Friday, September 11, 2015

LITTLE ROBOT Blog Tour & Giveaway

I'm so thrilled to be sharing Ben Hatke's newest book, LITTLE ROBOT with you today! It is a fabulous, charming story enhanced by its nearly wordless graphic format. Thank you to First Second for providing a review copy and a copy for giveaway!

     When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it's all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!
     #1 New York Times Bestselling author Ben Hatke brings his signature sweetness to a simple, moving story about friendship and overcoming fears that will appeal to readers of all ages.

My thoughts:
Ben Hatke's illustrations are charming, and this nearly wordless graphic novel with chapters is an entertaining read of friendship and determination. The story of a girl who goes on adventures with her tool belt and comes across a lost robot hooks the reader right away. Adventure begins and suspense is built when we see the robot ends up being hunted by a larger scarier robot trying to get him back. The main character's ingenuity with mechanics and fixing things has a great message. Not only are the illustrations just plain fun to look at, the story itself is a delight. I so appreciate that the young girl is a tinkerer and engineer. Little Robot is about exploration, ingenuity, technology, and friendship. A strong addition to a classroom graphic novel collection.

Ben Hatke writes fantastic, imaginative, engaging books. Check them all out!

Visit the other blog stops for more chances to win.

Blog Tour Schedule

Read Now Sleep Later, 8/31
Teen Lit Rocks, 9/1
Cherry Blossoms and Maple Syrup, 9/2
Bibliophilia, Please, 9/3
The Book Monsters, 9/4
Fly to Fiction, 9/5
Bumbles & Fairy Tales, 9/6
Stacked Books, 9/7
Ex Libris Kate, 9/8
The Book Rat, 9/9
Working for the Mandroid, 9/10
Heise Reads, 9/11
The Hiding Spot, 9/12
Fleen, 9/13
Cuddlebuggery, 9/14

Monday, August 10, 2015

2015 #pb10for10 (Picture Book 10 for 10)

For the past couple of years, I've been participating in Cathy & Mandy's #pb10for10 event to celebrate picture books that are must haves for my classroom to share with students. Plus, I love seeing what books everyone else has on their lists-I always find new books to check out. 

This past school year, inspired by Donalyn Miller's #bookaday for teachers during breaks, I decided to start a #classroombookaday daily picture book read aloud with my 7th & 8th graders. I introduced it on my teaching blog, and then presented on it at #nErDcampMI. I'm super excited that so many teachers are joining in committing to reading aloud a picture book to their students each day of the school year! 
My #pb10for10 list this year is ten of 
my new favorite picture books that I am most excited to share 
with my classes when we get back to school in September.

BEYOND THE POND by Joseph Kuefler
I finished reading the F&G of this at ALA at actually wished I was still in school to read to kids.

MARILYN'S MONSTER by Michelle Knudsen, ill. Matt Phelan
Thank you, Franki, for introducing this book to me! Another one I was wishing I had middle schoolers around to read it to right away. Pair with Beekle.

WILD ABOUT US by Karen Beaumont, ill. Janet Stevens
I think this one will be my first day of school read aloud this year to talk about being ourselves and being accepting of others' differences and why it makes them special.

If they don't understand unreliable narrator after this...

FLOAT by Daniel Miyares
Loved PARDON ME last year, & Miyares' new wordless book is oh, so lovely!

THIS IS SADIE by Sara O'Leary
Some students might need this story.

A great example of fun voice in informational writing + it's hilarious!

THE DAY THE CRAYONS CAME HOME by Drew Daywalt, ill. Oliver Jeffers
My students love the crayons, and I so loved this new one!

NINJA BUNNY by Jennifer Gray Olson
Last year's NINJA! by Aree Chung made my students' top 10, so this will be a hit.

I adore the look of this book & am eager to discuss the grass isn't always greener theme with my students.

And a bonus book..
because I already read it to my students last year, but it's a new favorite (for my students and me), so I want to make sure people know about it!
TO THE SEA by Cale Atkinson

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Most Popular Books in My Classroom 2014-2015

I can't believe how little blogging I've done this spring, but sometimes life gets in the way. Even with busy plans for summer, I'm hoping to get back to it more in the next couple of months, especially since I have lots of books to talk about.
Because the end of the school year is at hand this week, I've been working on inventory and weeding of my classroom library. As I was working on that, I was looking over the checkout reports and noticing that some books were checked out much more often than others, which is always a good thing to note. I always find it interesting to see how each year's class can have such a different personality when it comes to the most popular books each year. This is especially evident in the impact of author visits - last year's class had a visit from Lisa McMann and the Visions series, along with her standalone titles, were very popular with the whole group. This year's class had a visit from Jason Reynolds and a writer-in-residence three day writing workshop with Kevin Emerson, and they each got to choose one of his books, hence the extra popularity of three of his books. Visiting in person makes a difference in getting students excited about reading their books.
So, here it is, 
the most popular books with my 7th graders this school year 
(in random order):

ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth

THE TESTING & INDEPENDENT STUDY (series) by Joelle Charbonneau

THE NATURALS & KILLER INSTINCT (series) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

LEGEND (series) by Marie Lu

THE MAZE RUNNER & THE DEATH CURE (series) by James Dashner 
(perhaps the movie release had something to do with this also)

THE PROGRAM, THE TREATMENT (series) by Suzanne Young


THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander

HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon

PIVOT POINT by Kasie West


WINGER by Andrew Smith

THE FOURTH STALL by Chris Rylander

BREAKOUT by Kevin Emerson

EXILE by Kevin Emerson

THE LOST CODE by Kevin Emerson

I AM NUMBER FOUR by Pittacus Lore

SIDEKICKS by Dan Santat

SISTERS by Raina Telgemeier

Thursday, March 26, 2015

BREAKOUT by Kevin Emerson

Author: Kevin Emerson
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 24, 2014
Number of Pages: 304
Source of Book: ARC from author in exchange for honest opinion
        When Anthony's angst-ridden rock 'n' roll lyrics go viral, he's unwittingly cast as the school rebel. The truth is, he's not trying to be anyone's hero. 
        Anthony Castillo needs a new life. His teachers are clueless autocrats except for Mr. Darren, who’s in charge of the rock band program. The girls at school are either shallow cutebots or out of his league. And his parents mean well, but they just make things worse. It’s as if Anthony is stuck on the bottom level of his favorite video game, Liberation Force 4.5. Except there is no secret escape tunnel and definitely no cheat code. 
        Fed up, pissed off, and feeling trapped, Anthony writes his first song for his rock band, the Rusty Soles. His only problem: Arts Night. If he exercises his right to free speech and sings his original lyrics—where his own bombs will drop—he and his band will be through. 
       The clock is ticking. Time for Anthony to pick his battles and decide what’s really worth fighting for.
There is something about this book that struck a chord with me as a middle school teacher. Anthony reminded me of students I have currently and had in the past who feel misunderstood by their teachers...and seeing events from his perspective makes me want to do better by them. For this reason, I think Breakout is a book that teachers should read (especially Emerson's author's note about the inspiration for this character).

Breakout will appeal to the boys in my classroom, but also some of the girls who want to get into the head of the boys and figure out what they're really thinking. But the best audience for this book will be the musicians or kids who feel misunderstood. They will relate to the main character and root for him as they go along on this twelve day journey with Anthony, to Arts Night when his band will play for the school, to figure out how to stand up for what he believes and be true to himself.

At it's heart, this is a book about perspectives and words and choices and wanting to be heard and being true to our feelings. That f-bomb word is a major factor in this book (although the actual word is never written out), but it's about so much more than just one polarizing word and a choice about whether to use it during a performance or not. The power of one word comes more from the intent behind it and the purpose for using it - it's about the emotion that caused that word to come out, as Anthony figures out and defends.

All of that being said, there were some specific references to things woven throughout that at times felt a little overused to me, but they did all end up connecting together at the end in a way that made sense. This could be more because I do not play video games, and so these references throughout would connect more with the intended teen audience who have more familiarity with them.

Kevin Emerson has again written a novel that is an ode to the music-loving teen, a call to action for teachers to understand their students, a story with universal themes of acceptance and finding one's own strength and figuring out what's right that will resonate with many readers, and rocking good writing that teens will relate to and devour. 

Although Breakout is a different tone (and gender of main character) from Emerson'Exile, it is one to hand to students who enjoyed his writing and the music-centric elements.
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