Monday, August 7, 2017

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King Blog Tour!

Jack is back, finally! If you read, and obviously loved, Mighty Jack, then you have probably been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this book!

But let's back up a moment. There is the off chance you missed Mighty Jack, and I don't want to lose anyone...

How awesome is that cover? I remember book talking this to my 4th graders last year, hands shooting in the air for a chance to be the first to read it! We were delighted to find that this fantastic story of action, heart, doubt and triumph, was placed on the 2017-18 Maine Student Book Award list.

Mighty Jack takes good old Jack and the Beanstalk to a whole new level of awesome. Jack unleashes much more than a beanstalk in this new tale. Instead, a dangerous garden, creatures, a link to a different world, is unleashed! It would be a major spoiler if I mentioned how that book ends. So I won't. But I will say that Mighty Jack and the Goblin King open up right where that one leaves off. Hence the opening line to this post.

I recommend this book for grades 4-7, though I will have it in my 3rd grade classroom library later in the year. And since classroom teachers can take heat for the content of the books in their care, I will let you know that there is violence and death, though nothing over the top. And one little swear. So, know your audience. And know that it's ok for kids to think about why an author chooses for a character to use certain words. That's a solid discussion to have.

Ben Hatke's artwork is alive. The coloring is awesome, the action is awesome, and the creatures and characters are awesome. And the storyline? You guessed it: awesome.

I adore the goblins. How they look, how they talk, how they act, I love it all. And those weird little pipe creatures? So cool. 

And the ending?! The ending!! Fans of Hatke's work are going to LOVE the final pages!

Kids are going to eat this up. And we want them to. We want kids to have wild and fantastic adventures. We want kids to meet strong young female characters, and characters that have special needs, and characters that show loyalty and bravery and love.

To know Ben and his work, is to know that whatever he creates, it's going to be worthy of your attention. I'm not saying that you should love books just because they are written by a guy with major heart, humor and adventuring skills. No, you should not love books just because the author can do flips, run on stilts, breathe fire or use a bow and arrows. But if you do find yourself thinking Ben's work is extra appealing because of all those things, well, I'd say that's ok.

Follow First Second's blog tour for Mighty Jack and the Goblin King!

I'd love to give away one copy, since I have 2 shiny new copies, and feel like the love should be shared! Want to enter? I'm making it extra simple this time. Simply leave a comment on this post about...anything! Have you met Ben? Tell about that! Have you read Mighty Jack? What are your thoughts? Looking forward to the sequel? Say so! 

Then, share the Mighty Jack love by spreading this post on twitter, facebook, with your colleagues, whatever and wherever.

Winner will be chosen Friday, August 18th. Sometime before I go to be ;)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Comics Extravaganza Week!

Welcome to Day 2 of the Comics Extravaganza Blog Tour! This tour is being put on by First Second. If, for some strange reason, you don't know about this publisher, thank goodness you found this post! I have been a huge, HUGE fan of the books they publish for years. When I began teaching about a *ahem* decade ago, graphic novels were still a hard sell for some teachers, librarians and parents. Is it a "real" book? Does it actually count as reading? Yes, and so deeply yes. First Second publishes the biggest range of quality literature in the graphic novel format. Seriously. From fantasy to nonfiction to sci-fi. Speaking of sci-fi, let's see who we have here today!
It's none other than Mike Lawrence, the author of Star Scouts!

About the book:

About the author:

Interview with Mike Lawrence:

Tell us your first memory of reading a comic or graphic novel.

What's your favorite comic or graphic novel, and what do you love about it?

Tell us a little about your current/upcoming graphic novel.

What comic or graphic novel are you reading now?

A huge thanks to First Second and Mike Lawrence! 

Be sure to visit the other stops in the tour!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

*Two Truths and a Lie* Blog Tour and Giveaway!

You know how I sometimes get really excited about a book? Well, I hate to disappoint with more of the same, but I'm not even going to attempt to hold back on my fangirl love for this book!

Two Truths and a Lie is like that "getting to know you" game you've either made your students play, have played with colleagues, or have avoided because you don't have cool enough truths...the last one is not me...
Anyway, the book is like the game in that the authors had to find the perfect balance of hard to believe truth with a well told and believable lie. And the result is 100% awesome!

First off, the cover. I think it's safe to say it would grab anyone's attention! Oh! And is that a subtitle I see? "It's Alive!" Does that mean there are going to be more to come?! Fingers crossed.

The book is separated into chapters that contain 3 stories. With chapter titles like:
"Crazy Plants"
"Creepy Plants"
"Cool Plants"

Readers will be hooked.

The text is easy to navigate, has great photos to accompany, and has more tricky-fun fact boxes to test your skills on narrowing in on the hoax.

The back of the book contains a section broken down by section that elaborates on the lie from each chapter. Reading this section is just as fun as reading the stories.

At 176 pages you might be craving more, but think of your readers that will find that a just-right amount of text to work through. (And remember my theory about more to come...)

So, I leave you with this:

Here is a nonfiction book that adults and children will LOVE.
In the off chance that someone is not reading your copy, it will look awesome sitting face-out on your shelf because the cover rocks.
Accessible text with plenty of those nonfiction features you love to teach about.
Stories that you will want to read aloud. And not just to prove that you are crazy smart and can spot all the lies, because you might be surprised...

There you have it. Go buy this book. You're welcome.

Check out the other stops on the tour:

Contest closes Wednesday, June 21st.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday 6-7-17

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy.
I noticed years back that my classroom library was heavy on fiction. Since noticing the imbalance of fiction to nonfiction, I've remained on the lookout for engaging and diverse nonfiction titles. Here are some recent finds!

John Deere, That's Who! by Tracy Nelson Maurer
Illustrated by Tim Zeltner
Henry Holt & Co., 2017
38 pages

You probably already know all about John Deere. How he invented the tractor, painted it bright green, signed his name in yellow, and called it a day. You probably can't walk into a Home Depot or a Lowe's without letting your kid detour the family over the the eye-catching riding lawn mowers in that same signature green and yellow paint. You know all about John Deere. If you have a young kid in the house you probably don't have to look far to find the name John Deere.

You can find John Deere equipment for your farm or yard, you can find toys, clothing, cups, hats, eating utensils, anything you can think of, you can probably buy one with a John Deere logo. Because about the only true thing I've said about John Deere so far is that the company is incredibly well known, which makes sense, since it's one of America's oldest manufacturing companies.

So how about this for a mind twister: John Deere never so much as touched a tractor in his life. Mainly because he lived long before tractors were out doing the hard work of tilling the soil. John Deere did work his tail off making improvements to the plows of his time (think blade pulled by horse), and went on to begin his company, the one still thriving today. It's quite amazing, though not at all what I was expecting to learn from this biography.

Ask your kids what they know about John Deere before reading, and then delight in how wrong they are ;) 

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Roaring Brook Press, 2017
General Nonfiction
48ish pages

If you've ever read a Jason Chin book before you know how stunning they are. This book is an absolute visual masterpiece. The pages have so much detail that you would need to read it multiple times to take it all in. I kind of feel bad reviewing it after only one reading. It's that kind of book. The text takes readers on an exploration of the canyon today, while flashing back to the stages of formation. This is one to add to your collection!

Friday, May 26, 2017

*Shattered Warrior* Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Welcome to the final stop on the Shattered Warrior blog tour!

First Second is giving away a copy of Shattered Warrior to one reader of this blog! 
Please enter below for your chance.

(Recommended for middle school and up)

I have been reading and reviewing children's lit for so many years with a focus on books for readers in grades 3-8. Shattered Warrior is on the higher end of my typical range, so for regular readers, know that I wouldn't put this one in my fourth grade classroom.

I would, however, recommend you read it.

The oppression, sadness, fear, anger and strength that the characters feel in this story come through loud and clear. The expressions, colors, clothing and body language, all send the same strong message: this is a story of people that will not crumble. The fierceness in the eyes of Colleen in the cover image should make that clear.

And amidst the anguish, there is a gentleness and love. Will there be more to this story? I hope so!


About the book (from the publisher):

It is eight years after Colleen Cavanaugh's home world was invaded by the Derichets, a tyrannical alien race bent on exploiting the planet's mineral resources.

Most of her family died in the war, and she now lives alone in the city. Aside from her acquaintances at the factory where she toils for the Derichets, Colleen makes a single friend in Jann, a member of a violent group of rebels known as the Chromatti. One day Colleen receives shocking news: her niece Lucy is alive and in need of her help. Together, Colleen, Jann, and Lucy create their own tenuous family.

But Colleen must decide if it's worth risking all of their survival to join a growing underground revolution against the Sharon Shinn and Molly Knox Ostertag's Shattered Warrior.

Blog Tour:
May 15th -- The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
May 16th -- Writing My Own Fairytale
May 17th -- The Novel Hermit
May 18th -- Ageless Pages Review
May 19th --  Here's To Happy Endings
May 22nd -- The Adventures of Cecelia Bedelia
May 23rd -- School Library Journal
May 24th -- The Hollow Cupboards
May 26th -- Bluestocking Thinking
Giveaway closes 6/2/17

Monday, May 22, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5-22-17

Thanks to our dynamic hosts: Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Kelle at Unleashing Readers. Head to either blog to find reviews as well as dozens of links to other blogs filled with reviews and recommendations!

Books I've Recently Read:

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
Walden Pond Press, 2017
288 pages
Recommended for grades 4-7

I can't love this book enough. And yet I feel frustration that I haven't been able to discuss with another reader yet. Please visit the link below for my full post on the book, as well as a chance to win a copy from Walden Pond Press!!

*Orphan Island* Blog Tour & Giveaway!

The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner
First Second, 2017 (First US edition)
Graphic Novel
187 pages
Recommended for grades 3+

A hilarious story about a fox that wants desperately to be feared by local farm animals, and also wants to be accepted as a tough predator by the area wolf.
When the fox can't scare the hens enough to catch one, the wolf convinces the fox to steal some eggs, and to then wait until the chicks grow a bit before gobbling them up...this is a failed plan that Mother Bruce can relate to!

This Friday I will be posting in the Shattered Warrior Blog Tour, so stay tuned for more on this title!

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

*Orphan Island* Blog Tour & Giveaway!

Orphan Island  by Laurel Snyder
Walden Pond Press, 2017
288 pages
Recommended for grades 4 -7

Description of the book from the publisher:

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?


This book. This book, this book, this book.
I'm struggling between saying enough, and not saying too much.
Here goes:

Reading this book transported me right back to my own childhood love of reading books about self-reliant children. I first loved exploring the woods with the Boxcar Children. I can still remember the items they found and brought back to their old boxcar.  Later, I lost myself in Homecoming. I still vividly remember the children scrimping to buy a loaf of bread and peanut butter to survive on. And somewhere in between those stories there were some children on a beach, there was seaweed collected, and there might have been a seal...but the title of that story has alluded my memory for years.

The connection between the stories is, like I said, self-reliant children. There is something fascinating and scary and amazing about children imagining how they would go about their lives without adults in control.

The pull to a book like this is strong. When I book-talked this to my fourth graders yesterday there were wide eyes and pleads to borrow it. I told them, soon. I needed to physically carry it around with me until I wrote this post. It's sitting next to me, a larger presence than its size would suggest. I keep glancing at it, but it won't give up its secrets. Even now, after I've loved it so truly. It's like that.

It's magical, it's mysterious, it's frustrating, it's painful. What. Is. Going. On?

Nine on the island, orphans all, 

Any more and the sky might fall.

The rhyme each child can recite hasn't had much tangible meaning, until Jinny defies expectation, and refuses to leave the island on someone else's terms. The changes begin in a subtle way, escalating to the height of near tragedy.


Laurel Snyder, thank you for writing this story. This story that I want to, need to, share with many, many people. However, if you vacation up to Maine this summer and we cross paths at the beach, the clam shack, or a starbucks, I will corner you and demand answers. Fair warning.

Don't believe me? See what they have to say!
May 15th Laura Given
May 16th Pernille Ripp & Writers Rumpus
May 17th Teach Mentor Texts
May 18th Novel Novice & Bluestocking Thinking
May 19th The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
May 20th Book Monsters
May 21st Maria's Melange
May 22nd Read, Write Reflect & Walden Media Tumblr
May 23rd Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
May 24th Nerdy Book Club
May 25th A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
May 26th Kirby Larson

Praise for Orphan Island:
“Laurel Snyder has written a story that curls around the heart and pulls in tight—a meditation on the power and wisdom and closeness and sorrow of childhood. A wondrous book, wise and wild and deeply true. I loved every second of it.”
                  Kelly Barnhill, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“An elegant and thoughtful meditation on the joys and sorrows of growing up, with lyrical prose, characters that feel as alive as your dearest friends, and a vivid setting sure to enchant young readers. A work of extraordinary heart.”
                                                                       Claire Legrand, author of Some Kind of Happiness

“A visionary, poignant, astonishingly lovely fable of childhood and change. This is a book to lose yourself in, and to never forget.”
                                                                                                  Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy

“ORPHAN ISLAND is a masterpiece—both timeless and immediate. Snyder’s book, like the island within it, contains all of the joys, wonders, and terrors of childhood. Every young reader needs this book; every grown reader needs it even more.”
                             Jonathan Auxier, New York Times bestselling author of The Night Gardener
Contest closes 5/30/17, Orphan Island's "Book Birthday!"
Thanks for visiting!