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Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale
Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrator: Deborah Marcero
Published September 5th, 2017 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Summary: Have you heard the story of Cinderella? Well, you don’t know the half of it.

Cinderella and her lesser-known twin, Tinderella, split everything right down the middle. They each do half the housework, half the mending, and half the mean step-sister tending. When the Prince throws a ball, their fairy godmother sends them both, and they dance the night away with the prince. But he simply can’t choose between Cin and Tin, and they are in need of some clever thinking and just a pinch of magic. The Prince agrees to share his kingdom half and half, and the fairy-godmother makes him a twin too, so they can all live happily ever after. Cin and the Prince rule the kingdom, while Tin and the Twin win all the kingdom’s math competitions. It truly is a happily ever half-ter.

Review: I am a huge fan of fairy tale retellings. I think they are a perfect way to bring attention to something, tell a unique story, or teach students because it is set in a basis of prior knowledge that most students already have thus allowing for a comfortable base to scaffold up from. With Twinderella, the story of Cinderella is used to teach about fractions and division while also telling a story of two sisters that find a way to make sure they can live happily ever half-ter.

Schwartz and Marcero are a perfect team to tell these twins’ story in a way that not only teaches but entertains. The balance was done so well between the math concepts and narrative. You learn how the twins make it all work, and you root for them to be happy.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When I finished this book, I immediately texted my friend who teaches 2nd grade because I know that it is perfect for the classroom! It meets standards for second grade because of the focus on fairy tales and retellings and is a perfect introduction to easy fractions that they will begin looking at in 3rd grade.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is Twinderella different from the traditional Cinderella stories?
  • How did Tinderella make sure that everything was split equally between the two sisters?
  • What math concepts were taught in the story?
  • With the quadruplets, how would chores and such needed to be divided?

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Read This If You Love: Math, Fairy Tale Retellings

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**Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for providing a copy for review!**

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Nerdy Birdy
Author: Aaron Reynolds; Illustrator: Matt Davies
Published September 22, 2015 by Roaring Brook Press

GoodReads Summary: Nerdy Birdy likes reading, video games, and reading about video games, which immediately disqualifies him for membership in the cool crowd.

One thing is clear: being a nerdy birdy is a lonely lifestyle.

When he’s at his lowest point, Nerdy Birdy meets a flock just like him. He has friends and discovers that there are far more nerdy birdies than cool birdies in the sky.

Ricki’s Review: I absolutely adored this book. I don’t usually review books that are more than a year old, but my love for this book, compelled me to write a review. The book is about a nerdy bird whose physical appearance makes him feel lonely. He meets other birds who share his physical appearance, and he finds comfort in this. But then a very, very different bird comes along (a vulture), and Nerdy Birdy is forced to consider his values and whether or not the nerdy bird club might be just as exclusive themselves. This book provided an avenue for an excellent discussion with my son. We talked about his class and about how some of his peers might feel left out. I’d love to use this book in an elementary school classroom.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a great book to read on the first day of school or at a time when students are leaving one or some students left out. It provides a great opportunity for critical discussions of cliques.

Discussion Questions: Why does Nerdy Birdy feel left out? How does he find solace in other birds that look like him?; How does the vulture differ from him? What does this teach him about friendship, groups, and personal appearances?

We Flagged: 

Image from: https://us.macmillan.com/nerdybirdy/aaronreynolds/9781626721272/

Read This If You Loved: Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt; 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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You’re All Kinds of Wonderful
Author and Illustrator: Nancy Tillman
Published: October 3, 2017 by Feiwel and Friends

Summary: We’re not all the same. Thank goodness we’re not.
Life would be boring, and I mean… a lot.

And so, when we’re born, we’re supplied at the start 
with our own bells and whistles to set us apart.

Think of your bells as the things you do best
things tucked away in your own treasure chest.

Part of growing up is discovering–and embracing–what makes us unique. From different abilities to different personalities, we are all wonderfully made with our own bells and whistles.

My Review: I love Nancy Tillman. Her book On the Night You Were Born is a staple in our bedtime routine. She has a way with words that is simply magical. This book does not disappoint. When I read this book to my son, I paused at the end and looked at him, and he said, “Can we read it again?” It was a great book to talk about how we all have different talents and strengths. This is a lesson that can’t be iterated enough to children. Parents will love reading this book to their kids and discussing how that particular shines and offers something different and beautiful to the world.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask each student to illustrate a page for a book that shares what their talents or positive characteristics. All of the pages could be combined into a bound book.

Discussion Questions: Look through each page. What makes each of the children special? How are you special? What do you add to this world?

Flagged Passage: “We’re not all the same. Thank goodness we’re not. / Life would be boring, and I mean—a lot. / And so, when we’re born, we’re supplied at the start / with our own bells and whistles to set us apart.”

Read This If You Loved: On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman; Little Tree by Loren Long, Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, Say Hello by Jack Foreman, The Cloud by Hannah Cumming, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

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**Thank you to Kelsey at Macmillan for providing a copy of this book for review!**

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All My Friends Are Fast Asleep
Author: David Weinston; Illustrator: Magali Le Huche
Published September 5, 2017 by FSG

Summary: After tossing and turning in his bed, a little boy embarks on a nighttime quest to find a cozy place to rest. He visits one animal friend after another, from a lark in its nest to a mole in its hole. But while all the animals he meets are happily dozing off, this tuckered-out wanderer remains wide-awake–until he finally finds the perfect spot to lay his head.

From David Weinstone, the popular children’s musician and creator of the Music for Aardvarks program, comes All My Friends Are Fast Asleep, a rhythmic, cheerily illustrated bedtime story sure to smooth the way to sleep for young insomniacs everywhere.

Ricki’s Review: I love books that feature a different animal on each page. This book is different from others that I’ve read because it explores the different ways in which animals sleep. My son enjoyed reading this with me, and he demonstrated each of the animal’s ways of sleeping. It was very fun and interactive. The illustrations are simply lovely. They pop off the page and lure the reader to want to turn the page to see which animal is next. We had a lot of fun with this book—we enjoyed stopping on each page to discuss the animal together.

Kellee’s Review: One of Trent’s favorite board books is A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na which has a little owl that ventures out to visit other animals and they are all sleeping. We talk about the differences between all of the different animals and how different they sleep. All My Friends are Fast Asleep elevates this conversation and will be a great ladder up from the board book. In this book, the young protagonist is having trouble sleeping, so he goes and visits animals to try to sleep how they are to see if it’ll help. In the end, he realizes that the best way to sleep is in his bed, but we, as the reader, in the end have learned about many different animals’ sleeping habits. Additionally, the book ends with guitar chords to accompany the book to turn it into a song–how much fun!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to pick one animal in the book and research other aspects of that animal’s life. Or, students could find other animals in the wild and draw additional pages of this book. They could compile those pages into a sequel!

Visit www.allmyfriendsarefastasleepbook.com for a free download of David Weinstone’s musical version of the text!

Discussion Questions: Which is your favorite animal page? Why? How is this animal different from all of the other animals in the book?; Why does the boy end up in his bed at the end of the night? What other animals could he have found?

We Flagged: “It’s time for bed and overhead / the moon has risen high / but I can’t seem to fall asleep, / no matter how I try.”

Read This If You Loved: Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley; Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise BrownGoodnight Songs by Margaret Wise BrownA Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na, I’m Not Sleepy by Jonathan Allen, Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie Helakoski 

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**Thank you to Kelsey from Macmillan for sharing these books with us!**

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Flashlight Night
Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Fred Koehler
Published September 19th, 2017 by Boyds Mills Press

Summary: Flashlight Night is an ode to the power of imagination and the wonder of books. Three children use a flashlight to light a path around their backyard at night; in the flashlight’s beam another world looms. Our heroes encounter spooky woods, a fearsome tiger, a time-forgotten tomb, an Egyptian god, a sword-fighting pirate, and a giant squid. With ingenuity, they vanquish all, then return to their tree house–braver, closer, and wiser than before–to read the books that inspired their adventure.

“Delicious language . . . ingenious metamorphoses . . . a rousing read.” – Kirkus Reviews, Starred review

About the Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine’s poetry has been published in Highlights as well as in anthologies selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins, Carol-Ann Hoyte, and J. Patrick Lewis. He lives with his family in Warner, New Hampshire. Visit mattforrest.com.

About the Illustrator: Fred Koehler is and author-illustrator. His debut picture book, How to Cheer Up Dad, received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and BCCB. Fred has a background in advertising and lives with his two spirited kids in Lakeland, Florida, where he loves boating, camping, and the great outdoors.

Review: Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine and Fred Koehler takes the reader on an adventure that truly illuminates the power of imagination. Esenwine’s poetic language is lyrical and filled with imagery and when accompanied with Koehler’s beautifully detailed pencil illustrations, the story comes to life.

I was so lucky to be able to spend some time with Fred at ALA and learn all about his adventures to find just the right inspiration for these illustrations. He went on some amazing adventures to Great Britain where he hiked and visited sites all to ensure that his illustrations were perfect for Matt’s story. He also showed us a time-lapse video of his pencil drawing one spread for the book. Yes, hand drawn with pencil. Beautiful and so impressive!

And this story is going to be loved by kids of all ages because of the fun adventures and parents will love the promotion of imagination. For example, this story made Trent want to go exploring, and Trent loves flashlights, so he loved the idea that a flashlight at night can bring about a how imaginative world!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would love to see what kids could come up with if given the opportunity to write about what their flashlight “showed them” when they go on an adventure around their house or outside. It would be a really fun activity for students to take and print photos of different places around their house and outside their house then write narratives about their adventures around these places and what is “actually there” if they explored with their flashlight.

Some other elements that could be discussed with Flashlight Night are: compare/contrast between what is there and what’s in their imagination and imagery/descriptive language including figurative language.

Discussion Questions: What are some different cultural influences you see in the adventures the kids went on?; What are the differences between reality and their imagination?; What descriptive language did the author use to help add imagery to the story?

Time Lapse Video of the Creation of One of Flashlight Night‘s Illustrations: It took Fred 30-35 hours per spread to create the amazing world the children explore throughout the book.

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Read This If You Love: Journey Trilogy by Aaron BeckerThe Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson, Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, Curious Case of the Missing Mammoth by Ellie HattieDad and the Dinosaur by Gennifer Choldenko, The Night Gardener by Terry Fan, My Pen by Christopher Myers, The Night World by Mordicai Gerstein, Lenny and Lucy by Philip C. Stead

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Don’t miss the other stops on the blog tour!

Friday, 9/15  Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Monday 9/18 KitLit Exchange/The Loud Library Lady

Tuesday 9/19 Penny Klostermann Book Blog

Wednesday 9/20 Unleashing Readers

Thursday 9/21 KidLit Frenzy

Friday 9/22 Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook

Monday 9/25 Librarian in Cute Shoes

Tuesday 9/26 Nerdy Book Club

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills Press for having us be part of the blog tour!**

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Things That Surprise You
Author: Jennifer Maschari
Published August 22nd, 2017 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Things That Surprise You is a beautifully layered novel about navigating the often shifting bonds of family and friendship, and learning how to put the pieces back together when things fall apart.

About the Author: Jennifer Maschari is a classroom teacher and the author of THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE and THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. She is hard at work on her next middle grade novel with Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. Jennifer lives in Ohio with her husband and stinky (yet noble) English bulldogs, Oliver and Hank. To learn more, visit http://jenmaschari.com/.

Review: Things that Surprise You is a perfect starting middle school book because it really shows the truth of how that transition is a turning point in kids’ lives. As a middle school teacher, I see students all start coming into their own or getting pushed by peer pressure to be something they’re not. It is such a tough time in a kids’ life; a book like this will surely make them feel less alone during the turbulent time.

There are other two minor plot lines/characters that I felt were really well done. First, I think the inclusion of Emily’s sister’s eating disorder was done tastefully and was not added in just to make the book an issues book. Although this story didn’t take center stage, it was dealt with in a way that was respectful yet also brought light to anorexia. The struggles that Emily’s sister, family, and Emily face during this time is realistic because so many middle schoolers are facing adversity at home and when starting middle school.  I also really enjoyed Emily’s teacher. I think her ability to make students feel like her classroom is a home for them and that she is there for them was honorable, and I hope that I can be just a tiny bit like her.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: curriculum guide has been created by the publisher that includes discussion questions and activities that meet Common Core standards.

Discussion Questions: What do you think surprised Emily the most about middle school and was the most impactful?; What is the theme of this book? What is the author trying to tell us about middle school?; Do you have a book series that you love as much as Emily loves her unicorn books? What series is it? Why do you love it?; What do you think was the hardest for Emily in middle school?; Hazel changed a lot throughout the book. How would you compare/contrast Hazel from the beginning to the end of the book?; Mina’s eating disorder is one of the main conflicts of the book. Do you feel hopeful about Mina going forward?

Flagged Passages: “While Hazel and I wait, we bench dance to the music from the jukebox. It’s a lot like car dancing but a little more restrained since you’re in public and everything. She does the squid, a move she made up where you wiggle your arms on either side of your body. I do the turtle, where you bob your head forward and backward. Hazel’s snort-laughing and I practically have tears coming out of my eyes, when I hear a noise behind me. Hazel stops dancing. I turn my head to look, but not so fast that I miss Hazel taking the purple horn off her head and hiding it below the table. I blink once and then again Confused.

‘Hazel!’ the voice cried but it sound like ‘Heyyyyzel’ the way she draws it out.

Three girls wearing the same field hockey shirt Hazel was before crowd around the booth.” (p. 18-19)

Read This If You Love: The Real Us by Tommy GreenwaldHundred Percent by Karen Romano YoungTruth or Dare by Barbara DeeStill a Work in Progress by Jo KnowlesThe Secret Hum of Daisy by Tracy HolczerGeorgia Rules by Nanci Turner Stevenson, Forget Me Not by Ellie Terry

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

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Giant Pumpkin Suite
Author: Melanie Heuiser Hill
Published September 12th, 2017 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Who are you, if you can’t be what you always expected? A moving coming-of-age tale of prodigy and community, unlikely friendship and growing things.

Twelve-year-old Rose Brutigan has grown seven inches in the last eight months. She’s always been different from her twin brother, Thomas, but now she towers over him in too many ways. The gap in their interests continues to widen as well. Musically talented Rose is focused on winning the upcoming Bach Cello Suites Competition, while happy-go-lucky Thomas has taken up the challenge of growing a giant pumpkin in the yard of their elderly neighbor, Mr. Pickering. But when a serious accident changes the course of the summer, Rose is forced to grow and change in ways she never could have imagined. Along the way there’s tap dancing and classic musicals, mail-order worms and neighborhood-sourced compost, fresh-squeezed lemonade, the Minnesota State Fair — and an eclectic cast of local characters that readers will fall in love with.

Review: I must be honest as I start this review. I love the cello. I started playing at 11, went to a music school of choice in high school, and minored in music in college. And I believe that the Bach Cello Suites are some of the most beautiful pieces of music in existence. All of these facts may have made me a bit biased when it came to Giant Pumpkin Suite.

Rose is one special young lady. She is a prodigy of the cello and academics. She is taking college courses and has skipped grades and is in high school at age 12. And at the beginning of the book because of all of these things, she has lost what it is like to be a child. The only child-like thing she does in the first 50 pages or so is read Charlotte’s Web, which is her favorite book. Everything else in her life is structured and serious. But then something happens and everything changes. This is where the pumpkin comes in.

Rose truly transforms in this novel in a way that is believable yet amazing. The girl at the end of the novel seems so far away from the young lady you meet at the beginning, but as a reader, I loved the transformation. Rose is one amazing character who really finds who she is because of all the people in her world who truly do care for her.

Speaking of the other people, I loved the supporting cast in the novel. Hill did a great job making sure every character in the novel had their own personality and story and each played such an important part. I felt like I was part of the neighborhood by the time I was done with the book. And it isn’t only Rose that grows throughout the book. I loved seeing how Thomas, Jane, and other characters really found themselves throughout the book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am interested to hear what students think of this book! I had it in my book speed dating in my classroom, and students seemed to love the cover and synopsis. I personally think that fans of the books listed below are going to love Rose’s story, so please put this book in your libraries 🙂

Discussion Questions: How did Rose change from the beginning to the end of the book?; Who do you think made the biggest impact on Rose?; How did the pumpkin affect the whole neighborhood?; Why did the bowl from Japan mean so much to Rose?; How do you think the story would have been different if the accident didn’t happen?

Flagged Passages: From Chapter 1:

“It was all so clever. Bach was a musical genius, but he didn’t even stop with beautiful music. He had all these jokes and numerical riddles running in the notes — forward, backward, and upside down, sometimes. Two of her favorite things in one package: math and music! Oh, how she loved Bach.”

“At age twelve (and two weeks and three days), Rose was almost a foot and a half taller and four grades ahead of her twin. Thomas had been sick a lot in first grade and had been held back, while she’d skipped a grade a couple of times and had started high school this past fall. She was left-handed; Thomas was right-handed. She loved to read; Thomas hated it. She went to university for math, but Thomas had never passed his multiplication tables. Nearly everyone had forgotten they were twins. Except Mr. Pickering, who seldom mentioned it. And Calamity Jane. Who mentioned it all the time.”

Read This If You Love: Vanished by James Ponti, The Way to Stay in Destiny by Augusta Scattergood, Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Audition and Subtraction by Amy Fellner Dominy, A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

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