The Adventures of Arnie the Doughnut: Bowling Alley Bandit by Laurie Keller

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Bowling Alley Bandit
Author and Illustrator: Laurie Keller
Published June 4th, 2013 by Henry Holt and Co.

Goodreads Summary: As Mr. Bing’s new pet “doughnut dog,” Arnie couldn’t be happier. When Mr. Bing joins a bowling league, Arnie gets to go along to practices and competitions. But then Mr. Bing starts rolling gutter balls. Someone or something is behind the madness. Arnie, together with his team of goofball friends, must sort through the shenanigans and solve the mystery. Get ready for some sleuthing and even some magic.

Full of Laurie Keller’s winning charm and silly humor, this chapter book—the first in the series—is sure to please her many fans.

My Review and Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book is going to be loved by kids. It is hilarious and is one rung below Big Nate on the humor, illustrated novel ladder. It is a great book to help readers get from early readers to middle grade illustrated novels. In the classroom, it would be a great book to use to practice prediction as the reader is given clues throughout the book to figure out who the bowling alley bandit is. Also, as a teacher, I personally loved all of the wit, puns, and funny similes in the book! These would be great to read with kids.

Discussion Questions: What other doughnut songs could Arnie sing at karaoke? Think of famous songs and tweak their title or lyrics to make them about doughnuts.

We Flagged: “But of all the great things about the bowling alley, my favorite is that there’s a restaurant inside called the Bowl-o’-Chow and they have a KARAOKE MACHINE! I usually watch Mr. Bing bowl for a while, and then I wander over to the Bowl-o’-Chow to sing a few songs. I was scared to try it at first, but now I’m a regular.

Here are a few of my old standbys:
Living’ la vi-DOUGH loca!
You ain’t nothin’ but a DOUGHNUT-DOG cryin’ all the time.
Fried in the U.S.A.!

And I always end with my signature song:
DOUGHNUT make my brown eyes blue.”

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce, Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, Frankie Pickle series by Eric Wight

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Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes

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Penny and her Marble
Author and Illustrator: Kevin Henkes
Published February 19th, 2013 by GreenwillowBooks

Goodreads Summary: In the third easy-to-read book about Penny the mouse, written by Caldecott Medalist and bestselling author Kevin Henkes, Penny finds a beautiful marble on her neighbor’s lawn and must decide whether or not to keep it. With age-appropriate vocabulary, compelling characters, and a memorable storyline, this is just right for newly independent readers.

Kevin Henkes is known for his mouse characters, including Lilly, Owen, Chrysanthemum, Wemberly, and now Penny! In Penny and her Marble, the third book in the Penny series, Penny finds a marble on Mrs. Goodwin’s yard and takes it home. But does the marble really belong to Penny? Kevin Henkes is a master at creating beautifully illustrated books that resonate with young children. The Penny books are new classics for beginning readers and will appeal to fans of Frog and Toad, Little Bear, and Henry and Mudge.

Review and Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: I am a huge fan of Kevin Henkes. I really enjoy everything he writes—he is so talented! His work ranges from picture books to early readers to chapter books to middle grade novels and all that I’ve read, I’ve enjoyed, and Penny and Her Marble was no different. Like the Goodreads summary says, Penny’s story is perfect for our early readers. Her story is one that children will connect with; however, Henkes never talks down to his readers. What struck me was the beautiful language that he used throughout–to describe Penny’s feelings, the marble, the day, etc.

Discussion Questions: If you were Penny, would you have kept the marble?; Is there anything you’ve taken without asking? What did you do?; Like Kevin Henkes does, look at different marbles and use similes to describe them.

We Flagged: “The marble was so blue it looked like a piece of the sky. Penny went to the window and held up the marble. She was right. The marble was like a piece of the sky.” (p. 16-17)

Read This If You Loved: Other Kevin Henkes books, Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt

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Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

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Will & Whit
Author and Illustrator: Laura Lee Gulledge
Published May 17th, 2013 by Abrams

Goodreads Summary: Wilhelmina “Will” Huxstep is a creative soul struggling to come to terms with a family tragedy. She crafts whimsical lamps, in part to deal with her fear of the dark. As she wraps up another summer in her mountain town, she longs for unplugged adventures with her fellow creative friends, Autumn, Noel, and Reese. Little does she know that she will get her wish in the form of an arts carnival and a blackout, courtesy of a hurricane named Whitney, which forces Will to face her fear of darkness.
Laura Lee Gulledge’s signature visual metaphors will be on full display in this all-new graphic novel, a moving look at shedding light on the dark corners of life.

My Review: This book was NOT what I thought it was going to be! I had read Gulledge’s last graphic novel, Page by Paige, so I knew that it was going to be unique, but if you look at the cover you assume Will & Whit are the main characters and there is going to be some sort of romance. That is so off track of what the book is actually about. Will is actually Wilhelmina, our main character, who is dealing with some darkness in her life and fights it by making lamps (some of them are really beautiful and I wish I could buy them). Whit, on the other hand, is not her love interest. Whit is Hurricane Whitney who hits Will’s town and causes Will to really face some of the darkness. So, where does the romance come in? There  is a little bit, but you will be so surprised as to what the cover means! I was.

There are also a wonderful set of supporting characters who make the book even more special. I also love the inclusion of art (visual and performing) and antiques within the novel.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: The themes in this graphic novel are definitely worth talking about in the classroom. I also loved the nuances throughout that Gulledge uses to set the mood (the novel’s mood and Will’s mood). Gulledge is a skilled artist and Will’s darkness holding her back is so beautifully put into the story (like the summary says–visual metaphors).

Discussion Questions: How does Gulledge use images throughout the novel to show Will’s emotional state?; How does Whit help Will overcome her darkness?

Read This If You Loved: Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge, Friends with Boy by Faith Erin Hicks, Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, Smile by Raina Telgemeier

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Halloween Hustle by Charlotte Gunnufson

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Halloween Hustle
Author: Charlotte Gunnufson
Illustrator: Kevan J. Atteberry
Published September 3rd, 2013 by Two Lions

Goodreads Summary: In the dark, a funky beat. / Something white with bony feet. / Skeleton dancing up the street, / Doing the Halloween Hustle. Skeleton is dancing his way to a Halloween party but as he grooves across town, he keeps stumbling, tumbling, and falling apart! Can Skeleton stay in one piece long enough to make it to the party?

Kellee’s Review: This is a perfect Halloween book for young readers who want to get into the spirit yet do not want to be scared. The colorful illustrations add an extra element of fun to the book which will suck the readers even more into the book. My favorite part, though, is the rhyming and rhythm. It adds something special to the book that makes it different than other Halloween books.

Ricki’s Review: This is the first book I read to my pregnant belly. My future son was kicking the entire time! It was such an entertaining story, and my husband even listened in. My favorite aspect of this book would easily be the great examples of figurative language. For example, this alliteration: “Gets up and grooves with ghoulish grace” (p. 7), or this consonance: “Bones scatter / What a clatter / Spine is like a broken ladder!” (p. 4). You may also notice the simile in that last passage! Like Kellee, the colorful illustrations also drew me in, and I also loved all of the famous scary characters in the book, like Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is made for reading aloud! It rhymes, has a great rhythm, and has repetitive text for students to read aloud with the teachers. It also has a great message to students and has opportunities for discussion about cause and effect, imagery, and rhyming. Teachers of any level would it beneficial to use this book to teach alliteration, assonance, consonance, similes, and other types of figurative language.

Discussion Questions: What characteristics does the Skeleton have that makes it so he is able to get to the party? What characteristics does the Skeleton have that would make him a new friend?; How does the author use rhymes to convey her message effectively?; Is this book a poem? Use textual evidence to defend your answer.

We Flagged:

“In the dark, a funky beat,
Something white with bony feet.
Skeleton dancing up the street,
Doing the Halloween Hustle.

Bony thumbs and fingers snap.
Bony heels and toes tip-tap.
Knees knock-knock and elbows flap,
Doing the Halloween Hustle.” (p. 2-3)

Skeleton and his Sidekick

Read This If You Loved: Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt, Dragon’s Halloween by Dav Pilkey, Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex, Monster Mash (Babymouse #9) by Jennifer L. Holm, Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween by Melanie Watt; Man Made Boy by Jon Skovron

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**Thank you to Charlotte Gunnufson for providing us copies for review!**

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

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Title: Rose under Fire
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Expected Publication: September 10th, 2013 by Miramax (Disney)

Summary: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

Review: Out of the thousands of books I’ve read, this one is going to sit among my all-time favorites. There is a phenomenal balance of history and narrative that will engage readers while offering harrowing lessons in history. I am not an air and space girl. My husband loves planes, and he was giddy when we went to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. As much as I want to love planes, I don’t find them to be interesting. This book changed my outlook.

Rose under Fire has many similarities with Wein’s Code Name Verity. They are both written in an epistolary format, involve pilots/airplanes, and are set during World War II. Both offer wonderfully complex themes about friendship, loyalty, and the strength of women. However, Rose under Fire focuses more on concentration camps, while Code Name Verity dealt more with the interrogation techniques used during World War II. Neither of these two elements drove the novels, but they are two plot features that make the texts quite different from one other. I found CNV to be a bit slow in the beginning (which isn’t the case with all readers), but I was hooked to Rose under Fire from the very first page. Wein writes characters so vividly that I still feel their presence in my life, long after I finish the books. I recommend this book to everyone. It will appeal to readers of all ages, backgrounds, genders, and interest levels.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Teachers, this is a MUST-HAVE book. It is phenomenally written and shows the truly complexity of young adult literature. It can be used to teach elements like setting, character, dialogue, the epistolary format, imagery, voice, and theme. Students might write letters back to Rose, or they could analyze one of the many well-developed characters in this story. It would also make for a great research unit of topics like the Nuremberg Trials, female WWII pilots, flying bombs, or the experimentation on Holocaust prisoners. History teachers will also find this text to be invaluable.

Discussion Questions: What loyalties did the Holocaust prisoners have for each other? What are some examples of incidents that showed this loyalty?; Why were the Rabbits so important to the concentration camp? What did they add to the story as a whole?; How does Maddie’s friendship with Rose differ from her friendship with Julie?; Why was Nick’s character important throughout the story? How does his level of importance change, and why?; Rose has very different friendships with many of the characters. Describe how three of these friendships differ from one another.; Does the novel end in a hopeful way? Why or why not?

We Flagged: I marked so many passages that it is hard to choose just a few, so I selected two longer quotes that show the quality of Wein’s writing.

Incredible Imagery:

“…and the reason everyone in there was trying to get out in the rain was because they were dying of thirst.

Really dying of it, I think.

Hands and arms and heads stuck out anywhere there was a gap—cupped hands collecting rainwater, some holding bowls or even just a piece of cloth to collect moisture—I saw one woman lying on her back with her hair in the black cinder mud at the tent’s edge, her mouth open, letting a rivulet of water stream down the canvas and into her mouth.”

And Beautiful Figurative Language:

“Hope—you think of hope as a bright thing, a strong thing, sustaining. But it’s not. It’s the opposite. It’s simply this: lumps of stale bread stuck down your shirt. Stale gray bread eked out with ground fish bones, which you won’t eat because you’re going to give it away, and maybe you’ll get a message through to your friend. That’s all you need.

God, I was hungry.”

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

Read This If You Loved: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, Nazi Hunters by Neal Bascomb, Night by Elie Wiesel

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Thank you to NetGalley and Disney for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Into That Forest by Louis Nowra

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Title: Into That Forest
Author: Louis Nowra
Expected Publication: September 3th, 2013 by Amazon Children’s Publishing

Summary: Hannah and Becky are traveling down a river in Tasmania, Australia with Hannah’s parents when a storm erupts. Their boat overturns, and Hannah and Becky are left to survive in the wild. Two Tasmanian tigers are nearby, and because they’ve recently lost their pups, the tigers adopt Hannah and Becky as their own children. The two girls slowly adapt to the tigers’ ways, adopting their habits and forgetting words. It isn’t long before they become feral children, acting only as animals would.

Review: I have never read a book quite like this one. When I tried to compare it to other books I’ve read, I immediately thought of Endangered (Eliot Schrefer), which describes bonobos rather than tigers. With both books, I developed a fondness for the animals and their habits. Also, they both roped me into their beautiful settings and imagery. The only other books I could compare this to were those about abuse and neglect, as the children slowly developed animalistic ways, as abandoned children do.

The language is a bit peculiar at first, as Hannah is writing the story as an elderly woman, and she admits her language isn’t very good. I found myself slipping into the beautiful wording by the third or fourth page, and I didn’t find that it distracted my reading, and instead, it added to the experience. If I could change anything, I might alter the ending a bit, but perhaps, I am being too particular. I loved learning about the tigers’ lifestyle, and I was hooked to this survival story from the very first page. The sisterly bond that develops between Hannah and Becky is remarkable, and the story teaches themes of loyalty and companionship. Readers will be left pondering humanity and the differences between animals and humans.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Students may find the language to be a bit difficult to understand at first, so the teacher may need to provide some close readings at first. I suspect most students quickly adjust to the language and will no longer be distracted by the wording after the first few pages, and they will likely find that it adds a lot of color to the text. Teachers could have students select their favorite descriptions of the setting and imagery, as these elements are very well-developed and would serve as a great model for students. Upon completion of the text, students might research topics like Tasmania, feral children, and tigers. I was left wanting to learn more about the Tasmanian wilderness and lifestyle, and I imagine that students will also find this book to pique their curiosity.

Discussion Questions: What does it mean to be human? How do the girls lose their humanity?; What are some of the patterns of the tigers’ behavior that the girls adopt? Why is this necessary?; How do you imagine Hannah’s life today? How has this experience changed her?

We Flagged: “As the water boiled and foamed, we bounced along with me father, unable to steer the boat toward the shore. The river were so wild that all we could do were to cling on tight to the sides of the boat or each other as we were flung back and forward like puppets with no strings. The rain chucked down and we were soaked, so soggy it were like the rain were drilling through our skin into our marrow.”

“The more I looked at its black eyes, the more I seen kindness […] I knew it were saying to us, Come, I’ll take you home.”

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

Read This If You Loved: Endangered by Eliot Schrefer, Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick, Dog Boy by Eva Hornung, Second Nature by Alice Hoffman, Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Children’s Publishing for sending me the Advanced Reader Copy!

Blog Tour and Review!: Jake by Olivia Carter

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Jake
Author: Olivia Carter
Publication: April 29th, 2013 by Acacia

Summary: 

“‘It’s very nice to finally meet you.’ Jake said.

‘Finally?’ I asked” (p. 31).

Molly Parker’s home life is not ideal. Her father recently left, her mother doesn’t show any love, and she wants to get more involved with religion, despite her mother’s misgivings. While she enjoys her friends, she doesn’t feel they understand her. When Molly meets Jake, her world changes. He seems to understand her in ways that no one else ever has. Their chemistry is unmistakable, and Molly isn’t quite sure how someone she’s never met can understand her so well. These two will discover a secret that will change their lives forever.

Review: The peculiar chemistry between Molly and Jake kept me engaged in this book. It reminded me of Lucas by Kevin Brooks, where I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to be reading a fantasy, a peculiar romance, or something much different. Molly is a freshman in high school, and I would recommend this book to upper middle school and lower high school students.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Carter weaves similes, metaphors, and personification throughout the story. “‘Jakey says your life’s been much like a ceiling fan, always working hard to com around to nothing” (p. 193). While I was reading, I kept flagging Carter’s great use of figurative language, and teachers could use this text as a model to students.

Discussion Questions: In what ways is Molly and Jake’s relationship different from others?; How does Carter build suspense?; How do the adults in Molly’s life affect her growth, emotionally?

We Flagged: “Captivation seized every particle of me, chaining even my soul to his. By the curve of his chin it was certain that he knew I was helpless; in sheer awe I stood, abhorring him for his trickery. I looked up into his eyes, where I found deep troubles. Sorrow; Jake was in pain. Emptiness; he’d been neglected. Distrust; Jake was hiding in himself, and then sincerity. Jake was real” (p. 73).

Please note: The above page numbers from the pdf e-book.

Read This If You Loved: Lucas by Kevin Brooks, How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff, Brother/Sister by Sean Olin

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**Thank you to Irresistible Reads Book Tours for sending the e-book and for hosting this blog tour! Check out the other stops on the book tour!**