Wednesday, February 3, 2016


I don't normally post things like this on my blog.  But I thought I would try it.

I am working on raising money to purchase some STEAM/STEM kits to use with my students.  See further information below.

Fairy Tales and STEM

My students need two STEM/STEAM Kits.

My Students

A typical day in a school library involves reading a poem or completing a library review sheet. A mini-lesson introduces or reinforces library curriculum such as story elements, book awards, informational and digital literacy.
I see 540 students a week made up of a wide variety of personalities and abilities.
Some of them love to read, some of them avoid it like the plague. I always cheer when I can find a book for a reluctant reader that turns them on to reading. Like most children, they love to talk and I'm always thrilled when I get thoughtful responses that show they've been truly involved in an activity. Their enthusiasm for a good read-aloud is truly the best part of working with children.

My Project

The Fairy Tales STEM/STEAM Kits I'm requesting will be used to help students look beyond the Disney versions of fairy tales to see the elements that have allowed these stories to be around for so long. At the same time, principles related to science and technology and problem solving will aid the children in developing critical thinking skills and looking beyond the words that they read. Interactive activities including building, problem solving, and puppets encourage the students to use their minds to reconstruct the stories and find alternate solutions for the fairy tale characters.
I see each class only once a week.
Because of that I have to have lessons that immediately engage the children, otherwise they don't remember what I've taught them from week to week. These materials will help me to plan lessons that combine curriculum needs with active engagement making for a more effective classroom environment.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

PICTURE BOOK NONFICTION: Aaron and Alexander by Don Brown/How Kate Warne Saved President Lincoln by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk


In 1856, when Kate Warne went to see Allan Pinkerton, only men were detectives. But Kate convinced Allan to hire her for his detective agency. She explained that she could worm out secrets where men could not go--in disguise as a society lady! Join Kate on her most important mission--to thwart a plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln on the way to his inauguration.


 Picture book nonfiction is a rather unique genre in that it tries to tell rather complicated stories in as simplified a form as possible.  And while I've read some great picture book nonfiction, there are occasion problems with text conveying things that aren't quite accurate. And there is a bit of that here.  The author is focused on Kate Warne and the remarkable things she did as a female detective for Allan Pinkerton's detective agency. So it makes sense that the other people who helped ferret out the plans to kill Lincoln aren't really mentioned, but it would have been more accurate if they were.  Warne wasn't the only undercover detective Pinkerton sent to Baltimore to find out what was going on. See Lincoln's Spymaster by Samantha Seiple for more details.

And at one point in the story the author states that: "Abraham Lincoln was elected president on November 6, 1860, but many people in the southern states were opposed to his intention to abolish slavery." Now this is technically correct, but Lincoln said in his speeches over and over that he did NOT intend to abolish slavery where it currently existed, just oppose the spread of it into new territories and states.  So the implication is a bit misleading, although many at the time interpreted his statements to mean that he intended to abolish slavery altogether.

Despite this slight errors in the text, I did enjoy reading about Kate's exploits and her daring in rooting out criminals at great risk to herself.  She's one of those women who helped pave the way for where women are today. 

The illustrations are delightfully bright and attractive, sure to appeal to young readers. In fact, the illustrations were my favorite part, especially the different outfits that Kate wears, and Lincoln in disguise.  Overall, a nice addition to collections.


The most famous duel in American history dramatized by leading nonfiction picture book illustrator, Don Brown.

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were both fierce patriots during the Revolutionary War, but the politics of the young United States of America put them in constant conflict. Their extraordinary story of bitter fighting and resentment culminates in their famous duel. For young patriots who may not yet know the shocking and tragic story, Aaron and Alexander captures the spirit of these two great men who so valiantly served their country and ultimately allowed their pride and ego to cause their demise.


The story of the duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton is both fascinating and complex.  So I was interested to see how Brown presented it.  I appreciated how Brown compared the backgrounds and talents of the two men, both their similarities and differences as he guided the reader to the fateful day.  Of course, there simply isn't room in the story to convey the complexities of the relationship between the two men, but I'd say that Brown does a superb job of it, even quoting both men on occasion.  Since neither man was known for tact, it seems inevitable that the two would have a major clash at some point, but it's also tragic that neither could reign in their pride enough to avoid the duel that followed.  As with previous illustrations, Brown does a wonderful job here conveying the drama and tension that grew between the two men and how it exploded during the duel.  This is one of those stories that helps young readers understand that history isn't as boring as they often mistakenly think it is.  However, I would recommend using this with slightly older students (8-12) rather than the normal picture book crowd (4-8) just because of the duel.  The illustrations aren't overly graphic, but someone does die and young readers aren't likely to understand why these two brilliant, but prideful men couldn't find another way to solve their problems. Come to think of it, I don't think I understand it either.

Monday, February 1, 2016

BLOG TOUR: Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre


Debut novelist Lisa Lewis Tyre vibrantly brings a small town and its outspoken characters to life, as she explores race and other community issues from both the Civil War and the present day.

Lou might be only twelve, but she’s never been one to take things sitting down. So when her Civil War-era house is about to be condemned, she’s determined to save it—either by getting it deemed a historic landmark or by finding the stash of gold rumored to be hidden nearby during the war. As Lou digs into the past, her eyes are opened when she finds that her ancestors ran the gamut of slave owners, renegades, thieves and abolitionists. Meanwhile, some incidents in her town show her that many Civil War era prejudices still survive and that the past can keep repeating itself if we let it. Digging into her past shows Lou that it’s never too late to fight injustice, and she starts to see the real value of understanding and exploring her roots.


I grew up in a small town in Tennessee surrounded by my crazy family and neighbors. I learned early on that not every child had a pet skunk, a dad that ran a bar in the front yard, or a neighbor that was so large his house had to be torn down to get him out. What else could I do but write?

I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. I think this is because I come from a long line of storytellers. I loved listening to my dad tell me about the escapades of his youth, like how he “accidentally” pushed his brother out of a two-story window, and “accidentally” shot his aunt’s chicken with a bow and arrow. Apparently he was accident-prone.

One of the stories they told me involved the name of our piece of the country. I lived in a tiny spot that the locals called Zollicoffer. When I asked why it had such a strange name, they said it was named after General Felix Zollicoffer who had camped nearby during the Civil War. One day I happened to ask my mom where exactly the camp had been. That’s when she pointed down the road and said, “Probably over there. That’s where some kids in the 50’s found GOLD.” And just like that, LAST IN A LONG LINE OF REBELS was born.
“Accomplished debut. . . . Strong secondary characters, including Lou’s thrice-divorced flirtatious grandmother, help build the strong sense of small-town community. Tyre masterfully weaves historical details into Lou’s discoveries in ways that never feel facile, while deftly and satisfyingly resolving past and present puzzles.”—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“Louise Duncan Mayhew’s perspective in the 1860s is an intriguing contrast to Lou’s modern narration at the turn of the 21st century. . . . The story addresses injustice in plain language that is accessible to young readers who enjoy whodunits.”—Kirkus Reviews 
“Tyre’s debut features characters that are believable in their naïveté and sense of invincibility. . . . Louise’s account of their summer adventures, with chapters headed by entries from a Civil War diary, should please middle-grade readers looking for a solid story with an intriguing historical connection.”—Booklist
“The characters are true to life. . . . In the midst of solving a Civil War–era mystery, Lou and her friends confront racism in their own time. Lou feels deeply and is single-minded in her pursuit of justice. A solid debut novel for middle graders who enjoy a blend of history and mystery.”—School Library Journal
BEA Middle Grade Buzz Pick
Amazon Editors Pick (October, 9-12 yr olds.)
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Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble


Unfortunately, because of other commitments as well as Cybils reading I haven't yet finished this.  However, I should have the review up in the next day or two.

Lisa Lewis Tyre’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, February 1st: Geo Librarian
Tuesday, February 2nd: Randomly Reading
Wednesday, February 3rd: All Roads Lead to the Kitchen
Thursday, February 4th: Life is Story
Monday, February 8th: Just Commonly
Wednesday, February 10th: Shooting Stars Mag
Thursday, February 11th: Musings by Maureen
Monday, February 15th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, February 16th: You Can Read Me Anything
Wednesday, February 17th: WV Stitcher
Thursday, February 18th: Tina Says…
Monday, February 22nd: The Things You Can Read
Wednesday, February 24th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, February 25th: Just One More Chapter
Monday, February 29th: Laura’s Reviews
Wednesday, March 2nd: Absurd Book Nerd
Thursday, March 3rd: FictionZeal
Monday, March 7th: View from the Birdhouse

Thursday, January 28, 2016

WILD & WONDERFUL WEDNESDAY: Animals, A Visual Encyclopedia by Animal Planet


Introducing the first encyclopedia book from Animal Planet--the leading brand for animal lovers--that tells the story of our planet's animal life and celebrates our vital and humanizing connection with the animal world.

Animals are...surprisingly human. Finding the ways in which people and animals connect may inspire the next generation to be true caretakers of Earth. Animal Planet Animals: A Visual Encyclopedia is a comprehensive look at the major animal groups, highlighting their unique but also relatable personalities and behavior.

More than 2,500 animals from the seven major animal groups: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects and arachnids, invertebrates, and fish are featured in 1,050 stunning full-color photos, plus dynamic illustrations, maps, and charts.

Special book features include:

A giant, removable poster featuring record-breaking animal kingdom facts and amazing photos of animals in action Embedded QR Codes that transport readers from the book page directly to Animal Planet's L!VE animal cams across the world A comprehensive glossary, index, and study resources for extended learning in geography, climate change, biology, and ecosystems Animal Planet's R.O.A.R (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) facts throughout discuss conservation and animal rescue efforts
Highly accessible for both curl-up reading and dip-in reference needs, care has been taken to offer animal-loving families less work and more wow by weaving the taxonomic and biological information throughout the individual sections rather than putting it all up front. Specialist authors and life science experts offer, in words and pictures, the most up-to-date view of the animal kingdom, making it an ideal homework helper and a crucial family reference for the school years and beyond.

A beautiful gift for any animal lover, a portion of proceeds benefits Animal Planet's R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.) animal partner charities dedicated to improving the lives of animals in our communities and in the wild.


If you have young readers that love animals, this book is a must have.  The photographs are gorgeous and the information fascinating.  The large size of the book makes it perfect for browsing, with enough information to satisfy young animal lovers.  As an encyclopedia though it doesn't go into great detail about any animal.  It covers the best known phyla: reptiles, mammals, birds, etc. with information about what makes each one unique.  The side bars provide bits of trivia about animal behavior and characteristics that are 'surprisingly human'.  I especially enjoyed seeing related animals side by side and seeing how they are similar and different. Of course not all animals are covered there are simply too many, with more being discovered all the time.  It's clear that the writers took time to include interesting tidbits of information about each animal included, the kind of information that isn't commonly known. I'd highly recommend this book for all libraries and those home collections where young readers or even adults can't get enough information about animals.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Our mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these of books into classrooms and libraries.

Our Mission: The MCCBD team’s mission to spread the word and raise awareness about the importance of diversity in children’s literature. Our young readers need to see themselves within the pages of a book and experience other cultures, languages, traditions and religions within the pages of a book. We encourage readers, parents, teachers, caregivers and librarians to follow along the fun book reviews, author visits, event details, a multicultural children’s book linky and via our hashtag (#ReadYourWorld) on Twitter and other social media.


For your information (include if you want to): The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press. You can find a bio for Mia and Valarie here.


Multicultural Children’s Book day 2016 Medallion Level Sponsors! #ReadYourWorld



Help spread the word on our Classroom Reading Challenge . This very special offering from MCCBD offers teachers and classrooms the chance to (very easily) earn a free hardcover multicultural children's book for their classroom library. These books are not only donated by the Junior Library Guild, but they are pre-screened and approved by them as well.

What we could really use some help with is spreading the word to your teacher/librarian/classroom connections so we can get them involved in this program. There is no cost to teachers and classrooms and we've made the whole process as simple as possible. You can help by tweeting the below info:

Teachers! Earn a FREE #Multicultural Kids Book for Your Classroom! #teachers, #books #teacherlife

The Classroom Reading Challenge has begun! Teachers can earn a free diversity book! #teachers, #books




This is a nonfiction biography chronicling the life of Ira Aldridge, an African American actor who overcame racism to become one of the greatest Shakespearean actors of the nineteenth century.

Ira Aldridge dreamed of being on stage one day performing the great works of William Shakespeare. He spent every chance he got at the local theaters, memorizing each actor's lines for all of Shakespeare's plays. Ira just knew he could be a great Shakespearean actor if only given the chance. But in the early 1800s, only white actors were allowed to perform Shakespeare. Ira's only option was to perform musical numbers at the all-black theater in New York city. Despite being discouraged by his teacher and father, Ira determinedly pursued his dream and set off to England, the land of Shakespeare. There, Ira honed his acting skills and eventually performed at the acclaimed Theatre Royal Haymarket. Through perseverance and determination, Ira became one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors throughout Europe. Illustrated by award-winning artist Floyd Cooper, this nonfiction picture book biography is a captivating tribute to the inspiring life of Ira Aldridge, and to the renowned works of William Shakespeare.


Armand and Cooper have created a great book focused on the life of a little known actor who helped paved the way in Shakespearean acting for others of his race.  Remarkably Ira Aldridge knew he wanted to be involved in theater from the time he was quite young, despite the racism of his day and his father's desire for him to be a minister.  Spending as much time as he could around the theater he dreamed of the day he would be able to act too.  But since slavery was still alive and well in the United States at that time and racism ran rampant, the most he could hope for was to act in the black theater, or so he was told.  But when the opportunity came to travel to England to have a try there, Ira took it.  He worked hard and became a well-known Shakespearean actor.  Not only was this a fascinating story because I'd never heard of the man, but Cooper's illustrations helped bring the world to life.  I thoroughly appreciate Armand and Cooper's efforts to share a story of a diverse character achieving that which he was told was impossible.

Monday, January 25, 2016

NONFICTION MONDAY: Tommy, the Gun That Changed America by Karen Blumenthal


John Taliaferro Thompson had a mission: to develop a lightweight, fast-firing weapon that would help Americans win on the battlefield. His Thompson submachine gun could deliver a hundred bullets in a matter of seconds—but didn't find a market in the U.S. military. Instead, the Tommy gun became the weapon of choice for a generation of bootleggers and bank-robbing outlaws, and became a deadly American icon. Following a bloody decade—and eighty years before the mass shootings of our own time—Congress moved to take this weapon off the streets, igniting a national debate about gun control. Critically-acclaimed author Karen Blumenthal tells the fascinating story of this famous and deadly weapon—of the lives it changed, the debate it sparked, and the unprecedented response it inspired.


While I am not a big fan of guns, I have enjoyed Blumenthal's other works, so I decided to go ahead and read this one.  I found the history of the Tommy gun rather fascinating and rather sad at the same time.  Guns of course are just tools, but they are tools with only one purpose: to kill.  And reading this made that very clear.  While Thompson's original intentions when he started working on the gun were good, his actions when the gun went on sale suggest that supporting his business was more important than standing for what he claimed to believe.  In today's age of wide-spread gun control laws with the possibility of more lurking around the corner, it was rather appalling to read about how easy it was for people to get their hands on this semi-automatic weapon. People seemed to get away with a lot at the time, especially with the widespread corruption.  This is as much a story about the development of laws as it is a history of a gun.  Brief histories of some well-known gangsters/criminals who used Tommy guns are also included (Baby Face Nelson, John Dillinger, Al Capone, etc.).  A fascinating look at a time quite different than our own but that had a huge impact on where we are now in terms of law and order and what is acceptable and what isn't. People have strong opinions when it comes to guns.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

SERIES THURSDAY: The Miniature World of Marvin and James/James to the Rescue by Elise Broach


In this Masterpiece Adventure from bestselling author Elise Broach, James is going on vacation for a week. His best friend, Marvin the beetle, has to stay at home. Without James to keep him company, Marvin has to play with his annoying cousin, Elaine. Marvin and Elaine quickly find themselves getting into all sorts of trouble—even getting trapped inside a pencil sharpener! But more importantly, will James still be Marvin's friend when he gets home or will he have found a new best friend?


Having thoroughly enjoyed the original story of James and Marvin (Masterpiece by Elise Broach), I was thrilled to hear about this new series about the two.  And I was not disappointed.  While this book series is for younger readers, the same charm found in the original permeates the book. Marvin is very cute for a cockroach with some serious artistic talent.  In this first book, Marvin is worried that James will find a new friend while he's on vacation and not want to be friends with him when he gets home.  But things take a turn for the more exciting with he and his cousin Elaine, discover the joys and terrors of a pencil sharpener.  The text is perfect for young readers who are still learning to read but want to read chapter books as it is large with only a few paragraphs per page.  The copious illustrations are great and blend with the story perfectly.  My favorites are the ones where Marvin and Elaine are trying to get out of the pencil sharpener after a pencil has been stuck into the opening.


In this Masterpiece Adventure, the second in a companion series for younger readers from bestselling author Elise Broach, Marvin the beetle is going collecting with his family. All is good and well until Uncle Albert gets hurt. Marvin needs James's help to save Uncle Albert before it's too late.

This young chapter book captures the miniature world of Marvin the beetle and his special friendship with James.


In this second adventure, Marvin sets out with his cousin, Elaine, and his father and uncle to see what useful items they can find around the house.  Marvin is a bit jealous when Elaine finds something great.  When Marvin finds something that he thinks might be useful he is really excited, but the others aren't so sure the item has any value.  And when Uncle Albert gets injured, other things take precedence and Marvin has to get help from James.  Once again, Murphy and Broach have created an intriguing situation and the darling illustrations to go along with it.  I especially enjoy the way James and Marvin have become friends despite the fact that they can't talk to each other and have to find other ways to communicate.  A fun series for young readers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

MIDDLE GRADE REVIEW: Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones


Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse....

And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.

Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickensis a quirky, clucky classic in the making.


Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer is the sort of book that you read just for fun.  There aren't any really deep, heart-wrenching themes that require a large emotional investment.  There are themes here of independence, learning to do hard things, commitment, honesty, etc, but they come across with a light touch.  Sophie makes a great heroine having moved to her great uncle's farm from L.A.  She doesn't waste time feeling sorry for herself but immediately gets to work when she discovers Henrietta one of her great uncle's chickens wandering around.  However, it doesn't take long for her to realize that this isn't an ordinary chicken.  And as she writes letters to the Redwood Farm Supply (where the chickens came from), as well as her deceased grandmother and great uncle, the reader starts to realize that these chickens have superpowers, rather unusual ones.  And as Sophie quickly discovers, someone else wants to get their hands on these chickens.  The question becomes whether Sophie can convince her parents to let her keep the chickens and whether she can keep them safe from the chicken thief.  With lots of fun details, Jones takes the reader on a fun ride through chickendom, teaching lesson not only about chickens, but about friendship and courage along the way.  The humorous illustrations by Katie Kath add the perfect touch, giving hints about what's to come (my favorite pictures show Henrietta the chicken glaring at everyone and everything).  Unusual Chickens is magical realism at its finest.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews/The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton


Hailing from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high. A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six, and today this Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Along with esteemed illustrator Bryan Collier, Andrews has created a lively picture book autobiography about how he followed his dream of becoming a musician, despite the odds, until he reached international stardom. Trombone Shorty is a celebration of the rich cultural history of New Orleans and the power of music.


Andrews and Collier's work comes together in beautiful ways to tell the story of Andrews adventures with a trombone.  Growing up in the Treme neighborhood of New Orleans music was an important part of Andrews life even before he started playing. Once he found a broken trombone, he taught himself to play it leading to his nickname "Trombone Shorty".  Collier does an amazing job illustrating the story of Andrews rise from a young dreamer to an internationally known musician.  I really liked his notes at the end explaining why he portrayed things in certain ways such as balloons to symbolize the way the notes float through the air.  Well worth the 2016 ALA awards that it won, I can heartily recommend this book as not only a beautifully illustrated book, but a powerful story about the importance of dreams and passions and a willingness to work hard.


John Roy Lynch spent most of his childhood as a slave in Mississippi, but all of that changed with the Emancipation Proclamation. Suddenly people like John Roy could have paying jobs and attend school. While many people in the South were unhappy with the social change, John Roy thrived in the new era. He was appointed to serve as justice of the peace and was eventually elected into the United States Congress.This biography, with its informative backmatter and splendid illustrations, gives readers an in-depth look at the Reconstruction period through the life of one of the fi rst African-American congressmen.


More stories like this one need to be told, stories about people that aren't as well known as say Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Jr., but who left their mark on the world nonetheless. I think what makes this story so remarkable is the way John Roy goes from slave to hired worker to student to justice of the peace and finally Congressman. Barton tells the story in a very straight-forward manner, not softening the difficult conditions that existed at that time, especially for former slaves.  But the story remains hopeful as John Roy's determination and passion comes through loud and clear.  Despite the way things fell apart after Reconstruction when the federal troops withdrew from the South and segregation exploded into life, John Roy continued to believe in his country and the laws of the land.  Tate's illustrations provide a nice backdrop to Barton's text, highlighting some of the key moments in both Lynch's life and the time period.  The inclusion of both author and illustrator notes as well as a timeline and references rounds out this well-presented, inspiring book.
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