Tuesday, April 20, 2021

You & Me at the End of the World

 Thanks to Scholastic Inc and Brianna Bourne for providing Kid Lit Exchange with this advance copy of You & Me at the End of the World. To be released July 20!

First and foremost, this is a YA novel. High school senior, ballerina, and voracious reader Hannah wakes up one morning to discover that every other living creature has disappeared. Five days later, she finally ventures out of the house to find some new books to read.

And that’s when she finds the only other person in Houston- Leo, also a senior at her school.

While Hannah and Leo try to figure out what has happened - death, apocalypse, the rapture - they learn how to live and view themselves differently than they ever have.

Leo helps Hannah loosen up and have some fun and realize that perhaps ballet is not her journey.

For her part, Hannah offers Leo genuine concern and care, things he has never received in his young life. Leo begins to evaluate the comfort zone he has sunk into - music, drugs, and earning his rep as a player.

As Hannah and Leo navigate new emotional territory, things happening in the world around them become increasingly bizarre.

No spoilers here, but there is a twist and if you pay close attention to the foreshadowing, you just might figure it out. I didn’t 😆

Look for it in bookstores in July!

Friday, March 12, 2021

Bea is for Blended ⚽


Thank you to Lindsey Stoddard and Harper Collins for this advanced readers edition of Bea is for Blended, to be released 4 May 2021.

Bea and her mom have always been a team. It's always been just the two of them, with lots of love and support from her Grandma Bea and Aunt Tam. But on the first page of this story, Mom is marrying Wendell, who comes with 3 sons and 3 pets, and they are expecting a baby of their own. They have to leave their cozy just-the-girls condo and move into the big, noisy all-boys house.

Bea and his youngest son, Bryce, have been in the same class since 2nd grade and they don't get along. Bryce hangs with the bullies in their class and has become what Bea calls a bully-follower. 

As you might suspect from the title, this story focuses on Bea's family and Bryce's family becoming one, big family. But there is so much more to this contemporary middle grade novel. In addition to the struggles of a newly blended family, Stoddard has woven in 5th grade characters who are dealing with a variety of  tough issues: OCD, divorce, a big move, the death of a parent, and bullying. Mix in a chauvinistic principal, and two incredibly cool 5th grade teachers, and the stage is set for fun and growth.

Bea and the other soccer-loving girls at her school have always been told there isn't enough interest to form a girls' soccer team, but they are welcome to play on the boys' team. On the boys' team, however, they don't get much playing time. When a new girl moves in who loves soccer as much as Bea, they decide it's time to force the issue, so they find 11 girls to play. The principal insists they must also have a sub and a manager, so they find those as well, and the girls' team is born. Never one to make things easy on the girls, the principal insists on being their coach. 

He clearly doesn't think the girls are as good as the boys, and he creates resentment towards the girls when he reduces the boys' practices to 3 days a week so that he can coach the girls 2 days a week. 

That's not good enough for these girls - they are talented soccer players and want to get even better. They decide to practice without him, but he insists they can't practice without a staff member there to supervise them. Enter the very cool 5th grade teachers.

Ms. Blaise and Ms. Kravitz have been busy masterfully creating a cohesive, bully-free classroom, introducing their class to ASL to welcome a new student who is deaf (and moves in just in time to be the 11th girl on the soccer team!), creating a love of reading among their students, and are now supervising the girls' extra soccer practices while they grade papers and plan lessons. 

This is a great story! I appreciate the way Stoddard keeps the adults as an active part of the children's day-to-day activities, but allows the children to handle the tough situations, knowing that their parents are right there to support them.

Bea grows so much through her experiences. It is clear that she is mature in many ways, having lived in an adult world most of her life. She is observant, responsible, and internalizes the things her adults teach her. The way she supports and protects her best friend, Maximilian, is so sweet. 

But it is also clear that she has some things to overcome. What makes Bea so endearing is that she knows she has things to work on and she embraces the opportunities for growth as they come along, even if she has to grump about it a bit first. I love the way she sees right through the principal and holds his feet to the fire! 

I won't spoil the ending, but it's perfect - without being a perfect ending.

Author Lindsey Stoddard's website

Interview with Lindsey Stoddard

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

 During our mid-winter break, we got slammed with snow. I was delighted that my students got to enjoy the snow without us having to make up snow days in June :)

I decided we could celebrate snow in class by reading these 3 lovely books.

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen is the story of a young child who finally gets his turn to go owling with his father. He shares the owling wisdom of his father and older brothers with the reader and works hard to follow their advice, despite his enthusiasm. Illustrator John Schoenherr did a wonderful job of depicting the child's excitement on each page.

Over and Under the Snow shows the "secret kingdom" below the snow as a child and father go cross-country skiing. Christopher Silas Neal uses the cutaway to show the reader what is happening under the snow while we watch the progress of the skiing duo. There's a short, information section at the end of the book that shares additional resources, information about each animal in the story, and teaches the reader about the subnivean zone.

Owl Moon and Over and Under the Snow have some nice text-to-text connections, aside from snow: parent-child adventure in the snow, animals, the color palette of the illustrations.

Snowflake Bentley (1999 Caldecott winner) is a condensed biography of Wilson Bentley, the first person to use a microscope and camera to take photos of single snowflakes. Through his work, we learned that no two snowflakes are alike. He did the hard work of figuring out what equipment to use, how to preserve the snowflakes until he could take the photo, and took more than 5,000 photos of snowflakes in his life.

Photo from Jerico Historical Society

Additional Resources:

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell


Thanks to Scholastic and Jordan Sonneblick for sharing this advanced readers copy with Kid Lit Exchange. Published 2/2/21.

Every teacher needs to read this middle grade memoir. 

Sonnenblick tells the story of his 4th grade year, in often painful detail. He didn't have good experiences with many of his teachers and his 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Fisher, is the worst of the bunch. He is convinced that she hates him, and then two things happen to confirm his suspicions: 1) he overhears her tell his mother that he will never amount to anything, and 2) she slaps him across the face during class. Thankfully, his parents move him to a different school right away, and not only is his new teacher is kind and encouraging, his classmates have a positive attitude about education and accept him as he is, which changes his life in very real ways. Jordan's story is a reminder that we need to remember the impact we have on the self-esteem of our students.

In addition to his woes at school, Jordan also struggles with anxiety, trichotillomania, and likely ADHD. He doesn't understand why it is so difficult to "be good" at school. He doesn't think he does anything well, and when he does find something he is good at, it seems to upset people. He knows he is smart, but he doubts himself in every other part of his life. And, most unsettling of all, he worries that his mom will be killed in an accident on the New Jersey turnpike. 

In sharp contrast to all of this angst, Jordan's adventures with pets, friends, family, and sports are often hilarious and heart-warming. His descriptions of a fight at school, his love of reading, sledding on a car hood, learning to be a drummer, a Little League win, and the glories of field day are told in a way that makes you feel the adrenaline, joy, and triumph that 4th grade boys feel.

If this is close to what Sonnenblick's 4th grade year was really like, my heart goes out to him, and I celebrate that he proved Mrs. Fisher absolutely wrong.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Your First Day of Circus School

I don’t know about you, but every once in a while I like to change up my special occasion books, to keep it fresh for ME! 

Thanks to all the teachers, libraries, and bookstores posting recommendations, I’ve added a few new picture books to my collection, and I’m really excited to read them to my students next week!

Your First Day of Circus School (2019) by @taralaser Tara Lazar, takes us through a little boy’s first day of Circus School. He’s got a big brother attending the same school who guides him through the day.

The text sounds as though the author is describing a perfectly normal school day, but the pictures are most definitely about a circus. Children, animals, and circus performers fill the pages, matter-of-factly juggling, walking on stilts, swinging on the trapeze, and being shot out of a cannon.

The illustrations, by @mcrowton Melissa Crowton, are 6-color and filled with simple, bold shapes, and interesting detail that you’ll want to let children have plenty of time to digest. I already know my 3rd & 4th graders will lose it when they see the steaming pile of animal 💩.

All in all, a fun new BTS book for your class or your family. Enjoy!

Website for author Tara Lazar
Interview with Tara Lazar

The Very Last Leaf

I just love this story! Lance Cottonwood is the star student in his class, scoring top marks in cleverly-named classes such as: Wind Resistance and Photosynthesis 101. He is brimming with enthusiasm for school and learning until the end of fall semester grows near and he begins to worry about the final exam - falling off the tree.

Lance is anxious and refuses to let go. He watches all of his friends let go, land, and decides he is going to stay on the tree all winter, just like the nearby evergreen leaves.

His friends encourage him, and his teacher listens to his fears (landing in a gutter, on a windshield, or in a pile of dog poo) and they brainstorm outcomes that wouldn't be so bad (being part of a pile of leaves for kids to jump in and being part of a child's autumn craft).

The report card on the last page is clever, and the author has included facts about leaves within the story. Lance is a lovable character and children will root for him.

Davison's illustrations are adorable! The pages are filled with autumn colors and lots of texture to show the movement of the leaves. I particularly like the picture that shows Lance and his friends in their graduation caps.

This book will be a wonderful addition to your family or classroom library, 
When Lance finally lets go and lands with his friends, he feels like he's back at the top of his class.

Other Back to School books:

Website for author Stef Wade
Interview about The Very Last Leaf with Stef Wade
Website for illustrator Jennifer Davison

Our Class is a Family

This Back to School book is 2020’s must-have book for teachers.

The rhyming text and bright, friendly illustrations are engaging and show many types of families, and then reminds us that a "family doesn't have to be who you're related to."

The author then takes us through the many facets of classroom life - a teacher who wants it to feels like home away from home, teacher and classmates supporting us on our tough days, making mistakes as we learn, appreciating the ways in which we are unique and the things we have in common.

In our Spanish Immersion program, the students are together K-4, so they really do become a family. The COVID separation has been hard on them, so I know they will understand and relate to this sweet message about making a classroom a comfortable place to spend each  day. I can't wait to read it to them next week!

Other Back to School posts:

Website for illustrator Sandie Sonke

Friday, August 21, 2020


If you have ever read Pam Muñoz Ryan’s work, it will come as no surprise that I highly recommend this book.

With everything that is happening in the world right now, reading this novel with your child will give you the perfect opportunity to have some great conversations about family relationships, love, refugee life, immigrants, and separated families.

Eleven year-old Max lives in Santa Maria, a sleepy village watched over by the stone tower La Reina Gigante, with his Papá, his grandfather Buelo, and his beloved dog Lola.

He has always wondered what happened to his mother, but no one in the family will talk about it. He hears the derogatory whisperings about his family in town, and pushes to know the  truth.

Papá is too protective for Max’s taste, but Max has a good life, surrounded by his Buelo’s siblings, learning the family trade of building stone bridges, and sharing stories with Buelo each night. His favorite is the one he has heard so often that he has it memorized - The Secret Bridge and the Guardabarrera - a story Max believes to be a product of Buelo’s imagination.

Max is also practicing for fútbol tryouts, wondering if he will ever be as good as Papá and Buelo, who were both members of the national team.

When Papá leaves the village to get a copy of Max’s birth certificate, a requirement for fútbol tryouts, Max has the opportunity to learn the truth about his family and live the story of The Secret Bridge and the Guardabarrera.

Ryan’s rich, descriptive language helps readers visualize Max’s village, family, friends, and invites us into his head and heart. She is a gifted writer and this book is a must-read!

Thanks to Scholastic Inc and Pam Muñoz Ryan for providing this advance copy to Kid Lit Exchange.

Here’s a link to Pam Muñoz Ryan's website (be sure to look at her Reader's Theatre Scripts)

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Beasts

Over the years, I’ve had many students who were obsessed with dinosaurs - they would have loved this book! 

Written in graphic novel style, this non-fiction book covers dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals, eras of time, includes definitions, pronunciation guides, how-to guides for drawing your favorite dinosaurs, dino jokes, a field guide, and uses standard non-fiction text features to highlight important info.

This is the perfect book for older children. They are ready for more information, but still want colorful illustrations and an engaging format. Lowery fills their needs with this delightful dinosaur book.

Thanks to Scholastic Inc. and Mike Lowery Studio for sharing a copy of this funny, fact-filled book about dinosaurs with Kid Lit Exchange. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Running Wild: Awesome Animals in Motion

Thanks to @annick_press and Galadriel Watson for sharing and advance copy of Running Wild: Awesome Animals in Motion with @kidlitexchange - due to be released 4/14/2020.

I’ve always been a fiction lover, so it took me by surprise when my children truly enjoyed nonfiction. When I became a teacher, weekly library visits revealed that my kids weren’t the only ones - MANY of my students check out nonfiction books every single week. Now, as a grandma, I see the same love of informational lit in my grandchildren. I’m still a fiction girl, but it’s easy to see that nonfiction is the perfect match for the boundless curiosity of children.

Running Wild, illustrated by Samantha Dixon, is aimed at older children, and teaches them about all of the ways animals move.

Walking, running, hopping, crawling, climbing, swimming, jumping, gliding, flapping, hovering, rowing, walking on water, staying buoyant, undulating, using hydrofoils, and shooting with jet propulsion - all of these are covered, using common animals such as penguins, fleas, and chimpanzees as examples.

The text is broken into digestible pieces with clear headings and subheadings that allow readers to easily find particular information.

The author finishes up by offering ways this newfound knowledge can be applied in the real world.

This book is a great next step for kids who love learning about animals and want to go beyond the basics of obvious physical characteristics, habitat, diet, etc...

Galadriel Watson website
Samantha Dixon website

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Popularity Pact: Camp Clique

Thanks to @runningpressbooks and @eileenmoskowitzpalma for sharing a copy of The Popularity Pact: Camp Clique with @kidlitexchange - to be released 4/14/2020

Bea and Maisy have been best friends forever, but the summer before their last year of elementary school, confident Bea finds herself ghosted and spends the school year utterly alone as anxiety-ridden Maisy joins the biggest clique on campus, the M&Ms.

Unfortunately for both girls, they end up in the same cabin at summer camp, and Maisy gets a taste of how Bea felt for the past year.

To survive the summer, Maisy proposes a pact - if Bea will help Maisy become popular at camp, Maisy will help Bea become popular with the M&Ms.

As the girls each figure out how to hold up their end of the bargain, the author gradually reveals clues as to why Maisy disappeared from Bea’s life.

While acknowledging the social fears of tweens, the author also shows young women grappling with divorce, parental addictions, parental pressure to perform in sports and academics, parents finding a new partner, being invisible to a parent who has started over with a new family... 

Bea keeps her part of the pact, and the book leaves us with a cliffhanger that makes us wonder if Maisy will be able to fulfill her end of their agreement.

The author doesn't appear to have a website, but you can follow her on Facebook, Instagram,  and Twitter.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

The Queen Bee and Me

Thanks to @bloomsburypublishing and @gillianmcdunn for providing @kidlitexchange with an advanced copy of The Queen Bee and Me, due to be released on 3 March 2020.

This middle grade novel is delightful!

Meg is a quiet, anxious preteen who has been swept along in her best-friend-since-kindergarten’s wake. She found comfort and safety in their friendship throughout elementary school, but as they entered the angst-ridden middle school years, Meg finds herself becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the mean Queen Bee tendencies that Beatrix is exhibiting.

When Hazel moves to their small town of Willow Pond, Meg reluctantly realizes that her friendship with Beatrix is no longer what she believes it to be. 

McDunn helps the reader see the parallels between a beehive and the social systems of a typical middle school. As Meg and Hazel’s science project about honey bees unfolds, Meg begins to recognize those connections. She struggles to figure out what role she wants to play in the middle school hive, and in life.

Watching Meg’s evolution is reason enough to read this book, but the other primary characters are also well-developed, and any female who has lived through middle school will recognize the character types, perhaps recognize themselves, and thank heaven that those days are gone 😂

Add this to your must-read list or gift it to your favorite middle-schooler. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author! #kidlitexchange

Gillian McDunn website