Audacity by Melanie Crowder



Author: Melanie Crowder
Published: January 8, 2015 by Philomel

Goodreads Summary: The inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history

A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000.
Powerful, breathtaking, and inspiring, Audacity is the story of a remarkable young woman, whose passion and selfless devotion to her cause changed the world.

Ricki’s Review: This is an inspirational book in verse based on the true story of Clara Lemlich. She was a Russian Jewish immigrant who was forced to work in horrible factory conditions in the early 1900s. Clara stood up for her rights and fought with the union. What I liked most about this book is the author gives so much information about Orthodox Judaism, unions, and feminism, but she doesn’t hit readers over the head with the information. I don’t enjoy reading books about religion, and I don’t particularly seek out books about feminism (or unions, for that matter), yet I found Clara’s story to be both fascinating and compelling. All types of readers will love this story, and it is very teachable.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I would love to teach this book. It offers great opportunities for building background knowledge about history. I wish this book existed when I used to teach The Jungle because the connections are innumerable. If I taught this book, I would use a jigsaw, research, and/or webquest activity where students spent time researching the 1900s, Russian immigration in the 1900s, unions, feminism, schooling in the 1900s, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, and Orthodox Judaism. This knowledge would provide a rich reading of this text.

Discussion Questions: How do Clara’s parents and siblings view her actions?; Make a list of your top five values. Then, make a list of Clara’s top five values. Are they the same? Different? Do you think your values differ from hers because of your personalities or because of the different time periods you live in?

We Flagged: “How can I tell Mama / who toils / sunup / to sundown / to be a good mother / a good wife / that this life / (her life) / is not enough for me, / that I dream instead / of words / ideas / a life that stretches far beyond / the bounds of this shtetl?” (p. 12).

*Please note that this quotation is from an advanced reader copy, and the quote may be different in the published version of the book.*

Read This If You Loved: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Like Water on Stone by Dana Walrath, A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Recommended For:

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**A special thank you to Penguin for sending this book for review!**

Festival of the Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Book for the Day of the Dead by Luis San Vicente



Festival of the Bones / El Festival de las Calaveras: The Book for the Day of the Dead
Author: Luis San Vincente
Translator: John William Byrd, Bobby Byrd
Published September 1st, 2002 by Cinco Puntos Press

Goodreads Summary: On Mexico’s Day of the Dead, the skeletons jump for sheer joy. And no wonder: they’ve been cooped up the whole year and now they’re ready to party. Watch the calaveras shake, rattle, and roll as they celebrate the biggest event of the graveyard’s social calendar!

About the Author: The works of Mexico City artist Luis San Vicente have been exhibited in Mexico, Venezuela, Europe, and the United States. He has won UNESCO’s prestigious NOMA Encouragement Concours Prize for Illustration, and UNESCO honored his work (1997, 1998, and 1999) in their prestigious Youth and Children’s Catalog of Illustrations.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I first learned about the Day of the Dead when I lived in Texas. My father was the director Laguna Gloria, the art museum in Austin, and I saw some artwork from local Mexican-American artists that depicted the traditional skeleton seen in Day of the Dead art. My father then told me about the holiday and since then I have been quite intrigued with it. San Vicente’s story is a great introduction to the (kind of creepy) holiday, its history, and traditions. The text is in verse with a catchy rhythm and the illustrations are so lively AND it is bilingual. I loved seeing the text in Spanish and English. Then, the afterword further informs the readers about the holiday filling in any gaps left by the story.

Discussion Questions: What did you learn about Mexico’s Day of the Dead? How is it celebrated? What is its history? What food is eaten at the celebrations?

We Flagged: 

“Giddyup! Giddyup!
Oh, they want to catch me.
To that ugly skeleton…
They want to marry me.

¡Arre! ¡Arre!
Oh, me quieren atrapar.
Para esa fea esqueleto …
Ellos quieren que se case conmigo.”

Recommended For: 


Happy Halloween, All Hallows’ Eve, All Saints’ Eve, All Hallows’ Day and Day of the Dead!


**Thank you to Cinco Puntos Press for providing a copy for review**

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


brown girl

brown girl dreaming
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Published: August 28, 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. 
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
Praise for Jacqueline Woodson:
Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review

Ricki’s Review: This beautifully poignant book in verse captured my heart. I was swept away in the beauty of Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical memories. This is a book that will embrace readers, wrapping them in Woodson’s childhood in the stormy 1960s. I couldn’t help but read and reread portions of the text–for every few pages that I read, I needed to flip back and relive the beauty of the previous verses. I will cherish this book, reading it again and again, for every word feels intentional and every memory vivid. brown girl dreaming is timeless, and it is universal. Above all, this book will give readers insight–unfolding the experiences of a “brown” child living during the heat of the civil rights movement; a young girl growing up in a house that identifies as Jehovah’s Witnesses; and a young writer, struggling to find the perfect words to reveal the truth. It will touch the hearts of readers of all backgrounds and ages in its messages of family, friendship, strength, and hope.

Kellee’s Review: Wow. I often worry about reading a book that has a lot of hype around it because I fear that I will not love it as much as others do. I should not have been worried about this book. It is beautiful. As Ricki said, I found myself rereading portions of the text just because of how well the verse flowed. By the end of this book, you will wish that you were Woodson’s friend and that you you could write as well as she does. The stories she tells are so true and heartfelt that you live her life along with her through the pages. You experience with her the hardship of growing up in the 1960s and 70s during the Civil Rights movement; the challenge of religion and finding the truth in it; the loss, addition, and conflict of family and everything that comes with these changes; and trying to find an identity as a person, sister, daughter, student and a writer. It is only a truly powerful, well-written book that can make you feel all of these elements.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Writers will feel inspired by Woodson’s verse, and it would make an excellent mentor text for students to learn more about themselves and their own childhoods. We would suggest pairing passages with “I Am From” poems for students to be inspired to write verse memoirs of their own experiences. The figurative language and detail of this text make it a phenomenal resource for teachers, and we would find great value in close readings of Woodson’s intentional use of words and phrasing.

Discussion Questions: How does Jacqueline Woodson come to find herself? What are the strongest influences on her identity?; In what ways does Woodson show the power of family? How do Woodson’s siblings impact her decisions?; What role does history play in this book?; In what ways does Woodson manipulate words, phrasing, and white space? How does this influence your reading?

We Flagged: 

“Then I let the stories live
inside my head, again and again
until the real world fades back
into cricket lullabies
and my own dreams.” (p. 99)

“Sometimes, she pulls a chair to the window, looks
down over the yard.

The promise of glittering sidewalks feels a long time
behind us now, no diamonds anywhere to be found.

But some days, just after snow falls,
the sun comes out, shines down on the promise
of that tree from back home joining us here.

Shines down over the bright white ground.

And on those days, so much light and warmth fills
the room
that it’s hard not to believe
in a  little bit

of everything.”  (p. 285)

Please Note: The above excerpts are from advanced reader copies. The wording and punctuation may be different in the published text. Our blog interface does not allow us to accurately capture the indentions, but we wanted you to see the beauty of Woodson’s language.

Read This If You Loved: Other books by Jacqueline Woodson, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, Sold by Patricia McCormick, Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff, Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis, Gaither Sisters (series) by Rita Williams- Garcia, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Silence of our Friends by Mark Long

Recommended For:

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RickiSigand Signature

Review and Giveaway!: Like Bug Juice on a Burger and Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake by Julie Sternberg


bug juice

Like Bug Juice on a Burger (Eleanor #2)
Author: Julie Sternberg
Illsutrator: Matthew Cordell
Published April 2nd, 2013 by Amulet Books

Goodreads Summary: I hate camp. I just hate it. I wish I didn’t. But I do. Being here is worse than bug juice on a burger. Or homework on Thanksgiving. Or water seeping into my shoes. In this sequel to the critically acclaimed Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, Eleanor is off to summer camp. At first she’s excited to carry on the family tradition at Camp Wallumwahpuck, but when she gets there she finds icky bugs, terrible food, and worst of all: swim class, where she just can’t seem to keep up with everyone else. But as the days go on, Eleanor realizes that even the most miserable situations can be full of special surprises and that growing up is full of belly flops. 

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book definitely brought back memories! I loved the idea of summer camp and many of the activities, but I hated the bugs and the food and the changing in front of other people. There are many times when I was away that I just wanted to go home; however, there were things that saved me- specifically, like Eleanor, the animals. I loved working in the barn with the horses and it is what saved me and then got me going back year after year. I remember walking into the barn and being able to be part of these horses’ lives and the scene where Eleanor meets Cornelius the goat brought me right back to that moment. 

This book would be a wonderful read aloud for right before summer because even if students are not going to summer camp, there is probably something new and scary that they will try this summer and this book will definitely cause discussion about how something new may be scary, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it eventually. Julie Sternberg’s writing also lends itself to some amazing discussions about free verse poetry and, in this one, letter writing. Maybe use the letter writing part of the book to segue into writing a letter to next year’s class. 

Finally, I love the idea of the Wall of Feelings! The Wall of Feelings is where the campers put up how they feel about camp; however, Eleanor is given the job of writing about how she used to feel about camp and then how she feels about camp now. What a great way for students to express themselves! This would be a great formative assessment for looking at how students feel about reading or school or some other topic at the beginning of the year vs. the end. 

Discussion Questions: Think about a time in your life when you did something you were scared to do. How did you overcome your fear/nervousness? How did it turn out in the end?  

We Flagged: “The bus was bumping
down a gravel road
with bushes and trees and weeds all around. 
This isn’t beautiful
I thought. 
This is creepy
I missed sidewalks full of people
checking their phones
and walking their cute dogs. 
I missed paved roads, too, 
filled with taxis and bik riders.” (Chapter 5) 

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake_cover (1)

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake
Author: Julie Sternberg
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Published March 18th, 2014 by Amulet Books

Goodreads Summary: I did a mean thing.
A very mean thing.
I HATE that I did it.
But I did.
This is worse than
carrot juice on a cupcake
or a wasp on my pillow
or a dress that’s too tight at the neck.
In the third installment from the team who created Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and Like Bug Juice on a Burger, Eleanor’s relationship with her best friend, Pearl, experiences its first growing pains. When a glamorous new student transfers to school, at first Eleanor’s excited about the possibility of a new friend. But when Pearl is assigned to be the new girl’s buddy, Eleanor fears she can’t compete. To make matters worse, Eleanor’s been chosen for the lead role in the springtime musical, which means she has to sing a solo in front of the entire school!
From overcoming stage fright to having a secret crush, young readers will relate to Eleanor as she navigates the bittersweet waters of growing up.

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book has multiple levels going on at the same time. There is the story of Eleanor and Pearl’s friendship and their first speed bump. Then there is Eleanor getting the lead in the play, and dealing with the fear of singing a solo. Eleanor dealing with her puppy having trouble getting house trained. And finally, the Eleanor and Nicholas story. But Sternberg balances it all because it is just all part of Eleanor’s life. Julie Sternberg is so great at writing in an elementary student’s voice. It is so authentic and well done!

What I love so much about all of the “Eleanor” books are that they are written in verse, and Eleanor is an amazing poet. I love that it is free verse and includes such beautiful language, but it never comes off as anything but authentic. Teachers could definitely take Eleanor’s writing and use it as a mentor text for students to write about their own experiences.

Discussion Questions: Have you ever hurt a friend’s feelings? What did you do to make it better?; How was Eleanor able to overcome her stage fright?; Why was Eleanor so scare and jealous of Ainsley?; Do you think Eleanor likes Nicholas?


Read These If You Loved: Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie by Julie Sternberg, Marty McGuire and Marty McGuire Digs Worms by Kate Messner, Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli, Go Out and Play! by KaBoom!, Lunch Lady and the Summer Camp Shakedown by Jarrett Kroscozka, Camp Babymouse by Jenni and Matt Holm, Bink and Gollie by Kate DiCamillo, Ramona books by Beverly Cleary

Curriculum Guide for All of the “Eleanor” Books Can be Found Here.

Both Books Recommended For: 

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

Baseball Is… by Louise Borden


NF PB 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book 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!


Baseball Is…
Author: Louise Borden
Illustrator: Raul Colon
Published February 18th, 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Goodreads Summary: The ultimate celebration of an all-American sport, this picture book captures the joy and the history of baseball;and knocks it out of the park!

Don’t wait for Opening Day to start your baseball season! Crack open Baseball Is…; and revel in the fun of this all-American game! Perfect for the stats-counting superfan and the brand-new little leaguer,Baseball Is…; captures the spirit of this cherished pastime, honoring its legendary past, and eagerly anticipating the future of the sport that is stitched into our history.

My Review: I am a huge baseball fan, have been for over 24 years now, so I am a sucker for baseball books. This one is special though. It captures the beauty of the baseball stadiums around the country, the intricacies of the sport, and the amazing history that baseball holds. I also love the choice of telling baseball’s story in verse. It made it rhythmic like the sport.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is a wonderful mentor text for free verse. The poetry is very rhythmic, but has  no rhyme. The book also has some amazing vocabulary: craftsman, poise, spectators, finesse, etc. It captures the sport through imagery: “the crack of the bat,” “slow stride of the manager,” “groans or boos,” etc.

On top of the poetic aspects of the book, you can learn so much about baseball and history from the book. It discusses greats like Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson. Also talks about the Negro and Women’s Leagues. All parts of history in general, not just baseball.

Discussion Questions: How did Jackie Robinson change the game?; Why was their a Women’s League?; What sounds would you hear at a baseball game?

We Flagged: 
“Baseball is our game…
the sport of America.
Its stories are stitched
through our nation’s history.
Its teams and its heroes
we carry in our heart.” (p. 1-2)

Read This If You LovedBarbed Wire Baseball by Marissa Moss, Chin Music by Lee Edelstein, Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs. Rookie Joe DiMaggio by Robert Skead, Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team by Audrey Vernick, Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy by Bill Wise, The Legend of the Curse of the Bambino by Dan Shaughnessy

Recommended For: 

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Locomotive by Brian Floca (Kellee’s Review)


NF PB 2014

Nonfiction Picture Book 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!


Author and Illustrator: Brian Floca
Published September 3rd, 2013 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: The Caldecott Medal Winner, Sibert Honor Book, and New York Timesbestseller Locomotive is a rich and detailed sensory exploration of America’s early railroads, from the creator of the “stunning” (Booklist)Moonshot.

It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding America’s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean.

Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

My Review: Rhythm. Onomatopoeias. (Well-researched) History. Gorgeous (and historically accurate) illustrations. Lyrical narrative. Unique point of view. This book has everything.

YOU (second person POV!) are a passenger on a train cross America with your family in 1869. Throughout the book, you will encounter many different landmarks, experience things on a train very few had at this time in history, and learn about the intricacies of the train. So fascinating! And all told in rich, beautiful language. It is hard to even share much more about the book because it is such an experience.

Check out Ricki’s review of Locomotive as well HERE.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I would LOVE to read this to kids. There are so many places to stop and discuss and research and learn, but never without an enthralling story accompanying.  It would be a great book to use across subjects. There are definitely opportunities for all subjects: social studies (trans-continental travel, history, trains); science (the science of steam engines); math (travel); reading/writing (onomatopoeia, point of view, rhythm).

Also, and this is fresh on my mind because I just read it, but I would love to read this and The Donner Dinner Party and then look at the two journeys. How long did each take? Dangers? It would be an interesting look at how trains truly changed transportation.

Discussion Questions: How does having the book in 2nd point of view make it more enthralling?; What onomatopoeias were used in the book? How did these words help suck you into the story?; How did the author’s rhythm make you feel like you are actually on the train?; What are the landmarks that were passed on the trans-continental railroad? Why are these landmarks significant?; How does a steam engine work? What are the jobs of all of the different people on board?

We Flagged:
“Here is how this road was built,
with a grunt and a heave and a swing,
with the ring of shovels on stone,
the ring of hammers on spikes:


Men came from far away
to build from the East,
to build from the West,
to meet in the middle.

They cleared the rocks
and dug the tunnels.
They raised the hammers
and brought them down—

“Three strokes to the spike,
ten spikes to the rail!”


Read This If You Loved: The Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale, Train by Elisha Cooper

Recommended For: 

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