A Fantastic Spin on a Childhood Classic

The Giant of Jum by Elli Woollard is a clever twist on the classic childhood tale Jack and the Beanstalk. The Giant of Jum is hungry. He sets out in search of a legendary snack, a boy named Jack. This storyline reminds me of one of my favorite books, The BFG by Roald Dahl, which I love reading to my upper elementary-aged students each year.

The Giant of Jum is presented as a horrific creature. He is grumpy and grouchy. He stomps all about and dreams about eating young children. Each time the Giant of Jum encounters young children, he ends up helping them rather than feasting on them. From fetching a ball from the top of a tall fountain to rescuing a skeptical looking cat.

When The Giant of Jum finally meets a young boy named Jack, will he fulfill his destiny or start to see himself in a different light?

The Giant of Jum is a funny and engaging book about a giant who sees himself one way and ends up learning a lot about himself on his journey to find the elusive snack, a boy named Jack. The story is beautifully written with hilarious rhymes woven throughout. The illustrations by Benji Davies complement the tone of the story perfectly. The Giant is large in comparison to the characters and objects that surround him, yet his features are exaggerated in a way that make him odd looking rather than scary.

Click here to purchase a copy of The Giant of Jum (affiliate link).

I received a complimentary copy of The Giant of Jum in exchange for my honest review.

 

An Autobiographical Account of a Penny

One of my most memorable experiences as a student teacher came from a regular math routine early in the school year in a second grade classroom. Each day the class came together for a morning meeting and part of that routine included tracking the number of days we’ve been in school. They kept track of this number by writing the number, collecting colored dots on the tens frame and also by collecting coins that equaled the total number of days. On the first day the teachers put a penny underneath the document camera for the class to see. They asked the students, “What do you notice about this coin?” A young boy named Jack raised his hand and instead of describing the shape of the coin or the color of the coin, as we’d all expected, he gave the lengthy history of the coin. This experience was so important to me as a future teacher, you never know what to expect from kids and what knowledge they bring with them into the classroom if you don’t ask.

One Proud Penny by Randy Siegel is an awesome picture book that presents historically accurate information about the penny. It is narrated as an autobiographical account by a penny. It begins with information about when this penny was “born” and where, in 1983 in Philadelphia. Then continues on to explore the different uses of a penny, from providing exact change to spinning and flipping out of boredom or for fun.

One Proud Penny hints at the argument of whether pennies should be banned, one we explore in my 4th grade classroom during our argument and persuasive writing unit. It also highlights some important change over time (pun intended). For example, a penny used to be enough to buy ice cream or a newspaper, but that’s no longer the case.

One Proud Penny even details the difference in the composition of pennies when they were originally minted and today.

One Proud Penny is a wonderful tribute to the penny. A small yet durable coin that at times is a nuisance in our pockets or taking up lots of space in our wallet, and other times, helping us make exact change. The illustrations by Serge Bloch blend simple line drawings with actual images of pennies, in a way that adds to the comedic tone of the text. Together they create an informative and exciting informational book.

This is a must have book for any classroom and school library as well as any home collection of a kid who loves facts and information about money and coins. Click here to purchase a copy of One Proud Penny (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

An Awesome Book About Friendship and Acceptance

Zombelina: School Days by Kristyn Crow is an awesome picture book about celebrating differences and being welcoming of a new student. Zombelina is an enthusiastic, friendly and quirky protagonist. She loves to dance and share her talent with her classmates.

One day a new student named Morty joins Zomeblina’s class. At first he has some trouble fitting in. Zombelina and her best friend Lizzie do their best to make him feel welcome and included.

 

There are so many things I love about Zomeblina as a character. She is an extrovert and confident. She embraces her weirdness and doesn’t allow her differences to bring her down. This allows her to make real friends and make the most out of each experience. Not to mention that Zombelina is a zombie and she is constantly chasing after different body parts and struggling to keep herself physically together, which adds the perfect comical element to the story.

The story is written using a fun end rhyme scheme and there are lots of clever puns throughout. Click here to purchase a copy of Zomeblina: School Days (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Invisible Bill

Bill is a young boy, who also happens to be the middle child, who is tired of feeling invisible. His mom is a busy woman with an important job. She is always checking her whatchamacallit for messages. His dad is an important man with a busy job who is constantly answering his thingamajiggy. His big brother is a brainiac who is always reading and spewing out facts. His sister is very athletic. Each member of his family is consumed by their own lives and ideas that nobody stops to pay attention to Bill.

The final straw is when Bill asks somebody to pass him to potatoes at dinner and nobody does. Then all of a sudden, Bill turns invisible!

The next morning Bill’s mother does what any mother whose child has turned invisible does, she takes him to the doctor. Instead of having a conversation with Bill to figure out what is going on or why he might have turned invisible, he receives a treatment plan of, “A strong dose of permanent markers.” Then life for his family returns to normal for his mother, father, sister and brother, and Bill continues to feel invisible.

He decides to wipe off the permanent marker, write a letter to his family to say that he is leaving, and watch what happens.

InvisiBill by Maureen Fergus is an honest story that explores how sometimes kids can feel unappreciated or unnoticed. It encourages readers and families to take time to really enjoy one another’s company and be present in the moment. It also provides an opportunities to talk about frustrations kids may experience when they feel unheard.

The illustrations by Dusan Petricic are perfect. Each character occupies his own rectangle, which shows how disjointed they are.

Click here to purchase a copy of Invisibill (affiliate link).

*I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

 

A Sentimental Read

Little Blue Chair by Cary Fagan is reminiscent of The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.  A young boy named Boo has a special relationship with his little blue chair. When he outgrows the little blue chair, his mother places it on the lawn along with a sign that reads Please Take Me.

 Just like that begins the journey of the chair from one place to the next, serving a specific purpose until the user no longer needs it and places it out for someone else to take. The little blue chair becomes a stool for a potted plant to sit upon and a seat for children to take rides on an elephant.

Wherever the little blue chair goes it solves a problem, encourages imagination, and brings people together. One imaginative little boy ties a bunch of balloons to the chair so that it may carry him up into the sky, but before he sits down it flies away. Landing in the yard of a long lost friend who has the perfect use for it.

 Little Blue Chair is a beautiful story that pays homage to a simple household item that plays an important role in one’s life. When the person no longer has a use for the item, it is passed along to someone else who can repurpose it and treasure it in his own way.

Madeline Kloepper’s gorgeous illustrations include minute, hidden details and multiple scenes on a page which compliment the text perfectly. At times the movement from left to right across the page captures the passage of time in a subtle and thoughtful way.

Click here to purchase a copy of Little Blue Chair (affiliate link).

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

Wildlife Coloring Book

Wildlife: A Map Coloring Book by Natalie Hughes is the perfect gift for budding artists who love to learn about animals and different places in the world. Each map is jam-packed with different creatures that live in that particular part of the world as well as interesting facts about each. It would be fun to have kids compare and contrast the creatures they see across the pages and to draw bigger generalizations.

Wildlife is the perfect way to engage kids in learning about different species and places in the world. This book invites many great conversations about protecting the environment and the consequences of human actions on the well-being of Earth’s creatures.

Click here to purchase a copy of Wildlife: A Map Coloring Book (affiliate link).

 

A Wonderful Picture Book about Ramadan

Lailah’s Lunchbox is the perfect introduction to Ramadan for young students. Lailah is finally old enough to participate in fasting during Ramadan and she is very excited. Her mother writes a note to her teacher, Mrs. Penworth, explaining that Lailah should be excused from lunch in observation Ramadan. Lailah is worried that her teacher and classmates will think that she is strange for fasting or that they won’t know what Ramadan is, so she keeps the note to herself and acts as if she has forgotten her lunch. When her friend Anna offers to share her cream rolls with Lailah, she sits quietly and begins to second-guess her decision to fast.

Lailah asks to go to the library, where she confides in the librarian Mrs. Carman all that is on her mind. Together they come up with the perfect way for Lailah to open up to her teacher and to share with her all about Ramadan.

Lailah’s Lunchbox is a fantastic story based on Reem Faruqi’s own life experience moving to the United States and explaining what Ramadan is to classmates and friends in Peachtree City, Georgia. This story captures many different and important social issues, including moving somewhere new and different religions. This story emphasizes the humanity of the children and their experiences and promotes understanding and empathy of others.

Lailah’s Lunchbox is a must-have in every classroom library. It is the perfect read for kids ages 6-9. This year, Ramadan begins May 26 and lasts until June 25.

Click here to purchase a copy of Lailah’s Lunchbox (affiliate link).

 

A Fantastic Non-Fiction Series for Readers

A couple of months ago I had the opportunity to review Kid Artists… by David Stabler. I was so excited to find a captivating non-fiction chapter book for upper elementary and middle school aged readers. I was even more delighted to learn that there were more books in the series which includes Kid Presidents* and Kid Athletes*. 

Each book features true tales from a famous person’s childhood making it easy for readers to relate to them and deeply humanizing these important figures who would go on to become famous athletes of presidents. Readers do not need to know much about the person before reading the chapters. Instead of being grouped chronologically, they are grouped by a theme that connects them.

For example, read about Barack Obama’s experience being the new kid in town. He left his home in Hawaii as a young boy to live in Indonesia with his family. There he had a pet gibbon, a type of ape, that ate peanuts from his hand. As a kid, he had to adjust to many changes living in his new home in Indonesia and he faced a significant amount of bullying for looking different and not speaking the language. The chapter teaches about overcoming obstacles, standing up for yourself and encourages kids to become resilient.

  Though I am not a huge sports enthusiast, there are certain times that I am absolutely captivated by sports, including the Summer Olympics. I have a big fan of gymnastics and always amazed by the focus and dedication of the youngest athletes to their sport and art. Kid Athletes is perfect for readers who love sports and for those who have specific athletes they admire. I was obviously drawn to the chapter about Gabby Douglass, the first African American gymnast to win an individual all-around gold medal during the 2012 Olympics.

Her chapter is featured in the section of the book called Family Matters, which explores the important role family played in the childhoods of a group of athletes. As a young child, Gabby demonstrated an early aptitude for gymnastics which led to her joining a gymnastics gym with rigorous instruction and training. Here she encountered bullying due to discrimination and faced many racist remarks from her peers.

Gabby struggled to keep this to herself and it ended up impacting her performances. Meanwhile, her coaches accepted mediocrity at best from her and did not push her to excel in the way that she was fully capable. When she finally was able to connect with a coach who believed in her, she gained the courage to stand up for herself and her gymnastics career skyrocketed.

Each chapter of David Stabler’s books is carefully crafted in a way that is engaging and informative. Each has an important lesson that the readers can take away and apply to his or her own life. Doogie Horner’s illustrations add an element of comedy and help the reader envision what is happening in the text. The partnership between author and illustrator is perfect and I can’t wait to see what else this series has in store!

Click here to purchase a copy of Kid Presidents and Kid Athletes (affiliate links).

*I received complimentary copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

 

The Grandest Canyon

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin is a phenomenal non-fiction picture book packed with the history and science behind the formation of one of the seven wonders of the world. More than just a large whole in the ground, the Grand Canyon is home to many different types of plants and animals. In fact the conditions vary so much from level to level of the canyon that each layer sustains a different type of plant and animal life entirely! How cool is that?

Jason Chin tells “the story” of the Grand Canyon as a father and daughter pair embark on a camping trip. Diagrams are great text features in helping the reader better understand complicated scientific concepts including erosion.

This book includes flashbacks in time so the reader can better understand how the Grand Canyon was formed by the movement of different bodies of water over time. For example, this illustration accompanies the description of what the Grand Canyon would have looked like 1.2 billion years ago when the only things living on Earth’s surface were tiny microbes. This mud would eventually transform into a layer of rock that became part of the canyon.

Grand Canyon is packed with many different lenses through which the reader can learn about this amazing natural phenomenon.  Jason Chin leaves us with a breathtaking four-page spread of the Grand Canyon that adds to the awe and wonder he inspires throughout the book.

Click here to purchase a copy of Grand Canyon (affiliate link).

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1596439505/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1596439505&linkCode=as2&tag=g505-20&linkId=288c64b0ee4ab7b68c0510fbb97797de

*I received a complimentary copy of Grand Canyon in exchange for my honest review.

The Power of Change

Allan Drummond’s Pedal Power is a non-fiction picture book that tells the story of how Amsterdam became the cycling capital of the world. This is a wonderful example of cause and effect or problem and solution text structure which is clear for readers from the onset.

When I travelled to Amsterdam while studying abroad in Spain many many years ago, I was taken aback by how prominent cycling was in this gorgeous European city. Pedal Power captures the energy of bikes buzzing down the wide streets.

Back in the 1970s Amsterdam’s streets were dominated by vehicles. Many beautiful buildings were being torn down to make room for wider streets and tunnels to accommodate all the traffic. The streets became too dangerous for cyclists. Young moms decided to take a stand. Led by Maartje Rutten, the dialogue about making the streets safe for everyone was ignited. People began congregating and protesting in conventional and more creative ways.

Overtime, they saw the impact of their protesting and change started to happen. Pedal Power encourages readers to not settle for the status quo but to take a chance and speak up for what you believe in. In this case, Maartje Rutten and a group of young mothers and children came together to make a change that impact not only their community but set an example for many big cities across the world.

Click here to purchase a copy of Pedal Power (affiliate link). 

*I received a complimentary copy of Pedal Power in exchange for my honest review.