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Nocturnals: The Slithery Shakedown
Author and Illustrator: Tracey Hecht
Published: April 10, 2018 by Fabled Films Press

Goodreads Summary: Discover the friendship and humor of the Nocturnals Brigade! In The Slithery Shakedown, three unlikely friends—Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark a loud-mouthed sugar glider and Dawn, a serious fox—stand up to a big bully snake. In the process, they find themselves some spec-tac-u-lar snakeskin capes!

Includes Bonus Animal Glossary!

About the Author: Tracey Hecht is a writer and entrepreneur who has written, directed, and produced for film. The American Booksellers Association chose her first book in The Nocturnal series, The Mysterious Abductions, as a Kids’ Indie Next List pick. Last year, in partnership with the New York Public Library, she created a Noctural Read Aloud Writing Program for middle graders that has expanded worldwide. She splits her time between Oquossoc, Maine and New York City.  Check out our Q&A with her here!

Ricki’s Review: I don’t tend to gravitate to early readers because they can be awfully boring. This book breaks the mold. It’s fun and engaging, and my son loves reading it. I frequently catch him looking through the pages and staring at the pictures.  He didn’t know what nocturnal animals were before he read this book, and now, any time we see an animal, he asks if it is nocturnal. The conflict in this book is wonderfully portrayed, and it teaches about the power of friendship and bravery. I recommend this book for folks seeking engaging early readers that will capture children’s attention. It’s wonderfully done.

Kellee’s Review: What a fun book to read! It not only will be great for Trent when he is a beginning reader to practice his reading, it is overall a fun story that is a fantastic read aloud. It looks at the idea of bravery and fear as well as friendship while also introducing scientific ideas like nocturnal animals and carnivore animals. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:  The Summer Reading Kit is available on the publisher’s website. This book begs readers to research nocturnal animals, and it provides a lot of opportunity for classroom use.

Additionally, the author uses a ton of alliteration which makes it super fun to read out loud but also gives a chance to introduce this literary device.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which animal is most afraid? How does friendship influence this character’s bravery?
  • How does the snake react to the friends? What does this tell you?
  • What other nocturnal animals do you know?
  • What do you think the setting of the book is based on the animals?
  • How does the author use alliteration throughout the book?
  • What words did you not know in the story? Using context what do you think they mean?

Flagged Passages: 

“Chapter 3

‘Did sss-someone sss-say breakfassst?’ the snake said.

Bismark spun around.

Behind hijm was a long, blue, shimmery snake.

The snake slid from the grass.

The snake raised its head.

The snake flicked its flickery tongue.

‘Bismark, look out!’ Dawn cried.” (p. 24-25)

Read This If You Loved: Night Animals by Gianna MarinoBaby Animals at Night by Kingfisher Publications, National Geographic Early Readers

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**Thank you to Stacey and Nicole at Fabled Films for providing copies for review!**

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Star Wars Workbooks (Writing, ABCs, Reading, and Math)

and

Summer Brain Quest Workbooks

Published by Workman

Star Wars Workbooks Summary: The Force is strong with this series! Introducing a line of workbooks that marries the iconic popularity of Star Wars with the unique mix of editorial quality, fun presentation, and rigorous educational standards that Workman applied to the BRAIN QUEST Workbooks.

Twelve titles launch the series―three each for Pre-K through 2nd Grade―and dig deep into core subjects, including numbers, ABCs, phonics, and reading readiness for younger grades, and math, reading, and writing for the older ones. The material, which aligns with national Common Core State Standards, is designed to reinforce essential concepts and lessons taught in schools. Any child, not just fans of Star Wars―but yes, those fans will be especially delighted (as will reluctant learners)―will love the “A” is for Anakin approach to phonics. Kids will practice learning numbers by counting and circling X-wing starfighters and clone troopers. Master place values by sorting groups of Wookiees. There are math problems―Yoda is holding 7 lightsabers. 5 of the lightsabers are blue. The rest are green. How many green lightsabers is he holding? And Language Arts―Circle the correct homophone in this sentence: Luke is a Jedi knight/night.

Featuring favorite characters like Luke Skywalker, Queen Amidala, Yoda, and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and other creatures, monsters, Jedi, and Sith, the workbooks are filled with thousands of original illustrations drawing from all six Star Wars movies and the expanded Star Wars universe.

Learn well, you will.

Summer Brain Quest Workbooks Summary (Pre-K to K Summary): It’s time to get ready for school! Now, the series that keeps K–6th graders sharp, active, and curious in between grades is expanding to meet popular demand: Introducing Summer Brain Quest: Between Grades Pre-K & K, covering the summer between Preschool and Kindergarten so 4- and 5-year-olds can get ready for school—and have fun doing it.

Part workbook, part game, part adventure, it’s the interactive book that combines educational activities with indoor and outdoor play—with entertaining and effective results. The pullout map guides kids on a learning quest; to cross the finish line, they fulfill the curriculum-based exercises and customize their path by pursuing the bonus challenges and outdoor activities that excite them most. How about extra counting or reading calendars? A hunt for three-dimensional shapes? Identifying landforms? Or finding words that rhyme? Along the way, they earn stickers for completing pages, tick off an adventure list, and get fresh air with outdoor learning challenges, like writing the alphabet with sidewalk chalk.

Teacher-approved, parent-trusted, and designed to appeal to kids’ natural love of learning and playful curiosity, Brain Questmakes it fun to be smart all summer long!

Ricki’s ReviewMy son LOVES these books. They have made him so excited about reading, writing, and math. I am not a workbook kind of teacher, but these books defy all notions of worksheet and workbook teaching. The Summer Brain Quest books feature a map at the end. As kids finish each page, they earn stickers to go along the map. The books ask them about themselves in the “my world” pages. They make learning very fun. He particularly loves the Star Wars reading book. He enjoys matching the letters to words and circling answers. My son is an outdoors-y kind of kid. He doesn’t enjoy sitting at the table and practicing his reading. Therefore, we do these at night. After we read together, he picks one of these workbooks to do together. We sit on the floor, and he loves it. It extends his awake time, and he loves thinking he is doing something fun to stay up later than his brother. We found the workbooks in the bookstore yesterday, and he was thrilled to see his books on the shelves. We ended up buying other books in the Brain Quest series because he enjoyed them so much. He chose this rather than a new toy! I’ll be purchasing these books for my younger son when he gets a bit older. They are absolutely wonderful and make learning fun! 

Kellee’s ReviewLike Ricki, I am skeptical whenever I see a workbook, but as soon as these arrived, my son became a bit obsessed with “doing his Star Wars letters,” and I just cannot argue with that as Trent is not a sit-and-do-something type of kid. But since the workbook is a mix of writing and activities, it doesn’t seem like work to him but instead is seen as a game. Because of this, I view them more as an activity book than just a workbook. We’ve currently been focusing primarily on the Star Wars activity book because I don’t want to overwhelm him, and it also leaves the Brain Quest for us to do when he is done. (Though, I do LOVE Brain Quest cards. My sister, Natalie, gives them to Trent for his birthday, and we do his “cards” in the car.) Lastly, I want to give a shout out to these helping parents who want to include educational activities at home. I know that even I, as a teacher mom, struggle with figuring out what to do to help my child learn to read and keep learning, and these activity books are perfect!

We Flagged: 

Star Wars “A”

to “Z”

Tracing and Coloring the Number 3

Brainquest “MNO” and “Living Things”

“Summer Brain Quest” map

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**Thank you to Diana and Christi at Workman for providing a copy for review**

 
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Sticky Facts: What Will You Find?
New York, Construction, Animals
Published: December 12, 2017 by Workman

Summary: Sticky Facts is an innovative, kid-friendly approach to beloved topics for ages 6 and up, featuring a cutting-edge sticker sheet design that allows for text and color images to appear underneath the sticker.

Unlike average sticker books, each sticker page features questions with facts hidden underneath the relevant sticker. Once the sticker is peeled o­ff, the fascinating factis revealed. Activity pages with corresponding prompts are featured next to the sticker pages for readers to use as fuel for sticker landscapes, adding hours of fun to the whole experience!

ReviewWhile the book is marketed for ages 6 and up, my 4-year-old had a blast with these books. I had to read the facts beneath the stickers to him, but he loved peeling them off of the pages and finding their matching places within the book. As a parent, sometimes it gets to the point that I am looking for something new and different, and this clever idea was very impressive to me. The books are well-made and fun. I overheard my son sharing one of the construction facts with a friend at preschool, so it really works! These books make great gifts and add a new twist to kids’ love of stickers.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might group students by interest to allow them to learn and work together on a book of their choosing. This allows students to learn nonfiction facts on a topic that they are interested about!

Discussion Questions: Which was your favorite sticky fact?; What are some new facts that you learned? What kinds of facts are featured below the stickers?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Nonfiction; Sticker Books

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**Thank you to Christy at Workman for providing a copy for review**

 
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Mary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein
Author: Lita Judge
Published: January 30th, 2018 by Roaring Book Press

Summary: A young adult biography of Frankenstein’s profound young author, Mary Shelley, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of its publication, told through free verse and 300+ full-bleed illustrations.

Mary Shelley first began penning Frankenstein as part of a dare to write a ghost story, but the seeds of that story were planted long before that night. Mary, just nineteen years old at the time, had been living on her own for three years and had already lost a baby days after birth. She was deeply in love with famed poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, a mad man who both enthralled and terrified her, and her relationship with him was rife with scandal and ridicule. But rather than let it crush her, Mary fueled her grief, pain, and passion into a book that the world has still not forgotten 200 years later.

Dark, intense, and beautiful, this free-verse novel with over 300 pages of gorgeous black-and-white watercolor illustrations is a unique and unforgettable depiction of one of the greatest authors of all time.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Whew. I felt so many emotions as I read this book. I kept thinking, “My goodness, my students are going to love this book.” I was fortunate to receive two copies of this book in the mail, and those two copies have passed from student’s hand to student’s hand. The book doesn’t even make its way back up to my desk before another student snags it. This book defies genre sorting. It’s nonfiction, it’s horror, it’s romance, it’s an illustrated book in verse. I’ve already added it to my book list to teach next semester in my Adolescents’ Literature course.

Students will read this book and want immediately to read Frankenstein. The book reads fairly quickly because it contains verse and illustrations, but readers will struggle not to pause for several minutes to enjoy the beautiful illustrations on the pages.

I’m most excited about the classroom potential for this book. It offers so much to talk about regarding characterization, mood, and poetry. But it also offers a beautiful bridge to read with Frankenstein. I thought I knew a lot about Mary Shelley’s life, but this book told me so much more about it. Reading her story on these pages made me feel as if I was experiencing her life alongside her. If you haven’t read this book yet, I recommend it highly.

Discussion Questions: What factors may have influenced Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein? In what ways does the author use metaphor and symbolism to help us understand her experiences?; What might be the author’s purpose? Is she successful, in your opinion?; What textual features helped you understand Mary’s story? How might this book read differently if the author had used another form?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley; Horror; Gothic Literature

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I Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
Illustrator: Kerascoët
Anticipated Publication: April 24, 2018 by Schwartz & Wade

Goodreads Summary: This simple yet powerful picture book–from a New York Times bestselling husband-and-wife team—tells the story of one girl who inspires a community to stand up to bullying. Inspired by real events,  I Walk with Vanessa explores the feelings of helplessness and anger that arise in the wake of seeing a classmate treated badly, and shows how a single act of kindness can lead to an entire community joining in to help. With themes of acceptance, kindness, and strength in numbers, this timeless and profound feel-good story will resonate with readers young and old.

My Review: I was very fortunate to receive an F&G of this book at ALA Midwinter. Whew! I was told that this book was inspired by a true story of a large group of students who walked with a student who was being bullied. It’s really quite magical. This is the kind of book that will appeal to a wide assortment of readers at a wide range of ages. I wouldn’t be surprised if this book rakes in a few awards next year. The story is beautifully done. It inspired some great conversations with my four-year-old. We were able to point to each of the characters and talk about what they were doing in each situation. That said, if I had to place this book in one age group, I think it would make a great fit at the early elementary school level.  

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a phenomenal book to talk about the bystanders. It would pair beautifully with Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness. When I read this with my son, we spent a lot of time point out several of the students on the pages. We talked about what each of them were doing and in some cases, what they weren’t doing. This book is a must-read.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think the illustrator team chose to make the book wordless? How does this make the book more or less powerful for you?; What emotions do you see in the characters? Why are they feeling the way that they feel?; Do bystanders have a responsibility?

Flagged Passage: 

Image from Amazon

Read This If You Loved: My Friend Maggie by Hannah E. Harrison; Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (Kellee’s Review | Ricki’s Review); Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller

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Adventures in Science: Human Body
Author: Courtney Acampora
Published: December 12, 2017 by Silver Dolphin Books

Summary: Which part of the brain is in charge of creativity? What is the smallest human muscle? Take a trip inside the human body and discover the amazing systems that allow us to move, breathe, and speak. After reading about everything from the digestive tract to the cornea, kids can assemble their own plastic skeleton and view the systems of the body in a layered cardstock model. With 20 fact cards, 2 sticker sheets, and a double-sided poster, this interactive kit is a perfect primer for learning about how the human body works.

ReviewThis book kit is so much fun! It’s very cleverly designed to engage readers. It includes an informational book about the human body, a skeleton to build, flash cards, a sticker sheet that features the major bones of the human body, a sticker sheet that features the organs within the human body, and a double-sided poster with outlines to help readers stick the bone and organ stickers in the correct places. As we read the book, we did the activities and filled in the human body. What a powerful learning experience! I am crossing my fingers that this kit becomes a series. I would love to purchase a kit for space, geography, etc.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could purchase five kits and divide their classes into five different groups to build the skeleton and affix the stickers onto the appropriate parts of the body. I sent a message to a few of my friends who homeschool their children. I think this kit will be a huge hit in their families.

Discussion Questions: What did you learn as you did the activities?; What parts of the human body do you find most interesting? Why?; How do the different parts of the body work together?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction books about the human body; interactive books and kits

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review**

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Dr. E’s Super Stellar Solar System
Authors: Bethany Ehlmann with Jennifer Swanson
Published January 16, 2018 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Goodreads Summary: Take to the skies with Planetary Geologist Dr. E and her robot sidekick, Rover, to explore the solar system’s wildest, most astronomical geology–with comic book flair! This stellar book introduces kids to outer space through in-depth info and comic book adventure. Along the way, kids follow explorer Bethany Ehlmann, a member of the NASA Mars Rover Curiosity mission, and her lovable robo-dog, Rover, as they study and protect our amazing solar system. Dr. E’s conversational and funny explanations of the solar system and planetary geology will pull kids in like gravity. The pairing of fun, graphic novel side stories with science facts makes big concepts accessible and interesting to boys and girls of all levels, from STEM science fans to reluctant readers alike.

Review: This book is wild. I learned so much while reading it. I thought I knew a lot about space, but this book made me realize how much I didn’t know about it. My son is much too young for this book, but he loved looking at the pictures while I summarized the text on the pages. There are some fantastic photographs, and there are also digital representations of what things might look like. Most exciting, this book filled me with wonder. There are so many possibilities with space, and I am really excited about new discoveries and new information that will come in my lifetime and beyond. This is a must-read for space lovers and those who are curious about the world. I particularly appreciated the comics at the front of each chapter. They allowed me to better engage with the material that followed. Dr. E made me want to learn even more about space!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’d love to see this book used in literature circles. The National Geographic books are phenomenal, so teachers might collect books on various topics and allow students to form groups based on interest.

Discussion Questions: After reading about _____, what did you learn?; What do you still want to learn about space?

We Flagged: 

Image from Amazon.

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction book about space, for background knowledge when reading science fiction that takes place in space (e.g. Space Encyclopedia)

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**Thank you to Karen at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review**

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