Friday, November 24, 2023

Rock, Scissors, Paperbag by Elizabeth Godley & illustrated by Akanksha Tyagi

New Chapter Book for the Younger Set

Elizabeth Godley’s second children’s book and first early chapter book, Rock, Scissors, Paperbag, illustrated by Akanksha, is a delightful jaunt into fantasy, perfect for those young, early readers, just ready to hear and read longer stories!
This book is a great read aloud to increase listening reading stamina for those beginning to venture beyond picture books. The text and illustrations are fun and engaging and will keep kids on the edge of their seats. The characters of Rock, Scissors and Paperbag are those that kids can relate to such as dealing with bullies, confidence and being afraid.
Orange ball is the most important sport in the town of Orange, Orange and also one of the only exciting things that happen in this town where they celebrate things like “Wash a Cup Day” and “Watch Paint Dry Day”. As Scissors says at the beginning of the story, “Our town is lame!” The only problem is that no one except the professional Orange ball team owns and plays with a REAL orange ball. Everyone else, including the kids on the playground, have to play with poor substitutes such as balls of yarn. When Scissors, who yearns to be a professional orange ball player, gets fed up with the bullies and the fake orange balls, the three decide to try and find the map that supposedly leads to the one and only Great Orange Ball Tree! They meet up with lots of challenges and upsets while learning a lot about themselves and what they are capable of as they pursue their dream.
Besides the fun storyline, as a literacy specialist, I thought of so many extension activities that you could do with this book to enhance comprehension and literacy skills. Before I share these ideas though, I would caution you to please read and discuss the entire story first. Stopping and doing activities disrupt the comprehension of the story, especially for those children who struggle with literacy. 
One of the things that I found delightful about this book is the imagery and great description. This is particularly important for children learning to visualize while listening to a longer story with fewer pictures. For example, there is a great description of a “monster” the trio meet along their journey. As the passage is reread, the kids could draw their own interpretation of this description, learning the very important comprehension skill of visualization, something that struggling readers often do not employ when reading. Remember –these skills need to be explicitly taught and kids are never too young to begin! Imagine the drawings from this description: “The little creature had long grey ears with a soft, white furry head, from which purple eyes shone above an orangey-pink triangle nose . . .and that is just part of the description.
Another fun phonics lesson, so important for this age group just beginning to unlock the phonetic code, is decoding the engaging language in this book. From the wail of Scissors guitar, “Menooowww” to the monster’s, ROWWRR sker SPLASH, students will delight in figuring out these words in a context with a connection. And last of all this book is just pure fun with language that is sure to have kids laughing hysterically, as they do when any bathroom words are mentioned, such as this line – “She has trumpet trousers when she gets nervous.” ☺
I would recommend this book for a great read aloud for those too young to read on their own or as a good starter book for those students just venturing into the chapter book world. 

Elizabeth can be found on her website: Nobody's Banana Publishing
and on Instagram Elizabeth Godley

Thursday, June 29, 2023

Conjure Island by Eden Royce

 Have you ever heard of the Gullah-Geechee people and their traditions? No? Well, neither has Del and apparently she is a descendant of these Sea Island families brought to this country from Africa. Del has never been a part of a big family. It’s always been just her father and Gramma after her mother died. With her father in the service, she has never stayed in one place very long, and she was just fine with that. Her and Gramma were best friends and told each other everything – or so Del thought . . . 

But things are about to change. Dad is deployed and Gramma falls ill and lands in the hospital. All of a sudden Del finds out she’s going to an island off the South Carolina coast to spend the summer with a great grandmother, Nana Rose, she has never heard of and didn’t even know existed until now! Why had Gramma kept this from her and what is this school that her Nana Rose will be running while Del is there?

Once Del arrives on the island things become even stranger. The huge house that she first sees upon arriving (in a boat perched on top of the biggest alligator Del has ever seen, mind you) looks run down, broken down and empty. Is this where she will be staying? But upon coming back to the house after meeting the campers and teachers, she sees something completely different – a beautiful mansion! What in the world is going on? Nana Rose speaks of their practice of “conjure magic”, which Del had scoffed at, but now, she’s not sure. Is this island truly magic? Is her aunt really a witch? No – it couldn’t be – or could it?

Join Del as she learns about her heritage, her customs, her beliefs and ways of life that have been passed down among the Sea Island families for generations. Her roommate, Ava, becomes a real friend along the way – something Del has never really experienced with her constant moving. 

Author, Eden Royce, is a skilled storyteller who engages the reader from start to finish – teaching you some fascinating facts and stories along the way. I was drawn in from the first page and truly enjoyed reading this book. Included with this post is an Educator’s Guide that accompanies the book. Click HERE to access.

You’ll want this book in your middle grade classroom for next year. Don ‘t forget to leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win your very own copy!

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Laurel Snyder's Latest!!


         Zipporah Chava McConnell, a.k.a. Zippy, isn’t exactly sure what it means to be Jewish. Their family isn’t the traditional Jewish family, which is why Zippy is so surprised when her mom tells her she needs to start getting ready for her bat mitzvah. Besides knowing a few Hebrew words and attending synagogue on the major holidays, her family rarely does much more, and sometimes not even that much!

       7th grade was already starting out strange without throwing this into the monkey wrench! Bea, her best friend since kindergarten, now wants to hang out with the giggling girls’ group that walks to school each day and attend the school dances. Zippy just isn’t interested nor ready for any of that. . .

       Oh, and did I mention that in addition to all these problems, Zippy is a witch? Maybe a Jewish witch? After bat mitzvah lessons one day she wanders out to her favorite spell casting spot, armed with a small piece of paper with Hebrew letters on it. As Zippy tries to pronounce the unfamiliar letter sounds, she hears a scream, then another! Emerging from the azalea bush is a girl, but not just any girl, this girl has wings! Has Zippy summoned her with the Hebrew word?

       Award winning author Laurel Snyder has brought us a timely story in this world of anti-Semitism. At the beginning of the book there is a letter from Laurel, explaining how this story is inspired by her own personal experiences with being Jewish. Through her main character, Zippy, she explains Jewish words, customs and holidays, perhaps helping lots of people who read this book understand Judaism a bit more. Robbie Medwed, a middle school teacher at a Jewish Day School in Atlanta provides us with an excellent Educator’s Guide. Click HERE for the link.

    Kids will relate to Zippy and understand how she sometimes feels uncomfortable and alone. Snyder has given us a mash-up of realistic fiction and fantasy and it works just magnificently! 

    Win your own copy of The Witch of Woodland by leaving a comment below.

Monday, May 15, 2023

The Greatest Kid in the World by John David Anderson

     What does it take to be the greatest kid in the world? Volunteering at the retirement community and playing three sports, like Kyo? Or maybe by making 200 sack lunches to hand out to the homeless with a youth group twice a month, like Aadya? As Zeke Stahl reads the bios of the four other contestants, he wonders how in the world his name is included with these over zealous do-gooders. They sound just like the suck-ups at his Indiana middle school. But that is what has happened in the new book The Greatest Kid in the World, from the bestselling author of Posted and Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, John David Anderson. Once again Anderson gives us a story both hysterically funny and touchingly poignant.

      At the start of summer Zeke receives a letter announcing that he is one of five contestants in the online contest for “Greatest Kid in the World”. There is no mention of how he was selected but there is a prize of $10,000.00 and a trip to Hawaii! Was this real or just someone punking him? As it turns out, it is indeed true and a cameraman would be arriving the next day to film him and his family for the next week.            

       Although Zeke knows there must be some mistake – after all, he describes himself as one who likes to “push the boundaries” and teachers and friends would, perhaps, use less flattering language. But boy, their family could definitely use the money. The summer was already sweltering with their air conditioner broken with no money to fix it and banned from the community pool due to a prank Zeke pulled the previous summer. So he decides that he must do everything he can to try to win for his family but what can he possibly do to compete with the others? Follow along during this crazy week of hijinx and hopefulness and meet Zeke’s dad through the post cards he keeps rereading at night.  

        Anderson is such a wonderful storyteller and this is a great read for the start of summer.Click HERE for a teacher's guide which includes discussion questions, classroom activities and an exclusive author letter. I would recommend it for the first read aloud in September as well.Win your own copy by leaving a comment below. 

        Kids will really relate and cheer for Zeke! 

Sunday, June 26, 2022



     Full disclosure -this is a baseball story and I’m not a fan of baseball, but I fell in love with the characters in this story. Rylander, the author of The Fourth Stall, has hit it out of the park with this coming of age baseball story. His character development is so well crafted that it is quite easy for us to picture Alex Weakerman, a 13-year-old middle schooler - that alone should give everyone the shivers as they remember how awkward those years were! And how about having a last name like “Weakerman”? It’s a joke waiting to happen. And if that was not enough, Alex has such a bad case of social anxiety that he has coined his own term for it – “Flumpo”. He’s a smart kid with a knack for statistics, primarily baseball data, but is unable to string words together that make sense when speaking to anyone except his immediate family.

     However, his grandfather is the owner of an independent league baseball team, called The Hurricanes, and they bond over their love of the game. School is finally over for the year and Alex, along with his best friend, Slips, are looking forward to a long summer of baseball and hot dogs. But things don’t turn out exactly the way they had planned. Grandpa Ira passes away and Alex is lost. What will happen to the Hurricanes? Who will love and support the team now that his grandfather is gone? The Hurricanes have had their glory days but now barely win a game. . .

     Things take an interesting turn when Grandpa Ira’s will is read and he has left the team to . . .Alex! Sure, he knows everything there is to know about baseball but being a manager is something completely different. First off, he’ll have to talk! Horrors! He wants to sit in his regular seat in the bleachers, write down each stat and eat hot dogs. That’s all he wants to do but there is a stipulation in the will that the Hurricanes need to win the playoffs to even remain a team or they will be sold to cover an unknown debt by Ira.

     Come along for the play by play of this delightful summer story and hold your breath throughout, as we follow the ups and downs of this small Midwestern baseball team and it’s teenage manager!

Don’t miss this one – it’s a knuckle biter!!

     I will be giving away a copy of this book to one lucky winner. Simply “like” or comment on this post and you will be entered into the drawing.


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Riley's Ghost by John David Anderson


Hello Fellow Book Lovers!

I am so excited to be back to my blog, writing and reviewing books. First disclosure - it's been a while since I have posted - almost three years. To make a long story short, I retired after 36 years of teaching at the district, state and university level. I was incredibly lucky to have missed pandemic teaching! Please know that my heart goes out to each and every one of you because only a fellow educator can truly understand what you had to, and still have to do . . . 

Books are more necessary than ever now . . . all kinds and types. I am lucky to be reviewing John David Anderson, and his new release, Riley's Ghost. Second disclosure - I have always been a big fan of his, from Posted to Finding Orion and from Granted to Ms. Bixby's Last Day, I have loved them all. Riley's Ghost is a delightful mashup of realistic fiction and fantasy, specifically ghosts! Anderson captures the essence of that middle grade age group so well and it brought me back to my own struggles in junior high, which are still universal themes today - friends and "not" friends.

Riley Flynn is a middle schooler who used to have a best friend. Sound familiar to you because I know it did to me. I thought the world had ended when I was friendless in 8th grade. But Riley gets it worse, because her former best friend, and the popular group she joins, lock Riley in a closet on a Friday afternoon  . . . and leave! Being claustrophobic, I almost wished Anderson wasn't such a master of description, because as he described the narrow science closet and the items on the shelves, including dissected frogs, I began to hyperventilate just a little. 😒

When Riley manages to escape, she finds she isn't being allowed to leave, no matter what she does, and on top of that there is the conversation she is having with a "ghost" frog! 

Wait! What? Yup. And that is only the beginning. This book was a page turner for me as we learn more about our girl Riley, but about others before her. Like I said - it comes full circle.

Riley's Ghost is going to be a hit with readers and teachers alike. I can see it working really well as a read aloud because it will help generate multiple conversations about different themes including, How do you lose a friend? How can you help? What kinds of things make a difference? As a matter of fact Walden Pond Press and Anderson have a discussion guide that I will post here.

I'd love to give someone a free copy of Riley's Ghost courtesy of Walden Pond Press. Just follow me and leave your name and I'll randomly pick a winner on Monday, January 24th.  Good Luck - this one is a keeper!

Monday, April 1, 2019

BAT and the End of Everything

Hey Readers!

I'm so glad you're here on my blog for the continuing adventures of Bixby Alexander Tam known to those of us who have been with him since book one as "BAT".  If you haven't had the chance to read Elana K. Arnold's series then you are in for a treat. . . and if you have read the first two stories about BAT then you've been anticipating and also dreading this particular book.  But I get ahead of myself!

 It is June and BAT is finishing 3rd grade. His parents are divorced and BAT lives with his mom, a veterinarian, and his older sister Janie with "Every-Other Weekend " spent with his father. Although he is never officially labeled as such, BAT is a child with autism doing his very best to function and fit in. One of the greatest moments in BAT's life is when his mom brings home a baby skunk kit and allows BAT to be his caretaker with the full understanding the skunk will be released back to the wild. As you can surmise from the title, Bat and the End of Everything, that time has come and BAT is not ready to let his skunk, named Thor, go.

Several classrooms in my school use BAT as a read aloud.  As the receiving school for the entire district's special needs students, it is imperative that we educate our school community about the ins and outs of students with special needs. Books such as Arnold's help everyone truly step into the shoes and experience the world through different eyes. I liken her books to Jack Gantos's Joey Pigza books that helped us understand the viewpoints and reasonings of a child with Attention Deficit Disorder. As a teacher I have taught many ADD students and Gantos's book helped me understand these children better than any article, book or doctor. Arnold's go a long way to help us understand autism.

I can also see BAT's stories being used as a ONE BOOK ONE SCHOOL choice. His story is accessible to all elementary aged students and could create great discussions and connections. I encourage you to read BAT's story and then share it with others. :-)