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On Gull Beach
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Bob Marstall
Published March 27th, 2018 by Cornell Lab Publishing Group

Summary: Together again! On Gull Beach reunites bestselling children’s author Jane Yolen and award-winning illustrator Bob Marstall for the third installment of the acclaimed On Bird Hill and Beyondseries of children’s books written for the renowned Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

In On Bird Hill, Yolen and Marstall took readers on a surreal journey with a boy and his dog as they see the natural world, ultimately witnessing the miracle of a chick emerging from an egg.

On Duck Pond continued their journey, this time at a serene pond filled with birds, frogs, and turtles who are suddenly disrupted by their intrusion, but soon settle back into a quiet equilibrium.

On Gull Beach brings us to an idyllic shoreline in Cape Cod, where gulls hover, dive, and chase with pitched acrobatics in pursuit of a seastar. This enchanting sequel in a brand new habitat will delight readers young and old.

As with all Cornell Lab Publishing Group books, 35% of net proceeds from the sale of this title goes directly to the Cornell Lab to support projects such as children’s educational and community programs.

Our review of On Duck Pond from May 4, 2017.

Kellee’s Review: What I love about this series of books by Yolen and Marstall are the way they have combined the beauty of Yolen’s lyrical words with information about the birds and other animals and their habitats that the books focus on. In this one we follow a young boy as he takes a walk on the beach and tried to say a starfish from the birds on the beach. Yolen’s rhythmic writing takes you on the journey while Marstall’s illustrations make them come to life. 

Ricki’s Review: I am still waiting for the day that I read a Jane Yolen book that I don’t love. Today isn’t that day. As Kellee said, Yolen’s words are lyrical. She rhymes, but it isn’t a cheesy sort of rhyme. Instead, it’s quite beautiful and urges readers to keep turning the pages. Marstall’s illustrations are realistic, and they pull the reader into the story. The back matter provides clarifying information about gulls (see the page spread that we feature below). As a New Englander, I smiled at the variety of gulls that the authors feature. The book features photographs along with informational text to teach readers all about the “So many gulls!” This made me long for the summer, and I am looking forward to identifying these gulls on our next beach trip! 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Each of the books Yolen and Marstall have done focus on a different bird in a different habitat. What a great way to combine reading, writing, and science! In an elementary classroom, have students jigsaw to each of the books and come together in a home group so share what they learned about each habitat and the animals that live there. Then students can research a bird of their choice and its habitat to write their own poem about a visit to see the bird.

Discussion Questions: 

  • The habitat Yolen and Marstall were focusing on is a New England Beach. If you have been to a beach in another area, how is the New England beach in the book different and similar to the beach you have gone to?
  • What other birds other than gulls live on beaches all over the world?
  • What parts of the beach habitat did Yolen and Marstall highlight in their book?
  • How does the structure of poetry change this nonfiction book to make it different than other books about birds and habitats?
  • What are the differences and similarities between the three habitats and three birds that Yolen and Marstall have focused on?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Yolen & Marstall’s other ornithology books, Books about birds like Hello, Hippo! Goodbye, Bird! by Kristyn Crow, The Sky Painter by Margarita Engle, Elwood Bigfood: Wanted Birdie Friends by Jill Esbaum, Birds by Kevin Henkes, Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate, Seabird in the Forest by Joan Dunning

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Islandborn
Author: Junot Díaz
Illustrator: Leo Espinosa
Published: March 13, 2018 by Dial

Summary: From New York Times bestseller and Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz comes a debut picture book about the magic of memory and the infinite power of the imagination.

Every kid in Lola’s school was from somewhere else. Hers was a school of faraway places.

So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

Gloriously illustrated and lyrically written, Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination’s boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves.

Review: This book is absolutely enchanting. I can confidently say that it will always be one of my favorite picture books of all time. When Lola asks family and friends about the island that she came from, they have wonderful memories that they share with her. The illustrations and words dance off of the page—Díaz and Espinosa, the author-illustrator team, combine to create a work that will stun readers with its beauty and complexity. I took the pages from the F&G and hung them on my office walls, and they inspire me daily.

As I read this book, I continually paused to reflect on the words (“Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you” and “Memory is magic.”). There is so much to teach from this book, and I am really looking forward to sharing it with students. If you haven’t read this book, I recommend you get in your car and drive immediately to the bookstore.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: There are so many possibilities for this section for teacher. They might analyze text and word choice, focusing on figurative language. Or they could examine the emotions that Lola experiences as she tries to learn about the place that she comes from. Or they might have students research their own countries of origin and create an image that represents the magic of the country. Or they might consider a monster that exists in their country and draw it metaphorically or symbolically. This is a book that is meant to be shared and shared.

Discussion Questions: How does Lola feel when she can’t remember the country she came from? How does she learn more about it?; What do Lola’s friends and family tell her about the country she came from? What are the good and bad memories that they share? What might the bad memory represent?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Works by Junot Díaz; Miguel and the Grand Harmony by Matt de la Peña; Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan; Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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You’re My Little Cuddle Bug
Author: Nicola Edwards; Illustrator: Natalie Marshall
Published February 1, 2017 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: Celebrate your little cuddle bug with this sweet and colorful rhyming board book!

Celebrate your little cuddle bug with this sweet and colorful rhyming board book! With chunky pages for little hands and die-cut cuddle bugs to add depth and interest, children will love the interactive features alongside the story.

My Review: The bright bugs pop on the page in a way that emanates warmth. This book reminds me of the popular classics like Time for Bed by Mem Fox. It’s fun for parents/guardians to read to their children, and the sweetness of the story and illustrations pop off of the page. The book is set up with cutouts and raised illustrations. On the first page, there is a baby bug, and when the reader turns the cut-out page, the baby bug is joined by a cuddling parent. It’s quite a charming little board book that made me smile.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book’s audience seems to be children and families, but I think it would also make a sweet read-aloud at a daycare or preschool before naptime. Children might draw their own cuddle bugs and write a verse from a parent or guardian to a child.

Discussion Questions: Which is your favorite bug? Why? How is this bug different from all of the other bugs in the book?; How do the bugs cuddle differently?

We Flagged: “So when the night is beetle black, and daytime’s at an end, we’ll snuggle up, two cuddle bugs, and sleep my little friend.”

Read This If You Loved: Time For Bed by Mem Fox; Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise BrownGoodnight Songs by Margaret Wise BrownA Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na, I’m Not Sleepy by Jonathan Allen, Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie Helakoski 

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**Thank you to Casey from Media Masters for sharing these books with us!**

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Moon
Author and Illustrator: Alison Oliver
Expected Publication April 17th, 2018 by Clarion Books

Summary: Like many children, Moon leads a busy life. School, homework, music lessons, sports, and the next day it begins again. She wonders if things could be different. Then, one night, she meets a wolf.

The wolf takes Moon deep into the dark, fantastical forest and there she learns to howl, how to hide, how to be still, and how to be wild. And in that, she learns what it’s like to be free.

ReviewJust as Where the Wild Things Are made children think about controlling our inner wild things (anger), Moon has us look at the new pressures of childhood and the need to let kids unleash their inner wild thing (playfulness). I talk often about the pressure that kids with other parents and teachers about the pressure that kids have on them now. Computer programs and homework starting in kindergarten, multiple standardized testing starting in 3rd grade, high school classes starting in middle school, AP classes required for almost everyone, etc. etc. etc. It makes me so sad to see that a lot of the joys of childhood are being pushed away to make kids grow up earlier (but then we complain about kids growing up quicker…). Moon, the main character, represents so many of our kids, and her adventure shows how important it is to let our kids just be themselves to be happy and to remove some of the pressure. I loved this message, and I thought it was told in a beautiful and figurative way that will lead to wonderful discussions and lots of rereading.

And I couldn’t review this book properly without commenting on the beautiful illustrations. I particularly loved the palette changes to highlight time and place and the bits of humor in the illustrations. Just a wonderful combination of artwork and story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Moon‘s theme and symbolism are what jump out to me first, and I see them being what is discussed the most when it comes to this book, and I could see it be extended from early elementary all the way to middle school just pushing the conversation to different levels the older students get.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do the wolves symbolize in Moon’s story?
  • How is your life similar to Moon’s at the beginning of the book?
  • How does Moon’s life change from beginning to end?
  • What lesson was the message the author was trying to spread from Moon? 
  • Do you see any differences between Moon from the first couple of pages and the last couple of pages?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Yellow Kayak by Nina Laden, Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell

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Bat and the Waiting Game
Author: Elana K. Arnold
Illustrator: Charles Santoso
Published March 27th, 2018 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: The second book in the irresistible and “quietly groundbreaking”* young middle grade series starring Bat, an unforgettable boy on the autism spectrum.

For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life is pretty great. He’s the caretaker of the best baby skunk in the world—even Janie, his older sister, is warming up to Thor.

When Janie gets a part in the school play and can’t watch Bat after school, it means some pretty big changes. Someone else has to take care of the skunk kit in the afternoons.

Janie is having sleepovers with her new friends. Bat just wants everything to go back to normal. He just has to make it to the night of Janie’s performance…

*Kirkus Reviews

Critical Praise: 

“Delightful. This humorous follow-up is even stronger than its predecessor and will leave readers hoping for a third book featuring Bat and his family.” — School Library Journal

“A gentle tale of shared similarities rather than differences that divide and a fine read-aloud with a useful but not didactic message of acceptance.”  — Kirkus Reviews

A winsome blend of humor and heart, vibrant characters, and laugh-out-loud dialogue. Arnold’s narrative also gracefully explores life through the eyes of a boy on the autism spectrum.  The ever-lovable Bat is sure to resonate with readers of all ages. — Booklist Online

About the Author: Elana K. Arnold grew up in California, where she, like Bat, was lucky enough to have her own perfect pet — a gorgeous mare named Rainbow — and a family who let her read as many books as she wanted. She is the author of picture books, middle grade novels, and books for teens, including the National Book Award finalist title What Girls Are Made Of. Elana lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. She calls the “Bat” series for Walden Pond Press “books of her heart.” You can find her online at www.elanakarnold.com.

ReviewBat is one of my favorite characters ever. He is a flawed character but is also so perfect as who he is! What I love about Bat, other than his amazingly sweet personality, his brilliance when it comes to skunks, and his coping skills, is that he teaches us to treasure the little things. Also, the way that Elana write Bat, his story will help middle grade readers think about their classmates who may not think or act the way that they think is normal. We are all normal for who we are! Bat’s story shows about the good in life and teaches us what good humans are like.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to an amazing read aloud opportunity, I can definitely see the text being part of lit circles. Bat himself is unique, but he and his story remind me of so many other characters who I love and I wish all students would read about: Auggie from Wonder; Melody from Out of my Mind; David from Rules; Candice from The Categorical Universe of Candice Phee; Rose from Rain, Reign; and Adam from How to Speak Dolphin. All of these texts are must reads! I picture all of these texts with their extraordinary characters being part of lit circles with a focus on disabilities/disorders and empathy. [From my review of A Boy Called Bat, 3/10/17]

Educators’ Resource Guide: 

Flagged Passages: “Maybe, Bat though, there was something better in the world than cradling a sleepy, just-fed baby skunk in your arms. But at this moment, it didn’t seem likely.

Bat was sitting in his beanbag chair, having just put down the tiny, nearly empty bottle of formula. In Bat’s hand, licking his fine soft whiskers with a tiny pink tongue and then yawning widely to reveal two rows of new white teeth, was a six-week-old skunk kit named Thor.” (p. 1-2)

“When Israel first handed [a skunk kit sculpture] to Bat last Monday at school, it had taken Bat a moment to figure out what exactly he was holding…

Bat had rubbed his thumb down the smooth shiny back of the clay ump. It didn’t look much like a skunk kit, but its pleasant weight felt good in his hand. And when he had flipped it over to find the words ‘From Israel’ on the bottom, a warm good feeling spread through his chest and up his neck.

A friend had given him a gift. And even if it didn’t look much like the real baby skunk now nestled in his hands, it definitely deserved a place on his bookshelf,a long with his other important things.” (p. 4-5)

Read This If You Love: A Boy Called Bat by Elana K. Arnold, Any lit circle book listed under Teacher’s Tools

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Don’t miss out on the other blog tour stops!

3/12 For Those About to Mock, @abouttomock Sam Eddington

3/15 Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook @knott_michele Michele Knott

3/15 @iowaamber Amber Kuehler

3/16 The Hiding Spot @thehidingspot Sara Grochowski

3/18 Educate*Empower*Inspire…Teach @guerette79 Melissa Guerrette

3/19 Maria’s Melange @mariaselke Maria Selke

3/20 Nerdy Book Club post by Elana

3/20 Writers Rumpus @kirsticall Kirsti Call

3/22 Bluestocking Thinking @bluesockgirl Nicole Levesque

3/28 Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders Kellee Moye

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for hosting the blog tour and providing a copy for review!!**

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I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
Illustrator: Kerascoët
Anticipated Publication: April 24, 2018 by Schwartz & Wade

Goodreads Summary: This simple yet powerful picture book–from a New York Times bestselling husband-and-wife team—tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. Inspired by real events,  I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. With themes of acceptance, kindness, and strength in numbers, this timeless and profound feel-good story will resonate with readers young and old.

My Review: I was very fortunate to receive an F&G of this book at ALA Midwinter. Whew! I was told that this book was inspired by a true story of a large group of students who walked with a student who was being bullied. It’s really quite magical. This is the kind of book that will appeal to a wide assortment of readers at a wide range of ages. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book rakes in a few awards next year. The story is beautifully done. It inspired some great conversations with my four-year-old. We were able to point to each of the characters and talk about what they were doing in each situation. That said, if I had to place this book in one age group, I think it would make a great fit at the early elementary school level.  

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a phenomenal book to talk about the bystanders. It would pair beautifully with Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness. When I read this with my son, we spent a lot of time point out several of the students on the pages. We talked about what each of them were doing and in some cases, what they weren’t doing. This book is a must-read.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think the illustrator team chose to make the book wordless? How does this make the book more or less powerful for you?; What emotions do you see in the characters? Why are they feeling the way that they feel?; Do bystanders have a responsibility?

Flagged Passage: 

Image from Amazon

Read This If You Loved: My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison; Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (Kellee’s Review | Ricki’s Review); Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

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George the Hero Hound
Author: Jeffrey Ebbeler
Published March 20th, 2018 by Two Lions

Summary: George is a good ol’ hound dog. He helps Farmer Fritz with the chores and—most important of all—he keeps those sneaky cows out of the cornfield.

Then Farmer Fritz moves away, and a new family from the city moves in. The Gladstones have a lot to learn. George tries to help, but they don’t understand his job on the farm…until the day little Olive goes missing, and George shows everyone what it means to be a hero hound!

ReviewFirst, I have to talk about how much I just love George, his expressions, and his story. Just look at that cover! Don’t you want to just follow him around?! But you want to know what made the story for me? The extra story that was told through the illustrations. George’s story that is told through the text is a look at figuring out home when things change and dealing with a new situation, and George is definitely the hero in all of it; however, it is the hilarious stories told in the background that add just the extra HAs! to the story. Watch for the cows to make some Mission Impossible-esque moves and for the Gladstones to make some silly mistakes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a great way to introduce storytelling through words and illustrations. When I did my Caldecott unit with my middle schoolers, so many of them didn’t know how to read a story without being told it in words. Use the illustrations in the background for a creative writing prompt to have students write an alternate text for each page using what is going on in the background of the told story.

George’s tale would also be a good text to use to introduce theme and the idea that a text can have more than one theme, depending on which character you are learning from.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is George a hero?
  • What do you think the cows’ master plans include?
  • How are the Gladstones different from Farmer Fritz?
  • What are clues that the Gladstones are from the city?
  • How does the author indicate dialogue versus narration?
  • What is a clue that would have told the Gladstones George’s name?

Flagged Passages: “George was a good old hound dog. Every day George was up, even before the chickens, to help old Farmer Fritz with the cores. That rust-bucket tractor was always falling apart. . . and those wily cows were always plotting to get out and feast on the cornfield.”

And some passages from after the Gladstone family moves in:

Read This If You Love: Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman; My Dog is the Best by Laurie Ann Thompson; Click, Clack, Moo by Doreen Cronin; Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell; Chicken Dance by Tammi Sauer

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**Thank you to Two Lions for providing a copy for review!**

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