on it, oh my!), and so Bryan sent them to me for my Kindle and then the MP3 files, so I could listen to the wonderful readings of the stories by Billy Bob Thompson (he does great voices for Hippo and Gorilla!). I listened to them at Panera Bread, and I found myself giggling out loud. What are the people around me thinking?

Okay, so as a preschool/kindergarten/first grade teacher or parent, what should you know about these cute books and how you can use them with children?

1. Brian and I exchanged a few e-mails, and here is what he said, “The bells and whistles are basically the audio narration, sound effects, incidental music, and read-along feature.” (Kids will LOVE this–my daughter at 2 loves ANYTHING on the iPod Touch or Kindle. She actually says this sentence, “I need the iPod Touch.” I’m not sure if I should be proud? :) )

2. Here’s what Brian said about his own series (and by the way, I COMPLETELY agree with him!): “I’m hoping to share with you and your readers my new series of early readers titled Hippo & Gorilla. It’s about two best friends who are total opposites. Hippo is a great friend, but he has a tendency to make bad decisions. He breaks things, he eats too much, and he makes big messes. Gorilla, however, doesn’t do enough of those things. Together, they make a great team!

These eBooks for young readers explore the joys—and the pitfalls—of friendship, using simple vocabulary and sentence structure. Each book contains audio narration along with original music and sound effects. They’re available for iPad, Kindle, and Nook.”

Donuts cover revised3. GET HIPPO AND GORILLA IN DONUTS FOR FREE! Go to this link. This will only work if you have access to iBooks on your iPad or other Apple device. But here’s the link if you are lucky to have one of these: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/donuts/id585686738?mt=11

4. There are 5 individual books about Hippo and Gorilla. One is free as stated above, and the others are only 99 cents (again, right now for Apple devices). All 5 stories can be purchased together for $1.99!

5. These are the perfect books to start important conversations with our little ones–in the classroom or at home. You can ask questions like: Was Hippo a good friend? Should Gorilla fly his airplane again? What else could Hippo and Gorilla do on Gorilla’s birthday? How can Gorilla and Hippo compromise? and more.

6. Bryan has a website and blog for you to check out more details. You can see these at: http://www.hippoandgorilla.com OR http://www.hippoandgorilla.blogspot.com/ .

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments–Bryan can stop by and answer them!

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15. Grandpa Hates the Bird: Six Short Stories of Exciting, Hilarious, and Possibly Deadly Adventure

*Author: Eve Yohalem *Publisher: Telemachus Press
*Chapter book for readers 6 to 10 (actually it’s a collection of humorous short stories)
*Bird and Grandpa as main characters
*Rating: Kids will LOVE Grandpa Hates the Bird!. The stories have a great voice and are full of humor–a blessing in today’s kids’ lit!

Short, short summary:

“Every February, my family takes a one-week holiday some place warm. Mother and Father, Joseph and Maya pack their bathing suits, sunglasses, and good books and head south. I do not join them because I am the bird.

Instead I go to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where they have an extra cage for me, one with a
particularly jaunty bell I like very much and some braided string and beads I don’t like at all.”

So starts the short story collection. . .Grandpa Hates the Bird The bird goes on to tell the reader that Grandma has a business trip at the same time as the family’s trip some place warm, and so the bird and Grandpa will be left ALONE. And as dear, young Joseph says, “But Mom, Grandpa hates the bird!” See you’re hooked, aren’t you? What’s going to happen when these two are left alone? Will they both survive? ;) You’ll have to read to find out. The short story collection involves the bird and attempts to explain some of the mysteries began in story one!

(only $2.99)

So what do I do with this book?

1. The voice is strong in this book. Use it as a good example of voice when you are teaching the six plus one traits of writing.

2. Write the story from another character’s perspective. Would it be a different story if written from Grandpa’s POV? What about one of the children? It might be too much for one student/ child to write the whole story form a new pov, so divide the work in half.

3. Use this short story collection to teach some character education, too. Does he really hate the bird? How can these two solve their problem with conflict resolution skills.

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16. Chickens on the GO! by Aunt Judy (Book Giveaway Contest!)

I am thrilled to share with you two super cute picture books by a TexHEN named Aunt Judy, who writes and illustrates (SO CUTE!) Chickens on the GO! and Chickens in the Know!. Aunt Judy was generous enough to send me both of her picture books, which I am sure any young reader will LOVE, and so I am keeping one for my daughter and giving one away to a lucky reader! To win Chickens in the Know!, please leave a comment below. You can either say, PICK ME! or SOUNDS GREAT! or tell us your favorite professHEN, such as constructHEN workers or librariHENS. That’s what this book is all about–how the world is full of people who have different jobs, and we need EACH ONE to make the world go around.

The book I am keeping, but one you can purchase from Aunt Judy is Chickens on the GO! It is the perfect classroom book for young children and the perfect home school book for your young readers. The premise is that the world is made up of people who are different nationalities such as: JapHENese, BritHENS, AfricHENS, and AmericHENS. (SO CUTE–I’m telling you!) Aunt Judy tells readers something about the people/culture in each country she covers–in a catchy rhyme. She makes the point that everyone is different, but that’s okay! (Perfect in this world of bullying–the old-fashioned and cyber way) The repeating phrase in the book is: “It doesn’t matter where we’re from. We’re all chickens–let’s have fun!”

You can use Chickens on the GO! to discuss with young children how differences make us unique and special and even how where we are from affects our lives, but that’s what also makes us special. You can do geography lessons with this book–showing students where each HEN comes from as well as have children do more research on each HEN’s culture. The possibilities with this book are endless. Aunt Judy has several resources on her website, too at http://www.chickensonthego.com/Lesson%20Plans.htm. Don’t miss the lesson plans and puzzles she has created.

If you are interested in finding out more and purchasing this book, Chickens on the GO!, or its companion about careers, Chickens in the Know!, please see Aunt Judy’s website at: http://www.chickensonthego.com/books.htm

Don’t forget, you can win a copy. On the back of the book, it says these books are for ages 1 to 99–no kidding! So, let me know your favorite professHEN or just say PICK ME! Contest ends on Sunday night, December 11 at 8:00 pm CST. Winner must have a U.S. or Canada mailing address.

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17. Chester’s Masterpiece by Chester, of course!

*Picture book for preschoolers through second graders
*A creative cat as the main character
*Rating: Chester is such a great illustrator and author–who needs that Melanie Watt? If you haven’t read any of the Chester the cat series of books yet (with NO HELP FROM Melanie), then you must check one out. So cute and funny!

Short, short summary: Chester the cat has hidden his owner’s, author and illustrator Melanie Watt’s, supplies and has taken over the creation of the book with his red pen. Chester is trying to write a masterpiece. First he steals from Twas the Night Before Christmas, and then he goes through a series of exercises to break his writer’s block. Once he’s ready, he writes some stories about himself and mouse–always ending unhappily with something tragic happening to mouse! In the end, Melanie finds her art supplies in a terrible hiding spot. . .Kids and adults will get a kick out of this hysterical picture book.

So what do I do with this book?

1. This is such a cute book. I love how “Melanie Watt” leaves editorial notes to Chester on “yellow Post-it notes.” Children will LOVE this book, and they will love to leave their own notes to Chester. While reading it, let them have some stickee notes and they can jot a few things down to Chester about his illustrations, his stories, etc.

2. This book has a lot of reading lessons in it. For example, Melanie tells Chester he needs a setting. They both draw a jungle. She asks what type of story he plans to write, and he goes through several genres like humor, action, and romance. They talk about endings, problems, and characters. It is full of things writers need to think about and address when writing a story. You can start a discussion with your class on these topics, using Chester and his masterpiece as a starting point.

3. For fun, let children try to guess where Chester hid Melanie’s art supplies. See if anyone is correct by the end of the book! :)

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18. A Commitment and a Picture Book

Madagascar by Aleix Cabarrocas Garcia www.flickr.com

I am including a photo of Madagascar on my blog today because I want to tell you about the commitment I made at church today. I want to post about it on my blog 1. to hold me accountable and 2. to inspire anyone else to do the same. :) At church, a priest from the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging spoke about sponsoring children and elderly from around the world for $1.00 a day. He said that over 94 cents goes to the sponsored child, which is a great amount compared to the amounts that some charities take for administrative staff.

Anyway, we’ve all heard stories like this before or seen commercials on TV. Many times, we do nothing–I’ve never sponsored anyone before. So, what made me change my mind this time. My daughter? My yearning to do something for people since I read HALF THE SKY? I’m not sure. But I was sitting there thinking about how much money we spent on a birthday dinner the night before, and I felt ashamed. If I can spend that much on one dinner (for a good friend, so it’s not totally selfish, right?), then I can surely give $1.00 a day to change somebody’s life. If I can stop spending $2.50 on a coffee and $2.25 on ONE PIECE OF COFFEE CAKE three times a week, I have my $30 a month easily. If I can eat lunch at home once instead of eating out. .. you get the picture.

So, my family is sponsoring Razafimamonjy from Madagascar. She is 5-years-old. Her mother does other people’s laundry for money. Razafimamonjy has syphilis. The family’s rent is $3.00 a month. Their walls are made of clay; their roof is tin; their floor is cement. They have NO indoor plumbing and get water from an outdoor pump. They sleep on the ground and cook with charcoal. I could go on. I won’t.

I am going to keep you updated on how I do with my STOPPING the Starbucks/Panera Bread coffee habit and giving my money to Razafimamonjy. If you want to join me, go to this website: http://www.hopeforafamily.org. They are legit. And let me know. It would be a great service learning project or family project for Lent. We can support each other while we are supporting people less fortunate.

I promised a picture book post today too, but I’m already going on and on. So, here’s a brief one:

Henry in Love by Peter McCarty

Henry is a cat in love with a bunny named Chloe. However, they are in elementary school. Therefore, Henry does crazy stuff like a forward roll in front of Chloe. She then shows him up by doing a cartwheel. In a twist of fate, the teacher moves Chloe and Henry to sit by each other, in time for snack. Henry has been saving his favorite snack all day–a blueberry muffin. But you know young love. . .he gives it to Chloe. Cute book. I enjoyed it. One reviewer on Amazon said she thought the love message was too subtle for kids to get–I see her point, but it’s still a cute book.

We are all starting to think about love around February. A cute gift for your child would be a copy of Henry in Love and some blueberry muffins. A fun Valentine’s Day activity for home school and/or the classroom would be to share this book with young readers and then together bake some blueberry muffins. You could also write poems/nice letters on p

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19. George Washington’s Birthday by Margaret McNamara

*Historical fiction picture book for preschoolers through third graders
*Young George Washington as the main character
*Rating: George Washington’s Birthday is a clever picture book filled with all sorts of stories about GW that are probably not true, but it’s a fun book anyway–with some true facts added in about GW. Of course, this is PERFECT for Presidents’ Day lessons.

Short, short summary:

George Washington is having his 7th birthday, and no one seems to care. He is still having to do his school work. His father still wants him to work in the orchard, where of course, he cuts down the cherry tree. After he does a lot of work, he goes to his room and makes a list of ideas his father would like–still so sad that no one seems to care about his birthday. When his family calls him downstairs for dinner, they yell, “Surprise!” and George realizes his birthday is important to his family after all. Throughout the historical fiction story, several true facts about GW are given with an author’s note at the end.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Talk about with children why we celebrate George Washington’s birthday on Presidents’ Day. Plan a birthday party for him on this day. Serve cherry-flavored treats to go with the cherry tree story.

2. Compare and contrast the facts that are presented in the book with the fiction story. Discuss why the author included certain stories and had them happen on his birthday. This will help you discuss author’s purpose, which is often an objective for students, concerning comprehension.

3. Do a KWL chart. Before reading the book, write everything you know about George Washington and Presidents’ Day in the K column on the chart. In the W column, students should write things they wonder about George Washington. After reading the book, students can fill out the L column with things they learned. Younger students can do this as a shared writing activity.

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20. The Great Nursery Rhyme Disaster by David Conway; illustrated by Melanie Williamson

*Picture book, fantasy, preschool through second graders
*Little Miss Muffet as main character
*Rating: David Conway has written a clever picture book, incorporating many of our favorite nursery rhymes that we can share with a whole new generation of children. And of course, Melanie Williamson’s illustrations are cute, cute, cute!

Short, short summary:

Little Miss Muffet is tired of being in her nursery rhyme. She is tired of that spider always scaring her. So, she decides to go to the next page of the book and jump into that nursery rhyme. But each time, she’s unhappy–it’s not so fun falling down the hill with Jack and Jill or running away with the spoon (turns out the dish gets a bit jealous). She winds up causing utter chaos in nursery rhyme world, so she sneaks back to her own rhyme. . .

So, what do I do with this book?

1. Read the NEW way the rhymes are written with Little Miss Muffet put in. See if the children notice the difference. Are they familiar with the other rhyme? How has it changed? Have children repeat both rhymes after you!

2. SO, Miss Muffet still has her problem at the end of the book. Let children problem solve and come up with a way to solve her problem. Could she go to a completely different book? Is there a nursery rhyme that would work for her? Could she befriend the spider in some way?

3. Study these illustrations! They are full of things that are not in the text. What do children notice? How do the illustrations work to tell the story with the text? Let students draw their own illustrations with Miss Muffet in their favorite nursery rhyme after studying the ones in the book.

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21. Hogg, Hogg, & Hog by Margie Palatini

*Picture book preschool through second grade
*Three important pigs as main characters
*Rating: Hogg, Hogg, & Hog will be a hit with kids because it’s silly, and there are a lot of animal sounds. It will be a hit with adults because it’s clever with tons of little details to notice and point out in the illustrations.

Short, short summary:

Hogg, Hogg, & Hog have made it in the BIG APPLE! They are an important firm in the big business world. And why? Well, they made “The Oink” popular. Everyone is oinking thanks to those three. But as with any fad or trend, it quickly dies out. To stay on top, Hogg, Hogg, & Hog have to come up with something else. They think back to their roots on the farm and remember, “Baa! Quack! Ribbit!” So, guess what the next fad is? People just can’t get enough of those three big pigs. But soon, their old life sneaks up on them, and Sheep, Duck, and Frog come to get what is rightfully theirs. So, the hogs have to make a little change to their business plan, and soon they become. . .Hogg, Hogg, & Hog & Partners.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. I don’t want to reveal everything that happens at the end of the story–as the surprise will be ruined. :) But there’s a list of animals and sounds at the end. Children can look at this list and add to it with animals that are not already in the book or on the list. At first, try to keep the animals to ones they may find on a farm. Then if they want to get silly, let them! This is a PERFECT activity for a preschool classroom or a preschooler stuck at home on a rainy day.

2. Children might not get “the next big thing” or how things trend like adults will when reading this book. So talk to them about this. What is a “big thing” right now? What’s popular? How do people find out about the next big thing? You might have to help them get thinking about this in terms of toys. What is the toy that everyone wants? How did you find out about it? Then expand to other popular items.

3. Compare and contrast urban (city) life vs rural (farm) life. This is usually a social studies objective in third grade, so you could even use this book as a fun introduction to the unit in third grade. But with younger children, this is also a good activity. You could use a Venn diagram and do a shared writing activity. After you make the Venn diagram together, students can draw a picture comparing and contrasting rural and urban life.

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22. Stranger Moon by Heather Zydek (Giveaway!)

I am excited to be giving away Stranger Moon and doing it with Rafflecopter for the first time! I would love it if you tried out Rafflecopter with me by doing as many of the tasks as you can below and then getting all the possible points to win this AWESOME book. The contest goes until Sunday, March 11 at midnight (so enter on Saturday or before), and it is open to anyone–(Canada and U.S.–you can get a hard copy; overseas–you can get an e-book). So, here we go. . .

Stranger Moon by Heather Zydek
*Middle-grade novel, contemporary fiction
*12-year-old girl as main character
*Rating: I loved Stranger Moon! I think middle-grade readers will, too. It has several boy characters that are friends with Gaia, and it has bugs (LOL), so I think it will appeal to both boys and girls. If you have a child being bullied, this book is great conversation starter.

Short, short summary: It’s summer break, and Gaia is searching for a Luna moth after she finds a Luna moth wing pressed between the pages of an old insect guide. When she convinces her friends to go with her to search for the moth, they encounter a strange woman in the woods who EATS bugs. She freaks them out, of course, but she also peaks their interest, and they go on a hunt to find out whom she is. In the meantime, they pick up another misunderstood classmate, encounter the bullies– THE EMMAS, and deal with their own issues. Gaia has a father who pays NO ATTENTION to her since her mother died, and she is tired of feeling like she’s invisible in her own home. So, as you can see, there’s a lot going on in this book. As more information is revealed about the mystery woman, readers can try to guess her identity. Once it’s discovered, they can debate what they would do with the info. The author does a great job of moving the story forward and tying up all these subplots in the end.

So, what do I do with this book?

1. This is a terrific book to open up conversations with children about how they are feeling at home, about bullying, about friendships, and so on. Use the characters in the book. How did you feel when Gaia and her friends got into the big fight? What do you think about the Emmas? and so on.

2. Your young readers may or may not be into insects. If they are, then ask them to find out about Luna moths on their own. If they aren’t, what are they passionate about? What would they spend their summer vacation searching for? Have them write a journal entry about this and compare themselves to Gaia.

3. The characters in this book are complex and well-developed–they are perfect for character studies. You could teach character motivation, character feelings, and even problem-solving (how characters solve problems in the story). Allow students to choose their favorite character and then write a letter as if they are that character. They could also write a journal entry.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below! Please email margo (at) margodill.com if you run into any problems.

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23. Joy the Jellyfish by Kristen and Kevin Collier

*Picture book for preschooler through second graders (fantasy–talking animals ;)
*Young jellyfish as main character
*Rating: Super cute illustrations make this sweet picture book appeal to kids. Even better, if your children/students love this book or sea creatures, Kristen and Kevin Collier have a website where you can meet each character closer and download FREE activity and coloring pictures with Joy and her friends. A DVD is coming soon, too, according to the website. Check it out here:

Short, short summary: Joy the Jellyfish is swimming around the Great Barrier Reef. All she wants is a friend. But since she is nearly invisible, the other creatures have a hard time seeing her. Joy doesn’t understand what she is doing wrong. She finally gets some advice from a little white whale–”You have to be a friend to make a friend.” Joy and Bella become friends, but they can’t live in the same place due to that darn water temperature. However, Bella gives Joy the confidence she needs to learn to make new friends! This is the perfect book for our little guys who are shy and want to make friends. It’s always easier to see these cute creatures struggle and overcome their fears than humans doing it. :)

So, what do I do with this book?

1. This is a great introduction to different sea creatures. You could even do a KWL chart with students before reading it about animals they know live in the sea, animals they wonder about, and then animals they learn about. You could also find real photos of these animals to compare to the illustrations.

2. What is a friend? How do you make friends? How does Joy finally make friends? These questions and more can be discussed after reading the book. However, you should realize EVERY child will want to share a story about their best friend. So, have plenty of time for this discussion!

3. This is also a great book to talk about problem and solution because it is very apparent what the problem in the story is: Joy wants a friend but doesn’t know how to make friends. Solution: she learns she has to step outside her comfort zone/shyness. There aren’t a lot of subplots or anything in the way of these important story elements. :)

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24. Who’s in the Forest? by Phillis Gershator; Illustrated by Jill McDonald

*Concept book, preschool to kindergarten
*Forest creatures as main characters
*The layout is one of the best parts of this concept book. It’s a cute idea and well executed!

Short, short summary:

Each pair of pages asks, “Who is in the forest, dark and deep?” and then there is a circle cut-out previewing the next page and animal. For example, there’s a bird, squirrel, and fox. Each animal has a page with a rhyming answer, such as: “Foxes on the prowl–creep, creep, creep.” The end talks about nocturnal animals. There’s a lot to look at and explore with this book–especially for young children.

So what do I do With This Book?

1. You can talk to young children about the forest habitat and what plants and animals they would find there. You can also ask questions like, “Would a penguin belong in this book?” You could even do a KWL (Know, Wonder, Learn) chart if you wanted to further the study of this habitat.

2. Ask children to predict what the next page will say based on the cut-out circle pictures and the predictability of the repeating text and rhyming words.

3. Talk about the difference between nocturnal and diurnal animals after reading the last page of the book. What animals do children see in the last illustration? Are all of those nocturnal animals? What does this mean?

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25. It’s Children’s Book Week. Celebrate With Favorites!

It’s National Children’s Book Week, a week to celebrate children’s books. There are no better! This week, I am taking part in a blog hop with other children’s bloggers from my publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing. (They are publishing one of my picture books, release date still to be determined.) Anyway, you can visit each blog this week for exceptional posts and a chance to win fabulous prizes! To enter, visit any of the blogs listed below and participate in the RAFFLECOPTER contest. If you’ve never done RAFFLECOPTER before, it is so easy–don’t be scared. :) You just do each step and then click the + points button to get credit for it. It is really important that you give yourself credit because Rafflecopter is collecting all the entries for us from all the blogs. If you don’t push the button, you won’t get credit, and you can’t win the fabulous prizes.

What are we giving away? (You can win either one.)
• One FREE Picture Book Manuscript Critique by Margot Finke
• One FREE tote bag of children’s books from the participating authors

Visit May 7-13, 2012 and automatically enter for a chance to win by commenting, become a GFC Follower, and/or become a Facebook fan or friend at each of the author blogs listed below.

Here’s who is participating:

Guardian Angel Publishing Author Blogs:
Mayra Calvani – www.mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com
Margo Dill – www.margodill.com/blog
Margot Finke – www.hookkidsonreading.blogspot.com
Donna McDine – www.donna-mcdine.blogspot.com
Nancy Stewart – www.nancystewartbooks.blogspot.com
Kai Strand – www.kaistrand.blogspot.com
Nicole Weaver – www.mysisterismybestfriend.blogspot.com

So visit these each day for a new entry! :) You can win children’s books during CBW!

I’d like to kick off this week by talking about a new favorite at our house–my toddler LOVES this book. She wasn’t so sure it was great when I first brought it home from the hospital, but. . .I won her over, and it is now almost as popular as Brown Bear, Brown Bear. SO, the title is Farmyard Beat by Lindsay Craig. It starts out with the chicks who have the beat. Peep! Peep! Peep! So, of course, they wake up. . .SHEEP. . .who also have the beat–and they wake up cat, and so on. Soon, Farmer Sue hears the racket, and she comes to investigate. But those chicks, they just can’t help themselves. This book is so catchy that I walk around the house now singing it. I have it practically memorized, and my daughter claps to the beat. I think it’s appropriate fo

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