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Waffles and Pancake: Planetary-YUM
Author: Drew Brockington
Published October 26, 2021 by LBYR

Summary: Inspired by his beloved Catstronauts series, Drew Brockington is going back in time to when everyone’s favorite Catstronaut, Waffles, was a kitten!

One very special Saturday, Dad-Cat decides to take Waffles and his sister Pancake to the big city to go to the science museum! While they’re there, the kittens see extraordinary things, like dino-cats, hairballs in 4D, and even the planetarium. But as the kittens learn about constellations and Neil Pawstrong, they get separated from Dad-Cat. Oh no!

Will the kittens be able to find their (possibly invisible) Dad-Cat? Or will they get stuck living in the museum and eating star tots and tuna melts fur-ever?!

Ricki’s Review: The Catstronaut series is a huge hit in our house, so I was thrilled to receive this book. This prequel is so fun, and I love talking about prequels with students. It inspires so many questions and also reminds readers to think about story context in magnificent ways. My kids love to read books that offer interdisciplinary and nonfiction information, so I was very pleased with this book. It allows for rich opportunities for inquiry. Teachers will find easy connections and teachable moments within this text. 

The humor of this text makes it a very fun book to read with kids. My two boys (ages 5 and 8) absolutely loved it.

Kellee’s Review: First, I must share how much Trent loves the Catstronaut series. It was the first series that he found on his own, loved, and even asked his librarian to get the rest of the series for him. When he heard I was going to get and review a Catstronaut prequel, Trent was SO EXCITED! And he loved it, too.

This prequel sets up the stage for the Catstronaut books. It shows where Waffles and Pancakes got their love for science which is a great set up for the main series. I also love that this book is for younger readers so will be a great scaffold.

I also really liked the cross-curricular aspect of the graphic novel. It adds an extra element to it that will lend to it being a great addition to home, classroom, and school libraries.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:

  • Read Waffles and Pancake and have students guess what they think the kittens will do when they grow up. Then read the first Catstronauts book, and have students check their prediction.
  • There is a lot of science in this little book! As reading it, connect science lessons with the book. Topics include: Electric charge, astronomy, constellations, moon landing (history, too!), meteors/meteoroids/meteorites.
  • Have students look up the closest science museum to them and look at the map. Compare/contrast with the Big City Science Museum. (This read aloud would also be a fun reason to go on a field trip!!)

Discussion Questions: 

  • Waffles and Pancake lose their dad when at the science museum. What did they do that you should always do if you lose your adult?
  • The author created Waffles as a puppet, who stars in the author’s YouTube drawing show, “Let’s Do Fun Stuff Together.” How does this show inspire you? What kinds of characters can you imagine?
  • This book is a prequel. If you have read the Catstronaut series, is this what you imagined for the prequel? How might you imagine it differently?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: the Castronaut series, the Narwhal & Jelly series, the Elephant & Piggie series

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**Thank you to Julia at Wunderkind PR for providing a copy for review!**

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Robin Robin
Authors; Dan Ojari & Mikey Please
Illustrator: Briony May Smith
Published November 2nd, 2021 by Red Comet Press

Summary: The irresistible story of a robin and her adopted mouse family is the perfect treat from the creators of the holiday-themed film Robin Robin, created by Aardman for Netflix. This picture book version of the story, beautifully illustrated by Briony May Smith, is perfect for sharing with young children.

The mouse family all love Robin, and she is so keen to fit in she pulls her feathers into ears…but nothing can make a noisy, rather clumsy bird, good at sneaking crumbs for the family without disturbing the dreaded cat! After several attempts and with the help of a friendly magpie, she finally realizes that her special bird talents of singing and flying can be put to good use: Robin can be true to herself and a much loved member of the family.

Robin Robin is a heartwarming and humorous story with themes of diversity, community, inclusion and acceptance – it will win the hearts of families everywhere.

Streaming worldwide from Christmas 2021, Robin Robin is the new collaboration between Aardman, the animation studio behind Wallace & Gromit and Shaun the Sheep, and Netflix. Golden Globe® winner Gillian Anderson and Oscar® nominee Richard E. Grant lead the cast which also includes Bronte Carmichael and Adeel Akhtar.

About the Creators: 

Dan Ojari and Mikey Please are co-founders of the BAFTA® Award-winning Parabella animation studio which is based in East London. They co-directed Robin Robin, the first production in association with Aardman and produced exclusively for Netflix. Together they authored an adaptation of the script of the Robin Robin holiday special to create the book. They both live in London. Learn more about Mikey Please at mikeyplease.co.uk and Dan Ojari at www.danojari.com.

Briony May Smith is a British illustrator who has published titles in the US and the UK, including Stardust, written by Jeanne Willis (Nosy Crow, 2019). She also wrote and illustrated Imelda and the Goblin King (Flying Eye Books, 2015) and Margaret’s Unicorn (Schwartz and Wade, 2020), a Fall 2020 Indie Kids’ Next List selection. She lives in Devon, England. Learn more at brionymaysmith.com.

Red Comet Press
Facebook: Red Comet Press
Twitter: @redcometpress
Instagram: @redcometpressbooks

Watch the Netflix special on November 24!

Review: There is no way you can read this book without loving Robin Robin. Robin means well, tries their best, and never gives up, and just look at that silly walk in the flagged passages (they’re trying to walk like a mouse)–how can you not love Robin?! And the love for characters won’t stop there when it comes to the wonderful cast of characters that Kirkus says “any character in this picture book could be a main character in a different book.” I cannot wait to see the Netflix special because I know that I am going to fall in love with it, too!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is so fun to read aloud, and with the themes it has and a Netflix special, there is so much that can be done in the classroom: theme, how an individual’s presence affects the plot, analyze the structure, and compare/contrast/evaluate content in diverse medias and formats. There’s just so much that can be done.

Flagged Passages: 

Official Trailer for the Musical:

Read This If You Love: Picture books staring animals, with repetitive text, or with a moral

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

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Susie B. Won’t Back Down
Author: Margaret Finnegan
Published October 5th, 2021 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Summary: This funny, big-hearted novel about a young girl’s campaign for student council president is told through letters to her hero Susan B. Anthony.

Susie B. has a lot to say. Like how it’s not fair that she has to be called Susie B. instead of plain Susie. Or about how polar bears are endangered. Or how the Usual Geniuses are always getting picked for cool stuff over the kids like her with butterflies in their brain. And it’s because Susie B. has a lot to say about these very important things that she’s running for student council president.

If she’s president, she can advocate for the underdogs just like her hero and fellow Susie B., Susan B. Anthony. (And, okay, maybe the chance to give big speeches to the whole school with a microphone is another perk.) But when the most usual of Usual Geniuses also enters the student council race, Susie realizes this may be a harder won fight than she thought. Even worse, Susie discovers that Susan B. Anthony wasn’t as great as history makes it seem, and she did some pretty terrible things to try to help her own cause. Soon, Susie has her own tough decisions to make. But one thing is for sure—no matter what, Susie B. won’t back down.

Praise: 

“Susie is energetic, breathless, enthusiastic, and genuinely, charmingly funny.” —Kirkus Reviews

A Junior Library Guild Selection

About the Author: Margaret Finnegan is the author of the middle-grade novels Susie B. Won’t Back Down and We Could Be Heroes. Her writing often focuses on themes on inclusion, hard choices, and being true to yourself. She also makes a really good chocolate cake. To learn more, and to download free discussion guides, visit MargaretFinnegan.com.

Twitter: @FinneganBegin
Instagram: @finneganbegin

Review: Happy book birthday to Susie!!!

This book has so much in it! I was highlighting away as I read–both as a recreational reader and as a teacher (see more in Teachers’ Tools!)! I love that it is an epistolary novel, specifically writing to Susan B. Anthony, because it gives us insight into Susie’s school, home, and her inner thinking. The discussions throughout about heroes, fairness, and history is done in a very age-appropriate way but also doesn’t sugar coat anything. I love that Susie has a “butterfly brain” and went to reading lab but is proud of it. The talk about how all brains are different made my heart sing! And on top of all of this, the story itself is so on point for coming of age and how popularity, personalities, and more really start to affect kids starting in about 5th grade.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am in love with Mr. Springer’s hero project! The way he made the project cross-curricular, interesting, interactive, and included choice just makes it such an amazing project! And there are definitely parts of the book that will work as mentors/exemplars to share with students if you have them do their own hero project including some of Susie’s letters and the Voting posters. Also, the author created a mock Susie B. News to show one of the activities for the hero project: https://www.margaretfinnegan.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/The-Susie-B.-News.pdf.

The author also shares some activities in the publisher-created discussion guide!

Discussion Questions (from the publisher-created discussion guide): 

  • Describe the way that the author organizes the story. How does this format help to connect the worlds of Susie B. at home and at school?
  • Why does Susie B. call Chloe and her three R’s (Rachelle, Rachel, and Rose) “fakey fakes?” In contrast, Susie B. has Joselyn Salazar as her best “spark.” What connects these two as friends?
  • Each of the characters copes with the social scene at school differently. How does Soozee Gupta manage to not be alone at lunch? What is your opinion of her social strategy?
  • Susie B. wrangles with the idea of fairness and justice. She believes that they are two different things. What do you think is the difference between being fair and being just?
  • What do you think is the most important lesson that Susie B. learned in this story? Give reasons for your opinion.

Flagged Passages: Chapter 1

Dear Susan B. Anthony:
I have very bad news for you. You’re dead. Really dead. Like, over one hundred years dead. Like, right now, you are dust and bones in the cemetery of your old hometown, Rochester, New York.

Sorry.

You are probably thinking, What the heck? If I am dead, why are you writing to me?

Congratulations! Even though you are dead, you are not forgotten! You are still remembered for being a brave and determined defender of women’s rights, especially women’s suffrage. That is the fancy name for women voting, even though I think suffrage should be the name for not being able to vote, because it sounds like the suffering you would have to go through if everybody thought your voice didn’t matter one speck.

Since I am also a brave and determined defender of all the rights of all the people, I thought you would like to know that I am thinking about you.

Plus, Mr. Springer is making me.

Mr. Springer is my fifth-grade teacher. Every year he assigns this thing called the Hero Project. All of his students have to choose a personal hero. They can choose anyone they want, as long as the person is dead. Mr. Springer used to let kids choose living heroes, but then the live heroes kept doing horrible things and ruining everyone’s projects. Luckily, dead heroes can’t surprise you like that. We are going to do a bunch of research and assignments on our heroes and basically use them to learn stuff about language arts, history, and even math and science. Mr. Springer is always trying to find sneaky ways to get us interested in what he’s teaching.

Read This If You Love: Twins by Varian Johnson & Shannon Wright, How to Win a Slime War by Mae Respicio, Kids Under the Stairs series by K.A. Holt, Friends Forever by Shannon Hale & LeUyen Pham, Five Things about Ava Andrews by Margaret Dilloway

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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Be the Dragon: 9 Keys to Unlocking Your Inner Magic
Author: Catherine J. Manning
Illustrator: Melanie Demmer
Published: September 14, 2021 by Workman

Summary: There is magic inside you if you only dare to look.

Dragons are the heroes we need.
They have fires in their bellies, wisdom in their eyes, and hearts big enough to welcome one and all. And now you can be one, too!
In this ingenious book filled with hands-on activities, quests and quizzes, exciting stories, and charming illustrations every young reader will discover firsthand how to slay their fears and find their inner power.
How, in other words, to Be the Dragon, filled with courage, kindness, insight, compassion, positivity, and so much more.
And that is something to roar about!

ReviewRemember how you used to fill out endless surveys as a kid to test out who you were as a person? Mostly As? You are a hero. Mostly Bs? You are a warrior. Mostly Cs? You are a princess Mostly Ds? You are a knight. Now, imagine you had one of these books sooner. Be the Dragon: 9 Keys to Unlocking Your Inner Magic is an incredibly clever book that guides kids through quizzes to get to know themselves, crafts and projects to explore their inner magic, and lots of great stories to engage them along the way. Both my 7-year-old and 4-year-old sons were hooked. I caught one of them reading the book in the corner and doing the quizzes on his own because he couldn’t wait until we read it again. This book is very well done and will bring such joy to so many kids.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is easily integrated into classrooms. The quizzes and projects make it a no-brainer as a classroom text.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which quiz was your favorite?
  • What did you learn about yourself?
  • Which of the nine keys taught you the most?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: Quizzes/Surveys; Dragons; Interactive Books

Recommended For: 

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

 
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The Beatryce Prophecy
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Publishing September 28th, 2021 by Candlewick Press

Summary: From two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo and two-time Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall comes a fantastical meditation on fate, love, and the power of words to spell the world.

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood, and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all–for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.

And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories–powerful tales-within-the-tale of queens and kings, mermaids and wolves–ventures into a dark wood in search of the castle of one who wishes her dead. But Beatryce knows that, should she lose her way, those who love her–a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword, and a goat with a head as hard as stone–will never give up searching for her, and to know this is to know everything. With its timeless themes, unforgettable cast, and magical medieval setting, Kate DiCamillo’s lyrical tale, paired with resonant black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, is a true collaboration between masters.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

Please view and enjoy the teachers’ guide I created for Candlewick Press for The Beatryce Prophecy:

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about The Beatryce Prophecy on Candlewick’s page.

Recommended For: 

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Sleuth & Solve: Spooky: Decode Mind-Twisting Mysteries Inspired by Classic Creepy Characters: What Will You Find?
Published: August 24, 2021 by Chronicle

Summary: Test your wits in this creepy collection of horror-themed mini-mysteries, a follow-up to Sleuth & Solve!

How does one boy discover the lair of Frankenstein’s monster? What is the identity of the werewolf who torments an isolated village? And how do two sisters escape the vengeful Loch Ness Monster?

Welcome to the world of Sleuth & Solve: Spooky, where creepy clues are hidden in every detail and clever twists put your wits to the test. These mind-bending mini-mysteries inspired by classic creepy characters feature familiar fiends as well as terrifying new tales of ghosts, witches, and more! Solving this suite of spooky puzzles takes keen observation, strong logic, and lots of creative thinking. Play solo or with friends, collecting points as you crack each compelling case, decode the solution using a clever cryptograph, and reveal whose sleuthing skills reign supreme!

SCARY STORIES ARE IRRESISTIBLE: From monster-themed birthday parties to Dungeons & Dragons, Stranger Things, and Monsters, Inc., it’s clear that readers of all ages have a perennial predilection for all things monstrous and scary. These tales are perfect for reading alone or together, under the covers or in the dark, around the crackling of a campfire . . . as long as you can crack the case before it’s too late. BOO!

EVERYONE LOVES A GOOD MYSTERY: From Encyclopedia Brown to Sherlock Holmes to Clue, mysteries transfix, engage, and entertain! Following the previous two books in the Sleuth & Solve series, this latest smart, age-appropriate take on mysteries for kids will quickly become a family favorite.

A-GAME-IN-A-BOOK: This engaging narrative formula incorporates both a game (players earn points for discerning each answer) and an opportunity to decrypt and decode the clever solutions to each puzzle, adding opportunities for interactivity and upping the stakes of the reading experience.

REINFORCES LOGICAL REASONING SKILLS: These clever mysteries are solved by way of deduction, inference, and logical reasoning, all of which are critical thinking skills crucial to young readers’ intellectual development both in and outside of the classroom.

IDEAL FOR RELUCTANT READERS: With a comic-esque style, unique narrative approach, quirky scenarios, and a compelling mystery/”scary stories” theme, this book packs loads of reluctant reader appeal.

ReviewThis is a great book for elementary and middle schoolers (or kids/adults of all ages!). I did it with my sons, and they both had a great time decoding the riddles and figuring out the puzzles. We spread out the reading of this book across many days, and we did a section each day. It made for a delightful, connected experience. This is a book that offers so many things at once. It includes a mystery that begs to be solved and a really neat cryptograph (that kids can write secret messages outside of the reading of the book!). The author offers advice for making the reading even spookier (reading at night with a flashlight!). After reading this one, we want to check out the other Sleuth & Solve stories!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a fantastic book to have at a table in the classroom for fast finishers. Kids will be engrossed in decoding the riddles! They don’t need to read/decode them all at once, so this offers many opportunities for working on these while waiting for peers to finish working.

Discussion Questions: Which was your favorite riddle to solve? Who was your favorite character? Which story was your favorite? What creative text features did the author use in this book?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: Spooky stories; Activity Books; Brain-teasers; Decoding; Riddles

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**Thank you to Eva at Chronicle for providing a copy for review**