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I read so many wonderful books this year, that I decided that I needed two posts to highlight them!
Today’s post will focus on picture books and early readers that I read this year and loved.
Each title will have a publication date listed as these are all favorites I READ in 2017 though they may have been published before or are coming out in 2018.

Favorite Fifteen Fiction Picture Books



The Wolf, The Duck, & The Mouse by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (2017)
It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton, illustrated by Marla Frazee (2017)
Love by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Loren Long (2018)


Sing, Don’t Cry by Angela Dominguez (2017)
Flashlight Night by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Fred Koehler (2017)
It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh Funk, illustrated by Edwardian Taylor (2017)


Bruce’s Big Move by Ryan T. Higgins (2017)
The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield (2015)


Draw the Line by Kathryn Otoshi (2017)
Claymates by Dev Petty, illustrated by Lauren Eldridge (2017)


Now by Antoinette Portis (2017)
Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex (2017)
After the Fall by Dan Santat (2017)


Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima (2017)
Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares (2017)

Favorite Five Nonfiction Picture Books



Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illustrated by Marta Álvarez Miguéns (2017)
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton (2017)
Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Year by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by David Litchfield (2017)


Are We Pears Yet? by Miranda Paul, Illustrated by Carin Berger (2017)
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark, illustrated by Katy Wu (2017)

Favorite Five Early Readers



Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt by Ben Clanton (2017)
Barkus by Patricia Maclachlan, illustrated by Marc Boutavant (2017)
Ellie Engineer by Jackson Pearce (2018)


Dogman: A Tale of Two Kitties by Dav Pilkey (2017)
Charlie and Mouse and Grumpy by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Emily Hughes (2017)

What were your favorite picture books and early readers that you read in 2017?


“Talking to Kids About the Sixth Mass Extinction”

I think that when most people hear the word ‘extinction,’ dinosaurs come to mind first. But the truth is, billions of species have gone extinct in Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history.

Many of these were background extinctions, a normal part of life on this planet. There have also been five mass extinctions—events that wiped out more than 50 percent of species at one time. Perhaps the most well-known of these is the asteroid that hit the earth 66 million years ago and wiped out those dinosaurs.

What is not well-known, however, is that there is a sixth mass extinction currently underway.

The normal background extinction rate for mammals is one extinction every 100 years. But in the past 100 years, there have been more than 40 extinctions. Looking at all species on Earth, everything from the smallest microbes to the largest mammals, scientists estimate that the current extinction rates are 1,000 to 10,000 higher than normal. But unlike the previous five extinctions, this one is our fault.

We spend a lot of time talking about climate change, but we also need to pay more attention to the species that are dying off because of that and other human-related causes.

It’s time to spread the word. Before I wrote Extinction: What Happened to the Dinosaurs, Mastodons, and Dodo Birds?, there weren’t any books for kids that talked about the sixth extinction or what they can do to help slow this trend. Kids need to know what’s happening to the planet they are inheriting. And they need to be empowered to take action. In some ways, it seems a daunting task to stop extinctions. But history has proven that one person can make a difference in the world, and that together we can do even more.

It’s important to start the discussion with kids and to show them that even at their age, there are things they can do to create positive change. Here are some ideas!

Activity: Start the Discussion

If the scientists’ predictions are right, three out of four species will go extinct over the next few hundred years. What will the world be like? Take students outside so they can get a better understanding of this prediction. Have students list the different species they observe. Encourage them turn over rocks, crawl in a garden, think about what is underground, or look in a tree. Remind them to include insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, trees, and plants. Can they find 10? 20?

Once they have a list, ask students to cross out three out of every four of those species on it. For this activity, those crossed off species are the ones that will become extinct.

Questions for discussion:

  • Are the extinct species part of the food chain? What will happen to the other species that rely on that species for food or shelter?
  • What will happen to species when their main predators die off?
  • Can the ecosystem can be healthy, even with those missing species? Why or why not?
  • Can some of the surviving species adapt? What adaptations would they need to survive?

 Activity: Taking Action

Another way to get kids thinking about extinction is to have them think about their own carbon footprint. Start with a discussion of the terms “carbon footprint” and “carbon emissions.” Then, discuss and list the things humans do that require burning fossil fuel. Each of these activities contributes to global warming and ocean acidification, and ultimately to increased extinction rates. But there are things we can do to reduce carbon emissions.

There are many online resources that can help students research this, including NASA’s Climate Kids website (, and other carbon footprint calculators. The purpose of the activity is to have students identify their own actions that contribute to carbon emissions and what actions they can take to reduce their carbon footprint.

Questions for discussion:

  • What can you do in your home or community to reduce your carbon footprint?
  • Will making changes in how you live be easy or difficult?
  • Calculate the carbon emission reduction if everyone in the class took one step to reduce their carbon footprint. What would the savings be if each student could also convince three other families to do the same thing? How about if 1,000 families in the community took steps to lower emissions?

Activity: Planning for the Future

Tell students they are a team of engineers for a new town that’s going to be built. All that’s there right now is a mix of prairie and forest. Their job is to make it as green as possible. They must find a way to balance the need of humans and the needs of the environment and the species that live there.

Start by researching what makes a city green. Also, students must consider all the things in a town that people need—homes, schools, food stores, etc. They can even discuss their own town or city as an example of things you want to include (or omit) in the town they design and build. Possible activities include collages, models, dioramas, or drawing. The focus should be on the green details.

Questions for discussion:

  • What was easy about creating a green city? Difficult?
  • What was difficult about balancing the needs of the environment with the needs of people?
  • What can be done in their own town or city to move it towards being more green?

Discussions and research lead to awareness. Awareness leads to action. And action creates change!

Extinction: What Happened to the Dinosaurs, Mastodons, and Dodo Birds? (with 25 Projects)
Published September 15th, 2017 by Nomad Press

About the Book: Have you seen a dodo bird recently? Do you have mastodons playing in your back yard? Not likely—these species are extinct. In Earth’s 4.5-billion-year history, more than 5 billion species have gone extinct, some of them at the same time. In Extinction: What Happened to the Dinosaurs, Mastodons, and Dodo Birds? readers ages 9 to 12 learn about the scientific detective work scientists perform to find the culprit behind mass extinctions, including the present-day, sixth mass extinction.

About the Author: Laura Perdew is an author, writing consultant, and former middle school teacher. She has written more than 15 books for the education market on a wide range of subjects, including the animal rights movement, the history of the toilet, eating local, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. She is a long-time member of the Society of Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators. Laura lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Thank you, Laura, for pushing us to start this conversation with our students!


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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!

Maya Lin: Thinking With Her Hands
Author: Susan Goldman Rubin
Published November 7th, 2017 by Chronicle

Summary: In the tradition of DELICIOUS, WIDENESS & WONDER, and EVERYBODY PAINTS!, this is Susan Goldman Rubin’s extensively researched and very accessible biography of civic activist Maya Lin, most famous for her design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is one of the most famous pieces of civic architecture in the world. But most people are not as familiar with the reserved college student who entered and won the design competition to build it. This accessible biography tells the story of Maya Lin, from her struggle to stick with her vision of the memorial to the wide variety of works she has created since then. Illustrated extensively with photos and drawings, the carefully researched text crosses multiple interests–American history, civic activism, art history, and cultural diversity–and offers a timely celebration of the memorial’s 35th anniversary, as well as contributing to the current, important discussion of the role of women and minorities in American society.

Activities include: 


  • Building Historical and Scientific Background Knowledge: To better understand much of Maya Lin’s extensive work, background knowledge of certain historical and scientific events are needed. Before reading Maya Lin’s biography, separate the class into five groups and assign each group one of these events:
    1. Vietnam War
    2. Civil Rights Movement
    3. Chinese-American Immigration
    4. Endangered and threatened animals
    5. Lewis and Clark’s expedition and the effect on the Indigenous People of Washington State

    Have each group create a timeline using an interactive timeline creator that showcases their event chronologically.  Within the timeline, the students should not only have important dates but they should incorporate visuals, the impact of each event on history/science, and any other supplemental information/media that will increase the knowledge of their event.

    Students then will present their timelines to their classmates to allow for all students to possess knowledge of all five historical and scientific events before beginning Maya Lin’s biography.


  • Symbolism: Unlike traditional minimalists, Maya Lin uses symbolism in her work. Begin with working with students on symbolism within familiar stories they know. Show students What is Symbolism? at then read the Story of William Tell ( and discuss what the apple symbolizes. After this discussion tell students that symbolism in art is the same–symbolism is when a piece of art or an aspect of a piece of art represents something more than its literal meaning.Then, have students analyze her pieces of work for symbols within them. Students should then create a symbolism T-chart showing their found symbolism.Some examples:
    The ark shape of the Riggio-Lynch Chapel Symbolizes that the chapel is a safe place just as Noah’s Ark was.
    The water on the Civil Rights memorial Symbolizes the justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream mentioned in “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Cumulative Writing Assignment: Legacy
    Maya Lin states, “You need to see me whole as an artist. What I’m doing is art, architecture, and memorials.” Have students write an informative essay explaining how Lin has fulfilled her legacy as an artist, architect, and memorial designer. Have students use evidence from the text, as well as other provided resources if you choose, to support their claim.Other resources:

Discussion Questions include: 

  • From a young age, Maya Lin did not like the color red. Why does she not like the color red? What does red represent to her? The color red was included in the Museum of Chinese in America, however. Why was the color included in this project even though Maya Lin does not like it?
  • After completing the Vietnam War Memorial, Lin felt like she was boxed in as a “monument designer,” and refused many invitations to complete more memorials. Why do you think the Civil Rights Memorial was the work that she finally agreed to complete?
  • Maya Lin’s message of sustainability (avoiding the depletion of natural resources to maintain a balance within nature) reaches us through not only her What is Missing? project but through many of her other pieces of work. She states, “A lot of my work is not very glorious. If I succeed, you may never know I was here.” How did Maya Lin’s message of sustainability come through her works?
  • Susan Goldman Rubin’s chapter titles are very specific word choices. Looking at the titles (Clay, Granite, Water, Earth, Glass, Celadon, Dunes and Driftwood, Wood, and Memories), why do you believe the author choose these words to title each chapter?

Teaching Guide Created by Me (Kellee): 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

Recommended For: 

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Kellee Signature

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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!

Living Things and Nonliving Things: A Compare and Contrast Books
Author: Kevin Kurtz
Published September 10th, 2017 by Arbordale Publishing

Summary: Using a wide variety of stunning photographs, author Kevin Kurtz poses thought-provoking questions to help readers determine if things are living or nonliving. For example, if most (but not all) living things can move, can any nonliving things move? As part of the Compare and Contrast series, this is a unique look at determining whether something is living or nonliving.

Author Information: Award-winning author Kevin Kurtz holds degrees in English literature and elementary education and started his career by working at a marine biology lab. Since then, he has combined all of these experiences by working as an environmental educator and curriculum writer for organizations such as the South Carolina Aquarium, the Science Factory Children’s Museum, and the Center for Birds of Prey. Kevin has authored A Day in the DeepA Day on the Mountain, and A Day in the Salt Marsh for Arbordale. Kevin also wrote Uncovering Earth’s Secrets after spending eight weeks as the Educator at Sea aboard the marine geology research vessel JOIDES Resolution. Visit Kevin’s website for more information.

ReviewLiving Things and Nonliving Things is a great introduction to what makes something living. Kevin Kurtz uses bright photographs to illustrate his different points that will start great scientific conversations about different things in our world and what makes them living or nonliving. This text is going to be wonderful in classrooms within early STEAM lessons.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Kurtz includes backmatter with permission to photocopy for class use which includes a glossary, discussion questions, an activity, and a “Living or Nonliving Checklist” all which are great resources for classrooms.

Arbordale Publishing also includes a 30-page cross curricular teaching activity guide available for the book:

Additionally, there is an interactive ebook available that reads aloud in English or Spanish and includes word highlighting and interaction with the animals.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What characteristics do living things have?
  • What are the differences between a living and nonliving thing?
  • What are some examples of nonliving things that include characteristics that living things have?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Science, Animals

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Heather at Arbordale Publishing for providing a copy for consideration!**

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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!

Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Illustrator: David Litchfield
Published October 24th, 2017

Summary: “Hi, I’m Earth! But you can call me Planet Awesome.”

Prepare to learn all about Earth from the point-of-view of Earth herself! In this funny yet informative book, filled to the brim with kid-friendly facts, readers will discover key moments in Earth’s life, from her childhood more than four billion years ago all the way up to present day. Beloved children’s book author Stacy McAnulty helps Earth tell her story, and award-winning illustrator David Litchfield brings the words to life. The book includes back matter with even more interesting tidbits.

ReviewWow! This book went above and beyond my expectations! Think of it as Earth’s humorous autobiography. The voice that Stacy McAnulty gave Earth is perfect, and you learn things too! Although the book is silly and is told from Earth’s point of view, it is still a book that should be taken seriously because the knowledge it (and the back matter) holds is tremendous. It goes through the history of Earth is a truthful yet understandable way. Kids will leave the book knowing more than they did before but also really interested in learning more. Stacy McAnulty’s narrative with David Litchfield’s cartoonish illustrations lends itself to the perfect picture book for entertainment and information. Just check out the flagged passages to see why I say this is a must-get book!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When Earth’s history is first introduced in elementary school, Earth! would be the perfect introduction book because it goes over the entire history in a way that students will pay attention to but also without dumbing down any of the information.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How did the author use text features throughout the book?
  • How did the author’s use of an unconventional narrator help you understand the history of Earth better?
  • What humorous parts of the book were your favorite? Why?
  • Using the ruler visual within the book, how much of Earth’s history have human’s inhabited? What else do you learn from this visual?
  • Read the back matter of the book. What else did Stacy McAnulty teach you in the back of the book?
  • What is something new you learned about Earth or the solar system in Earth!?
  • Would you classify the book as fiction or non-fiction? Why?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Science, Space, Picture books with humorous narrators like It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk by Josh FunkNothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Kelsey at MacMillan for setting up the blog tour for Earth!**

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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!

National Geographic Kids: What Would Happen? 
Author: Crispin Boyer
Published July 11th, 2017 by National Geographic Society

Summary: Ever wondered what would happen if some cool or crazy things were possible? Like what would happen if: you got sucked into a black hole; dinosaurs still existed; humans could fly; you could communicate with dolphins; or you could dig a hole through to the center of the Earth?

Get ready to explore all kinds of scenarios that would or could happen if the world was just a slightly different place. Each scenario is examined with real scientific, historical, and cultural facts in mind. This out-of-the-box book encourages readers to cultivate a better understanding of the world as it is – and as it could be!

ReviewA favorite book of mine and my husband’s that we read years ago was Why do Men have Nipples?, and we really loved getting answers to questions that you may not even know to ask yet are really intriguing. What Would Happenis the middle grade equivalent! So many interesting questions are answered! Do you want to know about global warming? Honeybees? Time machines? You will find answers in this book. Each question’s answer is set up to give the reader background knowledge, potential outcomes, extenuating circumstances, etc. to fill in any blanks and curiosities there may be. And as with all National Geographic books, the photographs are superb!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love that so many of the National Geographic books touch on such a variety of topics, but also in the books that are like What Would Happen?, the information only touches the surface. This book would be a perfect jump start to passion or inquiry projects. What do students want to learn more about? They can start by reading the spread in What Would Happen? then research more to prepare a presentation about everything they learn.

The book also definitely has a place in libraries: school, classroom, and home. It is a wonderful book filled with questions that kids will love to learn the answers to!

Discussion Questions: Every page in this book has a discussion question!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Getting answers to burning questions

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall


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

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Terrorism: Violence, Intimidation, and Solutions for Peace
Author: Carla Mooney
Expected Publication November 15th, 2017 by Nomad Press

Summary: Why did terrorists attack the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001? The answer to that question is ancient, complicated, and crucial to a perceptive understanding of the global community we live in today. In Terrorism: Violence, Intimidation, and Solutions for Peace, readers ages 12 to 15 explore the history, causes, psychology, and potential solutions to the problem of terrorism in an objective way that promotes comprehension and empowerment.

  • Investigating previous events in the world’s history can help students understand the causes and effects of current events.
  • Activities encourage the development of important skills, including comparing and contrasting, looking for detailed evidence, making deductions, and applying critical analysis to a wide variety of media.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: 

“Teaching Kids Hope” by Carla Mooney

There’s a lot of bad news out there. There’s a lot of good news, too! But unless kids are living in a soundproof room with no cell service or internet access, they’re going to hear at least some of the depressing, no matter how much the adults in their lives try to protect them.

Some of this bad news concerns terrorism. While terrorism has been around since ancient times, the struggle between different ideologies has become far more visible in recent years because of the ease and speed of communication. We all know about attacks happening all around the world, almost as soon as they happen. Kids included.

When the bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, happened last spring, the audience was full of young teens, fans of the singer, and it was teenagers who were watching events unfold via texts and posts from other kids around the world. Just about every elementary school has a ceremony of some kind on September 11—children who weren’t even alive when the Twin Towers fell spend time recognizing the victims and honoring their memories.

Terrorism is all around us, even when we live in what we consider safe societies that have not yet been touched directly.

How do we—as educators, parents, and mentors—support children as they grow up in a world where terrorism is a regular occurrence? How do we teach them to think critically and creatively about potential solutions? How do we create that balance between knowing the issues and not letting that knowledge cause fear and anxiety, when the reality is the vast majority of citizens will not experience a terrorist attack in their lifetime? How do we get kids to see themselves as part of the solution and empower them to make wise choices, learn about the issues, and work to find solutions?

This might sound like a tall order for kids, but maybe they are the generation that will solve the problems of terrorism.

I wrote my book Terrorism: Violence, Intimidation, and Solutions for Peace specifically with the intent of providing kids with not just the history of terrorism (which is an important part of recognizing its role in today’s world), but also as a jumping off point to start thinking about how to curb terrorism.

Here are three activities I came up with to help kids understand that while terrorism is a very real part of life, it’s not a problem that can’t be solved. I hope you find them useful, and remember, never give up hope.


Throughout history, assassination is one tactic used by terror groups to achieve certain goals. However, not every assassination is an act of terror. When should murders of political figures be considered acts of terror or when are they simply horrible crimes? What separates terrorism from criminal activity?

  • Choose a political leader who was assassinated or who survived an assassination attempt. Some leaders to consider researching include:
    • Abraham Lincoln
    • William McKinley
    • Czar Alexander II of Russia
    • Indira Gandhi
    • Benazir Bhutto
  • Research the assassination attempt on your chosen Consider the following questions.
    • Who was the leader? Where were they from? What country did they lead?
    • What political or social views did the leader have that were controversial?
    • Who was the perpetrator?
    • What was the perpetrator’s objective? Did they succeed?
    • Did their actions affect history in the short-term? In the long-term?
    • Was the assassination attempt an act of terror? Explain your point of view.


The process of radicalization is different for every individual. While the path each person takes toward adopting extremist views is different, are there some similarities? By studying the radicalization of several different individuals, you can look for common themes in their stories.


While successful terror attacks make headlines around the world, there are dozens of plots that have been thwarted by counterterrorism efforts. You can read about some of these plots here.

  • Select three or four thwarted terror plots to research. Find and read newspaper or magazine articles about the foiled attacks.
  • Create a chart to categorize the plots.
    • What types of attacks were planned?
    • What methods did terrorists use?
    • Who was involved?
    • What targets did they choose?
    • What was the objective?
    • How was the plot stopped?
    • What counterterrorism methods were used?
    • What was the outcome?
  • Does the number of thwarted terror plots make you feel more or less secure? Explain.

About the Author: Carla Mooney is the author of many books for young readers including Globalization: Why We Care About Faraway Events, The Holocaust: Racism and Genocide in World War II, Forensics: Uncover the Science and Technology of Crime Scene Investigation, The Industrial Revolution: Investigate How Science and Technology Changed the World and Explore Rivers and Ponds! With 25 Projects from Nomad Press. Her work has appeared in many magazines including Highlights, Faces, and Learning Through History. Carla lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Thank you to Carla for her important post with so many useful tools and to Andi from Nomad Press for introducing us to this book!


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