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The Lost Girl
Author: Anne Ursu
Published February 12th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: When you’re an identical twin, your story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark. Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it is decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both. Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace. As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.

About the Author: Anne Ursu is the author of Breadcrumbs, named one of the best books of 2011 by Publishers Weekly and the Chicago Public Library, and The Real Boy, which was longlisted for the National Book Award. She is also a member of the faculty at Hamline University’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Anne lives in Minneapolis with her family and an ever-growing number of cats. You can visit her online at www.anneursu.com.

Praise: 

The Lost Girl is a jewel of a book—hard, bright, sharp, and precious. It reminds us of the boundless and subversive power of sisterhood and the inherent magic of girls.”—Kelly Barnhill, Newbery-Medal winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“I raced through The Lost Girl, breathless. And when I was finished, I found myself full of hope. It’s a beautiful, riveting, important book.”—Laurel Snyder, award-winning author of Orphan Island

“When the world makes no sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. When the world makes all the wrong kinds of sense, I read books by Anne Ursu. If you crave a story with the wit, wisdom, and magic to unriddle the world, then you need to read The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu.”—William Alexander, award-winning author of A Festival of Ghosts

“A beautiful, timeless tale of love conquering darkness in the midst of mystery and the angst of change. A must-have for any middle grade collection.” School Library Journal (starred review)

“This suspenseful mystery offers a story of empowerment, showing how one girl with the help of others can triumph.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“National Book Award nominee Ursu laces her story with fairy-tale elements and real-life monsters, while taking great care to cast girls in an empowering light and as authors (and heroes) of their own stories.” Booklist (starred review)

Review: Anne Ursu has a way of telling what seems like an ordinary tale and adding twists and turns that the reader does not expect but once you are on the narrative ride she has created, you never want to get off! And although I am always skeptical of magical realism, she does it in a way that just makes her books seem like realistic fiction that just happens to be bit magical, so it is hard not to buy in. In The Lost Girl, the story also is fascinating in the way that the author plays with the narrator/point of view as well as how she shapes both girls equally as the story moves between their narratives and shows the strengths and weaknesses in both. It is impossible to tell who the lost girl is and who is the ones saving because both sisters feel like they play a part in saving the other. I’m still thinking about responsibilities, love, and protection long after the book ended. You are going to love Lark and Iris and will root for both of them until you turn that final page.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: There are readers who need this book. There are kids that don’t feel like they belong in this world or kids who feel like they don’t mesh with others their own age or kids dealing with a huge change in their life. These are the kid who will need this book. They need the lost girl to guide them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the twins is the lost girl?
  • How did the crows play a part in the story?
  • Without the magic in the story, how would everything have been different?
  • What mistakes does Iris make in her decision making once the girls enter 5th grade?
  • What lesson are the adults trying to teach the girls?
  • How did the Club Awesome girls turn out differently than Iris assumed? What does this tell you about them? Iris?
  • How are the sisters alike? Different?

Flagged Passages: “Once upon a time, there were two sisters, alike in every way, except for all the ways that they were different. Iris and Lark Maguire were identical twins, and people who only looked at the surface of things could not tell them apart. Same long busy black hair, same pale skin, same smattering of freckles around the cheeks, same bright hazel eyes and open face.

But Iris and Lark had no patience with people who only looked at the surface of things, when what lay beneath was the stuff that truly mattered.

Because the girls were identical, but not the same.

Iris was the one who always knew where she’d left her shoes. Iris was the one who could tell what the collective nouns were for different animals and that Minnesota was home to the world’s largest ball of twine. Iris always knew when her library books were due.

Lark always knew when their parents had been arguing. Lark could tell you what the consequences for stealing were in different fairy tales, and that the best bad guys had interesting back stories. Lark always knew which books she wanted to check out from the library next.

No they were not the same.” (p. 1-2)

Read This If You Love: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu, Watch Hollow by Greg Funaro, The Explorers by Adrienne KressWishtree by Katherine Applegate, The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1: Teach Mentor Texts
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2: About to Mock
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 3: Novel Novice
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 4: Maria’s Melange
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 5: A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6: Bluestocking Thinking
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 7: Kirsticall.com
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8: Unleashing Readers
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9: Book Monsters
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 10: Fat Girl Reading
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 11: Word Spelunker
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 12: Nerdy Book Club

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Searching for Lottie
Author: Susan L. Ross
Publication Date: February 26th, 2019 by Holiday House

Summary: Lottie, a talented violinist, disappears during the Holocaust. Can her grand-niece, Charlie, discover what happened?

A long-lost cousin, a mysterious locket, a visit to Nana Rose in Florida, a diary written in German, and a very special violin all lead twelve-year-old Charlie to the truth about her great-aunt Lottie in this intriguing, intergenerational mystery. 12-year-old middle schooler Charlie, a budding violinist, decides to research the life of her great-aunt and namesake for a school ancestry project. Everyone in Charlie’s family believes Great-Aunt Charlotte (Lottie), a violin prodigy, died at the hands of the Nazis, but the more Charlie uncovers about her long-lost relative, the more muddied Great-Aunt Lottie’s story becomes. Could it be that Lottie somehow survived the war by hiding in Hungary? Could she even still be alive today? In Searching for Lottie, Susan Ross has written a highly personal work of historical fiction that is closely inspired by her own family members whose lives were lost in the Holocaust.

About the Author: Susan Ross grew up in Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, and divides her time between Connecticut and Maine. She attended Brown University and NYU School of Law.

After practicing law, Susan taught legal writing in Brooklyn and in Budapest, and creative writing to kids and adults in Connecticut. She especially loves author visits. There is nothing Susan enjoys more than hanging out in a classroom talking to students about her books and teaching kids about writing and literature!

Kiki and Jacques was inspired by the experience of Somali refugees who moved to Susan’s hometown in Maine. Susan worked with refugee teenagers in writing the book and was greatly moved by their amazing positive energy and hopeful determination.

Searching for Lottie was inspired by stories from members of Susan’s family, whose lives were forever changed by the Holocaust.

Susan teaches writing at Westport Writers Workshop and is a trustee at the Westport Library.

Review: I think historical fiction is one of the most important genres because it makes us relive history in ways that we never could without story. Searching for Lottie is interesting because it is contemporary but also includes a historical narrative as Charlie learns more and more about Lottie. This makes it a great choice for students who may not like historical fiction but are interested in history.

I am also a fan of Susan Ross’s writing because she does a fabulous job taking a tough subject and writing a middle grade novel that gives an introduction to the topic without being too mature but also while not sugar coating it. It is so important to have middle grade books for our students that show the real world in an appropriate yet real way.

And it really helps that the stories are interesting and many kids will connect with the conflicts and events the characters take part in.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Searching for Lottie is inspired by true events, specifically those of Susan’s family. She shares much on her website including this background information:

Charlotte Kulka (called Lotte — in English, “Lottie”) was my mother’s teenage cousin. She lived in Prague with her father, a doctor. Her mother passed away when she was little. Tragically, Charlotte and her father both perished, but her beloved aunt, my Cousin Vally Szemere, survived with false papers in Budapest. Vally boarded with a Catholic family who protected her and they became lifelong friends. My middle name was given in Lotte’s memory.

Another relative, Magda Szemere, was a famous young violin soloist in Europe before she, too, was arrested and forever disappeared. I wrote about my bittersweet delight at finding her music in the essay, “Sweet Strings of Sorrow.”

In doing the research for this book, I discovered to my astonishment that her music had been preserved on gramophone recordings and remains available in music archives.

My mother’s cousin, Magda Krizan, survived the war posing as a model and nanny in Hungary — and was a member of the resistance. She escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia with her husband in 1968 and came to America.

My mother, Erika Lencz, escaped Vienna in 1938 with her brother, Erwin. She was twenty years old. My grandparents and nearly all of the rest of her family were lost. Mom worked in a pillow factory in Brooklyn and as a nanny before settling down in Maine with my father, where she ran our family wedding gown shop and had five children.”

Visit http://www.authorsusanross.com/about-searching-for-lottie/ to listen to the recording and view photos.

This information along with Charlie’s project in the book makes me want to ask students to learn about their family (remember to have a plan for any adopted, foster, or other kids with no access to family history!).

Parts of the story also would be a great addition to an orchestra classroom as Charlie and Lottie write about different pieces, specifically the music journal that Lottie kept.

Finally, as with most historical fiction novels, this story would be a fantastic jumping off point for inquiry in the classroom about our world’s past.

Discussion Questions: 

  • After listening to the pieces that Charlie and Lottie share in the book, which piece is your favorite?
  • What other ways did Jews and other ostracized humans escape Nazi-occupied territory during World War II?
  • What traits did Charlie show when researching her namesake?
  • How did the research change her relationship with her brother?
  • Using evidence from the text, how can you tell that Charlie loves music?

Flagged Passages: “‘Lottie was Nana’s sister, right?’

‘Yes, Lottie was several years older. Your nana told me how clever she was; how determined…just like you.’ Mom smiled. ‘And here’s another thing you two have in common–Lottie played the violin. In fact, Lottie played so beautifully that she performed with the Vienna Philharmonic when she was a teenage.’

‘Seriously?’ That was a weird coincidence. Violin was her thing, too. Charlie had begged her parents for lessons when she was still in kindergarten. She’d always loved music, and she liked pop and hip-hop as much as any kid at Hillmont Middle School…but there was something about classical that made her heart skip. She could lose herself in a symphony in a strange way that she never tried to explain to her friends. Only her best friend, Sarah, understood that feeling, but Sarah had moved to Boston over the summer…

‘What else do you know about Lottie?’

‘Well, the family was from Vienna, the capital of Austria. Her father was a math professor at the university.’

‘And…what exactly happened to them.’

Mom hesitated, then let out a long sigh. ‘Honestly, I’m not entirely certain. When the Germans invaded Austria, the Jews were at the mercy of the Nazis. I know that Lottie was lost, along with my grandfather. My grandmother and Nana Rose were lucky to escape. They came to America on a ship.’

‘So Lottie died…right?’ Charlie swallowed hard.

‘Yes, I guess she must have.’ Mom looked uncomfortable.

‘You guess? You don’t know for sure?’ Charlie sat up straight. She searched her mother’s blank face and glanced down at the photo. Lottie’s eyes were bright, with long dark lashes, and they were staring back up at her.

‘The truth is that nobody knows exactly what happened to Lottie…'” (p. 7-9)

Read This If You Love: Music, World War II historical fiction novels, History, Family

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book for review!!**

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Hush Up and Hibernate
Author: Sandra Markle
Illustrator: Howard McWilliam
Published August 28th 2018 by Persnickety Press

Goodreads Summary: Leaves are falling, a cold wind is blowing, geese are heading south. Clearly, winter is coming. It’s time for black bears to do what they always do this time of year―hibernate. Kids will get a kick out of this romp of a tale about a black bear cub that finds every excuse imaginable to avoid the inevitable go-to-bed moment. Will Mama Bear finally win? Or will Baby Bear come up with the ultimate reason to skip going to sleep?

Review: As I sit and write this post, it is 9:50pm, and my older child is upstairs not sleeping. The chance of him crafting an excuse to come out of his room within the next 10 minutes? High. So saying that I enjoyed this book is an understatement. I found great joy in reading this book to my son. We first read it a few weeks ago, and I’ve told him to hush up and hibernate a few dozen times. It’s a clever book that parents will enjoy immensely. The illustrations are beautifully done (take a look at the gem shared below!). If you take a look at the cover image (above), you will see the baby bear’s face. The way he’s reacting to his mother is an all-too-familiar look that makes me chuckle. I absolutely adored this charming book. When my son chooses it for his bedtime book, I have a warm, happy feeling. This signifies that it is a good book and one to keep.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be fun for kids to create their own version of this book—imagining an animal that is refusing to do something and giving every excuse imaginable to a parent. I suspect that this would be a fun writing exercise for kids, and they might reconsider their constant excuses.

Discussion Questions: What are some of the excuses that Baby Bear uses? What excuses have you used? What strategies does he use, and do they work?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Share, Big Bear, Share by Maureen Wright, Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton, Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and Lauren Castillo

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  RickiSig

**Thank you to Wiley at Saichek Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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The Sisters 8 Series by Lauren Baratz-Logsted with Greg Logsted and Jackie Logsted

The Sisters 8 #1: Annie’s Adventures The Sisters 8 #2: Durinda’s Dangers
Published December 29th, 2008 by HMH Books for Young Readers

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The Sisters 8 #9: The Final Battle…For Now
Published August 7th, 2012 by HMH Books for Young Readers

About the Series: The story begins on New Year’s Eve, eight sisters–octuplets–wait for Mommy to come back from the kitchen with eggnog and Daddy to come back from the shed with more wood for the fire.

But they–Mommy and Daddy, that is–don’t. Come back. Ever.

It takes the sisters a few minutes to notice, but when they do it’s just as you would expect. Disbelief! Outrage! Despair! But then a note appears, telling the girls that each one of them has a talent and a gift. They all must find theirs to learn what happened to Mommy and Daddy.

Okay, so that’s how it begins. How does it end? Enter the world of the Sisters Eight to find out…

About Annie’s Adventures (Book #1): A rather large problem has befallen the Huit girls. (Sisters, actually. Octuplets to be exact.) One particular New Year’s Eve, the girls wait for their mommy to bring them hot chocolate and their daddy to return with more wood for the fire. But they don’t. Mommy and Daddy, that is. They’re gone. Poof! Maybe dead—no one knows for sure.

You must see the problem here. Eight little girls on their own, no mommy or daddy to take care of them. This is not a good thing.

So now these little girls, must take care of themselves. Get to school, cook the meals, feed the cats (eight of them, too), and pay the bills. They can’t ask for help, oh no. Any self-respecting adult would surely call in social services, and those well-meaning people would have to split them up. After losing their parents, being split up would be completely unbearable.

At the same time, the question remains:What happened to Mommy and Daddy? The Sisters Eight (as they are called, affectionately and otherwise) are determined to find out. Luckily, they do seem to have someone or something helping them. Notes keep appearing behind a loose brick in the fireplace.

It’s a good old-fashioned mystery with missing (or dead) parents, nosy neighbors, talking refrigerators, foul-smelling fruitcake (is there any other kind?), and even a little magic. Eight little girls, eight cats, and one big mystery—let the fun begin!

Annie’s Adventures, wherein the girls’ parents go missing (or die) and the girls learn each one has a power and gift. Annie, being the oldest, is the first to discover hers.

And expand the Sisters Eight adventures by entering The Sisters Eight Website!

After you enter, you can:

  • Learn about each of the books,
  • Learn about the authors,
  • Read reviews of the books,
  • Meet the Huit sisters,
  • Take a quiz to see which Sisters Eight you are,
  • Printable paper dolls,
  • Make your own beanbags,
  • Decorate a t-shirt,
  • Design flip-flops,
  • Make a friendship bracelet, or
  • Learn about starting a Sisters 8 book club!

About the Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted is the author of more than a dozen books for adults and young readers, including The Twin’s Daughter, Crazy Beautiful, and the Sisters 8 series, which she cowrites with her husband and daughter.

A personal note from the author on this special anniversary: 

Who could ever have predicted that getting snowbound in Crested Butte, Colorado, back in 2006 would lead 12 years later to a nine-book series that has sold over a quarter of a million copies? But that’s what happened to my family. When a visit with friends that was supposed to last five days turned into 10 following a blizzard that closed Denver Airport, my husband Greg and me and our then-6yo daughter Jackie had to find new ways to entertain ourselves, which in our case meant brainstorming what would become known as The Sisters 8 series, about octuplets whose parents go missing on New Year’s Eve, leaving the girls to solve the mystery of where their parents went while keeping other adults from realizing there are no longer any adults in the house. The first two books were published in December 2008, with seven more books since.

Over the course of my career, I’ve been extraordinarily lucky. While I have neither the money of Rowling nor the critical acclaim of Franzen, I’ve been able to write the books I wanted to write – for adults, teens and children – in a variety of genres, and seen nearly 40 of those books published. If that’s not lucky, I don’t know what is. But nothing in all of it has given me more pleasure than The Sisters 8. I got to create it with my husband and daughter, who is now 18 and off at college. I got to share the early books with Jackie’s classmates as we were writing them. I got to receive thousands of emails from kids – and their parents, grandparents, librarians and teachers – telling me how much the series has meant to them. Most writers I know long for more money or greater fame. Now, I’m not saying I’d say no to either, but when you’ve receive a letter from a ten-year-old saying “After my brother died, The Sisters 8 was the first thing that made me feel cheered again” or from a special needs teacher saying “It was the first book that ___ asked if she could take home to continue reading on her own” or whole families of Canadians saying they bring the books to read aloud to each other on camping trips (Bless you, Canada!) – well, after all of that, you realize that while fame and fortune would be nice, you did your job as a writer.

This marks the 10th anniversary of The Sisters 8. I hope you’ll join me in wishing them many more years to come – cheers! ~Lauren

Celebrate the Sisters 8 ten-year anniversary by picking up a Sisters 8 book and enter into their adventures!

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Pride
Author: Ibi Zoboi
Published: September 18, 2018 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.

Teaching Pride

I love retellings of classics, and I would argue that this retelling is far superior to the original. Ibi presented at the NCTE convention, and she is absolutely brilliant. She talked about how she values the inclusion of the pantheon in literature and how she does so in her own texts. She also shared how different poems within Pride are retellings of classic poems. I love her work and will read anything she writes.

Love stories are tricky. They can get sappy quickly. This book is so much more than a love story. It interrogates themes related to economics, race, education, and gender.

Gentrification

“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when rich people move into the hood, where it’s a little bit broken and a little bit forgotten, the first thing they want to do is clean it up. But it’s not just the junky stuff they’ll get rid of. People can be thrown away too, like last night’s trash left out on sidewalks or pushed to the edge of wherever all broken things go. What those rich people don’t always know is that broken and forgotten neighborhoods were first built out of love” (p. 1).

Teaching Idea: As a class, explore the impacts of gentrification and displacement. Using this knowledge develop your own form of political art (https://youtu.be/JMVd5k2a2IM) to make a statement.

Culture

If Madrina’s basement is where the tamboras, los espíritus, and old ancestral memories live, the roof is where the wind chimes, dreams, and possibilities float with the stars, where Janae and I share our secrets and plan to travel all over the world, Haiti and the Dominican Republic being our first stop” (p. 23).

Teaching Idea: Pick a place in your life, and Use Zoboi’s writing as a mentor text to share that place with others (e.g. “If [place] is where_________, [another place] is where__________, where________.”

Equity

“Sometimes love is not enough to keep a community together. There needs to be something more tangible, like fair housing, opportunities, and access to resources” (p. 33).

Teaching Idea: As a class, discuss whether love is enough and whether tangible aspects must exist in order to keep a community together. Generate a concept or brain map that depicts tangible aspects that can impact communities.

Male/Female Gender Roles

I don’t need no knights in shining armor

Ain’t no horses in the hood

I killed chivalry myself with a pocketknife…” (p. 243).

Teaching idea: The teachers finds materials/advertisements that are gender-specific, and students rewrite the materials to remove gender from the text. Students evaluate how the meaning or the impact has changed.

Education

“There is more to learn

about my old, old self, and black and brown girls like me

from hoods all over this country want to

take over the world,

but there’s something missing

in our history books the public schools give us” (p. 147).

Teaching idea: Consider the school curricula. Whose voices are honored? Whose are missing? Rewrite a course to be more inclusive.

Home

“I have always thought of Bushwick as home, but in that moment, I realize that home is where the people I love are, wherever that is” (p. 270).

Teaching idea: Where is home? Create a visual depiction of your own home, and below it, write, “Home is…” How do our interpretations of home differ? What do they have in common?

Read This If You Loved: American Street by Ibi Zoboi, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

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RickiSig

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Bone Soup: A Spooky Tasty Tale
Author: Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Illustrator: Tom Knight
Published: July 24, 2018 by Simon & Schuster

Goodreads Summary: Three little witches and a bunch of spooky characters come together to prepare a delicious batch of Bone Soup in this Halloween tale based on the beloved fable, Stone Soup. This just-scary-enough picture book comes with a recipe for Bone Soup—perfect for Halloween eating.

Trick-or-treat? Trick-or-treat!
We’ve something usually good to eat!

One Halloween morning three witches are looking for a tasty treat and they find only a small bone in their cupboard. So they decide to go from door to door in their village to find just the right ingredients for their Bone Soup. No one in the village is convinced that soup can be made from a bone, until the littlest monster reveals just what the special ingredient should be.

My Review: We received this book earlier in the month, and we’ve read it dozens and dozens of times. I was very excited about it and have held it in my pocket for Halloween! If you enjoy spooky, fun tales, this book is for you. I find myself walking around repeating, “It’s bone soup! Soup from the bone!” and “Piff-Poof!” The text is quite catchy, and it’s a highly entertaining read-aloud. This is a book that parents and teachers will find extra fun for their classrooms and homes. I recommend adding Bone Soup to your Halloween collection!

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Students might take a trip outdoors and gather their own materials for bone soup. For instance, a stick could be imagined as the bone from a pirate. Grass might be the hair from a goblin. Then, they can take their materials inside and craft their own class story together.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do the sister witches interact?
  • How do they build their bone soup? What do they add to it?
  • What creative things would you add to your own bone soup?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson, Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt, Dragon’s Halloween by Dav Pilkey, Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex, Monster Mash (Babymouse #9) by Jennifer L. Holm, Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween by Melanie Watt; Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

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RickiSig

**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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