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A Girl, a Racoon, and the Midnight Moon
Author: Karen Romano Young
Illustrator: Jessixa Bagley
Published: January 7th, 2020 by Chronicle Books

Summary: In a slightly fantastical New York City, one very special library branch has been designated for possible closure. Bookish, socially awkward Pearl, the daughter of the librarian, can’t imagine a world without the library—its books, its community of oddballs, its hominess. When the head of their Edna St. Vincent Millay statue goes missing, closure is closer than ever. But Pearl is determined to save the library. And with a ragtag neighborhood library crew—including a constantly tap-dancing girl who might just be her first friend, an older boy she has a crush on, and a pack of raccoons who can read and write—she just might be able to.

With an eclectic cast of richly drawn characters, a hint of just-around-the-corner magic, footnotes, sidebars, and Jessixa Bagley’s classic illustrations throughout, this warm-hearted, visually magnificent tale of reading and believing from beloved author Karen Romano Young tells of a world where what you want to believe can come true.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the official educators’ guide for A Girl, a Racoon, and the Midnight Moon (created by me!):

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about A Girl, a Raccoon, and the Midnight Moon here.

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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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It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Anticipated Publication: October 27, 2020 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: Once again, the beleaguered storyteller tries to tell a traditional fairy tale, with little success. Red has some questions about her delivery to Grandma’s house, the wolf calls in sick, and more chaos ensues.

About the Creators: 

Like the characters in his books, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go—so he writes his own. He is the author of many popular picture books, including the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney, and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor. He lives in New England with his family. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and follow him on Twitter @joshfunkbooks and Instagram: @joshfunkbooks.

Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator of multiple children’s books, including Race!, written by Sue Fliess; the Toy Academy chapter books, written by Brian Lynch; and the It’s Not a Fairytale books, written by Josh Funk. He lives in Texas with his partner and their four dogs. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com.
Twitter: @edwardiantaylor
Instagram: edwardiantaylor
Tumblr: Edwardian Taylor

Review: With each book that comes out in this series, I have a long, intense internal debate. I ask myself, “But which one in the series is your favorite NOW?” And I simply cannot decide. Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor’s It’s Not a Fairytale books are the best picture book fairytale retellings that exist. I know that’s a bold statement, but it is the truth. If you’ve missed this series, you must order copies from your nearest bookstore. They are such beautiful, thoughtful texts, and they inspire amazing classroom opportunities and critical thinking.

When I pulled out It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, I suspect the shrieks of joy from my children could be heard by passersby outside of my house. These books are so cherished in our home. I’ve had It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood about a week, and I think we’ve read it about fifteen times (no exaggeration). Similarly to the other books in the series, Red is smarter than the narrator, and she tells her own story and does so boldly. Readers will laugh aloud as they read it! It offers good critical discussions about the stories we hear and read. I loved it and can’t wait to read it (several times) tomorrow. Thanks so much to Josh and Edwardian for another great book in this series!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book would be great to read as a Readers’ Theatre. Students could read different characters and the narrator aloud to create a powerful effect. Fairy tale retellings offer great opportunities for kids to tell counterstories to the narratives that are popular in society or the media, and teachers might ask students to write retellings and counterstories to those that are commonly told.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How would you describe Red?
  • How do the author and illustrator work together to create a story?
  • What aspects of the retelling are different from the traditional fairy tale? What does this make you think about when you consider the original fairy tale? How is the story improved in this retelling?

Flagged Spreads: 

Giveaway:

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Read This If You Loved:  It’s Not Hansel and Gretel by Josh Funk, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk; Dear Dragon by Josh Funk; Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast by Josh Funk; Whose Story is This, Anyway? by Mike Flaherty; Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett; A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media and Two Lions for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

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Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship
Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books

Summary: BOOM! SNAP! WHIZ! ZAP! The Magnificent Makers series is filled with science, adventure, and characters that readers will love!

A modern-day Magic School Bus for chapter book readers!

Violet and Pablo are best friends who love science! So when they discover a riddle that opens a magic portal in the Science Space at school, they can’t wait to check it out! Along with their new classmate, Deepak, the friends discover a magical makerspace called the Maker Maze. It’s a laboratory full of robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, and more. Doors line the walls of the makerspace, with a new science adventure waiting behind each one.

Ricki’s Review: I think I’ve recommended this book to about fifteen people since we’ve read it. I really admire the way in which Griffith incorporates science in such a fun way. The book almost feels interactive. I am going to admit that I, an adult, learned some cool science information as we read this one. We read this book with our virtual book club of kids, and they all loved it. It was very easy to host discussions, and the kids were very animated as they talked about the sections that they loved most. This is a great early chapter book series that is going to be well-loved by teachers. The interdisciplinary nature of the text makes it very easy to teach. We will definitely be getting the next book in the series.

Kellee’s Review: As a mom of 1st grader who loves to read, we are always looking for new early chapter books that will grab his attention and this book is everything we could want. First, it is relatable. The dynamics between the three characters are accurate and just on point. It also deals with real feelings like jealousy and competitiveness. Second, it is about science! Trent is definitely a science loving kid, and adding some science into his books makes him love them more. Third, it is a reflection of the real world (even though they travel to another dimension) because there are a diversity of kids and adults both in looks and behavior. We have already gone to buy the next three in the series, and we cannot wait to see what adventure happens next!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book offers many questions that can lead to inquiry and many topics that can be explored further by kids. Teachers might ask students to select a topic in science and write a fictional story about it. This would require some research and thinking about how information is presented in fiction.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was your favorite aspect of science that you learned from the book?
  • What emotions did the characters experience in the book? Have you been in situations where you’ve felt these emotions?
  • What could you research from this book to learn more (e.g. robots, 3D printers, an antigravity chamber, the ecosystem)?

Flagged Passage: “Producers, consumers, decomposers, oh my! All are necessary for an ecosystem to survive. Most animals are __________. Living things, beware! If ____________ disappeared, we wouldn’t have fresh air. And without ______________, nature’s garbage would be everywhere! Solve this riddle to enter the maker maze” (p. 11).

Read This If You Love: Science books, early chapter books, interdisciplinary learning

Recommended For: 

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Our World: A First Book of Geography
Author: Sue Lowell Gallion; Illustrator: Lisk Feng
Published: July 15, 2020 by Phaidon Press

Summary: A read-aloud introduction to geography for young children that, when opened and folded back, creates a freestanding globe

Children are invited to identify and experience the Earth’s amazing geography through rhyming verse and lush illustrations: from rivers, lakes, and oceans deep, to valleys, hills, and mountains steep. Secondary text offers more detailed, curriculum-focused facts and encourages readers to consider their own living environments, making the reading experience personal yet set within a global backdrop. This informative homage to Earth is sure to inspire readers to learn more about their planet – and to engage with the world around them.

ReviewOh, how I love this book! It is very cleverly designed. My sons have decided that they will alternate having it in their rooms each week, so it was a hit in my household. The book opens to form a globe! The information within the book is educational for both kids and adults. For instance, I learned about the different temperatures of deserts. Very cool! The book is marketed to ages 2-5, but my almost 7-year-old found it fascinating and learned new information (as did I!). I think other elementary schoolers would also really enjoy this book.

Each page features a theme of information and artworking, like a living environment or the rivers, lakes, and oceans. It’s packed with interesting facts on the thick, sturdy board book pages. This book would make a great gift to a teacher or child. I recommend it highly!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could pair this book with a unit on geography. Students might each take a different page and research further the topic of the page. Alternatively, kids might design their own three-dimensional books using this one as their mentor text. For instance, they might design a book based on a planet or some other theme. I am hoping for more books in this style!

Discussion Questions: Which was your favorite page? Why? What did you learn on the page? What other information could you research about the topic?; How do the pages work together to teach us about our world?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: Any nonfiction books about the geography and our world; interactive books

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Wendy Kitts and Frannie Gordon for introducing me to this book and providing a copy for review!**

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Build a Castle: 64 Slot-Together Cards for Creative Fun
Author: Pail Farrell
Published: April 7th 2020 by Pavilion Children’s

Summary: Turrets, ramparts, windows, walls, and more–create your own medieval masterpiece with the first in a new series of graphic-designed building cards.

This pack contains sixty-four cards (4 x 2¾ inches) of a variety of graphic designs. Clever paper engineering allows you to slot the cards together, building up and out in whichever way you like! Also included is a short ten-page booklet, with descriptions of the card designs and suggestions of stacking methods. The instructions tell you how to build a castle, or you can let your imagination run riot and design your own!

Renowned illustrator Paul Farrell has designed these cards in his bold, colorful graphic style–turning the image of a castle into a work of art.

ReviewBuilding, building, building. My three kids love to build. I am always looking for something new and different. When I heard about Build a Castle, I knew it would be a huge hit in my house, and (spoiler alert), it was.

The cards come in a thick cardboard box that is very inviting. The pictures on the cover give kids ideas (if they need a sort of mentor text to get started.

I was pleasantly surprised by the long informational guide within the box. It provides a lot of neat details for kids to read and learn all about castles. I found it cool, myself, even though I know I am not the target audience. I suspect other adults will find joy in this box.

Here’s a closeup of one of the informational sections about castles. Younger kids might slot the castle together haphazardly, but older kids would enjoy choosing intentionally the placement of the items of their castle. For instance, a battlement might be better placed at the top of the castle to allow for safety from invaders from far away!

Building!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would make for a great classroom station. Or perhaps teachers would enjoy using it for fast finishers or for a free learning time slot. My son says that his classroom as a free learning time, and everyone fights over the iPad. Build a Castle would be a great competitor for the iPad. I know that my kids would enjoy building a castle just as much as using the well-loved tablet.

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

Cool Video to Show How It Works: 

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction books about castles; interactive books and kits; legos; building; architecture

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

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