The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth
Author: Ellie Hattie
Illustrator: Karl James Mountford
Published 2017 by Kane Miller EDC Publishing
Summary: Look out! There’s a mammoth on the loose, and Oscar has to get him home before the clock strikes one! This riotous adventure is packed with facts and lift-the-flap fun.
Review: I don’t think the summary of this book does it justice. It is such a fun book that kids of so many different ages are going to love reading. It is about a boy who wakes up to find a mammoth wandering around his town looking for his baby brother. They follow the clues to The Curious Museum which has come to life like The Night at the Museum, and they chase Teddy, the baby mammoth, through different rooms in the museum: Underwater World, the Library, The Flight Floor, The Time of the Dinosaurs, and The Extinct and Endangered Creatures rooms. Trent and I loved the detailed and silly illustrations and trying to find Teddy on each page!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In each room, there is the narrative of Oscar and Timothy, the big mammoth, but there are also flaps that include nonfiction information about the room that the story is currently taking place in. For example, in the ocean scene there are flaps that include flaps about octopus, blue whales, corral, and more! In the library there’s information about books & art, pilots in The Flight Floor, dinos in The Time of the Dinosaurs, and creatures in the Extinct and Endangered room.
This mix of adventure and facts makes this a perfect cross-curricular text to use or as an intro before a trip to a natural history museum.
Discussion Questions: What did you learn in each room?; Why does Oscar have to get Teddy back before 1:00?; What type of museum do you think The Curious Museum is?; What else did you see in the exhibits that you would like to learn about?; Why do you think the author included the flaps with nonfiction information?
Read This If You Love: Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett, Natural History Museums, Night at the Museum movies
**Thank you to Lynn at Kane Miller for providing a copy for review!**
Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
Author: Stephanie Roth Sisson
Published: October 14, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press
A Guest Review by Brittany Brown
Summary: A curious boy living in a small city apartment finds the world astonishing. He wants to know about light bulbs, inch worms, and rocket ships. Carl sets out on a journey to find answers, but finds bigger, even more powerful questions. Through his research and studies, Carl eventually earns the title of Dr. Carl Sagan and spends his life seeking knowledge and understanding about the universe. This young
boy’s contributions to science and education have inspired many children everywhere to question the world around them. His story will resonate every child who has ever wondered “how” or “why” or spent an evening looking up at the night sky.
Review: I am constantly looking for books which will inspire my students and get them excited about learning. This book, which is brought to life with beautiful illustrations and the great mysteries of the universe, did that for myself as an adult, too. After reading it, everyday life is once again imbued with the magic and novelty it had in childhood. In Sagan’s eyes, there is no phenomenon too mundane to investigate. The curiosity which most adults leave behind drove Sagan to be the lifelong learner that all teachers hope to foster in their students. Reading this book shows that science is all around us, that we all belong here in the universe, and that in everyone there is a scientist. I absolutely loved reading this book, and as a new teacher building my classroom library, this is the first one which I will be purchasing multiple copies of to share with my students.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story would pair well with any science or biography unit. It would also serve as a great example of narrative nonfiction.
The most obvious use for this story is in a science unit. I would love to use this book to open up a discussion at the beginning of a unit on the solar system. Not only would it generate excitement, it would also begin to build some vocabulary and background knowledge. It would make the information in the unit more personal and relevant to kids, and would be a great launching point to encourage students to come up with their own questions about how the world works.
This book is also a wonderful book to use for mini lessons in writing. Using this book as an example, a teacher could lead a discussion on how to choose which life events to include in a biography, how to sequence and organize it, and how to incorporate quotes from a historical figure into a writing piece. It also shows how to include facts and achievements in an engaging way, and how to demonstrate a person’s impact on history.
Finally, this book would also be a superb example of narrative nonfiction. Despite containing lots of scientific facts, it reads like a storybook and the illustrations do much of the talking. Students will be captivated with the descriptive narration, and discussions could explore their experiences as readers or how they may be able to attempt this style in their writing.
Discussion Questions: What are your big mystery questions? Where would you go to try to find answers to them? What character traits helped Carl on his journey? What impact did he have on the world? Who does he remind you of?
Read This If You Loved: What Do You Do with an Idea? By Kobi Yamada, I Wonder by Annaka Harris, You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey, On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Edros by Deborah Heiligman, Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, a Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh
Thank you, Brittany!
How To Read a Story
Author: Kate Messner; Illustrator: Mark Siegel
Published: May 5, 2015 by Chronicle
A Guest Review by Marisela Valencia
GoodReads Summary: Kate Messner and Mark Siegel’s How to Read a Story is a great picture book for young students to learn how to become excellent readers. In just ten easy steps, students learn about the reading process, and the necessary steps to reading a book. The book starts off with Step 1: “Find a Story” and shows us an illustration of a young boy with blond hair, blue jeans, and bare feet surrounded by books. The young boy continues to go through the steps, picking a book off the shelf, finding a good reading buddy, a cozy place to read, and more. Within these steps we see creative insight into teaching readers and students how to read aloud, make predictions, and even read with expression. This “how to” book is great way to deepen any readers’ love for reading.
Review: Not all reading processes look the same, but this book provides steps to becoming a reader in such a fun and interesting way! Following along with the young boy and the book he chooses in the story, our young readers learn the steps that they can take when reading their own books. The bright and colorful fonts and illustrations in How to Read a Story also draw in readers and provide more detail about the steps. Any student would be motivated to keep reading with these illustrations. Another amazing thing about this book is that the author demonstrates to readers that it is okay to go back and pick a new book if you and your reading buddy do not agree. She also mentions that it is okay to go back and read the book again if you really enjoyed it! I think it is so important for readers to know that they are not stuck with the first book they choose and also that they are more than welcome to read the book again if they enjoyed it!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Great mentor text for students learning to create their own “how to” books and learning about sequencing. Also a great way to initiate discussion about choosing the right book, reading with expression, making predictions, and decoding.
Discussion Questions: What kind of reading buddy would you choose? Would they like the same things as you?; What are some good places to read? What are some not so good places to read (and why?); Did you learn any new things about being a reader from this book? Do you follow any of these steps already?; If you were writing your own “how to”, what would be some important things to include?
Read This If You Loved: Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon; A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen and Mike Lowery; This is Not a Picture Book by Sergio Ruzzier; Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Thank you, Marisela!
Snow White: A Graphic Novel
Author: Matt Phelan
Published: September 21, 2016 by Candlewick
A Guest Review by Emily Baseler
GoodReads Summary: Award-winning graphic novelist Matt Phelan delivers a darkly stylized noir Snow White set against the backdrop of Depression-era Manhattan.
The scene: New York City, 1928. The dazzling lights cast shadows that grow ever darker as the glitzy prosperity of the Roaring Twenties screeches to a halt. Enter a cast of familiar characters: a young girl, Samantha White, returning after being sent away by her cruel stepmother, the Queen of the Follies, years earlier; her father, the King of Wall Street, who survives the stock market crash only to suffer a strange and sudden death; seven street urchins, brave protectors for a girl as pure as snow; and a mysterious stock ticker that holds the stepmother in its thrall, churning out ticker tape imprinted with the wicked words “Another . . . More Beautiful . . . KILL.” In a moody, cinematic new telling of a beloved fairy tale, extraordinary graphic novelist Matt Phelan captures the essence of classic film noir on the page—and draws a striking distinction between good and evil.
Review: Matt Phelan reinvented the “happily ever after” with this retelling. I identify as a Disney Classic enthusiast but I was pleasantly surprised with the ending. The illustrations are gorgeous with distinct intentionality. More mature themes such as death, assassination, murder were evaluated within a historical context to create an incredible murder mystery story at the level of a middle grade reader.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be an excellent text to hand a more reluctant reader. There is limited text the reader is asked to interpret the illustrations and structure. In literature groups, students could potentially discuss the use of metaphor, oenomania, author/illustrator’s choice, and compare/ contrast the original fairytale with the retelling. This is also a text I would recommend to a student who has shown an interest in the graphic novel genre to read independently.
Discussion Questions: Why do you think the author choose to use red in selected illustrations? How did this choice influence you as a reader?; Why do you think the author choose to break apart the chapters this way?; Even though there were few words, how did you interpret the mood, tone, and voice of characters?; Did you find yourself needing to interpret the illustrations to understand the plot? What was that experience like for you as a reader?; How is this retelling of the classic fairy tale of “Snow White” different than the original? What did you notice is similar?
Flagged Passage: “My name is Snow White, but my mother didn’t call be that to be funny. She would say that the snow covers everything and makes the entire world beautiful” (Ch. 10)
Read This If You Loved: Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtliff, Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff, Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff
Thank you, Emily!
Story Path: Choose a Path, Tell a Story
Author/Illustrator: Madalena Matoso
Published March, 2017 by Kane Miller EDC Publishing
Summary: Where you go, whom you meet, what you do next — it’s all up to you…
Travel along the story path and discover an enchanted world where princess battle with hairy monsters and vampire cats zoom through the galaxy on silver unicorns!
This innovative picture book allows you to choose your own characters, settings, and plots at every turn. With quirky illustrations by the award-winning Madalena Matoso, this is an imaginative storytelling experience for children of all ages.
Review: I loved Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was younger because it made you part of the story to an extent that other books didn’t because you get to be the actual creator of the plot. Story Path does just this but for a younger audience! The author set up the book in a very friendly way that gives lots of options but also is easy to follow. On each page, the story continues with a beginning of a sentence like “One day, they were riding along on their…” and the reader then gets to pick from a set of illustrations. This spread includes options like a two-headed dragon, rocket ship, horse, boat, or an elephant. Then after the choice is made, the author included guiding questions to ask the reader like “What did you choose? What noise did it make? How fast was it? Where were they going?” This helps add even more to the story that the reader is creating.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could take narrative writing to a new level in the early elementary classroom! As students are first learning how to write stories, Story Path can help guide the writers through characters, setting, and plot yet each writer would have a different story.
Discussion Questions: What story did you create? Why did you pick what you did? What can you add to your story?
Read This If You Loved: Choose Your Own Adventure books, Journey trilogy by Aaron Becker, Henri Mouse by George Mendoza
**Thank you to Lynn at Kane Miller for providing a copy for review!!**
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Published April 2, 2013 by Little, Brown
Guest Post by: Nichole Pitruzzello
Summary: Laszlo is afraid of the dark. But is the dark afraid of Laszlo? They live in the same house, with the same creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs. But the dark mostly stays in the basement…until one night, when it doesn’t. Laszlo walks through his house, as the dark converses with him, on a journey to overcome his fear.
Review: In his unique writing style, Lemony Snicket takes an eerie childhood fear and personifies the dark in a soothing way. John Klassen’s illustrations are a wonderful compliment to the story of Laszlo, using black space and warm colors to enhance the mood. I’m very impressed by the way they take a concept that many children fear, and transform it into a friendly, calming presence. I cannot wait to add this book to my library!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers can use this book as a mentor text for a variety of mini lessons. Lemony Snicket personifies the dark, uses vivid language to talk about Laszlo’s house, and creates suspense through a blend of dialogue and narration. In addition, it’s an excellent book to teach a lesson about overcoming one’s fears. There’s so much that this book can add to a classroom!
Discussion Questions: What are some places that you are scared of, and why are they scary? Was the dark really scary? How did the dark help Laszlo? Why shouldn’t we be afraid of the dark? What should we do when we are afraid of something?
Read This If You Loved: Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly, Singing Away the Dark by Caroline Woodward, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket
Grandma in Blue with Red Hat
Author: Scott Menchin
Illustrator: Henry Bliss
Published April 14, 2015 by Abrams
Guest Post by: Sarah Mangiafico
Summary: When a young boy learns about what makes art special—sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it tells a story—he realizes that these same characteristics are what make his grandmother special, too. As a result, he finds the inspiration to create his own masterpiece that’s one of a kind.
Christopher Award–winning author Scott Menchin and New York Times bestselling illustrator Harry Bliss have teamed up for a celebration of the power of art and expression, and the extraordinary love between grandparent and child.
Review: I love how this book expresses the different feelings that art can evoke in someone, along with the meaningful moments that it can capture. Sometimes something can be art simply for being funny or for making you feel nice; art does not have to be complicated to be art. This is a powerful message to share with readers, since many people often think that art needs to have many different meanings and lots of creativity in order to be art. The art that the boy makes about his grandma clearly shows the feelings and thoughts that can inspire someone to make art. The art that he makes about her is also very touching, and is a great ending to the book that leaves readers (including myself) ready to go out and create their own meaningful art pieces.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Grandma in Blue with Red Hat is a wonderful book that can show students how “Anything can be in an art exhibition,” and can teach them how anything that they create can be considered art (Menchin 3). This is a great book to introduce students to what art is, and can motivate kids to want to create their own art pieces for a “class art museum.” After creating their pieces, students can walk around the “class art museum” and write down why they think each piece is art. Grandma in Blue with Red Hat is a sure way to get students interested in art, and to create art that is meaningful to them in some way.
This book is also a wonderful book to share with students because the art pieces shown in the book are real and famous pieces of art. Reading this book as a read aloud can introduce students to these pieces and can lead to a more in-depth class study of them and the artists that made them. A variety of cultures are represented in the art pieces shown in the book as well, which makes this book culturally relevant.
Discussion Questions: What is art? Why did the boy in the story decide to use his grandma as an inspiration for his art? What are some things that you could make an art piece about? What makes you choose those things?
Flagged Passages: “Grandma is beautiful. Grandma is different. Grandma is funny. Grandma tells me stories. Grandma comes from far away. Grandma makes me feel good” (p. 17).
Read This If You Loved: Draw! by Raúl Colón, Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell, My Pen by Christopher Myers
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