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Here Comes Teacher Cat
Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Claudia Rueda
Published: August 8, 2017 by Dial

Goodreads Summary: It’s back to school for the New York Times bestselling Cat when he steps in as a substitute teacher.

Cat is not pleased to be tapped as substitute teacher. Not only is it cutting into his naptime, but a roomful of kittens is a little, well, scary. At school, he’s faced with six adorable kittens and follows the lesson plan of music, building, and painting–only in pure, mischief-making Cat style. By the end, Cat has learned a thing or two about inspiring others by being himself. But even more heart-melting and humorous is what the kittens have learned from Cat.

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is very funny. Every time my son and I read it together, he giggles wildly across the pages. Cat is very unhappy when he is asked to play the role of teacher for the day. He doesn’t want to have to deal with the kitties, and he just wants to nap. He gets pretty creative, though, and it makes for a wonderfully fun story. I really like this book because it is very easy to ask my son questions while reading it. For example, I will ask him “What is Teacher Cat doing now? How do you think he feels? What are the kitties doing?” It is also very easy to practice making predictions with this text.

Discussion Questions: How does Teacher Cat change from the beginning to the end of the story?; How is he creative?; What does this story teach us?; Why did the author/illustrator choose to have Teacher Cat and the kitties hold up signs rather than speak?; Who is the narrator?

Reading by Brightly: 

Read This if You Loved: Any of the Here Comes _____ Cat books by Deborah Underwood, Won Ton and Chopstick by Lee Wardlaw; One Leaf Rides the Wind by Celeste Davidson Mannis; If Not for the Cat by Jack Prelutsky; I Haiku You by Betsy E. Snyder; Dogku by Andrew Clements

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**Thank you to Penguin for providing a copy of this book for review!**

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SPLATypus
Author: Sudipta bardhan-Quallen
Illustrator: Jacki Urbanovic
Published April 4th, 2017 by Two Lions

Summary: Lonely Platypus wants to play, but where should he go? Should he jump with the kangaroos? Leap with the possums? Fly with the bats? Every time he tries to find out—skipping, hopping, dipping, dropping—he winds up going splat instead. Can a SPLATypus find a place where he belongs? This rhyming, rollicking story is perfect for reading aloud.

Review: Everyone is searching for their place in the world. Starting at a very young age, we want to be accepted and know that we belong. Kids will love the platypus story because it is about him figuring it out; however, even though the message is quite serious and will lead to important talks, it leads to this topic in a very fun and humorous way. The platypus’s adventure is just so silly that readers will be mesmerized by it and the colorful illustrations! This story is a win-win for teachers, parents, and kids!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The most important way this book will fit into most classrooms is through read aloud and the classroom library. Like I shared above, it really does lead to conversations about identity and fitting in but does so in a non-preachy way. Additionally, the text could be used as a mentor text for writing a narrative animal story in a similar style. Maybe OOPSephant or KangaNO or GOrilla filled with onomatopoeias and rhyming.

Discussion Questions: When is a time you haven’t felt like you fit in? What did you do to make your situation better?: What words in the story rhymed?; What onomatopoeias did the author use in the text? Why do you think they were included?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Loved: Leaping Lemmings by John BriggsHoot and Honk Just Can’t Sleep by Leslie HelakoskiThe Knowing Book by Rebecca Kai DotlichA Big Surprise for Little Card by Charise Mericle HarperThunder Boy Jr. by Sherman AlexieAfter the Fall by Dan Santat, Little Excavator by Anna Dewdney, Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima

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**Thank you to Al at Two Lions for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

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The Dark
Author: Lemony Snicket
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Published April 2, 2013 by Little, Brown

Guest Post by: Nichole Pitruzzello

Summary: Laszlo is afraid of the dark. But is the dark afraid of Laszlo? They live in the same house, with the same creaky roof, smooth, cold windows, and several sets of stairs. But the dark mostly stays in the basement…until one night, when it doesn’t. Laszlo walks through his house, as the dark converses with him, on a journey to overcome his fear.

Review: In his unique writing style, Lemony Snicket takes an eerie childhood fear and personifies the dark in a soothing way. John Klassen’s illustrations are a wonderful compliment to the story of Laszlo, using black space and warm colors to enhance the mood. I’m very impressed by the way they take a concept that many children fear, and transform it into a friendly, calming presence. I cannot wait to add this book to my library!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers can use this book as a mentor text for a variety of mini lessons. Lemony Snicket personifies the dark, uses vivid language to talk about Laszlo’s house, and creates suspense through a blend of dialogue and narration. In addition, it’s an excellent book to teach a lesson about overcoming one’s fears. There’s so much that this book can add to a classroom!

Discussion Questions: What are some places that you are scared of, and why are they scary? Was the dark really scary? How did the dark help Laszlo? Why shouldn’t we be afraid of the dark? What should we do when we are afraid of something?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly, Singing Away the Dark by Caroline Woodward, 13 Words by Lemony Snicket

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The Case of the Stinky Stench
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Brendan Kearney
Published May 2nd, 2017 by Sterling Kids

Summary: “Uncle,” Crossaint said, “the fridge is in trouble!
A mystery stench turned a whole shelf to rubble!
I’m the last hope or the fridge will be lost!
Help me or else we’ll be cooked, served, and sauced.”

There’s a stinky stench in the fridge—and our favorite foodie friends must solve a smelly mystery! Sir French Toast’s nephew, Inspector Croissant, begs him and Lady Pancake for help in finding the source of the foul odor. Could it be the devious Baron Von Waffle? A fetid fish lurking in the bottom of Corn Chowder Lake? Featuring the same delectable wordplay and delicious art that won critical raves for Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast—there’s even an actual red herring—his fun follow-up is an absolutely tasty treat for kids!

About the Author: Josh Funk is from MA where he spends his days writing computer language and his free time writing picture book rhymes. His first published picture book was Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast (Sterling) and he is the author of Pirasaurs (Scholastic), Dear Dragon (Viking), and the upcoming Albie Newton (Sterling, 2018).

About the Illustrator: Brendan Kearney is an illustrator from the UK. While studying architecture at university, he realized he didn’t like rulers. He then discovered that it wasn’t essential to use a ruler when illustrating children’s books. Now he specializes in illustrating children’s books, bringing his own chaotic style and ideas to any project. He is also the illustrator of the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast and Bertie Wings It (both Sterling).

Kellee’s Review: I love that Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast are friends again and working together with Inspector Croissant to solve the mystery of the stinky stench. Their story promotes prediction, friendship, and problem solving in a fun refrigerator adventure! In a way that only Josh Funk can, he rhymes his way through the story without even one rhythm hiccup. The story, filled with humor, throwbacks to the first book, and a sweet ending, is just as funny as the first one with jokes for kids and adults alike (watch for the Red Herring and Spuddy Holly). 

Ricki’s Review: If you follow this blog, you know that we absolutely love Josh Funk’s work. His books are smart, cleverly crafted, and engaging. They have a special quality to them in that they appeal to both adults and kids. My son is allowed to pick his bedtime books, and my inner voice squeals whenever he picks one of Josh’s books because I know that the story will be fun to read aloud. We got this book a week ago, and we’ve read it over a dozen times (by my son’s choice!). Who doesn’t love a book about a stinky stench?! There is so much to talk about, and so many great foods and vocabulary words to discuss. The words dance across the pages—and this makes for a beautiful read-aloud. I am always wary of sequels and companion books, but Josh nailed it. This is a great adventure that can work well with the first book and also stand alone. Teachers, if you don’t have this book or Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast, I recommend them highly for your classrooms. Parents, this one is a no-brainer. I will cross my fingers that a third Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast book is in the works!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Because of Josh Funk’s amazing ability to have perfect rhyming throughout the book, The Case of the Stinky Stench and the first Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast book are perfect at looking at rhyming and rhythm. Students can find all the rhyming words and discuss how they know the words rhyme and think of other words that rhyme with the words they found. Also, while reading, to discuss rhythm, students can clap along with the words to hear the rhythm that Josh Funk has created. Alternatively, students might design their own Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast pages to display around the classroom.

Activity Kit:

Can also be found on Sterling Publishing’s Stinky Stench website: https://www.sterlingpublishing.com/9781454919605

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast by Josh Funk, The Cookie Fiasco by Dan Santat, Max the Brave by Ed Vere, Giraffes Ruin Everything by Heidi Schulz

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**Thank you to Sterling Kids for providing a copy for review!!**

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Cowboy Car
Author: Jeanie Franz Ransom
Illustrator: Ovi Nedelcu
Anticipated Published: April 11, 2017 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: A little car with a big dream…

Ever since Little Car was knee-high to his daddy’s hubcaps, he’s wanted to be a cowboy. Cowboys get to drive the range, wear big hats, and sleep under the stars. Everyone tells Little Car that cars can’t be cowboys, but he can’t stop dreaming of rounding up lil’ dogies by day and talking around the campfire at night. So Little Car packs his trunk and heads Out West. Vroom! Can he prove he has what it takes to be a true cowboy? Join Little Car as he zooms into the hearts of kids everywhere.

Ricki’s Review: A car that dreams of being a cowboy! This was a fun story to read with my boys. The illustrations are quite charming, and Little Car made me smile. He refuses to give up, despite the obstacles he faces. My three-year-old asked a lot of great questions while we were reading the book, and we were able to talk about the car’s perseverance. I particularly liked all of the puns in the book. While the puns were completely over my sons’ heads, it made the reading even more enjoyable for me. This book has a theme that we constantly try to relay to our students—not to give up despite what the world throws at you. It would be a great addition to any classroom.

Kellee’s Review: What a cute story about following your dreams even when everyone doubts you! This is a message that is so important to share with kids because throughout their life there are going to be those who doubt them; however, I want Trent to know that as long as he works hard, wants something enough, has a good plan, is realistic about speed bumps ahead, and goes for it, he can live his dream. This is a theme that is found in picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, and young adult novels because kids need to be reminded of this. Life shouldn’t be about what others expect of you but what YOU expect for you. Little Car embodies this message by doing something that everyone doubted he could do and he did it his own way. I know this story will be one that teachers and parents will want to share with their kids (and their kids will love it because who doesn’t love cars and cowboys!).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to connect the theme of this story to real-life individuals today or in history. They might consider other people who have faced struggles and who have persevered. It would be neat to have each student learn about a different person of their choosing. This would add variety and remind students that they should not give up in the face of adversity.

Discussion Questions: What challenges does Little Car face? How does he overcome them?; What do Little Car’s parents think? How does he respond?; What other people (current or historical) have faced struggles? How did they overcome these struggles?

Flagged Passage: “‘Cars can’t be cowboys,’ everyone told Little Car.”

Read This If You Love: Race Car Dreams by Sharon Chriscoe; Race Car Count by Rebecca Kai Dotlich; Busy Trucks on the Go by Eric Ode and Kent Culotta; Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by by Sherri Duskey Rinker; The Racecar Alphabet by Brian Floca; Alphabeep: A Zipping, Zooming ABC by Debora Pearson; The Three Little Rigs by David Gordon; Ten Little School Cars by School Specialty Publishing

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Al at Amazon for providing copies for review!**

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Duck and Hippo in the Rainstorm
Author: Jonathan London; Illustrator: Andrew Joyner
Published: March 1, 2017 by Two Lions

GoodReads Summary: Get ready for a rainy-day adventure with Duck and Hippo!

Duck and Hippo may be completely different, but they are best friends. When playful Duck invites careful Hippo to go for a walk in the rain, they have trouble sharing Duck’s umbrella. But Duck and Hippo won’t let that stop them. Soon they are puddle-jumping and sailing down the river! Until…WHOOOSH! A terrible wind sends the umbrella flying up, up, up into the air, with one friend holding on. What will Duck and Hippo do now? Jonathan London’s charming text and Andrew Joyner’s delightful art bring to life two lovable friends in this fun new series.

Our Review: We are huge fans of the Elephant and Piggie series and Frog and Toad series. They are staples in our households, so when we read these books, we were truly delighted! Duck and Hippo show readers that opposites attract—and they make for a wonderfully fun adventure. Ricki read this book with her three-year-old, and he was giggling hysterically at the drawings. It’s a winner.

The charming story will capture readers from beginning to end, and the language is written in a way that will be very helpful for beginning readers. It takes a lot of skill for an author to write text that is humorous and engaging yet also helpful for beginning readers to master language. London does this perfectly.We will be hanging on to these books tightly as we wait for our sons to be a bit older to learn to read. We recommend you get your hands on this book because it will surely be a popular series in classrooms.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We love the concept of opposites attracting. Students might begin by considering other examples of characters in literature who have been paired together. They might form small groups and design their own story of two very opposite characters who might attract. We’d love to be in a classroom on a day that students were sharing these stories!

There’s more fun with Duck and Hippo in the free downloadable activity sheets: https://www.andrewjoyner.com.au/activities/

Discussion Questions: How are Duck and Hippo different? How are they similar? How does that make for a great adventure?; Why do you think the author chose to have Duck and Hippo in a rainstorm? Why does this make for a fun read?

Flagged Passage: 

Read This If You Loved: Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems; The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel; Pug Meets Pig by Sue Lowell Gallion

Recommended For:

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Giveaway!
Two Lions is offering a copy of Duck and Hippo to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses).
About the Author and Illustrator:
Jonathan London is the author of more than one hundred children’s books, including the bestselling Froggy series, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Many of his books explore nature, among them Flamingo Sunset, illustrated by Kristina Rodanas, and Little Penguin: The Emperor of Antarctica, illustrated by Julie Olson. He is currently writing a middle-grade series, which started with Desolation Canyon, illustrated by his son Sean London. Jonathan lives in Graton, California. Learn more online at www.jonathan-london.net.
 
Andrew Joyner is an illustrator, author, and cartoonist based in South Australia. He has illustrated a number of picture books, and he wrote and illustrated a chapter book series about a warthog named Boris. He has also illustrated for newspapers and magazines, including the Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, and Rolling Stone magazine, among others. Learn more online at www.andrewjoyner.com.au.

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

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Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite
Author: Stacy McAnulty; Illustrator: Edward Hemingway
Published: February 7, 2017 by Two Lions

GoodReads Summary: Mr. Fuzzbuster knew he was Lily’s favorite. They did everything together. Naps. Story time. Walks. And more naps. But now four more animals lived in the house.…

To prove he’s still Lily’s favorite, Mr. Fuzzbuster will have to ask her, but will her answer surprise him? This funny, heartwarming story is for every child who has ever wondered if there’s a favorite in the house.

Ricki’s Review: This was a very fun book to read aloud to my son. It reminded me of my childhood—my siblings and I often fought over who was the favorite child. The dramatic hooks at the end of each page make for a silly, giggly read aloud. Mr. Fuzzbuster has a hysterical personality that kids will surely adore. I have a feeling that this book will get funnier and funnier after each read aloud! The illustrations and humor will have readers begging for more Mr. Fuzzbuster.

Kellee’s Review: Unlike Ricki, my siblings and I didn’t have to fight about who was the favorite–I knew I was! 😉 [We’ll see if they read this review!] So I may be a bit like Mr. Fuzzbuster who is just loves his owner, Lily, so much that he cannot imagine his life without her. Kids will definitely relate to Mr. Fuzzbuster, and the book will also be a great chance to talk about how sometimes there are no favorites–a lesson that is taught in such a fun way that the reader won’t even realize they are being taught something! And the cartoonish, humorous illustrations just add to the fun of this book. Hemingway has such a distinct style of illustrations that are just so eye-catching and exciting to read. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might ask students to make predictions at the end of each page. Because of the dramatic hooks, it would make predictions very enjoyable. I tried doing this with my three-year-old and while he is a bit young, we think we might be able to use this book for predictions in the near future! He slowly caught on!

Did you know Mr. Fuzzbuster loves writing notes? He wants to send cards to young readers across the country.  Maybe he will be your favorite. More information can be found at http://www.stacymcanulty.com/fuzzbuster-email.

Discussion Questions: Who is Lily’s favorite?; Why does the book end the way that it does?; Why do we feel a strong desire to be the favorite? How may this be harmful?

Flagged Passage: “Mr. Fuzzbuster knew he was Lily’s favorite. They’d been together since he fit in a teacup and she fit in diapers.”

Read This If You Loved: Dog vs. Cat by Chris Gall, Barkus by Patricia MacLachlanMemoirs of a Goldfish by Devin Scillian,  One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel, Ballet Cat by Bob Shea, Cat the Cat by Mo Willems

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Giveaway!
Two Lions is offering a copy of MR. FUZZBUSTER KNOWS HE’S THE FAVORITE to one lucky winner (U.S. addresses).
About the Author and Illustrator:
STACY MCANULTY is certain she’s her mom’s favorite. Her younger brother disagrees. She’s the author of Beautiful, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. Originally from upstate New York, she now lives in Kernersville, North Carolina, with her three children, two dogs, and one husband. She doesn’t have a favorite. You can find her online at www.stacymcanulty.com.
 
EDWARD HEMINGWAY is certain he’s Stacy McAnulty’s favorite illustrator, although the illustrators of Stacy’s other books may disagree. Edward himself is the author and illustrator of the children’s books Bump in the Night, Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship, Bad Apple’s Perfect Day, and Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus. Originally from Bozeman, Montana, he now lives in Brooklyn where he teaches creative writing at the master’s level at SVA in Manhattan. If he has any favorite students, he’ll never tell. Learn more about him online at www.edwardhemingway.com.

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

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