Nonfiction Picture Book Round Up!: The Universe in You by Jason Chin; Of Walden Pond by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by Ashley Benham-Yazdani; Polar Bear by Candace Fleming, illustrated by Eric Rohmann; We’re Not Weird by Michael Garland; & The Science of Light by Margaret Peot

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The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey
Author & Illustrator: Jason Chin
Published October 18th, 2022

Summary: Caldecott Medalist Jason Chin’s companion book to the award-winning Your Place in the Universe explores the world of the very small, delving deep into the microscopic world just beneath our skin.

From Jason Chin, Caldecott Medalist for Watercress and Cook Prize winning author and illustrator of Your Place in the Universe comes The Universe in You: A Microscopic Journey, a companion book about the very small, from the tiniest mammals to the intricate structures of microscopic organisms and subatomic particles that make up every human body. This deep dive into an unseen world explores the building blocks of all matter and life, demonstrating how much we have in common with everything around us.

Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare Title
School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Jason Chin does it again: combining impeccable illustrations with science to take the reader into the microscopic world within our universe. Chin is such a master at bringing the reader into whatever world he has decided to explore and share with us. His writing is thorough and interesting, his illustrations are detailed and labeled, and the book together is definitely the journey he promises.

Educator Guide Available HERE!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is so special about the structure of the book? Why do you think the author set the structure up this way?
  • What is the smallest thing in the universe? How do these small particles impact us?
  • How does the author make this nonfiction book like a journey?

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Of Walden Pond: Henry David Thoreau, Frederic Tudor, and the Pond Between
Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome
Illustrator: Ashley Benham-Yazdani
Published November 15th, 2022 by Holiday House

Summary: From the award-winning author of Before She Was Harriet comes another work of lyrical beauty, the story of Henry David Thoreau and businessman Frederic Tudor–and a changing world.

Thoreau and Tudor could not have been more different from each other. Yet both shared the bounties of Walden Pond and would change the course of history through their writings and innovations.

This study in opposites contrasts the austere philosopher with the consummate capitalist (whose innovations would change commercial ice harvesting and home refrigerators) to show how two seemingly conflicting American legacies could be built side by side.

Oddball/ tax dodger/ nature lover/ dreamer/ That’s what they called/ Thoreau.
Bankrupt/ disgrace/ good for nothing/ dreamer/ That’s what they called/ Tudor.

Celebrated author Lesa Cline-Ransome takes her magnificent talent for research and detail to plumb the depths of these two history-makers. The graceful text is paired with Ashley Benham-Yazdani’s period accurate watercolor and pencil artwork. In winter, readers see Tudor’s men sawing through the ice, the workhorses dragging the ice, and Thoreau observing it all; in spring, summer, and fall, the ice continues its journey across the globe with Thoreau and Tudor writing and reflecting in their respective diaries.

An Author’s Note, which explores how Thoreau’s writings influenced such figures as Martin Luther King Jr., Robert Frost, and Mohandas Gandhi, is included.

Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Lesa Cline-Ransome introduces us to another aspect of Walden Pond that Thoreau fans may not know about: Tudor’s industrial side of the pond. Cline Ransome’s verse shows us the contrast between the two lives that are tied together by the pond that they both loved, for very different reasons. Beautifully written with rhythm that yells for it to be read aloud.

Benham-Yazdani’s “period accurate watercolor” reminds me of Grandma Moses which is perfect for this story!

Educator Guide Available HERE!

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does the different fascinations with the pond show you about the two men?
  • Why do you think the author chose to write the book in verse separated by seasons?
  • What did you learn about the past of ice that surprised you?

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Polar Bear
Author: Candace Fleming
Illustrator: Eric Rohmann
Published November 22nd, 2022 by Holiday House

Summary: This companion book to the authors’ Sibert award-winning Honeybee explores the life and habitat of a majestic endangered species through dramatic text and sumptuous illustration.

April in the Arctic . . .
Cold winds send snow clouds scuttling across the sky.
Temperatures barely nudge above freezing.
But every now and again,
The cloud cover parts,
The sun shines down,
And the frozen world stretches awake.

As spring approaches in the Arctic, a mother polar bear and her two cubs tentatively emerge from hibernation to explore the changing landscape. When it is time, she takes her cubs on a forty-mile journey, back to their home on the ice. Along the way, she fends off wolves, hunts for food, and swims miles and miles.

This companion book to Honeybee and Giant Squid features the unique talents of Fleming and Rohmann on a perennially popular subject. Eric Rohmann’s magnificent oil paintings feature (as in Honeybee) a spectacular gatefold of the polar landscape.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection

Review & Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Candace Fleming’s beautiful verse introduces us to the polar bear and all of the trials and tribulations she faces with her cubs in the Arctic. Within the narrative, we learn so much information about them and their habitat. The verse adds an extra poetic element to the book that just brings it to the next leve.

Add to that Rohmann’s illustrations, and this stunning picture book sucks in the reader through word and pictures. Backmatter adds even more information through shared research and fun facts.

Educator Guide Available HERE!

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think that author chose to write the book in verse?
  • What does the gatefold add to the experience of reading Polar Bear?
  • What are the biggest threats to polar bears?
  • Why does the back matter include the statement “I’s All About the Ice?”

Flagged Passages: 

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We’re Not Weird: Structure and Function in the Animal Kingdom
Author & Illustrator: Michael Garland
Published January 3rd, 2023 by Holiday House

Summary: Meet nature’s most extraordinary looking creatures. But they aren’t weird!

Birds with blue feet, fish that walk, unicorns in the sea, and more! Learn how these animals’ quirks help them survive. Perfect for budding naturalists who are always ready to share a cool (or gross) animal fact.

Very hard scales protect me, and my long tongue is perfect for eating ants. When I feel threatened, I roll myself into a ball. I am a Pangolin.

See these animals’ amazing body parts in vibrant and detailed woodcut illustrations, from the thorny dragon’s spiky skin to the star-nosed mole’s twenty-two feelers. Read how these creatures’ unique traits help them thrive and survive in their environments. Learn where they live, what they eat, how they protect themselves, and more.

With easy-to-read text vetted by an expert, this book aligns with the Next Generation Science Standards on adaptation, structure, and function for kindergarten through 3rd grade. With supplementary information on each animal’s habitat and diet.

Review: This book introduces the reader to so many different unique animals (20 of them!), featuring what makes them different than others. The text in the book is written in 1st person with interesting facts and an introduction to the animal. Additional info on each animal is on in the back matter giving even more information about the animal including their habitat and diet.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Which of the animals would you like to learn more about? Why?
  • Choose your own animal to research and write an introduction, in 1st person, highlighting the animal’s uniqueness and interesting facts.
  • What is similar about all of the animals’ unique features?

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The Science of Light: Things that Shine, Flash, and Glow
Author & Illustrator: Margaret Peot
Published December 6th, 2022 by Holiday House

Summary: With a striking glow-in-the-dark cover, this intriguing science book invites young readers to find light all around.

Sun shines.
Stars twinkle.
Aurora borealis glimmers.

Dramatic paintings of lightning, fire, fireworks and more introduces the sources of light–both natural and manmade–and encourage children to look around and observe.

Kids will gasp in surprise at the beautiful glow-in-the-dark cover, and the bold spreads within. Margaret Peot’s distinctive art style captures the elusive nature of light. Bioluminescent squid, fireflies and phytoplankton reveal light sources in living things. Fireworks and light bubbles sparkle on the page.

This foundational science book will kindle curiosity in physical science and the natural world. The simple text makes science accessible to all ages.

Toddlers will delight in the colorful art at storytime. As they grow, kids will return to this nonfiction favorite and discover new ideas each time. Science vocabulary and definitions are included in the back of the book.

An Orbis Pictus Honor Book

Review: This beautifully illustrated book with sparse text gives an introduction to light in science including natural sources of light, bioluminescence, and artificial light. All of the animals, nature, and items in the book are tied together by the light that they make.

The author’s backmatter adds even more depth to the text by sharing more information on the different types of light, a bibliography, and websites to learn more.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are the differences between the three types of light shared in the book?
  • Which of the types fascinates you the most?
  • How does bioluminescence work?

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Signature

**Thank you to Sara at Holiday House for providing copies for review!**

Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head by Jeanne Walker Harvey, Illustrated by Diana Toledano

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Dressing Up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith Head
Author: Jeanne Walker Harvey
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published September 20th, 2022 by Beach Lane Books

Summary: Discover the true story of how a shy miner’s daughter became one of the most legendary costume designers in Hollywood in this inspiring nonfiction picture book biography.

As a child in the small mining town of Searchlight, Nevada, Edith Head (1897 – 1981) had few friends and spent most of her time dressing up her toys and pets and even wild animals using fabric scraps. She always knew she wanted to move somewhere full of people and excitement. She set her sights on Hollywood and talked her way into a job sketching costumes for a movie studio.

Did she have formal training? Did she know how to draw or sew costumes? No. But that didn’t stop her!

Strong and determined, Edith taught herself how to sew and tirelessly worked her way up until she was dressing some of the biggest stars of the day. These included Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ginger Rogers, and Elizabeth Taylor. She made costumes for films like Sabrina and Rear Window and TV shows like Bewitched. She also designed costumes for many of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, including To Catch a ThiefNotorious, and The Trouble With Harry. She became the first woman to head a major Hollywood movie studio costume department and went on to win eight Academy Awards for best costume design—and she defined the style of an era.

By ultimately becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought-after designers, Edith Head proved that with tenacity, anything is possible. This insightful behind-the-scenes look at the iconic figure is a must-have for cinephiles, history buffs, and fashionistas alike.

FUN FACT! Edith served as the inspiration for the iconic character Edna Mode in the Pixar film The Incredibles! With her classic hairstyle and glasses, Edith will be recognizable as the inspiration for Edna to the observant reader.

Praise:

* “Together, the art and storytelling capture Head’s belief in the transformative magic of costumes, which will certainly strike a chord with dress-up enthusiasts.” — ALA Booklist (STARRED review)

“Toledano’s mixed-media artwork… combined with starry-eyed prose, the result is a glamorous life story with a Hollywood ending.” — Publishers Weekly

About the Creators: 

Jeanne Walker Harvey studied literature and psychology at Stanford University and has worn many job hats, ranging from being a roller coaster ride operator to an attorney, a middle school language arts teacher, and a long-time docent for school groups at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She is the author of several books for young readers, including the picture book biographies Dressing up the Stars: The Story of Movie Costume Designer Edith HeadAblaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas, and Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines. Jeanne lives in Northern California. Visit her online at JeanneHarvey.com.

Twitter: @JeanneWHarvey
Pinterest: @JeanneWalkerHarvey
Check out the many resources here at Jeanne Walker Harvey’s website!

Diana Toledano is an illustrator, writer, and educator. She is also a Pisces who loves children’s books, patterns, and dancing her heart out. Originally from Spain, Diana (pronounced the Spanish way: dee-ah-na) grew up in Madrid where she studied art history and illustration. Now she lives in San Francisco with her husband and two fluffy cats. Her mixed media art seeks to capture the magic of the ordinary. Diana’s product designs, picture books, board books, and chapter books have been published and sold all over the world. Diana also teaches workshops for kids and adults. She enjoys doing school visits and speaking at conferences. Learn more at Diana-Toledano.com.

Instagram: @dianatoledano
Facebook: Diana Toledano
Pinterest: Diana Toledano

Review: As a fan of old Hollywood, I recognized Edith Head’s costumes right away. I mean–Grace Kelly in Rear Window, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tippi Hedren in The Birds, Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn, Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii–anyone?!? And this is just the tip of the iceberg of Head’s designing. She was nominated for an Academy Award THIRTY FIVE times and won EIGHT making her the most awarded woman in the Academy’s history. But yet, she was behind the scenes and not as well known as the actors in front of the camera, so I am so happy to have this picture book biography to bring to light her genius. A self-taught young woman with no experience fighting her way up to being an Oscar winner–yes, please! Harvey does a fantastic job of sharing Edith’s magic from her childhood dreams to her adult reality and Toledano’s illustrations work perfectly for Edith’s style and costumes.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: 

Check out the publisher-provided activity kit for some fun activities to do with the book:

Discussion Questions: 

  • What does Edith’s journey to her dream job teach you about growth mindset?
  • How did Edith’s hobbies as a child help her reach her dreams?
  • Why do you think Edith chose to wear black or other dark, neutral colors when dressing stars?
  • How does a costume designer impact a movie or show?
  • Why do you think Edith was given a second chance after she failed to create costumes for dancers dressed as candy?
  • How do you think Edith grew her confidence overtime so much that she was able to not allow nay-sayers to make her question herself?
  • What are some words in the book that you did not know? What do you think they mean based on context? Check your guess by looking ups its definition.
  • How does the Author’s Note at the end of the book add to the book experience?

Book Trailer: 

The trailer can also be viewed on the author’s website:
https://www.jeanneharvey.com/dressingupthe-stars

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Nonfiction biography picture books, specifically about groundbreaking women, including Harvey’s books on Maya Lin and Alma Thomas

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**Thank you to Alex at Simon & Schuster and Barbara at Blue Slip Media for providing a copy for review!**

Who’s That Dinosaur?: An Animal Guessing Game by Gabrielle Balkan, Illustrated by Sam Brewster

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Who’s That Dinosaur?: An Animal Guessing Game
Author: Gabrielle Balkan
Illustrator: Sam Brewster
Published September 21, 2022 by Phaedon

Summary: A playful, informative introduction to dinosaurs for the youngest readers, by the team behind the bestselling Book of Bones

Set up as a guessing game with visual and narrative clues, Who’s That Dinosaur? invites readers to examine seven skeletons and guess to whom they belong. The answer is provided in a vibrant, foldout reveal, accompanied by an explanation as to why each dinosaur’s body was so special.

It’s a humorous, informative introduction to fossils and dinosaur anatomy, where, in a surprise twist, young children learn how birds are modern-day dinosaurs. A fun and informative introduction to the ever-popular topic of dinosaurs.

Review: This book is such good fun! It is an informational fiction text which really engages its readers. Although this is marketed to younger readers (ages 2-4), My almost 6-year-old had a BLAST reading it. He was able to read the words, so it also offered great vocabulary for him. (My 3-year-old, of course, loved it.) This is a book that would be great for preschool or early elementary school classrooms. It is interactive, engaging, and a very fun read—for adults, too!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: It would be neat to have children create their own interactive pages that fold out. They might pick a dinosaur or animal and research to create their own “Who’s that…” page filled with fun facts.

Flagged Spread:

Read This If You Love: Interactive activity books that are fun and educational

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

A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn by Patricia Newman, Illustrated by Natasha Donovan

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A River’s Gifts: The Mighty Elwha River Reborn
Author: Patricia Newman
Illustrator: Natasha Donovan
Published September 6th, 2022 by Millbrook Press

Summary: A mighty river. A long history.

For thousands of years, the Elwha river flowed north to the sea. The river churned with salmon, which helped feed bears, otters, and eagles. The Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, known as the Strong People located in the Pacific Northwest, were grateful for the river’s abundance. All that changed in the 1790s when strangers came who did not understand the river’s gifts. The strangers built dams, and the environmental consequences were disastrous.

Sibert honoree Patricia Newman and award-winning illustrator Natasha Donovan join forces to tell the story of the Elwha, chronicling how the Strong People successfully fought to restore the river and their way of life.

About the Creators: 

Patricia Newman’s books inspire young readers to seek connections to the real world. Her titles encourage readers to use their imaginations to solve real world problems and act on behalf of their communities. These books include Sibert Honor title Sea Otter Heroes: The Predators That Saved an Ecosystem; Orbis Pictus Recommended Book Planet Ocean: Why We All Need a Healthy Ocean; Bank Street College Best Book Zoo Scientists to the Rescue; Booklist Editor’s Choice Ebola: Fears and Facts; and Green Earth Book Award winner Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Patricia frequently speaks at schools and conferences to share how children of any age can affect change. Visit her at www.patriciamnewman.com.

Natasha Donovan is the illustrator of the award-winning Mothers of Xsan series (written by Brett Huson). She illustrated the graphic novel Surviving the City (written by Tasha Spillett), which won a Manitoba Book Award and received an American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA) honor. She also illustrated Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer which won an Orbis Pictus Honor Book and an American Indian Youth Literature Award (AIYLA). Natasha is Métis, and spent her early life in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although she moved to the United States to marry a mathematician, she prefers to keep her own calculations to the world of color and line. She lives in Washington. www.natashadonovan.com

Review: This book is different than Newman’s other books as it is illustrated and more lyrical than her books of the past; however, there is no need to worry — the book is beautiful! Newman does a fantastic job balancing the narrative of the river and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe with informative information about water, salmon, dams, and other wildlife. Newman’s prose also does amazing justice when it comes to the river’s legacy and the indigenous tribes that relied on, and lost, the river.

To add to Newman’s work, Donovan’s illustrations bring everything to life that Newman shares. Her work is filled with color and life and brings the whole book together.

A spectacular nonfiction picture book that takes the reader on a journey of a river’s legacy filled with lyrical prose and important information.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The publisher has provided a Teaching Guide for The River’s Gifts:

There is also an interview with Patricia Newman that digs deeper into her book:

Flagged Passages: 

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Love: Environmental nonfiction picture books

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**Thank you to Patricia Newman and Lerner for providing a copy for review!**

Guest Review: A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston, Illustrated by Sylvia Long

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Guest Reviewer: Natalia, UCF Elementary Education Student

A Butterfly is Patient
Author: Dianna Hutts Aston
Illustrator: Sylvia Long
Published May 18th, 2011 by Chronicle Books

Summary: The creators of the award-winning An Egg Is Quiet and A Seed Is Sleepy have teamed up again to create this gorgeous and informative introduction to the world of butterflies. From iridescent blue swallowtails and brilliant orange monarchs to the worlds tiniest butterfly (Western Pygmy Blue) and the largest (Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing), an incredible variety of butterflies are celebrated here in all of their beauty and wonder. Perfect for a child’s bedroom bookshelf or for a classroom reading circle!  (Summary from Goodreads)

About the Creators: 

Dianna Hutts Aston is the author of many books for children and is the founder of the nonprofit foundation for disadvantaged children, The Oz Project. She lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Sylvia Long is the illustrator of many best-selling books for children, including Sylvia Long’s Mother Goose and Hush Little Baby. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband and their dogs.

Review: I loved this beautifully illustrated book by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long!  There is a wide variety of butterflies depicted in this nonfiction picture book about the life cycle and anatomy of butterflies.  Not only can it be enjoyed for its visual aspects, but the descriptive vocabulary shares basic facts about butterflies as well as more unusual information.  Did you know butterflies taste with their feet?  Some butterflies eat plants that are poisonous to their predators when they are caterpillars, so they will be poisonous as adults.  For such a seemingly delicate creature, A Butterfly is Patient shares that butterflies are so much more than they seem.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation:

In addition to providing beautiful, life-like illustrations of a variety of butterflies, this nonfiction picture book follows the life cycle of a butterfly.  There are many opportunities to infuse reading, ELA, math, art, and science and more using this book.  There is a rich descriptive vocabulary and uses key terms like anatomy, metamorphosis, migration, coloration/camouflage, and more.  I can see using these words cross-curricular lessons, from an ELA-based writing exercise to science-based compare/contrast activity with other animals and insects.  Math and geography activities can be used to calculate and track the migratory paths that different species of butterflies travel in their lifetimes.  Take it a step further, compare/contrast how many hours/days/weeks that would take a person using different modes of transportation.  Students can use what they have learned about butterfly camouflage and anatomy, to create their own butterfly.  They can describe why they chose the colors and features, then use art supplies to create a painting, drawing, or model of their “newly discovered” species.

Something I love to do with my children and students, is purchase milkweed plants.  They attract Monarch Butterflies.  Sometimes the plants already have tiny eggs or caterpillars living on them.  Other times, if I wait long enough, Monarchs will lay eggs on my plants.  We love to watch the caterpillars grow from teeny tiny slivers, to thick, fat caterpillars, which in turn, change into gorgeous jade chrysalis.  If we are lucky enough, we get to see the butterfly when it hatches.  There are butterfly net cages you can use in the classroom or just keep the plants outdoors if there is a safe place.  Students can track the growth and changes throughout the process with drawings and/or written descriptions.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why does a butterfly lay its egg under a leaf?
  • What does it mean to “molt?”
  • What is “metamorphosis?”
  • How does a caterpillar protect itself during metamorphosis?
  • How do butterflies help pollinate flowers?
  • What are some ways that butterflies use their wings to protect themselves?
  • How does a butterfly use its probiscis?
  • Are butterflies all the same size?
  • What would happen if a butterfly didn’t have scales?
  • How are butterflies’ scales helpful to them?
  • Where do Monarch butterflies migrate to and from?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle

Recommended For: 

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Thank you, Natalia, for your review!

Guest Post: Classroom Uses for Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott, Magnificent Makers: How to Test a Friendship by Theanne Griffith, Polly Diamond and the Magic Book by Alice Kuipers, and Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich Smith

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One of the assignments during my Spring Children’s Literature course at UCF was creating a mini-teaching guide for the books we read for book clubs. We started with picture books for practice then students created them in their book clubs each week.

Today, I am happy to share the classroom uses and discussion questions found by my UCF Elementary Education students about fantasy novels.

Dragons in a Bag
Author: Zetta Elliott
Published October 23rd, 2018 by Random House

Summary: Jax is left by his mom to an old lady by the name of Ma. Jax later finds out that Ma is a witch who has 3 dragon eggs that hatched. They need to return the eggs because they won’t survive in the regular world due to lack of magic. They go to portals through time that takes them to the time of dinosaurs. Along the way, Jax meets his grandfather who also knows magic, and has him return two of the dragons to the magic council but accidentally left one left behind so he returns to the regular world. He forces his mom and the witch to hash out their problems.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: When using fantasy in the classroom it is always a good way to spark your students’ creativity. This source could be used as a creative writing prompt to boost off their creativity of the story: Conduct an activity based upon the book like have them write a short story about what they would do if they were in Jax’s shoes and have them draw pictures of dragons, name them, and design the dragons how they would like them to be pictured.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What was Jax’s first impression of Ma?
  • How do you think Jax will return the last dragon to the magic council?
  • Who do agree with and why? Ma who wants to keep the world of magic separate or L. Roy who wants magic to come back to earth.
  • Why do you think Jax decided to open the window for the squirrel?
  • What were 2 things the dragons were not allowed to have?
  • When you first hear the word apprentice what comes to mind?  Did you have the same thinking as Jax?
  • How does the story tie in with real-life scenarios with the fantasy?
  • Who are the most influential character apart from Jax?
  • When do we see the change of events come in play throughout the story?
  • When reading the book your imagination goes wild,in what other circumstances does your mind go other places when reading this story?

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The Magnificent Makers: How to Test Friendship
Author: Theanne Griffith
Illustrator: Reggie Brown
Published May 19th, 2020 by Random House Children’s Books

Summary: Pablo, Violet and Deepak are three friends who get sucked into a telescope and must play science games to come back and play again. Deepak is the new kid who makes Pablo jealous with his presence. Throughout the book, the team works together and build their friendship to complete the games.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The book could be used as a classroom read-aloud over the course of a few days or a week.  Due to the science elements, this book would be a good way to start off science discussions in the classroom. For example, the second chapter includes the students learning about food chains. This book is perfect to make connections back to science.

Discussion Questions: 

  •   Why do you think Pablo was jealous of Deepak?
  •   What were some of the challenges they had and what did they have to do?
  •   Why do you think Pablo, Violet, and Deepak were chosen for the Maker’s Maze?
  •    What do you know about producers, consumers, decomposers, and scavengers?
  • What were your favorite aspects of science that you learned from the book?
  • What type of emotion did the characters experience in the book?
  • When Deepak arrived to class, what did Pablo notice about him?
  • How does Pablo overcome is jealous toward Deepak?
  • Toward the end of the book why did they relate their friendship to the ecosystems?

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Polly Diamond and the Magic Book
Author: Alice Kuipers
Illustrator: Diana Toledano
Published April 22nd, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Polly Diamond is a little girl who receives a magic book that lets her bring to life the things that she writes and draws. She has a little sister who she doesn’t like very much and a brother on the way. Polly loves to write, she writes lists and stories and anything that she thinks is worth writing. When she starts writing in her magic book she realizes that the book can talk back to her. She writes to her book and comes up with lists and stories to write. She realizes that whatever she writes in the book comes to life when she writes about making a ladder to paint her room and the books on the floor magically move to make a ladder. The book tells her that is what she’s for and Polly quickly learns she can do anything she writes. She makes herself invisible and her sister into a banana. But she realizes that the book is taking everything she says literally. When she writes about eating a club sandwich the book gives her two slices of bread with a bat in between because it took the definition of a club literally. She told the house to fix up the carpet and turn her room into an aquarium. But the carpet was on the ceiling and fish were swimming around her room. She then realizes that everything she wrote was crazy and tries to put the house back to normal because she can’t even recognize it anymore. She fixes it just in time for her parents to come home with her new baby brother. At the end of the story she gives the book a name, Spell. And looks forward to writing and drawing another day with her new book, and friend Spell.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Polly uses and explains words like metaphor, affixes, alliteration, and hyperbole.  This is a great opportunity to talk about these definitions, make lists of words and phrases that relate to these words, and do activities where the students use metaphors, alliteration, homophones, homonyms etc.  It seems like a useful book to have in a first grade classroom and use with a higher level reading small group or a second grade class.    It could also be used as a read aloud, again discussing the key words and their meanings, then practicing using those skills.  There is a lot of use of imagery in this book as well as understanding literal meaning and how words matter.

After reading the text, students can respond to the story by engaging in a free write activity after they finish the reading. As a teacher, we could set a timer for five minutes and ask the students to write continuously about their thoughts on the book, good or bad, and afterwards, go over it as a small group.

Discussion Questions:

  • Polly had many favorite words throughout the book, what are some of your favorite words and why?
  • Make a list of activities you would do to have a Super-Fantastic-Day.
  • In the book, Polly writes down what her dream bedroom would look like. If you could have your dream bedroom, what would it look like?
  • When Polly writes in the magic book, she learns that she needs to write clearly and use as much detail as possible. What are some important rules to follow when writing so people can understand your message clearly?
  • When Polly is playing hide-and-seek, why does she become invisible?
  • Imagine the turquoise notebook has changed your house like Polly’s. Please write a short story explaining what your home looks like in order to get it back to normal.
  • How does Polly feel having to share a room with her little sister when her brother is born?
  • If you had a magic notebook that could bring three things you wrote about to life, what 3 things would you write or draw and why?
  • Polly loves words with double letters like “Dizzy.” List 5 words you can think of that have double letters.
  • Polly loves alliteration.  That’s when  two or more words in a row begin with the same letter.  What alliterations can you think of?

Recommended For: 

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Sisters of the Neversea
Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Published June 1st, 2021 by Heartdrum

Summary: This book is a tale about three children, Lily, Wendy, and Michael. Their parents, Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene Roberts-Darling are separating, splitting the family between two different locations.  The night before Wendy and Mr. Darling are supposed to leave, the children are visited by a boy named Peter Pan and Belle. Stories of pirates and merfolk persuade the children to follow Peter Pan and Belle off to a mystical land called Neverland.  Upon arriving the children are separated and discover once you arrive you can never leave.  The children meet merfolk, pirates, native children, the lost, and fairies in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get home.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will be great for a read aloud, book club, or close reading because it involves a lot of higher level vocabulary than some students may currently be reading at and it has long sentences and dialogue which again, some children could struggle with. These classroom uses would allow for discussions.

Geography could also be tied in because students could illustrate and demonstrate caves and waterways the Merfolk might have dwelled in. They also could show their knowledge of what an island like Neverland might have, and include what trees they think the lost boys were living in.

And, of course, it could be looked at versus Peter Pan as it is a retelling.

Discussion Questions: 

  • If you were a character in this book, who would you be and why?
  • If you were to create a different ending, How would it go?
  • Why do you think Mr. Darling and Ms. Florene wanted to separate?
  • What was your favorite part of the book?
  • What were some challenges that the children had to face or overcome?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan and Belle appeared?
  • Why do you think it was hard for the lost boys to remember who they are?
  • Why do you think Peter Pan never wanted to grow up?
  • Why do you think Belle brought Peter Pan to the island?
  • Why do you think the crocodile made a TikTok sound?
  • Does this book remind you of any other children’s stories?  If so why?

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Guest Review: There’s Only One You by Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook, Illustrated by Rosie Butcher

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Guest Reviewer: Jessica G., UCF Elementary Education Student

There’s Only One You
Authors: Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook
Illustrator: Rosie Butcher
Published May 7th, 2019 by Union Square Kids

Summary: This feel-good book reassures kids that, whoever and whatever they are, it’s awesome being YOU! Expertly written to include all kinds of children and families, it embraces the beauty in a range of physical types, personalities, and abilities. Kids will love discovering and recognizing themselves in these pages—and they’ll feel proud to see their special qualities acknowledged. Adorable illustrations by Rosie Butcher show a diverse community that many will find similar to their own. (Goodreads)

About the Creators:

Kathryn Heling and Deborah Hembrook have coauthored several books for children, including Ten Lucky Leprechauns (Scholastic) and Mouse Makes Words: A Phonics Reader (Random House). Kathryn is a school psychologist and Deborah is a kindergarten teacher. They both live in WI. Learn more at helinghembrook.com.

Rosie Butcher lives in East Yorkshire and spends her summers in Sweden. Follow her @scrimmle.

Review: I really enjoyed reading There’s Only One You. It is a wonderful book embracing diversity, inclusion, and individuality. The book is filled with beautiful illustrations demonstrating what makes us unique. The book is written in a rhythmic style, so it is engaging for young readers. Each spread beautifully displays the range of physical characteristics, personalities, or abilities individuals may have. The book is filled with bright vivid colors. Each page is filled with many details. Readers will enjoy exploring each page. The book and the illustrations go beyond inclusion of physical characteristics and incorporate physical attributes and challenges such as being in a wheelchair, using arm crutches, a walker, or using a hearing aid. The book also includes multiple spreads showing differences in families. Illustrations include families that comprise of a mom and a dad, or two moms, or two dads, or a single mom, or a single dad. The authors and illustrator do an excellent job displaying diversity within each page. The book also addresses differences in personalities, such as “crying when you’re sad, or keep tears inside”. The story emphasizes that being unique is what we all have in common. It is what makes us extraordinary.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I believe There’s Only One You is a wonderful book to kick start a new school year. It is a great read aloud choice that reminds students that we are all unique and that is special. The story celebrates all learners. It also encourages empathy among students. It is an excellent aide to teach social emotional learning concepts such as self-esteem, managing thoughts, emotions,

and behaviors, and being against bullying. The book can also be used interdisciplinary in reading, social studies, and art. The text and illustrations are filled with many details that prompt discussion among readers. Students may also respond in a journal entry to some of the subjects addressed in the book or write and draw about their own family. Students may also respond by creating an acrostic poem. In social studies, students can utilize individuality to explore what makes us diverse. For example, exploring

what country each student is from, their culture, traditions, and norms. In art, students can draw a self-portrait of themselves, then share with their classmates.There’s Only One You provides a great opportunity to build a classroom community.

Discussion Questions: 

  • On page 3, the author writes, “It’s awesome being unique!” Based on what we have read so far, what do you think being unique means?
  • On page 4, the author writes, “Do your feelings spill out? Do they lay low and hide? You might cry when you’re sad or keep tears inside.” The author is trying to tell us we differ in how we express our emotions. What are ways you can respond if you do not like something or it is not what you may have wanted?
  • On pages 8 and 9, we see students at the zoo. The author wants us to know how they are different and special. How does the author tell us that the students are different? What can we see from the illustrations?
  • Is there something that makes you unique or different from your classmates?
  • On pages 12 and 13, we can see all the children doing different activities. What kind of activities do we see in the picture? Do you have an activity that you love to do?
  • On pages 14 and 15, we can see some cool tools that may help our friends. Can you recall any of these tools? How do they help?

Flagged Passages: 

 

Read This If You Love: Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López; You Are Enough: A Book about Inclusion by Margaret O’ Hair, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso; Different–A Great Thing to Be! by Heather Avis, illustrated by Sarah Mensinga

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Thank you, Jessica, for your review!