New Non-Fiction Series Alert!

Learning about history is one of my favorite topics when reading so when I was asked to review a new non-fiction series for kids called The Thrifty Guide to I jumped right on board! I usually like learning about history in a narrative with a story that sucks me in, but reading these non-fiction books that were half humor, half history was VERY enjoyable! I think kids will really get a kick out of these!  

Teachers, if you teach a unit on the American Revolution or Ancient Rome, you NEED these books! I cannot wait to see what topics Jonathan Stokes tackles next!

I read both of the books over winter break and then as soon as we got back from break, I handed them to two of my students that I thought would like them! See our thoughts below on the two books in the series that are out. There are A LOT of similarities between the two titles but there were a few things that jumped out at us that we explicitly didn’t notice in both novels.

  • ·        Very funny! I loved all the funny sidebars with interesting information.
  • A great mix of serious information and humor. Loved all the graphics, like Venn diagrams, maps, and pictures. This book is a text features lesson dream!  
  • Finlay said, "I liked all the pictures of the battles and wars because I hadn'tseen anything like that before!" 
    • Mrs. Kuehler can attest to the illustrations in the book - they are pretty awesome! 
  • Finlay also said, "The entire book is very funny!"

  • ·        Lots of information about the war that is not usually taught in a textbook!
  • Hayden liked the "pranking the past" parts best! A favorite was: 
    • If you want to help Paul Revere spread the word that the British are coming, try upgrading his horse to a motorcycle. Something fast and sporty, yet sensibly priced, like a Kawasaki Ninja with digital fuel injections and a 649cc four-stroke engine. Or, if you really want to help Paul Revere spread the word faster, get him a cell phone." 
  • ·        History told in a funny way. I’ve never laughed out loud so much while reading about history!
  • ·        The tiny details throughout the book were INCREDIBLE! I loved how even the copyright date on the book’s publishing information page said it was copyright 2165 and that if you notice a typo to use the time machine to go back to 2163 and fix it! ;) 


Student/Teacher dual review - The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

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I admit it... I am a historical fiction junkie. I. Love. Historical. Fiction. I also cannot believe I am going to admit this... but I didn't really realize it was a genre until I was an adult. I just do not remember being introduced to very much historical fiction as a kid - except for maybe Number the Stars and The Diary of Anne Frank (non-fiction).

When Kathleen Burkinshaw contacted me about reviewing The Last Cherry Blossom, I was really excited because I had had my eye on it and knew it would be an interesting read! I was right! As Simon says below, it was nice to read a WWII novel from Japan's perspective! 

Thank you to my former student, Simon who is now in 5th grade that happily worked on this review with me! 

Mrs. Kuehler’s review:

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw is about a 12 year old girl in Japan named Yuriko. The year is 1945 and, as we know, the end of WWII is near. Life for Yuriko in Japan at this time is filled with worry, change, air raid drills, the possibility of bombing and family secrets.  
        The first half of the book we learn a lot about Yurkio’s daily life, her likes and dislikes and what life is like at school. About halfway through the book, Yuriko learns about a devastating family secret that she is the center of. At this point of the book, we are occasionally reminded that this isn’t just a book about family dynamics and secrets, this is a book about a world war. Reminders come in the form of nearby friends being sent to war, friends Yuriko’s age being pulled out of school to help with the war effort and the family sometimes leaving their home in Hiroshima to stay at their country house. Life in Japan is filled with unrest and worry. There are frequent air raids and the Japanese have to take cover and find shelter during these raids. During this time people wonder if this is a bomb that will hit them. Will they lose their home? Their family? Their friends? The thought of going through that is heartbreaking.
        However, it gets worse. As the reader, we know that the United States dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Each chapter is labeled with the date so while reading I felt myself preparing my myself mentally for what was to come. What Yuriko experienced during the bombing was horrifying and hard to believe it was real. But, it was.
        Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres because I believe it is important to read and understand from a personal point of view what life was like during that time period. It’s hard to relate to history from a textbook, but when I read a story like Yuriko's, I am not likely to forget what she went through.
        This book will appeal to readers that enjoy learning about history in a narrative way. Readers that enjoy learning about WW2 will want to pick this book up. This will also appeal to readers that enjoy reading books with true content. Be sure to read the author’s notes at the end because this book was based on the author’s mother’s real-life experiences while living in Japan during the war.  I would recommend this book for ages 11 to adults and caution for some mature content.  

Simon’s Review:

        The Last Cherry Blossom is a book about a girl named Yuriko who lives in Hiroshima during World War II.  This historical fiction piece is a story about love, friendship, and family. Along with worry, sadness, and despair, I would recommend this book for ages 12 and up because of some mature content. The Last Cherry Blossom includes some interesting facts about WWII.  It was interesting because I have read a lot of books about WWII, but not from Japan’s point of view.  Yuriko faces some surprises from family to war. The culture in this book is fun to learn about. From clothing to food.  The Last Cherry Blossom is a really good book if you want to read something filled with action and suspense.  


Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart Review

Dan Gemeinhart has easily turned into one of the most sought after authors in our 5th grade classroom. My students have told me, "Mrs. Thomas, you can't read just one of Dan's books." And they are absolutely right. The first story of Dan's that I read was The Honest Truth. Which I listened to on audio. One thing I remember the most about this story is that I was listening every single spare second that I had the opportunity. I was hooked. The story was emotional, raw, and utterly amazing. I then moved on to Some Kind of Courage. Totally different style of story, but even still raw, emotional, honest, and amazing. Then Scar Island was released. Only knowing based off friends reviews and the Goodreads summary, I went in only knowing it was COMPLETELY different than the other two in terms of plot. I was literally BLOWN away. I had always been a huge Lord of the Flies fan, and this was definitely modern day Lord of the Flies, but with a connection that students could actually grasp and hold on to. Knowing all of this about his phenomenal writing. I knew I had to get my hands on Good Dog as soon as I could. Like I said, his writing is highly anticipated in our school by majority of students. Almost all 73 of my students have read Scar Island - which is amazing. Dan also so generously donated his time the last two years to my students to Skype and that is one that they still continuously talk about to this day. 

This year I have a ton of avid readers, not only are my students but I also have a lot of parents (dream, right?) - because of that, I wanted to give a mom/son duo the opportunity to review Good Dog from their perspective.  

Good Dog Review
By Ezekiel and Jeanette Tapley

Ezekiel (Zeke) and I are so honored that Ms Thomas asked us to read and review Good Dog together.
It was a lot of fun to read it and discuss. As a mother to three kids, Zeke being my oldest,
it gave us some quality time to talk and sit together with a purpose. So, I listed
some questions for us each to answer as an easy way to share our thoughts!

Describe the main character(s) in this story
MOM: The main character is a dog named Brodie. He is a kind and passionate dog that
loves his boy more than anything. He is serious about his mission and what he feels like
he needs to do to help his boy. He above all else is brave.

ZEKE: He has friends that join him in his mission: Tuck and Patsy. His boy’s name is Aiden. He
meets some other dogs along the way; Darkly and his gang of Hellhounds.

Who was your favorite.
ZEKE: My favorite character was probably Tuck because Tuck was funny from time to time.
But he’s also very brave and loyal. Some of his actions were unnecessary and some
were death-defying and that is why Tuck is my favorite.

MOM: Brodie was my favorite. He is just so likeable, fun and adventurous.

What was your favorite part of the story
ZEKE: My favorite part of the story is when Brody, Patsy, and Tuck are in the school
and Tuck stops when he sees a…. FRENCH FRY!!!!!! And he asks Patsy and she
explains how to eat as a ghost.

MOM: I think my favorite part is anytime Brodie finds courage. He starts out in the
book a little shy and unsure of himself, but he gains courage and confidence at every turn.

Was this book easy to read? Did you feel yourself getting lost in it?
MOM: I absolutely think this was an easy book to read. I read it just about everywhere
including the dentist office, and I can’t lie, I even started tearing up there while reading!

ZEKE: I kinda got a teensie lost in the beginning ‘cause not a lot was happening, but
other than that it was a blow through.

What has stuck with you from this book?
MOM: So we have a dog, her name is Bristol, and I really don’t know that I’ll ever
look at her the same way. She is so sweet and loyal to our family and I see so
much of Brodie in her. She is a good dog too! I also loved how Brodie called
“fetch” Away and Back. It makes so much sense and makes me giggle
when I think about it.

ZEKE: l think the part where Tuck distracted Darkly and the bloodhounds stuck with me.

What age is this book good for?
MOM: Well Zeke is 11 and I am 31. I really think it covered so much in different
ways for each of us. It had a few scary parts but nothing terrifying. I would
definitely let Zeke’s 9 yr old brother read it.
As a mom I would say 9 and up. There are some serious things, like abuse,
foster care, hellhounds, and big decisions that are being made, but
I think it made for good and open conversations.

Would you recommend this book to your friends?
MOM: I would. I think it’s a great book! I loved the focus on bravery, loyalty and friendship.

ZEKE: definitely (when it comes out of course).

Overall I think this book is phenomenal. Like I said before, parts of it have stuck with
me and I think of Brodie when I tell my dog that she’s a good dog. This book is
about friendship, loyalty, love and protection. These are things I try to teach
my kids daily. When these things are brought forth in story, and in ways
they can understand it...that’s what makes books magical!


Princess Pulverizer Blog Tour

Teacher Review:
From the creator of Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo and George Brown, Class Clown comes a new series called Princess Pulverizer! Princess Serena (Princess Pulverizer) does not want to be a "princess", she wants to be a knight! Her father decides to compromise and tells her the only way she can become a knight is if she first goes on a Quest of Kindness. The idea of the book is not that being a princess isn't worthy of Pulverizer's time, it's just that she desperately wants to be a knight, and when a girl knows what she wants, she knows what she wants. 
I found this story to be perfect for young girls 2nd-4th grade who are determined, stubborn, leaders, or even just curious. It's a great twist on a typical princess story, and it's one that I know young girls could get empowered to follow their dreams. Plus, as a teacher, the fact that it will be a series makes it even more desirable. 

Teacher Guide:
I would absolutely use this book in small group for 2nd-3rd grade. Some activities that came to mind were with the vocabulary. I would even use this storyline to have students come up with their own fairytale twist. Instead of becoming a knight what might a knight want to be, or a prince, or a fairy god-mother. Even changing the plot twist, instead of a Quest of Kindness, what else could her father have suggested she do. This book uses a lot of onomatopoeia's - which are great for teaching young students about figurative language. 

January 10 – Crossroad Reviews – Review
January 11 – Because Reading is better than real life – Review
January 12 – Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers – Review
January 15 – Four Violet Reviews – Fun Kitchen Activity
January 16 – Pirates and Pixie Dust – Review
January 17 – Teachers Who Read – Review and A Guide
January 18 – Crafty Moms Share – Review
January 19 – YA Book Nerd – Review/Creative
Meet the princess who'd rather wear a suit of armor than a crown!
Princess Serena (or as she prefers, Princess Pulverizer) doesn't want to be a princess--she wants to be knight! But her father, King Alexander of Empiria, thinks she still has a lot to learn when it comes to exhibiting valiant behavior. So he presents a challenge: the princess must first go on a Quest of Kindness and perform good deeds to prove that she truly deserves to go to knight school. With help from a friendly dragon named Dribble and a perpetually terrified knight-in-training named Lucas, can she complete her quest and discover what it really takes to be a hero?

Nancy Krulik is the author of more than two hundred books for children and young adults, including three New York Times Best Sellers. She is best known as the author and creator of the Katie Kazoo, Switcheroo; George Brown, Class Clown; How I Survived Middle School; and Magic Bone book series. Nancy lives in Manhattan with her husband, composer Daniel Burwasser. When she's not writing, Nancy can be found reading, going to concerts, traveling, or running around Central Park with her crazy beagle mix, Josie.



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It's a snow day Monday here in Ohio-a perfect day for doing all those things I said I was going to do during Christmas break and didn't (see: clean out closets, wash down kitchen walls). But before I tackle my to-do list, I'm taking some time to finish two books I'm absolutely loving-In Sight of Stars by Gae Polisner and Everything I Know About You by Barabara Dee. Both of these authors are on my must-read list. I know any book they write, I'm not only reading but putting in my classroom library. Look for a review of both these books coming soon!


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EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner - A Student/Teacher Dual Review!

Happy New Year, friends! At the end of 2017, I got incredibly busy and did not post near as many student/teacher reviews as I would have liked to post! To fix that, I figured I would start the new year right and post a review on the FIRST day of 2018! Look for more reviews like this in 2018! 

Mattalyn, one of my amazing fourth-grade students, co-wrote a review of EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner a couple months ago (yeah, that's how behind I was!). The entire class laughed after I drew her name to write the review with me because she is very well-known for wanting to be an engineer when she grows up! :) 

What is this book about? What was the plot?
Mattalyn’s answer: (robots, there are 18 of them.)      It is about a group of kids called the EngiNerds, and they all get secret packages sent to them. The packages are robots that made themselves! The robots are extremely dangerous after you see what they can do. They digest foods with bullets that shot out of their butts! And the robots are eating machines! (literally.) They eat anything and everything, soon they start to escape their owner’s house and go attack random people for food! Who is sending out these robots to everybody? And how can we stop the robots from destroying everything?

Mrs. Kuehler’s answer: Robots! What kid doesn’t want a robot? When I was a kid I loved The Jetson’s and I thought when I was older, that robots would be doing all my chores.that couldnt be further from the truth today! Well, maybe it could be true I know there are Roombas that vacuum the floor for you now! Anyway back to the topic  In this book, Ken gets a mysterious package that turns out to be a robot named Greeg. Greeg eats lots of food called “combestibles” which he “disposes” of later in a very funny way (you will have to read the book to find out how!). Soon, Ken realizes that having his own robot is not as great it sounds and reasoning with artificial intelligence is practically impossible....

What genre is this book? What type of reader would enjoy this book?
Mattalyn’s answer: The book is science fiction you could say, it is probably is for ages 8-12 like Mrs. Kuehler said and same as Mrs. Kuehler also that this book is for kids who laugh when their teacher says butt.

Mrs. Kuehler’s answer: This book is for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and is science fiction. Readers that laugh when their teacher says the word “butt” will love this one Im not telling you why though. ;)

What was your favorite part or detail from the book? Why?
Mattalyn’s answer: When the Enginerds came together to stop the robots from marching on a store at the end of the book. Why? Because all the Enginerds hate each other, well most of them anyway, and it was awesome to hear that they finally became transformed from being enemies to being friends!

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