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Weird Little Robots
Author: Carolyn Crimi
Illustrator: Corinna Luyken
Published October 1st, 2019 by Candlewick

Summary: When two science-savvy girls create an entire robot world, they don’t expect the robots to come alive. But life may be a bit more magical than they thought.

Nine-year-old Penny Rose has just moved to a new town, and so far the robots she builds herself are her only company. But with just a bit of magic, everything changes: she becomes best friends with Lark, has the chance to join a secret science club, and discovers that her robots are alive. Penny Rose hardly remembers how lonely she used to feel. But then a fateful misstep forces her to choose between the best friend she’s always hoped for and the club she’s always dreamed of, and in the end it may be her beloved little robots that pay the price.

Praise: [A]uthor Crimi infuses this unassuming transitional novel with compassion, humor, and a refreshing storyline in which girls organically weave a love for science into their everyday lives. Illustrations by Luyken add to the guileless sensibility. A contemplation on the magic of friendship told with sweetness, simplicity, and science.—Kirkus Reviews

**BEA Middle Grade Book Buzz Book

About the Author: Carolyn Crimi enjoys snacking, pugs, Halloween, and writing, although not necessarily in that order. Over the years she has published 15 funny books for children, including Don’t Need Friends, Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, Where’s My Mummy?, There Might Be Lobsters, and I Am The Boss of This Chair. Weird Little Robots is her first novel.

For more information, and to download a free classroom guide for Weird Little Robots, visit her website. and Twitter @crims10.

Review: Thank goodness books like this exist out in the world. I cannot wait to see what this new generation of kids are like as adults now that they all have these amazing stories of smart girls to read. Even the characters who fit a certain stereotype for Penny Rose ended up proving her wrong. This book shows that there is more to everything than anyone can imagine: more to science, more to friendship, more to imagination… What a fantastic world that Penny and Lark’s story can be told!

And the story itself is one that is fun to read. Not only do you get to read about robots, engineering, ornithology, and even decorating, but the book includes a story that many kids will connect with: do you abandon one to join the others even if the one is your best friend and the others is giving an opportunity that is hard to refuse. That is something that everyone faces more than once in their life. And told in a lyrical and a bit quirky narrative, the story is just fun to read.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: A Classroom Guide for Weird Little Robots can be found on Carolyn Crimi’s website!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do Penny Rose and Lark have in common?
  • Why do you think Penny Rose made the decision she did about the secret society? Did she regret it in the end? How could she have dealt with it differently?
  • If you were going to build a little robot RIGHT NOW, what items are in your backpack that you could use? Use these items and sketch out a plan.
  • How could Penny Rose have helped her other robots communicate with her?
  • Why do you think the robots waited to communicate?
  • What did the different members of the secret society show Penny Rose, and the reader, about judging others?
  • Create your own conversation starters. Then, in class, group with 2 other people and use the conversation starters to chat. Rotate.
  • What did Penny Rose’s one decision the turned her back on Lark cause?
  • Penny Rose finds her way through the woods just by listening. As a class create an obstacle course that has different sounds throughout it and see if students can navigate through using only their hearing.

Flagged Passages: “First though, Penny Rose would need a detailed plan. She went up to her bedroom, sat on her bed, and turned on the lamp she had made last year from an olive oil can. A stack of notebooks sat on her nightstand: her New Inventions notebook, her Robot Drawings and Descriptions notebook, and her To-Do List notebook. Her most secret notebook, Conversation Starters, was at the bottom of the pile.

She picked it up, found a clean page, and wrote a quick list of Possible Conversation Starters:

  1. “I think binoculars are fun.” (Lark seems to like binoculars.)
  2. “The sun seems strong today.” (Lark often wears sun goop. First determine if the sun does, indeed, seem strong.)
  3. “Sunglasses are very wise.” (Lark wears sunglasses.)
  4. “Do you like robots?” (It is unknown whether or not Lark likes robots, but it is probable that she does since most people do.)
  5. “Yesterday was my birthday. Would you like some leftover cake?” (This seems like a good bet, unless she has allergies or is gluten-free or vegan or something.)
  6. “What is in that metal box?” (This might be too nosy, although if you’re going to carry something so mysterious, you should be prepared for questions.)

Penny Rose looked over her list. She considered what her father said about Lark not hearing before. She decided she would speak loudly.

Penny Rose tore out the page and tucked it into the tool belt she wore in case she happened upon interesting items for her robots.” (Chapter One)

Read This If You Love: Ellie Engineer by Jackson Pearce, Ada Twist by Andrea Beaty, Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly, The Last Panther by Todd Mitchell, Frank Einstein by Jon Scieszka

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

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Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Thrilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker
Author: Mara Rockliff
Illustrator: Simona Ciraolo
Published: September, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Meet Alice Guy-Blaché. She made movies—some of the very first movies, and some of the most exciting! Blow up a pirate ship? Why not? Crawl into a tiger’s cage? Of course! Leap off a bridge onto a real speeding train? It will be easy! Driven by her passion for storytelling, Alice saw a potential for film that others had not seen before, allowing her to develop new narratives, new camera angles, new techniques, and to surprise her audiences again and again. With daring and vision, Alice Guy-Blaché introduced the world to a thrilling frontier of imagination and adventure, and became one of filmmaking’s first and greatest innovators. Mara Rockliff tells the story of a girl who grew up loving stories and became an acclaimed storyteller and an inspiration in her own right.

About the Creators: 

Mara Rockliff has authored many books for children, including: Anything But Ordinary Addie: The True Story of Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of MagicAround America to Win the Vote; and Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France. She lives in Pennsylvania.

Simona Ciraolo is a children’s book author and illustrator. She grew up in Italy where she received a degree in animation from the National Film School. She also earned an MA in children’s book illustration at Cambridge. She lives in London.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ and discussion guide I created for Lights! Camera! Alice!:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about the book on Chronicle Book’s Lights! Camera! Alice! page.

Recommended For: 

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Barkus: Dog Dreams
Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrator: Marc Boutavant
Published: August 7th, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Barkus is back! With new tricks. New friends. And lots more fun.

The lovable Barkus and his lucky young owner romp through the pages of this delightful series from Newbery Medal–winning author Patricia MacLachlan. The simple text told in short chapters is just right for children ready to take their first steps toward reading on their own.

View my post about Barkus to learn about book one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for the Barkus series:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Barkus on Chronicle Book’s Barkus Book 2 page.

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

Summary: Sometimes you need to lose something in order to find yourself.

Beloved author John David Anderson returns with a heartwarming, heartbreaking and unforgettable story of the true power and limits of family.

    Ron Kwirk comes from a rather odd family. His mother named him and his sisters after her favorite constellations, and his father makes funky-flavored jelly beans for a living. One sister acts as if she’s always onstage, and the other is a walking dictionary. But no one in the family is more odd than Rion’s grandfather, Papa Kwirk.

    He’s the kind of guy who shows up on his motorcycle only on holidays, handing out crossbows and stuffed squirrels as presents. Rion has always been fascinated by Papa Kwirk, especially since his son—Rion’s father—is the complete opposite. Where Dad is predictable, nerdy, and reassuringly boring, Papa Kwirk is mysterious, dangerous, and cool.

    Which is why, when Rion and his family learn of Papa Kwirk’s death and pile into the car to attend his funeral and pay their respects, Rion can’t help but fell that that’s not the end of the story. That there’s so much more to Papa Kwirk to discover.

    He doesn’t know how right he is.

About the Author:John David Anderson is the author of some of the most beloved and highly acclaimed books for kids in recent memory, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Posted, Granted, Sidekicked, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife and two frawsome kids in Indianapolis, Indiana. He’s never eaten seven scoops of ice cream in a single sitting, but he thinks it sounds like a terrific idea. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.

Praise: 

“Readers will be happily swept along by Rion’s first-person narration, which is often amusing, sometimes bemused, and occasionally even tender as he shows how his family was unwittingly drawn together by their shared experience. Anderson offers another original novel written with wit and compassion.” – Booklist

“Humor, plot twists, and quirky characters abound in this earnest middle grade tale of self-discovery.” – School Library Journal

“Eccentric yet believable characters and Rion’s perceptive narration prevent Anderson’s unpredictable tale from feeling overwrought as the relationships between three generations of fathers and sons are rewritten anew.” – Publisher’s Weekly

Review: The characters’ last name says it all: Kwirk. This book is full of quirks. I found the beginning so funny that I had to read it out loud to my son and husband while we were driving, and that was literally and figuratively just the beginning. I have read all but one of Anderson’s books, and reading Finding Orion reminded me again why I enjoy his writing so much: that Anderson does so brilliantly, when he tackles humor, is that he can combine a serious topic (death) with humor and it doesn’t seem far fetched or cheap. It seems perfect. 

The cast of characters, though over the top at times, added so much to the story. They are extravagant, a bit weird, and very entertaining. While Rion sometimes found himself just along for the ride, the other characters took the wheel and drove us through the story.

Another winning book for Anderson that I cannot wait to share with my students.

Educators’ Guide: 

Discussion Questions: 

  • When was a time that you felt like an outcast in your family?
  • What jelly bean flavor would you want to try? Would never try?
  • How did Papa Kwirk’s personality affect how different his son is?
  • Rion and his sisters are more alike than he wants to admit. Create only a comparison chart showing how they are alike with text evidence to support it.
  • How did the fun-neral change Rion’s perspective on his grandfather?
  • How did learning about the whole other life his grandfather have affect Rion?
  • What roles did the animals play in the story?
  • How is the author’s ability to create quirky characters change the trajectory of the story?

Flagged Passages: Read an excerpt here! It is the first few pages that had me actually laughing out loud while reading it.

Read This If You Love: The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman, Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina, Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard, Death and Douglas by JW Ockler, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

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

Blog Tour May 6-14, 2019

May 6 Nerdy Book Club
May 7 Bluestocking Thinking
May 8 The Book Monsters
May 9 Maria’s Melange
May 13 This Kid Reviews Books
May 14 Kirsti Call

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

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We Are (Not) Friends
Author: Anna Kang
Illustrator: Christopher Weyant
Published May 1st, 2019 by Two Lions

Summary: Two fuzzy friends are having a fun playdate when a new pal hops in. As the day continues, each friend feels left out at times. It isn’t so easy to figure out how to act when everything seems to change. With humor and heart, the beloved characters from Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small navigate a friendship triangle as only they can.

About the Creators: Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant are the creators of Theodor Seuss Geisel Award winner You Are (Not) Small as well as series titles That’s (Not) Mine, I Am (Not) Scared, and We Are (Not) Friends. They also wrote and illustrated Eraser, which was recently honored with The Christopher Award, Can I Tell You a Secret?, and Will You Help Me Fall Asleep? Christopher’s work can also be seen in The New Yorker, and his cartoons are syndicated worldwide. This husband-and-wife team lives in New Jersey with their two daughters and their rescue dog. Visit them at www.annakang.com and www.christopherweyant.com.

Twitter: @annakang27 @christophweyant
Instagram: annakangbooks; christopherweyant
Facebook: Anna Kang – Author; Christopher Weyant

Praise for You Are (Not) Small:

Winner of the 2015 Theodore Seuss Geisel Award
ALA Notable Children’s Book
Parents’ Choice Awards Silver Honor
NPR Best Books of 2014

Kellee’s Review: When I first read this series to my son, he had a hard time because so much of it has to do with reading facial expressions and understanding dialogue; however, now that he is five (vs. three), this series is a favorite! The conversations we have around the two aspects that made this book better for a pre-k kid instead of a preschooler are phenomenal. And although I loved the series as a reader when I first was introduced, now as a mom I appreciate it so much more. The newest one is definitely a perfect one to read with someone Trent’s age as it is about playing nice, sharing friends and toys, and just overall being a kind person. 

Ricki’s Review: I absolutely love this series, and my kids love it, too. I have gifted a few copies of the books to friends with young kids. The messages are wonderful, and they allow for discussions about important topics in age-appropriate ways. For instance, when I was reading it to my two-year-old, I pointed to the picture of the character who was sad and asked questions like, “How does he feel? Why does he feel sad? Have you ever felt sad? Have you ever felt left out? What do you do when you see a friend who is sad?” I particularly liked this book because it focuses on issues of friendship. Sometimes, kids feel like they need to claim other kids as their best friends, and this makes other kids feel left out. Also, sometimes, kids get excluded from play. This is an issue I see in both my two-year-old’s and five-year-old’s classes. The book is accessible for kids of many ages, and the lessons are important. If you haven’t read the books in this series, I recommend them highly!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Read this series with kids! Read it to them, discuss it with them, let them navigate it on their own, and let them love it. Each book has a different lesson without being didactic. And they are just so much fun and have fantastic illustrations!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does ____ feel? How can you tell?
  • Why do you think ____ feels this way?
  • What could ____ have done to make the situation different?
  • How is what happened in the book like something in your life?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Anything by the Kang and Weyant team

Recommended For: 

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

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You Choose in Space
Author: Pippa Goodhart
Illustrator: Nick Sharratt
Published March, 2019 by Kane Miller Books

Summary: Zoom off into space for an adventure where you choose what happens next. Which alien would you most like to be friends with? And what fantastically freaky food will you decide to munch for lunch?

The possibilities are infinite in this mesmerizing creative toolkit which will inspire children to make their own stories time and again — it’s out of this world!

Ricki’s Review: The You Choose series books are easily among my favorite books to read to my kids. We take them on family vacations and visits with relatives and friends because we love to hear what our friends and family would choose. This is one of the best books to bring in car trips because kids can select a different ending every time! When this book came in the mail, my kids shrieked with joy. Since then, we’ve read it dozens of times. I love seeing how my kids’ tastes are different. There is also a lot of great classroom potential in these books (see below).

Kellee’s Review: I’m so glad that Ricki told me to review this You Choose book with her! She received the first one, but I was booked at the time, but she said that I could not let this chance pass, and I am so glad! It is a choose your own adventure book for the picture book age. It really does build up the story-telling capacity because it gives a foundation and lets the reader build up from there. It is such a fun book that is different every time, so a reader is never done!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: You Choose in Space, Just Imagine, and You Choose make for fantastic texts for creative writing units and courses. As teachers, we know that students often struggle to get started, and paging through these books allows for wonderful story starters. I use these books to discuss teaching composition with preservice teachers, and I also use them for a unit about using picture books in the classroom. My students love these books!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you choose? Why?
  • What did you NOT choose? Why?
  • Which page was your favorite? Why was the spread most interesting to you?
  • Did you notice any trends or patterns with your choices?

Ricki’s family reading one of the You Choose books on vacation: 

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Loved: Just Imagine by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart; You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart; Choose Your Own Journey by Susie Brooks and Tracy Cottingham; Story Path: Choose a Path, Tell a Story by Madalena Matoso; Where’s Will? by Tilly; I Want to Be… books by Ruby Brown

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**Thank you to Lynn Kelley at Kane Miller Books for sending us this book!**

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Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra
Author: Barb Rosenstock
Illustrator: Terry Widener
Published February 5th, 2019 by Calkins Creek

Summary: The life and famous words, such as “it ain’t over till it’s over,” of Major League Baseball player and New York Yankee Lawrence “Yogi” Berra are celebrated in this nonfiction picture book.

Yogi Berra loved his family, his neighborhood, his friends, and, most of all, baseball. He was crazy for it, ever since he was a young kid playing with friends in an abandoned dump. But baseball didn’t love him back–at least not at first. Yogi was different. He didn’t have the right look. When he finally made it to the major leagues, Yogi faced pranks and harassment from players, sportswriters, and fans. Their words hurt, but they made Yogi determined to show all that he could do. This book looks at the talents, loves, and inspirational words of this celebrated New York Yankee and American icon, who earned a World Series ring for each finger and made baseball love him back.

About the Creators: 

Barb Rosenstock is best known for her many picture book biographies, including Thomas Jefferson Builds a LibraryBen Franklin’s Big Splash,The StreakDorothea’s Eyes, and Blue Grass Boy, all published by Calkins Creek. Her other recent titles include a picture book about Vincent Van Gogh, Vincent Can’t Sleep, and a picture book about Vasily Kandinsky, The Noisy Paint Box, which won the 2015 Caldecott Honor Medal. She lives outside Chicago with her family. Visit her at barbrosenstock.com.

Terry Widener is the award-winning illustrator of many picture books on athletes, including The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio Became America’s Hero, Girl Wonder: A Baseball Story in Nine Innings, American Champion Swimmer: Gertrude Ederle,and Lou GehrigThe Luckiest Man. He is also the illustrator of The Kite That Bridged Two Nations by Alexis O’Neill. He lives in McKinney, Texas, with his wife and is the father of three grown children. Visit him at terrywidenerart.com.

Praise:

*“This excellent character study will be useful as a model for students writing research-based biographies since it includes extensive author’s notes, baseball statistics, a note about Yogi-isms, and secondary quotes about the man himself, but it will loved most of all by Yankees fans.” –School Library Connection, starred review

“(T)his picture-book biography…does an excellent job covering Berra as both baseball player and cultural icon. Widener’s illustrations…ably capture Berra’s short stature and big personality. Thorough back matter concludes the book, including a double-page spread of Berra’s ‘amazing’ stats, a bibliography, an author’s note, several photographs, and source notes.” –The Horn Book

“Rosenstock covers all the bases, focusing on Yogi’s great love of baseball, his determination to succeed, and, most of all, his longing for baseball to love him back. His perplexing, witty, and wise ‘Yogi-isms’ are incorporated in the text as well as appearing in large, hand-lettered blurbs within the illustrations. Widener’s colorful, muscular acrylic cartoons…beautifully capture his essence. A loving homage to a charismatic baseball hero.” –Kirkus Reviews

“(A) loving tribute to New York Yankee baseball legend Yogi Berra. Back matter documents his amazing career… and complement the storylike text that introduces a simple Italian kid from Saint Louis who loved his family, loved his friends, and really, really loved baseball. The illustrations capture the wistful, nostalgic mood… readers will come away with an appreciation for both the amazing athlete and the humble, unique individual. Source notes, a bibliography, and additional background information elevate this offering into viable research material, making this an entertaining and worthy addition to sports biography collections.” –Booklist

Review: I am always so impressed with Barb Rosenstock’s multi-faceted biographies.

  • You can tell she is a historian because of the accurate and well-represented history of whomever she is writing about as well as the detailed and interesting back matter that is included in her books. This one particularly is impressive with its research notes, statistics, Yogi-isms, and quotes about Yogi.
  • You can tell she is a master storyteller because her biographies are never dry history but are instead a beautiful narrative that brings the subject and their story to life.
  • You can tell she is a caring person because of the themes she incorporates within her stories and the people she chooses to write about.
  • With Yogi, you can tell she is a baseball fan because she represents the sport with the heart that those of us who love baseball can feel.

All of this, paired with an illustrator that brings movement and emotions to life, lends to a very engaging picture book biography!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This text is a perfect addition to the classroom with its many uses across literacy, history, physical education, and math!

Educators’ Guide provided by the publisher:

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the author incorporate “Yogi-isms” throughout the narrative? Choose one quote and explain how it fits in with the story.
  • Read the quotes about Yogi in the backmatter. Find evidence from the story to support the statements made by these individuals.
  • Make a list of character traits that Yogi Berra displayed in the story. Find evidence to support these traits.
  • Words hurt. But Yogi wouldn’t let them stop him. What does this tell you about him?
  • In what way do you think Yogi Berra impacted the players around him the most?
  • What makes Yogi Berra one of the best baseball players ever? Use evidence to support your statements.
  • Why do you think his parents let him go play baseball but not his brother?
  • In what way did the author and illustrator compare Yogi’s job as a gunner’s mate during World War II and his job as a catcher in the MLB?

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Baseball, Picture Book Biographies, Quotable Quotes

Recommended For: 

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Don’t Miss the Other Stops on the Blog Tour!

Monday, 3/18                       Mile High Reading
Tuesday, 3/19                      Book Q&A’s with Deborah Kalb
Wednesday, 3/20               Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook
Thursday, 3/21                     Behind the Scenes @BMP
Friday, 3/22                          Anatomy of Nonfiction
Monday, 3/25                      The Nonfiction Detectives
Wednesday, 3/27                KidLit Frenzy
Thursday, 3/28                    Celebrate Picture Books
Friday, 3/29                          Unleashing Readers

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**Thank you to Boyds Mills Press for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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