Book Trailers – Great Teaching Tool


We’ve all see movie trailers.  Those tempting snippets of movies that make us want to go Goslingsee the new James Bond or the next Ryan Gosling flick.  And now you can use book trailers to tempt your students to check out new stories.  I’m not sure that Ryan Gosling is in any of the trailers…but still…

Book trailers can be a great tool for teachers.  Previewing a classroom read with a book trailer lets teachers ask prediction and context questions.

  • What is this book about?
  • Who is the main character?
  • What do you think will happen in this book?

And perhaps most important –

  • Do you think you will like this book – why or why not?

Take a look at the book trailers for The Marvels, O.J., and Oona.  They are great for opening a book discussion.

marvels  OJoona

But whatever book you choose – you will be able to have your students predict whether or not they will like the book based on the book trailer.  Then after they have read the book ask them if the book was what they had expected.  Did they like it more or less?  Was the book trailer accurate or was it misleading?  How would you change the trailer?

And even more fun is to have your students create their own book trailers.  So much more fun than boring old book reports.  With today’s technology it is easy to create a classroom full of book loving video journalists.


Some great sites to use are

  • Mr. Schu Reads – he has constant updates of new book trailers and interviews with authors and illustrators.
  • Scholastic Stacks has a great collection of book trailers and of course om fun ideas for using them.
  • Sime Kids has over 200 book trailers on their site.
  • And if you want your students to get an idea of how to make their own book trailers take a look at Book Trailers for Readers.  Some of these kids have a future in film and storytelling!

Happy Reading!




New Year New Books


The new year has arrived and 2016 is going to be a great year for books.  I’m getting my shelves ready for some new books that will be wonderful to use in the classroom.  Here’s a sample of some new stories that are headed to a library near you.  Get ready to check them out!

Very first on my list is We will Not Be Silent -The White Rose Student NotBeSilentResistant Movement that Defied Hitler. Its by one of my favorite authors – Russell Freedman and tells about the young members of the White Rose resistance who fought against Hitler with words.  Hiding in a cellar,they cranked out thousands of mimeographed leaflets declaring to Hitler “We are your bad conscience.”  The book includes historical photographs that illustrate the powerful true story.  This book will be released by Clarion in May so I have a little while to wait… but I know it will be worth it!

The Secret Subway is next on my list.  It tells the story of Alfred Beach and Subwayhis creation of a fan driven underground subway that was built in 1870. I can’t wait to see the wonderful illustrations in this picture book.  I plan to use it to introduce discussions about inventions and I know it will capture the imagination of my students.  Written by Shana Corey, this fun picture book will be out in March.  I can’t wait!

I only have to wait until February for Echo Echo by Marilyn Singer. I’m 9780803739925excited about this book because it combines poetry with Greek Myths. Singer used a new type of poem that is called a reverso where she presents a portrait and then recasts it backward, line by line, in a companion poem.  I think this will be a great way to teach both poetry and Greek Mythology.  I’ll be first in line at the library for this one!

Holiday Round Up


How did this happen?? Wasn’t it Just August?  Now it’s December panicattacksand we have a classroom full of children dreaming of  Hanukkah presents, Christmas surprises and Winter break.   Looking for something fun to keep them interested and learning?  Check out my round up of holiday lesson plans and great read-aloud stories. Keep your class on task and in the learning spirit!

Websites – you’re just a click away from instant lesson plans.

NEA Holiday Tools 


Hot Chalk

For some Great December Holiday Books – check these out from your library:

Hershel and the Hanukkah GoblinsHersch
By Eric A. Kimmel and Trina Schart Hyman

Every year goblins attempt to ruin Hanukkah for innocent villagers trying to celebrate the festival of lights. But not this year. Find out how Hershel of Ostropol outwits the nasty goblins and celebrates Hanukkah in this beautifully illustrated story.




dancinggoatsThe Trees of the Dancing Goats
By Patricia Polacco

When Trisha’s friends and neighbors can’t celebrate Christmas due to scarlet fever, her Jewish family helps renew the holiday spirit in this heart-warming tale of friendship and true holiday spirit.

The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah

By Bill Berlin

Much like the Grinch who stole Christmas, the Kvetch (someone who complains or nags a lot) of Oyville is set on ruining Hanukkah for the townspeople. The end is bound to bring a smile to everyone’s face … the Kvetch included!

Together for KwanzaatogetherKwanzaa
By Juwanda G. Ford

Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa?

Seven Spools of Thread
Angela Shelf Medearis

In an African village live seven brothers who make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will be turned out as beggars.

Celebrate Kwanzaa
By Carolyn B. Otto

With beautiful photographs, this book celebrates African-American culture and helps readers understand this special holiday. Over the course of seven days, families and friends come together to light the candles that symbolize past and future—and African-American unity. Readers are introduced to the symbols of the holiday, such as the mkeka (a special placemat), kinara (candleholder), and kikombe cha umoja (unity cup).

How to Catch SantaHowToCathc
by Jean Reagan

After waiting for days and days and days, it’s finally Christmas Eve. And that’s when you can try to catch Santa. . . . Two sibling narrators give clever tips for “catching” Santa (be crafty! be clever! be gentle!) on Christmas Eve.

Santa’s Favorite Story
By Hisako Aoki

Christmas may be canceled this year because Santa is too tired to deliver all his packages. The forest animals are worried, but when Santa tells them the story of the very first Christmas, when Christ was born, the animals discover the true spirit of the season.

The Baker’s DozenBakersDozen
By Aaron Shepard

Van Amsterdam the baker was well known for his honesty as well as for his fine Saint Nicholas cookies. He always gave his customers exactly what they paid for — not more and not less. So, he was not about to give in when a mysterious old woman comes to him on Saint Nicholas Day and insists that a dozen is thirteen! The woman’s curse puts an end to the baker’s business, and he believes it would take Saint Nicholas to help him. But if he receives that help, will it be exactly what he imagined?

Double Duty


I’m always looking for books that can do double duty – A great reading book I can use to teach science or social studies.  This year non-fiction authors and editors have produced some wonderful titles.  These are my favorites for 2015.  Check them out.  You may want to add them to your classroom library!

(These are from the 2015 ALSC Notable Books list.)


Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes. By Nicola Davies, Illus. by Emily Sutton. Candlewick.

This straightforward narrative introduces young readers to microbes through simple descriptions, colorful examples, and concise writing.  Watercolor images illustrate the examples and create a nostalgic feel.

 Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey, By Loree Griffin Burns. Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. Millbrook/Lerner.

In this handsome book with glorious photographs, children can follow the life cycle of a butterfly from a farm in Costa Rica to a live museum exhibit in the U. S.

winterbeesWinter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold. By Joyce Sidman. Illus. by Rick Allen. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

A collection of 12 poems about northern tundra wildlife uses a variety of poetic structures and includes additional information on each creature. Vivid linoleum-cut illustrations.

41hiaMwx-iL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery. By Sandra Markle. Illus. Millbrook.

Follow the scientific method as a group of researchers notice something wrong with the little brown bat population and search for a way to save them.  Stunning photographs make the discovery even more fascinating.

chasingChasing Cheetahs: The Race to Save Africa’s Fastest Cats. By Sy Montgomery. Photographs by Nic Bishop. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Montgomery and Bishop join the Cheetah Conservation Fund in the African wilderness, studying the cheetah’s ecological, genetic, and behavioral patterns in order to chase down the fastest animal in the world.

Social Studies

firebirdFirebird. By Misty Copeland. Illus. by Christopher Myers. Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s.

Famed ballerina Misty Copeland encourages a young African-American girl to follow her dreams to be a prima ballerina in this poetic text vividly illustrated with evocative collages.

anfel islandAngel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain. By Russell Freedman. Illus. Chinese poems Tr. by Evans Chan. Clarion.

More than half a million people from 80 countries arrived at Angel Island California between 1910 and 1940.  Freedman tells their stories in this well documented and handsomely illustrated book that illuminates a little known piece of history.

freedomsummerFreedom Summer: The 1964 Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi. By Susan Goldman Rubin. Illus. Holiday.

A well-researched and beautifully written explanation of the attempts to enfranchise Mississippi blacks.  Rubin writes about the murder of three young civil rights workers with a superb sense of suspense and dread.




fractalsMysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature. By Sarah C. Campbell. Photographs by the author and Richard P. Campbell. Boyds Mills.

Found everywhere in nature, fractals are shapes that are not perfect but change in the same way over and over.  Photographs show where these marvels can be found and clear language will engage readers to be more observant and see the correlation between nature and math.

Boys and Books – Get them Hooked!


Once upon a time I had dreams…

I dreamed that I would have children who loved to read as much as I did.  That we would be a literary family comparing the books we adored and arguing over Tolkien versus Lewis.

Then I met my son –


Reading is not his idea of a good time.

And apparently my son is not the only boy who would rather eat fire than read books.

As a teacher and a writer I had a new dream.  I was going to teach boys to like books.

Epic FAIL. Again.

No matter how much you bribe some boys, they will not enjoy Amber Brown, Junie B. Jones, or The Magic Treehouse.  And I used some great bribes, like – if you read this book, I’ll help you build an exploding rocket.  Or if you read this book – I’ll take you rock hunting.  Instead they wanted to read about how to build the rocket or how to find fossils.

Oh wait – they wanted to READ about how to do things!  They wanted to learn facts and decipher instructions. Finally!! I got it. And I started giving them what they wanted.  NONFICTION!!!

Over the years I have learned that all I really have to do is learn what interests a reluctant reader. (And this applies to girls, too.) Do they like cars? Airplanes? Mummies? Sharks? Outer space? Disgusting body functions?  There’s a book about that!

Nonfiction is the way to a boys (and girls) heart.  And my latest book series is designed just for them.  The Top Secret Files of History explores the truth behind dangerous spies like The White Mouse Mata Hari. Readers can discover real life pirates of the Caribbean and learn about the true Lone Ranger.

The stories are all short.  Many of them no longer than 500 words.  The books also have multiple entry points.  They are not in sequential order so readers can pick up the books and read in the middle or at the end and still get great information.

1618214616_b 9781618214621

The two newest books, Wild West and Gangsters and Bootleggers will be in bookstores December 1.  I hope you will check them out for your own favorite reluctant reader!

Picture Book Diversity in 2015


I am a strong proponent of diversity and I firmly believe that our children need to see a diverse world in the books they read.  I am happy to say there have been several great picture books published this year that give our children a beautiful view of the world.

Take a look at these titles and revel in the diversity on the pages and in the pictures!

Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrewsbennyby Kathleen Benson and Benny Andrews

Benny Andrews loved to draw. He drew his nine brothers and sisters, and his parents. He drew the red earth of the fields where they all worked, the hot sun that beat down, and the rows and rows of crops. As Benny hauled buckets of water, he made pictures in his head. And he dreamed of a better life—something beyond the segregation, the backbreaking labor, and the limited opportunities of his world.

     Benny’s dreams took him far from the rural Georgia of his childhood. He became one of the most important African American painters of the twentieth century, and he opened doors
for other artists of color.
28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World
by Charles R. smith
28DaysEach day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president.
Juna’s Jar
by Jan Bahk
Sometimes a simple, everyday object can take you away on great adventures. Juna and her best friend, Hector, have many adventures together, and they love to collect things in empty kimchi jars. Then one day, Hector unexpectedly moves away without having a chance to say good-bye. Juna is heartbroken and left to wonder who will on go on adventures with her. Determined to find Hector, Juna turns to her special kimchi jar for help each night. She plunges into the depths of the ocean, swings on vines through the jungle, and flies through the night sky in search of her friend. What Juna finds is that adventure―and new friends―can be found in the most unexpected places



connieHsuThis weekend I attended the Missouri SCBWI conference and got to hear the amazing Connie Hsu (Roaring Brook Press) speak on the need for diversity in children’s books.  She talked about growing up as a Chinese American in Alabama. As a young reader, Connie was a huge fan of the Sweet Valley Twins books. To this day she remembers which twin had a mole on her shoulder and which one was in the unicorn club.  While she loved the series and devoured the books, they never provided a reflection of her Ethnic heritage. As a matter of fact she rarely saw Chinese faces in the pages of any books or magazines, and that had an impact on her self image.

Its a problem that Latino, African-American, and Asian-American children have been facing for decades.  It seems like by 2015 we would have fixed the problem.  But we haven’t.  And shame on us!

Working as an editor Connie now has the opportunity to promote diversity in children’s books, but it’s not just up to the writers and editors to effect change.  As educators we need to demand diversity in the texts and images that are presented to the children in our classrooms.  What teachers say matters, and you can have an impact on the illustrations selected for books, and the stories that are purchased for your libraries.

WeneedDiverseBooksIf you are interested in helping promote diversity in children’s literature please get involved in the We Need Diverse Books Movement.  It does take a village to raise a child and that village is full of people from all different backgrounds.  Let’s make sure our books reflect the blessing of diversity.