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We are in a global pandemic—more people are dying daily than on 9/11. This means, we are teaching, and kids are learning, in a time of crisis.

We’ve been observing my fellow educators (teachers and parents alike) during this pandemic, and we have noticed that so many feel the pressure to continue as normal as much as possible; however, as more areas are deemed uninhabitable and unsafe, more adults lose jobs, and more kids are questioning their needs related to Maslow’s Hierarchy, we call for us to stop what our normal was because our normal is misguided for this situation. (We won’t even get started on the misguided aspects of our “normal” education system in general right now…)

To all educator adults (teachers, administrators, librarians, and parents/guardians):

It’s okay to…

  • not get to every assignment you had planned for the school year.
  • not follow the scope and sequence you originally had planned.
  • just have well-being conversations with kids instead of talking about content.
  • accept late work.
  • pause that absent policy you valued.
  • give less work.
  • listen to excuses right now—they’re probably reasons.
  • let students guide instruction.
  • allow students a chance to just chat with each other.
  • have kids’ screen time be at an all time high.
  • focus less on standards (we have grave concerns with how standards are implemented in schools anyways!).
  • give choice in learning.
  • not master online teaching (because this is not online teaching at its best).
  • seek other’s advice and use their ideas (with their permission).
  • focus on depth and spend the next several months working on one intensive project (that uses the outdoors, if possible).
  • be forgiving of ourselves and each other in general.
  • be honest with our students/kids about our own fears (at an age-appropriate level).
  • show mistakes and learning curves.
  • have some fun with your kids because they may be drowning in fear and anxiety.
  • not get this right; no one will get this perfectly right.
  • take a break if you or your family needs the break. 
  • cry.
  • teach with empathy and grace. https://medium.com/@gross_75366/crisis-teaching-with-empathy-and-grace-891850a635a8 
  • [Insert what we are missing in the comments. We know we are missing a lot here.]

Actually, all of this is more than just okay,

Be patient with the kids in your lives and, more importantly, be patient with yourselves. 

and

 
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Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence
Author: Jacqueline Jules
Illustrator: Iris Deppe
Published April 1st, 2020 by Albert Whitman & Company

Summary: Whether just trying out for the team or reaching for the Olympics, there’s something for every reader in this playful poetry collection! From baseball, basketball, and football to double-dutch, mini-golf, and turning a cartwheel, these poems look at facing fears, dreaming big, and never giving up. This well-rounded collection explores sports and play across all abilities and backgrounds.

About the Author: Jacqueline Jules has been writing poems since middle school. Her poetry has been published in over a hundred publications. She is also the author of more than forty books for young readers, including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, and Duck for Turkey Day. She lives in northern Virginia and enjoys giving poetry workshops to students, teachers, and anyone else who loves poetry as much as she does. To learn more, and to download free classroom materials, visit her online at jacquelinejules.com.

Praise: 

“Jules presents a plethora of possibilities as the theme of children at play provides the structure for a collection of poems that encourage and applaud. . . . Fun and games, with something deeper to think about.” —Kirkus

“If you are looking for lighthearted, joyous, and youthful poems about childhood, this is the perfect selection for your bookshelves.” —Booklist

Review: Happy National Poetry Month! To celebrate, I knew I had to highlight this wonderful poetry book for two reasons:

1) It combines playing and poetry which will help with the engagement of reading poetry. It also teaches great lessons.

2) During this time of sheltering in place, play and persistence are both things we definitely need to encourage!

Jacqueline Jules does such a fantastic job with adapting each poem to the activity she is writing about and the fun illustrations by Iris Deppe bring the play to life. This is a poem book I recommend specifically now but also for all classrooms to use and have to explore this playful poetry.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: While Jules’s book represents many playground and outdoor activities, it doesn’t include everything. Have students write their own poems of play about the activity they love to do the most. To challenge them, ask them to put a conflict in the poem that must be overcome, so the poem includes a lesson of persistence.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Pick one of the activities written about that you have never done (that is reasonable to do). Do it then write a journal reflecting what it was like–maybe even try writing a poem about it!
  • Find examples of figurative language, such as imagery or personification, in one of Jules’s poems.
  • Which poem’s activity did you connect with the most?
  • Which poem’s lesson did you connect with the most?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Poetry, Sports

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Giveaway!: 

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

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In My Heart
Author: Mackenzie Porter
Illustrator: Jenny Løvlie
Published March 10, 2020 by Little Simon

Goodreads Summary: A working mother reassures her child that even when they’re apart, they’re always in each other’s hearts. This lovely board book is perfect for moms to share with their little ones.

Though we’re not together
we’re never truly apart,
because you’re always on my mind
and you’re always in my heart.

This is what a mother tells her child as she leaves for work each day. This lovely board book perfectly captures the sentiment that many women feel about being a working mom. The lyrical text takes us through a mother’s day away, showing us that although she’s working hard, her child is always on her mind and always in her heart.

Ricki’s Review: This book really hit me in the gut. I couldn’t read it without crying. I have a lot of mom guilt related to my status as a working mom. I genuinely believe that it is best for my kids, yet I struggle with the emotions that come with this decision. This book was as much for my kids as it was for me. There are many books that address concepts like going to school or learning to meet new people, but this is the first book that I’ve read that addresses the concept of working moms (particularly at this age level). I will cherish this book and read it to my children again and again.

Kellee’s Review: As a working mom, mom guilt is real. It is hard when I cannot come and be a reader in Trent’s class every time or be part of all celebrations in his classroom, but I also love working; however, there are very few books that reinforce the normality of this situation. As Simon & Schuster shares, 70% of moms are working moms, so there are so many of us that need this book to read to our children to explain that work is part of our life but that they get the opportunity to be in an awesome school situation while we are doing a job we love and need. And no matter what we love them! The author and illustrator do a great job of showing that balance. Thank you to them both for bringing this book to life!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ricki is purchasing an extra copy of this book for her kids’ daycare/preschool. It is a great book for early childhood educators to use. Children might draw pictures of the emotions that they experience before, during, and after reading this book.

Discussion Questions: How do you feel when your parent goes to work? Why? What might you do to cope with these feelings?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn; Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney; Stella Luna by Janell Cannon

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The Memory Book: A Grief Journal for Children and Families
Author: Joanna Rowland;  Illustrator: Thea Baker
Published: January 14, 2020 by Beaming Books

You might recognize the book which inspired this journal, The Memory Box: A Book About Grief:

The child in the book generates a box of mementoes of a loved one she lost. It’s a magnificent book that encourages children to generate boxes of mementoes of their own loved ones. We recommend it highly–particularly for children who are experiencing loss. This book inspired the grief journal, The Memory Book.

Goodreads Summary of The Memory Book: I will always remember you . . .Joanna Rowland’s best-selling The Memory Box: A Book about Grief has helped thousands of children and families work through the complex emotions that arise after the loss of a loved one. Now, with The Memory Book, Rowland has created a beautiful grief journal to help readers put her methods into practice. The Memory Book helps grieving families process their emotions together by remembering their lost loved one and creating their own memory album full of photos and keepsakes of the person they lost. With gentle prompts and ideas for journaling, drawing, and talking through grief, this journal will bring comfort in the midst of loss and be a keepsake for families for years to come.

Rowland discusses the process of writing The Memory Box:

“In writing The Memory Box, a book about grief, there were three people and their families that I was thinking about. In 2014, a relative that was meant to get my first published book Always Mom, Forever Dad (a positive picture book on divorce) lost her father suddenly a month before the book’s publication. I knew she needed a different type of book, and that’s when I knew I needed to write a picture book on grief. When I first found out her dad had passed away, I saw a photo of her holding her dad’s hand on the beach with the waves coming toward them. That image stayed with me. I knew somehow that I wanted to make a nod toward that scene in my writing. At the time, I had no idea what that story was going to be. I tried a couple of different ways to write about grief. My first attempt was a nature poem. But when thinking about how I would help a young child through grief, eventually the idea of a memory box came.

I was also thinking about my childhood friend, Scott, who was also gone too soon. He studied birds and had such a sweet soul. I have some sweet memories growing up with him. He’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

During the two years I spent writing about grief, we lost Marisa to cancer. I had coached her in synchronized swimming for years, and she swam with my niece and older daughters. It was heartbreaking. Marisa was so full of life with the most contagious smile.

All of these people were gone much too soon. These families had lost a father, a son, an only child, a daughter and a sister.

I had to get this story right. I think going through grief and taking my youngest to her first funeral at age six, helped me find a way to talk about death with my youngest and find the heart of the story. It still took me over two years to get the story right.

Grief is hard. Everyone has his or her journey with it. Allow yourself to grieve however you need to. There is no right or wrong way. There are support groups out there and other resources to help. Grief can be hard to communicate. I hope The Memory Box can be a tool to foster conversations and help keep the memories of your loved ones alive. The book also includes a guide in back that discusses ways to talk to your child about grief.

For anyone struggling with grief, my thoughts are with you.”

Ricki’s Review: I often see posts on parent forums in which folks are requesting books about grief. There are some amazing books out there, particularly Rowland’s bestselling picture book The Memory Box. Yet I have never seen a journal about this topic. I was intrigued and really looking forward to reviewing it. When I cracked the cover, it took my breath away. The pages are stunning, and the prompts are incredibly thoughtful. This book is one that I will recommend again and again to parents/teachers who are seeking to talk about grief with children. It allows children to negotiate with the many emotions that come with grief and celebrate the people they are grieving. I am so grateful that this book exists in the world.

Kellee’s Review: My son suffered a huge amount of loss this last summer: 3 pets (ours and my in-law’s who we live next door to) and his grandfather, my father-in-law. As a mom, I was lost at how to help him through this time, mostly as I was figuring out how to navigate the grief as well. In the end, Trent has done extremely well emotionally for the tough time we went through! However, he definitely still talks often about his lost loved ones, so when I saw this book, I knew it was one that I would want to share with him because I truly believe that the best way to deal with loss is to talk about it. The Memory Box and The Memory Book are perfect jumping off points for discussing memories of lost loved ones with kids. It is a healthy way to navigate such a tough time! I am thankful books like this exist to help their kids when loss impacts their lives.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Last semester, I (Ricki) asked my students (teacher educators) to describe a moment in their schooling in which they thought their teachers were wrong. One student shared that she was still deeply impacted by the death of a student during her middle school year. She said the teachers never spoke about the student’s death, which made it harder. This book offers thoughtful prompts that teachers can use in their classrooms (and that parents can use with their children).

Discussion Questions: Which prompts do you find most inspiring? Why?; Which prompts were harder to write? Why?; How did you feel as you wrote about your loved one?

Check Out the Beautiful Pages:

 

Read This If You Loved: The Memory Box: A Book about Grief by Joanna Rowland; The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros; What a Beautiful Morning by Arthur A. Levine; Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan; Still My Grandma by Veronique Van Den Abeele, Really and Truly by Emilie Rivard; Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox; What’s Happening to Grandpa? by Maria Shriver

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing copies of the books for review!**

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Rosie: Stronger Than Steel
Author and Illustrator: Lindsay Ward
Expected Publication: April 1st, 2020 by Two Lions

Summary: A brave tractor farms for freedom in a story inspired by women who acted with courage and strength in American factories and on British farms during World War II.

This is our Rosie,
stronger than steel.
She’ll plow all the land
with a turn of her wheel.

Built by women in the United States and sent to England to dig and plow alongside female farmers during World War II, Rosie the tractor does whatever is needed to support the war effort. She works day and night to help grow crops for the troops…even when she has to hide in the fields. This is because she knows, like the women who built her and the women who farm with her, that they all must do their part.

Inspired by the group of American women collectively known as “Rosie the Riveter” and the British Women’s Land Army, this is a story about taking action and coming together for the greater good.

About the Author: Lindsay Ward is the creator of the Dexter T. Rexter series as well as This Book Is Gray, Brobarians, Rosco vs. the Baby, and The Importance of Being 3. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play. Lindsay lives with her family  in Peninsula, Ohio, where she often sees tractors from the 1930s and 1940s. Learn more about her online at www.lindsaymward.com. Twitter: @lindsaymward

Praise: 

★“More than the sum of its parts, this is a wildly successful and well-researched shaping of the picture-book form to true historical sheroes.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

★“This ‘little tractor that could’ sort of tale pays tribute to the iconic Rosie the Riveter persona from the US and the British Land Girls of the Women’s Land Army during WWII. Fans of Loren Long’s Otis, Virginia Lee Burton’s Katy, and like sturdy, dependable workhorses will welcome Rosie into the fold, but the historical perspective adds an unusual dimension to her story.” —Booklist (starred review)

“Vocabulary is rich, and the younger set will appreciate the intermittent rhymes. The style of Ward’s colored pencil and cut-paper illustrations reflect the period of the tale. ” —School Library Journal

Review: During World War II, our students’ lessons usually focus on the war itself and the horrific events because of the war, but there was so much more going on to ensure that our countries continued to run while all of our armed forces were at war. We don’t often enough hear about how women were essential to this effort, and Rosie shows us another side to this. Rosie represents not only the tractors made by women who helped keep our plants and crops healthy and edible, but she represents all women that stepped up to do jobs that before then they had been told they were not good enough for. This story, beautifully crafted and illustrated by Lindsay Ward, is a call for strength whenever faced with unprecedented times.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Rosie is a great addition to history lessons about World War II and the home front efforts of women. Her story is also a great read aloud–maybe during Women’s History Month, or whenever!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Did you know anything about what happened on the home front before reading Rosie?
  • How does Rosie the tractor represent the women’s work on the home front?
  • How does Rosie impact the war effort?
  • What does the Rose on her body represent?
  • What is the theme of Rosie?
  • Why do you think the author wrote the book from Rosie’s point of view in first person?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Historical fiction picture books, Learning about history

Recommended For: 

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Giveaway!: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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I Like Animals…What Jobs Are There?
Author: Steve Martin
Illustrator: Roberto Blefari
Published March 1st, 2020 by Kane Miller Books

Summary: What do you want to do when you grow up? Children who love animals can find out all about potential future careers, from veterinarian to zookeeper to pet portrait artist, as they’re taken through a “day in the life” of 25 different animal workers.

Praise: 

Review: This book was written for so many kids out there! If any of you are librarians or teachers, you know how popular nonfiction animal books are. There are so few kids out there that don’t love animals! My son is one of those kids that adores animals and already says that he wants to be a zoologist and work with turtles, so when I saw this book, I knew I had to get it for him. What I love about the book (and the series I hope it is!) is that it gives options that kids may not know they have. Trent’s first thought for working with animals is working at a zoo, but there is so much more than that which he can choose from.

Each job’s section is really well done! It is written in first person from the point of view of the professional and includes fun yet truthful information, including the best and worst parts. Then, in the back, there is a flow map that helps kids see which job might be their perfect match, and there’s even back matter with more jobs. What a way to open up a kid’s imagination for the future!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: My first thought was that this book could be an awesome mentor text for creating a similar type pamphlet. Students could pick something like sports, technology, children, etc. and make a pamphlet about what jobs are out there. This would be a great research project.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Before reading: What jobs do you know of that include working with animals?; After reading: Add to the list.
  • Which job do you think would work the best with your personality and work ethic?
  • Any jobs that you are interested in that weren’t in the book?
  • Why do you think the author chose to write each section in 1st person?
  • Why do you think the author wrote this book?
  • Compare/contrast two of the jobs in the book.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Aninimals

Recommended For: 

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

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Eat the Cake
Author: M. H. Clark
Illustrator: Jana Glatt
Published February 1, 2020 by Compendium

Summary:It’s your day to be wild and fearless and free. It’s your day for becoming the next thing you’ll be. Though today is your party, it doesn’t stop here–it should keep right on going and last you all year.

Roll out the streamers, blow up the balloons, and celebrate all the great things that are coming your way! With its colorful cast of characters, delightfully detailed illustrations, and playful rhymes, this festive book will ignite good feelings for birthdays and any occasion where cake is appropriate. (And cake is always appropriate!) A fun and joyfilled gift for anyone ages 5 to 105. Features a hardcover with embossing.

Review: We all need to celebrate ourselves! This book gives readers the perfect excuse to do so! This is a very motivational text that reminds readers all of the reasons that they should be proud and happy to be themselves. Readers will come away from this book wanting to try new things and go to new places. This book would make a WONDERFUL gift to readers of all ages. Folks tend to buy the Oh, the Places You’ll Go book, but Eat the Cake offers something new and fresh (and something that another relative might not buy!). 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: If I was still teaching K-12 and had the means to do so, I would buy this book for every single one of my students at graduation. It would make a wonderful read aloud for the last day. I don’t think I could read this to my exiting students without crying! I will be purchasing this treasure for my graduate assistants. 🙂

Book Spreads! Book Spreads!:

Read This If You Loved: Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, Inspirational Books

Recommended For:

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

And we conclude with a PARTY!:

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