Everybody Counts! by Matt Forrest Esenwine, Illustrated by Emma Graham

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Everybody Counts!
Author: Matt Forrest Esenwine
Illustrator: Emma Graham
Published January 1st, 2023 by Little Fig

Summary: “Everyone is helpful, in large and small amounts. Everybody matters. Everybody counts!”

So begins Everybody Counts!, a creative foreign-language counting picture book. Get a taste of diversity as you explore this far-reaching festival of food and count your way to a full plate of fun.

 Everybody Counts! makes learning numbers fun as young ones discover new foods and languages from around the world. Explore favorite foods from twelve countries. Illustrations highlight the animals and numerical symbols that represent each country.

Review: Esenwine’s Everybody Counts shows the ties between us all as it counts through 12 different languages along with animals from that country sharing now only the language with us but also food and culture of each country. Each spread is so thoughtfully created with colorful illustrations of each animal and their favorite food fill the spread.

Learn more about the book and its creation at Matt Forrest Esenwine’s Cover Reveal Blog Post.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Everybody Counts is created for the classroom with opportunities to learn different languages as well as a guide to share each students’ favorite food and more!

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Counting books, Books about food, Books about different countries

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review!!**

The Little Bad Book 2: Even More Dangerous by Magnus Myst

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The Little Bad Book 2: Even More Dangerous
Author and Illustrator: Magnus Myst
Published October 11, 2022 by Delacorte Press

Summary: In this second book in the Little Bad Book interactive series, young readers will be dared to solve tricky puzzles and funny riddles and to become part of the plot in eerily funny stories in order to reveal the Little Bad Book’s secret!

HEY, YOU! PSSST

You might not believe this, but I’ve discovered the biggest secret in the world. Yes, honestly! Should I tell you? Okay. Just be careful! It will be the scariest thing you’ve ever read! I hope you can take it. Can you I bet you can. You’re brave, aren’t you?

Do you dare to read me? Come on–do it–read me!

You are the lucky reader who can discover the secret the little bad book is willing to share. The puzzles and riddles will challenge you, but it is definitely worth it! Go ahead and take a chance! You are the baddest one there is!

Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This interactive book enraptured both of my children (ages 6 and 9). The book breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the reader. I particularly appreciated the ways in which the book treats the reader as smart, capable people with agency. It also has that mild element of horror that really captures kids’ attention. This is a book that will be well-loved by the most avid readers and will hook readers who don’t typically fall in love with books. It’s extremely accessible. As a parent and teacher, I particularly loved how it tricks kids into math, reading comprehension, and logic puzzles. I was hooked (or tricked), as well. 🙂

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Interactive activity books filled with fun and educational activities

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**Thank you to Cate from Nicole Banholzer Public Relations for providing copies for review!**

Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight by Erin Yun

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Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight
Author: Erin Yun
Published September 13th, 2022 by Fabled Films Press

Summary: Korean American Pippa Park picks up right where she left off . . . trying to balance basketball, school, friends, working at the struggling family laundromat, and fitting in. Eliot, her math tutor—and the cutest boy at school—is finally paying attention to her. And Marvel—her childhood friend—is making her required volunteering much more interesting. But things with the Royals, her new friends and teammates who rule the school, still feel a bit rocky. Especially because Caroline, a head Royal, would like nothing more than to see Pippa fail.

So when Pippa is faced with hosting the annual Christmas Eve party that could make or break her social life, how can she say no? Will Pippa make enough money to cover the costs while juggling crushes and everything else? With courage and determination, Pippa sets out to host the party, find the perfect dress, pick the right boy, and stay true to her real self.

Praise: “Pippa explores the highs and lows of friendships and first crushes in this well-crafted sequel to Pippa Park Raises Her Game. ..VERDICT This warm-hearted, feel-good series continues to realistically explore one Korean American girl’s middle school experience in a relatable way.” —School Library Journal

About the Author: Erin Yun grew up in Frisco, Texas and used to play basketball as a middle grader. She received her BA in English from New York University and is currently pursuing her Masters in Creative Writing at Cambridge. She developed the Pippa Park Author Program, an interactive writing workshop, which she has conducted in person and virtually at schools, libraries, and bookstores.

Review: The second Pippa Park book does everything that the first book did well: a plot and characters that any middle schooler will connect with! When the book opens, Pippa has finally found her friends, even though he doesn’t feel totally accepted, and everything is going swell, but that doesn’t ever stay in the world of middle school drama–in comes a party to plan on a non-existent budget and two crushes that Pippa can’t choose between. Add into that a dash of strict guardian, an unexpected change in holiday plans, and an unwanted guest, and you have a story that keeps the reader guessing, rooting for Pippa (and sometimes screaming at Pippa), and waiting to see how it all works out. I love a true middle school book, and Pippa Park fits right in that range! It is a must get for libraries and classrooms!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation and Discussion Questions: The publisher has provided an educator’s guide for the book:

Flagged Passages: Read an excerpt of Pippa Park: Crush at First Sight here!

Read This If You Love: Middle school books filled with friendship and crush drama

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**Thank you Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

It’s Not the Three Little Pigs by Josh Funk, Illustrated by Edwardian Taylor

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It’s Not the Three Little Pigs
Author: Josh Funk
Illustrator: Edwardian Taylor
Published November 1st, 2022 by Two Lions

Summary: Meet the three (ahem—four!) little pigs as they convince the narrator to tell a slightly different version of their fairy tale:

First there’s Alan, the one pig in the bunch who is actually a builder. He’s got a BIG problem with building a home out of flimsy straw. Next there’s Alfred, who wants to be an actor and wouldn’t dream of getting his hands dirty. Then we have Alvin, whose dream is to be . . . a pumpkin. Last but not least is Alison, the fourth pig who is ready to bring some flair to this story, if only she can get the narrator to agree to a few changes. . . . And what about that wolf?

Grab your jet-packs and get ready for this rollicking retelling of the popular tale.

“Those who love to make up their own stories will be inspired, and readers who march to the beats of their own drums will be delighted. Will leave readers as happy as a pig in mud.” ―Kirkus Reviews

About the Creators: 

Like the characters in his books, Josh Funk doesn’t like being told how stories should go―so he writes his own. He is the author of a bunch of picture books, including My Pet Feet, illustrated by Billy Yong; the popular Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series, illustrated by Brendan Kearney; How to Code a Sandcastle, illustrated by Sara Palacios; and Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience & Fortitude, illustrated by Stevie Lewis. He lives in New England with his wife and children. Learn more about him at www.joshfunkbooks.com and follow him on social media:

Facebook:  Josh Funk Books
Instagram: @joshfunkbooks
Twitter: @joshfunkbooks

Edwardian Taylor is the illustrator of multiple children’s books, including Hey, You’re Not Santa!, written by Ethan T. Berlin; Goldibooks and the Wee Bear, written by Troy Wilson; the Toy Academy chapter books, written by Brian Lynch; and the It’s Not a Fairy Tale books, written by Josh Funk, among other titles. He lives in Texas with his partner and their three dogs. Learn more about him at www.edwardiantaylor.com and follow him on TumblrInstagram, and Twitter @edwardiantaylor.

Kellee’s Review: I just find the concept of these books so clever; all of them! The breaking of the third wall between narrator and characters just makes them so funny, and I love that the characters go against the narrator. Often times through this exchange, the author is able to teach both the narrator and the reader lessons about assumptions, in this case when it came to the wolf. Other times, the characters just go silly which is also quite fun to read. This time the silliness comes in hot air balloons and jet packs! And, as a literacy teacher, I particularly loved the two literacy loving pigs: Alison, the storyteller, and Alfred, the scriptwriter and star. 

Trent’s Review: I liked this new book in the series because it is pretty much the opposite of the original three little pigs which adds a lot of action and surprises. I like that at the end of the story they’re actually on a stage and performing the tale because the set up for this was all through the book (and most of the other characters from the It’s Not books were in the audience!). The most surprising part of the story for me was that there was a fourth pig, and that makes it fit even more with the title because there is not three but four. I also like that the fourth pig is a girl and a storyteller. I was also surprised that the big bad wolf was a salesman trying to sell automatic vacuums because you assume usually that wolves are not nice in fairy tales, so this teaches the reader that not all things you assume are bad actually are bad. Josh Funk books are funny and questy, and this one was, too; I always like them! I like all of the picture books that Josh has written.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a perfect mentor text for rewriting a fairy tale. Students can read the different books in the It’s Not series to see all of the creators’ examples of their factured fairy tales then they can pick their own to redo. First they would read the original fairy tale, determine how they were going to change it up, and write their own version of the fairy tale. Remind them to add some surprising elements, lessons, and silliness, just like Josh Funk.

For an enrichment activity, they could take their fairy tale and turn it into a play like Alfred did!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was the most surprising part of the story for you?
  • Why are different speech bubbles written in different font colors?
  • How did you assume the different pigs’ personalities would be like? How is that the same/different than the book?
  • How does the author use the narrator differently than in most books?
  • Were there any vocabulary words you didn’t know? Were you able to determine the meaning from the context?
  • In addition to Cinderella’s fairy godmother, what other fairy tale creatures did you notice in the background of this book?

Flagged Passages: 


Read This If You Love: Fractured Fairy Tale Picture Books

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**Thank you to Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

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The Pants Project
Author: Cat Clarke
Published March 1, 2017 by Sourcebooks Young Readers

Summary: A touching, humorous story of strong-willed eleven-year-old Liv, who is determined to challenge his school’s terrible dress code and change his life. Inspire empathy and compassion (and a few laughs!) in young readers with this stunning middle-grade novel.

Here’s the thing:
I may seem like a girl, but on the inside, I’m a boy.

“My name is Liv (Not Olivia)… I’m not technically a girl. I’m transgender. Which is a bit like being a Transformer. Only not quite as cool because I probably won’t get to save the world one day.”

Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school’s terrible dress code, he can’t even wear pants. Only skirts.

Whoever wrote the uniform policy decided (whyyy?) that girls had to wear skirts, while boys were allowed to wear pants.

Sexist. Dumb. Unfair.

“Girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.”

I bet I read those words a hundred times during summer vacation. The problem wasn’t the last word in that sentence. Skirt wasn’t really the issue, not for me.
The issue was the first word. Girls.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Liv to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn’t just a mission to change the policy—it’s a mission to change his life. And that’s a pretty big deal.

Review: This book is a book about identity, but not completely about Liv’s gender identity. It is also about identity within a school, within a friend group, and within the greater system we are all in. With all of these identity journeys happening at once in the book, there is a lot of figurative bumps and bruises along the way in the form of losing friends, homophobic bullies, people stuck in their ways, and sexism; however, there is also some wonderful positives: a better friend who loves Live for who he is, no matter what; a family that is supportive and an example of what all families should be; teachers who are seen as allies within a system that not many are seen; and finding friends that feel like family.

On top of the identity journey, there is also the story of The Pants Project which showed Liv and other students fight a sexist part of their school’s system and doing it the right way.

All in all, it was a pleasure to read about Liv’s time starting middle school and all of the change he is able to make.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book tackles a healthy and practical way that students can make a difference. This book would be a great conversation about how to make a change that you want to see in a way that isn’t confrontational in a dangerous way.

The book will also find readers in school, classroom, and public libraries and book clubs!

Discussion Questions: 

  • How is what Liv did to change his school’s policies go well? Not well?
  • How is Jacob a better friend than Maisie?
  • How were Liv’s parents supportive yet also tough on Liv?
  • Why do you think Jade acts and says the things she does? What do you think her consequences should be?
  • Do you agree how the news article was written? How would you have written the article?
  • Why did Mr. Lynch act the way he did during the protest? How do you think he wanted to act?
  • How would you feel if your dress code was as strict as Liv’s?
  • How was Liv’s first impression of Jacob wrong?
  • Did Jacob’s secret surprise you? What clues did you see? Why do you think he hid it?

Flagged Passages: “‘Hi, I’m Liv. What’s your name?’

The boy looked up at me, blinking slowly. He narrowed his eyes, acting as if I’d asked a really tough question. ‘Jacob. What kind of name is Liv anyways?’

I disliked him immediately. He was obviously one of those boys. The popular ones. His dark brown hair was messy, but not properly messy. It was the kind of messy that requires a lot of time spent in front of the mirror and loads of hair gunk. He was slouched in his seat, perfectly at ease, like there was no where he’d rather be. Whenever I sat that way at Gram’s house, she always told me to ‘sit up properly-like a lady.’ You can probably guess how much I enjoyed that.

The only thing that gave me a glimmer of hope about Jacob was his eyes. They didn’t seem to be the eyes of a terrible person. There was kindness lurking there under the smirk.

I sat down next to him and shoved his leg so it was under his half of the table. Why do real boys always take up so much space? I mentally kicked myself. I don’t know when I’d started thinking of them as ‘real’ boys. I knew it was wrong; I wasn’t Pinnochio. I was as much a real boy as Jacob–even if no one else could see it yet.

‘It’s my kind of name.'” (Chapter 4)

Read This If You Love: Melissa by Alex Gino, Linked by Gordon Korman, Property of the Rebel Librarian by Allison Varnes, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee, Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

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**Thank you to Sourcebooks for providing a copy for review!**

Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet by Barbara Dee

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Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet
Author: Barbara Dee
Published September 27th, 2022 by Aladdin

Summary: Twelve-year-old Haven Jacobs can’t stop thinking about the climate crisis. In fact, her anxiety about the state of the planet is starting to interfere with her schoolwork, her friendships, even her sleep. She can’t stop wondering why grownups aren’t even trying to solve the earth’s problem—and if there’s anything meaningful that she, as a seventh grader, can contribute.

When Haven’s social studies teacher urges her to find a specific, manageable way to make a difference to the planet, Haven focuses on the annual science class project at the local Belmont River, where her class will take samples of the water to analyze. Students have been doing the project for years, and her older brother tells her that his favorite part was studying and catching frogs.

But when Haven and her classmates get to the river, there’s no sign of frogs or other wildlife—but there is ample evidence of pollution. The only thing that’s changed by the river is the opening of Gemba, the new factory where Haven’s dad works. It doesn’t take much investigation before Haven is convinced Gemba is behind the slow pollution of the river.

She’s determined to expose Gemba and force them to clean up their act. But when it becomes clear taking action might put her dad’s job—and some friendships—in jeopardy, Haven must decide how far she’s willing to go.

About the Author: Barbara Dee is the author of twelve middle grade novels including Violets Are Blue, Haven Jacobs Saves the Planet, My Life in the Fish Tank, Maybe He Just Likes You, Everything I Know About You, Halfway Normal, and Star-Crossed. Her books have earned several starred reviews and have been named to many best-of lists, including The Washington Post’s Best Children’s Books, the ALA Notable Children’s Books, the ALA Rise: A Feminist Book Project List, the NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, and the ALA Rainbow List Top Ten. Barbara lives with her family, including a naughty cat named Luna and a sweet rescue hound named Ripley, in Westchester County, New York.

Review: I’ve never read a book about eco-anxiety before, but I could definitely empathize with Haven Jacobs and her true anxiety over the state of our planet. I loved that the book gave tangible things that could be done in a community and also looks at global issues. Additionally, like all of Barbara Dee’s books, she does a great job balancing teaching (about science and climate change) and storytelling.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher-provided reading group guide also includes extension activities:

1. Choose one of the following and write an essay:

– How does Haven’s name reflect the major theme of the book?

– Revisit the chapter titled “The Scratch,” and the scene in which the author describes Haven’s room and talks about how her room shows readers who she is and what’s important to her. Then write a description of your own room, and ask a partner if they can identify what is most important to you.

– Using the quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way”), write an essay about what that means, giving specific examples from the book.

2. Haven’s heroine is a fictional Inuit teen climate activist named Kirima Ansong. Choose a real-life teen activist and write a report about them, the issue they support, and the actions they’ve taken.

3. The headline of the RiverFest story is “SEVENTH GRADER GRIPPED BY ECO-ANXIETY,” which nicely sums up the major theme of this book. How prevalent is eco-anxiety among the kids at your school? Create a survey and share it to discover the answer. Write a report sharing your findings.

4. Choose one of the following topics from the book to research and write a report about, using the facts shared in the book as a jumping-off point to learn more.

Discussion Questions:
(Chosen questions from the publisher-provided reading group guide; there are 16 questions on the guide)

1. Talk about how the two events that Haven relates in the book’s opening chapter illustrate two of the book’s major themes. What does the bouncy house incident show readers about Haven’s personality? Do you agree with Grandpa Aaron that “‘Haven’s a true problem solver’”? (Chapter: Sensitive) Do you consider yourself to be a problem solver?

2. Why does Haven decide to become a vegetarian? Do you understand and sympathize with her reaction when she goes fishing with Carter and her dad? Are you a vegetarian, or do you have friends who are? What are some other reasons that people make this choice? Talk about how vegetarianism connects with the issue of climate change.

3. Do you understand why Haven is so upset about climate change? How do you feel about her statement that “’no one cares about anything except what’s going on in their own lives’”? (Chapter: Dinner) Why do some of her friends think climate change is too depressing to talk about? Haven tells Lauren, the reporter, that all kids are worried about the issue. How do you and your friends feel?

4. Have you ever heard of eco-anxiety? What are some of the signs of eco-anxiety that Haven is experiencing? How might eco-anxiety feel different from other things kids are anxious about, like taking tests or giving oral reports? What are some actions Haven takes, or could take, to relieve this anxiety?

5. Ms. Packer says to Haven: “‘There’s a positive way to be upset, and another way that just makes you feel hopeless and depressed.’” (Chapter: The Blanks) Do you understand both options? Do you identify with one more than the other? What do you think when Haven says she feels that going to school is pointless, that there are more important things going on?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Learning or reading about climate change, science, and/or mental health

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**Thank you to Casey at Media Masters Publicity for providing a copy for review!**

Guest Review: All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

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Guest Reviewer: Sharon, UCF Elementary Education Student

All Are Welcome
Author: Alexandra Penfold
Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman
Published July 10th, 2018 by Bloomsbury Publishing

Summary: Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yamulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

About the Creators: 

A graduate of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Alexandra Penfold began her career in publishing as a children’s book publicist at Simon & Schuster where she worked on media campaigns that appeared in USA Today, Newsweek, US News and World Report, and NPR’s All Things Considered. For eight years she served as an editor at Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster working on award-winning books for young readers of all ages. She is currently a literary agent with Upstart Crow Literary representing children book authors and illustrators as well as select adult projects.

Suzanne Kaufman is the New York Times bestselling illustrator of All Are Welcome.  She is the recipient of The Ezra Jack Keats/Kerlan Memorial Fellowship, Society of Children’s Book Writers Illustrators Mentorship and Portfolio Honors and Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Her books have been awarded Bank Street College Education Best Children’s Books of the Year Honors, Notable Books for a Global Society, CCBC Choice Award, Washington State Best Picture Book Award, Mathical Honor Award, and Amazon Best Children Book of the Year.  Her books include her own book Confiscated and illustrated work: Big Feelings, Take Your Pets to School Day, 100 Bugs, Naughty Claudine Christmas, and Samanthasaurus Rex.  She has presented at SCBWI Summer Conference, NMAEYC Conference, Tucson Book Festival, Los Angeles Festival of Books and Penguin Random House Book Festival.

Review: This story was very inspiring, and I enjoyed reading it very much. This story resembles what I wish for my future classroom and school to be like. I think it is very important to teach acceptance to children at a very young age and to show them that not everyone looks the same or has the same traditions. This book teaches children that diversity is something good and a strength. This book will hopefully make students feel that no matter what they are welcomed and have a safe space in their school. There are a lot of illustrations and repetition that will help ELL students. This book shows flags of other countries and different types of people which I think will make ELL students feel welcomed at their new school. Students should find someone in the book they can relate to and feel special that they have someone like them in the story. This book emphasizes that no matter what you do at home with your family, what clothes you wear, where you come from, what foods you eat, or what traditions you have with your family, everyone is able to come together and be friends and play together at school. This message is so important and so strong. Children who learn about diversity early on will later become more understanding of their differences with others and will realize what a good thing it is to have diversity.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book could be used to talk about different countries and the types of traditions different people have around the world. Teacher’s can pause while reading the book and discuss different characters’ countries. This book also teaches the valuable lesson that everyone is welcomed and that acceptance of others is very important. This is a good book to read to teach the class about acceptance and in an underlying way it also prevents bullying. If students learn to be accepting of each other’s differences, that could stop a lot of the bullying that goes on in schools. Teachers can use this book to discuss how their community is similar and different to the one portrayed in the book. Students can also discuss how diversity makes a community better and why they think that. Teachers can also discuss with students times they have felt unwelcomed and what they could do to make others feel welcomed.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What makes the kids in the book remind you of yourself and your friends?
  • Based on what you have seen in the book, do you think having a diverse community like the one in the book is better? Why or why not?
  • If you could be a part of this classroom would you want to? Why or why not.
  • What are some things that the children in the book are doing that makes you think they are kind? Look close at the illustrations on each page. What are some kind things you could do to other students?
  • What is something you and your family do that you think is unique? Explain what it is that you do and why it is unique.
  • What do you think is happening in the cover illustration of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Inclusion and diversity

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Sharon, for your review!