Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions

Back in 1989 Ronald Reagan was president of the United States and the Berlin Wall was torn down. While, these were important events of that year to the kids the most important was the release of the Super Soaker. Prior to the Super Soaker we only had smaller plastic water guns. Water guns that barely got you wet and ran out of water quickly. When this water gun came out I remember how badly I wanted one but they were not cheap.  The Super Soaker became a staple my middle grades years. Everyone wanted one or had one and they often upgraded to a new one as soon as the new model came out. 

Original Super Soaker

Chris Barton's book Woosh follows the story of Lonnie Johnson who invented the Super Soaker. The story starts with Lonnie as a child who likes to build rockets and robots. Barton explains the hardships that Johnson had including limited space, tests that said he was not smart enough, and competing at a school that did not like African-American students. The story follows Lonnie to adulthood where he creates some successful inventions and has difficulty getting funding for others. At the end of the story the Super Soaker is produced and kids around the world play with it. 

Lonnie Johnson 

Barton's book serves two purposes. It provides a picture book biography of Lonnie Johnson's life and inventions. It also sends the message to the reader that no matter the hardships you face you do not give up on your dreams. You too can be like Lonnie Johnson and be a problem solver. I loved this book and I recommend it to any library or individual interested in biographies or the Super Soaker. I also recommend that you go and get a Super Soaker for yourself or your kids to use during  the summer. These are great water guns and well worth the money. 

 Enjoy this Super Soaker ad  from 1993 to see how cool they were for kids my age. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: This is not a picture book

A duck is frustrated because the book he is chooses to read has no pictures. His friend, the bug, asks him if he can read it so he gives it a try. As the duck describes the words in the book, the background changes to match the tone of the words: funny, sad peaceful and wild.

Here is my favorite page:

At my former school, I used to work with a third grade classroom everyday during their literacy block. One of the activities the students did was write a story based on a picture or photograph. I would love to give them this picture and see what stories they would create.

Students often need help adding words to their stories that convey emotions, but aren't overly used: like, sad or happy, etc. Mentor texts are very helpful when teaching students how do to this. If I were using this book in a media class, I would divide the kids into groups and give them one of the words from the story (funny, sad, wild and peaceful) and give them another text and have them find words that fit their category.

Highly recommended for elementary school and classroom libraries.

Friday, May 20, 2016

YA Friday: Short Story Anthologies

My latest reading obsession is young adult short story anthologies. I have always loved short stories. I remember hating Nathaniel Hawthore's The Scarlet Letter, but adoring his short stories. My all-time favorite classical literature is Edgar Allen Poe's short stories: "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Tell-tale Heart." I do not use the word obsession lightly. I have bought 7 collections just this week.  However, I'm going to talk about three 2016 collections in this post.

Realistic fiction YA is my favorite so I'm loving this collection. It features authors like Kekla Magoon, James Preller and Jordan Sonnenblick. In the first story, "Three Imaginary Conversations With You," author Heather Demetrios presents a narrator in a relationship that is gone sour.  A girl who is about to graduate is trying to extricate herself from her college boyfriend. The boyfriend criticizes her all the time, looks down on her for being younger and is very manipulative, threatening to kill himself if they break up.

A collection of historical fiction heroines kicking ass and taking names? Yes, please! Authors include Marie Lu, Marissa Meyer, Kelka Magoon and YA historical fiction queen, Elizabeth Wein.  In "Pearls" by Beth Reavis, set in 1876, a young girl is trying to escape a marriage her father insists is mandatory. He assumes she has relinquished her virtue, but the man actually raped her. Her method of escape? She moves from Chicago to Wyoming to become a teacher in a subscription school. One of her pupils is a famous figure from history.

This is a companion to My True Love Game to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories. I can't help but sing "Summer Lovin'" from the musical Grease when I see the cover of this book. After reading Tim Federle's debut YA novel, The Great American Whatever, I am thrilled to read another one of his stories. In "Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail," author Leigh Bardugo's heroine, Gracie, lives in a tourist town and thinks she sees The Loch Ness Monster in the lake. She starts hanging out with Eli, a nerdy tourist boy, and they research the possibility. They see each other summer after summer and a romance develops; however, there is a secret that keeps them from having anything more than a summer fling.

Do you have any YA short story anthology recommendations for me? If so, leave them in the comments, or let me know on Twitter @sralph31.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Middle Grades Thursday: Paper Wishes

After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 many Japanese Americans were forcefully removed from their homes. They were forced to relocate to other states or internment camps. Japanese internment camps were cramped spaces surrounded by barbed wire. Japanese Americans were treated like prisoners who were only allowed to leave with permission from their wardens. 

Paper Wishes follows the story of a young Japanese girl named Manami. This little girl is forced to leave her family home and head to an internment camp. On the way to the camp she loses her dog Yujiin. This has a very negative impact on Manami and she refuses to speak. Lois Sepahban takes the reader into the world  of Japanese internment camps by explaining the difficulties for the people who live in them. 

The story continues to tell Manami's story through 10 months of her life until her family leaves the Manzanar internment camp. This book has a bitter sweet ending that I felt was a great way to end the story. 

I simply loved this book. I feel like our children have a limited understanding of what WWII was like for Japanese Americans. I think that Paper Wishes accurately portrays these hardships. This is an excellent addition to any library and is a wonderful example of  historical fiction. I give this book a resounding 5 out of 5 stars. 

Lois Sepahban bases her story on real events that took place at the  Manzanar internment camp. 

For more information about the camp visit the following website. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: There is a Tribe of Kids

 This beautiful book by Lane Smith follows a little girl as she sees and interacts with different animals. We follow the little girl on her journey to find the tribe of kids.  Smith uses different descriptive words for each of the different groups of animals making this book a good one for building vocabulary. 

My favorite group of animals is the turn of turtles. Of course, I am obsessed with turtles which makes me slightly biased. 

With beautiful pictures and writing this book is an excellent addition to any library. This is wonderful book for kids who are trying to build vocabulary and learn about animals at the same time. I give There is a Tribe of Kids 5 out of 5 stars. 

New Book Tuesday 5/17

Happy Reading!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

YA Friday: Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom

Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom is a first person perspective of the fight for Civil Rights in Selma, Alabama. The story follows the life of Lynda Blackmon Lowery from the ages of 13-15. In the story she explains her involvement in historical events including Bloody Sunday and the March from Selma to Montgomery. 

Being a former history teacher I really enjoyed this book. I find that some students know only a little bit about the Civil Rights Movement. Their knowledge is usually limited to Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King. Both of these individuals were essential to the Civil Rights Movement but, I wish that students learned about other Civil Rights leaders. This book offers more information about individuals who helped fight for voting rights. 

This book does a great job of telling the story of Selma through a young adults perspective. I also like how Lowery emphasized the fact that several different kinds of people fought for voting rights in Selma. Even though this book would be considered Non-fiction I think that Young Adults would really enjoy it. The story while factual, is also entertaining and the illustrations from PJ Loughran are excellent. 

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and I highly recommend it for Young Adults interested in the Civil Rights Movement. 

Maybe A Fox

Jules is extremely close to her older sister Sylvie, who is her best friend. Sylvie's goal in life is to run as fast as possible. One snowy morning before school, Sylvie breaks the rules to throw a wish rock into the Slip, and winds up falling and drowning. Jules and her dad are devastated. Jules world stops, and nothing is important to her, not her rock collecting or going to school. Her only desire is to find The Grotto, a magical place, and to discover why her sister felt the need to always be so fast.

On the same day Sylvie falls into the Slip, a baby fox is born. Senna knows that she is different from her brother. She hears voices and despite all natural instincts, is strangely drawn to a human girl in pain.

The chapters alternate between Jules story and Senna's. I was enchanted by both stories. However, this book was extremely sad so you need some tissues. Amy and I are one year apart and were extremely close growing up; I can't imagine losing her during childhood or now. I have never cried so much while reading a book. Appelt and McGhee's ability to make me feel this deeply makes this book one of my favorites for 2016. I am hoping it receives some shiny stickers in January.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: The Thank You Book

Amy's Review: 
In The Thank You Book Piggie decides to have a thank-o-rama. He runs around and thanks several different animals. Including this friend from another awesome Mo Willems series. 

Piggie continues to thank everyone until Elephant reminds him that he is missing a very important person. The very important person is not who you expect.

I ultimately enjoyed this book. Elephant and Piggie books are great for use with struggling readers. I am sad that this is the last book but, Mo Willems ended the series on a good note. I  recommend The Thank You Book to all young readers and anyone who loves  Elephant and Piggie. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. 

Sara's Review

Elephant and Piggie holds a special place in my heart because it was how my youngest daughter learned to read. For about two years, we read about 5 books from the series every night before bed. The Thank You Book is the perfect way to end the series. It kind of reminds me of my other favorite in the series, We Are In A Book!

Here is Christine choosing between Ballet Cat: It's A Secret Secret and I Need a Nap in one of Alabama school librarian Benji Martin's Monday Book Battles.

John Schu, Ambassador for School Libraries, is celebrating #thankorama month on his blog

Monday, May 9, 2016

New Book Tuesday 5/10

Only one new release this week:

I bought the books below for Global Read-a-loud 2016. Details here: https://theglobalreadaloud.com

Thursday, May 5, 2016

YA Friday: The Great American Whatever

It is summer and HOT. Quinn Roberts is grieving the loss of his sister, Annabeth, in a tragic car accident that happened right before Christmas Break. The world has stopped for both him and his mom. Rotten food is still in the refrigerator, mail is piling up and Quinn is no longer doing anything teenagers usually do: going to school, hanging out with friends, dating or pursuing their interests. For Quinn, this means finishing his screenplay, something he can't bear to do, because it connects him to Annabeth, who directed the filming of his screenplays. His grief is compounded by his guilt over fighting with Annabeth the day she died, including sending her an awful text message.

His best friend Geoff persuades him to go out to buy an air conditioner, which bizarrely leads to attending a college party. There Quinn meets Amir, his first love interest. What follows is a first romance, Quinn attempting to deal with his grief and guilt, and a shocking secret that almost destroys everyone.

I loved, LOVED this book! I alternated between never wanting to put it down and trying to stop after each chapter so that I could slow down and savor it. I laughed and cried as I read; I identified so much with Quinn even though I'm a 38-year old woman. Grief and guilt are themes many adults have had to experience, but I also credit the strength of the writing for developing that connection. I also loved the references to the Pittsburgh area, one of my favorite places to visit, especially the Kennywood chapter. I could practically feel myself on "The Rabbit" and taste the Patch fries. I have not read Federle's middle grade novels, Five, Six, Seven, Nate or Better Nate Than Ever, but after finishing The Great American Whatever, I picked up both from the public library. I hope he publishes more books for young adults. Highly recommended for grades 9 and up.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Middle Grades/Nonfiction Thursday: Pink is For Blob Fish

Even though Pink is for Blob Fish is considered a nonfiction picture book Sara and I chose it for our Middle Grades book this week. This book is full of facts and pictures about awesome animals who have pink coloration. Some cool facts I learned from this book include: 

1. Male pigmy seahorse get pregnant and carry the eggs until they hatch. 

2. Pigments in shrimp make the Roseate Spoonbills feathers turn pink. 

3. Southern Blind Snakes avoid light. 

4. Naked Mole Rats are cancer free so they maybe used for cancer treatments. 

5. Pink Sea Stars stick their stomachs outside of their months to eat items that are to big. 

This book is awesome because it provides the reader with facts about animals they may have never heard of. It also has an awesome layout that includes illustrations like this one. 

These illustrations by David DeGrand and animals facts by Jess Keating will draw children to this book. I recommend adding Pink is for Blobfish as an addition to elementary school, middle school, and public libraries. This is also an excellent book to add to your child's library especially, if they are interested in animals. 

My favorite animal from this book is: 

For more information about Jess Keating and her books visit her website:

To see more illustrations and art from David DeGrand visit his website:



Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Picture Book Wednesday: You Must Be This Tall

Sara's Review:

Two snakes, Frank and Harold, visit the fair. They have a great time until they get to a ride that Harold is not tall enough to ride. What follows is their hilarious attempts to get past the pig gatekeeper who refuses them at every turn, repeating, "You must be this tall." Their final solution made me laugh out loud and made my fourth grade daughter "gasp." It is hilarious problem solving and could be a great book to jump start a STEAM project for elementary students. Highly recommended.

Amy's Review:
I thought You Must be This Tall was a really cute book. It reminded of little kids who complain about things not being fair all the time especially, those with older brothers or sisters. My favorite part of the story is when Frank tries to help Harrold dress up to become taller. This book is extremely funny and entertaining. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

New Book Tuesday 5/3

have 11 books coming today! To keep this post from being forever long, I'm just going to share the ones being released tomorrow and will share the others next week. Happy Reading! 

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I am loving Tim Federle's YA debut.


My next book for Newbery Pie is the 1960 winner.

On a YA kick lately: