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Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw
Author: Todd Calgi Gallicano
Published August 29th, 2017 by Delacorte Press

Summary: A new action adventure series set in our famous national parks! Enter the world of the Department of Mythical Wildlife, where our protagonist, Sam London, is tasked with protecting legendary animals that secretly live amongst our treasured wildlife.

Haunted by a dream of a mythical gryphon, Sam London uncovers an ancient secret that will change the way he sees the world forever. Recruited by Dr. Vance Vantana, an eccentric zoologist and park ranger sent by the government, Sam is whisked away on an adventure that takes him to the farthest reaches of the globe. Along this journey, Sam learns an incredible truth: mythical creatures are real and living among us in our national parks. A special department in the U.S. government ensures that their existence remains hidden. 

But Sam’s dream is an omen that the secret may now be in danger. Someone seeks the power to expose these creatures and overthrow humankind–and that power can only be found in a magical talisman known as the gryphon’s claw.

“A fun-filled start to a series that is sure to keep lovers of Rick Riordan running to the shelves.”-SLJ

“A death-defying, globe-spanning adventure, packed with creatures out of folklore and myth….[Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw is] a solid series opener and debut for Gallicano, who stocks his story with engaging characters, human, and otherwise.”-Publishers Weekly

Review: I could not stop raving about this book as I read it! I tweeted about it, talked to everyone I saw about it, and even mentioned in a couple of IMWAYR posts. You know why? Because it is so much fun, the plot is so well-crafted, and finally my fans of Riordan’s mythological adventures are going to finally have a book that they’re going to love has much as his books. However, I don’t want you to think this is a Riordan copy-cat. It is a totally unique adventure with mythical creatures. I loved the combination of mythologies from different cultures, humor!, the new explanation of mythical creatures living with us yet hidden among us, and the inclusion of national parks in Sam’s story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw will be a perfect new addition to mythology units in middle school to share along side Percy Jackson and other Riordan words. Gallicano even included a glossary of the mythical creatures that will be a wonderful asset to classrooms. However, I feel that primarily the book will be found in students’ hands.

Discussion Questions: What do you think the cliffhanger means?; What character traits does Sam posess that helped him in his adventures?; Which mythical creature would scare you the most? Which mythical creature would you want to have in your house? Which mythical creature would you want to hang out with?; Do you think Phylassos did the right thing in hiding his identity? About getting Sam London involved in the adventure?; Discuss Chriscanis and his journey in the book.; How did Sam’s story fit the Hero’s Journey?

Flagged Passages: “The flapping of the creature’s massive wings sent up a swirling column of dust that blanketed the plateau and rose hundreds of feet into the air. In Death Valley, these whirlwinds of dirt were often called sand augers — twisting, dust-filled tornados that fed off the desert floor as they moved across the landscape. Sam had forgotten about this part of the dream and closed his eyes and covered his mouth a moment too late. When he heard the wings slow and felt the haze begin to settle, he cautiously opened his eyes. They instantly stung from the dissipating cloud of dust, and he coughed as particles of desert sand forced their way into his throat. But it was all suddenly worth it–the stinging, the coughing, the lying, the possible grounding for eternity–for what he saw standing before him was truly extraordinary. Phylassos had returned.”

Read This If You Love: Mythology, Mythical Creatures, Adventure

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**Thank you to Random House Children’s Books for providing a copy for review!**

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Gamer Squad #1: Attack of the Not-So-Virtual Monsters
Author: Kim Harrington
Published August 1st, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: What happens when your cool virtual-reality game . . . becomes REAL? Pokemon GO meets The Goonies in this action-packed middle-grade series.

Monsters Unleashed–where you catch virtual-reality monsters on your cellphone–is one of the hottest mobile games around, and Bex and Charlie just can’t stop playing. They even check out an old map in Charlie’s grandfather’s attic in hopes of discovering some forgotten places in town where the rarest monsters might hide. But they find a strange machine up there too, and after Charlie switches it on, the WiFi goes down . . . and Bex’s entire catalog of monsters vanishes! And that’s not the worst of it: all the creatures she’s collected on her phone escape into the real world. Can the friends nab the beasts before they become monster lunch?

Author Bio: Kim Harrington is the author of ClarityPerceptionThe Dead and Buried, and Forget Me for teens and the Sleuth or Dare and Gamer Squad series for kids. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son. When not writing, she’s most likely reading, watching one of her favorite TV shows, or fantasizing about her next vacation. She can be found on Twitter (@Kim_Harrington), Instagram (@KimHarringtonAuthor) and on her website: www.kimharringtonbooks.com.

Don’t miss out on our Interview with the Author, Kim Harrington!!

Review: Kim Harrington’s new series combining video games, science fiction, and adventure is going to be a huge hit with middle grade readers! The first book is a quick, fun read which you cannot put down. Monsters Unleashed, I believe purposefully, is like Pokemon Go! in that the players walk around town looking for monsters to catch, but what would happen if one person’s caught monsters escaped?!?! That was happens with Bex and Charlie, and now it is up to them to figure out how to save their town. This is when it gets unique and crazy! How are they going to get all of the monsters? They are clever 🙂

I cannot wait to read the rest of the series! I cannot wait to see what Bex and Charlie do next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I can promise that this is a must buy for middle grade classroom and school libraries. Students are going to love these!

Discussion Questions: How does Bex and Charlie overcome their monster obstacles? What different strategies do they use?; What type of people are Bex and Charlie? Do you think that plays a part in them being able to be successful?; Do you think Charlie did the right thing when it came to his brother?; How is Monsters Unleashed and Pokemon Go alike? Different?; What characters surprised you with their interest in Monsters Unleashed? What does that teach you?

Flagged Passages: “The monster emerged from behind a tree. It was covered in fur, like a wolf, but also had two long, sharp fangs poking out of its mouth, and glowing red eyes. The VampWolf was the perfect combination of horrifying and terrifying. It was torrifying. I didn’t even care that wasn’t a word. I was so scared, I needed a new word.

‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing?’ I asked Charlie.

‘If you’re seeing an actual VampWolf walking toward us, then yes.’

‘How can this be happening?’ I looked down at my phone. The Monsters Unleashed app wasn’t even open. I wasn’t looking through the screen. The monster was really there, in the middle of the street.

This wasn’t a game. The VampWolf was right there in front of us on the street.” p. 26-27

Read This If You Love: Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman, Frenzy by Robert Lettrick, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde, Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang, Frank Einstein by Jon Sciezska, Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

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**Thank you to Ardi at Sterling Publishing for providing a copy for review!!**

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The Real Us
Author: Tommy Greenwald
Illustrator: J.P. Coovert
Published August 8th, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: Laura Corbett and Damian White are loners, and not by choice. Kids make fun of smart, sarcastic Laura for her weight and artistic Damian for his tendency to sweat through his shirts. Calista Getz, however–well, everyone agrees that Calista is the prettiest girl in the whole school. Maybe even the whole state. Let’s just say that she sits at the popular lunch table. Laura and Damian don’t.

But when Calista wakes up just before the school dance with the BIGGEST pimple she has EVER seen right in the middle of her face, and her attempts to hide it backfire spectacularly, Laura and Damian are the only ones who don’t ignore her. In fact, they seem to see not only past her pimple, but past her popularity, too. Together, they’ll challenge the school’s status quo in this hilarious, heartfelt novel The Real Us, by Tommy Greenwald.

About the Author: Tommy Greenwald has enjoyed reading all his life, which is why he’s appalled that his kids Charlie, Joe and Jack, would prefer getting a dental check-up to checking out a book. After years of pleading, threatening, and bribing, Tommy finally decided the only way to get his kids to read was to write a book about how to get out of reading. The result was Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading. And they read it! (So they say.) The Executive Creative Director at SPOTCO, an entertainment advertising agency in New York City, Tommy lives in Connecticut with his wife, Cathy; his non-reading sons, Charlie, Joe and Jack; and his dogs, Moose and Coco.

Review: Middle school is a time of finding one’s identity. In The Real Us, Tommy Greenwald explores three different examples of kids in middle school and their search for who they really are. Damian is like many of our students who has something to hide from his peers so is quiet and hidden. Laura is friendly and known, but because of her weight is still excluded from most social activities. Then there is Callie. Who seems to have the perfect life, but even she learns through a bump in the road that perfection is not always what it seems. All three of these characters will resonate with readers either as a mirror or a window.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is going to be loved by middle school students. Add it to your classroom and school libraries, and it will be read and loved!

Discussion Questions: Callie’s life seemed perfect, but it wasn’t. How was it not as it seemed?; Which of the three characters do you relate to the most? Why?; Why did Callie stop being friends with Laura? What does this tell you about the two characters?

Flagged Passages: 

Damian: “I wish they had assigned seats at lunch like they do in class. It would make life a lot easier.”

Callie: “Here is a math equation for you: Sitting in class + A bandage on your nose = Forever.

Everyone gets pimples, Patrick had said.

I don’t.”

Laura: “I start to walk away, since my work here id done. But Ellie has one last question for me.

‘Do you play goalie?’ she asks. ‘Because you kind of look like you could totally block the goal all by yourself.’

Ellie and Ella dissolve into hysterics. I look at Calista, who doesn’t seem amused. But she doesn’t seem mad, either. She doesn’t seem anything.

‘No, I don’t play goalie,’ I answer. ‘I play defense. And you better watch it before I defense your butt with my foot.’

That shuts them up. I walk away.”

Read This If You Love: Roller Girl by Victoria JamiesonInsignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti BowlingMoon Shadow by Erin Downing, Posted by John David Anderson, Real Friends by Shannon Hale, Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

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7 August Ms. Yingling Reads | http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com — Review

8 August Maria’s Melange | http://www.mariaselke.com/ —”Why I Wrote The Real Us

9 August Log Cabin Library | http://logcabinlibrary.blogspot.com/ — Review

10 August Diary of a Happy Librarian | https://diaryofahappylibrarian.blogspot.com/ — Review

11 August Always in the Middle | https://gpattridge.com/  — “Make ‘Em Laugh”

14 August Randomly Reading | https://randomlyreading.blogspot.com/ — Review

15 August One Great Book | http://onegreatbook.com/ — Review

16  August Unleashing Readers | http://www.unleashingreaders.com  — Review and Giveaway

17  August Mr. D. Reads | https://misterdreads.wordpress.com — Author Interview

18  August Tommy Greenwald | http://tommygreenwald.com/blog/ — Giveaway

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A Bike Like Sergio’s
Author: Maribeth Boelts
Illustrator: Noah Z. Jones
Published October 4th, 2016 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Finders keepers, right? When Ruben picks up someone’s lost money, he finds out how hard it can be to do the right thing.

Ruben feels like he is the only kid without a bike. His friend Sergio reminds him that his birthday is coming, but Ruben knows that the kinds of birthday gifts he and Sergio receive are not the same. After all, when Ruben’s mom sends him to Sonny’s corner store for groceries, sometimes she doesn’t have enough money for everything on the list. So when Ruben sees a dollar bill fall out of someone’s purse, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s not one dollar or even five or ten—it’s a hundred-dollar bill, more than enough for a new bike just like Sergio’s! But what about the crossed-off groceries? And what about the woman who lost her money? Presenting a relatable story told with subtlety and heart, the creative team behind Those Shoes pairs up again for a satisfying new picture book.

Review: The summary and many of the reviews I’ve seen focus on the aspect that Ruben must learn to make a tough decision in the book: Should he keep the money or give it back? But something else really hit home for me: Ruben is going to be important to many readers because he is going to reflect the socioeconomic status in which they live. Not often is a topic like money issues hit on in a picture book, but Boelts wasn’t afraid to tackle that. 

One thing I talk to my students a lot about is using phrases to make themselves feel like they are doing the right thing like “finders keepers” or “snitches get stitches,” and A Bike Like Sergio’s tackles how using a phrase to justify a wrong-doing affects others.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: One way I picture A Bike Like Sergio’s being used in schools are with counselors in one of their lessons with kids when talking about how to treat others. Many of us get mad when kids act a certain way, but empathy really is something that needs to be taught (research proves it!), so books like Sergio’s will help teach students how actions can affect others and hopefully build empathy within our young students/kids.

Discussion Questions: Why did Ruben consider keeping the money? How would it have affected his family’s life? His life?; Based on the illustrations, how had the losing of $100 affected the woman who lost the money?; Did Ruben do the right thing?

Teachers’ Guide from Candlewick Press

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Talking ethics with kids and books such as Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell, We Are Growing! by Laurie Keller, The Thank You Book by Mo Willems

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of Young John Lewis
Author: Jabari Asim
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Published October 11th, 2016 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: A glimpse into the boyhood of Civil Rights leader John Lewis.

John wants to be a preacher when he grows up—a leader whose words stir hearts to change, minds to think, and bodies to take action. But why wait? When John is put in charge of the family farm’s flock of chickens, he discovers that they make a wonderful congregation! So he preaches to his flock, and they listen, content under his watchful care, riveted by the rhythm of his voice.

Review: John Lewis is an American hero and often what we hear about is his history as a Freedom Rider, Civil Rights Movement, and a politician, but Preaching to the Chickens shows us about John Lewis’s childhood and his faith and hard work as well as his passion and empathy for animals that helped build the foundation of who we see in the public eye. The truly inspiring story that Asim shares with us combined with Lewis’s illustrations really makes for a beautiful book.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Civil Rights Movement and the individuals that fought (and continue to fight) for equal rights is something that we need to make sure the current generation of kids are knowledgeable about as equality (or even equity) are not  here yet. There are so many amazing texts out there from nonfiction to fiction and picture books to novels that share this time within our history. These texts make up a text set (or reading ladder) that can be utilized in the classroom in so many ways including lit circles, book clubs, jigsaw, or inquiry projects.  Preaching to the Chickens is not itself a story of Civil Rights but it is the story of how a Civil Rights leader and Freedom Rider became. It is the story of hard work, empathy, and faith that have led to a man who is unlike any other.

Discussion Questions: How did John Lewis’s childhood impact his outlook on life?; How did John Lewis’s practice sermons help him become the public speaker and politician he is today?; What character traits did you see in young John Lewis that show you what kind of man he is today?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Picture books and nonfiction texts focusing on the Civil Rights Movement including Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport, The March Against Hate by Ann BausumThe First Step by Susan E. GoodmanBlood Brother by Rich Wallace and Sandra Neil Wallace, and other texts listed on my Civil Rights Text Set

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Leaping Lemmings!
Author: John Briggs
Illustrator: Nicola Slater
Published September 6th, 2016 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Think before you leap! Lemmings look alike, they sound alike, and they act alike. So if one jumps off a cliff, the others will jump right after him . . . except Larry. Larry’s very independent-minded and he won’t follow his fellow lemmings blindly to their doom. But can he teach them to use their brains and stop making terrible group decisions? John Briggs has created a wonderfully funny, quirky tale about staying true to yourself, while Nicola Slater’s witty illustrations capture all the humor and pathos of Larry’s situation.

My Thoughts: Leaping Lemmings looks at human identity but the message is symbolized by lemmings. The book personifies the saying, “If your friend jumped off a cliff, would you?!” and has the reader examine the dangers of trying to follow a crowd as well as the excitement of being yourself. Told in a silly way but with a very important message, this story is a perfect one to share with kids as they struggle with being themselves versus being accepted by their peers. 


Hoot & Honk Just Can’t Sleep
Author and Illustrator: Leslie Helakoski
Published March 14th, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Dark sky. Wake or doze?
Some eyes open. Some eyes close.

Some chicks like day, others like night. Some sleep in the dark, and some in the light. Hoot, an adorable owlet, and Honk, a fuzzy gosling, have just hatched—but their eggs got switched and now they’re in the wrong nests. Will they find their way home? Leslie Helakoski’s gentle, lilting verse and irresistible illustrations make the perfect bedtime story as they capture two adorable babies exploring the world for the first time.

My Thoughts: Hoot & Honk’s story is literally an animal identity story. It looks at nature and different types of birds, and tells the story of two birds trying to find their correct home and sleep schedule. The text is a perfect time to discuss nocturnal versus diurnal animals and how they work within nature. The story is also a perfect bedtime story because the writing is so rhythmic and the story is all about finding the right time to sleep. Kids are going to love this story whenever it is used–before bed or in the classroom. 


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Caring for Your Lion
Author: Tammi Sauer
Illustrator: Troy Cummings
Anticipated Published: May 2, 2017 by Sterling

Goodreads Summary: What happens when you expect an itty-bitty kitty . . . but get a lion instead?
It’s kitten delivery day, but—SURPRISE. Congratulations on your new LION! We know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those. Fortunately, the big cat comes with instructions—like, try very hard NOT to look like a zebra. Or a gazelle. And give your lion PLENTY of space to play. But soon the feathers and fur start flying and everything’s in chaos. Is there any way a lion could actually be a child’s purr-fect pet?

Ricki’s Review: This text will be a fantastic read-aloud for elementary school classrooms. It is a how-to book that will make kids roll with laughter. There is much to be taught from this text, so teachers will love teaching it as much as students will love listening to it. I enjoyed how straight-forward the text was. The pages include step-by-step instructions that are very clear and direct. The pictures show the consequences (e.g. the lion will eat you!). This is a perfect mentor text for a variety of teaching tools (see below) and a great addition to classrooms.

Kellee’s Review: Kids are going to love this step-by-step introduction into how to care for a pet lion. (Though I predict there are going to be some “No, you cannot have a lion as a pet.” conversations because of this book! The lion is just that adorable!) I loved how the book was a combination of a how-to guide and a narrative of the boy’s experience with his lion–what a unique concept! It is going to be such a fun book to read aloud with time to examine each page. And like Sauer’s Alien books, it really makes you think about expectations, prejudice, and first impressions vs. reality.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might use this book to teach sequence and how-to directions. They could also use it with students to discuss how caring for a lion would compare and contrast to caring for a more typical animal like a cat, dog, or fish. Students could then write their own how-to guides about caring for an exotic animal. 

Discussion Questions: What is difficult about caring for a lion? What is important to remember?; When should you use a feather? What does the feather do?

Flagged Passage: “Step 3: Try very hard NOT to look like a zebra. Or a gazelle. Or a bunny. (See Diagram A).”

Read This If You Love: Share, Big Bear, Share by Maureen WrightMr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnultyDear Dragon by Josh Funk; How to Track a Truck by Jason Carter Eaton; How This Book Was Made by Mac Barnett

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**Thank you to Lauren at Sterling for providing copies for review!**

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