Children's Books

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Road Trip with Max and His Mom

**This review is based on an Advance Reading Copy (ARC) provided by the publisher.**

Road Trip with Max and His Mom by Linda Urban is a charming tale about third-grader, Max LeRoy. This is a follow up to Weekends with Max and His Dad where we were introduced to Max and his changing family. In this newest book, Max prepares to take a weekend road trip with his mom to a reunion held at an amusement park.

Leading up to the trip, Max flubs up in front of his classmates while practicing a presentation. Urban describes a touching exchange between Max and his mom when Max's mom helps him get over his embarrassment and anxiety. Max gets to repay the favor later in the book by helping his mom during a storm.

Max and his mom finally arrive at the reunion, and they meet all sorts of relatives. Max get the opportunity to explore the amusement park with his cousins and overcome his fears and ride the Big Buckaroo.

I think this book will be enjoyed by 2nd and 3rd graders. The text is accessible to students through the dialogue and vocabulary. Students will be able to related to Max's struggles at school. Linda Urban does a great job addressing he questions that arise in Max's mind regarding his family structure.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Books Read in June 2018

I love summer so much because I have more time to read and become immersed in the books. The list below contains the books I read in June of 2018.

  • Wish ⭐⭐⭐⭐by Barbara O'Connor. This charming and heart warming story deals with family, friendship, and growth. Things seem strange and backward at first might just be the very thing you need. I was introduced to this book while conferring with one of my fourth graders during readers workshop. The main character has been placed in foster care with relatives who live very differently. 
  • Framed! (T.O.A.S.T. Mystery #1) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ by James Ponti. This book is one of the Mark Twain Award Nominees. This is a clever and fast paced adventure of seventh-grader, Florian, and his friends as they work along the FBI to solve a case of stolen art. I wanted to solve crime after reading this book.
  • Summerlost ⭐⭐⭐⭐by Ally Condie. Cedar and her family deal continue to deal with the loss of her father and brother. She meets a friend at the local theater festival, and they work to solve the mysterious death of a local Hollywood actress.
  • Bob ⭐⭐⭐⭐by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead. 
    It's been five years since Livy has visited her grandmother in Australia. Livy is reunited with Bob, a creature she met five years ago. Is Bob real, or is he just a figment of Livy's imagination? 
  • Soar ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐by Joan Bauer. I love baseball, and so do the characters in Soar. This book asks, "Is winning all that matters?" The main character, Jeremiah, knows everything about baseball. He is excited to move to a new town that has an amazing baseball team. When scandal hits the baseball scene, Jeremiah tries to revive baseball.
  • The Poet X  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐by Elizabeth Acevedo. This YA novel in verse shares the story of a young girl, Xiomara. Xiomara is growing up in Harlem and struggling with the religions and cultural pressure from her family and community. This book is appropriate for middle school and up. (PG-13)
  • The Parker Inheritance ⭐⭐⭐⭐by Varian Johnson. Candice, finds a letter addressed to her deceased grandmother giving clues to a hidden fortune. This book flashbacks to fill the reader in to racial injustices that occurred in the town's past. 
  • Bat and the Waiting Game ⭐⭐⭐⭐by Elana Arnold. This sequel continues as the main character, Bat, raises a baby skunk. Bat deals with his Aspergers and changes at home.
  • The Stars Beneath Our Feet ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐by David Barclay Moore. Lolly is an adolescent boy living in Harlem trying to steer clear of the gang activity in his neighborhood while dealing with the death of his brother. Lolly begins to heal emotionally when he begins building again with Legos and building relationships with others. This touching story is raw and real. (PG)
  • Ghost Boys ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ by Jewell Parker Rhodes. Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. Jerome becomes a ghost, and he sees the devastation and grief that is left behind. This tale is haunting and powerful. (PG-13)
  • The Last (Endling #1) ⭐⭐⭐⭐ by Katherine Applegate. Byx is the last of her dairne pack. She is thrown into an adventure to save her life, and she meets a pack of friends along the way. Is Byx really the last dairne alive? Will she be able to trust the friends? What does the future hold in store? If you like fantasy, you will love this book. 
  • Every Shiny Thing ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ by Cordelia Jensen and Laurie Morrison. This YA novel shares point of view between Lauren and Sierra. Lauren is used to being the perfect sister and daughter, but she begins to feel differently when her brother is sent away to a boarding school that can help him with his special needs. Sierra is in foster care and moves next door to Lauren. The two girls become friends, but who is really going to be the real friend. (PG-13) 
  • Payback on Poplar Lane ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ by Margaret Mincks.  This charming middle grade book introduces us to Peter Gronkowski, neighborhood entrepreneur and cut throat businessman. Peter chooses Rachel to be his intern, but he treats her terribly. This unleashes the beast in Rachel, and she gives Peter a run for his money. Rachel is conflicted by the businesswoman she has become. 
  • Written in the Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐by Aisha Saeed. In this heartbreaking YA novel we meet Naila, the daughter of conservative immigrant parents. When Naila's parents find out about her secret relationship with her boyfriend, they quickly travel to Pakistan. Will Nalia's parents continue the cultural norm of forcing Naila into an arranged marriage? How will Nalia deal with the horrible circumstances she finds herself in? I will continue to think about Nalia and the girls currently in the same position around the world. (PG-13)
  • Front Desk ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ by Kelly Yang.  In this novel by Kelly Yang, we meet Mia. She is an immigrant from China struggling to find the American dream along with her parents. Mia and her parents think they have found the answer to their problems when they are given the opportunity to manage and operate a run down hotel in California. Mia finds her voice through writing, and she uses this power to help her new friends. The author's notes at the end of the book reveal which stories in the book were really part of Kelly Yang's past. I will continue thinking about Mia and the other characters in this book for a long time.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Tripwires- When are you on autopilot?

Do you ever feel like you are on autopilot? I do. Mostly in the mornings when I am sleepily trying to get my day started. This caused the problem of having a growing pile of clothes sitting on the floor. So I made a little note to myself and stuck it on my bathroom mirror to remember not to leave my clothes on the floor. (You can check it out in the picture.) Surprisingly enough, this little note has helped change this bad habit. This note acts as a tripwire to help remind me about the behavior I want to change. This note hasn't helped me remember to drink more water. 

When am I on autopilot when I'm working with readers?
     *While conferring with readers I can find myself getting engrossed in the story.
     *I also am thinking about how assist the student in word solving.

What tripwires can I use to get off of autopilot?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Meeting Katherine Applegate

One of my favorite books this year has been Wishtree by Katherine Applegate. You can read my post about Wishtree here. Katherine Applegate has also written the Newbery winning, The One and Only Ivan as well as Crenshaw (and many, many more). When I found out that Katherine Applegate would be in St. Louis I knew I HAD to be there.  She gave a talk about her newest picture book, Sometimes You Fly, answered questions, and signed books.

Here are some of my thoughts from her talk-

  • Even people who are really talented sometimes feel unsure about themselves.- Ms. Applegate told the story about how she was very unsure of herself as an author. She started her career as a ghostwriter. When she tweeted back a response to my class she said, " I was a ghostwriter when I started out, but the first big thing I published under my own name was the ANIMORPHS series (with my husband, Michael). I'd already been out of college for about 10 years! Let's just say there were a lot of tries before I did anything close to flying."
  • Anything worth doing will probably be difficult.- Katherine also told a story about how she almost stopped writing when she was half way through the manuscript of The One and Only Ivan. Can you imagine? She was ready to throw away the manuscript!!! This title went on to win the Newbery Medal. Kids and adults all over the world have loved reading the touching of Ivan, and when writing got difficult, Katherine kept going. 
  • Katherine Applegate connects with readers.- The day after the book signing I was talking to my students and showing them the books signed by Katherine Applegate. They were all so excited and wanted to hear more. I tried to remember all the stories she told during her discussion, but my students still had more questions. They suggested that I tweet out their questions. So I did, and Katherine Applegate tweeted us back. We were able to use social media to connect students to a favorite author. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Proud as a Peacock

I had the privilege to share the Blogger platform with teachers from the St. Charles School District today. It was so amazing to share a little bit about my blogging journey, explain the Blogger platform a little bit, and watch as the teachers started working.

I was challenged in a keynote from George Couros to stop spoon-feeding teachers (and students). He suggested to let students do the exploring and the learning.  So I tried it. I gave the workshop participants a little bit of instruction, and then I let them explore. I let them struggle through the exploration and learning. I was a little shocked by what happened...everyone worked. Everyone explored. Everyone tried. Teachers helped each other. The room had an eerie quiet and a buzz of creative energy. The tap, tap, tapping of computer keys was music to my ears.

I'm proud to introduce you to the first of several blogs that came out of our session. They all have different stories to tell. Take a peak at the Aaron's blog...

  • is a blog created by Aaron Wright. Aaron's goal of the blog is to "retroactively post about event over the past two seasons to document our paradigm shift in program culture." Once he is caught up to the present, he wants to give game recaps and current events. Girls that graduate and leave the program will still have a presence through the living memory of the program's blog. What a wonderful gift he is giving through his blog.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Using Flipgrid as a Sharing Tool

     The Lincoln Staff Book Club is using Flipgrid as our tool for sharing with each other this time as we discuss the book, Orphan Island. Book club members are not always available to meet together at the same time, and Flipgrid provides a platform to share our thoughts with each other. I created a free Flipgrid account and added a few discussion starter questions into the grid for our group. Flipgrid creates a special code just for our questions. Group members download the Flipgrid app or use the Flipgrid website. They enter our group code and then make a video response to the discussion questions. So far in our discussion we have 12 video responses that have been recorded and 41 minutes of engagement with the discussion grid.
     Try Flipgrid the next time you have a book club discussion group.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Wild Robot and Peter Brown

Peter Brown starts Roz.
     I recently had the opportunity to meet Peter Brown on his book release tour for The Wild Robot Escapes , the sequel to The Wild Robot. I fell in love with the main character, Roz, when I first read The Wild Robot last year. Roz is a robot who finds herself stranded on an island inhabited by all types of animals. At first, the animals are not accepting of Roz since she is so different. Roz learns to communicate with the animals through close observations, and they learn to help each other. Roz also unintentionally becomes the mother of a goose she adopts.
Peter Brown adding the finishing touches. 
     The bond between Roz and her son, Brightbill, is the driving force of both books. Roz learns that being a parent takes everything she has. I just love how Roz learns how to parent through every situation. My mother's heart was breaking for Roz and her desire to protect and care for her son.
      I think all kids grades 2 and up will enjoy both of these chapter books. The plots in both stories move along with enough action to keep children interested.
     Peter Brown told me that he intentionally made the chapters short so reader could feel the accomplishment of finishing chapters. As a self-described, "reluctant reader", Mr. Brown said that he designed the book to have short chapters and supporting illustrations for all types of readers. I told him that I love to book buzz about his books whenever I get the opportunity.  If you want to learn more about the process Peter Brown used when researching, writing and illustrating his books you should visit his site.