Browsing Tag

children’s books

Books We Love: Sam and Eva

#bookexcursion, #DiverseKidLit

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

#bookexcursion, Books We Love

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: 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: 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: The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do

Books We Love

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do
by Ashley Spires

Lou is just an ordinary girl – one who loves to play with friends and go on adventures. That is, until the adventure is something new. When Lou’s friends want to climb a tree, Lou thinks of every excuse possible for staying on the ground. One reason in particular keeps her from trying: “I CAN’T climb the tree.” When Lou tries to climb, she learns that she really can’t climb. “Not yet, anyway.”

This book is a sweet and simple look at how saying “I can’t” makes us miss out on adventures. Adding a “yet” to that sentence inspires us to give things a try until we get closer to our goal. This book pairs nicely with Ashley Spire’s The Most Magnificent ThingSpires’ writing teaches kids that by trying and learning from our attempts, we can grow stronger and reach our goals.

Classroom Connections

I can’t wait to use this book with some of my 3rd grade kiddos. In a time where the world places so much pressure on kids to be “perfect,” this book takes some weight off kids’ shoulders and shows them to trust the journey. This book is perfect for introducing growth mindset in your classroom, or for a reminder of the power of “yet.”

 The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do will be released in May 2017 by Kids Can Press.

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

Books We Love: Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

#DiverseKidLit, Books We Love

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Written by Susan Hood
Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

“Buried in the trash was music. And buried in themselves was something to be proud of.”

When I was eight years old, I joined a choir at my elementary school called the Peacemakers. I speak often about how being a part of a music group changed my life. It gave me confidence and instilled a strong work ethic. Nothing felt more magical than coming together to create one sound. Today, I get to see my third grade students shine in the Peacemakers, too, and I can see yet again how instruments and songs can make a difference. When I picked up Ada’s Violin, I immediately felt connected to the story of music changing lives.

It’s not often that you find a nonfiction book that so strongly radiates hope. While children’s stories often teach lessons and inspire to action, the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay reaches another level. Teaching lessons of growth, perseverance, environmental activism and diversity, not a page goes by in Ada’s Violin that doesn’t inspire.

At its heart a story about the power of education, Ada’s Violin follows a young girl in Cateura, Paraguay as she lives her life among trash heaps. In a small town where mot people are employed as “recyclers” who go through the trash each night, Ada strives for something more for herself and her younger sister. Her call is answered when her grandmother signs her up for lessons with a man named Favio Chávez. As Favio realizes his students are without instruments, he begins to create them out of the trash that lines the streets. Over time, the instruments and their musicians come together to create a beautiful orchestra.

As soon as I finished reading Ada’s Violin, I picked it up to read it again. There are so many ways in which this book gets you thinking. This story holds the promise of change. It urges us to change the way we use and throw out garbage. It urges us to find magic in the smallest things. It urges us to never give up, even when the odds are stacked against us. As Favio Chavez tells his students, we all must “be kind, always say please and thank you, say you’re sorry, be dedicated when you commit to something.” Ada’s Violin inspires us to do just that.

Review: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White

Books We Love

Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
by Melissa Sweet

My Rating:

Note: Some Writer! will be released on October 4th, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers. A link to pre-order is included at the bottom of this review.


Earlier this year, I shared how excited I was to hear that Melissa Sweet would be publishing an E.B. White biography. When I received an advanced review copy, the book took my expectations and completely blew them out of the park. Some Writer! is one of the most well-written biographies for children that I have ever read. I have no doubt in my mind that this book deserves and will receive a place on classroom bookshelves everywhere.

Melissa Sweet digs deep into the life of the beloved children’s author, starting with his early life and carrying the reader through his final days. Along the way, Sweet masterfully weaves in remarkable artifacts and quotations from E.B. White’s own writing. The book is a celebration of the genius found in White and his work. Although I didn’t think it was possible, Sweet’s writing made me love White’s work even more than I already did.

While Sweet celebrates White’s incredible writing, Sweet’s writing deserves similar recognition. It is rare that a biography for children carries so much emotion and weight. Sweet paints a picture of White’s life in a way that is easy for children to understand, but still draws them in. Sweet enables readers to feel as if they were a character in White’s life story, walking alongside him through all his adventures.

With truly unbelievable illustrations and graphic design, Sweet makes White’s story accessible for readers of all levels. This book is bound to be enjoyed by kids and parents for generations to come, just as White’s book’s are.

This is a don’t-miss book that tells the beautiful backstory of the children’s stories we all know and love.

Memorable Quotes

The most memorable quotes from the text don’t come from Sweet’s writing, but from White’s. Sweet seamlessly incorporates quotations from White’s books and essays in order to support her comments about White’s life. Here are a few favorites:

On writing for children:
“I would rather wait a year than publish a bad children’s book, as I have too much respect for children.”

“Anyone who writes down to children is simply wasting his time. You have to write up to children, not down. Children are demanding. They are the most attentive, curious, eager, observant, sensitive, quick, and general congenial readers on earth… Children are game for anything. I throw them hard words, and they backhand them over the net.”

On being human:

“Man’s curiosity, his relentlessness, his ingenuity have led him into deep trouble. We can only hope that these same traits will enable him to claw his way out.”

“Hang on to your hat. Hang on to your hope. And wind the clock, for tomorrow is another day.”

Classroom Connections

This book is a great fit for the fourth to sixth grade classroom, although it could be used across many grade levels.

  • Sweet uses fantastic vocabulary throughout the book. Many different terms can be introduced using the text, such as footloose and sound advice. Sweet does a great job of providing context for these words, so readers can be challenged to infer the meaning of words that are new to them.
  • The book includes absolutely amazing advice on writing from E.B. White and other children’s authors who loved his work. Chapters on style and substance in children’s writing could inspire students to demonstrate some of the strategies in their own writing. Middle school students could use White’s advice on writing in conjunction with E.B.’s children’s books to find exemplars for the writing strategies White championed.

Book Information
Title: Some Writer!: The Story of E.B. White
Author: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: October 2016
Price: US $18.99
Source: Edelweiss – Advanced Review Copy

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

Review: Judy Moody and the Bucket List

Books We Love, Uncategorized

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

My Rating:


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

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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?

Books We Love, Uncategorized

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


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

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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


My Rating:

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

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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!