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Whose Boat?
Author: Toni Buzzeo
Illustrator: Tom Froese
Published May 22nd, 2018 by Abrams Appleseed

Summary: Smoke billows up.
Cool water flows.
Whose boat is that?
Do you know?

This nonfiction ode to boats features six kinds of workers and their boats—a patrol boat, a tugboat, a car ferry, a lobster boat, a lifeboat, and a fireboat—with important parts properly labeled. The answer to each inquiring refrain lies under a gatefold, engaging the reader in an informative guessing game. With lyrical (and factual!) text by New York Times–bestselling author Toni Buzzeo, and the stylized art of Tom Froese, this sturdy board book is perfect for curious and playful young readers.

About the Author and Illustrator: 

Toni Buzzeo’s first two books in the series, Whose Tools? and Whose Truck?, have sold more than fifty thousand copies. Toni is the author of the 2013 Caldecott Honor Book and New York Times bestseller One Cool Friend, as well as many other books for children. A former elementary school librarian and secondary teacher, she now presents at schools, national and international library and reading conferences, and in district and regional staff development trainings. Buzzeo lives with her husband in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Tom Froese is a commercial artist. His work can be seen in retail stores and publications including MonocleHarvard Business Review, and Wired UK. He lives in Canada.

Kellee’s ReviewThis book quickly became a favorite in our household. Trent was so excited about learning about the boats, and the little bit of a twist at the end makes it so that Trent loves to reveal this surprise and he gets excited every time. I do really like how the book doesn’t only introduce the boats but also shares the who the boat is owned/driven by. The lyrical poems for each boat are also really nicely written and fun to read aloud. 

Trent’s Review:I like how the pages open up. And I like reading it to mom, dad, and my two kitty cats. My favorite boat is the car ferry. Sometime I want to park my car in the car ferry then I’ll go up and up to the top. It is fun how the boats were the kids’ in the pool.  I like this page and this page (he then went through every page).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This would be a great book to discuss careers on the water. Also, the text would be a great introduction to possessive apostrophes since it focuses on the owners of the boats. Students could also write their own poems about a vehicle or boat or building or whatever they want to have their peers guess the owner of what they are writing about.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which boat helps maintain order in the harbor? Whose boat is it?
  • Which boat moves cars across the bay? Whose boat is it?
  • Which boat helps with fires and accidents? Whose boat is it?
  • Which boat moves larger boats? Whose boat is it?
  • Which boat captures fish and other animals for food? Whose boat is it?
  • What is the twist at the end of the book?
  • What are the differences between the boats? Similarities?
  • What boat vocabulary was new to you?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat by Philip C. Stead, Just a Tugboat by Mercer Mayer, Books about vehicles

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Women Athletes Who Rule! from Sports Illustrated Kids: The 101 Stars Every Fan Needs to Know
Author: Elizabeth McGarr McCue
Published June 5th, 2018 by Sports Illustrated

Summary: The fifth book in the Big Book of Who series from Sports Illustrated Kids profiles extraordinary athletes who shaped the narratives of their sports. The best women athletes–past and present–including Billie Jean King, Serena Williams, Nadia Comaneci, Simone Biles, and dozens more are grouped into these categories: Superstars who reinvented what it means to be a sports celebrity, Wonder Women who transcend sports and created seismic shifts in our culture, Trail Blazers who broke barriers and paved the way for others to follow, Record Breakers who set new standards for excellence, and the Champions who showed heart and gumption as winners. All of their stories bring excellence in women’s sports to readers hungry for empowering stories for kids–girls and boys alike. 

ReviewAlthough I wish there were just more women in a book called ATHLETES WHO RULE, I am happy to have a book that celebrates female athletes that kick butt in their sport! This book celebrates firsts, amazing accomplishments, broken records, and champions. I adore that it spans from the early 1900s to today looking at women who paved the way for the extraordinary athletes that are superstars of today.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The text is structured like a Guinness Book of World Records book making it quite friendly for kid readers who want to read the whole text or for readers who want to browse for fun facts. It could also be a great resource for a literacy activity in a physical education class.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the women of the early 1900s help pave the way for women athletes today?
  • How are women athletes treated differently than male athletes?
  • Which woman athlete was a new name to you and impressed you with their accomplishments?
  • How was the book structured? What other ways could it have been organized?
  • How did the “Fast Facts,” “Did You Know,” and “Wow Factor” sidebars help with the intrigue the book built?

Flagged Passages: 

Credit: Excerpted from Women Athletes Who Rule by the Editors of Sports illustrated Kids. Copyright © 2018 Liberty Street. Reprinted with permission from Time Inc. Books, a division of Meredith Corporation. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

Read This If You Love: Sports!, Sports history, Sports Illustrated Kids

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**Thank you to little bigfoot for providing a copy for review!**

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Rescued
Ape Quartet #3
Author: Eliot Schrefer
Published April 26th, 2016 by Scholastic Press

Summary: They grew up together. Now they have to escape together.

Raja has been raised in captivity. Not behind the bars of a zoo, but within the confines of an American home. He was stolen when he was young to be someone’s pet. Now he’s grown up and is about to be sent away again, to a place from which there will be no return.

John grew up with Raja. The orangutan was his friend, his brother. But when John’s parents split up and he moved across the country, he left Raja behind. Now Raja is in danger.

There’s one last chance to save Raja—a chance that will force John to confront his fractured family and the captivity he’s imposed on himself all of these years.

About the Author: Eliot Schrefer is a New York Times-bestselling author, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award. In naming him an Editor’s Choice, the New York Times has called his work “dazzling… big-hearted.” He is also the author of two novels for adults and four other novels for children and young adults. His books have been named to the NPR “best of the year” list, the ALA best fiction list for young adults, and the Chicago Public Library’s “Best of the Best.” His work has also been selected to the Amelia Bloomer List, recognizing best feminist books for young readers, and he has been a finalist for the Walden Award and won the Green Earth Book Award and Sigurd Olson Nature Writing Award. He lives in New York City, where he reviews books for USAToday.

ReviewI think out of the three Ape Quartet books published so far, this is the one that is going to hit closest to home for many. It will make many readers uncomfortable and want to make a change. First, it takes place in the United States unlike Africa like the first two. Second, it really digs into an issue that is still very much prominent here–animal injustice.

I find Schrefer’s writing to be so beautiful yet so easy to read. He can pull you into his stories and makes you feel for not only his human characters but also his animal characters. He does such a tremendous amount of research for all of his books and with this one it brings the injustice of Raja alive.

I am a sucker for ape books. I find apes to be the most fascinating animals, and orangutans may be my favorite because they have these amazing eyes that just show me that they are so intelligent and deep thinkers. They are also introverts; I think I just relate to them in that way. This book brings orangutans to life through Raja.

As evident from Schrefer’s status as a two-time National Book Award finalist, his books can be used as a mentor text for just about any aspect of writing that you are looking for: characterization, imagery, voice, conflict, etc. Read any of his books, and you can pull out so much to discuss and use within the classroom. Additionally, there are some amazing ape books, including Schrefer’s other Ape Quartet books, that would make for an amazing lit circle opportunity or text set.

Review originally posted here on May 13, 2016.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Last year, our whole-class novel unit was done using Hurt Go Happy and included a trip to Center for Great Apes. This year, I had a completely different type of novel planned, but my students begged to read more about apes (and visit CFGA again). After looking at all of the available ape books, I decided that Rescued was perfect for the standards I wanted to teach and also included orangutans instead of chimps, and orangutans are the other great ape at CFGA. After setting up a Donors Choose and getting funded (THANK YOU ALL DONORS!), Eliot Schrefer also so kindly contacted me and offered to send even more copies of Rescued to my students–wow! So much kindness! Now that we had a plethora of copies, I wanted to share the love, so I contacted my South Carolina middle school teacher friend, Jennie Smith, to see if she wanted to read Rescued with us and collaborate some how. I was so happy that she said yes!

The Unit

Because I do love whole-class novels, but I also don’t like how a whole-class novel can also ruin a book with too much time spent on one book with way too many assignments during the unit. To try to fight this, I planned the unit quite simply:

  • Each week the students were given a focus question on Monday that they could think about all week then answer on Friday.
    • These focus questions are how we collaborated with Mrs. Smith’s class as well. My 1st and 2nd period posted their answers on Padlet and Mrs. Smith’s students would also post. The kids would then respond to each other.
    • Focus questions:
      • 1. What’s a big idea that’s emerging that’s worth talking about?
      • 2. Is there a passage that struck you as important in developing a character or a conflict in the reading so far? Share the passage and explain.
      • 3. What incident up to this point has had the most impact on the plot? How so? What did the characters’ response to this incident teach you about them?
      • 4. There are many who argue that Great Apes are human-like, including the lawyer who will take apes as plaintiffs to demand rights. What are some examples in this section of Raja showing how close to humans he truly is?
      • 5. How did the characters (specifically John’s mom, John’s dad, John, and Raja) change throughout the book? What other narrative elements helped shape their final persona? Find a piece of dialogue and a specific incident in the book that is evidence for your analysis of the character.
    • The idea of focus questions was something I got from a talk by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle at NCTE 2017.
  • Because of one of the standards the unit was focusing on, we also looked at narrative elements, specifically dialogue, setting, and conflicts. Here is my scale for the unit:
  • Throughout the unit, I would also stop to have students think about certain text-dependent questions. I tried not to do this too often to not slow down the narrative; however, I loved seeing my students’ thinking. We would then discuss these questions, but I like allowing my students to write answers first before discussing because it allows them to get their thinking organized. (I shared some of these text-dependent questions and an example of a student’s answers below.)

The Field Trip

Once again I was lucky enough to bring my students to the CFGAs. All students were able to attend this year, and they were so kind to donate to the Center goodies for the Apes–it always fills my heart to see the empathy in their hearts!

I have gone to the Center for Great Apes for years, and sadly this is the first year it rained. Luckily, we were able to get in a 90-minute tour to see the amazing animals who inspired Schrefer’s novel. To see more about the Center, the apes they’ve saved, and the amazing work they do, please visit http://www.centerforgreatapes.org/.

Author Virtual Visit

After reading Rescued, I was so happy to be able to give my (and Jennie’s) students an opportunity to interview Eliot Schrefer about the book. Each student wrote down at least one question they had for Eliot then in groups, the students chose their favorites, then based on these choices, we broke it down to 5 per class equaling fifteen interview questions altogether:

  • Why did you start writing about apes in the first place? And how did you decide on the order of publication for the Ape Quartet? 
  • Do you like writing realistic fiction like Rescued or fantasy like Mez’s Magic better?
  • Will you continue to write about apes now that you are done with the Ape Quartet? 
  • While the titles of your other books, Endangered, Threatened, and Captured, inspire a feeling of fear, the title Rescued inspires hope. Did this change in connotation of your title mark your different opinion about orangutans?
  • Were you ever stuck in between two decisions while writing the book? When? 
  • Who do you think the antagonist of the book is?
  • How did you come up with the whole “Raja bites off John’s finger” scenario? 
  • How did you come up with the concept of Friendlyland? 
  • How did you come up with the character traits for each character (Ex. Gary being a bad father)? Did you base them off people you know or knew? 
  • Can you tell us more about the corruption happening in Indonesia which allows palm oil companies to be able to keep burning down forests even though it is illegal? 
  • Do you feel that apes should be treated like human beings and given the same rights such as due process, land, etc. like the lawyer in the book? 
  • Was it hard for you to decide what would happen to Raja at the end of the book or did you know that you wanted Raja to be released into the wild instead of being kept at the sanctuary?
  • Do you have a favorite sanctuary or zoo you’ve visited? Have you visited the CFGA?
  • You used the word “merantau” which means “hitting a dead end and leaving one life to live another elsewhere” which pretty much sums up the theme of the book. Where did you come across this word? 
  • What writing tips can you give to students who want to be a writer?

We then did a Google Hangout with Mrs. Smith’s class and Eliot Schrefer on May 25th after school:

Some of my favorite answers/quotes from the visit were:

  • Realistic fiction allows for a shifting antagonist.
  • Wanted to help people realize that orangutans aren’t stuffed animals come to life.
  • I don’t have characters first. I have stories first then make the best characters for that story.
  • Apes should not be kept against their will.
  • I used the idea of merantau to develop the plot.
  • Advice: For any artistic pursuit, I encourage you to think of the long range range view. It is risky to put all expectations of self in one basket. Focus on the joy you feel when doing the art. Remember what brings you joy! And do research, take advice, and read.

Discussion Questions: These were the first five of the text-dependent questions I asked during our reading of Rescued as well as an example of a student response (color coded for RATE. R=restate, A=answer, T=text evidence, E=elaborate/explain).

  • What can you infer about John and Raja’s relationship based on the first section?
  • Why does John feel like he needs to go see Raja before he leaves?
  • In the Q&A, the author says he “realized that a captive ape’s situation was similar to the plight of a kid during a divorce, getting swept along by the needs of powerful parents, at risk for being seen for what he represents instead of as a child with his own needs” (p. 251). How are John’s and Raja’s situations similar after the divorce? How are they different?
  • Do you agree with the choice John and his dad are making? Why or why not?
  • Why do you believe the author is beginning each part with a memory of Raja’s?
  • How did the author foreshadow this scene (on pg. 99) earlier in the book?

Flagged Passages: “My telltale heart, the one I’d left behind.” (p. 38)

Read This If You Love: Eliot Schrefer novels: Endangered and ThreatenedHurt Go Happy by Ginny RorbyHalf Brother by Kenneth Oppel, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla by Katherine ApplegatePrimates by Jim Ottaviani

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StarTalk with Neil deGrasse Tyson
Editor: Shelby Alinsky
Published March 20th, 2018 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: Now abridged for YA audiences, this beautifully illustrated companion to celebrated scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s popular podcast and National Geographic Channel TV show is an eye-opening journey for anyone curious about the complexities of our universe.

For decades, beloved astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson has interpreted science with a combination of brainpower and charm that resonates with fans everywhere. In 2009, he founded StarTalk, the wildly popular podcast that became an Emmy-nominated talk show on the National Geographic Channel in 2015. Tyson’s pioneering book takes the greatest hits from the airwaves to the page in one smart, richly illustrated compendium for young adult readers. Featuring vivid photography, thought-provoking sidebars, enlightening facts, and fun quotes from science and entertainment luminaries like Bill Nye and Josh Groban, StarTalk reimagines science’s most challenging topics–from how the brain works to the physics of comic book superheroes–in a relatable, humorous way that will attract curious young readers.

Praise: “Most notable throughout the book, as on the original television show, are the connections between science and creativity, art, and wonder. Educational and entertaining, this will engage loyal followers and recruit new fans.”—Booklist

ReviewThis book is everything you would think a book by Neil deGrasse Tyson named after his National Geographic Channel’s late-night talk show and his podcast. Tyson mixes culture, creativity, and science in a fun and interesting way that will suck in readers of all kinds in.

I loved the structure of the book! The mix of Tyson’s answers to science-based questions, fun facts about the topics, extension activities, and all sorts of other fun text features! And the topics are so interesting! Split into space, planet earth, being human, and futures imagined, the text looks at so many interesting topics including going to Mars, evolution, Superman, and Bigfoot!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love texts like this because they can be used for research or as interest starters or just for fun! This book is perfect for classroom libraries, school libraries, and as a class resource!

Discussion Questions: Almost every page has a discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: To learn, Science, Astonomy, Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Where’s Halmoni?
Author: Julie Kim
Published October 3rd, 2017 by Little Bigfoot

Summary: Where’s Halmoni? is a picture book in a graphic novel style, which follows the story of a young Korean girl and boy whose search for their missing grandmother leads them into a world inspired by Korean folklore, filled with mischievous goblins (dokkebi), a greedy tiger, a clever rabbit, and a wily fox.
Two young children pay a visit to Halmoni (grandmother in Korean), only to discover she’s not home. As they search for her, noticing animal tracks covering the floor, they discover a pair of traditional Korean doors, slightly ajar, new to their grandmother’s home. Their curiosity gets the best of them, and the adventure begins when they crawl through and discover an unfamiliar, fantastical world. As they continue to search for their grandmother and solve the mystery of the tracks, they go deeper into the world of Korean folklore and experience their cultural heritage in unexpected ways, meeting a number of Korean-speaking characters along the way.

Translations to Korean text in the story and more about the folktale-inspired characters are included at the end.

About the Author: Julie Kim is an author and illustrator living in Seattle, WA. She has published with Cricket Magazine, Scholastic, and Mondo. Where’s Halmoni? is her authorial debut.

Praise: “Julie Kim has created a visually stunning world that effortlessly infuses Korean text (Hangul) in rich, expressive art.”Cybils Awards, winner

“For its jaw-dropping art, encouraging bilingual attitude, and conscientious portrayal of Korean culture, Where’s Halmoni? is a perfect choice.” —School Library Journal, starred

“A sophisticated mélange of urban households, traditional Asian landscapes, vibrant color schemes, cultural details, subtle visual jokes, [and] pitch-perfect dialogue… This book is an excellent choice for either the picture-book or graphic-novel collection.” —Booklist, starred

“Kim’s bright, expressive illustrations are a delight…an accessible, diverse title for a broad readership.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred

“The sibling banter is believable and delightful, [and] Kim’s panel sequences teem with energy.” —Publishers Weekly, starred

ReviewThis book is a piece of art. The way that Kim combined traditional Korean folklore characters, including giving an explanation about each of them in the back; realistic sibling relationships; an adventure with beautiful settings; and her amazing artwork lent to the creation of a very special book. There is so much to unpack including homage to traditional Asian art styles, inferring opportunities, introduction to Korean folktales, and inclusion of Korean language. This book will be perfect as a read aloud with discussions, lit circles looking at folktales, or as an independent book for your adventure or graphic novel fans.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Where’s Halmoni? and its back matter are a perfect addition to a folklore unit including a discussion on how authors fracture/retell/modernize folktales in all cultures.

And P.S. a whole discussion/lesson could be done around the end pages!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Kim intertwine traditional Korean folktale characters into her story?
  • What do the end sheets tell you that the rest of the story did not?
  • What clues were there at the beginning of the book that ultimately they would encounter a tiger and a fox?
  • How could you infer that Halmoni was their grandmother?
  • Before reading the translations of the Korean in the back of the book, use the context clues and try to guess what the characters are saying.
  • Would you consider this book a picture book or a graphic novel? Why?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Retellings and new takes on folktales

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**Thank you to little bigfoot for providing a copy for review!**

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Be A King: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream and You
Author: Carole Boston Weatherford
Illustrator: James E. Ransome
Published January 2nd, 2018 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Summary: You can be a King. Stamp out hatred. Put your foot down and walk tall.
You can be a King. Beat the drum for justice. March to your own conscience.

Featuring a dual narrative of the key moments of Dr. King’s life alongside a modern class as the students learn about him, Carole Weatherford’s poetic text encapsulates the moments that readers today can reenact in their own lives. See a class of young students as they begin a school project inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and learn to follow his example, as he dealt with adversity and never lost hope that a future of equality and justice would soon be a reality. As times change, Dr. King’s example remains, encouraging a new generation of children to take charge and change the world . . . to be a King. 

Praise: 

“While the book is accessible as an inspiring primer on social justice and taking action, it also challenges more sophisticated readers to make connections between the art, the text, Dr. King’s life, the civil rights movement at large, and the continuing struggle to affect change . . .This book is sure to spark discussion and empower readers of all ages.” –  Starred review, School Library Journal

“Thoughtful paintings of moving scenes are paired with brief, motivational reflections that evoke all the sentiment and fervor of the American civil rights movement.” –  Foreword Review

“The book manages to make essential lessons in civic responsibility accessible to the very young reader.” –  Booklist

“The historical scenes, painted in Ransome’s signature thick, saturated style, are infused with a powerful sense of narrative.” –  Publishers Weekly

“The use of rich, realistic paintings with pencil detailing for King’s life contrasts with the brighter, simpler drawings for the contemporary children, giving a physical reminder that his work is ongoing.” –  School Library Connection

ReviewI am so happy that a book like this exists! It makes a beautiful connection between King’s history and how the same concepts can (and should!) drive us today. The book is very young kid friendly and is a great scaffold to talk about Dr. King or about kindness; however, it could also be used with older kids to infer and go deeper into the lyrical language Weatherford uses. I also loved how Ransome’s illustrations changed between King’s biography and the more contemporary school narrative.

P.S. As a teacher and a person who believes in kindness and equity and acceptance and friendship, I am so happy to see conversations like this happening so freely now! My students and I speak about injustice and prejudice and equity so often now when it would have been a stigma just a few years ago to even mention race or other social justice issues. It is important to talk about race in a non-prejudicial way with children to allow them to learn and grown and reflect. Sadly, it has been through horrific injustices that has gotten us to this point, but hopefully with our future generations having these types of conversations starting at such a young age, these injustices will stop.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students look at each school spread (or split up the spreads between groups of students) and ask them to connect the ideals happening in the spread with something that King spoke about. This idea can also be used with the King spreads because it does not explicitly state what historical event each spread is representing, so students could look through King’s story and try to match each illustration and words with an event in his life.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Dr. King’s dream?
  • What are some ways you can fulfill this dream?
  • Although he was speaking of a much larger issue than a classroom, how can King’s ideals be transferred to how we treat each other in the classroom?
  • What events of King’s life were portrayed in the illustrations?
  • What other ways could you BE A KING?
  • Why do you believe the author wrote this story?
  • What is the author trying to teach the reader?
  • How did the author structure the story to reach her purpose and theme?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Stories of MLK, Jr.’s life, Books (historical fiction or nonfiction) about the Civil Rights MovementEach Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson,

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How to Code a Sandcastle
(How to Code with Pearl and Pascal #1)
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Sara Palacios
Foreword by Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code
Published May 15th, 2018 by Viking

Summary: From the computer science nonprofit Girls Who Code comes this lively and funny story introducing kids to computer coding concepts.

Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, need to build a sandcastle before summer vacation is over, and they’re going to do it using code. Pearl breaks the big we-need-a-sandcastle problem into smaller steps, then uses conditionals, loops, and other basic coding concepts to tell Pascal exactly what to do. But building a sandcastle isn’t as easy as it sounds when surfboards, mischievous dogs, and coding mishaps get in the way! Just when it looks like the sandcastle might never work, Pearl uses her coding skills to save the day and create something even better: a gorgeous sandcastle kingdom!

Kellee’s Review:  Through books like the Secret Coders series, Two Naomis, and now How to Code a Sandcastle, I’ve slowly begun to learn more and more about coding, and I find it fascinating! If I was a kid now, I would be so excited to have books like these to introduce me to coding. How to Code a Sandcastle is special because it takes coding, which is a tool that is primarily not taught until middle school or later, and makes it accessible to younger kids helping them build their coding vocabulary and knowledge at a young age. My son at age 4 now knows a basic idea of what coding is which is such a great foundation! Bravo Josh and Brava Sara for producing such an essential and gosh-darn funny book for kids.

Ricki’s Review: Josh Funk does it again and again and again. He creates highly engaging books that are so teachable! This is my first book in the Girls Who Code series, and it most certainly won’t be my last. It makes coding quite fun and offers an engaging introduction to children. I don’t know anything about coding, and I had fun learning the vocabulary with my son. After we read the book, we went through again and reviewed all of the new words that we learned about coding. The educational value of this book is very high—it is a great first dive into STEM, it could be used to teach step-by-step instructional writing, and it’s an incredible and hilarious read-aloud! Thanks for this wonderful new text for our classrooms, Josh!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Like we shared above, How to Code a Sancastle is a wonderful foundation for learning about coding and would be an awesome read aloud in an elementary classroom as students are first being introduced to coding maybe on the “Day of Code” or before a computer course. It has a lot of introductory vocabulary and ideas that won’t overwhelm young children but will instead make them curious. Alternatively, it is also a great example of step-by-step instructional writing mixed with a hilarious narrative, so it would be a great mentor text for these writings.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did Pearl feel she needed to bring Pascal to build a sandcastle?
  • How did Pearl fix mistakes when she made them when coding Pascal?
  • What cause and effect relationships do you see in the story?
  • What problem and solution relationships do you see in the story?
  • How did the author include step-by-step instructions within the narrative while also keeping the story going?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, Girls Who Code books, The coding references in Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, Twenty Yawns by Jane SmileyOn Gull Beach by Jane Yolen

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