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You Choose in Space
Author: Pippa Goodhart
Illustrator: Nick Sharratt
Published March, 2019 by Kane Miller Books

Summary: Zoom off into space for an adventure where you choose what happens next. Which alien would you most like to be friends with? And what fantastically freaky food will you decide to munch for lunch?

The possibilities are infinite in this mesmerizing creative toolkit which will inspire children to make their own stories time and again — it’s out of this world!

Ricki’s Review: The You Choose series books are easily among my favorite books to read to my kids. We take them on family vacations and visits with relatives and friends because we love to hear what our friends and family would choose. This is one of the best books to bring in car trips because kids can select a different ending every time! When this book came in the mail, my kids shrieked with joy. Since then, we’ve read it dozens of times. I love seeing how my kids’ tastes are different. There is also a lot of great classroom potential in these books (see below).

Kellee’s Review: I’m so glad that Ricki told me to review this You Choose book with her! She received the first one, but I was booked at the time, but she said that I could not let this chance pass, and I am so glad! It is a choose your own adventure book for the picture book age. It really does build up the story-telling capacity because it gives a foundation and lets the reader build up from there. It is such a fun book that is different every time, so a reader is never done!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: You Choose in Space, Just Imagine, and You Choose make for fantastic texts for creative writing units and courses. As teachers, we know that students often struggle to get started, and paging through these books allows for wonderful story starters. I use these books to discuss teaching composition with preservice teachers, and I also use them for a unit about using picture books in the classroom. My students love these books!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did you choose? Why?
  • What did you NOT choose? Why?
  • Which page was your favorite? Why was the spread most interesting to you?
  • Did you notice any trends or patterns with your choices?

Ricki’s family reading one of the You Choose books on vacation: 

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Loved: Just Imagine by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart; You Choose by Nick Sharratt and Pippa Goodhart; Choose Your Own Journey by Susie Brooks and Tracy Cottingham; Story Path: Choose a Path, Tell a Story by Madalena Matoso; Where’s Will? by Tilly; I Want to Be… books by Ruby Brown

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 RickiSigand 

**Thank you to Lynn Kelley at Kane Miller Books for sending us this book!**

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You Are Never Alone
Author: Elin Kelsey
Illustrator: Soyeon Kim
Published April 15th, 2019 by Owl Kids

Summary: You Are Never Alone is a picture book that explores how humans are inextricably connected to nature.

Drawing examples from the clouds and the cosmos, the seafloor and the surface of our skin, it explores how we are always surrounded and supported by nature. Whether it’s gravity holding us tight; our lungs breathing oxygen synthesized by plants; the countless microorganisms that build our immunity; or the whales whose waste fertilizes the plankton that feed the fish we eat: nature touches every aspect of how we live.

Using lyrical text grounded in current science alongside detailed diorama art, this informational picture book presents the idea that we thrive through connections to the land and sea and sky, and togetherness is key to nature. It encourages inquiry-based learning, inviting readers to wonder, ask questions, observe the natural world, and engage with big ideas.

About the Creators:

Elin Kelsey, PhD, is an award-winning author and a leading spokesperson for hope and the environment. In 2014, she co-created #OceanOptimism, a Twitter campaign to crowd-source and share ocean conservation successes which has reached 90 million users to date. She frequently works on projects with the Monterey Bay AquariumStanford University and the University of Victoria and is passionate about engaging kids in hopeful, science-based, environmental solutions.

Soyeon Kim is a Toronto-based, Korean-born artist who specializes in fine sketching and painting techniques to create three-dimensional dioramas. She is a graduate of the Visual Arts and Education programs at York University.

Praise for Elin Kelsey & Soyeon Kim:

“Both important and breathtakingly beautiful.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred, on You Are Never Alone

“The depth of the images and the surprising facts work together to create a lovely connection between the readers and the natural world.” –The Boston Globe on Wild Ideas

“Demands to be read and reread, studied and examined, and thoroughly digested. It is perfect for sparking adult and child conversations about our place in the universe. A remarkable achievement.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred, on You Are Stardust

“This is a work that will be read and examined again and again, with something new to be discovered at every turn. Profound and entirely wonderful.” –Kirkus Reviews, starred, on Wild Ideas

Review: What a beautiful representation of how humans and nature intertwine with each other. Often, when we speak of our impact on our planet and the planet’s impact on us, we focus on very huge ideas that may seem so far away for kids, but You Are Never Alone shows the small things that have a large impact.

The mix of beautiful art and research-based science make for a picture book that covers such a wide range of opportunities for classroom discussions and educational activities including themes, poetic verse, science, and diorama art.

Educators’ Guide:  

Flagged Passages: 

Behind the Scenes: 

Soyeon talks about the process of creating the diorama artwork in the book.

Elin explains the scientific research behind three of the poetic lines in the book.

Read This If You Love: The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield; Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliot; Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayre; Over and Under Snow (and its companions) by Kate Messner

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A Brief History of Life on Earth
Creator: Clémence Dupont
Published March 19th, 2019 by Prestel Junior

Summary: The story of life on earth unfolds in dramatic fashion in this amazing picture book that takes readers from 4.6 billion years ago to the present day.

It’s difficult to grasp the enormous changes life on Earth has undergone since it first came into existence, but this marvelously illustrated book makes learning about our planet’s fascinating history easy and entertaining. In an accordion style, the series of pages take readers through every major geological period, with bright artwork and detailed drawings. Opening on lava-filled oceans and smoking volcanoes, the book unfolds, era by era, to show how life evolved from tiny protozoa and crustaceans to dinosaurs and mammals.

Fully expanded to 8 meters (26 feet), this spectacular visual timeline is a very impressive panorama that reveals evolution in all its glory. Each page is brimming with illustrations that readers will turn to again and again. A celebration of life, this extraordinary and beautiful book illuminates the history of Earth for young readers in an unforgettable and delightful way.

About the Author: Clémence Dupont is an illustrator living in Strasbourg, France. This is her first book.

Review: This book is so beautiful, useful, and just plain neat! First, I love that it folds out (as does Trent!):

When folded out, it reaches 26 feet with one side showing the images created by the author for each of the time periods while the other side has a timeline which is to scale showing how long respectively each time period was.

This book is a work of art. How each time period stands alone yet also is part of the entire timeline when folded out is beautiful to see. Additionally, I adore the artist’s technique of art with rough edges and bright colors.

Each spread focuses on one time period and the life on Earth at the time with a brief write up in the bottom left corner; however, many of the organisms/animals/plants not mentioned in the paragraph are labeled allowing readers to jump into inquiry about them if they wish.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Did anyone else do the activity in elementary school where the teacher had the class convert the miles(?) between planets into centimeters then had the class create a to-scale solar system showing just how far apart the planets are? This book reminds me of that activity in that it shows the true expanse of time Earth has existed versus the very small time humans have. I would use this timeline to create a similar to-scale idea for students to show the history of life on Earth.

Also, as I stated above, each time period only has a brief write up and leaves much to research if one is interested.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What surprised you about the history of life on Earth?
  • What did the timeline on the back show you about the history of life on Earth?
  • When did dinosaurs appear? When did the first human ancestor appear? (etc.)
  • What animal surprised you that has been around a long time?
  • What do you believe is the author’s purpose in creating the book in this structure?
  • How did the Earth change from one period to the next? Take two periods and compare and contrast them.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Animals, Biology, Geology, Earth’s history

Recommended For: 

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Anything Can Happen in Mrs. Whynot’s Room
Author: Jayne Peters
Illustrator: Traci Van Wagoner
Published October29,2014 by Puddle Duck Publishing

Summary: In Mrs. Whynot’s classroom writing is magical; pencils hover and clay characters come to life. But… everyone has something they find difficult and Marcy is no exception. She would like to do ANYTHING but write. She has NOTHING to write about. By talking to her classmates, playing with words and listening to stories Marcy realizes she has lots of tales to tell.

Classroom Ideas Written By the Author: 

To the reader, once a book has been published, writing can seem magical and easy. (Disclaimer: There is some magic in Anything Can Happen in Mrs. Whynot’s Room) However, writing is the product of many hours of thinking, talking, questioning, observing, reading, and imagining with a huge amount of perseverance, grit and love. These are some of the skills our students need to further their creative journey and their love of reading and writing.

So let’s start with the first hurdle. Everyone, at one time or another, struggles with capturing ideas to write about. Mrs. Whynot, in Anything Can Happen in Mrs. Whynot’s Room, generates excitement and urges her students to think differently. She encourages discussion and creativity when she hands each student a hunk of clay that can be molded into any character they’d like. She wants them to write about everyday things and to use their imagination. Students learn they have full control over their story and that anything can happen as long as they can convince their reader.  Mrs. Whynot gives some good advice when she says, “Write about what you know! Write about what you do! But most importantly, write about what you love!”

Read Aloud: Discussion Questions

Before Reading

Look at the cover

  1. Who are the author and illustrator?
  2. What do you notice?
  3. What do you think the book will be about?
  4. What characters would you expect to find in the story?
  5. Do you think Mrs. Whynot’s name was chosen for a reason?

Read the back cover

Synopsis: In Mrs. Whynot’s classroom writing is magical; pencils hover and clay characters come to life. But… everyone has something they find difficult and Marcy is no exception. She would like to do ANYTHING but write.  She has NOTHING to write about. By talking to her classmates, playing with words and listening to stories, Marcy realizes she has lots of tales to tell.

  1. What do you know now?
  2. What is one thing you find difficult?

During Reading

  1. Page 4: Look at the door. It says “Imagination Required”.  What does that mean?
  2. Page 4: Why did the author use the word trudged? If she used skipped, walked, ran, plodded, etc… would they mean the same thing? Discuss the importance of using verbs that carry the message you want as an author.
  3. Page 15: What do you think the grayed illustration represents? (Could she be imagining herself restless and tired as she tries to come up with an idea? Could she be thinking that her ideas are so boring, everyone has fallen asleep?
  4. Page 29: “She bounced up to the whiteboard and whirled around to face the class.” Discuss how Marcy is feeling now. What words did the author use to help you understand how she feels?
  5. Page 32: Talk about the gray bubble. (Do you think she is continuing her story that she shared with the class?)

After Reading

  1. Was the title an appropriate one? Why or why not? What would you call the book if it was your story?
  2. Can anyone make connections to Marcy? (Text to self, text to text or text to world)
  3. Make a list like the one below with the students as you discuss all of the things Marcy did to help her become more comfortable and confident writing:
  • Molding a clay character
  • Talking about and listening to ideas
  • Creating an authority list
  • Making an “All About Me” collage
  • Getting ideas from other stories and changing them to suit your writing
  • Becoming a word sleuth
  • Carrying a writer’s notebook everywhere so that you can write down ideas
  1. Have students:
  • create an “authority list” in their writer’s notebook listing all of the things they know about or like
  • create an “All About Me” collage to jumpstart their ideas
  • keep lists of interesting words as they are reading or listening to others. Interesting verbs can be especially useful.
  • Talk about their writing ideas and tell lots of oral stories
  1. Teach students to “Show Don’t Tell” when they write. When we read we often need to infer (read between the lines) so when we write we need to show the reader what is happening instead of telling them.
    Example: (Page 12) Marcy gulped, her hands began to sweat, and she stammered, “But I can’t write.” How is Marcy feeling? Nervous? Afraid? Unconfident? That’s way more interesting than if I just said: Marcy was nervous. “But I can’t write,” she said.
  2. Page 24: We hear the beginning of Larissa’s story. Challenge students to finish it. I would love to hear about the mischief Herman gets himself into
  3. Pages 31-32: Finish Marcy’s story for her. Figure out what the promise was her dad made to the witch and write about it.
  4. Traci Van Wagoner did an amazing job illustrating Anything Can Happen in Mrs. Whynot’s Room. Learn more about her: https://tracivanwagoner.blogspot.com/ https://www.tracivanwagoner.com/
  5. Have students mold their own clay characters and use them in their next story.

About the Author:  Jayne Peters is an elementary school teacher/ literacy mentor who has taught in Nova Scotia for twenty-five years. As a child she loved sneaking up on tadpoles, late night reading under the covers and spending time at the cottage. Today, she loves watercolor painting, sunny days and country music. She currently lives in a house filled with red heads, loves molasses on “Grampy’s” homemade bread and wants the covers to stay neatly tucked in at night. When she isn’t teaching, reading or writing you will find her practicing yoga and spending quality time with her family. She is the author of Messy Jessy, Messy Jessy Get’s Active and Whispering Wings (available both in French and English). Jayne lives in Lantz, Nova Scotia, with her husband and their three children. Visit her website at http://puddleduckpublishing.com

About the Illustrator: Illustrator Traci Van Wagoner holds degrees in illustration from Utah State University and in toy design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. A longtime member of SCBWI, Van Wagoner has illustrated many children’s books, and her work appears in magazines, newsletters, and on toys and games. When not painting, she is designing and developing games with her husband at Imagine That! Design, gardening on her roof, or walking her dog in the BIG city. Her motto is live, laugh, and learn.

Thank you, Jayne, for your great classroom ideas with your book!

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Tiger Days: A Book of Feelings
Author: M.H. Clark; Illustrator: Anna Hurley
Published: February 5, 2019 by Compendium

Summary: From tiger fierce to snail slow, there are lots of ways to feel and be. A walk through the menagerie of Tiger Days helps young readers see all the feelings they have and the ways those feelings change. Through playful rhymes and colorful illustrations, this spirited book gives children new tools to understand the range of their emotions and express themselves to family, teachers, and friends.

Ricki’s Review: Compendium books always make me smile, and this book was no different. I have a two-year-old, and we talk a lot about feelings. I think this one will be particularly helpful in our discussions because he loves animals. The metaphor of animals as a way to express feelings is brilliant. We are going to keep this book nearby at all times, so I can say things like, “Are you having a Bull Day today?” For older kids, the book offers an accessible way to consider metaphor.

Kellee’s Review: Everyone has different moods each day. I, for example, have a mood calendar in my classroom that I use to show my students how I am feeling because, you know what? Some days are tiger days for me too. But as an adult, it is easy(ish) for me to identify how I am feeling, but kids have to be taught to understand feelings and emotions, and Tiger Days is a perfect foundation to start this conversation. (And P.S. LOVE the fuzzy cover!)

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Teachers might use this book to introduce the idea of the metaphor. Older elementary school students could then create their own “Book of _________” using a metaphor. For instance, they might consider creating books like, “Color Days: A Book of Passions” and use colors as a metaphor for different types and levels of passion. It would require some scaffolding and careful planning, but it allows students to apply the concept of the metaphor to the world. Younger students might extend the book, instead, and create their own animal pages to create a classroom book of feelings.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which animal page was your favorite, and why?
  • If you could add one more animal to the book, which one would you pick? What feeling would it represent?
  • Which animal day are you having today, and why?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Loved: The Color Monster by Anna Llenas; The Feelings Book by Todd Parr; In My Heart by Jo Witek

Recommended For: 

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RickiSigand

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Love
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Published December 4, 2018 by Running Press

Summary:From award-winning author Stacy McAnulty comes a sweet story about love and what it’s really all about.

What is love? Can you only express it in fancy meals, greeting cards, and heart-shaped chocolates? Kids will find love everywhere in this delightful book. It can be found in everyday moments such as baking cookies with grandma, notes from Mom in your lunchbox, or a family singing together on a car trip, and it isn’t always what you expect!

With delightful illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff and sweetly simple prose by award-winning author Stacy McAnulty, thisis the perfect book to teach children what love means, why it’s important, and how they can spread the love in their daily lives.

My Review: This is a very heart-warming book. I received it on Valentine’s Day, and my kids and I have read it dozens of times. It would make a wonderful gift to a friend or family member because it offers many angles for the power of love. This book offers a lot of teaching potential as students explore abstract concepts and the idea of the metaphor. One thing, in particular, that I like about this book is that it resists the commercialization of love. As readers might see in the spread below, “love needs special presents” but those presents are homemade or expressed with kindness. This is a very touching book, and I think readers will find joy in it.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’d love to have students take an abstract concept (hope, grief, etc.) and create their own books to parallel this one. It would require a lot of brain power and would help students explore the idea of metaphors in their writing. I might even offer poetry that does this (e.g. “Hope is a thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson).

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is love? Who do you love?
  • How do you express your love?
  • Write your own page to add to this book. How does it fit in with the other pages?

Flagged Spread:

 

Read This If You Love: Love. And who doesn’t?

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Make This!: Building, Thinking and Tinkering Projects for the Amazing Maker in You
Author: Ella Schwartz
Published February 2019 by National Geographic Children’s Books

Summary: This book is designed to inspire the next generation of engineers and supports all kinds of kid creators: those who prefer guided instruction, those who prefer to dream up and design objects on their own, and everyone in between. Within the nearly 160 pages of this book kids get the tools and the know-how to tackle all kinds of exciting projects: building a kaleidoscope, designing a fidget spinner, planting a rain forest, creating a musical instrument, and more. Unconventional scenarios inspired by real National Geographic Explorers give kids a chance to think outside the box and apply their maker skills to real life. Chapters are divided up by scientific principle, such as simple machines, energy, and forces. In each chapter, kids can start by following step-by-step activities, or get creative by tackling an open-ended challenge. Helpful sidebars explain the science behind what’s happening every step of the way.

My Review: My son loves this book so much that he took it for show-and-tell at his preschool. The teacher liked it so much that she purchased a copy for the classroom. This is a phenomenal book with loads of hands-on, easy-to-do activities. Many of the activities use materials that were available in my house (or easy to acquire). The first project my son completed was the straw rocket. He used two straws, some tape, and some paper to draw his own rocket and shoot it into the air. He has folded down the corners of almost every project as his next to-do. I love how the book is sectioned off into scientific principles. This even impressed my engineer husband. The sidebars allow me to read about the science behind the project as my son is constructing it. It is a wonderful book for learning. Although the book is marketed to ages 8-12, my 5-year-old was able to complete the projects with my help. I think 8-12-year-olds will appreciate this book just as much and be able to self-create.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book just screams for use in classrooms. It makes science learning incredibly fun. I can see it in classrooms as young as preschool and all the way through elementary school. The concepts can be scaffolded to the age of the learners, and the projects range in difficulty level.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which scientific principle(s) do you enjoy learning about? Which projects taught you a lot about the principle?
  • Which real-life things (e.g. airplanes, hydraulic systems) relate to these scientific projects?

Read This If You Love: Science Books; Engineering Books; National Geographic’s 100 Things to Know Before You Grow UpMastermind by National Geographic, Weird but True series by National Geographic, Animal Atlas

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RickiSig

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

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