Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Real Us Blog Tour

We all need a little more humor in our lives, right? Our students need to laugh just as much as they need to learn to read, write, and problem solve!  

Welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for The Real Us! Check out some information about the book and a guest post by the author himself! 

The Real Us
by Tommy Greenwald (Goodreads Author), Lauren Burniac (Editor), J.P. Coovert (Illustrations)
Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: August 8th 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
ISBN 1626721718 (ISBN13: 9781626721715)

Publisher’s description
Laura Corbett and Damian White are loners, and not by choice. Kids make fun of smart, sarcastic Laura for her weight and artistic Damian for his tendency to sweat through his shirts. Calista Getz, however―well, everyone agrees that Calista is the prettiest girl in the whole school. Maybe even the whole state. Let’s just say that she sits at the popular lunch table. Laura and Damian don’t.

But when Calista wakes up just before the school dance with the BIGGEST pimple she has EVER seen right in the middle of her face, and her attempts to hide it backfire spectacularly, Laura and Damian are the only ones who don't ignore her. In fact, they seem to see not only past her pimple, but past her popularity, too. Together, they'll challenge the school's status quo in this hilarious, heartfelt novel The Real Us, by Tommy Greenwald.

Let's hear from the author about why he wrote this book....



A beautiful girl with a giant pimple in the middle of her nose.

That’s the first thing that popped into my head -- no pun intended, I swear! -- when I embarked on the story that became THE REAL US.

This was a few years ago, and up to that point, all the middle-grade novels I written – the Charlie Joe Jackson series and its spinoffs, the Crimebiters! series – had a broadly comic bent to them. So naturally, as I dove in to this new story, I assumed that I would go down a similarly humorous path. But interestingly, I soon enough found myself writing a (slightly) more serious book about friendship, self-identity and the limits and labels we put on ourselves, and others, throughout our middle school years.

These are issues that I’ve always been fascinated by: it traces back to when I was a kid myself, trying to straddle the worlds between music (I was a pianist and percussionist) and sports (I played soccer). It wasn’t easy, because each of those worlds was so self-contained, and all-consuming. And then I saw it in my three boys, Charlie, Joe and Jack, who each found a world to belong to in school, and then found it difficult when they were interested in exploring beyond the boundaries of that world.

Add the extra complication of looks into it – how the “attractive” kids are expected to act a certain way and hang around with a certain kind of person (namely, each other), and how the “less attractive” kids are supposed to stay in their lane and know their place – and you’ve suddenly got the makings of a story that could go in a lot of different directions. And I was interesting in following those directions and seeing where they took me.

I loved creating Calista, Damian and Laura – the heroes of THE REAL US. My goal was to make them funny, confused, complicated and real, or at least as real as fictional people can be.

But don’t worry. Calista – the beautiful one – still gets the giant pimple in the middle of her nose.

You didn’t think I was gonna let that one go, did you?

Check out the rest of the tour!

7 August Ms. Yingling Reads, http://msyinglingreads.blogspot.com review
8 August Maria’s Melange http://www.mariaselke.com/ —Why I Wrote The Real Us
9 August Log Cabin Library http://logcabinlibrary.blogspot.com/ Review, publisher’s description
10 August- Diary of a Happy Librarian https://diaryofahappylibrarian.blogspot.com/- Review
11 August Always in the Middle https://gpattridge.com/ Make ‘Em Laugh
14 August- Randomly Reading https://randomlyreading.blogspot.com/ Review
15 August One Great Book http://onegreatbook.com/ Review
16 August-Unleashing Readers http://www.unleashingreaders.com Giveaway
17 August Mr. D. Reads https://misterdreads.wordpress.com. Interview
18 August Tommy Greenwald http://tommygreenwald.com/blog/ Giveaway

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Two Truths and a Lie - Blog Tour

Can you tell the truth from a lie? 

We live in a world filled with increasingly hyped up news, clickbait headlines, and flat out lies dressed up to look like truth. Parents and teachers are desperate for any tools we can find to help us build critical thinking skills and media literacy.

By Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie A. Thompson
ISBN: 9780062418791
Publication Date June 27, 2017

Two Truths and a Lie is the first book in a fascinating new series that presents some of the most crazy-but-true stories about the living world as well as a handful of stories that are too crazy to be true—and asks readers to separate facts from the fakes!

Did you know that there is a fungus that can control the mind of an ant and make it do its bidding? Would you believe there is such a thing as a corpse flower—a ten-foot-tall plant with a blossom that smells like a zombie? How about a species of octopus that doesn’t live in water but rather lurks in trees in the Pacific Northwest?

Every story in this book is strange and astounding. But not all of them are real. Just like the old game in this book’s title, two out of every three stories are completely true and one is an outright lie. Can you guess which? It’s not going to be easy. Some false stories are based on truth, and some of the true stories are just plain unbelievable. And they’re all accompanied by dozens of photos, maps, and illustrations. Amaze yourself and trick your friends as you sort out the fakes from the facts!

Acclaimed authors Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Ann Thompson have teamed up to create a series of sneaky stories about the natural world designed to amaze, disgust, and occasionally bamboozle you.

My Thoughts:
Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive! is a wonderful book to add to your media literacy arsenal. It is filled with fascinating truths (and lies) that will spark the imagination and curiosity in the readers. I especially like how several of the pieces bring up the ethical concerns that are associated with the stories, which could be a source of rich classroom discussion!

Students could easily read the book all at once, or they could read separate sections for discussion. Two Truths is split into three main parts: Plants, Animals, and Humans. Each of those parts has three chapters. (Three groups of three... it's a number nerd's dream, too!)

Following those sections is:
-- a research guide with suggestions for how the reader could go back and analyze the information in the text. All of that advice is applicable to any nonfiction piece they may read - which makes it a fabulous tool.
-- the answer guide. This part is well explained, but also quite humorous.
-- the bibliography. I love this part, and it factors into my strategy suggestions below.

Strategy Suggestions: There are several ways I think you could attack this text in a classroom setting. I'm planning to do each of them with different parts of the book.

1) Read, Reveal, Analyze
Have students read all three pieces in one chapter. Let them discuss which one they think is the lie. Then reveal the answer WITHOUT sharing the "answer guide" analysis. Have them go back through each piece, now that they know the answer, and look for the "tells". Give them the bibliography as well, so they can look at the names and types of sources used. This would lead to some great discussions about sources, quotes, etc. 

2) Use step 1's analysis on the next set of passages
After you've done step 1 - try it again. I'd suggest having a classroom created "analysis" chart that reminds them about the types of information that tends to suggest a fictional piece. See if that first step's discussion helps them find the error with more accuracy.

3) Start at the Source(s)
For this method, give them the source list first. See if they can make a prediction JUST from the sources listed as to the fake story. Then read and analyze. After reading, they can look up any of the internet sources listed to see if that helps them determine the fake story.

I'm guessing you can come up with other ideas, too. I'd love to hear them! 

About the Authors

Ammi-Joan Paquette has traveled to twenty-four countries, has the ability to wake herself up at a given time without an alarm clock, and once climbed Mt. Everest. (Not all of these are true!) Joan is the author of the novels Rules for Ghosting, Paradox, and Nowhere Girl, as well as the picture books Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo, Ghost in the House, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Mermaids, and The Tiptoes Guide to Tracking Fairies. She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts, where she balances her own writing and her day job as a literary agent. You can visit her online at www.ajpaquette.com.

Laurie Ann Thompson has ridden a pig, gotten stuck in an elevator overnight, and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. (One of these facts is not true; can you guess which?) She is the author of Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters, My Dog Is the Best, and Emmanuel's Dream, a picture book biography about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, which was the recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award and was named an ALA Notable Book, a CCBC Choice, and a Bank Street College Best Book of the Year, among dozens of other accolades. She lives outside Seattle with her family. You can visit her online at www.lauriethompson.com.

Visit the other stops on the blog tour! 

5-Jun Librarian's Quest
7-Jun Flowering Minds
11-Jun Pragmatic Mom
Geo Librarian
13-Jun Smack Dab in the Middle
14-Jun Bluestocking Thinking
15-Jun Novel Novice
Library Lions Roar
16-Jun Archimedes Notebook
18-Jun Nerdy Book Club
19-Jun Cracking the Cover
20-Jun Writers Rumpus
The Hiding Spot
21-Jun Maria's Melange
23-Jun Unleashing Readers
24-Jun This Kid Reviews Books

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest thoughts. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder Blog Tour

Once again, I am thrilled to support another amazing book published by Walden Pond Press... Be sure to scroll all the way down to enter to win a copy of the book from the publisher. I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher, but my thoughts are all my own. 

Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder
To be published by Walden Pond Press on  May 30, 2017
ISBN-13: 978-0062443410

On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.

Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?

My Thoughts: 

This book appealed to so many of my “reading self” layers…

Book lover:

I adored the fact that the Island had a library, and I loved trying to figure out which books they were discussing and reading. They don’t mention any titles, but some were obvious and some were trickier. I also loved that they gave books that completely fell apart a special burial. The kids on the Island knew how important and special books are, and even made sure that each child was taught to read and write.

Reluctant Childhood Leaver:

Some children are ready and eager to move into their teenage years. Those kids jump into middle school and barely wave goodbye to their little selves. That was absolutely not me. Jinny watching, puzzled, as Deen eagerly heads out into the unknown resonated with my own preteen self. Jinny spends the next year trying to figure out how she’ll know she’s ready… and then still isn’t.

I was the child who wept when the older children were told they weren’t going to be able to go back to Narnia. I recognized that I was being pushed out of childhood, just like they were, and I was devastated. I love that this book showcases Jinny’s uncertainty. Not being sure you are ready to take on bigger responsibilities and explore the wider world is a perspective I think will also resonate with many of my upper elementary readers.

Ambiguity Seeker:

I won’t give too much away, but I do want you to know that many of the mysterious elements in this book will not be resolved for you as a reader. Laurel Snyder gives us the chance to come to some of our own conclusions about the nature and history of the Island. This kind of open-ended narrative is powerful for readers, and leaves open the possibility of many rich discussions and “pondering” time.


I debated whether or not to use the word feminist here, but I’m leaving it. To me, feminism is about allowing everyone the chance to take whatever role they want for themselves. Do you want to be a nurturer? It doesn’t matter what your gender is. Do you struggle with a nurturing role? It doesn’t matter what your gender is. Do you want adventure? You get the idea.

In Orphan Island, all of the children are expected to take their turn in every type of role. They all help gather food. They all help cook. The Elder orphan is expected to take on the youngest child as their “Care”; teaching and nurturing that child. Jinny struggles with her role as the teacher and nurturer, even though she absolutely cares about the little girl who becomes her responsibility. I loved seeing that.


I also empathized with many of Jinny's concerns in her caregiving role. She was so cautious with her Care because she didn’t want to see the child hurt.  We know that real learning requires risk, but it is so hard to let our children go into situations that could be dangerous in any way. I know that can be incredibly frustrating to our children, and maybe seeing Jinny have these same struggles will help them gain some understanding and empathy for their own parents. 

Overall, I absolutely loved Orphan Island. It was a tale that included adventure, wish fulfillment, and a touch of the mysterious. This book should appeal to students in 5th grade and up. I can’t wait to have my students read it and see what they think!

Don't just rely on MY judgement.... These are the authors of some of my other recent favorite books.... 

Praise for Orphan Island:
“Laurel Snyder has written a story that curls around the heart and pulls in tight—a meditation on the power and wisdom and closeness and sorrow of childhood. A wondrous book, wise and wild and deeply true. I loved every second of it.”
                  Kelly Barnhill, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon

“An elegant and thoughtful meditation on the joys and sorrows of growing up, with lyrical prose, characters that feel as alive as your dearest friends, and a vivid setting sure to enchant young readers. A work of extraordinary heart.”
                 Claire Legrand, author of Some Kind of Happiness

“A visionary, poignant, astonishingly lovely fable of childhood and change. This is a book to lose yourself in, and to never forget.”
                 Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy

Laurel Snyder’s Bio:
Laurel Snyder is a poet, essayist, and author of picture books and novels for children, including Orphan IslandCharlie and MouseBigger than a Bread Box, and Swan, the Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. She is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and a faculty member of Hamline University's MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She lives in Atlanta with her family and can be found online at www.laurelsnyder.com.

Check out the other tour stops for more information and other chances to win!

Blog Tour Stops

May 15
May 16

May 17
May 18
May 19
May 20
May 21
May 22
May 23
May 24
May 25
May 26

Friday, April 28, 2017

Posted by John David Anderson Blog Tour


Posted - by John David Anderson
Hardcover, 384 pages
Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 by Walden Pond Press
ISBN 006233820X (ISBN13: 9780062338204)
From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids. In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.

When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.

In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.

(First - if you'd like the chance to win a signed copy of the book, be sure to get all the way down to the bottom and submit your information for the giveaway!)

My Thoughts: 
Middle School. It’s the setting for so many books for a good reason. You’re no longer a little kid, but not yet a teenager. You’re often “reshuffled” into a bigger pond, and every fish has become carnivorous. As an elementary school teacher, I try not to scare my students about middle school - but I do remember 6th grade with a distinct lack of fondness. The one good thing about having more students is the chance to find your crew. Posted does a wonderful job of sharing just how important it is to find that core group, especially for kids who don’t fit into more traditional friendship group structures.

The little group of friends includes kids with whom many of my students will be able to identify. They often have “odd” hobbies or passions that leave them feeling like outsiders. Seeing Frost, Wolf, Bench, and DeeDee “fill in each other’s gaps” will help them feel more confident as they move through school. Even the fact that the group of friends changes over the course of the story (I won’t spoil how), is a valuable lesson in accepting the choices their friends may make.

Each main character faces challenges that may also be familiar to the students who read this book. One has divorced parents who fought through silence before their split. Another has parents who are in the midst of conflict. One has a mother who appears to be suffering from depression. Students face bullying, struggle with how to stand up for one another, and work through accepting someone new into their tiny group. Watching how characters handle these middle school concerns is a good “dress rehearsal”, and allows readers to think about how they might deal with these same issues.

At first I was slightly concerned that Rose would be portrayed as a “not like other girls” character, but she was never really compared to any other girls specifically. While this is partly due to the lack of girls in the character list, I didn’t mind that the book focused mostly on a group of boys and their interactions with - mostly - other boys. It meant that Rose was handled more as an individual and less as a contrast to girls with more traditionally feminine traits. It also helped that the main character, Frost, was sensitive and literary.

Thematically, Posted dives into the power of friendship. It explores the double edged sword of words - both written and spoken. It wonders about the connections between people, and what makes some of the ties last forever while others fall by the wayside. Ultimately, I think all of those ideas are encapsulated by Anderson weaving strands from some of Robert Frost’s most popular poems throughout the story… Do good neighbors always need fences? What do you do when you come to that fork in the road? The point of view character, nicknamed Frost, does a great job of sharing the action while still managing to reflect on these questions throughout the story. The ending is hopeful, yet realistic, and shows the readers how life’s “fork in the road” decisions can shape a life.

All of those deep thoughts aside, I think this is a story that kids will love. It’s filled with pig-outs, goofy humor, and some death-defying rides down a treacherous slope. There are silly pop culture references (as I’ve come to expect and love from Anderson). Bonus points to Anderson for slipping in a Wookiee joke.


John David Anderson is the author of Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, Sidekicked, Minion, and The Dungeoneers. A dedicated root beer connoisseur and chocolate fiend, he lives with his wife, two kids, and perpetually whiny cat in Indianapolis, Indiana. You can visit him online at www.johndavidanderson.org

Middle School:

Anderson in
middle school
Maria in 5th grade
Not MS - but you get
the idea....
I’d also like to thank John David Anderson for sharing some thoughts about his own middle school experiences in the acknowledgements section. Yes, I am one of those book nerds who always reads dedications and acknowledgements. Let me just say this - he would have been part of my “crew”. 

I was also a bit of an outsider. Thankfully, I was able to surround myself with people who understood me. People who could chuckle at my weird vocabulary, but generally do so in a kind way. People who smiled and nodded relatively kindly when I got caught up in one of my strange passion areas. I was in a small private school, just like one of these characters eventually goes to, and that probably made a world of difference for me. I’m still an odd duck, but it’s amazing how much easier it is as you get older. Books helped - A LOT. So did kindness. 

Partner this book with Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. I bet you’d get some great discussions!
Also connect to Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Explore some of the interests shared in Posted:
     Robert Frost’s poetry
     Julius Caesar
Origami making (hopefully your students will be more successful than Rose!)
     Have them try modular origami - my students love it!
Have your students design their own “identity” sticky note like the ones below.
Have your students join in the “sticky note challenge” - spread kindness. I just ordered a few packs of      Sticky Notes and plan to give this a go next week!


Blog Tour Sites
- check them all out. Many have book giveaways!
April 17 Librarian's Quest
Walden Media Tumblr
April 18 Nerdy Book Club
April 19 For Those About to Mock
April 20 Teach Mentor Texts
April 21 Unleashing Readers
April 22 Next Best Book
April 23 Bluestocking Thinking
April 24 Litcoach Lou
Book Monsters
April 25 Kirsti Call
April 26 Educate-Empower-Inspire-Teach
April 27 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia
Ms Yingling Reads
April 28 Maria's Mélange
Novel Novice
April 29 The Hiding Spot
April 30 This Kid Reviews Books

GIVEAWAY - It's a simple form.... just give me a few bits of information and get your name in the hat. It's easier than tossing a D20!

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