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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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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

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

And we conclude with a PARTY!:

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Old Rock (is not boring)
Author & Illustrator: Deb Pilutti
Published February 4th, 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Summary: Quirky charm infuses this tale of Old Rock’s life story, which is much more exciting than you’d expect.

Old Rock has been sitting in the same spot in the pine forest for as long as anyone can remember. Spotted Beetle, Tall Pine, and Hummingbird think just sitting there must be boring, but they are in for a wonderful surprise.

Fabulous tales of adventurous travel, exotic scenery, entertaining neighbors, and more from Old Rock’s life prove it has been anything but boring.

Great storytellers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, and Old Rock’s stories are sure to inspire questions that lead to wonderful conversations about the past and the natural world.

About the Author: Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys and watching cartoons is considered “research”. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband, and nervous border collie. Deb has worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, creating toys and products for children and is the author and illustrator of  OLD ROCK (IS NOT BORING!) Putnam, THE SECRETS OF NINJA SCHOOL (Ottaviano/Macmillan), TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO (Ottaviano/Macmillan), and BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS (Simon & Schuster).

Praise: 

“A witty, engaging exploration of deep time . . . This picture book rocks!” –Kirkus, starred review

“This is a wonderful story about mistaken assumptions, and taking the time to listen to a variety of perspectives and experiences. Part scientific history, part storytelling, Old Rock is content with his lot in life, and Old Rock is not boring! This is a brilliant book for school and public libraries and one that children will be drawn to.” –School Library Journal, starred review

“Pilutti puts a smile and wide eyes on the rock and places it among an increasingly fascinated animal audience in a set of simply drawn, usually idyllic cartoon scenes. ‘They are not bored,’ she concludes, nor will younger readers and listeners be once they realize that every rock they see has a similar story to tell.” –Booklist

Review: This book is not boring! I just adore Old Rock and how he puts things in perspective for the beetle, pine, and hummingbird. There is so much to dig into in this book, and it is a fun narrative also. I’m also a big fan of Pilutti’s illustration styles. It is such a fun mix of cartoon and realistic with each character’s personalities shining through the illustrations.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: On top of the wonderful storytelling aspects of the story that could be used for a mentor text to initially introduce a personal narrative, looking at points of view of a situation, and seeing how illustrations support a text and add to the story, the book also shares the science behind rock’s stories which is a great introduction to basic geology and some animal science. Yay STEAM! Below is the image in the back matter:

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why does everyone think that being a rock is boring?
  • What has rock done that is definitely not boring?
  • How old is rock?
  • What other things would rock have seen in the timeline given for him?
  • What are some things that rock did that show his character traits?
  • Which of the characters would you want to be friends with? Why?
  • How are the other characters different than Old Rock?

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Read This If You Love: Anthropomorphic picture books, Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug by Jonathan Stutzman, You Don’t Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman, Fly! by Mark Teague, Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan

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Bird Hugs
Author and Illustrator: Ged Adamson
Published: February 1, 2020 by Two Lions

GoodReads Summary: Bernard isn’t like other birds. His wings are impossibly long, and try as he might, he just can’t seem to fly. He’s left wondering what his wings are good for…if they’re even good for anything at all. But a chance encounter with a dejected orangutan leads Bernard to a surprising discovery: that maybe what makes him different is actually something to be embraced.

Ricki’s Review: Oh my goodness. This book made my heart feel so, so full. It tells the story of a bird who is very different from the other birds. He cannot fly because he has abnormally large wings. As the title suggests, he learns that his wings are good for something other than flying. But it doesn’t end there! The bird becomes so well-loved by the other animals that they take him on his dream flight! There are so many wonderful lessons in this book. I’ll be gifting this book to several friends. It’s that good.

Kellee’s Review: My friend Kaleigh read this book before me because it was sitting by my couch when she came to visit. When she finished she looked at me and said, “You will love this book. and get ready to cry.” And gosh darn it, she was right! Bernard’s story just made me so sad and then so happy. Bernard’s journey is a lot like many kids though–they are taught that a certain way is the only way, either through peers or parents or media, but there is so much out there for us to be. Bernard teaches us that. Everyone should read this book. 

About the Author: Ged Adamson is a children’s book author and illustrator. His picture books include A Fox Found a Box; Douglas, You Need Glasses!; Shark Dog!; and Ava and the Rainbow (Who Stayed). He has also worked as a cartoonist, storyboard artist, and composer for film and TV. He lives in London with his partner, Helen, and son, Rex. To learn more, visit his website: https://gedadamson.myportfolio.com/home-page
Twitter: @ged_adamson
Instagram: @gedadamson

Praise for Bird Hugs:
“Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced.” —Kirkus Reviews

“The lesson is a simple, familiar one—selflessness and sympathy are key to making friends—but Adamson’s gentle humor and his eager-eyed characters’ yearning become an eloquent testimony to the power of a little TLC.” —Publishers Weekly

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students might journal about some aspect of them (emotional, physical) that is different. They might explore the ways in which this aspect is actually a strength.

This book could definitely be used in the first week of school during norm and team building. Combine it with the Be Kind! themed books to look at how different doesn’t equal bad.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does Bernard feel when he cannot fly? When he feels really good about himself, he tries to fly again. What happens? Why? What does this teach us?
  • What are some qualities that some people might dislike about us? How might we use these qualities as a strength?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Nerdy Birdy by Aaron Reynolds, Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob SheaThe Magic of Maxwell and His Tail by Maureen Stolar Kanefield

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inquiry to Consider the Complexity of The Fountains of Silence:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We Flagged: 

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

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The Treacherous Seas
Author: Christopher Healy
Published November 5th, 2019 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: After saving New York by thwarting Ambrose Rector’s dastardly plot to control the minds of everyone at the 1883 World’s Fair, Molly Pepper and Emmett Lee thought they’d have it made. They were heroes, after all. But if someone saves the world and there’s no one around who remembers it, did it really happen?

Now Molly, Emmett, and Molly’s mother, Cassandra, are left to prove themselves once again. And they aim to do it with an achievement that no one could ignore or forget: winning the race that has captured the attention of the world, to be the first people to find the South Pole. But despite their one-of-a-kind ship, their can-do attitude, and the help of a determined young journalist named Nellie Bly, the path to the Pole is not without its challenges—or its terrors. It is the path Emmett’s father took when he led an expedition to Antarctica on behalf of Mr. Alexander Graham Bell—the expedition in which Mr. Lee and his entire crew were killed. Does death await our heroes on these treacherous seas?

About the Author: Christopher Healy is the author of the novels A Perilous Journey of Danger and Mayhem #1: A Dastardly Plot, The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw and the picture book This Is Not That Kind Of Book. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at www.christopherhealy.com

Check out my review of Book #1 here!

Christopher Healy’s Nerdy Book Club post was hilarious and also focused on research–don’t miss out on it!

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Don’t Miss out on the Other Blog Tour Stops: 

November 6    Nerdy Book Club

December 2    Bluestocking Thinking

December 3     Novel Novice

December 4    Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

December 5     The Book Monsters

December 6    Maria’s Melange

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for giveaway and for hosting the blog tour**

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