Real Friends

I just read the new graphic novel by Shannon Hale, Real Friends. It’s a memoir, Shannon’s story of friendships as she grew up.

I’m very thankful my daughter, who is 10 years old and finishing fourth grade, read this book. I said in yesterday’s post that this book openly talks about how friendships change and how some kids just aren’t real friends. I want my daughter prepared for this, though I know she’s seeing and experiencing changes in her friendships already.

Why is it so important to me to help her learn these lessons? I was a lot like young Shannon. Completely attached to one friend until things changed in third grade. A new girl moved to our tiny town and the three of us had roller-coaster friendships for the rest of elementary. I felt left out and developed stomach problems, that eventually cleared up and left depression in its place. I don’t think those girls were purposely mean to me, I just didn’t have the tools to grow and change with the friendships. 

I see, in my K-4 school, situations like this all the time. Girls wanting to fit in. Girls who upset one member of their friend-group and then end up on the outs with the whole group. My daughter tells me that one of her best friends is part of a group like that. Thankfully, my daughter stays away and offers a calm alternative when that group is too rough.

Do boys go through stuff like this? I have a twin brother, and while his friendships changed over the years, I don’t remember there being drama like this.

I’m going to ask the school’s counselor to read this book. I feel like it’s something she can recommend to girls who need it. I don’t always know there is anything going on, but they are all my girls, so I want to help them all.

Waiting to Indulge!

Great new books come out all the time, but as much as I’d love to have them instantly, I often have to wait. Sometimes I’m waiting for the release date, sometimes I’m waiting for the shipment to arrive and (the worst) is waiting for my yearly budget to renew. Here are a few I am anxiously awaiting…,

I have to wait for next school year to order the newest installment in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by MaryRose Wood. This is book 5 of a series where each book unlocks secrets but then throws more at you. Where are the Incorrigibles’ parents? Are they Miss Lumley’s parents as well? Are they related to the Ashton’s? They are addictive!

In case you weren’t aware, dragons love tacos, but hate spicy salsa! Adam Rubin is the creator of these hilarious books, but I’ve heard that in the sequel, the tacos have gone missing! What’s a dragon to do?!?


We’ve talked about Sophie in another post, but I have to say it again: I can’t wait to see the little squashes go to school!!

Mo Willems is one of the greatest children’s authors of all time. I’d go so far as to rank him up there with Dr. Seuss. This new book looks so fun and it’s refreshing to see books about characters other than just the Pigeon and Elephant and Piggie. I love them, don’t get me wrong, but Willems must have tons of great characters stored away in his head that I’d love to meet.

Technically, I already have Real Friends by Shannon Hale, but I have to wait for my daughter to read it first. The cataloging inside (recommended by the publisher) says it’s a nonfiction graphic novel memoir of Hale’s childhood. I felt it would circulate better in Fiction. From the peak inside that I got the other day, it frankly talks about the way kids become friends and how friendships change. I don’t think it will hurt any girls to find out from a book that not all friends are true friends–so much better Han learning it the hard way.

Liesl Shurtliff’s books are fantastic! I loved her first book Rump: the true story of Rumplestiltskin, and the follow up, Jack: the true story of the Beanstalk.  Red is Rump’s best friend so I’ve been wanting a book about her for 4 years!

The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors!

Before I start telling you this story, I’m going to have to switch into Barbarian-mode, because the battles in this book are truly epic!

I hope you’re wearing your BATTLE PANTS!

You’ve played the game. Now read the legend of the three great warriors who started it all . . .

This story is soooooo fun to read out loud! You get to use your epic announcer voice (I love doing voices!)

Our story begins with Rock from the Kingdom of Backyard. He’s looking for a worthy adversary but has no luck in his own kingdom, though his battles with clothespin and apricot are great.

Biggest laughs of the book right there.

We are then introduced to Paper of the faraway kingdom of Mom’s Home Office and Scissors from a tiny region known as Junk Drawer. They are also searching for equals to spar with. 

Finally, the three meet in the vast 2 Car Garage and battle! I think you know how each battle turns out.

The kids loved this! Daywalt had great success with his books The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home, but this book could surpass them. I can’t wait to read it again!

Scholastic Branches pt. 2

I’m back with more of those great early chapter books for emergent readers!

I do not own any of the Press Start books by Thomas Flintham yet. They look like they’re perfect for kids who struggle to put down their controllers and pick up a book. It looks like there are only two books so far.

Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe by Noah Z. Jones is a fun and colorful fractured fairytale series. There are four books and they fall in the high 2nd grade-low 3rd grade level.

Cyndi Marko’s Kung Pow Chicken is a great humorous series for 2nd and 3rd graders. The main character is named Gordon Blue…it’s perfect!

Sam Hay is the author of the Stella and the Night Sprites series. It’s a fairly new series with just two books so far. I’ve had 2nd and 3rd grade girls enjoying them.

The Owl Diaries by Rebecca Elliott are probably my second most sought after series from Branches. There are five books so far, and with their charming illustrations, I think there will be more. I have 2nd, 3rd and even a 4th grade girls loving these.

Far and away, the most popular Branches series I own is Troy Cummings’ The Notebook of Doom with both boys and girls. The funny books that only order on spooky appeal to 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders. There are ten books so far and I have no doubt there will be more.

There you have it! I have linked all the series to their Scholastic pages in case you want to find out more. They are not the only early chapter books, but they are a great place to start, especially since they are in those monthly book orders.

Scholastic Branches pt. 1

Ahhh, I remember how exciting it was to order from the Weekly Reader book orders. I didn’t get something every time, but I know I was able to once in a while. If your kids are bringing home book orders each month, chances are they are from Scholastic. 

I like Scholastic’s books. I have a book fair with them every year and often get between $2000 and $2500 in free books as a result. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

In the last few years, Scholastic has added a line of early reader chapter books. They are varied in style, topic and AR level. Here are the ones I am familiar with – though I’m sure I’m missing some, since new ones are added every year.

Level-wise, the four Boris books by Andrew Joyner are some of the simplest. They are good for beginners in chapters, 1st or 2nd graders. The illustrations are bright and colorful and are a nice transition away from picture books.

The four Monkey Me books by Timothy Roland are a fun mix of paragraphs and graphic novel panels. They are all black and white, and also fall in the lower levels, so good for 1st and 2nd graders.

Missy’s Super Duper Royal Deluxe is a cute 4 book series by Susan Nees. They are similar to the Boris books with color illustrations and low 2nd grade levels.

The Looniverse books by David Lubar are less illustrated and more word oriented and fall in the low 3rd grade level. There are four books. They would appeal to humor loving boys and girls.

The Lotus Lane books by Kyla May are a big hit with my 3rd grade girls. I even have some 4th grade girls reading them because they are required to read above 4.0 in AR but they inexplicably avoid longer books. The illustrations are super cute and all the girls get upset that there are only four books in the run.

For the kids who like spooky stories, Jack Chabert’s Eerie Elementary series fits the bill. They are mid 3rd grade level and the kids give them a thumbs up. So far, there are six books that I know of. 

I can’t count the number of 2nd and 3rd grade girls who only want books about horses. It’s hard to find stuff that isn’t too easy or too hard. This series, Silver Pony Ranch, with two books out so far, hits that mid-3rd-grade sweet spot.

Olive & Beatrix by Amy Marie Stadelman are a spooky series about a set of twins. The older sister was born at exactly midnight, so she can perform magic. Her sister used her skills in math and science to help solve the story’s problems. It’s a fun approach to STEM in the low 3rd grade range. There are only two books so far.

The Amazing Stardust Friends by Heather Alexander will appeal to all the girls into dance. I have two books so far. I think they are high 2nd grade AR leveled.


I just read the first Haggis and Tank Unleashed book by Jessie Young. This fun series is very simple, so perfect for the beginners in 1st and 2nd grade.

Though it’s not the most popular at my school, Dragon Masters by Tracy West looks like a fun fantasy series. I think because it is shelved at the end of the collection (darn librarians and their alphabetical order!) it gets over looked. These are great for 3rd graders.

I will share the rest of the Branches’ series with you tomorrow.

Happy Mother’s Day!

I’ve been celebrating Mother’s Day for 13 years now. My best friend sent me my first Mother’s Day card when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter.  I have a fabulous mom, an amazing grandma, a great mother-in-law and a wonderful grandmother-in-law and a whole lot of other moms in my life whom I couldn’t do without.

When I tried to think of which book to write about today, there was only one:

Munsch’s books are usually silly but this one, my favorite by him, is just beautiful. If you haven’t read it, go get it now! The story follows a young mother and her son. No matter what mischief he gets into, she sings this sweet, sweet song as he sleeps,

I’ll love you forever. 

I’ll like you for always.

As long as I’m living,

My baby you’ll be.


Even when he is a grown man, she sneaks over to his house with a ladder so she can sing to him (okay, there’s that silly Munsch style). Eventually, he marries and becomes a father, and he continues the tradition by singing to his child.


At the end of the story the mother is old and frail and her son does the most amazingly sweet thing: he rocks and sings to her.

I’ll love you forever.

I’ll like you for always.

As long as I’m living

My mommy you’ll be.

Round Trip

Just for fun, this week I decided to show my first graders the book Round Trip by Ann Jonas.


If you aren’t familiar with this book, it’s premise is simple: the story follows a family as they get up early and drive through the country to the city. Kids at first are confused by the very basic black and white illustrations, but if you encourage them to use their imaginations, they’ll get into it.

The big surprise comes when the family sees the sunset in the city and it’s time to turn around. Then you literally turn the book around and go back through the pages, but now the illustrations are upside down and appear completely different.

This is a marshy area where the family sees summer houses.

Now it’s fireworks!

The kids’ jaws drop and their eyes get big. It’s a book best appreciated with a projector on a screen so everyone can see. It was a huge hit for me.

I also have Ann Jonas’s book Color Dance in my English as a Second Language section, it has a great multicultural message.

Soap! Soap! Don’t forget the soap!

Stories from the Appalachians are so terribly fun to read out loud. I think I learned enough of the accent to do a decent job but it’s not so thick the kids get confused. Today I read an old story from the Appalachians to second grade:

Plug is so forgetful that he sometimes forgets his own name. One bath day his Mama sends himto  buy some soap. Now, if he can just keep repeating “Soap! Soap! Don’t forget the soap!” all the way to town, he’ll have no trouble remembering….but darned if he didn’t see a big old bullfrog and get all distracted.

Plug’s awful memory causes him to repeat the words of others, and that causes him to offend a whole lot of others. He’s one unlucky kid! Finally, his luck turns and a lady tells him that he needs his mouth washed out with soap. Soap! Soap! Don’t forget the soap! 

Andrew Glass’s illustrations are fun, and they really match the hill-folk feel to this story. Glass and Birdseye also collaborated on a picture book retelling of the song She’ll Be Coming ’round the Mountain.

It has that same great feel:

Birdseye is an accomplished author, I’ve even read his middle grade book, Attack of the Mutant Undrwear.

Zoo Day!

I usually don’t get to go on field trips but today, since I have no classes and there was a need for a helper, I get to go with second grade to the zoo! Our community is blessed to have a great zoo that is growing and changing all the time.

Two of the biggest attractions to our zoo are our pair of bears and our pair of Bengal tigers. Have you guessed what today’s books will be about?


Adam Stower introduces us to Lily, a little girl who really wants a dog. On the luckiest day ever, a very big doggy wanders into her yard. Lily is new at being a dog owner and Doggy struggles with obeying commands, but they manage to do pretty well together.

Sadly, Lily’s mom says someone is missing such a great doggy so Lily has to give him up. It’s sad but Lily finds another surprise in the yard the next day.

The books don’t quite follow each other seamlessly, but it’s worth it to read Naughty Kitty. Lily gets a little kitten since she couldn’t keep her doggy, but suspicious things happen wherever that little grey kitten goes. Who would have thought such a tiny kitty could break the cat door, tear up the living room and leave such a stinky mess on the carpet?!?

Lily isn’t overly observant, but kids will see what’s really going on from the very beginning. 

Speaking of being observant, don’t skip the endpapers in these books. You will see the missing bear posters, newspaper articles about zoo escapes and my favorite, at the end of Naughty Kitty, the story of the elderly lady who is thrilled to have her missing cat come home. He’s grown quite a lot, but it’s understandable after being gone for 30 years.

Anything But Ordinary

Yesterday I shared a book called Mesmerized by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno. I have another book by this duo today. 


Somehow, I made it through life not knowing about Adelaide Herrman. She was an amazing woman and an amazing magician.

I love this picture. Bruno really captured the feeling of Addie wanting to stand out. She was not the kind of woman to follow society’s rules. She met her husband when he was a young magician from a famous family of performers.

Addie joined the Herrman performance lifestyle and thoroughly enjoyed her life. Sadly, her husband died and she was left in charge of a large performance group — a “family” she wanted to continue to provide for.

Despite all of society’s expectations, Addie became a magician and started performing, even death defying tricks like catching a bullet!

Addie became The Queen of Magic, and yet somehow she has faded from our cultural memory. Rockliff wrote in her author’s note that she wants to change that, and I’m going to help spread the word. Adelaide Herrman deserves to be remembered as well as Houdini.