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Searching for Lottie
Author: Susan L. Ross
Publication Date: February 26th, 2019 by Holiday House

Summary: Lottie, a talented violinist, disappears during the Holocaust. Can her grand-niece, Charlie, discover what happened?

A long-lost cousin, a mysterious locket, a visit to Nana Rose in Florida, a diary written in German, and a very special violin all lead twelve-year-old Charlie to the truth about her great-aunt Lottie in this intriguing, intergenerational mystery. 12-year-old middle schooler Charlie, a budding violinist, decides to research the life of her great-aunt and namesake for a school ancestry project. Everyone in Charlie’s family believes Great-Aunt Charlotte (Lottie), a violin prodigy, died at the hands of the Nazis, but the more Charlie uncovers about her long-lost relative, the more muddied Great-Aunt Lottie’s story becomes. Could it be that Lottie somehow survived the war by hiding in Hungary? Could she even still be alive today? In Searching for Lottie, Susan Ross has written a highly personal work of historical fiction that is closely inspired by her own family members whose lives were lost in the Holocaust.

About the Author: Susan Ross grew up in Lewiston-Auburn, Maine, and divides her time between Connecticut and Maine. She attended Brown University and NYU School of Law.

After practicing law, Susan taught legal writing in Brooklyn and in Budapest, and creative writing to kids and adults in Connecticut. She especially loves author visits. There is nothing Susan enjoys more than hanging out in a classroom talking to students about her books and teaching kids about writing and literature!

Kiki and Jacques was inspired by the experience of Somali refugees who moved to Susan’s hometown in Maine. Susan worked with refugee teenagers in writing the book and was greatly moved by their amazing positive energy and hopeful determination.

Searching for Lottie was inspired by stories from members of Susan’s family, whose lives were forever changed by the Holocaust.

Susan teaches writing at Westport Writers Workshop and is a trustee at the Westport Library.

Review: I think historical fiction is one of the most important genres because it makes us relive history in ways that we never could without story. Searching for Lottie is interesting because it is contemporary but also includes a historical narrative as Charlie learns more and more about Lottie. This makes it a great choice for students who may not like historical fiction but are interested in history.

I am also a fan of Susan Ross’s writing because she does a fabulous job taking a tough subject and writing a middle grade novel that gives an introduction to the topic without being too mature but also while not sugar coating it. It is so important to have middle grade books for our students that show the real world in an appropriate yet real way.

And it really helps that the stories are interesting and many kids will connect with the conflicts and events the characters take part in.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Searching for Lottie is inspired by true events, specifically those of Susan’s family. She shares much on her website including this background information:

Charlotte Kulka (called Lotte — in English, “Lottie”) was my mother’s teenage cousin. She lived in Prague with her father, a doctor. Her mother passed away when she was little. Tragically, Charlotte and her father both perished, but her beloved aunt, my Cousin Vally Szemere, survived with false papers in Budapest. Vally boarded with a Catholic family who protected her and they became lifelong friends. My middle name was given in Lotte’s memory.

Another relative, Magda Szemere, was a famous young violin soloist in Europe before she, too, was arrested and forever disappeared. I wrote about my bittersweet delight at finding her music in the essay, “Sweet Strings of Sorrow.”

In doing the research for this book, I discovered to my astonishment that her music had been preserved on gramophone recordings and remains available in music archives.

My mother’s cousin, Magda Krizan, survived the war posing as a model and nanny in Hungary — and was a member of the resistance. She escaped from Communist Czechoslovakia with her husband in 1968 and came to America.

My mother, Erika Lencz, escaped Vienna in 1938 with her brother, Erwin. She was twenty years old. My grandparents and nearly all of the rest of her family were lost. Mom worked in a pillow factory in Brooklyn and as a nanny before settling down in Maine with my father, where she ran our family wedding gown shop and had five children.”

Visit http://www.authorsusanross.com/about-searching-for-lottie/ to listen to the recording and view photos.

This information along with Charlie’s project in the book makes me want to ask students to learn about their family (remember to have a plan for any adopted, foster, or other kids with no access to family history!).

Parts of the story also would be a great addition to an orchestra classroom as Charlie and Lottie write about different pieces, specifically the music journal that Lottie kept.

Finally, as with most historical fiction novels, this story would be a fantastic jumping off point for inquiry in the classroom about our world’s past.

Discussion Questions: 

  • After listening to the pieces that Charlie and Lottie share in the book, which piece is your favorite?
  • What other ways did Jews and other ostracized humans escape Nazi-occupied territory during World War II?
  • What traits did Charlie show when researching her namesake?
  • How did the research change her relationship with her brother?
  • Using evidence from the text, how can you tell that Charlie loves music?

Flagged Passages: “‘Lottie was Nana’s sister, right?’

‘Yes, Lottie was several years older. Your nana told me how clever she was; how determined…just like you.’ Mom smiled. ‘And here’s another thing you two have in common–Lottie played the violin. In fact, Lottie played so beautifully that she performed with the Vienna Philharmonic when she was a teenage.’

‘Seriously?’ That was a weird coincidence. Violin was her thing, too. Charlie had begged her parents for lessons when she was still in kindergarten. She’d always loved music, and she liked pop and hip-hop as much as any kid at Hillmont Middle School…but there was something about classical that made her heart skip. She could lose herself in a symphony in a strange way that she never tried to explain to her friends. Only her best friend, Sarah, understood that feeling, but Sarah had moved to Boston over the summer…

‘What else do you know about Lottie?’

‘Well, the family was from Vienna, the capital of Austria. Her father was a math professor at the university.’

‘And…what exactly happened to them.’

Mom hesitated, then let out a long sigh. ‘Honestly, I’m not entirely certain. When the Germans invaded Austria, the Jews were at the mercy of the Nazis. I know that Lottie was lost, along with my grandfather. My grandmother and Nana Rose were lucky to escape. They came to America on a ship.’

‘So Lottie died…right?’ Charlie swallowed hard.

‘Yes, I guess she must have.’ Mom looked uncomfortable.

‘You guess? You don’t know for sure?’ Charlie sat up straight. She searched her mother’s blank face and glanced down at the photo. Lottie’s eyes were bright, with long dark lashes, and they were staring back up at her.

‘The truth is that nobody knows exactly what happened to Lottie…'” (p. 7-9)

Read This If You Love: Music, World War II historical fiction novels, History, Family

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book for review!!**

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Too Much Space (March 13th, 2018)
Party Crashers (March 13th, 2018)
Take Us To Your Sugar (September 11th, 2018)
Double Trouble (December 11th, 2018)

Author & Illustrator: Jonathan Roth
Published by Aladdin Publishing

Book 1 Summary: Meet space-school attendee Bob and his alien bestie Beep in this start to an outrageously funny and action-packed chapter book series that’s great for “kids who love funny stories but may be too young for books like ­Diary of a Wimpy Kid” (School Library Journal) !

Astro Elementary is a school near Saturn attended by the bravest, smartest kids in the solar system . . . and Bob. Bob never wanted to go to school in space. He even tried to fail the admissions test by bubbling in C for every answer – but ended up with a perfect score!

Then Bob meets Beep, a little lost alien. Beep instantly takes to Bob, even thinking of Bob as his new mother! And with Beep by his side, Bob begins to find his courage. But will courage even matter when Beep and Bob find themselves about to be sucked inside the most terrible wonder of the universe, a super-massive black hole?

Book 2 Summary: It’s Bob’s friend Lani’s birthday, and she’s having her party on a super fancy space cruiser called The Starship Titanic. The cruiser has three water parks, sixteen amusement parks, and 12 million hyper-show channels on TV!

But when Beep and Bob arrive, they realize they forgot to buy Lani a birthday gift! But that’s not their biggest problem. Suddenly, guests’ jewelry is stolen from right under their noses—and Beep and Bob get blamed for the crime!

Things go from bad to worse when Beep and Bob discover that their “indestructible” ship is headed right for the ice rings of Neptune—and then starts plummeting toward the planet below! Can Beep and Bob reveal the true thieves and save the Starship Titanic – or will this be their last birthday party EVER?

Book 3 Summary: Beep and his best friend Bob hatch a plan to save Halloween—and their school—in this third book in the hilarious, action-packed Beep and Bob series!

It’s October in space, and Bob is getting excited for his favorite holiday: Halloween. When Bob tells Beep that soon they’ll get to dress up like monsters and get as much free candy as they can carry, Beep thinks he has gone to heaven. But Lani informs them that Halloween isn’t celebrated at Astro Elementary.

Bob cannot imagine life without Halloween! He appeals to Principal Quark, but with no success. Determined to save Halloween, Bob and Lani organize a secret club: SCARES (Scary Costumes Are the Right of Every Student, or, more truthfully, the Society of Candy Addicts who Rely on Energy from Sugar).

As the secret club grows, Halloween fever invades Astro Elementary. Unfortunately, a horde of grotesque aliens, attracted by the treats, also invades the school on the last day of the month. With everyone in costume, no one can tell who’s who. Beep and Bob may have saved the holiday, but can they somehow use their sugar-addled wits to save the school?

Book 4 Summary: Beep and Bob accidentally clone themselves for the school science fair in this fourth book in the hilarious, action-packed Beep and Bob series!

What’s twice as fun as Beep and Bob? Two Beeps and Bobs!

While up too late working on his science fair project, Bob accidentally points a duplication ray at Beep. To his shock, another Beep appears! Beep decides the more, the better, so he points the ray at Bob and PRESTO: it’s Bob 2 (or Backwards Bob).

At first Bob thinks their clones are creepy, but it doesn’t take long to realize that having duplicates comes with perks: they can sleep in while their clones go to class!

Then the real Beep and Bob discover a hitch: the Beep and Bob clones are EVIL, and are planning to duplicate an EVIL Earth to rule! How will they possibly get themselves (and themselves!) out of this one?

About the Author:

Author-illustrator Jonathan Roth is a public elementary school art teacher in Maryland who likes reading, writing, drawing, cycling, and napping. Though he has never left the Earth, he has met four of the astronauts who have gone to the moon. Beep and Bob is his first series. To learn more, and to download a free Beep and Bob activity kit, visit his website: beepandbob.com.

  • Born: Detroit, MI. He has also lived in Zaire, Africa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, rural Virginia, and Brooklyn, NY.
  • Current home: Rockville, Maryland, where he lives with his wife, two cats, and three (or more!) bicycles.
  • College: the Cooper Union School of Art, New York.
  • Occupation: Public elementary school art teacher by day; author/illustrator by evenings, weekends and glorious summer.
  • Previous occupations: paper boy, house painter, dairy farmer, photographer, cartoonist and library tech.
  • Number of years in school: 1 year Kindergarten + 12 grades + 4 years art school + 1 year teacher school + 18 years teaching = 36. (All the more amazing, because he’s only 29 years old!)
  • Number of students taught: 28 average per class x 25+ classes per week x 40 school weeks a year x 18 years = a broken calculator! Definitely too many enthusiastic young artists to count!
  • Number of Apollo astronauts who have been to the moon he has met: four.
  • Historical figure he would most like to meet: Leonardo da Vinci
  • Childhood favorites (that are still totally worth checking out): Spiderman, Batman, Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Star Trek, Star Wars, ET, Alice in Wonderland, the Lord of the Rings, The Odyssey, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Pigman, the Beatles, Stand By Me.
  • First Book: Duel in Dimensions, a novel about Batman and Superman in Wonderland; written in sixth grade, still unfinished and unpublished.
  • Elements he feels are most important to his books: humor and heart. He wants kids to laugh, learn and love.

Praise: 

“Pretty sporky, as Bob would approvingly put it.” —Booklist

“A strong addition to any library’s chapter book selection.” —School Library Journal

Review: Trent and I really loved reading about Beep and Bob! The stories combine heart and humor just as the author hopes it would! Beep is a great comic relief yet also adds a wonderful element of heart as he loves his Bob-Mother. Bob is also going through all the same ups and downs that many kids go through in school such as crushes, bullies, mistakes, and successes, so that adds a direct connection between his story and the readers. For Trent specifically, the element of space and the information you learn in the book really pushed it over the edge into awesome in his eyes. Not only did we laugh and want to know what was happen next, we also learned about Pluto and black holes (in book 1) and even more in the sequels! This book is a great addition into the early chapter book collection of any classroom or library!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Beep and Bob books would be a perfect read aloud in an early elementary classroom because there are so many different things that could be done in class that would connect to the book such as students writing their own blogs (or is there a fun name they could name them?) and they could study the science shared in the book.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you had an alien best friend, what would you hope they’d be like?
  • What did you learn about ___?
  • How does Bob face his fears throughout the books?
  • If you were in space school, where would you look forward to visiting?
  • What mistakes did Bob make that led to a shift in the plot?

Flagged Passages (from Too Much Space, Book 1): 

 

Read This If You Love: Frank Einstein series by Jon Scieszka, HiLo series by Judd Winick, Frankie Pickle series by Eric Wight, Books about space

Recommended For: 

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Giveaway!

Supergalactic giveaway!!

One lucky winner will receive a set of ALL FOUR Beep and Bob titles–Too Much Space!, Party Crashers, Take Us To Your Sugar, and Double Trouble (U.S. addresses), courtesy of Aladdin/Simon & Schuster!

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**Thank you to Barbara from Blue Slip Media for providing copies for review!**

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Where’s the Architect?: From Pyramids to Skyscrapers: An Architecture Look and Find Book
Author: Susanne Rebscher; Illustrator: Annabelle von Sperber
Published October 23, 2018 by Prestel Junior

Summary: This wonderfully illustrated and captivating introduction to the wonders of architecture will have young readers poring over each spread and learning as they go.

From the top of China’s Great Wall to the base of the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, this journey through the world of architecture stops in nearly every continent and travels through centuries. Annabelle von Sperber populates her dynamic and intricate double-page spreads with many details and a hidden architect or important figure on every page that kids will have fun trying to locate. Along the way they’ll learn about the iron workers who built the Empire State building, how many bulbs it takes to light the Eiffel Tower, where the royal jewels are kept at the Tower of London, and why there is so much red and yellow in Beijing’s Forbidden City. Young readers will find themselves fully immersed in this large format book while learning about the incredible architectural wonders that continue to amaze us today.

Review: My son and I absolutely loved this book. It is oversized with giant illustrations, and we spent much time on each spread. The pages feature magnificent works of architecture from the past (and currently existing in the present). In most of the drawings, the architecture is in the process of being built or was recently built, so the book leads readers into a historical time period. We learned so much from this book, and I loved all of the new-to-me facts about the famous architectural structures. My son loved looking and talking about the buildings, and he enjoyed doing the search-and-finds on each page. It is a wonderful book that would be a great resource for classrooms.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to work in groups to pick a page that is particularly compelling for them. They can research more about the structure and the time period to understand context and explore historical aspects of the architecture that interest them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which architectural design is most interesting to you? Why do you find it to be interesting?
  • Which facts surprised you?
  • Do you notice differences in the architecture throughout time?
  • Which structures are close to you? Which are far away?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Interactive search-and-find (seek-and-find, look-and-find) activity books filled with educational information

Recommended For: 

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

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Chilly Da Vinci
Author and Illustrator: J. Rutland
Published by December 4, 2018 by NorthSouth Books

Goodreads Summary: While others do “penguin” things, Chilly da Vinci—self-declared inventor penguin, builds machines that don’t work…yet!  Chilly ties into the popular “maker” movement with humor and imagination.

While others do “penguin” things, Chilly da Vinci—self-declared inventor penguin, builds machines that don’t work…yet!

Ricki’s Review: My son tells everyone that he is an engineer. He spends a lot of time drawing his inventions and then building them with blocks. Needless to say, he was thrilled about this book. Chilly is an inventor who builds machines that don’t work. This offers great opportunities for conversations about the revision process and the time and patience required for inventors to be successful. The book ties well with history and Da Vinci’s inventions. There is wonderful classroom potential with this book. The illustrations border realistic and fantastic, which makes for fun examinations across pages. This book will be a favorite in classrooms and it is quite inspiring. I am most excited about its interdisciplinary potential.

Kellee’s Review: The structure of this book is so interesting! It switches between the reality of Chilly’s situation and a narrative of possibilities and his imagination. This will lead to some amazing conversations and also gives an example of a different type of narrative. I also think that so much can be done with the different creations that Chilly makes looking at real inventions and the sketches and research of Leonardo da Vinci. On top of that, I love the message of Chilly’s journey! It is all about not giving up and never letting anyone tell you something isn’t doable. Oh, and he’s a super cute penguin!

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Students might begin by investigating Da Vinci’s inventions and how they compare with those in the book. This offers a rich look into history. Then, students might draw out and design their own inventions. Working in small groups, they might try to build their inventions to experience and talk through the emotions that Chilly might be experiencing as he invents new creations!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How do Chilly’s inventions compare with those of Da Vinci?
  • What emotions and characteristics does Chilly display when his inventions don’t work?
  • How does the author use personification to enhance the reading of this text?
  • How might this book be different if Chilly was a person rather than a penguin? What does Chilly’s penguin character add to the story?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Nonfiction books about Leonardo da Vinci, If Da Vinci Painted a Dinosaur by Amy Newbold, The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires, Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers

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Smithsonian Exploration Station: Solar System

Summary: Take a trip into the stratosphere with Smithsonian Exploration Station: Space! With informative text and full-color photographs, young astronomers will learn about the intricate makeup of our solar system as well as distant galaxies and constellations. The 56-page fact book combined with the sticker sheet, space figurines to play with, and the glow-in-the-dark stars make this space experience interactive and engaging.

Includes a 56-page fact book, 30 stickers, 22 glow-in-the-dark stars, and 2 figurines (astronaut and rocket).

ReviewI love book kits. There is something about them that makes me feel warm and fuzzy. My almost 5-year-old loves them just as much. Opening the box is like opening a world of fun. We were thrilled to receive this kit, and it didn’t disappoint. My son played with the rocket and astronaut figurines as we read the book together. The rocket and astronaut touched every page of the book! After we read about each part of the solar system, he affixed the appropriate sticker on his poster. He’s very much looking forward to sticking the glow in the dark stars on his ceiling! Parents will love these kits. The interactive learning component is wonderful. I intend to purchase several other kits from this company!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might purchase 1-2 kits each of the Smithsonian Exploration Station series. These include the Human Body, World Atlas, and Human Body. They can be found here. Students can select the kit that is most interesting to them and engage in an inquiry unit on the topic. These kids would be very fun to use in small groups!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you learn as you did the activities?;
  • What parts of solar system do you find most interesting? Why?;
  • How do the different parts of the solar system together?

We Flagged: 

The kit!

The full-sized poster! Notice the grayed out planets. The stickers match these and make for a great interactive reading experience!

Read This If You Loved: Any nonfiction books about the solar system; interactive books and kits (like this one about the human body)

Recommended For: 

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

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Disney Villains: The Evilest of Them All
Author: Rachael Upton
Illustrator: Various Disney Story Art Team
Published 2018 by Fun Studio International

Summary: Dive into the devilish thoughts of Disney’s most masterful villains and become a part of the story . . . for better or for worse.

WANTED: The most evil, wicked, abhorrent, vile villain to ever curse this world . . . or any others.

A villain acting vile is merely part of the job description . . . but which of Disney’s famed scoundrels is the evilest of them all? Dive into the devilish thoughts of The Evil Queen, Jafar, Ursula, and more as they recall their most wicked achievements. With gatefolds and lift-the-flaps, readers can dive into minds of the best of the worst in this fun read for Disney fans of all ages.

Villains Include…
Evil Queen (Snow White)
Jafar (Aladdin)
Mother Gothel (Rapunzel)
Lady Tremaine (Cinderella)
Ursula (The Little Mermaid)
Scar (Lion King)
Cruella De Vil (101 Dalmatians)
Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)
Malificent (Sleeping Beauty)
Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland)
Captain Hook (Peter Pan)
Hades (Hercules)
Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog)

Review: I must share that I am very bias when it comes to this one. I love Disney. Period. However, this book was even better than expected. I loved the highlight of the villains and how the book was set up as a character profile for each of them like a business resume as well as fun anecdotal information about each of them–including a lot of humor!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I am so ready to use this book in my class as an argumentative or debate activity! Each section does a phenomenal job breaking down the evilness of each of the villains including their skills, possessions, education, work experience, likes, dislikes, and a random list of information about them. Using this information, students would make an argument for why their villain is the “evilest of them all.”

The book also would fit perfectly in a compare and contrast unit since each villain has the same topics highlighted.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which villain do you think is the evilest of them all?
    • Why do you think they are more evil than ____?
  • Who is the foe of _____?
  • Which villain has the most impressive skills? Explain.
  • How did the author use humor in the book to lighten the mood?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Disney, Villains, Profile Books, Humor

Recommended For: 

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

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