Currently viewing the category: "Characterization"

Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship
Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books

Summary: BOOM! SNAP! WHIZ! ZAP! The Magnificent Makers series is filled with science, adventure, and characters that readers will love!

A modern-day Magic School Bus for chapter book readers!

Violet and Pablo are best friends who love science! So when they discover a riddle that opens a magic portal in the Science Space at school, they can’t wait to check it out! Along with their new classmate, Deepak, the friends discover a magical makerspace called the Maker Maze. It’s a laboratory full of robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, and more. Doors line the walls of the makerspace, with a new science adventure waiting behind each one.

Ricki’s Review: I think I’ve recommended this book to about fifteen people since we’ve read it. I really admire the way in which Griffith incorporates science in such a fun way. The book almost feels interactive. I am going to admit that I, an adult, learned some cool science information as we read this one. We read this book with our virtual book club of kids, and they all loved it. It was very easy to host discussions, and the kids were very animated as they talked about the sections that they loved most. This is a great early chapter book series that is going to be well-loved by teachers. The interdisciplinary nature of the text makes it very easy to teach. We will definitely be getting the next book in the series.

Kellee’s Review: As a mom of 1st grader who loves to read, we are always looking for new early chapter books that will grab his attention and this book is everything we could want. First, it is relatable. The dynamics between the three characters are accurate and just on point. It also deals with real feelings like jealousy and competitiveness. Second, it is about science! Trent is definitely a science loving kid, and adding some science into his books makes him love them more. Third, it is a reflection of the real world (even though they travel to another dimension) because there are a diversity of kids and adults both in looks and behavior. We have already gone to buy the next three in the series, and we cannot wait to see what adventure happens next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers many questions that can lead to inquiry and many topics that can be explored further by kids. Teachers might ask students to select a topic in science and write a fictional story about it. This would require some research and thinking about how information is presented in fiction.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was your favorite aspect of science that you learned from the book?
  • What emotions did the characters experience in the book? Have you been in situations where you’ve felt these emotions?
  • What could you research from this book to learn more (e.g. robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, the ecosystem)?

Flagged Passage: “Producers, consumers, decomposers, oh my! All are necessary for an ecosystem to survive. Most animals are __________. Living things, beware! If ____________ disappeared, we wouldn’t have fresh air. And without ______________, nature’s garbage would be everywhere! Solve this riddle to enter the maker maze” (p. 11).

Read This If You Love: Science books, early chapter books, interdisciplinary learning

Recommended For: 


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Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast in Short & Sweet
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Brendan Kearney
Publishing September 1st, 2020 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are back with a twist: they’ve been transformed into small children. Now it’s a race against the clock to turn our favorite duo into grown-ups again!

Lady Pancake is aching; Sir French Toast’s looking pale. Could they be going . . . STALE? Maybe a visit to Professor Biscotti’s lab for her despoiling procedure will help. But instead of beautifying them, Biscotti accidentally transforms the two treats into toddlers! Frightened of the now gargantuan (to them) Baron von Waffle, the mini breakfast foods scamper off on an adventure in the fridge, visiting everywhere from the Bran Canyon to Limes Square. Will Baron von Waffle and Professor Biscotti figure out a way to turn them back into a grown Lady and Sir? Or will they stay short & sweet forever?

In this fourth Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast adventure, Pancake and Toast fear they are going stale and visit Professor Biscotti, whose faulty gadget transforms them into toddlers, sending them on an adventure in the refrigerator.

Our reviews of:
Book One
Book Two
Book Three

About the Creators: 

Josh Funk is the author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, followed by its sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable, as well as Albie NewtonHow to Code a SandcastleLost in the Library, and more. He lives in Concord, MA. Visit him online at or on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Brendan Kearney is also the illustrator of the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast; its sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable; and Bertie Wings It. He lives in St. Albans, UK.

Book Trailer: 

Kellee’s Review: I think the best review I could give of this book is the joy that it brings my son. I wish you all could have seen his face when I told him I was going to read another Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book. That face truly says it all! When we finished, and he loved it so much, I asked him if he would help me review it. Here are his thoughts:

What was your favorite part of this book? I love that they go to the library because kids do love libraries and books.

Why do you like the Lady Pancake and French Toast books? They are all funny when everyone goes on an adventure. I like the illustrations and the words. Both. I like that it rhymes. And the illustrations look funny. I just like everything.

This is who these books are for, so I think his words speak volumes!

As for me, I adore this series too! And I always am so impressed that Josh Funk is able to create such a rhythmic rhyming prose–it blows me away and shows his pure rhyming genius. This story was extra wonderful because we got to see little Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast who were so cute!

Ricki’s Review: These books are truly among my very favorite to read aloud. I read them often with kids, and they are a real crowd-pleaser! Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast in Short & Sweet is another masterpiece that will be so useful to teachers and parents everywhere. Reading it brought me so much joy.

The pictures and words pair beautifully to personify the food. I could see kids having fun creating their own personified food stories and using this book as a mentor text.

Right now, we all need humor. Both my kids and I laughed as we read this one, and I am so glad that it is out in the world. I am very grateful for Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney for bringing such cheer to my days.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Josh Funk’s books are instant mentor texts for rhyming and rhythm. Take a spread and have students mimic his rhyming and rhythm using their own characters. Or in general you can use his texts to discuss these as his rhythmic and rhyming texts are some of the best!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What other picture books could you rename with food puns?
  • If you were writing a Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast story, where would you have them visit in the refrigerator?
  • Why was Baron Von Waffle so upset by the Lady Pancake’s and Sir French Toast’s reaction to him?
  • How did Baron Von Waffle save the day twice?
  • There are some other characters in the book that are not named–what would you name them?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast books, Rhyming texts, Funny books,

Recommended For: 


Visit all of the Stops on the Short & Sweet Virtual Book Tour to not miss out on any reviews or goodies!


**Thank you to Josh Funk for providing a copy for review!**

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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!


Dear readers,

It’s time for another recommendation from me, Sofia Martinez! Today I’ve decided to change things up a bit. Instead of just writing about one book, I’m going to write about my four favorite books in a series called Classic Starts.

First let me tell you a bit about the series. There are about 55 books in the Classic Starts series. I own about thirty of them and have borrowed some from the library. So I know a lot about the series. Classic Starts is a series that abridges classics and puts them in a language that the kids of today understand. If you do not know what classics are they are very well known books. They also have to be old. This book collection is recommended for ages 7-9. The Classic Starts books also have pictures.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

This book is about the world famous detective Sherlock Holmes. The book contains six shortened mysteries. My favorite one is called The Adventure of the Speckled Band. I don’t want to spoil the story so I’ll leave it at that. After reading the abridged version I moved on and started reading the original with my dad. The abridged version is easier to read and they took the real important parts into the story.

The Secret Garden

Mary is a rich girl but then everybody in her house dies of a sickness except for her. So she moves to Mr. Craven’s house. When Mary discovers there is a secret garden she sets out to find it. She meets two boys that help her take care of the garden. One of them is Mr. Craven’s son.


My third favorite book in the series is Pollyanna. When Pollyanna’s father dies she goes to live with her Aunt Polly. Aunt Polly is harsh to Pollyanna. Pollyanna keeps herself happy by playing a game that her father taught her, the just be glad game.

Little Women

I love this one so much I even watched the play and the movie (before the pandemic). Little Women is about the four March sisters. They are poor but have a kind heart. For example, one Christmas they give their breakfast to a family who couldn’t afford it. They face many challenges.

I love this series because it lets you experience classics that you would usually have to be older to read. It also gives you a good idea of what the original is about. You can also try out many without having to read a million pages to find out if you want to read the original version when you are older.

I have made a chart including most of the books that I’ve read under a few categories. I want to make it easier for you to find which books you might like. Don’t forget there are plenty more in the series.

Anne of Green Gables
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Little Women
The Secret Garden
The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Three Musketeers
Robinson Crusoe
Journey to the Center of the Earth
Treasure Island
The Swiss Family Robinson
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Gulliver’s Travels
The Call of the Wild
White Fang
The Last of the Mohicans
20,000 Leagues under the Sea
Little Women
Five Little Peppers and How They Grew
The Swiss Family Robinson
Robinson Crusoe
Around the World in 80 Days
Alice in Wonderland & Through the 
Peter Pan
Black Beauty
Anne of Green Gables
White Fang
The Call of the Wild

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**


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An Introduction to the Webcomic Homestuck by Morgan M. and Melanie S., 8th Grade

Hey! It’s Morgan and Melanie  🙂 Here’s an introduction to our favorite webcomic, Homestuck!

Let’s start with a summary of Homestuck:

4 kids start the end of the world by playing a video game called SBURB. They have to find 12 trolls who are represented by the Zodiac signs in order to save it. Then we come across Walmart-brand mysterio who likes to mess everything up. They also meet another set of kids and trolls who are all old as heck. Follow these 8 teens and their gray alien buddies as we face death (multiple times), teen drama, emotional issues, and the LGBT community. Thank you, Andrew Hussie.

Thank you, Morgan and Melanie, for introducing us to Homestuck!

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Sofia is an 8-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia will share her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Ban This Book
Author: Alan Gratz
Published: August 29th 2017 by Starscape Books


It’s Sofia Martinez again and I just finished reading this amazing book: Ban This Book by Alan Gratz. You definitely would not want to ban Ban This Book. It is for ages 8-12. Ban This Book won a 2020 Nutmeg Book Award in Connecticut. It is a chapter book.

Amy Ann’s favorite book is banned from the library along with others. She decides to make a locker library of all the banned books: the B.B.L.L, the banned books locker library, but when the principal finds out things start to get ugly. For example her favorite librarian gets fired trying to speak up for her. More things happen but I don’t want to be a spoiler.

I really like Ban This Book because it teaches courage. The girl in the book speaks up for her favorite book, something that I would have never done before I read this book. Another reason why I like Ban This Book is because it gives you ideas on what to read next. For example, From the mixed up files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg and Matilda by Roald Dahl. The last reason why I like it is because it is very entertaining. I like how it seems real. For example, there are typical arguments with sisters and a bit of sadness and lots of happiness. 

A few months ago I was walking in the library and saw Ban This Book on the Nutmeg Book Award shelf and thought it looked nice so I checked it out. Once I got home I changed my mind about it and didn’t want to read it anymore. I put it back in the library bag and started reading some other books, but now I really regret that.

Here are some discussion questions I came up with.

  • Would you have spoken up for your favorite book?
  • Would you run away if you had annoying brothers or sisters? 
  • Did you like Ban This Book? Why or why not?
  • How much do you think Amy Anne likes books?

If you want a book that teaches you something even if you’re a grown up, Ban This Book is perfect. I hope you have tons of fun reading this book!

**Thank you, Sofia, for your continued brilliance. You inspire us!**

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