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AstroNuts Mission Two: The Water Planet
Author: Jon Scieszka
Illustrator: Steven Weinberg
Published: August 25th, 2020 by Chronicle Books

Summary: AstroNuts Mission Two: The Water Planet is the second book in the laugh-out-loud series by children’s literature legend Jon Scieszka.

The book follows a new mission, where AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug must find a planet fit for human life after we’ve finally made Earth unlivable.

After they splash-land on the Water Planet, they find power-hungry clams, a rebellious underwater force, and a world full of too-good-to-be-true. Can this aquatic world really be humans’ new home? And why are these clams so eager to swap planets?

• Features full-color illustrations and an out-of-this-world book jacket
• A can’t-put-it-down page-turner for reluctant readers
• Complete with how-to-draw pages in the back

AstroNuts Mission Two is full of laugh-out loud humor with a thoughtful commentary on the reality of climate change at the core of the story.

Eager and reluctant readers alike ages 8 to 12 years old will be over the moon about this visually groundbreaking read.

• Creatively illustrated, full-color action-packed space saga
• Perfect for fans of Dog Man, Big Nate, Wimpy Kid, and Captain Underpants
• Great gift for parents, grandparents, teachers, librarians, and educators who are looking to introduce STEM and environmental topics to children
• Add it the the shelf with books like The Bad Guys in Superbad by Aaron Blabey, The 104-Story Treehouse: Dental Dramas & Jokes Galore! by Andy Griffiths, and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the official educators’ guide for AstroNuts Mission Two (created by me!):

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about AstroNuts Mission Two here.

You can see information about AstroNuts Mission One and its Educators’ Guide here.

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Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast in Short & Sweet
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Brendan Kearney
Publishing September 1st, 2020 by Sterling Children’s Books

Summary: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are back with a twist: they’ve been transformed into small children. Now it’s a race against the clock to turn our favorite duo into grown-ups again!

Lady Pancake is aching; Sir French Toast’s looking pale. Could they be going . . . STALE? Maybe a visit to Professor Biscotti’s lab for her despoiling procedure will help. But instead of beautifying them, Biscotti accidentally transforms the two treats into toddlers! Frightened of the now gargantuan (to them) Baron von Waffle, the mini breakfast foods scamper off on an adventure in the fridge, visiting everywhere from the Bran Canyon to Limes Square. Will Baron von Waffle and Professor Biscotti figure out a way to turn them back into a grown Lady and Sir? Or will they stay short & sweet forever?

In this fourth Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast adventure, Pancake and Toast fear they are going stale and visit Professor Biscotti, whose faulty gadget transforms them into toddlers, sending them on an adventure in the refrigerator.

Our reviews of:
Book One
Book Two
Book Three

About the Creators: 

Josh Funk is the author of Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast, followed by its sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable, as well as Albie NewtonHow to Code a SandcastleLost in the Library, and more. He lives in Concord, MA. Visit him online at joshfunkbooks.com or on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.

Brendan Kearney is also the illustrator of the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast; its sequels The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable; and Bertie Wings It. He lives in St. Albans, UK.

Book Trailer: 

Kellee’s Review: I think the best review I could give of this book is the joy that it brings my son. I wish you all could have seen his face when I told him I was going to read another Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book. That face truly says it all! When we finished, and he loved it so much, I asked him if he would help me review it. Here are his thoughts:

What was your favorite part of this book? I love that they go to the library because kids do love libraries and books.

Why do you like the Lady Pancake and French Toast books? They are all funny when everyone goes on an adventure. I like the illustrations and the words. Both. I like that it rhymes. And the illustrations look funny. I just like everything.

This is who these books are for, so I think his words speak volumes!

As for me, I adore this series too! And I always am so impressed that Josh Funk is able to create such a rhythmic rhyming prose–it blows me away and shows his pure rhyming genius. This story was extra wonderful because we got to see little Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast who were so cute!

Ricki’s Review: These books are truly among my very favorite to read aloud. I read them often with kids, and they are a real crowd-pleaser! Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast in Short & Sweet is another masterpiece that will be so useful to teachers and parents everywhere. Reading it brought me so much joy.

The pictures and words pair beautifully to personify the food. I could see kids having fun creating their own personified food stories and using this book as a mentor text.

Right now, we all need humor. Both my kids and I laughed as we read this one, and I am so glad that it is out in the world. I am very grateful for Josh Funk and Brendan Kearney for bringing such cheer to my days.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Josh Funk’s books are instant mentor texts for rhyming and rhythm. Take a spread and have students mimic his rhyming and rhythm using their own characters. Or in general you can use his texts to discuss these as his rhythmic and rhyming texts are some of the best!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What other picture books could you rename with food puns?
  • If you were writing a Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast story, where would you have them visit in the refrigerator?
  • Why was Baron Von Waffle so upset by the Lady Pancake’s and Sir French Toast’s reaction to him?
  • How did Baron Von Waffle save the day twice?
  • There are some other characters in the book that are not named–what would you name them?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast books, Rhyming texts, Funny books,

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Visit all of the Stops on the Short & Sweet Virtual Book Tour to not miss out on any reviews or goodies!

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**Thank you to Josh Funk for providing a copy for review!**

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Polly Diamond and the Super Stunning Spectacular School Fair
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published: May 7th, 2019 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Polly and her magic book, Spell, have all kinds of adventures together because whatever Polly writes in Spell comes true! But when Polly and Spell join forces to make the school fair super spectacular, they quickly discover that what you write and what you mean are not always the same. Filled with the familiar details of home and school, but with a sprinkling of magic, this book is just right for fans of Ivy + Bean, Judy Moody, and Dory Fantasmagory, as well for aspiring writers, who, just like Polly, know the magic of stories.

View my post about Polly Diamond and the Magic Book to learn about book one.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

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

You can also access the teaching guide here.

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

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Nonfiction Picture Book 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!
***Yes, poetry counts as nonfiction! Ask Dewey :)**

bathtub stillbathtub
Take Me Out of the Bathtub
Author: Alan Katz
Illustrator: David Catrow
Published May 1st, 2001 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

I’m Still Here in the Bathtub
Author: Alan Katz
Illustrator: David Catrow
Published April 1st, 2003 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Take Me Out of the Bathtub Goodreads Summary: Remember… “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad”?  Well, forget ’em!

Songwriter and comedy writer extraordinaire Alan Katz has turned those and other old favorites on their ears and created new nonsense songs kids will love. With zany, spirited pictures by illustrator and cartoonist David Catrow, this kooky collection guarantees laughs and plenty of silly dillyness for kids everywhere!

I’m Still Here in the Bathtub Goodreads Summary: If you like… “Wheels on the Bus” and “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” you’ll go NUTS for “The Meals at My Camp” and “Tiny Baby Brother”!

Songwriter and comedy writer par excellence Alan Katz has done it again! He’s turned fourteen favorite songs upside down and created new nonsense songs kids will love. With hilariously funny pictures by illustrator and cartoonist David Catrow, this new collection promises giggles, guffaws, and hours of silly dillyness for kids everywhere!

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I really enjoyed these books. I found myself singing out loud just so I can figure out how to make Katz’s lyrics fit with the original songs. I love the idea of singing these silly songs with students to the tune of classics. I think it gives a great opportunity to talk about the classic songs, where they came from, and their meaning. Then, the silly songs give you a chance to look at rhyming, rhythm, other poetic elements, and humor. I think it would be a fun activity to have students then emulate Alan Katz’s songs by writing their own fun songs.

Discussion QuestionsWhat other nursery rhymes or songs could you “silly-fy”?; Can you just choose any words to fit into the songs or do you have to be careful? How can you decide what words to choose?

We Flagged: “Take Me Out of the Bathtub” (To the tune of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame)

Take me out of the bathtub
Take me out of the suds
I’ve been here soaking since half past two
I feel so sudsy and wrinkle-y, too
Oh, I washed all over my body
My head, my toes, in between
I used one, two, three bars of soap
Take me out….I’m clean.

Read This If You Loved: Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger, Bananas in my Ears by Michael Rosen

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Captain Underpants series
Author: Dav Pilkey
#1: Adventures of Captain Underpants published September 1st, 1997 by Scholastic, Inc.
#11: Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 published August 26th, 2014 by Scholastic Inc.

Goodreads Summary #1: Pilkey plays with words and pictures, providing great entertainment. The story is immediately engaging – two fourth-grade boys who write comic books and love to pull pranks find themselves in big trouble. Mean Mr. Krupp, their principal, videotapes George and Harold setting up their stunts and threatens to expose them. The boys’ luck changes when they send for a 3-D Hypno-Ring and hypnotize Krupp, turning him into Captain Underpants, their own superhero creation.

Goodreads Summary #11: When the Incredible Robo-Plunger defeated the evil Turbo Toilet 2000, George and Harold thought their toilet troubles were over. Unfortunately, their porcelain problems were only beginning . . . Just when you thought it was safe to flush . . . The Turbo Toilet 2000 strikes back! The carnivorous commode known for devouring everything in its path has built up a real appetite . . . for REVENGE! Join Captain Underpants for another epic showdown of Wedgie Power vs. Potty Power as our tighty-whitey-wearing superhero GOES TO ELEVEN!

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ever since I started teaching I have had Captain Underpants fans in my classroom. Readers (especially boys though, like all books, it is not exclusive) love these books. When I started teaching intensive reading, my students loved that I read so much but were astonished that I had never read a Captain Underpants book. So, during the summer of 2012, I read the entire series that was out at the time.  And suprsingly, I am happy I did. I enjoyed the books so much, and I found many different ways that I could use in the series in classroom. As I read I not only enjoyed the stories (well most of them; the booger one was quite gross), but I kept notes on different ways each book could be a mentor text.  I know that students already love the books so I would love to be able to use them in the classroom. I think that part of what makes Pilkey’s humor work is that he never talks down to his reader. The humor is intelligent and witty, and he makes sure to have his books be as entertaining as possible to keep the reader’s attention.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Some of my favorite things that are addressed in the series are spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and puns. The spelling is not directly addressed; however, Harold and George misspell a lot of words and it would be good to use to talk about phonics and spelling.  Also, each book begins with an anagram which is great word play.  The grammar is sporadic only showing up in some books, but the vocabulary is in all of them.  Some vocabulary I found was billowing, narratively convenient, fizzled, improbability, jubilant, mock, scurried, and merciless and that is just in book 3! Also the puns in each book are really quite clever (check out p. 34 in #11 and any of the flip-o-ramas to see what I mean). Each book also has some great alliteration (#11, p. 29, 27, 208)- each title alone has alliteration in them. There are also allusions and onomatopoeias!

Additionally, I love the set up of the novels. They are a great mix of novel, graphic novel, comics, and picture books. It is a great transition between picture books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I especially like the flip-o-ramas. They are unique to the Captain Underpants books and I think it puts a great interactive and kinesthetic feel to the books.

One thing I do not understand is why these books are challenged. Yes, they have some potty humor. Yes, the adults aren’t the best representation of teachers. Yes, it is silly. But they are harmless and actually have some really great qualities to them.

Discussion Questions: In the first Captain Underpants, Harold and George brainstorm a superhero including his name and then create a comic based on their superhero. With a partner, brainstorm a name for a superhero and then complete a story to go along with your superhero. To expand it even more, complete a comic for your superhero.; In #11 novel, time travel plays a large part of in the plot. What event could you go back in time to try to change?; In some of the Captain Underpants books, there are grammar, convention, and spelling mistakes. Why do you think Dav Pilkey makes the choice to use incorrect grammar? What mistakes idd you find?; In #11, Harold and George end up being cloned (kind of). What would you do if there were two of you?

We Flagged (#11): 

Read These If You Loved: Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney, Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce, Charlie Joe Jackson series by Tommy Greenwald, The Adventures of Ook & Gluk and Super Diaper Baby series by Dav Pilkey, Lunch Lady series by Jarrett Krosoczka, Frankie Pickle series by Eric Wight, Knights of the Lunch Table series by Frank Cammuso 

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Nonfiction Picture Book 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!

adjective verb noun

Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What Is an Adjective? 
Published September 1st, 2001 by Carolrhoda Books

To Root, to Toot, to Parachute: What Is a Verb? 
Published April 1st, 2001 by Carolrhoda Books

A Mink, a Rink, a Skating Rink: What Is a Noun?
Published September 1st, 1999 by Lerner Publishing Group

Author: Brian P. Cleary
Illustrator: Jenya Prosmitsky

Hairy, Scary, Ordinary Goodreads Summary: Simple, rhyming text and colorful cartoon cats help children expand their vocabularies and gain an appreciation for the rhythm of language in this lighthearted book of rhyming verse. Adjectives like frilly, silly, polka-dotted, fizzy, and spunky are printed in color, and all the words will tickle you pink!

To Root, to Toot, to Parachute Goodreads Summary: What is a verb? It’s easier to show than explain! In this fun and animated introduction to grammer, rhyming verse is used to creatively clarify the concept of verbs. Chock-full of colorful, lively examples, the playful rhymes and illustrations of comical cartoon cats combine to hightlight key words in the sentences. Verbs like toss and tumble, jump and jam, jog and juggle, jig and leap are printed in color for easy identification.

A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink Goodreads Summary: “Words are Categorical” is a series which explores some of the basic principles of English grammar in a fun way. The books each deal with a different part of language, using playful and ingenious rhymes to make them easy to remember. In “What is a Noun?” children are introduced to one of the essential building blocks of the English language. It includes sections on both common and proper nouns. The nouns are highlighted in color to make them easy to identify.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teaching parts of speech is one of the hardest things to teach students, and it is even harder to teach them in a fun and interesting way. These books make it so that both of these things are possible. I like that each of the books focuses on only one part of speech instead of trying to teach multiple grammatical concepts thus making the chance of mastery much more likely. I also found the rhyming and silliness of the books just so endearing, and it would definitely help with the knowledge sticking.

Discussion Questions: What is a noun/adjective/verb? What are some examples? What are some nouns/adjectives/verbs that rhyme with each other?

We Flagged: 
Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: “Adjectives are words like hair, scary, cool, and ordinary. They describe like tan and tall, funny, frisky, smooth and small.”

To Root, to Toot, to Parachute: “Whether you scale a wall or a fish, make a design on a cup or a dish, take out the garbage, or sharpen your knife—verbs are a part of your everyday life.”

A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: “Hill is a noun. Mill is a noun. Even Uncle Phil is a noun.”

Read This If You Loved: Eat, Shoots, and Leaves, Twenty-Odd Ducks, & The Girl’s Like Spaghetti by Lynne Truss, Other Words are CATegorical books by Brian Leary, Basher Basics: Grammar by Simon Basher, and other grammar books

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In January, I was contacted by a publicity and marketing associate from Abrams Books/Amulet Books out of the blue. In this email, I was asked to work on a teaching guide about their graphic novels: The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, Hereville, and the Explorer series.

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I was beyond honored! And, of course, I said that I would definitely love to do it as I had read all of the graphic novels, and I am a huge fan of them.

First, they asked me to write an introduction about graphic novels and their importance in the classroom. I am a huge advocate for using graphic novels in schools, so I immediately began researching and writing. Here is the introduction:

What are graphic novels? The easiest way to describe graphic novels is to say that they are book-length comic books. However, a more complex definition that educators and librarians use is “book-length narratives told using a combination of words and sequential art, often presented in comic book style” (Fletcher-Spear, 37). Graphic novels are not written in just one genre; they can be in any genre, since graphic novels are a format/medium. Graphic novels are much like novels, but they’re told through words and visuals. They have all narrative elements, including characters, a complete plot, a conflict, etc.

Middle grade and young adult graphic novels cover a wide spectrum of themes and topics. Some common themes found in graphic novels for this age include the hero’s journey; overcoming hardship; and finding one’s identity. For example, in Hereville, we meet Mirka, an everyday girl who learns to use her brains and brawn to overcome her foes. In The Misadventures of Salem Hyde, Salem is working on finding out just who she is (both as a witch and as a person) with the help of her friend Whammy. Graphic novels can cross curricular lines. One example is the Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales series—comical nonfiction that takes historical events and presents them in interesting ways, using graphics and humor that will make students want to learn even more about the historical time periods. In the Explorer series, stories include topics such as animal adaptation, volcanic eruptions, and the fate of humanity. Like novels, graphic novels offer opportunities in all subject areas to extend students’ thinking.

Over the past few years, graphic novels have become a hot topic, growing in popularity with both children and educators. While many teachers are beginning to include them in the classroom, there are still teachers, administrators, and librarians who struggle with including this format in their schools. So, why should you use them in your classroom and have them available for students?

  • Graphic novels can make a difficult subject interesting and relatable. (Cohen)
  • Students are visual learners, and today’s students have a much wider visual vocabulary than students in the past. (Karp)
  • Graphic novels can help foster complex reading skills by building a bridge from what students know to what they still have to learn. (NCTE)
  • Graphic novels can help with scaffolding when trying to teach higher-order thinking skills or other complex ideas.
  • For students who struggle to visualize while they read, graphic novels provide visuals that shows what good readers do. (NCTE)
  • Many graphic novels rely on symbol, allusion, satire, parody, irony, and characters/plot and can be used to teach these, and other, literary devices. (Miller; NCTE)
  • Often, in between panels (called the gutter), the reader must make inferences to understand how the events in one panel lead to the events in the next. (McCloud)
  • Graphic novels can make differentiating easier. (Miller)
  • Graphic novels can help ELL (English Language Learners) and reluctant and struggling readers since they divide the text into manageable chunks, use images (which help students understand unknown vocabulary), and are far less daunting than prose. (Haines)
  • Graphic novels do not reduce the vocabulary demand; instead, they provide picture support, quick and appealing story lines, and less text, which allow the reader to understand the vocabulary more easily. (Haines)
  • Research shows that comic books are linguistically appropriate reading material, bearing no negative impact on school achievement or language acquisition. (Krashen)
  • Students love them.

Although you can find graphic novel readers at all reading levels, graphic novels can truly be a gateway to the joys of reading for reluctant and struggling readers. Reluctant readers often find reading to be less fun than video games, movies, and other media, but many will gravitate toward graphic novels because of the visuals and the fast pace. Struggling readers will pick up graphic novels for these reasons as well but also because the graphic novel includes accommodations directly in the book: images, less text, etc.

All in all, graphic novels can interest your most reluctant and struggling readers and also extend all of your readers, including your most gifted.  

Resources

  • Cohen, Lisa S. “But This Book Has Pictures! The Case for Graphic Novels in an AP Classroom.” AP Central. CollegeBoard.
  • Fletcher-Spear, Kristin, Merideth Jenson-Benjamin, and Teresa Copeland. “The Truth About Graphic Novels: A Format, Not a Genre.” The ALAN Review Winter (2005): 37­–44.
  • Haines, Jennifer. “Why Use Comics in The Classroom?” Comic Book Daily. N.p., 20 Mar. 2012.
  • Karp, Jesse. “The Case for Graphic Novels in Education.” American Libraries. N.p., 1 Aug. 2011.
  • Krashen, Stephen. The Power of Reading. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc. 1993.
  • McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics. Northampton, Mass.: Kitchen Sink, 1993. 
  • Miller, Andrew. “Using Graphic Novels and Comics in the Classroom.” Edutopia. N.p., 11 Jan. 2012.
  • NCTE, comp. “Using Comics and Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” The Council Chronicle September (2005) http://www.ncte.org/magazine/archives/122031.

 I then began reading and rereading the graphic novels and planning activities and discussion questions that could go along with each book. I was asked to come up with activities for all subjects, so this pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit; however, I loved trying to figure out how these amazing books could be used throughout all classes.  Some examples:

  • Salem Hyde [Science]: At the end of Spelling Trouble, Salem and Whammy have to rescue a whale, but it is done in a very unconventional way. How would real scientists rescue a whale in distress?
  • Hazardous Tales [Language Arts/History]: The Provost (a British soldier) and Nathan Hale disagree about the cause of the Revolutionary War. Based on One Dead Spy, what events caused the Americans to revolt? Do you agree with the Provost or with Nathan Hale about the causes of the war? (This could also be used as a debate question in class.)
  • Hereville [Math]: On pages 31–32 [of Hereville 1], Mirka is given a math problem: Three people are splitting a cake, so they cut it into thirds. But then a fourth person shows up. How can they cut the cake so that each person gets an equalamount of cake? (Mirka comes up with a solution, but are there others?) What if two more people had shown up? Three more? Four more? 
  • Explorer [History]: On page 84 [of The Mystery Boxes], in The Soldier’s Daughter, the man says, “War is a dark power.” Where in history have we seen war consume someone? Have there been wars that did not need to be fought? Research past wars and determine if a war was started because of the need for power or if there was a legitimate reason for it. 

These are just some examples.

I am happy to share the entire teaching guide with you. It can be found at http://www.abramsbooks.com/academic-resources/teaching-guides/ along with other teaching guides. The direct link to the PDF is http://www.abramsbooks.com/pdfs/academic/GraphicNovels_TeachingGuide.pdf.

I hope you find it useful as I am very proud of it,

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