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water princess

The Water Princess
Author: Susan Verde
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Published September 13, 2016 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Based on supermodel Georgie Badiel’s childhood, a young girl dreams of bringing clean drinking water to her African village

With its wide sky and warm earth, Princess Gie Gie’s kingdom is a beautiful land. But clean drinking water is scarce in her small African village. And try as she might, Gie Gie cannot bring the water closer; she cannot make it run clearer. Every morning, she rises before the sun to make the long journey to the well. Instead of a crown, she wears a heavy pot on her head to collect the water. After the voyage home, after boiling the water to drink and clean with, Gie Gie thinks of the trip that tomorrow will bring. And she dreams. She dreams of a day when her village will have cool, crystal-clear water of its own.

Inspired by the childhood of African–born model Georgie Badiel, acclaimed author Susan Verde and award-winning author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds have come together to tell this moving story. As a child in Burkina Faso, Georgie and the other girls in her village had to walk for miles each day to collect water. This vibrant, engaging picture book sheds light on this struggle that continues all over the world today, instilling hope for a future when all children will have access to clean drinking water.

Ricki’s Review: This book captured my attention as soon as I saw the cover. The illustrations are beautiful, and I couldn’t help but sit for long periods of time, studying them closely. I appreciated and enjoyed this lyrical story that is based on Georgie Badiel’s childhood experiences. I have the F&G, and I am particularly excited to read the author’s note when the full book is printed. I know Georgie Badiel is an activist and leads a foundation dedicated to promoting clean drinking water and sanitation in Africa, so I think the author’s note will be particularly insightful. 

Kellee’s Review: The hardest books for me to read are the books where they seem as if they are historical fiction yet they are modern stories. It makes me so sad to know that there are those like Gie Gie who must work this hard just to get water. I feel like our world must help those who struggle in this way because water is a basic need that all should have access to. I think this book is a wonderful introduction to build awareness because many students do not know what is happening around the world, and this story is told in a beautiful yet truthful and hard way. Also, the connection it has with A Long Walk to Water makes it a perfect addition to a unit looking at that novel. Additionally, I must add that Peter H. Reynolds outdid himself with the illustrations in this book. I love Reynolds’s work, but these are pure pieces of art. Beautiful. I also look forward to the end notes because I want to learn more about Georgie Badiel and her work. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be great for teachers to build students’ awareness of the water/sanitation concerns within Africa. This might include reading more books about the subject and visiting websites supporting the cause. Georgie Badiel’s foundation is: http://georgiebadielfoundation.org/, and there are also many others out there, including: http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/. I know of two elementary school classes who have devoted their entire year to raising money to build wells in Africa. These kinds of social action projects will surely impact students.

Discussion Questions: What does Princess Gie Gie’s day look like? What do the other women’s days look like? Why do you think this is?; Does Gie Gie feel frustrated? How might you feel in the same situation?; What can we do to support our peers who are living in similar situations to Gie Gie?

Flagged Passage: “My kingdom…the African sky, so wide and so close. I can almost touch the sharp edges of the stars.”

Read This If You Loved: A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park; Just Add Water by Robin Hill and Charles Hall

Recommended For: 

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


Who Wins? 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head and You Decide the Winner!
Created by Clay Swartz
Illustrated by Tom Booth
Published July 12th, 2016 by Workman Publishing Company

Summary: Who would rock the mic at karaoke night? Abraham “The Great Emancipator” Lincoln or Jane “Lady Persuasion” Austen? How about a hot dog eating contest between Harry “Mr. Magic” Houdini and Mary “Mother of Frankenstein” Shelley? What about a pie contest? A staring contest? And who has a better chance of sneaking into Area 51, Isaac “Gravity Guy” Newton or Sacagawea aka “The Pathfinder”?

In Who Wins?: History, you decide the winner in over 50 head-to-head challenges between 100 of history’s most illustrious characters. But choosing the victor isn’t arbitrary. Readers must justify their answers using each of the historical figures’ six 0-10 category rankings in bravery, leadership, artistry, wealth, wisdom, and fitness; as well as facts from short biographies.

As funny as it is informative, the book is uniquely formatted so readers can match up each and every character in any of the head-to-head battles. History has never been so much fun!

Kellee’s Review: Who Wins? is informative, funny, and so cleverly formatted that it is going to be a star in homes and classrooms. I love how the book gives each historical figure a nickname (either one they already were given, like Satchmo, or made up, like Gravity Guru for Isaac Newton) to add a bit of humor to the book; however, still makes sure to include a plethora of information about each figure including a bio then 3 little-known facts. Each head-to-head situation also helps guide your decision by giving some example questions to think about. Let’s look at a head-to-head, so you can really see how clever it is!

William Wallace “Braveheart” vs. Isaac Newton “Gravity Guru”
Who Wins Living in the Wild, Wild West?


Ricki’s Review: What a clever concept! This spiral-bound book will be a staple for car rides. I could also see it being a great book for fast finishers in the classroom. The book consists of three columns that are split. So, for example, I randomly flipped to three pages (one of each column). At the far right, there is a short summary of Louis Armstrong’s biography and picture. Then, in the middle, the column I flipped to is the “talent show” and asks “Who is the most well-rounded? Who has the most experience entertaining?” Then on the far right, I flipped to Abraham Lincoln. While this one seems like a clear winner for Louis Armstrong, I think we could conceivably argue for either person for the two questions. I’ll be hanging on to this book. It will be a great book to give to my kids in the backseat. Fun family debates are the best!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Are you an elementary school teacher or a social studies teacher or a language arts teacher? Then buy this. It is a perfect bell work or paper prompts or discussion starter or debate topic creator or whatever else you can think of!

Discussion Questions: Who wins?

Read This If You Love: History, Historical Figures, Debates 

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Estelle at Workman’s for providing copies for review!**

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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: Ten Scary Books I Recommend to Jumpy People


I am not a huge scary book fan because I am really jumpy, and they can definitely make me have bad dreams, but these are ten scary books I’ve enjoyed recently and can recommend because the awesomeness of the story outweighs the side effects of the jumpiness.

1. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood

Now, I won’t lie. This one is pretty darn scary, but Anna is a fascinating character.

2. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey


Rick Yancey’s story mixes fantastical science with treacherous monsters to make a truly smart horror story.

3. Doll Bones by Holly Black


Yes, this doll is super creepy!

4. The Haunting of Derek Stone: City of the Dead by Tony Abbott


I read Derek’s story years ago, but it hasn’t left me yet.

5. and 6. In the Shadow of Blackbirds and The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

in-the-shadow-of-blackbirds cure for dreaming

Cat Winters has a way of writing magic realism with a touch of suspense and a dash of creepy. But it all mixes up into stories you won’t be able to put down.

*These are not sequels*

7. This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

this dark endeavor

How did Dr. Frankenstein become the mad scientist we all know? Read to find out.

8. Coraline by Neil Gaiman


After reading, you will never hope to have a different family!

9. Guys Read: Thriller edited by Jon Sciezska


A collection of spooky stories ranging from humor to horror.

10. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

a monster calls

Not a traditional horror story, but instead is a fantastical story filled with pain and fear and love.

Which scary books would you recommend?


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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 started by Sheila at Book Journeys and now hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. 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!

Kellee and Jen, of Teach Mentor Texts, 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.



Ricki is currently away on maternity leave! She has lined up reviews for the time she is away. While spending time with the newest member of her family, she is also working hard on completing her dissertation and is trying to focus her time accordingly. Ricki is looking forward to returning to share books with you all! Happy reading!


Last Week’s Posts

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

top ten tuesday o-is-for-orca 123-moose

three-bears-of-the-pacific ada twist blind-guide-revised

Tuesday: Ten Books We Swooned Over as a Teenager

Wednesday: O is for Orca and 123 Moose by Andrea Helman

Thursday: Three Bears of the Pacific Northwest by Richard Lee Vaughan

Friday: Teaching Guide for Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Sunday: Author Guest Post!: “Everybody has a Story” by Beth Vrabel, Author of A Blind Guide to Normal


 Last Week’s Journeys



I’m so glad I finally was able to finish Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbet. Her mix of history and story reminded me of Ruta Sepetys’s novels with its clearly researched information with a story that holds the reader (except middle grade). I learned a lot while also loving the characters.

roar dad-and-the-dino life-on-mars mos-mustache hug-machine

I also read five picture books: Two that aren’t out yet but shouldn’t be missed, and three that are out, so if you haven’t read them you should go get them. Roar! by Tammi Sauer and Mo’s Mustache by Ben Clanton are both quite silly but have themes about friendship that definitely will be perfect for growing up. Dad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko and illustrated by Dan Santat was not what I thought it was going to be; however, I still enjoyed it. I hope readers remind their sons that being scared isn’t something to be ashamed of though.

My two favorites were Life on Mars by Jon Agee and Hug Machine by Scott Campbell. Life on Mars is stunning–both in story and in illustrations. I’m also pretty excited about it because it is really hard to find sci-fi picture books. Hug Machine is such a feel good book that made me smile all the way through.


This Week’s Expeditions


After Echo, I had quite a book hangover and wasn’t sure what audiobook I was going to listen to next because I didn’t know if anything could live in the aftermath of Echo; however, I felt it was probably a safe bet to get something off of our Mock Newbery book club list, and I was right! Counting Thyme is a special book about a middle schooler balancing her life and the illness of her younger brother who is in a drug trial in NYC. The audiobook is well produced, and I am loving the story.


Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand is the last book I am reading in preparation for NCTE. I chose the order of my reads randomly so there was no reason why this is last, but I am glad it is because it is beautiful and fascinating, and it is a perfect way to end my reads for NCTE.


Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday who-wins water princess

truefriends truefriends2

Tuesday: Ten Scary Books I Recommend to Jumpy People

Wednesday: Who Wins?: 100 Historical Figures Go Head-to-Head and You Decide the Winner! by Clay Swartz

Thursday: The Water Princess by Susan Verde

Friday: #TrueFriends with Kirby Larson, Augusta Scattergood, Barbara O’Connor, and Susan Hill Long

Sunday: Author Guest Post!

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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“Everybody has a Story”

Everybody has a story.

As a writer and a reader, I know this to be true.

Write what you know.

This is another tenet that has stuck with me through my career with writing, especially as I moved from being a lifestyle columnist to a fiction writer. After all, is it any surprise that this girl (picture) wrote a book about a picked-on dorky fourth-grader? PACK OF DORKS, my debut novel, released in 2014.

Lucy’s story reflects many of my experiences as a 10 year old wondering if I’d ever make it to the “cool table” at the cafeteria. Only whereas fourth-grade me wallowed in dorkdom, Lucy stands up to her frenemies and bullies. Even better? She finds others to stand with her. With her “pack,” Lucy realizes she’s exactly where she wants to be. I gave Lucy the ending I wish I had been brave enough to give myself.


I’m proud of PACK OF DORKS, but shortly after it was published, I have to admit I also was embarrassed by the personal connection.

I was determined that my next book would be different. It’d be completely imaginative and new and unrelated to my own life. And do you know what happened?

Everyone died.

By page seventeen, all of my characters gave up the ghost. Again and again and again. My husband suggested I start writing short stories instead.

I stopped being embarrassed. I started being scared.

Scared that the only stories inside me were ones connected to my own life. Scared that I wasn’t original or fresh or, frankly, all that creative. And, like many of us do when we’re scared, I ran away from what frightened me—those personal connections. I still hadn’t learned my lesson that a bully must be faced head on, even when that bully is comprised of your own thoughts.

Luckily, something saved me.

As I recently shared in Albinism InSight magazine, shortly after we knew PACK OF DORKS would be published, my daughter asked me for help finding a book.

She wanted to read a book that dealt with a shared experience.

My daughter has albinism, like Alice. My girl’s albinism is mild—you probably wouldn’t recognize it in her when you met her. Her hair is strawberry blonde and her skin pale. Her eyes, like the eyes of everyone with albinism work differently and she is mildly visually impaired.

But we couldn’t seem to find a book, or even a movie, where a character had albinism yet wasn’t creepy, mystical or evil. Nowhere could we find a book about a regular girl who learns, grows, has friends and happens to have albinism.

Go ahead, give it a shot. Type in albinism—or worse, albino—into a popular bookseller’s website. I did and found the following:

  • A dystopian young adult series in which people with albinism take over the world, destroying the lives of the “pigmented.”
  • A crime mystery in which the sinister villain and art thief is called The Albino.
  • A book about a young “albino detective” who is able to psychically solve cases.
  • A story about an “albino witch” who uses her powers to force apart two lovers.

It made me angry. It broke my heart.

My husband and I work hard to show our daughter that though she was born with this challenge, it does not define her. She has more in common with everyone else than this one thing that might set her apart. We tell her again and again that everybody faces challenges.

And today my girl is 13, an avid reader, a brilliant student and, making me the most proud, one of the kindest people I know. We know albinism is beautiful.

That’s why is so frustrating to see it portrayed in such ugly ways.

And so I stopped running from my own connections; instead, I leaned into them.

I wrote the story I wanted my girl to have. A story about a 12-year-old girl named Alice. She’s smart and kind, capable and caring, brave though often overwhelmed. And she happens to have albinism.

Alice scouts out stories in her new town and proves to the townspeople, her family, and, most importantly, herself that blindness is just part of who she is, not all she can be.

It’s gotten great reviews. In fact, The International Literacy Association named it the winner of its intermediate fiction prize, which is a tremendous honor.

But the reviewer whose opinion means most to me has the bedroom next to mine.

And my daughter loves the book. She read it chapter by chapter as I wrote it. Her enthusiasm propelled me to dig deeper and shine a light on other issues too often buried in children’s literature.

Let me be very clear that my daughter and Alice are different. My daughter has her own story, just like each of us, one that’s hers to share whenever and however she’d like.

Everyone has a story.

My stories reflect me.

And here’s the irony—writing stories that mirror my heart has allowed me to write characters I never would’ve dreamed possible.

Characters like Richie Ryder Raymond. You’re introduced to this wise-cracking, witty and clever boy in STINKVILLE. Richie gets his own book in A BLIND GUIDE TO NORMAL, releasing Oct. 11 through Sky Pony Press.


Due to a childhood cancer, Richie has an artificial eye and low vision in his remaining eye. I don’t have a lot in common with a 14-year-old boy, let alone a cancer survivor.

But I do know how scary it is start something new. I know what’s like to want something you can’t ever have. I know what it’s like to be awkward and cover it with humor.

Once again, I relied on those shared experiences—and a lot of research—to live through my characters. I realize now doing this makes my stories original, keeps them fresh and requires creativity.


About the Author: Beth Vrabel is the award-winning author of A Blind Guide to Stinkville (winner of the 2016 ILA Award for Intermediate Fiction), A Blind Guide to Normal, and the Pack of Dorks series. She can’t clap to the beat or be trusted around Nutella, but indulges in both often, much to the dismay of her family. Please visit her online at www.bethvrabel.com, on Twitter @beth_vrabel, or on Instagram @authorbethvrabel.

Thank you, Beth, for this outpouring and important post!

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ada twist

Ada Twist, Scientist
Author: Andrea Beaty
Illustrator: David Roberts
Published September 6th, 2016 by Abrams Books for Young Readers

Summary: The creators of the New York Times bestselling picture books Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect are back with a story about the power of curiosity in the hands of a child who is on a mission to use science to understand her world. Ada Twist, Scientist, from powerhouse team Andrea Beaty and David Roberts, is a celebration of STEM, perseverance, and passion.

Like her classmates, builder Iggy and inventor Rosie, scientist Ada, a character of color, has a boundless imagination and has always been hopelessly curious. Why are there pointy things stuck to a rose? Why are there hairs growing inside your nose? When her house fills with a horrific, toe-curling smell, Ada knows it’s up to her to find the source. Not afraid of failure, she embarks on a fact-finding mission and conducts scientific experiments, all in the name of discovery. But, this time, her experiments lead to even more stink and get her into trouble!

Inspired by real-life makers such as Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, Ada Twist, Scientist champions girl power and women scientists, and brings welcome diversity to picture books about girls in science. Touching on themes of never giving up and problem solving, Ada comes to learn that her questions might not always lead to answers, but rather to more questions. She may never find the source of the stink, but with a supportive family and the space to figure it out, she’ll be able to feed her curiosity in the ways a young scientist should.

Iggy Peck and Rosie Revere have earned their places among the most beloved children’s characters, and they have inspired countless kids and adults to follow their dreams and passions. Now in her own charming and witty picture book, determined Ada Twist, with her boundless curiosity for science and love of the question “Why?,” is destined to join these two favorites.  The book is the perfect tool to remind both young girls and women that they have the intelligence and perseverance to achieve their dreams.

Teaching Guide: 

Beaty and Roberts’s books promote creativity, scientific thinking, and identity, so I was so happy and proud to be able to write the guide for Ada Twist.

You can also view the teaching guide here. Guides for Ada Twist‘s companion books, Iggy Peck and Rosie Revere, can be found here.

Recommended For: 

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Three Bears of the Pacific Northwest
Authors: Richard Vaughan & Marcia Crews
Illustrator: Jeremiah Trammell
Published August 6th, 2016 by Little Bigfoot

Goodreads Summary: When a small blue teddy bear falls out of a moving recreational vehicle in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, two native bears-Black Bear and Brown Bear-agree to help reunite Blue Bear with his family. The bears only know that Blue Bear’s boy lives in a “shiny silver box with wheels.” Down the mountains, through the forests, and across the saltwater, the three bears encounter eagles, seals, skunks, and many other Pacific Northwest animals along their way. This is a charming story with a happy ending and no Goldilocks.

The book features Jeremiah Trammel’s beautiful oil-painted illustrations, which are sure to engage children and parents alike. Marcia and Richard Vaughan write children’s books separately and collaboratively. Marcia has written more than sixty children’s books in Australia and the United States. Richard is the author of more than twenty children’s books. Marcia and Richard live in Vashon Island, WA.

Review: Three bears, the Pacific Northwestern Brown Bear and Black Bear along with a stuffed Blue Bear, go on a journey through nature to help Blue Bear get back home to his family. On the journey, the reader is taken from the mountains to the shore and get introduced to different aspects of the Pacific Northwest and the animals that live there. Accompanied by Trammell’s expressionistic illustrations, the bears’ story is a very fun and educational adventure.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The bears’ journey would be a perfect cross curricular text for language arts, social studies, and science. This text is a fun narrative mixed with a geographical journey with a cast of animals.

Discussion Questions: Have you ever lost a stuffed animal or blanket that you loved? Did you get it back?; What animals live in your state that you would meet if you went on a journey?

Flagged Passages: 


Read This If You Loved: O is for Orca or 1-2-3 Moose by Andrea HelmanThe Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach, A Story for Bear by Dennis Haseley

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Sasquatch Books for providing a copy for review!**

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