Monday, April 30, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA (22)

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. Jen & Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts have adapted this to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.

Last week's book adventures:
Though I read several stacks of picture books this past week, I didn't feel that much jumped out at me.  You can check out my Hot Off the Press post for some new picture books that I read or re-read this week.

Three Book Highlights from the Week:

Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Cardboard Box by Murray Shaw (adapter) - This is an adapted version of Sherlock Holmes in graphic novel format.  I need to see what my students think of this one. 

The Legend of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke - I was so excited to be able to read an e-galley of this one.  I loved the first Zita the Spacegirl book and I am glad that she is back.  Now of course, I will have to wait forever until the next one.

With or Without You by Brain Farrey - This one is a Stonewall Award Honor Book of 2012.  I read it for our book club meeting.  I can see why it was selected as one of the Stonewall winners.  I was pretty surprised at how quickly I became invested in this book.  Farrey did a great job of making the main character, Evan, someone that you care about.  I ended up truly caring about what happened to Evan and his (really hot) boyfriend, Erik.  There was a part of me that couldn't put the book down and a part of me that wanted to so I wouldn't have to find out what kind of "train wreck" (completely figuratively speaking - there are no train wrecks in this book) was going to happen to Evan.  I won't spoil the ending but if you haven't read any of the Stonewall winners, you could certainly start with this one. 

So, what are you reading this week?

Here is what is sitting in my currently-reading pile:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein - I picked up a e-galley of this one and after the first 25 pages which had me a bit confused I seem to finally be settling into this one.  I am only about 55 pages in so I still have a lot to go.

Crow by Barbara Wright - I am also at about page 50 with this one.  I am very interested to finish reading it since I have heard so many great things about it.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - I started this on audiobook and had to switch to a book format since the narrator wasn't working for me.

Audiobook: Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century #1) by Cherie Priest - This is a long audiobook and I am about halfway through.  I am actually enjoying it but just haven't had any extended time to listen. If you are fans of steampunk and zombies, you might want to check this one out.

I have promised myself that I can't start anything else until I finish at least 2 of these books. The good news about this pile is that I like every one of these books so far.  The bad news - there has been so little time to get lost in reading so I end up going to books I can read in a shorter time span or ones that I have to read.

Wish me luck and I hope you have a wonderful book week.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hot Off the Press! (17)

Hot Off the Press is a weekly feature of picture books that are recent releases.  I base the post on my weekly visits to Vroman's Bookstore and browsing through their wall of new picture books.

Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat
Author: Susanna Reich

Illustrator:  Amy Bates
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Audience: Ages 6 and up

An interesting selection of a narrator to help children learn about the famous chef, Julia Child.  This story is told from the perspective of Julia Child's cat, Minette.  It is set in Paris and tells of the early years of Child's journey to becoming a chef.  Of course, while Julia Child is whipping up these amazing feasts, Minette is totally preoccupied with the fresh catch of the day (a mouse).  The story does include additional features such as an author's note, bibliography, and actual quotes which can be used by older children.  Thanks to a note, I realized that this is in time for Julia Child's 100th birthday (August 15, 1912). 

Chloe, Instead
Author/Illustrator:  Micah Player
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Audience: Ages 4 and up

I am an older sister and reading Chloe, Instead was a humorous reminder of what it is like to have a younger sister who is nothing like you.  I remember multiple times when I asked myself how we ended up in the same family.  It might have taken me a bit longer to appreciate my younger sister than it takes Chloe, but this is a book that older and younger siblings will relate to and see themselves in the characters.  I really enjoyed the bright illustrations with the oversized features.  The book trailer does a nice job of giving you a taste for the story.
Check out the book trailer here:

How to Babysit a Grandpa
Author: Jean Reagan 
Illustrator:  Lee Wildish
Publisher: Random House
Audience: Ages 4 and up

I am so excited that this one is finally out.  I read this as an F & G (folded and gathered) back in November.  I have wanted to recommend it to people several times but always had to remind myself that it wasn't out yet.  And now it is finally here.  This is a fun story about how a grandfather comes over to babysit his grandson, but yet the grandson thinks he is the one in charge and gives tips to the reader about how to manage a grandparent when they come over.  Just a fun book and would make a good read aloud.  Additionally, it would be a good gift to a grandparent or from a grandparent. 

The Lonely Book
Author:  Kate Bernheimer
Illustrator: Chris Sheban
Publisher: Random House
Audience: Ages 4 and up

This picture book actually came out in February, but I didn't want to forget mentioning it.  (The Hot Off the Press Wall was just re-instated a few weeks ago.)  The first time I read this was as an F & G back in September.  It is a lovely story about a new book that at first receives all the attention, but over time becomes worn and lost.  One particularly child continues to search it out finally claiming it at the end. Beautiful story with gentle illustrations that compliment the text.  Any librarian, or book lover is going to like this one. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reading Aloud to Children: What I Have Learned

Several years ago, I started doing classroom read alouds.  Those of you who are teachers or librarians might be asking what is so special about that?!  We do it all the time you might say.  However, as a principal, it was easy to think that I didn't have time to go into a class and read aloud on a regular basis.  Yet, three years ago, I asked two teachers if I could come into their classrooms and read to their students weekly. At that point I couldn't tell you why I picked the books that I did or even what I hoped to get from the experience or what I expected children to come away with.  I just had this sense that I needed to read to them.  What I discovered about reading aloud is changing me as an educator and instructional leader.

Here are 5 things that I have discovered while reading aloud to children:

Reading aloud to children builds relationships. - When I go in 1 or 2 times a week to read with a class, I get to know the names of the children, and their personalities.  I have become a part of their learning community, and the books provide us with a shared history.  Even a year later, I can hold up the sequel of a book I read the previous year and we can all celebrate together.  We develop a common language and references from the books that we read with one another, and I have credibility when asking about other books they are reading.  I cherish the relationships I have built with my students from the time we have spent exploring books.

Reading aloud to children helps me identify student strengths and areas of need. - I have learned more about children's learning styles and abilities from reading aloud to them than I have in almost any other activity.  I have had children surprise me with these incredibly insightful comments when I had mistakenly thought they weren't "getting it".  I have sat in teacher - parent conferences and been able to speak often with incredible accuracy about a child based on the observations I have made when reading aloud.  I have also been able to advocate for services for children based on what I have learned as well.  One of the unexpected benefits of reading aloud or leading a Literacy Café for a class is that I can also identify gaps in learning.  This year I discovered while doing a Literacy Café on the Harlem Renaissance that some of our upper grade classes were struggling with timelines.  This enabled me to have a conversation about number lines and the gaps students had in math which were showing up in other areas.     

Reading aloud to children allows me an opportunity to expose them to new book titles. - Though I might love Sarah, Plain & Tall or Charlotte's Web, teachers and children need to be exposed to new titles and more diversity in the types of books that they are exposed to.  Whether it is a collection of books from the same historical time period, a new adventure novel, or some amazing character that they must meet, read alouds help me to introduce children to books that they would otherwise never find.

Reading aloud to children gave me a way to build a culture of reading at the school. - My students know that I value books and reading.  The parents know that I value books and reading.  My staff know that I value books and reading.  And as a result, my students are slowly developing a love for books and reading too.  They are beginning to recognize titles and authors.  Students will stop by my office to see what books I might have for them. They are now checking in with our part-time library tech to look for a title that I mentioned.  We may not have arrived yet, but we are certainly on the right path.

Reading aloud to children provides me with an opportunity to model for teachers how to create a passion for reading and learning with their students. - Whether it is through reading aloud, or during a Literacy Café, I have had opportunities to demonstrate new or different ways for celebrating books.  When I spend time reading or teaching in a classroom, I have to practice what I "preach".  If I expect teachers to make reading or learning relevant, then I must demonstrate it too.

As I share these observations, I want to remind everyone that I am still on the path to learning.  If I were to write this post in another year, I know I would have new observations or examples to share. I would also love to learn about the discoveries that you have made while reading aloud to children.      

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday (13)

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

I just realized that today is the last Wednesday of the month.  Where did April go?  Seriously!!!  It is time for a giveaway.  And it is also National Poetry Month.  So I might be stretching this a bit to fit a poetry book into a nonfiction review, but I'll share why below.   My nonfiction giveaway of the month will be a copy of Douglas Florian's unBEElievables.  You have until Wednesday, May 2, 2012 to enter the contest.  It is open to international participants. 

Author/Illustrator:  Douglas Florian
Publisher:  Beach Lane Books (March 2012)
Number of Pages: 32
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: K-5
Poetry * Bees * Nonfiction

Description from the publisher's page:
The buzz is big for Douglas Florian’s new poetry collection about the unBEElieveably unique lives of honeybees—and the vital role they play in our ecosystem. Come inside the honeycomb—a busy, buzzy, bee-filled home—and learn about the unexpected wonders of these tiny insects’ lifestyles, families, and communities. In fourteen funny, fact-filled honeybee poems and paintings, Douglas Florian explores the natural history of these often-unappreciated critters, revealing them to be a totally cool—and totally important—part of our ecosystem. Indeed, these buzzy bugs have been in the spotlight lately as wild bee populations are dwindling, honey prices are rising, and beekeeping has become a popular hobby. 

My thoughts on this book:
When I first saw this book, I fell in love with it.  My initial thought was how cool to mix poetry and nonfiction in the same book. Florian has a brilliant concept within the pages of this book.  There are 14 poems about bees (bees, bee anatomy, queen bees, types of bees, and more), and they are all very accessible for children (or for those adults who are still trying to figure out poetry).  Though I really enjoyed the poetry, I was impressed with how each poem was accompanied by a corresponding "bee fact" about the same topic as the poem.  There was even a few further reading suggestions at the end.

This is certainly one of those books that can be used with various grade levels and also in different parts of a curriculum.  I love books that I can keep referring to all through the year and not just for a specific unit or feature in a month.  I also like things that I can share with more than one grade level and allows for multi-age projects.  Additionally, Florian's illustrations had this great "kid" feel to them which gave me ideas of how to combine both art and poetry into a lesson for the students.

If you want a chance to check out this book, don't forget to enter the giveaway (no reviews necessary but you do need to fill out the form.) 

Also, if you are participating in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge, link up a recent review. 

Don't forget to add a link to your own nonfiction picture book reviews from this past week. Thanks for participating in the challenge.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA (21)

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. Jen & Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts have adapted this to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.

Last week's book adventures:
I had one of those weeks were I am not certain where the week went and why I didn't have a chance to read a lot but there you have it - only 15 books (11 picture books, 2 early readers, 1 early chapter book, and 1 other).  And though I was surrounded by books and book people and book related activities at the LA Times Festival of Books this weekend, I never did get a chance to read.

Book Highlights from the Week:

The Obstinate Pen by Frank W. Dormer - This one was fun.  A pen that writes what it wants to write rather than what you want it to write. 

Wumbers by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld - More to come on this one.  I will be posting a review this week.

Players in Pigtails by Shana Corey, Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon - I wish I had read this one before Wednesday.  I would have added this to my baseball themed Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday.  Fun learning a little bit about Women's baseball in the late 1940's.

Neo Leo & Now and Ben by Gene Barretta - This series is very informative and well done.  One on Thomas Edison is coming this summer or fall.  I learned a lot reading both of these books.  I think 2nd graders on up will enjoy them.

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O'Connor - Fancy Nancy is growing up and has become a detective.  For fans of the picture books, who are now ready for an early chapter book featuring their favorite character.

F in Exams: The Funniest Test Paper Blunders by Richard Benson - Not a kids book, but High School students and adults will enjoy this quick read of answers that people used on tests.

So, what are you reading this week?

 I am so hoping for a better reading week.  Wish me luck! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday (12)

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

This week's Nonfiction Picture Books are centered around baseball.  I didn't intend to do theme related books two weeks in a row but it seems to work at the moment.  

Brothers at Bat: The True Story of an Amazing All-Brother Baseball Team
Author: Audrey Vernick
Illustrator: Steven Salerno
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 3, 2012)
Audience: 7 to 10 years old

When I read this book, I kept reading parts of it aloud to a friend.  It was like one of those Believe It or Not Fact books.  Can you imagine a family with 12 boys and 4 girls?  Can you imagine having one of the 12 brothers on the school team for over 22 years?  I was fascinated with this family's story and Vernick's telling of their tale.  I wasn't aware that there were brother teams who played on local leagues and in the case of the Acerra family, semi-pro ball.  The Acerras in particular were committed to baseball and family.  I loved the way that when one of the brothers was injured and lost an eye the other brothers practiced with him until he could return to the game.  And the illustration of 3 generations of Acerras playing baseball is priceless.  A fun read for baseball fans or those who just like a little piece of history.  

Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King
Author: Richard Michelson
Illustrator: Zachary Pullen
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press (February 14, 2011)
Audience: 7 to 10 years old

I somehow missed this book last year but glad to have discovered it this year.  Did you realize that before baseball was called "baseball" that it was referred to as "base".  Yes, I didn't realize this.  I also didn't realize that there was a time in the history of baseball where it was technically illegal to pay players to play baseball.  Of course, people still found a way around this but it was interesting.  It was also interesting to learn about Lipman Pike and his skill both as a hitter and runner.  I loved how they compared how fast he was to a race horse and the subsequent 100 yard dash against a race horse.  The book also refers to early prejudices against Jewish immigrants and how some of Pike's team members were concerned if he could be loyal to them being both Jewish and from Brooklyn.  Another interesting picture book for baseball fans or those who just like learning about history. 

Don't forget to add a link to your own nonfiction picture book reviews from this past week. Thanks for participating in the challenge.

The Right and The Real Book Trailer Reveal & Birthday Bash

Author: Joëlle Anthony
Publisher: Putnam (April 26, 2012)
Audience: Young Adult
Fiction * Cults * Homelessness

Description from the publisher:
Jamie should have known something was off about the church of the Right & the Real from the start, especially when the Teacher claimed he wasn't just an ordinary spiritual leader but Jesus Christ himself. But she was too taken by Josh, the eldest son of one of the church's disciples, and his all-American good looks. Josh was the most popular boy at school, too, and the first boy outside the drama geeks to give Jamie a second look. But getting her dad involved in a cult was not part of the plan when she started dating Josh. Neither was her dad's marriage to the fanatic Mira or getting kicked out or seeing Josh in secret because the church has deemed her persona non grata. Jamie's life has completely fallen apart. Finding her way back won't be easy, but when her dad gets himself in serious trouble, will Jamie be ready to rescue him, and maybe even forgive him?

Today is author Joëlle Anthony's birthday and she is celebrating with the release of the book trailer for The Right and the Real:


For more information about Joëlle Anthony and wish her a happy birthday, check out the following sites:  website | facebook | twitter

Look for The Right and the Real at your local school or public library.  When possible, please consider purchasing from an Independent Bookstore.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading? From Picture Books to YA (20)

It's Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila of Book Journey. Jen & Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts have adapted this to focus on Picture Books to Young Adult Books.

Last week's book adventures:
The first week back from spring break was a busy one and didn't leave me with as much time to read as I would have liked but I did manage to squeeze in a stack of picture books and some novels in verse. 

Favorite Books from the Week:

Back A-B-See by Maria van Lieshout - A fun A, B, C book using familiar road signs.

I Don't Want to Be a Pea! by Ann Bonwill - A book about friendship and compromise that made me laugh out loud.

Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World by Laurie Lawlor - A biography on Rachel Carson for younger students.  A good introduction to Carson's life & work.

Squish #3: The Power of the Parasite by Jenni and Matt Holm - Book 3 comes out in May and I had a chance to see an advanced copy.  I love Squish.  Matt and Jenni must have so much fun writing him.

The Wild Book by Margarita Engle - This novel in verse is beautifully written about a young girl in Cuba at the beginning of the 20th century. 

The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf  - This novel in verse looks at the story of the Titanic from the perspective of 20 different passengers (including the Ship's rat).  The endnotes were particularly fascinating. 

Check out my review of Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman.  Also, last week's Nonfiction Wednesday post had some fun mini-reviews of books I read last week. 

So, what are you reading this week?

Last week wasn't bad for the first week back from break.  Not sure what I will be reading this week. 

Taste Book Trailer & Excerpt Reveal

Cover Art: Liliana Sanches
Author: Kate Evangelista
Publisher: Crescent Moon Press (May 2012)
Audience: Young Adult
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Taste blurb:
At Barinkoff Academy, there's only one rule: no students on campus after curfew. Phoenix McKay soon finds out why when she is left behind at sunset. A group calling themselves night students threaten to taste her flesh until she is saved by a mysterious, alluring boy. With his pale skin, dark eyes, and mesmerizing voice, Demitri is both irresistible and impenetrable. He warns her to stay away from his dangerous world of flesh eaters. Unfortunately, the gorgeous and playful Luka has other plans.

When Phoenix is caught between her physical and her emotional attraction, she becomes the keeper of a deadly secret that will rock the foundations of an ancient civilization living beneath Barinkoff Academy. Phoenix doesn’t realize until it is too late that the closer she gets to both Demitri and Luka the more she is plunging them all into a centuries old feud.

Book Trailer:

Song Credits: "Hunger" © Noelle Pico.
Full Download available at 

Author Bio: When Kate Evangelista was told she had a knack for writing stories, she did the next best thing: entered medical school. After realizing she wasn't going to be the next Doogie Howser, M.D., Kate wandered into the Literature department of her university and never looked back. Today, she is in possession of a piece of paper that says to the world she owns a Literature degree. To make matters worse, she took Master's courses in creative writing. In the end, she realized to be a writer, none of what she had mattered. What really mattered? Writing. Plain and simple, honest to God, sitting in front of her computer, writing. Today, she has four completed Young Adult novels.

Author Website: 
Twitter: @KateEvangelista 
Find Taste on Goodreads: Moon Press page for Taste:

Read an excerpt from Taste: 

I sat up and followed Calixta’s gaze upward. I rubbed my eyes. I didn’t know what I was seeing at first. A statue? ¬My brain refused to snap together coherent thoughts. I didn’t realize I’d fallen so close to one of the garden benches until I stared up at the boy that sat on one. He was strikingly beautiful. His tumble of blonde hair curled just above his sculpted cheekbones. He wore a silk shirt and a loosened cravat, like he’d become bored while dressing and decided to leave himself in disarray. His ivory skin and frozen position was what had me mistaking him for something carved from marble by Michelangelo. Then he sighed—a lonely, breathy proof of life. If I had to imagine what Lucifer looked like before he fell from heaven, the boy on the bench would certainly fulfill that image. My brain told me I had to look away, but I couldn’t.

“Luka,” Calixta said again, her voice unsure, almost nervous. It no longer contained the steel and bite she had threatened me with, which made me wonder who the boy was.

He leaned on his hands and crossed his legs, all the while keeping his eyes fixed on the night sky. His movements spoke of elegance and control. I’d encountered many people with breeding before, but his took on the air of arrogance and self-assuredness of someone used to getting what he wanted when he wanted it.

I only realized I’d been holding my breath when my lungs protested. I exhaled. My heart sputtered and restarted with a vengeance. Luka tore his gaze away from the stars and settled it on me. I’d expected pitch-black irises, like the other Night Students, but blue ice stared back at me.

“Human,” he whispered.

He reached out, and with a finger, followed an invisible trail down my cheek. I stiffened. His touch, cooler than Demitri’s, caused warm sparks to blossom on my face. He lifted his finger to his lips and licked its tip. He might as well have licked me from the way my body shivered.

Luka’s curious gaze held mine. “Leave us,” he said, but not to me.

“But—” Calixta protested like a spoiled child.
He spoke in a language I hadn’t heard before, remaining calm yet firm. The words had a rolling cadence I couldn’t quite follow, like rumbling thunder in the distance. They contained a harsh sensuality. The consonants were hard and the vowels were long and lilting.

Footsteps retreated behind me.

Luka reached out again.

It took me a minute to realize he wanted to help me up. I hesitated. He smiled. I smiled back timidly and took his hand, completely dazzled. Even with my uniform soaked from melted snow, I didn’t feel cold—all my attention was on him and the way his callused hand felt on mine. Without moving much from his seated position, he helped me stand.

“What’s your name?” he asked. He had a voice like a familiar lullaby. It filled my heart to the brim with comfort.

I swallowed and tried to stop gawking. “Phoenix.”

 “The bird that rose from the ashes.” Luka bent his head and kissed the back of my hand. “It’s a pleasure meeting you.”

My cheeks warmed. My head reeled, not knowing what to think. I couldn’t understand why I felt drawn to him. And the strange connection frightened me.

From behind, someone gripped my arms and yanked me away before I could sort out the feelings Luka inspired in me. I found myself behind a towering figure yet again. Recognizing the blue-black silk for hair tied at the nape, relief washed over me. Calixta hadn’t come back to finish me off.

Demitri’s large hand wrapped around my wrist. Unlike the night before, no calm existed in his demeanor. He trembled like a junky in need of a fix. The coiled power in his tense muscles vibrated into me.

 “What are you doing here?” Demitri asked.

I didn’t know he’d spoken to me until I saw his expressionless profile. I sighed.


I flinched. The ruthless way he said my name punched all the air out of me. “You owe me answers,” I said with as much bravado as I could muster.

 “I owe you nothing.” He glared. “In fact, you owe me your life.”

 “I don’t think so.”

 Ignoring my indignation, he faced Luka, who’d remained seated on the bench during my exchange with Demitri. “Why is she with you, Luka?”

 “I wasn’t going to taste her, if that’s what you’re implying,” Luka said. “Although, she is simply delicious. I wouldn’t mind if you left us alone.”

There it was again. Taste. The word that kept coming up between these Night Students and I was connected to it in an increasingly uncomfortable way. To taste meant to sample, but what? My flesh? They had to be joking because the alternative wasn’t funny.

“The sins of the father …” Demitri left his sentence unfinished.

Luka’s smile shifted into a snarl. “Obey my command.” His chin lifted. “Kneel.”

Demitri’s stance went rigid. His grip tightened around my wrist.

Okay, weird just got weirder. Why would Luka want Demitri to kneel before him?

I thought back to Eli and the others bowing to Demitri when he questioned them, but they didn’t kneel. Seriously? Were they all living on a different planet or something?

“Kneel.” Luka’s detestable smirk made his features sinister rather than angelic. The real Lucifer: a fallen angel.

Without letting go of my wrist, Demitri knelt down on one knee and bowed his head, his free hand flat at the center of his chest. “Your command has been obeyed,” he said formally.

Luka nodded once.

Demitri stood up and pulled me toward the school without telling me where we were going. Not having the time to thank Luka for saving me from Calixta, I risked a glance back. Luka smiled at me. His smile spoke of whispers, secrets, and promises to be shared on a later date.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Extra Yarn Event at Unwind

Today, at Unwind (a Yarn store in Burbank and not the dystopian novel by Neal Shusterman), Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen stopped by to celebrate their book Extra Yarn (Balzer & Bray, January 17, 2012).  The event was a part of Unwind's celebration of Yarn Crawl LA (a four day, self-guided tour Los Angeles County's Yarn Stores).

Alethea (@frootjoos on twitter) is a knitter and pulled her buddies (Thuy, Kimberley, Alyson, and more) from Bridge to Books into helping with this event.  Yeah, twist our arms.  We are all big fans of Jon and Mac so it didn't take much to convince us to help.

Alethea kept in the spirit of the story and covered wooden block letters to look like the cover.

Thuy (@fishgirl182) yarnbombed some little houses so they would look like they were pulled right out of the book.

Mac and John signed books, chatted with fans, and entertained young readers who came out to draw and have some fun.

Mac read Extra Yarn to the audience.  Don't watch the clip if you don't want to hear the end of the book.  However, this was my favorite part since Mac does a great Archduke.

Also, the Extra talented Alethea made yarn inspired cake pops for the event.  I wish I had taken a close up of these yummy treats.

I also finally ran into Carter Higgins, a twitter buddy.  One of these days, we will also run into each other at Vroman's.

To celebrate today's event, I am giving away a signed copy of Extra Yarn to one lucky person.  Please fill out the form to enter.  You have until April 21, 2012 to enter to win.

Please note:  This post has been crossed posted over at Bridge to Books. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: Boy + Bot

Author: Ame Dyckman
Illustrator:  Dan Yaccarino
Publisher:  Knopf (Released April 10, 2012)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 3 to 7
Fiction * Friendship * Imagination

Description from publisher's page:
One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun. But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he's sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don't help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep. Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him? Using the perfect blend of sweetness and humor, this story of an adorable duo will win the hearts of the very youngest readers.

My thoughts on the book:
Thanks to John Schu/Watch.Connect.Read & Colby Sharp/SharpRead for introducing me to Boy + Bot.  What a sweet, wonderful book about friendship and play and understanding one another.  If you haven't seen this book, it is a simple story about the friendship between a young boy and a robot.  Part of the charm in this book is how Dyckman captures perfectly a young child's response to another person's (or in this case a robot) needs.  When a young child sees a friend or an adult sad or hurt, the typical response is to do for them what they would want done for themselves.  This may include bringing over a favorite toy or blanket.  In the case of Boy + Bot, Boy is worried that his new friend may be sick and starts with feeding him applesauce, and reading him a story.  Bot, who is in some ways on the same level as the young boy, returns the favor when expressing his own concerns.  This sharing of concern can spark discussion between children and adults about what kinds of things we can do for friends.  And the end pages, where the Boy + Bot are playing together are some of my favorite images in the book.  

Boy + Bot also has straightforward text.  Though some of the vocabulary may be beyond the typical vocabulary of beginning readers, there are many lines in this story that are not.  The first thing my kinders noticed when I shared this book with them today: "Hey the words start with the same two letters." (referring to the title) Yes, they do.  Parents reading along with their child can encourage their young reader to read what they can.  I would anticipate that children will pick up on the text quickly and begin to *read* this one after a few readings with an adult.

Dan Yaccarino's illustrations are also important to the story.  They are simple and match the text in that manner, but there is more.  The illustrations are bright, colorful and capture the hearts of the readers.  This is certainly one of those times where text melds perfectly with illustrations.
My students' thoughts on the book:
I read this today to a kindergarten class and a first grade class.  Here is what they liked about the book:

I liked it. - Stephanie

My favorite part was when they put the pine cones in the wagon. - Kayla

I liked when the boy finds the robot. - Aidan

I liked when the boy and the robot walk away together at the end. - Destiny

I like when the family is reunited at the end. - Keven

I liked the photobooth pictures. - Jocelyn

I liked when Bot fed the Boy oil. - Ryan

I liked how Bot took care of the Boy his way. - Faith

I would say that Boy + Bot is a success with my students.  Look for this book at your local bookstore or school or public library.

Check out the book trailer for Boy + Bot:

For more information about debut picture book author, Ame Dyckman: Website | Twitter | Facebook