Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell; Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o; The Crown by Derrick Barnes; The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson; Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds; and You Matter by Christian Robinson

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One of the assignments during my Spring Children’s Literature course at UCF was creating a mini-teaching guide for the books we read for book clubs. We started with picture books for practice then students created them in their book clubs each week.

Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students for these six picture books.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Author: Patty Lovell
Illustrator: David Catrow
Published August 27th, 2001 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Summary: Molly Lou Melon is short, clumsy, has buck teeth, and a voice that sounds like a bull-frog being squeezed by a boa constrictor… But she doesn’t mind.

Her grandmother has always told her to walk proud, smile big, and sing loud, and she takes that to heart.

But then Molly Lou has to start in a new school. A horrible bully picks on her on the very first day, but Molly Lou Melon knows just what to do about that…

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:

  • This book can be used to set a president within the classroom to advise at the beginning of the year that bullying is not okay.
  • Teach about how having a positive attitude can affect the world around you
    • Our attitude towards life determines life’s attitude towards us. – John Mitchell
  • Have the students go into a small group to talk about what happens when another student is being bullied.
    • Writing-in-role: Each student can discuss what they would do in Molly’s shoes with each encounter with the bully.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How would you feel if you were in Molly’s situation?
  • What advice has a family member given you that has gotten you through a tough time?
  • What are some things that you like about yourself?
  • How do you think Molly was able to keep a positive attitude?
  • How did the illustrations make you feel?
  • What did you like about the story?
  • What are some things you would have done if you heard Ronald making fun of Molly?
  • If Molly had a negative attitude toward Ronald, how would have had the story turned out differently?
  • How can you use this story in our classroom?
  • If Molly had not received advice from her grandmother do you think she would have had such a positive attitude?

Recommended For: 

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Sulwe
Author: Lupita Nyong’o
Illustrator: Vashti Harrison
Published October 15th, 2019 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: T

  • Good as a read-aloud and book club book.
  • A good book to introduce a discussion about skin color.
  • Beginning BLM topic.
  • Encourages children to be comfortable in their own skin.
  • Encourages children to love themselves.
  • Modern-day text.
  • May be used during social studies instruction. Prompts discussion about skin color and different cultures. Introduces self and encourages students to reflect on their own family and community.
  • After reading activity: Students may respond to the text by drawing a self-portrait of themselves. After drawing a self-portrait of themselves, they can share it with their peers and reflect on their own similarities and differences. The activity encourages students to recognize the importance of each member of their community.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What ideas do you think will be present in this text?
  • How did the author use the title of this book in the text?
  • How do you think the story will end?
  • How do you think Sulwe feels regarding how her classmates are treating her? How do you feel about this treatment?
  • What use of imagery sparked your imagination?
  • What could happen to make this character feel a different way?
  • What type of emotions do you feel during the daytime versus the nighttime? Explain why?
  • How does the word choice contribute to the tension throughout the story and ultimately the theme at the end?
  • What do you think the author wanted you to feel after reading this book?
  • How do Sulwe’s feelings change from the beginning to the middle, to the end of the story?
  • What evidence of organization do you see throughout the story?

Recommended For: 

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The Crown
Author: Derrick Barnes
Illustrator: Gordon C. James
Published October 10th, 2017 by Agate Bolden

Summary: The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices.

A fresh cut makes boys fly.

This rhythmic, read-aloud title is a celebration of the way boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Notes about when the book would be useful in the classroom:

  • To show feelings towards a certain moment in life.
  • This can be used for language arts practice (events, plot, meaning).
  • Asking students about a time where they felt a personal experience with something that they do often.
  • Reflect on how they feel after receiving a haircut.
  • Reflect on something that excites you, like the haircut in the story.

This book is best done as a read aloud and a book club book. The reason for this, is that Crown integrates great opportunities because it helps students to understand a character’s feelings written into text.

Discussion Questions: 

  • The boy in the story talks about his passion of having a haircut. When has there been a time where you felt passionate about something?
  • How does the author in the story convey emotion through colors?
  • What did you think the story might have been about?
  • What do you think that the boy in the story is feeling when he enters the barber shop?
  • If you could write a sequel to this book, what would it be about and why?
  • What have you might have changed in this story?
  • Has there been a time where you think you have gotten a nice haircut? Why or why not?
  • Describe the boy’s feelings about getting a haircut? Why do you think this?
  • The boy in the story felt confident and positive after getting a haircut. When was there a time where you felt confident and positive about something?

Recommended For: 

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The Day You Begin
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: Rafael López
Published August 28th, 2018 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpre Illustrator Award winner Rafael Lopez have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.

There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: After reading this book it would be best if students use this as a community building opportunity to celebrate their differences and learn about their peers. This book opens up a discussion about the lives that others live and how although they have a different background we should treat everyone with respect and encourage others to be true to themselves. After reading this book the classroom can do a reading analysis of the book to help establish classroom norms and expectations. This book would be best as a read aloud preferably towards the beginning of the school year. Afterwards this book may go to the classroom library. This book is interdisciplinary as it can be used in social studies to help explore different cultural backgrounds. The students can be given the opportunity to explore the different customs and regions brought up in the book to gain a deeper understanding of the world around them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the symbolism behind rulers being present in the illustrations of the book?
  • What differences did you notice in each of the characters?
  • Why do you think it is important for us to celebrate our differences?
  • What differences do you notice within your classmates or others around you?
  • How did the students’ perceptions of each other change over time?
  • Describe something that makes you unique compared to your classmates
  • What is one way to support a classmate that feels isolated because of their differences?
  • Why do you think Angelina felt less nervous towards the end of the book?
  • What is the overall message of the story?
  • Why do we notice the differences of our peers?
  • Why are we different from those around us?
  • Pick two different interactions in the story and write about you would change the characters behavior to be more respectful of their peers

Recommended For: 

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Word Collector
Author & Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Published January 30th, 2018 by Orchard Books

Summary: Some people collect stamps.
Some people collect coins.
Some people collect art.
And Jerome?
Jerome collected words . . .

In this extraordinary new tale from Peter H. Reynolds, Jerome discovers the magic of the words all around him—short and sweet words, two-syllable treats, and multisyllable words that sound like little songs. Words that connect, transform, and empower.

From the creator of The Dot and Happy Dreamer comes a celebration of finding your own words—and the impact you can have when you share them with the world.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:

  • This book would be useful during a read aloud when teaching about vocabulary. You can use the book as a good jump start into vocabulary. Seeing another child interested in learning words will catch the students attention and make them more interactive while learning vocab.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are some words that you would like to share?
  • Is there anything you wished for your class to learn like the main character did?
  • Did you learn any new words?
  • Why does Jerome like to collect words?
  • Where do you find new words not counting in a book?
  • Which types of words were the most powerful for Jerome?
  • What do you like to collect for yourself and why?
  • Why do you think Jerome threw his words across town?
  • What do you do to make yourself happy?
  • What was your favorite part about the book?

Recommended For: 

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You Matter
Author & Illustrator: Christian Robinson
Published June 2nd, 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Summary: They All Saw a Cat meets The Important Book in this sensitive and impactful picture book about seeing the world from different points of view by Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honoree Christian Robinson.

In this full, bright, and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored—from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The response best for after reading this text would be a group discussion of their thoughts on the book, a compare and contrast of everyone’s differences that “matter,” reflect on things that students think matters to them, and think they want to not matter. And the the book is interdisciplinary due to its multiple subject related ideas, because it addresses science related topics like planets and plants, and even geography.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Is there something that one of your siblings does that you don’t like? Why? Does that mean that they don’t matter?
  • What is something that you think matters?
  • What is something that you think makes you different?
  • Why does that make you special?
  • Why are differences important?
  • Why do you think the last picture was of the whole city?
  • Who is the astronaut thinking about when she is looking down on earth?
  • On the cover, what do you notice about all the children playing, what happens if there is only one kid playing with the parachute?
  • Why do you think the author wrote this book?
  • Why do you matter?

Recommended For: 

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Guest Review: The Worrysaurus by Rachel Bright, Illustrated by Chris Chatterton

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Guest Reviewer: Darlene, UCF Elementary Education Student

The Worrysaurus
Author: Rachel Bright
Illustrator: Chris Chatterton
Published October 6th, 2020 by Orchard Books

Summary: A modern Wemberly Worried-featuring dinosaurs!-for today’s young readers, with reassuring, lighthearted text and charming illustrations sure to calm the anxious butterflies in any child’s tummy.

It’s a beautiful day and Worrysaurus has planned a special picnic. But it isn’t long before a small butterfly of worry starts fluttering in his tummy…

What if he hasn’t brought enough to eat?

What if he gets lost in the jungle?

What if it rains?!

With a little help from his mom, Worrysaurus finds a way to soothe the anxious butterflies, chase his fears away, and find peace and happiness in the moment at hand.

Discover the perfect book to help every little anxious Worrysaurus let go of their fears, and feel happy in the moment at hand! The Worrysaurus strikes just the right balance of positive, lighthearted, and kid-friendly, with reassuring, rhyming text from Rachel Bright, the bestselling author of The Lion Inside and Love Monster, and charming illustrations from Chris Chatterton. Perfect for any reader who might feel the flutter of an anxious butterfly in their tummy, The Worrysaurus is sure to become a storytime favorite.

About the Creators: 

Rachel Bright is rained in Graphics at Kingston University, followed by a Masters Degree in Printmaking at UWE. Her striking illustrative and typographic style, coupled with her witty storytelling have resulted in an award winning and ever-growing collection of acclaimed picture books.

Here is her website: The Brightside » Welcome to the Wonderful World of The Brightside (lookonthebrightside.co.uk)

Chris Chatterton began his career in graphic design and animation, working on a variety of projects including Dr Who and CBBC’s The Dumping Ground. Chris’ passion for illustration then led him to pursue a career as a freelance artist working on a number of children’s books.

Now writing the stories as well, Chris considers his debut author/illustrator Gus picture book story to be semi-autobiographical as he claims his loveable grumpy dog character is based on his own grumpy moods!

Originally from County Durham in the UK, Chris now lives and works in Barcelona, Spain.

Chris Chatterton – Illustrator & Author

Review: This book has received nothing but positive reviews from me. Anxiety and worry is real. We have all experienced it at some point in our lives and so have children. It is a struggle that if not targeted quickly can affect everyone negatively. I love how this book targets anxiety and worry in a delicate yet powerful way to teach young readers to manage worries and anxiety and to know that they are stronger than their worries and smarter than their doubts.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to reading this picture book, I would create a short writing prompt activity for students to write about their anxiety, fear and worries. After this, I  would place students in small groups to engage in conversations in which they can talk it over instead of being silent about it.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why was Worrysaurus worried during his picnic?
  • Do you think Worrysaurus worried unnecessarily?
  • What do you think Worrysaurus’s mom meant when she said the phrase; “ Oh, my little Worrysaurus, Chase that butterfly away?”
  • Based on  this sentence from the book, “This Worrysaurus often was a one to overthink.” What do you think the author meant by “overthink” and in what ways have you overthought?
  • What did Worrysaurus do to chase away his worries?
  • List 2 things not listed in the story that can help Worrysaurus chase those worries away.

Flagged Passages: 

“Oh, my little Worrysaurus, Chase that butterfly away.”

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Encouragement and Hope

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Darlene, for your review!

Pigeon & Cat by Edward Hemingway

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Pigeon & Cat
Author & Illustrator: Edward Hemingway
Published June 21st, 2022 from Christy Ottaviano Books

Summary: Pigeon and Cat form a lasting bond in this poignant picture book about compassion and friendship.

In an abandoned city lot, Cat lives alone in a cardboard box. He leaves only to find food. One day, Cat discovers an unbroken egg too beautiful to eat. Soon, out pecks Pigeon, and they become fast friends. Cat is happy to share his box with Pigeon. But when Pigeon flies far away from where they live, Cat must brave the city in order to rescue his friend. This journey will forever transform his understanding of home.

This heartwarming story explores unlikely friendships, the creative spark within us, and how to give comfort and kindness in small, impactful gestures. It is also a celebration of urban community.

About the Author: Edward Hemingway is the acclaimed creator of many popular books: Tough Cookie: A Christmas Story, Field Guide to the Grumpasaurus, and Bad Apple: A Tale of Friendship. His writing and artwork have been published in the New York Times and GQ Magazine, among others. The youngest grandson of Ernest Hemingway, he lives in Bozeman, Montana. He invites you to visit him at edwardhemingway.com, on Twitter @EdwardHemingway, and  Instagram: @edwardhemingway.

Review: This book is special both in message and in art.

First, I loved that the book not only showed that one act of kindness can change a lot and that a friendship can change people, but it also showed that there are people out there that it is worth not giving up hope on. Cat, at the beginning, is hard to like and it seems he would be okay with that. Then he saves Pigeon and changes. Although, it is HIS act of kindness that changes the trajectory of the story, it is Pigeon that helps him see that that kindness isn’t a fluke; that Cat can be more than he’s been.

Second, Hemingway’s art is just so beautifully done. It is hard for me to explain, but just looking at the style of his painting, I find myself being sucked into the story. It is just a fantastic addition to the story and brings it all to life in a way that is so perfect. I can definitely see Hemingway’s love in the art (see below for what he said about the art).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Edward Hemingway created a video sharing his inspiration behind the book (https://vimeo.com/626765984) which would be a wonderful start of a discussion about kindness and friendship and how it can change someone’s life and even the world. Students could also write their own stories with an act of kindness changing a character just like Cat changed.

Also, I received the book with an amazing letter from the author which is a call for action. I want to share it with you because it has so much to talk about as well as a perfect After Reading activity in the classroom:

Dear Reader,

I am very proud to be sending you my latest work, Pigeon & Cat. This book is so special to me. At its heart it is a story about kindness and compassion, and also about the gifts that art provides.

I hand painted all the artwork for the book during the height of the pandemic, so I was either isolating in my studio or at home with my fiancé. In a way, the book became one of my friends, and I looked forward to seeing it and working on it every day. I’m so happy to be sharing it with you now, and I hope that reading it touches you in some small way.

Pigeon & Cat begins with one small act of kindness. When Cat finds Pigeon’s abandoned egg on the ground, he cares for it instead of eating it. I firmly believe that such small acts of kindness can shine a bright light in dark times and open the pathway to a more positive future.

In the spirit of envisioning such a future, I have a small favor to ask of you. Pigeon opens Cat’s eyes to the beauty in the world around him, and when Pigeon goes missing, Cat creates beautiful messages in chalk that dot the city streets, walls, and avenues in an effort to reach his friend. He leaves these messages for all to see… Won’t you leave some beautiful messages on a wall or street or chalk board for your friends and community just like Cat? It would be wonderful to see the beautiful things you create.

If you post your creations, please tag me so I can see what you do!
🤗🙂❤️🌈
Sincerely yours,
Eddie Hemingway

Discussion Questions: 

  • What did Pigeon do to change how Cat viewed the world?
  • How did this change Cat’s character traits?
  • Why was Cat the way he was at the beginning?
  • Cat thought he was happy in the beginning of the book. Do you think he was happier at the beginning or end?
  • What types of messages did Cat draw around the city for Pigeon to find?
  • How does the transformation of Cat’s shelter represent Cat’s change as a character?
  • Why do you think the creator had illustrations change from full color to black silhouetted sometimes?
  • What kindness messages would you put around your community for others?
  • What was something during the pandemic that you did to help keep yourself preoccupied?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite by Stacy McAnulty, illustrated by Edward HemingwayNegative Cat by Sophie Blackall; Inside Cat by Brendan Wenzel; A Cat is Better by Linda Joy SingletonAll Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!!**

Blog Tour: Drifters by Kevin Emerson

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Drifters
Author: Kevin Emerson
Published May 10th, 2022 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: A mystery about a girl who sets out to find her missing best friend–and discovers her small town is hiding a dark, centuries-old secret.

Jovie is adrift. She’d been feeling alone ever since her best friend, Micah, left her behind for a new group of friends–but when Micah went missing last fall, Jovie felt truly lost.

Now, months later, the search parties have been called off, and the news alerts have dried up. There’s only Jovie, biking around Far Haven, Washington, putting up posters with Micah’s face on them, feeling like she’s the only one who remembers her friend at all.

This feeling may be far closer to the truth than Jovie knows. As strange storms beset Far Haven, she is shocked to discover that Micah isn’t just missing–she’s been forgotten completely by everyone in town. And Micah isn’t the only one: there are others, roaming the beaches, camped in the old bunkers, who have somehow been lost from the world.

When Jovie and her new friend Sylvan dig deeper, they learn that the town’s history is far stranger and more deadly than anyone knows. Something disastrous is heading for Far Haven, and Jovie and Sylvan soon realize that it is up to them to save not only Micah, but everyone else who has been lost to the world and set adrift–now, in the past, and in the future.

Praise: 

“An intricate sci-fi mystery for voracious readers who love an extraordinary adventure.” –Booklist

“A satisfying action plot, complete with a shady government agency and villainous beings, is effectively grounded in the emotional realism of the girls’ shifting friendships.” –Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books

About the Author: Kevin Emerson is the author of Last Day on Mars and The Oceans Between Stars, as well as The Fellowship for Alien Detection, the Exile series, the Atlanteans series, the Oliver Nocturne series, and Carlos Is Gonna Get It. Kevin lives with his family in Seattle. You can visit him online at www.kevinemerson.net.

Review: This book is definitely an epic sci fi novel! I am so impressed with how Kevin Emerson weaved the plot together to take us, with Jovie and Sylvan, on a mysterious adventure which had twists and turns throughout leading me to never know what is going to happen. Usually with books with flashbacks or flash forwards, it is easy to make predictions, but with this books, it is more complicated and thus took longer for me to determine what was going on. Because of this, I just had to keep reading, so although the book is long, it keeps you turning pages to piece everything together and then find out what Jovie is going to do with the information. (And just wait for the conclusion!)

I also loved the deeper message within the story that one can never know what is going on with someone else and that we must do whatever we can to make sure one another does not feel like they do not matter or we may lose them.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What were signs that Jovie missed about Micah that may have saved her from drifting?
  • Why did Max feel like he needed to lie? How about Dr. Wells?
  • Why do you think the author chose to start the book with the letter from 1898?
  • How did the jumping around in time affect the reading of the book?
  • Why do you think the author chose to make the light look like a butterfly?
  • How had all the breaches over time affected Far Haven?
  • Why do you think Sylvan listened and believed Jovie when no one else would?
  • What does Micah and Jovie’s friendship teach us about being good friends?

And there are so many more questions I would ask readers, but they have spoilers, so I cannot share!

Flagged Passages: 

Part I: A Hole in the World

Chapter 1 – The Interview, Part 1
January 18, 2022

Picture a spark of light, like a firework shooting skyward in the moment before it explodes. This spark is traveling through the pure darkness of starless space. The only other lights are a few other distant sparks, headed in roughly the same direction.

As we move closer, we see that this single spark is actually a cluster of lights. And each of these lights is, in fact, an entire galaxy, a hundred billion fire diamonds of dazzling colors, from red to blue to white, spinning around a bright center.

Now picture a single blue dot orbiting a single white star. The dot is moving at sixty-seven thousand miles per hour in its orbit, and the star is moving at nearly five hundred thousand miles per hour around its galactic center. This galaxy is racing at one point three million miles per hour toward a mysterious presence—we call it the great attractor—that draws us, for reasons we cannot know, across the dark sea of space.

And yet.

Despite all that, it is possible, on this little blue dot, inside its blanket of atmosphere, in a tiny town huddled at the edge of a great ocean, in a small, crowded living room—

To feel like you are not moving at all. As if the universe itself has ground to a halt.

This was how fourteen-year-old Sylvan Reynolds felt on a winter night in 2022, in the town of Far Haven, on the coast of Washington State, as Dr. Wells began to speak.

“Thank you for agreeing to meet with us again.”

Sylvan sat on one of the couches. Dr. Wells sat directly across from him, in a chair from the dining table, her tablet balanced on her knees. Her assistant stood behind her, tapping his phone.

“Sure.” Sylvan glanced at his parents over on the other couch. His mother, Beverly, smiled supportively, but her eyes darted with worry. His father, Greg, sat with his arms crossed, glowering at the visitors.

“I’d like to revisit the events surrounding the disappearance of Jovie Williams,” Dr. Wells said. “Now, as I’m sure you know, what we’re discussing here is very sensitive. We do need to have your word that—”

Read This If You Love: Sci-fi, Time travel, X-Files, Stranger Things

Recommended For: 

Stop by the other blog tour stops!

5/9/22 Nerdy Book Club @nerdybookclub
5/10/22 Bluestocking Thinking @bluesockgirl
5/11/22 Charlotte’s Library @charlotteslibrary
5/13/22 Maria’s Mélange @mariaselke
5/16/22 Teachers Who Read @teachers_read
5/23/22 Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers @grgenius
5/27/22 A Library Mama @alibrarymama
5/31/22 Unleashing Readers @unleashreaders

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review!**

Lizzy and the Cloud by The Fan Brothers

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Lizzy and the Cloud
Creators: Terry Fan & Eric Fan
Publishing May 3rd, 2022 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Summary: The tale of a young girl who cares for her pet cloud as it grows.

It’s a little out of fashion to buy a pet cloud, but Lizzy doesn’t mind. She’s not looking for a big one or a fancy one, just one that’s right for her. And she finds it in Milo.

Soon, she’s taking Milo out on walks with her family, watering Milo right on schedule, and seeing Milo grow and grow. But what happens when her pet cloud gets too big for Lizzy to handle?

About the Creators: 

Terry Fan received his formal art training at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. His work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. He spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. Terry is the cocreator of The Night Gardener, It Fell from the Sky, and Lizzy and the Cloud. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto. Visit him online TheFanBrothers.com.

Eric Fan is an artist and writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. Born in Hawaii and raised in Toronto, he attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, where he studied illustration, sculpture, and film. He has a passion for vintage bikes, clockwork contraptions, and impossible dreams. Eric is the cocreator of The Night GardenerIt Fell from the Sky, and Lizzy and the Cloud. Visit him online TheFanBrothers.com.

Review: With the Fan Brothers, readers have come to expect poetic words and illustrations, and they do not disappoint with Lizzy’s story. Just like my favorite Fan Brothers’ book, The Barnabus Project, I found myself falling in love with the characters because their personality jumps off the pages. Although the words are sparse, they are specifically chosen and when teamed up with the beautiful illustrations, the story has so much more depth than you may realize at first glance. For example, I think the ending of this book is something that could be used to talk about so many tough subjects, and it is done in a respectful, positive, and approachable manner. Another winning picture book from the Fan Brothers!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I see this text being used interdisciplinary in reading, science, and art. It will make a wonderful read aloud! The story and illustrations work beautifully together and there are some great discussion questions that can be used with the book. I’d then use the book in science to discuss the science of clouds–Milo will be a great cloud example! Finally, students could draw their own cloud balloons! You can even through in some SEL talking about tantrums and letting go.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does it tell you about Lizzy that she didn’t care what was popular?
  • Why do you think Lizzy wanted an ordinary cloud and not one of the animals?
  • What do you think would be the biggest problem would be if you had your own cloud?
  • How did Lizzy and Milo work together to make their friendship work?
  • How did Milo change? Why?
  • Why did Lizzy have to make the choice she did at the end of the book?
  • What theme do you believe the authors were trying to convey with the ending?
  • Do you think Milo changed Lizzy? How so?
  • How did the illustrators use color and shading to convey mood?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Books by The Fan Brothers, Matthew Forsythe, Sophie Blackall, Oliver Jeffers, Brian Floca, Liz Wong

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing a copy for review!!**

Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings! by Laurel Snyder, illustrated by Dan Santat

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Endlessly Ever After: Pick Your Path to Countless Fairy Tale Endings!
Author: Laurel Snyder
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published

Summary: This funny, original choose-your-path picture book of fractured fairy tales will charm any young fan of the genre, putting the power of storytelling right in the reader’s hands!

Grab your basket and your coat. Put on some walking shoes.
Turn the page and begin: Which story will you choose?

Award-winning creators Laurel Snyder and Dan Santat transform a crowd of classic tales into an ever-changing, fascinating, laugh-out-loud choose-your-path picture book, in which you may find a sleeping maiden, waste away in a sticky licorice cage, discover the gold at the end of a wild goose chase, or maybe (just maybe) save yourself―and the day!

GIVES YOUNG READERS THE POWER OF CHOICE: Where do you want to take the story next? Choice and autonomy are essential concepts for children to learn at a young age, and this choose-your-path picture book puts the decision-making power right in their hands.

FUNNY TWISTS ON CLASSIC FAIRY TALES: “The Three Little Pigs,” “Hansel and Gretel,” “Snow White,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and more—characters and settings from these classic fairy tales take on hilarious new life in a brand-new story, just right for the youngest fairy tale fans.

TEACHES STORYTELLING BY EXAMPLE: This playful picture book offers young readers the chance to build their own narratives out of the decisions they make each step of the way, powerfully illustrating how a story is created and how it proceeds from beginning to middle to end. Both a teaching tool and an exciting adventure in its own right, this book is a great resource for learning storytelling.

FABULOUS AUTHOR-ILLUSTRATOR TEAM: Laurel Snyder is the author of the Geisel Award–winning Charlie & Mouse early chapter book series. Her books have earned numerous starred reviews and Best Book designations, and her middle grade novel Orphan Island was longlisted for the National Book Award. Acclaimed artist Dan Santat has illustrated over 50 books for children, earning a Caldecott Medal for his picture book The Adventures of Beekle and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Drawn Together.

Perfect for:

  • Teachers and librarians
  • Lovers of fairy tales and fairy tale retellings
  • Readers who enjoy choose-your-path stories
  • Parents and caregivers seeking a story that will continue to surprise and delight, even after the 100th time through
  • Gift-givers looking for a beautiful present that can be read again and again
  • Anyone who appreciates clever, hilarious takes on classic fairy tales

Praise:

“Invoking myriad fairy tale scenarios throughout a cascading choose-one’s-path format, Snyder (the Charlie and Mouse series) builds a fairy story with logic gates. . . . Santat (The Aquanaut) romps lushly through this fairy tale universe, giving the folklore mainstays . . . an exaggerated, kinetic quality. . . . Readers accustomed to video game–style endings won’t be bothered by Rosie’s many demises; turning the page resumes the action and leads to more choices, and employing frenetic action right through to the end—er, ends.”
Publishers Weekly

“Grab your favorite outerwear (cozy coat or riding hood?) and your sense of adventure because Snyder and Santat have created a fun-filled fairy-tale mashup that puts kids in the driver’s seat. . . . [Endlessly Ever After’s] interactive nature, large trim size, and bold, full-bleed illustrations make it an excellent candidate for group sharing. There is also a fractured-fairy tale aspect to the stories featured, which ensures there are surprises around every corner. A highly entertaining read, full of possibilities.”
Booklist Reviews

“Multiple reader options give the woodsy road to Grandma’s house any number of surprise twists and diversions. . . . Some choices are hard but not this one: Pick it up!”
Kirkus Reviews

“[G]et comfortable; kids will insist on multiple readings . . . The humorously grim text is well matched with amusing illustrations that keep even the darker story elements lighthearted . . . Both text and art are endlessly clever.”
The Horn Book Magazine

About the Creators: 

Laurel Snyder is the author of many children’s books, including Swan, Hungry Jim, and Charlie & Mouse, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. A graduate of the Iowa Writers? Workshop, Laurel teaches creative writing at Hamline University and lives with her family in Atlanta, GA.

Dan Santat is a Caldecott-Medal-winning author-illustrator of many children’s books. An honors graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, in Pasadena, he is also the creator of the Disney animated hit The Replacements. Dan lives in Southern California with his wife, two kids, and various pets.

Review: Jim and I were just telling Trent about Choose Your Own Adventure books when this arrived, so I was very excited to see this book arrive, and it does not disappoint. If anything, it blew my description of the original series out of the water because of its cleverness, humor, suspense, fairy tale fracturing, and brilliant illustrations.

Snyder and Santat were the perfect team for this book! Snyder’s writing is lyrical and has amazing rhythm which makes the book a delight to read aloud. She also adds perfect twists to well known stories, giving them a new life! I was always so impressed at an author who can craft a book with multiple paths because the actual text structure must be so complicated, and there is no room for flaws; Snyder shows that she has the chops for this! Santat’s art brings it to life through modernized illustrations of our favorite fairy tale characters as well as some new characters, and as always his art is brilliantly crafted and just so much fun to look at!

All in all, a must pick up for any person who reads aloud to students–these 85 pages of adventure will reel them in!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to some reading analyses that will work perfectly with the text (prediction, cause/effect relationships, etc.), I would also love to see students work to create their own choose your own adventure stories. It gives them a chance to problem solve how to structure the story in addition to write the story. Chronicle’s activity kit has a great start for this activity.

Activity Kit: 

Discussion Questions: 

  • How does Endlessly Ever After compare to the original fairy tales?
  • What other fairy tale would you have liked to see get twisted in?
  • Were there any indications of the effects of your decisions before you chose what Rosie should do?
  • Before choosing the next page, predict what you think is going to happen.
  • How did the choice of illustrator add to the experience of reading the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Choose Your Own Adventure books, Fractured Fairy Tales

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**Thank you to Chronicle Books for providing a copy for review!!**

Wave by Diana Farid, Illustrated by Kris Goto

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Wave
Author: Diana Farid
Illustrator: Kris Goto
Published March 29th, 2022 by Cameron Kids

Summary: A coming-of-age novel in verse set in 1980s Southern California, about a Persian American girl who rides the waves, falls, and finds her way back to the shore.

Thirteen-year-old Ava loves to surf and to sing. Singing and reading Rumi poems settle her mild OCD, and catching waves with her best friend, Phoenix, lets her fit in—her olive skin looks tan, not foreign. But then Ava has to spend the summer before ninth grade volunteering at the hospital, to follow in her single mother’s footsteps to become a doctor. And when Phoenix’s past lymphoma surges back, not even surfing, singing, or poetry can keep them afloat, threatening Ava’s hold on the one place and the one person that make her feel like she belongs. With ocean-like rhythm and lyricism, Wave is about a girl who rides the waves, tumbles, and finds her way back to the shore.

Praise: 

“Processing her feelings through music empowers Ava and gives her a new understanding of home and the connections she shares with others. Raw and powerful, this free verse novel honestly explores issues of identity, culture, grief, and hope… Rich, layered, and heart-rending.”―Kirkus Reviews

“Farid’s poetry rides the page like a wave, charting the ups and downs of Ava’s emotions. . .The verse format makes this text extremely accessible, and readers will be delighted to find elements of Ava’s Persian heritage and 1980s childhood also woven throughout.” ―School Library Journal

“Farid brings her expertise as an MD to Ava’s story, simplifying the complexity of lymphoma while packing an emotional punch with the musical references that Ava uses to cope.” ―Booklist

About the Creators: 

Diana Farid is the author of When You Breathe, published by Cameron Kids. She is a poet and a physician at Stanford University. She lives in the Bay Area.

Honolulu-based fine artist Kris Goto was born in Japan. She spent most of her adolescence in Hong Kong and New Zealand, where she became inspired by the outside world and a passion for manga.

Review: This book is actually hard for me to write about because it is just so beautiful in all the right ways. It is full of so many emotions, beautiful writing, important topics, characterization, and 80s references. The author’s inclusion of such a specific setting and pop culture references could have easily turned off a reader, but Farid seamlessly blends it into Ava’s story to where it is all part of one amazing package. A package that includes a lot but that is because a 14 year old Persian girl growing up in California would have dealt with a lot: identity, self-love vs. loathing, immigrant experience, expectations, friendship, hobbies, school, racism, family… and on top of that Ava has Phoenix’s and (my favorite character) Room 509’s health to think about, her own broken leg, surfing, music, and a single parent. Add to all of this plot poetry that is robust in its rhythm and variety in a way that makes reading the book an experience, a wonderful reading experience.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: In addition to all of the reading discussion that can happen with this book, it is also a wonderful poetry writing mentor text. Each poem has its own format, personality, mood, tone, etc. so students have so many choices about which they would want to be inspired by. Goto’s illustrations show how art can add to poems as well, so students could create their own drawings to accompany their poems. Also, with the inclusion of music, students could turn their poems into songs.

Students could also make their own mix tapes for different characters in the book using Ava’s and Phoenix’s as examples. Students could then explain why they chose the songs they did for the characters.

The inclusion of Rumi’s poetry could also lead to a poetry study of his poetry which could include historical instruction as well.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did the author format __[poem]__ the way she did?
  • How did music influence Ava’s time during this point in her life?
  • How do you think Ava’s summer would have been different if she hadn’t broken her leg?
  • How did Phoenix and Ava’s friendship change over time? What caused their friendship to evolve?
  • Why does Ava blow up at Phoenix and Naz at the beach?
  • How does Room 509 play a part in Ava’s summer? What do you think the purpose of this character is?
  • How did Ava’s mother’s decision to leave Iran to go to medical school transform her life?
  • Farid included instances of racism in the book. Why is it important that she includes these? What does it show us about our country?
  • Do you believe Ava has OCD? What parts in the story show you this?
  • How does Ava both embrace her Persian culture but also resent the pressure it holds?
  • The author included Farsi throughout the book. Why is this translanguaging important to include when telling Ava’s story.
  • Find an example of when Farid captured the rhythm of the ocean in her poetry.

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar, Starfish by Lisa Fipps, Benbee and the Teacher Griefer by KA Holt, Open Mic edited by Mitali Perkins

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review**