Exclusive Reveal!: Teaching Guide for Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo



Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo is out today!

And we are happy to be able to be able to exclusively reveal the teaching guide.

Kate DiCamillo writes heartprint stories, and Raymie Nightingale is no different. Raymie Nightingale shares with the reader a story of three very different girls who all are enveloped in sadness for different reasons and need each other to find their way out. You will love Raymie and the Three Rancheros!

I had so much fun writing this guide, and I hope that many of you find the activities and discussion questions within it useful to you and your students!

Please note: There are some spoilers in the guide, so please be aware if you are reading the guide before reading the book.

You can also access the teaching guide here.

You can learn more about Raymie on Candlewick Press’s Raymie Nightingale page.

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall

Don’t miss out on this one!

Kellee Signature

The Perfect Tree by Chloe Bonfield


perfect tree

The Perfect Tree
Author and Illustrator: Chloe Bonfield
Published January 5th, 2016 by Running Press Kids

Summary: Jack is searching for the perfect tree—one that he can chop, hack, and stack! But when it becomes too hard to find, Jack stumbles across three unlikely friends who want to show him their perfect trees.

In this lively, enchanting story, The Perfect Tree is a reminder to notice the wonders we often overlook, and to value our friendship with the natural world.

Kellee’s Review: The Perfect Tree is a book that I hope doesn’t go beneath the radar because it is a wonderful book with a positive theme and beautiful illustrations. Jack’s story makes the reader think about all the harm we do when we destroy the forest, but it does so without listing or preaching. It just shows. It mentions in her biography that Chloe Bonfield is fond of printmaking, and you can see this in her artwork that accompanies Jack’s story. It is mixed media, 3D, collage, and illustrated and just really takes the book to the next level.

Ricki’s Review: Whew. This book is quite beautiful. I felt like I went through a journey as I turned the pages. When I got to the end, I flipped to the front of the book and read it once more. My 2-year-old son kept saying, “Ooooo,” as I turned the pages. The words flow naturally in a way that is both quiet in its delivery and loud in its message. And the artwork—oh the artwork! I love the way the images are layered to grab readers’ attention. I spent much time on each page wondering, “But how did she do this?!” The mixed media will captivate readers and inspire them to want to create their own works of art/literature. I am excited to have this book in my library because I know it will be inspirational to my son.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is a great one to discuss theme with. It is one that you have to infer, but it isn’t too difficult to interpret which would make it a good scaffolding tool to longer narratives. Additionally, it would be a great book to read around Earth Day because of the environmental lesson and love of nature.

Discussion Questions: Why does Jack change his mind?; Why is it important to take care of nature?; What are some ways that the author helps you see Jack’s story (through illustrations and text)?

We Flagged: “Once a boy named Jack went on a journey to find the perfect tree. Not to climb, not to draw, and definitely not to hug. No, Jack wanted a perfect tree to chop. A perfect tree to hack! A perfect tree to stack.”

perfect tree illustration

Read This If You Loved: The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins, Can We Save the Tiger? by Martin Jenkins, Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall

Kellee Signature andRickiSig

**Thank you to Cassie from Running Press for providing copies for review!!**

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


the crossover

The Crossover
Author: Kwame Alexander
Published March 18th, 2014 by Harcourt Brace and Company

Goodreads Summary: “With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood.

Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

My Review: Wow. What a powerful piece of narrative and poetry. Any poem from Josh’s story could easily be taken out of context and used as a piece of exemplar poetry writing. In addition to the amazing writing, Josh is a kid that is so easy to connect with. He is so real. You love him (even if he is a little cocky). By the end of the book, you feel like you are part of Josh’s family, and you don’t want to leave.

And to top it all off: one of my reluctant readers grabbed this book and zoomed right through it. It quickly became one of his favorite books! I love when the Newbery Medal winner is accessible to students. Now to just get more students to read it and experience the awesomeness.

(Also, Kwame was one of my favorite presenters at ALAN, and he was such a pleasure to meet!)


Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I cannot wait to have my students make vocabulary poems like Josh does. Such a fun way to play with words. Additionally, like I stated above, any poem in this novel could be used in a poetry unit. I’d also love to have students come up with rules like Josh’s dad did for basketball and have them write them in verse.

Discussion Questions: Why is Josh so impacted by Jordan getting a girlfriend?; Who do you think influences Josh more: his dad or his mom? Explain.; Within his poems, Josh uses formatting, bolding, and different fonts to put emphasis on certain words. Why does he do this?; Josh uses figurative language throughout his poems. Find an example and share why you think Josh used it.; How are Josh and Jordan similar? Different?

We Flagged: 


Read This If You Loved: Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott (YA), The Sports Pages edited by Jon Sciezska, The Moves Make the Man by Bruce Brooks, Summer Ball by Mike Lupica

Recommended For: 

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall


Boys of Blur by N. D. Wilson


boys of blur

Boys of Blur
Author: N. D. Wilson
Published: April 8, 2014 by Random House

Ricki’s Summary and Review: 12-year-old Charlie Reynolds’ family travels to town of Taper to attend the funeral of a beloved football coach. When Charlie’s stepfather is given the opportunity to coach the town’s football team, Charlie is not thrilled to learn that they will be living in this creepy town filled with ancient stories of runaway slaves, native tribes, and monsters that rise organically from the murky swamps. He tries to fit into this mysterious place, where boys chase rabbits through burning sugarcane and everything seems to revolve around football. As he comes to learn about this town of secrets, Charlie wonders if he has the courage to uncover the mysteries that surround him.

Set deep in the heart of the Florida Everglades, this text is sure to grip readers with its muck, swords, blood, and gore. Wilson integrates complex allusions to Beowulf, which will compel readers to uncover all of the parallels with the classic legend. The beautifully complex language of this fast-paced story inspires close readings while also teaching readers lessons about evilness, heroism, and family.

Kellee’s Review: What I found most intriguing about this book is that Wilson was able to allude to Beowulf in a middle grade book without completely scaring away the reader.  Although I have read in multiple reviews that this book will grab reluctant readers’ attention, I think that some of the allusions are hard to grasp without prior knowledge, so reluctant readers may need some assistance understanding thus making the book a great read aloud as it will grab attention and start deep discussion (see Tools for Navigation).  In addition to the allusions, there are opportunities to discuss hero’s quest, abuse, and loyalty.

You will also find some beautiful writing in this novel. Wilson has a way with words that made this novel lyrical yet easy to read. From the very first line: “When the sugarcane’s burning and the rabbits are running, look for the boys who are quicker than flame.” I was impressed with how literary the novel was.  

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: There are obvious parallels between this novel and  the legend of Beowulf, and pairing these two texts for discussion would prove very rewarding. Perhaps, teachers could use this Boys of Blur in conjunction with Gareth Hinds’ graphic novel of Beowulf. Then, the class could compare and contrast both the story lines and the differing formats authors might employ to convey a story and message.

Discussion Questions: How is Charlie characterized? Do you find him to be a strong character?; What role does Cotton play in the story?; What role does Charlie’s father play in the story? Can he be forgiven?; How does the author use language effectively?

We Flagged: “‘Yes,’ Mrs. Wisdom said, ‘you are. You’re made of tiny spinning bits as fast as light. But those bits aren’t all of you. They fly off. They get lost, and new ones come on and join the swirling Charlie-shaped dance that is your body. And dwelling in that dance, woven through every racing bit, heating it all with life and guiding it, there is a fire, a soul—you. It takes a dream to see something like that, something closer to the way things really are” (110).

Read This If You Loved:  Beowulf by Unknown, 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, Holes by Louis Sachar, Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen FoxleeRaining Sardines by Enrique Flores-Galbis

Recommended For:

 readaloudbuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall 

RickiSigand Signature

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko


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!


Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
Selected by: Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Published March 11, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Celebrated poet and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko pairs with Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet for a collection of short poems to sample and savor. 

It only takes a few words, if they’re the right words, to create a strong image. Whether listened to in the comfort of a cozy lap or read independently, the thirty-six very short poems in this collection remind readers young and old that a few perfect words and pictures can make the world glow. Selected by acclaimed poet Paul B. Janeczko and gorgeously illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poemsinvites children to sample poems throughout the four seasons

My Review: Paul B. Janeczko did a wonderful job choosing poems that represent each season beautifully from amazing poets such as Sandburg, Williams, Hughes, and Fletcher, then add Melissa Sweet’s mixed media illustrations that engulf the page in color, and you have a perfect poetry anthology for any age.  There isn’t much more to say about this book, but that it is something every person should see.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What can you not do with this book?! It has every type of poem imaginable that can be used in so many different situations. Need an example of a type of figurative language? You’ll find it in here. Need an example of a rhyme scheme? Yep, in here. Need to talk about rhythm? This’ll do. Want to introduce poetry? Have examples of poems for mentor texts? Allow students to draw how they interpret different poems and come back together and share? All can be done with this. And all with short, non-overwhelming, yet amazing poems.

Discussion Questions: What poems would you have chosen for the different seasons?; Which poem is your favorite?; How do you picture ______?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Any poetry.

Recommended For: 

closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall readaloudbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall


**Thank you to Rachel at Candlewick for providing a copy for review**

We Were Liars by e. lockhart


we were liars

We Were Liars
Author: e. lockhart
Expected Publication: May 13th, 2014 by Delacorte

Summary: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree e. lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

Review: I can’t tell you anything about this book without giving anything way, and I would never do that to you, so let me just say this—this is a book that I will remember forever. It is haunting and sent chills up my spine. I was sucked into the story of this beautifully screwed up family with too much money for its own good.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This would bridge beautifully with The Great Gatsby. There are so many parallels, and I can’t write them here, or I will give away too much of the plot. The figurative language in this title is also stunning. English teachers will go gaga over the pages upon pages of text that can be used for close reading. It made me want to go back to teaching English!

Discussion Questions: What does this story teach us about humanity?; What drives each of the family members?; What does Gat’s character add to the story?; How does lockhart unravel the plot? What makes her an effective writer?; What is the message of this complex text?

We Flagged: “If you want to live where people are not afraid of mice, you must give up living in palaces” (Chapter 40).

Please note: The above quote is from the Advanced Reader Copy. The chapter numbers is included instead of page numbers because the e-reader did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña, If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Recommended For:

closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall classroomlibrarybuttonsmall


The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever by H. Joseph Hopkins


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!


The Tree Lady: The True Story of How One Tree-Loving Woman Changed a City Forever
Author: H. Joseph Hopkins
Illustrator: Jill McElmurry
Published September 17th, 2013 by Beach Lane Books

Goodreads Summary: Unearth the true story of green-thumbed pioneer and activist Kate Sessions, who helped San Diego grow from a dry desert town into a lush, leafy city known for its gorgeous parks and gardens. Katherine Olivia Sessions never thought she’d live in a place without trees. After all, Kate grew up among the towering pines and redwoods of Northern California. But after becoming the first woman to graduate from the University of California with a degree in science, she took a job as a teacher far south in the dry desert town of San Diego. Where there were almost no trees.

Kate decided that San Diego needed trees more than anything else. So this trailblazing young woman singlehandedly started a massive movement that transformed the town into the green, garden-filled oasis it is today. Now, more than 100 years after Kate first arrived in San Diego, her gorgeous gardens and parks can be found all over the city.

Part fascinating biography, part inspirational story, this moving picture book about following your dreams, using your talents, and staying strong in the face of adversity is sure to resonate with readers young and old.

My Review: This book was fascinating! I love learning about strong woman who changed the course of history and did so when no one thought they could. Like Jane Goodall, Kate Sessions love of nature and learning started at a very young age, and she let this desire to learn drive her to become an amazing woman. She is an inspiration and one that many people probably do not even know about.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I can picture this book being used so many different ways in the classroom! It is perfect just for a read aloud and discussion. It has some beautiful descriptive and figurative language that could be discussed. It could also be read in lit circles where each group gets a different strong female who changed the world and then they could each present and share on their woman. AND it has very unique science facts and information that help it cross seamlessly into science.  Just a fantastic book for the classroom.

Discussion Questions: How did Kate change San Diego?; What did Kate do, that others didn’t, to help her transform San Diego?; Why did Kate go to San Diego?; What other women in history does Kate remind you of?

We Flagged: “Kate felt the trees were her friends. She loved the way they reached toward the sky and how their branches stretched wide to catch the light. Trees seemed to Kate like giant umbrellas that sheltered her and the animals, birds, and plants that lived in the forest.” (p. 7)

Read This If You Loved: Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell, Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctorsby Tanya Lee Stone, Daredevil by Meghan McCarthy, The Boy Who Loved Math by Deborah Heiligman, Brave Girl by Michelle Markel, Primates by Jim Ottaviani, Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate, Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey

Recommended For: 

readaloudbuttonsmall closereadinganalysisbuttonsmall

classroomlibrarybuttonsmall litcirclesbuttonsmall