Welcome to Hog’s Hollow! Penny Lane, yes Penny Lane like The Beatles’ song, is sure her mom is making the worst mistake of both of their lives. When Penny’s mom said she was going to open a cupcake store, Penny thought she meant a little shop in the City but instead she meant in Hog’s Hollow, a small town where everybody knows everything about everyone. Things get even better when Penny meets Charity Wharton. She’s the Pink Popular Girl in school, the Queen Bee. Somehow the party ends up with everyone wearing the cupcakes. Charity is determined to make Penny miserable through awful pranks. Even with Charity in the way Penny befriends Tally, Blake, and Marcus. By the end of the novel, Penny learns things aren’t always as they seem. They can appear to be horrible but they can turn out to be wonderful. Penny decides, “It’s all in the way you spin things,” just like Tally says.
I really liked this book because if you’ve ever been the new person at school, you know what it’s like to be Penny. People often tell me I made a good transition moving from North Carolina to Minnesota but after reading this book I realized how easy I had it in comparison. Also I loved Heather Hepler’s sense of humor, like when Blake and Tally are helping Penny make cupcakes for a dawn wedding.
“Who gets married at dawn?” Blake asks.
“I think it’s romantic,” Tally says.
“Romantic is getting enough sleep.”
“Remind me to get you an I HEART SLEEP T-shirt for Valentine’s Day,” Tally says.
Throughout The Cupcake Queen you just want things to work out for Penny. She has enough hard issues in her life without having to deal with the mean treatment from Charity. This novel, written in first-person, explores discovery, loss, and love in a clever and funny way.
—Maggie Clark, teen reviewer
Zira trains hard, determined to be the best fighter possible. Her sanctuary in the temple of the Holy Mother and her assumed destiny there makes her path certain… except for the dreams. Dreams of fire and escape… dreams of kings and war… dreams of siblings and a mother she thought she had forgotten. When the holy temple is attacked Zira instinctively takes charge and leads the people there to safety. Is there more to her past than she remembers?
This is an engaging story about a girl’s awakening awareness of who she is and includes enough fighting scenes to engage boys. When she finds herself at the center of a war with King Abheron, fighting for the survival of the people she has come to love and treasure as her own, every reader will cheer her on.
This is author Zoё Marriott’s second novel. “After I finished The Swan Kingdom, “ she observes, “I decided to take a month or two off to relax. Unfortunately for my plans, a new character popped into my mind. She shouted for attention nonstop, haunting my dreams and shoving intriguing images before my eyes.”
As readers, we are fortunate Marriott decided to write all these ideas down, and Daughter of the Flames is a great end result.
—Heidi Grosch, educator and children’s literature enthusiast
Which country in the world do you think grows the most apples? (The answer is China). Through vivid colorful photographs and simple text, beginning readers learn about apples, apple trees and everything that happens to them in Life Cycles: Apple Trees.
Did you know that it takes five to seven years for an apple seed to grow into a tree and produce its first apples? Readers follow a seed as it germinates, becomes a sapling and then a budding tree. They learn how buds form and flowers turn into fruit. A diagram on page 18 outlines the lifecycle of both fruit and tree, and more in-depth details about apples and apple facts are provided at the end of the book, which also includes a simple glossary (with words and pictures) and an index.
Other books in this series include Dandelions, Pumpkins, Strawberries, Sunflowers, and Tomatoes.
—Heidi Grosch, educator and children’s literature enthusiast
The wolves in this debut novel aren’t the hunky, teen, paranormal variety, they’re the lanky, controversial, natural ones found in and around Yellowstone Park. As someone who spends a lot of time in Montana and follows the ongoing wolf management disputes, I found this book to be a realistic and thought-provoking portrayal of the complex issues and deep emotions surrounding the reintroduction of wolves.
The story follows sixteen-year-old KJ Carson, a resident of the small town of West End, Montana, as she comes to know and love a new boy in town, gets involved in a rapidly escalating community controversy over wolf management, and grows in her relationship with a minimally communicative father. “Refreshing,” is a word used on the jacket flap to describe heroine KJ Carson. I agree. KJ attacks life with sincerity, passion and just a smidge of sarcasm.
The format of this book includes newspaper columns, quotes from conservationists and poets, proverbs, letters and jokes—devices that impart both information and humor. While the book is classified as a young adult novel, I thought it was appropriate for most middle grade readers as well. Strong characters, suspenseful situations and snappy dialogue give readers plenty to chew on all the way to the last page.
—Constance Van Hoven, children’s book author and teller of tall tales
I know two swinging toddlers who are crazy about Higher! Higher! When I can pry them loose from the swings in our park, they love to look at this fun board book about an adventure on a swing. Author and illustrator, Leslie Patricelli, uses only five different words and bright, clear illustrations to tell the story of a girl swinging higher and higher—over the head of a giraffe, over the rooftops, over a mountain climber, over an airplane and into space where she encounters a rocket and finally, an alien child. The alien child is on a swing as well. After an exchange of high fives, it is time to return to the park in the reverse order. And the ending is particularly satisfying; the swinging child wants to do it all again. Similarly, the child reader will want to experience the story, again and again.
First available as a picture book, this story makes a great transition to a board book. It is a simple story that conveys a familiar event in a young child’s life. The book uses repetition of text and touches of humor to provide conversational opportunities for an adult reader to share with a child. Kid-friendly, focused art captures the physical joy of swinging along with the imaginative possibilities swingers dream about.
Wonderful board books are gems and this one sparkles. It’s not surprising that it was chosen a Boston Globe-Horn Book honor winner. Leslie Patricelli has several other board books in print that I’m going to check out soon—she’s a master of the format. For now though, back to the swings….
—Constance Van Hoven
Author John M. Feierabend is a national leader in the field of early childhood education and is the chair of the music education department at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. He brings his years of experience with young learners to his book series and has created a goldmine of resources for teachers.
The Book of Songs & Rhymes with Beat Motions: Keeping the Beat is the perfect addition to any music, kindergarten, day care or elementary school classroom. Full of classic songs and rhymes, the activities provide innovative and creative ways to teach rhythm, vocabulary, coordination and group interaction. Musical notes and text are included on almost every page as well as instructions for the motions when appropriate.
Old time favorites like Cobbler Cobbler, Dance and Sing Around the Ring, and Pop Goes the Weasel are now readily at your fingertips. Poems with a beat, like Hickory Dickory Dock and Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater can be used with slightly older students to teach the rhythm of poetry. I have used many of these with English language learners (This is a Pencil for example) with great success; to play as you learn is always an effective teaching tool.
It’s great to have a resource to thumb through when you are fresh out of ideas and after a few minutes with this text and you will be ready to go again!
Additional titles in the First Steps in Music series include: The Book of Children’s Song Tales, The Book of Fingerplays and Action Songs, and The Book of Movement Exploration.
I don’t know why we stop playing as we get older because it is such an effective way to learn without working hard to do so. Pamela Conn Beall and Susan Hagen Nipp have put together a great little paperback chock full of over sixty ideas that not only are fun but teach important concepts. Pages include notes to songs as well as detailed instructions on what to do with them and the accompanying CD gives non-singing teachers another option!
I have used Colors (p15) with first graders in Norway who are just learning English and it works very well when teaching color identification. “Blue, blue is the color I see if you are wearing blue then show it to me….” I have used a version of My Aunt Came Back (p52-53) with English language learners in grades four, five and six beginning with the words included in the song and later allowing the students to choose their own. This is a great way to build vocabulary. The large group game What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf? (p45) makes learning to tell time easy and Lion Hunt (p47) gives children the opportunity to explore setting in a call-and-response format.
There are quiet games and rowdy ones, indoor activities and those you can do in a gym or outside. If you work with young children (ten and under), this is definitely the book for you and at less that $5.00, it’s a steal.
Additional resources in this series include: Wee Sing Silly Songs, Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies, and Wee Sing Children’s Songs and Fingerplays.
Four reasons to sit under a tree and read Jacqueline Kelly’s Newbery Honor novel:
#1. You’ll feel cooler. Picture yourself on a warm afternoon reading about an eleven-year-old girl living on a Texas cotton and pecan farm in 1899. Calpurnia Virginia Tate, or Callie Vee, has few options for escaping the stifling summer heat. She can sneak off to the river for an unapproved dip or nap on cologne-spritzed sheets, but any relief is short-lived. The times demand that young girls wear layers of petticoats, dresses and pinafores, not to mention long hair that Callie secretly cuts an inch at a time to escape detection. And pies must be baked in a wood-burning stove, scratchy wool socks knitted in a stuffy parlor… There, don’t you feel cooler compared to Callie?
#2. You’ll meet characters that will stick with you like dirt under your fingernails. Whip-smart, curious and gutsy Callie spends her summer observing and recording the natural world as well as the changes occurring in the lives of her six brothers and herself. And then there’s gruff Grandfather Tate—passionate naturalist, forward-thinker and Callie’s strongest ally.
#3. You’ll wallow in the author’s exquisite language. Witty and colorful descriptions abound. For example, when Callie talks about being a disappointment to her parents she says the feeling “tailed me about the house like a bothersome, bed-smelling dog demanding attention.”
#4. You’ll discover a story brim full of history, humor and natural wonders as Callie struggles to find a way to acquiesce to her mother’s domestic agenda, yet indulge in the joy of scientific discovery that lies in the woods and meadows outside her door. Callie’s grandfather says, “It is better to travel with hope in one’s heart than to arrive in safety.” At the end of the book, all that is certain is that Callie will travel with hope in her heart as she faces the new century with her dream of becoming a scientist.
So, if you do spend some time under a tree reading this book, I hope a creepy-crawly little something works its way up your leg and you are inspired to wonder about it—maybe even record your observations and questions in a notebook…