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Books We Love: Sam and Eva

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Huge thanks to Debbie Ohi for sharing a copy of Sam and Eva with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle-grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!


They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but Sam and Eva drew in my third graders before I flipped to the first page.

Sam and Eva captures a common friendship problem: when one person wants to join in the fun, but the other person would rather work (or play) alone. Sam draws creative creatures and crazy scenes, but Eva always feels she can top his latest creation. As the tension escalates, readers begin to wonder how the friends will ever find common ground. Sam and Eva surprise us just in time.

From the bright colors to the brilliant illustrations, the visual aspects of Sam and Eva make it the type of book children will pull off the shelf again and again. Author Debbie Ohi does such an amazing job capturing a common childhood moment and turning it into something magical and meaningful. I just know this book will be one my students ask me to read again and again!

Books We Love: Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat

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Huge thanks to Sue Lowell Gallion for sharing a copy of Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!


Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat is a sweet picture book about two friends who have different feelings when it comes to Halloween. Pig loves her costume, but Pug feels squished and squashed in his. When Pug abandons his costume, Pig is worried that she won’t have anyone to trick-or-treat with. Pug has to think outside the box to come up with a costume that works for him in order to help his friend.

A sweet story about friendship on Halloween night, Pug & Pig Trick-or-Treat is perfect for pre-K and lower elementary readers. It makes for a comforting read aloud during the Halloween season. Readers will love looking at the facial expressions of Pig and Pug to see how they feel. The book might also start conversations about how to choose a costume that is both comfortable and fun. This book is a good addition to any Halloween-themed shelf at home or in the classroom.

Books We Love: A Rambler Steals Home

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Huge thanks to Carter Higgins for sharing a copy of A Rambler Steals Home with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!


A Rambler Steals Home is a book about a lot of things: family, love, loss, friendship, and unanswered questions, to name a few. It’s a story with charm, character, and compassion. It’s a story with wit and wisdom, too.

Derby Christmas Clark spends her days traveling across the country in an RV with her father, Garland and her brother, Triple.. Each summer, she settles in Ridge Creek, Virginia: a small town most well known for its minor-league baseball stadium. Derby’s summer family includes a cast of characters: a small-town boy named Marcus whose friendship means loads to Derby, a grown woman named June who almost fills in as a mama for Derby, and others.

Derby’s voice in this book is so incredibly strong. Author Carter Higgins does an incredible job of capturing the spirit, hope, and worries of a pre-teen girl, while at the same time giving Derby an edge of being wise beyond her years.

While Derby herself is a huge draw for this book, so is the town of Ridge Creek. Fans of baseball will fall in love with a town where the joys and disappointments of the game are the joys and disappointments of the community. Derby lives her summer life by innings and strikes, which gives her journey a fantastic pace.

I would highly recommend this title for middle grade readers and middle grade classrooms. I just know that readers will connect deeply with Derby, and also learn lots from her journey.

Books We Love: Read, Read, Read!

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There are certain poetry books that I return to over and over again in my classroom. Books with poems that reflect my students’ experiences show up as read-alouds every year. The books then find worthy places on our classroom bookshelves where they are adored by dozens of third graders. Read! Read! Read! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater may become an instant classic, too.

This book is a celebration of what it means to be a reader. Much of the book explores the magic of the written word and how we carry it with us as we grow. While many of the poems are inspiring, they are funny and clever, too. The poems are inclusive of many different reading experiences, from the child whose favorite reading material is on the cereal box to the child who lost a grandmother, but found healing in Charlotte’s Web.

As I read the poems, connections to students past and present were swirling around in my head. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has given us a gift: poems that will meet readers where they are on their reading journeys. Every child reading this book will find a poem that makes them feel celebrated. It is my hope that this book finds its way onto the bookshelves of classrooms and homes, and into the hands of young readers everywhere.


Read! Read! Read! will be released in September 2017 by Wordsong Books.

Huge thanks to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater for sharing a copy of Read! Read! Read! with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: Max Tilt Fire the Depths

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I’m often looking for books to put in the hands of readers who love adventure stories. Many young readers fly from page-turner to page-turner, seeking mystery and intrigue. I know those readers will find a favorite in Max Tilt: Fire the Depths, the first in a trilogy from author Peter Lerangis.

Max Tilt’s family is going through a tough time. Max’s mother has cancer, and unpaid bills are piling up. When Max’s mother and father go out of town for her medical treatment, Max’s cousin Alex steps in to care for him. Max and Alex discover a trunk in the attic that holds the key to a century-old mystery involving their ancestor, Jules Verne.

A fast-paced storyline takes Max and Alex across oceans, into caves, and onto islands as they seek to discover their family’s secrets. The children are up against a wicked foe, but they meet kindred spirits to help them along the way.

Max’s self-described identity of being “on the spectrum,” combined with his synesthesia, make his interpretation of social situations unique. His wit and his quick thinking make him the superhero of the book, while his cousin Alex is a worthy sidekick.

Readers who enjoy adventure stories will love being a part of Max Tilt’s universe. This trilogy is bound to be a great addition to middle grade classrooms.


Max Tilt: Fire the Depths will be released on October 3rd, 2017 by Harper Collins.

Huge thanks to Peter Lerangis for sharing a copy of Max Tilt: Fire the Depths with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: Come With Me

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As I write this post in mid-August 2017, violent protests have broken out in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Over the past year, students have been walking into classrooms with more and more questions about the world. They feel fear. They feel confusion. They feel helplessness. Wouldn’t it be powerful if, every day, we could do something to replace those feelings with ones of kindness? Connection? Hope?

Come With Me by Holly McGhee tells the story of a little girl who feels scared by the images she sees every day. She’s not sure to engage with a world that scares her. With the help of her parents, she learns to step beyond her fear and build connections with others. While the things she does with her parents aren’t groundbreaking steps towards social justice (she goes to a grocery store and rides the subway), the little girl learns to celebrate togetherness over fear.

Like any book, this book alone is not enough. But it’s a start in discussing social justice and current events with children. As the dedication of the book states, “Come With Me is written in honor of friendship, bravery, and the fact that we aren’t powerless, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel.”


Come With Me will be released in September 2017 by Penguin Kids.

Huge thanks to Holly McGhee for sharing a copy of Come With Me with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: One Mixed-Up Night

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Nerds on an adventure?

The description of One Mixed-Up Night immediately caught my eye. Two sixth-graders, Frankie (short for Francesca) and Walter, decide to spend the night at IKEA. It’s less an act of rebellion and more an act of imitation; the two children are inspired by From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Frankie, our narrator, hopes that a night of adventure will bring back some of the spark that’s been missing from Walter’s eyes over the past few months. It seems like Walter hasn’t been saying what’s on his mind. Over the course of the night, Frankie realizes that there are some things she hasn’t been saying as well.

This fast-paced book kept my attention throughout, and I know it will do the same for middle grade readers. Frankie and Walter are often wise beyond their years as they discuss lessons they’ve learned over the course of their friendship. The book is filled with foreshadowing that will keep readers riveted, but it also slows down enough to add depth.

Just a note: if you’ve never read From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, you can understand and adore One Mixed-Up Night without understanding all the references. Although I’m ashamed to say it, I’ve never read From the Mixed-Up Files, but after One Mixed-Up Night, the classic is definitely going on my reading list!


One Mixed-Up Night will be released in September 2017 by Random House.

Huge thanks to Catherine Newman for sharing a copy of One Mixed-Up Night with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: What Makes A Monster

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This week marked a book birthday for Jess Keating’s What Makes a Monster?! After the success of her Pink is for Blobfish, my students became captivated by Keating’s writing. With fascinating facts and strong nonfiction text features, the World of Weird Animals series draws in many young readers. Keating’s website describes the series as “a must-read series for curious kids,” and I can’t think of a more accurate description.

What Makes a Monster pulls readers in to the respective worlds of the aye-aye, the vampire bat, the prairie dog, the tyrant leech king, and other scary animals. The book explores what makes the animals dangerous, as well as how many “monsters” contribute positively to our ecosystems.

Each two-page spread features a large photo of each animal, along with a vivid description and fast facts. Funny illustrations add humor to the pages and make this book a great fit for young readers.

One powerful section in the book talks about “misunderstood monsters:” the animals who are less likely to be included in conservation efforts because they aren’t cute or furry. This serves as a call-to-action for readers as they think about how ugly or scary animals can still add to our world. By the end of the book, readers will be questioning what it means to be a monster.


Huge thanks to Jess Keating for sharing a copy of What Makes a Monster? with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a team of nine educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

 

Books We Love: Moon Shadow

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One of the things I love most about the middle grade genre is the tendency to ask big questions. Moon Shadow does just that. Almost-thirteen-year-old Lucia has had many changes in her life: her mom moved to Sweden, her strongest friendship has completely dissolved, and she just started middle school. When Lucia celebrates her thirteenth birthday on the night of a lunar eclipse, strange things start happening. People start telling Lucia she was out and about when she knows she was asleep. She wakes up with wet sneakers next to her bed, and with strange memory-like dreams floating through her head. Lucia has to put the pieces of the puzzle back together before something really strange happens.

This book finds its audience in middle grade readers who are still figuring themselves out. Lucia’s life isn’t perfect, and neither is she, but she finds ways to cope with her struggles and let her strengths shine through. Erin Downing’s storytelling will captivate readers. They will keep turning the pages in anticipation of each “Out of the Shadows” section, where the pages turn black, the print turns white, and Lucia’s “shadow” seems to take over. In addition to being suspenseful and action-packed, this book helps readers explore questions about what it means to be yourself. Moon Shadow is a great fit for middle school classrooms.


Moon Shadow was released on May 16th, 2017 by Simon & Schuster.

Huge thanks to Erin Downing and Simon & Schuster for sharing a copy of Moon Shadow with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a group of ten educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!

Books We Love: It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk

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What would happen if fairytale characters didn’t listen to the narrator? That’s the question Josh Funk explores in his new book, It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk. This hilarious, inventive new take on a classic will keep kids laughing out loud. When the narrator starts the story, Jack doesn’t exactly cooperate. He doesn’t want to get up in the morning, doesn’t want to throw the beans out the window, and especially doesn’t want to start climbing. If Jack doesn’t do what the narrator says, will it change the end of the story?

My students are big fans of fractured fairy tales. They love rooting for characters who may not have been heroes the first time around. I know they’ll love this book, where the giant is a little different than they might remember. They’ll also enjoy the playful illustrations by Edwardian Taylor, which just add comedy to an already hilarious tale.


It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk will be released on September 19th, 2017 by Two Lions.

Huge thanks to Josh Funk for sharing a copy of It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk with our #bookexcursion group! #bookexcursion is a group of ten educators who read and share new children’s and middle grade titles. For more of my #bookexcursion reviews, click here!