Karen's Latest Book Review (November 10, 2019)

What Does It Mean to Be Present?

If you teach young students, you might enjoy this addition to your library. It speaks to the idea of mindfulness and being present in the moment. It is also a wonderful opportunity to talk about words and their multiple meanings.

Before reading the book, begin by asking students to draw what they think of when they hear the word present. Chances are they won’t use the meaning from the book! After reading the book, ask them to do a second drawing, next to the first, illustrating their new understanding of the word.

November 10, 2019

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Two Truths and a Lie: Forces of Nature

This is one book within a series of non-fiction books with the same structure: two out of every three chapters are true, and one a lie. Readers have to determine which are which. Use a chapter to hook students at the beginning of your science class, or simply as a read-aloud to generate discussion and critical thinking. These books deliberately encourage students to become discerning, critical readers and draw attention to the internet as a possible source of false information. Our upper elementary students will be captivated!

November 3, 2019

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The Unicorn in the Barn

Teachers often ask for appropriate read alouds for grades 3 and 4: this book is a wonderful option! With magical creatures and elements of fantasy, and yet realistic issues of change, love, and loss, it is a story that will appeal to many.

October 27, 2019

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George

“When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl.” Alex Gino gives us a heartfelt story about a ten-year-old girl struggling with her identity and figuring out how she fits into the world. The daily interactions between George and the adults in her life, as well as with other kids, help the reader better understand the obstacles George faces and may also help contribute to a developing sense of empathy.

October 20, 2019

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A Stone Sat Still

From the creator of They All Saw a Cat comes a second book about perspective. Children listening to or reading these books are challenged to think deeply and see things from a different point of view. As a classroom teacher, I would use the two books in conjunction with each other; they may also inspired a shared writing experience.

October 14, 2019

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I Hate My Cats (A Love Story)

This charming book explores the love-hate relationship between a pet owner and his cats. Told with humour and a dash of sentimentality, it is an enjoyable read. With a class of students, the book can be explored for the author’s opinion and how that opinion is communicated through words.

October 6, 2019

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The Tiger Rising

Kate DiCamillo knows how to tap into our emotions by creating relatable and flawed characters and putting them in some difficult situations. The Tiger Rising is a book that could easily be used as a class read-aloud in grade five or six stirring up much discussion. It may also spark student interest in this author’s other books as well.

September 29, 2019

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The Unbudgeable Curmudgeon

I stumbled upon this book this weekend and I’ve already read it to my favourite five-year-old. When I finished the last page, she immediately turned back to the first page and said, “Can we read the whole thing again?” It captivated her. The words, the pictures.

After reading this with a class, I would take the time to explore word choice and especially the many words with the short vowel ‘u’.

September 22, 2019

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Crenshaw

Are you looking for a read aloud for grade 3 or 4? Katherine Applegate delivers another excellent option. Although this book deals with the serious topics of poverty and homelessness, Applegate is able to keep the tone light and heartfelt. Crenshaw – a large, imaginary cat – provides comfort and humour to both Jackson, the main character, and the reader, too. This is an enjoyable read about friendship and resiliency.

September 15, 2019

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The Dog Who Wanted to Fly

I fell in love with the illustrations in this book even before I read the story. But the story did not disappoint. This is a fun tale of perseverance: Zora the dog is determined to fly!

What do your students want to do? What inspiration can they take from Zora?

September 8, 2019

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New Kid

This graphic novel is an engaging read! We know the medium appeals to kids; the content will as well. Jordan is a relatable character whose experiences echo those of many of our students who are new to a school. Although it tackles complex issues, it does so in humorous and accessible ways.

September 1, 2019

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Perfect

Perfection is hard to live up to! Experience the antics of an eraser trying to maintain perfection in his world. He meets his match with pencil (and his many friends). Eraser is forced to reimagine his idea of perfection. Use in conjunction with Beautiful Oops and Ish to help establish a growth mindset in your classroom.

August 25, 2019

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Just Read!

Do you teach primary? Are you looking for a book to begin the school year and inspire your students to love reading? This visually engaging book would stay up on my bookshelf near the reading corner all year long. Surely a book kids will return to time and time again!

August 18, 2019

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Anna at the Art Museum

Some children are not as engaged at art museums as we might hope them to be. This book shows the initial disinterest of Anna, a reluctant young visitor, until one day a guard helps change her experience with art. The charming illustrations include many representations of famous artwork from galleries around the world. Primary teachers, this might be a good introduction to art class this year!

August 11, 2019

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Town is by the Sea

Are you travelling to a town by the sea this summer? Well, this book allows you to do so at story time! The repeated line—”it goes like this”—helps to create a cadence and rhythm that engages the reader, drawing us in to the town by the sea. The illustrations are intricate and alluring as well.

August 6, 2019

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How to Read a Book

Check out this new release by two award winners. Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet team up to create a book about reading books: a wonderful addition to our primary classrooms or our preschoolers’ bookshelves!

July 28, 2019

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The Wild Robot

If you or your middle grade reader, haven’t yet encountered The Wild Robot, why not put it at the top of your summer reading pile? Then, the sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes, can be the second book on the pile. Peter Brown, known for his picture books (Children Make Terrible Pets being a favourite), writes a unique first novel: a robot washes ashore on an island after a storm. Journey with this robot as she discovers her new world and learns to survive among the wild animals.

June 23, 2019

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Jane Goodall (Little People, BIG DREAMS)

This is one of many books in the Little People, BIG DREAMS series. Choose one because the topic is of particular interest, or choose a few to expose the children in your life to simple biographies of interesting people: Mother Teresa, David Bowie, Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, Stephen Hawking, or Maya Angelou, just to name a few. The writing style and quaint illustrations engage even the very young.

June 16, 2019

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Wolf Hollow

This beautifully written book is told from Annabelle’s point of view. Living on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, her life is fairly uneventful until a new student arrives in class: Betty Glengarry. Betty’s arrival disrupts everything. A thought-provoking, gripping read appropriate for grade 5 and up.

June 9, 2019

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Whiffy Wilson: The Wolf Who Wouldn’t Wash

An enjoyable read aloud for young children but also an opportunity to discuss into alliteration, rhythm, and rhyme for children of all ages!

June 2, 2019

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A Family is a Family is a Family

A teacher asks her students to describe what makes their families special. Students respond by describing the dynamics of their own families. Without being preachy, this book shows that families come in all shapes and sizes. Use as a discussion starter in your classroom to help students accept their own family situations and also understand the diversity of experiences.

May 26, 2019

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Inside Out and Back Again

This story, inspired by the author’s own refugee experience, is beautifully written in verse. We journey with ten-year-old Ha as she experiences the Vietnam war, time in a refugee camp, her family’s journey to America, and the adjustment to life in Alabama. I especially appreciate the insight into her experiences learning the English language. This book would be a powerful read-aloud to an upper elementary or grade seven class providing many opportunities for making connections, exploring the author’s craft, and discussing the intricacies of the English language.

May 20, 2019

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Say Something

I am a long-time fan of Peter H. Reynolds. His newest book, Say Something, is one that I am especially excited about. Reynolds invites kids to use their unique voice (through words, art, music, poetry, courage, or even their presence) to make a positive difference in the world. Many schools look for a book to send off their grade sixes; this would be my choice for this year!

May 12, 2019

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The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Zoey, a seventh-grade student, has much more on her mind than typical seventh grade stuff; she deals with significant responsibilities with her siblings, a complicated relationship with her mother, and the daily realities presented by poverty. Zoey’s perspective is a welcome addition to the bookshelf providing a voice and mirror to many students who sit in our classrooms. An excellent read for upper elementary and junior high students.

May 5, 2019

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How to Give Your Cat a Bath: in Five Easy Steps

Last week I featured a book of how-to poems (The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog); this week’s book puts a different spin on how-to writing with step by step instructions. Using How to Give Your Cat a Bath as inspiration, students could each choose their own “How to…” idea. In addition to the instructions, they can create pictures and include speech bubbles as was done in this hilarious book.

April 28, 2019

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The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems

I encourage teachers to share at least one poem with their students each week. This collection of poems will be a wonderful addition to your bookshelf with poems from a wide variety of poets yet all with a how-to approach. Topics range from how to be a mole to toasting marshmallows!

April 22, 2019

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Things to Do

Things to Do

This charming picture book is a wonderful mentor text and inspiration for writing poetry. The author features poems about a variety of topics such as dawn, birds, a snail, the sky, rain, boots, scissors, and even an eraser. Students could choose someone or something as a focus and then emulate the style of the prose within. It is National Poetry Month after all…

April 14, 2019

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Z is for Moose

Z is for Moose

Looking for another alphabet book for your collection? This may just become a favourite. Both the illustrations and the story will have your students captivated. It is truly a hilarious read!

April 8, 2019

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