10 Minute Review: The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist

Last week I read my third grade students Cynthia Levinson and Vanessa Brantley Newton’s The Youngest Marcher. At the end of each day we read a picture book, and I thought The Youngest Marcher would be a good one to share with my students. I had planned on finishing the book before the bell rang and the day ended. Our discussion around the book and Audrey Faye Hendricks’s story was so rich that the bell rang before we had even made it halfway through the book. We finished the book the next day. Our discussion day 2 was as powerful as it was the day we started the book.

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The Youngest Marcher is the story of Audrey Faye Hendricks. Audrey was a child that grew up in the segregated south. She spent a week in a juvenile hall at 9 years old for marching with the Children’s Crusades. Audrey’s willingness to go to jail for what she believed in blew my students’ minds.

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One of my favorite things about books like The Youngest Marcher, is learning about an amazing person that I didn’t know prior to reading the book. My students are well versed in people like Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and Amelia Earhart. I feel that introducing them to heroes that might not be super famous helps them to dream big. It helps them to see that you don’t have to be Lebron James of Barak Obama to make a difference. If an 8 year old kids reads about a girl that was willing to go to jail for what she believed in, then maybe that 8 year old kid will one day make a choice that makes the world a better and safer place for others.

10 Minute Review: Wish by Barbara O’Connor

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I often make the mistake of reading middle grade novels with awards in my head. Thinking about what the National Book Award Committee or the Newbery Committee might think about a book is fun, but it often taints my reading experience.

The time I spent with Barbara O’Connor’s Wish was magical. I never once thought about what award committees will think of this book, not because it doesn’t deserve consideration, but because this book is so obviously perfect and important for kids that it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. Wish contains so much of what I love about middle grade fiction: an engaging plot (the word engaging doesn’t do it justice, but I’m too tired to think of something better), a main character that readers will fall in love with, unforgettable supporting characters (not an easy thing to do), and a setting so real you feel like you’ve been there.

I don’t really have anything else I’d like to say about Wish, but I would like to say that Barbara O’Connor is one heck of a talented writer. My students love her books. Reading them aloud builds community, empathy, and it is just plain fun.

I hope you’ll check out Wish when it comes out August 30th.

10 Minute Review: Tell Me A Tattoo Story

When I was 20 years old I got a tattoo with my girlfriend. She got a moon and a few stars on her foot, and I got an Old English D on my left forearm. I got my tattoo on my forearm because my dad had a sweet motorcycle tattoo on his forearm. My dad is the most amazing person I’ve ever met, so trying to be a little bit more like him is something that I’m always trying to do. The girl with the moon and stars tattoo later became my wife, and every time I see that moon and those stars I think back to that day when we were a couple of kids on a date.

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That’s my tattoo story.

Allison McGhee has written the beautiful book Tell Me A Tattoo Story. In the book a young boy, curious of his father’s tattoos, gets the background stories to his dad’s ink. Eliza Wheeler has created a gorgeous illustrations that will warm the hearts of young readers.

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One of the thing that I love most about this book is how it gives readers a glimpse into the beauty of body art. Society’s take on tattoos has changed a lot since my dad got his work done in the early 70s. Many of the kids in our lives (and our homes) have parents with tattoos, and I’m glad that they know have a book that shows just how magical a little body art can be.

I think it just might be time for me to get tattoo number two.

10 Minute Review: The Thing About Jellyfish

A few times a year I read a book and I think: if teachers read this book aloud it will change lives. The Thing About Jellyfish begs to be read aloud. It begs to placed in the hands of young readers. I’m begging you to read it when it comes out this fall.

Suzy is dealing with a tragedy. A girl that has been her best friend for a very long time has died in a way that Suzy cannot understand. Suzy feels like their is more to the story.

Since the death of her friend Suzy has decided to stop talking. She doesn’t talk at school, at home, or to her counselor.

One of the things that I love most about this book is how Ali Benjamin plays with time. We learn very early that Suzy and her friend had a bit of a falling out, but we don’t know why. The book moves back and fourth from present time back to the previous year of school. I believe that these flashbacks help young readers see the importance of the choices we make, and how you never know what impact your decisions will have on the world around you.

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If you are looking for a great book to hand to a kid, a teacher, or a friend I highly recommend you pre-order The Thing About Jellyfish from your local independent bookseller. This heartprint book is going to change lives. You don’t want to miss it.

10 Minute Review: How To Outrun A Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied

From the time I start typing until the time I hit publish I give myself 10 minutes to write these reviews. I do not include time finding the cover image in my 10 minutes. 

How to Outrun A Crocodile While Your Shoes are Untied

By: Jess Keating

Publication date: June 3, 2014

crocYesterday I finished Jess Keating’s How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied (We’ll call it CROC to save time the rest of this review).

Over the summer I fell in love with Matt Gomez’s post about the one rule in his classroom: Be Brave. My students and I have talked a lot about what being brave looks like over the course of this school year. They have a strong understanding that brave is different for everyone. Early in the year we saw Ivan’s bravery in The One and Only Ivan, and we cheered when Snail took the plunge in Deborah Freedman’s The Story of Fish & Snail. Watching Zoe’s dad’s bravery in A Crooked Kind of Perfect tugged at our hearts.

I’m looking forward to young readers learning about what bravery means to Ana when they read CROC. Ana’s life is a hot mess when her BFF moves to another continent, her celebrity grandfather stops by for an extended visit, the Sneerers bully her at school, and her parents inform her that her family is going to live INSIDE the zoo. With all these things on Ana’s plate she is expected to give a big presentation at the zoo. With both her parents as zoologists, and her grandfather a celebrity animal adventurist, Ana is expected to shine in this situation. The problem is: she is terrified. 

One thing that I learned from this book is that bravery is not something that you necessarily need to do alone. Ana’s bravery shines through because of the support she receives from the people that matter most to her.  In CROC we see that bravery can be a team effort.

I hope you like CROC as much as I did.

10 Minute Review: Circa Now

From the time I start typing until the time I hit publish I give myself 10 minutes to write these reviews. I do not include time finding the cover image in my 10 minutes. 

Circa Now 

By: Amber McRee Turner

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When students walk into my classroom on the first day of school they bring with them their story. All of their stories are different. Some are like mine was when I was a third grader: middle class, two parent household, a couple of siblings, a love for video games and spots. Some might live with a loving grandmother and a house full of cats, while others may have a story too sad to share in a blog post. My point is we all have a different story. We all have a story that we own, we live, a story in which we decide which parts to share and which parts to protect.

I say these things in this review because it is books like Circa Now that help us understand each other. Sure this a book that is genre-tricky, with amazing characters, and beautifully crafted plot, but what I love most about this book is that it allows me and my students to better understand, support, and love other.

Early in the book 12-year-old Circa’s dad is killed in a storm. Watching Circa and her depressed mother deal with their grief helps me to better understand the students in my classroom that are dealing with grief of their own. You see, in my 32 years on this planet I have lived a bit of a charmed life. I’ve never had a lot of money, but I’ve always had enough. I’ve lost family members, but I have never seen the people closest to me battle illness. Like my students, I need books like Circa Now to help me see a way in which grief can affect a family.

You should probably check out Circa Now when it hits stores May 27th. I’m guessing that a child that you know needs this book.

P.S. I didn’t even get a chance to talk about two of my favorite things in this book: Miles and trying to figure out the magic (tricky-tricky). Fans of Laurel Snyder’s Bigger Than a Bread Box are going to eat this one up.

Times up!

10 Minute Review: Mitchell Goes Bowling

Mitchell Goes Bowling

By: Hallie Durand

Illustrated by: Tony Fucile

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One of my favorite things about opening a new picture book is that I have no idea what the book has in store for my life. Will the book lead a mini-lesson (Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting)? Will the book create a movement in my classroom (The Story of Fish & Snail by Deborah Freedman)? Could the book influence a twitter hashtag (I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen)? Maybe I’ll end up reading the book to one of my kids for the next 100+ days (Penny and Her Song by Kevin Henkes). Opening a new picture book really does hold a world of possibilities.

When I opened the book Mitchell Goes Bowling I had no idea where the book would take us. I read Mitchell Goes Bowling to my kids one night before bed, and it was a huge hit. My 6 YO son instantly became a huge fan. Mitchell Goes Bowling didn’t end when we closed the book. After reading Mitchell Goes Bowling, my son has decided to start thinking about his 7 birthday. I think that Mitchell influenced his decision to invite his entire class to the bowling alley for a bowling party.

You’d think the story would end there, right? Nope. On Sunday, when we were trying to decide what we should do as a family Breslin very excitedly pushed for our family outing to be a morning spent at the bowling alley.

The best picture books are the ones that remain open log after your read the final pages. I hope that Mitchell Goes Bowling has the impact on your life that it has had on mine.

Blog Tour

Sat, Oct 5 Booking Mama http://www.bookingmama.net/
Mon, Oct 7 The Children’s Book Review http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/
Tues, Oct 8 Susan Heim on Parenting http://susanheim.blogspot.com/
Wed, Oct 9 Sharpread https://sharpread.wordpress.com/
Thurs, Oct 10 There’s a Book http://www.theresabook.com/
Fri, Oct 11 Just a Little Creativity http://www.justalittlecreativity.com/
Mon, Oct 14 Once Upon a Story http://www.novalibrarymom.com/
Tues, Oct 15 Geo Librarian http://geolibrarian.blogspot.com/
Wed, Oct 16 5 Minutes for Books http://www.5minutesformom.com/category/feature-columns/5-minutes-for-books/
Thurs, Oct 17 Kid Lit Frenzy http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/
Fri, Oct 18 As They Grow Up http://www.astheygrowup.com/

October is National Learn to Bowl Month!

10 Minute Review: Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley

At times I call 2013 “The Year of the U”, as I refer to my picks for the Newbery Medal: The Real Boy by Anne Ursu and The Center of Everything by Linda Urban. I’m getting kind of sick of living in a world where Urban and Ursu don’t have a least a Newbery honor. It just seems wrong. I digress. You could also very easily call 2013 “The Year of the Wordless Picture Book”. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, but 2013 sure has been an amazing year for books without words. After reading Hank Finds an Egg with my kids at least a dozen times last night I can confidently add it to the list of amazing wordless picture books of 2013.

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First of all, I love that this bear(?), Hank has a name. Sometimes our favorite wordless picture book characters live forever without a name. I am also a big fan of …..shoot I just Googled “Hank Finds an Egg” turns out he a monkey. I’m a big fan of the illustrations Rebecca Dudley created for this book. I always find picture books illustrated by photography to be fascinating. Often, I cannot tell if the photo illustrations are any good, but I KNOW that the illustration in Hank Finds an Egg are dynamite.

Let’s recap: I love wordless picture books, the illustrations in this book are electric, and I love that Hank has a name. All that stuff is fine and dandy, but what I really love about this book is the message it sends to kids. We are constantly talking about kindness with our students. I often joke that if I could teach my students to be kind to each other and fall in love with reading that my year is successful. One of the things that makes Rebecca’s story so powerful to me is that Hank goes above and beyond for a stranger while nobody is watching. It is much easier to be kind when a teacher, a parent, a principal is watching. When our students learn that being kind is not something you do, it is something you are, we have done our jobs. Hank doesn’t just do something kind in Hank Finds an Egg. Hank IS kind. A very kind monkey.

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