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Just so we all have the same definition of close reading, I wanted to share how I define it:
The process of close reading is reading a short, worthy text more than once to get deeper into its meaning.

Here is a fun close reading activity I did with my reading classes a couple of weeks ago.

Standards for this lesson: RL.1 & RI.1 (Inference & text evidence), RL.2 (Theme), RI.2 (Central Idea), RL.3 (Narrative elements interact)

Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester is a much more complex text than it first seems, so I really wanted to take this fun text and push my students’ thinking to realize that Tacky teaches us more than they first thought.

First read: For the first read of Tacky the Penguin, I just had my students enjoy the story. I love watching kids see this book for the first time because he is such a ridiculous yet awesome penguin.

Second read: When we read the story again, this time I chunked the text and had them take notes about a different characters’ emotions for each section. They then went on our Canvas discussion board and made an inference about how the character was feeling based on their notes and included evidence.

“The other penguins are much more accepting of Tacky at the end. In the text it shows that all the penguins hugged Tacky since his oddness had scared the hunters away and saved them. This action showed that even though they might disagree on how to do things they were still thankful of him.” -EX, 8th grade

“I think that the other penguins, Goodly, Lovely, Angel, Neatly and Perfect are happy that Tacky is around. In the story it is showing all the penguins celebrating that the hunters were gone. Usually when you are celebrating it is because someone has accomplished something and you feel happy for them. So, you can conclude that the other penguins are happy that Tacky is around because he got rid of the hunters and without Tacky they might’ve died.” -JK, 6th grade

For the final section of the text, I asked them to think about the theme of the story, and they answered their inferred theme with evidence on the discussion board.

“I think the theme of Tacky the penguin is that differences can be good. I think that because at first the other penguins didn’t like Tacky because he was very different in the way he acted. They thought he was annoying and didn’t really include him in their group. At the end, they appreciate him because he saved them from the hunters, so his differences were good.” -AN, 8th grade

“The theme is to treat everyone fairly. Because in the beginning the other penguins treated Tacky badly, by excluding him, being annoyed at his greets, singing, and diving. But when Tacky acted like a hero they all appreciated him like they should of in the beginning.” -AK, 8th grade

“I think the theme of TACKY THE PENGUIN is to always be yourself. In the beginning of the story, the other penguins didn’t seem to really like Tacky because he did things so differently from them. However, as the middle towards end of the story, Tacky uses that to his advantage to scare away the hunters. So really, because Tacky was himself, he saved the day!” -DV, 7th grade

As we know, there are many themes that can be taken from a story, and most of the themes I received were spot on and focused primarily on how Tacky may seem odd but that doesn’t mean being different is bad. But there was one theme that I didn’t have any students pick up on, and I felt it was a big one. So, for the third read, I added in another text.

Third read: For the third read, I had my students read an Aesop Fable to connect with Tacky. “The Lion and the Three Bullocks” has the theme “In Unity is Strength” because the bulls survive the predator because they work together. The students did a wonderful job realizing that this theme connected to Tacky because it was only when all the of the penguins worked together that they were able to ward off the hunters.

“The theme “Unity is Strength” works for both books because together they defeated the enemy(ies). In Tacky the Penguin it says, “ Tacky began to sing, and from behind the block of ice came the voices of his companions, all singing as loudly and dreadfully as they could.” This shows that together the penguins can work together to be strong. The next page says “The hunters could not stand the horrible singing” This evidence illustrates that together as a team they can do anything. In Aesop For Children (Three Bullocks and a Lion), it says that a hungry lion is looking for his next meal. He was only sitting and watching because all of them were together so he would lose. In a little bit the bullocks separated and it was the lion’s time to strike (He ate them). This shows that when you are together you can be even stronger then when you were alone.” -EN, 7th grade

At this point, I was so proud of the connections my students were making, but it was still on a level where they were not connecting it to life–they saw it as a penguin and bullocks lesson mostly. This meant that I added in another text that I had them close read:

Scila Elworthy’s TED Talk is titled “Fighting with Nonviolence” and shares how fighting violence with violence is not successful while using nonviolence has been successful. I love TED Talks because you have the video and the transcript! What a great text for the classroom! (And thank you Jennifer Shettel for pointing me in this direction!)

First read: We watched the first 5 minutes and 11 seconds of the TED talk, and I gave each student a Post-It note. I asked them to write down words that stuck out to them. We then shared the words and defined any words they didn’t know.

Second read: For their second read of the text, they went to the transcript and were to focus on the central idea of this section of the text. Each person wrote down their own central idea.

Then I did a variety on one of the discussion ideas that Ricki shared in her Engaging Classroom Discussion Techniques post. Kind of like in Facts of Five, I had students then go into groups of three and come up with a consensus of a central idea together. They then wrote these on sentences strips to display in the room. We also discussed each one and talked about the supporting evidence for each central idea. I called it “Most Important Point.”

“As a group for the “most important point activity” we came up with the point that “solving a problem with violence only ever causes more violence”. Toward the end of the ted talk the speaker gives an example of when her ‘heroine’ was faced with guns during a protest and solved it by walking up to them and getting them to put their guns down. Had she not solved that problem this way it can be assumed that the soldiers would have shot them. By solving a situation with non violence she avoided the problem all together. We concluded from this, and the other points she made in ted talk including Nelson Mandela and her own personal anecdote about non violence, that that was the central point.” -KA, 8th grade

Third read: For the culminating task for all of these texts, I added in one more text to truly make all of this connect to reality. I knew I wanted to pick an image from the Civil Rights Movement because it is a true example of this idea at work. I introduced my students to sit-ins.

I then asked, “Why did we watch this TED Talk and why did I share the Sit-In images after reading Tacky the Penguin and the Aesop Fable? How do they all connect? Write a short paragraph explaining the connection, and remember to Restate, Answer, have Text evidence, and Explain/elaborate.”

All of these connect because they all show them going against things together. In “Tacky the Penguin” all of the penguins started singing in the end together, driving them away. If it was only Tacky singing, the hunters might not have gone away if the other penguins had not shown up.  In “Three Bullocks and a Lion”, the lion would not attack them when they were together because he knew he was no match for all three of them combined. In the Sit- In photo, there are four people sitting at a counter, and in the other photo, it shows them getting drinks poured on them from other people in the restaurant. If there was only one person sitting at the counter, the point would not have been proven as well as it would if there were four. All of them show that when they are together, they are stronger.” -MA, 7th grade

The Ted Talk, Sit-in images, Tacky the Penguin, and Aesop Fable connect because they show how if we stick together and try to solve conflict in nonviolent ways, we will not have to resolve problems with more fighting.  The Ted Talk says that bullies use violence to intimidate, terrorize, and undermine, but “only very rarely in few cases does it work to use more violence.” This just makes people more and more violent. An example is when the “Students who participated in sit-ins refused to become violent” even when people were not treating them fair by not serving them or even pouring a drink on them. Tacky the Penguin helped save all the penguins from being taken away by hunters because he had the attitude that people should be friendly and kind to each other and because he acted like this, it scared the hunters and they ran away. In the Aesop Fable, the bulls were able to keep the lion from eating them by staying close and being strong together. When they began to argue and separated from each other, they were not strong enough alone to keep from being attacked. “It was now an easy matter for the lion to attack them one at a time, and this he proceeded to do with the greatest satisfaction and relish.” This shows that we need each other to be strong and reach our goals and when we begin to fight, we lose our strength against enemies. We can control all of this, like she says, “It’s my response, my attitude, to oppression that I’ve got control over, and that I can do something about.” -DA, 6th grade

I was so impressed with my students’ deep thinking, connections, inferences, and elaboration! And overall they truly loved the activity, and I think that it truly shows that a text to analyze can be more than the canon!

 

 

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Serafina Loves Science #1: Cosmic Conundrum
Author: Cara Bartek, Ph.D.
Published by Absolute Love Publishing

Summary: In Cosmic Conundrum, sixth grader Serafina Sterling finds herself accepted into the Ivy League of space adventures for commercial astronauts, where she’ll study with Jeronimo Musgrave, a famous and flamboyant scientist who brought jet-engine minivans to the suburbs. Unfortunately, Serafina also meets Ida Hammer, a 12-year-old superstar of science who has her own theorem, a Nobel-Prize-winning mother, impeccable fashion sense—and a million social media followers. Basically, she’s everything Serafina’s not. Or so Serafina thinks.

Even in an anti-gravity chamber, Serafina realizes surviving junior astronaut training will take more than just a thorough understanding of Newton’s Laws. She’ll have to conquer her fear of public speaking, stick to the rules, and overcome the antics of Ida. How will Serafina survive this cosmic conundrum?

About the Author: Cara Bartek, Ph.D. lives in Texas with her husband and two daughters. The Serafina Loves Science! series was inspired in part by her career path and in part by her two little girls. Her hope is to make this world a more equitable and opportune place for her daughters one silly story at a time. Visit www.carabartek.com.

Also, stop by on Sunday for an author guest post by Cara Bartek including information about the second book in the series!

Praise: “Through the quirky character of Serafina, Cosmic Conundrum shows us that science can be fascinating! Girls, you can embrace your curiosity, follow your passions, and most importantly, just be you! As an environmental scientist, I love this series!” -Emily Thompson, Edwards Aquifer Authority Environmental Scientist

Review: Serafina is a genius. And eleven. Both things that can cause strife which leads us to her story. At its heart, it is a story of an eleven year old navigating a new situation and a new bully with the help of her friends and brains. At its brains, it is a story of a genius young woman who wants to do amazing things with her life and uses her brains in ways that are unexpected and important. Combined, you get a wonderful middle grade story that shows how interesting science can be and how important it is to just be yourself! I am looking forward to reading the second book in the series and getting both for my classroom.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: First, the book belongs in libraries so that kids can read them. So many readers are going to enjoy Serafina: your realistic fiction readers who love to read about school and other things they relate to, your science fans, ya=our sci-fi fans who want to think about inventions for the future. It is definitely going to find some readers!

As a cross-curricular text, one way it could be used is to use it to examine science. The back matter of the book shares the science behind much of the book in a “blog post” by Serafina about Newton’s Laws of Motion. While still being told in the voice of Serafina, the blog post is filled with information about all three laws. This blog would be a great place to start then as students read the book, they can look for times when these laws were in effect and also connect them to real life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why was Serafina’s invention so different than everyone else’s?
  • How does friendship play a role in Serafina’s story?
  • How does the zero gravity plane work?
  • What does the story say about money and influence versus brains and hard work?
  • How did Newton’s Laws of Motion fit into the story?
  • What do you think is going to happen in the next Serafina story?

Flagged Passages: “I took another deep breath and straightened my shoulders. ‘I got into Musgrave Space Adventure!’ My face-splitting smile returned. ‘It’s the best news ever!’

It was. The Musgrave Space Adventure was not an ordinary space adventure. It was the Ivy League of space adventures, founded by the great scientific entrepreneur Jeronimo Musgrave himself. The Jeronimo Musgrave! The man who, legend has it, personally greeted visitors from space and studied a real-life spaceship while working at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico in 1995…

Six months earlier, Jeronimo had issued an open call to all scientists under the age of 13 to apply for 50 open spots for a grueling scientific competition to see who could earn a coveted spot in his junior astronaut development program. The application had been killer. Wannabe commercial astronauts had to submit notarized transcripts; a 10-page autobiography complete with philosophical stances on such topics as politics, the environment, and the role of the Kardashian family in modern society; a DNA sample; a fully executed last will and testament; and an original working invention designed to make space travel more bearable.

I had struggled for months trying to think of an invention. While space food definitely left something to be desired–it looked like cat food squeezed out of a toothpaste tube–at least you got to eat it while performing back flips in midair. That seemed bearable enough, even if those flips were just about the only real activities you could enjoy in the shuttle. They seemed to have the water and pooping things down pretty well, too, so I was at a loss. Until it hit me: The hardest part of space travel would be missing everyone back home.” (Chapter 1)

Read This If You Love: Frank Einstein series by Jon Sciezska, Ellie Engineer by Jackson Pearce, Galaxy Girls by Libby Jackson, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins, Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky, Almost Astronauts by Tanya Lee Stone

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**Thank you to Absolute Love Publishing for providing a copy for review!**

 
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A Perilous Journey of Danger & Mayhem: A Dastardly Plot
Author: Christopher Healy
Published September 25th, 2018

Summary: It is 1883—the Age of Invention! A time when great men like Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Nicola Tesla, and George Eastman work to turn the country into a mechanical-electrical-industrial marvel: a land of limitless opportunity. And it all happens at the world famous Inventors Guild headquarters in New York City—a place where a great idea, a lot of hard work, and a little bit of luck can find you rubbing elbows with these gods of industry who will usher humanity into the bright promise of the future.

Unless, of course, you’re a woman.

Molly Pepper, daughter of brilliant but unknown inventor Cassandra Pepper, lives with her mother in New York. By day, they make ends meet running a small pickle shop; but by night, they toil and dream of Cassandra shattering the glass ceiling of the Inventors Guild and taking her place among the most famous inventors in America. In an attempt to find a way to exhibit Cassandra’s work at the 1883 World’s Fair, they break into the Inventors Guild—and discover a mysterious and dastardly plot to destroy New York. The evidence points to the involvement of one of the world’s most famous inventors, and now it’s up to Molly, Cassandra, and a shop hand named Emmett Lee to uncover the truth—even if no one will ever know it was they who did it.

Christopher Healy, author of the acclaimed Hero’s Guide series, returns with the first book in a rip-roaring adventure about the inventors history remembers—and more than a few that it’s forgotten.

About the Author: Christopher Healy is the author of The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, as well as its two sequels, The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle and The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw. Before becoming a writer, he worked as an actor, an ad copywriter, a toy store display designer, a fact-checker, a dishwasher, a journalist, a costume shop clothing stitcher, a children’s entertainment reviewer, and a haunted house zombie. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children, and a dog named Duncan. You can visit him online at www.christopherhealy.com

Praise: 

“A zany, rollicking series opener.”– Kirkus Reviews

“Plot twists and banter hit at breakneck speeds in this heartfelt yet tongue-in-cheek look at the tumultuous Age of Invention, and its focus on two often marginalized groups—immigrants and women—allows for relevant social commentary.”– Publishers Weekly

“Healy has created a steampunk-inspired alternative history featuring some of the greatest minds in invention (including a number of women) in this series opener. A solid choice for adventurous readers.”– Booklist

“Christopher Healy, author of the Hero’s Guide series knows how to tell a good story. He’s done it again with the adventures of a determined girl named Molly Pepper.”– Brightly

Review: This is the exact book the world needed! Our traditionally told history is lacking in all things diversity because it was told by bias individuals who left out people who made huge differences despite their gender or race. I love that Christopher Healy was able to take this fact, show the ridiculousness of lack of great female minds being included in history and create this book filled with humor, adventure, heart, and a bit of history. He also includes prejudice against immigrants in the story in a way that will make any reader realize how undeserving these humans just looking for a life are of this prejudice.

Now starting my review that way may make you think that the book is preachy or boring, but it is anything but. Right from the beginning, you want to see if Cassandra and her brilliant inventions will ever be acknowledged and if they are going to be able to stop New York from being destroyed. Now throw in deceit from men the Peppers and Emmett trust, inventions of all sorts, a gang of men trying to kill whomever get in their way, and a group of brilliant women who won’t let anything stop them, and you will get this crazy adventure of Molly’s and Emmett’s.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Although the book is fiction, much of what is included is shrouded in fact. The author includes “What’s Real and Not…” in the back matter which allows for inquiry into the historical elements of the story. This also allows teachers to see what parts of the story include more fact than fiction and different aspects could be pulled out when learning about the different historical elements.

An educator’s guide is also for the book from the publisher!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What part of the books were historical and what parts were fiction?
  • Would you consider the book historical fiction or science fiction or steam punk?
  • What invention would you want to make?
  • Research Edison. Do you think he deserves as much recognition as he gets?
  • Research the World’s Fair. Why do we not have them anymore?
  • Which deceitful events in the story surprised you? Were your predictions correct?
  • How did meeting Emmett and the MOI change Molly’s life trajectory?
  • Other than for entertainment, why do you think the author chose to write this story?

Flagged Passages: Check out this clip from the audiobook! You can also read a sample here!

Read This If You Love: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, The Mechanical Mind of John Coggin by Elinor TeeleExplorers: Door in the Alley by Adrienne Kress

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GIVEAWAY!

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

24-Sep Novel Novice  Post by Christopher Healy https://novelnovice.com/
25-Sep A Foodie Bibliophile in Wanderlust http://www.foodiebibliophile.com/
26-Sep Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com
27-Sep Teach Mentor Texts http://www.teachmentortexts.com
28-Sep Novel Novice  Review https://novelnovice.com/
29-Sep Maria’s Melange http://www.mariaselke.com/
1-Oct The Flashlight Reader http://www.theflashlightreader.com/
2-Oct Nerdy Book Club https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/
3-Oct Book Monsters https://thebookmonsters.com/
3-Oct Novel Novice Q and A with Chris https://novelnovice.com/
4-Oct Bluestocking Thinking http://bluestockingthinking.blogspot.com/

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

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Drawn Together
Author: Minh Lê
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published: June 5, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary: When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

With spare, direct text by Minh Lê and luminous illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, this stirring picture book about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come.

Ricki’s Review: This book is absolutely stunning. It will certainly be making my favorites list this year. It is a solid contender for the Caldecott this year. The story and illustrations are absolutely beautiful. Due to a language barrier, a boy and his grandfather have difficulty communicating with each other. Through drawing, they discover a deep, magical connection with each other. This book pulled at my heart. It is one that I will remember for a long time.

Kellee’s Review: This gorgeous book took my breath away. Actually. I read it at ALA Annual, and when I finished, I looked around to find someone to just feel with because the emotions were overflowing within me! The celebration of art and family and the feeling of being stuck between two worlds and not being to connect with a family member were all things that just touched me. It is a book that I had to own, I now will buy for so many people, and I cannot wait to share with my students and my son.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: Teachers might ask students to try to sit with a peer partner that they don’t know very well and try to connect with each other without speaking. Then, they might take a piece of paper and use drawing as a means to try to connect with their partner. This has the potential to spark conversations about language, relationship, and humanity.

Discussion Questions: 
  • How does the story evolve? How do the characters evolve?;
  • What do the characters learn?;
  • What does the story teach us about language? Communication? Relationships? Bravery?

We Flagged:

 

Read This If You Loved:  Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham, Harlem by Walter Dean Myers

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Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse
Author: Marcy Campbell
Illustrator: Corinna Luyken
Published August 14th, 2018 by Dial Books

Summary: A classic in the making, this heartwarming story about empathy and imagination is one that families will treasure for years to come.

Adrian Simcox tells anyone who will listen that he has a horse–the best and most beautiful horse anywhere.

But Chloe does NOT believe him. Adrian Simcox lives in a tiny house. Where would he keep a horse? He has holes in his shoes. How would he pay for a horse?

The more Adrian talks about his horse, the angrier Chloe gets. But when she calls him out at school and even complains about him to her mom, Chloe doesn’t get the vindication she craves. She gets something far more important.

Written with tenderness and poignancy and gorgeously illustrated, this book will show readers that kindness is always rewarding, understanding is sweeter than judgment, and friendship is the best gift one can give.

About the Creators:

 

Marcy Campbell lives in Ohio with her family and menagerie of rescued pets. Her writing for adults has been published widely in journals and magazines, including Salon. She grew up on a farm filled with cows, chickens, cats, and dogs, but she never had a horse. Adrian Simcox Does NOT Have a Horse is her debut picture book. You can visit her at www.marcycampbell.com.

Corinna Luyken grew up in different cities along the West Coast, and after studying at Middlebury College, she settled in Washington State, where she draws inspiration from nature, her family, and the human form. Her debut picture book, The Book of Mistakes, received four starred reviews and has been praised by Entertainment WeeklyThe Wall Street Journal, Nerdy Book Club, and more.

Kellee’s Review: 43.1 million Americans (as of 2016) live below the poverty line. Adrian Simcox represents one of those kids while Chloe represents too many peers. But what made this book for me was Chloe’s transformation. It wasn’t Adrian who needed to change! Adrian is a wonderful kid that too many people judge based on his circumstances when really it is all about who he is, and I am so thankful for Chloe finding the truth out in the end. This book will make kids rethink how they judge others and really does emote empathy and kindness. And I couldn’t review this book without giving a shout out to the beautiful illustrations. They are ART.

Ricki’s Review: I loved this book so much that I bought a copy for my son’s preschool teacher. I love that it can be read from a multitude of angles, and it provides so much fodder for classroom conversations. The illustrations are magical, the story is magical—everything about this book is magical. My son’s preschool teacher told me that the kids asked her to read it four times in a row. Although I am not sure if they spent time discussing poverty, I do know that those children (at the very least) received implicit messages about the truth of poverty and the power of imagination. I suspect this book will receive some major awards. It is one of my favorites of the year.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Read this book aloud and talk about it with kids. Period. The illustrations can also definitely be visually analyzed. First, if you didn’t notice, there is a horse hiding in many of the illustrations. Second, so much of the story is told in the illustrations–don’t forget to analyze them!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did Chloe judge Adrian without knowing him?
  • Why do you think Chloe cares so much about Adrian’s horse?
  • How did Chloe’s mom help her realize that she is not being compassionate?
  • How did the illustrator tell more of a story in the artwork?
  • Why do you believe the author wrote Adrian’s story?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët

Recommended For: 

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Don’t miss other stops on the blog tour: 

August 6 – Lost in Storyland
August 7 – The Readathon
August 8 – Happily Ever Elephants
August 9 – Read. Learn. Repeat
August 10 – Kid Lit Frenzy
August 13 – Here Wee Read
August 14 – DoodleMom
August 15 – Eastern Sunset Reads
August 16 – Critter Lit
August 17 – Unleashing Readers

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**Thank you to Friya at Penguin Young Readers for setting up the blog tour!**

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It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!
Author: Lindsay Ward
Published July 17th, 2018 by Two Lions

Summary: Dexter T. Rexter is going to school. But will anyone like him?

Tomorrow is the biggest event ever in Dexter’s life: his best friend, Jack, is taking him to school for Show and Tell Day! Dexter has been getting ready for weeks. But now he’s a little nervous. What if the other kids don’t like him? So Dexter decides to come up with a plan. He’ll wear a costume. Dinosaurs in bunny ears look good, right? He’ll recite state capitals starting with…uhaher. Then he realizes something. He can’t dance. He can’t recite things. He doesn’t have ANY skills. What’s a dino to do?

This comical, interactive tale of belonging, friendship, anticipation, and first-day-at-school jitters lets readers experience the excitement and nervousness along with Dexter—and even offer him a little advice along the way.

About the Author: 

Lindsay Ward is the author of the Dexter T. Rexter book Don’t Forget Dexter! Though she never got to bring an orange dinosaur to Show and Tell Day, she did once take all four albums of her sticker collection. She is also the author and illustrator of BrobariansHenry Finds His Word, and When Blue Met Egg. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play.

Most days you can find Lindsay with her family, writing and sketching at her home in Peninsula, Ohio. Learn more about her at www.LindsayMWard.com.

Praise: “Ward’s gentle art features cut-paper forms with residual pencil outlines, providing an ad hoc quality to the spreads. Readers prone to anxiety over big events should be tickled by the idea that a toy has concerns too.” —Publishers Weekly

“Ward’s illustrations, made with printmaking ink, colored pencil, and cut paper, wonderfully capture Dexter’s every emotion and over-the-top ideas.” —Kirkus Reviews

Review: Dexter is going to school, and he is feeling many things that so many kids feel about themselves when they are going to school, either for show and tell or on the first day of school. How is he going to make everyone at school like him? What he needs to realize is that he should be proud of who he is and not question himself.

What I love about Dexter’s books is that he really does deal with some tough issues that many kids deal with throughout their childhood, but it is done in a super hilarious way with Dexter’s voice which is one of a kind. This makes for really fun read alouds with some great follow up discussions.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a fun book to read when you are introducing show and tell in elementary school! It will help kids realize that it doesn’t matter what they bring as long as it has a story and means something to you. Students will also love rereading this, so it definitely needs to be in libraries, both public, school, and classroom, also.

And check out the fun coloring sheet here!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why is Dexter so nervous about Show and Tell?
  • What lesson does Dexter’s story teach us about impressions and/or show and tell?
  • What tune do you think Dexter’s song is set to?
  • Why would Dexter feel like he needs to wear a costume? Or look different?
  • How does it end up in the end?
  • What toy would you bring to show and tell?

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Don’t Forget Dexter by Lindsay WardLily’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes, A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen, Not Norman by Kelly Bennett, Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

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Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of both Dexter T. Rexter books–Don’t Forget Dexter! and It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses).

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for setting up the blog tour!**

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Amal Unbound
Author: Aisha Saeed
Published May 8, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Goodreads Summary: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Ricki’s Review: I read this book in one sitting. I’ve been thinking about it almost daily since I’ve read it. It’s an unforgettable story about a girl’s courage to survive. I don’t know her age, and although I suspect that the book is targeted by marketing teams for middle graders, it is quite simply a must-read for everyone. The book provides layers upon layers of themes and issues to consider. It made me think about privilege, freedom, education, and bravery, in particular. Amal is inspiring, and I greatly admire her courage in the face of adversity. When I was reviewing this book on GoodReads, I noticed that every one of my reader friends rated the book highly, and I am not surprised. Amal’s story is one that will stick with all readers. 

This is an important book. This is a book that will make your heart race. This is a book that I will read again and again.

Kellee’s Review: This story affected me much in the way that Sold, A Long Walk to Water, Rickshaw Girl, or Queen of Water did. As we fight for so many injustices here in America, there are unimaginable things happening to humans in other places around the world. Often somewhere like Pakistan seems so far away, but then you read a story like Amal’s and you see that the gap between you and her is not that big and we all just want happiness in our life. Amal’s strive for knowledge and willingness to help others are traits that make her unforgettable mostly when paired with the bravery she shows throughout this book. Amal’s story will truly help readers look through windows (and possibly mirrors) and have to face the privilege we do have and the injustice others face. 

On top of the very important theme and amazing main character, the story of Amal Unbound is heartwarming as well as heartbreaking and heart wrenching. And there is a truly suspenseful part also! The story is definitely one that will keep kids reading while also doing all of what I said above.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book as a read aloud, close reading/analysis, lit circle/book club, or classroom library text. It is rare that Kellee and I designate a book with all of these categories, but it’s a very adaptable text. It might be interesting for teachers to use this book as a whole-class read but using book groups. The groups could select a theme to study (e.g. education) and read other fiction and nonfiction related to the theme. This might allow for rich discussion across groups where they share their findings and teach each other.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In what ways did Amal show courage? Did you agree with all of her actions?
  • What is the role of education in this book?
  • Which characters stood out to you? What made them three-dimensional?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What do you think the author’s purpose(s) might be?

We Flagged: “If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Read This If You Loved: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Sold by Patricia McCormick, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Diamonds in the Shadows by Caroline B. Cooney, Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

Recommended For: 
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