The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher


killing woods

The Killing Woods
Author: Lucy Christopher
Published: January 7th, 2014 by Chicken House (Scholastic)

GoodReads Summary: Fatal attraction, primal fear, survival in the forest: From the author of the Printz Honor Book Stolen, the highly anticipated thriller about deadly games played in the dark.

Ashlee Parker is dead, and Emily Shepherd’s dad is accused of the crime. A former soldier suffering from PTSD, he emerges from the woods carrying the girl’s broken body. “Gone,” he says, then retreats into silence.

What really happened that wild night? Emily knows in her bones that her father is innocent — isn’t he? Before he’s convicted, she’s got to find out the truth. Does Damon Hilary, Ashlee’s charismatic boyfriend, have the answers? Or is he only playing games with her — the kinds of games that can kill?

Review: I absolutely loved Stolen, so I was thrilled to read another book by Lucy Christopher. This book reads more like a thriller. I was sucked into the mystery and very curious about how the plot would unravel. I think this book is most notable for the intricate descriptive details about the setting. I felt the dark coldness of the killing woods. The setting was spooky, which set the tone for the dark story. There are richly realized themes of friendship, family, and loyalty.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Emily’s father suffers from PTSD. I think Lucy Christopher is delivering a message about PTSD, and it would be important for readers to think more about this. Students might find value in learning more about PTSD before, during, and after reading this book.

Discussion Questions: Why is everyone quick to blame Emily’s father? Do you think he is guilty?; What is The Game? What are the different roles that everyone plays in The Game? What does it teach us about this group of kids? Is it realistic and does it reflect people in general?

We Flagged: “I guess whoever built and buried that IED out there in the desert will never know how far that blast traveled. But all things ripple out, cause shrapnel.”

Read This If You Loved: Stolen by Lucy Christopher, The Body of Christopher Creed by Carol Plum-Ucci, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk, What Happened to Cass McBride by Gail Giles, The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Recommended For:



**Thank you to NetGalley and Scholastic Chicken House for providing the Advanced Reader Copy for review!**

Strange Mysteries From Around the World by Seymour Simon


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!


Strange Mysteries From Around the World
Author: Seymour Simon
Published May 1st, 1997 by HarperTrophy

Goodreads Summary: Describes ten strange natural phenomena and possible explanations for them, including the day it rained frogs, an atomic explosion that occurred forty years before the atom bomb, and an eerie crystal skull.

My Review and Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: These mysteries are so fascinating to read about and they are real! Although this book is a bit older, because the topic is strange mysteries it mostly doesn’t matter. It wold be interesting to read this aloud and then do research and see if anything has changed about the mysteries. I can also see this book being used as an opening of the day/class just to get kids focused. The mysteries intrigued me, so I really think kids would find them interesting as well.

Discussion Questions: What do you think happened at _____?; Which theory do you believe?

We Flagged: “When it’s raining heavily, some people say it’s ‘pouring cats and dogs.’ Of course, that only an expression. Cats and dogs really don’t rain down from the sky. (Although there may be poodles in the street.) But don’t be too sure that it never rains animals. Here is a quote from July 12, 1873, issue of the magazine Scientific American: ‘A shower of frogs, which darkened the air and covered the ground for a long distance, is the reported result of a recent rainstorm at Kansas City, Mo.'” (It’s Raining Frogs and Fish p. 1)

Read This If You Loved: Jane Yolen’s Unsolved Mysteries in HistoryEncyclopedia Horrifica by Joshua Gee, Alien Investigation by Kelly Milner Hall

Recommended For: 

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Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice by Catherine Lewis


Thrice Told Tales

Thrice Told Tales: Three Mice Full of Writing Advice
Author: Catherine Lewis
Published: August 27th, 2013 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

GoodReads Summary: Three Blind Mice. Three Blind Mice. See how they run? No. See how they can make all sorts of useful literary elements colorful and easy to understand! Can one nursery rhyme explain the secrets of the universe? Well, not exactly—but it can help you understand the difference between bildungsroman, epigram, and epistolary.

From the absurd to the wish-I’d-thought-of-that clever, writing professor Catherine Lewis blends Mother Goose with Edward Gorey and Queneau, and the result is learning a whole lot more about three not so helplessmice, and how to fine tune your own writing, bildungsroman and all.

If your writing is your air, this is your laughing gas.*

*That’s a metaphor, friends.

Review: This is one of those books that is so clever, I am depressed that I didn’t come up with the idea myself. Reading and writing teachers will adore the way this book is constructed and be excited to use it in their classrooms. A different writing term is creatively interpreted on each page within the context of the Three Blind Mice nursery rhyme. At the bottom of each page, Lewis gives an explanation of the writing term and how it can be employed in writing (see the flagged passage below). I loved the ways Lewis humorously portrayed each term. For example, on the page about style, she takes a line from the nursery rhyme and rewrites it in the style of famous authors like Dickens and Hemingway. As a bonus, I learned about a few literary terms that I didn’t know! It was so fun to read. I shared it with my pre-service teachers, and they also adored it and were excited to use it in their own classrooms.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers can hand-pick terms they want to teach to their students. I wish this book was published when I was teaching because it makes the literary terms very accessible. Teachers can take the terms and ask students to reinterpret them within the context of a different nursery rhyme (or even within the context of a song or movie).

Discussion Questions: How can I rewrite a nursery rhyme to show a literary term?; How can I employ these literary/writing terms to make me a better writer?

We Flagged: “Developing one’s style is like developing a sense of fashion. You may start off by trying on a lot of costume jewelry; big showy ten-dollar words. They’ll get attention all right, but maybe you’ll discover there’s something better out there for you. Perhaps you’ll try a charm bracelet full of dangling modifiers. Or a simple silver bracelet and an onyx ring. Keep experimenting for pleasant combinations, and a truer picture of yourself and your work will begin to emerge” (p. 134).

Read This If You Loved: In the Middle by Nancie Atwell, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Writing Workshop by Ralph Fletcher, Celebrating Writers by Ruth Ayres with Christi Overman

Recommended for:

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What is your favorite book for teaching writing? Can you think of creative ways to use this in the classroom?


Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle



Let it Snow
Authors: John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle
Published October 2nd, 2008 by Speak

Goodreads Summary: Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

My Review: You cannot go wrong with those authors! What I found was not only a romantic, funny book, but a perfect holiday read! Let it Snow is like those movies where you follow three very different stories and then eventually they intertwine and everything seems to follow into place. I loved reading each story, wanting to learn more about a certain character and then realizing the next story was about them! The authors also did a fantastic job throwing in aspects of Christmas and pushing the holiday cheer without shoving it down your throat. Let is Snow is one of those books that I want to curl up and read by the fire while it snows outside.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I would love to read this book in its entirety with students and then try to make a timeline of the three stories and how they overlap. It would be a great discussion of connections and sequence. Also, you could look at the voice of characters and how each author made theirs distinct (and how the others authors kept them distinct in their sections). This could also lead to a great discussion about style.

This book is also loved by students and should definitely be in teen libraries.

Discussion Questions: Think of a time when you were stuck somewhere that you didn’t want to be and couldn’t really do anything about it, how did you feel? What did you do to keep yourself busy? Did something happen that you would not have expected or that wouldn’t have happened if you weren’t stuck or stranded? 

We Flagged:
From “The Jubilee Express” by Maureen Johnson

“‘Oh my god!’ said one of the Ambers. ‘Is this not the worst trip ever? Did you see the snow?’
She was a sharp one, this Amber. What would she notice next? The train? The moon? The hilarious vagaries of human existence? Her own head?
I didn’t say any of that, because death by cheerleader is not really the way I want to go.” p. 22

From “A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle” by John Green

“I dashed upstairs, my socks sliding on the hardwood floor in the kitchen, and stumbled into my bedroom. I tore open the closet door and began feverishly sorting through the shirts piled on the floor in the vain hope that inside that pile there might be some wondrously perfect shirt down there, a nice striped button-down with no wrinkles that said, ‘I’m strong and tough but I’m also a surprisingly good listener with a true and abiding passion for cheers and those who lead them.’ Unfortunately, there was no such shirt to be found. I quickly settled on a dirty but cool yellow Threadless T-shirt under a black v-neck sweater. I kicked off my watching-James-Bond-movies-with-the-Duke-and-JP jeans and hurriedly wiggled into my pair of nice, dark jeans.” p. 131-132

From “The Patron Saint of Pigs” by Lauren Myracle

     “Being me sucked. Being me on this supposedly gorgeous night, with the supposedly gorgeous snow looming in five-foot drifts outside my bedroom window, double-sucked. Add the fact that today was Christmas, and my score was up to triple-suck. And add in the sad, aching, devastating lack of Jeb, and ding-ding-ding! The bell at the top of the Suckage Meter couldn’t ring any louder. Instead of jingle bells, I had suckage bells. Lovely.” p. 215
Read This If You Loved:
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Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett



Battle Bunny
Authors: Jon Scieszka and Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Matthew Myers
Published October 22nd, 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Alex has been given a saccharine, sappy, silly-sweet picture book about Birthday Bunny that his grandma found at a garage sale. Alex isn’t interested; until he decides to make the book something he’d actually like to read. So he takes out his pencil, sharpens his creativity, and totally transforms the story!

Birthday Bunny becomes Battle Bunny, and the rabbit’s innocent journey through the forest morphs into a supersecret mission to unleash an evil plan; a plan that only Alex can stop.

Featuring layered, original artwork that emphasizes Alex’s additions, this dynamic exploration of creative storytelling is sure to engage and inspire.

My Review: This book made me laugh out loud! What a perfect insight into the mind of a young boy (reminds me of so many doodles I’ve seen on papers over the year!).  Also, I was blown away by the creativity of Sceiszka and Barnett.  I wish I was teaching in a classroom because it would have been a book that I would have brought into the classroom to share with kids (yes, even my middle schoolers. Actually, definitely my middle schoolers.) because it is just so awesome!

Teachers Tools for Navigation: This picture book would be so much fun as a read aloud (original story than the modified one). Also, I can also picture bringing in picture books (maybe older ones or bought at a used book store) and letting the students modify their own! And so much creativity, vocabulary, cleverness, imagination, etc. are needed to transform a text the way Alex did–it’d be such a fun yet tough activity.

There is even a Battle Bunny website ( where you can make your own story. They give you the original Birthday Bunny text and let you make your own. They actually provide PDFs of the entire text!  Also on the website are educators information that includes a curriculum guide.

Discussion Questions: What other stories could you build around Birthday Bunny?; (Writing activity) Using the picture book you were given, create a new story by changing words and adding photos.

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Scaredy Squirrel books by Melanie Watts, Bananas in my Ears by Michael Rosen, The Stinky Cheese Man by Jon Scieszka, You Will Be My Friend by Peter Brown

Recommended For: 

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Exclamation Mark by Amy Krouse Rosenthal



Exclamation Mark
Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrator: Tom Lichtenheld
Published March 1st, 2013 by Scholastic Press

Goodreads Summary: From the bestselling creators of Duck! Rabbit!, an exciting tale of self-discovery!

He stood out here.

He stood out there.

He tried everything to be more like them.

It’s not easy being seen. Especially when you’re NOT like everyone else. Especially when what sets you apart is YOU.

Sometimes we squish ourselves to fit in. We shrink. Twist. Bend. Until — ! — a friend shows the way to endless possibilities.

In this bold and highly visual book, an emphatic but misplaced exclamation point learns that being different can be very exciting! Period.

My Review and Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Rosenthal and Lichtenheld have given us a little piece of gold in this book. Not only would it be so much fun to read aloud (I would love to change my emphasis depending on the punctuation), but what a great introduction to ending punctuation! It wold be one of those “trick” books where students learn really enjoying themselves because the story and humor will win them over.

Discussion Questions: When are periods used vs. exclamation marks and question marks?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld, Other grammar game/story books

Recommended For: 

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The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley



The Dumbest Idea Ever!
Author and Illustrator: Jimmy Gownley
Expected Publication February 25th, 2014 by GRAPHIX

Goodreads Summary: Jimmy Gownley’s graphic novel memoir about the “dumb” idea that changed his life forever!

What if the dumbest idea ever turned your life upside down?

At thirteen, Jimmy was popular, at the top of his class, and the leading scorer on his basketball team. But all that changed when chicken pox forced him to miss the championship game. Things went from bad to worse when he got pneumonia and missed even more school. Before Jimmy knew it, his grades were sinking and nothing seemed to be going right.

How did Jimmy turn things around, get back on top at school, and land a date with the cutest girl in class?

Renowned comics creator Jimmy Gownley shares his adventures as he grows from an eager-to-please boy into a teenage comic book artist. This is the real-life story of how the DUMBEST idea ever became the BEST thing that ever happened to him.

My Review: I own many of the Amelia Rules series, but I had not read them before; however, when I got Jimmy Gownley’s memoir graphic novel, I knew I had to read it. I am always looking for ways to get my students to read more nonfiction and a graphic novel autobiography (like Smile) is definitely one of the ways to get them more interested in nonfiction. And, like Smile, Jimmy’s story is one that students will definitely connect with and, hopefully, enjoy. It deals with not only Jimmy’s journey of writing his graphic novel but also many the transition to high school and first love.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book will be a definite motivator for students and really shares that a teen can do anything. And on top of the message, it is a well-written, funny story that students will enjoy.

I can also see it being used as a mentor text to have students write their own memoir graphic novel. You could use Jarrett Krosoczka’s writing mountain video ( to help write an in-depth story, work on deciding on life moments to write about, and then maybe use to story board the story.

Discussion Questions: What circumstances helped make Jimmy write his comic?

We Flagged: “Look at this! There must be dozens of new books here! Hundreds! War comics and humor comics…Horror, crime, sci-fi, romance… and not one of them look appropriate for a kid my age. AWESOME.” (p. 60)

Read This If You Loved: Smile by Raina Telgemeier, Amelia Rules! series by Jimmy Gownley, Zebrafish by Peter H. Reynolds

Recommended For: 

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