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Barkus: Dog Dreams
Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrator: Marc Boutavant
Published: August 7th, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Barkus is back! With new tricks. New friends. And lots more fun.

The lovable Barkus and his lucky young owner romp through the pages of this delightful series from Newbery Medal–winning author Patricia MacLachlan. The simple text told in short chapters is just right for children ready to take their first steps toward reading on their own.

View my post about Barkus to learn about book one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for the Barkus series:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Barkus on Chronicle Book’s Barkus Book 2 page.

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Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11
Author: Brian Floca
Published April 7, 2009 by Atheneum

Summary: Simply told, grandly shown, here is the flight of Apollo 11. Here for a new generation of readers and explorers are the steady astronauts, clicking themselves into gloves and helmets, strapping themselves into sideways seats. Here are their great machines in all their detail and monumentality, the ROAR of rockets, and the silence of the Moon. Here is a story of adventure and discovery—a story of leaving and returning during the summer of 1969, and a story of home, seen whole, from far away.

Praise:

“Like the astronauts’ own photographs, [Floca’s] expansive, heart-stopping images convey the unfathomable beauty of both the bright, dusty moon and the blue jewel of Earth.” –New York Times Book Review, July 1, 2019

Ricki’s Review: I thought I knew a lot about the Apollo 11. This book made me realize that I had so much to learn. My sons and I cuddled in one of their beds and read this one together. I whisper-read it because it felt too beautiful to read in a voice that was any louder. My kids followed this model and whisper-asked questions in awe. This book is a masterpiece. There are so many books out there about the Apollo 11, and although I haven’t read them all, I feel confident when I say that this is the best on out there. The illustrations are captivating, the story includes just the right amount of science, and the words dance on the pages.

Kellee’s Review: I love reading about space and have read dozens and dozens of picture books with my son about the topic. This book stands out from the rest. Brian Floca masterfully creates a story that is both engaging and scientifically accurate. This book offers so many possibilities for the classroom for teachers. The words are written in a poetic format which makes the pages easy to read and an excellent balance with the stunning illustrations. If you read just one book about the Apollo 11 this summer, let it be this one. It will knock you off of your feet.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Our minds were buzzing with possibilities after reading this text. Teachers might use this book at the center of a unit on space, or they might use it to catapult students into research studies about any topic of science. We can see this book in classrooms from pre-k through high school. It could be used as a creative writing mentor text or as a text at the start of a high school science unit. It beautifully balances scientific information with narrative, so we think it would be incredibly appealing to teachers of all content areas and grade levels.

 Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn about the Apollo 11?
  • How is the information in this book similar or different from what you already knew about the Apollo 11?
  • Why do you think the author chose the poetic format for the words?
  • How do the illustrations add to your understanding of the text?

Flagged Spread: 

Read This If You Love: Moon by Stacy McAnultyThe Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk, Once Upon a Star by James Carter, Space Encyclopedia by David AguilarYou Choose In Space by Pippa GoodhartA Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin, Star Stuff by Stephanie Roth Sisson

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**Thank you to Audrey at Simon & Schuster for providing copies of the book for review!!**

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From an Idea to… is a new nonfiction biography series that takes young readers into the world of entrepreneurship through the stories of how our favorite companies came to be. Each book begins with the founder as a child and brings kids through the journey of starting a company from an IDEA to one of the biggest brands in the world. From an Idea to… reveals fun facts about the brands we love, introduces new business terms in easy-to-understand definitions, and includes humor on every page with graphic novel-like black & white illustrations from C. S. Jennings.

Author: Lowey Bundy Sichol
Illustrator: C.S. Jennings
From an Idea to Disney and From an Idea to Nike Published February 12, 2019
From an Idea to Lego and From an Idea to Google Published July 9, 2019

From an Idea to Disney: How Branding Made Disney a Household Name Summary: From an Idea to Disney is a behind-the-movie-screen look into the history, business, and brand of the world’s largest entertainment empire. With humorous black & white illustrations throughout, learn about the company behind the world’s favorite mouse, Mickey!

“I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by a mouse.” —Walt Disney

Today, the Walt Disney Company is the biggest entertainment company in the world with theme parks, TV shows, movie studios, merchandise, the most recognizable cartoon character in the world, Mickey Mouse. But a long time ago, brothers Walt and Roy Disney started out with just an idea. Find out more about Disney’s history, the business, and the brand in this illustrated nonfiction book!

Find out what Walt first intended to name his famous mouse. (Hint: It wasn’t Mickey!)Discover behind-the-scenes magic of how Walt Disney World is run.Explore the ways the Disney expanded its brand from a little mouse into media, merchandise, and more!

From an Idea to Nike: How Marketing Made Nike a Global Success Summary: From an Idea to Nike is a fully-illustrated look into how Nike stepped up its sneaker game to become the most popular athletic brand in the world. Humorous black & white illustrations throughout.

Ever wonder how Nike became the athletics empire it is today? From an Idea to Nike digs into the marketing campaigns and strategy that turned this running-shoe company into the outfitter for many athletes as well as the iconic American brand. With infographics and engaging visuals throughout, this behind-the-scenes look into the historical and business side of Nike will be an invaluable resource for kids interested in what makes this business run.

Find out where the name Nike came from and how the famous swoosh became the signature logo.Learn about the company’s first marketing campaign with a star athlete. (Hint: It wasn’t Michael Jordan!) Explore the ways Nike expanded marketing from running to basketball, soccer, golf, and beyond!

From an Idea to Lego: The Building Bricks Behind the World’s Largest Toy Company Summary: For fans of the successful Who Was series, From an Idea to Lego is a behind-the-bricks look into the world’s famous toy company, with humorous black & white illustrations throughout.

Today, LEGO is one of the biggest toy companies in the world, but a long time ago, a Danish carpenter, Ole Kirk Christiansen, started with just an idea. Find out more about LEGO’s origins, those famous bricks, and their other inventive toys and movie ventures in this illustrated nonfiction book!

Find out the origin the name “LEGO.” (Hint: it combines two Danish words) See how LEGO grew from a carpentry shop to a multi-platform toy company.Discover how LEGO bricks are made and how they came up with their design.

From an Idea to Google: How Innovation at Google Changed the World Summary: From an Idea to Google is a behind-the-computer-screen look into the history, business, and brand of the world’s largest search engine. With humorous black & white illustrations throughout, learn about the company that even earned its own catchphrase: Google it!

Today, Google is the number one internet search engine and the most visited website in the world. But a long time ago, two college friends, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, started out with just an idea. Find out more about Google’s history, the business, and the brand in this illustrated nonfiction book!

Find out where the name “Google” came from. (Hint: It involves a LOT of zeros!)

Discover how Google became the fastest and most popular internet search engine of all time.

Explore how Google transformed from a tiny startup (in someone’s garage!) into one of the most powerful companies in the world.

About the Author: Lowey Bundy Sichol is the author and creator of From an Idea to…, the world’s first business biographies for kids. She is also the founder and principal of Case Marketing, a specialized writing firm that composes MBA case studies for business schools. Her MBA case studies have been published by Pearson and are read by business school students all over the world.

With over 20 years combined experience in marketing, brand management, and writing, Lowey is the force behind the From an Idea to…, a movement that introduces business and entrepreneurship to children. Lowey received her MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and her BA from Hamilton College where she played varsity softball and women’s rugby. When she’s not writing, you can find her throwing a ball, shooting hoops, or along the shores of Lake Michigan with her husband, three children, and two big goofy dogs who like to climb trees. Look for her online at loweysichol.com.

Praise:

“Inspirational Fare.”  – Kirkus Reviews

“This enjoyable informational text is a great purchase for schools.” – School Library Journal

“Inspiring, honest and interesting. From an Idea to… books are the kind of books that create young entrepreneurs and inventors. It clearly illustrates the road to success, the good and the bad. Kids will be inspired to believe that anything is truly possible. They will also learn that things will not just be handed to them. Rather things they really want will take work, will be earned and that in the end all that hard work and perseverance will pay off! I love this series SO much!” – Mrs. Mommy Book Nerd Book Reviews

“There was much to love about this book! While there are books that are in the “Who was/ What was” series, this series is a wonderful concept in bringing biographies and business thinking together. … With simple language, a manner of story telling approach almost, the author introduces concepts of grass-root marketing , patents, market research and innovation.” – StackingBooks.com

“Young readers, especially those who have an entrepreneur spirit, will enjoy reading.” – Kristi’s Book Nook

“This is a fun, informative series that introduces young readers to the world of business, entrepreneurship, and marketing through easily understood and nicely presented concepts and the exciting histories of some of the biggest companies in the world.” – Word Spelunking Blog

”If you have nonfiction readers that have an interest in how business or brands work, stick a toe into the water and put a few of these into your collection.” – Mom Read It blog

“A fast and informative read, From an Idea to Nike would be a great fit for middle-graders who are interested in Nike, biographies, business, and pop culture. Even kids marginally interested in any of these topics will likely find the book to be accessible and engaging.” – Glass of Wine, Glass of Milk blog

“Nonfiction can be so fascinating. I really enjoyed this one (From an Idea to LEGO) and would recommend it to just about anyone and everyone…. This book goes beyond that simple story of how it came to be. It also includes plenty of informational text that focuses on business and economics.” – Becky’s Book Blog

“I learned a lot about businesses and marketing from these books but it was in a FUN way! I love books where you can learn in a fun way.” – Studio B on YouTube

“With From an Idea to… Lowey Bundy Sichol has brought all her years of experience writing case studies and text material for the world’s biggest selling MBA marketing textbook, Marketing Management, to bring to life business for an entirely different audience – kids!  Lowey knows what makes companies tick and how they became successful and she shares those lessons in a fun and engaging way to little budding entrepreneurs and our next generation of business leaders.  Lowey makes learning about the potentially complex world business informative easy and enjoyable for kids.” – Kevin Lane Keller, E.B. Osborn Professor of Marketing, Tuck School of Business, Dartmouth College

“Lowey’s research is impressive and her clear, engaging style perfectly explains to young readers the stories of these companies. She describes the creative process as well as the business principles involved in the creation of America’s most successful companies. Her “Fun Facts” and the abundant illustrations will further engage readers. From an Idea to… will be a welcome, enjoyable addition to books on business for young people, and will also serve to inspire the nation’s budding entrepreneurs and future business leaders.” – Cynthia Richey, 2013 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award, from the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This series will be perfect to add to nonfiction collections for teachers of middle grade readers! Fans of the “big head” biographies will really love this new series that focuses on businesses and their successes in the same informative and entertaining way. These books will definitely influence our future entrepreneurs and has a great focus on STEAM and business ed. A must purchase for classroom, school, and public libraries!

One way that I see this book being used in the classroom is lit circles/book clubs because students could be grouped to read one of the books in the series then create a presentation to share what they learned about the company.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do all four companies have in common when it comes to becoming successful?
  • What do all four founders have in common when it comes to founding a successful company?
  • How did ____ change the industry they are part of?

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**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing copies for review!**

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Sonny’s Bridge: Jazz Legend Sonny Rollins Finds His Groove
Author: Barry Wittenstein
Illustrator: Keith Mallett
Published May 21st, 2019 by Charlesbridge Publishing

Summary: This groovy, bebopping picture book biography chronicles the legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins’s search for inspiration on the Williamsburg Bridge after quitting the jazz scene in 1959.

Rollins is one of the most prolific sax players in the history of jazz, but, in 1959, at the height of his career, he vanished from the jazz scene. His return to music was an interesting journey–with a long detour on the Williamsburg Bridge. Too loud to practice in his apartment, Rollins played on the New York City landmark for two years among the cacophony of traffic and the stares of bystanders, leading to the release of his album, The Bridge.

Written in rhythmic prose with a bebop edge, this picture-book biography of Sonny Rollins’s journey to get his groove back will delight young and old fans alike.

About the Author: Barry Wittenstein has worked at CBS Records, CBS News, and was a web editor and writer for Major League Baseball. He is now a New York City elementary-school substitute teacher and children’s author. He is the author of The Boo-Boos That Changed the World: The True Story About an Accidental Invention (Really!) and Waiting for Pumpsie. Barry lives in the Bronx.

About the Illustrator: Keith Mallett studied art at Hunter College in New York City. Keith’s work was commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s historic breakthrough into major league baseball, has graced the cover of Chicken Soup for the African American Soul, and has been featured in many movies and TV shows. He is the illustrator of Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee and How Jelly Roll Morton Invented Jazz. Keith lives in San Diego, California.

Praise: “An appropriately jazzy picture-book biography of African-American musician Sonny Rollins. It impresses from the endpapers, which mirror a vinyl LP in its paper sleeve and then playing on a turntable, to the liner notes about Rollins’ seminal album “The Bridge” in the back.” -Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“The life of jazz legend Sonny Rollins pulses with the rousing spontaneity of his music in Wittenstein’s free verse biography. Readers witness Rollins’s career as an acclaimed musician followed by his explosive success and the subsequent reincarnations of his art.” -School Library Journal, starred review

Review: The rhythm of the writing in Sonny’s Bridge automatically gets you toe tapping while reading. It captures the feeling and flow of jazz which truly sets the stage for Sonny’s story because in the end this is the story of Sonny Rollins and his path to finding his musical voice.

In addition to the rhythm in the writing, the illustrators images bring the words to life using movement, color, and line to show the power of the music.

Together, the words and music bring Sonny’s story to the readers in a way that will illuminate his struggles and his triumphs.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Because of the rhythmic writing, this will be an amazing read aloud! And then the students can listen to The Bridge.

We are lucky to be living in a time with so many wonderful biographies out there about amazing people and a lot of them happen to be musicians, so what a great opportunity for book clubs or jig saws to look at different musicians and how they became who they are/were and how they changed not only musical history but sometimes even history.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why does Sonny find the bridge to be the best place for him to practice?
  • Why did Sonny take off two years and how did it change his life?
  • How did Sonny’s life correspond with Black Americans’ fight for equal rights?
  • How did the illustrator show Sonny’s music through is artwork?
  • Why would some want the bridge to be renamed Sonny’s Bridge?
  • After listening to The Bridge, how did the author capture the feeling of jazz in his writing?

Creator Corner with Barry Wittenstein from KidLitTV: 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Music (specifically jazz), Jazz Day by Roxane Orgill, Trombone Shorty by Troy AndrewsLittle Melba and her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown, Ella Fitzgerald by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Hip Hop Lollipop by Susan Montanari, The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy Andrews, Born to Swing by Mara Rockliff, Muddy by Michael James Mahin, Stand Up and Sing by Suanna Reich

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**Thank you to Charlesbridge Publishing for providing a copy for review**

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Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published: May 7th, 2019 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Polly and her magic book, Spell, have all kinds of adventures together because whatever Polly writes in Spell comes true! But when Polly and Spell join forces to make the school fair super spectacular, they quickly discover that what you write and what you mean are not always the same. Filled with the familiar details of home and school, but with a sprinkling of magic, this book is just right for fans of Ivy + Bean, Judy Moody, and Dory Fantasmagory, as well for aspiring writers, who, just like Polly, know the magic of stories.

View my post about Polly Diamond and the Magic Book to learn about book one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for the Polly Diamond series:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Polly Diamond on Chronicle Book’s Polly Diamond Book 2 page.

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Feral Youth
Authors: Shaun David Hutchinson, Brandy Colbert, Suzanne Young, Tim Floreen, Justina Ireland, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Stephanie Kuehn, E.C. Myers, Marieke Nijkamp, Robin Talley
Published: September 5, 2017 by Simon Pulse

Guest Review by Natalia Sperry

Summary: At Zeppelin Bend, an outdoor education program designed to teach troubled youth the value of hard work, cooperation, and compassion, ten teens are left alone in the wild. The teens are a diverse group who come from all walks of life, and they were all sent to Zeppelin Bend as a last chance to get them to turn their lives around. They’ve just spent nearly two weeks learning to survive in the wilderness, and now their instructors have dropped them off eighteen miles from camp with no food, no water, and only their packs, and they’ll have to struggle to overcome their vast differences if they hope to survive.

Inspired by The Canterbury Tales, Feral Youth features characters, each complex and damaged in their own ways, who are enticed to tell a story (or two) with the promise of a cash prize. The stories range from noir-inspired revenge tales to mythological stories of fierce heroines and angry gods. And while few of the stories are claimed to be based in truth, they ultimately reveal more about the teller than the truth ever could.

Review: This is a complex anthology of traditionally ignored teenaged voices that demand to be heard; I couldn’t put it down! Feral Youth is compelling from the front flap to the final page. The distinct voices of all 10 characters shone through in every part, from their individual stories to the transitional narration, creating an established sense of the full cast that is difficult to attain when juggling so many stories.

In this day and age, it feels more important than ever read book that remind us that all people, even those “troubled kids” traditionally written off by society, have a unique story to tell. Though I initially felt a bit overwhelmed by the number of characters (especially those with similar sounding names!) having such a diverse cast of characters share their stories was really rewarding. Those stories, both those intended to be “factual” and those grounded in fantasy, refuse to go quietly from my mind. In a story centered around teens whose voices have been all but silenced by society, I think that’s a victory.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: As the book was inspired by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, teachers could have students read the two (or passages from both) and compare and contrast. In particular, looking for thematic parallels could lend itself to discussions about the nature of storytelling and whose voices get told. In that regard, the book could also fit into a unit about “objective truth” in storytelling, perhaps in discussing other narratives or nonfiction.

Even in including the text as a free-reading option, I think it is essential to build empathy through reading diverse stories. Including this text could be not only a way to build empathy, but could provide a starting point for further future reading of a diversity voices as well.

Discussion Questions: What parallels do you find to the Canterbury Tales? Which stories surprised you? Were there any characters you related to that you wouldn’t have anticipated connecting with?  

Flagged: “’They think we’re probably nothing but a bunch of animals, but we showed them who we really are. We showed them that they can’t ignore us’” (287).

Read This If You Loved: The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, other YA anthologies

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The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hypnotik
Author: David Arnold
Published: May 22, 2018 by Viking

Guest Review by Natalia Sperry

Summary: This is Noah Oakman → sixteen, Bowie believer, concise historian, disillusioned swimmer, son, brother, friend.

Then Noah → gets hypnotized.

Now Noah → sees changes—inexplicable scars, odd behaviors, rewritten histories—in all those around him. All except his Strange Fascinations . . .

Review: The longer I sit with this book, the more I feel like I’m still it; every time I sit down to think about it, I find new things to consider. If that’s not the sign of a good book,I don’t know what else is. The Strange Fascinations of Noah Hipnotik is a surreal exploration of identity, friendship, and family on the brink of the many changes protagonist Noah Oakman faces (both before and after his hypnotic episode) as he looks to the future beyond high school.

Above all else, I loved the nerdom in this book, both in its literary and historical detail as well as the variety of pop-culture references. In particular, much of the book (including its title) is drawn from musical icon David Bowie, so I’ll admit,  it’s hard to go wrong. The humor also brings some lightness to the moral questions and philosophical questions of self and reality, which helps keep the largely internal narrative afloat.

Through it all, this book captures an important to capture the emotional gamut of someone’s life, especially when it feels like everything is ch-ch-ch-changing around you. Whether you’re looking for fun or serious contemplation of reality, this book will let you escape for a while (and even for a while longer after you’re done!)

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: Though grounded in humor and pop culture references, this book would make for a really interesting companion to classics like James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, or J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. In asking students to compare the latter with Strange Fascinations, there are some really interesting parallels to be made both in the coming of age story and in the respective protagonists’ relationships with their sisters.

Discussion Questions: Do you agree, like Circuit, that genuine conversations are rare in the contemporary world? What do you think of Noah’s “strange fascinations?” Do you have any “fascinations” of your own, in this sense?

Flagged: “Some books are songs like that, the ones you go back to, make playlists of, put on repeat” (page 108).

Read This If You Loved: Mosquitoland by David Arnold, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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