The Wild Robot – Mock Newbery 2017

Wild Robot

Can a picture book author/illustrator write a chapter book?  Of course.  But can they write a good one? Peter Brown can.  Since I first read The Curious Garden, I’ve been a fan of Peter Brown’s picture books.  Now, I’m a fan of his first middle grade novel, The Wild Robot.

This book is a definite read aloud.  Hopefully, MLs teacher will let me come to the class and book talk some books before summer.  This will be on the list.  I can’t wait to read “Have the nicest evening Pinktail.  I shall look forward to the pleasure of encountering you again in the future.  Soon, I hope.  Farewell.” (page 68)  The other quote that will be shared is when the animals are helping Roz with a garden.  She thanked all the animals for their help.  “I am not capable of defecating so your droppings are most appreciated.” (page 94)

It’s hard to find books for children who read on a higher grade level but aren’t emotionally ready for some of the themes explored in middle grade novels.  I’m adding this book to my post titled First Graders Who Fly Through Magic Tree House Books I wrote after ML’s first grade teacher asked for recommendations.

I hope Peter Brown has another middle grade novel in the works.  And some picture books.  His talent for both types of books is phenomenal.  Another book for my Mock Newbery 2017.  So many good books are being published this year.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to choose which one deserves the medal.


Booked – Mock Newbery 2017


Reading a novel in verse is a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month.  Though I don’t need a reason to read novels in verse.  I love them.  Oftentimes, it’s a love or hate relationship people have for these poetic novels.  Booked by Kwame Alexander will be a love for everyone… adults, girls and most importantly adolescent males.  The online catalog describes Booked as “Twelve-year-old Nick loves soccer and hates books; but soon learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully and tries to impress the girl of his dreams.”

Reading this novel is like going down a rabbit hole.  You find yourself learning new words that you want to memorize and bring out in conversation:  yobbery, limerance, onomatophobia, sweven and irascent.  Then, there are the book recommendations provided in the poems:  Out of the DustLocomotion, Peace, Locomotion and All the Broken Pieces.  As a lover, of novels in verse I was surprised I haven’t read All the Broken Pieces.  Then, I saw the publication date. . . 2009.  ML was three.  I wasn’t reading many books over the standard 32 pages picture books at that time.

I’m off to read All the Broken Pieces; but first let me assure you Booked is on my Mock Newbery 2017.  Alexander’s The Crossover won the Newbery in 2015.  Booked is just as worthy of a medal.  These books need a jazzier genre name.  Novel in Verse doesn’t cut it.  Rapping Read is a better term!

The Key to Extraordinary – Mock Newbery 2017

Key to Extraordinary

Almost two years ago, I wrote a post about Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd stating I wasn’t reading another page of the book until I thought ML would both enjoy and get it.  My guesstimate was somewhere between fourth to seventh grade.  Currently, I’m in a conundrum.  ML has matured a lot in the past two years.  She’s ready for Snicker of Magic; but she’s also ready for Natalie Lloyd’s current release The Key to Extraordinary.  We have limited time to read aloud with each other.  I’ve thought long and hard about which book she and I should read together.

Finally, I had an AHA! moment.  It’s more important for she and I to read The Key to Extraordinary together.  One story line throughout the book is grieving the death of a mother.  Something I know about.  Thankfully, I was thirty when my mother passed away; not an elementary school girl.

ML and I talk about Grandma Nell often.  This book provides new ways to share about mom with ML.  Flowers and their meaning play a big part in The Key to Extraordinary.  Flowers were a big part of mom’s life too.  Some of my earliest memories are in mom’s flower garden.  I fondly remember her yellow roses, yellow marigolds, orange day lilies. . .

After my mother passed away, my dad sold my childhood home.  He encouraged me take anything I wanted.  One of the precious items I  have is  the book given to mom for being the Garden Club President.  It’s called Tussie Mussies:  The Victorian Art of Expressing Yourself in the Language of Flowers by Geraldine Adamich Laufer.  After reading The Key to Extraordinary, I’ll share this book with ML. I’m thinking about adding a few blank pages to the book so we can start a family “Book of Days.”  Read the book The Key to Extraordinary and you’ll understand what I’m saying.

Tussie Mussie

After reading The Key to Extraordinary, ML will be eager to read A Snicker of Magic.  I’ve decided it will be the summer book for her bookclub.  Any member who reads the book, can come to the Snicker of Magic Ice-Cream Party.  Of course, ML and I will have a centerpiece with a secret message in the meaning of the flowers.  The girls can crack it using the Tussie Mussies book and the end papers of The Key to Extraordinary.


Summerlost by Ally Condie


Ally Condie writer of the international best-selling young adult, dystopian series Matched published her first book for middle-grade students, Summerlost.  I haven’t read the Matched series but am eager to after reading Summerlost.  I enjoyed all 249 pages which described in poetic detail the special friendship developing between Leo and Cedar.  A perfect book to share with ML and show what healthy friendships look like whether they are between a boy and a girl, two girls or two boys.


I Hit The Jackpot Today. . .

Four new picture books and one juvenile nonfiction book were waiting for me when I arrived at work.  I’m about to read all of them and tell you what I think.

Are We There Yet

Are We There Yet? but Dan Santat – A problem has been solved.  I’ve been searching furiously for a book to read to 3rd-5th graders for my “On the Go” program.  I’ll teach games to play in a car, train or airplane.  Thankfully, I have lots of third-graders to help me decide which games to share.  Although, it’s possible we might spend the entire 45 minutes pouring over the delightful illustrations in this book and not get to the games.

Horrible Bear

Horrible Bear! by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora – My job responsibilites have changed; and I’m not doing a lot of story times.  One Saturday a month, I’ll have the honor.  The first book I want to read is Horrible Bear!  Ame Dycman books are always hilarious and startling.  Zachariah OHora’s illustrations are awesome.  So much so that it’s the first book I’m adding for a Mock Caldecott in 2017.

Twenty Yawns

Twenty Yawns by Jane Smiley and illustrated by Lauren Castillo –  Can an author of many novels for adults, one of which won the Pulitzer Prize write a great picture book?  The answer is yes.  This is a perfect bedtime story about a day in the life of a preschooler.  We need diverse books is an important plea by those who love children’s books.  This book meets the need in a very subtle way.  The family includes a father with lighter skin and a mother with darker skin.  This is how ML described people in preschool before learning labels based on race.  The love of this family for eachother is apparent in every illustration.  Another for the 2017 Mock Caldecott.

have a look

Have a Look, Says Book. by Richard Jackson and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes – This book is a must to help children learn about adjectives in a way that will resonate with them.  The page which will resonate with ML the most is “I am scratchy says tutu.”  It appears the scratchiness of ballet costumes has not changed since I was a child.  ML can vouch for that.

Worms for Breakfast

Worms for Breakfast:  How to Feed a Zoo by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Kathy Boake – My little animal loving chef is going to love this book.  A creative way to share information about the zoo, what animals eat and ways to take care of our earth which benefit animals.  I’d write more but I really want to read all the recipes from Platypus Party Mix to Midnight Mealworm Mush.  I’m seeing a program for kindergartners through fifth on graders on what animals eat in my future.

Would You Rather Dine with a Dung Beetle or Lunch with a Maggot?

Dung Beetle

Last night, ML brought a notebook in my bedroom and started asking me “Would you rather questions?”  Would you rather bathe in a bathtub full of leeches or one full of worms?  Would you rather drink milk for the rest of your life or lemonade?  Plus a lot more that I can’t remember because I was half asleep.

This morning I read a book called Would You Rather Dine with a Dung Beetle or Lunch with a Maggot? by Camilla de la Bedoyere and illustrated by Mel Howells.  The Would You Rather. . .  series is perfect for the elementary set.  Since, kindergarten I’ve heard ML and her friends quizzing each other other on their preferences.

Tonight, I’ll ask ML “Would you rather questions?”  I ‘m certain of a few of her answers.  She loves snails; so I know she would prefer to live with a snail than a family of termites.  Seeing that we are in soccer season, I feel certain ML would prefer a millipede as a sister than a stick insect as a brother.  Imagine what her team could do if they had a bug with up to 750 legs on the team.  There is no question, she would definitely prefer to cartwheel like a flic-flack spider.  I think her record is five in a row.  She loved to do more than twenty-five in a row.  The big question is would ML rather dine with a dung beetle or lunch with a maggot.  I can’t even begin to guess her answer.

I was already considering a library program about bugs next spring.  Now, it’s official.  I will be reading Would You Rather. . . Dine with a Dung Beetle or Lunch with a Maggot? to kindergarten – fifth graders.

Raymie Nightingale – Mock Newbery 2017


Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book and School Library Journal all gave Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo a starred  review.  However, it didn’t receive 5 stars from me.  I’ve been thinking about the book all weekend and why I didn’t give it five stars.  After all,  it met Judy Freeman’s criteria for a great book.  It startled, surprised and satisfied.  The climax of the story created an image I’ve been seeing all weekend.

But it still only gets 4 stars.  Mainly, because ML has been raving about a different Kate DiCamillo book, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, for months.  I read it a few weeks ago.  Then, asked her what she liked about it.  She loved how it was happy, then sad, then happy, then sad. . . until the very happy ending.  I’m not seeing ML being as enchanted with Raymie; but I should read it with her and see what she says.  If she loves it, I’ll change it to five stars.

It will definitely be on every Mock Newbery list out there.  If it wins, I wouldn’t be disappointed.  And maybe after reading it with ML, it will be my choice.

Judy Freeman and I Agree – 10 of the Best Books Published in 2015

Recently I attended an excellent workshop by Judy Freeman called What’s New In Children’s Literature and Strategies for Using It in Your Program.  It includes a workbook with an list of the 150 Best Children’s Books published in 2015.  I was excited to see some of the books I featured on the blog on the list.  There were several that I started entries about last year; but wasn’t able to polish and publish the posts.  Truthfully, some of the posts just have a title and author.  Here are 10 books that Judy Freeman loved which I meant to share with you in 2015.

I love what Judy said on how to determine if a book is great.  “Did the book leave you Surprised? Startled? Satisfied?  Each of these books left me that way.


Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno


Ketzel, the Cat who Composed by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Amy June Bates


Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter and illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Mama Seeton

Mama Seeton’s Whistle by Jerry Spinelli and illustrated LeUyen Pham


Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina and illustrated by Angela Dominguez

three best friends

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Billys Boogers

Billy’s Booger: A Memoir by William Joyce

Stick and Stone

Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry and illustrated Tom Lichtenheld

Imagiinary Fred

Imaginary Fred by Eoin Colfer and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers

The Nest

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and illustrated by Jon Klassen

The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof

Cat Who Came In Off the Roof

The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt is adorable.  Though I wouldn’t say that to the intended age group of readers.  I’d replace adorable with captivating and funny.  I plowed through it and found myself wishing I was a kindergarten – third grade teacher, so I could start reading the book aloud to my class the next day.  The books was published in the Netherlands in 1970 by their acclaimed children’s literature author Annie M.G. Schmidt who received the 1988 Hans Christian Andersen Medal for her lasting contribution as a children’s writer.  It is the highest recognition available to a writer or illustrator of children’s books.

I’m convinced if this book was offered in English when I was a child, my second grade teacher, Ms. Coffee, would have read it to us.  Through Facebook, I learned Ms. Coffee turned 100 hundred recently.  My comment about her reading Laura Ingalls Wilder books and The Mouse and the Motorcycle while she sat in the special, cushy class reading chair resulted in others sharing fond memories of her read-alouds.

I can’t tell you exactly which teacher introduced me to fractions or commas or prepositions.  However, I can tell you the teacher’s who read out loud to my class and which were my favorite books they read.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle – Mock Newbery 2017

Rookskill Castle

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet S. Fox is the second book I’ve read this year which I think is a contender for the 2017 Newbery Award.  It won’t be on ML’s list because she doesn’t like scary books.  Though this one is more creepy than scary.  Also, it has a historical fiction bent.  If your child isn’t prone to nightmares about ghosts, this is a great book.  It’s my new go to for kids who want a creepy, scary book.

“That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do:  when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse.  What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night?  Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own?  And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.”  (synopsis from publisher’s website)