I love books that make me laugh out loud, and that’s just what happened when I read we don’t eat our classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (Disney Hyperion 2018). The story is about Penelope, a Tyrannosaurus rex, who is nervous about her first day of school. When she discovers her classmates are all children, things are not good. Children are delicious! In this funny tale Penelope really wants to make friends, but children are delicious. Her classmates don’t want to be eaten naturally so Penelope finds herself alone. Finally, when the class pet tries to eat Penelope, she realizes what it feels like to be eaten. School gets much better after that.
It’s that time of year again! Time for costumes, spooky stories and a writing challenge for Halloween. It’s time for the 8th Annual Halloweensie Contest. This year we are challenged to write a Halloween story using 100 words or less and the words cauldron, shiver and howl (or any form of these three words). All stories posted between 12:00 AM EDT Saturday October 27th and Wednesday October 31st by 11:59 PM EDT will be judged. So without further ado…here is my story (98 words!).
Wanda’s Midnight Wish
Wanda approached the fire slowly. Her wolf howled, filling her with hope. Professor Tia’s normally kind eyes glinted fiercely in the Halloween moonlight. Tia dumped a box of alphabet noodles into the cauldron. Wanda shivered and peered into the broth. She groaned; her eyes watered. RATS U F floated on the surface. How unfair! She’d practiced all year. “Look again Wanda,” she heard. Wanda peered through the steam. CONGRATS U FLY TONIGHT bobbed among the carrots and snails. Wanda beamed and jumped on her broom. “You deserve it, but first we eat,” Tia smiled, handing her a spoon.
The Brilliant Deep by Kate Messner and illustrated by Matthew Forsythe (Chronicle Books, 2018) is an exploration of the coral reefs off the Florida coast and how one boy, Ken Nedimyer, loved them. Indeed, Messner tells us a love story. We are caught up immediately on the first two pages of the mystery and beauty surrounding the spawning on a new coral reef. We learn of Ken’s passion for the sea and the reefs and his discovery that something was wrong with them. We learn of his drive to solve the problem and his successes.
There is plenty of science to learn throughout the book, but it never feels overwhelming. I love too, the hope that exists throughout – the notion that starting with one small solution can make a difference; that one person can make a difference or that anything is possible. This is a book for anyone who needs a boost to follow their dreams, whether they’re in the sky or in the sea. This is a book for Planet Earth.
I just got my copy of An Inconvenient Alphabet: Ben Franklin and Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution by Beth Anderson and Elizabeth Baddeley (Simon & Schuster, 2018). It’s brilliant, masterful and fun to read. I reread it as soon as I’d finished. An Inconvenient Alphabet is a look into Ben Franklin and Noah Webster’s attempts to standardize English spelling. Young readers can learn about this history, but also how perseverance can lead to successes even if different than the one first envisioned.
Anderson takes a little known event in history and makes it approachable for young readers. I really wish I could remember how I learned to read and what I thought about sounds and spelling – it would add a rich layer to the reading of this book and all the sound-text combinations I now take for granted.
Baddeley’s illustrations take us back in time easily and give us lots to ponder. Each spread is creative and engaging and complement the story perfectly. Baddeley also illustrated I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark, and I remember writing about how her illustrations made me feel that I was right there on the page with Ruth as I read.
An Inconvenient Alphabet is Beth Anderson’s debut picture book. Wow! I look forward to more great ideas distilled into wonderful books for others to read and read again. You can visit her at bethandersonwriter.com.
I received an Advance Readers Edition of Just Right: Searching for the Goldilocks Planet by Curtus Manley and illustrated by Jessica Lanan (Roaring Brook Press, January 2019) in exchange for a fair and honest review. Manley takes a vast and complicated subject and makes it approachable, but also fascinating and magical.
Amazon’s website says this book is for grades 1-2, but having taught 4th grade science, which included a unit on space, I think this book is useful for older grades too. Young readers may take away the awe I felt reading all that we know about space and all that we don’t know. Older readers can learn about the people and tools that have allowed us to know what we’ve discovered to date. This book would be great for a dynamic introduction to a space unit in 4th grade.
Manley and Lanan have found the Just Right balance of presenting accurate scientific knowledge mixed with relatable images that readers can connect with and which inspire. This book is not too boring and not too difficult. This book is Just Right! And it’s coming to a store near you in January, 2019. Enjoy!
Worm loves Worm. And Worm loves Worm back. So what should they do? Get married of course. What seems like a simple solution becomes complicated when their friends try to plan their wedding using a traditional format. In this sweet, sometimes funny – watch out for that spider – book, Worm Loves Worm, author J.J. Austrian and illustrator Mike Curato (Balzer & Bray, 2016) show us that weddings don’t have to be the same as those with which we’re familiar just because, as Cricket says, “That’s how it’s always been done.” Simple and fun illustrations complement the text as we become more and more aware of how silly the whole charade is – that the worms need bride’s bees, and a best beetle and a cake and fancy clothes and rings. After all, they’re worms, NOT a traditional bride and groom.
In the end the Worms convince Cricket that it’s ok to do things differently, to change the norm, to accept other possibilities. It’s a wonderful message for children and adults alike. Worm Loves Worm is brilliant in its ability to take a tough subject for adults to talk about and present it in a way that everyone can understand. I hope that other ‘crickets’ out in the world can embrace this basic message too because the world could use a lot less hate and a lot more love.
A big thanks to everyone who shared Sea Otter Awareness Week with me and to whomever purchased some books. I will be donating $50.00 to Friends of the Sea Otter. I hope you learned something new to share with someone else.