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.

Teaching the Classics in Middle And High School

Even though kids consider classics to be “old”, they have stood the test of time because of their outstanding quality.

The characters, settings and conflicts of these pieces are relatable even hundreds of years after they were published. As teachers, it’s up to us to show students that these texts are truly gems.

In order for students to really appreciate these works of art, they need to comprehend the plot and make connections to the themes and characters. Below are some suggestions for teaching classic pieces of literature to middle and high school students.

Choosing the right text

For many teachers, our curricula dictate which texts we teach. While we may not have much wiggle room when it comes to choosing what woks we use, we do have control over the right type we use based on our student population.

Use the original work. During my time in public schools, I always used the original version of the text. To differentiate, I provided reading comprehension questions to my students and spent time reviewing major characters, plot events, symbols and themes. I also provided students with graphic organizers for writing assignments and to record their notes.

The version I used with my students.

Use alternative resources. Companies are constantly creating new materials to support teachers and students. Personally, I have my own preferences of the alternative texts I’ve used, especially with my struggling readers.

  • Great Illustrated Classics. This is by far my FAVORITE resource to use when working with my population of readers. I remember going to a bookstore out in Pennsylvania with my grandparents growing up and seeing the huge display of these books in the front of the store. It allowed me to read Oliver Twist as a fourth grader because the works are geared towards younger readers. The vocabulary and sentence structure are more simple, and some small details are changed, but the characters and plot events are the same. I will admit, that there were words I didn’t know in the book, but I was able to independently read and understand the books.
  • Textbooks. Years ago, when I did sixth grade curriculum writing, I was super excited to read The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. I was a little surprised to find that the textbook we were using did not include the novel, but rather it had a play version. I did supplement parts of the plot by reading aloud the novel, but my students really enjoyed the play and were able to practice recognizing and interpreting the various literary devices.
  • No Fear Shakespeare by SparkNotes. Unfortunately, I just missed these amazing helpers as a high school student. Many students are so put off by Shakespeare because they get confused with the Old English language. No Fear Shakespeare takes the stress out of figuring out this older wording, allowing kids to comprehend the plays, with minimum effort. Through sparknotes.com, teachers and students can access side-by-side Old and Modern English versions of Shakespeare’s works. FULL TEXT versions :)!
SparkNotes’ No Fear Shakespeare- The Prologue from Romeo and Juliet

Supplemental Aids

Educator’s know that all students learn differently, which is why it’s so important to present information to classes in a variety of ways. Providing different activities to keep students engaged is essential in the classroom.

Unit Plans/Reading Guides. There are TONS of pre-made activities floating around online. A simple Google search will provide you with thousands of results, some free and some you can purchase. Teachers Pay Teachers is a phenomenal resource that always pops up on my Google searches.

I just finished reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with my students, and I used the vocabulary, reading questions and activities from this awesome free reading guide. I LOVE the police report activity for chapter four and made sure to use it with my class. I also paired it with a sample police report and did a mini lesson on formal writing.

Audiobooks. It’s no secret that I’m a HUGE fan of using audiobooks with my students. There’s something magical about listening to someone read a story. YouTube is full of free versions, and I also use Audible if I can’t find exactly what I want on YouTube. For virtual teaching, I prefer to use YouTube so I can post/share the link with my class in case they’re absent or want to go back and re-read. I used this version for Jekyll and Hyde (I did speed up the reading a smidge, which made a big difference).

Film Versions. Again, I LOVE using films and TV shows with my students. Being able to see the story in a visual way helps many with reading comprehension. A popular teacher favorite moving pairing is using The Lion King when teaching Hamlet. As with any form of media, always make sure to check the rating and content before showing a film version. I was all excited to use a Jekyll and Hyde movie on YouTube, until I saw in the comment section that some kind person mentioned an inappropriate scene. Needless to say, I went with a cartoon version instead for my students.

Activities for Teaching the Classics

Every classroom looks different and every teacher is different. What works for one teacher will not work for another, so the ideas listed below are just that, suggestions on how to read classics in the classroom.

  1. Act out scenes (readers theater). I have personally seen this in action with Shakespeare and it’s engaging for students. While kids can read aloud from their seats, there is nothing wrong with taking it up a notch. Include props, have students create a mini set, take a trip to the auditorium and read on the big stage.
  2. Have kids teach the class. Who says the teacher always needs to be at the front of the class? Allow students to get hands-on and create a lesson. Whether kids work individually or in groups, assign them a concept and give them freedom to teach it. I would suggest giving them some creative freedom with this choice and a rubric, so they know what the expectations are.
  3. Virtual field trips. Since field trips may not always be realistic, having a few virtual options is always a great choice. These can be done in-class or for homework and can provide students with some new information about topics relating to the classic text.

Importance of Theme

As with any text, teachers know to focus on plot, characters, conflict, figurative language, quote analysis, etc. We know these works are classics for a reason, and our goal is to show students how magnificent “old” books can be.

Universal themes are truly fantastic, as they can be found in any text, so incorporating these themes into class discussions, writing prompts and homework help students of all ages realize that even though the story is not modern, it deals with similar themes as books today.

Love, good vs. evil, jealousy, friendship, family, etc. can all be seen in classic literature.

For instance, one of my favorite themes of all time is good vs. evil. This can be seen in The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde quite clearly AND it is also seen in the Harry Potter series (especially book seven). Giving students copies of quotes from both works and asking them to write a comparison paragraph explaining how the theme is used and its meaning is a great activity to help students make connections with a classic text.

Classic pieces of literature are timeless for a reason. With modern technology, creative thinking, and the right resources, students of all ages and skill levels can read and enjoy these works of art.

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.

Lizzie Loftus and the Messy Mums Book Review : A Science Method Mystery

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.

A few months ago I connected with a new children’s book author, Dr. Ruth Propper, through Facebook and I shared a review for her first book, Lizzie Loftus and the Missing Peanut Butter Cookies. Just as I was hoping, the second book is finally available!

Lizzie Loftus and the Messy Mums: A Science Method Mystery, written by Ruth E. Propper, Ph.D., and illustrated by Tanja Vacelija, is a great easy to read science chapter book that enforces the importance of experiments to young scientists.

Our fantastic trio is back (Lizzie, Joule and Robert) and they have another mystery that needs to be solved. Robert’s mom accuses him of playing basketball in the front yard and ruining the mums that were just planted. Unless Robert can come up with an alternate hypothesis before dinner he will be unable to go to the big basketball game.

Joule guides Lizzie and Robert through the scientific method to create Robert’s alternate hypothesis. She really makes it a point to follow the process in order and readers see first hand why Joule is right. The situation gets even more complicated when Daniel, the 7th grade neighbor, stops by and gives his own thoughts, which Joule believes instantly.

One new aspect of the this story that really stuck out to me was the underlying theme of seeing is believing. The theme first emerges during a conversation between Joule and her mom. Joule is trying to convince her mom that wind, moles, and sticks had a hand in the messy mums, but her mom points out many holes in the story.

“Just because someone older, or more mature, or even someone you respect, tells you something, it doesn’t make it true. When in doubt, believe what you see, not what someone says. You have to think critically, kids. That means trying to figure out why something might not be true” (46).

Mom’s words can be applied to so many situations involving peer pressure, science experiments, etc. I LOVE this quote and the point that mom is trying to make to the three scientists.

As with the first book, the characterization in this story is spot on. The attitude that Joule has is just enough sass to make readers roll their eyes, but not dislike her. Robert is truly an eight year old boy in how he acts and speaks. Propper really captures the essence of little boys with Robert in the very beginning of the story. Lizzie is still a sweetheart that truly wants to help her friends.

As a reader, I am always looking for clues and moments of foreshadowing. There was a smidge of foreshadowing in the book, but the plot events did surprise me, which I enjoyed. The creativity of what really happened is realistic and will make readers smile.

And in true Lizzie Loftus books fashion, there are bonus sections! The author includes a glossary of terms with reading comprehension questions to help readers explore the scientific concepts in more detail using the text. There is also a hands-on activity that includes a recipe for spaghetti and meatballs. The teachermom gets excited that readers can go beyond the text in fun and educational ways.

I recommend this book for readers/scientists ages 5-12 for a home or classroom library. It is also a great text for a science teacher or homeschool parent to use when teaching the scientific method or looking for STEM activities.

To purchase the book click here.

 

 

 

 

Lost Book Review

A few months ago I was watching Inside Out with Molly. We were watching the scene where the imaginary pink elephant does not get in the wagon. Molly asked where the elephant went and when I told her that he would not be coming back she instantly started to cry. As a parent, I was no where near prepared for this moment, and realized I didn’t even have a go to book in Molly’s library on this topic, until now.

Lost, written by Christine Reynebeau and illustrated by Rachael Hawkes, is an honest picture book that explains loss to young readers.

Lucy has a favorite toy, her stuffed giraffe Lou, who goes everywhere with her. Lou and Lucy have an incredible bond and go on many adventures together. Lou is always there for Lucy. One day Lucy goes on a cruise with her family and Lou falls off the ship into the sea. He is officially lost. Lucy goes through the emotional stages of grieving the loss of her favorite toy.

As with other books by this author, I LOVE the way that concepts are explained. Loss is by no means an easy idea to explain to a child, but this book does a fantastic job of discussing a difficult topic.

I love that Lucy seeks out comfort from her parents and that her dad makes it a point to explain loss. Dad uses kid friendly language to not only comfort Lucy, but to guide her through the process. The illustrations that support the text are absolutely spot on and help elaborate on Dad’s words. Readers can easily infer the text based on the pictures.

Readers see Lucy experience joy, sadness, and love throughout the story. Some days she feels happy and may not think about Lou, but then feels guilty for this. The realness of Lucy’s journey is authentic and relatable to readers of all ages. It gives readers all the feels.

DreamBuilt Books has created diverse texts and Lost is no exception.  I love the inclusiveness represented in the story.

I would recommend this books for ages preschool-2nd grade.

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 and writing tutoring services for students in grades 3-12. For more information click here.

 

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.

Rescue Book Review

One of my favorite things about being a book blogger is being able to introduce children and families to quality texts from authors. I’m fortunate to have connected with indie authors who are extremely passionate about their books and take pride in what they create.

I’ve been working with kindergarten students over the last few weeks for summer school, and during our morning meeting we read a different picture book. I read them PB & J (see my review here), and the other day they requested another book by the same author.

Rescue, by Christine Reynebeau, and illustrated by Jessica Kopecky, is a fabulous picture book about the importance of teamwork and friendship.

Readers are introduced to three dogs (Finley, Walter and Phoebe) who are friends. Phoebe is playing with balls outside when her favorite ball makes its way into Lulu’s yard. Lulu is not the friendliest dog and Phoebe knows she will need some help from her friends, Finley and Walter, to get her ball back. Together, the three friends create and execute a successful plan to help Phoebe.

Personally, I really liked that this story featured dogs as the main characters. While I feel the story would have been just as engaging with humans, there’s something  special about using animals in picture books. My kindergarteners would also agree that they loved having dogs as the characters, and they really loved the name Walter.

As a teacher and parent, I loved the simplicity of the writing style. When reading to my six year old students, I didn’t have to stop and clarify any words or explain situations. My readers were able to comprehend on their own, with the use of the pictures.

Since I had been working with my students on using pictures to help them understand a story, they were able to practice this strategy on their own with this book. I LOVE that the pictures supported and elaborated on the text. For instance, the picture of Lulu clearly lets readers know that she is not the friendliest dog in the neighborhood.

As always, I’m a huge fan of the themes used in books by Reynebeau. Readers are able to pick up on the themes of friendship and teamwork quite easily while reading this text.

I recommend this book for readers 0-7.

To purchase this book click here.

Lizzie Loftus and the Missing Peanut Butter Cookies: A Science Method Mystery Book Review

Literacy in the content areas is a topic I’ve been interested in since college when I had to take a class on it (with one of my favorite professors). I love coming across books that will spark the interest of a reader who has a love of science, math or history.

Lizzie Loftus and the Missing Peanut Butter Cookies: A Science Method Mystery, by Ruth E. Propper, Ph.D., and illustrated by Tanja Varcelija, is a delightful story about using the scientific method to solve a real life mystery.

Lizzie’s mom just baked a batch of delicious peanut butter cookies, but unfortunately a bunch have gone missing. Lizzie asked to have a cookie, but she listened to her mom and did not take one. She went outside to play with her neighbors, Robert and Joule. Lizzie’s mom thinks Lizzie ate the cookies, and has given her daughter an hour to explain what happened to them. Robert, Joule and Lizzie use the scientific method to create a hypothesis and design an experiment to show Mrs. Loftus what really happened to the cookies.

The format of this book is fabulous! Each chapter is a few pages long, which are filled with dialogue allowing the story to flow really well for young readers. The conversations are extremely realistic and allow readers to truly get to know the characters. The illustrations are adorable and can be used to help aid readers with comprehending the text.

Two of my favorite components of this story are the characters and the explanation of the scientific methods.

The three main characters are Lizzie, Robert and Joule. Robert and Lizzie are in second grade, and Robert’s older sister Joule is in fifth grade. Even though the story is about Lizzie’s situation, Joule’s character definitely steals the show! Joule is a know-it-all, with a big personality. She likes to remind Lizzie and Robert that she learned all about science and experiments “last year in fourth grade”. She is the driving force behind Lizzie finding out the truth about the missing peanut butter cookies, and truly moves the plot along.

For the record, science was in no way one of my best subjects growing up. I remember learning about the scientific method and having to use it in class, all while thanking my lab partner for getting me through.

This book not only does a marvelous job explaining and defining the different parts of an experiment (hypothesis, designing an experiment) it also provides clear examples in a real life situation. Joule spends lots of time teaching Robert and Lizzie about science in this short text, but her explanations are kid-friendly while using the proper scientific terminology, which I loved. There is no watering down of ideas and concepts, but rather a dialogue between characters that helps readers comprehend the ideas. For instance, Joule spends lots of time discussing hypothesis with the two other kids. She corrects them and explains why their ideas are incorrect, and provides guidance to the right way of thinking.

There were also some nice little surprises at the end of the story. The teacher in me always gets excited when an author includes extra educational activities that correlate with the story, and this author definitely got me excited!

Not only did she include a glossary of the scientific terms mentioned in the story, she included comprehension questions based on each term and the story! Truthfully, I have never seen it done this way, and I think it’s great! It adds an extra layer of skill building in a way that doesn’t feel overwhelming for young readers.

And in true saving the best for last fashion, there is a recipe for peanut butter cookies! The illustrations of the ingredients make the recipe very kid-friendly, and the references to the story in the directions just add that little bit of extra.

I recommend this book for ages 5-12. It would work really well as a cross curricular activity with science and reading for students in grades 2-5. It is a must have for any kid who likes science or mysteries.

To purchase this book click here.

 

I Am This Girl: Tales of Youth 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.

I’ve been teaching for ten years, and during that time I have seen/heard about quite a bit of tween/teen girl drama and bullying. Cellphones and social media have completely changed the world for bullies since victims can never escape it like they used to back in the day. When we read about incidents in the news we never get the whole story, until we are introduced into that world by a book.

I Am This Girl: Tales of Youth, by Samantha Benjamin, is a young adult novel that takes readers on a journey filled with bullying, self discovery, and teenage love.

We follow Tammy, a teenage girl, as she moves from London to Morpington, a small town where everyone is related and knows each other. She instantly struggles with leaving her two best friends, Kristie and Sonia, and tries to fit in at her new school. The girls aren’t very welcoming, and Tammy finds her head in a toilet on her very first day. She also endures physical altercations with girls while trying to navigate her new social environment.

If that isn’t stressful enough, Tammy is also expected to spend time with her dad who clearly is not father of the year. He pushes his daughter to date a boy she is not a fan of, and does not support her emotionally or financially. Readers will like him less and less the more they learn about him.

As we dive deeper into her story, we learn that Tammy was bullied in her old school by a girl named Lorraine. Readers can understand why this character has trust issues and has difficulties making friends.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book based in the U.K., and I realized I don’t think I’ve read any YA book quite like this one.

The story is told in third person omniscient, and the scene changes happen very quickly, which took me a little getting used to because there are no space breaks between switches. My reading was definitely a little choppy in the beginning because of this, since I was trying really hard to figure out what was going on. However, once I got the hang of it my reader brain was able to follow the story line seamlessly. In fact, I don’t think certain pieces of the story would have been as effective without the quick switches.

The characterization of Tammy is raw. Plain, simple, and true. We experience all sides of her, not just the good ones, and she is not meant to come across as cute. It reminded me a little bit of Veronica Roth’s Divergent character Tris, except that while Tris had an inaccurate portrayal of herself, Tammy knows she has issues and expresses them very clearly.

Tammy will admit to readers when she is making a poor decision, but will continue to do so anyway. Why? Because she’s a teenager and that’s what they do. Her realness is incredible. Because of a domino effect, Tammy smokes cigarettes and weed, and even dapples with drinking. She tells readers she needs cigarettes to take the edge off, not because it’s cool. Adults tend to think teens partake in these activities because of peer pressure or whatnot, but Tammy shows readers that sometimes teens do the same things as adults for the same reason, to escape.

She is also going through the process of self discovery with her sexuality. Benjamin leaves little hints here and there, but it’s not until Tammy’s neighbor Alexis discusses the topic with her that Tammy realizes that she is bisexual. Personally, I loved this component of the plot. Being a teenager is challenging enough, as Tammy shows readers, but it’s even more complicated when you have to hide part of yourself.

As adults, we often look down on teenage love as not real. Teenagers are hormonal, emotional and have a flair for the dramatics. However, teenage love is also extremely complex and complicated, as we see with Tammy. When she starts seeing a girl named Lucy we are introduced to the legit crazy world that some teenagers experience. Feelings of guilt, desperation, and obligation are all very much real, and adults sometimes don’t realize their significance.

This novel was truly eye opening about what happens in the life of a teenage girl. Not going to lie, I was petrified a few times while reading it, especially thinking about what the world will be like when my three year old daughter is older. However, if you work with teenagers or you have a daughter, this is a must read.

I would also highly recommend that every teenage girl read this at one point to realize that they are not alone with how they feel or what they experience. The intricacies of friendships, family issues, and surviving high school are extremely complex and delicate. This book holds nothing back and literally touches on every topic imaginable for a teenager.

To purchase the book click here.

The Ring 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.

Last week I connected with BLKDOG publishing, a new independent publisher. I’m super duper excited to read these amazing books and share my thoughts with all of you.

The Ring, by Sarah Anne Carter, is a military romance book that will take you on an emotional roller coaster of love.

In all honesty, I wasn’t crazy about the start of the book. The main character, Amanda, meets Lucas while she’s working at a coffee shop. She repeatedly says that she doesn’t want to get seriously involved with a military man, but doesn’t really discuss why too much. I would have liked for the character to dive deeper into her reasons and open up to readers a smidge more. I felt the first few chapters were a little rushed and it was hard for me to connect with Amanda because I wasn’t getting enough of her.

However, once Amanda and Lucas start dating there’s a shift and as a reader I was not only able to connect with Amanda, but I felt emotionally involved.

I was definitely drawn to the innocence and simplicity of the dating relationship between Amanda and Lucas. There was no mention of social media, no drama, or bedroom activity. It was refreshing to see love blossom between two characters in such an authentic and traditional way.

As a character, I really like how determined Amanda is. She has her own personal goals that are realistic and she will do whatever it takes to achieve them. She works two jobs to pay her way through school, which is NOT an easy thing to do. She studies her butt off to earn her teaching certification and get a full time job. I LOVE that she doesn’t stop pursuing her dreams just because she meets a guy.

Personally, no one in my immediate family has ever been in the military, so I don’t have personal experience with deployments. The author did a lovely job explaining all of the military jargon that Lucas used, and kept the events simple enough for someone like me to understand.

Carter also did a really great job of communicating how strong the military community is. I really loved how she included the different events that military wives created among themselves, like book club. As a complete outsider to this world, I was able to get a sense of how much of a family military life can be, and the incredible bond between all of those involved.

The longer Amanda and Lucas are married, the more we see the true sacrifices of being married to the military. This book had me in tears and took me on such an emotional roller coaster. The plot twists were crafted beautifully and implemented seamlessly. I can’t say any more than that because you just have to read it to appreciate the strength of the incredible women married to military men.

If you’re looking for a sweet story that takes you on an emotional roller coaster, this book is perfect for you.

To purchase this book click here.