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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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Pig the Pug
Author: Aaron Blabey
Published: July 1, 2014 by Scholastic

A Guest Review by Rebecca Welch

Summary: Pig is a greedy dog and does not want to share his toys with his housemate, Trevor. Trevor thinks it would be a great idea if him and Pig shared toys because then they would be able to play together. Pig does not give in and gathers all of his toys so Trevor can’t get to them. A mishap occurs that makes pig realize the importance of sharing and friendship.

Review: This book is great for any elementary school classroom! I absolutely loved it and thought that the message at the end was applicable to any group of young children. The rhyming makes the book great for a fun read aloud and the illustrations are fantastic. There was also a bit of humor. I highly recommend this picture book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be great to teach rhyming because each page rhymes. You could talk about the moral of a story and use it as a segway to students’ writing about a time where they learned an important lesson (moral). You could have students determine the meaning of the idiom “flip a wig” by the using context clues and then study other common idioms afterwards. In addition, you could introduce character traits and determine the traits of Pig and Trevor. You can also practice making predictions by predicting what will happen to Pig. It would also be a great classroom discussion facilitator on sharing and the importance of friendship.

Discussion Questions: How do you think Trevor may be feeling when Pig won’t share his toys?; What does it mean to be greedy or selfish?; What do you predict will happen to Pig?; Can we think of any times that we have been greedy or selfish?; What does “flip a wig mean”?; What is the moral of this story?

Flagged Passage: “I know what your game is, you want me to SHARE! But I’ll never do that! I won’t and I swear!” (p. 7).

Read This If You Loved: Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty

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Thank you, Rebecca!

RickiSig

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I Am (Not) Scared
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Published March 21, 2017 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Two fuzzy friends go to an amusement park. They try to convince each other that there are much scarier things than the roller coaster. Hairy spiders! Aliens! Fried ants! They soon discover that sometimes being scared isn’t as “scary” as they thought. With expressive illustrations and simple text, this giggle-inducing tale about (not) being scared features the endearing characters from the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small.

Ricki’s Review: These books crack me up. I have loved every book in this series, and they all make me giggle and giggle. Each book teaches an important lesson to kids. In this book, readers learn what it’s like to be scared, and why being scared can be transformed into something quite fun! I can’t decide which I like more—the writing or the illustrations. The characterization is beautifully done, and this wife and husband (author and illustrator) team is brilliant. I recommend this series highly to kids, and I also recommend it for use in creative writing classrooms.

Kellee’s Review: We are huge fans of Kang and Weyant books here at the Moye house. Our wall growth chart is from You Are (Not) Small, and I cannot wait to buy the plush fuzzies for Trent! I think that each of their books take on a pretty serious childhood issue (sharing, comparing, now fear) and talk about it in a fun way that still has a pretty clear lesson intertwined with it. This one is going to especially be one I read with Trent because as a three year old, he is just starting to really be scared of things, so it will be a really good discussion to have with him. If you haven’t read any of these books, I highly recommend getting all three–you will not be disappointed. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers will appreciate these books because they are great for use as beginning readers. Unlike some of the dry, boring beginning readers in classrooms, the books in this series use just the right number of words that will allow kids to read without getting incredibly frustrated. I’d recommend this series to both teachers and parents! I am happy to have all of the books in this series for when my own son begins to learn to read!

For more information, and to download a free activity kit, visit annakang.com, or download at: http://bit.ly/2mKbFWi

Discussion Questions: What are the two fuzzy creatures scared of? How does the writing work together with the illustrations to share the story?; How are the characters feeling on the last page? How do you know?

We Flagged: “I am not scared… Are you?

Read This If You Loved: You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, That’s (Not) Mine by Anna KangScaredy Squirrel  by Mélanie Watts, The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems, Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems

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About the Authors:

Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of two other books featuring these characters: Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small and That’s (Not) Mine. Christopher’s work can be seen regularly in The New Yorker magazine and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their Bich-Poo. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.
Twitter: @annakang27 @chrisweyant05
Instagram: annakangbooks; christopherweyant
Facebook: Anna Kang – Author; Christopher Weyant

 

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

 

Brobarians
Author & Illustrator: Lindsay Ward
Published March 28th, 2017 by Two Lions

Summary: This is the tale of the mighty Brobarians. Two warriors, once at peace…now at odds.

Iggy the Brobarian has taken over the land. Can Otto the Big Brobarian win it back? Or maybe, with a little help, the two brothers can find peace again…

This is an epic—and adorable—story of sibling rivalry and resolution.

About the Author: Lindsay Ward would never have written this book if she hadn’t stayed up late one night watching Conan the Barbarian. She finds the idea of baby barbarians to be very funny . . . and hopes you do too. Lindsay’s recent books include Rosco vs. the Baby and The Importance of Being 3. Most days you can find her writing and sketching at home in Ohio with her family. Learn more about her at www.lindsaymward.com or on Twitter: @lindsaymward.

Praise for Brobarians

“Highly cinematic, both in imagery and narrative soundtrack…Good and campy and a fine opportunity for vocabulary building.”—Kirkus Reviews

“As readalouds go, it’s pretty epic.” – Publishers Weekly

“Ward’s plot cleverly celebrates the spirit of imaginative toddlers, and her cartoonlike cut-paper collage, pencil and crayon illustrations playfully match the humor of the tale. A boisterous, silly picture book that would work well for story-time.” —School Library Journal

Kellee’s Review: This extended metaphor really embodies what it feels like to be a sibling. As the oldest, I can definitely remember times when I was younger and felt like I was in a battle with my sister for attention or cookies or anything that she had that I wanted. And through this metaphor of siblings as brobarians fighting over territory and bah bahs, hilarity ensues! Once best of friends, they are now at odds–who will win?!

Ricki’s Review: Ah, this book is the best! As a mama of two boys, I feel so lucky to have it in my collection. I read this one with both of my boys on my lap. My older son thought it was fabulous. He did a demonstration of some of the moves after we finished. My younger son pawed at the pages and was clearly enamored, too. I can’t wait until they are both a bit older. We are going to create paper outfits to match the outfits of the characters in the book. I highly recommend this book. I promise that you will get swept into the adventurous spirit of these two boys. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Publisher’s Weekly says, “As readalouds go,  it’s pretty epic,” and we would have to agree. In addition to the read aloud opportunity, there are opportunities for discussions about siblings to go along with a family unit. Brobarians brings to light the rivalry that siblings may feel against each other which is something that any child with a sibling may feel and may feel is not normal. Using this story, teachers can discuss what it may feel like to have a sibling and ways to deal with sibling rivalry.

You can also check out a coloring sheet and a map of Brobaria here!

Discussion Questions: Why are Iggy and Otto fighting at first?; What does Otto do to make it worse?; Who wins in the end?; Did you see the end coming? Who did you think was going to win?; How does the map on the end sheets help you navigate the story better?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion, Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Best by Stacy McAnultyWe Found a Hat by Jon KlassenHoot and Peep by Lita JudgeThat’s (Not) Mine by Anna Kang

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

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