Herman and Rosie by Gus Gordon



Herman and Rosie
Author and Illustrator: Gus Gordon
Published October 15th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press

Goodreads Summary: Once upon a time in a very busy city, on a very busy street, in two very small apartments, lived…
 Herman and Rosie. Herman liked playing the oboe, the smell of hot dogs in the winter, and watching films about the ocean. Rosie liked pancakes, listening to old jazz records, and watching films about the ocean. They both loved the groovy rhythm of the city, but sometimes the bustling crowds and constant motion left them lonely, until one night …

My Review: This book is a love note to music and for finding a friend to share your love. This wonderful story is told in a way that makes you fall in love with the characters immediately and feel every up and down with them. Also, the illustrations in this picture book are probably some of my favorite ever. I love the cartoony style mixed with some mixed media. Beautiful.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think this book will find its most love as a read aloud and as a wait to promote music and other passions; however, the book could definitely be used in other ways in the classroom. The tone and mood of the book takes a drastic turn about halfway through and would be a good introduction to these two narrative elements. It is interesting to look at how the illustrations helped drive the change. Also, there are onomatopoeias throughout that add to the imagery of the book.

Discussion Questions: How does music bring Herman and Rosie together?; Would Herman and Rosie every had become friends without the bad event happening to them?; How are Herman and Rosie similar? Different?

We Flagged: 

“Herman lived on the seventh floor. He liked potted plants, playing the oboe, wild boysenberry yogurt, the smell of hot dogs in the winter, and watching films about the ocean.”

Read This If You Loved: Marvin Makes Music by Marvin Hamlisch, Jazz ABZ by Wynton Marsalis, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacque Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

Recommended For: 

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The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny) by Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer


NF PB 2014

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 Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny)
Authors: Kathleen Krull & Paul Brewer
Illustrator: Stacy Innerst
Published March 19th, 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Q: How do you find all this business of having screaming girls following you all over the place?
George: Well, we feel flattered . . .
John: . . . and flattened.
When the Beatles burst onto the music scene in the early 1960s, they were just four unknown lads from Liverpool. But soon their off-the-charts talent and offbeat humor made them the most famous band on both sides of the Atlantic. Lively, informative text and expressive, quirky paintings chronicle the phenomenal rise of Beatlemania, showing how the Fab Four’s sense of humor helped the lads weather everything that was thrown their way—including jelly beans.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love The Beatles. There has never been anyone like them and that is what this book is about. It is about their popularity, their brilliance, and their humor. I liked how although the book is nonfiction and a biography of the Fab Four, it was about more than that. It was about how they changed over time and how they changed us over time.  It was also quite funny to read some of their interviews and see how they dealt with the fame that enveloped them so quickly. All with illustrations that were a bit zany and like caricatures, but were so well done. This picture book is definitely an excellent introduction to The Beatles for our 21st century kids.

Discussion Questions: How did The Beatles deal with all of the fame when they first became famous? How did their reaction to the fame change over time?; How did their favorite candy cause them trouble in the end?; Which Beatle do you think was the funniest?

We Flagged: “From the time they got together as lads until they became superstars, the Fab Four made music, made history, and made people laugh.”

Read This If You Loved: When Bob Met Woody by Gary Colio, John’s Secret Dreams by Doreen Rappaport, The Beatles by Jeremy Roberts

Recommended For: 



Marvin Makes Music by Marvin Hamlisch


NF PB 2014

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!


Marvin Makes Music
Author: Marvin Hamlisch
Illustrator: Jim Madsen
Published November 8th, 2012 by Dial

Goodreads Summary: A true story from one of America’s most beloved composers

Marvin loves to play the piano and compose his own songs. But performing music over and over that’s composed by some old guys name Ludwig and Wolfgang just gives him knots in his stomach. When his father tells Marvin he has an audition with the most prestigious music school, how can Marvin overcome his nerves and get swept away by the music?

This endearing book is based on the true life story of composer Marvin Hamlisch, who, at the age of six, was the youngest person ever accepted into the Juilliard School.

My Review: Marvin’s story reminds me of why I build relationships with students and help them find who they are and what books they will like. Marvin is forced to play certain music and he hated it. He never understood why he had to “play music by composers with funny names, like Wolfgang and Ludwig,” but he loved his own kind of music. Being forced to play the other music was making him not want to play piano anymore–this is exactly what we do to kids with books!

Overall, I loved the book and think it is a great read to promote following dreams and passions–a great read aloud!

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Marvin Hamlisch’s sister-in-law Charlotte Blair has created a classroom guide to Marvin Makes Music. You can view it for free here.

You Tube Videos: 

Part of the book launch last November that also shares a song

A short interview with Marvin Hamlisch

Discussion Questions: How is Marvin’s parents helping him follow his dream? How are they hurting him although they don’t mean to?

We Flagged: “His father showed him how the people on the street below looked like ants, but to Marvin they looked like musical notes. That made him start humming a little tune. Marvin closed his eyes and listened to all the sounds around him. He wished he could play his piano right now. It would be a City Symphony.” (p. 11)

Read This If You Loved: Tito Puente, Mambo King by Monica Brown, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald by Andrea Davis Pinkney, John’s Secret Dreams by Doreen Rappaport

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Anna Olswanger for providing a copy for review**

Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil (Kellee’s Review)



Life in Outer Space
Author: Melissa Keil
Published August 1st, 2013 by Peachtree Publishers

Goodreads Summary: Sam is a geek movie-buff with a ragtag group of loser friends who have been taking abuse from the popular kids for years. But when the super-cool Camilla moves to town, she surprises everyone by choosing to spend time with Sam’s group. Suddenly they go from geek to chic, and find that not everything boils down to us and them. With their social lives in flux, Sam and Camilla spend more and more time together. They become the best of friends, and Sam finds that he’s happier and more comfortable in his own skin than ever before. But eventually Sam must admit to himself that he’s fallen in love. If he confesses his true feelings to Camilla, will everything change again?

My Review: Loved this book. A perfect combination of Spinelli’s Stargirl, a John Green book, and a rom-com. Loved the voice, quirks, characters, and plot. A sleeper title from 2013 that you should read.

A couple things I really loved about this book:

  • The characters are such good people. Although they evolve, they never were kids I wouldn’t want my son to hang out with.
  • A romance-y book from a boy’s point of view!
  • Camilla is so cool yet so uncool and just shows how the labels and cliques and such of high school are just so stupid. Oh, and that you cannot judge a book by its cover.
  • The writing, music, and movie references. Just a bit of geeky, but not too much.

Ricki’s Review: Can be viewed here.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I think first and foremost, this book needs to be in libraries so that kids (and adults!) can get their hands on it. In the classroom, it can definitely be used as for a mentor text. I think it is perfect for an example of character development and voice.  The characters in this book are so strong and there are lines and passages throughout that show the characters’ personality. There are also parts that deal with writing poetry/music and would be great passages to talk about writing with students.

Discussion Questions: How does Camilla change the dynamic at Sam’s school? And how did she change Sam and his friends?; (During) Why do you think Mike quit karate?; How does Melissa Keil use music and movies to help move the plot? Show character’s personalities?; How is Sam’s parents’ issues affecting him?;

We Flagged: “She is wearing a yellow dress that looks like it belongs to a 1950s housewife, and a pair of flat red boots. Her hair is longer than I’d imagine would be practical; it’s parted in the middle and hangs in brown waves almost to her waist. She peers around the room impassively. She doesn’t look terrified. She doesn’t look insanely overconfident, like Adrian that time in year seven when he performed a song as his book report for The Outsiders. Mike and I mark that event as ground zero for the downward social spiral of our group.” (p. 11)

Read This If You Loved: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, Paper Towns by John Green, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Recommended For: 

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The Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson (Ricki’s Review)


the man with the violin

The Man with the Violin
Author: Kathy Stinson
Illustrator: Dusan Petricic
Published August 8th, 2013 by Annick Press

Goodreads Summary: This gorgeous picture book is based on the true story of Joshua Bell, the renowned American violinist who famously took his instrument down into the Washington D.C. subway for a free concert. More than a thousand commuters rushed by him, but only seven stopped to listen for more than a minute. In The Man With the Violin, bestselling author Kathy Stinson has woven a heart-warming story that reminds us all to stop and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us.

Dylan is someone who notices things. His mom is someone who doesn’t. So try as he might, Dylan can’t get his mom to listen to the man playing the violin in the subway station. But Dylan is swept away by the soaring and swooping notes that fill the air as crowds of oblivious people rush by. With the beautiful music in his head all day long, Dylan can’t forget the violinist, and finally succeeds in making his mother stop and listen, too.

Vividly imagined text combined with illustrations that pulse with energy and movement expertly demonstrate the transformative power of music. With an afterword explaining Joshua Bell’s story, and a postscript by Joshua Bell himself.

Review: My aunt bought my son this book when she heard people raving about it in the bookstore. It is an absolutely wonderful story. People pay hundreds of dollars to hear Joshua Bell play his violin, yet few stopped to listen when he played in the subway. It begs the question—just what are we missing each day, as we pass through our lives bustling about, blind to the beauty in the world around us? I can’t wait until my son is a bit older, as I think this would be a fantastic book to read together and then head out into the world, stopping and noticing.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This would be a great book to read before a field trip or an outdoor walk. I also love that the author turned a news article into a picture book. It would be really fun for students to choose a news article to transform.

Discussion Questions: Just what are we missing each day?; Why do you think children noticed Joshua Bell more often? What does this say about people, in general?

We Flagged: “Who is playing that beautiful music in the subway? And why is nobody listening?”

Read This If You Loved: Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Little Bobo by Serena Romanelli, Little Rat Makes Music by Monika Bang-Campbell

Recommended For: 

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Harlem: A Poem by Walter Dean Myers



Harlem: A Poem
Author: Walter Dean Myers
Illustrator: Christopher Myers
Published 1997 by Scholastic Press

Goodreads Summary: Walter Dean Myers calls to life the deep, rich, and hope-filled history of Harlem, this crucible of American culture.

Christopher Myers’ boldly assembled collage art resonates with feeling, and tells a tale all its own. Words and pictures together connect readers -of all ages – to the spirit of Harlem in its music, art, literature, and everyday life, and to how it has helped shape us as a people.

My Review & Teacher’s Tools For Navigation: After reading this book the first time, I knew I was going to have to tackle it differently than just reading a picture book. I wanted to make sense of it and I knew that I didn’t have the background knowledge so I knew that the power of all of the words had not sunk in yet. So, I typed up the poem in Google Drive and began doing my very own close reading of the poem.  I started with research of terms and names that I didn’t know, building my knowledge of the culture and history of Harlem. Through this build up of knowledge, I began to understand the beauty behind Myers’s poem. The voice of this poem is one of heartbreak, but strength; proud of not only what he has become, but where he came from. This poem is a celebration of the history of Harlem and its citizens—a celebration of its religion, music, poets, authors, and everything that made/makes it a hub for the civil rights movement and African America culture.

While doing my research, I found an amazing website that I will definitely use when teaching this poetry book- Harlem: A Visual Interpretative Analysis– which takes an excerpt of the poem and an accompanied collage and takes the reader through an analysis of the excerpt and artwork. Fascinating!

This book would be a great one to use across many different subject areas- history, literature, and art.

Discussion Questions: What references to Harlem’s history did Myers entertwine into his poem?; How did Christopher Myers’s illustrations take the poem to another level?; (Writing) Do research about your ancestors and your heritage. Through this research, find people, places, literature, art, musicians, etc. that helped shape who you or your family are. Use this research to construct a poem about your heritage. Find a piece of artwork to accompany your poem. 

We Flagged: 

The uptown A
Rattles past 110th street
Unreal to real
Relaxing the soul

Shango and Jesus
Asante and Mende
One people, a hundred different
Huddled masses
And crowded dreams

Read This If You Loved: Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra and Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa by Andrea Davis Pinkney, The Complete Poems including Harlem by Langston Hughes, Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers, Nonfiction books about Harlem

Recommended For: 

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