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Stowaway
Author: John David Anderson
Published August 3rd, 2021 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: The beloved author of Posted and Ms. Bixby’s Last Day returns with the first book in a coming-of-age sci-fi duology about Leo, a kid trying to navigate the galaxy in order to save his family—and, possibly, the planet Earth.

When scientists discover a rare and mysterious mineral buried in the Earth’s crust, they have no idea that it just happens to be the most valuable substance in the entire universe. It’s not long before aliens show up to our little corner of the galaxy offering a promise of protection, some fabulous new technology, and entry into their intergalactic coalition—all in exchange for this precious resource. A material so precious that other alien forces are willing to start a war over it. A war that soon makes its way to Earth.

Leo knows this all too well. His mother was killed in one such attack, and soon after, his father, a Coalition scientist, decides it would be best for them to leave Earth behind. It’s on this expedition that their ship is attacked, Leo’s father is kidnapped, and Leo and his brother are stranded in the middle of space. The only chance they have is for Leo to stow away on a strange ship of mercenary space pirates bound for who knows where and beg the captain to help him find his father.

But the road is dangerous, and pirates, of course, only look out for themselves. Leo must decide who to trust as he tries to stay alive and save his family, even as he comes to understand that there aren’t many people—human or alien—that he can count on in this brave new universe.

Praise: “The Mandalorian meets Guardians of the Galaxy in this fast-paced space adventure that will have readers turning the pages as they are pulled into a unique yet strangely familiar world that reflects our own. This series opener is an ideal pick for middle-grade sci-fi fans.” – Booklist, starred review 

“This novel not only provides an otherworldly adventure, but a sincere tale about dealing with loss, finding bravery, and navigating the complexity of war. VERDICT: A page-turning space adventure that deals with complex issues.” – School Library Journal

“Anderson spins a fast-paced tale of piracy among the stars. Featuring a winning cast of misfits who stumble into unexpected kinship, Anderson employs warm humor and pop culture references to ground the narrative against cosmic-level stakes and underlying commentary about exploitation and the cost of war.” – Publishers Weekly

“Leo’s narration aches with pathos but also provides moments of humor and finally ends on a cliffhanger. A heartfelt adventure.” – Kirkus

About the Author: John David Anderson is the author of many highly acclaimed books for kids, including the New York Times Notable Book Ms. Bixby’s Last DayPostedGrantedOne Last Shot, and Stowaway. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wonderful wife, two frawesome kids, and clumsy cat, Smudge, in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org.

Review: There are very few authors that I have encountered that can write across genres and do it well. John David Anderson is one of those authors. I have read almost all of his books and they include fantasy, realistic fiction, and sci-fi, and all are so well done and so different than each other. Stowaway adds another awesome title to his works list.

Once again, Anderson is able to mix adventure, humor, and seriousness in a way that only he can to have the reader reflect on death, choices after loss, mental health, first impressions, and war while also making us laugh about snoring, clothing, descriptions of gyurt, and bad (GOOD!) puns.

And you will love the world-building in this one. Anderson did a great job of making the universe as vast and diverse as it is but not making it all so complicated that the reader cannot keep up with the planets and species.

But I think my favorite thing about this book is the characters. Each character is intriguing, has its own back story, and is so much more than you at first realize. And this is not just Leo’s character, it is all of the characters in the book. I love Baz and his crew, I love Leo and his family, and I love all of the aliens & humans that Leo meets along the way, good and bad! And I assume we’ll get to know even more in the 2nd book!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: On John David Anderson’s website, you can find writing prompts specifically for Stowaway: 

Hi All! John David Anderson here. If you’re like me, you like to ponder the really deep existential questions challenging humanity, such as, is there other intelligent life out there in the galaxy, and if so, are they friendly or do they want to eat us? And if they eat us, will they find us gamey or surprisingly moist and tender? What kinds of flavorings will they use? Have they heard of garlic?

Also if you are like me, you like to write down some of your thoughts when you are pondering what kind of meal you might make for our future alien overlords. So with that in mind I’ve penned a few writing prompts to get you started. You can use these to write a story, a novel, a poem, a list of things you should do to prepare for the impending invasion—whatever. The important thing is to use your imagination and have fun.

  • Imagine you are told that you have to leave Earth on a spaceship and you aren’t sure when you will return. All essentials such as clothes, food, toiletries, and medicine will be provided for you. Otherwise you are allowed to take one backpack with you. What do you put in your pack and why?
  • Imagine aliens show up at our doorstep tomorrow and bring with them all kind of advanced technology, the likes of which we’ve only dared to dream. What is one piece of technology or scientific advancement you would want the aliens to give us and why?
  • Imagine you and your sibling (or best friend) are both stricken by some terrible disease that only gives you days to live, but you are given one pill that you’re told might cure the disease. Would you take the pill yourself or give it to this other important person in your life (note: these are the only two available options. Don’t try to cut the pill in half or study it to determine its chemical compound in the hopes of recreating a duplicate)?
  • Describe the scariest possible alien you can imagine. Consider its appearance, temperament, technology, and desires. Give the alien a name. Now imagine it shows up at your doorstep.
  • Pick a necessity that we currently have plenty of (water, trees, daylight, rain, electricity) and imagine what the Earth would be like if what you chose suddenly disappeared. How would humans adjust to the sudden absence? What would it change about society and culture? What disastrous consequences could it lead to?

Discussion Questions: Here are some extra discussion questions I came up with:

  • How were the pirates different than what Leo, or you, assumed?
  • Why would Leo’s father make the choice that he made at the end of the book?
  • Although Baz wants to be a notorious, vicious pirate, I think he is much more than that. What words would you use to describe him as a character?
  • There are flashbacks throughout the book. Why did the author include these in the story?
  • Which side would you choose in the war? Is there a “right” side?
  • What do you think is going to happen in the next book?

Flagged Passages: Prologue “The explosion nearly threw them off their feet as the Beagle lurched sideways. The steel beams shuddered. Leo’s ears rang. The links blinked off, on , then off again, triggering the fluorescent yellow emergency lighting that ran along the floor. Leo put a hand on the wall to steady himself. His brother’s eyes shone like moons. “What was that?”

The question was answered with a second explosion, the ship quaking again. Every alarm screamed at once. Leo stumbled, falling into his brother’s ready arms. From down the corridor he could hear the crew of the Beagle shouting to one another, though it was impossible to hear anything over the ship’s wounded bleating until the captain’s voice echoed over the coms.

“Attention crew of the Beagle. We are under attack. Security personnel report to the bridge immediately. Engineering to the drive chamber.”

Leo looked at his brother, still holding him tight. “Did she just say we’re under attack?”

Gareth nodded, then looked sideways, startled by the sound of boot heels clomping down the hall.

Leo knew the sound. He’d learned to recognize the rhythm of his father’s footfalls. Like the sound of his brother’s snoring or his mother’s pensive sighs. Leo spied his father turning the corner, his eyes falling on him and Gareth, pressed together. Dr. Calvin Fender’s face softened, then hardened again. He spoke in a whirlwind. “What are you two doing out here? Didn’t you hear what Captain Saito said? You need to hide. Hurry!”

Their father pointed to the nearest door, leading to an empty bunk room barely half the size of the one the Fenders shared. He hustled Gareth and Leo into a corner, his white lab coat flapping on both sides like broken wings. Leo could tell he was scared–he could see it in his father’s eyes, even if he couldn’t hear it in his voice.

His father was seldom scared.”

Read This If You Love: Bloom by Kenneth Oppel, The Dark Side of Nowhere by Neal Shusterman, Children of Exile by Margaret Peterson Haddix, or if you are just a huge fan of John David Anderson

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Stop by the other Blog Tour Stops!

August 15, 2021 Nerdy Book Club
August 17, 2021 Writer’s Rumpus
August 23, 2021 A Library Mama
August 24, 2021 Unleashing Readers
August 26, 2021 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

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

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Who Loves the Dragon?
Author: Bianca Schulze
Illustrator: Samara Hardy
Publishing February 16, 2021 by Clever Publishing

Summary: In this interactive follow-up to Don’t Wake the Dragon, our beloved Dragon is wide-awake and preparing to celebrate one of the kingdom’s most important events of the year: the annual Friendship Festival! It’s a time for everyone to gather and have fun, all honoring their meaningful friendships. But on the day of the feast, the cooks are called away to cater to the Queen and the knights must report for special duty in the Enchanted Forest. With everyone gone, Dragon is upset and worried that this year’s Friendship Festival is doomed. Could they be planning something special for her? And in the meantime, can you help cheer her up? With colorful and humorous illustrations throughout, this read-aloud picture book encourages kids to interact with the text on every page. Young readers will love waving to characters, blowing kisses, dancing, and more on this fun ride alongside Dragon and her adorable friends in this delightful story that will beg to be read again and again.

About the Author: Bianca Schulze is the founder and editor of The Children’s Book Review – a resource devoted to children’s literature and literacy. Bianca is also the bestselling author of 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up, an Amazon “Book of the Month” in 2016. She is a reader, reviewer, mother, and children’s book lover. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, Bianca now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

About the Illustrator: Samara Hardyis the illustrator of Don’t Wake the Dragon and Who Loves the Dragon?. An experienced illustrator and designer, she has created artwork for clients across the globe for greetings cards, stationery, homewares, children’s books, and much more. She lives in Surrey, England.

About the Publisher: Clever Publishing was founded in 2010 with the purpose of changing children’s lives for the better. We create a world full of fascinating experiences for families through our books, games, sets, and series. Focusing on Pre-school and Edutainment, we’ve developed a wide range of innovative formats with modern teaching techniques. Kids love to read, touch, and play while learning, so our program includes products for all ages, including box sets; board books; puzzle books; learning flash cards; interactive coloring, activity, and word play formats; and boards games for the entire family. Our dream team – more than 100 employees worldwide – have a comprehensive understanding and knowledge of children’s books. With this expertise, we present products that are fun, entertaining, and vibrant. We are modern and educational and strive to always emphasize the importance of first experiences. We connect to the needs of busy parents and aim to enrich the time spent with their children. Our goal is to make children – as well as their parents happy!

Review: Interactive books are a favorite in our household, and the Dragon books do not disappoint in getting the reader involved with the story. In the second Dragon book, the Dragon is so sad because the friendship festival is happening, but none of her friends are around. Luckily, the reader is there to make her day better!

The activities the reader does with the dragon are great because they are all things that could be used in real situations of sadness or loneliness such as counting to ten slowly, positive words, and exercise.

On top of the fun story and interactive aspect, the illustrations are delightful! So colorful and full of life! I truly hope there are more Dragon books in our future!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Who Loves the Dragon? activity booklet –> Download for free and print here

Discussion Questions: 

  • What do you do when you are feeling upset?
  • What type of dance did you dance for Dragon?
  • What friends would you bring to the Friendship Festival?
  • Put your hand on your heart and tell yourself something kind about yourself–something you love about yourself.
  • What is your favorite joke?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Dragon books; Interactive books such as There’s a Dragon in Your Book by Tom Fletcher, Don’t Push the Buttonby Bill Cotter, I Say Ooh You Say Aah by John Kane, and Push Here by Hervé Tullet

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**Thank you to the author and publisher for providing a copy for review!**

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First Day of Unicorn School
Author: Jess Hernandez
Illustrator: Mariano Epelbaum
Published January 1st, 2021 by Capstone Publishing

Summary: Milly is incredibly excited to go to Unicorn School, a school that accepts only the best and the brightest. There’s only one problem: she isn’t a unicorn! She’s a donkey in a party hat. Milly first feels uncomfortable but eventually learns that she and the others at the school have more in common than it might have seemed.

About the Author: Jess Hernandez is a writer, librarian, teacher, and all-around word girl. When not being used as a human canvas for baby food art, she writes books for kids. Her debut book, FIRST DAY OF UNICORN SCHOOL, illustrated by Mariano Epelbaum, came out in Jan. 1, 2021 from Capstone. Sometimes she writes essays, poems, and short stories for grown-ups, too. Jess lives in a very small, very LOUD house in Washington with her husband, their three children, a blind Labrador, and seven chickens.

Review: This book is so relatable! Everyone has those first day jitters when they are about to start at a new school, no matter how excited they are, so Milly and the reader will definitely have something in common. And just like Milly, the reader probably realized that although everyone is different at their school, they all are awesome and fit in in their own way at school.

In addition to the story, I really liked the fun colors of the illustrations, and Milly is so expressive!

Trent’s Review: I really liked it because I love animals and it was funny when they all revealed the truth showing their fake unicorn horns and manes. In the end, Milly found the truth everyone and the school became for all animals, so Milly fit in.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: As an educator, Jess created extension activities to go with First Day of Unicorn School!

Coloring Pages

Lesson Plans

And Jess does online visits with schools or groups! https://www.jesshernandezwrites.com/school-visits

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Milly so worried about when she first got to the school?
  • Why did Milly want to go to unicorn school?
  • How did the author use word play when having the different animals speak?
  • Why did Milly turn around right before she almost left the school?
  • Have students draw their own “unicorn” (any animal with a fake horn and hair!)
  • How were all the animals at the school the same? Different?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey, Kevin the Unicorn by Jessika Von Innerebner, Danbi Leads the School Parade by Anna Kim, Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten by Laura Purdie Salas

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**Thank you to the author and Capstone for providing a copy for review!**

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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,

Recommended For: 

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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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