Friday, May 31, 2019

I’M WORRIED by Michael Ian Black & Debbie Ridpath Ohi – The story of a girl, a flamingo and a very worried potato

I am thrilled to be featuring this picture book on my blog today. It’s the third in a series of books about emotions (the other two are I’M BORED and I’M SAD, see my review here). Thanks so much to Simon & Schuster Canada for sending me this copy for review!  

 Summary from the publisher:

Potato is worried. About everything.

Because anything might happen.

When he tells his friends, he expects them to comfort him by saying that everything will be okay. Except they don’t. Because it might not be, and that’s okay too. Still, there’s one thing they can promise for sure: no matter what happens…they will always be by his side.

I’m Worried, written by Michael Ian Black and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi, was published in 2019 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


I’m worried.

What are you worried about?

The future.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I love the characters and how their worries suit their personalities. This is a great book to search out when you’re looking for creating a story with multiple characters and wondering how to create different personalities in the same story. 

Even though the topic of emotions and anxiety could be presented in a heavy, serious way, the gentle humor and bold and fun illustrations give this story a lighter tone that will really connect with young children.  

My Thoughts as an Educator:

I’m so happy to have this whole series of books for helping my kindergarten students talk about emotions. They love the quirky characters and they can really relate to these books. (My classroom copy of I’m Bored is in tatters because it is so well-loved.)

In I’m Worried, I especially love how the friends listen to each other, compare their stories and accept each other’s feelings. I often tell my students, “It’s okay to feel worried” or “It’s okay to feel sad.” This book is a must for a classroom collection! I would love to pair this book with Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt, a character who also has a lot of worries.

Ages: 3-7

Grades: PreK – 2

Themes: anxiety, feelings, friendship


Draw & Write: Think of a time when you felt worried. Draw and write about what happened. 

STEM: Provide a real potato for students to feel and explore. Can you build a “safe place” or “hideout” for the potato?

STEAM: Provide bubble wrap and art materials. What can you make with bubble wrap?

Make a list: What are some things you can do when you feel worried?

Monday, May 27, 2019

STAND ON THE SKY by Erin Bow – A bird, a girl, an adventure

Thanks so much to #KickButtKidLit for the chance to win this book! I really loved the writing and the story.  Didn’t want to put it down.

Description from the publisher:

She had always heard that the eagle chooses the eagle hunter. She wanted that. She wanted her eagle to come to her. To choose her.

It goes against all tradition for Aisulu to train an eagle, for among the Kazakh nomads, only men can fly them. But everything changes when Aisulu discovers that her brother, Serik, has been concealing a bad limp that risks not just his future as the family's leader, but his life too.

When her parents leave to seek a cure for Serik in a distant hospital, Aisulu finds herself living with her intimidating uncle and strange auntie — and secretly caring for an orphaned baby eagle. To save her brother and keep her family from having to leave their nomadic life behind forever, Aisulu must earn her eagle’s trust and fight for her right to soar. Along the way, she discovers that family are people who choose each other, home is a place you build, and hope is a thing with feathers. Erin Bow’s lyrical middle grade debut is perfect for fans of original animal-friendship stories like Pax and Because of Winn Dixie.

Stand on the Sky by Erin Bow was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019.

Why you want to read this book:

It’s a compelling story about the growing bond between a fiercely determined girl and an equally fierce eagle. It’s also a story about a family holding together in a time of crisis. I loved learning about eagles, about the Kazakh nomads, about a different way of life. Aisulu’s determination to help train the eagle and to help her brother made me root for her to succeed.


There was no sign of Serik’s horse.

If you’re a writer…

You’ll want to read this to study how specific details can make setting and characters feel alive. The writing in this story is so lovely! Erin Bow gives us images and experiences for all of the senses. I was  impressed to learn about all the research that went into creating this book. She spent a summer living with a Kazakh eagle hunter and his family to make sure she got all the details right. This shows how important it is to do your research!

If you’re an educator…

This book will be a wonderful addition to your collection of stories with strong female characters. Set in a country I haven't read about before, this story shows how a family gets through their troubles. And how you can find friendship anywhere--even with a fierce and beautiful bird. I really loved Aisulu's determination and willingness to take risks. 

In a land where girls are supposed to have hearts made of milk, Aisulu had a heart made of sky.

Check out another review of this book from Quill & Quire.

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.

Monday, May 13, 2019

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart – A story full of personality and emotion

Another book you really don’t want to put down! A cool “road trip” story with an interesting cast of characters and a mission that will break your heart.

Description from the publisher

Five years.

That's how long Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have lived on the road in an old school bus, criss-crossing the nation.

It's also how long ago Coyote lost her mom and two sisters in a car crash.

Coyote hasn’t been home in all that time, but when she learns that the park in her old neighborhood is being demolished—the very same park where she, her mom, and her sisters buried a treasured memory box—she devises an elaborate plan to get her dad to drive 3,600 miles back to Washington state in four days...without him realizing it.

Along the way, they'll pick up a strange crew of misfit travelers. Lester has a lady love to meet. Salvador and his mom are looking to start over. Val needs a safe place to be herself. And then there's Gladys...

Over the course of thousands of miles, Coyote will learn that going home can sometimes be the hardest journey of all...but that with friends by her side, she just might be able to turn her “once upon a time” into a “happily ever after.”

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart was published by Henry Holt in 2019.

Why you want to read this book:

Coyote’s story is heart-breaking and full of hope at the same time. It’s a contemporary “quest” story with a lot of kindness and a troop of interesting characters to help and cheer on Coyote as she faces one of the most difficult challenges in her life. This story is full of interesting details. For example, she adopts a kitten and names it Ivan, after one of her favorite book characters.


There were big days and there were small days and there were bad days and there were good days and I suppose I could pick any one of ‘em for my “once upon a time.”

If you’re a writer…

There is so much personality in this story! I’d definitely read this if you’re thinking about how to create a unique or quirky story, one that stands out from the crowd.

I know it’s weird to call eyes “quiet,” since I’ve never seen a loud eyeball, but it’s the truth. Salvador’s eyes were quiet, and something about that quietness kinda gave you the courage to talk to them.

If you’re an educator…

Kids who have experienced periods of sadness or family troubles will be able to relate to this book. Coyote’s interesting character keeps you hooked on the story, but it’s really the story of how she and her father come to term with a terrible, life-changing event. It’s also a story of perseverance, because Coyote has a goal and she really doesn’t let anything stop her from reaching it. The other big theme in this book is kindness and helping others.

“Friend” wasn’t a word I heard all that often. It is one of those words that once you hear it, you wanna hear it a lot more.

Here's another review of this book by Colby Sharp:

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.