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!

Monday, May 1, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 5-1-17

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!

Whoa, it's May.

This week I'm sharing two books that are entirely and hilariously different!

Books I Read this Week:

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld, 
illustrated by Alex Puvilland, colors by Hilary Sycamore
First Second, 2017
Science Fiction/Graphic Novel
215 pages
Recommended for grades 8+

What I want to say is that I read this book in 5 minutes. But that would #1: be ridiculously unfair to only spend 5 minutes with the work of these talented three creators, and #2: be a total lie. It only felt like I spent 5 minutes with this book. What happens is this: you look at the edgy cover, read the back of the book and the jacket flap, you get a feel for this story, and then dive right in. And then a few pages in you see your first meat puppet, you read that right, and then your eyes get wide and you can't. stop. reading.
You may or may not talk in your sleep that night after reading this book in bed. (I did, but I cannot guarantee this side-effect.)

Here's the low-down: There has been a spill someplace in upstate New York which has left an area dubbed the Spill Zone. Addison is a teen that rides her dirt bike into the Spill Zone to snap pictures of what it looks like inside the zone. It is illegal and incredibly dangerous. It's also personal. Addison's parents were in the zone when the spill happened. Her sister barely escaped, but the how is shrouded in mystery, and it left her speechless and withdrawn. The money Addison makes selling her photographs to collectors is used to keep her and her sister cared for. 
Also, her sister has a possessed rag doll, so there's that as well.

Certainly for the upper-end of middle school and beyond, mainly due to language. There's something about seeing swears in print that is so much harsher than hearing them in a movie or a song. They don't disappear, they are there in black, to read as many times as you want. Or don't want. Just my thoughts.

The book leaves off telling you there is more to come, thank goodness.

Hubble Bubble: The Great Granny Cake Contest by Tracey Corderoy, 
illustrated by Joe Berger
Nosy Crow, 2017 (first US edition)
128 pages
Recommended for grades 2-4

There are three short stories within this book. Each story follows a young witch named Pandora, as she takes on a small challenge. By Pandora's side is her unruly and excitable granny, who often uses a bit too much magic to solve her problems....thus creating more problems!

Young readers will enjoy this light story. These books were previously published in England (I believe) and there are more to come!

Interior shot:

I'm Currently Reading:

I'm Currently Reading Aloud in 4th grade:

Before reading we discussed the different covers. My hardcover is the top shown, paperbacks are the bottom image. Which do you think 4th graders were more drawn to?
My thoughts, the two covers combined give a better feel for the story than either one alone does.

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

POSTED Blog Tour and Giveaway!

I recently finished reading Posted by John David Anderson. At 384 pages long, I was able to spend a lot of time getting to know the characters, and a lot of time thinking about the messages in this story. But even though I had 384 pages to think through, it didn't feel like nearly enough time.

Here's the thing, the characters Anderson creates are real. They have real personalities, real experiences, and real emotions and thoughts. As Sandra Cisneros reminded us in Eleven, we are still 11, and 13 and 12. Once we've been those ages, we never undo them. So even though I'm far from middle school, I could still feel the uncertainty, and the frailty of feelings when faced with comments or looks from certain people. I could also remember the feeling of what it meant to be part of a tribe of friends. Being surrounded by the people that get you.

It's all here.

Anderson's writing is a gift to us. I hope this novel is used in classrooms, as a read aloud or for book groups and clubs. There is just so. much. here. Navigating friendships, and navigating who you are. I often paused while reading to savor passages.

"You can do an awful lot of damage with a handful of words. You can destroy friendships. You can end a marriage. You can start a war. Some words can break you to pieces.
But that's not all. Words can be beautiful. They can make you feel things you've never felt before. Gather enough of them and sometimes they can stick those same pieces back together."
If you were to read the final paragraph of the book before reading the whole story (do not do this), it wouldn't mean all that much to you. But after spending so much time with Frost, Wolf, Deedee and Rose, you've been privy to many inside jokes and been there for all sorts of events and conversations, and that final paragraph is filled with references to those things. You might just feel like part of the tribe by the time you read that final paragraph. And feeling that will bring a smile to your face.

If books were for hugging (and they are) then this is surely one to hug. Please get this book. Get it for you, and get it for others.
Oh, and include some cool sticky notes.

Other stops on the tour:

April 18 Nerdy Book Club
April 22 Next Best Book
April 24 Litcoach Lou
                        Book Monsters
April 25 Kirsti Call
                                                                          April 27 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia                                                                          
                        Ms Yingling Reads
                                                                                    April 28 Maria's Mélange                                                                                     
                     Novel Novice
April 29 The Hiding Spot

Special thanks to Walden Pond Press!
Giveaway closes Friday (4/28) at 9pm Eastern

Monday, April 17, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 4-17-17

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 Read this Week:

Varmints by Andy Hirsch
First Second, 2016
Graphic Novel
215 pages
Recommended for grades 4-6

Lots of fun, and tons of action. The only problem with a story for kids being set in the wild west is the amount of drinking, shooting and saloon scenes! Eeeee, I hesitate putting this in my classroom library because I feel like I have to be able to stand behind my decision 100%. Public library, heck yeah! Do other teachers grapple with this??
I do know that kids will certainly like the humor, pacing and vibrant illustrations.

How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea by Kate Hosford
Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska
Carolrhoda Books, 2017
Recommended for grades 1+

I'm hosting today's stop in the How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea blog tour today. Visit this post for a more complete review and a chance to win a copy!
You'll love the humor and heart in this story. Travel with the queen to Japan, India and Turkey in search of a perfect cup of tea.

I'm Currently Reading:

What My Kid is Currently Enjoying:

Thanks for stopping by!