My Rotten Stepbrother Ruined Cinderella
Author: Jerry Mahoney
Illustrator: Aleksei Bitskoff
Published August 1st, 2017 by Stone Arch Books
Summary: Holden, what have you done?! It wasn’t enough to ruin Maddie’s report on Cinderella, but now you’ve somehow broken the ACTUAL fairy tale? The ugly stepsister is marrying the prince and there’s no happy ever after! You need to fix this and the only way seems to be by entering the story. But beware: if you can’t mend it, you can never return…
Review: Everyone! You listening?!?! If you or any of your students are a fan of the Whatever After series, you need to get this for you/them. It is a perfect companion for them! But don’t think that this is just a duplicate of the series, it is similar yet also so different! First, Holden and Maddie already don’t work well together, so going into the fairy tale is not only about fixing the fairy tale but also about fixing their relationship. Second, the fracturing of fairy tales gets even more ridiculous than you can even imagine. Third, Holden and Maddie are in the fairy tales as characters, not as themselves. I will say that both this book and the Mlynowski series looks at the problems in fairy tales and how the stories could be better told to make everyone happy.
(I will say the only “issue” I had was I really don’t like the negative connotation around step-siblings, so calling a step-brother rotten really doesn’t help that idea; however, I do like how Maddie has to learn that her opinion on her stepbrother may not be correct.)
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: First and foremost, this book will be a hilarious read aloud and an independent reading books that will fall into so many hands. Additionally, in the backmatter of the book, the author includes a glossary including the harder vocabulary in the book, a think again section with three questions for readers to think about, and finally a section about how to write a ruined version of a favorite tale. All three of these activities help make the book even more useful in a classroom.
Discussion Questions: (From the “Think Again” section by the author)
- Everyone has someone in their life like Holden, who’s unavoidable and hard to get along with. Who’s someone you’ve struggled to relate to, and what would you do if you had to work with him or her to “fix” a fairy tale?
- There are details about the wicked stepsisters that weren’t in the original tale, such as Beautianna’s desire to go to art school. Think of a supporting character from one of your favorite books whom you wish you knew more about. Come up with your own ideas for his or her character traits, wants, and needs. You can even try to write the whole story from that character’s perspective.
- What do you think of the questions Holden raises about Cinderella? Do you think he makes some good points, or would you be as annoyed with him as Maddie was? Pick another story you know well and try to imagine what Holden’s problems with that story might be.
Flagged Passages: “Maddie hadn’t seen her before, but she could tell this woman had plenty to be sad about, starting with her clothes. They were filthy, patched-up work clothes, and her hair was tied back with a rag. She sat in front of a pile of roses, and one by one, she plucked the thorns off each stem and placed them into a vase. Her hands were scratched and bruised from hours of performing this tedious, excruciating task. No wonder she was crying.
‘Do you need a tissue?’ Maddie asked her.
‘Tissue?’ the woman replied. ‘What’s a tissue?’ The woman turned her head and gazed at Maddie, confused.
Of course, Maddie thought. They don’t have tissues in fairy tales. They weren’t invented yet. While she wondered how to explain this, she had another realization. This wasn’t any ordinary, sad woman. She was kind and familiar, the most beautiful woman Maddie had ever seen. She had bright blue eyes and, underneath the rag on her head, hair that seemed to be made from pure gold.
‘Oh my gosh!’ Maddie exclaimed. ‘You’re–you’re Cinderella!’
‘You seem surprised to see me, Glamoremma,’ the young woman replied.” (p. 29-30)
Read This If You Love: Whatever After by Sarah Mlynowski, It’s NOT Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk, Fractured fairy tales
**Thank you so much to the author for providing a copy for review!**
Author: John David Anderson
Published February 13th, 2018 from Walden Pond Press
Summary: From the author of beloved novels Ms. Bixby’s Last Day and Posted comes a hilarious, heartfelt, and unforgettable novel about a fairy-in-training.
Everyone who wishes upon a star, or a candle, or a penny thrown into a fountain knows that you’re not allowed to tell anyone what you’ve wished for. But even so, there is someone out there who hears it.
In a magical land called the Haven lives a young fairy named Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets. Ophela is no ordinary fairy—she is a Granter: one of the select fairies whose job it is to venture out into the world and grant the wishes of unsuspecting humans every day.
It’s the work of the Granters that generates the magic that allows the fairies to do what they do, and to keep the Haven hidden and safe. But with worldwide magic levels at an all-time low, this is not as easy as it sounds. On a typical day, only a small fraction of the millions of potential wishes gets granted.
Today, however, is anything but typical. Because today, Ophelia is going to get her very first wish-granting assignment.
And she’s about to discover that figuring out how to truly give someone what they want takes much more than a handful of fairy dust.
About the Author: John David Anderson is the author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Sidekicked, Minion, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.
Review: John David Anderson never ceases to amaze me. I have read all but one of his books, and I am learning that I cannot even guess what he’s going to tackle next; although, I can assume he is going to do it well!
But I will be honest, I would not have guessed that his newest would be about a super sweet, determined, and a bit quirky fairy named Ophelia Fidgets. But yes, Ophelia is our phenomenal fairy protagonist who every reader will immediately love. She is a perfectionist but also does things her own way–she just has very high standards for her own way. She also has a silly sidekick in both Charlie, a fellow granting fairy, and Sam, a homeless dog, and I must say that Anderson does one of the best dog voices I’ve ever read, I could hear it while I read.
Other than the characters, I think there were two other things that this novel did exceptionally well: world building and making the reader think about priorities. Everywhere Ophelia went, Anderson described enough to make sure that we could visualize it, but he also ensured that he didn’t overwhelm the reader with too much information. He also did a truly fantastic job at setting up the fairy world and all the rules within it to where the reader understood Ophelia’s task, her job, etc. Also, through Ophelia’s journey to grant the wish she’s been assigned, Anderson gets the reader to look at wishing and what is truly important in the world.
Lastly, I loved that in the backmatter of the book, Anderson acknowledges the long history of fairies, including Tinkerbell!, and reminds readers to keep reading about them.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like all of Anderson’s books, I know this one will find readers on my shelves. This book is perfect for fans of fairy, animal, or quirky adventure books. And it will also be a wonderful read aloud! Even if you don’t have enough time to read the entire book, the first chapter and synopsis will truly suck readers in.
- What does Sam teach Ophelia?
- Why does Ophelia make the choice she does make when granting the wish?
- Do you agree with Ophelia or Squint when it comes to wish granting?
- Do you believe that Charlie deserved the punishment he received?
- What character traits does Ophelia possess that led her on not giving up?
- How does Granted allude to other fairy tales you know? How does it break fairy stereotypes often found in other fairy tales?
Flagged Passages: “The last time you blew out your birthday candles, what did you wish for?
Did you blot them all out on the first breath? It doesn’t count otherwise. Also, do not let your brother or sister help you; at best they will waste your wish. At worst they will steal it for themselves.
Same for dandelions–the one breathe rule–or else the wish won’t fly. It’s harder than you think, getting all those seeds off in one huff. Harder than candles on a cake. If you can’t manage it, though, don’t worry. There are a dozen more ways to make a wish. A quarter flipped into a fountain. A penny dropped down a well. Some might tell you that bigger coins make stronger wishes, but that’s simply not true. A silver dollar or even a gold doubloon doesn’t increase the chances you’ll get what you want. Your dollar is better spent on gumballs or ice cream; use a nickel instead. Wishes aren’t for sale to the highest bidder.” (p. 1-2)
And my favorite passage:
“‘Humans are bad,’ [Sam] agreed.
Ophelia stopped fidgeting with her petal and looked over at Sam. Of course he would think so. And she couldn’t blame him. Not after how he’d been treated. She leaned into him, nestling in his fur.
‘Maybe they’re not all bad,’ she amended. ‘They just lose sight of what’s important sometimes, worrying so much about what they don’t have that they forget what they’ve already got.’
‘Like home,’ Sam said.” (p. 207)
Read This If You Love: Tinker Bell, Folk lore about fairies, Wishapick by M.M. Allen, Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black, Seekers by Erin Hunter, Mez’s Magic by Eliot Schrefer
**Thank you to Danielle at Blue Slip Media for setting up the blog tour!**
They Didn’t Teach THIS in Worm School!
Author: Simone Lia
Published February 13th, 2018 by Candlewick Press
Summary: A hungry chicken (who thinks he’s a flamingo) and a quick-thinking worm set off on a madcap adventure — and forge an unlikely friendship.
They Didn’t Teach THIS in Worm School!
Author: Simone Lia
Published February 13th, 2018 by Candlewick Press
Summary: A hungry chicken (who thinks he’s a flamingo) and a quick-thinking worm set off on a madcap adventure — and forge an unlikely friendship.
Marcus is a worm, and a bird named Laurence who looks very much like a chicken is about to eat him for breakfast. So what does Marcus do? He strikes up a conversation, of course! But even after talking his way out of being eaten, Marcus’s troubles are just beginning: soon he is clinging to Laurence’s neck as the designated navigator on an absurd journey to Kenya, where his feathered companion dreams of finding happiness with other flamingos like himself. Except Marcus can’t actually read a map, and this bird is clearly not a flamingo. Will Marcus be able to get them both to Africa — or even manage to survive the day? Filled with kid-friendly illustrations, this is a buddy comedy that will have readers wriggling with laughter.
Review: Oh man! What a voice this book has. Marcus and Laurence are just hilarious and part of what makes them so funny is the very evident voice that both characters have. Marcus is a rule follower and is trying to figure everything out. Laurence is confused and so full of goals and ambition that are just not realistic. And the two of them on an adventure are just ridiculous and really did make me laugh out loud.
Also, at a deeper level, Laurence is also teaching us about identity. He may not look like a flamingo, but he knows he is. That is all that matters.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As I was reading, the very first thing I thought of was how perfect this book will be for our late elementary readers who love Bird and Squirrel or Narwhal and Jelly and want to try a non-graphic novel. It is still hilarious and illustrated yet may be a ladder up for these students. Also, with really short chapters and hilarity, it would be a wonderful read aloud as well.
- How did Marcus’s decision to start a conversation with Laurence change the course of the plot? What could have happened?
- There are other animal characters throughout the book. Why do you think the character includes them? What is their purpose? How do they advance the story?
- How did Laurence and Marcus finally make it to Africa?
- How was Laurence different than what Marcus originally assumed?
Then, I dreamed I fell out of a can into a cereal bowl. Staring at me was a scruffy, fat bird who looked a lot like a chicken. It was a really good dream until it got tothe bird part. The bird had intense and menacing eyes.
The worst things was that the last part of the dream wasn’t a dream at all. I really had been in a can, and there really was a big fat bird staring at me!
What would you do if you were a worm and there was a bird two inches away from your face, looking at you with hsi beak open so wide that you could see his tonsils.
Maybe you would do what I did. I smiled a big smile and said in my most cheerful voice,
Read This If You Love: Bird and Squirrel by James Burks, Narwhal by Ben Clanton
**Thank you Candlewick for providing a copy for review!**
Inky’s Great Escape: The Incredible (and Mostly True) Story of an Octopus Escape
Author: Casey Lyall
Illustrator: Sebastia Serra
Published: November 7, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books
Goodreads Summary: Inky’s Incredible Idea for an Ingenious Escape .
Based on a true story, this tale follows a daring, Houdini-esque octopus as he performs his greatest escape act yet.
In April 2016, The New York Times published an article about an octopus named Inky who escaped from the National Aquarium of New Zealand through a drainpipe and into the sea. In this charming fictionalized account, Inky, worn out from his exciting life in the ocean, has retired to the aquarium. There he quietly plays cards, makes faces at the visitors, and regales his tankmate Blotchy with tales of his past adventures. Then Blotchy dares Inky to make one more great escape: out of their tank. Will Inky succeed?
Ricki’s Review: Inky! This is a fun, thrilling text that will surely entertain a classroom of kids. I can imagine all of the questions that would accompany a read-aloud of this book. When my son and I read it, the first thing we did was research Inky’s story on the internet (see Kellee’s review for more info about this). We talked about all of the exciting ways that an octopus might escape from an aquarium. I love how the author creatively interpreted Inky’s story and made it a sort of challenge from Inky’s friend Blotchy. This made me chuckle. This text is versatile and could be used in many ways in the classroom, and it has high appeal. Kids will love it.
Kellee’s Review: Although Inky’s Great Escape is a fictionalized version of the events that happened at the National Aquarium of New Zealand in 2016, if you go and research about the escape, you’ll learn that the Inky truly is one incredible octopus! Although Lyall used creative freedom to build up Inky’s backstory (he’d retired to the aquarium after many daring escapes, and only escaped from the aquarium because Blotchy challenged him), much of the escape sequence was what truly transpired when Inky made his escape. Kids will fall in love with Inky’s bravery, personality, and with his contrasting friend, Blotchy, who stayed behind. With colorful full page illustrations and two octopuses with character traits and personalities that will start conversations, Inky’s Great Escape is going to be a favorite read aloud and classroom library book in elementary classrooms (and would be a great companion to a cephalapoda discussion!).
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might take some time to point out New Zealand on a map and to research the habitat in New Zealand. They might specifically look into Inky’s story and how the author took a bit of creative license to interpret the truth a bit. Teachers might also ask students to create their own escape stories with another animal. They could illustrate these and bind them into books!
Discussion Questions: Why does Inky decide to escape? What does he do?; What is Blotchy’s role in the story? How might we compare this to situations in our lives?; What is the true story? How did the author creatively interpret that story?
Emily and the Spellstone
Author: Michael Rubens
Published June 13th, 2017 by Clarion Books
Summary: This summer, comedy writer and YA author Michael Rubens makes his middle grade debut with Emily and the Spellstone, a hilarious and accessible fantasy about growing up and coming into your own.
Emily is fed up with her frustrating family and the clique-filled hallways of elementary school. All she wants for her twelfth birthday is a cell phone, but of course her tech-obsessed older sister had to go and get carpal tunnel, so now Emily isn’t allowed to have one. Worst birthday ever. As she stomps off down the beach to get away from it all, she stumbles across a strange stone that seems to speak to her, and looks oddly like the cell phone she desperately wants. What Emily doesn’t know is that this weird rock is actually an ancient Spellstone, and only she can unlock its powers. What could go wrong?
Rubens’ whimsical wordplay and delightful prose bring this unpredictable adventure to life. Monsters and magic will inspire readers’ imaginations, while Emily’s more terrestrial troubles like mean girls and annoying little brothers will resonate with anyone who has ever been new or felt out of place in their own family. According to Booklist, “the quick pacing, playful narration, and high stakes are plenty to keep reluctant readers and young fantasy fans engaged.” With a diverse cast of supporting characters and a spunky heroine, this wacky romp is a perfect summer read.
About the Author: Michael Rubens is the author of two YA novels, Sons of the 613 and The Bad Decisions Playlist, and one novel for grownups, The Sheriff of Yrnameer. A correspondent and producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, he has also been a producer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. His writing has appeared in places like The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts, Salon and McSweeney’s. He lives with his family in Brooklyn. Visit his website at www.michaelrubens.com.
Review: It is obvious that Rubens writes comedy for a living. Emily’s story is a perfect mix of laugh out loud moments, puns, and crazy adventures with monsters and evil. And unlike other books this reminded me of, Rubens has created his own monsters and villains instead of using an established mythology which means it made it really hard for me to make predictions, so I was on the edge of my seat (LAUGHING along the way) the entire novel. As soon as I finished, I went on Twitter to make sure all of my middle grade teacher friends knew about this one because I think that fans of Riordan’s books are going to really enjoy this one.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Primarily, I picture this book in classrooms/libraries for independent reading or being used in classes during lit circles/book clubs. However, there are some really funny read aloud parts that could definitely be used to discuss humor, word choice, puns, and voice. It would also be lots of fun to make up apps that could be on Emily’s Spellstone.
- How did Emily change from the beginning to the end of the novel? What plot points were key in her character development?
- Find examples in the book that show Emily’s and Gorgo’s sense of humor.
- How do you think Emily feels by the end of the book about being a Stonemaster?
- Were there any signs throughout the book to indicate that Gorgo was going to make the decision he did?
- If all of the humorous passages were eliminated from the book, how would that change the tone of the book? How does the word choice the author chose help make the tone what it is?
- Why were the Venomüch family included in the story?
Flagged Passages: “Emily lay as still as she could, not daring to move, barely daring to breathe.
There was something lurking in the darkness.
She couldn’t hear it or see it, but she could feel it, the sheer foulness of its presence.
It wasn’t Gorgo. She knew that. This was something else. Something far worse. . . . . .
‘There was. . . something in my room last night.’
‘Ah, right. I thought I felt somehthing. Some sort of shade or spirit, probably sniffing around after the Stone.’
He shrugged. ‘Dunno. Maybe someone sent it. Or maybe it just showed up, drawn by the Stone,’ he said. ‘You’re about to say ‘why’ again, aren’t you?’
‘Yes. Why. Why would that thing be drawn to this stone?’
‘Because it’s a Stone. They’re incredibly powerful, Stones are. Powerful and rare. A Stonemaster can use them to work great magics. That’s a very ancient relic you have there. Well, sort of modern ancient. The first Stones were massive. You’ve heard of Stonehenge, right? Well, thos are really old-fashioned. You couldn’t move them anywhere. The one you have, though, it’s portable, or, uh. . .’
‘Mobile?’ said Emily.
‘A mobile. . . Stone?’
‘A mobile Stone for casting spells.’
‘It’s a Mobile. Spell. Stone.’
‘You seem fixated on that.’
‘It’s like a mobile cell phone.’
‘Not sure what you’re talkinga bout, but if you say so.’ (p. 55, 69-70)
Read This If You Love: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw by Todd Calgi Gallicano, Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket
**Thank you to Tracy at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**
Prince and Pirate
Author: Charlotte Gunnufson
Illustrator: Mike Lowery
Anticipated Publication: May 9, 2017 by Putnam
Goodreads Summary: When two little fish with big personalities have to share the same tank, there are rough seas ahead!
Prince and Pirate are proud masters of their very own fishbowls, and life goes along swimmingly–until they’re scooped up and plopped into shared waters.
Prince is horrified to find this cheeky cod trespassing in his kingdom.
Pirate is sure this scurvy sea slug has come to plunder his treasure.
Thus, a battle of regal sneers, seaworthy stink-eyes, and off-the-hook insults begins.
Prince and Pirate’s hilarious duel for territory will elicit gales of giggles, hearty guffaws, and heartfelt smiles. Just when it seems their struggle might end in a silly stalemate, a little surprise convinces them to find a way to get along–swimmingly.
Ricki’s Review: My son has Charlotte Gunnufson’s Halloween Hustle, and we read it quite often. He loves the kooky characters and fun within the text. Prince and Pirate is no different. I loved reading this book aloud, and my son was giggling as turned each page. The book is cleverly crafted, and the words and illustrations pop off of the pages. I can’t help but think about how the author conceptualized the novel. I imagine her looking at a fishbowl and thinking about the characters amongst her fish. This book would make a wonderful text to spur creative writing amongst students. I think their imaginations would soar after reading it.
Kellee’s Review: I think Mike Lowery’s illustrations are so much fun and add such a special personality to any story, and with this book, his illustrations met a story that definitely lived up to his standards. (I also want to compliment the book’s designer who also made the font as fun as the illustrations.) Prince and Pirate were loners who all of a sudden are forced to live together and do. not. like. it. However, when they both have the same goal to try to reach, they are able to cooperate and learn to work (and live) together. Through humor and ridiculous name calling, Gunnufson tells a story that shows how differences don’t have to be the end of a possible friendship.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to create their own fish characters. They could use the prince and pirate as a model and design a similar text. This book serves as a wonderful mentor text for learning about how to build character and/or teaching dialogue. Don’t forget to check out the Educator’s Guide along with other fun, free activities on the author’s website, https://www.booksbycharlotte.com/activities.
Discussion Questions: How do you think the author conceptualized this book?; How do the words and illustrations work together to form an effective story?; How does the author build character? What other fish characters might emerge in the story? How would the story be different if the author introduce a ____ type of fish?
Read This If You Loved: Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson; Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, Doodle Adventures by Mike Lowery
Pug & Pig: Trick-or-Treat
Author: Sue Lowell Gallion; Illustrator: Joyce Wan
Published: July 25, 2017 by Beach Lane Books
Summary: Pug and Pig are back for a heartwarming Halloween adventure in this adorable picture book that’s perfect for pet lovers of all ages.
Halloween night has come to Pug and Pig’s house, and the darling duo is sporting matching costumes. The costumes are cozy. They glow in the dark. And they have masks! There’s only one problem—Pug hates wearing his. So he decides to rip it up and stay home. But Halloween just isn’t any fun for Pig without Pug! Can Pug find a way to be a good friend and get back into the Halloween spirit?
Ricki’s Review: This is a phenomenal second installment in the Pug & Pig series! I really enjoy the personalities of these two characters, and I can’t help but smile as I read the stories. In this book, Pug decides that he doesn’t enjoy wearing his Halloween costume. Pig isn’t too pleased with this. Together, they devise a clever solution! Early readers will absolutely adore this charming story. It would make for a great Halloween read aloud! We’ll be bringing our copy to my son’s preschool to use as a read aloud this week!
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to make connections with the book. They could discuss whether or not they’ve had a time where they haven’t wanted to participate in an activity. Or perhaps, they didn’t care about something that their friends cared deeply about. Students might talk through these conflicts and problem solve by suggesting different ways they might approach the situations.
Be sure to download the fun activity kit, complete with masks, cupcake toppers, a coloring sheet, and more! (The link also takes you to a Common Core-aligned discussion guide.)
Discussion Questions: Why does Pug want to stay home? How does this make Pig feel?; Have you ever wanted to stay home when your friends or family wanted to do something? What did you do? What are some other ways you could have acted?; What are some other costumes that Pug and Pig could have been for Halloween?
Read This If You Loved: Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion; Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey; Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty
About the Author: Sue Lowell Gallion is the author of Pug Meets Pig and Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat (Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books). She has two grown-up kids, one grandson, and a black lab mix named Tucker, who all provide writing inspiration. As a printer’s daughter, she has a life-long love of type, paper, and the aroma of ink. She lives in Kansas City, KS. Visit Sue at suegallion.com, follow @SueLGallion on Twitter, and check out her kids’ book recommendations at Goodreads.
Thank you, Barbara from Blue Slip Media, for sending a copy for review!
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