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Books We Love

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: wishtree

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Katherine Patterson’s latest book, wishtree, begins with the following dedication:

for newcomers


for welcomers

I can’t think of five better words to start readers off on an incredible journey. wishtree is a story told by Red, an oak tree that has been standing in a small community for over two hundred years. Red has seen many things: homes being built, kids walking to school, and the coming and going of animal and human families. Every year, people in Red’s community hang paper wishes on the tree’s many branches. Red has seen dreams come true, but when there is concern that the tree is going to be cut down, Red wants to grant one more wish to make a difference in the world before leaving it. Red’s going to have to find a friend for Samar, a girl whose Muslim family hasn’t been warmly welcomed into the community.

This book is for the young and the old, the pessimists and the optimists, the allies and the oppressed. If this book made its way into the hands of our nation’s leaders, I have to believe a change could be made.

We have an obligation to connect young readers with these stories. The books we put into children’s hands today determine how they choose to live their lives tomorrow. wishtree inspires us all to live our lives with kindness, decency, and a whole lot of hope.

wishtree will be released in September 2017 by Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group.

Note: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Macmillian Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

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: Draw the Line

Books We Love

Have you ever thought about the power we give to lines? We use them to connect, and we use them to divide. They make up paths from place to place, as well as borders that separate. In Draw the Line, two boys are each drawing their own lines when they discover that some magical things can happen if they team up. In order to create something amazing, they’re going to have to let go of the things that stand between them.

The fact that this book is wordless creates so many possibilities for its use in the classroom. It will inspire countless conversations on friendship, community, and communication. Younger readers can use the book to discuss how they connect with others, while readers through high school age can connect this story to current events. Readers of all ages can imagine the thoughts and conversations of the two artists. How might words help them achieve their goal? How might words stand in their way?

I can only imagine the impact this book would have if it were put in the hands of every child and adult. This is a book that is desperately needed in today’s world. Draw the Line will inspire us all to live our lives drawing lines of connection.

Draw the Line will be released in October 2017 by Roaring Brook Press.

Thanks to Roaring Brook Press for making an Advanced Review Copy of this book available at the International Literacy Association conference.

Books We Love: Dazzle Ships

Books We Love

Have you ever heard a fascinating fact about history and wondered why you didn’t learn it in school? That’s exactly what happened to me when I first read Dazzle Ships by Chris Barton.

As we learned during high school history classes, British and American ships were under attack by German U-boats during World War I. I didn’t learn, however, that the ships were painted in “crazy” colors and patterns to create confusion for German submarine officers looking through periscopes. The boats were camouflaged so that submarine officers might miscalculate where a torpedo should hit.

Particular attention is given to the women who painted many of the ships, which may go against assumptions when we think about key players in World War I. Barton explains in his author’s note that he didn’t want his readers to assume the staff was all male.

Barton’s words give a quick overview of World War I, but delve into detail when it comes to the dazzle ships and their history. The explanation of why and how the ships were painted is easy to understand, and Ngai’s incredible illustrations are dazzling in and of themselves.

Classroom Connections

The remarkable author’s note describes the research process that went along with writing the story. Barton explains how he had to chase the story by following some leads and leaving out others. Student researchers can learn many lessons from Barton’s experiences.

This book is all-around a dazzling read. It will be a great independent reading book for children interested in naval history or World War I. It can also be used as an interest activator for World War I discussion in middle and high school.

Dazzle Ships will be released in September 2017 by Millbrook/Lerner.

Note: I received a digital Advanced Review Copy of this book from Millbrook/Lerner in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Books We Love: One Proud Penny

Books We Love

I’m always looking to add more informational texts to my classroom library, so I was so excited to take a look at One Proud Penny! This inventive and engaging picture book follows a penny protagonist as he pops up in many different places. Readers will be rooting for the penny as he gets left behind and stuck in some precarious situations, and again as he makes his way out and fulfills his purpose. With hilarious narrative and great illustrations, One Proud Penny will draw readers in from the very first page. Throughout the story, the authors include informative tidbits and fun facts that will stick with readers. Infographic-like spreads with facts about pennies through the years give readers experience in interpreting data.

While the penny isn’t usually a go-to when naming fascinating objects, Siegel and Bloch bring the penny to life for readers everywhere! I know this will be a favorite in my classroom this year.

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!


10 Picture Books for Back to School

Books We Love

Every year, educators Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek run the #pb10for10 event to celebrate picture books. Educators can share their ten favorite picture books, or connect to a wider theme. What a great way to celebrate children’s literature!

This will be my first year participating in the #pb10for10 project. Below, I’ve shared ten picture books that I will be using in my classroom during the back to school season. Some are meant to celebrate community, while others give kids a reason to celebrate learning. Have any books to add to my list? Leave your favorite picture books in the comments below!

Books for Community Building

This charming book is a great catalyst for conversations about first day jitters. The story being told from the perspective of the school building keeps the story lighthearted, and kiddos are bound to connect with the dual emotions of nervouseness and excitement.

Young Sally McCabe teaches students what leadership looks like in this beautiful book illustrated by Christian Robinson. This book can be used to discuss kindness, compassion, and school culture.

Every year, my class celebrates International Dot Day by reading this book. The Dot asks students to make their mark and see where it takes them. Conversations surrounding this book will help you get to know your students and what matters most to them.

Talking about friendship can be tough! The language of sticks, stones, and pinecones can serve as placeholders for students to discuss friendship issues as the year gets going. We used Stick and Stone to generate a list of ways to be a “Perfect 10 Friend.”

While this book won’t be out in time for back to school this year, I can’t wait to use it with my students. A wordless picture book that explores both kindness and harm, it will serve as a conversation starter for many children. My review of this book is coming to the blog later this month!

Books for Kicking Off the Year in Math

Another title from Kathryn Otoshi, Zero explores how every person is one unique whole. Every person can add something to a community. The clever play with numbers in this story will get kids thinking about place value and number sense.

Books for Kicking Off the Year in Literacy

I can’t wait to use this book to introduce independent reading. This book paints a picture of reading as what it is: an opportunity for students to discover new things. It also reminds us that we may end a story with more questions than we had at the beginning, and that is a great thing.

This beautiful book of poetry includes poems that will resonate with any reader. I can’t decide if I’ll read this book to my students all at once, or save them to celebrate all year! Of course, we could always reread as students grow and change as readers. Read, Read, Read comes out this fall, and my review will be on the blog this September!

Books for Kicking Off the Year in Science and Social Studies

My students love anything by Andrea Beaty. Her books Ada Twist, Scientist; Rosie Revere, Engineer; and Iggy Peck, Architect inspire students to become scientists themselves. From learning to ask why to learning to persevere, the students at Blue River Creek Elementary School have many lessons to share with students.

While I often save this book for our weather engineering unit, it’s a great one to use in science or social studies at the beginning of the year to discuss how kids can change the world. By identifying an issue, brainstorming solutions, and putting them into action, kids can make a difference in their communities.

Have you made your own #pb10for10 list? Share the link in the comments below! If you haven’t made your own list, but would like to share a few titles in the comments, we’d love to hear them!

Books We Love: Genevieve’s War

Books We Love

If you’re a longtime reader of Miss Magee’s Reads, you know love historical fiction. From children’s books like Number the Stars and The Invention of Hugo Cabret to historical fiction novels like All the Light We Cannot See, I love being immersed in a different time and place. One of my favorite reads of the past year was Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life, which explored the experiences of the evacuated children of London during World War II.

Genevieve’s War, from acclaimed children’s author Patricia Reilly Giff, explores World War II from the perspective of an American girl visiting her grandmother in France. When Genevieve has the chance to leave France and return to the safety of her home in America, she’s faced with a difficult decision: should she return home, or stay to support her grandmother? If she stays, will she be part of the resistance? Genevieve’s War explores themes of bravery, kindness, and courage in the face of adversity.

I highly recommend this book to upper middle grade readers who can’t get enough historical fiction. It’s a good fit for readers who are eagerly anticipating the release of The War I Finally Won this fall!