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#CelebrateMonday: Coming Back from School Break

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Have you heard of the #CelebrateMonday movement? Created by educator Sean Galliard, #CelebrateMonday is an opportunity for educators to share the positive things that are going on in our schools and our lives. While the post-weekend slump can become routine, we have the power to change our mindset and find ways to celebrate the start of a new week. As a member of an amazing school community, I always feel that there is a lot to celebrate about Mondays! Here’s what I’m celebrating this week:

Coming Back Rested and Rejuvenated

Today is our first day back from school vacation week, and we’re hoping that students and staff have renewed energy! Over break, I had the opportunity to spread the word about my favorite nonprofit organization at the NerdCon conference in Boston (check out shesthefirst.org!), visit with my best friend from DC, and read lots of great new books.

    

Authentic Learning Experiences

This year, my third graders are participating in a worldwide project called Same Day in March. As part of our unit on weather, we will read the book On the Same Day in March by Marilyn Singer, collect data on temperature trends in our community, and interpret data from other schools around the globe. As a self-proclaimed data nerd and book lover, I am so excited for this opportunity to connect literacy and science through an authentic learning task. Check out the Same Day in March website for more information!

Our Amazing Profession

How lucky are we to get to work in the world of education? Every day, we get to spread our love for learning. What we do matters, and it’s making a huge difference for kids and families in our communities. We don’t have to look far to find things to celebrate. Have you read the Scholastic Kids and Family Reading Report? While there are still so many ways to grow, the data are encouraging. More parents are reading out loud to their children. Let’s keep spreading the literacy love!

Have a great week in your classrooms!

Review: Judy Moody and the Bucket List

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Judy Moody and the Bucket List
by Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

My Rating:
★★★½

 

Happy book birthday to Megan McDonald! Judy Moody and the Bucket List comes out today, August 2nd. I just know that the Judy Moody fans in my classroom will be begging for this book as soon as school starts.

Surprisingly, this book was my first Judy Moody read. Even though I have multiple bins of Megan McDonald books in my classroom, I hadn’t gotten around to reading any of them. I was so excited to check out Judy Moody and the Bucket List to see why my students adore McDonald’s work. It’s very clear that her books captivate young readers!

One of the things that struck me in Judy Moody and the Bucket List was McDonald’s great use of humor. The book was so funny, and used many different types of humor to make the reader laugh. While the book addresses some serious topics such as friendship, family and even death, McDonald’s humorous style keeps the book light-hearted.

Another strength of this book is how relatable the main characters are. Kids can truly empathize with Judy Moody and Stink. When we make connections in my third grade class, many readers share Megan McDonald books when talking about books they related to. Judy Moody and the Bucket List will be a connection book for many students.

Fans of Judy Moody and Stink will love this latest Megan McDonald read. I can’t wait to chat with my third-grade readers about it!

Classroom Connections

 

McDonald makes great use of euphemisms and idioms in this book. When these linguistic elements are being taught in class, this can be a great book for a “phrase hunt” in which students try to spot idioms in the text.

McDonald also uses many contractions in this book, as Judy and Stink are learning about contractions in class. They sing an adorable song in the book that I can’t wait to use in class!

Above all, the Judy Moody books are awesome for engaged independent reading. Suggesting this book to a reluctant reader may be the most powerful way you use it in your classroom!

Book Information
Title: Judy Moody and the Bucket List
Author: Megan McDonald
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: August 2016
Price: US $15.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Candlewick in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?

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Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?
by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

WhereAreYouGoingBook

My Rating:
★★★★☆

Note: Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? will be released on Tuesday, August 2, 2016 by Capstone Young Readers. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the students in my class absolutely love Kate DiCamillo. As a kid, I loved Because of Winn-Dixie because the story completely captivated me. As a teacher, I love that Kate DiCamillo is an author kids can stick with as they become more experienced readers. Since she has so many books at different levels, kids can start reading her books in first grade and discover some of her more challenging texts in middle school and beyond. While I’ve read many of DiCamillo’s novels, I was so excited to read Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln? so that I could take a look at her books for younger audiences.

Fans of DiCamillo will love how the Tales from Deckawoo Drive books dig deep into the backstories of some minor characters from the Mercy Watson series. In this case, DiCamillo explores the adventures of Baby Lincoln and her protective older sister, Eugenia. DiCamillo’s use of humor and her distinct voice as a narrator make this book a fun read. The book is very readable, and will be a great bridge from simple chapter books to more complex novels. While the book is listed for ages 6-9, some of the big words in the book will require context clues for readers at that age bracket.

In addition to being an endearing and well-written book for children, this book will speak to adults who share it with the children in their lives. At is roots, this book is a coming-of-age story, even though the main character isn’t at the start of her adulthood. With strong messages about being yourself and finding your own path in life, this sweet read will be great for family read-alouds and shared reading experiences. It will also find its place on the shelves of many classrooms, next to other Kate DiCamillo masterpieces.

Classroom Connections

DiCamillo’s writing is filled with rich language and fantastic internal punctuation. Many passages in the book lend themselves to visualization. This would be a great book to use when practicing visualization in small groups or as a class.

Book Information
Title: Where Are You Going, Baby Lincoln?
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: August 2016
Price: US $14.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Candlewick Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library!

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Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library
by Julie Gassman
Illustrated by Andy Elkerton

DragonBook

My Rating:
★★★½

Note: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library will be released on August 1, 2016 by Capstone Young Readers. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

 

My mom is a librarian, so I absolutely love stories of all kinds that take place in libraries. I was so excited to read the latest title from Julie Gassman: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library!  This adorable story shares the most important rule for going to the library: be sure to leave your dragon at home.

Gassman does a great job establishing the tone of the text. While some of the rhymes are a little clunky and would require some re-reads for true fluency, young readers can understand the point of view of the librarian and the child. However, at times the book changes speakers without warning. For example, at one point in the book the child begins speaking, but the image does not show the child speaking. No changes in font, punctuation, or text placement indicate that the speaker has changed, so children will have to pay close attention to determine that the child has become the speaker.

One of the great strengths of this book is its commitment to diversity in the images and text. In the pictures, we see children and adults of color, people with physical disabilities, and people with many different body types. As a big supporter of We Need Diverse Books, I was thrilled to see that many children will be able to see themselves in the pages of Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library. 

The author also used the pronouns “he” and “she” for different dragons in the book, which reminded me off this great article from the Washington Post: Why are there so few girls in childrens’ books? This unbelievable statistic from the article seems relevant: “No more than 33 percent of children’s books in any given year featured an adult woman or female animal, but adult men and male animals appeared in 100 percent of the books.” While the book has an adult female librarian, it’s also so important that there are both male and female readers and dragons portrayed in the book. This is just another way that all children can identify with this book.

While the rhymes aren’t perfect and the speakers can be unclear, I can see this book being loved by many kiddos who are fans of dragons and/or libraries.

Classroom Connections

This book would be great for introducing rules for a school library or classroom library at the beginning of the year. It would activate interest for students and allow them to reflect on why we have certain guidelines in place during library time.

Another way this book could be used would be to talk about cause and effect. The librarian makes many arguments using cause and effect. Students could identify these examples, then make their own cause and effect examples using the scenario of a dragon in a library.

Book Information
Title: Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library
Author: Julie Gassman
Illustrator: Belle Wuthrich
Publisher: Andy Elkerton
Release Date: August 2016
Price: US $14.95
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Capstone Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Teaser Tuesday: When Penny Met POTUS

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teaser

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly post challenge hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. Each week, I’ll be posting a teaser from my current read!

 

This week, instead of sharing a teaser from a book, I thought I’d share a trailer! (That counts as a teaser, right?) I’m currently reading When Penny Met POTUS – a new children’s book from Rachel Ruiz.

My friends know that things I love include children’s books and politics. I lived in Washington, DC for four years and loved it. This book combines both of those things! I’m reading an advanced review copy from Netgalley right now, and I love how the book introduces the concept of “POTUS” in a fun and engaging way. Enjoy the adorable video about the book below!

Trailer for When Penny Met POTUS:

Do you have a Teaser Tuesday to share? Comment below and I’ll be sure to take a look!

Friday Five: Gifts for Book Lovers

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Copy of MissMagee's

In my family, April is the start of birthday season. We celebrate over twelve birthdays between April and September, so I’m already starting to think about the gifts for my loved ones (not to mention my friends who are graduating and celebrating other life milestones). Since I spend an embarrassingly high amount of time looking at amazing gifts on Pinterest, I thought I’d share five of my favorite gifts for book lovers.


Phone Case
from Chick Lit Designs

It is seriously taking every single ounce of willpower I have not to spend money from this month’s budget on this Secret Garden phone case from Chick Lit Designs. With a card holder and pocket inside the case, this gift is adorable and practical. Not to mention it has the name of the book on the spine, and a quote from it on the back. (The quote from The Secret Garden is one of my favorites: “She made herself stronger by fighting with the wind.”) The Secret Garden is super meaningful to me because my aunt played Martha in the original Broadway cast of the stage version, and I met my boyfriend when we both performed in the play at my high school.  Chick Lit Designs also has cases for Mary Poppins, Cinderella, Gone with the Wind, Pride and Prejudice and more… Beyond adorable!

Library Embosser
from Horchow

Oh my gosh, as a frequent lender of books (and also as a teacher) I am in love with this book embosser from Horchow. This helps you keep track of your books, and it somehow seems really classy in comparison to sticker bookplates (although I love those, too)! This would be perfect for a teacher or that friend who lends books to your whole social network. This could also be a great gift for newlyweds as they combine their lives and their libraries.

Tote Bag
from Out of Print

For Christmas this past year, my grandmother gave my aunt this gorgeous Nancy Drew tote from Out of Print. I’m not sure that I hid my jealousy well. (Side note: if you love books, go follow Out of Print on Instagram as soon as you can.) These totes are the perfect gift for book lovers who are on the go!

Book Coasters
from Out of Print

I can think of so many friends who would love these book cover coasters from Out of Print. They are perfect for book clubs. They also come in three other sets: one with a sci-fi theme, another with punk rock authors, and as an adorable library card set.

Book Shirts
from Litographs

Litographs is a super cool company. At first glance, the image above just looks like a cool print on a t-shirt. But if you look closer, you’ll notice that the grey color is made up of 40,000 words from A Little Princess. Now you can wear your favorite books as clothes. (Also, the shirts are hand-pressed in Cambridge, MA, so if you’re a Bostonian like me, you’re supporting a local business!)

Need more suggestions?

My amazing friend Madeleine over at Top Shelf Text made a list of great books as graduation gifts, and also shared these adorable book totes from Barnes & Noble.


Any other book products you love? Comment below – I’d love to check them out!

Review: The City of Ember

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The City of Ember
by Jeanne DuPrau

My Rating:
★★★★½

 

I first read The City of Ember when it came out in 2003, and it is a story that has stuck with me over the years. Most recently, I read the book as a read aloud to my third grade students. I can say that this book is absolutely kid-approved!

With an engaging storyline and well-developed characters, The City of Ember is a great example of dystopian middle grade literature. Students are enraptured by the story, which follows two children named Lina and Doon who live in an underground city with failing infrastructure. The problem is, nobody knows that the city is underground. Mysterious instructions from the city’s builders were supposed to be passed down by the mayors until the right time, but (as my Teaser Tuesday showed a few weeks ago) a corrupt mayor ruined the plan. Now, hundreds of people are living in an underground city with no knowledge of the outside world.

I absolutely love the dramatic irony that is present in this text. My students knew that Ember was underground, but the main characters do not. My students were literally shouting out, wishing they could tell Lina and Doon what they were missing! This is a fascinating effect to use in children’s writing, and DuPrau includes it masterfully.

Another highlight of this book is the flaws in the main characters. Both Lina and Doon have flaws that interfere with their journey. Imperfect protagonists are instrumental in teaching children that all people have their flaws, but we can all work to overcome our weaknesses and turn them into strengths. Lina and Doon are relatable characters. Children can feel a strong connection to the two, and to their progress during their journey.

The City of Ember is an engaging text for read aloud to 3rd grade or up, or independent reading for 4th to 6th grade. Even for adults, the riveting storytelling makes Ember a great read.

Favorite Passages

On anger:
“The trouble with anger is, it gets hold of you. And then you aren’t the master of yourself anymore. Anger is.”

On resiliency:
“People find a way through just about anything.”

Classroom Connections

DuPrau’s use of English language conventions along with creative writing make The City of Ember a great fit for language study. Here are a few suggestions for use in the classroom!

  • DuPrau uses adverbs regularly throughout the text. During our read aloud, students would raise their hand whenever they heard a new adverb, and we would add it to a list. Adverbs can occasionally be tricky to find in children’s literature, but DuPrau includes them successfully and models them for children.
  • Similes made by Doon and Lina drive much of their conversations on values and feelings. Students can come up with their own similes to describe different parts of Ember, the comparisons between dark and light, and more.

Book Information
Title: The City of Ember
Author: Jeanne DuPrau
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 2003
Price: US $7.99
Source: Classroom Library

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Random House

Teaser Tuesday: The City of Ember

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teaser

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly post challenge hosted by MizB of Books and a Beat. Each week, I’ll be posting a teaser from my current read!

Today, my class finished our latest read aloud: The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. We’ve read some amazing books this year, and my class was afraid that no book could top Holes or The Invention of Hugo Cabret. That is, until we opened this book.

The City of Ember is a dystopian novel that definitely paved the way for Divergent and The Hunger Games, except without all the violence. Instead, it takes a look at the darkness and light inside every person. Taking place entirely underground, The City of Ember is an engaging and fascinating read for grade 3 and up.

Teaser from p. 2 of The City of Ember:

“So the first mayor of Ember was given the box, told to guard it carefully, and solemnly sworn to secrecy… Things went as planned for many years. But the seventh mayor of Ember was less honorable than the ones who’d come before him, and more desparate. … The box ended up at the back of a closet, shoved behind some old bags and bundles. There it sat, unnoticed, year after year, until its time arrived, and the lock quietly clicked open.”

Do you have a Teaser Tuesday to share? Comment below and I’ll be sure to take a look!

Review: Water Wow!

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Water Wow!
by Paula Ayer and Antonia Banyard
Art by Belle Wuthrich

My Rating:
★★★★☆

Note: Water Wow! will be released in April 2016 by Annick Press. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.

A goal of mine for this blog is to review more nonfiction titles for children, especially since so many of my students love nonfiction books! We just finished our Water Cycle unit at school, so I’m so excited to take a look at Water Wow! from Annick Press Ltd.

Water Wow! is the type of book that will captivate students who love interesting facts. The book includes many pictures and graphics that make tricky water cycle concepts more concrete. Additionally, the text is clear and engaging.

I can absolutely predict which page of this book would be my students’ favorite. The “Extreme Weather” page includes fun facts about the driest place on earth, the only active undersea river, and more. Students would love seeing these pictures and sharing these fun facts.

With fascinating facts and detailed images, Water Wow! definitely deserves a place on classroom bookshelves.

Classroom Connections

There are many ways this book could be used as a resource in the classroom!

  • Before or during units on the water cycle, this book could be used for finding fun facts and activating student interest.
  • This text could be used as a mentor text for informational writing. Students could use the table of contents as an exemplar for how to organize ideas in a way that makes sense to readers.
  • In reading, this book could be used for a “scavenger hunt” of finding text features. The book includes headings, maps, captions, photographs, paragraph separations, and more.

Book Information
Title: Water Wow!
Authors: Paula Ayer and Antonia Banyard
Illustrator: Belle Wuthrich
Publisher: Annick Press Ltd.
Release Date: April 2016
Price: US $12.95
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
Amazon
Annick Press Ltd.

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Annick Press Ltd. in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

Review: Alistair Grim’s Odditorium and Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum

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Alistair Grim’s Odditorium and Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum
by Gregory Funaro

My Rating:
★★★★½

Note: Alistair Grimm’s Odd Aquaticum will be released in the U.S. on January 5th, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion. A link to preorder is included at the bottom of this review.

As a teacher, I’m often searching for books that are complex, well-written, and engaging all at the same time. With Gregory Funaro’s Odditorium series, readers have hit the jackpot. Both books create a steampunk-inspired magical universe in which anything can, and does, happen. Readers will be instantly hooked by the well-developed characters, the fast-paced plot, and the intelligent cliffhangers.

Allistair Grimm’s Odditorium tells the story of a chimney sweep apprentice named Grubb who gets swept up (haha) in an unexpected adventure. As he learns more about Allistair Grimm, the man who takes him in and brings him along on his magical journeys, he begins to see how he may fit in as a part of the team. As Allistair Grimm, Grubb and friends seek to rid London of the evil Prince Nightshade, readers are quickly entranced by the adventure.

Allistair Grimm’s Odd Aquaticum follows the same crew as the mystery deepens and the action picks up. With magic and mystical folklore galore, this sequel will be a great fit for middle grade readers and adults that love connections to the classics. In this book, the story is laid out even more strongly and the characters are well developed.

It’s very hard to write summaries for the Odditorium books, because there are so many exciting moments that I don’t want to give away! Suffice to say, these books are action-packed with engaging plot twists and major page-turner moments. The series fits in perfectly with a middle grade fandom that loves the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter book universes.

Another huge strength of the series is the brilliant illustrations by Vivienne To. With just enough illustrations to create wonderful visualizations in the reader’s mind, To manages to establish a universe that blends so seamlessly with Funaro’s amazing writing.

Pick up a copy of this book at your local bookstore, on Amazon, or on Kindle. If you like middle grade fantasy, steampunk, or just a good old-fashioned story, you’ll love this one.

Classroom Connections

The Odditorium series could be a great fit for an independent reading project or a small group read. With such a deep and complex plot, there are many opportunities for meaningful learning.

  • There are a lot of points in which the character’s backstories can be pieced together through multiple, seemingly random details. Students can practice inference making and supporting their inferences with evidence from the text.
  • Funaro is a master at cliffhanger endings! My third grade students love cliffhanger endings, and Funaro does a great job hinting at one in the conclusion of nearly every chapter. Students can make a list of the cliffhanger endings they spot, then look to see what language and specific words Funaro used to imply cliffhangers.


Book Information

Title: Alistair Grim’s Odditorium & Alistair Grim’s Odd Aquaticum
Author: Gregory Funaro
Illustrator:  Vivienne To
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: January 6th, 2016
Price: US $16.99
Source: NetGalley – Advanced Review Copy

Find this book on:
Goodreads
GregoryFunaro.com
Amazon

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Review Copy of this book from Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!