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Highly Illogical Behavior
Author: John Corey Whaley
Published: May 10, 2016 by Dial

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Solomon is agoraphobic. He hasn’t left the house in three years, which is fine by him.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to get into the second-best psychology program for college (she’s being realistic). But is ambition alone enough to get her in?

Enter Lisa.

Determined to “fix” Sol, Lisa steps into his world, along with her charming boyfriend, Clark, and soon the three form an unexpected bond. But, as Lisa learns more about Sol and he and Clark grow closer and closer, the walls they’ve built around themselves start to collapse and their friendships threaten to do the same.

Ricki’s Review: I didn’t expect this book to hit me quite as hard as it did. The summary was compelling, and I enjoyed reading the first few chapters, and then I became personally invested in the characters’ lives. There are many complex emotions within this text. Because of the alternating perspectives, I’d be rooting for Lisa in a chapter and then feel like a jerk because I was betraying Solomon. And then I’d wonder if rooting for Lisa meant that I was also rooting for Solomon, in a way. This book makes readers question their values and consider ethics. I’ll be thinking about this one for quite some time.

Two other things I love about this book: 1. Solomon’s parents are great! I love when a YA book features good parents! 2. Sexuality is discussed in the book, but it isn’t the only (or main) feature of the book. This goes along with my belief that books that feature discussions about sexuality need not be purely focused on sexuality.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I am a big advocate for literature circles that consider mental health. I think that placing texts like these in conversation allows us to consider the complexity of mental health issues. Some great texts to include in these literature circles follow: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. A discussion of these titles would foster incredibly rich discussions about phobias, depression, anxiety, and suicide. In my opinion, we must have these conversations with our students.

Discussion Questions: Do you think that Lisa “did the right thing” throughout the text? Were all of her decisions selfish, or could some of them be considered simultaneously selfless? Can a decision be selfish and selfless at the same time?

We Flagged: “We’re just floating in space trying to figure out what it means to be human.”

Read This If You Loved: (Many of these are listed above.) Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, Reality Boy by A.S. King, Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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RickiSig

The Explorers: The Door in the Alley
Author: Adrienne Kress
Published April 25th, 2017 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Summary: The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is filled with adventure and danger. There are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, famous explorers, a risk-averse boy, and a girl on a mission. Not to mention secrets not meant for the faint of heart. But if you are feeling bold, or maybe even a little italic, and if you enjoy derring-dos (and doing dares), this just might be the story for you.

Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, The Explorers: The Door in the Alley is the first book in a new series for fans of The Name of This Book Is a Secret and The Mysterious Benedict Society. Knock once if you can find it—but only members are allowed inside.

This is one of those stories that starts with a pig in a teeny hat. It’s not the one you’re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.)

This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and also a girl on a rescue mission.

About the Author: Adrienne Kress is a writer and an actress born and raised in Toronto. She is the daughter of two high school English teachers and credits them with her love of both writing and performing. She also has a cat named Atticus, who unfortunately despises teeny hats. Look for her online at AdrienneKress.com, and follow her on Twitter at @AdrienneKress.

Review: I love when narrators break the fourth wall if it is done well, and you’ll learn really early on that it is done well in The Explorers. This hilarious narrator takes us on this adventure with Sebastian, a character that very logical people will relate to, and Evie, a character that people who are bored unless they are on an adventure, will relate to that is filled with more action, adventure, and danger than I thought would come out of this little book. But don’t worry, the narrator keeps it light with funny chapter titles and footnotes. All of this combines to make a book that I loved quite a bit because it is just the perfect balance of adventure, humor, friendship, and mystery. Although, I must warn you about the cliffhanger–WHOA! I’m still recovering. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Door in the Alley has many opportunities to be a mentor text including discussing footnotes and breaking the fourth wall. Not many books use either of these yet The Door in the Alley uses both quite well. Discussing these will also lead to a perfect conversation about voice. Normally voice is saved for first person books but because we have a narrator that although not a character in the story definitely has a voice, it would be interesting to talk to students about how that worked in this book.

Discussion Questions: What do you think is going to happen in the next book?; Why do you think the author chose to have the narrator break the fourth wall and speak with you, the reader?; Sebastian and Evie are quite opposites, and normally they would seem like an odd pairing; however, they seem to work perfectly together–what do you think each of them brings out in the other?; Evie is searching for her grandfather because he is in trouble, but what is she truly searching for?; What do you think Sebastian’s parents are thinking right about now?!

Flagged Passages: “In all the confusion, with the pig and the teeny hat and the zigzag man, he had completely forgotten about the thing he had been trying to forget about. In one way, it meant he had done an excellent job at avoiding it up until now; on the other, it meant hat his guard had been down. For, sure enough, the man had turned down an alley. The only alley that existed on the street. That connect to another street. And there was only one thing down that alley.

Sebastian approached it with caution, his expression slowly morphing into one the pig had been wearing all the time. Terror. He stood at the end of the dark passageway and peeked his head around the corner only to see the man standing right by the door. And right under the sign that read…

The Explorers Society.” (p. 18-19)

Read This If You Loved: The Wig in the Window by Kristen KittscherFRAMED by James PontiLoot by Jude Watson, Nickel Bay Nick by Dean Pitchford, and other mysteries where kids have to solve a problem because adults won’t listen to them

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Visit the Other Stops on the Blog Tour: 

Date Blog URL
24-Apr Live To Read http://livetoread-krystal.blogspot.com/
25-Apr Imagination Soup http://imaginationsoup.net
26-Apr Mom and More http://momandmore.com
27-Apr Pandora’s Books www.pandorasbooks.org
28-Apr Mommy Ramblings http://www.mommyramblings.org
1-May The Lovely Books http://thelovelybooksbookblog.blogspot.com
2-May Batch of Books http://www.batchofbooks.com
3-May Oh, for the Hook of a Book! www.hookofabook.wordpress.com
4-May To Read, or Not To Read http://www.toreadornottoread.net
5-May Grandma’s Cookie Jar http://www.grandmascookiejar.net/
8-May Good Reads with Ronna www.goodreadswithronna.com
9-May Geo Librarian http://geolibrarian.blogspot.ca/
10-May Life By Candlelight http://lifebycandlelight.blogspot.com/
11-May Jumpin Beans http://jumpin-beans.blogspot.com/
12-May Always in the Middle https://gpattridge.com/
15-May Librarians Quest www.librariansquest.blogspot.com
16-May The Book Wars http://thebookwars.ca/
17-May Middle Grade Mafioso http://middlegrademafioso.blogspot.com/
18-May Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile http://www.hopelessbibliophile.com
19-May Tween You & Me http://tweenlibrarian.blogspot.com/
22-May Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook http://mrsknottsbooknook.blogspot.com/
23-May Mundie Moms http://mundiemoms.blogspot.com 
24-May The Write Path http://www.dorinewhite.blogspot.com/
25-May foodiebibliophile.com www.foodiebibliophile.com
26-May Beach Bound Books http://www.beachboundbooks.com/
29-May Middle Grade Ninja http://www.middlegradeninja.com/
30-May Night Owl Reviews https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5
31-May Cracking the Cover http://www.crackingthecover.com 
1-Jun Jenni Enzor http://jennienzor.blogspot.com/
2-Jun Literary Hoots http://www.literaryhoots.com/
5-Jun From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors http://www.fromthemixedupfiles.com/
6-Jun The Winged Pen http://thewingedpen.com/
7-Jun Operation Awesome https://operationawesome6.blogspot.com/
8-Jun Leeanna.me www.leeanna.me
9-Jun Bloggin’ ’bout Books http://www.blogginboutbooks.com
12-Jun YA Books Central http://www.yabookscentral.com/
13-Jun Ms. Yingling Reads http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com
14-Jun MGMinded blog http://middlegrademinded.blogspot.com/
15-Jun Smack Dab in the Middle http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com/
16-Jun Swoony Boys Podcast www.swoonyboyspodcast.com
19-Jun Book Foolery http://bookfoolery.blogspot.com/
20-Jun Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com/
21-Jun Kit Lit Reviews https://kid-lit-reviews.com/
22-Jun The O.W.L. http://owlforya.blogspot.com

**Thank you to Josh at Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review and hosting the blog tour!**

 

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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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 WrightMr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnultyDear Dragon by Josh Funk; How to Track a Truck by Jason Carter Eaton; How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett

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**Thank you to Lauren at Sterling for providing copies for review!**

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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

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Thank you, Kelsey!

RickiSig

Share, Big Bear, Share
Author: Maureen Wright
Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand
Published April 25, 2017 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Big Bear’s forest friends eye his berries hungrily, but he doesn’t notice as he digs into his delicious snack. When the old oak tree says, “Share, Big Bear, share,” he thinks the tree has said, “Hair, Big Bear, hair!” One comical scene follows another as Big Bear keeps misunderstanding the old oak tree’s message until things finally get sorted out. Whimsical illustrations highlight the humor in this gentle story about the importance of sharing something special with friends.

Review: This book is absolutely delightful. I wish I’d filmed myself reading it because I realized halfway through my reading that I had a goofy grin on my face. Bear is so occupied with the berries that he is eating that he doesn’t realize his animal friends want him to share. Instead, he thinks they are saying “hair,” “lair,” “scare,” etc., and he acts out all of the misinterpretations he hears. So, for example, when he thinks they are saying “Hair, Big Bear, Hair!” he combs his hair into a goofy hairstyle (see the spread featured below). I can’t WAIT to read this to my son. He is going to crack up. I loved how the book teaches vocabulary words, too. Big Bear teaches us, for instance, what a “lair” is. This is going to be one of my favorite children’s books this year. I will need to buy the others in the series.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be so much fun for readers to create their own Big Bear story as a class. Perhaps he could misinterpret another commonly rhymed word. Each student could be in charge of a different page to create a class book!

The Help Big Bear Share Game!

Discussion Questions: Why doesn’t Big Bear hear his friends?; What are some of the ways Big Bear misinterprets his friends?; What does this book teach us about sharing? About listening?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: That’s (Not) Mine by Anna Kang, You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, Your Alien by Tammi Sauer, The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems, Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems

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About the Author: WILL HILLENBRAND has written and/or illustrated over 60 books for young readers including Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles and the Bear and Mole series. He has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park and was recently honored as Author/Illustrator in Residence at Kent State University.

Information about his books, selected readings, art process videos and activity ideas can be viewed at www.willhillenbrand.com. Connect with Will at www.facebook.com/willhillenbrandbooks.

  RickiSig

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

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