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A Girl, a Racoon, and the Midnight Moon
Author: Karen Romano Young
Illustrator: Jessixa Bagley
Published: January 7th, 2020 by Chronicle Books

Summary: In a slightly fantastical New York City, one very special library branch has been designated for possible closure. Bookish, socially awkward Pearl, the daughter of the librarian, can’t imagine a world without the library—its books, its community of oddballs, its hominess. When the head of their Edna St. Vincent Millay statue goes missing, closure is closer than ever. But Pearl is determined to save the library. And with a ragtag neighborhood library crew—including a constantly tap-dancing girl who might just be her first friend, an older boy she has a crush on, and a pack of raccoons who can read and write—she just might be able to.

With an eclectic cast of richly drawn characters, a hint of just-around-the-corner magic, footnotes, sidebars, and Jessixa Bagley’s classic illustrations throughout, this warm-hearted, visually magnificent tale of reading and believing from beloved author Karen Romano Young tells of a world where what you want to believe can come true.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the official educators’ guide for A Girl, a Racoon, and the Midnight Moon (created by me!):

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon here.

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AstroNuts Mission Two: The Water Planet
Author: Jon Scieszka
Illustrator: Steven Weinberg
Published: August 25th, 2020 by Chronicle Books

Summary: AstroNuts Mission Two: The Water Planet is the second book in the laugh-out-loud series by children’s literature legend Jon Scieszka.

The book follows a new mission, where AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug must find a planet fit for human life after we’ve finally made Earth unlivable.

After they splash-land on the Water Planet, they find power-hungry clams, a rebellious underwater force, and a world full of too-good-to-be-true. Can this aquatic world really be humans’ new home? And why are these clams so eager to swap planets?

• Features full-color illustrations and an out-of-this-world book jacket
• A can’t-put-it-down page-turner for reluctant readers
• Complete with how-to-draw pages in the back

AstroNuts Mission Two is full of laugh-out loud humor with a thoughtful commentary on the reality of climate change at the core of the story.

Eager and reluctant readers alike ages 8 to 12 years old will be over the moon about this visually groundbreaking read.

• Creatively illustrated, full-color action-packed space saga
• Perfect for fans of Dog Man, Big Nate, Wimpy Kid, and Captain Underpants
• Great gift for parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, and educators who are looking to introduce STEM and environmental topics to children
• Add it the the shelf with books like The Bad Guys in Superbad by Aaron Blabey, The 104-Story Treehouse: Dental Dramas & Jokes Galore! by Andy Griffiths, and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the official educators’ guide for AstroNuts Mission Two (created by me!):

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about AstroNuts Mission Two here.

You can see information about AstroNuts Mission One and its Educators’ Guide here.

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Julián at the Wedding
Author & Illustrator: Jessica Love
Published October 6th, 2020 by Candlewick Press

Summary: The star of Julián Is a Mermaid makes a joyful return–and finds a new friend–at a wedding to be remembered.

Julián and his abuela are attending a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding along with his cousin Marisol. When wedding duties are fulfilled and with a new dog friend in tow, the pair takes off to roam the venue, exploring everywhere from underneath tables to enchanting willow trees to . . . muddy puddles? After all, it wouldn’t be a wedding without fun, laughter, and a little magical mischief. With ingenuity and heart, author-illustrator Jessica Love tells a charming story of friendship, acceptance, and celebration.

About the Author: Jessica Love is an actor and the author-illustrator of Julián Is a Mermaid. She has a BA in studio art from the University of California, Santa Cruz, as well as a graduate degree from Juilliard. She has appeared in plays both on and off Broadway. Jessica Love lives in Brooklyn.

Praise: 

“Arrtwork on brown paper allows warm, clear views of the characters, who appear to be Black and Afro-Latinx. The specificity of Love’s characterizations—the way the abuelas kick off their high heels, the brides’ enthusiasm, the children’s expansive gender expressions—offers vibrancy and immediacy, and under their community’s watchful eyes, Julián and Marisol find affection, acceptance, and room to grow.” -Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

“A celebration of weddings and a subtle yet poignant reminder that gender, like love, is expansive. Lovely.” -Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“Once again Love has brought us young characters who are free to live, play, and express themselves however they wish without conflict. An abundance of joy and love.” -The Horn Book, Starred Review

Review: Jessica Love has brought such a special character to light in Julián. His story is a story of love, being yourself, having fun, happiness, and light. In Julián’s new story, we find him at a wedding where, like most kids, he and Marisol would rather go play than hang around with the adults. Only a small amount of text is needed because the joy of playing together radiates through the illustrations and is a feeling that every person has felt at one time or another while they play with no inhibitions when they probably should be somewhere else. Trent and I read this book together and when we were done, he said, “I want to play with them!” and that summarizes the feeling of this book.

Activity Kit from the Publisher: 

A Conversation with the Author: 

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff

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**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Unicorns are the Worst!
Author: Alex Willan
Published September 29th, 2020 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: This wildly funny and imaginative picture book celebrates the value of differences as a grumpy goblin gets to know his new unicorn neighbors.

It’s an undeniable fact that unicorns are the worst!

Magic is serious business, but all unicorns do is frolic around, have tea parties, and leave glitter all over the place! They’re nothing like goblins—practical and hard-working, who can put magic to good use! Unicorns aren’t helpful at all.

Or are they?

About the Author: Alex Willan grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where he was seldom seen without his sketchbook in hand. His love of drawing led him to earn a BFA in illustration from Savannah College of Art and Design. Alex has exhibited in art galleries and has painted murals, theater sets, and squirmy kids’ faces, but his true love has always been children’s books. He lives in Chicago with his dog, Harley. Visit him online at Alex-Willan.Squarespace.com.

P.S. If you haven’t read Alex Willan’s Jasper and Ollie, I HIGHLY recommend it as well!!!

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Happy book birthday to this funny tale! I am a sucker for a funny and unique narrator, and our Goblin in Unicorns are the Worst! fits that bill. You can hear his grumpy voice as he tells of his tales of whoa trying to do his job while unicorns get to just frollick and be happy. You can feel his despair while he gets frustrated with his hardworking life versus the laidback life of the unicorns. But you also witness his realization that his assumptions were wrong.  Because the reader has such a connection with him, this realization comes to the reader as well because as you read, you are starting to agree with the goblin. All of this leads to the idea of assumptions, fake news and gossip, propaganda, different points of view on one thing, and envy–all topics that are tough to talk about with young children, but Unicorns are the Worst! gives the perfect context (and is hilarious!).

Book Trailer:

Flagged Passages:  

Read This If You Love: Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea, Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin, Eduardo Guadardo, Elite Sheep by Anthony Pearson

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**Thank you to Simon Kids for providing a copy for review!**

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Marjory Saves the Everglades: The Story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Author: Sandra Neil Wallace
Illustrator: Rebecca Gibbon
Published September 22, 2020 by Simon Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books

Summary: From acclaimed children’s book biographer Sandra Neil Wallace comes the inspiring and little-known story of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the remarkable journalist who saved the Florida Everglades from development and ruin.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas didn’t intend to write about the Everglades but when she returned to Florida from World War I, she hardly recognized the place that was her home. The Florida that Marjory knew was rapidly disappearing—the rare orchids, magnificent birds, and massive trees disappearing with it.

Marjory couldn’t sit back and watch her home be destroyed—she had to do something. Thanks to Marjory, a part of the Everglades became a national park and the first park not created for sightseeing, but for the benefit of animals and plants. Without Marjory, the part of her home that she loved so much would have been destroyed instead of the protected wildlife reserve it has become today.

About the Author: Sandra Neil Wallace hopes that her stories inspire readers as much as they inspire her. Her book The Teachers March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History was written with her husband, Rich Wallace, and has received three starred reviews to date. Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went From the Football Field to the Art Gallery received the Orbis Pictus Book Award, was an ALA Notable Book and a Booklist Top 10 Biography for Youth. Formerly, Sandra was an ESPN reporter and was the first woman to host an NHL broadcast. She continues to break barriers as co-founder of DailyGoodNH.org and lives with her family in New Hampshire. To learn more, and to download free activity kits and other resources, visit  SandraNeilWallace.com.

Facebook: Sandra Neil Wallace
Twitter: @SandraNWallace
On Instagram: @sandraneilwallace

Praise:Marjory Saves the Everglades will inspire children of today and tomorrow to be persistent and follow their dreams to create a better world. Sandra Neil Wallace captures Marjory’s passionate commitment to justice for our natural world and all of its inhabitants.”

Review: Marjory Stoneman Douglas is such a special person to us Floridians, even before the tragedy at the school named for her. Marjory changed the course of history here in Florida helping establish our very own ecosystem where amazing wildlife live. We’ll forever be grateful for her, and I am so happy for this beautiful biography commemorating her life and teaching even me more than I knew about her.

Wallace did a fantastic job choosing which parts of Douglas’s amazing life to share, going through much of her life without overloading the narrative, while also showing how important the Everglades are.

The illustrations are perfect because they are so detailed and engulf you when reading about the Everglades. Also, they are so colorful bringing to life all of the amazing wildlife!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This picture book biography will be perfect for older elementary and secondary classrooms! I would love to see it being used when speaking about humans/women who made a difference or wetlands, so it’ll be a perfect cross-curricular read hitting science, social studies, and reading.

There truly is so much that can be done with this picture book. While reading, I found many differen sections I could stop and do a lesson about an aspect: transportation over time, women’s right history, onomatopoeias, article writing, women in military, women during WWII, expansion of the USA, poaching, National Park history, swamp vs. Everglades, animals of the Everglades, effects of pollution, Friends of the Everglades, and more!

The back matter of the book also offers great opportunities to diving deeper including articles to learn more about Marjory and a mentor text timeline.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Marjory’s persistence show that anyone can do anything they put their mind to?
  • How did Marjory change the world?
  • How can we keep the Everglades safe?
  • What birds and wildlife live in the Everglades that live no where else?
  • How is the Everglades unique?
  • What adjectives would you use to describe Marjory?
  • Before saving the Everglades, what else did Marjory do that she should be honored for?

Book Trailer:

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Picture book biographies, Enviornmental-focused picture books

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

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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 joshfunkbooks.com 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,

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

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

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The Blue Giant
Author & Illustrator: Katie Cottle
Published May 26th, 2020 by Pavilion Books Ltd.

Summary: A poignant and timely picture book introducing children to the issue of ocean pollution, with ideas to help the world become a better, cleaner place.

Coral and her mom are enjoying a break at the seaside. Until a creature emerges from the waves! It’s a giant. A blue giant. It is made of water, fish, and sea plants and has a stirring plea to help clean up the ocean.

Coral and her mom agree to help, donning their scuba-diving outfits and setting off to sea. But they can’t do it alone…can they?

This stunning follow-up to Katie Cottle’s debut picture book The Green Giant is another entertaining and beautiful eco-tale from the 2017 winner of the Batsford Prize. It introduces children to the issues of pollution, waste management, and the oceans, with suggestions of lifestyle changes to help clean up our seas.

About the Author: Katie Cottle is an illustrator and printmaker living and working in Bristol, U.K. Her work is often informed by the marks and colors created through traditional lithography. She also works digitally, using an iPad, and occasionally paints with gouache. The Blue Giant is her second book, following on from The Green Giant.

Review: Katie Cottle has caught onto something big with the format of this and her Green Giant book: it truly brings our environment to life and shows the harm that we are doing to it. The anthropomorphism of the ocean makes it even easier to connect to it as an entity as it shows how we are hurting it, and it shows what Meera DOES to try to reverse the effects we’ve caused.

In addition to the theme and story, I also really liked the illustrations. The author’s use of line is used expertly to show movement, and I loved all of the colors to really bring the story to life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is perfect for any discussion of water pollution and the environment. It shows a problem, a potential soultion, and hope for the future. It also specifically talks about single-use plastics which may be a new topic for many students.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is something you can do to help the ocean?
  • What does Meera do to help the ocean?
  • How does our actions effect the ocean?
  • What is an animal that is effected by our pollution?
  • What is a single-use plastic that you use that you could replace?
  • What was the author’s purpose in writing this book?
  • Why did the author give the ocean a voice in the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Learning about the environment

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**Thank you to Media Master Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

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