Presidential Misadventures by Bob Raczka


presidential misadventures

Presidential Misadventures: Poems that Poke Fun at the Man in Charge
Author: Bob Raczka; Illustrator: Dan E. Burr
Published: January 27, 2015 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary: A spoonful of poetry helps the mockery go down! This collection of presidential poems is historical and hysterical.

The clerihew is a simple poetic form specifically invented to make fun of famous people—and who is more famous than the misbehaving presidents of the United States? Here are forty-three poems teasing the commander-in-chief that are fun to read aloud and even more fun to write yourself. From the author of the incredibly inventive Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word comes a new collection filled with zingers, humdingers, and Presidential Misadventures.

Review: As a student, history was always my least favorite class. But yet, I would go home and cuddle on my couch with historical fiction. Admittedly, presidents have never interested me much (and I am not proud to say this). This book is FUN. The poems made me giggle, and I found myself googling the facts in the poems to learn more about the background of the stories. After reading this book, I was inspired to reserve Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word because the author is quite clever. I read this book aloud to my son and husband while we were eating dinner, and I kept holding out the book and saying, “Oh my goodness. Look at this drawing!” Those who are knowledgeable about presidents (like my husband) will likely know many of these stories, but kids will enjoy learning about history and be inspired to learn more about the presidents.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: Each of the poems in this book is discussed in depth in the back matter. I would have my students each take two poems and perform them in front of the class. Then, they could briefly describe the history behind the story. This would help students practice speaking skills, and the poems would stick in the other students’ minds. Of course, having students research their own facts about presidents to create poems would also be fun!

Discussion Question: Which presidential story was your favorite? Look up one more fact about that president and write a short poem to reflect the information. Be prepared to share this fact with the class.

We Flagged: 

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Read This If You Love: History, Humor, and/or Poetry

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**Thank you to Macmillan for sending this book for review**

Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott



Jumped In
Author: Patrick Flores-Scott
Published August 27, 2013 by Henry Holt and Co.

Goodreads Summary: Sam has the rules of slackerhood down: Don’t be late to class. Don’t ever look the teacher in the eye. Develop your blank stare. Since his mom left, he has become an expert in the art of slacking, especially since no one at his new school gets his intense passion for the music of the Pacific Northwest—Nirvana, Hole, Sleater-Kinney. Then his English teacher begins a slam poetry unit and Sam gets paired up with the daunting, scarred, clearly-a-gang-member Luis, who happens to sit next to him in every one of his classes. Slacking is no longer an option—Luis will destroy him. Told in Sam’s raw voice and interspersed with vivid poems, Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott is a stunning debut novel about differences, friendship, loss, and the power of words

My Review: This book is about depression, friendship, poetry, music, loyalty, teachers, and family.. It is amazing that through Sam’s interactions with Luis and introduction to poetry, he goes from trying to be invisible on purpose to having a whole different view of his surroundings. Luis changes how he sees the world because Luis ends up being everything he thought he wasn’t.

This book surprised me. I didn’t know what it was about when I started, so I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. At first Sam seems to just be a slacker that is hard to connect with, and I thought it was going to be similar to many other books with a bully that I’ve read. But it ended up being like Luis was to Sam–everything I thought it wasn’t going to be, and it was so unpredictable. From page 1, the author had me. The images just jumped out at me. And that was just the beginning of me being thoroughly impressed with the book. Both of the voices in this book resonated with me for a long time after (As much as I end up liking Sam in this book, I think Luis may be one of my favorite characters ever. He has a beautiful voice, and I felt privileged to meet him.). It was one of those books that I had to let marinate before I could pick up another one because it was still banging around inside of my head (and I couldn’t stop hearing Sam and Luis’s voices).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This is a poetry-friendly book. First, although Sam is telling the story, throughout Luis’s voice is shared through his poetry. Beautiful poetry. Also, one of the main settings of the book is an English classroom with a pretty awesome English teacher talking about poetry. There are even examples of poems that she asks her students to write such as diamantes and nonets. All of her poetry unit (and writing process) activities would be perfect to use in the classroom.

Discussion Questions: Was there ever someone you judged by looking at them, but later learned that they were not what you thought?; Have you ever just tried to be invisible? Why?; Do you ever have “brain movies” like Sam when your brain just won’t stop thinking?; How does Luis’s friendship change Sam?; How is Luis different than what Sam assumed he would be?; How does Gilbert affect Sam?

We Flagged: “I pull away from everyone, and after a while, I pretty much quit talking altogether. It’s been two years. I’m a sophmore. I shouldn’t still be stuck like this. But the pit I’ve dug for myself feels so deep, I can’t climb out of it. I want to. I want to climb out and join the world. But I can’t. I don’t know how.” (Sam, p. 32)


I’m Callado
Still waters, aguas quietas

But in school you have to speak
To be seen as running deep

To be thought of as more than
The tragic mask
I wear to put you off
I don’t know why, so don’t ask

Someday I’ll scrap the mask
I’ll let loose my new, crazy words
I’ll speak my piece
Without ceasing till you’ve learned…

That I’m as deep
As Everest is voluminous

I’m as thoughtful
As the sun is luminous

As lucid
As Casanova is amorous

As passionate
As a grizzly is carnivorous…” (Luis, p. 51)

Read This If You Loved: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos, Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, Reality Boy by A.S. King, Wine Young Fool by Sean Beaudoin

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Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko


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!


Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
Selected by: Paul B. Janeczko
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Published March 11, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Goodreads Summary: Celebrated poet and anthologist Paul B. Janeczko pairs with Caldecott Honoree Melissa Sweet for a collection of short poems to sample and savor. 

It only takes a few words, if they’re the right words, to create a strong image. Whether listened to in the comfort of a cozy lap or read independently, the thirty-six very short poems in this collection remind readers young and old that a few perfect words and pictures can make the world glow. Selected by acclaimed poet Paul B. Janeczko and gorgeously illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poemsinvites children to sample poems throughout the four seasons

My Review: Paul B. Janeczko did a wonderful job choosing poems that represent each season beautifully from amazing poets such as Sandburg, Williams, Hughes, and Fletcher, then add Melissa Sweet’s mixed media illustrations that engulf the page in color, and you have a perfect poetry anthology for any age.  There isn’t much more to say about this book, but that it is something every person should see.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: What can you not do with this book?! It has every type of poem imaginable that can be used in so many different situations. Need an example of a type of figurative language? You’ll find it in here. Need an example of a rhyme scheme? Yep, in here. Need to talk about rhythm? This’ll do. Want to introduce poetry? Have examples of poems for mentor texts? Allow students to draw how they interpret different poems and come back together and share? All can be done with this. And all with short, non-overwhelming, yet amazing poems.

Discussion Questions: What poems would you have chosen for the different seasons?; Which poem is your favorite?; How do you picture ______?

We Flagged: 

Read This If You Loved: Any poetry.

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**Thank you to Rachel at Candlewick for providing a copy for review**

The Star-Spangled Banner illustrated by Peter Spier



The Star-Spangled Banner
Author: Francis Scott Key
Illustrator: Peter Spier
Published September 19, 1973 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Due to careful research, Spier’s artwork depicts “the dawn’s early light” and “the rocket’s red glare” with remarkable authenticity and detail in this celebratory book. Among the highlights: a brief history of the anthem, a reproduction of Francis Scott Key’s original manuscript, music for guitar and piano chords and many photographs.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Peter Spier’s illustrations bring our national anthem to life. Spier carefully researched all lines of them poem as well as other facts about the War of 1812 when the anthem was written and used all of this knowledge to help show the meaning behind Key’s words. In the afterword, Spier shares much of the research to help tie it all together. 

In the past, as a school, we actually had students do something very similar. They each received a line from the first verse, and they had to research what it meant and then draw an illustration to share with their classmates the meaning. These were then put together as a book, so that the entire national anthem could be read with illustrations showing the meaning. Students loved the activity, and I really think it helped make history mean more to them than just dates.

Discussion Questions: What is Key trying to say in The Star-Spangled Banner?; What caused Key to write this poem?; Had you ever heard the second or third verse before? What did you think of it?; For some of the lines, Spier chose to draw a modern setting–why do you think he chose these specific places? 

We Flagged: 

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Happy Fourth of July!


Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos


dr bird's advice for sad poets

Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets
Author: Evan Roskos
Published: March 5, 2013 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Summary: “I hate myself but I love Walt Whitman, the kook. Always positive. I need to be more positive, so I wake myself up every morning with a song of myself.” 

Sixteen-year-old James Whitman has been yawping (à la Whitman) at his abusive father ever since he kicked his beloved older sister, Jorie, out of the house. James’s painful struggle with anxiety and depression—along with his ongoing quest to understand what led to his self-destructive sister’s exile—make for a heart-rending read, but his wild, exuberant Whitmanization of the world and keen sense of humor keep this emotionally charged debut novel buoyant.

Ricki’s Review: Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets is such an important book. It captures depression and anxiety in a way that is both authentic and heart-wrenching at the same time. I wanted to reach into the pages of the book to give James a big hug. Similarly to It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, this book employs humor without detracting from the very realness of James’ struggles with loneliness and isolation. Teens (and adults) will find themselves in James because he is depicted in a sympathetic way that is very human. This novel is brilliant and should be in every classroom library.

Kellee’s Review: I concur with everything that Ricki said. Dr. Bird’s is a very special book. On a Top Ten Tuesday list, I wrote that I wished there were more books about kids with chemical imbalances, and Dr. Bird’s is the closest I’ve read yetEvan Roskos captures the feeling of a manic depressive state. The energy of the writing actually changes as James’s state of mind changes: anxious, manic, depressed. However, what makes it truly special is that even in the end, there is optimism. Although James is fighting his own chemical imbalance, he keeps doing just that—fighting.

Another thing I adored about this book is the idea of art and writing as therapy. James finds solace in photography and poetry, which is a positive lesson for teens because it shows the power of art, writing, and poetry.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: It would be interesting for teachers to do literature circles with texts that concern mental health. Students might read this book along with titles like: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, and 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher. I imagine that reading these titles would foster incredibly rich discussions about depression, anxiety, and suicide. In my opinion, we must have these conversations with our students.

Also, Walt Whitman is a huge part of James’s life, and Whitman is mentioned throughout the book. The Whitman references (and James’s poetry emulating Whitman) would great to be examined in a classroom.

Discussion Questions: If James didn’t have abusive parents, do you think his life would be the same? Do you think depression is genetic in his family?; How does James show bravery?; What role does Walt Whitman play in James’ life?

We Flagged: “People in the world suffer from greater calamities than I do. I eat, I have clothes, I have a house. I read about people around the world who survive on less than a dollar a day. I read about how there are hundreds of millions of widows living in poverty. I see ads for kids who are born with ragged lips and jagged teeth. I don’t have anything like that. I just wake up with a deep hatred of myself. How selfish is that?” (p. 115)

“Later, as my father drives me to the pizzeria, his gassy, grumpy body reeking of judgment and anger and disappointment, I can’t help but wonder how little he knows about the depth of my sadness. The depth of my very being. Will he be upset to find me dead, or relieved?” (p. 214)

Read This If You Loved: (Many of these are listed above.) Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick, It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Everybody Sees the Ants by A.S. King, Reality Boy by A.S. King, Dear Life, You Suck by Scott Blagden, 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

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RickiSig andSignature