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The Lost Girl
Author: Anne Ursu
Published February 12th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: Sometimes you need to lose something in order to find yourself.

Beloved author John David Anderson returns with a heartwarming, heartbreaking and unforgettable story of the true power and limits of family.

    Ron Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jelly beans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always onstage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk.

    He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays, handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially since his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.

    Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but fell that that’s not the end of the story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.

    He doesn’t know how right he is.

About the Author:John David Anderson is the author of some of the most beloved and highly acclaimed books for kids in recent memory, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, Sidekicked, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife and two frawsome kids in Indianapolis, Indiana. He’s never eaten seven scoops of ice cream in a single sitting, but he thinks it sounds like a terrific idea. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.

Praise: 

“Readers will be happily swept along by Rion’s first-person narration, which is often amusing, sometimes bemused, and occasionally even tender as he shows how his family was unwittingly drawn together by their shared experience. Anderson offers another original novel written with wit and compassion.” – Booklist

“Humor, plot twists, and quirky characters abound in this earnest middle grade tale of self-discovery.” – School Library Journal

“Eccentric yet believable characters and Rion’s perceptive narration prevent Anderson’s unpredictable tale from feeling overwrought as the relationships between three generations of fathers and sons are rewritten anew.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Review: The characters’ last name says it all: Kwirk. This book is full of quirks. I found the beginning so funny that I had to read it out loud to my son and husband while we were driving, and that was literally and figuratively just the beginning. I have read all but one of Anderson’s books, and reading Finding Orion reminded me again why I enjoy his writing so much: that Anderson does so brilliantly, when he tackles humor, is that he can combine a serious topic (death) with humor and it doesn’t seem far fetched or cheap. It seems perfect. 

The cast of characters, though over the top at times, added so much to the story. They are extravagant, a bit weird, and very entertaining. While Rion sometimes found himself just along for the ride, the other characters took the wheel and drove us through the story.

Another winning book for Anderson that I cannot wait to share with my students.

Educators’ Guide: 

Discussion Questions: 

  • When was a time that you felt like an outcast in your family?
  • What jelly bean flavor would you want to try? Would never try?
  • How did Papa Kwirk’s personality affect how different his son is?
  • Rion and his sisters are more alike than he wants to admit. Create only a comparison chart showing how they are alike with text evidence to support it.
  • How did the fun-neral change Rion’s perspective on his grandfather?
  • How did learning about the whole other life his grandfather have affect Rion?
  • What roles did the animals play in the story?
  • How is the author’s ability to create quirky characters change the trajectory of the story?

Flagged Passages: Read an excerpt here! It is the first few pages that had me actually laughing out loud while reading it.

Read This If You Love: The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman, Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina, Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard, Death and Douglas by JW Ockler, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

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Don’t miss out on the other stops in the blog tour!

Blog Tour May 6-14, 2019

May 6 Nerdy Book Club
May 7 Bluestocking Thinking
May 8 The Book Monsters
May 9 Maria’s Melange
May 13 This Kid Reviews Books
May 14 Kirsti Call

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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Hush Up and Hibernate
Author: Sandra Markle
Illustrator: Howard McWilliam
Published August 28th 2018 by Persnickety Press

Goodreads Summary: Leaves are falling, a cold wind is blowing, geese are heading south. Clearly, winter is coming. It’s time for black bears to do what they always do this time of year―hibernate. Kids will get a kick out of this romp of a tale about a black bear cub that finds every excuse imaginable to avoid the inevitable go-to-bed moment. Will Mama Bear finally win? Or will Baby Bear come up with the ultimate reason to skip going to sleep?

Review: As I sit and write this post, it is 9:50pm, and my older child is upstairs not sleeping. The chance of him crafting an excuse to come out of his room within the next 10 minutes? High. So saying that I enjoyed this book is an understatement. I found great joy in reading this book to my son. We first read it a few weeks ago, and I’ve told him to hush up and hibernate a few dozen times. It’s a clever book that parents will enjoy immensely. The illustrations are beautifully done (take a look at the gem shared below!). If you take a look at the cover image (above), you will see the baby bear’s face. The way he’s reacting to his mother is an all-too-familiar look that makes me chuckle. I absolutely adored this charming book. When my son chooses it for his bedtime book, I have a warm, happy feeling. This signifies that it is a good book and one to keep.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be fun for kids to create their own version of this book—imagining an animal that is refusing to do something and giving every excuse imaginable to a parent. I suspect that this would be a fun writing exercise for kids, and they might reconsider their constant excuses.

Discussion Questions: What are some of the excuses that Baby Bear uses? What excuses have you used? What strategies does he use, and do they work?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Share, Big Bear, Share by Maureen Wright, Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton, Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo

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  RickiSig

**Thank you to Wiley at Saichek Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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Sun! One in a Billion
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Stevie Lewis
Published October 23, 2018

Summary: From the author of Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years comes a new picture book about space—
this time starring our Sun!

Meet Sun: He’s a star! And not just any star—he’s one in a billion. He lights up our solar system and makes life possible. With characteristic humor and charm, Stacy McAnulty channels the voice of Sun in this next celestial “autobiography.” Rich with kid-friendly facts and beautifully illustrated, this is an equally charming and irresistible companion to Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years.

Ricki’s ReviewThis is my new favorite book about space. (And I have read a lot of books about space.) The author perfectly balances factual information and appeal. The illustrations pop off of the page, and the planets, sun, etc. are personified. I feel very lucky to have received this book for review. I am quite excited to read it to my son tomorrow night. I think I smiled throughout my entire reading of the book. If you are interested in space, get this book. It includes facts that were new to me, and the back matter offers a wealth of information for readers who want to delve deeper.

Kellee’s Review: The humor that Stacy McAnulty adds to her books about space really add to the engagement factor (for both the reader and listener); the Sun’s attitude in this one actually made me laugh out loud while reading, but I also learned some pretty cool facts while reading. I know that this book is going to be in our rotation because Trent wants to be an astronaut, and this one was an instant hit! I am so glad that there are amazing space books out there that add something new to the conversation and go about the information in a new and funny way! I really hope that this series continues because I’d love to see the personalities of all of the other parts of our solar system (and maybe some cool space objects from other systems!).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to pick one fact in the book that makes them want to learn more about the world. They could look, for example, into a planet, or into the history of Earth. This inspires student-centered inquiry about a topic of choice!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is the text structured in ways that are engaging and interesting?
  • What new facts did you learn?
  • Which page was your favorite, and why?
  • Did this book inspire you to want to learn more about any topics or information?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years by Stacy McAnulty; Science, Space, Picture books with humorous narrators like It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh FunkNothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

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**Thank you to Kelsey at Macmillan for setting up the blog tour for Sun!**

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Eraser
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Published August 1, 2018 by Two Lions

Summary: Eraser is always cleaning up everyone else’s mistakes. Except for Ruler and Pencil Sharpener, none of the other school supplies seem to appreciate her. They all love how sharp Pencil is and how Tape and Glue help everyone stick together. Eraser wants to create so that she can shine like the others. She decides to give it a try, but it’s not until the rubber meets the road that Eraser begins to understand a whole lot about herself.

Inspired by a school essay their daughter Kate wrote in the third grade, the author and illustrator behind Theodor Seuss Geisel Award–winner You Are (Not) Small have created a desktop drama about figuring out who you are, finding happiness, and the importance of second, third, and maybe even fourth chances.

About the Creators: Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small and its follow-ups That’s (Not) Mineand I Am (Not) Scared. Christopher’s work can be seen routinely in The New Yorker magazine and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. As an author, Anna regularly goes through first, second, and third drafts. Chris wears down many erasers while making his art. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.
Twitter: @annakang27 @chrisweyant05
Instagram: annakangbooks; christopherweyant
Facebook: Anna Kang – Author; Christopher Weyant

Ricki’s Review: I love this author-illustrator team. Every book that they’ve written has been brilliant. This book offers readers a glimpse inside the mind of the lesser-known characters in life. It forces us to think about who we are overlooking and who deserves more praise. It’s easy to get caught up in our own lives and the lives of those who are close to us, and we often forget to consider those who feel distant to us. My son and I talked about this together, and he said there are some kids at school that he doesn’t talk with often. I asked him what this book taught him, and he said that it reminded him to talk with more friends in his class and to be kind. With a valuable message and a powerful punch, this book is sure to become a favorite in classrooms.

Kellee’s Review: There are times in all of our lives that we question our purpose. Someone louder, prettier, more aggressive, or different than you may get recognition where you don’t even though you feel you deserve it. But it is all about valuing yourself and showing others that value, but we don’t need others to tell us our worth. That is what Eraser teaches us. When we finished, Trent said that Pencil learned that she needed help and Eraser learned she IS important. If that isn’t a message that I want my son to learn, I don’t know what is. Oh, and it is quite funny sometimes, and like Kang & Weyant’s other books, it is told in dialogue only so the illustrations play a big part in the telling of the story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might give students a list of the names of all of the students in their class. The students might look through this list and ask themselves, “Who do I talk to often? Who could I get to know more? Do I show every person on this list that they matter?” This activity connects well with the theme of the book and reminds students to support others in their world.

For more information, and to download a free activity kit, visit annakang.com, or download here.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Eraser’s feelings change throughout the book? What causes these changes?
  • How do the other school supplies act toward Eraser? Does this remind you of any instances in your life?
  • What is the message of the book? What does it teach us?

Book Trailer!:

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Read This If You Loved: Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall; The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew DaywaltThat’s (Not) Mine by Anna KangYou Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

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It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus!
Author: Jody Jensen Shaffer;  Illustrator: Claire Messer
Published: July 3, 2018 by Beach Lane Books

Goodreads Summary: It’s the first day of school! But is Busy Bus ready? Find out in this darling picture book that showcases the excitement and worries little ones experience as they prepare for their first day.

Today is the very first day of school! Busy Bus is excited, but he also has some first-day jitters. Will the children like him? Will he be homesick? What if he gets lost?! Luckily, bus driver Ben knows just what to do to make sure that the school year gets off to a great start.

My Review: We have had so much fun with this book in our household. I read the book aloud, and my two sons act out the pages. Parents can substitute their children’s names for the bus driver to add a layer of fun! Almost all of the bus books that exist feature busses with children already on them. I loved the concept of this book—the bus is preparing for the first day of school and is very nervous the children won’t like him. This book is a must-have for bus-loving children, and it would make for a great first day of kindergarten read-aloud.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Children would have great fun re-envisioning this book with other vehicles and inanimate objects. For example, what might the classroom be feeling before the first day of school? Children could create their own books of their imaginations.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does the bus prepare for the children?
  • What is he worried about?
  • How does the bus driver help him with his jitters?
  • What other things might be nervous for the first day of school?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Dump Truck Duck by Megan E. BryantGoodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, Demolition by Sally Sutton, Little Blue Truck by Alice Shertle, Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night? by Brianna Caplan Sayres

Recommended For: 

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Don’t miss out on other stops on the tour!

RickiSig

**Thank you to Jody for providing a copy for review!**

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Hazardous Tales: Raid of No Return
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published November 7th, 2017 by Abrams Books

Summary: A top secret mission needs volunteers.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States joined World War II. And soon after that, young pilots were recruited fro a very secret – and very dangerous – raid on Japan. No one in the armed forced had done anything like this raid before, and none of the volunteers expected to escape with their lives. But this was a war unlike any other before, which called for creative thinking as well as bravery.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all – if you dare!

About the Author: Nathan Hale is the #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. He also wrote and illustrated the graphic novel One Trick Pony. Hale lives in Provo, Utah. Learn more at hazardoustales.com.

Praise: “Harrowing and no detail is left out . . . Hale’s tendency to incorporate character commentary, infographics, and fun facts will draw readers. Give this title to readers interested in action-packed graphic novels.” — School Library Journal

Review: The Hazardous Tales series is the series I use when kids say that nonfiction is boring AND when teachers say that graphic novels aren’t complex because this series, and this book, is complex, interesting, well crafted, funny, and just everything you’d want from any book, much less a nonfiction graphic novel.

And I am so happy to have a World War II Tale because so many students ask for it, and this is a new story for me, so I know it’ll be new for my students as well. Also, I think this specific mission will lead to many discussions because the idea of volunteering for a deadly mission is something that so many of my students struggle to understand because it isn’t something that they need to even consider, so to look at these men’s decision-making and willingness to fight for their country.

Other Hazardous Tales reviewed in the past here on Unleashing Readers: Alamo All-Stars and The Underground Abductor.

Hazardous Tales tip: I recommend starting with the first book, One Dead Spy, then you can read any of the others in any order.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ve written in the past how I would incorporate this series as well as written a teaching guide for the first six books, but I wanted to allow another voice to share the brilliance of Hazardous Tales, so today my colleague, Kaleigh Gill who teaches 8th grade U.S. history, who started reading the series this summer and has read almost the whole series! I wanted to let her share why she loves the series and how she pictures it being part of her classroom:

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales opens up a world of American stories that are often overlooked. With multiple books focusing on big topics, like the Revolution, Civil War, Alamo and Westward Expansion, Hale is able to give students (and teachers!) an engaging and realistic depiction of the experiences of American heroes and villains. With his humorous and relatable characters, he is able to connect with young readers on an unprecedented level in regards to nonfiction novels.

One of my favorite attributes of Hale’s series is the way he inserts side stories filled with background information and informative detail on corresponding events and individuals. He has the ability to make these often dull stories, come alive with his animated and entertaining illustrations. His stories are sure to captivate readers of all ages and interests.

Every history teacher in the United States should read this series! Even if you feel you wouldn’t have enough time to teach the entire book, it would be a great visual to provide students when discussing certain topics or figures. Some excerpts in this series would only take about 5-10 minutes to read aloud and discuss with your students, but would definitely leave a lasting impact! This series has even inspired me to design lessons based around historical texts for young readers and has also ignited my love of history again. Leaving these books to simply sit in my classroom library, would be a huge waste for my curriculum and more importantly, my students. Not only will it give insight into little known stories of America’s major events to enhance instruction, but it will intrigue students to dive deeper into historical texts that they would typically overlook.

Teaching Guide for Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #1-#6:

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did these soldiers volunteer for a mission they knew nothing about and that they knew was very dangerous?
  • Why do you think the part of World War II in the South Pacific isn’t spoken about as much as the European front?
  • How did the planes have to be changed up to be successful for the mission? Why?
  • Trying reading the book the way it was written then switch it up and read one plane’s story at a time–which way did you enjoy better?
  • How did this mission change the course of the war against Japan?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: History, Graphic Novels, Other Hazardous Tales books

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