Friday, December 14, 2018


This is more than the story of the first Christmas tree—it’s the story of a kind and determined young royal. Such an interesting bit of history I’d never come across before!

Summary from Amazon:

Queen Charlotte brought her family's festive holiday yule bough from Germany to England. While planning a Christmas Day party in 1800 at Windsor Castle for over 100 children, she realized a single bough isn't enough. So she brought in the whole tree instead, making it the first known Christmas Tree in England. This story tells a little known fact about a favorite holiday tradition.

The Queen and the First Christmas Tree, written by Nancy Churnin and illustrated by Luisa Uribe,  was published by Albert Whitman & Company in 2018.


Charlotte wasn’t like other princesses.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I love the way this book tells a part of Queen Charlotte’s life as brings us the story of  the first Christmas tree in England. It’s a wonderful example of selecting the part of a person’s life that is most interesting to focus on when writing a biographical picture book. The way the author uses specific details helps to bring the story to life.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

This would be a wonderful story to read when talking about holiday traditions.

 Ages: 5 - 8

Grades: K – 3

Themes: Christmas trees, royalty, holiday traditions


Research: Think about one of your family traditions. Do you know where it came from? Who started it? Do some research and see if you can find out. Draw a picture or write about what you discovered.

STEM:  Can you make a single pine branch stand up like a Christmas tree? What materials do you need? Build a tree stand!

Write: Make a list of words to describe Queen Charlotte.

Draw: Draw a picture of what princess Charlotte might be doing instead of going to a fancy ball.

Monday, December 3, 2018

MISSING MIKE by Shari Green

A lovely and emotional story about a missing dog, told in verse.

Description from the publisher:

He’s a rescue, a mutt. Maybe there’s a little golden retriever in him, although he’s not exactly pretty. He’s had a run-in with coyotes and he’s missing an eye. But Mike is eleven-year-old Cara Donovan’s dog, and they love each other absolutely. Usually her pet follows Cara everywhere, but on the day the family first smells smoke in the air, Mike becomes anxious. Pine Grove is in the path of a wildfire, and the family is ordered to evacuate. In the ensuing chaos, Mike runs off. And then the unthinkable happens; there is no time to search for Mike. They are forced to leave him behind.

Shocked and devastated, Cara watches helplessly as the family drives through a nightmare, with burning debris falling from the sky and wild animals fleeing for their lives. Once in the city far from the burn zone, the Donovans are housed with a volunteer host family. Jewel, the hosts’ daughter, is nice, but Cara can only think about what she may have lost. What will happen if nothing is left? But as she reflects on what “home” means to her, Cara knows only one thing. She is not going to lose Mike. She will do what it takes to find him, even if it means going back to Pine Grove on her own.

Missing Mike, written by Shari Green, was published by Pajama Press in 2018.

Why you want to read this book…
It’s so filled with emotion! I worried right along with Cara about her beloved dog, and I felt compassion for anyone who has experienced loss or fear that comes from a fire. I read this one quickly because I was so eager to find out what happened and whether Cara would find her dog.

Ten minutes.
Ten minutes to pack up and leave our home.


It hasn’t rained for thirty-seven days.
The air crackles in the heat
gold grass crunches
beneath my tires.

If you’re a writer… 

There’s such lovely imagery and language in this novel! I always admire this style of writing because I can imagine how challenging it is to create a complete story this way. A great example of a novel in verse that creates strong emotions for the reader.

The smoke claws its way into my lungs
and it takes all I’ve got
to yell for Mike

If you’re an educator…

Many kids have been affected by the experience of being in a fire or by forest fires so they will be able to relate to this story. I admired the determination of the main character and her drive to find her dog. While reading this aloud, there would be many opportunities for talking about loss and how to cope with it, as well as what home means to different individuals.

“Don’t look so worried,” she says.
“Music is part of me
even without instruments
and scores.

Here's the author, Shari Green, talking about how she came up with the idea for the book: 

If you’re looking for more to read, check out the list of fabulous middle grade books over at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.