Food, Read Your World

Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao By Kat Zhang

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Back of Book: 

Amy loves to make bao with her family. But it takes skill to make the bao taste and look delicious. And her bao keeps coming out all wrong. Then she has an idea that may give her a second chance…Will Amy ever make the perfect bao?

My Review:

I received a copy of this picture book from Simon and Schuster books in exchange for an honest review. 

Debut author Kat Zhang has crafted a fantastic book that showcases Amy’s relicense in creating the perfect bao. The story follows a young girl named Amy as she tries to make the perfect sized bao. Sometimes they have too much filling and sometimes not enough. Amy knows that with enough practice she may reach her goal. Sadly, nothing she tries is working the way it should. Just when she is ready to give up, Amy comes up with the perfect solution to her problem. 

I love that this story focuses on the tradition of family coming together and cooking their favorite dish. I also loved that Amy brings bao to her school and shares it with her classroom. The illustrations by Charlene Chua are bright and give readers a good look at how bao is made. I love the adorable kitty that makes an appearance on each page. I was very excited to see a recipe in the back of the book on how to make Amy’s bao. 

I plan on using this story to begin my writer’s workshop with my students on how to write step by step instructions. This is a wonderful and creative picture book. 

Ages 5 and up

40 Pages 

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Pioneers

Home in The Woods By Eliza Wheeler

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Back of Book:

Eliza Wheeler’s gorgeously illustrated book tells the story of what happens when six-year-old Marvel, her seven siblings, and their mom must start all over again after their father has died. Deep in the woods of Wisconsin, they find a tar-paper shack. It doesn’t seem like much of a home, but they soon start seeing what it could be. During their first year, it’s a struggle to maintain the shack and make sure they have enough to eat. But each season also brings its own delights and blessings–and the children always find a way to have fun. Most importantly, the family finds immense joy in being together, surrounded by nature. And slowly, their little shack starts feeling like a true home–warm, bright and filled up with love.

My Review:

I received a copy of this picture book from Nancy Paulsen Books in exchange for an honest review.

Every year I teach a unit on pioneers. When I read the description of Home in the Woods, I knew it would be an excellent addition to my lessons on how pioneers lived. 

Eliza Wheeler tells the story of her grandmother’s childhood in the woods of Wisconsin. Marvel and her seven siblings and their mother no longer had a home and soon after, her father died of cancer. They trudged into the woods and found an abandoned tar paper home. The first year is difficult, but the family finds joy in small things. Through their courage and perseverance, the family makes their small house a home. The illustrations are nothing short of stunning. The blend of muted and bright colors allow readers to see the details on each page. 

I loved that Eliza weaved in a message of the importance of family, and hard work. The back of the book has a note from Eliza where she shares more about her grandma. 

This is a terrific book to share in the classroom for any pioneer unit. It is a beautiful look at how when family comes together, anything is possible. 

Ages 5 and up

32 Pages  

Biography, Space

Always Looking Up: Nancy Grace Roman, Astronomer By Laura Gehl

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My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Albert Whitman Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
This is a fascinating nonfiction narrative about the life and work of Nancy Grace Roman. As a child, Nancy Grace loved to look up at the beauty of the night sky. She grew up with a curious mind and a thirst for knowledge. In college, she was told that only men studied science, but that didn’t stop her. She became the chief of astronomy for NASA and came up with a plan with engineers and astronomers to create the Hubble Telescope.
Laura Gehl did an excellent job of writing a well researched, and inspiring picture book about the woman who became the Mother of the Hubble Telescope.
The illustrations by Louise Pigott and Alex Oxton are bright and detailed! They did an excellent job of bringing the night sky to life and showcasing the splendor of the Hubble Telescope.
The back of the book has an  author note that shares more information about the life and career of Nancy Grace. There is also a timeline of every event in Nancy Grace’s life.
This story needs to be in every elementary classroom and is perfect for any space-themed or STEM unit.
Ages 6 and up
48 Pages

Family, Grandparents, Read Your World

The Bar Mitzvah Boys By Myron Uhlberg

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Back of Book:
Grandpa was never bar mitzvahed; it was wartime, and life was difficult. It’s been a regret his whole life. Many years later, it’s his grandson’s time to go through the Jewish ritual of coming of age. The father suggests that they be bar mitzvahed together. They study together, recite together, and celebrate together.
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Albert Whitman Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Myron Uhlberg weaved a stunning tale based on a true story about a grandfather and grandson who went through the bar mitzvah process together.  The text tells the story of the grandfather who was apart of the Holocaust and unable to properly become a man. When his grandson comes of age, the two of them go through the process together. The illustrations by  Carolyn Arcabascio have a dreamlike quality. They are breathtaking and draw readers into the story. This story is such a touching tribute to the importance of honoring tradition and culture.
Ages 6 and up
32 Pages

 

Biography, History

Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln By Margarita Engle

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Back of Book:
As a little girl, Teresa Carreño loved to let her hands dance across the beautiful keys of the piano. If she felt sad, music cheered her up, and when she was happy, the piano helped her share that joy. Soon she was writing her own songs and performing in grand cathedrals. Then a revolution in Venezuela forced her family to flee to the United States. Teresa felt lonely in this unfamiliar place, where few of the people she met spoke Spanish. Worst of all, there was fighting in her new home, too—the Civil War.Still, Teresa kept playing, and soon she grew famous as the talented Piano Girl who could play anything from a folk song to a sonata. So famous, in fact, that President Abraham Lincoln wanted her to play at the White House! Yet with the country torn apart by war, could Teresa’s music bring comfort to those who needed it most?
My Review:
I read this stunning historical story in my classroom to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month. I had never heard about Teresa Carreño and was amazed to learn so much about the young talented pianist who played for President Lincoln.
Margarita Engle’s lyrical text draws readers in and welcomes them to a world where music was a calming force amid uncertainty and war.  The illustrations by  Rafael López are vibrant and absolutely breathtaking. The contrast of light and dark beautifully match the mood of the text.
The historical note in the back of the book shares more about the life and music of Teresa Carreño.

This is an excellent story to share with any Civil War or Presidents Day lesson. It also tied in perfectly with my lessons for National Hispanic  Heritage Month.
Ages 5 and up
40 Pages
Books and Library, Fairy Tales

Reading Beauty By Deborah Underwood

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Back of Book: 

When a fairy’s curse—a deathlike sleep via paper cut—threatens to make her kingdom barren of books, it’s up to space princess Lex to break the spell and bring books back to her people. Set in the universe of the acclaimed Cinderella, this empowering bedtime story will entice young readers with its brave heroine, star-studded setting, and hilarious, heartwarming happy ending.

My Review: 

I received a copy of this picture book from Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review.  

 Readers will love this fun sci-fi twist on the classic story of Sleeping Beauty. I love using fractured fairy tales in my classroom to teach my students different perspectives. We read Reading Beauty last week and my students loved the unique setting and plot twists. The rhyming text made this an engaging a fun story. The edgy illustrations by Meg Hunt are done in pastels and paint a perfect picture to match a scientific fairytale. 

My favorite part of this book is that it centers around a love of reading and how important books are. I used the theme to have a conversation with my class about why literacy is important and how we can continue to embrace it. 

This is a terrific picture book that should be in every elementary classroom. 

Ages 5 and up

44 Pages

STEM

How to Code a Rollercoaster By Josh Funk

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Back of Book: 

Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, are enjoying a day out at the amusement park. Spinning teacups, ice cream, and of course: rollercoasters! Through the use of code, Pearl and Pascal can keep track of their ride tokens and calculate when the line is short enough to get a spot on the biggest ride of them all–the Python Coaster. Variables, if-then-else sequences, and a hunt for a secret hidden code make this a humorous, code-tastic day at the amusement park!

My Review:

I received a copy of this picture book from Viking Books For Young Readers in exchange for an honest review. 

Josh Funk has created another fantastic book about the concept of Coding. This time Pearl and her robot Pascal are going to the amusement park to ride on the roller coaster. Along the way, Pearl introduces readers to the concept of using code to map out her activities for the day. The text does an excellent job of incorporating computer jargon into the story without it seeming overwhelming to young readers. The back of the book has a guide to coding which gives readers the definitions and explanations of the concepts that Pearl uses. The illustrations by Sara Palacios are bright and playful. They blend the perfect amount of science and fun. I am very excited that Josh wrote another story that blends STEM concepts with literacy. His books allow readers to learn something new, while still having fun. A must-have for any STEM or computer coding lesson. 

Ages 5 and up

44 Pages

Biography, English Language Arts

16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow ” By Lisa Rogers

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Back of Book: 

“Look out the window. What do you see? If you are Dr. William Carlos Williams, you see a wheelbarrow. A drizzle of rain. Chickens scratching in the damp earth.” The wheelbarrow belongs to Thaddeus Marshall, a street vendor, who every day goes to work selling vegetables on the streets of Rutherford, New Jersey. That simple action inspires poet and doctor Williams to pick up some of his own tools–a pen and paper–and write his most famous poem.

My Review: 

I received a copy of this picture book from Schwartz & Wade in exchange for an honest review. 

Debut author Lisa Rogers created a lyrical and moving story about poet William Carlos Williams. The story centers around the poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” and why William choose to write it. The book follows the lives, Williams and Mr. Thaddeus Marshall, as they navigate everyday life. The story shows readers the importance of being mindful in the small aspects of life as well as the big things. The illustrations by Chuck Groenink are soft and stunning. They beautifully capture the essence of the story. This is a fantastic story to read with any poetry unit. It is a perfect introduction to having students write their own poem using sixteen words. Lisa Rogers is a talented author and I look forward to reading more books from her in the future. 

Ages 6 and up

40 Pages 

Christmas

How to Trick a Christmas Elf by Sue Fliess

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Back of Book:
Legend has it that the only way to find out if you’re on Santa’s naughty or nice list is to trick an elf into letting you sneak a peek! But be careful: elves are tricky themselves! To get a look at the list, you’ll need to be clever in crafting a distracting craft to catch the elf’s attention. So, grab some Christmas supplies like ribbons, twinkle lights, bows, and candy canes, and get prepared for your sly holiday visitor!
 On the nights leading up to Christmas, one of Santa’s elves will show up to keep watch on kids and to report on their naughty or nice behavior! However, if you’re careful and clever and quick, you can set up a beautiful little sleigh that will distract your elf, and then you’ll be sure to get a glimpse at Santa’s list!
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from Sky Pony Press Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
I was thrilled to see that Sue created a Christmas version of her Magical Creatures and Crafts Series. My students loved the Easter bunny story and I cannot wait to share this new addition with them.
How to Trick A Christmas Elf follows a group of children as they attempt to change the elves mind, and make it on the nice list.
The children come up with a plan to create a Christmas sleigh for the elf and hope that he will love it. The end of the story is sweet and holds a sweet message for readers about the joys of giving. The rhyming scheme is  
The illustrations by Simona Sanfilippo are playful and bright. They allow readers to feel like they are a part of the holiday season.
As a teacher, I have always appreciated that Sue ties in STEM concepts to her stories.   The text gives readers a detailed step by step instruction on how to create the perfect sleigh. 
The back of the book has more instructions on how to build a miniature sleigh. As well as more information about the history of  Santas Elves.
This is a terrific addition to any holiday lesson that requires a STEM component.
Ages 5 and up
32 Pages
Skills Children Learn

What Should Danny Do? By Ganit & Adir Levy

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Back of Book:
9 Stories in 1! What Should Danny Do? is an innovative, interactive book that empowers kids with the understanding that their choices will shape their days, and ultimately their lives into what they will be. Written in a “Choose Your Own Story” style, the book follows Danny, a Superhero-in-Training, through his day as he encounters choices that kids face on a daily basis. As your children navigate through the different storylines, they will begin to realize that their choices for Danny shaped his day into what it became. And in turn, their choices for themselves will shape their days, and ultimately their lives, into what they will be.
My Review:
I received a copy of this picture book from authors Ganit & Adir Levy in exchange for an honest review.
I am absolutely in love with this amazing story that teaches children about the power of choice in any situation. The story follows a young boy named Danny as he navigates through everyday occurrences.  This is such an excellent tool to use in the classroom. My students loved following Danny as he made the right, and wrong decisions. I love the message of choice that is weaved throughout the story. It is so important in today’s classroom that we teach social and emotional learning. In my classroom, this includes how to stop, and consider a reaction to a problem. What Should Danny Do was a perfect book to use for writing assignments, and problem-solving discussions.  The illustrations by Matt Sadler are bright and full of color. They kept my students engaged and listening.
I am thankful and excited that there is a series like this in the world. I look forward to reading the rest of the Danny series.
Ages 5 and up
68 Pages