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Explorers
Author and Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Anticipated Publication: September 24, 2019 by Feiwel and Friends

Goodreads Summary: From Caldecott Medalist Matthew Cordell, Explorers is a new picture book about an extraordinary trip to a museum.

When a family goes to a local museum, a boy notices a homeless man sitting outside, making brightly colored origami birds. He convinces his dad to buy a bird the man makes just for him.

Once inside the museum, his little sister takes the bird and launches it into the air. Is it lost? Soon another boy helps him look, and the paper bird brings two families―and two new friends―together.

With the style he used in Wolf in the Snow, Matthew Cordell shows how an ordinary family outing can be both extraordinary and magical.

My Review: Matthew Cordell’s newest picture book is a hit in my house. Explorers tells the story of a boy who finds a homeless man fashioning origami birds outside of a museum. The origami bird brings together two families in a way that is magical—or is it? This one made me think a lot, and I like books that make me think. It is almost wordless with only a couple of words in the entire book, but the pictures tell the story beautifully.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students might enjoy debating whether the actions in the book are reflective of magic or not. Teachers might also group students and have each tell the story based on the pictures. They could talk about how their interpretations were or were not different.

Discussion Questions: Who was the man beside the road? What is his role in the family?; How does the main character change throughout the book? What does he learn?

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Read This If You Love:  Journey by Aaron Becker, Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell, The Girl and the Bicycle by Mark Pett

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Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Published: October 1, 2019 by Philomel Books

GoodReads Summary: A portrait of love, silence, and secrets under a Spanish dictatorship.

Madrid, 1957. Under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, Spain is hiding a dark secret. Meanwhile, tourists and foreign businessmen flood into Spain under the welcoming promise of sunshine and wine. Among them is eighteen-year-old Daniel Matheson, the son of an oil tycoon, who arrives in Madrid with his parents hoping to connect with the country of his mother’s birth through the lens of his camera. Photography–and fate–introduce him to Ana, whose family’s interweaving obstacles reveal the lingering grasp of the Spanish Civil War–as well as chilling definitions of fortune and fear. Daniel’s photographs leave him with uncomfortable questions amidst shadows of danger. He is backed into a corner of difficult decisions to protect those he loves. Lives and hearts collide, revealing an incredibly dark side to the sunny Spanish city.

Includes vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more.

My Review: This book rocked me. It is so beautifully written, and I felt so lucky to be able to share it with others at NCTE this year. Because I have so many teaching ideas for this book, I am organizing this post a bit differently and focusing on many more teaching tools than usual. I hope that the information below helps other teachers use this book in their classrooms. It is so worthy of being read, studied, and loved.

Inquiry to Consider the Complexity of The Fountains of Silence:

The Connection of People: Ana, Daniel, Rafa, Fuga, Julia, Puri
“Some friendships are born of commonality. Others of proximity. And some friendships, often the unlikely ones, are born of survival” (p. 53).

Place as Character
The Castellana Hilton Madrid and Madrid
“After all, a hotel is a house of secrets” (p. 171).
“Madrid’s soil is untender, strong, and enduring like many who walk upon it” (p. 457).

Gender Norms
“Estamos más guapas con la boca cerrada. We are prettier with our mouths shut” (p. 240, 243, 300).

Social Class
“What lies outside the country’s borders is untouchable for families like hers” (p. 47).

Family Responsibility
“Julia needs the wages to feed her family and pay their debts” (p. 63).
“The family business needs you” (p. 82).

Human resilience
“It’s warrior skin, very strong” (p. 113)

Secrets
“There is a category of unspeakable things, a dark drawer where inexpressible truths live in exile” (p. 240).

Dreams
“Ana is tired of silence, tired of unanswered questions, and tired of secrets. A girl of patched pieces, she dreams of new beginnings. She dreams of leaving Spain” (p. 24).

Fountains of Silence
Analysis of the power of the title. Whose stories are heard? Whose are silenced?

Culminating Project Idea: Multigenre Inquiry Project
The Fountains of Silence is story which uses layered writing to illuminate the fear and terror that people experienced under Franco’s fascist regime. The novel reveals the brute strength and resilience of the people during the time period. Select a time and place in history to research. Consider researching a time and place which is deeply connected with your own story. Read the narratives of the people and develop a multigenre project which reflects your learning. You might include fictional narratives of stories you create, nonfiction excerpts that you find in your research, a photo essay which includes photos you find in your research. Whatever the final form, your culminating project should include various types of writing and media and demonstrate your knowledge about the time and place you selected to research.

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Bedtime for Sweet Creatures
Author: Nikki Grimes; Illustrator: Elizabeth Zunon
Published January 1, 2020 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Goodreads Summary: It’s bedtime. But Mommy’s little one is not sleepy.

He growls like a bear, he questions like an owl, he tosses his mane like a lion. He hunts for water like a sly wolf, and hides like a snake.

Mommy needs to wrangle her sweet creature in bed so that the whole family can sleep. From tigers to squirrels to snakes, the little boy dodges around his bedtime, until he is tired enough to finally sleep. His imaginative animal friends weave their way through the illustrations, eventually joining him in curling up for the night.

My Review: The rhythm of this book is palpable. As a mother of three children six and under, I identified whole-heartedly with the mother of this book. She just wants her child to go to bed. As the child attempts sleep, he morphs into different animals (a lion, a tiger, an owl!). The book displays bedtime in ways that parents will identify with. Teachers will love using this book to teach metaphor and sound in story. 

My three-year-old’s review: “I like the squirrel and the koala a lot! I liked all of the aminals. [sic]”

My six-year-old’s review: “I like how his mom and his dad are trying to get him to sleep at night. I like how it is night-time in the book and the colors of the book make it feel like it is night-time.”

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The ways in which Grimes uses sound and metaphor is very intriguing and quite teachable. I spent a significant amount of time thinking about the almost-anthropomorphism of the text. The animals are given human characteristics of the child. But the child is actually given animal characteristics. This is zoomorphism, right? I would love to have this kind of study and debate with students. So cool!

Discussion Questions: What animals does the child act like? How does the author choose qualities of the child to connect them with animals?; Choose another animal not within the book. How might the child act like this animal at bedtime, too?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime by Cate Berry; Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise BrownGoodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discussion Questions: 

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

Flagged Passages: CHAPTER ONE: FRANNY’S HOUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Snail & Worm All Day
Author and Illustrator: Tina Kügler
Published September 24th, 2019 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary: Snail and Worm go on three silly adventures in this early reader chock full of heartfelt humor and irresistible illustrations. By Geisel Honor winner Tina Kügler.

Snail and Worm are back at it and sure to have readers giggling from dawn ’til dusk (wait—do snails and worms sleep?) in Snail and Worm All Day, complete with heartfelt humor and Tina Kügler’s irresistible illustrations.

Brimming with laugh-out-loud jokes, these three new stories are sweet celebrations of cooperation and discovery.

About the Author: Author-illustrator Tina Kügler lives in the Los Angeles area with her artist husband and three sons. When she is not making picture books, she can be found trying to befriend snails and worms in her backyard.www.tinakugler.squarespace.com Twitter: @tinatheatre Instagram: @kuglertina

Praise: ★ “All day, every day, is a good time for reading about Snail and Worm….Run (faster than Snail ever could) to get a copy of this winning early reader.”—Kirkus, STARRED review

“[N]ew readers should feel supported in their efforts while being continually entertained.”—The Horn Book

Kügler’s clever, off-kilter stories are enhanced by colorful, expressive cartoon illustrations that give strong textual support….This latest Snail and Worm book is a strong addition to all early reader collections and a surefire hit with children and their adults.”—Booklist

“The friendly and cheerful cartoon illustrations effectively enhance the story’s sweet humor.”—School Library Journal

Review: As Trent has entered this world of early chapter and transitional books, I have been so lucky to learn about some amazing books out there, and I was so happy to get introduced to Snail and Worm with this book, and we cannot wait to read the rest of the series.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Each of the three stories has a different chance to dig deep during a read aloud. The first story looks at how one bad thing doesn’t need to affect the entire day, the second story looks at habitats and contradictions, and the final story looks at creating a narrative.

Discussion Questions: 

  • When you are having a bad day, what can you think about to make you feel better?
  • What is a time that you thought something was different than what it was?
  • What are the similarities and differences between Snail and Worm? Why do you think they are friends?
  • How was snail a contradiction in the second story?
  • Who is your best friend?
  • Which of the three stories was your favorite? Why?
  • What is a lesson that you learned from the book?
  • How would the stories change if they were only from Snail’s point of view? Worm’s?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Elephant & Piggie, Frog & Toad, Fox & Chick, and other fun duos

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**Thank you to Jessica at HMH for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also look inside the book HERE.

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

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Bob Ross and Peapod the Squirrel
Author: Robb Pearlman
Illustrator: Bob Ross with Jason Kayser
Published October 8th, 2019 by Running Press Kids

Summary: Bob Ross paints a stunning home for his squirrel friend, Peapod, in this delightful nod to a painter icon.

This is the sweet story of a painter (Bob Ross) who helps his squirrel friend, Peapod, find the perfect home to live in. Bob paints an actual Ross painting, “Meadow Lake,” in this charming tale about helping friends and embracing the serenity of life. Bob, along with Peapod, go through the various steps and processes to painting, including praising those “happy little accidents” that happen along the way.

About the Creators: Robb Pearlman is the author of many books, including Groundhog’s Day Off, Raggedy Ann and Andy: Leaf Dance, and Passover is Here! Today, his favorite color is blue, but it may be purple tomorrow! He grew up in New York City and now lives in a white and green house in New Jersey with his husband and Oscar, the butterscotch-colored best puppy in the world.

Bob Ross — artist, painting instructor, and television personality — has for decades charmed and inspired the world with his matchless look, signature style, and words of wisdom and encouragement.

Review: This picture book definitely captures the whimsy and gentleness of Bob Ross. Anyone who has ever watched his show knows that Bob just loves creating things and making something beautiful. He always continues even through (happy little) mistakes and other obstacles, and his work is always something that takes the viewers’ breath away. I think it was very smart of the publishers to use an actual Bob Ross painting in the text because it is like the cherry on top. That, with the addition of his fun pet Peapod, really brings Bob’s personality to the book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This text would be a wonderful book to use to compare a written work with a televised work. Students could look at what ways the book captures Bob Ross’s personality, style, speech, etc.

Additionally, the book ends with instructions on paint and supplies for readers to recreate the painting made in the book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What Bob Ross phrases did the author include?
  • How did the inclusion of Peapod change what the story would have been without him?
  • What type of person do you think Bob Ross is based on how he instructs?
  • What do you think Bob Ross would tell you about accidents or mistakes?
  • How did Bob Ross create the image with only white, brown, green, blue, yellow, and crimson?
  • What words would you use to describe Peapod’s personality? Bob Ross’s?

Flagged Passages: 

But don’t worry–Bob Ross always embraces happy little accidents! And it turns out beautifully:

Read This If You Love: Bob Ross, Art, The Masterpiece by Jay Miletsky, Henri’s Scissors by Jeanette Winter, Paint Me a Picture by Emily Bannister

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**Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy for review**

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