Monday, December 7, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 12-7-15

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! 

Books I've Recently Read:

Feeding the Flying Fanellis: And Other Poems from a Circus Chef by Kate Hosford
Illustrated by Cosei Kawa
Carolrhoda Books, 2015
32 pages
Recommended for grades 2-6

A collection of poems that leads readers into a whimsical lives of a group of circus performers. The poems are quirky yet flowing, full of upbeat language. Though all the poems center around the foods that are going to be served at a feast, I didn't become tired of the theme, nor did it feel forced. The illustrations are incredibly intricate and fun to look at.

Feel inspired to make one of the recipes? :) Try The Flying Fanellis Lemon Cake (and send me a piece)!

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
Scholastic, 2015
672 pages
Recommended for grades 5+

From the moment I picked up Hugo Cabret I have been in awe of Selznick. The works of art he creates are so unlike any other literary experience. With his latest book, Selznick is writing to an older reader than Hugo was aimed at. Selznick has kept with his style of half illustration, half text, but unlike both Hugo and Wonderstruck, The Marvels continues to use that technique in yet a different way. Once I finished reading about the real people and places that inspired the story, I immediately looked up the house at 18 Folgate Street...and you should, too!

Avis Dolphin by Frieda Wishinsky
Illustrated by Willow Dawson
Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press, 2015
Historical Fiction
164 pages
Recommended for grades 3+

Here is the story of a girl aboard the Lusitania, the ill fated ship that met its end on a final voyage from New York to England. So many students I've taught have had an obsession-or strong interest-in The Titanic, but many young people have yet to be exposed to the Lusitania. Though the story is simple, the day to day doings of a young girl, Avis, on board, there is the side story that develops as a fellow passenger begins sharing a story with Avis. This second story is told through wordless graphic novel style pages.  I found myself to be oddly interested in what Avis would do each day, and was sorry to see the story end!

I'm Currently Reading:

(Listening To)

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?

Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?
By Liza Gardner Walsh
Illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
Down East Books, 2015

Fairy loving people, both young and old, enjoy making fairy houses in the warm months, but do they remember their fairy friends in the blustery months of winter? This sweet story poses all sorts of possibilities around how fairies keep warm and what they might be up to when the days turn cold. I especially like the ending of the book where ideas are given to children on how they can help fairies in the winter: make dried fruit and seed garland, is one sweet idea. 

I'm teaming up with illustrator Hazel Mitchell to give one lucky reader a copy of the book as well as a winter fairy kit! Good luck!

Winner will be selected on Black Friday at 5:00pm eastern time! Great gift, no lines ;)

Liza Gardner Walsh lives on the coast of Maine with her husband and two young daughters. There they are surrounded on one side by forested mountains and on the other by Penobscot Bay. They make the most of their own fairytale: she and her family can often be found making tiny houses for fairies, mice, trolls, and other small creatures, or constructing forts and other hideaways in the woods. 
Liza has worked as a preschool teacher, children’s librarian, writing teacher, museum educator, and holds a master’s in writing from Vermont College. She is the author of several books including, Fairy House Handbook, Treasure Hunter’s Handbook, Muddy Boots and her latest, Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows? Above all, she hopes that her books inspire wonder, appreciation, and exploration of the world around us. 

Author and illustrator Hazel Mitchell is originally from England, now she lives and works in Maine. Her childhood was spent in a seaside town in Yorkshire. She can't remember a time when she wasn't drawing and still can't be left reliably alone with a pencil. When she wasn't making art, she was riding horses or rambling along the beautiful coast. After attending art college in the UK, she spent several years in the Royal Navy and then worked as a graphic designer. Now she's doing what she always dreamed of - creating books for children. 
Her first book was published in 2011 and latest books include Where Do Fairies Go When It Snows?, Animally, Imani's MoonOne Word Pearl and 1,2,3 by the Sea. Her first book as author and illustrator, Toby, will be published in 2016 by Candlewick Press. Her work has been recognized by Bank Street's Best of Children's Books, Reading is Fundamental, Society of Illustrator's of Los Angeles, Foreword Reviews, Learning Magazine and Maine Libraries 'Cream of the Crop' 2015. She is represented by Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown Ltd., NYC. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 10-26-15

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! 

I've let my reviews pile up on me! I will be brief this time.

Books I've Recently Read:

As usual, Preus writes a historical fiction that pulls you in straight away. This is a follow-up novel to the amazing Heart of a Samuri. This story takes place in Japan and follows a new young man. There were places in the book where the perspective changed to that of a young American sailor, I didn't find that it added much to the story, and instead muddled it a bit. Give this one to your readers that love digging in to historical texts, it's not light, but it will be fun for the right reader!
Recommended for grades 5+

A fun mystery! I listened to this one, and would readily recommend the audio version. This title is on the 2015-16 Maine Student Book Award list. 
Recommended for grades 4-8

Fable Comics Edited by Chris Duffy
First Second, 2015
Traditional Literature-Graphic Novel
124 pages
Recommended for grades 3+

A diverse collection of fables from around the world. Some of the fables are well known, others might sail right over the heads of some readers. As usual with this series, the art styles are wonderfully different, which creates a fun collection.

Another 2015-16 Maine Student Book Award title. I listened to the audio version of this book and enjoyed it. There is so much to this story, and reading it aloud to a class would provide so many discussion points. How do we feel about zoos, what are the pros and cons? Can you imagine not being able to speak your mind because a stutter holds you back? Although the animals can communicate with the main character, sending this story into the fantasy realm, there are so many other real issues to solidly ground the story.
Recommended for grades 4-8

Bayou Magic by Jewel Parker Rhodes
Little Brown Books, 2015
256 pages
Recommended for grades 3-6

Maddy visits her GrandmĂ©re in Bon Temps, spending the summer learning about how magical GranmĂ©re thinks Bon Temps is. When Maddy sees the magic first hand when she meets Mami Wata, a legendary mermaid. Though there is a mythical mermaid in this story, there are also hard and heavy issues like alcoholism, oil spills  and loss. At times I felt like there were too many things going on.

The Trouble with Ants by Claudia Mills
Illustrated by Katie Kath
Knopf, 2015
Realistic Fiction
164 pages
Recommended for grades 3-5

Nora studies ants and wants to have an article published in a nature magazine so that she can be the youngest girl published in a scientific journal. Though Nora's motivation to publish an article isn't only stemming from her passion for studying ants, you can forgive her for it as she truly does have a passion for the tiny beings. Great book to add to collections of girls shining in the field of science. The writing has a nice flow, the characters are believable and entertaining. 

The Last of the Sandwalkers by Jay Hosler
First Second, 2015
Fantasy- Graphic Novel
312 pages
Recommended for grades 4-8

Told in black and white drawings, we follow a family of beetles as they seek to discover what is beyond their city. Driven by their passion for science and exploration, the beetles call on each others' various strengths. Lots of danger, a good helping of humor and many facts about insects and animals make this a multidimensional story. I have a fourth grade student reading this now, and every day when I check in with him he has new facts to tell me or humorous parts to relate to me-he's loving it!

The Imaginary by A.F. Harrold
Illustrated by Emily Gravett
Bloomsbury, 2015
224 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Opens heavy, though I don't think young readers will grab hold of the depth of the Christina Rossetti poem that sets the tone for the beginning of the story. 
I do think kids will find the idea of imaginary friends being real, and having a secret gathering place to be a cool idea. The illustrations add a great element to the story. Some parts are down-right creepy, and the accompanying illustrations only heighten the feeling!

And now for two that I absolutely love:

The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Aladdin, 2015
374 pages
Recommended for grades 5-8

Christopher Rowe is an apothecary apprentice to Benedict Blackthorn, the man that saved Chris from Cripplegate Orphanage. Christopher deeply cares for his master and has a true appreciation for people and also for home. When apothecaries are being found murdered all throughout the city, Christopher has good reason to be worried about his and his master's safety. Benedict knows something powerful, and soon that information will be passed down through a series of clues to Christopher.
The story has tragedy and sadness, friendship and loyalty, action and intrigue. I am recommending it for grade 5 and up due to some of the graphic descriptions. 

Paper Things by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Candlewick Press, 2015
Realistic Fiction
376 pages
Recommended for grades 4+

Arianna Hazard and her older brother, Gage, bounce around from couch to couch, storage unit to shelter, anywhere offered as they find themselves homeless. Ari wants to fulfill her mother's dying wish of getting into Carter Middle School for gifted students, which is slipping away as Ari's grades and behaviors change. A touching and raw story, with characters that are so real. I would love to read this story aloud to students. 

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by!
Have a great week!

Friday, September 11, 2015

That's (Not) Mine

 I'm thrilled to be sharing That's (Not) Mine with readers today! Husband and wife team Christopher Weyant (illustrator) and Anna Kang (author) have collaborated again to bring us characters you first met in You Are (Not) Small-which won the Theodore Seuss Geisel Award! 

Here's what I wanted to ask the duo (enjoy!):

First off Anna and Christopher, congratulations on the success of You Are (Not) Small. I know that was an important story for you to write, Anna, with some important personal connections. I am sitting here looking at the (very expressive) cover of That’s (Not) Mine and I just have to know, do you two have trouble sharing things?!

Anna: Thank you for your kind words! Yes, as with You Are (Not) Small, the idea for That’s (Not) Mine came from my childhood, specifically, growing up with a brother with whom I learned to share, or not share. Truth be told, my brother was a much better sharer than I was, but fortunately for Chris, I’ve matured since then and I’m much better at it now. As a couple, I think Chris and I share pretty well, considering that we share the responsibilities of taking care of our children and household, our workspace, and our book projects. Of course, there are definitely moments when sharing is really a challenge, but having a sense of humor helps. A lot. 

Chris: When I was a child, my older brother and I were so terrible at sharing that my parents would mark everything with our initials to clearly mark which toys belonged to whom. We had a coveted set of wooden blocks—in the corner of each piece, written in blue pen, were either the initials, “C” for Chris or “G” for Glenn. One day, I noticed that all of the really important pieces were gone and I discovered that my brother had found my father’s pen and turned my “C’s” into “G’s!” Luckily, Anna and I don’t have to use this system as we share much better than I did with my brother. Plus, it’s much harder to turn a “C” into an “A.”

Every parent and teacher that reads this story is going to have a major sense of deja vu. Ok, every person who was ever a child is going to have that sense. This is such a real point in the lives of young people! This time when we want to stake claim to something, anything, to show that we are here and we matter. What power do you see in the pages of your book? How do you hope and imagine young readers reacting to your story?

Anna: I hope young readers identify with the characters and the story and see that sharing is difficult for everyone, even between friends. As you said, children naturally stake claim to things that help define them. But first and foremost, I hope they will enjoy the story and illustrations and laugh, because I believe that if kids are drawn to a book, they will want to have it read to them repeatedly, and then try to read it independently. 

Chris: Conflict is such a big part of growing up (and being a grown-up, as well!). I enjoyed how Anna created a story that allows our characters to fight, work their way through the conflict, and come out on the other side as friends. The chair is just a thing, and it’s the friendship that matters in the end. I think that’s an important message which I hope readers take away with them.

I think it is special that author and illustrator are working collaboratively, what is that like for you both?

Anna: Chris and I have known each other for twenty years, so we understand each other’s sensibilities and perspective and try to give constructive criticism within that context, which helps a lot. Of course, as I said before, sometimes sharing (ideas, opinions, criticism, etc., along with everything else) can be really challenging, so having a sense of humor always helps. Also, I try to keep in mind what our purple and orange guys are teaching us: everyone has their own valid perspective, even if you don’t agree with it.  

Chris: It’s by far the most collaborative project that I’ve ever been a part of and I’ve learned so much from it. Anna and I discuss every aspect of the book—the illustrations, the character creation, story, message, humor, color, etc. Amazingly, we have been able to provide input into each other’s side of things and yet preserve our own voice, too. For me, it makes a much stronger book and I feel lucky that I get to have Anna as my creative partner.

Thank you so much for stopping by Bluestocking Thinking! I look forward to spreading the book love for That’s (Not) Mine!

From the publisher:
Husband-and-wife team Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of You Are (Not) Small, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award and was named a Notable Children’s Book by the American Library Association. They live in New Jersey with their two daughters, Kate and Lily, a guinea pig named Athena, and a hermit crab named Olaf.

Anna, a native New Yorker, grew up believing everything was hers until one day she realized it was her brother’s, too. She received a master’s degree in fine arts from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where the visual storyteller in her was awakened, forever changing the way she saw art, life, and everything in between. In addition to writing, Anna loves to read, travel, laugh, eat, and nap. Visit her online at

Christopher is a cartoonist and illustrator. His work can regularly be seen in the New Yorker. His cartoons are syndicated worldwide and have been featured on the Today ShowMeet the Press, and World News Tonight. Christopher likes to share everything but his personal space on the subway. Visit him online at
Twitter: @annakang27     @chrisweyant05

For more information, and to download a free curriculum guide, visit: or

Follow the tour!

Mon, Aug 31
Tues, Sept 1
Jean Little Library
Wed, Sept 2
Teach Mentor Texts
Thurs, Sept 3
Kid Lit Frenzy
Fri, Sept 4
Unleashing Readers
Mon, Sept 7
The Children's Book Review
Tues, Sept 8
Wed, Sept 9
The Library Fanatic
Thurs, Sept 10
Fri, Sept 11
Bluestocking Thinking

Want a copy?! Enter to win a copy of That's (Not) Mine and an adorable full-color poster! Entries must be received by Sunday, September 13th.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

International Literacy Day 2015

Check out this graphic full of literary statistics, and be thankful that you can read and comprehend it!
In honor of International Literacy Day:

Literacy Day
This infographic is the property of
In promoting this graphic, Grammarly will donate $10 to Reading is Fundamental, the literacy promoting charity of my choice!

Monday, September 7, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 9-7-15

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! 

As my son would say, WooooW!, the weather in New England was gorgeous this Labor Day weekend! 

Books I've Recently Read:

 Space Boy and his Sister Dog by Dian Curtis Regan
illustrated by Robert Neubecker
Boyds Mill Press, 2015
32 pages
Recommended for grades pre-k-2

The perfect book for children that love to imagine, which is to say, the perfect book for kids!
Niko (one such imaginative boy), his robot copilot and his pet dog, travel to outer space for adventure. It's important to note that Niko does not want his sister, Posh, to be in this story. But, as sisters sometimes do, she crashes the party and finds herself smack dab in the middle of the book.
Strong colors and engaging images add to the appeal of this story. 
Niko makes a rocket from a cardboard box, that's something many kids can relate to:

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson
illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
Greenwillow Books, 2006
28 pages
Recommended for grades k+

Simple, yet whimsical illustrations give this story a soft feel. I came across this story online, with a recommendation to use it as a mentor text in writing. With phrases like: "The rich green of the forest was turning to dusty gold, and the soft, swishing sound of summer was fading to a crinkly whisper."  "The leaves shivered and shook themselves and began to wriggle free. They tossed and turned and twitched and twirled and tumbled to the ground." it isn't a wonder that people are using it as a mentor text.

I'm Currently Reading:

(Listening to)

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Guest Post Featuring "Rufus and the Flying Carpet"

I haven't written my own children's book yet, so in the meantime, I can highlight the work of others!
~featuring Rufus and the Flying Carpet by Pauli Murphy

     The Series of adventures with "Rufus and The Flying Carpet" are an invitation. An invitation to Children of ALL ages (i.e.humans) to leap into the furthest reaches of imagination and join Rufus and his Friends as they engage in wonderful and exciting experiences with the help of their Magical Flying Carpet.

     The wonder that young children are naturally drawn to is addressed from the start, with Rufus' ability to see Faeries and Angelic Beings and such-like. To Rufus, as to most of the young, this facility is entirely normal and he is surprised to find that not everybody has it. His belief that you can "Be, Do or Have anything that you wish" is what fuels the intentions of the adventurers and "the sky", as you will see, is by no means "the limit"!

     The stories skip along, ever more expansive and imaginative, inviting the reader (or listener) to begin to guess what could happen next. The illustrations, by Sandra Ingham and Ellie Grant of Truro, add a delight and focus, whilst never detracting from the reader's own ability and desire to imagine the amazing scenes for themselves.

     Mentored, with regard to structure, flow and direction, by Tomos Turtle (15, who won the Barefoot Books, nationwide First Prize for story-telling at the age of 8) Pauli Murphy's series picks the reader up and puts you right there on the Carpet, with the adventurous little rabbits, to travel to places so unknown, peopled by beings of astounding contrast that you will find yourself holding your breath from time to time !

     This 'benevolent' series will not dismay as it builds upon the wonderful inter-relationships of the main characters, each with their delightful humour, strengths, weaknesses and their courage as well as vulnerabilities clearly evident. Beautiful, carefully embedded life lessons pop up and are clarified by the characters and the circumstances, but never "saccharine" or imposing, with choice and free will being paramount.

     The mark of good fiction, leaving the reader very much wanting more, is distinctive in Pauli Murphy's writing. You can tell from the start that he truly enjoys creating these books.We suggest ($3.08 on Kindle) that you might enjoy reading them, perhaps even more so when reading them to children.

     "Rufus and The Flying Carpet - The Beginning" is the 1st in the series. Pauli is currently at work on the 2nd (outer space is mentioned !) and there is a ($1.53) on Kindle, soon to be in print) lovely little booklet, "Rufus' Lessons for Children of ALL ages - How to tie a Bowline" (pronounced "Bo-Lin") The MOST important knot in the World ! Could be a life-saver, while the Flying Carpet Series is a "Life Savour !"

Monday, August 31, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 8-31-15

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!

The new classroom space is feeling a lot more like home now that the books are settled. There are still some adjustments to be made, but I am feeling ready for school to start. My new school community has been wonderfully welcoming, helping in any and all ways possible. And everyone is so ambitious, I am loving it! I would like to share some classroom pictures-soon!

Books I've Recently Read:

A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
Bloomsbury, 2015
224 pages
Recommended for grades 5-7

This book opens with force. The recommended age range in the ARC is 3-6. I find myself often wondering if I am too conservative, am I censoring??!! my classroom library, or are some books simply being pushed too soon on readers too young? What do you think: The book opens with a scene in which our main character's mother hangs herself outside the hospital from the branch of a dogwood tree. Pram's mother is pregnant, and as a result Pram also dies, and is then revived. This dying and reviving is part of the backstory to where Pram's ability to communicate with the dead, and to move between the space of the living and the dead, comes from.

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Disney-Hyperion, 2015
Historical Fiction
368 pages
Recommended for grades 7+

Set in the 1920s-1940s, first in America and then in Ethiopia, we are taken on a journey with Emilia and Teo, the children of pilots Rhoda (White Raven) and Delia (Black Dove).  This book offers a different perspective on what was taking place as WWII gained momentum in Ethiopia, not our typical American and European views. Of course the war is only one piece of this story. It is so much more, a story of family and courage, of being true to yourself and also finding who that self is.

I'm Currently Reading:

Thanks for stopping by! Happy back to school time :)