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The Undefeated
Author: Kwame Alexander
Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
Published April 2, 2019 by Versify

Summary: The Newbery Award-winning author of The Crossover pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.
Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is an incredibly powerful book. I loved seeing the poem (which was previously performed) turned into a picture book. The book touches upon many critical topics for youth to consider across time and place. It offers a strength that makes readers want to jump from their chairs to support the message of the text. This is a must-read. Teachers might use this book in classrooms by asking students to select a page that they find to be particularly inspiring. Then, they might research individuals who reflect the undefeated-ness that they see on the pages. This might devolve into research projects that explore the “faith and fire,” as quoted from the book summary, that students see across time, space, and place.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does this book make you feel?
  • What do you perceive to be the author’s and illustrator’s purpose(s)?
  • What similarities and differences do you see across the pages?

Read This If You Love: Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander; We March by Shane W. Evans; Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles; The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson; Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford

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Hush Up and Hibernate
Author: Sandra Markle
Illustrator: Howard McWilliam
Published August 28th 2018 by Persnickety Press

Goodreads Summary: Leaves are falling, a cold wind is blowing, geese are heading south. Clearly, winter is coming. It’s time for black bears to do what they always do this time of year―hibernate. Kids will get a kick out of this romp of a tale about a black bear cub that finds every excuse imaginable to avoid the inevitable go-to-bed moment. Will Mama Bear finally win? Or will Baby Bear come up with the ultimate reason to skip going to sleep?

Review: As I sit and write this post, it is 9:50pm, and my older child is upstairs not sleeping. The chance of him crafting an excuse to come out of his room within the next 10 minutes? High. So saying that I enjoyed this book is an understatement. I found great joy in reading this book to my son. We first read it a few weeks ago, and I’ve told him to hush up and hibernate a few dozen times. It’s a clever book that parents will enjoy immensely. The illustrations are beautifully done (take a look at the gem shared below!). If you take a look at the cover image (above), you will see the baby bear’s face. The way he’s reacting to his mother is an all-too-familiar look that makes me chuckle. I absolutely adored this charming book. When my son chooses it for his bedtime book, I have a warm, happy feeling. This signifies that it is a good book and one to keep.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be fun for kids to create their own version of this book—imagining an animal that is refusing to do something and giving every excuse imaginable to a parent. I suspect that this would be a fun writing exercise for kids, and they might reconsider their constant excuses.

Discussion Questions: What are some of the excuses that Baby Bear uses? What excuses have you used? What strategies does he use, and do they work?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Share, Big Bear, Share by Maureen Wright, Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton, Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo

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  RickiSig

**Thank you to Wiley at Saichek Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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Crow Not Crow
Author: Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple
Illustrator: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
Published August 28th, 2018 by Cornell Lab Publishing Group

Summary: New York Times bestselling children’s author, Jane Yolen, and her son, Adam Stemple, have teamed up to write a gentle tale of a father introducing his daughter to the joys of bird watching. Using the simple “Crow, Not Crow” method for distinguishing one bird from another, father and daughter explore the birds near their home…and there are so many to see! After the story ends, readers learn more about all the birds that appear in the book with photographs, descriptions, and QR links to bird sounds.

About the Creators:

Jane Yolen has authored more than 365 books, including the Caldecott-winning Owl Moon, loved by children and bird watchers of all ages, You Nest Here With Me, a popular new favorite, and the New York Times bestselling series How Do Dinosaurs…? Jane Yolen’s books have been translated into over 20 languages and are popular around the world. Her husband, David Stemple, was both a well-known bird recordist and professor of computer science who taught his family how to identify birds. Many of Ms. Yolen’s books are about wildlife, especially the winged kind. Jane lives in Hatfield, Massachusetts.

Adam Stemple is an award-winning writer of novels, short stories, graphic novels, and children’s books. He is also an avid bird watcher, taught by his father David Stemple. He invented the Crow Not Crow method of teaching beginning birders in order to teach his city-bred wife to bird. He lives in Minneapolis with his family—all birders—where he is also a working musician and is hard at work on his next novel.

Elizabeth Dulemba has always loved birds. As a kid, she used to run across the yard, flapping her arms, trying to fly. She later became a hang glider pilot in Tennessee. When not chasing birds, Elizabeth loves to draw, write, and teach. She has over two dozen titles to her credit, including her debut, award-winning novel A Bird On Water Street. In summers, she teaches in the Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating MFA program at Hollins University in Virginia. She spends the rest of her time in Scotland, where she is pursuing a PhD at the University of Glasgow. Sign up for her weekly newsletter at www.dulemba.com.

Praise: “…a solid choice for introducing the hobby [birdwatching] to younger readers.” – Kirkus Reviews

Kellee’s Review: My father love bird watching, but I’ve always been intimidated by it. He has books and guides and flyers, all with different information about different birds. But I also have always been fascinated by birds. They are beautiful and just a true testament of the miracles of Mother Nature. Crow Not Crow introduces the reader to a really fun way to introduce birdwatching to anyone interested. The story of a dad spreading the love of birdwatching to his young daughter is a sweet tale filled with interesting bird information. What takes the book to the next level though is the back matter. While the book is full of only “crow” and “not crow,” the back matter has all of the different birds’ names as well as a QR code to listen to the bird. There is even information about two different bird apps! I am excited to read this book with Trent then start with “crow” or “not crow” with him!

Ricki’s Review: I come from a long history of bird watchers. My brother, aunt, and mom are huge bird watchers, and it isn’t unusual for them to stop conversation to name the bird that they hear in the background. I had a very rare bird in my backyard in Connecticut, and they were all incredibly thrilled. So reading Crow Not Crow was an absolute delight. Jane Yolen is one of the best picture book authors alive, so I was particularly pleased that this book did not disappoint me. Like most of her books, it is quiet and has a powerful force behind it. It lends itself to a “crow not crow” type of game with children that would be quite fun. I will be purchasing this book as a gift for several friends. It’s beautifully done.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: First, use the backmatter as a key to a scavenger hunt within the book. Find each bird and discuss what clues were used to figure out that was the certain bird. Also listen to the bird using the QR code. Then, take your class outside! Start with “crow” or “not crow” but then create your own glossary like the back matter in the book to share your “not crows.” Comparison and contrast activities could also easily be weaved in as well as science!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What traits of the crow did the birders use to determine if the bird was a crow or not a crow?
  • What was your favorite bird that they encountered?
  • Take one of the birds and compare/contrast it to a crow.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Look Up!: Bird-Watching In Your Own Backyard by Annette LeBlanc Cate, Birds by Kevin Henkes, On Gull Beach by Jane YolenOn Duck Pond by Jane YolenOwl Moon by Jane Yolen

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**Thank you to the Cornell Lab Publishing Group for having us as part of their book tour!**

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Happy 2019! 

This year, I reread more books than any previous year. I am not including the billions of pictures books that I reread to my children in that statistic, either. 🙂 But for this list, I am focusing on my favorite reads of 2018. These are books that will stick to my bones for years to come!

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Young Adults

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

The Astonishing Color of After by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Upper Elementary and Middle Grade

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya

 

Favorite Picture Books

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by John Agee

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell

 

Which were your favorite reads of 2018?

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Happy 2019! 

I had one of my best reading years ever! My GoodReads goal was 300 which I exceeded!

I read 415 books this year!
(Though I will admit GoodReads adding the ability to add rereads really helped with the total; however, I was quite inconsistent with it– I marked re-reads sometimes and other times I didn’t, so I don’t know how accurate the count is, specifically picture books…)

 

It was almost exactly split between picture books and non-picture books with my novel, etc. total being a bit over 200.
My average rating for the year is 4.2 and my top shelves were: realistic fiction, nonfiction, Unleashing Readers, Trent 4-5 years, middle grade, audiobook, mg-ya picture books, picture book, and read to Trent. 

Today, I want to highlight my favorite reads from the year by sharing my 5 star reads from 2018
(the visual includes all while the list includes only newly read in 2018 books): 

Click on the photo above to see my 2018 Goodreads shelf to learn about any of these titles. If I’ve reviewed the book on Unleashing Readers, I’ve also hyperlinked it in the list. 

Picture Books & Early Readers (nonfiction & fiction)

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Windows by Julia Denos
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Trilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon
Duck, Duck, Porcupine! by Salina Yoon
Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude by Josh Funk
Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford
Square by Mac Barnett
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk 
What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers
Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack by Frank Tra
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Drawn Together by Minh Lê
The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët
A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade
Cute as an Axolotl: Discovering the Worlds Most Adorable Animals by Jess Keating
Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
One of a Kind by Chris Gorman
The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara
Memphis, Martin, and Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan
A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey
Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Veissid
Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton Hughes
Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
We Can’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins
Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World by James Gladstone
Sun!: One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty
The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayred
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

Middle Grade

False Prince trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Granted by John David Anderson
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Bat & the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold
Track Series: Sunny & Lu by Jason Reynolds
Breakout by Kate Messner
Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamura by Pablo Cartaya
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher
Garbage Island by Fred Koehler
The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Young Adult

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
Tyler Johnson was Here by Jay Coles
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
What Girls are Made of by Elana K. Arnold
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Here to Stay by Sara Farizan
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
Odd One Out by Nic Stone
Dry by Neal Shusterman
Another Day by David Levithan

Graphic Novels

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
The Divided Earth by Erin Faith Hicks
I Am Ghandi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero edited by Brad Meltzer
Illegal by Eoin Colfer
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Monsters Beware by Jorge Aguirre
Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens by John Green
HiLo #4: Waking the Monsters by Judd Winick
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable
Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Nonfiction

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation by Patricia Newman
The Great Rhino Rescue by Patricia Newman
National Geographic: History’s Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles from the Past by Kitson Jazynka

All of these books are highly recommended by me, so if you haven’t read them and they interest you, they won’t let you down 🙂 Happy reading!

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If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur
Author: Amy Newbold
Illustrator: Greg Newbold
Published October 2 2018 by Tilbury House Publishers

GoodReads Summary: In this sequel to the tour de force children’s art-history picture book If Picasso Painted a Snowman, Amy Newbold conveys nineteen artists’ styles in a few deft words, while Greg Newbold’s chameleon-like artistry shows us Edgar Degas’ dinosaur ballerinas, Cassius Coolidge’s dinosaurs playing Go Fish, Hokusai’s dinosaurs surfing a giant wave, and dinosaurs smelling flowers in Mary Cassatt’s garden; grazing in Grandma Moses’ green valley; peeking around Diego Rivera’s orchids in Frida Kahlo’s portrait; tiptoeing through Baishi’s inky bamboo; and cavorting, stampeding, or hiding in canvases by Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Franz Marc, Harrison Begay, Alma Thomas, Aaron Douglas, Mark Rothko, Lois Mailou Jones, Marguerite Zorach, and Edvard Munch. And, of course, striking a Mona Lisa pose for Leonardo da Vinci.

As in If Picasso Painted a Snowman, our guide for this tour is an engaging beret-topped hamster who is joined in the final pages by a tiny dino artist. Thumbnail biographies of the artists identify their iconic works, completing this tour of the creative imagination.

Ricki’s ReviewAfter I read this book, I texted Kellee, “I LOVE THIS BOOK!” We received this a couple of weeks ago, and my son and I have read it several times. I missed If Picasso Painted a Snowman, but I plan to get it for my son for the holidays. I love how much learning is packed in this book. After we turned the pages, my son and I looked up the artists to learn more about the artists, their style, and their famous paintings. For me, this picture book will always rank among my favorites because it offers so much educational potential. This is one that I’d use with high schoolers and college students, as well. If you don’t own this book, I recommend it highly. It’s phenomenal.

Kellee’s Review: If I thought the Newbolds hit the height of fun art picture books with If Picasso Painted a Snowman, but they continued the brilliance with their newest If da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur. What I love about the Newbolds’ books are that they are so beautifully done in both art and informational narrative, and it is done in a way that is entertaining and also teaches about some amazing artists. What surprised me about this newest is that there are even more truly abstract and modern art pieces, more than the first book, and the diversity of the artists represented were expanded to show the talent around the world and in different cultures. I can’t wait to see what they are going to do next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be a great book to use in interdisciplinary ways with an art classroom. Students might research an artist, pick a theme, and create their own “If ______ painted a _______” book. It could be bound and kept in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the dinosaurs differ across the pages? What do you notice about the different artists’ styles?
  • Which dinosaur was your favorite? Why?
  • After reading the back matter, which artist would you like to learn more about?
  • Compare and contrast “regular” dinosaurs which each dinosaur in the book. What do you notice that is the same and/or different?

Flagged Spread: 

Read This If You Love: Art!; If Picasso Painted a Snowman by Amy & Greg Newbold; Biographies of artists such as The Noisy Paintbox by Barb RosenstockViva Frida by Yuyi Morales, Sandy’s Circus by Tanya Lee Stone, A Splash of Red by Jennifer Fisher Bryant; The Dot by Peter H. ReynoldsLinnea in Monet’s Garden by Christina Björk; Seen Art? by Jon Sciezska; The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew DaywaltPerfect Square by Michael Hall; My Pen by Christopher Myers, Paint Me a Picture by Emily Bannister, Mini Museum Series

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters for providing copies for review!**

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Chilly Da Vinci
Author and Illustrator: J. Rutland
Published by December 4, 2018 by NorthSouth Books

Goodreads Summary: While others do “penguin” things, Chilly da Vinci—self-declared inventor penguin, builds machines that don’t work…yet!  Chilly ties into the popular “maker” movement with humor and imagination.

While others do “penguin” things, Chilly da Vinci—self-declared inventor penguin, builds machines that don’t work…yet!

Ricki’s Review: My son tells everyone that he is an engineer. He spends a lot of time drawing his inventions and then building them with blocks. Needless to say, he was thrilled about this book. Chilly is an inventor who builds machines that don’t work. This offers great opportunities for conversations about the revision process and the time and patience required for inventors to be successful. The book ties well with history and Da Vinci’s inventions. There is wonderful classroom potential with this book. The illustrations border realistic and fantastic, which makes for fun examinations across pages. This book will be a favorite in classrooms and it is quite inspiring. I am most excited about its interdisciplinary potential.

Kellee’s Review: The structure of this book is so interesting! It switches between the reality of Chilly’s situation and a narrative of possibilities and his imagination. This will lead to some amazing conversations and also gives an example of a different type of narrative. I also think that so much can be done with the different creations that Chilly makes looking at real inventions and the sketches and research of Leonardo da Vinci. On top of that, I love the message of Chilly’s journey! It is all about not giving up and never letting anyone tell you something isn’t doable. Oh, and he’s a super cute penguin!

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Students might begin by investigating Da Vinci’s inventions and how they compare with those in the book. This offers a rich look into history. Then, students might draw out and design their own inventions. Working in small groups, they might try to build their inventions to experience and talk through the emotions that Chilly might be experiencing as he invents new creations!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do Chilly’s inventions compare with those of Da Vinci?
  • What emotions and characteristics does Chilly display when his inventions don’t work?
  • How does the author use personification to enhance the reading of this text?
  • How might this book be different if Chilly was a person rather than a penguin? What does Chilly’s penguin character add to the story?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Nonfiction books about Leonardo da Vinci, If Da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur by Amy Newbold, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

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