Early Readers, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/26/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.


Our Recent Reads:

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Isabel and Her Colores Go to School by Alexandra Alessandri Illustrated by Courtney Dawson 

Isabel is all set for her first day of school except for one thing-she is fluent in Spanish and doesn’t feel confident speaking or understanding English.  Alessandri cleverly connects Isabel’s emotions to color, for Isabel associates bright colors to Spanish, but less vibrant colors to English.  Dawson’s vivid artwork complements the text well. for these colors swirl around Isabel along with her facial expression clearly show her feelings.  Before Isabel walks into school, her mother gives her advice, “To bad times, a good face.”

When Isabel is unsure of what to do in class, she follows along with the rest of her classmates. When they count in English, she chants in Spanish,  but then feels dark colors engulfing her.  At story time, a classmate named Sarah offers a place next to her on the carpet.  When Sarah asks to be friends, Isabel does not understand which makes both girls feel awkward.  Fortunately, drawing becomes the way for Isabel to articulate.  She shows Sarah a picture of the two of them and says “Amigas”  Sarah repeats and then says “Friends,”   I love that Isabel’s artwork is her communication and makes the stormy blues and blizzards colors of English soften to aquamarine. 

Written in both English and Spanish, Isabel and Her Colores Go to School was inspired by Alessandri’s own experience of starting kindergarten.  A must read for the first day of school.  Isabel will be a friend to all anxious about a new school year. Back matter includes Spanish to English translations. Thanks to Sleeping Bear Press for sharing a finished copy.  Isabel and the Colores Go to School recently published on July 15, 2021. 


I Can Read Comics from Harper Alley

This addition to the I Can Read line introduces children to the graphic novel format.  To the left of the title page, guidance on cartooning basics is provided including vocabulary (panel, gutter, tier, word balloons) and how to read the panels.   To learn more about I Can Read Comics, click here. 

 

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Fish and Sun by Sergio Ruzzier

Fish is bored at the bottom of the cold, dark ocean and decides to venture to the surface.   When Fish first pokes out of the water, it is still cold, dark, and boring until Sun rises in the sky.  Fish and Sun become fast friends playing together until Sun starts to set.   Confused and sad, Fish thinks Sun has disappeared forever, but is reunited with Sun when Fish returns to the surface the next day.  I am a big fan of Ruzzier’s work especially Fox and Chick.  With concise text including high frequency words in speech bubbles and warm full panel illustrations that show both character’s feelings, young readers have support to read and enjoy Fish and Sun.  

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Friendbots: Blink and Block Make a Wish by Vicky Fang

Frowning Block sits on a bench while the other shapes play.  Using the sensor on its head, Blink roams nearby in search of gold, silver or gems.  Each time, Blink excitedly finds an item such as a bottle cap or a gum wrapper, Block immediately discounts it as insignificant.   When Blink finds a penny, Block is not impressed but Blink proudly says ” a penny can turn into a wish”  After throwing it in a puddle, Blink prances with glee because the wish came true.  Block is bewildered and argues with Blink.  It turns out Blink’s wish was for a new friend.  Block’s frowning face turns into a smile and the duo search for more wishes. 

I love how kids will takeaway that friendship is truly something to treasure!  Fang’s Blink and Block are adorably drawn and reinforce shape and color concepts.  In fact, I can see kids drawing their own Blink and Block adventures or based on the first page spread, choose another shape bot (triangle, rectangle, oval, etc.) as a character in their story.  Book 2: Blink and Block Bug Each Other publishes in September. 

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Tiny Tales: Shell Quest by Steph Waldo

While exploring the backyard, a lonely slug sees two creatures that look similar but they have “things” on their backs.  After learning the “thing” is a shell,  the snails tell the slug to find a shell so the slug can play with them.  Thinking a shell is the solution to making friends, the slug searches for one.  An acorn, a thimble, and even a real snail shell seems like good alternatives, but unfortunately, none of them  stay put.  Luckily, one of the snails offers to help the distraught slug find a new shell and on their travels in a rainstorm, the slug discovers the snail is a true friend.  A  downpour carries them to a hollow log where the duo meet other creatures without shells.  Without hestitation, the slug and snail are invited to stay.   With themes of empathy, friendship, and self-acceptance and the cutest slug I have ever seen, Waldo’s debut as author/illustrator is gastropod-tastic!  Book 2: A Feast for Friends publishes in September. 


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Animals Go Vroom! by Abi Cushman

“Roar!! goes the….” Through the die-cut windows, readers see a tiger but when the page is turned, a truck the tiger is driving is the cause of the sound.  Subsuquent sounds include hiss, screech, and squeak, but astute kids will quickly recognize the pattern that the vehicles, not the animals, are making the sounds.  I love that the Cushman chose to begin the story on the title page with the snake family buying a yellow car.  Each page spread gradually reveals how the traffic jam occurred and the chain reaction. Cushman has a gift for adding details into her illustrations, which creates stories within the story.  Opposite of the title page, a young crow receives a toy car that is identical to the snake’s.  The crow and his mother show up in the background of many page spreads and it’s fun to hunt for them and see what they are doing.   

I loved Cushman’s debut picture book Soaked so I was eager to read her Animals Go Vroom! This interactive story which encourages children to be active participants exceeded my expectations.  Children will beg for repeated readings and parents won’t complain!  The expressions on all the animals are priceless and a second read focusing on the illustrations is crucial to follow the painting otter.  Pre-order now so you can check it out for yourself!

Thanks to the author and Viking/Penguin Random House for sharing an eARC.  Animals Go Vroom! publishes on August 17, 2021. 


Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

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Mayor Good Boy by Dave Scheidt Illustrated by Miranda Harmon

After a dog named Good Boy is elected as mayor of Greenwood, the town is divided.  During his first speech as mayor, a group of angry constituents storm the city hall.  Abby gets her younger brother Aaron to willingly expose his stinky socks thus creating a diversion to rescue Good Boy.  In gratitude for their effort, Good Boy’s chief of staff, Ms. Monica, offers the siblings a job to work with in the mayor’s office.  Their first order of business is to enhance the public image of Mayor Good Boy with all the people in town.  Can Abby and Aaron help get the town on Mayor Good Boy’s side by exposing Old Man Mervis for his dastardly deeds?  

Schiedt’s humorous plot and Hamron’s energetic illustrations will bring smiles and giggles to readers.  Not only will kids laugh out loud especially at Aaron’s gross antics, but also they will learn about how they actively get involved in their own community.    I especially liked seeing Abby’s confidence grow and the reinforcement of teamwork makes the dream work. Following the story is The Mayor Good Boy Pledge promoting positive change and a mini-comic on how kids can contact elected officials to voice their concerns.  Tutorials on how to draw Mayor Good Boy, Abby, and Aaron will support budding ilustrators create their own adventures. 

Two more books in the series are forthcoming-Mayor Good Boy Goes Hollywood in 2022 and Mayor Good Boy Turns Bad in 2023.  Thanks to Random House Graphic for sharing an eARC.  Mayor Good Boy publishes next month on August 31, 2021. 

 

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

 

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

Early Chapter Books, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/19/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.


Our Recent Reads:

Long Distance by Whitney Gardner

Named after a star, Vega loves astronomy but is not thrilled about her family’s recent move from Portland to Seattle due to her dad Wes’ new job.  Will the distance impact her relationship with best friend Halley?  To help Vega make new friends, her dad Javi enrolls her in a sleep away summer camp.  Not long after Vega arrives at Camp Very Best Friend, she realizes that things are not normal.  With the help of campers, Querty and twins Gemma and Isaac, Vega discovers truths about the camp which even caught me by surprise.  

Long Distance is a engaging and entertaining middle grade graphic novel about friendship-maintaining old and making new.  Not to give away the plot, but I love that Gardner blends genres to make the plot more intriguing.   The chapter titles are clever inspired by Vega’s internet search on how to make friends. She discovers 7 tips for making friends, and each tip is a chapter title. Because of Vega’s love for astronomy and Gemma’s love for gems, sidebars teach science concepts such the star wheel and thunder eggs. Gardner’s artwork is eye popping with bold colors and ranges from multiple panels of different sizes to splash panels.  Thanks to Simon & Schuster for a review copy.  Long Distance recently released on June 29, 2021.

Mindy Kim and the Trip to Korea by Lyla Lee Illustrated by Dung Ho

In the fifth story in the series, Mindy, her dad, and his girlfriend Julie travel to South Korea to visit her father’s family.  This is not only Mindy’s first trip to Korea but also her first out of the country which makes her both excited and nervous.  After arriving, Mindy has the opportunity to speak Korean more often, eat her grandmother’s yummy food, visit the capital Seoul as well as take a family camping trip to Gangwon-do, a vacation spot with mountains, rivers, and beaches.  And while Florida is very far away from Korea, Mindy realizes that she and her family are all looking at the same moon. This knowledge makes Mindy feel closer to her family in Korea despite the distance.  Saying goodbye was hard but Mindy was happy to be reunited with her dog Theodore.  

Written in 77 pages with short chapters and full page illustrations in almost each chapter, Mindy Kim has great supports for primary students transitioning into chapter books.  Readers also learn about the Korean culture, for each time Lee introduces a word, she explains the meaning in kid friendly language.  I love that Mindy’s dad suggest she write a blog about her trip to record her thoughts and memories.  Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sharing a finished copy.  Mindy Kim and the Trip to Korea published on June 8, 2021.  


You Have to Read This Book by Bruce Eric Kaplan

A father bear named Morris sees a beloved childhood book in a store window, buys the book, and takes it home telling his son Benny “You have to read this book!”  Benny responds “I don’t want to.” Determined to change his son’s mind, Morris continually places the book in Benny’s view for months, bribes him with an ice cream breakfast, and even hides all the books on Benny’s bookshelf.  Benny remains firm in his stance.  Morris’ final attempt is pretty drastic but it does get Benny to at least grab the book.  Now will his son read it? 

The battle of wills between Morris and Benny is hilarious.  As I was reading, I wondered. How far would Morris go and would Benny stand his ground? Amid the laughter, I realized that the story could support the skill of assertiveness taught through Conscious Discipline, a program we use in our district.  Children are taught to use a big voice to be assertive.  Benny definitely uses his big voice to convey his feelings to his father.  Thanks to Simon and Schuster for sharing a copy with me.  You Have to Read This Book published in March 2021.  


Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

Ciao Sandro! by Steven Varni Illustrated by Luciano Lozano

Since he was a puppy, Sandro and gondolier Nicola do everything together, but today Sandro is venturing out in Venice solo on a very special errand. Because of his acute sense of smell and hearing, Sandro knows the city better than most Venetians which helps him locate friends Alvise and Francesca to deliver a message. Then he travels to the vaporetto stop, walks on the boat, and gets off at Murano to see Giorgio, the glassblower. With this last errand complete, Sandro returns to Venice and reunites with Nicola. After the last gondola ride for the day, Nicola and Sandro walk to meet their friends and the last page spread reveals Sandro’s secret mission-to remind their friends to attend Nicola”s birthday celebration.

My husband and I were married in Sardinia, Italy. Venice was our first stop on our honeymoon so the city will always hold a special place in my heart. I loved being able to be see Venice from Sandro’s perspective, but what especially warmed my heart was the sweet relationship of a dog and his gondolier. And it’s pretty adorable to see a dog wearing a striped shirt with a red bandana around his neck. An added bonus is a glossary pronouncing and defining Italian words immediately follows the story. Ciao Sandro! published on June 8, 2021. 

 

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

#Bookexcursion, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/12/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.


Our Recent Reads:

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Better with Butter by Victoria Piontek

12 year old Marvel is anxious all the time. The school therapist says she is a free range worrier and worries just to worry.  Strategies such breathing, journaling, and practicing mindfulness are supposed to calm her; however, Marvel feels these exercises will cause her even more anxiety.  Her mother believes group therapy is the solution. Marvel disagrees, for the thought of sharing her fears with other kids is equally frightening.   

After Marvel freezes during an oral presentation in front of the school, she believes she has hit an all time low, but that all changes when she sees a group of kids from her school teasing a baby goat causing it to faint.  Marvel immediately identifies with the animal’s helplessness rescuing it and bringing the goat named Butter home.  Her mother is absolutely against Marvel keeping the goat Fortunately, her father, who is on leave from the army, is on Marvel’s side convincing her mother to allow Butter to stay until her owner is found.  Butter has such a calming effect on Marvel that after a little research,  she boldly decides to bring the goat to school as an emotional service animal.  With Butter at her side, Marvel finally feels confident.  Will Butter be able to stay with Marvel or will her owner claim her?  

Better With Butter is a touching middle grade story about how a girl & a goat rescue each other.  Written from Marvel’s point of view, Piontek did a beautiful job capturing Marvel’s conflicts,  courage, and compassion.  My heart hurt for her as she struggled with her anxiety feeling like there was no one who understood her.  Butter changed Marvel’s perspective making her open to making friends and trying new things.  With themes of family, friendship, and facing fears, Better with Butter is a story that is a must read for middle grade readers. Thanks to Scholastic for sharing an ARC with my #bookexcursion group.  Better with Butter publishes soon on July 20, 2021. 


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Listen by Gabi Snyder Illustrated by Stephanie Graegin

The world is full of a lot of noise occurring simultaneously.  Cars honking, dogs barking, scooters moving.  As a young girl walks with her dad and younger sibling, Snyder invites readers to stop and take a moment to listen to each specific sound.  The sounds in the text are highlighted in a red orange color as well as the word, listen, which is repeated frequently.  As I was reading the text, I was taking in Graegin’s tender, detailed artwork to locate the things making the sounds.  A crow cawing on a wire, slapping of shoes on the pavement, a hello from across the playground.  At school, the girl is listening to her teacher read aloud a story.  This page spread might be my favorite, for the classroom has shelves upon shelves of books with a few well known picture books on display.  The focus changes to how words sound. Words can pop or stretch, bring joy, and cause pain.  When the girl gets home, Snyder concentrates on the quiet having her listen to her inner voice before she goes to sleep.  

With Snyder’s soft, lyrical text and Graegin’s warm and inviting illustrations, Listen is a story that is soothing to the soul.  I appreciate that Snyder reminds us to listen past the noise. When I am on our deck, while there may be a neighbor moving a lawn,  I can still hear a catbird singing, the fountain in our pond, and  frogs croaking.  Thanks to the author for sharing an digital ARC.  Listen celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on July 13, 2021. 


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How to Wear a Sari by Darshana Khiani Illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

Tired of being called too small, a young girl takes matter in her own hands.  If she wears a sari like her mother, perhaps, her family will treat her like a grown up.  But wearing a sari isn’t as easy as it looks and it takes patience and persistence (and help from your trusty pup) to get the pleats just right.  With jewelry and sandals as the finishing touches, the girl is ready to show off her style.  Running is not encouraged, but it does allow one to make a memorable entrance especially when a relative is camera ready.

How to Wear a Sari is a humorous and heartwarming story.  Using a second person point of view, Khiani engages children immediately.  Kids will easily relate to the the theme of asserting their independence  What I love most about the story is readers of all ages learn about a tradition in South Asian culture. Lew-Vrietoff’s bold and energetic illustrations show the little girl’s excitement and resolve to prove herself to her family.  Thanks to the author for sharing a finished copy with my #bookexcursion group.  How to Wear a Sari recently published on June 22, 2021. 

To access “Make Your Own Sari” activity sheets, please visit illustrator Joanne LewVriethoff’s  website by clicking here


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The New Kid Has Fleas by Ame Dyckman Illustrated by Eda Kaban

A new kid joins the class and because she acts differently than everyone else, a student named Molly starts a rumor about her.  When a boy in the class gets paired with the new kid, he is worried.  But once he gets to know her, he realizes she is not only fun and smart, but also a great teammate and now, friend.  

While never explicitly stated, the playful text and lively illustrations imply the new kid has been raised by wolves which explains her unconventional behavior.  I am a big fan of Dyckman’s picture books because amid the humor, there is always heart. The New Kid Has Fleas is a great read aloud for the beginning of the school to teach and reinforce lessons in courtesy, friendship, and acceptance.  Thanks to Macmillian Children’s Publishing for sharing a finished copy.  The New Kid Has Fleas recently published on June 15, 2021. 


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Secret Secret Agent Guy by Kira Bigwood Illustrated by Celia Krampien

Franklin Brothers Investigations (F.B I.) have a covert mission-to get a lollipop from the kitchen without their parents’ knowledge.  One brother works behind the scenes drawing a map that outlines the steps and giving advice through a walkie talkie and a tablet.  The other brother dons a trenchcoat and hat, sets up traps using toys in case he is being followed and stealthily moves around the house.  As the boy is approaching his final destination, the family dog is on his trail.  At the moment, the hound doesn’t appear to be a threat.  Once the lollipop is safely in his care, the boy walks upstairs to deliver the goods, but the hound double-crosses the F.B.I. snatching the prize and giving it to…. no spoilers here! Read it for yourself to find out!

Set to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Secret Secret Agent Guy is pure delight! I am in awe of Bigwood’s perfect poetic meter. In fact, Bella enjoyed my reading of the story multiple times because the text begs to be read aloud. Krampien’s detailed illustrations have a vintage feel and nimbly move the plot along building suspense from the introduction to the resolution. Of course, I love that the dog is involved in duping the brothers in exchange for a dog bone. Thanks to the author for sharing a finished copy with my #bookexcursion group.  Secret Secret Agent Guy released on May 11, 2021. 


Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

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Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family by Nelly Buchet  Illustrated by Andrea Zuill

A man has a dog.  A woman has a dog and a cat.  The man and woman move in together along with their pets. And that’s where the fun begins as the new family adjust to living together.  What is so unique about this picture book is Buchet deftly uses pretty much only two words, dog and cat, in a variety of combinations (Dog Cat, Dog Cat Dog, Dog) in the text.  Since the text is minimal, Zuill’s humorous illustrations move the plot along showing the progression of the animals’ relationship  from roommates to family.  The expressions on all the characters’ faces are priceless!  As a reading specialist who works with developing readers, Cat Dog Dog is a perfect book to put in their hands because the same words repeat throughout the story.  The story has a lot of depth and is a great text for teaching plot elements as well as character traits and/or feelings.  

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

 

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

Book Birthday, Chapter Books, Middle Grade Literature

Happy Book Birthday to Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi!

Bella and I wish a Happy Birthday to Secondhand Dogs written by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Melissa Manwill! Thanks to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media and Harper Collins for sharing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review:

Miss Lottie gives dogs a second chance. Gus was the first dog she adopted; therefore, under Dog Pack Law, he is the leader giving his approval before Miss Lottie brings another dog into the pack. Gus’ track record is perfect with Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie. When Miss Lottie introduces Decker to the pack, Gus smells something not right. He wants to trust his gut instincts, but Miss Lottie keeps comparing Decker to her first dog, Mr. Beans. Perhaps Gus’ dogginess is off and Decker just needs a chance; therefore, Gus gives a half hearted woof and wag. Almost immediately, Decker walks into Miss Lottie’s the van ahead of him. Uh oh! Is Decker challlenging Gus as leader of the pack?

As the story unfolds, readers learn about all the dogs’ history and how they found their forever home with Miss Lottie.  Crimi also shares Decker’s story and why he acts the way he does. Reading the back story of each dog really hit me because as the proud dog mom of Bella (& Etta who passed in February 2020), it is very rare to know about a dog’s prior life before adopting them.  Bella is a sweetheart wagging her tail 90% of the time, but if she hears the sound of metal, her tail goes down and she scurries to her safe spot under our bed. I can speculate, but will never know the roots of that behavior.  

At its heart, Secondhand Dogs is a story about family, for after Miss Lottie’s husband passed away, she needed a purpose.  She soon discovered that giving dogs a second home was a way to heal and be whole.  Another important character in the story is Quinn, Miss Lottie’s neighbor who is coping with a lot of loss-his father’s sudden death, an accident which claimed the life of his dog, Murph, and his changed relationship with his older brother Jessie. After reading Secondhand Dogs, my heart was filled with hope, for whatever happened in the past, we all have a second chance to be happy.

As an educator, I took note of the book length, for the novel is under 250 pages and then more specifically, the chapter length which vary from 4 to 7 pages.  Length can be an important consideration when recommending books to kiids, for stamina for chapter book reading sometimes has to nurtured. While the novel may be short in length, Secondhand Dogs is a story with well developed characters and an abosrbing plot which will appeal to young readers. Manwill’s black and white illustrations support the text in order for readers to better understand the characters and important events.

If you would like to read a sample courtesy of Harper Collins, click here.


Praise for Secondhand Dogs!

“A sensitive, satisfying, and intriguing canine tale.”   —Kirkus Reviews


About the Author:

Carolyn Crimi received her MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College in 2000. She has published over 15 books, including Dear TabbyDon’t Need FriendsBoris and BellaHenry and the Buccaneer BunniesWhere’s My Mummy?, and I Am the Boss of this Chair. Her book There Might Be Lobsters won The Golden Kite Award in 2018 for Best Picture Book Text, and her middle grade debut, Weird Little Robots, was named a BEA Book Buzz pick. Carolyn has received over thirty state awards and award nominations and was given The Prairie State Award in 2012 for her body of work. You can visit Carolyn at carolyncrimi.com.

Facebook: Carolyn Crimi

Twitter: @crims10

#Bookexcursion, Debut Author, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/5/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.


Our Recent Reads:

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Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne 

Since her mom passed away five years ago, it has just been 11 year old Josephine and her fisherman dad.  Her father has recently started to date and Josephine is determined to keep them a family of two resorting to extreme measures like Operation Slime to scare anyone from staying around.  When her dad brings home Mariss to meet her, she is different from all the others; Josephine cannot scare her away no matter how hard she tries.  And it seems like Josephine is the only one who feels something is not right with Mariss.  With help from her best friend, Ahkai and the librarian, Mrs. Edgecombe, Josephine uncovers information to uncover the true identity of Mariss. 

Set in Barbados, Josephine Against the Sea is a story that pulled me in right away.  I absolutely loved Josephine’s boldness. I have not met many characters who have no qualms with dumping fish guts on others to protect her family.  Beneath that tenacity though is a girl who misses her mom, loves her dad, and desperately wants a spot on the cricket team.  As I got deeper into the novel, details emerged as to why Mariss has crept into her life.  I appreciate that Bourne reveals clues gradually which arouse my curiosity and made the novel hard to put down.  And through it all, I always rooted for Josephine because despite her not so good moves, all her actions came from a place of love.  

If you enjoy an intriguing adventure with dynamic characters, I highly recommend this novel! Thanks to author Shakirah Bourne for sharing a copy with my #bookexcursion group.  Josephine Against the Sea celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on July 6, 2021.  


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The Caiman by Maria Eugenia Manrique Illustrated by Ramon Paris  Translated by Amy Brill

In the small town of San Fernando de Apure in Venezuela, a young girl finds a baby alligator, a river caiman, who is believed to be an orphan.  Just as the girl was about to return the creature to the water, the town jeweler and watchmaker, Faoro passes by and immediately offers to take the baby alligator home.  The animal was so small that it not only fit in the palm of his hand but also in his shirt pocket.  Faoro names her Night for her dark skin. Night accompanies Faoro to his workshop and business booms.  How many places can you get a clock fixed, jewelry mended, AND pet a baby alligator?  

The Caiman is a heartwarming story about the incredible bond between a jeweler and an alligator.   To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here


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Let Liberty Rise: How America’s School Children Helped Save the Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel Illustrated by Chuck Groenink

Today, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of pride and freedom, but back in 1885, she arrived at Bedloe’s Island in 350 pieces and wasn’t able to be unpacked. Why? France had asked the United States to build a pedestal for the statue to stand on, but it was only half built. Why? Apparently, the the price of the pedestal was $100,000 and Americans weren’t too keen on contributing to the fund. 

With Stiefel’s spirited text and Groenink’s energetic illustrations, Let Liberty Rise is an uplifting story that makes me proud to be an American.  What I love most is the 120,000 donors to the pedestal fund were a diverse group made up of all ages and professions and it especially warms my heart that Stiefel made a conscious decision to highlight the contributions of children.  Children from all over the country gave up their earned or saved money to be a part of something bigger. To read my full review and enter a giveaway, click here


Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

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Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi

Miss Lottie gives dogs a second chance. Gus was the first so under Dog Pack Law, he is the pack leader and has to give the seal of approval before Miss Lottie brings another dog into the pack.  Gus’ track record is perfect with Roo, Tank, and Moon Pie. When Miss Lottie introduces Decker to the pack, Gus smells something not right.  He wants to trust his gut instincts, but Miss Lottie keeps comparing Decker to her first dog, Mr. Beans.  Perhaps Gus’ dogginess is off and Decker just needs a chance so Gus gives a half hearted woof and wag. Immediately, Decker walks into Miss Lottie’s the van ahead of him. Uh oh!   Is Decker challlenging Gus as leader of the pack?

As the story unfolds, readers learn about all the dogs’ history and how they found their forever home with Miss Lottie.  Crimi also shares Decker’s story and why he acts the way he does. Reading the back story of each dog really hit me because as the proud dog mom of Bella (& Etta who passed in February 2020), it is very rare to know about dogs’ lives before adopting them.  Bella is a sweetheart wagging her tail 90% of the time, but if she hears the sound of metal, immediately, her tail goes down and she scurries to her safe spot under our bed. I can speculate, but will never know the roots of that behavior.  

At its heart, Secondhand Dogs is a story about  family, for after Miss Lottie’s husband passed away, she needed a purpose.  She soon discovered that giving dogs a second home was a way to heal and be whole.  Another important character in the story is Quinn, Miss Lottie’s neighbor who is coping with a lot of loss-his father’s sudden death, an accident which claimed the life of his dog, Murph, and his changed relationship with his older brother Jessie. After reading Secondhand Dogs, my heart was filled with hope, for whatever happened in the past, we all have a second chance to be happy.

Thanks to Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media and Harper Collins for sharing an ARC with me.  Secondhand Dogs celebrates its book birthday tomorrow on July 6, 2021. 

 

Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

 

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.

#classroombookaday, Blog Tour, Giveaway, Nonfiction, Picture Books

Review & Giveaway for Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel

 
 
                                                                  

About the Book:

Title: Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty
Author: Chana Stiefel
Illustrator: Chuck Groenink
Pub. Date: March 3, 2021


Beagles and Books is excited to be share a review and giveaway for Let Liberty Rise! published by Scholastic. Special thanks to the publisher and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review:

Truth.  I only know the basic facts about the Statue of Liberty.

  • It was a gift from France.
  • It sits in New York Harbor.
  • It is a national monument.
  • Emma Lazarus’ poem is on the pedestal.
 

After reading Let Liberty Rise, I am a little ashamed at my lack of knowledge. But that is the great thing about reading nonfiction picture books. Even as an adult, I can learn more information about a topic and wow did I!

 
 
 

Interior illustration © 2021 Chuck Groenink from LET LIBERTY RISE! How America's Schoolchildren Saved the Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel_1

Today, the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of pride and freedom, but back in 1885, she arrived at Bedloe’s Island in 350 pieces and wasn’t able to be unpacked. Why? France had asked the United States to build a pedestal for the statue to stand on, but it was only half built. Why? Apparently, the the price of the pedestal was $100,000 and Americans weren’t too keen on contributing to the fund. 

These illustrations was particularly eye opening to me, for I did not know about the Americans’ indifference toward the statue which would become a national treasure.  Another new fact was that crates with her parts were just laying around Bedloe’s Island out in the elements.  Groenink’s illustrations show the honest feelings of New Yorkers.  It was too expensive and she should be send back to Paris.  Interior illustration © 2021 Chuck Groenink from LET LIBERTY RISE! How America's Schoolchildren Saved the Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel_3

Interior illustration © 2021 Chuck Groenink from LET LIBERTY RISE! How America's Schoolchildren Saved the Statue of Liberty by Chana Stiefel_4

Luckily, Lady Liberty had a an ally-Joesph Pulitzer, a Jewish Hungarian immigrant who now owned a newspaper, The New York World. In March 16,1885; Pulitizer encouraged people to donate to the pedestal fund and promised to print all contributors’ names in The World, no matter the sum or age of person.

 

Newspaper across the country reprinted Pulitizer words and over $2000 was raised in the first week. Children were instrumental in raising money emptying out their piggy banks of the precious coins they have saved.. By August 11, 1885, thanks to the generosity of 120,000 donors had collectively raised $100,000 to reach the goal.  The Statue of Liberty would soon be freed from her crates and rise for all to see and admire whether one was an immigrant sailing into New York Harbor, a visitor to New York City or a native Native Yorker.  

 

With Stiefel’s spirited text and Groenink’s energetic illustrations, Let Liberty Rise is an uplifting story that makes me proud to be an American.  What I love most is the 120,000 donors were a diverse group made up of all ages and professions and it especially warms my heart that Stiefel made a conscious decision to highlight the contributions of children.  Children from all over the country gave up their earned or saved money to be a part of something bigger.  After reading Let Liberty Rise to kids, imagine the conversation that can occur about how a small act can add up to a great difference.   Backmatter includes a timeline, more facts about the Statue of Liberty, a bibliography, and a look back in time through photographs.  


Praise for Let Liberty Rise!

  • “This charming history title is a true inspiration for the present. An informative must-have for all libraries.” — School Library Journal, starred review🟊
  • “All rise to this evocative, empowering offering.” — Kirkus Reviews

     

  • “[A] true tale of cooperation among all ages.” — Publishers Weekly

Check Out This Book Extras!

Download a free curriculum guide and check out the book trailer below!

About the Author:

Chana Stiefel is the author of more than 25 books for kids. She hails from sunny South Florida and now lives in New Jersey, just a ferry ride away from the Statue of Liberty. Chana loves visiting schools and libraries as well as sharing her passion for reading and writing with children. She earned a master’s degree in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting from New York University. To learn more, visit Chana at chanastiefel.com

Facebook: Chana Stiefel

Twitter:  @chanastiefel

Instagram: @chanastiefel

About the Illustrator:

Chuck Groenink hails from an overgrown village among the peat bogs in the north of the Netherlands, where he spent his formative years climbing trees, drawing, reading, and cycling. He attended the Artez Institute of Visual Arts in Kampen, graduating from the Department of Illustration in 2004. He now resides in Valatie, New York, with his wife, dog, and two cats. Visit Chuck at chuckgroenink.com

Instagram: @c.groenink


Let Liberty Rise_Cover

Giveaway Details:

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty, courtesy of Scholastic (U.S. addresses only). This giveaway is open on Sunday, July 4, 2021 ending at 10:00 p.m. EST.   Please note that book may take longer to ship so patience is appreciated.  Enter below or head over to my Twitter account, @lauramossa and retweet my Let Liberty Rise! post.

Giveaway, Nonfiction, Picture Books

Review & Giveaway for The Caiman by María Eugenia Manrique 

 

About the Book:
Title: The Caiman
Author: María Eugenia Manrique 
Illustrator: Ramón París
Translator: Amy Brill
Pub. Date: July 1, 2021


Beagles and Books is excited to be part of the blog tour for The Caiman published by Amazon Crossing Kids which aims to increase the diversity of children’s books in translation and encourage young reading from a range of cultural perspectives. Special thanks to the publisher and Barbara Fisch of Blue Slip Media for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


Review:

In the small town of San Fernando de Apure in Venezuela, a young girl finds a baby alligator, a river caiman, who is believed to be an orphan.  Just as the girl was about to return the creature to the water, the town jeweler and watchmaker, Faoro passes by and immediately offers to take the baby alligator home.  The animal was so small that it not only fit in the palm of his hand but also in his shirt pocket.  Faoro names her Night for her dark skin. Night accompanies Faoro to his workshop and business booms.  How many places can you get a clock fixed, jewelry mended, AND pet a baby alligator?  

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Night grows to more than six feet long and during this time, Faoro falls in love with his neighbor, Angela. Would Night accept Angela?  With support from Faoro, Night gives her approval and the couple marries.  I especially love this illustration because with the exception of one guest, all those invited to the wedding are smiling as Night holds Angela’s veil. Clearly, the guests are comfortable with Night too. 

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Their little family is blissful full of song and laughter for many years, but then Faoro falls ill.  Night is distraught refusing to leave Faoro. Faoro’s parting words to Night are “Don’t be afraid;  Angela loves you and will take care of you.”  Night mourns Faoro’s passing and goes into hiding for weeks, but finally resurfaces when Angela is moved to sing after reading an old card written by Faoro.  The gift of song helps both Angela and Night heal keeping Faoro close to them.

Gorgeously written and illlustrated, The Caiman is a heartwarming story about the incredible bond between loved ones.  While I admit that an alligator is not a typical pet, the message shines through, for Night loved Faoro unconditionally which is a true gift.  Another important lesson is we all react to a loss differently.   Angela stopped singing, and Night retreated to a storage room refusing to leave or eat.  Each needed their own space to grieve, but I love that Faoro, through his words, was responsible for their initial healing.  

París’ illustrations are absolutely beautiful, and the landscape format is perfect for a book that features an alligator that grows to ten feet long. The tip of Night’s tail is actually on the back of the book cover showing her immense length. After reading each page, I noticed my eyes lingered longer to take in the artwork; each page spread seemed to be its own scene in Night’s life from baby to adult.  And pay close attention to locate the animals drawn in black and white on a few of the page spreads.  Can you find armadillos, a turtle, an iguana, hedgehogs, and chickens? 

One last observation-if you typically skip an author’s biography or any backmatter, I highly suggest you take the time to read them.  Valuable information about the origins of this story are shared (and I don’t want to give it away).  The Caiman reminds us what where there is love, there is also grief, but the love is always worth it.  


Praise for The Caiman!

New York Times Globetrotting Pick!

★“The striking illustrations…have a wild and whimsical feel about them, featuring lush foliage and expressive characters, including the eventually enormous caiman. It’s a memorable and unexpected demonstration of the universality of love, grief, and kindness.” —Booklist (starred review)


About the Author:

María Eugenia Manrique is one of the girls portrayed in this story. She rode the caiman when she visited her family in San Fernando de Apure. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. She studied fine art in Mexico City, specializing in xylography and engraving; Eastern painting at Nankín University, China; and sumi-e and calligraphy at the Nihon Shuji Kyoiku Zaidan Foundation in Japan. Her work has been exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. The Caiman is her first children’s book. For more information, visit her website: https://mariaeugeniamanrique.wordpress.com/.

Instagram: @mem.manrique


About the Illustrator:

Ramón París was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and as a child lived in Barinas, a plains state like Apure, where he also heard the story of the caiman. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain. Hismost recent book for children, Duermevela, was selected for the Bologna Book Fair Illustrators Exhibition. His books have been recognized with honors including Los Mejores del Banco del Libro and  the IBBY Honor List, among others, and they have been translated into numerous languages. Visit him at: ramon.paris.

Instagram: @ramon_paris_ilustrador


About the Translator:

Amy Brill’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications including the Washington Post, Medium, Real Simple, Oprah.com, and One Story. Her first novel, The Movement of Stars, was published by Riverhead Books. A native New Yorker, Amy lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.

 


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Giveaway Details:
One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Caiman courtesy of Amazon Crossing Kids (U.S. and Canada addresses).  This giveaway is open from Friday, July 3 through Friday, July 10, 2021 ending at 10:00 p.m. EST.   Please note that book may take longer to ship so patience is appreciated.  Enter below or head over to my Twitter account, @lauramossa and retweet my The Caiman post. 

 

Book Birthday, Nonfiction, Picture Books

Happy Book Birthday to Woof! The Truth About Dogs by Annette Whipple

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About the Book:
Title: Woof! The Truth About Dogs 
Author: Annette Whipple
Illustrator: Juanbjuan Oliver
Pub. Date: June 30, 2021

 

I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own. 

Bella and I are thrilled to wish a very Happy Book Birthday to Woof, Whipple’s latest book in THE TRUTH ABOUT series!  Woof provides answers to simple yet valuable questions that any dog owner (or lover) should know.  While I had a general idea of the answer, Whipple sets the record straight with the key facts.  Here are a few of the questions explored. 

  • Do dog have feelings?  
  • Why do dogs smell butts?
  • How do dogs help people?
  • Are dogs just tame wolves? 

I love the format of this nonfiction picture book. for it is a great mentor text to teach children about text features.  A question is posed in a large and appealing font.  Each answer is written in kid friendly language so the facts are easy to understand.  Clear, crisp photographs match the question showing the dog engaged in the activity; a sidebar also appears on every page spread and includes Oliver’s illustrations and the dog’s humorous point of view on the topic. 

Dogs Sweat

Throughout the entire book, different breeds, each identified with a label, are highlighted in the photographs to show kids the wide range of dogs.   Of course, I was happy to see both the beagle and basset hound breed featured!  

What I love most about Woof is Whipple strongly advocates for dogs in shelter, a cause close to my heart.  The last question, How Can I Help?, explains how kids can volunteer at or raise money for a local shelter.  And if your family is able-welcome a dog into your family by adopting.   Other helpful information are steps on how to properly meet a dog, directions for making a dog tug toy, a glossary, and a list of websites. 

After reading Woof, kids (and adults) will know the why behind the wagging tail, sniffing snout, and happy bark.  And if they didn’t like dogs already, Woof might indeed change their mind!  Whipple shares a lot of information that may help children calm their fears about canines.  

If you know a child who enjoy learning cool facts about animals,, check out Whipple’s other books in THE TRUTH ABOUT series.

  • Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls (September 2020)
  • Scurry! The Truth About Spiders, (Coming Fall 2021) 

Praise for WOOF!

Woof Kirkus


Meet the Author!

Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder while exciting readers about science and history. She’s the author of ten fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press) and The Truth About series (Reycraft Books) including Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls and Scurry! The Truth About Spiders.

#Bookexcursion, Early Chapter Books, Graphic Novel, It's Monday! What Are You Reading?, Middle Grade Literature, Picture Books

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/28/21

Bella and I are excited to share our latest reads in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  Kellee Moye of Unleashing Readers and Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts decided to give it a #kidlit focus and encourage everyone who participates to visit at least 3 of the other #kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.


Our Recent Reads:

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Saint Ivy: Kind at All Costs by Laurie Morrison

Having a kind heart is what makes 13 year old Ivy special.  Her nana who she bakes with every Friday worries about Ivy’s big, soft heart.  Ivy disagrees and believes caring for others is her talent; hence how she got the nickname “Saint Ivy.”  As readers get to know Ivy, it becomes apparent Ivy is navigating a lot of change in her life; her parents recently divorced and her father is now with Leo.   She is starting to feel like the third wheel in her friendships with best friends Kyra and Peyton.  And Ivy just found out her mother is pregnant, acting as a gestational surrogate for good family friends.  On the outside, Ivy claims that she is fine, but on the inside, resentful feelings begin to take root which Ivy pushes far down unwillingly to admit they are real.  

So when Ivy receives an anonymous email from bythebay@mailme.com who thanks her for turning her awful day into an almost okay one, Ivy plunges into a new project-to uncover the identity of the person behind the email. This quest gives Ivy the ability to neglect her own needs and fears because she is so busy being kind to all the people she thinks may be the sender.  Ivy soon learns that she needs to extend the same kindness to herself by sharing her honest feelings with both her family and friends. 

Like her last novel, Up for Air, Saint Ivy is a story that I would have devoured when I was in middle school.  It is definitely a solid book for readers not quite ready for YA.  Middle grade readers (including a thirteen year old me) can relate to Ivy because change is scary and it can be difficult to own your feelings especially when you should feel grateful for your good life.  Morrison beautifully captures Ivy’s genuine concern for others but at the same time, her vulnerability .  What I love most about Saint Ivy is that readers see Ivy gradually realize that she can’t pour from an empty cup.  She (We) need to take of yourself first. Thank you to Laurie Morrison for sharing a finished copy with my #bookexcursion group. Saint Ivy  released on May 18, 2021.


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Dear Librarian by Lydia M. Sigwarth Illustrated by Romina Galotta

Debut author Sigwarth shares a personal story of how one librarian changed her life.   When Sigwarth was five years old, she and her family (nine in total) relocated to Iowa from Colorado.  When they first moved, the family could not buy their own home; therefore, they took turns staying with relatives.  Her grandma’s house was too small, aunt’s too nice, and cousin’s too full of people.  When her mom took her and his siblings to the library one day, Sigwarth finally found her special spot not only because of the wide space but also due to the friendship of the librarian.   Even after Sigwarth’s family moved into their own home, the library always held a special place in her heart for she affectionally calls it “a Library Home.”  On the final pages, Sigwarth shares that she is now a librarian inspired by the kindness of Debra Stephenson, the librarian who made her feel safe and happy as a child.

Dear Librarian is a beatiful story that tugged at my heart.  As a young child, I never experienced homelessness like Sigwarth, but I was a regular patron at my local library.  Mrs. Johnston, the librarian, always held books for me that she thought I’d enjoy and along with my mother, I credit her with instilling my love of reading.   Galotta’s warm illustrations complement the text well evoking a nostagic feel.  Thank you to MacMillan Children’s Publishing for sharing a finished copy with me. Dear Librarian recently released on June 1, 2021.


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New Ready-to-Read Graphics from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

Do you know a beginning reader that would enjoy graphic novels?  I can’t wait to share Simon & Schuster’s new Ready to Read Graphics, which complements their popular Ready-to-Read line with my students.  The first book in each series will be published tomorrow on June 29, 2021. 

  • Thunder and Cluck: Friends Don’t Eat Friends by Jill Esbaum Illustrated by Miles Thompson
  • Nugget and Dog: All Ketchup! No Mustard! by Jason Tharp
  • Geraldine Pu and Her Lunchbox Too! by Maggie P. Chang

 To read my full reviews of each book, click here.   Thank you to Cassie Malmo for sending review copies of Ready-to-Read Graphics to Beagles and Books.


Bella’s Dog Pick of the Week

Wanting to spread the dog love, Beagles and Books has a weekly feature of highlighting a literary selection with a canine main character.

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Puppy In My Head: A Book About Mindfulness by Elise Gravel

To help young children cope with anxiety, Gravel uses the analogy of a “puppy in my head.”  In the story, the young female narrator tells introduces readers to her puppy, Ollie, who is quiet most of the time, but when Ollie is excited, scared or upset, he runs around in her mind making noises.   To help Ollie (and her) calm down, she takes out her magical leash which is actually a breathing strategy taking deep, slow, gentle breaths.  Other calming techniques include exercising and talking to someone. 

Gravel’s distinctive comic like illustrations and large, colorful text not only appeal to the eyes but also help get the message to kids.  I especially love how a specific word or phrase on each page (feelings, breath, slowly, talk about it) is written in bubble letters to emphasize its importance.  At the end of the book, a pediatrican briefly shares her thoughts on the value on introducing children to mindfulness to support their mental health.  Puppy in My Head will be a perfect read aloud at the beginning of the year with my primary students!


Bella and I thank you for visiting Beagles and Books!

“People love dogs. You can never go wrong adding a dog to the story.”
-Jim Butcher
#IMWAYR is dedicated to dear Etta, my original book beagle. Blessed that Etta is part of my story.
Early Chapter Books, Early Readers, Graphic Novel

Reviews of New Ready-to-Read Graphics from Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing

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Thank you to Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing for sending review copies of Ready-to-Read Graphics, a new addition to their Ready-to-Read line.  All opinions are my own.  Ready-to-Read Grpahics are a great way to introduce beginning readers to graphic novels.  Check out the characteristics below!

The first book in each series will be published next week on Tuesday, June 29, 2021.  Subsequent books in each series will be forthcoming. For more information, click on Ready-to-Read Graphics!


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Thunder and Cluck: Friends Do Not Eat Friends by Jill Esbaum Illustrated by Miles Thompson (Level 1)

Thunder, a large carnivorous dinosaur, attempts to scare Cluck, a small pterodactyl with his loud roar, but Cluck isn’t convinced.  In fact, as Thunder continues to make noise, Cluck is pretty chill staying put to enjoy his rest on the grass.  Cluck’s lack of response infuriates Thunder but as the two banter back and forth, it is pretty clear that Cluck’s comments are making Thunder rethink his whole plan.  Can a friendship truly blossom between these two dinosaurs?  

Thunder and Cluck is a great introduction to graphic novel for beginning readers, for the story is mostly one or two panels per page with some wordless page spreads.  Esbaum’s peppy dialogue is concise and includes many high frequency words that young readers can recognize and read.  With an accessible text, kids can focus on the characters especially the transformation of Thunder from ferocious to friendly.  Thompson’s lively illustrations humurously show each character’s contrast in personalities.   Stay tuned for The Brave Friends Leads the Way (Book 2) coming out in August 2021!


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Nugget and Dog: All Ketchup No Mustard by Jason Tharp (Level 2)

(Chicken) Nugget and (Hot) Dog are neighbors and best friends.  One day, they look in a chest in Great-Grandpa Frank-Furter’s attic and find a mask, a paper, and a photo.  After showing Gramps the items, he tells them of being a K.E.T.C.H.U.P. Cruscader in his youth.  Each letter stood for a positive word (kind, thoughful, courageous, etc.) and the group was formed to save Gastroplis from the evil Mayo Naze and her mold.  By being kind, emphathetic, and helpful to Mayo Naze, the Cruscaders convinced her to use power for good, not evil.  But now, her great-grandson Dijon Mustard, is hatching his own evil plan.  Can Nugget and Dog use K.E.T.C.H.U.P to save the town once again?  

With cool characters, an intriguing plot, and engaging illustrations, Nugget and Dog is a hilarious story with an affirming message!  Tharp’s comic panels are bold and playful and the text includes puns that will keep kids laughing throughout the story.  As an adult, I chuckled every time Dijon appeared on the scene, for he is perfectly evil with his slanty eyebrows and his MWAHAHA outbursts with his sidekick Crouton. 

What I especially loved is how Nugget and Dog showed the power of positivity and the message that you can do big things even if you are small.    The next Nugget and Dog adventure, Yum Fest is the Best (Book 2), publishes in August 2021. 


Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box Too! by Maggie P. Chang (Level 3)

Like a lot of kids her age, Geraldine’s favorite time of the school day is lunch.  Amah (Grandma in Taiwanese) makes the best food and even includes notes in her grinning lunch box, which Geraldine affectionately Biandang.  Look how cute he is!

 

But when Nico who sits by Geraldine smells her curry and loudly says “EW”! and further remarks “Your lunch is gross,” other classmates follow with words like “yuck” and “weird.” Although Geraldine loves her Amah’s Taiwanese lunches, she is now nervous to eat them at the lunch table. Geraldine is so upset that she not only does eat not the delicious bao but also takes her anger out on Biandang throwing him, but then quickly apologizing and mending him. On the next day, right before Geraldine opens Biandang, Nico makes another rude comment, but it is now directed at Deven and his lunch. Geraldine knows that she has to stand up both for herself and Deven and teach her classmates a powerful lesson to be both open minded and compassionate.

Young children need to learn about the effects of microaggressions and debut author/illustrator Chang’s Geraldine Pu and Her Lunch Box Too is the perfect story to help kids understand how their comments can be hurtful to their peers. Chang’s comic panels are bright and detailed with a large text to make it easy to read. Geraldine’s thoughts ands feelings are conveyed through the narration and the dialogue, The number of panels per page increases which shows the Ready-to-Read level progression from 1 to 3. Bonuses include an author explanation of how Geraldine and her family speak English, Madarin Chinese, and Taiwanese, as well as a glossary of Madarin and Taiwanese words with pictures. In addition, at the end of the book, Biandang shares his thoughts too about names and foods highlighted in the story, and Amah shares her steamed pork bao recipe. A second book has not been shared yet, but I am hopeful the wait won’t be long!