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The Princess in Black
Authors: Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrator: LeUyen Pham
Published October 14th, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Who says princesses don’t wear black? When trouble raises its blue monster head, Princess Magnolia ditches her flouncy dresses and becomes the Princess in Black!

Princess Magnolia is having hot chocolate and scones with Duchess Wigtower when . . . Brring! Brring! The monster alarm! A big blue monster is threatening the goats! Stopping monsters is no job for dainty Princess Magnolia. But luckily Princess Magnolia has a secret —she’s also the Princess in Black, and stopping monsters is the perfect job for her! Can the princess sneak away, transform into her alter ego, and defeat the monster before the nosy duchess discovers her secret? From award-winning writing team of Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham, here is the first in a humorous and action-packed chapter book series for young readers who like their princesses not only prim and perfect, but also dressed in black.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am a sucker for girl power books. So much, I was part of writing three Nerdy Book Club Girl Power posts (here, here, and here). Princess in Black fits right in this these books. Although Princess Magnolia must live up to society’s expectations of a proper princess, in secret she fights crime, isn’t afraid of anything, and doesn’t wear pretty dresses. I love the idea that Magnolia can be a princess and all kick some butt. (I wish she could do it not in secret, but that wouldn’t fit the societal views of princesses in most fairy tales.) I know that the Hales wrote this book for their daughters, and I can see why they did: a great heroine, lots of action, funny, and colorful, fun illustrations. Princess in Black would actually be a perfect first introduction to the narrative elements and plot arc. It also just enough complex vocabulary that you could start a discussion about some of the words.

We Flagged: Chapter Two: “Princesses do not run. Princesses do not stuff frilly pink dresses into broom closets. Princess do not wear black. And princesses most definitely do not slide down secret chutes and high-jump castle walls. But then, most princess do not live near an entrance to Monster Land. Stopping monsters was no job for prim and perfect Princess Magnolia. But fortunately Princess Magnolia did have a secret. She was secretly the Princess in black! And stopping monsters was the perfect job for the Princess in Black.”

Read This If You Loved: Salem Hyde (series) by Frank Cammuso, Battle Bunny by Jon Sciezska, Fairy Tales

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leroy ninker
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen
Published August 26th, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Yippie-i-oh! Saddle up for the first in a spin-off series starring favorite characters from Kate DiCamillo’s New York Timesbest-selling Mercy Watson books.

Leroy Ninker has a hat, a lasso, and boots. What he doesn’t have is a horse — until he meets Maybelline, that is, and then it’s love at first sight. Maybelline loves spaghetti and sweet nothings, and she loves Leroy, too. But when Leroy forgets the third and final rule of caring for Maybelline, disaster ensues. Can Leroy wrestle fate to the ground, rescue the horse of his heart, and lasso loneliness for good? Join Leroy, Maybelline, and a cast of familiar characters — Stella, Frank, Mrs. Watson, and everyone’s favorite porcine wonder, Mercy — for some hilarious and heartfelt horsing around on Deckawoo Drive.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I must be honest: I have not read the Mercy Watson books, but luckily it does not matter because Leroy is just so darn loveable. His personality shines through the pages and you just are so happy that Leroy and Maybelline found each other. Also, Kate DiCamillo has a way with voice! I can always hear her characters talking in my head, and they each are so very distinct. I also love her use of vocabulary and humor–perfect! This one is going to be loved by many!

Discussion Questions: Why do you think that Maybelline is the perfect horse for Leroy?; Was Leroy truly prepared to have a horse? How do you know?; Why does Leroy want to be a cowboy?

We Flagged: Leroy Ninker said ‘Yippie-i-oh’ because Leroy Ninker had a dream. He wanted to be a cowboy.

On Wednesday nights, the Bijou Drive-In Theater ran a Western double feature, and Leroy Ninker Stood and watched in wonder as the great white expanse of the Bijou screen filled with purple mountains, wide-open plains, and cowboys.

The cowboys wore ten-gallon hats. The wore boots. They carried lassos. The cowboys were men who cast long shadows and knew how to fight injustice. They were men who where never, ever afraid.

‘Yippie-i-oh,’ Leroy Ninker whispered to the screen. ‘That is the life for me. A cowboy is who I was meant to be.'” (p.2)

Read This If You Loved: Lulu and the Brontosaurus (series) by Judish Viorst, Frankie Pickle (series) by Eric Wight, Bramble and Maggie (series) by Jessie Haas

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**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing copies for review**

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secret hum of daisy

The Secret Hum of a Daisy
Author: Tracy Holczer
Published: July 24, 2014 by Annick Press

Summary: Twelve-year-old Grace and her mother have always been their own family, traveling from place to place like gypsies. But Grace wants to finally have a home all their own. Just when she thinks she’s found it her mother says it’s time to move again. Grace summons the courage to tell her mother how she really feels and will always regret that her last words to her were angry ones.

After her mother’s sudden death, Grace is forced to live with a grandmother she’s never met. She can’t imagine her mother would want her to stay with this stranger. Then Grace finds clues in a mysterious treasure hunt, just like the ones her mother used to send her on. Maybe itis her mother, showing her the way to her true home.

Lyrical, poignant and fresh, The Secret Hum of a Daisy is a beautifully told middle grade tale with a great deal of heart.

Ricki’s Review: The Secret Hum of a Daisy truly pulled my heartstrings. Readers of this blog know that I am a slightly critical reader of middle grade texts, and I often prefer high school texts, but my oh my, this one is beautiful. Having lost loved ones and friends, I know that grief hits you at random times. Holczer captured this reality beautifully. This book feels melancholy at the same time as it feels hopeful and lyrical. Young people will learn strength and resilience in Grace. Holczer’s thoughtful pacing makes this poignant coming of age story quite beautiful.

Kellee’s Review: This is one of those books that grabs you and sucks you in. I mostly love our main character. She has had to grow up too quickly thus making her a bit rough around the edges, but the way that friendship, family, history, poetry, and stories smooth her out is just so well done. Although at times I felt Grace came off older than she is, I realized, after talking to Carrie G., that it is because of the hardships she has endured. And the cast of characters, family and friends, who play a role in Grace’s transformation all are so well crafted. The Secret Hum of Daisy is a beautiful book because of Holczer’s word choice, Grace’s story, and the look at grief, family, and friendship.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The Robert Frost references in this book easily lend themselves to instructional supplements for teachers. The sadness of this novel is important to discuss with students. They might consider poetry or journaling as an outlet for their emotions. Additionally, teachers my show students the stages of grief to help them better understand Grace’s emotions. Grace says that she gathers “every bit” she can of her Mama. Teachers might consider asking students to gather bits of people they love and sharing these with the class. Curriculum Guide from Penguin.

Check out our Guest Post from Tracy Holczer here!

Discussion Questions: Does Grace’s mom make mistakes in her parenting? What might she have done differently?; Do you agree with Grace’s decision to live in the shed? Do you consider this to be immature or strong of her? Why?

We Flagged: “Mama pulled me into her lap and her yellow chair creaked under our weight. ‘You have to trust me, Grace. We don’t need anyone else.'” (p. 8)

“Trying to ignore the blasts of rain against the tin roof, I dug a flashlight out of one of the boxes and laid my sleeping bag and pillow on our flower-garden sofa. I took my latest notebook out of my duffel and climbed into the sleeping bag.

I hadn’t written anything in the six days since Mama died, and the words were scratching at me in the way they always did. I hoped to find the end of that string inside of myself–the string that tended to work into knots–and pull it straight. That was how the words felt sometimes as I wrote them down. Like I was taking something scrambled and unscrambling it.” (p. 24)

We also loved page 57, 97, and 134.

Read This If You Loved: In This Moment by Wendy Glenn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson, Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, The Carnival at Bray by Jessie Ann Foley, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin, Torn Away by Jennifer Brown


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**Thank you to Tracy Holczer for providing copies for review**

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Trent's Fave Books 9-12 months

This has been such a wonderful year! Being a mom has changed my view of the world and made me think about my place in the world; however, watching my son grow has been the most amazing thing in the world, and I have loved sharing all of the things I love about my son and being a mom.

My favorite thing to share with you all, though, is all of the amazing books Trent and I read. Check out our 0-3 month post, 3-6 month post, and 6-9 month post. Today I wanted to do an overview of Trent’s favorite books over the first year. Although there are so many wonderful books we read over this first year, these are the ones that we find ourselves reading over and over (includes primarily board books because those are easier for Trent to manipulate and sturdier so there is no tearing). To see all that we’ve read and see all of my ratings, check out my Goodreads shelf.

Trent’s Favorite Books
These are the books that Trent will dig through a pile to find when it is time to read.

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Fifteen Animals by Sandra Boynton
This book will help Trent with both animals and counting. Also, it has a super fun song that goes along with the book which makes it so much fun to read!

Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton
I love this book! It is super cute, about an unusual friendship, and also has a great song (sung by Davey Jones).

Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin
 Pete is probably Trent’s favorite! As we read, he points at Pete and is mesmorized for the whole book. It also has a fun song (see a trend?!?!). 

If I Were a Penguin… by Anne Wilkinson
This book takes us through characteristics of penguins and is a touch-and-feel book. Trent has a favorite page in this book that he’ll open up to and just rub the penguin’s wing and stare at the page for minutes.

Other Favorite Books
There’s a chance Trent will pick these too!

kiss kiss good night are you my mother five black cats goodnight goodnight a book of sleep go train go

Kiss Kiss Good Night by Ken Kesbitt
This is probably Jim’s favorite book to read to Trent at bedtime. It is a very sweet bedtime story with animals.

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman
A classic! We love watching the You Tube video that reads the story with us as well as reading the board book. This was the first book that Trent took with him in place of a toy then read in the back seat as I drove him to daycare. This warmed my heart.

Five Black Cats by Patricia Hegarty
This Halloween story is more about some rambunctious black cats. The prose is so much fun to read and the pictures are colorful which holds Trent’s attention.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (Sound Book) by Sherri Duskey Rinker
I love this story filled with goodnights to our favorite construction machines, and I think the sound makes it even better! The rhyming story with the sounds makes it a wonderful bedtime story.

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
This beautiful look at animals’ bedtime has such amazing artwork. Trent and I love to look at the different animals.

Go, Train, Go! by Wilbert Awdry
Such a fun Thomas the Train story. This is one that Trent has just started picking up often. We’ll have to see what happens!

I so look forward to seeing what books Trent loves over the next year!
What books should I make sure we get to? 


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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Top Ten Favorite Book Heroines 


I decided to stick with fantasies because in my initial list, it felt odd to mix fantasies with nonfiction. Perhaps I will do non-fantasy heroines in a future post. You rock, ladies!

1. Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I could easily choose any Kristin Cashore female lead. She writes heroines like no other author. But Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight. That is pretty darn tough.

2. Lyra from His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Lyra is young, but she is fierce. She tries to save the world. No big deal.

3. Ismae from Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

I discovered this book on audiobook, and I think it is the best audiobook that I have ever listened too. Ismae is an assassin. If you haven’t read this book and want to read about a female who kicks butt, look no further.

4. Cassia from Matched by Allie Condie

I love Cassia because she stands up for herself and follows what she believes to be good and right and true.

5. Princess Elizabeth from The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch

I read this picture book many moons ago, but the heroine still sticks with me. This is a great picture book to empower young girls.


1. Katsa from Graceling by Kristin Cashore

I almost picked Fire because Ricki picked Katsa, but I couldn’t. Katsa is probably my favorite heroine of all time. She is so troubled, contemplative, strong, and hard-core, but also ends up being caring and smart. She is phenomenal.

2. Hermoine from Harry Potter by JK Rowling

I know this is cliche, but I love Hermoine. I love that a nerdy, smart girl can help save the world.

3. Zita from Zita (series) by Ben Hatke

I love Zita. She is a good friend. She is brave. She isn’t judgmental. She is smart. She is a girl that all boys will root for and all girls will long to be. And Zita doesn’t let anyone down- she is a true hero.

4. Lunch Lady from Lunch Lady (series) by Jarrett Krosoczka

Talk about the unexpected heroine! And she just keeps saving the day.

5. Kate from Matt Cruse (series) by Kenneth Oppel

Kate, like Hermoine, is brilliant beyond her years, but unlike Hermoine, she is expected to be prim and proper. Psh. Kate is not going to sit there and look pretty; she is going to jump right in, go on adventures, and get educated.

Which heroines are your favorite?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday taste of freedom dreaming in indian 0-545-15353-0

Tuesday: Top Ten Book Related Problems We Have

Friday: How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday by Jane Yolen (& Can You Believe Trent is ONE?!)

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

 Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: This was a crazy week for us! I was planning for Trent’s birthday party all week, so I didn’t get much reading done though I did finish listening to The Lion of Little Rock by Kristin Levine which was so wonderful! I am so glad that I listened to it.

The only new book Trent and I read this week was How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday? by Jane Yolen which I reviewed on Friday. It was a great birthday book.

Ricki: This week, I finished another book on my #mustreadin2015 list: The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer. The writing was stunning, and I was happy to go back and read her guest post from last year. Everyone in my YA book club loved it, and we had a fun time discussing it. I suspect many of you have already read it, but if you haven’t I highly recommend it. I also finished The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers by Johnny Saldaña. My head is spinning at all of the coding possibilities. It was a good read, overall, though.

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: I am still reading The Cure for Dreaming which I am very much enjoying. Cat Winters is such a unique writer! In the car, I am going to start listening to The Family Romanov which I am very much looking forward to.

Ricki: Kellee has been telling me to read Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil for quite some time. I finally got around to ordering it via Interlibrary Loan and am excited to read it!

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday Trent's Fave Books 9-12 months secret hum of daisy leroy ninker princessinblack

Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Book Heroines

Wednesday: Trent & Kellee’s Favorite Picture Books: The First Year

 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday?
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Mark Teague
Published September 1st, 2011 by The Blue Sky Press

Goodreads Summary: Everyone has a birthday, and from riotous birthday parties to the excitement of being one year older, having a birthday is the highlight of a young child’s year.

All little dinosaurs love to get presents, and this new board book will be an immediate favorite. From birthday hats to Ceratosaurus-sized cakes, America’s young readers will laugh out loud as the celebration moves from “bad” birthday behavior to just the right amount of silliness and sharing. Bestselling duo Jane Yolen and Mark Teague have created the perfect introduction to birthday parties, with the same beloved humor and warmth of all their previous bestselling “How Do Dinosaurs” books.

Here’s a wonderful way to say “Happy Birthday!” to any dinosaur…young or old!

My Review: I bought this book to read to Trent on every birthday, and I cannot believe that today is the first one! I decided that this was the perfect birthday book because it is super fun to read, has great dino illustrations by Mark Teague who is such a great artist, and it even teaches a nice message that will be a perfect reminder at each birthday. I am so excited to share it with him for the first time today (and his 1st birthday party is dino themed, so it’s perfect!). Which brings me back to…



This year has gone by super quickly. To commemorate, I wanted to share some of my favorite things about Trent and being a mom:

1) Trent likes books. I was so worried that I would read to him every day and that it would never lead to Trent liking books; however, that is not the case! He likes to grab his favorites (Pete the CatFifteen Animals, and Personal Penguin) and flip through them or have us read to him. He’s even chosen books a few times as his toy to bring to the car on the way to daycare. I love listening to him in the back seat “reading” to himself.

2) Trent laughs with his whole self. I love when he laughs. He is a full body laugher, and it just fills his whole self and the whole room. And he does that thing where your laugh isn’t just on the exhale, it is on the inhale too. So great!

3) Trent is a super chill, super happy baby. Of course he has his melt downs, he cries when he doesn’t like something, and he cries when he’s tired/hungry/waking up; however, for the most part he is a super chill, super happy baby. His demeanor and attitude make me so proud!

4) Trent loves pop punk, dream pop, the Beatles/”Across the Universe” soundtrack, and the Snoopy song. He loves to listen to music. Trent dancing is SUPER adorable. He kind of shakes his hips and moves back and forth. It is so cute! Also, if he is upset, pop punk music surprisingly calms him down. I really think he likes all music, but these are the ones that he seems to enjoy the most.

5) The way he looks at me. Wow. That way that he looks at me is a look that could melt anyone’s heart. I knew how to love before, but this is a different type of love. It is a love that fills me up and makes me complete.

6) The way he looks at Jim. The whole son/dad thing is just the best ever. I love spying on them and watching them be so cute.

7) Watching him learn. To think that a year ago he was born and couldn’t do anything but poop, pee, and eat, and now he walks, talks, learns, etc. is just the most amazing thing in the entire world. My favorite things he’s learned recently are: how to play by himself, sign language for more, how to turn the propellers on his helicopter, pointing, and the SO BIG game.

8) Everything. I just had to cover my bases in case I forgot something :)

Being a mom may just be the coolest thing ever!

Happy birthday Trent! I love you!


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dreaming in indian

Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices
Editors: Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Leatherdale
Published: July 24, 2014 by Annick Press

Summary: A powerful and visually stunning anthology from some of the most groundbreaking Native artists working in North America today.

Truly universal in its themes, “Dreaming In Indian” will shatter commonly held stereotypes and challenge readers to rethink their own place in the world. Divided into four sections, ‘Roots, ‘ ‘Battles, ‘ ‘Medicines, ‘ and ‘Dreamcatchers, ‘ this book offers readers a unique insight into a community often misunderstood and misrepresented by the mainstream media.

Emerging and established Native artists, including acclaimed author Joseph Boyden, renowned visual artist Bunky Echo Hawk, and stand-up comedian Ryan McMahon, contribute thoughtful and heartfelt pieces on their experiences growing up Indigenous, expressing them through such mediums as art, food, the written word, sport, dance, and fashion. Renowned chef Aaron Bear Robe, for example, explains how he introduces restaurant customers to his culture by reinventing traditional dishes. And in a dramatic photo spread, model Ashley Callingbull and photographer Thosh Collins reappropriate the trend of wearing ‘Native’ clothing.

Whether addressing the effects of residential schools, calling out bullies through personal manifestos, or simply citing hopes for the future, “Dreaming In Indian” refuses to shy away from difficult topics. Insightful, thought-provoking, and beautifully honest, this book will to appeal to young adult readers. An innovative and captivating design enhances each contribution and makes for a truly unique reading experience.

Review: I fell in love with the stunning illustrations and beautiful language of this book. I read two to three pages per night because I wanted to leave time to absorb the authors’ words and artists’ work. The eclectic mix of forms makes for a very powerful anthology that will prove enduring for readers. It features a variety of tribes, and the differing formats and content give readers a sense of both a unity across tribes and a distinctness of individuals from the different tribes. I found it to be truly inspiring and wish I could donate this book to every middle and high school classroom.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This text is obviously a great resource for teachers. It need not be used in its entirety because this text would be excellent for close readings. Whatever the format, it would be preferable to avoid using this book solely during the month of November—“Native American Heritage Month.” I align with scholars who believe that diverse cultures should be highlighted year-round and integrated within curricula, rather than solely within designated months.

Discussion Questions: In what ways are the themes of this book universal? In what way are they distinct?; What themes can you find across the works?; How does this book shed light on Indian culture?; How is the text structured? Do you find the style to be effective?

Book Trailer: 

From the Authors:

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