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King Ben and Sir Rhino
Author and Illustrator: Eric Sailer
Published: August 7, 2018 by Two Lions

GoodReads Summary: Ben is king of the jungle. He does exactly what he pleases, as a king should. And he has everything a king could want: noble steeds, castles, and servants. What Ben doesn’t have is a loyal subject. Then he meets Rhino…and finds out what being a good king is all about.

Our Review: This adorable story offers teachers and parents opportunities to talk about bossiness! King Ben gets everything he pleases, and he decides he will make Rhino he loyal subjects. I feel like all children effort to make their parents their loyal subjects. I know that my own children have me wrapped around their fingers. This book offers opportunities to discuss why being King Ben might not always be the best approach. This makes for a very fun read-aloud.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students might have fun comparing and contrasting the King Bens and Sir Rhinos in popular culture and across history. For younger children, comparing and contrasting the good and bad things about being bossy would make for a fruitful discussion.

Discussion Questions: What are some of the things that King Ben makes Sir Rhino do?; Is King Ben being kind?; What could Sir Rhino do?; What might the characters learn from their relationship?

Flagged Passage: 

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

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**Thank you to Kristin at Two Lions for providing a copy for review!**

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The Girl With More Than One Heart
Author: Laura Geringer Bass
Published April 17th, 2018 by Abrams Books

Summary: There are times we all feel we need more than one heart to get through. When Briana’s father dies, she imagines she has a new heart growing inside her. It speaks to her in her Dad’s voice. Some of its commands are mysterious.

Find Her!  it says. Be Your Own!  

How can Briana “be her own” when her grieving mother needs her to take care of her demanding little brother all the time? When all her grandpa can do is tell stories instead of being the “rock” she needs? When her not-so-normal home life leaves no time to pursue her dream of writing for the school literary magazine? When the first blush of a new romance threatens to be nipped in the bud? Forced by the loss of her favorite parent to see all that was once familiar with new eyes, Briana draws on her own imagination, originality, and tender loving heart to discover a surprising path through the storm.

About the Author: Laura Geringer Bass is the author of over 20 highly acclaimed books for children, tweens, and teens. Her new novel for middle graders about friendship, love, and loss — The Girl with More Than One Heart — is the lyrical story of a courageous girl who imagines she needs an extra heart to navigate her grief after the death of her dad. It will be published by Abrams this Spring. Laura serves on the National Advisory Board of First Book, a non-profit organization that has delivered over 170 million books to children in need and as a mentor for Girls Write Now and Prison Writes, teaching teens at risk.

Review: This book looks at the struggle of grief when life keeps moving on around you. And like another book I love, Courage for Beginners, it shows the struggle a child has if a parent is suffering and they have to step up in a way that is not what their peers have to. Briana doesn’t know how to deal with the grief and with her mother incapacitated with grief also, Briana finds that she needs a second heart to help guide her through this huge bump in her life. Briana’s story also shows the struggle yet love of being a sibling to a child with special needs.

Written beautifully in a way that will pull at your heartstrings, Bass’s story shows how one girl uses art, love, and courage to make her way through a loss that is unimaginable for most of us.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Girl With More Than One Heart needs to be in classroom, school, and public libraries. There are so many readers that need this book. There are other readers that will want this book. There are definite readers for this book.

Another way in the classroom that it could be used is a mentor text for writing about memories. Briana’s second heart shares memories with her, one of the ways we get to know her dad, and the memories are so full of imagery. There are many sections that could be read for a mentor text when asking students to write a personal narrative.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did Briana use art to help her through her grief?
  • How did Briana’s life change after the loss of her dad?
  • Aaron is described in the summary as her demanding little brother, but Briana loves him. What are some examples in the story that show this love?
  • How does Grandpa Ben help guide Briana?
  • Briana’s second heart is only figurative. What does it represent?

Flagged Passage: “The day my father’s heart stopped, I discovered an extra heart deep in my belly, below my right rib. It talked to me. I wasn’t crazy. Before that day, I had just one heart that never said a word.” (p. 1)

Read This If You Love: Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington, Rules by Cynthia Lord, How to Speak Dolphin by Ginny Rorby, Be Light Like a Bird by Monika Schröder, Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd, Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand, Far from Fair by Elana K. Arnold

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

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Water in May
Author: Ismée Amiel Williams
Published September 12th, 2017 by Abrams Books

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Mari Pujols believes that the baby she’s carrying will finally mean she’ll have a family member who will love her deeply and won’t ever leave her—not like her mama, who took off when she was eight; or her papi, who’s in jail; or her abuela, who wants as little to do with her as possible. But when doctors discover a potentially fatal heart defect in the fetus, Mari faces choices she never could have imagined.

Surrounded by her loyal girl crew, her off-and-on boyfriend, and a dedicated doctor, Mari navigates a decision that could emotionally cripple the bravest of women. But both Mari and the broken-hearted baby inside her are fighters; and it doesn’t take long to discover that this sick baby has the strength to heal an entire family.

Inspired by true events, this gorgeous debut has been called “heartfelt, heartbreaking and—yes!—even a little heart-healing, too” by bestselling YA novelist Carolyn Mackler.

About the Author: Ismée Williams is a pediatric cardiologist who practiced at the Columbia University Medical Center in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City for fifteen years. She currently sees patients at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx. As the daughter of a Cuban immigrant, partially raised by her abuelos, her background helped her understand the many Maris she met along the way. Water in May is her first novel.

Praise: 

“Full of spot-on cultural texture and packing an emotional punch, this is an unusual take on the teen-pregnancy problem novel… Williams presents her experience in a way that demands not pity but respect while also reminding readers of Mari’s heartbreaking youth and innocence at unexpected times…Fierce and tender—and absolutely worth reading.” — Kirkus, STARRED REVIEW

“Mari is a deeply credible character, a girl who’s always spoiling for a fight, usually a physical one, but who’s turning that impulse into fighting for her baby. Williams, formerly a pediatric cardiologist at Columbia, brings vivid authenticity to the medical side of things, including the details of life with a baby in the NICU and the varying personalities of health care personnel.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This novel is realistic and compelling, heartfelt and heartbreaking all at the same time. The author’s experience as a pediatric cardiologist brings authenticity to her writing as much as does her experience of navigating cultural barriers. Young adult readers will connect with Mari’s feisty personality, strength, and vulnerability.” — VOYA Magazine

Review: Mari’s story is one that isn’t often told. Mari is someone most people would see on the streets and would try to ignore because getting to know her would be getting to know how hard life in America can be. But Mari is also someone who is stronger than many of us will ever be. Her story is one that will make readers think about assumptions OR will help readers see a mirror into struggles they may be having in life. Although I hope teens don’t see Mari’s story as an invitation for a teenage pregnancy, I believe the truth of her hardships show the tremendous change a baby brings to life and will show that Mari’s decisions are made out of desperation when there are other paths she could have taken. Some who read the book have said they don’t like Mari as a character, but I found that when Mari was frustrating, it was because she was acting like what she is: a fifteen-year-old girl trying to find her place in this crazy world.

Teachers Guide with Activities and Discussion Questions written by me: 

Guide can also be accessed through Abrams Books’s Resource Page.

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**Thank you to Ismée Williams for finding me and allowing me to complete this guide!**

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Drawn Together
Author: Minh Lê
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published: June 5, 2018 by Disney-Hyperion

Summary: When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

With spare, direct text by Minh Lê and luminous illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat, this stirring picture book about reaching across barriers will be cherished for years to come.

Ricki’s Review: This book is absolutely stunning. It will certainly be making my favorites list this year. It is a solid contender for the Caldecott this year. The story and illustrations are absolutely beautiful. Due to a language barrier, a boy and his grandfather have difficulty communicating with each other. Through drawing, they discover a deep, magical connection with each other. This book pulled at my heart. It is one that I will remember for a long time.

Kellee’s Review: This gorgeous book took my breath away. Actually. I read it at ALA Annual, and when I finished, I looked around to find someone to just feel with because the emotions were overflowing within me! The celebration of art and family and the feeling of being stuck between two worlds and not being to connect with a family member were all things that just touched me. It is a book that I had to own, I now will buy for so many people, and I cannot wait to share with my students and my son.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: Teachers might ask students to try to sit with a peer partner that they don’t know very well and try to connect with each other without speaking. Then, they might take a piece of paper and use drawing as a means to try to connect with their partner. This has the potential to spark conversations about language, relationship, and humanity.

Discussion Questions: 
  • How does the story evolve? How do the characters evolve?;
  • What do the characters learn?;
  • What does the story teach us about language? Communication? Relationships? Bravery?

We Flagged:

 

Read This If You Loved:  Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña, Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham, Harlem by Walter Dean Myers

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It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!
Author: Lindsay Ward
Published July 17th, 2018 by Two Lions

Summary: Dexter T. Rexter is going to school. But will anyone like him?

Tomorrow is the biggest event ever in Dexter’s life: his best friend, Jack, is taking him to school for Show and Tell Day! Dexter has been getting ready for weeks. But now he’s a little nervous. What if the other kids don’t like him? So Dexter decides to come up with a plan. He’ll wear a costume. Dinosaurs in bunny ears look good, right? He’ll recite state capitals starting with…uhaher. Then he realizes something. He can’t dance. He can’t recite things. He doesn’t have ANY skills. What’s a dino to do?

This comical, interactive tale of belonging, friendship, anticipation, and first-day-at-school jitters lets readers experience the excitement and nervousness along with Dexter—and even offer him a little advice along the way.

About the Author: 

Lindsay Ward is the author of the Dexter T. Rexter book Don’t Forget Dexter! Though she never got to bring an orange dinosaur to Show and Tell Day, she did once take all four albums of her sticker collection. She is also the author and illustrator of BrobariansHenry Finds His Word, and When Blue Met Egg. Her book Please Bring Balloons was also made into a play.

Most days you can find Lindsay with her family, writing and sketching at her home in Peninsula, Ohio. Learn more about her at www.LindsayMWard.com.

Praise: “Ward’s gentle art features cut-paper forms with residual pencil outlines, providing an ad hoc quality to the spreads. Readers prone to anxiety over big events should be tickled by the idea that a toy has concerns too.” —Publishers Weekly

“Ward’s illustrations, made with printmaking ink, colored pencil, and cut paper, wonderfully capture Dexter’s every emotion and over-the-top ideas.” —Kirkus Reviews

Review: Dexter is going to school, and he is feeling many things that so many kids feel about themselves when they are going to school, either for show and tell or on the first day of school. How is he going to make everyone at school like him? What he needs to realize is that he should be proud of who he is and not question himself.

What I love about Dexter’s books is that he really does deal with some tough issues that many kids deal with throughout their childhood, but it is done in a super hilarious way with Dexter’s voice which is one of a kind. This makes for really fun read alouds with some great follow up discussions.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What a fun book to read when you are introducing show and tell in elementary school! It will help kids realize that it doesn’t matter what they bring as long as it has a story and means something to you. Students will also love rereading this, so it definitely needs to be in libraries, both public, school, and classroom, also.

And check out the fun coloring sheet here!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why is Dexter so nervous about Show and Tell?
  • What lesson does Dexter’s story teach us about impressions and/or show and tell?
  • What tune do you think Dexter’s song is set to?
  • Why would Dexter feel like he needs to wear a costume? Or look different?
  • How does it end up in the end?
  • What toy would you bring to show and tell?

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Don’t Forget Dexter by Lindsay WardLily’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes, A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen, Not Norman by Kelly Bennett, Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

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Giveaway!

One lucky winner will receive a copy of both Dexter T. Rexter books–Don’t Forget Dexter! and It’s Show and Tell, Dexter!, courtesy of Two Lions (U.S. addresses).

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for setting up the blog tour!**

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Maximillian Villainous
Author: Margaret Chiu Greanias
Illustrator: Lesley Breen Withrow
Publication Date: August 28th, 2018 by Running Press Kids

Summary: A humorous and important book about learning to follow your heart and proving that kindness can outweigh villainy any day.

Maximillian Villainous is a monster who doesn’t have the heart to be a villain. His famous family pulls pranks on the likes of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, and Max spends his time undoing them. So when he brings home a bunny to be his sidekick, Max’s disapproving mother hatches a plan. She challenges Max and the bunny to become a devious duo; otherwise . . . the bunny hops. If they want to stay together, Max and the bunny have no choice but to go against their nature. They blunder into villainy with comical effect until Max discovers that embracing his good heart may just be the key to pulling off the most devious deed of all and winning his family’s acceptance.

Delightfully fun and irreverent, Maximillian Villainous is an empowering story about embracing one’s true self and finding acceptance. Up and coming illustrator Lesley Breen Withrow brings the characters to life with bold and colorful illustrations in a style reminiscent of Richard Scarry.

About the Creators: 

Margaret Greanias was inspired by her children’s love of the Despicable Me movies and all things Minion when writing Maximillian Villainous, her debut picture book. She lives with her husband, three children, and a fluffle of dust bunnies in the San Francisco Bay area.

Lesley Breen Withrow is the illustrator of several picture books, including You’re My Boo by Kate Dopirak and Bunny Bus by Ammi-Joan Paquette. Her artwork can also be seen on many products, including stationery collections and children’s games, toys, and apps. Lesley lives on beautiful Cape Cod with her family, a couple of crazy cats, and her daughters’ large and ever-growing collection of stuffed animals.

ReviewMaximillian’s story primarily focuses on someone being different than their family and how expectations set by others in the family may not fit what another person excels at. As a teacher, I wish I could read this book to so many people because I really struggle with parents and educators expect a kid to be a certain way because they know a sibling or a family member. That isn’t how it always works. I think this same theme could be used to talk about how expectations have to be differentiated in general, so I could actually see this story being used to talk to evaluators, leaders, etc. to talk about why Maximillian needed a change of assessment instead of the same as everyone else. Underlying, the message is that we can’t expect anyone to be anyway. Let them show you who they are and accept and love them as they are.

And all of these deep messages are within a funny story with fun illustrations about a monster who loves his bunny even though he is expected to be a villain.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Theme, theme, theme, theme!!! The author does a fabulous job writing a funny book that is just so perfect for talking about a lesson. The characterization of the Villainous family vs. Maximillian will allow for some fun compare/contrast and character trait activities as well. And this book definitely needs to join the empathy and community building read alouds–it will lead to some wonderful discussions and acceptance. Finally, I would love to see it used with teachers as a coaching tool to discuss the need to differentiate. Sometimes the directions we give need to be tweaked just a bit for certain kids, and we’ll get to see brilliance.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is Maximmillian different than the rest of his family?
  • How does his family react to his differences?
  • What does Maximillian prove by the end of the book?
  • How did Maximillian manipulate the situation to show his worth?
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you felt that something was unfairly expected of you?
  • What is the message of Maximillian’s story?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Monsters vs. Kittens by Dani Jones, Normal Norman by Tara Lazar, Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman

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**Thank you to Running Press for providing a copy for review!**

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Amal Unbound
Author: Aisha Saeed
Published May 8, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Goodreads Summary: Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when—as the eldest daughter—she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens—after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal—especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.

Ricki’s Review: I read this book in one sitting. I’ve been thinking about it almost daily since I’ve read it. It’s an unforgettable story about a girl’s courage to survive. I don’t know her age, and although I suspect that the book is targeted by marketing teams for middle graders, it is quite simply a must-read for everyone. The book provides layers upon layers of themes and issues to consider. It made me think about privilege, freedom, education, and bravery, in particular. Amal is inspiring, and I greatly admire her courage in the face of adversity. When I was reviewing this book on GoodReads, I noticed that every one of my reader friends rated the book highly, and I am not surprised. Amal’s story is one that will stick with all readers. 

This is an important book. This is a book that will make your heart race. This is a book that I will read again and again.

Kellee’s Review: This story affected me much in the way that Sold, A Long Walk to Water, Rickshaw Girl, or Queen of Water did. As we fight for so many injustices here in America, there are unimaginable things happening to humans in other places around the world. Often somewhere like Pakistan seems so far away, but then you read a story like Amal’s and you see that the gap between you and her is not that big and we all just want happiness in our life. Amal’s strive for knowledge and willingness to help others are traits that make her unforgettable mostly when paired with the bravery she shows throughout this book. Amal’s story will truly help readers look through windows (and possibly mirrors) and have to face the privilege we do have and the injustice others face. 

On top of the very important theme and amazing main character, the story of Amal Unbound is heartwarming as well as heartbreaking and heart wrenching. And there is a truly suspenseful part also! The story is definitely one that will keep kids reading while also doing all of what I said above.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book as a read aloud, close reading/analysis, lit circle/book club, or classroom library text. It is rare that Kellee and I designate a book with all of these categories, but it’s a very adaptable text. It might be interesting for teachers to use this book as a whole-class read but using book groups. The groups could select a theme to study (e.g. education) and read other fiction and nonfiction related to the theme. This might allow for rich discussion across groups where they share their findings and teach each other.

Discussion Questions: 

  • In what ways did Amal show courage? Did you agree with all of her actions?
  • What is the role of education in this book?
  • Which characters stood out to you? What made them three-dimensional?
  • What is the role of family in the text?
  • What do you think the author’s purpose(s) might be?

We Flagged: “If everyone decided nothing could change, nothing ever would.”

Read This If You Loved: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Sold by Patricia McCormick, A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, The Queen of Water by Laura Resau, Now is the Time for Running by Michael Williams, Diamonds in the Shadows by Caroline B. Cooney, Shabanu by Suzanne Fisher Staples, So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba

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