Thursday, August 25, 2016

New Book Alert: Lucy & Andy Neanderthal

The Jedi Academy series of books was HUGE among my third graders, so I was delighted (if a bit apprehensive) to hear that Jeffrey Brown had a new graphic novel series coming out ... about neanderthals. The apprehension arose because as a former archaeologist, there's a wealth of misconceptions and misinformation out there about neanderthals (and early humans).


Lucy & Andy Neanderthal (arrives Aug. 30, 2016)

But Jeffrey Brown does not disappoint. Not only does the book contain factual information in the backmatter (a timeline, a fact vs. fiction section, and an author's note), but every chapter ends with insights about the latest thoughts, discoveries, and debates presented by two scientist characters. I am hoping, however, that the finished book also contains a bibliography or recommendations for further reading. (I received an ARC of the book from a Publisher's Weekly giveaway, and only the first 100 pages had finalized art and shading.)

Despite what the cover may lead you to believe, Lucy & Andy live pretty normal neanderthal lives. They live in a small community along with their parents and baby brother. They drive each other nuts, they drive their babysitters nuts, and their cat actually is nuts. (*Spoiler alert* No, cats were not domesticated 40,000 years ago, but as Jeffrey Brown admits, "Cats are fun to draw and make funny characters!")

Kids will love reading about the trials and tribulations of neanderthal life (including a decently-accurate session on stone tool knapping!), which are interspersed with a great deal of physical and verbal humor. Even the archaeologists/paleontologists serve as a bit of comic relief, while also providing fun facts and raising interesting questions.

My only nit-pick with the book is the choice of names for the characters. Neanderthals were not humans and certainly were not Caucasian, so I wonder at the choice of such bland Anglo names for nearly all the characters in the book. Perhaps it's preferable to made up "caveman" names, but it did make me wonder.

That aside, elementary teachers and librarians should grab a chance to read this one as soon as it arrives, because I suspect it won't stay long on many library shelves!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Interview with René Colato Laínez - plus Giveaway


The Logonauts is delighted to welcome author René Colato Laínez to chat about his latest book, Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre. (Last week's post shares about many of his earlier books.) One lucky reader will win a copy provided by the publisher, Lee & Low!

Interview with René Colato Laínez


When did you know that you wanted to be an author?

Since I can remember, I always loved to write stories. My mother used to say that I was as smart as her uncle, the Salvadoran author Jorge Buenaventura Laínez. I knew that there was an author in the family but I understood the meaning of his work when I read one of his poems in my third-grade reading textbook. "Wow! Tío Jorge’s poem was in my book." He became my inspiration to be an author.

Textbook page with his great-uncle's poem

What else did you want to be when you grew up?

When they asked me, what do you want to be when you grow up? My answer was always the same, "I want to be a teacher." I loved to write stories and I envisioned myself in a classroom teaching to children. I had three goals when I was a child: be a good student, become a teacher and write a book. I am so lucky that I accomplished my goals. I am an elementary school teacher and an author.

What was your favorite piece of writing from when you were a kid?

I liked to write acrostic poems using the names and last names of my relatives, teachers and friends. It was so funny to create poems using names. In my picture book I Am René, the Boy, I wrote an acrostic poem about my name. I also enjoyed writing versions of my favorite fairy tales.

What was the inspiration for the Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre?

My life as an immigrant and my family and students experiences living in the United States was my inspiration to write this book. People use the word “Alien” when referring to immigrants. Some of my students are scared that their parents or themselves can be aliens from outer space. I want to tell children that this word has more than one meaning and that immigrants are not really aliens. We share the same planet. We are all children of planet Earth. [Read more of René's thoughts in this article: No More "Illegal Aliens."]

What does your writing process look like and/or what advice do you have about revision?

My native language is Spanish, so my first drafts are a mixture of English, Spanish and Spanglish. I usually write in English but when I don’t know or remember a word, I always write it in Spanish. Then I go back on another revision to change the word from Spanish to English.

Early draft with comments of Waiting for Papa

The first draft is just the beginning of a story. Revision is the complete story. I tell children that a first draft is like a drawing of a child standing alone in the middle of a paper. Revision is when we add flowers, houses, trees, animals, more children and color to the same paper.

What is your favorite part about being an author?

My favorite part as an author is when I see children and adults reading my books. It is a great feeling to see the words that I typed at home now are flying and visiting classrooms, libraries and homes. Traveling and visiting schools, libraries and book festivals is also amazing because I share my work and meet readers and other authors.

Do you have any advice for a child interested in becoming an author?

Since you learned to write your name, you became a writer. We all are writers because we write. My advice is to write everyday. You can write grocery lists, letters, poems, notes, stories. Get a journal or a notebook and write your ideas. Some day, you can become an author.

René, thank you so much for sharing about yourself and about your writing. I am really looking forward to reading and sharing your books this fall with my students! (Click here to read more about other books by René.)

Review of Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre



Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre (2016) by René Colato Laínez and illustrated by Laura Lacámara. Sofia has made a startling discovery - hidden in her Mamá's purse is a card identifying her ... as an alien! When her parents' explanations fail to satisfy her curiosity, Sofia decides to do her own research on aliens, which only adds to her confusion and worries. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.) The author's note provides additional information about terminology and his personal immigration story. (Review copy provided by the publisher. All thoughts are my own.)

My review: This is a great story that demonstrates the power of words and labels. Kids can relate to Sofia's flights of imagination and her worries about her place in the world. Every year when I taught my third graders about immigration and family histories, I had students react with similar confusion to the term "illegal alien" and "resident alien." I look forward to sharing this book with the new third grade teacher so she can read it aloud and discuss it with them.

Recent efforts within the Library of Congress to replace the term alien with "noncitizens" and illegal immigration with "unauthorized immigration" have stalled, and you can read more details in this article by Lee & Low. As teachers, it is so important to talk to kids about the power of our words and to be thoughtful in our word choices. This is a great book to add to that conversation.

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Curious about the rest of René's books? Click here to check out last week's post for details and reviews - and don't forget to enter the giveaway and win your own copy of Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre (US domestic addresses only).



Monday, August 22, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? The Post-#PB10for10 edition #IMWAYR 08/22/16


It's Monday! What are you reading? was started by Sheila at Book Journey and was adapted for children's books from picture books through YA by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. You can visit either site for a round up of blogs sharing their weekly readings and thoughts or search Twitter for #IMWAYR.



Last Week's Posts


Picture Books


#pb10for10 is always an incredible opportunity to find out new picture books. I ordered stacks of books from my library, so several of my reviews are going to be shorter this week!


Red: a crayon's story (2015) by Michael Hall. This book nearly made me cry. It is a perfectly-written metaphor for any child who feels different inside than they look on the outside. There is so much fodder for great conversations here about expectations, assumptions, being true to yourself, and accepting others for who they are. I look forward to sharing this book with my middle schoolers.


Ida, Always (2016) by Caron Levis and Charles Santoso. ... and then I read this book next, and I bawled. Ida, Always is a powerful story about death, both impending death and the grief that follows. Having lost a close family member only a month ago, this book hit my hard, but it was very beautifully done. Not sure I could make it through a read aloud of this one, but I will definitely make sure it is in our Mock Caldecott conversations later in the year.


Yaks Yak: animal word pairs (2016) by Linda Sue Park and illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. This book is just plain, nerdy wordplay fun. All of the sentences are pairs (or triads) of homographs - words that are spelled / pronounced the same but have different meanings. Additional humor is provided in the illustrations. I'd say you could use this as an extension activity to have kids create their own homograph sentences, but I don't know if there are many that were missed!


What James Said (2015) by Liz Rosenberg and illustrated by Matt Myers. Friends fight. And sometimes those fights start over a misunderstanding. Here, a bit of gossip/telephone garbles a message from one friend to another. I could see using this with my third graders who often had a lot of proxy fights like this one, but the resolution feels really quick and easy.


Mustache Baby (2013) by Bridget Heos and illustrated by Joy Ang. What happens when you give birth to a baby with a mustache? He faces an existential crisis about whether it is a good-guy or a bad-guy mustache! This book is pure silliness, and the illustrations provide some great examples of contradicting the text. There is also a sequel, Mustache Baby Meets His Match. (Also, apparently this is a big thing, because when I googled "mustache baby" for the book cover there were a LOT of images of real babies in ridiculous getups.)


And some misses (or just not quites)


Norman Normal (2016) by Tara Lazar and illustrated by S. Britt. Another take on being yourself rather than following other people's ideas of "normal." This one seemed to drag it on a little long for me. You get the idea right away, but the idea just keeps getting belabored. Interesting anecdote: author Tara Lazar never communicated to the artist exactly what (animal / color / etc.) Norman was, so she too was surprised by the choice of a giant purple orangutan.


Hello, My Name is Octicorn (2016) by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe. A bit of a sillier take on being yourself and struggling with not fitting in. This one was humorous, but I felt like there was more potential than was realized.


Finding Wild (2016) by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Abigail Halpin. I loved the idea of celebrating "wild" and in seeking it out in all places, but this is another one where I really wanted there to bit just a little something more. (Some lovely illustrations though, so it will be in the mix for our Mock Caldecott initial conversations at least.)


Drum City (2010) by Thea Guidone and illustrated by Vanessa Newton. This is a lyrical poem of a picture book centered around the idea of a child creating a makeshift drum and inspiring the town. And then everyone walks around drumming. And ... that's it. I liked the colorful illustrations and the diverse cast of characters, but I wasn't sure what to do with the story.


The Sword in the Stove (2016) by Frank Dormer. Two cartoonish characters are looking for their friend Harold and trying to cook but keep being flummoxed by finding unexpected things inside their stove. And then there's a "twist." This one wasn't for me.

Middle Grade


I posted my full review of Moo earlier in the week (read it here). So good!

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

#DiverseKidLit: International Books

Our theme for today's Diverse Children's Books linkup is Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Share your favorite book or books that take place in a different country than where you live! (The theme is only a suggestion. Diverse posts on alternate topics are always welcome.)

What Is #DiverseKidLit?


Diverse Children's Books is a book-sharing meme designed to promote the reading and writing of children's books that feature diverse characters. This community embraces all kinds of diversity including (and certainly not limited to) diverse, inclusive, multicultural, and global books for children of all backgrounds.

We encourage everyone who shares to support this blogging community by visiting and leaving comments for at least three others. Please also consider following the hosts on at least one of their social media outlets. Spread the word using #diversekidlit and/or adding our button to your site and your diverse posts.

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We hope this community will grow into a great resource for parents, teachers, librarians, publishers, and authors! Our next linkup will be Saturday, September 3rd and on the first and third Saturdays of every month.

Upcoming Themes


Our theme for the current linkup is Favorite International Book(s) for Children. Themes are a suggestion only; all diverse book posts are welcome. If you're interested, you can start planning now for our upcoming themes ...
  • September 3rd linkup: Diverse Book(s) Featuring a Character with a Disability. (Need ideas? Check out past winners of the Schneider Family Book Awards.)
  • September 17th linkup: Favorite Bilingual Book(s). Think about your favorite book or books that are published in bilingual (or multiple language) editions.

Most Clicked Post from Last Time



Our most clicked post from the previous #diversekidlit is Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside of the United States (By Continent) from Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers. They each share a favorite book from the five populated continents, excluding North America.

My #DiverseKidLit Shout Out


My #diversekidlit shout out goes to author René Colato Laínez. Born in El Salvador, René immigrated to the United States as a child and eventually became a US citizen. Many of his picture books for children feature kids and families dealing with issues of immigration and citizenship. This week I shared an overview of several of his books, which includes a giveaway for his newest picture book: Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre. Stay tuned next week for an interview with René and my review of this newest book!

#DiverseKidLit is Hosted by:


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Interested in joining as a host or an occasional co-host? Contact katie at thelogonauts.com.

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Friday, August 19, 2016

New Book Alert: Moo by Sharon Creech


Moo (Aug. 30th, 2016) by Sharon Creech
(ARC begged & borrowed from a fellow blogger)

Full disclosure: I love Sharon Creech. She has written some of my favorite books of all-time. I wrote an entire poetry curriculum around reading aloud Love that Dog (click here for details). I bawled out loud while reading Walk Two Moons, and I am not a book crier. I also loved sharing Walk Two Moons as a small group discussion book with my fourth graders (click here for book club discussion questions and page breakdowns). I have a huge bin of Sharon Creech books in my classroom library.

So it is no surprise that I would be excited about any announcement of a new book by Sharon Creech. But a new novel in verse? Based around an ornery cow? (Even if it does happen to be set in Maine and not my native Wisconsin.) Featuring a main character named Reena so that I cannot wait to share it with a former student of mine named Reena? Love.

Twelve-year-old Reena may have been the one to suggest moving to Maine, but that doesn't mean she really knows what she's in for. Told in imaginative free verse, Moo is a story about changes: moving to a new home and a new state, leaving behind the big city for the oceanside countryside, and learning to get past first impressions. 

People Said ...

My parents' friends said
Are you crazy?
and
It gets cold in Maine, you know.
and
There are giant mosquitoes in Maine.
and
It gets cold in Maine, you know.
and
Why? Why? Why?

But some others said
They have lobsters there.
and
Great blueberries in Maine!
and
Beautiful ocean and mountains!
and
Great skiing!
and
Lots of lobsters!
Lots of blueberries!

Though ... it does get cold there
you know?

This is an amusing, enjoyable, and heartwarming story wrapped up in the memorable voice of the protagonist. Whether you like cows and countrysides or just want an excuse to visit for awhile by book, Moo is a story that will appeal to a wide range of readers and poetry-lovers. (I've already pre-ordered the copy for my classroom library.)

Hop on over to Dori Reads for more great Poetry Friday posts!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Kid Lit Blog Hop for August


We want to welcome you to the August 2016 Kid Lit Blog Hop. It's Back to School time! Some kids are already in school, and some are going soon. The kids will be bringing home great books from their libraries. Come share some of those on our monthly hop or for that matter, any great kid's literature.

This month we welcome a new co-host, Bruce from the Bookshelf Gargoyle! Welcome aboard, and we are so glad you are here with us!

This exciting, monthly hop is an engaged group of people who love everything that has to do with children's literature. Everyone is welcome to join us: bloggers, authors, publicist, and publishers! Please make sure that your posts are related to children’s literature only. Please make sure to add a direct link to your post only, but authors are invited to simply to link to your blog.

Once you are done, then hop around to visit others. Please follow the hosts and visit at least the one or two people directly before your link. Please leave a comment when you do visit - we all like those. Also, it would be appreciated if you grab the Kid Lit Blog Hop badge image and displayed it on your blog and/or your post.

Have you seen the new Kid Lit Blog Hopper Facebook fan page? This page has all the news and information related to the hop plus ongoing posts, giveaways, news articles, etc. related to Kid's Lit. Check it out, and of course, please like the page.

We would be grateful if you tweet about the blog hop using our hashtag #KidLitBlogHop and/or posted on Facebook. Let’s grow this wonderful community.

Our next hop will be September 21, 2016. The hosts will be around to see you soon.

Reading AuthorsHost
Julie Grasso
BeachBoundBooks
Cheryl Carpinello
Pragmatic Mom
The Logonauts
Spark and Pook
Hits and Misses
The Bookshelf Gargoyle


Happy Hopping!

Link Up Below:





Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Picture Books by René Colato Laínez + Giveaway!

I am so excited to have the opportunity to interview children's author René Colato Laínez about his latest book, Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre. One lucky reader will also be able to win a copy from the publisher, Lee & Low! The interview, plus my review of the book, will be published next week, but here's a taste of some of his previous books ...

Picture Books by René Colato Laínez


Realistic Fiction


Waiting for Papá / Esperando a Papá (2004), illustrated by Anthony Accardo. Beto is turning 8 and celebrating his third birthday away from his Papá, who did not receive a visa to leave El Salvador along with Beta and his Mamá. The book does a good job of showing the long and complicated process of applying for a green card, as well as the impact of having enough money or knowing the right lawyer. This was René's first picture book. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.)


Playing Lotería / El juego de la lotería (2005), illustrated by Jill Arena. Our young narrator is nervous to stay alone with his abuela in Mexico, as he doesn't know very much Spanish. But when she takes him to la feria and shows him her lotería stand, he finds his hook for learning more Spanish - and for teaching abuela some English. The author's note includes additional information about the game, also known as Mexican bingo. This is a cute story about connecting to a grandparent who speaks another language and one that I will be adding to my text set on international grandparents. (Bilingual English and Spanish.)


My Shoes and I (2010), illustrated by Fabricio Vanden Broeck. Mario and his Papá are leaving their home in El Salvador to join his Mamá in the United States. This lyrical story focuses on the new shoes Mario has received from his Mamá and what happens to his shoes during their long trip across three countries. This would be a good book to read in the context of his other stories, as this one does not contain any conversation about legal vs. illegal immigration. (English only, with some Spanish phrases.)


From North to South / Del Norte al Sur (2010), illustrated by Joe Cepeda. Based on the true experiences of his students in California, this story is about a family split by deportation. José is excited to see his Mamá again, after she was deported from their home in San Diego. This book does a great job of highlighting the impact of deportation on families while also ending with a message of hope. The author's note at the beginning explains his inspiration and provides details about the real El Centro Madre Assunta in Tijuana, Mexico. The use of a US/Mexico map for the end papers is another nice touch. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.)

Autobiography / Memoir


I am René the Boy / Soy René el niño (2005), illustrated by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez. Young René has moved from El Salvador to the United States and is shocked to discover that there is another student named Renee in his class ... and she's a girl! This would be a great book to use with students to encourage them to explore the meanings and origins of their own names - or to write their own name-based speeches or poems like René. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.)


René Has Two Last Names / René tiene dos apellidos (2009), illustrated by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez. In this follow-up story, René is frustrated when his school name tag has only one of his last names and not both. Despite some initial teasings from his classmates, a family tree activity helps René showcase both sides of his family tree and what his last names mean to him. This is another book that would make a great classroom tie-in. (Bilingual in English and Spanish.) [A Skipping Stones Honor Award winner]

Traditional Tales


The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez (2010), illustrated by Tom Lintern. In this mash-up, the Tooth Fairy responds to the loss of Miguelito's tooth, only to discover that she has competition: El Ratón Pérez, who has collected the teeth of Miguelito's parents and their parents too. The two are able to work out their differences, and the author's note provides background information about the origins and histories of both characters. (English only.)

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Stay tuned for next week's interview with René Colato Laínez as well as a review of his newest picture book, Mamá the Alien / Mamá la Extraterrestre. Rather not wait? Enter the giveaway today! (US domestic addresses only, please.)