Tuesday, October 15, 2019

A Picture Book to Love: The Love Letter

The Love Letter by Anika Aldamuy Denise


One letter brightens the day of three animals, helping them to be more carefree and cheerful and realize they are loved.

Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel, each in turn, come across a love letter in the meadow. Thinking they are the intended recipient of the letter, their moods become more upbeat. Although their belief that the letter was for them is a mistake, the positive words of the letter touch each of their hearts and strengthen their friendship.

This is a sweet story and one that can show readers that a small kindness, like a note expressing how much one cares, can bring someone else great joy. I hope it inspires readers to think about how they can brighten a friend's day.

Anika Aldamuy Denise is also the author of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré and Starring Carmen!, among other books. I am excited that she will be presenting at the Massachusetts Reading Association Conference, which I am chairing, in April.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Recent Reads

Every Monday, I share books I have recently read. I also participate in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs, Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers, or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


Kevin the Unicorn: It's Not All Rainbows by Jessika von Innerebner

Some days it's not easy to keep a smile on your face, even for a unicorn. Who needs to be perfect all the time any way? With the help of his friends, Kevin learns that not every day is going to be the best. This is a really amusing book and kids will giggle at all the ways Kevin's day goes wrong. Thanks to the publisher, Penguin Young Readers, for providing #BookExcursion with a review copy.

Frank and Bean by Jamie Michalak

A hot dog and a bean become friends in this book perfect for beginning readers. Frank likes quiet and writing in his secret notebook. Bean is messy and loud and is looking for words so he can write a song. Although the two are different, they do find something they have in common. Humorous and cute. Jamie, who has also written the Joe and Sparky series, is one of the authors who will be presenting at the Massachusetts Reading Association Conference, which I am chairing, in April. 

Explorer Academy: The Double Helix (Book 3) by Trudy Trueit

Cruz is training to become an explorer with a group of other kids at the Explorer Academy. His father is missing and his aunt has gone in search, leaving Cruz in jeopardy as someone is out to do him harm before his thirteenth birthday. This book is action-packed, fast-paced, and suspenseful. There's lots of science, technology, and archaeology, too. Thanks to the publisher and Media Masters Publicity for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

Midsummer's Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca

I've had this book in my to-be-read stack since the summer and finally picked it up since Rajani is another author presenting at the Massachusetts Reading Association Conference. It's an enchanting middle grade novel with a little bit of Shakespeare and a lot of baking. Mimi wants to win a baking contest to prove she measures up to her siblings. When Mimi's neighbors and family start acting strange, it could be that her concoctions have put a spell on them. A unique story, but beware that it will make your mouth water.

Roll With It by Jamie Sumner

This is another book I've read about a character with dreams to be a great baker. When Ellie, who has cerebral palsy, goes on an extended visit to her grandparents, she starts at a new school. Ellie is dealing with her overprotective mother, a grandfather who has dementia, and challenges with fitting in at school due to the fact that she is the only one in a wheelchair. Ellie is a character to root for as she makes friends and finds her place. Lovely book.

Monday, October 7, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

At the Mountain's Base by Traci Sorell

This is a lyrical picture book about a Cherokee family hoping for the safe return of a family member serving in World War II. The text is sparse, but captures the many emotions, worry, love, and pride, that the family is feeling. The author's note gives background information about the woman who was the inspiration for the book.

Cape (The League of Secret Heroes) by Kate Hannigan

Another World War II story that I read this week, but this one's also a superhero adventure. Josie wants to help out the war efforts with her puzzling skills, but she's held back because she's a girl until she meets two other friends and they discover their powers. Comic-book style text is sprinkled throughout the book. Thanks to the author, I won a copy of the book (and a cape) through a Twitter contest.

Dory Fantasamagory: Tiny Tough by Abby Hanlon

Dory is back in her fifth book and she is as fun and imaginative as ever. This time she's off on a pirate adventure. I know my Dory fans will be looking forward to reading this one. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for providing #BookExcursion with a review copy.

Malamander by Thomas Taylor

Herbie Lemon is the Lost-and-Founder at the Grand Nautilus Hotel by the coast in the seaside town of Eerie-on-Sea. A peculiar girl shows up and they embark on a search to find out who her parents are and unravel the mystery of the Malamander, a legendary monster that roams the sea. This is an intriguing book with adventure, spookiness, and eccentric characters. Thanks to the publisher, Candlewick, for a review copy.

Shine! by J. J. and Chris Grabenstein

When her father gets a new job, Piper starts at a new school, which is a little more prestigious than her previous one and where she feels she might not measure up. As she makes friends and realizes that being oneself is what matters, she finds her place. There's also a message about the importance of being kind. Thanks to the publisher, I received an advance reader's copy of the book. It publishes in November.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

A Picture Book to Love: The Proudest Blue

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali and Illustrated by Hatem Aly


Two sisters go to school on the first day. The younger sister looks up to her older sister as she wears a hijab, the color of the ocean, to school for the first time.

The sibling relationship between the two girls in this book is the sweetest. The younger yearns to be like her older sister and checks up on her when she's worried about teasing from classmates. Each sister is also a role model of strength and confidence as they don't let the words of others drag them down.

The lessons in the book about understanding who one is and remembering not to carry around the hurtful words of others are important for our students to learn, as well.

A beautiful book that will hopefully inspire readers to be proud of who they are.

Monday, September 30, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Max and Marla Are Flying Together by Alexander Boiger

I love Max and Marla. They are two friends who understand each other and help one another be stronger and braver. This book is a sweet addition to the series. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for providing #BookExcursion with a review copy.

Squeak by Laura McGee Kvasnosky

A mouse wakes up with a "squeak" and sets off a chain reaction as one animal after another also arises. This is an amusing story about forest life with lots of animal sound words that will make it fun to read aloud. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for providing my book review group with a review copy.

Bernard Pepperlin by Cara Hoffman

A courageous dormouse takes on the evil lurking in New York City after escaping from an endless tea party. This is a clever spin-off of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, mixing the nostalgia of a classic with the modern day. Perfect for those readers who enjoy fantasy that features animals and for those who want a shorter read.

Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson

Harvey gets lost, but this book is much more than a lost dog story. It's told from the perspective of Harvey, Maggie, who has lost her dog, and Austin, who has found the dog. Because of Harvey, the relationship between Austin and one of the patients at the nursing home, where he volunteers, is strengthened and a new friendship is formed. Heart-breaking at times, but you'll want to know what happens to the characters.

White Bird by R. J. Palacio

This is a gripping story of survival. Julian's grandmother, from the author's previous book, Auggie & Me, tells of her experience during World War II. It's beautiful and hopeful with a message about standing up for hate. Thanks to the publisher, I received an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in October.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Four Picture Books Out This Month

A few fun and informative picture books to look for this month:


Pigeon Math by Asia Citro

A narrating pigeon is trying to tell a story about ten pigeons hanging out on a bright, sunny morning, but has trouble keeping up with how many there are as some of them come and go. One cat shows up which doesn't help matters. With some counting and addition, this is a fun book incorporating math. The pigeons are pretty cute, too.

Fungus is Among Us! by Joy Keller

The narrator of this book discovers she can't escape the fungus that is all around us. Although she runs from it at first, she learns to appreciate the fungi of the world. Facts about fungi, including information about various kinds, are interspersed throughout the book. An interview with a mycologist, a scientist studying fungi, is included at the end. This is an informative book that would be useful as a mentor text.

The House That Cleaned Itself: The True Story of Francis Gabe's (Mostly) Marvelous Invention by Laura Dershewitz

Francis Gabe hated cleaning so she set out to create the first self-cleaning house. Although her house was impractical and it never became a world-wide success, she thought up many ideas and almost seventy inventions. This is a unique biography because it shows that ideas may not always lead to total success, but it's still worth being a problem-solver and innovative thinker. One never knows where ideas may lead.

Evelyn the Adventurous Entomologist: The True Story of a World-Traveling Bug Hunter by Christine Evans

This is another insightful biography, telling the story of Evelyn Cheesman, an entomologist who discovered new species of insects. She was an explorer and adventurer who didn't let the expectations the world had for women during her lifetime stop her from achieving her heart's desire. She's not only an interesting person to read about, but someone who shows the importance of resilience and determination. 

Thanks to The Innovation Press for providing review copies of these books. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

Billie Jean! How Tennis Star Billie Jean King Changed Women's Sports by Mara Rockliff

This is an inspiring and informative book about a tennis great who not only worked hard at the game, but was also a fierce advocate of equal rights in women's sports. A wonderful book to add to a picture book biography collection.

Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler

Love the message of this book that no matter the circumstances we can fill our hearts and home with love. This historical fiction picture book takes place during the time of the Depression. It's based on the author's family history and is an amazing story of resilience. There are some really lovely lines and great illustrations.

Give and Take by Elly Swartz

This is another touching story, about a girl who is not perfect, but has a big heart, from Elly Swartz. Maggie is dealing with anxiety, sadness, and the fear of letting go, but with support of friends and family works through her challenges. Thanks to Elly for sharing an advance reader's copy with me. 

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee

Barbara Dee addresses some serious topics relevant to the lives of middle schoolers in her books. In this book, Mila, a seventh-grader, is being harassed at school. Although, Mila is very uncomfortable with the situations the boys put her in and the unwanted physical contact that she is subjected to, she does not know how to make it stop. Mila learns an important lesson about speaking up. There are many kids who need to read this book to realize they are not alone and to give them the courage to use their voice. I think this book can lead to much needed conversations. Thanks to the author for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy.

Cilka's Journey by Heather Morris

Not children's literature, but an amazing book that I had the opportunity to read a little early before it publishes in October. This companion to The Tattooist of Auschwitz gives insight into the atrocities of WWII. Cilka's story is one of resilience and bravery and shows that even when the world is at its worst there is hope and compassion. Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin's Press for the review copy.

Monday, September 16, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


Gross as a Snot Otter by Jess Keating

My students have loved Jess Keating's previous books including Pink is for Blobfish and Cute as an Axolotl, so I am thrilled that she has another book that I can share with them. This one will both intrigue and disgust them. The animals featured in the book definitely have some gross characteristics and behaviors. Readers, like I did, will learn some very interesting facts. Thanks to Random House for a review copy. The book publishes in October.

How to Code a Rollercoaster by Josh Funk

Pearl and Pascal are back using their coding skills - this time to ride the Python Coaster at the amusement park. This is an entertaining introduction to coding that also helps to promote girls' interest in the concept.

North America: A Fold-Out Graphic History by Sarah Albee

I learned quite a lot about about the history of the continent of North America from reading this book. It's an amazing and uniquely designed book that can be read as a book or folded out to an eight foot spread. I think kids will want to take their time reading the snippets of history and looking at the illustrations. Thanks to the publisher, What On Earth Books, for a review copy. The book publishes in October.

Happy Fell (Arnold and Louise #3) by Erica S. Perl

My second graders, who enjoyed the previous Arnold and Louise books, will be excited to see the third in the series. This early reader book centered on friendship tells the story of two very different characters, messy and unstoppable Louise and slow, careful Arnold, who don't always agree but appreciate each other none the same.

The Bootlace Magician by Cassie Beasley

The sequel to Circus Mirandus, one of my all-time favorite books, is just as enchanting as the first. Cassie Beasley's writing is amazing, transporting readers to a world of magicians and otherworldly creatures. Micah, now a magician's apprentice, is adjusting to his new life at the circus and trying to understand and perfect his magical abilities. His magic is really put to the test when The Bird Woman, who happens to be Micah's grandmother, sets out to destroy the circus. This is story of good versus evil, but it's also about a brave protagonist finding his place in the world. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for a review copy.

Monday, September 9, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.


Recent Reads...

Five Minutes (That's a Lot of Time) (No, It's Not) (Yes, It Is) by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick

This is a cute exploration of how five minutes can be an eternity or pass by in the blink of an eye. Kids will be able to relate to the situations, such as having to wait in line for five minutes for an amusement park ride or only having five minutes before bed time, and understand the feelings associated with time either going too slow or too fast. The book ends on a very sweet note. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group with a review copy. 

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

This book follows the lives of four young adults in Spain during the 1950s while the country was under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco. It's a captivating story that gave me insight into a dark period of history and reminded me of the importance of remembering and learning from our past. Thanks to Penguin Young Readers for proving my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy. The book publishes in October.

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Moth has just found out that her mother has been keeping their family history a secret and that she is actually a witch. This is a story of adventure, as Moth tries to understand her magic and her family's past, and also a story of new friendship. I'm looking forward to adding this graphic novel to my collection and hearing what kids think about it.

Wildfire by Rodman Philbrick

This is a thrilling and suspenseful tale of survival about two kids trying to beat a raging wildfire overtaking the forest in Maine. For kids who like stories of survival or extreme adventure this will be one to hand them.

Monday, September 2, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...


Across the Bay by Carlos Aponte

Carlitos loves his family and the town of Cataño, where he lives, but he also misses his father. A search through the streets of Old San Juan, helps Carlitos realize that the family he has is just who he needs. The illustrations capture the beauty and spirit of Puerto Rico. Thanks to the publisher for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with a review copy.

Just Ask by Sonia Sotomayor

This is a useful book to have in the classroom as it will help kids to understand various disabilities and illnesses and how these differences make the world interesting. It also encourages kids to ask questions when they are curious so they can learn about others. Not only is there an important message about inclusivity, but the illustrations are sweet, too.

The 1000 Year Old Boy by Ross Welford

Alfie Monk has been alive for a thousand years, but he has not aged past eleven. When a tragedy occurs and Alfie is left without any family, he wants to be able to age again. He makes two new friends who are willing to help him keep his secret, but also find a way for him to live a normal life. The plot of this book is unique with a bit of magic and lessons about friendship and life. Thanks to the Random House for providing my book review group, #BookExcursion, with an advance reader's copy. The book publishes in October.

Monday, August 26, 2019

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading. To find out what other bloggers are reading, check out the host blogs or follow on Twitter at #imwayr.

Recent Reads...

If I Built a School by Chris Van Dusen

A boy, with a wild imagination, describes his dream school. Many kids will love reading about this fantasy school that is more like a fun park. This book should definitely spark kids' creativity as they imagine their own ideas for the perfect school. It'll be a fun read for the beginning of the school year.

Señorita Mariposa by Ben Gundersheimer

This book, with text in English and Spanish, tells of the miraculous journey of one monarch butterfly as it migrates to Mexico. It's lyrical and beautiful. The author's note at the end gives more insight into the migration of these butterflies and, also, their importance in our world. Thanks to Nancy Paulsen Books for sending my book review group, #BookExcursion, a review copy.

Unicorn Is Maybe Not So Great After All by Bob Shea

Unicorn wants his classmates to pay more attention to him, so he comes up with a plan to be the most fantastic unicorn his school has ever seen. Instead of standing out, he ends up being rather annoying. Luckily, Unicorn has true friends who help him see that he only has to be his magical self.

I Survived The Great Molasses Flood, 1919 by Lauren Tarshis

I have not read an I Survived book in quite some time, but I was eager for this one since The Great Molasses Flood is a historic event that my students always find fascinating when they learn about it. Because it happened in Boston, my students also find the connection to our state interesting. Many students enjoy reading the I Survived books and look forward to each new one, so I am planning to book talk this one at the beginning of the year.

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

This story, inspired by Filipino folklore, is an adventurous and magical fantasy about a courageous twelve-year-old who takes a journey to save her mother and her island. I have read a few other books by Erin Entrada Kelly and this one is very different and there are definitely some dark parts, but it's unique and engaging. The book publishes in September.