Living with Jackie Chan by Jo Knowles



Living with Jackie Chan
Author: Jo Knowles
Expected Publication: September 10th, 2013 by Candlewick Press

Summary: After fathering a baby, a teenager moves in with his karate-loving uncle and tries to come to terms with his guilt — and find a way to forgive.

This isn’t how Josh expected to spend senior year. He thought he’d be hanging out with his best friends, Dave and Caleb, driving around, partying, just like always. But here he is, miles from home — new school, new life, living with his Jackie-Chan-obsessed uncle, Larry, and trying to forget. But Josh can’t forget. So many things bring back memories of last year and the night that changed everything. Every day the pain, the shame, and the just not knowing are never far from his thoughts. Why is he such a loser? How could he have done what he did? He finds some moments of peace when he practices karate with Stella, the girl upstairs and his one real friend. As they move together through the katas, Josh feels connected in a way he has never felt before. He wonders if they could be more than friends, but Stella’s jealous boyfriend will make sure that doesn’t happen. And maybe it doesn’t matter. If Stella knew the truth, would she still think he was a True Karate Man? Readers first met Josh in Jumping Off Swings which told the story of four high school students and how one pregnancy changed all of their lives. In this companion book, they follow Josh as he tries to come to terms with what happened, and find a way to forgive.

Ricki’s Review: Jumping off Swings is a favorite in my classroom, so I was very excited to read this companion text. I always wondered what happened to Josh, and this novel shows the other side of the story. In many ways, Jo Knowles makes this story unpredictable for readers. When Josh meets Stella, the reader anticipates this novel will progress similarly to other novels with a budding romance. But instead, the two characters develop a deep, meaningful friendship that feels much more important than a love connection. Stella’s mother neglects her, and she submits to her boyfriend’s emotional abuse. In a way, she needs healing just as badly as Josh does. Larry, at first, seems to be a minor character with his goofy grin and karate moves, but as the story progresses, his depth of character is apparent. He isn’t a secondary character who plays second fiddle. Instead, he drives Josh’s healing process. There is so much to think about and discuss in regards to this text. It is beautifully written, and the characters will stick with me.

Kellee’s Review: I can’t say enough great things about this novel as it helped me out of my latest reading slump! I also think it is interesting because I read Jackie Chan before reading Jumping Off Swings, and I think that may have changed my perspective. It is interesting to think about how the different order of reading can change how you view a book. I went in with no expectations because I didn’t even know what had happened to Josh, so I think that the reveal of that secret was bigger for me than if I’d read it in the other order. Because I was naive about the past, I went in with no past feelings for Josh and really just hoping for the best for him. I found myself struggling with him and crying with him because his hurt was so deep. Though Stella and Larry enter his life, I didn’t think he’d let them in, but instead, they become a huge part in him healing. I really loved Living with Jackie Chan (as well as Jumping off Swings which I read immediately after finishing Jackie Chan). Jo Knowles always impresses me with her ability to tell tough stories in ways that makes it so that the reader can connect.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This is a great text to teach internal conflict. Josh has extremely low self-esteem and blames himself for his decisions. He goes through various stages of grief and tries a variety of coping mechanisms, many of which are unsuccessful. Teachers might have students research the stages of grief and various coping mechanisms that can be used with internal conflicts and relate them back to specific scenes from the text.

Discussion Questions: How does karate play an important role in Josh’s character development?; What stages of grief does Josh go through?; Do you think Josh is morally good? Do you think he should be judged for his mistakes?; Does Britt seem truly remorseful for the way he treats Stella? How does karate play a role in Stella’s character development?; By the end of the novel, is Josh a True Karate Man? Why or why not?

We Flagged: “A true karate man lifts those who have fallen, no matter how low. I can imagine him thinking this as he looks at me. That he’s going to e a true karate man and get me out of this mess. But he doesn’t know everything that happened. He doesn’t know what I did. He doesn’t know how low I’ve gone.”

Please note: The above quote is from the Advanced Reader E-Galley and did not provide page numbers. The quotes may change when the book is published.

Read This If You Loved: Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles, First Part Last by Angela Johnson, Personal Effects by E.M. Kokie, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King

Recommended For:

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**Thank you to NetGalley and Candlewick Press for providing us with the Advanced Reader Copies!**

The Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen & Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple


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!


The Salem Witch Trials: An Unsolved Mystery from History
Authors: Jane Yolen & Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple
Illustrated by: Roger Roth
Published September 7th, 2004 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: In 1692 Salem, Massachusetts, witnessed one of the saddest and most inexplicable chapters in American history. When a group of girls came down with a horrible, mysterious bout of illness, the town doctor looked in his medical books but failed to find a reasonable diagnosis. Pretty soon everyone in town was saying the same thing: The girls were ill because they were under a spell, the spell of witchcraft! And still, the question remains: Why did the hysteria occur? The townspeople had many things to worry about back then: smallpox, strife with the local Indians, a preacher demanding higher wages, and the division of land in the community. But did all of those problems justify a witch hunt?

Become a detective as you read this true story, study the clues, and try to understand the hysteria! The Unsolved Mystery from History series is written by acclaimed author Jane Yolen and former private investigator Heidi Elisabet Yolen Stemple. This is an innovative history lesson that’s sure to keep kids thinking throughout.

Review: The mystery of the Salem Witch Trials is one that has haunted the United States for over 3oo years now and is one that students love to read about (and I do, too!). Most of my thoughts about this book are about how awesome this book is for the classroom. The Yolens seemed to have written it specifically for teachers to use.

Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: This book promotes studying history, inquiry, and vocabulary. The book begins with an introduction to a young girl who enjoys unsolved mysteries from history and then the book is set up like her case notebook. Each page of the case notebook includes a narrative nonfiction section about what was going on in Salem, an informational nonfiction section where facts about the story are explained even more in detail, and then there are vocabulary words from the two sections defined for the reader. Finally, in the back of the book the different theories about what could be the answer to the unsolved mystery are shared and briefly discussed. The set up of this book leads to infinite possibilities of being used in the classroom. Students could debate, write research papers, could do their very own case notebook about a different mystery, etc. Another option is to get all of the Unsolved Mystery from History books and have students get into lit circle groups and have each group read a different mystery then research and share.

Discussion Questions: What do you think happened in Salem? [Could be a wonderful debate or cooperative research presentation/paper in class. Have each students, after reading the different theories, decide which they believe is true. Then within their groups come up with evidence that supports the theory that they believe in.]

We Flagged: Narrative Nonfiction Section: One bitterly cold day in February, Betty and Abigail both fell ill, collapsing onto their small rope beds. They convulsed. They contorted. Their arms and legs jerked about. They shouted bizarre, unintelligible words. They crouched under chairs and cowered as if frightened. In other houses in Salem Village several of their friends began to act the same way.

Informational Nonfiction Section: The other sick girls in Salem village included Ann Punam Jr. (age 12), Mercy Lewis (age 19), Mary Walcott (age 16), Elizabeth Hubbard (age 17), and Mary Warren (age 20). Like Abigail, Elizabeth and Mercy were orphans; Mercy may have witnessed her parents being killed in an Indian attack three years earlier in Main. Mary Walcott had lost her mother when she was eight. Ann and Betty were daughters of landowners, but Marry Warren, Elizabeth, and Mercy were maidservants.

Vocabulary: Convulsed: shook violently, Contorted: Twisted into unusual shapes, Unintelligible: Impossible to understand” (p. 12-13)

Read This If You Loved: I Walk in Dread by Lisa Rowe Fraustino, The Sacrifice by Kathleen Benner Duble, Witch Child by Celia Rees, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, Witches: The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer and other nonfiction books about Salem

Recommended For: 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Our Favorite Pairings of YA Books and Classics


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: YA Books That Would Be Great Paired with Classics

Because this post has been so popular, we created an updated post with even more ideas here!


I tried to pick classic texts that many, many teachers have in their curricula. If you are looking for a pairing for a different classic text, feel free to leave a message in our comments section, and Kellee and I will give you a great pairing!

1. Classic Novel: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Great YA Pairing: Monster by Walter Dean Myers or Black and White by Paul Volponi

I love teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. How neat would it be to pair it with Monster or Black and White? Students would be able to look at racial relations as they exist today. Both of these YA books incorporate justice and law, so there would be many parallels! I am envisioning a culminating social justice project. Ah, I wish I had thought of this one sooner.

2. Classic Novel: 1984 by George Orwell

Great YA Pairing: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

These two books MUST be paired together. When I teach 1984, I ask my students to relate the concepts of government, technology, and surveillance to the world today. Little Brother is clearly written in response to 1984, and I use an excerpt with my students because I wasn’t able to garner enough funds for a class set. After we discuss the book, students always want to read it. A fun project—ask students to find a newspaper article relating to the themes in 1984 or Little Brother. We had so much fun jigsawing newspaper articles. You would be surprised at how many recent articles you can find by searching newspaper websites with the keywords of “Orwellian” or “Big Brother.” 

3. Classic Text: Night by Elie Wiesel

Great YA Pairing: Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick or Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

My students love reading Night, but it seems that Holocaust texts are over-represented in our curricula. I wanted to branch out, while still covering the curricular requirement. This year, I was able to order a class set of Between Shades of Gray, one of my favorite books. Through our Scholastic book fair, each text was $6, so I didn’t have to deal with our school budget! The students LOVED the book. They couldn’t believe that they had never heard about Stalin’s acts of genocide. We spent a lot of time pairing it with Night, and as a bonus, I turned some self-proclaimed non-readers into readers! I also love booktalking Never Fall Down, which is about the Cambodian genocide. The labor camps are similar to those in Night, and I think they would bridge well. Teachers would have a lot of fun examining the language of this text, and it would make for some great writing experiences for students!

4. Classic Text: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Great YA Pairing: If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson or The Fault in our Stars by John Green

It seems that almost every school teaches this classic to freshmen, so I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss two great pairings. I love If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. I learned about it in my education course with Wendy Glenn. It is much more relatable to students than Romeo and Juliet, so teachers would be better able to connect the classic text with students. It won’t take long for students to read it because it is not a lengthy book, so I promise you have time for it, and the students won’t forget it! It would also be great to draw parallels between Romeo and Juliet and The Fault in our Stars. The books seem to be a bit different, but I can think of many connections that would be worthwhile and meaningful to students.
[Kellee: The first thing my dad said to me when he finished The Fault in our Stars was that it should be paired with Romeo and Juliet.]

5. Classic Text: The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Great YA Pairing: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Now THIS is a classic that most teachers loathe teaching. No matter how much you dance, it seems there will always be students who are disengaged from the text. I bet many students would enjoy reading The Scarlet Letter if it were paired with Speak. There are so many connections between the two, that it just seems like an obvious choice. Students could connect the plot details, characterization, and themes. The language and structure of Speak make it an amazing book to teach. The students in our school love reading it.



I focused more on choosing classics that students may encounter and the YA (or middle grade/picture) books that could be paired with them to make the classic “easier” to read.  Classics, in my opinion, are often very hard to connect to and by pairing it with a text that has similar themes or story line can really make the classic more reachable in the student’s mind.

1. Classic Text: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Great Middle Grade Pairing: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

I read A Wrinkle in Time in 6th grade and loathed every minute of it. I would have LOVED to have When You Reach Me to read first as a scaffold up to such an intense science fiction novel.  These two books are made to be paired, specifically because A Wrinkle in Time plays a part in When You Reach MeWhen I finished Stead’s novel, it actually made me want to read L’Engle’s classic which is something you won’t hear me say often.


2. Classic Text: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Great YA Pairing: The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick

I love how well these two fit together and it actually makes me want to teach Fahrenheit so I can! As you all know, in Fahrenheit 451 books are being burned because the firemen are being told to burn them. In The Last Book in the Universe we enter into a world where almost everything is destroyed, including books. In both books the protagonist finds out about the power of books in different, but special ways; however, both include learning about the past.


3. Classic Text: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Great YA Pairing: Looking for Alaska by John Green

I love both of these novels and I love how well they would work together as a pairing. In both novels, a teenage boy is going to boarding school and both are encountering things they need to adapt to. The themes in the book can even be compared: Coming of age, Questioning authority, Solitude, Death. I also love a teacher character in both of these books because the teacher really makes them question. And coincidentally enough, John Green has even said he was influence by Holden Caulfield when writing Looking for Alaska.


4. Classic Text: Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel

Great Picture Book Pairing: Elephant and Piggie by Mo Willems

Two sets of best friends who I love! Elephant and Piggie are some of my favorite picture books right now. They are about friendship and kindness. We all read Frog and Toad when we are younger and they are about friendship and kindness. What a great pairing! I think Elephant and Piggie is a nice scaffold up to Frog and Toad. They both have similar themes and are truly loved by children.


5. Classic Text: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Great YA Pairing: This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel 

This one almost seems like cheating because, well, This Dark Endeavor was made to be paired with Frankenstein. This Dark Endeavor is Kenneth Oppel’s story of Victor Frankenstein as a young man thus fitting perfectly with Frankenstein. I tried to stay away from these types of books as pairings, but these are both such wonderful horror books and they would be great to pair together. This Dark Endeavor, in my opinion, would have made Mary Shelley proud.


We’d love to hear your thoughts about which YA books you’d pair with classics!


It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 9/2/13



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

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crayons unicorn kindness

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


Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: I am so excited! I had a great reading week for the first time in a very long time. This week I read 2 novels, 2 picture books, 1 graphic novel, and 1 nonfiction book!!! Woot!!! I believe I have Jo Knowles to thank because it was her two novels that were the first time I just sat and read for hours since the spring. Living with Jackie Chan and Jumping Off Swings were just brilliant and you should read them both. The picture books I read were Snatchabook by Helen Docherty and Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween by Melanie Watt (both which I’ll review soon). Finally, I read Waluk by Emilio Ruiz (which I’ll review this week) and The Solar System Through Infographics by Nadia Higgins (which all teachers should buy!). Phew! Love being able to write about that many books!

Ricki: I was not as successful as Kellee. This week, I started graduate school for my doctoral degree, and I was overwhelmed with work. I spent many late hours (and early mornings) in my office, and when I came home, I fell asleep right away. I thought I would finish Dream Thieves, but then my husband asked to take the Kindle on a trip this weekend, so I had to start a new book. I didn’t finish any books, but I am almost done with three of them (see the next section).

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: Hm. It is hard to follow up the type of week I had. I need to make a list of the books I have lined up to blog about and read them in order of when the blogging dates are… I’ll let you know next week what I get to!

Ricki: I plan to finish Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. My husband returns home tomorrow with the Kindle (hoorah!). I am also halfway through Trash by Andy Mulligan, and I have 3 more discs left (out of 12) of the audiobook, Grave Mercy. I am in love with this series. How the heck did I miss it? I hope you all had a better reading week than I did!

Upcoming Week’s Posts

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 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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Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (Kellee’s Review)



Each Kindness
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Published October 2nd, 2012 by Nancy Paulsen Books

Summary: Each kindness makes the world a little better

Chloe and her friends won’t play with the new girl, Maya. Maya is different–she wears hand-me-downs and plays with old-fashioned toys. Every time Maya tries to join Chloe and her gang, they reject her. Eventually, Maya plays alone, and then stops coming to school altogether. When Chloe’s teacher gives a lesson about how even small acts of kindness can change the world, Chloe is stung by the lost opportunity for friendship, and thinks about how much better it could have been if she’d shown a little kindness toward Maya.

This unforgettable book is written and illustrated by the award-winning team that created The Other Side and the Caldecott Honor winner Coming On Home Soon. With its powerful message and striking art, it will resonate with readers long after they’ve put it down.

Review: When I read Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson for the first time, it made me not only want to share it with everyone I knew, but also make me want to do something nice for others. This pushed me to think more carefully about how everything affects those around me. What I really love about this book is how it can be used in the classroom.

Teacher’s Tool For Navigation: Today, I wanted to share with you what I did with my classes when it came to sharing Each Kindness with them. First, I will say that it affected them as much as it affected me. After reading, we had a great conversation about how the book connected to their lives and what it meant to them. This conversation moved to how Chloe’s actions affected Maya including inferences of Maya’s feelings that were not shared in the book. The insight that my students had were very deep and I believe it made them look at some of the choices they make in their daily lives. We also discussed how Chloe could have changed things. How could she have made Maya feel welcome?  We made multi-flow maps showing the causes/effects of decisions.

Following this discussion, I had the students make an oath to do a kind act that day- something they normally wouldn’t do and recorded them on as a poster to share. Then the next day we shared the kindness we did. Only through discussions and books like this, that students will think more about their choices and how it affects those around them. Since this book read aloud and discussion, my students have brought up Each Kindness often and have made connections to their lives as well as other books. Each Kindness is a book that can make the world a better place, but only if it is shared.

Discussion Questions: What could Chloe have done differently to make Maya seem welcome?; How did Chloe’s (and her friend’s) behavior affect Maya?; What could you do differently to make someone feel kindness?

We Flagged: “This is what kindness does, Ms.Albert said. Each little thing we do goes out, like a ripple, into the world.”

Read This If You Loved: Because Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein, Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea

Recommended For: 

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This is a great book to read during the first couple of weeks of school. 


Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea



Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great
Author and Illustrator: Bob Shea
Published June 25th, 2013 by Disney-Hyperion

Goodreads Summary: Hi, I’m Goat.
Things were just fine around here until UNICORN showed up.
So what if he can fly?
Or make it rain cupcakes?
And turn stuff into gold?
Big deal.
I can do some cool stuff too, like…
Hey! What are you doing? Why are you opening the book?
He’s just going to tell you how great he is. Blah, blah, blah.
Go ahead. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Dopey Unicorn.

Review: Nothing can promote this book better than the book trailer – it is a must watch!

And the book trailer truly captures the essence of Unicorn. It is fun and colorful! However, the best part of the book is that after the fun story it does have a message that is so important and is a great read aloud for classrooms.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This book is a great one to read at the beginning of the school year. It promotes friendship and not judging others. It will be a great discussion starter about making new friends and starting the new year with a clean slate as well as self-esteem, being a good loser, and jealousy.

Discussion Questions: Is there someone you met that you judged at first and they turned out to be completely different?; Have you ever thought you were going to win something only to have someone beat you? How did this make you feel?

We Flagged: “Things are a lot different around here since that Unicorn moved in. I thought I was pretty cool when I rode my bike to school. Until that show-off went flying by!

Or the time I made marshmallow squares that almost came out right. He made it rain cupcakes!” (p. 4-8)

Check out Amazon’s Look Inside of Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great to see the illustrations.

Read This If You Loved: Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci, Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems, Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman, One Cool Friend by Toni Buzzeo, You Will Be My Friend! by Peter Brown, Duck on a Bike by David Shannon

Recommended For: 

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Remember: Don’t judge a book by its flashy, colorful, magical cover.


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt



The Day the Crayons Quit
Author: Drew Daywalt
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Published June 27th, 2013 by Philomel

Goodreads Summary: Crayons have feelings, too, in this funny back-to-school story illustrated by the creator of Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me 

Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.

What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

Review: Told through letters, this story of revolt reminds me a bit of Toy Story in that when I finished, I felt like I needed to get out my crayons and use each one and let them know they are loved. This is probably one of my favorite picture books this year (maybe in general) because it promotes so much that I believe in: art, imagination, and caring. This book would be a great addition to Dot Day activities (Sept. 15, 2013).

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Automatically, after reading, I saw that the best way to use this book in the classroom is to first use it to promote imagination. Too many kids aren’t told to use their imagination often any more.

Also, I would use the inanimate object point of views to have students participate in a RAFT writing activity which helps students think about different perspectives. RAFT stands for R: Role, A: Audience, F: Format, T: Topic. In the book, Drew Daywalt was writing as a crayon (R) to their owner (A) in a letter (F) about their use (T). The students could pick their own toy and write a letter to themselves about their use.  So many possibilities!

Discussion Questions: What toy do you use at home more than others? What would this toy say to you? What about a toy you don’t use?; Draw a picture of a zoo or ocean scene, but use your imagination when it comes to size, color, and placement.

We Flagged: “Dear Duncan, It has been great being your FAVORITE color this PAST year. And the year before. And the YEAR before THAT! I have really enjoyed all those oceans, lakes, rivers, raindrops, rain clouds, and clear skies. but the BAD NEWS is that I am so short and stubby, I can’t even see over the railing in the crayon box anymore! I need a break! Your very stubby friend, Blue Crayon”

Read This If You Loved: Who Stole Mona Lisa? by Ruthie Knapp, The Dot and Sky Color by Peter H. Reynolds, Chalk by Bill Thomson, Art & Max by David Weisner, Not a… series by Antoinette Portis, Art by Patrick McDonnell, Perfect Square by Michael Hall, Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld

Recommended For: 

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I think we should all get out some crayons today and color; enjoy your crayons, but make sure to use imagination and don’t show favoritism!