Building Our House by Jonathan Bean

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Building Our House
Author and Illustrator: Jonathan Bean
Published January 8th, 2013 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

Summary: Based on Jonathan Bean’s childhood experience, Building Our House follows a family who moves to a piece of land and builds their own home over the course of many years.

My Review: What an amazing story! It is even more amazing because it is based off of the author’s true childhood events. In the book, we follow the family from living in a trailer surrounded by bare land to living in their dream home. Though the summary seems so simple, it is much more than just watching a family build a home. It is about being determined, resilient, hardworking, a strong family, and patient. I also see it drawing in readers who are curious by building and tools. Finally, to make this story even better, the illustrations are so intricate and colorful which will also draw in readers (and has gotten it on Mock Caldecott lists).

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The story is told in a very sequential way and would be a great introduction or resource for teaching sequence. Then, I noticed as reading, that often there is more going on in the illustrations then is stated in the words. It would be a great activity to reinforce sequence to tell the other story to the story- the story told in the illustrations.

Discussion Questions: What character traits must the Mom and Dad have to work this long/hard on their dream home?; Put the main events in sequential order.; When was a time that your family came together to do something?

We Flagged: “Our crew works until the sun sets and the frame stands strong in the middle of the field. Mom makes places for everyone to sit around a fire. We eat and talk and play until the stars shine and the owls call.” (p. 24)

Read This If You Loved: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, Mitchell Goes Bowling by Hallie Durand

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The building of his childhood home is a memory that has lasted for Jonathan Bean. If you were going to write a book about a moment or memory from your childhood, what would it be?

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Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems by Jack Prelutsky

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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!

 

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Stardines Swim High Across the Sky and Other Poems
Author: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: Carin Berger
Published February 26th, 2013 by Greenwillow Books

Summary: Jack Prelutsky combines inanimate objects with animals to give us a new collection of fun poetry that is accompanied by Carin Berger’s amazing fine artwork.

My Review: I love the concept behind this book. It is set up like an informational nonfiction book with each poem being presented like a specimen. Carin Berger’s artwork is full of found objects that were photographed to add to the nonfiction feeling of each poem.   And, of course, Prelutsky adds a sense of humor to each poem as that is what he does.

The creatures that Prelutsky came up with are so clever – SOBCATS who are sad cats, JOLLYFISH who are happy jellyfish, TATTLESNAKE are snakes that won’t stop tattling, and GLOOSE are a bird that keep sticking to everything. And these are just four examples of sixteen in the book.

I cannot review this book without talking about the artwork. I originally chose this book because I saw it on a Mock Caldecott list and I can definitely see why. Carin Berger illustrates this novel with beautiful pieces of artwork. As stated on the copyright page: “The miniature dioramas in this book are assemblages created using a combination of cut paper, found ephemera, vintage engravings (which were scanned, manipulated in Photoshop, and then printed out), beeswax, wire, thread, and wood. Once each piece was made, it was then photographed digitally to prepare the full-color art.” What a fantastic process to discuss with students and it definitely added an essential aspect to the book.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Each poem is its own discussion starter. First, to separate the title creatures into the two words that were combined and looking at what the animals is and what the word is that it was combined with. For example: “Chormorants” is a combination of CORMORANT and CHORES. Then I’d look through the poem and find where the animal is represented and where the combined word plays a role. And on top of that, each poem can be looked at as a poem and look for poetic elements within it.  Each poem is a stand-alone, well done poem that is sure to start a conversation.

Discussion Questions: Which poem is your favorite? Why?; Combine an animal with a word and write a poem about this new creature.; How do you think Berger’s artwork added to the book? How would cartoon illustrations have made the book different?

We Flagged: Every poem is a gem, but this is my favorite-

“PLANDAS sit around all day,
Planning what to do.
Their plans amount to nothing,
For they never see them through.
They plan to run a marathon
Or take a railroad trip.
They plan to cross the ocean
On a wooden sailing ship.
***
They plan to learn to roller-skate,
To juggle, and to fence.
They plan to go to clown school
And cavort in circus tents.
They plan to play the saxophone
And form their own brass bands. . . .
But PLANDAS never do these things –
They just keep making plans.” (p. 21)

Read This If You Loved: Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky, My Teacher Likes to Say by Denise Brennan-Nelson,  Lemonade by Bob Raczka

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Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway!: Sidekicked by John David Anderson

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We are so happy to be hosting a stop on the Sidekicked blog tour! Walden Pond Press is such a fantastic publisher and we love being able to partake in the hype of their equally wonderful titles. Make sure that, after you stop by our tour stop, you visit the other stops: SIDEKICKED: The Superhero Blog Tour.

Today, for our blog tour stop, I (Kellee) will be reviewing Sidekicked and we’ll also be hosting a giveaway!

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Sidekicked
Author: John David Anderson
Published June 25th, 2013 by Walden Pond Press

Summary: Andrew Bean was born with amazing abilities to sense things (hear, see, taste, touch and smell) better than anyone else on the planet. No wonder that he was recruited to be part of H.E.R.O. program at the middle school: an extracurricular “club” to prep students with super-powers to become the city’s superhero’s sidekicks.  Andrew, along with five other extraordinary middle schoolers including Andrew’s best friend Jenna, join Mr. Martin three times a week to work on their powers and to prepare to be the best sidekick possible. Andrew’s only problem is that his superhero is MIA not even showing up to save him when he is hanging over a pool of acid. However, Andrew’s problem seems like nothing when supervillains escape from high security prison and begin rampaging their town–throwing the sidekicks right in the middle of a super-big problem.

My Review: What a super fun book! I love the concept of H.E.R.O. and how starting in middle school sidekicks are trained to be help to their superhero–talk about career track! This concepts lends to a great story because not only do you have the sidekicks/superhero aspect of the story, but you also are throwing these kids in the middle of middle school- major drama!

Right in the middle of this drama and action is Andrew. What a funny kid! I love his voice and his story. He is a perfect protagonist for this novel (I cannot even imagine the story being told from any of the other sidekick’s POV). He is a bit nerdy, a sweet boy, pretty sarcastic, friends with the the star sidekick, and has some seriously awesome powers (even if they aren’t physical). The nerdy/sweet/sarcastic part gives us a pretty snarky, fun narrator that many people will connect with. Being friends with the star sidekick gives us some insight into her life which is pretty darn exciting and also adds the strong female and a tiny bit of romance. Finally, his type of superpowers lends to the story being told because the whole book is about Andrew figuring out his spot in the mess around him and that includes empowering his superpowers.

OH, and just you wait for the last quarter. Holy plot twist Batman! I was very shocked about part of what transpires at the end and I think you and our students will be as well.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is definitely for all middle school classroom libraries! It will find great readership from all types of readers: Alex Rider fans to action/adventure fans to powerful female character fans. All you need to booktalk it, get it into a couple of students’ hands, and it will never be on the shelf. The book would also be great as a read aloud because it is fun and would lend to some great predictions and some discussions about right vs. wrong as well as the choices the characters make. It has humor and action enough to draw in an entire class!

Discussion Questions: Which of the sidekicks’ superpowers would you rather have? Why?; Which of the superheroes would you rather be a sidekick for?; Some superheroes think that they do not need a sidekick- what are your feelings? Is 2 better than 1?; Jenna asks (in Ch. 16) a pretty tough question- what makes someone a good person? After reading Ch. 16, discuss this question.

We Flagged: “It’s Tuesday. It’s Tuesday and I’m in costume, but just barely. That is to say that I have my mask and outfit on, so nobody knows who I am. Or almost nobody at least. Which pretty much sums up my life as a whole. It’s Tuesday, which means it is sloppy joe day in the cafeteria, which is bad enough, but that’s not the worth thing that can happen to you. It’s Tuesday- middle of September, only a month into the new school year- and I’m hovering over Justicia community poo, which two weeks ago was still filled with a dozen drowning bugs and the farewell tinkle from the last toddler to be dragged streaming out of it. Today it is filled with acid. Seriously. Acid.” (p. 9)

Read This If You Love: Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz, The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy series by William Boniface, Adventures of Daniel Boom AKA Loud Boy series by David Steinberg, Lunch Lady series by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, Mal and Chad series by Stephen McCranie

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I know you all want to read this book- it is so good!

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**Thank you to Kellie at Walden Pond Press for providing a copy for review and giveaway!**

Junket is Nice by Dorothy Kunhardt

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Junket is Nice
Author: Dorothy Kunhardt
Published: June 25th, 2013 by NYR Children’s Collection
(First published: 1933)

Summary: An old man with a red beard and red slippers eats junket out of a big, red bowl. All of the people arrive and want to know what he thinks about while he eats his junket. The old man tells them the three things he is NOT thinking about, and the people try to guess what he is thinking. Only the little boy, who arrived last, truly knows what the old man is thinking while he is eating his junket.

Ricki’s Review: Kids will love the crowd’s nonsensical guesses of what the old man is thinking about while he eats his junket–from “a kangaroo jumping over a glass of orange juice so as not to spill it” to “a bear climbing a ladder because his toenails are too long for walking on the ground”–I can imagine a whole class giggling as the people make their guesses.

Dorothy Kunhardt has a very creative imagination that kids are sure to enjoy. The drawings are very humorous, and I couldn’t help but chuckle as I read this picture book–the idea of a “daddy-long-legs holding up his foot for the sun to warm it” is just very silly! Junket is Nice would allow for a lot of great, creative thinking in the classroom. Readers of Pat the Bunny are sure to enjoy this classic.

Kellee’s Review: This book is so full of imagination. The clever, funny animals that the crowd comes up with while trying to guess what the old man is thinking will definitely, like Ricki says, make a whole class giggle. It also will be the most discussed part of the book, I’m sure.  You can tell that Dorothy Kunhardt was full of imagination and wanted to make this book as fun as possible.  Her son remembers her being curious and appreciating the way young people viewed the book, and you can tell by Junket is Nice that she embraced this curiosity and put as much of it into her books as possible.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers could use this book and have students create their own riddles like Kunhardt’s–“What is the old man thinking while he eats his junket?” They could even create their own picture books for their riddles. Alternatively, a teacher might read all the way up to the section of the book that gives the answer to the riddle. Then, each student in the classroom might draw their own creative guess about what the old man is thinking. This would allow students to make predictions, based on the other guesses within the book.

Discussion Questions: What might the old man be thinking about when he eats his junket?; Why might the little boy be the only one who knows what the old man is thinking about?; Was the ending satisfying, or did you wish the old man was thinking about something else?

We Flagged: “‘People why don’t you try and guess what I am thinking about all the time I am eating my junket and if you guess right I will give you something nice'” (p. 16).

Read This If You Loved: Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt, The Napping House by Audrey Wood, That is Not a Good Idea by Mo Willems, other picture book classics like Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey and The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton 

Recommended For:

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Don’t forget to enter the giveaway below so you can win your own copy of Junket is Nice!

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**Thank you to Media Masters Publicity for providing copies for us to review**

More Than This by Patrick Ness

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More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Expected Publication September 10th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Readers are thrown into the action right from the beginning of this book. Seth is drowning–he is dying. When he wakes up, he is naked, alone, and unfamiliar with his surroundings. Seth knows he has died, but he isn’t sure where he is. In his distant memories, he remembers the English town that he is in, but he moved away after an enormous tragedy in his childhood, so why has he returned? The town looks very different from the way he remembers it–as if no one has lived there in over a decade. Seth sets out to try to discover where he is. He hopes he isn’t alone, the world hasn’t ended, and he hasn’t arrived in his personal Hell.

Review: At the beginning of my reading, I felt the same feelings as I felt with The Maze Runner by James Dashner. I was bewildered, confused, and very curious about where the book was headed. Patrick Ness phenomenally reveals details so slowly that it makes it very difficult to put this one down. It is highly unpredictable and extremely engaging. This book evades the typical features that would lock it into one genre–it is a thriller, an adventure, and a, frankly, an incredibly thoughtful work of science fiction. More Than This teaches readers about loyalty, resilience, hope, and bravery, amongst other messages that I can’t express without revealing details of the plot. Dive into this one–it will send you to a world that will make you ponder elements of life you may not have ever considered before.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This is one of the best books that I’ve read that can be used for helping students make predictions. Teachers can use the whole book or excerpts of the text, and students would love predicting plot details, grounded in the evidence the plot provides. Like all of Ness’s writing, this book experiments with language and sentence structure, and students could examine how Ness uses language to advance the plot and overall meaning of the book. 

Discussion Questions: How does Ness reveal plot details as a way to engage his audience? Is he effective?; Where is Seth? What might Ness be telling us about the world we live in?; In the beginning of the book, Seth wonders if he has woken up in his personal Hell. Where would your personal Hell be?; What memories shape who you are as a person? Have you learned from them? How?

We Flagged: “There’s an unreality under all the dust, all the weeds. Ground that seems solid but that might give way any moment” (p. 51).

“A book, he thinks at one point, rubbing his eyes, tired from so much focused reading. It’s a world all on its own, too. […] A world made of words, Seth thinks, where you live for a while” (p. 143).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. They may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Maze Runner by James Dashner, The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Recommended For:

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Thank you to Candlewick Press for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Any Patrick Ness fans out there? Have you read this one or pre-ordered it?

What are your favorite science fiction books?

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani

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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!

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Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas
Author: Jim Ottaviani
Illustrator: Maris Wicks
Published June 11th, 2013 by First Second

Summary: Three woman in the 1960s and 1970s took part in primatology research that would change the way that we think about primates. Three woman who took a chance and researched potentially dangerous animals in their wild habitats. Three woman who took risks when many did not believe that woman should be part of the sciences. Primates tells the stories of Jane Goodall, a researcher of chimps, Dian Fossey, a gorilla expert, and Birute Galdikas, an orangutan researcher, and how their lives overlap and differ.

My Review: I may be bias, but this is one of my favorite nonfiction graphic novels ever. Bias because I am a huge ape advocate and am fascinated by them. These creatures are amazing; their intelligence is so remarkable that it is hard to even fathom. The reason why I loved this book is because it takes you through the research of three groundbreaking woman scientists and what they learned about the three completely different apes. It makes sure to show how each ape is different and spectacular as well as how each lady’s research made an impact.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I think that this book is a great introduction to apes and would be a perfect read aloud before book talking other books such as Endangered (about a different ape that isn’t mentioned in Primates), Hurt Go HappyHalf Brother, and other nonfiction like Chimpanzees I LoveMe…Jane, and Gorillas in the Mist.  Check out my Nerdy Book Club Post: Top Ten Ape Books (which I would definitely add this one to) to see what other books you could connect Primates too.

Discussion Questions: How do the apes that Jane, Dian, and Birute study similar? Different?; How did Dr. Leaky play a part in all three women’s research?; Which ape is your favorite? Why?

We Flagged: Part 1: But in my dreams, I did bigger things Ever since I was a very young girl I had Africa in my blood so to speak. Sometimes my mother Vanne might have hoped I’d get over it, but even as I grew older I never did. “I do wish you’d read something… else, on occasion” “But I do! I just finished Dr. Dolittle.” “Yes, for the… How many times is that?” “Seven, Mummy.” “Well you’ll never get into a top school if that’s all you study.” “I shan’t be going to college – I want to live with wild animals when I grow up!”” (p. 3)

Also check out the School Library Journal Blog’s interview with Jim Ottaviani to see some of the artwork.

Read This If You Loved: Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey, Any nonfiction book about apes including Chimpanzees I Love by Jane Goodall, Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby, Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel, Little Beauty by Anthony Browne, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

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What is your favorite ape book?
Have you read Primates yet? What did you think?

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Zebra Forest by Adina Rishe Gewirtz

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Zebra Forest
Author: Adina Rishe Gewirtz
Published April 9th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: Annie and Rew have only vague memories of their father who died triumphantly and don’t remember their mother at all who decided she didn’t want to be a mom. They now live with their grandmother who suffers with an agoraphobia-type disorder. Some days she rarely leaves her room leaving Annie to be in charge of the household, her brother, and any tough decisions including lying to her social worker. This has lead to Annie having to grow up faster than other 11-year-olds. Most of her days, she spends time with her brother near the zebra forest telling stories and reminiscing about their father and the adventures that he would have taken if he was still alive. Though, like in all of our lives, one moment can change everything and with a rattling, stuck backdoor Annie and Rew’s lives will never be the same.

My Review: Sometimes you come across quiet novels that aren’t being talked about in the mainstream that  are very entertaining and well done. This is one of those books.  It starts out quietly with amazing stories being told between Annie and Rew and great character development. Then the plot twist changes everything! And the suspense, emotion, and background story really starts to build.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The most specific aspect of this book that I see to use in the classroom as a mentor text is the creative storytelling talents that she displays throughout the book. She tells amazing stories that include extensions from Treasure Island and adventures of her father (ex. p. 21-26). Also, this book is contemporary fiction and takes place during the Iranian Hostage Crisis which would be a way to teach this important part of history that many students may not be aware of. Mostly, I see this book being used as a read aloud or lit circle to lead to discussion of the plot and characters.

Discussion Questions: After reading Treasure Island, do you agree with Annie and Rew’s favorite characters (p. 70-71)?; Have you ever lied in a situation because you felt that it was necessary? Explain.; Research the Iran Hostage Situation. From Annie we learned the basics about the crisis; what did you learn from research about it?

We Flagged: “Outside, I could smell the Zebra. Even if for some reason I stopped feeling cold or hot or rain or sun, I bet I could close my eyes and still tell which season I was in just by the smell of the tees and dirt there. Spring was sweet mud and flowers. Fall had a kind of moldy edge to it, and winter was all dust and bark. As for summer, the Zebra carried a mossy, thick aroma full of baking leaves and oozing sap, which I guess was its growing smell.” (p. 87)

“Most recently he [their father] was a secret agent, working to free those hostages in Iran. Rew loved to imagine the Middle Eastern desert, sandstorms and mullahs and veiled ladies, and our father somewhere among them, bartering for hostages in a dusty marketplace or smoking a hookah with a sheik.” (p. 22)

Read This If You Loved: One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson, Paperboy by Vince Vawter, My Mixed-up Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari [Zebra Forest is a very unique book. I chose the books because they have similar tone or the characters and are for similar age levels.]

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What is a favorite book of yours that flies under the mainstream radar?

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**Thank you to Candlewick Press for providing a copy for review. Jen also reviewed this book at Teach Mentor Texts, so make sure to check out her review, too!**