Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Ten winning sports books for kids (ages 5-14)

Whether you play sports with your kids or love watching games together, you’ll have fun sharing these books. You'll find a balance of nonfiction and fiction and a wide range of sports. One thing I'm noticing is that I haven't read as many novels with girls playing sports -- clearly, that's a goal for 2019!


Baseball: Then to Wow! by the editors of Sports Illustrated Kids: Whether it’s looking at changes in equipment or comparing playing styles then and now, this high-interest book provides opportunities for fans to analyze different aspects of the game. Great layout, photographs and illustrations engage kids and help them see the progression of the game over the past 150 years. (ages 7-12)

Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery, by Sandra Neil Wallace, illustrated by Bryan Collier: Although his athletic skills brought Ernie Barnes success as a professional football player, his true passion was art. He would quickly sketch scenes as he sat on the bench between plays. Barnes pursued his dreams, eventually becoming the official artist for the American Football League. (ages 6-10)

Girl Running: Bobbi Gibb and the Boston Marathon, by Annette Bay Pimentel, illustrated by Micha Archer: In 1966, Bobbi Gibb became the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, even though the authorities would not recognize her efforts. Despite the authorities’ rejection, she decides to run alongside the registered racers, determined to prove that the rules were wrong. An inspiring picture book biography of defying the odds. (ages 5-9)

Proud: Living My American Dream, by Ibtihaj Muhammad: U.S. Olympic fencing medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad shares her inspiring memoir, showing how faith, hard work and determination helped her reach her goals. She frankly talks about the many obstacles she faced, yet she comes across as both humble and realistic. She conveys the excitement of winning, and the frustrations and self-doubt she faced. Even though I know nothing about fencing, I couldn't put this down. Ibtihaj is a true American hero. (ages 10-16)

Rising Above: How 11 Athletes Overcame Challenges in Their Youth to Become Stars, by Gregory Zuckerman with Elijah Zuckerman and Gabriel Zuckerman:  Names like Lebron James, Steph Curry, Tim Howard, & Dwyane Wade will pull in young readers. Strong, accessible writing and inspiring stories will keep them reading. Look for the second in this series, focusing on inspiring women in sports. (ages 10-14)

Fiction for young players

Pedro’s Big Goal, by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Tammie Lyon (Picture Window / Capstone; ages 5-8; $4.95; 32 pp.). First grader Pedro LOVES playing soccer with his friends and dreams of playing goalie. Will he make it as his team’s goalie, or is he too small? Beginning readers will enjoy this fun, accessible series -- perfect for 1st and 2nd graders. (ages 5-8)

The San Francisco Splash, by David A. Kelley, illustrated by Mark Meyers: The Ballpark Mysteries series is great for emerging readers who need short chapter books, and this local story does not disappoint. Cousins Kate and Mike love it when Kate’s sports-reporter mom brings them to a game, and here they start in kayaks out in McCovey Cove trying to catch fly balls. (ages 6-10)

Middle grade & young adult fiction

After the Shot Drops, by Randy Ribay: When high school basketball star "Bunny" Thompson transfers to wealthy private school, where he is one of a handful of black students. Bunny struggles to keep true to himself, stay close to his neighborhood friends, and make new friends at school. Meanwhile, his best friend Nasir struggles with feeling left behind and figuring out what to do when his cousin starts getting into trouble. The conflicts escalate, on the court and off, with an explosive climax. Hand this to fans of The Hate U Give and Ghost(ages 13-18)

Ghost (Track #1), by Jason Reynolds: BOOM! Third time reading this and it still pulls me straight through each time. A 5th grader told me: "I loved how you feel like you're Ghost. You get mad at someone, then forgive them. It feels like your emotions are building up until Ghost takes the shoes. Then they break when his coach brings him back to the store." Catch others in this stand-out series: Patina & Sunny. (ages 9-14)

Rebound, by Kwame Alexander: My students clamored to read Kwame Alexander’s The Crossover, and this prequel is outstanding, with Chuck Bell--Josh & Jordan’s father--taking center stage. Kwame creates a great cast of characters in Rebound, with Charlie's family and close friends. I especially love that two of his close friends are girls. CJ is brainy, sassy and sweet. Roxie can play ball better than most of the boys. Full of humor, heart and poetry slam in comics (!!), this novel in verse is really about how we can hold onto hope even though we feel storm-beaten and shattered. (ages 9-14)

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Tight, by Torrey Maldonado -- real boys, navigating emotionally complex decisions (ages 8-14)

I've been thinking a lot about how we show our boys different ways to handle emotions, so that we are breaking the expectations of acting tough and macho. In Tight, by Torrey Maldonado, Bryan must navigate making friends, controlling his temper and choosing the right path. Hand this to young readers who loved Jason Reynolds' Ghost, who want a book that feels real, and a character that is believable and emotionally honest.
by Torrey Maldonado
Nancy Paulsen / Penguin, 2018
Amazon / Local library / Google Books preview
ages 8-14
*best new book*
I wonder what kids will think about the cover of Tight. Which train is Bryan going to get on? Is he struggling with a decision? Is he in a tight place? How do you feel if you're tight? What other meanings does it have? Whenever I'm showing a student a book, we spend some time wondering about the cover and thinking about its meanings.

Bryan, an Afro-Puerto Rican sixth grader, lives in the projects in Brooklyn and generally keeps to himself, heading to his mom's office after school to do his homework, read comics or draw. His mom likes it that way, wary that he might fall in with a bad crowd. So Bryan is surprised when she encourages him to get close with Mike, a slightly older boy in their neighborhood who seems like a good kid.

Soon Mike and Bryan become close friends, but Bryan realizes that Mike isn’t as good as Ma and others think. Bryan can't stand the way his dad and sister tease him for being "soft," and he likes some of the ways that Mike encourages him to break the rules, throwing rocks at cars from rooftops and skipping school.

Bryan realizes that he's following Mike into more and more dangerous situations, and his honest, internal dialog shows how difficult it is to dothe right thing. When Mike asks Bryan to tell Little Kevin how great train surfing is (holding onto the outside of the train as it speeds through the tunnels), Bryan follows along even though he has misgivings:
"I start doing that, and the whole time I wonder why I don't just say what I really feel. Now it's like I'm two people. On the outside I'm promoting train-surfing so hard. On the inside, I'm like, Why am I being Mike's hype-man with this?"
Torrey Maldonado skillfully creates a believable, real character facing his vulnerabilities, figuring out what it means to be a friend and how to make the right decisions. I especially appreciate the way that Bryan and Mike bond over superhero comic books and television shows. Bryan's voice is authentic, filled with slang that rings true. This is not a simple morality tale, but rather one that peels back the complex, contradictory currents that make these decisions difficult.

Torrey Maldonado crafts such an authentic voice because it's coming from his own experience. He's a middle school teacher who "still teaches in the Brooklyn neighborhood where he was born and raised" and uses his students’ & his experiences to shape his stories and characters.

I highly recommend Tight for a wide age range. Although this is clearly a middle-grade novel, I think that many 13 and 14 year olds will be drawn to the emotional complexities and authentic voice that Maldonado creates. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Nancy Paulsen / Penguin Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Ivy & Bean One Big Happy Family, by Annie Barrows -- interview with Mia, age 8

I am so happy to share the newest installment of Ivy + Bean, one of my all-time favorite series of chapter books. I love these two friends; they are goofy, full of mischief, and remind me of all the things I almost did!

This series is perfect for readers new to chapter books. Pictures on every page help readers build a movie in their mind and keep the pacing going. Humor and friendship drama make these stories relatable and funny. The Ivy + Bean series fills a perfect spot in children's literature: between longer Early Readers like Mercy Watson and novels like Ramona the Pest.

Bay Area friends: You'll definitely want to see Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall on Saturday, September 8th at 10am at the Elmwood Theater in Berkeley, organized by Mrs. Dalloway's Books. Get your ticket here and save your spot!
Ivy + Bean One Big Happy Family
by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Chronicle, 2018
Amazon / Public library / Google Books preview
ages 6-9
*best new book*
When I showed the newest installment to one of my favorite readers, she was thrilled to revisit her favorite book friends. So instead of a review, I'd like to share my conversation with Mia, age 8.

Mary Ann: Hi Mia! Why were you excited to read the new Ivy & Bean?

Mia: I really like the series. I like that they're funny and silly. I also like that they're about real kids.

Mary Ann: Can you tell me a little bit about this new book?

Mia: Someone in their class says that only children are spoiled, and Ivy worries about this. So she tries to do lots of things to make sure she isn't spoiled. She gives away her clothes. Then she says they should get a new baby, so she won't be an only child. But the baby ends up crying and fussing so much! Then Ivy & Bean decide that they should actually be twin sisters, so that Ivy isn't an only child.

Mary Ann: Was there a part that made you laugh?

Mia: It was funny when Ivy & Bean tried to become twins and tied their wrists together so their skin would grow together. It was so funny because we knew it wouldn't work and they kept bonking their heads when they tried to get out of their playhouse.

Mary Ann: Were there any other parts you liked?

Mia: It was funny when Nancy was doing yoga and in downward dog. When Bean sees this, she tells Nancy that isn't what a dog looks like. Bean is really funny when she starts barking at Nancy and showing her what a dog does.

Mary Ann: Do you think you're more like Ivy or Bean?

Mia: I am really like both of them! I love reading like Ivy. I also like running around, screaming and being crazy like Bean.

Mary Ann: Thanks so much, Mia. I really appreciate your sharing your thoughts with readers!

Enjoy this book trailer for Ivy & Bean, featuring real kids and what they think about the series:

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Chronicle. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson -- giving voice and honoring identity (all ages)

"There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you."
Jacqueline Woodson begins her newest picture book--The Day You Begin--by giving voice to children who feel alone. She speaks directly to readers, honoring their individual stories while creating a book that speaks universal truths.
The Day You Begin
by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, 2018
Amazon / Local library / Audiobook preview
all ages
*best new book*
Woodson and López directly address readers, honoring their worries and difficulties as they begin a new school year and feel alone. Perhaps no one looks like them or no one understands them.
"There will be times when the words don't come..."
"What did you do last summer?" can be a loaded question, as children share about summer travels. Angelina remembers the days spent at home caring for her little sister, but cannot find the words to describe them.

Woodson gracefully turns the story to talk to different children. Perhaps they are new to the school, or new to the country. Or maybe they want to start the year with a new beginning, a new group of friends.
"There will be times when the world feels like a place
that you're standing all the way
outside of..."
And yet...and yet, Woodson shows us that we can find our voice if we begin to share our stories. When Angelina tells her class about her summer, her voice becomes stronger. Her classmates listen. And notice.
"And all at once, in the room where no one else is quite like you.
the world opens itself up a little wider
to make space for you."
López's illustrations bring a tenderness to Woodson's text, helping young readers see themselves and their classmates in these stories. I especially appreciate the range of children's racial and ethnic backgrounds. The warm colors throughout create a reassuring tone to this lovely story.

Beginnings are not always easy. I so appreciate Woodson noticing this and naming it. With her grace and wisdom, she encourages all of us to find friends who will listen to our stories, a new friend who "has something a little like you--and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all."

I am beginning at a new school this year, as the librarian at Albany High School, and I can relate to many of my students who feel excited and anxious to begin a new year. This is a perfect way to begin the year, and is a book that belongs in every classroom for all ages. I will be sharing this with my high school students as we begin school this week.

Illustrations copyright ©2018 Rafael López, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Nancy Paulsen / Penguin Young Readers Group. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, June 10, 2018

#SummerReading for 7th & 8th graders

Carve out time from your busy summer schedules for reading. Talk with your teens about their interests AND the importance of reading. The best way is to give them choice and power, and to make reading a priority.

Middle school is a time of great variety -- some kids want to reread their favorites from earlier years, and others are eager to try edgy YA. Go with their interests, and encourage them to keep finding books that make them want to read.
#SummerReading: 7th & 8th grade
click for full 2018 summer reading lists
Exciting Adventure & Fantasy
Aru Shah and the End of Time, by Roshani Chokshi
Miles Morales Spider-Man, by Jason Reynolds
Peak, by Roland Smith
Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy
Warcross, by Marie Lu

Powerful Nonfiction & Memoirs
The 57 Bus, by Dashka Slater
Because I Was a Girl, edited by Melissa de la Cruz
Boots on the Ground, by Elizabeth Partridge
Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral & Getting It Done, by Andrea Gonzales & Sophie Houser
How Dare the Sun Rise, by Sandra Uwiringiyimana

All the Feels: Modern Teen Romance
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson
Just One Day, by Gayle Forman
Solo, by Kwame Alexander
When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon

Graphic Novels We Love!
Amulet series, by Kazu Kibuishi
Nimona, by Noelle Stevenson
The Prince and the Dressmaker, by Jen Wang
Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani
Sunny Side Up, by Jennifer L. Holm

Stories that Touch Your Heart
Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Like Vanessa, by Tami Charles
Piecing Me Together, by Renee Watson
Refugee, by Alan Gratz
Rogue, by Lyn Miller-Lachman

Social Justice Reads
Ball Don't Lie, by Matt de la Pena
Dear Martin, by Nic Stone
Ghost Boys, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

#SummerReading 2018 for 3rd & 4th graders

Kids read every day during the school year, sharing books they like with friends. Keep those reading muscles strong over the summer by feeding them a steady diet of fun books to read!

Here are some of my favorite chapter books, graphic novels and nonfiction for kids who have finished 3rd and 4th grades. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.
#SummerReading: 3rd & 4th
click for full 2018 summer reading lists
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.

Favorite Chapter Book Series (levels N-O-P)
Bowling Alley Bandit, by Laurie Keller
EllRay Jakes, by Sally Warner
I Survived series, by Lauren Tarshis
Jaden Toussaint, by Marti Dumas

Funny Stories (levels Q-R-S-T)
Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom, by Booki Vivat
Hamster Princess, by Ursua Vernon
Jake the Fake, by Craig Robinson
Timmy Failure, by Stephan Pastis

Adventure and Historical Fiction (levels Q-R-S)

Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko
Dash, by Kirby Larson
The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson
What Elephants Know, by Eric Dinerstein

Exciting Adventure & Fantasy (levels Q-R-S-T)
Endling: The Last, by Katherine Applegate
The Serpent's Secret, by Sayantani DasGupta
Shadows of Sherwood, by Kekla Magoon
Wings of Fire, by Tui Sutherland

New Graphic Novels We Love!
5 Worlds: The Cobalt Prince, by Mark Siegel
Be Prepared, by Vera Brosgol
Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani
Secret Coders: Potions & Parameters, by Gene Luen Yang

Stories that Touch Your Heart (levels Q-R-S-T)
The 14th Goldfish, by Jennifer Holm
Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan
The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Fascinating Nonfiction
Grand Canyon, by Jason Chin
Marley Dias Gets It Done, by Marley Dias
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, by Chris Barton

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

#SummerReading 2018 for 1st & 2nd graders

First and second graders have made monumental leaps in their reading this year. Keep those reading muscles strong by feeding them a steady diet of fun books to read!

Here are some of my favorite beginning readers, chapter books, graphic novels and picture books for kids just finishing 1st and 2nd grade. Each day this week, I'll be sharing a post to help families read over the summer, organized by grade levels.
#SummerReading: 1st & 2nd grade
click for full 2018 summer reading lists
Note: Our schools use the Fountas & Pinnell reading levels to help indicate "just right books" for students. I like to band these levels together, to look at a group of similar books.

Beginning to Read (levels G-H-I)
Block Party, by Gwendolyn Hooks
It's Shoe Time!, by Bryan Collier
My Toothbrush Is Missing!, by Jan Thomas

Developing Readers (levels J-K)
Charlie & Mouse & Grumpy, by Laurel Snyder
Pedro's Big Goal, by Fran Manushkin
Zelda & Ivy, by Laura Kvasnosky

New Picture Books We're Loving
After the Fall, by Dan Santat
Harriet Gets Carried Away, by Jessie Sima
Mommy's Khimar, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
No Kimchi For Me!, by Aram Kim

Beginning with Chapter Books (levels L-M)
Ashley Small & Ashlee Tall series, by Michele Jakubowski
Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon
Fergus & Zeke, by Kate Messner
King & Kayla series, by Dori Hillestad Butler

Graphic Novel Series We Love!
Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey
Hilo, by Judd Winick
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea, by Ben Clayton

Having Fun with Chapter Book Series (levels N-O-P)
Bad Guys, by Aaron Blabey
DATA Set series, by Ada Hopper
Zoey & Sassafras series, by Asia Citro

Fascinating Nonfiction
Give Bees a Chance, by Bethany Barton
Her Right Foot, by Dave Eggers
Malala's Magic Pencil, by Malala Yousafzai

Picture Books Full of Imagination
Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub
Maybe Something Beautiful, by F. Isabel Campoy
Take Away the A, by Michael Escoffier

CLICK HERE for all of the 2018 summer reading lists, grades K - 5.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Amina's Voice & read-alikes: connecting readers with more books (ages 9-12)

Many of our students really enjoyed reading Amina's Voice, by Hena Khan, as part of our Mock Newbery Book Clubs. They connected with the way Amina learns to cope with her nerves, finds the courage to perform, and deals with the pressures of sixth grade.
Amina's Voice
by Hena Khan
Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster, 2017
Amazon / your local library / Google Books preview
ages 9-12
As Amina starts sixth grade, she struggles with friendship and family issues. At school, her best friend Soojin is befriending another girl, Emily. Soojin is also talking about becoming an American citizen and taking a second, more American name. Amina just wants things to stay the same with Soojin.

At home, Amina loves to sing; true to her parents' nickname (geeta, 'song' in Urdu), she has a beautiful voice. Amina avoids the spotlight, and prefers to sing by herself. When her uncle Thaya Jaan, who is visiting from Pakistan, tells her parents that her singing and piano playing are un-Islamic, she feels undermined and unsure of herself just as she's trying to get up the courage to perform at a school concert.

Students of many backgrounds really responded to this story. Here are some of their comments:
  • "It totally hooked me and stayed with me."
  • "I liked the beginning how she felt nervous and scared, and then she overcame this."
  • "It was intense when their mosque burnt down."
  • "I could relate to having arguments with a friend."
Berkeley librarians worked together to recommend "read-alikes" for students who enjoyed Amina's Voice.
If you liked Amina's Voice for the way Amina found her own voice, you might try:
If you liked Amina's Voice for the way it portrayed a Pakistani family in America, you might try:
In looking for read-alikes, we tried to think of a "hook" to give a student a connection to another book. We also looked for books that would appeal to students at a similar emotional level and reading level. This is not an exact match, but rather a general guide to help us. We also looked for books that many of our libraries have and books that are still in print.

Many thanks to all of the librarians in Berkeley (both at BUSD school libraries and Berkeley Public Library) who are helping us create these read alike lists. Please let us know if you have any other books to add to these suggestions!

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, January 1, 2018

Wishtree, by Katherine Applegate: filled with hope and humor (ages 8-11)

As we begin the new year, people ask each other what resolutions they've made. Sure, I'd like to exercise more. But really, I want to hold hope in my heart. That sense of hope, of deep-rooted optimism is essential to children's books. Katherine Applegate, winner of the Newbery Award for The One and Only Ivan, captures this essence of hope in her newest book Wishtree. A wise old oak tree, Red, narrates this heartfelt story of friendship and community.
by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charles Santoso
Feiwel and Friends / Macmillan, 2017
Amazon / your local library / Google Books preview
ages 8-11
* best new book *
Red has watched over this neighborhood for over 200 years, providing shade and comfort to animals and people. Right from the beginning, Applegate pulls readers into Red's story with the tree's
voice, humor and perspective. Our students have really responded to the fact that the tree tells this story. It's something they don't expect, and Red's humor wins them over.
"Trees have a rather complicated relationship with people, after all. One minute you’re hugging us. The next minute you’re turning us into tables and tongue depressors." (2)
For years now, Red has been the neighborhood wishtree. Every spring, people tie bits of paper, fabric or yarn to Red's branches. "Each offering represents a dream, a desire, a longing." (11) These wishes, these little bits of hope, make Red especially attuned to people's emotions.
"People tell trees all kinds of things. They know we’ll listen. It’s not like we have a choice. Besides, the more you listen, the more you learn. (13)"
Students at Rosa Parks School especially noticed how the animals depend on Red, and how the people do too. Yulissa and Lol-Be talked about how this reminded them of the Lorax: "I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues." Red must take a risk, not only speaking for the trees but also speaking for friendship. They could connect to the difficult situation of speaking up and taking a risk.

Applegate skillfully weaves three stories into this brief narrative. A new family moves into the neighborhood, and their daughter Samar notices how special Red is. When an unkind act threatens the balance of the community, Red is truly hurt. Furthermore, the owner of the land Red stands on threatens to chop the old tree down. Interwoven into these modern-day stories is the backstory of Maeve, a young Irish immigrant who brought the tradition of the wishing tree from Ireland to her new home in America.

When Red sees the pain and longing in a young girl's wish, he decides to take action. Students at John Muir School really liked how Red wasn't supposed to talk to people but then just blurts out all of a sudden. I also notice how well Applegate develops Red's character, helping readers connect with the tree's perspective.
"After Samar left, I felt restless. Restlessness is not a useful quality in a tree. We move in tiny bits, cell by cell, roots inching farther, buds nudged into the sunlight. Or we move because someone transplants us to a new location. When you're a red oak, there's not point in feeling fidgety." (81)
Applegate develops her theme of hope and community throughout the novel, but she does so gently and authentically. As Sharon McKellar noted in the blog Heavy Medal, Wishtree feels "subtle and strong," not didactic or heavy. Moreover, Applegate does this with utmost respect for the child reader, bringing the story directly to them in short, accessible chapters. She's trimmed away extra elements to just focus on this small story, this moment, these characters. And yet her language is funny, wise and lyrical in turns.

Some children have noticed that it is very short (211 pages) and reads quickly. One student said, "I liked the storyline but I rushed through it because it was below my reading level." I wonder if the key word there is "rushed." I recently reread Wishtree and the language, the humor and especially the themes stood out to me as distinguished.

Wishtree is one of the selections for Berkeley's Mock Newbery Book Club; I am excited to keep hearing what children throughout our schools are saying about this book. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Macmillan. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, May 22, 2017

Real Friends, by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham: navigating the stormy seas of friendship (ages 8-12)

As parents and teachers, it can be hard to watch our children navigate the difficult waters of friendship. I have a clear memory of watching my oldest daughter wander the playground by herself in kindergarten, just watching other children play. It can be hard to give our children advice, and even harder still for children to figure out what's really going on.
Real Friends
by Shannon Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham
First Second / Macmillan 2017
Amazon / your local library
ages 8-12
*best new book*
Real Friends, Shannon Hale's graphic novel memoir, focuses on the trouble she had figuring out friendship issues throughout elementary school. The format is perfect for this audience -- blending images, short text and visual storytelling to help young readers see just how hard these friendship issues really are and understand some ways through them.

Shannon struggles with anxiety from the beginning, not wanting to leave her mother's side. Making a best friend makes her early school years happy, but when this friend moves away Shannon is left feeling all alone. As social groups at school become clearer and the popular group asserts itself, Shannon copes with feelings of inadequacy. She compares herself to other girls and feels resentment as they leave her on the edges of their group.

If you'd like, check out this book trailer to get a sense of the energy and flow between Hale's story and Pham's artwork.

I am so very glad that Hale chose to write this memoir as a graphic novel. So many more students will read and relate to her story precisely because they'll try it. Pham's artwork is full of energy and she excels and communicating the emotional upheaval that Shannon goes through. I especially love the way she brings Hale's metaphors to life, whether it's her older sister turning into a savage bear or the queen bee at school holding forth with her royal court.

This is a book that will be enjoyed by a wide range of young readers--girls and boys. Many students struggle with friendship issues, and graphic novels have broad appeal. I especially appreciate what LeUyen Pham told the School Library Journal:
"I know as many if not more boys who have read books from Raina Telgemeier or Jenni Holm, without questioning whether it’s written for them. A good story is a good story, and especially books that are reveal the navigations of elementary school relationships are necessary for either boys or girls."
Young readers will appreciate how nuanced and flawed Shannon is--she doesn't show herself as a perfect friend--but I wonder if they'll yearn for more fully developed secondary characters. I do know that my students will appreciate how Hale does not preach or lecture about how to be a friend, but rather she shows how you can work at being a good friend. As she writes in her author’s note:
“If you haven’t found your ‘group’ yet, hang in there. Your world will keep growing larger and wider. You deserve to have real friends, the kind who treat you well and get how amazing you are.”
I have purchased this review copy for our home collection, as gifts and for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Inquisitor's Tale, by Adam Gidwitz -- serious fun, terrific storytelling (ages 9-14)

In a recent interview in The Horn Book, Adam Gidwitz talks about his teaching days as being filled with "serious fun" -- I love that concept. Yes, kids love having fun, laughing, sharing silly or gross stories. They also love to dig into serious topics and want us adults to ask for their opinions.

Gidwitz has legions of fans for his exciting, engrossing retellings of Grimm's tales. In his newest book, he tackles medieval life, religious intolerance and the power of deep loyal friendship--all with a healthy dose of fun, adventure and brilliant storytelling.
We begin our tale at a travelers' inn, hearing about three children fleeing for their lives from Louis, the powerful king of France (for history buffs, this is Louis IX, commonly known as Saint Louis). Each child is ostracized, isolated in their own way, until fate brings them together. Jeanne's neighbors worry that her seizures and visions mean that she's possessed by witchcraft. When her dog Gwenforte, who saved her life as a baby, comes back to life, Jeanne escapes into the forest.

illuminations by Hatem Aly
Jeanne meets up with William, a young African oblate (a monk-in-training), and Jacob, a Jewish boy whose village was burned to the ground by an antisemitic mob. Each child is wary and full of fear at first, but they grow to trust each other.

In the High Middle Ages, life was defined by class and religion--completely different from today. And yet, was it? It was a time full of intense distrust of "the other," people who belong to a different religion or social group. And at the same time, a time marked by rapid social changes, spurred by urban centers, economic development and trade across boundaries.

What will draw children to this story? They will love Gidwitz's storytelling as William battles the fiends in the forest, or Jacob cures the farting dragon by realizing stinky cheese is setting his farts on fire. They will love the way Gwenforte the greyhound is loyal to the children, guiding and protecting them.

Young readers will also connect emotionally to Jeanne, William and Jacob--feeling often as they do, that no one understands them except for their loyal friends. Hatem Aly's illustrations provide both humorous relief and concrete grounding for this complex story.
A portion of the famous Unicorn Tapestries depicting a hound on the hunt. This dog partly inspired Gwenforte the Greyhound, the holy dog.
Just as importantly, children will be drawn into this story where young heroes decide to take a stand for what's right, fighting against ignorance and intolerance, proclaiming that collaboration and friendship is not only possible across social groups but thrives among different social groups. Society is still struggling with these very issues today.

One early reader told me, "I'm loving this story because it's full of so many different people. Most stories I read have characters who are all the same. Here, everyone is different and that's so interesting."

Serious fun. Brilliant storytelling. Fascinating history. And an opportunity to wrestle with important social and religious issues. Friends, this is definitely a must-read, must-share story.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Penguin. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Making new friends -- picture books for the new school year (ages 4-8)

Do you remember the song, "Make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver, and others are gold." As our kids settle into a new school year, let's help them think about how important it is to make new friends, being kind and inclusive. Here are some new picture books all about making new friends.

Be a Friend, by Salina Yoon: This adorable friendship book follows Dennis, a little boy who only communicates through miming. One day at school, he kicks an imaginary ball and--to his surprise-- his classmate Joy catches it! A delightful story about finding a kindred spirit and discovering a new friend.

Big Friends, by Linda Sarah, illustrated by Benji Davies: Best friends Birt and Etho love playing pretend with cardboard boxes every day--racing, battling pirates, constructing forts. When another boy joins them, Birt retreats home sulking, until Etho and his new friend use their imagination to create an invitation Birt can’t resist.

Flora and the Peacocks, by Molly Idle: Flora dances with two elegant, proud peacocks in this wordless picture book--navigating the friendship between three. When one peacock starts dancing with Flora, the other feels left out--sound familiar? Molly Idle’s expressive illustrations depict a full range of emotions, letting children tell the story in their own words.

My Friend Maggie, by Hannah E. Harrison: Paula and Maggie are best friends, but when this duo (a beaver and an elephant) encounter a bully at school who teases Maggie because of her large size, their friendship is put to the test. At first, Paula gives in to peer pressure and shuns Maggie; but in the end, she realizes that a true and loyal friend is the best sort you can have.

There are many many friendship picture books that are wonderful to read with kids. Do you have any favorites?

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Bloomsbury, Macmillan, Chronicle, and Penguin. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Thank You Book, by Mo Willems: A terrific finale for Elephant and Piggie (ages 4-8)

It's almost the end of the year for us, and kids are starting to think about how hard it is to say goodbye to favorite teachers. I wish I could give every teacher a copy of The Thank You Book, Mo Willem's terrific finale for his Elephant and Piggie series.

This is a must-read series; kids of all ages love the friendship and banter between Elephant and Piggie, especially 1st graders who are venturing into reading independently.
The Thank You Book
from the Elephant and Piggie series
by Mo Willems
Disney-Hyperion, 2016
Your local library
ages 4-8
*best new book*
Gerald and Piggie are best friends. They help each other, they play with each other, and they give each other advice--plenty of it. Piggie is outgoing, and Gerald is cautious. Piggie tends to be head-strong, while Gerald tends to be a worrier. This combination creates plenty of laughs, and it lets kids see different sides of their own personalities.

Kids love reading Elephant and Piggie books aloud--the whole story is told through dialog which bubbles over with emotion. As my friend Carrie Gelson wrote in her Goodreads review,
"This series has transformed many a little reader. It has given the gift of expression, confidence, laughter and fun. And it ends with gratitude."
Gerald and Piggie have starred in twenty five books(!!) together. For their finale, Piggie decides to thank everyone. She's so happy, that she's thanking of all her friends, "everyone who is important to me." But Gerald is worried that she might forget someone...someone very important.
"Thank you all for being great friends!"
Willems creates tension with ease, as Gerald gets more and more upset. Readers are just sure that he wants Piggie to thank HIM, but Willems pulls out the perfect surprise ending.
"You are forgetting someone! Someone VERY important."
In a delightful twist, Gerald turns to Piggie and reminds her that they need to thank their readers. “We could not be ‘us’ without you,” says Gerald. Piggie joins in, adding, “You are the best!” Talk about a moment that melts my heart, each and every time I read it. Willems honors the hard work that young readers do in bringing stories to life, and he does so with joy, humor and heart.

As a teacher and a librarian, I want to thank every child who's shared their reading lives with me, every parent who's entrusted their child to me, every author who's shared a bit of themselves with us through their words. Thank YOU, Mo Willems, for bringing so much joy to all of us, helping us create so many teachable moments, so many wonderful conversations.

Head on over to to download, print, and fill out your own #ThankoRama speech bubbles. Teachers, definitely check out The World of Elephant and Piggie Teaching Guide.

Thank you, my blog readers, for sharing the joy of reading with me and with all the kids in your lives! The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, by Laura Shovan -- story full of distinct voices (ages 9-12)

Many of my students are drawn to realistic fiction because it gives them a chance to immerse themselves in someone else's story. In fact, a recent study has shown that reading literary fiction helps improve readers' ability to understand what others are thinking and feeling (see this article in Scientific American).

Laura Shovan's novel in verse, The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, is full of distinct voices that prompt us to think about different students' unique perspectives. It's one my students are enthusiastically recommending to one another.
The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
by Laura Shovan
Wendy Lamb / Random House, 2016
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Eighteen fifth graders keep poetry notebooks chronicling their year, letting readers peak into their thoughts, hopes and worries as the year progresses. Fifth grade is a momentous year for many students, as the finish elementary school and look ahead to all the changes that middle school brings. This year is particularly full of impending change for Ms. Hill's class because their school will be demolished at the end of the year to make way for a new supermarket.

Through these short poems, Shovan captures the distinct, unique voices of each student. The class is diverse in many ways--racially, ethnically, economically, and more. At first, I wondered if I would really get to know the different students since each page focused on a different child; however, as the story developed, I really did get a sense of each individual as well as the class as a whole. Shovan creates eighteen distinctive individuals--with personalities and backgrounds that we can relate to and envision. And these experiences shape how each individual reacts to the year.

I particularly love novels in verse because they allow readers a chance to see inside character's thoughts without bogging the narrative down in too much description. As researcher David Kidd said (in this Scientific American article), literary fiction prompts readers to think about characters: "we’re forced to fill in the gaps to understand their intentions and motivations.” This is exactly what ends up being the strength of Laura Shovan's novel.

The funniest thing, for me personally, has been the shocked look of many of my students when I show them this cover. You see, our school is called Emerson Elementary School. "This is a real book?!?!" they say, incredulously. I know my students will particularly like the way these students protest the plans to demolish their school, bringing their protest to the school board.

As you can see in this preview on Google Books, this collection of poems slowly builds so readers get a sense of each student in Ms. Hill's fifth grade. The poetry feels authentic, never outshining what a fifth grader might write but always revealing what a fifth grader might really be thinking.

I highly recommend the audiobook for The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. The diverse cast of Recorded Books brings alive each character. This would make a great summer listen, or a great read-aloud for the beginning of the school year.

The review copy for the audiobook was purchased from Audible and for the print copy it was borrowed from my local library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, by Jonathan Auxier--layered, exciting fantasy (ages 9-12)

Occasionally I read a story that makes me yearn to reach back through time and hand it to the 11 year old me that loved nothing more than hiding out behind the couch lost in a favorite book. Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard has me thinking about just what I liked reading when I was a kid. I loved reading fantasies that took me to far off worlds, showed me protagonists who battled great forces of evil, and triumphed using both brains and courage. I also loved fantasies that made me think just a little more deeply about our own world.
Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard
by Jonathan Auxier
Abrams, 2016
Your local library
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Sophie is a girl after my own heart--a steadfast friend, willing to stand up for what she believes in. Above all else, she loves books and the stories they hold. Sophie works as a bookmender in her father's shop, caring for old books, helping to make sure they can share their stories with more of the town's citizens. But the town is turning on Sophie and her father: the Inquisitor is leading a movement to banish all nonsense from their town, and calling for all citizens to bring their storybooks to the great Pyre to be burned. Sophie is thrust into the role of protecting the magical Book of Who when Peter Nimble rescues her from arrest by Inquisitor Prigg and presents her with this amazing book.

Sophie's mother died protecting the Book of Who, and now Sophie must protect it from Inquisitor Prigg's prying grasp. She is joined by Peter and his trusty companion Sir Tode, as they uncover the mystery of the books of the Four Questions: Who, What, Where and When. While this new book is definitely a companion to Auxier's Peter Nimble and His Fantasic Eyes (my review here), Sophie Quire stands alone very well--Auxier tells her own story, and Peter plays a supporting role.

Children who love escaping into an adventure will definitely enjoy this--think of fans of Adam Gidwitz's Grimm series, or Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. I especially love how Auxier's characters are layered and developed, letting these characters live on in my mind. Good is tainted by hubris, greed or fear. Evil has roots in old wounds and competition. You have to understand someone's backstory to see where they're coming from. Even stories themselves can come alive in the hands of the right reader.

Jonathan's visit to our school was one of the best visits ever. If you have the opportunity to Skype with him or to have him talk with your students, definitely jump at it. In the meantime, enjoy reading the first few chapters of Sophie Quire (via Google Books):

I want to end by sharing a bit of an interview Auxier did over at Word Spelunking with Aeicha. If you enjoy this, definitely read the whole interview.
What three words best describe your book, Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard?
Auxier: Mysterious, wonder-filled, bookish

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince young readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard?
Auxier: Sophie Quire is a swashbuckling adventure about a girl who must hunt down and protect a set of mysterious books that can answer any question asked of them. I was a reluctant reader growing up, and wrote Sophie because it’s the book I wish someone had given me when I was that age. Also, it has a ton of monsters in it.

Favorite chapter?
Auxier: My favorite chapter might be “Highway Robbery” in which Sophie finds herself being kidnapped in a carriage on a moonlit road—only to have a highwayman show up and kidnap her again. Needless to say, things do not turn out as planned for said highwayman!
The review copies was kindly sent by the publisher, Abrams. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Booked--Kwame Alexander scores again with this novel in verse (ages 10-14)

I am ridiculously excited to share Booked with kids, friends and librarians. Kwame Alexander hits the sweet spot again, this time scoring a goal with his mix of soccer, family, first crushes, friendship and poetry.
by Kwame Alexander
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016
Your local library
ages 10-14
*best new book*
Nick loves soccer, whether it's playing futsol with his best friend, dreaming of playing professionally, or staying up late playing FIFA online. What Nick hates are books. More specifically, he hates that his dad makes him read his own dictionary of unusual words.

Kwame Alexander has crafted a novel that is fast to read, full of wordplay and humor, and leaves you thinking. I love the way he captures the bantering between Nick and his mom, as well as between Nick and his best friend Coby. Right from the beginning, he shows how kids play with words in smart, sophisticated ways. My students love telling jokes, and will love seeing if their friends get this. Just see if they see why this is such a funny way for Nick to introduce his dad, the linguistics professor:
"In the elementary school spelling bee
when you intentionally
misspelled heifer,
he almost had a cow."
As Nick struggles with his parents' impending divorce, bullying at school and figuring out how to talk to the girl of his dreams, he discovers that words and poetry can actually be cool. A great follow up to The Crossover!

Want to read more? Check out this terrific NPR interview with Kwame from this weekend:
How To Get Kids Hooked On Books? 'Use Poetry. It Is A Surefire Way'
-- NPR radio interview, April 3, 2016
I'm so jazzed to share this that I've already placed an order for 15 books (!!) with my favorite local bookstore, Mrs. Dalloway's, and I will be sharing these with friends tomorrow. I hope to share soon how kids respond to Booked. My sense is that Booked will resonate more with middle school students than elementary students, but I do think many 5th graders will enjoy and relate to Nick's struggles.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 7, 2016

2016 Mock Newbery, part 3: Enchanted Air & Fish in a Tree (ages 9-13)

We read to get to know other characters, but at the same time we read to get to know ourselves. Some of my students really want to get inside and feel what the characters in books are going through. Enchanted Air and Fish in a Tree appealed to readers who like heartfelt, emotional stories.
Enchanted Air
Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
by Margarita Engle
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 10-14
In this memoir in verse, poet and novelist Margarita Engle writes about her childhood growing up in Los Angeles and visiting her grandmother in Cuba. My students talked about how they felt that Engle almost had a twin living a whole life in each country, that she had twin homes--feeling at home both in Cuba and in the United States. Her heart was in both places.

Although this is a very touching story, some students felt that it was too slow. The plot didn't hook them, and so I think it was harder for them to connect to the character and her emotions. I wonder if this is a book better appreciated by a slightly older reader, or one that would benefit from more discussion with a group so students can unpack some of the ideas about immigration, identity and home.
Fish in a Tree
by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Nancy Paulsen / Penguin, 2015
Google Books preview
Your local library
ages 9-12
Aly Nickerson has changed schools nearly every year: seven schools in the past seven years. With each new teacher, she acts out and dodges questions to cover up the fact that she cannot read. Letters and words dance on the page. Aly's confusion and anger touched my students, but it was really her journey that made them recommend this to friends with earnest enthusiasm.
"I thought that the characters were strong because I felt what they felt. The author could evoke their feelings." -- Rebecca
student responses (click to enlarge)
Students talked right away about how Lynda Mullaly Hunt helped them understand the range of Aly's complex emotions, feeling empathy but never pity. Aly's friends were all interesting, distinct characters. While adults might wonder why Aly's previous teachers never noticed her dyslexia, my students just loved her relationship with Mr. Daniels.
"I like how the book showed that just because you are different doesn't mean you can't shine." -- Norah
This is a book that will continue to touch students for years to come.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publishers, Simon & Schuster and Penguin, but we have also purchased additional copies for our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret, by Bob Shea -- a favorite new friend for beginning readers (ages 4-8)

If you have kids who love Elephant and Piggie or Frog and Toad, laughing at the way these friends play together, bicker and work through their conflicts, then you're going to love Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret. It sparkles with humor, but underlying it is a real understanding of friendship.
Ballet Cat: The Totally Secret Secret
by Bob Shea
Disney Hyperion, 2015
Your local library
ages 4-8
*best new book*
Ballet Cat’s best friend Sparkle Pony is getting a bit tired of always playing ballet -- but what’s a BFF supposed to do? Sparkle Pony tries to suggest other things. He tries to go along and dance. But then he realizes that he's holding onto a big secret.
"I will always be your friend, Sparkle Pony! No secret can ever change that."
"Yes, I'm listening."
New readers (and little siblings) will delight in how Bob Shea builds this story, with expressive illustrations and large speech bubbles. They can laugh at the exaggeration, but also relate to how Sparkle Pony feels. I love this climax:
This would make a great book to act out as readers' theater, but it would also make a great one to talk about at home. I can even see bringing it up in the car the next day:
"You know, I was thinking about Ballet Cat and her friend. I wonder why it was hard for Sparkle Pony to tell her that he didn't like ballet?"
Friends need to accept differences--adults know that, but often it's hard to put into practice. This is a great story about just that: loving each other even more than we love our individual interests.

Illustrations ©2015 Bob Shea. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney Hyperion. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2015 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books