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
Caring for Your Lion
Author: Tammi Sauer
Illustrator: Troy Cummings
Anticipated Published: May 2, 2017 by Sterling
Goodreads Summary: What happens when you expect an itty-bitty kitty . . . but get a lion instead?
It’s kitten delivery day, but—SURPRISE. Congratulations on your new LION! We know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those. Fortunately, the big cat comes with instructions—like, try very hard NOT to look like a zebra. Or a gazelle. And give your lion PLENTY of space to play. But soon the feathers and fur start flying and everything’s in chaos. Is there any way a lion could actually be a child’s purr-fect pet?
Ricki’s Review: This text will be a fantastic read-aloud for elementary school classrooms. It is a how-to book that will make kids roll with laughter. There is much to be taught from this text, so teachers will love teaching it as much as students will love listening to it. I enjoyed how straight-forward the text was. The pages include step-by-step instructions that are very clear and direct. The pictures show the consequences (e.g. the lion will eat you!). This is a perfect mentor text for a variety of teaching tools (see below) and a great addition to classrooms.
Kellee’s Review: Kids are going to love this step-by-step introduction into how to care for a pet lion. (Though I predict there are going to be some “No, you cannot have a lion as a pet.” conversations because of this book! The lion is just that adorable!) I loved how the book was a combination of a how-to guide and a narrative of the boy’s experience with his lion–what a unique concept! It is going to be such a fun book to read aloud with time to examine each page. And like Sauer’s Alien books, it really makes you think about expectations, prejudice, and first impressions vs. reality.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might use this book to teach sequence and how-to directions. They could also use it with students to discuss how caring for a lion would compare and contrast to caring for a more typical animal like a cat, dog, or fish. Students could then write their own how-to guides about caring for an exotic animal.
Discussion Questions: What is difficult about caring for a lion? What is important to remember?; When should you use a feather? What does the feather do?
Flagged Passage: “Step 3: Try very hard NOT to look like a zebra. Or a gazelle. Or a bunny. (See Diagram A).”
Read This If You Love: Share, Big Bear, Share by Maureen Wright; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty; Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; How to Track a Truck by Jason Carter Eaton; How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett
**Thank you to Lauren at Sterling for providing copies for review!**
The Case of the Stinky Stench
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Brendan Kearney
Published May 2nd, 2017 by Sterling Kids
Summary: “Uncle,” Crossaint said, “the fridge is in trouble!
A mystery stench turned a whole shelf to rubble!
I’m the last hope or the fridge will be lost!
Help me or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.”
There’s a stinky stench in the fridge—and our favorite foodie friends must solve a smelly mystery! Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, begs him and Lady Pancake for help in finding the source of the foul odor. Could it be the devious Baron Von Waffle? A fetid fish lurking in the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake? Featuring the same delectable wordplay and delicious art that won critical raves for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast—there’s even an actual red herring—his fun follow-up is an absolutely tasty treat for kids!
About the Author: Josh Funk is from MA where he spends his days writing computer language and his free time writing picture book rhymes. His first published picture book was Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sterling) and he is the author of Pirasaurs (Scholastic), Dear Dragon (Viking), and the upcoming Albie Newton (Sterling, 2018).
About the Illustrator: Brendan Kearney is an illustrator from the UK. While studying architecture at university, he realized he didn’t like rulers. He then discovered that it wasn’t essential to use a ruler when illustrating children’s books. Now he specializes in illustrating children’s books, bringing his own chaotic style and ideas to any project. He is also the illustrator of the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and Bertie Wings It (both Sterling).
Kellee’s Review: I love that Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are friends again and working together with Inspector Croissant to solve the mystery of the stinky stench. Their story promotes prediction, friendship, and problem solving in a fun refrigerator adventure! In a way that only Josh Funk can, he rhymes his way through the story without even one rhythm hiccup. The story, filled with humor, throwbacks to the first book, and a sweet ending, is just as funny as the first one with jokes for kids and adults alike (watch for the Red Herring and Spuddy Holly).
Ricki’s Review: If you follow this blog, you know that we absolutely love Josh Funk’s work. His books are smart, cleverly crafted, and engaging. They have a special quality to them in that they appeal to both adults and kids. My son is allowed to pick his bedtime books, and my inner voice squeals whenever he picks one of Josh’s books because I know that the story will be fun to read aloud. We got this book a week ago, and we’ve read it over a dozen times (by my son’s choice!). Who doesn’t love a book about a stinky stench?! There is so much to talk about, and so many great foods and vocabulary words to discuss. The words dance across the pages—and this makes for a beautiful read-aloud. I am always wary of sequels and companion books, but Josh nailed it. This is a great adventure that can work well with the first book and also stand alone. Teachers, if you don’t have this book or Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, I recommend them highly for your classrooms. Parents, this one is a no-brainer. I will cross my fingers that a third Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book is in the works!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Because of Josh Funk’s amazing ability to have perfect rhyming throughout the book, The Case of the Stinky Stench and the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast book are perfect at looking at rhyming and rhythm. Students can find all the rhyming words and discuss how they know the words rhyme and think of other words that rhyme with the words they found. Also, while reading, to discuss rhythm, students can clap along with the words to hear the rhythm that Josh Funk has created. Alternatively, students might design their own Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast pages to display around the classroom.
Can also be found on Sterling Publishing’s Stinky Stench website: https://www.sterlingpublishing.com/9781454919605
Read This If You Loved: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat, Max the Brave by Ed Vere, Giraffes Ruin Everything by Heidi Schulz
**Thank you to Sterling Kids for providing a copy for review!!**
The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Published: April 5, 2016 by Yearling
A Guest Review by Kelsey Iwanicki
Summary: The Fourteenth Goldfish follows the story of Ellie, an 11-year-old girl, who is currently struggling to find her passion, especially following the gradual drop off with her one and only friend, Brianna. However, everything changes when her mother brings home a quirky and crabby 13-year-old boy, Melvin. Ellie notices striking similarities between Melvin and her seventy-something year-old grandfather until he comes clean and tells her that they are in fact the same person. Melvin has worked on developing a drug to reverse the signs of aging, which has successfully worked on himself.
As Ellie and Melvin get closer, they also form an unlikely friendship with a goth student, Raj. Together they give Melvin advice about being a teenager, such as giving him acne medicine and hair elastics. They also help Melvin eventually, after a few failed attempts, steal the same compound that reversed his age. Melvin’s original plan was to steal the gene so he could share it with the world and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Ellie persuaded him not to on the grounds of moral ethics and how scientific impacts can be both positive and negative. Due to this, Melvin flushes the compound down the drain and starts to tour the country. Thanks to her time with her grandfather, Ellie is able to discover his passion in science and also gain a few friends along the way, Raj and Momo.
Review: What I liked most about this book was its quirkiness, mostly exemplified through Melvin. Although the relationship between Ellie and Melvin is untraditional, you can also get glimpses of a typical relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter is like, one that isn’t usually written about. The majority of characters are nontraditional, such as Raj, who is explicitly written as goth; Ellie, a girl scientist (although this is becoming more popular, usually boys are the ones in the STEM fields); and Melvin, as a grumpy 13-year-old.
What I didn’t like about the book was the build-up. Although they failed multiple times at stealing the compound, there was no suspense for when Melvin actually succeeded. Rather, he just came home one day with it. The climax actually was when Ellie had a self-realization that science has both positives and negatives, which honestly was kind of a let down because the plot had focused around getting the compound from the lab. Ultimately, it was a good theme because Ellie realizes there are good and bad things with any passion.
All in all, I did like the book, I think it could appeal to students who are interested in science and realistic fiction books.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should definitely be included in a classroom library for independent reading because I think it would appeal for students because it is a little quirky and has some interesting characters. It could also prompt some interesting discussions for literature circles because students could discuss the ethics behind using a compound to reverse aging.
A teacher could also use it as a read aloud for a few reasons. It would be interesting to consider the other perspectives of characters such as Melvin or Melissa, Ellie’s mother. Additionally, they could talk about the character traits and what makes Melvin and Ellie such strong characters. Or, they could talk about science and ethics behind what scientists release.
Discussion Questions: If you had a compound that could reverse aging, would you take it? Why or why not?; If you discovered a compound that could reverse aging, would you deliver it to the public? Why or why not?; What do you think will happen to Ellie and Brianna’s friendship? Ellie and Momo’s?; What do you think the side affects are from taking the compound? / What do you think happened to Melvin?; Put yourself in Ellie’s shoes, how would you feel if your grandfather attended the same school as you?; What is the importance of the fourteenth goldfish?
Flagged Passage: “Average people just give up at the obstacles we face every day. Scientists fail again and again and again. Sometimes for our whole lives. But we don’t give up, because we want to solve the puzzle” (p. 47).
Read This If You Loved: El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin; Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones
Thank you, Kelsey!
5 Little Ducks
Author: Denise Fleming
Published November 8, 2016 by Beach Lane Books
A Guest Review by Kathryn O’Connor
Summary: Papa Duck and his ducklings go on adventures through the woods and over the hills everyday. Each time Papa Duck yells out “Quack quack quack” to gather his ducklings, but not all of them come back. In fact, with each adventure, one fewer duck returns. Finally on Saturday, Papa Duck went out alone and yelled “Quack, quack, quack”. It was then that all of his ducks came back! When the family woke up together on Sunday, Mama Duck decided it would be best for the family to stay in and rest.
Review: Denise Fleming takes a modern spin on a classic nursery rhyme. It is fun to find out what new adventure the ducklings are taking on throughout the week. Because the ducks meet new people and explore new places each day, the reader is kept engaged. The repetition of the story makes it easy for young readers to follow along with and make predictions. In combination with this, the large text format and bolded numbers allow for easy comprehension.
The lively illustrations bring life to the text, and I love how perspective is used in all of them. Some of the pictures you’ll find to be zoomed out, while some are zoomed in. My favorite part of this picture book is at the end where Fleming has two non-fiction pages based on the animals of the story. This encourages the readers thinking and allows them to explore further.
Although this book is a helpful, entertaining tool for teaching days of the week and numbers 1-5, my only concern is that readers might become worried or anxious thinking about the well-being of the ducks. At some points while reading, I was concentrated on where the ducks were, if they were still alive, and when they were going to return to their family, rather than enjoying the text.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story can be used at first as a whole class read aloud, and perhaps even in a singing voice. Students will quickly pick up on the pattern of the story due to the repetition. By keeping the book in a classroom library, readers will then be willing to pick up the text and read independently or to a friend for they have already familiarized themselves with it. For beginning readers, this will spark motivation and love of reading. This story is also a helpful aid in teaching and counting numbers 1-5, days of the week, and sequencing text.
Discussion Questions: How many ducks do you think will come back?; What day comes next?; Why does Papa Duck yell “quack, quack, quack” everyday?; Where do you think the ducks are going?; Why do you think the ducks want to explore?; Why is Papa Duck feeling sad?; How do you think Papa Duck felt when his ducks returned?; Why does Mama Duck want all of the ducks to rest on Sunday?
Read This If You Loved: 10 Little Rubber Ducks by Eric Carle, Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, or The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Thank you, Kathryn!
Charlie & Mouse
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Emily Hughes
Expected Publication April 11th, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Yesterday we revealed the Barkus teaching guide, today we get to share another new guide I wrote for another must-get early chapter book from Chronicle […]
Charlie & Mouse
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Emily Hughes
Expected Publication April 11th, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Yesterday we revealed the Barkus teaching guide, today we get to share another new guide I wrote for another must-get early chapter book from Chronicle Books for all of my early elementary friends!
About the Book: Meet Charlie and Mouse! Join these irresistible and irrepressible sibs in their quest to talk to some lumps, take the neighborhood to a party, sell some rocks, and invent the bedtime banana. With imagination and humor, beloved author and illustrator team Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes paint a lively picture of brotherhood in four irresistible stories that readers will relish.
About the Author: Laurel Snyder is the author of many books for children. She lives and writes in a small yellow house in Atlanta, Georgia, which she shares with her husband and two sons. She would like to state for the record that while none of these stories are exactly true, none of them are exactly untrue either.
About the Illustrator: Emily Hughes is an illustrator (and sometimes writer) who lives in windy Brighton, England, while thinking fondly of her hometown in Hilo, Hawaii. When making books she uses pencils, her tablet, and a very, very generous stack of paper.
About the Guide: This guide consists of discussion opportunities and classroom extension activities designed for use by Pre-K through first grade students in classroom, small group, or individual assignments. Charlie & Mouse allows children to exercise a variety of reading comprehension strategies, from gaining information about a story from the illustrations and text to retelling, describing, building vocabulary, and comparing and contrasting. Additionally, Charlie & Mouse helps young readers develop foundational reading skills such as learning to recognize sight words and text features.
You can also access the teaching guide here.
Update (11/10/17): I have completed the guide for the sequel to Charlie and Mouse as well! Check it out: http://www.unleashingreaders.com/?p=14584
Don’t miss out on this one!
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