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Charlie & Mouse Even Better
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Emily Hughes
Published: April 2nd, 2019 by Chronicle Books

Summary: It is Mom’s birthday, and Charlie and Mouse and their Dad want everything to be perfect–so when the cake gets burnt the boys have to come up with a new plan, pronto.

View my post about Charlie & Mouse and Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy to learn about the first two books in the series.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for the Charlie & Mouse series:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Charlie and Mouse on Chronicle Book’s Charlie & Mouse Even Better page.

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My students love the Weird but True books by National Geographic, but one thing they don’t like about the books are the lack of information found in the books. Because of this, as we chatted in class, we decided to make a class “Weird But True” presentation with not only the weird and true facts but with extra information and sources! 

All three of my classes all worked in the same Google Slides presentation and built this amazing document of fascinating facts: 

Weird But True
Please view the Google Slides presentation to see the extra information in the Speaker Notes.

This was such a fun and interesting project! It made students check on facts, learn about reliable sources, and learn all sorts of interesting and fun facts!



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Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker
Author: Mara Rockliff
Illustrator: Simona Ciraolo
Published: September, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Meet Alice Guy-Blaché. She made movies—some of the very first movies, and some of the most exciting! Blow up a pirate ship? Why not? Crawl into a tiger’s cage? Of course! Leap off a bridge onto a real speeding train? It will be easy! Driven by her passion for storytelling, Alice saw a potential for film that others had not seen before, allowing her to develop new narratives, new camera angles, new techniques, and to surprise her audiences again and again. With daring and vision, Alice Guy-Blaché introduced the world to a thrilling frontier of imagination and adventure, and became one of filmmaking’s first and greatest innovators. Mara Rockliff tells the story of a girl who grew up loving stories and became an acclaimed storyteller and an inspiration in her own right.

About the Creators: 

Mara Rockliff has authored many books for children, including: Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of MagicAround America to Win the Vote; and Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France. She lives in Pennsylvania.

Simona Ciraolo is a children’s book author and illustrator. She grew up in Italy where she received a degree in animation from the National Film School. She also earned an MA in children’s book illustration at Cambridge. She lives in London.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ and discussion guide I created for Lights! Camera! Alice!:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about the book on Chronicle Book’s Lights! Camera! Alice! page.

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My Name is Wakawakaloch!
Author: Chana Stiefel
Illustrator: Mary Sullivan
Published August 27th, 2019 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary: In this lighthearted picture book, the intrepid, determined, and savvy Wakawakaloch learns to embrace what makes her special while lifting up her neanderthal community.

No one can pronounce Wakawakaloch’s name. Why couldn’t she be called something simple . . . like Gloop? That’s a name you can find on a T-shirt! But after a visit with her tribe’s elder, Wakawakaloch discovers what her name means, and how powerful names can be. Gloop may be easy to say, but the girl who helps her friends embrace differences and wear their names proudly? Her name is Wakawakaloch!

Praise: “Wakawakaloch’s frustrations surrounding the mispronunciation of her name will resonate with many. . . .This bombastic main character allows the story to shine.” —Kirkus

About the Author: CHANA STIEFEL is the author of more than 25 books for kids about exploding volcanoes, stinky castles, and other fun stuff. In addition to My Name Is Wakawakaloch! she is the author of Daddy Depot, illustrated by Andy Snair (Feiwel & Friends, 2017). Recent nonfiction titles include Animals Zombies . . . . & Other Real-Life Monsters (National Geographic Kids, 2018), which was selected as a Top Ten YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers in 2019. Check out the fun book trailer and more at her website:

Twitter: @chanastiefel
Instagram: @chanastiefel

ReviewThis is such a timely books for classrooms, well for society in general! Pronouncing and remembering students’ names correctly is so important and not can have a lasting effect:

Wakawakaloch starts this conversation at a young age, not only for teachers but for other students. Name is part of our identity and Wakawakaloch should be mad that others aren’t trying!

Not only is the concept important, it is really well done! Done in a way that doesn’t feel preachy, is funny, but also still gets its message across clearly.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: If I was reading this aloud in my classroom, I would focus on the theme then complete activities about names. Every name has a story, either a personal one or a historical one.

(Please be careful about asking about history of names with all students as this may be a tough subject for anyone who doesn’t have access to a stable family environment to discuss why they were named their name. Make sure to have alternate assignments for this situation.)

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why is it so important to know peoples’ names?
  • Why is Wakawakaloch’s name so important?
  • What does not learning someone’s name say to them?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: What if We Were All the Same? by C.M. Harris, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, My Name is Elizabeth! by Annika Dunklee, Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

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

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“Self-Esteem and Students”

Astronauts traveling to a new planet are not the only humans who need the right stuff. Students, as well as adults, are always wondering where they stand and if they measure up. When students have low self-esteem you will generally find numerous other issues. Low self-esteem is linked to violence, school dropout rates, teenage pregnancy, suicide, and low academic achievement.

Teachers know that when kids feel better about themselves, they do better in school. The two core aspects of positive self-esteem are the belief and the experience that one is loveable and capable. Students come into your classroom with feelings of self worth or self doubt pre-programed through interactions within their own family setting starting in infancy. Some families are very nurturing, others are toxic. As teachers, we can tell if a student has grown up in a caring family.

When your students are at an age where they are constantly testing their emotions and asking whether they measure up, teachers will find a perfect fit with the Jolly Time Books trilogy. Kelly’s Adventures, a three-book box set, focuses on authentic characters, offering an easy to follow plot about family, school life, and everything centered on growing up in a chaotic world. The characters are believable, diverse, and instantly likeable. With relatable problems and intriguing themes, even the most reluctant readers will remain engaged.

The reader will connect with the characters and find situations that they have likely faced. Themes emphasized include bullies, friendship, values, problem solving, body image, entrepreneurship, perseverance, diversity, unity, and empathy. Teachers are depicted as positive role models who help inspire their students.

Good self-esteem is an essential component for everything children do – from positive academic performance to social skills. Classroom relationships with peers and teachers improve with a healthy dose of self-esteem:  children are better equipped to cope with mistakes, disappointment, and failure. Students are more likely to persevere, stick with challenging tasks, and complete learning activities. As teachers, we have the opportunity to help boost a child’s self-esteem through reading.

What happens when a main character immediately faces a crisis? Many readers relate and respond with empathy. In the opening scene of book 1, Lizzy and others erupt like exploding volcanoes on the kitchen floor after stuffing themselves with cake and ice cream. This embarrassing incident happened to me as a young girl. After she is ostracized by her boyfriend and picked on by bullies, how will Lizzy recover? The highly engaging personal situations and emotional roller coasters will keep the independent reader turning the pages of this book.

As a classroom teacher, I found that students learned better when reading and writing activities were followed by healthy discussions. That is why the three Study Guides for Jolly Time Books are designed as a teacher’s resource. This will save you time in lesson planning, and lead to rewarding classroom experiences. Each free downloadable Study Guide is presented by scene and chapter to match and complement the story. The Study Guides activate students’ ability to recall specific information about the scenes, events, and characters while enhancing their higher-level thinking skills.

The three free Study Guides provide a clear focus at every stage of teaching the text. The questions and interactive activities can be used as a class, in small focus groups, or as homework. The Study Guides contain both closed, comprehension questions, and open, higher order questions, exploring student response, opinion and analysis. The activities are designed to promote thinking and reflection while enhancing individual learning.

As teachers, we have the future of the world sitting in our classrooms every day. Let’s seize the opportunity and help shape what our world will look like in the future.

Jolly Time Books: Kelly’s Adventures Books 1 – 3 Box Set
Also available as individual eBooks or 3 individual paperback books
Book 1 – Searching for Kelly,
Book 2 – Chasing Kelly’s Shadow, and
Book 3 – Kelly Saves the Day

Book Description: In book 1, a black cat crosses Lizzy’s path, and she knows things can only get worse. Her brother, Ben, thinks that moving to a larger city is the answer. Big changes and magical twists abound when the Jolly family moves to Washington, D.C. They discover that Kelly, their new puppy, only adds to the chaos. Who knew?

The adventures continue in book 2 when Lizzy and Ben discover that moving hasn’t solved all their problems. Why does that black cat keep crossing their paths? WHAM! SPLAT! Is Kelly the only one to blame when Grandma decides to ride the Christmas tree, and winds up sprawled on the floor?

In book 3, the pressure on Lizzy heats up after she flips over backward at a student council rally. Will anyone vote for her now? Will Kelly survive the operation to save her life? To relieve tensions, they go on a picnic and hike with friends. What happens when Mr. Jolly becomes separated from the rest of the hikers? Could Ben’s teacher with psychic powers have predicted that this daytime hike would turn into a nighttime rescue?

Study Guides: The best way for readers to access the free eBook Study Guides is to download them from Amazon. All three Study Guides are on the first page of my Author Page. Here is a direct link to my Amazon Author Page.

About the Author: Karen S. McGowan is the author of Jolly Time Books:  Kelly’s Adventures Books 1 – 3 Box Set. She has worked more than 20 years as a teacher and holds a Master of Education degree. She is a leading advocate of education, and has written and published more than six dozen books for children.

Thank you so much for this guest post looking at how equal rights for women is still very much a timely topic!

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What Can a Citizen Do?
Author: Dave Eggers
Illustrator: Shawn Harris
Published: September 11th, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: This is a book about what citizenship—good citizenship—means to you, and to us all: Across the course of several seemingly unrelated but ultimately connected actions by different children, we watch how kids turn a lonely island into a community—and watch a journey from what the world should be to what the world could be.

• What Can a Citizen Do? is the latest collaboration from the acclaimed behind the bestselling Her Right Foot: Dave Eggers and Shawn Harris.

• For today’s youngest readers about what it means to be a citizen and the positive role they can play in society.

• Includes beautiful illustrations and intriguing, rhyming text.

What Can a Citizen Do is an empowering and timeless read with an important message for all ages.


“[This] charming book provides examples and sends the message that citizens aren’t born but are made by actions taken to help others and the world they live in.” —The Washington Post

“Obligatory reading for future informed citizens.” —The New York Times

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ and discussion guide I created for What Can a Citizen Do?:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about the book on Chronicle Book’s What Can a Citizen Do? page.

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Orange County Public Schools’ Innovation Office opened in 2018 to support identified “Schools of Innovation” and to support staff in the implementation and development of innovative practices within and across these schools. My school was lucky enough to be considered a “School of Innovation” when the learning community opened in 2018. Then, in the Spring of 2019, the Innovation Office began recording their Appetite for Instruction podcast, and my colleague, Caitlin Chacon, and I were so lucky to be asked to participate.

Our podcast episode was titled “Unleashing Young Readers,” I’m assuming as an homage to this blog, and we shared what literacy instruction looks like at our school, both in the podcast and the companion write up:

Unleashing Young Readers (Episode 3)

Happy listening 🙂


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