Currently viewing the category: "Humor"

The Time Museum
Author: Matthew Loux
Published February 21st, 2017 by First Second

Summary: The internship program at the Time Museum is a little unusual. For one thing, kids as young as twelve get to apply for these prestigious summer jobs. And as for the applicant pool . . . well, these kids come from all over history.

When Delia finds herself working at the Time Museum, the last thing she expects is to be sent on time-traveling adventures with an unlikely gang of kids from across the eons. From a cave-boy to a girl from the distant future, Delia’s team represents nearly all of human history! They’re going to need all their skills for the challenge they’ve got in store . . . defending the Time Museum itself!

Review: Delia’s life changes drastically when she learns the truth about her uncle and his career running the Time Museum. Unlike any museum that she’s ever been too, the Time Museum curates directly from historical periods by traveling through time. Because of her love of science and high intelligence, Delia is chosen not to only spend some time at the Time Museum but also to compete with five others for a coveted internship! This competition includes challenges that take them to different points in time and a task they have to compete. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Loux’s adventure-packed though humorous sci-fi novel will find a wide range of readers because it hits on so many different genres and is so well done. This is definitely a book to pick up for your graphic novel, sci-fi, and adventure fans! (Oh, and as a teacher, I mus say I love the theme!)

Discussion Questions: If you found the Time Museum, what time period would you want to visit?; Which of the characters have traits that are most similar to you?; What are the dangers of time travel? Do you think it’s worth it?

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Read This If You Loved: Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel, Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, Lucy and Andy Neanderthal by Jeffrey Brown, Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown, HiLo by Judd Winick

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Zack Delacruz: Just My Luck
Author: Jeff Anderson
Published October 11th, 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Zack Delacruz is back—and eager to meet Abhi, the new girl at school. But things get off to a rough start when he accidentally knocks her to the ground during a game of dodgeball. And whenever he tries to make amends, she just ignores him. Nothing works—not his friends’ advice or his “lucky” cologne. In fact, he just seems more and more cursed! Then, at the Fall Fiesta-val, Zack finally learns the real reason behind Abhi’s cold shoulder . . . but not before total chaos erupts. With a runaway train, exploding confetti-filled eggs, and Abhi’s terrifying older brother, will Zack ever get a chance to talk to his crush? In the end, Zack learns what it means to believe, to listen, and to be a good friend.

This dynamite sequel captures the middle-school experience—and will keep readers laughing from beginning to end.

Review: I always worry about sophmore books because there is always a chance that the story will just not hold up to the premiere; however, Zack is back and better than ever! The first Zack Delacruz adventure really introduced us to the diverse cast of characters at Zack’s school and just how rough of a time Zack has on a day-to-day basis. Book two begins with one of the funniest days I’ve ever read about in a book! Not only does he knock down the new girl who he wants to get to know during a game of dodgeball, but it definitely gets worse than that (but I am not going to tell you!). Next to the humor, the thing I love most about Anderson’s choice of character is that he makes sure that Zack’s school reflects a real school and the teachers and kids that go there. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Just like the first book, I think the key to Zack’s potential is making sure he is in libraries and read aloud.

Discussion Questions: What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you at school?; What should Zack learn from what happened with Abhi?

Flagged Passages: “And all the frustration and embarrassment from the day made my skin burn. Why did every terrible thing seem to always happen to me? My eyes were getting wet. I wasn’t going to add crying to my fool portfolio. All my rage went into the red ball. I gripped it, not sure what to do. After all, I really didn’t want to hit her. But if I threw the ball too softly, people would say I had a crush on Abhi.  Then they would start heckling me from the sidelines. Just like this stupid game of dodgeball, there was no way to win middle school. So, I chuck the ball low and away, so I would just miss her leg. But at that moment, Abhi jumped.

The ball smashed into her angle, and her legs flew back from the force of the ball. She slammed facedown on the hard wooden floor with a boom like thunder.

The gym went silent.” (p. 34)

Read This If You Loved: Zack Delacruz: Me and My Big Mouth by Jeff AndersonFrank Einstein by Jon SciezskaPickle by Kim BakerBetter Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, Big Nate by Lincoln Peirce, Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

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**Thank you to Lauren at Sterling for providing a copy for review!!**

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Juana & Lucas
Author and Illustrator: Juana Medina
Expected Publication September 27th, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Juana loves many things — drawing, eating Brussels sprouts, living in Bogotá, Colombia, and especially her dog, Lucas, the best amigo ever. She does not love wearing her itchy school uniform, solving math problems, or going to dance class. And she especially does not love learning the English. Why is it so important to learn a language that makes so little sense? But when Juana’s abuelos tell her about a special trip they are planning—one that Juana will need to speak English to go on—Juana begins to wonder whether learning the English might be a good use of her time after all. Hilarious, energetic, and utterly relatable, Juana will win over los corazones — the hearts — of readers everywhere in her first adventure, presented by namesake Juana Medina.

Review: Early chapter books are one of my book gaps, and I have been trying, over the last few years, to read as many of them as I can, so I was very happy to have the chance to read Medina’s Juana & Lucas. One thing I have noticed as I read these beloved early chapter books are that although the characters may be diverse in some aspects of their culture/identity, most of the characters are not diverse in their ethnicity. However, now here comes Juana (and Bea Garcia!). She is a character that everyone reading will relate to in some way, and now Latina/Latino students or students learning English will have a character to relate to in early chapter books. 

In addition to the new diversity in this group of books, Juana & Lucas is also just a funny and sweet book about a young girl who has to learn that working hard to learn or be able to do something new is worth the work. This theme will definitely resonate with so many students!

I also want to add that I didn’t know much about Columbia when I started, but when Juana starts talking about Bogotá, you can hear her love of the city come through the pages, so I went to Wikipedia right away to learn more about the city, and I am in love! I told Jim I want to retire there. It is beautiful, and their temperature varies from 43 to 66 degrees! That is the perfect weather! Now, I have to go through the same thing as Juana and learn Spanish, so I am ready to go in 25 or so years 🙂

 Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Juana’s story will be an asset for writing, reading, Spanish, and ELL classes. Medina’s writing can be used as a mentor text for voice and descriptive language, the story is perfect for reading strategies such as context clues and character analysis, the book includes Spanish words throughout the story that aren’t always defined, and Juana is struggling with learning English. All of these things make Juana’s story one that is a perfect addition to all classrooms.

Discussion Questions: How did the character pages help you learn about the different characters in the book vs. if they had not been included? (Class activity: have students complete a character page like Juana’s about members of their family, characters in different books, or a character before they write a narrative.); How does Juana overcome the struggles she has with English at the beginning of the book?; How does each character throughout help Juana grow as a students and person?; Why do you think the author chose to have some words in different size and bold font?; How did the author help you “hear” Juana’s voice while you were reading?; How were you able to determine the meaning of the Spanish words throughout the book?

Flagged Passages: “Mami is the most important person in my life. Most. Important. And here’s why: Besides being the best of moms, Mami is really good at taking care of plants. She loves all plants, even the ones with the complicated names I can’t pronounce…” (p. 31)

Early Sketch for Juana & Lucas (http://juanamedina.tumblr.com/post/139399423961/early-sketch-for-juana-lucas)

Early Sketch for Juana & Lucas (http://juanamedina.tumblr.com/post/139399423961/early-sketch-for-juana-lucas)

Read This If You Loved: Bea Garcia: My Life in Pictures by Deborah Zemke, Amelia’s Notebook series by Marissa Moss, Judy Moody series by Megan McDonald

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The Curse of the Were-Hyena
Author: Bruce Hale
Published July 5th, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary: What do you do when your favorite teacher starts turning into a were-hyena?

a) Flee in terror?
b) Try to cure him?
c) Bring him carrion snacks?

Mr. Chu, the coolest teacher ever, has developed some very unusual habits, like laughing hysterically for no reason, sniffing people’s homework, and chasing chickens. When best friends Carlos and Benny decide to find out what’s happening to him, they get caught up in some moonlight madness. And it looks like just the beginning of the weirdness that has arrived in the town of Monterrosa. . . . This first entry in a silly, sassy, and suspenseful new series will leave readers howling with laughter.

About the Author: Edgar-nominated author Bruce Hale is passionate about inspiring reluctant readers to read. He has written or illustrated more than 35 seriously funny books for children, including the popular School for S.P.I.E.S. and Chet Gecko Mysteries series; as well as picture books such as Clark the Shark, Snoring Beauty, and Big Bad Baby. An actor and a Fulbright Scholar in Storytelling, Bruce is in demand as a speaker, having presented at conferences, universities, and schools around the world. Bruce’s book The Malted Falcon was an Edgar Award Finalist and Murder, My Tweet won the Little D Award for Humor Writing. He lives in Santa Barbara, California with his wife and dog.

Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook

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Review: There are so many kids who are going to love this new series!  It immediately reminded me a bit of the Bailey School Kids series because it does such a good job being funny and scary (but not TOO scary; just enough), so this series is going to be a wonderful ladder between Bailey School and Goosebumps. I also really liked the easy inclusion of a diverse cast of characters. This will help a wide variety of readers to see themselves in one of the characters. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to a good Halloween or full moon read aloud and definitely a classroom library addition, The Curse of the Were-Hyena would be a good cross-curricular read because of the projects Mr. Chu has his students do as well as the interesting look into African art. First, Mr. Chu assigns an oral report on “Something that Makes me Crazy.” This would be a fun tie in to the book, and it would be a good public speaking opportunity. There is also mention of a social studies project which seems to be about traditions of cultures from around the world. These two things in addition to the African art (and even the moon cycle and comics) help the book tie into different subjects. Lasly, Hale’s use of imagery throughout the book makes for a perfect reading or writing mentor text.

Discussion Questions: What clues were there that Mr. Chu was a were-hyena and not a werewolf?; Predict as you read about who you think the alpha were-hyena is. Were you right? What clues did you miss?; Benny and Carlos went about solving the mystery in a quite dangerous way. How would you have done it?

Free discussion guide and activities can also be found on Bruce’s website!

Flagged Passages: “As I reached for my final item, the mauled tennis show, Mr. Chu surprised me. He peeled back his lips and growled–a serious growl, like a Doberman giving one last warning before taking off your arm. His eyes rolled upward, showing only the whites, which totally creeped me out.

All the little hairs on my body stood straight up. It felt like someone had dumped a six-gallon Slushie down my back.” (p. 6)

Author’s Guest Post!: I asked Bruce his formula for writing creepy books for kids, and he shared these secrets with us!

“Scaring kids for fun and profit”

When my wife and I were sharing the movies from childhood that really creeped us out, I couldn’t wait to show her The Omega Man, a movie that gave me nightmares when I was young. “This’ll knock your socks off,” I told her. When we watched it, however, we both burst out laughing at the cheesy special effects and stilted dialog. (To be honest, her movie, Monkey Shines, was no 28 Days Later either.)

That got me thinking. Tastes change. What scares kids can be quite different from what scares adults. And when it comes to writing creepy tales for the younger set, it’s good to bear three things in mind.

It’s the antici…pation

Master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock famously said, “There’s no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” Writing scary stuff for kids isn’t just about piling on the startling scares; it’s largely about setting up expectations. That’s where true suspense lies. For example, if a kid is walking down a dark street and suddenly a monster pops out, that’s a surprise. Suspenseful? Not so much.

However, if everyone tells your young hero that something has been making neighborhood pets disappear, and that they’ve heard strange growls outside at night, that sets up an expectation. Then, when she’s forced to take a nighttime walk, it will be fraught with the terrors of her imagination. Every twig that snaps, every shadow that looms becomes a threat. And after all that anticipation, when the monster finally shows, the suspense goes off the charts.

Hold the murder

A dash of violence is fine, if it stays on the cartoony side. But when writing for middle-graders, it’s best to stay away from explicit murder and bloodshed. Kids that age can’t handle it. Or if you must get gory, see if you can keep most of the bloodletting offstage. Even the Goosebumps books, which were spooky to the max, didn’t feature any onstage murder.

Of course, just because nobody’s getting killed doesn’t mean you can’t make things scary. Close calls, chases, betrayals and so forth will keep the fear factor going just fine. And your readers won’t miss the murder.

Find the safety in scariness

When I was a kid, I reveled in scary movies—heck, I even had a shelf-full of hand painted classic monsters like Wolf-Man and The Mummy. But I liked the movies best when they weren’t too scary. It’s the same thing for young readers today. There’s a limit to how much actual, pulse-pounding terror is appropriate for 8-12 year-olds.

That’s why, when I wrote The Curse of the Were-Hyena, I deliberately sought a balance between humor and chills. By leavening the scariness with jokes, I made it less threatening. Of course, the trick is to find that happy balance. Make it too jokey, and the creepiness is lost. Make it too scary, and your readers hide under the covers.

If you manage to pull off all three of these things, you just might have crafted a scary tale that keeps young readers glued to your pages. Whether they roll their eyes when they re-read it as adults is another matter entirely.

Read This If You Loved: Goosebumps (series) by RL Stine, Bailey School Kids (series) by Marcia T. Jones and Debbie Dadey

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The Full Moon of the Were-Hyena Howling Good Giveaway!

Ten winners will receive a copy of Bruce Hale’s The Curse of the Were-Hyena. Four Grand Prize winners will receive The Curse of the Were-Hyena plus an advance reading copy of the second book in the series, Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies! And as a bonus, Grand Prize winners will also get a signed photo of Bruce Hale disguised as a were-wolf! Click here to enter.

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for hosting the tour and providing a copy for review!!**

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dear dragon

Dear Dragon
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Rodolfo Montalvo
Anticipated Publication: September 6, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: A sweet and clever friendship story in rhyme, about looking past physical differences to appreciate the person (or dragon) underneath.

George and Blaise are pen pals, and they write letters to each other about everything: their pets, birthdays, favorite sports, and science fair projects. There’s just one thing that the two friends don’t know: George is a human, while Blaise is a dragon! What will happen when these pen pals finally meet face-to-face?

Ricki’s Review: I simply adored this book. It was quite clever and imaginative! I imagine it took a lot of thought to try to show how different George and Blaise’s lives might be and how they might misinterpret the descriptions of simple daily life events. I am a huge fan of Josh Funk’s writing and recommend all of his books. They all are witty and humorous, and my son and I always giggle while we read them. Each of his books teaches a life lesson that has been very useful for me as a mom, and I know they are equally useful for elementary school teachers. For Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, I have been able to constantly refer to the variety of foods in the text in order to help my son with his picky eating habits. With this book, Dear Dragon, I have been able to talk with my son about differences and how we might work to understand how others might lead different daily lives than ours. I am really looking forward to Josh’s next book, Pirasaurs!. Based on his other books, I know it will be a good one!

Kellee’s Review: The books I find myself gravitating towards and recommending the most are the books that I not only love as a mother but can also definitely see the application of the book in all levels of classrooms. Dear Dragon fits into this category because it is such an amusing and fun book that is just a blast to read and discuss; however, it also has so many ways that I can see myself and other teachers using it in the classroom: for a mentor text, for a pen pal unit, for a read aloud. Dear Dragon also is an amazing set up to discuss first impressions and differences between people in safe place (since, you know, Blaise is a dragon). I also loved the quirky, colorful, detailed illustrations that accompany George and Blaise’s letters. The silly conversations just from these will make for a wonderful conversation.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ricki fondly remember our elementary school experiences with pen pals. Her fourth class wrote to a class in Germany. It was so interesting to learn about all of the differences between our lives. This book would make for a great jumpstart to a pen pal project. It would be neat to connect to a class in another country or even across our own country. Students would learn a lot about how we are both similar and different from others—and how this is a good thing, indeed!

In addition to being a ton of fun, Dear Dragon will also be a perfect mentor text for a variety of reading skills and standards. The letters are a perfect opportunity to discuss point of view, voice, letter writing, and rhyming. The book also has a wonderful theme, the illustrations and letters could be compared/contrasted, and the entire text structure could be analyzed.

Discussion Questions: What are the similarities and differences between George and Blaise? How do they build their friendship across letters?; How do they each misinterpret the other’s letters in ways that are funny and enlightening? How do the illustrations reflect these misinterpretations?; This book is a fantasy, but how might you compare this book to real life?

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Read This If You Loved: Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Same, Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin; Have You Seen my Dragon? by Steve Light; Tony Baloney: Pen Pal by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Dear Mrs. Larue series by Mark Teague

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Selfies in the Wild
Author: C. L. Murphy
Published: August 1, 2016 by Peanut Butter Prose

Goodreads Summary: Lobo and his sidekick raven find a trail camera in their neck of the woods, and it attracts the attention of forest friends. Images captured have never been sillier or more candid. Just as their wild dispositions are exposed, the photo shoot comes to an unexpected end and they’re all left wondering why. The reason may be obvious.

My Review: This book was so much fun to read! I loved the hysterical faces of each of the animals in the wild, and I think it would be a fantastic book to read to toddlers, preschoolers, and kindergartners, in particular. Each of the animals is trying to make a great impression on the camera, and their facial expressions made me giggle. I particularly enjoyed the end of the book—the author shares her own camera’s version of selfies in the wild—where she captured real animals.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be so much fun for teachers to try to recreate this book with the students making the funny faces. They could bind their own version of the book and compare it with this one. There are a few researchers who have left cameras in the wild, and the animals have reacted in hysterical ways. It would be great for the teacher and students to explore these real-life images together. Downloadable Activity Kit

Discussion Questions: How does the author add humor to the book?; How does the text evolve in a way that engages readers?; How are the pages structured? How does this make it feel realistic?; Which animal is your favorite? Why?

Book Spread: 

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Book Trailer:

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Read This If You Loved: Other Books in the Adventures of Lovable Lobo series, Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; the Pete the Cat series (by Eric Litwin and James Dean); Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Connect with C. L. Murphy and the Series:

Website: http://lovablelobo.com

Blog: http://lovablelobo.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LovableLobo

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lovable-Lobo/265661023552725

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/murphymess/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/+CLMurphyKidLit

Goodreads (author): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6852948.C_L_Murphy

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/c.l._murphy/

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Dino Files 1

The Dino Files #1: A Mysterious Egg
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Mike Boldt
Published: January 19, 2016 by Random House Kids

Summary: What if a fossil in your backyard . . . came to life?!

Frank’s grandma is a famous paleontologist (that’s a dinosaur scientist). But she’s also an adult who makes up rules. Rules like: no digging for dinosaur bones when you have a sunburn. That means Frank is stuck playing inside with his annoying cousin, Samantha. But then Grandma finds a fossil of an egg! And when Frank and Sam sneak into the dino lab late at night, they find something even more amazing. . . .

The hilarious Dino Files chapter book series follows a nine-year-old dinosaur expert, his paleontologist grandparents, a cat named Saurus, and fossils that might not be so extinct!

About the Author: Stacy McAnulty is the author of several children’s books including Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach; The Dino Files series, illustrated by Mike Boldt;  and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. Stacy grew up outside of Albany, New York and received my B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University at Buffalo. A career opportunity brought her to central North Carolina in 1998. She currently lives in Kernersville, NC with her husband, their three children and two dogs.

Also, Stacy offers FREE Skype interviews and signed bookmarks to any class reading The Dino Files!

Ricki’s Review: This is a hilariously fun series that is sure to be a hit in classrooms. I see it working best in grades 1-4. As a child, I was disappointed when my chapter books no longer had pictures, and this book is a great transitional book because it has the best of both worlds—a great story and pictures to go along with it! Frank reminds me of many kids. He is frustrated by all of the rules set out for him, and he just wants to have fun. He manages to sneak around a bit and something awesome happens with that dinosaur egg (I’ll let you guess)! I also want to put in a plug for the fact that Frank is a cat lover. My son loves cats, and I hate how books/shows always feature males as dog lovers and females as cat lovers. I loved Saurus the cat!

Kellee’s Review: I plowed through this and the sequel because I loved the premise and the characters so much! I love that Frank and Sam represent such different types of kids within each of them and between each of them; I think so many readers will relate to their personalities. I also really liked how dinosaurs are introduced throughout the book without making the book didactical in any way. Instead it is educational and funny! This series is a wonderful introduction to early chapter books also because it is very engaging and will appeal to all kinds of readers. 

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is a great jump start to researching about dinosaurs! I know a lot of early elementary schools have a big dinosaur unit, and I think this book would appeal to readers of all ages. The book might also work well for a fossil unit, too! It would be interesting to investigate whether it would be possible to hatch a fossilized dino egg. Then, the class could have a discussion about whether this book might be considered realistic fiction or fantasy. Further activities and information is available at: www.thedinofiles.com.

Discussion Questions: What good choices does Frank make? What bad choices does he make? What are the outcomes of his choices?; What words would you use to describe Frank? How is he different or similar to you?; What rules is Frank forced to follow? Do you think these rules are fair?; How do the illustrations enhance your reading experience?

Flagged Passage: “I need to be at that dig site! Instead, I’m stuck inside the museum with PopPop. The good thing is I got my own name tag. Finally.”

Read This If You Loved: Dinosaur Cove by Rex Stone; Dinosaur Trouble by Dick King Smith; Dinosaur Pox by Jeremy Strong

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Check Out the Other Books in the Series!:
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**Thank you to Stacy for providing copies for review!!**

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