Project Dandelion: Resistance Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

Being a book blogger over the last few years has given me some incredible opportunities to work with indie authors. I’ve had the privilege of following the developments of trilogies and series.

Project Dandelion: Resistance, by Heather Carson, is the third installment of a YA dystopian series that shows the importance of friendship and determination.

The story picks up where we last left off from Project Dandelion: Reentry (Book 2). Katrina is at the resistance base with her friends and her father. We witness the characters train and prepare for military missions to continue to fight in World War 3 to continue to defeat the enemy.

This book definitely has more of a military feel to it than the others. The setting is on a military base and the plot revolves around missions. The story also explores the reality of military life for children and significant others of soldiers.

This is the first novel that Katrina is not in constant survival mode, and readers see a different side of her. She’s in a state of transition. She’s not allowed to have an official boyfriend (until she’s 18), she has strong feelings for James but doesn’t feel comfortable in the role as a military wife (she won’t be baking anytime soon).  Personally, I feel as though she is trying to figure out her place in this new world. She doesn’t feel ready to be an adult and start a family, but she also doesn’t want to be a solider. Emotionally, Katrina is caught between being a young woman and her father’s daughter, which is by means no easy task.

The relationship between James and Katrina intensifies on an emotional level in this book. Like typical teenagers, they try to sneak in some alone time when they can, but they are never successful because Katrina’s dad is always around, or has his friends on the lookout. This was actually quite comical and made me smile whenever the two were interrupted.

Like the other books, this one also features the theme of friendship. Katrina and her friends have become like a family throughout their experiences together, and they continue to be loyal in their friendships. This loyalty contributes quite a bit to the action in the plot, making this book a total page turner.

Just like the first two books, I read this one in about 24 hours. There were a few plot twists that I honestly didn’t see coming, and I was unable to make any accurate predictions, which I loved. The writing style flows well with vocabulary that doesn’t feel overwhelming, which makes it perfect for a young adult reader. There are a few choice words used, and there is some mature content (a pregnancy), so I would recommend this book for grades 8-12.

To purchase the book click here.

Book review of Project Dandelion Book 1

Book Review of Project Dandelion Book 2

 

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

7 Books That Turn Tweens into Readers

Over the last ten years I have worked with hundreds of students and their families. As a reading teacher and tutor, many parents tell me their child does not like reading, and my response is always the same. “That’s because he/she hasn’t found the right book yet.”

Below is a list of my personal book recommendations that have turned my students in grades 6-8 into readers.

1. Divergent by Veronica Roth. This will forever and always be my number one book recommendation to students who are not fans of reading. This book sucks readers in and never lets them go. It is filled with action, plot twists, physical fights, guns, friendship, and not mushy-gushy teen love. The writing style is fantastic for tweens because it’s simple enough to flow easily, but complex enough to keep them engaged. The vocabulary isn’t too difficult and there is the perfect amount of dialogue. **There is some mature content that is inferred.

2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling. To me, this will always be a staple of classic children’s literature. This is a great novel to help kids transition into YA books in terms of length, writing style, and vocabulary. Readers will get immersed in a fantasy world that they will wish existed. There are Quidditch matches, a mystery to solve, a three headed dog and magic waiting for readers to experience.

3. The Maze Runner by James Dashner. Whenever I summarize this book for my students, I call it the boy version of The Hunger Games. Readers follow the story of why a group of boys (and a girl) are all brought to the same place with no recollection of the past. The sentence structure is a great mix  that helps the story flow without exhausting readers. From the first page this novel will hook readers as they try to put the pieces of a puzzle together.

4. Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. Capturing the attitude and reality of a middle schooler is not an easy task, but Steven’s character is truly a reflection of a typical eighth grade boy. The characterization is flawless and will have readers laughing and crying as Steven deals with his eighth grade year, jazz band, and his little brother who is battling cancer. The dialogue between characters and inner voice of Steven will immediately connect with tween readers.

5. Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Greek mythology that comes to life in modern day, complete with mythical creatures and just the right amount of sarcasm, makes this a favorite with my students. The exciting fantasy elements and engaging plot events allow readers to get lost in a world without getting overwhelmed by a too much complexity. The writing style is clear and the author does a great job of making the plot easy for readers to comprehend. I’ve literally ordered every book in the series for my classroom library because my students requested them.

6. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Even though this text is a little dated, the overall premise still captivates readers. This text is challenging, with advanced vocabulary and sentence structure, but there is so much detail with back stories that students are still able to comprehend the plot.  This book is perfect for students who like mysteries and are looking for a challenge.

7. Psion Beta by Jacob Gowans. Sammy is just like any other 14 year old boy. Except that he’s a fugitive. And he has powers. Readers follow Sammy’s journey as he is trained with the latest technology to fight, complete missions and engage in rigorous training. The writing style is spot on with a plot that is exciting and anything but predictable. This is the only series in my classroom library that had a waiting list because it really is just that good.

Also see My 10 Favorite YA Novels for more book suggestions.

 

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) who offers virtual reading and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here. 

Nikeriff Book Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book from the author to facilitate this review. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way.

With Molly in preschool, I’ve really been trying to boost her home library with alphabet books. She can sing the alphabet, but we’re still working on letter recognition. So when I came across a Facebook post from a mom who wrote an alphabet book I had to reach out.

Nikeriff, by Natasha Barber and illustrated by Rayah James, is a heartwarming and lovable alphabet picture  book that takes readers on an adventure.

First, I have to address the name Nikeriff. Barber starts off the story with a note to readers explaining that her autistic son came up with the name. Right away I thought this was a fabulous personal touch and made me feel connected to the author as a mom.

Readers are introduced to the little monster, Nikeriff, who is having a difficult time remembering the letters in the alphabet. He asks his mom and dad for help and they give him the supplies he needs for a scavenger hunt. Nikeriff spends the rest of the story with his trusty teddy bear going through the woods and collecting different elements from nature (animals, insects, plants) and practicing the letters of the alphabet.

What grabbed my attention right away was the more complex sentence structure. Usually when I read alphabet books the sentences are simple and short, with the letter bolded and enlarged, usually in a brighter color font. This picture book includes more complex sentences, which makes the story feel less babyish. The letters are bolded and enlarged, but don’t really distract the reader from the rest of the text or pictures. Personally, I LOVED this writing style because it means the book can be used with older kids who may need support with alphabet work. Since I work with lots of special education students, this is super exciting for me because finding texts like this is quite challenging.

Similar to the sentence structure, I also found the animals and insects added to the sac to be super creative. I love that it included critters such as the “Underwing moth” and “Queen Butterfly”. While there were some traditional ones included, like ants, this hint of creativity not only helped the flow of the story, but it was incredibly engaging.

I was also a huge fan of the idea of a scavenger hunt, especially that it took place in the woods. Many kids are fascinated by animals, bugs and the outdoors, so the setting of this story can really engage readers who gravitate towards those topics. This also allows the book to be utilized in schools as a cross curricular text for science, specifically in preschool and kindergarten.

Finally, the illustrations were absolutely spot on! I truly enjoyed looking at each picture and felt that they matched the feel of the text. I love that they look like they were drawn with crayon, especially after the author’s note in the beginning. It just made me feel like i was reading a book imagined by a child, which leaves me feeling all warm and fuzzy.

I highly recommend this book for kids ages 0-8, but it can be used with older students working on basic reading skills.

To purchase the book click here 

To follow Nikeriff on Facebook click here

7 Toddler Easter Basket Ideas

The Easter season is officially here! The weather is slowly getting warmer and signs of spring are beginning to pop up.

Easter basket ideas start to go through my mind as soon as I see the display in Pottery Barn Kids (by far one of my favorite set ups they do all year). Molly is deep into the toddler stage of life and some days I feel like her attention span lasts about 15 seconds. I like purchasing products that I can use with Molly and that she can play with independently.  Below are some Easter basket ideas of products that always seem to grasp Molly’s attention for a good few minutes.

Flashcards. I love it when educational products can be made into a game, especially for toddlers. My mom got Molly three sets of flashcards for Christmas and Molly has truly fallen in love with them. She has Shapes & Colors (Memory Match), Numbers 0-100, and Alphabet cards.

When Molly wants to play with others, we use the Shapes and Colors pack to either match colors or shapes. She can get very excited with this especially when she realizes that she’s “winning”. For independent play, Molly will take any of the packs and look at the cards and points to things she recognizes and says the letter, color, shape, or number. Flashcards

What I really like about these products is how they will be utilized differently as Molly gets older. I know that one day she will go through the numbers pack on her own and say each number correctly, especially as she moves into preschool and kindergarten. Also, by having her play with flashcards so young she will hopefully feel comfortable using them with others or on her own to practice addition, subtraction, sight words, multiplication, etc.

The flashcards we use are from Staples, but you can purchase them at the Dollar Store, Etsy, or make your own.

Usborne Books. I’m completely bias and have no problem admitting to that. I LOVE these books! The last few years I have gotten Molly That’s Not My titles for Easter because she loves the kinesthetic aspect of these great books.

Usborne Easter Books

I was an Usborne consultant when I first started this blog three years ago, and continue to stay up to date with the newest releases on their social media and through my amazing book lady, Everyone’s Librarian (follow her on Instagram and Facebook).

The company offers an incredible selection of works for kids of all ages on pretty much any topic you can think of. The quality of the products are superb and truly grow with children.

For more details about these fantastic books check out my previous blog posts Wipe- Clean Collection, Touchy-Feely and Sight Words in One Book, Literacy in the First Year, Toddler Literacy, and Preschool & Kindergarten Literacy. To purchase books click here.

Bubbles. I swear the number one activity for babies and toddlers are bubbles. Molly gets beyond excited if she even sees bubbles and wants to play with them constantly. One of the greatest inventions for bubble loving kids are bubble wands. Not only do these bad boys shoot A TON of bubbles out, they also tend to light up, make noise/play music, etc. They are the total entertainment package.

Molly has had an Ariel one for a while now, and she will request to play with it pretty often. It’s super easy to refill with bubbles, is long lasting, plays “Under the Sea” and lights up. She’s had it for about 2 years and the thing is still going strong.

The Disney Store currently has a few different options right now just in time for spring and summer.

Card games. Growing up, I spent hours playing cards with my grandma and sister. I love that playing cards teaches so many life skills (taking turns, being a good loser). I would suggest starting slow with Go Fish or Old Maid.

Cards can be purchased from toy stores, the Dollar Store, etc. My current favorite is a 6 in 1 pack from Amazon. It has the traditional favorites for ages 3+ making it the perfect Easter basket addition for toddlers.

Coloring books and crayons. I think this is one of the most traditional and classic gift ideas for children, that is also inexpensive. Coloring books come in all varieties makingBig Crayons them a versatile gift. When Molly was first learning how to color, we used jumbo Crayola crayons and that really made a difference. Now that she is older she can use regular size crayons, and she is currently obsessed with colored pencils.

One of my personal favorite coloring activity pack is actually from Party City. It’s a goody bag option and we bought them for Molly’s third birthday. It comes with mini markers, coloring pages and stickers all in a cute plastic case. They have every single character you can think of and they are priced really well. Check them out here.

Play Doh. I will admit that I was hesitant to bust out this classic toy with Molly. I was raised where Play Doh was an outdoors only activity, and since she discovered the stuff this winter, I had to cave and let her play with it inside.

While Molly likes to squish and smash the doh, she also really enjoyed cutting it with plastic scissors. I wanted to up our Play Doh game and I came across a really great accessory kit from Melissa & Doug that includes rollers, scissors, sculpting tools and more. This beauty is currently available on Amazon (click here) and makes a great basket addition.

New music. Toddlers are in the rhyming stage of life. They are learning nursery rhymes, singing the months of the year, and loving music. I often find Molly just bursting randomly into song (currently anything Frozen) especially in the car. Molly will often request to listen to Trolls since I put the soundtrack on my phone, and in my car we listen to Disney princess songs.

Whether you keep it old school with purchasing a CD or you stream music, downloading/buying some kid tunes are a great option. Disney has some great choices, but there are a TON of others too. If you were a 90’s kid like me, you probably remember Wee Sing, which is all available on iTunes.

 

Toddler Literacy Skills: Doing More Than Just Reading Aloud

I’ve read aloud to Miss Molly since I was pregnant. During her first year I always had books with us in restaurants, family parties, etc. I was beyond excited when she first started singing the ABCs and asking me to read to her.

We are now in the toddler literacy phase, which is very different from baby literacy. The Reading Specialist in me is on high alert with how Molly is progressing learning her letters, sounds, rhyming, etc. I am beyond grateful that her school has a truly amazing curriculum (they even use Project Read).

However, she doesn’t let me finish reading a book to her anymore. When I do get her to read with me, I do a lot of interacting with her. I’ll ask for her to point to a letter, answer questions about pictures, etc. But sometimes I do worry that I’m not doing enough, and realized that I need to do more than just read aloud.

Puzzles

Molly has a few puzzles that she really enjoys playing with, but I wanted her to Puzzle Linespractice recognizing letters and order of the alphabet, so I purchased this letter puzzle from Six Corners Educational Toys. Not only do I love the pop of colors, the puzzle is super lightweight and the pieces fit in very snuggly (no lose pieces!).

But, my favorite aspect of this puzzle are the easy drawing instructions for each letter. There are numbers and lines for kids to trace with their fingers while they put pieces in the correct slots.

I was really surprised with this feature and showed Molly how to do it. She immediately proceeded to sing and attempted to trace letters.

Molly Puzzle

Magnet Drawing Board

Last year my best friend’s mom gave Molly the Vtech Write & Learn Creative Center. Vtech Creative CenterShe has loved this toy from the beginning, and has started to interact with it differently as she’s gotten older. She started with the magnets, then began drawing shapes, and now writing letters on the magnetic drawing board. This weekend she even told me she was going to practice writing her sight words and did for several minutes.

There are a bunch of different activities for kids to do with the buttons, but Molly prefersMolly Writing Letters just to draw and erase her work so she can be independent. I do plan on exploring the buttons when Molly is a little older to really see what this center can do.

Magnetic Letters

As soon as Molly was able to walk, my mom bought her magnetic letters for the fridge. Molly has always loved playing with the magnets when she visits my parents and seems to make a game out of it every time.

A few weeks ago, Molly went to a children’s play place where they had a pretend school room. She made a beeline for the magnet letters and actually had to be pulled away from the easel at one Molly Magnet Letterspoint.

I recently purchased this really awesome magnetic letter set from Amazon (click here). It comes with a great magnetic board and an incredibly organized case of letters. Molly found the box and emptied it before I was ready to introduce the new “toy” to her, so I unfortunately did not get a chance to take any pictures.

I’m always on the hunt for new ways to support Molly’s early literacy skills at home. Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are amazing resources to see what other parents and early childhood educators do to help toddlers with these skills.

Skating Shoes Book Review

As readers, we all have books we re-read. We could just love the characters, the story, or it’s associated with memories. I was fortunate to be very close to my maternal grandparents growing up and one summer they took us girls to Cape Cod for a week. I can still remember walking around a book store and finding three books that immediately became my favorites: Ballet Shoes, Theater Shoes, and Dancing Shoes. On the drive home I was transported into those English, theatrical worlds.

A few years later, a friend of mine mentioned her favorite of those books was Skating Shoes.  I would look for it in Barnes and Nobles (it’s weird remembering a time before Kindle and Prime) but I was never able to find it. Then, in March, I saw that Random House re-released Skating Shoes and I HAD to get my hands on it.

Skating Shoes by Noel Streatfeild is a charming novel about two friends, Lalla and Harriet, who experience the world of ice skating together.

The novel was originally published in 1951, and it definitely has a more classic feel to the writing. The story takes place in England, and kids are introduced to some English words and expressions. It was nice to take a break from more modern texts with technology and enjoy a simpler time.

Streatfeild has a way of developing such realistic characters. Lalla and Harriet could not be more different from one another. Lalla has grown up being told she is going to be a famous skater with her wealthy aunt, and Harriet comes from a poor, loving family. Both girls have sass, spunk, and determination that show young girls it’s okay to be unique. Readers can relate to pieces of the characters, and will smile at some of the cheeky dialogue. I especially like the conversations with Harriet’s younger brother Edward.

Personally, I would consider this a girly book, and would recommend it for kids in grades 3-6. The vocabulary is not complex, but the text is quite long (281 pages). It’s a fun read that shows the importance of friendship, family and determination.

Meet Prank Book Review

As a reader, I tend to gravitate towards unique characters who have a lot of personality. It’s truly an art when an author can capture and communicate this to readers.

Meet Prank by K.C. Light and illustrated by Elena Mogi is about a cat who gets into mischief. The text is meant for kids ages 3-8, with younger ones listening and older ones practicing their reading. Fun fact: this book made it to the #1 bestseller spot in New Release in Toddler and Baby Poetry Category last week!!

Before the story even starts, Light has a letter to parents on the first page. This quick note provides parents with some great information about the text, including the structure of the story. I honestly don’t know any other book for this age group that provides this extra guidance for families, but the mom and Reading Specialist in me is LOVING it.

Light also includes a little background on our main character. This extra bit of pre-reading made my teacher heart jump for joy. Right away readers get a sense of Prank’s personality. “He thinks he is Siamese, because it sounds cool and boosts his confidence.” The humor is spot on and allows kids to relate to Prank.

The structure of the text is easy to follow, complete with rhyming, figurative language and sight words. The amount of text on the page is not overwhelming for younger readers, and does not make the text feel “babyish” to kids in first or second grade.

I have a tendency to focus on making inferences when I teach, probably because of my years in middle school. As a reader, I noticed myself making inferences on the second page of the story based on the picture of Prank on the bed. This added an additional level of humor that actually made me smile.

One other feature that this book has that I have never seen before is outtakes at the end of the story. In looking at these pictures, kids can practice their inference making skills and characterization.

This book would be a great addition to a classroom and home library. I can’t wait to read about Prank’s next adventure!

You can purchase this book on Amazon as an e-book (free with Kindle Unlimited right now) and in paperback. Check it out here: https://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Prank-Cat-Meet-ebook/dp/B07R7WXGWK/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=prank+the+cat&qid=1559325990&s=gateway&sr=8-1

For more information check out these social media sites:

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/prank.the.cat2019/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/prankthecat/

Website: http://www.kcdelights.com