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Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars
Author: Laurie Wallmark
Illustrator: Brooke Smart
Anticipated Publication: March 2, 2021 by Harry N. Abrams

Goodreads Summary: Decode the story of Elizebeth Friedman, the cryptologist who took down gangsters and Nazi spies.

In this picture book biography, young readers will learn all about Elizebeth Friedman (1892-1980), a brilliant American code breaker who smashed Nazi spy rings, took down gangsters, and created the CIA’s first cryptology unit. Her story came to light when her secret papers were finally declassified in 2015. From thwarting notorious rumrunners with only paper and pencil to counter-spying into the minds and activities of&; Nazis, Elizebeth held a pivotal role in the early days of US cryptology. No code was too challenging for her to crack, and Elizebeth’s work undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Extensive back matter includes explanations of codes and ciphers, further information on cryptology, a bibliography, a timeline of Elizebeth&;s life, plus secret messages for young readers to decode.

About the Creators: 

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com. On Twitter: @lauriewallmark, Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor, Instagram: @lauriewallmark

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com. Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

Ricki’s Review: This book is packed with information! I wasn’t familiar with this Women in STEM series, and now I feel like I need to get all of the books! The book has a great complexity—from the way in which the story is told in an engaging way that draw readers in to the way the illustrations and text are laid on the page. Typically, I give books away after I read and review them, but I am going to have a hard time parting with this one. Elizebeth Friedman’s bravery is simply awe-inspiring. She is a true heroine who needs to be named more frequently in history. Get this book. You truly won’t be disappointed.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book begs to be read in literature circles with other books about heroes/heroines, women in STEM, or powerful people in history. It would ignite powerful conversations about the characteristics of historical and contemporary heroes and heroines.

Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page, where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is one intentional choice the author made in telling this story?
  • What are the qualities of a hero? Who are some historical and contemporary heroes who inspire you?
  • What are some of the pivotal moments in Friedman’s life story? How did she change the world for the better?

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Other Books by Laurie Wallmark: Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code; Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine; Hedy Lamarr’s Double Life: Hollywood Legend and Brilliant Inventor; Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics

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

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Scooper and Dumper
Author and Illustrator: Lindsay Ward
Published: January 1, 2021 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Introducing two new vehicles who work together no matter what!

The best of friends, Scooper the front loader and Dumper the snowplow take care of their town in all kinds of weather. One day a snowstorm hits, and the big city needs their help to clear the roads. Each of them must be brave in their own way to get the job done.

This wintry adventure spotlights the ideas of individual strengths, teamwork, and friendship in a vehicle buddy story that boys and girls alike will love.

About the Author: Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series, as well as Rosie: Stronger than Steel, This Book Is Gray, Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family in Peninsula, Ohio, where vehicles such as Scooper and Dumper take care of the roads all year-round. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com.
Twitter: @lindsaymward
Instagram: lindsaymward

Ricki’s Review: I loved this fresh take on vehicles. This is a story that teaches about the power of working together to get a job done. Parents and teachers can easily transfer it to lessons of togetherness and contribution. The winter scenes are beautifully illustrated, and the book flows easily to make for a fun read-aloud. Each page uses a unique ABCB rhyme pattern, which makes every page finish with a satisfying lilt. The rhyme feels natural and works well with the story.

My four-year-old is obsessed with vehicles, and this book inspired him to try reading it aloud. He absolutely loved the story. Here’s a brief clip of him reading the first page aloud:

I recommend this book to parents and teachers who seek to teach wonderful lessons with a topic that kids love!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to use this book as a model for kids to write about a time that they worked together toward a common goal. Students might draw a picture and write sentences below the picture to describe the moment or event. Then the pages could be posted on a bulletin board, working together in a quilt fashion.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do Scooper and Dumper work together? What is their goal?
  • What steps are required to clear snow?
  • What is one time you’ve worked with one or more people toward a common goal?
  • Why does working together matter?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Dump Truck Duck by Meghan E. Bryant; Goodnight, 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

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

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It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Anticipated Publication: October 27, 2020 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Once again, the beleaguered storyteller tries to tell a traditional fairy tale, with little success. Red has some questions about her delivery to Grandma’s house, the wolf calls in sick, and more chaos ensues.

About the Creators: 

Like the characters in his books, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go—so he writes his own. He is the author of many popular picture books, including the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor. He lives in New England with his family. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @joshfunkbooks and Instagram: @joshfunkbooks.

Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator of multiple children’s books, including Race!, written by Sue Fliess; the Toy Academy chapter books, written by Brian Lynch; and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, written by Josh Funk. He lives in Texas with his partner and their four dogs. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com.
Twitter: @edwardiantaylor
Instagram: edwardiantaylor
Tumblr: Edwardian Taylor

Review: With each book that comes out in this series, I have a long, intense internal debate. I ask myself, “But which one in the series is your favorite NOW?” And I simply cannot decide. Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor’s It’s Not a Fairytale books are the best picture book fairytale retellings that exist. I know that’s a bold statement, but it is the truth. If you’ve missed this series, you must order copies from your nearest bookstore. They are such beautiful, thoughtful texts, and they inspire amazing classroom opportunities and critical thinking.

When I pulled out It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, I suspect the shrieks of joy from my children could be heard by passersby outside of my house. These books are so cherished in our home. I’ve had It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood about a week, and I think we’ve read it about fifteen times (no exaggeration). Similarly to the other books in the series, Red is smarter than the narrator, and she tells her own story and does so boldly. Readers will laugh aloud as they read it! It offers good critical discussions about the stories we hear and read. I loved it and can’t wait to read it (several times) tomorrow. Thanks so much to Josh and Edwardian for another great book in this series!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be great to read as a Readers’ Theatre. Students could read different characters and the narrator aloud to create a powerful effect. Fairy tale retellings offer great opportunities for kids to tell counterstories to the narratives that are popular in society or the media, and teachers might ask students to write retellings and counterstories to those that are commonly told.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How would you describe Red?
  • How do the author and illustrator work together to create a story?
  • What aspects of the retelling are different from the traditional fairy tale? What does this make you think about when you consider the original fairy tale? How is the story improved in this retelling?

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Read This If You Loved:  It’s Not Hansel and Gretel by Josh Funk, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk; Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

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Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast in Short & Sweet
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Brendan Kearney
Publishing September 1st, 2020 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are back with a twist: they’ve been transformed into small children. Now it’s a race against the clock to turn our favorite duo into grown-ups again!

Lady Pancake is aching; Sir French Toast’s looking pale. Could they be going . . . STALE? Maybe a visit to Professor Biscotti’s lab for her despoiling procedure will help. But instead of beautifying them, Biscotti accidentally transforms the two treats into toddlers! Frightened of the now gargantuan (to them) Baron von Waffle, the mini breakfast foods scamper off on an adventure in the fridge, visiting everywhere from the Bran Canyon to Limes Square. Will Baron von Waffle and Professor Biscotti figure out a way to turn them back into a grown Lady and Sir? Or will they stay short & sweet forever?

In this fourth Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast adventure, Pancake and Toast fear they are going stale and visit Professor Biscotti, whose faulty gadget transforms them into toddlers, sending them on an adventure in the refrigerator.

Our reviews of:
Book One
Book Two
Book Three

About the Creators: 

Josh Funk is the author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, followed by its sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable, as well as Albie NewtonHow to Code a SandcastleLost in the Library, and more. He lives in Concord, MA. Visit him online at joshfunkbooks.com or on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Brendan Kearney is also the illustrator of the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast; its sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable; and Bertie Wings It. He lives in St. Albans, UK.

Book Trailer: 

Kellee’s Review: I think the best review I could give of this book is the joy that it brings my son. I wish you all could have seen his face when I told him I was going to read another Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book. That face truly says it all! When we finished, and he loved it so much, I asked him if he would help me review it. Here are his thoughts:

What was your favorite part of this book? I love that they go to the library because kids do love libraries and books.

Why do you like the Lady Pancake and French Toast books? They are all funny when everyone goes on an adventure. I like the illustrations and the words. Both. I like that it rhymes. And the illustrations look funny. I just like everything.

This is who these books are for, so I think his words speak volumes!

As for me, I adore this series too! And I always am so impressed that Josh Funk is able to create such a rhythmic rhyming prose–it blows me away and shows his pure rhyming genius. This story was extra wonderful because we got to see little Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast who were so cute!

Ricki’s Review: These books are truly among my very favorite to read aloud. I read them often with kids, and they are a real crowd-pleaser! Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast in Short & Sweet is another masterpiece that will be so useful to teachers and parents everywhere. Reading it brought me so much joy.

The pictures and words pair beautifully to personify the food. I could see kids having fun creating their own personified food stories and using this book as a mentor text.

Right now, we all need humor. Both my kids and I laughed as we read this one, and I am so glad that it is out in the world. I am very grateful for Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney for bringing such cheer to my days.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Josh Funk’s books are instant mentor texts for rhyming and rhythm. Take a spread and have students mimic his rhyming and rhythm using their own characters. Or in general you can use his texts to discuss these as his rhythmic and rhyming texts are some of the best!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What other picture books could you rename with food puns?
  • If you were writing a Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast story, where would you have them visit in the refrigerator?
  • Why was Baron Von Waffle so upset by the Lady Pancake’s and Sir French Toast’s reaction to him?
  • How did Baron Von Waffle save the day twice?
  • There are some other characters in the book that are not named–what would you name them?

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Read This If You Love: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast books, Rhyming texts, Funny books,

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**Thank you to Josh Funk for providing a copy for review!**

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Bird Hugs
Author and Illustrator: Ged Adamson
Published: February 1, 2020 by Two Lions

GoodReads Summary: Bernard isn’t like other birds. His wings are impossibly long, and try as he might, he just can’t seem to fly. He’s left wondering what his wings are good for…if they’re even good for anything at all. But a chance encounter with a dejected orangutan leads Bernard to a surprising discovery: that maybe what makes him different is actually something to be embraced.

Ricki’s Review: Oh my goodness. This book made my heart feel so, so full. It tells the story of a bird who is very different from the other birds. He cannot fly because he has abnormally large wings. As the title suggests, he learns that his wings are good for something other than flying. But it doesn’t end there! The bird becomes so well-loved by the other animals that they take him on his dream flight! There are so many wonderful lessons in this book. I’ll be gifting this book to several friends. It’s that good.

Kellee’s Review: My friend Kaleigh read this book before me because it was sitting by my couch when she came to visit. When she finished she looked at me and said, “You will love this book. and get ready to cry.” And gosh darn it, she was right! Bernard’s story just made me so sad and then so happy. Bernard’s journey is a lot like many kids though–they are taught that a certain way is the only way, either through peers or parents or media, but there is so much out there for us to be. Bernard teaches us that. Everyone should read this book. 

About the Author: Ged Adamson is a children’s book author and illustrator. His picture books include A Fox Found a Box; Douglas, You Need Glasses!; Shark Dog!; and Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed). He has also worked as a cartoonist, storyboard artist, and composer for film and TV. He lives in London with his partner, Helen, and son, Rex. To learn more, visit his website: https://gedadamson.myportfolio.com/home-page
Twitter: @ged_adamson
Instagram: @gedadamson

Praise for Bird Hugs:
“Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The lesson is a simple, familiar one—selflessness and sympathy are key to making friends—but Adamson’s gentle humor and his eager-eyed characters’ yearning become an eloquent testimony to the power of a little TLC.” —Publishers Weekly

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students might journal about some aspect of them (emotional, physical) that is different. They might explore the ways in which this aspect is actually a strength.

This book could definitely be used in the first week of school during norm and team building. Combine it with the Be Kind! themed books to look at how different doesn’t equal bad.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does Bernard feel when he cannot fly? When he feels really good about himself, he tries to fly again. What happens? Why? What does this teach us?
  • What are some qualities that some people might dislike about us? How might we use these qualities as a strength?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds, Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob SheaThe Magic of Maxwell and His Tail by Maureen Stolar Kanefield

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

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Bad Hair Day
Author and Illustrator: Jim Benton
Published July 23rd, 2019 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: Franny K. Stein isn’t a fan of glamour. She doesn’t style her hair, the thought of wearing makeup makes her want to gag, and she couldn’t care less about wearing dressy dresses when she’d much prefer her lab coat.

But sometimes Franny wonders if her mom wishes she were different. Which gives Franny an idea…for an experiment! What if she can turn the beauty products her mom loves into something more exciting?

Every experiment has its experimental error, and when Franny’s hair takes on a life of its own, Franny must save the day (and her hair).

About the Author: Jim Benton is the New York Times bestselling writer of the Dear Dumb Diary series and a cartoonist whose unique brand of humor has been seen on toys, television, T-shirts, greeting cards, and even underwear. Franny K. Stein is the first character he’s created especially for young children. A husband and father of two, he lives in Michigan, where he works in a studio that really and truly does have creepy stuff in it.

Review: Franny K. Stein is not worried about all those other things other people worry about–she just wants to do experiments and other mad scientists things. And you know what, I love that!!! And I definitely saw what Benton was trying to do with this book when it comes to glamour and such, but I, as a parent, just didn’t like to see Franny’s mom put a bit of passive aggressive pressure on Franny to be anything other than her amazing self. I mean, she makes creatures and fights them–what does a little messy hair matter?! But in the end, Franny’s mom and the reader are reminded of this, so once again Franny can go on being herself.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Simon and Schuster have a wonderful curriculum guide to use with this series: CLICK HERE.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Franny’s mom is supportive of Franny, but she also questions her. How did you feel about how Franny’s mom in this book?
  • I like to describe Franny as awesome, as in I am awe-struck by her. What traits does Franny have that would lead me to describe her this way?
  • Why did Franny’s pig tails act differently than her ponytails?
  • How was Franny’s mom wrong about Igor?
  • Would Franny be successful in her monster fighting without Igor? Why or why not?

Flagged Passages: CHAPTER ONE: FRANNY’S HOUSE

The Stein family lived in the pretty pink house with the lovely purple shutters down at the end of Daffodil Street. Everything about the house was bright and cheery.

But, of course, the outside of a house is never as interesting as what’s going on inside it.

And inside this house, behind the little round upstairs window, something interesting was always going on, because this was the bedroom and laboratory of Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist.

Last week, for example, Franny developed a giant sea horse, and the day before that she worked on a way to fly based on how bats flap their wings.

Those projects became pretty expensive, so Franny needed to get a piggy bank to save her money in.

Of course, being a mad scientist, she created her piggy bank from a real live pig, which meant that she had to learn all she could about pigs.

This got pretty messy, but she didn’t mind getting messy, because that’s just what happens when you’re doing mad science.

Read This If You Love: Dear Dumb Diary series, Frank Einstein series, Zita the Spacegirl series

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The Day the Crayons Quit
Author and Illustrator: Lindsay Ward
Published: December 1, 2019 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary:Gray just wants to be included. But the other colors are always leaving him out. So he decides to create his own project: an all-gray book. Once upon a time, there lived a wolf, a kitten, and a hippo…

Gray just knows it’s going to be perfect. But as he adds page after page, the Primary and Secondary colors show up…and they aren’t quite so complimentary.

A book within a book, this colorful tale explores the ideas of fitting in, appreciating others, and looking at things from another perspective and also uses personality and wit to introduce basic color concepts.

Ricki’s Review: I adored this book. I love stories about the underdog, and gray is definitely an underdog color! Fans who love The Day the Crayons Quit will absolutely love this story. It is very funny and a fantastic read aloud. There are many themes for discussion within the book. Kids might consider whose stories are missing as they think about gray’s emotions. They might also think about the other colors and how they are rude to gray and what this might feel like. The characterization of all of the colors offers much for discussion, too. Teachers and parents will love to read this aloud to children.

Kellee’s Review: As a daughter of an art teacher and art museum director, art education has always been important to me. I think the lack of art classes in elementary and secondary school as well as the push away from imagination in schools is a detriment to our children, so books like this give me so much hope! This book celebrates color education, creative writing, word play, and mood. It even pulls in social emotional learning with a focus on friendship and cooperation. Lindsay Ward did such a fantastic job with all of the elements of the story, and I cannot wait to share this book far and wide. It will be a fantastic read aloud in classrooms when discussing primary/secondary colors, story telling and mood, or even just to talk about how to work together. I cannot tell you enough how much you, your teacher friends, your parent friends, and all the kids you know need this book 🙂

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The possibilities of this text are very exciting. Teachers might have students choose a story of a lesser known or lesser considered character and have students develop their own fiction! They can share these stories and have a discussion about the people and things we don’t often consider.

Discussion Questions: How does gray feel? How do the other crayons make him feel?; How might you apply gray’s experiences to your own life?; How does the author make the book funny? How does this add to your experience as a reader?

We Flagged: “They never let me color! Just one tiny bit of GRAY? Is that so much to ask?”

You can also look inside the book HERE.

Read This If You Loved: The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt, Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall, Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp, The Dot and Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds, Chalk by Bill Thomson, Art & Max by David Weisner, Not a… series by Antoinette Portis, Art by Patrick McDonnell, Perfect Square by Michael Hall, Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld

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

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