Currently viewing the category: "Cause/Effect"

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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The Case of the Stinky Stench
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Brendan Kearney
Published May 2nd, 2017 by Sterling Kids

Summary: “Uncle,” Crossaint said, “the fridge is in trouble!
A mystery stench turned a whole shelf to rubble!
I’m the last hope or the fridge will be lost!
Help me or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.”

There’s a stinky stench in the fridge—and our favorite foodie friends must solve a smelly mystery! Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, begs him and Lady Pancake for help in finding the source of the foul odor. Could it be the devious Baron Von Waffle? A fetid fish lurking in the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake? Featuring the same delectable wordplay and delicious art that won critical raves for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast—there’s even an actual red herring—his fun follow-up is an absolutely tasty treat for kids!

About the Author: Josh Funk is from MA where he spends his days writing computer language and his free time writing picture book rhymes. His first published picture book was Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sterling) and he is the author of Pirasaurs (Scholastic), Dear Dragon (Viking), and the upcoming Albie Newton (Sterling, 2018).

About the Illustrator: Brendan Kearney is an illustrator from the UK. While studying architecture at university, he realized he didn’t like rulers. He then discovered that it wasn’t essential to use a ruler when illustrating children’s books. Now he specializes in illustrating children’s books, bringing his own chaotic style and ideas to any project. He is also the illustrator of the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and Bertie Wings It (both Sterling).

Kellee’s Review: I love that Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are friends again and working together with Inspector Croissant to solve the mystery of the stinky stench. Their story promotes prediction, friendship, and problem solving in a fun refrigerator adventure! In a way that only Josh Funk can, he rhymes his way through the story without even one rhythm hiccup. The story, filled with humor, throwbacks to the first book, and a sweet ending, is just as funny as the first one with jokes for kids and adults alike (watch for the Red Herring and Spuddy Holly). 

Ricki’s Review: If you follow this blog, you know that we absolutely love Josh Funk’s work. His books are smart, cleverly crafted, and engaging. They have a special quality to them in that they appeal to both adults and kids. My son is allowed to pick his bedtime books, and my inner voice squeals whenever he picks one of Josh’s books because I know that the story will be fun to read aloud. We got this book a week ago, and we’ve read it over a dozen times (by my son’s choice!). Who doesn’t love a book about a stinky stench?! There is so much to talk about, and so many great foods and vocabulary words to discuss. The words dance across the pages—and this makes for a beautiful read-aloud. I am always wary of sequels and companion books, but Josh nailed it. This is a great adventure that can work well with the first book and also stand alone. Teachers, if you don’t have this book or Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, I recommend them highly for your classrooms. Parents, this one is a no-brainer. I will cross my fingers that a third Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book is in the works!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Because of Josh Funk’s amazing ability to have perfect rhyming throughout the book, The Case of the Stinky Stench and the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast book are perfect at looking at rhyming and rhythm. Students can find all the rhyming words and discuss how they know the words rhyme and think of other words that rhyme with the words they found. Also, while reading, to discuss rhythm, students can clap along with the words to hear the rhythm that Josh Funk has created. Alternatively, students might design their own Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast pages to display around the classroom.

Activity Kit:

Can also be found on Sterling Publishing’s Stinky Stench website: https://www.sterlingpublishing.com/9781454919605

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat, Max the Brave by Ed Vere, Giraffes Ruin Everything by Heidi Schulz

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

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The Fourteenth Goldfish
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Published: April 5, 2016 by Yearling

A Guest Review by Kelsey Iwanicki

Summary: The Fourteenth Goldfish follows the story of Ellie, an 11-year-old girl, who is currently struggling to find her passion, especially following the gradual drop off with her one and only friend, Brianna. However, everything changes when her mother brings home a quirky and crabby 13-year-old boy, Melvin. Ellie notices striking similarities between Melvin and her seventy-something year-old grandfather until he comes clean and tells her that they are in fact the same person. Melvin has worked on developing a drug to reverse the signs of aging, which has successfully worked on himself.

As Ellie and Melvin get closer, they also form an unlikely friendship with a goth student, Raj. Together they give Melvin advice about being a teenager, such as giving him acne medicine and hair elastics. They also help Melvin eventually, after a few failed attempts, steal the same compound that reversed his age. Melvin’s original plan was to steal the gene so he could share it with the world and receive the Nobel Peace Prize. However, Ellie persuaded him not to on the grounds of moral ethics and how scientific impacts can be both positive and negative. Due to this, Melvin flushes the compound down the drain and starts to tour the country. Thanks to her time with her grandfather, Ellie is able to discover his passion in science and also gain a few friends along the way, Raj and Momo.

Review: What I liked most about this book was its quirkiness, mostly exemplified through Melvin. Although the relationship between Ellie and Melvin is untraditional, you can also get glimpses of a typical relationship between a grandfather and granddaughter is like, one that isn’t usually written about. The majority of characters are nontraditional, such as Raj, who is explicitly written as goth; Ellie, a girl scientist (although this is becoming more popular, usually boys are the ones in the STEM fields); and Melvin, as a grumpy 13-year-old.

What I didn’t like about the book was the build-up. Although they failed multiple times at stealing the compound, there was no suspense for when Melvin actually succeeded. Rather, he just came home one day with it. The climax actually was when Ellie had a self-realization that science has both positives and negatives, which honestly was kind of a let down because the plot had focused around getting the compound from the lab. Ultimately, it was a good theme because Ellie realizes there are good and bad things with any passion.

All in all, I did like the book, I think it could appeal to students who are interested in science and realistic fiction books.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book should definitely be included in a classroom library for independent reading because I think it would appeal for students because it is a little quirky and has some interesting characters. It could also prompt some interesting discussions for literature circles because students could discuss the ethics behind using a compound to reverse aging.

A teacher could also use it as a read aloud for a few reasons. It would be interesting to consider the other perspectives of characters such as Melvin or Melissa, Ellie’s mother. Additionally, they could talk about the character traits and what makes Melvin and Ellie such strong characters. Or, they could talk about science and ethics behind what scientists release.

Discussion Questions: If you had a compound that could reverse aging, would you take it? Why or why not?; If you discovered a compound that could reverse aging, would you deliver it to the public? Why or why not?; What do you think will happen to Ellie and Brianna’s friendship? Ellie and Momo’s?; What do you think the side affects are from taking the compound? / What do you think happened to Melvin?; Put yourself in Ellie’s shoes, how would you feel if your grandfather attended the same school as you?; What is the importance of the fourteenth goldfish?

Flagged Passage: “Average people just give up at the obstacles we face every day. Scientists fail again and again and again. Sometimes for our whole lives. But we don’t give up, because we want to solve the puzzle” (p. 47).

Read This If You Loved: El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin; Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones

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Thank you, Kelsey!

RickiSig

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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!

Hazardous Tales: Alamo All-Stars
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published March 29th, 2016 by Abrams Books

Summary: “Remember the Alamo!” That rallying cry has been a part of Texas lore for generations. But who were the ragtag group of adventurers behind the famous slogan, and how did they end up barricaded in a fort against a Mexican army? Who survived, who died, and how? This sixth book in the bestselling Hazardous Tales series tracks the Lone Star State’s bloody fight for independence from the Mexican government. It features the exploits of the notorious Jim Bowie, as well as Stephen Austin, Davy Crockett, and other settlers and soldiers who made the wild frontier of Texas their home—all told with the inimitable style and humor for which Nathan Hale is known.

Teaching Guide with Discussion Questions and Activities from Abrams by ME!, Kellee Moye: 

How to use this guide

  • For Alamo All-Stars, opportunities to have discussions and complete activities across different content areas are shared. In the “Fun Across the Curriculum” section, these activities and discussion questions are split into subject areas and are written as if they are being asked of a student.
  • At the end of the guide, Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards are listed that can be met when the books are extended using the activities and discussion questions.

Fun Across the Curriculum

  • Language Arts
    • The title page and the cover show two different illustrations of the Alamo. Compare and contrast the illustrations. Using information from the text, when is the cover illustration from, and when is the title page illustration from?
    • Why would Alamo All-Star need two narrators, Nathan Hale and Vincente Guerrero, while all of the other Hazardous Tales books only needed Hale? How would the story have differed if only Hale had narrated the book? What about only Guerrero?
    • On page 10-11, Guerrero uses the metaphor of a set table to describe Texas in the 1820s. Why does he use this metaphor to describe the state of Texas at this time?
    • On page 18, Hale uses another metaphor of an explosive barrel to illustrate the situation Austin and his settlers were in. How does an explosive barrel and Austin’s situation relate to each other?
    • After researching cholera (science section), look at Hale’s personification of the disease on page 37. Why did he choose this creature to embody cholera?
    • Many different events and problems caused Santa Anna’s army to be able to easily defeat the Texans at the Battle of the Alamo. Create a cause/effect graphic organizer showing the correlation between different events leading up to the Battle of the Alamo and the fall of the Alamo.
      • For example:
    • Much of what happened at the Alamo during the infamous battle as well as stories about Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie have become an American legend. What is a legend? Why has some parts of the story of the Alamo become a legend and not a complete factual part of history?
    • Throughout the book, Hale includes direct quotes from primary sources. How do these quotes enhance the story? How are primary sources more reliable when sharing historical events than secondary sources?
  • History/Social Studies
    • The page of Texas on the end sheets shares the different battles during the Texas revolution. Using Alamo All-Stars, convert the map into a timeline by graphing each battle on the date/year they were fought.
    • Using the text feature on pages 10-11 that shared the 1820s Texas settlers, answer the following: how did each settler threaten each other? Why was Texas such a treacherous place at this time? Who was the rightful settler of Texas?
      • Then, split the class up into 8 groups and assign a group of settlers to each group of students. They then should research the group, and determine how they ended up in Texas, why they felt they deserved to stay in Texas, etc.
    • Page 12 defines a filibuster and gives an example of one. What other famous filibusters have happened in history? Use the Wikipedia article “Filibuster (military)” and its resources to learn about other filibuster expeditions. Unlike the James Long Expedition, were any successful?
    • Throughout the book, Mexico goes through different types of governments: a monarch (inferred from p. 16), a republic (mentioned on p. 17), and a despotic (mentioned on p. 40). Compare and contrast the similarities and differences of the different types of governments.
    • Page 88 shows one of the many flags that have flown over Texas. Using the Texas State Historical Information article “Flags of Texas” and the Flags of the World website, learn about all of the different flags that Texas has flown. Why have so many flown over Texas? Where does the phrase “six flags of Texas” come from?
    • On page 104, Santa Anna compares himself to Napoleon. How are the two men similar? How do they differ?
    • On page 113, Hale jokes, “Don’t feel bad. Everyone forgets about Goliad.” Why do you think the Battle of the Alamo is remembered by so many while the massacre at Goliad is not?
    • Why are Travis, Seguin, Bowie, and Crockett pictured on the front of Alamo All-Stars? Is this who you would consider the all-stars of the Alamo? If not, why not? If so, what did they do to deserve that title? Is there anyone else you would consider an Alamo all-star?
  • Science
    • Cholera killed tens of thousands in the summer of 1833 including Bowie’s wife and her family. What is cholera? How does it spread? Why did Bowie’s family try to travel north to escape it?
    • On page 47, Noah Smithwick was quotes sharing that one member of the Gonzales army had a nose bleed; however, he used scientific terms such as nasal appendage and sanguinary fluid. What do these terms mean?
  • Math
    • On page 31, Rezin Bowie mentions that they were outnumbered 14 to 1 during the battle. Using the illustrations and clues in the “Jim Bowie and the Lost Mine” section to determine how many men were on Bowie’s side and how many men they fought and defeated.
    • Santa Anna’s army outnumbered the Texans by a large amount. Using the information shared about the number of men in each side of the battle, determine an approximate ratio of the battle.
      • After you estimate using Alamo All-Stars, research the actual number of men at the battle and determine the ratio. How close was your estimate?
  • Foreign Language (Spanish and French)
    • Throughout the text, different Spanish words are used, many of which can be defined using context clues or connecting to the English language because they are cognates with a word you already know. Look through the book, and try to define all foreign language vocabulary. Some words throughout the book:
      • El Gran Libro Enorme de la Historia Mexicana (p. 6)
      • ejercito de las tres garantias (p. 9)
      • empresario (p. 12)
      • mucho (p. 16)
      • viva la revolución (p. 21)
      • fantástico (p. 31)
      • Dios y libertad (p. 36)
      • alcalde (p. 45)
      • fandangos (p. 72-84)
      • voy a firmarlo (p. 98)
      • mes amis (p. 103 | French)
        • Which words were easier to define? Why were they easier?
  • Music
    • At the Battle of the Alamo, both Santa Anna’s army and the Texas army played music (p. 91). Research to determine what music was played at the battle. Why would they play music while preparing for a battle?

The teaching guide, along with the other books in the series, can also be viewed at: https://www.scribd.com/document/326377929/NathanHale6-TeachingGuide or http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic-resources/teaching-guides/

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Share, Big Bear, Share
Author: Maureen Wright
Illustrator: Will Hillenbrand
Published April 25, 2017 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Big Bear’s forest friends eye his berries hungrily, but he doesn’t notice as he digs into his delicious snack. When the old oak tree says, “Share, Big Bear, share,” he thinks the tree has said, “Hair, Big Bear, hair!” One comical scene follows another as Big Bear keeps misunderstanding the old oak tree’s message until things finally get sorted out. Whimsical illustrations highlight the humor in this gentle story about the importance of sharing something special with friends.

Review: This book is absolutely delightful. I wish I’d filmed myself reading it because I realized halfway through my reading that I had a goofy grin on my face. Bear is so occupied with the berries that he is eating that he doesn’t realize his animal friends want him to share. Instead, he thinks they are saying “hair,” “lair,” “scare,” etc., and he acts out all of the misinterpretations he hears. So, for example, when he thinks they are saying “Hair, Big Bear, Hair!” he combs his hair into a goofy hairstyle (see the spread featured below). I can’t WAIT to read this to my son. He is going to crack up. I loved how the book teaches vocabulary words, too. Big Bear teaches us, for instance, what a “lair” is. This is going to be one of my favorite children’s books this year. I will need to buy the others in the series.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be so much fun for readers to create their own Big Bear story as a class. Perhaps he could misinterpret another commonly rhymed word. Each student could be in charge of a different page to create a class book!

The Help Big Bear Share Game!

Discussion Questions: Why doesn’t Big Bear hear his friends?; What are some of the ways Big Bear misinterprets his friends?; What does this book teach us about sharing? About listening?

We Flagged:

Read This If You Loved: That’s (Not) Mine by Anna Kang, You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang, Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, Your Alien by Tammi Sauer, The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems, Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems

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About the Author: WILL HILLENBRAND has written and/or illustrated over 60 books for young readers including Down by the Barn, Mother Goose Picture Puzzles and the Bear and Mole series. He has lived almost all of his life in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he grew up as the youngest of four boys. He now lives in Terrace Park and was recently honored as Author/Illustrator in Residence at Kent State University.

Information about his books, selected readings, art process videos and activity ideas can be viewed at www.willhillenbrand.com. Connect with Will at www.facebook.com/willhillenbrandbooks.

  RickiSig

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

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Posted
Author: John David Anderson
Published May 2nd, 2017 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids. In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

Critical Praise: 

“Written with understated humor and fine-tuned perception, Frost’s first-person narrative offers a riveting story as well as an uncomfortably realistic picture of middle school social dynamics.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Anderson dives into the world of middle school with a clear sense of how it works and what it needs. Kids, and the rest of the world, need more books like this one.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Anderson captures the tumultuous joys and pains of middle school with honesty, creating characters with whom readers will find common ground and insight. Words have lingering and persistent power, Anderson makes clear, but so does standing up for others and making one’s voice heard.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Acute observations about social media and school life and a smart, engaging narrator make this a journey well worth taking. Readers might even want some Post-it notes to mark the good parts.” — The Horn Book

About the Author: John David Anderson is the author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Sidekicked, Minion, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org

Review: First, I must start with stating my awe with Mr. Anderson. I have read four of his five books and each is stellar. But what really makes him stand out as an exemplar author to me is that he has tackled three different genres in his five books and each one was just as good as the others. Ms. Bixby and Posted are realistic fiction, Sidekicked and Minion are superhero sci-fi, and Dungeoneers is high fantasy. How impressive! Now onto my review of Posted

There are books that I read that just feel true to me, and Posted fits that. As a middle school teacher, I could picture all of the characters as true middle school students and know that so many readers will connect with someone in the book. Although some of the adults in the book fit a typecast of teachers (they are probably pretty realistic representations of how middle schoolers see some teachers though), they were needed to propel the story. And Mr. Sword is anything but a stereotype and one of those teachers that I just love in books because he cares! I also felt that the bullying represented is, sadly, probably a pretty true representation. Middle school really is all about finding your tribe. So many kids are trying to find their identity and are influenced by so much which sometimes leads to mean kids; however, there are really awesome middle schoolers as well which you can also see in this book. I love these middle schoolers (Frost, Rose, Wolf, Deedee, and even Bench), and I know you and any kid you share this book with will as well. 

What I think makes this book stand out, though, is the theme that words can hurt. They are powerful and can change lives. They can be used for good or evil.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Much of what Mr. Sword does in his class is easily transferable to a classroom. Throughout the book, he is teaching Julius Caesar so quotes/discussions throughout could definitely be used in conjunction with a Julius Caesar lesson. I, personally, love his aphorism activity. It reminded me a bit of the precept activity in Wonder (and they could easily work together if you do a precept activity). Mr. Sword has students create their ow aphorism to share with their students. I think this, like Mr. Sword says, helps students realize that “all of us have something meaningful to share.” Frost also talks about poetry throughout the book, his poetry and Robert Frost, and these sections could be used to inspire students when it comes to poetry.

Discussion Questions: Have you ever had a nickname? Did you like it or not? Out of all the nicknames, one seems to be more negative than the others–which one is it? Do you think the character likes his nickname?; Do you think Deedee started the war? Should he blame himself?; Do you agree with what Wolf’s parents decided?; How did Rose change everything? Do you think everything would have changed without her moving to the school?

Flagged Passages: “Words accumulate. And once they’re free, there’s no taking them back.

You can do an awful lot of damage with a handful of words. You can destroy friendships. You can end a marriage. You can start a war. Some words can break you to pieces.

But that’s not all. Words can be beautiful. They can make you feel things you’ve never felt before. Gather enough of them and sometimes they can stick those same pieces back together.” (p. 342)

Characters: 

Read This If You Loved: Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks & Gita Varadarajan, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Zack De La Cruz by Jeff AndersonFish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly HuntWarp Speed by Lisa Yee, Schooled by Gordon Korman, Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil, Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick, Loser by Jerry Spinelli

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April 17           Librarian’s Quest

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April 18           Nerdy Book Club

April 19           For Those About to Mock

April 20           Teach Mentor Texts

April 21           Unleashing Readers

April 22           Next Best Book

April 23           Bluestocking Thinking

April 24           Litcoach Lou

Book Monsters

April 25           Kirsti Call

April 26           Educate-Empower-Inspire-Teach

April 27           The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia

Ms Yingling Reads

April 28           Maria’s Mélange 

Novel Novice

April 29           The Hiding Spot

April 30           This Kid Reviews Books

 

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Henry and the Chalk Dragon
Author: Jennifer Trafton
Illustrator: Benjamin Schipper
Published April 4th, 2017 by Rabbit Room Press

Summary: In the town of Squashbuckle, just about anything can happen, and when Henry Penwhistle draws a mighty Chalk Dragon on his door, the dragon does what Henry least expects–it runs away. Now Henry’s art is out in the world for everyone to see, and it’s causing trouble for him and his schoolmates, Oscar and Jade. If they don’t stop it, the entire town could be doomed! To vanquish the threat of a rampaging Chalk Dragon, Sir Henry Penwhistle, Knight of La Muncha Elementary School, is going to have to do more than just catch his art–he’s going to have to let his imagination run wild. And THAT takes bravery.

About the Author: Jennifer Trafton is the author of The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic (Dial, 2010) which received starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal and was a nominee for Tennessee’s Volunteer State Book Award and the National Homeschool Book Award. Henry and the Chalk Dragon arose from her lifelong love of drawing and her personal quest for the courage to be an artist. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee, where, in addition to pursuing her love of art and illustration, she teaches writing classes, workshops, and summer camps in a variety of schools, libraries, and homeschool groups in the Nashville area, as well as online classes to kids around the world. To learn more, and to download free materials, visit jennifertrafton.com.

Critical Praise: 

★“A delicious face-off between forces of conformity and creativity run amok, spiced with offbeat names as well as insights expressed with eloquent simplicity.” —Booklist (starred review)
★“A perfect title to hand to young readers looking for laughs along with a wild and crazy adventure.”
                                                                                —School Library Journal (starred review)

Review: I love any book that promotes imagination, and it isn’t too often that you find a novel that is all about keeping your imagination. Henry’s story is a Pleasantville one–he lives in a boring town and takes boring classes, but when he closes his door, his imagination goes wild. It is when his imaginative Chalk Dragon escapes and wrecks havoc on his school does the power of an imagination really start to show. 

On a side note, and only some of you will understand this, but the cover of Henry and the Chalk Dragon is matte and SO SOFT!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Along with a read aloud, the text gives lots of opportunities to discuss imagination, art, and creative writing. Also, chunking the text to fit the most opportune times will lead to some great writing and art prompts.

Discussion Questions: How did the principal end up the way he is? How do we know that he was not that way when he was younger?; Was Henry’s class/school doing the best thing to promote Vegetable Week?; Which adults understand Henry and his imagination? Which hinder him?; How does the power of Henry’s imagination cause havoc on the school? How does it save the school?; What does Henry’s chalk dragon coming to life symbolize in the grand scheme of things?; What is the lesson that the author is trying to teach us about imagination and growing up?

Flagged Passages: “Henry recognized the curve of those horns and the arrow-tipped tail. He recognized every sharp green flick of scaly skin, every zigzag of the bony spines running down the creature’s back. It was his dragon. Just as he had imagined it. Just as he had drawn it. Here it was, standing in front of him! There was something brand new in the world, and he had put it there!

There is a kind of fear that squeezes your heart with an icy hand and freezes you into a popsicle. But there is another kind of fear that is thrilling and hot, that makes your fingers tingle and your toes tickle each other inside your shoes until you want to leap over the Empire State Building. Henry was afraid with this kind of fear, and it felt good.

The dragon stared back at him–up and down, from his sneakers to his shiny helmet. It did not look afraid of Henry. It spread its wings proudly. It stretched its scaly neck as high as it would go. Its mouth widened slowly into a dragonish grin.

How long had Henry been waiting for this moment? Here he was, in his shiny suit of armor, with a sword in his hand. And here was a real live dragon–a dragon who could knock the house down with a few flicks of its tail, who could eat his mother for breakfast, who could send a ball of fire bouncing down the street. He knew exactly what he had to do.” (p. 32-33)

Read This If You Loved: The Journey Trilogy by Aaron BeckerHarold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, Other picture books that spark imagination

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

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