Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Author: R. J. Palacio
Published: February 14th 2012 by Alfred A. Knopf


It’s Sofia Martinez again. Today I will review Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is recommended for ages 8-12. Wonder is a long chapter book. Chapters are sections of a book. This book also has a thing that most books don’t have: parts. Parts have several chapters in them and in this case each part is written from a different perspective.

Wonder is a funny but also sad book. It is about a kid named August that looks different and because he looks different people aren’t always kind to him. His nickname is Auggie. Auggie had many surgeries so his mom had to homeschool him. Now that everybody his age was moving to middle school, his mom thought that Auggie should go, too.

Like all new kids, Auggie faces difficulties. Auggie still makes friends though. One of them is Summer. When she realizes how her friends are being mean to him, she goes over to his table during lunch to give him company and they end up becoming friends.

I really like Wonder because of its different points of view. You usually don’t get to see the same situation described by different characters and know how they experienced it. I also like Wonder because you don’t know what’s going to happen next. You just can’t put the book down until it is finished. 

Once I saw that three copies of Wonder were available at our library, I borrowed them all so I could have a book club with my mom and grandma. We finished at the same time! We also came up with discussion questions. Here are some of them: 

  • Why do you think there are so many parts where Auggie tells the story again from his perspective? How does that help the story? 
  • How do you feel about Via describing her brother Auggie? What do you think about their relationship?
  • Are there any parts of the story that made you sad?

We also watched the movie after reading the book. The movie is very good. It is a bit different from the book but not much. I was surprised how some of the characters looked, for example Summer.

If you want a book that will change the way you look at things, Wonder is perfect for that. Have fun reading it!

If you enjoy Wonder, you might also enjoy the sequel: Auggie and Me by R.J. Palacio. 

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**

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Best Learning’s iPoster My WORLD Interactive Map is a “beautifully illustrated large floor map for kids, great for interactive lessons in school or at home. Explore and discover the world with your fingertips!

The smartest way to learn the world which includes 92 countries, capital cities, flag, population, languages spoken, important landmarks, fun facts with 4 challenging quiz modes.

Learn over 1,000 facts about the world we live in!

Capital & Country – Learn about each country and its capital cities with quiz.

Flag – Learn about each country’s flag with quiz.

Population – Learn about the population of each country.

Language – Learn about the languages spoken in each country.

Landmark – Learn about the important landmark or monument of each country with quiz.

Fun Fact – Learn a fun fact of each country with quiz.

  • Family Choice, Mom’s Choice Gold Metal & Tillywig Brain Child Award Winner 2018! The most valuable interactive touch activated talking map.
  • Learning has never been so much easy and fun. Hang on a wall, play on the floor or use as a colorful play mat.
  • Learn capital cities, countries with their flags, population, languages spoken in each country, important landmarks, fun facts with volume control.
  • Skills learned include concentration, earth science, memory, problem solving, geography and environment.
  • Requires 3 AAA batteries (included); intended for Preschoolers and early learners of ages 5 and up.”

Ricki’s Review: We received this map a few weeks ago, and my kids take it out to explore again and again. I love how it isn’t just a simple, straightforward map with just countries. The different settings allow kids to explore more about our world. For instance, my older son seems to gravitate towards learning the country names, capital cities, and landmarks, yet my younger son is fascinated with the flags, and he regularly puts the map on the flag mode.

When we first opened the map, all three boys were interested. They learned to take turns learning about the countries. The baby is only included in this picture because as you see, he prefers to push everything at once.

Here, my oldest son clicks on the flags to learn about the countries they come from.

And here, the kids take turns trying to identify the correct country in a fun quiz.

We plan to move the map to the wall this week, and we are happy that it will be something that the kids can keep referring to. I can’t count the number of times that one of them asks something like, “Where is XXXX country, city, or monument?” The map will offer a fun way to not only identify the location but to also learn more about the countries as they pop up in teachable moments.

Kellee’s Review: This map is endless entertainment and information! For those of us who have inquiry-driven kids, the freedom of the map and plethora of information just lends to their natural curiousity. So often I would get questions about a setting of a book or movie or just a random country that he heard somewhere, and now we can visit the map to find the country and learn all about it.

Trent is a fan of landmarks. He can tell you where the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Pyramids of Giza, etc. are, so he immediately gravitates towards learning about them with the map. And he just adores quizzes and will relisten to information and retake quizzes until he knows things by heart and will randomly share information with strangers. He says that this is his favorite part: “I love that the map tells you what the place is and tells you everything about the place.” It is all of the interesting information that keeps him gravitating towards it.

While Ricki loves that it isn’t just a simple map, I understand what she means, but I love that in the end it is still a map. Although there are some graphics, it isn’t overwhelming, and we can still use the map as a map also. I love that something that Trent goes back to over and over is fun and educational!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This map would be a beautiful addition to classroom walls. It offers so much more than a simple, paper map, and it allows kids to learn more about our world. We would recommend using velcro strips to hang this map on classroom walls to allow kids to pull the map off of the wall and bring it to their seats for further investigation.


**Thank you to Best Learning for providing maps for review!**

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Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Floyd Cooper
Publication Date: January 24, 2017 by HarperCollins

Summary: In this picture book biography, the late New York Times bestselling author Walter Dean Myers and acclaimed artist Floyd Cooper take readers on an inspiring journey through the life of Frederick Douglass.

Frederick Douglass was a self-educated slave in the South who grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that, as he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

The story of one of America’s most revered figures is brought to life by the text of award-winning author Walter Dean Myers and the sweeping, lush illustrations of artist Floyd Cooper.

Review: We bought this book in 2017 when it first came out, and we read it again and again and again. My kids love to listen and learn about one of the most brilliant people to have ever lived. His story is incredibly inspiring. Even as a young boy, Douglass defied the world and never took no as an answer. The details of his story within this book show children (and adults) that they must push for what is right and commit to changing the world for the better. This book belongs in every classroom (and not just relegated to the classroom library). It should be shared collectively and purposefully with kids.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are endless uses for this book. One suggestion is that it could serve as a read-aloud and close reading at the start of a research or biography unit. Kids might look at the use of pictures and the pacing of the story to write their own nonfiction picture book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Douglass regularly display strength and resolve throughout his life?
  • How is the book paced to reveal key moments of Douglass’ life?
  • What other famous figures related to issues of equity showed this kind of resolve? How do their stories connect to Douglass’ story?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction picture books, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Schomburg: The Man Who Built the Library by Carole Boston Weatherford, Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe, Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney, We March by Shane W. Evans, Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson, Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

Recommended For: 



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
Sharing Picture Books, Early Readers, Middle Grade Books, and Young Adult Books for All Ages!

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly blog hop co-hosted by Unleashing Readers and Teach Mentor Texts which focuses on sharing books marketed for children and young adults. It offers opportunities to share and recommend books with each other.

The original IMWAYR, with an adult literature focus, was started by Sheila at Book Journeys and is now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date.

We encourage you to write your own post sharing what you’re reading, link up below, leave a comment, and support other IMWAYR bloggers by visiting and commenting on at least three of the other linked blogs.

Happy reading!



Tuesday: Book Reader Animal Kingdom from Best Learning

Thursday: Review and Giveaway!: Kat and Juju by Kataneh Vahdani

Saturday: Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Sunday: Student Voices: Four Books I Love That Made Me Cry by Samia R., 8th Grade

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



Taking a couple of weeks off of IMWAYR before the school year starts — see you after my break 🙂

To see what books I’ve been reading until then, you can check out my 2020 Goodreads Challenge page  or my read bookshelf on Goodreads.


This week, we reread Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers. This is one of my favorite nonfiction picture books. It really captures the greatness and strength of Frederick Douglass. The kids love reading it and ask me to reread it often. It’s one of those books that is genuinely appropriate for all ages.

We finished the first book in the new Magnificent Makers series. Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith is about three kids who get sucked into a microscope and explore an aspect of science (in this case, the ecosystem). I LOVED reading this book with the kids. It was a fun way to talk about science and felt like a much better, more complex version of the Magic School Bus. It’s aimed at early elementary schoolers and all of the kids in the K-3 book club that we participate in loved it.



I am participating in several book clubs (connected with action statements) centered on antiracism. I’ll report back in a few weeks, but all of my personal reading has been focused on reading and rereading the nonfiction available.



Tuesday: Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History by Walter Dean Myers

Thursday: Best Learning’s iPoster My WORLD Interactive Map

Saturday: Sofia’s Kids’ Corner: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Sunday: Student Voices: Seven Books that Will Put a Smile on Your Face by Cooper B., 7th Grade


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!

 Signature andRickiSig


Four Books That I Loved That Made Me Cry by Samia R., 8th Grade

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

This book is AMAZING. Starr Carter is someone who lives 2 different lives. The first one is where she lives which is mostly black and people are not really rich. The other one is where she goes to school, the place is in the rich part and mostly consists of white people. These two worlds clash together when she sees her childhood best friend die by a police officer without even doing anything. The book follows Starr finding her voice and standing up from racism. This book made me cry because racism is something that a lot of people experience but you don’t hear a lot of these stories in the media. So hearing a story really opens your eyes.

5 Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis

This book will have your eyes flowing with sadness. Stella Grant is someone who has Cystic Fibrosis (CF), which is a disease which causes her lungs to fill with fluid which then makes it difficult to breathe. She is currently doing her treatments at the hospital, which then she meets Will. Will like her has (CF) but he couldn’t care less about the treatments for him. People who have (CF) have to stay 6 feet apart at all times, but when these two meet, they are willing to break the rule to five feet. This story follows their treatment at the hospital, as they fall in love. This book made me so emotional because it made me realize that there are people who actually have this disease and actually have to stay far away from their loved ones. But also the book is good because of the amazing plot.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

This book by John Green is a masterpiece. Not only does it show the tragedy of losing a loved one, it also shows how hard love is sometimes. The Fault in Our Stars follows the life of a young 16 year old girl named Hazel who has been diagnosed with lung cancer. Because of this, her mom reckons her to go to a support group. Although Hazel was unenthusiastic about it, she still decides to go. Upon arriving, she is astounded by a boy named Augustus Waters. He was handsome, funny, and very kind, as well as a typical bad-boy. Hazel later finds out that Augustus was diagnosed with bone cancer. Bonding over their similarity, these two set forth on a journey that causes them joy, romance, and heart-break. Just thinking back to this book makes my eyes well up with tears. This book and 5 feet apart has really taken a toll on my emotional status. It did not make me depressed but rather, it opened my eyes how much hardship some people have to go through because of forbidden love. Get ready for a roller-coaster of emotions while reading.

Wonder by R.J. Palacios

This book was one of the first books that made me emotional. I read it as a fourth grader but it blew my mind. This book is from several points of views, which means you get a lot more insight of all the thoughts and ideas of all the people that’s included. Auggie Pullman, who is 10 years old, was born with a facial deformity. This caused him to not look like everyone. So for almost all of his life he hasn’t been to school because of the kids. So he mostly does home school. But when his parents finally decide that it’s time for him to go to real school. This book follows his experience as he does real school. As he deals with mean people but also kind people. This book made me cry because at such a young age, Auggie has gone through a lot of hardships. But he continued to conquer and was so strong. This book also has a really good theme.

Thank you, Samia!
The three I’ve read wrecked me, too! So good, but so sad!

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We at Unleashing Readers would like to introduce you to Sofia, an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. Sofia will be writing a new column called Sofia’s Kids’ Corner. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Author: Raina Telgemeier
Published: February 1, 2010 by Scholastic/Graphix

Dear readers,

Hi, my name is Sofia Martinez. I am 8 years old and love to read. I would like to introduce you to some of my favorite books. Today I will start with one of my favorite graphic novels: Smile by Raina Telgemeier.

If you do not know what a graphic novel is, it is basically a comic but not just superhero stuff. Have a look at the picture down below, a page from Smile.

The story is about Raina dealing with dental drama and other problems like bullies, boys and family. The book starts with Raina falling and knocking out her two front teeth after a girl scout meeting when she was in sixth grade. The reader follows her story all the way up to high school. Before I read this book I did not know there were so many types of dentists: orthodontist, endodontist and periodontist.

Smile can make you laugh or cry. The reason I like this book is because it is the kind of book that you want to read again and again. I feel like I have read Smile a thousand times already. I also like that Raina makes her drawings look realistic. Smile has about 200 pages, but you can read it faster than most books because it is mostly filled with pictures. Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of words and action. The author, Raina Telgemeier, says Smile is a graphic memoir (memoir means it is a true story about the author’s life). This book is recommended for ages 8-12. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did!

If you enjoy Smile you might want to check out the other graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier. For example, Guts, Sisters, Ghosts, and Drama.

**Thank you, Sofia, for your brilliance. You inspire us!**

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Kat and Juju
Author: Kataneh Vahani
Published July 1st, 2020 by Two Lions

Summary: An unlikely duo star in a charming story about being different, finding courage, and the importance of friendship in the first book in a new series from an award-winning animation director.

Kat likes doing things her very own way, but sometimes she doubts herself. So when a bird named Juju arrives, Kat hopes he’ll be the best friend she’s always wanted. He’s outgoing and silly and doesn’t worry about what others think—the opposite of who she is. Bit by bit, with Juju’s help, Kat discovers her strength, and how to have a friend and be one—while still being true to herself.

Praise: “This debut gently encourages personal growth while reinforcing the value of being different.” —Kirkus Reviews

About the Author: Kataneh Vahdani is a children’s book author and illustrator. Kat and Juju is her first picture book series. She is currently directing her original feature animation movie. Kataneh has been a professor for over seventeen years and she also saves fallen baby birds and rescues them. Together with her students, they have raised over 13 fallen injured baby birds and set them free once they were ready to fly away. Sometimes in her classes, birds fly from the head of one student to the other.

Visit Kataneh on Instagram: @KatandJuju.

Kellee’s Review: Kat feels like she doesn’t fit in with her peers: she worries, follows the rules, and doesn’t know how to let go and have fun, so she hopes and hopes that her birthday animal best friend will finally give her someone to play with and feel included; however, the problem is Juju, her new animal friend, is nothing like her. But it is through their time together that Kat realizes that her and Juju can be friends even if different and Kat even finds it in herself to do her own happy dance!

I do hope that the message that comes across to readers is that everyone should be whomever they are and others will accept you. I could see some reading it as Kat needing Juju to change her to get others to like her, but I didn’t see it that way. I saw it as Juju just showing and helping Kat see what an amazing person she is.

One of my favorite things about this book is the illustrations–the way that color is used so intentionally and are just so fun!

Ricki’s Review: I think we all have this yearning to be more ____ or more ____. As an adult, I really identified with Kat. As I always work to improve myself, I try to be more like other people I admire. This made for a phenomenal conversation with my children. We talked about people who we admire and how we can take slivers of these people to be better versions of ourselves, but we don’t need to (and shouldn’t) be these people. We are individuals with our own strengths.

This book is beautifully written and it is clear to readers the care and precision the author took to characterize Kat and Juju. I felt like the author was deeply connected to and understanding of the emotions that kids face. The friendship between these two characters is quite magical. I am looking forward to and excited about reading other books by this author.

Please Note: Together, we did find one aspect of the text that we wanted to comment about. We were concerned with an image of the characters wearing sombreros and playing instruments traditionally attached to mariachi music. For us, this felt like cultural appropriation. We would encourage all authors to avoid images where characters dress up in costume like this (see, for instance, the Clifford the Big Red Dog Halloween book where Clifford dresses up like a Native American). We write this not as a critical attack of the book but instead, as a way that we think all of us (authors, illustrators, teachers, publishers, etc.) can work together to think carefully about the images we portray. This does not take away from our desire to read more adventures of Kat and Juju.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Along with a read aloud of this book, great discussions could happen focusing on self-esteem, worrying, and friendship. It could also offer opportunities for critical thinking about the concept of cultural appropriation.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were going to have an animal best friend, what type of animal would you want? What would its personality be like?
  • Why was Kat so worried that others wouldn’t like her? Should anyone ever feel that way?
  • Were there times in the book that Kat’s peers could have been more interactive to make Kat feel more accepted?
  • Why is it important to have all sorts of different types of people in the world?
  • Is it okay to worry? If you are worrying too much, what should you do?
  • How are Kat and Juju like other two-character, opposite friends books like Elephant and Piggie or Frog and Toad?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival, I’m Bored series by Michael Ian Black, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton


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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

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