Monday, August 27, 2018

MISSION MUMBAI by Mahtab Narsimhan

Lots of action and interesting details about traveling and life in India!  

Description from the publisher:

When aspiring photographer Dylan Moore is invited to join his best friend, Rohit Lal, on a family trip to India, he jumps at the chance to embark on an exciting journey just like their Lord of the Rings heroes, Frodo and Sam. But each boy comes to the trip with a problem: Rohit is desperate to convince his parents not to leave him behind in Mumbai to finish school, and Dylan is desperate to stay in India to prove himself as a photographer and to avoid his parents' constant fighting. Keeping their struggles to themselves threatens to tear the boys apart. But when disaster strikes, Dylan and Rohit realize they have to set aside their differences to navigate India safely, confront their family issues, and salvage their friendship.

Mission Mumbai, written by Mahtab Narsimhan was published by Scholastic in 2016.

Why you want to read this book… 

The details of traveling in India are so interesting! I enjoyed all the descriptions of food, customs and cultural traditions woven into this story. Did I mention the food? I appreciated all the mentions of typical Indian foods and meals (you can find two of the author’s favorite recipes here). There’s never a dull moment in this novel, as the two boys explore, facing challenges that test their friendship.


I wanted a clear shot but there were too many people blocking the way. Clutching a weapon that was highly inadequate for this dangerous mission, I crept toward the beast.

If you’re a writer… 

Definitely consider reading this to study how to use authentic details to bring a setting to life. This book provides a different spin on the classic middle grade friendship issues, showing how the friendship between the two boys deteriorates when they are preoccupied with their own goals and family problems. 

We narrowly missed colliding with a cyclist transporting cages of screaming hens, a vendor with a tall stack of egg trays on the carrier behind him, and a lamppost. It was scary and thrilling all at once.

If you’re a teacher…

This is a great read for students who are interested in adventure and travel. I found it interesting the way the author depicted the boys interacting with people of all different social classes, showing that everyone had their own problems and joys. For students who have never been to India, this book provides a great snapshot of what life might be like.

The road was submerged in at least two feet of water. Plastic bags, bottles, banana peels, and other unidentifiable debris floated on the floodwater’s pockmarked surface. Everything was soggy and limp in the relentless downpour.

Check out this interesting interview with author Mahtab Narsimhan and go here for some discussion questions and activities.

More middle grade book reviews are waiting for you for Marvelous Middle Grade at Greg Pattridge's blog.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

ALL ARE WELCOME by Alexandra Penfold & Suzanne Kaufman

This lovely rhyming book is perfect for starting off the school year and to keep on hand in the classroom for students to explore. I think I will have to buy a copy for my classroom.

Summary from the publisher:

A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.

All Are Welcome was written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. It was published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2018.


Pencils sharpened in their case.
Bells are ringing, let’s make haste.
School’s beginning, dreams to chase.
All are welcome here.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

A lovely example of a rhyming story with a positive message for children. The repetition of the line "All are welcome here" is so effective. I can see myself using this throughout the year as a reminder, or even to post in the classroom. Brilliant word choice! I especially liked the way the illustrations show diversity & inclusion with different skin colors, clothing, and family groupings.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

This book upholds all the values that we see in a strong public education environment. There are opportunities for talking about individual differences, diversity, what it means to feel safe, how each child has their own unique story and how we can learn from each other. I plan to read this to my kindergarten students early in the year!

Ages: 4 - 7

Grades: K – 2

Themes: diversity, community, school


Draw and Share: What is your special talent? What could you teach to others?

Discuss: What is your favorite page in the story? Why?

Make: Have students write the words "All Are Welcome Here" as a banner to put up in the classroom. 

Draw: Draw a picture of what you could do to make a new student feel welcome.

Create: Use yarn to create welcoming hearts for the fence at your school playground (see inside covers).

Monday, August 13, 2018


It was hard to return this one to the library -- I just may have to buy my own copy!

Description from the publisher:

Daisy Fisher just wants to be normal, but growing up in a house known as the “Jungle” makes that impossible. It doesn’t help when the neighbours declare your family public enemy number one. Or when your best friend leaves for camp and forgets you exist. Or when your twin brother may be getting sick again....

Just when it feels like Daisy's deal with the universe is unravelling, she finds out that love and strength can come from surprising places... and that maybe "normal" isn't all it's cracked up to be.

My Deal with the Universe, written by Deborah Kerbel, was published by Scholastic in 2018.

Why you want to read this book… 

Daisy’s take on her life drew me into the story right away. I loved how hard she tried to help her brother, her interactions with her new friend Violet and the cool vine-covered house she and her family lived in. I felt all kinds of emotions right along with Daisy as I was reading the story. This is a book I’d definitely read again.


Let’s just get this out of the way right off the top: My name’s Daisy and yeah, I’m that girl. The one who lives in the “Jungle.”

If you’re a writer… 

What a great book to read as a mentor text for learning about voice and character! As I was reading, I felt like Daisy was a living, breathing teenager talking to me. I enjoyed thinking about the characters in this story and how word choices and phrasing bring out their personalities. Also, if you’re trying to understand what editors or agents mean when they ask for “quirky,” I’m pretty sure this is a prime example.

The thick layer of vines somehow manages to keep the rooms coolish in the summer. And warmish in the winter. Mom says the vines give our house insulation. I secretly think it’s one of the reasons why Dad let them take over. He’ll do anything to save money on the electricity bill.

If you’re a teacher…

It’s nice to read a middle grade novel where the parents are part of the story and not banished or dead. Family is important to the main character, even though she doesn’t always agree with their decisions. This story reminded me of the importance of communication between family members.

Have you ever felt like someone’s scribbled all over your insides with a fine tip Sharpie? That’s how I feel right now and I want everyone to know it, so I dress in all black from head to toe.

Looking for another good book to read this summer? Check out the offerings for Marvelous Middle Grade May over at Greg Pattridge's blog.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

FLYING DEEP: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVIN by Michelle Cusolito & Nicole Wong

There are so many great non-fiction picture books coming out and I wanted to share another one.  I’ve always been intrigued by ALVIN and the idea of diving into the deep sea! So interesting and fun to read about.

Summary from the publisher:

Climb aboard Alvin, the famous deep-sea submersible credited with helping to find the Titanic, and take a trip two miles down to the bottom of the ocean.

Experience a day in the life of an Alvin pilot and join scientists at the seafloor to collect samples and conduct research. Along the way, discover what one wears, eats, and talks about during a typical eight-hour trip in a underwater craft and find out more about the animals that live deep in our oceans. Extensive back matter explains how Alvin works, describes the author’s research, and includes a glossary and further reading..

Flying Deep: Climb Inside Deep-Sea Submersible ALVIN, written by Michelle Cusolito and illustrated by Nicole Wong, was published in 2018 by Charlesbridge.

Why you want to read this book…

This book starts with a mission to explore the deep sea. From there, the rhythm of the language is almost like waves as the experience of being inside ALVIN unfolds. Beautiful, soft illustrations compliment the sensory details of the ALVIN trip, making the whole book an undersea experience.


Imagine you’re the pilot of Alvin, a deep-sea submersible barely big enough for three.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

A great mentor text if you’re writing non-fiction. I especially liked the way the story is told as though the reader is going along on the mission. You might also want to study this book to see how to weave in factual and sensory details using poetic language, such as “cottony fields of bacteria” and “whirring thrusters churn.”

My Thoughts as an Educator:

I loved the way the text is sprinkled with questions that invite the reader to share their own ideas and thoughts. It was interesting that time stamps were included to give a clear picture of how long the journey took. This would make a great read aloud, especially if time is given for students to observe and discuss the details in the illustrations. At the end of the book, there are interesting notes from the author and the illustrator about the process of researching information for the book, as well as glossary and cool facts about a few of the organisms that live down deep.

Ages: 5 - 9

Grades: 1 – 4

Themes: ocean research, ALVIN, deep sea


Question:  Did anything surprise you about the ALVIN? Deep sea life? Write one question the book doesn’t answer.

Imagine and Draw: Imagine you’re a deep see architect or engineer. What could you build for scientists or people to use underwater? What would it look like? How would it work? Draw and write about your structure.

Research: Which organism from the book would you like to learn more about? Do some research and make a mini-poster to display what you found out.