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The Real Us
Author: Tommy Greenwald
Illustrator: J.P. Coovert
Published August 8th, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: Laura Corbett and Damian White are loners, and not by choice. Kids make fun of smart, sarcastic Laura for her weight and artistic Damian for his tendency to sweat through his shirts. Calista Getz, however–well, everyone agrees that Calista is the prettiest girl in the whole school. Maybe even the whole state. Let’s just say that she sits at the popular lunch table. Laura and Damian don’t.

But when Calista wakes up just before the school dance with the BIGGEST pimple she has EVER seen right in the middle of her face, and her attempts to hide it backfire spectacularly, Laura and Damian are the only ones who don’t ignore her. In fact, they seem to see not only past her pimple, but past her popularity, too. Together, they’ll challenge the school’s status quo in this hilarious, heartfelt novel The Real Us, by Tommy Greenwald.

About the Author: Tommy Greenwald has enjoyed reading all his life, which is why he’s appalled that his kids Charlie, Joe and Jack, would prefer getting a dental check-up to checking out a book. After years of pleading, threatening, and bribing, Tommy finally decided the only way to get his kids to read was to write a book about how to get out of reading. The result was Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading. And they read it! (So they say.) The Executive Creative Director at SPOTCO, an entertainment advertising agency in New York City, Tommy lives in Connecticut with his wife, Cathy; his non-reading sons, Charlie, Joe and Jack; and his dogs, Moose and Coco.

Review: Middle school is a time of finding one’s identity. In The Real Us, Tommy Greenwald explores three different examples of kids in middle school and their search for who they really are. Damian is like many of our students who has something to hide from his peers so is quiet and hidden. Laura is friendly and known, but because of her weight is still excluded from most social activities. Then there is Callie. Who seems to have the perfect life, but even she learns through a bump in the road that perfection is not always what it seems. All three of these characters will resonate with readers either as a mirror or a window.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is going to be loved by middle school students. Add it to your classroom and school libraries, and it will be read and loved!

Discussion Questions: Callie’s life seemed perfect, but it wasn’t. How was it not as it seemed?; Which of the three characters do you relate to the most? Why?; Why did Callie stop being friends with Laura? What does this tell you about the two characters?

Flagged Passages: 

Damian: “I wish they had assigned seats at lunch like they do in class. It would make life a lot easier.”

Callie: “Here is a math equation for you: Sitting in class + A bandage on your nose = Forever.

Everyone gets pimples, Patrick had said.

I don’t.”

Laura: “I start to walk away, since my work here id done. But Ellie has one last question for me.

‘Do you play goalie?’ she asks. ‘Because you kind of look like you could totally block the goal all by yourself.’

Ellie and Ella dissolve into hysterics. I look at Calista, who doesn’t seem amused. But she doesn’t seem mad, either. She doesn’t seem anything.

‘No, I don’t play goalie,’ I answer. ‘I play defense. And you better watch it before I defense your butt with my foot.’

That shuts them up. I walk away.”

Read This If You Love: Roller Girl by Victoria JamiesonInsignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti BowlingMoon Shadow by Erin Downing, Posted by John David Anderson, Real Friends by Shannon Hale, Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

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7 August Ms. Yingling Reads | http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com — Review

8 August Maria’s Melange | http://www.mariaselke.com/ —”Why I Wrote The Real Us

9 August Log Cabin Library | http://logcabinlibrary.blogspot.com/ — Review

10 August Diary of a Happy Librarian | https://diaryofahappylibrarian.blogspot.com/ — Review

11 August Always in the Middle | https://gpattridge.com/  — “Make ‘Em Laugh”

14 August Randomly Reading | https://randomlyreading.blogspot.com/ — Review

15 August One Great Book | http://onegreatbook.com/ — Review

16  August Unleashing Readers | http://www.unleashingreaders.com  — Review and Giveaway

17  August Mr. D. Reads | https://misterdreads.wordpress.com — Author Interview

18  August Tommy Greenwald | http://tommygreenwald.com/blog/ — Giveaway

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Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Author: Dusti Bowling
Published September 5th, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

Praise: 

*“Aven is a perky, hilarious, and inspiring protagonist whose attitude and humor will linger even after the last page has turned.” —School Library Journal (Starred review)

“Connor’s Tourette’s support-group meetings and Aven’s witty, increasingly honest discussions of the pros and cons of “lack of armage” give the book excellent educational potential. . . . its portrayal of characters with rarely depicted disabilities is informative, funny, and supportive.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Bowling’s sensitive and funny novel . . . demonstrates how negotiating others’ discomfort can be one of the most challenging aspects of having a physical difference and how friendship can mitigate that discomfort. . . . [an] openhearted, empathic book. —Publishers Weekly

Review: From the very first page, you know that Aven is awesome. In the first paragraph you learn that she doesn’t have arms but it doesn’t matter to her. The only reason why she is upset is because someone else freaked out about her armlessness. She is brave and funny and resilient. The way that she is able to joke around about her physical difference to help ease the reader and the other characters is a true talent. The stories she creates about what happened to her arms just to freak people out truly cracked me up. And Aven’s awesomeness is followed closely by her parents’. I adore them. They are the pinnacle of parents. They are kind yet tough and are raising an independent, wonderful young woman. Then there is Connor who is also so well-crafted. His Tourette’s syndrome is dealt with in a thoughtful way and also doesn’t define Connor just like Aven’s armlessness doesn’t define her. This is a book of amazing characters coming together to find their place in the world.

You are going to love this book. Your students are going to love this book. Parents are going to love this book. Your fellow teachers are going to love this book. This is a book that is going to get a lot of love!

Check out Dusti’s “Spotlight on Dusti Bowling” feature in Publishers Weekly to hear more about her inspirations.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Please add this title to your collection of read aloud and classroom library books that you share with students to promote empathy, kindness, and friendship with those with differences as well as facing hardship and stepping up to challenges. You will not be disappointed!

Discussion Questions: After reading Aven and Connor’s story, how has your attitude and future actions towards those with differences changed?; How was Aven’s story inspiring to you?; Why did you feel that author made the choice to have Aven’s family move at the beginning of the book?; Did you predict the connection to Stagecoach Pass?; How were Connor and Aven able to help each other?

Flagged Passages: “When I was little, a kid pointed at me on the playground and shouted, ‘Her arms fell off!’ then ran away screaming in terror to his mom, who had to cuddle him on her lap and rub his head for like ten mintues to get him to calm down. I think, up until then, I hadn’t thought about the idea that my arms must have actually fallen off at some point in my life. I had never really thought about not having arms at all.

My missing arms weren’t an issue for me or my parents. I never once heard either of them say, ‘Oh, no, Aven can’t possibly do that because that’s only for armed people,’ or ‘Poor Aven is so helpless without arms,’ or ‘Maybe Aven can do that one day, you know, if she ever grows arms.’ They always said things like, ‘You’ll have to do this differently from other people, but you can manage,’ and ‘I know this is challenging for you. Keep trying,’ and ‘You’re capable of anything Aven.’

I had never realized just how different I was until that day that horrible kid shouted about my arms having fallen off. For the first time I found myself aware of my total armlessness, and I guess I felt like I was sort of naked all of a sudden. So I, too, ran to my mom, and she scooped me up and carried me away from the park, allowing my tears and snot to soak her shirt.” (Chapter 1)

Read This If You Love: Wonder by RJ Palacio, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, The Honest Truth by Dan GemeinhartFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny RorbyRain Reign by Ann M. MartinEmmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson

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**Thank you to Dusti Bowling and Sterling for providing a copy for review!**

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

The Girl Who Ran: Bobbi Gibb, The First Woman to Run the Boston Marathon
Authors: Frances Poletti & Kristina Yee
Illustrator: Susanna Chapman
Published June 15th, 2017 by Compendium Inc.

Summary: “She said she would do it, she wasn’t a liar; she’d show them by running like the wind in the fire.” When Bobbi Gibb saw the Boston Marathon her mind was set—she had to be a part of it. She trained hard, journeying across America to run on all kinds of terrain. But when the time came to apply for the marathon, she was refused entry. They told her girls don’t run, girls can’t run. That didn’t stop Bobbi.

In 1966, the world believed it was impossible for a woman to run the Boston Marathon. Bobbi Gibb was determined to prove them wrong. She said she would do it, she wasn’t a liar; she’d show them by running like the wind in the fire.

This picture book tells the true story of how she broke the rules in 1966 and how, one step at a time, her grit and determination changed the world. Created in collaboration with Bobbi Gibb and the perfect gift for would-be runners, kids of all ages, and everyone out there with a love of sport.

ReviewRecently I was introduced to what happened to Kathrine Switzer in the 1967 Boston Marathon as it was the 50th anniversary. I thought she was the first woman to run the marathon (and officials attempted to stop her as she ran the race), but this story of Bobbi Gibb showed that the first woman stepped up the year before. Bobbi Gibb is such an inspiration. She trained and trained for the marathon, went against her parents’ wishes, and did something no one had ever done before. Gibb’s story combined with the beautiful lyricism of the text and freeness of the painted illustrations makes Gibb’s story run right into your heart.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Yet another HERstory that needs to be shared with students as it is a part of history that is left out. Gibb’s story can be added to other women’s rights texts to build a lit circle or jigsaw activity where students learn and share about the struggles and victories of women throughout time.

Additionally, the back matter of The Girl Who Ran has a beautiful timeline that can be used to teach this text feature.

Discussion Questions: What is the theme of Bobbi Gibb’s story?; What is the purpose of the timeline in the back matter?; How did the repetition of “She said she would do it, she wasn’t a liar; she’d show them by running like the wind in the fire.” add to the story of the first woman who ran the Boston Marathon?; What does the act of Bobbi’s mom taking her to the marathon show about her?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Book of Heroines by Stephanie Warren Drimmer and other books about amazing woman in history

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**Thank you to Angeline at Compendium for providing a copy for review!**

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The Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth
Author: Ellie Hattie
Illustrator: Karl James Mountford
Published 2017 by Kane Miller EDC Publishing

Summary: Look out! There’s a mammoth on the loose, and Oscar has to get him home before the clock strikes one! This riotous adventure is packed with facts and lift-the-flap fun.

Review: I don’t think the summary of this book does it justice.  It is such a fun book that kids of so many different ages are going to love reading. It is about a boy who wakes up to find a mammoth wandering around his town looking for his baby brother. They follow the clues to The Curious Museum which has come to life like The Night at the Museum, and they chase Teddy, the baby mammoth, through different rooms in the museum: Underwater World, the Library, The Flight Floor, The Time of the Dinosaurs, and The Extinct and Endangered Creatures rooms. Trent and I loved the detailed and silly illustrations and trying to find Teddy on each page!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In each room, there is the narrative of Oscar and Timothy, the big mammoth, but there are also flaps that include nonfiction information about the room that the story is currently taking place in. For example, in the ocean scene there are flaps that include flaps about octopus, blue whales, corral, and more! In the library there’s information about books & art, pilots in The Flight Floor, dinos in The Time of the Dinosaurs, and creatures in the Extinct and Endangered room.

This mix of adventure and facts makes this a perfect cross-curricular text to use or as an intro before a trip to a natural history museum.

Discussion Questions: What did you learn in each room?; Why does Oscar have to get Teddy back before 1:00?; What type of museum do you think The Curious Museum is?; What else did you see in the exhibits that you would like to learn about?; Why do you think the author included the flaps with nonfiction information?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide by Emma Yarlett, Natural History Museums, Night at the Museum movies

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**Thank you to Lynn at Kane Miller for providing a copy for review!**

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Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide
Author and Illustrator: Emma Yarlett
Published 2017 by Kane Miller Publishing

Summary: NIBBLES, the book-eating MONSTER, has chomped his way into this book of DINOSAURS! Has he bitten off more than he can chew?!

What was a very serious book about very serious dinosaurs is suddenly interrupted by a hole – a nibbled hole – in the book. Who would do something like that?

Little ones will love trying to find the culprit – Nibbles – hiding among their favorite, easily recognizable dinosaurs. Is he an herbivore? A carnivore? Or … a bookivore?

Emma Yarlett’s Nibbles: The Dinosaur Guide is packed with flaps, folds, facts and die cuts, plus one very naughty monster and an ending to make Houdini proud. But has Nibbles bitten off more than he can chew?

Themes include humor and science.

Review: We love Nibbles. We have a stuffed Nibbles and have read the first one so many times (and it is one of my husband’s favorite picture books–he says it is so unique.) I am probably majorly biased when it comes to this review because OF COURSE we loved this one also. I mean, listen to this: 

What is so interesting about this new book is that it takes the concept of Nibbles (a book eating monster) and takes him on a time-traveling adventure to the age of the dinosaurs using his eating/transporting powers. It is funny and educational. Just as the first one combined Nibbles’s antics with fairy tales, this one combined Nibbles with dinosaurs education!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What I love more about this one than the first one is that it has a cross-curricular component to it with the inclusion of dinosaurs and specific information about the dinosaurs. This allows the book to be used in reading, writing, and science lessons. I also think it’d be so much fun to have students write their own Nibbles story with him eating into a different topic than dinosaurs.

Discussion Questions: Which dinosaur was the scariest that Nibbles faced? The least scary?; What new information did you learn about dinosaurs?; What were the similarities and differences between the different dinosaurs Nibbles encountered?; What were the consequences of Nibbles jumping back in time?; If you were Nibbles, what book would you Nibble into? Where in time would you jump to?

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Message from the Author about Creativity: 

Read This If You Love: Dinosaurs, Humor, Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett, Nibbles: The Book Monster by Emma Yarlett

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**Thank you to Lynn at Kane Miller for providing a copy for review!!**

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Star Stuff: Carl Sagan and the Mysteries of the Cosmos
Author: Stephanie Roth Sisson
Published: October 14, 2014 by Roaring Brook Press

A Guest Review by Brittany Brown

Summary: A curious boy living in a small city apartment finds the world astonishing. He wants to know about light bulbs, inch worms, and rocket ships. Carl sets out on a journey to find answers, but finds bigger, even more powerful questions. Through his research and studies, Carl eventually earns the title of Dr. Carl Sagan and spends his life seeking knowledge and understanding about the universe. This young

boy’s contributions to science and education have inspired many children everywhere to question the world around them. His story will resonate every child who has ever wondered “how” or “why” or spent an evening looking up at the night sky.

Review: I am constantly looking for books which will inspire my students and get them excited about learning. This book, which is brought to life with beautiful illustrations and the great mysteries of the universe, did that for myself as an adult, too. After reading it, everyday life is once again imbued with the magic and novelty it had in childhood. In Sagan’s eyes, there is no phenomenon too mundane to investigate. The curiosity which most adults leave behind drove Sagan to be the lifelong learner that all teachers hope to foster in their students. Reading this book shows that science is all around us, that we all belong here in the universe, and that in everyone there is a scientist. I absolutely loved reading this book, and as a new teacher building my classroom library, this is the first one which I will be purchasing multiple copies of to share with my students.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This story would pair well with any science or biography unit. It would also serve as a great example of narrative nonfiction.

The most obvious use for this story is in a science unit. I would love to use this book to open up a discussion at the beginning of a unit on the solar system. Not only would it generate excitement, it would also begin to build some vocabulary and background knowledge. It would make the information in the unit more personal and relevant to kids, and would be a great launching point to encourage students to come up with their own questions about how the world works.

This book is also a wonderful book to use for mini lessons in writing. Using this book as an example, a teacher could lead a discussion on how to choose which life events to include in a biography, how to sequence and organize it, and how to incorporate quotes from a historical figure into a writing piece. It also shows how to include facts and achievements in an engaging way, and how to demonstrate a person’s impact on history.

Finally, this book would also be a superb example of narrative nonfiction. Despite containing lots of scientific facts, it reads like a storybook and the illustrations do much of the talking. Students will be captivated with the descriptive narration, and discussions could explore their experiences as readers or how they may be able to attempt this style in their writing.

Discussion Questions: What are your big mystery questions? Where would you go to try to find answers to them? What character traits helped Carl on his journey? What impact did he have on the world? Who does he remind you of?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: What Do You Do with an Idea? By Kobi Yamada, I Wonder by Annaka Harris, You Are Stardust by Elin Kelsey, On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Edros by Deborah Heiligman, Look Up!: Henrietta Leavitt, a Pioneering Woman Astronomer by Robert Burleigh

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Thank you, Brittany!

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A Bike Like Sergio’s
Author: Maribeth Boelts
Illustrator: Noah Z. Jones
Published October 4th, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Finders keepers, right? When Ruben picks up someone’s lost money, he finds out how hard it can be to do the right thing.

Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kinds of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. After all, when Ruben’s mom sends him to Sonny’s corner store for groceries, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for everything on the list. So when Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten—it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money? Presenting a relatable story told with subtlety and heart, the creative team behind Those Shoes pairs up again for a satisfying new picture book.

Review: The summary and many of the reviews I’ve seen focus on the aspect that Ruben must learn to make a tough decision in the book: Should he keep the money or give it back? But something else really hit home for me: Ruben is going to be important to many readers because he is going to reflect the socioeconomic status in which they live. Not often is a topic like money issues hit on in a picture book, but Boelts wasn’t afraid to tackle that. 

One thing I talk to my students a lot about is using phrases to make themselves feel like they are doing the right thing like “finders keepers” or “snitches get stitches,” and A Bike Like Sergio’s tackles how using a phrase to justify a wrong-doing affects others.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: One way I picture A Bike Like Sergio’s being used in schools are with counselors in one of their lessons with kids when talking about how to treat others. Many of us get mad when kids act a certain way, but empathy really is something that needs to be taught (research proves it!), so books like Sergio’s will help teach students how actions can affect others and hopefully build empathy within our young students/kids.

Discussion Questions: Why did Ruben consider keeping the money? How would it have affected his family’s life? His life?; Based on the illustrations, how had the losing of $100 affected the woman who lost the money?; Did Ruben do the right thing?

Teachers’ Guide from Candlewick Press

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Talking ethics with kids and books such as Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell, We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller, The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

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