Taking Up Space Book Review

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

Speaking from my own experiences as a middle school teacher, these are without a doubt some of the most difficult years for kids. It’s the in-between stage where puberty is happening, friendships are changing, and kids start to pull away from their parents. Every child reacts to these situations in different ways as he/she tries to grapple for control of some aspect of life.

Taking Up Space, by Alyson Gerber, is an honest middle school novel about friendship, family and disordered eating.

This is the second book I’ve read and reviewed by the author (check out my thoughts on Braced), and I LOVE the writing style!

In Taking Up Space,Sarah is an eighth grade basketball player who dominates on the court, until puberty hits and she suddenly doesn’t know how to use her body the same way. She’s trying to fit in with the rest of the team, learning to cook for a YouTube competition with her crush, and dealing with her family insecurities. Using information from health class and her mom, Sarah tries to take control back by participating in disordered eating.

First, the writing style of this book is absolutely spot on for a middle school student. The vocabulary and sentence structure are grade level appropriate and don’t feel overwhelming. The descriptions are effective and easy to follow, making this ideal for younger YA readers.

Characterization of Sarah

Sarah is an extremely relatable character for middle school girls. She’s learning to navigate the waters of liking a boy and dating, trying to juggle being a good friend and needing a friend, and learning about herself as she starts puberty. Gerber has a gift of getting inside a middle schoolers head and putting their thoughts on paper.

Sarah shows readers true vulnerability through her challenges as she dives into the world of disordered eating. Her raw emotions will resonate with readers because every kid experiences them at one point. Her lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-love are authentic and remind students that they are not alone with their feelings.

Themes

YA novels focus on themes that middle and high school students encounter in real life. Taking Up Space does a phenomenal job on hitting some really difficult themes for this age group.

Theme of family. From the beginning, we know that Sarah’s mom has a very different relationship with food than other parents. She only buys what she wants on a daily basis, and never cooks anything with lots of carbs. Sarah feels self-conscious about her mom, especially when her friends come over and they want to eat lots of junk food. She is unable to have open conversations with her mom about every day situations, let alone big challenges she’s facing. Sarah’s dad is a pillar of strength by taking Sarah out to eat, asking her for a grocery list, and listening to her problems. Without giving too much away, both of Sarah’s parents provide her incredible support and love that make a huge difference as she tackles her problems.

Theme of friendship. Sarah has two best friends, Ryan and Emilia, that she relies on throughout the book. As is typical for middle school girls, there is some drama between Sarah and Emilia over a boy. Emilia also turns into a mean girl towards Sarah by saying cruel comments to other girls on the basketball team. However, Sarah’s friendship with Ryan is truly a saving grace with her disordered eating. These situations reinforce the importance of friendship, and reminds readers that trust and honesty are vital to lasting friendships.

Disordered Eating

Middle school years are anything but easy. From raging hormones and worrying about friendship problems, surviving these years can be extremely challenging for many students. For the first time, teenagers are experiencing physical, emotional and mental changes all at once.

Sarah is one of these adolescents. She is looking for answers to problems she has never had before, and using information that she has easy access to. She really doesn’t realize that disordered eating can be harmful, showing her innocence that is typical of girls this age.

Usually, YA books focus on anorexia and bulimia, but this novel introduces readers to a different type of condition. For me, I had honestly never heard of disordered eating until reading this novel. Like other readers, we only really hear about anorexia and bulimia, so I found it extremely eye-opening to gain insight into the point of view of a student experiencing disordered eating.

Gerber approaches this subject with grace, honesty and clarity. The explanations are clear and can easily be comprehended by middle schoolers (which is not an easy task). Through Sarah’s voice, we feel her struggles and emotions, and can see how and why individuals turn to disordered eating as a solution. Readers will naturally feel sympathy towards Sarah and will accept her without judgement.

I recommend this book to parents, teachers, and counselors of middle and high school parents, along with students in grades 5-8.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Caviar Dreams Tuna Fish Budget Book Review

I LOVE The Real Housewives franchise. I can honestly say I’ve spent an insane amount of hours binging these shows over the last ten years. As a Jersey girl, I’m automatically drawn to the NJ housewives, and as a small business owner I was really excited to see how these women tackle business in the Garden State.

Caviar Dreams Tuna Fish Budget: How to Survive in Business and Life, by Margaret Josephs, is spunky, authentic and inspirational to all women.

On the RHONJ, Josephs comes out with an incredible sense of humor, a ton of honesty and an over-the-top personality. As I was reading her autobiography, I could seriously hear her voice in my head the whole time, and I truly loved it! She has a way of being blunt with humor that I have yet to encounter in any other work, and nothing is off limits. She owns her actions and decisions while keeping a smile on her face.

Childhood

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how much our childhood shapes us. Josephs did not have a typical past, as she has expressed for years on the show, but reading about her experiences with her mother, Marge Sr., left me with an incredible amount of respect for this woman. I don’t want to go into too much detail because a lot of the stories build on previous events, and honestly you need to read them through Josephs’ words and not mine. Many times people will spend time blaming their parents and holding grudges, but the author loves her mother unconditionally, and her maturity and acceptance are to be admired.

Women in Business

I come from a family deeply rooted in family business on both sides. My paternal grandmother owned a pool business for fifty years, that she started with my grandpa from nothing. My mom has started multiple small businesses since I was five years old, so I have seen women in business first hand.

Josephs’ business journey was eye-opening for me. She openly and honestly recounts situations she was placed in from her first job until present day because she was a woman in the business world. There was no Me Too Movement in the ’80s, and it’s clear that women were treated differently than men. When she stepped out of the business world to be a mother, I could personally relate because of my own life choices.

Her drive and ambition to be a good mom and have a career are inspirational. She literally started a multi-million dollar business from her kitchen table. I had no idea she was the one behind the monogramed colorful clipboards during the 2000s (I worked in retail at the time and totally sold those products), and I didn’t realize how truly intelligent she is at spotting “the next big thing”. Her natural business abilities are to be admired. Yes, she has made mistakes, but many of those came from not being treated as an equal in the business world because she’s a woman.

I also LOVED how she gave kudos to her team throughout the book. She is extremely humble and acknowledges those who have helped her along the way. It was really interesting to see how she operates her business since the show doesn’t go into as many details as her book. As a business owner, Josephs taught me a few things and has given me more confidence in myself.

Life Lessons

My absolute favorite part of this book were the life lessons at the end of every chapter. The teacher in me LOVED that Josephs included main idea statements about the chapter, but the reader in me appreciated the wording of each one. The lessons are meant to be straightforward reminders for readers about life. I really wish she would create a calendar with her life lessons :).

Personal Takeaways

Josephs leaves on impact on readers that can’t be ignored. Even though there is lots of humor and f-bombs, the messages she’s getting across are extremely important.

Don’t judge. It’s easy for viewers to judge someone on TV. It’s easy for a friend to judge another friend’s actions. However, unless you walk in that person’s shoes, you have no idea the reasons behind the decisions. Josephs had an affair, but as she says, people don’t leave a happy marriages.

Love yourself. It is possible for a woman to be a good mom and a business woman. It is possible for women to be strong in the business world. Trusting our instincts and following our hearts to what makes us as women happy needs to be a priority in our lives.

Who cares what people think. This one is a biggie. Too many times women stay in situations, or avoid confrontations because we are afraid what other people think. Once we realize that other people’s opinions shouldn’t (and don’t) matter, the world is full of even more possibilities. Don’t let someone else’s opinion keep you from doing you.

I recommend this book for moms, women in business, fans of the show and those who read Open Book by Jessica Simpson. Yes, there are some additional tidbits from the show, but that is not the focus on the book.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Fadeaway Book Review

As a teacher, I always try to read a variety of book so I can make recommendations to my students. With the end of the year on the horizon, I have more time to read, so I made a fantastic Amazon book purchase. I’ve been a little out of the reading loop over the last year, so I really focused on new(er) releases. I usually have my tutoring students read a novel during our summer sessions and I wanted to find the perfect book for middle and high school boys. Not only did I read this perfect book, it just came out in March!

Fadeaway, by E.B. Vickers, is a realistic young adult novel about basketball, love and addiction.

Summary

Jake is a senior in high school who is the star of the basketball team with his fadeaway move. He has just won the state championship for his team, but instead of celebrating at his coach’s house he disappears without a trace. His little brother Luke, best friend Kolt, teammate Seth and ex-girlfriend Daphne play roles in trying to find Jake.

The majority of the story revolves around basketball. During summer ball in sixth grade, Coach Cooper tells Jake, Kolt and Seth that he plans for them to win state championships their senior year. He gives them an intense pep talk that ends with, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”This lays the ground work for Jake’s life on and off the court as he dedicates his life to football, basketball and baseball. Jake’s world is turned upside down when he suffers an injury and he starts taking prescription pain killers.

First, I have to say that I am in love with the cover! Just like the title states, some of the letters pop and others fade. I just think it’s super creative and eye-catching.

The structure of this story is similar to Wonder, in that it’s told from multiple perspectives, but almost every chapter alternates between the characters. Usually, I’m not a fan of this constant switching, but in this case it really helps build the suspense in the story and I couldn’t imagine it being written any other way.

Themes

My favorite aspect of this book is the portrayal of realistic relationships.

Friendship is one of the most prevalent themes in this story. That day in sixth grade, Kolt and Jake become best friends because they have connections. Kolt’s older brother is an addict and Jake’s father was an alcoholic. Kolt and Jake are the typical best guy friends we usually read about in YA novels, always looking out for one another and making teenage boy comments.

The romantic relationship between Daphne and Jake is the definition of teenage love: pure, honest and supportive. While we don’t see a lot of this relationship, the little glimpse that we get shows a realistic teenage love complete with binge watching Netflix, helping each other with basketball and homework, and being together as much as possible. They don’t have drama, but they do tackle some serious real life issues that lead to Jake breaking up with Daphne out of nowhere. Personally, I love that their relationship isn’t based on physical acts, but rather being there for one another.

Sibling love is an incredibly powerful theme throughout this book. Luke idolizes Jake, and Jake wants to be a great role model for his younger brother. The two of them keep the lines of communication open by writing back and forth in a notebook (which I LOVED). Luke is actively involved in the search for Jake, and gives information that helps spark a development in the case that Daphne and Kolt investigate along with the twelve year old.

While there are lots of different types of love in this book, there is one major concept that is deeply explored: addiction.

Vickers does an incredible job in describing many aspects of addiction. Readers learn how it starts, how Jake realizes he needed help, and the direction that Jake’s life will take in the future. Through Jake’s character, readers see that addiction can be hidden from those closest to a person and anyone can struggle with this disease (teenager or adult). The pressures Jake feels of not being enough will resonant with young adults who can relate to the stress of athletics or academics.

I recommend this book for young adult readers (especially boys) in grades 7 and up, and for parents of high school students.

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Admissions Book Review

Like many, I was very intrigued by the college scandal a few years ago. From an educator’s perspective, I was curious how they were able to get away with all that they did. Of course, I was not surprised that lots of money was involved, but I was shocked that celebrities, including Lori Loughlin, were guilty. So when I saw there was a fictional book about the scandal, I knew I had to read it.

Admission, by Julie Buxbaum, is a dramatic and eye-opening story about privilege and social issues in America.

Summary

Chloe’s mom is a famous TV star and her dad is in finance. She’s living a very glamorous life in LA, attending an elite private school, preparing to go to prom with her crush and getting excited to attend her dream college. That is, until the FBI shows up at her house and arrests her mom in the college admission bribery scandal.

Analysis

The structure of the story alternates between past tense and present day, which took me a little while to get used to (I prefer the sequence of events to go in chronological order). Readers are literally thrown right into the story, creating an immediate sense of engagement.

The setting is modern day Los Angeles. I am a fan of the Housewives franchise and other reality shows, so I really enjoyed the descriptions of Chloe’s luxurious life.

I like how well-developed the characters were, and how authentic they all seemed. They each served a very specific purpose and helped move the plot along.

Chloe

I have to admit that as a reader I was going into this story with some bias based on my background knowledge of the scandal. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I sympathized with Chloe in the beginning of the text. She comes across as very innocent about the scandal events, and readers instantly believe and support her. However, throughout the story, she gets these little flashback memories relating to the scandal, and like any other teenager, she dismisses these thoughts.

One of my favorite aspects of Chloe is that the reader is reflecting and accepting right along with her. When I first meet Chloe, I felt for her. I wanted to give her a hug when her best friend stopped talking to her and her life spiraled out of control. However, as the truth slowly unravels, and Chloe accepts responsibility for her actions, I didn’t feel as bad for her. I was proud of her for how she handled her situation in the end (I can’t give too much away, but I personally feel made the right decisions). I gained a lot of respect for her as a character.

Chloe is defintely a relatable character. She sees herself as a plain girl, “nothing special”, that doesn’t really know what she wants to do in her next chapter. Chloe loves spending time with Cesar, a little boy, reading Harry Potter after school. She states multiple times that she is “not smart enough” to get into ivy league colleges and universities, and she has a hard time with the SATs. She doesn’t even know what to include in her college essay because nothing has ever really happened to her. Buxbaum truly captures the essence of a teenage girl with Chloe, the insecurities, avoiding grown up responsibilities and the inner dialogue of a girl with a crush.

Themes

This novel highlights a few specific themes that all relate around current social issues: privilege, family and expectations

Growing up, I would hear the word privilege and just knew it meant someone had money. In recent years, this term has evolved to mean so much more than that and this book tackles the concept in a way that speaks to young adults.

Shola, Chloe’s best friend, is Nigerian American and attends the elite private school on a scholarship. She works her butt off for her grades and hopes to go to a top college on a scholarship. Throughout the text, we see Shola ground Chloe and give her “reality checks” in a way that is respectful but eye-opening. She tries to help Chloe see outside her “bubble”.

While the book doesn’t use “privilege” a lot, it’s very easy to see the hints left by Buxbaum to alert readers. I feel this was tastefully done and encourages readers to reflect on what they see in their own lives.

Family is also another concept that is explored in this work. However, I believe that this theme can be broken up into two different thoughts: doing what’s best and supporting one another.

In truth, I can’t think of another book that includes one theme used in two different ways.

Chloe’s parents defend their actions by saying they “did what they thought was best”. They wanted to help their child. In typical situations, we would applaud parents for this belief, however, bribery and fraud are not to be commended. But, it does bring up the idea that parents usually want to do anything and everything to help their children.

As readers, we know that Hollywood is all smoke and mirrors, so when Chloe’s family came together during the scandal, it showed us that at the core of a family there is love. Regardless of how much someone can mess up, family is there to still love and support that individual. This is such an important message for teenagers to remember, because notoriously the teen years are a time when many mistakes are made.

Finally, as a teacher who has worked in affluent districts, there is absolutely an expectation put on students today. Every single grade matters because a student has to get into the best schools. This is clearly displayed in Admissions because it directly impacts a family’s social standing. This is not only seen in California, but across the country. There is real pressure put on students, as we see with the characters in the book, but there is also a pressure on parents. College has become a status symbol for many, and these expectations can be extremely heavy burdens on all involved.

I would recommend this book to parents of high school students and young adult readers.

To purchase this book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

My Name is Layla Book Review

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

As I mentioned in my last post, “10 Reading Comprehension Tips“, middle and high school students are living in a text heavy world. They need to have strong reading skills to navigate reading textbooks, emails, writing lab reports, etc. But, what happens when a student is a struggling reader?

My Name is Layla, by Reyna Marder Gentin, is a realistic depiction of a dyslexic middle school student.

Layla, or ‘munk to her mom and older brother, is an eighth grade student who struggles with reading and writing assignments. Her best friend Liza and her neighbor Sammy, help Layla through the ups and downs of middle school life.

Layla

Like all middle school students, Layla wants to fit in. She worries about what she wears on the first day of school, what the popular girl thinks, and she worries that her teachers think she lacks intelligence. She envies Sammy, whose family sits down for dinner together every night, since Layla’s mom is a nurse who works the night shift and her dad has been out of the picture for 12 years.

On top of all this, she has a secret that she doesn’t share with anyone. It takes her a long time to read. “The words hop around like any good bunny should, refusing to stay still so I can get a grip on what they mean.” (15). The pressure to read quickly in class and get through homework each night is a lot for this thirteen-year-old, and she is used to low grades. For writing assignments, she struggles to get ideas from her head, through her fingertips on a keyboard and in an email to her English teacher, Mr. McCarthy. Through her frustrations, she has learned how to cope by watching movie versions of books to assist her in getting through assignments.

As a middle school English teacher, I can honestly say that the depiction of Layla is incredibly accurate. She avoids reading aloud in class or participating so she doesn’t bring attention to herself. She will submit gibberish writing out of pure frustration and she relies on her best friend to help her navigate projects. Layla’s emotions of anger, confusion, fear, and self-doubt resonate with readers on multiple levels as the school year progresses.

Plot

I really enjoyed the multiple layers happening in this book. The main conflict is Layla’s reading difference, but there is also a fair share of minor conflicts as well. As with any teenager, there are internal conflicts about her mom working and her dad not being present (until later in the book), problems with friends that involve trust, and the innocent buds of a potential first romantic relationship with a boy. Teenagers take everything to heart and can be very sensitive to change, as readers see when Nick suffers an injury in basketball. This book touches on all of the important themes in a young adult’s life: family, friends, relationships, and self-image.

Theme of Family

Today, families come in all shapes, sizes and forms and I really like that Marder Gentin chose to focus on a non-traditional family structure. Readers see Layla’s mom work overnight shifts, catching some sleep during the day to just repeat the routine again. She takes on extra shifts whenever she can in order to provide for her children, yet she will show up to basketball games and the first day of school when her children need her support. While Layla and her brother do have freedom after school, neither one of them takes advantage of this and continue to do homework, go to basketball practice and socialize with friends without getting into trouble. This maturity and self-reliance teach readers that being independent is important in life.

While no family is perfect, readers can empathize with Layla’s desire to have more family around for holidays, like Sammy’s. Or to have a mom that is very actively involved in her school life, like Liza’s mom. However, through her interactions with her friends, readers are reminded that each family has their own problems even if the outside world does not see them. For many teens, this nugget of wisdom is important because they don’t realize others may feel the same way they do.

Theme of Friendship

Friends are without a doubt the most important aspect of a teenager’s life, according to them. Establishing and maintaining true friendships takes time and effort on all parts, along with honesty. Typically, in YA books I find that there is often a backstabbing or betrayal between friends that causes a conflict. That doesn’t happen in My Name is Layla. In fact, Liza is an incredibly kind young lady (I hope my daughter has a Liza for a best friend in middle school). Liza knows that Layla struggles, but instead of ignoring this, Liza offers assistance to her friend wherever and however she can. From reminding her what class they have, or being partners for an in-class assignment, Liza takes Layla under her wing and supports her friend. There is never any negative comment made and Layla always feels comfortable.

Sammy. Ah, if there was ever a character I wanted to hug for being a good kid, it’s Sammy. His obvious crush on Layla isn’t the normal teenage kind. He truly likes Layla for who she is and wants to help her in his own way. I LOVE that he has the courage to ask Layla on a date to the basketball game and doesn’t leave her side when Nick gets injured. He mentions the Learning Center at school in the hopes of giving Lyla support in English. Through it all, Sammy is right there to help his neighbor (and girlfriend!).

Learning Differences and Dyslexia

Every single child learns differently. Some students show their struggles more than others, which is why there are always those that manage to “get by” in elementary school and part of middle school, but at some point someone notices.

Mr. McCarthy was Layla’s someone. He saw past her coping mechanisms and reached out to his school’s administration and helped create a plan for Layla (after a MAJOR plot twist that I refuse to mention). There were clues along the way that McCarthy was onto Layla, but she continued to plug along just “getting by”.

As I said before, teenagers worry about what others think of them. They never want to be “different”, especially at this stage. Layla is no exception to this because she cringes at the thought of going to see Mrs. Hirsch in the Learning Center.

What I LOVE about this book is the realistic way Marder Gentin has captured a teenager’s feelings when dealing with a learning difference. Readers experience the incredible emotions and thoughts that students cope with on a daily basis. As adults, we are reminded that these feelings need to be addressed when offering help to students. Anxiety and fear are incredibly consuming at this age, yet we need to provide the proper support.

Teachers like Mr. McCarthy and Mrs. Hirsch literally change lives.

Free Curriculum Guide

As always, my teacher heart gets insanely excited when there are resources to extend themes and learning in books. I will admit, I’m very picky with curriculum guides for my middle school learners, but this one is absolutely perfect! Not only is it aligned to the Common Core, it hits on all major teaching points for middle school English. There are plenty of discussion questions that can be used in small groups or whole class, it includes a few different activities for students (even some writing ones), a character chart with adjectives and practice with textual evidence and making inferences and drawing conclusions! AND, it’s also *FREE* on the author’s website! Pure perfection!

Never have I read a young adult book that hits on so many real-life issues for teens with so much accuracy. I highly recommend this book for parents and students in middle and high school, especially those with learning differences. Students will find comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

To purchase this book head over to Amazon.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information head to my website.

Mini Movers and Shakers: Anne Frank Book Review

I will be the first to say that I am not a history person, but there are specific time periods that do interest me. One of those is WWII all because of a young girl named Anne Frank. I was always a fan of the Dear America series as a kid, and in middle school there was just something about Anne Frank’s diary that helped me wrap my head around the historical events.

Anne Frank, written by Mary Nhin and illustrated by Yulia Zolotova, is an insightful picture book about the life of one of the strongest young women in history.

My readers know I am no stranger to Mary Nhin books (How to Win the World Cup in Your Pajamas, Arial the YouTuber, and eNinja to name a few), but when I saw that she was starting a new series called Mini Movers and Shakers and one of my personal favorite figures was to be featured, I instantly added the book to my ‘To Read List’.

Right away readers connect with young Anne because the story is told from her point of view. The writing is simple, yet mature enough for elementary school students to read. Nhin simplifies the events of Anne’s life, but does not water them down, which I really enjoyed. Vocabulary words like ‘invaded’ and ‘confidante’ give this text a more sophisticated feel that I was personally drawn to as a middle and high school teacher.

The illustrations really elaborate and explain the main ideas in the text, helping readers with their comprehension. I especially liked the map of Germany because it provides a visual to those children not familiar with the other side of the world. The Reading Specialist in me got excited that this text provided necessary background information to support reading comprehension.

It’s very clear that Nhin spent time researching her facts, and that she is a mom because she’s able to express these nuggets of information in a kid-friendly way. I even learned some new things about Anne Frank! The tone is friendly, as though Anne is speaking to the reader like a new friend. Kids are also to pick up on themes of perseverance, faith, courage, and family throughout the book.

Personally, I would use this in the classroom as a cross-curricular activity with social studies. It does a phenomenal job of introducing children to the events of WWII and the Holocaust. I would recommend this book for children ages 3-11.

*Be sure to check out more books in the Movers and Shakers series

To purchase the book click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

I Can Handle it! Book Review

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

I always say that Molly, my four year old, is my mini me. The similarities really come out when she’s being emotional, which happens more frequently the older that she gets. As a parent, I use all the patience I can muster to calm her down and allow her to express her thoughts. As my readers know, I tend to use books for pretty much everything, and I’m happy to report that I have found the perfect book to help my child cope with her emotions.

I Can Handle it!, written by Laurie Wright and illustrated by Ana Santos, is a practical picture book that breaks down emotions and coping strategies for kids to help with mental health.

Readers follow Sebastien, a little boy, as he tackles emotions that he feels based on different events and situations he experiences. Each scenario provides three or four possible solutions for dealing with the issue, some are absolutely meant to be funny, and some are solid suggestions.

I really like that the story is told like a pattern. Readers anticipate what the next emotion will be and look forward to reading the different options Sebastien has for tackling his feelings. The wording and language is clear and concise, making it so even the littlest reader can understand the story. The illustrations do a fabulous job of capturing the facial expressions that all parents and educators will be familiar with when it comes to emotions that kids feel. It makes the character come to life and seem more realistic.

The scenarios mentioned are 100% on point. For instance, my child absolutely gets cranky when she can’t watch her TV show (she will react if you threaten to put on an adult show). Every single reader can relate to Sebastien and his feelings, thus creating trust between the character and reader. This is really important for this picture book because it shows kids different ways to handle situations that they can use in their life. It’s teaching kids in a fun and creative way.

One of my favorite scenes is where Sebastien is feeling bored when he is stuck at home. The suggestions for handling this situation include making slime, building a fort or video calling friends. I really appreciated how trendy and realistic these ideas for combating boredom are as a parent.

I recommend this book for kids ages 2-6. I can see it being used in the classroom as a read aloud activity to connect with social-emotional learning.

To purchase the book, click here.

Little Reading Coach is a certified Teacher of English (K-12) and Reading Specialist (P-12) offering online reading,  writing and home-based learning support tutoring services for students in grades 6-12. For more information click here.

Homeschool Logic Lessons for Gifted and Talented Kids 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.

As the parent of a preschooler (EEK!), I’m always on the look out for ways to supplement her education outside of the classroom. The majority of parents are concerned about their child’s letter and sound knowledge and counting abilities. But, what can we do for kids who are ahead of their class at this stage?

Homeschool Logic Lessons for Gifted and Talented Kids, by Smarty Buddy LLC, is a color workbook geared towards preschool and kindergarten students that provides enrichment activities and assessments.

Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to work with homeschool families. This book has everything a homeschool family needs to provide additional challenges to their little learners. It’s easy to use, includes clear directions, and offers multiple practice opportunities.

The organization is superb! The table of contents is extremely helpful and well laid out, making the book very user friendly. Each section is dedicated to a different skill, so there’s no weeding through trying to find what you’re looking for. The book offers nine lessons include the following: picture classification, figure classification, picture analogies, figure analogies, number analogies, number series- abacus puzzle, paper folding, sentence completion, and number puzzles. The premise of the book is to help foster students’ cognitive abilities.

As an educator, I like that the lessons and practice activities are in the beginning of the book, there’s a full assessment is at the end, and an answer key! The lessons include really clear step-by-step directions, allowing instructors to explain the lesson with ease. The pictures included are relatable concepts to preschoolers and kindergarteners, and the visual aids really help with comprehension.

Parents and educators can give the assessment all at once when the lessons and practice activities are completed, or give each section individually when a skill is completed. This allows for parents and educators to customize instruction based on their learner’s individual needs.

I recommend this book for homeschool families, parents and early childhood educators teaching preschool and kindergarten learners.

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Friendship Has No Color 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.

For kids, friendships are one of the biggest aspects of their lives. Moving and making new friends can always been a scary concept, but there are always sweet kids happy to make a new student feel included.

Friendship Has No Color, by Christopher Gordon, is a realistic picture book that celebrates diversity and teaches readers the importance of treating others with respect, regardless of their race.

Christopher Gordon has created The Warrior of Good Values, a superhero that teaches children valuable life lessons. I first met this hero in Timothy’s Lesson in Good Values, so I was super excited for this latest story.

Max is an African American student who has just moved to the neighborhood. Emily, a bi-racial little girl, instantly becomes friends with Max and at school introduces him to her other friends, Timothy and Billy. During recess, Max and Emily are excluded from playing because of the color of their skin and the texture of their hair by Jason, a Caucasian boy. The Warrior of Good Values arrives just in time to help explain the importance of treating everyone fairly.

The layout of this book is very engaging. Gordon is also an incredible graphic designer and he brings his talents to the text. The pictures help support the text and aid readers in reading comprehension. They also give the book a sort of graphic novel ish feel in a way, that I think connects really well with struggling readers because the pages don’t feel overwhelmed with text. I especially liked the character page at the beginning of the text, which is an aspect I don’t see very often in books.

I found the plot to be well thought out and realistic. We know that readers can face difficult situations in their lives, and one of the toughest environments is the playground. This story explains and shows readers the importance of not only including others, but being respectful in our thoughts and actions as well.

One of my favorite pages is when all the children think about their individual differences. Every single one of us is different in our own way and it is a beautiful thing. Even though our physical appearances may differ, on the inside we all have hearts and feelings. This page does an incredible job of showing readers that there are lots of differences between all of us, and that’s okay.

The last page of the book includes a bonus to help readers reflect on what they learn in the book. There is a short writing activity with lines provided and a coloring page, making this accessible to all types of learners.

I suggest this book for children in K-3. This book would work really for lessons on diversity and bullying.

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

Who Has A Pet Hedgehog? Book Review

Pets are a topic that kids love to read and talk about. The most common pet books I see are about dogs and cats, with some minor characters including fish and birds. I was intrigued to come across a book about a different type of pet.

Who has a Pet Hedgehog?, written by Jan Heng and illustrated by Tan Su En, is a delightful picture book about having a pet hedgehog.

Victoria has an African pygmy hedgehog named Odin, and readers learn all about taking care of a pet hedgehog, which is very different than taking care of a cat or dog.

First, I have to say that I really enjoyed the set up of this book. It really provides fantastic details about facts and the responsibilities needed to take care of this kind of pet, and includes great illustrations. The sentence structure is varied and reads really well. The font is reader-friendly for all types of readers (side note: I totally helped the author pick the font for this book!).

I consider myself an experienced reader with lots of background knowledge. Growing up, I had a friend named Kayla who had a pet hedgehog, so I was able to draw on some text to self connections while reading this story. However, there were so many facts about hedgehogs that I didn’t know until I read this book! Did you know that hedgehogs are nocturnal? Did you know they like to munch on three different types of worms? These facts were described so perfectly in the story that kids won’t even realize they’re learning new information. And the pictures really do a lovely job supporting the text with visuals to help in reading comprehension. The illustrations also show how absolutely adorable these little guys are and it really makes me want to get one for Molly one day.

I would recommend this book for kids ages P-8.

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