Ol’ Mama Squirrel by David Ezra Stein


ol mama

Ol’ Mama Squirrel
Author and Illustrator: David Ezra Stein
Published March 21st, 2013 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Goodreads Summary: Caldecott Honor winner David Ezra Stein’s lively tale is a fantastic read-aloud, and feisty Mama Squirrel will have fierce mamas everywhere applauding!

Ol’ Mama Squirrel has raised lots of babies, and she knows just how to protect them. Whenever trouble comes nosing around, she springs into action with a determined “Chook, chook, chook!” and scares trouble away. Her bravery is put to the test, however, when a really big threat wanders into town and onto her tree. But no matter what, Mama’s not about to back down!

My Review: I loved Mama Squirrel. She does anything to save her babies. Anything. This book had me laughing and I know children everywhere will love it.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: First and foremost, this book needs to be read aloud. With voices.  Kids will love it! This is primarily how this book should be used: as a read aloud. Though, it could lead to discussions about a couple of different things: cause and effect (very basic, would be a good introduction), protective vs. overprotective, team work, family, and (if with older kids and really want to push it) laws about protecting property like “Stand your Ground”.

Discussion Questions: Do you think Mama Squirrel goes to far sometimes? When?; What does Mama do that causes the intruders to leave? When this didn’t work, how did she get the bear to leave?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Scaredy Squirrel (series) by Melanie Watt, Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger, Interrupting Chicken by David Ezra Stein

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


Journey by Aaron Becker



Author and Illustrator: Aaron Becker
Published August 6th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart’s desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

My Review: This book is very hard to explain the magic of it. Lorna (@notforlunch) described it the best, I think: “a wonderful mashup of a David Wiesner book and Harold and the Purple Crayon.” I think this is perfect. It has the illustration beauty and magic of a wordless David Wiesner picture book and it is about creativity (and a crayon) like Harold. The beauty of the castle she visted also reminded me of Cathedral by David Macaulay. This book is just full of amazing! (You know it is good if it is a topic of #SharpSchu book club!)

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This was a bit hard for me. I can envision how this book would be used in the middle grades, but I was blanking on ideas for primary. I know this book needs to be shared, but how?

In my classroom, the first thing I would do is project the book and just have the students read it with me. No talking; just looking. Then we’d go back and discuss what is going on in the book, talk about some of the smaller parts of the illustrations, relive the journey. If I wanted to include a writing activity, we could add words to the book (although, I think this book’s illustrations stand alone). We could also discuss what we’d do if we had a magic crayon. I think this book would be a great addition to Dot Day and discussing creativity. Finally, I think a discussion of observing your surroundings would be appropriate as what the girl wanted the most was right in front of her at the beginning of the book.

Discussion Questions: What would you do with a magic crayon?; What was your favorite part of the journey?; Two parts remind me of Where the Wild Things Are, can you figure out which parts?; What do you think the girl’s name is?; Aaron Becker grew up in many different parts of the world including Japan. Can you find influences of Japan in this story? What about some of the other places he lived?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, Blackout by John Rocco, David Weisner wordless picture books, Cathedral by David Macaulay, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Henri Mouse by George Mendoza, Chalk by Bill Thomson, Art & Max by David Weisner, Weslandia by Paul Fleishman, Narnia (series) by C.S. Lewis

Recommended For: 

closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall

I put “Read Aloud” although this book is wordless; however, I know it needs to be shared with students. How would you share this book with your students in a read aloud fashion? 


Roanoke, The Lost Colony: An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple


NF PB 2013

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!


Roanoke, The Lost Colony: An Unsolved Mystery from History
Author: Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabeth Yolen Stemple
Illustrator: Roger Roth
Published July 1st, 2003 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: In 1587 John White was chosen by Sir Walter Raleigh to lead a new colony at Roanoke off the Atlantic coast. After bringing many men, women, and children to the new land, White went back to England to gather supplies for the long winter. But when he finally returned to the fort almost three years later, he found that all of the colonists had vanished. The only signs of life left were the letters CRO carved into a tree and the word CROATOAN carved into one of the fort’s posts. Some people think that the Spanish army captured the colonists; some people think that the local native people murdered them; others think that the colonists went off to live with the native people and start a new life. Still others think that the colonists tried to sail home to England and were lost at sea. No one knows for sure. Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to figure out the fate of the lost colony of Roanoke. The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. Read carefully and check your clues. You might be the first to solve a puzzle that has baffled people for years.

My Review: Just like all of the others in this series, I found this story fascinating. Unlike, The Wolf Girls, this is a mystery from history that I wanted to learn more about. I had heard of Roanoke, but I didn’t know anything except that it is the lost colony where everyone disappeared. I was never taught about Roanoke, so this was my initial introduction to the colony and man, it is all so fascinating!

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: I am going to sound like a broken record here, but this, like the other parts of the series, can be used in such amazing ways in the classroom! Check out my Salem Witch Trials and The Wolf Girls reviews to read about how I envision these books being used in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: What do you think happened to everyone? Do you agree with any of the theories given at the end or do you have one of your own?

We Flagged: Narrative nonfiction The colonists left Portsmouth on April 26, 1587. They planned to meet with the soldiers, then go to Chesapeake Bay, north of Roanoke, where the land was more fertile and the harbor was safer. They sailed in three boats: a flyboat; a pinnace; and the flagship, Lyon. After a month and a haft at sea they reached the Americas at last, stopping first on several islands. At Santa Cruz several colonists ate green fruit. Their lips and tongues swelled badly. A number of people drank from a pond that had ‘water so evil’ they fell dreadfully ill. Some who washed  their faces in the water had swollen eyes for five or six days after. They captured five huge tortoises for meat—so large, sixteen men become exhausted hauling them back to the ship.”

Informational nonfiction “For long ocean journeys several types of ships were generally used, including: Flagship- the fleet’s largest, best, or safest ship, on which the commander sailed; Flyboat- a large boat with one or two masts, generally square rigged; Pinnace- a smaller, faster, more maneuverable boat that sometimes carried oars.”

Vocabulary “Fertile: capable of supporting a plentiful crop; Tortoise: land turtle of the warm climates, a good food source because the meat doesn’t spoil quickly” (p. 10-11)

Read This If You Loved: Any of the Unsolved Mysteries from History, Nonfiction books about Roanoke

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall

closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall


Stained by Cheryl Rainfield



Author: Cheryl Rainfield
Expected Publication October 1st, 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.

My Review: Cheryl delves into two very different tough subjects in this book. First, we meet Sarah who is a 16-year-old girl who was born with a port-wine stain. As with anything that makes you different when you are a teenager, it affects your life daily. Sarah has trouble fitting in, is bullied, and only has a few friends. Through this experience, though, she has also had a very narrow focus on physical appearance and pushes people away because she is focused so much on a surgery that would temporarily remove her port-wine stain. However, as she is dealing with not receiving her surgery, Sarah is thrown into the scariest situation a girl could become part of: she is kidnapped, locked away, and abused by her kidnapper.

Though this is a very tough book to read, it was one that I couldn’t put down. It is amazing how Cheryl takes the tragedies she has been through and transports her strength and experiences into her characters.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This story will resonate with many students because it is about a circumstance that far too many teenagers find themselves in or know someone that has experienced being bullied or abused. This makes it a very important book that needs to be accessible because sometimes teenagers need to know about having courage to stand up against evil: “Sometimes you have to be your own hero.”  [I think this is a perfect book to review during Banned Books Week because Cheryl has found her books challenged. However, why should we keep books off the shelf that have ultimately saved readers’ lives? Hear more about my thoughts on banned/challenged books tomorrow.]

Discussion Questions: Sarah has dealt with having a large birthmark on her face since birth and has had to deal with the bullies. Do you think Sarah dealt correctly with the bullies? Could some of the other students around have done something differently?; What traits does Sarah have that helped her during her horrible situation?; Why was the title of the book Stained?

We Flagged: “I feel so dirty, like his smell is clinging to me still, sweat and cologne and sex. Like he’s stained me deeper than my birthmark ever could. Stained my soul, stained everything that makes me who I am.” (p. 99)

Read This If You Loved: Room by Emma Donoghue, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney, Hunted by Cheryl Rainfield, The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer, Girl, Stolen by April Henry, Stitches by David Small

Recommended For: 



All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill [Ricki’s Review]


13514612 17451105

All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Published: September 3rd, 2013 by Disney Hyperion

GoodReads Summary: “You have to kill him.” Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

 Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

Review: This is a great science fiction text that will please readers who enjoy reading about time travel and/or dystopian settings. I was immediately pulled into the prison cell with Marina. Terrill does an excellent job with imagery, and I enjoyed the way the plot unfolded. As with most books that discuss time travel, I found a few paradoxes that felt like plot holes, but most books with a time-traveling plot seem to raise this concern for me, as time traveling is sort of a paradox in itself. Overall, I think Terrill did an excellent job trying to alleviate any possible plot issues, and I was impressed with her ability to build such an, intricate, complex plot. While there was a love story, it doesn’t take front and center of this novel, which I appreciated. Often, love stories forced in science fiction books, and Terrill seems to achieve the perfect balance between plot, theme, and romance. The book contains wonderfully richly realized themes that I will discuss in the next section, and I think teachers would be wise to add this book to their classroom libraries. Teens will absolutely love this one.

You can also see Kellee’s point of view by viewing her review here.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The themes of this novel truly make it shine. This book would provide for some fantastic classroom discussions. Teachers could have students examine power and how it influences people, or they could look at loyalty and whether there is a limit to our loyalty to our loved ones. Students would have a lot of fun imagining one thing they would change if they could use a time travel machine (either changing a worldly event or a personal life event). The journal opportunities are endless.

Discussion Questions: How does power influence an individual? Given extreme power, will all people be driven to selfishness?; Who are we most loyal to? Is there a limit to our loyalty?; What events would we change if we could travel back in time? How would our changes impact the world or our lives in a positive way? What are the negative outcomes?; What paradoxes come with time travel? Is there any way to alleviate these?; If we had the power to travel in time, should we? How might time travel be harmful?

We Flagged: “‘Was [the world] always this beautiful and we just never noticed?'” (Chapter 5).

“…But progress is always dangerous, isn’t it? Most of the time, walls don’t get dismantled brick by brick. Someone has to crash through them” (Chapter 19).

Please note: The above quotes are from the Advanced Reader Copy. The e-book (a galley) did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, The Giver by Lois Lowry, Legend by Marie Lu, Divergent by Veronica Roth

Recommended For:

litcirclesbuttonsmall  classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


**Thank you to NetGalley and Disney Hyperion for providing the Advanced Reader Copy for review!**

The Wolf Girls: An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple


NF PB 2013

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!


The Wolf Girls: An Unsolved Mystery from History
Authors: Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple
Illustrator: Roger Roth
Published August 1st, 2000 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: In 1920 a missionary brought two young girls to an orphanage in India. The girls didn’t know how to talk, walk, or eat from a plate. Some people thought the girls had been abandoned by their parents. Some people said the girls were brought up by wolves in the wild. Still others thought that the missionary who ran the orphanage made up the story about the girls. No one knows for sure.

Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to figure out the fate of the wolf girls of Midnapore. The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. Read carefully and check your clues. You might be the first to solve a puzzle that has baffled people for years.

My Review: This story was fascinating as I had never heard of the wolf girls and came in with no prior knowledge about the mystery. It was so much fun to be full on submerged in the mystery and following the clues that are given throughout the “case notebook”.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is set up just like the Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History and could be used the same way in the classroom: This book promotes studying history, inquiry, and vocabulary. The book begins with an introduction to a young girl who enjoys unsolved mysteries from history and then the book is set up like her case notebook. Each page of the case notebook includes a narrative nonfiction section, an informational nonfiction section where facts about the story are explained even more in detail, and then there are vocabulary words from the two sections defined for the reader. Finally, in the back of the book the different theories about what could be the answer to the unsolved mystery are shared and briefly discussed. The set up of this book leads to infinite possibilities of being used in the classroom. Students could debate, write research papers, could do their very own case notebook about a different mystery, etc. Another option is to get all of the Unsolved Mystery from History books and have students get into lit circle groups and have each group read a different mystery then research and share.

What I like particularly about this one is that there is so much to debate as there aren’t many clues given throughout the story. Many of the eye witnesses are unreliable and there aren’t many facts shared throughout the book. I think this book would lead to a great discussion about primary and secondary sources as well as reliability.

Discussion Questions: Which theory do you believe about the wolf girls?; Do you think a journal written a year after an incident is reliable?; Many of the scientific facts and theories shared are from the 18th and 19th century, are these facts still what science believes?; Why do you think the missionary’s wife never spoke of the wolf girls?; Why do you think that Singh’s accounts were different than his daughter’s?; Singh said he did not want to exploit the girls yet he let people come to see her – is this exploitation? Do you think what he did was wrong?

We Flagged: Narrative nonfiction “After nursing the two girls back to health, the Reverend Singh loaded them into the cart and drove them for eight days to his orphanage in Midnapore. But the wolf girls were so weak and emaciated, they could not move about, so at first no one outside of the orphanage saw them. Singh wrote in his journal, ‘They were accepted simply as neglected children.’

Informational Nonfiction Singh wrote in his journal that the girls were mud-covered, with scratches, scars, and fleas. The heels of their hands were callused from running on all fours. Their ears trembled like a dog’s when they were excited. Their brows were bushy and long. Each had arms almost reaching their knees. Their teeth were close-set, uneven, with fine, sharp edges, the canines longer and more pointed than is usual in humans. However, Singh took no scientific measurements and invited no scientists to examine the girls. He took photographs that were fuzzy and indistinct. Years later, his own daughter, when interviewed, did not remember the distinctive teeth or exceptional ears or terrifically bushy brows.

Vocabulary Emaciated: thin and feeble due to disease or poor food; Neglected: not take proper care of” (p. 20-21)

Read This If You Loved: Yolen’s other Unsolved Mystery from History books

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall

closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall

What mystery from history do you wish Jane Yolen had written about? 


Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger


Crankee Doodle
Author: Tom Angelberger
Illustrator: Cece Bell
Published June 4th, 2013 by Clarion Books

Goodreads Summary: “Yankee Doodle went to town / a-riding on a pony / stuck a feather in his hat / and called it macaroni.” Many know the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” but few understand it. This unapologetically silly picture book reveals that the legendary ride to town (and the whole macaroni thing) was all suggested by Mr. Doodle’s overeager pony. This just makes Mr. Doodle cranky: “I do not want macaroni. I do not want a feather. I do not want any other clothing, any other pasta, or any other parts of a bird. I do not want anything that they have in town!” A historical note ends this colorful, comical take on a nonsensical old song.

My Review: Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell are a match made in heaven (good think they found each other)! This book is funny from page one and will definitely get the reader giggling.  The hilarious story line mixed with the colorful, exaggerated, silly illustrations make the reader purely engaged in the book.  This book will definitely make the reader sing “Yankee Doodle” and want to read the book again.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: What I love about this book is that it’ll be a perfect read aloud, but it also connects to history by having a historical note in the back. Who wrote “Yankee Doodle”? No one knows, but what a great conversation started and a way to introduce Colonial America.

In the story, the word macaroni is also discussed. Macaroni used to mean fancy, but now it obviously doesn’t. What a way to begin a discussion of how words change meaning over time. There are TONS of words that have changed their meaning.  Going over this and giving would really start a great discussion and could lead to some amazing activities.

Discussion Questions: Why would the British want to make fun of Americans during Colonial America?; How did the horse persuade Doodle to go to town?; How would this story have been different if the pony was the lazy and Doodle wasn’t?

We Flagged: Pony: “Macaroni is just another word for fancy.”
Doodle: “Says you. That’s the silliest thing I ever heard. Macaroni isn’t fancy. It’s macaroni. You know what’s fancy? Lasagna. Lasagna is fancy. Lasagna has all those little ripples in it, and then it gets baked with cheese and tomatoes and vegetables. Then you eat it with some garlic bread. Now, that’s fancy!” (p. 14-15)

Read This If You Loved: Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming, Rabbit and Robot by Cece Bell, Those Rebels, John and Tom by Barbara Kerley

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall