New Shoes by Susan Meyers and illustrated by Eric Velasquez

Schema: being discriminated against

In the story, the main character and her mother arrive at the shoe store before a white girl and her father. The store clerk helps the white family first, and the white girl is allowed to try on several pairs of shoes before making her purchase. Ella Mae’s mother has to trace Ella Mae’s feet on some paper provided at the store, and that is how her size is decided.

Text-to-Text Connection: Going Someplace Special by Patricia McKissack

In this historical fiction picture book, two young African-American girls find a way to help children like themselves to be able to try on shoes before buying them. The author’s note explains that in the south before the civil rights movement, black people were not allowed to try on hats, shoes, or clothes before buying them. The girls in the story collect used shoes, clean and polish them, and open their own store in their storage building to help families needing shoes for their children. The girls are excellent female role models.

Eric Velasquez, an African-American, provides very realistic paintings to convey the feelings of the characters.

Read to Me! by Chris Helene Bridge

Schema: hearing a book read aloud

This is one of those special books that a parent or caregiver will never tire of re-reading aloud to little ones. Rhyming text will have your listeners memorizing the book and saying it with you quickly.

Children love to share in reading a predictive text with a repetitive phrase. The phrase “read to me,” will give young readers a part of the story that they can say with you each time. The idea that reading can take place anywhere we are is shown as the author shows reading taking place at home in a chair, on the floor, in between chores such as cooking and laundry, outdoors, in the car, on a boat, traveling, at the park, in the bath tub, and in bed. Each page is brightly illustrated in collage art.

Tips for parents about the importance of reading to a child are included.

This book would be a great gift for new parents.

Princess Patty Meets Her Match by Charise Mericle Harper

Schema: Princess fairy tales

Text-to-Text Connections: Cinderella, Princess and the Pea, Snow White, Rapunzel

Princess Patty decides to be proactive in finding her prince. As she travels, she meets princes who are looking for their princess, and with each one, Princess Patty sees their flaws and knows they are not for her.

Before leaving her castle, Princess Patty selects some items to take with her. She gives these items away to the people she meets on her journey. Character traits such as thoughtfulness, generosity, compassion, and helpfulness are demonstrated as she chooses one of her items to give away. The point is not lost on the reader as we learn what traits in a prince are important to Patty.

Characterization: As Patty gives her items away, the author states that Patty is showing a character trait such as compassion.

Sequencing: List the order of the princes Patty meets

Synthesis: What traits would you look for in a prince or princess?

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Making Money and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

In Charlie Joe’s new adventure about how to make money, Charlie and his friends will keep you laughing again. If you take Charlie Joe’s advise about choosing books with short chapters, this one will qualify. Lots of short chapters, funny sketches, and embarrassing situations will keep middle level readers turning the pages. This book would also be a great read aloud throughout the year. The chapters are short and funny and will keep your listeners wanting more.

Charlie wants to find ways to make money without having to put himself out too much. Between having to pay some of his profits to mother to clean up the mess his job created to impressing his dad with his computer skills, Charlie makes a little money, but more than that, he learns more about himself and his friends and has a strange feeling about, could it be, a future girlfriend!

Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading
Schema: procrastination

Summary: Charlie Joe received books as his birthday present when he was only young child and was so disappointed that he developed a very strong distaste for reading. He schemes, plans, connives, bribes, and experiments in every way he can think of to get out of reading. He worries, gets punished by losing his phone, computer, and everything he enjoys for his lack of reading. Charlie Joe is in  middle school.   Between the reading problems, Charlie Joe is shocked by the relationships and cliques that are developing in his school.   His parents are embarrassed by him, and his teachers are disappointed in him, but Charlie Joe likes himself and is optimistic. His final stand at getting out of reading involves him launching a social experiment to get kids from opposite cliques to like and hang out with each other.

Cause and Effect: Because Charlie Joe will not read his own books, the effect is that he suffers many consequences.

Voice: Charlie’s voice permeates the book.

The book is formatted with many short chapters and short lists.

Text-to-Text connection with The Diary of the Wimpy Kid series in storyline as well as art work.

Author’s POV: The book is written in  first person.

Check out the author’s website.

Way Down Deep and the sequel, The Treasure of Way Down Deep by Ruth White

Way Down Deep by Ruth White, is set in Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains in a small town named Way Down Deep, but the title has a meaning deeper than the name of the town.

The reader learns about several adults who have issues with their past and live in the town and at the Roost, the boarding house where Ruby has lived since she arrived in Way Down Deep.

As the plot is revealed, the reader sees many of the characters looking way down deep in their hearts and souls to face their problems so that they may live happily in the present.  The past sorrows of many of their lives had twisted their outlook on life in a negative way.

Ruby and her guardian, Miss Arbutus, express their deep feelings and in doing so show the others a way to communicate and help themselves to live productive lives.

Ruby realizes that life holds its sorrows and “bitter berries,” but life also holds many happy moments if you are open to receive them.

This book is a great book talk for grades 5 and up.  I found it to be a therapeutic read that opened me up to an optimistic view on life.  Way Down Deep is a book many adults who work with children should read.

In the sequel, The Treasure of Way Down Deep, Ruby is celebrating her thirteenth birthday, in 1955, with everyone at the Roost and school friends when she receives a gift from a six-year-old child, Rita, who is staying at the Roost and going to school with Ruby. The gift appears to be an old button, but later, Ruby realizes it is a “piece of eight” and may be part of a treasure that the man who started the town is rumored to have buried. Ruth White has a gift to make her characters authentic and true. She shows through her characters how we as readers can choose to be good to ourselves and each other. Like in the first book, Miss Arbutus, has dreams that show events that happen in the story. She sees a man in her dream that tells her that Ruby’s birthday wish will come true. Ruby pursues the treasure, but the real treasure is the love that the people in Way Down Deep have for the children and each other. I highly recommend this series to people of all ages. I put this one up at the top of the list of the best books I have ever read.

Gearing up for Summer Reading

Gave away 500 new paperback books to kids at school today for their first “summer reading” assignment in elementary school! I’ll be starting the year talking about characters, plot and theme with grades 2-6 in September next year. Second grade is reading Thaler’s Black Lagoon’s Summer Vacation or Black Lagoon’s Reading Challenge or Allard’s Miss Nelson Has a Field Day. Third grade is reading Sachar’s Wayside School Gets a Little Stranger. Fourth Grade is reading Riordan’s Percy Jackson Sea of Monsters, and Fifth grade is reading Paulson’s Hatchet or Fletcher’s Flying Solo. With our gently used book giveaway and these brand new paperbacks and checking out books from our library, my students should have plenty to read this summer if they want to. Hoping they can hang on to the top of that “Summer Slide.”

Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher

Schema: sixth graders, school, substitutes, death

Point of View: Students share their feelings and thoughts about their personal lives and then join each other at school allowing the reader to have background knowledge on the characters that other characters in the story are not aware.

Summary: The sixth graders learn about themselves and all of them grow up a little in one school day as they share through their writing feelings about guilt and forgiveness for treating a classmate cruelly preceding his sudden death.

If you like this book, you would also enjoy Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea

Silly Shoes: Poems to make you smile by Lawson Gow

In this picture book formated poetry book, both readers and listeners will be smiling and laughing as the poems are read. Elements of poetry are illustrated throughout the selections. In “Expression Salad,” idioms such as “he went bananas” are used which could lead to a fun discussion about literary elements. In “My Chocolate Bunny,” a reference to Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is included which could lead to a reader to a chapter book. There are so many poems that children will enjoy such as “Backwards Land,” about candy such as Twizzlers, Snickers, Reese’s, and other name brand treats. Tasting these while reading, would indeed, be memorable for children. What a fun book for parents and teachers to use in poetry units, transitional times, or just a fun read aloud.

The illustrations are entertaining and support each poem well.

A copy of the review book was provided by the publisher.

A Wild Ride on the Water Cycle: A Jake and Alice Adventure by Anthony Yanez

Informational text is merged with literary text in this fun picture book about two water drops, Jake and Alice. The story begins with the two friends being swallowed by dinosaurs. The story shows readers how after millions of years, the same water drops cycle through the earth over and over.
Schema: rain,clouds, drinking water
Sequence: Sequence the cycle that Jake and Alice follow.
Vocabulary: a glossary is included featuring water cycle terms such as “evapotranspiration”
Illustrations of Jake and Alice show lots of action and cute situations, but graphics of the water flow cycle are also included.
Science curriculum: This book would be a great choice for elementary teachers needing to introduce the water cycle.

The author is a meteorologist.

A review copy of the book was provided by the publisher.



Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney

Sojourner Truth’s picture book biography tells of her remarkable life and her desire to make a difference for African Americans and women during the 1850’s.
Character Analysis: Sojourner has many traits that could be compared with Dr. Martin Luther King’s life as told in Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport.They were both determined to never give up. Both were ministers, and both were threatened because of their conviction to improve the life of those they sought to help.

In teaching with this wonderful book, I also taught the poem by Robert Frost, Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening.  Both the books and the poem share the theme of never giving up.  The students could imagine both Sojourner Truth and Dr. King saying they had “promises to keep and many miles to go before I sleep.”