Natalie Dias Lorenzi's Blog

July 21, 2014

140127095838-25-young-adult-book-awards-horizontal-gallery1With four starred reviews and a Pura Belpré Award on the cover, I knew this would be a good book. What I didn’t realize is that I would stay up until 1:30 in the morning reading the last chapters, needing to know how everything turns out for Piddy Sanchez. This is a gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story that ultimately offers hope in the power of making our own choices in life.


Publisher’s description:  One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.


Hand this book to the kid who:

* has reached a cross-roads and has important choices or decisions to make


* struggles with poverty, or needs to be introduced to someone who does


* is being raised by a single parent


* is exploring what it means to be part of a particular culture or to straddle more than one culture (Piddy is bullied by Yaqui in part because Yaqui doesn’t think she is “Latina enough.”)


* responds to a teen voice that is honest and  unapologetic


Use this to discuss:


* Choices –Piddy has a slew of choices in front of her, and not one of them is easy. We see the choices that her friend Joey makes, and some of the choices that Yaqui makes. What choices does Piddy have in life? What are the ramifications of each? This would make for a good discussion, especially when paired with Steve Watkins’ young adult novel Juvie.


juvie-198x300


* Community–Although Piddy is being raised by her mother and has never met her father, she doesn’t lack for a support network. Lila, her mother’s friend, and the other ladies at the beauty salon where Lila works (and where Piddy works on the weekends) form a tightly-knit community that looks out for each other. Use Piddy’s story as a springboard to discuss various support systems that teens have in their lives.


* Point of View–Although we never get into Yaqui’s head, we get a glimpse of what her life must be like through Raul, a policeman who patrols Yaqui’s crime-ridden neighborhood, and Joey, Piddy’s friend and neighbor who lives with daily violence in his own home. Although Yaqui is the girl we want to hate, Meg Medina won’t let us, even though she keeps Yaqui’s point of view at arm’s length. How would Yaqui describe seeing Piddy for the first time? What bothers her so much about Piddy Sanchez?


* Bullying–One of the biggest choices Piddy must make is how to handle Yaqui’s bullying. Should she try to avoid Yaqui? Confront her? Tell an adult? This would make an excellent discussion starter about how to handle bullying and its lingering consequences.


Visit author Meg Medina’s website here, and read some sample chapters and see the string of honors this book has received here.


The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Candlewick Press


Publication Date: March 2013


ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-65859-5 (hardcover); 978-0-7636-7164-8 (paperback)


Number of Pages: 272


For ages 14 and up


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Published on July 21, 2014 03:58 • 179 views

July 17, 2014

cover49096-mediumWhen I first saw this sweet cover, I thought that Ava and Pip would be an early-ish chapter book, along the lines of Sara Pennypacker’s Clementine series or Megan McDonald’s Judy Moody books. This adorable cover deceives, however, as Ava and Pip is a solid middle grade novel that I think many of my 4th-6th grade students will love. While Judy and Clementine start off their series in third grade, Ava is a 5th grader, and her sister, Pip, a 7th grader. Ava and Pip‘s word count is twice that of Clementine and Judy, and the sentence structure is more suited to an upper elementary grade reader. The paperback version is coming out in March of 2015, so I’ll be interested to see what they do with the cover.


Ava is lovable, flawed, smart, and introspective. Her attempts to right a wrong are both believable and sympathetic, the family dynamics are charming and realistic, and the ending is satisfying. I look forward to recommending this one in my library this fall.


Many thanks to the publisher who provided this e-galley via Netgalley.


Publisher’s description:  AVA AND PIP is the diary of a good kid who does a bad thing.


Ava is an outgoing 10-year-old with a painfully shy 12-year-old sister. Ava gets mad at Pip and feels bad for Pip all at the same time. Mom and Dad are constantly fretting about Pip, and Ava sometimes feels invisible in her own family. When Pip’s 13th birthday party gets ruined because a new girl named Bea throws a boy-girl party on the same day, Ava, outraged, enters a writing contest with a thinly-veiled story called “Sting of the Queen Bee.” Bea finds out and is not pleased. She didn’t even know there were two parties on the same date. Bea confronts Ava, and the two reach a truce and decide to team up to try to help Pip come out of her shell. They devise five Pip Pointers. At first Pip resists, but little by little, she learns to speak up—and Ava does too. In fact, by helping Pip find her voice, Ava ultimately finds her own. She tells her parents that she would like some attention too, and she tells her diary that she has found her goal: She wants to be a writer someday.


Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys books in diary format


* tends to be shy


* loves words


* has siblings


* is a writer


Use this to discuss:


* Voice –The irony is that, throughout the story, Ava is trying to figure out what “voice” is in writing, yet her own voice oozes with sparkle and personality.


* Word Play–Ava’s entire family are self-proclaimed “word nerds.” They exchange puns, rhymes, and, most notably, palindromes (words and phrases that read the same both forward and backward, like A-V-A- and P-I-P, or “Was it a car or a cat I saw?” ) .


* Sibling Rivalry–Perhaps this category should be “sibling envy,” but that’s not quite accurate, either. Ava is envious of the attention that her parents give to her older, painfully shy sister, Pip, yet I don’t ever get the sense that Ava would want to be like Pip. All siblings feel this way at times, and the book will make a nice springboard for those discussions.


* Writing–Ava is an aspiring writer, and there’s a lot in these pages about finding one’s voice, writer’s block, etc. that could be culled for writers’ workshop activities.


~


Visit author Carol Weston’s website here to learn more about her. Students will be delighted to see how many autobiographical tidbits they can find that connect the author’s life and the book.


Check out the excellent educator’s guide by clicking here.


The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky


Publication Date: March 2014


ISBN-13: 978-1402288708


Number of Pages: 224


For ages 9-12


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Published on July 17, 2014 04:19 • 53 views

July 13, 2014

hi_res_FLF_COVER_2-330 The first time I heard Charlotte’s Web was while sitting on the carpet of my 4th grade classroom in 1975 when Mrs. Smith read the book aloud to us. I was captivated. At the time, I had no idea that the book was already more than 20 years old. Fleabrain Loves Franny opens in the early 1950s, just after E.B. White published Charlotte’s Web, and main character Franny is just as smitten with Charlotte as I was. We meet Franny not long after she’s recovered from polio and is grappling with life in a wheelchair. She’s still considered contagious by her friends and their parents, and she wishes for a friend like Charlotte. Fleabrain is no Charlotte, but his imperfect love for Franny sets her off on a journey–both fantastical and internal–that provides both a needed escape from reality as well as a solid plan for her new normal. Franny is a sympathetic character who doesn’t evoke pity, but respect. One of my favorite lines is when Franny’s former gang of friends parades by her house yet again, waving and saying how much they miss her. She thinks: “Which Franny do you miss? Because, actually, I’ve been here all along. In the flesh.” She doesn’t want or need to be treated with kid gloves, and the resolved friendships in the end are both satisfying and realistic.


Teachers and students often ask if we have any new historical fiction titles on the shelves, and I’m looking forward to recommending this one in the fall.


Publisher’s description:  This gem of a novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952. Franny Katzenback, while recovering from polio, reads and falls in love with the brand-new book Charlotte’s Web. Bored and lonely and yearning for a Charlotte of her own, Franny starts up a correspondence with an eloquent flea named Fleabrain who lives on her dog’s tail. While Franny struggles with physical therapy and feeling left out of her formerly active neighborhood life, Fleabrain is there to take her on adventures based on his extensive reading. It’s a touching, funny story set in the recent past, told with Rocklin’s signature wit and thoughtfulness


Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys historical fiction


* is interested in science (especially microbiology and germs/bacteria/viruses/medicine)


* loves a light touch of fantasy


* is struggling with feeling different from his or her peers


* would like to vicariously visit the Seven Wonders of the World


* is a fan of  E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and Katie Speck’s Maybelle series.


Charlotte_Maybelle


Use this book to discuss:


* Differences–So often we highlight ways in which we are different from other people, instead of celebrating the many ways that we are alike. Having a peek into Franny’s point of view, we realize that the kernel of who she is has not changed; it’s her community who has changed the way they see her through a lens of fear



* The science behind vaccines –As I looked through our library’s online catalog, I realized that we have quite a few non-fiction titles about epidemics and the role/effects of disease throughout history. Jonas Salk, the man who discovered the polio vaccine, is mentioned several times in the book.


* Points of View–While most of the story is told from Franny’s point of view, we do see snippets of Fleabrain’s point of view, as well. Especially in the end, when Fleabrain can’t communicate with Franny, students can discuss misunderstanding, intentions, and forgiveness all within the context of friendship.



For schools with Internet filters that block YouTube, click here for the trailer on School Tube.


Visit author Joanne Rocklin’s website here and my interview with her here in 2012.


Many thanks to the publisher who provided this e-galley via Netgalley.


The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Amulet/Abrams Books


Publication Date: August 2014


ISBN-13: 978-1-4197-1068-1


Number of Pages: 288


For ages 9-12


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Published on July 13, 2014 02:26 • 56 views

July 8, 2014

I was instantly drawn in by 13-year-old Theo (Theodora). She loses her beloved grandfather, Jack, in the very first chapter, leaving her alone with her dysfunctional, almost-always absent mother and not enough money to eat much more than Theo can grow in her backyard city garden. Yet Theo never feels sorry for herself, and neither does the reader. I admired her pluck and self-sufficiency, and gladly went along for the ride as Theo and her new (first ever?) friend, Bodhi, launch themselves into an adventure/mystery that kept me turning pages right up until the satisfying end. I’ll definitely be recommending this to my students in the fall.


Many thanks to the publisher who provided this e-galley via Netgalley.


Publisher’s description:  A mystery for readers who loved Chasing Vermeer and From the Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler…


 Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.


 The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family’s two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was.


With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.


Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys a good mystery


* is interested in art history and/or the Renaissance


* has a bit of background/interest in World War II


* has seen the movie The Monuments Men (PG13). Click link to view the trailer for those who haven’t seen the movie–this will provide important background info for one section of the book).


* has a family member who suffers from mental illness. Theo’s mother is almost always in her bedroom working on a math equation for her thesis, but Theo is definitely the caretaker in the house.


Use this to discuss:


* The Role of Art in Culture –The story behind the missing painting is an interesting one. The topic should spark some interesting discussions on the purpose of art, to whom it really belongs, and it’s value–both monetary and intrinsic.


* The Renaissance–It’s interesting to learn snippets of what some of this period’s famous artists were like as people.


* Research–One of my favorite characters is the super cool librarian ;-) , a young guy who helps Theo with her research, both in print and online. It’s the perfect example of going from a general topic to specifics, reliability of sources, cross-checking sources, etc.


* Museum Field Trip Prep–The next time I walk into an art museum, I’ll definitely take a closer look at the exhibits, thanks to this book. Under the Egg would serve as a nice primer before you and your students head out on a museum field trip. Most major museums have virtual tours, like the Met, one of the NYC museums featured in the book.


Visit author Laura Marx Fitzgerald’s website here, excellent links to resources about World War II, Art, and more here, and a discussion guide here.


The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Dial/Penguin


Publication Date: March 2014


ISBN-13: 978-0803740013


Number of Pages: 256


For ages 9-12, but I think slightly older readers will also enjoy the layered art history aspects of the book.


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Published on July 08, 2014 05:24 • 72 views

November 18, 2013

Today Biblio Links welcomes back author Anna Staniszewski!




My-Sort-Of-Fairy-Tale-Ending-CoverAnna’s third book in her My Very Unfairy Tale Life series was released earlier this month. Just like the first two books, I adored Jenny in My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending. She’s flawed, magical, earnest, and sincere.


Here’s the plot summary from the publisher’s website:


You think a trip to Fairy Land sounds fun? Clearly you’ve never been turned into a mouse by an Evil Queen.


This. Is. It. My most important mission as a magical adventurer ever. And probably my last. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure if I defy the council and travel to Fairy Land to rescue my parents, I’m so fired. They say it’s too dangerous. That the Queen Fairy is crazy, and she’s hoarding all the magic to do unspeakable things (like steal the leprechauns’ gold and make all of her subjects attend mandatory parades).


But none of that matters. I finally have a chance at happily ever after with my family. And crazy fairy or no crazy fairy, I’ll do whatever it takes to bring them home.


~


In my library, I get fairy book requests daily  from little girls (K-2). But older readers like fairies, too, and I have a hard time keeping this series on the shelves. 


I asked Anna how her book fits into the classroom.


Anna Staniszewski-1Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think, “That kid needs a copy of MY VERY (SORT OF) FAIRY TALE ENDING.” Who is this kid?

Anna Staniszewski: That kid is someone who likes to laugh and who enjoys adventures that turn traditional fairy tales upside-down. And if that kid is a fan of puns, even better!

Biblio Links: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?



Anna Staniszewski: We’d see a lively discussion about fractured fairy tales–why we like retelling fairy tales, and why they’re so fun to “break.” I suspect there might also be a round of Fairy Tale Mad Libs (which is a big hit during my school visits).


Biblio Links: What writing advice do you have for kids?

Anna Staniszewski:Never stop writing! I’ve loved writing since I was young, but for a while I let other things in life distract me from it. If you enjoy writing then make sure to always make it a top priority.




Biblio Links: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Anna Staniszewski: They can visit my website (www.annastan.com) where I have information about my books, upcoming events, school visits, etc.

Thanks for stopping by, Anna!


Here’s a bit more about the wonderful Anna:


Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was named the 2006-2007 Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the 2009 PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives outside of Boston with her husband and their black Labrador, Emma.


When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time teaching, reading, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author ofMy Very UnFairy Tale Life and its sequels, My Epic Fairy Tale Fail and My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending, all published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Look for the first book in Anna’s next tween series, The Dirt Diary, in January 2014, and visit her at www.annastan.com.


Click here  to read the sparkling reviews and first chapter of My  (Sort of) Fairy Tale Ending and check out the trailer:



…and the first two books in the series!


 


MyVeryUnFairyTaleLife_CVR.indd My Epic Fairy Tale Fail Final Cover RGB









The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky


Publication Date: November 5, 2013


ISBN-13: 978-1402279331 (paperback)


Interest Level: Ages 9-12


Reading Level: 4.5


Number of Pages: 224


Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.




Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!
Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!



 


 


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Published on November 18, 2013 04:15 • 166 views

November 4, 2013

 


I received this e-galley from the publisher via Netgalley and read it on my ancient Kindle, so I didn’t pay much attention to the cover, including–I’m embarrassed to say–the author’s name. The story is written from a female teen’s point of view, and it’s done so well that I was shocked when I sat down to write this review and discovered that the author is male. I was also surprised to realize that, had I seen the cover before reading the story, I would have thought that was a book about a teen boy. My own misguided preconceptions, of course–girls go to jail, too.


Publisher’s description:  Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one — she’s the star player on her AAU basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player, and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal — wrong place, wrong time — it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn’t commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger — at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla, and at herself — fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu, and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?


Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie tells the story of two sisters grappling with accountability, sacrifice — and who will be there to help you after you take the fall.

Hand this book to the kid who:


* is struggling with making good choices in life


* knows someone who has been incarcerated or has first-hand experience with the juvenile detention system


* plays basketball–Sadie is on the college scholarship path when she has to leave high school to serve her six-month sentence.


* has a family member who suffers from agoraphobia–Sadie’s father never makes an appearance in the story because he hasn’t come out of his house in years. Although we don’t get to know him as well as we know the agoraphobic father in Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect,  we can still feel Sadie’s father’s love for her when he does reach out to her via the US mail.


Use this to discuss:


* Character Motivation–Sadie decides to take the fall for her older sister, Carla, who has been in trouble with the law in the past. Should she have made that sacrifice? What if Sadie’s decision can’t save her sister or her young niece, Lulu? Would she have made the same sacrifice if she had known that she’d spend six months in jail?


* Ethics–When Sadie tries to shield a fellow inmate from harm during a prison riot, she is reprimanded for getting involved and told that her only job in juvie is to follow directions. Yet she later risks her own life to save another. Sadie’s choices in these scenes would make good fodder for discussion. And speaking of choices…


* Choices–At first, I was indignant at the unfairness of Sadie going to jail for something she didn’t do. But Sadie eventually comes to the conclusion that although she didn’t knowingly break the law, a series of smaller bad decisions led her to the wrong place at the wrong time. Did she deserve to go to jail? Definitely not. But the ultimate consequences of her choices that led her to the scene of the crime could have so easily been avoided.


*Types of Conflict–There are several types in this story–character vs. character, and character vs. self, but the most interesting to explore might be character vs. society and the role of prisons in our society. The disparity between the crimes that some of the characters commit on the outside and their behavior on the inside would also make for good discussion.


Visit author Steve Watkins’ website here.


Click here for reviews (including starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly) and here to read the first chapter.


The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Candlewick Press


Publication Date: October 8, 2013


ISBN-10: 0763655090


ISBN-13: 978-0763655099


Number of Pages: 320


Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.


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Published on November 04, 2013 03:15 • 77 views

October 27, 2013


When I received the e-galley of Six Months Later from NetGalley, I was in the middle of reading another book–a print book. Now, I’m not the kind of reader who juggles more than one story at a time–once I enter one fictitious world, I prefer to stay in that world right through to the last page. But when I found myself waiting in a long line at the bank one day, I pulled my Kindle from my bag and opened the Six Months Later e-galley. And that was that. I didn’t go back to the print book until I’d finished my e-galley of Six Months Later. I was swept up into Chloe’s world and had to find out how it ended. As the mom of a teen girl, I knew that kids would be drawn to the mystery and intrigue of the plot. As a teacher-librarian, I was practically giddy at the possibilities for discussion that this book lends.


Publisher’s description:  She Has Everything She Ever Wanted. But Not Her Memory…


When Chloe fell asleep in study hall, it was the middle of May. When she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can’t remember the last six months of her life.


Before, she’d been a mediocre student. Now, she’s on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now he’s her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now her best friend won’t speak to her.


What happened to her? Remembering the truth could be more dangerous than she knows…


Hand this book to the kid who:


* might be a reluctant reader and needs a page-turner of a mystery (I would not be surprised if this book ends up on the ALA Quick Picks for Young Adult Readers)


* dreams of being accepted by the “in crowd” and needs some reminding that he or she can shine without the glitter of popularity


* could use a positive role model of a character with a disability. Chloe’s best friend, Maggie, stutters. While Chloe obviously realizes this, it is not a big deal at all. I love that. There’s a brief reference to one of the popular crowd who teases Maggie, but it’s not a focus of who Maggie is, and it’s not An Issue at all.


Use this to teach:


Plot Structure–The opening of the book begins with Chloe waking up in study hall and having no idea what’s happened to her in the past six months. There are flashbacks, foreshadowing, and red herrings, oh my! Teens will enjoy piecing this plot together.


* Character Development--Chloe learns both who she was and who she is becoming, as well as the value of true friendship.


*Ethics–The Chloe who wakes up in study hall seems to have it all–top grades, dating the most popular boy in school, etc. After reading the book, discuss with kids the ethics behind drugs, procedures, etc. that are designed to bring us closer and closer to perfect. Pair this book with Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series.


Click here for the author’s website and reviews.


The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Sourcebooks


Publication Date: October 1, 2013


ISBN-13: 9781402285516


Number of Pages: 336


Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.



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Published on October 27, 2013 08:14 • 100 views

October 21, 2013

The Art of Flying


I was charmed by this sweet adventure story about a girl named Fortuna who finds a friend in Martin, a shy boy who has been transformed from bird to human. The fantasy elements–witchcraft, talking animals, and flying children–all felt believable.


Publisher’s description:                 Fortuna Dalliance is practical. Rational. Clever. But when she finds herself at the doorstep of an adventure, she discovers something that has been inside her all along: the courage to step through. 


The old Baldwin sisters are in trouble, and they’ve asked Fortuna to help them out of a fix. The sisters have accidentally turned a swallow into a boy, and he refuses to be turned back. But if Martin doesn’t return to his original form within five days, he’ll remain a boy forever . . . and the Baldwin sisters will have a lot to answer for. Fortuna’s not sure she believes in magic, and once she’s gotten to know Martin, she’s not sure she wants him to be changed back. As Fortuna figures out what it truly means to be a friend, she must decide whose side she’s on-before it’s too late.


Judy Hoffman’s debut, with delightful illustrations by Stephanie Graegin, weaves an enchanting tale of loyalty, freedom, and feathers.


Hand this book to the kid who:


* wants to read about witches and bad guys but isn’t ready for anything super scary yet,


* has a  best friend who drifts away–not because of an argument, but just with the passage of time,


* loves being outside, or


* anyone who has ever dreamed of flying.


Use this to teach:


Points of view–While this story is told from Fortuna’s point of view, her challenge is to realize that what she wants isn’t necessarily best for her new friend, Martin. She has to make some tough choices for the benefit of her friend, which would make a good discussion starter on empathy and what it means to be a good friend.


* Anti-Bullying Strategies--The antagonist in the story is a bully–both in his human and owl form. The Baldwin sisters get into trouble because they change Martin and his brother from swallows into boys when they are being bullied by the owl. Use this opportunity to discuss the role of bystanders in bullying and what kids can do when they witness another person being bullied.


*Types of Conflict–There’re a lot examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character, self, and…magic.


The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Disney-Hyperion


Publication Date: October 29, 2013


ISBN-10: 1423158156


ISBN-13: 978-1423158158


Number of Pages: 310


Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.


Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!



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Published on October 21, 2013 02:00 • 72 views

October 7, 2013

ghost_thumbJust in time for Halloween, Ammi-Joan Paquette’s newest picture book Ghost in the House is a must-add title to elementary school libraries and classrooms. It’s fun and shivery and perfect for the preschool and primary grade set. One child I read this to actually squealed and clapped her hands in anticipation at some of the page-turns–can you ask for a better endorsement than that??


Today Biblio Links welcomes back prolific author Ammi-Joan Paquette. Ghost in the House is her third picture book, and she’s got two middle grade and one young adult novel published so far. Her fourth picture book is out this month called  Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo.


Publisher’s summary:   When a little ghost goes slip-sliding down the hallway, he suddenly hears…a groan! Turns out it’s only a friendly mummy, who shuffles along with the ghost, until they encounter…a monster! As the cautious explorers continue, they find a surprise at every turn — and add another adorably ghoulish friend to the count. But you’ll never guess who is the scariest creature in the house!


Boo! Watch out for this rollicking, cumulative counting book for a Halloween treat that’s more playful than scary.


JoanI asked Joan to tell us how Ghost in the House might fit into your library or classroom.


BiblioLinks:  A student walks into my library and I think: That kid needs a copy of  Ghost in the House. Who is this kid?





Joan: The ideal reader for GHOST IN THE HOUSE is a preschooler who loves humorous, lively stories with a silly side. It’s great for non-readers as an engaging read-aloud, and for emerging readers looking for a simple and highly illustrated text upon which to practice their new skills. It’s a perfect title to pull out around Halloween, though it would work equally well for read-alouds year-round.






BiblioLinks: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using Rules for Ghosting in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?




 Joan: Ghost in the House makes great use of rhyme, and could be great for a unit on this topic. There’s also deductive reasoning in the page turns and anticipating what is to come, as well as prompting a discussion about surprise endings, expectations, and how stories (and life situations) sometimes turn expected tropes upon their head and force us to see everything a little differently than we’d expected to.






 BiblioLinks: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?






 Joan: Read more about the book at my website, www.ajpaquette.com!






Biblio Links: Thanks for joining us, Joan!


Teachers and librarians, click here for glowing reviews of Ghost in the House.



The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Walker Childrens/Bloomsbury


Publication Date: July 2013


ISBN-13: 9780763655297


Interest Level: ages 3-7


Number of Pages: 32


Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme!



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Published on October 07, 2013 04:19 • 104 views

September 30, 2013

51a+Y+gSxDL._SY346_Publisher’s description: Hidden away in their Secret Annex in Amsterdam during World War II, Anne Frank and her family could not breathe fresh air or see the blue sky for years. But through an attic window Anne could see the branches of a tall chestnut tree. This small glimpse of nature gave Anne hope and courage. It inspired her writing, which, in turn, inspired the whole world. Jane Kohuth explores Anne Frank’s strong belief in the healing power of nature in this Step 3 leveled reader biography for newly independent readers ages 5–8.


My thoughts: As soon as I read the e-galley (Thank you, Random House Children’s and Edelweiss!) of Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree, I ordered a copy for our school library. Many of my students check out The Diary of Anne Frank but end up not finishing it because of the reading level or because they don’t quite understand it. This version is part of Random House’s Step Into Reading (Level 3) early chapter book program, and I was happy to see that the illustrations, text, and handling of the subject matter are indeed appropriate for grades 1 to 3.


Several lines from Anne’s diary are woven seamlessly into the text, lending an authenticity to the storyline. Here’s an excerpt from the second page-spread in the book:


“‘As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?’ The girl’s name was Anne Frank. She had not been outside for 597 days.”


You’ve got Anne’s own words, her name, and then a hook that begs for the next page-turn.


Even the complicated and horrific motives behind the Second World War are delivered in a straightforward manner that’s easy to understand:


“The Nazis blamed the world’s problems on Jewish people, even though they were a small minority. Anne and her family were Jewish.”


As adults, it’s easy to forget that a child first reading about Anne Frank may not know how Anne’s story ends. The arrest of Anne and her family is told in two simple sentences:


“But on August 4, 1944, the police found the Secret Annex.The Nazis sent Anne’s family and two of their helpers to concentration camps.”


The only reference to a concentration camp is earlier on, when the Nazis wanted to send Anne’s sister away, prompting the family to go into hiding:


“Anne’s parents knew that when Jews were sent away, they were never heard from again.”


Even Anne’s sad ending does not include any detail that might be disturbing for a young child:


“Anne did not survive the war. But her diary did.”


The book doesn’t end here, though; it comes full circle with the same chestnut tree in the opening of the story–the one that Anne used to gaze at from the window of the attic in the Secret Annex. The people of Amsterdam kept the chestnut tree alive, even when it had a disease, until a storm brought it down in 2010. Even then, saplings from this tree were planted all over the city and the world, including the United States.


An author’s note and photograph of the building where Anne and her family hid will help children to understand that this is indeed a true story.


Highly recommended.


Hand this book to the kid who:


* has heard of Anne Frank but may not yet be ready to read her diary


* is interested in World War II


* enjoys biographies


* needs an example of strength and hope in hard times


Use this to teach:


Biographies–Although this reads like fiction, it is 100% non-fiction–no invented dialogue in these pages.


*The themes of courage and overcoming adversity–The Holocaust is obviously not part of any primary grade curriculum, but this book could definitely be included in a study of books with themes of courage or overcoming adversity.


*The Holocaust–I know–I just said that young children don’t learn about the Holocaust in school, but some upper elementary children do, and  middle school students definitely do. If you’ve got an older struggling reader or a students who is learning English, this title would work well for differentiating instruction. Or if you’re reading aloud a book like Lois Lowery’s Number the Stars and you create a display of other books about World War II, definitely include this one.


The Nitty Gritty~


Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers


Publication Date: September 24, 2013


ISBN-10: 0449812553


ISBN-13: 978-0449812556


Number of Pages: 48


Interest Level: K-3


Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.


Thanks to Anatastia Suen for creating Non-Fiction Mondays, and to Sally's Bookshelf for hosting today!

Thanks to Anatastia Suen for creating Non-Fiction Mondays, and to Stacking Books for hosting today! Click here for more Non-Fiction recommendations…



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Published on September 30, 2013 04:10 • 122 views