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Because of Mr. Terupt
Author: Rob Buyea
Published October 12, 2010 by Delacorte

A Guest Review by Julia Kipphut

Summary: Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class at Snow Hill School is comprised of various types of students, some including: a new student, a popular girl, a bully, and a troublemaker. Their teacher, Mr. Terupt who is passionate and energetic, strives to engage his students and instill a sense of community amongst his class. Unfortunately, one day, a snowball fight goes awry and leaves Mr. Terupt in a coma. His class is rattled and must learn to work together, be kind, and hope for Mr. Terupt’s recovery.

Review: This book includes a variety of characters, each owning their own identity and personality. Each chapter is written from a different character’s perspective, making for a fluid and interesting read. They are relatable for children and allow them to recognize themselves in each character. Each character evolves in the story and shows tremendous growth, proving the rich development of the people in this book. The message of community and forgiveness is nicely intertwined in the story and proves that it is always better to choose kindness. The theme of this book is positive and motivational. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Because of Mr. Terupt serves as a great reader aloud for upper elementary school students. 4th and 5th graders who are struggling with their identity and place in a classroom community can learn the importance of compassion. Students can learn to embrace individual differences for a common goal or outcome, mirroring the characters in this book. Additionally, this book allows students to study character development throughout the story; each character evolves- allowing for effective classroom discussion.

Because of each character of this book is written from a different character’s perspective, students are able to study point of view and consider the influence each chapter has on the story as a whole. Students are able to learn about each character in depth and can even use literature circles to each study a character for analysis.

Discussion Questions: How might the story be different if the snowball accident did not happen?; What do you think the author’s purpose or message was for this story?; Why do you think the author chose to write this story from different characters points of views? Do you think this was effective?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Wonder by R. J. Palacio

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An Alphabet in Bloom
Author: Nathalie Trovato
Expected Publication May 16th, 2017 by Home Grown Books

Summary: In this wordless alphabet book, children will explore the many places that plants grow, from the familiar to the fantastical. Readers will be enchanted by the colorful cut paper illustrations of Nathalie Trovato along their journey from A to Z.

About the Artist: Nathalie Trovato is a French artist, educator and polyglot who lives in Brooklyn with her inspirational family. She considers herself a visual translator and through her minimalist approach she creates poetic connections between words and images.

About Home Grown Books: Home Grown Books develops books that support its core values – organic learning, creativity, sustainability and giving back. They reject a one-size-fits-all educational model, and are committed to treating all children as unique, creative individuals. The books honor children’s innate intelligence with compelling content that will spark their curiosity. As the books engage the imagination, little readers are drawn back to the books, effortlessly strengthening their reading habits and fostering confidence in themselves as a reader.  Believing in the power of art to engage a little reader’s mind, their books feature artwork by emerging and established artists that will capture the imaginations of your little one. The language is simple and the artwork is complex, leaving room beyond the words for a child’s imagination to explore. As part of their Mini Museum Series, they partnered with high profile artists such as Wangechi Mutu & Katherine Bradford, to produce visually stimulating board books. Home Grown Books are the only independent publisher that manufactures all their books in the US with eco-friendly practices. The NYC board books are printed with 100% recycled (min 35% post consumer) CCNB paperboard with an aqueous coating. The paperback books are printed on 50% post consumer paper using low-VOC vegetable inks, and renewable wind-powered energy and the book pack packaging is printed in New York on paper from managed forest using low-VOC vegetable inks and renewable wind-powered energy. More info and news can be viewed here:

About the Founder: Kyla Ryman saw a need for creative and compelling reading content for children. In 2012, she founded Home Grown Books to develop resources that empowered parents and inspired little readers. Kyla is a mother of two boys and an advocate of organic learning. She embraces thinking, playing, and creating as the building blocks for learning. More info here:

Review: I am so impressed with all of the beautiful books I’ve seen from Home Grown Books so far. First, I read two books from the Mini Museum series which highlights artists for young children, and now Trovato’s piece of art alphabet book that is unlike any other alphabet book I’ve seen. Each page is filled with cut paper illustrations of objects that start with each sequential letter. T (for Trent!) includes three, tree, trunk, tulips, twigs, and two; G includes garden, gardener, giant, glove, grab, grass, grasshopper, green, and grow; and  V includes venus flytrap, vicious, and and violet ground beetle.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: After viewing these beautiful illustrations and discussing each page and the words they represent, readers can make their own pieces of alphabet art.

Discussion Questions: What words do you see represented for each letter?; What other words could the artist have included?

Flagged Passages: 

C: caterpillar, chlorophyll, crawl, creeping                                    D: daffodil, dawn, dew, dragonfly, droop, droplets, dusk

Read This If You Love: Art, Alphabet books

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Nonfiction Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!

Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem
Author: Patricia Newman
Published by January 1st, 2017 by Millbrook Press

Summary: Marine biologist Brent Hughes didn’t think sea otters and sea grass had much in common. But his research at Elkhorn Slough, an estuary on Monterey Bay in northern California, revealed a new and surprising connection between the two. The scientist expected this estuary to be overrun with algae due to the fertilizer runoff from surrounding fields. But it wasn’t. Why?

Review: As someone who struggled with biology when in school, I love narrative nonfiction about nature because it helps me fill in education gaps. Sea Otter Heroes looks at trophic cascade (cause and effect relationships within a food chain) and how it affects an ecosystem–so interesting! This information along with the beautiful photographs make this book a scientific journey.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Patricia Newman’s books (Plastics, Ahoy! and Ebola included) are made for classrooms. This text includes not only the cause-effect relationship between otters and sea grass, but also has experiments, information about careers, a glossary, and an afterword about rethinking our relationship with nature giving the reader real ways they can make a difference. This book would be perfect to use in a life science unit or class.

Discussion Questions: What is the “critical link between” sea otters and flowering sea grass?; Finding the link was an accident, what was Brent Hughes studying when he found the connection? What was the proof that the connection existed?; How does the Elkhorn Slough exist?; What are Hughes’s 7 steps to think like a scientist? Observe nature and go through the 7 steps yourself.; What part did sea hares play in Brett Hughes’s experiment?; What is a trophic cascade?; How are what was discovered about the otters similar to the situations with wolves and sperm whales Newman shared?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Scientists in the Field books, National Geographic and Animal Planet books about animals 

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**Thank you to Lerner and Patricia for providing a copy for review!**

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Author: Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrator: Marc Boutavant
Expected Publication June 6th, 2017 by Chronicle Books

Today we are happy to be able to be able to exclusively reveal the teaching guide for Barkus by Patricia MacLachlan. This is an early chapter book that is a must-get for all of our early elementary friends.

About the Book: Meet Barkus. Barkus is loyal. Barkus is generous. Barkus is sometimes a little too energetic! But in the end, Barkus is family. The exuberant Barkus and his lucky young owner jump, whirl, and twirl across this delightful early chapter book series from two award-winning book creators.

About the Author: Patricia MacLachlan is the celebrated author of many timeless books for young readers, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal. Her novels for young readers include: Arthur, For the Very First Time; The Facts and Fiction of Minna Pratt; Skylark; Caleb’s Story; More Perfect than the Moon; Grandfather’s Dance; Word After Word After Word; Kindred Souls; and The Truth of Me. She is also the author of countless beloved picture books, a number of which she co-wrote with her daughter, Emily.

About the Illustrator: Marc Boutavant is an illustrator, graphic artist, and comic strip author. He lives in Paris.

About the Guide: This guide consists of discussion opportunities and classroom extension activities designed for use by Pre-K through second grade students in classroom, small group, or individual assignments.

You can also access the teaching guide here.

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Don’t miss out on this one!

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Happy book birthday to We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen!

we found a hat

We Found a Hat
Published October 11, 2016 by Candlewick Press

i-want-my-hat-back  this is not my hat

I Want My Hat Back
Published September 27th, 2011 by Candlewick Press

This Is Not My Hat
Published October 9th, 2012 by Candlewick Press

The first two books of The Hat Trilogy have enthralled readers for years. They have been read in many classrooms and in many bedrooms delighting millions of children (and adults!). Today we get to celebrate the final installment of the trilogy.

Summary of We Found a HatTwo turtles find one hat – and it happens to look great on both of them.

Q&A With Jon Klassen: 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

I am happy to share the teaching guide for the books that I had the honor of writing!

The guide can also be found here.

Happy reading!

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In Wonder by R.J. Palacio, Mr. Browne assigns his students a precept monthly that they will discuss and write an essay about. He defines precepts as “rules about really important things.” Mr. Browne truly inspired me. He is one of those teachers in books that you read and wish you could work with them. Ever since I’d finished Wonder, I’ve wanted to do a precept activity in my class, so this year, I jumped in and do a (mostly) weekly precept.

On most Fridays, students enter my classroom to a precept projected on the board. They read the precept and immediately begin writing. What is the theme of the precept? Why did the author say/write it? What does the precept mean to your life? Does it make you want to change anything? I let them write for about ten minutes and then we begin discussing.

I love many different things about tackling precepts with my students.

First, it gives them time to think about life. Too often during the school day the curriculum is just that: curriculum. Students don’t often get to reflect and think about their own life.

Second, it hits on reading and writing! Students are thinking about theme, author’s point of view, author’s perspective, inferences, and more then are writing a reflection sharing these using evidence and specific examples.

Third, we have some amazing discussions after they read, reflect, and write. Anyone who is worried about the future hasn’t had a really good conversation with a 12-year-old.

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Although I have used Mr. Browne’s precepts as an inspiration, I’ve gone a bit rogue from the 365 Days of Wonder book and even include picture books as part of our precept activity. I’ve tried to tie the precepts to our units and also to what is going on in the world like a quote from a 9/11 widow. Here are the precepts we did during the first semester with some students responses.

Picture Books

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Wilson
“Each kindness makes the whole world a little bit better.”

Students made vows of kindness that are posted around the precept.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
“Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” 

Student response: I feel like this book means a lot. First it means that you might think that your not good enough and that doesn’t mean that your bad it just means you need practice and practice makes perfect. Then I feel like when someone inspires you and gives you kindness you should pass it on. Lastly I feel like if you start little and then you practice and become big don’t forget how you started who inspired you and cut the kindness, you should be big and kind to the little ones or the ones who are just starting because you never know when you can be the cause of something big. I think that this book can help a lot of people even though it was a picture book and that’s why you shouldn’t judge a book by how big it is or its cover because a little amount of words can change someone’s life.

Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
“He was blue. And everyone was talking…He’s really reaching for the sky. And he really was!”

Student response: “Don’t  tell someone to be something they’re not. Let them discover who they are on their own.”

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
“He wondered how his nana always found beautiful where he never even though to look. He looked all around them again at the…broken streetlamps still lit up…”

Student response: Even if you are broken you can still shine brighter than others.


I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” (260) by Emily Dickinson

Student response: I think the theme of the poem is that being a person that tries to be in the pinnacle of attention is not how you will achieve happiness. To me this poem means that being yourself is the easiest source of happiness of life.


“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” 
-Dr. Wayne Dyer, but found in Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Student response: We as people face choices everyday. Sometimes there easy, sometimes we don’t even realize we’re making one! This precept can be taken many different ways and all are correct. To me, this precept means love over opinion.

We Need Diverse Books

Student response: We need diverse books because when you read read the book and see all these races you think to yourself that its true,you look around you and you see the truth about the world. This is important because we need to be aware that all the people are different but they are all equal.

“If we learn nothing else form this tragedy, we learn that life is short and there is no time for hate.” 
Sandy Dahl, wife of Flight 93 pilot, Jason Dahl

Student response: This precept means that life is shorter than you think and if you live your life hated someone, you will live your life with hate. Most of the time, when you hate, you are angry, that is why you will live your life filled with hatred for another person. I think the author meant that she has partially forgiven the terrorists because she does not want to love her life with hatred. Mrs. Dahl doesn’t want you to live a terrible life just because of some people. You want to live your life to the fullest. This precept means to me that you should not live a short life filled with hate, but a short life living joyfully, which will seem longer than it is. This precept makes me think of many things: the people that have done wrong to me, the terrorists, and 9/11.

“Having the freedom to read and the freedom to choose is one of the best gifts my parents ever gave me.” 
Judy Blume

Student response: I think that this precept means that when you are given the freedom to choose which books you like it is really good because you can maybe relate to the book or learn from it. If you are deprived from books that you really enjoy, you might not even want to read at all because you want to read a certain type of book so much that any other book might not be fun to read. This is kind of like a movie you would want to watch. If you want to watch a movie for the right reasons, such as wanting to learn things or if it seems interesting, and you parents say you cannot watch it, other movies may not be that enjoyable because you are so set on watching a certain movie. You can also learn to be street smart smart from a book ahead of time so if you are in a situation, you have an idea of what to do. I think the author is happy that she was allowed to choose any book that she wanted because she might have learned something from books or maybe she gets very emotionally attached to certain books and she enjoys them very much. Maybe some people just read to go into a different world in their head because their family might be fighting or something. So, all in all the freedom of choosing whatever book you want to read is very important.

“Don’t strive for love, be it.”
Hugh Prather

Student response: I think the precept means that you should be the person to love not wait for someone to love you. Because if you wait you might never have love. And if you love you might get someone to love you back for who you are. Never be in the corner or in your room, always be out there to explore life and what it has to offer. Never give up who you like or what good qualities they have. Always stay true to yourself.

Precepts have given me a way to talk to my students about some tough subjects and get to know them better. Thank you R.J. Palacio and Mr. Browne for the inspiration!

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Check out R.J. Palacios Nerdy Book Club post about Mr. Browne’s first precept
and her Tumblr post for a list of the Mr. Browne’s monthly precepts


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last stop on market street

So many of us were so happy to hear that Matt de la Peña won the Newbery Medal with Last Stop on Market Street though so many of us were quite surprised as well. Not surprised because the book didn’t deserve it, it did; surprised because it is a picture book winning the award for most distinguished piece of children’s literature. This means that the illustrations, which are phenomenal and also won a Caldecott Honors, could not be taken into consideration during the Newbery process. This left many people wondering how a picture book could beat out novels such as Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan and The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, two of the three honors books.

I was fascinated by all the conversations, and then I read a post on Facebook by my friend, Beth Shaum, sharing an activity she did in her classroom. She decided to let her student be the judge of the book and read Last Stop on Market Street aloud to her students without showing them the illustrations. She then asked them how it met the criteria of the Newbery. I loved it and decided to do it in mine as well. I didn’t plan on blogging about it, but the conversations that came with the activity and reading of Last Stop on Market Street with my middle school students was something that needed to be shared.

In my class, I read the whole picture book twice. The first time straight through. Then the second time I allowed for questions and we discussed it a bit. It was so wonderful to see how much inference needed to be done when the illustrations were excluded from the reading. When CJ says he wanted something a pair of teens had, students couldn’t see the photos to determine what it was. They also noticed the diversity of the book without seeing the photos because they pointed out that there was a blind man on the bus.

Finally, I asked my students to answer two questions. First, I asked them to tell me what made Last Stop on Market Street distinguished, and why do you think it won the Newbery. Then, after reading the book for a third time and showing the illustrations as well they had to tell me what the theme of the book was. (We are actually in a theme unit, so the text fit in perfectly.) Here are some answers I received:

What made Last Stop on Market Street distinguished? Why do you think it won the Newbery?

“This book won the Newbery award because it had so many positive things to teach kids. It shows many different things to think about.”

“Because of the author’s ability to use imagery, teach a valuable life lesson in a way where a child can understand, and it’s way of including racially diverse characters like the world we live in today. This book creates a story for children that let’s them think.”

“I think it won because the book teach you many lessons about homeless people and the different types of diversity that is in the world, also the book teach you that some people don’t have a lot of things and it is important to be thankful, the kid in the book was complaining about doesn’t have a car but some people don’t even have food.”

“This book is different from all the other winners for this award, but it still won maybe because the amount of detail in the story even without looking at the illustration.”

“I think this book won the Newbery prize because this shows us that deep down inside that little town it shines bright like the sun,so i think that this book won because it teaches life lessons for kids.”

“I think this won because the story was very well written. The setting and people in the setting were described very well. Even without the pictures I could imagine what the scene looked like. The one scene that really stood out was when CJ, his grandma, and the blind man, all closed their eyes and enjoyed the sound of the music the man with the guitar was playing. The author described this scene very well.”

“It won the Newberry medal because there was so much description in the characters and how the character talked about the setting how there was a arch of a rainbow, about the streetlamps, the graffiti, and even about the description of the characters were so much in detail, like this person was blind, and that the dog guided him around.”

“I think the Last Stop On Market Street won the Newbery Medal because of the way of the wording showed freedom, power, and beauty. It showed clever wording and hints that implied little things that made the world better and beautiful. It talked about how the world was ruined to some and looked wrong, but when you understood it, the world was beautiful. What made the book distinguished was how so little words meant so much and made you think about how the world was breathtaking, and what made it so special.”

“This book is distinguished because the characters are described well because it showed what they were doing and saying. The book also described freedom well and it showed the theme better because it said that his Nana found beautiful everywhere and he looks around after wondering that and it seems that he is appreciating the beauty of all the things around him. I think that this book won the Newbery because it (1) shows diversity, (2) it has an amazing message, and (3) the book doesn’t take place in a fancy school or luxurious house but on an old bus yet it still makes CJ’s time there seem great because he is enjoying the world around him and the people around him.”

“I think that the book won the Newberry because the characters are diverse, for example, the blind man with his dog on the bus. C.J and his Nana are also interesting characters, because Nana sees the beauty in a lot of things that C.J doesn’t see yet.”

“This book won the Newbery prize because it is very true and it gives people hope.”

What is the theme of Last Stop on Market Street?

“The theme is that whenever you are sad you have to keep positive and look at the good side.”

” Broken things still have their uses.”

“Don’t be jealous and want everything be happy that you are living the life you have. You don’t have to be like all the other people and be jealous. Who cares where you live and what you do or what you have. Like when the boy said he wanted a car instead of riding the bus. He wanted to go straight home instead of going to the homeless shelter. All those things he wanted but he should have been happy for what he has.”

“I think the theme of the Last Stop On Market Street was to appreciate the little things in the world that make it special, rather than looking on the outside and wanting what you think makes the world better for you, not including others who may have less, but respect more than what you think the world is made of.”

“I think that the theme of the story is that people should appreciate what they have in life because beauty is everywhere no matter where you are or what you are doing.”

“I think that the theme of this book is that there is beauty in everything. I say this because C.J’s Nana said that the bus breathes fire, that a tree’s trunk is a straw, she also said that some people see the world with their ears.”

Thank you to my students for their beautiful and thoughtful responses.

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