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    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    5 Reasons Why You Should Read The Questioneers Chapter Book Series


    I could hardly contain my excitement when I initially learned about The Questioneers Chapter Book Series, a clever chapter book spin-off of the popular STEM picture books based on the characters Rosie Revere, Iggy Peck and Ada Twist.  I am a huge fan of Iggy Peck, ArchitectRosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist, Scientist so that automatically made me have high expectations for the chapter book series.  If you love Ada, Iggy and Rosie as much as I do, here are five reasons why you should read The Questioneers chapter book series:

    1. Each of the original high achieving, STEM lovin’ bunch of kids are featured in the series: Ada, Iggy and Rosie.  Plus, there are a few new characters introduced (Mrs. Lu, the Blue River Riveters, Ada’s great-aunt Bernice) along with some familiar ones like Rosie’s great-great-aunt Rose.

    2. There’s lots of fun, engineer-inspired artwork featured throughout that is easy for kids to understand.  I love the use of graph paper illustrations shown throughout.  I think they really capture the feeling of Rosie actually writing in her notebook and taking notes for her project.  The illustrations are drawn in black and white with some added pops of red (and of course, Rosie and Ada’s signature red and white polka dots).

    3. Just like in the picture books, readers will learn great lessons of: teamwork, brainstorming, persistence, camaraderie, problem solving and STEM.  I always love it when readers can take away wonderful messages they can use in their own real-life experiences.

    4.  Diverse female characters are shown as strong and positive role models.  The Blue Riveters who are portrayed in Book #1 are a group of smart, tough and hard working airplane builders who just happen to be females.  This shows children that women can do ALL types of jobs including build airplanes, tanks, and jeeps.  The scarf-wearing character Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during World War II.  She recently passed away in January 2018 at the age of 96.  The hard work of the Riveters helped the Allies win World War II.  So there’s also a bit of history kids learn too about The Riveters in the back matter.  How clever of author Andrea Beaty to introduce a real-life historical element to the character in the book!  I’ve seen the Rosie the Riveter image for years and never made the connection of the red polka dot scarf to Rosie’s character until reading this book.

    5. The chapters are short (there are 22 chapters in total) and contain lots of action words including a good amount of onomatopoeia that kids are sure to love: THUD, CRACK, BOOM, SPLAT, SLURP (these words are always so fun to say with kids).  An early reader could read this book easily on their own or with the help of a grown-up in a short period of time.  The chapters don’t drag out and they are fun to read!  Grown-ups will love reading these books just as much as the kids.  Makes a fantastic family read aloud book for story time at home!

    Overall, the kids and I loved everything about Book #1 of The Questioneers series.  It’s perfect for science and STEM enthusiasts or budding entrepreneurs to read.  The back matter also contains factual science information about valves, a brief history of The Riveters, a “Think About This” question for kids to ponder, and author/illustrator notes.

    We’re already looking forward to reading the second book in the series when it publishes in April 2019!

    Your turn: Have I convinced you to check out the books in this series?  Have you read any of the popular picture books?  Which character from the series is your favorite?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters: The Questioneers Book #1

    Recommended Ages 6-9 and up

    Ada Twist and the Perilous Pants: The Questioneers Book #2 (Available for pre-orders NOW!)

    Publishes in April 2019, but you can pre-order it NOW!

    Recommended Ages 6-9 and up

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    book reviews, children's books, read aloud

    New Bilingual Series Inspired by the Life of Latina Sensation Sarai Gonzalez

    Viral video sensation and social activist, Sarai Gonzalez has teamed up with award-winning author Monica Brown to create a new illustrated chapter book series influenced by Gonzalez’s life.  Sarai initially became popular back in 2016 when she “broke the internet” with a music video for Colombian band Bomba Estéreo for the song “Soy Yo” (“I’m Me”).  The video has a contagious Latin rhythm and strong lyrics emphasizing self-love and diversity.  The video garnered over 30 million views and the New York Times called Sarai a Latina icon.

    Sarai Gonzalez is AWESOME. Fourth grader Sarai Gonzalez can do anything. She can bake, dance, and run her own cupcake business, Sarai’s Sweets.  Sarai is a spunky little girl with a kind heart and big dreams.

    My kids and I truly enjoyed reading both of these chapter books over the course of a few weeks as read aloud stories.  We liked how much Sarai loves her family, her Peruvian and Costa Rican culture and her willingness to help her family and friends when needed.  We found this chapter book series to be very fun and upbeat to read!

    I also appreciated having a few Spanish words sprinkled throughout both books as well as a few Peruvian references like the word “Tata”, which means grandfather.  Emerging readers would have no problem reading the text on their own, with some help needed from a grown-up every now and again.  Overall, we adore little Sarai, her friends and tight knit Latinx family.  A great series for emerging readers ages 7 and up.

    Launching simultaneously in Spanish and English, the series kicks off with two books: Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome (9781338236682; 9/11/18; $5.99; Paperback) and Sarai in the Spotlight (9781338236699; 9/11/18; $5.99; Paperback).  Recommended for ages 7-10, Grades 2-5.

    About Sarai Gonzalez
    Eleven-year-old Sarai Gonzalez became an overnight sensation after appearing in Bomba Estero’s, “Soy Yo,” a music video about embracing yourself and loving your flaws. Sarai and the Meaning of Awesome is the first book in her new chapter book series inspired by her life. Sarai lives in New Jersey with her family.

    About Monica Brown
    Monica Brown is the award-winning author of super-awesome books for children, including The Lola Levine chapter book series, Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/no combina, Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, and Waiting for the Biblioburro. She is Professor of English at Northern Arizona University, specializing in Latinx and African American Literature. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her husband and her dogs, Lola and Finn. Visit her at www.monicabrown.net.

    Your turn: Have you checked out this series yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, giveaways, holiday books

    Christmas in September with Santa Bruce + A Giveaway!

    Disclaimer: We’re thrilled to partner with Disney Book Group for this festive giveaway in time for the holiday season!  Enter for your chance to win a copy of ALL FOUR Bruce books, Santa Bruce ornament & hat, and a box of Santa Bruce holiday candies.Santa Bruce
    By Ryan T. Higgins
    In Stores September 4th, 2018
    Published by Disney Book Group
    Recommended for ages 3+

    ABOUT THE BOOK
    Bruce is a lot of things. He is a bear. He is a grump. He is a pretty decent cook. And he is a mother. One thing Bruce is not? Santa Claus. But that doesn’t stop the whole forest from lining up to give him their Christmas wishes when he becomes the victim of mistaken identity—again. Kids will howl with laughter as award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins delivers another hilarious story about this bear who just can’t catch a break.

    We’ve read all four of the Bruce books and they never fail to make me and the kids laugh out loud!  This time, Mother Bruce is a victim of mistaken identity, yet again!  One day while outside shoveling snow in his red “Santa like” gear, he is mistaken to be Santa Claus.  Santa Bruce is a cheerful and delightful story that is so fun to read aloud with kids during story time.

    The illustrations capture the story so well too which makes it even funnier.  The facial expressions that Bruce and the other animals make are so spot on and really help to bring the story to life.

    Ready to find out how you can enter to win the giveaway?  Read on.  Good Luck!

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR
    Ryan T. Higgins (ryanthiggins.com) is an author and illustrator who likes the outdoors and cheese sandwiches. He is NOT a grumpy old black bear, but he DOES like making books about one—starting with the best-selling Mother Bruce, which received the E. B. White Read-Aloud Award and the Ezra Jack Keats New Illustrator Honor. He lives in Maine with his wife and kids… and too many pets.

    LEARN MORE
    Visit Books.Disney.com

    Follow Disney Book Group on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram

    THE GIVEAWAY!

    One (1) US-based winner will receive:

    • Full set of all four Bruce books
    • Branded ornament and Santa hat
    • Plus a Santa Bruce box of holiday candies!

     

    Christmas in September with Santa Bruce Giveaway

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    children's books, family fun, literary road trip series

    Literary Road Trip Series: A Night with Author Jacqueline Woodson at the Mark Twain House

    I recently had the honor of listening to Jacqueline Woodson, the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature speak at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT.  The event was sponsored by RJ Julia Booksellers and The Mark Twain House and was the first stop on Woodson’s current book tour to promote her latest books.

    Woodson received the 2018 Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and 2018 Children’s Literature Legacy Award. She is the 2014 National Book Award Winner for her New York Times bestselling memoir Brown Girl Dreaming, which was also a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Award, a Newbery Honor, the NAACP Image Award and a Sibert Honor.  Woodson’s new picture book, created along with two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López, is The Day You Begin, a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.  Her new chapter book is entitled Harbor Me which celebrates the healing that can occur when a group of students share their stories.

    The night started off with Woodson reading passages from her popular middle grade book Brown Girl Dreaming.  As she read, she told us different things that were going on during her life that inspired her to write the passage.  She also talked about parts of her childhood and how she migrated from the South before eventually ending up in New York City.

    Next, she read aloud the book The Day You Begin followed by reading a few pages from Harbor Me.  You could hear a pin drop as she read in a “sing songy” type of tone which was completely captivating.  After she finished reading, audience members had the opportunity to ask questions before heading out to get our books personalized and signed.

    A few things I loved most about the event:

    • Jacqueline was everything I thought she’d be and more!  I loved her added bits of humor and the amount of thought/detail she put into answering each question from the audience.
    • She challenged educators and parents in the room to have classrooms/home libraries that reflect “windows”, “mirrors” and “sliding doors” in order for all children to be able to see themselves, understand others and slide into different experiences.
    • Learning more about the inspiration behind writing her books.  Fun fact: The picture book The Other Side was intended to be a story about a present day experience in Jacqueline’s life, not an experience from the past.  It was the illustrator who set the book in the past (1950’s), not her.  Since authors and illustrators aren’t allowed to have any contact with each other during the book writing process, she had no idea what the illustrations would look like until they were completed.

    Overall, it was an amazing event and I’m so thrilled to have had the opportunity to meet her in person, shake her hand and receive a signed copy of her book.  Thanks to RJ Julia Bookstore and The Mark Twain House for putting on such a fantastic event.  Now I need to take my kids on a literary road trip to visit the Mark Twain House so we can explore the entire museum.  It looks like an incredible place!


    This amazing Mark Twain Lego statue greets you at the door as soon as you walk in the Mark Twain House Museum.

    Your turn: Are you planning to attend one of Jacqueline Woodson’s upcoming book tour events?  Which one of her books is your favorite?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    adult books, children's books, children's literacy, young adult books

    Celebrate National Read a Book Day with PBS the Great American Read

    National Read A Book Day is observed annually on September 6th.  It’s a day that invites us ALL to grab a book we might enjoy and spend the day reading (as many hours of reading you can spare).  National Read a Book Day is the perfect time to revisit your favorite novel or maybe finish that book you started, but put down months ago.  So mark your calendars now you don’t miss out on all the bookish fun!

    Today I partnered with PBS to remind you about National Read a Book Day (September 6th) and the return of the hit show The Great American Read (September 11th).

    Throughout the summer, the multi-platform PBS initiative THE GREAT AMERICAN READ has been encouraging people across America to read as many books as possible from its list of America’s 100 Favorite Novels and to vote for their favorites. While many readers find great joy in becoming immersed in a beloved book, busy schedules can prove a challenge for making time for pleasure reading. To assist those who need help making the most of their reading time, PBS’ THE GREAT AMERICAN READ has partnered with the Library of Congress to offer tips on how to make reading an essential and beloved part of a daily routine.

    THE GREAT AMERICAN READ aims to provide a place for all Americans to discuss the books that they love; books that have inspired, moved and shaped them in one way or another,” said Bill Gardner, Vice President of Programming & Development for PBS. “Through this eight-part series and associated events and activities taking place in communities throughout the country, we hope to help readers fall in love with the act of reading all over again whether that’s through discovering new titles or revisiting favorites from the past.”

    “We all have busy lives, and while many people want to read more for pleasure, they feel like they just don’t have time for it,” said Becky Brasington Clark, Director of Publishing at the Library of Congress. “The fact that we have such hectic schedules is even more reason why we need to make time for reading; it’s one of the most effective ways to detach your mind from the stresses of daily life.”

    Summer is a perfect time to develop better reading habits, since people often have vacations planned that result in more leisure time. It’s important, however, that these habits carry over into daily routines when vacation is over and fall rolls around. Here are some reading tips from Clark and the Young Readers Center at the Library of Congress to build reading into your daily life throughout the year:

    • Make the most of spare minutes sprinkled through your day. Keep a book with you so you can read it whenever you have an extra minute or two. They really add up.
    • If you have trouble putting down your phone, put a book on it. Read a few pages instead of checking social media.
    • If the weather is amenable, read outdoors! In the yard, at the bus station, under a tree, or at a museum, reading outdoors engages all of your senses and helps improve your mood.
    • Try downloading free apps from your public library so you can borrow e-books and audio books.

    Reading on the move:

    • Whether you’re going on an end of summer vacation or staying in town, make sure a visit to a bookstore or library is on your itinerary. Pick up a book. Read the jacket copy. Flip through the pages. If it grabs your interest – grab it!
    • If your phone is in “airplane” mode, that’s a sure sign that you should be reading a book. Put a book in your carry on – your time in the air and in the airport will be much more rewarding.
    • Family time in the car, whether that’s commuting to school or going to an activity, is also a great time to listen to an audio book.

    Choosing what to read:

    • Can’t find something new you want to read? Re-read a favorite. You’ll be surprised by the new discoveries found in an old favorite.
    • Embrace your not-so-guilty pleasures. It doesn’t have to be Tolstoy or Joyce – reading for enjoyment should be, well, enjoyable! Grab what you like and dig in. Sci-Fi? Check. Comic books? Yep. Graphic novels? Roger that.
    • Join reading challenges, such as Reading Without Walls by Gene Luen Yang, the former National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. Also, peruse lists of award-winning books on topics and perspectives that interest you.

    Reading with the kids:

    • Pick a book to read out loud together as a family activity. Take turns reading. Act out the parts. Use funny voices. Have some fun playing, reading, writing, talking and singing with the young members of your family.
    • Read your favorite childhood novel to your kids! Your child is never too young or too old to enjoy listening to a book being read out loud.
    • It’s all about choice. The more formats and books your child can choose from, the more likely they are to develop a lifelong love of reading. Show that reading is a part of life by your example, and always give them opportunities to self-select. Respect their choices and, together, enjoy what they enjoy.

    THE GREAT AMERICAN READ launched on April 20 with the release of America’s list of 100 favorite novels as chosen by a demographically and statistically representative survey (the full list is available at pbs.org/greatamericanread). A two-hour launch special hosted by Meredith Vieira premiered on PBS stations on May 22. The series will return this fall on Tuesday, September 11 at 8:00 p.m. (check local listings) to continue its search for “America’s Best-Loved Novel.”

    The initiative is supported by an extensive multi-platform digital and social media campaign designed to inspire Americans to read, vote and share their personal connections to titles on the top 100 list and beyond over the course of the summer. Since voting began during the two-hour launch episode, avid readers across the country have cast more than two million votes for their favorite books. For more information on how to vote, visit https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/vote/.

    As part of the campaign, more than two dozen local public television stations across the country have planned over 125 community engagement activities, including book clubs, author appearances and readings, screening events, book-themed family activities and more. The Library of Congress will host the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 1, and attendees will be able to engage with THE GREAT AMERICAN READ.

    About PBS

    PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 90 million people through television and 30 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at pbskids.org, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at www.pbs.org, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on TwitterFacebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at pbs.org/pressroom or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

    Your turn: Do you plan to celebrate National Read a Book Day?  Will you be tuning in for the return of The Great American Read?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    book reviews, children's books, diverse books

    Turning Pages: My Life Story (A Book Review)

    Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

    Turning Pages: My Life Story by by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Lulu Delacre

    Publisher: Philomel Books
    Format: Hardcover
    Pages: 40
    Age Range: 4 – 8
    Grade Level: Preschool – 3

    Synopsis
    As the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor has inspired young people around the world to reach for their dreams. But what inspired her? For young Sonia, the answer was books! They were her mirrors, her maps, her friends, and her teachers. They helped her to connect with her family in New York and in Puerto Rico, to deal with her diabetes diagnosis, to cope with her father’s death, to uncover the secrets of the world, and to dream of a future for herself in which anything was possible.

    In Turning Pages, Justice Sotomayor shares that love of books with a new generation of readers, and inspires them to read and puzzle and dream for themselves.

    Reflection
    From the very first sentence right to the very end, this story captured my full attention.  Not only did I learn so much about Justice Sonia Sotomayor and her background, but I also read some of the most poetic and beautiful phrases about books and reading.  It was such a treat to learn how much books played such an important part in her life.

    My story is a story about books – of poems and comics, of law and mystery, of science and science fiction.

    Reading was like lighting candles, each book a flame that lit up the world around me.

    Written words, I discovered, were electrical currents that jolted feelings to life.

    Books, it seemed, were magic potions that could fuel me with the bravery of superheroes.

    Books were my loyal friends.  They made it so I never felt lonely.

    Books were mirrors of my very own universe.

    Throughout Sonia’s life, books brought her comfort in the darkest periods. She talks about being diagnosed with diabetes when she was seven years old and how she found courage by reading comic books.  The illustrations showing her injecting herself with needles are powerful.  Instead of insulin, she imagines injecting herself with a “magic potion” and being a brave superhero.  When she was nine years old her father passed away.  At the time, Sonia found comfort and escape at the nearby Parkchester Library.  Books helped her escape her reality and allowed her precious opportunities to experience wonder.

    Almost every illustration in the book features books or reading in some way.  Sonia is seen reading at home, at the library and in college.  The back matter has a timeline of Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s life and there are actual photographs in the end papers.  The thing I love most about this book is that Sonia wrote it on her own and she’s still alive to tell her own story – her own truth.  A delightful and informative book that is sure to inspire a new generation of readers, leaders, aspiring lawyers and social justice activists.

    Your turn: Which book(s) from your childhood played an important part in your life?  Feel free to share in the comments.

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    children's books, diverse books

    The Ultimate List of African-American Baby Boy Names Inspired by Children’s Books from Alfonso to Ziggy

    There are so many wonderful picture books that feature strong, Black males as the main protagonist. Little boys (or girls) can read about heroes from the past and present who have emerged as role models for all children. They can explore nonfiction books about famous male inventors who have contributed to society. Or they can enjoy stories about everyday kids just being kids. Whatever they’re in the mood to read, either on their own or with a grown-up assisting, the one thing I can bet is they’ll be able to find a book to fit!

    Below I’ve rounded up a list of picture books that feature African-American boy protagonists with first names from A to Z.  Some are popular names that you see often and others are unique like my name.  Is your name or your son’s name listed here?  What other books would you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.

    To see the ultimate list of girl names click HERE!

    A

    AlfonsoArt
    Arturo

    B

    BarackBen
    BobBud

    C

    CastleCharlie
    ClaytonClive
    Cornelius Charles
    Cole

    D

    DaveDavid
    DevonDominic
    Deshawn

    E

    ElijahEmmanuel
    Ernie

    F

    Frank

    G

    GeorgeGordon
    Gregory

    H

    HenryHorace

    J

    JabariJacobJackson
    JadenJamesJameson
    JeremyJeromeJohn

    K

    Kevin

    L

    LennyLeoLewis
    LindenLonnieLuke

    M

    MalcolmMalusiMarcus
    MaxMichaelMiles
    MatthewMuhammad

    N

    NeilNelson

    O

    Olu

    P

    Peter

    R

    RayReginaldRichard
    RodneyRomareRon
    RileyRufus

    S

    Sam

    T

    ToniehToshTravis
    TreyTyrell

    W

    WilliamWillie

    Y

    Yosef

    Z

    Ziggy

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