Seymour Simon: Animal books


NF PB 2013

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


Various Animals including Gorillas, Penguins, and Cats
Author: Seymour Simon
Published: Varies

Gorillas Goodreads Summary: Classic movies show giant gorillas scaling tall buildings and swatting planes from the sky, but actual gorillas are gentle social animals that live together in family groups like humans. In fact, gorillas are one of the closest genetic matches to people. And just like humans, gorillas can shriek, chuckle, hiccup, and even burp!

Award-winning science writer Seymour Simon has teamed up with the Smithsonian Institution to bring you an updated edition of his classic full-color photographic introduction to these fascinating animals.

Penguins Goodreads Summary: Did you know that: Penguins are champion swimmers. They spend 75 percent of their lives in water. They are birds, but they can’t fly. Penguins are classified as birds because they have feathers.

Now you can explore a penguin’s world by finding out how they can swim so fast, what they eat, and why people need to protect their habitats. Acclaimed science writer Seymour Simon has teamed up with the Smithsonian Institution to take you on a journey to the Antarctic region for a close-up look at one of nature’s most beloved and sociable animals.

Cats Goodreads Summary: Cats are fascinating, complex creatures. Since cats were first tamed about 5,000 years ago, they have enchanted people with their elegant beauty and mysterious manner. But cats can also be playful and cuddly pets, death-defying acrobats, or ruthless hunters. Come along as celebrated science writer Seymour Simon explores the many faces of this beloved animal with striking full-color photographs and engaging prose.

My Reviews and Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Seymour Simon’s books have been a hit in my classroom (I even put them on my Top Books for Struggling and Reluctant Readers list); however, I, hypocritically, had never read any of his books. I decided a couple of weeks ago that I needed to remedy this and you will see that I did based on my next couple of weeks of Wednesday reviews.

After reading the three animal books pictured/mentioned above, I can see why Simon is a favorite informational nonfiction author. His books are friendly to read yet include essential information about the animals that they are about. The books are easy to navigate and the photographs that are included are beautiful. These books are written to engage and educate the reader.

There are such a plethora of ways to use Simon’s books in the classroom. They will find love in the classroom library, they can be used in conjunction with science or social studies to get more information about a topic, or they can be used in a lit circle type environment where each group has a different Simon book and then they come together to share what they learned. They can also be used for researching as well as academic vocabulary (and even just vocabulary) instruction. Simons books are made to be used in classes and to be in students’ hands.

Discussion Questions: What was the most interesting fact you learned about _____’s habitat? Diet? Parenting? Behavior? Types?

We Flagged: “Penguins are champion swimmers and divers. But they are not fish and they are not aquatic mammals such as dolphins. Penguins are birds because they have feathers, and only birds have feathers. Like birds, they lay their eggs and raise their chicks on land. But they don’t look or fly like most other birds. Instead they seem to fly through the water, and they spend much of their lives at sea.” (Penguins p. 5)

“All cats are hunting animals. They use claws and teeth to seize their prey. When you watch a cat play with a ball or piece of yarn, it is almost like watching a tiger or a leopard stalk its prey in the wild. Even well-fed pet cats will try to catch mice or birds or insects.” (Cats p. 5)

“Gorillas are sometimes called anthropoid (manlike) apes. A gorilla has two arms and two legs, and a head and body much like a human’s head and body. A gorilla has five fingers and five toes, and thirty-two teeth. You have all of those too, and twenty-eight teeth, in about the same positions. Of course, gorillas are much harrier than people. An adult gorilla has hair all over its body except its face, its chest, and the palms of its hands and soles of its feet.” (Gorillas p. 5)

Read This If You Loved: Any informational nonfiction about animals

Recommended For: 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books on Our Winter TBR Lists


top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Top Ten Books on Our Winter TBR Lists

We really need to get to these books!


1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth


I absolutely loved the first two books in this series, so I am very eager to get to the third! I haven’t read it yet because I have too many other library books that are at-risk of giving me overdue fines!

2. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan


I have heard such wonderful things about this book. I am waiting for my library to get it in!

3. Unsouled by Neal Shusterman


The first two books in the series are fantastic, and I will probably hear a few spoilers before I get my hands on it.

4. The Real Boy by Anne Ursu


I don’t usually crave middle grade books as much as I crave high school books, but everyone is raving about this book, so now I NEED to get it!

5. The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt


 I wanted to read this book so badly that I put it on my baby registry. I have it in hand, but my husband says I can’t read it until the baby is born. BOO!


1. Mira’s Diary: Home Sweet Rome by Marissa Moss


I really , really loved the first one of this series and am so excited to have the newest to read. I loved the way Marissa Moss combines time travel, history, and art in Mira’s stories.

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


This book is being raved about and since I liked Eleanor and Park I am so very looking forward to Fangirl.

3. Period 8 by Chris Crutcher


I haven’t read enough Chris Crutcher and after hearing him speak at ALAN I know I need to read more.

4. Two Boys Kissing by David Leviathan


This is on so many people’s BEST OF lists for 2013 and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

5. Explorer: The Lost Islands edited by Kazu Kibuishi


This one I need to read ASAP so I can get it into the hands of my students. They LOVE Kazu Kibuishi and I know they will love this one as well.

Which are the top books on your winter TBR lists?

RickiSig andSignature

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 12/9/13



It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday yeolde fangirl

gorgeous loud girlchild witch

squish will

**Click on any picture to view the post**

Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: Last week, as planned, I finished Fat Boy vs. the Cheerleaders by Geoff Herbach and I cannot wait to get close to the release date so I can review it for you. If you have not read any Herbach, start now! I also had a VERY long doctor’s appointment this week (for prenatal glucose testing), so I was able to get three graphic novels read while there! First, I read Explorer: The Lost Islands edited by Kazu Kibuishi and I am just so impressed with everything he does and this book is no different. I also read both of the Salem Hyde books by Frank Cammuso. His Knights of the Lunch Table books are a HUGE hit in my classroom, so when I heard he had a new series I made sure to get my hands on them. I will review all of these as they deserve to be shared.

Ricki: Thank you for the congratulations about my new son! I am absolutely in love with him. The week before he was born, I read a professional development book called Celebrating Writers by Ruth Ayres. This is a FANTASTIC book for teachers of writing. It gives great suggestions to help students celebrate their writing. I also read Thrice Told Tales by Catherine Lewis–another amazing book for teachers. It is based on the nursery rhyme of “Three Blind Mice.” Each page is a different literary term within the context of the nursery rhyme. I wish I had this book when I was still in the high school. I actually learned some literary terms as I read it. I also read two great National Geographic books that would be enjoyable for beginning readers to explore nonfiction—Amelia Earhart by Caroline Gilpin and Meerkats by Laura Marsh. Since my son has been born, I read Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott while nursing. This is a great book that explores grief with a very interesting plot. The main character’s mother is being kept on life support only because she is pregnant. I didn’t realize the plot when I started it—it was a depressing book to read while nursing!

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: I started The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley followed by a couple of other graphic novels (and maybe even enough time to start some of my YA  TBR) and, since I got my new phone, I hope to start listening to The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Ricki: This week, I want to read The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher. I am hoping to get through it, but no promises with the new baby. 🙂

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday cats penguins

gorillas 6135987 explorer

salem2 salem1 Baby Shower Books

 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge



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

Recommended For: 

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Squish: Game On! by Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm



Squish: Game On!
Author: Jennifer L. Holm
Illustrator: Matthew Holm
Published May 1st, 2013 by Random House

Goodreads Summary: Beep! Beep! Squish can’t get enough of his awesome new video game Mitosis! (Mitosis is what happens when cells divide. Who says video games can’t be educational?) In fact, he may even be “obsessed”! He plays at home . . . at school. . . even in his sleep! Are video games taking over Squish’s life?! And can Squish’s favorite comic book hero, Super Amoeba, stop the Creeping Black Mold that’s taking over Small Pond? Find out in Squish #5: Game On–saving the world, one cell at a time!
Yowza! You can draw comics, too! Look in the back to find out how to draw one of the Squish characters! Also includes instructions for a sensational science experiment you can do at home! Shazam!

My Review: I love the Squish series. The series is so wonderful for many reasons, but I like them specifically because it balances humor, entertainment, and education. I also really like the characters, especially Squish, and one of the things I love about Squish is his love of comic books and his chosen hero, Super Amoeba. This book in the Squish series deals with a dilemma that many children face: books vs. video games and balancing time. Will Squish be able to fight the video game addiction?

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: Students love Squish. This one will be no different. It has all of the humor yet education of the first 5 and continues to have situations that its readers will connect with.

Discussion Questions: How do you balance your time between reading and video games?; Have you ever found yourself being addicted to something? What did you do?

We Flagged:


Visit Squish 5‘s Amazon page to “Click to Look Inside”

Read This If You Loved: Babymouse (series) by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, Squish (series) by Jennifer and Matthew Holm, Lunch Lady (series) by Jarrett Krosoczka

Recommended For: 

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ALAN 2013: Celebrating Strong Female Characters


witch girlchild

loud gorgeous

On Tuesday, November 26th, during the ALAN Workshop, I was lucky enough to be able to moderate a panel of the authors of the books above: Mariah Fredericks, Tupelo Hassman, Adele Griffin, and Paul Rudnick. The panel title was: “Celebrating Strong Female Characters Young Woman Take Center Stage: The Fight to Be Heard in a Testosterone World.”

panel panel2

If you do not know these authors, let me introduce you: 

  • Mariah Fredericks grew up in New York City and uses her experiences in New York and an alternative school there in her books. She has had a lot of jobs and most of them involved books: she’s reviewed books, shelved books, and sold books. She now focuses her time on writing books and says it is the best job she’s had so far. Mariah is the author of 8 young adult novels including the In the Cards series, Crunch Time, and her newest, Season of the Witch.
  • Adele Griffin is a two-time National Book Award finalist and the highly acclaimed author of numerous books for young adult and middle grade readers. Her works include Where I Want to Be, the Vampire Island series, and her most recent thriller Loud Awake and Lost.
  • Tupelo Hassman’s work has appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, and newspapers such as The Boston Globe, Harper’s Bazaar, The Paris Review Daily, and The Portland Review Literary Journal. Tupelo is the first American ever to win London’s Literary Death Match. Her first novel, girl child, is a 2013 Alex Award winner.
  • Paul Rudnick. Paul is a frequent contributor to the NewYorker, Vanity Fair, and Entertainment Weekly. He is an Obie award winning-playwright and also was the screenwriter for such movies like Sister Act and Stepford Wives. Gorgeous is his first young adult novel.

Like their authors, the books the panel were discussing are equally as impressive (Goodreads summaries):

  • Season of the Witch (published October 8th, 2013 by Schwartz & Wade): Like Fredericks’s The Girl in the Park, here is a page-turner that perfectly captures the world of New York City private schools, as it explores the notion of power among teenage girls. Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, raves, “Fredericks again proves her gift for conveying the intensity of adolescence, while exploring the ways girls’ sexuality is used against them and asking why ‘we all have to be predators and prey.'”Queen Bee Chloe is going to make Toni suffer for whatever transpired between Toni and Chloe’s boyfriend, Oliver, over the summer. From day one of eleventh grade, she has Toni branded as a super slut, and it isn’t long before things get so ugly that Toni fears for her safety. What’s a scared, powerless, and fed-up teenager to do? Guided by Cassandra—a girl with some serious problems of her own—Toni decides to stop playing the victim and take control. Cassandra has been experimenting with witchcraft, and together they cast a spell on Chloe that may actually cause her death. Could Toni have really made such an awful thing happen?
  • girlchild (Published February 14th, 2012 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux): Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own.  But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Disposal of Outgrown Uniforms; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle:  that is, Calle de los Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.Rory’s been told she is “third generation in a line of apparent imbeciles, feeble-minded bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the County and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social worker’s reports, half-recalled memories, story problems, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world while she searches for the way out of it. Girlchildis a heart-stopping and original debut.
  • Loud Awake and Lost (Published November 12th, 2013 by Knopf Books for Young Readers): LOUD. There was an accident. Ember knows at least that much. She was driving. The car was totaled. She suffered back injuries and brain trauma. But she is alive. That’s the only thing left she can cling to.AWAKE. Eight months later, Ember feels broken. The pieces of her former self no longer fit together. She can’t even remember the six weeks of her life leading up to the accident. Where was she going? Who was she with? And what happened during those six weeks that her friends and family won’t talk about?LOST. One by one, Ember discovers the answers to these questions, like a twisted game of dominos. And little by little, the person she used to be slips further and further away.

    In the wake of her critically praised young adult psychological thrillers,Tighter and All You Never Wanted, National Book Award finalist Adele Griffin has created another triumph. Loud Awake & Lost is an unflinching story of loss and recovery.

  • Gorgeous (Published April 30th, 2013 by Scholastic Press): Inner beauty wants out…When eighteen-year-old Becky Randle’s mother dies, she’s summoned from her Missouri trailer park to meet Tom Kelly, the world’s top designer. He makes her an impossible offer: He’ll create three dresses to transform Becky from a nothing special girl into the most beautiful woman who ever lived.Becky thinks Tom is a lunatic, or that he’s producing a hidden camera show called World’s Most Gullible Poor People. But she accepts, and she’s remade as Rebecca. When Becky looks in the mirror, she sees herself – an awkward mess of split ends and cankles. But when anyone else looks at Becky, they see pure five-alarm hotness.Soon Rebecca is on the cover of Vogue, the new Hollywood darling, and dating celebrities. Then Becky meets Prince Gregory, heir to the British throne, and everything starts to crumble. Because Rebecca aside, Becky loves him. But to love her back, Gregory would have to look past the blinding Rebecca to see the real girl inside. And Becky knows there’s not enough magic in the world.

    A screamingly defiant, hugely naughty, and impossibly fun free fall past the cat walks, the red carpets, and even the halls of Buckingham Palace,Gorgeous does the impossible: It makes you see yourself clearly for the first time.

I am so lucky to have been able to moderate these amazing authors and talk about such an important topic as strong female protagonists. Each of these books will find a home in classroom and school libraries where readers will be inspired by their protagonists.


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Ricki’s Review)



Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published: September 10th, 2013 by St. Martin’s Griffin

GoodReads Summary: A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Review: I can’t remember reading a book that felt so authentic to and aligned with my own experiences. I have this urge to buy hundreds of copies of this book and pass them out to college freshmen. Freshman year of college is an incredibly difficult time, and this book helped me remember it vividly. From Rowell’s descriptions of the domesticated squirrels to the awkwardness of roommate interactions to the feeling of entering the dining hall for the first time and not knowing where to go or where to sit (and feeling sure everyone is watching you), this book perfectly captures the minute details of college life–and all of the insecurities that come with it. I loved the parallels cast between Simon Snow’s story and Cather’s, and it inspired me to want to be a writer. This is a beautifully compelling story that will resonate with readers.

View Kellee’s review of Fangirl HERE.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This would be a great book to teach along with a creative writing unit. It would inspire students to want to become stronger writers. Students could write their own fanfictions or alternate storytelling (like Nick and Cather did). Cather’s struggles as a writer are inspirational, and I am betting that most people, like me, close this book and want to get out their computers and start writing.

Very few authors are able to hone in on the minute details of humanity. I noticed Rowell’s incredible ability to do this in Eleanor & Park, and she certainly did not stop there. I would love to copy passages of this book for close readings. This would really help students understand good, powerful writing.

Discussion Questions: Cather finds it difficult to write about any world other than that of Simon Snow. Why do you think that might be?; How are Cather and Wren different? Do you think there are any underlying reasons for their differences?; What is Nick’s purpose in the novel? What does he show about Cather?

We Flagged:

“I feel sorry for you, and I’m going to be your friend.”
“I don’t want to be your friend,” Cath said as sternly as she could. “I like that we’re not friends.”
“Me, too. I’m sorry you ruined it by being so pathetic.”

“In new situations, all the trickiest rules are the ones nobody bothers to explain to you. (And the ones you can’t Google.)”

Read This If You Loved: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Looking for Alaska by John Green, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian

Recommended For:

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