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In My Heart
Author: Mackenzie Porter
Illustrator: Jenny Løvlie
Published March 10, 2020 by Little Simon

Goodreads Summary: A working mother reassures her child that even when they’re apart, they’re always in each other’s hearts. This lovely board book is perfect for moms to share with their little ones.

Though we’re not together
we’re never truly apart,
because you’re always on my mind
and you’re always in my heart.

This is what a mother tells her child as she leaves for work each day. This lovely board book perfectly captures the sentiment that many women feel about being a working mom. The lyrical text takes us through a mother’s day away, showing us that although she’s working hard, her child is always on her mind and always in her heart.

Ricki’s Review: This book really hit me in the gut. I couldn’t read it without crying. I have a lot of mom guilt related to my status as a working mom. I genuinely believe that it is best for my kids, yet I struggle with the emotions that come with this decision. This book was as much for my kids as it was for me. There are many books that address concepts like going to school or learning to meet new people, but this is the first book that I’ve read that addresses the concept of working moms (particularly at this age level). I will cherish this book and read it to my children again and again.

Kellee’s Review: As a working mom, mom guilt is real. It is hard when I cannot come and be a reader in Trent’s class every time or be part of all celebrations in his classroom, but I also love working; however, there are very few books that reinforce the normality of this situation. As Simon & Schuster shares, 70% of moms are working moms, so there are so many of us that need this book to read to our children to explain that work is part of our life but that they get the opportunity to be in an awesome school situation while we are doing a job we love and need. And no matter what we love them! The author and illustrator do a great job of showing that balance. Thank you to them both for bringing this book to life!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Ricki is purchasing an extra copy of this book for her kids’ daycare/preschool. It is a great book for early childhood educators to use. Children might draw pictures of the emotions that they experience before, during, and after reading this book.

Discussion Questions: How do you feel when your parent goes to work? Why? What might you do to cope with these feelings?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn; Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney; Stella Luna by Janell Cannon

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The Memory Book: A Grief Journal for Children and Families
Author: Joanna Rowland;  Illustrator: Thea Baker
Published: January 14, 2020 by Beaming Books

You might recognize the book which inspired this journal, The Memory Box: A Book About Grief:

The child in the book generates a box of mementoes of a loved one she lost. It’s a magnificent book that encourages children to generate boxes of mementoes of their own loved ones. We recommend it highly–particularly for children who are experiencing loss. This book inspired the grief journal, The Memory Book.

Goodreads Summary of The Memory Book: I will always remember you . . .Joanna Rowland’s best-selling The Memory Box: A Book about Grief has helped thousands of children and families work through the complex emotions that arise after the loss of a loved one. Now, with The Memory Book, Rowland has created a beautiful grief journal to help readers put her methods into practice. The Memory Book helps grieving families process their emotions together by remembering their lost loved one and creating their own memory album full of photos and keepsakes of the person they lost. With gentle prompts and ideas for journaling, drawing, and talking through grief, this journal will bring comfort in the midst of loss and be a keepsake for families for years to come.

Rowland discusses the process of writing The Memory Box:

“In writing The Memory Box, a book about grief, there were three people and their families that I was thinking about. In 2014, a relative that was meant to get my first published book Always Mom, Forever Dad (a positive picture book on divorce) lost her father suddenly a month before the book’s publication. I knew she needed a different type of book, and that’s when I knew I needed to write a picture book on grief. When I first found out her dad had passed away, I saw a photo of her holding her dad’s hand on the beach with the waves coming toward them. That image stayed with me. I knew somehow that I wanted to make a nod toward that scene in my writing. At the time, I had no idea what that story was going to be. I tried a couple of different ways to write about grief. My first attempt was a nature poem. But when thinking about how I would help a young child through grief, eventually the idea of a memory box came.

I was also thinking about my childhood friend, Scott, who was also gone too soon. He studied birds and had such a sweet soul. I have some sweet memories growing up with him. He’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

During the two years I spent writing about grief, we lost Marisa to cancer. I had coached her in synchronized swimming for years, and she swam with my niece and older daughters. It was heartbreaking. Marisa was so full of life with the most contagious smile.

All of these people were gone much too soon. These families had lost a father, a son, an only child, a daughter and a sister.

I had to get this story right. I think going through grief and taking my youngest to her first funeral at age six, helped me find a way to talk about death with my youngest and find the heart of the story. It still took me over two years to get the story right.

Grief is hard. Everyone has his or her journey with it. Allow yourself to grieve however you need to. There is no right or wrong way. There are support groups out there and other resources to help. Grief can be hard to communicate. I hope The Memory Box can be a tool to foster conversations and help keep the memories of your loved ones alive. The book also includes a guide in back that discusses ways to talk to your child about grief.

For anyone struggling with grief, my thoughts are with you.”

Ricki’s Review: I often see posts on parent forums in which folks are requesting books about grief. There are some amazing books out there, particularly Rowland’s bestselling picture book The Memory Box. Yet I have never seen a journal about this topic. I was intrigued and really looking forward to reviewing it. When I cracked the cover, it took my breath away. The pages are stunning, and the prompts are incredibly thoughtful. This book is one that I will recommend again and again to parents/teachers who are seeking to talk about grief with children. It allows children to negotiate with the many emotions that come with grief and celebrate the people they are grieving. I am so grateful that this book exists in the world.

Kellee’s Review: My son suffered a huge amount of loss this last summer: 3 pets (ours and my in-law’s who we live next door to) and his grandfather, my father-in-law. As a mom, I was lost at how to help him through this time, mostly as I was figuring out how to navigate the grief as well. In the end, Trent has done extremely well emotionally for the tough time we went through! However, he definitely still talks often about his lost loved ones, so when I saw this book, I knew it was one that I would want to share with him because I truly believe that the best way to deal with loss is to talk about it. The Memory Box and The Memory Book are perfect jumping off points for discussing memories of lost loved ones with kids. It is a healthy way to navigate such a tough time! I am thankful books like this exist to help their kids when loss impacts their lives.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Last semester, I (Ricki) asked my students (teacher educators) to describe a moment in their schooling in which they thought their teachers were wrong. One student shared that she was still deeply impacted by the death of a student during her middle school year. She said the teachers never spoke about the student’s death, which made it harder. This book offers thoughtful prompts that teachers can use in their classrooms (and that parents can use with their children).

Discussion Questions: Which prompts do you find most inspiring? Why?; Which prompts were harder to write? Why?; How did you feel as you wrote about your loved one?

Check Out the Beautiful Pages:

 

Read This If You Loved: The Memory Box: A Book about Grief by Joanna Rowland; The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros; What a Beautiful Morning by Arthur A. Levine; Forget Me Not by Nancy Van Laan; Still My Grandma by Veronique Van Den Abeele, Really and Truly by Emilie Rivard; Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox; What’s Happening to Grandpa? by Maria Shriver

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing copies of the books for review!**

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I Like Animals…What Jobs Are There?
Author: Steve Martin
Illustrator: Roberto Blefari
Published March 1st, 2020 by Kane Miller Books

Summary: What do you want to do when you grow up? Children who love animals can find out all about potential future careers, from veterinarian to zookeeper to pet portrait artist, as they’re taken through a “day in the life” of 25 different animal workers.

Praise: 

Review: This book was written for so many kids out there! If any of you are librarians or teachers, you know how popular nonfiction animal books are. There are so few kids out there that don’t love animals! My son is one of those kids that adores animals and already says that he wants to be a zoologist and work with turtles, so when I saw this book, I knew I had to get it for him. What I love about the book (and the series I hope it is!) is that it gives options that kids may not know they have. Trent’s first thought for working with animals is working at a zoo, but there is so much more than that which he can choose from.

Each job’s section is really well done! It is written in first person from the point of view of the professional and includes fun yet truthful information, including the best and worst parts. Then, in the back, there is a flow map that helps kids see which job might be their perfect match, and there’s even back matter with more jobs. What a way to open up a kid’s imagination for the future!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: My first thought was that this book could be an awesome mentor text for creating a similar type pamphlet. Students could pick something like sports, technology, children, etc. and make a pamphlet about what jobs are out there. This would be a great research project.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Before reading: What jobs do you know of that include working with animals?; After reading: Add to the list.
  • Which job do you think would work the best with your personality and work ethic?
  • Any jobs that you are interested in that weren’t in the book?
  • Why do you think the author chose to write each section in 1st person?
  • Why do you think the author wrote this book?
  • Compare/contrast two of the jobs in the book.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Aninimals

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**Thank you to Lynn at Kane Miller for providing a copy for review!**

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Old Rock (is not boring)
Author & Illustrator: Deb Pilutti
Published February 4th, 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Summary: Quirky charm infuses this tale of Old Rock’s life story, which is much more exciting than you’d expect.

Old Rock has been sitting in the same spot in the pine forest for as long as anyone can remember. Spotted Beetle, Tall Pine, and Hummingbird think just sitting there must be boring, but they are in for a wonderful surprise.

Fabulous tales of adventurous travel, exotic scenery, entertaining neighbors, and more from Old Rock’s life prove it has been anything but boring.

Great storytellers come in all shapes, sizes, and ages, and Old Rock’s stories are sure to inspire questions that lead to wonderful conversations about the past and the natural world.

About the Author: Deb Pilutti feels lucky to have a job where reading, playing with toys and watching cartoons is considered “research”. She lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan with her husband, and nervous border collie. Deb has worked as a graphic designer and illustrator, creating toys and products for children and is the author and illustrator of  OLD ROCK (IS NOT BORING!) Putnam, THE SECRETS OF NINJA SCHOOL (Ottaviano/Macmillan), TEN RULES OF BEING A SUPERHERO (Ottaviano/Macmillan), and BEAR AND SQUIRREL ARE FRIENDS (Simon & Schuster).

Praise: 

“A witty, engaging exploration of deep time . . . This picture book rocks!” –Kirkus, starred review

“This is a wonderful story about mistaken assumptions, and taking the time to listen to a variety of perspectives and experiences. Part scientific history, part storytelling, Old Rock is content with his lot in life, and Old Rock is not boring! This is a brilliant book for school and public libraries and one that children will be drawn to.” –School Library Journal, starred review

“Pilutti puts a smile and wide eyes on the rock and places it among an increasingly fascinated animal audience in a set of simply drawn, usually idyllic cartoon scenes. ‘They are not bored,’ she concludes, nor will younger readers and listeners be once they realize that every rock they see has a similar story to tell.” –Booklist

Review: This book is not boring! I just adore Old Rock and how he puts things in perspective for the beetle, pine, and hummingbird. There is so much to dig into in this book, and it is a fun narrative also. I’m also a big fan of Pilutti’s illustration styles. It is such a fun mix of cartoon and realistic with each character’s personalities shining through the illustrations.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: On top of the wonderful storytelling aspects of the story that could be used for a mentor text to initially introduce a personal narrative, looking at points of view of a situation, and seeing how illustrations support a text and add to the story, the book also shares the science behind rock’s stories which is a great introduction to basic geology and some animal science. Yay STEAM! Below is the image in the back matter:

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why does everyone think that being a rock is boring?
  • What has rock done that is definitely not boring?
  • How old is rock?
  • What other things would rock have seen in the timeline given for him?
  • What are some things that rock did that show his character traits?
  • Which of the characters would you want to be friends with? Why?
  • How are the other characters different than Old Rock?

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 


Read This If You Love: Anthropomorphic picture books, Tiny T. Rex and the Impossible Hug by Jonathan Stutzman, You Don’t Want a Unicorn by Ame Dyckman, Fly! by Mark Teague, Jasper & Ollie by Alex Willan

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Dream Big, Little Scientists: A Bedtime Book
Author: Michelle Schaub
Illustrator: Alice Potter
Published: February 18, 2020 by Charlesbridge

Summary: Twelve kids. A dozen bedtimes. Endless sweet ways to say goodnight with science! Spark curiosity and exploration with this innovative bedtime story for budding scientists that introduces eleven branches of science. From astronomy to physics to chemistry to geology, this STEM picture book will help kids get excited to explore. Includes further information about each branch of science.

Praise:

About the Author: Michelle Schaub is an author, a veteran teacher, and a poetry-in-the-classroom advocate. Her books include Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections and Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market; her poems have appeared in And the Crowd Goes Wild, A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, and The Poetry Anthology for Celebrations. To download free activity kits and curriculum guides for her books, visit her website: http://www.michelleschaub.com/; Twitter: @Schaubwrites; Instagram: @schaubwrites

About the Illustrator: Alice Potter is a London-based illustrator and children’s-wear print designer. Dream Big, Little Scientists is her first picture book. www.alicepotter.co.uk

Ricki’s ReviewThis book is very cleverly conceived. The spreads depict the different branches of science, and I had a lot of fun (as an adult) playing detective and examining the different bedrooms. My sons adored the book and asked questions about the different scientists and posters on the walls of the bedroom. We googled and learned about new scientists! A significant amount of thought and care went into this book, and it was not lost on me. I’ve read this several times now with my sons, and each time, I find something new that I enjoy. This book will make readers really excited to learn about science. Further, the language is beautiful, and it is very fun to read aloud. I have two science-y friends who are having a baby soon. You bet that I’ll be buying this book for them!

Kellee’s Review: I love when a traditional book is turned upside down and turned into something new and fresh, and that is exactly what Michelle Schaub and Alice Potter have done. It is a next level bedtime book because while it has such lyrical text that definitely will bring some yawns, it also is a book that will bring lots of curiosity to its readers as each spread unleashes another discussion about a different branch of science. Each page we looked at the posters, decorations, and books to see how they all connect. It was wonderful how the illustrator brought the authors intentions to life!  

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Download the EDUCATORS’ GUIDE!

From the author’s note: “Be curious! Look around, explore, and talk about the world where you live . . . just like a scientist! To explore the different branches of science even more, visit: www.sciencekids.co.nz

Visit www.michelleschaub.com/scientists to learn about the scientists on the posters in each kid’s room.”

There are some great assets for this book in addition to learning about each scientist, including a book trailer. Here’s the link to the page on her site: https://www.michelleschaub.com/dream-big.

Additionally, doing a visual analysis of each spread as a connection to science would be such an interesting activity!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which page excites you the most? Which branch of science is depicted on that page? Why did the page interest you?
  • Which scientist intrigues you? Why?
  • How did the author creatively organize this book? How does this increase your interest, as a reader?
  • How does each room reflect the branch of science the child likes?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Love: Books about Science; Bedtime Books

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

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Honey: The Dog Who Saved Abe Lincoln
Author: Shari Swanson
Illustrator: Chuck Groenink
Published January 14th, 2020 by Katherine Tegen Books

Summary: Based on a little-known tale from Abraham Lincoln’s childhood, this charming picture book written by debut author Shari Swanson and illustrated by acclaimed artist Chuck Groenink tells a classic story of a boy, his dog, and a daring rescue.

Deeply researched and charmingly told, this is the true story of one extra-special childhood rescue—a dog named Honey.

Long before Abraham Lincoln led the nation or signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he was just a barefoot kid running around Knob Creek, Kentucky, setting animals free from traps and snatching frogs out of the jaws of snakes.

One day, young Abe found a stray dog with a broken leg and named him Honey. He had no idea that the scruffy pup would find his way into Abe’s heart, become his best friend, and—one fateful day—save his life.

About the Author: Shari Swanson is a debut author who has been a middle school language arts teacher as well as an appellate lawyer. She received her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she wrote her thesis on musicality in picture books. She lives in Southern California with her husband and their dog, Honey. To learn more, and to download a free curriculum guide and activity kit, visit her website: shariswanson.com.

Twitter: @ByShariSwanson
Facebook: Shari Swanson, Author

Author Q&A: Thank you to Shari for answering some questions for us and you!

Q: Why did you specifically choose this moment in Abe’s life to focus on? What did you hope to add to the Abe Lincoln narrative?

A: This story captivates me for several reasons. First, I love that we see Abe as a child—prone to distraction, earnest and loving, and with a deep compassion for animals. I feel it adds depth to our understanding of him as a man and makes him relatable to current children who might share these characteristics. Second, that Abe might not have grown up to be a man and our president without Honey gives me shivers. I believe Honey is an American hero, and that Abe’s kindness to Honey came back to bless him later. Kindness is something that causes ripples to go out and touch others in ways we usually never see. Finally, this is one of very few stories that features Lincoln’s mother, Nancy. Very little is written about his Kentucky years with Nancy, and she died shortly after the Lincolns moved to Indiana. That mother-son bond was important to him and is precious. I hope that this story fleshes out the narrative of Lincoln by showing his compassion from an early age as well as how his behavior was rooted in kindness. I also feel this story helps us appreciate the fragility of life and how interconnected everything is.

Q: What type of research did you do to prepare?

A: I’ve been twice to Kentucky to walk where Lincoln walked and explore the hills and hollows where he grew up. I’ve descended into several of the known caverns there to picture how he might have felt when he got stuck. I’ve been to all of the Lincoln museums and national sites in Kentucky to soak it in and ask lots of questions. I’ve read every book I could find on Lincoln’s Kentucky years, including chapters in larger biographies, pored over primary sources, like interviews, auction receipts, and land sale documents. For the timeline, I dove deep into every resource I could find, skimming for references to Lincoln with animals, loving that his affection for animals stayed with him all the way until the end. It makes me cry to think of his dog Fido and his horse, Old Bob, at his funeral. The picture of Old Bob, riderless, in the funeral procession, is powerful. Most all of this didn’t make it into the book, but I love research, and, as a former appellate lawyer, I’m a stickler for detail.

Q: Tell us your journey of your debut picture book.

A: My journey on this book began years ago when I was teaching middle school. We were reading an excerpt from Russell Freedman’s book on Lincoln and a sentence about Abe’s childhood caught my attention. I wanted to know more about his best friend then and their adventures. I threw myself into research, discovered Austin Gollaher, Abe’s best friend, and had my local library send for a copy of his narratives. Back then, the book was dusty and old in a college archive room. Now it is available online. I had the deep pleasure of telling Russell about my hopes to write a picture book about Lincoln’s childhood, and he encouraged me. When I was getting my MFA, I learned how to take the massive amount of information I had and draw out just a thread for a picture book narrative. HONEY is the culmination of those efforts.

Q: Lastly, what do you hope is the readers big take away from Honey?

A: I hope children and adults fall in love with Honey and his boy. I hope readers feel the story is both grounded in its time and timeless.

Curriculum Guide:

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for the copy for review and giveaway & to Shari Swanson for her participation!**

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Fred’s Big Feelings: The Life and Legacy of Mister Rogers
Author: Laura Renauld
Illustrator: Brigette Barrager
Published January 14th, 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Summary: An inspiring picture book biography about the inimitable Fred Rogers, beloved creator and star of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Fred Rogers was a quiet boy with big feelings. Sometimes, he felt scared or lonely; at other times, he was playful and joyous. But when Fred’s feelings felt too big, his Grandfather McFeely knew exactly what to say to make him feel better: I like you just the way you are.

Fred grew up and created Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the television program that would go on to warm the hearts and homes of millions of Americans. But one day, the government threatened to cut funding for public television, including Fred’s show. So, Fred stepped off the set and into a hearing on Capitol Hill to make his feelings known.

In a portrait full of warmth and feeling, Laura Renauld and award-winning illustrator Brigette Barrager tell the story of Mister Rogers: a quiet, compassionate hero whose essential message—that it is okay to have and to express feelings—still resonates today.

Praise: “Renauld’s lively, approachable text welcomes young readers in the same way that Rogers welcomed his young viewers into his living-room set . . . Bright, well-researched, and welcome.”  –Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Review: Fred Rogers just stands for everything that is good in the world. Just look at these banners made by the publisher with quotes from him/the book:

They just fill me with so much joy, and they bring back all of the feelings I had when watching Mister Rogers. And those feelings are exactly what you will get while reading this book. The narrative biography accompanied by the bright text just bring Mister Roger’s story to life. In an interview with Fuse 8, the author said “I had to walk the line between it being recognizable for [adults who are familiar with Mr. Rogers] and easily understandable for [children who were born after the show stopped airing who have no idea who the man in the cardigan is].” I think this is exactly what she did because in addition to my nostalgia, it is a book that Trent has wanted to read multiple times.

Additionally, because of this book, I decided to introduce Trent to Mister Rogers. He knows Daniel Tiger, the cartoon spin-off, so I explained that Mister Rogers was where Daniel Tiger came from. So, I turned on one of my favorite episodes (making crayons!), and Trent was immediately sucked in. He said that he liked that Mister Rogers taught him things and talked nicely to him. YES!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In the same Fuse 8 interview I mentioned above, I loved what the author shared when asked “How do you envision the book being used?,” and I think it is a perfect jumping off point for teachers: “Whether Fred’s Big Feelings is a child’s first encounter with Mister Rogers’ affirming messages, a teacher’s springboard into a discussion about expressing emotions, or a librarian’s selection for a display of American biographies….” Yes to all of these! It is a great picture book biography example and definitely hits on social emotional skills! Also, if you truly want to dive into the book, there are many places that would allow for inquiry projects to learn more about: history of children’s tv, puppeteering, Koko, Yo Yo Ma, Ying Li, Wynton Marsalis, public television, etc. Oh, and you can always watch an episode of the show!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What about Mr. Rogers makes him appealing to the audience?
  • How did Mr. Rogers act towards children that was viewed as a bit different?
  • Why do you think Mr. Rogers was so popular?
  • Why is it important to talk about feelings?
  • How did Mr. Rogers change the future of PBS?
  • How was Mr. Rogers’s show different that what was available to kids?
  • How do the illustrations add to the mood of the text?

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Read This If You Love: Mr. Rogers!

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing for a copy of the book!**

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