Tom T’s Hat Rack by Michele Spry


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Tom T’s Hat Rack
Author: Michele Spry
Illustrator: Peggy A. Guest
Published January 2, 2013 by Spry Publishing

Summary: After Mr. T’s bout of cancer, he has decided that he wants to help make other people’s journeys during their chemo and radiation a bit easier. To do this, he asks his young friend Shelby to help him make a special project. Shelby Summers is one of those young people who understands the golden rule- she is good to all around her because she knows that is the right thing to do. This book shares with us the story of Mr. T and Shelby building their gift for others and what it is like to pay it forward.

My Review: This book’s purpose is more than just a narrative. The author, in her letter to me that came with the book, shared how she hopes the book would inspire others to pay it forward. “This simple act of kindness towards others is so simple to do and encourage others to do.” Too many children are growing up without thinking about this important aspect of humanity. Tom T’s Hat Rack is a great platform for starting that conversation.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the back of the book, the author has laid out ways for students to pay it forward just like Mr. T and Shelby. First, there is a brainstorming page to consider how the reader could help his or her community. Then the author’s page shares with the reader the story behind the book (Michele’s inspiration was a friend of hers that was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and was still positive and upbeat during his treatment). Finally, the hat rack plans are included so that the readers could make a hat rack for their community just like Mr. T and Shelby. I think that this is an important book because of what it teaches and the conversations that it’ll start. It’ll be perfect for a read aloud or book club in middle elementary grades. You could even combine it with the amazing picture books I’ll list below to make a kindness unit.

Discussion Questions: What can you do to help others in your community? List some ways you can help – big or small – it doesn’t matter as long as you are doing something positive to help others. (p. 91)

We Flagged: “Tonight, Mr. T talked about how he wanted to have Shelby help him with a little project. After going through these tough health issues with his cancer, he decided to do something positive to benefit others. He knew with Shelby’s caring heart, and vision to help people, he and Shelby would be able to accomplish this idea over summer break.” (p. 22)

Read this if you loved: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein

Recommended for: 

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**Thank you to Michele Spry for providing a copy for review**

Price of Freedom by Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin


NF PB 2013

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!


The Price of Freedom: How One Town Stood Up to Slavery
Authors: Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin
Illustrator: Eric Velasquez
Published January 8, 2013 by Walkers Children

Summary: In 1856, John Price, his cousin, and a friend risked their lives to cross the Ohio River in hopes of finding freedom on the other side. As slaves, leaving Kentucky and making their way into Ohio was the only way to even hope for freedom. However, the real goal was to get to Canada since the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 stated that slaves could still be returned to their owners if caught in a free state. On his way to trying to get to Canada, John was lucky enough to come across the town of Oberlin, Ohio. A town that did not believe in slavery and even embraced runaway slaves as one of their own. But what would happen when slave hunters came to town looking for John? What is the town willing to do to save their own?

My Review: I love how this book was put together. The best way to teach nonfiction, in my opinion, is to make it into a narrative that catches readers’ attention and makes them want to learn more. The narrative in The Price of Freedom was put together very well- a perfect plot arc- yet leaves you wanting more. It starts out with just enough prior knowledge (not too teachy yet makes sure that it teaches enough that the reader will understand) and takes us through what happens to John Price as a story and finally the end is a bit of a cliffhanger that makes you want to research more. My favorite type of nonfiction. And to add to this the watercolor illustrations bring the story to life and are so very well done adding even more depth to the picture book. This book puts the reader straight into a tense situation and invites them to take part of a historical situation that does not appear in history textbooks. While I’d been taught about the Fugitive Slave Act and realized that there were oppositions to the act, but I had never read a narrative like this one.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: In the classroom, I think this nonfiction picture book is important to start conversations about the two sides of the civil war. It would also be a great jumping off point to start talking about people who stood up against laws, the Underground Railroad, and the transition into the civil rights movement: Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, etc. The authors even gave websites that are perfect to use as an extension.

Discussion Questions: Why do you think that the people of Oberlin and other Underground Railroad risked their lives to help escaped slaves?; What do you think happened to John Price? Do some research and see if your hypothesis was correct.

We Flagged: “Oberlin student William Lincoln was in his room when some classmates pounded on his door. He was the man to rescue John Price, they told him, offering him a gun. Lincoln hated slavery, but he also hated violence. Unsure what to do, he knelt on the floor with his Bible and asking himself: “if it were your own brother, what would you do?”

His answer? “Rescue him or die!” Lincoln grabbed the gun and raced to Wellington.” p. 23

Read This If You Loved: Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Roodie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead, Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix, Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea David Pinkney, Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson, Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for providing a copy for review**

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Intimidating Books


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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish is particularly fond of lists (as am I!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

Today’s Topic: Top Ten Most Intimidating Books (might be intimated by size, content, that everyone else loves it but you are sure you won’t, etc.)

For me this one isn’t a very hard one as I find many of the lengthy classics very intimidating. I know many readers hate that they had to read them in school, but I wish I had so that I’d have them under my belt. The most intimidating books for me are:

clarissa1. Clarissa, or the History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson- I learned about Clarissa in my Gothic Literature class when I was on a gothic lit reading kick. This one fascinated me because it not only sounded interesting, but I found out that it was one of the longest books in the English language. Since then, I have tried to start it numerous times, but it is a majorly tough one and at 1534 pages it is hard to push yourself past the “slow start”.

kavalier2. Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon- This is another book on the list that I’ve begun. I started reading this book because my sister, dad, brother, and everyone else in the world (including the Pulitzer Prize committee) loved it and I really enjoyed Wonder Boys; however, I just could not get through Kavalier and Clay. Since abandoning it, it sits on my shelf and taunts me. One day, I want to reread and finish.

moby dick3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville- Not only is this book big, it just doesn’t interest me, yet it is one of the first books that people assume I’ve read since I have an English literature degree. I then explain that my focus was on 20th century literature and it is like my degree isn’t as fancy as “regular” English lit degree holders. Since then, Moby Dickalong with most of the books on this list (#4, 5, 6, 7, 10), are books that people assume I’ve read and I wish I had, but I haven’t.

atlas4. Atlas Shrugged and other books by Ayn Rand- Another huge book, 1168 pages, and one that I “should have read in school.” Also, the whole idea of the book just is intimidating in general for me.

les5. Les Miserables and other books by Victor Hugo- I love this musical and after reading Phantom of the Opera when I was in middle school, I wanted to read Les Miserables as well, but MAN it was torture. I promised myself I’d try it later and I did. 5 times. But I never made it through. Watching Ricki struggle through it makes it even more intimidating to me. I always wanted to read the book behind the musical, but who knows if I’ll ever face this fear.

absalom6. Absalom, Absalom! and other books by William Faulkner (except The Sound and the Fury which I have read)- Reading William Faulkner is one of the toughest experiences I’ve ever had. I actually really enjoyed it when I read it, but that was in a sort of lit circle where we discussed and had help. I cannot imagine reading his books alone. If you haven’t read Faulkner, I recommend reading at least one of his novels, but I also recommend doing it in a book club (and don’t be afraid to google for help!).

ulysses7. Ulysses and other books by James Joyce- Doesn’t Ulysses intimidate everyone?!

war8. War and Peace & Anna Karenina and other books by Leo Tolstoy- I have read one Tolstoy book, The Death of Ivan Illych, and really enjoyed it (actually one of my favorites from my Death and Dying class), but I’ve always avoided everything else of his. I’m not sure why, but between the synopsis and length, they’ve always intimidated me.

gravity9. Gravity’s Rainbow and other books by Thomas Pynchon- This one intimidates me because I worry that I just won’t get it. Does that make sense? And it is so big as well!

house10. House of Leaves and other books by Mark Z. Danielewski- This title is another case of “all of your loved ones like it, you should too, right?!”. Is it bad that I have no interest? Should I? Everyone says I should…

What book intimidates you? 


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/1/13



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?
From Picture Books to YA!

 It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.



Last week we had giveaways every week and we are excited to announce the winners today! We’ll be contacting each of you via email today to get some info from you.

Day One: Andrea P. and Megan A.

Day Two: Jennifer F.

Day Three: Holly M.

Day Four: Linda B.

Day Five: Julee M.

Day Six: Katherine N.

Day Seven: Melissa M.



Last Week’s Posts


Day One: IMWAYR     Day Two: Meet Kellee     Day Three: Meet Ricki

Day Four: How to Navigate     Day Five: Our Favorites

Day Six: Favorites Blog Hop    Day Seven: Recap


Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: Finished my rereads this week! I am so excited! Though the books are amazing it is nice to be moving on to other things. This week, in between rereading I did fit in some other reading. First, I finished Eleanor and Park which Ricki and I will be reviewing later this week. I also read Jeffrey Brown’s beloved Darth Vader and Son and Vader’s Little Princess which were so funny (though I think I would get them more if I was a bigger “Star Wars” fan). Finally, I read a couple of picture books that are on some mock Newbery lists- Stardines Swim High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky (illustrated by Carin Berger) and Building our House by Jonathan Bean- and I cannot wait to review both of these for you as well. 


Ricki: Unlike Kellee, I still have two more books to reread for our book award. Then, I am free until the next round of rereading! I also finished Eleanor and Park, which I adored. I can’t wait to review this one with Kellee. In case anyone is keeping track, I also finished Les Miserables. I didn’t enjoy it very much, but now I can officially watch the movie without guilt. Lastly, I read Teen Boat, a graphic novel about a teenage boy named Teen Boat who has the ability to turn into a boat. It was very peculiar, but I found it to be quite funny. I’d recommend it to upper middle school teachers.


This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: Unfortunately Margaret Cho was bounced because I received the newest David Sedaris book in audiobook, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, from the library and I bumped everything down to listen to it. I love David Sedaris and so far am really liking this one as well. I’ll also be reading The Price of Freedom and Tom T’s Hat Rack for the reviews later this week. Finally, I began Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gerwirtz today and so far am enjoying it. Looking forward to sharing my review of this one as well.


Ricki: For starters, I will reread two more books for the book award to get ready for our next round in the process. Also, I started Readicide: How Schools are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It by Kelly Gallagher last week and absolutely love it. I am teaching a college course next semester, and this book came recommended for my syllabus, so I thought I would give it a try. It definitely lives up to the hype and is extremely interesting. Lastly, I finally got my hands on a copy of The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen, so I will definitely be enjoying that one this week.


Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday price  fifth wave

tom t  eleanor  Teachers Write


So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading.

Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs.

If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!


Happy reading!

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Launch Week: Recap



Thank you all so much for being a part of our launch week!

We hope you enjoyed the week and will continue to come visit us.

If you missed any of the days these days, please go check them out:


It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Meet Kellee

Meet Ricki

How to Navigate

Our Favorites

Favorites Blog Hop


Giveaways from the week

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Thank you for stopping by this week and see you tomorrow!

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Launch Week: Favorites Blog Hop



Yesterday, we shared our favorite books for each of our categories, and today, we are excited to share our favorite blogs’ lists regarding:

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 Please check out these bloggers’ thoughts

and share YOUR favorites in the comments.

(And don’t forget to enter into today’s giveaway!)


Niki @Daydream Reader

Hannah @ My 100 Adventures

Beth @ Foodie Bibliophile

Crystal @ Reading Through Life

Debbie @ The Styling Librarian

 Jennifer @ Fountain Reflections

Stephanie @ Books, Interventions and More!

Holly @ Reading, Teaching, Learning

 Andrea @ Mrs. Payan Reads

Cathy @ Reflect & Refine

Mindi @ Next Best Book

Cynthia @ Librarian in Cute Shoes

Earl @ Chronicles of a Children’s Book Writer


Julee @ Book Egg


Jen @ Teach Mentor Texts


Alyson @ Kid Lit Frenzy


Linda @ Teacher Dance


Sherry @ The Library Fanatic


Stacey @ The Library Gals


Kristen @ The Book Monsters


 We thank you all for participating- loved being able to share the excitement of our launch week will all of these amazing blogs!

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Launch Week: Our Favorites



Yesterday we introduced you to the different categories that we will label our reviews and today we wanted to share with you our favorites for each category.


Read Aloud

This would be a great choice to read aloud to all students in the class. We often suggest this category when the book has strong, widespread appeal to many types of students.



This one was a hard choice as I have 5 different favorite read alouds, but after thinking about it, I decided that I’d share The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate- it is written for all ages, it has nice short sections which are great for breaking up read alouds, there are plenty of parts to lend to discussions, beautiful illustrations, and all types of students enjoy the story.


tree girl

Based on a true story, Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen, depicts the experiences of a young girl who learns to survive during the genocide of 1980s war-torn Guatemala. Students will not only connect with the powerful themes of this novel, but they will see Mikaelsen’s juxtaposition of a beautiful country with the savage massacres that occurred during this time period. Readers can’t help but peer through the trees to get a glimpse into a world that is, likely, very different from their own. I love reading this aloud to my class, seniors who were identified by the school community as low-level readers.

There are so many opportunities for connections with past and current acts of genocide. The chapters are short, and the book doesn’t take too long to read aloud. By the end of the unit, many had declared it the “best book they have ever read.”


Lit Circles/Book Clubs

This text would work very well for discussion within small groups. We often suggest this category when the book offers great points of discussion, but it might not appeal to every student in the class.



One of my favorite books for literature circles is Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings. This book is not my favorite book that I have as a choice for lit circles; however, seeing students interact with it made me appreciate it so much. Every group of students who has ever read it fought over it, made amazing predictions, were blown away by the ending, and the group became easily the most active group in the classroom.



My students read Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork in literature circles, and they absolutely adore the Marcelo and Jasmine. I like using this book in literature circles because it is one of my favorite young adult books because of its beautiful language, complex themes, and strong characterization. While I think everyone should read this book, I have found that only a portion of my students are interested in it after my book talks. Therefore, I use it as a literature circle text instead of as a whole-class read. I would be remiss not to include this stunning book in my classroom, and I find it works extremely well in literature circles because it offers much discussion for students.


Close Reading/Analysis

There are many passages within the book that would be great for close analysis. We often suggest this category when a book has complex passages or great sections to teach literary elements to students.



My favorite text for analysis is Love that Dog by Sharon Creech. It is amazing because it cannot only be used to teach literary elements, but also poetic elements. It is a great introduction to poetry and is a wonderful read in general. Although I don’t do so much of a close reading of this text, we do go back and reread, compare Jack’s poetry to the originals, and discuss, discuss, discuss. A wonderful read!



This was a very difficult category for me to select one text. Each year, I photocopy one-two pages from dozens of texts. In the end, I selected Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower because it has so many amazing, quotable sections that make for fantastic discussions. First, we analyze the language to determine why Chbosky selected specific words and organized sentences the way he did. Then, I have students select from a variety of quotes to analyze Charlie’s psyche. Additionally, many of the journal entries in this book make for fantastic journal responses from students.


Classroom Library

This would be a great addition to your classroom library. Often, these books fit well with a specific type of student, but we definitely think it is worth purchasing for your classroom.



Man! It is so hard to pick what book I want to recommend for this one. So many books are important for the classroom library and it really depends on your class.  For my class, the most important books for the classroom library are graphic novels. Since I teach struggling readers, many of them have had poor experiences with reading and need a friendly yet well-written book to help them become more acquainted with reading.  Graphic novels are just the books to do this! Although there are many different amazing graphic novels to choose from, Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi is usually the graphic novel that draws students in first and holds them.



I was tempted to add three books to this section, but I worried that Kellee would get mad at me for cheating. In the end, I decided to go with a book that has been a tried and true favorite amongst my students: Right Behind You by Gail Giles. I only have to read the two sentences, and students are lining up to sign out this book. I have had over forty students sign out one of my copies (and I have five copies). “On the afternoon of his seventh birthday, I set Bobby Clark on fire. I was nine. It was all about a Bobby’s birthday present. A baseball glove. But of course, that’s not what it was really all about.” Students love to analyze Kip’s psyche, and this text offers much discussion amongst students–often heated. The second they finish it, they want someone else to read it so they can share their opinions.

Favorite Book!



My favorite book has been the same since 1993 and I cannot see it changing any time soon. When I read The Giver by Lois Lowry at age 11, my life changed. This book made me realize just how lucky we all are in our situation. Jonas was only 1 year older than me and had never seen color, never read a book, didn’t know what art was, and was about to find out what his job was going to be for the rest of his life. The whole idea behind the book mortified me. Then as I grew up, I reread it as a teenager and still loved it for the same reasons. Then when I went to college and began studying to be a teacher, I began to appreciate it even more and in a different way. I think it is such an important book and I love it so much!



My favorite classic novel is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee because it is such an incredible book to teach. If I had to pick a favorite young adult book (which is much trickier than picking a favorite classic), it would be The Fault in our Stars by John Green. I love it because it can be used for so many purposes–as a read-aloud, a close reading, a literature circle text, etc. Additionally, I love how I can hand it to any student and be fairly certain they will love it as much as I do.

Check back tomorrow to find out the favorites from some of our favorite blogs and tweeps!

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