Friday, April 26, 2019

I AM THE BOSS OF THIS CHAIR by Carolyn Crimi & Marisa Morea – A story about making rules and learning to share

I was surprised at how much my students liked this book!  

Summary from Amazon:

Oswald Minklehoff Honey Bunny III has always been top cat. Then Pom Pom the kitten comes along and suddenly Oswald isn’t the boss of everything anymore—not the toilet paper, food dish, back door, toy mouse, or even his own special chair. Will Oswald realize that life is more fun when you have a friend—and that, really, there’s plenty of room on the chair to share? A fun picture book with a comforting message for any kid with a new sibling.

I Am the Boss of This Chair was written by Carolyn Crimi and illustrated by Marisa Morea. It was published in 2018 by Sterling Children’s Books.

I, Oswald Minklehoff Honey Bunny III, am the boss of this chair.
You may look at it, and you may walk by it, but you may not sit in it.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

The theme of bossiness is very clear from the very first line, but the story doesn’t come across as didactic. The cat characters and use of exaggeration make this a fun read! Because the characters are cats, they can get away with a lot of naughtiness. I especially liked the ending, because it seemed realistic and I think it would be comforting to a child.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

Children can easily relate to this book. In a classroom setting, there are often some students who attempt to “make rules” for other students about play. This book provides a great opportunity to discuss some ways to be kind and to talk about one of the key principles in preschool and kindergarten – sharing! It is also a fun way to help children explore their feelings about siblings (new or ones that were already there when they arrived).

Ages: 3-7

Grades: PreK – 2

Themes: bossiness, sharing, cats


Predict: What would happen if a third cat came along and wanted to use the chair? Draw or write about what might happen.

STEAM: Can you build a new chair for the cats?

Think like an illustrator: Look closely at how the illustrator made the cats in the illustrations. How did she create the cat faces? Their fur? Using pastels, paints and black marker, create your cat character. Or try creating a character for a different animal!

Discuss: What can you do if someone is bossy? Have you ever been bossy yourself? Are there some things that belong to you that you don’t want to share?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

BLENDED by Sharon Draper – An emotional and thought-provoking read

I didn’t know anything about this book when I reserved at my local library, but I just couldn’t put this down.

Description from the publisher…

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.

Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?

It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.

Blended by Sharon Draper was published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers in 2018.

Why you want to read this book… 

Isabella is an engaging character with family problems that feel very real. I wanted to know what would happen, especially through the tension of wedding planning and preparing for her big performance. I also love learning from what I read and this story made me think about individual differences and racism.


Boomble. I know that’s not an actual word, but it’s a real sound. I can create any musical combination of sounds on my piano. That’s my superpower.

If you’re a writer… 

What you’ll admire right away is the voice. Love the main character’s opinions on everything, and especially her own life and her family. It was really interesting the way the book was structured through Isabella’s calendar of days with her mom and days with her dad.

My sneakers are sinking into the soft muck of the flower bed. The smell of fertilizer makes me gag. I just want to keep sinking into the mud until I disappear forever.

If you’re an educator…

Many kids will relate to this story of being shuffled between two parents and two different cultures and backgrounds. What happens after Isabella and Darren get stopped by the police or even the very fact that they are stopped opens the door for class debate and discussion.

“I love you, Mom, but I’m not white. I never will be, and…I don’t want to be. Because the half of me that is Daddy is stronger.”

If you’re looking for another great list of middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

HORSE MEETS DOG by Elliott Kalan & Tim Miller – What happens when you aren’t really paying attention to someone else

This story is so much fun, with lots of great connections for the classroom!

Summary from the publisher: 

Horse is just an oversize dog with funny paws…according to Dog. And Dog? Just a tiny baby horse with a weird tail. That’s what Horse thinks, anyway.

Television comedy writer Elliott Kalan and acclaimed illustrator Tim Miller team up in this clever comedy of mistaken species identity.

Horse Meets Dog was written by Elliott Kalan and illustrated by Tim Miller. It was published  in 2018 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins.


Wow! You’re very big.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

A great example of a story told entirely in dialogue, with the help of some very funny and expressive illustrations. I really love the concept of this story! I noticed how the author uses repetition of phrasing to add to the humor. This is also a great story to study to see how the text and illustrations work together to create humor and emotion.   
This book reminds me of the Mo Willem’s Elephant & Piggie stories, but in a picture book format. Even though this story is more than the standard 32 pages, the word count is around 400 words.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

This is a great book to capture the attention of children while also creating opportunities for discussions about listening to others, points of view and individual differences. I’m always looking for books to help kids develop the ability to realize that other people may have a different perspective on a situation—or themselves!

Ages: 3-7

Grades: PreK – 2

Themes: perspective-taking, individual differences, listening


Draw or Write: What do you think happens next, when Horse and Dog meet Bird?

STEAM: What kind of home would Horse and Dog live in? Build their house!

Think & Draw: Think about someone close to you. Do you and that person look the same? What is different about you? What is the same? Design a perfect toy for your person to take on a trip.

Discuss: Is Horse bossy? Is Dog bossy? How could Dog and Horse have avoided this big problem? What are some ways to really notice what another person is saying?

Check out this funny trailer for the book! Do you think you would like to read this one?